...Oh hi! I didn't see you come in.
This fic takes place before Clockwork Angel (pre Tessa), but will continue to her arrival if the work is extended past one chapter.
Yes, it is a Jem/Will love story, I'm not ashamed. I know it's not a popular pairing, but I just always imagined that giving yourself to only one person in the whole world would inevitably run deeper than a friendship (though they still have that too), and just the thought of these two together is so heart breakingly awesome I couldn't keep away.
I apologise in advance if Jem seems a bit OOC, I tried to adapt him to the situation I've thought up, and it just came out this way. I always thought that Will has an indifferent mask that he puts on, and couldn't shake the feeling that Jem might have one too, of calmness and altruism, and I thought that this unaffected wall would come down around Will, as Will's does for him. I also know for a fact that people get narky when they're in pain, no matter how nice they are ;)
DISCLAIMER: The shadowhunter world and it's inahibtants are owned by Cassandra Clare, I claim nothing.
It was always the quiet that gave him away.
It was that thick silence Will could sense lingering about Jem's chamber door that hit him as he walked by. The heady presence of something badly hidden never failed to send the hairs at the base of Will's neck tingling; it was as though the very runes that bound them shifted against his skin, alerting him to the fact that only the dead were so silent, or those who pretended to be. Will knew for a fact that Jem would not have wanted him to enter, and that fact gave him the reassurance that he needed in order to push the wooden door aside in search of him.
His first instinct to check the bed failed him, as the sheets atop them were cast aside in what must have been quite a hurry. Though its contents were none, Will felt his head spin as he noticed the fine spattering of blood across the furthermost pillow like a beacon; it guided Will around the eastern side of the bed until he was stilled by the motion of one shuddering shadow amongst the fallen pillows and clinging sheets. Will knew Jem was aware of his presence, but said not a word as the boy shivered into the side of the great bed like an oar caught up alongside its raft, beating against it again and again with the unrelenting current. Horrible, rasping sounds were escaping from his mouth, and as Will's vision adjusted to the change in lighting he began to see the scarlet nature of his hands as he pulled them from his face. These confirmed his fears, and immediately the learned practice of the situation seeped into his muscles, propelling him forward. Jem did not turn his head as he heard Will approaching, but shrank into himself further, perhaps in the hope that for once, Will might take hint of his warning and leave the room. Will did not however, and though he tried in vain, Jem was far too tired to repel Will's hands on him in assistance.
"How bad James? One to ten?" Will asked him quietly, lifting his reluctant face in order to gauge the size of his pupils.
"I do not need – let me be," Jem replied breathlessly, refusing to look into Will's eyes. As he said it, a small amount of hot blood trickled down his chin. Will shuddered at the striking contrast between the slick gleam of the red blood against the soft, muted nature of his pale skin. The blood had long since stained his teeth and lips, and was smeared about his face from his attempts to stifle the flow with his palms; these were slippery with the stuff as well, but Will could not bring the strength in himself to look from Jem's shamed eyes to them in inspection.
"Am I to let you alone to create your own red sea? I do think you're meant to part the thing, not part from it." Will muttered absentmindedly, noting the way that his breath seemed to catch in his lungs, as though they could nary hold enough air for him.
"I – asked you, William, leave me." Jem huffed, his fingers creeping up to his chest without his permission. His eyes snapped closed very suddenly, and the next breath that came from him was laced and made ragged with whatever pain he was experiencing; Will felt as though he was sharing the same pain, his heart strained and faltered at the sight of his closest friend in such agony. Jem gasped he choked further on the blood that lingered in his throat, but refused to cough it up in Will's presence.
"For the love of God Jem, please, be not so proud and let me help; you are killing me with your vanity," the poem was running through his mind before he could hinder it, death be not proud…
"Vanity," Jem scoffed, wincing at the sharp pain such a reaction had caused him.
"One to ten?" Will asked again.
Jem hesitated, "Eight,"
Oh, Lord in Heaven, "When last did you take the drug?"
Jem's eyes grew unfocused as he tried to recall a memory that was beyond him in his delirious state, "I do not remember." His head fell forward alarmingly, and Will thanked his agility runes for the haste in which he caught it, balancing Jem against his shoulder like a brace.
"Steady yourself, James. You must stay awake until the yin fen is taken; after that you can sleep all you like," Will tapped his shoulders gently, terrified of hurting him but equally so of him slipping into unconsciousness, "keep your wits, stay here with me for only a little longer."
