So yeah, I was flicking through Clockwork Angel while my little cousin (Who I have proudly taught to say "Mmm, cannibalism!" before taking a bite out of anything she eats. She's three. What? I'm an only child and I have to be a bad influence on SOMEBODY) was watching my old Hercules DVD- eh? YES, I'm sure it was my little cousin who was watching it! Of course- NO! No it wasn't for myself! I- Shut up, you little- No, just shut- Seriously, shove off.

Ahem, as I was SAYING, watching a Disney movie while reading got blended into my demented little mind which proceeded to chew it up, drool all over it, and then spit it out as this slobbery little thought-child. Also, I like the thought of Will singing like a girl in the shower. It amuses me… Plus he'd be naked and wet in that scenario… (AND CASSANDRA CLARE SAID WILL WAS WET AT LEAST ONCE IN CLOCKWORK PRINCE! :D) Droolin' just a lil' bit over here.

ACH! NO! BAD GIRL! That's seriously wrong while I'm writing something dipped in Disney! Ugh, sorry, minions. I'd best get on with this before my mind takes another nosedive into the gutter.

Disclaimer: Gods, how many times are you gonna make me say it? Was rubbing it in just the once not enough? No? Sadists, the lot of you. Fine, I DON'T OWN THE INFERNAL DEVICES! Does that make you happy? I'm a rather spiteful person, so I hope not.

ALSO, it's becoming a habit of mine to post the teasers for CP I find in my stories (if you're interested and haven't seen them, there're a whole bunch of them at the end of my other story that's in Hiatus. Just skip to the last chapter), and since this is a Tessiam fic, I'll leave this Jessa cookie for all you Jem lovers (I'm team both. They should just make a sandwich).

"Say something in Mandarin," said Tessa, with a smile.
Jem said something that sounded like a lot of breathy vowels and consonants run together, his voice rising and falling melodically: "Ni hen piao liang."
"What did you say?" Tessa was curious.
"I said your hair is coming undone — here," he said, and reached out and tucked an escaping curl back behind her ear. Tessa felt the blood spill hot up into her face, and was glad for the dimness of the carriage. "You have to be careful with it," he said, taking his hand back, slowly, his fingers lingering against her cheek."

~Jem & Tessa, Clockwork Prince

D'AAAAAAAAAAAAW! And he's lying, BTW. "Ni hen piao liang" has nothing to do with hair. It means "You are so beautiful" S'cuse me while I melt. XP

Won't Say It

Hard liquor, smoke, and cheap perfume.

Not exactly a swoon-inducing scent for a young man to have, is it?

It was, however, the nose-wrinkling reek coming from the plenty swoon-inducing (even if he did say so himself) young man, almost falling through the heavy wooden doors of the Institute at… well, at whatever-the-Hell-time-it-was. Who really cared about the specifics? It was late enough to be considered rude, and that was good enough for him.

The rude young man continued on what really was a ridiculously noisy path towards the staircase, bumping into one too many pieces of innocent furniture for it to be purely accidental (but, really now, what a silly area to put a coffee table. Who in their right mind would settle to drink coffee by a wall, of all places?).

Through much trial and error, he finally reached the bottom of the stairs, gripping the unfortunate banister hard enough to make the aged rosewood creak in protest as he stared uncomprehendingly at the dancing steps that seemed to stretch and shrink before him. He looked down at his boot-clad feet (which, by the by, seemed to be a shockingly long way down) and then back up at the ascending obstacle with a rather blank expression, as if momentarily forgetting the process in which the two normally coexisted.

A time later (don't ask how long, he hasn't a clue himself), he found himself near the top but quite unsure as to how he got there. He seemed to be in one piece, and presumably something had to have happened between Point A and Point B, so his foggy mind let the dizzy confusion slip back into the dull murk of his thoughts, and kept moving his heavy, ever-thudding feet (because honestly, any Shadowhunter, including himself on a sober day, would be frankly appalled by the ruckus he was making with so simple an act as walking).

By chance (and it really was pathetic just how automatic this act was), his cloudy gaze flickered over to the plain door three in from the left, and for a moment his befuddled mind, dwindling on the edge of practicality, deluded him into believing he could hear the pretty little heartbeat on the other side. In his brilliantly intoxicated state, he really could not see the ramifications of casually walking on in there and waking the sleeping girl for a casual chat over tea and biscuits, he reckoned that sh- Oh, wait, and he plummeted from his blissfully stupid high of chemicals with a crushing force that sent his stomach into a physical drop that, the state he was in, brought forth a very real danger of throwing up, That's right. She hates me now. The realization jolted through the blessed drunk numbness the way it had every time before, followed by the familiar wash of-

Thwack.

When he opened his eyes, he was staring at the floor and his face hurt. He actually lay still for a few seconds, puzzled as to why he was curiously horizontal all of a sudden. He tried to get back to his feet, only to find that he couldn't locate his legs and the rest of his body was being entirely unhelpful. He was honestly pondering the prospect of just never getting up (it wasn't terribly uncomfortable, and the carpet really was rather thick. He could just live on his little spot on the stairs, have his meals brought to him, the odd demon set loose around his perimeter every once in a while…), when a pair of arms were hauling him up with an iron firm strength at odds with their pale, lithe appearance.

"We've been over this, Will." A tired voice muttered through the haze, "The stairs aren't 'the perfect place to have a doss', and Charlotte really doesn't have the time nor the patience to hire you a chiropractor."

Will knew there was a reply just itching to be used (rest assured that it was suitably sophisticated and witty), but his tongue was sluggish and frustratingly uncooperative. Determined not to be robbed of all his vindictive tendencies, he left his body heavy and limp, offering no assistance and basically making his Parabatai's task of dragging/carrying him as difficult as possible. He had enough sense remaining to keep his half lidded eyes fixed away from The Third Door on The Left.

When Jem finally kicked the door to Will's room open, he wasted no time in throwing his limp friend onto his bed unceremoniously with a loaded sigh. Will lay in the half and half state between sense and sleep, eyes closed and sprawled on his back, absentmindedly listening to the cat-soft footsteps moving into his bathroom and the hiss of a tap being switched on. He only woke some when the icy wetness was pressed into his aching face, and he flinched away. The cold compress followed him, and annoyed bottle-blue eyes snapped open to give the dumb equivalent of a death glare (which turned out sadly unimpressive).

He was met with the sight of Jem holding a damp cloth to his nose, dabbing at something he couldn't see. It came away red.

Mildly surprised at only just now noticing the sticky warmth on his face, he dismissed it carelessly, wrenching his face way from the cool relief and Jem's helpful hands. The silver haired boy sighed (he was, Will noted, doing a lot of that lately), but knew well enough to let him be. Instead, he opted to move to the foot of the bed, unlace Will's boots and yank them off before setting them neatly in the corner of the room. Will was too far gone with the faeries (metaphorically speaking, of course) to even be embarrassed.

"Oh, alright, but that's all you're getting off me," he drawled.

Jem gave his approximation of a scoff, "No objections, I assure you. You absolutely reek."

"That, my culturally challenged friend, is the smell of a lively night on the town."

"Really?" Jem gave a look of mock thought, "Because I could have sworn it had a striking similarity to whiskey and brothel smoke."

"That's my point, right there." He slurred with a bob of his head, "All in good fun."

"No, it's not." All pretence of joke was gone from his friend's voice as he set himself on the bedside with an almost inaudible squeak of springs. Defiant, slow blue met concerned, piteous silver. "Why do you do this to yourself, Will?"

Will grunted and turned his head away (because they both knew why, really). Jem lingered for a few moments, before giving in with yet another sigh. He knew that pushing the issue would do no good, so he stood and made his silent way towards the door. It may have been truth, or it may have been his alcohol enhanced inner voice, but Will thought he heard Jem pause at the door just long enough to mumble, "You'll have to admit it to yourself sooner or later, you know." Not if I'm a Class A waste of time, I won't, and by this time, he wasn't even sure what he said out loud and what remained his internal thoughts anymore.

