Title: Evening Refrains
Fandom: The Infernal Devices
Word Count: 700 exactly
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: An unremarkable but treasured evening for Jem Carstairs. Jem/Tessa. Hints of Jem/Tessa/Will.
It takes Jem a moment to realize why his heart suddenly feels so full when he steps into the Institute library.
He came searching for Church, but the room is dark, and the witchlight is low, so it's not a matter of what he sees that creates the feeling.
When he pauses, and breathes in slowly, it comes to him:
The subtle ticking has become like a mother's heartbeat. The Clockwork Angel is near, and where it is, so too is Tessa.
His own eyes confirm it when the witchlight's glow finally reveals her, fallen asleep in one of the claw-foot chairs.
He carefully removes Oliver Twist from her grasp. (He chuckles when he notices the way her fingers try to bookmark the page, even in her sleep.)
She doesn't seem to wake when he lifts her, or when he adjusts her in his arms, carrying her towards her own room.
The hallway is almost silent, yet he encounters Will just outside her door. His parabatai is fully dressed with hat in hand, only just preparing to head out for the night, but he pauses upon seeing Tessa.
Will's countenance--so sad and distant of late--seems to twist into a familiar wry smirk as he gazes upon Tessa and looks up.
"Up reading?" he mouths.
Jem nods, and they both share a silent laugh as her nose gives an unconscious wrinkle in the midst of sleep.
Will opens the door to her room as Jem turns through, careful not to catch her skirts in the frame.
Will seems to pause in her room, as if uncertain of his welcome, and Jem wonders briefly if he's ever been invited inside it before.
But Will, ever vivacious soul, recovers quickly enough to turn down the covers of her bed as Jem lays her down.
Jem feels his cheeks burn as the silence creeps into everything and the obvious surfaces: she's too dressed for bed. The covers will catch on her boots. Her back will ache in the morning from the corset.
But his brother is--now and always--an expert at ignoring things that are inconvenient for him to notice. Instead, Will turns to her bedside table and runs his hands over the book on the mantle.
Vathek, from what Jem can see.
Will runs his finger over the bookmark at the center of the tome, and smiles, as though genuinely pleased at her progress in the story.
With that tiny bounce to his step, Will turns on his heel, and strides out the door.
Leaving Jem alone with his fiancée.
It is only then that Jem feels a gentle touch along his arm, and realizes that Tessa is more awake than he thought.
It's a rather intimate yet unhurried process, removing the boots, untying and unbuttoning the layers down to her chemise.
It's not entirely unlike that night in his room, and yet so very different. Desire lies biding its time under the surface rather than bubbling up into fevered action. But the trust... It remains in the way her eyes droop with sleepiness, the way she makes no attempt to hide her bare arms and calves.
And when Jem has the dress safely tucked away in her wardrobe, she reaches for him.
And despite all his daylight reservations--all those promises to himself of chaperones and good behavior--he slides easily into Tessa's bed, already warm from the heat of her body.
He'd already complied in his heart long before she'd whispered the word "Stay," in his ear.
Her soft breath tickles the hair at his neck, and the very thinness of shirt and shift makes itself known as her soft frame aligns with his. Her legs tangling with his own shouldn't feel as familiar as it does, but there it is.
As her breathing slows and evens, Jem feels that growing sense of peace flow over him.
The whole world is perfect at the moment, burning veins and tired limbs included.
And as the cares of drugs and demons leave him in lieu of sleepy darkness, Jem Carstairs listens.
A triune rhythm forms the lullabye.
Her heartbeat, his own, and the subtle whirring of a mechanical guardian.
It's the music of angels.