A drop of warm liquid fell onto Will's cold skin and pooled in the hollow of his collarbone as he felt Jem smile, "Give me better incentive," he whispered, barely audible.
Will did not, but rose from where he had previously been kneeling, and hauled Jem up with him until he was high enough to be deposited onto the bed. Will did this with as much care as was in him, but Jem still suffered for his actions and could not stifle the groans that rolled from somewhere deep in his chest.
"I'm sorry, it'll be over soon." Will promised him. Jem smiled up at him through tangled lashes, pale as snow in the cast of the moon; the blood on his lips made the expression rather disturbing, and the darkness of his eyes could have almost matched their natural hue. Altogether he looked almost like a fey, beautiful and delicate, but cold and demonic underneath it.
"Always so very serious Will," Jem grinned, his eyes clouded and his teeth scarlet, "is that going to change when I'm gone?"
Will felt the words hit him and the force of them took his breath as the sickly creature smiled up at him mercilessly. He knew that with his pain Jem grew cruel, and he was aware that Jem would most likely forget he had ever uttered something so hurtful, but Will knew he wouldn't. Jem's nearing mortality was not taboo in their relationship, but it was not something that Jem cared to use against him; unless it was for Will's own greater good in any given argument. Only when his senses and inhibitions were dulled in want of the drug did Jem ever utilise his death as weapon against Will, and Will could never avoid the idea that these outbursts could have been Jem's true feelings regarding his own end, and that the absence of the drug was the only catalyst in the expression of his true feelings.
He turned away from Jem's horrid smirk as he answered, and hid what he could of his hurt in his dismissive tone, "No, it will certainly not."
"That is a shame…" He heard Jem murmur as he prepared the Yin Fen for him at the dresser by his bed. Ready was a bowl of water at all times, which sat idle by the box of demon powder should Jem feel the need to administer it during the night. There were a myriad of ways in which to take the yin fen, Jem had tried every method and taken preference with only one of them. Jem did not like to smoke it, as he feared the tendrils of sweet mist would spread throughout the institute like September fog and poison the other residents. He especially did not like snorting the drug through his nose, as he felt it overwhelmingly undignified and complained of it leaving behind it the feeling of flames licking about his sinuses and throat. On rare occasion, Will had seen him simply take the powder between his thumb and forefinger, and suck it from them as one might sugar after finishing something sweet. This he did before battle or hunting, as the drug seemed to find him faster than any other method, though it left the hint of burnt sugar on his breath and made the inside of his mouth decidedly numb with its potency. Though this method was simplest, and the results almost instantaneous, the drug waned with more haste than what it was worth. The way in which Jem preferred to take the yin fen milked it for all it could give him, and was perhaps the most pleasant means of taking the stuff. Careful not to overestimate the amount that Jem would need, Will sprinkled a helping of the silver substance into the water basin waiting for it. Will deposited three pinches of the stuff, in worry that Jem had been lying there for a long while, trying to keep quiet. The longer Jem abstained from meeting his chemical need, the more of the yin fen he would require to bate the pain in turn, as the process of sobriety was a slippery slope of deterioration until the addict succumbed to a painful death. Without stirring it, Will waited as the yin fen sank below the surface of the water, and began to take the appearance of a silvery mist, which clouded at the bottom of the bowl and continued to fizzle. Will knew not to stir the drug into the water, as it upset the dissolving ritual and forced it to clump, and these from Jem's description tasted so foul, they had been offensive to his tongue.
As he waited for the solution to finish dissolving, he heard Jem utter the words suoyou diyu, which accompanied a sudden spasm of pain that sent him reeling to his side in answer to it. Will understood Chinese to little standard, but recognised the word for Hell in his exhalation, and it gave him the indication that waiting for the yin fen to dissolve would not do tonight. With tentative fingers, Will took unto his fingers a fair helping of the demon powder, and carried it carefully over to where Jem was curled in on himself at the corner of the bed. Will had experienced the burn of yin fen on his skin many times before, but the feeling never ceased to disturb him. It was a warm, almost pleasant burn that left his skin tingling and slightly numb after he had ridden himself of it, and in its place it always left a reddened mark that would not let for days. Jem had a series of small permanent scars on the inside of his forefinger and thumb from holding the stuff too often, and Will noticed on particularly cold mornings that the old marks would stand out against his own hands where before they had been healed. Will felt the yin fen sizzling into his fingers as he beckoned Jem's face from his arm and pleaded with him to cooperate. Jem was slipping now, Will could tell by the blind and half-hearted submission with which Jem uncoiled himself at Will's order. He simply closed his eyes in what appeared to be bone weariness, and leant his cheek hard into the palm Will had placed against it.
