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A Broken Promise 3/3

September 21st, 2007 (10:01 pm)

A/N: This is the end. And I apologize in advance for any cheese that may come. I hope they stayed in character, and there is plenty of angst left before the end. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed. And seriously, we all need to keep pimping these books. They're amazing :) And the website that got garbled last chapter is www.auphe-the-cuff.com. Check it out! Thanks to 

sendintheklowns and geminigrl11 and to all of you!

All notes and stuff in part one.




It was glorious.

It was like eating for the first time ever, being exposed to a rich buffet of succulent and exotic treats. The blood from the neck was purer, brighter than from the extremities, and she had forgotten how it felt. It was decadent and invigorating. It satisfied her like nothing else ever or ever would again.

She groaned, digging her teeth deeper, begging for more.

The blood filled her mouth sluggishly, too slowly.

Desperate, she pulled the body closer, lifting it so it was in her lap. She pushed its head viciously to the side, giving her better access to the neck.

She was going too fast, she knew that. She knew it would be gone too soon, but she couldn't bring herself to stop. She couldn't bring herself to think of anything. There was nothing to her, nothing beyond the intoxicating taste of this blood in her mouth, decorating her lips, and running down her throat. It warmed her belly, tickled her insides, and she groaned again.

There was no sound, no light, nothing beyond this.

Until she heard the voice. "No."

Startled, she looked up, her mouth pulling away from her victim.

There, standing at a chewed-out hole in the wall, a man, tall and well-built, blond hair falling to his shoulders.

She knew him.

She loved him.


His eyes were wide, his stance defensive. "What are you doing?" he demanded, in a tone so deadly, so angry, that she found it hard to remember.

That was when awareness fully returned to her and she looked down at the body in her arms.


He was sprawled limply across her, his legs in front of him and his arms draped across her. His head hung low against her shoulder, dark strands of hair falling into his face, obscuring the paleness. His left wrist rested palm up, exposing the red and inflamed bite marks. His shirt was ripped at the collar, stained with blood that trickled from the gash in his neck.

"What are you doing?" Niko asked again, moving forward with an intensity never before directed at her.

She gaped, her mouth moving open and closed, and she could still taste Cal's blood on her tongue, coating her teeth. Shaking, she lowered him, resting him on his side and she stumbled away.

Luckily, Niko's fury was only topped by his concern for his brother. The older brother rested on his haunches next to Cal, one hand steady on his brother's shoulder, the other trying to peer into his face.

"He has a concussion," she heard herself say, too cold, too scared. "And he's dehydrated."

Niko had already shrugged out of his t-shirt, holding it hard against Cal's weeping neck. His eyes flashed angrily at her. "And he's low on blood volume," he seethed.

She searched for an explanation, a reason, something to tell Niko, to make it better, but her voice wouldn't work. It didn't matter anyway. Niko wasn't even looking at her.

"Damn it, Cal," he muttered. "You need to stay with me." He glanced over his shoulder to the hole. "Goodfellow! Quickly!"

Watching blankly, she saw Goodfellow stumble into the cavern, looking around in shock. "I've got the supplies," the puck said, his hands full. Then his eyes registered the scene in front of him and Promise could feel his eyes probing her in shock and skepticism. "What happened?"

"I need water," Niko said curtly, ignoring his questions. "Water and gauze."

Goodfellow tore his eyes from Promise, moving to Niko's side. He crouched next to him, holding out the water.

Niko took the bottle with his free hand. "Roll him on his back and apply pressure to his wound. I think a pressure bandage will secure it. When we get back home we can see if it needs stitches. You have the saline?"

The puck took a hold of the shirt, easing Cal onto his back before reapplying the pressure with vigor. "Back at the apartment, ready to go. All the IV equipment's there."

Niko didn't even nod. He was too busy opening the bottle of water. Carefully, he lifted his brother's head, forcing his jaw open and holding the bottle to his lips. "You need to drink something, Cal," he coaxed.

Cal didn't respond, remained limp under his touch. Niko tilted the bottle forward, and water trickled into Cal's mouth, spilling down his chin.

Goodfellow, for his part, was unusually steadfast. With one hand, he maintained pressure; with the other, he was working the gauze and tape. Swiftly, he replaced the t-shirt, swaddling the neck she had damaged, before securing it with tape. "Is he taking any?" Robin asked quietly, nodding to the bottle.

Niko's face creased grimly. "Not enough."

"Anything helps," Goodfellow said helpfully, before glancing nervously back at Promise.

Cursing, Niko took the bottle away from Cal's lip, lowering his brother's head to the ground and screwing on the cap. "He needs blood."

Goodfellow raised his eyebrows. "We don't have—"

"He needs it," Niko snapped. "His heart rate is too fast and I can barely feel a pulse in his wrists. With the dehydration, I don't know if he'll be able to rebound fast enough. Can you retrieve some?"

Goodfellow gaped at him a moment, his eyes going from Niko's stony face to Cal's limp features. "Okay," he said finally. "I'll meet you back at the apartment."

"Quickly," Niko ordered.

Goodfellow turned and met Niko's gaze, nodding sympathetically. "Quickly."

Niko held the eye contact, nodding resolutely, before turning back to his brother as the puck disappeared out the hole.

With Goodfellow's exit, Niko returned his attention fully on his brother. Cal, for his part, had still not moved and was laid sprawled just as Niko's shaking had left him.

Just like she had left him.

Her mind rebelled and so did her stomach. She did this. She did all of this. She'd nearly killed him. She was a monster.

Niko didn't notice her distress, and Cal certainly was not capable of it. It was like watching from another room, another life. She was totally removed from their interaction.

Murmuring so softly that Promise couldn't make out the words, Niko carefully pulled his brother to a sitting position, letting Cal's head rest in the crook of his neck. Shoving the water in his pocket, he maneuvered himself to a steadier position, preparing to pull Cal over his shoulder. It was awkward work, especially with how loose-limbed Cal was. His body swung in Niko's grip, heavily listing to the side as Niko tried to manage it.

As Niko attempted to pull Cal, the younger brother nearly fell altogether and Promise found herself moving to Niko's side, her hands instinctively moving to catch Cal.

She was surprised when Niko's grip tightened, pulling Cal away from her viciously before turning fiery eyes upon her.

"Do not touch him," Niko said, his voice low and dangerous, the voice he used with his enemies. She had never known Niko to be an angry or malicious man, yet she shrunk away from his voice.

