The next chapter is here! Sorry to keep you all waiting and yes, I know I suck at updating in a timely fashion. I wanted to get this out before The Clockwork Princess came out, but clearly that didn't happen. (I still haven't gotten it yet ahh - so no spoilers please.)
And as a side note, just remember that this story is meant to have happened after The Clockwork Prince. Otherwise, things may get kind of confusing? I'm not sure completely, but I'm not reading the new book until I've finished this story so I can keep things somewhat continuous.
Charlotte and Henry were sat at opposite ends in the living room, each absorbed in their own work. He had his newest gadget spread out on the table, fiddling with screws and bolts that made a tinkling sound as they hit the glass panels of the table. She was leafing through pages of the London newspaper, looking for anything out of the ordinary - and by that it was meant that she was looking for any Downworlder activity. A sharp rapping sound jolted her out of her intense examination of the papers.
"Henry, could you get the door?" she asked, noting how he was much closer to it than she was. She gazed across the room at him, sighing as he paid no attention to her words and continued tinkering with his invention. She got up and strode across the room, her head shaking heavily as she wondered what she would do with him, and opened the door for their guest. She took in the figure and greeted him with a tight-lipped smile before stepping aside to allow him in. "Benedict Lightwood..," she said slowly, "To what do we owe the pleasure?"
He looked down at her firmly, "I wouldn't exactly call this a pleasant visit. There have been very grave things happening and as you and..," he drifted off, looking at Henry who was still oblivious to his presence. "As you two are the heads of the London Institute, it is your position to know of these events of course." He cleared his throat before producing a piece of parchment from his pocket and read from it. "On the sixteenth, at approximately ten in the morning, we were notified of an attack in an alley by the brothel. The victim was a young man, a mundane, but his wounds were anything but." He peered at Charlotte, noting as her expression morphed from one of confusion to slight dread. "The Downworlders," he clarified, confirming her fears, "are acting up again." At his pronounced words, Henry's head rose from his position of studying his little toys.
"The Enclave expects something to be done," Benedict Lightwood's eyes hovered over Charlotte in a demeaning manner, making her insides squirm uncomfortably though she'd never break her strong facade in front of him. "We will obviously begin action immediately and I suggest you prepare yourselves for the same." Charlotte nodded her understanding of the urgency of the situation and he began to leave. Just as he reached the door, he paused to glance back at Henry, who seemed fairly oblivious of what was happening. His next words regarding Henry sent a chill through her body. "And it might do you well to step away from the toys if you know what's best for you, Mr. Branwell."
Henry blinked, cocking his head to the side as he let himself out. "Did he just threaten me?"
His wife let out a harsh breath with a forced light barking laugh. "Lunch should be ready soon, I presume," she merely said, avoiding the topic altogether.
She gathered Jem, Tessa, and Jessamine and they traipsed down the stairs in a cluster. But despite how they arrived together, it was hard to not notice the tension in the air as Tessa kept her arms rigid against her body and Jessamine snuck questioning looks at Jem who just stared at the floor emptily. When they arrived at the dining table, Tessa slipped to the other side of the room, taking a seat as far from Jem's as she could. Jessamine followed her, still watching Jem with a steady gaze. Charlotte raised an eyebrow curiously, but decided it'd be best to not meddle. As their lunch was placed in front of them, each of the five began shoveling food in their mouths and the air was filled with a silence.
Jessamine spoke up, finally noticing the empty seat at the table. "There's a startling lack of sarcastic comments today." Jem cracked a smile, making direct eye contact with anybody for the first time in the day. "Where'd Will go?" Her eyebrows creased in the middle as her eyes prodded and searched the others for answers. She was met with equally confused stares and as she looked around the table, she was met with unconcerned shrugs. But when she looked next to her at Tessa, she offered her a small smile before looking down at her food.
"May Tessa and I be excused?" Jessamine said, startling the other girl from her distracted thoughts. When Charlotte acknowledged her with a curt nod, she grabbed Tessa, her fingers winding around her skinny elbow as she lifted her from the table and tugged her towards the door.
