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gossip girl { shatter prisms

antistar_e in veritasrecords

Fic: A Method of Soul-Talking [The Demon's Lexicon/His Dark Materials]

Title: A Method of Soul-Talking
Fandom: The Demon's Lexicon/His Dark Materials
Characters/Pairings: Nick, Alan, Mae, Jamie (Alan/Nick friendly, but not explicit)
Summary: Demons don't have daemons. Daemons are everything a demon is not: soul, light, language.
Word Count: 5,400
Notes: So I got the third book in the mail yesterday and I realized I still had this floating around in my hard drive. Originally posted to my personal journal for a meme a while back, this is for 2814_1, who wanted The Demon's Lexicon with daemons. And I will never say no to daemons.





"Excuse me!" Nick said as loudly and pointedly as possible, with only the most cursory nod to diplomacy, because really, what did it matter. "Not to interrupt your monologue, because I'm sure you've spent a lot of time on it and I wouldn't want to step on your toes, but I feel like I need to point out the flaw in your master plan before you go any further."

He waited until he got the condescending tic of Black Arthur's eyebrow before continuing flatly, "Demons don't have daemons. That kind of ruins the point. Now, I don't mean to undermine your not inconsiderable powers of observation, but I have a daemon."

Impatiently, he gestured at Tsiporrah, who crouched with him inside the magician's circle, wings half-extended and brushing against the wood floors. She hid her distress poorly, beak open and panting.

Surprise actually blanked Arthur's face out for a moment, like it was the last thing he expected Nick to say.

Then a smile formed, just barely, at the corners of his mouth, and behind him, Laura's kookaburra daemon began to laugh.

"Oh, Nick," Black Arthur said, darkly mocking. "Did you really think she was yours?"

-

People with bird daemons weren't always magicians, but magicians always had bird daemons.

"Well, 99% of the time," Nick corrected himself. "There was that magician with the ladybug daemon. Right, Alan?" he called into the kitchen, where his brother was doing what any good Englishman would do in this situation: fixing the humans a strong cup of tea.

Speaking of, they weren't looking all that reassured, which is technically what Nick was supposed to be doing. (He'd forgotten their names, and was just kind of calling them Thing 1 and Thing 2.)

"But it was one of those nasty, annoying yellow ladybugs," he told them, going for passive and mostly just coming out cold. "So it wasn't that hard to kill him."

"Strictly speaking, it has more to do with the power of flight than it does birds, specifically," Alan interrupted before any more color could drain from Thing 2's face. Thing 2 was the girl: she had overly-bleached pink hair and this spotty, weasel-looking thing of a daemon, and she looked torn between petting him obsessively or holding on to her brother's hand. They were sharing the armchair, squished so tightly up against each other Nick was sure they were in danger of accidentally touching each other's daemons, but they couldn't very well have the couch, because Nick had the couch, and, by extension, Tsipporah, and they had yet to meet anyone (sparing perhaps Alan and Paige) who would willingly argue with Tsipporah for space.

Alan handed the Thing siblings their mugs and trudged over to stand behind Nick, the drop-shuffle of his lame leg over-loud in the room. "Those whose daemons can fly are more likely to survive the process of separation. Birds are just the tradition. Witch's tales, if you will."

"So, what?" said Thing 1 quaveringly. He was the boy with the second-tier mark on him: already good for dead, as far as Nick was concerned, although Thing 2 and apparently Alan seemed to disagree. "We live in perpetual fear of anybody with a bird daemon?"

His eyes flicked to Tsipporah, mistrust running sudden and hot in his eyes, and he caught himself, flushing.

Nick bared his teeth at him. "Well, I'm not a magician, obviously, but I wouldn't say I was --"

"Nick," Alan said sharply, cutting over him. Nick quieted, lifting a hand to brush against the strong hollow of Tsipporah's wing. The feeling of it crashed over him, too sharp, too sudden, and he grit his teeth: he didn't understand why everyone else on the planet thought it was a comforting thing, touching their daemon, because it just felt invasive to him, like scalpels or a dozen tiny splinters or a particularly thorough psych evaluation. He much preferred just having her nearby, skulking in the background.

