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Emma dug her toes into the sand and looked out over the ocean. The waves beat against the shoreline, leaving faint bubble lines when they retracted back into the deeper blue. She stared into the depths of the water until she shivered from the vastness of it all. The ocean had an irritating habit of making her feel small.

“Em!” Cristina called from somewhere behind her. Emma turned to see her girlfriend climbing over the rocks toward her wearing nothing but a scarlet bikini and sunglasses. 

“Hey.” 

Cristina flopped dramatically onto the sand next to her and stretched, muscles moving under her skin. “I knew you’d be down here.” She didn’t have to say why. They both knew Emma visited the beach when she wanted to remember her parents. Especially on the anniversary of their deaths. 

Emma wound a lock of Cristina’s dark hair around her finger. “Are you going to go swimming?” She loved watching Cristina swim, the way the water ran off of her and the way her hair curled with the salt when it dried. 

Cristina leaned into Emma, her skin cooler than the hot sun. “I don’t know. Would you swim with me?” 

Emma shook her head. “I’d be fine watching you.” 

Cristina tilted her head and lifted her sunglasses into her hair so that she could meet Emma’s eyes teasingly. “I mean I am pretty to watch.” 

Emma giggled. “Shut up.” 

Cristina stuck her tongue out at her. “Oh that reminds me—” She reached into the top of her bikini before coming away empty handed. “Dammit. I lost it.” Her mouth twisted in disappointment. 

Emma laughed. “This is why we can’t have nice things Tina.”

Cristina sighed and pushed her sunglasses back down. “It was a rock that matched your eyes.”

“What do you mean?” 

Cristina sighed and ran a distracted hand up her arm, skimming the slivers of old scars. “I was coming down here to find you and I found a rock that matched your eyes. Brown with flecks of gold.” 

Emma could feel her heartbeat. “Babe that’s tender.” 

Cristina smiled a soft smile that made Emma forget about the ocean. “I know right.” 

Chapter Text

Mark was drunk. Kieran could tell by the way he was smiling. Mark had a lot of different smiles but his drunken smile was his loosest smile. He looked like his eyes might drift shut at any moment. 

“Mmph.” Mark leaned against him, pressing his face into Kieran’s shirt. Kieran put an arm around him without thinking. It was almost second nature now. In the hunt they’d been so careful about showing affection. Any emotional attachment there could have been exploited and the other hunters hadn’t exactly been fond of either of them. 

Now though, he could thread his fingers through Mark’s without thinking about it. Now in Mark’s room, leaning against the bed, they had more comfort that any of the countless nights in the hunt where they’d tangled together and counted the stars. 

“Are you sure you can’t lie?” Mark asked him suddenly. 

Kieran blinked down at him, a little tipsy himself. It took less for Mark to get drunk, but Kieran was well on his way there. He set the bottle he was holding down so he could rest both arms on Mark’s shoulders. “I’m very sure I can’t lie.” He mumbled into Mark’s white-gold hair. 

“Lie to me then.” 

“I can’t .” 

Mark giggled. “That could be a lie.” 

“I’m sure if I could lie I would have done it by now.” Kieran said.

Mark absentmindedly played with Kieran’s fingers. “It could all be a centuries old hoax by the faeries to have people take their words as truth.” 

Kieran smiled. “Then I wouldn’t have spent so long learning how to bend my words around the truth.” 

Mark gave an exaggerated huff. “You would never know.” 

“Actually yes because I can’t actually lie.”

“Lie to me then. Or try to.” Mark tangled their feet together. “What happens?”

Kieran smiled. “I don’t really know. It’s more like—” he gestured aimlessly with their intertwined hands. “My brain just—it doesn’t do it. And if I try really hard to lie my voice doesn’t work.” 

Mark was silent for a bit. “Huh.” He finally said. “That’s boring.”

Kieran supposed there was more than one way to lie. Faeries weren’t exactly known for their honesty. And he personally thought humans were worse at deception, maybe because they only learned how to hide the truth with their words and not their faces. 

Kieran laughed, Mark’s back warm against his chest. “You should sleep.” 

It took a moment of silence before he realized that Mark had already started snoring. 

Chapter Text

Tessa couldn’t feel her fingers. Numbness had begun to trickle through her, making her feel almost weightless. She was pretty sure that wasn’t normal.

Blood pooled at her side, red and slick against the wood paneled floor. The heat of blood always surprised her, no one had ever mentioned how warm blood was when she was growing up. Although no one could have known she’d grow up to see so much.

“Tessa?” A familiar voice called from what seemed like far away. “Tessa!”

She really should remember that voice.

A face swam above her. The light was starting to reflect in strange ways, casting shadows where there shouldn’t be, and giving objects a disconcerting quality. The man above her had dark hair streaked with fine lines of gray and his eyebrows were drawn together in worry. Tessa tried to reach her hand up to his cheek but her limbs failed her. Something was definitely wrong with her.

The mans’  eyes—he had lovely eyes—darted frantically around them. “What happened? You were—you were fine.” He traced a rune on the inside of Tessa’s wrist, gripping her hand tightly, as if he were afraid of letting go.

Tessa tried to answer, to smooth the worry from the lines of this handsome strangers’ face, but the words got caught in her throat.

“Shh.” The stranger whispered, voice cracking. “Stay with me.”

His face drifted away from her as the light started to dim. Darkness enveloped her like a dense blanket as she descended into unconsciousness.

-

Lucie had never truly been worried for one of her parents lives. There had always been a part of her that accepted they would always be there. Whenever they’d gotten hurt before she’d never gotten the impression that it was very serious.

Tonight was different.

The moment her father kicked open the institute doors with her mother in his arms, Lucie felt a deep dread settle over her, like a tortured spirit had walked through her.

“Get Jem.” Her father told her, on his way to the infirmary as fast as he could.

The panic in his voice was enough to make Lucie run, heart pounding a furious beat of gut wrenching fear through her. Her father was always so composed when it came to injuries. Even when Aunt Cecily had been injured on a demon nest raid before he’d never seemed panicked. Maybe because Uncle Jem had always gotten them through anything.

-

Zachariah always seemed to arrive at the institute in the dead of night. Demon attacks usually happened at night so it made sense, but night never did anything except make the sense of danger more prevalent. The institute always looked haunted during the night as well, its spires twined with mist, most of the windows dark.

He didn’t feel fear acutely anymore, but he was feeling the closest thing to it that he could. He could only imagine Will, forever blaming himself for any misfortune that befell anyone around him.

“Is she going to be okay?”

Only a demon poison with rather alarming immediate affects, nothing more sinister than usual.

“Thank you.”

You don’t need to thank me.

-

Tessa slept so peacefully Will could almost forget she’d been dying only hours before. He held her hand, feeling the comforting beat of her pulse against his fingertips.

If only he could forget.

The terror that had pierced him when he’d looked into her eyes and seen no recognition had rattled him more than he’d realized. He’d been with her so long that to see himself forgotten, however briefly, was a sharp reminder of how temporary he was.

