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the short understanding before a long engagement

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i.

“So what does the demon look like again?” Cecily twisted a coil of hair between two of her fingers. The black of her hair made her skin look very pale.

She frowned at the lack of response from her companion, letting the strand fall back into place on her shoulder. “Gabriel?” 

The man sitting across from her in the carriage jolted to attention, although since he’d been looking right at her the entire time Cecily couldn’t imagine how he might have missed her question. 

Gabriel dug through the pocket of his jacket as the carriage bumped along the cobbled streets. Through the window Cecily could see the throngs of London. She wondered if she’d ever get used to the city or if she’d constantly be aching for the peace and quiet of the Welsh hills. At least she’d never be bored long here. 

She turned her attention back to Gabriel as he cleared his throat and unfolded the piece of paper he’d had tucked in his jacket. He squinted down at the writing on the page. “Uhm. Appears to be made of smoke, has tentacles, and arrows shot at its head have no effect?” 

A wrinkle had appeared between his brows. Cecily took his moment of distraction to observe him without him observing her back. Her eyes traced the elegant planes of his face, drinking in the precise green of his eyes. He bit his lip as he read and she stared, somewhat dumbfounded, at his teeth pulling his skin taut.

This feeling was new. Ever since their kiss in the stables she’d become all too aware of Gabriel, his presence drawing her gaze like a particularly powerful magnet. He seemed endlessly fascinating to her now. Even if nothing had happened between them since—not even a simple acknowledgement of the kiss—Cecily had not been able to stop her sudden rush of longing to be near him. She found herself waiting for the press of his hand on hers—no matter the impropriety—reassuring her that her feelings were reciprocated.

She had made fun of Will for being a lovesick puppy over Tessa on enough occasions that mild horror crept into her at the thought of the teasing she would no doubt receive if her feelings for Gabriel were realized. How her brother had not noticed her infatuation yet was rather alarming considering that Cecily felt that she must be the most obvious person in the whole world. 

With a start she realized he was looking at her. She forced herself to meet his eyes. She would not look at his mouth. 

His gaze was expectant. “So what do you think?”

She stared at him. “What?” 

“The demon.” 

Oh. “I don’t know much about demons, you know that.” She shrugged in a way she hoped was dainty and also nonchalant. 

Gabriel frowned. “You know lots about demons.” His stubborn faith in her abilities made her feel a bit lightheaded. 

She grinned at him. “Not enough to identify them.” 

He sighed and tucked the paper back into his pocket. “I suppose if I have no idea then you probably won’t.” He leaned back against the seat, long legs stretched out but carefully angled so they wouldn’t touch Cecily. She wanted to scream. 

“Well the silent brothers will probably know.” 

Gabriel nodded and they lapsed into an uneasy silence, Cecily trying very hard not to notice how close they were in the cramped confines of the carriage. She fiddled with the edge of her glove, the white silk smooth and soothing. 

The carriage hit a particularly bad bump and bounced. Silent brother’s carriages were meant to travel light and fast and as a result Cecily was thrown a considerable distance across the space between the seats. 

She yelped and suddenly there were arms around her and she was gazing into the pair of eyes that had been hovering in her subconscious for weeks. She stiffened, her heart pounding hard. He was strong, she’d always known that of course, but there was something about being held in the circle of his arms, pressed against the hard muscles of his chest, that made him seem all the more solid. 

“Cecily.” He breathed, his voice hoarse. She didn’t move. She didn’t want to move. She would stay on his lap until he pushed her away. 

He didn’t seem to want to push her away. His hands were held carefully away from her even as his arms encircled her. Cecily wanted nothing more than to make him hold her, to press his hands against her so hard that he wouldn’t be able to pull them away. 

She shifted her weight forward slightly and moved her gloved hands up to rest against his collarbones. He inhaled sharply and, as if fighting a strong force, removed his arms from around her in order to grip her wrists tightly, pulling them away from him so that their hands hovered in the small space between their chests. 

Cecily felt her cheeks flush as Gabriel ran his fingers over hers, the fabric between them suddenly seemed like far too little and far too much all at once. 

Gabriel, apparently having a similar thought, began to draw off one of her gloves. Cecily’s breath hitched as the air hit her fingers. She couldn’t stop herself from grabbing for his sleeve as he pulled off the other one, the calluses on his fingers pressing into the sensitive skin of her wrist. She felt irrationally exposed all of a sudden. Her fingers tightened on the fabric of his coat. 

They were so close. Cecily shuddered to think what her mother would have thought if she’d seen her daughter in the lap of a man she did not even have a formal understanding with. Pricks of heat trickled through her from where their bodies were touching. Cecily thought she might actually die from sitting here with him touching her.

She focused on his hands, the long tapered fingers, the silvery scars that criss crossed here and there, the stark black rune on the back of his right hand, the spray of freckles over the pale skin. She shivered as he ran a finger thoughtfully over her knuckles before drawing her hand up to his mouth to kiss the inside of her wrist.

Cecily made a small noise in the back of her throat. Gabriel’s eyes were shining as he looked at her, the green seemed very dark in the dimness of the carriage.

Cecily’s head was spinning. “Gabriel.” 

“Yes?” His breath ghosted over the place where he’d kissed her and heat rushed through her. 

She took a deep breath. “If you do not kiss me right now I shall jump from this moving carriage.”

There was a pause, a pause in which her spinning head conjured up the idea that she could have read the situation entirely wrong, that he wanted nothing to do with her after all. 

And then he crushed her to him, his hands dropping hers to fist in the skirts at the back of her dress. She gasped as his mouth pressed against hers, felt the curve of his smile against her lips as her mouth opened under his. 

Cecily slid her hands under his jacket, fumbling at the buttons on his shirt, and then feeling the slide of his warm skin under her palms. She was rewarded by his sharp intake of breath as his own hands tightened around her, one sliding up to her neck, one thumb pressed against her jaw. 

She felt hot all over, millions of butterflies fluttering in her stomach as his hand that wasn’t tangled in her hair found the tie at the back of her dress. He didn’t untie it, just rested his hand there just above where the dress ended and her bare skin began. Cecily shivered.

It was warm and a little clumsy. Cecily felt a rush of satisfaction that she was the one who got to teach Gabriel how to kiss mingled with a rush of pure affection for him as his teeth scraped her bottom lip in what was most certainly an accident. She tangled her fingers in his brown hair, tugging his head back against the seat of the carriage, her fingers brushing the sharp line of his jaw. He groaned softly.

The carriage jerked to a sudden halt. Cecily gasped and jerked back, practically flying back to her seat across from where Gabriel was sitting. They were both breathing hard. His face was flushed, his hair tousled where she’d run her fingers through it. Cecily tried not to stare at his mouth and ended up staring at where his shirt had been unbuttoned. By her. He straightened up, hands flying to his buttons. Through her panic Cecily let herself feel a small amount of disappointment as his shirt began to hide his chest once again. 

