“I keep telling you, I’m fine! There’s really no need to drag me to some healer.” Neil spat out the word ‘healer’ like it was poison.
“Shut up, you idiot. It’s your fault you’re in this position and me and Kevin have to clean up after you. Again.” Andrew was so very done with this situation. He didn’t understand why Neil just had to anger Riko and his guards. Did he seriously have a death wish?
“I thought you said you’d stop stealing after the last time,” said Kevin, about to start one of his lectures, but he was thankfully interrupted. “Oh, we’re here.”
Andrew watched as Kevin pounded on the door, suddenly very anxious. A tall, lean man with tan skin opened the door. Andrew realized it was Jeremy Knox, Kevin’s not-so-secret crush. What surprised him though was Jean Moreau, who popped his head out from behind Jeremy, probably trying to see what was going on. Andrew didn’t know when that had happened, but supposed that it was none of his business.
“Jeremy! Hi! We need your help!” Kevin was like a very excited puppy, and Andrew could have done without seeing the mighty Kevin Day like that.
“Sure! Come in, come in,” Jeremy said. He made Kevin and Andrew lie Neil down on an examination table and started looking at his wounds. “Nothing too serious, it seems. A few deeper cuts and a hit to the head, which is probably why he’s unconscious right now.”
Andrew gave an internal sigh of relief that his idiot hadn’t got himself killed this time. That would’ve been quite bothersome. He had told Neil plenty of times to stop antagonizing Riko –even though the prick was truly an asshole– and keep his mouth shut, but then again, what did Andrew know, right?
While Kevin was talking to Jean, and Jeremy was working his healing magic on Neil, Andrew took to looking around the small cottage. It was filled with various plants and herbs as well as some dark stones that Andrew guessed were Jean’s, seeing as he was a necromancer. Andrew had dabbled in necromancy himself, but found that the cost was not worth the end result. He mainly used his powers for small curses and hexes, as well as meddling with energy fields and making potions. His powers flourished at night, and waxed and waned with the moon, which was quite inconvenient at times.
“All right, this should do it,” Jeremy said, attracting everyone’s attention once again. “He should wake up soon and other than a mild headache, he’s gonna be as good as new.”
Kevin let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Jeremy. How much do we owe you?”
Andrew knew from experience that healers were hard to come by these days and so the price for their magic was ever-growing. He was surprised when Jeremy told them that they didn’t owe him anything. He was ‘helping a friend out, after all,’ he said.
With that, they left, Kevin thanking Jeremy once again. Andrew decided to take the thief home, while Kevin said he ought to go back to his ‘knightly duties’.
Neil woke up to the sound of a cat meowing loudly in his vicinity. He was used to the sounds of animals after years on the run and sleeping wherever he could, but what surprised him, though, was the feeling of warm bed sheets surrounding him. He was definitely not used to that. He jolted upright and immediately regretted it as his head started pounding. Just then, a calico cat jumped on the bed, settling near him and calming him down. He soon started to recognise the room he was in, memories of hot kisses and small, intimate moments bunching together to form Andrew Minyard, who entered the room just then.
“You’re up. I was starting to believe that the healer did jack shit, and tricked me into bringing a corpse home.” Andrew handed Neil a cup of something hot, though he didn’t know what it was. He could sense Andrew’s protective magic in it and decided it probably wasn’t poison. Yet .
“One more stunt like this, and next time it will be poison,” Andrew said, aware of Neil’s apprehension towards the drink.
“Ha, ha. Very funny, Andrew.” But Neil knew that Andrew always kept his promises, and resigned himself to be more careful in the future. He didn’t want Andrew’s wrath unleashed upon him.
“Will you be fine on your own for a few hours, or do I need to send Kevin to babysit you?” Andrew tried to hide a smirk behind the rim of his own cup, but Neil wasn’t fooled and sent him a glare that could’ve frozen an ocean. Instead, Andrew just huffed and strode across the bedroom in a second, fixing Neil with an intent gaze. The ‘yes’ was out of his mouth before Andrew could ask and was met with a bruising kiss that made Neil dizzy.
