Chapter 1: KitTy- "Because I love you!"
TW for an implied panic attack
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Christopher.” Kit caught sight of a flash of grey as Ty glanced in his direction, his brow visibly furrowed even from several feet away; he stood by the hatch leading back into the house, and the distance between them felt both impossibly short and far too long all at once. His heart clenched at the reminder of those eyes, of the time they had stared at him in blank disbelief and then shone with tears in the face of Kit’s confession.
For years, Kit had avoided the sight of that shade of metallic grey; he’d refused to use the usual silvery swords and throwing knives, instead using a set of curved gold daggers he’d found in a forgotten corner of Cirenworth- Jem had said they were Persian in origin, called khanjars. He’d had that faraway look in his eye as he’d said it; it was the look he got when he was trapped in a hundred-year-old memory of an era lost to changing times. It was a look mirrored in Tessa’s eyes whenever they spoke of her first husband- and Jem’s beloved parabatai- Will Herondale.
It was at times like those that Kit most felt like an outsider to the family: Jem and Tessa were linked by a history spanning over a hundred years, and little Wilhelmina was a part of that, too. Kit had no blood relation to any of them, and no memories of the people or time they often spoke of.
Those feelings, tied with the general sense of panic and danger that had situated itself in the house- and the visiting Shadowhunters inhabiting it- following the news of the Cohort’s plans had done nothing to soothe his frayed nerves. He couldn’t help but think that danger lurked around every corner; it felt as though he was waiting for yet another crisis, and he’d fled the Edwardian-style training room at the first opportunity in his desperation to escape the inevitable fallout from the news.
It was these thoughts that he found himself alone with as he perched on the roof of Cirenworth Hall, his back pressed against the cool stone of a large chimney. His hoodie would be permanently stained with dust and soot, but at the moment he felt far too alone and far too panicked to truly care.
“Christopher,” Ty repeated, settling down beside him, close enough that their shoulders brushed.
He’d changed so much in the three years since they’d last spoken, Kit realized: he’d grown almost a foot taller, his voice had deepened and his shoulders had broadened, to name a few. Nothing is permanent, Jem always reminded his family, and as much as Kit wished it wasn’t true, he had to admit he was correct. He’d always hated change- during the earlier parts of his life, it had always translated to pain and sadness and guilt.
But at the same time, some things about Ty had remained the same, and Kit tried to focus on those, if only to quieten his racing pulse and slow his slightly-ragged breath. Ty’s eyes remained the same: that shade of silver Kit had worked so hard to avoid, that shade of sorrow that he had painstaking worked to stop flinching away from whenever he looked at Tessa. Those eyes were just as restless as ever, darting to and fro across the view of the horizon like a hummingbird, absorbing the world in that unique way that only Ty seemed capable of. His restless hands were constants, as well: they fluttered by his sides as he turned toward Kit, and Kit zeroed in on them, tried to time his breaths with every other turn and twist of them.
Ty’s voice was a low thrum amongst the chaos of Kit’s panic, and for a few moments Kit dazedly wondered what tune he was humming, until he realized that Ty was repeating the same sequence of words, over and over. Kit’s mind latched onto the words, too, letting the sound of Ty’s voice surround and engulf him.
“Cloud, secret, highway, hurricane, mirror, castle, thorns. Cloud, secret, highway, hurricane, mirror, castle, thorns. Cloud, secret, highway, hurricane, mirror, castle, thorns.” He paused, his grey eyes darting away from the horizon to focus on Kit for a second. They truly were a remarkable colour- solidly silver all the way through, with no hints of blue or brown. His voice was solid and steady, too, a reassuring anchor amid Kit’s rapidly-fading panic. “You’re calmer now?”
“Why did you help me?” Kit’s voice was slightly hoarse, still tinged with panicked unease. “You- you… we haven’t spoken in years. When you and your siblings turned up, you didn’t say a word to me.” Ty’s hands twisted together in a brief, pained movement. Kit carried on speaking, desperate for an explanation. “Why did you help me?"
Because I love you! Was what all the love interests in those romance novels that Tessa was so fond of would have said. Kit often dreamed of Ty saying those words to him. But Ty wasn’t one to state things like that outright- show, don’t tell, had always been Ty’s method of conveying his emotions.
"You helped me, before. In London, you held me when I started having a meltdown. Only three people have ever done that for me: Julian, Livvy and you.” Ty’s long fingers twirled the end of his shoelace, his lips quirking upwards into a smile. “That helped me a lot. I thought you might want some help, too. Hearing my favourite words sometimes calms my mind; I thought, if you heard yours, it might help you, too.”
Kit blinked at him dazedly. “You remembered? My favourite words, I mean. After all this time, you still remember?”
Ty’s eyes darted away again, taking in the orange and pink hues of the Devon sunset. His angular features were bathed in the warm light, his face tilted skywards like he wanted the colours to consume him. He closed his eyes for a moment, his dark eyelashes fanning out against the sharp curve of his cheekbones, and all Kit could think was, how beautiful.
Ty opened his eyes, though he kept his face tilted upwards. Kit wished he’d brought his cellphone up with him; he never wanted to forget the sight of Ty like this. “I remember any information that interests me. Especially if it’s on a subject I really like- in that situation, I never seem to forget it. Especially when they’re all things that relate to you.”
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Chapter 2: Haline- "What did I do to deserve this?"
"I think I'll take up ice sculpting," Aline remarked, raising both her eyebrows at the sight before her. Her lips twitched at the corners, the tell-tale sign that she was fighting the urge to frown. Helen tried not to visibly deflate.
The front wall of their new- well, new to them, at least- home was coated with a thick layer of ice. It radiated a bone-chilling, icy coldness, one that seemed to seep into Helen's flesh and make its home in her heavy heart. Helen could almost see it chipping away at the accepting and steadfast resolve that Aline had dedicated herself to.
Helen knew she'd have to deal with the ice at some point, preferably sooner rather than later- they couldn't spend their first night on Wrangel Island in the wilderness, after all- but at the moment all she could focus on was the lingering thought of she'll regret this; she'll regret me. No one is worth this kind of sacrifice.
"I'm sorry, baby." Helen caught at the edge of Aline's coat sleeve, pulling her into an impromptu embrace on the doorstep of their new home. Well, home is a generous term for this place, Helen grumbled to herself.
Aline huffed, her warm breath tickling the side of Helen's neck. Aline was several inches shorter than Helen- though she adamantly refused to admit it, claiming Helen always wore tall shoes or permanently stood on her tiptoes- and she'd laid her head on Helen's shoulder, wrapping her arms tightly around her. Even through her thick winter coat, Helen could feel the warmth of Aline's body. She'd always been like that; always radiated a fierce, fiery warmth, like the heat of a thousand suns. And her light stretches over salt sea equally and flowerdeep fields, Helen quoted to herself.
"Babe. You're stuck in your head again. Don't get yourself trapped in places I can't follow, please. Let me go through it with you; I'm always here, Baby. Forever and always."
Aline's unwavering acceptance and love was beginning to become too much. "What did I do to deserve this? I mean, you're being so nice and such a good girlfriend, and what do you get in exchange? A lifetime of exile to an island that's barely more than a hunk of ice in the middle of the Arctic Ocean? I'm not worth that, sweetheart!" The words came out in a choked voice that Helen barely recognised on herself, and to her horror, the backs of her eyes were beginning to burn.
Aline shifted her position, turning her head to rest her chin on Helen's shoulder and look up at her with dark, thoughtful eyes. "Don't tell me what I should do, baby. I'm a grown woman; I can make my own choices.
“And I choose you. In this life, I choose you, and in the next and the next and the next, I will choose you again. And, if there is a place past this plane of existence, I will follow you there and choose you there, too. Because I love you, more than words can express." She gave a little chuckle. "And trust me, I've tried. I read almost all of Oscar Wilde's plays and Sappho's poems in search of a quote that fully encapsulates the way I feel about you, but I came up empty." She shrugged her shoulders, her long fingers entwining with Helen's. "I guess some love transcends the capabilities of language."
Helen made an inelegant and inexpressive sound. "I- you- we- you just- oh, by the Angel, I love you so bloody much!"
She whipped around to face Aline, displacing their embrace and jolting Aline's head from where her chin had rested on her shoulder. Aline barely had time to let out a disgruntled huff before Helen cut it off, replacing it with her lips. Aline made a sound like surrender and twined her fingers in Helen's tangled hair, her body melting into Helen's likely-cold touch regardless of discomfort, and Helen had never felt so light and full of love.
My tongue stiffens into silence, thin flames underneath my skin prickle and spark, a rush of blood booms in my ears, and then my eyes go dark.
Chapter 3: Grace and Jesse- "I thought you were gone."
TW for very, very, very slight references to implied sexual assault- it's so brief, it's blink-and-you-miss-it
"Jesse? Is that you?"
Grace blinked into the corner of the room, then instantly regretted it when the familiar, snarling voice sounded in her mind. Ladies do not blink as though they are owls. Ladies flutter their lashes and smile demurely, and I taught you to do the same, you ungrateful little swine.
Mama's voice followed Grace everywhere, but it always seemed louder and more resilient when Grace returned to Chiswick House.
One of the older members of the Enclave had joked that Tatiana Blackthorn was probably more phantom than Shadowhunter at this point. He'd vehemently apologised when he'd turned to find Grace by his elbow. His eyes had been wide with guilt and his voice pitched higher with embarrassment; men truly could be pathetic sometimes, Grace had noted.
She found herself unable to understand why he'd felt the need to apologise; he was right, after all. Mama's voice echoed in Grace's ear every day and every night, spitting insults and criticisms at every opportunity; her only reprieve was the time she spent with Jesse, and that time was slowly becoming more fraught, filled with more and more tense silences as both of them avoided broaching the tender wounds of their secrets.
"Grace." Jesse's feverish eyes shone in the darkened bedroom, reminding her of the black cat that liked to linger on the doorstep of the Bridgestock's house. Ariadne called the scrawny thing "Luck"; Grace had never bothered to ask why.
Jesse took a step closer, his musician's hands twisting together restlessly. "What are you doing here? I thought you were gone."
"I could say the same of you, Jess-Jess. I barely see you these days."
Jesse's bright eyes darted away from hers guilty. They focused on a darkened patch of wallpaper by the window; it was familiar to Grace, though she supposed it would be foreign and worrying to Jesse. "Is that blood?" He asked, his voice tinged with alarm.
Grace didn't bother sparing it a proper glance. "Probably. It's Mother's bedroom; there's sure to be something abnormal. It doesn't matter, really." She tilted her head to the side, raising her chin and giving her brother a long look. "You never answered my question."
Jesse made a disgruntled sound. "I'm not the only one to blame. You've withdrawn from me, too." His voice was quiet and tinged with hurt. Grace had never hated emotion so much- anything that made her brother sound like that didn't deserve to exist. "Both of us have been... otherwise occupied as of late."
"And what, exactly, is otherwise occupying you, Jesse?" Grace already knew the answer, but she'd always enjoyed annoying and flustering Jesse with her constant questions. She loved the sense of control it gave her, the ability to morph and manipulate another person so easily.
Jesse's green eyes flashed with irritation. Predictable, Grace thought to herself. "I could say the same to you, Grace." He crossed his arms. "Charles Fairchild, really? He's almost nine years older than you."
"I can handle myself, Jesse. And I can handle him in the same way I can handle any man." Besides, it's not as though my virtue's under threat, she added privately. She doubted Jesse would share in her amusement.
"That's what worries me, Grace. You don't know when to stop. How long do you have left until you do something you can't come back from? Some things are unforgivable, no matter the circumstances. I-I can't bear the thought of you crossing that line." Jesse's eyes were wide and worried, his fidgeting hands jerky with tremors. Those small signs of his fear were the only things that made Grace hold her tongue and keep her words as kind as was possible.
"You should afford me more credit, Jesse. I would never tarnish my soul in that way," she lied.
She'd never outright lied to Jesse before: she'd omitted details and dodged his questions, but she'd never lied to his face like this. When Jesse had been alive, they had each been the other's sole companion: until his death, there had been no reason for deception between them.
Grace looked at her brother now, at his shaking hands and furtive gaze and transparent edges. She wondered when things had changed between them: had it been his death? Mama's imprisonment?
Or had it been a more gradual thing, creeping up on them like a concealed assassin, striking when the cord between them was already slack with secrets and distance?
Does it matter? A low, grating voice hissed in her mind. For once, it wasn't Mama's. You are your mother's blade, sent to cut down every opposition and strike in the heart of the Nephilim's society.
Distractions will not serve you well, little Siren.
Chapter 4: Emma Carstairs- "Breathe."
"Do not think of yourself and Cortana as separate," Emma's father had always instructed, on those rare days when he'd unlock the sword from its glass case and let her hold it, unassisted and unsheathed.
Emma still remembered her father's smiling eyes.
"You are a Carstairs. Cortana is your birthright, just like it was the birthright of every Carstairs before you. Cortana is the sword of heroes." He'd stooped down, reaching to ruffle her hair. "Tell me, little Lion, do you want to be a hero?"
"Yes," Emma had replied, her small voice strong and steady. She'd nodded emphatically. "More than anything."
Her father had smiled knowingly. "That's my little Lion. Now, how do we hold a sword like Cortana?"
She'd demonstrated, gripping the pommel with her dominant hand and adjusting her hold with instinctive ease. It was like her father had said: Cortana was her birthright, and she and the sword were one and the same; they moved in a synchronic dance of angelic justice and golden flames, their essences singing together as one.
Her father had smiled, his teeth a brief flash of white against his sun-tanned skin. "Very good, little Lion. Now, how do we correctly position Cortana?"
"With the pommel above the bellybutton!" She'd burst out, her lilting voice pitched higher with excitement. She'd hastened to demonstrate. "And then we aim the tip at the space between the throat and sternum, because that way if someone runs towards us, we can impale them on the blade!"
Her father's lips had twitched. "By the Angel, Ems. Breathe. And don't sound so enthusiastic about it, or Mommy will never let me train you again."
"I'm sure she would, if you asked nicely," Emma had replied, tilting her head consideringly. "I heard her tell Aunt Katy that she can't stay mad at you for very long because she loves you too much."
Emma's father had smiled very widely at that, his eyes dancing with amusement. "Oh, really?"
Emma had nodded enthusiastically. "Yep! She said you were too charming to stay angry at- all you have to do is smile and she forgets how to think."
She'd wondered what that must be like: how would it feel to love someone so strongly? Emma couldn't imagine loving anyone except Julian that much, but he was her best friend. What if the space occupied by Julian left no room for a soulmate?
She'd sighed, Cortana drooping in her hand. "That kind of love sounds really fun. What if no one ever loves me like that?"
"Oh, sweetheart." Her father's voice has softened. "You're my little warrior princess; anyone who passes over the opportunity of being loved by you is a poopy-head."
Emma had gaped at him. "You said a no-no word!"
"The situation called for it, little Lion." He tugged on the end of one of her tufted French braids. "Remember: do as I say, not as I do."
"That doesn't make sense," she'd pouted, childishly petulant. Her father's eyes had sparkled.
"Think of it this way: I fight demons, but you don't at the moment. You will one day, though." He'd paused for a few moments, his head tilted to the side thoughtfully. Emma's heart had thudded against her chest in her desperation for her father to share some sage, parently advice. She had still been in that stage of her childhood where her parents had both seemed like invincible gods, the only true constants in a world made up of flashing lights and changing tides.
Eventually, her father had said: "And when that day comes the world will be forever changed; you and Cortana together hold the power to enact justice of the kind no one has ever seen before. You possess a remarkable native talent for battle and close combat."
He'd leaned forward conspiratorially, like they were sharing a special secret. Emma's heart had leapt with happiness at being included; her father had always made her feel like a giant, high above everyone else and able to enact her will on wrongdoers.
"Now, don't tell anyone I admitted this," he'd whispered, his elbows on his knees and his chin cradled on his laced fingers, "but there have been a few times during our training where you came very close to defeating me."
Emma's eyes had widened. "Really?"
"Yep," he replied, ruffling the loose strands of hair on top of her head. "But don't let it go to your head. Arrogance is the most dangerous poison of all."
"Isn't poison is the most dangerous poison of all?"
Her father had grinned again, his eyes soft with warmth. "Don't prove me wrong, little Lion. You're already a better fighter than me; I don't need you constantly outsmarting me, too."
Emma had beamed again like her father was telling a particularly entertaining joke. To her, John Carstairs was omnipotent and invincible; the thought of anyone besting her father in a fair fight was laughable.
Chapter 5: KitTy- "I have always been honest with you."
Kit couldn't help but wonder why the world seemed to hate him so much. For three years, he'd lived in relative happiness; though memories of Los Angeles plagued both his nightmares and his happiest dreams, the separation between himself and Tibe- Los Angeles had done him a world of good. Ever since his father's death and pretty much every catastrophe that followed it, the thought of returning to that City of Angels made his stomach roll with unease.
He'd never stopped to consider the possibility of the city coming to him.
"Tiberius. What are you doing here?" Kit ground out, resisting the urge to curl in on himself. Ty's grey eyes darted around the sitting room of Cirenworth, taking in the display of century-old shamshirs, Chinese spears and khanjars that adorned the north-facing wall.
"The Cohort has-"
"I know what the Cohort has done: it's still sending shockwaves through Downworld. What I want to know is why you came all the way to England during an international crisis."
Ty seated himself into the corner of the dark green couch, taking an important-looking file out of his satchel and flicking through it with two long fingers. "The Scholomance sent me. Tessa Gray and Jem Carstairs have connections to many influential figures from all over the world. They figured my surname would get their attention long enough to convince them." Nevertheless, he shifted constantly in his seat, his fingers twisting together in that nervous gesture he'd always done whenever he was uncomfortable with what he was saying.
Kit sighed. "There's something you aren’t telling me."
Ty's restless eyes darted in Kit's direction. Again, Kit caught sight of that metallic shade of grey and his heart twisted with an almost-forgotten pain. "You weren't always honest with me either, Christopher."
Kit's heart skipped two beats: the first, at the way the syllables of his birth name fell from Ty's lips. The second, at the implication of his words.
"No!" He burst out, voice ragged with revived pain. Ty flinched, and something in Kit's chest spasmed with him. He worked to soften his voice, even as his entire body trembled with barely-contained grief. "You don't get to say that, Ty. I have always been honest with you," he said lowly, the words catching in his throat. "Even when it caused me so much shitty pain, I was honest with you. And look where it got me; heartbroken over a guy who chose to sacrifice whatever it was we had so he could break the freakin' laws of the universe."
Ty blinked. The official Clave file was still in his hands, and Kit felt a bolt of embarrassment at the way he'd managed to derail the conversation. Why do I always make everything about myself?
