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Crowns of joy (and dragonflies)

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“You’re telling me mundanes did this?”

Jace looks at the crowd around him, eyes wide and disbelieving. There are colours everywhere, splattered on the sidewalks and building walls, painted onto faces and outfits, bursting like fireworks in the air. He’s never seen anything as magical as this place, and he’s met Magnus Bane.

He briefly wonders if his brother has been to one of these events before and immediately curses himself for his own stupidity.

“This entire thing is mundane-created, yes,” Meliorn answers.

Jace isn’t quite sure how he was convinced into attending the New York City Pride parade with Meliorn of all people, but he’s not complaining. The Seelie is strangely comforting to be around whilst he’s surrounded by strangers. Meliorn doesn’t even flinch when people jostle them around or whistle at them from afar or comment on how beautiful they look. They just stare at them impassively and let their lips quirk into a small smile.

The blond shadowhunter can’t help but admire that about them. There are a lot of things about Meliorn that make Jace gape in either awe or confusion, but none more so than his ability to ignore everyone around them at a moment’s notice. Jace doesn’t think he could ever pull something like that off.

“But how did they make everything look so glittery?” Jace frowns, gesturing wildly at the parade around them. The literal air sparkles, and the shadowhunter isn’t convinced that’s something mundanes can do, even with all their shiny contraptions. “Look, if this is some secret Magnus wants to keep, I get it, but you have to admit there’s something undeniably magical in the air.”

“That’s just Pride,” Meliorn shrugs. Jace doesn’t know whether to applaud them or rip their hair out at their purposeful lack of clarity. “There’s always something magical in the air around this time of the year, but it has nothing to do with warlocks and Seelies. It’s just the world expressing its happiness at all the confidence, love, and joy going around.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Jace pouts, trying to catch a piece of glitter in front of him and pouting even harder when he fails. “Are you saying this is the world’s inherent magic? Is that even a thing?”

“You shadowhunters and your lack of cultural awareness,” Meliorn chuckles, shaking their head exasperatedly as they look at Jace. “Nature may not be as present in New York as it is in my realm, but it’s still here. The world doesn’t have powers of its own, but Nature does. Our Mother is watching over us and celebrating this time of solidarity with us.”

Jace opens his mouth to ask another question but snaps it shut when Meliorn raises a sardonic eyebrow at him again. Clearly, he’s exhausted his quota of inquiries for the day. He knows he’s being far more curious than usual, but he just doesn’t get this whole Pride thing.

Or, he does, but he’s not sure what it has to do with Seelies and Mother Nature and the mundanes’ capacity to transform the world they live in. What are they doing, exactly? Smiling? Laughing? Sharing love? He understands happiness is a powerful thing, but surely emotions can’t actually affect the air, right?

He bites his lip to stop his questions from slipping out of his mouth unbidden. Meliorn has made it clear that they don’t want to spend their entire day dealing with Jace’s pitiful knowledge of mundanes, Pride, and both of those things combined. Maybe the he should have started with a Downworld event and eased his way into the whole Pride month thing.

However, he was too embarrassed about his inexperience to attend the same event as Alec, Magnus, and the girls, so the mundane parade was his only option. He’s just glad Meliorn agreed to accompany him.

“I know you don’t want me to ask another question, but can I ask if you come to these events often?” Jace cocks his head to the side. It’s hard to imagine the Seelie knight wandering through New York City, a flag in hand, every year for the June parade. Of course, that’s exactly what they’re doing right now, but this is… This is for Jace.

Surely, they don’t do this when they’re alone. Or perhaps there’s a Seelie equivalent to this whole thing. Perhaps they show up with a bunch of other magical friends and laugh about the naïve mundanes who can’t see the glitter in the sky.

“I come here every year,” Meliorn answers. “Seelies, whilst very inclusive, don’t really celebrate Pride. I could just forego it, but there’s something soothing about being surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through. There’s something wonderful about knowing I can tell them my pronouns and not receive a blank stare as my only response. I allowed you to come along because I thought you might appreciate this, shadowhunter, but I would have been here either way.”

Jace hums thoughtfully, not really sure he can empathise with the Seelie – he’s not a part of the community, after all. He understands what Meliorn is saying, and he can even see why they come every year, if it’s always this magical. He’s just having a hard time reconciling the cold Seelie knight with this softer version of Meliorn.

The Seelie is decked in just about every colour of the rainbow, but they make it look stylish in a way no one else could. Their hair is braided and pushed out of their face, and their features are highlighted with pastel colours that sparkle every time the sun hits Meliorn. There’s a satisfied smile on their face that Jace hasn’t seen before, and their eyebrows aren’t furrowed like they are when Meliorn is irritated or raised like when they’re amused.

It’s a good look on the Seelie, and Jace can’t help but wonder what sort of burden Meliorn carries that makes them look so preoccupied all the time.

“Yooo, dude!”

Jace whips around to stare at the mundane who’s currently screaming right in his ear. He tries to level him with an unimpressed glare, but the young man is staring straight at Meliorn with an almost reverent look in his eyes.

“Dude, look at your dragonflies!” the mundane continues, waving excitedly at the insects nesting in Meliorn’s hair. Jace didn’t even notice them before, having assumed they were some strange Seelie crown. “How’d you make them look so real? I swear I saw one of them move from afar, although it might have been a trick of light. Seriously, man, great job on the costume!”

Jace is seconds away from correcting the mundane about the use of the word ‘man’ when Meliorn places a placating hand on his shoulder and shakes their head minutely. Not wanting to go against the Seelie’s wishes, Jace only grumbles and takes a step away from the stranger.

“Thank you,” Meliorn tilts his head gratefully. “You look wonderful as well. I hope you have a nice afternoon. And who knows, if I see you again, I might just give you a few tips about my dragonfly crown.”

