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Winning Them Back

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Alastair had been in his room for six days, leaving only for the washroom. His Mother brought his meals up, and at least she didn’t ask questions. Cordelia, on the other hand, had pressed him for two hours before he broke and told her everything. After that, she spent as much time as she could with him, even though he knew she wanted to be with her friends. He had been telling her to do just that, and finally she agreed to go to the institute with their mother.

He was a little worried about her telling the others things, but he had made her promise not to say anything, and he trusted her not to say anything too important, but he knew she would try to fix things, like she always did. He had told her that some things couldn’t be fixed, but that just seemed to make her more determined. So there he was, waiting for her to come back, feeling helpless, when someone knocked at the door. He ignored it, but when it happened again, he could hear his mother reprimanding him, so he went to the window to at least see who was there.

It was Ariadne Bridgestock, and that surprised him enough to open his window and ask her what she was doing here. He didn’t even know her that well. She moved closer and Alastair got a better look at her. She was dressed in gear, and she looked different than when he’d seen her before. Something in her seemed more confident, more at peace. When she looked up and smiled, he realized. She looked how he had felt at his sister’s engagement party, just before it all went wrong.

“I’ve come to talk to you,” she said. “May I come in?”

Alastair knew if his Mother found out, he would definitely be in for a scolding, but he shook his head anyway. “I’m, uh, busy.”

Ariadne nodded. “Okay.”

Relieved, Alastair managed a smile and turned away from the window, making his way to his desk. He had just sat down when he heard a noise behind him. Ariadne had climbed the wall to his window, and was heaving herself into his room. He stared, shocked, as she walked to the armchair opposite him, dusting herself off. “I am not that easy to get rid of, Alastair.”

When he finally managed to say something, it was not saying how rude that was, as he intended, but instead something that probably wasn’t necessary. “You’re in my room!”

She raised an eyebrow. “I really don’t think that will be a problem.”

Alastair exhaled slowly. “Why are you here, Ariadne?”

“To talk, as I said. I saw you at the party. You had dyed your hair. And then you left rather quickly.”

“I felt ill.”

“Alastair, if I tell you something, will you tell me what happened?”

“Not likely.”

“We shall see. Now, I also went to the party ready to be myself. The results weren't what I had hoped, but they certainly seemed better than yours. Several years ago, Anna Lightwood and I had an understanding. It was not long, but it was-” She paused. “It ended poorly. It was while Charles and I were engaged. She said- she said that I was- it ended poorly.”

Alastair nodded. “I assume that he told you about us during that time?”

“What?”

“We- he didn’t- he didn’t tell you?”

“I knew he didn’t love me, but- no. I didn’t know that you two were…”

What? He- wow. That’s- I’m so sorry Ariadne. I thought he had told you.”

“No. It’s okay though, I don’t really mind.”

“Still. I mean, not telling you, and then breaking off the engagement- That’s awful. I’m sorry he did that to you.”

Ariadne shrugged. “It’s fine. Anyway, at your sister’s engagement party, after I had recovered, I went to talk to Anna. I told her that I was still in love with her, and that I would woo her. She said that she doubted that, but I am determined.” Ariadne waited, expectantly. Probably for Alastair to respond.

“Ariadne, I- I don’t want to tell you what happened. I appreciate you trying to help, but after you told me that, I do not want you to hate me.”

She leaned forward. “As long as you didn’t murder someone, or anything like that, I promise I won’t hate you.”

She looked so earnest that Alastair couldn’t refuse her, not after her trusting him like that. So he told her. He told her what happened at the Shadowhunter Academy, and about Paris, and what transpired at Cordelia’s engagement party.

She didn’t look horrified, just nodded and said, “Well, I believe we can help each other.”

“I don’t understand. Help each other with what?”

“Anna and Thomas, of course. I will help you get on good terms with him again, and you can help me convince Anna.”

“Ariadne, I would love to help you with Anna, but what I did- it was unforgivable. I don’t want to talk to Thomas. I can’t bear to.”

“As I said to Anna, I am very stubborn. It seems I have another person to convince of something.”

Alastair dragged a hand down his face. “Look, I-”

“Like I said before, you dyed your hair back. Now, most people don’t understand the significance of that, but I do. Were you planning to tell anyone?”

“I don’t know. I suppose I was just going to see how things went.”

Ariadne nodded. “Who else knows?”

“Just Charles and my sister. What about you?”

“Anna. And now you. Okay, Thomas-”

“Can we please just focus on you and Anna?”

She frowned, but said, “Okay. Do you have any ideas?”

“You need to prove that you’re ready. To tell people. Anna won’t believe you’re sincere otherwise. If you aren’t ready, that’s okay. But Anna- she doesn’t want to hide.”

Ariadne lifted her chin. “I am ready. How would you suggest telling people? I am not going to give a speech at the next ball.”

Alastair smirked. “I got it. You won’t have to give any speeches. Ask her to dance. And then dance. In front of everyone. Would you like to tell your parents first?”

“By the angel, no. I would much rather tell them- or show them- in public. But yes, that is a brilliant idea. Thank you, Alastair.” Ariadne looked pleased for a moment, before her face fell. “What if she doesn’t want to dance, though?”

“Anna will understand. This is an important moment in your life and she’ll want to help, I’m sure. Probably.”

“Fine. The next ball is in a couple of days, for some unknown reason. Do mundanes throw as many balls as Shadowhunters seem to?”

“No idea. What do you need to be ready?”

She shrugged. “A nice dress, some confidence if you’ve any to spare.”

Alastair snorted. “Sorry, no.”

“Ah, well. Now can we meet the morning of the ball, to help me get ready?” Her eyes sparkled, and Alastair knew he was in for it.

“No. No, no, no. You want me to come with you.”

“Of course I do. I need the moral support. This is an important milestone in my life. You have to come.”

“No. Did you not hear me telling you that Thomas told me if I came near him again, he’d throw me into the Thames? I don’t know about you, but I would rather not be thrown into a river. I will not be going.”

“Alastair, please. I need your help. As you said, this is a very important milestone in my life.” Ariadne looked hopefully up at him. He glared back, but finally sighed, remembering when he had made Cordelia come with him when he had left Charles.

“Fine. I will come.” Ariadne grinned, then started to talk, but Alastair cut her off. “But I have some conditions.” She huffed, but gestured for him to continue.

“I will be in another room for the entire time except during your dance. I’m not going to interact with anyone, and do not expect me to talk to Thomas.”

“Hey, I never said anything about talking to Thomas!”

“You were thinking about it, though. I won’t, and that is final.” He paused. “And don’t talk to him, either! I don’t want you to meddle.” Alastair stood, offered her a winning smile that was actually kind of real, and opened the door. “Now, would you like tea? My Mother and sister will be here soon, I expect.”

Ariadne followed him downstairs to the drawing room and sat while Alastair made tea in silence. He hoped that the conversation was over, but after several minutes, Ariadne suddenly said, “I really think that if you tell Thomas-”

“Ariadne! I am not telling Thomas anything. At all.”

“Just hear me out. If I make progress with Anna, we can-”

“Ariadne. I don’t deserve Thomas. And that’s that. I said things that-”

“Alastair, love isn’t something you deserve. You don’t earn it. You love someone because you love them. Not for any reason. It's nothing to do with what you deserve. If we were going off of deserving, I wouldn’t deserve love. Nobody would. Love is love, Alastair.” She looked him dead in the eyes. “And you are loved.”

With that, she stood up and left the house, leaving him to wonder if that was true.