Category: Infernal Devices
Author: Mrs Pettyfer
Title: Shades of Gray
Pairing(s): Tessa/Will and slight Tessa/Jem
A/N: So this is a two-part one shot inspired from the "dirty sexy balcony scene" teaser. So this will contain slight spoilers for Clockwork Prince, but nothing big. The spoiler will simply be who is featured in the DSBS and the small snippet that Cassie shared with the fans. I have not read Clockwork Prince (it comes out SO SOON!) so this story is not exactly canon compliant. Hope you like it!
NOTE: All characters and the world of The Infernal Devices belong to Cassandra Clare, not me. Also please do not repost this story and claim as your own anywhere else. I've had ripping issues in the past and would like to refrain from it again. Thank you. :D
"I believe very strongly that when it comes to desire, when it comes to attraction,
that things are never black and white, things are very much shades of gray." - Brian Molko
Part One: The Masquerade Ball
Will Herondale was most certainly not going to Benedict Lightwood's masquerade ball.
It wasn't because he didn't have a young lady to escort—he had many offers in that department—or because he had not a thing to wear—which he did—or even because attending Benedict's ball meant being in the same vicinity as his sons and daughter—troubling, but tolerable. The reason was far more severe.
"You are being ridiculous, Will," said Jem, glancing down to adjust his silver cufflinks.
"Not ridiculous at all." Will was lounged back in a chair, wrapped tightly in a quilt, a book in hand that hadn't flipped a page in the past hour. "Quite the contrary, actually. I find it completely improper and I will not jeopardize my reputation for such tedious regulations."
"Improper?" Jem turned, arching a delicate silvery brow. The crackling fire cast a pearly glow against his skin, making him almost appear transparent. "Will, it's a masquerade ball. It's only proper to wear a masquerade mask to attend."
"Really?" Will tossed the book aside and leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. "Says who?"
"Says whoever agreed that wearing a masquerade mask was proper for a masquerade ball," said Jem. "Ground breaking, I realize, even for you."
"What if it was agreed that proper was wearing your trousers on your head. Would you do it then, James?"
"If I were attending a ball that called for it, I certainly would."
"What about the toe of a dead man dangling from your neck?" Will asked. "A black cat's tongue?"
"The way your mind works," Jem mused, turning back to the floor length mirror.
"I can't be bothered with your silly ball anyway," said Will, sitting back in his chair. "I have important business to take care of."
"Oh, are you over your illness?" Jem inquired. "Six Fingered Nigel lonely again, is he?"
Will ignored him and checked his pocket watch. "Shouldn't you be running along?"
Jem turned, still adjusting the cuff links. He stared at Will with a gaze that made Will a little uncomfortable. Will shifted in his seat and tightened the quilt around himself protectively.
"You smell," Jem said, at last. "Terribly."
"Do I?" Will blinked and took an invulnerable sniff. He winced.
Jem sighed. "You haven't left this room in days, Will."
"I am ill."
"Mentally, most likely," Jem agreed. "But physically, you are not. I insist you must get out before you contaminate my room with your filthiness."
Will waved him off. "Uninterested."
Jem made an annoyed sound. "This is my room—"
"I thought we agreed this was our room, now," Will interrupted.
"No, you agreed," Jem pointed out. "And I have half a mind to beg Charlotte to reconsider our agreement or find me a new roommate."
"James," said Will, his tone taking on a much softer note that he reserved for his parabatai. "After what happened—"
"I know." Jem held up a white gloved hand. "I know it's getting worse and precautions are being made. Why you must insist on scrutinizing me like a watch dog is beyond me, however. I'm not going to keel over and die right now."
A knock at the door sliced through Will's reply. Jem finished adjusting his shirt before opening the door. Sophie entered in garbs of ivory, carrying a delicate silver tea tray. The scarring on her face was hidden in the dim light. She reserved a shy, tiny smile for Jem, but when she looked at Will, it was pure loathing.
