Author's notes: Hey guys! It's been a year since I've posted anything on here. What a year it's been. I finally got around to writing this fic - which was a spur of the moment thing, all emotion and no plotting - and I am very proud of this. I absolutely adore Cassandra Clare's books. This is my first fan fiction of her works! I would be so grateful if you would leave a review and let me know what you think!
Recommendation: listen to the War Horse soundtrack while reading. Specifically the songs "Plowing", "The Reunion", and "Remembering Emilie, and Finale." I believe it will improve your reading experience, because this music is what brought out such strong emotions for me when I was writing this.
!This fanfic has spoilers for Clockwork Prince. If you have not finished reading it, do not read!
London's streets were shrouded in silence. The normally dark roads were bright with freshly fallen snow. Gas lamps were illuminated along the streets in front of buildings and houses, lighting the way for passers-by and people leaving late night Yule parties.
A lone Shadowhunter walked down the street with his gloved hands in his pockets, leaving light footprints in the powdery snow. In the dim lighting between the lamp posts, one might mistake him for an elderly man. He had a cane tucked in the crook of his elbow and his hair gleamed a bright silver.
Ahead, yellow light spread across the front of a porch where people were beginning to leave a party. Carriage cabs were waiting out front for hopeful takers. Greys, bays, and chestnuts clip-clopped their way down the street, their hoofbeats somewhat muffled from the thin layer of snow, as they picked up passengers, breaking the silence.
James Carstairs continued past, tipping his hat to the owner of the house who was seeing the guests out. Slowly the noise of conversation and horseshoes from behind him dissipated and silence returned. As Jem reached the corner of the street, he spied a lone carriage parked that lacked a driver. The black horse attached to it was beginning to become layered in a coat of snow. Jem approached the gelding, who was quite subdued - all he managed in greeting was a soft, weak nicker.
"Hey, boy," Jem murmured. He removed a glove and rubbed the nose of the horse with a gentle and elegant hand. Gazing into his soft brown eyes, he realized what a hard life this horse had to live: pulling carriages from dawn until dusk in the busy, fuming London streets; never seeing grass, or fields, or trees; being under the command of a whip; standing and waiting for customers in rain, heat, or snow.
Jem ran his hand over the tall horse, trying to get a feel for how thin he was. Ribs were beginning to show, which caused Jem to shake his head in disdain for the owner. He could plainly feel the bump of ribs under his fingers. His velvety winter coat was a dull black, lacking a healthy shine.
"Hey!" called an irritated voice from the darkness of an alley. "Don' touch me horse!" A scruffy old man came jogging to the carriage, clearly with a limp. A cigarette was wedged in between his lips. "Unless you pay for a cab!"
"My apologies, sir," Jem said, retracting his hand and regretfully walking on.
The horse nickered softly, but Jem heard it. He paused, considering, then-
"How much for the horse, sir?"
"Wot?" the man asked.
Jem repeated, "How much to buy the horse?"
The man looked at him incredulously. "Me horse is not fer sale!"
"He's not fit to be a carriage horse, not in this state. How much to buy him from you? It would be cheaper than working this one to death and buying a younger one." The man gave him a piercing, calculating look. Then he seemed to consider it.
"Fifteen," Jem bartered. The man shook his head.
"This horse isn't even fer sale! Stop lowering me price!" The man said furiously.
"All right," Jem said. "Eighteen." He extracted the money - all that he was carrying - out of his pocket, showing it in his gloved fingers.
The man pursed his lips. "Sold. You can come pick him up tomorrow at noon at the market on 3rd street." He stalked away bitterly, but not before snatching the money from Jem's outstretched hand.
Jem smiled. The gelding seemed to have picked his head up a little prouder, and there was a light in his eye that had not been there before. "You're coming home with me tomorrow," Jem murmured. He resumed stroking the horse's head. "We aren't so different, you know," he said softly. He lifted up the forelock and scratched a small white star. "Both taken away from our homes and placed into a difficult life. Life is not easy," he said. The horse seemed to agree through his eyes. "But it can be good." He pat his nose one more time, murmuring, "It can be good."
Jem shivered slightly and gave the horse a final pat on the neck. "See you tomorrow, boy," he said. "Try and stay warm."
