There was someone in their kitchen.
Next to her, she could feel Jace just as upright and wide awake as she was. She didn’t meed to look at him to know he was reaching for a seraph blade just as she was. As one, they rose out of bed and crept silently to the door, her being in the lead by virtue of her side of the bed being the once closest to the door.
Grateful for the permanent soundless runes she’d carved into their bedroom door, she nonetheless turned the knob very carefully and poked her head out the door to inspect the hallway. From the glow by the landing of the stairs leading down to the first story of the house, she could tell that was looked to be the stove-light was on.
No intruder she knew of would switch on the lights to either burgle or pillage, and there was no way her two-year-old was quite that independent as of yet.
Feeling her guardedness start to ease just a little, she finally turned her head to face her husband. By the frown on his face and the seraph blade lowered to his side, she could tell he’d come to the same conclusions.
It had to be one of their friends or family, either Simon fresh from an argument with Izzy, Izzy herself to complain about said argument, Alec to escape if briefly his night-owl children, or Magnus for whatever eccentricity he would devise on the spot.
Knowing this did not make her stow her weapon however, and again without having to discuss it, Clary and Jace made the rest of the trek to the kitchen on silent feet with wary hands.
For the first time since her first weeks of training, Clary nearly dropped her weapon at the sight awaiting her in the kitchen.
Her brother was sitting on the floor next to the fridge, staring off into space and slowly, almost robotically, eating a pint of chocolate ice-cream clearly swiped from their secret stash in the freezer.
She huffed in annoyance, lowered her blade and flicked on the main light. He’d never done anything like this, and the rapid beating of her heart and decline of her favourite treat was making her a bit pissed at him.
“Jonathan, what the hell?”
He looked up at her with red eyes and she felt her anger melt faster than the ice-cream he’d just popped in his mouth.
She turned to Jace and gave him a light push to the chest, whispering, “Go back to bed. I’ve got this.”
He stared at her for a few moments, still not fully trusting her brother even after several years, but relented and turned to go back up the stairs.
She grabbed a spoon from the drawer and made herself comfortable next to Jonathan, digging her into the chocolaty goodness from the side, “So what gives?”
He merely grunted in reply, but she decided to wait him out, he would tell her eventually.
When half the ice-cream was gone, he finally spoke, “I think Quinn wants to leave me.”
She nearly spat out her ice-cream, “What on earth makes you think that?”
He shrugged and took another bite of ice-cream, “Just a hunch.”
She stared at him. She knew there was more to it, that he had lists upon mental lists of reasons why Quinn would leave him, but for the life of her she could only think of maybe one or two, and neither of them were problems they had to deal with for quite a few years yet. Unless there was something she didn’t know. She swallowed heavily, deciding to be very careful in her phrasing, “Is there anything…specific…that you…did?”
He snorted around his next bite of ice-cream, “You mean did I cheat?”
She nodded slowly, feeling somewhat ridiculous.
“Do you think I would?”
All she could do was shake her head.
He smiled a sad smile that crumpled into a sob and had her from concerned to panicked in about half a split second. She went by her gut and wrapped her arms around her as tightly as she could, humming and hushing as she would for her baby boy, “Shh. It’s okay, you’re okay.”
He listed to the side so his head was tucked under her chin, wetting the collar of her sleep-shirt, “Do you think I’ll turn into a psychotic freak when he’s gone?”
It took her a moment to process the words, and when she did her heart shattered into peaces. Now she undertook her brother’s fear, at least from an outside perspective. “Johnny, that’s not going to happen.”
He hiccuped, “What if his love is the only thing keeping me from becoming like he was? What if, like what happened with Mom and Valentine, he leaves and I turn into a monster?”
Clary vehemently shook her head, “Listen to me. Valentine was a monster before he even married Mom. Her leaving wasn’t what triggered it, and I don’t think he ever truly loved her. There is about a mile difference between obsession and love. You’re not like him and you never will be. You love Alexei, and even if he leaves and your love fades away, you love your family. You love me and mom and Jace and your nephew and sometimes even Simon, don’t think I can’t tell.” She sniffed, succumbing to her own tears, “Let me ask you something. If something were to happen to me, or Mom or Lucas, what would you do?”