Will grinned at her. "How very kind of you, my dear Sophie, to bring me tea on my sickbed," he said.
"Not a person in this Institute believes you are ill," Jem insisted. He strode to the mirror and started fastening a silver mask across his eyes, the color matching the exact shade of his hair.
"Tea, Mr. Herondale?" Sophie asked, through gritted teeth, which only made Will grin wider.
"Did you poison it, Sophie?"
"Don't need to," she said, setting the tray down forcefully on the small table in front of Will. "There's enough of that running through your veins already."
She gave Jem a small bow and scurried out of the room, slamming the door shut behind her. Jem slipped on a white frock coat, the last piece of his attire. He was wearing an array of whites and silver, not at all contrasting to his silver features and pale face. It wasn't unappealing however, but cloaked him in a veil of goodness and purity. That was how Jem was, though. Good and pure.
Unlike me, Will thought. Sophie wasn't far from the mark with her comment.
"Did Jessie finally convince you to escort her, then?" Will asked, deciding he was going to read his book after all. He flipped back to the front page.
"No," said Jem. "I believe Gabriel Lightwood's offer appealed to her more."
Will snorted, not at all surprised by this change of development. "A fine pair they'd make," he commented. "You are going alone, then? How very sad, James."
"No again," said Jem, turning from the mirror to snatch up his cane. "I offered to escort Tessa, considering she will feel very out of place if she is alone. I quite enjoy her company, as well."
"Tessa?" Will sat up, tossing the book aside with no inclination of ever picking it up again. "She is not Nephilim."
"All residents of the Institute were invited," said Jem, reasonably. He gave Will a pointed, sidelong glance. "If you bothered to spend any time with the rest of us around the Institute you'd know this. You think I haven't noticed that you eat breakfast before everyone else rises and dinner when everyone is asleep? I have no idea if you even bother with lunch."
Will appeared most scandalized. "I've been ill," he defended, clutching his chest for emphasis. He gave a very pitiful cough that Jem tactfully ignored.
"And last week?"
"Devious affairs," said Will, "that do not bear repeating, for any reason. Ever."
"And the weeks before?"
Jem gave him a very dry look. "Touring London," he repeated, equally as dryly.
"One can never be properly acquainted with such a marvelous city."
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were avoiding the Institute," said Jem, "or possibly those residing in it."
Will's expression was carefully blank, and his voice came out a little hard. "Good thing you know better, then."
Jem sighed, a very weary gesture. He had taken a little extra medicine for the evening, and Will thought he looked quite well. There was a light blemish to his cheeks, a little color to his eyes.
"All this running makes me tired," said Jem, "and I'm not even the one running."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know what it means." Jem withdrew a thick, ivory piece of parchment from the inside of his robes and tossed into Will's lap. "In case you change your mind."
He moved toward the door and paused, a hand resting on the knob. He turned, scrunching up his nose. "And for the Angel's sake, Will, take a shower."
With that he slammed the door, leaving Will utterly alone. Will looked down at the invitation on his lap as though it had personally offended him.
"No," he said, addressing it personally. "You do not tempt me. I'm not going."
Tessa absolutely and irrevocably hated the color gray, even though that was her last name. Not only did it remind her of wall paint, but it was a murky, nasty sort of color. The kind that couldn't decide if it wanted to be white or black, so instead, it lingered somewhere in the middle. Why couldn't it just make up its mind? Perhaps that was too irrational, because really, she didn't hate gray on the walls. But on her, in the form of a gown? Most definitely. Not only was it a most troubling color, but Jessamine had bought a size too small. Sophie had tried to fix it, but the bodice was far too tight and the fabric too delicate.
"It's fashionable!" Jessamine had insisted. Tessa was sure that no fashion was worth barely being able to breathe.
So instead of standing regally and confident like Jessamine—who wore a brilliant red gown that stood out like a sore thumb—Tessa fidgeted, groaned, and made little noises of protest while they waited for Jem, who was taking far longer than anticipated. She was about to convey her worry to Charlotte when he came thundering down the marbled steps of the Institute. He looked ruffled and disheveled, but not at all like it was health related. He was stunning in his all white attire. Mentally, Tessa groaned. They would look ridiculous: one dazzling in white and the other blending in with the walls.
