Forever Parabatai

Your Blood on My Hands

I pushed a button on my phone and the screen flared to life, alerting me of the time. I bit back an impatient groan. Jonathan Morgenstern's deadline was drawing steadily nearer. There was so little time left that I doubted I'd be able to fulfill my fantasy of taking Magnus Bane for a test drive in the sheets. Whether I succeeded in completing my task or not, Magnus's boyfriend would soon be dead. I wondered if the warlock would accept my form of comfort. Rumor had it he'd been with a female vampire for a time; surely he'd be open to a night with a warlock of the opposite sex.

"Are you all right?" Magnus interrupted my wicked thoughts.

I turned to look at him. "Huh?"

"You seem distracted." His hand slinked up the back of my neck and into my hair. "Is something bothering you?"

I glanced back at the TV and watched the commercials for a short time, trying to ignore the excitement firing in every nerve from Magnus's touch. Summoning up convincing, feigned exhaustion, I let out a sigh. "I've been thinking."

"Mmm. Me too." He clucked his tongue at the TV. "That man's outfit is atrocious. Those pants do not go with that top."

I pulled Magnus's hand out of my hair and interlaced my fingers with his, squeezing tightly. "I'm being serious. There's something I can't stop thinking about."

Concern etched in his face, Magnus switched off the TV with a snap of his fingers. He angled his body toward mine, giving me his utmost attention. My eyes traced over the curve of his jawbone and up to his yellow cat-like pupils. The sight of him was delicious. I let out a shuddering breath, which Magnus mistook for nervousness.

"What's wrong, Alexander?"

I squeezed his hand again for added effect. "You've always been so good to me, Magnus..."

Alarm blazed in the warlock's eyes. "You're not breaking up with me, are you?"

"By the angel, no." I scooted closer to him on the sofa. "It's just...you've always been so great to me, Magnus. I don't deserve you."

"Alec—"

"After I even considered taking away your immortality, I haven't deserved your kindness, your love. I can't stop thinking about it, Magnus. That spell will always be a reminder of my greatest mistake, my greatest betrayal."

"I've forgiven you for that, Alec. I won't dwell on it, and neither should you."

I held his gaze and measured my next words very carefully. "I want to destroy it, Magnus."

The warlock's head cocked to the side. "Destroy what?"

"The spell. I want to eliminate it from the Book of White. It's a memory I want to erase, and I never want that spell used on anyone else like you."

"Alec, the Book of White is a sacred manuscript. You can't just destroy that information."

"Please, Magnus." I forced tears to pool in the bottoms of my eyes. "I need it gone."

I could see Magnus's reluctance, and I had to fight back a victorious smile when he let out a defeated sigh. He squeezed my fingers before letting go and rising from the sofa. Swirls of bluish-gray light began swirling behind him as the warlock uttered an incantation.

"Wait here," he said, and he stepped back into the portal.

The apartment went eerily silent. I remained on the sofa as I ransacked my brain for different escape options once the Book of White was in my hands. Once the powerful weapon was in Jonathan Morgenstern's possession, he'd seek to destroy all Nephilim forces allied against him. Alexander Lightwood would be dead within the next few hours, and Jace Wayland and Magnus Bane would be next on the list to die first. I wondered if Jonathan would let me have some fun with Magnus before he was executed.

It took all my self-control not to pace the apartment as I waited for Magnus to return. Ten minutes had elapsed. I had no idea how far he had to travel or what he had to do to retrieve it, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Not half a minute later, there was a gust of wind and Magnus manifested in the living room. A book was tucked under his arm, and as he approached he pulled it out and extended it to me. I rose from the sofa, my hands trembling at my sides with excitement. My blood pounded in my ears as I stared down at the volume.

"I'm not keen on doing this, Alexander," Magnus said. "But if I can ease your pain by erasing this one memory, I'll do it."

My voice was a breathless whisper as I reached for the book. "Thank you."

