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it’s hard to love with a heart that’s hurting (but if you want to go out dancing i know a place)

Chapter Text

'Cause I can recall when I was the one in your seat
I still got the scars and they occasionally bleed

Anna woke to an arm draped over her side and had to fight the instinct to flinch away. She stared at the faded green canopy of her bed, taking a deep breath to steady herself. She was in her flat, which was a good thing. She couldn’t count the number of beds she’d woken up in with no memory of how she’d got there, the night before only a blurred memory of hands, silk dresses, and whisky burning down her throat. 

Yes, the fact that she was in her own bed was definitely a good thing. 

She turned to see who her companion was, the details of the last night coming into greater clarity. Anna had been at a mundane salon. There had been a charming piano player and a great deal of bourbon. She couldn’t recall much after that. 

The woman in the bed beside her was clearly a mundane, with blonde hair as thin as cornsilk tangled against the white of Anna’s pillows. 

For a long time Anna had stared at the various women beside her and willed herself to feel enraptured by the curve of their sleeping mouths and their peaceful countenance. Her mother had once told her that you knew you were in love with someone when you could watch them do nothing for hours with endless fascination. Because it’s them, because they’re the one who makes it fascinating. Her mother had said, earning a soppy look from her father that had made Anna wrinkle her nose at both of them. 

The words had stuck with her though, enough that she’d convinced herself she was in love by staring at the closed eyelids of a girl and simply wishing to feel something meaningful and permanent. Those flings always ended with the women more hurt than Anna had ever intended. 

She’d learned eventually, that you couldn’t force love, even when you felt so alone that you felt like you were drowning. So she didn’t entertain that sort of nonsense anymore. Better to fill the aching void in her chest with the press of skin on skin and a hot mouth against her own. Physical pleasure could make her forget and, if pleasure failed, there was always drinking and smoking herself into a haze. 

She deftly removed the blonde woman’s arm from around her waist. The light pouring through her window spoke of afternoon, laying golden bars across the scuffed floor of her bedroom. Her fingers itched, the itch spreading into her throat as she crossed the room to shrug on an emerald silk dressing gown. By the Angel she needed a cigar. 

Her lacquered cigar box was in the other room, perched on the mantelpiece. Anna plucked up a cigar and a match, about to take up her usual smoking spot at her window when a knock came at the door. 

Anna frowned. She wasn’t expecting anyone that day and Matthew never knocked, only let himself in with a swirl of brightly colored waistcoat. With a sigh she threw open the door.

When she recognized who it was Anna cursed her sleep addled brain. She could have had the foresight to put on actual clothes and not just a dressing gown. She could have at least brushed her hair. 

Ariadne Bridgestock stood in the hallway, looking composed as ever in rose pink silks. Anna tried to ignore the way a dark lock of her hair had escaped her chignon, curling softly against her cheek. She closed her hands into fists as they twitched almost of their own accord in an attempt to tuck the curl behind Ariadne’s ear. Her skin was buzzing, the blur of her hangover betraying her, making her body forget that Ariadne was not for flirting with. 

And besides, she shouldn’t even want to flirt. Ariadne was off limits. 

Off limits and very much standing in front of Anna’s door. 

Anna banished thoughts of unbrushed hair and assumed a practiced air of bored amusement. “What’re you doing here?” 

Ariadne’s thick eyebrows went up. “Good morning to you too.” Something about the tone of her voice made Anna think that she wasn’t fooled by the facade. “Or should I say good afternoon?” 

Anna swallowed, words sticking in her throat. She was hardly ever left speechless—a talent she prided herself on—and somehow even being around Ariadne was enough to make her grasp for the right words. It was even harder to think of what to say when Ariadne looked like that , appeared like an angel in silks in Anna’s hallway. 

She shouldn’t be comparing her to an angel. 

Anna glanced away, unable to look for even another moment, and realized that someone had left roses on her doorstep, complete with a card that had Harlot scrawled on it in red lipstick. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary but as Ariadne followed her gaze to the card Anna felt blood rush to her face. She never blushed, certainly not over something as trivial as a card from a jilted admirer. What was wrong with her? 

“That’s very rude!” Ariadne exclaimed, bending to snatch up the card. Indignation colored her voice and Anna felt a burst of fondness that she would be upset on her behalf before she quashed the sentiment viciously. 

“It happens.” She said casually and Ariadne paused, mouth working as she considered her words.

“That doesn’t make it not rude.” She said finally, ripping the card in two. “Anyways, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here on a social call.” 

Anna felt her heart give a traitorous jolt. “What?” 

Ariadne’s mouth quirked up at the corner. “You heard me.”

Everything seemed very bright all of a sudden. “I meant, why?” 

Ariadne’s tone was cheerful, not betraying a hint of her real emotions on the matter. “Because I have nothing better to do today and I’ve never been to your flat before.” 

Not many people in the Enclave had and Ariadne knew that. The fact that she was making an attempt to make their acquaintance seem casual filled Anna with mixed gratitude and frustration. Gratitude that Ariadne wasn’t going to push her. Frustration that anything between the two of them could ever even have the appearance of something casual. 

She swallowed, a reckless abandon she hadn’t felt in years coursing through her. “Yeah, okay.” She stepped aside in an invitation to enter, gesturing to the coffee table in front of the fireplace.

Ariadne looked mildly stunned; she really hadn’t expected Anna to agree. The thought that she had expected to be sent away filled Anna with an unspeakable regret. Ariadne seemed to recover her composure quickly however, stepping carefully over the threshold and into the room with a rustle of skirts. 

Anna set the cigar she’d been holding down on the mantelpiece before flinging herself into a chair, legs sprawling lazily in front of her. Her thoughts were racing, the words I will win you back echoing through her mind in frantic repetition. Why had she ever visited Ariadne when she was dying? Why couldn’t she have left her alone? 

And yet there was a part of her that was clamoring at her mind to shut up, to take what Ariadne was offering her, even if every part of her that she’d trained into thinking love was a weakness was recoiling. Something in her blood was pounding in time with the beginnings of a headache. Anna couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so self conscious around a woman, the urge to run her fingers through her tangled hair every few seconds was almost overwhelming and extremely irritating. 

Ariadne settled herself delicately on the settee, looking vaguely uncomfortable as she drew off her gloves. Her eyes moved around the room, taking in the assortment of daggers on one side table, the fading green wallpaper, the various crystal decanters half filled with assorted alcohol. Her gaze ended up on a woman’s brassiere that had been flung over a chair and she looked away quickly, biting her lip. Her discomfort at being in the flat twisted something inside Anna, the fundamental wrongness of Ariadne not belonging in Anna’s home.

Not that she wanted Ariadne to belong there. 

“So.” Anna said finally, unable to bear the silence any longer. “How are you?” She cursed the clumsiness of the question as it hung in the air between them. How are you? She might as well have been seventeen years old again. 

Ariadne brightened though, and all of Anna’s internal worries vanished. “Oh I’m actually doing much better! Sometimes my old wounds act up, but nothing serious.” She paused, clearly considering whatever she was about to say. “I don’t mind not being engaged to Charles anymore either.”

Anna’s breath caught. She’d known Ariadne hadn’t loved Charles, would never be able to love a man, and still the thought of her engagement had been an unique form of torture. Every time Charles had been able to dance with Ariadne at a ball, every time he’d pompously said the words my fiancée at an Enclave meeting, every time Anna had seen them together in public she’d died a little inside. To hear Ariadne speak of their cancelled engagement with relief was like a breath of fresh air after being locked in a cell for two excruciating years. 

Which probably wasn’t a normal feeling to have when you weren’t in love with someone anymore, but Anna dismissed that. 

She cleared her throat. “I don’t mind you not being engaged to him anymore either.” It came out much more flirtatiously than she’d hoped.

Ariadne dimpled adorably, forcing Anna to focus instead on her hands, the short oval fingernails on slim brown fingers, the black of her voyance rune curling over bare skin. 

On second thought, maybe her hands were just as distracting as her dimples. Anna jerked her gaze back to Ariadne’s face, sure that the look on her own was betraying her. 

Ariadne either didn’t notice Anna’s lack of composure or was pretending not to. She said, “You know Grace?” 

That got Anna’s attention. “Of course. What about her?” She had mixed feelings about Charles’s soon to be child bride. One was indignance on her friend Cordelia’s behalf, because Cordelia’s fiancé James was in love with Grace. Second was pity at the poor girl for being under Tatiana Blackthorn’s no doubt horrific care all her life only to escape it by entangling herself with Charles. Third, and probably the most shameful feeling of all, gratitude that it was Grace and not Ariadne that Charles had decided on marrying. 

