The cold of the concrete seeped through his jeans. He’d been staring at the same spot on the ground for seconds, minutes, hours, he didn’t know anymore.
The reverie he’d been in broke at the insistent buzzing of his phone. Lydia. She’d know already, one of the other shadowhunters would have called her after the ambush became evident. Bracing himself for what she was about to say Alec answered the phone.
“What. Happened?” Her clipped tone drilled into his brain.
“We were set up,” Alec answered. His voice was gravelly from disuse, he must have been sitting there for a while.
“Get everyone rounded up now. Get back to the institute. I have to inform the clave.” Again her words were clipped, spilling order after order like she was trained to do.
The call disconnected and Alec pocketed his cell phone. He hung his head for a second, taking deep breaths in and out. His parabatai rune was burning, not with death, or injury, but with betrayal. Alec squeezed his eyes shut to stop the stinging and heaved himself off the floor. A sharp pain ran down his left arm and he clutched his bicep. Now that he was more coherent he could feel the injuries littering his body from his fight with Jace.
Alec listed them in his brain like a checklist. A wound on his bicep he could attribute to the Forsaken, no need to give Jace the credit for everything. A bruise developing on his jaw. A sharp pain across the left side of his rib cage. General aches down his back and legs. A stiff left shoulder he would later discover had five perfect fingerprint-shaped bruises embedded.
During his time sitting on the floor he must have bitten his tongue because the taste of iron slowly filtered its way into his sense. Alec spat blood onto the floor before taking one last look around and heading outside to find whoever was left of the shadowhunters he’d come with.
Lydia was waiting for them as they made their way into the institute. She regarded them with a clenched jaw and cold eyes. Alec hadn’t known her very long – 3 days Alec, that’s how long you’ve known her, his mind whispered – but behind her anger he could see something else. Fear, his brain supplied.
“Everyone go and clean yourselves up. An inquisitor from the clave will be arriving in the next few days and the last thing we need is every one of you looking like you’ve gone six rounds with a Forsaken,” Lydia ordered. For a group of shadowhunters they all moved sluggishly, some of them sheepishly avoiding Lydia’s gaze.
“Not you,” Lydia’s voice rang out. Alec looked up and saw her eyes fixed on him. She waited until only tech shadowhunters remained before advancing towards him. As she approached Alec hunched his shoulders. He’d done it since he was a kid, whenever he did something wrong – which was rare until Jace came along, Alec always followed the rules – making himself smaller, a lesser target. Lydia’s arm came up towards his jaw and Alec flinched away. Lydia’s eyes softened marginally.
“You need an iratze or that bruise will take days to disappear.” Turning on her heel she gestured for Alec to follow, and he did. Only his left leg must have taken some beating he hadn’t noticed before because it felt like he was walking on sand, like his nerves weren’t co-operating properly. Lydia glanced over her shoulder, her brow creasing once she saw Alec’s limping frame. Walking briskly back over to him she slipped her arm around his back. His right arm gripped her shoulders gratefully.
“You took quite the beating,” Lydia said, her voice low so no-one else could hear them, her eyes understanding. Alec said nothing. His eyes were trained on the floor ahead of them. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Lydia nodding, her features softening with every painful step towards his room.
They reached the doorway to his bedroom quickly even despite Alec slowing them down. He had picked his room so it was closest to the control centre, closest to the nearest exits, in case anything were to attack.
Lydia helped him over to his bed, easing him down onto his duvet – black, of course, black sheets, black pillowcases – before pulling out her stele.
“Okay Lightwood, shirt off,” Lydia ordered.
“What? No, its fine, it doesn’t even hurt, its fine,” Alec spluttered. Lydia tilted her head to the side with a sardonic look on her face.
“Either you take it off or I take it off for you. And I think you’ve had your ass kicked enough for tonight so do yourself a favour,” Lydia replied, one brow raised expectantly. She held her hand out for the garment and twitched her fingers in a ‘gimmie’ motion when he didn’t move. Alec huffed and pulled his jacket off, wincing as he went, handing it off to Lydia who went to hang it on his coat rack while he struggled out of his shirt.
Lydia turned back and she hissed when she saw his torso, her lips pulling back in a grimace. Alec looked down and saw almost his entire side was purpling. From his shoulder leading down to his abdomen the bruising stood out on his pale skin.
“By the angel Alec, how much of a beating did you take?” Lydia asked incredulously.
“I don’t understand, we were just grappling really. There’s no way it should look this bad,” Alec replied in disbelief. He saw Lydia’s hand reach up to touch his shoulder and she hissed again.
“Alec your skin is burning. What the hell happened out there?” Lydia asked.
“Seriously, I’m not lying, he barely even touched me. Ja -,” Alec started before clamping his mouth shut. Lydia’s eyes narrowed as she stared him down.
“Who barely touched you Alec?” Lydia asked, crossing her arms over her chest. Alec just shook his head, eyes focussed on a spot on the floor. “Who Alec? Jace? Is that what you were going to say?”
Again Alec kept his eyes trained on the floor a flush rising up his cheeks. Lydia stepped closer, in between the V of his outstretched legs, and lowered her voice. “Alec? Did Jace and Clary ambush you? Did they take Meliorn?” She was met with silence. “Alec!”
“What is going on in here?” Isabelle demanded from the doorway. Alec’s eyes shot up as Lydia took a step back.
“Were you there? When Jace and Clary freed Meliorn?” Lydia asked Isabelle, her demeanour changing from ‘friend’ to ‘soldier’ with alarming ease.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Isabelle replied, indignant. Alec knew her though, knew her tics. She tilted her head to the side when she lied and she was doing it now. The knowledge that not only had his parabatai betrayed him but his sister as well washed over Alec like a wave, crashing into all the fissures in his chest, leaving him aching.
“Really?” Lydia asked, disbelieving, “Take a look at your brother’s bruises and tell me again you had nothing to do with this.”
Alec watched as Isabelle turned her eyes to him, her indignant expression becoming one more akin to horror. Her eyes widened and shock took over her features. Her lips parted and she swallowed, shaking her head, as her eyes raked down his body.
“Fine, don’t tell me. But I will be reporting this to the Clave. You better hope for your sake that you have an alibi Isabelle, because otherwise there won’t be anything Alec or I could do to save you,” Lydia stated. She turned around to look at Alec, who nodded, before she strode to the door, shutting it softly behind her.