Once they were far enough away to not be overheard, the girls stopped walking and Tessa pried her fingers off her elbow. "What's wrong?" she asked defensively.
"What happened?" Jessamine demanded. Tessa blinked a few times blankly, her mouth ever so slightly open, but no words escaped. "Tessa, what happened?"
She inhaled and as her breath was released, her words came tumbling out quickly. "I chose Jem." Her eye twitched slightly, her heart thudding in her chest as the truth of what had happened sunk in. She made her choice clear and there was no going back. But she would always wonder what if, what if she had chosen Will - how different would things be? Jessamine's mouth opened in a little o-shape as she took in this new information. No wonder Will was gone, she thought to herself, he was avoiding them all. Tessa grasped her wrist nervously. "Do you think I made a mistake?"
She looked into her eyes cautiously, not wanting to reveal too much, but wanting to guide her as well. "It is your choice completely, who you want to be with. But I think it is obvious as well, that you will hurt the other in the process."
"And you think that Will is avoiding me because of it," Tessa filled in her thoughts with a miserable tone as her legs decided to give up and she slid down against the wall to the floor.
She hesitated, choosing her phrasing carefully, before expressing her view on the situation. "I think he's hurt," she replied quietly. "He doesn't give up his heart very easily because he's afraid to, he's afraid to be broken. He acts like he's fearless, that he's a strong brave person that isn't affected by what others think." She paused, her eyes glazing over as if she were lost in thought and she began saying what she felt at the surface within her. "Everybody cares. Will cares what you think especially. Because he loves you. All his life he thought he couldn't love, but he opened his heart to you. And you have no idea how hard it must've been for him to come to terms with that. I've known him years more than you and he still doesn't trust me. But he trusted you with his heart."
Tessa let out a dry noise, a cross between a sob and laugh. "Is this supposed to make me feel better?"
Jessamine smiled inwardly. "You should know that I'm not here to be your source of comfort. I'm here to tell you what you need to know." She reached her hand down to pull the girl off the floor and guided her back to the dining room. As they approached the doorway, she thought she heard Tessa faintly say "Thank you" and she nodded to herself, glad they had to change to talk by themselves.
"Is everything alright?" Charlotte asked as they retook their seats at the table to which she received two nods. Noticing their refusal to talk she let the matter go and allowed the meal to continue in silence.
They had just finished with their lunch when Will entered the room, covered in a sheen of sweat and grime. Charlotte leapt up from her seat in slight shock and scurried over towards him. "What happened?" she yelped lightly, scrunching up her nose as the musky smell hit her suddenly. Tessa's eyes drifted over Will's body, a look of horror masking her face as she saw the bloodied boy. Will grimaced and nodded his head subtly towards the hallway, indicating for Charlotte to follow him. She did so and Will followed him, but not before Tessa saw his eyes flicker to Jem, a look of worry contorting his face. Jem paid no attention to what was going on, instead idly moving his mostly uneaten food around the plate. But Tessa knew that there had to be something wrong - Will so rarely displayed real emotion and she could see so clearly that he was in pain of some sorts.
Will stepped into the hallway, ushering Charlotte further down away from the dining room in hopes of concealing his conversation from the others. "I went for Jem," he stated simply and she nodded her understanding at his mere explanation. From being around Will for so long, she had caught on quickly that less was more with him. He didn't need to convey his thoughts in so many words with her, she just understood. "There were complications," he stressed the last word, a dark heavy undertone accompanying it. He ran his fingers through his hair, messing it up further. Letting his hand rest at his side, he clenched and released it. His face tensed, his eyes pulling shut, before he relaxed. And he shifted from side to side, tapping his feet against the floor.
Charlotte grasped him by his shoulder, rubbing the pad of her thumb into the area by his collarbone soothingly. "Calm down, William, you can tell me what's wrong." She watched as he continued his fidgety actions for a few more moments before he stopped and looked at her, his eyes covered with glassy film.