"Here, the drink is coming, but this will tide you over till it does." Will grazed his fingers over Jem's lips in offering, and at the smell of it Jem found enough life in him to take Will's fingers into his mouth and suck them gratefully, the lines about his furrowed brow lifting at the introduction of the drug to his body. When he was done Will's fingers came away stained with Jem's blood, but his concern for it was waning now that the stubborn bastard had finally accepted the means to which it would be slowed. Will tried to pull away but Jem held him near, making small exclamations of relief as the yin fen soothed whatever fire was burning inside him. It would not be enough, Will knew, to restore his mind and body to its normal state, so he forced himself from Jem's grip and retrieved the finished solution of water and demon powder; the basin was the colour and consistency of storm clouds now, its contents swirling peacefully despite their destructive nature.
Will made Jem sit up to take the drug, but only a little as he knew the pain would not yet have dissipated completely within him. He lifted the bowl carefully to his lips much as he had done with his fingers, and this time Jem hesitated before he drank it. The solution did not have the same sharp smell of the raw powder, but rather it's diluted scent was something muted and thickly sweet. As the drug he had taken raw was restoring him to a minor lucidity, Jem's stubborn disposition was returning and he refused the drink given before him.
"No, I don't want it," he whispered, too weak to move away so he closed his eyes in protest of its presence before him. Jem's disposition at this time was always deceptively regular, and Will had made the miscalculation before of mistaking it for his recovery. In the process of his recovery, Jem went through a delicate stage of calm, in which he acted with a reasonable mindset and would say things that one might expect Jem to say; Will knew however that more of the drug was essential at this point, lest Jem fall back into the fits of pain that had previously trapped him, and kept in mind that the things he said now would be as scarcely remembered as the ones he had uttered in agony.
"Please James, drink for me?" Will pleaded, using a soft voice that one might use in fear of frightening a wild animal. Jem shook his head almost imperceptivity, and did not open his eyes. Will thought for a moment, keeping his hands steady on the basin, "If you will not drink the yin fen, than I will not waste it." Will lifted the bowl away from Jem's face, whose eyes flew open in shock of what Will was doing. Will pulled the bowl to his lips and took a small amount to drink from it, not enough to make him high but enough to cause his lips to tingle. Jem, however, was in no state to make such calculations.
"Will! Stop it, how can you be so stupid?" He hissed, trying to swipe the bowl from Will's hands. Will was very much faster at this point in time however, and moved the thing out of his reach.
"If you are not going to drink it, then I see no point in wasting it, do you know how much this stuff costs by the pound? You would not be pleased." Will said, lifting the bowl again to his lips and taking the smallest sip from it. Jem looked as though his action physically hurt him, and strained his fingers forward in a desperate attempt to still his action.
"This is cruelty William, you know how dangerous it is to -" Jem broke off, the words catching in his throat and converting to a whimper of agony as he clutched his left side. Will almost dropped the basin in response, and it took every ounce of his will to keep his grip on the thing.
"Do you know what really is cruel James? The fact that you would torture yourself this way and in turn directly torture me, what care you for my own safety Jem, when you disregard yours as though it means nothing to you?" Will said scathingly, his voice wavering.
"Nothing means anything to me anymore," Jem muttered, his brows pulling together with more than physical pain. It burned more than the yin fen had on his skin, but Will could not let the words sink in and taint him, for that was what this Jem wanted, the one who pained and hated and wanted his own life to end before he would miss it.
"What about me? Do I mean nothing to you anymore Jem?" Will asked, all the more disheartened by the hurt that carried on the phrase regardless of his effort to restrain it. Jem's gaze locked onto his, and in the moonlight Will could see the scarcest sliver of lightness returning to his eyes. His pale hair was curled by sweat and clung about his temples and neck almost like a caress. His face was so pale Will thought him a statue as he sat still like one, and the blood on his mouth was almost blue in his present light. He was so lovely, even as he was now in the deprivation of yin fen, but there was a horrible truth in his expression that spoiled the tranquillity of his beautiful face, a reluctant knowledge that was so sad and accepted that Will could no longer feel the bowl in his hands, let alone wonder whether or not he still held it.