The book was heavy in my hands as I gently pulled it from Magnus's grasp. All I could do was stare down at the cover, my mouth agape. I could hear my opportunity knocking at the door...

I looked up. Someone was knocking on the door.

"I'll get it," Magnus said. "Wait here."

He strode past me, heading for the door. This was it. I could open a portal and escape before he could turn around. Exhilaration and pleasure, the same that Jonathan felt whenever he killed, swelled within me. Before I could whisper a spell for a portal, my fingers curled under the lip of the cover and flipped it over. I had to see what was inside. Just a glimpse at the first page...

My eyes skimmed over three words scrawled in large, dark-inked calligraphy:

Kiss my ass.

~*~

I held my arm out to stop Jace from stepping into the living room. He gave me the same questionable look he'd given me when I'd opened the front door with a finger pressed to my lips, indicating for him to keep silent. He looked at me now, curiosity and confusion in his golden eyes.

I stepped past Jace and stood at Alec's back. "Alec? Is everything all right?"

Alec turned to face me, his shoulders taut and the book open in his palms. His eyes flitted from Jace and back to me before he offered a small smile. "Is this a fake? It's impressive."

"Thank you," I said warmly, then I flicked my wrist and sent him flying across the room and into a wall.

Jace cried out as Alec rebounded off the wall and crashed to the floor. "Magnus! What the hell are you doing?"

"Stay back, Jace," I commanded, grabbing his arm before he could run past. "I don't know what we're dealing with yet."

Alec slowly picked himself up off the floor. When he looked up, there was pain and heartbreak on his face. "Magnus, what are you doing?"

I pushed my palm out and he ricocheted off the wall again, but this time he remained on the floor. He let out a groan that sounded pathetic to my ears. He lifted his face and looked at Jace, his eyes pleading.

"Jace, please. Don't let him hurt me."

"Magnus?" Jace's eyes were trained on his parabatai, but his voice was hesitant.

"That's not Alec," I said firmly.

"What?"

"Jace, it's me," Alec whimpered. "Please. Help me."

"Don't listen to him, Jace," I hissed.

Jace groaned with frustration. "What the hell is going on?"

"That...thing...is working for Sebastian."

The second the words left my mouth, Alec threw out his palm and sent a ball of pink flames sailing toward Jace. I flung out my arm and the fireball smashed against the shield I'd summoned in front of the Shadowhunter. It bounced off the invisible wall and dissipated. Snarling, Alec rose to one knee and cast a series of pink curses in my direction. I warded off the spells with ease and cast a hex of my own back at him. He caught the blue flames against his chest and pushed his palms together, smothering the fire.

Jace unsheathed his seraph blade and stood at my side, bouncing on the balls of his feet. I knew he wanted nothing more than to charge the imposter, but he thankfully remained in range where I could protect him.

Alec fired another spell at Jace and I reached out to push him out of the way. As I moved, he cast another one directly at me. The pink sparks smacked into my upper arm like a punch. I gasped as cherry-colored tendrils began snaking down my arm, weakening the muscles and weighing me down like my arm was encased in concrete.

Before he could move again, I threw my left palm out and there was a bright blue flash. Alec was flung back against the wall. Shimmering blue strands of fire wove around his neck, wrists, waist, and ankles, binding him in place. He struggled against the bonds, but the spell was an exceptionally powerful one. I could see the effects rapidly draining his strength.

With him pinned against the wall, I muttered a healing reversal incantation and felt my arm return to normal. Panting, I made a point of fixing my hair and readjusting my clothes. Alec glared at me with exhausted eyes and made another attempt at wriggling out of my trap.

"Who are you?" Jace demanded.

"I'm Alexander Lightwood," Alec said.

"No you're not."

Alec smiled. "I'm the new and improved Alexander Lightwood."

Jace stepped forward threateningly, seraph blade still in hand. "I'm willing to make a few improvements."

"Jace," I said, stopping the Shadowhunter in his tracks. I faced the other warlock and waved my hand. "Let's see what's hiding under your pretty shell."

