Jade Butterfly - A James Carstairs and Tessa Gray Story
A/N: I wrote this because there's not enough Jem and Tessa love around for my liking (that, and I wanted to write something happy since i have a feeling that Cassandra Clare is going to viciously stomp all over my fangirl heart when Clockwork Princess is released later this month...). This story is set between Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince or during Clockwork Prince.
Also, the name of this story comes from a Cantonese song by Nicholas Tse that is translated into that exact name. I still love that song a lot and i feel as though it captures Jem's feelings towards Tessa and how precious she is to him (cue the swooning guys!) quite perfectly. Even if you don't know chinese, go and listen to it on youtube - it's a beautiful song, i promise!
Lastly, none of these characters are mine except Verity Chang. The rest are the wonderful brain children of Cassandra Clare who would perhaps sent an army of automatons on me if i declared otherwise :P I hope you enjoy this story, and review if you like it! Thank you :)
Tessa had been told that a delegate from the Shanghai institute would be arriving today to discuss the events that had unfolded. While the clave had not yet decided on a course of action for Mortmain or the army of clockwork creatures that were intent on killing them, Charlotte found it necessary to consult and explain what had happened to their friends and allies.
Dressing herself in one of her finer day gowns in honour of the institute's guest, Tessa checked her hair in the mirror once more before leaving her room. After making her way down to breakfast and steadfastly ignoring Will throughout her bites of toast, she was more than a little startled when Sophie came rushing in with her cheeks flushed.
"The carriage has just arrived!" she said breathlessly, her white cap askew upon her head "Should I welcome her in?"
To Tessa's surprise, it was Jem that stood up, his silver eyes smiling at Sophie who faltered ever so slightly "No need. Will and I will greet her. Tessa, would you care to come?"
Tessa nodded at Jem's invitation though she was less than inclined to spend any amount of time in Will's company after what had happened between them. Things had been tense to say the least, and Tessa found herself avoiding him almost as much as he tried to avoid her. Luckily, Jem didn't press the issue to either of them, something that Tessa was rather grateful for.
"Why do you never invite me to these things?" said Jessamine, flipping a stray blonde curl back while she glared at Tessa, Jem and Will with baleful eyes "I'm beginning to think-"
"Don't strain yourself" said Will cheerfully, getting up from his seat and straightening his rumpled shirt "something might explode if you think too hard"
Jessamine glared at Will and was about to angrily retort when Jem steered them out of the doorway swiftly, shutting the door on Jessamine's muffled cursing. Giving his parabatai a half reprimanding look, Jem fell into step between Will and Tessa.
"You shouldn't goad her you know. I have half a feeling that she will poison your tea one day"
Will shrugged "You give her far too much credit James. Poisoning me will actually require thought – something we both know she lacks"
Tessa hid her small smile, refusing to be humoured by anything Will said. Instead, she turned her attention to Jem, voicing some earlier thoughts that she had been wondering "This Shanghai delegate, do you know who it is?"
Jem turned a sharp left, leading them down towards a familiar long corridor that led to the front of the Institute. The witchlight gave a soft glow in the morning daylight, weak rays of sun meandering slowly across the stone floors.
"We were friends as children" said Jem, his eyes softening at some unknown memory "Her father runs the Shanghai Institute that I use to attend"
"Oh" said Tessa, feeling instantly foolish for the lack of words that came to mind. She wanted to ask more about this girl but felt odd doing so. It seemed like another time of Jem's life that she didn't know about and was unsure whether she should pry. Tessa settled for silence, watching the doors open as a carriage just outside came to an abrupt halt. The footman hopped down from his post, opening the door and lending a hand to the occupant within. A pale hand took his, her shadowy figure landing lithely on the cobbled pavements below with feline grace.
Her features reminded her of Jem, slanted eyes and delicate features that were spread over milky white skin. Her long black hair was intricately twisted up, silver fan shaped ornaments and crystal flower pins decorating the masterpiece. She was a little shorter than Tessa who was quite tall herself, clad in a beautiful pale gold dress that was embroidered with blossoms. A slit ran up both sides of her legs and while Tessa knew that fashion in Shanghai was vastly different to that in London, she couldn't help the little voice in her head of propriety that sounded a lot like her Aunt Harriet.
Her painted red lips curved into a gracious smile as she spotted the small party that awaited her. Hurrying her steps, she all but threw her arms around a rather startled Jem who eventually laughed as he wrapped his arms around her.
