A/N: I've had this bouncing around in my head since I finished COLS (which was AMAZING.) Takes place sometime between COLS and COHF. Please enjoy, and review!
"Brother, brother, we all see, you're hiding out so painfully."- Joshua Radin, "No Envy, No Fear"
Over the past couple of weeks, Alec had learned that the harder you tried to fall asleep, the more difficult it became. He thumped his head against the thin pillow, as if he could knock the awake alertness out of himself, and stared at the stony ceiling of his Institute bedroom, missing the bright green of Magnus's bedroom. He thumped his head again, this time more to knock out memories of Magnus, of a shared bed, a cold underground subway station…
He swung his legs around and planted them on the cold floor, knowing that he'd lost all hope of sleep tonight. He could not remember the last full night of sleep he'd had, only several lonely nights in the darkness watching the hours tick by. He'd reasoned, and it seemed to make sense, that as the sleepless nights went by, he'd grow more and more tired, more and more ready to sleep, but this was not the case. It was like a sickness, it just got worse and worse as time went on.
He padded down the hall, surprised to find a light on in the kitchen, but less surprised to find it was Jace who was still up. Even in the haze of simultaneous exhaustion and sleeplessness he'd been in since the days following the battle at the Burren, Alec had noticed that his parabatai's eyes had begun to carry the same purple rings his own did.
"Hey," said Alec, pulling out a mug and a teabag to make yet another cup of Chamomile tea, a remedy Isabelle had assured him would bring him sleep but had yet to show any results. Jace nodded, but gave no other sign of recognition. Alternatively, he was sipping from a cup of coffee, laden with too much milk, Alec thought- the way Izzy liked it, too- and his pale golden eyes seemed lost in it. "What are you still doing up?"
"What?" said Jace, glancing up at Alec as if he'd only just realized he wasn't alone in the room. "Oh, couldn't sleep." Alec squinted at him. He knew Jace, knew when he was lying.
"And you thought caffeine would help?" asked Alec, raising an eyebrow. He glanced down at the teabag in his hand, gave up on it, and pulled out a bottle of Captain Morgan from the liquor cabinet. "Seriously, Jace, why don't you just get some sleep?"
Jace looked at him. "Why don't you?" he replied, almost petulantly, and took a big sip of his coffee.
"I can't," said Alec, taking a swig of rum straight from the bottle. "But you won't. Why is that?" They'd all been stressed and running low on sleep, ever since the angel's wings had arrived at the Institute, ever since the full search for Sebastian had begun. The rest of his family, though, had been snagging sleep when they could- Maryse taking naps in her room after Conclave meetings, Isabelle sprawled out on the couch the way Max used to. Jace, however, was the only person Alec had seen who seemed to be keeping himself awake willingly.
"I just don't want to sleep," said Jace with half a shrug. Alec could feel a distraction coming on, one of Jace's famous tangents meant to direct conversations away from their origin, and he set the rum bottle down, bracing his hands on the edge of the counter.
"Jace-" he started.
"Because," Jace said suddenly, his eyes meeting Alec's. He seemed shaken, unsteady. "Because I know what happens now. I'll go to sleep, dream that I'm getting out of bed and walking down the hall, that I'm going into your room, or Izzy's, and I dream that I put a dagger through her heart, or I… strangle her…" He sounded strangled himself. He coughed a humorless laugh. "And then, guess what? Turns out it's not a dream. Alec, I-" His breaths had disintegrated to ragged shreds as I stared openly, honestly at his parabatai, more broken than he had been before Glorious' scar had healed.
"Jace," said Alec firmly, watching him across the counter, "Sebastian's not in your head anymore. The Silent Brothers reinstated the protections on you. No one can influence-"
"They did, though," Jace interjected. "Lilith controlled me. Sebastian controlled me."
"You're afraid that you'll lose control of yourself again," said Alec. Slowly, carefully, Jace shook his head.
"I'm not afraid," he said. "Fear indicates doubt, and there's not a doubt in my mind. I will lose control." His fingers trembled against the handle of his coffee mug. "I will hurt someone I love. It's inevitable."
