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): As a blanket warning for the whole fic, it contains non-graphic references to a past rape.
No special warnings for this chapter.
Notes: Here you are, my dears - the epilogue. Hopefully it serves as a good ending to the fic - if not, you can just pretend it ended with chapter twenty-two. :b
Alec was on his way to Magnus's place the next morning when he rounded the corner by the library and almost tripped over Lily Ashdown.
In his defense, she was difficult to see - she'd been sitting on the floor with her legs stretched out, tangling a piece of string between her fingers with quick, practiced motions, and Alec barely managed to relocate his foot mid-step so he didn't bring his weight down on her ankle. Lily scrambled to her feet and backed against the wall. "Sorry!" she squeaked.
"It's okay," Alec said. He glanced from her to the closed library doors, though which he could just make out the murmur of several different voices. "Are your parents here?"
Lily nodded. "Uh-huh. We're going to Idris to see Adam." Her lips curved into a frown, and for one heart-stopping moment he was terrified she was about to start crying. "Mommy said we're not going to see him again after that, because of what he did to Alanna."
Alec suppressed a wince. "Yeah," he said awkwardly. He doubted Diana and Clark had told their daughter what Adam's fate would be. She was too young to know the sentence usually laid upon Shadowhunters who killed other Shadowhunters, and too young to watch the trial, as the Clave rarely allowed children who'd not yet been Marked into murder trials unless their presence was necessary. Alec, to his endless relief, would not be required to attend. Robert was going, since he'd been the person in charge of the Institute when the whole debacle had occurred, but Maryse had told Alec last night that the Clave determined he was not needed.
He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to think of something to say to this little girl - he didn't understand small children, they were strange creatures - and then something occurred to him. "Hold on a second," he said, and went back the way he came.
Lily hadn't moved when Alec returned. "Here," he said, holding out the dark little bag the Silent Brothers had placed Alanna's witchlight in. Also inside was her bracelet, which Alec had consistently forgotten to give to her parents long after it was useful. Lily took the bag and opened it, spilling its contents into her hand. "They were Alanna's."
For a long moment, Lily just stared at what he'd given her. Then she looked back up and said, "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Alec stuck his hands into his pockets and continued on down the hall, leaving Lily to inspect the tiny charms on her sister's bracelet.
It was so cold outside that his breath condensed into a white fog the moment he stepped through the Institute doors. He turned his collar up and hunched in on himself, scurrying towards the subway along with dozens of other New Yorkers who didn't want to be caught in the approaching sleet. He could've stayed at Magnus's overnight, and he'd considered it, but home seemed a better option for two reasons - one, he was still having awful nightmares, and his shouting usually didn't wake anyone up in the vast cathedral. Magnus had insisted he didn't mind, but Alec felt guilty interrupting his sleep. And, two, he was slightly afraid he might accidentally hurt his boyfriend if he came awake in a panic again, even though he'd stopped keeping a knife beneath his pillow.
Not five minutes after he took a seat, the one next to him was occupied by a familiar face - the selkie he'd met on the train what felt like forever ago. It had only been a few weeks, but Alec thought a long time might pass before he stopped dividing his life into 'before I remembered the rape' and 'after I remembered the rape'. She looked exactly the same as before, aside from the ice crystals scattered through her hair like diamonds.
"We meet again, Shadowhunter," she said, giving him a sultry come-hither look that probably sent most men to their knees.
"Yeah. Hi." He studied the advertisement for Snickers bars above the opposite row of seats so he wouldn't have to look at her - he didn't want to encourage her, and since he was hopelessly inept at getting Magnus to stop flirting with him, he doubted he'd be any better at it with a stranger. Still, he could see her out of the corner of his eye. Despite being made of sealskin, her clothes were very skimpy, and her skin was shiny and wet, and he couldn't stop himself from blurting, "Aren't you cold?"
Her lips pulled into a smile, revealing slips of white teeth. "Not particularly, but if you're that concerned, you can shift over and warm me up…."
Oh, screw it. "I don't think my boyfriend would be too happy if I did that."
The selkie's smile faded. She sighed, slouched back into her seat, and crossed her arms over her chest. "Not going to happen, huh?"
