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The Moon Howls

Chapter Text

Ty, where are you? Are you lost in the same tears, in the same loneliness as I am? I keep going, day after day, but it’s as if rain keeps pouring on me and I know I won’t be able to find my way home until it stops. But it never does.

Kit had such nights sometimes; nights when logic and reason seemed to have abandoned him, replaced by those thoughts that he usually kept inside the untouchable parts of his soul. The kind of thoughts he kept locked up so tight, that most days he managed to convince himself he never even had them. On nights like these he wanders through the streets of New York searching for something; unsure of what it is that he’s looking for, and never finding anything but frustration.

He was marching, but the night air seemed to steal his heat away faster than his body could replace it. The snow alighted on his face, as cold as the memories that now plagued him.

Eight years have passed since his father’s death, since he had first met the Blackthorns, since he had made the mistake of letting Ty rip a hole in the fabric of life and death. Eight years since he told him he loved him; the only time he had said that to someone else beside his father. Eight years since Ty had showed him how little he cared. Eight years since Kit had left to live with Tessa and Jem. They gave him a family and a stable home, and Kit had almost made peace with the world. With himself.

He had visited the LA institute a few times since he had left. He learned that Ty ended up leaving for the Scholomance and became a detective, like he had always wanted. When he finished school, Ty left for Europe and no one had seen him in years. He did send Julian one letter a month to tell him that he was doing okay, but Kit never asked to see those.

Two years ago, Kit had joined Jace and Clary in New York. He found that he rather liked the city, and his distant cousin was less of a prat than he had initially thought. And then he met Ariella – or rather, he was set up with her – and a few months later they got engaged. It is customary for Shadowhunters to marry young, and Kit wanted to be the rule instead of the exception for once, and to lead the normal Shadowhunter life. Well, as normal as such a life could get.

With those thoughts racing through his head, he slammed directly into the man walking on the sidewalk towards him. The man tipped, lost his footing, and immediately started yelling.

“I’m so sorry,” Kit said quickly. “I was lost in thoughts.”

“I don’t give a fuck!” The man’s face was red in anger. Typical New Yorkish behavior, any native could yell you that. “Just watch where you’re going, you moron!”

“I’m sorry,” Kit said again.

“Idiot.”

“Sir, I think you dropped your wallet.” Kit pointed at the black leather wallet on the ground.

“Oh, right,” the man mumbled sheepishly. “Thank you.”

“Sure. I hope the rest of your evening is as pleasant as you are,” Kit said with a sweet smile.

He walked back to the institute and was greeted at the door by a tall man with golden curls and a huge smirk.

“Do you have it?”

“Right here,” Kit drew a gym membership card out of his pocket with his gloved hands. He had taken it out of the perp’s wallet while he was distracted by his anger. “Be careful not to erase the fingerprints, otherwise I’ll have to bump into him by accident again tomorrow, and the guy is not very pleasant.”

Jace took it in a paper tissue. “Your pickpocketing skills are truly remarkable.”

“My whole existence is truly remarkable.”

He climbed the stairs up to his room, feeling as if he was carrying an invisible weight. He threw his coat and gloves on his bed and pulled his sleeves up. The most embarrassing tattoo in human history stood against his skin, the word Christopher written in large black letters. It was put on him as part of a curse, and it had caused him to be mocked relentlessly over the years, mostly by Jace.

Kit sat at his desk and took a piece of paper and a chewed-up pen.

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

Some nights, when the sound of other people around him is muted, Kit’s mind is left to cause the loud turmoil inside of him. On nights like these he would write letters to Ty – which he would never send. He didn’t know where Ty was, but even if he had… he wouldn’t have had the courage to reach out to him.

In his unsent letters he had apologized again and again for the last words he had said to him. For making him cry. But Ty never read his apologies and writing them out didn’t make Kit feel any better.

A knock on his door cut his train of thoughts. “Come in.”

Ariella skipped into the room, her long strawberry hair almost flowing, and the corners of her mouth raised.

“Hi, future husband,” she said as she sat in his lap.

“Hi,” Kit said, quickly hiding the paper even though it was still blank.

“Who do you keep writing to?”

“Someone I knew a long time ago.”

“Well, as long as it’s not some another girl you have a crush on… or an ex or something.” She passed her fingers through her hair. The Herondale ring Kit had given her as an engagement present shimmered silver on her finger.

“It’s neither of those things.” Kit smiled. “I’m sorry I can’t tell you more.”

“It’s fine.” She kissed him softly. “We all have our little secrets.”

“We do,” he muttered.

“So, I’ve been thinking,” she said. “Why don’t we move up the wedding?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t need a huge party or many guests or a ridiculously fluffy dress. I just want to start my life with you. Let’s invite our close family and exchange the marital runes right here, in New York. In two weeks, so my mom can make it.”

“In two weeks,” Kit echoed.

“Yes. I don’t see a reason not to.”

Kit did not see a reason either.

“Yeah, sure,” he said.

“I love you.”

With that, she left the room and closed the door behind her. Kit took out the blank piece of paper again and began writing.

Ty,

Here I am, writing yet another letter that will never be sent. I have eight years worth of them stocked in my room and I can’t bring myself to throw them away.

Do you remember when I used to be the Watson to your Sherlock? It seems unreal how you were always by my side back then. Your voice, your presence next to me, and the briny scent of the ocean around us, remain embedded in my heart. I don’t think they will ever leave me.

I know I will probably never see you again; I made my peace with that. But it’s as if you’re still with me. Whenever my world burns to ashes around me, whenever I feel like I’m stumbling in the dark without aim, I think of you. Knowing that you’re out there somewhere, that you have found happiness, gives me the courage to keep going.

Even now, after all those years, you remain my light.

- C. J. H.

Chapter Text

The top of the large wooden desk at the office of the Head of the New York institute was barely visible underneath piles of reports and letters and different types of locks Kit had gathered. Kit himself was sitting at ease on the executive chair; it was made of dark brown leather and gave him a fancy feeling.

Jace and Clary had decided that he was ready to take over as temporary Head of Institute for a few months while they were touring the middle east. Why not, really. He was to take the post after he got married anyway.

Kit’s feet were resting on the table atop a pile of reports he still hadn’t read, and his hands were moving fast, trying to unlock the mechanism of a wafer lock using a ball pick. His sleeves were pulled up, and the cursed tattoo stood dark against his skin, the word New York written in cursive letters.

It did that sometimes. When Kit became agitated. God, how much he hated that tattoo.

Barely two weeks after Kit first came to the New York institute, he had gone on a mission with Jace which had taken an unpleasant turn and resulted in a battle with a small army of demons and one very angry warlock. Kit and Jace managed to fight their way out, but in the heat of the battle Kit hadn’t even realize that the warlock had managed to curse him. It was only when they got back, and Clary had healed their wounds, that they noticed the word Christopher written in large black letters on his arm.

He showed the tattoo to Magnus, slightly nervous, but Magnus could not understand what it meant.

At first.

A few months later, Kit had decided to make the New York institute his permanent residence. Six years have passed since the great battle by then, and it seemed that his secret was kept. Tessa and Jem agreed that it seemed safe for him to be there. And as his father used to say, the best place to hide is in plain sight.

Kit had spent that week notifying every one of his decision that day, feeling more and more stressed by this huge life decision, and then at some point he looked at his tattoo to find that it said New York instead of Christopher.

Utterly panicked, he called Magnus.

“Ah, I see now,” Magnus had said, sounding amused. “It’s an identity curse.”

“A what?”

“It’s not harmful,” Magnus said. “It’s just meant to embarrass you. You see, the bearer of the curse has his thoughts and feelings written out on his skin. Rather inconvenient.”

“But it only said Christopher so far.”

“Yeah. Seems like the warlock who did this was distracted in the chaos of the battle, so he didn’t apply it correctly. The curse is still there, but it’s weak. It shows your one main thought so to say, basically that you identify yourself as Christopher, no surprise there. But when your emotions overcome you, it shows them.”

“It says New York. That’s hardly an emotion.”

“Haven’t you decided that you were relocating to New York permanently this week? Seems like a big, stressful decision.”

“Damn it.” Kit had to agree with him there. “So, what, whenever I become agitated now everyone will know why?”

“Consider yourself lucky that the curse was not correctly applied,” Magnus said. “Three hundred years ago I knew a Shadowhunter that was cursed, but unlike your case, the words appeared bright green on his forehead and they revealed everything. He came out as gay by accident because of it.”

Ever since then, Kit was weary of his tattoo. It almost always said Christopher, but sometimes other names would be written instead – people he’s known in the past, mostly Blackthorns excluding Ty – and one time when he couldn’t sleep it said Moon.

Kit returned to his lock, too focused to notice the doorbell ring. The mechanism was simple enough. Just one turn here and –

Someone knocked on his door. Said person didn’t wait for an answer before opening it, and Kit wanted to be angry but then he saw her.

“Dru!” He leaped out of the chair and took her in his arms.

She hugged him back. “I missed you.”

“Then I regret you weren’t away for longer. I enjoy being missed.”

“Still picking locks?” She glanced at the desk.

“It’s a perfectly good hobby. And it might save my life one day.”

“You mean, when you forget how to draw an opening rune?”

“Yeah. Then.”

Dru sat down in an armchair near the fire, and Kit did the same.

“Your fiancée let me in.” She made a face.

“Don’t,” Kit said immediately. “We already had this conversation.”

They had. Multiple times.

“You’ve only known her for six months before you two got engaged!”

“Most Shadowhunters would agree that it is a respectable amount of time.”

“Since when are you most Shadowhunters?” she retorted.

“Since I decided that I wanted to lead a normal life!” Since the day I left all of you behind remained unsaid.

“A normal life as head of this institute?”

“It was the most rational course of action.”

“And that makes you happy?”

“It does.”

“Then why does your tattoo say New York?”

Fuck, how much Kit hated that tattoo.

“Because we’re understaffed, and I’m occupied, making calls to offer positions,” he said. It was clear that she didn’t believe him, but Kit chose to ignore it. “So, am I to understand that you accept my offer?”

“Before I commit to transferring here, there’s something I need to tell you,” she said gravely. “I know what you did.”

“Damn it, Jace told you about the karaoke incident?”

Kit had drunk a bit too much and treated the entire institute to the most embarrassing cover of Like a Virgin by Madonna. Including the dance. Kit still cringed when he thought about it, which was very often since Jace liked to bring it up.

“No,” Dru said. “I mean, yes, Jace told me and that’s super embarrassing, but we’ll get back to that later. What I meant is that I know what you and Ty did. I know about Livvy.”

Kit remained silent for a few moments, thinking about the best way to handle this. “How?” he finally asked.

“I eavesdropped on Ty and Magnus. Magnus was scolding him.”

“Ah.”

“What the hell were you thinking, Kit?”

He averted his gaze. “I wasn’t.”

“Clearly. You’re an idiot.”

“I deserved that.”

“It will come back to haunt you, someday,” she said.

“It’s been eight years, and nothing happened so far. It will be fine.”

“Since when are you an optimist?”

“Since when are you so morbid?”

“I have been for years. You’re so unobservant.” She shook her head. “Is there something else you’re hiding from me?”

I have fairy blood. “No.”

“Are you sure?”

I’m heir to the throne. “Yeah. There’s nothing else.”

“Good.” She looked appeased.

“I can’t believe Jace told you about the karaoke thing,” Kit said bitterly.

“He didn’t just tell me. He sent me the video.”

“There’s a video?!”

Dru’s reply was cut off by the sound of the institute doorbell.

“He’s a day early,” Kit muttered.

“Who?”

“Another recruit,” he said. “Let’s go.”

They walked the long corridor, passing other Shadowhunters on their way to missions or training. “I’m getting it, it’s fine,” Kit told each one of them. He was the acting Head of the Institute, it was part of his job to welcome new recruits.

“They seem to like you,” Dru commented.

“I am liked by the few and respected by the many.”

They reached the front door of the institute, and Kit pulled the large wooden door. But in front of him wasn’t the man Kit had expected. It wasn’t a man with tan skin and huge smile. It wasn’t Jaime Rosales.

The man in front of him wore an immaculate suit with a high collar, which reminded Kit of the suits worn in the Victorian era, and his hands were covered by black leather gloves. His black hair was messy and small flakes of snow came resting on the charcoal black strands.

Kit stared at him.

Eight years. Eight years since he’d seen him. With his mouth hanging open, Kit studied Ty’s cheek bones, sharper than he had remembered them. He stared at his hair, raven black just as he had remembered it. He gaped at his piercings - two silver hoops on his left ear and one on his right. Lastly, Kit met stormy gray eyes.

 

Chapter Text

Kit stood there, staring at him with shock. It would have been polite to invite him in, but Kit’s mind was still not processing what his eyes where seeing. He got the feeling that he should say something, but if he tried, he was sure no sound would come out. But then Ty spoke.

“Do you tend to forget your name?”

“Huh?” Kit gaped at him.

Ty pointed at his arm, where the word Christopher was written in large, black letters. Usually people assumed Kit was so full of himself he felt the need to tattoo his own name. Leave it to Ty to assume it’s some sort of a mnemonic device to help Kit deal with amnesia.

“No, it’s… it’s a long story.” Kit muttered and pulled down his sleeves. “So how… how are you?”

Ty ignored him completely and addressed Dru instead.

“Dru, what are you doing here?”

Not “Kit, what are you doing here” or even a polite “Fine, how are you, Kit?”. Just Dru.

And suddenly all the anger Kit had repressed over the years came flowing back, turning his blood to fire. The embarrassment of that night when he told him he loved him, and Ty didn’t give a fuck. The disappointment to find out how little he had meant to someone who was his whole world.

Kit he was furious.

“I offered her a job,” he said coldly. “I’m the acting Head of the Institute.”

“I know,” Ty said dismissively before addressing his sister again. “So, you accepted?”

“You know?” Kit yelled. “What do you mean you know?”

“News travel fast,” Ty said calmly. “You came to New York two years ago and are now being groomed to take over.”

So, he knew. Ty knew exactly where Kit was the whole time, and not once did he bother to try and reach out to him.

Kit felt so stupid. So dumb and weak and stupid. For years he had been wondering where Ty was, writing letters that will never be sent, hoping he found happiness. And Ty knew where he was the whole time.

Kit didn’t even know why he was so disappointed. He should have expected that, really. Ty was selfish, and Kit had meant nothing to him. He made that clear years ago. It was Kit’s fault for being and idiot, really.

Quick footsteps and then Dru saying “great, your fiancée’s here” made Kit come back to reality.

“Honey, why don’t you invite this gentleman inside?” Ariella asked him, a hint of reproach to her tone that only Kit gathered.

Kit remained stubbornly quiet.

“Will you come and have dinner with us?” She asked Ty. “The rest have already eaten.”

Ty nodded. He walked past Kit and followed his fiancée to the dining room. They sat down at the large rectangular table, Ty in the corner with Dru to his left, then Ariella at ninety degrees to his right and Kit next to her.

“I’m Ariella.”

“Ty.”

“Are you a new recruit?” she asked, serving them all some soup. “I thought we were expecting Jaime.”

“No,” Kit said immediately. “He’s not a new recruit.”

“How was your journey?” Dru had finally decided to speak.

“I was cornered by werewolves,” Ty said.

“But you don’t seem hurt,” Dru said, studying his immaculate suit.

“I have developed good diplomatic skills.”

“Great,” Kit said. “Will you put them to good use and convince other people to do stupid shit?” Like you have convinced me?

“Wait, you know each other?” Ariella asked.

“Yeah, he’s my brother,” Dru said.

“A crappy brother,” Kit contributed.

“Kit!” Dru exclaimed.

“So, what brings you to New York?” Ariella asked, determined to keep some civility at the table.

“A plane, then a car.”

From someone else it might have been a joke, but Kit knew Ty well enough to know that he was perfectly serious. His fiancée on the other hand looked utterly puzzled.

“Oh, nice,” she said. “And, um –“

“I studied at the Scholomance, then toured Europe for a few years, and now I’m here,” Ty said, apparently deciding to give her all the information before she could ask.

“I see, how nice,” she answered. “I hope this question won’t be careless, but –“

“Questions are never careless,” Ty said. “Answers sometimes are.”

Kit made every effort to keep his gaze on his plate.

“I was just wondering why you won’t take your gloves off?” Ariella asked curiously.

Kit had to lift his gaze at that. Ty was still wearing his black leather gloves. Together with his high-collared suit and his piercings it made for an interesting picture. Kit hated that.

“Fingerprints,” Ty replied.

Obviously. Kit should have guessed that Ty took to wearing gloves so he would never mess with evidence.

“But you’re not handling any evidence right now.” Dru had finally decided to speak.

“Habit,” Ty said.

Kit could sense his unease at being questioned so much. He wanted to tell the girls to stop but found that he couldn’t. His arm felt suddenly very hot, and he knew what it meant. The tattoo was changing from Christopher to something else. Damn it, Kit hated it so much. If his sleeves were pulled up, the rest would probably read the word Stop on his skin.

Then Kit made the mistake to lift his gaze a few inches up and met Ty’s gray gaze, and it was as if the ground cracked open under him and he began falling in an infinite void.

Focus on something else.

Kit directed his gaze down and forced himself to stare at Ty’s tie. It was blue, like the ocean Kit had left behind years ago.

His arm felt hot again, and lucky that Dru had distracted Ty with another question since it enabled Kit to glance discreetly at his tattoo. The word Blue was written on his skin.

Kit exhaled with relief. He was never able to actively change his tattoo in the past, but there’s a first time to everything. Maybe he could learn to control it.

“So, how long will you be staying?” he heard Dru ask.

Kit did not wait for Ty’s answer. “Why did you come here?” he asked instead, keeping his tone cold.

Ty’s gaze scanned Kit’s face. “Do you want me to leave?”

“No!” Ariella and Dru said in unison.

“Why did you come here?” Kit asked again, louder this time.

“All institutes are open to all Shadowhunters,” Ty replied.

“Honey, be polite!” Ariella whispered angrily.

Kit ignored her. “But why here?”

Ty shrugged. He was so unbelievably infuriating.

“Don’t mind him,” Ariella turned to Ty. “He’s under a lot of stress lately. We’re understaffed.”

Ty didn’t say anything.

“So, how long will you be staying, Ty-Ty?” Dru purred.

“A few weeks,” he replied. “Then I have to leave.”

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.”

“Will you come back?” Dru asked hopefully.

“No.”

“Good,” Kit muttered. Dru shot him a warning glare which he pretended he didn’t see.

“Then why – “ she tried.

“I have to.”

The rest of dinner passed in the most awkward silence Kit had ever experienced. Finally, Ty got up.

“Could you please lead me to an empty room?”

Dru gave Kit a meaningful look.

“I’ll take him,” Kit said unenthusiastically. It was part of his job.

Without looking back, Kit left the dinning room and headed back to the institute’s front door, where Ty’s luggage was still laying on the ground. He didn’t need to turn around to know that Ty was standing a few feet behind him. He could feel his presence.

Ty walked passed him and picked up his two suitcases – they looked heavy, but Kit didn’t offer him any help – and looked at Kit expectedly. Kit guided him in silence to the sleeping quarters, then chose the empty room that was the farthest from his own room and opened the door.

“Here you go,” he said dryly.

Ty put his luggage down and Kit turned to leave.

“This institute has fifty-three windows. Fifty-five if you include the attic.” He heard Ty’s voice behind him.

“What?” Kit turned back to him irritably.

“This institute has fifty-three windows,” Ty repeated. “Fifty-five if you include the attic.”

He was fucking with him. He must have been fucking with him.

“Do you have anything else you want to say to me?” Kit squinted his eyes.

“Yes, of course,” Ty said. “Congratulations.”

“What?” Kit was staring daggers at him.

“Congratulations. On your engagement.”

“How – “

“That girl was wearing your Herondale ring. It wasn’t hard to deduce.”

“Yeah,” Kit said. “Right.”

For a moment they stood there facing each other. Ty didn’t say anything, and Kit was glad because he didn’t want to hear his voice again, preferably ever. But there was something in the way Ty’s gaze was fixed on his collarbone, and something about his smell, and it made Kit think about what he had been fantasizing about doing for years.

“Do it,” Ty suddenly said, as if he could read Kit’s mind.

“What?”

“I know what you want,” Ty said. “Do it.”

“Are you serious?”

Ty exhaled. “It’s long overdue.”

It was long overdue. And it would be so satisfying. Kit should have done it years ago. Instead he had to content himself with thinking about it obsessively.

He took a step towards Ty.

The black haired Shadowhunter did not step back. He did not even move. Instead he stood still as a statue, holding his breath, waiting.

Kit took another step, faster this time, and pulled him by the collar of his shirt. Ty knew what was coming, Kit had no doubt about it. He tipped his head slightly back, watching Kit’s movements.

And Kit punched him with all the force he could gather.

 

Chapter Text

Kit hadn’t slept well that night. He was tossing and turning for hours, trying to ignore the heat on his arm as his tattoo kept changing its meaning. He refused to look at what it said.

When he woke up, it took him a few minutes to realize that yesterday had not been a dream. That Ty was here. In New York. After all those years, Ty was here.

Even more beautiful than Kit had remembered him.

Even more cold.

Will he still be here today? Or did he leave? Kit didn’t know which of these two possibilities made him more scared.

He got up and got dressed in a hurry, then walked straight to his office, only stopping to get coffee on the way. He called his second – a girl named Tamara who Kit appreciated for her tendency to speak as little as possible – and gave her the patrol scheduling and the mission assignments for the different members of the institute.

Is he still here?

When the doorbell finally rang a little after nine, Kit was already on edge. He headed to the front door and was joined by Dru on the way.

“You look like crap,” she commented.

“Thanks,” Kit replied moodily.

He opened the door and came face to face with a smiling Jaime Rosales.

“Hey, man!” Jaime said joyfully, and Kit pulled him into a hug.

They had met years ago but never really got to talk. Then about a year ago Jaime came to New York for a few weeks and they became good friends. After Jaime had left they kept in touch, and now that Kit was the acting head of the institute he offered him a post.

Kit let him go and Jaime turned to give Dru an awkward hug.

“Long time no seen,” he said.

“Yeah,” she smiled tentatively. “You really grew up.”

“Thanks,” Jaime said. “You look great.”

“Let’s go to the library,” Kit said. “There’s a case I want to show you guys.”

“You’ve got to appreciate his work ethic,” Dru muttered to Jaime as they began walking the long corridor.

“Still in love with yourself, I see,” Jaime said, nodding towards Kit arm where the word Christopher was written again.

“I’ve got half a mind to cut my arm off,” Kit muttered. He wore a t-shirt, so there was no pulling his sleeves down. At least the tattoo didn’t say anything embarrassing today.

They reached the library.

“Where’s your fiancée?” Jaime asked, looking around as if Ariella might jump out of a bookcase.

“Out on a mission,” Kit replied. “She’s a hard worker.”

“She’s an idiot,” Dru said.

Jaime seemed to be making an effort not to smile. “So, when’s the wedding?”

“In two weeks,” Kit replied.

“TWO WEEKS?” Dru yelled. “What the hell, man?”

“We moved it up. There was no reason not to.”

“So you’re seriously going to marry her?” Jaime asked, sounding puzzled.

“What does that mean?”

“Well I kind of always thought it was a phase,” Jaime said uncomfortably. “You don’t really seem like the type of guy to… you know…”

“No, I don’t know,” Kit said irritably. “I’m not what, exactly?”

“It’s just that I always pictured you with someone else.”

“With whom?”

“I don’t know…” Jaime said, looking embarrassed. “Someone different, you know?”

“No, I don’t know,” Kit said dryly.

“Do you even love her?” Dru hissed angrily.

“What is it with you two?” Kit lost his patience. If he even had any in the first place. “Get this into you head: I’m going to marry her, and we’ll have two beautiful children, and everything will be nice and normal around here and that is it!”

Two beautiful children?” Dru repeated with disgust. “With her? Sure! Why not five!” she was screaming now.

“Ten!” Kit shouted back. “We’ll have ten!”

“Okay, calm down guys,” Jaime said, trying to sound appeasing. “Before Kit decides to adopt every child in existence out of spite.”

“Have you told Ty that you’re getting married in two weeks?” Dru asked angrily.

“Why the fuck would I tell Ty?” Kit yelled.

“Because you used to be friends!”

“I used to be friends with a lot of people! You don’t see me calling Tim from first grade to notify him that I’m getting married!”

“You’re being stupid!”

“You’re not making any sense!”

“How about we all take a deep breath,” Jaime said, placing one hand around Kit’s neck and the other around Dru’s and guiding them to the couch. “There you go. Nice and easy,” he said as they sat down on either side of him. “Now let’s look at this case, shall we?”

Dru muttered something that sounded a lot like “stupid” but Kit ignored it and soon he was absorbed in detailing the case to Jaime.

“Good morning.” Ty’s baritone voice echoed in the room, sending shivers down Kit’s spine.

“Oh, great, you’re still here,” Kit said dryly without bothering to lift his eyes from the report. He didn’t want Ty to be here. He didn’t want him to leave. He wanted to choke him. He wanted to stop feeling this way.

“By the Angel, Ty, what happened to you?” Dru cried out.

Kit lifted his gaze and was startled to see that Ty had a black eye. It stood in odd contrast to his delicate features.

Ty hadn’t said anything after Kit had punched him last night, and Kit hadn’t either. He left him there, assuming he would heal himself with an Iratze. Apparently, he hadn’t.

“I punched him,” Kit said coldly.

“Why?” Dru asked in exasperation.

“Who – “ Jaime began.

“Because I told him to,” Ty said. The bruise stood out, dark purple against his white skin.

“Do you want me to heal you?” Dru asked her brother.

“No.”

“Wow, Kit, I forgot how bad of an influence you were,” Jaime said lightly.

“I’m pretty sure he’s the bad influence,” Kit indicated Ty with a nod. “He used to make me do stupid shit. You know, play detective, eavesdrop on conversations.” Raise the dead.

“I never made you do anything,” Ty said dryly. “You chose to.”

Kit got up and took a step towards him. “I’ll punch you again, I swear to god!”

Ty took a step forward as well, a defying look on his face. For a moment Kit was distracted by the way the hoops on Ty’s ears caught the light. Pull yourself together. Punch him all the way back to Europe.

“No one is punching anyone!” Dru yelled.

“Okay, wow,” Jaime said. “Please, somebody, get me up to speed. Who’s this guy?” he asked, pointing at Ty.

“That, my dear Jaime, is an insufferable douche,” Kit said spitefully.

Dru shushed him. “That’s my brother, Ty,” she said to Jaime.

“Oh, I remember you!” Jaime’s eyes lit up with realization. “You’re that Blackthorn kid who left for the Scholomance.”

Ty nodded, managing to look dignified even with his black eye.

“I thought you disappeared,” Jaime continued tactlessly.

“I did,” Ty confirmed. “Then I came back.”

“And how happy it made us all,” Kit said unenthusiastically. “So, you can leave now.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“See?” Kit turned to Jaime with a pained look. “He’s insufferable.”

“Didn’t you two used to be best buds?” Jaime lifted an eyebrow. “I distinctly remember –“

Kit kicked his shin.

“What are you working on?” Ty asked.

“Nothing,” Kit said immediately.

 “Here,” Dru said. “Take a look.”

“No, don’t take a look because you’re not working the case with us,” Kit said, not caring that he sounded childish.

“Maybe I can give valuable input,” Ty said.

“Great. You do that. For another case. I’ll call Tamara in here and you can work with her.”

Ty ignored him. He sat down, picked up a report, and began reading. Kit exhaled in frustration. He sat back down, as far from Ty as he could.

“As your friend I vow to hate everyone you hate, you know that,” Jaime whispered in his ear.

“Word.”

“But is that guy really that bad?”

“Yes!” Kit whispered back irritably.

“He’s kind of hot, though,” Jaime whispered again, studying Ty’s face discreetly. “With that bruise… he kind of looks like an angel that had just lost a fist fight.”

“Lucifer was an angel too, once,” Kit snapped.

“Okay then,” Jaime said, sounding slightly amused. “From now on I’ll only be polite towards him, instead of my usual very polite attitude,” he promised loyally.

Kit hummed in agreement.

“Kit is getting married in two weeks,” Dru suddenly said out loud.

From the corner of his eye, Kit could see that Ty hadn’t lifted his eyes from the report.

“I am,” Kit confirmed.

His hand felt hot again and he glanced at it to see the words In two weeks. The tattoo had never showed more than a single word or a single name in the past.

In two weeks

The goddamned tattoo picked up on his distress. Kit hid his arm in his lap. The last thing he needed was for the rest to see how tormented he was by the whole thing.

“Wait, is that why you came here, Ty?” Dru asked. “You wanted to be present at his wedding?”

Kit straightened in his chair. Had Ty known that he was getting married? Was that why he was here?”

“No,” Ty said. “I had no idea he was getting married.”

“Ah.” Dru sounded a bit disappointed.

Ty’s answer disappointed him a bit, too, but Kit repressed the thought and turned a page in his report.

“Kit, do you intend to ever return my tie?” Ty asked calmly.

Kit took the blue tie out of his pocket. He had stolen it off Ty’s neck yesterday after he had punched him. Ty wasn’t surprised by the punch, but he was still a bit dazed after it hit him, so stealing the tie was a piece of cake for a skilled pickpocket like Kit.

“Here,” Kit said as it tossed it to him. “Let it be a warning to you; don’t ever come too close to me again.”

 

Chapter Text

Kit couldn’t sleep. Every time he tried to close his eyes and relax, his arm would burn as if it was on fire. The words he refused to acknowledge kept disappearing and rewriting themselves on his arm, as if the stress of the last two days set something loose inside of him and now his subconsciousness was starting to emerge through the damned identity curse.

He closed his eyes, ignoring the burning sensation on his arm. Instead, he thought back on the first time he had met Ariella.

Clary had invited her to the institute, being as unsubtle about it as one could possibly be.

“So, I have this friend coming over,” she said. “Well, not a friend exactly. More of an acquaintance.”

Kit lifted his eyes from the pancakes he was eating. They were made by Simon, and while they didn’t compare to Julian Blackthorn’s, they were still pretty damn good.

“Anyway, I think you’d like to meet her,” she continued sheepishly.

“And why is that?”

“Because she’s smart and pretty.”

“Humanity should consist of evil geniuses or beautiful idiots. Any other combinations of those traits are a waste.”

“She’s also very nice.”

“I hate nice people. It’s like, why are you so nice? Are you hiding something?”

“Alec is nice,” Clary pointed out.

“Are you trying to set me up with Alec?” Kit lifted an eyebrow.

“Why are you so obnoxious?” she rolled her eyes. “Just, please. Okay?”

Kit had to admit that Ariella was nice and pretty. She had dinner with them, and afterwards Jace somehow got them all to play poker, which was imprudent of him since Kit had – as usual - won by bankrupting them one by one.

When they had all given up, Kit and Ariella remained alone at the table.

“How did you do it?” she asked. “It’s as if you could read every mind in the room.”

“Everyone has a tell,” Kit said easily. “You, my dear, purse your lovely lips when your cards are good.”

Ariella giggled. The way her strawberry hair shined under the chandelier light combined with the way her pearl necklace shimmered reminded Kit of a mermaid. The nice kind, though. Not the kind that tried to impale you on a trident.

“Alec is too honest of a man to be able to lie,” Kit continued. “He blinks very fast when his cards are bad. Jace is a good liar, but he can be arrogant to a fault. Whenever he knows his hand is good, he can’t keep but glancing around to see how many people are going to watch him win.”

“Your observation skills are impressive,” she said. “But what about you?”

“What about me?”

“What’s your tell?”

“I don’t have one.”

“You just said everyone has a tell.”

“Did I say that, really?”

“You did.”

“Then I must have lied.”

“You’re horrible.”

“I am,” Kit agreed.

“Still, I find that I like you tremendously.” She smiled.

In the dim light of his room, Kit stared at his tattoo again. Now had the biggest tell of them all, which was terribly unfortunate for someone like him. Maybe Alec would have been okay with it; he wore his heart on his sleeve anyway. But Kit liked to be perceptive yet misunderstood; it gave him an advantage in conversations.

The words he tried to ignore reappeared.

“Stop saying that!” he screamed at his arm.

The words disappeared, and instead Christopher was written again. But then again -

“Damnit, I said stop it!” Kit yelled again. “Great. Now I’m a lunatic that screams at his own arm.”

Someone opened his door with force.

“Kit, what’s wrong?” Dru asked as she peeked inside. “You woke me up with your screaming.”

She had taken the empty room adjacent to Kit. Luckily the room adjacent on the other side was unoccupied, otherwise Kit would have woken up someone else, too.

“It’s nothing,” Kit lied. “Just had a bad dream. You can go back to sleep.”

Dru came to sit on the bed. “It wasn’t a bad dream,” she said. “You’re having second thoughts about the wedding, aren’t you?”

“No.”

“You’re a good liar, Kit,” she said. “But –“

She tried to take his arm, but Kit quickly pulled it back. Dru put one hand on his throat, climbed on his lap and sent an uppercut straight to his jaw before he could even react. He threw a fist at her, which she caught. She quickly pulled up his sleeve and read his tattoo.

I can’t get married

She stared at it silently for a moment before sitting back down next to him.

Kit was good at recognizing a losing hand. He pulled back his arm and covered it with his sleeve again, but didn’t deny anything. Somehow having Dru read his thoughts made them more… real.

“It’s just stress,” he said, more to himself than to her.

“Kit, why?” she asked. “Why are you so determined to go through with this?”

Kit stared stubbornly at the ceiling. “You don’t know what it’s like.”

“Then tell me.”

He took a deep breath; saying it out loud was harder than he had thought it would.

“I never had… Since I was fifteen… I want a home, Dru. I want a place where I belong.”

“You’re the head of this institute. You belong here.”

“It’s not the same,” Kit said, frustrated. “I want to belong to a person, not to a place. I want a family.”

“But you do have a family. You have Jace. You have Tessa, and Jem, and Will.”

“They’re great. They are. But it never felt mine. It’s… borrowed. I’m an orphan. I have been since fifteen and it feels like I’m just drifting around.”

“You seemed happy when you were with us,” she said sadly. “You seemed like you belonged.”

“I though I did. For a while.”

“What changed?”

I lost Ty. “I don’t know.”

“Why did you leave?”

His presence tore me apart. “I had to.”

Thankfully, Dru didn’t press him further.

“I feel like I keep burrowing families, but I don’t really belong anywhere,” Kit said. “There’s something missing. There always is. It’s as if I keep looking for my home but there’s rain pouring over me and it’s blurring my vision and I can’t find it, Dru. I can’t find it. I can’t find it.”

“It’s going to be okay,” she said calmly. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll figure - ”

“I hate that tattoo!” Kit suddenly screamed.

“It’s not –“

“I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!” he repeated frantically, as if the cursed tattoo was the only thing standing between him and the future he had been planning for himself.

“It only shows you who you are,” Dru said gently.

“I hate it!”

He picked the dagger he kept on his bedside table and with one swift motion he slashed his arm, getting a deep cut right through the words I can’t get married. The blood came pouring out instantly, staining his pajama bottoms red. Utterly crazed, he lifted the dagger again, determined to cut out the tattoo that took his one chance at happiness away from him.

Thinking fast, Dru wrenched the dagger out of his hand before he could skin himself and threw it across the room, then took his arm.

“Stop fighting me! Calm down. Calm down,” she repeated as she applied pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. “Everything is going to be okay. I promise. You’re going to be fine.”

She drew out her stele and drew an Iraze on his skin, but the wound refused to close.

“The Iraze won’t work,” she said, furrowing her brows.

“Of course it won’t. It’s cursed,” Kit muttered.

“Fine. We’ll do it the mundane way. Apply pressure on it. Here.”

She got into the bathroom and Kit heard her open and close drawers, looking for the first aid kit. Finally, she got back with and sat down next to him, then took his arm and began cleaning the wound, being as gentle as she could.

“I’m not really going to marry her, am I?” Kit finally asked.

“Honestly, I never thought you would.” She finished cleaning the wound. Her shirt was soaked with his blood, but she didn’t seem to mind. “I’m going to suture the wound now, but I warn you: I never listened too much in mundane medicine classes, so I really only know the basic kind of suturing.”

Kit shrugged. He studied her as she put on latex gloves and grabbed the needle.

“I wanted to want this,” he muttered. “I wanted to want this so, so much.” He took a deep breath, preparing himself for the pain that would follow.

“I know,” Dru said she pushed the needle through his skin. It hurt, but Kit relished on the physical pain. It almost made him forget how much his heart ached.

“I’m a complete mess, aren’t I?” he asked, his voice shaking.

“You’re not.” She pushed the needle through his skin again. “You’re just… incomplete. You’re like a puzzle that’s missing a piece. Does that make any sense?”

Kit watched as she made loop after loop and tightened the threads, closing the wound.

“Your analogies are terrible,” he shook his head. “But… what if that missing piece doesn’t exist? What if I’m going to stay broken forever?”

“You won’t,” she promised. “You’ll find that missing piece, and you’ll be the finest damn puzzle anyone has ever seen.”

Kit almost smiled.

Dru cut the excess thread and bandaged his arm carefully.

“Thank you,” Kit whispered.

She stayed with him all night, reassuring him softly, and when morning came Kit knocked on Ariella’s door.

She was sitting in front of the vanity and brushing her hair. She was pretty, with the first rays of sun dancing in her hair and her lips slightly parted. She was kind and funny, she wanted to get married, she wanted to share his life in New York. She was everything Kit should have wanted, but never truly did.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Ariella replied, smiling at him through the mirror.

“We need to talk.”

“What’s wrong?” she turned around, frowning slightly.

There was no point dragging it further.

“I care about you too much to let you spend the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t love you the way you should be loved.”

*******

An hour later, Kit stood in front of the door of his office.

“Another question.” He heard Jaime say through the door. “How come you got piercings? Shadowhunters don’t get them. I mean, they put you in more danger when you’re fighting.”

Kit cracked the door open and saw Dru, Jaime, and Ty sitting in front of the fireplace. Ty had one of Kit’s lock in his hands and he seemed to be trying to open it using one of Kit’s hook picks. He didn’t lift his eyes from the lock when he answered.

“I’m not a fighter. I’m a detective.”

Kit opened the door and walked inside and the three of them stood up immediately. Ty quickly threw the lock and the pick on the table with a guilty expression on his face. He reminded Kit of a child that was caught trying to steal cookies.

“Before you say anything,” Jaime said quickly. “I want you to know that I kept my promise. When I saw Ty this morning I only said ‘morning’ instead of ‘good morning’.”

Ty furrowed his brows in confusion, but otherwise kept his gaze down, determined not to look at Kit. He still had that ugly bruise and Jaime’s words about him looking like an angel got into Kit’s head. He forced himself to tear his gaze away from Ty; he wouldn’t let himself fall into that rabbit hole.

“Did you…?” Dru asked carefully. Kit had no doubt that she had time to update Jaime and probably also Ty about the events of last night.

Kit couldn’t find the words, or maybe he didn’t want to. He had just watched the entire future he had planned, the comfort and security he hoped for, crash and burn in front of him. Instead of saying anything he lifted his hand dismissively. The Herondale ring was back on his finger; that was answer enough.

Under the haze that filled his mind and the pain that was tearing his heart, he could have sworn that Ty had lifted his gray gaze for a brief second before looking back down again.

Someone knocked on the door. Tamara, Kit’s second-in-command, walked in followed by a tall figure wearing a black hood.

“I think he’s another recruit. He won’t talk to me, he’s asking for the head of the institute.”

“Thank you.”

She left, and Kit studied the stranger with suspicion; he hadn’t been waiting for anyone. The man drew back his hood – which was made of a fabric too thin to withstand the New York winter - and Kit was struck by how hollow his cheeks were, as if he had been starving for weeks. His lips were blue, and he was clearly freezing. His blond hair was dirty and knotted, and Kit caught a glimpse of green eyes which reminded him of Clary’s, before the man collapsed.

Chapter Text

Kit caught the man before he collapsed on the floor and picked him up.

Apart from the gigantic wooden desk and two chairs facing it, Kit’s office had a large fireplace in front of which stood a low table surrounded by comfortable armchairs and one long, deep-green couch. Kit held the unconscious man, one hand behind the low of his back, the other behind his knees, and carried him to the couch. He lay him carefully and as he did, he felt a piece of paper inside the man’s pocket. He took it discreetly.

“He’s freezing,” Dru said. “I’m lighting the fire.”

“Kit, draw a heat rune on him,” Ty said quietly.

“Draw it your-fucking-self,” Kit replied angrily.

“I didn’t –“

“Let me be very clear: I’m not doing anything you tell me to. Ever.”

“I –“

“And what the hell are you even doing here, in New York? Who the fuck invited –“

“Okay, this seems like it’s going to be a whole thing,” Jaime interrupted them before things could get ugly. “I’m drawing a heating rune. See?” he took out his stele and began tracing the rune on the blond’s arm. “No need to get all worked up.”

“I’ll get him some blankets, we need to raise his body temperature fast.” Dru came to stand next to them, studying the man’s face. “He’s starved.”

“Well I can’t really force-feed him when he’s out, can I?” Jaime said.

“No,” Dru agreed. “We’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way.”

“Which is...?”

“An IV. I’ll go get one. And some blankets.”

She left, and Jaime turned to Kit. “I think I’ll go get us something to eat then, yeah?”

He seemed unfazed about the fact that a starved stranger just came in and collapsed in front of them. In fact, they were all rather untroubled. Being Shadowhunters, they have seen worse.

“Yeah, I’m starving! Could you get Chinese?”

“Sure.”

Kit’s joy at the prospect of being fed soon faded away when he realized that he was left in the room alone with Ty, and no one to break the tension between them expect an unconscious man.

Ty sat down on the floor. His curiosity must have been stronger than his dread of Kit’s wrath, because he picked up the lock and the pick he had thrown earlier. He concentrated on the lock and Kit let himself look at him; Ty wore a green tie today, and his usual leather gloves. He still had the ugly bruise Kit gave him, and Kit realized that he hated the way it marred Ty’s delicate features.

Kit watched Ty’s gloved hands work as he tried to move the pick inside the lock. The key to picking locks is the tension wrench, but Ty didn’t know that, and Kit suddenly felt all warm inside at watching him struggle.

“I can show you how, if you want,” Kit said, trying to sound casual even though his heart was racing.

Ty lifted his eyes and looked at him in surprise. “I’d like that,” he said, his voice hoarse.

Kit picked a tension wrench from his desk and sat down next to him.

“When you pick a lock, all you’re doing is using tools - instead of a key - to line up the gap between the driver pins and the key pins.”

Ty was studying his face so intensely it almost made Kit feel naked.

“This is a tension wrench,” Kit continued, showing him the object. “It’s the most important tool for lockpicking. Don’t ever forget that.”

“The tension wrench is the most important tool,” Ty repeated. His deep voice made Kit’s heart flutter.

“You’re going to lift pins with your pick and then apply pressure with your tension wrench, until all the driver pins have cleared the shear line. Here, look.”

He opened the lock without difficulty. Ty looked amazed, and for a second Kit was that fifteen-year-old boy again that did things in the hope that they would impress Ty. He didn’t want to feel that way ever again; he nearly threw the lock into Ty’s lap.

“Here. You try.”

Ty did as he was told.

“Lock picking is more art than science,” Kit said. “You have to develop a feel for it, since each lock is different. But the same basic principles always apply.”

“Like this?”

“No, hold your pin like this, see?” He put his hand on Ty’s.

Ty took a deep breath but didn’t pull his hand back. Kit quickly let him go. He felt suddenly very hot, but he opted against taking off his jacket. He didn’t want Ty to see his bandaged arm; he didn’t want to explain why he slashed his tattoo.

“It’ll be easier if you take your gloves off,” he suggested. “You’ll get a better feeling of the mechanism.”

Ty was completely immersed now and seemed not to have heard him. Or maybe he had, but he wanted to keep his gloves on. Ty had always reacted strongly to touch; maybe handling evidence was not the main reason he took to wearing gloves. Maybe he got overwhelmed by the textures of surfaces and the feeling of human skin. Maybe he used the gloves as a shield.

If Kit was right, it would mean that Ty’s stress had gotten worse over the years. And even though he despised him, Kit found that the thought of Ty having to shield himself like this made him feel almost protective of him.

Almost.

“Why did you come here?” he asked, not knowing what kind of answer he expected to hear.

“I’m leaving in a few weeks,” Ty avoided a direct answer before quickly changing the subject. “Where is Ariella?”

“She packed her things and went back home to her parents.”

The breakup went better than he expected. Ariella was upset; she truly loved him. But she knew she deserved better than to be the person he settled on. And afterwards… well, afterwards Kit had felt free somehow. But then again, being free is sometimes just a nice word for lonely.

“I’m sorry,” Ty suddenly said. “About your engagement.”

“You don’t have to say that. I know you don’t care.”

“It’s the polite thing to say.”

“Then don’t ever be polite with me,” Kit said irritably.

Ty bit his lower lip as if trying to stop out the words from leaving his lips.

“Why did you change your mind about marrying her?” He blurted out, not lifting his eyes from the lock.

Kit studied his face for a brief moment. His long dark lashes, fluttering over his cheeks. The way the dark strands of hair fell on his eyes, as some sort of shield from the outside world. The bruise, purple against his white skin. Kit hated that bruise.

He wanted to tell Ty the truth. He wanted to tell him everything; his thoughts, his fears, his dreams. But what good would that be?

“The fuck do you care?” he said harshly, and Ty flinched slightly. “Also, I’m going to heal that bruise right fucking now.”

He took his stele out of his pocket and got it close to Ty’s face, but Ty stopped his hand mid-air.

“I can’t let you heal it,” he said.

“Fine, have it your way,” Kit grunted as he put the stele back.

Still, couldn’t help but wonder why Ty insisted on not healing the bruise. He probably kept it as a reminder that he shouldn’t trust Kit; that whatever friendship they had was long gone. Still, some part of him thought that maybe Ty didn’t keep it for himself, but rather for Kit. As if to show him that he felt he deserved Kit’s anger.

No. Kit was not doing it. He was not going to read into Ty’s behavior; that had proven to be disastrous in the past. People show you who they are - you just have to see it. And Ty had showed him that he’s an acquisitive person who cared little about Kit’s feelings.

Ty took to silently trying to open the lock again, and Kit didn’t say anything else either. They remained silent until Dru got back with an IV kit and blankets.

“Pull his sleeve back,” she said, and Ty quickly got up to do so.

Dru suspended the IV bag from its elevated stand and filled the tube before checking it from all directions.

“What are you doing?” Ty asked, clearly fascinated. Kit remembered how curious he used to be, always wanting to learn new things.

“I’m checking for any bubbles,” Dru explained. “Injecting air bubbles into someone’s bloodstream can cause a blockage inside the blood vessel.”

“You keep saying that you suck at mundane medicine, but you seem to be pretty good at it,” Kit commented.

Dru shrugged. She cleaned her hands with antiseptic wipes and put on sterile gloves before taking the man’s arm to look for a prominent vein. She tied a tourniquet and Kit turned away. He was a Shadowhunter, sure, but injecting things with needles still creeped him out.

“She’s done, you can look now,” Ty said after a minute. “Hey, are you okay?”

Kit wasn’t, in fact, okay. He had caught sight of the needle jammed into the blond man’s vein, pumping the saline solution in, before Dru bandaged it. The sight made him feel queasy. Not that he would tell Ty; it was imprudent to show weakness in front of others.

But Ty seemed to have realized what had happened anyway. He put his hand on Kit’s shoulder and gently guided him to the nearest armchair and made him sit down. He then went to get him some water from the tall table at the corner of the room. The table had mostly whiskey for guests, but Kit always kept a pitcher with fresh water on it as well.

From the corner of his eye Kit could see Dru covering the man with wool blankets, and then Ty came back and handed him a glass of water. Kit took it without a word and took a few sips.

Ty kneeled next to him and put a hand on his knee. “Better?”

The smart thing would have been to push him away; but all reason had left him, and the only thing Kit wanted to do was melt into Ty’s arms and let him take care of him.

Mercifully, Jaime opened the door with a loud bang before Kit could do so, snapping him out of his dazed state.

“Oh, good, I’m starving,” Dru said when she saw the food he was carrying.

They all sat down around the low table and Jaime handed out chopsticks and noodles.

“Bon Appetit,” he said. “Expect you, Ty-Ty. Just Appetit for you.” He then gave Kit a meaningful look.

“Okay,” Ty said. “I’ll make sure to keep my enjoyment of the food to a minimum.”

Kit had to bite the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from laughing.

Chapter Text

“I’ve got to get back to work,” Kit said when they finished eating. “I need to prepare the patrol schedule, fill in reports for the clave, and go over candidate’s applications for posts at the institute.”

“Sounds lovely.” Jaime yawned.

“I want to stay here to look after him,” Dru said, nodding at the blond man on the couch. “His body temperature is stable, but he’s still weak.”

“You can all stay here with him and work the case,” Kit said. He had made his peace with the fact that Ty had joined in on the case he had originally meant to give Jaime and Dru.

He sat at his desk and took out a stack of applications. He went over them one by one, without finding anyone he truly believed would be a good fit for the New York institute. But one application caught his eye.

Cameron Ashdown

Kit remembered the name; Cameron was the brother of Paige Ashdown. God, how much Kit despised the girl. He remembered well the story Livvy had told him about Paige calling Ty an idiot and humiliating him. Kit also had the misfortune of meeting Paige in person a few years ago and find out first-hand that the girl was a spoiled and snotty brat without any redeeming qualities.

As for her brother… Kit had nothing against him, it’s just that he always struck Kit as sort of a pretty face without much of a brain. But his application was the best one so far; he got excellent recommendations from the head of the Shanghai institute where he apparently had his travel year, and where he had single-handedly cleared the entire city from an infestation of Eidolon demons.

“Did you receive new applications?” Jaime asked.

“Yeah,” Kit replied.

“Any good ones?”

“There’s this one guy… I don’t know.”

They kept working in silence, Kit on his paperwork and the rest on the case. Every few minutes Kit would glance up from his reports. The large window showed New York covered in a thick blanket of white, snow resting on the rooftops like a feather cushion. Inside, the fire danced, illuminating Jaime’s huge grin, Dru’s twinkling eyes, Ty’s elegant features. Their presence made the institute feel homier than it had been in over two months. When Kit first arrived at the institute, it was filled with Isabelle’s laughter and Jace’s sarcasm. But Isabelle and Simon soon left for Asia, and then Jace and Clary left for the Middle East and Alec moved in with Magnus to raise their family. Kit was getting a bit lonely.

“Yo, Kit,” Jaime called. “We’re taking a break. Want to join?”

Kit lifted his eyes from the report. “Yeah, sure.”

“What do you want to do?” Dru asked.

Kit picked up a deck of cards from his desk and began shuffling it quickly. “We could play poker,” he said with an angelic smile.

“Or I could just give you my money. It will be quicker,” Jaime said.

“Kit always wins,” Dru told Ty. “He’s indecipherable, but he can read everyone else.”

“I’ll play,” Ty said.

“My boy likes to live dangerously,” Jaime said with admiration.

“I think my chances are good,” Ty said. “I know statistics.”

“Damn, Kit,” Jaime exhaled between gritted teeth. “He’s stepping up to you.”

Kit smirked. “You know statistics,” he told Ty. “But I know you.”

“You do,” Ty said. He sounded a bit sad.

“We won’t play for money,” Kit said. He picked a pile of lockpicks and placed it on the low table. “Here, these will be our currency. Come on, I’ll give you all an advantage; I’ll tell you what your tell is, so you can try to hide it.”

Dru crossed her arms. “Okay.”

“You’re the easiest to read,” Kit told her. “You have no chill whatsoever. When your hand is not good, you let your frustration show.” He turned to Jaime. “And you’re too eager. When your hand is good you become all fidgety and jump up when it’s your turn to call.”

Dru looked slightly angered, but still she replied “fine. I’m in” before sitting down.

“As am I,” Jaime said. He sat down next to Dru and began dividing the lockpicks into equally sized piles.

“What’s mine?” Ty asked quietly.

Kit looked at him for a moment before replying. “Your hands do the talking for you. They always have.”

Kit remembered well how Ty’s hands used to flutter at his sides whenever he was stressed or nervous, or fidget when he was excited.

Kit sat down, shuffling the deck purposefully fast.

“No way. You’re not dealing.” Dru took the deck from him. “I’m doing it.”

“If you let him deal, he can control any game,” Jaime told Ty. “He can make you get any hand he wants. It’s almost scary.”

“He can cheat?” Ty asked.

“Given the choice, I would rather cheat than bluff,” Kit said. “It’s more elegant.”

The blond man mumbled in his sleep.

“Did he just say Clary?” Dru looked at him.

“Do you think they’re related?” Jaime wondered.

“Don’t think so,” Kit said. “Clary only had one brother – Sebastian – and he’s dead.”

Dru got up to check on the stranger, but he seemed to be still fast asleep. “He must have been exhausted,” she mused. “Okay, back to the game.”

Kit picked up the cards he was dealt; Kind of spade and seven of hearts.

Jaime placed the first pick

“Call,” Ty said, placing one of his picks next to Jaime’s.

“Call,” Dru echoed, placing a pick.

“Call.”

Dru opened three cards. They all called again. The corners of Jaime’s mouth were pulled down slightly, but Kit caught that. He had nothing.

“I raise you one of Ty’s earrings,” Kit said, tossing the silver hoop on the table. He had taken it earlier, when Ty refused his healing rune.

Ty started at it. “When did –“

“I warned you not to come too close to me again.”

“Fold,” Dru said.

She opened another card and Jaime folded, and by the final round it was just Kit and Ty.

Kit had been studying Ty’s hands since the beginning of the game. He was holding the cards with his left hands, letting his right fingers tap on the table. He was nervous.

“Raise,” Ty said. He lifted his eyes and Kit’s calm façade almost disappeared.

“Damn, Kit, what are you going to do?” Jaime asked.

“Raise.” He pushed the picks to the center of the table. Ty was bluffing.

“Show your hands,” Dru said.

Kit did; he had a pair of sevens. Nothing, really. But Ty was surely bluffing; Kit could tell by the way his right hand fluttered restlessly.

“Damn! He’s got a Flush!” Jaime cried out when Ty showed his cards. Kit stared at him with wide eyes.

“Ty wins,” Dru announced.

Ty took the small pile of picks, dug out his silver hoop and put it back in his earlobe. “I really wanted it back,” he told Kit almost apologetically.

For some reason it made Kit’s heart beat faster.

Dru glanced again at the blond man lying on the couch, fast asleep. “The color returned to his lips.”

“Yeah,” Jaime agreed.

Behind the couch, Kit had hung a huge painting on the wall; The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds. Jaime stared at it. “That replica is really good, by the way.”

“It’s the real one,” Kit replied casually.

“You stole that painting from the Louvre?” Jaime cried out. “How?”

“I didn’t steal it,” Kit said evenly. “Saying so would imply that I put some effort into it, which I haven’t. They pretty much gave it to me.”

“Why?” Ty asked, a curious expression on his face.

“I was visiting the Paris institute a year ago when the Louvre called about demonic possession of one of their paintings.”

“It does happen a lot,” Ty said. “Demons seem to love antique paintings.”

“And statues,” Kit said. “Anyway, the painting was haunted and kept sucking the souls of their visitors. Not very good for business. So, I asked for the case and told them I couldn’t kill the demon there, they had to bring the painting to the institute. So really, they did the work for me. I killed the demon; but I also paid an artist to reproduce it, and then paid a warlock to charm it against all mundane dating techniques, and well – here we are.”

“You’re chaotic,” Dru said.

“It’s one of my top three favorite works of art. What else could I do? Return it? Listen to yourself.”

“Can’t argue with that logic.”

Kit hummed in agreement. “Now, let’s play another round,” he said. He had his heart set on plundering all of Ty’s picks.

“I’m dealing,” Jaime said.

They played seven more rounds after that, but Kit did not manage to decrease Ty’s pile much; in fact, both of their piles grew at the same rate as Dru and Jaime lost round after round.

“I’ve been thinking,” Jaime said after he had folded again. “I’m kind of glad you broke up with Ariella.”

“Yeah,” Dru agreed. “She wasn’t for you.”

Kit lifted an eyebrow. “You said that about Elise, as well.”

“Elise was boring.”

“Also about Opal.”

“Opal was an idiot.”

“Kit had many girlfriends in the past,” Dru told Ty.

“But not a single boyfriend,” Jaime contributed. “A shame, really.” He winked at Kit.

“That wink probably just turned him straighter than he already was.” Dru smirked.

“It did,” Kit said. “Also, you’re one to talk, Dru. Wasn’t your previous boyfriend a deranged vampire?”

“I only knew about the vampirism beforehand; the deranged part took two months to surface!”

“And you, Jaime,” Kit turned to him. “You never even tried having a serious relationship.”

“It will take someone extraordinary to make me settle down,” Jaime replied evenly. Kit suspected he knew who that someone extraordinary might be.

Ty remained quiet during this exchange, sparking Kit’s curiosity. Did he have a girlfriend? Maybe that was the reason he was planning to stay in New York for only a few weeks. Maybe he wanted to come back home to her. For some reason the thought made Kit’s heart pinch.

He secretly hoped that Jaime would ask Ty about it, since Dru would never ask her brother about his love life. But sadly, it seemed that Jaime had chosen today to finally develop some tact, and he didn’t ask Ty anything. It was probably for the best, though. There was no reason why Kit should be interested in the relationship status of someone he had been friends with years ago. It just didn’t make any sense.

Kit looked at the clock. “I have to go give the briefing. Dru, come with me. Jaime, stay here to watch this poor guy. Ty – just do whatever the hell you want. You’re not officially part of this institute anyway.”

Kit took his notes from the desk and opened the door for Dru. With one last glance at the sleeping man on the couch, she got up and followed him.

They walked the long stone corridor in silence, and Kit replayed the last round in his head. How was it possible that he couldn’t win against Ty? His hands talked so much and still Kit could not figure out what they said.

Kit glanced at Dru. In the dim light, he could see that she had a pensive expression on her face.

“He cried after you left,” she suddenly said.

Kit stopped walking. “What?”

“After you left, Ty cried himself to sleep every night for weeks. We could hear him through his bedroom door. They all thought it was because if Livvy, and maybe to some extent it was, but I knew it was mostly because of you.”

Kit swallowed. “He… he did?”

Dru nodded. “Your friendship meant the world to him.”

“Maybe he should have said so, then.”

“Maybe he was scared.”

“Or maybe he doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

“Or maybe he cares about you too much, and he was afraid you’d reject him if he tried to approach you.”

“It’s nice to play maybe, but it’s like running on air. It’s pointless. What matters is what happened, not what could have been.”

With that, he walked the rest of the corridor in a fast pace until he reached the large wooden door of the conference room. He pushed it open and walked in, Dru at his heels, and took his place in front. The members of the New York institute all stopped talking when they saw him.

“Good evening all,” he began. “The internal conflict of the vampires seems to have cooled down. Still, we’ll patrol around the area during the next week to make sure there’s no escalation. The patrol schedule is posted in the kitchen.

“Case X2778, dealing with the mundane disappearances, has been assigned to our newest members, Rosales and Blackthorn, as well as Centurion Blackthorn.”

“We now have a Centurion at the institute?” Nighttrailer asked, looking slightly taken aback.

“Temporarily,” Kit replied dismissively. “Moving on. Case E7898, dealing with the murder of the high profiled mermaid, has been assigned to Whitestrider and Raventower. Now, Wayfarer, I want your update on case R6589.”

Tamara Wayfarer, Kit’s second-on-command, got up and began detailing her new findings, when Jaime burst through the door.

“Herondale,” he panted.

“Rosales.” Kit nodded, keeping his face blank.

“He woke up. And he’s asking to see the head of the institute.”

Chapter Text

Kit followed Jaime back to his office, where he found the blond man sitting on the sofa, looking inhumanly pale.

“Jace!” he cried out when he saw Kit.

“No, name’s Kit. And you are…?”

The man stared at him in confusion.

“His name is Ash,” Dru contributed.

“But… you look like the Jace I know!” Ash protested. “You’re Jace!”

“No, his name is Christopher,” Jaime said. “Kit, show him what your tattoo says.”

“You have a tattoo of your own name?” Ash squinted his eyes. “That’s stupid.”

“Your face is stupid,” Kit hissed. “But you don’t see me commenting on it.”

Ash muttered something incoherent.

“Your face is very nice,” Ty reassured him. For some reason it sparked Kit’s anger.

“We’re related, Jace and I,” Kit said, ignoring the way Ty was looking at the stranger with curiosity.

“I need to see Jace,” Ash said.

“He’s on a mission in the Middle East with his wife.”

“She’s alive? Clary’s alive?”

“Yes, she is,” Dru said reassuringly.

“I need to see them.”

“They’re undercover, we can’t reach them.”

“Then I’ll wait.”

“It might take a week, it might take a few months,” Kit said. “You can talk to us.”

“No. It has to be Jace.”

“Fine,” Kit said. “I still need information, though. Who are you? Where are you from? Do you play poker?”

“I was held captive in the unseelie court since I was a kid. I don’t know who my parents are. I do play poker, but I’m terrible at it.”

Kit was pretty sure Ash was lying about at least two out of the three facts he listed, but he decided to keep quiet for now.

“So, you ran away from the unseelie court?” Dru sounded impressed.

“Yes.” Ash looked away, as if trying to repress the memories. “I was wandering the Winter Forest for days. Weeks, maybe. Time does not move linearly in the court; it’s hard to tell. I had nowhere else to go but here.”

“It’s alright, you can stay here with us as long as you want,” Dru said. “Right, Kit?”

“Yeah, Kit, you’ve got to let him stay,” Jaime purred. “Look at how cute he is.”

“You know Kit is straight,” Dru scolded him. “Ash’s physique doesn’t affect him.”

“You don’t have to be hungry to see a cake and admit it looks good,” Jaime countered.

Ash looked taken aback. “Did this guy just compare me to cake?”

“Consider yourself lucky,” Kit said. “He once compared me to a waffle. And sure, you can stay here. We always like to harbor fugitives. It makes life so much more interesting.”

“Wonderful. So, let me recap,” Jaime began. “We have one detective, one thief, one medic with no chill whatsoever, one refugee, and one charming Latino.”

“That’s pretty much it,” Dru agreed. “What should we do together?”

“Easy,” Jaime said. “We’ll start a boy band. Dru, we’ll tell everyone that you’re transgender.”

“Is it weird that I’m not opposed to the idea?” she wondered out loud.

“I don’t want to be in a boy band,” Ty said.

Jaime turned to him. “Let me give you a polite reminder – but merely a polite one, mind you – that I did not ask you if you wanted to or not.”

“I’ll join your band,” Ash muttered. “But only if you feed me first.”

“Oh, you must be starving, I’m so sorry!” Dru cried out. “What do you like?”

“Bread.”

“That’s a very practical choice,” Jaime said. “We’ll get some bread. But also Indian, because I’ve been craving it ever since you mentioned food twenty seconds ago.”

With that, Jaime and Ty went to get the food and Dru sat down next to Ash.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better,” he said. He lifted his eyes to look at her but looked quickly away when they made eye contact. “Thank you, by the way,” he whispered. “Ty told me that you were the one who took care of me.”

“It was nothing,” Dru said dismissively. “Just an IV.”

Kit studied Ash’s face with suspicion. His story was clearly missing crucial details which he wanted to keep a secret, and Kit had been weary of him ever since he looked at the piece of paper he had found in Ash’s pocket.

“Thank you,” Ash said again. He lay back down and closed his eyes in exhaustion.

Jaime and Ty got back ten minutes later with the food, and Ash dove into it immediately, only stopping every now and then to glance at Dru as if mesmerized.

“I’m glad I got, like, five naan breads, now,” Jaime said. “Hey, what happened to your Christopher?” he asked, gesturing at Kit’s bandaged hand. Kit had taken off his jacket, forgetting about his injury.

“I cut it,” Kit said dryly. He hoped Jaime wouldn’t ask too much; Kit never told him the true meaning of his tattoo.

“You don’t need it to remember your name anymore?” Jaime asked, a hint of a smile on his face.

Kit shot him a dark look and Jaime didn’t say anything more.

“I’ll show you to an empty room,” Dru told Ash when they finished eating.

“Thank you.”

“No, I’ll do it.” Kit stood up. “Follow me.”

He walked out the door, Ash at his heels, and lead him to the sleeping quarters then chose the first empty room available which was adjacent to Ty’s. Kit stepped in and turned on the light. Ash stood at the doorway for a moment, glancing inside as if afraid that something might jump at him.

“Who has the room next to me?” he asked.

“Ty. Why, do you want to have a pajama party with him?”

Ash blinked. “No. I’m good.”

“Great. One more thing,” Kit said. “I have something that belongs to you.” He gave Ash the piece of paper he took out of his pocket after he had fainted.

Ash unfolded it and stared, wide-eyed and pale, at the drawing of Dru’s face. “It’s not what it looks like!” he said quickly. “I… I can explain.”

“Then do,” Kit said menacingly. “Now.”

“It’s… it’s complicated,” Ash said, his voice quivering.

“Oh, is it really?” Kit took one step closer. “It seems pretty simple to me. You lied about your parents, you lied about being held captive, and you lied about the reason you came here.”

“Listen, it’s not –“ Ash began.

“No, you listen to me.” Kit grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. “I don’t buy your story, and I don’t buy your innocent façade. I’m watching you. You try hurting Dru and you’re done for.”

He let him go and turned around to leave. Behind him, Ash made a small choking sound.

Back in his room, Kit washed his face and studied his reflection in the mirror. He was exhausted, but way too unsettled to sleep. Dru was the closest thing he had to a sister and having a stranger walk in unexpectedly with a picture of her was troubling to say the least.

Kit sat at his desk and opened the drawer. Here, in the safety of his room, he had written Ty letter after letter for years. He couldn’t send any of them, so he had kept them all there.

He took out a pile of letters, dating one, two, three years back. He must have written hundreds of thousands of words over the years. Maybe more. He let out a bitter laugh; he had so much to say to Ty when he was away, but now that Ty was here Kit couldn’t bring himself to say more than a few sentences to him.

Maybe he should give all those letters to Ty. Maybe he should just take them all and fill Ty’s room with them. Look at what you’ve done to me, he could yell at him. I tried walking away from you, but you never left me.

No. It would be best to burn those letters. To turn them to dust.

Kit chased away the thought; he knew deep down that he wouldn’t be able to do that.

He won’t be able to sleep now. Instead of trying, he put on a jacket and went back to his office; maybe he could use this insomnia to finish some reports.

The corridors were dark and empty; the members of the New York institute where either asleep or on patrols. Kit relished on the silence. Being head of the institute meant that people always stopped him to complain about their assignments - either for being too dangerous or too boring. But they always found something to complain about.

He opened the door to his office. It looked much colder now, without the rest if them here. Kit sat at his desk and took out the most boring report humanity has ever seen when there was a knock on his door.

Wonderful, someone saw the light and decided to come in and complain some more. Reluctantly, Kit used his professional tone to say “come in.”

He kept his eyes purposefully focused on the report, so that the person who decided to waste his time would get the hint and leave. But said person entered the room and closed the door behind them, then waited silently until Kit finally gave up and lifted his eyed.

Kit’s heart skipped a beat when he saw him. “Ty,” he said, his voice embarrassingly high.

Ty’s hand moved nervously at his side, his fingers closing a fist and then opening again. He kept his gaze down, and strands of black hair fell on his face. Kit noticed that Ty was wearing a different suit, dark gray with a high collar, and Kit couldn’t help but stare at the way it emphasized his shoulders. He was still Ty, but at the same time he was… different.

“I figured you won’t be able to sleep,” Ty said. His voice sounded even deeper, somehow. “You looked agitated earlier.”

“Yes, I… I guess I was.” Kit stared at him, wondering how he had managed to pick up on it.

Ty leaned against the door and took a deep breath. “I was hoping we could talk,” he said.

In under three seconds, Kit went through an entire spectrum of emotions, ranging from fury and anger to confusion, passing briefly through affection and longing. Yet, he only managed to mumble a single question.

“Just… just us?”

Ty adjusted his necktie in a nervous gesture. “Yes. Just us.”

Chapter Text

Ty crossed the room and sat on the windowsill. He gazed outside without saying a word, bathed in white winter light, and Kit couldn’t take his eyes away. He wanted to throw something against the wall. He wanted to shake Ty and yell at him.

What are you doing here? Did you come to New York for the sole purpose of tormenting me?

“Why can’t you sleep?” Ty suddenly asked.

Kit tore his gaze away. “There’s a lot on my mind.” You being here, mostly.

“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls,” Ty said quietly.

Kit straightened in his chair. “What did just you say?”

“It’s a quote by George Carlin that I think about sometimes, when I can’t sleep,” Ty said. His voice sounded distant. “It means that on some nights the rest of the world is silent, and your mind is left to do all the talking.”

“No, I - I know what it means, it’s just that…” I think about it sometimes, too. “This quote is… neat,” Kit finished lamely.

Ty jumped off the windowsill and Kit watched as he paced restlessly around his office, until he suddenly stopped in front of Kit’s stolen painting. He looked at it for a few moments and Kit relished on the opportunity to study his profile. His sharp jaw, his cheekbones, his lips… Ty’s graceful brows were currently furrowed as he studied the painting and damn it, Jaime got into Kit’s head, because he had just realized that Ty did look like what he had always pictured angels to be.

“What are the other two?” Ty suddenly asked.

Kit jumped. “W-What?”

“You said that The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds is one of your top three favorite works of art. What are the other two?”

Kit stared at him for a few moments, debating whether he should answer him or tell him to get the hell out of his office. The latter option would have probably been wiser since being alone with Ty was stretching Kit’s nerves thin… agh, screw it. “One is actually a sculpture,” Kit finally said. “Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss. Do you know that one?”

“I do.”

“I… It’s just stone, but it conveys so much emotion, you know?” Kit blurted out. “It’s unbelievable that marble could express so much tenderness and passion.” He blushed immediately. Curse that sculpture that made him say such things out loud, and to Ty no less.

“And love,” Ty added quietly.

Kit cleared his throat. “Yeah.” It shows so much love.

Ty resumed his restless pacing. “And the other one?”

“A painting. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.”

“I don’t know that one.”

“Here, I’ll show you,” Kit took out his phone and looked for an image, then got up from his desk and came to sit on the large sofa in front of the fire. Ty sat down next to him and took the phone.

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog shows a young man standing on a rock with his back to the viewer, his blond hair caught in the wind. The wanderer gazes out on a landscape covered in a thick sea of fog. Through the haze, forests of trees and faded mountains can be seen, but the fog stretches out indefinitely, becoming indistinguishable from the cloud-filled sky.

Ty stared at it for a long minute. “He reminds me of you,” he finally said quietly.

Kit could feel his pulse quickening. He was suddenly very aware of the fact that Ty was here, sitting by his side as they used to do eight years ago.

“It looks a bit lonely,” Ty said after another minute. He passed his finger slowly over the edge of the phone, as if caressing the border of the picture.

“Yeah,” Kit said quietly. “I guess it does.”

“Is that why you like this painting?”

Kit shouldn’t have been surprised. It was a classic Ty thing to do; go straight to the point and ask whatever he wanted to know, without trying to masquerade it.

“Maybe,” Kit replied. He should have lied, perhaps, but lying to Ty was nearly impossible. Maybe that’s why Kit couldn’t beat him at poker.

Ty fidgeted with his neck tie. “Do you still love her?” he asked quickly, as if the words left his mouth without permission.

There was no point in lying. “Not the way I should.”

“Then why did you want to marry her?”

“What’s up with all the questions today?”

“I’m trying to understand you.”

“And what have you learned so far?”

“Only a little.”

“Do tell.”

“I know that you still don’t want people to see your weaknesses, because you don’t trust anyone,” Ty said quietly. “I know that you would play fair only if you have the winning hand. I know that you know the lyrics of Like a Virgin, completed with a choreography.”

“Damn it! Dru told you about that?”

“She showed me the video.”

“I’m going to strangle her.”

“I know that you like Dru as a sister and you would do anything to protect her, even if you pretend otherwise,” Ty continued. “I know that you had many girlfriends in the past. I know that needles make you queasy. I know that when you’re sad you act angry, like you did when you were fifteen.” He took a deep breath. “And I know that you’re still mad at me.”

Kit stared at the fire. “I wasn’t really hiding that last one,” he said.

“No. You weren’t.”

Ty knitted his fingers together, then unknitted them, then knitted them together again. Kit looked at his black leather gloves, wishing Ty wouldn’t need them anymore.

“You’re right to be mad at me,” Ty said quietly.

Kit lifted his eyes in surprise and studied his face. The black eye he had given him stood out, marring the delicate features. He felt like he should say something, but he didn’t know what.

“I owe you so, so many apologies,” Ty breathed.

