"What does 'parabatai' mean, father?" James asked as he tried to climb on his father's lap. Will smiled down at his son and pulled him up.
"Don't you know the word, James?" Will asked.
"Brother Zacheriah said you were parabatai," James answered. "And then I asked Charlotte."
"Did she not explain it?"
"She said it is a pair of warriors who fight together. Closer than brothers, she said." James frowned as he repeated the words to his father. "Did you and brother Zachariah fight together?"
"Yes, we did," Will said.
"Were you like brothers, too?"
Will hesitated for a moment. "No, not like that."
Will quickly walked down the halls of the Institute, clutching the box of freshly purchased yin fen to his side. He only slowed when he turned the corner and suddenly heard the delicate tones of Jem's violin through the walls. The music was more beautiful than anything Will had ever heard Jem play before. The bittersweet melody pierced through Will like a knife. He came to a halt in front of Jem's bedroom door, but could not bring himself to knock and disturb Jem in the middle of his playing.
Instead he sunk down to the floor with his back against the door. With his legs folded underneath him and the box in yin fen safely in his lap, Will closed his eyes and listened.
He was certain that Jem had never played this piece before, and the more he heard, the more certain he became that he was listening to something being created. Jem's heart was in this melody, and Will was taken by its heavy sadness.
Suddenly the music stopped.
Will got slowly to his feet again, and he took a deep breath, making sure to wipe the concern from his expression before he knocked on the door and entered the room. Jem was busy putting the violin away and he smiled at Will over his shoulder as the case clicked closed.
"I got you something," said Will, as he put the powder down on the bedside table.
Jem rolled his eyes at. "You shouldn't have," he said as he walked over. He continued in a more serious tone. "I told you before you don't have to get it for me. I'm perfectly capable of doing it myself."
"I know," Will said casually. "I was around there anyway. Plus, it never hurts to run into Catarina Loss."
Will knew that Jem knew perfectly well he was not being entirely truthful. Will also knew that Jem did not like getting his medicine himself, even though he was perfectly capable to. Ever since Will had gotten out of Charlotte where he could get his hands on the yin fen Jem so desperately needed, he had taken the task of getting it for him.
"Catarina Loss?" Jem inquired. "Don't get me wrong, but she might be a bit old for you, William. Not to mention the fact that she is probably not interested in the likes of you."
Will frowned. "I'll have you know that I have been described by numerous women, and men, as irresistibly handsome. Not to mention very charming."
"Occasionally," Jem murmured.
"What was that, James?"
Jem grinned. "Nothing, Will."
"I thought so." Will turned around and walked toward the door. "You should change into your gear, we're patrolling tonight."
"Did all demons decide to take the night off?" Will was balancing on the railing of Southwark Bridge, carelessly spinning a seraph blade between his fingers. Jem watched his moves carefully from his own spot on the railing where he was sat. He knew Will would never fall, and even if he would, the water wouldn't hurt him much, but still he could not avert his eyes.
"Where are all the crouchers, the raveners, the raum demons?" Will continued. "I would not even mind a rogue vampire either. Angel, just give me something to do!"
"You should be glad that the town is safe," Jem said. "That there are no innocent mundanes being eaten and such."
"All right, all right. The mundanes are safe; all is well. But I am bored." Will jumped off the ledge and sat down next to Jem. "We can't go back to the Institute though. Charlotte would be angry."
"She would be right to be angry," Jem said. "Anything could happen."
"Will it, though?" Will asked. "I've never seen such a quiet night."
"Maybe there's a storm coming."
For a while they sat there in silence. Jem didn't mind; he was perfectly content sitting there with his parabatai watching London at night.
"So you compose now?" Will asked casually.
Jem stiffened. "I didn't know you were listening."
"The walls of the Institute aren't very thick, James, we all hear you play. It was very sad, that piece you were playing earlier."
Jem could hear no trace of mockery in Will's voice, could hear the disguised, genuine concern underneath his casual tone. Jem knew that he should value these sparse moments where Will dropped his uncaring façade, but this time he could not bring himself to answer. Silence fell again for a moment.
"You know we will find a way," Will said then.
Jem sighed. "Will, please…"
But Will only ignored him. "There has to be a cure, I am sure of it. And I will find it."
"They've been looking for four years now. There is very likely nothing out there, and even if there is, I might very well be dead before they find it."
"I don't care about them, I will find it," Will repeated stubbornly. "I will find a cure, and you will live, and-"
"-be happy, and we will hunt demons here in London, if they ever decide to show up again, and-"
"Stop!" Jem exclaimed.
Will's face snapped up to his, his mouth still open mid-sentence.
"You have to stop," Jem said. "You can't keep going on like this. I am going to die, Will. I should already be dead. You need to accept it."
"How could I?" Will asked.
When Jem suddenly kissed him, Will was so surprised he nearly did fall off the railing, and if it hadn't been for Jem's hands that were fisted into the front of his gear, they probably both would have been taking a swim in the Thames. But Jem's hold on him was strong enough to keep them both balancing up there.
Will gasped when Jem's lips landed on his own clumsily, and for a moment he was frozen in place.
As abruptly as he had grasped hold of Will, he let him go again, and he leaned back with a terrified look in his eyes. "I'm sorry."
Jem's wide eyes and his cracking voice were finally enough to snap Will out of his trance.
"No," Will said. Jem blinked, his mouth opened slightly. He looked much too anxious to Will's liking, but he was having trouble finding the right words for the situation.
Jem had kissed him. His best friend, his parabatai, Jem had kissed him.
"I told you I'm irresistible," said Will. He was trying to act nonchalant, but his voice was slightly uneven. Jem was now looking considerably less frightened now, though.
"Is that all you have to say?" He asked, astonished.
"No," Will said again, and he jumped off the railing. "Come." He grabbed Jem's hand and started walking down the bridge. He was surprised by how natural it seemed to hold Jem's hand in his, but then it seemed logical; Jem and he were tied together after all.
They did not exchange a word while Will took Jem down to the riverside. When they were there, Will turned to face Jem, their hands still linked together.
"I am going to find a cure, Jem," Will said. "Because I cannot stand the thought of losing you."
He pulled Jem against him, and wrapped his arms around his waist. For a moment they looked at each other, and Will saw his own fear and doubt reflected in Jem's eyes.
To hell with it.
Will kissed Jem.
As nervous as he felt, Will was confident in his kisses. He angled his head so Jem's soft lips fit against his perfectly, and he couldn't help but smile a little as Jem's arms slid hesitantly around his neck to deepen the kiss. He tasted of white tea and lemon biscuits.
Will kissed Jem with everything he had, memorizing all of him. The feeling of Jem's arms around Will's neck, Jem's shy response to Will's tongue against his lips, Jem's fine hair slipping through Will's fingers.
Will kissed Jem, and he swore he would do everything in the world to keep him in his arms forever.
Will looked across the room at Tessa standing in the doorway. She smiled at him knowingly before beckoning James to come over. As she turned away with James in her arms to bring him to bed, Will smiled as well, and once again he marvelled at the odd normality of the shared love between the three of them.