"Finally," Jessamine breathed, looking much inconvenienced. "It would be very improper for a lady to arrive late when she is most expected." She waved her hands at Sophie and—bless her heart, Tessa thought—Sophie fanned out the back of Jessamine's gown not for the first time and certainly not the last of the evening.
Sophie was dressed unusually nice, wearing one of Jessamine's finest emerald gowns, her brown curls pinned and falling in loose ringlets down her back. Tessa would have thought it a kind gesture on Jessamine's part had she done it out of the goodness of her heart. But no, Jessamine wanted Sophie to come along and follow her about the Lightwood manor, like a personal maid for the evening. When Sophie said she didn't have a thing to wear that would be appropriate, Jessamine lent her the emerald gown.
"My apologizes for keeping you," said Jem, addressing the group. His eyes lingered on Tessa's a bit longer than anyone else and he gave her a warm smile. "You look lovely, Tessa."
Blushing, she said her thanks.
"Quite alright, Jem," said Charlotte. She had been fanning herself for the past ten minutes, looking slightly uncomfortable under the dark blue gown. Tessa had been so used to seeing Charlotte in Shadowhunter gear lately that it was almost a surprise to see her dress so normal for a lady. The dress nearly swallowed her up, a pile of skirts fanning out around her. Tessa quite liked the color; it reminded her of the sky just before dawn.
"Shall we get going, then?" Henry asked, opening the door to the institute. He seemed ready to get the ball over with as soon as possible. Tessa did not blame him.
"Wait," said a voice from behind.
Tessa's heart did a little twitch, like clockwork malfunctioning, as Will stepped out of the shadows. How long he had been waiting there, she had no idea. He had this odd way of appearing utterly silent, like a ghost drifting through shadow.
"What is it now?" Jessamine complained, shooting Will an irritated look. But he didn't see it. He was staring at Tessa very intently, so intently her cheeks burned.
She looked away. It had been weeks since Will had really looked at her, so long she had almost forgotten the exact shade of his eyes. Almost. There was no way someone could forgot the color of Will Herondale's eyes. Deep, dark blue, the color of the North Atlantic at twilight.
When Tessa looked back up, he was still staring at her. Uncomfortable under his scrutiny, she coughed into her hand.
"Did you forget something, Miss Gray?" Will inquired.
Inwardly, she cringed. So they were back to formalities, were they? Well, Tessa thought, at least he's talking to me. She couldn't remember the last time he had directly spoken to her. Gabriel Lightwood's training sessions didn't help matters either, since Will's detest for Gabriel was quite mutual. It seemed there wasn't a time when Tessa wasn't arguing with Will over something. It got to the point where she was sure he was angry about something else, but deciding to take it out on her instead of facing the problem head on. She finally told him she didn't want to speak to him at all unless he had something decent to say.
That had been over two weeks ago. Longer, perhaps.
Now, however, Will's words left Tessa feeling a little confused. What had she forgotten? She looked down at herself instinctively, running her hands over the gray skirts, up the laced bodice, to the clockwork angel at her throat, and—
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "My mask, of course! How silly of me to forget it."
Jessamine made an irritated sort of scoff and practically ran Henry out the door, dragging Sophie behind by the wrist. Tessa turned to the rest of their group.
"You go on," she said. "I'll be just a moment."
Jem looked ready to argue but Tessa insisted he help Henry get the carriages ready. Jem complied, being the agreeable man he was, and followed Charlotte and the others out the Institute.
When Tessa lifted her skirts, prepared to make the long trek back to her room, she was quite surprised when Will stepped forward, holding out her mask. He wore a tight smile, his posture very stiff. His rigidness was completely opposite of how he appeared: Disheveled. Tired. Dark shadows under the eyes. Wrinkled clothes.