Kit’s heart started racing, and a thousand thoughts were running through his mind, overlapping with each other until all that was left was a blur and an image of Ty’s gray eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Ty said. “I’m sorry for asking your help to do something so stupid. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you when you asked me to stop. But most of all,” he bit his lower lip. “Most of all, I’m sorry I never told you how much you meant to me.”

The breath rushed out of Kit’s lungs. He desperately wanted to say something but found that he was unable to utter a single word.

“Because you did,” Ty continued. “You still do. You were the first and last real friend I ever had. I care about you and I… I miss you. Everyday. And I know you’re mad, but I was hoping… Do you think that you could give our friendship another chance?”

For years Kit had repressed the hopes that this moment would come; that he would see Ty again, and that Ty would ask to be his friend. He thought of a thousand possible things he would say to him, insults he could yell, arguments he could give. But as Ty stood in front of him, eye’s shining like a winter’s moon, Kit found himself unable to utter more than a single word.

“Yes,” he whispered.

Ty lifted his gaze and his eyes met Kit’s for the briefest second. It was enough to make Kit lose himself in him, but then the corners of Ty’s mouth rose, and Kit’s world crashed around him and then built itself again around Ty’s smile. It was the first time Kit had seen him smile in over eight years. The sight was even more mesmerizing than Kit had remembered, and he found that he couldn’t look away.

Timidly, Ty gave him his hand. Kit reached his hand to touch him, but then Ty pulled his hand back.

“Wait,” he said. “Do you promise not to steal my gloves?”

Kit laughed. It felt as if ages had passed since he last laughed in earnest. “I promise,” he said. “I won’t ever steal them. Even though you make stealing from you so easy. You’re too trusting.”

“Of you, yes,” Ty said. He took Kit’s hand in his.

They faced each other for a few moments, holding hands, and then suddenly they were hugging, and Kit could not remember how it happened, and he didn’t care. He wound his arms around Ty and held him as close as he could. Ty’s arms wrapped themselves around him and Kit could feel all his worries and stress unknotted in Ty’s embrace.

Kit couldn’t tell how long they kept their hug; it might have been a minute, it might have been an hour. But for the first time in years, Kit felt safe from the things that hurt him inside.

And suddenly he could feel his tattoo, underneath the bandages, coming to life again. It was changing its meaning; but unlike the other times it had happened – it didn’t burn. It was almost a flutter, as if someone had brushed a feather against his skin.

Ty let him go. “You’re crying,” he said, sounding worried. “Are you alright?”

Kit wiped his eyes on the sleeve of his jacket. “Yeah. I… I don’t know why.”

He took off his shoes and lay on the sofa. Ty copied him and lay on the other side, placing his feet on Kit’s.

“I cry too, sometimes,” he said quietly. “I cried every night after you left. I know that Dru told you.”

“She… she did,” Kit said, suddenly ashamed. “I’m sorry for the way that I left.”

“I missed you so much.”

“I’m not going anywhere now. I promise.”

“But I am,” Ty said quietly.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Kit couldn’t stop himself from asking. “Is that why you have to leave in a few weeks?”

“No,” Ty said. For a moment Kit thought he wasn’t going to elaborate, but then Ty continued. “I only had one relationship in the past, but it wasn’t serious.”

“How did you meet her?” Kit asked, trying to sound casual.

“Him,” Ty corrected. “I’m gay.”

“Oh.”

Ty lifted his feet from Kit’s lap and got up so quickly he looked like a blur. “I’m sorry. I made things weird.”

“No!” Kit cried out. He pulled Ty back down and placed both of his feet on top of him, so he wouldn’t get up again. “Why would I care that you’re gay?”

Ty smiled, and then Kit was smiling as well, and Ty was smiling even more broadly. Kit pressed his feet on him with more force.

“I resent the fact that Jaime compared you to a waffle,” Ty said. “Your leg muscle strength is almost nonexistent. You should be compared to a marshmallow.”

“Oh, is that so?” Kit asked. “Enjoy this.” He kicked him in the ribs playfully, and Ty took his feet and held it, not letting him go.

“And between the both of us, you’re supposed to be the fighter.” He shook his head.

“You keep trash talking, and I swear to Raziel,” Kit said, trying to sound menacing. Ty just laughed.

“Fine. You asked for it.” He leaped forward and pinned Ty to the sofa. Ty barely had a chance to gasp in surprise before Kit began tickling him.

“No! I hate tickles,” Ty protested between fits of laughter.

Kit stopped. “I know. Don’t test me again.”

Under him, Ty smirked. His scent made Kit feel slightly dizzy. “You smell like the ocean,” he blurted out.

Ty swallowed, and Kit realized that he was still on top of him. He gave him another playful shove before regaining his place on the other end of the sofa.

“You never told me if you had a favorite work of art,” he said.

“I do. It’s one of Julian’s drawings,” Ty replied.

“I bet it’s a drawing of Emma, right? Homeboy paints her obsessively,” Kit said, then felt the need to explain. “I know that because I… I visited LA a few times over the years.”

“Yes,” Ty said. “Yes, I know.”

Kit shifted slightly. “What’s so special about this drawing of Emma, anyway?”

“It’s not of Emma.”

“Then who’s in it?”

“There’s Dru,” Ty said.

Kit was about to ask if someone else was in this drawing, too, but then Ty asked “do you know the choreography of other pop songs as well?” and so Kit made the sensible choice of throwing a pillow at him.

They spent the rest of the night talking and laughing and asking questions and rediscovering each other, until they both fell asleep on the sofa, their feet tangled together.

Chapter Text

“Well well well,” someone said above Kit. “What do we have here?”

Half-asleep, Kit blinked slowly. It took him a few seconds to remember why he fell asleep on the couch in his office. He lifted his gaze and focused on Jaime’s grin.

“Good morning,” Jaime sing-sang.

Kit’s legs were still tangled in Ty’s. He turned to see Ty sleeping on his side, looking peaceful with his long lashes caressing his cheeks and his lips slightly parted. He seemed younger in his sleep; almost like the boy Kit had met eight years ago. The boy who held a knife to his throat.

“Does this mean that I get to be very polite towards him now?” Jaime asked.

Kit smiled despite himself. “Yeah… I guess it does.”

“Okay then.” Jaime grinned. “A very good morning to you, Ty-Ty.”

“Good morning,” Ty mumbled, his eyes still closed. The bruise Kit had given him was starting to heal; it looked a bit yellowish now. Kit was relieved.

“Did you two spend last night talking about the case?” Jaime asked slyly. “Did you tell him that you solved it?”

Slowly, Ty opened his eyes. In the early morning light, they looked paler than usual, reminding Kit of a cloudy sky just before a storm. “It didn’t come up,” Ty mumbled.

“Of course it didn’t,” Jaime said, not bothering to hide his content smile. He took out his phone. “I’m telling Dru to come over. We’ll discuss it together.”

Half a minute later, Dru was already there, followed by a crumpled-looking Ash. “What’s the emergency?” she asked, panting.

“Ash’s face. I missed it.” Jaime smirked.

Dru took the time to curse him and his entire bloodline right to hell, and Kit looked between the two of them, wondering when they were going to finally declare their feelings and start dating.

“Let’s get to work,” Ty said, surprisingly alert given that he hadn’t even had coffee yet.

“But… caffeine,” Kit tried.

“Good idea, Kit,” Dru surprised him by agreeing. “We’ll get you all some coffee.”

She dragged him out of the office, but instead of leading him to the kitchen she steered him towards her room.

“What –“

“We need to get your stiches cleaned and your bandages changed,” she said.

“Ah. Right,” Kit muttered unenthusiastically.

They reached her room and Kit sat on the edge of the bathtub while Dru cut through the bandages.

“Wait.” Kit pulled back his arm. “Don’t tell me what you see.”

“But -”

“I don’t want to know what the tattoo says. This shitty curse ruined my life once, already.”

“It did not ruin your life,” Dru said, exasperated. “If anything, it saved you from making a terrible mistake. You wouldn’t have been happy, marrying Ariella.”

Kit knew she was right; though he didn’t say so out loud.

“Huh,” Dru said when she took off the bandage.

“What? Is it gone?” Kit asked hopefully.

“No… It’s still there,” Dru mumbled. “But it doesn’t say Christopher.”

“Don’t tell me what it says! I’ll cut off your –“

“I won’t! It’s just…” She furrowed her brows. “Did something happen yesterday? Did something change?”

Everything has. Last night Kit’s entire world had lost its center and then realigned itself again around a new focal point.

“Ty and I… talked.”

Dru washed his arm with cold water and soap. “You did?” she asked happily.

“Yes, we – we decided to try and be friends again.”

“That’s great.” She smiled as she dabbed the stiches dry with a clean paper towel. “I’m really happy.”

“I’m really happy, too,” Kit blurted out without thinking.

Dru kept grinning as she tied a clean bandage around his arm, and Kit found that he couldn’t keep himself from grinning either. Maybe everything was going to be okay after all.

“Let’s go back. We promised them coffee,” Dru said when she was done.

They made the coffee and returned to Kit’s office to find Jaime, Ash, and Ty in a heated debate.

“Oh, here’s Kit. AKA the last sane person here,” Jaime said. “Kit, would you please tell Ash that the runaways is a terrible name for a boy band?” He turned to Ash. “Seriously, you should be ashamed of yourself.”

“Me?!” Ash stared at him. “Ty suggested Sherlock’s Elementaries!”

“I think it sounds nice,” Ty said, and Kit felt a rush of fondness run through him like a wave. “But now that you’re here, I need to update you on the missing mundanes case.”

Kit wanted to look at Ty. He did. But he felt as if he was staring awkwardly so he focused intently on his mug instead.

“I know where they’re being held,” Ty said. “The Roman catacombs. They have tunnels unknown to mundanes, protected by old spells that are powered by an ancient stone brought to earth by the demon Stolas.”

“Then call the Rome institute and tell them to take care of it,” Kit said.

“No, I don’t trust them. I spent six months in Rome and I know that the Clave has much power there. I don’t want them to get a hold of this stone. I don’t trust the Clave with such a powerful object. We need to find it and destroy it ourselves.”

Kit lifted an eyebrow. “And how do you plan to go there?”

“Use one of the portals that are ever-open for centurions.”

“Damn, centurions get those?” Jaime seemed impressed. “It almost makes me not sorry for you for being one.”

Kit’s mind itched with excitement. Steal a stone from deep inside the Roman catacombs. It’s been awhile since he had been on a proper heist. Being the head of the institute meant more bureaucracy than missions.

“Fine,” Kit sighed. “How many men –“

“Or women,” Dru said.

“Or women,” Kit corrected. “Do you need?”

“No more than two,” Ty answered. “We need to go undetected.”

“Take Jaime and Dru,” Kit said unenthusiastically, a bit jealous.

Ty was quiet for a moment before he replied. “The thing is… I need you.”

“Why?” Kit asked, trying to ignore the weird fluttering his heart made at Ty’s words.

“The place has spells that detect Angelic power. If any of us were to use runes, an alarm would go off. Since we can’t use opening runes, we need your lockpicking skills.”

Kit turned to look at Dru triumphantly. “Told you it would come handy one day.”

Dru made a point of rolling her eyes at him.

“Fine, I’ll come with you,” Kit told Ty. “And we’re taking Ash with us.”

There was no way in hell Kit was leaving Ash alone with Dru. Not until he got an explanation for the drawing of her he had found in Ash’s pocket.

“Not to be too rude,” Jaime began. “But is he really the man for the job?”

“No,” Ash said miserably. “I’m a monster.”

“What?” Kit turned to him.

“The things I’ve done,” Ash muttered. “I’m no man. I’m a monster.”

“Okay, dramatics aside, he is adequate,” Kit said. “Ash, show us your arms. See, Jaime? Runes all over him. You know how to fight, right?”

Ash nodded.

“But he’s so small,” Jaime objected. “Like a baby chick.”

Ash blinked. “Yesterday I was a cake.”

“And now you’re a baby chick. Keep up.”

“Great, so it’s settled,” Kit said. “The baby chick is joining Ty and I on the mission.” He turned to Ash. “Go to your room, you’ll find gear in your closet. Put it on.”

Ash did not seem happy, but he appeared to be making his peace with the situation when Dru said “You’ve never worn gear before? I can help you out if you want.”

Had Kit not been completely focused on Ty he would have stopped them from leaving together. But there was something about the way Ty said “I need you” that made Kit unable to entertain any coherent thought.

“I’ll go get ready, too.” Ty said, brining Kit back to reality.

Kit was about to follow him when Jaime stopped him.

“Kit, hold on one second.”

Kit turned to him. “What do you want?”

“Ideally? To have a boy toy. Don’t you?” Jaime smirked.

“You know I’m straight.”

“Right,” Jaime said slowly. “I keep forgetting. Silly me.”

Kit squinted his eyes. “Do you actually need something, or did you just want to mess with me?”

“I do,” Jaime said. “I wanted to tell you that I’m thinking about asking Ty out.”

Kit choked. “You what?”

“I’m going to ask Ty out,” Jaime repeated.

He must have been messing with Kit. He must have been bluffing. Or was he not? Damn, did Kit completely lose his ability to detect lies ever since Ty came to New York? Damn it, damn it, damn -

“Does it bother you?” Jaime interrupted Kit’s self-scolding.

“Aren’t… aren’t you into Dru?” Kit asked weakly.

“No, I’m into Ty,” Jaime replied. “Why, do you have a problem with that?”

Kit felt cold and weak, as if he was just fished out of a freezing lake. “Why would I have a problem with that?” he asked defensively.

“Because you’re such good friends.” Jaime emphasized the last word.

“I don’t have a problem with that!” Kit said quickly. “I don’t care who you date.”

“Marvelous,” Jaime replied and turned to leave.

“He won’t say yes,” Kit mumbled, more to himself than to Jaime. The words felt reassuring, somehow.

Jaime turned back with a grin. “Oh, I beg to differ.”

“You’re not his type,” Kit said stubbornly, though he had to admit he had no idea what Ty’s type might be.

“I’m everyone’s type,” Jaime replied flirtatiously. “I’m hot as hell.”

“Debatable.”

“Factual,” Jaime corrected. “Also, I’m great with old ladies.”

“Ty’s not an old lady.”

“Yeah, but if his aunt ever comes to visit, I’m going to charm her pants off.”

“I don’t want to see that.”

“Also, I’m a great cook.”

“You know how to make three meals,” Kit said. “Coffee, tea, and nachos.”

“I also give a mean hand –“

“No!”

“Shake,” Jaime finished with a smirk.

Kit shot him a dark look. For some unknown reason he felt like taking the heaviest lock he kept on his desk and throwing it at Jaime’s face. Instead, he turned around and stumped out of the room, cursing under his breath. Of course it didn’t bother him that Jaime wanted to date Ty. He was okay with Jaime dating Dru, and she was practically Kit’s sister. If Jaime was good enough to date his sister, he was good enough to date his friend.

Kit put on his gear, feeling hot and cold at the same time and also irrationally angry, then walked back to the office. He stopped at the doorway.

Jaime was talking to Ty, grinning and passing his hand through his hair repeatably. Kit could not see Ty’s face, only his back, but then Ty nodded, and Kit bit his lower lip so hard he tasted blood.

“Ah, Kit’s back,” Jaime said happily. Ty turned to look at him, and Jaime gave Kit a thumbs up behind Ty’s back. Kit felt sick to his stomach.

Instead of looking at him, he sat down on the sofa next to Dru and Ash. But then Ty walked over to them and Kit was distracted for a whole new reason; Ty was still wearing his immaculate suit, completed with a red tie and a pocket square.

“What are you wearing?” He gaped at him. “How do you plan to fight like that?”

“I’m not a fighter,” Ty replied. “I’m a detective.”

Damn him and his ideals. This was not some game. He was not going to encounter demons and convince them not to hurt him by explaining that he’s a detective. What was he playing at?

“Put on your gear,” Kit hissed.

Ty crossed his arms. “No.”

“Go upstairs and put on your gear,” Kit said angrily. “Now.”

“You can’t make me,” Ty replied stubbornly.

“Yes, I can. I’m the head of this institute!” Kit yelled.

“And I’m a centurion!” Ty shouted back.

“And I’m hot as sin!” Jaime cried out.

“And I have no idea what I’m doing here,” Ash mumbled miserably.

“And I’m thinking about learning other kinds of mundane suturing techniques. Keep my brain cells active, you know?” Dru said thoughtfully.

“Go. Put. On. Your. Gear.” Kit let the words out between gritted teeth.

“Why are you insisting so much?” Ty asked, clearly frustrated.

“Because I want to keep you safe, that’s why!” Kit yelled, certainly more frustrated than Ty was.

Ty crossed his arms. “I’m a ghost to you.”

What?” Kit snapped.

“You better dedicate your resources to keep Ash safe.”

Kit turned to look at Ash, then back at Ty. “Seriously?! A monster and a ghost? Are you both high on glue?” He squinted his eyes. “Why didn’t you share some with me?”

Ash and Ty remained suspiciously quiet, which Kit took as confirmation that they have, in fact, sniffed glue. For a moment they were all silent, until Kit finally broke down.

“Fine,” he said. “Let’s just fucking go to Rome.”

Chapter Text

“Do you need any runes before we leave?”

“No. I already drew them.”

Kit was unable to see them, since Ty was wearing his gloves and his high-collared suit. He couldn’t help but wondering how Ty’s arms looked underneath it. He had definitely filled up over the years.

Ty took a small capsule out of his pocket. “This will open the portal. I recommend leaving your phones behind since the concentrated Angelic power tends to ruin them.”

“Here.” Kit threw his phone at Jaime. “Keep this for me.”

“Sure, but I’m answering every phone call you get with the classic ‘Herondale Sperm Bank, you spank it, we bank it. How may I service you?’“

Behind him, Dru stifled a laugh.

Ty let the capsule drop on the floor and Kit was temporarily blinded as light filled the room, then a large portal opened in front of him. Through it, Kit could see a large cathedral.

“Step in,” Ty commanded before disappearing through the portal.

Ash seemed reluctant to do so.

“Here you go,” Jaime said joyfully before pushing him, and Ash fell through the portal with a cry of surprise.

“Listen to Tamara while I’m gone,” Kit said. “And don’t flirt with her!”

“I’ll do my best.” Jaime smirked.

Kit stepped through the portal and landed almost gracefully on the ground. In front of him rose a magnificent white cathedral. Kit could recognize the elements of gothic architecture.

“Wait a second,” he said. “This isn’t Rome.”

“No,” Ty agreed. “This is the institute of Milan.”

“Man, your portal sucks butt,” Ash said.

“The institute to which the portal directs is alerted when we use it,” Ty said. “And as I told you before, I don’t trust the Rome institute. But I have a friend here. I called him to notify him that we’re coming. We’ll take the train to Rome from here.”

“A friend?” Kit asked. “Who is this friend? Why do you trust him?”

“We studied together at the Scholomance,” Ty said. “Now come on. He’s waiting for us.”

“Oh so now we are going to have a nice get-together with your Scholomance buddy?” Kit asked irritably.

“He’s giving us the map of the hidden catacombs.”

Ty began walking, his travel cloak flapping behind him in the cold winter’s air. Kit and Ash hurried after him. They stopped at the front door and Ty pounded on it with his fist.

The door soon opened to reveal a tall man with dark brown hair.

“Ty,” he said in a deep voice. “It’s so good to see you.”

“You too,” Ty replied.

Kit could swear he detected a hint of awkwardness as they stood in front of each other for a moment, before the man pulled Ty into a gentle hug.

“That’s Ash and Kit,” Ty said when the man let him go. “Ash, Kit, meet Luca.”

Ash simply nodded, but Kit pulled Luca into a hug.

“You’re friendly,” Luca commented, surprised.

“I am,” Kit replied innocently.

Kit always hugged people he was suspicious of; it was the easiest way to slip his hand into their pockets.

Ty studied Kit but didn’t say anything, and Kit was unsure if Ty had realized that he had just stolen something out of Luca’s pocket.

Luca led them to the library. “The map is in the storage room. Ty, I’ll take you there.”

With that they left, and Ash plopped down on a large couch. Kit studied the room carefully, counting the exits and making a mental note of every sharp object and every heavy instrument that could be used as a weapon against him. Finally, he sat down on the windowsill and gazed aimlessly outside.

“I’m hungry,” Ash complained. “I’m going to find the kitchen.”

“You’ll probably need these,” Kit said. He took out the keys he had stolen from Luca.

From the keychain hung a centurion pin. Well, at least Luca was not an absolute nerd like Perfect Diego, who always insisted on wearing his pin on his shirt. Kit snorted. The emblem of the Scholomance was etched onto the circular silver pin, as well as a large B, probably signifying Luca’s last name. Kit didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was Bearface. Or Bigguy. Or Birdbrain. Kit had to admire his own creativity.

“Are you going to keep smiling at that keychain or are you finally going to let me eat?” Ash asked irritably.

Kit tossed the keys at him. “Get me some cookies, will you?”

Ash left, and Kit sunk deep in thoughts. Why hadn’t Ty mentioned that they would be coming here first? Obviously, Kit and Ash would have agreed. It almost seemed like he wanted to take them off guard. Or maybe he didn’t want to have to answer any questions they might have.

Kit had spent ten blissful minutes in quiet before Ash barged back into the room, carrying five boxes of chocolate cookies.

“You won’t believe this,” he yelled. “Luca cured Ty!”

“What?” Kit turned abruptly to him.

Was Ty sick? Kit started to panic immediately.

“He lifted the curse!” Ash said happily before biting into a cookie.

“Oh.” Kit smiled with relief. “What did Jaime tell you?”

Ash looked at him sheepishly. “He said that years ago a warlock had cast a spell on Ty that stuck his gloves to his hands. He hadn’t been able to take them off since.”

Kit tried his best not to burst out laughing.

“But when I looked for the kitchen, I passed the room in which Ty and Luca were, and I saw Luca holding Ty’s hand, but his glove was on the table! He cured him!”

Unable to control himself any longer, Kit started laughing hysterically.

“What?” Ash pouted. “What’s so funny?”

“Jaime was messing with you,” Kit gasped for breath. “Ty just likes those gloves.”

He stopped laughing then. “Liked” was not the right word; Ty depended on those gloves. Without them the physical sensation of the world around him would lead to a sensory overload and stress him. He never said so, but he didn’t have to. Kit knew him well enough.

But how did Luca manage to make him take off his gloves? Kit thought with a pang of jealousy.

“You seem cranky,” Ash commented. “Here, have a cookie.”

He sat down next to Kit and handed him one, which Kit did not refuse. They had finished the third box by the time Ty and Luca came back.

“We’re leaving,” Ty said.

He hurried to the entrance without waiting for them. Kit studied Luca’s face. He looked as if he had been crying; his eyes were red, and Kit could make out traces of dry tears on his cheeks before he hurried after Ty.

“Bye, cookies,” Ash said sadly before placing the box he was holding down.

He and Kit walked to the entrance in silence. When they reached it, Luca was saying something quietly to Ty. When he heard Ash and Kit’s footsteps, Ty walked past him, carefully avoiding his gaze. Outside he pulled the hood of his travel cloak up, hiding his face.

Kit tried to follow him, but then Luca grabbed his arm. He studied Kit carefully. “Make him happy. Please.”

Make him happy.

Not “keep him safe” like Shadowhunters usually said. Not “take care of him” like friends normally said.

Make him happy.

Kit was at loss as to what he should reply. Of course he wanted Ty to be happy. For years, the only thing that had kept him going as he sunk lower and lower was the knowledge that Ty was out there somewhere and that he might have found happiness.

“Cool ring,” Kit said instead, nodding at the silver ring on Luca’s left hand. It depicted an owl perched on a branch.

“It’s my family ring,” Luca replied distractedly. “Nachteule.”

Kit stared at him. Nachteule; a German Shadowhunter surname. But the keychain. The letter B. Realization sunk over him; he knew who Luca was. Or rather, who he had been.

He gave him a small nod, then walked out, feeling unreasonably irritated.

Ty guided them through the streets of Milan, to the train station, his face hidden under his hood.

“How does he know where to go if he doesn’t have his phone?” Ash whispered to Kit. “Did he memorize the city map or something?”

Kit turned to him. “Does he look like the kind of guy who memorizes maps for fun?”

Ash bit the inside of his cheek. “Kind of,” he muttered.

“That’s because he is,” Kit said fondly.

He glanced at Ty. He caught a glimpse of his skin; it was wet with tears.

They reached the station and Kit bought three tickets to Rome. They waited for the train to arrive and both Kit and Ash pretended they didn’t see the tears streaming down Ty’s face. When the train finally arrived, Ty was the first to get on it. He sat next to the window in the direction of the travel, and Kit sat in front of him without thinking. Ash quickly sat down next to Ty, judging it safe to put as much distance between him and Kit as possible.

“I’m still hungry,” he muttered.

“How?” Kit gaped at him. “You just ate five pounds of cookies!”

“I don’t know. I just am.”

“Ah, I see.” Kit smirked. “You sniffed too much glue and now you’re craving sugar.”

“I’m not high on glue!” Ash said angrily.

Ty pulled back his hood, which caused a fit of giggles from a group of girls sitting in the same carriage not far from them.

Ty seemed unaware of the reaction he had caused. He was still unnervingly quiet, but he had stopped crying. Kit didn’t know how much longer he could pretend to be fine with having just met Ty’s ex. It made him furious for reasons he could not even pretend to understand. Logically, Kit knew that Luca was a good guy who clearly cared about his friend. Still, meeting the person who had been Ty’s first partner, his first kiss, his first… A weird shudder went through Kit.

“Jaime keeps trying to mess with me,” Ash said irritably, and Kit realized that he had missed about five minutes of him talking. “Yesterday he tried to convince me that you two used to be best friends.”

Ty chewed on his lower lip without saying anything, and Kit quickly averted his gaze, quiet as well. An uncomfortable silence stretched between them. They weren’t best friends anymore; that much was clear. So, what were they? Just regular friends. The thought made Kit oddly uncomfortable.

The girls kept stealing glances in their direction, aimed mostly at Ty. Kit wished that they would stop.

“I mean, a detective and thief who used to be best friends, really?” Ash kept going, oblivious to the tension between Kit and Ty. “I told him that he’d have to try harder next time. So, he tried to convince me that Kit loves to get drunk and sing songs by Madonna, which I did believe.”

“Please tell me he didn’t show you the video,” Kit mumbled.

“There’s a video?” Ash’s eyes lit up.

“No.”

“You just said that there was.”

“I’m a liar. Ask anyone.”

Ash turned to Ty. “Is he a liar?”

“Depends,” Ty answered. His voice rasp.

“On…?”

“On who you’re asking.”

“I’m asking you.”

“I don’t think Kit ever lies to me.”

Kit’s heart rate shot up as he realized that Ty was right; Kit was never able to lie to him.

“I have to use the bathroom.” Ty stood up. The girls giggled harder, but he didn’t seem to notice.

He left – to wash his face, Kit knew – and Kit turned to look out the window. The world passed them in a blur, trees and houses, people going on with their normal lives.

Why did Ty break up with him?

Kit might have been unable to read Ty, but he was still able to read other people well enough. And from the way Luca looked at Ty it was clear that the latter had been to one to initiate the breakup.

But why?

Ty came back a few minutes later, his face dry but his eyes still a bit red.

One of the girls got up immediately and blocked his way.

“Hi.” She grinned.

“Hello,” Ty replied politely.

The girl smiled broadly at him, not bothering to hide the way she was studying his face. “You’re American,” she said with a deep Italian accent.

“Yes.”

“I’m Sofia,” she gave him her hand. Ty shook it, looking suspicious.

“Ty.”

Sofia passed her fingers through her long strawberry hair. “So, Ty,” she said. “What brings you to Italy?”

“It’s a secret.”

The girl giggled, and Ty seemed very confused.

“I hope your conversing skill will improve with some whiskey inside of you,” she said playfully.

“I don’t want whiskey.”

“Vodka, then.”

Ty seemed frustrated. “I don’t need vodka.”

“Fine, tequila it is.” The girl smiled. “You can drink it out of my belly button.”

“That sounds unsanitary,” Ty said. His right hand was moving restlessly at his side.

Kit was considering intervening, because not only was that girl wasting her time, she also seemed to be making Ty uncomfortable in the process. But then one of her friends walked over.

“Come on Sofia,” she said. “Lascia il povero ragazzo da solo.”

“Ma Nichole, è così carino!”

Kit could not speak Italian to save his life, but still he had a pretty good idea what that annoying girl just told her friend Nichole. Ty’s cute. Or pretty. Whatever.

Nichole dragged her away and Ty sat back in his seat, looking annoyed.

“Why does this keep happening?” he asked, distressed. “People are always trying to sell me alcohol. Whiskey mainly, but statistically speaking tequila is also high on the list. Do I look like an alcoholic?”

Ash and Kit gaped at him.

“You take this one,” Ash muttered.

Kit swallowed. “Ty, she… she wasn’t trying to sell you alcohol. She was flirting with you.”

“I don’t understand. Why would she be flirting with me?”

Kit bit his lower lip to hide a smile. “Well, because you’re… Er… you have a certain…” Agh, damn it. “You’re attractive. Are you aware of that?”

It turned out that Ty was not, in fact, aware of that. The concept that he was good-looking seemed to be new to him; or perhaps what surprised him was the fact that Kit found him attractive. Either way, he blushed slightly.

Seeing him blush made Kit feel weird. Nice weird, though. Nice weird in a way that made his chest warm.

He realized that he was staring and averted his gaze quickly, slightly confused. From best friends he and Ty became complete strangers over the years, then enemies for a few days, and now… friends again. And this seemed to be a very strange way to restart their friendship – complimenting Ty on his appearance. This didn’t seem like the sort of things that friends usually did.

“It’s just weird that she did, because you were there,” Ty muttered. “And you’re the good-looking one. Not me.”

Kit forced himself to remain calm, even though his heart rate shot up at Ty’s words.

“No, Ty, it’s the other way around... You’re…” beautiful. “Sort of nice to look at,” he finished lamely.

Somehow telling Ty that he’s beautiful, especially with Ash there listening to every word, made his face feel burning hot.

Ty studied him and for a moment Kit forgot how to breathe.

“I don’t…,” Ty began, and Kit’s heart skipped a beat. “I mean… I think that you’re – “

Ash coughed.  

“Right,” Ty turned to him immediately. “Back to our mission. I’ll show you the map and –”

“No, I’m just waiting for you to say something nice about me, too,” Ash said. “In case you haven’t noticed, my life is pretty much crap lately so I kind of need this.”

“Your facial features correspond to society’s beauty standards,” Ty reassured him. “Dru told me so.”

Ash flushed. “She… she did?”

“Not in those words, I hope,” Kit muttered to himself.

“She did. While you were passed out.” Ty contributed. “She also informed me that your resting heartbeat is fifty beats per minutes.”

Ash’s eyes brightened. “She knows my resting heartbeat!” he said dreamily.

“Calm down, glue junkie” Kit said coldly.

“For the last time, I’m not high on glue!” Ash snapped.

“That’s exactly what a glue junkie would say,” Kit whispered loudly to Ty.

The corners of Ty’s mouth rose slightly for what seemed to be the first time in ages. It sent a thrill through Kit.

I made him smile. I did that.

Chapter Text

Ty was gazing through the window in silence, and Kit couldn’t help but wondering what he was thinking about. His ex, probably.

Meanwhile, Ash had managed to keep quiet for exactly five minutes before he opened his mouth again.

“Dru told me that you used to live in Europe.”

Ty tore his gaze from the window. “I did.”

“Where?”

“Milan, for a few months. Varna, Rome, Vienna, Bucharest, and Budapest for a while. Then back to Romania but to Cluj-Napoca –“

“You travelled a lot,” Ash said, looking slightly impressed. “Why?”

“I was looking for something.”

“What?”

Kit was glad that Ash was asking so many questions. He wanted the answers to them, too, but found himself unable to ask Ty himself.

“Something I needed,” Ty gave a vague reply.

“Did you find it?”

Ty didn’t answer.

“And when did you decide to stop travelling and join the New York institute?” Ash pressed on. He seemed to find Ty fascinating. Kit could hardly blame him; Ty was a captivating enigma.

“I never joined the institute,” Ty said. “I’m only there for a few weeks.”

“What made you come to New York?” Kit blurted out.

Ty pretended to be very interested in the map he had spread on the little table. He focused his gaze on it intently.

“Is this part of your travels? Where will you go next?” Ash asked curiously.

“I don’t know.”

“But why New York?” Kit insisted. “Seems like you’ve been focusing on central Europe until now. New York is pretty far away. Why did you come?”

Ty lifted his gaze from the map and focused it on Kit’s sternum. “Why did you want to marry Ariella even though you don’t love her?”

“Who’s Ariella?” Ash asked.

Kit shot him a dark look. “Not your damn business.”

They spent the rest of the train ride in silence.

They left the train at the Roma Termini station and Ty guided them through the streets of Rome until they reached a large monumental complex. He walked along the stone wall, caressing the bricks with his long fingers.

“Getting intimate with the wall, are you?” Kit smirked. “Should we leave you two alone?”

 Ty ignored Kit’s hilarious joke in favor of more stone caressing.

“I’ve never actually been to Rome before,” Kit continued. “But I’m pretty sure the entrance to the catacombs is clearly marked.”

“We’re looking for the uncharted ones,” Ty muttered. “Here!”

Kit blinked. Ty’s hand passed through the wall as if it was merely a hologram. Before Kit could stop him, Ty stepped through it and disappeared.

“In you go,” Kit said before shoving Ash and following himself. He closed his eyes by instinct, as if scared that the wall should consolidate in his face. When he opened them, he was standing in a long corridor lit by green torches.

Ash was standing a few feet ahead, his face pale. Ty, however, was looking around with great interest. The corridor ended with a large door on which hung a marble square made of a few smaller ones, each containing a different letter.

S A T O R

A R E P O

T E N E T

O P E R A

R O T A S

Ash seemed to have regained his senses; he ran to the door and tried to open it.

“It’s locked!” He yelled.

He ran back, straight to the wall they had just passed through, and collided with it.

“We can’t go back outside!”

“Of course you can’t,” Ty said calmly. “It’s a one-way passage.”

“What?” Ash’s voice came out as a shriek. “We can’t go back?”

“No.”

“Marvelous!” Ash yelled. “We’ve been on this mission for exactly thirty seconds and we’re already going to die!”

Ty gave him an odd look. “Look at the door. There’s a ROTAS-square,” he said slowly.

“Oh, so we’re making up terms now?” Ash sounded a bit hysteric. “Let me join in!” He pointed at the wall. “This is a monkey-fart-rectangle! That’s fun. Kit, your turn!”

“You’re a bit vulgar for a baby chick,” Kit commented.

“He’s not a baby chick, he’s a monster,” Ty reminded him.

“Ah, right.” Kit smirked. “And you’re a ghost.”

Ty nodded.

“Are you going to tell me what the FUCK is that thing?!” Ash yelled.

“It’s a word square that contains a five-word Latin palindrome,” Kit said before Ty could answer. Suddenly he was that fifteen-year old again, wanting to impress Ty at the Shadow Market. “For example, rotas at the top is sator backwards. Such squares were found all over the Roman empire, from Syria to England, plastered outside houses that belonged to early Christians.”

Ty did seem slightly impressed. It made Kit’s chest warm.

“You just have to rearrange the letters around the central letter, N,” Ty added as he began rearranging the little marble squares. “To create a cross that reads Pater Noster, Latin for our father.”

He finished making the cross. Our father read both horizontally and vertically.

P

A

T

E

R

P  A  T  E  R  N  O  S  T  E  R

O

S

  T  

E

R

“The remaining letters – two A’s and O’s – represent the concept of Alpha and Omega,” Ty continued as he took the letters and placed them on either side of the cross; one pair at the top and one at the bottom. “A reference in Christianity to the omnipresence of God.”

P

A

A          T          O

E

R

P  A  T  E  R  N  O  S  T  E  R

O

S

A          T          O

E

R

He finished rearranging the letters. The torches flickered orange for a second before turning back to green. The door opened with a squeak.

“Follow me,” Ty said.

Kit followed him without hesitation; but Ash seemed to require more convincing. “Come on, monster.”

They started walking down a long corridor, lit by the same green torches.

“Demonic fire,” Ty explained, as if he heard Kit’s thoughts. “It doesn’t require oxygen to burn.”

“Where are we?” Ash asked, voice quivering slightly.

“Near the catacombs of Saint Agnes,” Ty replied. “In a parallel spatial dimension, inaccessible to humans.”

“Saint Agnes?” Kit repeated. The name was familiar.

“She died under the reign of Diocletian,” Ty begun. “According to the story –“ he suddenly froze. “Kit take out your sword!”

Kit did as he was told.

“Look straight ahead!” Ty commanded. “No matter what you see or hear, do not react. Do not move unless I tell you so. And do not look!

Kit’s heart rate shot up at Ty’s words. He gripped the sword in his sweaty hands, waiting.

And then he felt it.

The air rushed out of his lungs as a creeping cold seized him. He couldn’t see anything, just a vague mist that jumped from one corner of his vision to the other. The cold mist seemed to be circling him, and Kit could feel it in his blood. He kept his gaze straight ahead, trembling slightly, and then he heard it, as if the voice came from inside of him.

Look at me.

Kit’s breathing was shallow; his teeth were chattering.

I am what you are. Look at me.

Kit kept his eyes on the stone corridor in front of him, on the flickering green lights, on anything but the mist that danced around him.

Look at me.

Kit ached to look. He ached to see what it was.

I am what you desire. I am what you fear. Look at me.

Kit had to look. He had to look. Slowly, his gaze shifted –

“Now!” Ty yelled.

Kit lifted his sword and cut through the air in one swift motion. A terrible shriek filled his ears, and then the cold was gone.

“What was that?” Ash panted, brushing tears from his face.

“A Daityas demon,” Ty said quietly. “But I don’t understand… They usually go after fairies… but we’re Shadowhunters. We don’t have fae blood. What was it looking for?”

Kit froze. The demon must have sensed his fairy blood; it must have called it. From the corner of his eye, he could see Ash glancing at him, trying to be discreet.

He knows, Kit thought, panicked. Ash knows about my blood. That’s why he came to New York. He was sent by the Queen to kill me.

Slowly, Kit lifted his sword again, ready to attack.

“Watch out!” Ty’s yell made him jump to a fighting stance, ready to protect him at all costs.

A giant spider crawled on the ceiling above them, eight giant milky eyes starting down. Kit pushed Ty aside and impaled the demon with his sword. It fell, nearly crushing them, and Kit didn’t have enough time to –

Something pushed him aside and he met the stone wall which immediately turned, and Kit found himself in a horizontal position, lying on something warm.

“Kit,” Ty said below him. “You’re squishing me.”

“Sorry!” Kit said quickly. He got up and dusted himself off.

Ty got up as well. “I think we passed through some sort of door.”

“Ash pushed us!” Kit realized. He looked around. They were standing in a large room with marble walls and an altar at the center. Ash was nowhere to be found; he must be on the other side.

“To save us, yes,” Ty said. He tried to push the wall they had just passed through. “It won’t turn back.”

“Let me try.” Kit pushed as well, but Ty was right.

“I think it only opens from outside,” Ty mused.

Kit paced around the room, frantically looking for another exit. “Ash locked us in here!” he yelled.

“I don’t think it was his –“

“He’s trying to kill me!”

Ty seemed to consider this. “Why would you think that?” he asked.

Because he realized that I’m part fairy. “He just is!” Kit said, swiping sweat from his forehead.

“That’s not a very good argument.”

“I don’t need a good argument to know that he’s trying to kill me.”

“I don’t think he is,” Ty said slowly. “If he truly wanted to, he would have done it already.”

“He just didn’t have a chance yet,” Kit hissed. The air around them was thick and hot, making it hard to breath.

“He had plenty of chances,” Ty argued. “He could have poisoned your food. He could have stabbed you while you had your back turned – which, by the way, you do an awful lot given what you suspect him of. He could have strangled you in your sleep. He could have –“

“Are you planning to kill me as well?” Kit asked drily. “You sure do have lots of ideas.”

“But most importantly,” Ty continued. “He doesn’t have a motive. Murder requires a motive.”

But he does, Kit thought. Ash knew he had fairy blood, Kit was certain of it.

“He just is,” Kit said angrily. “That little piece of human garbage.” His shirt stuck to his skin with sweat. With a grunt he took off his jacket and threw it on the floor.

Ty paced around the room, studying the walls. He was sweating as well. Damp strands fell on his face.

“Why is it so damn hot here?” Kit grumbled.

Ty froze. “It is,” he said slowly. “Stop moving!”

“I’m trying to find an exit!”

“Don’t! It’s a trap,” Ty said quickly. “The room is slowly heating. It’s aimed to kill intruders. And the more we move, the faster it heats.”

“So, we’re being cooked here?”

“Pretty much.”

Kit collapsed to the floor in exhaustion.

Ty joined him. “Think. Think. Think,” he muttered to himself, pulling strands of black hair in frustration. He then turned to look at Kit. “We’ve got to get you out of here!”

“You mean, get us out of here,” Kit corrected. He leaned his head back on the stone wall; it was almost warm to the touch.

Ty waved his hand dismissively. “Our first priority is to save you. Then, if possible, me.”

Kit was suddenly fuming. “And why is that?” he asked angrily. “Why am I the first priority?”

Ty turned to look at him, his eyes wide. “Are you mad?”

“Yes!”

“I’m putting your life before mine, and it makes you… mad?” He seemed confused.

It dawned on Kit how irrational he was being, but he didn’t care. “Yeah, it makes me mad! You don’t make the rules. From now on, our first priority is you!”

“No,” Ty said stubbornly. “You.”

“No. You.”

“You.”

“You!”

“You, and that’s final!” Ty yelled.

“Don’t fucking tell me what’s final!” Kit yelled back. “You’re the first –“

“I want to say that I’m surprised that you’re actually fighting over this. But I’m not,” a cool female voice said behind Kit.

He turned around, having recognized it immediately as if he had just heard it yesterday.

In front of him floated a smiling, transparent Livvy.

Chapter Text

“Livvy!” Ty yelled.

“Ty-Ty,” she said softly. Kit could see the love in her eyes. “How come each time I visit you, your surrounding looks even worse than the last?”

Ty chuckled and Kit was captivated by the sound.

Livvy turned to him. “You grew up.” She sounded proud, but Kit still detected sadness underneath. She would never grow up; she would always remain fifteen.

“I missed you.” Was all Kit had managed to say in return. One more word and he was sure he would start crying.

“Care to tell me where we are?” She asked lightly. “Kit, please tell me this isn’t your house. The décor is rather somber.” She glanced around at the marble walls and the ominous-looking altar at the center of the room. “Oh no, did you grow up to become a psychopath? I mean, I always knew that the possibility existed, but –“

“We’re inside the catacombs of Rome,” Ty volunteered. “We entered through that wall.” He gestured. “But we can’t go back.”

“How did you get inside in the first place?”

“It’s this guy, Ash,” Kit said angrily. “He locked us in here.”

Livvy quickly passed through the stone wall. Perks of being a ghost.

“Blond guy with green eyes, looks a bit like a lost puppy?” she asked when she came back.

“That’s the one,” Kit said angrily. “I think he’s trying to kill me.”

“I doubt that,” Livvy said lightly.

“Why would you say that?”

“Because he’s on the other side, kicking the wall and begging it to open.” She smiled. “I think he’s crying a little bit.”

Kit turned to Ty. “Okay, so I’m not one hundred percent sure, but maybe there’s a small chance that Ash is not trying to kill me.”

“That’s reassuring,” Ty replied. “Though we’re still dying here.”

“It must open from the outside,” Livvy mused. She passed through the wall again. “Huh. That wall is actually two walls.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s one layer of stone bricks, then a gap, then another layer.” She disappeared again. “There’s some sort of metal mechanism inside.”

“A mechanism?” Kit echoed. “Describe it to me.”

“There are a few concentric circles, the largest has a radius of about twenty inches, and… there are sort of… metal walls between them? Also, a cylinder at the center.”

Kit’s eyes lit up. “It’s a giant warded lock!” He yelled. “What do you see on the other side of the wall?”

She peeked again. “I see Ash sobbing.”

“Besides that. On the wall itself.”

She disappeared again, for longer this time. The minutes passed, and Kit was getting anxious. Has she vanished? He didn’t dare to look at Ty for fear that it might be true.

He exhaled with relief when she passed through the wall again.

“So, how come he can see me?” she asked. “And let me tell you, he was not chill about it.”

“Ash can see you?” Ty seemed to find that fact fascinating. “Maybe he comes from a family of seers, like Kit. We don’t know anything about his heritage.”

“Let’s discuss Ash’s heritage some other time,” Kit said impatiently. “Livvy, what do you see on the wall?”

“There’s a giant lion craved on it… its mouth is open. Oh! I bet you can push a key inside!” She cried out. Her excitement, however, died quickly. “We don’t have the key.”

“We will,” Kit said. “We’ll have Ash build a skeleton-key.”

“Out of what?” Ty asked. He sounded genuinely curious.

“We’re inside the catacombs,” Kit reminded him.

“He’ll make the key out of human bones,” Ty said slowly.

“Livvy, can you help Ash find bones large enough?” Kit asked.

“The human femur measures roughly eighteen inches,” Ty said. “It should be adequate.”

She nodded and left, and Kit sunk back down. The room was getting warmer and warmer, and the air around them was thick and heavy.

Ty sat down beside him, graceful as always, even with the dump hair stuck to his forehead. They remained silent for a while, and Kit could feel his common sense leaving him with every drop of sweat.

“I wanted to marry her because I wanted a family of my own,” he suddenly said, as if continuing the conversation they had on the train. Under the bandages, his tattoo was burning again. It hurt even more than usual. Kit hated it so much.

Ty straightened up but didn’t say anything.

“Ever since I was fifteen, I felt lost,” he admitted out loud what he had only ever told Dru. “I borrowed your family for a while. Then I borrowed Tessa and Jem’s. Then I came to New York and borrowed Jace’s. But none of it was ever mine.”

Ty remained silent, knitting and unknitting his fingers and studying them intently.

“I just want to find my home,” Kit continued. He might have been oversharing, but he was tired and hot and sad, and his bottled-up emotions just came pouring out. “I don’t know where it is.”

“Home is not a place,” Ty said quietly. “It’s a person.”

Kit lifted his head quickly to look at him. Ty was still studying his fingers, his face blank.

“Yes,” Kit said slowly. “It’s a person.”

He was unable to read Ty like he could read other people; he knew that by now. Still, he caught Ty biting his lower lip for a second before releasing it again. A nervous tick.

“Where’s your home?” Kit asked.

Ty shrugged. “Why did you cut your tattoo?” he gestured at Kit’s bandaged hand.

“I don’t like it.”

“Then why did you get it?”

“By mistake.” It wasn’t the full truth, yet it wasn’t a lie.

Ty’s eyebrows rose. “And you thought that the best way to deal with it would be to skin yourself?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Kit replied.

He could swear that anger flashed on Ty’s face for half a second before his expression relaxed again.

A pearly white blur danced at the corner of Kit’s vision. “We’ve got bones,” Livvy announced.

Kit opened his backpack and took out a pen; one of the most useful and most underappreciated items in a Shadowhunter’s kit. He drew a schematic illustration of a skeleton-key on his palm.

“I need you to guide him,” he said. “He needs to fabricate this. He should use a knife to carve the bones and make them rounder, to get this shape, here.”

She nodded and passed through the wall again, and Kit turned to look at Ty.

“My turn to ask a question. Why did you break up with Luca?”

Livvy came back. “He says he doesn’t have anything to make the bones hold together.”

Kit grunted. “See, this is why I should have instructed him about the standard Shadowhunter mission kit, and not Dru. He probably spent the entire time ogling her and not taking in a single word.”

“Why was he ogling her?” Ty asked.

“Ash has an embarrassing crush on your sister,” Kit informed him. “Don’t worry though, it’s not going to happen.”

Kit knew for certainty that Jaime had feelings for Dru, and that one day he’ll finally get his head out of his ass and ask her out. But… Jaime said that he had asked Ty out… No, Kit was not even going to take it seriously.

“Too bad,” Livvy said. “He’s kind of cute.”

“The kit contains epoxy gel,” Ty told Livvy. “Tell him to use it to stick the bones together.”

She left again, and Kit could not hold the words in any longer.

“Aren’t you curious?” he asked, “to know how I figured out not only that you and Luca used to date, but that you were the one to initiate to breakup?”

The corners of Ty’s mouth rose slightly.

“I told you I had one relationship in the past,” he said. “We met Luca, and I let him hug me, even though I don’t let other people do it. It made you immediately curious, so you reached your hand into his pocket, planning to steal whatever you found there. You got his keys – I know, because he realized they were missing.

“You found the centurion pin he keeps on the keychain and realized that it was mine since the letter B was engraved on it but Luca’s last name starts with an N, so you figured out that the B stands for Blackthorn.

“It made you realize that we were more than regular friends and from there on you simply had to observe Luca’s behavior to deduce that he still has feelings for me, which he had, in fact, admitted when we left to get the map.”

Kit bit his lower lip to hide his grin. “I’m a bit disappointed that you figured it out, though not surprised,” he said. “So, why did you end your relationship?”

“It wasn’t… like that,” Ty said slowly. “It’s… I wanted… something else. He knew it from the beginning, but he thought that I would eventually change my mind.”

“What did you want?”

“Just… something else.” Ty muttered. “Luca hoped that I would change my mind. Honestly, I hoped so too. But I never did, and so we broke up.” He sounded weary. “I still care about him. A lot. We were good friends.”

“I’m sorry,” Kit said. “It must have been hard.” Then realization struck him. “Wait, is that why you came to New York? To escape the pain from the breakup?”

Ty seemed confused. “No, Luca and I broke up years ago.” He suddenly smiled. “Didn’t figure that one out, did you, Watson?”

Kit kicked him playfully. The room was still heating, and Kit was getting more and more agitated. He took off his shirt and threw it on the floor. Ty glanced at his naked torso before averting his gaze, looking straight ahead at the wall in front of him.

“Then why did you come to New York?” Kit insisted.

Deep down, he already knew that New York was just one more stop in Ty’s travels. Still, some stupid, naïve part of him hoped that Ty came to see him. That one day, out of the blue, he realized that he missed Kit too much and just had to come see him. That he, too, had been thinking about him ceaselessly in the past eight years. That Kit was not the only one pathetic enough to write letter after letter without sending them.

Some childish part of him wished that even though Ty planned to leave in a few weeks, he would still keep in touch. Still come back to visit from time to time. Still want to be Kit’s friend.

Ty wiped sweat from his forehead and let his head drop on the wall behind him. He stared at the ceiling for a few moments before he answered. “I’m leaving in a few weeks and I won’t bother you again. I promise.”

“I didn’t say that you were bothering me, I asked you why you came.”

Ty seemed not to have heard him. “I know you’re mad because I didn’t tell you I would,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I’ll… I’ll leave when we get back,” he muttered. “Assuming Ash and Livvy get us out of here, of course.”

“Why are you so infuriating?” Kit snapped. “I didn’t tell you to leave!”

Kit wasn’t sure why he was so angry suddenly. Maybe because Ty never answered his question. Maybe because he didn’t want Ty to leave.

Ty turned towards him, his gaze focused on Kit’s shoulder. “You… don’t want me to leave?”

“No, I don’t want you to leave,” Kit muttered. “I…” want you to stay. “I wouldn’t mind it if you stayed.”

He wondered at which point in his life he had stopped saying what he truly wanted, settling instead on less meaningful words. Probably when Ty came back and threw his entire life out of balance.

Ty seemed to consider this new bit of information, his brows furrowed.

“Why are you surprised?” Kit asked, trying to sound casual.

Ty averted his gaze. “Because you don’t like me.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Because you told me so,” Ty said, matter-of-factly. “On my first night in New York.”

Kit stared at him. “You mean, by punching you?”

“No. Before that.”

Kit replayed Ty’s first night at the institute. He appeared on his door, ate dinner with them, made polite conversation, let Kit take him to his room, and congratulated him on his engagement. And then Kit punched him. He was angry, yes. But, as much as he didn’t want to, he still liked Ty. A lot.

“I never told you that I don’t like you,” Kit said, confused.

“You did. When you took me to my room.”

“We barely said a word. You congratulated me and then I punched you.”

“Before that,” Ty said. “You turned to leave, and I told you that the New York institute has fifty-three windows. Fifty-five if you include the attic.”

“Ah, right,” Kit recalled. “You did say something weird along those lines to irk me.”

“You don’t remember,” Ty said. He sounded a bit dejected, and Kit got the feeling that he had said something wrong, but he had no idea why.

“I don’t understand,” he said slowly.

“Eight years ago, you asked me how many windows the LA institute has.” Ty muttered, still not looking at him. “When I answered, you said that this was one of the things you liked about me.”

Kit’s stomach clenched painfully. He was furious with himself. How could he have missed that? Ty did ask him if he liked him still; but Kit was too blind to understand.

He then realized what Ty had meant when he said that he was nothing but a ghost to him. Kit was relying on memories of Ty to form a mental picture, but eight years have passed, and Kit’s memory was lacking. He had forgotten pieces of Ty. Pieces that made him who he was. And Ty was much more than what Kit knew – what Kit remembered - of him.

Livvy passed through the wall. “Show me the illustration again,” she asked.

Kit showed her the palm of his hand. She studied the drawing for a few moments before disappearing again.

Kit clenched his fists and turned to Ty. “I do like you,” he said firmly. “I don’t want you to ever doubt that. You’re my friend, and I like you. And I might not know enough about you now; I might not remember enough. But I want to learn.”

Ty’s gaze was still averted, but Kit did not miss how his face lit up at his words.

They remained silent afterwards, too hot, too exhausted to speak more. Kit estimated that about thirty minutes had passed, the quite broken only by Livvy who popped in every few minutes to look at Kit’s drawing again. Kit’s mind was foggy, and he became paranoid that the walls around them were breathing, stealing the little oxygen that remained in the room.

And then he heard metal clinging, and the wall in front of him opened to reveal a flushed, proud-looking Ash.

Chapter Text

The cool breeze that Ash let in revived him, and Kit managed to get up.

“I did it!” Ash yelled with glee. “I’m the king of skeleton-keys!”

“You are,” Livvy said, amused.

With difficulty, Ty got up as well. “Thank you,” he said. “That’s twice now that you saved our lives.”

Ash was practically jumping up and down in excitement.

“Thanks,” Kit muttered, and Ash broke into a little victory dance.

Ty took a step towards Livvy. “You’re fading,” he said urgently. “You’re leaving me again.”

“I’m sorry,” she said sadly. “It’s getting harder and harder to stay.”

“When will I see you again?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “But I’ll be back. I promise.”

With that she disappeared, and Ty let out a pained sound, like a wounded animal. Kit didn’t know what he could say to make him feel better, but he was too agitated, overheating, to be able to think clearly. He had to go. Something was calling him.

“Kit! Where are you going?” Ty cried after him.

But Kit was already on the run. It was calling him. It was calling him.

He sprinted along corridors of bones lit by green torches, guided by his instincts, almost out of breath. He could hear Ash and Ty running after him, calling his name. But he didn’t stop. It was close, he could feel it.

He took a right turn, then a left, and came to a halt.

There, surrounded by sharp rocks and skeletal remains, stood a sparkling silver pool. Kit stood at the edge. He could tell it wasn’t water, but something rarer, more beautiful.

He crouched by the pool and cupped his hand to fill it with the mysterious liquid. He opened his hand, letting the liquid fall back, and watched it, mesmerized. The sparkling silver that dribbled from his hand glimmered with all the colors of the rainbow. Kit had to go in; he was overheated and thirsty, and the pool was drawing him.

“Don’t go into the water!” Ty yelled.

But it was too late; Kit had already taken a step.

“Come back!” Ty yelled again.

The liquid was delightfully chill, and Kit took a few more steps until it was deep enough for him to swim in. He let himself swim a few feet before he took a plunge.

And suddenly everything around him went dark and quiet. With his senses muted, Kit succumbed to his fatigue. He could feel himself being dragged down into the stillness, but he didn’t fight it. He felt nice, and warm, and calm. So calm. So very, very calm. He could drift to sleep. He could rest, now.

Strong hands wrapped themselves around him and Kit struggled to get free as they tore him away from the calmness, from the nothingness.

He registered pain as he hit a hard surface. He wanted to struggle against whoever was holding him, but his muscles weren’t obeying him. He was tired. He was drifting to sleep.

“Wake up!” Someone above him said urgently. “Please, wake up!”

No. He didn’t want to wake up. He wanted to go back to sleep.

“Wake up!” The deep voice begged again. “Come back to me. Please. Come back to me.”

That voice. Who did it belong to? Someone important, Kit knew, but he could not remember who.

“Can you hear me? Come back to me. Please, come back to me.” The voice broke. “Don’t leave me.”

It was as if a fire started burning in his mind; and suddenly Kit wanted to go to where that voice came from. He had to go where that voice came from.

“Please, Kit. Please. Don’t leave me.”

It felt like pushing a blanked that weighted a thousand pounds off him, but Kit struggled against it. He couldn’t leave him; he had to come back.

“He’s waking up!” Another voice said.

Slowly, Kit blinked. The light hurt his eyes, burning his retina. Someone lifted him up and Kit couched water, his lungs aching.

“I’m… not… leaving you,” he panted. It felt very important to say it to whomever the deep voice belonged to; though Kit was too disoriented to think about a reason.

Someone pushed the damp hair out of his forehead and Kit’s eyes focused on a sharp jaw and red lips that whispered something before they kissed his forehead.

Ty.

His lips felt soft as they fluttered gently over his skin.

“You… called me back,” Kit muttered.

Ty’s gentleness was gone. He grabbed Kit by the shoulders and shook him violently. “What were you thinking?” he yelled. “You nearly drowned!”

“I –“

“Why don’t you ever listen?!” Ty yelled again. “Why are you always acting like a dumb toddler?!”

Kit’s senses slowly were coming back to him. And he had regained enough of them to realize that Ty’s yelling was sparking his temper.

“I nearly died just now,” he hissed. “Could you at least pretend to be nice for, like, two minutes?”

“No!” Ty grabbed Kit by the collar of his shirt and pulled him up violently. “Why do you have to do stupid shit all the time?”

“The last stupid thing I did was listen to your voice telling me to come back, and I’m regretting it already!”

Ty still hadn’t released his grip on the collar of Kit’s shirt. Angered, Kit pushed Ty away. It did not make him release the grip on his collar, but it did enable Kit to feel a hard object in Ty’s jacket. He pushed him again, distracting him so he could steal it. Ty didn’t notice, but he seemed to get angrier by the second. He pulled Kit closer and stared down at him, so close Kit could count his eyelashes. Kit’s heart was beating fast, but in anger or excitement – he couldn’t tell.

“So… I guess I’m supposed to intervene now?” Ash asked.

“No!” Kit and Ty yelled at the same time.

“I think I’ll do it anyway,” Ash said reluctantly. “Kit - Ty’s lashing out because he was so worried about you. Ty - Kit is thankful that you saved his life, even though he hadn’t said so. Also, he’d probably like you to know that he came back because you… um… asked nicely.”

The tension broke immediately. Ty released Kit, letting his hand drop to his side. He took a step back and looked down at his shoes. Kit took a step back as well and studied him carefully. They were both dry already; probably because that pool was not filled with real water.

“He’s right… about me,” he muttered.

Kit chest tightened with guilt. “About me, too,” he mumbled. “I did come back because you… asked nicely.”

Ty gave him a faint smile.

“Thank you,” Kit whispered. It felt too intimate suddenly, so he added “For not letting me die.”

“Thank you for not dying,” Ty replied. He sounded a bit awkward.

“And thank me for being a great mediator,” Ash said happily.

Despite himself, Kit chuckled.

“We don’t have time to waste,” Ty said, avoiding Kit’s gaze. “We’ve got to keep on going.”

For a moment he stood there, looking around as if recalibrating an internal compass, then he began walking decisively. Ash and Kit followed him without questions.

“It’s so cold here,” Ash said after a while. “I wish we could use heating runes.”

“No,” Ty said immediately.

“I feel fine,” Kit said. “Kind of warm, actually.”

Ty turned to look at him. “You don’t seem to have hypothermia,” he muttered, more to himself than to Kit. “I should keep an eye on you.”

He didn’t have to, though. Kit did feel find. He felt great, even. Ecstatic.

They made a left turn into a narrow corridor. Ty took the lead and Kit let Ash go before him so he could be last.

They kept walking in silence, Ty guiding them through the maze. As they advanced deeper in the catacombs, the skulls on the walls seemed to… change. They were decorated with golden flowers and shining like diamonds.

“It’s so pretty in here,” Kit said happily.

“That’s morbid,” Ash muttered.

“Look at all those pretty jewels on the walls,” Kit continued. “Do you think we can take some home?”

“Are you serious or are you trying to creep me out?” Ash asked, a hint of horror in his voice.

“It smells so great.”

“It smells like death,” Ash said. “Dude, what’s wrong with you?”

“It smells like honey.”

“What’s going on back there?” Kit heard Ty ask loudly. “I need to concentrate.”

“Sorry,” Ash told him. “Kit’s messing with me, that’s all.”

They took another left turn and found themselves in a large cave. It felt warm, and Kit was mesmerized by the fairy lights that danced around.

“Why are you smiling?” Ash asked suspiciously.

“I like the lights.”

“What lights?” Ash squinted his eyes. “There are no lights!” He looked a bit odd; his face was… elongating?

“Your face is melting,” Kit said.

Ash touched his hands to his face. “Stop trying to freak me out!”

Ty, who had thus far been inspecting the exits of the cave, turned to them. “We should turn left. Here,” he gestured.

It suddenly dawned on Kit how beautiful Ty was. Kit always knew it, but now it felt more… real. Pressing. He had to touch him. He had to hold him. He had to press his lips against his, to slip his tongue inside his warm mouth, to melt into him.

Kit had never wanted to kiss a man before. He had never wanted to kiss anyone so much before. The urge became more violent with every fraction of second that passed.

And then, he had no idea how it happened, but suddenly he was pinning Ty against the wall, one hand on his hip and the other at the nape of his neck.

Behind him, Ash muttered something angrily, but Kit didn’t care. He moved his hand from Ty’s neck to his hair, pulling gently.

Ty swallowed. “Kit, what –“

“You’re so pretty,” Kit blurted out. The lights were still dancing around them, and the air smelled so sweet it was intoxicating.

Ty looked at him suspiciously. “Thank you, but –“

“I’ve never felt that way before,” Kit said, pushing him harder against the wall.

“You – what?” Ty furrowed his brows. He tried to free himself, but Kit was stronger than him. He held him firmly in place.

“I never wanted to kiss anyone the way I do now.” Kit breathed.

A little voice inside him told him that maybe he should ask for permission first; but the urge was stronger than him. He pulled down the collar of Ty’s shirt, exposing his neck. It was the first time he saw anything more than Ty’s face since he came to New York as he was always wearing a suit and those damn gloves. Kit stared at the stripe of skin he had exposed, pale and smooth. It drove him wild.

He bit Ty’s throat.

Ty let out a little cry of surprise. He grabbed Kit’s hair and pulled him closer as Kit dug his teeth deeper into his skin, his other hand on the small of Kit’s back, tugging his shirt. Kit released his bite and licked a trail leading from the hollow of Ty’s neck to his jaw and Ty let out the most beautiful little moan that sent shivers down Kit’s spine.

He began kissing his way from the piercing on Ty’s ear, moving along his jaw, and down, down towards Ty’s mouth.

Chapter Text

Kit could feel Ty’s heartbeat as he kissed a trail along his jaw, one hand on Ty’s hip and the other at the nape of his neck, holding him still. He pressed his lips on Ty’s skin, again and again, letting a small moan escape his lips. Ty panted under his touch, pulling Kit’s hair and tugging his shirt.

It felt so good. It was the best moment that Kit had ever lived. Just a little more, and his lips would be pressed against Ty’s. Just a little -

Ty let out a small grunt before he elbowed Kit in the ribs, grabbed his hips and turned him around. He bent him over and pushed a finger down his throat.

Kit threw up immediately.

He fell to his knees and vomited again. And again. Large hands pulled his hair back as he did.

After a few minutes, the vomiting had finally stopped. Ty’s hand was still fisted in his hair, the other stroked long, soothing lines down his back.

“What… just happened,” Kit panted. He blinked; the fairy lights were gone.

Ty let him go. “You swallowed fairy ether when you nearly drowned. It’s often used in… mating rituals.” He cleared his throat and took a few steps back. “It made you act… different.”

Kit’s mind cleared. The fairy lights were gone, and so were the diamonds and the sweet smell. Ty was still there, however, carefully avoiding his gaze.

Oh no. No. No no no, Kit thought frantically as the realization of what he had just done struck him. He hadn’t seen Ty in eight years, they had just become friends again, it was all fragile and new and Kit… Kit bit his throat.

Why. Why. Why. Why. Why.

He buried his face in his hands, too embarrassed to look at Ty. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry for… for what I did.”

Was it physically possible to die of shame? Was it? Because Kit felt that it would be better than keep on living with the knowledge that he had just pressed his body against Ty’s and moaned in his ear and oh, god, what will Ty think of him now and how can they -

“It’s… fine,” Ty mumbled.

“No, it isn’t!” Ash yelled, and Kit was painfully reminded that he had witnessed everything. “I had to watch this… this… softcore porn!”

Kit wished the ground would open and swallow him. He had pinned Ty against a wall without any warning, told him he was pretty, kissed a trail on his jaw…

He did all of that.

To Ty.

In front of Ash.

Why.

“Leave him alone,” Ty said coldly. “It’s not his fault.”

“But you sure took your time to stop him, didn't you,” Ash said accusingly. “My poor eyeballs!”

“He clearly swallowed some water, too, when he pulled me out,” Kit muttered, peeking between his fingers.

Ash glanced at Ty, a guilty expression on his face.

“Also,” Kit continued, gaining some dignity, “no one forced you to watch, horndog.”

Ash flushed deep red. “I wasn’t…” he mumbled. “Let’s just keep going,” he said quickly, looking at Ty for confirmation.

“Yeah,” Ty said immediately. “Let’s go.” He turned his back on them without another glance.

Kit got up without a word. The fairy lights and the sweet smell were gone, but the memory of Ty’s body pressed against his was still etched as a pleasant feeling deep in his mind. It was probably caused by the remnants of the fairy ether in his veins; that should dissipate in a few hours. And then maybe he could go on with his life, pretending that none of that had ever happened.

Soon they were on the move again, which meant that Ash had started talking once more.

“So, we’re next to the catacombs of Saint Agnes?” he asked. “What’s her story?”

At that moment, Kit thanked the angels that Ash could never keep quiet. Otherwise, the tension between him and Ty would have killed him.

Ty seemed glad for a reason to break the silence as well.

“She was a member of the Roman nobility during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, when Christians were persecuted. She was said to be a beautiful young girl and had many suitors of high rank, but she refused to marry any of them. Angered, they submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity.

“Agnes was condemned to be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel before being sentenced to death. She was led out and bound to a stake, but the flames parted away from her, and so the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her.

“Because of the legend around her martyrdom, she is patron saint of those seeking chastity and purity.”

Shivers went down Kit’s spine. It was a legend. Only a legend. But then again – in his world, all legends were true.

“It’s a cruel joke,” Ty added quietly.

“What is?” Ash asked.

“That we’re here.”

Kit did not want to ask why. Ash did not question Ty on the subject either, but unlike Kit he seemed to have understood. For the first time, Kit found himself wondering what horrors he had witnessed at the Seelie Court.

“We’re getting closer to the edge of the map,” Ty said.

“What do you mean the edge?” Ash asked quickly.

“We’re getting closer to the uncharted section of the catacombs.”

“So, we don’t know where to go?”

“No.”

Ash started at him, then at Kit, then at Ty again, as if trying to decide whether he was the only sane one left among them.

“We’ll have to be careful soon,” Ty continued. “So far we’ve been walking through the abandoned areas, but once we get to the uncharted sections we run a risk of being detected.”

Kit wanted to ask him how he planned to navigate those areas then, not doubting for a second that Ty had a solid plan, but he found himself unable to address Ty after what he had done to him in the cave. After he had enjoyed doing that to him.

“We’ll find a guide,” Ty said, as if he had heard Kit’s silent question.

Ash seemed very skeptic. He opened his mouth to argue, but then Kit tackled him to the ground.

“Watch out!”

He drew out his sword and planted himself between Ash and the gigantic spider that crawled out of the shadows. Eight eyes glimmered in the dark, and Kit wanted to throw up again as the huge, hairy body came closer to him. With one swift motion, he plunged his sword into the spider’s body. With a loud shriek its eight legs folded, and it volatilized to its home dimension.

“Thanks,” Ash muttered.

“I hate those things,” Kit said with disgust. “Do they keep them as pets or something?”

“I don’t think so,” Ty replied. “But they might actually make interesting pets. Maybe the can be trained, and –“

“Let’s go,” Kit said quickly. “Before Ty actually adopts one and forces us to bring it back home with us.”

Kit caught the way the corners of Ty’s mouth curves upwards before he averted his gaze again and began walking.

They managed a few steps before the floor shuddered under their feet.

The stones beneath them began sinking, lowering them into a large, rectangular pit. Kit’s knees wobbled and he stopped his fall with his hands. When the floor stopped trembling and the dust sunk down again, he glanced around. Ash was practically plastered on the ground, but Ty was still standing. He got out of the shock first and started scanning the walls around them, looking for a hidden door, an opening. But they were made of smooth stone, covered in colorful drawings but too flat to climb.

“Climb on my shoulders, I’ll help you up,” Kit said. “Then throw us a rope.”

Something metallic groaned above them.

Kit lifted his eyes. A giant, spike-covered grate was hung above them. It slowly began lowering, descending towards the pit.

“Quick, Ty!” Kit yelled. “I’ll let you out!”

But Ty knew that only the first one to climb would have time to escape; the spike grate had only about thirty inches left before it would descend into the level of the pit.

“No, climb on my shoulders!” he yelled

“No! You!” Kit yelled.

“You!”

“The fuck is wrong with you two?!” Ash screamed. “I don’t want to die here! I’m climbing on your shoulders right now!”

But the grate had already shut off their last chance of getting out.

“No!” Ash cried out, desperate. “Stop moving! Stop moving!”

Kit didn’t dare looking at Ty; the grate seemed heavy and the spikes looked blunt. This was not going to be a clean death.

“Stop!” Ash yelled again as if the grate could hear him.

“Maybe you should ask it politely instead of yelling at it,” Kit told him. “You’re hurting its feelings.”

Ash turned to him, his fists clenched. “Do you have to be so cynical all the time?!”

“It’s my coping mechanism!” Kit yelled back. The sound of the grate lowering was making him more panicked by the second.

He dared one glance at Ty. This was it; this was the last time he was going to see his face. The grate kept lowering and Ash was breaking his nails scratching the walls in terror. Kit couldn’t bear the thought that Ty was going to die here, with him, and he didn’t even get to tell him how much –

Kit froze.

On the wall behind Ty was etched a Latin word.

Immortalitas

Around it were painted nine different animals forming a circle: a lion, a fish, a peacock, a bull, a dog, a wolf, a boar, a parrot, and an elephant. At the center, below the inscription, was a metal lever.

Immortalitas. Kit squinted his eyes, trying to remember. The word meant eternity, or immortality… but the animals…

Tessa had told him once that the first Christians adopted the symbol of the peacock to represent immortality because of an ancient legend that the flesh of the peacock did not decay.

“Ty!” he yelled. “Behind you! The peacock!”

Ty turned around and understood immediately, as if he could read directly into Kit’s mind. He jumped forward and pulled the lever, pointing it at the peacock.

The spikes hovered inches from Kit’s head. Unmoving.

Kit did not dare to breathe, but then the grate creaked and lifted towards the ceiling. Next to him, Ash seemed to be praying.

Kit bent his knees and leaned his hands on the walls. “Ty, come on.”

Ty seemed to have decided to be rational for once and let Kit help him. With swift feline movements, he climbed on Kit’s back and then shoulders and reached his hands to the edge of the pit and pulled himself up. Ash climbed next, trembling, and then Ty took a rope out of his backpack and threw it into the pit. Kit climbed it until he reached the edge, and Ash pulled him by his arms.

“So, that was an immersive experience,” Kit panted. Ash begun offering prayers again, mumbling with his eyes closed.

Kit lifted his gaze and saw Ty looking at him.

“The peacock is associated with the resurrection of Christ,” Kit said quickly, as if he needed to explain what Ty already knew. “Because it sheds its old feathers and grows brighter ones each year.”

“Your knowledge is… quite thorough,” Ty said. His gaze was fixed on a distant point above Kit’s shoulder.

Kit tried to hide his flustered face. “Tessa and Jem took care of my education.”

Ty nodded, and Kit dared to gaze at him more openly. His hair was messy and his cheeks were flushed, but his suit… Kit blinked. Ty’s suit looked immaculate still.

