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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.

Chapter Text

The morning of the ball, Ariadne regretted promising Alastair she would meet up with him. At that moment, she wanted nothing more than to lay in her bed for the rest of her life. But he came, and her parents were out of the house, so she forced herself out of bed to open the door and lead him to her room.

She left the door open so no servants would say she was being improper- she probably was anyway, but she didn’t care- and immediately climbed back into her bed.

Alastair raised an eyebrow. She threw a pillow at him. With a sigh, he turned to her wardrobe and started going through her dresses, which she was certain was improper.

“I already chose my dress. It’s on the desk.” She gestured vaguely across the room and stuck her head under a pillow, but looked up when she suddenly felt a rush of cold.

Alastair had pulled the blankets off of her. “Up. You said you would do this, and I’m holding you to it. Now, I’m going to ask one of your servants to help you into your dress, and I doubt you want to be forcefully dragged out of your bed, which is what I will ask them to do.” With that, he turned and strode out of the room.

Ariadne didn’t know Alastair that well, but she knew him well enough to know that he would make good on that promise, so she climbed out of bed and stumbled to her desk, leaning over the dress. It was the one that she was wearing when she first met Anna, and Ariadne was hoping she would remember it.

When a servant came in, she was too lost in her thoughts to say anything, so she just stood there while she dressed her. A part of her felt bad for not talking, but most of her was going through all the ways that this ball could go wrong.

When she was dressed, Alastair came back in and studied her, before nodding in aprovement, although Ariadne doubted he knew anything about how she looked. She certainly wasn’t the best judge of men’s attractiveness. “The ball is in three hours. What else do you need?”

Ariadne just stared at him, trying to process his words. If she was like this talking to Anna, it would be a disaster- she could already barely speak around her.

And suddenly, she had an idea. “A script! I need to plan out exactly what I’m going to say to her. If I try to just say things, I will embarrass myself even more than normal. We need to make a script. And plan for all possible outcomes!”

Alastair arched an eyebrow. “You want us to create what you are going to say in every single possible scenario.”

“That is correct.”

“Absolutely not. I will help you plan out what you will say when you initially walk up to her. That is it. I’m not going to write out hundreds of responses to what she says.” He sat at the desk and started writing, Ariadne hovering at his shoulder and giving suggestions.

By the time they were finished, her parents were back and they needed to leave for the ball immediately. Which meant sprinting down the stairs to the carriage. Which meant that Ariadne’s hair was a mess by the time they were on their way to the institute.

As she tried to fix it, her parents made small talk with a clearly uncomfortable Alastair. By the time her hair looked presentable- which was not good enough for Anna, but she would have to make do- and her parents had run out of things to say, they had arrived.

Glad to be out of the carriage, her parents hurried out while Alastair leaned forward to her and whispered, “Ariadne, you can do this. Just go in and ask her to dance the first chance you get. Don’t think about it too much. Just do it.” He smiled, and it was probably fake and just meant to encourage her, but it helped her walk into the institute nonetheless.

Once in the ballroom, with a nod from Alastair, Ariadne walked across the room to where Anna was talking to Mathew and Thomas. She glanced back at Alastair, and he shook his head, eyes just a little panicked, and she decided not to say anything to Thomas, instead walking right to Anna.

She seemed unconcerned, like she hadn’t even noticed her. I can do this. I am ready. “Hello, Anna. Would you like to dance?”

Anna raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry?”

Ariadne knew for certain that she had heard her perfectly fine. “Would you like to dance?”

Anna laughed, and Ariadne thought she might die of embarrassment right there. “Ariadne, you don’t want to dance.”

“I do, Anna.” She was well aware of Matthew and Thomas watching her, but she tried to block them from her mind. She was going to dance with Anna. She could do this. “I am ready.”

Anna shook her head. “Ariadne- no, you aren’t. You’re just trying to prove to me that- no.”

Ariadne took a deep breath. She had not planned for this. Curse Alastair and his practicality. She decided to accept defeat and started to turn before pausing. She would do this with or without Anna. She was doing this.

On a whim, she turned around. “I understand. You do not want to dance with me. But can I ask if you know if there are any other girls here that would be willing to?”

Anna actually looked surprised, and after a moment said, “You’re serious about this.”