"I have always been honest with you," Kit repeated, his voice quaking.
He found himself unable to look at Ty anymore, instead staring down at his own shaking hands where they rested uselessly in his lap. Something wet dripped onto the side of his thumb; he raised a hand to his face and realized his eyelashes were damp with tears.
He noted, with a detached sort of amusement, that it was only Ty who could make him this emotional. He hadn't even cried over his father's death, and yet the sight of Ty was enough to turn him into a nervous wreck. He couldn't help but wonder why.
You know why, came Jem's impossibly wise voice, likely an echo of a past piece of wisdom he'd shared during their training sessions. Sometimes, there is a person in our lives who is capable of truly making us feel, of being the only constant in a world of change. I was lucky enough to experience this with two people in the course of my life. I love Tessa beyond measure, but I would still seize the chance to have our other true constant returned to us if it were possible.
Love is special, Kit. Seize it and grow with it while you can, because there is no truer agony than that of love unsaid.
Chapter 6: Thomastair- "Let go of me!"
Of all the people to get assigned on this patrol with, why did it have to be him?
Thomas heaved a sigh, walking ahead of Alastair and trying to ignore him entirely. It was a lot more difficult than one would expect: Thomas had always trailed after Alastair to the point of embarrassing hero-worship, seeing Alastair as misunderstood and aloof, an unreadable prince in a castle of thorns and secrets.
Now, he didn't know what to think. The grief he still felt for Barbara's death left a gaping hole in his chest, a fresh wound that was brushed against a thousand times a day. Every feminine laugh and every whiff of floral perfume brought up fresh memories of his sister, of the experiences and milestones she'd never get to live through.
The sadness left him feeling constantly exposed in a painful and humiliating way; the news of Alastair's role in spreading the rumour about Thomas and Matthew's parents had been the final straw, and Thomas couldn't help but wonder how long it would take for the pain to fade.
It will never fade, a small voice in the back of his mind replied. It was the voice of a sickly child, dangerously close to giving up on life and any significance it may hold; it was the voice of the child Thomas had once been. You've never felt this broken before, even during all the near-death experiences during your sicknesses. He broke you in an unrepairable way, and any attempt to improve will fail. There is no recovery from pain like this.
Don't think like that, a stronger, deeper voice urged. It was the voice of a young man, kind and caring and far more stubborn than most would realise. It was the voice of the young man Thomas hoped to grow to be. The moment you give up is the moment everyone who ever doubted you is proven right. Most of the people around you believed that you were living on borrowed time for the first decade of your life- this is your chance to prove them wrong. Don't waste it on self-pity and ruined idolisation.
At the reminder of Alastair, Thomas glanced behind before he could stop himself. Alastair's dark eyes shone with a silvery glow in the moonlight; they were guarded and wary under his gaze, and Thomas felt a light thrill run through himself at the realisation that he finally had the upper hand in this situation.
Thomas forced himself to turn away; staring at Alastair Carstairs would do more harm than good, what with Thomas' strange tendency to attempt to memorise everything about him. Then again, Thomas had always enjoyed the arts. It was as simple as admiration for a piece of music or perhaps a painting- surely one could acknowledge both the beauty and flaws of a masterpiece?
He cleared his throat, picking up the pace if only to keep himself away from temptation. "I thought you'd be assigned to a different patrol to this." In other words: I obsessively scoured every Clave record and timetable so I wouldn't have to look at you and feel this awful pain in my chest.
Alastair's voice was carefully neutral, and Thomas resisted the almost debilitating urge to turn and look at him. "There was a scheduling error. My mother was assigned to this patrol despite being heavily pregnant and unfamiliar with the terrain, and Inquisitor Bridgestock didn't seem to see the issue with the whole matter." A flash of annoyance cut through the careful monotone of his voice, and for a moment Thomas felt something like kinship- he could understand wanting to protect your family, at least. "I volunteered to go in her place."
Thomas forced himself to reply, if only for Cordelia's sake- Thomas owed it to her to at least pretend to be civil with her brother. He tried for a casual tone of voice and failed spectacularly; it dripped with forced casualness even to his own ears. "Well, that's a new low for Inquisitor Bridgestock. His methods must be getting worse- I've never heard of him trying to force anyone into patrols before."
Alastair let out a huff, and the words seemed to tumble from his lips before he could stop himself. He sounded almost pained, in a way that was human and vulnerable and awful. "Yes, well, it's probably because those people are English."
Thomas realised, in a moment of aching clarity, that Alastair was spot on. No matter how much Thomas wanted to hate him, at that moment all he could think was, I'd give anything for him to never feel like this again.
He opened his mouth to reply; the words were cut off before they could even make it past his lips, as a warm hand slapped over his mouth and dragged him into a nearby alleyway. His back slammed against the cool, hard brick, and a thousand indecent thoughts ran through his mind when he realized that Alastair was pressed against him, the warmth of his body tangible even through his gear. His hand was still pressed tightly over Thomas' mouth; his skin smelled faintly metallic- likely from the silver spear he'd been fiddling with- and, interestingly, also of chai.
"Let go of me!" He gasped, the words muffled. Alastair actually had the audacity to roll his eyes. He increased the arrogant tilt of his chin, turning his face skywards to catch Thomas' gaze and holding it steadily.
"Lightwood, I understand that you hate me," he hissed. "But please shut up and look." He inclined his head sideways, his hair ruffling in the nighttime breeze. In an admirable display of willpower, Thomas tore his eyes away.
He ignored Alastair's words, instead occupying himself with grasping at Alastair's wrist and pulling his hand off him in his desperation to regain some kind of control over his thoughts. The places where their skin had touched felt both too warm and too cold, and he suppressed a shiver.
Alastair was far too close for Thomas to think pragmatically. Desperate to clear his head, he turned his head to glanced around the corner and into the darkened street, resisting the urge to do something he'd likely regret.
"What am I meant to be looking at, Carstairs?" He ground out, pushing himself as far away from Alastair as was possible. Seeing as the alleyway was barely wide enough to accommodate Thomas' broad shoulders and large frame, the most distance he could manage was barely more than a few inches. It wasn't nearly enough: their bodies were dizzyingly close together, and Thomas was beginning to feel dangerously lightheaded. The closeness between them was both too much and not enough, and he was far too panicked to attempt to understand the reasoning behind the latter thought.
Alastair pointed- Thomas had never noticed it before, but he had pianist's hands- and Thomas followed his gaze to a dark heap by a streetlamp across the road. The streetlamp light cast a spotlight on a circle of pavement, and a dark heap lay directly in the middle of it, the edges of the black fabric it was wreathed in morphing into the shadows surrounding it. Thomas' stomach rolled in dread.
"What is that?"
"A body, I suspect."
Thomas whipped around to face him, feeling the blood rush from his face. "What?"
Alastair didn't spare him a glance, instead fixing his gaze on the streetlamp with the air of someone lost in thought. The light glowed a dull gold colour; it threw their surroundings into a strange mix of hard shadows and soft light, and the beauty of it all was enough that Thomas' panic faded to a manageable thrum. He looked to Alastair.
Alastair's dark eyes were reflective in the dull, golden glow, and for the first time, Thomas found himself able to tell the difference between the pupil and iris. Alastair's eyes, Thomas realized, were a deep, rich shade of dark brown; they were so dark that the distinction between them and the black pupil was only visible for a moment.
That moment was all it took for Thomas to decide that he had a new favourite colour, and the beauty of it was almost enough to stop him from instantly hating himself.
Chapter 7: Fairstairs- "This feels wrong."
Warnings for references to alcoholism and vague references to sex
Matthew has been drowning for as long as he can remember. Every attempted inhalation brings a new wave of pain and sorrow, and every kick of his legs brings a new risk of agony to those around him. He quickly learnt that the pain could be dulled to a bearable throb with the right amount of alcohol, though for a long time he tried to convince himself that the problem would be manageable.
And it had been, until the day he awoke and instinctively reached for his flask before he even opened his eyes. That day always stood out to Matthew as having been the moment he realised he couldn't stop.
Even now, he is drowning, though the pain is different. He hasn't had a swig from his flask in almost twelve hours and thirty-five minutes, but he is not yet feeling the familiar headache and shakiness. Cordelia seems to have chased it away: every swish of her flame-red hair, every glint of her dark eyes, every movement of her hips drives the demons of Matthew's mind further and further away. She is fierce and kind and bold and a thousand other things that he will never deserve, but he is a drowning man living on limited time.
He knows this won't last. Happiness never does, not for people like him.
"This feels wrong," he pants when they collapse into the bed, exhausted after a long night of illicit affairs. Cordelia's crimson hair fans out on the pillow around her, her chest rising and falling beneath the crinkled white sheet she's haphazardly thrown over them. Her skin is golden brown in the early-morning light, her dark eyes tired and heavy-lidded. His heart twists at the beauty of her; no mere mortal should be privy to this sight, and Matthew has never felt so undeserving.
"I know. But, I don't regret it." Her dark eyes flick over to him searchingly. She turns to lay on her side, propping her head up on one hand and fiddling with Matthew's sweat-dampened hair with the other. He closes his eyes, basking in the warmth of her attention. "Do you?"
Matthew keeps his eyes closed, unwilling to break the moment. "Do I what?"
Cordelia trails the back of her knuckle lightly down his face, pausing to trace the outline of his lips. "Do you regret it?"
Matthew opens his eyes and smiles against her fingertips. Cordelia shoots him a confused look, her brow furrowing and her lips twisting into a soft frown. Somehow, she manages to make even that look divine.
Matthew's voice is the steadiest and surest it has been in years when he replies: "No. I have many, many regrets in my life, but you could never be one of them." He coils a fiery curl around his finger, marvelling at the beautiful contrast between the warm red of Cordelia's hair and the cool silver of the Fairchild ring. He meets her gaze, their faces close enough that he can feel her warm breath on his cheek. "And, if given the chance, I would do it again."
Cordelia's lips twitch, her eyes holding a thousand words left unsaid. "And if I were to give you the chance now?"
Matthew smiles, and for the first time in years, he finds himself smiling in his heart as well. "I can resist anything except temptation."
Cordelia lets out a huff of laughter. "Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan. And, didn't anyone ever tell you quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit?"
Matthew feels his eyes widen in surprise. "So you weren't just trying to impress me."
Cordelia laughs, the sound rich and beautiful enough to be the envy of every songbird in London. "I don't need to lie to impress you, Matthew."
"You make an excellent point."
"Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong," Cordelia quotes, her dark eyes shining in amusement.
"Good God, please keep doing that. I don't think I've ever been more attracted to someone." Matthew inches closer to her, until their bodies are pressed against each other once again. Cordelia lets out a sharp breath, though whether it is a response to the words or the movement is difficult to discern. "And, if you could see yourself right now, you'd understand the significance of that statement."
Cordelia shoots him a fond look, her black eyes shining and reflective enough that Matthew can see his own reflection in them. And, to his shock, his lips are still quirked into that almost-foreign expression. He hopes he will never stop smiling.
Chapter 8: Blackthorn siblings- "What did you expect?"
The first thing Jesse becomes aware of is the cold. It seeps into his bones and courses through his veins, stabbing into both everywhere and nowhere all at once, leaving no way of escape and no physical mark.
Even in his darkest moments, he had never been in this much pain.
His back arches, his head slamming into something hard and metallic, judging by the clang it makes. A distant part of him realises that he is lying down, and all he can think of is Grace's arms around him as he lies on his bed, sweating blood and burning as though from the inside out and thinking, this is the end. The cool press of metal against his lips and the howl that tears free of Grace's throat are the last things he will ever remember.
He barely realises that he is trying to sit up until he feels small but strong hands on his shoulders, pushing him down. Even through his sweat-soaked shirt, his skin crawls at the touch, and an animalistic snarl rips free of his throat before he can swallow it down.
"Stop it! You're safe!" A woman's voice, high-pitched with panic and ragged with exhaustion, cuts through the haze of icy pain. Jesse's bones throb in protest to the sound, and it must show on his face because the woman softens her voice as she asks, "what's wrong, Jess-Jess?"
Jess-Jess. Those words prick at the edges of his subconscious, drawing out a slew of memories. Come play with me, Jess-Jess. Mama's getting angry, Jess-Jess. Please, just open your eyes, Jess-Jess. For me.
"Grace? Where am I? What's happening?" His voice sounds raspy and grating even to his own ears, though he can't summon the will to care at the moment. He grips the sides of whatever it is he lies atop of- a metal table, he realises a moment later- and tries to sit up again. He stops barely a second later, the pain and nausea becoming too much. He learnt his limits a long time ago.
Everything feels wrong; the pain radiating through his body is unlike anything he has ever experienced before, and he can barely speak for fear of biting his tongue off with the force of his shivering. His heartbeat is irregular and panicked, and his entire body trembles under the strain of the icy pain in his veins. And it all dulls in comparison to the sheer horror that runs through him at the sight of Grace, sat in front of him with her shaking hands raised helplessly. He has rarely seen such open emotion on her face; the concern written across her features is for him, he realises. He always hated making her worry.
"Grace. You weren't meant to- what are you- why did you-" he sighs, feeling the anger beginning to bubble to the surface. Grace's pale features twist into a scowl, likely at the look on his face. "What on God's bloody green earth are you doing here? Where's Lucie? How is she?"
Grace shrugs, her silvery ringlets bouncing with the movement. Even amidst all this chaos, there is not a single hair on her head out of place. Jesse is torn between admiration and dismay. "She seemed quite upset; neither of us thought we'd succeeded. She left to call that Silent Brother uncle of hers. I didn't care to listen long enough to understand why."
He shoots her a stony look, ignoring the throb in his chest at the way Grace speaks of Lucie so carelessly. "You're dodging the question. Why are you here, Grace?"
"Honestly, what did you expect?" She sneers. "For me to leave something this important to one girl?"
"Grace. What did you do?"
"I think," Grace starts, reaching out and grasping his wrist with an iron grip, "you already know the answer to that, Jess-Jess." Her fingertips tap out an unsteady rhythm on his skin, against the place where his pulse point would have been. Jesse's stomach rolls at the realization threatening to consume him, and he forces himself into a seated position atop the table. The pain rises to a roaring crescendo, but Jesse can't bring himself to care. He wishes he was anywhere but here.
"Why? Why did you do this?"
"I did it because you are my brother. Miss Herondale probably has other reasons, ones that I don't care to dissect. Honestly, I don't know why you seem so taken with her."
The pain fogs Jesse's mind, and a thousand half-formed retorts pass through beneath the haze. He says the first rational thing that comes to mind. "I trust- I trusted Lucie."
Grace huffs. "More than you trusted me, clearly."
Grace has always been like this, Jesse reminds himself. Even through the haze of icy pain, he knows his sister better than he knows himself; she identifies a person's weak points and needles away at them until their facade crumbles. Jesse is practically immune to it at this point. "I'm disappointed, Grace. You shouldn't be doing anything like this, it's illegal-"
"Oh, stop talking this instant, Jesse." Grace fixes him with an iron stare. "You only care about the law when it's convenient for you. Your very existence is illegal. You should be used to it by now, and honestly, you're being absurdly ungra-"
The pain and Grace's words are all too much. "I didn't ask for this!" He shouts, his voice grating and sharp with pain and anguish. Grace flinches at the sound, the reaction startlingly human in a way that Jesse has not associated with his sister in a long time. "You and Luc- you didn't tell me you were doing this! I thought you were different from everyone else; Mother never told me anything, not even the reason why I was so ill. The Shadowhunters forgot about us- for God's sake, almost all of the bloody Enclave doesn't even know I used to exist! I can't trust anyone- do you have any idea how goddamned awful those eight years were? No one but you and Mother could even see me for most of them, and both of you were so caught up in this- this web of lies that most of the time you forgot to even talk to me!"
He forces himself to quiet his voice, though the way it trembles with emotion is just as humiliating. "I was never in control of anything in my life, and just when I thought that was about to change, you took that away from me. You- you took her away from me."
Grace's expression slams shut. "Lucie Herondale made her own choices, Jesse. Do not blame me for the darkness already within her."
Jesse feels sick, and not just from the physical pain. His mind is a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts and betrayals, and Grace's words are the witchlight to the mass of shadows inhabiting his mind.
The words fly out of him before he can stop himself. "You and Lucie have torn a hole in the fabric of life and death. Neither of you will ever understand what that means, and you should pray that you never do. I will keep this a secret, for all our sakes." He fixes Grace with a hard look; she tilts her chin defiantly, staring up at him with unfathomable silver eyes. "But, I swear, if you ever do anything like this again, I will never forgive you. You might be my sister, and Lucie might be my- friend, but that doesn't protect you from consequence. Nothing does. You took my choice away, and I will never forget that. You have no idea what you have done; all of our souls are tainted now, and you need to decide whether I was truly worth that."
"You are my brother," Grace grounds out, her fists clenched and her body stiff as a blade. "My soul is already tainted, but I swear that I would rather rip out my own heart than take back what I did. You are the only person I have ever felt any semblance of affection towards. You are worth everything to me, and I am selfish enough that I refuse to feel any guilt for doing whatever it took to return my brother to me."
There are a thousand things Jesse wishes to do: hold his sister close to his beating heart and tell her he loves her; scream at her to snap out of this haze of hatred and be a child again; rebuke her for ruining her brother's only chance at achieving something with the first person to ever see him for who he truly is.
Grace would not react well to any of those things, he realises. Sentimentality and vivid emotion make no sense to her, and Jesse suspects she would rather die than acknowledge that the love she feels for Jesse is anything but selfish.
His sister has always been an enigma, but she has never been more human in his eyes. And, just for a moment, Jesse feels like that seventeen-year-old boy again, full of half-abandoned hope for his future and half-resigned love for his sister.
Chapter 9: Thomastair- "I thought you were gone."
Warning for description of an injury
"Lightwood!" Alastair falls to his knees beside Thomas; the grass is slick with blood- Thomas' blood, he notes with a sick feeling in his stomach. The metallic smell coats his lungs with every inhalation, fogging his mind with awful thoughts of hopelessness and death until he feels as though he is drowning in the depths of it all.
"Carstairs." Thomas' voice is clearly meant to be nonchalant; it is undercut by the edge of pain lacing his every word. His shaking hands press against his shoulder: blood seeps out from between his fingers in a steady stream. Alastair's heart clenches at the sight. "I-I thought you were gone. Fancy seeing you here."
Alastair forces himself to count to ten in both Persian and English before he dares respond to Thomas. It doesn't help smooth down the frayed edges of his temper very much. "Lightwood. You seem remarkably composed for someone who's just been stabbed."
"Eh." Thomas tries to shrug, though the pained sound he makes in the back of his throat contradicts the carelessness of the gesture.
Idiot, Alastair thinks, though not unkindly. Thomas settles for inclining his head to the wound in his shoulder with an air of disinterest. "I've had worse. Honestly, I can barely feel it."