Faint icy-blue sparks shimmered around Alec and his skin began to melt away. His physique became smaller and his hair lengthened. A hot pink streak stood out in the ebony strands. I caught a flicker of movement behind the warlock and snapped my fingers. The intruder gasped as blue flame coiled around her tail and snared it against the wall.

"Magnus," the warlock purred. "If you wanted to tie me up, you should have just asked."

I smiled politely. "Shut up, bitch."

"Who are you?" Jace asked again.

The warlock grinned. "You might say I'm Alec's feminine side."

"Where are you keeping Alec?"

The warlock ignored him and looked at me. "So when did you figure out my little charade, Magnus?"

I met her eyes steadily. "I knew from the moment you stepped into my apartment with that chest wound."

Jace whirled to face me, his eyes equally incredulous and pissed. "You knew? You told me there was nothing wrong with him!"

"I had my suspicions, so I conducted my own tests."

"You lied to me," Jace snapped.

I sighed. "I had to. I couldn't give her any indications that I was on to her little ruse."

"You were very convincing," the warlock said huskily.

Jace ignored her. "You had no right to keep this from me."

"Jace, if I told you, you would have barged over here weapons blazing. You wouldn't have been able to pretend that this was the real Alec. You would have blown our cover, and we need her to find Alec."

While Jace fumed in silence, the warlock asked, "What gave me away, Magnus? Too aggressive in seducing you?"

"Well, first of all, your cover story for why Jace felt you die made me suspicious." I closed my eyes. "But it was the little things that assured me you weren't Alec."

The warlock cocked an eyebrow. "The little things?"

I raised four fingers and ticked them off as I spoke. "Your smell is wrong. Alec smells like faint sandalwood and warmth. I could detect a hint of lavender in your scent, nothing at all like Alexander's.

"Remember when I had you dance with me? Alec has two left feet when it comes to dancing. He's hopeless at leading and he can barely follow. You, on the other hand, have exceptionally strong dancing skills.

"The conversation we had next? The one about handcuffs? You laughed at something I said. You threw your head back and laughed. Alec's laugh has always been shy and quiet. He smiles and looks down at the floor, but his shoulders shake enough that you can tell he's laughing.

"Finally, you were too afraid. There's a difference between being vulnerable and being weak. Alec is vulnerable. You were weak. Alec is strong...and proud...enough that he would never let me see him that afraid of anything. I'm afraid your fear was far too exaggerated."

The warlock considered my words before she said sarcastically, "Magnus, the amount of small things you notice about your boyfriend is truly heartwarming. It makes me all tingly inside."

"That's enough," Jace snapped. "Tell us where Alec is."

The warlock sighed and rolled her eyes. "You remember those tunnels you first found Alec in? He's there."

I narrowed my eyes. "Why would Sebastian put Alec there?"

"Would it have occurred to you to look in the same spot twice?" the warlock pointed out. "You know Jonathan Morgenstern is smarter than that. He relied on you expecting him to be somewhere else. Plus, it's all in the presentation. That place has some pretty great memories for you all."

"You're lying," Jace spat.

"Why would I lie?"

"Why would you tell us where Alec is just like that?"

The warlock let out a long breath. "Because those are my orders. If I failed to bring Jonathan the Book of White, my next job would be to send you to him. It's your choice whether you believe me or not, but Jonathan will be expecting you. And Alexander does not have much time left."

~*~

Magnus transported us to the exact same spot we'd landed on our first rescue mission. The second our feet hit solid ground, I released the warlock's arm and stepped away from him. Back at the apartment, he hadn't given our imposter a swift execution. After her last remark, Magnus had snatched my seraph blade from me and stabbed her through the heart. Next he decapitated her and then burned her remains. The distance and coldness in Magnus's eyes had been alarming, though I understood his rage.

A familiar figure was blocking the archway that led to the tunnels. It was the blonde Shadowhunter with an ear full of silver hoops. He was clad in gear and a weapons belt was fastened around his waist. He unsheathed a knife and stalked toward us, a snide expression on his face.