Paige wandered in from the kitchen at that moment, and Nick physically saw the moment Thing 1 and Thing 2 relaxed, the lines of their shoulders easing marginally, because Paige had that kind of effect on people: she easily took up all available space in whatever room she was in, huge and powerful and golden, muscles visibly shimmering under her fur, and it was like as long as she was there, there wasn't a threat. People, Alan discovered, tended to instinctively trust a lioness daemon.

"We're going to protect you," Alan said lowly, and Nick groaned, because this could not end well.

-

Alan was sixteen and Nick was twelve when Paige settled. She'd been thinking about it for a year at least: they'd find a place and unpack the boxes and tuck Olivia away somewhere like Harry Potter in his cupboard under the stairs, and she'd pick a shape and stay with it the entire time, up until the magicians found them and they had to rinse and repeat the whole thing. Part of it, probably, was Alan needing to appear older than he was, and part of it was that Paige simply wasn't as easily threatened as she used to be, and didn't need to flit from shape to shape when frightened.

Nick had been getting used to it, and had, in his own way, grown to like Paige in each of her phases: the grey fox, the meerkat, the densely-sturdy beaver.

So it wasn't like it was some great big revelation when Alan paused at the breakfast island, page of his book caught on the edge of his fingertip, and said thoughtfully, "Nick."

Nick leaned his chair back, saying tersely, "Tsipporah, move, you're in the way," and his daemon shuffled obligingly, folding her wings up tight against her body, and Paige slunk into the kitchen, for all the world looking unconcerned with the ferocity of their attention.

"Oh, well that's subtle," Nick said dryly.

"Shut up," Alan replied without any heat whatsoever. He came around the island to greet his daemon, stroking her face and ears with obvious adoration. He didn't need to bend down to do it, which was probably the point.

Nick thought about it. Oversized daemons weren't frowned upon, exactly, although they were less popular in the crowded parts of London, but there were now two over-large daemons in their family, and it wasn't really conducive to their life of secrecy and hiding.

"Hey," he went, inspired. "Does this mean we can stick Olivia in the boot?"

-

In sixteen years, Nick had never once seen Tsipporah change, which probably should have set off some kind of alarm bells somewhere, but he just figured their lives were already so far off the grid, what was one more weird thing?

But she'd always been that shape, from the time Nick was so small that he could wrap himself up in her wingspan and not see a flicker of daylight. The first year he went to school, all the other kids had mice and kittens and little lizards and he was the only one that took up a whole separate desk, watching everyone else give her cruel hooked beak and hooded eyes a wide berth.

"Nicholas," his teachers kept on saying to him, every time he and Tsipporah reduced another student to startled tears. "Can't you ask her to be something ... a little less frightening?"

Nick considered this for a long moment. "No," he said, finally, and it exhausted his vocabulary for the week.

He could feel it, was the thing, that stodgy, settled block inside of him, but Alan told him he should always ask, so once -- after a particularly tedious afternoon where Paige kept on trying to drag Tsipporah into a game of tag, pawing at her feathers and bopping her on the head and wheeling off, flitting from polecat to otter to aardwolf, and Daniel's Zeva watched them from the rug in front of the hearth, thumping her tail and laughing -- he sat down next to his daemon and cleared his throat, asking solemnly, "Do you want to play with her? You can."

Tsipporah regarded him, first with one eye, then twisting her head upside down to look at him with the other. "No," she said finally, and pushed up close to him. She was as tall as he was, then, so her head fit easily underneath her chin. Nick tolerated it for a moment or two, because that was what he was supposed to do, but finally he shook her off.

Alan told him that when people grow up, their daemons start to take shapes that reflect who they are, but privately, Nick thought that for him and Tsipporah, it was the other way around. He grew up dark and brooding and slouched his way through school, and inherited her tendency to loom up alarmingly behind people.

"Jesus Christ!" yelped Thing 2 (Mae, Alan's voice corrected him, disapproving), wheeling around.

"No, I'm Nick," he replied, pointing to himself. "We've been through this, remember?"