Niko's eyes glistened as he turned away from her, putting his full attention back into his brother. It took a moment, but Niko hoisted Cal over his shoulder, securely grasping his brother's legs while Cal's torso flopped against Niko's back, his long arms flapping against Niko's thighs.

Promise didn't move, didn't dare move until Niko was standing and toward the hole. Her shock wore off long enough to collect Cal's discarded jacket, the leftover gauze, and then follow Niko out the hole.


Niko still didn't speak to her, but he didn't make her go. He tolerated her silent presence without grace or compassion.

She followed behind them, noticing how Niko's shoulders trembled under Cal's weight, how the younger brother's arms flapped against his brother's back with each step they took.

To her surprise, the hole only burrowed for a short distance before opening up into a man-made corridor. A subway tunnel, an abandoned access point, it seemed.

Niko moved quickly and without hesitation, navigating the dark tunnel system with an efficiency that only he could maintain under such circumstances. Soon, they were climbing stairs, thankfully abandoned, before emptying out into a quiet side street.

It didn't make sense. None of it made sense. She hadn't known where they'd been kept, but it had seemed like the center of the earth, like miles away from civilization, from life, from hope.

And yet, in just five minutes, there she was. Breathing pure New York City morning air.

She flinched, surprised by the sun. It always seemed bright to her, but now it seemed especially garish. She fumbled for her cloak, flinging it over her head haphazardly to avoid getting burned.

Not that she really saw the point in it.

Her main focus was on Cal, limp in Niko's arms. The boy had yet to move, and she wondered how long he could hold on. The boy had seemed indestructible, having survived so much. Maybe he'd been right. Maybe he could even survive her.

She had a feeling that her relationship with Niko was not so easily salvaged. Because the way he’d looked at her—the coldness, the terror, the anger. It was like he saw her for the first time, saw her for what she really was: a monster.


It felt funny to walk; it felt funny to breathe. But both came with such force, such vigor, that she could not deny the swelling of her soul to be alive and free.

That was thanks to Cal.

The rest came to her in flashes.

There was a van, no doubt Goodfellow's contribution, parked along the street, haloed by the light of a streetlight.

The ride was bumpy, awkward, Promise stuffed in the far back, Cal stretched out on the seat behind Niko. Niko drove with one hand on the wheel, the other always reaching back to his brother.

She barely recognized the apartment, but watched as Niko almost dropped his brother in his haste to get inside. There was an uncharacteristic swearing, but still he did not waver.

Promise followed at a distance, terrified to be closer, unable to distance herself.

Inside, the apartment felt stale, stuffy, and looked unkempt. She trailed after Cal toward the bedroom, but then Niko finally spoke.

"Stay here," he growled, low and dangerous and like an arrow to the heart.

Shaking, broken, she sank to the couch and wished she could cry.


The world was buzzing, deep and insistently, and his limbs tingled with sensation. It felt heavy, it felt wrong, and he didn't want to feel it anymore.

He groaned, tried to turn away, tried to disappear, but there was something—someone. "Cal? Cal?"

The voice was scared, relieved, hopeful, tired. Niko.


He may fuss and complain but he never could deny Niko when it mattered. Cracking his eyes, he was blinded by light and movement, and his stomach churned with a wave of nausea. He closed his eyes again.

"Damn it, Goodfellow, I need the blood," Niko hissed, his voice sounding different this time, more distant.

There was a grumbling somewhere, but he couldn't make it out.

Awareness was unrelenting, simmering throughout every synapse in his body with an intensity that suddenly scared him. He was weak, powerless, and he didn't know why. He was fading, dying, and it hurt.

"He's—hurry—the saline roused him—"

There was some fumbling near him, next to him, and Cal opened his eyes again, taking in the dimness of his bedroom. Niko was on the bed next to him, working with something in his hand. Robin crouched on the floor, holding his arm out. The puck smiled.

"Morning, Caliban," he said with a friendly smile.

He had a thousand questions, a million fears, and no way to do anything but stare.

"I know, I know," Robin said lightly, as if he understood everything. "But we're taking care of you. You'll be up and ready to brood again in no time."

"Hold him steady," Niko hissed, and Cal's eyes flashed to his brother. Niko's hair looked dirty, frayed. There were bags under his eyes. He caught Cal's eyes and offered a watery smile. "You're going to feel a needle stick," Nik coached him gently. "But you'll feel better soon. I promise."

And that was about all Cal needed, all Cal ever needed. Niko's word was golden, and Cal would believe that until the day he died. His eyes drifted closed and he let himself float, until a sharpness in his arms made him cry out.

"Almost there," Robin whispered, lulling Cal back toward oblivion. Robin's hands were on him, gentle, calming. "Almost."

Cal wanted to cry, but didn't know how. He wanted to wake up, but didn't have the resources. He wanted to sleep, but was afraid to try.

"Rest," Niko soothed, letting a sure hand drop on his forehead. "Rest."

And Cal obeyed.


Hours passed. Hours of hushed voices from the bedroom, hissed orders, nervous scuffling.

When someone finally emerged, it was Goodfellow, looking a bit ragged, though still in typical form. His designer clothes were only slightly rumpled, a nearly imperceptible sheen of sweat glistening at his hairline.

She straightened, looking up at him imploringly. "How is he?"

The puck just looked at her, uncertainly, as he went to the kitchen and pulled one of Niko's bottles of water from the fridge. He unscrewed it, sinking himself into the chair.

"Goodfellow?" she asked, her voice demanding and desperate.

"He's perking up," Robin said finally. "The saline and the blood are working their magic. Niko's making sure he doesn't have a reaction. He won't be leaving that boy's side any time soon."

She felt herself sag with relief, releasing a breath she didn't know she was holding.

Goodfellow fiddled with his water bottle, sloshing the liquid around as he tried not to look at her. "He's pretty angry," he said finally, almost reluctantly.

Her eyes flashed to him, dark and suspicious. Goodfellow had been an ally, that was true, but she knew his affections for Niko. "My concerns are for Cal alone," she snapped. "His well-being is what matters to me."

This seemed to surprise Goodfellow and his expression softened, but remained reserved, cautious. Cautious of her. "You want to tell me what happened?"