"Hm." Alastair raises an eyebrow, reaching for the stele tucked inside his jacket. He bats Thomas' hands away from the wound; they were shaking enough that they weren't making much of a difference anyway. "I never took you for the type to display such fragile masculinity."
Thomas has never looked so offended; he stares up at Alastair with wide hazel eyes and a thunderstruck twist to his mouth, and Alastair almost breaks his composure and bursts out laughing. The expression does not suit Thomas at all. "I'll have you know that I'm secure enough in my masculinity to admit that I am in a lot of pain right now. I just didn't want to admit it to you."
Alastair pauses, his hands arrested in their movement to undo the top buttons of Thomas' skin to better see the wound. Thomas' words sting; Alastair thought they were past this. "Lightwood, I apologise if any of my words have given you the impression that I'm unsympathetic to your-"
Thomas' eyes are wide and confused. "What? By the Angel, I didn't mean it like that. I was trying to be seductive. Anna recommended it to me."
Alastair's mask drops, and he can't help but gape at Thomas in wide-eyed surprise. His heart skips a beat or three, and he suspects his cheeks have noticeably heated. Why is it only Thomas who is capable of surprising him like this?
"Are you delirious?" He settles on asking, only partly jokingly.
"Probably," Thomas admits with a slight nod. A moment later he winces, the corner of his mouth tugging downwards. "Not nearly enough. I thought delirium made pain more bearable."
Alastair's only response is a light huff. He ignores the way his hands tremble slightly as he undoes the first few buttons of Thomas' shirt, pulling the collar to the side. He is careful to avoid touching Thomas' bare skin. Historically, neither of them are very good at keeping track of their train of thought when in close proximity to one another, something which is rather unfortunate during a more-than-slightly-urgent situation such as this.
Thomas' eyes are wide and unfocused, the pupils blown wide with pain. There are flecks of green within the hazel of his iris; they remind Alastair of the forests of Brocelind.
Alastair gives himself a light shake. Stay focused.
He manages to hold himself together long enough to draw the iratze over the wound, though his hands have never been so unsteady. Mercifully, the dark lines fade into Thomas' pale skin without any issue, leaving a ghostly imprint of an iratze behind as an eternal reminder of the almost-fateful wound. He watches as the skin knits back together, leaving no remnants of the pain Thomas was in mere moments ago except the blood already coating his skin. Alastar has never been squeamish; why is it, then, that his stomach turns at the reminder of Thomas' suffering?
Thomas sighs. "Stop that." He sits up before Alastair can stop him, turning to face him. Even when Thomas is sitting on the ground, Alastair has to kneel to be on eye level with him. He'd never liked being towered over; it had always made him feel small and weak, two words he'd never want to be associated with himself. Still, he's glad Thomas is sitting rather than lying down; Alastair's visceral reaction to the sight of Thomas lying on the ground, covered in blood, is not exactly a pleasant one. He doesn't know when he started thinking things like this- started feeling things like this- only that it must have been a slow, gradual process, where he simply woke one morning and thought, oh. This is new.
Thomas nudges Alastair's hand, his voice quiet and exasperated and stubborn all at once. "I can almost hear you panicking."
"So am I," Thomas replies easily, shifting forward until they are almost improperly close together. He smiles softly, his hazel eyes far too understanding. Alastair has never felt so seen. "So I suppose neither of us has anything to worry about."
Alastair shoots him what he hopes is a longsuffering look. "You almost died, Thomas. So forgive me if I can't quite get that image out of my mind in the space of a few seconds." His voice is traitorously unsteady.
Thomas nudges his hand again. "Alastair. That wound, while painful, wasn't nearly lethal enough to be fatal. I'm not- I'm not going anywhere." He pauses for a moment, the corner of his mouth quirked downward thoughtfully. Alastair resists the urge to tell him to hurry up. Eventually, he seems to settle on saying, "well, not without you, that is."
His words are uncharacteristically presumptuous, and Alastair has to force himself not to smile at the boldness of the words. "If you were wrong, I'd say you were assuming an awful lot by saying that, Lightwood. But, I only lie when the situation calls for it. And this situation is bringing out the honest side of me."
"I don't..." Thomas' eyebrows draw together. "Why is nothing straight with you?"
"You'll work it out, I'm sure."
Alastair lowers himself to sit on the grass in front of Thomas. They are close enough that if Alastair were to tilt his head upward and Thomas to lean down...
"Oh," Thomas says. Alastair snaps out of his wistful daydream to find Thomas staring down at him with wide eyes that are alight with understanding. "Wait, really? You're serious?"
Alastair lets himself smile. "Jedi migooyam. I'm not in the habit of misleading people when it comes to matters of the heart."
"Oh," Thomas repeats. "Oh."
Alastair tilts his head upward before he can stop himself. Thomas, seeming to understand, begins to lean down.
Chapter 10: Thomas Lightwood- "You think I'm beautiful?"
TW for mentions of death and sickness
When Thomas was five years old, he almost died of Scalding Fever.
He has almost no memory of it now; most of what he does know is secondhand information, passed on from his sisters as a way of making him behave. Tommy, be careful with that bolas. When you got Scalding Fever, Mother and Father didn’t leave your bedside for a week. Imagine how awful it would be for them if you got hurt again.
Thomas would rather take it to the grave than tell another living soul, but there were times in his childhood where he came close to hating his sisters- Barbara in particular. The mere reminder of the thoughts is enough to make Thomas’ stomach roll unpleasantly. He remembers disliking their overbearing and coddling; they’d babied him humiliatingly up until he went to Spain. All he had to do was sneeze and they’d be fawning over him, speaking in worried tones to each other as though Thomas was not even in the same room as them, let alone part of the conversation.
Eugenia was the middle child; her overprotectiveness was always more subtle than Barbara’s, who’d often acted as though her authority was final when it came to Thomas’ health. Tommy’s getting too skinny, Father! He’s positively white as a sheet, just look at him, Mother.
Sometimes, Thomas had wished Barbara would leave. He’d do anything to take the thought back: he’d take the patronising coddling and overprotectiveness over the utter silence any day. Oftentimes, Thomas found himself privately believing that he’d somehow brought Barbara’s death into existence with those thoughts.
He let himself be tortured by his mind for weeks before he finally broke down into his mother’s arms one evening. She’d taken it all into well-practised stride, simply guiding his head to lay on her shoulder as he sobbed words that were half-nonsense and half-unfiltered remorse into the satin of her evening gown. She’d understood him anyway, in that way that only someone how knew your soul, inside and out, was capable of.
Eventually, she’d said: “Thomas, my sweet boy. You cannot blame yourself for the paths your thoughts may take; there is nothing we could have done to prevent Barbara’s death, and the thoughts of a child who was simply desperate to escape the reminders of his sickness in no way contributed to what happened to your sister. And the fact that you feel this way is beautiful, Thomas. You are beautiful.”
Thomas had sniffled and said the first thing that came to mind. “You think I’m beautiful?”
His mother had chuckled, tightening her grip on him. “Of course I do, my sweet child. You carry your heart on your sleeve and the truth always on the tip of your tongue. I can think of nothing more beautiful, inside and out, than that. I know that people change significantly over time, but please promise me you will never change that part of yourself? You wouldn’t be yourself without it."
"I promise, Mother,” he’d replied. The words were familiar to him, repeated often in his childhood. Up until then, they’d always been half-hearted and tinged with an obedient, dutiful air, as though he were reluctantly surrendering to his mother’s requests.
But, as he’d said them then, with his face still buried into his mother’s shoulder, he’d known in his heart that they’d be the most sincere words he’d ever utter. That was a significant milestone for a man like Thomas, who prided himself on his kindness and honesty, but at that moment he’d never been so sure of himself.
Chapter 11: Alec and Jace- "Well, this is officially the worst day of my life." + "I let myself forget how dangerous you can be."
Warnings for implied internalised homophobia and canon-typical violence
New York, 2000
“Well, this is officially the worst day of my life.”
"No, seriously." Jace gestured to the hole in the side of the training room wall. Alec could see a strip of the New York skyline through it; it created a strange effect, like a combination of the Shadowhunter world and the Mundane world. Like a hole in the fabric of two fundamentally different dimensions. "Like, I've had a very tough life-"
"I'm aware of that." Alec was also aware of the fact that he probably wasn't supposed to sound quite so dismissive of Jace's pain. He didn't seem to mind, though. If anything, he looked almost amused.
"-And this really just takes the cake," he continued, sparing Alec a wry grin. "I mean, no offence, but you kinda seem to hate me. And I get the feeling you're gonna hate me even more when your parents ground you for not putting a stop to this."
Alec snorted. "You only get a 'feeling'? I thought your intuition would be better than that."
Jace tossed his head- why did this boy have to be so aggravatingly perfect? Nothing seemed to faze him. "Now, that's no way to speak to your new brother, Alexander dear."
Alec leaned his head against the training room door and wondered how much trouble he'd get into if he threw Jace out of the hole and into the street below. A lot, he suspected. His parents already adored Jace- more than they did him and Isabelle, it sometimes seemed- and Alec really didn't feel like being paid a lot of attention to. It made it easier to avoid any suspicion that way.
It was bad enough that Isabelle knew; the thought of his parents- or Jace- ever finding out was enough to send his pulse skyrocketing. Alec shuddered before he could stop himself.
Jace's eyes flashed towards him. They were shockingly golden, the colour of a sandy beach under a sunset. Alec wondered exactly why they were so unusual; he distinctly recalled his father mentioning that Michael Wayland's eyes had been blue. "Alexander. Are you alright?"
"Don't call me that. I'm Alec." He glared at Jace, who gave him a long-suffering look.
"Alright, I know you're probably not in a very good mood right now-"
"Really? How'd you guess?"
Jace increased the intensity of the long-suffering look. "-But we have to work together. I'm pretty sure you don't want to get grounded for this-"
Alec seethed. "You were the one who fired the trebuchet at the goddamn wall! I just watched."
Jace raised an eyebrow. "Are you hearing yourself right now? You think they'll blame the new kid? With this smile?" He gestured to his own upturned lips with a perfectly-manicured finger. Alec wanted to punch him.
"You are aware that I am capable of shooting an arrow up your ass, yes?"
Jace smiled angelically. "It seems that I let myself forget how dangerous you can be." His tone was far too condescending in Alec's opinion.
He scowled- or, more accurately, deepened the pre-existing scowl already situated on his face. "Hmm."
"However, I have no desire to get an arrow shoved up my ass, so-"
"Shot," Alec cut in, pedantic as ever.
Jace looked at him as though he'd grown an extra foot and started dancing the can-can. "What?"
"Shot. Not shoved. I don't need to shove it up your ass when I can shoot it from a safe distance."
Jace grinned, his teeth a flash of white against the gold of his entire person. "That sounds like a wonderful weekend activity. Unfortunately, my schedule's full at the moment, what with the massive hole in the side of the training room and all that. You know, the thing you should be helping me with right now?"
Alec sank down the door with a long sigh, suddenly tired of this pointless arguing. He'd always hated speaking to people he barely knew, and Jace was no exception to this. He'd only been living with the Lightwoods for two weeks, and he was already irritating the living crap out of Alec. He was just too perfect- Alec knew there must be more to him than that, and, if asked, would unashamedly admit that he was waiting for the moment when Jace finally snapped. "What did I do to deserve this?"
Jace's expression faltered. He stood beside the hole in the wall, the midday sunlight throwing his features into overexposed luminescence. A breeze crept in through the window and ruffled his hair, blowing a lock into his eyes. Jace didn't make any effort to remove it; he seemed too intent on staring at Alec, who tried not to shrink under his gaze. Being watched meant being paid attention; being paid attention meant an increased risk of suspicion. And an increased risk of suspicion would eventually have catastrophic consequences, as far as Alec was concerned.
"You're the oldest," Jace said eventually; his voice was much smaller than before, and the protective side of Alec stirred at the sound. "Isabelle looks up to you- so does Max. They both go to you when things are wrong, and you always fix it for them. You're really good at fixing things for them." He shifted uncomfortably, his eyes fixed on a spot on the door just beside Alec's head. His hands twisted together in a brief instance of pain before they seemed to instinctively still.
Alec tried not to gawk at the sudden change. It was like watching an intricate drawing be erased, leaving only faint, messy smudges as evidence of the layers and walls that had once been painstakingly applied.
"So, what you're saying is: You want to be my friend?"
"Or casual acquaintance. Or brother. Or parabatai."
Alec raised an eyebrow at him.
Jace made an aggravated sound. For the first time since his arrival at the New York Institute, he looked uncomfortable. "I'm just listing some options!"
"Hmm." After a moment's deliberation, Alec got to his feet. "Move over before you fall out of that hole."
Jace smiled, and the drawing seemed to reform before Alec's very eyes. The eraser had disappeared, replacing itself with a sharp pencil that immediately traced over its original work, leaving only the faintest smudges as evidence that there had ever been a change.
Alec found himself hoping the eraser would make a reappearance sometime soon; seeing Jace like that, human and vulnerable and finally acting like an actual nine-year-old, was enough to make Alec's mind up.
Jace was watching him hawkishly; he shot him a knowing smile. "I'm growing on you."
"Like moss. Or skin disease," Alec said, trusting that the slight smile on his face would contradict any harsh words. Judging by the light dancing in Jace's eyes, it seemed to do the trick.
Chapter 12: Wessa- "Tell me more."
TW for implied depression
A/N: I tried to stress the importance of avoiding the trope of “S.O fixes all of their partner’s problems”, and instead insert the idea of “S.O is there for their partner in a relationship of mutual respect and growth, where it does not fall on one to “fix” the other.”– *fingers crossed* I hopefully managed to convey that
"Will, talk to me. Please." Tessa's voice was tinged with worry, the dull, anxious thrum of her heartbeat bleeding into her words before she could stop herself. Rarely had she seen Will like this, and the sight was enough to send her mind reeling back into the darkest memories of Will's misery- of the days and weeks and months after Jem's departure from the Institute, when Will had become a hollow, terrifyingly sullen version of the man he truly was. "Do you need me to call the Silent Brothers?"
"No. Please. I can't worry Je- him like that." Will's voice cracked halfway through the sentence, and he buried his face in his pillow in a clear effort to hide his expression. Something inside Tessa splintered at the sight; she liked to think of herself as reliable and unwavering, and the fact that the sight of Will acting this heartbroken was enough to shake her to her very core filled her with undeniable dread. Will let out a shuddering breath, and Tessa reached out a hand as though to touch his shoulder.
A mere moment later, she arrested the movement. She was sat on the other side of the bed, barely a foot away from her husband, and yet she'd never felt so far away from him. Both of them bore the scars of the Clockwork War, and that became evident time and time again. And, each time they were there for each other when the other needed it, and they kept their distance when they needed time alone. This was no different.
"Do you want me to stay?" Tessa asked, adjusting the coverlet around Will's prone form. A sliver of the mid-morning sunlight bled in through the thin gap between the tightly-shut drapes, cutting through the darkness of the room like an angelic sword, desperate to keep the demons at bay.
Will turned his face toward her; he opened his shining eyes just long enough to smile fondly at her, and something in Tessa clicked into place at the slight reassurance. Even in the pits of his despair, he was still her Will- still the same man she'd fallen in love with.
He'd made it clear a long time ago that she was in no way responsible for 'fixing' him. Tessa's only response had been, I know. And neither are you for me. But we can be present for each other during these times, and all we can ask of one another is trust and honesty. And that would be enough.
"That would be nice," Will replied, his voice a low murmur. He glanced up at her hastily a moment later. "That is unless you had any other arrangements-"
"I don't." Tessa ran her fingers through his bed-mussed hair in a gesture of reassurance. Will seemed to slightly relax beneath her touch. It was by no means enough to break him out of this despair; the most the gesture could do was serve as a reminder of Tessa's continued presence by his side. "Besides, you've done the same for me in the past. Remember our promise?"
Will stared at the edge of the comforter where it was pulled up to his chin for a long moment before he replied. "Yes. I do." His eyes flicked up to hers; the blue was dulled by the darkness of both the room and Will's heart, but the familiarity of the colour lit Tessa's heart in a rush of fondness. "And... is that still enough?"
Tessa shifted to lay beside him, adjusting her nightdress and slipping beneath the covers to lay barely a foot away from him, close enough that the warmth of Will's body seemed to caress her very soul. Propping herself up on her elbows, she reached for his hand and laced their fingers, lining up their wrists so their pulses beat in unison. Our two hearts beat as one, Tessa thought to herself. If only the third could be with us.
"Yes, it is. I would never force you to reveal more than you wanted to."
Will's voice was very small. "And if I wanted to reveal more than I have before?” He cleared his throat tiredly. “If... if I wanted to tell you more about my sister?"
Tessa brought his hand to her lips, kissing the Voyance rune on the back of it. "Then tell me more. I'd love to hear about her." She squeezed his hand.
Will's lips remained turned downwards, but something in his eyes seemed to shift and fit into place. He glanced up at her, and the steadiness in his gaze seemed almost out of place amongst the blackness and uncertainty of his emotions. "What would you like to know?"
Tessa shifted to lie her head on her pillow and turn her body toward Will's. "Whatever you'd be comfortable sharing." She squeezed his hand again. "Childhood stories." She shrugged. "Maybe even the story of that duck..."
Will glanced up at her, and his forlorn expression seemed almost tinged with surprise. "You know about that?"
"Cecily told me."
"Of course she did." Will shifted sideways, laying his head against her shoulder and slinging an arm around her waist, pulling himself flush against her. He was silent for a few long moments; the only sound was his slow, even breaths, and Tessa found herself unconsciously syncing them with the rise and fall of his chest against her side. She squeezed his hand again.
Eventually, Will spoke. "It all started when my sister..."
Chapter 13: Carstairs siblings- "What happened to you?"
Warnings for sickness/ delirium
Alastair reached toward his sister from his position by her bedside, dabbing at her forehead with a damp cloth. Cordelia’s breath came in short gasps; her back was arched awkwardly and the back of her head pressed into her sweat-soaked pillow hard enough that her entire body seemed taut as a bowstring. Her hands caught at Alastair's wrist as though to hold it in place, though her grip was weak enough that it barely made any difference.
The demon-poison induced delirium still had her in its clutches, and Alastair was seriously starting to consider calling the Silent Brothers. Promises in the name of the Angel be damned; he would suffer the wrath of Raziel a thousand times over if it kept Cordelia alive.
"Layla. Stay with me."
"What's... happening?" She breathed, her voice a low rasp. Her fingers still circled his wrist, the touch featherlight and worryingly feeble. Her face was screwed up in pain, and a low whine reverberated through her chest. Alastair's stomach twisted in fear.
