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did not ask for this life

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  The first intake of breath hurt - stung like ice, in a body that was newly warm. It seemed to tear at his chest and lungs, he felt he could not do it again, but his body dragged in another breath, and another, and yet another, strung along by the force of living. He got used to the pain.

  Cold. It was cold beneath him, around him. Jesse’s fingers found cool, smooth material above him, from ceiling to wall to floor with no seam. Glass, he thought, the glass coffin, and then his mind was seized with a burst of memory. The failed runing, the dying hours, Grace screaming and crying and cradling him in her arms, his mother with her wretched coffin…

  Jesse smashed through the coffin lid before he could quite orient himself, before he even knew what he was doing. There was a cry of alarm, a familiar girl’s voice, as he broke the glass with both hands, possession of unnatural strength, borne from the rush of being alive. Broken bits of glass pattered down on him, his closed eyes. Broken bits of glass tinkled faintly as they rained down around him, tumbled down his clothes.

  Cold air, cold, open air above him. It was dead silent. Jesse Blackthorn finally opened his eyes.

  Unused for years, his vision was blurry. One of the side effects of being dead - but he lay there for a minute, blinked, and the world sharpened around him, down to the fine jagged points of the broken glass above him. Through the shattered opening he could see the dark, ruined paneling of Chiswick House. Everything was washed in warm amber light. Candlelight.

  The reality of what had happened, the magic that had grasped by the scruff of his neck like a kitten and dragged him back into the land of the living, was beginning to sink in.

  “No,” he murmured, a breath so soft it never became sound.

  “Jesse,” a hesitant voice started, and fell silent immediately.

  Jesse would recognize that voice anywhere, had heard it giggle and laugh and read to him, cry over him as he died. He put both hands beneath the coffin lid, pushed it up and off to the side, incautiously; there was a tremendous crash, the lid shattering.

  Bits of glass beneath Jesse’s hands, when he made to sit up with muscles that had been preserved but unused, untouched, for years. Bits of glass biting into his palms - pain that had been so long forgotten it was foreign.

  Bits of glass, the shattered mess of his coffin lid, lying in shards across red sigils drawn around his coffin. Dozens of red wax candles with dark orange flames were placed around the room, casting strange shadows.

  Two girls were crouched at the edge of the room, one with her arm out as though to shield the other: Jesse’s sister, Grace, and Lucie Herondale. In the odd candlelight, Grace’s ice blond hair shone gold. Lucie, wearing a gear jacket over a pale blue dress, had her hands clasped to her chest - no, something clasped to her chest, glinting gold. At once Jesse knew it was the Blackthorn locket.

  Grace’s expression was tense, her gray eyes piercing, but Lucie’s eyes were more curious than wary. “Do you live, Jesse Blackthorn?” she asked, with all the solemnity and formality of a ritual being performed. Grace shifted as if to move, and Lucie gripped the back of her jacket, like a warning. “Speak.”

  Jesse’s throat worked around a sudden flurry of words for what seemed like a very long time. How did anyone respond to that?

  “What have you done?” he managed eventually.

  It was immediately apparent that no matter what answer the girls had expected, he had answered correctly. A relieved sigh escaped Lucie and she sat back on her heels, but Grace stood, trembling. She took a hesitant step towards him, still unwilling, wary, disbelieving, and said, in an odd, soft voice, “I have missed you so much.”

  “Grace - ” Jesse stood unsteadily, and Grace’s tense expression crumpled. She sobbed aloud and put a hand over her mouth, face streaming with tears, looking at him with desperate joy.

  He looked to Lucie, unsure, but she was looking between the two of them, wide-eyed, and the next second, Grace had run straight into his arms. They sank to the floor, kneeling in glass as though it hardly mattered, and perhaps it hardly did.

  Jesse had not seen his sister cry since the night he died.

  “Oh, Grace, Grace, Grace,” Jesse murmured, as Grace sobbed into his side. He put a hand on her blond head. The burned rune scar on the back of his hand gleamed up at him. “Grace, why did you bring me back?”

  She had been ten the last time he’d held her and he held her now, putting his arms around his little sister. She was in gear, black Shadowhunter gear stitched with red runes, her hair coiled and pinned neatly out of the way, looked powerful and capable and very young all at once. They were of similar age now, he realized - felt awkward, abruptly, with a mind that had aged while his body had not.

  He was not angry with Grace, could not be angry with her. Neither could he be angry - their eyes met across the room - with Lucie Herondale, who stood there with something of a guilty smile but her blue eyes shining, triumphant, elated, defiant.

  No, Jesse was not angry, only felt dread, horror at what they’d done, affection for the girl and the sister who loved him so much to bring him back, exasperation borne of having his wishes ignored, resignation, weariness at being made to live - underlined, beneath it all, a strange euphoria ( I am alive, alive, alive) - a writhing mass of emotion he could not pin down.

  “What have you done?” he said again, helplessly, and knew that they were all three of them bound, him and Lucie and Grace, in this unspeakable thing, a criminal act, of a life he did not ask for.