Forever Parabatai

Deadline

I gave the glass another swirl and watched the magenta liquid slosh against the crystalline surface. With a sigh I put the glass to my lips, tilted my head back, and drained the contents. The liquid burned a path down my throat before altering to a sweet flavour in my mouth.

Outside, a siren wailed into the night. I listened to the echoing cries as they faded away. The bottle sat in front of me on the counter, beckoning to me. I stared at it, debating another glassful. I could not remember the last time I had been intoxicated, and this drink was a shortcut to a drunken stupor. Scowling, I pushed the bottle away from me and traced my finger around the rim of my empty glass. As I thought to myself, blue sparks began to rain from my fingertip. A glittering ring of frost began to form on the rim of the glass. It began spreading downward as I moved my finger in circles. My hand did not still even after the entire glass was opaque with frost.

There was a high-pitched ring followed immediately by a loud crack! I jumped and yanked my hand away. The glass was now spider webbed with fractures. I muttered a curse and rubbed a hand over my face.

I don’t know if I can do this...

“Magnus?”

I turned to find Alec standing in the hall. His hair was mussed from sleep, though his eyes betrayed his exhaustion.

“Alec.” I stood up. “Are you all right?”

“I woke up and you were gone.” Alec looked at the counter and noticed the bottle and nearly-shattered glass.

“I couldn’t sleep,” I said honestly. “Too much on my mind.”

Alec nodded and rubbed his arm. “Magnus, I’m sorry.”

I blinked at him. “Sorry for what?”

“I know my...condition...hasn’t been easy on you. I’ve been a burden to everyone, but mostly to you.”

“Alec.” I reached for him. “You’re not a burden. I’m not having a drink because of what happened tonight.”

“You don’t have to lie to me.”

I grabbed the Shadowhunter’s hand and pulled him closer to me. “I just hate that I can’t help you. It kills me to see you suffering.”

He squeezed my fingers. “I don’t need you to fix me. I just need you to love me.”

“You never have to ask for my love. You’ll always have it,” I said, bending down to press my lips against his.

~*~

I didn’t bother knocking at the door; instead, I just grabbed the doorknob and barged into the apartment. Magnus and Alec both looked up as I entered. The warlock was leaning against the kitchen counter, holding a steaming mug. Alec was seated, bent over a plate of breakfast.

“It’s a good thing I decided to put pants on, otherwise you would have walked in on a magnificent sight,” Magnus grumbled into his mug.

“Adventure doesn’t knock,” I said. “Adventure comes barging through the door.”

“Adventure isn’t the word I’d use.”

Alec pointed his fork at me. “What’s with the gear?”

“I’ve been tracking a pack of demons. Now that I know where they’re skulking, I could use some help gutting them.”

“Count me in.”

Magnus strummed his nails against his mug. “Where is this demon nest located?”

“Underground tunnels.”

Alec made a small noise. I turned to look at him and noticed that he’d turned three shades whiter. Magnus set his mug on the counter and glared at me. I was so used to having my parabatai right behind me, guarding my back, as I charged into darkness and danger. Alec had always tried to discourage my reckless behavior, but it was rare for him to bail on me entirely.

“Alec, love, you didn’t get much sleep last night. Why don’t you hang back and catch up on your rest?” Magnus suggested.

“I’m f—“

Magnus held up his hand. “I’ll go with Jace. I could use a day away from pestering clients. Smiting some demons will do me good. How about you cook me lunch when I get back?”

If Clary had ever told me to hang back from a mission to play housewife, I’d have been offended. But I had to give Magnus credit for his tactic. He was excusing Alec without making him feel expendable, and he did so without drawing attention to Alec’s hindrance.

“It’s really not an issue,” Alec lied.

“I insist.” Magnus took Alec’s hand. “Please, baby. Do this for me.”

After a minute, Alec finally gave a reluctant nod. The tension that was visible in his shoulders lifted. I did not miss the grateful smile he cast at his boyfriend before Magnus turned to face me.

“Lead the way, angel boy.”

I inclined my head to my parabatai as I backed up to the door. “I’ll talk to you later, Alec.”