Gabriel glanced up and froze, staring at her. “Shit.”

Cecily was too flustered to mind his swearing. “What?”

He gestured towards his own hair, mouth open slightly, and she realized he had pulled her hair from its careful updo so that it fell in tangles of black waves around her face. Cecily could see the glint of one of her hair pins on the floor by Gabriel’s boot. 

“Oh no. Oh no.” She muttered, trying desperately to flatten her hair. Her lips still felt heavy where he’d kissed them and she knew her face must be just as flushed as his was as he fumbled on the seat beside her, picking up her hat where she’d discarded it at the beginning of their journey. 

With a gentleness that contrasted starkly with the way he’d kissed her, he twisted her hair up onto the top of her head, stuffing it under her hat. As he drew away his fingers brushed her cheek, featherlight. Cecily ignored the way it made her heart flutter almost painfully as she yanked on her gloves, one after the other, trying not to think about her bare hands on his bare chest. She flushed even further as the carriage door was opened.

Cecily hadn’t known Jem long before he became Brother Zachariah, but she thought she could detect a hint of amusement in his usually expressionless face. Gabriel jumped down from the carriage before her and offered her his hand. Cecily kept a strong grip on her hat, willing it to stay on her head, as she grasped his fingers in hers. His hair was still rumpled adorably and she felt a rush of warmth go through her that lessened slightly when he dropped her hand, his own flexing slightly at his side. Brother Zachariah watched them silently. 

Gabriel cleared his throat. “Hullo Zachariah.” 

Hello Gabriel. Cecily. Brother Zachariah inclined his head slightly to them. Lovely day for a carriage ride I presume. 

Cecily forced herself not to glance at Gabriel as she answered, even as she fought the urge to giggle nervously. “As far as carriage rides go it was adequate.” 

Gabriel snorted. 

-

“Why won’t you look at me?” 

Cecily watched Gabriel stiffen and turn to her, meeting her gaze as if to disprove her point. She was sitting on the windowsill of the training room, kicking her booted feet against the wall. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Gabriel said, twirling the knife he was holding. Cecily watched his long fingers for a moment before fixing her attention on his face. 

One week since the carriage. One week since he’d had a conversation with her. One week since they’d even been together alone. She couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d been avoiding her, finding excuses to leave rooms when she entered, treating her with only careful politeness. He hadn’t been rude exactly, but Cecily had had a bubble of frustration rising inside her all week as every time she’d tried to meet his eyes over dinner he would become suddenly fixated on his fork. 

It didn’t help that the kiss in the carriage was hard to get off her mind. She felt vaguely embarrassed when she thought about it and equally embarrassed at how much she wanted to relive the experience. If Gabriel would only ever kiss her in carriages she would have to spend the rest of her life in one. Perhaps that was a desperate thought to have, but Cecily was feeling desperate. 

“Don’t try to play sly with me Lightwood. This is the first time I’ve managed to get you alone in a week and we haven’t spoken once beyond pleasantries besides.” Cecily could hear the hurt in her own voice and had the sudden horrible thought that maybe whatever she felt for Gabriel wasn’t reciprocated beyond surface level desire. “If you think I will continue to entertain illicit encounters with you only for you to ignore me afterwards—”

Gabriel spluttered. “Don’t ‘Lightwood’ me, Herondale.” 

She looked at him incredulously. “That’s all you have to say? Ugh!” She slid from the windowsill and stalked over to him until she was only a step away. He was taller than her, and she had to tilt her chin up to meet his eyes. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him, despite wanting to flee to a dark room and possibly burst into tears. Why did he have to be so aggravating? 

Gabriel was still fiddling with his knife absentmindedly but to his credit he didn’t look away from her. He opened his mouth, then closed it. Cecily couldn’t interpret the look in his eyes as he took a deep breath. 

“I apologize.” He said.

It was what she had wanted to hear and yet disappointment flooded through her. “For what?” 

He frowned, spinning the knife again. “F—for the carriage. I should not have lost my head like that and put you in such a compromising position.” He was very red now, splotches standing out at the tops of his cheekbones. 

Cecily couldn’t believe what she was hearing. That was what he was sorry for? Her disappointment turned into shame. Clearly Gabriel regretted everything that had ever happened between them. It had only been two kisses after all. She felt suddenly guilty for having imposed such strong expectations on him so quickly. Perhaps she had ruined it. 

She found she couldn’t meet his eyes anymore and trained her eyes to the warped floor boards beneath her feet. “You didn’t compromise me Gabriel.” She took a deep breath before raising her head again. “I shouldn’t have made assumptions about your intentions and for that I apologize.” 

“What? You didn’t—”

Cecily cut him off before he made her feel worse. “As long as we can still be friends I—”

He cut her off in turn, his voice rising. “By the Angel I don’t want to be your friend Cecy!”

She blinked. “Oh. Well if that’s all.” Her world felt like it was crashing down around her. How had she let her hopes get so high? She turned to go, blinking furiously. 

“Wait no, wait that’s not what I meant.” Gabriel sounded alarmed. He stepped into her path, reaching out as if to hold her but seemed to remember his manners, his hands swinging forlornly at his sides. The knife clattered to the ground. Cecily focused on the fidgeting of his hands, refusing to meet his eyes. If she looked him in the eyes she was certain she would cry.

Gabriel sighed. “I didn’t mean I don’t want you around me. I meant that I want you to be around me so much I don’t know if I could bear it if the only reason you tolerated me was because you considered me a friend.”

Cecily felt as if she’d touched a live wire. She looked him in the face now and saw that he was staring at the ceiling, blinking in distress as if the right words might be spelled with glowing ink on the dark rafters. A weight was lifting off her chest. “I don’t want you as a friend either.”

He looked down at her and she saw wild reckless hope bloom behind his eyes. He ran a hair through his hair in distraction. “Your brother’s going to kill me.” 

Cecily giggled then and grabbed his hand, squeezing it tightly, the warmth between their palms matching the warmth in her chest. “Well your brother will love me.” 

Gabriel actually looked concerned. “I’m serious, Will likes me well enough now I suppose, but to find out I have an understanding with his sister—”

“Do we?”

Gabriel paused and raised an eyebrow at her. “Do we what?”

“Have an understanding.”

He looked momentarily panicked until he looked down at their entwined hands. “I would hope so.” He murmured softly.

Cecily was so overwhelmed she leaned forward to kiss him. She was interrupted by the sound of footsteps outside the training room’s doorway. She and Gabriel sprang apart quickly. She went to stand awkwardly at the window as he bent down to pick up the knife from where it lay, spinning to face the targets. 

A second later Will threw open the door, strolling across the floor, light glinting off his dark hair. “Ah I was hoping to talk to you.” He said to Cecily, not acknowledging Gabriel. 