Isabelle rushed towards him, pulling her hands back when he flinched from her.
“Alec I don’t, this wasn’t, I mean, I don’t understand, I just -,” Isabelle stuttered, almost incoherently, before reaching out almost unconsciously to touch him. She dropped her hand once she realised what she was doing and took a step back. In that moment Alec had never felt more connected to his sister. He finally got it. How it felt when Jace came, when Alec stopped being her big brother and just became her brother, when Alec stopped being there for her the way she always was for him. Those fissures in his chest widened and it was like a whole new level of pain.
“Iz-,” Alec began. He stopped and took a deep breath before looking up at her from under his bangs. “Iz, I need iratzes. Could you grab your stele and draw them for me?” Almost as soon as the words had left his mouth Isabelle was nodding and moving towards him. She situated herself on the bed next to him, legs folded underneath her, and pulled out her stele. She glanced up at him and gave him a reassuring smile before burning the rune into his skin.
Alec hissed as the pain flooded through him. He ground his teeth together to avoid crying out and his eyes squeezed shut in pain. His hands curled into fists as the white hot pain throbbed throughout his limbs.
“Alec?” Isabelle’s worried voice cut through his psyche and he let out the breath he’d been holding. He opened his eyes and caught Isabelle’s worried gaze.
“I’m fine Iz, just more painful than I was anticipating,” Alec placated.
“Alec it shouldn’t hurt that much, you know that,” Isabelle replied. She bit her lip, steeling herself, before asking, “Was this Jace?”
“You know damn well this was Jace, Isabelle. You might be able to lie to Lydia but I’m your brother, you can’t lie to me,” Alec said tiredly. He watched as her brow furrowed, like he was an enigma she couldn’t figure out. Maybe she couldn’t anymore, maybe they were so far apart that there was almost nothing between them.
“I don’t understand though. Jace never said –,“ Isabelle started before cutting herself off.
“Jace never said? What, you mean, he didn’t stop to recount his win?” Alec asked bitterly before sighing. “Look, I already told Lydia, it shouldn’t be this bad. Unless I was in a trance the whole time and missed him kicking my ass. I don’t know why I look this bad.”
Isabelle’s brow furrowed again. She reached her hand out and traced the bruising on his shoulder, the sensation sending shivers down his spine.
“Alec… I’m sorry. About you and Jace. But I won’t apologise for helping Meliorn. I had to do what I thought was right,” Isabelle said softly, imploringly, her eyes begging him to understand.
“I know,” Alec replied.
“No Alec, I mean -,” Isabelle started.
“Iz. I know, okay? I know. I know you’re sorry, I know you did what you thought was right. I know,” Alec interrupted. He sighed and ran his right hand through his hair. They sat in silence for a moment, Isabelle tracing runes with her finger over his bruised skin.
“The Clave want to remove us as heads of the Institute,” Alec said softly.
“Alec I know that,” Isabelle sighed.
“No, Isabelle, the Clave want to remove us as heads of the Institute. Not mom and dad. Not me and you. All of us. The Lightwoods,” Alec said, “They want to take all of this away from us. And I know that doesn’t mean much to you but it means everything to me. This is all I have, Iz. Jace is against me, you’re against me. I can’t be like you guys. I have followed every single rule set out for me because this is it for me.”
Before Alec had even finished speaking Isabelle begun shaking her head.
“No, Alec, this is not all you have. You have me, Max, Jace, even though he’s not here right now. And I’m not against you. I’m right here where I’ve always been,” Isabelle replied, pushing herself up onto her knees beside him. “We will figure something out, okay?”
“I don’t want to marry Lydia but I have to, okay? If I marry her we get to keep the Institute, Iz, but that’s it. There is no unspoken third option. Either all of us Lightwoods lose the Institute or I marry her and we run it together,” Alec answered. Alec couldn’t bear to see the look on his face so he pushed himself off the bed with a wince and went over to his closet, limping slightly.
Silence permeated the room as Alec grabbed a worn sweater, the sleeves falling past his hands until he shoved them up his forearms. Alec heard a soft exhale behind him and looked over his shoulder at Isabelle. She had a soft smile on her face as she looked at him.
“What?” Alec asked, his neck getting hot at the attention.
“I know you like to think you’re my aloof older brother but I know you too well,” Isabelle replied.
“What does that mean?” Alec asked confused.
“It means that you’re wearing your sad sweater. You wore it the first time mom and dad left for Idris without us. You wore it the next time they left and took Max with them. You wore it the night Jace went to bed with that visiting shadowhunter from Shanghai. You wore it -.”
“Okay, alright, first it is not a sad sweater alright? It’s comfortable. All those times are just coincidentally sad,” Alec replied, waving his hand in dismissal before wincing at the pain in his left bicep.
“Whatever big brother,” Isabelle replied with a smile on her face before springing up from the mattress and heading for the door.
Alec couldn’t get any words out in protest before she was out the door, leaving him alone with his pain. His side was still throbbing regardless of the iratzes and he had a headache forming at his temple. Alec popped the button on his jeans and shoved them down gasping at the sharp pain up his side. Much like his abdomen his entire left leg was purple from hip to thigh, spreading down his calf in slow watercolour on his pale skin. He gripped the door of his closet for a few minutes while the pain ebbed.
He kicked the jeans away from him with his right leg and shuffled into a pair of black sweatpants. Just as he was pulling on a pair of clean socks his door opened again. Alec looked up as Isabelle entered, a tray covered with a dish towel balanced perfectly on one hand and her pillow tucked under her arm. Alec noted she’d also changed into pyjamas – a deep purple silk camisole with matching silk shorts. She balanced the tray on the bed and threw her pillow on top of his before walking over to him and reaching past him into his closet. She pulled out one of his hoodies – black, of course – and put it on before putting an arm around his back.
“Come on big brother, let’s get you into bed,” Isabelle smiled. Alec gave her a small smile in return before leaning on her for support. They got him onto his bed, him gasping as they went, before Isabelle moved to the tray at the bottom.
