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A LITTLE SOMETHING I COULD CLING TO
He still has no idea how he managed to get out alive from the Institute, after Alec nearly pinned him to the wall to force a few answers out of him. Jace doesn’t really resent him for it – he knew, at some point, he’d have to tell – but he can’t help but feeling annoyed at how little his parabatai
understands about what’s actually going on inside his head. It’s painful and frustrating, and yes, it’s true, Jace could speak more clearly, he could try and be more honest about what he’s feeling, but the simple, basic truth is that, right now, he just can’t. Talking opens up pits of sadness he’s not ready to face yet, and that happens every time, every single time somebody asks him a question, whether it’s a simple “where are you going?” or something more complex, like “when are you going to spend some time with your child again?”.
It does, because every single question sounds like “how are you?” to his ears. They all sound like the real reason behind them wasn’t to inquire about his whereabouts or whether or not he is ready to sit down and spend some time with Thomas, but if he’s back yet, if he’s functioning again already, basically if he’s ready to move on, to start his life anew, leaving the ghost of Clary behind.
And he is not. He is not, and some days he feels like he never will.
That’s why he doesn’t want to hear questions. And questions are all Alec has for him, right now. “Where are you going? Are you seeing Sebastian? Where is he? What are you doing together? Why do you disappear for days at a time? Why can’t you tell me the truth?” Only questions, and each and every one of them really just means “Why can’t you be back to who you were before? Why can’t you just be Jace again?”
There’s no way he could explain something like that to Alec, not if he can’t get it already on his own. So, when today Alec approached him and asked him his usual questions, Jace decided it was time to give him what he thought he wanted, simple answers. I’m going to Sebastian. Yes, I’m seeing him. I can’t tell you where he is but he is harmless and you’ll have to trust me on that. And you know what happens between us, you know or you wouldn’t be asking. Just like you know why I disappear for days, and why I’m not talking about it. You know, and you want me to tell you to your face so you can hate me more easily afterwards. Then go ahead, Alec, hate me. Now let me go.
Alec let him go. To feel him back off with such anger burning in his clear blue eyes, such anger he physically needed to put some distance between them not to smash his face with his closed fist, was as painful as if witnessing a severed limb fall limp and lifeless to the floor. He misses what closeness with Alec used to be. He misses it and he needs it, but right now he simply needs Sebastian more. So, if his parabatai
forces him to choose, he has no other choice than to choose his brother.
He gave him a letter, before leaving him alone in the hall. “It’s from the Council,” he said, “For him
. Since it’s obvious you’re going to see him way before I do, see that it gets delivered soon. So I can tell the Consul I did what was asked of me.”
Jace couldn’t resist curiosity, and opened it before leaving the Institute.
It’s because he read what’s inside the fine white envelope he’s still holding in his hand that he’s smiling so brightly now that he enters the dimensional apartment, calling out for Sebastian even though he doesn’t expect him to answer – because he never does.
He finds him in the sitting room, lying down on the carpet floor with his legs up one of the couches. He’s doing sit ups barechested, and Jace can’t help but grin at the sight. “Hi,” he says, “I’m here.”
“And if I hadn’t noticed already when you entered my house screaming like an eagle, now I know for sure,” Sebastian answers, not even stopping to look at him.
Jace laughs as he always does when Sebastian acts this cool. It’s ridiculous because, despite how convincing he may sound, this whole attitude of his is such a blatant lie Jace can’t help but find it cute. “You weren’t expecting me?” he asks, “Or maybe you were, and you’re just showing off.”
“None of the above,” Sebastian sighs and finally stops, lying down on the floor and dropping his legs as he catches his breath, his stomach moving up and down as he slowly relaxes. Then he stretches like a cat for a moment, letting go of a pleased moan as he feels his own bones creak under the strain, and in a second he’s up on his feet, reaching out for a towel he left on the armrest, on the side where Jace is sitting. Jace grins again, and puts himself in between him and the towel, covering it with his body. “Oh, come on,” Sebastian snorts, frowning lightly, “Seriously?”
Jace laughs and tilts his head up, catching Sebastian’s lips with his own as he lifts a hand to close his fingers around his hair, just to keep him in place, make sure he won’t move away too fast. Not that Sebastian seems eager to, anyway. He puts one hand on the back of the couch to balance himself as he leans into the kiss, parting his lips and flicking his tongue, looking for Jace’s and getting lost into it just as his brother does. Everything done with Sebastian ends up to be pretty pleasant, but nothing’s as pleasant as kisses are. Probably because Sebastian’s pretty rough, and his is a roughness Jace wants, but he isn’t rough at all during kisses, and that’s very soothing, in a way.
“…now let me go, come on,” Sebastian jokes, moving away, “You just arrived.”
“So what?” Jace chuckles, but he lets him back off and grab the towel to dry himself, “Maybe I wanted to jump you on the spot and you’re already disappointing me.”