Cecily relaxed a bit. Will didn’t seem at all suspicious, only a tiny bit annoyed at Gabriel’s continued presence. 

Will cleared his throat. “Alone.” 

With a derisive snort Gabriel threw the knife at the target. It stuck a little to the left of center. Cecily suspected he’d been thrown off by Will’s sudden appearance. 

Will rolled his eyes, but there was no animosity in his tone as he said, “That means leave Lightworm.” 

Gabriel sighed and spun on his heel. When he reached the door he smiled at Cecily and gave a little wave. His smile made the corners of his eyes crinkle and Cecily found herself smiling back. She was ridiculously happy. 

“You shouldn’t call him Lightworm, you know.” She said to Will, turning to face him. “He had to kill his own father.” 

Will shrugged. “He’ll get used to it in a few years.” 

At her mutinous look he added hastily. “Of course I don’t really expect we’ll be around each other this often in a few years. I don’t see why we’d keep enduring each other’s company for so long.”

Cecily forced herself not to smile, feeling the memory of Gabriel’s fingers squeezing hers, warm and reassuring. “I suppose you’ll just be distant acquaintances at that point.”

Will nodded enthusiastically. “I can’t wait.” 

 

ii.

Gabriel watched Cecily as she spun, holding her sword out before her. Her body was tense in concentration, her muscles flexing smoothly under her gear. When she saw him her eyes brightened and she practically skipped over, her sword swinging at her side. Gabriel felt himself smiling almost against his will. 

“Ah good you’ve come to assist me.” She said, reaching up to throw her arms around his neck. 

He moved fast, grabbing her wrist and twisting her arm—not too hard—behind her back. She made a muffled noise of surprise as her sword clattered out of her hand. The bones of her wrists felt small under his palms, her skin hot against his. He blushed despite himself. 

“You shouldn’t let your guard down.” He murmured into her hair, the black strands barely brushing against his cheek and lips. Her hair smelled like jasmine and little wisps of it had come out of her braid and curled against the back of her neck. He stared at the pale skin there. It glimmered with the faint sheen of sweat under the witchlight. 

Cecily didn’t sound annoyed when she replied. “Is that so?” She shifted against him and he became very aware that their bodies were touching in several places. Of course he’d touched Cecily before, but it all still felt very new and delicate. Having her body parallel to his, pressing against his chest, arms, and hips, wasn’t doing much to help his nerves. 

He took a deep breath of her jasmine scented hair. “Absolutely, you can’t afford to be unprep—” 

He didn’t get to finish. She twisted back against him, hooking her ankle behind his. A second later the wind was knocked out of him as he lay flat on his back on the floor of the training room, blinking stars out of his eyes. A weight settled on his chest and Cecily came suddenly into focus, her blue eyes twinkling with laughter, one forearm laid over his throat. 

“Are you going to finish that thought?” Her voice was low, amusement coloring her tone. Her braid tickled his face. Every place she rested against him he felt as surely as if someone had just inked a tattoo on the skin there. She really was very close. 

Gabriel didn’t answer, just hooked his arms under her shoulders and pulled her down to kiss her. 

Cecily’s hands came down to rest on either side of his head as their mouths met, her fingers skimming over the sides of his face and through his hair. Her weight pressed down on him, heat blooming between their lips. His breath rushed out against her warm mouth as his lips parted under hers. 

He thought that he now understood why his father had been so worried about Gabriel being distracted by girls. He’d been drilled on how to act like a proper gentleman all his life, but with Cecily it was like all his propriety had never even existed. If he had to choose between his shadowhunting duties and the chance to kiss her a few more times before he died, he knew exactly which he would choose.

Thoughts of what his father would think of him vanished from his head as Cecily swiped her tongue across his bottom lip. His hands tightened on the rough material of her gear as his breath hitched. 

He’d seen her in gear before, but pressing his hands against the curve of her hips felt strangely more intimate when her legs weren’t covered by folds and folds of skirts. Heat rushed through him as she caught his lip between her teeth, not hard enough for it to hurt but hard enough for him to feel it. He groaned against her and she pulled away for a brief moment. 

His eyes fluttered open and he stared up at her. She was pink in the cheeks, her lips red and swollen. Her lashes looked very black in the dimness as she blinked down at him, her mouth curving into a smile, her hands tracing patterns across his chest absentmindedly. He had never been more aware of anyone touching him before. 

He opened his mouth to say something and she bent down to kiss him again, smothering the words before they left his throat. His fingers stroked up her back, feeling the graceful movement of her body as it curved above him. The thick material of their gear was becoming bothersome. 

Someone coughed in the doorway. 

Cecily sprang back from him in surprise. Gabriel allowed the smallest feeling of regret to pass through his mind as he felt her weight leave him. The regret was quickly interrupted by the flood of embarrassment that washed over him as he glanced toward the door and saw Tessa, who looked mildly scandalized. 

Cecily on her part looked almost completely calm. She smoothed her hair back from her face nonchalantly. Only the fidgeting she was doing with one of her feet indicated to Gabriel that she was embarrassed at all. He felt absurdly proud that he knew her well enough to notice that, even as his face went beet red and he stared at Tessa in horror and scrambled to his feet. 

Tessa, on her part, was only slightly pink. She stammered, “Uh, I was sent to tell you two that dinner’s soon.” 

Dear God what if she tells Will. Gabriel really would rather get poisoned by a demon. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Will, in fact he was beginning to like him more and more. He was simply not sure whether or not Will would ever like him

Cecily, upon realizing that Gabriel was struck speechless, answered Tessa. “Oh thank you! We’ll be right down.” 

Tessa nodded, she was smirking a little, though clearly trying to hide it. “See you in a bit then.” She turned to go. 

“Oh uh, Tessa?” Cecily asked. 

Tessa turned back warily. “Yes?”

Cecily bit her lip nervously. “No need to mention this to Will?”

Tessa hesitated for a small moment in which Gabriel began mentally preparing his own funeral. Then she shrugged and said, “I don’t see why I would.” 

Gabriel felt some of the tension ease out of him. He trusted Tessa as much as he felt a sort of kinship with her. They were both hopelessly and inexplicably in love with Herondales. 

He nodded at her gratefully and she smiled back, the smile lighting up her serious face. 

After she left he covered his face in his hands. “Well that was humiliating.” 

He peered through the gaps in his fingers at Cecily, who had a peculiar expression on her face. A second later she burst out laughing, gasps of merriment wracking her frame, and he found himself joining her. She looked up at him, gasping through her laughter and he grinned back. 

She went up on tiptoe, still smiling, and kissed his cheek. The brush of her lips made his stomach do a slow flip. 

“Shall we go to dinner then?”

 

iii.

Bright morning sunlight filtered through Gabriel’s bedroom window. He splashed frigid water over his face and neck, blinking droplets out of his lashes. He shivered. The institute was always cold in the morning and the fire in the grate had burned down to filmy ashes hours ago. 