She would never be temporary. She would never age and die. Maybe one day that blankness when she saw his face would become a reality. The thought made his heart twist.

Tessa shifted in her sleep and mumbled something that vaguely sounded like, “Spoon.” And Will found himself smiling.

Maybe one day he’d be forgotten. But not for a very long time.

Chapter Text

“Do you regret it?”

They’re drunk when Robert says it. The others long since stumbled off to bed in slurred excuses and dragging footsteps. The fireplace has burned down to embers, the only light in the room illuminating out from a single dim witchlight. The long shadows make Robert’s face seem softer, smoothing out the sharp corner of his jaw and the thin line of his mouth. 

Michael can’t remember the last time he saw Robert smile. The thought fills him with a sadness that’s quickly quashed by a bitter satisfaction in the thought that Robert is feeling even a fraction of the misery he’s put Michael through in the past few months. 

Maybe it should have been a comfort, that the misery was mutual, but the thought that Robert might lie awake at night agonizing over his own avoidable actions only served to make Michael more angry, thinking of that night he’d spent in utter panic, trying to hold back tears until they forced their way out, holding back his sobs until they clawed their way out of his throat in ragged heaves. On top of it all the panic at the idea of the others finding out, the idea that there was nothing he could do to stop Robert from outing him if he felt like it. 

“Do I regret what?” Michael snapped, his hand tightening around his empty beer bottle, the glass warm from his grip.

Robert was silent. Without being able to help himself Michael snorted. “Of fucking course you can’t say it.” 

Robert sighed. “Michael.” His voice was thin and unbearably sad sounding. Michael didn’t give him the satisfaction of meeting his gaze.

“Don’t you dare.” 

“What?” Robert actually sounded confused. Anger pressed up Michael’s throat. 

“Don’t you dare sit there and talk about me regretting anything as if it’s me who ruined this. As if it’s me who has anything to regret besides trusting in you.”

“How is this my fault?” Now Robert sounded angry and Michael’s parabatai rune twinged. 

“You’re supposed to love me no matter what!” Michael shouted, voice cracking with emotion. He didn’t care that the others might wake up, didn’t care that Maryse might hear him. “You swore you would!” 

Entreat me not to leave thee. 

Robert opened his mouth, brow furrowing. Michael couldn’t stay, couldn’t hear whatever excuse Robert was inevitably going to stammer. He knew that if he stayed he’d be fooled into something that passed for forgiveness. And he didn’t deserve that. 

Robert didn’t try to stop him as he got up and stumbled out of the doorway. As he fumbled along the dark hallway to his room an oath he’d sworn when he was young, and love blind, and naive echoed in Michael’s head.

If aught but death part thee and me. 

Chapter Text

Waking up to greet the sun.

But I don’t know where you’re hiding.

I saw you once.

Your face a tint of gold.

I’m kicking up a dust storm.

Digging up a love lost.

Do you know if I’m still chasing ghosts.

Cordelia.

Cordelia.

Cordelia. Cordelia. Cordelia. Cordelia. CordeliaCordeliaCordeliaCordel—

Lucie threw her pen down in frustration, drawing her hand over her face in exhaustion, paying no attention to the ink smearing like a faded bruise over the bridge of her nose.

Her head hurt. Her hand was cramped. And she was thirsty. 

Lucie stood from the window seat she’d been curled on, stretching her back with a satisfying crack, and went to grab her glass of water from her bedside table. It was very unfair, she thought, that not even a week after her parabatai ceremony scalding fever had decided to make its sudden reappearance in the London shadowhunter community. James of course had already been sick with it before so he didn’t have to stay inside alone. He was free to roam the city and make conversation with whomever he pleased. In fact he and Cordelia had just gone on patrol together the night before. 

Lucie tried to ignore the pang of jealousy that went through her, as sharp and sudden as a stab wound.

It was, after all, not James’ fault that Lucie had been in love with Cordelia since they were children. Not James’ fault that Lucie was now sworn to be strictly platonic with Cordelia for the rest of time despite nearly fainting every time she was training with Cordelia and found herself pinned to the ground by Cordelia’s strong brown arms as Cordelia grinned down at her with sweat gleaming at her temples, her chest heaving from exertion. 

For some reason Lucie had thought unrequited love would be less painful. She had sworn to be Cordelia’s parabatai in the hopes that whatever bond forged between them in the ceremony would override Lucie’s irrational daydreams. She had not anticipated that being parabatai would make it worse. 

She rather thought she was starting to understand the agony that was written into her favorite books. 

Lucie sighed and threw herself dramatically on the bed, muffling her scream of anger in her pillow.

Maybe quarantine would be good for her. Maybe quarantine would give her a much needed break from writing Cordelia’s beauty into her novel every time she watched Cordelia do anything. The last time Lucie had taken tea with Anna and Cordelia the urge to scribble down every detail of Cordelia’s pursed lips as she sipped from her cup had been almost overwhelming. Lucie was half convinced that Anna had puzzled out the situation concerning Lucie’s fancy and as a result she was now too embarrassed to meet Anna’s eyes at family events.

Anna probably would have been willing to help. She probably could have given Lucie all sorts of advice if Lucie was in love with any other girl. Lucie had opened her mouth to ask Anna exactly how it was that two women had relations —purely because of her literary interest in the topic of course—and had always decided against it. Anna wasn’t exactly a woman either after all and Lucie had no idea how it might be different for herself. In the end her questions had always led to awkward silences while Cordelia, oblivious to Lucie’s pining, inquired after Ariadne, who Anna always liked to talk about more than anything.

Lucie wished she could talk to Anna now but her quarantine made it impossible. It was so very lonely, this agreement between herself and the rest of the world to stay separate. Lucie didn’t know how she was going to bear the next two weeks.

Two weeks without seeing Cordelia’s eyes or Cortana strapped to Cordelia’s back. Things Lucie hadn’t realized had become commonplace to her everyday life until she no longer saw anything but the walls of her bedroom and the skyline from her window. 

Just as she was thinking about going back to her seat by the window and taking up her pen again in order to record her inner turmoil, there was a clatter against the glass as a small pebble rattled the pane. 

Lucie jumped up, throwing her window open just as another pebble flew up, narrowly missing her face.

She let out a squawk and looked down to see Cordelia on cobblestones below. She was wearing a dress that was the deep green color of moss that clung to her in all the right places. Lucie silently cursed Anna for ordering dresses that actually suited Cordelia's skin tone. While Lucie could appreciate the gesture of camaraderie it did make it somewhat difficult to focus and now she spent entire conversations with Cordelia constantly flustered, which was very out of character for her. 

Cordelia put a finger to her lips and lifted the grappling hook she’d brought with her. Lucie backed away from the window, hastily glancing at herself in the mirror that hung opposite her. She was wearing nothing but a thin nightgown she hadn’t thought to change. Her mousey brown hair was mussed and she had an ink stain on her cheekbone and another on the side of her nose that contrasted nicely with the bags under her eyes.

