Clary crept down the hallway of the abandoned building, her twin blades out and ready. She was hoping that she wouldn’t need to use them but if there was one thing that the last few months had drilled into her head, it was that she needed to be prepared for anything. The Shadowhunter life was not for the faint of heart.
“Honestly, Clary and I had this, Jace.” Izzy complained to her brother. Clary admired her attempt but ever since Lake Lyn Jace had been on every mission he could talk his way onto. When he couldn’t do that, he trained constantly. Clary and Isabelle had been planning on taking the mission on just the two of them, mostly for a chance to get out of the training room and work together for real.
If Alec had been in the Institute instead of Alicante at a mandatory meeting with members of the Clave and the Heads of other New England Institutes, he might have been able to hold his parabatai back. Without him, she and Izzy hadn’t stood a chance.
Although, maybe not even Alec could have forced Jace to stay behind on this one. Their relationship was shaky because of Jace’s insistence on keeping his death a secret from the one guy who it literally could not be hidden from. The lies grated on Alec and Clary couldn’t blame him.
“It’s a rogue warlock, Izzy. You need backup.” Jace insisted for the fifteenth time. His seraph blade was out and braced in front of him, ready to stab and slash. That was almost all he did anymore.
He needed time, she reminded herself. They had all been through a lot.
Although, if he could just let them in, the healing process would probably go a lot smoother… but who was she to say? Mostly she just tried to be there for him, forcing him into resting when she could and at least eating when he wouldn’t. Then she had to run interference between Jace and his siblings, which was a weird place to be stuck in.
“So you don’t trust Clary and I?” Izzy asked with clear frustration in her voice. “Wasn’t it you who argued with Alec that she was ready to be fully instated as a Shadowhunter way before he was ready to admit it?”
“Of course I trust Clary.” Jace answered with just as much frustration.
Clary winced. He had really walked into that one. Worse, he hadn’t even noticed it.
“Oh,” Isabelle said with a false note of cheer in her voice. Clary saw Jace’s shoulders tense and she knew he had realized what he’d implied. “So I’m the one you don’t trust.”
Jace stopped and turned to look at his sister. “You know I trust you, Izzy.”
“I wasn’t sure. I mean, you clearly don’t trust our brother, so maybe that means you don’t trust me either.” Izzy’s voice went a little colder as she defended Alec. It had been a point of contention for the entire month after Valentine’s death. After Jace’s death.
“Guys,” Clary tried to interject.
Jace rolled his eyes, “I trust Alec, he’s my parabatai.”
“Are you sure?” Izzy asked, “Because it really seems to me that you’ve forgotten what that word means.”
Clary opened her mouth and held out her hand in an attempt to ease the tempers that were rising. She was surprised Izzy was this annoyed at Jace but this had clearly been brewing for longer than just one tag along mission. Although, it wasn’t just one mission – Jace was up to about fifteen by now.
Any chance Clary had to diffuse the situation as gone in a flash. Jace surged up to loom over Izzy with his teeth practically bared, “How dare you?”
Izzy stood her ground, “How dare I? What was the last conversation you had with Alec? A real conversation, not just about the Institute? How long have you been avoiding being alone in a room with him?”
“Yesterday.” Jace countered, “We talked about Max.”
“Max! Great, our baby brother is such a deep topic of conversation.” Izzy laughed, “Tell me, parabatai, how’s Alec dealing with the Head of Institute’s workload? How are things with Magnus going now that they’re back together? Is Alec sad he can’t go on patrols and missions as much anymore? By the Angel, Jace, he worked through a migraine until he puked last week and you never even showed up!”
“I was training,” Jace grit out. That he didn’t have answers for Izzy’s questions was obvious. “If he needed help he could have asked me. He didn’t.”
Clary put her hand on Jace’s tense shoulder, “Guys, why don’t we pause this and…”
“He shouldn’t have to ask!” Izzy interrupted her. “You made an oath that you would have his back! And he didn’t ask you for help because you’ve been halfway to a spectacular freak out for a month now so everyone has been tiptoeing around you. He rearranges the schedules to give you whatever you want. He fields all the questions from the Clave about Lake Lyn. He’s tried a hundred times to get you to open up to him about what happened. When you actually sleep he sneaks food into your room hoping you’ll eat it if you wake up and it’s literally in your face. He’s holding up his end of the bargain, Jace. You aren’t.”
Jace reared back from her and Clary knew instantly that he was stung by the words. “Guys, seriously, let’s take a step back.” She tried again.
