Alec’s sitting on the cold stone floor of his cell in the City of Bones, arms crossed and resting on his bent knees. He wonders why the Silent Brothers bothered to lock him in, he’s here of his own volition, after all.
He can hear Isabelle pacing back and forth, back and forth in the cell next to his, cursing quietly. All the way here, she tried to dissuade him from doing this, she pleaded and yelled and then pleaded again, but he didn’t listen. He can’t let her go through this alone.
He gave his bow and quiver to Magnus before the Silent Brothers took him and Isabelle away. They were the agreed price, after all. He wasn’t happy when Magnus asked for them, but now… now he’s glad his weapons will be safe.
“You don’t have to do that,” Magnus says softly, an imploring look in his eyes.
“I thought you would be happy,” Alec admits. “If I go with Izzy, if I let them strip me of my runes, I won’t be able to marry Lydia, after all.”
Magnus steps closer. “Oh, Alexander, I don’t want you to marry her, but I want to see you suffering even less…”
Alec’s heart clenches and he looks away.
Magnus grips the bow and quiver tightly and brings them to his chest, as if he would rather hug Alec but he doesn’t dare. “When it’s over, when it’s done,” he says gently, “come to me, you and Izzy both. I’ll take care of you, I promise.”
Alec looks at him. “Why?” he asks softly.
And Magnus smiles painfully. “I told you, if something happened to you…” He shakes his head.
There’s a loud bang that reverberates through the halls of the City of Bones, followed by rushing footsteps and a voice, yelling something, arguing, demanding… Jace?
Alec raises his head and listens. Yes, it is Jace, coming closer, towards their cells, and Isabelle’s now calling their brother’s name, asking what’s going on. There are loud noises, keys rattling, locks screeching.
But Alec’s just too empty to care. He has seen so many things he holds in high regard trampled over the last few days - Jace betrayed him, their parents were in the Circle, orders were given to torture suspects based on simple hearsay - and he feels like everything’s crumbling around him, like nothing’s real anymore, like he’s floating untethered. And maybe, just maybe if he leaves all this behind, he can start anew, live a life that actually makes sense to him again…
The lock on his cell rattles and the door flies open, and there’s Jace standing there, in the torches’ glow, in all his golden glory. And Alec remembers a time not so long ago when just looking at his parabatai would’ve made his heart lurch. Now? Now all he feels is wariness.
“Alec,” Jace breathes out in relief and rushes in, Isabelle appearing in the doorway behind him. “You’re both free to go. Clary gave the Cup to Lydia. She called, the Inquisitor ordered the Silent Brothers to let Izzy go,” he blurts out, dropping to his knees in front of Alec.
But Alec just stares at him, because there’s… nothing. His mind is blank. He was so certain that they would be exiled that now that it’s apparently not happening, his mind’s simply refusing to grasp it. What world do they live in if justice can be bought to easily?
“Did you hear me?” Jace asks when Alec doesn’t react. “You can both go back home. Everything’s okay now.” Jace’s voice grows a little urgent when Alec still fails to respond, and he raises his hands, lets them hover over Alec’s arms, wanting to touch his parabatai but not daring to. “Alec?”
They’re going home… But instead of relief, Alec feels a heavy weight settle on his shoulders when he realizes what it means: going back to being the Clave’s puppet, back to hiding, back to a marriage he doesn’t want but considers necessary… It feels more like a punishment than salvation.
“When it’s over, come to me…”
“When it’s over…”
It will never be over, it seems. Unless he does something about it himself.