"It's about time you got here," he said.

Magnus moved before I could. He was face-to-face with the Shadowhunter in three long strides. The Shadowhunter lifted his weapon, but Magnus grabbed his wrist and gave a sharp twist. I heard the snapping of bone, followed by the Shadowhunter's sharp cry and the clang of his dropped weapon against the ground. Lightning-fast, Magnus flung himself behind the Shadowhunter and reached around to grab his chin. I flinched as Magnus snapped the Shadowhunter's neck and watched, his face stoic, as the body slumped to the ground.

I raced after him as he hurried into the tunnels without me. I dared not question him about his actions, which, quite frankly, had scared the hell out of me. Sebastian was in for a real treat once Magnus got a hold of him.

We sprinted for what felt like hours. Doors had been added to the rooms in the tunnels, all of which were locked. There were several forked paths that we came across, but Magnus did not hesitate in choosing left or right. I followed him, knowing without a doubt he'd lead us to Alec.

Finally, the tunnel opened up into a large stone cavern. To the left there was a large metal door, and in the center of the room was a makeshift throne made out of rock. It was crudely carved, but I was more concerned with who was seated in it.

Sebastian's eyes were closed and he was slouched to the side, his cheek resting in his hand. "You kept me waiting," he said. He opened his eyes and there was a brief flash of surprise on his face when he saw us standing there, but he quickly traded that for a smug expression. "Forgive me when I say I was hoping you were someone else."

"Your warlock won't be making an appearance any time soon," Magnus said coldly.

Sebastian shook his head. "Pity. She was a bright young woman with many innovative ideas. She would have served me well."

"What have you done with Alec?" I shouted.

Sebastian rose from his throne and pointed at the metal door. "He's right in there. Waiting for you."

Magnus started toward him. "I'm going to rip your throat out."

"I think not."

Magnus halted in his tracks. I unsheathed my seraph blade and moved to stand beside him. We glared at Sebastian as he grinned savagely at us and clasped his hands behind his back.

"There are two of us and only one of you," Magnus spit out.

"True," Sebastian said. "But I've had help from many friends. Friends with vast and extensive knowledge and skill sets."

"None of which are here to stop me from ripping out your throat."

Sebastian chuckled. "Magnus Bane, I think you'll be too preoccupied to lay a finger on me." He swung his arms around and held up something small in his hand. It looked to be a remote of some sort, like the ones in cartoons with only one button. "Beyond that door is Alec, trapped inside a container very similar to the one he stayed in during his last visit. That door, however, has been sealed shut by wards only a very powerful warlock can get through. I have no doubt that you'll be able to get through it, Magnus, but it will take you quite some time."

"Is that supposed to intimidate me?"

"Yes, once you know that when I push the button in my hand, Alec's container will quickly fill with water. The only ways you can save him are if you get the door open before he drowns, or if you can push the button again to stop the flow of water. Magnus, you'd better get started on that door." Sebastian looked at Magnus pointedly before pushing the button on the remote.

A low hum could be heard in the ground below us. Images flooded my head of Alec trying to escape the tank as it filled with water.

I gave Magnus a push and started for Sebastian. "Get the door! Leave him to me."

Sebastian laughed tauntingly as I stalked toward him. He unsheathed his own seraph blade while he clenched the remote firmly in his other hand. I picked up my speed and raced at him. Before I could meet him, I dropped to the floor and slid, swiping out with my blade. Sebastian anticipated my attack and leapt into the air, leaving my blade to slice through thin air. He brought his weapon down and I narrowly avoided it by rolling out of the way. My leg shot out with precision and my boot connected with Sebastian's hand. He hissed and the remote flew out of his grasp.

I immediately jumped to my feet and charged for the remote, but Sebastian tackled me from behind and we crashed to the floor in a flurry of swinging fists and weapons. He managed to pin my wrists to the floor, but I head-butted him when he leaned too far forward. Sebastian cursed and released my wrists. I wriggled out from under him and crawled for the remote. My fingers just brushed it when Sebastian grabbed my ankle and yanked me back. He stabbed his blade at me, and, again, I rolled out of the way. My maneuver twisted his wrist, forcing him to release my ankle. I drew my leg back and kicked out. My foot hit his abdomen and sent him wheeling backward.