"They won't give me it," he said miserably and when he saw Charlotte's bewildered expression, he went on, "Jem.. They won't give me it. I tried to fight, but they won't give me it." He processed in his mind what this would mean for his parabatai, how this would affect the people he had come to call his family, how Tessa would feel when she found out. He smashed his open palm against the wall, breathing heavily as he saw the pink as the blood rushed towards his skin and the tingling pain he felt spiking at his hand. He did it once more, and let out a roaring yell as well for good measure to vent his frustration.
And Tessa took the moment to let out the breath she had been holding and allowed some of the squeaking whimpers out, darting back out of sight from the two in the hallway. Her head was swimming and her stomach felt odd, as if she was going to throw up. But the most agonizing pain were the stabs she felt piercing her heart - the ones that made her feel like she was crumbling because after all, she loved Jem and she felt guilty that she didn't love him as much as he loved her, but she still thought she had time to work things all out. But time was running out and the end was soon, and she didn't want that. Jem was the nicest person she knew, he didn't deserve to die. And she wouldn't let him, she told herself as her mind began working out a plan to get the drug for him.
Charlotte reached out to touch Will, to try to calm him down, but her hand darted back to avoid another one of Will's spasms. "William Herondale!" she yelled, desperation clear in her eyes. "Please," she whispered, "explain."
He looked up at her through hooded tired eyelids, his eyes a startling color, a murky black that had no depth, that seemed flat and empty. "When I got there, it was a mess. Fighting everywhere. Werewolves, warlocks, vampires, the Downworlders are revolting." He wrung his hands together anxiously. "I don't think I can get the yin fen for Jem anymore. They made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with the Nephilim."
"Benedict Lightwood warned me," Charlotte murmured, her face growing a few shades lighter as she realized that the man wasn't lying. Things were bad and could potentially end in horrific disaster.
Will shook off the fact that they were all in danger, that was a matter to concern himself with later. But Jem could die at any moment without a supply of the drug. No matter how hurt he was, Jem would always come first. Jem had saved him when he was in trouble - gave him a family, a brother, a best friend, a reason to live.
Tessa slipped quietly downstairs, her winter coat in hand as she tried to rush through the foyer as quickly as possible. "Where do you think you're going?" a deep male voice questioned, causing her to freeze in place. "I know you overheard the conversation," he said quietly, pushing himself off the wall he was leaning upon.
"I need to visit somebody," she replied, her head tilting to the side to avoid eye contact because she knew that when she looked into his, she wouldn't be able to tell a convincing lie
Will's lips twitched, a smirk forming on his face as he made a dismissive noise of her excuse. "May I speak with you?" She sighed and turned to face him completely and nodded. "How do you feel?" he asked, the tone of his voice changing abruptly from a questionative one to a sympathetic one. When Tessa wrinkled her nose in slight confusion, he elaborated. "On Jem and the yin fen."
"I-I don't know," she stammered in reply. "How are you supposed to feel when somebody you love is going to die?" Will chuckled darkly, leaning forward to capture her hand with his larger, rougher ones. "I feel empty," she continued, a hallow tone to her voice. "I'm scared and I don't know what to do about it."
"That's good," Will remarked, "It shows you're human."
"And how do you feel?"
He looked at her and opened his mouth before shutting it again, unable to form the words to explain what he felt. "I have to do something for Jem," he stated. "But before I do, can you do something for me?" Tessa nodded, a concerned expression etched in her eyes. "Let me take you for lunch."
Tessa couldn't help but laugh lightly at how odd his request seemed to be, but happily obliged. She was glad to share one last happy moment with Will because after the night was over, she wasn't sure what would become of her life. "Where shall we go?"
