The late autumn sun was weak, barely strong enough to warm his bare arms, especially with the fresh breeze up on the rooftop of their little London flat. And yet it was still warm enough, still enough of a difference to the cold permeating the demon realm that Nick couldn't help but notice it, couldn't help but feel it warm his human skin, see the light reflecting off every surface around him. Feel the breeze, cool as it was, still warmer - fresher, freer, more playful - than everything the demon realm could offer.
A part of him would always be distracted by it - distracted and hungry and angry at the humans who had this all the time and took it for granted. A part of him would always want for it and search for it and fear it being taken away.
But another part of him had been raised human - and wasn't that a strange concept, still, even after two years of remembering what and who he was and how old he was, how much he had experienced before, how much he had known before - and that part of him, tiny as it should be compared to his life experience, was strong enough that he wasn't as distracted by the warmth of the sun or the wind or even the smell of car exhaust and someone cooking dinner or the sound of cars driving and honking.
No. For all that he could feel and see and hear and smell it there was something much more important, something that took up much more of his focus.
There, opposite of him, bathed in the last rays of a dying sun and with an expression somewhere between utmost concentration and indulgent amusement on his face, stood Alan, holding a sword.
Once upon a time - months ago - they had sat in the grass of the Goblin Market and Nick had told him: "I want to teach you how to use a sword."
And Alan, liar, brother, favourite, had smiled at him - that sweet smile that he used on people that he really liked and that might be a lie, too, or might be honest - and said: "Well, if you would really like to."
But Nick was a demon and they were diligent about bargains and promises, and he had fought for freedom and for the Market and for Mae who was his friend and for Sin who might be Alan's friend and had been something like a friend - a demon friend, not a human one, which was different because it was more than an ally and yet far less than a human friend - to Nick. He had fought for himself, for Anzu, because he was a demon friend to him, too. And he had fought for Alan who was his brother and the most important person in two worlds.
He had fought and he hadn't asked for anything as a price - not from the Market, not from Mae, not from Sin.
But he would take this as compensation from Alan.
"Like this?", Alan asked, drawing him from his thoughts and back into the moment. Raised his sword - a light one; the lightest that Nick owned because his brother didn't have the musculature yet to wield a sword nor would it be good to put too much weight, too much strain on his damaged leg - and moved it through the figure Nick had shown him.
Nick remembered his first sword teacher - back when Dad - Daniel - had still been alive and they could afford to pay for one even though Nick was too young to truly learn much - and he knew that he had been clumsy back then. Clumsy for his fingers were small still and the sword heavy and his muscles weak. But Nick was a demon and a demon only knew want and determination and use, and learning how to wield a sword had been useful - much more useful than plush ducks or toys - and he wanted to learn how to use it, needed to learn it, because he wanted to help protect his brother and his father.
It meant that for all his weakness, his youth, he had quickly learned what to do with a sword.
Alan ... hadn't, too sensible to want to learn how to use a sword when he was still so small that he wouldn't be much of a help, and when he was big enough ... he had his leg to think of.
And yet, watching him move the sword through the air, even his leg couldn't stop him from being graceful and fast. Efficient.
It still itched in Nick's fingers to use his magic to fix the leg - he wanted, oh how he did and how it angered him, a hard, black, hot anger that coiled in his chest and made him want to shake Alan until he stopped being an idiot and let Nick help him - and he knew that using a sword in a fight would never be safe for Alan for that very reason and yet ...
Sin was teaching him how to dance - dance for demons and Nick was grateful that Alan had his leg and would never dance for a demon - another demon - because the thought alone had something hot and heavy flood his veins and made him want to rip something to shreds - and since Nick had finished school and could work more hours at the garage Alan had made a couple appointments with a physiotherapist and it showed in how he moved more fluid, how he trusted his leg to take on more weight, to hold when he walked through the different figures.
It was still straining for him, more so than for Nick for all that Nick used a heavier sword to show him the techniques, and there was sweat beading on his forehead, with the red sun reflecting off it and making them look like little diamonds, and his hair sticking to his temples and his shirt to his his upper body.
It made Nick want to ... to touch him. Touch him and not hurt him because he didn't want to hurt Alan and yet he did because he was a demon and he wanted to rip the world apart and because Alan was his brother, because Alan was Alan and for all that Nick was a demon, was a being much stronger than any human could ever even dream to understand, there was a part of him who would always think of Alan as the stronger, as the one who could do everything and who could take it.