I turned again and dove for the remote. A relieved breath escaped me when I scooped it up in my hand and jammed my thumb against the button. As I turned to call out to Magnus, a fist knotted in my hair and yanked my head back. I cried out and felt cold metal pressing against my throat. Latching onto Sebastian's wrist, I rolled backward. His seraph blade fell away as he was caught off balance. I tucked my legs to my chest as he fell on top of me, and as I rolled backward I pushed my feet against his stomach and kicked him up and over me. He landed with a grunt on his back.

Magnus's back was to me when I risked a quick glance. Blue sparks and flames were exploding from the door. The warlock was pulling on it frantically but it refused to open.

Sebastian was back on his feet before I got to him. His dark eyes flicked to the remote in my hand and he lunged for it. I sidestepped him to avoid his outstretched arm. Sebastian swung his blade and I lifted mine to parry the blow. Our weapons clanged as they met overhead. My arm shook as Sebastian pushed down on the blade and began to overpower me.

Just as I thought to punch Sebastian with my other hand, his foot hooked around my ankle and swiped out. I crumbled to the ground with Sebastian on top of me. Desperate, I threw the remote from my hand. Sebastian growled and tried to get up to retrieve it, but I grasped the front of his shirt and managed to strike him with the hilt of my seraph blade.

Rage exploded in his dark eyes. Sebastian punched me in the side of my head. I blinked against the swirl of colors and dizziness. He pressed the tip of his seraph blade against my chest.

"I am going to desecrate Alec's carcass when I pull it out of that box," Sebastian whispered venomously. "I'm going to shred him limb from limb. I'm going to cut up his face. I'm going to feed the bones of his extremities to dogs, and I'm going to hang his body from my wall so I can relieve his death every day, so I can hear his screams, so I can hear him begging for death."

Dropping my seraph blade, I yelled and swatted Sebastian's weapon away from my chest. I rolled and pinned him under me, trapping his arms with my knees. I punched him over and over, using both my left and right hands. His head whipped from side to side from the impact. I did not stop even after his lip had split and blood dripped from his nose and his eye started to swell.

Suddenly Sebastian started to laugh. It was a deep, throaty chuckle that sent chills down my spine. I stopped hitting him, my fist poised midair. He looked up at me and laughed some more, louder this time. His teeth were stained red with blood.

"You killed him," Sebastian said, still smiling.

I looked over at Magnus, who had stopped to listen. The warlock's eyes were wild, and there were still sparks bouncing off the metal door. I glared down at Sebastian and hit him again. He grunted before letting out another laugh.

"I saved him," I snarled.

"No you didn't." Blood dripped from Sebastian's teeth. "Pushing the button once fills the pumps with water. Pushing it twice activates them. Pushing it twice fills the container."

My heart stopped in my chest. I took a shuddering breath. It couldn't be true. Just as I was about to call Sebastian a liar, pain exploded in my ribcage. Pain so powerful and overwhelming it knocked me off Sebastian and onto my back. Every nerve was on fire. It felt as though knives were stabbing every inch of my body at the same time hooks were ripping my skin apart. It was nearly impossible to breathe. I could feel the life being ripped out of me, but I knew, with heart-wrenching certainty, that it was not me that was dying.

~*~

At first Jace made no noise when he collapsed onto his back, but it did not take long for his screams to fill the cavern. It was all I could do not to cover my ears with my hands, to block out the pain ripping him to shreds. I was completely numb, though I knew there was a powerful force surging inside me.

My hand moved at its own accord as my palm pushed against the door. I summoned that energy and pushed, hard, against the metal surface. The door gave a loud groan as its surface rippled like water. I turned away before I could see it teeter to the ground, but I heard it.

