I know there isn't much Malec action and no Rizzy in this chapter, but there will be!
Also, tw for mention of drug use. Pls stay safe people!
Isabelle was growing desperate. With her yin fen reserves dry, withdrawal had been given a chance to kick in, and kick in it had. She felt shaky and she couldn't think straight. The nausea was killing her. A search of Aldertree's office had left her empty-handed; she didn't know where she would turn if her visit to the Hunter's Moon didn't prove more productive.
As she entered the Downworlders' bar, the noise hit her like a wave and she thought she'd drown beneath it. Squashing this fear down, she focused on her need to find the drug.
She knew she should have fought, should have locked herself in the Institute until her cravings were gone, but she was so tired. If someone had been there to be strong for her perhaps she could have stopped, but there was no-one was because no-one knew and Isabelle refused to tell them. What did it matter if she drowned her troubles with yin fen? At least this way she wasn't burdening anyone.
Taking in a deep breath, she glanced around for the warlock she'd come to find. He wasn't hard to find - a single tall figure idling by the pool table. Isabelle forced herself to move towards him. "Are you Rufus?"
"What are you in the mood for Shadowhunter?" His voice was gravelly from too much alcohol and she could see the grease in his hair. "Dream gels? Energy powder?"
"Yin fen," Isabelle said abruptly.
Rufus straightened his back. "Dancing with the devil, are we?" He paused. "Yeah, I could track some down. Won't be cheap."
That didn't matter. The Institute was rich and generous, and, oh Angel, she knew she wouldn't have been put off even if it was poor and stingy. "Whatever it costs," she said.
Finally, relief was near, her prize tantalizing in its closeness. And then a familiar voice broke in. Magnus Bane. She hadn't even had a chance to imagine the scent and texture of the substance she wanted so badly. Fear and anger and - something else? - awoke within her. She pushed them down mercilessly. If she was to get rid of him, she needed to be calm.
"Magnus," she said, as he approached Rufus. "What are you doing here?"
Magnus' eyes didn't leave the other warlock. "The question is, what is Rufus doing here? He knows he's banned from North America. Indefinitely."
Rufus' face fell and he left without another word, leaving Isabelle reeling. So close, but not close enough. Not quick enough. Rufus would never get the drug for her now, not after the High Warlock had, though not in so many words, banned it.
Magnus turned to her. "Qué haces guapa?"
To her astonishment, some of the tension in her shoulders dissipated at the sound of her second tongue. Slowly, she pulled her lips back from her teeth in a smile that was almost genuine. Perhaps she should have replied to him in the same, but she couldn't - to do so would make her vulnerable. Lying in English was far easier, probably because she'd had so much more practice.
"I'm here on business," she said.
Magnus studied her. "Drug dealer business?"
"Exactly. Trying to crack down on the Downworlder drug trade." She hoped her patronising expression would get him to back off but it only seemed to make him more determined.
"Isabelle, I don't need magic to know when I'm being lied to."
No. Too close. Far far too close. Her heart began to pound and her body cried out for air. She ignored it, and focused on keeping her breathing calm and level, aware that anything else would immediately arouse his suspicion.
Once she had herself back under control, she raised her shoulders in a calmly nonchalant shrug. "There's been a spike in the demand for yin fen and I have orders to find the source. If you don't believe me, call Aldertree."
Her story was believable enough - she wasn't a good liar for nothing. But would Magnus buy it? Nervously, she waited to find out.
With a surge of surprise, she saw the signs of internal conflict appear on Magnus' face. He stared down at his martini glass before finally raising his eyes to meet hers. "Apologies."
The relief that ran through her then would have made another woman, a human woman, weak at the knees. Not Isabelle. Face a calm mask, she dipped her head in a minute nod of acceptance before glancing away.
But Magnus wasn't done. Not yet. "I've seen the havoc yin fen can wreak up close and personal. Nearly cost my friend Jem his life," he explained gently.