Her throat constricted and her eyes burned. But she needed to tell him; it was her only chance. Her only chance at redemption started here, through this puck, and maybe, in time, Niko could forgive her too. Caliban was another matter entirely. "We were meeting Frederick Ely," she started, steeling her voice. "He said he wanted to hire us."

"He didn't," Robin surmised knowingly.

She shook her head curtly. "They overpowered Cal by force and took me with a drug. When I woke up, we were in the cavern. There was no way out. No food. No water."

"They left you there to die," Goodfellow said and she got the impression he already knew.

She just nodded, feeling empty. She wanted to tell him more. She needed to tell him more, but the words didn't come. She settled for her own questions instead. "How did you find us?"

"Niko followed up on the trail of Ely," Goodfellow explained. He paused taking a swig of water. "He shook down every contact he could find. They covered their tracks well, but you know how...persuasive Niko can be."

She did. She'd seen his doggedness when Cal went missing while inhabited by Darkling. More than that, she knew his soul, his unwavering determination.

"It was an experiment," Robin said finally. "Some kind of twisted science project."

Her eyes widened.

"They were filming you, taking notes on how you both responded," Goodfellow told her. He nodded to the pile of equipment and tapes on the dining room table. "We raided their lab. I scoured the material, looking for clues. Niko tried to blast through every wall underground New York. We're lucky the whole damn city didn't catch on to what we were doing."

It was too much information, too fast. "They were...testing us?"

Goodfellow nodded. "There were others before you. Different species, genders, ages."

The news was overwhelming. She hadn't known what she expected, but she didn't expect this. She didn't expect to know she’d been used, violated so basically. Revenge was understandable. She knew how to cope with that. It was degrading, but not completely demoralizing.

This—Promise felt nauseous. She'd been stalked, captured, and observed like a rat in a maze, someone with a clipboard noting how many times she ran into walls.

"Why?" she managed to ask. "Why would they do this?"

Robin's face grew serious, his lips tight. "They wanted to know what beings would do to survive. How much they'd sacrifice. The footage is—" The puck actually blanched. "—the footage is despicable."

They wanted to know what beings would do to survive.

They'd wanted to know if the monsters within came out.

She'd proved them right.

She'd walked right into it. If not for Niko, she would have killed Cal, killed him like he was nothing, killed him like the monster she was.

It was too much. Tears burned in her eyes and her stomach turned violently. She staggered to her feet, lurching to the bathroom.

Goodfellow stood with her, reaching out to steady her. "Easy," he said. "I imagine you're more than a bit dehydrated yourself. I know vampires don't need water and food like humans do, but you've got to give your body some time to recover."

She heard him, somehow, but she didn’t really understand what he’d said. It took a minute to get her feet, but didn't shake away Robin's hand. "What if he dies?"

Goodfellow paled a little, his jaw tightening before he smoothed his face with a smile. "That boy has survived too much to die like this."

His assurance fell on her numbly.

Robin sighed, releasing her arm carefully. "You didn't want to hurt him," he said. "I know you tried to fight it."

"Not hard enough," she whispered. "Not hard enough."

"I saw the tape," he told her. "I saw everything, and then I destroyed it. I never let Niko see it. It means nothing, Promise."

"Tell that to Niko," she said. "Tell that to Cal."

Shushing her, Goodfellow eased her to the seat. "Take a drink, okay?" he said, picking up her bottle and offering it to her.

Suddenly without strength, she couldn't shake his help and meagerly accepted the water.

She didn't know how to deal with the deep thirst that saturated her. But it wasn't for water.

It was for blood.


There was this noise.

A rustling, soft and gentle by his head.

Which made no sense at all. Why the hell was anything his bedroom to begin with? Couldn't a guy get some kind of privacy?

Then Cal remembered that he really was in some freaky underground cavern. Trapped. With Promise. Promise—

Wait, he was on a bed. There was a pillow under his head. What the hell?

He stirred, trying to open his eyes.

"Cal? You awake in there?"

The easy, silken voice was Goodfellow. The puck. He knew the puck was kinky, but what was he doing in Cal's bedroom while Cal was asleep.

He attempted to tell Robin in no uncertain terms to go away.

"What?" Goodfellow asked. "You're not making much sense there."

He tried for obscenities, hoping that'd get his point across.

"Easy, Caliban," Goodfellow said, putting a reassuring hand on his arm. "You've been pretty out of it now. It's been nearly twelve hours."

Twelve hours? Twelve hours since what? Had he suddenly fallen into the twilight zone? And Robin babbled on the best of days, so why couldn't he for once try to be a little coherent this time? His head was killing him and his mind seemed to have the attention span of a flea.

"Nik's asleep in the other room," Robin continued. "I practically had to drag him away from you, not that I minded that, you know."

Cal could practically see the suggestive waggle of Robin's perfectly manicured eyebrow.

"I told him I'd keep watch over you. He seems to think you're going to fall apart if he's not there. Not that this recent kidnapping thing you had going really instilled much confidence in him to the contrary."

Cal glared at that, trying again to open his eyes.

"It wasn't your fault, I know," Robin said in consolation. There was a pause and Cal wondered briefly if he'd fallen asleep again. He wasn't that lucky. "It's a miracle you survived at all."

There was sadness, a fear in Goodfellow's voice that surprised him.

The hand on his arm squeezed gently. "I'm glad you're okay," he said. "Now rest up before Niko realizes you're awake and I have to tie him to the bed."

Cal didn't even have to think twice.


Niko was angry.

Cal twitched a smile. Niko could be so funny when he was angry. It was a sight to see his usually Zen-like brother submitting to the same anger that seemed to control the rest of the world.

It would have been funnier if he wasn't trying to sleep. Nik always did have this annoying habit of doing things on a timeline that only made sense to him. Big brother's prerogative, or something. And Niko did think that Cal slept too much.

"...why didn't you come get me?" Niko was asking, his voice straining for a lower decibel but not achieving it.

"You were asleep," Robin responded logically.

Normally, logic with Nik was good. Unless it had to do with Cal.

"I told you I wanted to be with him if he woke up—he could be—who knows what memories he has of this whole thing."

That, perversely, was enough to bring Cal fully out of his slumber. Niko was in full-on big brother mode, trying to mother hen him like he was still six years old. He knew the guy had changed his diapers and pretty much performed every other motherly duty possible, but he was an adult now. And, more than that, he was fine.

If he could have opened his eyes and focused on the room, he might have been more convincing on that point.