“I am.” Ariadne lifted her chin, ready for whatever happened next.

Anna studied her before saying, “I will dance with you.”

Her shock must have shown on her face, because Anna smirked slightly, then took her hand and led her onto the dance floor. She stopped on the edge that was fairly hidden, but Ariadne gave a small shake of her head and moved further, where they would be clearly seen by everyone, including her parents. With another surprised look, Anna started dancing with her.

Ariadne could hear the whispers and feel the stares without looking around, and she must have tensed, because Anna squeezed her hand and murmured, “Ariadne, just ignore them.”

They moved in silence for several moments before Anna spoke. “I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you that.”

“Sorry for what?”

A pause. Then, “I have a wonderful family. My parents were very supportive. I see now that you couldn’t have told yours. I am sorry for blaming you.”

Ariadne’s eyes widened. “Thank you. For the apology.”

Anna twirled her around, smiling, and Ariadne felt content. She was on her way to win back Anna.

Her parents might be horrified, and who knew what they would say when she talked to them, but for now, she was on the dance floor, and Anna Lightwood was holding her, and they were dancing, and the hardest part was over. So Ariadne leaned into her partner and danced.

Chapter Text

When Ariadne got off the dance floor, she went right to her parents with Anna beside her. Alastair followed from a distance, stopping just within earshot of them to catch the tail end of their conversation.

“It is not, Mother. I love women. I always have, and I do not want a man,” Ariadne was saying.

“Ariadne, this is ridiculous. We will discuss this at home.” Her Father moved away, shaking his head. Ariadne seemed disappointed and nervous, but she smiled when she saw Alastair nonetheless.

“You did amazing,” Alastair said. “How was it?”

“Terrifying. But it’s over, and I’m really glad I did it.” Her face fell. “Are you going to leave now?”

He glanced behind him. “In a moment. I need to do something first.”

Turning fully, he walked across the ballroom to a group of people. Sophie and Gideon Lightwood, Charlotte Fairchild, and Henry Branwell. Well, at least I only have to do this once. Taking a deep breath, he said, “I need to speak to the four of you. In private.” Exchanging curious glances, they all followed him to the library.

When they arrived, Alastair sat in a chair with a table in between him and the couches the adults sat in. After another deep breath, he started to talk.

He told them everything he had done at the Shadowhunter Academy, the rumors he had spread, and the things he said to their children and friends. He ended it all by saying, “I know that I did terrible things. But I wanted to tell you that I truly am sorry.”

He had been staring at his shoes the entire time, and didn’t look up until Charlotte said something.

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why did you say those things?”

Alastair opened and closed his mouth several times, looking down at his shoes again. That was not what he had expected. After a beat, he decided to tell them the truth.

He told them what people had said to him about Persians, at the Academy and elsewhere. He told them about his Father, and what he had always done to hide Cordelia from the truth. He even told them that he liked men, surprising himself.

About halfway through, he started crying, and he thanked the angel that he knew how to cry silently. He didn’t want to stop and think about what he was saying and what they would say when he was done. Words kept spilling out of his mouth, but he managed to stop himself before he said anything about Thomas. He hadn’t mentioned Charles either, to protect him.

After he had finished, he said, “I know that these things are no excuse for my actions. But that’s why I did it. I- thank you for listening.” He almost stood up and left, but he would rather know his punishment first.

After several long moments of silence, Gideon Lightwood was the first to speak. “Alastair, what you did was wrong, but, well, do you know how terrible I was when I was fifteen? You are right, and nothing can excuse these things, but I understand.”

“He’s right,” his wife said. “If I can forgive Gideon and Gabriel and Will, I can forgive you.”

“That’s true,” Henry Branwell mused. “They really were horrors.” He had been surprisingly attentive while Alastair was talking. Charles always said he never listened, but Alastair had always quite liked him. Which made everything he said so much worse.

Then Alastair registered what they had said. “Wait, what?”

Charlotte Fairchild leaned forward. “Alastair, Gideon’s right. You did what you thought was best in the situations you were in. It wasn’t right, and you need to work on it, but we forgive you.”

Alastair just stared. “What?

She smiled. “Of course, you cannot do this anymore.”