He yawned, pulled on his trousers, and was about to shrug on his shirt when a knock sounded at his door.  

Gabriel frowned. He had been planning to go shopping in the city that day in preparation for Gideon’s upcoming wedding. Although, he’d thought Gideon would wait until after breakfast to come and get him. Gabriel loved his brother, but there was only so long you could live with an obnoxiously early person without being at least a little bit annoyed. 

He strode to the door and yanked it open, his shirt still in his hands. “It’s not eight o’clock yet.” He said without preamble.

“Well that’s a helpful observation.” Said a voice that most certainly did not belong to his brother. 

Gabriel froze, his fingers clenching on the fabric of his shirt. 

Cecily stood in the hallway, her slim hands folded in front of her. Sunlight slanted into the dark hallway from the open door, laying a bar of gold across the blue of her skirts. Dust motes floated in the air between them. 

He cleared his throat. “Hello.” It was even colder out in the hallway and he felt goosebumps rise on his bare arms from the rush of cold. 

“Hello.” She said in mock seriousness. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?” There was no uncertainty in her tone and he thought wryly that perhaps he should be more concerned that a lady expected him to let her into his private room without so much as a second thought. His father would be horrified. 

Gabriel violently pushed away thoughts of his father’s admonishment. He stepped aside to let her by and she swept past him in a rustle of skirts, sending the dust motes dancing. 

Cecily shivered. “Goodness it’s cold in here, no wonder you’re so grumpy all the time.” She turned to look at him, eyes amused. 

He frowned at her, though his heart wasn’t in it. “I am not grumpy all the time.” 

“Yes you are.”

“I’m not!”

She grinned at him and he found himself grinning back. Somewhere along in her teasing he had forgotten his morning tiredness. 

Her black hair was pinned carefully up, exposing the elegant curve of her neck. She had to tilt her head to look him in the eyes and the effect of her gaze through her lashes was almost intoxicating. There was a thin line of lace that bordered the neckline of her dress, brushing against the pale skin of her chest. Gabriel forced herself to look at her face, focusing on the curve of her mouth as she smiled teasingly at him. 

He suddenly became very aware that he still wasn’t wearing a shirt. He realized that maybe Cecily was making just as much of a conscious effort to look at his face as he was making to look at hers. He watched as her teeth made small crescents in the soft skin of her lip.

He shivered, not entirely from the cold and she took a step closer to him. He wondered if he was imagining the heat radiating off her body, thawing him down to where his bare feet rested on the cold stones of the floor. 

“Not with you.” He blurted.

Cecily furrowed her brow in confusion. “What?”

He took a deep breath. “I’m not grumpy with you.” 

Her face softened. “No, not with me.” She murmured. Her gaze wandered just a moment, slipping down to his chest and back up to his eyes. Gabriel watched her notice that he’d noticed and smirked at her. 

“Like what you see?”

She went pink, the color making her look like she’d stepped from the heart of a renaissance painting and into his bedroom. Gabriel’s heart gave an uneven beat and he reached for her as she reached for him. 

He pulled her against his chest, into the circle of his arms and the shirt he’d been holding thumped to the floor. She stretched up to wrap her arms around his neck, her fingers brushing the fine hair at the base of his skull. As she stood on tiptoe to kiss him the fabric of her dress rustled against his skin. 

Gabriel shut his eyes. Warmth poured through him, slow and tingling. Their bodies fit together comfortably, as if he’d grown into his height for the sole purpose of kissing her like this. Where their other kisses had had a level of franticness, this kiss was languid, unspooling a thread of tenderness inside Gabriel that he hadn’t realized he possessed. She sighed against his mouth and he pulled her closer, sliding his hand down the back of her dress until it rested against the small of her back. 

She gave his hair a gentle tug, and his mouth opened further under hers, slanting down a little more desperately. The room didn’t feel cold anymore. He didn’t remember they had left the door open until he heard someone shout in surprise.

Not again. Gabriel thought, even as he jerked away from Cecily, straightening up to glare at his brother. 

Gideon stood in the doorway, mouth open, face beet red, gaping at Gabriel and stubbornly avoiding Cecily’s eyes. Gabriel stared at him indignantly, aware that it was exactly what it looked like, and that it wasn’t really Gideon’s fault that he’d walked in. Gabriel had been expecting him until he’d gotten distracted by the warmth of Cecily’s skin. 

She was standing a step away from him, looking unruffled except for a faint flush in her cheeks. She stared at Gideon quizzically, looking from him to Gabriel as the two brothers each waited for the other to break the silence. 

Finally she sighed. “I’ll see you later.” She murmured softly to Gabriel and as she stepped past him she ran a single finger along the ridge of his stomach absently. The brief contact was like touching a hot brand. His muscles jumped and he flushed, not breaking eye contact with his brother, who had somehow managed to go even more red. 

As soon as she was gone Gideon crossed his arms over his chest, the muscles of his biceps straining against his jacket. “I can’t believe you.” 

Gabriel frowned at him and bent to pick up his shirt, shoving it over his head forcefully. “Huh?” 

Gideon threw up his hands. “Nope. No. I’m not having this conversation with you right now. We’ll talk about this later. Get your coat.” 

Gabriel snorted. He grabbed his coat from where it was slung forlornly over a chair and slid his arms into the sleeves. “I’d be happy never to talk about this again.” 

-

Gideon didn’t bring it up until they had sat down in the park for a break between browsing different shops for Sophie’s wedding gifts. Gabriel had let himself hope that his brother would never bring it up again. His hopes were dashed as Gideon leaned forward, examining the knuckles on his right hand, clearly deep in thought. 

Between them on the bench were several parcels. Gabriel had trailed after his brother all morning, giving what he’d thought had been mediocre advice at best. Gideon hadn’t seemed to mind though, clearly nervous at the prospect of getting something Sophie might not like. Gabriel had no idea what he was so worried about. It wasn’t as if Sophie was going to change her mind about marrying him if she didn’t like one of his gifts. 

Gabriel was much more worried about the small parcel he had tucked into his own coat pocket. Inside nestled a pair of ruby ear bobs that he’d picked out to match Cecily’s demon-sensing necklace. When he thought about giving them to her he felt a little sick. Almost as sick as he felt at the prospect of this awkward conversation with his brother. 

Gabriel waited impatiently. Might as well get it over with. Finally Gideon cleared his throat and said, “You know you have a duty as—as a gentleman.” 

Gabriel couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes. “Oh please, as if you don’t kiss Sophie every time the two of you are alone.” 

Gideon had the good grace to look embarrassed. “That’s different!” He exclaimed, casting an indignant look at Gabriel. “We’re engaged!” 

It suddenly occurred to Gabriel that his brother thought he might be taking advantage of Cecily. It was an absurd thought. “It’s not all that different.” He muttered, wishing he were anywhere else. 

