Alan looked terribly pleased for a moment, and Nick realized that his brother had taken this as one of the ridiculous, sappy things Alan was used to saying all the time. (3.53-54)
Nice try, Nick, but we don't think that's it. Alan's not pleased because he thinks Nick's being sappy. Alan's pleased because Nick's demonstrating an ability to care about someone other than himself—something he wouldn't be able to do if he hadn't changed at all.
Alan looked at Nick. His eyes widened slightly when he saw the imprisonment circle. His gaze traveled from Nick to Jamie. Nick saw him putting together what must have happened and he wanted to say he was sorry but then, incredibly, Alan smiled. (13.153)
Once again Nick misses the significance of his situation. The fact that he's in the imprisonment circle indicates that he placed Jamie's personal safety above his own. Sure he may have rationalized it to himself even as he was doing it, but he did it just the same. Whether it was because he cares about Jamie, or because he cares about Alan—who he knows cares about Jamie—it doesn't matter. Caring is caring is caring. So there.
The lamplight caught the tears clinging to Alan's eyelashes and painted the tears running down his face yellow.
Nick reached out, but the circle stopped him. (15.48-49)
Shazam. This is a super great moment because remember, gestures like ruffling someone's hair or reaching out to place a comforting arm on someone's shoulder don't come naturally to Nick. Except that this one does.
If Arthur was so concerned about him, it was funny he hadn't put forth his best effort until the time came when Nick could be useful.
Nick thought of the messenger telling them, Black Arthur says that now's the time. He wants it back.
It. Nick. The charm Mum had worn had just been another lie, and the look on Alan's face when that messenger came had not been fear for Mum. He hadn't been plotting and lying to shield Mum. (15.83 – 85)
We love it when Nick starts to figure everything out. It reminds us of that scene in Return of the Jedi when Darth Vader is looking back and forth between the emperor and Luke before he makes his choice. If only there were some kind of space vacuum Nick could toss Black Arthur into…
He did not remember ever thinking in words before. He did not remember ever thinking of himself as having a name before. Names were human things, important because humans used names in order to use you. A name was a collar and a chain. Nick didn't have a name.
Nick saw the problem with that last thought almost immediately. (17.9-10)
Yeah, back when he was Hnikkar, he wouldn't have had words at all, but now that he's supposedly become Hnikkar once again… he does. Words, and as it turns out, a human name too. So then is he really Hnikkar? Or is he Nick? Or is he something in between?
It was dark, and a little cold. He felt tired and chilled by everything that had happened today. He wanted to go home to Alan, eat cereal on the sofa, and sleep in his own bed. (17.16)
If these aren't typical human thoughts, then we aren't Shmooperific (and we know we are). Who hasn't had one of those days where getting home, having a snack on the sofa, and crawling into bed sounds like just about the best thing ever? Actually, we can think of one group that probably hasn't had that experience: demons.
He thought of the name Alan, and what that meant.
It seemed that the word home, once learned, was hard to forget. (17.21-22)
Clearly Alan is a brother to Nick in the truest sense of the word, and speaking of words… it seems that Nick has learned a few in spite of himself.
Nick did not kill any of them. There were enough bodies lying on the floor for Alan to see when he woke. What Nick did was drift toward one of the bodies, the one lying in the magician's circle. (17.55)
When he thought he was completely human, Nick felt a compulsion to be aggressive and yes, sometimes even to kill. But in this scene, when he's not quite sure what he is, he shows restraint, in part because he knows that making a different choice would upset his brother. He gives up his freedom and drifts back toward the human body in which he was bound for sixteen-plus years. What does that say about who—or what—Nick Ryves is?
Black Arthur had said that a demon was a creature defined by its actions and its desires.
"I won't leave you," Nick said, his voice emotionless as ever in his own ears. "I don't want to." (17.80 – 81)
Perhaps the biggest irony here is that Nick, who we are constantly told is inept with words and emotions, uses words (and a completely unemotional voice) to communicate one of the most beautiful sentiments in the entire book. After all, what is love but never leaving? This scene reminds of a definition provided in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: "Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children." Children and astute readers is more like it.
He was not made human, but he began slowly to feel as if this body could be his again. He felt grounded and at home already under his brother's gentle human hands. (17.85)
These are the last two sentences of the book, which makes them (more or less) the last bit of judgment on where Nick stands in terms of his transformation. See that first line—the part where it says he wasn't "made human"? What do you think that means? Why is it important? And what does the rest of the quote suggest about Nick's future? How do you think he will live? Who or what will he become? Is his transformation complete? Phew—that's a lot of questions. Hopefully they'll lead to a lot of answers (hint, hint).