"It's nice to see you too" said Jem, his silver eyes sparkling with happiness. Tessa ignored the slight twisting in her chest at the sight, focusing instead on the girl's response.
"It has been too long hasn't it?" she said, her smile more pronounced as moisture gathered in her eyes "Father was not going to allow me to come to London, but I managed to persuade him"
Jem was about to reply when Will interrupted with an obnoxiously loud cough, turning the girl's attention to him. She arched an eyebrow, her words thinly laced with contempt that had not been present when talking to Jem "Mr Herondale"
Will smiled gregariously, his blue eyes wide and innocent "Miss Chang, lovely to see you as ever"
"I cannot say the same I'm afraid" she replied, her fingers absently twisting a thick silver ring on her right hand "If my memory serves me correctly, last time I met your acquaintance, you set fire to my favourite dress"
Will looked unrepentant "Then perhaps your memory is dwindling with age"
Tessa's eyes widened at Will's words, wondering what Charlotte would say if she knew that he was insulting their guest. To her surprise however, the girl merely laughed, the sound as delicate as bells chiming.
"It's nice to know that snark and malice are still strong in your repertoire" she said, the small smile betraying any words of ill feeling towards Will. As if only just noticing, her dark eyes slid over to where Tessa was standing "And you must be the famous Miss Tessa Gray".
Tessa blinked owlishly, feeling intimidated by the girl in front of her. Upon closer inspection, she looked to be around their age, though her maturity seemed beyond her years. It struck her as odd that the delegate would be so young, and female at that. Wasn't it dangerous to travel alone as a young woman?
But of course, she was no ordinary woman. Tessa could see the faint silvery markings that were etched into her skin, tell tale marks that she was indeed a Shadowhunter despite her soft countenance. Giving the guest a small smile, she inclined her head "You are quite correct… Miss?"
"Call me Vera" she smiled, her dark eyes appraising Tessa silently "It's lovely to meet you in person. I have heard of your talent from Charlotte. It is most fascinating"
Her dark eyes indeed gleamed with interest as she regarded Tessa before they settled back on Jem "Shall we go inside? I would love to see Charlotte again. And I heard Miss Lovelace is at the Institute this time? I do think she will like the gifts I brought with me…."
Jem and Vera dissolved into easy chatter, their conversation interspersed with Will's commentary every so often. Feeling awkward, Tessa trailed behind them until they reached the dining area.
The Lightwoods were hosting a ball that night and for some reason, Tessa was invited despite not being a Shadowhunter. Perhaps it was out of courtesy but she highly doubted it – The Lightwoods were not courteous towards Downworlders. Allowing Sophie to finish lacing up her deep green evening gown, she dismissed the girl and bade her a good night.
It still felt strange to Tessa, having someone help her with her dresses and such. She wasn't use to it in New York where she led a modest life but it seemed to a norm here in London. Pushing back her musings, she dropped the clip she was holding when a soft rapping at the door sounded.
Curiously, Tessa opened up the door a fraction to reveal Vera in a beautiful scarlet dress much like the one she wore on the day she arrived. Her lips were painted red again and her hair was up in that hairstyle that must have taken at least an hour to construct.
Her lips curved into that friendly smile, her tone soft and polite "May I come in?"
Tessa blushed, her words harried and rushed "Of course, come in"
She swept in through the door, a waft of sandalwood and blossoms hovering in her wake. She held out a small velvet pouch to Tessa, "I thought you might like this"
Hiding her surprise, Tessa gently took the bag from Vera, tipping the contents onto her outstretched palm. It looked like one of the ornaments that she had seen adorning Vera's hair, though this was a beautifully intricate and delicate green butterfly that was attached to a long silver pronged pin. The smooth, cool rock looked like the pendant that she always saw Jem wear around his neck – jade, if she remembered correctly.
"Be careful" said Vera, interrupting her thoughts "The tip is sharp enough to slice flesh"
Tessa looked at the girl while rolling the pin her palm "It's very beautiful, thank you"
Vera grinned, her eyes glittering "I'm glad you like it. It used to belong to a good friend of my mother. She would be happy that it is in your possession now. And, I also think it will look wonderful with your dress tonight"
Tessa obliged, though Vera's words struck her as extremely odd. She could sense there was something that Vera was hiding from her but decided not to press it in case it was considered bad manners. Sliding the pin into the up-do that Sophie had created for her earlier, she smiled in what she hoped looked as gratuitous as she felt.