"Oh, ha ha," she went, sarcastically, and he imagined he could see her pulse rabbiting in her neck. Her slinky daemon -- whatever the hell it was -- went weaving in between her boots. "Can you and your vulture just back off?"

"She's a condor, thank you. Completely different species."

"Yeah, and yours is whichever is creepiest, I caught that, thanks."

Tsipporah was perched up on the weather vane, a distance that Nick could feel; a tug somewhere deep down like pulling at dead skin. He flashed her a grin, eyeballing Mae sideways. "Condors are the largest species of bird on the planet, with an 11-foot wingspan and wicked beak that can eviscerate a wolf from snout to tail." He'd seen her slice open sparrowhawks and parrots and gulls, easy and effortless, usually a second or two before Nick ran their magician through with his sword, so the overwhelming pain of the death of their daemon was the last thing they ever felt.

Mae's nose wrinkled up, thoughts so obvious they might as well be written in bold letters across her forehead: that people with nasty-smelling, scavenging carrion-eaters for daemons are not the people you should be trusting with your brother's life.

"So you know what just occurred to me," Thing 1 came in, talking very loudly and carrying what looked like their entire emergency store of cup-noodles in their cooking pot, and Nick's mouth quirked. They were moving, running, hiding, effectively abandoning the Thing siblings to their fate, and Alan had still sweet-talked Jamie into helping them pack. "So magicians have bird daemons, right? Have you ever met anyone with a tit daemon? Or the blue-footed booby? Because that would be hilarious."

Impending nuclear winter forgotten, Nick and Mae just stared at him for a moment. "Just saying," he went with a grin, sticking the cooking pot down in the well behind the driver's seat. Jamie was taller than he let on, content to round his shoulders and duck his head and disappear behind his sister, and his wardrobe seemed to consist primarily of jeans from the girl's side of Fossil and sweatshirts with hoods from every single university the kid didn't have a prayer of getting into, which he wore with full acknowledgement of the irony. He wore them even on nights like this, just the wrong shade of swimmingly muggy, because his bat daemon could almost always be found nestled into the hood.

("There are a couple different names for her," he'll offer to Nick later, like he thinks that Nick cares. "The Indian flying fox, the fruit bat."

"The biggest, fluffiest, and most harmless species of bat, in other words," Nick will translate, and Jamie'll beam at him like he can't hear the sarcasm.)

Nick could feel the moment the atmosphere changed, sending a schism of shivers up the back of his neck, because Mae and Jamie's faces suddenly went void of any and all expression, and they looked down, away, like they'd seen something unnatural and embarrassing.

It was Olivia, of course, shooed out of the attic by Alan's ever-considerate politeness (by which he meant, Alan's unfailing refusal to just leave Olivia behind to die,) drifting down across the lawn like a doll left out for dust, her hair lanky and uncombed and partially obscuring her features. She looked like that girl from The Ring, Nick thought dispassionately, watching her halting, sleep-walking progress across the lawn. Up on the vane, Tsipporah shuddered and bodily turned aside: the feeling curled Nick's lip unconsciously, because part of his loathing for his mother stemmed from her loathing of him, and the way Tsipporah couldn't stand to be in the same room with her -- the darkness of his daemon's emotions always hit him like a club in the gut.

Thing 1 and 2 kept on looking at her, catching on her in brief glances before they looked away again: like a feast of ravens and a dead magician later, and this was their first true glimpse of a nightmare, the woman who looked exactly like Nick, daemon-less like a walking corpse.

-

Nick never asked what happened to his mother's daemon. He never asked Daniel, or big black mastiff Zeva, or Alan. He always assumed that the magicians that were after her had killed him. It seemed like the kind of thing they'd do.

In hindsight, that was pretty fucking dumb.

-

Olivia and Tsipporah died together, of course, because that's who they were in the end: one person, bound together by soul and touch the way humans and daemons ought to be, and they screamed, all of them, together -- Olivia, Black Arthur who she held to her chest and set afire, Black Arthur's raven daemon, and Nick inside the circle, as thread-by-thread his connection to Tsipporah severed. He couldn't help but scream, because even though it made sense, that he'd hate touching her because she was Olivia's daemon first, that she never changed because she was already settled into a magician's bird shape, that Olivia hated looking at him because even though it was her idea, she could never forgive him for taking her daemon from her to play some sick, marionette parody of humanity, despite all of that, Tsipporah had still forced her way into Nick's soul and breaking that hurt the way nothing else in the world would ever come close.

