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the safest road is the gradual one

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It was for his own good. After everything with that Red bitch, Bianca, they dragged him off to the hospital, pumped his stomach and gave him antitoxin until I was sure there was more of it in him than blood.

He'd always been thin, rangy. But he looked like death laying there. Every angle too sharp, the hollows too deep. The bruises under his eyes were huge black pools. My baby brother. I'd come so close to losing him. I glanced over at the other occupant of the hospital room. The Knight's wife, Chastity, or something equally sappily appropriate. She was asleep, deeply so. Her emotions had the scent of deep, restful bliss. Good. And her husband was down the hall, visiting his infant son. I'd at least earned enough of his trust to be left alone with them for ten minutes.

I moved one of the hard visitors chairs over to the side of Harry's bed and sat, leaning in close to Harry's bare skin. The scent of his emotions was tangy, jagged. He was out, but it wasn't restful. Too much was going on inside of him. Like Justine. It set my teeth on edge, thinking about it. About the Red's touching him. Hurting him. Drinking in his fear and pain. He was my brother. Mine. Family took care of family. It was the most important thing in the world. Lara had taught me that.

His arm was feverish beneath my hand and the demon, my other half, surged forward at the first pulse of strong emotion. Harry must be dreaming. A nightmare. The exhaustion and the drugs would keep him down, even if he wanted to wake up. But he was afraid. Suffering. I reached for him, for his emotions. I pulled at them, drank them down. It was as it always was, the feeding. It was painful and exquisite. The emotions slid inside of me; filled me up and cut me open as they did. Harry projected his feelings like few I'd ever met before. He was perfect food. Strong. Unprotected.

Harry moaned, shifted in the bed. I opened my eyes to look at him. He was still out, still dreaming. But it wasn't a nightmare any longer. His lips, rough and dry, parted and he made soft sounds, his hips rolling on the bed, the sheets whispering against his skin. I took a little more, carefully, and he gasped, a surprised sound and shuddered. The scent of his release came to me, pleasant. Fulfilling. The pleasure of it rippled through me and my demon rolled around, chortling and feasting.

Footsteps headed up the hall, Michael, and I moved. By the time he came softly through the doorway I was sitting against the wall beneath the window, a foot or so away from Harry's bed. My head down, as though I were half drowsing. We spoke softly, and he relieved me. I left, my skin jumping from all the energy, the wonderful burning feeling of it. Harry. I could still taste him. Family. It felt good. Not just the feeding, which was always good. But taking care of my baby brother. I was going to make him safe.

~

“Raith.” Harry's voice was dry, but I could hear the pain beneath it. They were letting him out of the hospital, but it was under protest. “What're you doing here?”

“Your buddy, Michael?” He nodded. “Had an emergency. Something at one of his construction sites. I told him that I'd give you a ride back to your place. That okay with you?”

Harry sat on the edge of the hospital bed, still too pale, too sharp. He looked at me for a long, long moment. His suspicious and distrustful eyes softened slowly and confusion flickered over his face. I didn't smile. He found himself wanting to trust me, though he couldn't figure out why. One of the useful side effects from the feedings.

“Sure.” It was said slowly, cautiously, but he said it. I smiled, charming and harmless. He shook his head at me but didn't protest when the nurse came and I directed him to wait while I pulled my car around. I'd driven the Pantera, because it was low to the ground, rather than one of the SUVs. Easier for Harry to get into, with his stiff joints and muscles. He still made tiny sounds of pain but we got him into the car without an incident. I drove for maybe ten minutes before Harry finally turned to me, a question clear on his features. I tried to remember to drive slowly. The death grip Harry had on the door handle helped with that, of course. I didn't want to scare him too badly.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“Hanging out. Being helpful. Not that I don't appreciate it, but what's your game?” I licked my lips and the shiver of faint desire that went through him stirred against me.

“I owe you. You saved Justine when I couldn't.” And you're mine, baby brother. I need to protect you, even if you don't want me to. Even if you don't know that I can. He narrowed his eyes at me and I rolled my shoulders in a shrug. I also sent a quiet trickle of ease, of relaxation. Trust me. It slid over him, through his defenses through the bond I'd formed with him over the nights he'd spent in the hospital. His muscles unclenched, his eyes flickering a little, growing softer, less angry. It wasn't much, but it was enough for the moment. We spent the rest of the drive in silence, not quite companionable, but not filled with tension either.

He tried to climb out of the car on his own in front of his apartment. I hurried around to his side before he could fall on his face and slid my arm around his shoulders, helping to steady him. The contact also made the connection stronger, made it easier to gently touch his emotions. To sip at them and feed him back a little contentment. Ease my way in.

“I can take it from here, Raith.” His speech was a little slow, and I eased off.

“Call me Thomas, please. And I couldn't live with myself if I walked away and you fell and brained yourself on those stairs. Poor repayment for all your help.”

In the end he let me help him down the stairs and then manners that had been drilled into him, the courtesies of the old world, kicked in and he asked me if I'd like a beer. I accepted, of course, and we found ourselves on his couch, leaning towards one another as the cushions sagged. His suspicion whipped across me and I made certain to do nothing that could be taken as aggressive, or as an attack. Harry was careful not to touch me, skin to skin.

He thought we were like the Red's, with their narcotic saliva. That we needed touch to work on a person and their emotions. I was hardly going to disabuse him of the notion, false as it was. Touch made it easier, but once a connection was made, touch was unnecessary. I spent twenty minutes with him, making small talk, drinking his excellent beer and feeding him feelings of happiness, contentment. Pleasure. Not enough to seem odd. Just enough to begin the association. Thomas equals happiness.