Which, now that Anna thought about it, was an odd choice on Charles’s part. Ariadne was the daughter of the Inquisitor, a politically powerful person for Charles to attach himself to. Grace was beautiful, but she was also fifteen, and it was not as if Ariadne herself was unpleasant to look at. Grace, with no family or political weight to speak of, was an extremely odd choice since Anna was certain Charles did not love her. 

Ariadne leaned forward slightly with the look of someone enjoying imparting interesting gossip. “Well, as you know she’s been living with us, but it’s very odd. She does her level best not to interact with anyone and the few times I’ve tried she’s been most aloof.” She sighed. “I feel bad now actually, I’m sure she just doesn’t know how to talk to people given her upbringing. I should probably be more understanding.” 

Anna shrugged. “She could just be a bitch.”

“Anna!” Despite the supposed shock in her voice Anna could tell that Ariadne was trying not to smile. It was hard not to feel absurdly pleased. 

“What? And don’t tell me it’s improper, you know improper is my favorite adjective.”

Ariadne wrinkled her nose in mock disapproval. “I was going to say that it seems wrong to make fun of someone so young. It’s like making fun of Lucie.”

“You’re absolutely right. Let’s make fun of Charles then, shall we?” 

That earned a golden smile that made Anna smile back. “I have no objection to making fun of him.” 

Anna spread her arms in mockery of someone about to give a speech. “Anyone with the middle name Buford deserves it.” 

Ariadne laughed, a sound that sent butterflies fluttering wildly around Anna’s stomach against her will. She couldn’t help but stare at the woman sitting across from her, the completely unselfconscious laugh reverberating through her bones. She was so beautiful, resplendent in the afternoon light, sitting in Anna’s living room as if she’d been there a million times before. Somewhere in their conversation the awkwardness had melted away, leaving Anna feeling quiet in a way she hadn’t in a long time. 

Their eyes met and Anna forgot how to breathe. Suddenly she was thrust back into the dim hours of the dawn, staring into the dark pools of Ariadne’s eyes like her life depended on it, the sheets wrapping them the only protection from the world they were going to get. Her heartbeat increased. 

Someone cleared their throat behind her. 

No. No, not now. Please not now. 

Anna watched Ariadne’s eyes flick past her, expression going perfectly blank and indifferent, whatever familiarity they’d created between them gone as quick as it’d come. Cold horror spilled through Anna’s veins as she turned and stared at the blonde woman who had just emerged from her bedroom. 

She was a lot shorter than Anna had initially thought, with narrow shoulders under the dressing gown she’d clearly borrowed from Anna. Her sleepy eyes gave Ariadne a lazy once over before she snatched up the brassiere on the chair and disappeared back into the bedroom with a shrug. 

Anna turned back to Ariadne, fumbling for words. “I’m sorry about that. I—”

Ariadne stood up hurriedly, smoothing the front of her skirts. “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had a guest.” 

Anna felt the tension between them like a pinch in her chest. “She’s not a guest.” The blank look on Ariadne’s face sent panic washing through her. “Well I suppose she is, but she’ll be gone soon.” She realized that she’d stood up without noticing. Her hand was outstretched as if she could keep Ariadne from leaving and she let it fall back to her side. 

Ariadne opened her mouth, then closed it with a snap. “I can leave.” 

“No!” She couldn’t leave. Anna schooled herself to calmness. “I’m not about to ruin the first real conversation I’ve had with you in years because of someone whose name I can’t remember.” 

If she’d thought it was the right thing to say, it wasn’t. Ariadne’s mouth flattened to a hard line. “You can’t even remember her name?” 

Anna paused, arrested. It had never really seemed like a problem to her before. Plus, she was sure the blonde woman didn’t remember her name either. “Uh—”

Ariadne turned towards the door. “Forget it.” 

“Wait!” Anna had taken several steps before she even registered them, her hand closing on Ariadne’s shoulder. For a second all her brain could register was that the silk of Ariadne’s dress was warm from the heat of her skin, that a strand of black hair curled softly against the side of her neck, that she still smelled like orange blossoms after all these years. Anna whipped her hand back, meeting Ariadne’s dark eyes levelly as she turned towards her incredulously. “Don’t go.” She whispered, backing towards the bedroom. “I’ll sort this out just—please don’t go.” 

The blonde woman was fully dressed when Anna came in, brushing out her hair in front of the mirror. She looked up and gave a crooked smile. She really was quite pretty. At another time Anna might have considered letting her stay another night but at the moment all she could think of was Ariadne waiting in the other room. Or perhaps she wasn’t waiting. Maybe she had decided to leave anyway. 

“Don’t worry.” The woman said, beginning to pin her hair up. “I’ll be gone soon. I have no desire to interrupt a lovers quarrel.” 

Anna spluttered. “We’re not—” 

The woman gave her a pitying look in the mirror that made Anna flush in embarrassment. The fact that a perfect stranger had been able to see whatever was between them—however complicated—was humiliating. 

“What’s your name?” She asked instead, desperate to change the topic of conversation. Something about Ariadne’s voice when she’d said You can’t even remember her name? had left her feeling surprisingly ashamed. Which was silly, because Ariadne had no experience in the matter and Anna shouldn’t even be worried about what she thought. 

Although she had the sinking feeling that she would always care what Ariadne thought. 

The woman stood up and pulled on her gloves. “Marion.” 

Anna ran a distracted hand through her hair. “I’m Anna.” 

Marion gave her the same crooked smile as she walked to the door, her heels clipping the hardwood. “Well then, thank you for making my night enjoyable Anna.” 

And then she was gone, the door closing behind her with a click. Anna heard the murmur of her voice and the sound of Ariadne’s voice answering. She waited for the telltale sound of the front door closing before she went back into the drawing room, pausing in front of the mirror to flatten her cowlick. 

Ariadne was still standing where Anna had left her, one finger tapping absently against one of her wrists. Anna could see the tension running through her, could feel it in the air between them like one of her brother’s bombs about to go off. She stopped a few feet away and waited, waited for whatever Ariadne was working up the nerve to say. 

When Ariadne raised her head and met Anna’s eyes steadily Anna told herself she could bear whatever it was that came next. 

“I don’t know why I’m here.” Ariadne said simply. 

Anna didn’t know what she’d been expecting, but it hadn’t been that. Hadn’t Ariadne said she was going to win her back? Wasn’t that what she was there to do? Had Anna wrongly assumed Ariadne’s intentions for the thousandth time? 

She stared, not bothering to hide her own confusion. “I thought you were here to apologize.” 

Ariadne’s expression froze over. “Right, because I’m the only one who needs to apologize.” Sarcasm dripped from the ice of her voice, along with an undercurrent of hurt that Anna desperately wanted to make better even as anger rose up inside her. 

She crossed her arms over her chest, heart pounding. “Why are you here then?” 

Ariadne blinked at her, the same awful expression on her face that made Anna’s chest ache. “Because I thought—”

Anna didn’t let her finish, couldn’t let Ariadne imply what she was about to. “Well you thought wrong.” 

“Then you shouldn’t have begged me to stay!” She was yelling now, her voice echoing off the thin walls of the apartment. “What was I supposed to think?” 

Please don’t die. Words spoken in the oppressive dark of the infirmary, a plea to gods she didn’t believe in to not take Ariadne away, not when she was already so far from her. Anna felt tears press against the back of her throat and eyes. She didn’t usually cry when she argued, but now it was an effort not to. 

“I should have known better than to ask you to stay.” She snapped. “You’ve never been very good at it.” 

She knew immediately she’d gone too far. Ariadne’s expression shuttered shut and Anna felt something twist violently inside of her. Good. Part of her thought. Better that she hates you. 

When Ariadne spoke again her voice was trembling with barely contained rage. “Not all of us have the luxury of wallowing in self pity.” 

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Anna felt as if she were watching the scene from a distance, a humming layer of hurt blurring everything around the edges.

Ariadne met her gaze with glittering eyes. “I mean that you have everything in the world and you don’t even seem to want it.” 

Anna felt her breath lodge in her throat. Her chest felt like it was wrapped with bands that were getting progressively tighter. She couldn’t think through the haze of anger surrounding the both of them. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

“Don’t I?” Ariadne’s voice was rising again, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “You can live where you want and love who you want because your family loves you enough for it to be unconditional and they’re rich enough and important enough that people are forced to respect you anyways. You can dress how you want because you’re English and don’t have to worry about trying to blend in for safety’s sake.” She paused and took a deep breath, hands clenched at her sides. “And you seem perfectly content to sit on your high horse and lecture me about staying when you’ve never even had to worry about leaving.” 