-

After the disaster in Durham, Alan spent two days watching Nick pace around their apartment, cagey and restless and burning with the storm, lightning leaping between synapses and civilizations falling in the stretch of muscle and tendon, before he went out and bought him a cigarette case.

"I didn't realize I needed your implicit permission to smoke," Nick said caustically, turning the case over: it wasn't silver, so it didn't burn him to touch it, but neither was it cheap. It had the weight of age to it, enough for Nick to sniff and go, "And neither am I forty years old."

"I know," Alan replied, tired-sounding in a way that Nick hated but could never touch, never force to go away, because he respected his brother enough to give him that much. "It's for when you go back to school. People are going to wonder where your daemon is, so just show them this. Say she's a spider that's poisonous on contact, people will believe that."

"Your wit slays me," Nick said blandly, but he tucked the case into the inside pocket of his jacket nonetheless, close to the talisman that burned and itched.

It did kind of feel like a rather large lapse of foresight on Alan's part, to send his demon brother to a school he'd attended previously and trust that nobody would notice his enormous condor daemon suddenly wasn't there anymore, but that was exactly what happened, and bright and early Nick found himself on the school lawn with Jamie, who was clearly choosing the lesser of two evils, if the way he was cold-shouldering Mae's latest boy-toy was any indication.

"Hey, man," went Seb with a careful nod in his direction. "Didn't you used to have a great big bird daemon?"

"... No," Nick offered. He wondered if this was when he was supposed to pull out the cigarette case, but it wasn't all that uncommon to hide your daemon from sight if it was small enough, especially in human adolescence: Nick had never seen Seb's daemon, for instance, although the bulk of his biker jacket hid a lot less than he probably thought it did, and there was a lumpy shape in the pocket close to his heart, the same place Nick kept the cigarette case. Not the right shape for an insect or an arachnid. So maybe Seb's daemon was a mouse, then.

"Oh," said Seb. "Cool, man, whatever."

He was gratified to see that both Mae and Jamie ducked their heads at that, like they'd suddenly spotted something very shiny on the ground, but more like they didn't want Seb to see them smiling.

-

"Okay!" Mae announced, grabbing one of the kitchen chairs and swinging it around so she could straddle it. She set a couple sheets of paper down on the table with greater flourish than they probably deserved. "I have successfully compiled a list of everyone in the Salisbury area with a bird daemon."

Across from her, Alan lowered his spoon back into his cereal and tilted his head inquisitively. "Salisbury?"

"Where we saw Gerald's daemon last," Mae said, with a vague wave of her hand in Nick and Jamie's general direction. Alan shot Nick a look, plainly saying, what have you been doing when I haven't been there to supervise?

Nick raised his eyebrow in return, saying, I haven't been doing anything with your pet humans that they didn't want me to do.

Lounging behind Alan's chair, Paige lifted her head, rumbling low in her chest, but before Alan could say anything, Mae moved again, setting a map down next to the list. "So it turns out that there aren't a lot of people with quetzal daemons," she said excitedly, "much less quetzal daemons that can travel the distance away from their humans that Gerald's can, because they're big and colorful and showy and -- showy," she made a flowy gesture with her hand that, if you hadn't seen a quetzal and their long, long tails, could mean anything at all. "Anyway, we spotted her --"

"Him," Nick and Alan said in unison.

Mae blinked, derailed. "I beg your pardon?"

Alan took a casual bite of his cereal. "Gerald's daemon is a him. The girl quetzals are less --" he mimicked Mae's hand movement.

There was a stifled sound from the other end of the table, like Jamie or his bat daemon tried to muffle a giggle.

"Oh," said Mae haltingly. "I did not know that." She cut a glance at Shill, who leapt up onto the table by her elbow, his body an elegant curve arched on the table edge. "How many times have we met with him for some assignation of evil, and that slipped our notice?" She paused for a moment, like she just thought of something, then opened her mouth.