“Well I’m sorry I’m such a shit brother then,” Jace gave Izzy a smile that looked strained and sickly, not the arrogant confident vibe that he had clearly been going for.
“Jace, you’re - ”
Whatever Izzy had been starting to say, which judging by the flash of regret on her face was something reassuring about how Jace wasn’t a shit brother, got cut off by a burst of flame that Izzy and Clary saw coming at Jace’s back. Clary was out of the line of fire (literally) because of her position on the side of them. She grabbed Jace’s arm to yank him closer to her while Izzy ducked under the flames. The magic hit a wall behind them and left a blackened mark on the smoldering sheetrock.
“Mission, remember?” Clary couldn’t help it. She felt a sudden kinship with poor Alec. This was probably the kind of thing he had been dealing with for years.
Jace didn’t need any more of a reminder. Any trace of vulnerability on his face was gone. Instead, there was only the hardened resolve that he had been hiding behind for weeks now. He turned to face the warlock but there was no one there.
“By order of the Clave, show yourself.” He called out loudly.
The three of them formed a circle to cover their backs. Clary suddenly wished Alec was there because if the warlock was hiding somewhere not easily accessible then his arrows would have done a world of good.
“We don’t want to hurt you.” Izzy added. “We just need to talk to you about some mundanes that have shown up in hospitals talking about a warlock in this building attacking them.”
Four mundanes, to be precise. All of them homeless. They had clearly been using the old building as a place to stay for the night but the warlock apparently didn’t like to share. The reports weren’t actually mundanes straight up saying a warlock had attacked them. Instead they talked about getting hit with spells with enough confusion and hysteria that the hospital thought they were either concussed or high. It wasn’t until Luke had gone to interview the fourth victim that morning that he realized it was a warlock and he had called Izzy.
Which lead her and Izzy prepping for a mission and Jace busting in on it as soon as he got wind.
Honestly, before Luke called she had been planning on a night of sketching and maybe a face mask. What she was getting was a night of warlock hunting and running interference between Jace and Izzy.
“Really, we want to help!” Clary called out gamely. The sooner they got this warlock sorted, the sooner she could get Izzy and Jace back to separate corners of the Institute to cool down. If the warlock came in peacefully, she might be able to squeeze the face mask back in before she fell into bed.
Her hopes weren’t high but she clung to them.
The creak of a footstep caught their attention and Jace spun to face it. That left Clary and Izzy stumbling to get back into formation. Clary could see the frustration settling back on Izzy’s face.
“Show yourself, warlock.” Jace almost growled.
Aggressive wasn’t really the vibe Izzy and Clary had wanted to go in with. They were pretty sure the warlock wasn’t violent, just scared. Nobody had been seriously hurt and, to their knowledge, no one had been attacked unless they entered the warlock’s turf.
The voice was female and young sounding but of course with a warlock it was hard to tell.
“It’s okay, we just want to talk.” Clary called encouragingly. “If you’re afraid of the Clave, don’t be. The New York Institute isn’t like that anymore. If you want, we can contact the High Warlock of Brooklyn to advocate for you.”
“Shadowhunters are always like that!” Then there was a laugh that sounded just a bit too close to crazy to be comforting.
Izzy and Clary exchanged looks.
Would it help if Clary started gushing about how disgustingly cute Magnus and Alec were? Like, that had to score them some points. Their Head of Institute was practically married to the High Warlock of Brooklyn.
“Not always,” Izzy said as soothingly, “I promise, we aren’t here to hurt you. We just want to find out what’s going on.”
She tried to catch Izzy’s eye to mouth out the suggestion of contacting Magnus to her but Izzy looked distracted by Jace. When Clary refocused on her boyfriend, why was immediately obvious. He was breaking their protective formation to edge his way towards the warlock. “Jace!” Clary hissed.
“We’re not here to play games. Either surrender or be arrested.” Jace called with a voice as cold as ice. Apparently where she and Izzy saw progress Jace saw stalling.
“Get away from me!”
Jace did the opposite. Now that he was closer, he could clearly pinpoint the warlock’s location better. He lunged forward and instantly there was a flash of blinding white light that seared Clary’s eyes. She dropped down onto her knees, one of her blades falling from her grip as she smacked her hands over her eyes. She heard Jace and Izzy groaning, sounding like they were hurting just as much as she was.
For the first and probably only time, she felt a little empathy for the demons she blasted with her sunlight rune. She got it better now, she really did.
