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unexpected

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Maryse marched down the hallway, heels clicking against the stone floor and echoing loudly.

Valentine is here.

Valentine is in her Institute- well. No. Not her Institute. But he’s here.

Near her family, near her home.

She’d come back from Idris as soon as she’d heard, rushing to New York.

She wasn’t supposed to interfere or even speak to Valentine, but she had to see him.

See the bastard that had ruined her life, ruined so many lives.

It had been a chore to avoid Imogen- the woman hated her, and considering Maryse and Robert’s sordid past and everything that had happened, Maryse wasn’t sure she could blame her. But that didn’t mean she had to like it.

But as far as she knew, Imogen was with the prisoner right now (the prisoner, Maryse didn’t like this, because Valentine was never anywhere he didn’t want to be) and considering Maryse wouldn’t be going in, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Maryse wanted to go in.

She wanted to go in that tiny cell and punch him, she wanted to activate that agony rune over and over and watch him scream. She felt no shame for this rage, this hatred. Valentine deserved it, after everything.

But he would get under her skin. He’d turn people against her, he’d get in her head and whisper, whisper, and she-

She couldn’t risk that.

Maryse arrived at the door to the observation room- the one Valentine couldn’t see inside, because if he (or Imogen, for that matter) saw her, it wouldn’t end well.

She practically swept past the guard- he seemed startled to see her, but he let her through anyway. Luckily, she still had relatively high clearance and a healthy amount of respect at the Institute.

She let herself into the small, dimly lit room, closing the door with a click behind her.

Oddly, there were no personnel inside- perhaps Imogen was doing a little unauthorized punishment. Maryse wouldn’t be surprised. She might’ve done the same in the Inquisitor’s place.

She turned her attention to the large central screen. It was a clear image, and what she saw shocked her.

Valentine was… he was crying.

Valentine didn’t… He didn’t cry. He never showed weakness at all, not unless it was very small and very calculated.

This was neither. He was sobbing. His cheeks were slightly flushed, his eyes were rimmed red, his breath was coming in gasps.

He was trembling like a leaf, and even though it was silent, she could tell he was saying please.

She rushed to the controls, turning up the volume.

“P-please,” Valentine’s voice filtered through the speakers. “I’m not-”

His voice ripped off into an awful scream. This wasn’t like the angry roars of pain Maryse had seen in the old security footage, of the torture from only a few days ago. She’d watched it before she’d even arrived, trying to gather whatever information she could, hoping she could see something, anything. She hadn’t had the most recent ones, but she’d seen enough. Or so she’d thought.

Because this? This wasn’t the same thing. This was pure agony, it was grief and pain and defeat.

There was a faint smirk on Imogen’s lips as she finally let off the agony rune.

Please,” Valentine sobbed.

“Where’s the Mortal Cup?” the Inquisitor asked crisply.

“I don’t know,” he said, voice hoarse and rough from crying. His hands were shaking- no, his whole body was shaking. He was hunched in on himself, and he looked small in a way Valentine never had.

She mercilessly reactivated the agony rune.

Valentine’s- what had changed, why was he so fucking different- back arched, and he screamed again, pulling at the restraints with enough force to definitely hurt himself.

Mama-!” Valentine screamed, eyes squeezing shut with pain, his voice breaking. There were tears streaming down his face. “Mama, please-”

His voice dissolved into a language Maryse didn’t recognize, and when Imogen let the rune die down, his voice died down, too, mumbling tearfully as his eyes remained closed.

Valentine, calling for his mother? What- what the fuck?

Imogen asks again, severe and cold: “Where is the Mortal Cup?”

“I- I don’t know,” Valentine whimpers. “I don’t know, please, I-”

Imogen sighed angrily, hand moving down.

Valentine flinched back.

There was a cold prickling across Maryse’s spine.

Maryse already knew that Imogen had been torturing… the prisoner… for hours now. But something was wrong here. Something was terribly wrong.

“You’re never going to tell me, are you?” Imogen says, sounding cold and almost emotionless. “You think you can fool me with this ridiculous ruse…”

There’s something like satisfaction in the woman’s eyes when the prisoner’s eyes open, wide and afraid.

