(Disclaimer: I do not own the Mortal Instruments.. sadly. Title taken from the lyrics of Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men! Had to re-upload because my email went crazy!)
A world in which Max is wonderfully alive and well, three years old whilst the others are roughly 18.
ENJOY THE FEELS. I'M SORRY I'M NOT SORRY! ;D
Max curls the tips of his toes into the stone slabs beneath his feet, breath audibly hitching as he presses his palm to the oak door, nudging it open until a shredded ray of milky moonlight dapples his skin. He peers around the doorframe, white knuckles curling in trepidation, and glances into the room, dizzily blinking as his eyes adjust to the unexpected brightness of the flames in the fireplace.
An arched window high on the wall bleeds waning light of the moon onto the dusty floor, pale puddles mingling with the fiery, orange shadows of the fire, and flickering candles burn on the coffee and side tables.
The library is always claimed by his siblings and their friends the moment Max's Mama and Daddy announce that they'll be gone overnight. Partly because of its warmth, a commodity in this open breezy Institute, and its comfortable space, but mostly because of its proximity to the kitchen, and thus the fridge. Tonight is no exception, unsurprisingly, and Max's belly unwinds a little with relief when he spots his brother, Alec, nestled into one of the couches with Magnus; his big sister Isabelle lounging on another couch, feet propped in Simon's lap and an arm tossed over her eyes as she shakes with laughter; and, opposite Izzy, Jace on the floor, legs slumped in front of him, head tipped back into Clary's knees so that she can stroke her fingers through his hair.
A violent shiver wracks Max's tiny frame, drawing a faint whine from his throat as gooseflesh crackles across his neck and ankles. It's just so cold in the corridor, clenched fist stuck to the door handle with only the tip of his nose dipped into the warmth of the library.
He's a big boy now, almost a Shadowhunter, his Mama tells him every day, but when the rain began spitting, threatening to shatter his windowpanes, and the clouds knocked together with nails-on-chalkboard shrieks of thunder and lightening, Max's big-boy-bed didn't feel quite as safe as before. He scrambled into the sliver of space beneath his wardrobe, clawing through the worn carpet in the darkness until he found the soft, baby blue blanket that his Daddy forbade him from cuddling. Padding fearfully down the staircase, squeezing his eyes tightly shut as each shadow in every corner convulsed, he clutched the blanket to his chest.
Max is a big boy now. Almost four. He doesn't need Izzy to play with his hair until he falls asleep, or Alec to tell him bloody bedtime stories, which are in fact just diluted anecdotes of his usual afternoon, or Jace to scare away the monsters behind his bedroom door, but-
He just needs to see them. Needs to make sure that he's not completely alone in this big, scary castle.
"It was not that bad!" protests Isabelle, laughing despite her complaints.
Jace bobs his head in an emphatic nod, cocking an incredulous eyebrow. "You're in denial," he accuses, grinning toothily. "But, you're also right. It wasn't that bad- it was awful."
"Siding with Jace for this one," Alec adds, snickering. "Sorry, Iz."
Simon pats Isabelle's feet comfortingly, but regardless, she twists to give her brother a faux-betrayed glare, nose scrunched indignantly. "Well," she drawls. "I'd like to see you or Jace try to bake a cake for mom's birthday instead of me!"
"And steal your spotlight?" teases Alec. "Never."
"Why would we ever do that? Think of all the future humiliating stories we'd lose."
"You could just ask Magnus to magic you up a cake, Izzy," Clary suggests, flashing a smile at her friend before bending to drop an upside-down kiss to Jace's unsuspecting lips.
"And what makes you think that I'd say yes?" Magnus grumbles.
"Alec could no doubt make you say yes," Simon answers. Isabelle's eyes widen with acute shock, and Clary bristles awkwardly, scandalised at the statement as she smothers a groan in Jace's honey locks.
Simon takes a moment to register the expressions, but when he does, he immediately pales.
