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When You're Too in Love to Let it Show

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Thomas had a lot of thoughts, but they could be relatively easily summed up in an uncomplicated explosion of woah.

That was about it.

When he could stall no longer - and really, the carriage had always been in perfect condition - he headed back inside for his goodbyes, which was probably the only dreadful part of the evening he could have prepared for (but didn’t). What happened was this:

Scene one: Thomas and Alastair kind of stare. They perform the weird hesitant hug-or-handshake back and forth like some dysfunctional dance. Sona snickers in the back.

Scene two: Thomas shakes Sona’s hand while Alastair stares at the floor. Sona purses her lips to hide her smile. So polite.

Scene three: Thomas flees the house and nearly knocks over the umbrella stand.

During his almost-ill-fated mad dash from the Carstairs home, Thomas glanced back often so to maybe catch a glimpse of the expressions on their faces. It didn’t work, considering their door was solid wood, but what it did accomplish was an inability to see what was directly and plainly in front of him: namely, Cordelia Carstairs.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, startling. “Thomas! What are you doing here?”

“Ah,” he explained. “Nothing.” You just missed your brother’s best literary work since ever, he wanted to say, but it was Alastair’s story to tell.

There was a pause.

“Hope you had a good patrol,” he added, then resumed his speed-walking to the carriage. Cordelia, after shrugging, moved on to her house, obviously exhausted. Thomas was just leaving when he heard a piercing “WHAT!?” echo through the night. He grinned a little bit at that.

On the way home, he got to thinking. About Alastair. Not about the kiss - though he really wanted to - but rather about the yelling moment. It was slightly safer: he wasn’t in total danger of flying off the road because he was too busy being a pillowcase filled to bursting with happiness and worry and just feelings, all in one. But. About the yelling.

All those words were far too well strung together for a spur-of-the-moment accusation. It sounded almost - like a speech, like something he’d been keeping bottled up inside, perhaps for years.

If Alastair could maintain an acceptable level of sanity while simultaneously having all those words and all that anger, that frustration, that spite, coursing beneath his skin, well, what else was he hiding? And for whom? Cordelia and Sona, of course, and possibly even for Elias himself until he crossed that line. And, he epiphanized with a jolt, me. It made him a little sad, a little rueful, that Alastair could not yet trust him enough to not be strong around him, strange as that seemed. His thoughts flickered, illuminating images at random, kisses to crying, light to dark, silence to screaming.

Then a blur of white passed in front of him and he was slammed back into reality. The horses stopped so fast, they were inches away from getting knocked over by the sheer momentum of the metal compartment. Thomas let out an involuntary little “ack!”.

“Hello?” he called out cautiously to the vaguely anthropomorphic figure before him. “Is that…” He squinted. “Grace Blackthorn?”

The silver hair billowed around maybe-Grace like a shifting cloud. “Your friend stole my brother from me,” she told him in response. “I was the one who brought Jesse back - well, mostly - and now he’s spending all his precious time as a human with her.”

Ah, jealousy. Such a lovely emotion that Thomas was not in the least equipped to handle. “Sorry?” he offered, feeling a lot out of place. “Do you want me to talk to her, or…”

“What? No, you absolute cretin,” she said, waving about a large leather-bound spell?book. “No, I want you to come with me. Please.”

Now, Thomas wouldn’t classify himself as inordinately gullible. He had a respectable amount of street smarts. Mounting evidence suggested otherwise, however, because he agreeably hopped out of the carriage and stood beside her with all intentions to help her in.

“Where are we—”

And that was when she took the genre-curious book, smacked him over the head, shoved him in the back of his own carriage, and forced a potion of some sort down his throat.

The final lingering thought he had before blacking out was, why is everything happening on just one night.

It was actually quite overwhelming.

 

——————————

 

The next morning, he woke up in the Adamant Citadel’s basement, which he didn’t even know they had: it was littered with broken adamas and seraph blade hilts and wow, Tatiana Blackthorn. Not littered with her. She was completely (unfortunately) intact.

“Have a good day?” she asked, smugly picking at a hopelessly black fingernail like the high class lady she once was.

Thomas eyed it suspiciously. “I wouldn’t call it that, Mrs. Blackthorn.” He found himself wishing for Grace’s book, just to cut off the idiocy streaming from his mouth. She wasn’t a schoolteacher! She was the enemy. She was Grace’s mother, and Grace was a conniving little witch who had hurt many of his friends. Tatiana was... well, hmm. She was quite ridiculous, if he was going to be honest. She hadn’t proved to be much of a threat. More like a dear old lady who’d gone a wee bit off her rocker. Plus, he was certain that they were related somehow.

“Oh, dear,” she replied, attempting a charming laugh. It sounded a bit like a duck that had had its vocal cords smacked by a wonky hammer. “I apologize for our means of transport. It was probably very grubby.”

Thomas’s eyebrows mimicked the lift of morning fog.

“I mean, with the dirt, it must have been crawling with maggots,” she furthered, prodding him along with her words. “Only a Lightworm like you would know, right, right?”

“I believe I’m still dreaming,” Thomas remarked, to no one in particular.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake! I’m talking about the Drevaks!”

His mind slowly began connecting the dots. It was still the morning, you must remember. Thomas wasn’t exactly the earliest of birds. “Ah. So, you sent them.”

Maybe she was the enemy after all.

“Of course I sent them! Honestly, once I left that family, it all went straight to the dogs. You are all positively simple. You are making this whole process significantly less entertaining.”

“Entertaining.”

Yes, definitely the enemy.

“Well, it was fun at first, with the demons. Oh, my. Aha! You should have seen the looks on your faces!” Here she burst into peals of that same ducklike laughter, pounding her knee, gasping for breath, and Thomas came to three key realizations as he sat against the wall, unsure of whether to be concerned or angry or just plain confused.

