Fierce and Fragile Hearts
Author's Note: NEW PENNAME AND STORY NAME! Previously, I was "xxAneres", but I decided to change that. There will come a day in which I might want to publish stories. Instead of giving you my real name, I want a pen name. For now, call me Suri_Bright. What was once "Middle of My Heart" is now "Fierce and Fragile Hearts". Same story. New name. J Also, please be sure to read the author's note at the end.
With the last of the guests finally gone, the Herondales, the Lightwoods, and the Carstairs all gathered in the sitting room. Each of the respective families present either stood alone in various nooks in the room or remained clustered with their immediate relatives.
Cordelia had been given a new dress to wear, a simple light blue piece, since her stunning gown had been ruined in the fight. Her mother sat beside her, cooing over Cordelia's still tender wrist. The iratzes had done an amazing job at healing her wrist and stomach, but still Cordelia knew she needed to take it easy for at the very least a day to be completely healed.
"My poor darling," said Colette, Cordelia's mother, gingerly inspecting her daughter's healing wrist. The woman had a slight French accent; while she had spent the last few years in Idris, where she met Elias, she had been born in Paris, where her family currently oversees the Paris Institute. Cordelia managed a smile before taking her wrist back from her mom and carefully held it in her lap. Cordelia noticed that she looked very similar to her mom. They shared the same blonde curls, pale pink lips, graceful airs, and porcelain skin. From her father she had gotten his height, being a couple inches taller than the average girl, and yet there was still something different about Cordelia that didn't match up quite with her parents. She had high cheekbones, and something about her eyes, when caught in a certain light, vaguely reminded the Herondale family of someone they knew.
"I'm fine, Mother," Cordelia repeated for the fourth time that night.
"You could have been killed," Colette insisted.
"That's the prince of being a Shadowhunter," Cordelia answered back, unrelenting. "To protect the lives of others before your own."
"Mon Dieu," Colette muttered under her breath, rolling her eyes. She was glad that her daughter had been given formal self-defense training in case a situation would ever arise in which she needed to use it, but she never thought her only girl would be so interested in it.
"I already have Gideon on his way to inform Charlotte of this attack," Will said, calling the occupants of the room into attention. "I trust James's and Cordelia's word of what the demon had said, and for now, all we can do is wait." The years, and having raised two children, had taken the rashness out of Will. With Tessa's help he had become more strategic and a shadow of the headstrong and impulsive kid he used to be.
James stood by the fire, away from the rest of the group. He had done his part that night. He had slayed the demons, and rescued the girl, and by rescuing the girl, he had done more than his share that night. He frowned slightly, absently rubbing an old scar on his chest through his shirt. The scar was three years old and still slightly raised, two inches from his heart, the last time he did more than enough. Now James regarded his father with his cool, amber-eyed stare.
"You suggest then, Father," said James, speaking up for the first time since they arrived back to the Institute. "That we wait until someone else is attacked? We hide like Mundanes until someone else is killed?"
"James," Tessa said sternly. Tessa had not aged a day. Even though her children knew she was their mother, and their father's age, some day they could not take her seriously, solely because she looked like them. "That is no way to talk to your father." Tessa placed a gentle hand on her husband's shoulder.
"Is that it," Will asked coolly, the light-hearted jokes from earlier that night forgotten, "do you have anything else to say?"
James could feel heat rise to his cheeks as he knew all eyes in the room watched the exchange between father and son. For those who had known Will the longest, to them, it looked as though Will was talking with the ghost of his past, giving Cecily, who remained silent at Gabriel's side, the chills.
Determined not to be treated like a child, James pressed on. "No," he said, standing straight. "Aunt Char—The Clave, has been contacted. While they will get to us as soon as they can, I think we should go in pursuit of this gate. The sooner the better."
"I agree with cousin James," said a voice from beside Cecily.
All eyes turned to a young dark-haired woman with green-blue eyes, a couple years older than James, who would have had a beautiful, angular face had she not had an angry scar running across the left side of her temple to the right side of her chin and all the way down her neck. She was Cecily and Gabriel's oldest child, and James's favorite cousin. James fought the lurching feeling he got every time he looked at Anna now.
"I believe there is a physical gate that has been opened," said Anna confidently. "I suggest we gather everyone in this room, split up and search."
"You are all acting rash," said Colette, her French accent getting thicker the more emotional she got. "You can be killed. After what happened tonight—"
"We cannot hide, Mama," Cordelia said gently, noticing her mother would work herself into a frenzy. Cordelia didn't understand. She knew her mother was a capable fighter at best, but ever since she got married, her mother refused to continue her training, fighting only in the most fire of circumstances. "It is our birthright."