"No," Nick cut in before she could say it. "Contrary to what prejudice and fiction would have you believe, the gender of a person's daemon is not an accurate indicator of their sexual preference. Look at your brother, for example."

"I resent that implication," went Jamie, deadpan.

"You resemble it," Nick shot back, remembering last second to bare his teeth in a smile to lessen the sting of delivery. "And there was my mom, her daemon was female." He knew immediately it was the wrong thing to say; Mae and Jamie both flinched, eyes shuttering away, and he remembered vaguely that they'd actually been somewhat fond of Olivia, for all that she gave them the creeps. It was probably mostly pity. He was still sorting these things out.

"Hey," said Alan, thoughtful. He took a hold of the map of the corner and tugged on it a little bit. "Shill, I think you're standing on something important."

In his haste to get out of Alan's way, Mae's little ratty whatever-it-was tried to lift all four paws off the map at once, and upon tripping over himself, skittered his way up Mae's arm. He settled onto her shoulder and hissed at Jamie's bat daemon, who poked her head out of his hood in order to laugh openly, easy and familiar.

"Would you look at that," Alan went, smile dragging at the corners of his mouth. He taps his fingernail against the map. "This, ladies and gentlemen, would be a bar called the Bird in Hand."

"When making a top-secret magician's hang-out, name it something really subtle," Nick remarked, wry.

"Your evil magician father had a raven daemon," Jamie pointed out blithely. "I don't think subtlety is these guys' strong point."

-

Seb's daemon turned out to be the smallest, plainest little brown wren Nick had ever seen. She probably wouldn't even fit in the palm of his hand.

"You really should have seen that coming," he said to Mae, on retreat from the magicians' villainous lair.

"Oh, shut up," she snapped back, sounding mulish, but in that way that told Nick she wasn't actually that angry; she was more hurt and wounded pride than genuinely upset.

"I saw it coming," Jamie offered, and ducked when she snatched one of the bobblehead superhero figures from Nick's dashboard and chucked at his head.

"Hey!" Nick protested, watching in the rearview mirror as Shill chased the fruit bat around the backseat, finally pinning her by the leathery folds of her wings and gnawing on her head in what might be annoyance or affection, Nick couldn't tell. "Can I have the Hulk back?"

Jamie fetched it from the footwell and passed it up.

"You mean to say," Nick said to Mae, shoving the Hulk back onto his sticky pad on the dashboard. "In all that time you were making out with him, your little rodent daemon never thought to get friendly with his? Not very serious, were you?"

"Okay, first: shut up," Mae pulled her fist back like she was going to punch him in the shoulder, then seemed to think better of it. "And second of all, and I have told you this before, Shill is a palm civet, not a rodent. They're more closely related to cats, thank you very much."

Don't get him wrong, Nick genuinely liked Mae, probably as much as he liked Jamie (who read him love poetry while he sharpened knives like it was a perfectly normal thing for friends to do,) if not more. Thing 1 and Thing 2 had grown on him.

-

She took him out onto the roof and she told him what Alan was planning. Of course she did, because Mae had the kind of honor sense that wouldn't let sleeping dogs lie.

The coldness that rushed up inside of him was violent, sudden, and absolutely silent: everything else flipped to mute except for that single, eerie sensation. He climbed back in through the window, and went downstairs, and found his brother coming in through the front foyer: Alan went still all over, because the armageddon that rolled off Nick in waves would have been obvious to someone deaf, blind, and mute, and for someone so quick on their feet, Alan only got half a step backwards before Nick was on him, like he couldn't quite get his body to register that Nick was a threat, like it just wasn't hardwired into him.

Nick swept Alan's legs out from under him and slammed him into the carpeting; somewhere else, he could hear Paige roaring, deep-throated and ferocious, and Mae and Shill shouting something.

"You can't," was all Nick managed to get out.

The light clicked on in Alan's eyes; Nick saw him realize the chain of events -- Liannan tattling to Mae who tattled to Nick -- and something happened around the edges of Alan's mouth, a sad sort of drop like disappointment. "I have to, Nick," he said quietly.