I just had time to see Alec wave before Magnus all but pushed me out of the apartment. He closed the door and started down the stairs without a word.

“Angel boy? Really?” I grumbled as I followed him.

“I thought you’d appreciate that more than ‘princess,’” the warlock said without looking at me or breaking stride.

We walked mutely for several blocks before rounding a corner and coming to a stop behind a tall building. I crouched next to a large metal plate in the ground and curled my fingers under the lip to lift it.

“Of course it had to be a sewer,” Magnus said sarcastically, his expression sour. He sighed. “If only coveralls and rubber boots didn’t look hideous on me.”

“As opposed to your usual sequins, leather, and glitter?”

“Don’t make me drown you in sewage.”

I let the metal lid tip over and clang against the ground. In a smooth and graceful movement, I swung my legs into the hole and began to lower myself down. As I dropped from the ladder, I reached into my pocket and withdrew my witchlight. It flared to life and ignited the tunnel in white light. Magnus dropped down at my side and followed me as we walked single-file down the pathway to the left.

The dank stench filled my nostrils as we continued deeper into the sewer. Though I knew the nest was still far away, my eyes scanned the walls up and down, searching to strip any glamour that concealed a misshapen hole. My memories drifted back to a time when Magnus and I had run down similar dark tunnels in search of a barely-alive Alec.

“Magnus?” My voice bounded off the tunnel walls. “Can I ask you something?”

“No, those pants do not make you look fat.”

“It’s about Alec.”

There was a pause. “What about him?”

“Does he seem...different to you?”

“He hasn’t been the same since he was abducted by Sebastian and possessed by demon blood.”

“I mean since yesterday.”

“What are you insinuating, Jonathan?”

I flinched at the warlock’s harsh tone. “I just find it odd how Alec couldn’t defend himself against a mundane.”

“Maybe we should shred your sense of security to bits and throw you in a room full of potential murderers,” Magnus hissed. “He probably just froze. It only takes a second to become a victim.”

I halted and whirled to face the warlock. “I felt him die, Magnus.”

“Imagine your disappointment when you found him alive on my couch,” the warlock shot back.

“Look me in the eyes and tell me something doesn’t feel off.”

Magnus inched his face closer to mine and snarled, “There is nothing wrong with Alec. I would know better than anyone. Forgive him for being vulnerable for once in his life.”

He shoved past me on the walkway. I wind-milled my arms to regain my balance and stared after him. With a frustrated sigh, I followed at a respectful distance. The agitation hummed around him like an electrical current. Neither of us spoke until he found a shimmering crack in the far wall. He let out a string of foul curses as he trudged through the river of grime and fluids. I trailed him without complaint.

The crack widened as we peeled away the glamour. Before it was revealed completely, I unsheathed my seraph blade. Witchlight still in hand, I charged into the hole in front of Magnus.

A cluster of demons jumped to alert as we stormed in. All four of them released cries that replicated a lion’s roar and a snake’s hiss combined. Unfazed, I circled the four demons with my weapon raised. They resembled wild dogs, only with green-scaled skin, spiked spines and tails, and six blue eyes per head. As I circled round, one of the dogs took a threatening step toward me, ears pressed flat against its head. Its lips drew back into a snarl, revealing sharp teeth coated in black saliva.

“Come and get me, beautiful.”

The demon roared and leapt at me. I rolled out of its path and swung my blade. The dog twisted away from my weapon’s arc and rounded to face me again, crouched to the ground. It leaned as I feigned an attack to the left and I shifted to the right and swung as its exposed flank. My seraph blade struck the demon’s spikes and rebounded without causing any damage. I barely spun out of the way in time to avoid the dog’s snapping jaws.

A sudden burst of flames diverted my attention for a split second. The demon saw its opportunity and took it; it leapt at me and hit me squarely in the chest with its paws. I crashed to the ground under its weight. The seraph blade and witchlight tumbled from my hands as I struggled to keep the demon’s fangs from clamping around my face.

