Title: The Wheel
Fandom: TID
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2,000 approx.
Disclaimer: Not mine, but rather, Ms. Clare's.
Summary: Ms. Tessa Gray-Carstairs is but one of many passengers aboard the RMS Titanic. In the end, her story is no more and no less remarkable than all the others.

A/N: My friend Justine demanded Jem/Tessa in a Titanic AU. My friend Adria noted that going AU in order to put Jem and Tessa on the Titanic might not be strictly necessary.


They call it the ship of dreams, and dream she does. Twisting in the bed of her private cabin, feeling his words wash over her like the waves that rock her to and fro.

"You know I believe we are reborn… if two souls are meant to be together, they will remain together on the Wheel…"

It's been nearly thirty years since Tessa Carstairs buried her husband, and though it's due to nothing so simple as warlock blood, she does not look a day over twenty.

The young men tip their hats at her, smiling at her composed face. But she is no longer an insecure girl of sixteen, and does not mistake their greetings for mere politeness. She does not return the enthusiasm. They seem so young—and despite all appearances—Tessa feels so old.

Hoping the moonlight will prove bright enough to read by, Tessa grabs her battered copy of Vathek before wrapping a shawl about her shoulders and strolling the deck.

It's a beautiful ship. And it's filled with bright people of every age and station, filling it up with their hopes and sense of adventure. But it is also as cold as London, and somehow lacks the warmth that the company of the Institute always brought her.

And the moon is not full.

She can barely make out the giggling pair of lovers at the other end of the deck, the girl with the tangling red hair and the boy with his worn suspenders, much less the small print of her book.

Surrendering herself to more useless tossing, Tessa begins to turn back, when a wayard cat tangles between her ankles, causing her to lose her balance, and brace herself against the rail.

Vathek sails promptly into the great, dark drink.

"By the Angel!" She was the only one who never said it among her nephilim friends. And now she is the only one who exclaims it among mundane strangers.

And perhaps it is a bit morose, but she cannot help but stare after it, out into the dark water. There is no hope of retrieving it, no matter how beloved the copy.

"I can't imagine that helps much, staring longingly after it."

Though she had been craving company a moment ago, Tessa feels no gratitude for whatever stranger stands behind her. She has always been a woman of few material possessions. The ones she has are precious. Were precious.

"Well, what would you recommend, sir?"

A cautious step forward. The slight rustle of a jacket.

"Well, instead of looking down, you could look up and see the stars. I find that when I've lost something of value, I can try contemplating the majesty of the cosmos and seeing how small all earthly problems are by comparison."

Tessa gave a less than lady-like snort, "And that makes you feel better?"

"No. But it will probably get you in less trouble than drowning the captain's cat, and it's a good precursor to fantasizing about said drowning."

Something seizes up and crashes inside her heart at the familiarity of it all, and as Tessa turns with a helpless sort of laugh on her lips, her expectations flash to the front of her mind.

Her eyes perceive an inversion of the image. Where she expects to find pale and rune-marked skin, she finds an even tan. Where she anticipates gray silver verging on white, she sees an inky black shock of hair. Where she expects ethereal bright eyes with the slightest hint of pupil, she sees a healthy dark shade, nearly matching the bangs that fall into them in a messy sort of silky tussle. But all the differences—though she sees them and notes them all instantaneously—mean nothing. Nothing at all.

"J—"

"Jamie, Miss. I beg your pardon, Jamie Kemmington."

A fitting rehashery of Ke Jian Ming, Tessa thinks. But she refrains from saying it. For though he is startled, and staring every bit as much as she, there is no recognition in that perusal. This is all happening for the first time for him. She's not supposed to know any of this stranger's secrets. Certainly not that she knows his name to be a nome de plume.

For the first time in a week, she smiles. "Tessa Gray. I am pleased to meet you."

He startles, blushes, and averts his eyes as if surprised to realize she means it.

And that is the first moment she takes in the sight of his coarse shirt and frayed cap, realizing that this is not the shadowhunter world of nephilim and downworlders, but rather that of well-dressed ladies in first class cabins, and half-foreign hopefuls clearly fresh from steerage. Tessa realizes their positions are rather reversed this time around, and seeks to do the same thing about it now that was done then.

She ignores it entirely.

"Well then, Jamie," she takes his arm. Holding a bit tighter and closer than is truly polite, but the night is cold and perhaps some part of him does know her, the part that gravitates like to like, because he smiles again. A more sure smile. And they warm each other. "You may call me Tessa and we shall contemplate constellations and cats together—preferably out of the chill air."

She does not want to confuse him. He looks at her, with a wrinkle on his brow—and he knows that something has happened—but like Alice falling into her wonderland, it is all happening too quickly and for Tessa, reality is so greatly shifted in that moment, that it would break something in her to either explain it all or explain it away.