If there's a prize for rotten judgement,

I guess I've already won that.

He waited until he heard the soft click of his door closing to roll onto his back and stare unseeingly at his ceiling, reliving his night (or what he remembered of it, at least).

Girls. The prominent theme of the evening had definitely been girls. Many had fluttered his way, all powder and lace and batting lashes, but only those with mahogany chocolate hair or blue-grey eyes got past the initial polite 'Well, how are you doing?' and pat on the backside. Not that it was anything to linger on, mind. Not that there was any rhyme or reason behind it. It was just his flavour of the week, is all (he wondered how many times he'd have to repeat that for it to become true).

Much to their outright, crushing devastation, his night had ended at flirting. This, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with his morals (or lack thereof), as Will Herondale was simply not one to hug and share and learn and grow, and it would be insulting to entertain the theory that something was wrong with him in That Department. No, there was nothing wrong with him at all. There was something wrong with the girls.

Sometimes their hair didn't fall right, sometimes their skin wasn't fair enough, sometimes they were to keening, and all of their eyes lacked that sparkle, and they were all wrong, wrong, wrong.

It wasn't him. It was their fault.

No woman is worth the aggravation,

And he knew what he was talking about. He had a reputation for a reason, and there was nothing new any of those– girls (to put it nicely, for once), could teach him. No life. No thrill. He'd done it all a hundred times over.

It's ancient history,

Been there, done that.

"Will?"

"G'way…" He pawed at the irritating noise-maker blindly, squeezing his eyes tighter shut against the pounding in his head.

"Will."

He let out a noise that was half groan and half snarl and fisted his hands in his hair, pressing in so as to stop his skull from splitting open.

"Will," They'd resorted to shaking him now, and he feared he may be sick if the motions didn't cease (though it'd probably happen either way). He swiped out again, but his heavy arm was met only with empty air and a quiet chuckle. He was driven to look up from the pillow of his arms, squinting at the early morning light of the dining room that stabbed at his blurry eyes.

"What, dammit?" he snapped in the general direction of the metallic blur he assumed was Jem.

"Your food's going cold." He informed him, blinking innocently. Will stared at him incredulously for a few beats, before glancing down at his plate and forcing back heaves. Jem pulled it smoothly out of his way seconds before his head plunked down on the table in a move that would have earned him a face full of scrambled egg. Will could practically hear Jem's eye roll.

He heard a delicate snort from across the table, not obnoxious enough to be Jessamine, not reprimanding enough to be Charlotte, and gritted his teeth without raising his head. There was no emotion except for disgust in the sound, no pity, not even any disappointment any more.

Not that he cared or anything.

It was true. He didn't give a damn what Tessa bloody Grey thought of him. Didn't give a damn about Tessa Grey full stop. Why, she could disappear and he wouldn't- he would-

… He would lose everything.

The pain ricocheting through his head paled in comparison to the twist of agony in his chest as he was taken back to that night in the sanctuary; slick knife clutched in unresponsive fingers, crimson devastation pooling impossibly fast, cold blood soaking through his clothes and into his aching skin, Tessa's form a limp deadweight in his arms, and the one thought echoing through his numb mind: I have lost everything.

And if the situation had been what it had appeared, he would have. Because life without the girl currently snorting at his ungentlemanly-like tendencies while simultaneously looking for all the world as though she wanted to strangle the yammering Jessamine who had taken it upon herself to berate him for being 'a disgraceful cretin with no redeeming qualities' with a napkin, life without Tessa Grey, just didn't make any sense to him.

Not that she could ever know. That that anyone could.

With no small amount of effort, he forced himself into a somewhat slumped but still technically upright position and massaged his flashing eye sockets with the palms of his hands. When he looked up, blinking away the sting, he found everyone to be astoundingly interested in their breakfast plates even as they chatted politely, very decidedly not looking his way.

He was about to non too quietly comment on this to Jem, but faltered when he saw the odd, almost knowing look in his silver eyes, which darted away to his own food the second they met his friend's guarded gaze.

Who d'ya think you're kiddin'?

She's the earth and heaven to ya.

Try to keep it hidden,

Focusing through the rushing of his head, he caught the odd glances the Nephilim at the table continued to flick at Tessa and himself, lingering on the latter before snapping away if caught. They were acting strangely, even for them, Will mused. It was almost as though… But they couldn't. No, they didn't.

Jessamine's snide smile said otherwise.

Honey, we can see right through ya.

Boy, ya can't conceal it,

We know how ya feel,

And who you're thinkin' of.

Tessa shifted uncomfortably, feeling the looks cast her way but obviously having no clue of the intention behind them. Will watched her pointedly, purposefully adding to her discomfort because her squirming amused him.

After a while, Jem cleared his throat and, ever the white knight, came to her rescue. "Tessa, I was wondering, only if it sounds good to you, of course, if you might accompany me to Hyde Park for a walk? It's a lovely day, and the tulips are beautiful this time of year."

"Oh, yes please!" Tessa gushed without thought, before catching her self and stammering, "I- I mean, um, that sounds like a wonderful idea, Jem, thank you very much for the invitation. When do we set out?"

"Now, if that's quite alright?"

She paused, then gave him a grateful smile, "That's very alright. Lead the way, my Faithful London Guide."

Jem laughed and stood, waiting for Tessa at the door as she politely thanked the table for their company before making her way over to him, a bounce in her step as she walked as fast as possible without being rude out of the room.

As their voices and figures faded, Will's smile did the same. Icy fingers dragged down his spine, chilling him and leaving him cold and oddly prickly, with a sickly feeling that had nothing to do with his hangover. It was petty, it was foolish, but he couldn't seem to help himself (God knew he'd tried).

One by one, the remaining company finished up and filed out of the room, but Will paid them no mind and remained seated. His musings were far too deep to be pestered by fickle things like time and ill manners.

He knew that Tessa and Jem were just friends, and that cursing the fact would make him even more selfish than the norm, but something about it just didn't feel right. Jem shouldn't be the one making her smile and laugh. Jem shouldn't be the one to save her. It was supposed to be him. It was supposed to be him, because-

Because what? Nothing.

There was no reason. He had no right, no claim on her. He shouldn't want to. He shouldn't care.

He didn't.

No chance.

No way.

I won't say it.

No, no.

The door creaked open on rusted hinges and Will started slightly, carefully releasing his chokehold on the goblet he was clutching finger by finger. With the obnoxiously loud click of heels, he didn't need to turn to know Jessamine had decided to grace him with her presence. She flounced over to him, halting a few steps away and showing off a smarmy little grin that Will was just dying to smack off her face.

"Aw, are we feeling sorry for ourselves, William?" she preened sweetly, "Are we having another brooding episode?"

"Referring to yourself as a group, now? I'm not sure that's entirely healthy, Jessie dear." Will remarked, leaning back in the chair to fold his hands behind his head and look at her sidelong.

She laughed, and it was not a pretty sound, "You know full well what I'm talking about. Spare me the insult of your feigned ignorance,"

"Jessie, Jessie, Jessie," he sighed dramatically and flopped his head to face her ridiculously poofy form, "Can you ever recall a time when I've withheld an insult merely because you asked?"

"No, but that-"

"Well, I never was one to ruin a good record," he interrupted, tipping his head back again and lidding his eyes with a smirk, "You've got big ears."

Jessamine huffed indignantly, "I most certainly do not," she scowled, flicking a ringlet out of her eye, "I'll have you know-"

"Oh, but you do, though. You poor thing, they're like a pair of kites. I'm honestly shocked you haven't taken flight with a decent spout of wind yet."