“Hey, how come your suit still looks perfect after all we’ve been through?” he asked. “What the hell is it made of?”

“Same material as Shadowhunter gear.”

Kit stared at him. “Where did you get that?”

“I dug it from under a tree.”

“From… under a tree,” Kit repeated.

“Yes.”

Why?”

“Because I wanted it,” he said simply before he turned around and kept walking.

Fucking hell, he was going to drive Kit insane one of these days with his cryptic answers.

“He’s serious, isn’t he?” Ash muttered to Kit.

“Yeah,” Kit hissed. The fact that Ty was serious didn’t make his answer any less infuriating. “God, I want to rip his stupid suit off!”

“No!” Ash clenched his fists. “Stop trying to undress him! I’ve been traumatized enough for one day.”

Kit was torn between a desire to kill himself out of shame and a desire to kill Ash out of spite, but then Ty came to a halt.

“We might encounter guards from here on. In fact, I hope we do. Kit, I need you to be ready to attack”.

Kit nodded.

They reached a corner and Ty signaled for them to stop, then glanced quickly behind it. He signaled Kit to come forward, using hand signs to communicate that two guards were waiting, then he took a step back and Kit took his place and glanced behind the corner. He saw a long corridor which reminded him of an old monastery with its stone walls and dozens of metal doors. Kit was surprised by the guards behavior; dressed in long brown robes, one of them leaned lazily against the wall while the other walked along the corridor slowly with his back turned to Kit and glanced at the metal doors, peeking inside through the small windows. They didn’t seem to be guarding the inhabitants from outside threads; rather, they seemed to be making sure they stayed in.

Kit planned his next moves and timed his attack. Quick and quiet as a cat, he took out the first guard before he could react and the second one before he managed to yell, catching the bodies mid-air and laying them carefully on the floor. He then signaled for Ty and Ash to come out.

Ty stopped in front of the first door and signaled for Kit to open it. Kit took out his working tools from his backpack and got to work. In less than thirty seconds Kit opened the door and they walked in.

The room was small and bare and the only piece of furniture in it was a bed. A young girl wearing ragged clothes sat on it, a blank expression on her face. She barely blinked when three strangers barged into her room.

Where were they? Kit thought of a psych ward or some weird boarding school run by a cult. He had saved mundanes from such locations in the past.

“What’s your name?” Ty asked the girl.

“Sapphire.”

“Your real name.” Ty’s voice was soft. Softer than Kit had ever heard it.

“I don’t have another name,” she said, not looking at him. “So, the three of you? Together?”

Kit had no idea what she meant by that.

“Are you scared?” Ty asked.

“No.”

“You should be,” Kit said. “He’s a monster.” He pointed at Ash. “And he’s a ghost.” He nodded towards Ty.

The girl laughed bitterly and the sound made Kit shiver. Where the hell were they?

“When I was a kid, I used to be afraid of ghosts and monsters,” she said distantly. “But as I grew up, I realized that men are scarier.”

“We are going to get you out of here,” Ty told her.

“You won’t,” the girl said wearily. “Many clients have said that over the years. I prefer hearing a terrible truth than an evil lie.”

“Clients…?” Kit turned to Ty. “What is she talking about? What is this place?”

“It’s what you think it is,” Ty said, sounding sorrowful.

“You’re not clients?” the girl suddenly asked. She ran towards the end of the room, where a bell was hung.

“Do not ring that bell,” Ty said immediately.

“I have to!” the girl yelled. “If I don’t report you, they might kill me.”

“Listen to me,” Ty said, his voice taking a dangerous edge, and Kit’s blood froze. He pointed at Ash. “See that guy? He’s not the monster.” He gave her a serpentine smile. “I am.”

Kit stared at him in stupor. The girl was trembling.

“Those stories you heard when you were a little girl?” Ty continued, his voice cold and hard. “They were all about me.”

Kit was too shocked to speak. Behind him, Ash let out a small choking sound.

“If you don’t report us, they might kill you,” Ty said in a low voice. “But if you do, I will do it.”

Tears of fear were glistening in the girl’s eyes.

“And I won’t do it quickly,” Ty lowered his voice even more. “I will slowly tear you apart. I will shatter your bones and shred your skin to bloody ribbons, but do it gradually enough so you would remain conscious throughout the process. You will bathe in your own blood, and I will enjoy every moment of it.”

Kit believed him. He believed Ty’s words about being a monster; he believed that Ty was always wearing gloves because he had to hide his claws.

And the worst thing was – he didn’t care.

The only thought that still haunted him was how much he had enjoyed the way Ty panted when he had pinned him against the wall.

Chapter Text

Sapphire backed away from the bell.

“Good girl,” Ty hissed. “Now give me your hand.”

He reached a gloved hand to her. The girl was shaking like a leaf, and Kit wondered if she, too, thought about the claws Ty was hiding under the black leather.

But the second she gave him her hand, Ty spoke again. “I had to scare you,” he said gently. “I’m sorry. We’ll get you out of here, I promise.”

Kit’s eyes widened. Of course Ty was bluffing, how had he not realized it? He felt like a blind man whenever Ty was concerned; as if his presence alone could mute his senses. He wished he could read him; he wished he could read Ty’s expressions and thoughts, and finally understand him.

“The people who hold you here,” Ty continued. “Most of them are not human. They’re demons, and it’s our job to kill them.”

The girl seemed torn between the desire to believe Ty, and the skepticism that was molded into her by months – years? – of suffering.

“But we’re going to need your help. We need you to guide us through this place.”

The girl shook her head. “They never let us out. Only to eat, or for… parties. I don’t know the whole place.”

“I just need you to guide us to the control room,” Ty said softly. “Can you do that?”

Slowly, Sapphire nodded.

“Good.” Ty still hadn’t released her hand. “Let’s go.”

They left the room and were surrounded again by the doors similar to the one they opened to find Sapphire. Kit shuddered as he thought of all the young girls and boys that are locked behind them.

“There are thirty-two doors. Once we do what we need to do,” Ty began, and Kit got the impression he didn’t want the girl to know about the stone they were about to steal. “We’ll have about ten minutes before the whole building collapses. We’ll have to guide the prisoners outside.”

The girl led them through the intricate set of corridors, still holding Ty’s hand. It was an odd sight. If they were walking the streets of Rome like this, they could pass as a young couple in love. Kit couldn’t help but wonder if Ty used to hold Luca’s hand like that when they were together.

His reflections were cut off by the appearance of hooded figures that emerged from the dark. Six, eight, ten –

“She led us to a trap!” Kit yelled.

Ty did not seem even slightly surprised. “When I say go, Kit, you run left and attack. Ash, you run right. I’ll take the girl.”

Kit drew his sword and positioned himself in a fighting stance. To his right, Ash drew two daggers.

“Go!” Ty ordered.

Kit jumped left and took down guard after guard. There bodies volatilized to their home dimension. He glanced right; Ash was panting, but there were no more guards.

“You’re a good fighter,” Kit said, surprised.

He studied Ash curiously, but Ash simply shrugged.

Behind them, Ty let go of Sapphire’s hand. “The people who run this place and the people who… visit. They’re human. But they use demons as guards,” he told her. “When they are killed, their bodies return to their home dimension.”

His voice was steady, but Kit could see that his hand was trembling. He tried not to show it, but Kit knew that he was distressed by the situation; by the fact that humans would be cruel enough to enslave Sapphire and other girls and boys. Kit was reminded of the day, eight years ago, when Ty freed pixies from their cages at the shadow market. His kindness and gentleness did not fade over the years. If anything, they grew deeper.

“Do you believe us now?” Ty asked her gently.

The girl studied him intently.

“Laura,” she finally said. “My name, before… It was Laura.”

“We’ll get you out of here, Laura,” Ty promised her. “We’re going to free everyone.”

His hand was still trembling, and Kit wished he could hold it. He wished he could take Ty’s hand in his and squeeze it, help ground him, make him feel better. But Ty wouldn’t want that; not after what Kit had done in the cave.

“I’ll take you to the control room,” Laura said.

“Thank you.” Ty gave her a faint smile. He gestured for her to show the way.

She began walking and Ash followed quickly, but Ty still stood frozen.

“Are you okay?” Kit tried not to show how concerned he truly was.

“I’m just –“

Another gigantic spider crawled out from the shadows. Kit pushed Ty aside and dove his sword into its body, but when he turned around to mention to Ty again how much he hated those, a new sense of panic took over him.

A pale, rugged-looking man stood in front of Ty, holding a gun.

“Who are you?” he yelled. The hand that was holding the gun was shaking.

Kit had never been more scared in his life. All that man had to do was pull the trigger, and Ty’s life would be taken in front of his eyes. Kit could see every memory he had ever created with Ty flashing in front of his eyes. Ty, holding a knife to his throat. Ty, shaking on the roof of the London institute. Ty, drugs in his bloodstream, falling asleep after Livvy’s death. Ty, with piercings in his ears and his immaculate suit, the first day he came to New York and threw Kit’s life off track.

“Put the gun down,” Ty said calmly. “Put the gun down, and we can talk.”

“Who are you?” the man yelled again. His flickered his gaze from Kit to Ty, looking crazed. He sounded too frightened to be able to reason with them.

Ty lifted his hand slowly, and Kit knew what he was reaching for.

“Don’t move or I’ll shoot!” the man yelled.

Kit could see how quickly Ty was breathing. He, too, knew that he couldn’t reason with the man. His gaze flickered to Kit’s shoulder and he parted his lips, prepared to say his last words.

Kit’s father used to say that a scared man will shoot twice as fast as an angry one. He couldn’t waste a second.

The gunshot echoed in the tight space.

The bullet pierced the man’s skull, splattering bone and gray matter on the wall behind him, and he fell to the floor, convulsing.

Shadowhunters avoided killing men, even perps, at all costs. Killing then was different than slaying demons; some Shadowhunters were plagued by memories of human suffering years later.

Kit came closer to the man convulsing on the ground and lifted again the gun he had stolen from Ty’s pocket after he pulled him out of the lake. He shot the man again, ending his sufferings.

“How – how did you get it?” Ty panted.

Kit took his hand and pulled him away. He didn’t want him to look at the body; it would cause him too much distress. Ash and Laura stood a few feet away, looking pale.

“Told you not to come to close to me,” Kit said with a faint smile. “But the real question is – why the hell do you carry a gun? You know they can mess with our runes.”

“I’m not a fighter. I don’t care,” Ty shrugged. “Also, the gun was in case of an emergency, so you’re welcome.”

Kit gaped at him. Ty was going to make him lose his sanity one of these days. In fact, Kit might already be descending into madness.

“Come on, quick,” Laura said.

There was no time to waste. Ty took the gun from Kit’s hand and put it back in his pocket. They followed her quickly through the corridors, Kit with a sword drawn and Ash with his daggers. Finally, Laura came to a halt in front of a large door.

“Here,” she whispered. “This is the control room.”

“Stay outside,” Ty told her.

Kit took out his tools and began working immediately, and under twenty seconds he opened the door.

“Who’s there?” someone yelled.

Ash threw his dagger. It hit the man’s forehead, piercing his skull. Ty crossed the room quickly; at the center of it, on a metal stand, was placed a blood-red stone, half the size of Kit’s palm.

Ty took out a dagger. “Kit, come here.”

Kit did, and Ty cut a piece of his shirt.

“Hey! Why not from yours?” Kit protested.

“I like this suit.” He wrapped the stone with the cloth and lifted it.

The moment he did, the earth began shaking.

“The place is going to collapse,” he said. “We need to run.”

They began a frantic run through the corridors, Laura guiding them back to the prisoners cells. Underneath their feet, the ground broke.

“Jump!” Kit yelled. He pulled Laura with him and landed on the other side. Ash landed right next to them.

Kit looked back; Ty did not make it. A huge fissure opened in front of him, and another behind him. He was trapped.

“Ty!” Kit yelled desperately, knowing there’s nothing he could do.

“Keep going!” Ty yelled. “You have to guide everyone out!”

Kit knew that he should listen. There was nothing he could do for Ty anymore. Still, his feet remained stuck in place.

“Go!” Ty yelled again. “Go!”

Kit couldn’t do it. He couldn’t leave him behind. “Take Laura and go,” he told Ash. “I… I can’t leave him.”

But Ash didn’t leave. Instead he stood there, the ground shaking under his feet, and he looked at Ty with a determined expression on his face.

Kit let out a cry.

From Ash’s back spread massive black membranous wings. He let them flare behind him for a moment, before he took flight.

Chapter Text

Kit stood frozen as Ash picked Ty up, one hand behind the back of his knees, the other around his ribs, and took flight again. His black wings flapped behind him as he carried him back to solid ground.

Kit gaped at him. “How –“

“No time!” Ty yelled. “Let’s go.”

They resumed their frantic run through the corridors. The green torches around them flickered and burned out, and Kit took out his witchlight to light the way. The walls around them were crumbling and small stones fell on their heads as they kept running.

“There!” Laura yelled.

They were back in the corridor in which they found her. Behind the doors Kit could hear screaming and crying. He opened them one by one using an opening rune, and frightened girls and boys stepped out.

“We’ve got to go!” Laura told them. “The place is about to collapse!”

“Follow us,” Ty said. His deep voice echoed from the fissured walls around them.

He led the way through the charted sections, the kids behind him, and Ash and Kit following last. They didn’t have much time; larger stones began falling around them as the structure collapsed. In front of Kit, a young girl stumbled and fell. He picked her up and kept running with her in his arms. They ran for what felt like a lifetime; Kit’s muscles were burning, heavier and heavier stones were falling around them, the ground was shaking. Kit was starting to fear they wouldn’t make it, when at last the first rays of sunlight reached him. They were outside. Safe and sound.

The kids looked scared and confused. Some of them were nursing minor injuries, some were crying, some looked in complete shock.

Ty was speaking to Laura. “I need you to take them to this church, here.” He showed her the map of the city. “There are people there waiting for you. People like me. They’ll have these markings on them,” he gestured at the back of Kit’s hand. “You can trust them.”

She looked at him with tears in her eyes. “I don’t even know your name,” she whispered. “You saved me, and I don’t even know your name.”

“You can tell them that Luca helped you.”

“Thank you,” she mumbled. “I won’t ever forget you.”

“Nor I you,” Ty said gently.

Kit stared at him. He had saved countless mundanes over the years; but not once was he able to create such a bond with any of them. He wished he could see the world through Ty’s eyes and feel it through Ty’s heart. Compared to Ty, Kit was a blind man.

The girl reached her hand to Ty and he took it. For a moment Kit thought that he would let her pull him into a hug, but Ty kept a safe distance. It then dawned on Kit that maybe Ty was carrying a gun because killing someone with a dagger would feel more personal, and Ty had never wanted to be a fighter; he was too gentle, too kind for that.

With one last look at Ty, the girl signaled the rest to follow her and soon disappeared into the streets of Rome. Kit came to stand next to him, making sure to keep enough distance between them so as not to cause him stress. They stood still for a minute; Ty did not lower his gaze, and Kit sent discreet glances at him.

“Where now?” he asked quietly.

“Back to New York,” Ty said. His voice was trembling. “Luca gave me a portal.”

“You… didn’t have one?”

The fact that Ty didn’t have a direct portal to New York this whole time made Kit feel better. If he did have one, it would have been much harder for Kit to rationalize why he never came to visit before.

Ty opened the portal and passed through it, followed by Ash and then Kit. When he looked around, Kit saw a white Central Park around him. Snow rested on the rocks and the park benches like a feather cushion, covering the ground in perfect white.

“I hoped it would take us straight to the institute,” Ash muttered.

Ty looked exhausted. He sat down on a bench, rested his elbows on his knees and covered his face with his hands. His shoulders were shaking.

“Hey.” Kit sat down next to him, trying not to let his worry show. “Are you okay?”

Ty didn’t answer for a few long moments. His face was still hidden, and his hands were trembling. Ash sat down on his other side. For once, he kept quiet.

Finally, Ty spoke. “I hate myself,” he said. His voice quivered.

Kit’s mind couldn’t process his words. How could he hate something so… good?

“Why?” he asked, feeling like an idiot.

“I screw up,” Ty said tiredly. “I screw up all the time.”

Kit gaped at him. “Ty, you… you saved them. You saved everyone. You didn’t screw up once –“

Ty dropped his hands. “If I had solved it earlier, she wouldn’t have had to suffer so much. None of them would have, and I…” He buried his face in his hands again. “I screw up so much and I just… I wish I was someone better.”

Kit almost put a hand on his shoulder, but quickly lowered his hand. “You did everything you could. You solved it as quickly as you could have.”

“That’s just another way to say that I’m not good enough.”

“Listen to me,” Kit said. “I’ve worked with many Shadowhunters over the years. None of them – and that includes myself – have half of your brains or your heart. You’re the kindest, smartest, best thing that has ever happened to this world. So, don’t you dare hate yourself. Don’t you dare hate the best person I have ever met.”

Ty focused his gaze on the tree in front of them. “I’m not –“

“You are,” Kit said almost angrily. “You are.”

Ty bit his lower lip but didn’t say anything more, and the three of them sat on the bench in silence for a while, soft snowflakes falling around them, and the silence broken only by the howling of the wind. Ty’s words still echoed in Kit’s ears.

I hate myself.

How long has he been feeling this way? And why? How could he – how could anyone – not see the goodness in him?

The minutes passed in silence until finally Kit turned to deal with Ash. “So, you really are a monster, huh?”

“It is considered impolite to call people monsters,” Ty told him gently, as if explaining the facts of life to a toddler. “Also, if a girl asks you if she gained weight, you should always say no,” he added. “I learned that one from experience.”

Kit felt a rush of affection flowing through him and he almost wound his arms around Ty before he caught himself. He forced a serious expression and turned to Ash again. “Explain. Now,” he said dryly.

Ash shifted uncomfortably. “I… I don’t…”

“Try.”

Ash must have understood that Kit was not about to let it go. He took a deep breath. “I don’t remember my childhood at all,” he said distantly, as if trying to put a barrier between the words and himself. “My first memories are from the Seelie court. From what I learned, both my parents were killed by faeries when they were on a mission. The faeries could detect hints of fairy blood in my veins, so they spared my life and took me with them.”

He has fairy blood, Kit realized. That’s why he looked at me when the Daityas demon attacked us. He wasn’t suspecting me, he was afraid I would be onto him.

Ash had no idea that Kit had fairy blood too.

“The queen kept me as a… pet,” Ash continued, his voice trembling. “When she realized what I could do she tried to… weaponize me.”

“A soldier that can fly and channel the Angelic power,” Ty said.

Ash nodded. “I ran away. I traveled the Winter Forest to reach the nearest portal to the human world. I made sure I wasn’t followed and I… I faked my death by leaving clues and pieces of fabric suggesting that I killed myself by jumping off a cliff.”

“Were do your runes come from?”

“I don’t remember. My parents must have put them on me.”

“Who taught you to fight?” Kit asked.

“The queen’s guards oversaw my instruction. They had… harsh methods of teaching.”

“How old are you?” Ty inquired.

“I’m estimated to be between twenty and twenty-five years old.”

“And why did you have a drawing of Dru in your pocket?” Kit asked. Next to him, Ty lifted his gaze.

“Julian Blackthorn visited the court once, to request a favor from the queen. The drawing fell out of his pocket.

“And why the hell do you carry it around with you?” Kit hissed.

Ash flushed. “I feel uncomfortable saying it with her brother here!”

Ty put his hands in his pockets. “Should I leave?”

“No!” Kit said immediately. He turned back to Ash. “Why do you carry it with you?”

Ash muttered something incoherent.

“Why. Do you. Carry it. With you,” Kit repeated.

“She gave me hope,” Ash blurted, as if trying to get the words out before his embarrassment made him unable to utter more. “I spent my life as a pet. A jester. I was humiliated and laughed at and beaten every day. It’s stupid, I know, but whenever I was alone in my room, I would take out her picture and I would look at her and she… she radiates good and I… I thought that a world where people like her exists must be… worth finding.”

He passed his hand through his hair in a nervous gesture, flushed from embarrassment. Kit remained silent. He couldn’t accuse Ash of being irrational; he himself had spent years thinking about Ty and drawing strength from the knowledge that he was still out there somewhere and that he might have found happiness.

He glanced at Ty, but he didn’t look back at him. It was odd to walk around with the newfound knowledge of how smooth Ty’s skin felt as Kit pressed his lips against it; of how Ty sounds when he’s panting. Did Ty think about it too?

If it was Jaime that Kit had almost kissed instead of Ty, Jaime wouldn’t have let him hear the end of it. He would have made fun of Kit for the rest of his days. And that would have been much more bearable than Ty’s silence on the subject.

Next to him, Ash looked mortified. “Can we go now?” he asked miserably.

“Yeah,” Kit said quickly. “Let’s go home.”

They walked to the institute in silence, and frantic thoughts ran through Kit’s head. Ash has fairy blood. Like Kit. But he has… wings? What the hell? And they’re going back home now. What will Kit’s dynamics with Ty be now? Kit had almost kissed him. He had pinned him against the wall and almost kissed him. He glanced at Ty; his expression was blank. Did their almost-kiss affect him as much as it had affected Kit?

Kit was wrapped inside his own thoughts and hadn’t even noticed they had reached the institute until Dru wrapped her arms around him and he realized that he was facing the large wooden door, with Jaime and Dru standing in front of him.

“My KitKat is back!” Jaime yelled with glee.

“That’s my nickname now?” Kit raised an eyebrow.

“Adorable, isn’t it?” Jaime asked.

“Are you alright?” Dru asked Ash with concern. Ash nodded and Kit noticed that he carefully avoided her gaze.

“Let’s get you inside,” Jaime said. “We’ll make you hot chocolate. Wait, no. You stink. You should shower first.”

“Kit, do you need –“ Dru began, gesturing at his arm with her chin.

“No,” Kit said quickly. “I’ve got this.”

She wanted to help him remove his stiches, but he couldn’t let her see his arm. For once, he knew exactly what his tattoo would say. And he knew he couldn’t let her see that.

He followed Ash and Ty up the stairs. They each got into their respective rooms and Kit closed the door behind him. He got into the shower and scrubbed every inch of his body and shampooed his hair twice, trying to delay the inevitable. After washing himself thoroughly he couldn’t avoid it any longer: he carefully took off the bandage off his arm and stared at his tattoo. The wound had healed around the stiches Dru made and the words Kit knew he would see stood dark against his skin.

I almost kissed him

“Stop saying that!” Kit yelled at his arm. “Say Chrisopher!”

His tattoo didn’t change.

I almost kissed him

“I hate you,” Kit muttered angrily.

He cut the stiches using scissors from the first-aid kit and made sure to wear a long-sleeved shirt before he left his room.

Jaime and Dru were waiting for him in his office to brief him about what he had missed, both wearing identical guilty expressions on their faces.

“Did someone mess with my safe?” Kit asked them suspiciously.

Every head of institute had a safe which only they had the key for. It was intended to keep classified documents, but somehow knowledge got out that Kit was hiding his snacks there.

“We didn’t open it,” Jaime said. He sounded disappointed.

“But you tried.”

“I wanted chocolate!”

Kit shook his head. “No one touches my chocolate,” he said solemnly. And anything else I keep there. “So, how were things around here?” he asked. “Did anything interesting happen while we were gone?”

“Not much,” Dru said. “There were reports of Eidolon demons downtown. We went there to take care of them, but Whitestrider acted too soon and it nearly cost Jaime his arm. Tamara was pissed; she suspended Whitestrider for a month starting yesterday, before punching him in the face.”

“Good,” Kit hissed. “Whitestrider is a screw up. We only keep him here because his mom is well-connected and threatened to bring in Clave officials if her precious baby is being mistreated.”

“Yeah, that’s basically what Tamara said, though there was more yelling involved.”

They still had that guilty look on their faces and Kit knew what it meant: They had finally hooked up and were afraid to tell people.

“Anything else you’d like to share with me?” he asked slyly.

Jaime sent a nervous glance in Dru’s direction, but she shook her head in a manner that was meant to be discreet. Kit hid a smile.

“It’s fine,” he said. “I know what happened.”

“It’s… fine?” Dru stared at him, wide-eyed.

“Yeah, of course it is.” Kit said. He had always been a fan of the idea of Dru and Jaime as a couple.

“See, told you he’d be cool about it,” Jaime said.

Dru still seemed suspicious, but Jaime put his arm around Kit’s shoulder. “It was beautiful, man.”

“O-Okay,” Kit said. It was getting a bit too personal.

“Everyone enjoyed it.”

“Everyone?” Kit gaped at him.

“Yeah. The whole institute gathered to watch.”

“The whole institute?!

“Yeah! We made popcorn and everything.”

Kit blinked. “Are you… I mean, if you’re into this sort of things then I guess I support you guys but –“

“How can we not be?” Jaime said. “The singing. The dancing. It was perfection.”

Kit took a step back. “The. WHAT.”

“Your video? Singing Like A Virgin while drunk? That we had a showing of? And the whole institute gathered to watch, and we made popcorn, and it was the best night of all our lives?”

Kit screamed for two minutes straight.

Then yelled for five more.

When he was done, Jaime and Dru practically ran out of the room and disappeared, and Kit headed to his room to shred whatever he found first to pieces. On his way there, however, he bumped into Ty.

“I think an alarm went off,” Ty said urgently. “I was in the shower when I heard this high-pitched sound and it seemed to only be getting stronger!”

“That. Was. Me.”

Ty’s eyebrows rose. “You?”

“Yes!” Kit panted.

“Did someone steal chocolate from your safe?” Ty asked emphatically.

“The whole institute watched my performance of Like A Virgin while we were gone!”

Ty seemed to be making a heroic effort not to laugh. Instead, he took Kit’s hand gently in his. “Come,” he said softly. “You had a long day. Let’s take you to bed.”

Kit was still seeing red when Ty led him to his room, he was still cursing under his breath when he brushed his teeth, and he was still planning to kick Jaime’s ass when he lay in his bed. But then Ty covered him with a blanket and caressed his hair, and Kit couldn’t even remember what he had been mad about.

Ty kneeled next to his bed and passed his fingers through the blond curls until Kit felt himself drifting to sleep. Then Ty got up, turned off the light, and opened the door.

“Wait,” Kit said sleepily.

Ty turned back quickly. “Yes?”

“I… wanted to ask you something.”

Ty kept his gaze fixed on Kit’s collarbone and Kit quickly looked away; looking at Ty felt a bit awkward. It made Kit think of how warm Ty’s body had felt when it was pressed against his in the cave and how beautiful he sounded when he panted in Kit’s ear, and that felt wrong, as if by thinking about it he betrayed Ty’s friendship.

Kit cleared his throat nervously. “When Ash asked you why you traveled so much, you said that you were looking for something.”

Ty remained silent.

Kit tried to control the trembling of his voice. “What... were you looking for?”

Ty was still silent and for a moment Kit thought that he was going to turn around without giving an answer, but then he said one word, almost too quiet for Kit to hear, before he left him alone.

“Freedom.”

Chapter Text

Rio de Janeiro , Brazil, four months ago

Dru jumped out of bed the moment her alarm clock went off. She brushed her teeth and washed her face, then tied her hair in a tight pony tail, not letting a single hair escape. She put on her gear, strapped a knife to her left thigh, put on a belt holding half a dozen daggers, strapped a long sword to her back, hid a small trench knife in her boot, and finished by putting a BC-41 in the pocket of her jacket. The last weapon, a combination of a knuckleduster and a dagger, used during the mundane World War II by the British, was gifted to her by Kit on her twenty-first birthday and had been in her pocket ever since.

She stared at her reflection in the mirror, satisfied with the result. She looked fierce and intimidating; just as she wanted to be. No weakness, no mercy.

Dru’s late teenage years had been rather lonely. With three brothers from which her age gap was too large to enable a close friendship, one brother away at the Scholomance, and brother one too young, Dru found herself alone most of the time. Eventually she had become so used to it, she wasn’t sure if the loneliness had molded her into what she was, or if her disposition was the one who made people distance themselves.

Her long periods of loneliness were broken when Kit Herondale, the boy who had taught her to pick a lock when she was thirteen, came to visit every now and then, accompanied by Tessa and Jem. Every time he did, Dru would become a completely other version of herself. Talkative, outgoing. Somehow, Kit had the ability to break down her walls.

She had often wondered why he had left LA. All she knew was that it had something to do with Ty - since she had heard Magnus tell him so. She wanted to resent Ty for making Kit leave, but it was hard to be mad at him when she knew that he himself had cried for weeks after Kit had left them.

Dru had known for years that she would leave for her travel year the day she’d turn eighteen. She loved her family deeply but she had to prove to herself that she was her own person, she had told Kit one day when he came to visit. He had just gotten back from two years in India and was planning to relocate to Argentina for a year, then join his cousin in New York.

“Come with me,” he said. “The first year away is the hardest. But it won’t be if we’re together.”

“Come with you… to Argentina?”

“Yeah!” he sounded excited. “It’ll be so much fun!”

“Okay.” She grinned. Kit’s excitement was contagious. “I’ll come with you.”

And so Dru relocated to Buenos Aires the day she turned eighteen. Over the year she and Kit grew closer and closer; they ate together, and laughed together, and cried together. Kit even gave her first boyfriend “the talk”, threatening to rip out his intestines and make himself a gorgeous necklace out of it if he ever hurt her. But as close as they were, they were never anything more than a brother and a sister. Kit was funny and good-looking, but something in the back of Dru’s mind insisted that he was meant for someone else. Who that someone else might be she had no idea, but every time Kit got yet another random girlfriend she would get irrationally annoyed at his choices.

At the end of the year, Kit left for New York and Dru decided to relocate to Brazil. How scary could that be? She was nineteen and had already spent a year away from home. She could do it. With that conviction, Dru came to the institute of Rio de Janeiro.

With a single suitcase holding all her belongings in her left hand and the transfer papers in her right, Dru pushed open the heavy door and took her first steps at the institute. The entryway was deserted. Dru stared at the paintings on the walls, depicting battle scenes. One showed a male Shadowhunter fighting a Boitatá – a fire serpent native to Brazil. Another showed a group of Shadowhunters attacking a Jurupari – an Amazonian jungle devil.

“Hello?” she said. Her voice echoed from the walls around her.

There was no answer; but Dru heard a faint sound of people talking. She walked along the corridor, guided by the sounds of laughter echoing from the walls, until she reached a large room that appeared to be the institute’s dining room.

The laughter had died out immediately. Twenty pairs of eyes focused on her, scanning her from head to toe. She heard the word “gostosa” being mumbled around her, which she had later learned meant “hot” in Portuguese.

“Hello,” she said. Her voice came out as an embarrassing squeak. Someone snorted. “I’m Dru. I’m… new here.”

No one spoke for a few long seconds, and Dru’s confidence was slipping away with every breath she took, and suddenly she realized that she was the only girl there. Not a single woman sat around the table.

“Could someone show me to my room?” She asked when it became evident no one was going to offer to do so.

Apparently, she had said something very funny, because some of the men burst out laughing. One of them said something which included the word “princesa” that she understood well enough without needing to know Portuguese. They were laughing even harder then, and Dru could feel tears forming at the corners of her eyes, so she quickly turned on her heels and left the room, determined to find the sleeping quarters herself.

It took her fifteen minutes of walking around like an idiot until she found a spiral stone staircase that looked promising. She drew a strength rune on her arm and carried her suitcase up, then walked along the corridor until she found an empty room. It was small and bare, but now it was hers. She’d shower and go to sleep, she decided, and tomorrow she’ll start her first day as a member of this institute.

The next day, however, it became evident that the other members of the institute were not very happy with her relocation. The city had been facing more and more demonic threats over the years and the institute was severely understaffed. When they asked for reinforcement they hoped for a strong, male, fighter. Not a nineteen years old girl.

They wouldn’t take her seriously at first. When she wasn’t assigned to cleaning duties, she got the worst patrols, the most boring cases, and the most pointless missions. They spoke over her during meetings, didn’t listen to her suggestions, and if she turned out to be right – someone else took credit for it. The only attention they deigned give her was directed at her body, being curvier than average.

After three months, she was ready to quit. She locked herself in her room after she was assigned, again, to cleaning duties instead of a real mission and broke down crying. She wanted to talk to someone, but she knew that if she would call Mark or Julian they might set this whole institute on fire. Instead, she called Kit.

“Dru! What’s wrong?” he asked, alarmed, when he picked up the phone and heard her sobbing.

“I’m quitting! I’m going back home.”

“What happened?”

“They don’t take me seriously,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “They keep treating me like a stupid doll. They never let me fight, they keep making me do the dishes and mop the floors, they ignore my suggestions for cases, and then when it turns out I was correct they pretend I never said it. I can’t do this anymore!”

“Listen to me,” Kit said slowly. “If they don’t give you respect, fucking demand it.”

“How?” she whispered.

“You instill fear.” Came Kit’s response. “Have you ever heard of Machiavelli?

She couldn’t remember any Shadowhunter or downworlder named Machiavelli.

“He was a mundane Italian diplomat,” Kit said. “And he once said: Better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both. You know why? Because those who love you may or may not do what you wish, but those who fear you will do anything you say. Make them fear you; and they won’t dare to ignore you anymore.”

Kit’s words still echoed in her ears as she spent day after day being disrespected, without knowing how to demand respect as he instructed her to do.

Until one of them crossed the line.

She was practicing her archery skills in the training room one day, as she often did, knowing that although she wasn’t alone in the room, no one would offer to train with her. They never did. But that day, a young man - who’s name she knew to be Matheus - approached her. She glanced at him, and the predatory look in his dark eyes told her that his intentions were not friendly. She forced herself to stare back at the target, willing her muscles silently to stop trembling.

“Let me show you how it’s done,” Matheus said. His tone was mocking.

A shiver went through Dru’s spine. She forced herself to remain frozen, even though her instincts were telling her to run.

“I got it,” she said, trying to sound as resolute as she could. Her voice, however, betrayed her.

“Little virgin.” Matheus let out a dry laugh. “Never had a man touch you before?” He smirked. “You might like it.” He reached his hand to her.

The world around her was suddenly playing in slow motion, and Dru’s mind was screaming no, she could not let that happen. She caught his hand before he grabbed her and twisted his index finger. A cry of agony left his lips as she snapped bone and tendon. Around them, the room went quiet.

“Don’t. Ever. Touch me,” she hissed.

She let him go and Matheus quickly took a few steps back, moaning in pain. Everyone was staring at her now. It was time to leave the room, she knew, with her head held high and a blank expression on her face.

Back in her room, however, she started panicking. What had she done? What if Matheus would turn them all against her? What if they’d make her life even more miserable?

Instill fear.

Kit’s words echoed in her ears. She had already suffered through their bad treatment; she had nothing more to lost. She had nothing to fear – they had.

When she entered the meetings room the next day, she could hear murmuring around her. She took her usual place by Bernardo, a twenty-two-year-old Shadowhunter with dark hair and a general dislike for the whole world.

“Quiet everyone. The meeting has started,” Davi, the head of the institute, began. “Pedro, I need your update regarding the corpse we have found in the west zone.”

“I’m still working on it,” Pedro replied. “I have no new leads.”

Dru coughed. “Actually, I have found patterns that might link the death to –“

“We should get someone to go over the autopsy again.” Bernardo cut her off. “See if there are –“

But Dru was not having any of it anymore. She took out the dagger strapped to her tight and violently stuck the edge in the wooden table, right between Bernardo’s index and middle fingers.

Everyone turned to stare at her.

“Don’t ever interrupt me again,” she hissed as she pulled the knife back. “Or next time my knife will pass straight through your hand to the other side.”

Someone sucked in a breath, another let out a small cry of surprise. But Dru kept her face blank; waiting to be challenged again. Finally, the head of the institute spoke.

“She’s a fighter, that one,” he said, impressed.

No one dared contradict him.

“As I was saying,” Dru continued casually. “I found patterns that might link the death to the recent activity of Besta-feras in the area.”

“That’s… that’s an interesting idea,” Pedro mumbled. “Would you maybe… like to work on the case with me?”

Dru gave him a short nod.

Since that day, she never let anyone disrespect her again. Someone had made the mistake of calling her a doll again two days later, only to find himself on the ground with the heel of Dru’s boot pressed against his nose. She violently put her foot down and heard a cracking sound as his nose broke, spilling blood all over his face. No one dared calling her a doll again.

As the weeks turned to months, she went from being from a little girl in their eyes to an esteemed member of the institute, a ruthless fighter with a sharp mind. Everyone wanted her on their team, no one dared to cross her, and soon she was being chosen to lead missions, not just participate. And just as her isolation molded her in her teenage years, her newfound anger had molded her into a fierce fighter who never let herself show any sign of emotion that was not anger or pride around any one who did not belong to her immediate family. Being surrounded by these men for so long, Dru had practically given up on any “ladylike” behavior or even simple table manners. If her English aunt saw her today, Dru was certain she would spray her with holy water.

Dru stepped back into her room and glanced out the window. In the early morning light, she could make out the Rio de Janeiro skyline and the features of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. To the mundanes, this statue was one of the new seven wonders of the world. To Shadowhunters it was a sanctuary; the statue had a concealed door which could be opened with an opening rune. Dru had once spent an entire night there, crying, after she had had to collect the mangled corpse of a young girl killed by a Caboclo d’Água and didn’t want the others to see her in her moments of weakness.

She headed down for breakfast, wondering if Kit had already gotten there. She had come to visit him in New York three times over the last year and a half – and each time he had a new girlfriend, of course – but today was the first time he was coming to Brazil. She was glad he was coming, though slightly suspicious. It was more of a spontaneous visit – he had only notified her he would be coming three days ago – and it made her think that there was another reason behind it, except wanting to see where she lives.

She went down the spiral case, still pondering the question, and when she lifted her gaze she met a pair of fiery blue eyes.

She almost ran into his arms, yelling with glee, when she remembered that there might be other people watching them. A quick scan of the room let her know that they were alone, so she wound her arms around him as tight as she could, letting a happy sigh escape her lips.

“Dru, what did you do to those guys?” Kit whispered, his eyes wide, when she finally let him go. “They’re scared shitless of you. Someone opened the door for me and when I said I was coming to see you he warned me that I should always stand at last two feet away and never be the first to make eye contact.”

Dru shrugged. “I might have broken someone’s finger in the past. And done other stuff. Breakfast?”

Kit nodded, and so she led him to the kitchen. She let out a groan when they reached it to communicate that she had entered the room.

“Morning.” The few people already there replied as if her animal-like sound was a formal greeting.

She sat down with her knees apart and leaned against the back of her chair. Kit took a seat next to her, taking significantly less space. He took a piece of toast and bit into it, while she crumpled hers into a ball and shoved the entire thing into her mouth, chewing loudly. From the corner of her eye, she could see Kit giving her a bemused look.

“Joao,” she grunted.

Joao turned his head to her so fast he might have made himself dizzy.

“Apple.” She gestured at the bowl in the center of the table.

Joao threw an apple in her direction, and Dru quickly took out the dagger strapped to her thigh and pierced it mid-air. She then proceeded to take a bite of the apple impaled on her dagger.

“What the hell.” Kit breathed next to her.

“What?” Dru wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Nothing,” Kit said quickly. “Could we take a walk? I have something important to tell you.”

He touched her shoulder casually, and everyone around them froze. Someone gasped; another inhaled between gritted teeth. A third let out a small whimper.

“Ela vai quebrar o braço dele,” he said, concern tinging in his voice.

She’s going to break his arm.

Dru was not going to let them think she was getting soft. She got up.

“He’s my brother,” she said loudly. “He’s allowed to touch me.” She took another bite from the apple impaled on her dagger. “But don’t think for one second that this implies to any of you.” She jerked her knife in a swift motion and the apple slid off and hit the table. She put the dagger back, and left the room followed by Kit.

She led him into the garden which was designed to mimic the Amazon rainforest with the native flowers, trees and ferns. She stopped by a large Rubber tree, overlooking a small pond. The branches of the tree in front of them moved slightly and a small shriek was heard. Without wasting a second Dru took out a small dagger and threw it. A small bundle of dark feathers came crashing on the ground.

“What are you doing?” Kit cried out.

“Demonic Macaws. We have an infestation. Look.”

They came closer to the dead animal. Its feathers were dark charcoal, its talons sharp, and its mouth filled with dozens of sharp teeth.

“Damn,” Kit said with disgust.

“Yeah.”

The carcass disappeared and Dru picked up her dagger and looked around, ready to kill others.

“So, what’s up with you?” Kit asked. “Dating anyone new?”

“Not since that vampire,” Dru said casually.

“Remind me again why you broke up with him?”

“He was into some weird sexual stuff.”

“Ah, right,” Kit smirked. “He wanted to do the –“

“Yeah.”

“With the –“

“Yup.”

“Damn.” Kit laughed. “Where do you find these guys?”

Dru gave him a light shove. “It’s not easy, you know. To find someone good,” she said. “Anyway, what did you want to talk to me about?” She looked around, searching for other demons.

“Right…” Kit averted his gaze. “I have some pretty big news.”

“You switched girlfriends again?” Dru snorted “I already told you, I can never spot any difference between them. They all look the same to me. Might as well keep the same one.”

Kit gave her a nervous smile. “No, it’s… sort of the opposite.”

Dru turned to look at him. “You decided to become a celibate?”

“No, the opposite of that too,” he said sheepishly. “I’m… I’m engaged.”

Dru dropped her dagger. “You’re what?”

“I’m engaged.”

“To be… married?”

“What other kinds of engaged do you know?”

“To whom?”

“My girlfriend, obviously.”

According to social convention, now was the time to politely congratulate Kit on starting a new chapter in his life. But fuck politeness. Dru’s blood was boiling.

“Which one?” she said spitefully. “You keep switching them, it’s hard to follow.”

“Ariella,” Kit said slowly. “My girlfriend. Anyway, I wanted to invite you –“

“She’s an idiot!” Dru yelled.

“Excuse me?” Kit’s voice was dangerously low. “I think you meant to say congratulations.”

“For what?” Dru shouted. “Making a mistake?”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Kit was yelling too, now. “You’ve always been judgmental of my girlfriends –“

“Because your judgment sucks!”

“I’ve always been there for you!” Kit’s face was red. “I always treated you like a sister. I supported you, no matter what you chose to do. Why can’t you be a good friend for once?”

“I am a good friend!” Dru yelled even louder. “I’m being honest with you!”

For a moment they stood there, facing each other, both standing in a fighting stance. Then Kit’s expression turned placid.

“You know what?” his voice was cold again. “If you can’t be happy for me, then maybe it’s best that you don’t come to the wedding at all.”

“Maybe it is!” Dru yelled so loudly, a dozen parakeets took flight from a near tree, screeching.

Kit’s face was contorted with rage.  “Fine!”

“Fine!” she yelled back.

“Fine!” He turned around and left.

Dru picked up the dagger she had dropped and threw with all the force she could gather at the tree in front of her, not bothering to aim at anything. Damn Kit and his stupid girlfriend and his stupid wedding and his stupid life choices. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. None of it was supposed to be like this. How could he not see that?

Damn him. Damn him and his degenerate girlfriend straight to hell.

She kicked the poor rubber tree, as if it was its fault that Kit was an idiot.

It took her an hour of wandering around the garden to calm down. When she finally came back inside, Kit was already gone.

Chapter Text

Los Angeles, three months ago

Dru sat in the kitchen of the Los Angeles institute with Emma and Julian, sipping hot chocolate. It was good to be home, surrounded by her family. Ever since that fight with Kit, Dru had felt a bit lost. Some days, she wanted to call him an apologize. But then she’d decide that she had nothing to apologize for and turned off the phone screen without making the call. And so, the days turned into weeks, and she and Kit still weren’t speaking.

“So, then he was like, ‘you can’t do that’, so obviously I stabbed him,” Emma said, and Dru realized that she had zoned out.

“I feel like a lot of your stories end with you stabbing people,” she commented.

“I fell like a lot of your stories end with you breaking people’s bones,” Emma replied, a hint of a grin on her face.

“I feel like a lot of my stories end with me making pancakes,” Julian said.

“Or hot chocolate.” Emma smiled at him fondly. “So, anyway, Dru, how are Kit’s marriage preparations going?”

Dru tapped her fingernails on the table. “We’re not so much… speaking right now.”

Emma screwed her face. “What did you do?”

“Why do you automatically assume it was my fault?” Dru pouted.

Emma took out a dagger and spun it around her middle finger, going over her index finger. “So?”

Emma’s knife spinning was a trick she often used to intimidate people, but having known her for years, Dru was not impressed. She crossed her arms.

“He told me that he was getting married, so I told him that he’s making a mistake.”

“Damn,” Emma said between gritted teeth.

“What?” Dru asked, irritated.

“I should’ve known.”

“What?” Dru repeated, trying not to let her temper get the better of her.

Emma smirked. “You’re in love with Kit!”

“No!” Dru yelled. “No, no, no!”

“Yes, though?”

“No!” Dru repeated. “Absolutely not!”

Emma resumed her knife spinning. “Then why do you care that he’s getting married?”

Next to her, Julian rested his elbows on the table and leaned his chin against the palm of his hand, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“Because he’s my friend and he’s making a mistake!” Dru said, exasperated.

“Why do you think so?” Julian asked her gently.

“Because… Because…” Dru struggled to explain. “He just needs to be with someone else!”

“You mean, with you?” Emma smirked.

“Emma, stop it,” Julian scolded her. “Dru, what do you mean?”

Dru chewed on her lower lip. “I don’t know! I just feel like… it’s not right. This can’t be his happy ending! He should be with someone who fits him, not with someone he forced a fit with!” She was yelling now.

“Forced a fit with,” Emma repeated thoughtfully.

Dru forced herself to take a deep breath. “Agh I don’t know. I guess… I guess I always thought he’d end up in the kind of relationship that when you look at him with the other person, you just see it.”

“Damn it, you’re right!” Emma’s surprised Dru by agreeing.

“Yeah!” Dru said, glad for the confirmation that she was not insane for thinking that.

“You were right to tell him that it’s a terrible idea!” Emma pounded her fist on the table. “And you know what? I say, we go to New York, and kick him in the balls for being an idiot!” She got up.

“Yeah!” Dru got up as well. “Let’s kick some Herondale balls!”

Julian got up quickly and blocked their way. “No!” he said firmly, pushing them back down. Dru sat back on her chair with her arms crossed.

“Emma, I can’t believe I’m saying it for the seventh time in only five years of marriage, but please don’t go kicking anyone’s private parts,” Julian continued. “Just listen to what I have to say, okay?”

Emma gave a reluctant node.

“When Kit first came to the institute, out family was going through a lot. We had problems of our own to take care of, and – and I’m ashamed to admit it – but I resented the fact that Tessa and Jem left another kid with us,” Julian said quietly. “But seeing how much good it did for Ty to have him around… and later on, seeing how strong the bond between him and Dru was, I realized that having him in our lives was one of the best things that had ever happened to our family.”

Dru hugged her knees, feeling suddenly cold, as if an iceberg had formed in her lungs.

“I hoped he’d find something… perfect,” Julian continued. “I feel the same way, Dru, as if there’s something else for him. But it’s his life, and it’s his decision.”

Dru leaned back, defeated. “I just… hate this!”

“We’re his friends and we should support him,” Julian said gently. “We should support him, even if we don’t like his decisions.”

“Yeah… I know,” Dru said reluctantly. “You’re right. I’ll… call him and apologize.”

“Good.” Julian smiled.

For a while no one spoke. The three of them sipped their hot chocolates silently, the quiet only broken by the whooshing sound of Emma’s dagger as she kept spinning it nonchalantly.

“How’s Ty?” Dru finally asked.

The last time she had seen him, he had said that he was leaving for Europe, indefinitely. He never kept a cell phone, only using burner phones to call every now and then. But each month he would send a letter to Julian, letting him know what his current address is. Julian wrote to him every week, updating him on everyone and sending – per Ty’s request – drawings of their family and friends. Dru knew how hard it was for Julian that Ty was away for so long, but he maintained that he was happy that Ty was living his life as he had wanted to, finding his own happiness.

“He just relocated to Bucharest,” Julian contributed. “He says the weather is nice and –“

“Maybe you should tell Ty about the wedding.”

Julian gave her an odd look. “What?”

“You should write to him,” Dru said. “And tell him that Kit’s getting married.”

Emma burst out laughing.

“What?” Dru snapped.

Emma rolled her eyes. “Why the hell would Ty care?”

Dru was lost. “I don’t know.”

“He hadn’t seen Kit in eight years. I hardly think he’s going to give a fuck.” Emma laughed. “He barely has time for his own family, let along some dude he hasn’t thought about in years.”

Dru shifted her gaze to Julian.

“What Emma said.” He gave her an apologetic smile. “Though using nicer words.”

They were right. There was absolutely no reason for Ty to care, and no hope that he could stop Kit from making a mistake. Dru was just desperate. She was trying to find a solution to a problem that had none.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know why I thought he would.”

 

New York, present

Dru raced to Jaime’s room. She knocked on the door then opened it without waiting for an answer, and found him sitting on the windowsill, his elbows rested on his knees. He turned to look at her when she entered.

“Is Tamara still yelling at Whitestrider?” he asked casually.

“She just finished,” Dru panted. “She suspended him for a month. He’s lucky that Kit is in Rome, because he would have skinned him alive. He hates that guy.”

Jaime nodded. He looked beautiful like this, bathed in sunlight, his olive skin glowing with golden undertones. She focused on his eyes. They were a deep brown, rich as the earth’s soil, but there was something else in them, something warm, like a powerful fire ready to consume her whole.

Dru had had a crush on him for as long as she could remember. He was the first boy she had ever truly gotten to know, and the first she had truly wanted. But she was too young when they had met, and Jaime would never even have considered dating her then.

“How’s your arm?” she asked.

Jaime straightened his left arm, then bent it again. “I can feel it.”

“That’s good,” Dru said with relief. She had feared the worst.

“Yeah. For a moment there I thought it was lost.”

“Me too.”

“Really?” Jaime’s eyes widened. “But you kept telling me it’s nothing and that I was just being a baby!”

“I didn’t want you to worry! I figured you’ve already lost an arm, why make things worse by letting you stress over it?”

Jaime let out a low chuckle. The smile, however, did not reach his eyes. He turned back to the window. His deep, dark hair seemed black under most lights, but right now, under direct sunlight, his hair shined chestnut, reds brining warmth and light from within the dark strands.

Dru was reminded of that day, about a year ago, when they went to get ice cream and kissed under the same sunlight. Jaime’s lips were soft, and he tasted like vanilla.

“Why are you starting out the window like that?” she asked. “You look like a disheartened puppy.”

Jaime didn’t turn to look at her. “Maybe I am.”

She climbed on the windowsill and sat opposite him and studied his face carefully. The corners of Jaime’s mouth were pulled down slightly, and his forehead was creased. His eyes looked at the window, unfocused, as if what he was seeing wasn’t the streets of New York, but rather some distant thought or memory.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Don’t be,” he said quietly. “It’s my fault.”

“What do you mean?”

Jaime made a dismissive hand gesture. “I keep wanting something, and I’m too much of an idiot to accept the fact that it won’t ever happen.” From the tone of his voice, he was not going to give her more of an answer. “How about you?”

“What about me?”

“You’re worried about the cupcake,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“The cup – you mean Ash?”

“Yeah. The cupcake.” He closed his eyes. “You don’t have to be, you know. Kit acts all tough and disinterested, but he’ll keep him safe.”

Dru shifted uncomfortably. “It’s not that…” she mumbled. “I know he’ll keep him safe - physically safe. But I don’t…” She struggled to explain. “We don’t know what he’s been through. We don’t know what kind of physical or emotional abuse he had suffered. What if he sees something that will make him relieve his trauma, and it will cause him so much stress he does something to hurt himself and –“

“Hey,” Jaime said gently. “It’s going to be okay.”

“We don’t know that for sure.”

“He’s not broken. I’ve seen broken people. Ash is not broken.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I do,” Jaime said. “He’s a tough one. And besides,” he gave her a playful kick. “He’s got you.”

Dru crossed her arms. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Jaime leaned his head back. “How about we do something fun. To distract us from our misery.”

Dru lifted an eyebrow. “Like what?”

“Movie night for the entire institute.”

“Okay.” Dru smiled. “Which movie should we watch?”

Jaime gave her a feline grin. “The best movie ever filmed,” he purred. “Kit’s drunken performance of Like a Virgin.”

Watching the masterpiece that was Kit’s singing did make her feel slightly better, but once she was alone back in her room, her worry about Ash resurfaced. She had no idea what it was about him that made her feel that way; she tried to repress it, to tell herself to toughen up, like she had done countless times before. Still, she barely slept that night.

She had spent most of the next day with Jaime, both equally worried about the fact that Kit, Ash, and Ty weren’t back yet, and both avoiding expressing their fears out loud, as if by not speaking about it the possibility that something bad happened to them vanished.

Finally, Dru spotted them from the window in Kit’s office, making their way to the institute through the snow. She ran outside, not believing her eyes and needing physical proof that they were all unharmed.

She and Jaime waited for Kit to take a shower so they could brief him about what he had missed while he was away. After Jaime – ignoring completely Dru’s warning glares - admitted that they had watched his video, and after Kit had yelled at them both for what felt like a solid twenty minutes, Dru ran upstairs.

She knocked on Ash’s door.

“Come in.”

Her heartbeat quickened inexplicably when she heard his voice. She pushed the door open and stepped inside, then closed it behind her quietly. Ash kept his room tidy, and apart from a soft-looking gray t-shirt thrown on the bed, there was not one object misplaced. She felt slightly embarrassed as she thought about the state of her room; it was as if a tornado had spontaneously formed at the center of it and sent weapons and clothes flying around.

Then Ash stepped out of the bathroom, his blond hair still wet, wearing sweatpants that sat low on his waist. He was shirtless, and Dru stared at his naked torso, lowering her gaze to his abs and then to his v-shaped Apollo's belt, before she caught herself and focused her gaze on his face.

“Dru!” His eyes were wide. He crossed his arms in an awkward manner, as if unsure what to do with his hands.

“Hey,” she said awkwardly.

He looked mortified. “I… assumed you were either Kit or Ty.”

“I’m sorry,” Dru said, uneasy. “I-I’ll go.”

“No!” he said quickly. “Don’t.”

He still had his arms crossed, and his green gaze flickered to the bed, on which lay his t-shirt. Dru expected him to go and get it, but he remained frozen in place, as if considering his next move carefully. Finally, he spoke.

“Could you, um… pass me my shirt?”

“Yeah, sure,” Dru mumbled. She crossed the room and picked the shirt up, then threw it at him. Ash caught it and quickly put it on. He seemed instantly more relaxed.

“How – how are you?” he asked.

Dru sat on his bed. “Me? How are you?” she asked. “How was the mission?”

Something twinkled in his eyes, green like the first leaves pushing their way through snow to prove that however long the winter had been, spring was coming.

“Your brother nearly adopted a giant demonic spider,” he said.

Dru laughed. “Sounds like Ty.”

Ash seemed slightly surprised to see her laugh, as if not used to get this reaction. Dru felt a rush of fondness running through her.

“You’re okay, though, right?” she had to make sure.

“Yeah. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but –“

Dru let out a small cry of surprise.

“What?” Ash asked, alarmed.

“No, nothing,” she said quickly. “I’m so tired, for a second it looked like your shadow had wings.”

Ash quickly passed his right hand over his left shoulder, as if making sure that wings hadn’t spontaneously sprouted out of his back. Dru laughed again.

“I can’t believe you actually checked that,” she said, amused.

“Yeah.” Ash gave her a sheepish smile. He came to sit on the opposite side of the bed.

There was an awkward silence, and then they both spoke at the same time.

“So, how did –“

“What was the –“

“You go first,” Ash said.

“No, it’s fine, go ahead.” For some reason, Dru’s face was burning.

“I just heard a lot of yelling, I was wondering what it was,” Ash said.

“Ah, that.” Dru smiled. “Kit was unhappy that we had a showing of his drunken performance.”

Ash’s eyes lit up. “I knew there was a video!” he cried out. “Kit told me that there wasn’t.”

“There is,” Dru confirmed. “I would show it to you, but Kit will kill me.”

“That’s okay.” Ash smiled. “I’ll patiently wait for him to get drunk and perform again.”

Dru leaned against a pillow. “Good plan.”

Ash leaned back as well, still keeping a distance between them. “So, you’ve always been this close?” he asked. “You and Kit, I mean.”

Dru could have just said yes. Or even just nodded. She could have directed a question to him, and kept silent about anything personal, just as she had always done with other people. But there was something about the emerald shining through Ash’s eyes, and something about the awkward way he had crossed his arms and asked for his shirt earlier, and it made Dru tell him the truth about her lonely teenage years, and about her family, and about the way she and Kit had adopted each other as siblings. Ash kept asking questions, as if fascinated by every word that left her mouth, and when Dru finally looked at her phone it was already two in the morning.

“I should let you sleep,” she said. “You’ve had a long day.”

She got up and stretched, then turned to walk out. But Ash got up quickly and gently touched her shoulder. Dru turned back, and for half a second they stood still, their gaze locked, and then somehow they both took a step forward and Dru wound her arms around his waist and he wound his arms around her shoulders, pulling her closer.

They kept their embrace for a few moments, and Dru could feel Ash’s heartbeat through the thin fabric of his t-shirt. His body was warm, and he smelled like pines, and Dru suddenly realized how much bigger he was than her.

“Thank you,” Ash whispered in her ear.

“What for?”

“Making me feel safe.”

Dru was confused by his words. “I’ve only ever given you an IV. I never even got the chance to show you how good I am at slaying demons.”

Ash passed his fingers through her hair. “I meant… you’re making me feel safe from the demons inside of me.”

Dru buried her face in his shoulder. “What kind of demons?”

“Memories of things I’ve seen. Things I did. Things I have to do,” he said quietly. “But when I’m with you, they’re all quiet.”

Chapter Text

Two days had passed since they got back from Rome and they all slowly returned to themselves. Ash seemed to be spending every possible second with Dru and while Kit did not fully trust him yet he didn’t intervene. He himself had used Irazes that healed his cuts but left his muscles aching. He could never understand why those runes worked perfectly on open wounds and broken bones, but not on strained muscles. He’d have to ask Ty sometime.

He had asked Jaime to practice hand-on-hand combat with him, hoping that the exercise would help his body return to itself, but Jaime moved faster than him and avoided every hit. Finally he pulled him into a headlock without breaking a sweat. Kit tried to break free, but his muscles were screaming in pain and he barely managed to move.

“Are you okay? Do I need to make funeral arrangements?” Jaime joked, concern tinging in his voice. He let him go and gave him a water bottle from one of the shelves. “Drink, you look like crap.”

“I got hurt during the mission and my entire body feels like it’s falling apart, nothing serious,” Kit said before taking a sip.

“Ah, I thought you’re just tense because you’re sexually constipated.”

Kit spit out his water. “I’m – what?”

“Sexually constipated,” Jaime repeated without a hint of shame.

“I’m not!”

“Really? When was the last time you had mind blowing sex?”

“I had a fiancée until two weeks ago!”

“I didn’t ask when was the last time you had sex, I asked when was the last time you had mind blowing sex. And don’t bother answering because I already know that the answer is ‘never’,” Jaime said smugly.

“Fuck you,” Kit hissed.

“With pleasure,” Jaime replied. “I know how much you need it.”

Kit was torn between an urge to throw his water bottle at Jaime’s face, and a desire to burst out laughing. That was the essence of Jaime, really. He made you want to hit him while simultaneously making you dissolve into laughter.

“Anyway, I think Ty can help you out,” Jaime continued casually.

Kit cleared his throat. “Why – why is that?” he stuttered. Why did he ask? He most certainly didn’t want Jaime to get into his head again.

“He can give you a massage.”

And there it was. Jaime getting into his head and making him think about Ty touching him. About Ty’s hands on his body. About Ty dimming the lights and making him lie on the bed, then slipping his large, strong hands under his shirt…

“Hey! Are you listening?” Jaime scolded him, bringing him back to reality.

“I don’t need a massage!” Kit yelled.

“I switched the topic of the conversation a while ago, but interesting that you’re still on it,” Jaime said. “I asked you if we have any new recruits coming?”

“Yeah,” Kit mumbled. “There’s –“

He was cut off, however, when Ty entered the room. What he could possibly look for in the training room, dressed as if he was going to a dinner party in the nineteenth century, was beyond Kit. But then Ty clarified things.

“Jaime, could I talk to you for a moment?”

“Yes, love. Anything for you.” Jaime’s voice took on a soft, flirtatious tone. Kit rolled his eyes.

Jaime walked over to Ty, and Kit made inhuman efforts to focus on his water bottle and not eavesdrop.

“What did he want?” he asked after Ty left, trying to sound nonchalant.

“He wanted to ask when we were going out on that date we set before you guys left for Rome.”

“Yeah, right,” Kit snorted.

Jaime lifted his eyebrows. “Is there a reason you live in constant denial?”

Me? You’re actually trying to tell me that you convinced Ty to go on a date with you.”

“I didn’t do much convincing,” Jaime sniffed. “I never do. I’m delightful and no one can refuse me.”

“He looked tired,” Kit said, ignoring Jaime. “Do you think he has rested at all since we came back?”

“If our date goes well, he won’t be doing much resting tonight, that I can guar –“

“Did he eat?” Kit continued, still ignoring him. “I should check on him. Make sure that he ate.”

“He’s fine –“

But Kit already shoved his water bottle into Jaime’s hand and left. He caught with Ty in the hallway.

“Hey,” he panted.

Ty turned around. “Hey.”

His deep voice disoriented Kit for a moment, and he just stood there awkwardly.

Ty seemed slightly confused. “Did you… need something?”

“What?” Kit blinked. “Yes! Food.”

“You want me to… feed you?” Ty cocked his head to the side.

Kit shook his head. “No! You. And the food. For you.”

“What?”

“Do you… do you want to eat?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Ah…” Kit had not prepared for that possibility. “Do you… need something else?”

“Do you need something?” Ty asked, looking slightly worried. “You’re acting strange.”

Dammit, he was acting strange.

“No, I’m… good,” Kit said quickly. “I’ll… I’ll be going to my room now.”

Ty still seemed concerned. “I’ll walk you.”

They climbed the stairs and walked the long corridor in silence.

“That’s my room,” Kit said when they reached in front of his door.

“Yes.”

Kit reached a hand to push the door open and let out a small grunt.

“You’re in pain,” Ty said. He followed Kit inside.

“Nah,” Kit said dismissively. “It only hurts when I lift my arms. Or when I put them down. Or when I breathe.” He sat down on the bed and stifled another grunt.

Ty leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. “I can help you with that,” he said.

Kit laughed drily. “Did Jaime put you up to this?” he asked, trying to sound casual even though he knew Jaime was messing with him and had somehow convinced Ty to play along. But Ty was ignorant as to why Jaime thought it was so funny, and why Kit most certainly did not.

“He suggested it,” Ty said. “He knows I can help you because I’m a trained masseuse.”

Kit laughed harder. “O-kay.”

“I’m serious,” Ty said.

“Sure you are,” Kit snorted. “And how exactly did you become a masseuse?”

“The clave wanted the head of a large werewolf clan in Budapest gone for political reasons and I was sent on a mission to assassinate her. I spent two months undercover in a spa she used to frequent until I made contact.”

“Damn! What did you do?”

“She had guards waiting outside, and they checked everyone for weapons. So, I strangled her using a face towel and jumped out the window,” Ty replied.

“I thought you were not a fighter,” Kit lifted an eyebrow.

“She kidnapped human children and burned them to entertain her clan,” Ty said angrily. “Sometimes you’ve got to make an exception. Besides, that was before.”

“Before what?”

“Before. So?”

“So… what?”

“Do you want me to help you?”

Kit did not hesitate. “Yes.”

“Take off your shirt and lie on your stomach,” Ty gestured at Kit’s bed.

He averted his gaze as Kit took off his shirt, and Kit took the opportunity to study him. He could not see Ty’s throat, hidden under the high collar of his shirt, and felt a sudden burning desire to ask Ty if he had left a mark when he had bit him after he nearly drowned in the fairy ether. He chewed on his cheek instead. He could never ask Ty that; Ty would think that he’s absolutely deranged. Which, in fact, he was starting to think was true.

He lay on the bed, burying his face in his arms. It turned out that Jaime wasn’t trying to get into Kit’s head at all with the whole massage thing. He was perfectly serious. Was he serious about the other things he had said? The dating Ty things?

The mattress lowered as Ty came to sit next to him, and Kit wondered how it would feel to have Ty’s leather gloves passing over his skin.

But then Ty touched him.

Unlike Kit’s dagger calloused hands, Ty’s skin was smooth. Kit felt his hands, large and soft and warm, sliding on his back. He dared to lift his face and saw Ty’s leather gloves resting on the pillow next to him.

“You promised not to steal my gloves,” Ty reminded him.

Kit’s heart was beating so fast he was certain Ty could feel it. “I won’t,” he managed to utter.

“Take a deep breath,” Ty whispered. “It will help you relax.”

Kit did, and Ty passed the whole of his hands from the bottom of Kit’s back, moving upwards towards his heart, then brought them back down on the outsides. He kept this motion for a few minutes, and Kit could feel his muscles relaxing slowly and with them, his mind began relaxing too. He could not recall the last time he had felt so… content.

Ty started moving his hands in shorter, circular strokes, applying more pressure. His touch made Kit’s heart flutter in a way he had never felt before. A weird way. Nice weird… Was that supposed to feel that way? Kit had no idea, but he was starting to think that he wasn’t supposed to feel any of it. He knew he shouldn’t let Ty see the effect he had on him; it might freak him out. And Ty had trusted Kit enough to remove his gloves… Kit could not ruin that.

Over the years, Kit had slayed demons, went on undercover missions, and faced death over and over again. He was ambushed, jumped at, threatened, and cornered.

But never in his entire life had his heart beat so fast.

His tattoo burned again, and Kit lifted his head slightly to read it.

Don’t let him see it

“I know that!” Kit yelled.

Ty stopped moving. “I don’t understand.”

“Nothing!” Kit said quickly. He put his head back down. “I’m… I’m just tense, that’s all.”

He could never let Ty know how weird he truly was. Biting him, reacting so emotionally to a simple massage. Having everything written out on his skin for the whole world to see. Fuck, Kit was losing it.

But Ty kept on working Kit’s back in silence, and he slowly unknotted every nerve, every pain that was bothering him. And Kit let him; and he let himself be. And when Ty stopped and lay on the bed next to him, Kit felt simultaneously more relaxed and more nervous than he had ever been in his entire life.

Kit turned on his back and glanced at Ty. He had his gloves back on, and his hands rested on his stomach in a comfortable manner. They remained quiet for a few minutes and Kit sent discreet glances at him every few seconds, trying to figure out what had made Ty feel brave enough to remove his gloves, and whether or not he regretted it. But Ty just stared at the ceiling in silence, a calm expression on his face.

And suddenly, without any warning, Kit’s mind began drifting back to the cave in which he had pinned Ty against the wall. It was the first time Kit had done anything like this with a man, and he… liked it. A lot.

Oh my god what is happening?

Kit tried to force himself to stop thinking about it, but then he made the mistake of looking at Ty, at the sharp line of his jaw that Kit had kissed. Was that… real? He had swallowed fairy ether that made him hallucinate, and after he threw it up, he realized that the lights and diamonds he saw were merely hallucinations, yet Ty felt still real.

Distraction. Make him talk about something. Anything. Anything.

“How did you meet your ex?” Kit heard himself ask.

Ty did no miss a beat. “How did you meet your ex?”

“Have you noticed that you’re only willing to give me information if I give you some first?”

“Yes. It’s called being practical.”

Kit smiled at him fondly. “I met her at a poker game that Clary and Jace organized,” he said. “She wasn’t a very good player, but she was cute and funny. I asked her out on a date afterwards. We got dinner at an Italian restaurant and we sort of… kept dating.”

“And how did you propose?”

Ty’s question surprised him a bit.

“We had a picnic at Central Park, and I asked her,” he answered.

Ty made a disapproving sound.

“What?” Kit asked. “It’s a perfectly good proposal.”

“It’s boring,” Ty said. “I would have expected you to be more creative.”

Kit chuckled. “Fine. Next time I propose to someone, I’ll take her to a restaurant and hide the ring inside a chocolate cake.”

“That’s cliché,” Ty said. “And also, dangerous. She could chip her tooth.”

“Okay. The next-next time I’ll propose, I’ll write will you marry me with fire letters on the ground.”

“That’s more scary than romantic.”

“You’re hard to please,” Kit said fondly. “Fine. The fourth time I’ll ask someone to marry me, I’ll take her to the aquarium and have the divers hold a waterproof will you marry me sign.”

“Better. Not personal enough, though,” Ty said. “Maybe you should give up the concept of proposing to people and just wait until they propose to you.”

“No way I’m giving up now! I’m getting better at this.” Kit grinned. “The fifth time, I’ll hire a skywriter to spell my proposal for everyone around to see. How’s that?”

“That’s even less personal than your last idea. You need to make it more you.”

“More… me?” Kit echoed. “Why would I want to make it more me?”

“Because she’s marrying you, so it’s kind of a given, you see.”

“I don’t know what me is! I just like tricking people and… oh, I’ve got it!” His eyes lit up. “For my sixth fiancée, I’ll plan a surprise trip to a romantic location, and then pretend to ruin the surprise by telling her about it. The real surprise will be when we get there and the room is decorated with flowers that spell will you marry me,” he said, proud of himself.

“Better,” Ty chuckled. “Though you can still top that. Do something that’s even more you.”

“Even more me?” Kit repeated. He tried thinking about all the things that made him him, but none of them seem to make any sense. And Ty was still looking at him with those gray eyes of his, as if he could see something that Kit didn’t.

“It’s hard to think about a good one for a theoretical fiancée!” Kit said defensively.

“Give up.”

“No way, I’m almost winning this game. And I love winning. But it is hard!”

“Then think about someone you know,” Ty said, sounding amused. “Jaime, for example.”

“Jaime will marry me for a box of cupcakes. Then divorce me and marry the next person who offered him cupcakes.”

“Ash, then.”

“No way in hell I’m marrying Ash,” Kit said quickly.

“Your second in command, Tamara,” Ty suggested.

“I’ll let you in on a little secret. She scares the hell out of me,” Kit admitted. “But how about you?”

“What, me?”

“I can pretend to propose to you,” Kit said.

“You can pretend to propose to Jace.”

“No,” Kit said decisively. “I’ll plan a proposal for you, and you’re going to love it.” He wriggled his eyebrows for good measure.

Ty laughed. “Fine.”

Kit took a few minutes to form an idea in his mind. He was going to win Ty’s little game.

“There’s a safe in the office of the Head of the institute,” he finally said. “Only I have the key.”

“I know. It’s for safekeeping important documents, but you keep your snacks there.”

Kit nodded.

“I’m listening,” Ty said.

“I’ll organize a birthday party for you and invite our family and friends,” Kit began. “They’ll know why they’re here, but you won’t.

“We’ll play a game of poker, but I’ll be the one dealing the cards, and I would fix your hand without you knowing, giving you a royal flush. When I give a signal, everyone else will fold. It will be just the two of us.

“I’ll pretend to be absolutely sure that I’m going to win. So sure, in fact, that I’m not only going all in, but I’m also betting the key to my safe.

“We’d show our cards, and you would win. I’ll pretend to be surprised, then finally accept the fact that you beat me. I’ll tell you that you have gained the right to open my safe.

“You will go to the office and open it, to find nothing but a ring. When you will turn around, I’ll be on one knee in front of you. I’d tell you how much you mean to me –“

At this point he stopped for a moment, trying to picture what he would say not to a theoretical girl, but to Ty.

“I would tell you that I find you amazing. That you’re kind, and smart, and that I feel like I’m becoming a better person just by being in the same room with you. That even on your worst days, you’re the best person I have ever met.”

“I would tell you how much I missed you, all those years we haven’t seen each other. I’d tell you that I don’t ever want to spend another day without you in my life. That your happiness means more than my own, and that no one else had ever made me feel that way.”

He stopped talking, his face burning hot. Ty averted his gaze and remained quiet, his breathing heavy. Kit had said nothing but the truth, but a part of him realized that maybe he wasn’t supposed to be so honest with his friends. He had to lighten the atmosphere a bit.

“And then of course I’d ask you if you would make me the happiest blushing bride in the world and let me spend the rest of my life with you,” he continued casually. “Then we’d go back, and there would be a party waiting for us. Including balloons and a giant cake, of course. How… how does that sound?”

Ty’s silence was unnerving, and Kit watched as he knitted his fingers together and studied them intently, as if he was seeing his gloves for the first time. Finally, Ty spoke, his voice barely louder than a whisper.

“Sounds like your seventh fiancée is a lucky girl.”