“Would you calm down?” Sebastian laughs, this time, dropping to sit by his side. He finally notices the envelope in his hand, and casts a curious look at it. “What’s that about?”
“Ah,” Jace smiles more brightly, handing him the envelope, “It’s for you.”
Sebastian instantly frowns, taken aback. “For me?” he asks.
Jace nods. “From the Council,” he explains, “It’s something exciting, you should read it.”
Sebastian reaction isn’t what Jace had hoped for, unfortunately, but it’s what he was expecting anyway, so he isn’t surprised when his brother simply stands up, turns his back and walks away. “I don’t wanna hear anything about it,” he says, heading towards the kitchen.
Jace sighs and stands up too, following him. “Why not?” he asks, “No matter what you think about them, I’m sure you’re curious to know what could they possibly want to tell you.”
“See, that’s where you’re wrong, little brother,” Sebastian answers, opening the refrigerator to grab a plastic bottle filled with some unhealthy looking light blue liquid, “I don’t care at all.”
“Now you’re lying,” Jace grins.
“Well, alright, maybe I do care,” Sebastian drinks some of that liquid and then puts the bottle away, “But even so, I’m not interested in having anything to do with them. So I won’t read the letter. Besides,” he smirks, casting an amused glance towards Jace, “Seems to me like you already read the content. You can summarize it for me.”
Jace chuckles, leaning against the doorframe. He takes the letter out from the envelope and pretends to be reading, but he already knows the thing by heart, so it’s not as if he needs to. “As a compensation for your brave and valorous actions in helping the Shadowhunters at their darkest hour, and in recognition of the crucial role you played in ending the Seelie War… blah-blah… you’re invited to appear in front of the Council to be officially pardoned for your previous crimes, so to be able to start anew blah.” He puts the letter away, looking up at Sebastian with clear, excited eyes. “Isn’t it amazing?”
His brother casts him an unimpressed look, standing idly by the fridge. “You said they’d leave me alone,” he comments dryly.
Jace sighs heavily, passing a hand through his ruffled hair. “Yeah, that’s what they’re trying to do.”
“No,” Sebastian shakes his head, “What they’re trying to do, is bring me back to the Gard.”
“What?” Jace frowns, surprised, “No, they’re not. This isn’t about getting you back to prison, Sebastian. It’s entirely the opposite.”
“I’m not saying they want me back in prison,” Sebastian moves away from the fridge, passing by him and heading to the bedroom, “They just want me back in the Gard. They can’t stand the fact that I was able to escape and vanish before they could even understand what was going on. They want me back there because they want me back under their thumb. And I don’t want that to happen. I want to stay here, unnoticed and alone.”
“You’re not alone, though,” Jace replies, stubbornly following him.
“You know what I meant by that,” Sebastian actually whines, entering the bedroom and getting out of his trousers, kicking them away. “I don’t wanna fall under any authority. I don’t wanna receive any forgiveness, I don’t need any,” he pulls his underpants down his legs and kicks them away too, turning around to front Jace with such shamelessness he feels compelled to blush. “I need a shower.”
“Wait,” Jace covers the distance between them, holding his wrists between his fingers not to let him run away. “Let’s talk about it. Just a few moments. Let’s think this through.”
“Brother, there’s nothing to think through,” Sebastian insists with another whine, trying to break free from his hold but ultimately failing, and complying resignedly when Jace starts dragging him to the bed and forces him to sit down, sitting by his side, “I don’t wanna go.”
“You’re acting like a child,” Jace frowns, his fingers still tightly closed around his wrist, “You’re not seeing this as the opportunity that is. You want them off your back? Then give them what they want. Go there, say hi, you don’t need to apologize, it’s them, they need to forgive you.”
“What about what I need, then?” Sebastian insists, glaring at him.
“But you need this too, you just don’t want to admit it,” Jace explains, “Or maybe you don’t realize it. You don’t need forgiveness, fine. But if being left alone by them is what you need, then this is the way to get there. You show up. You let them talk. You walk away, and you’re free.”
Sebastian doesn’t speak right away. He looks at him intently, pondering his words, his eyes darkened by suspicion. “You care for this,” he says, “I know you do. I can read it in your eyes. You want me to be forgiven by them. Why?”
“Because you deserve it.”
Sebastian bursts into a sudden, heavy laughter. “I don’t,” he says sharply, “You damn well know I don’t.”
“I damn well know you do,” Jace insists, eyes burning with frustration and stubbornness, “You’re a different man, now. What you did in the past—”
“I don’t even wanna talk about it!” Sebastian says, raising his voice. By the sound that it makes, that makes Jace cringe, he understands he’s got to back off, now. That he pushed Sebastian as far as he possibly could, and now he’s got to let him breathe.