Anna stared at her, a roaring in her ears. The worst part of Ariadne’s words was that they rang true, striking like daggers through Anna’s carefully protected heart. She could suddenly see herself as Ariadne must see her and shame coursed through her as her blood pounded. She knew her face was burning with embarrassment and it only made her angrier, the hurt and shame welling up unrelentingly. 

They had both started crying, tears running hot down Anna’s cheeks as if they might never stop. Her head hurt. Her heart hurt as she watched glittering tears drip down Ariadne’s chin and splatter the silk of her dress. A sob was building in Anna’s chest, waiting to tear her apart. 

“Get out.” She choked, tears blurring her vision, gesturing jerkily towards the door with a hand that didn’t seem to belong to her anymore. “Get out!” It came out as a scream torn brokenly from her throat.

Ariadne’s hand was already gripping the brass doorknob. “Fine!” She shouted, and her voice broke, the line of her mouth wavering even though icy rage was still burning in her tone. 

“Fine!” Anna yelled as the door slammed shut behind the whirl of pink skirts. She spared a brief thought for her landlady, who hated any racket caused by Anna’s parade of jilted lovers, and who would certainly object to Anna entering into a screaming row. 

The anger inside her crested to a shattering roar in her ears. Anger at Ariadne, anger at herself, anger at the world for being so warped that you could only survive by twisting yourself into something unrecognizable. There was a crash, a burst of sharp red pain, and Anna was pulling her hand back from the windowpane. She stared at the smear of blood on her knuckles, bright in the afternoon light, the saturation turned all the way up. Pain throbbed through her, dull somehow against the pain the memory of the look on Ariadne’s face brought her. The fact that Anna had caused that expression only intensified the pain until it was sharp and cutting something deep inside of her. It was like she’d swallowed knives. 

How had she gotten it so wrong? 

Blood pattered to the floor, fat like rose petals. Anna wiped her nose on her sleeve as a jagged sob ripped its way out of her. She sank to the floor next to where Ariadne had been sitting, eyes fixing on the pair of white gloves that were lying forgotten on the seat. The world was brighter and shining through her tears, the edges running together. Anna pressed the gloves to her face, curling in on herself, ignoring the snot and tears staining the fabric. Pain throbbed through her hand but she barely registered it.

She could almost imagine that she still smelled orange blossom perfume. 

Chapter Text

And I can tell when you get nervous
You think being yourself means being unworthy

She made it down the stairs before her tears prevented her from seeing clearly enough to walk. Ariadne slumped onto the stone steps outside, not caring about the state of her dress. Sobs wracked her frame, wrenched from somewhere deep inside her. 

It was humiliating. Ariadne had told herself before the visit, when she was steeling herself in front of the narrow building, that she wouldn’t cry. She probably looked like one of the many women that constantly cried on these very steps, cast off and hopelessly in love. She wondered if the neighbors were peering from their shuttered windows and having a laugh amongst themselves. Another one. They were probably saying. When will they learn she’s never going to love them back? 

Except Anna did. Ariadne knew she did, had to believe that Anna loved her because the alternative was that she was just the latest in a long string of broken hearts. 

No, Ariadne couldn’t even tolerate the thought. It would just make her more miserable. 

Then again, you didn’t yell at someone like Anna had yelled at her and not feel anything. There had been more behind the anger, the same bone deep hurt Ariadne had heard in her own voice when she’d yelled back. 

What a shattered constellation they were. 

“Good job Ariadne.” She muttered to herself once the tears abated. “Visit her with the intention of getting on good terms again and make her cry instead. Just splendid really.” 

She really hadn’t meant to. The only thought in her mind when she’d entered the comfortably lived in apartment was the thought of a friendly cup of tea. The worst part of the last two years had been the distance that coldly permeated her and Anna’s interactions. Ariadne had told herself that she would be perfectly content if they managed to achieve some semblance of friendship at the very least. 

And then the blonde woman had glided out of the bedroom— Anna’s bedroom—and every delusion that Ariadne could bear being platonic with Anna for the rest of time flew out of the window. The woman was delicate, every inch someone Ariadne wasn’t, pale and ethereal looking with thin arms that had probably never held anything heavier than a gin bottle. The woman hadn’t done anything wrong, Ariadne had no claim whatsoever on Anna anymore, but the sight of her slightly smeared lipstick sent Ariadne’s skin prickling with irritated restlessness. 

She’d breezed out of the door with a wink, swaying unsteadily on her feet and Ariadne had become fixed on an extremely minor detail that shouldn’t have bothered her nearly as much as it did. 

A dark bruise on the juncture of the woman’s neck and shoulder, the size of a kiss. 

Heat had rushed to Ariadne’s face and she’d sat there frozen and nauseous with jealousy as Anna came out of the bedroom. Images whirled through her head; Anna’s lips on soft skin, the tangle of sheets around sweat slicked bodies, the press of hungry fingers and mouths. The fact that Ariadne herself hadn’t been touched like that in so long that she’d almost forgotten what it felt like. 

It would feel very different now, she knew, than it had when they’d both been new and clumsy to it. And she’d stayed with the unspeakably heavy burden of the love she bore held close to her chest, never daring to spread the newly fledged wings that touching Anna had given her. 

While Anna had leaped and never looked back as her wings took her higher. 

Yes, kissing her would be very different now. 

Maybe it was the knowledge that the experiences of youth had been stolen from her or the bitter taste of unfairness in her mouth that the only thing stopping her from living as Anna did was the circumstance of their birth. Maybe it was the kiss on the woman’s neck or the brassiere that had been flung over Anna’s chair, but when Ariadne opened her mouth all that had come out was the flood of frustration and anger that had been building up inside her for two long years. Building up inside her since the moment she’d realized that with all the power that Anna had to love in the open, she wasn’t loving anyone at all. 

Maybe it should have made her glad that Anna’s heart didn’t belong to anyone else, but it only filled her with gut twisting sorrow. Sorrow and anger. Maybe she could forgive herself for letting Anna leave if Anna loved herself a little better. If Anna had forgotten her and learned to love instead of shutting herself off from romance and locking herself in with drinks and cigars and lone nights in strangers’ beds. Maybe then Ariadne would have forgotten too.

Even as she told herself that, she knew it was a lie. She could never forget. 

Another sob rose out of her throat, choked and quavering. Ariadne put her head on her knees and stared at the mottled gray stones, spiderwebbed with cracks under the leather of her shoes. The air was cold on her bare fingers and she realized belatedly that she’d forgotten her gloves on the plush seat upstairs. Going back up to retrieve them was out of the question. 

She took a deep breath and wiped her face with the backs of her hands, not letting herself care about the crudeness of the gesture. After all, proper ladies didn’t cry on ex-lover’s doorsteps and yet here she was. 

Someone cleared their throat uncomfortably above her. 

Ariadne went perfectly still, eyes moving slowly up to look at the man who’d found her in such a compromising position. Her heart almost burst with relief when she recognized Alastair Carstairs. 

She didn’t know Alastair very well, though she’d long since resolved to make an effort to become acquainted. By all accounts he was charming—if not warm and friendly—but extremely hard to get to know. Still, Ariadne felt a kinship to him. They were both brown Shadowhunters in a predominantly white Enclave, they were both close to the same age, and they were bound together by their connection to Charles. Ariadne had her own suspicions that she presumed Alastair was aware of, though she wouldn’t invade his privacy by inquiring, and she knew that he knew about her. It was an odd sort of dance, acknowledgement without friendship, a deeper sort of understanding. 

One thing she could be sure of; Alastair would not gossip about her crying on Anna’s doorstep. 

She hiccuped. “Hullo Mr. Carstairs.” 

He shifted his weight slightly, clearly discomfited. He had very expressive black eyebrows, furrowed now with puzzlement. “I’m here to see if my sister’s visiting Anna.” He paused, taking in her tear stained face. “I don’t suppose you saw her up there, did you?” 

Every horrible reason Alastair might be looking for his younger sister at Anna’s apartment flew through Ariadne’s head. She hadn’t thought there was anything more than friendship between Anna and Cordelia but she’d been wrong before and even the slightest doubt squeezed at her lungs and heart. 

“No she’s not.” She managed to say. “Why? Is she…” She let Alastair fill in the rest of her sentence for himself, alarm crossing his features briefly before he smothered it. 

“What? No nothing like that.” He said briskly, as if the suggestion was ridiculous. Ariadne supposed that it was. 

“Oh.” She said, playing with the sleeve of her dress, equal parts guilt and relief running through her. Alastair was looking less uncomfortable and more impatient, though he was at least making an effort to hide it. 