Chapter Text

They were still lying on Kit’s bed, facing each other, and Kit pulled up his sleeve discreetly and glanced at his tattoo to find the word Christopher written again, the scar he had made when he tried to cut his arm stretched a long, thin line across his name. For a moment he considered telling Ty about it, but he quickly decided against it. His tattoo changed its meaning whenever he felt a strong emotion, and lately they were all related to Ty. If Ty knew about it, he’d be able to read Kit like an open book; there would be no way of hiding anything from him. And some things he had to hide; for example, his reaction to almost kissing him in the cave. Which didn’t mean anything, of course, because Kit was straight and Ty was his friend and all of it happened under the influence of fairy ether anyway.

“Okay so now that I’ve embarrassed myself, it’s your turn,” Kit said instead. “How would you propose to your significant other?”

“Irrelevant,” Ty answered. “I’m never going to do that.”

“Oh, you want to feel like a princess, I gather?” Kit smirked. “Then how would you like to be proposed to?”

“Irrelevant as well.”

“Huh.” Kit studied him with great interest. “I didn’t expect that.”

“Then what did you expect?”

“I guess I always thought you were the kind of guy who’d want to settle down.”

Ty shrugged.

Being friends with him felt like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The complicated, thousand-pieces kind. Ty never volunteered information, but he did answer Kit’s questions, and so little by little a clearer picture of him was forming in Kit’s mind. Ty didn’t want to settle down with one person. He liked to travel, always searching for freedom. Maybe he had felt like a caged bird his whole life; being different than other Shadowhunters, trapped inside his own mind, inside the gloves he had to wear. Maybe he never wanted to feel caged again.

How different they were, Ty and him. So very different.

“It’s funny.” Kit heard himself say.

“What is?”

“How contrasting we are in that respect. You don’t ever want to get married, while I wanted to get married so much, I was ready to do it with the wrong person.”

“You’ll find the right person,” Ty said. In his mouth, the words sounded like a promise. “You’ll have your own family.”

“Let’s hope so, or else I’ll have to beg Ash to take me.”

“I don’t think he will,” Ty said honestly. “But you could always become a silent brother instead. Then you’ll have a family of books.”

Kit chuckled. “Sounds lovely. I hope they’ll have my eyes.”

Ty stared at the ceiling, a hint of a smile on his face.

“Your turn,” Kit said. “How did you meet Luca?”

“I don’t want to say.”

“You have to!” Kit cried out. “Those are the rules. I told you how I met Ariella, now’s your turn to tell me.”

“Can I get a different question?”

“No, you cannot,” Kit said resolutely. “Why don’t you want to answer it?”

“Because it’s embarrassing!”

“Seriously?” Kit gaped at him. “That’s such a lame excuse!”

“No, no, I’m serious,” Ty said. “It really is embarrassing. Also, kind of… mature content.”

Kit’s eyes lit up. “Now I’m even more intrigued,” he said. “You’ve got to tell me!”

“Please don’t –“

“Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me –“

“I can tell you about that time I spent an entire night inside a trash can in Budapest. So, the –“

“No, you’re not changing the subject!” Kit said. “Tell me how you met him.”

“Agh fine. But… just be cool about it, okay?”

“I’ll be super cool,” Kit promised. “Cooler than cool. Absolutely frigid.”

“So, we studied together in the same year,” Ty begun. “We were… acquainted, but not very close. I think I caught him… looking at me a few times. But we never did anything other than homework together.”

Kit was part intrigued, part jealous of Luca for having seen Ty everyday for three years, while he himself had to content himself with the memory. He quickly chased the thought away. “And then…?” he urged Ty on.

“My roommate was away for the weekend, visiting his family,” Ty continued. “So, I had the room to myself, and I was doing… something.”

“Something?” Kit raised an eyebrow.

“Something,” Ty repeated.

“Ah!” Kit blushed at the realization. “That kind of something.”

“Yeah. That kind of something.” Ty flushed red. “And then Luca walked in.”

“Fuck Raziel!” Kit burst out laughing.

“I told you it was embarrassing!”

“It is,” Kit said, amused to no end. “Did he realize what you were doing?”

“He most definitely did,” Ty said reluctantly.

“And then what?” Kit asked, unable to hide his grin. “Let me guess. He offered to help you out?” The thought made his heart race inexplicably.

Ty hid his face in his hands. “Pretty much,” he muttered. “First, he apologized and ran out, but a few days later he waited for me after class and… said that he couldn’t stop thinking about it… and um… what you said.”

“And then what?” Kit urged him on.

“We… helped each other out for a while,” Ty muttered, his face still hidden in his hands. “Until one day he said that he wanted to take me out on a proper date. I said no.”

“Why?”

“I told him that I wanted… something else.”

“What?”

“Just something else,” Ty said quickly. “He said that he could change my mind, and I… I wanted to change my mind, too. So, I agreed. We went out for a year and a half. But I never changed my mind and eventually we broke up.”

Kit considered this for a moment. Ty wanted something else… It made sense. Luca probably wanted to settle down while Ty wanted to travel. Luca probably wanted to get married, and Ty didn’t.

They remained silent for a while, lying on the bed facing each other. Ty closed his eyes, but Kit couldn’t bring himself to do so as well; looking at Ty was too interesting. His hair was spread on the pillow, the black strands shining almost blue where the light fell. It reminded Kit of the sea at night.

Kit’s eyes trailed over Ty’s face. He had the kind of face that made people stop and stare; Kit thought back on the girls they had met on the train on their way to Rome. There was a change in people’s expressions when they first saw Ty; and of course the blush that accompanied that expression was a dead give-away. And the thing was, Ty was so unaware of his looks, Kit was sure that it made people fall for him all the more. Kit himself was straight, of course, but it wasn’t too hard to guess.

But then Kit felt his sanity slowly leaving him again because he wanted to ask Ty the most weird, irrelevant, crazy questions. He found himself wondering if Ty liked to top or to bottom. If he liked having someone move inside him, or if he liked to be the one to take charge. As he looked at Ty’s delicate features, he suddenly felt a burning need to know if Ty was gentle during sex. If he used to work his ex open with his fingers before penetrating him slowly, massaging his back in a soothing manner. Or maybe Ty was rough; maybe he used to slam into him, pulling his hair as he fucked him from behind.

Kit was heavily leaning towards one of these options. The thought made him feel weirdly nervous and agitated.

“Are you okay?” Ty asked him, looking concerned.

“Yeah!” Kit said immediately. “Why?”

“Your face is all red.”

Kit passed a hand on his face, panicked. “I’m fine. It’s nothing.”

Was it nothing, though? Kit wasn’t sure if it was normal to wonder about such things. It was hard to tell; out of his two best friends, Dru he considered as a sister so there was a limit to how much he wanted to know, and Jaime was very open about his sex life so there were no question marks there. Maybe Kit was interested because it was Ty, and everything about Ty was interesting.

They were still facing each other, and Ty’s hand lay on the mattress between them. Kit took it in his. That, Kit was certain, was not a regular thing to do. He and Jaime never held hands and if he had ever tried to take Dru’s hand she would have probably maimed him. But this was Ty, and somehow Kit felt that holding hands with Ty made perfect sense.

Ty seemed to think so too, because he let Kit pass his thumb slowly over the back of his gloved hand for a few long moments.

“I have to go,” he finally said.

“Don’t,” Kit whispered.

“But I –“

“Don’t,” Kit repeated. He held his hand tighter.

Ty’s lips curved upwards. His smile had always been one of happiness growing, reminding Kit of how a spring flower slowly opens. One of his canines was slightly crooked, which Kit had always found endearing, and suddenly he realized that there were so many little things he had noticed about Ty and still remembered, eight years later.

“Are you going to tell my what the deal is with your gloves?” he asked, trying to sound casual. “You and I both know it’s not because you got used to handle evidence.”

Ty’s smile vanished, and Kit mourned the loss of it.

“I need them.”

Kit already knew that. He had realized, a mere hour after seeing Ty again after all those years, that Ty used those gloves as a shield against the overwhelming physical sensations of the world around him.

“Ah, come on.” Kit poked him playfully. “It’s just you and me now, you can take them off. I won’t make you touch anything you don’t want to.” He blushed. “That didn’t come out right.”

Ty’s lips curled slightly. Pink like a rosebud, his lips were pleasant to look at, Kit supposed. His top lip had a natural cupid's bow; the bottom one was larger and more plush.

Kit squeezed his hand gently. “Do you like having them on?”

“No,” Ty said.

“Then take them off! You already took them off a few minutes ago, so why not again?”

He passed his thumb on the back of Ty’s hand in a slow, circular motion. Ty didn’t pull his hand away. He didn’t mind Kit’s touch. Maybe he even wanted it. Kit could hear Ty’s breathing become heavier, as if he was letting himself be for the first time since he came to New York.

Kit gained confidence. He could help Ty; he knew it. He could help him ground himself. He could help him deal with the physical sensations that gave him sensory overload. He could help him be free of those damned gloves. Luca had managed to do so, so why not him? Gently, he pulled Ty’s glove down by half an inch.

He did not anticipate the sudden reaction it would cause.

“Don’t!” Ty yelled.

He jumped of the bed, panting, barely standing up. In the dim light he looked pale and fragile, as if he might break in front of Kit’s eyes.

Kit stared at him, wide-eyed. He had pushed him too far. It was his fault. It was all his fault. “I’m sorry, Ty, I didn’t mean -” He began, panicked. His tattoo started burning, as if his arm was dipped in acid.

“I - I have to go.” Ty’s voice was shaking.

“No! Stay, please,” Kit heard himself whisper, the pain in his arm worsening with every second. It was all his fault. He messed up so, so bad.

Ty’s breathing was quick and shallow. He shook his head frantically.

“Please,” Kit begged, desperate. The pain caused his tattoo was almost blinding. “Please, don’t go. Please, please -”

But Ty didn’t even glance at him again. He ran out of the room and slammed the door behind him. Kit tried to get up but the pain in his arm seared through him like a branding iron and he sunk back on the bed and curled into a fetal position, panting. He read the words my fault on his arm before the pain covered his vision with dark spots and he lost consciousness.

Chapter Text

“What are you making today?”

Dru lifted her eyes from the kitchen counter to see that Ty had entered the room. He was wearing an old-fashioned suit, which – according to what Ash had told her – he dug from under a tree. The silver hoops in his ears made an interesting contrast with his formal attire.

“We’re baking a lemon tart,” Ash said proudly. “Do you want some?”

“No thank you,” Ty said, a little too quickly. “I was just looking for Jaime. Do you know where he is?”

Dru cleaned her hands with a paper towel. “I think he’s training with Kit.”

“Thank you.”

Ty left and Dru turned to Ash. “We’re not that bad at baking, are we?”

“I don’t think so,” Ash said thoughtfully. “So far we only burned half of what we made. If we lower our standards enough, we could even say that we’re pretty good.”

Two days had passed since they got back from Rome, and she and Ash had spent every minute of those two days together. It stared when Ash had asked her to teach him how to cook, because he wasn’t allowed into the kitchens in the Unseelie court and he had always wanted to learn.

“I have no idea how to cook,” Dru admitted. “I never enter the kitchen, but that’s by choice.”

Ash seemed a bit disappointed, so Dru quickly added “we could learn together, if you want”, and so they started by searching ‘how to make an omelet’ on their phones and following the instructions. Their omelet didn’t turn out too bad and so they reached the conclusion that they must have a lot of potential and it would be a shame not to realize it. So far, they managed a decent potato soup and some brownies which Jaime even deigned to eat.

“Could you pass me the butter?” Ash asked.

Dru handed him the bowl she filled with butter cut into uneven cubes. He took it and Dru nearly dropped it when his fingers brushed hers.

“Thank you,” he said. His voice was a little shaky.

They kept working in silence, Ash on the dough and Dru on the filling. Their fingers brushed again a couple of times and each time they did, Dru’s heartrate shot up, making her inexplicably nervous. Ash leaned in to take a spatula from the stand behind her and touched her shoulder casually in the process. Had it been anyone else, Dru would have jumped back, or maybe she would have even punched him just to make a point. But it was Ash, and somehow every violent instinct she had was muted in his presence.

“Okay, so the recipe says to leave it in the oven for thirty-five minutes,” Ash said after closing the oven door. “What should we do in the meantime?”

“Practice hand-on-hand combat?” Dru suggested. Adrenaline was flowing in her veins as if she had been chasing demons for the past hour. Hand-on-hand combat sounded like it would help calm her down. Additionally, she had been curious for a while to see Ash’s fighting technique.

They found the training room empty; Kit and Jaime must have left.

Dru positioned herself on the mat. “Ready?”

“Ready.”

Ash leaped forward. His movements were long and flexible, all the while maintain strength. Dru recognized immediately the simplicity and effectiveness of the Wing Chun Chinese fighting technique.

She blocked one of his high kicks and smiled as she remembered the story behind this branch of Kung Fu. Like all other Chinese styles, Wing Chun's history is shrouded in mystery, it’s first documentation only appearing in the nineteenth century. According to the mundane stories, after the Qing government destroyed Southern Shaolin and its temples, a Qing warlord offered to marry a woman named Yim Wing Chun, but she refused. The warlord agreed to stop pursuing her if she could beat him in a martial arts match. Wing Chun trained with a Buddhist nun who taught her a nameless style of boxing. Her training helped Wing Chun defeat the warlord, and she eventually married another man who named the fighting style after her.          

The only detail the mundane story was missing was the fact that the nun who had taught Wing Chun how to fight was, in fact, a fairy.

“You received fae training,” Dru panted.

Ash sent another kick which nearly reached her. “Yes.”

Dru sent an uppercut which barely grazed his cheek. “How was it?” she asked, curious. She had always been fond of hand-on-hand combat, but Shadowhunters never learned Downworlder fighting techniques.

“Their methods of training are… harsh,” he said. He didn’t seem keen to elaborate, so Dru didn’t press the subject.

He leaped forward again and Dru quickly backed away, putting herself out of his reach. He sent another punch and Dru grabbed him by his arm and used his momentum to pull him down and her leg to grip him to the ground as she pulled him. Ash fell on the mat and Dru quickly positioned herself on top of him, both her knees straddling him, and pinned him to the ground. She leaned in, a triumphant smile on her face.

Ash swallowed, and Dru suddenly realized how close they really were; so close she could count his eyelashes, fluttering over his cheeks. Ash looked up at her and Dru froze, mesmerized, as she looked into his eyes. She had once thought them green, but now, as she studied his irises, she noticed that a band of gold curled around his pupils and slender strands of gold piercing through the green.

Her gaze trailed down over his face. His lips were slightly parted and Dru felt a sudden desire to trace them with her finger.

Under her, Ash made a small movement and Dru loosened her grip slightly. Her heart was racing, her blood burning in her veins, as Ash freed his right hand and lifted it slowly as if afraid to make sudden movements. He touched her cheek with the back of his index finger.

“Damn, the new guy made the mistake of messing with Dru!” Someone yelled next to them.

Dru turned her head to see Redcastle and Lowguard, who had joined the institute about a year ago, looking at them with amused expressions.

“See, she’s going to break something of his,” Lowguard said. “The only question is what.”

“Ten bucks on his ankle,” Redcastle laughed.

“Shut up,” Dru hissed. She got up quickly and took a few steps away from Ash. “We’re just training.”

Lowguard let out an exaggerated sigh of relief. “Good, because I need you in a good mood. We have patrol together.”

Dru nodded, and they left, heading for the targets at the back of the room. She glanced at Ash to find him standing in front of her, a shy smile on his face.

“They’re scared of you,” he said.

“Maybe a little,” Dru smirked. “Come on, let’s go again.”

Ash charged again, but Dru leaped to his left, rolled, and sent a low kick to the back of his knee that made him stumble forward. He landed on his stomach, and Dru sat on his back and restrained him. His shirt was pulled up and Dru froze; long scars stretched under his shoulder blades, as if the cut was repeatedly healed and opened again. Ash quickly freed himself and turned around, then lifted himself to a sitting position.

Their methods of training are harsh.

Those scars… They must have hurt him whenever he failed to follow order. They must have cut his back with knives. Did he have other scars? Did they cut him in other places? Did they burn him, flog him, beat him?

There was a scream from deep within her that echoed in her mind, as if the sight of Ash’s scars had unleashed a demon from within her soul. All she could feel was anger, her fists clenching and her teeth locking up, as she pictured herself marching into the Seelie Court and challenging his tutors to a fight.

“Dru?” she heard Ash’s voice.

She bit her lower lip, trying to prevent a cry of frustration leave her mouth. She would never get the chance to kill the people who hurt him; if she were to step into the Seelie Court, she would never come out alive. But more importantly, she would reveal that Ash is, in fact, still alive and that he had sought shelter in New York.

Ash was still looking at her, his expression concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“You make it too easy,” she said, trying to keep her voice light.

Ash let out a small chuckle. He got up and reached his hand to her. Dru took it, and Ash lifted her up with a little too much force; she stumbled forward and crushed into him. He caught her in his arms and steadied her.

“Dru,” he breathed. The sound of her name on his lips made her shiver slightly. He had a way of pronouncing it like no one else did; as if her name was a poem he had learned the words to just recently.

“Yo, Dru! You coming?” Lowguard yelled from across the room. “We’ve got patrol!”

Ash let her go quickly and put his hands back in his pocket, a guilty expression on his face, like a child who was just caught eating candy he shouldn’t have.

“Yeah!” Dru yelled back, not taking her eyes away from Ash.

Lowguard made his way over to them, smirking, his teeth flashing white against his dark skin. “Come on, man, we’re going to be late.”

“Wait for me by the entrance, I need a minute,” Dru replied. When he left, she turned to Ash. “I have to go.”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry you can’t come,” she muttered. “But Kit doesn’t want –“

“Anyone to know I’m here, yes.” He gave her a small smile.

She nodded, then joined Lowguard. They drove to their designated area in silence, relieving the previous team. Dru couldn’t help but worry about Ash. It didn’t make any sense; he was at the institute, safe and sound, surrounded by dozens of trained warriors. Still… Dru felt anxious and edgy.

“So, the new guy,” Lowguard broke the silence. “What’s his deal?”

“None of your damn business,” Dru hissed.

“Woah, calm down. I was just –“

“Don’t,” she snapped. “Don’t speak, don’t think, and be glad I’m not telling you not to breathe.”

They spent the next three hours in silence, which was only broken once when a slimy sewer demon tried to strangle her and she stabbed him with her Seraph blade.

When the next team finally came to replace them, Dru ran to the car and urged Lowguard to come quick. He did as she asked, clearly resolved not to anger her more. They reached the institute and she ran to her room to wash off the ichor. She got out of the shower and begun passing a brush through her hair when someone knocked on her door.

“Yeah,” she said.

The door opened to reveal Jaime, his deep brown eyes locked on her. “May I come in?” he asked.

“Sure.” Dru smiled at him. She resumed her brushing, untangling the strands.

Jaime closed the door behind him.

Dru placed the brush on her dresser. “What’s up?”

Jaime leaned against the door quietly and Dru focused on his eyes, which were darting back and forth. Their usual glow, the humor and playfulness that had never seemed to escape them, were missing.

Jaime passed his hand through his hair in a nervous gesture. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “For… you know.”

Dru took a step towards him. “Why are you apologizing again? I was the one who kissed you.”

Jaime knitted his fingers together, avoiding her gaze. “I know… I just… I never explained.”

“Jaime,” Dru said softly. “You don’t owe me an explanation.”

“I know,” he breathed. “I still want to give you one. If you’ll let me.”

Dru sat on the bed and gestured for Jaime to join her. They sat side by side in silence for a few moments.

“I couldn’t… I can’t give you what you deserve,” Jaime finally said. “I can’t do any of this.” He made a vague gesture.

“Relationships, you mean?”

“Yes. Relationships. Romance. Dating. I just can’t do any of it,” he said. “I wanted to be able to do this. I wanted to be able to do this with you. But I… I just can’t. And I wanted you to know – you have to know – that it’s on me. Just me. You’re perfect. You’re one of the best people I have ever met.” He passed his hand through his hair again, letting a frustrating sigh. “I’m just not boyfriend material.”

Dru would have believed he thought so; but then something glistened in his eyes and it told her everything that she needed to know.

“You must think that I’m heartless,” he said.

“I don’t,” she said immediately. “If anything, I think that you feel too much.” She took his hand in hers. “I know you. You’re kind, and compassionate. You care about your family, you care about your friends, you care about me so much, you’ve apologized at least twenty times for the fact that I kissed you.”

Jaime smiled at that.

“I don’t know what happened to make you feel this way,” she continued. “But if someone hurt you, I’ll make him pay.”

“It was my doing,” Jaime said. “I let the wrong person in.”

“Who was that?” Dru asked immediately. “Give me their name. You’ll hear it again in their obituary tomorrow.”

Jaime let out a small chuckle. It made Dru feel all warm inside.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jaime finally said. “It’s just that I… I haven’t been able to even want to be close to someone again. I feel empty. Like a shell that encloses… nothing.”

Dru put her head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I hate seeing you like this… Do you want to tell me what happened?”

Jaime shook his head.

“I’m here for you,” Dru said. If you’ll ever want to talk about it… I’m here for you.”

She wound her arms around him. He hugged her back, leaning his head on hers. They kept their embrace for a few long moments, until a knock was heard on Dru’s door and someone opened it.

Dru and Jaime broke apart to find Ash on the threshold, a horrified expression on his face.

“I-I’m sorry,” he said quickly.

Dru opened her mouth to reply, but Ash ran out of the room, leaving her gaping after him. He clearly thought he had interrupted a romantic moment between them. He seemed… distressed? Did something happen? Or maybe… was it possible that he was distressed by what he saw? Should Dru explain? How could she –

But Jaime seemed resolute on solving the problem right this second.

He let her go and leaped forward, quick as a cat, and came back a second later, a feline grin on his face, dragging a stunned-looking Ash. He pushed him towards Dru.

“I have urgent matters to attend, but I don’t want my friend Dru to be lonely,” he purred. “Ash, do you mind keeping my friend Dru company? I care about her as a friend because we have a very friendly friendship. You could even say that she’s my friendliest friend.”

He patted him on the shoulder, winked at Dru, and left them alone.

Dru glanced at Ash, feeling suddenly inexplicably nervous.

Ash put his hands in his pockets, biting his lip as if trying to hide a smile. “You’re his friendliest friend?”

They locked eyes and burst out laughing.

The sound of Ash’s laughter echoed through her like ripples in a still pond after a stone has been thrown in unexpectedly. He looked younger when he laughed like that, as if the years he had spent suffering in the Unseelie court slowly peeled off his face.

The door to Kit’s room, adjacent to hers, opened and then slammed shut, and they could hear someone running away.

Dru wondered what could have happened, but then she glanced at Ash again and saw his gaze fixed on her, concentrated, as if the entire world had vanished around them and only she remained. He took her hand and gently pulled her closer, his eyes gazing into hers like he was looking far beyond, deep into her soul.

“I liked training with you today,” he whispered.

Dru lifted her hand and brushed a strand of blond hair away from his face.

“Dru!” he took a step back, as if her touch burned him.

“What?” she asked, alarmed.

“We never took the pie out of the oven!”

They locked eyes, staring each other at horror for half a second, before they ran out of the room, laughing like mad.

Chapter Text

Kit was pulled out of the darkness by the sound of Dru’s bedroom door, adjacent to his, slamming shut, and Dru and Ash running in the corridor giggling like mad.

He blinked slowly. It took him a few moments to remember where he was, and then he realized that he must have fainted from the pain caused by his tattoo. He lifted himself into a sitting position.

Ty.

Kit’s dazed mind replayed the memory of what he had done to him. How he had tried to pull down his glove.

Kit hated himself. It was all his fault. He was jealous of Luca for seeing Ty without his gloves, he was insecure. And he pressured Ty. He pressured the most amazing person he had ever met, to the point of breaking him.

He passed his hands in his hair in frustration. He wished he could find Ty and tell him how sorry he was, but he felt that doing so would only push him farther away. Instead, he put on a jacket and left his room. He walked along the corridor, cursing himself silently, until he reached Jaime’s door and knocked on it.

“Hey, want to grab a beer?” he asked when Jaime opened it. “I really need one.”

Jaime seemed to have had just gotten out of the shower. He had a towel around his neck and his hair was wet and smelled from a floral-scented shampoo.

He shook his head. “While I do love drunk-Kit more than anything, I can’t.”

“Why? You’re not scheduled on patrol and –“

“I’m going out with Ty, remember?”

Kit’s eyes widened. “You… are.” He managed to say.

He studied Jaime intently. He was clean-shaved and wore dark jeans and a burgundy button shirt. Kit’s chest tightened.

“Yeah, we’re going to get dinner,” Jaime said casually. “I’m taking him to a Japanese restaurant, it’s his favorite.”

Kit felt incredibly stupid for not knowing that Japanese was Ty’s favorite. “So, you’re really going to date him?” he asked instead, feeling even more dumb.

“Oh, yes. I’m going to date him. I’m going to date him real good,” Jaime purred. “I’m talking opening doors for him. I’m talking listening to him recall childhood memories. I’m talking paying for dinner.” He counted on his fingers. “I’m talking leaning casually towards him, putting my hand on his knee, and –“

“Okay, fine! Fine! I don’t want to know,” Kit said irritably. For some unknown reason he felt like taking that towel off Jaime’s neck and slapping him with it. Repeatedly.

He walked straight to his office, slammed the door behind him, then sat down at his desk and took a stack of applications for post at the institute and began reading them without retaining a word. Fuck it. The only decent applicant had been Cameron Ashdown anyway. Kit signed the paper and called Tamara. Bless his second-in-command, she came in immediately.

“You called for me?”

“Yes. We’re taking another recruit. Please contact Cameron Ashdown at the Shanghai institute and give him this information.”

She took the folder he handed her and left, leaving Kit to stare at the wall angrily. He wasn’t going to accomplish anything more tonight. There was no point in staying there. Moreover, the window of his office was positioned strategically above the front door, so that the head of the institute could see who came in and who left to go on a fucking sushi date. Kit did not want to see that.

He headed towards his room, considering briefly to knock on Dru’s door but finally deciding against it. She’ll know immediately that something was wrong with him and she would ask questions he didn’t have the answers to.

He took a cold shower, which didn’t help calm his nerves at all, then sat down at his desk and opened the top drawer.

Ty

The name was written on top of each piece of paper in the drawer. Letters Kit had written over the years and never sent. Letters that he still hadn’t managed to get rid of.

Ty, where are you? Are you lost in the same tears, in the same loneliness as I am?

He knew the answer to the first question now. He just didn’t know why. He also knew the answer to the second one: No, Ty was not lost in the same loneliness that wrapped Kit like a thick layer of fog. Ty was currently on a date. With Jaime.

Kit closed the drawer and lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling. As much as he tried not to, he couldn’t help but thinking about what Jaime and Ty might be doing right now. They have probably ordered their food and are now chatting. Maybe it’s a bit awkward, in a good way. Maybe each is a bit nervous, wondering what the other is thinking. Maybe Jaime had just complimented Ty. Maybe he had told him that he looked pretty. Maybe Ty was blushing right now.

The last thought made Kit want to scream into his pillow and then rip it apart.

What’s wrong with you?

His tattoo was burning. Probably changing from Christopher to deranged lunatic. What the hell did it matter that Jaime and Ty were out on a date?

Maybe Kit felt neglected. Maybe he was jealous of them for being together while he had just broken up with his fiancée. Yes. It was probably that. This terrible feeling will go away.

But right now, it was real. Raw. Burning.

The moon was howling again, and Kit knew he won’t be able to sleep. With a grunt he slipped on a hoodie and went back to his office. He needed to finish the report for Whitestrider’s latest case anyway. The guy – this pathetic excuse of a Shadowhunter - had made such a mess, this report might take a week to finish. Kit had half a mind to relocated Whitestrider to the remotest place he could find. Sibir should be nice this time a year. With any luck, Whitestrider might lose a toe to hypothermia.

Two hours of terrible bureaucracy later, Kit’s hate for Whitestrider had grown so much, Sibir was starting to sound too nice. Kit figured he should just relocate him to Atlantis without an oxygen tank.

He got up, cursing, and stretched his back. A snowy New York stretched in front of him, separated by glass.

“It looks a bit lonely.”

Ty’s thoughts about Kit’s favorite painting came rushing back to him.

“Is that why you like it?”

It was; Kit just hadn’t realized it until Ty pointed it out.

He walked over to the window and looked at the city. The snow reminded him of how Ty sat down on a bench in Central Park, covered his face with his hands, and told him that he hated himself. Kit couldn’t comprehend how.

Soft snow flakes fell from the sky, only visible under the street lamps. Kit reached his hand to touch the cold glass.

And then he saw them.

He could make out their shapes in the dark. Ty was leaning against a pillar and Jaime was standing in front of him, much closer than Ty would normally allow people. Ty was taller than Jaime, and he seemed to be bowing his head slightly to talk to him. Jaime closed more distance between them and then their heads were so close they looked like one large blur and Kit realized that they were kissing.

He should have turned around. He should have stopped looking. But it was as if some external force held him in place, preventing him from moving. Then began the strongest physical reaction he had ever experienced; he felt weak and nauseous. He was going to vomit. He was going to get sick and then pass out.

Get a hold on yourself!

Clearly, the journey back from Rome had made him less than stable. The jetlag was messing him up. Or maybe he caught some exotic Italian flu that made him feel so sick. And where is the damned trashcan? Kit was certain he was going to throw up any second now.

He watched helplessly as the blur that was Jaime and Ty finally broke into two separate figures. They started walking towards the door and Kit was brought back to reality. Without thinking, he ran to the entrance and reached the door just when it opened.

Jaime and Ty walked in, whispering, then stopped when they saw him.

“Aw, Kit, you waited for us,” Jaime said, his voice sweet as honey.

Kit should have denied it. He should have told him that he’s insane for thinking that. That he just happened to not be asleep, that he just happened to look through the window, that he just happened to be there at the exact moment they came back. He should have bid them goodnight and left. He should have gone to his room and just fucking go to sleep already.

But instead he closed his fists and took another step towards Jaime, his blood burning, his ears ringing. He couldn’t even think straight. Incoherent thoughts were racing through his mind, filled with anger and violence and pain.

“Training room,” he said. “Now.”

Jaime squinted his eyes but did not say anything.

“You want him to train now?” Ty asked, clearly confused.

Kit grabbed Jaime by the collar of his shirt. “Yes. Now,” he hissed. Their faces were only a few inches apart and Kit could see Jaime’s eyes widening before he dragged him to the training room, leaving Ty gaping after them.

Chapter Text

Kit dragged Jaime to the training room, pulling him violently by his arm. He opened the door with too much force and closed it behind them with a bang. The few people that were inside all turned to look at them.

“Herondale, Rosales.” One of them nodded. Kit did not bother to nod back.

He pushed Jaime on the training mat then took off his jacket and threw it on the ground before stepping on the mat as well. He had no idea why he was so angry, but he just was, and he wanted to punch something. No, punch someone.

His expression must have been frightening, because people were starting to leave, aware that it would be safer for them to get away.

Jaime, however, seemed inappropriately cheerful. “Miss me?” he smirked.

“Fighting stance. Now.”

“As you wish, honey.”

Kit charged forward, but his anger cost him his focus, and Jaime moved quickly aside, grabbed him by the nape of his neck and pulled him down on the mat. He positioned himself on top of him, one hand on top of his hip to prevent him from moving, the other on his neck.

“Don’t you want to know how our date went?” he whispered in Kit’s ear.

Kit struggled to free himself, forgetting the basics of martial arts and tactics, and relying instead on brute force. Jaime let him go with a smug smile.

He placed himself in a fighting stance again and waited for Kit to get up.

“You seem angry,” he commented lightly. “Do you have anything you’d like to share with me?”

Kit sent an uppercut. Jaime blocked it, grabbed his arm and twisted it, sending Kit to the ground again.

“You’re not even trying to win, are you?” he lifted an eyebrow. “You’re just lashing out.”

Kit cursed under his breath. He sent another semi-circular punch which Jaime had avoided effortlessly.

“You watched from the window, didn’t you?” Jaime taunted him. “You saw us.”

“You kissed him.” The words burned like acid on Kit’s lips.

“It would appear so.” Jaime smirked. “Jealous?”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck me yourself,” Jaime said flirtatiously without a hint of shame.

Kit sent a low kick, which Jaime avoided easily. He sent a series of punches that were anything but well-aimed. He was lashing out, and he didn’t care. He just sent blow after blow, generating power by rotating his hips, not caring about form or structure. Not caring about anything except the burning desire to shatter Jaime’s nose.

“Calm down,” Jaime said, after avoiding yet another punch. “I didn’t kiss him.”

Logically, it shouldn’t have mattered. Expect it did. Kit froze.

“You… didn’t?”

“No, you imbecile,” Jaime exhaled. “That wasn’t even a date.”

Kit stared at him, wide-eyed. “It wasn’t - what?”

“He said he liked Japanese food, and I like it too. So, this morning, I told him that if he wants to, we can go get some. And when you came back to your office and saw us, before you left for Rome? I was just asking him if he machine-washed his suits. He nodded, you saw it, and I gave you a thumbs up to annoy you.”

“But… kiss…” Kit mumbled lamely.

“I knew you would be watching us, so I just asked him if I could smell his cologne because I’m thinking about getting the same for myself. He was a bit confused, but he let me. And in the dark you though the we were kissing.”

Kit’s mind was trying to grasp Jaime’s words, which turned out to be a more difficult task than originally anticipated. “So you really… you weren’t on a date...”

“Nope.”

Kit’s temper rose again. “Then why did you let me think you were?!” he yelled.

“Because I wanted to make you jealous!” Jaime yelled back.

Kit gaped at him. “Make me… jealous?”

And suddenly it was all clear. Why Jaime taunted him about his sexual orientation. Why Jaime asked Kit if he was okay with him asking Ty out. Why Jaime seemed almost happy that Kit dragged him to the training room.

“Jaime, do you… do you have feelings for me?” he asked gently. Jaime was his friend, and Kit wanted to let him down nicely. He cared about him, a lot, but not in that way, and -

Jaime made a weird choking sound. “As if!” he said, looking deeply offended.

“You don’t?” Kit was properly confused now.

Jaime exhaled, looking utterly exasperated. “I love you, man. I do. But you’re so, so not my type. You’re too much work! You’re headstrong, you’re grumpy, you overthink everything, you’re sexually repressed –“

“Hey!”

“You’re too much into art and lockpicking and general activities that require more quiet than I like, you’re kind of neurotic - ”

“Okay, I think I got the idea.”

“And you have blue eyes.”

“What’s wrong with my eyes?” Kit asked defensively.

“They’re blue. I just said that. Were you not listening?” Jaime scolded him. “I don’t like blue eyes.”

“They don’t like you either,” Kit said sulkily. “But if you don’t like me then why the fuck did you do all that Ty thing for?!”

“Because you’re an idiot!”

Kit’s temper rose again. “What did you just say?”

“I said you’re an idiot,” Jaime repeated slowly. “A blind idiot in denial.”

“And what am I denying exactly? That you’re an ass?”

“That you have feelings for Ty, you moron!”

Jaime’s words his Kit like a slap, making the air rush out of his lungs. “I don’t have feelings for Ty!” he panted. Seriously, Jaime and his stupid –

“Oh, so you just wait by the door for every acquaintance you have while they’re out, and then try to punch their dates?”

“I don’t have feelings for Ty!” Kit was screaming now.

“You do.”

“I don’t!”

“I see the way you look at him.”

“I don’t look at him!”

“I see how you care for him. Trying to make him put his gear on, not wanting to risk him in missions, checking to see if he ate and slept -”

“Well yeah, but –“

“You can’t bring yourself to stand close to him, yet you can’t bring yourself to be too far away. You look like some weird spatially-constrained magnet -”

“I don’t –“

“You actually waited by the window to see when we got back from our pretense-date -”

“I wasn’t –“

“And you tried to beat the shit out of me because you thought I kissed him,” Jaime said. “Stop repressing it already. You have feelings for him. Romanic desires. Sexual attraction.” He gave him a meaningful look. “You got it bad.”

Kit stared at him. Then blinked. Then stared some more.

Was he… right?

Kit liked to listen to Ty talk, he liked to spend time with him, he liked to be the one who made him laugh. He valued Ty’s happiness more than his own, he valued Ty’s life more than his own… No. It didn’t mean anything. Parabati also behaved that way. The crucial difference between romantic love and platonic love was attraction.

And Kit wasn’t attracted to Ty.

Of course he wasn’t. Was Ty the most beautiful person he had ever met? Sure. But finding someone beautiful does not necessarily mean that you’re attracted to them.

Kit shook his head. It wasn’t that he found Ty beautiful; Ty simply was beautiful. That was a fact. A law of nature. Not Kit’s personal opinion. He wasn’t attracted to him. Not at all.

Expect that… Kit did like to look at him. And he did enjoy his touch, when he gave him a massage. Maybe a little too much.

“But it’s impossible,” Kit mumbled. “He’s… a man. And I’m straight! I’ve always dated women…”

Jaime gave him a sympathetic look.

Kit passed his fingers though his hair in frustration. He enjoyed Ty’s touch; he enjoyed lying in bed next to him and holding his hand… And when he had kissed a trail along Ty’s jaw after he almost drowned… it felt like magic. Mysterious and beautiful and mesmerizing. Kit had never felt that way about anyone.

No. It didn’t mean anything. It was the fairy ether.

Was it, though?

Jaime kept taunting him, saying Kit was sexually repressed. Maybe he was right. Nothing ever felt enough, and then that one moment with Ty... Just one moment… and it was better than anything Kit had ever experienced. And if he was being honest with himself - for the first time in his life - Kit wanted to have this moment again. And again.

“But… he’s Ty,” Kit said weakly.

Jaime pinched the bridge of his nose. “And you’re Kit, yes,” he said, sounding exasperated.

He’s Ty.

And he’s kind, and generous, and smart, and… beautiful. So damn beautiful…

“Oh my god,” Kit said slowly. “Jaime, I think you’re right.”

“Finally,” Jaime exhaled. “I was starting to think we were going to be here all night.”

“Fuck.” Kit crumpled to the floor. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why?!”

“Because he’s hot, probably,” Jaime mused. “Also, because he has the rare ability to understand you – which no one else has. And because you think he’s funny and smart and you want to kiss the hell out of him.”

“I can’t believe it,” Kit said miserably. “What’s wrong with me? Why do I screw up everything in my life?”

“That’s a bit dramatic.”

“We just became friends again, why did I have to go screw everything up?”

“You still haven’t screwed up anything. Ty doesn’t know how you feel,” Jaime pointed out. “Though I do think that –“

“You’re right. He doesn’t know.” Kit looked up. “And he never will.”

“But you should –“

“He never will. Do you understand?” Kit said menacingly.

“But maybe he –“

“He doesn’t, otherwise he would have kept in touch all those years and come to New York sooner. If he did feel the same way, he would have said so. Ty doesn’t hide the truth.”

Jaime pursed his lips but did not deny that Kit had a point.

“I’m not going to screw up again,” Kit said, determined. “You and I are going to keep quiet about this, and eventually this crazy crush - or phase or whatever - will go away, and everything will be back to normal. Are we clear?”

Jaime mumbled something that sounded a lot like “denial.”

“Are. We. Clear?” Kit repeated the question.

Jaime opened his mouth to say something more but closed it when he saw the expression on Kit’s face. Slowly, he nodded.

“Great,” Kit said. “Now that it’s settled – let’s go get a beer.”

“More like a bucket of whiskey,” Jaime muttered back.

Chapter Text

New York, two years ago

Jaime dragged his feet, purposely climbing the steps as slowly as he could. What was he even doing here, in wintery and depressing New York, instead of a sunny city, preferably one with a beach and with hot people that enjoyed walking around in minimal clothing?

It was his fault, really, for taking his brother’s advice and touring the institutes of the east coast before leaving for Europe. The institutes of Jacksonville and Philadelphia proved to be a bore, and Jaime’s hope that New York would be different was fading with every step he climbed.

He reached the dreaded door and knocked on it reluctantly. He was pleasantly surprised, however, when a cute blond guy opened the door.

“Hey, you’re Jaime, right?” He gave a courteous smile. “I’m Jace.”

“Nice to meet you.”

He led him inside and showed him to his room, then took him downstairs to the training room where a nearly identical blond was throwing daggers at a target, looking half-bored.

“That’s my sort-of cousin, Kit,” Jace said. “He just got here a few weeks ago.”

“Jaime Rosales.” Jaime reached his hand for a hand shake.

“Kit Herondale.”

“I’m heading out for patrol duty,” Jace said. “Play nice, you two.”

The Herondale kid gave him the finger.

“Christopher!” Jace put a hand over his heart, faking shock. “We have company!”

Kit rolled his eyes, and Jace gave him one last smirk before he left.

Kit turned to Jaime. “We’ve met before, right?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Jaime replied. “In LA.”

Kit nodded, then turned back to the target and threw another dagger. Jaime studied him.

“You remind me of a pancake,” he said.

The Herondale kid squinted his eyes. “In what sense?”

Jaime did not miss a beat. “In the sense that I want to flip you over and eat you out.”

The adorable blond chocked. “I’m straight,” he said quickly.

Jaime burst out laughing and the Herondale kid seemed to relax.

“Too bad,” Jaime let out an exaggerated sigh. “I guess we’ll have to be friends instead.”

“I guess so,” Herondale smiled.

They did become good friends almost immediately. It turned out that Kit was actually a great guy. Funny, kind, and easy to talk to. They shared the same sense of humor, the same ‘fuck it’ attitude, and even the hatred for the same people, as became evident when Jaime first met Paige Ashdown.

“Fucking hell,” Kit muttered one day. “Jaime, you might want to leave New York early.”

“Are you playing hard to get with me?” Jaime asked. “Because it’s working.” He wriggled an eyebrow seductively.

“Paige Ashdown is coming to visit,” Kit muttered miserably. “And Clary made me promise I’d keep it civilized.”

“Paige?” Jaime squinted his eyes, trying to recall if he knew any Paige. “I don’t know her. Is she hot?”

“She’s the worst.”

“But is she hot?”

“Her evilness overshadows her physical appearance.”

At the time, Jaime thought Kit was exaggerating. But five minutes in Paige’s company had taught him that if anything – Kit had underplayed how terrible she truly was.

As Paige readily informed him, her family was one of the richest and oldest Shadowhunter families that had ever existed. Her parents owned a large mansion in Alicante where they resided most of the time. Additionally, they had a lake house in Italy, a manor in the south of Scotland, and a house in LA. Growing up, Paige had private tutors for every possible subject, from sword fighting and archery to drawing and dancing. Her family had a private chef and Paige got used to eating gourmet food and drinking expensive wine. Additionally, her parents took her to vacations in expensive resorts all over the globe, from skiing in the Alpes to sunbathing in the Caribbean.

“What, you’ve never taken a ski vacation?” Paige stared at Jaime in shock after he said he had never been to the Alpes. “Your parents must not like you very much.”

“So this is what the worst person on earth looks like,” Jaime whispered to Kit.

“Yup.”

As she then mentioned, Paige had a pony growing up, which she got tired off after it let her fall of his back one time, so she made her parents get her another one. But after she had gotten a new pony, Paige had decided that ponies are tedious, so she made her parents get her a horse of the American Quarter breed because, as she insufferably made sure to mention, they excel at sprinting short distances and Paige loved racing her brother.

And so, without any desire to do so, Jaime had learned that Paige had an older, preppy brother, who sounded about as tolerable as a persistent migraine.

“My brother rides well, but not as well as I do,” Paige went on in her annoying high-pitched voice. “He’s very smart but rather boring; he spends his time reading odiously long books. I think the last one had something to do with gardening during mediaeval times.”

“Lovely,” Jaime said flatly.

“He loves working in the gardens of our mansions –“

Mansions, Kit. In plural form,” Jaime whispered. Kit rolled his eyes in response.

“- which is a shame, because he never agrees to come to the parties my parents organize. I have to drag him forcefully,” Paige continued, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “He also loves learning ancient languages. He’s fluent in Sanskrit and Aramaic and –“

“He loves gardening and learning ancient languages,” Jaime whispered to Kit. “Why do I get the feeling that the guy is a virgin?”

“He used to date Emma, actually,” Kit muttered back. “He’s really not that bad. His name’s -“

Jaime cut him off. “I don’t care what that nerd’s name is!“

“And Latin, and ancient Greek,” Paige went on, so focused on hearing herself talk that she hadn’t even noticed Jaime and Kit whispering.

“He’s not that much of a nerd – “ Kit whispered.

“Dude, he doesn’t go to parties because he’s too busy gardening,” Jaime hissed. “Plants are his friends!”

Kit burst out laughing.

“And Biblical Hebrew – is something funny?” Paige squinted her eyes.

“Not at all,” Jaime said dryly. “I’m just admiring your brother. He sounds like a such a… swell guy.”

Kit laughed harder.

Paige snorted. “He is. But don’t get too excited – he would never associate with you.”

Kit stopped laughing and stared at her, an expression of mild shock on his face.

“And why is that?” Jaime asked her, unsure if he should be angered or amused by Paige’s absurd self-involvement.

“Because our social class is higher than yours, of course,” she said, dignified.

“My… social class?” Jaime gaped at her.

“Yes. Our family is wealthy and well connected, while yours is… well, you know,” she gestured vaguely.

“No, I don’t know.” Jaime squinted his eyes. “Please, do explain.”

Paige lifted her chin. “Your social class is lower, so it just wouldn’t be wise for my brother to associate with you.”

“Then why are you here?” Kit retorted.

“I’m not associating with you, I’m merely entertaining polite conversation.”

The look on Kit’s face, almost made Jaime scared for Paige’s safety. Almost.

“Well, your highness,” Jaime said in exaggerated politeness. “Please, don’t let us keep you from your very important life. Off you go.”

“It’s fine, I don’t have anything better to do at the moment,” Paige replied haughtily.

“I could help you find something,” Jaime suggested. “Kit, could you please get her a very long rope? Or maybe some cyanide?”

Paige screwed her face. “Is this some low-class joke I’m too sophisticated to understand?”

Kit looked ready to stick a dagger in her eye. He took a deep breath and mumbled something to himself, probably reminding himself of his promise to Clary to keep it civilized.

“Let’s go get a beer, man,” Jaime suggested. “Far, far from here.”

“Okay,” Paige said, as if the question was aimed at her. She took Kit by his arm and dragged him to the front door then called an uber. Jaime considered letting Kit get into the uber alone with her, but from the look Kit gave him he knew that if he did that that, Kit would strangle him in his sleep.

They reached the bar and Kit took shot after shot while Jaime kept ordering new rounds of beer. Paige, meanwhile, sipped her Cosmopolitan slowly, listing all her friends who have gained weight in the past year and trying to catch Kit’s eye.

“I’m going to go on stage!” Kit yelled, gesturing at the karaoke machine. “I’m thinking about singing Sex Bomb!” His eyes were glazed and he was swaying from side to side.

“Wait, Kit, you can’t do that,” Jaime said quickly. “It sounds fun, and Paige’s brother wouldn’t approve of you having fun!”

Kit burst out laughing.

Paige sniffed. “My brother – unlike you two – has dignity and self-respect.”

“Why do I get the feeling that I never want to meet him?” Jaime wondered out loud. “Ah, I know! It’s probably because he sounds like a colossal douche.”

When he turned back to Kit he found him gone, and when he lifted his eyes he saw him already on stage, holding a mic.

Kit began singing and Jaime was surprised to find that he was actually not that bad. And then Kit added some very exaggerated – and slightly explicit – choreography, and Jaime had reached the conclusion that this was the best thing he had ever witnessed and so when Kit was done Jaime mourned the fact that he didn’t record the whole thing on video. Next time, he promised himself, he was definitely filming that.

“You embarrassed yourself and us.” Paige sniffed when Kit got back, flushed and grinning.

“I’m pretty sure everyone enjoyed it,” Jaime commented as a slim girl made her way through the crowd and reached their table. She then proceeded to slip Kit a folded piece of paper. Paige stared daggers at her until she left.

Kit unfolded it. “It’s a number,” he said. His eyes were unfocused. “I hope it’s tomorrow’s lottery number.”

“I suspect it’s her phone number,” Jaime contributed.

“Ah. No thanks.” Kit crumpled the paper to a ball and threw it into Paige’s glass.

“Hey!” she yelled.

“Sorry,” Kit said, not sounding sorry at all. “I don’t need it. I already have a girlfriend.”

Jaime gaped at him. Up until that point he had assumed that although Kit identified as straight, he was asexual. He had never showed any interest in men or women, had never commented on the physique of anyone, and if Jaime ever said that someone what hot, Kit would just shrug or make a vague hand gesture to show his disinterest. The only time Jaime had ever heard Kit comment on someone’s attractiveness was when they were training one day and Kit mentioned in passing that the first time someone held a dagger to his throat he hadn’t acted, staying instead frozen in place, because that person was just so beautiful.

“Let’s go home,” Paige whined. “I’m tired.”

“Of your own shit,” Jaime muttered. Then out loud he said “yeah, let’s go home.”

The next day Jaime brought up Kit’s girlfriend. It was weird, he said, the he had never mentioned her.

“There’s nothing much to say.” Kit shrugged.

“What’s her name?”

“Opal.”

“How long have you been together?”

“Two months.”

“Where is she now?”

“Alicante.”

Kit didn’t seem keen to continue the conversation, so Jaime dropped the subject for the moment. Still, he found Kit’s disinterested attitude very odd.

Over the next few days he questioned Kit on the subject; a question here, an off-handed comment there. He had learned that Kit wasn’t one for one-night stands, but he was always in a relationship. Over the past three years he had dated six different girls, the lengths of the relationship varying between four and seven months. The longest period Kit had spent single was barely a month. Jaime couldn’t help but wonder if he was too scared to be alone; if he was desperately looking for someone to call his own. He didn’t press this issue, though. He knew that Kit could never answer truthfully. Still, he hoped that whatever it was that his friend was missing – he would someday find.

Four weeks after his arrival to New York, it was time for Jaime to move to Nantes, France, where he had agreed to take a position.

“You’ll keep in touch, yeah?” Kit asked. He sounded a bit dejected, as if already fearing that Jaime wouldn’t want to.

“Of course I will,” Jaime promised. “I have your phone number. You know I’ll text you whenever I’m on the can.”

“I feel so special.”

Jaime pulled him into a hug. “Text me too, though.”

Kit smiled. “I will.”

They kept their promise. The second Jaime stepped in the Nantes institute, he took out his phone and texted Kit.

“Everyone here is hot as fuck, and I’m bi so they’re all in danger.”

To which Kit replied,

“Tell them they remind you of a pancake. I heard people like to be compared to desserts.”

Jaime chuckled and put his phone back in his pocket, then let the cute girl who was showing him around - Chloe Dubois, as she introduced herself - take him to his room.

“Would you like to grab drinks later?” Jaime asked her before she left.

“Oui,” she replied with an adorable French accent. “I’ll come get you around seven.”

 

Nantes, France, a year and a half ago

Jaime poured himself another drink and emptied the glass in two large gulps. He loved parties. The alcohol, the music, the people – oh, so many new people to charm.

He scanned the room, then stopped when his eyes met the most exquisite butt he had ever laid his eyes on. Said butt belonged to a girl with silky black hair and a tight red dress. Jaime did not waste another second.

“I’m Jaime, nice to meet you.” He gave her a smile. The kind of smile that made his dimples show and – statistically speaking – melted whomever it was aimed at.

“I’m Marianna,” the girl said dryly. “Marianna Dubois.”

Jaime squinted his eyes. Her last name was familiar, and so were her facial features… Oh, Jaime remembered now. Her sister –

Marianna threw her drink in his face.

“What –“

She slapped him for good measure, then turned on her heels and left.

Jaime cursed under his breath, using a cocktail napkin to dry his face, when he heard a low snicker. He turned around to see a tall man with copper hair and electric blue eyes smirking at him.

“Yes?” Jaime asked irritably.

The man gave him a haughty look. “You deserved that,” he said with an annoying posh accent.

Jaime was already on edge and this idiot was pushing him to a breaking point. “Listen here, buddy,” he hissed. “I don’t know who you are, but if –“

“Cameron.”

“What?”

“My name. It’s Cameron.”

Chapter Text

Kit finished his fourth glass of whisky. “What is wrong with me?” he mumbled miserably.

He and Jaime shared a high chipped wooden table, covered in their empty glasses and beer bottles. The music and the sounds of people laughing and talking around them was barely registered in his mind.

Jaime gave him an empathetic look. “I’ve known you for a long time –“

“No, you know what? There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s just throw the entire suitcase to the trash.”

“The suitcase… being you?”

“Yeah. Just throw me into the garbage can.”

“So dramatic.”

“Am I? Let’s recap,” Kit said angrily. “I haven’t seen Ty in eight years. Then, I punched him.”

“Yeah, that was –“

“Then I stole his tie. Then I stole his earring –“

“You do have a tendency to –“

“Then I got high on fairy ether, pinned him to a wall and bit his throat –“

“Wait, what?”

“Then I stole his gun –“

“Ty has a gun?!”

“Then I gained his trust, only to mess it all up by trying to take off his glove,” Kit finished. “Do you see the problem here?”

“I see a few, yes –“

“And the main one is, Ty probably thinks I’m absolutely deranged. And you know what? He’s right!” Kit yelled. “I am deranged! Look at me! What the hell is wrong with me?!”

“Woah, you’re spiraling,” Jaime said quickly. He lifted his hands in a placating gesture. “Have you considered that maybe he doesn’t think that you’re… um… insane?”

“No.”

“So, think about it for a second,” Jaime said. “I don’t know, maybe… if you tried telling him –“

“Absolutely not.”

Someone bumped into him, spilling some of his beer on his shirt.

“Damn it!” Kit grumbled.

Jaime handed him a napkin. “But you and Ty –“

“There is no me and Ty,” Kit said as he dried himself.

Jaime leaned back. “And there won’t be, if you keep this loser talk.”

“He’s not even looking for a serious relationship.”

Jaime’s grin turned feline.

“Don’t!” Kit said immediately.

“Are you saying that –“

“No!”

“That he can’t be –“

“Don’t.”

“That he can’t be Tyed down?” Jaime burst out laughing at his own joke.

Kit kicked his shin. “Your puns are terrible.”

“I beg to differ,” Jaime said, still grinning. “Seriously though, maybe he is looking for a relationship, you don’t –”

“He isn’t. He told me so. He’s not looking for a relationship, ever. He wants freedom.”

“Or maybe he says that, so you don’t worry about him being lonely?”

“He doesn’t even plan to stay in New York. He wants to leave in a few weeks.”

“Maybe if you gave him a reason to stay –“

“What reason? His weird friend that has an embarrassing crush on him?” Kit retorted. “It will only make him leave faster.”

“But maybe –“

“Will you stop it?” Kit snapped. “I’m not stupid enough to think I actually have a chance, so just let it go already.”

Jaime was quiet for a few moments. “You should get him blue roses,” he said quietly.

“What?” Kit gaped at him.

“Sometimes flowers can say more than words.”

“Wow, you’re completely wasted, aren’t you?”

Jaime ignored him. “Blue roses don’t exist in nature, so they symbolize unrequited love.”

Kit squinted his eyes. “Okay, first, you and I both know I’m not going to give Ty blue roses. Or any other type of flowers for that matter,” he said. “And second, why do you know that?”

Jaime averted his gaze. “Someone told me this. A long time ago.”

They remained quiet for a few long minutes, sipping their drinks in silence. Finally, Kit spoke again.

“Why are we only talking about me? Let’s talk about your love life.”

“You mean, my sex life,” Jaime corrected. “You know I don’t do love.”

“Until… now?”

“Nope. I don’t do serious relationships. Never have, never will.”

“I know you have feelings for Dru,” Kit said. “You nearly had me with the whole Ty-thing, but now I’m more sure than ever.”

Jaime began peeling the sticker off his beer bottle. “Why would you think that?” he asked quietly.

“Easy. You flirt with anyone except her.”

The corners of Jaime’s mouth were pulled down. “Okay.”

“That’s all you have to say?”

Jaime shrugged. “I’m not boyfriend material.”

“Who told you this bullshit?”

Jaime shrugged.

“You’re lecturing me about ‘loser talk’ and then you say this?” Kit scolded him.

Jaime gave him a faint smile. “I’m a hypocrite.”

“Listen to me.” Kit cupped Jaime’s face. He was properly tipsy now, and it made a lot of sense to do so. “You’re a great guy. Anyone would be lucky to have you.”

“You think so?”

“I know so,” Kit answered with confidence. “Now go get us another round. I want to be completely wasted so I don’t have to think about Ty anymore.”

“I’m going to,” Jaime said. “Not because I want you to black out, but because we need to celebrate your newfound sexual orientation.”

“I’m not… It’s just Ty,” Kit muttered. “I like Ty.”

“It sounds so adorable when you say that,” Jaime cooed.

“More whiskey!” Kit said angrily. “I need to drown my sorrows.”

Two hours later Kit was positive that about twenty percent of his bloodstream was composed of alcohol. Jaime pushed open the front door of the institute and Kit stumbled on a step and crushed into him.

“Ow! Why are you here?!”

“Shh!” Jaime shushed him. “You’ll wake up everyone!”

“I’ll what?” Kit asked slowly, his mind a haze.

The crossed the entrance and miraculously did not break any of the expensive vases that depicted battle scenes from the dark ages. They climbed the steps leading to the sleeping quarters and stumbled along the long corridor.

“Here you are!” a female voice said. “I was worried about you two!”

Kit turned around to see his beloved adopted sister.

“Dru!” he said with glee, before he remembered.

Don’t tell her your secret!

“What secret?” Dru lifted her eyebrows.

Kit gaped at her. “Wow, you read minds?”

“No, you just said that out loud,” Dru said, exasperated. “What secret?”

Don’t tell her that you might be gay!

“You’re gay?” She gaped at him.

Jaime collapsed to the floor. “Nice job, Kit.”

“Ah,” Dru exhaled. “You’re drunk!”

“Yes, we are, but listen to me.” Kit cupped her face and maintained eye contact. “The drunk is only temporary. The gay is forever.”

“The gay is forever!” Jaime yelled. He began clapping.

“Wait, so… you really are gay?” Dru seemed confused.

“Yes.” Kit nodded. “Or maybe I’m pan? Or bi? I don’t know… I like dudes.”

“You like dudes?”

“Well, I like one dude, so –“

“Kit! Your drunk is showing!” Jaime yelled.

Dru nodded sagely. “You like Jaime,” she said.

“Absolutely not!”

“Hey!” Jaime protested. “I’m a great guy.”

“I want to throw up,” Kit said. “Jaime, give me your shirt.”

Without questioning it, Jaime began unbuttoning his shirt. “I love you so much, man,” he whispered.

“I love you too,” Kit said. Tears were forming in the corners of his eyes.

“But I love you!” Jaime repeated.

Tears were streaming down Kit’s face. “You’re such a great friend.”

Jaime was crying now as well. “You’re so great. You deserve the best that life has to offer.”

“I do!” Kit sobbed.

“What’s going on?” A deep voice came behind Kit. It made him feel all warm and happy inside. He turned slowly to see Ty walking towards them, as beautiful as nightfall itself.

“Why is everyone crying?” Ty asked, alarmed.

“These two idiots got drunk and now they have realized how deep their bromance is,” Dru replied casually.

Jaime and Kit stopped crying.

“Hey, Kit, look,” Jaime said. “It’s little Tiberius Blackthorn.” He burst out laughing.

“Little Tiberius likes Japanese food,” Kit informed him gravely.

Ty just stared at him.

“Daaamn Ty! You’re fine. As. Hell.” Jaime said with appreciation. “I get why –“

“Hey guys, would you like to see me sing Britney’s Hit me baby one more time?” Kit asked excitedly. It seemed like a very good idea. “I also know the choreography.”

“Come on,” Dru steered him back to his room. “Let’s get you to bed. Ty – could you take care of Jaime?”

“Bye Jaime,” Kit yelled. “I miss you already.”

“I miss you too!” Jaime cried out.

Dru made him brush his teeth and wash his face before he collapsed on the bed.

“I like him,” he said tiredly.

“Yeah, you made it very clear that you and Jaime are platonically in love.”

“No, I meant Ty.”

“I’m sure he feels the same way. You’re good friends now.”

“Yeah,” Kit said sadly. “We’re friends.”

“What about Ash?” Dru asked suddenly. “Do you like Ash?”

Kit yawned. “Ash is… he’s…” He drifted to sleep and couldn’t remember anything more.

He would have slept for the entirety of the next day, had it not been for his second-in-command who barged into his room at eight o’clock and yelled at him to wake up.

“Ow!” Kit buried his face under his pillow. “Why are you always so loud in the mornings?!”

Tamara opened the curtains. “Get up. You’re needed in your office.”

“Why?” Kit lifted himself to a sitting position, rubbing his eyes. “Is it Whitestrider again? What did he do this time?”

Tamara shoved a glass of water into his hands. “Drink this. You look like crap.”

“I also feel like crap,” Kit said. “So, what did Whitestrider do?”

But Tamara had already left.

Kit forced himself to drink the entire glass, then cleaned up and left his room, trying to will his head to stop spinning. When he came closer to his office, however, he formed an alarming headache at the sound of the angry voiced coming from inside the room.

“What - the fuck – happened now,” he grumbled.

Obviously, Whitestrider, with his well-connected mommy, messed up again. Kit did not want to deal with him right now.

He opened the door reluctantly to find Ash, Dru, and Jaime, standing in front of a tall young man with copper hair and blue eyes.

“Hey,” Kit groaned. His head was killing him.

Jaime turned to him, his eyes dark. “Good, it’s Kit. He could clear up some things for us,” he said, his voice dangerously low.

“What –“

The door opened and Ty walked in, making Kit’s heart skip a beat. “Good morn –“ He stopped when he spotted the newcomer.

Cameron stared at him, wide-eyed, while Ty’s gray gaze scanned him, his expression calculating. Then Cameron shook his head so slightly the rest must have missed it; but not Kit.

Ty bowed his head slightly. “Cameron.”

Cameron looked relieved. “Ty.”

Clearly, they just had a wordless agreement. Kit made a mental note of asking Ty about it later, but then Jaime spoke.

“What is Assdown doing here?” he asked spitefully.

“His name is Ashdown,” Ty corrected quietly. “Not Assdown.”

“He knows that,” Cameron said.

“I don’t think I do.” Jaime squinted his eyes. “You look like an ass to me.”

“Okay, wow, can someone get me up to speed?” Dru asked, confused.

“Cameron is joining the New York institute,” Kit said. He glanced at Jaime to see him staring back in shock. He mouthed “what?” before continuing. “Cameron, meet Ash. Dru and Ty you already know and um… Jaime I assume you’re already acquainted with.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in the past, yes.” Cameron said.

“Oh, believe me, the pleasure was all mine,” Jaime, his voice dangerously low.

“How did you meet?” Ty asked innocently. He had clearly missed the sarcastic tone in Jaime’s voice. Kit found it endearing.

“At a party,” Jaime muttered in response.

“Jaime had just gotten a drink thrown in his face by some girl he wanted to hook up with,” Cameron contributed.

“And Cameron was being charming as he is and said I deserved it,” Jaime said venomously.

“That sounds… lovely,” Ash mumbled.

“It does?” Ty whispered to Kit. He looked adorably confused.

“No, he’s just being Ash,” Kit whispered back.

“And afterwards –“ Cameron began.

“There was no afterwards,” Jaime said quickly. “Now, you’ve been here long enough. Here’s the door. Fuck off and please don’t keep in touch.”

“Dru, could you please show Cameron to his room?” Kit asked quickly, before Cameron could reply and make things a hundred times worse.

“I’ll do it,” Ty volunteered.

He guided him outside and Kit turned to Ash and Dru. “Could you give us a minute?”

They left, and Kit sat down on the couch. He gestured for Jaime to join him.

“As your friend I vow to hate everyone you hate, you know that,” he said, echoing Jaime’s words from the day he first met Ty.

“Word,” Jaime replied angrily.

“But is that guy really that bad?”

Jaime’s jaw clenched. “Por el Ángel, keep talking and I swear to Raziel I’ll rip out your tongue.”

“He was the best applicant by far,” Kit said calmly. “He had excellent recommendations from his supervisors, he single handedly cleaned Shanghai from an infestation of Eidolon dem–“

“You made me hate Ty!” Jaime hissed. “And that guy is practically an angel sent from heaven. But did I ask too many questions? No! I was being a good friend. So, when I fucking tell you we hate Cameron Assdown, you be a good friend and hate him with me!”

“I hate him!” Kit said quickly. “God, I hate him so much, every time he starts talking, I want to cut off my ears just so I won’t have to listen to his stupid voice anymore!”

Jaime nodded in agreement. He didn’t say anything more, and Kit didn’t press him further. Still, Kit had no doubt that there was more to the story than what Jaime and Cameron had told them.

Chapter Text

Nantes, France, a year and a half ago

“My name,” the man said. “It’s Cameron.”

Jaime didn’t break his gaze from the stranger’s blue eyes. “Okay. Screw you, Cameron.”

“I’ll pass on the opportunity, thank you,” the tall man uttered the words with his posh accent. “But I will get you a drink, because you seem to really need one.”

Jaime didn’t object, and the stranger – Cameron, whatever – left.

Jaime leaned against a pillar and gazed outside at the gardens. A velvet black sky, covered with a million of tiny specks, stretched above beds of flowers created in geometrical shapes and laid out in symmetrical patterns. Fountains and cascades were built at the center of some of the planting beds, and to the right Jaime could see the entrance of a labyrinth, next to which stood a statue of Apollo. Jaime recognized the Roman god by his curly hair and the quiver suspended across his left shoulder.

“My favorites are Japanese gardens, but French formal gardens are quite nice as well.” He heard a male voice next to him.

He turned to see the same pair of blue eyes looking at him. Cameron handed him a champagne flute.

“Thanks,” Jaime muttered.

Cameron gave him a polite smile. He leaned against an opposite pillar and gazed outside. Jaime studied his profile; Cameron’s delicate features reminded him of the statues of Roman gods scattered around the gardens.

“I don’t even know what I’m doing here,” Cameron said. “I hate parties. I never know what to do with myself.”

“I think step one would be not to insult random strangers,” Jaime suggested.

Cameron chuckled. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

They stared through the window, drinking in silence. The sound of the music and the people laughing muted in Jaime’s mind as he looked at the symmetrical patterns of the flowers outside.

“Still,” Cameron said quietly. “I prefer the silence of the gardens.”

Jaime should have just finished his drink and left to find his friends, but something possessed him to say “then let’s go”.

“What?”

“Let’s go,” Jaime repeated. “Put down your drink, and let’s go star-gazing or whatever it is that loners like you like to do.”

He took Cameron’s glass and put it on a high table, then gestured at the door with his chin. “Come on.”

Unlike the stuffy air inside the ball room, the night air was delightfully chill. Jaime watched as Cameron took a deep breath, filling his lungs. When he looked at him, he realized that Cameron was rather attractive, with his delicate features and his sparkling blue eyes. He was taller and leaner than Jaime, with paler skin and copper hair.

“These gardens are built as a jardin à la française, based on symmetry and the principle of imposing order on nature,” Cameron said. “They’re designed to represent harmony, which was the ideal of the Renaissance. They’re also meant to recall the virtues of Ancient Rome, that’s why you can see so many statues of Roman gods.” He gestured at the statue of Apollo.

“So you’re a gardening nerd?” Jaime taunted him. “I wouldn’t have guessed so.”

“Yeah,” Cameron mumbled, embarrassed. “I guess it’s kind of nerdy, huh?”

“Interesting, though,” Jaime said quickly. “Tell me about these hedges,” he gestured. “And why the hell they’re shaped like clowns.”

Cameron broke into a detailed explanation of the practice of training perennial plants – whatever that meant - by clipping the foliage to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes, which apparently had cultural meaning. Even though Jaime only managed to grasp about a third of the information, he still listened attentively as they entered deeper into the garden. Gardening had never been a standard hobby for a Shadowhunter. Jaime had never met anyone who spent his time learning about plants, but he thought he heard about someone who did, once.

Cameron stopped when they reached a stone bench overlooking a fountain placed at the center of an ornamental design made with clipped hedges and roses, but instead of sitting on it, he chose to sit on the grass, leaning against the stone. Jaime sat down next to him and stared at the water lazily. For a while they sat in comfortable silence, the quiet only broken by the sound of the fountain.

“So, what did you do to that girl to make her throw a drink in your face?” Cameron finally asked.

Jaime squinted his eyes. “I thought you said I deserved it.”

“To spite you. I have no idea why she did that.”

“You’re horrible.”

“Thank you. So, what did you do?”

“A gentleman doesn’t flaunt his sexual prowess.”

Cameron raised an eyebrow. “Are you a gentleman?”

“No.”

“Thought so.”

“I made out with her sister.”

“Remind me not to introduce you to my sister,” Cameron said.

“You have a sister?” Jaime’s interest sparked. “What’s her name? Is she hot?”

“None of your business,” Cameron said. “Also, now I’m certain that you did deserve it.”

“It’s not my fault,” Jaime said defensively. “Her sister’s gorgeous, what was I to do?”

“Not make out with her? Or not hit on her sister after you did?”

“We only live once,” Jaime argued.

Cameron cocked his head to the side.

“No point in wasting time,” Jaime clarified.

Camron waved his hand dismissively. “This is all a waste of time for me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Love, relationships. It’s a waste of time.”

“While I do agree that relationships are a waste of time,” Jaime said. “I think our reasons of being devotees of this philosophy are different. See, I want to make the best out of life, and the best of life is not being tied down. But I don’t think it’s your reason as well, is it?”

Cameron was silent for a moment before answering. “No,” he said. He didn’t add anything else.

Jaime could sense that there was something deeper, but he decided to lighten the mood instead of dwelling on it. “Is it because your moves suck?”

“What?”

“You, being single,” Jaime clarified. “It’s not really a choice, is it? That’s your situation because your moves suck.”

“Hey!”

“You probably kiss like a grandma.”

“I don’t kiss like a grandma!” Cameron protested.

“I bet you do,” Jaime kept taunting him. “I bet you make people fall asleep in the middle of it.”

“I kiss better than you do!”

Jaime made a point of laughing out loud. “You wish.”

Cameron’s expression turned predatory. “We can test it,” he said in a low voice. “Unless you’re scared, of course.”

“Scared for you, because you’ll embarrass yourself.”

“It’s on,” Cameron said. “First one to make the other moan wins.”

“I’m not even going to break a sweat.” Jaime winked at him.

“Then by all means, let’s see you try.”

Jaime did not wait for a second invitation. He sat on Cameron’s lap facing him, his thighs on either side of his waist, and passed his fingers gently through Cameron’s hair, tangling copper strands between his fingers. He pressed their lips together, a slow, gentle motion. Cameron’s mouth tasted like peppermint, cool and warm at the same time, and Jaime swiped his tongue against his lips before moving on to kiss a trail on his neck, once hand still fisted in his hair, the other at the small of his back.

Cameron placed one hand at the nape of Jaime’s neck and caught his mouth again. Jaime had expected his kiss to be shy, but Cameron moved his hands to Jaime’s hips and deepened the kiss, opening his mouth under his and slipping his tongue into Jaime’s mouth. He ran his hands over Jaime’s back, swirling his tongue around Jaime’s, and suddenly the world had vanished around them and all that was left was Cameron’s touch.

Without meaning to, Jaime let out a small moan.

He froze, expecting Cameron to stop and celebrate his victory, but Cameron kissed his lips again in a feverish, needy gesture. Jaime closed his eyes, relishing on the feeling of Cameron’s lips pressed against his, and then Cameron pulled away only to grab Jaime’s t-shirt and pull it over his head. He threw in on the ground next to them and grazed his teeth over Jaime’s shoulder.

Jaime groaned, struggling to keep kissing Cameron as his hands moved to the buttons of his shirt. It was made of thick, tightly woven fabric, and looked like it cost more than Jaime’s entire wardrobe. He fumbled with the buttons for what seemed like an eternity until Cameron made an impatient sound, took a knife out of his pocket, and handed it to Jaime.

Jaime’s eyes widened. “You want me to –“

Cameron hummed. He passed a hand through Jaime’s hair, pulling the dark strands, as Jaime slashed his shirt.

“That was fun,” he said. “Could I –“

Cameron shrugged off his torn shirt and pushed Jaime on his back, pressing him to the ground with one hand, and mounted him. He began moving his hips against Jaime’s in a rhythmic motion and Jaime moaned shamelessly, digging his nails into Cameron’s back, the starry sky hanging above them like a painting.

“Fuck, you’re good,” he moaned.

“Don’t cum yet,” Cameron panted on top of him.

He got off him and Jaime leaned back, giving him room to wriggle his pants down. Cameron began stroking him, slowly at first, then increased the speed until Jaime let out a small whimper.

“Let go,” Cameron whispered.