“Alright,” he says, sliding closer to him on the mattress, “Let’s just drop it. It’s fine. We don’t need to talk about that. We don’t need to talk about anything, really.”
Sebastian doesn’t seem convinced by how easily he gives up on the matter, but he doesn’t push him away. That’s a good place to start.
He leans in, kissing him on his lips with his eyes closed. Sebastian doesn’t properly answer the kiss, but he doesn’t back off either, and his lips move slowly, parting briefly and then closing again, brushing against his own. He’s still annoyed, Jace can feel it. For some reason it’s pretty sweet. This is nothing like the relationship they used to have when they were bound together. It’s like really being brothers, just not quite the same. He can guess what Sebastian thinks and feels, not just because he thinks and feels the same, but because he knows
him, he really does. He knows him better now, after just a couple weeks spent together on and off this apartment, than he ever knew him before.
Finally, Sebastian starts to give in, his walls silently crumbling down as he gets closer and puts a hand on Jace’s nape, pulling him in. “I need to get you some dick-shaped pacifier,” he mocks him, while Jace simply answers with a smile, “Seriously, you never have enough.”
“I’m young and healthy,” Jace answers, pulling himself up on his knees and placing his hands on Sebastian’s shoulders, inviting him to lie down, which he promptly does without a single second wasted resisting.
“And restless,” Sebastian adds, the ghost of an amused smile curling his lips upward. Really, that’s just a tender smile. They’ve been sharing lots of tenderness during these moments, in these last few days. It’s because they share the same pain, and what little happiness they can trade in this bed is always a bit tainted by that, always a little more bittersweet than they’d like for it to be.
“You’re not complaining, though,” Jace whispers against Sebastian lips, kissing him lazily as he touches him, following the white traces left by the runes all over his body. He used to be covered in dark markings, but he obviously wasn’t given a stele during his prison time in the Gard. Despite having been free for almost three weeks, now, he hasn’t started using runes again yet. Which is what makes Jace believe that, when he says he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Clave ever again, he might be telling the truth. Some truth Jace doesn’t wanna face, not right now, because he’s not prepared yet to lose any hope that one day his brother might find his rightful place among the Shadowhunters.
It’s his by blood. Now that demon blood isn’t running through his veins anymore, now that he’s been cleansed, what’s left of him, no matter who he thinks himself to be right now, is Nephilim. Clary made him so. Clary
made him so. She couldn’t stop the war, but he’s been her legacy anyway, because what she could not accomplish he did, his new blood did, his new, purified self did. And in her name.
That’s all Jace needs to know to decide he must become what he was always meant to become. One of them. He needs to believe that someday Sebastian will understand that’s what he wants too – he needs to believe that someday what Clary did to him will matter, and he will find his purpose, and it will be a good one, and it’s going to be thanks to her, to her sacrifice.
“Come to the Gard,” he whispers to him, his lips brushing against Sebastian’s earlobe as his brother pushes his hips upwards, thrusting slowly into his closed fist, “Please.”
“Jace…” Sebastian breathes in and out deeply, his eyes closed, his arm lingering lazily over his forehead, “Cut it out.”
“Please,” Jace insists, sliding between his legs and rubbing himself against him, “Just this one time. Just this once. It will be over and done before you even notice. And I will be with you, you know?” he talks slowly, soothingly, in a low voice that vibrates underneath Sebastian’s skin, “I will be with you all the time. And then we’ll walk away together, and everything’s going to be different, I promise.”
“Jace, stop,” Sebastian says, biting at his bottom lip and parting his legs for him so to make sure he’s not asking him to stop
, just to shut up already. “I don’t wanna come. Don’t make me come.”
“That’s a dangerous thing to say in such a situation,” Jace grins, pressing himself against him.
Sebastian opens his eyes and glares at him, his chest heaving with each and every heavy breath. “Don’t be an idiot,” he says sharply.
Jace gives in to a breathless laughter, moving inside him with a swift thrust that makes Sebastian’s entire body tense for a moment, and then relax the next one. “Come with me, please,” he whispers on his lips, kissing him again, “Just this once, and I promise I won’t ask you again.”
“By the Angel!” Sebastian growls, annoyed, holding his head between his hands and kissing him furiously for a while, “Fine! Just— Just drop it, now. I’m tired. Don’t make me ask again.”
And Jace doesn’t.
They lie together on the bed, side by side, for more than just a little while, afterwards. Jace fell on his back and Sebastian’s arm was there, already stretched, so he fell upon it and nobody felt the need to move it away. Now Sebastian’s index finger is drawing invisible doodles on Jace’s shoulder, as they both stare at the ceiling, enjoying each other’s company in perfect silence.
Jace is already starting to doze off when Sebastian’s voice breaks it. “You like this too much,” he says softly, “Please, like it a little less.”
“What?” he asks, his lips stretching in a blissful smile, “No, thank you, I think I like this just enough.”