"Oh well." She tucked a lock of damp hair behind her ear. "It was worth a try. If you're ever up for a threesome, I live in Sea Gate." As the train slowed, she stood and threw him a wicked grin before gliding out of the car.
Alec blinked. Several times.
"Dude," said the guy in the Columbia University sweatshirt who'd been sitting on her other side. "If you're not going to hit that…." He leapt to his feet and raced after her.
Shaking his head, Alec said, "Okay," to no one in particular. My life is weird.
It was just starting to drizzle when he climbed the stairs up to the street, and by the time he reached Magnus's apartment, the rain was icy where it slipped between his collar and his neck. He shivered and took the steps quickly, digging his key from his pocket as he did so, and unlocked the door. "Magnus?" he called, toeing off his boots.
"In the kitchen," Magnus called. "Come here for a minute."
Alec left his jacket spread out over the couch to dry and padded down the hall. Magnus was standing by the table, which was cluttered with papers of all sizes, shapes, and colors. As he watched, the warlock picked one up, scrutinized it, and set it on a chair. The next paper went into the trash. "What are you doing?" Alec asked.
"Going through some old stuff," Magnus said. "Here, I thought I'd ask if you wanted this." He held out a square of paper.
Alec took it and turned it over. It was the advertisement for The Holy Cross, dated February 1979, featuring a picture of what appeared to be the Virgin Mary with fangs. They sold half-price drinks on Sundays from midnight to four a.m., then again from nine p.m. to midnight. "No thanks," he said, handing it back.
Magnus tossed it into the garbage. "Just figured I'd check."
He went through a few more old papers while Alec filled the kettle, set it on the stove to heat up, and went looking for tea. "I saw Lily Ashdown this morning," Alec said, looking at a bright green box covered in Chinese characters and trying to decide if he was willing to drink something he couldn't identify. "She's going to Idris with her parents and my father. Adam's trial is tomorrow."
"That poor girl," Magnus sighed. "Imagine having your sister disappear, then turn up dead, murdered by your brother…."
"She's probably better off without him, honestly." Adam was Alanna and Lily's older brother. He was supposed to protect them with his life - instead, he'd gone to the opposite extreme. Alec shivered and took down the box of Earl Grey, picked at the sealed flap, and, out of nowhere, blurted, "It's my fault."
"Sorry, what's your fault?"
"That her sister is dead," Alec said. He gnawed at his lip, shoving a finger beneath the flap, and cursed when the cardboard's edge tore into his skin. "If I'd told someone – maybe he wouldn't have gotten the chance to kill anybody if I'd told someone he raped me."
Almost imperceptibly, Magnus flinched. Note to self, Alec thought, Magnus has a problem with the word 'rape'. But then, so had he, until he'd put himself through intense exposure therapy and could apply the term without vomiting. "I was afraid to," he continued quietly, holding his bleeding finger beneath the faucet. "He swore he'd hurt Isabelle if I did, so I kept my mouth shut. And… I don't know for sure, but when he killed Etienne on Brocelind Plain… I think he might've mistaken him for me. It's my –"
"I'm going to stop you there," Magnus said, dropping a few bits of paper and coming to Alec's side. "You can't deal in 'what ifs', Alec. Yes, maybe he would have been locked up if you'd told someone. But maybe the Clave wouldn't have wanted to properly deal with a sexual assault case between two boys and just given him a slap on the wrist. Maybe he would've convinced enough people that it was consensual. And maybe he would have done exactly as he said and attacked Isabelle. You have no way of knowing what could have happened." He touched his fingertips to Alec's cheek, turning his face so their eyes met. "You were trying to protect your sister, and you were afraid. I don't think anyone would blame you for wanting to forget what he did to you. But you put him away. It's over. He can't hurt anyone else now." Magnus smiled and ran his thumb over Alec's cheekbone. "Feel any better, or should I go on?"
Though he didn't feel entirely absolved of blame, Alec did feel a bit better. Magnus was good at that sort of thing.