He nodded “Yes, I know. I mean, I wasn’t going to, I-”

“Any of it. I know you're trying, but don’t do this anymore. Don’t hurt yourself and others because of your pain. Please. It just makes it worse, I promise you.”

Alastair was baffled, but he managed to talk. “There is a persian poem,” he murmured. “I wanted so much to have a gleaming dagger, that each of my ribs became a dagger. I- I don’t know why I’m telling you this.” He put his head in his hands and started to cry again, before looking up and saying through his tears, “I hurt everyone around me. I am sorry I hurt you. But thank you for letting me apologize.”

Sophie Lightwood said, “I am glad you came to us. It is hard to carry that pain with you. You were very brave to talk to us.” She stood. “Come back to the ball. Enjoy yourself. Relax.”

“I will. I just- I need a moment.”

They all nodded and left the room, leaving Alastair in his thoughts.

Why did I tell them that? I don’t want them to pity me. I especially don’t want them to tell anyone. I don’t think they will, but it would only be fair, really. They seemed sincere, but I don’t even know them that well. Why did I do that? Why did I do that? He pressed his hands to his temples. Why did I do that?

Chapter Text

Ariadne didn’t see Alastair for the time she was there, so she spent most of her time with Anna preparing to talk to her parents. As knowledgeable as Anna was, Ariadne was quickly learning that she didn’t know much about talking to parents about this. Her family was very supportive, and Ariadne knew that that would not be the case for her.

Her predictions proved correct. They left quite early, and on the carriage ride home, they lectured her on the importance of family and children, and that hurt- Ariadne had always wanted children. They even brought up her adoption and how lucky she was, and she couldn’t resist saying that if they adopted her, why couldn’t she adopt another orphaned shadowhunter?

That did not go over well. Her Father started to shake and said, “I see you are determined to continue this.”

“Father, ‘This’ is me! I can’t just flip a switch a fall in love with a man!”

He glanced out the window as their house came into view. “Very well. Until you stop this, you are no longer welcome here.”

Ariadne gaped at him. “What?

“He is right.” Her mother clasped her hands together and lifted her chin. “We cannot allow you to be here any longer when you are acting like this.”

“You’re kicking me out of the house,” Ariadne said slowly.

Her Father opened the carriage door. “The two of us need to talk. We will be back in an hour. See that you are gone by then.” He gestured for her to leave, and she did, walking to the house as if in a trance.

Her mind was swimming, but she managed to make it to her room and pull out the carpet bag she used for long trips. This would be quite a long trip, after all. She had just started putting clothing in it- practical dress and gear- when a knock at the door startled her. Her parents, back to apologize? That didn’t seem too likely. So she opened the door to see Grace.

The two of them lived in the same house, but rarely spoke. Ariadne knew that Grace was avoiding her, so she didn’t push her. But here she was, standing in her doorway.

“I heard about what your parents did.” Grace’s voice was always clear and elegant, unlike her own. There I go, comparing myself to her yet again. “I am truly sorry. Do you need help?”

Ariadne considered the question. On the one hand, Grace was offering to help, which was quite nice of her and could be useful. But on the other hand, she knew Grace didn’t like her very much and this could be revenge. Can I be hurt worse than I already have?

“That would be nice, thank you.” She turned, going back to her wardrobe, Grace following her into the room.

“What do you need?”

“Mostly clothes, but also weapons and my stele.”

“Change into gear until you find a secure place. It will be easier to move around in.”

Ariadne glanced at her, slightly surprised, and went to her washroom to change.

When she came back, her dresses were folded neatly into the bag and her weapons were spread out on the desk. Grace was beside it, looking uncertain.

“I wasn’t sure what you would want.”

Ariadne smiled. “Thank you.” Grabbing a few of her favorite weapons, she tucked them into the bag and walked out of her room.

When she got to the doors, she turned to Grace. “Thank you for helping me pack.”

“Be safe. I’ll, uh, keep an eye on your parents, see what they do.” She hesitated, as if wanting to say more, but instead turned and left.

Ariadne walked out of the house and started making her way to the institute, where hopefully Alastair would still be- she didn’t think the ball was over yet, but it might be by the time she got there, so she stopped to draw a speed and endurance rune on herself before beginning to run.