“Not that, idiot,” Sebastian answers, smiling too – Jace feels his smile pressed upon his own cheek in an unconscious kiss, and it’s such a perfect moment he wishes he could stop time right then, to feed on it until he’s satisfied before going back to reality. “I meant the idea of me. Being back. That’s not happening, little brother. No matter how much you or anybody else want it, I don’t. I don’t know where my road leads just yet, but I don’t think it’s anything close to that. So, please… and it costs me to say that,” Jace feels him cringe a bit, and his stomach tightens in a painful knot, “You’re already brokenhearted enough. Dream about it all you want, about me, about us, together, slaying demons or whatever, but know that it’s just a dream, and that’s all there’s ever going to be.”
Jace listens to him silently, his eyes closed, his smile dying with every word. He knows his brother’s right – of course he does. He’s not an idiot. He knows he’s relying on this way too much. That he’s believing in the possibility way more fervently than he should. But it’s not as if he has any other choices, right now. That dream – the one Sebastian’s talking about – is the only hope he’s got that, someday, all this might make sense. That in the end he’ll feel as if there was a reason behind it, something he can understand.
Because right now, as it is, nothing makes sense, not really. Nothing beside the vague but nonetheless pressing feeling that this is happening because it has to happen this way. That they’re together because they’re supposed to. That what’s waiting for them in the days, and weeks, and months to come is going to happen because it matters that it happens exactly that way.
“Don’t worry about my broken heart,” he says, forcing a smile as he turns to look at him, “I’ll be fine.”
Sebastian looks at him silently for the longest time, and he obviously doesn’t believe him. Why should he, after all? Jace is lying.
He decides not to insist on the matter, anyway. He presses a random kiss on Jace’s cheek and then moves away, jumping off the bed. The energy he unleashes after having sex, every single time. He’s tiring just to look at. Jace doesn’t understand it. “I need to spar,” he says.
“What?!” Jace opens his eyes all of a sudden, turning to look at him. He wasn’t expecting that. “Didn’t you say you needed a shower?”
“Yes, but that was before,” Sebastian insists, “Now I need to spar. And you need it too,” he says, shamelessly slapping him on his ass, “Come on. Grieving is making you flaccid.”
And Sebastian’s just about the only person in the world Jace could ever accept such a joke from. That must count for something, and so he lets out a weary laughter and sits up on the bed, stretching out lazily, like a cat. “Fine, fine…” he says, “I’m coming.”
“He said, for the second time in less than half an hour,” Sebastian grins, leaving the room.
“Oh, shut up!” Jace yells at him, throwing a pillow in his general direction, laughing like a child.
Jace is by his side, as they walk the hallways of the Gard escorted by four shadowhunters at each side, headed towards the room in which Jia Penhallow is already waiting for them. His brother’s presence is unfortunately not enough to keep him calm, and Sebastian knows this is not good. He can feel anxiety and nervousness creep under his skin, making him itchy. He can’t keep his fingers still. And he’s annoyed at himself because he didn’t want to show any of this to the Consul or anybody else, but he seems to have no control over it.
Which is already a bad thing by itself.
He closes his fists down his sides, breathing quietly in and out to try and calm down. He knows Jace is watching him close, and he knows he’s worried for him. The mere thought makes him sick to his stomach. He doesn’t want Jace to worry for him, and it’s not just because he’s going through enough already. It’s mainly because of pride – he’s not something helpless, he’s not something to protect, and Jace should back off and leave him be.
He wants him gone, he wants him gone
, he’s sure of it as he’s sure that he wants to walk out of this place a free man, and at the same time he’s just as sure that if his brother steps away too far, he’s going to break down. He can’t seem to reconcile these two pulls drawing him in two different directions, but he knows they do exist together inside him. The need to push Jace away and the opposite one to keep him as close as possible. Why, that’s all he’s ever wanted to do with him, since he was a child and he sneaked out of his house to run to the Wayland manor and spy on him. How he longed to come out and greet him, say “I’m your brother, I swear, I am, let’s play together!”, and how he longed to kill him at the very same time, to tear him open from his throat to his guts and leave his bloodless corpse carelessly behind, for his father to see it.
“It’s alright,” Jace leans in, talking to him in whispers, “I’ll come in with you.”
“No, you won’t.”
Sebastian raises his eyes to meet the tall and bulky figure of Robert Lightwood, standing still in front of a closed door, his arms crossed over his large chest and his dark eyes fixed on him.
“Hello, Jace,” the man says.
Jace instinctively moves a step away from Sebastian, as if feeling the disappointment in Robert’s heavily scolding eyes. “Sir,” he says, nodding towards him.
“I’m sorry, but the Consul and I think it’s better if we meet alone with Sebastian for a few minutes.”
“I promised I’d be with him every step of the way,” Jace says, his voice low, his eyes shining bright with anger and frustration.
