The First Surrender Cookie of the New Year

I just realised it was the ninth and went scrambling through my PDF of The Demon’s Surrender to find you guys your rightful January cookie! Nick came second in the Main Characters Poll, which meant it was time for a Nick cookie, and the hasty vote I took on twitter indicated that people would rather see Nick Maybe Exposing Some Sort of Emotion rather than Exposing His Chest. (Though chest got a few votes as well…)

I will be posting again tomorrow, because I have some NEWS to announce!

This cookie needs a sentence of explanation first, but for those entirely opposed to spoilers, it lies beneath the cut in italics.

Sin, Nick and Alan are in Nick and Alan’s flat in London. Alan has just had what looks more or less like a fit. Or like, say, being invisibly tortured…

Nick acted, grabbing hold of both Alan’s arms and almost throwing him into one of the chairs by their small round kitchen table.

“Now,” Nick said. “Tell me what’s going on.”

Sin slipped in, eel-swift, to block Alan from Nick’s view. “Leave him alone. Have you no pity?”

Nick put a hand to Sin’s throat, forcing her head back. The demon’s attention was on her now, his eyes glittering.

“Don’t stand between me and my brother,” Nick said softly. “And no.”

“Don’t touch her,” Alan commanded, his voice thin and hoarse.

Nick released Sin’s throat and stepped back, until he was behind the counter, as if he did not trust himself not to lash out unless there was a barrier in his way.

Sin didn’t trust him either.

“She knows what’s going on,” Nick observed. “Obviously. How many people know? Why did you lie to me? Why do you always lie?”

“It’s in my nature,” Alan said in a low voice, and then more clearly: “I didn’t want you to get upset. There was no point in telling you.”

“No point,” Nick echoed.

“No,” said Alan. “There’s nothing you can do. It’s just Gerald demonstrating his power over me. He wants you to be upset, so when he comes to you with demands, you’ll do what he wants.”

Alan had decided not to mention that there had already been demands, Sin noticed. She turned towards Alan, joining him in this conspiracy almost without a thought. She bowed her head as if she was fussing over him, making sure Nick could not see her face.

Her eyes and Alan’s met in perfect understanding.

In his nature, indeed.

“And you didn’t think I should know this,” Nick said.

“I didn’t feel like giving him the satisfaction,” Alan returned.

“He was trying to keep it from everyone,” Sin added. “I happened to see him have another attack, the day I was teaching him archery up on the hill. If I’d thought it would do you any good to know, I would have told you.”

Perfectly true, as far as it went.

She looked up to see if Nick was buying it. He was standing with his arms braced on the counter and his head bowed.

“What are we going to do?” he asked, and then louder, his voice furious: “What’s the plan?”

“Oh, well,” Alan said, his voice gentle and tired. “That’s the problem. There isn’t one.”

“What do you mean, there isn’t one?”

“Think about it, Nick,” said Alan. “I can’t make a plan. If there was a plan, I couldn’t know it. Gerald could torture it out of me anytime he liked.”

Nick’s shoulders bunched as Alan spoke. His head stayed bowed.

“What are we meant to do then,” he snarled. “Just sit and wait until he comes with his demands? Or until he pushes you too far and kills you?”

“The second would be preferable,” Alan said. “I won’t have you a magician’s slave.”

“Why not?” Nick demanded. “What does it matter? I was one before.”

“That was before you were mine,” Alan said. His voice was steadier, now. “Nick. If I do die. If it happens, I hope it won’t, but if it does. It’s all right. I’ll feel all right about it, if I can leave you behind safe, with Mae and Jamie. It will be like leaving behind a life’s work. Do you know something? I remember snatches of things before you came, bits and pieces about my mother. But as far back as I can think in a straight line, from that point of my life to this, there’s you, and wanting to take care of you. That’s what I remember. It’s all right.”

Nick did look up then.

“I remember my life, before you,” he said, his voice chilly and distant. “Don’t make me live like that again.”

“Nick,” Alan said.

“Nick,” Nick repeated, viciously. “What was that, in the beginning, but some baby name you used because you heard Olivia call me Hnikarr. A demon’s name in a child’s mouth. Until you turned it into the biggest lie you ever told. Nicholas Ryves. As if there was such a person. As if I was a person. Who do you think I’ll be, when you die?”

Hope you enjoyed! Tomorrow, NEWS!

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