The bag hit against her hips with every stride, but she kept running. Alastair was going to go home with his family, but she wasn’t sure when they would leave.

When she finally arrived at the institute, she didn’t bother checking the carriages to see if the Carstairs’ was still there, instead going right to the doors.

When she got to the ballroom, it was dark. No one there. Frowning, she turned around, walking through the hall and glancing into rooms. All empty. When she opened the door to the dining hall though, there were several families. She spotted Anna’s family, Thomas’ family, the Herondales, the Fairchilds, and, yes, the Carstairs. Ariadne exhaled in relief before realizing that Alastair wasn’t among them. Anna was, though, and that might be even better.

She then registered that everyone was staring at her. She must look like a mess- standing there in gear, carrying a bulging carpet bag, clearly having just cried, and panting like she had just sprinted to the institute. Which she had. Certainly she looked a lot different than when they last saw her.

“Um, hello.” She looked at Anna and made a split-second decision to not tell her. “Does anyone know where Alastair is?”

Matthew frowned at her. “Why?”

“I wish to speak with him.”

“What happened?” Anna looked worried, and for a moment, Ariadne considered just saying everything to them all. But she wanted to tell Alastair first, so she just shook her head.

“I don’t know,” Cordelia said. “He came with you, and we were going to find him when we left.” Alastair and Cordielia’s mother, Sona Carstairs, was watching her thoughtfully, unlike everyone else who just looked confused.

Charlotte Fairchild cleared her throat and said, “We last saw him in the library. It is possible he is still there.”

“Thank you,” Ariadne said gratefully as she left the room and hurried to the library.

Alastair was there, crying quietly. She dumped her bag on the floor and sat in a chair beside him.

“What happened? Are you okay?”

“Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I told them. Charlotte and Henry and Sophie and Gideon. I told them everything I did, and I apologized and then Charlotte- she asked why. So I told her that too, and now she’s going to tell everyone and this is just a mess. What do I do?” He finally looked up at her and registered her appearance. “By the angel Ariadne, are you okay?”

“Well, no. My parents- they kicked me out of the house, and I really don’t know what to do. I- I don’t know.” She sighed and opened her mouth to continue, but another voice stopped her.

“I’m so sorry to hear that, Ariadne.” Startled, she turned around to see Sona Carstairs coming into the library, Cordelia behind her.

“Mother. I- Ariadne- I am- I need to tell you something.” Alastair walked towards Sona and Ariadne’s eyes widened. Was he about to tell her?

“I- well, I am- I only-”

“Alastair. Take your time. You can do this.” Sona seemed amused, as if she knew what he was trying to say. But she couldn’t know, could she?

“I- I don’t- I never- I will-” Alastair exhaled slowly. “Mother, I love men.”

Sona just smiled. “Thank you, Alastair joon. I’m glad you decided to tell me.”

“You- you knew?”

“Of course I knew. I am not that oblivious. Now, Ariadne, are those your belongings?” She gestured to the bag she had dropped. Ariadne nodded slowly, confused.

“Excellent. Alastair, would you bring it, please?”

“Bring it where?” Ariadne was baffled. What is happening?

Sona blinked. “To our house, of course. You are welcome to stay for as long as you like.” She smiled warmly. “We are happy to have you, I promise.”

Ariadne gaped for a moment, before stammering out her thanks.

Sona just waved them off, and Cordelia, who Ariadne didn’t even know that well, came over and threw her arms around her, holding her tightly.

Ariadne hadn’t realized she needed a hug as much as she did until Cordelia embraced her. She leaned forward, grateful for comfort.

When Cordelia let go, Ariadne smiled at her. “Thank you. All of you. Thank you so much.”

Chapter Text

It was the middle of the night, and the day had been exhausting, but Thomas was still wide awake. He had given up on sleeping about an hour ago and he was now sitting at his desk, staring at nothing, trying to think.

His parents had told him what had happened at the ball, and Thomas was attempting to piece together his thoughts and feelings. The time he and Alastair had spent in Paris kept swirling through his head, making it hard to concentrate on anything else.

He looked down at his tattoo, thinking about what the compass meant to him and what Alastair meant to him. The two blended together sometimes. The emotions of them were so close that he occasionally wondered if he got the tattoo to represent Alastair. But why would he do that? It wasn’t as if he and Alastair were parabatai, or in love with each other, or-

By the Angel, am I in love with Alastair Carstairs?