"Relax," Robin said easily. "He was fine. Barely even awake. The kid didn't even seem distressed."

Damn right he didn't. Embarrassed, sure, for letting the midget get the drop on him, and tired as all get out, but by this point in his life, Cal's ego had to be nearly nonexistent.

He couldn't see Niko's facial expression, but he didn't really need to. He could pretty well imagine the look of barely restrained rage he was probably staring the puck down with at the moment.

He could also imagine the look of unabashed attraction that was surely emanating from Goodfellow.

Those two should really get a room. Preferably not his.

"Look, why don't you go check on him?" Robin finally offered. "He's done with the blood and the second saline should be empty by now, too. With all that, the kid should be ready to wake up."

"Fine," Niko growled. "Go make some broth, and find some crackers from the cabinet. When he's awake, I want him to be able to eat. He needs to start regaining his energy."

"Sure," Goodfellow said genially. There was a pause. "He's going to be fine, Nik. He really is."

Niko made no response and the hallway lapsed into silence. Which Cal knew meant he was due for a visit any second now.

Struggling, he managed to open his eyes in time to see one bleary looking brother.

Rather, he couldn't totally see Niko because his eyesight was blurry.

Something like a smile crossed Nik's face as he cross the floor to perch on Cal's bed. "You're awake," he commented, resting a hand on his forehead.

Cal squinted, hard, and his brother came into focus. "Yeah," he said, or tried to say before he realized his throat was like sandpaper.

Niko was prepared, holding a bottle of water in front of him before he could even cough. Cal could tell his brother wanted to help him with it, but Cal was ready to be a big boy and try it all on his on. Tentatively, he tried moving his arms to prop himself up on his elbows.

Niko let him, but hovered near him. When Cal was mostly steady, he accepted the bottle of water and held it shakily to his mouth.

"Slowly," Niko advised. "It is likely to make you sick if you drink too fast, and I have no desire to clean up your vomit on top of everything else you've put me through this past week."

Cal glowered, handing the bottle back to his brother before flopping to the bed in a huff. "Nice to see you, too," he grumbled, shifting under the blanket.

Niko ignored him. "How do you feel?"

He was really sick of that question. "Peachy," he said back.

Niko glanced up at the IV pole that they must have snatched, noting the empty saline bag. "If you promise to keep drinking, I won't make you keep the IV."

Cal looked to his arm, noticing the IV sticking out of it near the crook. There was another spot, a little red, where another had already been removed. "You can unstick me now," he said. "I promise to be good."

The look Niko shot him was hardly one of trust and reassurance. "There is little evidence to support that assertion," he said pointedly, but reached for the IV nonetheless.

Cal couldn't help but look, strangely fascinated by the swift and sure motion that had the IV pulled free of his vein. Niko checked it, then handed him a tissue to hold over it while it clotted. Cal grinned. "Thanks," he said. "Feels good to be a free man."

"You may be off the IV, but you are still confined to bed rest until further notice."

"I've been laying down for a week, Nik," Cal groaned.

"Which is exactly why you need to regain your strength. I have already employed Robin's over-eager presence in retrieving something for you to eat," Niko said.

A surge of hope passed through him. "A pizza?"

Niko didn't even take pity on him to look amused. Not even a little. "Broth for now," he said. "We'll try feeding you some crackers if you can handle the broth."

Cal groaned. "They're probably wheat crackers, too. Unsalted. From one of your freaky organic stores."

"They will be bland for your stomach," Niko said simply. "After being as dehydrated as you were, we need to build your stomach back up slowly."

Cal took a small sip of water. Being dehydrated, he decided, sucked. "Sounds thrilling," he said, in a less than thrilled voice.

"In a few days, we'll have to get you back into some form of training regimen, something slow and light," Niko continued.

Whoa, wait. A training regimen? "I wasn't even on a regimen before," Cal protested. He barely knew what the word regimen meant, but he knew if Niko was for it, chances were he was completely against it. "There's no way I'm going to start one now."

Niko gave him an appraising look. "You're sicker than you realize," he said. "Besides, I want to try to avoid future incidents. I think a little daily workout would be a fair tradeoff to avoid future situations of peril."

Cal scowled at that. "Are you calling me slow?"

Niko sighed. "This wasn't your fault," he assured him. "But I need to be sure you are fit and prepared. I don't particularly enjoy having to nurse you back to health so often."

Fair enough. For the record, Cal didn't really like being nursed back to health either. It was bad for his image. Not to mention the fact that it made him feel like he was five, a feeling he hadn't even enjoyed when he was, well—five. "So what happened anyway? Where were we? And why were we there?"

Niko's brow furrowed and he looked grave. "What do you remember?"

"Getting knocked out like some rank amateur," he said, all too aware of how petulant he sounded. But he was sick, and he was the younger brother. He had a role to fulfill and since he couldn't really do much else with any gusto, he'd take what he could get.

"Mr. Ely and his associates were quite well-organized," Niko said. "To overtake you and Promise required a great deal of forethought."

He probably could have guessed that. But that still didn't answer the real question: "Why?"

Niko sighed, his even facade cracking ever so slightly. "He lives up to the term mad scientist unlike any other creature I've encountered," Niko said poignantly. He scrubbed a hand over his face, and Cal suddenly noticed how tired and old his brother looked. He really was bad for Niko's health.

The older brother sighed. "It was an experiment," he continued bluntly. "Lock the subjects up with no hope of escape, no contact from the outside world, and see what instinct drives people to do."

Cal didn't know what he'd expected, but he was pretty sure that wasn't it. He couldn't keep his mouth from gaping. "We were lab rats?"

Niko's mouth flattened and he nodded. "They were filming you, but Goodfellow destroyed the evidence. There were dozens of documented cases before you."

Cal's mind worked with that. "Wait, dozens before us?"

Niko nodded.

"And what happened to them?"

Niko looked away.

Cal swore, his shock wearing on his already weak body. He felt himself wilting against the sheets. "Guess I'm lucky I have a hard-headed idiot like you who won't take gone as an answer."

"And I'm lucky I have a brother like you who never gave into it," Niko said. "The other subjects—I scanned the notes. It is remarkable how many turned to cannibalism or suicide. You, though, you hung on."

"I didn't do it alone," Cal pointed out quickly. "Promise was there." That triggered a memory, and he felt guilty he hadn't asked before. "How is she anyway? Things got...dicey in there."