“I’m sorry we had you making a promise you couldn’t keep, we probably should’ve been clearer with what our intentions were.”
“Yeah, I think you deliberately decided not to be clear on them because you knew he wouldn’t have come if he knew he’d be alone with you!” Jace raises his voice, stepping towards him, and that’s just about as much as Sebastian can take.
“Shut up, Jace,” he says sharply, glaring at him. His brother stops halfway through a movement, freezing on the spot and then turning to look at him with eyes so wide he looks half his age. “I don’t need you to be my knight. I can take care of myself.” He turns to face Lightwood, his eyes cold as ice. He can see the man would kill him on the spot, if he could, and he dares him to try just because he can. “I will come alone,” he says.
The shadowhunters urge him to move forward. Jace is left behind, and feeling the distance between them grow bigger with each step hurts so much it’s almost ridiculous. But Sebastian endures it and doesn’t even turn to look at him, following the Inquisitor into the room.
Jia Penhallow is sitting behind a thick glass desk, her arms crossed over her chest, one of her feet nervously marking time against the marble floor. She stands up quickly when she sees them walk in. Sebastian looks at her, her troubled eyes. It’s obvious she doesn’t want to be doing this any more than he does. All considered, nobody here seems to really want what’s going to happen. Only Jace, but nobody’s thinking about him, right now. He’s not the reason why the Council has decided to pardon him – no, that would make the Council something with a heart and some understanding of what pain feels like, something capable of acts of kindness. But that’s not what the Council is. What it is, is just a mechanism only functioning to protect Nephilim and Downworlders as a collective. A machine trained to think as such a diverse multitude can’t have a heart, can’t have feelings, because those are exclusive to single beings.
“Sebastian,” she says, her faint accent instantly putting him off, “Or would you rather I called you Jonathan?”
“I wouldn’t,” he makes a face, looking away, annoyed, “And I wish everybody stopped asking me that.”
“Well, you can’t blame us for it,” she simply explains, sitting down and inviting him to do the same with a nod, “There is some confusion regarding your identity.”
“I can’t understand why,” he answers, sitting down on one of the chairs in front of the desk, while the Inquisitor stands by the Consul, and they both stare at him as if bound by invisible shackles that prevent them from jumping at his throat, “Whoever I was before, that’s not who I am now.”
“Which is why you ultimately decided to go by a fake name?” Lightwood inquiries with a hard, cold voice, “A stolen one?”
“That is my name, now,” Sebastian insists, looking down, feeling his voice shake with anger already, “I’m not going with Verlac. Just Sebastian. That is final.”
“Fine,” Jia stops the fighting before it can even begin, “That’s not what we’re here for, anyway. I take you read our letter?”
“Jace read it for me,” he shrugs, “And in any case, I wanted to say that what you’re doing is cruel to him. You’re deluding him into believing that you could someday accept me back into a community I’ve never been part of to begin with. That’s a lie, and it’s deceiving him.”
“And if somebody knows something about deception…”
“Robert,” Jia calls out for him, her voice stern as a mother’s, “We’re not here to discuss personal matters. Please, remember your role, as I do.” She stops for a moment, as if to wait and see if Lightwood’s got something to say against that. But he just keeps silent, and after a while she turns back to Sebastian, looking right at him. “Would it be so bad, though?” she asks, crossing her hands on the table, “To be accepted into the community?”
That’s simply infuriating. Sebastian’s lips open in an unbelieving smile, his eyes growing wide as he stares at the woman, unable to conceive how could she tell such a joke with such a straight face. “That’s ridiculous,” he says, shaking his head, “You’re mocking me, Consul, and I detest to be mocked. I detest
it. Accept me into the community!” he lets out a mean, liberating laughter, “As if I wanted it! As if I could ever want to be part of your little family of incompetent bedwetters! I heard all about your inspired speech during the Dark War, Jia Penhallow. What was it? We choose to defeat Sebastian’s forces. They have the darkness, we have the strength of the Angel.
Well, maybe you had the strength of the Angel, but you still needed a demon to do your dirty work for you, to end your ridiculous war, a war you yourself brought upon your people by acting irresponsibly and selfishly, as you’ve always done since the beginning of this wretched institution. And now you wanna pardon me, pardon me!
, as if you were doing me a favor. I don’t need your forgiveness, Consul. I need you to leave me alone.”
Jia listens to him speak without even flinching. It’s obvious that, if she wasn’t expecting this exactly, she was expecting something very close to it, and the hate burning in her eyes mirrors the same hate that Sebastian feels burning in his own. She doesn’t want
to pardon him, this woman. She just has
“This is what’s going to happen,” she says in a low, controlled voice, after stopping the Inquisitor from fulfilling the sheer need for violence that took him the moment he put his eyes on him, “We care nothing about your feelings, Sebastian. We care nothing about Jace’s. Just as we care nothing about Robert Lightwood’s feelings, or my own, for that matter. All we care about is the well-being of our people. And our people have been dying by the thousands, Sebastian. And part of that was you.”