Alastair extricated his hand from her grip for long enough to wet the cloth in the bucket of ice water by his knees, then replaced it in the next second. Cordelia's body seemed to relax slightly, her spine straightening as she sank into the mattress.
For the first time, he was glad of Mâmân's absence; if she were there now, she would have surely fainted at the amount of water dripping onto the rug. Thank the Angel for small mercies, Alastair thought. Or more accurately, thank the Angel for Father's insistence that Mâmân visit him in Idris as soon as possible. She'd left last night, leaving Alastair in charge as the "adult supervision". Cordelia had snorted at that, he remembered, as though Mâmân had been making a particularly entertaining quip.
He wished he'd paid more attention to his sister now, as though he would have been able to dissuade her from sneaking out to go demon-hunting. He just wished she would have told him; he'd thought they were past the days of keeping things from each other.
Alastair would give anything for this sense of helplessness to leave: he was by no means qualified to be providing any kind of medical assistance, and his promise to Cordelia was the only thing stopping him from sending for the Silent Brothers.
He dabbed at her forehead, letting her raise her hands to grip his wrist again. She seemed to be reassuring herself of his presence: her dark, unseeing eyes were visibly unfocused and her slow breaths were distressingly ragged. For the third time since Cordelia had awoken him at three o'clock in the morning and frantically begged him to heal her, Alastair wondered just how delirious she was.
"What's happening?" She repeated, her voice more insistent this time. Her grip on his wrist tightened infinitesimally. "Dâdâsh?"
"Layla. I'm here. Stay with me."
He tried to move his hand away, intending to rewet the cloth. Cordelia's delirium had other ideas, clearly. "What happened to you, Alas?"
Alastair froze: first at the childhood nickname, then at the words themselves. "Pardon?"
"What happened to you?" Cordelia repeated, her unseeing eyes staring up at the ceiling. She tugged on his wrist as though to get his attention. "You went away for school and came back so different. What happened to my brother who sung ghazals and played the piano? What happened to my best friend?"
Something in Alastair's chest shattered.
"Layla, you're delirious," he managed to choke out, though the words sounded forced even to his own ears.
Cordelia let out a low whine. "It hurts. Everything hurts,"
Alastair smoothed down her hair with his free hand, still dabbing at her brow with the other. "That's the demon poison currently working its way through your blood."
"Where am I? What happened?"
Good, he told himself. This is good- she's coming back to herself and asking questions that are actually relevant to her current situation. "You are in your bedroom, Layla. You snuck out to go demon-hunting and had an unfortunate encounter with, from what I can gather, some kind of Greater Demon. You made me swear on the Angel not to send for anyone- I'm very close to breaking that promise, by the way."
Cordelia let out a dissatisfied groan. "You never answered my question. The first one."
Alastair withdrew his wrist from her grip and leaned down to rewet the cloth, all the while praying that his hands would stop the Raziel-damned shaking soon. "There is no point in us having this conversation at the moment. You will remember exactly none of it later."
Cordelia dragged her hands down her face with a pained groan. "Are you truly arguing with me at the moment?"
Alastair batted her hands away and resumed dabbing at the clammy skin of her brow. "Yes."
Cordelia turned her head towards him, her unseeing eyes trying to focus on his as though to interrogate him. "Tell me what happened to you."
Alastair withdrew the cloth and fixed his sister with a long look. "I already did."
Cordelia groaned again, the sound feverishly insistent. "No, I mean- tell me what happened to him."
Alastair huffed. "You aren't speaking sense. Because, for the last bloody time, you are delirious."
"I'm speaking more sense than you do most of the time. “We are all of us alone, in the end”. What on Earth is that meant to mean?"
Alastair resisted the urge to poke his tongue out at her. "That was a low blow, Layla."
She ignored him. "You know what I mean. Tell me what happened to the version of you that sung ghazals and played the piano. Tell me what happened to my big brother and best friend. Where did he- Ah!" She cut herself off with a low wince, her back arching again beneath the strain of the demon poison in her system. Alastair got to his feet and leaned forwards to stroke at her hair uselessly, giving up on dabbing at her brow.
"It's alright, azizam. I'm here. Tu khoub khahi shod."
There was nothing he could do to help her now: He'd applied over fifty iratzes to her skin, forced a vial of blood-cleansing tonic down her throat, and done everything he could to keep her temperature stable. Now, all they had to do was wait the poison out- he had faith that Cordelia would prevail, but in the meantime, they had a long night ahead of them.
At last, Cordelia's spine straightened again and her body sank back into the mattress. She let out a low, pained groan at the movement, as though even the relaxation of her tense muscles caused her agony. Alastair stroked circles on the back of her hand in an effort to reassure her- he'd never had a particularly comforting presence, but he was desperate to help his sister in any way possible.
"What happened to him?" Cordelia repeated, her voice a low murmur.
Alastair leaned over to press a kiss to the crown of her head. "He never left, Layla. I never left, not truly. I was simply... away for a while."
Cordelia's voice was heartbreakingly, uncharacteristically small. "But you're back now?"
Alastair let himself smile. "I don't ever intend to leave again."
Chapter 14: Gabrily- "Can I kiss you?"
The question comes a few weeks after that afternoon in the stables, during an impromptu Enclave meeting being held in the dining hall.
Cecily sits beside him, her hair tightly braided and her eyes alight with irritation. The black leather of her gear seems almost out of place amongst the silk and taffeta of the evening gowns worn by the other women, but Gabriel knows Cecily well enough by now to know that she wears her differences like a badge of honour. The other Enclave members act more mundane than Shadowhunter half the time, what with their schemes and endless manipulation. They would rather stay locked in their parlours, drinking tea and waiting for someone else to fix their problems, while the rest of the world perished. Cecily, on the other hand, is probably capable of decimating the entire demon population of London and still having time to drink her afternoon tea afterwards.
"It's not fair," Cecily hisses, breaking through the fond tide of Gabriel's thoughts as easily as a north star through the fog of a winter sea. "The second Charlotte stops speaking, half the bloody room starts rolling their eyes and shooting each other knowing looks. I just- I wish there was something I could do."
Gabriel sighs. "You and me both, Cecy. But-"
Cecily presses a finger to his lips. The gesture is shockingly improper, in both the familiarity of the movement and the fact that Cecily, gear-clad as she is, wears no gloves. The people surrounding them pay them no heed, though. They are too focused on watching the proceedings at the head of the table- or, more accurately, with watching the Enclave members openly disrespect their Consul. "Wait."
Gabriel recognises the look on Cecily's face all too well. She moves her finger away from his lips, absentmindedly trailing a fingertip across his cheek. Her eyes are unfocused, her lips tilted upwards into the barest of smirks. "Oh, dear. You're plotting something, aren't you?"
Cecily raises a winged eyebrow. "Always. I am always plotting something." She shifts her chair closer to his- Gabriel finds it rather ridiculous that no one seems to have picked up on their impropriety yet, but he supposes the prospect of disrespecting Charlotte is higher on most of the Enclave members' list of priorities.
Cecily's hand trails along the side of his face, the heel of her palm coming to a stop at the edge of his jaw. Her cool fingertips rest against the side of his neck, and he hopes she cannot detect the way his pulse jumps and shudders at the touch. Judging by the way her smirk increases, Gabriel suspects she can.
"Can I kiss you?" She asks, her blue eyes wide and searching and so, so close. Gabriel tries not to visibly startle.
"Beg your pardon?"
"Charlotte could clearly use the distraction." Cecily shrugs and raises her other hand to trail up his waistcoat, the fabric catching against her fingertips and almost coming untucked. She pauses at his heart, resting her hand against his chest with her fingers splayed. She hooks a fingertip under the edge of his waistcoat, smiling coyly. "Besides, these buffoons clearly need reminding of life beyond their parlours and Enclave meetings. Really, we'd be cruel not to give them a distraction."
Gabriel leans down at the same moment she tugs on his waistcoat. "You make a very compelling argument, Miss Herondale."
She tilts her head upwards, their lips brushing together. Gabriel's legs ache from the way they are twisted awkwardly to remain underneath the table while he twists sideways to face Cecily, but the pain fades to nothingness at the sight of the beautiful, brave girl before him. Her face is barely an inch away from his- close enough that her breath ghosts across his lips like a phantom touch when she says, "call me Cecy. And come here."
He does as she asks, fitting his lips against hers in a movement that comes as naturally to him as drawing breath. Which is fitting, he supposes, seeing as Cecily has come to be just as dear to him as the breath in his lungs or the angelic blood in his veins. If anything, she is more valuable than any of those things. Breath and blood can be lost, and his lifeforce can go with them. And he would go willingly. But Cecily is a constant; a steady, strong presence in the lives of everyone around her. To lose her would be to lose all hope in humanity.
Cecily tilts her head to deepen the kiss, drawing him closer with the hand still on his neck. The sweet seam of her lips parts, and she tugs on the hair at the nape of his neck in an effort to draw him impossibly closer. White light explodes behind Gabriel's shut eyes at the low moan she makes when he shifts closer and presses into the kiss.
The room erupts into a series of overdramatic gasps and at least one thud. Someone- probably Charlotte- sighs loudly, though the sound seems tinged with amusement.
Cecily gives another throaty moan and grins against his lips. "I think someone fainted."
"I don't blame them," Gabriel murmurs, keeping his eyes shut. He is unwilling to break the magic of what he has just experienced. "They must be extremely jealous."
"Of you-" she rests her lips against his cheek, trailing a path to his jawline- "or me?"
"That's for you to decide, Cecy." He runs his hand over the soft, neat braid slung over her shoulder. He longs to untie it and run his fingers through the thick strands, but he suspects such a sight could send the collective Enclave over the edge. "How much trouble do you think we'll be in by the end of this?"
"Oh, a great deal, I'm sure." Cecily tugs on his hair again. "But some things are worth the consequences."
"Agreed." He tilts his head to capture her lips again.
Chapter 15: Thomastair- "You think I'm beautiful?"
Spanish) Eres hermoso- You’re beautiful
(Persian/ Farsi) Kheili khosh geli- You’re so beautiful
The phrase slips out in the time between one kiss and the next, breaking through the precious sanctuary of the silence in which they usually do these things. Alastair’s eyes are mere millimetres away- his eyelashes brush against Thomas’ cheekbones when he blinks, and Thomas half-expects the sparks he feels dancing across his skin to manifest in the air around him.
Their faces press close together in the cramped confines of the storage cupboard, their bodies pulled flush against one another. Thomas’ hands clutch at Alastair’s waist, his neck bent awkwardly to accommodate their difference in height. Alastair’s eyes are shining, oil-black pools in the dim light, and with every passing second that he stares into them Thomas feels as though he is looking into his own soul.
Beautiful, is all the can think.
Alastair smiles against his lips. "What does that mean?”
Thomas’ heart skips a beat. “What?”
Alastair releases his shoulders, lowering himself from his tiptoes to stand normally. His dark eyes stare up at Thomas, flitting across Thomas’ expression, and his smile fades slightly. “Eres hermoso. What does it mean?”
Thomas’ heart suddenly feels as though it is in his throat. “I said that out loud?” He chokes out, the words sounding more than slightly strangled.
Alastair takes a step back, moving as far away as possible in the storage cupboard. His back hits the opposite wall and his arms cross as though to shield his chest. Thomas’ hands feel achingly- almost painfully- empty, but the discomfort is nothing compared to the feeling in his chest when he sees the expression on Alastair’s face.
The open, happy arrangement of his features is gone, replaced by what Thomas now knows to be a carefully constructed mask of indifference, forged as a result of Alastair’s countless past experiences. It rarely makes an appearance nowadays, and its sudden reemergence saddens Thomas more than it probably should.
“Is it something bad?” Alastair asks, and though his voice is steady, the corners of his mouth tilt downwards in a very telling way. “I don’t speak Spanish, Lightwood.”
Lightwood. Not Thomas anymore.
“You’re beautiful,” he blurts out before he can stop himself. He takes a deep breath and lets it out very slowly. “Eres hermoso means ‘you’re beautiful’.”
Alastair blinks several times- the movement reminds Thomas of the feel of eyelashes brushing against his skin. He fights down the urge to shiver: All of a sudden he is too hot and too cold all at once, and the current atmosphere isn’t doing much to stabilise his ragged nerves.
“You think I’m beautiful?” Alastair says at last. His voice is uncharacteristically quiet.
“Yes,” Thomas replies immediately. His pulse stutters and skips a beat as he says it, but his voice is steady and laced with self-assurance.
Thomas has always considered himself more stubborn than most would realise; the quality has never assisted him to this degree before, and he is suddenly very glad of this particular trait. After all, it allows him to refuse to back down on matters like these. Better to say the words until he gets sick of them than to never say them at all.
Alastair’s dark eyes soften almost imperceptibly. “I- thank you.” He takes a step closer, and his expression seems to almost flicker in the dim light, like a candle being lit. He raises a hand to gesture to Thomas’ face; the movement pauses a moment later, and his eyes take on the faraway quality of someone lost in thought.
Thomas rests his back against the wall and crosses his arms. He uncrosses them a moment later in a sudden rush of uncertainty, letting them hang awkwardly by his sides.
The movement draws Alastair’s eye, and he smiles ever so slightly. “Your kindness towards everyone you encounter used to perplex me, you know."
Thomas didn’t know, and he suspects his surprise must show on his face, because Alastair’s voice takes on a quicker, enamoured tone as he continues speaking, as though he is desperate to explain himself.
"I just- I couldn’t understand how someone could have a heart so full of love in the first place, let alone possess the courage to actually display it. If I’m being completely honest, I was… envious of you, for a long time."
Thomas’ voice rings out perhaps a bit too loudly. "Pardon?”
Alastair takes a step closer- in the cramped space of the cupboard, this leaves hardly any distance between them. Thomas finds that fitting: Time and time again they are drawn together, like magnets or chemically combined molecules, and when they part it never seems to last for very long.
Alastair’s dark eyes are very close. “Envy has always been my most prominent vice.” He smiles ruefully. “Showing your heart to a world as cruel as this one… that- that takes more courage than words can ever describe, and is more beautiful than most could ever comprehend. Kheili khosh geli.” The last sentence is quieter, murmured like a prayer. Alastair’s eyes are unguarded and beseeching, and in a moment of aching clarity Thomas realises that each of them has become unfathomably special to the other.
There was a time not too long ago when Thomas would have avoided thoughts such as these. He is well aware of just how cruelly the world treats those who it views as different. For the longest time, he’d shied away from any truly life-changing thoughts, always longing for a great love but unwilling and unable to pursue the object of all of those longings. That time is over now, he realises, looking down at the man who has somehow, against all odds, become everything to him.
At last, Thomas speaks. “You refer to my heart as 'full of love’, but I wonder whether you know who that love is for. My family and friends?”
Alastair shoots him a befuddled look. “Of course.”
Alastair hesitates. With the closeness of their position, the way his heart thunders against his chest is agonisingly apparent, and yet his voice is the steadiest Thomas has ever heard it. "I refuse to assume your affections on your behalf.” His voice softens, and his eyes dart across Thomas’ expression searchingly. “Answer your own question, Thomas.”
Thomas smiles. “Yes. Forever and always, until we are but dust and shadows.”
Chapter 16: KitTy- "We're so dead."
“This wasn’t part of the plan, Ty. You said this would be a quick recon mission.” Kit’s voice rang out louder than intended; the cool forest air seemed to carry the sound, bouncing it around and around them until Kit felt as though there was no escape. I really can’t catch a break, can I?
These woods were both strange and familiar all at once: the constant warring forces inside Kit had never felt so pronounced, and the magnification of the conflict left him feeling even more hollow and fundamentally wrong than usual. He’d always known he was different, somewhere deep inside: he’d just never been so keenly aware of it until then. Loneliness is the worst poison of all.
Ty scowled, fiddling with the cord of his headphones. His eyes darted around the forest, always fixed on a sight that others didn’t have the intelligence to notice. “Do you think I wanted this to happen?”
Kit sighed. The last thing he wanted to do was argue with Ty. “No. I swear to you, I don’t think that. I just- these woods creep me out and I’m cold and I’m moist- I hate that word, by the way- and it’s almost two in the morning and I want to go home.”
“Me too.” Ty’s eyes flitted around the forest, never settling on one place for too long. The spindly trees and silvery moonlight cast stark shadows across the angles of his face, reminding Kit of a black-and-white photograph: a timeless, beautiful image, immortalised in memory and precious to all those lucky enough to witness it. Kit wondered if the colour of Ty’s eyes would be distinguishable and recognisable even on the photo. He hoped so; there were some sights that memory did no justice, some colours that time did not deserve to lose. Tessa and Jem often lamented the fact that the precise shade of Will Herondale’s midnight-blue eyes had been lost to time, and Kit couldn’t bear the thought of that ever happening to the steel-grey of Ty’s.
Those eyes glanced Kit’s way for a moment, the metallic colour alight with curiosity. “Why do you hate that word?”
Kit shrugged. “It makes me think of soggy cornflakes.”
Ty nodded agreeably, then glanced at the ground with the air of someone lost in thought. He crouched down, running a long-fingered hand through a pile of leaves by his feet.
He looks like a detective, Kit thought in a rush of fondness.
“Can you sense the ley lines?”
“Huh?” Kit replied, eloquent as always.
“The mundanes think this forest is haunted because of the strangely cold feeling they get from it, but it’s just the ley lines giving off and taking in thermal magical energy. They run off any kind of sustainable resource: heat, human emotions. Human life force, sometimes.” Ty glanced up, tilting his face skywards. The moon spilt its silver light over the high points of his face, creating an image of almost ethereal beauty. Kit found himself struck speechless for a moment. So that’s what those fancy sculptors were trying to recreate. This- this feeling of unworthiness when beholding a sight like this. Only in their best dreams could they ever create something marginally as beautiful, though.
“These woods are often used for necromancy,” Ty added, and the perfect picture shattered.
Involuntarily, Kit thought of a girl in a white dress. He fought down a shudder, ignoring the way his heart still contracted at the memory. “I- I can’t sense the ley lines. I’m still working on the whole you’re-the-long-lost-heir-of-Faerie thing.” He shifted from foot to foot, trying to ignore the way his heart contracted at the reminder. Being the Chosen One is overrated. “Is Livvy near?"
Ty stood and glanced away toward the treeline around a hundred yards away. His pale fingertips fiddled with the cord of his headphones, twirling it in an intricate pattern. "Always. She said she’d look on the other side of the forest, though. She’s about a mile away, from what I can tell.”
“And, erm, how much longer do you think this will take?” Kit pulled his zip-up hoodie more tightly around his shoulders, jamming his hands into his pockets. He was beginning to wish he’d worn gear- in his multiple layers of leather and thick cotton, Ty didn’t seem to be nearly as cold as him.