Alec watched his sister as she uncovered two steaming mugs of what smelled like hot chocolate. He noted she’d taken most of her make-up off and twisted her hair up. She was drowning in his hoodie over her pyjamas. Alec felt a pang of longing as he realised his sister had grown up without him noticing. Of course he knew she was a kick-ass shadowhunter but this wasn’t the little girl who used to follow him around anymore. This was his incredibly brave, passionate, deserving sister, his equal on the battlefield. She was better than him in so many ways and he hadn’t even realised.
“Now I know you’re going to say that you’re too old for hot chocolate and that I should have brought you some sort of leaf-y tea that you seem to like so much because ‘they have healing properties Izzy, we should all be drinking them, they’re so good for you’ but hot chocolate has healing properties too so this is what you’re getting,” Isabelle said sternly before handing him a mug.
Alec smiled softly as he took the mug from her. “Healing properties? What healing properties does hot chocolate have?”
“It heals the soul Alec, duh,” Isabelle replied before clambering over him and settling against her own pillow, her mug balanced on her abdomen.
“Whatever you say,” Alec said softly, blowing on his mug. He took a sip and found that unlike most of Izzy’s cooking it actually tasted quite nice.
“Don’t look so surprised,” Isabelle deadpanned, “Even I can make a simple hot chocolate.”
Alec smiled softly over at his sister as she snuggled in beside him.
“I miss this,” Isabelle admitted softly, her voice so low it was almost a whisper.
“Miss what?” Alec asked.
“This. Us. You and me against the world. When we were kids I used to follow you everywhere, and I knew it annoyed you, but I just wanted to be with you. You were my hero Alec,” Isabelle replied. She smiled softly before continuing, “You still are.”
“I’m no one’s hero Iz,” Alec said tiredly.
“You don’t get to decide if you’re someone’s hero. They do. And you’re one of mine, Alec, no matter if we disagree sometimes, okay?” Isabelle asked, her eyes wide and pleading.
“What are we gonna do Iz?” Alec sighed.
Isabelle grabbed his hand and squeezed before replying, “I have no idea.”
This isn’t your fight.
Like hell it wasn’t. Isabelle’s arrest had rippled through the institute, the techs whispering about it when they thought he couldn’t hear. Thank god Hodge had taken Max for the day on a shadowhunter history lesson, locked away in the library, he didn’t need to hear this about his big sister.
Alec limped along to his parents’ office still favouring his right side despite the fresh iratzes he’d drawn on this morning. The bruising had spread down his leg and now his entire left side was purple. As he neared he heard his mother’s voice rising and paused just outside the doorway.
“You’re always so soft on her Robert, look at what she’s done,” Maryse hissed.
“What she’s done? You mean your daughter? Need I remind you that her connections to the seelies are what got us information in the first place?” Robert returned.
“Connections. If that’s what we’re calling it,” Maryse spat back.
“Stop. Right. There,” Robert replied in a low voice. Alec swallowed down the automatic shame that rose at that tone. It was usually directed at him.
“There’s nothing we can do Robert. Nothing. The clave are sending Inquisitor Herondale to the Institute and there will be a trial,” Maryse said. Alec could hear the chair scraping back from the desk indicating his mother standing up.
“She needs a defence. A good one,” Robert replied.
“Well if you can find someone the Clave will take seriously to defend our daughter then be my guest. We’re not allowed to testify. Alec may have to take the stand as the acting head of the Institute while we were away but there’s no one else Robert. No one.” The last part was so low Alec almost missed it. His chest tightened at the thought of Isabelle being stripped of her marks, the thought of the pain she would have to suffer.
Just as he was about to break up his parents’ fight Alec felt a sharp pain in his abdomen. The pain was so severe that Alec doubled over at the waist and grabbed the wall beside him for support. Gritting his teeth Alec lifted his shirt and on the right side of his torso, above his hipbone, his parabatai rune was burning. Alec gasped again as a wave of pain went through him, his entire abdomen seizing.
“Alec? Alec, what’s wrong?” Lydia’s panicked voice cut through his conscious.
“Jace,” Alec gasped. “Something’s wrong with Jace.” He gripped his abdomen and the rune continued to burn.
“Okay, I’m getting your mother,” Lydia said already moving towards the office door.
“No,” Alec gasped again, “Hodge. I need Hodge. He’s in the library with Max.”
“Alec –,“ Lydia started.
“Please Lydia, I’m begging you,” Alec pleaded still doubled over.
“Okay. Okay. Can you get yourself to the infirmary? I’ll get someone to clear out the medical techs and bring Hodge to you.” It alarmed Alec minutely how quickly Lydia could switch from panicked to in control. In this instance however he was extremely grateful. From where he was doubled over he could see her tapping on her phone, no doubt making good on her promise to clear out the infirmary. Just as he was about to reply to her the burning in his abdomen ceased completely.
“Alec?” Lydia asked noting the alarm on his face.
“The burning stopped,” Alec answered, his brow furrowed. “Something’s still wrong, go and get Hodge, I’ll meet you in the infirmary.” Lydia nodded back at him as her and Alec headed in different directions. Alec’s limping was a hindrance before but he ignored the pain in his body as he bounded towards the infirmary as fast as his legs could take him. Jace needed him.
As promised the infirmary was empty when Alec arrived. The early afternoon sunlight filtered through the stain glass bathing the entire room in fractured light. Ten beds littered each side of the room, pristine white sheets standing stark against the light. Alec paced down the middle of the beds. He made quick work of his shirt as he walked and threw it onto one of the beds before pulling out a mirror from one of the cabinets at the far end of the room. He held the mirror up and inspected his abdomen. The bruising from before had disappeared entirely and only the black of the runes stood stark against his skin. His parabatai rune had turned orange, like burning ashes, and the pain behind it was now a pulsing ache.
“Alec,” Hodge all but yelled, bursting into the room, Lydia on his heels.
Alec turned around on his heel and met Hodge in the middle of the room.
“Something’s wrong with Jace. I felt a stabbing in my abdomen before and now my parabatai rune is fading,” Alec said, gesturing to his rune. “Hodge, what’s happening?”
Hodge stepped closer to Alec and inspected the rune. He reached out to touch it and pulled back with a hiss.
“Your skin is burning. I don’t know exactly what’s happening but you’re right, something is definitely wrong with Jace,” Hodge said before straightening up and crossing his arms.
“Well what do we do?” Lydia asked.
“The only thing I can think of is that Jace has entered another dimension and that’s why the rune is fading. It could mean he’s run into trouble,” Hodge replied.