After an awkward silence in which they avoided looking at each other, Alastair held out his hand with a resigned sigh. “Come on, it won’t do you any good to mope around here all day. Let’s go to the park, shall we?” 

Ariadne blinked up at him, looking directly at him for what felt like the first time. “Without a chaperone?” 

He chuckled, a smile spreading across his face. He looked very different when he smiled. “I think we both know that you don’t have to worry about me compromising your virtue Miss Bridgestock.” 

Some of the misery that had been hanging over her lifted. Ariadne smiled at the shared joke, letting him pull her to her feet. “Very well.”

She studiously ignored looking back at the apartment, focusing instead on the Carstairs carriage that had been drawn up along the street. The coachman perched in the seat tipped the broad brim of his hat to Ariadne, looking on with amusement as Alastair helped her into the carriage. 

When they’d seated themselves across from each other Ariadne said, “We could very likely be the source of scandalous rumors tomorrow.” 

Alastair raised a single expressive eyebrow as the carriage jolted into motion around them. “It’s funny how people talk.” 

“Let them talk.” She replied, earning the edge of another smile. 

It suddenly occurred to her that she’d only ever really been alone with a man when it was Charles, and that was after they’d become engaged. There had been a particularly nauseating experience in a carriage where he’d kissed her for several long moments before both of them had wrenched away from the other, sick and uncomfortable. That was the day she’d told Charles what she was, inspired by the agonized look in his eyes that she felt mirrored in her own heart. The look that said, Why did it have to be me? 

They had certainly been a pair, miserable in their duties to their families. 

There had only been one time he’d been close to admitting to her what he was. They’d found Matthew on the front steps of the institute, vomiting profusely onto the cobblestones of the courtyard. Ariadne had helped Charles drag him to the Fairchild carriage, propping him up against the far side. Charles had apologized over and over, even after she’d reassured him that it was really no trouble. They’d stood in silence for a moment until Charles tipped his face back towards the stars as if they might hold the answers he was looking for. 

“I hate him sometimes.” He’d said. “That must sound awful but it’s the truth.” There wasn’t bitterness in his voice, only a terrible weariness. 

Ariadne hadn’t known what to say at first. “Why?” She’d said finally, unable to bear the awkwardness anymore and intrigued despite herself.

Charles looked at her then and the vulnerability in his eyes had unmoored her. “Because he can do whatever he wants. He can drink and spend his money on frivolous things whenever he feels like it because none of the expectations fall on him.” He’d paused then, taking a deep breath. “Well, less expectations anyways. He can stay out and sleep with whoever he wants, girls or—” His voice cracked with emotion. “—boys.” He finished lamely and was quiet for a beat as if he expected Ariadne to laugh at him. 

She could read between the lines well enough and her heart went out to him, pompous and self important as he was. They shared the same prison, Charles and her, even if the views from their barred windows were different. 

“And I still want to protect him, he’s my baby brother.” Charles continued before she could say anything in response to his almost confession. “But I can’t protect him against himself and I hate him for it.” 

“I understand.” She whispered, not knowing if he believed her or not. She didn’t know if she really did understand, but it’d seemed like the right thing to say. 

He’d opened his mouth to continue—perhaps ask her a question—but the sound of more vomiting inside the carriage interrupted him. The vulnerability was gone as quick as it’d come, replaced by harsh annoyance, and Ariadne was left wondering if she’d imagined it. 

Every time she’d been in a carriage with him she’d been acutely aware of how she was supposed to act. Ladies kept their feet firmly planted on the floor. Ladies folded their hands demurely in their laps and did not gaze at the scenery outside. Ladies with a gentleman companion hung onto his every word, letting him bask in the light of their attention. A lady certainly did not try to catch a glimpse of her former lover’s apartment through the gap in the curtains as the carriage she was in rattled around the corner. 

She was so distracted that Alastair had to repeat himself to get her attention. He didn’t seem to mind much, only a little exasperation coloring his tone. He tapped his gloved fingers in a steady beat on the seat beside him as their carriage entered the thicker flow of London traffic.

“Lightwood huh?” He said contemplatively. Ariadne looked at him sharply. Something in his voice told her that he wasn’t talking about Anna but she let it drop, not knowing who else could be on his mind. That was his own personal business after all and she didn’t know him that well. 

She sighed, “Yes.” Her hands still felt horribly naked and she twisted them together in her lap, letting the pressure ground her.

Alastair nodded as if being heartbroken by a Lightwood made perfect sense to him. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.” He fixed his gaze out the window a little awkwardly.

She smiled weakly at him, still too heavy hearted to grin. “Don’t be. I’m going to make it right again.” 

He looked at her. “Which one of you has to apologize?”

She squeezed her hands together tighter. “Both of us I think.” They’d turned onto the street that led to Hyde Park, the familiar surroundings just visible through the gap in the curtains. “I did a rotten job of it just now.” Anna’s crumpled face rose in Ariadne’s mind and she had to fight back tears again. 

Alastair nodded jerkily. “I figured.” 

She looked at him in surprise. “How?”

He raised his eyebrows. “Because you were crying on her front step?” 

“Oh right.” 

They exchanged another smile. It was comfortable being with him Ariadne realized, with no worrying about how she had to present herself in order to avoid suspicion. She felt herself relax, no longer obsessing over whether she was sitting properly. 

“At least she’s willing to let you apologize.” Alastair said. His fingers resumed their tapping. “You’re halfway there.” 

Again, Ariadne got the feeling that he wasn’t talking about Anna. 

“I suppose.” She said slowly. “But I made her cry.” 

Alastair looked surprised. “Really?” 

Overcome with mingled shame and misery, Ariadne put her face in her hands. “It was a disaster.” She said against her fingers. 

Alastair moved as if to pat her on the shoulder, thought better of it, and settled for saying, “At least you don’t have to worry about her not caring.”  His tone was sympathetic. 

She raised her head and stared at him through her fingers. She hadn’t thought of it that way. “What do you mean?” 

He shrugged uncomfortably. “From what I know of Anna she doesn’t seem the type to cry easily.” He paused, brow furrowing. “She’s probably just as upset as you are right now.”  

Ariadne thought of Anna’s blue eyes bright and shining with tears, the way she’d kept running her hand through the short strands of her hair to steady herself. “I know she does it’s just—it’s complicated.” She could feel tears welling up again. 

Alastair looked slightly panicked at her distress. “Uh—I’m sure it’ll work out in the end.” 

She blinked furiously at him. “You really think so?” She felt like she’d blown up her one chance at love and she was now left scrambling to piece back together all the broken shards of her own making. Her heart ached. 

Their carriage rolled to a stop, jolting her slightly as it halted. Alastair stood, smoothing the front of his waistcoat. He seemed to be deciding what to say, dark eyes unreadable. He jumped down onto the street and held out a hand to help her, his countenance serious as he tilted his head to look up at her. “I know so.” He said, tone brooking no room for disagreement. 

Despite the cloud that hung over her head, gray and impossible to ignore, Ariadne began to feel just a little bit better. 

Chapter Text

It's like you're carrying all the weight of your past
I could tell all your bruises, yellow, dark blue, and black. But baby a bruise is only your body trying to keep you intact 

Anna prided herself on being adept and level headed at solving her own problems.

Consequently, after her tears had run themselves out she promptly disappeared into her room with the bottle of whiskey that usually occupied the small table next to her couch. As she lay on the bed, head spinning miserably, she thought that maybe she understood Matthew a little bit more. It was hard to feel anything too deeply when whiskey made everything inside you feel dumbed down to a dull ache. 

Not that Anna planned on making a habit of being whiskey drunk in bed at three in the afternoon. 

Eventually she was jolted out of her stupor by the sound of her front door opening with a bang. 

The years had made her familiar with the sound of Matthew entering her apartment. Anna heard him call out for her and then his blond head poked into her bedroom. He raised his eyebrows at her disarray. 

“Bad time?”

She propped herself up on her elbows, reaching for her stele. “Not at all.” 

There was a muffled crash from the other room and Matthew swore softly under his breath, ducking out of sight again. The sound of voices muttering back and forth pushed Anna to ink an iratze on the inside of her wrist. She detachedly watched the black lines spiral out before her head began to clear, her vision sharpening as the healing rune took effect. 

She got dressed slowly and stiffly, careful not to put on anything too outrageous. In the aftermath of Ariadne’s visit she’d completely forgotten about the Enclave meeting that night. And the Enclave hated anything outrageous. 

Outfitted in a somber black suit as a sort of dark armor, Anna stepped into her parlor to find Christopher fiddling with the grate in front of the fireplace. A smear of ash decorated his cheek and she paused beside him to wipe it away, much to his exasperation. 