He began making his way once more along the street towards the institute. A too-familiar voice called from not too far up ahead. "Oy, where have you been?"
His parabatai slid to a stop in front of him. "I search for you in concern, only to find you conversing with a horse!" He exclaimed skeptically.
"I purchased him," Jem said. "That man was abusing him. I'm picking him up tomorrow."
William Herondale's eyes flashed, startled, but it quickly passed. "Typical." With a huff, Will turned around and began making his way back to the institute. Jem shook his head, following behind his friend.
It was very loud at the market. People were shouting prices and advertisements, trying to lure buyers over. He was passing through the produce section, where he found pitiful fruits inside of boxes, shipped from faraway places. He entered the animal section, first observing the exotics. He grimaced when he sighted tigers, bears, and other large predators pacing in small iron cages. It was unnatural, and a sight he loathed to see.
He then reached the livestock section. It was divided up into false stalls made of wooden rails. Horses, cows, and sheep were crowded in these pens. He passed a stall with two horses, both chestnuts, and they snorted, puffing white air as they breathed. Jem noticed that there were very few black horses available - primarily greys, whites, chestnuts and bays. Along the native English equines, he spied the delicate, doe-eyed horses of Arabia which had just been imported by the Crabbets, and the powerful, dancing horses of Iberia. It took him a few minutes to spot his horse among the crowd. His head was lowered, his ears swiveling around, listening. Jem made a noise with his lips to attract his attention. The horse lifted his head and his ears pricked forward when he spotted Jem.
The owner was not far away. He hobbled to meet Jem. "Well," he said reluctantly. "I guess this is better for me business. I can buy a horse of a different color. I shan't be running a funeral carriage with this black beast."
Jem chose to disregard the cab driver's words. He was an ignorant man, like most cab owners. He asked, "Does he have a name? Is he broken under saddle?"
"He hasn't got a name. No sense to name a beast that won't last long. He is broken for saddle." The man handed Jem a lead rope. "There yeh go, sonny." He looked curiously at Jem, observing his strange hair and eye color. Jem ignored this as well. When he was sure that Jem had no more questions, the man finally wandered off, likely in search of a new horse.
Jem opened the makeshift gate, attaching the rope to the halter. "Let's go home," he said, and the gelding nickered softly as if in agreement.
Will found his parabatai in the stables. Cyril was holding the reins of Jem's newest rescue while Jem adjusted the saddle stirrups. Jem looked up, suddenly alerted to the presence of his blood brother. He smiled. "Good morning, Will," he said.
"Where are you going?" he asked. He eyed the hulking beast, sizing him up.
Jem caught Will's interested gaze. "He's a beauty, isn't he? I reckon he's got some Irish Draught in him. Look at the size of those legs and his thick neck. He looks as if he came from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. He's a gentle soul; he's got kindness in his eyes." Jem gently stroked the gelding's neck, before mounting. It almost surprised Will at how graceful his friend was when he was with his horse, almost as if they were one in the same. A small trickle of jealousy went through Will, which he quickly rid himself of - he was being ridiculous. Jem would never be closer to a horse than his own parabatai.
Will moved to block Jem's exit, crossing his arms and repeating, "Where are you going?"
"You worry too much, Will," Jem said with a broad smile. "I am testing my new horse for soundness, and hope to find a gift for my lovely Tessa. Have you any suggestions?"
Will's eyes tightened imperceptibly. I know just the gift for her. How can you not? "Try the booksellers on Bouverie Street. I'm sure you can find something to her liking there," he said, trying not to let his irritation show.
Jem's smile, impossibly, widened. "Thank you, Will. I will see you later." He clucked his tongue, kicking his heels against his mount's sides. Will moved to the side just as the gelding's hooves went into motion, trotting out of the stable and onto the streets of London.
"Where are you taking me, and why am I in gear? Are we training elsewhere?" Tessa asked Jem in confusion. They were walking towards the street in pre-dawn light, where Cyril was waiting with the carriage. Balios and Xanthos were standing under a pool of gaslight, snorting; their breath was visible in the frigid air. Tessa's gaze then fell upon a third horse tied to the back of the carriage, one she had never seen before. "Where did that horse come from? I thought the institute only had two?"