She made a frantic attempt to flatten her hair as the grappling hook latched onto the windowsill behind her with a thunk. A moment later Cordelia was climbing into Lucie’s room like the prince in Rapunzel. Lucie hoped desperately that her composure was passably calm.

“What are you doing here?” She asked as Cordelia straightened up and turned to face her. Lucie had always been short but she was always particularly aware of it when her eyes were level with Cordelia’s lips.

Cordelia raised her eyebrows. Lucie forced herself to draw her gaze away from her cupid’s bow and make eye contact. “You didn’t possibly think I would leave you quarantined alone, did you?”

Lucie distracted herself by crossing over to close the window, fingers scrambling in the latch. “It’s not nearly exciting enough to warrant your wanting to stay with me.”

Cordelia bent to unbutton her boots, her fingers moving swiftly. Lucie looked away as the hem of her dress rode up, cheeks growing warm. “If you must know I’d much rather be bored with you than go on another patrol.”

Lucie’s heart lurched. “You can’t possibly mean that.”

Cordelia frowned as she unstrapped Cortana from her back, brow furrowing adorably. “Why wouldn’t I mean that?”

Too late Lucie realized her words had sounded like an accusation. She shrugged and sat down on the bed. Her legs felt weak.

She barely heard Cordelia cross the room to stand in front of her. Lucie could see her stockinged feet pressing indentations into the thick carpet. 

Cordelia’s hands came up to grip Lucie’s shoulders, her touch sending pinpricks of fire to the pit of Lucie’s stomach from where her fingers pressed against the thin material of her nightgown. “You’re trembling.”

Cordelia’s voice was low. Lucie took a deep breath to steady herself and met Cordelia’s eyes.

Her breath caught in her throat. Cordelia’s were wide and dark, her lips slightly parted. All at once Lucie felt the loneliness affected on her by the quarantine come crashing down at once. She’d always been a social person and the past few days of minimal contact had been eating away at her energy. Being around Cordelia was like holding a bright candle cupped between her palms, something that warmed her and also made the tips of her fingers tingle. 

She leaned into the pressure of Cordelia’s hands on her shoulders. Her mouth was suddenly very dry and she wet her lips with the tip of her tongue, not missing how Cordelia’s gaze wandered. Lucie froze, almost daring to hope but already feeling herself veering off course into an unknown, but altogether not unpleasant territory. 

“I thought you weren’t supposed to come see me.” Lucie murmured, not wanting Cordelia to move her hands from where they rested. “You could infect me you know.” 

Cordelia’s eyebrows went up. “You want me to leave?” she didn’t move back though, her breath gently moving a strand of her red hair that had come out of its chignon. 

“No! I never want you to leave!” Lucie reached up a trembling hand to push the hair behind Cordelia’s ear. She told herself that it wouldn’t matter if Cordelia flinched away, but she couldn’t stop the sigh of relief that escaped her when Cordelia stayed still, eyes dark and shining with an emotion Lucie couldn’t exactly puzzle out.

The silence stretched between them a silence Lucie was too afraid to break, lest she shatter the moment that seemed so achingly fragile to her. She thought frantically to her writing. How would she have written this scene if she were a character in her own story? Tragically her mind went blank as Cordelia finally moved her hand to fiddle with the lace collar of Lucie’s nightgown.

Cordelia took a deep breath. Lucie tried not to stare at the rise and fall of her chest above the elegant cut of her dress’s neckline. “Can I kiss you?” 

Lucie saw stars. Without answering she threw herself upward, wrapping her arms around Cordelia’s neck, standing on tiptoe so that their noses were almost touching. Cordelia gasped in surprise but her arms wound around Lucie’s waist, fingers pressing the small of Lucie’s back.  “I thought you’d never ask.” Lucie breathed. 

Cordelia gave a surprised laugh and pulled her close, pressing their lips together. She was soft and warm and as Lucie’s eyes closed she inhaled the smell of Cordelia’s soap that still clung faintly to her hair and skin. She swayed, and their kiss deepened, the space between their mouths creating a heat that Lucie had never experienced before.

It was a little awkward at first, neither of them being experienced in the matters of kissing. Their noses bumped together and they giggled, the scrape of Cordelia’s teeth against her lower lip making Lucie pull her even closer. They were clinging to each other with a desperation now, Lucie’s hands winding into Cordelia’s red hair, pulling it down from its chignon so that it twined around her wrists as she caressed Cordelia’s face, running her fingers over the arch of Cordelia’s cheekbones, her fingers cold and pale looking in contrast to Cordelia’s warm brown skin.

Getting tired of standing on her tiptoes Lucie dropped down to press a line of kisses down Cordelia’s throat, rewarded by the sharp inhale of breath from the taller girl. In a sudden flurry of movement Cordelia hooked her arms under Lucie’s legs, lifting her up. Lucie gasped as the skin of Cordelia’s wrists pressed against her bare thighs. She wrapped her legs around Cordelia’s waist, suddenly looking down into the other girl’s dark eyes. Her heart was beating very fast. 

“Is this okay?” Cordelia whispered, her breath warm when it brushed Lucie’s skin. “I know this isn’t exactly the height of propriety.” She bit her lip, her perfect teeth making small crescents in the sensitive flesh.

Lucie laughed, warm and light and happy. “I would gladly let you ruin my reputation any day.” 

She bent to kiss her again.

Chapter Text

The door of Anna’s apartment rattled in its frame as Ariadne pounded her fist against it. The paint on the door was faded and peeling slightly under Ariadne’s hand. Rain splashed against the window that shone gray light down into the stairwell, water running in sheets down the glass. 

Ariadne was soaked, the gold silk of her dress sticking to her curves like a second skin, her dark hair hanging in a heavy curtain around her face. She shivered and pounded on the door again. “Anna I know you’re in there!” 

Silence answered her. Ariadne felt frustration bubble up inside her, tears pressing against the back of her throat. She leaned her forehead against the door, the peeling paint swimming in her vision in whorls and splinters. 

Ariadne did not know why she was there. Mixed feelings of regret had propelled her to Anna’s door and now she had no idea what she was supposed to do. She couldn’t leave and she certainly didn’t fancy standing in the chilly hallway dripping water onto the floor. 

“Anna—” She raised her voice to shout something about the rain, her own complicated feelings, or both when the door flew open. 

Ariadne’s breath caught, her throat sealing as Anna flung the door open and leaned against the frame, her blue eyes fixed on Ariadne’s face. She was wearing trousers and a loose white shirt that was casually unbuttoned to expose her collarbones and the ruby necklace that rested below the hollow of her throat. Her short black hair was rumpled in a way that seemed intentional somehow as she raised one sharp eyebrow at Ariadne. “What’re you doing here?” 

Ariadne stared at her. A million thoughts swirled through her head but none of them seemed adequate. Finally she took a deep breath and said, “I wanted to see you.” 