Niko's face, which was usually humorless thanks to Niko's total lack of a sense of humor, grew hard. When no reply was forthcoming, Cal's heart skipped a beat and he tried to push himself up further.

"Nik, what are you telling me? Is Promise okay? I mean, did she get out okay?"

"She's fine," Niko ground out without any luster.

Something was still off. "Well, where is she? I haven't seen her, I would have—"

"She's fine," Niko cut him off firmly, angrily.

Cal didn't know what to say to that. A thousand questions lingered on his tongue, begging to be asked, but he couldn't push anything out.

Uncomfortable, Niko stood in a huff. "I'm going to go see what's taking Goodfellow so long," he said. "Then, you're eating."

Not waiting for a reply, Niko left.

Cal just stared after him, wondering what the hell had happened to his big brother. He knew time apart was stressful for Niko, and he knew how obsessive his brother was when it came to his well-being. But as far as Cal knew, everything was going well with Promise. They'd been together as naturally as if they'd always been together. No glitches, no hiccups. Two centered people, finding more peace in one another.

Or at least that's what he'd thought.

Cal sighed, letting himself sink back into the bed. All this thinking was giving him a headache. And his arm hurt—he scratched absently at the IV site, then remembered the sores on his wrists.

Something in Cal's mind clicked.

He remembered Promise drinking from him, draining each wrist. He remembered himself begging her to take anything else she needed.

He didn't remember anything after that.

Unconsciously, his fingers went to his neck, fondling the bandage there.

So that was what was wrong with Niko.

He closed his eyes, muttering to himself. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."

It'd been his choice. He'd told her to do it. And who knew what screwed up notion Niko had in his head? And who knew how Promise was coping? Drinking his blood hadn't been fun for him, but it had been emotionally traumatizing for her, Cal was certain of that much. She needed Niko to support her, not shut her out.

Cal had to fix it. Too bad he didn't have a clue how. He knew his brother well enough to know that when his mind was made up, there was practically nothing he could do about it.

He really should have stayed asleep.


Promise was used to transience. She moved quickly from locale to locale, from city to city, retreat to retreat. Her fifty year stints made her established among each group of human with which she placed herself, but they were all in passing for her. She collected her trinkets from each place, amassing an impressive collection of her life that was nothing more than memories of places far away and times long ago.

She often lived unobtrusively, but comfortably. She did not seek society, but neither did she shun it. And she often found that men and women alike were drawn to her, like moths to the flame, attracted to a mysteriousness in her they confused with grace and elegance.

For a long time, she did shun their companionship. She may have lived among them, excelled in their society, but her friendships were exclusive and hard to achieve. There were too many risks, too many complications. She couldn't tell them the truth, she could never reveal herself entirely, and the separation made her lonely.

But her own kind dwindled and she cared for them less and less. Their exclusivity was based in fear and superiority, and the culture that had life and vibrancy—it was all human. Like most beings, she craved for what she did not have.

It was easy to gain love and friendship.

It was harder to keep, especially when they understood her fangs were not a genetic mutation. Especially when they understood what kept her alive.


Their blood.

She could still remember the hysterics in her barrio in Sevilla. The outrage. The chants.

They had burned her home, everything in it, chanting with the fire flickering in their angry eyes monster, abomination, devil.

She’d escaped with her life and the determination to be careful. And the sudden conviction that maybe they were right.

How could she live among them and crave to kill them?

Her years in solitude were long and dark, and when she emerged, she reentered with a promise to herself to never touch human blood again.

She always had kept that promise.

Until Caliban Leandros.

Alone in her apartment, among her things, her life, her joys, all she could hear was the mob's angry litany of damnation.

And all she could taste was the sweet, sweet taste of Cal's blood.


Being able to pee felt so good.

He couldn't remember the last time he'd gone. He supposed it was possible he'd had an accident while he was unconscious, but no one had mentioned anything, and he was pretty sure that dehydration made urine nearly nonexistent anyway.

So when the afternoon came with that familiar tingle in his bladder, he was more than happy to relieve it. Besides, he wanted to get out of that bed that Niko had sentenced him to.

Niko had looked nervous about the whole walking thing (even though Cal had been walking since he was one), but Cal figured his big brother had just been so damned relieved that he had to pee at all that he let Cal go. With an escort all the way, of course. Niko probably would have stayed in the room with him had Cal not glowered him into the hallway.

The process left him refreshed but drained (literally and figuratively) and Cal meekly accepted Nik's help to get him back to bed.

Once settled, Cal felt a lazy wave of sleep wash over him, and he yawned. "I feel like I could sleep for another twelve hours."

"That would hardly be unusual for you," Niko replied.

Cal rolled his eyes. "Mr. Sensitive."

"The sleep will be good for you."

"I was just dehydrated."

"You were hypovolemic," Niko corrected, a small edge to his voice.

He would just have to assume that wasn't good.

His blankness must have been obvious. "You lost over half your blood supply."

Cal just raised his eyebrows. Well, that certainly was a new one for him. No wonder Niko was so freaked out. Cal attempted to smile, hoping to placate his big brother with the assurance that he was fine. "I had to take one for the team," he tried to joke.

Niko didn't laugh, which really wasn't all that unusual. But he didn't even attempt a smile; if anything, his face grew more somber, harder. "She had no right to do that to you."

Cal supposed he should at least be grateful that Nik wasn't avoiding the subject. But he could tell this wouldn't be easy to convince Niko of much of anything. Still, he had to try. And his best approach: blunt honesty. "I told her to," he insisted. "I would have slit my wrist and shoved it in her face if I could."

"Cal, you were concussed," Niko said evenly.

As if he didn't already know that from the pounding headache he'd had for nearly a week straight. "That doesn't mean that I didn't know what I was doing."

Niko just stared. "Actually, that would be exactly what it means. I'm not sure whether we need to increase your vocabulary or your medical knowledge."

Cal scrunched his nose. Niko may have had a point there, but there was no way he was going to get Cal to spend more time studying out of this. And his brother was distracting him from his point. "I wanted to do this," he said. "I wanted to do this for you. You couldn't lose both of us, and only one of use could survive. I just did the math."

Niko looked somber, which really wasn't all that unusual, but Cal could feel his brother's anxiety rolling off him. "It appears I have no reason to trust your math skills either."

