Running With My Roots Pulled Up
Disclaimer: The Mortal Instruments belongs to Cassie Clare. I'm really just ruining her characters' lives for my own twisted amusement.
Warnings (PLEASE READ): Oh boy... the biggest and most important one is a liberal use of the Rape As Backstory trope. So yeah, seriously, this fic contains quite a few references to a rape that occurred in the past. It is never graphic - Sebastian trying to force himself on Clary in CoLS was probably more explicit - so I'm comfortable leaving it at a T rating, but if you think you might be triggered or upset by the topic, please hit the back button. I will post extra warnings in each chapter which contains content pertaining to the rape, if you want to skim those parts. Aside from that, there's some violence and murder and whatnot, nothing worse than what you'd find in the actual series.
All that said, there's a vague implication of sexual assault in this chapter, but it's not actually the one this fic is about.
Notes: I can't believe I'm actually posting this.
One of the things a lot of people who read Snippets asked for was further exploration of the sentencefic called Nightmare - basically, the rape one. Well, here you are, my darlings. There's way more plot than is probably strictly necessary, but this is it. I'll be quite honest and admit I have no idea how this will be received - if you'll love it, hate it, think it's poorly written, think I severely mishandled the topic - and I'm nervous as hell. Try to keep the flames down to a manageable level.
Without further ado (and with many, many thanks to Anita, who puts up with SO MUCH of my shit), the prologue: featuring absolutely none of the characters you're actually here for! :D
"You got paint in my hair," Maia said mournfully, pulling the affected braids over her shoulder and picking at them with her fingernails. Tiny, dry chips of paint flaked off and fluttered away, caught in the breeze like bits of puke-colored confetti.
Bat gave her an incredulous look. "It wasn't my fault."
"Oh, yes, it was. You threw the brush when any sane person would've just walked across the room and handed it over. Do you know what a bitch it's going to be to wash this out?" She was giving him a hard time, really, since it was nothing a good shampoo wouldn't fix, but her plans of having a long, hot, maybe even private shower early tomorrow morning while most of the pack was still asleep had been dashed the moment paint crusted her hair. The old police station boasted nothing more sophisticated than a square communal shower with exposed, rusted piping and a water heater that hadn't worked since Reagan was president. She'd never complained – before hooking up with what had been Kito's pack at the time, she hadn't had the luxury of a shower in over a week – and by now she was well used to just stripping down and hopping in alongside whoever else was already soaping up. There was no room for modesty in a werewolf pack. Still, it was a little aggravating to glance around and see a couple of the younger boys 'subtly' peeking at her breasts, and then later overhear them comparing her rack to Elisabeth's and Kamaria's. Luke didn't stand for that sort of thing, but Luke had gone upstate on vacation yesterday and the seeds of rebellion were already sprouting.
Well, she could always beat them up if necessary. That was the only way they'd learn. Sighing, Maia patted her braids back into order – redoing them later would take forever, but it was sort of a meditative activity, so she didn't mind too much – and held her hand out to Bat. "Pay up," she said.
He obligingly dug into the pocket of his jeans, fished through his wallet, pulled out a ten-dollar-bill that looked like it had gone through a few rinse cycles in its time. Maia hiked an eyebrow. "Twenty."
"I said ten," Bat argued.
She shook her head and planted her hands on her hips. "You said ten per room. I painted two rooms. Rip me off and I will rip your balls off, Bat, I'm really not in the mood."
"No shit," Bat muttered irritably, but he did exchange the ten for an even more battered twenty.
"Thank you." She plucked the bill from his fingers gleefully, ignoring his pained expression. Bat was such a cheapskate sometimes. It wasn't like he couldn't afford it, either – of the two of them, he was gainfully employed, while Maia was a sixteen-year-old runaway without even a proper address to put on job applications. She did have some money coming in soon, since she was looking after the bookstore while Luke was gone, but she wouldn't get paid until after he came home… whenever that was supposed to be. Luke hadn't given her a concrete return date. Maia half-expected that he and Jocelyn Fray were going to elope and run away for an indefinite honeymoon in Vegas or something, although they probably wouldn't have brought Clary with them if that was the case, and they definitely wouldn't have brought Jace. Jocelyn was so obviously not fond of her daughter's boyfriend that Maia, who wasn't exactly fond of him either, found it hilarious. Simon had said Clary did a lot of pleading before her mother let him tag along. Hopefully she was getting some action for all the effort she'd put in. "I ought to charge you for my shampoo, too."