"You can't," Nick yelled again, resisting the urge to bodily slam Alan down again like it would emphasize his point: physical violence didn't do much but make Alan even more stubborn. "Alan, she will die."

"I know that," Alan roared: it ripped out of him like it hurt doing so, and it made Nick falter, startle, because it was probably the baldest, most honest thing he'd heard come out of his brother and he wasn't used to the sound of it. He let go of Alan's shirt, and rocked back onto his haunches, letting Alan drag himself up into a sitting position. His shoulders were a crumpled, defeated line, and Paige immediately pressed in, curving her body around them, effectively blocking out the sight of Mae's white face on the stairs.

They breathed for a long moment, and then Alan lifted his head. "I will do what I have to to make it safe for you, Nick, that's all I wanted."

Nick opened his mouth, couldn't find the words, and clicked his jaw shut again. "You can't," was all he could think to say.

A different voice spoke. "Nick."

He jumped, eyes jerking sideways. Paige regarded him, her eyes a honey-gold and her teeth as long as his thumb, and spoke again. "Nick, we've talked about this," she said gently. "Alan and I. We've talked about it since you were a child. It's okay," she whispers. "Nick, it's okay."

"No," Nick forced out, looking between his brother and his brother's daemon. He fixed his gaze on Alan's face. "Do you love me more than her?" he asked.

Alan reacted full-body, flinching back from the question, and reached out for Paige reflexively. He grabbed fistfuls of her short, wiry fir and dragged her closer.

He didn't answer.

"Nick," Paige said again, even softer, and he lifted his eyes to her. She rumbled, ducking her head so that her whiskers stretched a mere breath's width from his cheek, and Nick knew, in that second, what she was asking. His mouth quirked ruefully, because it figured that the most forbidden of all contact was the first kind he actually wanted to initiate.

Touching Paige, he realized the second he pressed his forehead up against her cheek, was nothing like touching Tsipporah had been. It was similar, of course, because touching another person's daemon was a violation for a reason -- it was stark, strange, too close and electric, like sticking his finger in a light socket -- but there was none of the murky, ambiguous grunge that had clouded through him whenever he put his hands on Tsipporah. No, Paige felt like Alan, a brightness that left haloes on the inside of Nick's eyelids. It felt like having a good, well-running car engine under his fingers, or a sword that practically leapt to obey him. There was nothing on this earth he knew better than Alan and Paige: a demon thousands of years old, and the only thing he knew with any certainty was the boy on the floor with him, and his lioness.

He dragged his fingers up to the shell of Paige's ear and felt rather than saw Alan shudder all over: felt it because he was touching Paige, Paige who was Alan in all the ways that mattered. He felt Alan drag in an unsteady breath and push it out, and suddenly, the moment eased into something so crystalline, so clearly them.

Alan stretched a hand out and hitched his palm up against the lower swell of Nick's ribs. Paige rumbled again, the noise low and tectonic in her chest, and they stayed like that, two boys on the carpet sharing a daemon, for a long, long time, until the light outside canted towards sunset.

-

Full-circle, here we go again, and Nick found himself trapped in another magician's circle, watching Liannan stretch new human limbs to the sky in joy.

"Yes, this will do very nicely, don't you think?" she said, dancing back to them. She moved Merris's body in ways it probably wasn't meant to be moved, long and loose-jointed, like a marionette. "But it's not quite complete, is it? There's still one last thing I don't have. Oh, yes," she stretched the lips into a jimcrack grin, cynosure. "I forgot. There's still one last bargain I have yet to carry out."

She moved past Nick's cage, and he wanted with a ferocity he'd never wanted anything before to be able to reach past the barrier of the circle and grab hold of her, stop her, make her forget, anything.

Alan met her half-way, and Liannan only spared him the ghost of her grotesque grin before she curved forward, putting her hands on Paige's face like it was already familiar to her, heedless of the lioness's flattened ears and snarled teeth. In the peripheral, Nick saw Mae jerk forward, Sin grabbing her before she got more than a few steps. Something inside of him howled, because Paige made everyone feel safe and it wasn't right to see her under the fingers of a demon. It would have been simpler to watch Liannan touch quicksilver.

