"You always close your eyes when you play."
The last chord of Jem's song faded, leaving behind it a thrum of breath-catching energy, intense despite its light sweetness. He seemed unsurprised by Tessa's observation as he turned to regard her with soulful, colorless eyes. They were open now, yes, but Tessa had been correct in her statement - she had noticed that as soon as he set his bow upon the strings, Jem's eyes would flutter shut and remain that way until his song had ended. After a moment, Jem smiled at her, a pretty smile forged by a man wracked with both pain and love.
"I do," he confirmed softly, as if almost amused by the idea. As he tilted his head contemplatively, he seemed to look through her a moment, as if she had disappeared in the midst of his own thoughts. "Yes… I suppose I do."
"My I ask why?" Tessa inquired gingerly from her place on his bed, shawl wrapped tight around her shoulders, shielding her from the autumn's night chill. "It's just… You always stand in front of the window, as if to gaze out over London while you play… but you never do."
Again, Jem's face failed to express whether or not he was taken aback by Tessa's words. Refined and touched with foreign grace, Jem's features were always most striking in the glow of night. Perhaps it was simply how dull the sunlight was in England, but here, the moon's light illuminated everything with an iridescent blue. Made as he was of white-gold and silver, Jem could have been a star, just as radiant and intense. Tessa might have blushed at her own thoughts had she been ashamed of them - as she had been ashamed of her thoughts of Will.
With Jem, however… Jem was a true gentleman: polite and kind and considerate. A sort of man who could kindle a fire in a lady, yet keep it controlled, save his priorities for a decent time. If anyone was the man from her beloved novels, it was Jem.
Tessa had realized this some time after Mortmain's disappearance. What with Will being so cold to her, Tessa had learned the ways of avoiding him when she could and of comforting herself when she could not evade his cruel treatment. Jem had provided a means to do both, whether intentionally or not, and the two had quickly developed a close relationship.
Sitting on Jem's bed in the middle of the night, dressed in her bedclothes and a robe, was only one of Tessa and Jem's new and unusual rituals. Tessa would wake from an unfit slumber or stay up late enough - and she would hear Jem begin to play. At first, she had hesitated, but now she would crawl immediately out from under her coverlet and steal across the corridor. She'd slip into Jem's room with not a sound, and still, he would call out to her knowingly.
"Tessa? Is that you?"
It amazed her that he never guessed wrong - considering she was not his only midnight visitor - and she always responded the same way.
"Yes, Jem. It's me."
He never turned around when she entered the room, because he didn't need to. She would come in, pull herself up onto his bed, and listen as he played. For hours, he would play one song after another, and she would let herself drift away from her worries.
"Would you like me to show you why?" he asked, so abruptly it seemed, Tessa started with a blink.
"I… I'm sorry, what?" she breathed, blushing at her lack of manners, but Jem only smiled in that sweet way and gestured for her to come to him.
"I'll show you why I close my eyes when I play," he offered. "It is not something I can explain to you, but I can show you. Come here, Tessa."
Maybe it was the lightness with which he beckoned her, but Tessa felt obliged to obey him. No - she wanted to obey him. Hoping the night did well to hide her bright cheeks, Tessa stood and smoothed out her nightgown with sweaty palms before stepping daintily to where Jem stood. With a few short gestures, he had her turn so that she was standing where he had been, facing the window just as he had.
"You place this here…" he whispered, and Tessa gasped as the smooth curve of the violin came to cup her throat, resting upon her shoulder as if it had been waiting for her. It was warm where Jem had been propping it up himself. "And tilt your head like so… yes, just like that so it won't fall. Now… take this, and hold it… good."
Tessa didn't know if Jem could hear, but her heart was making her chest ache with every thunderous beat against her ribs. He was wrapping his fingers firmly around her hand on the bow, the warmth of skin on hers making her shiver. His chest, hard and strong, was pressing to her back - but Tessa would have sworn he was trembling just as she.
"Are you cold?" he gasped, the heat of his breath glancing off the back of her neck - his voice shook as he spoke.
"No," she replied faintly, but he held her tighter anyway.
"Now then…" he breathed, faint and soft into her ear. His fingers, despite the rest of his shaking body, were steady and firm as they somehow guided hers to a series of strings she failed to pay attention to. Gently, he pressed down so that the fine chords dug into her soft flesh. Then, with his hand over hers, clutching the bow tightly, together they set it along the four strings drawn tightly across the length of the violin.