Tessa thought he looked dreadful for a man she knew was so handsome.
Will motioned for her to turn around with a whirl of his finger. She did, and ever so gently, he placed the glittering silver mask over her eyes, tying it in the back. His fingers weaved through her delicate brown curls. One of his hands lingered on her neck, a finger creating soft shapes against the skin that somehow both burned and enticed Tessa. The softness of his touch felt more intimate than if he had kissed her.
Tessa realized in that moment that she was completely alone with Will, something that had not happened in weeks. The last time she was alone with him—her breath caught. She didn't want to think about the horrible and embarrassing conversation they had on the rooftop of the Institute those many weeks ago.
Will touched her elbow with the lightest touch—as though trying to touch her the least he could possibly get away with—and turned her to face him. His elegant cheekbones looked more hollow than usual, his black hair messy and falling into his eyes, which were still that vibrant shade of blue. Those never change, Tessa thought.
"What?" said Will, and she realized with chagrin she must have voiced her thoughts out loud.
Tessa cleared her throat. "Your eyes," she clarified. "Sometimes I think of you as a character of many faces. But your eyes never change."
Will's hand froze—Tessa hadn't even realized it was touching her cheek—and slowly his fingers formed a tight fist, and his hand dropped. The expression on his face made it seem like he was angry with himself, which made little sense.
Straightening, he said, "You ought to run along, Miss Gray."
The use of her Christian name snapped Tessa out of her current haze, back to logic and reality where Will Herondale was not a nice boy.
"Are you sure you won't go, Mr. Herondale?" She said in a clipped tone, more out of politeness than general interest.
"I don't think that would be wise," said Will, stiffly putting his hands into his pockets.
"And why not?"
"Just trust me."
"I'd rather not," Tessa said, before she could stop herself. Hurt and shock flashed across Will's face but it was gone in an instant. Tessa gathered her skirts, deciding she needed to leave right now before things got worse. "Good night, Will."
She rushed out the doors before he could say anything. Only once she was in the safe confines of the carriage and it lolled down the street did Tessa look back, peering through the curtains of the back window. It was too dark to know for sure, but she was almost positive she could see those blue eyes glowing from the door step.
Benedict Lightwood's manor was not to be trifled with. Twice, Tessa had gotten lost. Considering there was plenty of staff on duty, about a hundred and some Shadowhunters, and a personal escort, that was saying something. Aside from the Institute, Lightwood Manor was the largest structure Tessa had ever visited. The outside was very symmetrical, three stories—made of mostly white brick—with two chimneys, one at each end of the manor. Inside, nearly everything was white marbled, the floors lined with a rich, burgundy carpet.
The ball was held in the Eastern Ballroom; a circular room with white and black tiled floors, an enormous chandelier hanging in the center, catching the light from the fire lit sconces. Servants weaved in and out of the dancing bodies carrying trays of finger food and beverages Tessa did not dare to try. She had been watching a particular Shadowhunter from affair—one that sipped a dark red liquid all too good naturally and now thought he was a circus elephant. She vowed to stay away from the drink herself.
Jem was lost somewhere in the crowd, having been pulled many different directions. He had offered to bring Tessa a beverage. Pink lemonade, he had said. Not that dreadful drink that turned even the upmost respected men and women into circus elephants.
So now she was waiting patiently, but Jem had been gone for awhile, nearly ten or fifteen minutes. Perhaps he had run into an acquaintance? He was well known, of course, and very amiable. Charlotte was too busy trying to speak to everyone in the room, reassuring their confidence in her as head of the Institute. Poor Henry was miserably trailing along, looking like a lost puppy. Tessa could spot Jessamine from where she stood—that red gown was hard to miss—chatting with a handsome man that was not Gabriel. Sophie stood dutifully at her side.
Tessa wished she could speak with either of them, even Jessamine, but they were buried too far in the crowd for her liking.