1. Will Herondale’s hatred of ducks was beginning to make marginally more sense.

2. She hadn’t even been present for the attack, meaning:

3. Tatiana Blackthorn was more than a wee bit off her rocker. She had skewed completely sideways. The rocker was no longer in her line of sight. She was, in fact, quite mad.

“What are you even doing down here? I thought you were to live with the Iron Sisters!” he demanded, cutting her off. The less time he spent in this place, the better.

Tatiana - his aunt, that’s who she was - straightened up indignantly. “I am living with the Iron Sisters!”

“Then what are you doing here?”

“Biding my time, have you lost the plot,” she said.

“How did I get here, then?”

“The door, obviously, the door to London.”

Thomas considered this. “There’s a door to the basement.”

Tatiana looked at him petulantly. “No, this is the dungeon! There is a door to the dungeon!”

“Really.” Alastair was really rubbing off on him, more so than he had thought.

“Yes. Well, a makeshift dungeon, but still a dungeon!”

“But… I thought that all the entrances are guarded?” he said, feeling redundant.

A sly smile grew from her lips.

“You killed an Iron Sister?” Thomas yelped, and when she didn’t respond, he stood up. “THREE IRON SISTERS? You killed ALL THE GUARDS?!”

I didn’t kill them,” Tatiana protested, her defenses walling up around her. Thomas could cut a very impressive figure.

“Who did?” he said, walking up. “Who did kill them?” By this point, his shadow was spilling all across her spindly frame, and she looked as close to afraid as he’d ever seen her.

“No one.”

“Please don’t lie,” he warned, deadly soft. It could have been intimidating, he supposed, but he was actually feeling a little terrified. He’d never done this whole interrogation thing before.

But who knew: it worked! “James,” she said, firmly but quietly, “James is very foolish. He has a powerful lineage. And he is throwing it all away. But I, I have been chosen, I am the one that he has preferred, I am the one that he is helping. I am not working for him. He is working for me.”

Thomas stepped away, feeling strangely deflated. “Belial,” he said resignedly. “It is Belial.” He would not be pursuing a career in interrogations, however good at it he might be. People were beginning to disappoint him.

“Yes!” A spark passed over Tatiana’s eye, and maybe it was his imagination, but her gaze seemed hungry for a moment, maniacal, possessed by a wanting deeper than Thomas could ever scrape upon knowing. He knew what it was about. Everyone knew what it was about. It was about her husband’s death, and her father’s, and her perceived loss of her brothers, her protectors, when they ceased protecting her from those rumors. It was Will Herondale, partly, mocking her first love, it was people telling her that her beloved father was a monster, and it was Jesse, always Jesse. She had been broken by those first losses. Jesse’s had torn her into two and lunacy had patched that hole within her.

Those losses were tragic, it was true. Tatiana had suffered more than any human, or even Shadowhunter, should. But she wasn’t driven by love or grief. This had crossed the threshold. His Auntie Tati was dealing with dark magic and killing everyone who might infringe upon her path to getting her son back. That wasn’t love, that was selfishness. She didn’t know if Jesse even desired to be resurrected, to live at all. She had just… wanted it to happen, and so she assumed everyone else did too.

These revelations were hitting Thomas, pelting him like snowflakes, but Tatiana was inattentive and still talking. “I sent them - the demons - to find out more about you and Alastair. You know something about him? That boy - he cares. I could see it from the moment I saw him. He really cares about the people who are important to him. Desperately. Cordelia’s out of the question, and so is Sona, clearly.”

Thomas had absolutely no idea what she was saying, and Tatiana didn’t bother clarifying at all.

“Cordelia’s popular, and about to get married. People don’t take their eyes off of her. And Sona is pregnant. I wouldn’t kill a fellow mother. But you - the quiet boy in the corner, the kind and gentle one that nobody really takes notice of - well, you were the only bait I could use!”

Her hands were reached out, gnarled and grisled from decades of working with substances that only a warlock should touch. Thomas got the impression that she was trying to draw out his soul to inflict some of her craziness into him, to make him understand.

He did, just not what she wanted him to.

“You want him to come for me. You want all of them to come for me. So they can die. So they can’t hurt you anymore.”

In his head, he had stopped for a moment. Was he one of the three - just three - people that Alastair really, truly cared about? But then the cruelty of her plan struck him, that she was using his — best friend, whatever he was now — she was using his best qualities against him. And just because she was afraid. She hadn’t even met these people, and still she judged them off of tragedies from long ago.

Tatiana clucked consolingly. “Aw. Don’t be worried, darling. They’ll find you. A letter is on its way. Soon all your little friends will be charging in mindlessly like they always do — and well. It would be quite rude to storm the Iron Sisters’ palace without asking, now, wouldn’t it?” Her voice was treacly sweet, dripping with it. Thomas fought off the urge to vomit.

And yet, despite knowing that his friends would never be so stupid as to run in blind, Thomas couldn’t find a way for them to ever successfully find him without getting them into trouble (it would seem like they were trying to break out the convicted criminal) or getting him into trouble (why was he even there). Men were not allowed in the Adamant Citadel, period. He didn’t feel like finding out the consequences.

Inwardly, he screeched in frustration; his outward expression was actually worse, if you can believe it.

Shaking his head, he muttered, “Jesse is the only tolerable one of you lot.”

He realized his mistake as soon as he said it, but it was already too late. Tatiana was staring straight at him without seeing, her eyes glassy, her face a mask. The spark was completely gone for a shining sliver of a moment. It was like the world had flipped, like she was the victim once more.

“Jesse is alive?” she said, hollow and innocent. Like a child. “My son is alive and I wasn’t there?”