Jaime did; he came in three long strokes then threw his head back, panting. Cameron cleaned himself with what remained of his shirt and gave Jaime a small smile, but before he could utter a word Jaime had already leaped on him, pushed his pants down and licked his tip. Cameron let out a moan that drove Jaime wild. He took him in his mouth and moved his tongue around on the underside of his cock while he sucked him, moving up-and-down.

“You’re amazing,” Cameron panted.

Jaime held the base of his cock in his hand while moving his lips back and forth over the ridge between the head and the shaft. He could feel Cameron trembling under him.

“I’m –“

Jaime hummed and took him deeper, and Cameron came, spilling into his mouth. Jaime licked him clean, then lay back next to him, still panting.

Under a sky of perfect midnight velvet, under stars so brilliant they looked like tiny specks of fairy lights, Cameron and Jaime lay side by side on the grass, catching their breath. The smell of the tall grass, mixed with the water from the fountain and Cameron’s scent which still stuck to Jaime’s hands, created an intoxicating perfume.

Jaime turned on his side to face Camron. “So, now that we’ve done that,” he purred. “Do you think we can tell each other our last names?”

Cameron’s heat had dissipated, leaving him adorably shy and flushed. “Yeah,” he mumbled.

“I’m Rosales,” Jaime volunteered.

“Ashdown.”

Jaime sat up so quickly he made himself dizzy. “You like gardening!” he yelled, pointing at Cameron.

Cameron sat up as well, looking slightly alarmed at Jaime’s change in disposition. “Y-Yes,” he said confused.

Jaime’s grin widened. “I can’t believe it!” He yelled. “You’re Paige Ashdown’s older, annoying brother!”

He fell back on the ground, laughing like mad.

Chapter Text

Kit had nearly finished the last report he had to fill for the day. He decided to take a short break; he lay back in his chair and picked up a random lock, then began playing with it, locking and unlocking it lazily. The fireplace was lit but the room still felt cold. Kit preferred having people over, but the rest were training - as they should be doing - and Kit had to finish his paperwork. He put the lock back down and picked up his pen again and resumed filling the report. Luckily no one messed up this week, so the work was not hard, just boring. Someone knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

He lifted his eyes to find Ty standing in front of him. How Kit had managed to repress the fact that Ty was this beautiful all those years was beyond him, but now that Jaime had made him realize that he had feelings for him – going back to ignoring it became impossible.

“Hey,” Ty said.

His deep voice sparked something from deep inside Kit; something that ached to crawl from the deepest parts of his soul, and Kit stared at him, unable to process coherent thoughts. Distantly, he realized that he might have been making Ty uncomfortable, but he couldn’t bring himself to utter a single word. How was Ty so… lovely? Worse - how was he not aware of that?

“I was just wondering if you had another case you needed help with,” Ty said quietly.

Kit snapped back to reality. “No, actually,” he said. “There are no open cases.”

Ty smiled. “That’s good.”

“Yes, it… it is.”

“Okay then. I’ll –“

“Wait!”

Ty looked at him questioningly.

“Don’t go,” Kit said quickly. “I was just about to take a break. Would you stay with me?”

Ty’s gray gaze scanned him, and Kit became self-conscious suddenly, hoping that his hair looked decent and that Ty didn’t catch the faint blush he was sure had appeared on his cheeks.

“Sure.” Ty finally said. He sat on the floor in front of the fireplace.

“Do you want something to eat?” Kit asked him. “I’ve got Japanese snacks in my safe.”

Ty’s eyes lit up. “Japanese snacks? How did you get them?”

“I have a snacks guy,” Kit replied casually.

He did have a snacks guy, which he had called right after Jaime had told him Ty liked Japanese food. Kit asked the guy to get him Japanese snacks, but the problem was he wasn’t sure which ones Ty liked, so he paid the guy two hundred dollars and asked him to get “all of them”.

“A snacks guy?” Ty repeated, looking intrigued.

“I have a guy for everything. I have a locks guy, and a snickers guy, and a snack guy. I even have a poodles guy in case I’ll ever want to adopt one of those.”

Ty laughed, and Kit forced himself to break his gaze because starting at him could not lead to any positive outcome. It would just make him fall for him harder.

“Do you have matcha-flavored Pocky?” Ty asked, a hopeful expression on his face.

Kit opened his safe and began looking frantically through the boxes, hoping that his snacks guy got him Pocky – whatever that was – in matcha flavor – whatever that meant. He exhaled with relief when he found a green box that read “Pocky” and right below “matcha”. It had a picture of some sort of green tea and green sticks.

“Of course I do,” he said casually, as if he always kept matcha-flavored Pokey in his safe. The smile on Ty’s face was worth every trouble Kit had went through to get that snack.

He sat on the carpet in front of the fire next to Ty, leaning against the coffee table, and handed him the box. Ty opened it and took out a biscuit stick coated in a some green layer that smelled somewhat herbal and bit into it.

Kit took one. The green layer turned out to be white chocolate flavored with matcha. It tasted a bit like sweet, aromatic leaves. “It’s pretty good,” he said.

“These are my favorites,” Ty said happily.

His words made it taste even better and Kit took another one. They sat in silence, eating biscuits; Ty stared at the fire and Kit stared at him, spellbound. Ty had replaced the silver hoops in his left ear by a single piercing composed of two hoops that passed through his earlobe, between which stretched a silver chain which ended on one side by a small half-cross. Kit stared at it; he had never seen something so mesmerizing in his entire life. He tried to take a bite out of his biscuit but missed his mouth at least three times; his mind could not comprehend Ty’s beauty, let along perform basic tasks when he was sitting there, looking like this.

Ty reached a gloved hand into the box and Kit stared at it for a second before he averted his gaze, ashamed.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

Ty lifted his gaze from the box, his brows furrowed. “What for?”

Kit swallowed. “For trying to take off your gloves,” he said quietly. “I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry. I won’t ever do that again. I promise.”

The corners of Ty’s mouth rose. “I believe you.”

He reached his hand into the box then took it out again, looking confused. “I was sure there was another one left.”

Kit gave him a smug smile and showed him the biscuit stick.

“When?” Ty gaped at him.

“Just now, when you said you believed me,” Kit said easily.

Ty’s expression was mournful.

“I’ll give it back to you if you answer a question,” Kit said smugly.

“And if I don’t answer?”

“I’m eating your last green stick.”

“Matcha-flavored Pocky,” Ty corrected. “And fine. It sounds like a fair proposition.”

Kit studied his face. There were millions of questions he wanted to ask Ty. He settled on a tame one. “Why did you get those piercings?”

Ty flushed slightly. “I thought it looked nice.”

Kit averted his gaze. “It does,” he said, trying to keep his tone casual. Ty’s piercings looked way more than nice. They were different and fascinating and on him they were… perfect.

“Can I have my Pocky now?” Ty asked.

Kit chuckled and handed him the biscuit.

Ty bit into it. “Now’s your turn to answer a question.”

Kit lifted an eyebrow. “We don’t have more biscuits left. How will you convince me to answer?”

Ty seemed to consider this. “What do you want?”

You.

The word almost slipped out; Kit closed his mouth at the last second. “I’ll answer your question if you answer another one of mine,” he said instead.

“Go ahead.” Ty finished the last Pocky lazily.

“Did I leave a mark?” Kit blurted out.

Ty looked puzzled. “What?”

“When I bit you, in the cave,” Kit said quickly, hoping to get it all out before he lost his courage. “Did I leave a mark on your neck?”

Ty was quiet for a moment, and Kit held his breath, waiting for the answer. A few long moments passed and Kit was starting to think that Ty won’t answer; that he’d just get up and leave. But then Ty spoke.

“You did,” he said quietly.

Kit’s heartrate shot up and frantic thoughts began racing through his mind. He had left a bitemark on Ty’s neck. It was bad. It was hot. It was wrong. It was… too much.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

Some crazed part of him wanted to ask Ty to see it. But he could never ask that; Ty would think that he lost his mind. Which was probably a little bit true; Kit did tend to lose all sense of rationality whenever Ty was involved. Not that it mattered anyway, because Ty obviously already healed the bitemark; why would he keep it?

Ty waved his hand dismissively. “My turn,” he said. “You had many girlfriends in the past.”

“Yes,” Kit said slowly.

“How did you convince so many girls to go out with you?”

Kit burst out laughing. “That’s your question? Really?”

“With your rate of success, you must have some tactic.”

“I do,” Kit admitted. “I make them laugh all evening, and then at some point I wear a solemn expression, take their hands, look at them, and say something romantic like ‘your eyes are mysterious like the stars’.”

Ty bit his lower lip, trying to hide a smile.

“What?” Kit asked defensively.

“That’s not romantic and also not true.” Ty said. “There’s nothing mysterious about the stars; we’ve known for more than a century that they’re astronomical objects which consist of luminous spheroids of plasma held together by their own gravity.”

It was the worst; every word that left Ty’s mouth just made Kit want him more.

Instead, he crossed his arms. “I’ll have you know that that pick-up line works wonders.”

“So you’ve never hit on a girl who had any basic knowledge of astrophysics.”

“I guess not.” Kit smiled. “I need to step up my game.”

“Why, are you looking for a new girlfriend again?” Ty asked quietly.

It was an honest question. A logical one, even, based on Kit’s past. Still, Ty’s words felt like a kick to the chest, making Kit lose his balance. That’s what Ty thought of him; that he was just a guy who’d switch girlfriends without thinking until he’d finally find someone willing to settle down with him. How to explain that he wasn’t trying to switch girlfriends; he was just trying to find… what, exactly? Love? Meaning? A family? Kit didn’t know anymore. All this time, he was looking for something. Desperate. Wretched. Miserable. But the thing was, ever since Ty came, this hopeless need to keep looking had almost died out. It was as if Ty had muted this angry voice inside Kit’s head that kept yelling that something was wrong.

But Ty was looking for something too, wasn’t he? He was searching for freedom. Kit glanced at him. He was going to leave soon; will that angry voice in Kit’s head come back the moment he left?

“I’m –“

The door opened with a loud bang and Dru barged in. “Kit, we need you in the training room,” she panted. “Now.”

Kit got up, cursing. “Is it Whitestrider again?” he grumbled. “I’m going to hang him. I don’t care what his mommy will –“

“It’s Jaime.”

Kit got up immediately and ran after her. As they got closer to the training room he began hearing people yelling. “What the –“

Dru opened the door and Kit saw half of the institute gathered in a circle.

“Move aside!” he commanded. “Out of my way!”

The Shadowhunters parted, letting him through, and Kit stopped when he reached the training mat.

On one side of the mat, Ash and Tamara were restraining Jaime with all the strength they could muster. On the other side, Cameron Ashdown was being held back by two other members of the institute.

“What. The hell. Happened,” Kit grunted.

Jaime stopped trying to fight Ash and Tamara but didn’t turn to look at him.

“Rosales, Ashdown. My office. Now.”

Dru and Ash led Jaime out of the room. Cameron waited a few moments before he followed them. Kit turned to Tamara. “Tell me what happened.”

Five minutes later, he opened the door to his office to find Cameron standing quietly in one side of the room, looking at his shoes, and Jaime, Dru and Ash on the other side, whispering.

“Dru, Ash,” Kit said.

Dru gave him a small nod, took Ash by his arm, and guided him outside. Kit turned to Jaime. “Sit down please.” Jaime took a seat in front of Kit’s desk. “You too, Ashdown,” Kit told Cameron, who immediately pulled the chair as far from Jaime as he could and sat down.

“So, you had a fight,” Kit said.

Both remained silent.

From what Tamara had told him, Jaime had leaped at Cameron, unprovoked, and nearly beheaded him. Kit was furious, absolutely livid, that Jaime should do something so stupid. The Clave had very strict rules against hurting other Shadowhunters. Mostly, nothing happened, because some internal “code of honor” prevented Shadowhunters from alerting the Clave unless a serious life-threat was imposed; but Cameron could well be scared for his life and in that case, he could submit a complaint.

“Rosales. Explain,” Kit said, trying to keep his voice from trembling.

Jaime remained frozen, his gaze focused on Kit’s desk.

“Eyewitnesses say you pulled out a sword and threatened to behead Ashdown,” Kit continued severely.

Jaime crossed his arms. “I would have punched him instead, but I didn’t want to dirty my hands.”

He was perfectly serious; Kit stared at him in shock. He had already gathered that the “party story” he and Cameron had told them was not the entire truth, but he couldn’t understand what Cameron could have done to make Jaime hate him so much. Jaime was not, by nature, a hateful person. There were people he liked less than others, but he never hated anyone. He had even managed to remain polite to Paige Ashdown after she had insulted his family. If it was Kit instead, he would have slapped her.

Kit took a deep breath before he began his next sentence. “Cameron can now submit an official complaint against you. It will be processes by the clave, and then you will be called for a hearing that –“

“I’m not submitting a complaint,” Cameron said immediately. Jaime kept his gaze fixed on the stack of paperwork on Kit’s desk.

Kit pursed his lips. “You have forty-eight hours to change your mind –“

“No,” Cameron said. “I’m not submitting a complaint.”

“Alright,” Kit exhaled in relief. He was truly worried that such a complaint would cause the Clave to send Jaime back to Mexico. “You may leave, then.”

Cameron didn’t get up. Instead, he turned to Jaime. “If –“

“Talk to me again, and I’ll finish the job,” Jaime said without lifting his eyes. His voice was so cold it sent shivers running down Kit’s spine.

He had known Jaime for years. He had seen him get angry. When he does, he lets his temper get the better of him, all red, hot anger, burning, consuming him for a short while, before he let everything out and calmed down again. But never had Kit seen this calm, almost calculated rage, in his eyes. He believed his words. He believed that if Cameron was to approach him again, he would lose his life.

“I need you to leave, Ashdown,” Kit said immediately, keeping his tone as professional as he could manage. “Now.”

Cameron got up and Kit could see that his hands were shaking. He opened the door and gave Jaime one last glance – which Jaime did not return – before he left the room.

Kit remained silent for a while, starting at Jaime, not knowing what to say. Jaime did not move, did not break his gaze from the stack of papers. He did not even blink. If Kit hadn’t seen his chest rise rhythmically as he breathed, he could have thought that he had a very realistic sculpture of his friend sitting in front of him.

Kit shifted in his chair. “So, you met him at a party.”

Jaime didn’t move.

“But that wasn’t the last time you two met, was it?”

Jaime’s gaze flickered to his hands and back to the stack of papers on Kit’s desk.

“According to his CV,” Kit continued. “Cameron spent four months in Nante, overlapping with your stay there.”

Jaime’s jaw clenched.

Kit leaned his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hands. “What could he have possibly done to make you hate him so much?” he asked.

But Jaime remained silent.

Chapter Text

Nantes, France, a year and a half ago

Other people might have been embarrassed to see the person they had a one-night stand with the next day at lunch. But not Jaime.

He got to the dining room and spotted the copper-haired man sitting alone at a table, going through his phone, and took a seat next to him. “What’s up?” he asked, a huge grin on his face.

Cameron looked slightly embarrassed. “Fine, thank you,” he said. His posh accent made Jaime smile. “How are you?”

“Terrible.” Jaime sighed dramatically. “I’m sick of eating bouillabaisse every single day.”

“I don’t like either,” Cameron mumbled.

“How about we go out and get some pizza instead?”

Cameron gave him an uncertain smile, as if not used to being approached by other people and asked to hang out. “Okay.”

Jaime took him to a small pizza shop and ordered two margheritas for himself. Cameron gaped at him.

“What?” Jaime pouted. “I’m hungry!”

“I didn’t say anything!” Cameron said quickly, then proceeded to order his own pizza.

The waitress left, and Cameron turned to Jaime. “Just to make sure,” he said, looking troubled. “You didn’t… You and my sister didn’t –“

“No!” Jaime yelled. “No, no, no, no, absolutely not!”

“Okay.” Cameron seemed to relax. “I had to make sure, you know, because you have a history of making out with people’s sisters –“

“You’re safe,” Jaime said immediately. “Don’t worry.”

Their pizzas arrived and to his absolute horror, Jaime found out that Cameron eats his pizza with a knife and a fork.

“Why. Just why,” Jaime asked, exasperated.

“I don’t like to dirty my hands!”

Jaime smirked. “You’re such a princess.”

“A princess who likes gardening,” Cameron said thoughtfully. “I would read that book.”

“I have a feeling you would read any book.”

“That’s a little bit true,” Cameron admitted.

Jaime took another bite, not bothering to swallow before he asked “so, what are you doing here in Nantes?”

Cameron carefully patted his mouth with his napkin. “I transferred here for four months, then my sister will be joining me and we’ll relocate to Shanghai.”

“Why Shanghai?” Jaime asked, curious.

“My sister has friends there, and she loves the culture.”

“And you?”

“I’m going to be with my sister.”

“Why?” Jaime asked, not caring that he was being tactless. “I hate being the one to break it to you, but she’s kind of… difficult.”

Cameron wasn’t fazed by Jaime’s remarked. “She has good and bad qualities, like everyone else.”

Jaime highly doubted that Paige had any good qualities, but he didn’t say so out loud.

“Last night was fun,” he said instead. “Your moves are not as bad as I thought they would be.”

“They’d be better if I had more practice,” Cameron mumbled. He then flushed immediately at the realization that he just said that out loud.

Jaime’s curiosity sparked. “How long has it been?”

Cameron pretended not to hear him.

“Aw, come on,” Jaime purred. “Tell me.”

Reluctantly, Cameron lifted three fingers.

Jaime rolled his eyes. “Three months without sex is not that bad, why are you making such a big deal out of it.”

Cameron stared down at his plate.

“Oh my FUCK!” Jaime choked. “You mean three years?”

Cameron nodded, embarrassed.

“Why? HOW?!” Jaime yelled.

“Shh!” Cameron shushed him, looking mortified. “People are looking at us!”

“Why?” Jaime asked again, making sure to lower his voice this time.

“I told you,” Cameron said. “I don’t like wasting my time on relationships or romance.”

“Yeah, relationships suck, but… sex!”

“I didn’t… want to do it with anyone.” Cameron flushed.

Jaime judged it best not to pressure Cameron to tell him why, and he didn’t ask why Cameron had decided to do it with him. He didn’t have to: clearly Cameron couldn’t resist his charm. No one could.

Instead, Jaime took out his phone only to find an angry message from his mother, demanding to know why his phone is off and if he’s lying dead in an ally somewhere.

“Damn it,” Jaime grumbled. He texted his mom back to let her know that everything is fine, and the call just didn’t go through.

“What?” Cameron asked.

“This piece of crap only works half of the time.” Jaime showed him his phone. “It was affected by dark magic while I was on a mission and now I miss half the texts I get, and only half the calls I make get through.”

Cameron stared at him. “Of course it was affected, it’s a mundane cell phone,” he said slowly. “You should get one that’s dark-magic protected.”

Jaime snorted. “I will,” he said. “When I have that kind of money lying around. You know those are expensive as hell.”

Cameron looked confused. “If you don’t have the money, why don’t you simply ask your parents to send you some?”

Coming from anyone else, that kind of question would have sparked Jaime’s temper. But coming from Cameron it truly was innocent. Jaime knew that he didn’t mean to offend him; it was just that Cameron was a bit spoiled. Never in his life had he known the meaning of the word “no” since his parents had the means to buy him and his sister anything they had ever wanted.

“Because they don’t have the money either,” Jaime told him.

Cameron flushed deep red. “Oh, I’m… um… I –“

“Let’s go,” Jaime said, aiming to minimize Cameron’s embarrassment.

Conversation flew easily between them until they reached the institute. They walked along the corridor dedicated to the Shadowhunters bedroom and Cameron stopped in front of one of the doors.

“So, that’s, um… that’s my room,” Cameron mumbled. He opened the door and gestured with his hand, as if exhibiting a piece of art.

“Is this your awkward way of inviting me in?” Jaime smirked.

“I… um… I think so, yes.”

“Good.” Jaime walked past him and Cameron closed the door behind them.

Jaime turned back and immediately wrapped his arms around Cameron’s neck and kissed him forcefully, mouths sliding open and wet. He pulled away first, but didn’t get far, making Cameron chase after his mouth for another kiss. He took off Cameron’s shirt, then his own.

“Bed,” Cameron panted.

Jaime let him push him onto the bed and help him slide out of his jeans. Cameron’s eyes were locked on him, looking at him with the same focus of a tiger about to jump on his pray. Then he lifted his hand to his zipper and Jaime stopped thinking about anything at all as Cameron tugged it, revealing the sharp lines of his pelvis and his dark blue boxers.

He came lying on the bed next to him and passed his fingers over Jaime’s rune-covered chest. “You’re so hot,” he breathed.

“I know,” Jaime said, all smirks.

He climbed on top of him, pushing him flat against the bed with one hand to hold him there, then leaned down to kiss him, his other hand sneaking down to fit itself over Cameron’s erection. He stoked him slowly, feeling the shift of Cameron’s hips pressing up against him.

“You can do me,” Jaime murmured in his ear.

Cameron opened his mouth, then closed it again.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Jaime said easily. “Get us lube and tissues, will you darling?”

He rolled off him and Cameron got up. Jaime made an appreciative sound at the sight of his ass, then smiled as the back of Cameron’s neck flushed.

Cameron came back from the bathroom a moment later and Jaime took the lube from his hand. “Watch me,” he whispered.

He coated two fingers with lube and laid back against Cameron’s fluffy pillows. He smirked as Cameron watched him work himself open, looking mystified.

“You like that?” Jaime asked smugly.

Cameron nodded, unable to speak.

Jaime cleaned his hand with a tissue then positioned himself on his hands and knees. “Come here. I want you inside me.”

Cameron snapped out of his dazed stated. He kneeled behind Jaime and passed his hands from Jaime’s shoulders down along his back, then grabbed his hips and pushed into him.

Jaime let out a small moan as Cameron’s tip penetrated him. Slowly, Cameron pushed deeper, and Jaime clutched one of his pillows, stifling another moan. When Cameron was fully inside him, Jaime let out a small whimper.

“Is that okay?” Cameron asked gently.

Jaime nodded. “More,” he groaned.

Cameron began moving inside him in a slow, rhythmic motion.

“Harder!” Jaime moaned.

“I don’t – I don’t want to hurt you.”

“We’re Shadowhunters, we’ve got Irazes for that,” Jaime panted. “Now fuck me harder, I want to feel it tomorrow.

“Are you –“

“Harder!”

Cameron tightened his hold on Jaime’s hips and slammed into him. Jaime let out a small cry of pleasure, and Cameron pulled out and pushed into him faster and deeper, again and again, until Jaime’s knees were shaking and his heartbeat was so fast it almost hurt.

Cameron must have sensed his need, because one of his hands found itself around Jaime’s cock and he began stroking him, still fucking him from behind.

The bundle of nerves that had built up in Jaime’s stomach released and he came on Cameron’s mattress, whimpering.

Cameron stopped moving and passed a soothing hand over Jaime’s back.

“You can cum inside me,” Jaime panted.

Cameron leaned in and kissed his shoulder, then resumed his rhythmic motion, gentler this time, until he came inside Jaime with a low moan. He pulled out and crashed next to him.

Jaime cleaned himself then pushed Cameron aside. “Make room for me. This side of the bed’s dirty,” he complained.

Cameron let out a low chuckle before he moved aside, making room for Jaime to lie next to him. He pulled the duvet over them.

“That’s not a standard Clave-issued duvet,” Jaime said sleepily. “It’s much nicer.”

“Duck feathers,” Cameron mumbled.

They fell asleep lying next to each other, and when Jaime opened his eyes again the sun had already set. He took a few minutes to fully awake, before he got up put his clothes back on. He smirked when saw that Cameron had woken up and was watching him get dressed with clear interest.

Jaime crossed the room and put his hand on the doorknob, before turning back around. “That was fun.”

Cameron nodded, and Jaime winked at him and left.

The next day he found Cameron at lunch and placed his tray in front of him casually.

“Hey,” Cameron lifted his eyes from his food an gave him a small smile.

“Hey,” Jaime replied easily.

“People are talking to me,” Cameron said, looking slightly overwhelmed. “I was training today, and then two guys started giving me tips and some girl asked me to practice hand-on-hand combat with her.”

“Okay?”

“Why?” Cameron asked. “I don’t understand. No one ever comes to talk to me so much.”

“They saw us eating lunch together yesterday, so they made the mistake of thinking that you’re cool.”

“I am cool.”

“Of course you are!” Jaime said with exaggerated kindness. “Anyway, I’ve got a surprise for you.” He gave him a feline smile.

“Oh no.” Cameron looked distressed. “What did you do?”

He got his answer when the head of the institute, a middle-aged woman named Nina, came to their table.

“Hello, Cameron,” she said with her thick French accent. “How are you adjusting?”

“Very well, thank you.” Cameron answered politely.

“And how do you like Nante?”

“It’s a beautiful city, I like it a lot.”

“Mais bien sûr qu'il aime Nante. It’s where I am,” Jaime smirked.

Nina grinned at him; Jaime’s charm had always worked on her. She then turned back to Cameron. “Jaime told me that you like gardening.”

“I do,” Cameron confirmed. He sent a suspicious glance at Jaime’s direction. Jaime gave him back an angelic smile.

“Wonderful!” Nina said happily. “Our medicinal herbal garden has suffered a lot of damage this winter. I will give you a list of the required herbs, could you please replant them all?”

“Yes, of cour –“

But Nina had already left. Jaime looked at Cameron, a huge grin on his face.

“If you think it bothers me, then you’re just going to be disappointed,” Cameron said. “I really do love gardening.”

And so, the next morning, Jaime made himself a mojito and sat in a comfortable lawn chair in front of the herbal garden. He even brought a book in case he’d get tired of seeing Cameron work.

“So you’re just going to watch me work?” Cameron lifted an eyebrow.

“Why yes, my lord,” Jaime said, mimicking Cameron’s posh accent.

Cameron tried to hide his smile, but Jaime could see how the corners of his mouth rose. He took a sip of his mojito and laid back.

Cameron mixed garden compost into the soil and began planting herbs he took from his wheelbarrow. He worked in silence, planting each of the herbs with gentleness and care. An hour later, he had finished planting half of the contents of his wheelbarrow, and Jaime still hadn’t opened his book. Watching Cameron was soothing and oddly exciting at the same time.

“What are you planting?” Jaime finally asked.

Cameron took out a water bottle and Jaime stared, fascinated, at the way his Adam’s apple bobbed as he drank. “Salvia officinalis.”

“What’s that?”

“Sage.”

“Couldn’t you have just said Sage, you nerd?”

“That’s not the proper name,” Cameron protested. “Anyway, under the right conditions, Sage can cleanse the body of certain types of poison.”

Jaime watched him with growing interest over the next twenty minutes until finally he broke down and got up to join him.

“You need my help,” he stated, even though Cameron seemed perfectly capable of working alone.

Cameron didn’t protest, however. “Here, you can plant this.” He handed him a plant. “Just make sure to dig the hole deep enough.”

They worked in silence for a while, and Jaime found that it was actually kind of soothing. He glanced at Cameron; he seemed serene like Jaime could never be.

“Why do you like plants so much?” he asked, genuinely interested.

“A number of reasons,” Cameron answered. “First, they’re useful.”

“For treating poisoning and different types of wounds that runes can’t heal,” Jaime said, a bit proud of himself for knowing that.

Cameron nodded. “Also, they make sense. Each plant has a definite set of requirements, and I know that if I follow them, it will grow healthy.”

“Unlike people, who can be unpredictable.”

A faint blush appeared on Cameron’s cheeks, but he still nodded.

“What else?” Jaime asked.

Cameron averted his gaze. “You can use them to say things you can’t express with words.”

“Such as?”

“Giving someone flowers, for example, can mean a variety of things, depending on the type,” Cameron said. “Alstroemeria is a flower you would give to a good friend, because they symbolize friendship. Gladiolus flowers signify remembrance. Calla Lilies represent purity, that’s why they’re often used in wedding bouquets.” He stopped, looking embarrassed. “You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?”

“No! Tell me another one.”

Cameron seemed happy to do so. His face lit up, making Jaime feel warm inside. “Blue roses cannot be achieved naturally so they represent the unattainable or the mysterious,” Cameron said. “They say ‘I can't have you, but I can't stop thinking about you’”.

“Your flower language is pretty cool. I’ll keep it in mind next time I want to tell someone something important.”

Cameron smiled. The sun reflected in his hair, making it look like it was made of thin filaments of copper; almost unreal. He returned to his work, and Jaime did the same. They worked in silence for a while; but unlike other instances Jaime remembered being silent with other people, it was a comfortable silence. A pleasant calmness.

“Waste it on me,” Jaime heard himself say.

“What?” Cameron turned to him.

“You say love is just a waste of your time. Waste your time on me instead; I’m not looking for love or a relationship either.”

Cameron studied him for a few moments, as if trying to figure out if Jaime had meant that for real. Finally, he gave him a hesitant smile. “Okay,” he said.

Jaime grinned; wasting four months with Cameron was going to be fun.

Chapter Text

“We need to find a new hobby,” Dru said before she surged forward again.

She and Ash were in the middle of a heated sword fight. Dru was winning easily, but she didn’t mind. Dueling with Ash was inexplicably exciting, even though the future outcome was already known.

“You don’t think Kit will lift the ban?” Ash panted.

Ever since they had forgotten their lemon tart in the over and nearly set the whole institute on fire, the – very angry – head of the institute had banned them from the kitchen until further notice.

“Kit was very upset,” Dru said. “Also, he doesn’t have a girlfriend to occupy his mind, so I don’t think he’ll forget easily.”

Ash took a step back, trying to put some distance between him and Dru’s blade. “I can’t leave the institute,” he said sadly.

“It’s only temporary,” Dru said. She leaped forward, purposefully slowly, to give Ash the opportunity to dodge her attack. “Kit doesn’t think that you should leave the institute now because the Queen’s soldiers might be looking for you. But in a few months they will declare you officially dead, and you’ll be free to go.”

“Yay. I can’t wait to be dead.”

Dru chuckled. “In the meantime,” she surged forward again, “we can learn to play the pan flute.” Her blade grazed Ash’s shoulder. “Or how to knit.” Ash blocked another one of her blows. “Or how to make origami.” She backed Ash against the wall.

Ash tried to block another one of her blows but failed, and Dru disarmed him. She held her sword to his throat.

“What’s origami?” Ash asked, unbothered by the blade that threatened to puncture his skin.

Dru lowered her sword. “It’s a Japanese art of paper folding.”

“Paper folding?”

“Yes. Basically, you take colorful pieces of papers and fold them into shapes of animals and flowers and such.”

Ash’s eyes lit up. “That. Let’s do that.”

For a moment, Dru remained frozen in place, unable to take her eyes off him. Ash was not like anyone – not like anything – she had ever seen. With his golden hair and large emerald eyes, his full pink lips, and his defined cheekbones, Ash looked almost inhuman. To Dru he looked like a prince who lost his way and ended up in the wrong fairy tale.

Her gaze flickered to his lips. She wondered how they would feel, pressed against hers. Had it not been for the lemon tarte in the over, would Ash have kissed her? Should she -

The door opened with a large bang and Jaime marched in, his lips narrow and his eyes hooded. He headed straight to the punching bag and began striking it with his fists with all the force he could muster, which admittedly was a lot.

“I think you should talk to him,” Ash said quietly. “Kit scolded him after he had the fight with the new guy and he’s still upset.”

Dru nodded.

“I’ll wait for you in the library,” Ash told her.

Dru walked over to Jaime, careful to keep a safe distance. “How – how are you?”

“Mar-ve-lous,” Jaime panted. He let punctuated each syllable with another punch.

Dru was not leaving without an answer. “Did something happen?”

Jaime stopped punching the bag and turned to her. “I was just painfully reminded of how I lost my favorite shirt in a fire.”

He turned back to the bag and punched it again, sending the bag flying back. Dru knew him well enough to ask her next question.

“Was it an intentional fire?”

The corners of Jaime’s mouth were pulled down. “Might have been,” he muttered.

Dru tried to form her next question as gently as she could.

“Jaime, that person we talked about. The one who –“

“Yes.” Jaime said irritably.

“It’s –“

“Yes.”

Dru’s heart clenched painfully. She hated to see him like this. Usually he was the center of attention, all smirks and laughter. But ever since Cameron came to New York he became an angry and sad shell of his old self.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked quietly.

Jaime stopped punching the bag. “Thank you,” he mumbled. “But I’m not… I can’t. Not yet.”

Dru put a soothing hand on his shoulder. “I understand. But if you ever change your mind…”

“Thank you,” Jaime gave her a strained smile that almost made him look like his old self again. “I just… I need to be alone. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize to me,” Dru said. “And don’t you dare not come talk to me if you ever need to.”

Jaime nodded, and Dru gave him one last smile before she turned around and left, the sound of him punching the bag echoing behind her.

She found Ash in the library sitting at one of the desks, a stack of papers next to him and his phone resting in front of him against a book. His blond hair was messy, straight strands of gold overlapping each other and creating mesmerizing chaos. He turned to her.

“How’s Jaime?”

She took sat next to him. “He didn’t want to talk.”

“I’m sure he will, eventually,” Ash said soothingly. “Just give him time.”

“Yeah.” Dru said, not entirely convinced.

“After all, you’re his friendliest friend.” Ash smiled at her.

Dru chuckled, and she managed to see the way Ash’s smile grew wider before he averted his gaze.

“Do you want to try folding a paper crane with me?” he asked.

Dru took a paper. “Sure.”

They followed the instructions on Ash’s phone and Dru soon found out that nothing in her Shadowhunter training had ever prepared her for such a challenge.

“What the hell!” she exclaimed after half an hour. “How are you so good?!”

In front of Ash sat a pile of perfect little paper birds. Dru’s pile, however, was composed of shapeless, crumpled pieces of paper.

“I’m not, I just follow the instructions,” Ash replied quietly.

“I do too! Why doesn’t my crane appear?”

Ash studied the paper in her hands. “I think you missed the petal fold.”

“The what?”

“You need to lift the upper layer, here.“ He reached his hand to take the piece of paper from her, and his fingers touched hers for a brief moment. The touch sent a jolt of electricity running through her body. Did Ash feel it too?

He made the fold, more delicate than Dru could have ever hoped to be, and gave her the paper back. “Now you need to do the backward fold.”

“Show me.”

Ash proceeded the backward fold, then folded the bird’s face and feet and finally its wings. He handed Dru the finished crane.

Dru picked it up and studied it with admiration. “Look at my paper crane,” she said with glee. “It’s so pretty.”

Ash opened his mouth to say something, but quickly closed it again.

“What?” Dru hugged her paper crane close to her heart.

The corners of Ash’s mouth rose. “Nothing, I just… I like it when you smile.”

Dru didn’t know what it was, but something about Ash just made her feel protective of him. Her temper sparked immediately. “Why? Are you not used to people smiling? Is it because your fairy tutors were so cruel? Do you want me to find them and –“

“No! No,” Ash said quickly. “I like it when you smile because you’re you.”

Dru’s anger faded, replaced by a strange new sensation of warmth and nervousness and… vulnerability. It was odd. In her twenty-one years of Shadowhunter life she had faced countless threats. She had been ambushed and attacked and stabbed and bitten by every type of demon imaginable. She had been mocked and humiliated by men who wouldn’t accept a girl as an equal. But no demon or man had ever made her feel so defenseless. In the best way possible.

Ash turned back to his stack of papers. “Okay, now I’m going to fold something else for you. But don’t look, it’s a surprise.”

Dru grinned. “Fine, then I’m making you a surprise too.”

She took a paper and sat at another table. Five minutes later, Ash stood up. His hands were hidden behind his back.

“Ready?”

Dru got up and came to face him, holding her hands behind her back as well. She looked up at him; his green eyes were fixed on hers.

“You go first,” she said.

Ash took his hand out from behind his back and opened it. On his palm sat a perfect little flower made of paper.

“It’s a Kusudama flower,” he said quietly.

Dru took it with her free hand, careful not to ruin it.  “It’s beautiful,” she said admiringly.

“Thank you,” Ash mumbled. A faint blush appeared on his cheeks; Dru forced herself to stop staring.

“My turn,” she declared. She reached her hand to him and showed him the paper she had crumpled into a ball.

Ash stared at it.

“It’s a paper wracking ball,” Dru said proudly.

They glanced at each other and burst out laughing. Ash gasped for air and Dru leaned on him for support, her abs hurting. They couldn’t speak for a few long moments, choking with laughter, until finally Dru managed to take a deep breath only to realize how close she was to him. He stopped laughing too, then, and pulled her closer and wrapped his arms around her and suddenly she was surrounded by his warmth and the smell of his shampoo.

“I don’t know how you do it,” he whispered, “but when I’m with you I’m just… happy. All the time.”

Dru looked up at him. “I’m happy when I’m with you too.”

Ash bowed his head slightly, bringing their faces closer together, and passed the back of his fingers over her cheek. They were so close, just one more inch and he would close the gap and their lips would be pressed together.

“Dru,” he whispered. It was a question, and she knew the answer. She placed her hand at the nape of his neck, pulling gently.

“Wait,” Ash panted. “I can’t.”

Dru pulled away abruptly. “I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I’m –“

“No, don’t –“

“I didn’t –“

“It’s not fair to you,” Ash blurted out. “I can’t let you – I can’t – “ His voice broke. “You might not want me, and I can’t let you… I can’t lie to you.” He took a deep breath. “I’m not what you think I am. I’m a monster.”

Dru squeezed his hand. “We’ve all done things –“

“No. I’m not… I’m not human –“

“You’re... not human.” The words didn’t make sense. But… did it even matter? Even if Ash was a downworlder, what difference did it make? “I don’t know what you are, and I don’t care,” she said stubbornly.

Ash pulled her closer to him and hugged her tight. “There’s something you need to see,” he whispered in her ear. “Before you decide that you don’t care.”

Dru nodded.

“Not here. Let’s go to my room.”

They walked the corridors in silence. Dru kept sneaking glances at him, but Ash’s expression remained blank. Finally, the reached his room and he opened the door for her.

Dru’s heart pinched at the sight of the bare walls and desk. Ash came to the institute with nothing but an old travelling cloak. Everything in his room used to belong to other Shadowhunters. Ash closed the door and Dru turned to look at him; the t-shirt he was wearing used to belong to Jaime, and his jeans used to be Kit’s. Both were slightly too big on him.

Ash remained quiet, and Dru didn’t dare to speak either. What did he want to show her? There was nothing in this room.

Ash crossed the room and came to stand in front of the window. He closed the blinds just enough so an outsider wouldn’t be able to peek inside, yet still keeping the room well lit.

“Just a precaution,” he mumbled.

Dru lifted an eyebrow. “If you plan to have a rematch, I should warn you that I went easy on you before. I can beat you much faster than that.”

Ash didn’t laugh; his expression remained strained. “Could I ask you for something?”

“Of course,” Dru said softly.

Ash took a deep breath. “I like you,” he said quietly. Dru’s heart skipped a beat. “A lot. And I… I’ve never felt that way about anyone.”

Dru’s heartbeat quickened. She wanted to tell him that she felt the same way; she wanted to reach her hand to touch him. But Ash didn’t seem to want that right now.

“I’m not deluding myself that you’ll want me… after I show you…” he continued. “But please don’t run away from me. I can’t… I can’t do any of it without you.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Dru replied.

“You don’t –“

“No, I don’t know yet, and I don’t care. I’m not going anywhere. So show me whatever it is that you want to show me and I’ll prove it to you.”

Ash took a deep breath, as if mustering his courage, then grabbed the hem of his t-shirt. Slowly, he pulled it over his head and threw it on the floor.

Dru stared at him. His chest was covered with runes and sculpted like a Michelangelo statue. Her gaze traveled down to his abs and his pronounced hip bones. She swallowed.

“Is that what you wanted to show me?” she managed to utter.

“No. This is.”

For a second Dru thought he was messing with her, because he just stood in front of her looking ridiculously attractive. And then, as if taken straight out of a dream, shadows creeped from behind him and Dru stifled a cry as massive, black, wings spread from Ash’s back. Their structure looked like a bat’s wing, the rays of sun entering through the window behind him let Dru see the bones and the membrane that stretched between them.

“It’s caused by traces of fae blood. Kit and Ty already know,” Ash said quietly. “They saw it when we were in Rome.”

She stared at him in shock. Her Shadowhunter life had prepared her for awful, gruesome sights. But not… this.

“Do you see now?” Ash asked, sounding pained. “Do you see the monster in front of you?”

Dru took a step towards him. “I don’t see a monster. I see you.”

Ash took a step back. “I’m sickening.” He tried to take another step back but his wings hit the window.

Dru took another step towards him. “No,” she said. She came to stand in front of him, not breaking her gaze. “You’re not.”

Ash shook his head. “You don’t have to lie to me.” He seemed ready to burst into tears.

Dru reached her hand to touch his cheek. “I’m not,” she whispered. “You’re beautiful.”

She put her hand under his chin and gently made him look up. His green gaze focused on her and his lips were slightly parted.

“Can I ...?” she asked, moving her hand from his chin to his chest, then to his shoulder.

Ash nodded, and Dru reached her hand to touch his left wing. It felt smooth under her fingers. She ran them along the bone, and down along the thin membrane. Ash’s breathing quickened; Dru could tell by the way his chest rose faster in a rhythmic motion.

“You’re beautiful,” she whispered again.

She lifted her gaze to him, and Ash cupped her face with his hand gently, as if holding a delicate flower, and kissed her lips.

Chapter Text

Kit had never seen Jaime so ill-humored. Usually he was the center of attention; talking, laughing, and flirting with everyone. Kit always thought of him as a flame, drawing everyone around him to his warmth. He had never seen anyone able to resist Jaime’s charms; he had never seen anyone who had met Jaime and didn’t become his friend instantly. The only exception had been Paige Ashdown, but Kit hardly considered her a human being anyway.

But ever since Cameron came to New York, it was as if Jaime’s fire had been extinguished and all that was left were cold ashes. Kit was starting to think that he might have made a huge mistake in accepting Cameron’s transfer, but he had no idea why. Cameron had clearly insulted Jaime in some way. Based on Paige’s words from when she first met him, Kit deduced that Cameron’s insult must have been related to the Rosales financial situation, which was surprising since Kit generally thought of Cameron as being more sensible that his sister. Still, Jaime’s reaction was a bit extreme, even when judged by Kit’s standards.

There was also the question of Cameron and Ty’s little agreement. Why did Cameron seem so nervous when Ty had entered the room? Why did he shake his head when he saw him? What did Ty agree to? Kit hoped that he and Cameron would reveal their secret themselves, but it hadn’t happened yet, and Jaime was withering in front of his eyes. While Kit was certain that the main reason for his melancholy was that he had feelings for Dru and was too scared to do something about it because he had never been in a serious relationship before, he was sure that Cameron’s presence - bringing with it the reminder that he had so much more money that Jaime did - certainly didn’t help cheer him up. Kit had half a mind to grab Jaime by the collar of his shirt, yell at him that Cameron’s money did not make him someone of value, then throw him in Dru’s arms and declare them an official couple in God’s eyes.

He sat in his office, planning to do so, when someone knocked on the door. Kit’s heartbeat quickened; he had learned to recognize Ty’s knock.

“Come in.”

As much as he had tried to mentally prepare himself for the sight of him, the moment Ty entered the room the breath rushed out of Kit’s lungs. Ty was wearing a navy-blue suit, under which he wore a high-collared white shirt completed with a gray tie. His hair was messy, inky black strands overlapping each other, falling on his eyes. He changed his piercings again; on his right ear he still had a single silver hoop, and on his left ear he wore a silver hoop higher up, but the lower piercing was replaced by a larger hoop from which dangled a silver chain which ended by a silver bar.

Kit gaped at him. Was he doing it on purpose? How was he not aware of his power?

“You called for me,” Ty said quietly, clearly oblivious, as always to how much he was making Kit suffer.

Somehow, Kit managed to speak. “I have a case for you.”

Ty took a seat in front of his desk and Kit leaned back on his chair, aiming to keep as much distance between them as possible. He prayed silently that this stupid crush would die out already, before it had a chance to affect their friendship.

He took out a thick file and pushed in towards Ty. “Autopsy reports from the last few months. I think they might be related, but I don’t understand who – or what – is behind them.”

“I’ll take a look.”

“Thank you.”

“Anything else?”

You. Just you. Please stay. Damn it, Kit was losing it again.

“Kit?” Ty sounded slightly concerned. “You’re drifting off a lot lately. Do you get enough sleep?”

Did Kit get enough sleep lately? He wasn’t sure, actually. With Ty being here, and the pressure of acting as the head of the institute, the moon was howling, screaming at night, and it took ages until Kit fell asleep.

“You might need a break,” Ty said gently. “I think you work too much.”

Kit stared at him; he did bury himself in his work lately to avoid thinking about Ty. “Y-yeah. Break,” he mumbled. Fuck, he wished this pathetic crush would go away already.

“Great.” Ty got up. He walked across the room, graceful as a cat, and sat down on the large sofa under Kit’s stolen oil painting of the cheat with the Ace of diamonds. “Come here.”

“Come… what?”

Ty took off his shoes and pulled his feet under him. “Come here. You’re taking a break.”

Kit got up obediently, as if under a trance. He took off his shoes as well and sat on the sofa, facing Ty. “What… what are we doing?”

Ty picked up the pack of cards Kit had left on the coffee table. “We could play a card game. You love those.”

Kit snapped out of his dazed state. He did love card games. He took the deck from Ty’s hands and began shuffling it. It was as if the cards came alive in his hands; moving so fast they would look like a blur to anyone but Kit.

“We could play Blackjack.”

“Is it the game in which we draw cards, aiming to get close to twenty-one, without going over?” Ty asked.

Kit gave him a half-nod. “The true object of Blackjack is to beat the dealer by getting closer than he does. Keeping that in mind helps you form a strategy.”

Ty smiled. “Okay, let’s play that.”

Kit shuffled the cards in running cuts. “Do you want to deal?”

“No, you can do it.”

Kit raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure about that?”

“I am.”

“Your choice. What are we betting on?”

“Answers.” Ty said. “Each time someone loses, he has to answer the other’s question.”

Kit smirked. “Okay.”

Given the role of a dealer, Kit could control any game. He shuffled the cards again and dealt the first set of cards, placing two cards in front of Ty, then an open ten of clubs and another facedown card in front of himself. Ty picked up his cards and glanced at what Kit knew to be a five of diamonds and seven of spades.

“I’m drawing,” he said.

Kit handed him another card which he knew to be a King of hearts. “Do you draw again?”

Ty revealed the King of hearts. “I went over.”

Kit revealed his facedown card, which he already knew to be an Ace. “Dealer has twenty-one, so I get to ask you a question.” He said. “When Cameron first came here, I saw him shake his head at you, as if asking you not to talk about something. Is this true?”

“It is.”

Kit dealt the cards again. He gave Ty a Jack and a three. “Do you want to draw?”

“No.”

He revealed his facedown card. “Dealer has eighteen,” he said.

“Thirteen.”

“Next question. Do you know why Jaime hates Cameron so much?”

“I do.”

Kit dealt the cards again. Ty drew a card.

Kit revealed his facedown card. “Dealer has nineteen.”

“I went over.”

“Does Jaime hate him because Cameron insulted his family?”

“It’s is not my secret to tell.”

Kit dealt the cards and Ty lost again.

“When did Cameron get the chance to tell you what happened between him and Jaime?” Kit asked.

“Not my secret to tell either.”

They played another round and Ty lost again.

Kit took a deep breath before asking his next question. “Do you think I made a mistake by accepting Cameron’s transfer?” he asked quietly.

“No.”

Kit dealt and Ty lost again.

“Why not?” Kit asked him.

“Because you had no way of knowing what had happened between them, and because I think it’s good for Jaime that Cameron’s here. He needs to confront him, whatever the outcome of this confrontation might be.”

Kit made Ty lose again.

“Last question,” he said. “You know I’m cheating. Why do you let me?”

“Two reasons,” Ty replied. “First, I wanted to see for myself how you control the game. I admit that it was very impressive. I never caught you.”

Kit had been told many times over the years that his skills were impressive; but hearing it from Ty felt completely different. It was worth every hour he had spent mastering these rapid hand movements.

“And second,” Ty continued. “Because you needed to know that you didn’t make a mistake,” he said quietly. “I know you’re worried. You’re worried about Jaime, and you’re worried about acting as the head of the institute. But you’re doing great. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Kit chewed on his lower lip quietly. He was worried about those things; but he only let the first one show. How had Ty picked up on the second?

“I’m dealing now,” Ty declared.

He took the cards from Kit’s hands and began shuffling them. He was much slower than Kit, but still Kit stared, mesmerized, at the way his gloved hands moved. He felt a pang of jealously as he remembered that Ash had seen Ty take off his gloves and hold hands with his ex. He forced himself to remember that his bitterness was unreasonable; Luca and Ty used to be lovers, while he and Ty were… friends. Just friends.

Ty dealt him two cards.

“Do you draw?” he asked.

“No.”

Ty revealed his facedown card. “Eighteen.”

“Sixteen.”

“You have to answer my question now. You cheated at our game earlier.”

Kit smirked. “You want to know how.”

“No. That’s not my question.”

“Then what is?”

“I want you to tell me of your cheating outside of card games.”

Ty’s question caught Kit off guard. “W-what do you mean?”

“When you were dealing, you controlled the game so that you would always win. You created a lie. A pretense.”

Kit nodded.

“But you don’t create pretenses just at card games,” Ty said. “At least, you don’t think you do.”

Kit stared at him. How had Ty managed to crawl into the deepest parts of his soul and find out his worst fear?

“But you’re wrong,” Ty said quietly. “You don’t cheat anywhere else.”

“I do,” Kit’s voice trembled. He never admitted it out loud. “I’m a fraud -”

“You’re not.”

“I was only assigned as head of this institute because I’m related to Jace,” Kit said sadly. “If it wasn’t for him –“

“Jace made the Clave notice your achievements, but they were always there, and they’re yours.”

Kit shook his head. “No, I’m not… I’m not as good a warrior as Jace –“

“No one is,” Ty said. “His blood was tempered with. You’re not as good a warrior and it doesn’t matter, because a better warrior does not make a better head of institute. You’re a great strategist, you’re incredibly skilled at planning action, and you excel at managing other Shadowhunters.”

“No, you don’t know –“

“I heard of you,” Ty said quietly. “All those years... people around me kept talking about the younger cousin of Jace Herondale. They spoke of missions you led; they spoke of demons you slayed. When you took over, they spoke of the way the institute thrived under your command, even though you’re so young.”

Tears were forming at the corners of Kit’s eyes as Ty spoke. How had he known what Kit needed to hear when Kit himself didn’t? How did he manage to control every howling, every whisper of the moon?

“Everyone is proud of you,” Ty said quietly. “Jem and Tessa are proud of you. Jace is proud of you. Julian is proud of you. And… if it’s worth anything to you,” his voice trembled slightly, “I’m proud of you.”

A single tear rolled down Kit’s cheek, but he couldn’t will his hand to wipe it. He looked down. “It does,” he whispered. It means the world to me.

Ty lifted his hand to touch Kit’s face. His fingers fluttered over Kit’s skin as he gently wiped away his tear. When Kit lifted his eyes, he saw that Ty was smiling, and for one crazy second he thought that it was more than a friendly smile.

“Let’s play again,” Ty said.

Kit snapped out of his stupid daydream. “Yeah, sure.”

He ended up winning the round.

“Why did you change your piercing again?” he asked Ty.

Ty lifted his hand to touch his ear, a faint blush appeared on his cheek. “Does it bother you?”

It did bother Kit. A lot. So much, in fact, that he didn’t realize Ty hadn’t answered his question.

They played another round and Ty won.

“What could you possibly ask me that you haven’t already deduced yourself,” Kit wondered out loud.

Ty smiled. “A lot,” he said. “How deep are you willing to go?”

Kit swallowed. “Deep,” he managed to utter.

“What’s your worst secret?” Ty asked.

My worst secret? It’s hard to choose, Kit thought immediately. I have fairy blood. I have eight-years-worth of letters that I’ve written to you over the years in my desk drawer. I have feelings for you that I shouldn’t have. And you could find out all my secrets if you just glanced at my tattoo.

“I… I…” Kit mumbled weakly, not knowing what to say.

Ty chuckled. “A simpler question, then,” he said easily. “When did you have your first kiss?”

Kit flushed. “Fourteen, with a girl that went to my mundane school. You?”

“I didn’t lose this round,” Ty reminded him.

He dealt the cards and Kit lost again.

“Wait,” Kit said quickly. “Before you ask me another question, there’s something I need to tell you –“

“I know. Livvy told me.”

Kit took a deep breath. “It wasn’t –“

“I know. She told me that too.” Ty said gently. “Now for my question. Tell me about your first date.”

Kit smiled. “Sixteen, in Alicante, with a girl I met while I visited the city with Tessa. We went to get coffee.”

Ty lost the next round.

“Tell me about your first kiss,” Kit asked.

“I was sixteen, it was with a guy who was in a year above me at the Scholomance.”

“And how… how was it?” Kit heard himself ask.

The rules of their game stated that he was only allowed to ask one question at a time, but still Ty answered. “I was a bit nervous, but it was nice.”

Kit thought he might die on the spot; imagining Ty kissing a faceless stranger made him feel all sorts of jealous and angry. Damn it, if Kit had known the guy’s name he probably would have gone to his house and punched him.

Pull yourself together, you idiot.

Ty didn’t deal the cards again, but Kit wanted to know so much more. Did he dare ask…?

He mustered every drop of courage he had in him. “When did you realize that you were gay?”

Ty bit his lower lip, a thoughtful expression on his face. “A few months after I left for the Scholomance,” he said slowly. “I didn’t even think about any of that until… one day I did. And it became part of who I was.”

Kit desperately wanted to know what made Ty think about it, that one day, but he didn’t dare ask. It was for the best. The last thing Kit needed was another reason to be jealous.

“And you?” Ty asked.

“Me?”

“When did you realize that you were straight?”

“Oh.” Kit didn’t know what to say. Agh, what the hell. “I’m not… um… entirely straight. I don’t think.”

“Ah.” Was all Ty had said in response.

Kit was a bit disappointed by his dry reply. But what did he expect? That Ty would sit in his lap and kiss him passionately? They were friends. Just friends.

“So, the guy you kissed,” Kit said quickly. “That was your first boyfriend?”

“No, we just kissed. Luca was my first everything.”

He put an emphasize on the last word, Kit could almost swear it. Ty was taunting him. No, he wasn’t. Why would he taunt him? Kit was just losing it again.

“When did you…?” Kit asked before he could stop himself.

“Eighteen. You?”

“Seventeen,” Kit said. “Did you… like it?”

Why. Why did he ask that. Of course Ty liked it, otherwise he wouldn’t have kept doing it with Luca. Why did Kit have this masochistic side of him that just wanted to suffer? Why? Why, why –

“Kit?” Ty’s voice cut off his self-scolding. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“What?” Kit stared at him. He hadn’t even realized that Ty asked him something.

“Did you like your first time?”

“It was… okay,” Kit said distractedly. He had to know. “When you… did,” he mumbled. “Did you, um… what did you…” he struggled with the words.

Ty still understood. “Top, usually,” he said. He didn’t look embarrassed at all. If anything, he seemed amused by how embarrassed Kit was.

Kit swallowed, trying very hard not to imagine how it would feel to have the weight of Ty’s body pressing him down on a mattress.

Ty got up. “I’ll let you get back to work now; I kept you long enough.”

“Yeah,” Kit said quickly, getting up as well. “Thank you for the card game… I needed that.”

Ty smiled. “Any time.”

He turned to leave, and Kit should have just let him go like a normal person. But whenever Ty was around, Kit’s self-control slipped away and this chaotic, masochistic part of his heart took control.

“Did he… did Luca like it rough?” he heard himself ask.

Ty turned back around to face him. The corners of his mouth rose, a feline smile stretching across his face. “This isn’t what you really want to know, is it?” he asked, his voice low.

Kit swallowed.

Ty took a step towards him. “You don’t care what my ex liked.”

Kit’s heart was racing, pounding against his ribcage.

Ty took another step towards him, and another, and another, until finally he backed Kit up against the wall, his hand leaning against the wall behind him. His proximity made Kit dizzy; and his smell – ocean water and nightfall and Ty – was intoxicating.

“You want to know what I like,” Ty murmured. “Don’t you?”

Kit didn’t dare to speak. He didn’t dare to move. Instead he remained frozen in place, nervous and unbearably aroused.

Ty grazed his lips over Kit’s earlobe. “If there was someone I wanted to sleep with,” he said, sending shivers up Kit’s spine. “I’d start slow.”

Kit’s eyes widened.

“I’d take off his clothes, one by one, and kiss every inch of exposed skin,” Ty whispered. “Then I’d get down on my knees in front of him and lick him, from the base to the tip, before taking him in my mouth.”

It was not happening. Kit was dreaming.

“I’d make him lie on the bed and spread his legs,” Ty continued. “And I’d work him open with one finger, then add another one, stretching him open gently.”

Kit let out a small gasp; he had pictured Ty doing these kinds of things, but hearing him say it out loud had an entrancing effect.

“And then, when he’s ready,” Ty whispered in his ear, and Kit’s knees wobbled. “I’d lay him on his stomach on the mattress, massage his lower back with one hand, and hold him steady with the other as I push inside him.”

This can’t be happening, Kit thought frantically. There was no way that Ty was saying those things to him.

“I’d move inside him slowly,” Ty whispered in his ear. “In and out. In and out. Until I’d hear him moan.”

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

“And then I’d increase the pace,” Ty continued, his voice hoarse. “I’d slam into him. I’d fuck him deep and hard. I’d want to see how loud I can make him get. I’d fuck him until he’d ask me to let him cum.”

Kit thought he might faint.

Ty’s hand was fisted in Kit’s hair. “But I’d hold him firmly in place and keep fucking him. I’d make him beg,” he panted. “I’d want to see him plead and whimper for me.”

Kit’s cock throbbed with every word that left Ty’s lips.

“This is what I want.” Ty pulled Kit’s hair gently. “To see him beg.”

Kit was barely standing. One more word from Ty might make him collapse.

“When I’d decide that he had begged enough,” Ty murmured in his ear. “I’d lift his hips up and stroke him until he cums. And I’d hold him close as he does.”

Kit was so hard it almost hurt; dark spots covered his vision.

Ty pulled Kit’s hair again, and Kit almost came on the spot, but then Ty let out a low grunt, as if struggling, before he let go of Kit’s hair and pulled away. “But there isn’t anyone I want to do that to,” he said flatly.

He turned around and left, leaving Kit leaning against the wall for support, gasping for air.

Chapter Text

Nante, France, a year and a half ago

Jaime put his mug, filled with steaming hot coffee, on the table and sat down with his friends for breakfast.

“Don’t talk to me until I’ve finished at least two of these,” he grunted.

“Il est toujours grincheux le matin,” Sasha, a young Shadowhunter who arrived at the institute around the same time Jaime did, said with a smile.

“I understand what you’re saying,” Jaime muttered.

“I know.” Sasha patted his back.

“Here.” Liam, one of Jaime’s closest friends in Nante, pushed a plate of toasts towards him. “These might help.”

Jaime took one and bit into it lazily. When he lifted his eyes he saw that Cameron had entered the dining room and poured himself a cup of coffee, making Jaime’s morning instantly better. Cameron gave him a timid smile and went to sit at a table at the far corner of the room, opening his book in front of him. Jaime sighed; Cameron was too shy to join them, but Jaime was not going to give up.

“Cameron! Come here!” he yelled.

Cameron lifted his eyes from his book, looking terrified.

“Come on!” Jaime urged him. “Don’t make me come get you!”

Sasha let out a small laugh. “Will you leave the new guy alone?”

Liam spread a thick layer of jam on his toast. “You know he can’t do that. He’s Jaime.”

Cameron got up and Jaime grinned at him encouragingly. He gestured at the chair in front of him and Cameron sat down, looking a bit nervous.

“Sasha, Liam, this is Cameron,” Jaime said, not hiding the fondness in his tone.

“Hi,” Cameron mumbled.

“Nice to meet you,” Liam said easily.

“What are you reading?” Sasha asked, gesturing at Cameron’s book with his chin.

Cameron flushed slightly. “A book about the origins of the Jubokko. It’s a demonic Japanese tree.”

“Ah, cool,” Sasha said. He took another sip of his coffee, and Jaime gaped at him; was “cool” all he was going to say? Didn’t he want to hear more about a fucking demonic Japanese tree?

“So, what’s up with this tree?” Jaime asked Cameron. “You can’t leave us hanging.”

Liam gave him an odd look.

“Its appearance does not differ much from ordinary trees,” Cameron said. “But it appears in former battlefields where people have died, and it lives on human blood.”

Jaime rested his chin on his hands. “Go on,” he said, ignoring the questioning looks Sasha and Liam were giving him now.

“When a human being happens to pass by, the tree changes its branches into the shape of a tube and sucks the blood out of the victim.”

“Damn, that’s metal as fuck,” Jaime said. “Sasha, did you hear that?”

Sasha patted his shoulder. “Metal as fuck,” he agreed.

“But is it also useful?” Jaime asked Cameron.

“I just began reading the chapter detailing its healing properties. It is said that a Jubokko branch could heal and decontaminate an injured person.”

“Damn, we should grow one of those here!”

“And what should we feed it?”

“Our enemies, obviously.”

Cameron chuckled. “I don’t have any.”

“Me neither, but we can always make some,” Jaime suggested. “Hey, listen, it’s my day off. And I know it’s yours too because Nina told me.”

“You should always be wary when Jaime says those words,” Liam told Cameron. “Last time it happened I found myself drunk on a cruise wearing nothing but a lifebuoy while Jaime was making out with a mermaid.”

Jaime turned to him. “That was an awesome night. I don’t see your point.”

“My point is, be careful,” Liam whispered loudly to Cameron.

Cameron looked mortified. “I was actually planning to go to the botanical garden,” he said quickly. “It’s supposed to contain more than eleven-hundred species.”

“That’s what I was going to say!” Jaime said happily. “I was going to suggest we check it out.”

Liam gaped at him. “You. Checking out botanical gardens.”

“Yes.”

“You know they don’t sell alcohol there.”

“I know.”

“You know no one’s naked there.”

“Sadly, I know that too.”

“You’ve been in Nante for over six months, why –“

Jaime cut him off. “So, Cameron, are we going or what?”

Cameron gave him a hesitant smile. “Okay. Let’s go.”

Jaime got up, barely noticing the way Liam and Sasha gaped at him and followed Cameron outside.

It was a sunny day, and they walked the streets at a lazy pace. They were complete opposites, yet somehow they were the same, and Jaime found that they always had something to say to each other.

They reached the gardens and Jaime got their tickets because, as it turned out, Cameron knew every ancient language that the human civilization had ever invented, but he couldn’t speak a single word in French.

The gardens were beautiful, and they spent hours walking around; Cameron told him facts about the plants they saw, and Jaime listened, inexplicably fascinated.

“How do you know so much?” he asked him admiringly.

“I have a lot of free time, since - as my sister probably told you - I avoid interacting with people.”

“She said something of the sort, yes.”

Cameron turned his gaze to stare at a large Sessile oak tree. “She gets very frustrated with me sometimes,” he said quietly. “My parents do, too. They like having parties, and their social circle is very important to them, and I… I know I can be difficult. I’m trying, but it’s hard for me to change.”

Jaime stared at Cameron’s profile. “Then don’t.”

Cameron shook his head. “I have to try –“

“You don’t. Just be yourself, you’re fine just the way you are.”

Cameron turned away, and Jaime wondered if anyone had ever told him that he’s fine just the way he is, or if his entire family got annoyed at his introvertedness. From Cameron’s reaction Jaime figured it was the second. It made him want to slap every member of the Ashdown family.

***

By the time two months had passed since Cameron had arrived, he and Jaime had developed their own routine of sitting together at lunch, sometimes joined by other people, having sex whenever the opportunity presented itself, and working in the gardens on their days off.

They were eating lunch at their usual table when Sasha placed his tray loudly and sat down next to Cameron.

“So, how about the new girl?” he asked.

“Who?” Jaime asked distractedly. Cameron had a smudge of chocolate on his lips which Jaime nearly wiped away with his thumb before he caught himself; no one knew that they were sleeping together, and neither of them wanted to make it public.

“The new girl,” Sacha repeated. “Have you seen those boobs? I want to dive into them.” He gestured with his chin at a point beyond Jaime’s shoulder.

Jaime turned around discreetly. The new girl – Charlotte, if he remembered correctly – was sitting with a group of girls, her generous breasts nearly spilling out of her tank top. Jaime turned back and shrugged. Cameron, meanwhile, hadn’t lifted his gaze from his chocolate crepe

“I thought you’d be all up on her by now,” Sacha commented.

Jaime stared at him. Should he have been all up on her by now? Jaime found the idea laughable. She had large breasts, sure, but he had spoken to her on two separate occasions only to find that she was boring as hell. Why would he waste his energy on such pointless interactions when he could spend time with Cameron instead?

Jaime stiffened. He couldn’t say that out loud, of course, so instead he made a vague hand gesture. “She’s not my type.”

“That girl is everyone’s type,” Sasha argued. “Isn’t she, Cam?”

Cameron still hadn’t lifted his eyes. “She’s too chatty.”

Sasha made an exasperated sigh. “You guys are weird. Not that I’m complaining or anything, because if you don’t go after her my chances are higher.”

Jaime gave him a feline grin. “On second thought, she is hot.”

Cameron’s gaze flickered to him before he lowered it again.

“Nope, can’t change your mind,” Sasha said decisively.

“Ah, too bad.” Jaime let out an exaggerated sigh. “Guess I’ll have to find someone else to keep my bed warm with.” He caressed Cameron’s shin with his foot under the table. “Maybe someone who seems innocent but actually has incredible stamina and a huge cock I can ri –“

Cameron choked.

Sasha patted his back. “You alright?” he asked. “Wait, I don’t care. Charlotte just got up.”

He passed a hand through his hair, messing it up, then got up to talk to her. The corners of Cameron’s mouth rose slightly.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jaime whispered.

They got up at the same time and put their trays away.

“Don’t you think that people are going to get suspicious?” Cameron asked in a low voice as soon as they were out of the dining room.

“Not a chance,” Jaime promised him. “They think we’re good friends, that’s all.”

People did think they were close friends; mostly because they knew Jaime. They all knew how much he was opposed to serious relationships. They knew he would rather have one-night stands. No one in their right mind would think that he’d have the same one-night stand over and over again. But Cameron was just that good, so why not?

“We are.” Cameron smiled. “Good friends, I mean.”

“Yeah,” Jaime agreed.

Jaime stopped when they reached his room, but Cameron kept walking. “Let’s go to my room,” he said casually.

“Sure, why not.” Jaime followed him. “I like your Egyptian cotton sheets.”

Cameron opened the door and let Jaime in before he closed it behind him. Jaime was not there to waste time; he immediately took off his shirt and threw it on the floor. Cameron gave him an odd look.

“What?” Jaime asked. “Are you still surprised by how hot I am?”

Cameron picked up a rectangular box from his desk. “I got you something.”

Jaime took it and looked at it suspiciously. “What’s that?”

“I suspect you’ll have to open it to obtain this information,” Cameron said.

“Nerd.” Jaime smiled at him affectionally.

He opened the box to find a cell phone.

“What is… that?”

“It’s a cell phone,” Cameron said slowly. “You can use it to make phone calls and send text messages. You can even take pictures. Imagine the possibilities!”

Jaime stared at him.

“It’s also dark-magic protected, so, you know. You can go out on missions without having to worry about it,” Cameron mumbled.

Jaime turned it over; it bore the marking of the dark-magic protection.

“Why?” Was all he managed to say. Those cell phones cost more than two months of his parents’ combined salary.

Cameron gave him a sheepish look. “Your old one doesn’t work well, and I don’t want to miss any of your texts.”

Jaime wanted to say something smug, like “no one wants to miss any of my texts” but when he looked at Cameron, he only managed to utter two words.

“Thank you.”

“Sure,” Cameron said. A faint blush appeared on his cheeks.

Jaime looked at him, not knowing what to say next, a bit flustered by the fact that the blush made Cameron look even prettier, and oddly self-conscious about being shirtless in front of him.

He placed the phone on Cameron’s desk. “Sex?” he asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Yes.” Cameron picked him up, and Jaime wound his legs around his waist and pressed their lips together. Cameron parted his lips under his, letting him slide his tongue inside his mouth.

Jaime pulled away, panting. “But do it –“

“Rough, because you want to feel it tomorrow,” Cameron completed his sentence. “I know.” He kissed Jaime’s naked shoulder and smiled at him. His smile was mesmerizing, and for a second Jaime forgot that he should be kissing him right now.

Cameron took him to bed and straddled him, then took off his own shirt. Jaime stared at his chest as Cameron opened the drawer of his bedside table and took out something before he leaned in and kissed him again.

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” he said.

“What?” Jaime focused his gaze on his blue eyes.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about me not fucking you hard enough.”

Jaime’s gaze traveled down to Cameron’s hands and realized that he was holding a rope. Before he could comment on it, Cameron got off him and took off Jaime’s pants and boxers, then turned him around and made him kneel. He then pushed his head down gently so that Jaime kneeled with his face on the pillow and his ass in the air.

“Give me your hands,” he commanded.

Jaime did, and Cameron tied his wrists to his ankles.

“When did you learn to do that?” Jaime asked, impossibly aroused.

“I looked it up yesterday, while you were on patrol.”

Jaime heard him open the vial of lube and then Cameron slid a finger inside him, making him moan and beg for more. He then pulled his finger out only to push back with two, and Jaime muffled a cry of pleasure as Cameron pressed against his prostate. He worked him open and Jaime whimpered into his pillow, struggling in vain against the rope Cameron had tied him with, feeling aroused and vulnerable in the best way possible.

“Ready?” Cameron asked him gently.

Jaime hummed, and Cameron pulled his fingers out and grabbed his hips. “Tell me if it’s too much.”

He positioned himself behind Jaime and pushed inside him, gentle at first, but soon he slammed into him hard and fast, just the way Jaime liked it. The rope forced him to keep the same position, exposed and helpless, and Cameron moved inside him almost violently. Jaime had never felt anything like this before; the physical sensation of having Cameron’s cock inside him, pounding and stimulating his prostate while Jaime couldn’t even move, the sound of his moans… It was so intense, Jaime soon heard himself begging Cameron for release.

Cameron placed one hand on his shoulder and wrapped the other around his cock, stroking him until Jaime came, muffling a scream into the pillow. Cameron already knew what he wanted without him having to say it; he knew that Jaime wanted him to cum inside him. He leaned in, kissed the back of his head, then resumed his rhythmic motion. Jaime’s mind became a nice, warm haze and all that was left was the anticipation of Cameron cumming inside him and then the final feeling of him swelling inside him before suddenly stopping, letting out a low groan, and then Jaime felt Cameron's cock pulsating as he began pumping his warm cum inside him.

Cameron passed his hand on Jaime’s lower back soothingly and pulled out. He cleaned him with a tissue before he undid the knot around his wrists and ankles, and Jaime rolled on his side. Cameron lay next to him and hugged him from behind. It felt nice, to be spooned like that, and Jaime let himself take a deep breath. He had to take a few long minutes to calm down; how was Cameron just getting better and better at this?

His phone buzzed and he unlocked it to find a text from Kit notifying him that he got a new girlfriend again. He let out a low grunt.

Cameron kissed his shoulder. “What is it?”

“My friend, Kit, the one I told you about, got a new girlfriend,” Jaime said. “I don’t… I don’t like it.”

“Because relationships are a terrible concept?”

“Because just jumps right into a new relationship without thinking about it and I… I just don’t understand why he does that!”

“Maybe he fell in love,” Cameron suggested.

“I can bet you anything that he didn’t,” Jaime hissed. “He’s just so set on this ideal of being in a relationship that he doesn’t even stop for a second to consider that he might be making a mistake.”

“Will you say something to him?”

“If I do, he’ll just stop talking to me,” Jaime said miserably. “No, you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s not like he’s going to end up marrying any of these girls.”

“If he does, we can always release Behemoth demons at the reception and kidnap him,” Cameron suggested. “I’m sure I’ll find some Behemoths in Shanghai.”

“You’re a genius.”

He got another text from Kit.

“What about you? Anyone in your life?”

Jaime switched off his phone. He ached to tell Kit about Cameron for weeks, but doing so would feel like betraying the agreement they had: no labels, no commitment, no attachment. And Cameron was leaving soon, anyway, so none of it really mattered.

Jaime didn’t want to think about it anymore. He threw his phone on the bedside table and turned to Cameron. “Let’s go again.”

He expected Cameron to reach for the lube then mount him, but instead he pulled him into a kiss, one hand fisted in his hair, slipping his tongue into his mouth. The kiss sent something fluttering in Jaime’s chest as he kissed him back, swirling his tongue around Cameron’s.

It made sense not to tell anyone about Cameron, because there was nothing to tell. It was just casual, uncommitted fun. And Cameron thought so too, didn’t he? He wouldn’t want to tell anyone about Jaime either.