"Ugh, you're impossible! You're the single most infuriating, imbecilic, immature-" Blah, blah, blah, she carried on and on, demonstrating an impressive vocabulary of insulting alliteration that Will didn't think her capable of. Years of experience allowed him to tune it into a faint buzz until it appeared she was finished, "irritating, incandescently idiotic moron that I have ever had the displeasure of knowing!" she finished, breast heaving so heavily that there was a very real danger of something ripping out of that too-low too-tight corset. Will, to his credit, sincerely hoped nothing did.

He was about to ask her if she felt better now, when the fury left her brown eyes and was replaced by a much more worrying smugness. "My, I wonder if our Tessa would agree with me?"

Will's stomach dropped to somewhere around his feet, all traces of easy flippancy gone from the blue eyes that clicked to her smirking face. His voice was deadly calm, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Don't you? I'll make it nice and clear for you, then, something even your tiny mind can comprehend." She spoke slowly, as though she wanted to savour every syllable, "You love Theresa Grey."

There was a silence akin to that before a bomb is detonated. When Will broke it, Jessamine's smile faltered.

He threw his head back and laughed. It rebounded and ricocheted throughout the hall, loud, rich and mildly hysterical, until he got a hold of himself and quieted it to the odd gasping chuckle and shake of the shoulders. "Oh, Jessie, have you been drinking your perfume again? Do you hear yourself?"

As quickly as it had disappeared, her smirk was back tenfold. "Do you see yourself? Swooning and sighing like a lovesick schoolgirl in heat. It's pathetic and rather nauseating to look at. You think you're being very clever, but there's not a person in this house who doesn't see what's going on. You're just lucky Tessa is clueless enough about these things to remain oblivious," her smug factor upped a few notches, "You might as well stop denying it, though; even she isn't dense enough to stay in the dark for- Oh!" Jessamine yelped and ducked just in time to avoid the precision thrown goblet sent shooting towards her head.

You swoon,

You sigh,

Why deny it?

Uh-oh!

Will was up and standing before his chair had even hit the floor, fists clenched so hard they were shaking at his sides. He felt as though if he left any part of his body untensed, the maelstrom inside of him would gush out like blood from an open wound. And his still pounding head wasn't helping anything.

"You shut your mouth," he said, biting off the end of each word, "And you never spout such utter drivel again. Are we clear?"

Jessamine was still crouched slightly, breathing quick and fast like a frightened rabbit. Remembering the company she was in, she stood tall once more, scrunching her pretty features into a mask of fury and screamed at him, "No! You can't threaten me, you lowlife! How dare you? You cannot take out your petty frustrations on other people this time, William, it's all your own fault and you know it! If it wasn't in your nature to salivate over the first girl you consider to be uncouth enough to be a match for you – a Downworlder – our lives would be a lot easier as you wouldn't be spending all your time moping and brooding and making a nuisance of yourself! Stop being so self-piteous, you foolish blockhead-"

Will shoved past the screeching girl, stalking to the door and tuning out the information of just how big of a blockhead he was. He mentally checked the scathing insults he could throw at the useless girl, but didn't voice them as he knew that if he begun he would never stop. He kicked the doors closed with far more force than necessary, the loud boom cutting Jessamine off mid whine and leaving way to blessed silence.

The dark haired boy's rapid pace didn't slow until the door of his own room had slammed closed behind him. Breathing heavily, Will leaned himself against the reassuringly solid wood before he gave up entirely and collapsed his legs to slide down it. Tilting his head to rest against the cool oak, he closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing, thinking, and finding the will power to avoid going back downstairs and wringing Jessamine's neck until she turned blue. Those mental images calmed him some.

His life was not a FairyTale, which was undoubtedly the only place he, or anyone really, would ever be in with the chance of a text book happy ending. He didn't live in a story book (A/N Ahem, well…;D) and he certainly was not Prince Charming material where Tessa was very much so the glowing Princess every bit deserving of her Happily Ever After.

Starting slightly, Will went over the track of his thoughts. Happily Ever Afters and Princesses? Really? He fisted his hands in his tangled mess of midnight hair, hoping the pain would bring his thoughts some clarity, raise him back into the frame of mind where he was not this tortured, pining moron – or blockhead, as Jessamine's nagging little voice in his head added – who was seriously in danger of spewing out depressing poetry at any moment.

He shook his head slightly, not loosening his grip when the movement yanked at his hair painfully, and pulled his lanky legs tightly to his chest. He locked his arms around them and buried his head to complete the position he had often been found in at twelve years old upon first arriving at the Institute, that he'd created in the hopes of blotting out the world and all his unwanted feelings with it.

He would not admit that it, though. Not even when he felt as though his chest was trying to tear itself apart rib by rib whenever she was out of sight. He wouldn't call it love, he wouldn't add that little bombshell into the endless cliché that his life was becoming.

It's too cliché,

I won't say I'm in love.

The feelings were somewhat familiar to him, and he was no stranger to pain in whatever form it took. He knew how it would feel to love Tessa, to allow them both to fall deeper down without digging into the wall for a jarring stop. It would be easy. Light. Free.

And then something would come to end that happiness. He'd say the wrong thing, something even Tessa couldn't forgive. He'd do something stupid and put her in danger right along with him. He'd do – something, and she'd leave in one way or another. It had happened before, and Cecily had ne- No.

I thought my heart had learned it's lesson,

It feels so good when you start out.

Will derailed his train of thought, making sure the metaphorical cargo caught fire and exploded into unintelligible ashes. The point, what he had to remember, was that he had felt this pain before. But, he thought with a jolt, if it hurt as bad as this already, what would it possibly feel like to know Tessa in that way and then lose it? He shuddered at the prospect.

A wry, humourless smile touched the lips of his bowed head as he thought of what the Will of a few months ago would think of the Will of today. He could almost hear his own voice, the more sensible, less addled version, shouting and cursing at him for being such and idiot. Did he want it to happen again? Did he like emotional trauma? Did he get a kick out of having his heart ripped out of his torso and danced upon? Get a grip, Boy!

My head is screaming "Get a grip, Boy!

Unless you're dying to cry your heart out,"

He shook his head at the imaginary doppelganger. I've tried, he thought, By the Angel, I've tried.

Days passed, and Will went about the old routine of shoving everything deep (deep, deep, deep) down inside himself where it wouldn't be so glaringly apparent. He knew it was supposedly bad chi, as Jem would say, but at this point his inner life force could honestly not get any more 'disrupted'. If it was supposed to be a flowing stream, his was a raging tsunami. With sharks in it. And cut throat pirates with bad hygiene. And a man eating squid. That was polluted.

When he walked through the lounge doors, he was grinning.

Charlotte was sitting one end of the oak table pouring over paperwork with a furrowed brow, Henry was at the other, seemingly oblivious to the chairs and stooped over an array of cogs and gears and watchamacallits with his tongue sticking out to the side as it did when he was 'in his zone'. Jem was perched on the sofa with a well worn book in his pale hands. Tessa and Jessamine were out shopping in the town, rather forcedly on Tessa's part, and they weren't expected back for another hour and fifteen minutes. Or so.

Not that he was keeping track, or anything. Will Herondale was really not one of those boys to get fidgety or lonely – or even bored – for the simple reason of a girl being out of his sight. Albeit a remarkably pretty, frustrating, incredible girl with a truly astounding gravitation to trouble, who not only- No. He was definitely not one of those pathetic boys, and he definitely did not care.

You keep on denyin'

Who you are and how you're feelin'

With an overstated sigh that drew in attention, he said, "Oh, it's always such a dampner on ones day when there are no pretty girls to look at- oh, sorry, Charlotte." He didn't sound sorry in the least. The only response he got from the insulted was a roll of the eyes before she went back to work. Henry frowned slightly, almost to himself, but quickly resumed his tinkering. Jem sighed without looking up.

Will huffed irritatedly at the reaction. Or rather, lack thereof. With a shrug, he let it go and flopped with precious little grace into the armchair across from his Parabatai. Kicking his booted feet up onto the coffee table in the way he knew Charlotte hated, he opened his mouth to make an extremely witty comment concerning Jem and his sad thirst for Shakespearian works – as Will himself could never get past the outstanding level of predictability they held for his bleak, worst-case-assuming mind – when he was cut off by the opening of the Institute doors and Jessamine's incessant twittering.