“Stay,” was all Andrew said before turning around and leaving Neil alone. It was as much an admission of his feelings for Neil as he allowed and Neil was content with just that.
Left to his own devices, Neil lied back on the bed, stroking Sir, Andrew’s familiar, every so often, its soft purrs urging him to fall asleep…
“Hi, Andrew.” Renee was as collected as ever, her white hair with rainbow tips glistening in the sunshine. Allison must have redone it recently. Other than shapeshifters, she was the only person who could change one’s hair colour so well. She was renowned for that and Andrew knew that even Neil had gone to her for help.
“Renee,” Andrew nodded at her, and that was all she needed to lunge at him full force.
They usually sparred whenever Renee wasn’t busy doing her job as a demon-hunter, or spending time with her girlfriend. She was one of the few people Andrew could trust in this god-forbidden kingdom.
Renee was currently helping Andrew track The Butcher, one of the worst demons hell had to offer and a former contractor of the royal family. He had gone rogue the previous year, and hadn’t been seen since. His acolytes had been seen somewhere in the nearing kingdom, but they couldn’t trust any sort of outside information anymore. Not after what had happened to Neil the last time.
“Any news about The Butcher?” Andrew asked, panting from the fight. Renee had won. Again.
“No, unfortunately. He’s completely gone off the radar,” Renee took a swig from her water flask and sat down next to Andrew. He sighed. He had been able to tell what Renee’s answer was going to be before she’d actually spoken, but Andrew still hoped –in whatever capacity he allowed himself to– that they’d be able to end the bastard once and for all. Hoping never got anyone anywhere after all.
Renee helped him up. “I know it bothers you,” Andrew scoffed at that, “that The Butcher is still at large, but Neil is safe as long as he’s with you.” Andrew glared at her for that, even though the rational part of his brain knew that she was right. After the last (very) close call, Andrew hadn’t let Neil out of sight for more than a few hours at a time, and even then, he made sure to always cast strong protection spells on Neil.
Speaking of the idiot, Andrew better made his way back to make sure that he hadn’t gotten in a fight with the damn furball again.
“Same time next week?” Andrew gave a slight nod and left Renee with a mocking two-fingered salute.
Neil was awakened yet again by the sound of Sir meowing loudly in his ear. It seemed that Andrew was home. Neil stretched, careful of his sore muscles. He really hated that side effect of healing spells. He heard Andrew banging cupboards in the general direction of the kitchen, and decided to go out and see what he had been up to.
“Hey, you.” Neil smiled, something small and languid and warm. Something just for Andrew.
“Don’t look at me like that.” Andrew didn’t look impressed by Neil’s antics. Neil supposed it was fair, seeing as he’d almost got himself killed again after Andrew telling him repeatedly “not to go out of the house unless heavily protected”. While he did have a point, Neil had gotten bored. Incredibly so.
“Like what?” Andrew’s flat stare didn’t waver and so Neil laughed and made his way towards him, almost tripping on the damn cat, who had snuck up on him. He grumbled something under his breath and Neil could swear he saw the corners of Andrew’s mouth twitch. He let that go in favour of getting closer to Andrew, silently begging for a kiss. Andrew complied almost immediately, leaving Neil enough time to back off had his ‘yes’ become a ‘no’. The kiss was firm and steadying and left Neil feeling dizzy all the same. Andrew deepened the kiss, but they didn’t go further as Andrew pulled back, putting a stop to their makeout session. Neil whined and tried to follow Andrew, but he pushed him back.
“Don’t think you’re forgiven yet.” Andrew stalked off to his ‘workshop’, as he called it, but turned around before vanishing behind the door. “You need rest, you junkie.”
Neil grinned like a little kid, glad that Andrew couldn’t see him. Thank the gods for small blessings, and all that.
Andrew let out a sigh as he approached his work table, pulling out ingredients for the different potions he had to make. He had promised Kevin to make a tracking one for Neil, since he “couldn’t just abandon his post every time Neil got in trouble”. Which was a big fat lie, considering that Kevin always rushed to help Andrew whenever his troublesome boyfriend decided to take a stroll through the royal palace. For someone hell-bent on staying alive, Neil’s self-preservation skills were definitely lacking.