The room went almost eerily silent as their sounds of pain died down. Was the warlock still there? Probably not, or at least not in the room. The building was four rickety floors tall, which meant they would have to start searching again which might not be the best plan if Jace and Izzy had half the headache she did.
“Jace, you absolute idiot.” Izzy groaned in the usual voice she reserved for when her brothers were on her last nerve.
There was a low moan and then, “What?”
Apparently Jace’s headache was just as bad as hers. His voice sounded a little strange. Nothing crazy, but not the growl he had been using on the warlock. He had definitely been knocked down a few pegs. Or at least he had been for the moment. He was probably going to be angry as soon as the fog cleared.
Clary hesitantly pulled her hands down from her eyes and squinted a little. There was definitely some damage from the light, sort of like the spots that formed if you looked at something that was reflecting the sun for too long, except this was kind of like an all over haze. She blinked rapidly and grabbed her stele to run over her healing rune. Instantly, her vision started to clear and her headache eased. She looked up to Izzy and Jace so she could offer her stele to them if their heads were still a little too scrambled to get that far on their own.
And then she gasped.
That was not her Jace.
She stared at the teenager kneeling on the ground where she had last seen her boyfriend. His clothes were the same but his hair was lighter, there was no scruff on his face and there was still a lingering hint of baby fat clinging to his cheeks. His eyes were open and he was blinking rapidly like she had been just a minute before.
“Izzy?” Clary called softly. She hadn’t seen if Izzy was fixing her eyes or not yet and she couldn’t tear her own from the sight in front of her. Somehow, the warlock had turned back the clock on Jace, making him a teenager again.
She heard Izzy pulling her stele from her pocket just as Jace froze in his spot. He looked up and dismissed Clary instantly. Even through the fog of seared retinas, her hair was bright enough to give her away as not his dark-haired siblings.
“Izzy?” Jace asked a little desperately. “What’s going on?”
Izzy’s gasp was enough to let Clary know that she had finally looked at her brother.
“By the Angel, Jace.” Izzy crawled on her knees towards Jace and pulled his shirt up to activate his iratze.
Instantly, Jace stopped his frantic blinking and his eyes narrowed as he took Izzy in. “Who are you?” He asked suspiciously. He was a lot less intimidating like this and she had to stifle a giggle at the sight of him questioning Izzy.
Izzy raised an eyebrow at him, “I can’t look that different. Or old. If you say I look old Jace, I’ll gut you.”
Jace paled a little, “Izzy? How…?”
Clary slowly stumbled to her feet, feeling a little woozy but otherwise fine. “Maybe we should head back to the Institute? Regroup?” Or rather, regroup and figure out what exactly the warlock had done to Jace. And call Alec. Someone absolutely needed to call Alec and that someone was probably going to be Izzy. Clary didn’t envy her.
Izzy nodded and tugged on Jace’s arm until they were both more or less upright. “Clary is right, we need to get back to the Institute before we get into this.”
Clary and Izzy moved towards the door but Jace’s feet were firmly planted, “Wait!” He said worriedly, “Where’s Alec?”
The genuine concern in his voice made Clary turn and smile at him as sincerely as she could. “He didn’t come with us on this mission. We can call him though.”
That was apparently the wrong thing to say. Jace’s eyes widened then narrowed. He took a step back from her and pulled the hand Izzy still had on his shoulder so that she was forced to step back from Clary too. There was a knife in his hands that hadn’t been there before. “Who are you?” Jace asked with suspicion and distrust dripping from his young voice.
Izzy pushed down the hand holding the knife towards Clary. “Jace, how old are you?”
Jace didn’t take his wary eyes off Clary, “Sixteen.”
Jace at sweet sixteen was adorable. Undeniably lethal, of course, but seriously cute. Was it weird that Clary thought so? She was totally okay with their slight age difference on a regular day but all of a sudden she was the older one in this relationship and she wasn’t sure what was creepy.
“Okay, listen to me, you were twenty-three about ten minutes ago. A warlock we were tracking did this to you.” Izzy gave him the bare-bones of the situation. “I assume you feel like you just blinked and now you’re here with us…?” She waited for Jace to give her an incredulous nod. At least he was finally looking at Izzy and not glaring at Clary. “So I need you to trust me. This is Clary and we can one hundred percent trust her. Alec is fine, he’s just stuck in a meeting in Alicante.” She stepped back towards the door and this time Jace went with her easily enough. He was probably in shock and Clary could absolutely relate.
The three of them carefully but quickly crept out of the building.
The warlock had definitely won this round.