"-ly now, Tessa, you must learn to flaunt what precious little you have you to go on better! Those fine young gentlemen will eventually get tired of chasing without the promise of a catch! You just need to give them a litt- Where are you going?"

There was no reply and a few minutes later Jessamine walked in alone, a haughty frown upon her face. She unwound the silk scarf from her pale neck and draped it over the hat stand along with her pastel pink bonnet before turning to face the room, where she was met with two curious gazes, one uninterested glance and one frosty glare – no prizes for whom was doing what.

"What was that all about?" Jem asked carefully with a fleeting look towards his simmering Parabatai.

"Yes, Jessie," Will spat, eyes locked on her as though he wanted to burn a hole through her head, "What was that all about?"

She shook her golden curls off her face and shot a snooty look his way before answering, "Oh, I was just enlightening Tessa on how best to manage her growing party of admirers. I don't think the poor girl-"

"What do you mean 'admirers'?" asked the dark haired boy in a barely controlled voice, hands fisted at his sides and just itching to pummel something.

"Those charming young men at the park – not that you'd know anything about charm, William – who kept coming over to talk with us. A shocking amount to Tessa specifically," Jessamine sniffed with indignant envy, "It must be those new dresses I bought for her finally paying off. She obviously had no clue what she was doing, bless her, but-" she took this moment to look over at Will and finally notice the effect this was having on him; teeth clenched together, glowering and body so tensed it was practically shaking. She smirked spitefully and went on in a sugar-sweet voice, "but then, who wouldn't be a tad frazzled to find themselves being fawned over by such handsome, sophisticated, eligible young men? Tessa seemed rather pleased, if I recall. I do wonder whether she will actually take a real interest in one of them and become-"

Will was up and had the door slamming behind him before anyone had chance to react.

Baby, we're not buyin'

Hon, we saw you hit the ceilin'

He'd never really had the need to be jealous before, he'd never been one to care enough about most things. But that was the only way he could place the sickly, burning, weighted feeling that was seeping through his entire body like poison. He could feel it frothing and bubbling inside of him like a potion in a warlock's cauldron, just waiting for the pressure to become too much and explode in a mess of foamy spite.

Will, it seemed, did not like to be jealous.

He banged his head against the wall as much out of frustrated helplessness as the need to burn off that damned churning energy physically. The hallway was blessedly quiet, and he allowed himself the relief of a shaky breath. His suspended false peace was interrupted by light footsteps at the end of the hall, and when he looked towards them he really wished he hadn't bothered.

Tessa's slim figure turned the corner.

Will was already moving before he'd given conscious consent to do so.

"Tessa!" he called sharply, quickening his stride.

The girl turned, eyes widening slightly in surprise; he hadn't spoken to her in days, after all. "Will?"

When he caught up, he gripped her by the arm somewhat harshly. He didn't know why he was so angry – he hardly ever did – and a small part of him knew that the anger really wasn't directed at Tessa at all. He told that part of him to shut up, stay still and die quietly thankyouverymuch, and snapped, "What exactly is the matter with you?"

"The matter with me?" she reeled, grey eyes hardening, "What on earth's the matter with you? You don't talk to me for weeks and now all of a sudden y-"

"You know exactly what I'm talking about, Miss Grey," he sneered, stepping into the non-existent distance between them to invade her personal space as was his way. "All your little boyfriends from the park!"

"I don't- you- my- my what?" she sputtered and stared uncomprehendingly.

"Oh, well what would you rather I called them?" he asked in a falsetto voice, "Suitors? Boytoys? Lovers? Whatever the name, Tessa dear, it doesn't change the fact that you're acting like a Class A S-"

Her hand snapped across his face with more force than he thought her elegant frame could muster, whipping his head to the side with a burning sting to his cheek. Slowly, he turned his head to face the girl. She was glaring at him murderously, chest heaving up and down in an attempt to holster her fury. "That," Will said eventually, "actually hurt."

His words opened the floodgates, "How dare you? How dare you? What is the matter with you, Will? You've not spoken a word to me in days, and now that you do it's to – insult me like this? You're like a child! A spoiled little child who isn't satisfied until all his toys are broken! And then what will you do?" she demanded, eyes burning like flaring ash. Taking a few deep breaths, she advanced on him, and he was shocked enough to back up a few fumbling steps. "I am not your plaything, William," she said in a low voice.

Out of nowhere, she laughed; it was not her light, tummy-fluttering laugh that he could listen to all day, but a bitter bark with no real amusement. A Downworlder laugh. Something twanged in his chest – he'd done that to her. "My God, are you really so twisted that you find amusement in hurting those who care about you? Are you truly that horrid?" she stared at him intensely, but no answer or witty retort came to his lips, her words seeming to have sapped the fight right out of him. "Not to worry," she stepped back, becoming more herself, "I'll not make the same mistake again." With that, she stalked away from him, calling a final curt, "Don't talk to me until you've grown up."

Face it like a grown-up.

Will stayed in that position for a while after, flinching as her bedroom door slammed shut. The self-righteous anger drained away, leaving him numb except from the sickly feeling down to his core. How long can this go on? Hissed a spiteful voice, How long until something gives and you just explode?

When you gonna own up that ya

Got,

Got,

Got it bad?

He didn't want to know.

He knew he'd find out anyway.

All he could do now, he supposed, would stall that time – much like a frightened child dawdling for a doctor's appointment. He'd gladly take a thousand leechings if it meant he could rid himself of these wretched, curdling non-feelings. If anything, he thought with a wry jerk of his lips, he was in need of a love-lobotomy.

No chance.

No way.

I won't say it! No, no.

More days passed, and he ignored Tessa as she wished. It was the least he owed her, and his avoiding her was the only way his mind could fathom to apologize, in his own way.

Upon reflection, he would later realize that the library wasn't the best place to avoid someone like Tessa Grey.

The oak doors swept open, and Will's eyes froze on the page he'd been re-reading for the past fifteen minutes and the snippets of half-heard conversation nipped at his ears. She was with Jem. Again. His finger tightened on the book's spine reflexively as his acute eyes flickered around the room in search of an escape, using honed skills that were usually reserved for demon nest infiltrations gone wrong. Now it was him hiding from his Parabatai and a young girl. Joy.

They rounded the shelf corner, and Will knew he was a lost cause. Tessa's carefree laughter faded, signalling that she'd caught sight of the figure sprawled in the window seat and staring down at his book so hard that by all rights it should have burst into flames.

There was a few moments of loaded silence before Will caught a small shift and soft mutters which meant that Jem was ushering Tessa away with gentle nudges and gentler words, as though she was a colt that he was afraid would spook. Or possibly a lioness threatening to pounce.

The boy swallowed, glancing up through dark lashes and inky hair that fell into his eyes in time to see the weary, tired, I'm-so-Goddamn-sick-of-this look Jem cast in his direction. It was clear in that silver stare alone that Jem wanted this tension to give about as much as Will himself didn't. His Parabatai turned the corner after Tessa with soft sigh and a shake of his head that really expressed all that needed to be said.

Give up,

Give in

The second they were out of range, Will dropped the book from his limp fingers and let his head loll back against the glass pane of the window. The glass was cool on his flushed forehead. It felt good, so he pulled back.

He groaned quietly, having to consciously stop his combat booted foot from tapping, glaring at it as though it had suddenly betrayed him and developed a mind of it's own, because there was no way that Will Herondale could ever be reduced to something as ridiculous as that. This groan was louder, and went hand in hand with him pinching the bridge of his nose and pawing tentatively at his buzzing temples.