Nick wanted to touch him and maybe, definitely, hold him in his hands as he had done with Sin once and with other girls and women and boys and men and never with Alan, never showed him this because Nick wasn't passion, he was possession, and for all his hard edges and lying tongue and false faces Alan still was too sweet to be held like that.
And yet ... when Alan finished his figure and looked up, his eyes warm under the concentration and his mouth curved even from the set expression, all his attention on Nick ... he wondered.
Once, Anzu had moved this body, his brother's body, and it had used it to fight Nick and taunt and to come close enough that Nick would have ripped into every other demon but Liannan and it for daring alone - that he wanted to reach out and rip into Anzu for daring to take Alan and couldn't because it was Alan's body - and then he had leaned in, closer, as if for a kiss. And Nick had said: "Alan wouldn't want that", and he had been sure of it.
Had been and was still because he knew that Alan hadn't wanted to be possessed ... and yet he wondered. Because Anzu was passion, was as warm and loving as a demon could be, and it had never wanted this before in all their centuries as allies. Had never before, and had in Alan.
But Alan had never said anything and Nick didn't know how to ask, had no words to ask and ask for truth, and so he remained silent.
Remained silent and wondered when Alan looked up and his focus gave way to a smile, a little crooked but honest - as honest as Alan ever was - and he asked: "Better?"
And. Well. He was getting better but ... "You still hold it too low", Nick said, his cold voice and blank face betraying none of his thoughts. "And you are too slow for the third figure."
Alan rolled his eyes but it was ... fond exasperation, an expression Nick knew on his face because it was directed at him often, and it made something ... warm curl through him. Something warm, not hot, and almost gentle.
"Show me again", Alan said, then stopped and checked the horizon - checked the sun. "Well, I guess we still have light enough for one more time, so - once more, yes?"
And his voice was warm and gentle to match that thing in Nick and for a moment there were no words in him, all of them fled under the pressure of an emotion that he didn't know, couldn’t understand, that he wasn't meant for. And so he only nodded and lifted his sword to show him again.
Only lifted his sword and stopped because Alan shook his head. "I don't think I'll get it like this. Do you think ..." And his voice gentled even more like he was talking to a spooked animal and not a demon powerful enough to destroy London, even after giving up part of his power. "Do you think you could come over here? I mean I know it is different but when Sin showed me how to dance she had a more hands-on teaching technique."
Nick ... stilled.
Alan was his, his brother, and he didn't mind getting touched by him. Getting hurt by him, for all that Alan was usually too gentle with him to hurt him.
And he didn't mind touching him because Alan didn't mind getting touched as if he didn't know how Nick had to fight every time to not hurt him.
As if he trusted him not to, even if he did know.
And he wanted ... Nick knew what he wanted. He knew what Alan was talking about because he had seen Sin show Jamie how to dance for the humans, had seen her teach her sister.
Alan wanted Nick to come close enough that hurting him would be easy.
And he knew it, better than anyone else - better than Mae and Jamie who were the only other people who would be this at ease around him - and he still wanted.
Nick had never been someone to think things through - which was probably why he was struggling to do so when it came to thinking about Alan - and so he crossed the distance between them in three long steps, abruptly enough that he knew anyone but Alan would be startled.
Stepped behind Alan who had returned to his starting pose, then put his hand over Alan's on the heft of the sword.
He was big, bigger than Alan - Black Arthur had been a large man, after all, and Olivia had been larger than Alan's mum, too - but he still had to step so close that he could feel the warmth radiating from Alan, could feel the sweat seeping through his own shirt. Could smell Alan, the warm scent that had meant home for as long as he knew what the word meant.
For a moment Alan stayed frozen against him, hard, still, as if he had only now remembered that he had asked a demon to step this close to him. Then he relaxed.
"Huu. You have really grown up", he said and Nick almost believed it. Almost believed it, and wanted to believe it.
Pushing these thoughts away he moved his right hip forward, pushing against Alan's to make him follow, then moved the sword upwards in an arc more graceful than Alan had and barely less graceful than he was used to, his brother letting him lead them both.
"Really, it’s as if he was used to being the slave to a demon already", Anzu whispered in his ear.
And Nick ... wondered.
Wondered as he had often since, had when he saw Alan yield whenever Nick laid claim on the kitchen, when he pushed his brother onto the couch after a hard shift at work, when he demanded they get food instead of books for all that Alan sometimes seemed like he could live on them. When he befriended Mae who Alan had had a crush on once, had befriended Jamie who had been sweet and looked up to Alan once and then turned into a harder, colder – though still ridiculous version – of himself, one that could kill and forgive the murderer of his mother.