"Why, he is mine," Jem said. "I purchased him only three days ago from a man who was mistreating him, and I intend to give him a proper life. We are taking the horses to the country, dear Tessa, to give them fresh air and grass to feed on. And I am going to teach you how to ride a horse."
Tessa stumbled, and Jem quickly gripped her arm to steady her. "W-what?" She spluttered. "I couldn't possibly! Whatever would I need to ride a horse for?"
"You never know when a situation calls for it," Jem said seriously. "An emergency might come about, and what would happen if the only means for transportation was by horseback and you could not ride? Besides," he added with a smile. "It is a wonderful feeling. You'll see soon enough." He closed his eyes, whispering, "The connection between horse and rider as you gallop, feeling completely free of the world, floating, suspended in this moment in time. Muscles working to their limits as you go as fast as possible, hooves pounding beneath you, eating up the ground, breathing hard and fast." His eyes opened. "It is one of the best feelings in the world. Until you experience it, it's impossible to imagine such beauty exists in the world." He gently caressed a gloved hand over Tessa's cheek. "Though I've found this feeling again, in a completely different manner."
Tessa's heart fluttered. She tried to wrap her mind around the concept of what he was saying. "Alright then," she said in a hushed voice. "I will learn."
Jem helped Tessa into the carriage, before following her in. He instructed Cyril to take them to the Hightower farm in Sutton. Tessa eyed Jem carefully, pleased by what she saw. He was dressed in what looked like Shadowhunter riding gear, and tall, glossy riding boots laced all the way to the top adorned his feet. He moved with ease, which led Tessa to believe this was by far not the first time he had dressed in such articles of clothing.
"The snow should be melted in Sutton," Jem said. "Yesterday was warm enough to have done so. Perhaps today will be warm again."
Tessa nodded, hoping that her first riding lesson would not lead to shivering. She was not particularly fond of the cold.
With a jolt, the carriage began to move, and they were off.
"I've something for you," Jem said, breaking the comfortable silence that had stretched between them for hours already. They were nearing the farm, Cyril had informed them, hopefully there in fifteen minutes.
He reached into his coat, drawing out a cloth-wrapped rectangular object - Tessa knew without a doubt that it was a book of some sort. Her eyes widened. She carefully took it from his hands, moving to unwrap it slowly. When the blue covered was revealed, she almost laughed - of course.
BLACK BEAUTY by Anna Sewell.
She had never read the book, but had heard gossip about it. It was soon to be published in America. She rubbed a gloved hand over the new cover. It was a first edition. "Thank you," she said, and she meant it.
"Do you like it? Have you read the book?" Jem asked. When Tessa shook her head, Jem said, "It is quite good. I hope you don't mind that I read it before I wrapped it."
Tessa's eyebrows raised. Jem didn't like to read books. Why was this one different? When she said this to him, he smiled. "It intrigued me."
Their conversation was cut short when Cyril announced that they had arrived. Tessa drew back the curtains and looked outside. Wide green fields dotted with horses and sheep greeted her eyes, and she was reminded of their trip to Yorkshire with Jem and Will. Jem had said that he didn't like the countryside - what made this different for him?
This thought quickly disappeared when Jem opened the carriage door and helped Tessa out. Cyril started to unhitch Balios and Xanthos, and Jem drew her back to his new horse. "Tessa," he said. He untied the large black horse from the carriage, leading him to her. "Meet Beauty."
Tessa's eyes widened. How perfect the name was! How perfect the gesture! A character of a book come to life - a dream come true. The horse certainly looked the part: raven's feather black, the only other color showing was a large white star on his forehead. She hesitantly extended an arm for him to sniff. His lips nuzzled against her, and a giggle escaped past her lips.
"Go ahead," Jem encouraged. "You can pet him."
She reached up and started to scratch him beneath the hair on his forehead - which Jem taught her was the forelock - and Beauty's eyes lowered in pleasure.
"You found his favorite scratching spot on your first try, well done," Jem said with a grin. "I'm going to let him rest before we begin your lesson. We've traveled a great distance." He unclipped his lead rope, and Beauty was off, galloping, bucking, and whinnying in delight. Jem murmured, mostly to himself, "I wonder how long it's been since he's seen green fields."