Raking a hand through the mass of midnight hair on his head and turning it into spiked tendrils of black, Will gave up the fight and stood. Once again resorting to skills previously exclusive to demon hunting, he moved on silent feet towards the pair that sat lazily in on of the many small alcoves hidden in the recesses of towering bookshelves, ducking behind one and shifting a few books out of his way so that one sapphire eye could peer through the crack.

This is what I've been reduced to, Will thought, even more disgusted with himself than usual, Stalking and gawping like a common Peeping-Tom. Wonderful. All self-deprecating thoughts faded to the background as he focused on their conversation. He wasn't sure what he was hoping – or dreading, for that matter – to hear, but he wouldn't back out now when he'd pretty much just broken the very last moral boundaries he'd let be up until then.

"Do you suppose it's much fun to be a warlock? A proper one, I mean," Tessa was musing aloud, fiddling with the pleats of her skirt as she sat on the loveseat across from Jem.

"I wouldn't know," Jem answered quizzically, "But more importantly, and if you don't mind my asking, why do you want to?"

"Call it morbid curiosity, I suppose," she sighed with a weak shrug of her slender shoulders.

"Curiosity killed the cat, haven't you heard."

"Careful, you'll frighten Church. And I'd like to believe I'm a fair bit more durable than a cat."

"Ah, but this cat would have nine lives to boot."

"And I would have- Well, I'd bring a stick along."

"Cat's are fast."

"They're also rather small."

"Teeth and claws?"

"… I'll throw things at it?"

Their speedy back and forth was broken by Jem's laugher that could apparently be repressed no longer, "I can't believe we're having a serious debate on whether you'd win in a fight with a cat."

"I think you started it," she muttered in mock-offence.

"Of course, of course," Jem chuckled, "Now, what if this cat had rabies?"

"And this is where the stick comes in-" she stopped herself mid-sentence, fixing Jem with a narrow eyed look and pursed lips. "You're trying to distract me."

He sighed somewhat sadly, "Is it working?"

"You're alarmingly good. But I'd really appreciate an answer Jem. What do warlocks do?"

As all who faced it did, Jem gave in to the girl's stubborn streak, "Many things, Tessa. They each have their specialities, of course, but they really all have the same potential. Mind tricks, element manipulation, summoning, there's lots of aspects to magic. Too much for me to begin, and I'm by no means an expert on this." He reached over, hesitantly laying a hand over Tessa's. "It's not all bad, you know. Magic is just like any other force; it's how it's used that determines its allegiances."

"Magic," Tessa breathed, "Do you think I could…?"

"I don't know, Tessa. We're not even sure you're warlock yet, anyway, so there's really no use in worrying yourself over it. Besides, I thought you were under the illusion that you wanted normality? How could learning magic help you?" he frowned.

"It wouldn't help me," Tessa shook her head, looking him directly in the eyes, "But it might help you," she said, grasping at the hand she help in hers meaningfully.

Jem was taken aback, "I- Tessa that's- it would be-" he stammered for a good excuse, but Tessa was having none of that.

"Is there some kind of test I could take, do you think?"

"Certainly," he nodded sagely, "All we need to do is chop off your head; if it grows back, you're magic."

"…"

"That was a joke."

"It was awful."

"I thought so too."

There was a few seconds of silence where they both just looked at each other, before Tessa cracked and laughed a breathy laugh which Jem echoed almost immediately. In a spontaneous move, Tessa flung her arms around Jem's neck, sighing, "Much obliged for that, Jem. You've really cheered me up."

"Um, happy to help?" it came out unsure, almost like a question as the pale boy responded by unsurely wrapping his arms around the girls waist, a disbelieving and oddly blissful look on his face.

Will hadn't noticed the grin – a real, honestly happy grin – that had crept across his lips as he watched them, until it slipped from his face.

Check the grin,

You're in love.

He swallowed past the tightness in his throat and schooled his features into that familiar mask devoid of human emotion. Nothing that goofy would ever happen again, he promised himself. Simply watching her be happy was the most ludicrous reason to smile himself that he'd ever heard, and yet there he was.

He couldn't be entirely blamed, though. She was absurdly gorgeous when she was laughing and comfortable – as comfortable as she'd never been, would never be, with him. Well, he thought, No danger of smiling now, at least.

He turned away from the puke-inducing scene just as they were releasing each other and smiling somewhat awkwardly with much throat clearing thrown in. He didn't need nor want to see anymore.

He wandered through the labyrinth of shelves, flopping into the first chair he saw unceremoniously and just sat there.

Unmoving.

Simply being for a while.

Or at least he tried to, but found himself unable due to the sharp corner of what he guessed to be a book digging into his back in such a manner that had Will convinced the inoffensive object was doing it on purpose. Reaching behind him, he wrenched it free rather violently, about ready to rip the thing to shreds and set it- he paused, grip slackening as the solid black lettering of A Tale of Two Cities stared up at him. He suddenly couldn't find the will to obliterate it, for some odd reason.

But naturally, that anger had to go somewhere.

The people in this book are utter idiots, he realized out of the blue. Letting silly fancies and emotions rule their lives and spin them into that oh-so-tragic, clichéd woe. Was that what he wanted to be? It was where he was headed if he kept up these foolish tendencies of thinking about Tessa Grey – and that was becoming a very real threat as serious as any demon.

He was not a love struck hero.

His life would not turn into a generic drama fit for theatres. He wouldn't let it.

This scene won't play.

He wouldn't be sucked into the downright moronic notion of- whatever he was feeling.

I won't say I'm in love.

It was not exaggeration to say that Will was considering moving his bed into the training room. When he wasn't out doing things that mostly melded into a dark blur of chemicals or plowing his way through demons, he was either sleeping – which he did precious little of nowadays – or hacking at some unfortunate object down here. He knew he was overdoing it by the way every muscle in his body screamed with every small movement, but still he stood there, panting and attacking with a blur of whipping kicks and punches and jabs. It hurt. A lot. He kept it up.

Today's victim- ah, apparatus, was a weighted hide punching bag, that made his bear knuckles raw with every hit to a extent that he'd probably need an iratze when he was finished with it. Still his barrage didn't cease.

Tessa went out to the park again today.

Thump.

That blue dress really did set of her eyes in such a pretty way…

Cuff…

Might have met up with those wretched admirers of hers.

Thump-a smack thumpthump.

Jem accompanied her. Again.

Smacksmack thump-a thumpsmack thwack thump-a thump-a smacksmacksmack.

By the time the training room door opened, Will was panting with a sheen of sweat coating his lithe frame from the exertion of his repetitive onslaught against the unfortunate punching bag. The only reaction the tired boy gave to the cat-like footsteps behind him was to speed up his hits.

Jem walked calmly to the front, folding his arms and watching his friend with a guarded expression. "You're going to work yourself mad, you know," he sighed eventually.

"No work needed for that, my friend," Will remarked with a wry twist of his lips, punching the bag in three jabs of sweet succession.

"Will," a pale hand shot out to grip his wrist just as it pulled back for another blow. A glare the blue of a twilight rainstorm bore into the silvery boy's face, but was met only with mercury concern. Will hated it.

"Let go," he said warningly.

"Just take a break. You need it- no, you do," Jem insisted, only tightening his hold when his Parabatai tired to wrench his hand free. "If you won't do it for yourself, at least do it for- …for me." In the split second it had seemed as though Jem was going to say another's name, Will's stomach had plummeted into a flipping, cart-wheeling freefall that ended up somewhere around his boots.

You're doin' flips.

"Yeah," Will managed wearily, eager to have the conversation over with and repressed.

Jem released his wrist grudgingly, motioning the scowling boy ahead of him. Childishly, Will lashed a final sharp kick into the side of the bag, just to prove he could. Silver eyes were rolled, and Jem grabbed him by the arm and yanked him ahead with a shove that Will returned with a shoulder bump of his own. They went on like this, exchanging playful nudges as they made there way out until Jem delivered a particularly forceful one which sent Will stumbling before dashing off down the hall before he could retaliate, snickering as he rounded the corner.