Once the water boiled and Alec had made his tea, he sat at the table and cleaned three square inches to place his mug down. Magnus accumulated a lot of junk, he thought, peering at a party invitation from 1986. It ended up in the trash, along with quite a few other things, and Alec was coming dangerously close to dozing before Magnus had even cleared half the table. "Did you get any sleep last night?" Magnus asked, brushing Alec's hair off his face.
"Some," Alec murmured. "I woke up around two, but I actually managed to fall back asleep."
"Well, that's a start." Magnus tossed something into the 'keep' pile.
The usual nightmare wasn't the only thing Alec had dreamt, for once - perhaps that was why his gaze was drawn to the curve of Magnus's spine, to the faint smile that flitted across his mouth occasionally, to the strip of skin showing whenever he leaned to reach something on the other side of the table and his shirt rode up. Chairman Meow chased a crumpled ball of paper that missed the garbage can, and Alec followed Magnus with his eyes as the warlock went to grab it before it disappeared into the hall.
When Magnus turned around, Alec was invading his personal space. "Hello," Magnus said, an eyebrow sweeping upwards as he threw the ball into the pail. "What can I do for you?"
Alec shrugged. Last night, while he'd tried to settle his frazzled nerves so he could go back to sleep, he had started thinking - and, as strange as it seemed, he was almost glad he had repressed the memory of Adam raping him all those years ago. If he hadn't, he suspected he would've just permanently checked out of life. Now, though… he had Magnus, who was perfectly willing to support Alec through the issues his recollection of the incident had brought up. He had better, more comfortable relationships with his parents, and even if they didn't know yet, he thought he might be able to tell them someday. He had Jace and Isabelle, too. And if all else failed, he could write whiny letters to Benjamin, who would kick some perspective back into him because that seemed to be what their friendship was all about. He wasn't alone. He would survive this. He didn't have to run away anymore.
"Alec," Magnus began - but whatever he'd been about to say was swallowed by Alec's lips on his own.
He recovered admirably quickly, hooking his thumbs into the back pockets of Alec's jeans. Taking a fistful of Magnus's expensive-feeling shirt in his hand, Alec backed him up against the fridge, scattering a few Scrabble tile magnets. "If your reorganizing isn't really important right now, I have an idea," he said quietly, watching Magnus's slit pupils dilate.
"Oh?" Magnus breathed, running a hand up beneath Alec's sweater and brushing his cool fingertips over his stomach. Alec shivered. "What's that?"
"It'll hopefully end with nobody involved remembering their own name."
"I see." As Alec's other hand wandered up Magnus's chest to the buttons at his throat, Magnus caught it in his own. "Are you sure you're okay with this?" he said quietly.
Alec bit his lip, shook his head. "I don't know," he admitted. "I know I want it. You'll stop if I need you to." It wasn't a question. He knew, without even the slightest doubt, that Magnus would not ever hurt him. There was that pinprick of apprehension at the base of his skull – the one that remembered hands locking around his wrists and tearing at his jeans – and he had no idea when or if it would ever go away, but he wasn't going to let it rule him. One step at a time. Even if they didn't make it any further than flopping around on the bed, fully clothed, like a pair of inexperienced teenagers, he'd be happy. "Touch my wrists or my hair and all bets are off. But the only thing I need you to do right now is blow my mind," he added, popping the top button on Magnus's shirt.
That sunlight-smile stole across Magnus's face. He slid his hands into his boyfriend's jeans, fit his thumbs into the hollows of Alec's hips, and purred, "Challenge accepted."
...well, my friends, it's over. If you've made it this far, thank you - double thank you to everyone who reviewed, but even those of you who just hung on for dear life and couldn't think of anything to say, thank you for reading. This is my biggest project so far (it was only supposed to be around 35k, but you can see how well that worked out) and while I'd like to say I couldn't have done it without your support, honestly, I wrote almost the entire fic in two weeks before I started posting it. xD But I did write it all for you! If I'd thought I wouldn't have any readers, I would've just kept this in my head. So again, thank you. I really hoped you enjoyed reading this, because I certainly enjoyed writing it! And I would really love it if you left me one last review just to let me know how you felt about the fic.
Oh, and since I know I'll get this question - at the moment, I have no plans for a sequel. I can't say there won't be one, but I can't say there will be, either.
Thank you all! *hugs*