Shortly thereafter, Jem had set up a picnic for them beneath a large tree. Bridget had packed them a lunch of cheese and bread, jarred pears, and there were cookies - which Jem called 'biscuits' - for dessert. While she leaned against the trunk of the tree, Jem rested his head in her lap. His eyes were closed, so Tessa gazed at him. He was truly beautiful, inside and out. As her fingers gently ran through his silver hair, all her thoughts were Jem Jem Jem. They stayed like this for a long stretch of time. Tessa found that this was one of the most pleasurable times she had shared with him.
"I love you," she whispered, her heart so full of love that she had to say this before her heart burst.
Jem's eyes opened, a healthy, shining silver. He said back: "I love you." She leaned down, and their lips met.
She stared cautiously up at Beauty. His size greatly intimidated her. It seemed as though it would be so easy to tip over one way or the other and hit the solid ground hard.
"You'll be all right," Jem said. His reassurance strengthened her resolve. "I'll be with you all the way."
She jerked her chin in a nod, signaling that she was ready. "First, you will learn how to mount a horse. You come to their left side," he led her to the proper side. "And now you put your left foot in the stirrup." He gestured to the metal where her feet would rest. "When you are preparing to mount, you grip the saddle like so," he demonstrated. "You use your upper strength, as well as the stirrup, to boost yourself onto his back. Have a go."
Tessa was then very glad for her height. She easily slid her boot into the stirrup, gripped the saddle, and hefted herself up. She was disoriented for a moment, so she tried to get her bearings.
"Very good!" Jem exclaimed. "Now, shift your weight to the right side slightly to right the saddle." She did, and felt more solidly on the horse. Instinctively she gripped his mane and her legs tightened around his middle.
"Do I need to put my foot in the other stirrup?" She asked.
"Not yet," Jem said, "Let me adjust them first." He adjusted their length, and he taught her how to properly set her foot in them. "Toes to the sky, heels to the earth." She did so, feeling somewhat uncomfortable in this position. She couldn't help but think of Jessamine then. She would never have stood for riding a horse like a boy. She would have insisted upon a sidesaddle.
"Keep your back straight, and try to always keep your eyes ahead of you. It's very easy to be distracted by the horse, but you must try and look at the horizon. Good. Now look down - see the reins? Take them in your hands." She looked down, fumbling with the leather strap. With Jem's help, she memorized how to properly grasp them. Who knew there were so many rules to riding a horse? Tessa certainly hadn't.
"Why don't you try walking now. Cluck your tongue and kick your heels against his side."
Tessa did, and nothing happened. Her eyebrows furrowed. She clucked again, tapping harder this time. Beauty set into motion and she squeaked.
"Good!" Jem exclaimed. He was walking alongside them. "How does it feel?"
Tessa took a moment to consider. It was quite strange, yet at the same time quite pleasing. "It's...I like it," she said.
"Glad to hear it. Now, to turn Beauty, you pull the reins out to the side you want to go. If you want to turn left, you pull out your reins to the left. Try it." Tessa followed his instructions, and Beauty easily followed her command. They turned. "Okay. I want you to keep walking. If you need to stop him for any reason, all you have to do his pull back on the reins and say 'whoa.' Loop around that tree up ahead and come back to me."
And so they did. She looped twice more around it, and was very proud.
Jem continued to walk beside them. "I'm going to have Beauty step up his pace now, called the trot. It's going to be very bumpy, and don't be ashamed to be frightened at first. It can be startling. This pace is the least comfortable one - quite bouncy. You use the muscles in your legs to push yourself up so that you are almost standing in the stirrups every other step. It almost comes naturally after a moment. Go ahead and cluck again and tap your heels against him."
Tessa took a deep breath, steeling herself. She tapped her feet against his sides, and he picked up his pace. At first she bounced uncomfortably in the saddle, up down up down up down up down, but then she remembered his instructions and firmly pressed down against the stirrups. She used her leg muscles to push herself out of the saddle, before falling back down in it, and up again. Jem taught her better posture for posting as she trotted Beauty around the tree twice.