Will made to go after him, but stopped as he caught sight of the figure walking down the hallway, the shadow of a smile disappearing from his face. Tessa's step faltered as she caught sight of him, and Will let his mask slip into place as he nodded to her briefly. She kept her grey gaze locked in front of her and anywhere but him.

They passed in tense silence, and he would take the fact that he leaned slightly to the right just so her soft hand would brush his for a moment to the grave.

Entirely against his will, his head twisted to watch her retreating back as she walked away from him, marvelling at the way the light gleamed on her mahogany hair with every step that took her further from him. His head refused to turn back until the girl was gone from sight, and when it did he saw Jem at the opposite end of the corridor, facepalming and looking about ready to rip his hair out.

Will raised a questioning, sardonic eyebrow. Jem huffed as he seemed to loose his extensive patience entirely and mouthed with obvious, unmistakable preciseness the words which stopped Will dead in his tracks, heart hammering a tattoo into his ribcage.

Read our lips: "You're in love."

He couldn't meet his eyes for the rest of the night.

The door the Charlotte's office closed with a barely audible click, raising the woman's head from the papers on her desk nonetheless. "Will," she nodded, somewhat surprised, as though she didn't think he'd actually come when summoned, "Have a seat."

"I'll stand, if it's all the same to you," he replied stoically, shifting his stance and folding his arms over his chest defensively.

Henry walked in through a side door at his voice, laying whatever tinklett he was tinkering with on a shelf and moving to stand behind his wife's chair, forming a united front of reluctance and oh-God-I-wish-I-wasn't-doing-this. "Now you're probably wondering why I've called you here-"

"Not particularly."

"-and it's regarding a rather pressing matter that's come to our attention recently," she finished, long past the stage where his snide interruptions would effect her in any way.

"Whatever it is, I didn't do it. And if that Lycan says different he's lying, I was nowhere near the carriage w-"

"It's regarding Miss Grey." Will's attention was caught pathetically fast.

"What about Tessa?" his tone was carefully blank as icy lead pooled in his stomach and spread through his body. Could something have happened? Could the clockwork soldiers have come for her, or that worthless brother of hers, while their backs were turned? What the hell were they still doing here? He should have been keeping a better watch in the first place. He should have-

"We've noticed you've been expressing a certain degree of, ah, affection for her, and we'd rather like to know your intentions, as it were." Oh why, oh why couldn't it have been the clockwork soldiers? Charlotte cleared her throat, "You see, Will, given your record with young girls, I feel it's best to inform you of just how important of an of an ally Tessa is and that offending her too greatly could truly result in-"

"Wait," Will managed eventually, getting past the initial horror and repressing the implications of this to be stressed over at a later date, "You think that I…" he trailed off, unable to voice the words even in jest, "…With Tessa?" Laughter whooped out of the form that wanted nothing more than to crawl in an especially dark hole and die. "Oh- my – hic – God!" he pretended to regain control of his speech, "By the angel, that's rich! God, you're so off base it's almost not even funny!"

You're way off base,

If Will wasn't as adept and skilful a liar as he was, he would probably be dead by now. Or in this case, admitting something that would mean a fate far worse than simple death.

I won't say it.

"Come now, Will," Charlotte sighed, folding her hands hopelessly, "It's hard to miss yo-"

"Well, not that this hasn't been outstandingly amusing, I really ought to be going before I laugh myself to death. That's my second most likely way of demise, or so a Nyxie told me. Next to Demon Pox, of course." He winked at the couple cheerfully, still forcing chuckles as he shoved out his chair and made his way out of the door before he landed himself in it. He was good, but no one was that good.

"William-" The slamming door cut Charlotte's protest short, leaving the office in silence but for the weary sighs.

Henry laid a gentle hand on the woman's shoulder, massaging gently to relieve the frustrated tension, "He won't say it, my dear. I'd wager not even to himself."

Yet another heavy sigh. This one sounded suspiciously like 'Stubborn fool.'

He won't say it, no.

Outside the door, aforementioned stubborn fool was leaning against the door with wild eyes and shaky breaths.

They know, he thought frantically. Despite everything, they knew as well as if he'd fallen down on his knees before her and belted out a sappy serenade declaring his damned feelings. And if they knew, Hell, if Henry could figure it out, would that mean that Tessa…?

No, he reassured himself with an unconscious nod. Jessamine was right about one thing – and he meant one thing. Period – and that was the fact that Tessa Grey would forever remain oblivious to the effect she had on people. The effect she had on him. Thank Raziel.

He exhaled a tense breath. If they kept their mouths shut, he could theoretically be safe. Of course, it didn't help that basically every person in the Institute knew his dirty little secret except her as it was.

Just then, a small smoky grey cat turned the corner, sitting opposite him with an air of unmistakable smugness about it. Damn thing probably knew about it too.

"And what do you think?" Will called to the animal, causing a vague prick of the ears and cock of the head, "Do you think it's funny? Do you want to throw in some comments like everyone else? Want to make it your business when it has absolutely nothing to do with you? Do you? Is that what you want, kitty-cat? Then you can go to Hell with the rest of them!" he shouted blindly, "For the love of God, get off my case! Leave me alone!"

Get off my case!

He reached for a nearby plant pot and flung it with dead-aim at the creature, and only Church's feline reflexes saved him from a face full of careening porcelain. The cat darted away with a frightened yelp, hiding in whatever secret nook pets go to when they're out of sight as the vase shattered on the hallway in a spray of dirt and pottery fragments.

Will was stalking away before the soil had even settled.

I won't say it!

The door to his bedroom slammed closed with enough force to make the rafters tremor, and Will let out a sound of anger mixed with burning frustration. He buried his hands in his hair, pulling hard enough to rip out a few dark stands as he collapsed back onto his bed. He wanted to scream, break things, hit something that could hurt – see how the rest of the world liked it.

A knock sounded at his door, the sound contrasting awkwardly next to the raging torrent of feelings (damnthemdamnthemdamnthem) he was trying – the operative word be 'trying' – to deal with right now. The gracious noise was so out of place that Will stared at the rectangle of wood with an air of bafflement for a few moments.

When the person entered without his consent, he knew it could only be Jem. Fabulous.

Sure enough, the silver haired boy slipped quietly inside, catching the door before it shut and closing it with a gentle bump that seemed to act as an apology for whatever mistreatments Will had inflicted on it. Jem walked casually over to his friend and sat on the edge of the bed, level with his torso, and shifted until he was facing him, one leg curled beneath him and the other lolling over the side.

"What's wrong?" Jem asked, channelling the persona of an interrogator who had all the proof and was just coaxing out the convict's confession.

Will said nothing.

"It's obviously something."

"I," Will eventually replied and clipped tones, "have no idea what you're talking about."

"Screaming at cat is rather odd, even for you."

The boy cleared his throat. "He bit me," he argued lamely.

"You tried to kill him with a vase."

"He bit me a lot."

Jem sighed, running a pale hand through his fine hair tiredly before squaring the stubborn boy with a serious look, "Will, I think we both know what this is about."

He tensed as he would for a fight. "On the contrary, I'm confused as can be. In fact, I'm positively-"

"Dammit, Herondale!" Jem growled in a tone Will had never heard from him off the battlefield. The use of his surname was what let him know just how pissed his friend was – which, by the way, was very. "Stop being so bloody stubborn all the time! For God's sake! Maybe if you actually-" Will had never taken the time to learn Chinese – well, only the odd swear that he'd forced his Parabatai to teach him (many of which he was hearing now) – but he could guess that whatever Jem was ranting about wasn't very flattering.

When his friend calmed down enough to stop his tangent, Will blinked at him. "… Come again?"

Jem half-huffed-half-groaned and, letting out a bitter, teetering-on-the-hysterical chuckle, flopped backwards into an unceremonious sprawl on the bed. "You need to own up, Will. To yourself, at least… Don't be so proud," he said simply.