"Once again, thank you for the gift. I wish I could give you something in return"
She waved a gloved hand, dismissing the idea "Nonsense Miss Gray, your hospitality and kindness has been enough. Now if you excuse me, Miss Jessamine requested that I take a look at which dress she should wear tonight"
Tessa briefly wondered how someone as kind could be friends with someone as vain as Jessamine but quickly dismissed the idea, feeling instantly guilty at her thoughts "Well thank you again for the gift"
Her dark brown eyes sparkled with an odd mixture of friendliness and mischief as she opened the door "You're welcome"
It was well into the evening and Tessa felt fatigued from the dancing. While she had refused at first, Will had insisted and upon looking into those blue eyes she found herself agreeing to his wishes. She hated the hold he had over her, even after what he had said. But there was something lurking beneath the surface and she wondered, like many a time before, if he had meant what he said on the rooftops. Sipping a fruity drink to cool herself from her distracted thoughts, Tessa spotted Jem and Vera dancing elegantly nearby. They looked as if they were wisps of air, floating and twirling in perfect harmony to the orchestral music that thrummed throughout the room. Jem himself looked even more handsome, his silvery eyes and hair set off by a greyish coat and trousers with a starched white shirt underneath. The only hint of colour was from his pocket square – a bright scarlet red that matched his partner's dress.
They were both smiling at each other, a laugh injected here and there as they spoke in the low lilting tones of their native language. Tessa felt that twinge inside her chest again, and as Jem laughed again at something she had said, the feeling grew more pronounced than ever.
A flash of black and green blurred on the sides of her vision and as she focused her gaze, Tessa realised it was one of Benedict Lightwood's sons. Gabriel Lightwood was dancing with a lovely red headed girl but while a handsome smile was fixed in place, Tessa noticed that his eyes kept trailing towards a girl in a red silk dress.
"As much as I hate the fellow, I don't blame him. Verity does look quite lovely tonight" whispered a voice precariously close to her ear. Tessa frowned and leaned away from Will as he sat down in an armchair next to her looking completely at ease.
"No need for the long face Tess" he said, plucking a grape from a golden bowl "You look even lovelier"
Tessa blushed furiously, hoping that the dim lighting around her was enough to mask her face. While she knew he said such things to unnerve her, the earnestness in his eyes confused her. But this was neither the time nor place to think of such things and ignoring his comment as best she could, Tessa changed the subject with little subtlety or grace.
"You think Gabriel Lightwood fancies Miss Chang?" asked Tessa, feeling like a gossiping old woman "Have they met each other's acquaintance before?"
Will gave her a cursory glance and shrugged, taking her bait "Briefly when she visited a few years ago. I believe she threw a knife at him when he sliced Jem's arm at practice. He claimed it was an accident but clearly she thought otherwise" said Will, a look of pride upon his face at the memory "I don't remember them getting along at all actually"
Tessa nodded, watching Gabriel stare at her new friend with an almost predatory look "You don't think he means harm to her do you?"
Will laughed, the sound low and short "I hope he tries. She is uncannily accurate in knife throwing - Almost as good as our dear Jem!"
Tessa involuntarily laughed at the image forming in her mind. She would like to see the arrogant young Lightwood being put in his place one day. "So we shouldn't be worried for her?" asked Tessa, her eyes still watching Gabriel who was getting closer to Vera and Jem.
Will shook his head, his blue eyes bright even in the dimmed light of the corner they were sitting in "James would never let anything happen to her" he said, not noticing the slight change in expression on Tessa's face but continuing anyway "And neither would Charlotte, Henry or even Jessamine. We always protect our own"
Tessa swallowed the question she truly wanted to ask, knowing that Will would catch on and become suspicious. She shouldn't be having these thoughts about him or Jem anyway, it could never end well – something that Will made abundantly clear that night. Fighting back the hurt, she turned away from Will and looked out at the room full of people "Why was Vera selected as the Shanghai delegate?" asked Tessa, genuinely curious.
Will responded without hesitation, "Because she is the only one her father trusts" replied Will simply.
Tessa's lips twisted into a slight smile "Does that say more about her father or how trustworthy the other families are?"
Will grinned, "A bit of both I would think"
The tempo of the music increased and Verity recognised the tune immediately. It was one of her favourites, an intricate but beautiful dance that she had learned from an early age. But it didn't matter for the past few songs, she had noticed the slight fatigue in Jem's stance even though he insisted otherwise. The yin feng in his system was running out and as much as he fought the affects, Vera could see that he would need another dose soon.