Will fought the urge to rub at his temples as he felt the on-set of a headache coming. "We will give it two days," he finally said. "The Clave has two days to respond. If they don't we will find this gate. ..If there is one to find. Can I count on all of you?"
Elias was about to pledge is help, but Colette took his hand and give him a firm look. Instead, Elias shook his head at his wife. "If you need me, you know I'll be here."
"Thank you, Elias," Will said.
"Your family is welcome to stay as long as you like," added Tessa, knowing that they had more than enough room. These days, since her children were growing older, Tessa learned that she enjoyed having company over just to fill the halls with noise to keep the sometimes painful silences away.
"As will I," said Cordelia firmly. Her older brother Alistair had gone back to Idris earlier that night, escorting his frantic fiancée. She knew, had he been there, he too would have pledged his help.
"No, you cannot, you are baby," Colette exclaimed.
Cordelia rose from her seat, biting her bottom lip painfully hard to keep from yelling at her mother. "I will," she answered in a careful voice. With a sigh, Cordelia began to speak in French. "Mama, you were not there tonight. They need every hand available, and I know what we're up against. James is right, we cannot wait around."
Colette looked away from her daughter, her hands folded in her lap. Her delicate eyebrows knit together in thought. Finally Colette responded in English. "They grow up so fast," she said in a voice just as calm as Cordelia's. Unhappily, Colette gave her permission. Despite how hard Cordelia fought against the image Colette had always wanted for her daughter, she could not be more proud of how strong her daughter was. In her heart she knew that Cordelia would always make the right choices.
"It has been quite an exciting night," said Gideon Lightwood, standing from his seat beside his wife and children. "But I believe everyone is very tired and it would do us all a bit of good if we turned in for the night." Gideon bade goodnight to all the occupants of the room, as did his immediate family, and left.
After Gideon's departure, the rest of the families began to follow suit. Cordelia furrowed her eyebrows as she looked at James who did remained by the fire, not making eye contact with anyone. For as long as Cordelia had known him, James had always kind of been like that. He seemed to prefer time on his own to be with his thoughts. As a child, she thought nothing of it, for whenever anyone would talk to James, even if it was reluctantly, he would let people into his world. In recent years, it seemed that James had retreated so far and had erected fences so high that Cordelia wondered if he even saw the sky as he kept everyone at a sword's length away, fending off concern behind bright smiles that fooled almost everyone.
"Good night, Mother, Father," Cordelia said kissing both her parents on the cheek. She took her mother's hand, and kissed it gently, offering her mom an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry for fighting you."
Elias smiled as he watched the two best women in his life. Colette gently stroked her daughter's cheek with her thumb. "You have quite the spirit, my girl," said Colette. She had already forgiven her daughter long ago.
"Thank you, Mama. I will be up to bed shortly."
The room emptied, as Tessa and Will were the last to leave. Cordelia offered a smile to them as they left. Now all that remained were James and Cordelia.
"How is your wrist," asked James, staring into the orange flames. He became aware of the swishing sound Cordelia's skirts made as she ambled over to him. Because of his mother's blood, among other talents, his ordinary 5 senses were even more acute than the best of Shadowhunters.
"It's bothersome," answered Cordelia, gently moving the fingers of her right hand, grimacing lightly at the pain it caused to her wrist. "But it will be fine." Cordelia paused a couple feet away from James, as he refused to look at her. There was a time when James would share the world in his head with her.
"And you," Cordelia asked. "Did you get injured?"
"You should go back to Idris."
It was the first time since they got back to the Institute that James would make eye contact with her. Cordelia stilled at his request. James's amber eyes were cold, despite the dancing flames from the hearth that reflected in them.
"Go home," he repeated.
"I won't," Cordelia said, not bothering to hide how offended she was. "If you expect me to walk away after what I saw tonight you must be mad! And if you remember correctly, James Herondale, I saved your life!"
"If we go in search of this gate, you'll be a liability. You demonstrated that earlier tonight by fighting with your mom."
Immediately Cordelia felt her face flush as James's accusation. James had spoken in such a cold and emotionless manner that Cordelia did not know whether she was angrier by his accusation or more hurt by his tone.