It had always been like this - Alan lead and Nick followed, but when Nick demanded there were few occasions where Alan didn't yield.
And he did it with that same fond expression on his face, like giving in to a pushy younger brother, but he did.
And ... maybe it was this. Maybe it was this wealth of memories of Alan giving in, or it was the smell of Alan's warm skin, or the need to rip him apart, but when they moved in the final position Nick didn't let him go.
Instead he let his hand slide back over Alan's arm, over his wrist and forearm and biceps and then down, along his upper body and waist and hip, a line that could be sensual or could be deadly if he had his claws.
And Alan ... stilled. Hitched a breath. Caught a sound in his throat.
Nick waited. For Alan to stop him. To say something.
Alan ... didn't.
And he felt a smile curl his lips that wasn't gentle or warmth or anything a smile should be and was all predator. Firming his grip on Alan's hip he demanded: "Stop me", before he dove down and pressed his mouth to Alan's throat.
Alan's reaction was a short, abrupt move, startled; stopped before he could really move away. A sound that was not really a moan and not really fear came from his throat.
And then his head moved, just a little, just enough to give Nick more access.
His brother still held the sword like he had forgotten about it - Alan never forgot his weapons except, apparently, now - but Nick didn't care.
He had taken lovers before but he had never wanted so much before - it had never before been Alan - and he could feel something hot and strong move through him, something that felt as powerful as anger but wasn't, and he could feel the way his mouth moved over Alan's skin, hard, sucking, teeth leaving dents - a mark of ownership he didn't dare leave any other way.
There were movies about vampires and Alan had sometimes watched them - because apparently there weren't enough monsters in his life yet - and Nick had always felt a kind of kinship with them, with their hate of humans and their feeding on them.
He had never felt it more than now as a part of him wanted to try and turn his blunt human teeth into the fangs he had so often taken in the past and rip into the soft flesh beneath them. Rip into it and render Alan to pieces and eat him up so he could never leave.
Then Alan made another sound and suddenly he was moving and Nick was too late, just a moment, to hold him - but he wasn't moving away, was just turning into Nick and then the soft throat gave way to a firm jaw and then there was a mouth on his, hot and demanding and needy, and yes, yes, this Nick was okay with.
Alan was ... demanding, eager, more so than Nick had expected, and he was pushing against him and there were teeth and tongue and a sting and blood ...
And yet Nick realized, still, that Alan had less experience than him. It was a strange thing to realize - all his human life he had thought that his big brother could do more, knew more, at least where human interaction was concerned. And Nick had never had any sexual encounters before this life - the demon he was had had no interest in anything beyond a bad facsimile of a kiss to scare and sicken relatives - and he knew Alan had had girlfriends, had kissed, and yet he still seemed inexperienced.
As if he was new to anything hot and violent like this.
Yet even an Alan new to this was still an Alan who knew how to lead and so the sword fell down beside them with the loud ringing sound of metal on concrete and then suddenly there were hands on him, hands in his hair and on his back to pull him closer.
And Nick was ... good with this, even though the feeling of being caged kindled his urge to free himself. But he was no gentle thing, no patient thing, and so he let his power flood into his veins, into his arms, just enough that when he put his hands on Alan's collar and pulled the fabric came apart easily.
Alan ... startled. Faltered. There was a strange expression on his face as he pulled back, shame and something else that Nick couldn't read, and he wanted to howl in frustration. Wanted to leash out and rip that expression from Alan's face. Wanted to pull him in and never let him go. Wanted to bury himself so deep in Alan that Alan leaving him was impossible.
"You are my brother", Alan said, his voice choking on emotions. And Nick was no human to read them easily. Was no human but was a demon and like a shark smelling blood he could sense weakness.
And this protest was weak, was barely any protest at all, and Nick wanted, and he wanted powerfully.
"I am your brother", he acknowledged, then hooked his right hand in the loop of Alan's jeans and the left behind his head. "I am a demon older than humanity", he said as he pulled him in again. "Tell me to stop", he demanded before he kissed him again, relishing the wide-eyed look on his brother's face.
And Alan ... moaned, a sound almost pained, almost enough to make Nick stop all on his own because he did not want to hurt his brother - and then he was kissing back again, was letting his own hands pull on Nick's shirt and yes, this was definitely something Nick wanted.
Alan was weak, human weak and exhausted from sword training and so Nick helped him, hooked his own fingers in his collar and ripped the fabric apart before returning his hands to Alan's jeans.