It wasn't a surprise that Jem's health worried her. While she had never voiced her concerns, it was undeniably there no matter how light she was determined to keep their conversations. He didn't need to be reminded of his illness, Vera knew how much he hated it when people acted like he was fragile. But she couldn't help casting concerned looks when his pallor paled even further, or when sweat began to drench the pale tendrils of hair at the nape of his neck. Being Jem, he valiantly tried to hide it but they had known each other since they were children and she wasn't fooled quite that easily.
"Maybe we should take a break?" suggested Vera, a smile on her lips "We have been dancing for ages". She tugged lightly on his thin wrist, leading them away from the crowds and towards where Will and Tessa were sitting.
Jem's silvery eyes slid over her expression, "But it's your favourite song"
She shook her head, insistent "It's fine, let's just go and sit down for a little while"
Like a gentlemen, he protested, taking her hand in his and leading her back to the dance floor with surprising strength "I refuse to spoil your evening"
Vera laughed "James Carstairs! The world doesn't revolve around you remember?" she teased with a brilliant smile upon her face "What if the lady just fancies a drink and a seat to rest upon?"
He smiled back at her, though pain flitted across his expression before he could quite hide it "The lady I know would never miss a chance to show off her dance skills" he replied, his voice slightly strained. Worried, Vera was just about to ask what was wrong when he was racked with violent coughs. Pulling out a starched handkerchief, he covered his mouth with it before stuffing it back into his pant pockets once it had subsided considerably. However, she did not miss the red on the cloth or the slight tinge it left on his lips.
Out of nowhere, his parabatai emerged, his eyes grazing over Jem who looked worse for wear. While Vera herself did not understand the mystery that was William Herondale, she knew he cared for Jem like no other. They were brothers in almost every sense except for blood and that they would do anything for one another. An errant thought ran through her mind, making her blood run cold for a short moment. What would happen to Will once Jem eventually falls victim to the yin feng?
Will spoke up, breaking her out of her disturbing thoughts "Miss Chang, I think you may have to excuse Jem for a little while" he began, ignoring Jem's protests as he soundly dragged him away "I would be more than happy to dance but- Lightwood, what are you doing here?"
Will's sudden change in demeanour had Vera turning around to meet the grass green eyes of one of her least favourite people. He still looked the same, full of angular features and arrogance that seemed to exude from his every pore. The only difference seemed to be that he had gotten taller since she had last seen him, his height now allowing him to leer over her ever so slightly.
"It is my party isn't it?" said Gabriel contemptuously, lifting his eyebrows at Will before they slid over to Jem "And I'm not looking for trouble tonight. I was just going to ask Miss Chang here for a dance"
Vera thickly swallowed her surprise, allowing a neutral expression to cross her face. It was no news that she vastly disliked Gabriel Lightwood and that she would rather dance with a filthy pig than with him. But she was here on business this time, and at the attendance of their home as well. She could very well guess her father's expression if she were so rude towards a Shadowhunter family that welcomed her into their home.
Vera chased away Will and Jem's suspicious glances with a serene smile, placing her hand in Gabriel's substantially cooler one "I just hope you can keep up"
"He's not going to murder her right on the dance floor you know" commented Will idly, his eyebrows raised at the two people in front of him.
Tessa shot him an annoyed look, before fixing her eyes back on Gabriel and Vera. Beside her sat Jem, looking so pale his skin was almost translucent. Will had offered to take him back to the institute to get some rest but he had refused, instead seeking refuge in the shadowy corner of the ball room where there was a bit more room to breathe.
"I still don't trust him" remarked Tessa, her eyebrows drawn together in consternation as she observed the pair. Gabriel's fingers seemed to be a little too tight around her waist, his gaze far too predatory as he spoke. Vera in turn seemingly looked calm and collected though the slight pursing of her lips gave her away.
"You don't need to. She can very well hold her own. Now can we stop spying on those two and have some fun?"
Jem and Tessa ignored him, not realising that Will had disappeared from behind them and into the crowd.
"Were you and Vera friends when you were growing up in Shanghai?"
Tessa cursed the eagerness in her voice, turning her eyes away from the silver haired boy next to her. She had been debating whether to ask him about Vera for the best part of half an hour, but now that she had, she wasn't so sure she wanted to know the answer. It was abundantly clear to Tessa that he cared deeply about the other young woman, and that they had some past together which Tessa was not privy to. Though she knew her own developing feels were very dangerous indeed, she couldn't quite help herself. Sometimes she thought she saw it in his eyes too – an affection for her that over rode the brotherly nature that most at the institute would expect from him.