"You mean everything to me that you shouldn't," Jem said, his voice low and quiet, "and it is killing us both, rotting us from the inside out until we are nothing." Will felt as though his very heart was rotting as Jem held his gaze steadily, awaiting perhaps rebuttal or anger. Though it slid onto him as knives might, Will pulled upon his face the protective mask he knew better than his face without it, that emotionless one that he had used so often but had never liked to use on Jem, and felt himself drifting from the situation as the Thames pulled away from the city. His anger quelled, and the pain was diluted, but what remained was hollow and listless. All he had was the skin of his bones, and the sick boy's eyes on him as he held the basin forward once more in offering.
"If you do not drink this, I will have it all myself, and then I will truly rot into nothing and you will only have yourself to blame." His tone was mild, unaffected. It came from him as music did from an instrument, intended and from a will greater than his own. Jem watched him indignantly, his eyes drifting from the basin to his face and back again, until this nose wrinkled and his eyes narrowing in unhappy defeat.
"You are a bastard Herondale, you know that?" He spat, which gave Will the permission he needed in order to lift the bowl to Jem's lips and have him drink it cooperatively.
"From the inside out," Will whispered, stemming the flow of the liquid so as not to choke his partner, whilst simultaneously resisting the dark urge to do so.
Will had found that whilst the worst time came for Jem during his abstinence from the drug, the hardest time for Will expanded from the point at which Jem took the yin fen, to the moment that it reached him, for it was truly the time where he could do nothing. All he was permitted by the situation to do was wait and count the beats of his heart, watching his partner gasp beside him and pray to God that another would follow it. Jem never seemed all too aware of this at the time, his eyes fastened shut and temples glistening with exertion. Trying with all his might to ignore the suffocating nature of his own uselessness, Will would hold Jem's hand, as he could gauge the amount of pain Jem was in by the strength with which he gripped it. The only thing that could sate Jem's pain was the demon powder, and until it had made its full journey all Jem had was the solid presence of Will in his palm and the empty whispers of soon, and hush, and apology; of these comforts Jem heard none, but writhed for the loss of Will's voice, which seemed to prove the only solace in his delirious state.
Will had long since cleaned the blood from Jem's face and from his hair with the pillowcase that had already his blood upon it. This he had soaked in water and then discarded in the linen room alongside Jem's sheets for Sophie to find in the morning. Jem's episodes, excluding those that truly were horrendous, were kept secret from Charlotte and the rest of the institute, but such damning evidence was impossible to keep from the maid. Will had initially withheld the sheets and ruined clothes after Jem's attacks, and would wander amongst the streets in search of a dank alley to burn them; Jem had been the more reasonable of the two, and acknowledged that sheets could not forever be missing, and consented reluctantly that Sophie must be made aware of the instances. Will remembered the first time he had brought the sheets down to the linen room, and had been caught by Sophie as she had been finishing one of Jessamine's more pernickety gowns. She had been very still at first, shocked beyond reaction at the state of the bloodied linen, and the great stain of it across the front of Will's waistcoat, which Jem had coughed on whilst Will had been lifting him. Immediately after she had sprang to her feet with more agility than Will knew she had in her, dropping the brush in her hands as though she'd forgotten it'd ever existed.
"Master Jem-" She had begun breathlessly, but Will had interrupted her with the coldest disdain that he reserved for only the most tenuous of situations.
"Has just had a very dramatic nosebleed, could you see to it that his sheets are made spotless once more? He apologises for the lateness of the request and does assure me that next time he will control his nasal appendages more politely."
"He's been coughing? Your coat!" She gestured to it as though making him aware that there was a three headed snake curled about his chest.
"He sneezed, but there's no need to wash this, I'm not much taken to the colour anyway," Will said stiffly, casting the sheets onto the stone of the floor and turning to make his leave. Sophie was not deterred however, and rushed to make pace with him as though she had intended to accompany him back to Jem's room.
