I wrote this (very) little thing for The Clave's Monthly Oneshot Challenge that needs more people! Come on, you know you want to!
I feel it may be kind of out of character for the person who does something huge in this piece to actually do it – so I suppose it's slightly AU, in a more dramatic universe. Or maybe they would. It's hard to tell with characters after only one book.
Disclaimer:nothing belongs to me, yada yada yada. The quote at the bottom is from a Taylor Swift song called Last Kiss. I listened to it on repeat while I wrote this. I'm a sucker, but it made me want to cry. WHY CAN'T THEY JUST BE TOGETHER?
Prompt: "He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them."- Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
(How could I resist this? It's so deliciously angsty.)
Twenty four days.
It had been twenty four days since Will had kissed Tessa Gray for that final time – not like in the attic, not like when he had given all of himself to her because he simply could do nothing else – and slammed down every defence he had ever built, the bittersweet tang of her full lips still burning on his.
Twenty four days had passed and Tessa Gray had not spoken a word to him.
Twenty seven days since he held her in his arms and known, quite clearly, that for the rest of his life, every beat of his heart would bear the weight of her name. He could not help but smile bitterly at that thought. How could such a man love?
Twenty seven days since William Herondale had realised that even the very worst of men can be ignited by love, realised that he could never be with the woman he loved, realised that hurting her was saving her, though she would never understand.
Bright, caring, strong as Tessa was, she could never understand.
He sat across from them at the table, Tessa and Jem, his eyes never leaving his plate. His neck ached from the excursion. They were talking in low tones and Will felt sick to his stomach. He had seen the way Jem had begun to look at her. He had seen the comfort Tessa had taken in his parabati. A bond that was stronger than brothers; could it survive this?
Of course it could. Will Herondale was many things, but he was not a weak man. He would bite a vampire to save himself; he would take a battering if Tessa survived it, he would take on a clockwork army for James. He knew what he was capable of.
While these things were true, Will Herondale knew not of love.
She was sitting on the steps outside the Institute, staring off into the distance. Will stood frozen by the door, half hidden, watching her. What was she doing here, of all places? Was he allowed no rest?
Steeling himself, he threw open the door so as to announce his presence and walked purposely past her, not stopping to look back. He only stumbled once, when she softly called his name. He couldn't help himself; she was his undoing.
Now he had faltered, he could not continue. Cursing himself, he turned slowly, his eyes flat and emotionless. Only the slight shaking of his fingers gave him away, but he folded his arms tightly against his body, deliberately shielding himself from her.
She had no idea of the power she had over him. Over Jem. Dammit, even over Lightwood.
Her eyes were so incredibly sad that his stomach turned over and he wanted more than anything to go to her, drop to his knees and kiss each of her fingers, beg her to forgive him. Tell her the truth. Tell her that love makes you a liar, that he hadn't even know what love was until he met her.
It was because he loved her so much that he couldn't.
"Where are you going?"
His mouth opened and closed as he decided if he should tell her the truth. She deserved the truth, but it was one he could not give. His hands curled into fists; there were so many things he could not give her.
"Pub," he drawled. "Awful thirsty this evening."
She stared at him for such a long time that he swallowed nervously and cleared his throat. "Well," he said brusquely, annoyed at being shaken by her, "what are you doing out here?"
She looked down at her booted feet, peeking out from the folds of her skirt. "Why is it," she asked him, rising to her feet, "that you are incapable of being civil towards me, Mr Herondale? What is it that I have done to upset you so awfully?"
You made me fall in love with you. Will swallowed the thought down painfully.
"Were you raised so self centred? You are not the only one who I delight with my wit, I assure you." He said, cocking an eyebrow, the perfect facade. Instantly, he knew he had gone too far. Tessa's face drained of colour and she looked as if she wanted to strike him.
"How dare you," she spat, grabbing her skirts and turning to run back up the stairs. Will thought back on what she had told him about her Aunt Harriet and felt a flash of guilt.
"Tess -" he darted after her and grabbed her wrist, stopping her from escaping. She turned back to him and pulled her hand from his grasp. Seconds later, that same hand whipped out and slapped him with all the force the girl behind it had.
"Don't touch me," she spat, "I am tired of your games, Mr Herondale, and your awful tongue. I did not want to believe the terrible things I have heard people say about you, but indeed they appear to be true."
Her face was flushed and her hair was falling from its neat bun as she became more and more angry. It wasn't just anger that Will could see in her eyes, though; it was hurt, too. He knew, from that one flicker of pain, that she felt of him exactly as he did of her and the thought almost brought him to his knees.
His cheek still stung with the reminder of how he had hurt her, but he had to do it one more time, because he was selfish and he didn't think he could hate himself anymore than he already did for ruining this brilliant, beautiful young woman. He reached out blindly towards her, ignoring her protests, and dropped his lips so they hovered before hers. She kept struggling, but it was without any conviction now, as if she was fighting herself rather than him.
His eyes were closed as he exhaled. He could hear her frantic breathing and his fingers itched to drag her to him, hold her close, but he couldn't, he would never do that again, as he had on the floor of that awful room when she had lain in his arms for the only and final time. The thought of Mortmain still being out there, wanting to come and steal her away from him again, steeled his nerve.
He moved to her ear and allowed himself one final ecstasy, pushing the strands of hair that had escaped her bun back behind her ear. He felt her shiver at his touch and for a second, buried his head in her shoulder. When he looked up, he whispered his parting words in her ear and pulled back, ignoring her stricken face and pressed a kiss to her forehead chastely. He turned, hands tucked in his pockets, and disappeared through the gate, the smell of Tessa still in his memory.
He had been so close to kissing her, to tasting happiness one final time, but it was the only thing he could give her, the only way he could try to make sure she lived a life of happiness rather than destruction, like he would have brought her. It was better that she forgot about him, forgot about what they could never have. Will Herondale disappeared into the streets of London's downworld, and was never seen again.
"I'm going to kill him, Tess. I'll make you safe. Love Jem. Be happy."
Your name, forever the name on my lips.