He loved his brother, he really did, but sometimes, Niko was dense. Perhaps purposefully so, but for all his smarts and inner peace, the guy could be as thick as a brick. "Well, you apparently have no compassion left at all," Cal snapped in frustration.

Niko didn't rise to Cal's anger. Just raised his eyebrows in question.

That just made Cal even more frustrated. Maybe it was the fact that he'd been bedridden for far too long or that he'd slept more in a week than he should have in a month. Or maybe it was the fact that he was starving for something with some taste and substance in it. Or maybe it was just that he knew something had happened in there—something bad—and it was screwing everyone else up worse than it was him. "It's not her fault," he said finally, perhaps a bit sulkily.

"Cal, I know what she did," Niko said evenly.

"Do you?" Cal asked, accusingly. "I mean, were you there?"

A muscle jumped in Niko's jaw. "I saw enough, little brother."

"You saw the end," Cal told him. "You didn't see everything that happened before that."

"I don't need to."

Niko's calm could be infuriating under the best of circumstances. When Cal actually had a point, a real and valid point, it nearly drove him to distraction. "Damn it, Nik," he said, slamming his hand hard against the mattress. "You don't know anything!"

Niko's eyes flashed dangerously, sparkling with a cold and fear that Cal had never seen. "I saw her drinking your blood," he seethed back. "She was killing you. I trusted her, and she was going to kill you. I saw the monster inside of her and I will never be able to forget that."

There it was. The truth, the raw confession Cal had known all along and been waiting for. "There's a monster inside of all of us."

Niko settled back in his chair, calm settling tightly over his face again.

Cal swallowed, attempting to regain the composure he'd never really had. "So what, I'm an okay monster and she's not? Last I checked, I was the one who nearly destroyed the world."

Niko sighed, clearly wearied by the same argument. Niko had been quick to forgive Cal. It'd been harder to let it go himself. "That wasn't you, Cal."

Tonight, it wasn't about him. "And this wasn't her. Come on, Nik," he said. "She was just doing what she needed to do to survive. She would have died without it. She didn't want to drink it. I offered it to her. I told her to."

Niko looked down, his hair falling loosely about his shoulders and Cal's soul ached. He hated to see his brother in pain. "She nearly killed you," Niko admitted. "I don't know how to trust her after that."

"She nearly died, too."

Looking up, Niko met his eyes. "No one's more important than you." Niko's voice was steady, resolute.

And that was it, really, the crux of the whole thing. Niko had his priorities, had always had his priorities, and nothing—nothing would interfere with that.

Cal could feel that love course through him, followed immediately by guilt. He'd already cost his brother so much. He'd taken so much from Niko and his brother had never once complained. Never once said anything. He couldn't take Promise from him, too. Not when she could make him happy.

For his entire life, Niko had always tried to put him first, told him that he was the most important one ever.

It was time for Niko to believe the same about himself.


Niko, inevitably, as Niko always did, fell into a strict routine, one that Cal was still too weak to truly resist.

It didn't mean that he didn't want to. He was just so tired of being sick, of being immobile. He wanted freedom again, to move, to pee on his own, to eat real food.

Niko was many things, but a push-over, he was not. No, if Cal wanted to eat like a human being again, he'd have to employ other methods. Not to mention the fact that if he ever wanted to see Promise again, he couldn't ask Niko. She had become taboo to him, which was about more than Cal could handle.

He'd nearly died with her. He knew she was hurting and he just needed to see her with his own eyes, make sure she was okay. He needed to tell her that he was sorry.

And he needed a chili cheese dog. Before he turned into some gigantic grain of natural fiber.

Where was Robin when he needed him?

He hadn't seen Robin in awhile, not since Niko had chased him out under the pretense that Cal needed to rest (and wouldn't he like to get that one in writing for the next time Niko wanted him to train when Cal just wanted to watch TV). But, if he knew the puck, it was likely he'd be around again (or even still). Robin had firmly entrenched himself into their lives, mostly without invitation, and Cal knew that especially when things were rough, Robin wasn't far behind.

And Cal sort of understood, though it was still hard to get used to. Robin was more lonely than he admitted, mostly because Cal knew loneliness and recognized it easily under the puck's vibrant salaciousness. Robin cared about them, and he was worried about them. He'd stick around the apartment until Cal groused enough to make him leave.

Now, the question was, how to get Robin in there without eliciting concern from Niko.

He could try getting up, but that would undoubtedly raise Niko's attention, which was not the point.

He could sit and hope Robin wandered by, but Cal was not exactly patient.

That just left one thing. Rudimentary, but hopefully effective. "Robin!" he called. "Hey, Robin!"

With any luck, Robin would hear and come, and Niko would assume Cal just needed someone with a sense of humor to pass the time.

When Robin's curly head poked around the doorway, Cal knew he'd secured his victory.

"Need something?" Robin asked, meandering in cautiously, as if he expected Niko to jump out the closet and chase him away (which, Cal considered, was a possibility).

He'd deal with that if he had to. Right now, he had a puck to work over. "Robin, I need your help," he said, hoping to sound innocent, maybe a little pathetic. Maybe he was still gaunt enough to tug on heartstrings, since he didn't totally have the little brother in with Robin or the sexual attraction (not that he minded that).

Robin looked skeptical. "Your brother has me under strict orders to take care of you properly," Goodfellow warned. "And you know how I can't refuse Niko's orders."

Cal turned it up a notch. "I'd do it myself, but it's just so hard. I'm so tired, and Niko won't give me an inch of breathing room. Come on, man. I was trapped for a week with nothing to eat or to do. Just one favor."

"I helped find you, didn't I?" Robin pointed out, but Cal could see him wavering.

He let his wide-eyed gaze linger on Robin's a little more before the puck huffed and sunk into the chair.

"Tell me what you want, Caliban," he said with a sigh. Then, with a waggle of his eyebrow, he added. "It’d better be good."

Cal grinned, his fatigued, kicked-puppy look melting away.


Robin was almost successful on the first charge. The chili cheese dog made it all the way to Cal's bedroom before Niko swooped in. Although it was Cal who had the super-sensitive smell, he was pretty sure that all of Niko's senses were abnormally strengthened by his bizarre dietary habits.

"You can throw that out in the dumpster on your way out," Niko said smoothly, nodding Goodfellow to the door.