"Tell him whoa, and have him walk again to cool off." She did, and they walked around the tree twice. "Ready to step up the pace again?"
"I'm ready," Tessa said firmly.
"Next is the canter. It almost feels like you are on a living rocking horse. You need to remain seated in the saddle. Keep a firm hold of the reins and use your leg muscles to grip his sides. I want you to tap his sides again with your heels and say 'canter' in a firm voice."
She inhaled, kicked her heels against his side, and said, "Canter!" She gasped, her heart leaping into her throat, as Beauty set into motion. She clung to him instinctively, her muscles coiled tight in fear of falling off. This gait was much harder to control. Her heart pounded in her chest, and she had to remember to turn around the tree. There, up ahead on the horizon, was her Jem. Her confidence boosted and she felt the urge to make him proud. They cantered around him, looping back towards the tree.
"Very good!" Jem exclaimed in delight. After another loop around the tree, he instructed her to say 'whoa' and slow Beauty to a walk.
They walked side-by-side now. She gazed down at her fiance, smiling. "I love it."
Jem's already large smile widened. "I won't say 'I told you so,' but I am relieved to hear it."
They walked in silence. She felt what Jem was saying, that rider and horse felt connected. She truly felt like an additional limb on Beauty's back. It had come so naturally - something she hadn't anticipated.
But she hadn't felt what Jem had also said - the feeling of flying. She suddenly felt the need to gallop.
"James, can we run?" She asked.
Jem's face became troubled. "Are you certain you are ready for that step? It seems a bit early. I practiced the first three gaits many times before I started to gallop."
Tessa was positive. She wanted to understand the feelings he had talked about. "Yes."
Now Jem had her urge him into a trot, where she then yelled "Gallop!" and kicked her heels against his sides. With a jolt, his legs started to thunder underneath him. She gasped, equally terrified and thrilled. She leaned forward, gripping both Beauty's reins and mane. Her legs were squeezed tight around his middle. Slowly her fear ebbed away, leaving only delight. She did not gallop him around the tree - she shot past it, urging him forward, faster. Her muscles, while still tightened to ensure she did not fall, loosened just enough for her to enjoy herself. Beauty's powerful muscles felt like a part of her as they moved in unison. She stared ahead on the horizon as Jem instructed, and saw Balios and Xanthos rush to follow Beauty. They galloped beside them to their right, occasionally bucking in joy. She gasped when other horses - two bays and a gray - ran to meet them as well. She was surrounded by the sound of thundering hooves, snorting breaths, energetic whinnies. She thought she understood what Jem meant then - The connection between horse and rider as you gallop, feeling completely free of the world, floating, suspended in this moment in time. Muscles working to their limits as you go as fast as possible, hooves pounding beneath you, eating up the ground, breathing hard and fast.
For a moment - just a moment - she closed her eyes. A feeling of overwhelming rightness made her throat tighten and her eyes prickle. She was born to do this.
She slowed Beauty down to a trot then, and finally to a walk, in order to let him catch his breath and to relax his muscles. She leaned forward, hugging his neck tightly. "Thank you," she whispered into his mane. Beauty's ears tipped backwards, listening. "How have I ever lived without riding? This feeling is one of the best in the world."
She gave his neck a pat. "What do you say about heading back?" She was ready to see Jem again, to thank him for allowing her this feeling. They turned around, all six horses, moving towards Jem's direction. When the other horses began to gallop, Tessa tried to hold Beauty back, not wanting to over-exert him, but she realized that he wanted to run.
As did she. She let loose the reins, and they were off.
When she arrived back with Jem, relief was clearly written on his face. The look he gave her was, So?
A grin appeared on her face, and she tasted salt. She reached a hand up to brush her cheek - saltwater. She had been crying.
When Jem realized this, he moved to her, resting his hand against her leg in concern. "Why are you crying?" he asked.
This brought more tears. "Because this is the best day of my life. This is the best experience I've ever had. Jem, I could never thank you enough."
She leaned down, and he stretched up, and they quickly exchanged a kiss. He then taught her, much to her chagrin, how to dismount.