“So can we do something? To help him? Or bring him back, or something,” Alec pleaded, his hand going to cover the rune.
“There’s one thing we could try but -,” Hodge started.
“Do it,” Alec interrupted, “Whatever it is, do it.”
Hodge glanced over his shoulder at Lydia, who was hovering behind him, before looking back to Alec.
“This will be harder than anything you’ve ever faced,” Hodge warned.
“I don’t care, let’s do it,” Alec said.
“Alright, lie down on one of the beds. Lydia, have you got your stele?” Hodge asked as Alec lay down on the bed next to them, discarding the shirt he’d thrown there earlier.
“My stele? Where’s yours?” Lydia asked even as she followed the order.
“I left it with Max, he’s been going crazy without his,” the last part was directed at Alec with a small smile. Hodge reached out to Lydia and she handed over her stele before moving around to the other side of the bed. She squeezed Alec’s forearm reassuringly, standing sentinel on his left side.
“Okay, I’m going to begin. This will hurt Alec. Don’t hold anything in, okay? The pain will be nothing like you’ve felt before but you need to push through it and try and reach Jace,” Hodge warned before burning the new rune above but overlapping his parabatai rune.
The pain began almost instantly. It ripped the air from Alec’s lungs and set his skin on fire. He clenched his hands in the sheets below him as all of his abdominal muscles seized at once. He grit his teeth against the pain, focussing on controlling the white-hot burning in his chest.
“Jace,” Alec moaned, the name becoming mangled in his throat. He squeezed his eyes shut and when he opened them he was looking down at Jace.
“Alec?” Clary’s voice cut through his pain haze. Alec moved his eyes from Jace, lying on the dirt, to Clary, seraph blade in hand.
“Clary? What’s happening? Where is this?” Alex asked in quick succession.
“Meliorn transported us through a portal of some kind. He said it would help find Valentine but everything is different in this dimension,” Clary answered, her grip in the blade tightening to the point where her knuckles were almost transparent with pain.
“Alec,” Jace moaned from the ground, his fingers scrambling in the dirt.
Alec and Clary were both at his side in a second, Clary still gripping the handle of her blade and Alec still shirtless.
“Alec, it’s the necklace, the demon necklace. Valentine, his plan, the Forsaken, it all ties together. There’s something in the necklace that he needs but can’t get,” Jace gasped, his hand coming out to grip at Alec’s arm.
“Forget the necklace, how do we get you back?” Alec asked, his eyes trained on Jace’s face. The pain had faded into the background, like a sharp ache than a piercing stab.
“Meliorn. He can re-open the portal and pull us through. Alec, you have to get the necklace, I know why -,” Jace’s words cut off as Alec came back to himself in the infirmary, the sunlight having faded a bit so the room was dimmer.
“Alec?” Lydia asked urgently.
“We need to find Meliorn,” Alec replied, hauling himself upright and pushing off the bed, “You were right Hodge, they’re stuck in another dimension. We need Meliorn to open a portal and pull them back through.”
Alec grabbed his shirt off the floor and hastily buttoned it. Lydia stared at him intensely before nodding. She pulled out her phone and quick-dialled before putting it to her ear.
“I need Isabelle Lightwood, bring her to the foyer,” Lydia ordered before hanging up. “Your sister will be able to find him, she knows him best.” Lydia directed this at Alec.
“Thank you,” Alec breathed before rushing out of the infirmary. He made his way through the labyrinth of corridors with ease, his brain focussing now that he had a mission. He made it to the foyer before Isabelle and he paced back and forth in front of the elevators. His head snapped around at the sound of Isabelle’s clacking heels. He was sure the look on his face was that of pure relief.
“Alec, what -,” Isabelle started.
“Jace and Clary are in an alternate dimension. Meliorn sent them through and now we need him to get them back. Iz, they’re in trouble,” Alec stated.
“I know where to find him,” Isabelle nodded, already entering the elevator. Alec rushed in beside his sister and shoved his sleeves up his forearms, another nervous habit he’d picked up.
“We’ve got this Alec. They’ll be fine,” Isabelle reassured. Alec said nothing but he nodded in absent agreement.
Alec followed his sister in a daze, his mind racing with thoughts of Jace, Jace in pain, Jace dying, Jace thinking Alec had abandoned him. And to some extent Alec worried about Clary. That she wouldn’t be able to defend Jace, that she’d die defending him, that the two of them would be stuck in another dimension barely alive but clinging to existence.
The evening chill nipped at Alec’s bare forearms and he tugged the sleeves down over his hands. His parabatai rune retained a dull ache above his hip bone and he rubbed it absently as Isabelle paid their cab driver.
“Okay, we’re here,” Isabelle said, waving bye to their driver.
“Here?” Alec asked. They were standing on the outskirts of the Bronx, 30 minutes from the Institute. Isabelle nodded at him before leading him into a park, her steps sure like she’d done this hundreds of times before. She has done this hundreds of times before, his brain whispered, unlike you Isabelle knows how to have fun.
The two of them trudged through the undergrowth before coming to a large satin canopy. Alec faltered but Isabelle kept up her stride as she pushed aside the curtain that acted like a door.
“Meliorn?” Isabelle’s voice rang out through the evening cicadas. Alec hurried to join her, his eyes raking around the canopy, taking in all the details of the seelie’s home.
“Isabelle,” Meliorn said softly with a smile, a smile that faltered when he saw Alec, “… and company.”
“Meliorn we need your help.” Isabelle walked towards him, her hand coming up to his shoulder.
“And why should I help you?” Meliorn asked with his eyes firmly trained on Alec.
“Because you sent Jace and Clary through that portal and now they’re stuck,” Alec replied, squaring his shoulders for a fight.
“Stuck?” Meliorn asked surprised, “They shouldn’t be stuck. Something must have gone wrong.” Meliorn moved away from Isabelle before reaching into a trunk and pulling out a stone. “We will need to recreate another portal. They won’t be in the same location though so one of you will have to go through and find them.”
“I’ll do it,” Alec and Isabelle said simultaneously.
“Alec you can’t go through, if anything were to happen to Jace we wouldn’t know through here,” Isabelle reasoned.
“I’m not letting you go through Iz, Jace and I’s connection will lead me to him, I’ll follow the feeling of the parabatai rune,” Alec shot back.
