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Title: Welcome Home
Word Count: 1223
Rating: R for f-bombs
Original/Fandom: Original (Cliffton)
Pairings (if any): Nope
Warnings (Non-Con/Dub-Con/etc): Nope
Summary: Brendan meets his new roommates.

I'm not a genius like my brother, but I'm usually pretty good at thinking things through. I'm a planner.

Only I might have missed a few tiny details when I hatched this whole scheme to start my own War. I spent weeks modifying Kalen's robots. Weeks preparing to use them. Somehow, I never thought about what'd happen after. Where I'd stay. How I'd feel about leaving my family. How they'd feel about losing another son. Not that they've noticed me much since Kalen's been gone, anyway.

At least the question of where to stay's been answered. Kalen's been living with some of those insurgents he met on the Splinternet. Guess we might be close to their place now, because the scenery we're trudging past has shifted. One minute we're in the middle of the desert and the next we're in this residential area with big old houses and scraggly tumblebrush lawns. It's not a fancy neighborhood, but you can tell people take pride in their homes. A lot of them have little rock gardens or other ornaments in front and the buildings themselves seem well-maintained.

I follow Kalen up the pebbled driveway of one of the houses. It's painted a weird dark purple but the ornamental cacti in front are trimmed just so. There's a wind sock tacked up by the front door that looks like some kind of dragon, maybe? I'm not sure what it is, but it's monster-y and has big fangs.

We're not even on the front steps when this tall, skinny guy comes flying out the front door.

"KALEN! YOU'RE BACK!" he screeches. He looks like he might be about to launch himself at my brother and hug him, but then he turns toward the open door instead. "Yeah, Devin. I forgot. I'll be quieter, okay? Yeah, I know. Kalen's a fugitive. I just got excited. Sorry, dude!"

Just watching this guy is making me tired. Or maybe it's just the whole day catching up with me.

When I woke up this morning, I had a mission. Now I've got nothing to my name but the shredded remnants of my clothes. I'm exhausted, covered in black gunk, and pretty sure I can never go home again. It feels like I've been walking for hours, long enough my anger's finally died down, leaving logic in its place. This isn't a good thing, because now I remember how my temper always gets me on trouble. It sure has this time.

"C'mon in, you guys!" The skinny hyper guy still hasn't really lowered his voice. "Oh, I'm Wes, by the way."

"Brendan." I hold my hand out and do my best not to sound grumpy. This guy is letting me stay in his house, even though he doesn't know me from Minister Squell. It's not his fault all I care about right now is a shower and a nap.

Wes yanks my arm up and down enthusiastically. I think it might come out of its socket if he doesn't stop soon. Then he tries to drag me inside, which doesn't really work because I must weigh about the same as three of him. He shoots me an awkward grin and grabs Kalen's arm instead. "I said come in, remember?"

Well, at least our new hosts seem welcoming enough.

I take a tentative step inside. Ahhhhh, climate control. After tromping around outside in the sweltering heat all day, it's all I can focus on. Until an angry voice breaks into my thoughts.

"Oh, fuck no." Apparently this is the other owner of the house? He's got long hair pulled back into a ponytail and he's almost as tall and thin as Wes but doesn't look nearly as friendly. Also, he's right up in my brother's face, arms crossed over his chest. It's a good thing his eyes don't shoot lasers like CallaBot's because Kalen would be dead if they did.

"Are you fucking serious with this shit?" Ponytail Guy isn't actually yelling but his voice just carries. I bet half the neighbors can hear him dressing down my brother. Grabbing one of CallaBot's insectile arms, I pull her into the house and shut the front door behind us. Seems like someone needs to.

CallaBot glares at me, her eyes starting to glow. I let go of her arm in a hurry.

"Does my house look like the fucking Snuggle Inn? Who the fuck are these - " Ponytail Guy shoots CallaBot a withering glance. I almost feel sorry for her, even though she's meaner than a fifty-fanged squid monster. "Who the fuck are these people and why are they fucking here?"

"Uh, Devin?" Wes looks anxious as he grabs Ponytail Guy's arm. "Dude? It's not a big deal. Calm down, okay?"

Devin glares at Wes. "I AM FUCKING CALM."

"What's the problem, Devin?" Uh oh. I recognize the pitch of Kalen's voice right now. It's the way he talks to me when I lose my temper. The snotty, entitled tone that makes me want to pound him into a bloody pulp. I hope Devin's got better impulse control than I do.

Right now, Devin looks like smoke might come out of his ears at any moment.

"It's just my brother and Calla - oh yeah, she got turned into a robot." Kalen doesn't seem to understand he should probably stop talking now. "They don't have anywhere else to go. I figured since you were letting me stay here anyway - "

"Letting you stay here?" Devin should be an opera singer or something. His vocal range is impressive. Also, I think he might kill my brother. "LETTING YOU FUCKING STAY HERE?"

Kalen's just standing there with his mouth hanging open. Good thing I closed the door or he'd catch flies.

"Devin, dude?" Wes lays a hand on his shoulder. "C'mon, it's okay. We've got plenty of room."

Devin jerks away from Wes and fixes him with his not-laser eyes. "It. Is. Not. Fucking. Okay."

I can actually feel how angry he is. The air around us is charged with his rage. If this is what it's like to be around me when I'm mad, no wonder Kalen avoids me all the time. Right now, I sure as fuck don't want to be anywhere near this guy. Good thing I'll be living with him for the foreseeable future. Maybe.

"You didn't even fucking ask if you could stay with us." Devin grabs my brother by the shoulders and growls at him. "You just fucking showed up."

Kalen just blinks at him, looking completely mystified. Oh, Kalen. This was your plan for us?

"Now you're bringing more fugitives here?" Devin steps back, crosses his arms and shakes his head. He's lowered his voice and he almost looks dazed. "I don't fucking get it. What about me and Wes? What about our lives? Did you not even consider how all of this is gonna fucking affect us?

"Devin." Wes puts an arm around his roommate. His voice is soft but firm. "Dude. It's okay. We're fine."

"Fuck it," Devin mumbles. "Wes says you can fucking stay. I don't give a shit what you people do." He turns on his heel and stomps out of the room, Wes following close behind.

Kalen's frozen in place like he's been hit with a nanoblaster stun. Today just keeps getting better.

This story takes place more or less immediately after Barefoot, Uphill, Both Ways and Second Thoughts. Just in case that wasn't obvious to those following along.

(also, using this story to fill the "hostile climate" prompt on my h/c bingo card)


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