“Not very long. Dragonidae demons are attracted to human discomfort- it’s likely why this particular demon chose these woods as a hiding place.”
“Wait. Are you saying that you’re using me as bait?”
“Yes. I’m using myself as bait, too.” He fiddled with the end of his headphones again, his eyes still darting along the treeline. “It won’t be much longer now. All we have to do is wait for it to show up, kill it, and then walk back to Cirenworth. At least we’ll have gotten it over with.”
Kit made as though to lean against a nearby tree branch; it made a loud ripping sound the moment Kit touched it, and fell to the leaf-carpeted ground with a wet thud. Kit craned his neck to get a better look and let out a drawn-out groan at the sight of the hollowed-out inside: though it no longer held any wood, the rotted log was instead home to what looked to be an entire extended family of white worms. “We’re so dead.”
“They won’t kill you, Kit. They’re only maggots.”
“Maggots?” Kit’s voice was possibly a bit too loud, and the sound seemed to echo throughout the forest, carried on the frigid air. He cringed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout-”
“No- it’s good. It’ll attract the Dragonidae demon.” His soft smile felt as though it was warming Kit from within. “You’re very good at being bait, by the way. I’d be proud of myself if I were you."
Ty’s dark clothes and hair were barely distinguishable from the black tree he stood beside, especially in the darkness. His pale face shone as though lit from within in the bleak moonlight, and for a moment all of Kit’s worries melted away. His father’s many teachings of distrust and deception held no more weight than a wisp of smoke, and Kit couldn’t help but be very glad of that.
It was what allowed him to smile as widely and openly as he did when Ty glanced his way, and it was what allowed his heart to soar as freely and easily as it did when Ty smiled back.
Chapter 17: Blackdale- "We're so dead."
"If Jessamine finds you here, we'll be so dead. Well, I'll be dead. You'll be..." Lucie gestured in Jesse's general direction, attempting what she hoped was a demure smile. "... You."
The corners of Jesse's mouth twitched upward. "That's rather insensitive, Lucie."
"Oh, hush. I know you like it when I joke." Lucie leaned back on the cushions of her bed, letting the skirts of her nightgown billow out around her legs in what she hoped was an elegant cascade. Jesse glanced toward the door with a raised eyebrow, clearly concerned at the impropriety of their situation. Lucie used his distraction as an opportunity to discreetly arrange her hair so it fanned out on the pillow in neat waves. She crossed her arms over her stomach and for a moment despaired over her lack of a red rose. It would complete the whole ensemble quite splendidly.
Jesse cleared his throat. "May I ask what you are doing?"
Lucie tried to bat her eyelashes; she ended up feeling as though she were trying to deflect a rather persistent fly. "Nothing. Just... lounging. Like ladies do."
Jesse twisted his hands together. The moon was full and silver as a coin, perched high in the sky. From his perch on the threshold of the windowsill, Jesse seemed to be almost lit from behind. The transparency of the harsh lines of his form was even more pronounced in the moonlight, and for a moment he appeared to glow as the clouds parted and a pure beam of moonlight shone directly through him. Lucie's fingers itched for her typewriter, desperate to immortalise this ethereal beauty. Words would surely do him no justice, but Lucie was desperate enough to want to try anyway.
Jesse glanced toward her; his long, dark eyelashes blinked in an almost shy movement, and something in Lucie's chest twisted. The pain was strangely pleasant, and Lucie found herself reminded of her father's teachings about love hurting. She'd never understood it until now.
Jesse's voice was softer, tinged with something akin to admiration. "The way you're lounging... You look like the princess from that fairytale."
Lucie's heart gave that strange twisting sensation again. "Which one?" she asked, her voice far too quiet for her liking. She sounded as though she were sharing intimate details, whispered beneath the veil of darkness and crinkled sheets.
Jesse's eyes trailed over her form. They seemed lit with an odd emotion, one that Lucie hadn't seen on him before, and she fought down a shiver. "The one about the princess locked in a tower surrounded by thorns. She was beautiful, breathtakingly so, and she fell into a very deep sleep and was only awoken by true love's kiss. Sleeping Beauty, I think the story was called."
Lucie held herself very still. "And who do you suppose would kiss me, if I were that princess?"
"Many would try, I suspect." Jesse turned his face away, closing his eyes as though pained. His pale hands twisted together, the skin luminous in the moonlight. "Only one would succeed."
Lucie rolled onto her side, propping her chin upon her hands. Her hair fell around her shoulders in loose waves, tickling her skin. In that moment she felt wild and carefree and wanting and a thousand other things she surely wasn't meant to feel in the company of a man. "And who do you think would be deemed worthy of my kiss?"
Jesse opened his eyes to shoot her a disbelieving look. "Are you trying to torment me?" He stood in one fluid movement, crossing across the room to kneel beside the bed. The sudden display of energy startled Lucie, and a rush of lightning shot through her veins. This, this was new and familiar and instinctive and all she could think was, yes. Finally.
Jesse's dark eyes seemed to search her face; without even realising it, Lucie leaned closer. Their faces were barely inches apart, the lack of space between them distracting enough that Lucie had to force herself to keep staring at his eyes.
"Answer the question, Mr Blackthorn."
Jesse's eyes flicked downward. "You know the answer already."
"I'm a writer; I like to be sure." Their faces were truly, improperly close now. Any pretence of them merely partaking in idle conversation was gone, replaced by a heavier, deeper understanding. Something had shifted in their air between them, and Lucie had never been so aware of another person before.
"Surely your mind is creative enough to fill in the blanks." Jesse's eyes were impossibly close; if he'd been alive, the heat of his body surely would have been tangible. Lucie's heart twisted again at the realisation that she might never experience that; might never get to know his touch or his scent. Might never get to know his taste.
"Maybe. But I want to hear you say it." She tilted her head to the side. "I'll ask again: who do you think would be deemed worthy of my kiss?"
Jesse made a pained sound. "I can't touch you, Lucie. It doesn't matter what I say, or what I desperately- so desperately- want. Without the locket-"
Lucie's eyes stung. "I know. I'd still like to know, though." She dared repeat the words once more. "Who do you think would be deemed worthy of my kiss?"
"Me." Jesse's voice was very quiet. "I'd beg every deity in existence until I became worthy of it- of you. You brought light to my lightless world; a star to my starless sky. A purpose to this horrid existence." His eyes shone. "And there is absolutely nothing I would rather do than become worthy of your touch."
Lucie raised her hand, tracing a finger along the pale outline of Jesse's cheekbone. She was careful not to break the illusion- such a reminder would break her just as much as it would him. She glanced up, and found his eyes wide and honest and so, so close. "You already are."
"You don't need to work to become worthy of me. You cannot gain something that is already there. You already are worthy of me, Jesse Blackthorn. You always have been, and you always will be."
"Unconditional affection is a slippery slope, Lucie."
Lucie shifted closer, lowering her voice to a reverent murmur, as though she were invoking spirits of old. "I am a Herondale. We love but once."
Chapter 18: Sophideon- "What happened to you?"
tw for implied past sexual assualt– the mention is blink-and-you-miss-it
Sophie wakes with the dawn, though she does not rise. There is no need for it anymore, she remembers with the barest flicker of nostalgia. She misses the routine of her work, but the easy life has certain benefits that she will unashamedly reap to her heart’s content.
Namely, the ability to witness the sight before her.
Soft, muted sunlight filters in through the open drapes, turning Gideon’s skin to a light gold colour. His face is not much changed by sleep- he always exudes an aura of steady calm, and his face seems to permanently reflect that with its unlined honestly and steady gaze. He is so different from what she expected- Will and Jem had always told horror stories of the boy who made Gabriel look sweeter than gingerbread, with his constant belittlement and hard eyes, and Sophie cannot help but wonder what exactly prompted that change. What happened to you?
“You’re watching me sleep,” Gideon mumbles, pressing his face into his pillow. His hair is endearingly messy from sleep, and Sophie leans closer to run her fingers through it.
She still hasn’t entirely grown used to this; years of waking at the crack of dawn to build up the fireplaces and get started on breakfast cannot be uninstalled so quickly, she supposes. Still, it gives her a chance to simply lie beside her husband, revelling in the weight of a warm body on the bed beside her.
“I cannot help it. You are truly riveting to watch."
"I get the distinct impression you are being sarcastic.”
“Really? You must be mistaken.”
“Hmm.” Gideon’s face breaks into a wide smile, unable to keep up the pretence of anything less than open adoration. “May I hold you?”
Sophie will never tire of the way Gideon always asks - be it something as simple as a held hand, or something as intimate as a kiss shared in a private corner. She is far too used to men who take and take without ever sparing a thought for her wishes. Gideon is a very welcome change.
Sophie shifts closer, throwing a leg over his hip and drawing him flush against her. She lays her head on his pillow, revelling in the scent and warmth of him- this, this she could get used to. He pulls the duvet up to their chins, creating an illusion of a secluded, safe paradise of just the two of them. Sophie cannot help but smile.
“What is it?” Gideon’s voice is husky from sleep and yet the care with which he says the words is almost enough to strike Sophie speechless. He speaks as though the answer is more precious than gold- as though she is more precious than gold. Sophie will never tire of this, she realises, deep in her heart.
“I’m happy.” Sophie glances up at him, trying to choose her words carefully. “Both of us… we’ve come a long way, and I couldn’t be more glad of that.”
“Me too, mi amore. Every day I find myself more and more in awe of your strength and tenacity- the world is a thousand times blessed by your mere presence.” Gideon smiles, the expression warm and steadfast and so, so gentle. “May I kiss you?”
Sophie’s smile widens. “There is nothing that would please me more.”
Chapter 19: Clary and Alec- "We're so dead."
John Mulaney references bc of course-- kudos to anyone who spots where the reference is, you have my eternal respect.
Clary took one step, then another, along the narrow edge of the roof. Her orange hair stood out vividly against the black of her gear and the dark blue of the sky, and the sword at her back caught and reflected the city lights with every step she took. She looked vibrant and young, exuding life and pure innocence- in other words, she looked nothing like the warrior she truly was, forced to fight a peoples' war on their behalf. Alec tried to ignore the familiar swell of brotherly protectiveness building in his chest.
He let out a sigh and let himself half-lean, half-slump against a large nearby chimney, thankful for a chance to catch his breath. Patrol was long and exhausting these days- the Cold Peace seemed to have encouraged the demons to pour into their dimension in ever-increasing numbers. Without the presence of the ancient Faeries and their magic, the world was far more vulnerable to demonic attack than most would admit. Alec was very close to outright telling the Clave as much, though he suspected they'd spontaneously combust in unison at the slightest of criticisms.
Clary cleared her throat, snapping him out of his reverie. Craning her neck to glance over at him, she raised an eyebrow. "You're staring at me."
"I zoned out."
"You looked annoyed."
"That's just my face."
Clary huffed, spinning around on the edge of the roof so she was facing Alec. "Remember the times when you used to hate me?"
"'Used to'?" Alec shot back, though there was no heat in his voice.
Clary's lips twitched. "You are aware I'm a highly trained Shadowhunter, yes? Are you sure you want to antagonise me?"
Alec raised an eyebrow. "I'm also a Shadowhunter, Fray." He tried not to smile and failed spectacularly. "Besides, what are you gonna do? Break my kneecaps?"
"Why do you have to make it personal, Alec?"
"I went for the low-hanging fruit, so to speak. I had to crouch down, though." He over at Clary, who was now balanced on one leg on the very edge of the roof, clearly trying to show off. "Unlike-"
"Unlike me. Yes, I get the joke. Ha-ha." Her lips twitched again, though, betraying her true amusement. She gave Alec a considering glance. "I can't believe I used to think you were some statue-like, emotionless asshole."
Alec gave her a long look, leaning against the chimney wall more heavily. His muscles ached from the ill-fated attempt they'd made at battling a dragondae demon a few hours before, and he was now trying very hard not to be insulted. "Am I meant to be flattered?"
"I'm not finished. And then it turned out you were just, like, really emotionally repressed. Once you worked on that, it turns out you're actually kinda funny. Even if your humour is so dry it verges on insulting." She tilted her head consideringly. "Though that's probably because you're unsure of how to openly show emotion and in-depth thought to people you aren't, like, super-super close to, so you tend to be kind standoffish even if you don't want to be. If that makes sense?"
Alec filed that away to talk to Magnus about later, then shot Clary what he hoped was an exasperated look. "Please stop psycho-analysing me. You're going to give me a headache and an existential crisis."
"I've been working on my intuition over the past few months. I'm glad to see it's working." Seeming to decide to drop the subject, she shot him a wide smile. "Okay, now watch this."
Clary bent her knees and propelled herself several metres into the air, somersaulted a dizzying amount of times, and landed balanced on one leg as gracefully as a gymnast. She gave a little bow.
Alec grinned. "Show-off."
Clary held a hand to her chest. "Thank you." She glanced to the side, seeming to take in the view of the city. A moment later she groaned. "Oh, shit. We're so dead."
Alec resisted the urge to sigh very loudly. "What do you mean?"
"My display of gymnastic skill seems to have caught the eye of a group of Eidolon demons. They're trying to be discreet, but they're definitely coming this way."
Alec shrugged. "Well, at least they're coming to us. Less work on our part."
"You are shockingly calm about this."
"You know those days when you're like, "this might as well happen"? This is one of those days." Alec pushed himself off the stone chimney and nocked an arrow. "Let's get this over with."
"Finally something we can agree on." The edge of Clary's sword caught the city lights, illuminating the hard edge to her green eyes.
In that moment she looked like the warrior she was, forged of lost innocence and righteous fury, and another unexpected swell of brotherly emotion rose in Alec's chest.
"Let's kill these idiots," Clary growled, and Alec felt himself smile.
"Way ahead of you."
Chapter 20: KitTy- "You think I'm beautiful?"
It's a strange phrase, Kit thinks- both a question and an exclamation, depending on your intention.
How beautiful? He asks when Mina looks at her own reflection and sounds the word out excitedly.
How beautiful? He asks a pretty girl who lives down the road from Cirenworth when she uses that same word to describe his eyes.
("How beautiful?" He repeats confusedly, familiarity prickling at the edge of his subconscious, and then he staggers back as the memories come crashing down. The girl gives him an odd look and turns away.)
How beautiful, he thinks when he sees a sunset of mottled pink and orange.
How beautiful, he thinks when he sees a particularly expensive-looking weapon (old habits die hard, he supposes).
How beautiful, he thinks when he sees the boy- his boy from Los Angeles- again; when he catches sight of that steely shade of grey and can barely spare the breath to shudder.
Why are you so beautiful?
"You think I'm beautiful?" Ty asks, and to Kit's horror, he realises he spoke aloud.
Those grey eyes dart around their surroundings, taking everything in and avoiding looking at him all at once, and yet Kit still feels more seen than he has in years.
"Yes- No. Well, yes." Kit sighs and runs his fingers through his hair, as though that will steady his shaking hands and quiet his thundering heart. The gesture attracts Ty's attention, and his gaze lingers more closely to Kit's. "It's- it's complicated."
Ty's eyes dart away, the corners of his mouth tightening. "Everything's too complicated for anyone to actually take the time to explain what they mean, or what they expect from me. How can they expect me to understand when they won't explain?" He turns his body away, as though Kit being in his line of sight causes him too much pain to bear. "I thought you were different."
Ty is right, Kit knows. He sighs, guilt building in his chest. "I'm sorry. I d- I do think you're beautiful. I just... everything that's happening right now- it's a lot. And I didn't realise I was speaking out loud, so your reaction kinda threw me."
Ty turns, glancing in his direction. The open window of the sitting room lets in a soft breeze, ruffling the tips of his hair. The setting sun is directly behind him, creating a warm, golden halo effect. Kit wonders if Raziel looked anything like this when he first arrived on Earth and graced the first Shadowhunters with his presence. Raziel couldn't even dream of beauty like this, Kit realises.
Ty glances toward him. "Thank you for explaining, Watson."
Kit's heart skips a beat at the old nickname, the feeling akin to something clicking back into place. "Don't thank me," he says at last. "It's the bare minimum."
Ty smiles ever so slightly, the expression illuminated by golden sunlight. The wind ruffles his hair again, the halo behind his head filtering warm light in between the strands. Ty tilts his head back, leaning into the breeze with a steady, familiar tranquillity that steals Kit's breath. For a moment, he is a fifteen-year-old boy again, hunched in his father's basement and staring up in frightened awe at the boy before him.
How beautiful, he thinks again.
Chapter 21: Sizzy- "Come here."
tw for mentions of death
"Simon. Stop punishing yourself."
"Yes, you are." The backs of Isabelle's eyes stung. "Shadowhunters know grief. After Max passed, I was... well, an absolute mess. George-"
Simon flinched like he'd been struck. "Don't, please."
He let out a slow breath and sank onto the corner of Isabelle's bed, taking off his glasses with a resigned sigh. He massaged the bridge of his nose. "His name feels like a punch to the gut every time I hear it." He chuckled. The sound faded away almost the moment it arrived, and Simon's expression flickered. He reached to the side and picked up one of Isabelle's beaded throw cushions, running his fingertips over the raised pattern as though to soothe himself. Something in Isabelle's chest twisted.
Simon sighed again. "Some people say pain fades with time- I never understood that. It doesn't ever go away. We just learn to cope with it, and we fool ourselves into thinking it's gone. It's like an open wound, and all it takes is the simplest reminder for it to be brushed up against. Like a name, or an accent, or a picture of a rat-" his voice broke, and when he spoke again, the words were very small. "We had an inside joke about that." He let out a shuddering gasp and buried his face in his hands; the beaded pillow fell to the floor, discarded by restless grief.
Something in Isabelle's chest shattered. In a quick, decisive movement, she sat down beside him. The mattress dipped and creaked under the new weight. Simon glanced up at the sound, eyes shining and gut-wrenchingly heartbroken.
Isabelle opened her arms; the bracelets on her arms rattled together at the movement. "Come here. You look like you're ten seconds away from falling apart and I'd like to be holding you when that happens."
Simon's voice was uneven with grief, but still somehow so insistent. "Iz, you don't have to-"
"I love you. And you're in pain. You're in so much pain, so please let me help you." Isabelle barely recognised her own voice, it was so soft. "Okay?"
"Okay," Simon said numbly, the sound quiet as surrender. And then he collapsed into her arms, burying his face in the crook of her neck as though to hide from the world. Isabelle held him while he sobbed, stroking his hair and murmuring utterly pointless condolences.
She'd always hated death: everyone sighed and murmured about the poor soul who'd died, about the life they'd never got to lead. But what about the people who were left behind? The people who were forced to remember the kindness of that soul, to be reminded of that lost potential- what about them? Where was their relief?