Andrew shook his head and started actually doing the potions. He was supposed to be working and not thinking about a certain someone that was currently having–by the sounds of it–an argument with his familiar. Sir meowed loudly and then started pawing at the door of Andrew’s workshop.
“Go away, you demon, I have work to do.” Andrew then went on to grumble about disrespectful idiots who kept interrupting him and suddenly had a feeling that somewhere his old teacher was sneezing. The old man would always murmur things under his breath and most often than not they were insults addressed at his students. Andrew had to admit that he did miss Wymack sometimes, even if they got on each other’s nerves most often than not. They’d kept in touch since they parted ways, but only met up nowadays because of Kevin.
Andrew had to make himself pay attention to the task at hand again, which was starting to get frustrating. He repeated the ingredients needed in his head: wolfsbane, prickly poppy, dragon snot–gross, but necessary–, a black widow spider and a bat wing. Andrew actually enjoyed making potions, as it helped him be present and stay in the moment. It kept his mind silent, even if only for a little while. Trying to not lose a finger was, after all, great incentive to not space out. Spells didn’t require the same level of concentration. With his perfect memory, spells came the easiest to Andrew, and were best in combat, although he tried not to rely on his magic so much anymore.
A sudden loud crash followed by distressed cat noises made Andrew curse and stomp out of his workshop, only to find the living area in a total disarray. It looked as if a wind dragon had tried using its powers for the first time. In the centre of it all were, of course, Sir and Neil. While Andrew’s familiar looked as serene and put together as always, perched oh so graciously on Neil’s chest, the same couldn’t be said about Andrew’s stupid boyfriend.
“Hey, he started it!” Neil groaned indignantly, trying (and failing) to get up.
Andrew arched an eyebrow, not amused with this situation at all. “Oh, really.” He drawled out the word ‘really’, just to be sure that Neil understood that he didn’t believe him for one second.
Neil huffed, getting up successfully this time. “Not my fault your cat is a little shit. You’d be annoyed too if you had to hear him criticize your every move!” Neil crossed his arms, and pointedly proceeded to ignore both Andrew and Sir.
“Or maybe he just doesn’t like you. He wouldn’t be the only one, anyway.” Andrew felt the beginning of a smile form on his lips and stopped it in its tracks before Neil got a chance to see it. “Come here.”
Neil obeyed, albeit a little reluctantly. When he was close, Andrew leaned in and, knowing that Neil expected a kiss, simply flicked him on the forehead and turned around to leave.
“Rude,” Neil mumbled, and Andrew could hear the pout in his voice. He almost regretted not kissing him. Almost.
“The place better be clean when I come back. And do try to not get yourself murdered. I don’t feel like cleaning your blood out of the carpet.” Andrew had to admit, at least to himself, that it was quite fun teasing Neil.
“Yeah, yeah, love you too, have a safe trip and all that.” The sarcasm in Neil’s remark wasn’t lost on Andrew, but his words still made something in his chest tighten. He’ll have to add that to the ever-growing list of things he had to talk to Bee about.
Neil’s life had never been normal. Although, he guessed that nothing could be considered ‘normal’ in a world where anything and everything was possible, from elves, to demons, to dragons and perhaps something the world wasn’t prepared for. Neil was an anomaly, if he dared say that such a thing existed. Half Demon, half Thief, his father had intended Neil to be his greatest weapon, and look where that got him.
Pureblood Thieves were a rarity these days, mainly because the first Creators made sure to wipe them all out. While Creators gave, Thieves took, disrupting the balance of the world, or so the story went. They were said to be void of life, that was why they took it from others, but the reality was that they had been born with nothing. They were meant to be nothing. Desperation was a cruel, lonely thing. Thieves were thieves because they had nothing else.
His mother had stolen Neil, Abram then, from his father, remaining a Thief right until her bloody end. The promises she made him make were engraved in Neil’s memory forever: “ Don’t look back. Don’t stop running. And, most importantly, never stop stealing.”. A bad way to live, a worse way to die.