He pulled back from her and looked at her like she’d lost her mind, “I'd do everything I can to save you, you know that.”
She smiled at him and took his hand, “It's a different kind of love, but it’s love. I can’t tell you that Alexei leaving isn’t going to hurt, that it isn’t going to make you feel like you’ll never be able to love again, because it is definitely going to feel that way for a little while. But you need to trust in yourself, trust that your love for us will keep you from being anything like our father ever was. Trust in your own empathy and humanity. The fact that you have demon blood doesn’t mean a thing, hell if that were a factor all Downworlders would be psychos, but they aren’t.”
Jonathan stared at her for a long time, the tears in his cheeks drying before he said anything, “Will you make sure I don’t become like him? Will you pull me back?”
She took his face in her hands and tried to convey all she felt to him, “Of course I will, but you need to know that, that is a big ‘if’, okay? You’re not constantly teetering on some sort of precipice, you’re good, and sane and loving, and so many amazing things. You don’t have to doubt that.”
When she finally got him to nod, she sighed in relief and sagged against him, “Now tell me, why do you think he’s going to leave you?”
He let out a long, shaky breath and took a massive bite of the goopy ice-cream, “He's just been distant. He won’t talk to me about what’s bothering him, which makes me think that I’m what’s bothering him.”
“Does he know you’re here?”
He shook his head, “He wasn’t home when I got there.”
Clary nodded, “So you don’t know where he is?”
Jonathan shrugged, “I don’t know much about his whereabouts these days.”
An idea came to Clary, “Maybe he’s planning a surprise for you?”
He arched a brow at her, “You mean like in those shitty romcoms where Person A is so busy planning something awesome for Person B, that Person B starts to feel like they’re going to break up? And in the end everything is just cleared up on the day of the surprise when Person B trips and faceplants in the cake or something ridiculous like that.”
She nodded eagerly, “Exactly like that.”
He snorted and took a rather aggressive bite of ice-cream, “Except I’ve asked him more times than I can count what’s wrong, and I’ve…”
Clary had a sneaking suspicion, and she grabbed the sleeve of her brother’s jacket, “Please don’t tell me you followed him or did something equally stupid.”
Jonathan stared into the empty ice-cream tub like it would reveal the secrets of the universe to him, “I didn’t follow him or do something equally stupid.”
“Do you need me to define stupid so you don’t get out of this with some sneaky loophole?”
He snorted, “Talking to his dad while the guy was trapped on our living-room carpet doesn’t seem stupid to me.”
Clary’s eyes nearly popped out of her head, “Having a casual chat with your warlock boyfriend’s demonic father is the definition of stupid. What the hell Jonathan? Why was he there and why didn’t you hightail it out of there?”
Again a shrug, “He actually seemed like a pretty chill guy, all things considered. From what I gathered he was kind of just there to check up on Alexei, didn’t seem at all surprised to find me there, even asked me what we’d be having for dinner. He just sat down on the floor and said he’d wait.”
Curiosity tugged at Clary’s soul, “How rude would it be of me to ask who he is?”
Jonathan turned to look at her and his face was unreadable, “In this specific case, very rude.”
“So you know, but won’t tell me?”
“It's not my secret to tell.”
“Oh so you’re perfect fine invading your boyfriend’s privacy by having an illicit convo with his dad while he’s not there, but you draw the line at telling your super discreet sister?”
Jonathan bumped his head into the freezer with a quiet thud when he laughed, “You, discreet? You have at least three people with whom you share every single aspect of your life. Telling you means telling Jace, Izzy and Simon, and you know Jace is going to tell Alec, who is going to tell Magnus, who is probably the only person in your posse who can be relied on to keep any sort of secret but is also probably the last person with whom Alexei would want to share this secret. I’m sure you can figure out why. As for me invading Alexei’s privacy, I don’t think talking to his dad when the guy randomly appeared in our living room while I was watching John Wick in my underwear on the couch counts as a violation. If anything, my privacy was invaded.”