And Valentine- but when has he ever acted like this? -choked out, “It’s not a ruse, please, I’m not Valentine!"

Maryse’s heart nearly stopped.

“I am Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of Brooklyn, please-

Imogen scoffs. “He won’t give us anything. Prepare him for execution.”

And Bane- because, yes, it must be him, Valentine would never do this- drops his head, looking pained, exhausted, and defeated.

She sees her son step into view of the camera, stone cold and- and ready. Ready to help her.

He walked up to the prisoner, gag in his hands. Bane blinked up at him. “Alexander,” he whispered, but Alec ignored him, gagging him forcefully.

Bane squeezed his eyes shut, trembling harder as he curled in on himself. Alec looked stoic as ever.

“My son is dead because of you,” the Inquisitor said, dangerously soft and furious. “It’s been 23 years, and the pain just never goes away.”

Bane shook his head, words muffled by the gag.

“Guard the entrance,” she said, a satisfied look in her eyes. Alec nodded, turning to go.

Maryse saw red.

This isn’t Valentine. She knows it isn’t. Maryse knew him, and this wasn't- which meant-

She flung the door open, storming over to the cell and practically vaulted in, easily dispatching the guard at the door who attempted to stop her. She may be getting older, but she was a shadowhunter- and a fucking Lightwood, at that.

“What the hell are you doing?” she hissed at Imogen, flying past Alec.

Alec stepped back, startled. Bane looked up, eyes wide.

“I’ll be filing for execution,” Imogen said coldly, turning to her. “Valentine isn’t going to tell us anything. Why, Mrs. Lightwood? Do you have an objection for the execution of your former… boss?”

Maryse sneered. “If that’s Valentine, I’ll eat my stele.”

“…What?” Imogen and Alec said at the same time. Bane looked up, eyes wide and shocked.

It was odd, shock and gratitude on his face, but Maryse couldn’t bring herself to care.

Maryse gestured to him. “Valentine would never use this ruse. He’d never… lower himself to crying. He has far too much pride, too much ego.”

Imogen glared silently. Alec’s lips parted soundlessly.

“Much less pretending to be a warlock- and Magnus Bane, no less. Valentine is the purist type, remember? He’d consider such a ruse far beneath him. And he’s clever enough to come up with a plan that meets his standards and is just as effective.”

Bane looked stunned. Her son looked equally shocked.

He looked her in the eyes, silently asking are you sure?

Maryse gave the tiniest of nods.

There was pain in his eyes as he turned to Imogen, but there was also conviction. He took a deep breath.

“I think she’s right, Madame Inquisitor,” he said. “Earlier, V… the prisoner told me things only Magnus could know. I thought it was a trick, but…”

He glanced over at Bane, eyes dark with sorrow and regret. “But it makes sense.”

“This is ridiculous,” Imogen said sharply.

“What you must consider, Inquisitor,” Maryse said, just as sharp and angry, “Is this: what if you are wrong?”

Imogen didn’t say anything, eyes narrowing.

“Not only could you cause a war if it gets out you tortured and executed the High Warlock of Brooklyn,” Maryse continued, “But if Mr. Bane is in Valentine’s body…” her voice trailed off.

“Oh god,” Alec breathed. “Then Valentine is in Magnus’s body. He had been acting strange earlier, but I thought it was just the summoning.”

“Think of the damage he could do,” Maryse finished.

“He was in here earlier,” Imogen said, almost softly. “Doing an unsanctioned inspection. I didn’t think of anything of it.”

“Just delay the execution,” Alec interjected. “No more torture. You said it yourself, we’re not getting anything out of him. Give us time to get proof.”

Imogen seemed to consider it.

“Fine,” she said snappishly, after a long and tense moment. “But you have four hours. No more than that.”

Bane sagged in his chair, seemingly in pure relief.

Alec was at his side in a second, gently removing the gag.

Bane coughed, shaking heavily.

“Thank you,” he said softly. He hadn’t stopped shaking.