It’s enough to make the mundane beam, pat Meliorn on the arm, and skip back towards his friends. Jace curls his lip at his behaviour but stays silent. Clearly, Meliorn didn’t mind the mundane, and Jace isn’t willing to get on his guide’s bad side so early on in the day.

“Remember, Jonathan, Pride is about acceptance,” the Seelie chides him, though their lips are still quirked in a pleased smile. “You can’t go around judging people for being too happy or excited or complimenting random strangers. It’s one of the most amazing thing about these events, and I hope you realise that someday. I promise you that your siblings would love nothing more than to have someone come up to them and praise them for their outfit or make-up or even just the flag they brought along.”

Jace looks away from the Seelie, not wanting them to see his embarrassed blush. He knows he’s still learning, knows he still has a long way to go until he can truly claim to be an ally of the community, but he’s trying. He’s trying so hard to educate himself and go to these sorts of events and ask his siblings about things when he doesn’t understand them.

It’s just hard to remember he’s not here for himself, not even here for Meliorn, really. He’s here because there’s a whole community out there, one his siblings are both a part of, one all of his friends seem to fit into, and he wants to make sure he’s not accidentally disrespecting it.

Still, it’s a work in progress. He’s finally learned not to judge anyone about their partners, whether they be a man, a woman, genderfluid, non-binary, and all those other identities Jace is desperately trying to cram into his head. Honestly, it’s not as simple as he thought it would be. It’s not something he can just learn about in a single night. It’s something he has to work on every day, all the time, by changing his way of thinking and not assuming everyone around him is straight or monogamous or cisgender.

“I’m working on it,” he repeats out loud, glancing at Meliorn briefly and preening at the approving look the Seelie is sporting. “I know I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m… I’m not too bad, am I?”

“Not at all, Jonathan,” Meliorn rolls their eyes. “You’re here, aren’t you? I know plenty of straight people who call themselves allies but would never even consider coming to a parade for fear of someone thinking they’re anything but heterosexual.”

“That’s stupid,” Jace scoffs. “We spend our time assuming people are straight, but then some of us have the guts to be offended when someone thinks they’re gay? It’s ridiculous.”

“It is,” the Seelie agrees easily, their smile widening. “I’m glad you see that, now. A few months ago, I’m not sure you would have understood what the issue was. You may have a long way to go, but you’ve already managed to adjust quite a bit to having such a queer family, Jonathan. It’s not something most shadowhunters would have managed to do, and I commend you for it.”

They both stay silent for a while after that, looking around and getting lost in the crowd. Jace can’t remember the last time he felt this anonymous, this invisible in a sea of people. Surprisingly, he doesn’t mind it. He even finds himself dancing along to some of the livelier songs with a group of strangers. They all look delighted to have an extra member, and Meliorn is by his side the entire time, so he can’t find it in himself to care.

The colours and glitter never disappear, but Jace is starting to see what Meliorn means about the world sparkling for them. The mundanes don’t seem to realise the sun is shining just a little bit brighter than usual and the sky is just a tiny bit blue than it should be. They’re too busy cheering along to chants, singing, and waving their flags around proudly. Soon enough, so is Jace.

It’s one of the best days of his life. Honestly, he can’t believe he even considered missing this, because how – how – could he have lived without it for so long? He’s not a part of this community, but they welcome him anyways. All they want in exchange is his acceptance, and he’s all too willing to give it to them.

He only thinks about the question that had popped into his mind earlier once the sun is setting and Meliorn is leading him back to the Institute.

“You know, those really do look like real dragonflies,” he points out, gesturing at the crown of insects on the Seelie’s head. “Aren’t Seelies against animal cruelty or something? Because I’m pretty sure those poor dragonflies are exhausted by now, flying around all day.”

Meliorn huffs, and Jace gets the feeling he’s missing something again. It wouldn’t be the first time that day. The Seelie gets this half-amused, half-fond look in their eyes every time Jace says something they think is stupid, and it’s exactly the one they have on their face right now.

“Oh come on, don’t tease me like that,” Jace whines. “I know I’m not the smartest or well-read shadowhunter out there, but I’m really trying to understand. Is this a Seelie thing? Or a Pride thing?”

“The first one,” Meliorn replies, smile turning into something far more sincere than Jace has ever seen. Like this, the Seelie looks happy, even more so than they had during the parade. “You can look it up, Jonathan, I’m sure you’ll find something in your Institute’s library. Or, if you’re feeling particularly lazy, you could always ask Magnus. I’m sure your brother could bribe him, somehow.”

“I’m sure he could,” Jace grimaces, not wanting to think about the numerous tools his brother has in his arsenal when it comes to Magnus. “I’ll just go to the library later. And Meliorn?”

The Seelie glances at him questioningly, their eyes still alight with mirth and their smile bright.

“Thank you for today,” the blond shadowhunter murmurs, a blush staining his cheeks. “I know I’m not quick on the uptake when it comes to these things, but I really appreciate your help. I’m sure Alec and Izzy will be delighted to hear my day went well, but it was all thanks to you.”

“You’re welcome, shadowhunter,” Meliorn tells him. A second later, the Seelie is gone, leaving Jace alone in front of the Institute.

He stares after them for a few moments before hurrying inside, eager to find out more about Seelie culture and dragonfly crowns.

It takes him less than an hour to dig out all the books on Seelie culture and pick out the most promising one. After that, it’s only a matter of minutes until he finds the information he’s looking for. When he does, he can physically feel his jaw drop and his eyes widen in surprise and beatitude.

In Seelie culture, dragonflies are a symbol of unadulterated joy and intense euphoria, and often appear around the Fae when they are truly content.