Anna looked momentarily startled before her expression smoothed over into carefully cultivated indifference. “I can’t imagine why.” 

Ariadne sighed. “And to explain I suppose.”

At that Anna straightened up, raking a long fingered hand through her hair in agitation. “About what Ari?”

Ari. Ariadne wondered if Anna knew that she was the only one who called her that. She doubted it. She searched for the words to explain only to find that they escaped her. Frustration pulsed through her as surely as the cold crept into her. 

Anna watched her struggle for a moment before saying, “I should apologize.” 

Ariadne stared at her. “For what?”

Anna was silent. Then, “I should have taken into account the situation with your family. I should have remembered that not everyone is as fortunate to have the love my parents have afforded me. It would have ruined you and despite how I acted at the time I would never want that for you.” 

Ariadne blinked. “Oh.” It was what she had been angry at Anna for after the fact, though her anger had faded since then. She hadn’t been as angry at Anna as at the unfairness of it all, that allowed Anna to live as she wanted in relative safety while the horror that awaited her if she were to do the same haunted her every decision. And now Anna was standing in front of her saying that she was sorry for her part in the mess they had made of each other’s hearts. Ariadne felt as if a great burden had eased off her chest. 

“I’m sorry too.” She whispered. “For getting engaged to Charles.” 

Anna scoffed, but there was no animosity in it. “Bastard.”

Ariadne giggled despite herself, watching as Anna’s face softened into something she couldn’t quite read as she looked back at her. 

It was suddenly very cold. Goosebumps rose on the brown skin of Ariadne’s arms, making her hold herself as she gave a shudder. Anna belatedly seemed to realize that she was soaking wet. “You must be freezing.” Her eyes traced the lines of Ariadne’s body, startlingly visible in her wet dress, and Ariadne shivered for a reason other than the cold. 

Something flickered deep in Anna’s eyes and she muttered something that Ariadne couldn’t hear. 

“What?” 

Anna looked at her, lips curving into a wistful smile. “I never stood a chance, did I?”

Ariadne sucked in a breath, grateful that she didn’t blush. “No, you really didn’t.” She took a step forward, meaning to reach for Anna’s hand. And then Anna was kissing her, lips hot against Ariadne’s cold mouth, and she felt all other thoughts fly out of her head. 

Everywhere Anna touched her heat spilled through her veins, thawing her clammy fingers. Anna had both hands on either side of Ariadne’s face, fingers sliding over her wet hair. Ariadne tugged her close by the collar of her shirt, splaying her fingers against the warm skin of Anna’s collarbones. She realized that she was probably soaking Anna’s clothes too, but couldn’t bring herself to care. Not when Anna was moving her mouth like that.

Anna was good at this. Ariadne spared a moment to send a wholehearted thank you to whichever girls had taught Anna exactly what it was she was doing. Her heart stuttered as Anna pulled her closer and they stumbled back into the apartment, Anna kicking the door violently shut behind her. 

Warmth from the fire that was blazing in the grate enveloped Ariadne and she sighed in contentment against Anna’s mouth. They scrambled for the chaise lounge that occupied the room and tumbled to the floor in a clumsy heap, their legs tangling together. Their noses bumped together and they broke apart with mirrored gasps of surprise. 

Ariadne spared the break in kissing to watch Anna, who was lying under her, arm digging into Ariadne’s side. The white of her shirt was transparent with water where Ariadne had pressed against her, the dark curls of marks visible beneath the fabric. Her fine boned face was uncharacteristically shy as she fiddled with the wet silk of Ariadne’s sleeve. Ariadne felt a hot rush of affection and leaned forward to kiss her hastily. When she pulled away they were both laughing, Anna with a goofy smile on her face that Ariadne suspected matched her own grin. She was the warmest she had ever been, there in Anna’s embrace.

Neither of them had ever stood a chance. 

Chapter Text

Thomas rolled over, flinging his arm across his face. Sunlight was streaming through the gap in the curtains, slanting in a blinding line across his eyes. He felt bone weary, tired in a way he usually didn’t. It had been like that since Barbara’s death, more painful to rise and meet the day. 

Of course he’d been up late and that didn’t help his exhaustion. 

Thomas froze suddenly as details of the previous night washed over him. Alastair’s face tilted up towards his, his eyes wide and dark like deep pools in the shade. Alastair taking his hand gently with his long fingers and spinning under the arc of his arm as the phonograph played a tinny waltz. The burn of liquor down Thomas’s throat as he and Alastair collapsed together on the bed laughing. 

His parents and Eugenia were weekending in Idris which meant that Alastair, desperate to avoid his own father, had appeared on Thomas's doorstep not even an hour after the Lightwood carriage had trundled away. Thomas didn’t mind.

He did not know who he was to Alastair. He didn’t know who Alastair was to him, but he was glad to be in Alastair’s company and whatever that entailed. 

Including drunken kisses apparently. 

Thomas removed his hand from over his eyes and blinked into the sunlight. The dark blue coverlet was piled on the floor at the foot of the bed. He was shirtless and his legs were tangled in the mess of the rest of his bedsheets. Thomas stared at the tattoo on his forearm, the ink tracing a delicate path over the pale skin. He still felt bleary and sleep-logged, the beginnings of a headache starting at the base of his skull. 

Alastair was gone. That much was evident. The indentation where he’d lain next to Thomas was cold and his clothes were missing from the various places they’d been tossed the night before. A pang of regret went through Thomas. There had been only a handful of late nights and every time he woke Alastair was long gone in the morning. He’d been meaning to wake up earlier, to catch Alastair before he slipped away, to see the way he looked in the morning light before the sun sharpened his edges. 

He sighed and leaned his head back against the soft pillows, closing his eyes against the light. If Alastair wasn’t there he didn’t see any reason he shouldn’t sleep the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. He wanted to be rested for his patrol that night and besides, his mother wasn’t there to chide him out of bed. 

He was just starting to slide back into morning buzzed dreams when his bedroom door clicked open. The pad of feet on the thick carpet prompted him to crack open an eye. 

Alastair tilted his head to the side and smiled crookedly at him. The morning light outlined the dark tips of his sleep mussed hair in gold where it lay against the illuminated brown of his skin. Lines of sleep creased his face and he yawned, careful not to spill the two mugs of steaming liquid he held in each hand. He set one down on the side table before sitting on the edge of the bed with his long musician's fingers wrapped around the other one. 

Thomas realized the shirt Alastair was wearing was too big for him. He had had to roll the sleeves up several times to carry the mugs in and the hem fell nearly to his knees. The linen was slightly transparent, showing the shadows of Alastair’s muscles and black marks underneath it. Thomas found he could not stop staring like an absolute fool.

He knew Alastair noticed him noticing because he was smirking a little as he took another sip from his mug. He had an infuriating tilt to his mouth. Thomas shifted, reaching a long arm across to pick up the mug from the side table. As he lifted it to his mouth he smelled earl grey, wafting up to him in wisps of steam. He took a sip and sat up, letting the sheets wad around his bare waist. 