Maryse couldn’t blame him. But she couldn’t let herself think about the implications right now.

Alec went to untie his hands, but Imogen stopped him. “Don’t,” she said stiffly. “We still don’t know if that’s Valentine. I’m not risking anything.”

Alec’s face twisted with anger, but before Maryse could intervene, Bane spoke up.

“Alexander, it’s okay,” he said. “I’ll be fine. Go get that bastard, okay?”

“I can’t just leave you here,” her son said, voice cracking slightly.

Imogen looked vaguely uncomfortable.

Something caught Maryse’s eye. She looked up, throat going dry at was she saw.

“That won’t be necessary, apparently,” she said, feeling distant.

Bane- or rather, Valentine in his body- had materialized, shimmering, in front of the glass. Jace was next to him, clearly bound.

“Hello, Imogen,” he said coldly. He glanced at Maryse, those usually kind eyes brown eyes cold and hard as flint. “Maryse,” he continued, nodding acknowledgement.

Maryse gritted her teeth. Her heart was in her throat. Valentine had Jace.

“Alec, I’m so sorry,” Jace said. “You were right, they switched.”

“I know,” Alec said, voice cold as he stared at Valentine.

“You’ve taken my light…” Valentine said, Bane’s voice smug and calm as he spoke. Imogen practically whirled to look at him, eyes wide. “…and your darkness will come.”

Blue light flickered around Valentine and Jace. Apparently he’d gotten the hang of Bane’s magic somehow, and even as he stood still, his eyes were gleaming like a cat that had eaten several proverbial canaries.

“What did you just say?” Imogen said, faint.

“I’m just repeating your words back to you,” Valentine said, almost off-handedly. Acting deliberately bored, like this was all a game to him.

Imogen rushed out of the room to face him, fists clenched.

Maryse followed after, Alec staying behind with Bane.

“You remember the fire message you sent to me the night that Stephen died,” Valentine said, smirking. “The good news, in exchange for my freedom, you can save your pure angel-blooded warrior.”

“I don’t make deals with the devil.” Imogen hissed.

“You chose the wrong bait,” Jace said. “For all she cares, you could slaughter me right now.”

Maryse’s heart was racing. Her son was in danger, and Jace was right. The Inquisitor didn't give a fuck, she'd let him die in a heartbeat. 

But surely Valentine knew that.

“I don’t think so,” Valentine said, tilting his head. “Imogen wouldn’t dare slaughter her grandson.”

Her- her what?

“After all your lies,” Jace began incredulously, looking over at Valentine, “You expect me to believe I’m a Herondale?”

“Stephen Herondale was your father…” Valentine said, “And his wife Celine was your mother.” He turned to look at Imogen, sharp and mock-pitying. “You ever think about poor Celine?”

Blue light rippled across their bodies as he kept spitting out his biting words, clearly relishing the pain written all over Imogen’s face. “Nine months pregnant when she took her own life. Her dead body ravaged by werewolves, her unborn son eaten alive.”

His voice grew louder with each word, before coming to an abrupt pause. “Or was he?” he finally said, soft and victorious.

“You didn’t…” Imogen denied, but she knew as well as Maryse did. It was exactly what that monster would have done. And blaming the actions of Circle members on werewolves… he’d done that before.

“The Clave took so much from me,” he hissed, as if he were the victim here. “So I took something in return… But I’m sure you want further proof.”

He held something up, small and gleaming in the light of the cell.

“My family ring,” Imogen said softly, her hard expression beginning to break. “Where did you get that?”

“Off Celine’s very hand,” Valentine sneered. Jace looked disturbed.

Maryse remembered Celine. She'd had some problems, but she'd been a sweet girl. 

He'd taken that ring off her dead body.

“You have one hour to meet my demands, or your grandson dies.” Valentine said, shifting his weight. He’d won, and he knew it.

They vanished, rippling into thin air as if they’d never been there.

There was a moment of silence, thick with tension.

“That bastard,” Bane said finally. (Which was odd coming from Valentine’s mouth.)