“Really? Do you have a happy announcement to make? Because if not then it looks to me that you’re not only jeopardizing her reputation—which would never recover—but your own.” Gideon fixed him with a hard look. “Gabriel, after our father...you have to be careful.” 

Gabriel briefly imagined a scenario in which all of shadowhunter society knew that he and Cecily had shared exactly four kisses. He understood on a basic level where his brother was coming from, but he was too annoyed to cooperate. “I’d rather have a scandal of that sort than have the sort our father had.” At Gideon’s exasperated look he added hastily, “Plus her reputation is only damaged if other people found out and I left her because of it.” 

“And you wouldn’t do that?” 

“No!” It was unthinkable. It was out of the question. He wondered how his brother could know him so well and still not see that leaving Cecily was against everything that made up the pieces of his soul. 

He didn’t know how he could explain it to Gideon either. He opened his mouth and then shut it, scowling at the tree that rose from the dark earth in front of them, its bark damp and slimy looking. 

Gideon seemed somehow even more embarrassed but he plowed on relentlessly. “Are you sure? Because I don’t think you’re all too fond of the idea of Will hunting you down if you scorn his little sister‘s reputation.” 

Gabriel groaned and slid down in his seat, tilting his head to stare at the cloud scattered sky overhead. “Don’t remind me.” 

There was a brief silence in which Gabriel wished to sink into the wet ground and moulder gently away. He jumped as Gideon clapped a hand on his shoulder. 

“Alright then, I trust you.” His brother said, standing and tucking his parcels under his arm. Gabriel stared at him in surprise. 

“You do?” 

“Of course I do.”

Gabriel stood, his hand brushing against the package in his pocket. “Then why—”

Gideon smiled abashedly at him. “You didn’t expect me to not give you a hard time about being caught shirtless in your room with a girl did you?” 

Gabriel simply looked at him for a moment, then shook his head, smiling a little anyways. “I can’t stand you.” He felt a sort of relief that at least he didn’t have to hide his feelings for Cecily from his brother anymore. 

Gideon laughed. “Bullshit, you love me.” They began to walk towards where their carriage was parked, Gabriel feeling considerably lighter than he had on the way there. 

Before they reached the door Gideon paused and turned to him, a bemused look on his face. “Cecily Herondale huh?” The implication was clear in his voice. He must have guessed the depth of Gabriel’s lo—feelings. 

Gabriel nodded, his mind already racing back to the institute. Back to where Cecily was no doubt training again, beautiful and determined. He thought back to how she’d looked that morning, the golden sun falling across her face and dress, the way she’d closed her eyes and leaned into him like she trusted him more than anyone else in the world. 

When he responded his voice was softer with emotion than it had maybe ever been around his brother. “Cecily Herondale.” 

-

He should have taken his brother’s lecture on reputation more seriously. However, the second he and Gideon parted in the entryway of the institute he went to find Cecily, practically running. He slowed when he saw Bridget coming towards him along the hallway, balancing a tray in one hand.

“Have you seen Cecily?” He asked her, continuing to walk but turning towards her so that he could hear her answer. 

“In the library Mr. Lightwood.” Bridget’s Irish accent sounded as if she were trying not to laugh. 

Gabriel turned away from her bouncing red hair, walking a little faster. “Thank you!”

He heard her chuckle but barely registered it, his mind racing ahead of him. 

The library was very old, shelves of books stretching to the ceiling in muted colors. Runes were included subtlety in much of the decor, including the glass panes of the windows. Gabriel darted between the shelves, heading towards the back of the library, where he knew most of the reading tables were. It didn’t take him long to find Cecily.

She was standing with her back to him, bent over a book, the nape of her neck soft looking in the afternoon light. She was still wearing the blue dress she’d been wearing that morning. 

Before he lost his nerve Gabriel crossed the floor to her, picking her up and spinning her to face him, his hands fitted against the curve of her waist. She gasped in surprise as her feet left the ground, though she didn’t look at all surprised when she saw who was holding her. Her eyes lit up and she opened her mouth to say something. 

He slanted his mouth down across hers, swallowing another gasp. He stumbled forward, still holding her up, and set her down on one of the large tables that lined the far end of the library. Her knees bracketed his hips, the slight pressure making him pull her closer, hands on either side of her face, skin hot under his fingertips. Their mouths moved against each other in a rhythm only they knew, hot and wild and a little desperate.

She arched up into him, head tilting back, exposing the pale line of her throat. Moved by an instinct he couldn’t name, he dropped his head to press a lingering kiss to the sensitive skin where her jaw met her neck.

Her hands, which were splayed across his shoulder blades, clenched tightly at the material of his jacket. “Gabriel.”

“Yes?” He murmured into the place where he’d kissed her. She lolled her head back, blue eyes closed, lips slightly wet and parted. He moved farther down, trailing his lips lightly against her skin before pressing another shaky kiss to her collarbone. 

Cecily swore softly under her breath, hand coming up to grip the back of his neck tightly. Gabriel pulled back the slightest bit, inhaling the smell of jasmine and old books. He felt somewhat giddy, the places where she touched him opening cracks in his careful control. 

She grabbed the front of his shirt, blue eyes centimeters from his, dark with desire. “Kiss me.” 

He didn’t need to be told twice. He could feel her pulse hammering under his fingers, feel the press of her own fingers against his throat and the edge of the table where it bit into his upper thighs. He focused on Cecily’s mouth, on her lips moving on his, on the press of her thighs through her skirts against his hip bones. 

“Cecily I found it!”

Cold horror flooded through Gabriel and he pulled away from Cecily with a gasp for breath as Will’s voice echoed towards them from near the door of the library. 

Cecily jumped down from the table, eyes wide and round with panic. She snatched up the book she’d been reading from the floor and shoved Gabriel into one of the far aisles. She was bright red, her lips swollen, chest rising and falling as if she’d been running. Gabriel stared at her. He didn’t think he’d ever get tired of the way she looked after he kissed her, uncharacteristically flustered in a way that brought him both satisfaction and affection. His heart panged as she hurried back to where he’d found her while Will, oblivious, marched towards her from between the shelves. 

Gabriel sucked in a breath and ducked behind his shelf, creeping as quietly as he could towards where he knew he’d be able to make a break for the door. He could hear the murmur of Will and Cecily’s voices behind him, no doubt preoccupied by Will’s latest research on Demon Pox. Even though he knew there was very little chance Will would suspect him being there, Gabriel didn’t relax until he was slumped against the cool stone wall of the corridor outside. 

He blinked at the dim ceiling, still feeling the lingering memory of Cecily’s lips against his. Her face floated in his vision, flushed and breathless and happy. His heart contracted painfully. He closed his eyes as a revelation loomed in his mind, brought on by the feeling deep in his gut. He’d really done it now. 