"Don't you dare destroy my good jeans", Alan panted against his lips and Nick growled, frustrated, and then pushed at Alan until he got the hint and sat down, Nick guiding him because Alan was an idiot who wouldn't let him fix his leg, and then Nick followed and after that it was easy to get the jeans off Alan, and his pants, and Nick was quick to pull his own off, too.
The sun had set in the meantime, with only a last few rays colouring the horizon a dark blood red. The night sky loomed dark over them with no clouds and no stars because this was London and there were few stars even on a clear night.
The sky was dark but the night was not, too much light around them, and it was still easy to see Alan.
Was easier still to smell him, taste his skin and his sweat and his blood where Nick had bitten down on his throat and where his nails scratched over his chest - faint, too faint to rip but strong enough for weak human skin - and to hear him, moaning, sighing. Repeating his name as if it might do him any good when Nick wasn't caught in a magician's circle or maybe he wanted to remind Nick that he was Nick now, Nicholas Ryves, was Alan's brother and not Hnikarr of the West or Asambre, fire of the South.
It didn't matter because Nick could also feel him, could feel his fingers in his hair and on his back and the hard heat between Alan's legs, matching his own, and none of that said stop.
And Nick had slept with men before - an easy way to improve your grades if you knew who was interested and had a brother at home you didn't want to worry - even if none of them were Alan and he was a demon with access to a magician's knowledge - even though spells were still harder for him than for Jamie - and he knew how to prepare his brother.
And Alan ... Alan's breath hitched when he touched his wet fingers to his entrance and, again, when he let them slip inside one after the other but he seemed to know enough to relax without Nick having to tell him so and the sounds he made became quieter for only a moment until Nick found what he was searching for and then he was louder than before.
Normally Nick would use condoms because he hadn’t wanted to contract anything when he still thought himself human and he hadn't had sex since remembering he wasn't but there was no way for him to contract anything - even with his powers diminished he still couldn't - and so he pushed in, hard and hot and just gentle enough to not hurt his brother, and it was. It was better than ripping him apart because this was just as powerful, just as much a sign of his strength but it left Alan alive, alive but claimed, like an invisible mark that Nick wouldn't have to feel conflicted about.
Nick was a demon, wasn't a gentle being, was burning with the need to claim or destroy, but he still tried to be gentle with Alan, tried not to hurt him - because this was Alan and he wasn't angry with Alan now and he only truly wanted to hurt him was when he was angry - and so he started to move slow and as steady as he could.
Started slow but sped up when he felt Alan's hands on his shoulders, on his back, urging him on. His brother's face was hot, his hair black with sweat and lack of light, and the expression on it for once one that Nick could almost read.
Hunger, and want, and something that was more intensity than emotion.
It made it easy to return his gaze with his own hunger, his own need, and watch as all those emotions drowned when orgasm hit him.
Nick followed him a few trusts later, his human body for once overtaking his demonic wants - strange that something so weak could be so powerful - before he slumped down, trying to not fall on Alan and mostly succeeding even with his idiot brother trying to pull him down on him.
For a long while they lay there, gasping for breath, before Alan slowly started to stir.
"That was ...", he started, then, for once, words seemed to fail his silvertongued brother.
And Nick ... wasn't nervous because he didn't do nerves but he still said: "Normally people tell me I was amazing. And they beg me to do it again."
And Alan - laughed, the sound soft and gentle and warm and a little startled like the best of Alan's laughs, the most honest ones. He laughed, and then he turned his head towards Nick, the lights of the city sparkling in his eyes, and said: "I can see that." Then: "It was amazing."
And Nick didn't know what it meant that he stopped there, that he didn't ask for it to happen again - didn't know whether it meant anything. Didn't know whether to point it out.
Did, in the end: "You didn't tell me to stop."
And his voice was always harsh and cold and Alan was too used to it to flinch back.
The light was low but Nick could still see his smile, curving his lips just a little. Could feel a warm hand hover over his hip, then slowly sink down. "I didn't", Alan said. "I won't."
Over them, the sun had set, leaving them hidden by the almost-darkness of a London night. And Nick knew that he wasn't human enough to understand whether there would be problems coming up in future or what these problems might be - humans liked their problems too much for there to not be any.
But he knew that he was warm right now, even with the cold autumn wind cooling the sweat on his skin and the concrete trying to suck all heat from him. Was warm as he hadn't known warmth before. Thought of the fact that humans often equalled love with warmth.
Thought that maybe, just maybe, lying here, with his brother’s warm hand on his skin, he might start to understand what love was.