Spoilers for Clockwork Princess. Some of the dialogue belongs to Cassie. Please let me know what you think of this story and Clockwork Princess in a review! :D
For years, it had been the two of them.
Will and Jem.
Jem and Will.
Will wasn't sure when he merged the names together...when they became willandjem. Perhaps it had been at the parabatai ceremony, when Jem had drawn the rune, just above his heart. When they'd stood in rings of fire and spoken the words.
wither thou goest, I will go.
Where thou diest, will I die
And there will I be buried:
The Angel do so to me, and more also,
if aught but death part thee and me
They had known the significance of what they were doing, even then. But they couldn't have imagined the impact-how much they would come to rely on each other. Will had bound himself to a dying boy, but it was that boy who was keeping him alive. Will Herondale lived, so James Carstairs must also. That was the way of the world.
Now, though, Will did not know what to do.
Because it wasn't willandjem anymore.
It was just Will. Only Will.
"I'm alone," he had cried to Tessa in their prison. He had meant the horrible wretchedness of the words then, but they ached in him now. They tore and beat and ripped at him.
Part of him was missing. Part of him had been torn away, lost.
And he would never get it back.
When he was not with Tessa or at meals he was in the training room.
Sometimes he threw knives, viciously and angrily. Thunk, thunk, thunk. They hit the target in the center, just as Jem had taught him. He could almost here his parabatai laughing in his ear.
"Relax your shoulder, William. Let the knife become part of you, let if fly away from you with the ease of bird. See your target, focus on it, and the knife will go there."
He threw the knives until he couldn't anymore. Until they fell from his fingers, clattering to the training room floor. Sometimes, he fell with them. He lay on the ground and sobbed, terrible broken sobs.
Cecily had come to him, once. Whispered softly and soothingly in Welsh. When he had not responded, she'd called for Charlotte.
"Oh Will," Charlotte breathed when she saw him.
He did not know what he looked like, in all honesty he really didn't care. Her voice triggered a memory.
"Did you not remember that we would be welcoming a new member to the institute today? Will Herondale, this is James Carstairs..."
He lifted his face to look at her.
She had moved so she was kneeling beside him, hand outstreched as if to touch him. "Will?"
"I don't know what to do now," Will said. It came out as a choked whisper. His chest felt tight, constricting, as if he couldn't get enough air. The faded parabatai rune flared for a brief moment. "I don't know, I don't-"
And suddenly Charlotte's arms were around him. For a moment he considered pulling away, pushing and snapping something, but he found he didn't have the energy. So he went limp, completely unresisting as she pulled him nearly into her lap and held him like a child.
She was whispering something to him, something about how Jem would always love him, about how he shouldn't give up now, something meaningless and ordinary and expected. It wasn't what she was saying that moved him. It was the gentleness in the way she clutched him to her, so familiar, so warm and loving.
He buried his face in her and for the first time in five years, he let Charlotte really, truly see him cry. He sobbed as he hadn't done before. It wasn't the rasped, broken chokes he had cried into Tessa's warm shoulder. It wasn't the self-hating whispers he'd given, kneeling on Magnus's carpet with the warlock's hands on his shoulders after discovering his curse was not real. It was not even the fervent prayers he had whispered by Jem's bedside, late at night.
Charlotte had stopped her gentle whispers. Now Will could feel her crying with him. Feel her shaking underneath him, feel her hot, wet tears on the top of his head.
Clenching his eyes shut, he held more tightly.
She rocked him gently in her arms as if he were a child, and together they held on to each other and wept on the training room floor until Bridget called them to dinner.
Some days, it was easy for Will to pretend that Jem was there with him.
He could almost sense his parabatai. Almost feel Jem's feather-light touch on his shoulder. Almost hear his teasing voice, warning Will not to do something stupid. Almost hear the silver sound of his violin drifting down the hall.
But then he would turn around and see no one behind him. He'd see only the emptiness of Jem's room, the bed stripped clean, waiting for some other Shadowhunter to take over. All physical memory of Jem had been purged from the institute.
Will was not sure if he was glad of that. In a way it helped him heal. But it also destroyed him.