Squealing and inhuman yelps of pain bounced around the makeshift room, but they did not divert the demon’s attention. It continued to bite at me as it held me pinned against the floor. One hand clenched around its neck, I reached down and yanked a knife from my weapons belt. Before it could notice, I stabbed the blade into the roof of the demon’s mouth. The dog gave a jerk and I whipped my hand out of its mouth as its teeth sliced open my skin. Black ichor splotched my hand and burned in the open wounds. Without wasting a second, I wriggled out from beneath the demon and snatched up my seraph blade. As the dog stumbled around, unable to close its maws, I swung my weapon and sliced its head clean from its shoulders.

Panting, I looked down at my hand. The cuts were shallow and the demon’s saliva was not known to be venomous, but the wounds still stung like hell. I looked up in time to see a solid circle of fire extinguish into a pile of smoldering ash and embers. Amongst the fire’s remains were three charred skeletons. Magnus was staring at me from across the room, his expression bored. The last remnants of blue sparks glittered from his fingertips.

“Enjoy the walk home,” he said.

I was about to speak when the warlock stepped backward and was swallowed by a ring of blue light. His form glittered before disappearing completely, alongside the remains of the portal.

I bent to pick up my witchlight. “Asshole.”

~*~

I sat on top of the box, watching blood bubble from the pad of my index finger where I pushed the tip of the knife. The scarlet droplet snaked and coiled a path down my finger to nestle in the cradle of my palm.

My phone vibrated in my pocket all of a sudden. With an irritated roll of my eyes, I got off the box and walked into the other room, closing the heavy metal door behind me. In one smooth movement I pulled the phone from my pocket, pressed the ‘talk’ button, and pushed the device against my ear.

“This better be good.”

“Status report,” the warlock answered, using her own seductive, sing-song voice. “As per your request.”

“Why did you shift?” I demanded.

“Relax,” she purred. “The warlock and the Nephilim are out on a precious hunt. I’m alone.”

“I don’t care. Every moment you’re not Alec Lightwood, you risk blowing our cover. Shift back.”

“They won’t be back—”

My voice dripped with venom. “Shift. Back. Now.”

There was an audible sigh before Alec Lightwood’s voice filled my ear. “Happy now?”

“That depends. Do you have it?”

“No.”

“Do you know where it is?”

“No.”

I gritted my teeth and clenched the knife tighter. “Do you know what I do to associates who do not give me results?”

“Fire them?” she guessed blandly.

“I gut them.” My tone was frigid. “I skin them. I make their lives a living hell before I kill them.”

“Disciplinarian of the year.”

I wished the warlock was standing in front of me so I could drive the knife into her stomach. “I’m growing tired of this attitude of yours.”

The silent threat made Alec’s tone politer. “Look, I’m not trying to waste time. I can’t just casually bring it up out of nowhere. ‘Hey, Magnus. Can you bring me the Book of White, please?’ This needs to be perfectly timed, otherwise there’ll be suspicions.”

“Are there any current suspicions?”

“Jace wasn’t too keen on believing my mugger story, but he doesn’t seem openly guarded or distrustful. I’ll win him over.”

“And Magnus Bane?”

“My facade has gone right over his spiky head. I had to hold myself back from going all the way with him last night.”

My stomach clenched with revulsion. “I want the Book of White within the next couple days.”

“You’re putting a schedule on my fun?”

“I did not hire you to have sex with Magnus Bane.”

“You didn’t hire me to not have sex with him.”

“Within two days,” I hissed before hanging up.

I walked back into the next room and glared at the black box. I placed the tip of the knife against the hard surface and dragged it as I sauntered around the perimeter. Faint, muffled noises could be heard from inside. Part of me regretted taping Alexander’s mouth shut; hearing him squirm around could not compare to the divine sound of ear-splitting screams of torment being ripped from his throat.

I stopped at the head of the box. If the lid had been translucent, I’d be looking down at Alexander’s face. Gripping the knife, I brought it up and slammed it down against the surface. The blade did not do much damage to the solid structure, but it left enough of a dent for the knife to remain upright on its own. I pictured the weapon protruding from Alec’s eye socket.

“Two days left, Alexander,” I said. “I hope you enjoy every last minute.”


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