They seemed to take a breath then, together, in the stillness of the moment. The air about them chilled, but it did not touch Tessa - only Jem's warmth wrapped around her from behind, hugging her softly to him. Tessa, despite the air making her chest feel too-full, could not breath and opened her mouth to gasp - but could not. The same pause in time seemed to occur in Jem, for she could no longer feel his breath on the nape of her neck and only his heartbeat betrayed his immobility.
And then, very slowly, he pulled outward with the bow, and from the strings emitted a most terribly beautiful sound.
Tessa shuddered, the vibration from the strings sliding straight into her body, the resonance of the violin's mournful crying touching her in a place words alone could not reach. It was awful and tear jerking, but so unbearably sweet, lifting her from complete darkness to that world of filtered light and dancing shadows only dreams and death could take her to. As Jem, breathing hard now, as if he had just finished a battle, maneuvered their joined arms and had her play another note, they swayed ever slightly together, in unison.
Her eyes came closed before she even realized.
But she could see ever so clearly. In her mind's eye, the violin's haunting song, played at both her hand and Jem's, conjured old memories, images of times too pleasant and painful to remember. She saw herself as a child and playing with Nathanial, receiving hugs from her father, having her mother brush her hair, staying up with Aunt Harriett to comfort one another. She could see bright clear skies, clouds frequent but white and distant, Central Park's greens and browns, their cozy apartment, nights with stars and warmth to make it not-so-dreary.
Yet, as a new series of splendidly twisted chords fell and arched from the violin, stretching high into unimaginable octaves, she saw things that made her ache, quaking in Jem's embrace and needing desperately to remember how to breath. She saw her many novels in the Dark Sisters' mansion; Sophie's pretty, scarred face; tiny Charlotte amidst a crowd of men; Thomas swinging his broad sword; Jessamine's parasol dipped in blood; a failed invention at Henry's feet; a beautiful smile baring pointed teeth; blue sparks erupting from golden fingers; Will soaked in red and blue - and Jem.
Jem as he had been when she first saw him, small and white at his bedside, playing what he had her play now. She remembered this song, how it called to her sadly. He had, too, called out, so softly, but for a different name entirely. She could see him, doubled over on his floor with blood coloring his lips, him dancing madly with a seraph blade, his hair tousled by wind on the bridge, his mouth gracing the back of her hand…
It was quiet.
Very slowly, Tessa lifted her eyelids, blinking at her blurry vision, startled by the sudden murkiness that was covering her eyes. At some point, it seemed as though Jem had stopped moving their hands, had finished his tearful song. He was motionless against her, bow still hovering by the strings, arm wrapped around her. They stood, unmoving, unspeaking.
She didn't want him to move.
To let her go and have her fall away from him, into loneliness and desperation. The song, resonating inside her, was too much to bear, the slow steadiness of it. Quaking but firm - if Jem let go, Tessa knew not what might become of her.
"Tessa," he whispered, causing her to tense as he drew his arms away from her.
Her heart faltered a moment, distraught, but following the light clatter of the violin being set on a nearby chair, his arms came back to her. They grasped her by the shoulders and spun her slow, away from the cloudy blue night. Past her murky vision, his eyes were like cups of rippling liquid silver. His fingers were touching her cheeks, swiping methodically until the world began to clear up.
She gasped when she realized she'd been crying. Embarrassed, she tried to turn away from him, but even now, riddled with his illness, he was so much stronger than she. He purred some inhumanly comforting sound and pulled her close, held her tight.
And he didn't let her go.
I adore these series! And the Mortal Instruments. I'll definitely be writing more. This may have a follow-up, simply because I had no clue how exactly to end it. But, this oneshot was supposed to be bittersweet and sort of twisted - remember that not ever ending has to be an orthodox one. Some people have no appreciation for loose endings. -_- I'm not a miracle worker, you know. If you want Jem and Tessa to have a different story, you write a oneshot - this is my story. I ended it the way I wanted, and I like this.
But! If you aren't one of those annoying whiners who likes to tell me my endings suck because they aren't like everyone else's - please review and tell me how you did. If you don't like it, feel free to tell me. Just make sure you give me a good reason why. ^_^