I Am Also Thy Brother
Disclaimer: The Infernal Devices belongs to Cassandra Clare.
Warnings: None. Unless you haven't read Clockwork Princess, in which case this spoils most of the beginning.
Notes: What? An Infernal Devices fic from Spun? Yes, it's true! Someone threw me a non-specific TID prompt on tumblr, probably just to see what I'd do, and this happened. Try not to stumble over any glaring fail, I don't write much TID.
Title from A.C. Swinburne's Hymn to Proserpine.
When the loose floorboard in the corridor creaks for the fifth time in as many minutes, Gideon's suspicions reach their zenith. He'd thought, at first, that someone was pacing up and down the hallway, but the frequency of the sound suggests someone is actually standing right outside of his room. He doesn't let himself hope it's Sophie. She would simply knock if she had anything to say to him, and she's made it painfully clear that she does not. He puts his boots aside - the slime his father had trailed all over the grounds is proving difficult to remove - gets to his feet, and goes to confront whoever's lurking in the hall.
"Gabriel," he says, startled.
Gabriel had visibly jumped when Gideon opened the door. Now he sinks into a deliberate slouch against the opposite wall, tries to appear apathetic, but his expression is all wrong for it. "You seem surprised to see me."
"A bit," Gideon allows. Gabriel hates the Branwells, hates Will Herondale even more, if that's possible, so Gideon expected him to take flight as soon as politeness allowed… to where, he'd not been sure. He wasn't even certain Gabriel would do as he was told and remain in the drawing room long enough for Charlotte to talk to him. "How long have you been standing out here?"
"Only a minute," Gabriel says. Gideon raises his eyebrows and his brother hedges, "Maybe a few."
"Have you spoken with Charlotte?"
A flash of anger brightens Gabriel's eyes. "And she leapt onto the desk and began chirping like a bird. What do you think, Gideon?"
Gideon fixes him with a look of the sort honed through years of placating an easily-infuriated little brother, but the frustration drains from Gabriel almost as quickly as it came, like he's too tired to hold onto it. It's not hard for Gideon to guess the outcome of Gabriel and Charlotte's conversation. He's been acquainted with her long enough to know Charlotte wouldn't throw him out, no matter how much of a thorn in her side Gabriel was. However… "I hadn't thought you would want to stay here."
Gabriel scowls. "I want to stay with you."
Caught off-guard by the honesty of Gabriel's admission, Gideon says nothing. One of the many lessons their father had drilled into their heads was that they were never to voice any feelings of vulnerability, inadequacy, indecisiveness - anything that could be construed as weakness and thus be taken advantage of. He would consider Gabriel's words evidence of a dependency on his brother which Gabriel, at eighteen years old, should not possess, would insist that Gideon not indulge him.
But Benedict is dead. His words hold no more weight than a puff of smoke. And Gideon has been trained to take care of his brother since Gabriel was born (though Gideon was two at the time and thoroughly unimpressed by the pink, squalling thing in his mother's arms), so he steps back, holds the door open, and says, "Come inside, then."
The flicker of relief that passes over Gabriel's face is gone by the time he steps over the threshold and the door shuts again. In the light, Gabriel is thinner than Gideon remembers him being, and there are bluish smudges like bruises beneath his eyes. "Try not to make too much of a mess, or So - Miss Collins will be upset with me. I'll find you something to wear." None of his clothes will properly fit his brother, of course, being that Gideon is both shorter and broader than him, but he delves into the wardrobe regardless. Anything is better than the filthy, torn gear Gabriel wears. As he rummages for the largest shirt he owns, he asks, "What did Charlotte say, exactly?"
Gabriel pauses in the midst of unbuckling his weapons belt, brows knit. "She told me I could stay here," he says slowly, "and said that if I did, we could put what had transpired with my father behind us… she…" He makes a sound that might have been a laugh, under different circumstances, takes something from his pocket, clenches his fist around it. "She hugged me."
Oh, Gideon thinks, slightly - perhaps inappropriately - amused. He'd not been present for the conversation between Gabriel and Charlotte, as he had no say in the running of the Institute and who she allowed to live within its walls, but now he thinks he should have warned her that Gabriel does not typically react favorably to physical contact. If she was trying to reassure him, she's achieved the opposite effect. "Here." Gideon tosses him some clothing, which Gabriel changes into without a word. The shirt and trousers are not long enough for him, but they're clean… though they soon won't be, since there's still blood on his hands and face. He doesn't even notice it. Whatever's clutched in his fingers slides into his pocket again, and he sits heavily on the edge of the mattress while Gideon pours water from the pitcher into a bowl. There'll be time for a proper bath later. For now, Gideon keeps picturing Sophie's face if she finds dried blood all over the sheets, so he grabs a rag and says, "Give me your hands."
Gabriel, up close, actually looks quite dreadful - his pallor and the too-pronounced curve of his cheekbones remind Gideon of someone who's been through a long, arduous illness. He doesn't seem inclined to speak unless spoken to, either, which is unusual and concerning. Gideon wrings the cloth out and starts scrubbing at his brother's hands. "Gabriel," he says quietly, after a minute has passed in silence, "tell me what happened to Father."
He's not sure what he expects. Anger, maybe. An outburst. Some type of emotion, but Gabriel begins reciting the same story he told earlier, staring off into space, voice toneless. In spite of his frustration with the clinical retelling, Gideon notices a jarring discrepancy in his brother's tale. "Wait," he interrupts, looking up. Gabriel blinks at him like someone brought out of a dream. "Father had the servants sent away?"
"Yes. Weeks ago."