Cameron bit Jaime’s lower lip gently, and Jaime pictured himself meeting the Ashdowns. They would never approve of him; Paige had already told him as much. They considered the Rosales family to be beneath them.

Jaime’s heart pinched. His family’s lack of money had never bothered him before. But the Ashdown family had… so much. Was that the real reason Cameron didn’t want anyone to know that they were hooking up?

“Hey, is something wrong?” Cameron pulled away, looking concerned. “Are you still worried about you friend?”

“Nah, I was just picturing us releasing Behemoth demons at the wedding,” Jaime said quickly. “Now tie me up again.”

Cameron kissed his lips. “Anything you want,” he said, brushing a strand of hair out of Jaime’s forehead. “I learned other bondage positions as well.”

“Wow, you really did your homework,” Jaime said, not hiding the fondness in his voice. “Nerd.”

Cameron blushed slightly; he knew that Jaime had always meant the word as a compliment.

He reached over for the rope, and Jaime exhaled. It was all in his head. It was not about their families; it was about him and Cameron having fun. Casual, temporary fun. Just that.

Chapter Text

Kit had skipped breakfast, too nervous to see Ty after what he had told him last night. Eventually, he succumbed to his hunger, mustered all his courage, and went to lunch. He was patrolling with Jaime today; he couldn’t risk going out weakened.

When he got to the dining room he found the rest already there. Ash sat next to Dru, staring at her as if she was the first human he had ever seen. Next to her, Jaime was speaking animatedly with some of the other institute members, always the center of attention.

Kit’s shifted his gaze and his heart immediately began pounding faster; in front of Jaime, dangerously beautiful and inexplicably unaware of it, sat Ty. He listened to Jaime quietly, the corners of his mouth curved into a smile.

Kit hadn’t seen him since yesterday, when he had murmured in his ear how he would have fucked someone he wanted to, and Kit still hadn’t regained his senses since. He took a few minutes after Ty had left his office to catch his breath, then ran into his room and stroked himself until he came to the memory of Ty pulling his hair and describing in detail what he liked. It didn’t help calm him, however, and Kit made himself cum two more times before he could even begin to think clearly. Why? Why did he have to ask Ty that? Ty clearly saw him as nothing more than a friend, he had said himself that he didn’t want anyone in that way, and now Kit was even more entranced. How could he possibly move on from that?

He took a deep breath and sat down next to Ty.

“Hey,” he said quietly. His voice was quivering. Did Ty notice that?

“Hey,” Ty replied easily, clearly unaffected by what had happened between them yesterday.

Didn’t he realize that he had completely shattered every piece of dignity and rationality that Kit had left? Didn’t he realize what he did to him last night? Didn’t it affect him too, at least a little bit?

Kit was too busy staring at Ty, trying to figure out what he’s thinking, to notice the world around them, but apparently Jaime said something very funny, because they all burst out laughing.

Mildwright, a young blonde who Kit suspected had a crush on Jaime ever since he came to New York, looked at him with wide eyes. “What happened then?”

“I told her that I can do it topless while wearing a Hawaiian skirt, but I’ll be charging twice for that,” Jaime replied, and the rest burst out laughing again.

“You’re so funny,” Mildwright purred.

But Jaime didn’t notice the way she was looking at him, because Cameron Ashdown had just entered the room. Jaime’s eyes darkened as he watched him take food and sit alone at a table at the far end of the room with an open book in front of him. Kit exhaled in relief. With three tables separating them and Cameron reading quietly, there was no way that Jaime could find a reason to kill him now.

“Jaime, would you like to practice archery with me?” Mildwright asked, her voice taking a high-pitched tone.

“What?” Jaime turned to her. “Oh, yeah, sure. Go ahead, I’ll join you in a moment.”

Mildwright and her friends got up, but Jaime remained seated, still staring at Cameron with pure hatred in his eyes. Dru and Ash kept sending worried glances at Jaime, then at each other, then back at Jaime again. Ty’s expression, however, was thoughtful.

“I’m going to kill him,” Jaime muttered. “He keeps this up, and I’ll kill him.”

“Keeps what up?” Kit was confused.

Dru and Ty gave him meaningful looks which he didn’t understand.

Jaime gritted his teeth. “I swear to Raziel, I’ll feed him to a Jubokko tree –“

Kit squinted his eyes. “You’ll feed him… to a tree?”

“Yes!”

“But he’s just sitting there quietly,” Kit said. “I don’t –“

“Why is he even here?” Jaime whispered angrily.

“Well, I accepted his transfer –“

“Why did he ask for a transfer?” Jaime’s eyes were dark.

“Because New York is pleasant this time a -?”

“And why hasn’t he eaten anything since he got here?” Jaime snapped. “Is our food not good enough for his highness?”

Kit turned to look at Cameron. He turned another page in his book, but the food in front of him remained untouched. “Maybe he’s not hungry? You’re just looking for –“

Ty touched Kit’s bicep lightly, telling him nonverbally to back off. His touch made Kit’s heart flutter.

“I swear, if he so much as looks at me,” Jaime grunted.

You’re the one looking at him,” Kit said slowly.

Dru kicked him under the table.

“Ow! What –“

“So, Ty, how’s it going with the new case?” Dru said quickly.

Ty reached over Kit to take the water pitcher, and then Kit couldn’t think anymore because his smell – nightfall and ocean water and ink – filled his mind with fog. He could die there. He could die at Ty’s feet.

“I made some progress,” Ty said, utterly oblivious to Kit’s struggles. “I found patterns connecting two of the deaths –“

“He got up,” Jaime whispered angrily. “Why did he get up?!”

“Because he finished eating?” Kit suggested. “I’m sure it has nothing –“

But then Cameron made the huge mistake of walking past their table, holding his heavy book, and made eye contact with Jaime.

Everything happened so fast, Jaime and Cameron both turned into a blur, and then suddenly Ty’s glass fell to the floor and crashed, and Cameron lay on his back on the table and Jaime lay on top of him, one hand on his throat, the other fisted in his hair.

Kit gaped at them, too startled to comprehend the scene in front of him. He wasn’t even sure if Jaime was going to murder Cameron in front of his eyes or kiss him. Jaime seemed equally shocked to have found himself on top of Cameron; he stared down at him with his lips slightly parted. For a few seconds non one spoke, everyone gaped at Cameron and Jaime in confusion, until finally Ash whispered “what is happening”, and Jaime was brought back to earth.

Hatred filled his eyes again, and he leaned in, grazing his lips over Cameron’s ear. “Don’t ever look at me again,” he said, his voice so low Kit barely heard him. “Or else it will be the last thing you ever do.”

For a moment he remained on top of Cameron, his hair still fisted in his hair, both of them panting, and then he seemed to have regained his senses. He pressed his hand down on Cameron’s throat, trying to do as much damage as possible, then jumped off him and left the room quickly, not looking back.

Cameron got up, one hand massaging his throat, and mumbled something incoherent before he ran out of the room. Kit could only assume he left to draft a resignation letter; surely he must have realized that being in the same city as Jaime might shorten his expected lifespan.

“What the hell did I just witness,” Kit exhaled between gritted teeth.

“You’re one to talk,” Ash said angrily. “With your –“

“Shut up!” Kit said quickly, before Ash could blurt out that Kit had swallowed fairy ether when they were in Rome and pinned Ty against a wall and tried to kiss him.

Ash blushed deep red.

Kit got up and followed Jaime to the training room.

“Jaime!” he called.

Jaime put down his bow with a grunt and crossed the room reluctantly. Behind him, Mildwright looked disappointed to have her time with him cut short.

“Are you going to scold me again?” Jaime muttered.

“No, but I need to know your head is in the right place,” Kit said severely. “We’re patrolling in an hour. I can’t have you making stupid mistakes.”

“I’m fine,” Jaime said irritably. “I’m not going to lose it just because of the spoiled brat.”

“Good. Meet me at the front door when you’re ready.”

Jaime gave him a curt node and left to join his archery partner again. Kit watched him for a few minutes to make sure that he wasn’t distracted. After he was convinced that Jaime’s movements were focused and well-planned, he put on his gear and then went to finish some paperwork. An hour later he met Jaime at the front door.

“Ready?”

“Yeah.”

They spent the car ride in silence and reached their designated perimeter, relieving the former team.

“Any problems?” Kit asked them.

“Nothing. It was quiet.”

They left, and Kit and Jaime began patrolling slowly, looking for any disturbance.

“Ty said that the Yōkai is expected to appear tonight,” Kit said. The demon, originating in Japan, had already managed to kill two mundanes before they could figure out its hunting pattern.

Jaime hummed.

The spent the next hour in silence, until finally Kit turned to him. “So, are you going to tell me what the hell Cameron had said to you that makes you act so –“

“So what?” Jaime asked angrily.

“So unlike you!”

“This is me!” Jaime snapped. “This is me when I see a spoiled Assdown who –“

A gigantic, horned beast, covered in yellow scales, leaped out of the shadows and pulled Jaime to the ground, holding him down under his giant paw. Kit acted quickly. He took out his sword and leaped at the Yōkai, but his sword couldn’t pierce the scales.

The Yōkai revealed rows of sharp teeth and bit Jaime’s arm, and Jaime let out a cry of pain.

“Here!” Kit yelled, throwing the sword at him. Jaime caught it with his uninjured hand and dove his sword into the Yōkai’s stomach, the only part of him not covered in the thick scales. The Yōkai’s let out a low wail and Jaime used its momentary distraction to kick it off him. Kit rolled to his side, took out a Seraph blade, and pierced the Yōkai’s heart, killing it instantly.

“You need an Iraze!” he yelled, looking at the wound on Jaime’s arm. He drew one on him, but the wound kept bleeding, and soon it began oozing something dark green as well.

“It’s infected,” Kit said. “We need to get you to the institute. Can you walk?”

“It got my arm, not my leg,” Jaime muttered. “I’m fine.”

The wound kept bleeding and it didn’t look fine at all, so Kit took his other arm and led him to the car. Jaime didn’t protest, and he didn’t say anything when Kit put him inside the car and put on his seat belt for him. Kit knew that his pain must have been terrible if he let him do those things for him.

They reached the institute and Kit led him out. “I need help!” he yelled when he opened the front door.

Three Shadowhunters came rushing immediately and helped carry Jaime to the infirmary and place him on a bed.

“What happened?” Dru rushed in, followed by Ash. “I heard –“

“Jaime was bit by a Yōkai,” Kit said quickly. “I need the –“

“Yes.”

Dru got the antidote from the shelf and ran to Jaime. “It might sting a little,” she panted.

“Okay,” Jaime said weakly.

His face was slowly getting a worrying yellow shade and Kit was starting to panic. Rationally, he knew that it was just a Yōkai bite, and Jaime was probably going to be fine by tomorrow. Still, when a loved one gets hurt, the rational part of the brain tends to shut down. Kit let out a small cry as he suddenly felt a sharp, cold pain in his arm, as if it was dipped in ice water. He pulled up his sleeve to read the words what if he doesn’t make it. Dru gave him a questioning look and Kit showed her his arm discreetly.

“He’s going be fine, it’s a shallow wound,” she told Kit reassuringly. “I’m going to clean it and put an Iraze on him.”

Kit watched anxiously as she took a sterilized piece of cloth and dipped it in the antidote.

They heard someone running in the hallway, and a second later Ty burst into the room.

“Kit! Are you okay?” he panted.

“Yes. But Jaime was bit by a Yōkai,” Kit replied, trying not to let his worry show.

And suddenly he was surrounded by warmth and by Ty as he pulled him into his arms.

“You’re okay,” Ty whispered, as if trying to reassure himself. “You’re okay.”

This proximity to Ty had a spellbinding effect on Kit. He almost forgot where he was, or if people were around them. He leaned his head against Ty’s shoulder, hoping he would never let go. His whole world became Ty’s embrace. Ty’s warm, comforting embrace.

Jaime’s cry pierced their ears, and Ty let go of him abruptly.

“Sorry!” Dru said quickly. “I told you it would sting a bit.”

“A bit?” Jaime’s eyes were wide. “It – AAAAAH!” he yelled again as Dru pressed the antidote-soaked cloth to the wound.

“You’re going to be fine, stop complaining,” Dru scolded him.

“Comp – are you serious? I want to see you getting this treatment!”

“I have,” Dru said easily. “In Brazil. It was not that bad.”

Ash stared at her with admiration. “She’s so tough,” he whispered to Ty.

More footsteps echoed in the hallway, and other members of the institute came pouring in. “What happened to Jaime?” one of them asked with concern.

“Can I clean his wounds?” one of the girls asked hopefully.

“Get out,” Kit said loudly. “Out!”

No one dared disobeying the head of the institute, and soon the room emptied again and only Dru, Ash, Kit, and Ty remained.

Kit turned to Jaime. “It’s almost annoying how everyone here adores you,” he said. It was true, and he figured that Jaime needed to hear that, depressed as he was lately.

“Of course they do. I’m hilarious,” Jaime replied smugly. “And also hot as – AAAH fucking hell, Dru, you’re doing it on purpose!”

“Might be.” Dru smirked.

They heard someone running in the hallway again.

“Damn it,” Dru muttered. “Kit, can you kick them out?”

Kit left the room and came face to face with the last person he expected to see.

Cameron Ashdown.

What was he doing here? Did he have a death wish? Seriously, what the hell –

“Is he okay?” Cameron panted.

“Yeah, just a Yōkai bite,” Kit replied, confused. “Dru’s cleaning the wound and then she’ll give him an Iraze.”

Cameron took a small bag out of his pocket. “It’s Kingsfoil leaves,” he said. “Put them in warm water and let him drink it. The wound will hurt for a few hours; this should help.”

Kit nodded. He took the bag and walked back inside.

“Who was it?” Dru asked. “Let me guess. Whitestrider got it into his head that there’s free food here, so he came check it out?”

“No,” Kit said slowly. “It was Ashdown.”

The effect was immediate; Jaime jumped into a sitting position, knocking the cloth from Dru’s hand. “What the hell did he want?”

“To give you this.” Kit showed the small bag. “He says drinking it will help the pain –“

“I’m not drinking anything Assdown gave you.” Jaime said immediately. “Throw it the fuck away.”

“But –“

“Throw it away!”

“Lay back down!” Dru pushed him back to the bed. “Ash, could you give me another cloth?”

Ash did and Dru resumed her cleaning. Jaime’s face contorted in pain, but he didn’t let any sound escape his lips. Kit assumed he didn’t want them to think he needed Cameron’s help.

A few minutes later Dru finally announced that she was done, and Jaime exhaled in relief. She drew the healing rune on him. “There you go. You need to rest until tomorrow. We should watch him in turns.”

“I’ll take the first shift,” Kit said.

Jaime gave Dru a small smile. “Thanks.”

“Any time.” She smiled back, then nodded at Ash and they both left.

“I’m staying too,” Ty said gently. He pulled a chair and sat next to Jaime’s bed, and Kit copied him.

Jaime let out a low grunt.

“Does it hurt?” Kit asked.

Jaime nodded.

“Do you want Cameron’s –“

“No.”

They remained silent for the next two hours, the quiet only broken by Jaime’s occasional grunts. Ty’s gaze was fixed on his hands, and Kit kept sending glances at him, utterly enchanted by his beauty. The memory of last night came surfacing back. The way Ty had backed him up against the wall. The words he had whispered in his ear. The way his hand was fisted in Kit’s hair. Why would Ty do that? Why would he taunt him like this? Did he…? No, he couldn’t want the same thing; he told Kit there was no one he wanted to do those things to.

“I think someone’s outside,” Ty said quietly.

“Probably Mildwright,” Kit whispered back. Jaime had finally fallen asleep, and he didn’t want to wake him up. “I think she has a crush on him. She’s probably waiting to see if she can give him a sponge bath.”

Ty chuckled. “Do you want me to –“

Kit got up. “No, I’ll go.”

He crossed the room quietly, then opened the door and closed it carefully behind him. But instead of Mildwright he saw Cameron sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. The memory of another young man that had waited on the other side of a door, years ago, flashed in front of Kit’s eyes. He shook off the memory.

He looked at Cameron. Jaime was right about one thing, at least: Cameron did look like he was not eating much; he was thinner than most Shadowhunters and Kit could not help but wonder how he had managed to clean Shanghai from an infestation of Eidolon demons by himself with so little muscle mass.

“Is he in pain?” Cameron asked quietly.

“He just fell asleep,” Kit slowly. “But… I don’t mean to be rude, but what the hell are you still doing here?”

Cameron remained silent, his lower lip quivering slightly.

“You need to leave,” Kit told him. “Jaime doesn’t want you here.”

Cameron didn’t move.

“Are you doing it on purpose?” Kit was getting angry now. “He clearly doesn’t want to see you, why are you trying to anger him? Was it not enough that you insulted his family, now you’re trying to provoke him again?”

“I’m not trying to provoke him,” Cameron said quietly. “And I’m not leaving.”

“Fine!” Kit grunted. “I’m tired of being a nanny. Do whatever the hell you want. But don’t come crying after he shattered every bone in your body.”

He opened the door, keeping quiet, and tip-toed back into the infirmary. He signaled to Ty to come to him, not wanting to risk waking up Jaime.

“It wasn’t Mildwright,” he whispered. “It was Ashdown.”

“Ah,” Ty said quietly. He didn’t look surprised.

“I don’t understand,” Kit said. “Why is he out there?”

Ty’s expression was soft. “He’s worried about Jaime.”

“Why? They hate each other.”

“You can hate someone and still worry about them.”

“No,” Kit said. “If you love someone you’re worried about them –“

“Hate is not the opposite of love.”

He was infuriatingly cryptical, as always, and Kit was already on edge after what had happened last night. “I don’t understand you,” he muttered.

“Do you try?”

“Every second of every day.”

Ty’s gaze scanned his face, but he remained infuriatingly quiet. Kit took a step towards him, bringing the distance between them to merely inches.

“Why did you tell me all of that?” he snapped. “Last night, I mean. Why did you tell me those things?”

“You asked me.”

“I asked you what your ex liked.”

“But you meant to ask about me.”

“Why did you answer?”

“Isn’t it the polite thing to do when someone asks you a question?”

“Fine, then answer me this. Why did you come to New York?”

“I’m leaving in a few weeks.”

He was maddening. Beautiful, and enchanting, and maddening. Kit couldn’t think rationally, and at this point he had given up on trying. They were so close he could smell Ty’s scent again, and he was filled with the same urge to lick into his mouth and taste him. Ty’s jaw was clenched, and Kit wanted to push him against the wall and pin him to it and demand a real answer and kiss every inch of exposed skin.

But then realization washed over him like a wave of cold water. Ty was leaving soon, just like he had left every other city he had ever moved to. If Kit had any hope of making Ty stay in New York, he could never pin him against a wall and hold him still. Ty had told him so himself: he spent years looking for freedom. He was caged inside his own mind and inside his gloves, trying to shield himself from sensations that overwhelmed him, wandering from city to city because he didn’t want to be tied down. If Kit had any chance of making him stay, he could never do anything that would make Ty feel caged, physically or mentally. The only way Ty would stay was if Kit could show him that he was never going to take away his freedom.

Chapter Text

The dawn was breaking, and Jaime had just finished his patrol shift with Charlotte. While he still didn’t see the sexual appeal everyone else kept talking about, he found out that she was actually not that bad to hang out with.

“Let’s go through the Market,” he said. “I want to get Cameron something.”

“Oh, what do you need?”

“Some sort of a thank you present, I think.”

Two days ago, Jaime was sent on a mission that went sideways. The demon was killed, but a mundane girl suffered terrible injuries and died in Jaime’s arms.

He got back to the institute and headed straight to Cameron’s room, opening the door without bothering to knock. Cameron jumped off the bed when he saw him, an alarmed expression on his face.

“It’s not my blood,” Jaime muttered. He went into Cameron’s bathroom and slammed the door behind him.

He scrubbed himself clean in the shower, watching the girl’s blood wash down the drain, trying to repress the mental image of her taking her last breath. He got out with a towel around his waist to find Cameron waiting for him, holding a soft cotton t-shirt and flannel pajama bottoms. Jaime got dressed quietly and lay on Cameron’s bed. The mattress lowered as Cameron sat down next to him. He didn’t say a word; instead he rubbed Jaime’s back soothingly until he fell asleep.

Charlotte gave him an odd look. “You two are very close,” she commented.

“Yeah, I’m probably the best thing that has ever happened to him.” Jaime smirked.

“Oh,” Charlotte said, sounding disappointed. “You’re a couple.”

“What? No!” Jaime said quickly. “No, no, no, no. Absolutely not!” What a ridiculous idea. He and Cameron. A couple. “He’s not looking for a relationship,” Jaime explained. Only later it would occur to him that he himself didn’t want a relationship either. We only live once, he had told Cameron that on the night they first met, relationships are a waste of time. So why didn’t he tell Charlotte that?

“Ah,” Charlotte said. She seemed happy about it; was she into Cameron? Not that Jaime could blame her if she was, because Cameron was great. Still, part of him wanted to push her right into the tomato stand.

They kept walking through the market in silence, until a t-shirt stand caught Jaime’s eyes.

“My god, it’s perfection itself,” he cried out.

“What is?”

Jaime pointed at a black t-shirt that read “Introverted, but willing to talk about plants”.

“For Cameron?” Charlotte asked.

“Yes. Perfection itself,” Jaime said happily. He bought it and put it in his backpack.

“Ah, yes, he likes the gardens,” she said.

While rationally he knew that it was the first thing people noticed about Cameron, Jaime still found it incredibly annoying that Charlotte realized it.

“I saw you the other day, you were helping him plant something,” she continued.

“Motherwort,” Jaime replied. “What can I say, he’d be lost without me.”

“You’re knowledgeable in the field?”

“Not even a little bit.”

Charlotte burst out laughing as if he had just told an excellent joke. “You’re so funny,” she said.

“Thanks,” Jaime replied, even though his joke wasn’t that funny.

Charlotte bit her lower lip. “You know, I think you’re the only guy that hasn’t tried anything with me since I came here.”

Jaime stopped walking. “The plants nerd hit on you?” For some reason, it seemed like the only important question.

Charlotte chuckled. “Let me rephrase that,” she said. “You’re the only guy who’s my type that hasn’t tried anything with me.”

Jaime’s heart felt inexplicably lighter. “I’ll make sure to hit on you sometime,” he said distractedly. Why did it matter that Cameron hadn’t tried anything with Charlotte? It’s not like Jaime was interested in her, so why would he care?

“I’ll look forward to it,” Charlotte have him a huge grin, but Jaime was too busy pondering the whole Cameron question to think much of it.

They kept silent until they got to the institute, and finally Jaime reached the conclusion that if Cameron had hit on her, it would be upsetting in the sense that he’d have less sex with Jaime, which would be a shame because he was really good at it. That was all.

He headed straight to Cameron’s room and knocked on the door. He knew he’d wake him up, but he also knew that Cameron wouldn’t mind.

“Come in.” Jaime heard his sleepy voice, making him feel all warm and happy inside.

He pushed the door open and found Cameron tangled in his fluffy duvet, his copper hair spread on the pillow.

“How was your patrol?” Cameron asked sleepily, his voice adorably hoarse.

“Uneventful. Charlotte was cool, though.”

Cameron hummed.

“I’m going to take a shower,” Jaime said. “I really like your expensive shampoo. You know, the one that has specks of diamonds in it.”

“Activated charcoal.”

“Same thing.”

He threw his clothes into Cameron’s laundry basket and got into the shower, opening the water and setting it lukewarm.

He heard Cameron enter and then open the tap to brush his teeth.

“Stop it, you’re ruining my water pressure!” Jaime complained.

“Sh-orry,” Cameron said mid-brushing.

Jaime suddenly realized how comfortable they were with each other. He couldn’t remember ever feeling so comfortable around another person; not even his family.

He dried himself using his favorite towel – pink and frilly, which Cameron’s mom had sent him, and Jaime had claimed as his own – and put on one of Cameron’s sweatpants. He got out of the bathroom and found Cameron back in his bed, curled up in his blanket.

“Make room for me,” Jaime said, climbing into Cameron’s bed.

Cameron made a point of not moving, and so Jaime made a point of lying on top of him.

“Ow, you’re squishing me,” Cameron protested.

He tried to push Jaime off him, but Jaime wound his arms around him. “Look at my octopus impression.”

Cameron burst out laughing and Jaime froze, unable to take his eyes off him. He was used to making people laugh, but somehow when it was Cameron it felt like a huge achievement.

“I’m going to get off you now,” Jaime snapped back to reality. “But only because I just remembered that I got you something.”

He took the t-shirt out of his backpack and handed it to Cameron who unfolded it. A huge grin stretched across his face as he read the caption, and Jaime stared at him, captivated by the way his smile lit up his whole face. He truly was pretty. Jaime already knew that, of course, but Cameron’s attractiveness still caught him off guard sometimes, as if his mind never really got used to it.

Cameron turned to him. “Thank you,” he said, a little too quietly, and Jaime got oddly nervous.

“Yeah, I figured it might help you introduce yourself when you get to Shanghai,” he said quickly, mostly to fill in the silence. He climbed back on the bed.

“Ah.” Was all Cameron said.

He sounded upset. Was Jaime not supposed to give him a gift? But Cameron had given him one first; he got him a cellphone. Maybe Cameron truly was worried about making friends.

“You know, I can give you tips on how to talk to new people when you get to Shanghai,” Jaime said slowly.

Cameron turned on his side to face him. “Can we talk about something else?”

“What kind of something?”

“Tell me about your family.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Everything.”

Jaime lay his head back against Cameron’s fluffy pillows. For some reason he didn’t question it; he began talking, as if speaking of his family was a natural thing to do. “My father is very stern,” he said. “Growing up, we’d get into huge trouble for the smallest things. I once broke a training sword, you know, the wooden kind? My brother, Diego, took the blame so I wouldn’t get into trouble. But my cousin told my dad it was me, so Diego and I were both punished. We had to clean the entire weapons room, and then we were grounded for a month.”

“I don’t like your cousin,” Cameron muttered.

“It’s fine, we’re cool now.” Jaime smiled.

“And your mom?”

“My mom is the kindest woman you’ll ever meet. But she worries too much,” Jaime said. Cameron placed a hand on his bicep absent-mindedly. “And then there’s my brother, who’s perfect.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s mature and responsible and does everything right while I’m the screw up.”

Cameron lifted an eyebrow. “I’ve never met anyone who thinks you’re a screw up. Everyone here thinks you’re God’s greatest creation. They think you’re kind, and funny, and attractive - ”

“And you?” Jaime heard himself ask.

“What, me?”

“Do you think I’m kind and funny and attractive?” For some reason, Cameron’s opinion meant more than the entire institute combined.

“Of course I do,” Cameron replied without hesitation. “And I’m sure your parents see the best in you, too –“

Jaime shook his head. “My parents think that I party and drink too much. I also tend to act recklessly on missions.”

Cameron was quiet for a moment before he replied. “You barely go to parties and not once have I seen you act recklessly on a mission.”

Jaime stared at him. He was right, actually. Over the past three months, Jaime had been to exactly two parties which he left early because Cameron wasn’t there and he got bored. And disobeying orders and risking his life on missions was less appealing than ever, since if he died it would put a damper on his and Cameron’s sex life, which would be a shame because Cameron was really good.

Jaime smirked. “I may be acting more mature, but only because I’m too busy planting herbs with you to be doing anything else.”

“What I’m hearing,” Cameron said with a smirk, “is that I’m good influence.”

“Depends on your idea of good.” Jaime couldn’t help his fond smile. He never could. “You know, the first time I met your sister she went on and on about you and she made you sound so insufferable I told Kit I hope I’d never be unfortunate enough to meet you.”

“And now?” Cameron asked quietly. “Do you regret having met me?”

How could Jaime regret meeting Cameron? He was cute and smart, and Jaime liked to fuck him and talk to him and spend every possible second in his presence because he made life so much more interesting. He couldn’t say that, however, because it sounded too serious and Jaime knew that Cameron wouldn’t want to hear something so serious. After all, they were only having casual sex until Cameron was leaving for Shanghai.

“Depends.” Jaime said instead.

“On?”

“On the blowjob you’re about to give me.”

***

Three months and three weeks after Cameron first came to Nante, he and Jaime had nearly finished replanting the medicinal herbal garden and even managed a decent rose garden, which Cameron had decided was needed for the mere fact that Jaime’s name was ‘Rosales’. It wasn’t much of a reason, Jaime pointed out, but he liked the idea and so they ended up doing it.

“Wait, you can’t plant the Comfrey here,” Jaime said, one Sunday afternoon. “There’s too much sunlight!”

They were adding some herbs that Cameron had stated were crucial for a proper medicinal garden.

Cameron turned to him, a surprised expression on his freckled face. “You’re right,” he said slowly. “What was I thinking?”

“You clearly weren’t. Everyone knows Comfrey requires a well-drained soil and partial shade.”

Cameron burst out laughing.

Jaime crossed his arms. “What’s so funny?”

“You made fun of me for liking gardening,” Cameron said. “And now look at you. You’re a gardening nerd. Just like me.”

Jaime stared at him in horror. “I’m not a gardening nerd!” he protested. “I’m cool!”

“Nerd.”

“Stop it. I’m cool.”

Cameron took him in his arms. “Don’t fight it. It’s who you are now,” he whispered in his ear.

Jaime melted into Cameron’s arms. “I’m cool,” he muttered weakly into him.

“Okay, you’re mostly cool, and just a little bit nerdy,” Cameron said appeasingly. He kissed his forehead before he let him go.

And then Jaime’s heart did something it had never done before: it skipped a beat. It was an odd feeling; Jaime had heard the idiom but had always assumed people were exaggerating. But there it was, it just happened to him, and it made absolutely no sense because Cameron had kissed him countless times before and none of those kisses had ever meant more than the casual fact that Cameron was attracted to him. Still, his kisses felt… different lately. Or maybe it was in Jaime’s head. Maybe he just read more into them because he knew they would soon stop because Cameron was leaving in a week.

He sat down on the grass, feeling exhausted even though they had only been working for twenty minutes

Cameron sat next to him in silence.

“I wish we had enough time to add blue roses to our garden,” Jaime said quietly. “I liked their meaning.”

Cameron smiled. “You know, there’s a nice Chinese legend surrounding them.”

Jaime lay back on the grass. “Do tell.”

Cameron lay next to him. “There was once a king who had but only one daughter,” he began. “The king was aging, and he feared that when he died the princess would have no one to care for her. So, he decided that she should get married.”

Jaime closed his eyes, letting Cameron’s voice transport him miles away.

“The princess was reluctant, and thus the king agreed to allow her to name one qualification that her chosen husband must meet; be it wealth, looks, strength, intelligence or any ability she should desire. The princess said she would name that qualification on the morrow.

“That evening, she went for a walk in the royal garden with the gardener’s son – her childhood friend, and the only person she trusted. She confessed that she didn’t know which qualification to choose. She was only allowed one, how could she use a single qualification to choose the man she would spend the rest of her life with?

“The gardener’s son suggested that she should ask for a test, ambiguous enough so it could allow her to determine whether the man qualifies. Far into the night, they discussed what the test should be, and the next morning the princess met with her father. ‘I will marry the man who can bring me a blue rose,’ she told him.

“A few months had passed, and a wealthy merchant decided he wanted to marry the princess. He took a white rose and dyed it blue, then brought it to the princess. The princess knew that the merchant was only after her father’s wealth. When she reached out to take the rose, a drop of blue dye dropped on her hand. ‘This rose is deceitful’ she said. ‘I cannot marry a deceitful man.’ The merchant went away in disgrace.

“Months later, a warrior wanted the hand of the princess and called for an artisan who carved an exquisite rose from a blue sapphire. When he presented it to the princess she looked into his eyes and could see they were as cold and hard as the rose made of stone. ‘I cannot marry you,’ she said. ‘I want a rose that is soft and gentle, not cold and hard.’”

Jaime reached his hand unconsciously and took Cameron hand in his.

“The youngest of the king's advisors knew that if he married the princess, he would be the most powerful man in the kingdom. He went to see a powerful wizard and asked him to capture the essence of a blue rose in a box as a hologram. When he presented it to the princess, she reached out to touch it, and the image slipped through her fingers. ‘This is not a blue rose, but merely smoke and mirrors,’ she said. ‘I will not marry you’. The king was exasperated.

“Later that night the princess sat in the garden with the gardener’s son. ‘I want to marry someone who is honest,’ she told him. ‘Someone kind and patient. I want someone who will value me for who and what I am – as you always have.’”

Cameron passed his thumb slowly over the back of Jaime’s hand.

“The gardener’s son looked into her eyes. ‘Princess,’ he said. ‘Tomorrow, I will bring you the blue rose.’ With that, he left.

“The next day, the Princess and the royal court waited in the throne room, and the gardener’s son appeared in the doorway carrying an ordinary white rose. The courtiers laughed at him, waiting for someone to send him away.

“But the young man knelt before the princess, and when she looked at him, she saw in his eyes honesty and kindness, and all the love he had for her. She reached her hand to take the rose from him. ‘It’s a blue rose,’ she said.

“The king saw the exchange and the happiness in his daughter’s face. ‘If my daughter says that this is a blue rose, it is a blue rose.’ He declared.

“And so, the princess and the gardener’s son were married. And they lived happily ever after until the end of their days.”

Cameron finished his story, and Jaime was brought back to earth with a thump. He realized that he was still holding Cameron’s hand. He quickly let go of it, embarrassed.

“What’s the moral of the story?” he asked, mainly to make Cameron talk and hopefully not realize that Jaime had just taken his hand in his, because it was clear that neither of them wanted that.

“I think it speaks of making choices,” Cameron said carefully. “I think it means that the right person will give you what you needed, even if it seemed unattainable at first, because the right person makes the ordinary become extraordinary. You just have to realize what you have in front of you; then you can choose to see a blue rose instead of a white one.”

“Did you ever see a blue rose?” Jaime asked before he could stop himself.

Cameron pulled himself up into a sitting position. He was silent for a moment, as if debating with himself whether to answer or not. “I thought I did. Twice,” he said quietly. “One turned out to be stone; the other a hologram.”

Jaime sat up as well. “I’m sorry,” he said. He truly was; he could not understand who would be stupid enough, cruel enough, to break Cameron’s heart. He was still bleeding, Jaime had known that from the day they met. For one insane second, Jaime wondered what it would take for him to ever give his heart to anyone again.

“Did you ever see a blue rose?” Cameron asked him.

“No,” Jaime said. “I never looked for one.”

He had never looked for one, but it was more than that: He had never found anyone worth looking for a blue rose with. And then Cameron came into his life, and why would Jaime be looking for blue roses when spending time with Cameron was all he wanted?

“You know, I think there’s another moral to this story,” Cameron said thoughtfully.

Jaime looked at him. “What?”

“That gardeners are sexy as hell.”

Jaime chuckled, and then Cameron turned to him and their eyes met, and Jaime was suddenly nervous about having held Cameron’s hand earlier. Cameron probably thought he was being weird but didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to embarrass him. Why would Jaime do that? Why would he weird him out a week before he left?

Jaime cleared his throat. “You know, you should at least pretend not to be such a nerd when you get to Shanghai,” he said to fill in the silence. “I won’t be there to make people talk to you, so you might end up completely alone.”

“I’ll have my sister,” Cameron countered.

“I would prefer to be alone,” Jaime muttered.

Cameron gave him a playful shove.

“I’m kidding, though,” Jaime said, in case it wasn’t clear. “I’m sure everyone will like you in Shanghai.”

Of course everyone will like him. He’s an adorable nerd, how could anyone not like him in Shanghai?

In Shanghai…

Which is very, very far away.

Jaime leaned back, distancing himself from Cameron. He had known from the start that Cameron was only here for four months, but apparently his stupid brain decided to get attached to this preppy nerd. It wasn’t just that the sex was great; they had become close friends over the past few months. They ate lunch together, they trained together, they worked in the gardens together, they spent hours talking about nothing and anything. On some nights, after they had patrolled for hours or gotten back from a mission, they didn’t even have sex. One would go to the other’s room and collapse on the bed, refusing to move, and the other would caress him soothingly and then they’d talk until they fell asleep.

Jaime would miss that. But he couldn’t let Cameron see it; he was stressed enough about moving to Shanghai as it was, and their casual friends-with-benefits arrangement should be the one thing that de-stressed him, not something that induced more anxiety.

“Yeah,” Cameron muttered, breaking Jaime’s train of thoughts. “Maybe they will.” He seemed a bit upset, and Jaime figured that he might have been truly worried about making new friends, being the loner that he was.

“It’s getting dark,” Jaime said. “How about we go to the rose garden and make out?”

“Anything you want,” Cameron whispered.

He took Jaime’s hand and lead him to their small rose garden, then took off his shirt and threw it on the ground. The air was chilly, and Jaime shivered slightly.

Cameron pulled him close and drew a Heating rune on his shoulder using his stele. “Better?”

It was a nice gesture, but somehow it made Jaime feel miserable. In one week from now, Cameron would be far away, and so will his kisses and his Heating runes and his laugh and his blue eyes. Jaime would miss his preppy nerd.

Wait, no. He would miss this preppy nerd, not his preppy nerd. He had no idea what made him use the word ‘his’. Cameron and he were just close friends who happened to be having a lot of sex, and staying up all night talking, and –

“Not better?” Cameron asked, looking slightly worried.

Jaime didn’t want to dwell on his inexplicable misery. He pressed his lips against Cameron’s and they sank to the ground, Jaime on top, kissing Cameron feverishly, and Cameron passing his hands up and down Jaime’s back.

Under the sky, a few feet away from the place where they had kissed for the first time, they had sex again, and then lay side by side gazing at the stars. Cameron passed his fingers slowly up and down Jaime’s arm.

“Jaime?”

“Yeah?” Jaime turned to look at him.

Cameron’s eyes were locked on his, blue like forget-me-not petals. “When we first met, at that party,” he said. “You told me that we only live once.”

He still hadn’t broken his gaze and Jaime’s heart fluttered in his chest like a caged bird.

“But I don’t agree,” Cameron continued quietly. “We only die once. We live every day.”

And at that moment, the walls Jaime had built around himself - walls of denial and pretense and distorted truths - finally shattered around him. And suddenly Jaime was exposed, naked, crushed under the knowledge that no matter what he had been telling himself these past few months, none of this was ever casual to him. Cameron was flowing in his veins and rooted in his bones.

And he was leaving for Shanghai in a week.

Chapter Text

Jaime seemed to be having a troubled sleep; he kept twisting and turning, mumbling incoherent words. Kit wondered if he was dreaming of their fight with the Yōkai, or maybe something else entirely.

Ty sat silently on a chair next to Kit, his gaze focused on his hands. Kit remembered how, eight years ago, he got a concussion and woke up to see Ty holding a glass, feeling its texture. He couldn’t do that anymore; not with the gloves. Sometime during the past eight years, touch has turned from something interesting to something that overwhelmed him.

But… Ty wasn’t averse to touch entirely. He had given Kit a massage and had taken off his gloves to do so. What made him do that? Kit could not understand him at all, it seemed. But he was going to try.

He replayed everything Ty had told him about himself since he came to New York. Ty considered himself a detective, not a fighter. He was a trained masseuse because he once went undercover as a spa worker. He loved Japanese food, spent a night in a trash can in Budapest, dug his suits from under a tree, had a gun, and spent years travelling Europe. He came to New York for some unknown reason but planned to leave soon. He, too, had nights during which the moon howled, and he couldn’t sleep. He left his ex because they wanted “different things”, but still they both cried when they met again - Kit had seen the tears on his face when they left. Ty didn’t see himself ever proposing or being proposed to. He spent years looking for freedom. He could be gentle during sex, but also liked to fuck hard.

And he didn’t want anyone.

Kit passed his fingers through his hair nervously. The pressure he felt, knowing he only had a limited amount with Ty, was crushing. He wished he could read Ty’s mind; finally know what he’s thinking.

“Hey, are you alright?” Ty whispered.

Kit turned to look at him. Ty’s pale skin almost glowed in the moonlight. “I’m fine.”

“You should get some sleep,” Ty said gently. “You must be exhausted, having patrolled and fought the Yōkai.”

“No, I… I want to make sure that Jaime is alright.”

Ty didn’t argue, but he was right. Kit was exhausted. His eyes were blinking more and more, not receiving commands from his brain to stay open. Images stared running through his mind. Stormy gray eyes and a tall man with piercings that arrived one night, unannounced. A large demon covered in scales. Burning words. A cold metal held against his throat. Fairy lights in a cave.

He could feel warmth around him and then a soft surface, and distantly he realized that he had fallen asleep at some point and Ty had picked him up in his arms and placed him on an empty bed.

Half asleep, Kit fisted his hand in Ty’s shirt. “Don’t go,” he whispered.

Ty still had his arms around him, and he froze in this position, as if unsure what to do.

“Stay with me,” Kit pleaded. His mind was foggy, and he didn’t care about anything; just his desperate need to be next to Ty. “Please.”

The mattress lowered as Ty came lying next to him. “I’m here,” he whispered. His voice was quivering slightly.

Kit was exhausted and couldn’t think clearly anymore. He curled against Ty’s body and fell asleep immediately.

When he opened his eyes again, the breath rushed from his lungs. Ty was lying next to him, his face lit by the first rays of sun, beautiful and unreachable. He was awake; Kit could see his eyes fixed on the ceiling, shining gray like a winter’s moon.

And then Kit realized that sometime during the night he must have taken Ty’s hand in his, because their fingers were knitted together. Kit was too scared to move, knowing that once Ty realized that he was awake he would let him go. He closed his eyes again, relishing on their proximity, feeling the warmth of Ty’s body against his, inhaling his intoxicating scent. He had to make him stay in New York. He had to make him stay.

“How did you sleep?” Ty asked quietly, so as not to wake up Jaime.

“How did you know I was awake?” Kit mumbled, surprised and disappointed.

“Your breathing is different. Faster.”

Kit expected Ty to take his hand back and mourned the sad future without it, but Ty didn’t move.

“How did you sleep?” he repeated his question.

“Great, actually,” Kit realized. “I haven’t had a good night sleep in ages. You?”

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Why?”

Ty shrugged. “You slept well, that’s good. You looked tired these past few days.”

The corners of his mouth were curved up and Kit stared at him, entranced. And then Ty turned on his side to face him, and Kit heard himself let out a small choking sound as Ty’s gray eyes fixed on his collarbones and Kit could see the little swirls of black in his irises.

“I missed you,” he whispered without thinking.

Ty lifted his hand to touch Kit’s temple and for a second Kit forgot how to breath. Ty passed his fingers through Kit’s blond curls, sending shivers running down his spine. “Why?” he asked.

Because you make me happy. Because you calm down the angry voice inside of me that keeps yelling that something’s wrong. Because you understand me, somehow. Because you’re part of me.

Kit swallowed, and Ty’s gaze flickered to his lips for a second, Kit could almost swear it. What should he do? Should he be honest? But what if he was completely misreading the situation? He was terrified to do something wrong again. He had messed up once by trying to take off Ty’s gloves. What if the next time he screws up, Ty will just leave? What if he’ll just pack his things in the middle of the night and disappear again? How would Kit be able to live the rest of his life with the loss of him?

Instead of speaking, Kit lifted Ty’s gloved hand and kissed it.

“Christopher,” Ty breathed. The sound of his full name on Ty’s lips felt so intimate, as if he had just stripped Kit naked. “That’s not an answer.”

Kit lifted his gaze. “Isn’t it?”

Ty opened his mouth to reply, but then infirmary door opened with a bang and Dru barged in, holding a tray of food. Ty jumped off the bed so quickly it made Kit dizzy.

“Good morning,” Dru said loudly.

Jaime let out an annoyed wail. “Go ‘way,” he muttered into his pillow.

Dru didn’t listen, of course. She crossed the room, placed the tray on his lap, and took his arm. “You look fine. Eat breakfast, then you can leave.”

Jaime rubbed his eyes sleepily. “You’re so loud.”

“I believe you meant to say thank you.”

Jaime took a sip from the coffee Dru brought him. He seemed instantly better. “Thank you.”

Kit suddenly realized what had seemed off in the picture. “Where’s Ash? Did you finally get tired of him following you around?”

Dru turned to him. “One of your subordinates is outside.”

Kit nodded and left, already knowing who it was. He found Cameron asleep on the floor, curled in his jacket.

“Ashdown,” Kit said loudly.

Cameron woke up with a jerk. He jumped on his feet and immediately placed himself in a fighting stance. Kit smirked; he always found the Shadowhunter instincts highly amusing. He himself had had them ever since he could remember himself. In retrospect, his father did a remarkable job in convincing him he was a mundane.

“He’s up,” he told Cameron. “He’s fine, the wound healed.”

Cameron looked oddly relieved given the fact that Jaime surviving the night meant that he was more likely to kill Cameron eventually. Kit could not comprehend his behavior. Perhaps Cameron truly had a death wish. Maybe that was the reason he fought all those Eidolon demons.

“I should go,” Cameron said.

Kit looked at the shadows under his eyes and at his hollow cheeks. “Go eat something. That’s an order.”

Cameron nodded and left, and Kit already knew he was going to disobey him. At least he was irreproachable in every other aspect; Tamara had informed Kit that he was taking his responsibilities seriously and, apparently, was a delight to patrol with since he hadn’t uttered a single word in four hours.

Kit went back to the infirmary to find Jaime in a sitting position, sipping his coffee and going through his phone. “Who was it?” he asked lazily. “Mildwright? She keeps sending me texts asking if I need help bathing.”

Kit chuckled. “You love that.”

Jaime smirked. But it wasn’t his usual, cocky smirk. The one that appeared on his face whenever someone pointed out that he was attractive, or that some girl had a crush on him. His smile was somewhat forced, and for the first time Kit thought that maybe Jaime didn’t enjoy this as much as he pretended to.

Jaime turned to Ty. “You look like crap. You should get some sleep.”

Ty glanced at Kit. “I’m fine,” he said quietly.

“No, you’re not,” Dru said pointedly. “I’m taking you to your room and you’re going to sleep.”

“I wouldn’t disobey her if I were you,” Jaime said warily.

Ty still looked hesitant, but Kit could not stand to see the shadows under his eyes. “Go to bed,” he said softly. For one insane second, he wanted to ask Ty if he wanted him to lay in bed with him, the way Ty had done during the night.

“You guys are being super weird sleeping,” Dru commented flatly, snapping Kit back to reality.

“Says the girl who’s making origami now,” he muttered.

Dru ignored him. “Come on, Ty-Ty. I’ll walk you.”

Ty gave his sister a small smile then left the room, and Kit grabbed Dru’s arm. “Wait,” he said. “After you make sure Ty’s in his room, I need you to force Ashdown to eat something.”

Dru gave him a questioning look.

“I don’t care if you have to shove food down his throat, just make sure he eats,” Kit told her.

Dru raised an amused eyebrow. “Sounds a bit unethical.”

“What’s unethical is sending starved Shadowhunters on missions.”

Kit expected Dru to say something snarky in remark, but instead she gave him a rare smile. “You pretend otherwise, but you’re kind. And I always liked that about you. Not sure I ever told you that.”

“So,” Jaime purred after she left. “You and Ty stayed with me all night.”

Kit turned to him. “Yes, for some reason I kind of like you –“

“Of course you do, I’m delightful.” Jaime said dismissively. “But you and Ty-Ty spent the night together, huh? Did you finally get your head out of your ass and tell him how you feel?”

“Shut up.”

“Did you finally decide to try and win his heart? Maybe you could try memorizing facts about insects or something to impress him.”

Kit gaped at him. “What?”

Jaime shrugged. “It sounds like something you would do.” He sipped his coffee lazily. “You know, I’ve watched you jump from one serious relationship to another – total waste of time, of course – but not once have I seen you avoid expressing your feelings. Usually you’re all like ‘oh, my darling, I know I’ve only met you five minutes ago but I definitely see us having a super serious and very committed relationship for absolutely no reason and –‘”

“It’s different.”

“Why?”

“Let’s get out of here. The smell gives me a headache.”

Jaime finished his coffee and got up and Kit lead him to the tower. They entered the library and Kit looked around. Hundreds of books surrounded the circular room, arranged in shelves that went up two floors, giving an almost overwhelming sensation of insignificance relative to the knowledge accumulated over thousands of years. At the center was still placed the same desk at which, according to Jace, his old tutor used to sit. Multiple chairs were scattered throughout the room to sit and read in. Kit stopped; in one of them sat Cameron Ashdown, deeply immersed in some dusty book.

Kit cleared his throat quickly to notify Cameron that they were there, before Jaime could notify him in a more violent manner. Cameron lifted his eyes from his book, then quickly averted his gaze when he met Jaime’s eyes. He closed his book and left the room in a hurry, making sure to avoid looking at Jaime as he walked past him.

“Come,” Kit said.

He led Jaime to the stairs. The second-floor gallery was were things of importance were kept, some on display; mostly books related to dangerous demon magics, necromancy, demon pox, and various other subjects. In between the bookshelves were glass cases, each containing a different treasure: a crystal bird, a large crown, various magical jewels, and even the clockwork angel that used to belong to Tessa. Kit caressed the glass with the back of his hand. He still hadn’t told Tessa and Jem that he broke off his engagement. Maybe he was embarrassed that he broke it off without a valid reason. Maybe he was afraid that they would be disappointed in him.

He turned around to see Jaime staring at a golden locket enclosed in a glass case. The locket was oval shaped and on it was etched the image of an Alkonost, a woman-headed bird, originating in Russia.

“It’s an Alkonost,” Kit told him. “It makes amazingly beautiful sounds, and those who hear them forget everything they know and want nothing more ever again. Seven hundred years ago, a warlock trapped the sound of an Alkonost inside this locket. It would be extremely dangerous to open it.”

But Jaime didn’t seem interested in the myth surrounding the locket. Instead he stared at the small metal plaque describing the object. Kit looked at it and noticed a detail he had never seen before. Under the description, in small cursive letters, was another sentence.

Generous donation of the Ashdown family.

“Generous donation,” Jaime read the words out loud, disdain in his voice. “Thank you, O mighty Ashdowns, for gracing the world with a cursed locket and two spoiled brats.”

“I think Cameron and Paige have a cousin,” Kit said thoughtfully. “So, it might actually be three spoiled brats.”

“Great,” Jaime said dryly. “They’re multiplying –“

“Well technically their cousin was always there –“

“- and soon the world will be filled with self-centered spoiled brats who only think about themselves!”

Kit bit his lower lip. “He waited outside the infirmary all night,” he said quietly.

Jaime froze. “He what?”

“He stayed outside all night. Honestly, I have no idea why, because I told him to leave and that you would kill him if you found him there, but still he stayed,” he said. “He fell asleep on the floor. I found him there this morning.”

Jaime’s expression softened for a moment before he wore back his frown. “No,” he mumbled to himself. “He hasn’t changed.”

Kit had no idea what he was talking about, but one look at Jaime’s face told him that he wasn’t going to answer any questions on the subject.

“I need to ask you something,” Kit said instead.

At that, Jaime’s expression softened again. “Sure,” he said with the same kind tone he reserved only for his close friends.

“So, Ty told me… certain things,” Kit said slowly. “And I’m sure I’m reading too much into this, because he said there was no one he wanted to do those things to, and also he told me again that he was leaving soon, so I know he doesn’t want me and he doesn’t want to stay, but what if he does, a little bit, and what if I miss my chance? No, wait, I can’t risk ruining our friendship. Forget that I said that. That was stupid. I can’t –“

“Slow down,” Jaime said gently. “Slow down and tell me what happened.”

Kit felt his face getting hot. “We were in my office, and we were playing Black Jack, and every time someone lost, they had to answer a question. And we sort of… started asking each other about our past experiences. And then Ty got up to leave, and I couldn’t help it, I asked him what his ex liked in bed, and Ty saw right through me. He knew that I was trying to ask him what he liked.”

Kit knew his whole face was red. He waited for Jaime to say something really dirty, or maybe even laugh. But Jaime kept his solemn expression, waiting for Kit to continue.

“He answered me,” Kit said quietly. “He… he pushed me against the wall, and he told me everything.”

“Everything?”

“Yes. Everything. Every little detail of what he would have done to someone he wanted. And I… I thought I was dreaming, but he kept going, and I thought that maybe he wanted… me,” he said, embarrassed. “But then he told me that there was no one he wanted to do those things to.”

Jaime’s brows were furrowed. “He said that?”

“Yes! I don’t understand him at all,” Kit passed his hand through his hair in frustration.

Jaime’s expression was thoughtful. “I mean, I have on occasions given people very detailed descriptions just to see them flustered… I think it depends on the way he did it?”

“He sort of… pinned me against the wall. Kind of… like this.” Kit put his hand on Jaime’s chest and pushed him against a bookshelf. “And then he leaned in, like this, and he began whispering –“

“What are you guys doing?” he heard Dru’s voice behind him. He let go of Jaime and turned around abruptly.

“Are you confessing your platonic love again?” she asked, amused.

“Something of the sort,” Jaime smiled at her. “Where’s the cupcake?”

“Still sleeping,” Dru said. Her voice was a bit strained. “Anyway, have you seen my… um… food victim?”

“He probably was here,” Kit emphasized. “Maybe he’s in his room.”

Dru nodded and left, and Jaime turned to him. “Food victim? What is she talking about? Is she – oh.” His face lit up. “Is she going to throw a sandwich at Whitestrider again? I hope she does that over dinner. I really enjoyed last time.”

“Back to it,” Kit said quickly to avoid an answer. He pushed Jaime against the bookshelf again. “Okay so he pins me like this, right? And then he just leaned in and began whispering what he liked –“

“Oooh what does he like?” Jaime said, imitating an excited school-girl’s voice.

“Shut up. So anyway, he whispered those things – super detailed – and then he just grabbed my hair –“

“Damn, he grabbed your hair?”

“Yes! Like this,” Kit passed his fingers through Jaime’s hair and brought his lips closer to his ear. “And he just kept going and I had to keep reminding myself that it was real.”

“Can we just take a moment here to appreciate how much of a good friend I am, letting you put your hands all over me, you horndog –“

“You’re enjoying this.”

“I keep telling you, you’re not my type. You have blue eyes.”

“Focus! So, he pulls my hair and he says those things, and then he suddenly lets go of me and he says ‘But there isn’t anyone that I want to do those things to’ and then he just leaves!”

Kit let him go and leaned against the bookshelf, frustrated. Jaime crossed his arms, his brows furrowed.

“We fell asleep together,” Kit said quietly. “We were watching you, and we fell asleep on a bed together, and when I saw him this morning, he was so… so Ty, and I blurted out that I missed him, and I think I’m being stupid.” He let out a frustrated grunt. “I wish I could read his mind. I wish I knew what he’s thinking.”

“Yeah,” Jaime said quietly. “I used to wish the same thing.” But before Kit could ask him about it, he added quickly, “Maybe he lied?”

Kit shook his head. “Ty doesn’t lie.”

“Okay, so maybe he wasn’t lying,” Jaime said slowly. “Maybe he was just not telling the whole truth, only part of it.”

“What do you mean?”

They heard a loud bang as someone dropped a book from the adjacent bookshelf. They glanced at each other, and Kit could see that Jaime was fearing the worst as well.

“Who’s there?” Kit asked.

There was silence from behind the bookshelf.

“Get out now or I’m going to skin you alive!” Kit yelled.

From behind the bookshelf peeked a frightened-looking Ash. “I-I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

“What are you doing here?” Jaime looked at him suspiciously. “Why aren’t you with Dru?”

“And more importantly,” Kit said angrily. “How much did you hear?”

Ash looked extremely uncomfortable. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, keeping his gaze down. “All of it,” he mumbled.

“Don’t say a word to anyone!” Kit said menacingly. “Otherwise I’m throwing you out on the street. The Queen’s guards will soon find you, and you’ll be brought back to the court and probably killed on the spot.”

“I won’t say anything!” Ash said quickly.

Kit grabbed the collar of his shirt and stared down at him. “If you do –“

“I won’t,” Ash panted, struggling to free himself.

Kit was lucky that Dru was chasing Ashdown right now because she would have probably maimed him if she saw him grab Ash like that. With a low grunt, he let him go. “Good. Now fuck off.”

But Ash didn’t leave. Instead, he looked at him with his big green eyes. “There’s something you should know.”

Chapter Text

Nantes, France, fourteen months ago

Jaime had spent the entire week on the verge of tears and completely torn. On one hand, he hoped the week would never end, so that he wouldn’t have to say goodbye to Cameron. One the other hand, he hoped the week would just fly by, so he would be able to hold back the tears that threatened to spill and not break down in front of the entire institute. And so, Jaime found himself unable to say more than a few words at a time to Cameron during the past week.

Cameron himself had spent the week in silence as well; probably planning his departure in his head and stressing over the fact that he had to make new friends, being the introvert that he was.

On the last day before Cameron’s planned departure, they sat together at lunch at their usual table and Jaime realized he should have asked Cameron if he needed help packing but found himself unable to offer. They ate in silence, and Jaime kept his gaze fixed on his plate; it was impossible to look at Cameron with the knowledge that this was going to be their last lunch together. Every time Jaime tried to lift his eyes he felt a sharp pain in his lungs; felt the breath rushing out, as if he was drowning. He prayed, begging Raziel to make the pain stop.

“Hola hermano.”

Jaime lifted his eyes to see the last person he expected – or wanted – to see. His perfect older brother Diego stood in front of him, wearing his immaculate Centurion uniform and his shiny Centurion pin.

Jaime squinted his eyes but did not say a word.

Diego sat down next to him and patted his shoulder. “Not happy to see me?”

“Why are you here? Did mom send you to spy on me?” Jaime asked him angrily.

In front of him, Cameron lifted his eyes.

“Right,” Jaime muttered. “Cameron, meet my brother Diego. Diego, this is Cameron.”

Cameron seemed a bit nervous; he reached his hand to shake Diego’s. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

“Por qué estás aquí?” Jaime repeated his question.

Diego gave a strained smile. “It’s Nina’s birthday party tonight,” he said. “I figured it might be a good opportunity to visit my brother.”

“And also, mom sent you.”

“She did,” Diego admitted.

“Why is she so worried? I’m behaving. Ask Nina.”

Diego pursed his lips. “You don’t talk to us much these days. She just wants to know that you’re okay.”

Was he okay? Jaime didn’t know anymore.

“How are things back home?” he asked, mostly to get Diego to talk about something.

Luckily, Diego began detailing the doings and whereabouts of every member of their family, and Jaime could breathe again. Half an hour later, Diego had stopped talking and so Jaime got up.

“Let’s train,” he told Cameron. “Diego, you’re welcome to join.” His voice was strained; being in the presence of his brother always felt like a test.

Cameron followed them quietly to the training room and accepted the training sword Jaime had given him. Soon, people gathered around them, watching their fight with excitement, betting on the outcome – mostly that Jaime will manage to disarm Cameron in less than three minutes.

The adrenaline coursing in his veins somehow relaxed him, and Jaime’s mind refocused on the task ahead of him: beating Cameron. The problem was that Cameron knew him too well; he knew his favorite moves and his secret tricks. He avoided Jaime’s attacks, moving as if he was inside his head. Jaime couldn’t help but smile, and then he noticed that Cameron was smiling as well.

Finally, he managed to disarm him. Cameron surrendered, laughing, and the crowd cheered louder around them. Without thinking, Jaime pulled him into a hug and Cameron let him, melting into his embrace.

“Cameron!” Someone called.

They both turned their heads to see Nina standing next to a girl with strawberry hair which Jaime recognized immediately: Paige Ashdown. Jaime was drowning again; Paige was here to take Cameron to Shanghai. They would leave tomorrow. This was it. This was the end of their time together.

Camron let go of him and went to join his sister. “Paige!” he cried out happily and pulled her into a hug. He turned around. “Jaime! Come here!”

Jaime joined them, trying to hide his nervousness. He disliked Paige, sure, but she was Cameron’s sister.

“Hey,” he said quietly.

Paige gave him a haughty smile.

“That’s Jaime Rosales,” Cameron said. Had he forgotten that Jaime had met her in the past, or was he trying to give him a second chance at first impressions?

“Hi, Jaime,” Paige said with a smug smile. “I see you’re aiming to improve your social status.”

Jaime was painfully reminded how, almost a year ago, Paige had insisted that her brother would never want to “associate” with him because his social class was “lower”.

“Paige!” Cameron stared at her, an expression of shock on his face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“When we met last time, he told me he would never want to meet you.”

Cameron and Jaime burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Paige pouted.

“He told me he said that,” Cameron said, tears in his eyes. “I’m not blaming him, really.”

Jaime let out a low chuckle. “He’s not as bad as you described him,” he told Paige. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s the nerdiest guy I’ve ever met. But in a cool way.”

His face felt hot suddenly, and he prayed Paige and Cameron had missed the faint blush he was sure had appeared on his cheeks.

Paige made an impatient sound. “Cameron, would you show me around?” she asked.

“Sure. Jaime –“

“Alone,” Paige emphasized. “I haven’t seen you in so long, my dear brother.”

Cameron glanced at Jaime, as if waiting to see what he would say.

“I promised Diego I’d take him to see the city,” Jaime said quickly. “I’ll see you tonight at the party?”

“I’m not sure I’m going. You know I hate those things,” Cameron mumbled. “Also, I need to pack.”

An iceberg formed in Jaime’s stomach, spreading quickly, freezing his blood in his veins. “Yes. Yes, of course,” he managed to say, each word threatening to make him collapse.

“Maybe you could stop by afterwards?” Cameron asked.

Jaime already knew he wouldn’t; he couldn’t bear to see Cameron’s empty room, with all his belongings packed in his suitcase.

“Yeah, maybe,” he said non-committedly.

“Great.” Paige pulled her brother by his arm and dragged him out of the room.

Jaime remained standing there like an idiot, trying to stop the tears that already formed at the corner of his eyes and began blurring his vision.

Someone put his hand on his shoulder.

“Vamos afuera,” Diego said gently.

Jaime nodded. They left the institute and began walking the streets of Nante, silent, until they reached the Loire river and walked along it, gazing quietly at the water and at the old buildings and small shops.

Diego picked a bench facing the water and sat on it, and Jaime joined him reluctantly; nothing could make him forget about Cameron’s departure, and sitting with his brother in silence only made it worse.

“So, how are you?” Diego finally asked him. He tone was soft.

Jaime stared at the water, unable to speak. They remained silent for a while, until Jaime finally managed to open his mouth.

“Cameron is leaving tomorrow.”

It was a very random statement which had nothing to do with Diego’s question.

But it had everything to do with it.

Diego, however, couldn’t possibly know that. He had never met Cameron before; he had never even heard of him until about two hours ago. There was no reason that Jaime should have told him that. It just slipped out.

Mostly, Jaime didn’t want to talk to Diego about it. Their relationship had always been strained; Diego was the perfect son, and Jaime was the troublemaker. They never understood each other; it was as if they didn’t even speak the same language. There was no way that Diego would understand how Jaime felt, and there was no reason that he should.

Diego put a hand on his shoulder. “Does he know?”

“What?” Jaime turned to him, confused.

“Does he know that you want him to stay?”

“What – I – no, I don’t –“ Jaime mumbled. “How –“

Diego took a deep breath. “I sat with you at lunch,” he said. “I saw you sneaking glances at him. I could swear I heard your heart breaking when you told me he was leaving just now.” He tightened his grip on Jaime’s shoulder. “Jaime, you’re my brother. I know you, and I love you. All I’m asking is that you talk to me more.”

So many emotions flooded Jaime’s mind at the same time, it was overwhelming. Sadness and anger and despair and gratitude and –

Jaime finally let the tears that threatened to spill for over a week fall on his cheeks. He let Diego hug him, he let himself melt into the embrace, he let himself feel everything he had worked so hard to repress. He told Diego about a party he attended four months ago. He told him about a tall preppy nerd with a posh accent that approached him, and how they left the party to take a walk in the gardens. He told him that Cameron liked plants because, unlike people, they’re predictable. He told him that Cameron said flowers could be used to express things that words cannot. He told him about the rose garden they built, about the way Cameron’s hair shone copper in the sunlight. He told him that Cameron was his complete opposite, yet somehow, he was the same.

“I just… I can’t bear to watch him leave,” he said, voice quivering. “I couldn’t say a single word to him this past week. I know I’m overacting. I don’t… I don’t know why, I just… I got too attached.”

Diego nodded thoughtfully.

“We… we’re not like that,” Jaime tried to explain. “We’re just… we’re friends. I don’t know what is happening to me.”

Diego passed his hand on his shoulder soothingly. “Estas enamorado de el,” he said quietly.

Jaime pulled away, his heart beating racing. Was Diego right? No, he couldn’t be. Jaime couldn’t be.

Jaime was not in love with Cameron.

“I-I’m not… I can’t… no,” Jaime said weakly. “No.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve never been in love. I’m not… I can’t do that. Any of that.”

“Why not?”

“I just… never have.”

“The fact that you never have doesn’t mean that you can’t,” Diego said.

He was right. Jaime had never tried having a serious relationship, but it didn’t mean that he couldn’t be in one. So, what was he so afraid of? Commitment? Commitment wasn’t scary if it was done with the right person; and Jaime had never met someone who felt so right as Cameron did. Jaime had never taken a real chance on anyone because he didn’t want to miss out on all the opportunities that single life had to offer. But over the past four months he hadn’t been with anyone but Cameron; he hadn’t even glanced at anyone but Cameron. And those were the best four months of his life.

“But what if he… isn’t?” he asked weakly.

Diego smiled at him. “Don’t you want to find out?”

Jaime remained silent.

“You know, sometimes all you need is ten seconds of courage,” Diego said quietly. “Just ten seconds of insane bravery.”

Jaime gazed at the water. Diego was right. He just needed ten seconds of crazy, embarrassing courage, and he’d find out the answer. Deep inside - if he was being honest with himself – he already knew what it would be. Cameron did want him back. He cared about him, he liked to spend time with him, he kissed him even if sex was not included. And maybe… maybe the reason Cameron seemed so down lately was because he, too, didn’t want to part.

“I will,” Jaime said. “I’ll tell him the truth.”

Diego ruffled his hair affectionately. “Let’s go. We’ll be late for Nina’s party.”

They walked back to the institute and Jaime felt lighter, as if a weight of two hundred pounds was suddenly lifted off him. Everything was going to be alright. He was going to tell Cameron how he feels and ask him to stay, or maybe even suggest to move with him to Shanghai. He didn’t mind relocating, as long as he could stay with Cameron. And Diego was here now. His brother was here, walking alongside him, speaking animatedly. After years of misunderstandings, they finally managed to bridge their gaps. Everything was going to be alright.

Jaime didn’t enjoy the party at all; he drank too much out of stress, replaying in his mind what he should say to Cameron. He spent the evening with his friends and with his brother. Paige joined them at some point, and Jaime hoped she’d change her mind about him, because she was Cameron’s sister. Then his brother left, and Charlotte got a bit too drunk, and Jaime decided that it was time for him to go, so he walked Charlotte back to her room and went back to his, took a cold shower and went to bed.

He awoke the next morning more nervous, more excited than he had ever been. Cameron was leaving in a few hours; there was no time to waste. He got dressed and left the institute, following the instructions on his phone until he found the flower shop he’d been looking for. Flowers can say more than words, and Jaime knew what to get. Blue roses meant “I love you even though I can’t have you”, and red roses were meant for established relationships. Neither were what Jaime wanted to say. He got potted blue violets because they symbolized trustworthiness, faith, and love. They expressed Jaime’s exact thoughts: He’d never taken a chance on anyone. He had never thought someone might be worth the heartbreak. But he trusted Cameron with his heart; he’d give it to him readily, because somehow along the way he fell for this nerd and there was no going back for him.

His hand was trembling as he knocked on Cameron’s door.

Cameron opened it, wearing a blue t-shirt that brought out his eyes and made Jaime even more nervous than he already was. For a few long moments he stood there, staring at him, falling even deeper in love.

“What?” Cameron asked. He seemed slightly annoyed; probably because Jaime was gaping at him like an idiot.

Jaime regained his senses. “I got you something,” he managed to say, lifting the potted flowers.

“Okay?”

Cameron didn’t seem to get the message.

“Those are blue violets,” Jaime emphasized.

“I see that.”

Jaime began panicking. It was not going according to plan. The flowers were supposed to do the talking for him, but they didn’t, and now Jaime had to explain.

He shifted his weight from foot to foot. “I thought that… you could plant them here. Next to the weird clown-shaped bushes or something, and then… you know… you could water them every day.” It sounded a lot more romantic in his head.

“Why?”

“Because it would mean that… um… that you would be here every day,” Jaime mumbled.

Cameron raised an eyebrow. “Is this your weird way of saying that you want me to stay?”

Jaime’s confidence was fading with every passing second. “Yes,” he said quietly.

“Why?”

Jaime was screwing this up; it was clear that he was making Cameron nervous with this sudden declaration of love. He had to lighten the mood a little.

“Because you’re a pretty decent fuck,” he said.

“Because I’m a pretty decent fuck,” Cameron repeated slowly.

Jaime was screwing up so bad.

“Not just that,” he said quickly. “Because I also like spending time with you. I think you’re pretty, and funny, and nerdy in a hot way, and I… I was hoping that you would stay.”

“For what?”

“For me,” Jaime said quietly. “Stay for me.”

Cameron snorted. “For you?” he said, his tone mocking. “I already wasted enough time on you.”

Jaime stared at him. “What?” He must have misheard.

“I would have stayed from someone actually worth staying for. Someone I could have had a future with,” Cameron said. His harsh tone made Jaime flinch. “But you? You’re not boyfriend material. You’re not… anything.” Cameron’s eyes were hard. “I’m leaving tonight, and until then I don’t want to see you.”

Jaime should have held on to whatever was left of his dignity and left, but he stood there like an idiot, gaping at him.

“I don’t understand,” he said, his voice quivering pathetically. “Is it because you don’t want a relationship? I –“

“No,” Cameron said coldly. “It’s because I don’t want you.”

With that he slammed the door in Jaime’s face.

Jaime’s mind was a haze; he couldn’t process what had just happened. And then his whole body began trembling, shaking like a leaf. He dropped the pot of flowers. It fell on the floor in front of Cameron’s door and shattered on impact, leaving a pile of broken pieces of porcelain and dirt and mangled flowers.

How? How could he have been so wrong about Cameron?

His legs refused to move. He was too shocked, too embarrassed by Cameron’s reaction. He was so sure Cameron had felt the same way; but Cameron dismissed him like he was nobody. For the first time in his life, Jaime understood what it felt like to be chased away like a dog.

His body wasn’t obeying him anymore, just shaking uselessly in front of Cameron’s door like the wounded dog that he had now become, licking his wounds.

Leave. Leave.

He managed to take a step, then another, then another, and then he began running, frantically, until he reached his room and slammed the door behind him. He leaned against it, panting, trembling, and then he crumpled to the floor and broke down crying.

He cried for his shattered heart. He cried for the way Cameron humiliated him. For how stupid he had been, how naïve, to think that Cameron might have been feeling the same way.

He truly believed that they had something special. That he and Cameron could be something special. That Cameron was worth the effort and work that a relationship required. That Cameron was… that he could love Jaime the way Jaime loved him.

You’re not boyfriend material.

Cameron’s words echoed in Jaime’s mind, and he realized that Cameron had never cared about him the way Jaime did. To him, Jaime was a temporary toy. Just a stupid, pathetic toy who thought that Cameron might think of him as something more.

You’re not… anything.

And Jaime finally recognized that Cameron was no different than his sister; he never thought of Jaime as anything more because unlike him, Jaime had no money and no connections. Paige was right; she had warned him a long time ago that Cameron wouldn’t want to associate with him. Jaime was just too stubborn to listen.

Someone knocked on the door and for one crazy, pitiful second, Jaime thought that Cameron changed his mind.

“Vine a decir adios,” Diego said from the other side of the door.

Jaime opened it slowly.

Diego looked at him, at his read eyes and wet cheeks, a pained expression on his face. “What –“

“I’m coming with you,” Jaime said. His voice was steady. “I’m going back to Mexico.”

Diego was quiet for a moment, but finally he nodded, having puzzled together what had happened. “Let me help you pack.”

“No. I’m not taking anything with me.”

Diego did not argue. From the look on his face, he realized the depths of Jaime’s pain. So strong, so deep, Jaime didn’t want to keep anything that Cameron had ever touched or even looked at.

“Wait just a second,” Jaime told his brother.

He took his old phone from the desk drawer and left the one Cameron had gotten him, then took out a pen and a paper and wrote a resignation letter addressed to Nina.

“I’m ready,” he said. “Let’s go.”

Without another glance at his old room or at any of his few belongings, Jaime closed the door.

He left the letter on Nina’s desk and left the Nante institute without turning back. He barely uttered a word until he and Diego got back home. When Nina texted him to ask where she should mail his things, he texted back four words.

“You can burn them.”