"I was not implying that-"
"Oh, I'm sure he could," Magnus purrs, interrupting. "And in that case I'd be more than happy to oblige.."
Horrified at the sudden shift in conversation, Jace cups Clary's neck with both hands, drawing her hastily into a distracting kiss, and Isabelle shoots up with a bark of laughter, pawing at Simon's snowy cheeks to reel him in for a triumphant, complimenting smack of their lips. Alec writhes in mortification, withering like a sickly flower into the cushions of the couch to hide his flushed cheeks in Magnus's shoulder.
Max shudders again, soundlessly lifting his blanket to his nose and closing his eyes.
He feels okay again. Maybe even a little silly. Of course he's not alone. Here they are, his family, all six of them, scattered about the couches of the library, one hundred or so steps from the foot of the staircase.
Max peels his fingers from the handle slowly, pulling the door with him as he stumbles in retreat-
And thunder crashes through the roiling, onyx clouds above the Institute.
A terrified gasp causes Max's knees to snap together. He claws at the door to the library, fingernails scratching painfully as he shoves it in, tumbling over the threshold with his heart lodged in his throat.
Alec startles at the slap of wood against the concrete wall, swivelling in his seat to spot a trembling silhouette in the doorway, sapphire eyes bright and glossy in the sallow sway of a candle flame.
"Max?" wonders Jace, straightening as Clary pulls away. Lightning drenches the library, colouring the stone floor a ghastly yellow-white, and Max stiffens, shaky fingers forming a muffle over his ears. His cheeks rival the purest of white chalk, berry-red lips damp as he courageously swallows a sob.
"What's wrong?" Isabelle asks, but Max shakes his head, eyelashes dark and sooty against his cheekbones as he forces his eyes to close.
Thunder cracks the sky open again like a gaping wound, pouring heavy rain over the earth, and Max leaps off of the floor in alarm, wide, miserable eyes melting with bridled tears and startled like a wild animal. His hair is ruffled, charcoal ringlets shivering by his temples and curling over his ears, a little salty and a lot sticky with nervous sweat. Blue pyjamas, crumpled from restless sleep, hang loosely from his hips as he tugs his blanket up to his chin, grazing the smooth fabric against his cheek.
"The storm," Alec says.
Jace crooks a finger in beckoning to their little brother, patting the vacant spot beside him with his free hand, and Max contemplates the offer, but with tears eclipsing his vision, it feels like he's wearing the wrong pair of glasses again. His sight is murky at the edges and distorted in the middle. The fact that he isn't actually wearing any - he forgot to slide them on in his hurry to dart out of bed - only makes his throat tighten further with the urge to cry, because he doesn't know how to fix his eyes by himself. Last time, his Mama did, petting his baby-curls and kissing his damp cheeks until they found his proper glasses and he could see again.
When Max tentatively takes a step, it inevitably results in a trip, balance teetering as lightning brightens the room again.
"Max, baby, don't be scared," Isabelle says, softly as her brother flinches, scrubbing at his eyes with fists.
He stumbles another step closer, toes numb and icy. "Storm," he whines, lips quivering.
"It can't get you. It's just a storm," Jace says, comfortingly. He holds his hand out, palm-up. "C'mere?"
Max closes the remaining distance in a scamper, bypassing the proposed space beside Jace in favour of scrambling into his lap. He knots his arms around Jace's neck, and his legs around his hips, ankles pressing into Jace's sides as far around as they can possibly go, which really isn't far at all.
"Jace, Jace, Jace," Max babbles, nestling into the crook of his brother's neck. His chest heaves with little staccato flutters of distressed breath, pulse racing in his temples.
"Whoa," Jace whistles, breathless from where a stray knee pierced his stomach. "Hey, hey, tiny, it's okay."
Max shudders, tugging desperately on buttery curls as Jace smoothes a hand down his spine.
"Notta' big boy," he mumbles forlornly, nuzzling Jace's shoulder.