"I see you brought some friends," he noted. Tessa gave all of the horses a pat on the neck and a kiss on the nose. They said their goodbyes, and Cyril hooked Balios and Xanthos to the carriage while Tessa tied Beauty to the back of the carriage.
Once they were inside the carriage, she gave one last look out of the window. The sun was nearly set, casting a red-orange glow over everything. Fire in the sky.
"We'll come back," Jem assured. He took her hand and squeezed it. "Soon."
Tessa knew that, based on the way Jem said it, it was a promise. She smiled.
Tessa gently groomed the ridge of Beauty's nose, lost in thought. Jem was right, this was relaxing. The feel of the velvety nose, the half-lidded gaze from large brown eyes, the methodical stroking of the brush over fur. In the dimness of the stall, Jem stood out with his pale skin and silver hair and eyes. All was silent, with the exception of the occasional shuffle over straw and soft nicker.
"Tessa," Jem said quietly. He was grooming the opposite side of her, near Beauty's hindquarters, not looking up. "Are you...are you positive about marrying me?"
Tessa's eyes widened and she stopped moving. She hissed, "James, whatever are you talking about? Of course I am sure! Why would you ever say, think, such a thing?"
He didn't pause in his grooming, but he met her eyes. "I just...I fear for you. I fear that you'll be hurt when my sickness takes me. It seems horribly cruel to have you dedicate your life to me only for me to die shortly after."
She lowered her hand. Beauty lifted his head and roughly used her stomach as a scratching device. She unconsciously stroked his neck as she spoke quietly, "Jem, even if you weren't dying, even if you lived to be eighty, it wouldn't matter. I'm immortal. I'll lose you either way."
Jem stopped grooming. For a moment, Tessa thought he would have nothing to say: how could anyone be comforted when they had the knowledge that everyone they love would die before them? Yet he proved her wrong. He said, in a firm voice, "We don't know that. We don't know what you are, you could be mortal."
Tessa wanted to nod her head, to say that she still had hope, to ensure that Jem didn't get upset over the prospect of her living centuries alone. She found that she could not. Instead, her face crumpled, and choked sobs escaped her lips. It didn't matter how hard she tried to stop them - they just kept coming. She hadn't cried this hard since the drawing room.
Quickly, Jem dropped his brush onto the ground and moved beneath Beauty to Tessa's side. His arms wound their way around her shoulders, his lips at her ear. His silver hair tickled her cheek. "It's okay, shhh," he whispered, kissing her cheek. She tucked her head in the crook of his neck, hoping it would stifle her sobs.
When she could finally speak, though not without the occasional hiccup, she said, "Magnus Bane informed me that there is not a life for me after I die. Since I've been given eternity, I can't meet you in another life." She sniffled, wiping at her nose. Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. She despised crying in front of people. "If this life is all I have, what if I cannot meet you again? Or Will? Charlotte, Henry, and Sophie?"
He stroked her cheek. "I'll find you. We will meet again. I'll find you." Tessa believed him.
They were back in Sutton, sprawled across their picnic blanket, lying side by side and staring at the early spring clouds. It was miraculous that both days they went to the farm it was sunny.
Tessa said, "Jem, when we've defeated the Magister, can we travel to Idris? I would love to see the Shadowhunter homeland."
Their eyes met, hers a luminous gray-blue, his a shining silver. "Of course, my love," he said, his face lighting up.
They were interrupted when a large black nose rubbed against Tessa's forehead. She laughed and blew air at it. Beauty gave a high-pitched whinny, swinging his head back up. She jumped up, Jem at her side, and the three of them chased after each other, back and forth, a game of tag.
When Tessa and Jem slumped back on the picnic blanket, exhausted, they grinned at each other. This life was a wonderful one, filled with love and joy along with the heartbreak and fear. Tessa knew then in her heart that despite the fact she would live to see Jem dying, Will dying, everyone she loved perishing, life could still be beautiful. She looked up, watching their horse with amazement.
Beauty stood, silhouetted against the setting sun, a breeze gently teasing at his mane and tail. He held his head high, his ears forward, as he gazed across the field. Jem's hand took hers, knotting their fingers together, and she leaned her head against his shoulder.
Indeed, life could be beautiful