Boy, don't be proud,

Will pushed up into a sitting position, shoving Jem so roughly that he had to catch himself on a bedpost. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said lowly, eyes simmering and body tensed.

To his credit, Jem didn't look at all peeved at almost being landed on the floor and only sighed. "Yes you do."

"No I don't!" he shouted suddenly, "And neither do you! None of you know anything about- about anything! You just go around sticking your noses where they don't belong and seeing things that aren't there like a bunch of nutcases! Well, I'm very sorry if I don't meet up to your great expectations of scandal, but there's really nothing to gossip about here! For Christ's sake, just back off!" The aftermath of his heated tirade left him breathing heavily and, when the hot anger had sunk back again to lurk beneath his skin, feeling idiotic for his self-righteous explosion.

Jem had known well enough not to interrupt or fuel the fire as his friend took his turn ranting, but finally spoke up after a few long minutes of silence, "Nobody's gossiping, Will. We just care."

"You shouldn't," he snapped reflexively.

"Maybe, but we do. And so does Tessa," he said, watching Will's face carefully.

All the fight seemed to leave the boy like a balloon deflating. His shoulders hunched and his head slumped as he fisted his hands into the sheets as though they were an anchor her was clinging to. "She really shouldn't."

"Why?" Jem demanded, voice forcibly controlled, "Why do you feel the need to push away every good thing in your life, Will?"

"I'm-" Will fumbled, unable to explain without actually explaining, "Bad, Jem," he finished lamely, "In every sense of the word. I'm rotten and I'm selfish and God knows I'm not good enough for her. She deserves better, and I'm even selfish enough to hate that too."

"You're not as awful as you want to think you are."

"You don't know," Will's voice dropped, "Anything."

Jem held his gaze, "Enlighten me, then."

"It's none of your business!" he snarled in another bi-polar-esque emotion switch, "None of this is anyone's business, so keep your damn thoughts to yourself and keep the hell away from me while you're at it! I don't know how the fuck I can make this anymore clear; I don't care about any of this! Or any of you, for that matter!"

Liar, liar, pants on fire…

Jem just fixed the hackled boy with a levelled look, "I'm not playing this game, William."

"I assure you I am not playing anything at all," he growled. They kept up their tense, loaded silence and challenging stares for an immeasurable length of time. Jem was no where near as headstrong as his other half, and Will had had a lot more practice of being deliberately difficult. But he was so, so tired, and therefore found his body betraying him as he his eyes were averted first, form folding in such a way that Jem could actually see Will's front shatter and be clawed away like black tar from a roadwork.

It was unfathomable to him why his friend would care enough to even try to get through to him after all he'd done. Jem's ridiculous amount of compassion had always been puzzling to Will's pessimistic mind. When he eventually spoke, his voice was a world away from the fire-spitting tone of moments before, "Why do you put up with this? With me? You're not one to lay back and take most things, Jem, why excuse me so readily?" he asked, forgetting to be abrasive in his curiosity.

"Because you're in love."

It's okay,

You're in love.

"Will, are you okay?"

Will had no idea how long he had been in his room after Jem had taken the hint of his stoic silence and left him be, but it was long enough for the violet hues of dusk to melt into the navy of evening and then the darkness of a starless, cold night. It was then that the voice had broken through his silent conversation with the ceiling. The question was annoying in and of itself – when was he ever really okay? – but it was the asker that was really ticking him off.

"I'm fine." Yes, he was absolutely fucking fine. Go away so he could be fine without you.

Tessa somehow translated this into an invitation and slipped through the threshold, shutting the door quietly behind her. Will closed his eyes against a groan – or possibly a whimper, he wasn't sure. He was never sure around her.

For a while the room was still, the only sounds the wind outside hurtling past the window and the steady – comforting – rhythm of her breathing. As much as he wished she would go away, his insatiable curiosity flared up once again when she said nothing. Toying with the idea of laying still just to see how long she'd actually feel inclined to just stand there, he eventually turned his head and opened his eyes to look at her.

Big mistake.

Why, hello there, Beautiful. Tell me, did it hurt terribly when you fell from Heaven? Honest to God, the words were ready on his tongue as he watched the figure in his room. Tessa stood with her arms held in front of her, looking not at him but out of the window which mercifully meant that she missed his gape. She wore a white cotton nightgown that stood as contrast to her pale skin and barely allowed her tiptoes to peek through at the bottom, and the silver glow of the moon hit it like liquid metal an the fabric somehow managed to glow in the dark of his room. With the way her head was canted slightly to one side, her dark hair spilled over her shoulder in a way that just begged to have fingers run through it and the way her dreamers eyes were watching the glowing skies caught the pale light and turned them blue-platinum rather than warm gray. She looked more like an angel than anyone had right to this side of the grave. More like an angel than he had any right to ever see.

Sensing his stare, the girl's eyes tore from the outside and back to Will. Something in his face made her blush adorably as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear where it escaped from immediately after. He schooled his features into blankness.

"You're not fine, Will," she argued, coming over to him and settling on the bed. Will couldn't stop himself from balking at her unexpected forwardness before he let it go – it didn't seem as though she meant anything by it, and he sure as hell wasn't about to object to her in his bed. "I'm beginning to doubt that you're ever fine."

He turned his eyes back to the ceiling, "Why do you even care?"

"We're… friends, aren't we?" she asked as though she couldn't decide whether to be unsure or offended.

Will scoffed at the word even as it lifted his spirits and stung him all at once. "We're fighting. You're angry with me," he reminded her.

"I'm too tired to be angry," she sighed, actually looking put out by this. "And I hope you realise it's entirely your fault."

"How so?" he frowned amusedly despite himself.

"Do you have any idea how long I've been listening to you toss and turn? I'll give you a hint; it got annoying three hours ago," she informed him, miffed.

It was an opening to their familiar banter, and he knew it was her skilled attempt at making him feel better. Through argument and insults. It was creepy sometimes how well she knew him. A dozen retorts involving her being alone with him in his bedroom and how, if she listened closely, she'd be able to hear the sound of a thousand female hearts breaking in synch leapt to his lips like a loaded gun. He didn't voice them. It didn't have any appeal anymore.

"Just go away," he said numbly, closing his eyes once more. He couldn't do this right now.

"Will," it was obvious in her voice how disappointed she was with his brush off. "Don't do this to yourself."

She reached for his hand automatically, but he jerked it away as though she had burned him and turned almost frightened eyes upon her as he shook his head quickly, "I can't do this."

"Do what?" she asked quizzically, reaching pointedly for his hand, grasping it even as he tried to pull away again, "Will, talk to me," she pleaded.

"No," he shot adamantly.

She nodded, even as her face fell. "Okay, that's okay," she assured him, "Just- just don't push me away, though? Please?" she beseeched him, eyes all big and grey and pretty. Godammit. She'd better never figure out what effect her puppy-eyes had on him (and he didn't even like dogs, for Christ's sake!) otherwise he'd be at her eternal beck and call and everyone would know how well and truly whipped he was. Bye bye, Badass Reputation.

Even as he swore to himself, he found his head nodding along. He was rewarded with a smile as she unfortunately relaxed her hold on his arm.

She bit her lip – did that girl have any idea on the effect she had on people? On him? – looking around uncertainly. "Um, not to appear- er, that is, at the risk of appearing forward-"

"Oh, there's no risk. You do," he managed a wink.

She smacked him, growing in confidence she motioned to the pillow with her head, "Could- Would you mind if I…?"

Catching her jist, Will wondered if she'd ever cease to surprise him. He doubted it somehow. After a moment of baffled staring, he wordlessly moved to the side to make room. She lay down next to him as though this was routine, and although they didn't physically touch, a web of electricity seemed to hum in the space between them like the pull of two magnets. He wondered if she felt it too, or if he'd finally flipped.