They kept Jem's violin-him and Tessa.
Sometimes, Will would take it out, run his hands over it. Jem had never taught him how to play, but when Will held the instrument he could almost hear his friend's soft voice, saying, "I'm not good with words, Will. Listen to what I have to say with music..." He could picture Jem standing by the window in his night clothes, violin on one shoulder, eyes closed, playing his anger and his fever and his passion into the instrument, playing his loyalty and his love and his pain, pouring himself into the music. The mirror of Will's soul. The good in Will, the good in Jem, reflected back into the sweet notes of the violin.
Will would hold the violin close and hum Bach softly to himself, shutting his eyes so he could picture Jem playing the notes by his side.
The first few hunts were hard.
Will did not know how to be a Shadowhunter without his parabatai. He did not know what it was like to fight without the knowledge that someone would know his every instinct and move, that someone would always cover his back.
He learned quickly.
Tessa wanted to scold him for his recklessness; he could see it in her expression. But she didn't. She simply sighed, smiled, and cleaned his wounds, pausing every few seconds to press kisses to his hair, his cheek, his lips.
"There's hope for you yet, William Herondale," she said, and wrapped her arms around him.
He tensed at those words, hearing them in Jem's soft voice, feeling his parabtai's fingers gently encircle his wrist. He wanted to cry again, suddenly. He didn't though. He simply buried his face in Tessa's hair and whispered lines from Shakespeare in her ear until she burst out laughing.
In a way, it was like Jem was dead.
Will knew that he wasn't, knew that Jem was Brother Zachariah, that he was living in the Silent City, that he was still breathing.
But he wasn't Jem. Not anymore.
"I need you," He had begged, the last time he had seen his parabatai, as Jem, "now more than ever."
He remembered the way Jem had looked at him, sad and with such understanding, the runes standing out against his cheekbones, stark and clear. "You don't need me, Will." He had said, gently.
But Will did. He needed his best friend. He needed to hear Jem laugh. He needed to feel his parabatai during battle, needed to feel the cord that bound them stretching tight the further they moved from each other. He needed to hold Jem as he had done for so many years during an attack. He need his blood brother, needed and wanted him by his side so badly the ache was almost physical.
I am living, William, Jem whispered to him with his eyes, "living. Isn't that what you wanted?
But he didn't want it like this.
Gradually, Will fell into a rhythm.
He got up in the morning. He read. He teased Cecily. He laughed with Tessa about books. He missed Jem. He went to the bridge with Tessa and they stood, hands linked, staring at the muddy water. He went to bed. He let Tessa hold him while he cried. He missed Jem. He read more. He missed Jem. He missed Jem. He missed Jem.
He learned to fight more cautiously, with Gideon and Gabriel watching his back instead of Jem. He learned to see when Tessa needed to be alone with Jem's violin and when she need him to hold her while she cried. He learned when not to mention Jem around Charlotte and Henry.
He learned and he grew and somehow, he found himself learning to let it all go. Slowly but surely he was adjusting to life without the one thing that had kept him alive for five years. He learned to laugh again. He learned to listen to music without feeling that terrible ache in his chest. He learned to live.
They named their first child James.
It was Tessa who suggested it, early on in her pregnancy. "I think it will be fitting," She said, while Will had stared at her. "To honor him in that way..." She had swallowed hard, blinked back tears. "What do you-"
And for once, Will couldn't find words to explain how he felt. So he gathered her up into his arms and pressed kisses to her eyelids, her nose, her mouth, her cheeks, tasting the salt of her tears.
"James Herondale," he whispered, setting her down and pressing two hands gently to her stomach, "is a very fitting name for our child."
That was the first time Will had seen Jem(He refused to call him Brother Zachariah, no matter how many times the other Silent Brother's protested) at the birth of James.
Tessa had wept after the Silent Brother's had handed her their son. She'd cradled him in her arms and closed her eyes.
Will had looked away, giving her his privacy. Out of habit his eyes found Jem's. Jem was not quite looking at him, but Will could sense his former parabatai's gaze on him anyway.
What did you name him? The cool voice whispered in Will's mind.
"James," Will said softly.
