Forever Parabatai

With or Without You

"Did you get it?"

I shook my head to clear away the after-effects of the portal and held out the blue cashmere scarf I'd brought back from the Institute. Magnus hurried forward and lifted the article out of my outstretched hand gingerly, as if every thread would unravel if he wasn't careful. Without a word, he snapped his fingers and the stele that was in my pocket suddenly appeared in his hand. He turned away and headed towards the sofa, hastily scrawling a rune on the blue material. I followed quietly, respecting his need for concentration. Magnus sat down and clenched the scarf in his hands, his eyes closed. I paced the living area as I watched him, too anxious to sit.

Magnus's brow furrowed and he clenched his eyes tighter. His head cocked slightly to the side, as if he was straining to hear some phantom noise.

"What is it?" I asked.

Eyes remaining shut, Magnus lifted a hand and massaged his temple with his fingers. "I'm having difficulties tracking his location. Now, shush."

"Sebastian took Alec's phone with him," I said absently. "Why not just leave it behind?"

"Obviously, Sebastian wants to communicate with us. Alec has your number and mine programmed into his phone. Now he has a direct line for his blackmail. Now seriously, Jace, shut up."

I could not stop myself. "Sebastian isn't one to negotiate." The unspoken words hung heavily in the air: Alec is as good as dead.

Magnus was on his feet and towering over me in an instant, cat eyes blazing. "You," he snapped, "are not helping. Go into that bedroom and do not make another peep. If you disrupt my focus again, I will kill you."

The harshness in the warlock's tone left me shaken. I turned away and headed into the bedroom, knowing better than to argue. I collapsed backwards onto Magnus's bed, loathing scalding me on the inside. There was a deep hatred for Sebastian, and also a sense of self-loathing for being unable to protect my parabatai, but amidst the knot of anger inside me, I was surprised to find detest for Alec. If he hadn't gone back to Magnus's...If he hadn't kissed me...If he had just moved on...

I mentally chastised myself for the angry thoughts roiling in my head. My frustration was feeding off my trepidation. Alec's survival was depending on my strength, not my emotions. I needed to be strong for him.

I pressed the heels of my palms into my eyes to ward off the threat of tears.

Hang on, Alec, I begged. Don't let go.

~*~

The rusty hinges of a metal door squealed in protest as it swung open. The shrill noise agitated my headache. I opened my heavy eyelids, blinking sensitively at the cruelness of the light. Confusion swept over me when I realized I was not laying on the floor; I was vertical, but my wrists and ankles were fastened to a plank at my back, securing me in place. When I looked down I noticed my shirt had been removed and a square of white gauze had been taped over the wound in my shoulder.

Sebastian approached me with his hands clasped behind his back. His demeanor reminded me of someone who was idly strolling through a park, as opposed to a psychopath who was advancing on his torture victim. His dark eyes drifted lazily up and down my body. He shook his head and clucked his tongue.

"I don't know what the warlock sees in you, Alexander. It must be your pretty face. Everything else about you is weak."

I closed my eyes and focused on tuning out his words.

"Look at me when I'm talking to you!" Sebastian snarled, jamming his thumb into the gauze pad over my stab wound. He grinned as I howled in agony. "We're going to have to teach you some manners."

"Don't touch me," I croaked, my voice frail.

Sebastian laughed. "I admire your spirit. It's such a pity that that, too, will be broken when I'm through with you."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Think of it as a preparation. Very soon I'm going to be placing a phone call to your friends, in which they will be listening to you beg for death. Your screams will have them lining up at my door to hand deliver the Book of White."

"You will never hear me beg," I rasped.

Sebastian's eyes twinkled. "We'll see about that. Let's get started, shall we?"

He pulled the familiar knife from his weapons belt. I sagged against the plank, bracing myself for onslaught of pain. Sebastian pressed the tip of the blade against my skin, lightly tracing over the faded scars of my runes.

"Nice stamina rune. I'll bet I can guess what you used that for."

The blade pierced my skin and Sebastian made a long, shallow slice from my right shoulder down to my left hip bone. Blood flowed into my mouth as I bit down on my tongue, forbidding myself from crying out. Blood oozed from the cut, trickling down my abdomen and stomach. Next Sebastian placed the knife against the inside of my left wrist. He made quick work of carving three parallel lines into my flesh. I sucked in a gasp of air at the burning sting. A thin sheen of sweat covered my face, plastering my hair to my skin. I bit my lip as Sebastian pressed the knife against the skin just above my hipbone. Ever so slowly he began to force the blade into my flesh.

"Come on, Alec," Sebastian hissed, sensing my escalating anguish. "Let me hear you."

A scream escaped me before I could stop it. Half of the blade was buried in my flesh.

"That's it," Sebastian encouraged. "Let it out." He twisted the knife with a sharp jerk and smiled as I yelled louder.

I panted heavily as he pulled the blade out of me. Sebastian slipped the bloodied weapon back into his belt. One hand remained behind his back while the other pointed at me.

"Are you ready to have some real fun, Alec?"

Sebastian brought his other hand around. Balanced between his thumb and index finger was a syringe filled with a black ink-like substance. Demon blood. My last ounces of strength were replaced with fear. I struggled against my restraints.

"No! Sebastian don't!" I shrunk away from him.

He removed the protective cap and smirked. "You didn't say please."

The needle pierced the skin at the crook of my elbow. The pain was instantaneous. Though Sebastian had only injected half of the demon blood, it felt like every vein in my body was being seared with a branding iron. My head throbbed and my body convulsed, but all I was aware of were my constant cries of torment.

The excruciating pain finally began to subside, though my head was still pounding and my entire body trembled. Sebastian grabbed my chin and forced me to look at him.

"Begging for death doesn't seem so unfeasible now, does it?"

He released me with a shove and turned on his heel. When he left the room, the two Shadowhunters from before entered. They unfastened my restraints and peeled me off the plank. My knees crumbled beneath me as my feet touched the floor. Each Shadowhunter took one of my arms and dragged me into the hall. Neither of them had bothered to put a bag over my head this time, but the pain combined with my light-headedness made me too disorientated to focus.

We came to a stop in an all too familiar room. I was suddenly staring at the black container again, and my stomach dropped.

"No," I whimpered.

The bald Shadowhunter hefted me over his shoulder before I could make an escape attempt. I clawed at him as he tried to slam me down inside the container, but he easily twisted out of my grasp. He pushed me down on my back and closed the lid.

"No!" I cried, pounding my fists against the roof.

Something suddenly covered the hole above my legs and I was swallowed whole by a solid black shadow. Panic enveloped me and I began clawing at the lid, screaming all the while. I pressed my hands against the roof and pushed hard, straining my muscles and reawakening blinding pain in my wounds. There wasn't enough air in the container; each breath became a struggle. Tears flowed from the corners of my eyes, and the cut on the side of my face stung as the saltiness touched the tender flesh. My fists pummelled the lid hard enough to leave bruises.

I was alone again, suffocating inside a box of darkness, with only my panic to keep me company. The sharp scent on my own blood surrounded me. I pressed my palms flat against the lid and pushed again, but it remained tightly sealed. I stopped pushing but my palms remained against the roof. They patted around blindly, searching for the warmth of a hand that might be pressing against the outside. The feeling of being completely alone was more crippling than all my injuries combined. I needed somebody...anybody...

In between my screams of terror, I cried out a name, begging for him to hear me:

"Jace!"


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