But he can hear an invitation in her words, and seems an impossible one.

"I can't—I can't follow you to your—"

"No. The butlers are like great automatons and would not let you in, not even at my invitation… but I was rather hoping to follow you."

He bites his lip. "It's loud and noisy there. And cramped. There's a party going on, with dancing required, and they will not care that you are in a nightgown. Once they see me, they'll expect me to join in and play for them."

"The violin?"

He blinks, surprised yet somehow pleased.

"Well, a fiddle—the bridge is shaved down flat—because it's what they have on hand, but I wish I could play a proper violin for you."

"I will listen to any music you make. I can think of no better cure for the pain of a lost book."

His grip on her arm tightens as he looks at her with a question in his eyes. She leans into him with another smile as she squeezes back.

They do make her dance. And they do make him play. And though he gives them what they want, their bouncy tunes and quick notes, they occasionally let his true style slide—the occasional dip into a slow and searing melody. And Tessa moves with her feet. She can barely remember the last time she danced, with some stranger hoping to chase her melancholy expression away, but all the times that mattered come flowing back to her. When she was in much the same company that she is now, bathed in the green glow of witchlight.

And she feels him watch her. He watches her smile, and how she cuts it loose, but how it shines brightest when she turns to him. He sees the jade with mandarin engraving and the angel at her throat, and she feels his curiosity burn while it only makes her grin all the wider.

When a string on the fiddle breaks, he plucks it off. He calls to a matronly woman in the crowd, and of all things, she hands him a clothes pin. As Tessa works through the crowd to make her way to him, she sees his makeshift gift more clearly: his string tied into a bow, the pin affixed to it. And as she stands before him, he fastens the newly-made pin to her shawl, holding it closed. It allows her shawl to wrap about her more naturally, leaving her arms free to take his hand in hers.

There is only one moment when he stops and coughs. Tessa feels her heart in her throat, but he waves it off, saying it is only dust. Tessa takes a breath and reminds herself there is no reason to believe—this time—that it might be anything else. His faced is flushed, but not with fever. The exertion of the dance takes its tole, because he is only human here and now.

As the excitement settles, they find themselves on the deck again. This time, they do not feel the cold.

She cannot talk of her past much, but he does not pry. Rather, he shares his own hopes for the future. For New York is where many a wondering soul seeks their fortune for better or for worse. He tells her of his concerns and his plans to counter them. Tessa nods solemnly.

It is too soon to tell him that he already has a place to stay.

The earliest rays of the sun strike the water, recreating the glow of a steady flame. Tessa is worn out and breathless. Her gown is torn, her feet are filthy, and she is completely happy because his hand is in hers. Finally, finally. And she is only sorry that she did not believe him a lifetime ago when he told her it would be like this.

James is not an overly impulsive person at heart. Neither is she, really. But if there is one thing Tessa Gray has learned in the course of her immortal years, it is that life is—ironically—short.

And because the impossible can happen… because the world could end in fire and brimstone tomorrow—or even more unlikely—the unsinkable ship could somehow find a way to sink… she kisses him. She kisses him and lets herself feel the warmth of him for as long as she can, until the moment he pulls back to breathe.

And among the emotions of surprise, and recovery, and red creeping quickly across his high cheekbones, there is the definite edge of joy. Discovery.

Found you, his eyes seem to say. I did not know I was searching for you, but I have found you.

Somehow, she makes it back to her bed, and she sleeps dreamlessly. All day.

She awakes in the night to a cry that makes her blood run cold.

"Women and children first!"

Later, Magnus will pull the tale from her with hot tea and soft sad words. After she has finished screaming her throat raw, clawing at every door with any set of hands she can shift and borrow that will allow her to scrape into wood and curtain. After her numb feet—that can never be warm after a wait like that, in the cold water listening to the men scream, never, never never—are done kicking every chair and wall. After another twenty years of tears are rung from her eyes.

Magnus will learn that she met his gaze in the crowd, and tried to run to him, but one of the ship mates dragged her back. She tried shifting to a man, so they would not force her aboard the boats, but she then lost him in the crowd, and a blow to her head reverted her to her true form in the midst of the cacophony. No one even noticed. They were all too busy dying or flying.

Magnus will see that her hand is bleeding, and he will try to pull the crumpled mess of pin and violin string out of her hand, but she will not let go.

Tessa has always been a woman of few material possessions. The ones she has are precious.

"You know I believe we are reborn… if two souls are meant to be together, they will remain together on the Wheel…"

When she is done cursing fate, Kwan Yim, the devils, and the angels, Tessa will breathe.

She will breathe and await the next cycle of the Wheel.