The words shook the young Shadowhunter deeply. She'd known what she was doing, but to hear it, to really hear it, described as deadly by someone as wise and as frivolous as Magnus? That was something else entirely. The part of herself that had been demanding she deal with her issue, that wanted her to stop risking everything for the highs, reared its head. Maybe it would have won. Except -
Except her need, her desperation, to feel enough, to forget that she never was, never had been, never could be, anywhere near perfect chose that moment to assert itself. Louder and louder, clearer and clearer, it made itself known until her instinct for self-preservation was, for that moment at least, overpowered. She met her friend's eyes and her gaze was steady. "Do you know where to look for the source?"
"Definitely not Rufus." He was completely taken in. Strangely her victory didn't feel as good as she'd imagined it would. "But, if you want to stop a yin fen distribution ring, you'll need to find the kingpin."
She knew she must play her cards, and soon, but how she chose to mattered. Done correctly, she would be nausea-free, headache-free, for some time. Done wrong and - and she didn't want to find out.
Forcing her voice into a tone of calm professional detachment, she asked if he knew who the kingpin could be.
"Probably one of the Night Children," he replied."Yin fen is made from vampire venom. When people get desperate enough, they go straight to the vamps."
"Good to know."
It was the most useful information she'd gotten out of him, well worth the discomfort and risk of their earlier conversation.
"This is dangerous business, Isabelle," Magnus continued worriedly. A horrified expression made its way onto his face. "You're not working alone?"
She hesitated, suddenly, stupidly uncertain.
"Aldertree should never have assigned you to do that. I'll talk to Alec."
Why oh why hadn't she lied and made it out to be a group assignment? Magnus would have bought it, he'd bought everything she'd said so far.
Why was it so hard to lie to him when he was being so stubbornly, endearingly focused on her wellbeing?
Why had he bought any of her tales?
She tried to keep the fear out of her voice. "No need, Magnus. I can handle myself."
"I don't doubt it. But, Isabelle, for a single Shadowhunter to take on an organized criminal network of this kind, even locally ..." suspicion crossed his face as his voice trailed off into silence.
The longer she stayed, the greater her chance of being found out. She began to edge towards the door.
Magnus followed her. "Isabelle, whatever this is, whatever's happening, I can help you."
Sudden anger, hot and corrosive, pulsed through her and, as it traveled, it burnt away her fear and her uncertainty, her love and her calm. Where were you when I was suffering, she wanted to scream. It was ridiculous, because Magnus had done so much for them, so much for Alec. But now she thought about it, that wasn't it, not really. Where was Alec when I needed him? And yet she had pushed them together, had been thrilled when they'd kissed at Alec's disaster of a wedding.
She knew her anger was uncalled for. That didn't mean she couldn't rage. "You can help me," she hissed. "By leaving me alone."
The warlock's eyes widened and, belatedly, Isabelle wondered if she'd gone too far. He was only trying to help, after all, and her anger had already faded away, leaving exhaustion behind. She studied him and noticed that alongside the hurt in his eyes, something else was growing. Determination. She tried to shake her feeling of apprehension.
He shook his head. A refusal. "Not until I know what's going on."
"Magnus Bane, leave it now," she ordered, trying to hide her nervousness, as she started to walk away.
She didn't get far. A hand snaked out and grabbed her wrist and not even her Shadowhunter strength could free her then - there was no give in his grip. She glanced down at her fingers and, when she saw the faint tinge of magic pulsing around them, her heart filled with pure fury and she opened her mouth to let him know exactly what she thoughtof him in that moment.
And froze. His eyes were fixed on her hand, their expression strange. She followed the line of his vision down and saw, with a mixture of self-pity and exhaustion, that her body had betrayed her. Her hand was shaking like a caged bird.
"Oh Isabelle," he said sadly, releasing her. "Why didn't you tell me?"
She shook her head frantically. "It's not what you're thinking, Magnus. It's under control. I needed something to take the edge away, but that's all. It's not an addiction."
He gaze remained fixed on her and she knew his eyes were saying what he was too polite to. Bullshit. Lies.
"I'm telling you the truth," she cried, pleading.
"Do you believe that?" he said quietly. They both knew it wasn't a question.
