Magnus was leaning against the wall across from me, eyes staring into oblivion. His arms were crossed, distress evident in the rigidity of his body. Alec's screaming had finally subsided, but that did not put the warlock at ease. Neither of us had spoken a word since we'd walked out of the room that now served as a detainment for my parabatai. Magnus's silence was unnerving; I knew he was holding something back.
Unable to endure the hush between us any longer, I cleared my throat. "We can't leave him locked up in there, Magnus."
At first I wasn't sure if he had heard me; his eyes stayed trained on the air in front of him. Finally his yellow eyes slowly turned to me, narrowing.
"You make it sound as if we have a choice," he muttered.
"He's not an animal."
"No. He's an unstable, homicidal Shadowhunter."
My lips pressed into a thin line. "If you're too afraid to keep him here, I'll take him back to the Institute."
"You," Magnus pinched the bridge of his nose, "are such an idiot."
"So you are afraid of him," I challenged, folding my arms.
"Of course I am." He cast a sidelong glance at me. "Don't pretend that you aren't, too, Jace."
I sighed, seeing no point in lying my way through an argument. "What's your solution?"
"Oh, gee, well I was thinking I'd bake a cake made with love and smiles and sugar and feed it to Alec with the hope that the deliciousness will counteract his bloodthirsty tendencies." The warlock's voice dripped with sarcasm.
"You're not helping."
"Neither are you!"
"Some warlock you are," I scoffed.
Magnus pointed his finger at me. "Don't push me, Nephilim."
I let my head fall against the wall at my back with a light thud. "So what do we know?"
"Not a hell of a lot. It's all just speculation at this point."
"Don't be shy," I prompted. "Share with the class."
Magnus rubbed his chin. "Alec's condition must be a side effect of the demon blood Sebastian injected him with. Evidently, it remained in his system even though I healed the demon poisoning. Unfortunately, I've never seen side effects like these. Sebastian either altered the blood in some way or he is using a new breed of demon. Either way, until I know what we're dealing with, I have no way of curing Alec. Attempting to heal him now would be like putting a band-aid on a broken arm...in the dark."
"So we really have nothing."
My head snapped up. "Well what?"
"I do have a theory," Magnus said quietly, "but I'd like to test it before I tell you."
"Forget the theory. What kind of testing are you talking about?"
Magnus waved his hand, dismissing my thoughts. "I don't plan on cutting him open. I need to see if I can provoke the possession."
"You want Alec to lose control and become a psychotic killer?" I clarified.
"I want to see if I can make him lose control, yes."
"All right." My hand gripped the seraph blade sheathed at my hip. "You better hope he doesn't break free of those chains."
"He won't." Magnus's face grew stern. "Jace, do not question anything I do or say when we go into that room. Just keep your mouth shut."
My eyes narrowed. "Fine. Just...don't do too much damage."
Magnus nodded and led the way down the hall and to the closed door of Alec's room. He reached out and grabbed the doorknob but paused before pushing it open.
"I really hope my theory is wrong," he whispered.
My baffled expression followed him as we stepped inside. Alec's head lifted at the sound of the door closing, and my heart lurched to see his eyes rimmed with red and rivulets of blood snaking down his forearms. I turned my gaze away and kept my expression guarded. I could not let Alec's condition affect me. We needed to do what had to be done in order to help him.
Magnus positioned himself in front of Alec and clasped his hands behind his back. He stared at Alec for a time, studying his face. I noticed the warlock's finger twitching, aching to reach out and touch my parabatai's cheek.
"Magnus," Alec said. "There's something important I need to tell you."
"Please, Alec," Magnus cut in. "Let me go first."
"I haven't been honest with you, Alexander."
Alec hesitated and his brow furrowed. "What are you talking about?"
"Remember the story you were told about your scars?"
"It was a demon."
Magnus straightened his posture, bracing himself for Alec's reaction. "That was a lie. You were abducted by Sebastian, and he tortured you."
"No." Alec shook his head, refusing to believe it. "No. It was a demon. Jace said it was--"
Alec's betrayed eyes flicked over to me, and I struggled to resist the urge to avert my gaze. I gave a slight nod, confirming Magnus's words.
"I put a block inside your mind," the warlock went on, "to suppress the trauma of the memories."
Alec pulled against the chains. "You did it without my permission?"
"Yes. I knew you would never ask me to do it, yourself."
"Why would you do that?" Alec whispered.
Magnus tilted his head. "You couldn't handle it."
I bristled at the harshness in Magnus's tone but kept my mouth shut.
"You were too weak, Alexander. The way you'd wake up screaming every night was frustrating. Even worse, you become somewhat of a tease. You'd let me touch you, but just when the going would get good, you'd push me away because you were afraid. I decided to put an end to it."
Alec's hands clenched into fists and the chains rattled as his body jerked. "That's not true."
Magnus clenched his fingers into Alec's hair. "You see how fragile your little mind is? You can't even handle what I'm telling you. Pathetic."
"Magnus, stop," Alec begged, his limbs twitching.
"How did I ever fall for someone like you? Nothing about you is strong."
An inhuman growl escaped through Alec's clenched teeth. His head slumped forward as a spasm wracked his body. Panting, he lifted his eyes, which were flashing between blue and black.