“Honestly Anna.” He said lightly, ducking away from her fingers and moving to straighten up. “You should pay more attention to the hinges of the grate. That’s why it was squeaking.” He ran a hand through his hair distractedly, making it stick up on one side like he’d just rolled out of bed. 

“That’s what I have you for.” She said in an attempt to be cheerful, winching at the scraped hollowness of her tone. 

Christopher darted his eyes towards her before focusing on something else, his eyebrows furrowing in concern before he decided not to inquire after her wellbeing. Anna thanked the Angel for gifting her brother with the ability to know when she didn’t want to be pressured. 

Unfortunately Matthew had not been gifted with any semblance of that ability.

-

“So what was that about?” Matthew drawled, unscrewing his flask. 

He was seated across from Anna in the carriage, legs sprawled in the perfect picture of carelessness. Christopher was seated next to him, running his fingers over the seams of his clothing like he did when he was trying to distract himself from boring things like carriage rides. His hands stilled at Matthew’s words, an indication to Anna that he was listening to their conversation even if his eyes were trained on whatever lay beyond the window. 

“Why so nosy?” Anna asked, smiling in a way that felt forced. 

Matthew laid a hand dramatically against his forehead. “And here I was thinking that we told each other everything. You wound me.” 

Christopher snorted doubtfully and Anna laughed. It was almost easy to forget how miserable she was with the two of them and her next smile felt less forced. “Seriously, it’s nothing.” 

Although Anna could tell that he didn’t quite believe her Matthew shrugged and took a generous swig from his flask, the silver glinting in the dark. Christopher and Anna exchanged a look. 

“Lay off the whiskey will you?” Christopher asked. “We still have the whole evening ahead of us.” Only the stillness of his hands undercut the lightness of his voice. 

Matthew made a face at him. “It’ll be terribly boring otherwise.”

Christopher frowned but didn’t offer a retort, returning his attention back to the window. 

Anna felt worry pinch at the corners of her mind. “Lay off Matthew, it’s no fun to the rest of us if you vomit in a carriage again.” 

He narrowed his green eyes at her. “I’ll make sure it’s Alastair’s carriage this time.” 

She aimed a kick at his shin halfheartedly. “No you won’t.” Despite all of his bluster she knew Matthew would rather vomit on his own mother than ruin Cordelia’s family’s carriage. Not that she would tell him that she knew that. 

Matthew sighed in defeat and tucked his flask back into the pocket of his jacket. “I suppose not. I shall be the picture of restraint for you two.”

The corner of Christopher’s mouth twitched as Anna rolled her eyes. “Thank you.” She almost said something sarcastic but bit it back, not sure how Matthew would take it. He wasn’t drinking at that moment and that was what mattered. 

She leaned back and closed her eyes, steeling herself for an evening in which the older members of the Enclave—and some of the younger ones—tried to hide their disdain for her. Sometimes they didn’t even bother pretending that they tolerated her and every time a snide remark was aimed at her Anna felt a little more disillusioned with the idea of their holy mandate to protect humanity. How could they protect the world when they couldn’t even protect their own children from themselves?

-

“I’d thank you not to talk about my family like that.” Anna’s father snapped, nostrils flaring at Inquisitor Bridgestock.

Anna was seated at the back of the room, not particularly willing to chime in. Christopher wasn’t paying attention, staring instead at the light fixture above them. More than a few members of the Enclave had shot them looks that ranged from pity to wariness, as if at any moment Anna would stand up and sing the praises of beautiful women while Christopher set off bombs in the background. 

She had to admit that the thought did hold a certain appeal. 

The Inquisitor leaned back with a greasy smile on his pale face. “I only mean to say that everyone here knows that your family has never been overly concerned with how shadowhunters should behave so it seems...unreasonable that we take your advice on this matter.” 

Anna hadn’t been paying close enough attention to which matter that was exactly but she did her best to appear attentive even as Christopher sighed beside her.

“We shouldn’t have come.” He muttered under his breath. “We always make things worse.” 

He hadn’t had to come as he was still underage, but he’d made a habit of accompanying Anna to Enclave events since she’d turned eighteen. Despite whatever efforts their Uncle Will had made to make her feel welcome at gatherings, Anna had never truly belonged and Christopher understood that more than anyone else ever would. 

Still, she came to every meeting she could, forcing the others to acknowledge her. It was tedious and boring and sometimes painful, but she would never let them have the luxury of forgetting that she was one of them. 

“It’s not just us. You know that.” She breathed back. 

And it wasn’t. It was the reputation of the grandfather they’d never known. It was their other grandfather leaving the Enclave to marry a mundane. It was their uncle marrying a mundane—even if she did end up ascending—and their other uncle marrying a warlock. It was Eugenia’s scandal. Christopher’s obsession with science and Anna’s appearance and reputation played a role, but they weren’t the only reason that the Lightwood family name had a long way to go before it reached respectability. 

Christopher looked across the room to where their parents sat. “Sometimes it feels that way.” 

She was about to make a rather unflattering comment about the Inquisitor when Thomas slid into the seat beside her, looking flushed. “Sorry I’m late. What’ve I missed?” 

Anna scrutinized him from the unbuttoned collar of his shirt to the mussed tangles of his hair. “Where’ve you been?”

Thomas’s cheeks went red. “Not important.”

A couple of late arrivals trickled into the room with the air of people embarrassed to be interrupting. Among the new faces were a rumpled looking Alastair Carstairs and—Anna’s breath lodged painfully in her throat—Ariadne. 

Even from across the room Anna felt as though she was burning from the proximity of their bodies.

Ariadne had changed since Anna had seen her that morning, now looking like an earth goddess shimmering in tones of brown, gold, and green. Her eyes met Anna’s and they both looked away hastily, hurt crystallizing into a hard lump inside Anna’s chest. 

She realized she’d missed Thomas’s last remark, only catching Christopher’s reply. 

“—the usual.” She heard him say through the buzzing in her ears. 

Thomas muffled a groan, simultaneously trying to flatten his hair. “I knew I shouldn’t have come.” 

Anna bent all her focus on the two boys next to her, trying and failing to ignore that Ariadne had slid into the seat beside her father. “Why did you come?” She forced out, attention momentarily diverted. 

Thomas tried for nonchalance and failed miserably. “I was...in the area.”

“You’re a terrible liar.” Christopher said, eyes still on the ceiling. 

“I am not!” Someone nearby shushed them and Thomas dropped his voice. “I can’t believe you think I would lie about something like that.” 

Anna raised her eyebrows at him and he smiled sheepishly. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Ariadne mutter something in her father’s ear. The Inquisitor frowned and seemed about to argue before she said something else. He shot another challenging look at Anna’s father before moving the conversation on to another subject. 

The tension in Ariadne was well concealed but visible to Anna. She stared at the tight grip Ariadne held on her own wrist and felt something twist inside of her. She still wasn’t wearing gloves. 

What must it be like for Ariadne to sit beside her father as he shot jabs at anyone who didn’t fit his image of what a perfect shadowhunter should be? It would be worse at home Anna knew, when he didn’t have to worry about losing anyone’s political support. The thought of the little girl who would become Ariadne absorbing that poison without even realizing it made nausea churn in Anna’s gut. The idea that Ariadne had even kissed her in the first place suddenly seemed improbable. What had it cost her?

Anna abruptly felt extremely dense. She stared at Ariadne across the room, willing her to look back. 

Thomas followed her gaze, eyes filled with understanding. “You should just talk to her.” 

Anna whipped her eyes back to him. “What makes you think that I haven’t?” She snapped defensively.

Thomas quailed a little under her gaze but continued stubbornly. “Actually talked?” 

Anna ignored him, the words hitting a little too close to home. There had definitely been more yelling than talking. 

Thomas sighed, turning his attention to the front of the room. “Just talk over everything that’s bothering the both of you. You’ll feel better.” 

Something in his tone made Anna glance at him. He didn’t seem like he was talking about her and Ariadne. It sounded personal. 

But that was ridiculous. In all the years she’d known him Thomas had never had any sort of dalliance, a fact that had prompted much good natured teasing from the rest of his friends. 

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Why did you come here?”

He went bright red. “I told you already!” 

“If you say so.”

-

Anna waited until she could barely stand it, sweating nervously in the shadows outside of the library as members of the Enclave filed out. She wiped her damp palms on the smooth material of her pants, trying to steady herself. 