Bat threw his hands in the air. "Get over it, you volunteered. Painting is messy."
"Not usually that messy," she pointed out, folding the money up into a small, soft square and tucking it deep into her pocket. She wasn't worried about muggings now that she could turn into a snarling wolf at will, but old habits died hard. "Well, I hope she likes it."
"She'd better like it," Bat muttered. Maia hid a grin. His most recent girlfriend, Pam, had moved in with him not long ago, and he'd decided to repaint the apartment for her as a 'surprise'. The color he'd chosen was a shade of green optimistically called 'Easter Egg', but Maia renamed it 'Guacamole Vomit' as soon as he cracked open the can. As if that wasn't bad enough, Bat had bought dollar-store paintbrushes that left more bristles than paint on the wall, and at one point he'd gotten a bit too frustrated and accidentally impaled a door with the handle of his brush. Pam was going to be surprised, all right. Maia had decided to skedaddle before she got home from work. She opened her mouth to tell Bat she'd see him on patrol tomorrow, but an odd expression suddenly crossed his face and he asked, "Do you smell that?"
Maia closed her mouth and inhaled deeply through her nose. Her sense of smell had turned up to eleven since becoming a werewolf – even before she'd transformed for the first time, she had discovered her bedroom stank dreadfully of dirty socks – and now, just a few days prior to the full moon, it was better than a dog's. "Um," she said, "Paint. The garbage cans at the curb. Rain. Car exhaust, asphalt, the dumpster, pollution, the Italian restaurant, your shitty cologne, that guy's Schnauzer, the crazy cat lady across the street… take your pick."
He shook his head impatiently. "Not those. I swear I smelled blood."
"If that's a lead-in to a period joke, let me just stop you right there, because it won't be funny or original and I'll have to hurt you." Men. They were all the same. If guys were the ones gushing blood out of their nether regions for a week every month, joking about it would be a jailable offense.
"Maia," Bat said. "I'm serious."
Maia frowned at him, but nevertheless turned around so they were facing the same direction and took another sniff of the air. The breeze carried the same scents she'd just listed, with the unpleasant additions of rotten beef and a baby who really needed to be changed. "I don't –"
Just for a moment, the wind died down, and a sharp, coppery tang flooded her nostrils.
"Whoa," she said, instinctively rubbing her nose on the back of her hand to scrub away the scent. "That I could smell." Blood in a place like Brooklyn was nothing unusual, but with a odor that intense, it was close by and there was a lot of it.
"I told you," Bat said. "We should – wait, what are you doing?"
Slinging her bag over her shoulder, Maia weaved through the battalion of trash cans crowding up the sidewalk and set off down the street. "It's coming from this direction," she called. She heard Bat curse, and a moment later he was jogging up behind her.
Bat lived in a decent part of Brooklyn, on a clean, moderately quiet street with a big park on the corner. Ordinarily, there was no way he'd be able to afford an apartment there on his salary, but the landlord was an ifrit who dabbled in smuggling on the side – nothing too illegal, mostly curiosities like cursed weaponry and demon poisons that the Clave frowned upon – and in exchange for having an occasional bodyguard for his 'deals', he kept Bat's rent cheap. Maia followed her nose towards the park. By the time she reached the manicured lawn, the smell of copper was so strong that it congealed in her throat like a glob of blood.
"Christ," Bat mumbled behind her. Resisting the urge to gag, she took a few deep breaths through her mouth, letting her stomach settle, then plowed forward. The sun was sinking beneath the skyline and the park was nearly empty except for a group of kids tossing around a Frisbee on the far end. "That way," he added, directing her to the left, where trees and bushes coalesced into a small, shady grove.