Suddenly, a crack resounded through the room as Magnus backhanded Alec across the cheek. I stepped forward, but Magnus rooted me back into my place with a glare over his shoulder. Alec let out a soft whimper.
"What's wrong?" Magnus sneered. "Can't take it?"
The warlock backhanded the other side of Alec's face, silencing his words. A mixture of spit and blood dripped from Alec's mouth.
"Come on!" Magnus yelled. "Take it like a man!"
All of a sudden, Alec started to laugh. The sound sent shivers crawling up my spine. My grip around the seraph blade tightened as Alec straightened. His irises were black and his lips were curved upwards in a taunting smile. He tossed the hair out of his eyes with a flick of his head and pinned Magnus under his stare.
"I'm going to kill you."
Magnus took a step back and cursed, running his fingers through his hair. Alec groaned and doubled over, bending as far as the chains would allow him. He cried out as convulsions twisted his body at odd angles. Still bent over, he lifted his head and revealed his dual colored eyes: one black and one blue.
"I hate you," he spat. "I hate you, you son of a bitch. I regret ever coming crawling back to you. I should have put that blade to my wrists and ended it."
Magnus turned to me. "We're finished here."
I stayed behind as the warlock hastily exited from the room. I watched Alec as he struggled to straighten. He groaned as his body continued to spasm.
"I hate you, Jace," he hissed. "You ruined my life. You got my little brother killed. None of this would have happened if you hadn't tried to wedge yourself into my family. Burn in hell, you bastard."
Though I tried to tell myself it was not really Alec speaking, his words still felt like a kick in the ribs. Without another word, I walked out of the room and closed the door behind me. I wandered down the hall with my shoulders sagging, defeated. When I rounded the corner, Magnus was leaning against the wall again with the heels of his palms pushed into his eyes.
"How could I hit him like that?" he murmured. "And the things I said..."
"You only did what needed to be done. We can't help him without making sacrifices. Alec will forgive you once you heal him."
Magnus pulled his hands away and watched me with glistening eyes. He looked as though he didn't believe a word that I had said, not that I could blame him. I was having a difficult time believing myself.
"What's the verdict on your theory?"
Magnus cleared his throat and took a breath. "I think we've been looking at this the wrong way. What if we stop thinking of this as a side effect, and more of a parasite?"
I wrinkled my nose. "Like a tapeworm?"
He rolled his eyes. "If you like. Now, imagine this parasite feeding not on Alec, himself, but on his emotions. It must have started out feeding on Alec's fear, which, thanks to Sebastian, there was plenty of. It became self-sustaining by generating hallucinations and nightmares."
"So it kept Alec in a constant state of fear."
"Exactly. Unfortunately, when I placed the shield inside Alec's mind, I cut off the parasite's food source. The night Alec had a seizure, it must have been trying to attack the block to access the memories and fear, but it didn't get the sustenance that it needed.
"With its primary food source gone, it needed to adapt to survive. Thus, it latched itself onto Alec's anger. Now it's been amplifying his aggression in order to feed itself. The more rage it feeds on, the more it consumes Alec. He's losing control more frequently and for longer periods of time. Eventually..."
"Alec won't come back," I finished.
"You know," Magnus said quietly, "I always thought rescuing Alec had been too easy."
I blinked. "What are you talking about? Nothing about it was easy."
"Think about it, Jace. There were only two guards there to stop us. Alec was alive when we found him--"
"Barely," I interjected.
"But still alive," Magnus continued. "When have you known Sebastian to be merciful? He knew I would heal Alec, and..."
"I think that son of a bitch knew I'd put up the block in Alec's mind. What if this was his plan all along? He did more damage to us by keeping Alec alive and making us watch as he suffered from the trauma, and now he's kicking us while we're down by turning Alec against us."
"But now we can fight back," I said firmly. "Now that you have an idea of what we're dealing with, you can fix him, right?"
Magnus looked dubious. "The solutions I have are grisly at best."
"We can't do nothing." I spread my hands. "What have you got?"
He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger. "We could leave him chained up and go back to researching, but time is slipping through our fingers like grains of sand."
"I can barely handle seeing him in chains. I'm not putting him under maximum security. What else?"
"We could bleed him."
Reluctance was etched in the warlock's face. "We'd cut him open, probably at his wrists and throat to begin with, and let him bleed out. With any luck, the demon blood will be expelled from his body."
"You can't be serious," I growled. "Absolutely not."
"I agree. The risks are too high. Alec could die before we got the bleeding under control or there's a chance the demon blood would remain in his system, and our efforts would have been for nothing."
"What's our other option?"
Magnus's gaze dropped to the floor. A chill licked at the back of my neck.
"Magnus," I raised my voice, "what's our other option?"
The warlock's eyes fell on me and I read in those yellow depths what his answer was before he could part his lips. My knees buckled and he reached out to grab me, but I steadied myself against the wall.
"No!" I shook my head and pointed an accusatory finger at him. "Don't you dare say it."
"We may not have a choice," Magnus said, his voice low and despondent.
I thrust myself into the warlock's personal space, my face mere inches from his. "I don't care. I will die before killing Alec."
"I'm as against it as you are," Magnus assured me.
"Good. Then find another way to fix him." I pierced the warlock with my vicious gaze. "And if you lay a finger on him, I will kill you."