Most of the shadowhunters didn’t give her a second glance. As the niece of the head of the institute it wasn’t unusual for her to spend more time in the old church than the rest of them and perhaps they already thought she would be staying for dinner. The ones who did shoot her a glance were those who kept a critical eye on her at the best of times, permanently wary of her and what they considered to be perversions. Learning to ignore them had been one of the first lessons Anna had endured after beginning to live as she truly wanted. 

Ariadne followed a little ways behind her father, who was engaged in a tense discussion with Anna’s father and didn’t seem to be paying any attention to his adopted daughter. Ariadne’s thumb moved in a soothing motion against her knuckles and Anna felt her stomach pinch again.

She coughed, discreetly enough that the Inquisitor wouldn’t think it out of the ordinary, and watched Ariadne as she looked around to see the source of the sound. 

When their eyes met, this time Anna didn’t look away. 

She willed Ariadne to understand, to stay just a little while longer. To listen to her when neither of them had ever listened to much besides the bleeding of their own hearts. 

Ariadne’s mouth opened and closed, her eyes darting from Anna to the retreating back of her father. Anna’s heart sank into her toes. She knew how much it cost Ariadne to pretend around her family and here Anna was, approaching her at a public event. She knew how cruel rumors could be, whether they were founded or not. Ariadne being spotted in conversation with Anna was enough to make the Rosamund Wentworths of their society perk up their ears and open their mouths. Anna felt shame burn its way into her cheeks. How could she have been so reckless?

Ariadne gave her one last considering look before calling ahead. “Father? I’ll be just a minute, I think I left my gloves in the library.” And without another word she turned on her heel and marched back the way she’d come.

Anna stared at the place she’d been for a moment, mind whirling to catch up. Ariadne was in the library. Ariadne was waiting to talk to her. 

She straightened her hair and adjusted her jacket nervously. Here went nothing.

-

Ariadne was pacing back and forth across the carpet, her skirts rustling around her legs. She halted when Anna closed the door with a muffled click and spun around to face her, crossing her arms. “Well?” 

Anna stared at her. Now that the moment to apologize had come she found the words stuck in her throat like tar. Her heartbeat thumped away inside her chest, sending pulses through her nerves. 

Ariadne waited a beat for her to respond and shrugged jerkily. “I probably have around five minutes before my father gets antsy so you might as well say what you wish.” Anna didn’t think she was imagining the disappointment in her voice. Tension thrummed through her body, drawing her taut as a wire under Anna’s gaze. 

She took a half step forward, afraid Ariadne would move away and almost sighing in relief when she didn’t. “I’m sorry.” Anna whispered. It came out as little more than a choke. 

Ariadne’s facade of indifference broke, her face crumpling. “No.” She whispered back, voice trembling. “You don’t get to play with my feelings like that. I’m not one of your other women Anna. You don’t get to throw me out and then expect me to crawl back if you say you’re sorry.” She took a step forward, until they were so close that Anna could see the threat of unshed tears in her eyes. Every word sliced like a dagger, sharper still because of the pain in Ariadne’s voice.

She doesn’t believe me. Anna thought. She doesn’t believe I’m really sorry. 

The thought cracked open something inside her, all the rage at the world that she bottled up day after day. The agony of a thousand tiny cuts delivered in every distrustful look or word she’d been the brunt of. She stepped forward and seized Ariadne’s wrist roughly, her heart jumping at the contact of hot skin on skin. 

“What can I do?” She said, voice low and hoarse with emotion. “What can I do to show you that I’m sorry?”

Ariadne was tense under Anna’s grip but she didn’t pull away. Her eyes were wide and dark, her face turned up to Anna’s as they stood, Anna willing Ariadne to say something. Anything. 

The whole world seemed to inhale as Ariadne drew herself up to her full height, eyes glittering in the dimness of the room.

And then they were kissing. Anna didn’t know who’d leaned forward first or if they’d hurtled towards each other like trains on the same track, utterly aware of impending disaster and unable to prevent it. 

It was an explosion, the culmination of time and memories unburdening themselves in a few seconds. Heat exploded between their lips and Anna acted on impulse, drawing Ariadne closer in a frantic tug, teeth and noses bumping together painfully.

Their first kiss had been gentle. Anna remembered that much. Their first kiss had been trembling and hopeful and as new as a baby bird. 

This kiss was decidedly not gentle. 

Ariadne tugged her towards her by her collar and Anna pushed her back hard against the library table, swallowing Ariadne’s surprised gasp. It was all the weight of the years, all of their frustrations pouring out of them hot and hungry and clawing for purchase in the other’s mouth. Ariadne kissed her so hard that Anna tasted blood and she kissed her back furiously, all the unsaid anger swirling around them in a haze.

Her heart was pounding, her skin burning where Ariadne’s hands rested almost awkwardly against her chest. 

Somehow that was what jerked her back into herself, the anger disappearing just as quick as it’d come. She pulled away, breathing hard. Ariadne blinked up at her, a little dazed, and Anna’s heart contracted. 

“I’m sorry.” She murmured, smoothing Ariadne’s hair with a gentle hand, the strands soft against her fingers.

Ariadne’s eyes fluttered shut and she leaned into the touch, making Anna’s pulse jump. “I’m sorry too.” She said, pressing a quick kiss to Anna’s bare wrist. Sparks danced in front of Anna’s eyes. 

They stayed like that for a breath, not kissing but not pulling away either. Something in Anna’s life had righted itself, a ship coming home to dock after being presumed lost at sea. The walls she’d constructed around her heart began to crumble. 

Ariadne seemed to remember herself. “My father.” She said regretfully, disentangling herself from between Anna and the table. She glanced up at Anna again, brow furrowed. She opened her mouth as if to say something and then closed it abruptly. “Alright then. See you…” She trailed off and started towards the door.

Anna snapped out of the daze she’d been in. “Wait!” She reached into her pocket, hand closing around the gloves that had been a weight at her side since the moment she’d stepped into the institute. “You forgot these at my house.” 

Ariadne’s eyes went wide with understanding. She took the gloves from Anna slowly, fingering the soft material consideringly. The silence between them stretched into a palpable thread. 

“Can I see you again?” The uncertainty in Ariadne’s voice made Anna’s heart ache. 

A chunk of the wall around her heart fell away. No more running. No more pretending that love was a weakness. They would try again, for better or for worse. 

Anna smiled and dipped to brush a kiss along the back of Ariadne’s knuckles, savoring the shiver that went through her. “Would Friday be suitable?”

Chapter Text

I think we should go get drunk on cheap wine
I think we should hop on the purple line

Friday didn’t come fast enough.

The past few days had been a blur, a parade of faces and words that fell into the background. There had been a memorable afternoon in the park with Alastair, during which she’d been able to unburden herself of all the thoughts that had been rattling around inside her. He’d been a good sport, offering up some tentative advice along with the disclaimer that he was not to be blamed if anything went wrong and they’d shared a laugh. Ariadne hadn’t realized until then how much she had been deprived of true friendship. How quickly things could change.

She spent most of the time staring off into space, the scene at the institute replaying in her head. She tried to pass the hours with training and reading, more often than not too distracted to give a good effort. More than once her mother had sighed and shook her head, muttering about young women and their flightiness. Ariadne couldn’t bring herself to mind, her head too full of blossoming hopes and half formed fantasies.

Anna’s lips ghosting across the skin of her knuckles. The hard press of the table against her back as Anna kissed her. Anna’s hands clutching her closer. Anna. 

And now Friday had come and Ariadne was close to panicking, her stomach tying itself into writhing knots as she pinned her hair carefully up. She stared at herself in the mirror before tearing out her pins and trying again, the thick dark strands sliding under her fingers. 

Eventually satisfied with her efforts she took a deep breath, tamping down the excitement and nerves warring within her. She was Ariadne Bridgestock. She was not going to make a fool of herself. Everything was going to be fine. 

She ran her hands over the deep purple of her dress, carefully chosen after much deliberation because it accentuated the darkness of her hair and eyes. Ariadne didn’t know what Anna had planned for the evening, but she was sure that wherever they went would be a place more suited to shades of seduction rather than girlish pastels. 

She felt her cheeks warm. It wasn’t really an attempt to be seductive, honestly based more on the desire to blend into Anna’s world than anything else. Every other woman that Anna had courted had been part of the mysterious dark underbelly of London and Ariadne’s stomach twisted at the idea that she would be completely out of her depth, surrounded by endlessly more fascinating people. 

She straightened the gold of her necklace. Enough. It’ll be just like one of Father’s political dinners. She told herself, sitting up a little straighter. Dynamics and hidden intentions that you’ll have to pay attention to. The thought made her feel much better. She’d mastered the art of being at ease among politicians long ago. A few intriguing bohemians were not going to get the best of her. 