There was a saying that went a little like this: “A soul sold is yours nonetheless, but a soul stolen is worse than hell.” Neil had to laugh at the irony of that. He wondered under which category someone’s soul would fall if he were to take it. Oh, how his father would’ve wanted to see that. Neil grinned and instantly knew whose smile it was. He wiped at his lips and got up from where he had sat down. He’d better start cleaning the place, before his thoughts consumed him, or Andrew came home. Whichever were to be first.
“That’s it, that’s the place.”
Day was giving way to night, the rising moon peeking from behind the clouds. There was no breeze, no sound, and the four figures made their way through the trees. It was a peaceful evening, and nothing could ruin it. But, as everyone already knew, nothing could be misleading. There wasn’t going to be a storm, nor a blizzard or a hurricane. No, the evening would remain as calm as ever. There would be no bang, no alarm was going to ring at the last second. Nothing could ever ruin this.
The same four figures twisted and turned in the dark, unencumbered by their surroundings. They too were calm, but it was a restless one, for they knew that something great awaited them. Something that could change their world forever. But…
There had been a bang, after all. The bang of a heart going a mile a minute, the bang of a smile glinting in the moonlight, the bang of a knife, slicing silently in the dark. It was the bang that shook a world, just not The World. The evening remained silent. Until…
“Hello, Junior…” And a world collapsed into chaos.
Somewhere not so far away, another world shook, only this time not with a bang, but a whimper.
Andrew felt the aftershocks of a world in disarray, a silent thing, really.
“Silence is deadly. Don’t let it fool you and don’t underestimate it, but, most importantly, always use it to your advantage.”
Someone had been using it for far too long and it was deafening. It was roaring in Andrew’s ears and making him sick. Something was horribly wrong and all Andrew could do was stare and listen and feel. It was a silent thing.
Somewhere not so far away, a boy was no longer a boy, but a weapon. “A soul stolen was worse than hell.” The boy who was no longer a boy couldn’t help but laugh, a twisted and silent thing. Wait, silent? Yes, silent. Because he was deadly and he had been underestimated, after all. The boy laughed and a demon who was no longer a demon whimpered. It was a sorry sight, really.
Nathaniel laughed and laughed and laughed and his father who was never really a father grinned. It was always supposed to be like this. And now nothing could ever ruin it. Nothing could ever ruin it… nothing could ever ruin it…
Except the boy wasn’t a weapon, but a finger on a trigger, nothing short of deadly and perhaps something could ruin this. But that something had been overlooked, a mistake the father would pay for. It would be a sorry sight to see.
Andrew could finally move and his world was in focus yet again. Everything around him was moving, writhing, alive. He didn’t know at what point it had stopped feeling so, but he did know that time was not on his side. The tracking potion he gave Neil was working, thank the gods, and he started following the glowing purple light winding around the trees and making its way through the thick darkness of the night. The moon, although full, was obscured by the clouds. Nevertheless, Andrew could feel his power grow within him, a feeling he had sorely missed.
Andrew was running faster than he ever thought was possible, and so the collision with the unknown figure sent him stumbling backwards, falling rather ungraciously. The figure turned and…
“Kevin? What the fuck are you doing here?” Andrew was both confused and angry, which wasn’t exactly the best combination of emotions.
“Andrew? Fuck me, I should’ve known you weren’t far away.” At Andrew’s blank stare, Kevin continued. “I was going after Neil. You know, following the spell you put on him? On my demand?” Andrew was about to ask how Kevin could possibly see the light connected to Neil, but then he remembered that Wymack was Kevin’s father. Which made him at least half a dark mage. Which meant that he could see Andrew’s spell.
With a huff, Andrew got up and started running again, leaving Kevin behind, if only for a few moments. Damn him and his freakishly long legs.
“So, do you have a plan or are we just hurtling towards imminent danger and possible death?” While Andrew was full on running, Kevin was merely just walking faster than normal. So damn annoying.
He didn’t dignify that stupid question with a response. The ‘plan’ was simple enough: find Neil, kill the people kidnapping him, and then hopefully live to see another day. Andrew supposed that doing so was easier said than done, but that had never stopped him before.