Death was easy, Isabelle thought. A quick action- the cutting of a thread; the thud of a pebble. The ripples it left in its wake were so much worse.
Chapter 22: Gabrily- "What did you expect?"
Cecily throws herself to the side at the first shift in the air, opening her eyes instinctively as she slams into the training mat. Her shoulder throbs in protest, having borne the brunt of her weight, but she takes it in stride. She learnt a long time ago that pain is inevitable- why hide from that which will always find you?
She makes use of the discomfort and channels it into focusing on the action of rolling away, using her momentum to push off the ground and into a defensive stance in the space of half a second. Her heart thuds against her chest, adrenaline rushing through her veins like ice water.
Gabriel raises his hands in surrender, his lips quirking up at the corners. He looks very different when he smiles, Cecily cannot help but notice. The harsh lines of his sharp features noticeably soften, his eyes lighting up like twin Witchlights. The late-afternoon sun sends beams of light through the stained-glass windows situated high in the rafters; the multi-coloured light casts a slanted spotlight over the ground on which Gabriel stands. His white skin and shirt are turned to a dizzying amalgam of deep blues and yellows and reds in the light, and Cecily finds herself struck momentarily speechless by the sheer beauty of him.
Gabriel's voice cuts through her cloud of thoughts. "You're very good at this, Cecy." He gestures to her clenched fists and braced knees. "Especially considering you only started training a few months ago."
Cecily huffs, blowing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. "Your surprise is insulting." She lunges at him, bracing her hands on his shoulders and wrapping her legs around his waist, and throws her weight backwards, pulling Gabriel down with her as they crash to the training mats.
Gabriel lets out a startled yell and breaks his fall with two outstretched hands, narrowly avoiding putting all of his weight on top of her. Cecily stays perfectly still and busies herself with thinking unladylike thoughts.
Gabriel huffs. "What was that for?"
"You underestimated me."
"I was making conversation." Gabriel glances down at her, seems to notice their closeness, and turns an interesting shade of puce.
Cecily grins up at him, allowing herself to enjoy the view. Gabriel is flushed and panting, looming directly above her. A thrill runs through her when she remembers that she is the reason he looks like this. I could get used to sights like these.
"You're overreacting, Gabe. Really, there's no need to imitate a plum." She pauses to eye his tense shoulders consideringly. "And there's also no need to hold yourself so far away from me."
He shoots her an incredulous look. "I could have crushed you, Cecy!"
An amused giggle tears free of Cecily's lips. "Please! You could never let yourself touch me to that extent."
Gabriel frowns at her. "What did you expect? I have to maintain some propriety-"
Cecily hooks a finger in the collar of Gabriel's shirt, silencing him with a sharp tug. She rubs her foot up the side of his calf in a slow, deliberate movement. Judging by his sharp intake of breath, he seems to have decided to stop protesting on behalf of her virtue.
His eyes really are shockingly green, she notices- the deep colour of moss under a winter sun. They make Cecily think of the countryside and Wales, with its rolling green hills and the bright skies. She looks into them and she thinks home.
"Cecy?" Gabriel asks, his voice softening. "Is everything alright? You're miles away."
"No, I'm not." She grins and reaches up to stroke his cheek. His eyes flutter and close in an attempt at composure, unused to such open affection, and Cecily's heart clenches at the blocked view of that familiar shade of green. "I'm home."
Chapter 23: KitTy- "Stay here tonight."
On the roof of Cirenworth Hall, two boys lie side by side. The light of the crescent moon washes over them, bathing them in its silver moonlight until they appear to be lit from within. Neither boy speaks- there is both too much and too little to say, and neither of them is willing to break the fragile silence they have fallen into.
The taller boy, dark-haired and grey-eyed, stares up at the constellations in the night sky. He fiddles with the cord of the headphones around his neck, head pillowed on the other boy's denim jacket.
The other boy stares more at the dark-haired boy than at the constellations they are supposedly watching. His blond hair is turned almost white by the moonlight, creating an image of bright, unwavering luminescence. It suits him.
Stay here tonight.
Neither is sure who first suggested it. Both have their reasons for wishing to spend this time together, and the chances of them both asking are relatively high. Try as they might, they cannot seem to remain parted for very long at all.
Neither minds, though. Holmes would never forever abandon Watson, and Watson would come to regret any distance between himself and Holmes.
The dark-haired boy raises a long finger to point at a constellation, tracing the path between the stars wordlessly. The other boy watches, transfixed, though his gaze does not touch the sky.
So much for stargazing in the literal sense.
Then again, life with Tessa Carstairs means that the other boy is becoming increasingly fond of metaphors, and surely the dark-haired boy he stares at now is also a star, fallen to earth as a blessing? The way the moonlight catches the high points of his face creates a clear-cut, sharp as glass image that is somehow both piercingly striking and softly divine.
The beauty of it makes it impossible for the other boy to recall something as simple as his own name.
Chapter 24: Blackdale- "I let myself forget how dangerous you can be."
“Lucie,” Jesse says: the word is a statement, not a question. It drops into the air between them like a pebble to the bottom of a pond.
Lucie can almost see the ripples. “You’re here.” Again, a statement.
“Jesse. Of course I’m here.” She shrugs; the gesture is out of place in the abandoned entryway of Chiswick house. To shrug is to show uncertainty, and to show uncertainty in a place like this is to tempt misfortune. “You don’t seem surprised to see me.”
“I’m not surprised- my expectations were never very high.”
His words sting more than they probably should. "I beg your pardon?“
Jesse’s green eyes catch the moonlight; they shine like pools of water, and for a moment Lucie’s heart relaxes. "I didn’t expect you to keep your promise.” He lets out a quiet scoff. “Heaven forbid someone actually listens to me.”
Lucie’s heart tightens again. “That’s not fair, I-”
“Fair?” Jesse’s mouth twists into an uncharacteristic scowl. “You have no understanding of the word.” He slides out of the window seat in a quick, jerky movement. Lucie remains perfectly still. “I told you not to make any effort to resurrect me. So why, pray tell, are you creeping around my house in the dead of night, holding my locket and a necromantic amulet you must have stolen from my mother’s bedroom?”
“Now, stolen is not the correct word to use. Your mother’s property has been seized by the Enclave, and therefore everything in this house belongs to them. Ergo, I am stealing from the Enclave.”
Jesse blinks. “Is that supposed to reassure me? You are aware of the punishments the Enclave reserves for those who wrong them, yes?”
Lucie valiantly resists the urge to roll her eyes. “Of course I am, Jesse.”
“I don’t think you are. I think you’re planning on doing something extremely ill-advised, something along the lines of necromancy. Do you have any idea of the punishments for resurrecting the dead?”
“Yes,” Lucie says, but her voice wavers and betrays her.
“They will strip your Marks, Lucie.” Jesse’s voice wavers, though not with uncertainty. His words sound choked and forced, as though he is forcing them through shaking lips. “You would be lucky to survive, and your parents would be forever deafened by the sounds of your screams.”
“I am strong. I will endure.”
“But you shouldn’t have to!” Jesse shouts- his voice breaks halfway through. He shudders, wrapping his arms tightly around himself. Never has Lucie seen him so vulnerable. “Not for me, Lucie. I-I’ve been dead eight years, for God’s sake! No one would even remember me enough to be grateful! The Enclave forgot about me. I could cease this existence any moment and no one would realise or care-”
Lucie’s blood runs hot. “I would.” She scoffs, disbelieving anger begging to rise in her chest. The amulet she went to such great lengths to obtain clatters to the ground. “By the Angel, Jesse. How dare you think yourself forgettable. How dare you think I wouldn’t notice your absence or care."
She crosses the room to stand before him, jabbing a finger at his face. Jesse stares at her in silent confusion.
"As though I do not spend every second of every day longing for your presence. As if I do not crave your humour. As if I do not imagine your smile more than should be possible.” Her voice trembles. “How dare you not realise how dear you are to me.”
Jesse blinks. “Now, that’s not fair-”
Lucie huffs, blowing a chunk of her hair out of her eyes. She glares up at him, raising an eyebrow. “Sound familiar?”
Jesse sighs and tilts his head back, gazing skywards. A beam of moonlight streams through a jagged hole in the ceiling, shining directly through him and turning the edges of his form silver and transparent. He looks back down at her, his transparent lips quirking into the softest of smiles. “You are an arrow, aimed directly at my heart. I let myself forget how dangerous you can be,” he mutters. “You will be the death of me, Lucie Herondale.”
Lucie cannot help but snort.
The clouds shift, cutting the stream of moonlight off. The silver edges of Jesse’s form leave as quickly as they arrived, and he once again looks startlingly human. It is painfully easy to forget that he is not truly present.
His smile fades. "But my point still remains: you cannot risk yourself like this. I am not worth that, no matter how dear we may be to each other.”
Lucie lets herself smile, and begins to pull at the neckline of her dress.
Jesse averts his eyes. “Lucie, what are you-” he cuts himself off with a strangled choking sound.
Lucie huffs, withdraws her hands from the neckline of her dress to reach behind herself and fiddle with her corset laces, and then reaches down the front of her loosened corset.
Jesse coughs. “Now, I may be a ghost but I would advise you not to undress-”
“In your dreams, Jesse.”
“I wasn’t aware you could also read minds,” he mutters.
“Ha-ha.” Having retrieved what she was looking for, Lucie readjusts her dress. Jesse’s eyes remain shut, a slightly pained expression on his face. “Oh, by the Angel! Open your eyes, Jesse.”
Bright, moss-green eyes blink at her. “What are you- Oh.”
She dangles the slightly-warm locket at him, careful not to pull too hard at the chain where it rests around her neck. “My mother wears a jade pendant as a reminder of the piece of her heart my Uncle Jem carries around with him. She also wears a bracelet my father bought her as an anniversary gift, as a reminder of the piece of her heart she has given to him, too."
She rests the locket atop her dress, placing it over her heart.
"I carry this locket as a reminder of the piece of my heart I have given to you, Jesse Blackthorn. As a reminder of the sacrifice you made for my brother, and of the life I owe you.”
“You need not owe the dead, Lucie.”
Lucie grins. “Good.”
Jesse lowers his voice, speaking in gravelly tones. “How- how is this good, Lucie?”
Lucie grips the locket around her neck as tightly as possible, the edges of the metal digging into her palm uncomfortably. The pain is a reminder. “Because you will not be dead for much longer, at which point our debt will be settled.”
Chapter 25: Jordelia- "Let go of me."
Cordelia sighs as quietly as she can. This party has been lacking, to say the least- as a child, she'd often dreamed of being surrounded by people; of the infinite possible conversations ahead of her.
Now, those conversations seem meaningless, forged of false hopes and distrustful stares. The only way the general Enclave will now accept her as if she is accompanied by her fiancee- her family's social standing has taken a resounding blow following the events of the last few months. Cordelia's proclamation of her own ruined virtue only seems to have made matters worse; the standards she and her brother were held to even beforehand could only be described as irritatingly- unfairly- high, and they have now become almost certainly unattainable.
This party is tedious, she decides after the third middle-aged woman shoots her an icy look. She turns to face James, trying to ignore the way his body presses against hers; their arms are looped together, their bodies in sync as they make the rounds. For all intents and purposes, they are the perfect image of a youthful engaged couple.
Cordelia squeezes his arm lightly. "James."
"Daisy? Is everything alright?"
His eyes are far too concerned- for a moment, Cordelia could almost fool herself into truly believing he loves her. She wishes she knew how to close her heart, lest she experience this pain again.
She forces herself to smile. The lights of the chandelier leave almost no shadows in the ballroom, and the gold and blue banners and ornaments decorating the tables nearby seem to glitter. He seems to glitter: his unusual eyes; his carefully-combed hair; the bracelet at his wrist. Cordelia's heart clenches.
"Daisy?" James grips her arm more firmly. "You look pained."
Cordelia realises, a moment too late, that her smile has dropped. She plants it back on her face and hopes it does not look as false as it feels. "I'm fine, James. Just a bit fatigued- perhaps it's time for us to take our leave?"
James blinks. "But it's only ten o'clock."
Cordelia fights the urge to sigh. How do I explain to him that I can't bear this anymore? These secrets are eating away at my heart, and every chunk they tear out is instantly filled with thoughts of him.
How do you explain to someone that the overwhelming love you feel for them is also the thing causing you such agony?
She settles for saying: "My mother asked me to get home early today. We're going to get started on decorating the third-floor study to be a nursery." It isn't a lie, exactly- that morning, her mother had asked for assistance with rearranging the furniture in the soon-to-be nursery. Cordelia simply left out the part of the story where Alastair convinced their mother that he and Risa would be able to get it all done between the two of them, precisely so Cordelia wouldn't miss out on this party. She barely manages to summon the willpower to feel guilty, her mood is so foul.
James' mouth tilts downwards. His grip is still a bit too tight, and Cordelia finds herself wishing to memorize the feel of his gloved hand against the bare skin of her arm. She suspects she will find herself longing to commit many things about James to memory.
"Are you sure?" James' voice lowers. "You don't need to worry about anyone making assumptions about the true nature of our relationship; we're doing such a splendid job of fooling them all. Both of us are wonderful at pretending to be in love, aren't we?"
Cordelia's heart clenches again, painfully enough that for a moment she fears James' words have stopped it from ever beating again.
James' expression falters. "Daisy?" He squeezes her arm again- the gesture is insistent and tinged with worry. It is all too much to bear.
"Let go of me, James," she snaps, barely able to control the volume of her voice.
James drops her arm instantly, his expression tinged with the same alarm coating his voice. "Daisy? I'm so sorry, is everything alright? Did I say something wrong?"
Cordelia lets out a slow breath and schools her expression. "Everything's fine, James. I'm simply rather fatigued. You didn't say anything wrong." The words sound monotonous and rehearsed, even to her own ears.
She knows she is being ridiculous- all James had done was speak the truth, though it is as painful as it is raw. She cannot fault him for that.
Chapter 26: Blackstairs- "Can I kiss you?"
"Julian," Emma murmurs, the word soft as the wind that ruffles the curtains. She rarely calls him that, instead usually opting for that old childhood nickname, Jules. They are not children anymore, and these days the nickname leaves a foul taste in Julian's mouth. He remembers the pain he feels whenever Emma receives an injury- I bleed when you bleed- and sometimes wonders if that taste is a phantom imprint of Emma's experiences as she says the name, but he always dismisses those thoughts as quickly as they come.
She doesn't feel the same way, he knows- she looks at him and sees her beloved parabatai. He looks at her and sees his heart.
"Julian." Emma's voice is more insistent now, and she scoots closer to him beneath the covers. Julian hadn't registered the fact that they are in bed together until now, and his heart twists at the sight of Emma's bare shoulders. She kisses his cheek, the touch light enough that it feels almost non-existent. "You have to wake up."
"I don't want to." The honesty in his voice startles him; only Emma could ever bring forth such plain emotion from him, he knows.
"I know," Emma says; her voice seems tinged with real sadness, as though the thought of Julian leaving saddens her too. And yet her eyes still urge him to leave. Suffering is inevitable; both of them have accepted that to the point where they are willing to bring the pain upon themselves if only to outsmart fate.
Julian's heart twists again. "Can I kiss you?" he asks, lips loosened by the promise that this isn't real and will end soon anyway.
For once in his life, he has nothing to lose.
Julian has never experienced the light of Emma's smile in this way before. He's rarely seen her this happy- this open- and for a moment he wonders just how idealised this image of her is.
And then she speaks, and her voice is the surest he has ever heard it. "Of course." All doubts fly out of the window, and for a moment he hangs on the precipice of something huge-
Emma tilts her head, and Julian leans down, and for one gut-wrenching, heart-stopping moment, their lips brush together-
And then the precipice gives way and he falls, and he returns to the land of waking, where the real Emma will never look at him the way Dream Emma does.
The day drags on and on, and Julian longs for nightfall for every miserable second of it. His only relief is in sleep.
Chapter 27: Sizzy- "Because I love you."
"Well, that's the flower arrangements sorted." Simon let himself flop elegantly onto the couch beside Isabelle. Judging by the way she groaned at the stray elbow that almost buried itself in her ribs, Simon suspected it wasn't quite as elegant as he'd hoped.
A moment later, the irritable huffing ceased, replaced by a raised eyebrow and worried murmur. "Wait, you didn't order-?"
"There will be no tulips within a quarter-mile radius of the venue, don't worry." Simon slung an arm around her shoulders and drew her close against him, resisting the urge to congratulate himself on the smoothness of the gesture. I guess those balance and gracefulness runes have more than one use.
A second later, he began to wonder whether it was blasphemy to use the Angel's runes in such a careless way. He inwardly shrugged. Raziel already kinda hates me, to be honest. He probably expects this from me- he's like a disappointed but unsurprised grandpa.
"Only a quarter?" Isabelle asked, breaking through Simon's impending spiral over whether, now that Simon was a Shadowhunter, was Raziel now technically one of his hundred-times-great grandpas?
Isabelle rolled her eyes and leaned her head against his shoulder: her hair smelled of roses and that expensive perfume she always spritzed it with, and Simon tried not to inhale too deeply, lest he seem weird for wishing to commit everything about her to memory. He needn't have worried- there wasn't much he didn't already know about her. These days, Simon only noticed these things when he was looking for them. His heart panged at the reminder that this girl- this goddess- had allowed him to become privy to these pieces of her routine.
"Only a quarter-mile radius?" Isabelle asked, the husky, laughing lilt of her voice breaking through the dazed fog of Simon's thoughts.
"Well, we have to live dangerously sometimes. Alec wanted to make it a full mile. Something about not wanting to deal with Magnus' breakdown if your allergies made your eyes water and smear your makeup on your wedding day. He was very insistent, too, but I stood firm."
Sarcasm practically dripped from Isabelle's tone, though Simon also got the impression that she was fighting the urge to laugh. "Wow, you're a hero. You handled my big brother. Why on Earth do you do it?"
"Because I love you." Simon intended the words to be lighthearted, matching Isabelle's, but his tone came out heavy and laced with meaning. He'd never been able to say things like that offhandedly- the words grew in significance during the time it took them to move from his mind to his lips, and he'd never been able to change them back. Words had more meaning than the person saying them would ever fully know, and to say them in vain was to mislead those around him.
Isabelle tilted her head, catching his eye. She smiled softly. "Hey. I love you too, Si. So much." The sarcastic, lighthearted undertone to her words was gone, replaced by the same heaviness that had taken ahold of Simon's.
They were similar in that way, Simon realised; neither of them was able to let go of the deeper meaning to phrases like that- both of them understood the significance they should be afforded. Each understood the other in ways no one else did, and Simon couldn't help but smile at the poeticism of that.
Chapter 28: Haline- "Can I kiss you?"