"Luckily for you, Mr. Herondale," Cordelia said in a sweet tone, her face a stony mask. "Fighting does not involve talking. Get used to seeing me around." With a swish of her light blue dress, Cordelia held her head high as she left the room, leaving James alone.
"Corrie," he muttered angrily under his breath. She always seemed to know what to say to get under his skin. Back in the years when she was once all arms and legs, without the curves she had now, whenever they argued there would come a point where she would stop arguing with him, eventually giving her the win. Then again, she also always knew what to say and do to make him feel brave, even when he didn't want her to.
James continued to stare into the empty space where Cordelia once stood before he closed his eyes, willing his heart to harden against the natural urge to ask for her forgiveness, to make her laugh, and win her favor again. Instead he sighed, opened his eyes and settled himself into a large armchair next to the dying fire, mentally patching the hole in his protective walls that always seemed to crumble against a certain pair of hazel eyes.
Cordelia did not head to the room she was staying in. Instead, she went to the piano room. Moonlight spilled from the large windows across the grand piano that was the main attraction of the room. Sitting on the piano bench, Cordelia gently ran her fingers over the cool, glossy keys.
When she walked away from James every bit of her wanted to tell him that she was done, she wouldn't wait for him to stop being so self-centered. Though now that she had walked away she realized how untrue those words were. While the words he spat out at her still stung she chose to push the ache away. People changed, that much she knew, but she didn't believe that one day familiar people would turn into strangers.
Sitting up straight, Cordelia folded her right hand in her wrist and poised her left hand over the keys. Closing her eyes, she switched between playing the simple cords and melodies of the song she had begun to compose. As her fingers danced over the keys, Cordelia opened her eyes as she realized she was not alone.
"James," she called, hoping it was James coming to apologize, "James? Is that you?"
The door to the piano room creaked open and Tessa appeared. Cordelia smiled sheepishly. "Sorry," she said. "I forgot people are asleep."
"That's quite alright," Tessa said smiling. "You have a natural gift. It's beautiful."
"Thank you," Cordelia said, rising from the piano bench. "I should probably return to my room now."
"Your uncle Jem Carstairs, whom James was named after, was a great violinist, and an equally great friend and Shadowhunter."
"So you were close."
"We were," said Tessa, not elaborating. "He was Will's parabatai."
Cordelia sucked in a breath. She did not have a parabatai, but she knew that losing one was among the worst pains in the Shadowhunter world.
"Your eyes remind me of him," Tessa said with a laugh. "I don't understand why. He was half Chinese and his eyes were more like his mother's." Tessa shook her head. "Whenever you and James argue, I sometimes see Will and Jem, debating about pointless things. Jem would usually win. He had this way about him that didn't require force, and he won many arguments that way."
Cordelia smiled, "I suppose I could take a lesson from him then."
"Perhaps," agreed Tessa, "but despite your similarities, you are not Jem, and you've made a place for yourself."
"Just like James isn't Will."
There was a pregnant pause before Cordelia realized what she had said. Her hand flew to her mouth and her cheeks flushed. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Herondale. I didn't mean it, I—"
"No, that's quite alright," said Tessa, holding a hand up to stop Cordelia. "You are absolutely right. James is James and Will is Will."
Cordelia nodded. "Well," she said. "Good night, then."
"Good night, dear."
Tessa watched as Cordelia hurried out of the room, no doubt feeling guilt for her candid comment. Tessa had heard James and Cordelia arguing; she had gone to check on Lucie when all the families left the room when she heard their voices carrying from the sitting room. Tessa had intended on bringing Cordelia some advice, but instead, it was Cordelia who spoke into her heart.
Author's Note: Thanks guys SO much for your reviews…wow, I really hope I don't bring shame to all the Shadowhunter fans! I have a couple things to say: one, someone reviewed and asked about why Jem's dead in this story. Well, for story purposes, Jem is as good as dead to the Carstairs family. I assume, if anything, only the Herondales, Lightwoods, and Charlotte and Henry know about what really happened to Jem. Secondly, if any of you guys have tumblr, be sure to follow Cassandra Clare who posts actual stuff about James Herondale from time to time! This is me, loving on James Herondale and who I think he would be until Cassandra Clare brings him to life! Thanks again! Also, I always choose really difficult times in life to start stories. With 5 weeks left of the semester and SO much work to do, please bear with me and understand that while I LOVE to write, I have priorities, like exams, presentations, papers, work, and social events. Finally, looking at the family tree…I made one error (when I started writing, my friend was borrowing the book so I did not have a reference). It will be…resolved…in the coming chapters.