A rock pinged off the glass of her window and Ariadne’s heart stuttered. 

On second thought, maybe it would only take one bohemian to render her speechless. 

She listened hard to the gaping silence of her house, straining to hear any sound of her parents stirring. They’d gone to bed hours before, but one couldn’t be too careful with them when they were prone to waking up at all hours of the night. Only the fact that they never bothered to check on her had even emboldened her to sneak out in the first place. 

Ariadne buttoned up her long coat, effectively hiding the delicate silk of her dress under the thick dark fabric. She crossed to her bed, where her sheets and blankets were lying piled in a coil of clumsy knots and folds. It was almost exactly as it had been two years ago, the same excitement at doing something she shouldn’t be, the same careful unlatching of the window and muffled thump of the makeshift rope against the wall. The night vision rune on her arm burned as she searched the pavement below for a familiar shadow. 

Anna was leaning against a lamppost, hat shadowing her face. Ariadne’s breath hitched and she focused on descending. Hand over hand, foothold after foothold, heart beating a nervous stattaco. 

When her feet hit the hard ground she stumbled a step, catching herself against the cold stones of her house. So much for being a picture of grace. She must have been more nervous than she’d realized. 

Anna tilted her hat up to look at her, eyes darting away quickly to scan the street around them. Ariadne’s heart lurched and she stepped towards her, wondering if she was making a huge mistake. Her breathing seemed much too loud in the dark.

Before Ariadne could lay a hand on her arm Anna curtly beckoned for her to follow, turning briskly on one heel and setting off quietly down the street. Her purposeful stride made it hard for Ariadne to keep up as she tried to muffle her footsteps, cursing the fact that she hadn’t applied a soundless rune. Anna moved like a shadow, graceful and with all the confidence of someone who knew the streets well enough to never fear them. 

That much at least had changed since the last time they’d snuck out. That time they had both been skittish, jumping at every rustle and movement around the dark street corners. Ariadne’s thoughts had been preoccupied with avoiding the more suspect persons that haunted the night and now Anna was one of those people. She shivered against the chill that crept through her.

There was a cab waiting for them a street over, hulking and out of place among the imposing houses. The cab driver nodded at Anna, smirking a little when he glimpsed Ariadne shivering behind her. It was hard not to feel indignant despite the fact that she probably looked like just another socialite that Anna was seducing into rebellion. Ariadne frowned and dared to look at her companion, who had opened the door and was waiting expectantly to help her in, one hand outstretched. Ariadne felt her cheeks warm, grateful that the mundane wouldn’t be able to see her sappy expression in the dim light from the street lamp. This was really happening. 

It was only after they were bundled into the cab, bumping along the cobbled streets, that she remembered to be paranoid. 

“Won’t the driver think this is odd?” She asked, hating the way her fear was obvious and yet unwilling to conceal it. 

Anna cast her a sharp look that almost immediately softened. “I know Jimmy. He wouldn’t say a thing about me.” 

Ariadne twisted one hand around her opposite wrist, slipping over her silk glove. “What about me?” 

Anna paused and her hand darted out suddenly, catching Ariadne’s fingers in a grip so tight that it hurt. Her blue eyes were intense as she leaned forward, freezing Ariadne where she sat. “I promise that you have nothing to worry about.” She said, voice low and forceful. “If I can offer you any respite tonight let it be that.” 

Ariadne wet her lips and swallowed against the sudden dryness in her throat. The glove between their skin abruptly seemed like too much and not enough all at once, the warmth of Anna’s hand burning into her through the thin fabric. She shifted forward, not knowing what she intended and heard Anna inhale sharply. Heat spilled into her, almost overwhelming. 

“Ari—” Anna began, and Ariadne wondered if she was the only one who had ever made Anna look like that. Like she was lost and found all at once. 

Probably not. She reminded herself. After all it was doubtful that she was the first woman who’d been alone with Anna in a carriage, but at the moment she couldn’t bring herself to care about her own lack of experience. Not when Anna was looking at her like that. 

Ariadne leaned forward, meaning to gently brush their lips together. There was a rustle of fabric, a creak of the seats as they both reached for each other. And then she was being pushed back, her head knocking against the side of the carriage as Anna’s weight settled on top of her. 

Ariadne gasped, briefly self conscious before she melted into the kiss. Her hands gripped Anna’s collar, tugging her closer as they tangled together. One of Anna’s hands was planted against the seat for leverage while her other hand cupped Ariadne’s neck, thumb pressing into her chin. She smelled like smoke and cold air as her mouth moved frantically over Ariadne’s, heat spilling out from the space between their mouths. There was a scrape of teeth and Anna groaned into her, making her pulse skitter. 

It was like being reborn, transforming and illuminating. Every time they kissed Ariadne felt as new as if she was emerging raw and burning from the ashes of her life. Nothing else mattered but where Anna’s mouth stopped and started, burning the world down around them. She wondered if love was supposed to hurt this much. 

The burning trail of Anna’s hand moved lower, hastily skimming down her sides and fumbling at the edges of her coat. Ariadne felt her breath hitch as Anna’s palm came to rest on the bare skin of her thigh. She tugged Anna even closer in response and felt the curve of a smile against her lips. Their breathing was ragged in the rocking carriage and Ariadne could almost imagine smoke and sparks dancing around them. Her eyes fluttered shut as Anna tugged her head back, mouthing along the line of her throat. Everything was perfect. Everything was easy

Ariadne’s eyes snapped open as Anna’s hand moved farther up, calloused fingers pressing hard. “Wait.” She murmured, not sure if her voice would work and relieved when it did. Her heart was pounding. 

Anna lifted her face from where it had been resting against Ariadne’s neck, eyes intense and searching, breath ghosting hot against her cheek. “Yes?” 

Ariadne almost melted again under Anna’s gaze, instead distracting herself by running her fingers absently over Anna’s crisp collar. “We shouldn’t.” She caught the look on Anna’s face and added hastily. “Not that I don’t want to! I just—” She trailed off, suddenly overcome with embarrassment, and covered her burning face with both hands. 

“Hey.” Anna put some space between them, sitting up to run a hand through her dark hair. “I won’t rush you if you’re not ready.” 

Ariadne scrambled to sit up, smoothing down her rumpled coat and hair hurriedly. “That’s the thing, I am ready. I’ve never wanted anything so much in my life but I just—” She waved her hands helplessly. “You know how all of this works and I haven’t the faintest idea.” 

They were both still breathing hard. Ariadne tried to steady herself, taking a deep breath in an attempt to regulate the rapid rise and fall of her chest. It took all her self restraint to not reach for Anna again, who was watching her with unreadable eyes. 

Finally Anna gave her a crooked smile. “If I remember correctly you’re not completely ignorant.” 

Her words made the blood rush into Ariadne’s face as she recalled the night they’d spent together, the memory of soft hands and soft skin. She spluttered as Anna laughed gently and reached for her hand. Despite her smile her eyes were serious as she forced Ariadne to meet her gaze. 

“Don’t worry.” She murmured softly. “I don’t mind teaching you.” 

It was suddenly very warm in the carriage and Ariadne had to look away, her mouth struggling to form words as Anna brushed a strand of dark hair from the side of her face with a gentleness that made her head spin. She closed her eyes against the fresh wave of desire that jolted through her.

“I don’t want to be just another one of your girls.” She whispered, the admission spilling out before she could stop it. In her mind’s eye she could see the mark on the blonde girl’s neck as she emerged from Anna’s bedroom.

When she opened her eyes Anna had withdrawn to the other side of the carriage as if nothing had ever happened. Her face betrayed no emotion besides a certain stiffness that made Ariadne’s heart sink painfully. The brittle awkwardness stretched out for what seemed like an eternity before Anna broke the silence. 

“I don’t think you have to worry about that.” All of the teasing was gone and all of Ariadne’s hopes of an inconsequential evening had melted away with it. The careful lack of emotion in Anna’s voice betrayed more than anger would have. That night meant too much to the both of them to be inconsequential. 

Ariadne tried not to feel too relieved about the fact that she wouldn’t be the only one with a broken heart if the night ended in disaster and disappointment. 

Disaster might come sooner rather than later. She thought, her relief quickly overshadowed by the fact that they hadn’t been able to get through a single carriage ride without complicating things.

But at least they had kissed. 

She sighed and sat up straighter, trying to meet Anna’s eyes and failing as Anna stared determinedly out the pitch black window. The silence was insurmountable.

“I apologize.” Ariadne said finally, cringing at the loudness of her voice. “I don’t know why I said that.” 