It made sense, when he thought about it- how he felt around him, the betrayal when he realized what Alastair had done, the way he filled his mind, why he always felt confused around him.

I am in love with him. I’m in love with Alastair Carstairs. But he did these horrible things, and he wasn’t-

Wait. Alastair Carstairs was a boy. I’m in love with a boy? Thomas had never considered that he was like Anna or Matthew, but at that moment he didn’t really care that Alastair was a boy. He just cared that Alastair was Alastair.

Thomas shot to his feet and almost jumped out of the window, because he suddenly very desperately wanted to see Alastair. Then he remembered what Alastair had done and stopped.

Slowly, he put on his jacket, thinking about what his parents had said about the ball. We gave him a chance to explain himself. Well, if his parents could do that, then he could too.

So this time when Thomas approached the window, he did climb out of it, lowering himself to the ground and walking toward the Carstairs house.

He had almost reached the house when he realized several things. Alastair was probably asleep by now, he probably did not want to see Thomas, as the last time they had spoken, Thomas had threatened to throw him into the Thames, and, of course, who knew if Alastair would tell him why? Did he like Thomas? Maybe I should turn back.

But the memory of Paris kept him going. After all, Alastair wouldn’t have spent that time with him if he didn’t like him, right? Although, he very well might like Thomas without loving him. Did he even love men? Thomas took a deep breath. I will figure this out when I get there.

When Thomas did get to Alastair’s house, the ‘Alastair being asleep’ worry proved to not be a problem, as there was a light coming from one of the windows revealed Alastair sitting at a desk. He was in the same position Thomas had been in before he had left his house, and he wondered what Alastair was thinking about.

Thomas was just trying to figure out how to attract his attention without waking up everyone else in the house when Alastair noticed him.

After his face went through several confused expressions, Alastair opened his window and climbed out, landing lightly on the ground beside Thomas.

“What in Raziel’s name are you doing here?”

Thomas’ heart skipped a beat, and he realized suddenly that that always happened around Alastair. He just understood it now.

Alastair was still wearing his ball clothes and looked exhausted. Thomas remembered that it was the middle of the night and felt a little bad.

“Well? Have you come to throw me into the Thames? I haven’t come near you.”

Thomas cleared his throat. “My parents told me what happened at the ball.” Alastair’s face went through various rapid expressions again and Thomas hurried to add, “I don’t know everything. They didn’t tell me much. Just that you apologized and explained why you did it. And, well, I wanted to know.”

“And what makes you think I’d tell you?” Alastair sneered at him, and Thomas started to panic a little. He really did want to know why he did it, because he didn’t think he could forgive him until he understood. He might be in love with him, but he couldn’t just shrug off what he had done.

So Thomas looked down to stare directly into his eyes and said slowly, “Alastair, I know you want forgiveness, and this is your only chance to redeem yourself in my eyes. So start talking.”

The other boy gaped at him, and Thomas wondered if he was surprised that he had said that. He was surprised he had said that, and for a moment he was worried he had been too harsh and Alastair would just climb up to his window and never speak to him again.

But eventually, Alastair shook his head and sighed. Sitting on the stairs to the house, he gestured for Thomas to join him.

After a long moment, he said quietly, “Lightwood, nothing can excuse my actions.”

Thomas felt a twinge of pain- another thing he now understood. It happened whenever Alastair called him Lightwood. How did I not see I was in love with him before?

“No, nothing can. But I would like to understand. You cannot forgive someone if you don’t know the whole story.”

More silence. Thomas was now fairly certain that he had done something wrong- possibly he shouldn’t have come here at all. But then, Alastair started to talk.

“I’ve always been jealous of Matthew. That’s why I targeted him, specifically.” At Thomas’ confused look, he added, “I’ve always been made fun of for being Persian. That’s why I was so terrible at the Shadowhunter Academy. I learned quickly that if you bully others, no one bullies you. Matthew- He’s everything I’ve wanted to look like.” Alastair rested his head on his chin. “His family’s supportive of him, his father is wonderful, he used to not have a care in the world. Until, of course, I ruined it all. Now he’s just like my father. An alcoholic.”