“Isn’t that my shirt?” His voice sounded rough to his own ears and he coughed, wrapping his fingers comfortingly around his tea. 

Alastair’s dark eyes flicked up and down Thomas’s bare chest once before fixing on Thomas’s face. “Do you mind?” His voice was low and hoarse from sleep. 

Thomas felt himself go red. “No, of course not.” Damn Alastair for so easily having this affect on him. He imagined a world in which every morning started with him flustered and blushing and was surprised to feel a pang of wistfulness. He didn’t know if it was possible for them to have something like that. He wondered if Alastair even wanted it as much as he did. 

“What’s wrong?” 

Thomas jerked his attention back to Alastair who was frowning at him slightly, his expressive eyebrows quizzical. “Huh?”

Alastair reached out an absentminded hand to him before letting it fall forlornly onto the bed between them. “You’re far away.” 

Thomas sighed, taking another sip of tea and letting the hot liquid burn his throat. “I thought that you’d left again.” 

Alastair’s hand curled on the sheet in front of him. “Did you want me to?” He sounded a little hurt, but also as if he’d expected it. As if it was the most natural thing in the world that Thomas wouldn’t want to see him in the morning. Something about his tone made Thomas’s heart go out to him. 

“What? No!” He scrambled for words. “I never want you to leave. I just figured that you would.” He felt himself blushing again. He was dangerously close to admitting something embarrassing and shattering whatever delicate thing they had built between them. 

Alastair looked surprised, eyebrows shooting up as he stared at Thomas. With a sudden violent movement he drained the rest of his tea, standing up fluidly. The hem of Thomas’s shirt fluttered against the bottom of his bare thighs as he moved to set the—now empty—mug on the side table. He looked at a loss for words, twisting the silver Carstairs ring around his finger in a nervous tic. 

“It’s just—” He broke off in frustration, running a hand through his hair and tousling it even further. “Nobody’s ever wanted me to stay before.” 

Thomas’s heart gave a sudden powerful flutter. He stared up at Alastair, who was standing above him by the bedside now. “Why not?” He mentally answered his own question as a dark look passed across Alastair’s face. He’d always been worried about being found out before. “Nevermind actually. But I—I want you to stay.” 

He met Alastair’s gaze stubbornly, almost daring him to not believe his words. He watched Alastair’s face soften into a look that he’d never seen before. The look made him feel warmer than the quickly cooling mug of tea he was holding. The edges of Alastair’s mouth curled in the beginnings of a smile and he bent to lift the mug deftly out of Thomas’s hands, leaving it next to his empty one. He leaned forward, leaning his hands against Thomas’s shoulders, rubbing small circles with his palms. The brush of his fingers felt like sunlight pouring into Thomas’s veins and he tilted his chin up, smiling slightly. 

“You want me to stay?” Alastair’s tone was teasing but his face was serious even as he traced paths lightly over the skin of Thomas’s shoulders.

Thomas reached up and tugged at his shirt, pressing his hands against the skin under the fabric. “Of course.” 

Alastair began to grin, he was dazzling. Thomas felt his breath catch in his throat. “Alright then.” Alastair leaned down to kiss him. “I’ll stay.” 

The kiss was languid and warm. Alastair tasted like earl grey and smelled like Thomas’s own shirt. As Thomas’s hands curled around the lean line of Alastair’s waist he allowed himself to imagine dozens of mornings like that, with the press of Alastair’s mouth against his own, the sunlight shining around them in a haze, warmth pouring into his blood and bones. The idea suddenly seemed less like a far fetched dream and more like a reality. Thomas smiled. 

Chapter Text

Maia was woken by the crash on her fire escape. She jolted out of her bed, shifting instinctively into a defensive stance as her sleep bleary eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room. Her apartment had been warded against demons, but that didn’t mean it was completely safe from mundane criminals. She tensed, her lycanthropy enhanced hearing straining to hear the sounds from outside her window.

If it was a thief they weren’t doing a very good job of being quiet. Maia heard the clatter of shoes and a clang followed by soft cursing as someone banged their head against something. She stood up, easing herself up off the soft coverlet of her bed, and tiptoed to the window. It took a second for her eyes to make sense of the shadows beyond the glass, indistinct in the darkness of the alley.

A girl was crouched on the cold bars of the fire escape, her long dark hair swinging free in a black shadow around the pale smudge of her face. Maia saw the sharp glint of her teeth and felt herself begin to smile, tiredness vanishing to be replaced by something warm and familiar. Lily.

She slid the window up, propping her head on her hands as she leaned against the sill. Lily heard the sound and jerked her head up towards her, eyes hidden in shadows. She didn’t seem in any hurry to rise from where she sat on the cold metal, but then again the cold didn’t bother her like it bothered Maia. 

“What’re you doing here?” Maia pitched her voice low, not wanting to alert any sleeping neighbors. It was chilly in the alley and goosebumps rose on her bare arms as she shivered. 

Lily stood up, wobbling slightly, and stumbled over to where Maia was. She leaned in close, her face inches from Maia’s own. If she had still breathed her breath would have ghosted across Maia’s lips. She didn’t smell like anything, just the cold night air and Maia felt the weight of her gaze like a brand as it skittered over her face. 

“I wanted to see you.” Lily said, a little too loudly. Maia started. Lily’s voice wasn’t its usual clear cadence. Her words were slurred, trailing into one another in a slow rush. If Maia didn’t know better…

She squinted at Lily. “Hang on a second. Are you drunk?” 

Lily smiled widely, her teeth flashing in the dim light. “Vampires don’t get drunk silly.”

Maia knew that wasn’t exactly true. She’d heard about Raphael giving Simon drugged blood once, and Simon’s subsequent embarrassing spectacle outside the Inquisitor's house in Idris. And Lily was clearly intoxicated to some capacity. 

Still, Lily had walked all the way from the Hotel Dumort to see her and Maia couldn’t help but feel inexplicably touched by the gesture. She reached out to tuck a strand of Lily’s soft hair behind her ear, fingers brushing over cool skin. “Well get in here then.” 

Getting Lily up and over the windowsill proved to be more difficult than it should have been. Lily had been spending the nights at Maia’s more and more but she had a key to the apartment, there was absolutely no reason to use the fire escape. 

After Lily had tumbled over the ledge in a heap of arms and legs she stood up and kicked off her shoes. She dug her bare toes into the thick carpet and sighed contentedly. “I love it here.” 

Maia felt a rush of tenderness go through her. There was something so human about Lily sometimes that it made Maia forget that she was immortal. Along with the tenderness came the urge to be drunk as well. “Stay here. I’ll be back in a second.” 