~

Thomas this- shit.” Harry broke off, his breathing jagged, moist. I uncoiled my power inside of him, like a vine unfurling. He was so far gone that he barely noticed it, and his only response was to stiffen, thrust against me. My brother's eyes were dark, all pupil as he let me lean into him, my mouth on his, swallowing the sounds he made as my hand cupped him through his jeans.

“This is good, isn't it, Harry?” I licked along his jaw, scraped my teeth over the stubble I found there. One long leg hooked behind mine and I ground against him, our erections skidding across each other.

“H-hells bells, Thomas. Good. 'S good. Fuck.” I slid my hands behind him, cupped his ass and lifted, setting him down on his desk. It groaned but took his weight and held. He spread his legs without thought, letting me slide between them, press against him again.

I drank him in, tasted and tested each emotion. Pleasure, of course. But happiness. Desire for more. The skittering, jittery edge to it that told me he wouldn't stop me. That he would come back, again and again. It had taken months. Almost a year of slow, careful steps. But he was ready.

His hands found my hair, tangled in the curls as I met his eyes for a second, dropping to my knees in front of him. The sight did something to him. I could feel the bright spark of his desire as it short circuited his brain. I unzipped him, took him into my hand and lifted his hard length free. Harry whined, one hand leaving my head to try and reach for his cock. I batted it away with a shake of my head. He moaned and kicked his legs into the desk, frustration biting into me. But he listened. His hand went behind him, bracing himself.

I licked at him, took first one of his balls and then the other into my mouth, applying the slick roughness of my tongue to the thin, sensitive skin that covered them. He loved this, the way I lavished attention on the smallest parts of him. I licked, a flick of my tongue over the roundness of them, sucking just hard enough, just long enough that the muscles in his thighs tensed, the arousal that poured off of him taking on a tiny thread of near pain.

With one last kiss to the smooth skin behind his balls I licked along the underside of his length. He groaned, his head falling back, boneless. I pressed my tongue against the slick head, dipped the tip of my tongue into the slit and lapped up the drops of come that were gathering there.

“Thomas. Thomas. Please.” Harry pulled at my hair. I growled at him and pulled away. He let go, his fingers still buried in my hair, but no longer demanding. “Sorry. Please. When you-”

I rolled my tongue around his head in forgiveness and then leaned forward, swallowing him down. He bucked up into my mouth and I pressed him back down, pinning his hips with one hand. I took him, traced the lines of him with the tip of my tongue, a feathery, teasing pressure. My demon surged forward, grabbing at the ribbons of emotion that fluttered off of Harry and started to feast. My power rolled over him, a million tiny mouths covering him, taking bites out of his power, his heat and emotion. It filled me and I poured the energy back into him, drove him higher and harder, until he exploded, crying out above me.

I took it all, savoring the taste of my brother's love before it was over. When he was done, limp and wasted, I rose, tucking him away gently. He stared at me, his eyes glued to my mouth. Harry leaned forward, his fingers brushing at the corner of my chin and they came away glistening, a little bit of his come smeared across their tips.

“I-” He bit his lip, looking from me to his fingers and back. The sight aroused him, a trembling, quiet desire. Confusion crept through him, and a strange, faint feeling of shame. I pressed more contentment into him and the confusion was buried beneath it.

“Go ahead, Harry. Lick it.” I took hold of his wrist and brought his hand to his mouth. He hesitated, then his tongue peeked out, a tiny flash of pink. The feeling, unsure but intrigued, lit in him. It rolled through me, leaving a wonderful after taste.

“It's bitter.”

“Mmmhmm. But not bad, right?”

“No. Not bad, I guess.” He met my eyes, then looked away. “Do you want me to-?” He let the question die, but it was clear what he was asking. I tasted the mingled want, the appreciation for what I'd done for him and the feeling that he should return the favor, all tied up together with tingles of fear. Apprehension. Less than it had been even the day before, but still there. And weighed more on the side of fear for the moment.

“No. Not yet. When you're ready, Harry.” I kissed him, brushed my hand against his temple. “But can I...?” I let my own question die. It was our pattern. We both knew, as before, what was being asked. Relief and another, heavier wave of arousal rolled through him.

“Of course.” I stepped back and Harry slid off of his desk, went to his knees in front of me. My pants opened easily, with a sound like a sigh of relief and I took myself carefully in hand, ran my palm over the head and gathered the moisture there. It eased my way just enough and I began, falling quickly into the familiar rhythm. It was good, as always, and better than it could ever be without Harry there. Harry, my brother, who waited, watching me work myself. Hypnotized by the sight of my pale, strong hand wrapped around my dick, aching and hard for him. The glistening of the pre-come, the twitching as I grew closer and closer to my climax. Harry watched it all with wide eyes and I barely had to feed any power into him at all.

His lips fell open, just a bit, the barest flash of white teeth between soft pink lips and I squeezed, twisted just behind the head and came, thick white spattering across his cheeks, his mouth. I let myself go, let myself fall into it. My brother licked his lips, catching the last spurt as he did. He wiped at his chin, but instead of grabbing some tissue to clean himself with, this time he took his fingers into his mouth and licked them. Sucked on them until they were clean and shining as he withdrew them. I smiled and fed him another burst of good feeling. Harry smiled back and pushed himself up, turning to the small kitchen area of his office and the sink it contained.

I watched him, content. This was what it was supposed to be like with family. The memory, faint from age, of the first time I'd caught my father and Lara together brushed through me. I'd been seven, with my mother newly disappeared and it was Lara's cries that had brought me to my father's den. He'd been angry, but then he was always angry with me. Lara had come to me later and explained. Explained how it was – that it was love, for our family. I hadn't understood, not until my own demon had awakened. That was when I'd learned that my father didn't love me. Not like he loved my sisters. But now I had Harry, and he had me.

He was safe now. Safe, and loved. We were together. Together as family, as we were meant to be.