Alastair gave a short, humorless bark of laughter. “I suppose that’s another reason I did all those things. My father’s a drunk, and I was always the one taking care of him. I lied to my sister. She never knew. She always thought he was ill.” Another laugh. “Cordelia discovered it, of course she did. I couldn’t hide it from her forever, although it is my fault she found out. And I can’t take it back. I wanted her to have the childhood I never did, but now she knows the truth. She’ll never look at him the same way again. I didn’t want her to know.”

He glanced at Thomas, then back away, staring at the streets. “I suppose I did the only thing I knew how to do at the academy- protected myself. By hurting others. That’s the way I saw the world back then. But you- you were bullied, just as I was. And you didn’t hurt others to protect yourself.” Alastair tapped his fingers against his legs. “You just- moved on.” He laughed a little, and this time it was more sad than bitter. “Well, it would be a little easier for you. You changed. But I can’t change.” Resting his head on his knees, he paused. Thomas didn’t say anything, for fear of Alastair getting upset and regretting saying everything.

“I saw what you did, how you moved on, and tried to do the same. I dyed my hair back, went to talk to you and your friends, and tried to apologize. And, well, you know how that went. So, I just- went back to what I did before. Hurting people.”

Alastair stood abruptly, and snapped, “I assume you will go tell all of this to your friends. I cannot stop you, but I will say this: none of you had better come here and-”

“Alastair!” Thomas leapt to his feet as well. “I will not breathe a word of this to my friends, unless you want me to. I will keep your secrets, I promise.”

The other boy looked stunned, then seemed to recover and sneered. “And why should I trust you? You threatened to throw me into the Thames. You-”

Alastair. You said you didn’t want to hurt people. Do not go back and do what you used to do.”

Shaking his head, Alastair said, “I cannot do anything else. It is not going to- I cannot.”

“Yes, you can. You can always do something else. Please, do not put your guard up. Please. I-” Thomas desperately wanted Alastair to go back to how he was a minute ago, not hard and angry. “I love you.”

Once he processed the words that had just come out of his mouth, he gasped, stumbling backward. Alastair looked like he had been punched- eyes wide, mouth moving soundlessly, horrified. Thomas couldn’t handle his expression, what he had just said, everything that had just happened. He couldn’t do it, couldn’t stay after having said that. Turning, he tried to run away from what he’d done, what he’d ruined, but a hand grabbed his wrist before he could leave.

Slowly, he turned around, not wanting to see the disgust in Alastair’s face, but when he finally met his eyes, Alastair just said, “Thomas, you dolt!” He called me Thomas “Do you really think I would tell you all of that if I wasn’t hopelessly in love with you?”

Thomas’ jaw dropped, and for a long moment they just stared at each other until Alastair, in a sudden violent movement, grabbed Thomas’ arm and pulled them both down so they fell on the stairs where they had been sitting what felt like hours ago.

Alastair, without taking his eyes off Thomas, moved up a stair so they were sitting eye-to-eye, and slowly curved his hands on the back of Thomas’ neck.

“Can I kiss you?” Alastair was whispering, as if trying not to scare Thomas away. Thomas had no intention of being scared away.

“Please do,” he whispered back, and Alastair did.

Chapter Text

Anna didn’t care that she was supposed to be mad at Ariadne. She didn’t care that she had told herself over and over that love was just suffering. All she cared about right now was the first and only person she had ever loved. And still loved. There, she admitted it. She was still in love with Ariadne Bridgestock. And whatever had had her so shaken up after the ball was going to stop- Anna was going to make sure of it.

Anna wasn’t stupid. Even if her parents had been accepting, she’d been with enough girls who’s parents hadn’t to know what had happened to Ariadne. Her parents finding out, her leaving the ball with them, coming back in easy to move around clothes and panting like she’d just run several miles, carrying a carpet bag, and not even trying to hide the fact that she left with the Carstairs- yeah, she had been kicked out of her house.

After considering going to the Bridgestock’s house and giving them a piece of her mind, Anna had decided that she could do that anytime, but Ariadne needed her now. So here she was, walking to The Carstairs’ house in the middle of the night, worrying about seeing a girl. She hadn’t worried like this since the first time she had met Ariadne for the first time. And after two years, she still made her feel the same way.