Aline has never dared to dream of this. Vague images of soft skin and even softer lips curved into beautiful smiles used to haunt her, and for a long time, she saw them as nightmares. In the years since, she mourned the lost opportunities, stolen by the confusion and doubt of a girl who had been utterly certain of her own aloneness.
She has no time to mourn now, for those opportunities have finally shown themselves.
Helen's mouth quirks into a smile. The curves of your lips rewrite history, Aline thinks, the almost-forgotten quote resurfacing in a rush of tender emotion.
"Aline." Helen's eyes brighten like the sea beneath a midday sun, the sharp blue-green warming and softening with affection. Affection for her, Aline realises with a sort of abstract, barely-hopeful surprise. "What are you thinking about?"
Aline decides to be bold. "You."
Helen chuckles, fiddling with the edge of the picnic blanket they sit on. The roof of the Rome Institute is probably not intended as a hosting spot for a romantic rendezvous, but neither Helen nor Aline really care about conventions. "Smooth, Aline." She leans against the chimney beside her, the tips of her ears burning brighter than the setting sun.
"No, it's true. You're stunningly beautiful, Helen. I look at you and I want to write poetry. I mean, it wouldn't be good poetry, but still. The sentiment remains."
Helen looks at her with shining eyes. "You are..."
"Sweet? Wonderful? Gorgeous?"
"Yes." Helen glances at the sunset, the orange light spilling across her sharp features like molten gold. For a moment, Aline is sure that she is looking at an elegantly-carved sculpture, a representation of divine and unattainable beauty.
Those lips quirk into another smile when she glances Aline's way. "Can I kiss you?"
Aline's brain short-circuits. "I. Uh... Erm, I..."
"Oh, I'm so sorry." Helen's expression spasms. "I must have misread this, or-"
"Helen, wait! How could you have misread anything? We've been dating for three months." Aline glances in Helen's direction. "Right?"
"Yes, we have- by the Angel, we're on a date now."
"I know. Right. So that's cleared up." Aline turns to face her. "Erm... I would really like to kiss you. I just needed a moment to process because you are very beautiful and very sweet, and I am very attracted to you."
Helen blinks, then smiles. "You are the dream of my heart, Aline Penhallow. Now come here."
Aline shifts closer and tilts her head, closing her eyes. Sunlight warms her face at the same instant as Helen's kiss warms her heart, and for a moment Aline wonders whether she is truly floating, a hundred feet above the busy streets of Rome. She has never felt so light.
Chapter 29: Herongraystairs/ Jessa- "Breathe." and "What did I do to deserve this?"
Even within the murkiness of the Silent Brother enchantments, Brother Zachariah held onto the memory of love.
The other Brothers were different from him, both in their enchantments and in their motivations. They chose this life not as a last resort but as a sacred duty. It was their version of a death by the spawn of demons, he supposed; a pledge to use their extended lives to assist others.
Zachariah had no issue with his duty; every Shadowhunter was expected to be willing to give up their life for the Angel's cause, and Silent Brothers understood this better than anyone. Regular Nephilim received their payment in the relief of death. Silent Brothers received theirs’ when their bodies became unable to sustain them any longer.
Zachariah sometimes wondered how long his life would last.
Will- sweet, kind, beautiful Will- had been utterly mortal and therefore incapable of following Zachariah and Tessa, just as they had been incapable of following him. He hoped Will existed as peacefully now as he had been at the time of his death, with his head resting on the memory of Tessa's shoulder and his hand in the memory of Zachariah's.
Tessa- sweet, kind, beautiful Tessa- was immortal, even more so than Zachariah. She would never die of old age like Will or crumple to ashes as Zachariah was more than likely to. She would endure, with Will's memory around her wrist and Zachariah's humanity resting in the hollow of her throat.
Brother Zachariah- cold, unfeeling, desperate Zachariah- was the closest thing to immortal that a Shadowhunter could be. He was not mortal enough to join Will and not immortal enough to remain with Tessa. Each of them was separated from the others by wretched fate and circumstance, and Zachariah's only comfort was the name etched into his staff and the yearly meetings on a bridge that he now had to fight to remember.
Breathe, said the voice of Tessa. She stood out from the low, awful murmur of the other Silent Brothers. She stood out from everyone and everything, a roaring inferno amidst a sea of candles. Jem, it's alright.
He knew she was a figment of his imagination, a comfort created by his desperate mind amidst the shadows of the Silent City. That did not change the fact that she was a welcome presence. Tessa. You're here. What did I do to deserve this?
You were suffering. Her voice sounded shallow and distant, as though she was speaking from the other end of an underground tunnel. I share part of my heart with you, Jem. I know these things.
Zachariah's mind recoiled. A figment of my subconscious knows nothing.
I live in you, Jem. I know you just as well as you know yourself, for we share part of the same soul, split between the three of us. Physical limits like distance and death and enchantments mean nothing in the face of that kind of love. Each of the three of us takes comfort in the fact that we had each other, and that comfort will forever exist within us.
A phantom hand brushed his mind, the gesture akin to smoothing down a lock of hair. Jem's consciousness leaned into it.
Please do not lose hope, Jem. I do not think I could bear it.
Chapter 30: Arianna- "At least try, would you?"
"Ari." Anna's eyes flashed, her lips tightening at the corners. In the harsh light of the ballroom, her expression seemed made of stone, like a cold statue of marble and adamas, an untouchable icon of blinding light.
Ariadne did not shield her eyes. "Anna. You look- very nice. Are those new cufflinks?"
"What are you doing here?"
Ariadne felt her face twist into a scowl. "Making a fool of myself, it seems. You refuse to answer my requests for us to speak, so I took matters into my own hands." An elbow brushed against her back, reminding her of the fact that she currently stood on the outskirts of the dancefloor and was making a scene, judging by the uneasy and openly curious looks being sent her way. A month ago, those eyes on her would have twisted her heart. Now, they were a mild nuisance, standing in the way of her intentions.
She took a few steps back, knowing Anna would follow, and resumed speaking in more hurried, albeit quieter, tones. "I told you once to be gentle with me. Do you remember?"
Anna's expression twisted. "I worked hard to lock those memories away. I am not sure I am capable of unleashing them on the world again."
Ariadne whipped her head around to face Anna quickly enough that a few strands of her hair came loose, brushing her throat. When she spoke, her voice cracked. "Well, at least try, would you? You owe yourself- you owe me- that much. You visited me in the infirmary when I was sick- you comforted me; told me I mattered to you; told me not to die. Hearing your voice was my only moment of happiness amidst that pain and chaos, and when you left you took the light and happiness with you." Ariadne tapped the pink camellia in Anna's lapel, smoothing down the petals with one gloved hand. In that moment, every other distraction fading into the blurred background of their intricate painting, leaving only them in the foreground.
Ariadne's hand still cupped the flower, her fingertips brushing the dark fabric of Anna's jacket. Ariadne found herself wishing to remove her gloves. She glanced up, into Anna's uncertain, wild eyes. A few more strands of her hair tumbled loose, falling into what was sure to be an awful disarray. Her worry at the impropriety paled in her desperation to make Anna listen.
She released the flower and rested her hand over Anna's heart, feeling its juddering, irregular beat. "Open the box, Anna, and look inside. You will be surprised by what you discover deep within yourself."
Chapter 31: KitTy- "What- and I say this in the kindest way possible- the fuck?" and "Please don't kill me. It would make such a mess."
Kit's phone torch flickered and died, taking with it any semblance of comfort he'd managed to achieve. The faint, illuminated outline of the moon was wreathed by stark grey clouds, providing barely any light. The dead trees of the forest loomed high above him, turned black by the lack of light. The branches looked like spindling claws, making Kit think of Mantid demons. He shuddered.
What made you think it was a good idea to take a moonlit stroll this late at night? He inwardly sighed. Because, despite what you desperately want to believe, you're a romantic at heart and have been listening to way too many self-care podcasts.
He pocketed his phone and pulled his hoodie more tightly around his shoulders, readjusting the hood that already covered his head.
It was then that the dark blur slammed into him, sending him flying backwards and into the damp leaves carpeting the ground with a squelch.
Nearby, someone let out a ragged breath.
Instinct took over. Kit pushed up and kicked his legs out, throwing himself back onto his feet. He caught sight of a glint of something metallic and twisted to the side, narrowly avoiding his attacker's second blow. They stumbled forward with a strangled gasp, and Kit pressed his advantage, gripping their shoulders and drawing them close to drive his knee into their solar plexus. They gagged and dropped their knife, shoving him away hard enough that his head smacked into a nearby tree branch.
Kit's vision swam, panic rising like a wave in his chest. He blinked, desperately trying to regain control of his senses, but the moment his vision began to clear, a hand knotted in the front of his hoodie and threw him to the ground. There was another squelching sound, and for a wild, panicked moment, all Kit could think was, these clothes will have to be incinerated to get rid of the mud.
Then a hand was tugging his hood down and a knife was at his throat, and suddenly all he could think was, grey. Grey eyes. My killer has grey eyes.
In the rush of the fight, neither of them had stopped moving long enough to get a good look at each other. Now, both stopped and stared, panting harsh, ragged breaths.
Kit was the first to catch his breath. "What- and I say this in the kindest way possible- the fuck? Oh, Jesus Christ. Please don't kill me-" he glanced down at the knife still pressed against his throat- "it would make such a mess."
"Christopher." Ty tossed the knife away as though the hilt was burning him. "I've been tracking a demon through this forest-"
"It's an enchanted forest and therefore Scholomance domain. The wards got triggered by activity at the borders, so they asked me to check."
"And you decided to attack me because..?"
It was hard to see anything in the dim light, but Kit could have sworn that the tops of Ty's cheekbones darkened. "I didn't know it was you."
Kit raised his hands and gestured to their surroundings. "How many blond demons wearing expensive hoodies are currently wandering around this forest?"
Ty sheathed the knife and rolled away, sitting on the ground with a pained sigh. "It's covered in mud, Christopher. It looks anything but expensive right now."
"It wouldn't be covered in mud if you hadn't attacked me." He sat up, gingerly pressing his fingers to the back of his head. He winced. "I think you've given me a concussion, by the way."
"My stomach will be covered in bruises from that kick, but I'm not complaining."
"You just did."
Ty ignored him, standing with a wince. His eyes darted around the treeline, travelling from branch to branch quicker than Kit could keep up with. "It was a misunderstanding. We can go our separate ways now."
"What?" This whole ordeal had been a rush, enough so that he hadn't had to face the fact that he was seeing Ty again for the first time in three years. "You can't just leave."
"Why not?" The you did went unspoken.
Kit's stomach twisted. "Da- Jem and Tessa would want to see you. They have some kind of history with your family and, like, a load of others too. It's a whole thing. Something about idiotic Edwardian teenagers and their poor decision-making skills. They get very emotional about it; it's kind of a touchy subject for them." He may have been rambling.
Ty sighed. "Okay. But I don't want any awkward questions, so don't tell them I'm there. Just sneak me in through your window or something."
But if Ty wasn't going to see Jem and Tessa, then why was he coming at all?
Ty smiled ever so slightly, turning back to face Kit. "It'll be just like before, Watson."
Chapter 32: Carstairs siblings- "Don't make me say it again."
Alastair burst out laughing, his face crumpling as he sagged forwards, shoulders shaking.
Cordelia huffed, blowing a chunk of tangled hair out of her eyes. "This isn't funny, Alastair!"
"Hah!" He took a deep inhale, then huffed a laugh again. He covered his mouth, hiding his wide grin. "This is hilarious, Layla. Can you repeat it?"
Cordelia sagged into one of Alastair's armchairs with a disgruntled sigh. He was being unhelpfully unsympathetic to her cause. "Don't make me say it again. The first time was humiliating enough."
"By the Angel, Maman's going to faint when she finds out."
"If. If she finds out, dâdâsh."
Alastair ignored her, letting out another chuckle. "Oh, by the Angel. You lost Cortana because a Dragonidae demon ate it, and you were too busy making eyes at that fiancee of yours to even-"
"Now, that's incorrect! James and I engaged in a split-second of eye contact, during which the Dragonidae demon happened to coincidentally swallow Cortana. The two are completely unrelated."
Alastair took his hands away from his mouth and shot her a rare grin. "Let's agree to disagree, shall we? Even if I know I'm right."
Cordelia reached for the golden khanjar lying on the low table in front of her and used it to gesture at Alastair. "You know, one of these days we are going to have a serious discussion about your problems with admitting defeat."
"I don’t think you’re currently allowed to criticise me, Layla joon. You just lost a priceless family heirloom. "
Cordelia pointed the dagger at him, narrowing her eyes. "It was an accident, for the last time! And I'm going to use a Tracking rune to find it again after nightfall!"
"Imagine if that was how you went down in the Carstairs legacy, though." Alastair reached for the cabinet he kept his weapon collection in, shooting her an amused glance. "Cordelia Carstairs, the last wielder of Cortana, who lost one of the most famous swords in the world due to a moment of lovestruck teenage idiocy, thereby dooming the Carstairs line to being absolutely ordinary."
"We're interesting even without Cortana! I can recite Layla and Majnun from memory-"
"That never ceases to both amaze and worry me."
"- And you have an extremely morbid interest in true crime."
"I have a socially acceptable interest in true crime," Alastair corrected, setting a folding spear down on the table with a thunk. He gestured to it. "I'm assuming you know how to use one of these?"
"It depends on your reaction. So, no." Cordelia raised the dagger in her hand. "I know how to use khanjars, though," she hinted.
Alastair sighed. "By the Angel."
"Fine." He pointed at her. "But if I find so much as a scratch on that blade, you'll be paying it off for the next fifty years."
Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Daggers aren't that expensive, dâdâsh."
"They are when they're ancient Turan heirlooms gifted by Maman." Alastair sank into the armchair opposite her, slinging his legs over the side. The folding spear he fiddled with was decorated by a scene of a viper twining around a tree branch, lying in wait. The blade was edged by what looked to be silver, catching the evening light and turning to a soft gold.
Cordelia raised an eyebrow. "I am beginning to see that this family's attachment to beautiful weapons may be getting out of hand."
Alastair opened and closed his mouth several times. "To be honest, I can't argue with that."
Amusement bubbled in her chest; it had been so long since she and Alastair had been able to jest like this, and despite the severity of the situation, Cordelia found herself wishing to capture this moment so that she might revisit and look upon it again during moments of weakness.
She'd missed having a confidant, she realised. Her childhood had been achingly lonely, with only her correspondence with Lucie and her bond with her brother keeping her company. And then Alastair had gone away to school, and nothing had been the same since.
She sometimes resented her father for that- he should have known better, should have stopped and thought and realised that the world did not look kindly on those it deemed different. And then other times the sadness and nostalgia left no room for resentment.
This time was different, though. The past was unchangeable, and to dwell on it would only serve to tarnish moments like these. A long time ago, Alastair had told her to stay with him. She'd vowed to herself that she always would, and that vow would remain forever unbroken.
"Do you want me to help you?" Alastair's eyes flicked over to her. He shifted awkwardly in his seat, expression sobering. "With retrieving Cortana, I mean. I very much dislike the thought of you going alone."
Cordelia smiled. "I would appreciate that, dâdâsh-e azizam."
Chapter 33: Arianna- "If I were you, I'd kiss me."
Anna let out a long, tired sigh, leaning back against the doorframe. She massaged her temples, glad for the escape from the blinding lights of the ballroom. What was wrong with her? That same ballroom was filled to the brim with beautiful girls, all of them deserving the honour of Anna’s attention.
But now, ever since the incident with the demon poison, all Anna could think whenever she looked at them was not Ariadne. The pretty girl with the smiling eyes wasn’t Esme Trueblood, she was Not Ariadne. The tall girl with the shy laughter wasn’t Jane Ravenscar, she was Not Ariadne. It was exhausting, and in the long term was sure to be extremely detrimental to Anna’s reputation.
Anna let out a low string of curse words.
Someone cleared their throat.
Anna glanced up, already recognising the voice, and tried to remember how to breathe. “Ari. Why are you here?”
Ariadne’s face tightened, a crease appearing between her eyebrows as she frowned. “I was here first.”
Anna closed her eyes. “I can’t escape you, it seems.”
“What on Earth is that supposed to mean?”
Anna crossed her arms close to her chest, gripping the sides of her jacket as though she could hold the broken pieces of herself together. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, it does.” Ariadne crossed the room to stand before her, skirts swishing and crinkling with the momentum of the jolting movement. “Tell me, Anna. I do not think my heart could take it if you did not. I have never wanted to understand someone so much.”
She opened her eyes. “What do you want me to say? Do you want me to tell you that your face plagues my sleep, that your smile wakes me in a way that no sunrise ever could?” The words tumbled free of her lips, quicker than Anna could keep up with. “Do you want me to tell you that I cannot kiss- cannot so much as flirt- with any woman who is not you because my very soul rejects the idea? I cannot drink, for the action fills me with thoughts of your lips. I cannot sleep, for the action fills me with thoughts of your bed. I cannot breathe, because doing so fills me with reminders of the time when you almost ceased to do so. You live in my very being. Your soul has joined itself to mine, and I cannot exist without thinking of you-” Anna cut herself off, gasping.
Ariadne’s eyes were wide and shining, and her mouth- her beautiful, full mouth- opened and closed several times.
Anna’s voice was very quiet, tinged by desperation. “If you were me, what would you do?”
Ariadne took a step closer as though in a trance, the skirts of her gown crinkling and swishing, and then she was pressed against Anna, her legs and her hips and her chest all intoxicatingly close. She looked up at Anna through long, dark eyelashes. “If I were you, I’d kiss me.”
Anna’s heart skipped a beat, adrenaline shooting through her veins. “You- you give very good advice,” was all she could say.
Ariadne smiled, her lips curving in a perfect bow. “Go on,” she murmured, “I give you permission.”
And then Anna’s hands were on Ariadne’s face, tilting her chin up, tangling in the hair at the nape of her neck, shaking and desperate. Ariadne’s hands gripped Anna’s shoulders, digging into the seams of her jacket, clutching at her as she arched her back and caught her lips.
And finally, as Anna kissed this beautiful girl, all she could think was, Ariadne.
Chapter 34: Blackdale- "You and I both know that you aren't capable of that."
Lucie pauses her furious tapping, biting her lip. "Jesse, what's another word for green?"
Jesse shoots her a smile from his position on the windowsill. "I assume you are describing Jerrod?"
"Of course. He is the primary love interest for brave Lucretia, after all."
Jesse chuckles. "I've never been good with words, Lucie. You possess more refined skill in that area than I could ever dream of."
Lucie feels her face warm. "You are very kind, Jesse." She shakes herself, glancing mindlessly back to the typewriter. "But I still need a suitable substitution."