As the fact that Tessa Grey was actually lying next to him in his bed in the position he'd dreamed about unbidden for so long, he actually contemplated the fact that he was dreaming now as well – maybe his subconscious had taken pity on him and had decided to throw him a warlock-shaped bone? He dismissed the idea soon enough. She tended to be slightly more naked in his head. And she wasn't unknown to do a fair few more cabaret numbers and show-tunes than this.

He knew she was trying, bless her, but having her warm little body close but nowhere near close enough really wasn't helping him sleep. At all. Which was why, about half an hour later, when Tessa whispered, "Are you awake?" his response was-

"No."

She swatted him again. "I have something to confess."

Ridiculous hope actually stalled his breathing before he quashed it down, "Hm?"

"I have entirely selfish reasons for being here, too," she said softly.

"Mm hm?"

She answered in a quiet mutter, as though half hoping he wouldn't hear, "I'm scared."

His attention – already pathetically rapt – zeroed in on the abject fear in her voice. As a reflex he didn't even know he had, he reached for her slender hand and squeezed lightly – any other day he would have taken the time to smirk at the way she automatically relaxed. "Of what?"

"Mortmain. Those Clockwork things. Nate. Jem and his sickness. All of you out there everyday, in danger because of me-" He had a feeling there was more to it, but she didn't seem to be able to go on.

He knew this was probably his cue to say something perfect and amazing to comfort her, but what could he say? He'd never been perfect, and he couldn't say he had as much practice comforting upset young girls as making them upset in the first place. He said nothing.

She took a deep breath, determination set in her eyes like steel when she looked at him again, "Thank you."

"Uh…"

"No, really," she smiled shakily, "I can count on you to be real with me about the important things-" Ahem, "-and I just wanted to thank you for being… you enough to give me something else to focus my frustration on, as odd as that may sound."

Something panged in his chest in a perfect blend of pleasure and pain while he groaned and turned his head away, "Make this easier, Tess. Why don't you just hate me for being me?"

"Oh, I know I ought to hate you," she chimed matter-of-factly, and his stomach dropped despite all his previous words and efforts, "But I don't think I do. If I really hated you I wouldn't have to keep reminding myself to do it all the time."

He stared at her a long moment and she held his gaze. Will turned away first to continue his task of glaring a hole through the roof as Tessa shifted slightly closer to him.

They lay in silence for a while longer, and this time it was Will who broke it as he whispered to the dark, "Tess?"

"Hm?"

He was tired enough to let his eyes fall shut, and he was sick of all this, "… Can we stop fighting now?"

He felt rather than saw her smile as she murmured back, "I'd like that."

To his ever lasting surprise, she propped herself up and leaned over him. Will swallowed as his heart tried to hammer its way out of his chest and his breath caught against the smell of her skin; roses, peppermint and something else that was simply Tessa. Before he got too excited, her soft lips pressed a chaste kiss to his forehead, silky hair brushing his face as she pulled back casually to rest her head against his shoulder and close her own eyes with a small yawn.

Hesitantly, Will laid his own head on top of hers.

"Goodnight, Will."

"… Night, Tessa."

He didn't know how long he just lay there in his ridiculously content state, but she fell asleep long before he did. That was okay, though – he just didn't want to miss this for the world.

Glancing down at her pale face illuminated by moonlight that cast half of it in shadow, his own face unconsciously mirrored whatever expression she showed in her dreams (most, by the way, were smiles). She looked peaceful as she slept, younger than she did awake when her troubles were all too there.

He opened his mouth to say It to her sleeping form, but the words lodged in his throat. He couldn't do it. Not even when no one but the wind would ever bear witness, he just couldn't form the simple syllables.

Coward.

Yes, he agreed with his irritatingly blunt inner, but he was getting there. He could admit that he was-

Deep breath, Herondale.

That he was in love with Theresa Grey.

If only in his head.

At least out loud,

I won't say I'm in love.

*Pushes laptop away exhaustedly* Phew! That's it! It's finally done and now I can talk to myself because I KNOW nobody waded far enough through this loooooooong ramble to be at the bottom. Seriously, I'm not sure if I like this and I don't think I'd even post it if it hadn't taken up a few weeks (YES, WEEKS! APPRICIATE THAT WITH REVIEWS) of my life to write. Meh. BUT, for all you loyal, extra demented little minions who actually read all that (and the cheaters who skimmed straight down), HERE'S MORE FROM CLOCKWORK PRINCE!

This is a deleted scene, but it's awesome and another Jessa:

The darkness came and went in waves that grew ever slower. Tessa was beginning to feel lighter, less like an awful weight was pressing her down. She wondered how much time had passed. It was night in the infirmary, and she could see Will a few beds away from her, a curled figure under the blankets, dark head pillowed on his arm. Brother Enoch had given him a tisane to drink once the [redacted] was cut out of his skin, and he had fallen asleep almost instantly, thank God. The sight of him in that much pain had been more harrowing than she could have imagined.

She was in a clean white nightgown now; someone must have cut away her blood-stiffened clothes and washed her hair before bandaging her — it lay softly over his shoulders, no longer twisted into rat-tails of tangles and drying blood.

'Tessa," came a whispered voice. "Tess?"

Only Will calls me that. She opened her eyes, but it was Jem seated on the side of her bed, looking down at her. The moonlight spilling through the high ceilings turned him almost transparent, an ethereal angel, all silver but for the gold chain at his throat.

He smiled. "You're awake."

"I've been awake here and there." She coughed. "Enough to know I'm all right besides a crack on the head. A lot of fuss about nothing —" Tessa's eyes dropped, and she saw that Jem was carrying something in his hands: a thick mug of some liquid that sent up a fragrant steam. "What's that?"

"One of Brother Enoch's tisanes," said Jem. "It will help you sleep."

"All I've been doing is sleeping!"

"And very amusing it is to watch," said Jem. "Did you know you twitch your nose when you sleep, like a rabbit?"

"I do not," she said, with a whispered laugh.

"You do," he said. "Fortunately, I like rabbits." He handed her the cup. "Drink just a little," He said. "It is right for you to sleep. Brother Enoch says to think of the wounds and shocks to your spirit as you would think of wounds and shocks to your body. You must rest the injured part of yourself before you begin to heal."

Tessa was dubious, but she took a sip of the tisane anyway, and then another. It had a pleasant taste, like cinnamon. Barely had she swallowed the second mouthful when a feeling of exhaustion swept over her. Jem took the cup and she lay back against the pillows, listening to his soft voice telling her a story about a beautiful young woman whose husband had died building the Great Wall of China, and who had cried so much over his loss that she had turned into a silvery fish and swum away across a river. As Tessa drifted off into dreams, she felt his gentle hands take the cup from her and set it down on the bedside table. She wanted to thank him, but she was already asleep.

*Does a rather creepy fangirl dance* REALESE DATE, Y U NO HERE? DX

I know you probably won't because the fact that you're so used to being begged for reviews by starving writers that you've turned cold, but please, minions, I actually put effort into this one although you probably can't tell ;). I'd really, REALLY appreciate some feedback – even if it's just to gush over the teasers! And here's a deal, if you review not only will I reply, I'll also check out whatever TMI or ID fanfic of yours you want me to (although odds are I've already read it XP). I'm nice like that, but you have to be nice first…

Comment on anything or everything, but I'd rather specifics 'cause I don't know what I'm doing wrong: Characterization? Description? Banter? Do I ramble too much (like now)? *Falls to knees* HELP ME OUT HERE! I, personally, think I really screwed up on the length (I don't even know how it got this long. Honestly no idea what I've been talking about for the past 13,000 words), and the Will and Tessa's OOC levels were off the charts. Some other stuff was bordering on the line of an utter fuck up.

Am I paranoid? O_e Break it to me so I don't have to waste money one the therapy, will you?

I think the ending (which I was DESPERATE FOR) came off kind of abrupt. Not, however, quite as abrupt as thi

XD

Please?