A/N: What is this? A story that isn't entirely focused on Jace? From ME? Le gasp! But yeah...this takes place sometime after Clary arrives in Idris, but before Jace goes to see her after his explosion. I don't own the characters, unfortunately.

The Hand That Feeds

For some reason that he could not even begin to comprehend, Alec had been roped into helping Isabelle with the dishes. Now, standing in the Penhallow's kitchen with a clean dishrag in one hand and a spotless bowl in the other—the same bowl he'd been drying for the past twenty minutes, not that Isabelle had noticed. Alec was curious as to what Isabelle was thinking about so intently that she'd missed an opportunity to yell at him, but he knew that asking wouldn't do a thing. It was better to stay quiet until she got so frustrated with the silence that she burst out with whatever was on her mind.

"He needs food," Isabelle finally said, voice low. Alec gave her a strange look before she sighed impatiently and elaborated, "Jace. He needs food."

"He ate dinner with the rest of us," Alec said, casting a glance through the door frame, into the Penhallow's living room. A blond shock of hair was just visible over the back of the couch. Either Jace was reading or he'd fallen asleep—Alec hoped for the latter; Jace had looked exhausted earlier.

"No, he didn't," Isabelle insisted, throwing a plate down into the sink with a clatter. She turned, leaning back against the counter, and folded her arms. "He just moved his food around. He never actually ate anything."

Casting his mind back, Alec honestly couldn't remember whether Jace had eaten anything or not—true, Jace had been unusually quiet at dinner, but Alec had chalked it up to whatever had happened up at the Gard with Simon. Alec set down his bowl, much more gently than Isabelle had, and studied his sister curiously. "Why the sudden interest in Jace's diet?" he questioned.

Isabelle pulled at her braid, avoiding Alec's eyes. "Because," she said, "he's already hurting enough, with Clary and Simon and his dad and everything, and he doesn't need starvation added to that list."

Alec thought with an unpleasant twinge of the way Jace had lost his footing after his outburst at Clary, and he couldn't help but agree with Isabelle—Jace had enough pain in his life already.

Isabelle dropped her hands from her braid and gave him a smile that was a little too bright to be real. "So," she said, "you're gonna tie him down, and I'm gonna make pasta."

"That sounds vaguely like torture," Alec pointed out, fighting back a tired smile.

"Only vaguely?"

Isabelle and Alec both turned toward the door, where Jace stood, an eyebrow raised. "Next time you start talking about me," he said mildly, "you should shut the door."

Isabelle appeared abashed for only a moment before standing up straight and putting her hands to her hips. "Well, if you would take care of yourself, we wouldn't have to talk about you," she huffed.

Jace looked at her thoughtfully for a long moment—long enough for Alec to really look at him for the first time in days. The sleeves of Jace's shirt seemed to be more loose in the wrists, and Alec wondered when that had happened—had Jace really been skipping out on meals long enough to have lost that much weight? Or was Alec just reading too far into things?

Finally, Jace shrugged. "Fair enough," he said to Isabelle. She grinned, walking over to him, and then ruffled his hair. He rolled his eyes but tolerated the touch, a slight, reluctant smile turning the corner of his mouth.

"Good," Isabelle said, returning her hands to her hips. "Because I'm making you pasta, and you're going to eat it, and you're going to like it."

"I'm not sure how you're going to enforce that last one," Jace mused, earning himself a cuff to the side of the head. Isabelle guided—well, pushed, really, but her intentions are decent, so Alec will go with guided—Jace into a chair at the small table in the kitchen, picking up the bowl that Alec had discarded and setting it down in front of Jace.

"Pasta should be ready in ten," Isabelle said, turning back to the cabinets. After a moment of rummaging, she swore. "I'm gonna ask Jia where she keeps the noodles." To Alec, she said, "Don't let him go anywhere." She vanished down the hallway in a swirl of skirts, leaving the two boys alone in the kitchen.

Jace leaned forward on his elbows, glancing down at his bandaged hand. "No way you're helping me out of this, is there?" Jace asked Alec, looking up.

Alec looked from the dried blood at the top of Jace's bandages to the way his shirt sleeves hung around his wrists, and shook his head. "Not a chance."