When she got to the Carstairs’ house, Anna heard footsteps and looked up. Through the third floor window, she could see Ariadne pacing. She was still in gear, her hair tumbling over her shoulders, and looking, as always, like the most beautiful girl Anna had ever seen.

After scaling the side of the building, Anna lightly tapped on the window, hoping no one else would hear. Ariadne turned immediately, eyes widening when she saw Anna. She hurried over and opened the window, hauling Anna into the room.

“Why are you here?” Ariadne was nervous. Why was she nervous?

“I am not stupid, Ariadne. I put it together. You were kicked out of your house, weren't you?”

She nodded, looking dazed. “But why are you here?”

“Because you needed me,” Anna said simply.

Ariadne looked away. “I see.”

Anna stood. “Would you like to go to Hell Ruelle and get terribly drunk?”

“Are you sure? That did not go well the last time we were there, what with the demon summoning and all.”

“What are you talking about? We had a wonderful time.” Anna grinned, hoping Ariadne would laugh.

She didn’t, just smiling a little before saying, “All right then, just let me change.”

Anna couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that Ariadne ducked into a bathroom to put on a dress, but when she came back into the room, every negative thought in Anna’s entire soul disappeared.

Ariadne was wearing a bronze dress, and, as she moved, it shimmered in the witchlight of the room, looking almost gold to Anna. Gold, the color of weddings. When she looked closer, she could see the stitching of swirls in the dress. Her hair was pinned up in a beautiful style, and Anna wondered how she had managed to twirl it that perfectly in five minutes, especially by herself. Her eyes, Anna realized, matched perfectly with the dress.

Eventually, Ariadne cleared her throat. “I had to bring some nice things with me. Shall we go?”

With a start, Anna realized she had been staring for Raziel knows how long. How did Ariadne always manage to do that to her? “Yes, yes, let’s.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Anna was not a lightweight. She could hold her alcohol better than anyone else he knew besides Matthew, who was constantly drinking. But when she woke up in her bed with a pounding headache, she had only vague memories of last night.

She knew that Ariadne was definitely with her when he fell asleep, and was definitely not with her right now.

With a groan, Anna stood up, taking in her surroundings. The clothes she had been wearing were scattered around her room. Ariadne’s were not, which meant that she had definitely left.

Falling back on her bed, Anna blew out air, disappointed. Then she immediately stood up, grabbing a shirt and trousers and pulling them on. She was Anna Lightwood, she had admitted that she was in love, and she was not letting that love go.

When she arrived at the Carstair’s house, she went right to Ariadne’s window, climbed up the house, and opened the window to haul herself inside without bothering to even knock.

Ariadne was in the same gown she wore last night, only significantly more wrinkled, and sitting on her bed. Crying.

When she saw Anna, she sniffled a bit and wiped at her eyes. “Hello Anna. I- I wanted to apologize.”

Sitting on the bed with the other girl, Anna couldn’t help but be a little harsh when she said, “For leaving?”

“What?” Ariadne looked up, surprised. “No, for going to Hell Ruelle with you and-” She broke off with a sigh. “I’m sorry I did that. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you, just as it wasn’t for me.”

“Ariadne, what are you talking about? Why did you leave? We’re safe at my flat, I promise.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just- I knew you wouldn’t want me to- I didn’t want to go through you telling me- I just wasn’t brave enough, I suppose. I couldn’t do it. But you are here now, so it is alright. You can go ahead.”

“Wait, what? What- Did you think I was going to kick you out?”

“Well, yes. You did say that love was the cause of suffering.”

“It is.” Anna took a deep breath. “But it’s also the cause of amazing things. Ariadne, you broke my heart.” Another breath. “But I never stopped loving you.”

Ariadne’s eyes widened. “I never stopped either,” she said in a quiet voice. “But- I don’t understand. Is this you asking if I- What are you saying?”

Instead of saying something, Anna leaned forward and kissed her as an answer.

It was much shorter than Anna would have preferred because Ariadne pulled back quickly. “You really want this? This is really happening? This isn’t going to be just what happens when we’re drunk? I- I don’t want to be with you for a week and then just- pretend nothing happened. I don’t think I can do that again.”

“I want this. I really do want this. I promise, I won’t let you go. I love you too much to do that.”