“I have another idea, actually. Give me your hand,” Meliorn interrupted, reaching a hand towards Alec.
“What, why?” Alec asked, suspicious.
“Like you said, you have a connection to Jace. Instead of sending either of you through the portal we can tap into your connection and hopefully pull them through that way,” Meliorn answered, hand still outstretched.
“Will that work for Clary as well?” Alec asked.
“It should,” Meliorn said.
“That’s not an answer,” Alec challenged.
“It’s the best you’re going to get Alec, just trust him,” Isabelle cut in. She nodded to Meliorn who nodded back and closed his eyes. The stone began to glow softly, a rich emerald green colouring his skin. His outstretched hand reached closer to Alec who took it reluctantly. Like the demon summoning at Magnus’ a jolt ran through Alec’s body at the touch of Meliorn’s hand.
“Okay Alec, you must concentrate. Focus on Jace – happy thoughts and memories only. It’ll make this easier to locate him,” Meliorn said in a low voice.
Alec looked at Isabelle who nodded encouragingly before closing his eyes and thinking of Jace. His parabatai rune burned insistently and his chest began to ache. Images of Jace filtered through Alec’s mind, of when they were kids and everything were easier, of when Jace had saved his life, just Jace, Jace, Jace.
“Jace,” Alec gasped.
“Jace!” Isabelle yelled. Alec’s eyes flew open just as Clary barrelled straight into him, taking them both to the floor. Alec landed on his back with Clary pressed to his chest, her seraph blade flying across the floor. From his vantage point on the floor Alec could see Jace propped up on his elbows as Isabelle drew a hasty iratze onto his skin. Relieved his parabatai was okay Alec let his head drop back to the floor, his chest loosening. Only when he realised Clary wasn’t moving did he attempt to move again.
“Clary?” Alec wheezed, his hands going to her arms. He quickly switched their positions when he got no reply so she was lying on her back, unconscious, and he was hovering over her. Alec saw her shoulder was dislocated and there was a long cut reaching from her hairline down to her ear. He quickly popped her shoulder back in and pulled out his stele, burning an iratze below her collarbone. He pocketed his stele and scooped Clary off the floor and into his arms.
“By the angel, Clary!” Isabelle’s panicked yell filled the room.
“We need to get her back to the Institute and let Hodge take a look at her,” Alec said, adjusting his grip under Clary’s legs.
“No,” Jace stated, “Not to the Institute. Give her to me, I’ll take her to Magnus.”
“No Jace,” Alec shot back, “Stop abusing Magnus’ magic like this when we’re perfectly capable of healing her ourselves. I know you’re pissed off at the Clave and the Institute and me but Clary needs to be around other shadowhunters so she can heal.”
Jace stared at Alec with an indecipherable expression. It sent a pang through Alec’s chest to see the one person who used to know him better than he knew himself stare at him like he was a stranger.
“Alec’s right Jace. You’re injured as well, you and Clary need to rest,” Isabelle placated, stepping in between the two of them.
“Alright fine,” Jace acquiesced after a moment, “But this fight isn’t over.”
“Of course not,” Alec sighed under his breath. He nodded to Meliorn in thanks as he followed Isabelle and Jace out into the night and back to the Institute where they could all heal.
Because it guards against one very important thing – shadowhunters fighting other shadowhunters.
The next day brought news of the imminent arrival of the Clave. Inquisitor Herondale would be the one interrogating Isabelle. Alec hit the punching bag, hard, before straightening up and clutching his left bicep. The bruising had reappeared on his left side that morning with a vengeance, the purple and blue staining his pale skin like a watercolour.
“You’re going to hurt yourself more ya know,” Clary’s voice cut through the pain and Alec turned around to look at her. Hodge had managed to heal the cut on her face but he’d had to wrangle her into a sling to rest her arm. She was dressed in her sweatpants and a tank top and a black hoodie that looked suspiciously familiar. She noticed his confusion and smirked.
“I, ah, hope you don’t mind. Isabelle gave it to me. Said it always made her feel better. I can take it off if you’d rather though,” Clary rambled, her pale skin flushing.
“No, no, it’s fine. How’s your shoulder?” Alec asked, pacing over to where she was standing.
“It’s okay. I’ve been forced into this sling though,” Clary joked lamely. They shared an awkward half-smile before Clary cleared her throat. “Look, Alec, I know we’re not friends. I know you don’t like me very much. But I think I have an idea that could help Isabelle.”
“I don’t not like you Clary,” Alec replied stiltedly.
“Good to know,” Clary said drily, a smirk on her face.
“Wait, Isabelle? What idea?” Alec asked, his shoulders straightening to his fully height. A sad smile crossed Clary’s face. “What?”
“I feel sorry for you Alec,” Clary answered, “You’ve been trained since day one to be the perfect soldier and every time you do what you’re been taught to do you get reamed for it. I know a lot of the heat on your shoulders – probably all of it actually – is down to me and I’m so sorry. You switch from ‘man’ to ‘soldier’ so fast I don’t even think you realise it.” Clary’s face looked wistful. She hadn’t even known Alec long and already she’d managed to narrow down his problem faster than his family.
“Look, we can do this later. I’ll stop being a douche, you and I can talk, and we’ll sort our crap out. Later. But seriously, what about Isabelle?” Alec asked hurriedly.
“Right,” Clary nodded, “Right. I had time last night lying in the infirmary and I asked Jace to bring me some Clave rule books. Need to brush up on my shadowhunter history, ya know? Anyway, I found a loop hole. Isabelle still has to stand trial but there’s a truth spell that has to be cast to ensure she’s telling the truth. Normally the Clave assigns a warlock but the defendant is allowed to nominate one if they so choose.”
“Warlock, so Magnus? You want me to ask Magnus?” Alec asked, his shoulders slumping again.
“I can do it if you want me to but I honestly think it would sound better coming from you. The request and the nomination to the Clave,” Clary replied. Her eyes were sympathetic and she stepped closer to him, placing her uninjured hand onto his right shoulder, “Alec, Isabelle needs you. I know you’d do anything for your family and I know you can do this.”
“Okay, yeah, I can do this,” Alec answered absently.
“Yes you can. But first? Shower,” Clary stated, removing her hand from his shoulder and stepping to the side. At Alec’s confused look she huffed a laugh. “Alec you’ve been punching that bag for hours now. You smell ripe. Go, take a shower, and put on a pair of jeans tight enough to make your ass look cute.”