Anna glanced at her, lips tilting up in something that was not quite a smile but was decidedly not a frown. “It’s okay. It’s not as though I’ve given you any reason to believe that you’re not the same as all the rest.” Her voice was self deprecating, vulnerable even as it tried to be flippant. “But do not make the mistake of thinking that you’re trivial.” 

Ariadne’s stomach flipped over. “Oh.” The simple statement was a close thing to the admission she’d heard from Anna two years before. An admission that Ariadne had resigned herself to not hearing again. Not the same as all the rest. She blinked rapidly, realizing that she was staring dazedly. She cleared her throat awkwardly. “I’m glad.” 

Anna did smile then, the teasing creeping back into her expression. “I’m glad too.” 

-

There was a vampire smoking on the corner, only the pale smudge of her bare legs standing out in the dark. Ariadne felt herself stiffen involuntarily as the woman’s gaze passed over her and Anna. The buildings were closer together in this part of London and only a little light escaped onto the cold street from the shuttered windows. 

Anna strode purposefully forward, Ariadne hurrying to stay next to her, clutching her coat tighter around herself. The vampire straightened, dropping her cigarette and grinding it viciously beneath the heel of one shiny shoe. 

“Hello Anna.” There was a flash of very white teeth. “I assume you’d like to enter.”

In a second Anna seemed to become someone alien, not someone necessarily unpleasant, but someone who Ariadne would never even try to get to know. “I would hope it would be obvious.” 

The vampire seemed to ponder the situation. “Anna Lightwood and one of her girls in the dead of night? Obvious seems a bit of an understatement don’t you think?” 

“How rude of me not to introduce you.” Anna waved a hand in Ariadne’s direction. “Victoria, meet my companion Ariadne Bridgestock.” 

Not quite knowing what the situation called for, Ariadne bobbed into a half curtsy. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” 

Victoria giggled at her efforts and Ariadne’s heart sank ever so slightly. “You’ve got yourself another high society one.” She said to Anna brightly, eyes dancing over Ariadne again before she went suddenly still. Her eyes had focused on the voyance rune on the back of Ariadne’s hand. Her gaze flicked back to Anna, filled with accusation. “Another shadowhunter?” 

Ariadne tensed, mind racing. Somehow none of her fantasies of that night had included them getting turned away at the door because she was just a little too good at playing the perfect shadowhunter. She pressed a hand against the small of Anna’s back, feeling her muscles tense at the contact. “We don’t have to—” She began. 

Anna took a step away from her, an action that hurt more than Ariadne cared to admit to herself. “I’ll vouch for her.” Anna’s tone brooked no room for argument. 

Victoria’s gaze flicked lazily over the both of them once more before she sighed and rolled her eyes. “If you must. But if you had to bring more shadowhunters couldn’t you have brought Matthew along at least?” 

Anna stepped towards the door. “I’ll keep that in mind.” 

-

It was hazy inside, flickering lights illuminating smoke stained wallpaper. Ariadne sighed in relief as warmth enveloped her and Anna looked back over her shoulder, a smile playing over her lips. For a second she seemed about to say something before she shook her head and led the way down the narrow hallway. 

Sounds of a party could be heard through the thin walls, sounds of laughter, pounding feet, and lively music thrumming through the floorboards. Two girls stumbled out of a door, shoes scuffling as they fetched up against the wall, completely wrapped up in each other. Ariadne carefully avoided looking at them as they passed, blood rushing to her face as she heard a breathy sigh. 

“Leave your coat here.” Anna murmured, gesturing to the pegs that lined the hallway. There was a rustle behind them as the two girls dislodged a fur duster from where it’d been hanging. Ariadne shrugged out of her coat quickly, making careful note of its placement and tucking her gloves carefully into the pockets. When she turned back Anna was frozen, eyes locked on Ariadne’s dress, eyes shadowed with something unfamiliar. 

“Anna?” 

She blinked and seemed to come out of the daze so quickly that Ariadne wasn’t sure if she’d imagined it. Anna ran a hand through her hair and turned abruptly, her voice unusually hoarse when she spoke. “Come along.” 

The room they entered was filled with people. Bodies wound around each other, dancing together in a way that took Ariadne’s breath away. She watched as a faerie woman with vines twined up her bare legs bent in time with the swelling music. Everywhere was more bare skin than she’d ever seen in her life, glistening with sweat in the dim golden light. 

Anna touched her lightly on the arm, pulling her attention back to her. Their eyes met and for a moment the rest of the people melted away and it was just the two of them, illuminated in gold. Her breath caught as they tilted towards each other instinctively, the music swelling around them as they were absorbed into the crowd. For a moment Ariadne wasn’t someone who had to sneak away under the cover of darkness, fractured between duty and herself. She was someone whole. Someone who could belong to someone else without giving herself away. 

Anna’s hand cupped her cheek, a steady anchor in the spinning room. She was taller than Ariadne and had to bend down to be heard above the music and the rhythm of feet on the floorboards. “Do you want to dance?” 

Butterflies began to do complicated choreography in Ariadne’s stomach. She blinked at the note of nervousness in Anna’s voice before linking their fingers deftly, heart stuttering as they fit together perfectly. “I thought you’d never ask.” She said loudly, pulling Anna towards where she assumed the center of the room was. 

Anna grinned and Ariadne began smiling too as she found herself pressed against the buttons of Anna’s waistcoat, hands wrapped around her neck, fingers twined into soft black hair. Strong hands gripped her hips through the thin silk of her dress and she shivered, heat rushing through her body.

“We’re not dancing.” She said into Anna’s collarbone as they swayed slowly together, the calm at the center of a storm.

She felt Anna exhale as hands pressed against the small of her back, drawing her even closer. “I can’t say that I’m dissatisfied with our position Ari.” 

The sound of her nickname made Ariadne tilt her face towards Anna’s, drinking in the line of her jaw, the swoop of her dark eyelashes. She was startled to find Anna already looking at her, staring as if they had all the time in the world and not just a single golden night. 

She wet her lips against the dryness in her throat, drowning in the dark blue of Anna’s eyes. “You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but you look handsome tonight.” 

Anna smiled crookedly and moved one of her hands to gently tuck a strand of Ariadne’s hair behind her ear. “And you’re beautiful.” The words were said with such a finality that Ariadne found herself blushing as her pulse skittered. 

“Thank you?” 

She felt Anna laugh against her, a cheer from nearby rendering her next words inaudible. Ariadne surrendered herself to the warmth, content to sway with Anna for eternity if given the opportunity. 

And why couldn’t they have all the time in the world? Why couldn’t that night be the start of something they had both unknowingly wanted for their entire lives? Ariadne tugged softly on Anna’s hair, resolving herself to fight for the dream of a future, no matter how unlikely. 

Chapter Text

Just give me trust and watch what'll happen
Don't you be afraid of love and affection just lay down your weapon

Anna woke to an arm draped over her side and, for the first time since she could remember, leaned closer to the woman next to her. She was warm all over, contentment wound tight through the spaces between her ribs.

Her eyes opened slowly, bleary from the late night. Awareness slowly crept up on her as the sleep cleared from her vision. She registered a comfortable weight and it took her a moment to realize that her legs were tangled with Ariadne’s. 

Ariadne. Anna turned her head to see dark hair and the curve of one smooth brown shoulder, glowing in the morning light. Her heart softened as she stared at the vulnerable lines of Ariadne’s sleeping face, made angelic in unconsciousness. 

The previous night came to her in flashes. The painful twist in her gut made sharper by burning longing when she’d seen Ariadne in that purple dress. The smell of orange blossom perfume as they swayed together in the middle of the crowded room. The tartness of cheap wine on her tongue and the part of Ariadne’s lips as she tipped her head back. The journey to the room upstairs, the nervous giggles, and the intoxicating press of a hot mouth on Anna’s own. 

Anna turned herself so that she was facing Ariadne, careful not to dislodge the warm arm laid across her stomach. She felt strangely self conscious, like she was taking a liberty by witnessing such an unguarded moment. 

And then Ariadne murmured in her sleep and drew Anna closer, erasing any doubts she may have had about the arrangement. Warm breath ghosted across her bare collarbone, making every other matter in the world inconsequential. 

Anna wondered how she’d ever thought anything mattered more than this. 

“I love you.” She whispered to the top of Ariadne’s head.

Something that had been missing for far too long clicked back into place. 

She didn’t know if it would take weeks or months to utter the same words to unclosed eyes but there it was. After years of pent up hurt and longing, years of stolen stares across ballrooms, years of different beds and different bodies. An immeasurable weight lifted off of Anna’s chest as she realized that she was finally home.