Robin's mouth opened in protest, but Niko's gaze leveled him. With an apologetic look at Cal, he shrugged. "I tried, kiddo," he said. "We'll see what we can swing tomorrow, okay?"

Cal glared at Niko. "Thanks for trying," he said to Robin.

"It's always a pleasure," Robin replied, oddly sincerely. The puck gave a small, shy smile, before ducking out the door, the chili dog sadly in his hands.

Cal renewed his glare at his brother. "I thought you wanted me to not starve to death."

Niko was unfazed by Cal's tone. "You need to learn to appreciate foods from a wider variety of food groups," Niko said. "You want some chicken broth?"

Well, that sounded thrilling. "Oh, goody," Cal moped. "I can hardly wait."

"You'll thank me someday."

"Don't hold your breath," Cal muttered.

"I never do," Niko called back to him as he exited the room.

Cal just glared. Hopefully he could count on Goodfellow could come through on the second part of his request. His stomach may be protesting, but the second part was far more important anyway.

For all of them.


He ate more chicken broth to avoid being force fed by his older brother, who could no doubt pin him down and accomplish that task. Niko retired to the bedroom, probably to meditate on new ways to torment Cal, leaving Cal to his own devices.

Which meant he could stare out the window at the apartment across the alley.

Or he could stare at the wall.

Niko had left a few books discreetly by his bedside, but Cal could only assume they were meant to be used as coasters for the water Niko permitted him.

He was so absorbed in doing nothing that he barely heard the sound of the door opening. He recognized the loud clumps of Goodfellow's shoes, though, and he sighed. At least that would keep him from losing his mind.

Looking up, he was more than a little surprised to see Promise in the doorway.

Relief swept over him, followed closely by guilt. She looked horrible, ragged and empty, a shell of the vibrant woman she was. Or the vibrant vamp. Or whatever.

"Promise," he breathed. "You're okay."

It was a pretty dumb thing to say, not true and not sensitive, but Cal figured he must have lost some brain cells throughout the entire ordeal, so it wasn't his fault.

He couldn't help but thinking that Promise's state, however, was.

She gave him an empty smile, lingering in the doorway. "I just needed to see you," she said. "To make sure—to make sure you were okay."

Cal pushed himself up in the bed, leaning gingerly against the headboard. "You know me," he said. "It's going to take a lot more than some freaky science experiment to keep me down."

She didn't return the levity. Instead she looked down, unable to meet Cal's eyes.

The guilt made Cal's shoulders sag. He had done this to her. "I'm sorry, Promise," he said finally. His pride was a distant thing anyway amongst this group of people, but it still didn't make expressing himself easy. But for her, for what she had gone through—he had to try.

She turned a shocked gaze upon him. "You're sorry? Whatever for?"

"For not getting us out of there," Cal said. "For being weak. I mean—crap, the stuff you went through because I kept passing out all the time? I can't even imagine. I owe you my life."

Her incredulity was powerfully evident. "Cal, I nearly killed you."

He cocked his head. That wasn't how he'd envisioned this conversation going. "What?"

"I nearly drained you of all your blood," she explained hotly. "If Niko hadn't come when he did, I would have taken it all."

That wasn't a pleasant image, but it wasn't one that he hadn't entertained. "Well, of course you would have," he said. "I told you to. You needed to survive. I was too—I was too weak, I went down too fast. I wanted you to stay strong."

Her head dropped again. "You are not the one who is weak," she told him. "I promised myself I would never drink blood again. I promised myself I wouldn't hurt you."

And he got it. He understood. It wasn't her fault, none of it was, but she'd given in to the very need she'd tried so long to fight against. It didn't matter to her that she was in uncontrollable circumstances. It just mattered that she'd done it. That's all that mattered to her.

He couldn't stop the laugh of disbelief from crossing his lips. "We are more alike than I ever thought."

Surprised, she looked back at him. "Why do you say that?"

"We're both so afraid, you know. Of being a monster. That we don't take the time to realize that we can't control everything. That sometimes it's really not our fault."

She shook her head. "This is nothing like that, Cal."

"Isn't it? I nearly destroyed the world."

"It wasn't you." Her voice was strident, clear on that point.

"And whatever happened in that cavern—that wasn't you. You may not have had a stowaway making you do things, but a situation like that—" He shook his head. "Come on, Promise. That kind of thing isn't anyone's fault but the freak who put us there."

She looked hopeful at that, though still broken down and weary. She moved to his bed, perching lightly on the side. "I want to believe that," she said, her voice nearly a whisper. "I want to believe I really couldn't control it."

"Then what's stopping you?"

She closed her eyes, swallowing, before she looked at him squarely again. "I enjoyed it," she admitted. "I loved every moment of drinking from you. Even now, your blood—it calls to me."

"And you think I didn't enjoy every minute of trying to kill everyone? That time Darkling was in me—was the happiest I have ever been. Nothing will ever change that.

"How do you live with it?"

"You just do. Each day it gets a little less. And I guess, I guess I figure it's not so much about what I couldn't stop before, but how I deal with it now. The fact that Nik, Robin, and you—you all forgave me without question. Without objection."

"You are very strong," she said. "Stronger than I knew."

"Promise, I don't blame you," he said. "I never will."

She trembled, then a tear fell. Then another. Soon, she shook with them, her back curving over in the grief of it.

Saying words of comfort was one thing—one thing that he felt he was pulling out of his butt the entire time, but still achieving, up to a point—but crying women? That was entirely another. Cal barely knew how to let Niko touch him. Initiating such contact—Cal had never done it before. He could probably count the number of hugs he'd received in his life on one hand. Giving one was…almost unthinkable.

But she was hurting. She was hurting and grieving and some of that was his fault. More than that, he knew how she felt. He knew exactly how she felt, and there was no one else who was going to comfort her. No one else who could.

His movements were awkward and slow, his tired limbs only part of the reason. Promise didn't seem to notice, too lost in her tears to sense his movement.

Carefully, slowly, he moved until he was next to her. His arm shaking, he reached it out and tentatively, shyly let it drape across her back, softly letting his hand rest on her arm.

She tensed a little, almost flinched, but he squeezed back lightly, reassuringly and she let herself relax.

Feeling awkward, Cal kept himself still, but kept his arm steady, offering her anything he had. Anything at all.

She didn't sob, though Cal had nearly expected it. Instead she stayed close to him, and Cal could almost feel her heart beating with his.