Sebastian was struggling to sit up as I sauntered toward him. I swooped down to scoop up Jace's seraph blade as I approached. The silver-haired Shadowhunter was on his feet before I got to him, but I simply flung out my hand and he was flung onto his back again. There was no anger, no grief, no sadness, as I stabbed the blade through Sebastian's shoulder. He screamed, but the sound did not reach me. Releasing the weapon, I waved my fingers and blue sparks sprouted from under Sebastian. The weapon had impaled him, and now the weapon had been bound to the ground, which meant he was not going anywhere anytime soon. Sebastian tried, in vain, to pull the seraph blade out of his shoulder, but the fused weapon did not budge.

I turned and walked past Jace, who was still writhing on the ground, whimpering and gasping for breath. My feet carried me across the room, over the fallen door, and to the foot of the opaque container. My hand reached out in search of the lip of the lid. Upon finding no way to open the container, I held both my hands out beside me, palms outward. There was another rush and swell of power inside me, and a force resembling a gust of wind hit the box. I watched as the container cracked, spider-webbing until, with a loud boom, the sides gave way and exploded in a gush of water and shards.

And I was staring down at him. Alec was on the ground, dark hair plastered to his head and his skin far too pale. Fighting back a sob, I knelt next to him and pulled the tape from his mouth until the loop of silver hung around his neck, frighteningly like a noose.

"A-Alec?" I cupped his face in my hands. "Alec, wake up, baby. It's me. I've got you."

He did not move. Where there was supposed to be a faint jumping in his throat, there was nothing. I called his name again and shook his shoulders. Alec did not respond.

I placed my hand against his chest, directly over his heart, and sent a burst of magic into him through my palm. Alec's body jumped, but he did not wake up. I tried again, putting all my energy into another blast. There was not a flutter of his eyelids, nor was there a flutter of his heart.

"No, no, no, Alec." Tears streamed down my face. "Don't go."

My exhaustion crashed down on me suddenly, bringing with it grief and desperation. I could barely hold myself up as I positioned myself over Alec, placing both hands, one on top of the other, on his ribcage. I flinched as Alec's ribs cracked under the pumping of my arms. Then I tilted his head back and sealed my mouth over his. Plugging his nose, I breathed into him. My eyes never left his face as I switched back to compressions. His only movement was the jostling of his body as I tried to revive him.

I did compressions and breathed into Alec too many times to count. My face was hovering over his when my body finally failed, too exhausted to continue. My cheeks were soaked with my tears, an endless stream of them.

"Wake up, Alec." I wiped my thumb across his cheekbone. "Please."

But he didn't wake up. A strangled sob forced its way out of my throat. My muscles seized in protest as I pulled Alec into my lap. I held him against me and rested my cheek on top of his cold, wet hair. Slowly, I rocked us back and forth. I whispered his name, over and over and over.

"I need you," I murmured.

Alec was the only one I'd ever loved; he was the only one who'd ever loved me. He was my everything, my reason for existence. He was my heart, my soul, my reason to smile, my family...

The rocking stopped. My arms trembled. Blinking, I kissed the top of Alec's head and carefully laid him back on the ground. On shaky legs, I got to my feet and began uttering an incantation. There was a moment of hesitation where I did nothing, only stared. Then I looked over my shoulder and down at Alec's lifeless body. It took a long time before I could tear my eyes away and step through the portal.

~*~

The pain had finally stopped. The excruciating waves subsided, leaving only a dull ache and nausea. I tasted blood in my mouth. Aside from Sebastian's grunting, everything was oddly silent.

I pushed myself into a sitting position. My stomach roiled but I managed not to vomit. Sebastian was lying nearby, a seraph blade protruding from his shoulder. After watching him, I could see that he was pinned to the ground by the weapon.

Then it all came rushing back to me.

I looked to the side. The metal door had been knocked clean from its hinges, and the floor in the next room was covered in water and dark shards. Swallowing down my fear, I tried to get to my feet. My knees held me briefly before giving out. I landed on my hands and knees, breathing hard. It was difficult, but I crawled to the doorway with my eyes trained on the floor. When I reached the door, I slowly lifted my eyes.