As easily as pulling cotton, Liannan straightened up, and Paige vanished: changed, a fluttering brown moth cupped in Liannan's hands.

"I uphold our end of the bargain, Alan Ryves," she said, low and musical and so, so happy. "You have enough soul to spare. Of course, you might not survive."

Then, like candy corn, she tossed Paige into her mouth and swallowed.

Alan crumpled: there was no other word for it. He dropped, like he'd been wiped clean of all color and memory and life, strings cut and heaped into the grass. Mae shrieked, and she wasn't the only one -- the people of the Goblin Market might not be fond of Alan, and Gerald's magicians even less so, but there were some things that were just universally not done, inhumanities unspeakable no matter the faction, and killing another person's daemon was one of those things.

Liannan paused on the outer edge of Nick's circle and looked at him, all playful light gone from her. "It's strange to have seen you come to this, Hnikarr," she said, low, and then she shrugged. "Oh, well."

The shift happened so minutely that Nick almost missed it, but then, all of a sudden, it was like the circle didn't exist: the lines were there, drawn like tightrope and prison bars, but it was like they were nothing more than chalk again, silly patterns marked by children. Nick stepped outside the line, easy as breathing, and it was like the whole world tipped sideways, like the earth started revolving in another direction, all the stars in the sky turned topsy-turvy with motion.

He moved, he thought, but he couldn't be sure, just knew that when he next drew breath, he was on his knees in the grass next to his brother.

"Alan," he said, in a voice for no one to hear, not even if they were standing right next to them, a voice that existed only within the soul. It was a gift of speech he'd never been given: it felt like honey, oil, butter on his tongue, to be able to speak like this. "Alan."

And Alan drew breath, and if anything else happened -- if anywhere in the world, anybody else breathed or laughed or cried or existed or spoke to magicians -- it wasn't a tenth of the importance of that single movement, Alan breathing and opening his eyes and looking at Nick like there was nowhere else to look.

"Nick," he replied in turn, and the pain in his eyes was staggering. "Nick, she's --"

"Me," he answered, nonsensical, not knowing what he said, but he felt it: Paige, Paige who went willingly, she existed still, somewhere between the two of them. "She's me. I'm her. Mine. Hers. Yours."

Alan reached out, and Nick fell easily against his fingers, a caress becoming a crushing hug like they were trying to fit their bones together.

This, Nick realized, burrowed against his brother's shoulder. This was what he never learned from Daniel's book, or from his mother's daemon, or from Mae holding his hand, or from being read to: this was the single most human thing, the touch of a daemon to its compliment. This was everything a human was, everything a demon would never understand but would always desire: the single space of time when you meet your own soul and greet it by name.

"Nick," said Alan Ryves, the only boy in the entire world who had a demon for a daemon.

"Alan," Nicholas Ryves answered in turn.




-
fin



Helpful Google image reference: Tsipporah, a condor; Shill, a palm civet; a Mariana fruit bat/Indian flying fox; a kookaburra; a quetzal


Comments

Quetzals are the best birds; all arguments are irrelevant. I approve, therefore, of everything about this fic.
And you are the best and the kindest ♥
So I read this. And then reread it and then actually thought 'to me you are perfect' and I don't have that reaction to anything. Your daemon fics are always so good. And you made me like Nick! And reminded me that I need to get the next two books, but that is not important. What's important is that this is excellent, especially that last section.
hfdjskhcjkdhsuhrjkdhk oh my god, Jordy, who would I be without you, your words are the nicest, thank you, thank you, thank you! ♥______♥
this is incredible.
Thank you! :)
Oh, how beautiful and heartbreaking, and of course Paige agreed.
Why, thank you kindly, and yes, exactly ♥
Oh, this, YES! This was just so utterly right! ♥
Huh, wow, cool. That really works.
OH MY HEART! This was fantastic!
This is utterly fantastic - I ate it up with a spoon. ♥ OH NICK AND ALAN HOW YOU BREAK MY HEART AND ARE WONDERFUL.
dragonmen

March 2014

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