He was in love with Cecily Herondale. 

Gabriel opened his eyes and tilted his head back so that it thumped against the stone wall. “Fuck.” He whispered to the shadows.

 

iv.

Cold champagne bubbled down Cecily’s throat. Her head felt light, her eyes roaming over the Christmas decorations without much interest. The ballroom was filled with music that drifted through the crowd, ladies and gentlemen in all their finery twirling with the tune.

The mirrors of the ballroom reflected the lights and finery back, making the room look twice as big as it was. Cecily watched Sophie and Gideon glide past, Sophie spinning under Gideon’s arm in a graceful twirl. Her dress was a deep green that matched the wreaths strung around the room. 

Cecily smiled a little to herself, content to be watching the merriment. She drained her flute of champagne and placed it gently on a small table already crowded with empty and half finished glasses. A man with dirty blond hair approached her for a dance and, with a cursory glance around the room, she accepted. 

The man—John?—led her to a place on the fringe of the dance floor, twirling her politely. Cecily found herself falling into easy step with him, her many years of dancing lessons finally paying off. 

“You live here don’t you?” He said, hair bobbing as they spun. 

Cecily tried to focus on him, smiling though she felt rather dizzy from the champagne. “Yes, although I’ve only been here a little over a year.” 

The man nodded. “Have the inhabitants treated you well?”

Unbidden, an image of Gabriel rose up in her mind, the way he had looked when he’d pushed her against the table in the library, his fingers gripping her with an urgency that she’d been happy to return. The way he’d picked her up with an ease that had made her stomach flip over. How after he’d gone and she’d stood there—not really listening to Will—she’d come to the startling realization that she would have let him do anything to her on that table. 

She blushed, hoping the man would attribute it to the exertion of dancing. “Yes, very well.” 

The man looked mildly surprised. “I wouldn’t have thought the Lightwood boys would be so pleasant after the whole business with their father.” His voice had taken on the edge of a sneer. 

Cecily stiffened, hoping the man didn’t notice. It was one thing to hear Will make jokes about Benedict Lightwood, Will had been part of the battle to defeat him. It was quite another to hear a perfect stranger speaking of Gideon and Gabriel in mocking tones. Cecily tried not to glower at her dance partner as hot anger rushed through her.

“They’re both good men.” She said as firmly as she could without sounding offended. 

The man scoffed, “The elder one maybe, the other one killed his own father.” He spun her again, Cecily almost stumbled.

She thought of the way she’d found Gabriel in the attic after his father had died. How wretched he’d looked asking her if he could be a good man. How the words of his father still haunted him even as he refused to let himself grieve him out of guilt. A pang of hatred went through her. Her voice sounded sharp even to her own ears. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

The man looked surprised. He opened his mouth to answer her but was saved by the song coming to an end. He released her quickly and she turned away from him sharply, blood pounding. 

She forced herself to seem unhurried as she made her way to the refreshments table. Her head still seemed very light from her previous glass of champagne but she found herself savagely wanting to forget the words of her former dancing partner. She snatched up a glass and downed it, wincing as it slid down her throat. 

“May I have this dance?” A familiar voice said at her shoulder. 

Cecily spun to see Gabriel, looking striking in black and white evening wear. She stared at his face, her mouth slightly open. His green eyes seemed very bright, the elegant twist of his mouth softer in the golden light of the ballroom. She swallowed, her thoughts wavering with the bubbles of champagne in her stomach.

Gabriel’s eyes softened even as his mouth curved in amusement. “Drunk already?”

She snapped back to herself. “No! I’m just...” She waved a hand at his suit. “You just look dashing is all.” 

He blushed, red flaring across the tops of his cheekbones. Cecily restrained herself from kissing his cheek and straightened up instead, dropping her empty glass back onto the table. “Are we going to dance or not?” 

He laughed softly, taking her gloved hand and leading her to the dance floor. A waltz had started up and Cecily blushed. The waltz was a newer dance, scandalous because it involved a lot of contact. Gabriel turned and pulled her close against him, his arm wrapping around her almost completely. She could feel the way his hips and legs moved as he stepped and felt her face grow hot. Her gloves suddenly seemed stifling as she watched the curve of his bare fingers against the silk, the Lightwood ring flashing silver under the lights. 

“You look beautiful.” He murmured, his breath ghosting across her hair. She focused on where the line of his throat met the collar of his shirt, on the distinctive smell that clung to him that had become comforting. 

“I already told you that you look handsome.” She smiled up at him. “Do you need to hear it again?”

“It wouldn’t hurt.” He smiled back, tilting his head down slightly to look at her and her heart beat unevenly with her longing. 

She felt suddenly overwhelmed. “The man I was dancing with before said something about you.”

He glanced around the room briefly before returning his attention to her. “You looked angry.” His tone was flat, not betraying any curiosity, but Cecily knew him better than that.

“It was about your father too.”  

Gabriel’s expression closed off like a gate slamming down over whatever place his emotions welled up from. His mouth flattened into a hard line and he looked away from her. “I know the sort of things they say about me Cecy, you shouldn’t let it concern you.” 

The sound of her pet name on his lips made her miss a step. Gabriel made up for it easily, pulling her closer so that she wouldn’t fall. He still wouldn’t make eye contact with her.

“Not letting it concern me is easier said than done.” She muttered. “Anything that concerns you concerns me.” 

He looked down at her then and smiled. It was a wistful smile, one that made her want to reach up on tiptoe and—she shook herself and squeezed his fingers in what she hoped was reassurance. He squeezed back and the room felt suddenly too loud and crowded. She wanted nothing more than to sneak out into one of the hallways.

She froze. The hallways

“Gabriel?” 

“Yes?” 

The waltz was coming to an end, their steps slowing in time to the music as they pressed against each other. 

“Do you want to catch a breather in the hallway?”

The green of his eyes darkened. “Do you have to ask?”

A moment later they were weaving their way towards a door that branched off from the ballroom, Gabriel winding expertly around clusters of people, Cecily’s hand clasped firmly in his as she trailed behind him trying not to run. 

The moment they entered the narrow passage the sounds of people faded to a dim noise in the background. Cecily felt a sting on the inside of her elbow and her eyesight adjusted to see Gabriel tucking his stele back into his pocket, a night vision rune now inked onto her skin. They moved farther away from the ballroom until she could barely hear the party, the cool of the air making her give an involuntary shiver. 

Gabriel turned to her, lips parting in expectation, and she kissed him. Their teeth bumped together, their mouths moving frantically. He pressed her against the wall hard and she felt the stones dig into her back as his hands gripped her waist, raising her until they were almost level. She locked her hands behind his neck and kicked the folds of her skirts out of the way, wrapping her legs tightly around his waist and pulling him closer. He groaned against her mouth and she felt desire unspool in the pit of her stomach. 