A soft cry escaped me. My eyes burned and then there was a wetness against my cheeks. Still on all fours, I crawled over to my parabatai's body. With Magnus nowhere to be seen, Alec was all alone, soaking wet and bound around his hands and feet. A ring of tape was hanging around his neck, which told me Magnus had already tried to revive him. And he'd failed.

I reached out to touch him, but my hand snapped back. Sobbing and shaking, I backed myself against a wall and fisted my hands in my hair. I was afraid to touch him because I knew he was going to feel cold, and that would prove that he was dead. And he was dead because I'd failed to save him...Because I'd killed him.

I cried then. I sobbed and screamed until my throat was raw. Every time I managed to calm myself down, I'd take one look at Alec's body and break down into another fit of hysteria. I was hyperventilating and shaking when my tears finally ran out.

Suddenly there was a moment of clarity. I knew what I had to do, what I wanted to do. My body knew, too, and it responded without limitations as I got to my feet. My footsteps seemed to echo as I exited Alec's tomb and stalked toward Sebastian. When I stood over him, he smiled up at me.

"How does it feel, Jace, knowing that you killed your own parabatai?"

Without a word, I lowered myself onto Sebastian and straddled him. When he tried to shake me off, I locked his wrists down at his sides and pinned them under my knees. Then I pulled a knife from my weapons belt.

Sebastian smirked, unfazed. "Come now, Jace. Are you really going to kill me while I'm unarmed?"

I brought the knife down and stabbed him in the stomach. Sebastian gasped, his dark eyes wide. He panted and licked his lips before his cocky grin returned.

"You're a coward," he said. "Our father would be ashamed. He taught you better than to kill like this."

I stabbed him in the chest, right where his lung was. The breath rushed out of him in a whoosh, and then he was wheezing. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. I pulled the knife out and watched him, staring down at his face as he struggled to stay alive. The knife pierced his abdomen and I twisted the blade inside of him.

"How does it feel," I hissed after his cry subsided, "not being able to breathe?"

I placed the blade against Sebastian's throat and made a quick slash. His neck separated and released a gush of blood. The warm, dark liquid coated my hands. There was surprise in Sebastian's eyes as he choked and gurgled, more blood oozing from his mouth. And then I was stabbing him, over and over until his torso was a pile of sliced meat and blood. Splatters of blood joined the warmth of tears on my face. I continued to exert my rage on Sebastian long after he was dead. Finally exhausted, the knife fell from my bloody hands and I rose from his body.

I walked back to Alec's body and sat on the floor. I pulled his body into my lap and cradled him. My hands itched to touch Alec's face, but I dared not paint Alec's skin with Sebastian's blood. Alec's skin was pale, pure, too beautiful to be smeared by Sebastian's tainted blood.

I tucked Alec's head under my chin and whispered, "I'm sorry, Alec. I'm sorry."

Suddenly there was a strong gust of wind and Magnus was standing beside me. I stared up at him, surprised. His cat-like eyes widened at the sight of all the blood, but he did not ask where it had come from. He did not need to ask.

Magnus crouched down and grabbed a fistful of the front of my gear, pulling me —and Alec— closer to him. "I don't have long so I need you to listen very carefully."

"What—"

"Don't let him come looking for me. Help him move on. You have to take care of him for me, Jace. Tell him that I loved him and he was my everything."

All I could do was gape at him, incredulous. Magnus released me and placed his hand against Alec's cheek. "I love you," he said, and he bent down to softly kiss Alec's lips. When he pulled back and stood up, Magnus's eyes were glimmering. He said goodbye, so softly I barely heard him, right before his entire body burst into flames.

And then he was gone. Nothing remained of him, not ashes, not clothes, not even a speck of glitter. Before I could even contemplate what had just happened, Alec jerked in my arms. Water spurted from his mouth. He coughed, his eyes flew open, and he breathed.