“Woah, okay, that’s just, look,” Alec stuttered, his face flushing. Clary outright laughed at that.
“Come on Alec. You’re tall, you’re built, you know you’re hot,” Clary explained. At Alec’s deepening blush her brow furrowed. “Okay, maybe you don’t know you’re hot. But Magnus thinks so. Dress up a little.” With that statement she winked and left him standing there, his blush threatening to burst his capillaries. Rubbing the back of his neck and glancing around to make sure no one had overheard them Alec took off in the direction of his room to get ready. He had a warlock to charm.
“Visiting so soon? Don’t you have a wedding to plan?” Magnus asked sarcastically, his right hand clutching a glass of scotch. Alec noted that it was roughly 1pm and it was probably a little early to be drinking something so heavy but Alec wisely kept his thoughts to himself. He felt awkward in Magnus’ place for the first time, his shoulders hunching further. He felt stupid for following Clary’s advice, his tight jeans felt restricting and his black t-shirt felt like it was suffocating him.
“I’m really sorry to bother you, I probably should have called first, I shouldn’t have come at all, uh, I’ll go, forget I was here,” Alec rambled. His nervous energy caused his abdominal muscles to tense making the pain from the bruising more acute. He’d realised after his shower that the bruising had actually gotten worse. He’d get Hodge to check it later, when Jace and Isabelle were safe.
“Alexander. Why are you here?” Magnus asked straightforward. That hurt. Alec’s chest ached when he realised how different Magnus was with him now compared to before. Alec absentmindedly ran his hand through his hair, Magnus’ eyes trained on his face.
“I came to ask if you’d help Isabelle,” Alec said, proud his voice had stayed steady.
“Help Isabelle? What has she done?” Magnus asked. He’d reclined back into his arm chair, his legs crossed, and was swirling his scotch around the glass.
“Meliorn escaped and the Clave think she told him things she shouldn’t have,” Alec replied, omitting the part where he already knew she’d helped Meliorn escape. “The Mortal Cup is gone too and the Clave will find a way to pin it on her if she’s found guilty.”
“And where exactly do I come in to this?” Magnus asked in a bored tone.
“The truth spell the Clave will cast. Clary found a loop hole where we can request the warlock who casts it. We thought you’d be nicer to her than a stranger,” Alec said his eyes trained on the floor. “I already know she didn’t take the Cup but I know she helped Meliorn escape.”
“Hmm,” Magnus made a thoughtful sound. His eyes bore into Alec’s skin, his gaze filling the fissures in Alec’s chest. Where before he’d felt empty and aching there was something about Magnus’ stare that warmed him from the inside out, regardless of how cold Magnus was being towards him.
“How do you know she didn’t take the cup?” Magnus asked suddenly.
“Well because she’d need –,” Alec started before cutting himself off. He narrowed his eyes at Magnus who stared back placidly. It hadn’t occurred to Alec until now that the only way someone would have been able to get the cup would be to grab his stele. And he hadn’t seen his siblings between telling them about his engagement and his fight with Jace. Which meant –
“ – it was you. You stole my stele?” Alec asked, betrayal sneaking into his voice. He hadn’t even known Magnus long but this felt like a dagger between the ribs. Magnus levelled a gaze at him with something like regret - was that what that was? - on his face.
“Your siblings asked me to,” Magnus answered simply.
“Was this before or after I told you about Lydia?” Alec asked, clenching his jaw.
“Before,” Magnus admitted, his gaze dropping for the first time to stare into his glass.
Alec shook his head, clenching and unclenching his fists at the same time. He ticked them off in his head like a checklist. Jace betrayed you, Izzy betrayed you, Clary who barely even knows you betrayed you, Magnus betrayed you, your parents have been betraying you your whole life. Does anyone trust you? Does anyone believe in you?
Alec swallowed down his feelings of self-hatred and squared his shoulders again.
“Regardless. If you cast the spell you’ll be a lot less harsh than whoever the Clave contracts in. You’re very good at what you do,” Alec stated all of this in what Isabelle called his ‘Clave’ voice. The voice that was devoid of emotion. A bit like himself at this point.
Magnus looked up in surprise. He narrowed his eyes at Alec but Alec kept his gaze never letting it falter.
“Okay, I’ll help her,” Magnus nodded.
“Fine, thank you. I’ll have Clary text you the details,” Alec replied, turning on his heel and walking straight out the door before Magnus could reply.
He took the stairs quickly and pushed open the heavy door that lead onto the street in Brooklyn. It was teeming with people shoving into each other and rushing around like ants. Alec hadn’t applied an invisibility rune so people stared at him strangely when he leant heavily against the brick wall of the building.
His mind was racing. He should’ve seen this coming. His stele was the one who locked the rune, it could only be his stele that unlocked it again. So stupid, his mind berated. He knocked his head back against the brick before shoving his fingers through his hair. Pulling the strands slightly Alec pulled himself together and set himself off in the direction of the Institute, unaware of the cat eyes following him as he went.
If she’s convicted she’ll be stripped of her runes and banished.
In some sort of pathetic fallacy the day of Isabelle’s trial dawned bleak and bitter. The Institute felt sombre and reserved as the Judgement Hall was prepared. Inquisitor Herondale had brought with her a Silent Brother – a reassurance she said, if she couldn’t trust Magnus Bane then the Brother would step in.
Alec had taken Isabelle some tea that morning, like she had done with him and the hot chocolate when he was injured. She’d smiled at him gratefully before narrowing her eyes and asked about his limping again. He’d reassured her he was fine, that she’d be fine, and that he’d be waiting for her outside the Hall.
Truth was, he wasn’t fine. The bruising hadn’t gone down and it had been days since his fight with Jace. The wound from the Forsaken had gotten worse instead of healing and it was beginning to grow black at the edges. Alec had bandaged it with a grimace, promising himself that he would consult Hodge after Isabelle’s trial. Like his wound the bruising hadn’t gotten any better either. The purpling had taken on a black tinge and was extremely tender to the touch. From left shoulder to left ankle was a giant bruise. Alec had barely slept all night because he kept rolling over onto the injured skin. That and he was worried about Isabelle.