Chapter Text

Kit was not, by nature, a morning person. Yet lately he found it easier to wake up in the mornings, due to the knowledge that he might find Ty in the kitchen, drinking his tea.

When he got closer to the kitchen, Ty’s baritone voice made his heart flutter. But his voice sounded a bit… strained.

“Then make yourself, otherwise you will lose it again –“

“I’m trying,” Kit heard Cameron’s voice. “I just… can’t. It’s hard to explain –“

“An IV then,” Ty said. “I’m texting my sister –“

“What are you guys talking about?” Kit walked in, interrupting them.

“Cameron was just leaving,” Ty said immediately.

Cameron didn’t argue. Instead, he left the kitchen in a hurry. Kit forced himself to keep quiet and not question Ty on their conversation.

“There are reports of an Eidolon demon attack,” he said instead. “I thought I would send Cameron, since he has so much experience with them.”

“Not this time, he’s too weak,” Ty said immediately. “Let him deal with the next attack.”

Kit squinted his eyes. “Why are you so sure that there’s going to be another one?”

Ty paled. He opened his mouth to reply, but quickly closed it when Jaime entered the kitchen.

“’Morning,” he grumbled. Kit watched as he heated nachos, then opened the fridge and took out a can of whipped cream and poured half its content on his plate, before sitting down next to Ty.

“Ew, what are you eating?” Kit grimaced.

“My feelings,” Jaime said miserably. He bit into another nacho then poured whipped cream straight from the container into his mouth.

Ty’s gaze flickered to Kit, as if to consult with him. Kit nodded and took a seat in front of Jaime.

“Want to talk about it?”

“No. I just want to eat my nachos in peace.”

“I know what’s been happening,” Kit said. Ty’s gaze flickered to him again.

“You don’t,” Jaime said flatly.

“It’s Dru and Ash,” Kit said. “They’re walking around, giving each other moony eyes and making paper birds or whatever. And you’re jealous.”

In front of him, Ty’s gaze focused on his mug.

“Okay,” Jaime said.

“I know it sucks,” Kit said. “But if you can still fight for her. Don’t give up!”

“I’ll do my best,” Jaime said flatly. “Now, can I please go back to my nachos?”

“No! Why do you refuse –“

“Kit, I want to show you my progress on the case you gave me,” Ty cut him off gently. “Would you come to the library with me?”

Kit knew that Ty only wanted him to give Jaime space. Still, the prospect of spending time alone with him sent his heart fluttering in his chest, and Jaime seemed relieved, so Kit got up and followed Ty to the library.

“I looked at the patterns and I think it might not be a demon,” Ty said. “I suspect it’s a violent Kindeva, the human-like being mentioned in the Hindu Puranas.” He showed him his notes. “See? No traces of DNA or ichor were found at the crime scenes.”

“Oh, that makes sense.” Kit leaned back on his chair and put his legs on the low table. “Kindeva don’t sleep, that’s why the attacks occurred both at nighttime and at broad daylight.”

Ty nodded. “I still have to figure out where it will attack next based on its pattern, and then you can send a task force.”

“Great.” Kit flipped a page in Ty’s notebook. Every inch of it was covered in his tiny handwriting. Kit passed his fingers over the page, caressing the words.

Ty took a stack of reports and began reading them, taking notes on a small pad. Kit forced himself to focus on the notebook in his hand. He flipped through the pages, not retaining a word. Ty sat close to him, and he smelled of laundry detergent, and ink and paper, and the ocean. Kit had missed that smell so much; he just hadn’t realized it until Ty came back.

But why did he come back?

Kit turned another page. It didn’t matter why Ty came back, he reminded himself, because he was leaving soon anyway. He didn’t want to feel caged; why would he stay? But maybe…

“Do you like it here?” Kit blurted out.

Ty lifted his eyes from the file he was reading. “In New York, you mean?”

“Yes. Do you like it here?”

“Yes. It’s nice.”

“And you’re still… um…”

“Yes. I’m still leaving,” Ty said severely.

Great. Kit had managed to make things awkward and pressure Ty. What the hell was wrong with him? He couldn’t let Ty know that he wanted him to stay. It might make Ty think that he’s trying to take away his freedom, and what if… what if it would make Ty leave faster?

“I… I have to get back to my office. Make the patrolling schedule,” Kit mumbled.

Ty’s gaze flickered to him before he lowered it down again. “Okay.”

Kit got up, cursing himself internally for being so awkward, and went to his office to bury himself in paperwork which would hopefully help him regain his sense of rationality.

Four hours and countless papers filled later, Kit’s uneasiness didn’t dull and so he left to find Jaime. He was probably in the kitchen; maybe Kit could join him and then they could eat nachos and whipped cream and be sad together.

When he reached the kitchen, however, he ran into Ash. He was leaning against the door, gazing at the wall in front of him, looking a bit lost. Yesterday Ash had overheard Kit and Jaime talk about his feelings for Ty. Ash had wanted to tell Kit something, but Kit managed to shake him off, angrily hissing “fuck off, the grown ups are talking right now”. Ash didn’t seem very happy to leave, but he didn’t argue, judging it safer to not anger Kit.

“I’m guessing Dru’s in the kitchen?” Kit lifted an annoyed eyebrow.

“She’s with Jaime,” Ash replied.

Kit’s eyes lit up. “She is?” he asked happily.

Ash seemed a little taken aback by Kit’s enthusiasm. “Yeah, they’re talking, and I didn’t want to interrupt because she’s his friendliest friend.”

“She’s his what now?” Kit stared at him.

“She’s Jaime’s friendliest friend, he told me so.” Ash repeated. “Listen, I still need to talk you –”

Kit pushed Ash out of the way and barged into the kitchen.

“You told Ash that Dru’s your friendliest friend?” he asked when he spotted Jaime sitting with Dru, a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows in front of him.

Jaime lifted his eyes, slightly alarmed. Next to him, Dru stifled a laugh.

“What the hell, man?!” Kit yelled.

Ash peeked behind him. “I’m sor –“

“I thought I was your best friend!” Kit yelled. “Did the last two years mean nothing to you?”

Dru burst out laughing. Kit gave her a death stare.

“You misunderstood the cupcake,” Jaime said, trying to hide a smile. “Dru is my friendliest friend, but you’re my best friend.”

Dru wiped tears from her eyes, unable to stop laughing.

“Dru, darling, would you please let me have a moment with my best friend?” Jaime asked her.

Dru kissed his temple, then took Ash’s hand and they both left the kitchen. Jaime gestured at Kit to take the seat in front of him.

“Dude,” he said. “I’m touched.”

Kit sat down. “You should be.” He sniffed. “Also, what the hell? Why would you tell her that she’s your friendliest friend? Are you trying to friendzone yourself? You’ll never get Dru to date you if you keep acting like an idiot!”

Jaime rolled his eyes. “Again with the Dru thing?”

“Yes, again with the Dru thing. Why are you being so difficult?”

“Me? You’re the annoying one!”

Kit gasped. “How dare you! I’m only trying to help.”

“Well, you’re not.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Perhaps I should take your approach and take her to a pretense-date!”

“Pretty sure she’d snap your finger right off, but sure. Go ahead.” Jaime took a sip of his hot chocolate.

Kit sighed. He cupped his face and maintained eye contact. “Why. Why are you like this.”

Jaime shrugged him off. He took another lazy sip of his mug. “Do you want some?”

“Sure, what the hell.” Kit took the mug from his hand and took a sip. “It’s really good. Did you make that?”

“Yeah. Now I know how to cook four things.”

“Doesn’t count as cooking, but okay.” Kit took another sip.

“Hey! Give it back.”

Kit pulled away. “Not unless you either tell me why you won’t go after Dru - ”

“No.”

“- or why you hate Cameron Ashdown so much.”

“He has blue eyes.” Jaime said immediately.

“Come on.”

“I already told you. I hate blue eyes.” Jaime’s voice was strained.

“So you threatened to behead him because he has blue eyes.”

Jaime crossed his arms. “Yes.”

“Then why didn’t you threaten to kill me as well?”

Jaime looked taken aback by the question. “Your eyes are more sky blue.” He chewed on his lower lip. “His look like… like forget-me-not petals and I… I just want to kick his teeth back into his skull and I want to stomp on him and I want to grab his shoulders and shake him and ask him why – why he’s so… why he’s such a stupid little spoiled brat who only thinks about himself and FUCK I hate him so MUCH!” Jaime yelled.

“Woah,” Kit gave him his mug back quickly. “I know he’s a little spoiled, I mean, he’s an Ashdown, but I don’t think –“

“Finish your sentence and you’re on my list as well!”

“Cameron’s a spoiled little bitch!” Kit said quickly.

Jaime nodded angrily.

“So now that we… um… agreed on this very specific point, do you… um… want to go get a beer?” Kit asked him quietly, hoping that Jaime would not yell at him again.

The corners of Jaime’s mouth were pulled down. He nodded.

“I just need to get my wallet.”

“Yeah.”

The left the kitchen and walked in silence until they reached the staircase leading to the sleeping quarters. They climbed it, still silent, and reached the long, carpeted corridor. Dozens of dark wooden doors on each side belonged to the rooms occupied by the members of the institute. Kit headed to his room, put on a jacket and placed his wallet in his front pocket. He met Jaime at the hallway.

“Ready?”

“Yeah, let’s go to the same –“

They turned right and came face to face with Cameron. He was holding a large, heavy-looking, cardboard box. When he saw Jaime, Cameron froze in place, his face flushed.

Jaime stood still, glaring at him with pure loathing in his eyes. “Move, Assdown.” He said coldly.

Kit shifted his gaze between him and Cameron, fearing that the wrath of Hades will come down upon them all.

“Anything you want,” Cameron said quietly.

Kit exhaled in relief. One crisis averted; he and –

“Say that again and I will rip off your arm and slap you with it,” Jaime hissed, his lips snarled with rage, and Cameron froze.

Kit stared at Jaime in shock. What, for the love of fuck, made Jaime so angry about Cameron’s saying? It seemed to Kit that Cameron was very compliant and Jaime was overacting, but Kit was afraid to tell him so. It might turn this tense situation into a blood bath.

The three of them stood there in tense silence, and Kit suddenly realized that it was not a good location to stop because it was right next to –

To his right, Ty’s bedroom door opened.

“Oh, hi.” He smiled at them.

No one smiled back. Kit tried to force the corners of his mouth to rise, but his face remained frozen.

“Cameron, do you need help with that box?” Ty asked sympathetically, taking a step towards him.

“No!” Cameron said immediately, taking a step back.

“Careful, Ty,” Jaime said dryly. “Cameron’s mommy probably sent him some expensive hair products and he wouldn’t want peasants like ourselves touching them.”

Cameron’s jaw clenched, but he didn’t say anything. Ty’s gaze shifted from him to Kit. He averted it quickly, however, when he met Kit’s eyes.

And so, they found themselves in a deadlock: Jaime wouldn’t move because of Cameron; Cameron wouldn’t move because of Jaime; Kit wouldn’t move because of Ty; and Ty – Kit assumed - wouldn’t move because of him.

The door adjacent to Ty’s room opened, and Ash peeked outside. “What are you guys doing?”

Kit opened his mouth to reply but then Dru’s face appeared below Ash’s. “Do you want to see my paper crane?”

“Is this the name of a Krav Maga move, or – ? “ Cameron began, but stopped when he saw the expression on Jaime’s face.

“Are you guys having a meeting?” Dru asked. “Should we join?”

“No,” Kit snapped. “Come on, Jaime. Let’s go.” Cameron was blocking their way, so Kit pulled Jaime by his arm and dragged him back to his room.

He slammed the door shut behind them and sat on his bed.

“Why are we so weird?” he asked, exasperated.

“Speak for yourself,” Jaime muttered. “I’m as rational as can be.”

“Really?” Kit lifted an eyebrow. “For someone so rational you sure seem to avoid your feelings regarding the whole Dru thing and instead you focus on this stupid –“

He stopped talking, having suddenly reached a long overdue epiphany.

“Wait a second. Jaime,” he said slowly. “Do you hate Cameron because he has blue eyes, or do you hate blue eyes because Cameron has them?”

“What?” Jaime asked him irritably.

“You heard me. Do you hate Cameron because he has blue eyes, or do you hate blue eyes because Cameron has them?”

“Don’t go all fucking Greek philosopher on me.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Your question was crap.”

“Do you hate Cameron because he has blue eyes, or do you hate blue eyes because Cameron has them?”

“I have no idea what you’re saying.”

“Do you hate Cameron because he has blue eyes, or do you hate blue eyes because Cameron has them?”

“Shut up.”

“Do you hate Cameron because he has blue eyes, or do you hate blue eyes because Cameron has them?” Kit insisted. “Come on. Which is it?”

“The second!” Jaime yelled. “It’s the second! I hate blue eyes because he has them!”

He sat down on the bed next to Kit and buried his face in his hands, looking desolate and broken.

Kit studied him with concern. “So… you and –“

“Don’t say his name again.”

Jaime’s cold tone made Kit flinch. He had never seen him react so strongly to anything before; it truly was frightening.

“But why did you tell me you had feelings for Dru?” Kit asked, confused.

“I never did. You just assumed I had, and I never corrected you.”

“But… why? You could have just told me the truth, I would –“

Jaime let out a small sound, like a wounded animal. “I couldn’t,” he said so quietly, Kit almost didn’t hear him. “I ran away from the thought of him for so long.”

Kit put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I’m here. I’m right here with you,” he whispered. “Talk to me. Please.”

Jaime did.

He finally told Kit everything.

He told him a story of starry night skies and French gardens. A story of blue roses, and dark copper, and opposites which seemed to be the same. A story of eyes the color of forget-me-not petals, and gentle kisses, and laying on the grass gazing at the stars. A story of love and hope. A story of heartbreak and despair.

When he was done, his voice shaky and his eyes red, Kit realized that he had been crying too.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Jaime, I had no idea… I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not your doing.”

“I brought him here.”

“You didn’t know.” Jaime sighed. “I just… can we not talk about him anymore? Ever?” He got up and opened the door.

“Wait,” Kit said quickly. “Then what –“

“I’m going to take a nap,” Jaime said. “Not because I’m tired, but because I just don’t want to be awake right now.”

He gave him half a smile and left, and Kit closed the door and leaned against it, letting out a sigh. Why did everything have to go so terribly wrong all the time?

Someone knocked on his door, and Kit opened it reluctantly to find Ash standing there, looking nervous.

“What now?” Kit barked at him.

Ash’s huge green eyes were focused on him. “There’s something you should know,” he said quietly.

“Agh you’re not letting it go?” Kit asked irritably. “Fine, talk. Do it quick, though. I’m not in the mood for conversation.”

“When we were in the catacombs of Rome, and you almost drowned in the silver pool –“

“What?!” Kit barked at him.

Why the fuck would Ash bring that up right now? Kit was miserable enough as it was, he didn’t need the painful reminder of how he swallowed fairy ether and tried to kiss Ty. Damn it, he had almost succeeded in repressing this memory, and now thanks to this idiot Kit replayed the image of himself pressing Ty against the wall and biting his throat. Ty was not himself either, and almost took too much time to stop him, and Kit had kissed his jaw, and oh God, it was amazing and it was the worst and Kit wanted to crawl into his bed and die of shame.

“When we were in the catacombs of Rome, and you almost drowned in the silver pool,” Ash repeated. “I was the one who pulled you out.”

“Great,” Kit said irritably, unable to shake off the embarrassment of having pinned Ty against the wall.

“I got to the water before Ty did and I immediately jumped in and pulled you out,” Ash continued.

“Do you want a medal or something?” Kit snapped. “Why are you telling me this?”

Ash shifted his weight from foot to foot. “Ty never touched the water,” he repeated slowly, as if trying to communicate something more. “I thought… I thought you should know.”

Kit stared at him.

Ty never touched the water. He didn’t swallow any of the fairy ether. Kit tried to kiss him under the influence of the substance, and Ty almost let him… of his own will.

Kit’s irritation slowly transforming into something else, more fragile, more beautiful.

Hope.

Chapter Text

Nantes, France, fourteen months ago

Paige pushed back her long hair and rang the bell of the Nantes institute. She meant to attend the party held to celebrate the birthday of Nina, the head of the institute, then leave with Cameron tomorrow for Shanghai. She hadn’t heard much of him lately; he must have been busy learning yet another demonic language he would never use.

The door opened to reveal Nina in gear, her sandy hair knotted in a tight bun. Paige’s gaze scanned her from head to toe. Nina had gained a few pounds since she last saw her.

“Hi, Paige!” she said happily. “It’s so good to see you.”

“Hey!” Paige gave her a fake smile. “You look great!” For a whale.

Nina grinned at her. “So do you.”

Obviously. Paige snorted. I can control myself around food.

“Where is my dear brother?” she asked.

“In the training room, I’ll take you.”

Paige looked around with disdain. She had always despised French décor; the French were too influenced by the mundane trends. Unlike Alicante, where the houses were decorated in the same fashion for centuries.

They reached the training room and Paige was surprised to find that her brother was not training alone in a distant corner as she had expected him to; instead, he was having a sword fight with a Shadowhunter with dark brown hair and tan skin. Around them, a small crowd had gathered, cheering and laughing.

Cameron’s movements were quick and accurate, and his opponent was even quicker. But what surprised Paige most was that their sword fight looked almost like a dance. They moved together as if they had each anticipated the other’s next move before it was even hinted; as if they were inside each other’s minds. Paige stared in shock at the way that they moved, until Cameron’s adversary disarmed him, and Cameron surrendered, laughing, and the crowd cheered louder.

To Paige’s utter bewilderment, Cameron’s opponent pulled him into a friendly hug and Cameron let him, as if it was a completely normal thing for him to do. As if he hadn’t shied away from other people his whole life.

“Cameron,” Nina called.

Cameron turned to them, still smiling, and his eyes met Paige’s. His grin grew even wider as he walked towards them.

“Paige!” he cried out happily. He pulled her into a hug which she returned, still slightly suspicious. “How are you?” he asked as he pulled away.

“Wonderful. And yourself?” she asked. “Making new friends, I see.”

Cameron opened his mouth to reply, but Paige looked behind his shoulder. The young man he had trained with was looking at them curiously. He looked familiar.

Cameron turned to look at what had caught her attention. “Jaime!” he yelled. “Come!”

Jaime? The Rosales boy?

Jaime joined them, looking flushed. “Hey,” he said quietly. He seemed slightly nervous.

Paige gave him a haughty smile. Of course he was nervous; she was wearing a skin-tight dress today. People were bound to be distracted.

“That’s Jaime Rosales,” Cameron said.

Ah yes, the Rosales boy. Paige remembered his family. The Rosales had no money and no connections; every Shadowhunter who respected themselves knew that.

“Hi, Jaime,” she said with forces politeness. She played with the Emerald ring on her finger, keeping a bored expression. “I see you’re aiming to improve your social status.”

“Paige!” Cameron stared at her, an expression of mild-shock on his face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Paige didn’t bother looking at him. “When we last met, he told me he would never want to meet you.”

She waited for the sudden reaction her words would cause. Her brother would probably get angry at the vapid Rosales boy. It would be so much fun.

To her horror, Cameron burst out laughing and was soon joined by Jaime.

“What’s so funny?” Paige pouted.

“He told me he said that,” Cameron said, tears in his eyes. “I’m not blaming him, really.”

Jaime let out a low chuckle. “He’s not as bad as you described him,” he told Paige. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s the nerdiest guy I’ve ever met. But in a cool way.”

Paige did not like the blush that suddenly appeared on her brother’s face.

“Cameron, would you show me around?” she asked.

“Sure. Jaime –“

“Alone,” Paige said. “I haven’t seen you in so long, my dear brother.”

Cameron looked at Jaime, as if waiting for confirmation. What the hell was going on?

“I promised Diego I’d take him to see the city,” Jaime said quickly. “I’ll see you tonight at the party?”

Cameron looked uncomfortable. “I’m not sure I’m going,” he mumbled. “You know I hate those things.”

Good. At least something hasn’t changed.

“Also, I need to pack,” Cameron added quietly.

“Yes. Yes, of course,” Jaime said, looking absolutely devastated.

“Maybe you could stop by afterwards?” Cameron asked hopefully.

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Great,” Paige interrupted the weirdest conversation she had ever been unfortunate enough to witness. She pulled her brother by his arm and dragged him out of the room.

Cameron gave her a tour of the institute and the gardens surrounding it. Unsurprisingly, he had replanted half of it. Surprisingly, he didn’t do it alone.

“Jaime’s been working with me every time I’m here,” he said. “He’s… he’s great.”

Paige didn’t care to hear more about that no-one. Instead she broke into a detailed description of everything she had been up to these past few months. Cameron listened in silence, making small comments every now and then to show that he was listening.

Finally, they reached his room, and Cameron closed the door behind them.

“So, what have you been up to?” Paige finally asked. She already knew the answer, of course. Cameron had learned some language or other, and planted some herbs, and avoided human contact. He was predictable like that. “You’re already packed, aren’t you? I want to leave first thing tomorrow.”

Cameron passed his hand through his hair, then knitted his fingers together, then he unknitted them and passed his hand through his hair again, looking weirdly agitated.

Paige lifted an annoyed eyebrow. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Sit down, I need to talk to you about something.”

She sat down on the bed reluctantly. “What is it?”

Cameron sat down next to her and took a deep breath. “I don’t want to go to Shanghai anymore. I think I’m going to stay here.”

“WHAT?!” Paige yelled. “We’ve been planning this for over six months! What the hell?”

“Paige, please, listen –“

“It’s because of that Jaime guy, isn’t it?!”

Her brother exhaled. “It is,” he said. “I… I never planned to for it to happen, but I just… I never felt that way about anyone.”

“So you’re going to throw away my future for him?” she spat.

“I’m not throwing away your future, you can still go without me. It way always your dream, anyway.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!”

Cameron chewed on his lower lip. “He makes me happy,” he whispered. “Happier than I ever thought I could be. I’m sorry Paige, I didn’t plan for this to happen, you know that. But I’ve never… I’ve never taken a real chance on anyone. I didn’t want to. But he’s worth it.”

“He’s not worth throwing away your sister’s –“

“I think I’m in love with him.”

Paige froze. She stared at him, wide-eyed, expecting him to burst out laughing and tell her that it was just an unfunny joke. But Cameron’s blue eyes were fixed on her, his expression nervous.

“You’re what?” she snapped.

Cameron flushed. “I… I think I’m in love with him.”

Paige’s blood was boiling. “No. You’re not,” she said. Seriously, her brother and his stupid –

“I’ve never felt that way about anyone before, I-“

“Have you lost your mind?!” Paige screamed. “You want to give up on Shanghai for someone like him?”

Cameron squinted his eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“His social rank is lower than ours!”

“His… social rank?” Cameron repeated slowly.

“Yes! Our family is wealthy and well connected –“

“What does our parents money have to do with it?”

“It has everything to do with it! His social class is lower! And don’t pretend social class doesn’t exist anymore, because it does! And –“

“I don’t care about any of that!”

“Our parents would!”

Cameron’s expression turned blank. “If that’s the case, I feel sorry for them.”

“Is that all you have to say?”

“Yes. That’s all I have to say.”

“So, you’re staying here.”

“Yes,” he said, keeping his voice gentle. “I’m sorry Paige. But this is my choice, and I hope that you’ll be happy for me.”

Paige made every effort not to slap him. How could her brother be such an idiot? How could he even consider a relationship with this vapid no-one with no money and no connections? How could he abandon his own sister for this idiotic romance?

Well, Cameron might be stupid, but Paige certainly wasn’t. She was going to put an end to this madness. She’d make Cameron leave this idiot and come to Shanghai because this was what was best for their family, and this was what was best for him. One day, months from now, Cameron would thank her.

“I want you to be happy,” she told him. “I support your choice.”

Cameron’s face lit up. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she replied. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to freshen up before the party.”

“Have fun,” Cameron said. “I don’t think I’ll go, though. I sort of… want to go over what I’m going to tell Jaime.”

Paige forced a smile. “Of course.”

She went to Nina’s office and asked for an empty room to freshen up and change clothes for the party. She needed to clear her mind; she needed to form a plan.

An hour and a half later she walked into the ballroom wearing a tight black dress with a deep cleavage, her hair carefully done in an elegant updo. She made small talk with the members of the institute, drinking expensive champagne and flirting.

From the corner of her eye she spotted a handsome Centurion, far more attractive than the man with whom she was currently speaking.

“Excuse me,” she told him and left, heading towards the Centurion, ready to use her undeniable charm.

As she came closer, she realized that the man was in deep conversation with the only thing that stood between her and the future she wanted: Jaime Rosales.

A closer inspection of the Centurion’s pin, marked with the letter R, told her that he belonged to the Rosales family as well. A shame, really. He was as poor as he was handsome.

“Paige!” Jaime cried out. “Is Cameron here?”

“No,” she said dryly. “He’s not coming.”

Jaime looked ready to burst into tears. It did nothing to invoke Paige sympathy.

The other Rosales boy turned to her. “I’m Diego, Jaime’s brother,” he reached his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Paige shook his hand then quickly pulled her hand back. “Paige Ashdown.”

“She’s Cameron’s sister,” Jaime mumbled.

“I am,” Paige said haughtily.

Jaime turned around and took a glass from the young man behind him.

“Hey!” the young man exclaimed. “Oh, Jaime, it’s you.” He laughed and went back to his conversation.

Jaime chugged the whiskey in two large gulps. His eyes were glazed, and Paige realized that it was not his first drink for the night.

“I think I’m in love with your brother,” he blurted out. His gaze was slightly unfocused.

“Estas borracho,” Diego said severely.

Jaime made a dismissive hand gesture and turned to Paige. “Do you think he likes me?”

Paige gave him a fake sympathetic look. “No, he didn’t say anything of the sort,” she said. “He told me you’re acquainted, that is all.”

Jaime bit his lower lip, looking absolutely dejected. “Maybe it’s because I told him I wasn’t looking for anything serious,” he said quietly. “But I am, I just didn’t know I was until I met him.”

“Oh, well, too bad –“

“But there’s something about him, you know?” Jaime continued. “He’s smart and funny and I can’t see myself going a single day without talking to him and...” his voice broke. “What am I going to do without him?” He looked like he was going to burst into tears. Paige stared at him with disdain.

Diego put a hand on his shoulder. “We already talked about it,” he said. “You’re not giving up. You’re going to tell him how you feel.”

Paige didn’t like it. She didn’t like any of it.

Think. Think. Think.

“You’re right,” Jaime said. He sounded resolute. “I’m going to march into his room and tell him everything!”

“You should do it tomorrow,” Paige said quickly. “You’re drunk now. He might think you’re not serious.”

Jaime looked at her. “You’re right,” he said slowly. “You’re right.”

Diego seemed to consider it, but Paige quickly said “Of course I am” before he had a chance to argue.

“I’ll go over there tomorrow,” Jaime mumbled. “I’ll tell him that I fell for him and that I want him to stay.”

“And also, call mom, for the love of god,” Diego said. “She just sent me another text.”

Jaime took his phone out of his pocket. “Here, I’m texting her right now. See?”

“Where did you get that cellphone?” Diego asked suspiciously.

Paige looked at the phone in Jaime’s hand. Of course Diego was surprised; their family had no money, how did Jaime buy that?

“Cameron gave it to me as a present,” Jaime smiled, absent-mindedly.

“He got you a cellphone?” Paige asked with a wide grin. She began forming a plan in her mind.

“Yeah.” Jaime smiled dreamily. “He said he never wanted to miss any of my calls.”

Paige’s smile turned serpentine at his words. Oh, breaking them up would be almost too easy.

“Oh Diego, I completely forgot,” she exclaimed. “Nina asked if you could go take a look at the equipment in the training room, see if there’s something else they should get.”

Diego gave her a puzzled look. “Now? It doesn’t seem –“

“She said it’s urgent,” Paige said. “Something about accidents that might happen if the Shadowhunters are not well trained, and you being a Centurion and all…”

Diego turned to Jaime, a questioning look on his face. Jaime shrugged. “It’s fine. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Diego left, and Paige turned to Jaime. “Let’s get you another drink.”

“No, I drank enough. I think I’ll go to my room now.”

“Oh, just one more drink.” She pouted. “You wouldn’t let Cameron’s sister drink alone, would you?” she gave him a coy smile. “I could help you practice what you would say to him.”

Jaime’s face lit up. “You’re going to help me?”

Paige smiled. “Of course I am!” she said. “Sit down and let me get us both drinks.”

She headed to the bar and got them both drinks. A group of girls were standing nearby, giggling. One of them turned to her.

“Hey, I don’t think I know you,” she said.

Paige studied her. The girl was wearing a red dress which barely contained her breasts. “I’m Paige,” she said dryly.

“Charlotte.” The girl smiled. She seemed tipsy. “You’re friends with Jaime?” she asked, trying to sound casual.

Paige’s eyes lit up. She knew what that pretense-casual tone meant. Oh, making her brother hate Rosales was going to be even easier than originally anticipated.

“Charlotte, of course!” she cried out. “Jaime and I were just talking about you.”

“Really?” the girl grinned. “What did he say?”

Paige giggled. “I’m not sure if I should say.”

Charlotte tried to hide her agitation. “Why not?”

“Oh, what the hell.” Paige smiled at her. “He was being so cute, I have to tell you.”

Charlotte bit her lower lip to hide a grin.

“He told me he had a huge crush on you,” Paige said.

Charlotte seemed overjoyed. “He does?” she asked, unable to hold her grin.

“Yes! Weird that he hasn’t made a move, right? I mean, it’s Jaime! But he said that there’s something special about you and he wanted to do it right because he was nervous to screw it up.”

Charlotte practically jumped up and down with excitement, which was rather impressive, Paige thought, given the weight of her breasts.

“You know, I think you should be the first to make a move,” Paige suggested.

“You think?” Charlotte looked at her, her eyes glazed.

“Absolutely!” Paige insisted. “You should just go and kiss him. It will be so romantic!”

Charlotte was quite drunk and did not need more convincing. Paige took her arm and led her through the dance floor towards Jaime, then practically shoved her at him and took out her phone.

Jaime gave her a small smile. “Hey Cha –“

Charlotte grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and tried to kiss him, but Jaime quickly pulled away. “What –“

“I really like you,” Charlotte blurted out.

Paige grinned at her phone; she snapped a great picture of Charlotte with her arms around Jaime’s neck.

Jaime gave Charlotte a small smile. “I like you too, but not in that way,” he said gently. “There’s someone else… I’m sorry.”

Charlotte turned to Paige, a hurt expression on her face. “But she said that –“

“She’s had too much to drink,” Paige said quickly.

Charlotte was flushed with embarrassment, looking like she hoped the earth would swallow her whole. Paige enjoyed the show tremendously.

“Oh, you’re drunk,” Jaime said. “Come. I’ll take you to bed.”

Charlotte didn’t contradict him, seemingly glad that he thought she was merely drunk and not realizing that she had been serious earlier.

“Good night, guys,” Paige smiled sweetly at them.

“Good night,” Jaime mumbled. He took Charlotte by her arm and guided her gently out of the room.

Paige waited a good five minutes before leaving as well, heading to the kitchen to make tea, then straight to her brother’s room. She knocked on the door.

Cameron opened it almost immediately. “Oh, Paige, it’s you.” He sounded a bit disappointed; he had probably been hoping to see this idiot of Rosales.

“I made you some tea,” she said softly, holding out the mug. Cameron took it, muttering a puzzled thank you, and Paige walked past him and sat on the bed.

Cameron put the mug on his desk and took a seat on a chair in front of her. “How was the party?”

Paige feigned unease. “It was… enlightening.”

“In what way?”

She leaned forward and took his hand in hers. “I love you,” she said quietly.

“I love you too,” he said, looking slightly concerned. “Is something wrong?”

Paige sighed loudly. “I support your choices,” she said. “But I just… I want you to make the best ones.”

Cameron furrowed his brows. “I think I am,” he said.

Paige squeezed his hand. “Cameron, there’s… there’s something you should know.” She bit her lower lip. “Jaime was at the party.”

“Yes, he told me he would be,” Cameron said, looking confused.

“He was with his friends, and he…” she feigned nervousness. “He didn’t know I was standing right behind him and he… he was bragging to his friends.”

Cameron squinted his eyes. “I don’t follow.”

“He said that he was hoping you wouldn’t leave for Shanghai,” she said.

Cameron’s eyes lit up. “He did?”

“Yes. He said he wanted to keep you around because you buy him expensive things. I guess he was drunk, right? I mean, you didn’t buy him –“

Cameron stared at her, wide eyed. “I bought him a cell phone,” he said slowly. “One that’s dark-magic protected, but –“

Paige covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh my god, Cameron, I’m so sorry.”

Cameron shook his head. “He must have been drunk, he can’t –“

“They all laughed at you,” Paige said quickly. She knew her brother well; she knew exactly what his insecurities were. “They said they tolerate you only because of Jaime.”

“No,” Cameron said. “You must have misunderstood –“

“Do you ever hang out with Jaime’s friends when he’s not around?” It was an educated guess; Paige was certain that the answer would be no.

Cameron paled. “But why –“

“They all laughed at you, and then Jaime made out with this girl.”

“No,” Cameron’s voice broke. “He didn’t. He couldn’t have. We… no, I don’t believe it. That’s… that’s not true.”

Paige took out her phone and showed him the picture she took. Sadly, Charlotte hadn’t managed to kiss Jaime, but from the photo they looked like they were just done kissing. She hoped it looked convincing enough.

Cameron stared at the phone for a long while, silent, not processing the image in front of him.

“She then took him to her room,” Paige continued.

Cameron began shaking, trembling like a leaf, pale as a ghost. “I… I can’t believe it,” he said, his voice quivering. “Why? I don’t understand… I thought I meant something to him –“

“Your money did,” Paige said.

“I was going… I was going to tell him that I love him.” His voice broke. “I-I thought I meant something to him. I thought I finally f-found someone –“

“You didn’t,” Paige said. “Jaime’s not boyfriend material. He’s just a douche.”

Cameron’s expression became fierce. “You know what? I don’t care.”

“What?” Paige gaped at him.

“I don’t care that he made fun of me. I don’t care that he made out with someone else. I don’t care. I love him, and I’m going to tell him that, and I’ll only believe he doesn’t love me back if he looks me in the eyes and says so himself.”

“Have you lost your DAMN MIND?!” Paige yelled. “I showed you –“

“Yes, I have!” Cameron yelled back, looking crazed. “I lost my mind. I lost it. And I don’t care. I’m not giving up on him!”

It wasn’t happening. This wasn’t the Cameron that she knew. How the hell did Rosales manage so much power over him? She did everything she could, she used every trick, every lie, every –

There was only one choice left for her. It was dangerous, she knew, but she had to make Cameron come to Shanghai. There was no other way.

“I’ll help you,” she said.

Cameron looked at her suspiciously. “No, you won’t. You think it’s a mistake.”

“I do,” Paige said flatly. “But I support your choice. Let me heat your tea – it must be cold by now – and let’s talk about it.”

She got up and busied herself with his mug, her back turned to him. She took off her ring and turned the Emerald stone three times, opening the secret compartment and pouring its content into Cameron’s tea. She then drew a heating rune on the mug.

“Here.” She smiled as she handed him the mug.

Cameron smiled wearily back. He sipped the tea quietly, holding the mug with both hands. “I think… if I told him…”

The mug fell from his hand, crashing, spilling tea all over the wooden floorboards. Paige caught her brother before he fell and laid him carefully on the floor. She kneeled next to him, put one hand on his shoulder, and with the other she touched the golden, serpent-shaped pendant that hung from her necklace and whispered “Kach oti el Ortrun.”

Around them the world went dark, and then she was kneeling next to her brother’s limp body at the center of a large, circular room, lit by torches.

“Who’s there?” the cry of an old women echoed from the walls.

“Paige Ashdown,” Paige replied, keeping her voice steady over Cameron’s limp body. “I’m seeking the help of witch Ortrun.”

From the shadows emerged a small, hunched figure. The old women came closer, and when the torches lit her face Paige was horrified to see that the orbits of her eyes were empty, and that her flesh was rotting, as if she had been dead for a few weeks already.

“How will you pay?” the witch’s voice creaked.

“I have the stone of Stolas.”

The witch’s face contorted into a smile. “And what is your request?”

“I need you to make my brother stop loving someone.”

Ortrun cocked her head to the side, and Paige suppressed the urge to gag. From the witch’s neck crawled out two maggots.

“It is beyond my power,” the witch replied.

“Then erase the memories of this person from his mind!”

“That I can do,” the witch said thoughtfully. “But if we are to target the memories of a single person without harming anything else, there has to be will from your brother. Otherwise his mind will resist, and the spell could damage it.”

“That’s a risk I’ll have to take.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about, stupid child,” the witch spat. “Your brother might lose his sanity. He might go mad and kill everyone around him, then possibly himself. Have you not heard the story of Medea?”

Paige shuddered. Her mother had told her the story as a little girl. As the mundane Greek mythology relates, Medea was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis. She betrayed her father and helped Jason steal the Fleece. But when Jason abandoned her, Medea gave his new bride a dress that set her on fire when she put it on, then she murdered the kids she had with Jason.

“Her sister came to me,” the witch said. “She begged me to make Medea forget about Jason; she said that she couldn’t eat or sleep. That she had lost her life. I warned her that if we would erase the memories of him from her, she would lose much more than her life. But her sister didn’t listen.” A worm crawled out of the witch’s nostril. “Will you doom your brother to the same faith?”

Paige glanced at her sleeping brother. She wouldn’t do that; she needed him. “I need you to summon an Eidolon demon, disguise him as my brother, and bind it to him so it can get into the institute with us.”

“It might be dangerous,” the witch said. “You could bind –“

“I don’t care! Just do it!”

The witch threw her head back and a maggot fell to the floor. Paige made a valiant effort not to throw up. The witch drew the summoning circle and began reciting the incantations. The air around them began to swirl, as if a storm was raging outside and someone opened a window.

“What do you want from it?” The witch yelled when the shadow of an Eidolon demon began taking shape inside the pentagram.

“I need it to pretend to be my brother and tell a Shadowhunter that he doesn’t want him!” Paige yelled over the sound of the demonic storm. “Then I’ll kill it!”

The witch yelled the incantation, her voice shrieking, sounding more animal than human. Then everything went dark again, and suddenly Paige was standing back in Cameron’s room, her brother lying on the floor in the puddle of poisoned tea, and an exact replica of him standing in front of her, bound in golden chains.

“Don’t move,” Paige hissed at the demon, even though she knew that the magic prevented him to do anything he wasn’t ordered to directly.

She had to wait hours for the sun to rise and for stupid Jaime Rosales to finally knock on Cameron’s door.

“Open the door,” she hissed at the demon. “The Shadowhunter on the other side is called Jaime. He’s going to ask you to stay here. I want you to tell him that you wasted enough time on him, that he’s not boyfriend material, and that you don’t want to see him again.”

The Eidolon demon gave her a death stare. But the golden chains broke, and he headed to the door, unable to stop the magic compelling him to do as he was ordered. Paige listened as he chased away the stupid Rosales boy. The demon then closed the door and turned back to her, the golden chains reappearing instantly. “Please,” he said weakly. “I –“

Paige drew out her Seraph blade and slashed its throat, spilling black ichor all over Cameron’s floor.

Great. Now I’ll have to clean this up like some filthy maid.

She did, cursing and grunting, then got down to get herself some coffee. Damn this institute; at her parents house she could have gotten a cup by asking one of the maids. She found Nina in the kitchen, looking confused and saddened.

“Is something wrong?” Paige asked sweetly.

“Nothing to trouble you with, my dear. It’s just… I got a resignation letter from Jaime. He’s going back to Mexico, I don’t understand –“

“He probably missed his family,” Paige said quickly. She couldn’t help but grin; she had hoped for this exact outcome.

She headed back up to her brother’s room, hoping that he would wake up soon and that this ordeal would finally be over.

“Who’s there?” he mumbled sleepily when she opened the door.

“It’s me,” she said easily. “Wake up, sleepy-head! You fell asleep in the middle of our conversation last night. Very rude, by the way.”

“I don’t… remember… falling asleep.” Cameron sounded half-dazed.

“You were exhausted, having cried so much over Rosales,” she said sharply. “Go get some food, and then you can find your Rosales and tell him that you want him or whatever.”

Cameron got up, still dazed, and washed his face. He left the room and Paige headed to hers and finally took the warm, nice shower she deserved. She dried her hair and got dressed, then lay on her bed scrolling lazily through her phone, waiting for Cameron to burst into the room, bringing the news she already knew.

A few moments later, came the expected knock on the door.

“He… left,” Cameron said weakly when Paige opened the door. “He just left. Without saying anything. I… I didn’t even get to tell him –“

He crumpled to the floor and buried his face in his hands, letting out a sob. Paige kneeled next to him and caressed his hair gently as he cried, tears falling from his face and drenching his shirt. He wept, his shoulders heaving, and Paige held his hand and kept stroking his hair. She couldn’t understand why he bothered shedding so many tears over someone so poor, but her brother was never as logical as she was.

Tears spilled down Cameron’s cheek for what felt like hours, and Paige was getting annoyed. The vapid Rosales boy was not worth a single tear, why would her brother shed so many?

An eternity later, Cameron stopped crying, looking drained and ill.

He lifted his head and stared at the wall. “I’m sorry you had to see that,” he said quietly. “You must think I’m an idiot.”

A little bit, yes, Paige silently agreed.

“I’m your sister, I’m here for you,” she said instead.

Cameron stared at the wall in silence.

“You’ll find someone better,” she reassured him. “Which is not that difficult since literally anyone has more money than the Rosales family.”

Cameron kept staring at the wall, unmoving, pale like death itself.

Paige was reminded of that day, a few years back, when a demonic parasite attacked one of Cameron’s beloved Tendriculos, an enormous plant resembling a huge, tangled shrubbery with deadly tentacles. Cameron’s Tendriculos lost its green color, taking instead a sad shade of pale yellow, and began wilting. Paige looked at her brother; he looked just like that sick plant now. Crumpled and pale and half-dead.

Paige took his hand and pulled him up. “I can make the pain go away.”

Cameron looked at her, wide-eyed. “You don’t mean –“

“I do.” Without another word, she touched her pendant, mumbled the charm, and then everything went dark and then they were both standing at the center of the same large, circular room, lit by torches.

“Who’s there?” the cry echoed from the walls as it did before, only this time the voice sounded softer.

“Paige Ashdown,” Paige replied, keeping her voice steady over Cameron’s limp body. “I’m seeking the help of witch Ortrun.”

From the shadows emerged a tall, lean woman, her long blond hair cascading over her shoulders and her large eyes twinkling. Couldn’t the witch have taken this appearance before? Paige screwed her face.

“My brother wants you to erase someone from his memories.”

“Was this person your lover?” The witch asked.

Cameron nodded awkwardly.

The witch smiled kindly at Cameron. “Are you sure about this, dear?”

Cameron seemed hesitant. “I… I don’t –“

“He used you!” Paige snapped. “He used you, and mocked you, and then left without bothering to even tell you. He broke your heart, do you really want to carry that wound with you? Do you want to spend months bleeding, only for the pain to become a scar, forever marking you?”

Cameron’s face hardened. He turned to the witch. “I’m sure. I want to erase the memories of him.”

The witch nodded. She summoned a chaise longue made of dark leather and gestured for Cameron to lay down. She waved her hand and the torches flickered, then burned green. She then took a small vial out of her pocket.

“Tell me his name.”

Cameron’s face contorted, as if in pain. “Jaime Rosales.”

“I will ask you one last time, are you sure about this?”

“I am.”

“Close your eyes and tell me about the first time that you’ve met Jaime,” she said gently.

“We were at a party,” Cameron began, and Paige could see a golden mist coming out of his chest, right above his heart, guided by the witch’s hand into the vial. “I saw a girl throwing a drink at his face, and then I told him… I told him…” Cameron’s expression turned blank. “I don’t remember.”

The golden mist kept pouring out of Cameron’s chest. “Tell me about his eyes.”

Cameron bit his lower lip. “They’re dark brown, but not just brown, they also have these… these…” The mist came pouring out, and Cameron’s expression turned blank again. “I don’t remember.”

“Tell me about your first kiss.”

“We were sitting on the grass, and I could hear the sounds of a fountain, and…” He screwed his face. “I… forgot.”

Paige watched as the witch erased memories, one by one. Jaime’s smile, Jaime’s laugh, Jaime’s kisses, Jaime’s touch, Jaime’s smell. When she was done, Cameron drifted off to sleep almost immediately.

“The process is exhausting,” the witch explained. The mist had stopped pouring. “We’re done here. He does not remember Jaime Rosales.”

“Great,” Paige said. She reached her hand to touch the vial the witch was holding. At the touch of her finger, the golden mist turned opaque.

“Stupid child!” The witch yelled. “You never touch the memories of another person!” She screwed the vial shut. “Now, for my payment.”

Paige took the blood-red stone she had put earlier in her pocket and handed it to the witch. “Now send us back.”

The witch did; she even took care to place Cameron on his bed. Paige smiled at her sleeping brother. He will never know what she did for him; how she had prevented him from making a huge mistake. He will never know how she had saved him from loving Jaime Rosales.

Chapter Text

Kit could not fall asleep, and after three hours he had given up on trying. Instead, he sat down at his desk and took out the pile of unsent letters from his drawer. He opened the last one he had written, right before Ty came to New York unexpectedly and turned his whole life upside down.

Ty,

Here I am, writing yet another letter that will never be sent. I have eight years worth of them stocked in my room and I can’t bring myself to throw them away.

Do you remember when I used to be the Watson to your Sherlock? It seems unreal how you were always by my side back then. Your voice, your presence next to me, and the briny scent of the ocean around us, remain embedded in my heart. I don’t think they will ever leave me.

Kit looked outside. The moon, silver as Ty’s eyes, was gibbous. It had been full the night Jaime was hurt; the night he had spent in the infirmary with Ty, sleeping curled up against him. He folded the paper carefully and took out another one.

 

Ty,

I talked to Dru yesterday, she sounded happy. I’m sure Julian has told you how well she’s doing in Brazil. I miss her, though I can never let her how much; she’ll act all smug about it.

She forgave me for getting engaged, though I’m not sure why she was even mad in the first place. Ariella is a nice girl.

 

Kit folded the paper, frowning. The best thing he could say about his future wife was the she was a “nice girl”. Dru was right in insisting that it was a mistake. Kit was, as usual, too stubborn to listen.

He took out another letter.

 

Ty,

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have everything I ever wanted, and still every day I want to disappear. Do you feel that way sometimes?

Or maybe you’re the opposite. Maybe you don’t want to disappear; maybe you want to be found.

That was stupid. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

 

Kit folded the paper, biting his lower lip. It had been ages since he felt that way. He didn’t want to disappear anymore; he wanted to be here. Right here… with Ty.

He read letter after letter, relieving eight years without Ty, until the first rays of sun glanced through the window. Kit rubbed his eyes, Ash’s words echoing in his mind.

Ty never touched the water.

There might be light in all this darkness. There might be a chance.

He got down for breakfast to find half of the institute members already there. He nodded in response to their ‘good morning’ mumbles, and spotted Cameron Ashdown sitting alone at a table next to the large window, far from the rest. He wanted to throw a bagel at him. Or maybe something heavier. How the fuck could have been such a jerk to Jaime?

Instead, Kit made himself coffee and sat in front of Dru.

“Morning,” she mumbled.

Kit nodded back. Behind him the other members of the institute became louder. Kit turned his head lazily to see that Jaime had entered the room.

“Well, good morning to you.” Skyborn smirked at him.

“Don’t be so loud. I have a hangover,” Jaime complained.

“Jaime pulled last night,” Skyborn said loudly enough so everyone could hear him. From the corner of his eye, Kit saw Cameron stiffen.

“So?” Whitecastle said flatly, sounding bored. “He pulls every time. Pass me the peanut butter.”

“Yeah, but that chick was a solid ten,” Skyborn said with appreciation.

Jaime didn’t sit down with them. Instead he came over to Kit’s table and sat in front of him, next to Dru. Kit knew that he positioned himself so that his back was to Cameron; he couldn’t bear to look at him. And now Kit knew why.

“So, you went out last night?” Kit asked, keeping his tone nonchalant.

Jaime rubbed his eyes. “Yeah, with Skyborn and Wayfarer,” he mumbled. “But they left before I did.”

Kit didn’t have to ask why; Skyborn had made that very clear. Dru handed Jaime a piece of toast and Jaime gave her a smile that, while genuine, wasn’t a happy one. Two tables behind Jaime, Cameron opened a book. Kit heard Tamara thanking someone for their help on a case. He turned around abruptly to see that Ty had entered the room. He said a few words to Tamara, made himself tea, and headed towards their table.

Kit swallowed. His heartbeat quickened with every step that Ty took. He couldn’t break his gaze away from his face; Ty’s gray eyes were focused on some point behind him. He stopped at their table, bid them good morning, then kept walking. Kit gaped at him as he pulled a chair and sat in front of Cameron.

Dru squinted her eyes in anger, fiercely loyal as always. “I know that Ty’s just being nice, but I don’t understand how he can tolerate that douche!”

Jaime shrugged.

“Do you want me to maim Assdown?” Dru suggested.

“Don’t.” Kit said flatly. “We’re understaffed,”

“I’ll just maim him a little bit,” Dru said lightly. “I’ll cut off his nose; he’ll still be able to fight.”

Jaime shook his head. “Where’s your cupcake?”

“Sleeping,” Dru answered, her voice strained.

Kit glanced behind her shoulder at Cameron and Ty. “What are they doing?” he asked irritably.

“Eating,” Jaime replied, not lifting his eyes from his mug.

“Cameron looks like he had finished eating, so what are they really doing?” Kit could not hide the annoyance in his voice.

“Talking, probably” Jaime suggested, his face blank.

“What do they have to talk about so much?”

“Clearly, they’re plotting against you,” Dru said sarcastically. “I’m going to the training room. Redcastle bet me twenty bucks he can do better than me at throwing knives at a moving target and I’m about to humiliate him.”

She left, and Kit turned to Jaime. “By the Angel, she’s right!”

“Of course she is.” Jaime sounded bored. “Redcastle can’t aim for shit.”

“No, I meant about Cameron and Ty. They’re plotting against us!”

Jaime made an impatient sound. “Kit, it’s morning and I’m hungover. Would you calm down with your conspiracy theories?”

“Think about it for a second,” Kit said urgently. “Ty dropped everything and came to New York without any apparent reason –“

“He likes to travel –“

“And then suddenly Cameron shows up –“

“It wasn’t so sudden, the spoiled jerk asked for a transfer.”

“But why?” Kit insisted. “What does he have in New York? His sister is in Shanghai, his family is in Alicante, he clearly didn’t come here for you, after what he said to you –“

“Dude! Could you not?!”

“Don’t you see?” Kit cried out. “Cameron came here to meet with Ty, and the reason he’s leaving soon is because they’re both leaving for Shanghai! Together!”

Jaime rolled his eyes. “Then why didn’t Ty just go to Shanghai directly? Why bother come to New York?”

“Maybe he wanted to see Dru. Or maybe… maybe they’re doing it on purpose to mess with us!”

Jaime snorted. “And maybe Marilyn Monroe’s death wasn’t a suicide, maybe it was part of a communist conspiracy to protect Kennedy’s career.”

“Actually, it was an Incubus demon attack.”

“Huh.” Jaime rested his chin on the palm of his hand. “I didn’t know that.”

Kit glanced behind Jaime’s shoulder. “Cameron just looked over at us,” he hissed.

“He’s probably really smug, thinking that we’re talking about him!” Jaime said with disdain.

“We are talking about him.”

“Fuck, I hate that guy so much!”

“See, there’s only one thing to do.”

Jaime nodded. “Let Dru maim him.”

“No,” Kit said. “You and I should go out on a date.”

“Huh?“

“A pretense date,” Kit clarified.

“Let me get this straight,” Jaime said slowly. “First, I had to pretend to date Ty to get you to acknowledge that you have feelings for him. Now I have to pretend to date you because you want to get back at him and Cameron.”

“Yes.”

“Perdiste la cabeza,” Jaime shook his head. “You lost it.”

“I haven’t, and we’re a couple now. Be nicer to your boyfriend.”

“No! Not doing that.”

“Yes, you are.” Kit took both his hands. “See, we’re a couple.” He said, matter-of-factly.

Jaime pulled his hands back. “Okay, first off: no, you crazy person. And second, Ty just left.”

Kit glanced behind Jaime’s shoulder to see that Cameron was sitting alone again.

“Go after him and confront him about your insane theory,” Jaime said. “And por el Ángel, talk to him like a normal person.”

“Fine!” Kit snapped. He got up, determined, and headed straight to the library, knowing without a doubt that Ty would be there, working on a case.

He found him in the library indeed, but not working. Instead Ty’s was on the second floor, standing with his hands in his pockets, looking at the glass case containing Tessa’s mechanic angel. Kit walked over to him, quiet as a cat.

“Kit,” Ty said without turning around.

Kit stared at the back of his head. “You recognize my footsteps.”

“Yes.”

He still hadn’t turned to look at him, and Kit could feel fire raging inside him.

“So, when are you leaving?” he asked, not masking the anger in his voice.

“I’m not sure,” Ty said quietly.

“Oh, you’re letting Cameron decide?”

Ty turned around slowly. “What do you mean?”

Kit clenched his fists. “Why didn’t you tell me about Cameron?”

“When?”

Kit took a step towards him. “When you first came here!”

Ty seemed puzzled. “Would you have cared?”

“If you’re leaving for Shanghai together,” Kit’s blood was boiling. “Wouldn’t Cameron care about what happened in the cave?”

Before Kit could comprehend what was happening, Ty had pushed him against a bookshelf, his hand on Kit’s chest, right above his heart. “What do you mean?” Ty asked, his voice low.

Kit swallowed. Ty’s smell made it hard to think clearly. “Who – who took me out of the water?” He panted. “When I nearly drowned in Rome?”

Ty was quiet for a moment before he replied. “Ash did.”

“You never touched the water,” Kit said defiantly.

“No.” Ty pushed him harder against the shelf. “I never did.”

“Then why are you and Cameron –“

Ty curled his fingers around Kit’s bicep, his fingernails digging into Kit’s skin. “We’re not.”

“You’re… not?” Kit stared at him, wide-eyed.

Ty’s gray gaze was scanning his face, his teeth digging into his lower lip. “You’re driving me insane,” he grunted.

Kit stared at him in shock. How dare he?! “Me?! Y –“

Ty fisted his hand in Kit’s hair and pulled him to him, almost violently. He kissed his lips, crashing their mouths together, collapsing into him.

“Yes, Christopher,” he pulled away, panting. “You.”

Kit stared at him, entranced, not processing what had just happened, and then Ty pulled him and kissed him again, gentler this time, one hand in his hair, the other on his bicep, and Kit’s blood turned to fire in his veins.

Ty kept kissing his lips, and around them the world faded away. His lips were soft and warm, and his hand moved from Kit’s hair to rest under his ear, his thumb caressing Kit’s cheek as their breaths mingled, hot and heavy.

At first, Kit was too scared to move, worrying that Ty would break the kiss and run away. But Ty licked Kit’s lower lip, asking for permission to enter, and Kit parted his lips under his and let Ty slide his tongue into his mouth. He ran his thumb along the smooth skin of Ty’s jaw, completely immersed in the feeling of Ty's mouth against his, at the way his tongue was swirling against his own, at how soft the hair at Ty’s nape felt under his fingers.

He had never kissed a man before. He had never been kissed by someone bigger than him, someone who made him feel small and vulnerable. But Ty was taller than him, and Kit had to tilt his head up to meet his lips, and Ty’s large hands held him firmly in place as his tongue explored Kit’s mouth. Ty’s lips were so soft and sweet, and his kisses were somehow gentle and violent at the same time. It was hot, and exciting, and tender, and beautiful. It was perfect. Kit had fantasized about this for so long, but the reality was so much better than anything he had imagined. He thought he might die right there at Ty’s feet.

“You’re driving me insane,” Ty panted again.

He wound his arms around Kit’s waist, and pulled him even closer, as if trying to melt Kit’s body into his, deepening the kiss. Kit pressed up against his large body with a deep, desperate sigh. His hands worked their way around him, feeling each line, exploring each crevasse. He ran his fingers over Ty’s broad shoulders, down his spine, pulling him closer until there was no space left between them and he could feel the beating of Ty’s heart against his chest.

Ty kissed a trail from Kit’s mouth along his jaw and began attacking his neck. Around them, the world was long gone. All that was left was the feeling of Ty’s lips walking wild on Kit’s skin.

Chapter Text

Kit felt Ty’s hot breath on his neck, then the tender brush of his lips. They burnt as they made contact with his skin, setting a fire inside him that he wasn’t sure he would ever be able to put out. The tattoo on his arm was hot and tingling, as if Ty had kissed it too, and Kit let out a small moan of pleasure. He had never kissed like that; he had never been kissed like that. He had never felt so vulnerable in someone’s arms, so helpless. But Ty’s touch made Kit lose all control over his body. He could barely remember how to move; he could barely remember his own name.

Ty’s hand ran through his hair as his kisses became fiercer, and Kit wished he would take off his gloves and feel his hair for real. Ty’s other hand was still around Kit’s waist, holding him firmly against his body, and he let out a small moan in Kit’s ear which made Kit lose the last drop of self-control he had left. He wanted to attack Ty’s neck, ravish his throat, bite and lick and suck every inch of skin he could reach. He placed his hands on Ty’s biceps and pushed him away, only to turn him around and push him against the shelf with a force, crashing books on the floor with a clatter.

Ty froze, his eyes wide, looking as if he had just woken up from a nightmare. He pushed Kit aside.

“W-what’s wrong?” Kit asked, panicked, not letting go of Ty’s bicep.

Ty shrugged his hand off him. “I shouldn’t have done that!” he said, looking pained.

Kit’s world shattered around him. “What?” he gasped, the air rushing out of his lungs as if he was punched in the stomach.

Ty took a step back, looking almost horrified. “I shouldn’t… we shouldn’t.” He turned to leave.

No. No. No!

Kit could not let him leave like that. He blocked his way. “Then what should we do, Ty?”

Ty pushed him aside. “I have to go,” he said quickly, leaving Kit gaping after him, humiliated and miserable.

*******

Beating Redcastle at dagger-throwing wasn’t much of a challenge. Everyone knows he thinks highly of his abilities but can’t aim for shit.

“My dagger wasn’t sharpened!” Redcastle cried out.

“Yeah, yeah.” Skyborn laughed. “And the floor was crooked, and the air was chilly, and your eyebrows hurt.”

Redcastle muttered something under his breath, gave Dru a short nod, and picked up his dagger.

“I’ll give you an advantage,” Dru said lightly. “For every dagger I throw, you get five.”

Redcastle began throwing the knives, and Dru looked, unfocused. Her mind drifted to the conversation they had over breakfast. The way Kit had obsessed over Ty sitting with Cameron.

Ever since that she saw his tattoo change before he left for Rome, Dru had known there was something deep buried between Kit and her brother. Something deeper than them having tried to raise Livvy. Something deeper even than the way Kit had broken up their friendship.

Dru told the rest that they were going to get coffee, but instead dragged Kit to her room to replace the bandages. He sat quietly on the edge of the bathtub while she cut through them.

“Wait.” he pulled back his arm. “Don’t tell me what you see.”

“But -”

“I don’t want to know what the tattoo says. This shitty curse ruined my life once, already.”

“It did not ruin your life.” Dru was exasperated. “If anything, it saved you from making a terrible mistake. You wouldn’t have been happy, marrying Ariella.”

She took off his bandage. Maybe he would understand that one day. He didn’t lose the future he wanted, he was instead given a second –

Dru stared, wide-eyed, at Kit’s arm. His tattoo kept changing quickly, as if someone was writing on it, then erasing the words and replacing them with others. The words changed too quickly for her to be able to make most of them, the thoughts were running through Kit’s head and appearing on his skin in a turmoil.

Friends; Chance; Friends; Ocean; Drawing; Friends; Knife; Left

The words kept changing, making no sense.

“Huh,” she heard herself say.

“What? Is it gone?” Kit asked, sounding hopeful.

“No… It’s still there,” Dru mumbled. “But it doesn’t say Christopher.”

“Don’t tell me what it says! I’ll cut off your –“

“I won’t! It’s just… Did something happen yesterday? Did something change?”

Kit’s blue eyes were glistening. “Ty and I… talked.”

She had managed to keep a straight face, telling him that she was happy they decided to become friends again. But something inside her was telling her that there was more. Kit’s tattoo was evidence enough; it had never acted like that around anyone else. Even his then-fiancée never got such a strong reaction.

“Your turn!” Redcastle shouted, interrupting her train of thoughts.

She threw the dagger lazily, then turned around and came face to face with Ash.

“Hey,” he said quietly.

Dru looked into his beautiful eyes, green like the first leaves of spring. He had this weird power on her, making the warrior in her put down her shield and her sword, exposing her bare.

“Hey,” she said, suddenly very aware of every inch of her body.

“I was hoping you could help me with my side kick,” Ash said. “If – if you’re not busy.”

Dru smirked. “It’ll only take a second.” She took five daggers, threw them at the moving target, hitting it dead center every time. “You have twenty-five throws to beat this,” she told Redcastle before she turned back to Ash. “Let’s go.”

They placed themselves on the mat, and Dru corrected his stance then blocked his attacks one by one, until she sent a low kick to his chin and leaped at him, making him crash to the floor. She sat on top of him, panting, and Ash lifted his hand and pushed a strand of hair away from her face.

Everything about them was confusing. They haven’t shared another kiss since Ash had shown her his wings. Still, they were more than friends; friends don’t push strands of hair from each other’s face, or lay on each other’s chest talking all night, or fold origami flowers for each other. It then dawned on her that Ash might be scared that she would reject him if he tried kissing her again. That he was waiting for her to make a move. Maybe he thought that she had changed her mind about his wings; that she did think he was a monster.

But he wasn’t. He was gentle and kind and good. And Dru wanted –

Slowly, she lowered her face to his, not caring who was watching. She got so close, she could smell his familiar scent again, which reminded her of spring and vanilla. She cupped his face and closed her eyes –

Ash rolled to his side, shaking her off him. “Let’s go again.”

Dru stood up. Other people might have been confused, or dejected, or embarrassed. But Dru was furious. What the hell was going on with him?

“Dru!”

She turned around reluctantly to see Tamara standing next to a determined-looking Cameron in complete gear. “Mundanes with the sight reported an Eidolon attack at a nightclub downtown. Kit assigned you and Ashdown to deal with it. I sent you the hologram of the building.”

While Dru hated Cameron for what he had done to Jaime, she was thankful for the distraction. She gave him a small nod and took out her keys. She kept the small projector on the keychain; when she pressed on the button the bright blue hologram appeared.

“Looks like the building has two entrances and one emergency exit,” she told him, studying the three-dimensional model. “I’ll go in from the left and take the first floor, you go –“

“No.”

Dru turned to him. “What?”

“I work alone,” Cameron said.

“Well, now you work with me,” Dru said irritably.

“I’ll go inside. You wait outside in case things go wrong.”

Dru’s blood was boiling. “Absolutely not.”

“Yes.”

“We’ll see about that.”

*******

Tamara left his office, and Kit passed his hand on his face in frustration. It was his fault. He had pushed Ty and tried to hold him against the shelf. He made him feel caged. He had stressed him, and Ty left. How could Kit be so stupid? He had promised himself he was never going to make Ty feel caged, physically or mentally, and yet he let his urges take over him and destroy the best thing that has ever happened to him.

That kiss… Ty’s kiss… it was so different than anything Kit had experienced before, it made him realize that he had never truly kissed anyone before. Every other experience he had ever had were so mild, so tame compared to it. His tattoo was still fluttering, alive, and Kit suddenly realized that he had spent years frozen; he just hadn’t realized it until Ty came back to his life and melted the ice around him.

He texted Tamara.

Five minutes later there was a knock on his door and Ty walked in, strands of black hair shining like the sea at night, silver piercings shimmering in his ears, gray eyes fixed on some distant point behind Kit’s shoulder. “You called for me,” he said, his voice void of emotion.

“Yes,” Kit replied, keeping his voice equally flat. “I wanted to let you know that there was another Eidolon attack. I sent Dru and Ashdown to take care of it.”

Ty nodded. “Good decision. Cameron got better, he can handle it.” His face was still blank. “Do you need anything else?”

Kit didn’t know where all this courage came, where all this determination stemmed from. But he wasn’t giving up on Ty. He just wasn’t.

“Yes,” he said. “Will you take a break with me?”

Ty was silent for a few moments, and Kit was almost certain that he would say no, but Ty nodded and sat on the carpet in front of the fire.

Kit sat down next to him, making sure to keep a safe distance between them and not stare too much. He still hasn’t figured out how to sit next to Ty and not be absolutely mesmerized by every little thing he did.

“It’s magical fire, isn’t it?” Ty asked, starting at the flames.

“Yes. It maintains the perfect temperature for the room throughout the year.”

The corners of Ty’s mouth rose. “Do you also have a magical-fires guy?”

Kit chuckled. “No, that was Magnus.”

Ty smiled and Kit stared, fascinated by the way the flames lit his face and danced on his piercings. Kit wanted him, yearned for every part of him, craved him in the most innocent forms and in every possible sensual way.

He’d wait for him. He’d fight for him. Because there was no one else – nothing else – he wanted.

“Before you came here, I was… I was frozen,” he heard himself say, the words slipping out of their own accord. “I didn’t even know it until you melted the ice around me. You’re like fire to me, and I can’t stay away.”

Something flashed in Ty’s eyes. “It’s dangerous to play with fire. Has no one taught you that?”

“I choose to ignore the warnings. I like the warmth.”

“The fire that warms you can also consume you,” Ty said quietly.

“Let it,” Kit said defiantly.

Ty lay back and stared at the ceiling. “You don’t have any sense of self-preservation.”

Kit lay down next to him, studying his profile. “I beg to differ.”

Ty closed his eyes and smiled, and Kit became possessed, desperate.

“Why did you come here?” he asked. For me. Please say you came for me.

Ty opened his eyes. “Why do you want me to have come?”

Kit’s arm felt as if it was on fire again. He forced himself not to pull up his sleeve and look at what it said. He propped himself on one elbow and looked down. Ty’s face was lit by the flames, his gray eyes shining, his full lips parted.

“You’re beautiful,” Kit whispered.

Without thinking, he leaned and pressed his lips on Ty’s. He felt their familiar warmth and softness, everything Kit had ever dreamed of but was too afraid to let himself want. His heart was beating so fast he was sure Ty could hear it, and his blood turned to fire in his veins while he pulled away, studying Ty’s face, praying he didn’t just make the biggest mistake of his life.

Ty remained quiet, and Kit was starting to panic. “I –“

His words died on his lips as someone knocked violently on the door. They both jumped into a sitting position just in time for Dru to barge in, looking furious.

“Assdown is not cooperating!” she yelled. “He says he’s working alone!”

“Alone?” Kit stared at her. It was an odd statement. Even well-experienced Shadowhunters had trouble identifying Eidolon demons in a large crowd.

He glanced at Ty. In response Ty gave a small nod.

“Fine,” Kit told Dru. “Let him work alone. Wait outside –“

What?!” Dru yelled, outraged.

“Wait outside in case something goes wrong.”

“No fucking –“

“Dru, that’s an order. Cameron has experience with Eidolon demons. Let him deal with this.”

Dru left the room, cursing, taking care to slam the door behind her as loudly as she could.

Ty got up. “I should go,” he said.

“Wait –“

“It’s best… It’s best that I should go,” Ty mumbled and turned to leave.

Kit stared at his back, desperate, and uttered the only word he could think of.

“Please.”

Ty froze.

“Please,” Kit begged again.

Ty turned around and walked over to him. He put two fingers under his chin and made him look up. “What are you doing to me?” he whispered. “Fuck, you are driving me insane. I can’t think -”

“Then don’t,” Kit panted. “Just kiss me.”

Ty’s gaze was fixed on Kit’s sternum, something hesitant in his silvery eyes, and Kit managed to murmur another quiet “please” before Ty took him in his arms and kissed him again.

Chapter Text

Jaime had politely declined Mildwright and Skyborn’s offer to train, choosing instead to wander alone aimlessly in the weapon’s room, passing his fingers slowly over katanas and rapier swords, caressing their hilt.

For over a year, Jaime hadn’t been able to run away from the memories of Cameron, from the gardens and the warmth of his embrace. He went back to Mexico and left Cameron behind, but still he haunted him. And then Cameron came to New York and Jaime looked into his eyes again, and everything around him suddenly began burning blue and hasn’t stopped since.

He couldn’t let Cameron near him; he couldn’t let him speak. Because Jaime knew. He knew why Cameron left. And he knew why he came back. Cameron’s family wouldn’t have approved of him dating a Rosales, being in an entirely different social class, and so Cameron never considered Jaime as anything more than a temporary toy; and if he had developed feelings for him eventually – he was ashamed of them. But Cameron left for Shanghai, and he must have been lonely there, he must not have made new friends, he wasted his time and his money just to finally realize that Jaime’s love was always free. So, he came back.

Jaime couldn’t get back together with him. He owned himself so much more than someone who left him like that. So, Jaime avoided a conversation since he knew that he wasn’t strong enough to ever tell Cameron no. He hated himself for being so pathetic. He hated himself for lying to everyone. For going out to bars with them, then start talking to a random person and wait for his friends to leave before he left too and wandered around the city alone at night, before coming back to the institute in the middle of the night and letting everyone assume that he hooked up. He couldn’t let anyone know that he hasn’t been able to sleep with anyone since Cameron broke his heart.

He stopped in front of a large saber. His reflection looked back at him, his empty eyes staring at him from the polished metal. He looked away. He hated his reflection. He hated the void in his eyes. He hated everything Cameron Ashdown had made him become. He left the room quickly, not looking back.

*******

“Christopher,” Ty panted in between the mess of breaths, his hands on Kit’s waist, his lips grazing his skin.

Kit let him ravish his mouth, taste him. It felt like no time at all, but when Ty pulled back his lips were swollen and red and his eyes were dark. I did this, Kit thought as he looked up at him. It made him want to do more. To see Ty melt under his touch; to make him come undone. But he didn’t push Ty, didn’t handle him forcefully. He wasn’t going to repeat past mistakes.

*******

Dru waited in the car like an idiot for at least twenty minutes before she could no longer listen to the stupid love songs on the radio. Kit had ordered her to wait here while Cameron fucking Assdown was chasing the Eidolon demon alone like the stupid brat that he was. Well, Dru was having none of it. She got out of the car, slammed the door behind her, and entered the night club.

The music inside was almost deafening; through the cigarette smoke swirled an array of ice blue and hot red lights. All over the dance floor people were dancing as if fused together, making out, drinking, laughing, shoving each other. Dru pushed aside a sweaty man and elbowed another, making her way through the crowd, looking for the demon. She snickered; how incredibly vain and stupid of Cameron to think that he could find an Eidolon hiding between so many people before it found him.

She moved through the crowd, looking for any mundane-looking creature that might behave oddly or move abnormally. The first floor seemed clear; she looked up at the square of glass at the center of the second floor and squinted her eyes. She’d have to check that floor too. She pushed a drunk girl aside, then froze.

A few feet from her she spotted Jaime, wearing his gear, his brown hair pushed back. Dru’s heart clenched. Was he there to make sure Cameron was safe? How long has he been shadowing him?

She crossed the dancefloor to get to him, but he had already disappeared in the crowd. Someone put a hand on her shoulder and Dru quickly grabbed it and twisted it.

“Ow!” Cameron yelled. “Why –“

Dru let him go. “This floor is clear.”

“I know. I found the demon. I killed it.”

Dru crossed her arms, giving him a sharp look. “Maybe there are others.”

“There aren’t. I checked the whole place. Let’s head back.”

She nodded and turned to leave, making sure to accidently step on his foot.

*******

Kit caught Ty’s mouth again, desperate for more, and Ty picked him up, one hand at the small of his back and the other behind his knees and carried him to the sofa. He put him down gently and mounted him, his warm body pressing Kit down, his cock hard against his thigh.

“Fuck,” Kit panted. “Fuck, you’re amazing.” He tried to focus his gaze on Ty’s beautiful features, but then Ty shifted up so that his cock was pressed against Kit’s and Kit closed his eyes and let out a moan.

More. I need more.

But Ty stopped moving.

“Wait,” he panted on top of him. “You’ve never been with a man.”

Kit stiffened. “I can learn!” he said quickly. “I’ll do whatever –“

“That’s not what I meant –“

“Please, I can learn!” Kit wound his arms around Ty and pushed his hips up to meet his, moaning against his throat.

Ty edged backwards and tried to slip off Kit, but Kit had already learned enough about him to know what he wanted.

"Please, Ty," he begged again, his voice hoarse. “Please, I want this so much.”

Ty bit his lip. "Fuck, what are you doing to me?”