Gideon frowns. "That's impossible," he says. "Before, you said you came downstairs this morning and found their bodies - parts of them, at least - in the garden. I saw them for myself while we were at the house. He must have lied to you." Gabriel starts shaking his head, something wild and panicked sparking in his eyes; quickly, placatingly, Gideon says, "Never mind, it's not important right now." They can revisit it later when he's a little more confident that confronting the inconsistency won't send Gabriel into a meltdown. Benedict may not have lied to him after all - it's entirely plausible Gabriel merely convinced himself the servants had been sent away in order to better cope with his situation. Gideon hands his brother the rag and says, "Why did you never write me?"
"What?" Gabriel says blankly, clearing the blood from his face.
"You should have told me this was going on. I know Father has - had," Gideon corrects himself, even though speaking of his father in the past tense sours his stomach, "a habit of locking himself away for days on end, but when he wouldn't respond… you should have written to me."
Gabriel's eyes narrow. He tosses the stained rag back into the pinkish water, wipes his face on his too-short sleeve. "Would you have cared?" he challenges. "You left. You chose Charlotte Branwell and her lot over your family - how could I rely on you after that? You abandoned us!"
"I did not -" Gideon breaks off, rubs the bridge of his nose. Arguing with Gabriel is more tiring than dragging a carriage uphill, and they've only just begun. "I didn't abandon you. You had a choice - we both did. I could not continue to support Father as he shamed our family into the ground, so I left - and as much as you shout about Father and I always making your decisions for you like you're a child, you made your own choices. You could have come with me." You should have come with me, he wants to add, but it's unfair of him to blame Gabriel for doing what they had always been taught was right: family before Law. Instead, he merely says, "I would've come if you'd told me what was happening."
The shadow of disbelief on Gabriel's face hurts. Gideon stands up nevertheless, planning to wash his own hands, but his brother's voice stops him in his tracks - "Maybe it wasn't him."
"What wasn't who?" Gideon asks, though a sick twist in the pit of his stomach tells him he already knows where this is going.
"The worm," Gabriel says. He stares at his hands, rather than at Gideon, rubs his thumb over an abrasion on his knuckle. "It might not have been Father. I didn't actually see him transform into it - maybe he's still alive, somewhere –"
"Gabriel, no." Swallowing the wave of grief that suddenly threatens to drown him, Gideon puts his hand on Gabriel's shoulder. Gabriel fiddles with his braces for an endless moment before meeting his eyes. He looks terribly, heartbreakingly young. "Father is gone. It's over."
Gabriel breaks eye contact first, folds his legs beneath him and gazes at the whorls in the floorboards. "I'm not sure what she wants from me," he says abruptly.
"Charlotte? She doesn't want anything from you… except maybe to behave yourself," Gideon says, letting the change of subject slide. "Do try not to antagonize Will too much."
Gabriel's lips curl back. Self-preservation instincts loudly instruct Gideon to remove his hand from his brother's shoulder. As a child, Gabriel used to bite, and if he's planning to regress into that habit, Gideon does not want to be within range. But all he does is snarl, "And of course you have to defend Will. As if he needs it."
Rather than rise to the bait, and because Will's story is not his to tell, Gideon simply rinses his hands and asks, "When's the last time you ate?"
"I - I don't remember."
Unsurprised - whether their cook had been fired or suffered a more horrible fate, Gabriel would have been fending for himself - Gideon moves towards the desk and sifts through the detritus on its surface. He eventually comes up with an apple he'd saved from dinner several nights ago and gives it to Gabriel. "Eat."
Gabriel turns the apple over and over, as if searching for evidence that it's been tampered with. "Do you normally hoard food in your bedroom?"
Involuntarily, Gideon thinks of scones. "Eat," he repeats, and goes to empty the bowl of bloodied water.
When he returns, the apple is on the nightstand, still half-intact. Gabriel is stretched along the length of the bed and seems to be asleep. "You ought to sleep in your own room," Gideon says, sitting on the other side of the mattress.
Gabriel's eyes flutter open. "Sorry, am I in the way? Were you intending to bed the maid?"
"You -" At a loss for words, face flaming, Gideon falls back on the tried-and-true method of smacking Gabriel's arm as hard as he can. It hurts him more than it hurts his brother. Still, his nerves settle a bit - obnoxiously needling Gideon with sarcastic, indecent remarks is normal for Gabriel. The silence and traumatized detachment are not; unfortunately, he sinks back into them far too quickly for Gideon's liking. He wishes he'd bodily dragged Gabriel with him when he left.
Gabriel takes his hand from his pocket, holds it out, fist tight around whatever he's been concealing. Bewildered, Gideon extends his arm, and his brother drops Gideon's discarded family ring into his palm.
Gideon hasn't seen his ring since he walked out of his home all those weeks ago. He'd known that he was forsaking his family, his lineage, his name, and felt leaving the ring behind was a symbol of his willingness to sacrifice everything for his beliefs. Since Benedict was equally unswerving in his beliefs, Gideon had not expected to see it again. Yet here it is, the flame pattern sparkling innocently in the light, and he does not know what to do with it. The Lightwood name is far from what it used to be. He turns the ring around in his fingers and wonders if it's at all redeemable. "Gabriel," he says, but Gabriel's actually asleep now, his hair tumbling over his eyes, and he doesn't stir.
Benedict is dead. Tatiana's fiancé is dead as well, but the Blackthorns will take her in, and she's always had very little in the way of family loyalty. Gideon is all Gabriel has left. Gabriel is all Gideon has left.
Gideon slides the ring back onto his finger.
Just another day at the London Institute for Traumatized Shadowhunter Orphans, huh? xD If you enjoyed this, please leave a review and let me know! :)