Jace and Clary had gotten a lead on Valentine so they’d gone to check it out with Simon and Luke. Clary had filled Alec in once he’d gotten back from Magnus’ the day before – not Jace though. Alec hadn’t spoken to Jace since they’d agreed to bring Clary back to the Institute for healing. His parabatai rune throbbed occasionally and it sent loneliness around Alec’s entire body. They were fractured, broken. It was weighing heavily on Alec and his slowly deteriorating health way not helping.
Alec peeked into the Judgement Hall when he got there. Two Clave guards stood on either side of the Hall with tall spears in their hands. Inquisitor Herondale had already taken her seat and was flipping through a folder intensely, the Silent Brother stood to her left in a Sentinel position. Lydia was already sitting at her desk, back ram-rod straight and staring ahead. Alec couldn’t look at her so he turned away just as Magnus approached the Hall.
“Alexander. Nice day for a trial don’t you think?” Magnus asked rhetorically. His outfit was extremely understated today, a simple dark grey two piece suit with a crisp white shirt. His tie however was a rich purple and Alec was almost certain there was gold woven into the material. Alec had gone for his usual attire, black jeans, black shirt, black boots. Someone once commented that he looked like he was always ready for a funeral. At least the mood of the day lent itself perfectly to his outfit.
“Magnus,” Alec acknowledged, his shoulders hunched and his hands intertwined in front of him.
“Magnus!” Isabelle shouted from down the corridor. Her long dark hair was down and simple but her dress was a royal blue, her lips a fiery red, and her heels were sky high. This was the sister Alec had missed.
“Isabelle, dear, you look very chipper for someone about to stand trial,” Magnus joked as Isabelle approached, the Clave messenger who’d arrested her at her heels.
“Well I have nothing to worry about as I am innocent,” Isabelle aimed the latter part of her sentence over her shoulder at the messenger, “So this trial should be a breeze for you. They’re only blaming me because they’re a bunch of slut-shaming idiots who think a woman can’t enjoy her own sexuality and do her job at the same time.”
Alec choked out a laugh at her statement and both Magnus and Isabelle turned to him in surprise. A grin spread across Isabelle’s face as she approached her brother and kissed him on the cheek. She placed her hand on his left shoulder and caught his wince when she exerted too much pressure.
“Still Alec?” Isabelle asked incredulously as she withdrew her hand.
“Iz, I’m fine. We need to worry about you today,” Alec told his sister.
“You worry about me every day, you need to start worrying about yourself, this isn’t healthy,” Isabelle replied, a pleading tone to her voice.
“How are we doing over here?” Hodge asked, joining the group in front of the Hall.
“We’re fine,” Alec answered quickly before Isabelle could say anything. Isabelle widened her eyes at him and he stared back at her as they communicated silently. Isabelle huffed and shook her head at him before striding into the Hall, the messenger and Hodge close behind her.
“Everything alright?” Magnus asked, curious.
“Yeah I’m fine,” Alec answered absently.
“Okay, so now I know you’re not alright considering I asked if everything was alright and you answered about yourself indicating your secrecy and guilt over the subject,” Magnus stated, stepping closer to Alec.
“We should go in,” Alec blurted before breezing past Magnus and stepping into the Hall. He found Hodge and slid into the seat next to him. Magnus strode past them a few seconds later and took a seat beside Isabelle. The heavy doors at the back of the Hall were shut with a loud thud and all eyes were on the front.
“Let us begin,” Inquisitor Herondale stated clearly, her voice carrying across the entire room. “We are here in the trial of the Clave versus Isabelle Lightwood under the charges of revealing state secrets to a downworlder, aiding the break-out of aforementioned downworlder, and a direct violation of Clave rules by disregarding and disobeying orders from acting head of the Institute Lydia Branwell. Do you object to any of these charges Miss Branwell?”
“No, Inquisitor,” Lydia answered calmly. Alec saw Isabelle shoot Lydia a venomous glare.
“Miss Lightwood, you have nominated Warlock Bane to cast your truth spell. Warlock, please step forward and grip the sword,” Inquisitor Hendondale intoned, standing as she did.
Alec watched as Magnus rose gracefully from his chair, buttoning his jacket as he did. He glided over towards the sword and raised his right hand to grip the hilt of the sword, bowing his head as he did. There was a charged silence throughout the Hall and Alec watched in apprehension as Magnus begun to cast. His eyes slatted into cats’ eyes. His voice was too low to hear clearly but Latin filtered out into the room. Blue sparks lit up Magnus’ hands and wound around the hilt of the sword before settling into a blue glow surrounding the metal. Magnus’ mouth stopped moving and he lifted his head. Magnus glanced up at the Inquisitor, who nodded her head once, and removed his hand from the sword. His long legs carried him swiftly back to the table and he re-joined Isabelle.
“The truth spell has been cast. Miss Lightwood, please approach the sword,” At the sound of her name Isabelle stood. She had the perfect air of confidence but she kept smoothing down her dress as she walked, a tic Alec knew she’d picked up from him and his nervous fidgeting.
Isabelle stood in front of the sword and reached out to grip the hilt as Magnus had. Her body jolted like she’d received an electric shock as she did and Alec made to get up. Hodge placed a hand on his arm to keep him steady and Alec slid back towards the back of his chair again. The blue glow surrounding the hilt travelled up Isabelle’s arm and lit up her body in colour before fading away completely.
“Miss Lightwood, please, have a seat,” Inquisitor Herondale gestured to the stone seat to her right. Isabelle shook her head as if in a daze before following the request and sitting down. “Miss Branwell, you have the floor.”
Alec watched as Lydia rose from her chair, smoothing down her skirt as she did. She paced into the centre of the floor and turned her attentions to Isabelle. Isabelle’s gaze could strip paint off a wall and not for the first time Alec found himself a little in awe of his little sister.
“Isabelle, we know for a fact that you and Meliorn had a relationship of a sexual nature. We know you visited him on more than one occasion to extract information out of him. What we want to know is did he manage to extract any information out of you?” Lydia questioned, her voice clear and steady.
“Absolutely not,” Isabelle answered fiercely.
“Isabelle, please, we all know seelies cannot lie. Which means any and all information you got from him was true. But what about you? What pillowtalk did you two exchange in that could have caused the safety of the shadowhunters in this Institute to be compromised?” Lydia demanded.