So instead, she continued waiting for Jem on the edge of the room, trying to ignore the occasional stares she received from the Shadowhunters. Even though her gown had many skirts and layers, it was tight around the waist, so very tight she could hardly breathe. Jessamine had lent her a matching fan, one that was making quite good use for the evening.
"Might I ask your hand for the next set, Miss Gray?"
Tessa turned in surprise at the familiar voice. Standing in a dark purple suit with an elaborate matching top hat was none other than Magnus Bane. His gold-green cat eyes glittered in amusement as he extended a gleaming hand that wore several gold rings. Tessa thought he looked very normal tonight, unlike his usual eccentric dress code. Well, as normal as Magnus Bane ever was, that is.
Tessa gave him her hand without hesitation. "I didn't realize you were coming, Magnus."
"Neither did the Lightwoods," he said, grinning. "Pity they don't bother with better security."
"Will you get into trouble?" Tessa asked, alarmed.
"It wouldn't be a party without a little trouble," was Magnus's simply reply. He led them onto the dance floor, just as the band changed tempo into something very traditional.
Tessa took her place opposite of Magnus, forming a line with the other ladies. The music began and she was moving. Aunt Harriet had taught her many formal dances—because a lady should always know how to dance—so she kept up with Magnus quite well. He wore a peacock colored mask with feathers and all, making him quite hard to miss amongst the dancing bodies. For such a tall man, Magnus moved with grace, the steps very natural, like he had done it many times before. Tessa wondered, not for the first time, how old the warlock really was.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" Magnus asked, a few minutes into the dance.
Tessa was relieved to talk. All the other couples danced mostly in silence, and she found it all too odd.
"It's…a little crowded for my taste," she said.
"Nephilim," Magnus mused, catching her hand and leading them down the promenade. "They like their formalities."
"I'm here to support Charlotte," said Tessa. "Anything she needs to keep the Institute."
"I as well." Magnus's eye seemed to catch on something just over her shoulder. "A pleasure it has been, Miss Gray."
Tessa was very confused when she kept with the dance, turning her back on him to weave through the other gentlemen. The dance was about halfway through, and when she turned back to face Magnus, she had a new partner. A black gloved hand was extended, seeking silent permission to continue the dance. The rest of the couples moved around Tessa like she was not there. Though her partner wore all black and a black mask, those eyes were hard to conceal.
"Will," Tessa breathed, as shocked as if it was Mortmain before her.
He said nothing as she placed her hand into his. They moved about the room, following the dance. Once, Tessa made eye contact with Jem, as he stood on the outskirts of the dance floor chatting with Henry. She couldn't read Jem's face, but thought it looked mildly amused.
"What changed your mind?" Tessa asked. "I thought you were ill."
She was both relieved and surprised she found her voice. Will was breathtaking in his solid black ensemble. He had cleaned up for the occasion, no longer looking ragged and unwell. His hair was still a black mess, but tidier, clean, falling across the top of his mask. When they stepped very close, Tessa smelt sweat and rust, and only at this distance did she see a light perspiration along his exposed neck.
"Is—did you run here?" she added, gasping.
"Aren't you full of questions," Will mused. "And here I thought we could enjoy the moment in silence."
"But that wouldn't be very much like you, would it? No, you can hardly keep from speaking in moments of silence."
"Tell me you didn't run here, Will," Tessa persisted.
"I did," he said cheerfully. For some reason this pleased him very much. "Well, part of the way. I won't bother telling you the rest of the story."
Tessa didn't want to know. The dance ended; the music fading away as the room erupted in applause. Tessa looked at Will and opened her mouth. She felt suddenly like she needed to add something, or find some reason they should continue talking, but she found nothing. It felt as if she were rolling down a hill, grasping for anything that would keep her from falling, but each blade of grass continued to slip through her fingers.
Will was watching her carefully. When she found no sensible reason to stay, she started to turn, but he caught her elbow and leaned in close, speaking low in her ear. "Do you want to go to a real party?"
A/N: Thank you for reading; I'd love your input. :D Part two will be up soon.