He kissed her so hard she tasted blood and she let out a gasp that he swallowed with the murmur of her name. Her hands were in his hair, raking against his scalp and his hands were moving underneath the hem of her dress. She sucked in a breath as the rough calluses on his palms pressed into the soft skin of her thighs. His fingers gripped her hard, hard enough to bruise and her head tilted back and struck the stone wall. 

He leaned forward to mouth along the line of her throat, stopping to suck at the skin at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. Cecily hummed under her breath and scratched her fingernails against his scalp lightly. She felt the curve of his mouth as he smiled against her neck, his breath gusting hot over her skin. 

“Gabriel.” She whispered and he lifted his head to look at her. She could feel his chest rising and falling hard and fast against her. His eyes were luminous in the dimness, his hands like hot brands against her thighs. She kissed him again, catching his bottom lip between her teeth. He groaned again and one of his hands moved up. Cecily’s eyes flew open and she gasped against his mouth, legs clenching around him involuntarily. “Gabriel—”

Witchlight flared. Cecily blinked against the bright white onslaught, hands frozen where they were tangled in Gabriel’s hair. He set her down gently, one hand over his blinking eyes. They scrambled away to a respectable distance, Cecily smoothing down the red skirts of her dress, her face burning. 

Her eyes adjusted to realize that Sophie was standing in the passageway, clearly on her way back to the ballroom. She didn’t seem as scandalized as Tessa and even Gideon had been. Cecily supposed that since Sophie had been a servant once she was more than used to seeing ladies and gentlemen in compromising positions. It didn’t stop her from gaping at the other woman in abject horror. 

“Didn’t think I’d find anyone down here.” Sophie said dryly. 

“Hello Sophie!” Cecily tried to say brightly, cringing at the way anyone would be able to hear the breathlessness in her voice. “We were just heading back as well!” She grabbed Gabriel’s hand and marched him back the way they’d come, absolutely refusing to acknowledge what they’d been doing. Her face burned, the imprint of Gabriel’s hands burning on her thighs. Gabriel cast a pleading look at Sophie, who shrugged and followed them. 

When they reached the door that opened onto the ballroom Cecily let Sophie pass them, light slanting across the floor as she ducked over the threshold before them. 

Gabriel held onto Cecily’s hand before she could follow Sophie, making her turn towards him. He reached up and tucked her hair back into place with a gentleness that made her heart ache. “You’re beautiful.” He murmured. 

Her breath caught. She stretched up to kiss him softly, smoothing down his rumpled hair as she did so. “So are you.” She whispered against his mouth, smiling as she felt him roll his eyes. 

His hands tugged her closer for a moment before releasing her. They stayed staring at each other for a long breath before he cleared his throat and said, “I should go back the other way and come in through another door.” When she opened her mouth to protest he shook his head and stepped back. “We can’t both go in looking like this.” 

She stared at the place where she’d bitten his lip and supposed he was right. She clapped her hand to her neck suddenly, realizing the mark he’d no doubt left there must be clearly visible. He saw her movement and smirked, his mouth tilting up at the corner in a way that made her want to kiss him again. She looked away hurriedly. “Goodnight.” 

She could hear the infuriating smile in his voice as he walked away. “Goodnight Cecily.” 

 

v.

Cecily was brushing out her hair before bed when the muffled knock sounded against the heavy wood of her bedroom door. Her eyebrows drew together in confusion, even as she set the hairbrush down and went to open the door. The thin material of her nightgown rustled smoothly against her legs. The latch of the doorknob creaked as she pulled, opening the door onto the black hallway. 

Gabriel stood there in what was clearly his night attire, loose pants and a loose white shirt that was so thin she could see the shadows of his defined muscles and the darker black of runes beneath it. His eyes raked her slowly, taking in the fact that she was wearing nothing but an almost transparent nightgown. Cecily shivered under his gaze and wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to preserve some modesty. 

“What’re you doing here?” She whispered, watching as he swallowed nervously.

“I couldn’t sleep.” He leaned against the doorframe, looking down at her from under tousled hair. “I wanted to see you.”

There was something so vulnerable and intimate in the statement that it made Cecily blush. She stepped back, suddenly making up her mind. This was Gabriel and she trusted him with herself absolutely. She couldn’t bring herself to care about the rules of society. Not when he was standing so close and there was so little separating them. 

“Come in then.” She said, still in hushed tones. “Close the door behind you.”

He moved swiftly but silently, careful not to let the door slam behind him. When he turned back to her they stood, arrested, not quite sure what to do. Cecily’s heart raced. This was already beyond all levels of acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable for him to come to her bedroom at night. It wasn’t acceptable for them to be standing there in just their nightclothes. It wasn’t acceptable for them to be looking at each other in this way, with barely contained desire shooting through both of them. 

And yet Cecily couldn’t bring herself to care. She stared at Gabriel, at the elegant planes of his face, the shadows in the hollows of his throat and exposed collarbones. She stared as the tip of his tongue wet his lips nervously and met his eyes. Her breath caught, his pupils were blown wide in the dimness, intensity burning in their depths. 

She sat down on the edge of the bed and cleared her throat. Gabriel took a few steps until he was standing in front of her and put his hands on her shoulders, thumbs brushing over the bare skin of her collarbones. She was eye level with the bottom of his rib cage, could see his chest rising and falling beneath his shirt. 

Her hands were shaking slightly as she raised them slowly, sliding them up under the hem of his shirt, rewarded by the sharp intake of breath above her. His skin was warm, sliding like silk under the palms of her hands. She could feel his scars and felt the sharp need to memorize them, to know his body as well as she knew her own. 

His hands tightened on her shoulders as her hands roamed over him and when she pressed her fingers to the lines of his hips he made a noise in the back of his throat. Cecily looked up at him. His eyes were trained on her, an expression on his face as if he were barely holding himself back. She tugged at the edge of his shirt, fingers sliding into his waistband. She didn’t know how long his restraint would hold out but she was getting impatient, every nerve in her body straining with aching desire. 

She met his eyes. “We have to be quiet.” 

Gabriel sucked in a breath. “You’re sure?” His quiet voice wavered on the question. 

She dug her fingers into the skin of his waist, the bones of his hips pressing back. “Yes.” 

His restraint snapped. In a sudden graceful movement he lifted her, practically throwing her farther towards the center of her bed. Her nightgown rode up around her knees and she spared it the briefest thought before Gabriel was over her, knees on either side of her hips. His mouth crashed down over hers and both of them were scrambling, fingers moving for every exposed piece of skin. Cecily yanked his shirt over his head, breathless as the smooth expanse of his chest became visible. She had only a moment to gape before he was kissing her again, lips moving hard and fast against her own. One of his hands tangled in her black hair while his other hand skimmed down her side and back up under the edge of her nightgown, calloused fingers brushing over the place where he’d left bruises at the ball. 