Andrew picked up the pace and knew deep in his bones that they were close. As much as Andrew hated to admit it, they had to be careful now. One wrong step and they would give themselves away, and with them Neil’s life.
They came upon a run-down cottage, something that must have been the epitome of peacefulness in its days of glory, but now it reeked of blood and dark magic. Fate had twisted it, unrecognisable, beyond repair. Andrew made a silent wish that the state of the cottage would not resemble Neil’s…
Pain. Excruciating, hot, dreadful pain.
It was the first thing Neil felt as he came to. His very being felt stuffed in a body that was too small for him, the edges sewn together in a hurry. His insides were spilling out (only metaphorically for now), but he knew it was a matter of time before he meant it physically too.
“Well, well, Nathaniel, aren’t you going to say hello to dear old daddy?” His father was circling him, a predator watching its prey. The proximity was too much, too much, and Nei—Nathaniel couldn’t speak. His silence dragged on a beat too long because his father lunged at him and grabbed Nathaniel by the neck, choking him just so.
“Perhaps you didn’t hear me, so I’ll have the grace to repeat myself. I said: ‘Aren’t you going to say hello to me?’” Nathan’s grip on Nathaniel’s neck started getting tighter and tighter, until he managed to squeak out a ‘hello’. It was going to be a long night.
“My, my, Junior, but don’t you remember? You owe us something extra, aside from your life, of course.” Lola cackled in his ear, the sound coiling around his head and reverberating in his erratic heartbeat. It was spelling out the word ‘rabbit’, over and over and over again.
Nathaniel frowned, desperate and confused. As he was frantically looking for a way out, he noticed that Romero wasn’t there. He then realised what had happened. He let out a pained groan and shook his head hard, trying to get rid of the images playing behind his eyes. He had taken Romero’s soul.
“No… it’s not— how?” Nathaniel kept shaking his head, until he was dizzy.
“Oh, what was that? I didn’t hear the apology, Juniooor.” Lola started tracing patterns with her knife on his arms, then his back and lastly his face. She grabbed him harshly by the jaw, her sharp nails digging in the already marred skin.
“Fuck… you,” Nathaniel slurred, trying to spit in her eyes. His father’s angry face came into view as Lola backed off, and he knew he had made a mistake, but, frankly speaking, he couldn’t bring himself to care. He was going to die either way. Might as well let his mouth run free.
As his father was getting closer, images of Andrew started playing in Nath—Neil’s head.
“Neil. It’s three in the morning.” Andrew had caught Neil trying to steal his Sir’s treats for the second time.
“Andrew. Your cat hates me,” Neil said, matter of factly, as if stealing a cat’s food at 3 am was perfectly reasonable if said cat had its own vendetta against you.
“And so you’ve decided the thing that would hurt him the most is taking his treats.” Andrew didn’t phrase it as a question, so Neil didn’t grace his remark with an answer. He simply crossed his arms and started walking toward their bedroom. Andrew caught the sleeve of Neil’s shirt, hard enough to be felt, but not so hard that Neil couldn’t have shaken it off had he wished to.
“You’re an idiot. Yes or no?”
The kiss was slow and languid, as gentle as they ever allowed themselves to be. It was a reassurance more than anything. It meant stay, stay, stay…
In the end, Neil hadn’t been able to keep his promise to Andrew. Neil knew that Andrew would blame himself, but still hoped–a dying man’s last wish, really–that Andrew would eventually forgive him…
There was a loud bang and Neil’s world exploded in a flurry of shouts and knives and magic. Before he could even comprehend what was happening, Neil saw his father crumple to the ground, purple vines tearing his heart out. Neil let out a silent cry. He couldn’t quite believe it had been that easy. His father was dead.
Someone was shouting his name, but his world was rapidly drowning. The last thing he saw before he collapsed was Andrew’s face.
Andrew had been pacing back and forth in his living room for what felt like ages. He knew, rationally, that Jeremy was treating Neil’s wounds and that it would take a lot longer this time, seeing as the damage done was way worse than the stuff they had gone to Jeremy for before. But he was still impatient and god damn worried. The fact that he used a lot of his power the night before didn’t help the situation either.