Despite Maia’s protestations Lily followed her to the kitchen, her usually soundless steps slightly clumsy on the tiles. Everything in the kitchen was a little shabby, from the faded paint to the chipped mugs in the sink. Maia reached into the cabinet above the fridge, pulling down a bottle of tequila and a shot glass. The clock above the stove told her that it was 2:17am. 

Lily watched her through heavily lidded eyes, tracing her gaze up and down Maia’s body lazily before looking away quickly and fixing her gaze on the ticking second hand of the clock. Maia threw a shot back, welcoming the heat in her throat and stomach, trying to ignore the nervous stutter of her heart. 

She reached across Lily, flicking on the battered radio she listened to while she did the dishes. She suddenly realized that Lily was wearing only a black slip, the kind she would wear to go out partying. It clung to her curves tightly, only black mesh covering the deep v neck. Maia’s throat went dry and she quickly took another shot, hoping that she didn’t look too awestruck. 

Not that Lily would notice. Maia watched bemused as Lily began to sway in her seat, head tilted back, eyes closed in ecstasy. “Oh I love this song.” She began to sing along, slightly out of sync. 

We knew this day would come.

We knew it all along.

Maia took another shot and felt herself beginning to smile. Her head buzzed pleasantly, the edges of the night taking on a softness they hadn’t held before. She laughed as Lily threw up her hands.

And when the daylight comes I’ll have to go.

But tonight I’m gonna hold you so close. 

Moved by a sudden impulse, Maia grabbed Lily’s hands, spinning her around to the beat of the music. Lily stumbled but righted herself, giggling as they danced clumsily. Maia felt heat rush through her from where they pressed together. One of Lily’s hands cupped her waist, fingers firm against the soft cotton of Maia’s shorts. Maia nestled against her, closing her eyes, drowsiness taking hold of her as the song swelled to its end. 

She yawned and Lily laughed, the sound bright in the dimness of the kitchen. “Let’s go to bed.” 

“It’s the middle of the day for you.” Maia mumbled against the soft ink spill of her hair. 

Lily laughed again, softer this time, and began to lead her back to her bedroom, switching off the radio with a click. Her fingers held warmth now where Maia had held them and the brush of them was comforting. 

They tumbled into the bed, Maia pushing Lily down into the tangled sheets with a quick burst of energy, pressing a long slow kiss to the curve of her mouth. Their bodies pressed together for a glorious moment before Maia had to pull away to yawn again. She could still taste tequila. 

She sighed and rolled off of the shorter woman, pulling the blanket up around them. “Don’t leave.” She whispered, and felt Lily’s arm go over her as she fitted her body against the curve of Maia’s back. Maia couldn’t remember the last time someone had felt so much like home. 

Lily pressed her face into the back of Maia’s neck, leaving a gentle kiss on the soft skin there. “I’ll roast in the sun if I leave in the morning so you’re stuck with me.” 

Even as Maia laughed she felt herself drifting off into dreams, nothing but the weight of Lily as her anchor.

Chapter Text

Aline decided that she loved the LA institute from the moment she set eyes on it. It was different from the institutes she’d visited before, those all cold stone and close corridors that made you feel like you were supposed to be as quiet as in a library. The LA institute was modern and sleek, with huge windows that glinted in the hot sun. A highway wound along the coast between the institute and the beach, cars parked along the shoulder, mundane surfers calling out to each other and laughing as they made their way down to the sparkling blue of the ocean. 

“Do you surf?” She asked her girlfriend. 

Her girlfriend. They’d been dating for over half a year now and Aline still couldn’t really believe it. She’d never thought she was a lonely sort of person until she suddenly hadn’t been alone and the emptiness of her teenage years suddenly became obvious. She hadn’t known there’d been a part of her that’d thought she was unlovable until she was confronted by the all encompassing force of Helen loving her. 

Helen set her suitcase down on the driveway by her feet. Wind blew in off the ocean, smelling of salt and blowing the waves of her blonde hair across her forehead. She grinned at Aline, lifting a hand to shield her eyes from the sun. “Of course I do.” 

An image rose in Aline’s mind of Helen in a bikini, the water glimmering on her skin as she crested a wave. “That’s sexy.”

Helen laughed, the sound warming something inside Aline. “I can teach you if you want.” 

Aline opened her mouth to reply and was interrupted by a commotion near the doors of the institute. 

“Helen!” Someone called and the family at the top of the stairs came into sharp focus.

Aline’s stomach dropped. 

The thing about travelling to LA to meet your girlfriend’s family is that you actually have to meet the family. Aline felt sweat drip down her back, from the heat or her nerves she couldn’t tell. Helen had a huge family and Aline was determined to make them love her. Helen talked about her family with all the fond exasperation of an older sibling which was something that Aline, being an only child, had no idea how to relate to. How did you make someone’s siblings like you? 

A man stepped out onto the top step next to the gaggle of children. 

How did you make someone’s dad like you? 

She felt a hand brush her wrist and looked over to see Helen smiling encouragingly. Only the tight grip she had on her suitcase betrayed her nerves. They’d talked about meeting the Blackthorns on the way there but that was a far cry from the actual thing. Aline gave Helen a return smile that she hoped wasn’t too nervous. The sun beat down on them unrelentingly. 

A blur shot down the stairs and tackled Helen’s knees. “Helen!” 

Helen staggered and laughed, bending down to hug the round faced girl that had assailed her. “Hi Dru.” 

Drusilla. The second youngest of the Blackthorns. Aline tried to remember what else she knew about her as Dru turned to her and stared in puzzlement. “Who are you?” 

Aline tried for a winning smile. “Aline Penhallow.” 

Dru’s eyes went wide. She turned to Helen excitedly. “You didn’t say you were bringing your girlfriend!” 

Helen blushed, the tips of her pointed ears turning pink. “It was supposed to be a surprise.” 

Dru looked Aline up and down before sticking out her hand solemnly. “I’m Dru.” 

Aline took her proffered hand and shook it. “It’s nice to meet you.” 

Dru grinned shyly before scampering back towards the other Blackthorns. Helen followed her, Aline close behind and steeling herself for the introductions.

Andrew Blackthorn was a tall brown haired man with eyes the same bright blue-green as Helen’s. He wrapped his eldest daughter in a hug before turning to Aline with a grin. Aline tried not to appear as if her stomach was tying itself into knots. 

She shouldn’t have worried. Andrew shook her hand, still smiling. “I hope Helen hasn’t given you too much trouble.”

“Dad!” Helen exclaimed, looking up from where she was preoccupied with hugging another girl with hair the same dark brown as most of the other kids. Aline remembered that her name was Livvy. 

“I think I’m more likely to cause trouble.” She told Andrew and he laughed. The anxiety that had been eating at Aline’s nerves ebbed. 

There was a whirlwind of introductions. Livvy skipped the handshake and gave Aline a bubblegum smelling hug. Her twin Tiberius didn’t shake her hand at all, just nodded shyly. Dru smiled at her from around her father’s legs while twelve year old Julian gave her the serious handshake of a boy trying to appear grown up. 