"Jace, you won't," Alec insisted, hating to see Jace without the faith that he and his sister, that Clary, had for him. He felt like telling the other boy to "believe in himself," but it sounded too hokey. Instead, he said, "You're lucky."
"What?" said Jace. The pain had edged away from his voice, replaced with confusion. "Lucky?"
"I know you don't want to hear it," said Alec, a little surprised himself at what he was saying, and wondering if it was the sleep deprivation, "but you've got a lot to be thankful for. One of which is that the worst things you've ever done were against your own free will, things that no one blames you for, that you've got no reason to blame yourself for."
Jace stared at him for a long moment in the tense silence following Alec's outburst. Then, "What exactly went down between you and Magnus?" Alec had told Jace of the breakup, but not the details, not what had led to it. He sighed now.
"I put my trust in the wrong person," said Alec. "I was stupid and insecure and-"
"See, there you go," said Jace, pointing at him. "You lecture me about blaming myself for things I shouldn't, but you do it too." Alec furrowed his brow. "You can't blame yourself for being insecure," Jace explained. "You're in love with an immortal warlock who refuses to tell you anything about his past. When I gave Clary the Morgenstern ring, I told her it was because she accepted my past, every part of it. Did Magnus ever do anything like that?" Alec shook his head. Jace waved his hand toward him, as if to say, Well, that explains that.
"I freed Camille," Alec blurted. "And then I knew where she was, and I didn't tell anyone, not Magnus, not the Clave." Somehow, it felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, actually confessing all this to someone rather than having Magnus find out about it via Camille's note.
"You thought you were doing what was best for you and Magnus."
"You don't know that."
"Yes, I do," said Jace. "I know you. You're pretty smart, but you'll make stupid decisions for the people you love. Hell, you broke me out of the Clave's imprisonment." Alec felt as if he'd been punched in the face and patted on the back, all at the same time. Since the last time he had seen Magnus, he'd been tormenting himself, always reminded of how selfish, how awful he'd been, that he'd forgotten part of his reasoning in going to see Camille in the first place. He had considered the desperation and masked despair in his boyfriend's voice when he spoke of immortality, the sad looks spared at Alec when Magnus thought he wasn't looking, because Alec would someday die and leave him, as so many others had.
He stared down at his hands, as if unsure what to do, and downed another mouthful of Captain Morgan. "Well, then I guess we're just messed up," he surmised, holding the bottle out to Jace, who stared at it as if it were a grenade.
"Alec, I can't," he said, losing the argumentative bravado he had adopted moments ago lecturing Alec. "I can't lose any of my control, it's all I have."
Alec nodded thoughtfully, then said, "No, it's not." He set the bottle back on the counter. "You've got me." He leaned into the counter, eyes level with Jace's. "There's no way I'm getting any sleep tonight. You could get some rest, and I'll make sure you don't… lose control."
Jace blinked. "It's not just when I'm asleep," he said. "I was wide awake when-" But before he could recite another of the horrible things demons had made him do, things he blamed himself, wrongly, for, Alec cut him off.
"Then I'll be there, too," he said. "I honestly don't believe you'll ever get taken over like that again, but would it make you feel better if you knew there was always somebody next to you who could keep you from hurting anyone, just in case?"
"Like a reverse bodyguard?" asked Jace.
"Sure," said Alec. "If you lost control- which you won't- I could take you out." Jace raised an eyebrow. "Please," said Alec, "I've been covering you for years. I know your weak spots."
"Well," said Jace, standing up and setting his half-empty coffee mug beside the sink, "sounds like a deal."
"Okay," said Alec, heading down the hall, preparing to brush the taste of alcohol out of his mouth before heading to Jace's room.
"Wait," said Jace, suddenly serious, his voice low. "Alec, if it happens tonight, if I try to hurt someone…" He took a breath. "Just kill me. Don't try to save me. Kill me before I kill someone else." Especially if it's you, he thought, but didn't say.
"No way I'm agreeing to that," said Alec, leaving no room for disagreement, and he spun on his heel and marched down the dank Institute hallway. Jace glanced around the empty kitchen one more time before flicking off the light and following his brother down the hall.