“But what about everything else? Anna, maybe- maybe this can’t happen. Maybe it won’t work.” She turned away, but Anna could see the tears beginning to fall from her eyes again. In that moment, all she wanted to do was pull her close and never let go.

She settled for taking Ariadne’s hands in her own and lifting them to her lips. “It might not work. But we can try, right? Will you try with me?”

“I would rather never have you than have to let go of you again.”

“Would you really? I know I told you I thought love was awful, and maybe it is. But it is also beautiful.”

Ariadne choked out a laugh. “It appears we have switched roles in this debate.”

“Well, you were quite convincing.” Anna smiled, then continued. “Ariadne, will you stay with me? Not for a week or two, not just when we’re drunk. I want to stay with you for as long as I can. Is that what you want?”

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

“Then stay. We’ll work out everything else together. All we need to do right now is stay with each other.”

“Okay.” Ariadne smiled, and Anna melted. She loved Ariadne, and Ariadne loved her, and this was happening. “Okay. Let’s stay together.”

Chapter Text

Cordelia was in the drawing room with Alastair, Thomas, Anna, and Ariadne. They weren't doing anything, just talking and laughing. Well, the others were. Cordelia wasn’t talking, opting to watch her brother instead. Alastair was holding hands with Thomas, leaning into him, and looking happier than Cordelia had seen her brother in a long, long time. Maybe forever.

Soon, she knew, their father would be home. Soon, Alastair wouldn’t be allowed to spend so much time with Thomas. Soon, everyone would have to protect Ariadne, who had decided to continue living with them instead of moving in with Anna, wanting to maintain at least a little bit of her reputation.

Her Mother had offered to support Alastair if he wanted to tell their father, but he had just shaken his head. Cordelia worried, because soon, things would go back to the way they were.

Well, maybe not completely. Now that Cordelia knew the truth about her father, she could help. She would make sure her brother didn’t do everything, didn’t suffer through it, didn’t retreat back into himself. She couldn’t fix it, but she could try. And maybe someday, they could tell the truth to everyone. But not yet. Soon, they would all have to lie again.

But that wasn’t right now. Because right now, her brother was happy, and he had friends, who were also happy, and everything was okay. Cordelia took in the sound of her brother’s laugh- his real, genuine laugh- and promised herself that this time, things would be different. Soon, Alastair would have to pretend again, but Cordelia was going to make sure that he stayed like this, if only in secret. He had always kept her safe, done everything for her, and now she was going to return the favor.

-------------------------------

The drawing room of the Carstairs’ house was full of laughter. When Cecily entered, she stopped at the doorway to just marvel at her daughter. She was laughing with her girlfriend and their friends, and Anna looked happier than she had seen her in a long time. The short time she had been with Ariadne, she had been in hiding, and these past years when she had been who she was, she had still been in denial about some of her feelings.

But now, now Anna was free. Her daughter was free, and she was happy. Cecily smiled and leaned against the door, not wanting to disturb the moment. Glancing around, she realized Cordelia was there too, leaning back on her hands and watching Alastair, looking like she was feeling exactly the same as Cecily.

She was glad that Anna had friends now. She had always had friends, of course- her cousins, her brother, whatever girl she was with that week- but this was different. This group was much more close-knit. Even Thomas, who had already been friends with Anna, now seemed outgoing around her.

After a moment, Anna noticed her and beamed, waving, so Cecily moved to sit on the floor beside her and smiled warmly at Ariadne. She wanted to make sure that she felt welcomed, which was partly why she was here.

“Hello, Ariadne. How are you?”

“Well, I was disowned by my parents, but I also managed to win Anna back, so I’m doing alright.”

“That’s good to hear. And know that you are always welcome in our family. We’re glad that you’ve been making our Anna happy.”

Ariadne’s smile filled her face. “I am?”

“Oh, yes. She was quite heartbro-”

“Mum! She doesn’t need to hear that!” Anna was blushing. Cecily hadn’t seen a girl do that to her since she got her first suit.

Grinning, Cecily started telling stories of her daughter to the others, who clearly enjoyed them. Anna was trying to be upset with her, but kept getting distracted by Ariadne’s joy, and soon she joined the others in their laughter, content with herself and who she was.