"The master is ill, we must wake Charlotte and call upon the Silent Brothers to-" Will had cut her off at that point by taking a tight hold of her arm, swinging her around so they were very close together and so that Will could glare down into her eyes in a way that was most threatening. Jem, though he kept his composure in their presence, feared the Silent Brothers almost as much as Will did. Jem hated to display such feelings as he knew the Brothers to have once been shadow hunters like him, but the brutality of their role in his childhood had scarred him in a way that he could never deny. After having seen Jem in one of the worst states in weeks just previously, Will had known his nature to have become temporarily overprotective, and at Sophie's mention of allowing a dark part of Jem's childhood to come now and upset him further had struck him as possibly the most insolent thing he had ever heard. He had held the maid then with a steadfast hatred that he knew to be unnecessary, but had found himself unable to contain his emotions.
"You will not do anything but what has been asked of you Sophie," Will hissed, making the girl flinch, "you will clean these sheets until they are spotless and then you will replace them in Jem's room without mention of any of this to anyone, do you hear?"
"But if he is ill, Charlotte must know, he cannot go on without medical attention," Sophie whispered, her tempered accent breaking through her speech out of fear and shock. Will gave her a small shake,
"Are you deaf? Do as I say, Jem does not want to be seen, but merely to be respected for his wishes." Sophie's face had twisted into anger then, and she had yanked herself from Will's grip as though his touch were sin.
"How can you be so cruel? Your Parabatai is ill and you will not send for help-"
"If cruel is what Jem asks me to be, then cruel I will be, and if you have any love for him left you will do as he asks alongside me," Will had snapped, his patience tried. The girl had frozen at that, her face paling with the realisation that Will knew of her affections towards Jem. Why wouldn't she care for Jem? He showed her endless kindness, as was his freedom. Will knew Sophie hated him because he had taken every measure to assure that he did, lest she fall to the same fate that his sister had. She shifted uncomfortably before him now, unsure of herself.
"If Master Jem does not seek a cure for his illness, he-" she broke off, unable to continue. Will continued for her, relishing the way the words seemed to cut him so deeply that he could almost feel trails of hot blood sinking down his throat, "he will die, and it will be his choice. Will you take even that from him?"
Sophie looked up at him listlessly, tears shining in her eyes, "You sound as though you do not even care." She said it with a contempt that seemed different from its usual poison, something about it then had been tainted, almost harmless.
"Jem is the only thing that I care about, never forget it," Will had answered with enough venom to make up for that which was lacking in hers, "and if you care any for him, you will do as he has asked."
Something had passed through her eyes then, a kind of emotion that still rang of hate but had the itching of something piteous, a soft emotion that made the hair stand straight at the back of Will's neck in fear. Before he could contemplate it further however she had inclined her head in consent, and without hesitation Will had turned and left her in the dark room to wash the blood from Jem's sheets.
The next day Jem had asked Will what he had done to the poor girl, who he had found so upset that she could not bear to be in Jem's presence, no matter how many times he had approached her. His question had been laced with hurt and worry, so Will told Jem that he had offered her the payment of his own body in exchange for the extra work of washing the sheets.
"I think she rather realised the terrible disproportion of the trade, in my mind." Will had pondered meaningfully, leaning back against the secluded alcove of the library in which he and Jem had been reading on assignment from Charlotte, to which Jem replied quietly and without emotion, "Most likely, they really are fine sheets."
Will remembered the way he had leant forward laughing and kissed him happily, and had loved the way that Jem's lips had still been curled upwards in silent amusement. Now his lips were strained in a pain that Will could not take from him nor share. Most hauntingly was the silent practice that was constant between both scenarios, the fact that whenever in pain, or in happiness, Jem endured in silence. In pleasure or in agony Jem fell quiet, so frequently he did it that Will never really knew if Jem was joyful or falling apart inside, only that it was one of the two.
Both of them equally caused by him.
It was always the quiet that gave him away.
Not sure if I should continue this beyond one chapter; if you would like this fic to continue please let me know by reviewing, and if my writing offends you please oh please still review and tell me, because I just want to make you happy, but you have to meet me halfway man.
If you were wondering, Jem's Chinese exclamation is just in simplified Chinese, as it was the fastest thing to have translated. The phrase means roughly to possess Hell, as his pain felt like the abyss was eating him from the inside out. Also the poem Will was thinking of was 'Death be not Proud' by John Donne.
I have an idea of where this story might be heading, but depending on response and my own workload, time will tell.
Thank-you a thousand bear hugs for reading, and I apologise endlessly for any typos (one day I will defeat them, but that day is not today)