He grits his teeth, as his eyes dart downwards. That stings more than it should. It’s in the past, and it feels alien for so many reasons, but that was still him, that was me, it was me all along
, and it hurts to be reminded of it. That’s why he wants to stay away from here. Away from the Gard, from Alicante and Idris. He’s tired of being reminded of it. He wants to forget.
“We covered for your actions making the Fair Folk believe you were working on the Council’s order. That’s why they’re not asking for your head on a pike as a clause for the new treaty. Because they believe it an act of war, and therefore a justifiable one. Now, both you and I, we know it wasn’t. We know why you did it. And honestly,” she shrugs, “I don’t think that was the worst you could do. In fact, as far as your actions are concerned, killing the Seelie Queen might have been the most honest and most just among all of your decisions. Which is why I’m reaching out for you, Sebastian,” she says, leaning in to look at him straight into his eyes, “I’m trying to build a bridge between us.”
“No, you’re not,” Sebastian insists, looking up at her, “You’re doing this for yourself and yourself alone. You want the Fairies to believe you
beat them through me. But you didn’t.”
“We didn’t,” Jia nods, “We’re lying. We’re lying to cover for ourselves and
for you.” She sighs, resting her back against the chair. “Do you want to be left alone, Sebastian? We can do that. We will
do that. Do this for us, make all this official, let us pretend you’re one of us and you fought for us, and you will never hear from this Council again. This I promise you.”
Can he believe this woman, now? Sebastian doesn’t know. But her promise sounds so sweet to his ears. To be left alone. A free man. Unshackled and unburdened forever. Could be worse, he tells himself as he nods and accepts his fate. Could be worse, he thinks as he walks out the room and finds himself instantly surrounded by the shadowhunters, eager to bring him to the Hall of the Accords to put an end to this charade.
Jace instantly walks up to him, standing by his side as he did up until the moment he was taken away. All traces of disappointment have vanished from his eyes, he’s just happy to see him again, to know he’s alright. The sight breaks Sebastian’s heart. He doesn’t know how to deal with Jace when he looks so fragile. He’s barely beginning to learn a way to love that doesn’t lead to complete destruction. It’s not an easy road.
“How was it?” Jace asks eagerly, walking beside him, “Was it bad?”
Sebastian shrugs, looking away. “Could have been worse.”
The Great Hall is full, but not as it could be. There are empty spots appearing in the crowd, every now and then. Shadowhunters that couldn’t make it, maybe. Or dead ones, possibly.
Sebastian never really had a thing for numbers. He doesn’t know how many people died during the Dark War, or the Mortal War that came before, or the Seelie War that came after, three wars he happened to have a part in, one way or another. “Thousands died” is all he knows. How many thousands, he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t want
to know. Back then, when death and destruction were all he was after, precise numbers didn’t matter because he didn’t care for them, he only wanted to kill everybody, everybody
, so what was a thousand? What were two? What were millions, for that matter? They could have never been enough.
Now that everything’s different, numbers don’t matter because just one would already be too much.
Oh, he’s not going to cry for what he did. He’s not going to apologize for moving war against the Shadowhunters. War is never bloodless, is never deathless, never kind and gentle, war is death and destruction and annihilation, and that was what he wanted. What his father wanted. He doesn’t want it now – he wouldn’t, even if he had the chance – but he did back then, and he wasn’t ashamed of it. It felt right. It felt righteous
. And if anything, his recent contacts with the Council did nothing but rekindle that flame burning inside of him, that deep feeling of hate that never really left him.
Before entering into the Hall, he was stopped by Alec Lightwood. He seemed to be waiting for him right outside the door, and he was looking at him with eyes filled with nothing but disgust. “I can’t believe,” he said, “You had the nerve to show your face in here.”
, he meant, Where all our kids died when you ordered your Endarkened to attack the Hall and leave nothing but corpses behind.
Jace stepped up instantly, putting himself in between them. “He was invited,” he said.
“I’m not talking to you,” Lightwood answered sharply, darting an angry look at him before going back to Sebastian, “It’s your voice I wanna hear. I wanna hear what you’ve got to say for yourself.”
“Alec,” Jace insisted, “Stop it. You’re being unfair.”
“I’m being unfair?!” Lightwood raised his voice, outraged.
“Yes, you are!” Jace yelled too, “He wasn’t the same as now! He wasn’t himself!”