"I know a place just a short walk away." He offered her his arm and she slipped her arm and hooked it around his elbow, straining slightly due to their height differences. As they walked in comfortable silence, she felt relaxed for the first time in days. This is what love should feel like, love should be easy. And at that moment, strolling leisurely in the rare London sun, she felt like everything was easy and all the chaos that were happening were worlds away. "M'lady," Will said with a happy tone as he held the door of the restaurant open for her.
When they returned from lunch, Will was extremely full and Tessa even fuller from having two lunches. She flashed him a quick smile, thanking him for the meal before retreating upstairs to her room. She looked at the place she had grown to call home - her safe place. It was much plainer than her old room when she lived with her Aunt, but it still radiated a sense of familiarity and comfort. She hoped all would go well and that she'd be able to return. It was too heartbreaking a fact to face that she might not see it again.
Jem knew. He knew that Will was doing all this for him and he felt incredibly bad about it. He had never wanted this life for himself. He had never wanted to endanger anybody. But as the days went on, it seemed surer and surer that he was hurting the ones he loved. They were risking their lives to get his drug; they were risking their future all for a boy who was dying. It didn't seem fair to him, that they always had to be conscious of him. He knew they had more important things to do and he just got in the way. He knew that as long as he needed the yin fen, they'd be concerned for his health and unable to move forward with their own lives.
It seemed like such a long time ago, that day. He was still young, at the age where a child is full of energy, bouncing around and never able to keep focus. And as a Shadowhunter, he was especially active. But that day never managed to slip his mind, no matter how badly he wanted to erase it from his memory, to get rid of the pain. He was so young and helpless. When the demons arrived, he remembered crying, pain, screaming. He remembered the desperate looks on his parents' faces as they stretched their hands to him but as soon as he could graze their fingers with his own, they were simply gone. And soon after, he discovered what had happened. He was going to die young - never marry, never have kids, never live to the age where he would complain that he wasn't as agile as he used to be. It all came rushing to him and he had wanted so badly to wake up from the nightmare but it never ended. That is, until he went to live at the London Institute. And he began to learn about family again and he grew and he didn't die. Because the others at the Institute understood and helped him.
He got the supply of the drugs he needed when he got weak. And he lived. But what if he didn't need them anymore? Jem wondered hopefully. He knew how easier this would make things for his family and he wanted so desperately that he would be strong enough to wean himself off it. He wanted to be able to live like a normal healthy teenager. For people not to look at him and his pale complexion and wonder what was wrong with him. To be able to go to sleep knowing that come the next day, everything would still be alright and he'd be happy. He wanted Will to train with him without the twinge of guilt in his eyes every time he bested the broken boy; he wanted Charlotte and Henry to not have to worry about him; he wanted Jessamine to look at him genuinely, not with sympathy in her eyes.
And he really just wanted Tessa to look at him the way she looked at Will - with adoration because he was strong, mentally and physically. He knew she loved him, but the way she looked at him was completely different and it frustrated him.
Angrily he looked at the little box on his desk, covered with shiny residue that lured him in. All it did was remind him of bad memories, of times that he'd much rather forget. He picked it up, staring hatefully at the powder inside that had ruined him and walked over towards the metal trash can placed by the wall. He hovered over it, every nerve in his body willing him to just throw it out. But there was that one thing nagging him in the back of his mind - his senses - telling him that it'd be an enormous mistake if he did. If he wasn't strong enough to make it without the drug, he'd die - it was as simple as that. He let out an exasperated yell, kicking the trash bin as he did so causing it to clang against the wall noisily. And he just stood like that, his chest heaving up and down heavily and garbage splayed across his floors.
"Jem?" a timid voice asked, pushing his creaky door open. He turned his head to gaze into her wide fear-stricken eyes. "What are you doing?"
He gulped, his eyes following her gaze to his tight grip on the small container. "Everything's okay," he managed to utter out, his voice coming out breathily.
I'll do my best to get the next chapter out soon, but no promises. Although I have all the future chapters outlined now so hopefully things will progress quicker.
As always, leave a review! They're great motivation. :)