Clary rolled her eyes heavenwards, “Then don’t tell me. Can you tell me what you talked about, at least? Give me a vague idea of what was discussed?”
Jonathan reached up to stow the empty container on a counter and gave her a sceptical look, “Are you asking because you are genuinely concerned for me, or because you are dying of curiosity?”
She challenged his look with a grin, “A little bit of both.”
He mock-sighed and pretended for a minute to consider it, “Well, for starters I asked him if Alexei was cute as a baby.”
She frowned, “But demonic parents are never around then.”
“I know. It was mostly aimed at confirming my gut hunch that this guy was…not evil? Less evil? Whatever. That he wasn’t as bad as they come. And he said yes, Alexei was cute as a baby, and get this, he pulled a fucking picture out of his wallet. I can’t tell you how much of a delight it was for me to find out that his hairstyle is still exactly the same.”
Clary giggled to herself, imagining a baby with a massive floof of curly red hair, “What else did you ask about?”
“I didn’t even really have to ask, he sort of just told me everything that came to mind after the first question. He says he’s the one who named Alexei, something about some hunter from Russia, and that he used to like to suck on peach slices when he was little, and that he absolutely adored snow, to the point where his mother had to regularly dump him in warm water to thaw him out.”
Clary nodded along, noting the little smile playing about her brother’s lips.
Jonathan frowned, “It's a little uncanny, he looks almost exactly like Alexei, but younger. Like seriously, he looks like he’s sixteen. He sat there in little cut-offs and a Black Widow t-shirt, playing a game on his phone while we talked.”
“I just can’t wrap my head around this being a demon. Do you think it’s just a facade to put his victims at ease?”
Jonathan shrugged, “I have no idea. He would have looked like nothing more than your average teen if he hadn’t had the tail and the weird eyes.”
Clary yawned, “So what are you going to do?”
Jonathan wrapped his arm around her shoulders and rested his head on top of hers, “I have no idea. Maybe I should just wait until he does something first.”
Clary nodded, “Don't do anything until you’re sure of what’s going on, wait until he wants to tell you. Maybe it has nothing to do with you at all, maybe he’s just going through something he can’t share with you, for whatever reason. Who knows, maybe some distance will only do you guys some good.”
Jonathan sighed and she could feel him nodding against her head.
Her eyes were drooping and she was on the verge of dropping off when the flash of a portal from the entryway drew both of their attention.
Alexei was standing in front of the portal, looking apologetic.
Jonathan hoisted himself up and made his way over, “Everything okay?”
Alexei nodded and held his arms up for a hug, looking like a child asking to be picked up. Jonathan pulled him in and wrapped him up in his arms, nuzzling into his curls.
Alexei melted into the embrace with a sigh, “Sorry I’m so late and that you had to come here, there was a bit of miscommunication with my client and I ended up taking hours to fix it, and my phone had to be sacrificed.”
“How did you know I was here?”
“There are only two places you would go if I was gone without any explanation, and your mom answered the phone when I called from home.”
Jonathan disentangled from the embrace just enough to reach into his pocket and pull out a very dead phone. Likewise, Clary nodded at her own expired phone on the counter, forgotten in the rush to complete Lucas’ dinner and bath-time.
Alexei simply smiled and thunked his head into Jonathan’s chest, “Mind if I take him home with me?”
Clary snorted, “By all means, please do. The rest of my desert stash won’t survive a prolonged visit.”
Jonathan huffed, “I'll replace it with two more, don’t worry.” He smiled at her, “Thanks for not stabbing me when I broke into your house.”
She waved him off, and with a another flash, they were gone.
She trudged her way up the stairs to her bed and her husband, who was up and reading. She took the book out of his hands, flicked off his light and crawled onto him.
He grunted but wrapped his arms around her anyway, “I take it your wayward brother is on his way home?”
She nodded as much as she could with her cheek smushed against his truly heavenly pectoral muscle,
“Home and well taken care of.”