“Where’s Emma?” Helen asked him as she pulled him in for a hug, ruffling her hand through his hair. 

Julian ducked away from her, his face lighting up. “She couldn’t make it today but she’s coming over tomorrow.” He looked at Aline again. “Emma’s my best friend.” He explained, the wind making his hair stick up. 

“Cool.” Aline said, not knowing what else to say. How did you make conversation with twelve year olds? 

The door of the institute opened again and a fifteen year old boy slipped out. He had the same blond hair as Helen and the same delicacy of features that was a nod to his faerie heritage. He beamed down at Helen and Aline before jumping down the steps to greet them. 

“I thought I heard your car.” He said by way of a hello. He was wearing black training gear and sweat pasted his pale hair to his temples. Aline felt a twinge of sympathy. It must have been sweltering but he didn’t seem bothered. Maybe everyone who grew up in LA was crazy enough to not feel the heat. 

Helen tried to pull him into a hug but he shook her off, embarrassed in the way only boys can be embarrassed at affection. He gave Aline a quick once over and seemed to decide that she passed the test. He grinned at her then, blue eyes squinting in the bright sun. 

“I’m Mark.” He said finally and Aline resisted the urge to say I know. There was no one else he could have been. “I heard you saved my sister’s life in Italy.” 

Aline couldn’t stop herself from looking at Helen, fondness blooming in her chest. Helen looked back at her, her eyes dancing. 

Mark groaned at his sister. “I can’t believe you got to go to Italy and got a girlfriend. How come these things never happen to me?”

Helen yawned and Aline suddenly felt the weight of their travel crash over them. They could have taken a portal but Aline had wanted to fly on a plane at least once in her life and Helen hadn’t objected. They’d spent the last forty eight hours scrambling to figure out how airports worked and the time difference was catching up to them. Aline didn’t regret it exactly but she’d decided firmly that she was never getting on an airplane willingly ever again. 

“Maybe if you weren’t so annoying.” Helen told Mark, who exclaimed in mock outrage. She shook her hair back from her face. “Now Aline and I are going to take a nap because it’s like three in the morning in Italy.” 

Mark wiggled his eyebrows. “A nap huh?”

Helen swatted him and he squawked. Aline felt her cheeks go bright red. “Yes, a nap. And if you even think about waking us up before dinner I’ll kill you.” 

Chapter Text

Ty had only had Kit back in his life for a month and he was already giving him problems. 

He knew Kit wasn’t doing anything wrong exactly, but the unfamiliar feelings that rose in Ty’s stomach when Kit was near made him want to scream in frustration. He wanted Kit to leave him alone, so he could settle back into the normal patterns that had made up his life for the past three years. And at the same time he never wanted Kit to leave ever again. The thought of him willingly departing for a second time made Ty’s chest feel like it was being constricted by iron bands. He couldn’t think straight, he couldn’t clear his head and figure out what the hell he was feeling when every cell in his body was hypersensitive to the way Kit moved and spoke. 

It isn’t uncomfortable, it's just unfamiliar. He reminded himself, running his hands over the rough material of his jeans to steady himself. But is it? That traitorous voice in his head whispered. Is it unfamiliar or have you just forgotten the way being around him is? Is it actually uncomfortable or are you just telling yourself that so you don’t have to face what’s staring you in the face? 

“Shut up.” He muttered. 

“Huh?” Kit asked. The window of the car was down, wind blowing his blond curls back over his forehead. Ty tried to ignore the way looking at his face directly was like looking into the sun. He focused on Kit’s hands instead, at his long fingers wrapped around the steering wheel, at the black mark of the voyance rune that Ty had put there back when touching Kit had been simply exhilarating and not like being struck with lightning. 

He jerked his gaze to the road in front of them. “Nothing.” 

He could feel Kit’s gaze glance off of him and resisted the urge to look back, focusing instead on the blurred neon lights on the strip. A faint song was playing over the radio, the words loud to Ty in the silence between him and Kit.

Bullshit you fucking miss me. 

Ty flicked the radio off harder than he meant to as Kit pulled into the parking lot behind a dilapidated building with a sagging roof. Ty shook his hands out, grateful to have a clear task he could focus on, relieving some of the tension that was running through him. They were on surveillance of the night club across the street, where several Downworlders had been mugged in front of in the weeks prior. It was only a matter of time before the culprit tried again and—since there was only one entrance—it was fairly easy to watch. Ty drew his stele from his weapons belt and deftly inked a far-sighted rune onto his forearm, relishing in the familiarity of the gesture. It was almost enough to make him forget his proximity to Kit, who’d unbuckled and was lounging back in his seat, fingers drumming slowly across his knees. 

His eyes were closed, his head lolling lazily to expose the line of his throat. Ty’s breath hitched in his chest, he stared despite himself at the shadows in Kit’s throat, the curling of his hair, the curve of his collarbone under the thin material of his t-shirt. It was in these moments of silence when Ty could feel still, calm creeping over him in a way he hadn’t felt in the time since Kit had left. Ty could almost forget.

His eyes travelled over the planes of Kit’s face, the gentle curve of his mouth. Something in him ached, a wanting for something immense and all consuming. It was like the desire to burn a house down and jump into the blaze. It was like staring at heavenly fire and wanting it to rip you into a million sparks. 

His eyes jerked up and met Kit’s.

In the split second before he looked away Ty thought that it was funny how you could see a color one day and have it become your favorite overnight, even if you didn’t see it again for years.

He hadn’t even realized how much he’d missed the clear blue, like water running over sapphires. The memory washed over him, a dingy basement, the hard press of a knife in his hand, blue eyes staring back at him a little scared and a lot angry. The pang of recognition that had gone through him, like he’d found something he hadn’t even known he was missing. 

Another memory too. The same blue eyes glaring at the stick littered ground in Brocelind Forest, not realizing that Ty was looking and seeing as if for the first time. 

Something twisted in Ty’s chest. “Did you lie to me?” The words were too loud in the quiet of the car, harsh and accusing sounding to his own ears.

He felt Kit straighten beside him and every cell in his body screamed at him to reach out, even as he forced his hands into fists and stared determinedly at the lights of the night club. 

“What do you mean?” Kit’s voice was low. The sound made Ty tilt his head back against the seat and close his eyes. 

I wish I’d never known you. He couldn’t bring himself to repeat it. “Did you mean it?” 

Kit seemed to understand and Ty wondered, not for the first time, how much of their past weighed on Kit’s mind too.

“I meant some of it.” Kit said haltingly. Ty could feel Kit’s gaze on him, knew that Kit wanted him to look, knew also that if he looked he didn’t know how he’d be able to look away. “I don’t know how to tell you the truth.” 

Ty’s heart stuttered. “Lie to me then.” He began to twirl his stele around and around, mirroring the spinning of his thoughts.

Kit’s breath hitched. “What?”

Ty opened his eyes then and looked at him. Really looked at him, at the hand that raked through his hair in frustration, at the fall of his curls against his forehead. “If you can’t tell me the truth, then lie.”