She shuddered, hands grasping at the edge of her nightgown, filled with the desperate urge to be closer to him. He drew back for a moment, staring as she sat up to draw the white fabric over her head. 

There was a beat, filled only with the harshness of their breathing. Cecily stared at Gabriel, who was gaping open mouthed at her. She felt heat rush to her cheeks. Her hair fell against the bare skin of her back and she reached up nervously to twist it over one shoulder, biting her lip as she watched Gabriel’s eyes darken. He reached up to touch her face, eyes finally flicking up to meet hers. She lurched forward to kiss him again and this time his hands pressed with more urgency, skimming down her sides, leaving her skin tingling under the path of his fingers. 

She gasped against his mouth and felt him smile against her as he shushed her. “Quiet, remember?” He mumbled, as he began to kiss his way down her neck, each press of lips making her eyelids flutter. Heat pooled in the bottom of her stomach.

She rocked her hips against his, mouth curving at the hiss of breath that escaped him. Her satisfaction was short lived as he kissed his way down her stomach, hands pressed against her inner thighs. She clapped a hand to her own mouth, muffling the sound that escaped her against her fingers. Her other hand fisted in the tangle of sheets as her eyes slipped closed. 

All she could feel was Gabriel, the weight of his body against hers as he leveraged himself above her while they kissed, the places where he pressed into her, hard and unyielding. His breathing was coming more ragged and she found herself gasping for breath too. He buried his face in the side of her neck with a groan, his hair tickling her cheek as her fingers clenched against his back, the muscles of his shoulders flexing under her hands. 

Eventually they collapsed together, panting. Cecily felt hot and breathless, sweat plastered her hair to her neck and she could see the curls of Gabriel’s hair sticking to his forehead as he rolled off of her. He was flushed, lips swollen and red. He looked absolutely ravished. 

He felt behind him for something, his muscles moving fluidly beneath his skin. He was so beautiful, slim and sparing in a way that made her thoughts spin dizzily when she looked at him.

He handed her discarded nightgown back to her. Exhaustion suddenly overtook her, making her eyes droop heavily. She yawned as she pulled the nightgown over her head, feeling the cool fabric glide against her skin. 

Gabriel leaned forward to kiss her gently. Cecily ran her thumb over the sharp edge of his jaw. “Stay.” She murmured. 

He seemed as if he was about to protest but his eyes were lidded with exhaustion. She kicked the heavy coverlet back and climbed under it. After a moment he followed, drawing her close so that her back was tucked against the hard muscles of his chest, her head tucked underneath his chin. His breath rustled her hair as his arm wrapped around her. He hadn’t put his shirt back on and Cecily sighed contentedly, twining their fingers together as she closed her eyes.

As his breathing slowed she let herself imagine what it would be like to fall asleep like that every night, in the warm circle of his arms. The idea filled her with warmth as her thoughts spiraled into blurry darkness.

-

A yell woke Cecily.

It took her a moment to realize that it was morning, yellow sunlight streaming through her window and onto the bed. She blinked sleep out of her eyes and tried to sit up.

She was prevented by the strong arm that was slung over her midsection. She froze, looking from Gabriel—who was stirring sleepily—to her brother, who was standing in the doorway staring wide eyed and horrified. 

Will met her eyes across the distance that separated them and Cecily felt steely determination settle in the pit of her stomach. She kicked Gabriel under the covers, making him grunt and roll over blinking irritably at her. 

Will still hadn’t moved. Cecily watched his eyes shift from her to Gabriel, the blue darkening to outrage. Gabriel sat up and stared at him for a moment before comprehending what he was seeing. He went as white as a sheet and jerked up and out of the bed, legs tangling in the coverlet so that he tripped onto the floor before straightening up hastily. His mouth opened and closed. He was no doubt realizing that there was absolutely no explanation that would prevent Will from killing him in the next few minutes. 

“I’m going to give you thirty seconds to explain yourself Lightwood.” Will said in a low deadly voice.

Cecily scrambled up, placing herself between Gabriel and her brother as Gabriel spluttered. “Stop it Will!”

Will stared at her incredulously. “What have you done Cecily?” 

She felt irrationally angry. “Why should I have to tell you?” 

“Because as far as I’m concerned he’s the bastard who just ruined you Cecy!” Will was shouting now and Cecily winced. “Unless you’re going to tell me that this isn’t what it looks like!”

Cecily drew herself up, she was shorter than her brother but she stared him directly in the eyes. She knew his anger came from a place of loyal brotherly protectiveness, but she didn’t know how to explain to him that Gabriel wasn’t a person he had to be mad at. “I’m not ruined.” She said, voice as unwavering as she could make it. “I’m only ruined if I don’t marry.”

She prayed that Gabriel had picked up on her meaning. She heard him suck in a breath and felt her nerves twist. It wasn’t the romantic proposal she had hoped for, but the thought of him rejecting her pierced her to the very core. If he did—no she would not dwell on it. 

She needn’t have worried. Gabriel coughed slightly and said, “That’s right, we’re engaged.” His voice shook slightly, though Cecily supposed Will couldn’t notice. Her heart soared. She felt suddenly impossibly light and hoped her joyful surprise wasn’t too obvious. 

Will looked from her to Gabriel and back again, the muscle in his jaw twitching. Cecily could sense Gabriel standing tense behind her and resisted the urge to reach back and squeeze his hand. 

Finally a twinkle appeared in Will’s eyes and Cecily relaxed. “Oh my god I’m never going to let you two forget this.” 

A horrible image flashed into Cecily’s head of a drunk Will at an Enclave party, joyfully recounting the time he’d walked into his little sister’s bedroom to find Gabriel Lightwood asleep. She groaned, even as she felt herself smiling. She felt Gabriel take her hand and tilted her chin to look up at him. He looked tired and sleep mussed but his eyes were bright with happiness as he looked back at her. 

“I suppose it goes without saying that if you hurt her I’ll actually have to kill you?” Will grinned at Gabriel and held out his hand for a handshake. 

Gabriel clasped his hand firmly, nodding stiffly as color flooded back into his cheeks. “I’d expect nothing less.” 

Cecily sighed in exasperation. “Don’t frighten him off any more Will!” 

Gabriel chuckled softly and squeezed her hand. Cecily still couldn’t believe it. She was engaged. 

Will’s eyes took on a look of grudging respect as he examined Gabriel. “Congratulations I suppose…” He trailed off and lit up suddenly. “This means I get to bother you at family reunions for the rest of our lives Lightwood.” 

Gabriel groaned and Cecily giggled, wondering at the enormity of the occasion. Anything seemed possible as she stared up at her fiancé, at the curve of his familiar mouth and the slightly arrogant tilt of his chin. Her fiancé. They wouldn’t get married right away of course, but the idea of spending the remainder of their engagement able to openly show affection was enough to make her giddy. She reached up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek as she thought, I love you. 

I love you.