She knew what she was going to find before they even stepped into the copse, and from the look on Bat's face, so did he. The aroma of death was unmistakable.
Speckled here and there within the tangled greenery were a few tiny clearings, big enough for perhaps two people to sit in comfortably. Maia had tucked herself away into one a few times when she wanted someplace quiet to read. They always reminded her of the 'forts' in the woods of her New Jersey neighborhood where she'd played with the other kids – the ones whose parents would let them hang out with the girl who had a black mother, at least. She and her friend Ginny had spent entire summers running from one fort to another, bothering the boys and pretending to be horses and exploring.
None of their adventures had ever involved a dead little girl.
"Oh my god –" She clapped a hand over her mouth to silence the scream building in her throat, stumbled backwards into Bat. He gave a low groan and grabbed her shoulder.
The girl splayed out on the grass was young, with the long, skinny limbs of preadolescence and white-blonde hair tied into a knot atop her head. She was fair-skinned, round-faced, delicate-featured. She would be startlingly beautiful if she wasn't carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.
"Oh my god," Maia repeated, blindly scraping at the zipper on her bag. She couldn't take her eyes off the girl. She'd seen far worse since her violent introduction into the world of the supernatural, and Brocelind Plain had been a clusterfuck of horrors that spun her into nightmares for weeks, but dead children were their own special tier of awful. "We need to call the police –"
"No." Bat grabbed her wrist before she could fumble her phone open. "We can't."
"What?" Forcefully tearing her gaze away, Maia refocused on Bat's pale, scarred face. "Why the hell not?"
"She's a Shadowhunter."
Maia blinked. "She's…"
"I can smell it. She's a Shadowhunter." Bat let go of her arm. Not particularly wanting to look again, Maia quickly glanced over the girl's body. There was so much blood that she could smell nothing else, not even the bright-sunshine-scent of Nephilim, but Bat had been a werewolf for five years and his sense of smell was more overdeveloped than hers. And there was no evidence on the girl – her arms were hidden by the tattered remains of her sweater's sleeves, so Maia couldn't tell if she was inked with those swirling runes Shadowhunters covered themselves with. There was a rock clutched in her tiny fist. Her skirt had been rucked up around her thighs. That, somehow, was the worst detail of all, and Maia turned around quickly, swallowing the bile in her throat and willing herself not to vomit.
"Okay," she croaked, once she'd gotten herself under control, "I'll take your word for it."
Bat rubbed his face with his hands, looking away. "We need to get out of here now."
"What?" Maia said again. Her brain was stuck on the image of the girl's bare, bloodied legs. "No, we need to tell them, if she's one of theirs –"
"Then we'll get the blame when they need someone to pin it on," Bat said bitterly.
Shaking her head, Maia dropped her phone back into her bag. No need for it anymore. She didn't have numbers for any of the Shadowhunters at the Institute – Jace was an asshole, Isabelle was essentially her romantic rival, and she didn't know Alec well enough. "Don't be stupid. They're not that bad." She could understand Bat's animosity, though, since the only Shadowhunter he'd had extended contact with was Jace, who was the worst Nephilim Welcome Package ever. "I'll go, I'm on pretty good terms with them. You can run off if you want, but god knows what'll get her after the sun goes down."
The look Bat gave her could've liquefied tungsten, but then his gaze flitted back to the little girl and he sighed. "Hurry up. Every bloodsucker in the borough will be here soon, and I'm not getting myself killed tonight."
She nodded, quickly pushed through the thick bushes, burst into the fading sunlight. A harsh gust of wind snapped her braids into her face. Across the park, the kids with the Frisbee were laughing and shrieking, blissfully unaware of the atrocity that had taken place so close to where they played.
Maia shivered. Then she hitched the strap of her bag further up her shoulder and set off towards the subway station at a run.
Like always, I would absolutely love reviews - especially on this, because I'd really like to know how I'm doing. So please, drop a comment into the box, and I'll get the first chapter up that much faster. ;)