Kit’s mouth opened and closed, his face creasing with an expression Ty couldn’t decipher. The corner of his mouth tilted up suddenly and he took a deep breath, the way people did when they were getting ready to admit something. “Okay then, I don’t love you.”

The world seemed to stutter to a standstill. Ty’s hands opened and closed in his lap, like hearts trying to find a beat. Something in him felt like it was spinning out of control, hurtling towards the fire that he’d tried so hard to ignore. I love you Ty, I love you. Tears in the dark. The glimmer of Lake Lyn. The pounding of his own heart as Livvy disappeared for the second time, taking a chunk out of his heart as she left. Kit’s arm under his shoulder. Bile in his throat and vomit on the path in the dark. 

I love you Ty, I love you. 

Something in Ty cracked open, spilling into his veins in a rush he couldn’t and didn’t want to stop. Kit was worrying at his lip, thumb running over the skin in what was clearly supposed to be a self soothing gesture. Moved by something Ty couldn’t explain he reached over and grabbed Kit’s hand, halting its slow calming motions. The feeling of skin on skin was almost overwhelming, Kit’s palm was warm under his, his fingers curving automatically around the other boy’s. The roaring in Ty’s ears quieted, calmness descending over him.

The words rose in his throat and stuck. I love you Kit, I love you. As he opened his mouth to speak his gaze flickered to the doors of the night club. A werewolf lay on the ground dazed as a shadow darted down the street. Ty jerked his hand away from Kit’s, ignoring the pang the loss of contact sent through him.

Kit followed his gaze and swore softly. He turned back to Ty with a near frantic look on his face. He opened his mouth and closed it.

Ty reached for him and thought better of it, hand dropping forlornly between them. “I know.” He said finally, drawing a seraph blade from his belt. “We can talk later.” 

Kit nodded jerkily, running a hand distractedly through his hair again. He took a shaky breath, vulnerable looking in a way that made Ty’s heart contract. 

There would be time later. They’d already wasted so much, but maybe they could make up for it. 

Chapter Text

There is a river. Cold and deep, running over stones Alec cannot see. The water makes no sound. Some part of Alec knows that rivers are not like this. Rivers are supposed to be noisy, bubbling with life. He can’t remember how he knows that. 

There are people here too. Alec can hear them, even if he can’t see them. Their murmurs are coming from far away and he thinks he knows the language they’re speaking but he cannot remember. Somewhere at the horizon is his destination. He can feel the pull, a tug in his gut. He doesn’t know what awaits him and he doesn’t look up. He stares at the water. 

There’s something in his pocket. He pulls out the wallet, not knowing how he knows what it’s called, and opens it. A card with cramped black words next to a photo of someone with gray hair that he recognizes with a detached sort of jolt. Only a few of the words are legible. New York. Lightwood.  

Lightwood seems familiar. The image of a ring rises in front of him like a mirage, flames etched in a marching pattern around the band, the silver sparking in the light as he draws a bowstring back and lets an arrow fly loose. As soon as he tries to focus on the memory it disappears, melting into the fog that loops his ankles in white ropes.

Money flutters to the water, carried downstream by the eerily silent current. There’s a piece of paper with looping names and strings of numbers. A photograph of a man and two women in their early twenties crowded around a map, looking up at the photographer and laughing. Another photograph with the same three people, two of them looking much older and one looking exactly the same. Alec stares at the dark curtain of the woman’s hair and dismisses the vision of white fangs snapping at a baby. A photograph of the women in wedding dresses, the one who ages holding a piece of cake and laughing. 

The same four people in a collection of photographs, at various stages of their lives. A girl with bright red hair with her arms wrapped around a blond boy whose face makes Alec’s back twinge. A woman with long black hair at her wedding to a man with glasses and a wondering look on his face. Every face swims in front of Alec’s eyes, images of blood and laughing Christmases intermingling. 

Two children growing up as well. One with curling dark hair, with serious eyes that seem too old in a child’s face before becoming a laughing young man and smiling adult. A baby with dark blue skin, ram horns curling more and more dramatically from the sides of his head. A photo from the beach, gray shot through one man’s hair and the other with the face of a nineteen year old. It doesn’t make sense, this aging and not aging. Alec doesn’t understand the pain that goes through him then, the ache that he’s leaving people behind. 

The last photo is one of a black haired man with his head pillowed on his arm, rings glimmering on the slim brown fingers that curl in sleep. His hair is disheveled, mouth open in a snore. Something goes through Alec then, recognition and a deep unspeakable sorrow. 

He knows, though he doesn’t know how, that the man is someone he shouldn’t be leaving, knows it the way he knows his name is Alec. But try as he might he cannot remember the man’s name. He thinks it starts with a M but he cannot be sure. The man is important. Alec shakes his head in frustration, the mist wrapping around him tighter. Remembering is important but the tug of the horizon is stronger than the other side of the river. 

Another image (a memory?) shimmers in the mist. Blue magic twining from fingers, a hand clasping his own as he lies shivering and cold on a sheet of metal. Alec grasps for the vision desperately as it fades like a dream. He is so very tired. 

A wind takes the photos from his hand and flings them into the rushing of the river. Alec tries to cry out, finds that he cannot make a sound. He cannot hear the others anymore. 

He watches the images blur into the water and realizes he is crying. Why is he crying? He can’t remember. 

A laughing baby, gold and blue at a wedding, the man’s face again. I still remember the way you taste. The thought blooms suddenly in his head and is gone just as soon. That would be silly, he can’t remember anything. 

Alec begins to walk to the horizon, not knowing why his tears continue to fall.

-

Magnus has never felt immortality as sharply as when Tessa knocks on his door in the middle of the night. He’s lain on the couch for weeks, agony crushing his chest. Half the time he feels like he can’t breathe, numbness coming and going in waves. He can’t bring himself to fall into bed. Every time he wakes he feels the empty space beside him like a fresh stab wound, the tidal wave of grief roaring through the hollow shell he’s become. 

Tessa is crying, her eyes half wild with pain, and Magnus knows. They’d talked about it before, about how they would comfort each other when both of the people they loved most died within the same decade. Neither of them prepared for the idea of the same year. 

He catches her and holds her and she grabs onto him as tightly as she can, as if by holding onto him she can hold onto Jem and keep him from leaving. The sound that she makes is wretched and inhuman sounding, tearing its way out of the hollows of her soul.

He screams with her, nothing howling back except the wind outside.

Later when they lie on the couch she whispers, “I can’t do this again.” The ache in her voice is palpable and Magnus reaches for her.

He holds her hand, the darkness rising up behind his eyes in a threatening wave. “We will.” 

And they’re both crying, the enormity of the time in front of them as menacing as a gallows where you watch the ones you love hang from year after year, unable to follow by some stroke of chance. 

Not the first time, Magnus closes his eyes and envies the dead their ability to forget.