“That is enough. You want to accuse me of compromising the safety of this Institute? Do not attempt to shame me in regards to my sexuality in order to do so,” Isabelle replied vehemently, “I have not, nor have I ever, told Meliorn anything which would compromise the safety of the people in this Institute. These people are my family and I would never endanger them.” Isabelle had risen to stand during her reply but sat back down just as fast once she’d finished.
Alec felt a smile spread across his face. He looked over at Lydia and saw a stunned expression on her face. She smoothed down her skirt and her steps faltered as she rounded her table again.
“There was seelie blood in the Forsaken that attacked the Institute. Did Meliorn tell you anything about that?” Lydia asked.
“No offence to the entire shadowhunter population but I have much more interesting things to discuss with my lovers than Forsakens. However I trust Meliorn. He and his people sent seelie scouts to help us, they wouldn’t betray us now,” Isabelle answered.
“Okay,” Lydia said before glancing up at the Inquisitor, “I have no more questions Inquisitor.”
“Very well,” Inquisitor Herondale said, “I trust Warlock Bane’s truth spell. I trust what Miss Lightwood has said today. I move to dismiss the charge of spilling state secrets to a downworlder. I also believe Miss Lightwood when she says the seelies would not betray the shadowhunters here at this Institute therefore I move to also dismiss the charge of helping the downworlder to escape on the grounds that he should not have been in custody in the first place. The charge of disobeying orders will be dismissed from the Clave however I will leave it up to acting head of the Institute Miss Branwell to decide how she wishes to proceed with Miss Lightwood’s punishment. That is law. Dismissed.” With that parting statement Inquisitor Herondale rose from her chair, the Silent Brother close behind her, and walked down the centre of the room, the doors opening for them.
The room sat in a stunned silence before people began to chatter, moving from their chairs and out into the Institute. Lydia sat in her chair staring down at the table before she shoved herself away and exited the Hall in a hurry.
“Isabelle you should be happy. You just gave the Clave the middle finger, in record time I might add. I’m actually a little in awe of you,” Magnus joked, rising from his chair. Isabelle looked up at him stunned.
“I honestly thought they would convict me. I thought they’d charge me regardless of what I had to say,” Isabelle confessed before furrowing her brow, “How long does this truth spell last?”
“Ah yes,” Magnus said and snapped his fingers. Isabelle looked shocked again before shaking her head. She smiled gratefully up at Magnus before throwing her arms around him.
“Thank you for coming Magnus,” Isabelle said, her arms around his shoulders.
“Wait until you receive my bill,” Magnus replied gleefully.
Alec had sat watching this unfold but now he pushed himself into a standing position. Hodge had exited with the rest of the shadowhunters so it was just the three of them in the room. As Alec stood Isabelle looked over at him and her smile widened.
“I told you everything would work out big brother,” Isabelle sang as she threw herself at Alec. Alec winced as he caught his sister, her body pressing right into the bruising along his chest, but he wrapped his arms around her all the same. Over her shoulder he could see Magnus watching them – no, him – curiously. Alec’s heart gave a peculiar thud in his chest. He caught Magnus’ gaze before lowering his eyes to the floor. Isabelle gave him one last squeeze before letting go.
“We have to celebrate,” Isabelle stated.
“You sure you want to celebrate with me? You could call Meliorn,” Alec offered. His body had started to ache in exhaustion and he honestly just wanted to take a long, hot shower and go to bed.
“Of course not stupid. I want to celebrate with you,” Isabelle implored. “And Magnus, if you wish to join us,” Isabelle added, turning to include Magnus in her plans.
Just as Magnus had opened his mouth to respond a high pitch wailing noise rang through the Institute. Alec’s head snapped around and his hand went automatically to his quiver.
“Alec, Isabelle, there’s been a demon attack in Central Park,” Lydia burst through the door brandishing Isabelle’s whip and a pair of boots. She handed them to Isabelle as soon as she was close enough and Isabelle made quick work of her heels. “Think you two can handle it alone?”
“Is water wet Lydia?” Isabelle returned. Her and Lydia shared a smirk before Isabelle straightened up. “Come on big brother, let’s go kick some ass.”
Alec rolled his neck before following Isabelle out of the room. He threw one last look over his shoulder and caught Magnus’ gaze. He looked… wistful? Alec thought. Like he’d missed an opportunity. It was probably all in Alec’s head though.
His body ached as he followed his sister through the streets of New York, exhaustion washing over him in waves. His chest became tighter and his vision started to narrow. He shook himself mentally and focussed on following his sister.
Up ahead in the clearing of the park was a hoard of Ravener demons. Isabelle must have called Jace and Clary because they were already up ahead, Jace wielding his seraph blade like it was an extension of himself. Alec had to give props where it was due, Clary was hacking away too, her right shoulder still looking stiff.
Alec tried to focus to aim his arrow but his vision started to blur. He raised his arm to send the arrow flying but he couldn’t keep it straight. He squeezed his eyes shut before opening them, refocussing, and shooting the arrow. One after another, taking down Ravener demons one after the other.
Only he wasn’t.
His arrows went flying sure, but he didn’t hit any demons.
Instead when he focussed again he saw the bodies of Clary, Jace, and Isabelle lying on the ground with arrows in various body parts. Alec’s parabatai rune started to burn with loss and he almost doubled over to vomit.
Alec stumbled over to them his eyes burning with unshed tears. He was sure the horror was plain on his face. Isabelle reached out a hand to him as she clutched at the arrow in her chest with the other. Her mouth formed his name as she started to cough up blood. Clary lay next to Isabelle, her eyes wide open and glassy, the life already drained from her. Jace lay furthest away, his face in the dirt. Alec rushed over to him and his hand hovered above the arrow sticking out of his back.
“This is your fault Alec, you did this to us,” Jace gasped, “You’re the reason we’re all dead. You failed. You couldn’t protect us.” Jace started coughing up blood before he choked and just stopped breathing abruptly.
Alec fall back and sat on the dirt amongst the three dead bodies he’d just murdered.
See what you did? If you’d been better, been smarter, been more, this wouldn’t have happened. You killed them. You did this. You don’t deserve to live anymore. You should be dead just like the rest of them, it’s what you deserve.
With that last thought Alec pulled out the dagger from his boot and plunged it into his carotid artery, welcoming the warm blackness of death with open arms.