Jem turned away, covering his face with his scarred hands. His shoulders went rigid.
The other Silent Brother's stirred.
Will swallowed hard, "You do not mind, do you?"
Jem turned slowly. His hood had slipped back partially, reveling his now-black hair, streaked through with silver as it had been when he and Will had been boys. No, William, he said, and Will was sure he could detect the faintest tremor in the mental voice, emotion that Silent Brother's were not supposed to have, I do not mind in the slightest.
They did not see each other for a long time.
There was no reason to call on the Silent City, but some days Will found himself wishing for a crises that they required the Silent Brother's assistance.
Tessa knew this, and on those days she would be sure to tell stories of Jem to their children. She'd gather them around and tell them of cannibal ducks and violin music, of Chinese lessons on carriage rides and Shadowhunter training in the dark.
For the most part Will would let her do the talking. He'd sit and hold their youngest on his lap while James knelt at his feet, head resting against Will's knees. Sometimes, though, they would ask for a song. Tessa would roll her eyes, and Will would sing about Demon Pox until his children joined in and the ache in his chest didn't hurt quite so much.
Will had felt death coming throughout the day.
It was like a shadow on his soul, tugging, coaxing, murmuring that the pain would go away if he just closed his eyes and drifted off...Tessa had told him it was alright for him to go. His children and grandchildren and friends had been with him since the sun had rose, telling stories and sharing memories.
But he couldn't go. Not yet.
The shadow was spreading through him now, and he was cold. He wasn't sure how much longer he could-
"Shh..." Tessa breathed in his ear as he began to cry out. "Shh...Will..."
"Jem," He breathed, so softly that only she could hear.
Her cool hand stroked his hair back, soothing. "I called the Silent Brothers," She said, the only words he really wanted to hear. "Jem is on his way."
He did come.
Will, somehow in his delirious state, could sense his friend the instant he walked into the room. He heard the soft whisper of Silent Brother's robes against the floor, the gentle hiss of Jem's breath stirring the air.
He wanted to reach out, wanted to cry. Wanted to have Jem hold him, play him music, make him laugh-
And then Jem was playing the violin.
Will closed his eyes and sank into the music, into the story of it, the notes and the melody running together to form a stream of images in his mind.
He saw two boys in the training room, throwing knives. He saw Jem's hand clutching his shoulder, saw the quick flash of stele's drawing runes on flesh. He saw the twin circles of fire and Jem's dark eyes staring at him over the flames. He heard his parabatai's laughter, his gentle whisper, the wall is coming down. He saw them running through the dark streets of London, feeding the ducks in the park and the silver of the Yin Fen in the moonlight. He saw Jem coughing blood into his shirt, heard Jem's frantic, I'm so sorry, Will, I'm so sorry...He felt the vibration of Jem's laughter in his bones, like the echo of his own soul...
The music rose higher and sweeter, and Will could feel himself slipping. The darkness was pulling at him, and now that Jem was here.
Tessa was whispering something in his ear but He could not understand what she was saying. He was lost in the wonder of the music, drifting aimlessly through years of memories, floating in the sheer joy that his parabatai was here. Not Brother Zacheriah, but Jem.
A cold, gentle hand closed about his own. Jem's soft voice whispered in his mind. It did not matter what he said. The words were Will's final release. He sank into death's arms with Jem's hand in his and Tessa by his side.
It was always the two of them.
Jem and Will.
Will and Jem.
Jem had once screamed in a burst of anger that death would part them. Will had felt the agony of their bond being severed, but Jem had never left him. He'd always been there, the gentle laughter in Will's thoughts, each sweet kiss from his sons, each embrace from Tessa, Will had felt Jem.
In the end death did part them. but it was not bitter and angry and wild. It was sweet and sad and beautiful, just as the music Jem had always played.
They needed each other. They lived for each other. For years they kept each other alive, and in the end Jem had helped Will find peace in death. Their friendship, their brotherhood was a story that Tessa would eventually tell to the next generation of Herondales and Lightwoods and Fairchilds. In the end the story was grand and somewhat exaggerated, but it always began with the same words:
Will Herondale lived, so James Carstairs must also.
That was the way of the world.