She opened her mouth to reply but nothing came out. There was nothing she could say. As soon as he realized she had no answer, he shot her a gentle look. "Come with me, I'll give you a place to hide out until this is over."
She knew what he was promising - a path back to normality, and protection, and security. She just didn't know if normal was enough for her anymore. She tried to hide the battle waging within - duty against euphoria, yin fen against - against everything.
She had known the drug would win, but that didn't mean she hated herself any less for it.
Sighing heavily, she shrugged. "I'm sorry, Magnus. I can't."
His expression didn't change. "Yes you can. Isabelle, this isn't who you are."
Wasn't it? Wasn't this exactly who she was? A girl playing make believe in her mother's clothes, a young woman tagging after boys with far better things to do. A person who pretended to be powerful. A fraud.
"Everyone thinks I'm strong, but I'm not," she said. "I can't fight anymore, Magnus."
"Then let the people who care about you fight. Because they will. Please."
She had thought nothing could change her mind but she'd been wrong. As he unknowingly echoed what had been ahalf-thoughtin her own brain so recently, the part of herself that wanted the yin fen to lose finally prevailed. She let him take her arm and lead her out of the bar, let him hold her up as shivers wracked her body, let him portal her to the street outside his apartment, and let him guide her up the stairsand into the warmth of his home.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Magnus began to bustle around gathering blankets and towels and potion ingredients.
Isabelle, meanwhile, collapsed onto the nearest sofa. Her head was throbbing, her skin felt too tight and she was glad she'd been too distracted to eat dinner because, judging by her nausea, she didn't think she'd have kept it down for long.
"Are you going to tell Alec?" she eventually asked. "Jace?"
He sighed. "I don't want to lie, Isabelle, and it would be better for you if they knew."
She could still ask him to cover for her. He hadn't refused outright and, if he truly believed her to be sincere about going clean, it was possible he'd agree, albeit very reluctantly. But Alec and Magnus had been through so much - they didn't need another secret to test their bond. It had taken so long for her brother to find love, and finally, finally, he was happy.
"I'll tell them," she decided, smiling faintly. It was something the Isabelle from before would have chosen to do, and that thought alone made her feel less like a battered boat in a storm and more like a buoy, riding the waves. "But it's a long story."
Magnus nodded. "Then I won't make you repeat it now." He hesitated, thinking. "I know of a potion that can ease your withdrawal."
"Can you get it?"
"I can do better than that. I can make it. It'll take a while to brew though, so I suggest you sleep while I work."
Isabelle's smile slid off her face. She knew she was in sore need of slumber, but lately it had been hard for her to fall under and, when she did,her dreams were jumbled and unnerving.
"I haven't been sleeping well," she admitted.
"What do you think magic is for?" Magnus appeared completely unfazed and fondness for the warlock swelled up inside her.
"Thanks," she said, putting all her relief and hope and uncertainty into the word, knowing he'd understand.
"Bed," he announced, eyes warm. Snapping his fingers, he sent a soft blue glow towards her head.
She yawned, suddenly drowsy, and followed him to the spare guest room. It was smaller than the one Jace was in, and prettier. Pale green bedclothes gave the space a leafy feel, and the rich wood paneling added a sense of luxury and indulgence.
"Duermas bien, Isabelle," Magnus said softly as he made his way to the door. The moment it swung shut behind him, she downed the water he'd left by the bed and then quickly shed her crumpled and sweaty day clothes for the elegant silk pajamas she'd found neatly folded on her pillow. As she slipped in between the blankets, she sighed with sudden pleasure, surprised by how soft and warm everything felt, softer and warmer even than her own bed in the Institute. Soon, she had drifted into the world of dreams, a world where all the roads were paved with daffodils and purple hyacinths bloomed strong on every mountain.
Qué haces guapa means what are you doing beautiful and duermas bien is Spanish for sleep well.
The daffodils and hyacinths at the end are from the Victorian language of flowers (daffodils stand for rebirth and purple hyacinths are used to express sorrow and make amends).