And both the screeching sound of his voice and the words he was saying forced Sebastian to react. “I was myself!” he said, annoyed at Jace for not understanding, at Lightwood for forcing him to say it, at himself for still caring one bit for it despite not wanting to. “I was myself,” he repeated, his voice sharp, “You’re still making the same mistake,” he told Jace, “You think you can figure me out. You can’t. You’re fucked up, but not nearly as much. And you,” he concluded, casting a cold look at his brother’s parabatai
, “Just leave me the fuck alone. Come against me, and I won’t hesitate. You think these people care for you?” he asked, opening his arms to point at the silent, motionless Shadowhunters surrounding him, and at the still, serious figures of Robert Lightwood and Jia Penhallow a few steps away from them, “You think they’d even flinch if I snapped your neck broken right here, right now? They wouldn’t. They have much more use for me than they’d ever have for you. They’d pardon me that too – shit, they pardoned me genocide! They’d pardon me your assassination – and they’d let me go. So back off, and leave me be.”
They had to drag him away, literally, to stop Alec from launching himself at him, thirsty for blood.
Now, half an hour later or so, Alec Lightwood is standing next to his mother, among the other members of the Council. The Werewolf girl is there too, as Magnus and a few Shadowhunters Sebastian doesn’t know the names of.
They all hate him. They hate him so much if hate was flammable they’d set him on fire from a distance right where he stands. They all sit down on the chairs that have been brought to the Hall for the occasion, and the Shadowhunters surrounding him guide him towards the member of the Council. They’re waiting for him, tense and nervous, standing on their feet and just barely holding themselves together enough not to quit the whole thing and just sentence him to death on the spot.
And Sebastian can feel it. Oh, he can feel it with such clarity, the very same clarity he used to feel his father’s disgust with back then. These people, even the few who agreed that pardoning him and putting up a show for the Fair Folk was reasonable and all in all a very good idea, they all hate him. They hate him mercilessly, implacably, unforgivably. There’s no space for redemption in their eyes, they don’t want
him and they never will.
With the exception of his brother and possibly the High Warlock of Brooklyn, he is utterly, desperately alone.
It’s obvious that Jace is only waiting for Sebastian to ask him what’s his problem to open his mouth and unleash hell upon him. Sebastian can read it on his face, on the tension in his perfect jawline, on the darkness sitting at the back of his beautiful golden eyes. He can see it, and he knows he can’t face it right now, which is why he refuses to ask. The moment they lock the door of the dimensional apartment, Jace turns to look at him and is expecting him to ask, and Sebastian just doesn’t. He turns his back on him and simply walks to the kitchen, silently.
“Where are you going?” he asks, quickly following him. His voice sounds nervous and hurt. Sebastian wishes Jace could be a little less obvious, when showing how he feels. It’s impossible to handle him, simply impossible. It’s like trying to hold a ball of cracked glass on his palm. You can’t let if fall, because it’ll break, but you can’t close your fingers around it and make sure it’ll stay in place either, because it’s already cracked and the pressure would break it anyway. So you’ve got to juggle it, keep it in balance, hope it doesn’t slip. That’s what he’s got to do with his brother, and he’s alright with it, most of the time, but not now, by the Angel, not now, now he just wishes Jace would leave him be and go, already, because right now he’s a cracked glass ball too, and he’s about to slip so bad there won’t be a single shard left when he finally hits the ground.
“I’m hungry,” he answers. He’s not. But he wants something to keep himself occupied with. He doesn’t care what. He opens the fridge and starts scavenging for food. There’s fruit. He thinks back to Magnus’ house in Alicante and decides to pick one fruit of each kind and eat them all together, cut in pieces.
“I can’t believe your stomach is functioning properly after what happened today,” Jace insists, “It’s impossible. I’m so nauseated I won’t be able to eat for days.”
“I’m sorry for you, then.” He fetches a plate and a knife and sits down behind the table in the kitchen, putting the fruits in line. He starts with the apple.
It’s so ripe it starts leaking sugar on him the moment he slips the knife underneath its skin.
“What do you want, Jace?” Sebastian puts down the apple, looking up at his brother. He’s so upset his cheeks are all red, and his eyes are glistening furiously. He’s standing there, and he’s so frustrated his hands are shaking. Sebastian sighs patiently. “Sit down,” he tells him. Jace complies. “Now tell me what it is.”
“I’m angry at you,” Jace blurts out, staring at him, “For what you said today. To me, to Alec. I was trying to defend you, and you made me look like an idiot.”
“Do you reckon I need to be defended?” he asks, looking coldly at him, “Jace, you’re mixing up the roles, here. I’m not defenseless. You don’t need to protect me.” It’s the other way around.
“Now you’re gonna tell me you’re alright.”
“I’m as far from alright as I can possibly be,” he answers in a low growl, “But I can protect myself way better than you ever could. It’s not your fault, it’s just how it is. I’m not asking for your protection, so don’t force it on me and then get angry because I refuse it. Believe me, you’ve got more serious problems, right now.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Jace insists, shaking his head, “You’re pretty much my main problem, right now. I care for you. What you said was not alright.”