Jace opens his mouth to respond, biting back an endeared chuckle, because really, Max? We go through this every day. You're just three, it's okay to ask for help sometimes, but a burst of noise overpowers his words, drowning them with a shocking boom of thunder.
Max's entire body stiffens, clammy fingers pulling at Jace's hair desperately. Lips parting around a whine, he buries the sound in his brother's skin, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes.
"Max," Jace says, quietly, tipping Max's chin into the air. "You are a big boy. Bravest kid ever."
"Storm," Max whimpers. A hot tear rolls over the swell of his cheek, but Jace pets his back soothingly.
"You're a little Shadowhunter, remember?" he murmurs. "Storms can't hurt brave little Shadowhunters, tiny."
Max shivers, blinking up wetly at his whiskey-eyed brother. "Scared though," he whispers.
"Want to hear a secret?" Jace suggests, wiggling his eyebrows. "It's funny."
"'Kay," Max breathes, breath catching on a hitch as he lays his cheek flat to Jace's chest. A rhythmic thump-bada-thump-bada-thump fills his ears, familiar and calming as it wheedles a shaky sigh of relief from his lungs.
"When Alec was eleven, he was afraid of dogs. He cried when Izzy brought an injured puppy home one night. Hid in his room and locked the door."
Max sniffles softly, bunching the cuff of his pyjamas in his fist to wipe his nose. "Really?" he hiccups.
"Really," Isabelle chirrups, and when Max turns his head to look at her, curiosity in his blue eyes, she masks her concern with an overly-sparkling grin. Max appears vaguely blinded, but not at all disgruntled at her expression, so she reckons it works. "He cried for ages. And wouldn't come out until Mom promised to not let my puppy eat his fingers off."
"They're lying," Alec grumbles, cutting his siblings' reminiscent laughter short. But when their amusement elicits a watery trickle of giggles from his little brother, lips toying with the phantom of a smile, Alec's expression consequently softens. He rolls his eyes fondly as he kneels in front of Max, an exasperated sigh of why do I bother? on his lips.
"Tha' for me?" Max wonders, brightening somewhat as he wriggles into a sitting position. Alec nods, grinning, and passes him a familiar cup, plastic and old (with the name Jace scrawled into the base with a blade, the messy handwriting of a twelve year old), but much-loved. It fits against the dough of Max's palm, brimming with his favourite chocolate milk, and he licks at his fingers when a teardrop dribbles over the rim.
"Unless there's another addict here?" teases Alec.
Max cradles the cup delicately with both hands. It's warmed and accented with a straw, the same way his Mama makes it for him when he has a nightmare. He's careful not to spill it when he climbs to his feet, squinting his eyes in concentration as he trails his dark haired brother across the heart of the room to another couch.
"I like chocolate meeewk," he mumbles.
"Milk," Alec clarifies. Magnus chuckles.
"Meeewk," Max nods, slipping between Alec's legs. He leans on one of his brother's thighs, blanket clumped beneath his chin as he sips and slurps at the flavoured milk. Lips popping around each audible gulp, it takes the little Shadowhunter less than ten minutes to fill his belly. Alec pries Max's slender fingers from their bracket around the cup when the straw begins to protest with empty, sucking noises, placing it to rest on one of the side tables, much to Max's mewling dismay.
"What'll help you sleep?" Alec asks, shushing Max's whining by gently running a hand through his hair.
"Wan' Izzy," he sniffles, the warmth of milk in his belly pleasantly spreading to his fingers. It makes everything blurry and soft, his knees weaker and eyes heavier. Falling prey to a tiger yawn, Max slips on the too-long ends of his jammies, pushing off of Alec's knees as he slides his bare feet across the dusty stone floor. He clambers up onto the final sofa, baby blanket tickling his toes, and worms his way into Isabelle's arms.