She would survive this, just as he had. They had survived it together.

That meant everything.

Cal couldn't help but smiling, when he saw a movement in the hallway.

There, just outside the door, stood Niko. His brother was tense, wide-eyed. Cal held his gaze, letting his own peace flow to him as well. He knew Niko had probably wanted to storm in and throw Promise out. Niko's rage did not abate easily, even if he did show it in a measured fashion. But he hadn't, not yet, and Cal felt himself hope.

His brother swallowed, trembling a little, and Cal could see him struggling in himself to make sense of it.

Then, after a moment, Niko offered a small half-smile, barely anything, before nodding and walking on.


Waking up to Niko at his side was certainly not an unfamiliar sight, though it really was getting a bit old at this point. He was fine, or at least well on his way to being so. Niko could stop hovering any time now.

But then he saw the look on his brother’s face, thoughtful and sad. Niko wasn’t just here to make sure he was okay. Niko was here to talk.

"Hey," Cal said.

Niko’s face didn’t flicker.

"You okay?" Cal asked hesitantly.

Drawing in a breath, Niko turned decided eyes upon him. "You need to understand that you are more important than anything else," Niko said gravely. "Nothing will ever come between me and you. If there’s ever a choice between you or someone else, I will always choose you. I will protect you with everything I have."

And Cal knew that, Cal had always known it. But to hear it, to hear it so plainly—it made Cal’s heart skip a beat. "You think I don’t know that?" he asked quietly. "And don’t you think the same goes from me to you?"

At that, Niko smiled, dropping his head a little and his blonde hair falling over his shoulders. "I know," he said.

Cal waited. "But?"

Niko straightened himself, resolved. "When I entered the room and saw Promise…drinking from you, I didn’t know what to do," he admitted, looking at his hand. "I trusted her, and she nearly killed you. I didn’t know how to reconcile those two facts."

Niko’s logical mind did have a weakness then. He didn’t understand ambiguity, didn’t like it. It made him uncomfortable.

"But you," Niko continued, looking up at him. "You didn’t even think twice. You never blamed her. At all. You nearly died, and you just wanted to make sure she was okay." Niko paused, shaking his head in disbelief. "I watched you grow up not trusting anyone. I watched you nearly self-destruct with fear and loneliness. And yet there you were, comforting her."

"She loves you," Cal blurted. "She loves me too, but not like you. She loves you, and she’s good for you. You have to understand that it wasn’t her choice. It was never her choice. She needs you just as much as you need her. I can’t be the reason for that to fall apart."

Niko’s brow furrowed. "I’m so used to worrying about you," he said. "To have you worrying about me—that’s not something I’m sure I’m going to get used to."

Cal smirked. "Sometimes I’m right, you know, even without your college classes."

The grin on Niko’s face was relieved, shy. "That’s not to say you wouldn’t benefit from some extended education."

Cal just rolled his eyes, snorting a little. "That’s your job, big brother," he said. "And so is Promise. Have you talked to her?"

Niko’s smile fell and he tore his gaze from Cal again. "It’s very difficult."

"And raising me wasn’t?"

"Touché," Niko quipped weakly. "But if you can forgive her, then I think I can, too. I think I owe it to all of us to try."

Amen to that. Relief swept over Cal, like he’d finally done something right. More than that, he’d given something back to Niko. He had a long way to go to make everything up to him, to make all the sacrifices worthwhile, but he was still working on that. And it certainly seemed like he had some time.

"So," Cal said, throwing an arm behind his head. "Promise told me about this special talent you have with your legs."

Niko’s face reddened. "She did not."

Cal laugh short and hard. "Oh," he said, "but she did."

"I think you may have been hallucinating," Niko reasoned. "Blood loss and dehydration to that degree can lead to many hallucinatory experiences."

"There is no way I would have hallucinated something like that."

"I wouldn’t put it past you and your juvenile mind."

"You’re still avoiding the question," Cal pointed out.

Niko grunted and stood. "And you’re still bedridden," he said, somewhat triumphantly. "I’ll come back with more of those crackers I know you appreciate."

As Niko walked out of the room, Cal groaned, calling after him, "Next time I’ll just die, and then you’ll regret torturing me with crackers!"

Niko’s voice, light and warm, came back to him from the other side of the apartment. "I’d like to see you try."

Cal just grinned, thankful that he knew his brother was right.





Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: September 22nd, 2007 03:25 am (UTC)
Sam 4

Everything about this chapter was killer -- Niko's reaction to Promise's activities, big brother caring for the younger, Cal recovering his sassy edge and breaking through Promise's guilt. And don't forget Robin. I love Robin!

Cal teased Niko about his special leg talent. Grins. These brothers are awesome.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 7th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)

In some ways, I think the relationship between Niko and Cal is purer than that of Sam and Dean. I love Sam and Dean, but sometimes I really feel the constant connection of Cal and Niko better. They've hurt each other less, I think.

Posted by: Liz (freakonaleash0x)
Posted at: October 4th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC)

Ahh I love this so much. There was so much going on in this chapter I don't even know where to start bowing down to you ;-)
Niko to the rescue! I can't tell you how much I loved that he came in at such a bad time. It creates angst, how could I not love it? I think it's really necessary for him to see this side of her, whether or not it's easy, because relationships are about the good and the bad... and the bad has angst. Niko's reaction to seeing her like this was excellent. He is also a very controlled person, so even that much rage showing really spoke volumes. You did a really beautiful job with Promise (once again) and you showed her emotions so vividly. I love how the whole thing lead to Cal comforting her, because it really shows their relationship and how things are easier now after the incident in the RV. I guess being trapped in a cave with someone for a week is quite a bonding experience ;-) Last but not least (and I'm sure I'm leaving out a bajillion things still) I freaking adore the conversation that led to Niko saying that Cal comes first. I totally called that one haha. Yay brotherly love! *Draws hearts*. EEK, iTunes just finished downloading the S3 premiere (perfect timing!) so I'm off to spoil myself a day early :-D
Seriously, someone hide the caffeine...
Anyways, awesome job! I'm so glad I got into these books.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 7th, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)

Niko coming in on Promise sucking Cal was the first image that drew me to write this fic. It HAD to happen. And I must admited I loved writing it :) Because there's be no doubt in Niko's mind as to who he'd protect first and I LOVE that about him.

And YAY S3!!

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