He sipped his water, his face having regained a little bit of colour after resting for a while.
"Yes. Vera and I were friends growing up. Before I moved here, we would spend every day in each other's company. Our parents used to say we were completely inseparable" replied Jem almost wistfully.
"Oh" said Tessa, the sound stilted and disappointed even to her own ears. She looked down at her hands, feeling an awkwardness between her and Jem that she had not felt before. It had always been easy between them – honest and sincere. However, Tessa had to admit that talking about another girl was not a conversation she would ever have thought to initiate with him. The sick feeling dropped low in her stomach like a stone as she continued to watch the twirling couples on the dance floor.
Suddenly, a pale hand reached out to touch her arm and Tessa turned in surprise. Jem was looking at her, genuine concern in his beautiful eyes.
"Are you feeling well Tessa?"
Tessa nodded, feeling silly for having to blink back the tears that had formed in her eyes.
"I'm fine, thank you" she countered politely, hurriedly swiping a ruffled sleeve across her eyes to rid of the tears before Jem noticed. Unluckily for her however, Jem's sharp eyes noticed that detail very clearly and Tessa watched with abject embarrassment as his concern grew more apparent.
"What is wrong? Please Tessa, you can tell me anything"
His eyes were wide and pleading, and Tessa could not hold off her thoughts any longer. The words spilled from her mouth – silly, humiliating and brazen truths that she couldn't stop.
"I can't stand to see you in love with Vera. I can't listen to another conversation between you two about your wonderful times in Shanghai! I can't stand to see the happiness in your eyes when you look at her, and know that you would never look at me that way! I can't be happy for you because I'm selfish and I love you James Carstairs-"
Tessa abruptly stopped herself, breathing hard and still hysterical from her outburst. Clamping a gloved hand over her mouth, she realised what she had said too late. Rising from her seat, Tessa hoisted her full skirt slightly and made to leave a quick departure.
Jem who had just recovered from his shock, grabbed her upper arm with a firm pressure, his lips dissolving into a full fledged smile that was rarely seen.
"What did you say?"
Tessa struggled, not willing to prolong the embarrassment that she had inflicted on herself. She didn't think Jem would be one to tease her about this (that was more Will's area of expertise), not like he was now with a wide grin spread across his face.
"Please let me go Jem. I'm sorry I said those things I did about Vera – I did not intend to be malicious towards your f-friend". She choked on the word, averting her eyes from his probing gaze.
His grip on her forearm loosened till he had both her hands clasped in his "But did you mean those things about me?"
She looked up then, astonishment flickering across her features at what he implied. His silvery hair was falling into his eyes, his mouth parted ever so slightly. His hands on her own felt feverishly hot through the silken material of her gloves, the warm feeling pressing against the cold that had settled there during the evening. He looked expectantly at her, encouraging her wordlessly with the hopefulness in his eyes.
Her voice dropped to a whisper, quavering as she looked at him with as much composure and conviction as she could muster.
"Yes. I love you James Carstairs"
His eyes glowed with happiness before he crushed her body to his. Breathing in the clean soapy smell of her hair, he murmured something – flowing, lovely words of another language that made her heart stutter and her head spin.
"Wo ye ai ni"
I love you too.
Tessa smiled into Jem's chest, feeling the steady beat of his heart underneath her ears and relishing their proximity together. Everything had gone so much better than she had ever hoped –
The seriousness of Jem's tone caught her off guard, making her detach herself from him almost immediately and her heart constrict painfully. She searched his oddly blank expression, fearing the worst, fearing that he had changed his mind and that he didn't want her after all…
"What is it Jem?" she asked, worry saturating her voice.
His hand deftly moved past her face, his fingers delicately plucking something from her perfectly coiffed hair. He twirled the jade butterfly in his fingertips, a look of utmost concentration on his face.
"Tessa, why do you have my mother's hair pin?"
Tessa laughed at the endearing look of puzzlement on Jem's face, plucking the pin from his hand and sliding it back into her hair. Feeling bold and full of adrenaline, Tessa looped her arms around Jem's neck and angled her lips across his with surprisingly little hesitation to which Jem responded with equal fervour.
Eventually Jem pulled back, his pale skin stained pink and generally looking very pleased indeed. Wordlessly, he pulled her along, steering them towards the dance floor and giving her a quick twirl that earned a startled shriek. Anchoring her in his arms, he leaned down to whisper in her ear, unable to keep the crooked smile from leaving his face.
"You can keep the pin"