~*~

The room was dark, lit only by a lamp on Alec's desk. His shoulders were hunched as he flipped through a book. Occasionally he wrote something down on a notepad before grabbing another volume or turning another page.

I watched from the doorway. From my vantage point I could see the plate of food I'd brought in an hour ago sitting on the desk, untouched. With a sigh I started forward, bracing myself for what was to come.

I stood beside my parabatai and watched as he alternated between scribbling and reading. "Find anything?"

Alec said nothing. He'd barely spoken to me since he'd woken up in the Institute's infirmary. Of course, he'd demanded to know where Magnus was. I'd abided by the warlock's final wishes and told Alec that he was gone, and that Alec was not to search for him. Clearly, the last part hadn't gone over so well.

"You need to eat something," I said.

Again, nothing.

I reached for the book Alec was reading. "Alec, I'm begging you—"

The blade of a knife slammed down against the table right between my fingers. Alec kept his fingers around the handle and glared up at me. "Don't even think about it."

I pulled my hand back, thankfully unscathed. "He made me promise I wouldn't let you look for him, Alec."

My parabatai's blue eyes were challenging, but the dark circles below were more alarming. "What are you going to do? Tattle to Magnus on me?"

"You have to stop this."

"I'll stop when I find out how to get my boyfriend back. Now, either pick up a book and help me or make yourself scarce, Jace."

"You're scaring me, Alec."

There was a pause and then Alec rose from his chair. "You know what scares me, Jace? The thought of living my life without Magnus. I need him, the same way you need Clary. When I was in that box, I made peace with the knowledge that I was going to die. All I wanted was to not be alone when it happened. Next thing I know, I wake up in the Institute and you tell me that Magnus is gone. And I know it's selfish of me, but I can't help but feel cheated. I was ready to die. I shouldn't have to live without Magnus. I can't."

I wanted to embrace Alec, but so far my attempts at physical contact had only pushed him farther away. I could only look at him with sad eyes, pretending that I understood his pain.

With a sigh, I said, "You're right. You shouldn't have to live without him. I'll make a deal with you. Eat something, get some sleep, and I'll help you with researching."

Alec's eyes narrowed. "Really?"

"You're so goddamn stubborn that you won't stop this, so I might as well help you. Just, please, promise me you'll take better care of yourself."

"Okay," Alec said after a moment. "Deal."

I jutted my chin out at the door. "Get out of here. I'll take a look and see if I can find anything."

"Okay."

I watched Alec's back as he trudged from the study. I was grateful that he'd finally agreed to get some sleep, but I couldn't help but notice he'd left the plate of food on the desk.

~*~

His skin was pale, almost milky-blue in the moonlight. His face was gaunt, his cheekbones too prominent and his eyes sunken in. Even with him lying down I could see that his clothes were slightly too big for him.

What are you doing to yourself, Alec?

An open book was cradled against his chest and his hand was resting limply on the spine. Alec's face was turned toward me, though he was in a deep sleep. Quietly and carefully, I lifted the book from him and set it on his nightstand. Then I pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed and covered him up to his waist. Before I could turn away, I lightly brushed my fingers across his cheek.

I did not have much time. It felt as though my visits were being cut shorter and shorter, and I wondered how long I had until my guard found out that I was sneaking off. Soon enough, one of these visits would end up being my last.

As I turned to walk away, I felt cool fingers slide around my wrist. I stiffened and froze, but when I looked down at Alec he was still asleep.

"Don't go," he whispered, his voice thick and slow from slumber.

The thought that part of him sensed that I was there brought tears to my eyes. I blinked back the prickling sensation and caught Alec's hand in my own. Cautiously, so as not to wake him, I climbed onto the bed beside Alec. Almost instantly he turned into my side and nestled his head against my chest. I gently kissed the top of his head and inhaled his familiar, comforting scent.

"I'm right here, Alec," I whispered, though I could feel myself disappearing, being torn away from him again. "I'll always be here."


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