"Hi," she coos, sweeping a kiss to the top of his head as he snuffles into her chest, nose pressed to the base of her throat. He smells like baby shampoo and chocolate milk, vanilla fabric softener and a hint of something that is distinctly little Max. Izzy oscillates between rain and fresh air, but eventually settles for a mixture of the two.
"Izzy," he sighs.
"Sleepy, baby?" she whispers, stretching out on her side as he burrows into the cradle of her arms.
Max yawns, squashing his baby blanket between them. "Storm," he whines.
Isabelle brushes her lips to his forehead, stroking curls of tangled hair away from the baby-soft skin of his cheeks.
"I'll keep you safe here, baby, okay?" she promises. The words are a warm secret, a balm to Max's frazzled nerves, a cocoon of privacy knitted just for them in the library full of other people. Izzy is soft, cosy like his bed, and smells like the raspberries he sometimes steals from the baskets at fruit markets near the Institute on Saturdays. He hooks his fingers into the folds of her dress, squirming impossibly closer, allowing her to block out the noise and bright, flashing light as his leaden eyelids droop, sooty eyelashes stilling as he closes his eyes.
"Wan' Izzy," he hiccups, nosing at her neck.
"I'm here, shh," she hums, tucking his head snugly beneath her chin. "Go to sleep, baby. I won't go anywhere."
"But Izzy, the storm?"
"Clouds and rain shouting at each other. It's outside," she soothes. "It can't hurt you."
"I'll make you some in the morning."
"With sprinkles," Isabelle concedes, a soft smile hidden in his knotty hair. "Our secret, hm?"
"Go to sleep, Max."
Isabelle rocks him, in the way she used to when he was a fussy baby and her mom was too busy, whispering sweet nothings of frothy praise and comfort into his ear. Eventually, he relents, allowing her to lull him into silence with her presence, succumbing to her warmth as he melts further into her arms. She cards a hand through his loose curls, strokes fingertips along his spine, and bit by bit he settles, warm breath evening against her throat, the grip he has on her dress and baby blanket weakening into unfurled fists.
"Goodnight, baby," she breathes, as he sinks into dreams, lips parted a little and expression blissful. She drops a butterfly-light kiss to the tip of his rosy nose, helpless to do otherwise when he looks so sweet in her arms, warm and supple and sleepy.
Max discovers that he doesn't really care if he's not a big boy yet.
Not if being the baby, the little Lightwood boy, means he gets to do this sometimes.
SOMEONE'S NEEDS TO EXPLAIN TO ME WHY MAX DIED. WHY, MAX, WHY.
Would you like more one shots/drabbles about Max?! :D He won't be 15 years younger than everyone in all of them, that was just for this one. And they'll include all of our lovely Shadowhunters, directly and indirectly. Drabbles and one-shots and ficlets.
SO YEP, PLEASE LEMME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK? :D DID ANYONE LIKE THIS IDEA? :) A world here Max lives? LET ME LOVE YOU!
Okay, so this was just way too fun to write. I've tried to edit it, but I've been staring at a screen for two straight hours, so apologies if I missed anything. It's late and I'll be back in the morning to panic over uploading something so quickly, and I'll go through it again then! :D
Isabelle would so be like a mini mama to Max. If he had lived. Because Maryse is so busy with killing demons and being a big Shadowhunter and whatnot, and Max would be very clingy and needs loads of attention, so Isabelle would give him bottles when he was a baby, and take care of him overnight, and when he's older she'd help him through nightmares and read comics with him and teach him how to climb trees and generally just parent him. So she snuggles him and cuddles him and calls him "baby" a lot because she half-raised him, and he is her baby, and god help anyone who lays a finger on him ever, because they'll have to face the wrath of scary, protective Izzy!
And who doesn't love a bitta Jace and baby, Alec and baby, sweetness?! They're just too cute. Kickyfeet, kickyfeet, I tell you.
I have so many ideas for this storyline.
Max is just too adorable. I can't cope.
Please let me know! :) Thank you SO much for reading (and reading my little rant..) and I hope you enjoyed it! :D