Andrew didn’t want to think about the night before. While it was good that The Butcher was finally dead, he didn’t like what had happened to Neil one bit. Renee had sensed Andrew’s magic and came as fast as she could to help, which was relief, he had to admit. Andrew let her deal with the other demons, as well as take care of the mess. It was her job as a demon hunter, after all.
Although restless, Andrew made himself sit down beside Kevin, who was looking just as anxious as Andrew was feeling inside. The knight might be a prickly dick, but he cared about Neil. Andrew huffed and retrieved a potion from his cloak.
“Here.” He handed the flask to Kevin, who looked at it all bleary-eyed and confused. “It’ll help you calm down. So don’t be an idiot, and drink it.”
“Who knew dark magic could be so useful…” Andrew was most likely not supposed to hear that, but he sent Kevin a glare nonetheless. It was then that Jeremy entered the room, looking weary.
“He should be alright in a few days, but it’s better if you make him stay in bed for a while. The effects that demon’s soul had on his body, plus all the physical wounds… Anyway, he’s asleep right now, but he’s going to wake up in a few hours. I’ll leave him to you, then.” With that, Jeremy left, giving Kevin a fleeting smile. The damage must have been worse than expected considering how drained out the healer looked. Andrew didn’t like that, but he supposed everything was going to be alright after all.
Neil woke up to warm sunlight hitting his face, and a calming presence beside him. He slowly became aware of a dull ache pretty much all over his body and decided against trying to sit up. Instead, he slowly opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was Andrew. He tried to smile, but felt something restraining his facial muscles. He thought that must have looked quite silly, but he didn’t care.
“You’re awake.” Andrew’s voice sounded rough, probably from disuse. Neil didn’t know how long he had been asleep.
“I’m sor—,” Andrew cut him off before Neil could finish his sentence.
“Don’t.” Andrew’s hand found Neil’s and he squeezed it once, a reassurance.
Neil noticed Andrew’s eyes racking over his body and so answered his silent question, “I’m okay, Andrew. Even though everything hurts right now, I’ll be fine.” Then, after a pause, “I promise.” It was nothing more than a whisper, a soft thing for two boys who were anything but.
Andrew squeezed his hand once again and then pressed a kiss to Neil’s forehead. Neil leaned into the touch, like a plant searching for sunlight. They were going to be alright.
“I don’t understand why all this was necessary.” Andrew was staring blankly at their living room, which was now filled with laughter and enthusiastic conversation.
“Because it’s my birthday, and they’re our friends.” Neil leaned in and pressed a kiss on Andrew’s cheek. His smile was so blinding that it made all the fuss worth it. Andrew couldn’t say that he had particularly missed The Foxes, the vigilante group comprised of troubled teens and led by none other than Wymack. It had been a while since they all went their separate ways, but they had all stuck around, for better or worse.
Andrew watched as Matt picked Neil up and spun him around. Half dragon, half giant, Matt was twice Neil’s size, with bronze skin and dark hair. He was Neil’s self-proclaimed best friend. After he put him down, the rest of The Foxes hugged Neil, cheering and laughing. It was quite the interesting sight: a giant/dragon, two sun elves, a witch, a knight, a healer, a demon hunter, a dark mage, and a thief who was no longer a thief, all gathered together in Andrew and Neil’s very small home. The image was almost endearing.
Neil eventually broke away, making his way back to Andrew, just like always.
“Hey, you.” Neil gave Andrew a lopsided smile, the one that always made his insides all gooey and soft. Andrew hated it.
“I’m surprised this place is still standing, considering the havoc you’ve brought in here.” Neil laughed at that.
“Oh, shut up. You like them.” Neil smirked, as if he was in on a secret Andrew wasn’t aware of. Andrew snorted, not quite a laugh, but something close.
“I do not.”
Neil laughed yet again.
“Yeah, yeah, sure. Kiss me?” Neil looked at Andrew with pleading eyes, looking like a rained puppy. Andrew obliged, all too happy to shut the mouthy redhead up.
“Happy birthday, Neil,” Andrew said as they parted. Neil smiled, brilliant and bright, and Andrew could’ve looked at him forever. After everything, despite everything, they were alright. They were more than alright.