Jesse chuckles, drawing Lucie's attention. The moon, perched high in the sky, illuminates him from behind, shining through the slightly-transparent edges of him like a stained glass window. His eyes light up like twin-
"Emerald!" Lucie bursts out, the word coming to her in an instant. Jesse's lips twitch upwards at the corners. "I told you so. You should afford yourself more credit, Lucie. I cannot think of anyone more suited to writing this story."
Despite the kindness of his words, Lucie feels her face fall. "That's the problem; only I can put stories like this out into the world, which is a rather troubling dilemma. The only way my writing will ever amount to anything would be at the cost of disappointing my family-"
"You and I both know that you aren't capable of that, Lucie." Jesse's eyes shine. "Your parents are wonderful people and they adore you. You could never disappoint them."
"I know." Lucie sighs. "I just don't want to make their lives difficult."
"At the expense of yourself?" Jesse stands and crosses to sit on the desk, resting his hands on his lap. If he were alive, Lucie would surely be able to feel the warmth of his body. Instead, he gives off a faint chill, like an open window in winter, leeching the heat from its surroundings.
"We do not always get to live the lives we dream," Lucie says simply, her voice flat. "Sometimes we simply exist, fulfil what is expected of us, and fade into obscurity."
"That's awful." Jesse's pale face twists into a scowl. "To think that you may never know what your talents could have come to... It saddens me deeply, as I'm sure it does you." His face softens, the harsh lines of his scowl smoothing. "Life is too short, and your talent too tremendous, to waste it on a life of blood and misery."
Lucie shoots him a sharp look. "You make me sound like a wretched coward."
"You are neither of those things, Lucie; quite the opposite, in fact." Jesse frowns, his voice softening. "But I see the sadness in your eyes when you finish one of your stories because the journey is over, and you feel as though that work amounted to nothing."
Lucie gapes at him. "H-how do you know that?"
Jesse glances away, refusing to meet her eyes. It could be Lucie's imagination, but she is almost certain that his cheeks have gained colour. "I- pay attention to you."
Lucie feels a blush spread up her cheeks. "And why is that?"
"You- You are an enigma, Lucie. You wear your heart on your sleeve and yet still manage to surprise me every day with each fragment of your soul that you reveal." He glances toward her, his eyes unguarded and beseeching. "Noticing these things about you allows me a view inside your mind, something I treasure more than should be possible."
Lucie's heart skips a beat. "That sounds like a confession, Jesse."
"Do you want it to be?"
"Why would I not?"
Jesse's eyes shutter. "This can never last. Surely you’d be better off not starting something that can only end in disaster?”
Lucie longs to reach out to him but settles for saying: “My mind and my heart have always been at odds with each other. Logic and sensibility be damned; I'd much rather start this and live through it than never experience it at all.”
Jesse gives a sad smile. "Your capacity for hope never ceases to amaze me, Lucie."
Lucie is silent for a long moment, her thoughts spinning. "Jesse, I- I wish I could touch you," she says on impulse, the words tumbling free of her lips before she can swallow them down. The thought is ever-present in her mind, but she has never vocalised it until now.
"Why?" Jesse's question is very quiet, a low murmur amid the rushing tide of Lucie's thoughts.
Lucie smiles. "May I tell you a secret?"
"The book I just finished writing, it's about us. Lucretia is me, and Jerrod is you. Every scene where they dance, or spar, or kiss; those are all things I hope to do with you one day." Lucie feels her cheeks warm, her pulse racing. She hopes her anticipation and anxiety do not show on her face, though the reflection of her inner turmoil written across Jesse's features does lessen her worry.
Jesse reaches out, resting his hand over hers where it rests, shaking slightly, on the keys of her typewriter. Though she cannot feel his touch, Lucie still allows herself to imagine the callouses of his fingertips brushing against her skin, the soft clasp of his palm over hers. Though his hand leeches the heat from its surroundings, Lucie feels nothing but warmth when in Jesse's presence.
"I know," he says at last. "The names of the characters and their descriptions... they fit us rather well."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"I feared you would abandon the story." He gave a rueful smile. "I wanted to see what you would write for us if given the chance. I wanted to see our story unfold."
"And?" Lucie asks, raising an eyebrow. "What did you think?"
"It's beautiful." Jesse's smile widens. "You and your mind are beautiful, and the story is perfect. I only wish we could live it."
"Do not condemn yourself to this fate so soon." Lucie leans forward, teetering on the precipice of something huge. She feels as though one wrong word or breath might shatter the delicate intimacy of the atmosphere around them. "I wrote this story for us, and I intend to see it come to pass. Mark my words, Jesse Blackthorn: One day, I shall be able to dance and spar with and kiss you in the way that I so much wish to. I swear it, on my own happiness."
The moonlight shines through Jesse's sad smile. "It's alright, Lucie. I accepted my fate a long time ago."
"Well, I haven't." Lucie softens her voice. "And I never intend to; why accept something that can be changed? If you found yourself in a pitch-black room with an unlit candle and a match in your hand, surely you would strike the match? You would not simply drop it and forget it, dooming yourself to a life of darkness." Her heart stutters from the emotion bridling inside, her lips twitching up and down. The backs of her eyes sting. "Let me be your light, Jesse."
Chapter 35: Herongraystairs- "I will always love you."
William. The hood of Jem's cloak obscures every part of his face except the downward tilt of his lips. You cannot keep doing this.
"What is the alternative?" Will asks, his voice sharp as glass. Tessa, sitting in the chair beside his bed, lets out a low sigh.
"I'm sorry, Jem." She reaches out a hand to him, straightening the collar of his Silent Brother robes as he leans over Will's pale form.
The alternative, William, is that I do not have to live in fear of the day my parabatai truly injures himself in an ill-fated attempt to have me visit him.
Will scowls. "I'd rather have a broken arm than go more than a month without laying eyes on you."
Jem's movements are jagged, his tone shakily clipped. I am a Silent Brother, William. My oaths make it clear that all ties to my past come second to my work.
Tessa gestures to Will's arm, blinking up at Jem as innocuously as possible. "Why not have both? You can complete your work by healing him, in the process spending time with us, without breaking your oaths."
If Silent Brothers could sigh, Tessa suspects Jem would. Tessa. Don't encourage him.
Tessa takes his hand. His skin is cold beneath hers, his muscles tense, and yet the emotion she senses beneath the restraint almost stops her heart. Beneath it all, he is still her and Will's Jem. "We miss you, Jem. More than words can describe. The three of us share a single heart, and to fully sever that bond would be to break the very fabric of reality. We have already suffered so much, and we will always love each other in a way that transcends death."
She reaches out with her free hand, gently clasping Will's. He shoots her a small smile, and Jem turns his hand around in hers so that he can give it a gentle squeeze.
"We are but dust and shadows, and even then we will still find each other."
Chapter 36: Carstairs siblings- "Do not blame yourself for what has been done to you."
TW for references to alcoholism
This follows on from a previous oneshot I wrote (From "TSC Prompts, Chapter 58, Carstairs siblings- "Nothing is wrong with you."") You don't need to read that to understand this, though.
Alastair drew his arms away from his eyes, shifting into a sitting position. His dark eyes shone brightly in the moonlight; the tear tracks on his cheeks were clearly visible in the silver glow. “Thank you, Layla.”
Cordelia reached out and gently wiped the tears away from his eyes. She smiled at him, taking his hands in hers. His fingers still trembled slightly; Cordelia tightened her grip, forcing them to still. “Don’t mention it. You’ve done so much for me; it’s time I did something for you.”
“You don’t have to do anything for me, Layla.” Alastair’s red-rimmed eyes were wearily stubborn.
Cordelia squeezed his hands again. “You gave up everything for me. I owe you my childhood.”
Alastair sighed, closing his eyes. He massaged the bridge of his nose. “Layla, I-”
“Don’t give me some silly speech about big brothers having a duty to their younger sisters.” Cordelia kept her grip firm, refusing to let Alastair pull away from her. “What you gave up for me went well beyond what anyone would be expected to sacrifice.”
Alastair opened his eyes. “I would do it again, Layla. I have- many regrets.” His eyes glittered in the moonlight. “But I will never regret sparing you the pain that came with the knowledge of father’s affliction.” He shot her a wry smile. “So, no. You owe me nothing. I didn’t expect any form of payment when I was ten, and I certainly don’t now.”
Cordelia’s heart twisted. “That doesn’t change the fact that you suffered, Alas.”
“I was willing,” Alastair said with a jagged shrug. “Better me than you, khahare azizam.” The downward tilt of his mouth was very obvious in the moonlight.
“It wasn’t willing, Alas. You were ten. When I was ten, I still thought a faerie lived inside Cortana’s hilt and came out at night to clean the blade.”
Alastair raised an eyebrow. “Your point?”
Cordelia leaned forward, her tone tinged with desperate insistence in her quest to make him understand. “You were too young for that responsibility, dâdâsh. You weren’t willing; you were a child. Don’t blame yourself for what has been done to you.”
Alastair’s eyes flashed in a warning. “Cordelia.” He shook his head. “Don’t.”
Cordelia sighed, shifting in her seat. She squeezed Alastair’s hands again. “I’m sorry. I just- I can’t stand to hear you blame yourself for everything.”
Alastair’s chuckle was mirthless. “Most things are my fault, it seems.”
“By the Angel, Alastair.” Cordelia felt bitter tears sting her eyes, and wondered belatedly at what point her brother had become so fragmented. How had she never noticed? “You cannot control everything, and to expect yourself to is ridiculous. Your actions are your own, but at a certain point, things leave your control, Alas. You have to learn to let go.”
Alastair’s expression faltered. “I have to learn a lot of things, it seems. Or, well, show I’ve learnt them. I-” he paused, biting at his lip.
Cordelia squeezed his hand again. “Go on, dâdâsh.” This was the most Alastair has spoken about himself in years; Cordelia refused to let him leave her. Not now and not ever again.
Alastair shifted in his seat, letting out a low exhale. He extricated himself from her hold long enough to wipe at his eyes with the heel of his hand. “I- it’s easier to blame myself, Layla.” In the light of the moon, his rueful smile seemed edged with silver. “To this day, part of me still believes I could have prevented Father’s affliction, or at least done more than pick up the pieces. All it took was you finding out for him to be willing to go to the Basilias, after all.” Alastair’s voice was rueful and far too accepting. He gave a small, forced shrug. “I suppose I just wasn’t enough of a motivation for him.”
Cordelia swallowed down her tears. “Alastair, don’t you dare believe that. You aren’t thinking clearly.”
Alastair laughed at that. “Quite the opposite, Layla.” He took her hands again, giving them a small squeeze. “For the first time in almost six years, I am finally being truthful with myself.”
“You’re thirty seconds away from breaking down again, Alastair. You are about the furthest thing possible from clear-headed.” Cordelia shot him what she hoped was an unimpressed look, furrowing her brow and pursing her lips.
Alastair snorted, his shining eyes lit by a hint of amusement. “You look like an angry duck.”
“I feel like one, too.” She groaned, rubbing at her back. The stiff taffeta of her gown gave a crinkling sound. “And this corset is ill-fitting enough that it gives me about the same posture."
Alastair rolled his eyes, some of his demeanour seeming to compose. "Layla, go back to your engagement party.”
“I already told you, Alas. It’s finished. Mostly.” She sighed, leaning back into her seat. “Most of the guests have left, and the party itself has deteriorated into Mr Herondale reminiscing about giant worms, scones, and the joys of love. Both Mr Lightwoods looked rather uncomfortable, and Mrs Herondale looked as though she were seriously considering tackling her husband. In all honesty, finding you was a welcome distraction.” She paused, her heart twisting in her chest. “Well, until I found you- like this.”
Alastair leaned his head against the curtained carriage window with a tired sigh. “I apologise, khahare. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin this night for you. You should be celebrating with your friends.”
I don’t think there’s much to celebrate, Cordelia thought. Other than my impending year of pining after a man who only has eyes for another, though I’m more likely to celebrate the end of that. Outwardly, she said: “You could never ruin this for me, Alastair. You’re far more important than a few lost minutes of small talk.”
Alastair’s only response was to squeeze her hand tighter, turning his face away. Cordelia disliked feeling helpless almost as much as Alastair disliked feeling pitied, which was the only reason she accepted this as the best response she would get.
In all honesty, the last thing she wanted was to see her brother any worse than this; Alastair’s walls had been up for so long that she’d begun to be unable to tell the difference between the mask he wore and the real Alastair beneath it. Much as she hated to admit it, the sudden change had shaken her.
Cordelia loved her brother and relied on him, in the way that isolated children had no choice but to. Her reliance had been invisible, though, and unknown even to herself until a few weeks ago.
Truth be told, the fact that Alastair was finally beginning to rely on her made the wheel feel as though it was coming full circle.
Chapter 37: Thomastair- "Let's get out of here." "Alone?"
Thomas sometimes wondered just how much of Alastair's disinterest in everything around him was feigned.
(Well, in everything, not everyone; in private, Alastair was rapt and attentive, his dark eyes staring into Thomas' soul and compelling him to lay it bare. Thomas had so rarely felt seen, even by his dearest friends; the change was a breath of fresh air, and Thomas was unashamed to admit that he bathed in the attention. Finally, he'd found someone who saw him.)
"Lightwood, as much as I enjoy your attention," Alastair started, speaking out of the corner of his mouth, "perhaps you should cease staring at me like that?"
"Like what?" Thomas murmured. Alastair's shoulder dug into his bicep in the crowded meeting hall, their chairs pushed close together. The sensation was distractingly familiar; Thomas could not help but wonder at what point it had become that way. At what point had mutual, enjoyed company blended into familiarity? Thomas didn't think he could pinpoint it if he tried: after all, you didn't remember the exact moment a meteor shower began. You remembered the events: the dizzying array of lights and the emotion you felt as you beheld the sheer beauty of it.
Alastair shrugged ever so slightly, his shoulder jostling Thomas' bicep. "You wear your heart on your sleeve."
"And that's a flaw?"
"What?" Alastair's eyes widened. His voice, though still a murmur, was tinged with insistence. "No. No, it isn't, Thomas. It's one of the best things about you- and bear in mind, there are many excellent things about you."
Thomas smiled. "Flatterer," he breathed.
Alastair's elbow dug into his side.
Ahead of them, Charles stood on a raised platform: red in the face; arms outstretched; voice raised. The typical narcissistic politician. Thomas thought he was being perhaps a bit too dramatic for a speech about Clave salary wages. Several Shadowhunters were making for the exits as discreetly as possible- Thomas couldn’t blame them.
Charles's wild gesticulating sent his glass of water on the podium stand flying into the crowd, splashing several people in the front row. Thomas almost felt bad for him until he resumed speaking again.
Alastair made a small, disgruntled sound in the back of his throat, and muttered something that sounded like, "ducking idiot". Thomas suspected the word may not have been 'ducking'.
"Language," Thomas murmured.
"English," Alastair replied, voice tinged with false confusion. ”I thought you knew that one?”
Thomas bit down on his lip to keep from laughing.
Alastair's lips twitched at the corners. His dark eyes flicked up to Thomas for a second. "Let's get out of here."
Alastair gave him an exasperated look, his voice dripping with fond sarcasm. "Well, we can invite Charles if you like." Thomas wilfully denied the thrill that went through him at the word 'we'. Alastair glanced to the stage. "Though he is perhaps perspiring a bit too much at the moment."
"Such a shame." Thomas shifted to the side: the sheer mass of his form dictated that he always sit in an aisle seat, which was rather convenient in times like these. "I suppose we shall have to leave accompanied." He was rapidly discovering that feigning disappointment was rather difficult. "A crying shame."
He reached for the side door, sparing a moment to internally thank Aunt Tessa for installing multiple exits. He held it open for Alastair.
"Thank you," Alastair murmured, slipping past him and into the corridor beyond.
Thomas closed the door behind them and fell into step beside Alastair. He tried to resist the urge to memorise the feel of his shoulder against Thomas' arm. It was easier said than done.
"My friends could very well hear about this," Thomas said, just for the sake of having something to say.
In the dim glow of the Witchlight torches, Alastair's eyes shone like black gems. "Lots of people were leaving; Charles's presence could bore a corpse. What makes us any different to them?"
Thomas raised an eyebrow. "Corpses?"
"Don't be daft, Lightwood," Alastair said with an exasperated smile. "The people leaving, I meant. Why are we different from them?"
Thomas felt his lips twitch. "Why do I get the impression that a trap is being laid?"
"Don't answer a question with a question."
Thomas grinned. "But I like-" love- "how vexed you become."
"Fine." Thomas dragged a hand down his face. "I don't really know, to be honest. Most of the people leaving weren't... well, you know..."
"I really don't."
"Together. They were- just friends."
Alastair raised an eyebrow. "Exactly- your friends won't suspect anything is amiss. They'll just belittle your taste in platonic companions. As they should, to be perfectly honest."
Thomas sighed and caught his elbow, pulling him into a secluded alcove that was partially hidden behind a heavy tapestry. It swung back into place as he released it, rounding on Alastair. "You can't seriously mean that."
Alastair glanced to the side. "You know, anyone could walk by and see us if they craned their neck a little."
"They're busy listening to Charles yammer on," Thomas said with a shrug. "We'll be left alone. Now, please cease insulting yourself."
"Anytime you have to start a sentence with 'technically'," Thomas started, raising an eyebrow, "you're already doomed."
Alastair opened his mouth, then closed it.
Thomas tugged at his sleeve. "See?” He softened his voice. “I hope you do. I cannot stand the thought of you not realising your own value. I-I wish I could somehow make you view yourself the way I view you."
Alastair's expression faltered. "You are the kindest, brightest soul I have ever met, Thomas," he said unexpectedly. Thomas' heart skipped a beat. "There's a quote," Alastair continued. "'The wound is the place the Light touches you'. I cannot help but think that you are the light, Thomas." He gave a rueful little smile. "In that case, feel free to wound me."
Thomas's heart gave a sharp twist. "Are you... quoting Persian poetry to me?"
Alastair's smile glinted in the dim light. "Rumi, to be exact."
"You know the way to my heart." Thomas couldn't help but smile at that. Being known, in his opinion, was the highest form of love. "Though, I suppose that's easy when you share it."
Alastair's gaze deepened. "And vice versa. You have for some time now." His voice lowered with sincerity. "And I would not have it any other way."
Thomas's heart thundered harder than Balios's hooves. "Alastair- I... kalamaat az vasf-e eshgh-e man be to aajezand." The words slipped out before he could stop them. Words cannot describe my love for you.
Alastair's eyes were very, very wide. Even in the dim light, the way his cheeks were flushed was obvious. "And you know the way to my heart, too, clearly." His gaze softened. "Aasheghetam, Thomas." I love you. "Forever and always."
Thomas' heart gave another sharp twist, like a bird taking rapid flight. Then warmth began to bask his soul, and his heart soared.