“What I said was honest, and the truth,” Sebastian answers, “And you do
have other problems. Countless other problems. Among which your parabatai
, for example. Go back home, Jace, go back to the Institute and try to fix that. It needs more fixing than me.”
“Would you stop?!” Jace snaps, raising his voice, “Stop changing the subject! We’re talking about you!”
“Yeah?” Sebastian answers coldly, staring right back at him, “What’s your problem with me, Jace?”
His brother looks down, his hands shaking a little more when he closes them in fists. Then he breathes in and out, and moves forward, pulling the chair away from the table and sitting down. He speaks with a low voice, merely a whisper, refusing to look at Sebastian. “I don’t wanna have to figure you out,” he says, “I want you to talk to me. I want you to tell me shit.”
“You wouldn’t like the shit I’d tell you, Jace.”
“Try me!” he insists, suddenly tilting his head up to look at him.
“Try you?!” Sebastian puts the knife down, hitting the table top with his open hand, “Again? I already did! I tried to make you understand, but you can’t hear me!” He watches as Jace backs off a little, his shoulders glued to the back of the chair, surprised and a little scared as he is by his outburst. He needs to calm down, he knows. That’s not how you handle glass at all. “You’ve gotta lower your expectations about me, Jace,” he says, his voice cracking a little, “You’ve got
“I don’t expect anything—” Jace tries, but he doesn’t let him finish.
“You do, Jace! You do. You do, and you don’t even know,” he closes his hands, squeezing them, digging his nails in his palms, trying to concentrate on that stinging feeling to stop himself from losing it completely, “You… You expect from everybody to just pause their life to take care of you, because you’re hurt, and by the Angel I understand
, Jace, but you’re not the only one! You— You expect me to put my grieving aside to make room for yours, so you can suffer in peace knowing I’ll be there to catch your fall, you expect your stupid parabatai
to let you do whatever you want without questions nor explanations, you— you expect your son!, a child of four!, to understand that if you’re not around him it’s not because you don’t love him but because you can’t stand to be near him with what he reminds you of right now!” He stops for a moment, looking at him. Jace is staring back at him with eyes so lost Sebastian almost wants to stop right there, to just hold him in his arms and tell him he’s sorry, that he’s right, that he’s going to take care of him. But he doesn’t have it in himself. “I’m in pain, brother,” he says. And he realizes he’s crying. He’s ashamed for doing it. But he can’t stop it. He can’t play this game anymore. Either they’re together, or they’re apart. Either they share everything, or they’ve got nothing. “We’re all in pain, it’s not just you. So I’m sorry if I can’t always explain clearly how I feel. I’m sorry if I leave some things unsaid and for you to figure out. I’m trying,” he sobs quietly, biting at his inner cheek, “You’ve gotta try too.”
And then it’s just done. He doesn’t know why or how. It’s like that time he started crying at Magnus’ place in Alicante. It hurt so much for a minute or so, and then it was gone. It’s the same now, up to a second ago he felt ready to explode, to burn away with all his pain, but now he said all he had to say, he cried, and he’s calm. He’s alright. He can deal.
He looks down, though, because if Jace wants to go away now he doesn’t want to see him.
In fact, his brother stands up. He stands still for a few second, and then moves. Sebastian’s sure he’ll be gone in a second, but Jace doesn’t leave. He walks around the table, stops next to him and then leans in, holding him in a tight hug, pressing his face against his neck. He’s crying. Sebastian feels his tears on his own skin, and all he wants is to turn around and wipe them away, but Jace doesn’t let him move. “I’m sorry,” he says, his voice weak and shaky, “I’ve been selfish and cruel. I forced this on you, and you didn’t even want to come. And when I wasn’t satisfied with the outcome I took it out on you because I didn’t want to blame myself for it.”
Sebastian leans into his brother’s hug, half-closing his eyes as he feels his body relax in that warm embrace. “What were you expecting from today?” he asks him softly.
“A ridiculous dream to come true,” Jace answers, speaking on the curve of Sebastian’s shoulder, “Something of a miracle. That everybody would accept you. That everybody would be happy. That you
would be happy, so I could be happy too.”
“Brother…” he turns around between Jace’s arms, hugging him back, “It’s too soon for that. Even if it was possible for them to accept me, which I’m not sure of at all, happiness…” he sighs, “It’s just too soon for that.” And there’s gonna be a lot of waiting until the time is right, too, but he doesn’t tell that to Jace. It’d be pointless. This has already been painful enough.
His brother just nods, hiding against him like a child. He can feel him under his fingers, he can feel him revert back to his childhood, and wasn’t that exactly what he wanted? To try and be children together, this time?
“Are you still angry at me?” Jace asks in a voice so small and faint Sebastian only hears it because he’s speaking directly to his ear, “Do you want me to go?”
“No,” he answers, holding him closer and breathing his scent off his skin, “Stay the night, please.”
Jace doesn’t need to be told twice.