He pushed Kit’s knees apart and placed himself between them, palms behind Kit’s head. He pressed his cock against his again, and Kit closed his eyes and let out a loud moan.

“You’ll have to be quiet,” Ty panted. “We didn’t put a silencing rune on the door.

But Kit didn’t want to be quiet. He wanted Ty. All of him. “More,” he pleaded.

Ty slid his tongue over Kit’s bottom lip, and he began moving his hips rhythmically faster and faster, and Kit’s cock pulsed together with his heartbeat. He let out a whimper every time he felt the friction of Ty’s cock against his.

“Quiet!” Ty commanded. “Do you want the entire institute to know what I’m doing to you?”

Kit was unable to think clearly; Ty’s cock felt large and heavy against his, and the friction was almost too much. He moaned again, louder still.

“Fuck, you’re killing me,” Ty panted. He covered Kit’s mouth with his hand muffle his moans. “You’re so hot,” he whispered in his ear. “You’re so fucking hot.”

Having Ty’s hand on his mouth drove Kit wild, and he could feel the bundle of nerves building in his stomach, begging for release. His legs began shaking and his breath became quick and shallow.

“Yes, cum for me,” Ty ordered. “Now.”

Kit felt a buildup of tension, filling him up until his muscles tensed hard, and then he let it go, feeling the release all the way from somewhere deep inside, feeling the pulse and the surge.

He lay under Ty, panting, feeling happy and vulnerable and barely believing what had just happened. “Did you –“

“Yes,” Ty murmured. He collapsed, and Kit moved aside to make as much space as he could. The sofa was too narrow for them to lay next to each other, so Kit lay on his side, his head on Ty’s shoulder. The inside of his pants was hot and sticky, and Ty’s scent was dazing, and Kit could hear his heartbeat and feel his chest rise up and down as he breathed.

For once in his life, Kit didn’t have to try to be happy. He didn’t have to try to be anything. He could just be, right here in this moment, just exist alongside Ty, just lay next to him and forget the entire world –

Someone knocked on the door and before Kit could react, Ty quickly rolled over him and let himself fall from the sofa, then lay on the floor, hiding behind the coffee table.

Kit sat down just in time for the door to open.

Cameron Ashdown walked in, a solemn expression on his face. “The demon was killed. I’ll write the report.”

“Great,” Kit said, trying to keep his tone as professional as possible and avoid thinking about the sticky mess in his pants.

“Could you give me a report?”

Kit forced himself to keep his eyes on Cameron. “They’re in the top drawer of desk.”

If Cameron thought Kit was being weird by insisting on sitting while Cameron looked through the drawer, he didn’t say so. After what felt like ages, during which Kit made every effort not to look at Ty who was still hiding, Cameron finally found the papers and left.

The door closed behind him and Ty pulled himself up to a sitting position. He lifted his gray gaze and scanned Kit’s face, and Kit stared back at him, and suddenly they were both laughing.

“At least Ashdown has impeccable timing,” Kit said, grinning.

Ty wasn’t smiling anymore. “He truly does, actually.”

Kit studied his face. “When did you meet him last?” he asked.

Ty closed his eyes, and for a while Kit didn’t think he was going to answer. But then Ty spoke again. “About two weeks before I came here.”

Chapter Text

Shanghai, China, six months ago

Cameron put five spoons of sugar in his coffee and stirred it aimlessly, watching the sugar dissolve, his mind miles away.

It wasn’t that he was having a bad day. It wasn’t that he was having a bad week, or even a bad month. The fact was that he hated every single minute he had lived through over the past few months, since he had left Nantes or maybe even before; he couldn’t pinpoint exactly the day. But somewhere along the line Cameron just lost his will to do anything.

He had tried to occupy himself with training. He tried to learn Chinese. He redid half of the Shangahi institute’s garden, learning about Chinese medicinal plants and the proper way of growing them. He event went as far as to try and socialize with the institute members. But whenever he wasn’t occupied, be it for half a second, his mind began replaying the same strange thoughts that plagued him:

A part of me is missing.

It was stupid, because nothing was ever missing from his life, and nothing has changed. Still, Cameron felt as if some part of him was stolen and he wasn’t what he was supposed to be.

He had tried to talk to Paige about it, but she got – understandably – irritated, saying that he was being an idiot. He couldn’t talk to anyone else about it because he was pretty sure he was becoming paranoid and delusional, and the Clave had very harsh treatments reserved for Shadowhunters who lost their minds. Admitting to someone that he thought someone stole something from him but he didn’t know what, would be sentencing himself to a “rehabilitation” program of intravenous potion injections and electrical shock therapy until he either fell back in line or killed himself. So, Cameron kept quiet.

The worst were the nights; Cameron would lie awake in his bed, unable to shake of the feeling that something was missing, unable to find a will to keep going. It got so bad that he made a habit of sleeping only four hours a night, aiming to exhaust himself to the point that he would be so tired he’d fall asleep the second his head hit the pillow. This tactic didn’t bring him peace, however, since he kept having nightmares about demons biting and chewing out parts of his heart, and of rose gardens that were always too cold.

“Are you coming or what?” Paige asked, annoyance tinging in his voice. “Zhang’s waiting for us outside!”

“Yeah,” Cameron said quickly. He drank his coffee in three large gulps, burning his tongue in the process, and joined his sister.

“What’s wrong with you?” she asked irritably.

“Nothing,” Cameron said flatly.

“You’re in your weird mood again? Still think you’re not what you’re supposed to be?” She asked, her tone mocking.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re so annoying! How much longer before you finally get over it?!”

Cameron stopped walking. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing.” Paige grabbed his arm and dragged him along. “I just meant… be like you used to be.”

They got in the car.

“Reports of Eidolon demons have reached us,” Zhang told them. “I hope it’s just one or two stray demons, but I fear that it might be an infestation.”

They reached a night club and Zhang parked. “Paige and I will check the top floor. Cameron, you take the ground level.”

Cameron nodded tiredly. Missions, the most exciting element of a Shadowhunter’s life, have long lost their appeal to him.

He pushed past drunk people, dancing and singing, completely unaware that a demon was walking free amongst them, looking for its next victim. A drunk girl caught his bicep and tried to pull him to a dance. Cameron shook her off and kept walking, nauseated by the neon lights and the smell of cigarettes.

And then he locked eyes with him.

A Shadowhunter with dark brown hair and olive skin glowing with golden undertones stared back at him. His eyes were a deep brown, and even under the neon lights Cameron could see that there was something warm in them, a powerful flame ready to consume him if he came too close; leave nothing but ashes.

Cameron stared at the young man, unable to speak. He had never seen him before, but there was just something about him; as if the Angels have carved him out of marble for the sole purpose of torturing Cameron with the fierceness of his beauty.

Cameron’s heartbeat shot up so quickly, he began feeling dizzy, and the stranger still stood there, his eyes still locked on Cameron’s, an unreadable expression on his face

“Hey,” Cameron managed to say.

The stranger did not reply but he didn’t break his gaze either, and Cameron suddenly became paranoid again. Did he follow him? Was he sent by the clave to shadow him and find out if he was losing his mind?

“Who… are you?” Cameron asked, trying not to show how nervous he was. “I’ve never seen you here before. Did you transfer here…?”

The stranger started at him for another second before he turned around and began running.

“Hey!” Cameron yelled. He charged after him. “Wait!”

Cameron was fast, and the Shadowhunter did not manage to get far. Cameron punched his throat then pushed him into a private booth.

“Who are you?” he yelled, panicked. “Who sent you?”

The stranger stared at him in silence, and then he did the worst possible thing: he smiled. He smiled at Cameron, and Cameron got lost in his features, drowned in his eyes, and the man’s smile grew wider before he leaped at Cameron and bit his shoulder.

Cameron screamed in pain. He took out his Seraph blade and dove it into the man’s throat. Ichor spilled all over him and the Eidolon demon fell to the floor, convulsing. Cameron beheaded him and it volatilized to its home dimension.

Cameron walked out of the booth, covered in ichor, surrounded by drunk mundanes, and began sobbing. He didn’t care that the people around him were staring to point at him and laugh. He didn’t care that his sister might soon find him like this. He stumbled to the nearest corner, leaned against the wall, and let himself fall apart until finally Zhang found him. He didn’t say anything, just guided Cameron gently out.

Zhang’s grim predictions turned out to be true. Shanghai was infested with Eidolon demons. Over the next few months, Cameron had met dozens of them and each time he had met one, it shapeshifted into the same form again.

Eidolon demons are not good fighters; their strength is in their ability to disguise themselves and go undetected. But they always took the form of the same made-up person when they were near Cameron, making recognizing them an easy task. And so, Cameron killed the illusory man again and again. He killed him a hundred times. Months later, he had single-handedly cleaned the entire city of Eidolon demons and received praises from the Head of the Institute and a shiny plaque from the Clave that made his parents very smug.

But still the pain in his heart didn’t dull.

He hated everything. He hated Shanghai. He hated Nantes. He hated the stars that shimmered at night, taunting him. He hated training, he hated missions, he hated the sun, he hated the moon, he hated other people. But mostly, he hated himself for being such a messed-up, pathetic piece of nothing.

Then his old friend, Cyril, the son of his parents’ acquaintances, invited him to pay him a visit in Geneva, and Cameron said yes just to get the chance to change his routine.

On his first night at Geneva the institute held a party, and Cyril introduced Cameron to all his friends and made efforts to get him to socialize. Cameron let him; anything was better than being locked inside his own mind with the same depressive thoughts.

“The centurion is in a mood again,” Pierre, a broad-shouldered friend of Cyril commented. He took another sip of his tall champagne flute.

Yann, another member of the institute, nodded.

“What do you mean?” Cameron asked.

“There’s a centurion that relocated here two months ago,” Cyril said. “He’s brilliant, he helped Cedric with his case last week and solved it in less than two hours. But he’s rather odd.”

“In what way?”

“He’s a bit of a loner.”

That makes two of us, Cameron thought bitterly.

“He doesn’t speak much, he doesn’t understand jokes,” Yann added. “And sometimes he gets in this weird mood…. He doesn’t sleep at all, and just spends his time on long walks outside, or gazing outside in silence.”

“Here, you can see him from here,” Pierre gestured.

A tall man stood on the balcony, leaning on the ornamental balustrade, gazing at the night sky.

“I hope he gets out of this mood soon, because I really need him for my recent case,” Cyril joked.

Cameron gave him a half-hearted smile.

An hour later, he already had a headache from forcing smiles and polite conversation. The room was spinning around him. People were speaking and laughing, and Cameron felt separated from them, as if they were a different species entirely. It was strange how hollow he felt. Like a glass bubble; a transparent shell encapsulating a world of nothing.

He glanced at the balcony; the centurion was still standing there, gazing at the starry sky. Cameron decided to join him. He needed silence but didn’t want to be alone, and standing quietly next to a moody centurion sounded like the best option.

He opened the large glass doors and stepped on the stone floor. The centurion turned for a brief moment and glanced at him, looking bored, then turned his gaze back to the sky. Cameron stood a few feet away and leaned on the balustrade, studying the centurion in a discreet manner. He was wearing an old-fashioned suit and leather gloves, but what Cameron found most striking were the piercings on his ears – a highly unusual choice for a Shadowhunter. The centurion’s face looked pale and tired, contrasting with his raven black hair… he looked familiar.

“Hey,” realization struck Cameron, “you’re Julian Blackthorn’s brother, right?”

“Yeah, I’m Ty,” the Centurion answered without looking at him. “And you’re Cameron Ashdown.” That wasn’t a question.

“Yeah.”

“Julian used to be very jealous of you,” Ty said flatly. “When you dated Emma.”

Cameron shifted nervously. “Yeah, well… yeah,” he muttered awkwardly. “So, what are you doing here?” he quickly changed the topic.

“I relocated here. For now.” Ty said dismissively. He was still looking at the sky.

“Oh. I’m here visiting a friend. I’m stationed at the institute of Shanghai at the moment.”

“I know.” Ty said. His gloved hands danced restlessly over the marble. “Do you like it there?” He asked, and Cameron couldn’t figure out from his tone if he was truly interested to know, or if he was forcing himself to be polite.

“Yes, it’s great,” Cameron answered the usual lie.

Ty’s long eyelashes fluttered over his cheeks. “I heard you single-handedly cleaned the entire city of Eidolon demons.”

“Yeah,” Cameron said unenthusiastically. “I guess I have.”

“That’s impressive,” Ty said. He sounded sincere.

For some reason Cameron decided to be honest. “Not really, it was not that difficult,” he admitted. “The problem is identifying them, but for me they always take the same form.”

“What form?” Ty turned to him abruptly, and Cameron took a step back, almost alarmed at the sudden change in his tone.

“Just… the form of a Shadowhunter.”

Ty’s eyes lit up, a strange contrast to the rest of his face which looked wary and exhausted, and Cameron remembered that Emma had told him once that Ty liked mysteries and detective books. Figures.

“Who did you see?” Ty’s eyes were scanning Cameron’s face now, and Cameron realized for the first time that they weren’t the color of the sea like the other Blackthorns; Ty’s eyes were a metallic gray.

“Who did you see?” Ty asked again.

Cameron really did not want to talk about it, but it was his fault for starting the conversation. “It’s not a real person,” he forced himself to answer.

Ty shook his head. “Eidolon demons cannot imagine a new form; only use existing ones they were somehow exposed to.”

His words left Cameron’s mind in turmoil. It felt weird to learn that the body he had pierced with his dagger hundreds of times belonged to a real person. Or the shape of it, at least.

“I don’t know who it is, though,” Cameron shrugged, trying to keep his tone casual.

“Did the other members of the Shanghai institute see the same form?”

“No,” Cameron said slowly. “The demons took different forms for them each time… they had a harder time recognizing the demons among the crowds, so after a while the head of the institute only sent me to deal with them.”

“Did Eidolon demons take this form in the past?”

“No, only since I got to Shanghai.”

Ty’s skin color turned white, emphasizing the dark shadows under his eyes.

“What?” Cameron asked defensively.

Ty’s expression was somber when he answered. “You didn’t save Shanghai from an infestation of Eidolon demons,” he said quietly. “You’re the one who brought them there.”

Cameron gaped at him for a second before recollecting himself. This Ty guy was clearly a weirdo; looking for crimes and making up mysteries that did not exist. He was obviously out of his goddamn mind, dumping batshit accusations left and right as a hobby.

“We’re done here,” Cameron said firmly.

He turned to leave but Ty send a low kick to the back of his knee, making him stumble forward. He pinned him to the ground, his knee digging painfully into Cameron’s lower back and his hands restraining him. Cameron cursed and tried to free himself, but what Ty lacked in sleep he clearly compensated for with his technique; Cameron couldn’t move.

“Listen to me,” Ty said, keeping his voice low. “This man. You know him.”

“I don’t!” Cameron panted.

“You do,” Ty insisted. “You’ve seen him before somewhere. The Eidolon demons found him in the darkest corners of your mind; they taunt you with his image.”

“Shut up!” Cameron screamed. “Shut up already with your insane –“

“Childhood trauma,” Ty said to himself, ignoring Cameron’s stuggles. “Maybe he’s –“

“I had a perfectly normal –“

“No, it can’t be childhood trauma, otherwise they would have taken this form since your childhood –“

“Let me go, you freak!”

Cameron struggled against him, but Ty pressed him even harder to the ground. “Do you ever feel like you’re missing something?” he asked urgently.

Cameron stopped struggling. “W-what?”

“Do you ever feel like part of you is missing,” Ty repeated. “Do you ever fear that someone stole something from you? That –“

“Did the Clave officials send you?” Cameron asked, his paranoia rising again. The Clave knew. They wanted to rehabilitate him. They knew he’d lost his mind. “Did my sister contact –“

“No one sent me,” Ty said. His voice was soft now, almost like a caress. “I want to help you, Cameron. I think someone did take something from you.”

Cameron wanted to believe that Ty could help him. He wanted to believe that someone could give him answers. That he was going to be okay. And so, against all logic, he decided to trust Ty. “What… what did they take?”

Ty released his grip on him and got up. He waited for Cameron to get up as well before he answered.

“I think someone took your memories,” he said. “And I can help you get them back.”

Chapter Text

Saint Petersburg, Russia, two years ago

Ty stumbled backwards, his mind a haze. The blood poured from his nose, warm red streams falling on his chin. He didn’t even feel the next punch; he just realized distantly that he was lying on the cold stone floor.

“Get up!” Livvy yelled in his ear.

The heel of a boot placed itself on his nose, pressing hard, threating to shatter the bones.

“остановись!” Someone yelled.

The boot lifted.

“Get up!” Livvy urged him. “You’ll get the water treatment again!”

Ty tried to will his hands to move, to lift himself off the floor, but his muscles wouldn’t obey him. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe he should just lay on this cold floor and never get up again. He was so tired. He was so, so tired.

“Ty! Get up! Get up!” Livvy’s voice became higher; the only thing keeping his focus and preventing him from fainting.

Someone pulled him up on his feet from the collar of his shirt. Ty’s head was spinning. He managed to open his eyes and focus his gaze on Mikhail’s face; he would give him the water treatment again.  

“You listen now,” Mikhail said with his heavy Russian accent. “You come here. You bleed. You faint. You lose every time. Why?”

Blood was dripping from somewhere above his left eye. Ty let his head fall back and his mouth was filled with a metallic taste.

Mikhail shook him. “Why you lose?”

Ty knew he had better answer. “Because,” he managed, choking on his own blood, “I don’t train hard enough.”

“Нет.” Mikhail said gravely. “Is because you don’t think of reason.”

The fog was closing on Ty. “R-Reason?”

“Reason to live.” Mikhail said. “Why do you want to live, Tiberius Blackthorn? Why do you want to live?”

 

Geneva, Switzerland, six weeks ago

The chilly night air made Cameron shiver slightly.

“I think someone took your memories,” Ty said. “And I can help you get them back.”

Cameron stared at him. “N-no. That’s impossible.”

“It’s the only logical explanation.”

“But… why – who?”

Ty began pacing. “Let’s start from the beginning. When was the first time you saw an Eidolon demon take the form of this Shadowhunter you saw?”

“Shanghai, about five months ago.”

“And when was the last time you saw an Eidolon demon take a different form?”

Cameron squinted his eyes, trying to remember. “I think it was about… two years ago? I was in Alicante with my parents and I got called for a mission. We left through a portal to Prague and we found an Eidolon demon. He took the form of an old lady.”

Ty hummed. “So sometime between five to twenty-four months ago, something happened that involved this person. Did you travel anywhere else during this time?”

“I spent four months in Nantes before my sister joined me and we left for Shanghai.”

Ty stopped pacing. “So Shanghai, Nantes, and Alicante. And you don’t remember anything worth mentioning? A traumatic mission, maybe? A dispute with someone?”

“No.” Cameron shook his head. “I don’t… I usually keep to myself.”

Ty resumed his pacing. For a few minutes he remained quiet, and Cameron was getting more and more nervous. Was he crazy to trust Ty? How much did he know about him, really?

“I do see one common denominator,” Ty said, cutting his train of thoughts.

“Which one?” Cameron asked, confused.

“Your family.”

Oh, so Ty was crazy after all. They both were; paranoid and insane.

“I should get back –“ Cameron began.

“More specifically, your sister.”

“No –“

“You lived in Alicante with your family; you transferred to Shanghai with your sister; and you met with her in Nantes. I don’t know what her motive was, but I know exactly who performed the task of erasing your memories for her.”

Cameron knew he should leave, but some reckless part of him had to ask. “Who?”

“A witch named Ortrun. She was born in Galliae sometime during the reign of Constantine.”

“My family does not deal with witches!” Cameron yelled, outraged.

“And how exactly do you think your family gained so much wealth and power?” Ty asked calmly. “Every powerful Shadowhunter family dealt with downworlders at some point; mostly with warlocks and witches. The Clave turns a blind eye as long as it brings money –“

“You’re lying!”

“Why would I lie about that?” Ty seemed confused.

Cameron just stared at him, not knowing what to think.

Ty seemed to take his silence as agreement to go further with his plan. “We should go see her; she’ll be able to restore your memories.”

“And how are we getting there?” Cameron asked, half-amused by the absurdity of Ty’s words.

“Simple,” Ty answered easily before taking Cameron’s hand.

He passed his finger slowly over Cameron’s family ring, as if looking for something, then he pressed two spots at the same time and Cameron heard a soft click before Ty turned the upper part of his ring.

“What –“ Cameron stared at him, wide-eyed. He himself hadn’t known that the ring could do that; did Paige know about this? What else did she know about their family heirlooms?

Ty mumbled a quiet incantation and Cameron’s train of thoughts was cut off as a strong wind appeared out of nowhere, and he struggled to keep standing until suddenly it stopped, and they were both standing in a large, circular room lit by torches. Cameron could see shelves filled with liquids and what seemed to be various animal and human organs. The high ceiling was decorated by illustrations of a battle between angels and demons at the pandemonium. The angels were losing; some were being tossed into the flames, one was lying on the floor, beheaded. Three more were chained in the back.

Cameron took out his sword. “Where the hell are we?” he whispered angrily to Ty, studying the room, looking for exists, searching for enemies.

“Who’s there?” A soft female voice asked.

From the shadows emerged a slender woman with tall blonde hair and soft features. With her long robe she looked like a princess taken out of a mundane fairy tale.

“Tiberious Blackthorn and Cameron Ashdwon,” Ty answered, his voice steady. “We want you to give Cameron his memories back.”

By the way the woman’s gaze shifted to Cameron, he knew that Ty was right. Ortrun knew exactly who he was.

“Are you not feeling well?” she asked, her voice void of emotion. “I told your sister the decision should come from you. I told her that if part of you didn’t want those memories taken, your mind might resist and that could lead to insanity.”

Cameron could feel his heart beating weakly in his chest. “What do you – Paige was here? Why?” he said weakly.

“Give them back,” Ty told her.

The witch’s expression was still uninterested. “How are you going to pay?”

“I don’t – we don’t – “ Cameron began, but Ty cut him off.

“By not killing you,” he said calmly.

Cameron’s gaze shifted quickly to him. They were going to fight a witch? And one that has lived for more than a millennia? Was he suicidal? They stood absolutely no chance against her magic.

The witch seemed to agree with Cameron’s silent analysis. She let out a dry laugh. “Go away. Come back when you can pay.”

But Ty leaped forward.

Cameron cursed and followed his lead, charging with his sword in front of him. The witch didn’t bother to move; she kept the same position, a smile on her face, and then she lifted one hand and tall shimmering walls were raised around him and Ty. Cameron hit the wall, shoulder first, and fell back on the floor. When he lifted his gaze he froze; the walls were a transparent green and inside them, as if floating in water, were hundreds of what looked like ghosts, with hollow eyes and empty mouths. The wall of souls surrounded them, and Cameron ran around like a trapped rat, trying to break through to no avail. They were caged.

“Stupid Nephilim,” the witch said, still sounding bored. “You’ll rot here. Your bones will turn to ashes in this room.”

Cameron looked at Ty, ready to see him as terrified as he was. But Ty’s gaze was focused on the witch. Slowly, he began walking through the wall. And then past it.

The witch’s bored expression was instantly replaced by one of pure terror.

“What are you?” she cried out.

Cameron stared at Ty’s back as he kept walking towards her, his pace steady. The witch took a bottle out of her robes and tossed it at him, but Ty leaped aside, avoiding it easily, then sent a high side kick to the witch’s chest. He took out something out of his belt and Cameron barely had time to blink before Ty had a thin chainsaw wrapped around the witch’s neck, his weight pulling down.

The witch screamed and the walls fell around Cameron, freeing him from his cage.

“One move and I will saw your spine,” Ty said, his voice low. Cameron shivered.

He focused his gaze on the figure Ty was threatening; she no longer looked like a beautiful woman. Cameron felt nauseous; the witch looked like a corpse in later stages of decay. Maggots were crawling out of her ears and her flesh looked half rotten.

Cameron looked at the weird weapon he had tied around her neck. “What. The hell. Is that?!”

“Russian necktie,” Ty replied.

Cameron gaped at him. “When did you undergo mundane Russian training?!”

“Is this piece of information crucial at the moment?” Ty seemed confused. “I’m sort of in the middle of something here.”

“No, you’re right, it can wait,” Cameron said sheepishly.

Ty turned to the witch. “Tell us everything. Now.”

The witch cursed, and Ty tightened the hold of his chain on her neck. Cameron could see drops of green liquid oozing from the cuts.

Now.” Ty repeated.

“His sister came to me,” Ortrun hissed. “She asked me to erase his memories. She wanted him to forget someone.”

“Wait, if Paige did it – maybe she had no choice?” Cameron said urgently. “Maybe it’s for the best that I –“

Ty shook his head. “You didn’t seem to think that it was for the best at the time, otherwise your mind wouldn’t have struggled.”

Cameron remained silent.

“Where are they?” Ty urged the witch.

“I’ll need my hand,” she replied spitefully.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Ty warned her.

The witch didn’t seem ready to struggle again; only to get them to leave already. She took out a small bottle from one of the shelves. It was filled with golden liquid. Cameron was getting more and more nervous. Inside that bottle were his thoughts and memories of that person he had slain a hundred times. Who was he? Why did Cameron choose to forget him? Was this person still alive? Did he remember Cameron?

Ty squinted his eyes. “What happened to them?”

Cameron was brought back to reality. “What do you mean?”

“Your memories. They’re opaque.”

“His stupid sister touched them,” the witch said.

Ty paled.

“Is that bad?” Cameron asked, confused.

Is that bad,” the witch repeated mockingly. “Idiot of a Nephilim. Of course that’s bad. I can give them back to you, but your mind will not recognize them as entirely your own and will try to reject them. Your memories will be tainted, some will be marred. Your mind might even collapse, making it harder for you to keep eating or sleeping. And the weaker your body will get, the quicker your memories will fade again. You will never be the same as you were before.”

Cameron fell to his knees. Tears were forming at the corners of his eyes. It was too much to handle; his sister made him forget his memories, she tainted them so he could never truly be the same again. And what was he missing so badly?

“Do you still want to go through this?” Ty asked, his voice gentle.

“Yes,” Cameron said, resolute. “Give them back to me.”

“And what do you know of Eidolon demons?” Ty asked the witch.

“His sister bound him to one,” the witch said. “The link might break once his mind is resolved; it might never break. I don’t know.”

Cameron began to shake. It was him who brought those demons. It was all his fault.

“One last thing before we begin,” Ty told the witch. “How did Paige pay you?”

“She gave me the stone of Stolas.”

Ty cursed.

“What?” Cameron asked him. “What does it mean?”

“It means I’ll have to clean up your sister’s mess.”

The witch lifted her hands and the lights went out, and for a few seconds Cameron couldn’t see anything but then she began tracing a circle on the floor which seemed to be made of light. She added various symbols he did not understand. Ty watched her carefully, his pale face lit by the dim light, and Cameron thanked the Angels that led him to cross Ty’s path.

Ortrun recited her incantations, then called Cameron to stand at the center of the circle. She opened the vial and the golden mist came pouring out. With the flick of her hand she guided it to Cameron’s heart.

And everything came back.

A party, and starry night skies, and rose gardens, and deep brown eyes, and a kiss so deep Cameron got lost in it.

Jaime. Jaime’s arms around him, making him feel safe. Jaime’s lips on his, warm and soft. Jaime saying that he doesn’t have to change; that he’s fine just the way he is. Jaime calling him a nerd with a tone so fond, Cameron blushed every time.

And love.

So much love Cameron was set on fire.

And pain.

So much pain Cameron drowned in it.

The room began spinning around them and Cameron fell to the floor. When he got up again, they were standing on the balcony at the institute of Geneva.

Cameron was panting, struggling for air. For a few long moments he couldn’t speak, crushed under the wave of emotions. Under the stream of new information that kept pouring from his heart into his brain, suffocating him. Some memories were foggy; him and Jaime laughing about something, but Jaime’s voice sounded as if Cameron was underwater. Some were nightmarish; him and Jaime walking in the gardens, giant spiders surrounding them. Him and Jaime sitting together at lunch; a severed finger in Cameron’s plate. Rationally, Cameron knew they weren’t real. But his mind insisted on replaying them.

“How are you feeling?” Ty’s voice pulled him back from the dark rabbit hole he fell into.

“This man…” Cameron’s voice broke. “He hurt me. A long time ago. I agreed to erase his memories and move away. I thought it would make me feel… better.”

Anger flashed across Ty’s face. “You were angry at someone, so you just left?” he asked, his voice low. Cameron was genuinely scared for a moment that he struck a sensitive cord, but then Ty’s expression turned blank again.

Cameron stared at the night sky; the same damn sky under which he had kissed Jaime for the first time and everything had forever changed.

Ty finally spoke again. “You can tell me about it, if you want,” he said gently. “People always assume I don’t understand, but… I do.”

Cameron believed him.

“I fell in love with him,” he said. His voice was shaky. “I was supposed to relocate to Shanghai, but I wanted to cancel it… for him. And it turned out that he didn’t feel the same way about me, and it broke my heart.”

Ty nodded slowly. “I understand,” he said. “He told you that he didn’t feel the same way. It made you very sad.”

“He didn’t tell me,” Cameron said slowly, the memory of the picture Paige showed him resurfacing in his mind, sharper than any other. “He showed me with his actions.”

Ty’s brows furrowed. “What actions?”

“He kissed someone else a week before I was planning to leave.”

“I understand why you hurt,” Ty said. “It broke your heart to see the man you loved kissing someone else.”

“I didn’t see him. My sister told me.”

Ty cocked his head to the side. “Did she have any evidence to support this claim?”

“A photo,” Cameron hissed. “She showed me a photo of him with some girl.”

“Were they kissing in the photo?”

“No…” Camron said sheepishly, “but he had his arm around her, and they seemed very close.”

“On its own, the photo does not constitute strong enough evidence,” Ty said, matter-of-factly. “Did your sister have other evidence?”

“She said that he spent the night drinking and mocking me.”

“Then the answer is no, she didn’t have other evidence.” Ty seemed to be considering this. “And what did this man say when you confronted him about it?”

Cameron bit his lower lip. “I… I never did,” he said slowly. “I just… when we met, he said that he didn’t want a serious relationship and I –“

“Did he ever do something like this during the time you’ve known him?”

Cameron’s heart was racing. During the entire time he and Jaime hooked up, Jaime had not as much as glanced at anyone else, even though they never even decided to be exclusive.

“No,” Cameron mumbled. “He… he never did.”

“Did your sister have any motives to initiate a breakup?”

Cameron’s heart was beating so fast it hurt. “She did. She wanted me to come with her.”

Ty was studying him with disdain, Cameron could swear it. For a few moments he didn’t say anything, and Cameron felt lost and stupid and scared. Then finally Ty spoke.

“Based on my observation,” he said dryly. “There is a strong probability that the conclusion you have reached is wrong.”

More and more memories kept rushing in. Jaime introducing him to his friends. Jaime going to the botanical gardens with him. Jaime helping him replant the herbal garden. Jaime crawling into bed with him after a mission. Jaime smiling at him fondly as Cameron went on and on about some plant or other.

And Cameron realized that Ty was right.

How could Cameron have been so stupid? How could he have messed up so bad? How could he have hurt the only person who had bothered enough to tear down the walls he had built around himself?

“I-I screwed up,” Cameron’s voice broke.

“You did,” Ty agreed.

Tears were forming at the corners of Cameron’s eyes. “I messed up. I messed up so bad. How can I fix this?” he asked, hoping, wishing, praying that Ty would have some miraculous solution.

“I don’t know if you can,” Ty said quietly. “You should apologize, but… I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive you. After what you’ve done…” He sounded distant, as if he was speaking of another matter entirely. “But you can’t waste time. You have to at least try and make amends.”

He sounded weirdly resolute, and Cameron wasn’t sure if he was still talking to him, or if he was talking to himself about some issue of his own. And then Ty must have decided that their conversation was over, because he did not wait for Cameron to reply, and simply left.

Chapter Text

New York, present time

Ty’s eyes were still closed, and Kit relished on the opportunity to study his face. How lucky he was, to have kissed those lips, to have passed his fingers through Ty’s raven black hair, to have felt him move against him…

The door opened with a loud bang.

“Fucking Assdown killed the demon by himself!” Dru yelled as she stepped into Kit’s office. “I got into the club to help him, and he had the audacity to tell me he killed it!”

Ty’s eyes opened immediately. He seemed alarmed and confused by Dru’s apparent anger. Kit had no idea why Dru was so angry, either. He had to wonder if it really was about Cameron, or if there was something else she was furious about, and Cameron was just the poor fool who dared cross her path while she was in this foul mood.

“He accomplished the mission,” Ty told his sister. “Why are you mad?”

“Why am I mad? Why AM I MAD?!” Dru yelled. “Let me fucking tell you –“

“Oh, here you are guys,” Jaime’s joyful voice was heard behind her. He passed Dru, patting her on the shoulder, and sat on the couch with his feet on the table. “What are you doing?”

Ash walked in after him, looking embarrassed. “Hi,” he said quietly to Dru. “How was your mission?”

Dru’s reaction was immediate. She turned to him, her eyes filled with rage. “What did you just ask me?” she said, her voice dangerously low.

Kit figured that Ash must be either suicidal or very stupid, because instead of running away and taking shelter, he repeated his question.

“I asked - how was your mission?”

“Don’t. Ask. Me that!” Dru snapped. “And don’t look at me like that, and –“ she clenched her jaw. “And take your kiss back, I don’t want it anymore!” she yelled, then pulled him by the collar of his shirt and pressed their lips together.

Kit’s mouth opened in astonishment. Next to him Ty froze. Jaime, on the other hand, seemed very amused by this turn of events and let out an approving sound.

Dru pulled away, panting. Ash stared at her in shock for a moment before recollecting himself.

“You can’t take it back!” he yelled. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. “Here! Now it’s yours again!” He said angrily when he pulled away.

“I don’t want it! You take it!” She kissed him again, then pulled away, her lips snarled with rage.

“I don’t understand what’s happening,” Ty said quietly.

“It’s the best fight ever, is what it is,” Jaime said, sounding amused to no end.

Dru opened her mouth – probably to tell Jaime to shut the hell up - but Ash pulled her and kissed her again.

“I don’t think people usually fight like that,” Ty said, looking confused.

“It’s a little unorthodox,” Jaime agreed.

“I. Don’t. Want it anymore!” Dru yelled and pressed her lips on Ash’s again.

“I don’t think we should be here,” Ty mumbled.

I do,” Jaime said.

“They’re blocking the door,” Kit whispered. “Do you think –“

Dru let Ash go and turned angrily to Kit. “I’m leaving!” She snapped at him.

“Oh, oka–“

“Shut up!” She turned on her heels and left.

Ash stood still for a few moments, starting after her, before he slowly turned to Kit, Ty, and Jaime, looking distraught.

Jaime still had a huge grin plastered on his face. “Do you want to tell us what happened, or are you going to let us guess?”

Ash remained silent.

“Did you make out with her brother?” Jaime suggested.

“No!” Ty said immediately.

“Wait, we can’t rule out the possibly quiet yet,” Jaime said. “She has other brothers.”

Ash seemed ready to strangle him.

Kit cocked his head to the side. “You know, it’s sort of impressive,” he said slowly. “Usually when she gets angry at people, she breaks their bones. She doesn’t go around kissing them.”

“Very impressive indeed,” Jaime agreed.

From the look on Ash’s face, he didn’t seem to find comfort in the impressiveness of their fight. For a moment he stared at them, his large green eyes pained, before he mumbled “I should go talk to her” and left the room.

“He’s such a good cupcake,” Jaime said affectionally. He leaned back comfortably. “Anyway, I just wanted to ask if the Angels have blessed us and Assdown was eliminated during his last mission.”

His tone was casual, but Kit could sense he was truly worried something had happened to Cameron.

“No, he’s fine,” he answered.

Jaime seemed relieved. “Too bad,” he said, changing his expression to a mocking one. “Maybe next time.”

“Maybe next time,” Kit agreed grimly.

Jaime got up. “I should go back. I left Whitestrider alone with knives.”

“It wasn’t a wise decision,” Ty commented.

“No,” Jaime agreed.

“I should go, too,” Ty said quietly after Jaime left.

“Wait –“ Kit began. He was cut off, however, by the phone ringing. He picked it up reluctantly and regretted it immediately as the voice of Whitestrider’s mother was heard, as high-pitched and annoying as ever.

“MY SON CUT HIMSELF!” she yelled. “What kind of Head of Institute lets his subordinates –“

Kit placed the phone on the table, letting the old hag yell to the void, and lifted his eyes, looking for Ty. But Ty had already left, and so Kit unwillingly picked up the phone again.

“I WILL REPORT YOU! I WILL REPORT ALL OF YOU!”

Kit had no idea who she meant by “all of you”, but more importantly - he didn’t want the hassle of dealing with Clave officials right now, so he judged it best to say whatever it took to make her calm down.

“I will make sure that the responsible for your son’s accident will be punished,” Kit said tiredly. He thought that it was best not to remind her that the responsible for her son’s accident was her son himself.

The declaration seemed to shut her up and she finally agreed to hang up the call. Kit texted Tamara to put Whitestrider on kitchen duties as punishment for the rest of the week and went up to his room to take a cold shower. He found himself smiling like an idiot as he shampooed his hair, unable to stop grinning as he stood under the warm water. He couldn’t remember the last time he was this happy; maybe he never was. But with Ty it was so… easy.

He put on sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt, checked his hair last time in front of the mirror, and left his room. He walked along the corridor until he reached Ty’s room and stood there for a few seconds, trying to compose himself, before he knocked on the door.

“Ty, it’s… me.”

“Come in,” Ty’s deep voice was heard from the other side of the door.

Kit pushed it open slowly and walked in, closing the door carefully behind him. Ty stood with his back to him, staring out of the window. He was wearing black pants and a white shirt with bishop sleeves with nothing on top of it. Kit swallowed; this was the least amount of clothes he had seen Ty with since he came to New York.

“Can I come in?” he mumbled awkwardly, even though he was already inside Ty’s room.

Ty hummed but did not turn around. His gaze was still fixed outside, at the night sky. Kit crossed the room slowly and came to stand next to him.

They remained silent for a while, gazing out the window. When Ty arrived, New York was covered with snow like a thick, white blanket. The snow has melted since; and so has the ice that had surrounded Kit’s heart over the years. Lately Kit just felt… warm. Warm, and calm, and happy.

He glanced at Ty. His eyes were hidden under strands of inky black hair. Kit studied his jaw, the white cravat around his neck, letting only a thin strip of skin show, his profile –

“You’re bleeding,” Kit said.

Ty turned to him; blood trickled from his nose. “What? Oh. It’s noth -“

“I’ll get you a tissue,” Kit told him and quickly went into his bathroom. It was immaculately clean and organized; piles of clean towels rested on a shelf, a razor, shaving cream and aftershave placed neatly near the sink, at the corner stood a basket for dirty laundry. Kit’s bathroom looked nothing like this; in fact it looked rather like a tornado had spontaneously formed in the room and scattered everything around.

He got the tissues and rushed back to Ty. It was just a nosebleed, and both have suffered much worse in the past, being Shadowhunters. Still, Kit didn’t like the sight of blood on Ty’s face; not if he could help him.

He lifted one hand slowly to cup Ty’s cheek. Ty didn’t move, and Kit took a tissue in his other hand and pressed it gently above Ty’s upper lip. Ty kept still as Kit cleaned the blood from his face, his long lashes fluttering over his cheeks and his gray eyes half-closed. When he was done, Kit crumpled the bloody tissue into a small ball and threw it across the room straight into the trashcan, then passed his thumb gently over Ty’s skin, looking up at him. He was beautiful; every part of him was beautiful. And his gray eyes had the entire world in them.

“Go on a date with me,” Kit heard himself say.

Ty’s eyes widened. “What?”

Kit smiled. “We never had a proper date. Let me take you out.”

Ty took a step back, letting Kit’s hand drop. “Kit, we… what happened before… we shouldn’t.”

Kit was careful not to make any sudden movement or come too close. “I don’t know what we should do, and I don’t care. I just… what do you want, Ty?” he asked softly.

Ty turned back to face the window. He put his hands in his pockets and gazed outside. Half a moon hung in the velvet black sky, the chilly night air separated by glass. Kit waited in silence for Ty to speak, careful not to pressure him; not to make him feel caged.

“Eight years ago, you left,” Ty said quietly. “But still… you lingered in my mind.”

Kit felt a wave of guilt rushing through him. “You deserved a better goodbye.”

Ty turned to him. “I didn’t.”

He was scared, Kit realized. “Ty.” He reached his hand to him. Ty looked at it, as if debating with himself what to do.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Kit said softly.

Ty bit his lower lip. “But I might.”

Slowly, Kit took Ty’s hand in his. “I trust you.”

“Christopher,” Ty whispered, “you don’t want that. There’s no… there’s no light in my life.”

“Then I’ll stay with you in the dark.”

Ty looked frustrated. “You can’t do that.”

“I can do anything I want.”

“There’s a limit even to your willpower.”

“Then you don’t know me as well as you think you do,” Kit said stubbornly. He still held Ty’s hand in his. He passed his fingers over his glove, feeling the smooth texture of the black leather. “Give me a chance. Talk to me.”

Ty’s eyes were glistening with a layer of tears. “I feel as if I’m walking on a tightrope and I’m about to fall any moment.”

“Then let yourself,” Kit whispered. “I’ll catch you, and you’ll never have to fall again.”

Ty’s expression was pained. “I wish…” his voice broke. “I wish it was true.”

Kit wrapped his arms around him carefully, as if he was made of thin glass. “It is,” he whispered, pulling him closer. “You’ll never have to fall again.”

Ty wound his arms around Kit’s waist and pulled him closer against his chest, and Kit’s tattoo fluttered under his shirt. Ty smelt like soap and vanilla and ocean air, and Kit remembered how, ages ago, he had tried to skin himself to get rid of the words I can’t get married, feeling like a complete mess. Dru had insisted that he wasn’t; that he was just a puzzle missing a piece, and Kit couldn’t bring himself to believe her.

But he didn’t hate his tattoo anymore; he didn’t hate the truth. And he didn’t feel like a mess, or like a screw up, or like an incomplete puzzle. In Ty’s arms, Kit felt calm.

And maybe some part of him knew all along; and this was the reason rain kept pouring on him, not letting him find his way home, and this was why he kept writing letters all those years. But Kit knew, now.

I’m in love with him. I’m in love with Ty.

Chapter Text

Geneva, Switzerland, six weeks ago

Cameron lay on the cold bathroom floor, shivering. New memories kept flooding his mind, chasing each other. Some he felt were real; some he wasn’t sure; and some were distorted, nightmarish, marred by Paige touching the vial and ruined forever.

 

“Cameron!”

Cameron lifted his eyes from the soil and turned to look at him. “What?”

The golden flakes in Jaime’s eyes were glistening in the sunlight. “Nothing. I just like your face.”

Cameron hid his smile; he could never let Jaime know how much those words meant to him. He opened his mouth to give an annoyed answer instead, but it was sewn shut; and Jaime’s face was suddenly distorted, black tears running from his eyes.

 

Cameron lifted himself to a sitting position and threw up into the toilet. His mind was rejecting those memories which it didn’t recognize as its own, and Cameron had to fight to keep them from drifting away. But the harder he fought, the more ill he felt.

He threw up again, the acidity burning his throat. He wanted to be mad at Paige for lying to him; but being mad at her would be a childish way of transferring the blame. Cameron was to blame. He, and only he. If he had not been blind; if he had been a better, braver man – none of this would have happened.

 

Cameron stared at the branches of the large Sessile oak tree. “I know I can be difficult,” he said quietly. “I’m trying, but it’s hard for me to change.”

“Then don’t.” Jaime’s voice sounded strained.

He didn’t understand; Cameron shook his head. “I have to try –“

“You don’t,” Jaime said immediately. “Just be yourself, you’re fine just the way you are.”

Cameron turned to hide his face, embarrassed. No one has ever told him that he was fine just the way he was. Emma thought he was too quiet, his sister thought he was boring, his parents thought he was unsocial. But Jaime… Jaime always saw the best in him. Or maybe he just saw the best in everyone, because that’s the sort of things Jaime would do.

 

Cameron opened his eyes, his head spinning from having a new memory forced inside it. He had to find Jaime. He had to apologize for what he’s done. He had to beg for forgiveness. He had to tell him the truth - that he was stupid, and scared, and that he was so afraid of getting hurt that he believed the lies that were laid in front of him. That he had never felt that way about anyone. That he fell in love with him. That he’s sorry he never let him know.

Was there any chance Jaime would take him back?

Cameron couldn’t lie to himself. The answer was no. Unlike Cameron, Jaime was pretty and fun and outgoing. He barely had to snap his fingers and a line of suitors would form. And they would all be better than Cameron. Every single one.

Cameron had missed his chance.

Still, he owed Jaime this apology. Jaime would never take him back, but he still deserved to know that it wasn’t his fault; that Cameron was an idiot who loved him and missed his chance. That Cameron wanted him to be happy.

He spent the rest of the night on the bathroom floor, shivering and crying, relieving his forgotten memories, until the sun came up and he washed the tears from his face and left his room.

When he got to the dining room, the rest were all speaking loudly among themselves, looking confused.

Cameron sat down quietly. “What’s going on?”

“The centurion left,” Yann explained. “Just packed his things and disappeared in the middle of the night.”

“He left my case, solved, in front of my bedroom door,” Cyril added.

“Where did he go?” Cameron asked.

“I ran into him at about four in the morning, I had just gotten back from patrol,” Pierre said. “He was carrying two suitcases, so I asked him where he was going. He said he was leaving for the US and then he just… walked past me and left.”

Cameron wondered where Ty could be going. Was he going back home, to LA?

“I’m going to miss him,” Yann said. “He was a weird one, but I sort of liked having him around.”

The rest nodded in agreement.

Cameron couldn’t help but wonder if Ty’s leaving was related to their conversation last night. He seemed to have been struggling with something himself. But, regardless of the reason, Ty left. And it was time for Cameron to do the same.

Without saying a word, he got up and left the table in a hurry. He ran to his room, shoved his belongings to his backpack, then ran outside and called a taxi. The driver dropped him off at the train station, where Cameron tried to buy a ticket to Nantes with his broken French.

“Un ticket pour Nantes, s'il vous plait,” he panted.

The cashier studied him with suspicion, clearly wary on account of his scars and tattoos. “Aller et retour?”

“What?” Cameron gaped at him. “Un ticket pour Nantes!”

The cashier squinted his eyes. “Oui, monsieur. Aller et retour?”

Damn it, why had Cameron spent so many hours learning dead languages like Latin and ancient Greek, instead of learning French?

“I have no idea what you’re saying!” he cried out, exasperated. “Just un ticket pour fucking Nantes!”

The cashier seemed angry now. He crossed his arms and gave Cameron a death stare. “A-ller. Et. Re-tour?” he asked, emphasizing each syllable.

“I don’t know what you’re – okay, you know what?” Cameron took three bills of one hundred euros each and threw them at him. “Here! Just get me to fucking Nantes!”

The cashier mumbled something about which didn’t sound like a compliment, but Cameron couldn’t be bothered about it because the man finally handed him a train ticket which he took and then began a frantic run to the platform only to find out he still had half an hour before the train arrived.

He spent the train ride practicing what he would say in his head, only to realize that he should have brought flowers. God, how could he be so stupid?

He got off at the central station of Nantes and began looking for a flower shop. When he finally found one, he realized he had no idea what to get. He did not know of any flower that meant “I’m sorry that I believed the lies my sister told me and erased every memory of you” and also “I’m so in love with you it hurts”.

For a second, he was tempted to just get Jaime everything, but he figured that Jaime might not want his room to be crowded by thousands of flowers, especially if he was dating someone new and – oh, god, of course was dating someone new.

Cameron settled on a bouquet of roses and lilies and headed straight to the institute. He pushed the door open and nearly collided with Nina, the head of the Nantes institute.

“Cameron,” she exclaimed. “Long time no seen! How’s Shanghai?”

“Terrible.”

He threw his backpack on the floor and began a frantic run from the front door, through the large lobby and along the corridors leading to Jaime’s room. He reached it, panting, and knocked on the door.

A shirtless blond man opened it, rubbing his eyes.

Cameron’s heart sunk. Of course, he expected it. Jaime was beautiful and funny and sexy, finding someone to replace Cameron wasn’t much of a challenge for him. Still, some part of him hoped that maybe… no. That was stupid.

“Can I help you?” the blond man asked. He didn’t seem very happy to be disturbed by a panting stranger holding a bouquet.

Cameron knew he should apologize and leave, but he just had to see him.

“Is Jaime here?” he croaked.

The blond man seemed annoyed. “I don’t know any Jaime.”

Cameron’s temper sparked. “Yes, you do. It’s the guy who’s room you’re currently in.”

The irritation left the blond man’s face, replaced by a softer expression. “I moved to an empty room a few months back. I guess the guy you’re looking for left.”

He left.

Half dazed, Cameron pushed the flowers into the stranger’s hands and turned around. He walked along the corridor, his heart beating loudly in his chest. He had to talk to him. He had to apologize. He began another frantic run.

He made a left turn and collided with a smaller figure.

“Ow!” the girl exclaimed. “Watch where you’re – Cameron?!”

Charlotte stood in front of him, flabbergasted.

“Charlotte,” Cameron panted. “How… how are you?”

“Fine,” she said, looking confused. “What are you doing here? Did Jaime come with you?”

“N-No, it’s just me,” Cameron mumbled.

Charlotte shifted uncomfortably. “And how… um… how’s Jaime? I haven’t heard from him in over a year.”

Cameron stared at her. “You… you don’t talk?”

“I was too embarrassed to contact him after… you know,” she said, flushed.

“I’m not sure I do,” Cameron said carefully.

“He didn’t tell you? He’s such a gentleman.” She sighed. “I tried to kiss him at Nina’s birthday party last year. Some girl told me he had a crush on me to mess with me and convinced me that I should make a move. He was very nice about it, though. He said that he was sorry, but there was someone else, and then he took me to my room because I drank too much and I was feeling queasy.” She gave him a small smile. “Tell him I said hi, would you? And… no hard feelings, of course.”

Cameron nodded, and Charlotte squeezed his shoulder before walking away. Cameron resumed his frantic run.

“Nina,” he panted when he found her. “Where’s Jaime?”

Nina seemed surprised. “He left right about when you did,” she said slowly. “Don’t you know that? You two used to be very clo –“

“Where is he?”

“He left with his brother. They went to Mexico, but I don’t know if he stayed there or –“

Mexico... But Cameron could not simply call Jaime. Even on the off chance that he didn’t block his number, Jaime deserved to see Cameron’s face when he begged for forgiveness. “I need you to find me a phone number.”

Nina seemed alarmed. “Is everything alright?”

“No. Nothing is. Could you please get me Diego’s number?”

She led him to her office, and he sat in front of her as she made a few phone calls and finally got him the number. Cameron did not waste a second before dialing it.

“Hola.”

“Diego Rosales?”

“Sí?”

“Hi, my name is Cameron Ashdown. I’m calling –“

“Screw you, Cameron Ashdown.” The call was then disconnected.

So, Jaime’s brother knew all about what happened. But Cameron was not giving up. He dialed the number again, but it got straight to voice mail.

Cameron tried to think about all the people Jaime had ever mentioned in their conversations. There was his brother, Diego, and his friend, Kit Herondale – Paige had told him that he was the acting head of the New York institute now - and there was another girl named Christina who was friends with Emma…

He dialed the phone; she answered after three rings.

“What?” she said sleepily.

“Hi, Emma,” Cameron began politely.

“Cameron, it’s the middle of the night here. What the hell do you want?”

“I’m… I was just wondering. You’re friends with Christina, right?”

“Did you fucking call me just to ask that?” Emma yelled. “Screw y-“

“She must know where Jaime Rosales is. I need her number.”

“Why the fuck do you care where he is?” Emma sounded confused.

Good. At least she is blissfully unaware of what I did.

“I just… I care. Could you give me her number?”

“Agh, I hate you so much,” she mumbled. “Kit offered him a position in New York. He relocated.”

“Thank you!” Cameron was practically jumping up and down due to the adrenaline in his veins.

“Yeah, whatever.” She hung up.

Cameron lifted his eyes. “He’s in New York,” he said, more to himself than to Nina.

“Good, maybe we could send him his things.”

“What?”

“He left all of his things here,” Nina said. “When I asked him what I should do with them, he said I could burn them. Can you believe that?”

Cameron exhaled. “I can, yes.”

Nina shook her head. “I will never understand today’s youth. Back in my days we didn’t go around burning personal –“

“Where are they?”

“Oh, right here.” She got up and opened the door leading to the storage room. She came back with a cardboard box labeled “Jaime Rosales” and placed it at Cameron’s feet.

One gaze at the box had completely shattered his soul. He sank on the floor next to it and reached his hand, passing his fingers over Jaime’s clothes. He took out a forest-green t-shirt, not caring how strange it might seem to Nina, and buried his face in it. It smelled like Jaime. Like musk, and vanilla, and sunny French gardens, and evenings spent lying on the grass staring at the stars. Cameron picked up another shirt and froze. On top of the pile rested the cell phone he had gotten him. Of course he had left it behind; he never cared about the stupid cell phone like Paige claimed. He had only cared about Cameron.

Cameron wrapped his arms around the box and began sobbing, his tears bursting like water from a dam.

Nina cleared her throat. “Are you alright?”

“Obviously I am not,” Cameron snapped. He was still hugging the box like a crazy person with tears spilling down his face.

“Do you… um… like the box?” Nina asked him slowly, as if talking to a mentally challenged child. “I guess Jaime wouldn’t mind it if you kept it.”

Cameron lifted his gaze. “N-No,” he said. “I’m going to give him h-his things back.”

“Okay, whatever you choose to do with –“

“No,” Cameron cut her off, determined. “I’m going to give him his things back. Today. I’m going to New York.”

Nina started at him. He couldn’t blame her, really, as he was still on the floor, hugging a carboard box with tears in his eyes.

“Cameron,” she said slowly. “You know how the Clave feels about such travels. Shadowhunters should focus on fighting –“

“No!” Cameron got up. “I’m going to New York.”

He turned to leave but Nina grabbed his hand in one swift motion, then twisted it until he fell to the ground. She looked so delicate, Cameron sometimes made the mistake of forgetting how strong she was.

She let him go. “Listen to me,” she said softly. “You have already been to two continents this month; you know what it means. You cannot visit New York unless you ask for a transfer.”

Cameron did not miss a beat. “Then give me the papers I have to fill and send a message from my behalf to the head of the Shanghai institute.”

“But your sister –“

“She’ll find out soon enough.”

“But –“

“Nina. The papers. Please.”

She did not argue further. Instead she opened her files cabinet and took out a stack of papers. “I’ll write you a recommendation letter,” she said gently.

“Thank you,” Cameron whispered.

She put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll figure everything out,” she said soothingly.

Cameron filled out the papers and let her send them over to the New York institute. Cameron prayed that Kit Herondale had no idea about his and Jaime’s past, otherwise Cameron had no chance of seeing Jaime in the next few months, and if that was the case, he was definitely going to lose his sanity.

He left Nina’s office, his heart heavy and his mind a shattered mess.

“Hey, looks, it’s Cameron!” someone yelled with glee.

“Cameron? What’s up, man?”

Cameron turned to find Sasha and Liam, Jaime’s old friends. “Hey,” he forced a polite smile. “How are you guys?”

To his absolute astonishment, Sasha pulled him into a hug. “We missed you, man! You didn’t stay in touch!”

“Y-you missed me?” Cameron stared at him. He always assumed they tolerated his presence because of Jaime… and when Paige told him -

Liam gave him a friendly hug. “Such a Cameron thing to say,” he smiled. “Don’t tell me you don’t miss our patrols.”

“And having lunch together,” Sasha added.

“The gardens are less pretty now without you, so Sasha and Charlotte have one less place to make out in,” Liam said.

“You’re dating Charlotte?” Cameron smiled at Sasha.

Sasha blushed. “Yeah, she’s great - no, screw that - she’s perfect. I love her.”

“Oh, speaking of clingy couples – how’s Jaime?” Liam asked. “Are you two finally telling people?”

“We – what?” Cameron stared at him. “Wait… you guys knew?”

Sasha burst out laughing. “Dude. It was so obvious.”

“So obvious,” Liam agreed.

“The way Jaime looked at you –“

“The fact that he suddenly wasn’t interested in anyone –“

“He actually got into gardening –“

“Yeah, that one was a dead give-away –“

They kept listing things, and memories came flooding again. Cameron’s mind tried to push them away and he tried to push them back. It hurt so bad, as if someone took a mallet and slowly began shattering his bones to pieces.

He ended up waiting six weeks at the Nantes institute waiting for Herondale’s answer. Six weeks, going crazier by the second, fighting with his own mind to keep every piece of Jaime he could remember. His body got weaker by the minute, rejecting food and sleep. And the weaker his body got, the easier it was for tainted memories to crawl in, filling the sunny days with Jaime with giant spiders and black tears.

Finally, Kit’s second in command called him to say that he got the position.

“We can help you find flights from Shanghai –“

“I’m not in Shanghai at the moment,” Cameron said impatiently. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Great, so we’ll be waiting for you by the end of next week –“

“No. I’ll be there tomorrow.”

He hung up then ran to get his backpack, asked Nina to send Jaime’s box to New York, and left for the airport, checking for flights on his phone while in the cab. They were all booked, and so he got to the airport, found a mundane woman waiting in line to do his check in, and offered to pay her triple the cost of her plane ticket to take her place. The mundane woman clearly thought he had lost his mind, but it was too good of a deal to refuse and so Cameron boarded the flight to New York, more determined than ever. Ten and a half hours of flight later, then two more spent walking around and taking the metro, Cameron finally reached the New York institute and knocked on the door, his hand trembling.

A young woman opened it. “May I help you?”

“I’m Cameron,” he panted.

“You arrived… fast.” The girl seemed slightly taken aback, but she caught herself quickly. “Tamara,” she said. “Kit’s second-in-command. Let me take you to his office.”

Cameron followed her without a word. He’d meet with Kit, get a room, then take a shower and practice his speech again and –

Tamara left him in front of the office door and Cameron pushed it slightly open - and froze. In the middle of the room, on a large green sofa placed under a large oil painting of people playing cards, sat an unknown blond man, a girl who clearly carried Blackthorn genes, and… and…

“Jaime,” Cameron whispered.

In his most vivid memories, Cameron mind hadn’t even begun grasping the picture of how beautiful he was. With his flawless, tan, almost golden skin. With his hair, a rich and deep brown, softly reflecting the light of the early morning sun. With his full lips, and his dark eyebrows, and the light that never seemed to leave his face.

Cameron had lived through twenty-five years of emotions. He had felt happiness, fear, pain, despair, sadness, excitement, and dread. But nothing had prepared him to how it would feel to have his mind shattered as all these emotions came rushing at once.

He watched Jaime speak with animation, mesmerized by the way his lips moved. He seemed to be saying something hilarious, because the blond man and the Blackthorn girl burst out laughing. Cameron’s heart ached as memories came flooding again; Jaime used to sit with him at lunch, and walk with him through the gardens, and make witty comments or funny remarks, and Cameron would laugh and then Jaime would say something about him being a nerd and Cameron would flush slightly, because in his mouth the word was a compliment.

He couldn’t break his gaze away from Jaime’s face. Jaime was a fierce warrior, but he had a gentleness in him that he only let the people close to him see. Once, an eternity ago, Cameron had been one of those lucky people.

Jaime. Jaime. Jaime.

Cameron was so deeply, desperately in love with him. Pathetically, pitifully, hopelessly in love. His heart had whispered his name with every heartbeat ever since he had left Geneva six weeks ago.

He stepped inside and cleared his throat, and the three of them stopped talking and turned their heads in his direction.

And then Jaime lifted his gaze, and his eyes - flecks of brown married with golden hues - met Cameron’s.

Never, not in his scariest nightmares or his worst daydreams, had Cameron thought he would see so much hate in Jaime’s eyes. Jaime’s lips snarled with rage and his gaze conveyed so much loathing it sent shivers running down Cameron’s spine.

The Blackthorn girl took a step forward. “Hey, aren’t you –“

Cameron forced himself to look at her. “Cameron Ashdown, yes.”

“I’m Dru. Can we help you?” she asked politely.

“I have a meeting with Kit,” Cameron answered, trying to keep his voice steady.

“Why.” Jaime said. His harsh tone slashed through Cameron’s heart, leaving it raw and bleeding.

Cameron willed his body not to collapse as he addressed Jaime’s question. “I’m transferring here.”

“No, you’re not,” Jaime said coldly. “Get out.”

“I –“

“Vete a la mierda.”

Cameron knew enough Spanish to know what he meant. He took a step back.

The blond stranger gaped at Jaime. “Are you guys always giving such cordial welcomes to people who come here? Because I saw the bruise that Kit had given Ty –“

Ty’s here?” Cameron asked, dumbfound.

The Blackthorn girl smiled at him. “You remember my brother?”

The door opened again to reveal a blond man with blue eyes which Cameron immediately identified as Kit based on his uncanny resemblance to Jace Herondale.

“Hey,” Kit said.

Jaime turned to him. “Good, it’s Kit. He could clear up some things for us,” he said, his voice cold.

“What –“

The door opened again, and Ty walked in. He looked healthier than the last time Cameron saw him; the dark shadows under his eyes were almost gone. “Good morn –“ He stopped when he spotted him.

Cameron stared at him, praying that Ty wouldn’t say anything about their previous encounter. He shook his head slightly, to non-verbally signal him to keep quiet. To his immense relief, Ty seemed to have understood.

He bowed his head slightly. “Cameron.”

“Ty.”

Jaime took a step towards Kit. “What is Assdown doing here?” he asked spitefully. Cameron flinched.

“His name is Ashdown,” Ty corrected quietly. “Not Assdown.”

“He knows that,” Cameron said, trying not to show how much Jaime’s words hurt him.

“I don’t think I do.” Jaime said. “You look like an ass to me.”

“Okay, wow, can someone get me up to speed?” Dru asked. Cameron wished Jaime wouldn’t.

“Cameron is joining the New York institute,” Kit said. “Cameron, meet Ash. Dru and Ty you already know and um… Jaime I assume you’re already acquainted with.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in the past, yes.” Cameron said. He tried to catch Jaime’s eyes.

Jaime didn’t bother looking at him. “Oh, believe me, the pleasure was all mine.”

“How did you meet?” Ty asked. Cameron suspected that he knew more than he let show.

“At a party,” Jaime muttered.

“Jaime had just gotten a drink thrown in his face by some girl he wanted to hook up with,” Cameron said. A small, stupid part of him hoped it would make Jaime think about the night skies he himself couldn’t stop thinking about.

It didn’t.

“And Cameron was being charming as he is and said I deserved it,” Jaime said dryly.

“That sounds… lovely,” Ash said quietly. Cameron caught Ty asking Kit something; and – was it possible? Ty’s expression was… different when he looked at Kit. Softer.

“And afterwards –“ Cameron began.

“There was no afterwards,” Jaime cut him off. The sound of his voice made Cameron flinch again. “So, I think you’ve been here long enough. Here’s the door. Please don’t keep in touch.”

“Dru, could you please show Cameron to his room?” Kit asked quickly.

“I’ll do it,” Ty volunteered, and Cameron realized that he did, in fact, know more than he let show.

Ty led him out of the room in silence, and Cameron followed him, holding back tears. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that Jaime would take him back, but… the pure hate in Jaime’s eyes… Cameron didn’t think Jaime would ever accept his apology; the only thing he could hope for was that Jaime would at least let him say it.

Ty led him to an empty room and closed the door behind them.

“It’s Jaime,” he said. “The man you tried to forget.”

Cameron nodded. “Please don’t say anything,” he asked. “I… I should be the one to tell him what happened.”

“I agree.”

They remained silent for a few moments. Ty studied Cameron with a careful gaze. “He hates you,” he finally said.

Cameron wanted to break into sobs again. “I know,” he said quietly.

“That’s good,” Ty said.

Cameron’s temper sparked. “Yes, I know! You think it’s good that he hates me, you think I deserve it, and YOU’RE RIGHT,” he yelled. “I’m an idiot. Jaime is right to hate me –“

“What I meant,” Ty said calmly. “Is that it’s good that he hates you –“

“Because I’m a terrible –“

“Because the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference,” Ty continued. “He hates you. That means you still have a chance.”

Cameron froze, panting. He stared at Ty; could he be right? Was there any chance…? But even if there wasn’t – even if it was a hopeless cause – Cameron would not give up.

“You don’t look good,” Ty said. “You haven’t been eating.”

“It’s… hard.”

“You have to. Otherwise you’ll be too weak to fight for your memories.”

Cameron nodded. They remained silent for a few moments, and then Ty turned to leave without saying anything again, but Cameron heard himself call after him.

“What?” Ty turned around.

“You’re here for a similar reason, aren’t you?” Cameron asked.

Ty’s gray eyes were focused on some point above Cameron’s shoulder. He gave a small nod.

“Has Kit forgiven you?” Cameron was bolder.

“He thinks he has.”

“What do you –“

“I’m not like you,” Ty cut him off. “There’s no possibility of a happy ending for me.”

He turned around and left, leaving Cameron alone, somehow sadder than before.

Chapter Text

“How about I’ll pick you up tomorrow at seven?” Kit whispered in Ty’s ear.

Ty stiffened. “What do you mean?”

Kit hugged him closer, feeling Ty’s muscles relax. “How about I’ll pick you up at seven for our date?”

Ty pulled away. “I already told you...we can’t.”

Kit didn’t break his gaze. “Do you want to?”

Ty looked down, letting his hair fall on his face, hiding his eyes. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does,” Kit lifted his hand to touch Ty’s cheek. “It’s the only thing that matters.”

*******

It took Dru five minutes of punching a bag with all the force she could gather before she was able to think clearly. It seemed surreal, now. Ash was… and she did… and they kissed and they fought, and Dru had no idea what to think anymore. She was so angry, and frustrated, and –

She punched the bag again, refusing to accept that last part. Why would she be hurt? Angry, sure. Furious even. But she had built armors of steel around her; there was no way anyone could ever pierce them.

“Dru,” Tamara’s voice cut off her train of thoughts. “I found the new guy collapsed on the floor,” she said urgently. “It doesn’t seem like he was hurt during your mission –“

“He wasn’t.”

“We got him to the infirmary. He looks exhausted and weak. I thought he should get an IV and I figured it was best if you did it.”

Dru rushed there and found Cameron lying on a bed, his eyes closed. He looked so pale and sick, Dru forgot that she should be mad at him for what he did to Jaime. There were no signs of injuries or poisoning, but his blood pressure was low. There were no runes for that; he needed fluids. Dru administrated an IV and took a seat next to his bed.

“That’s the second time I have to do that,” she said. “What’s going on with you?”

Jaime was the first to notice that Cameron wasn’t eating much. But ever since he said it, Dru could not unsee how hollow his cheeks were. Could it be...? She knew Cameron had broken Jaime’s heart; she knew that Jaime had asked him to stay in Nantes, and Cameron slammed the door in his face. He truly seemed to regret his decision, but Dru had no sympathy for him at first. But now… he truly seemed broken without Jaime.

“He was there,” Dru heard herself say. “Jaime was at the club when you fought the Eidolon demon.”

Damn it, why would she say that? Stupid Camron being all sick and miserable, making her want to give him hope. Damn him. Damn Assdown straight to hell.

Cameron must have been way weaker than she initially thought, because instead of lighting up with delight at the knowledge that Jaime cared enough to shadow him, he just mumbled “really” with his eyes still closed.

Someone knocked on the door. “May I come in?”

Before Dru could tell him no, Ash walked in, his green eyes fixed on her.

“I was looking for you,” he said quietly. “Can we talk?”

“We don’t have to,” Dru said dryly.

Ash’s green eyes were looking directly at her, his gaze fissuring the mask of indifference she wore. “Please. I… I really want to talk to you.”

“You have three minutes.”

She led him to her room and closed the door behind them. Ash looked around, his hands in the pockets of his jeans – the old pair Kit had given him – and his eyes looking around the room as if he had never been there before.

Dru sat on the bed and crossed her arms. “Talk.”

Ash’s cheeks flushed slightly. “I wanted to apologize,” he mumbled.

It only made Dru angrier. “Great. You did. Now –“

“And to explain.” Ash sat next to her.

“You don’t owe me explanations.”

“I do,” he said sadly. “I… I want to… Dru, you have no idea what you mean to me.”

Dru’s heart fluttered in her chest. She wished she had a dagger so she could stab it and make it stop. Fluttering hearts and feelings of butterflies were childish images from mundane fairy tales.

“From the moment I opened my eyes and saw you staring down at me, fixing my IV, you felt familiar,” Ash said, his voice quivering. “Whenever you spoke, the sound of your voice made me feel as though everything was going to be okay, and I was exactly where I was supposed to be.”

He knelt on the floor before her. “I spent my whole life hating myself. I’m not a fairy. I’m not human. I’m a monstrous hybrid that doesn’t belong anywhere. But you… you make me feel like I do. You make me feel like I’m worth –“ His voice broke.

Dru looked down at him. He was kneeling in front of her with his hands on his knees and his lower lip slightly quivering. “When we kissed,” he said, almost too quiet for her to hear. “It was as if my whole world was realigned and my soul… it had been waiting for you all along.”

“Then why won’t you kiss me again?” Dru asked before she could stop herself.

Ash lifted his eyes. “I was scared,” he said quietly. “I was scared that you wouldn’t want me because of who I am.”

Dru sat on the floor in front of him. “You already showed me who you were, and I stayed. I haven’t changed my mind about you.”

Ash’s cheeks flushed pink. “There’s something else,” he said. “I didn’t kiss you again because… I was scared you’d want more, and then…”

Dru squinted her eyes in confusion. “Then what?”

Ash seemed to be gathering his courage. “I was mocked in the Queen’s court because I have fairy blood, but a human’s heart.” He kept his gaze down. “I couldn’t… behave the way the others behaved, or be as casual as they were about those things –“

“What on earth are you talking about?”

Ash turned his face away from her. “I’m a virgin.” He said those words fast, as if trying to get them out before his courage left him.

“What?” Dru stared at him.

“I’m a virgin,” Ash repeated, looking like he’d gladly swallow a live frog rather than say those words again.

“I heard you the first time, I just don’t… is that what you thought would scare me away?”

Ash lifted his gaze. “Yes! I’m a twenty-five years old virgin!”

“We’re not sure about your age, you might only be a twenty-something years old virgin.“

“That’s not funny,” Ash said miserably.

“I’m sorry.” Dru cupped his face in her hands. “But… is this really it?”

Ash looked pained. “Yes, I knew that once you realized it, you wouldn’t want me anymore because I’m not –“

“Listen to me,” Dru cupped his face in her hands. “I spent years surrounded by men who called themselves manly but were too insecure to treat me as an equal. I spent years surrounded by men who tried to ignore me or treat me like I’m somehow less than they are. I’ve known men who had dated too many women to count and thought that it made them better somehow, but not one of them could do what you do. You… somehow you pull me to pieces. Everything you do, every word you say, just get stuck under my skin and never leaves me.

“We’ll take things as slow as you need. We don’t even have to go further than a kiss if you don’t want to. I don’t care about any of that, and I don’t think less of you. I just… like you. I really like you.”

She stopped talking, flushed by the sudden rush of emotions that flooded her mind, but before she could form a coherent thought, Ash pulled her to him and kissed her.

His lips were hot, burning with the fire of a thousand suns, and as his mouth moved against hers Dru knew she felt the same way. Like her soul had been looking for his her whole life.

*******

“Your feelings are all I care about,” Kit said, his heart beating so fast it almost hurt. “Do you want to go on a date with me?”

“Christopher –“

“Do you want to?”

“Yes,” Ty said quietly, sending waves of elation coursing through Kit’s body. “But it doesn’t matter, because we shouldn’t.”

He meant too much for Kit to give up. “Ty, I didn’t choose to want you because you and I made sense, or because it was the rational thing to do. I chose you because you never even gave me a choice.”

“I didn’t mean –“

“When you called me, when you asked me to come back after I nearly drowned in fairy ether – I was ready to give up, but your voice awoke something in me. It lit a fire in me, and I’m not going to let that fire die.”

His tattoo was burning, as if confirming his words, and Ty’s gray eyes scanned his face as if looking for signs of insanity.

Kit took Ty’s hands in his. “Take what you want. Go on a date with me.”

Ty’s lips were slightly parted, begging for Kit to slip his tongue in between them and ravish Ty’s beautiful mouth.

“Let yourself,” Kit panted. “Let yourself feel what you’re so scared of feeling.”

After the darkest nights come the most beautiful sunrises; but the way Ty’s sudden smile lit his whole face overshadowed every sunrise that had ever lit the earth.

“Tomorrow at seven,” he whispered, and pressed a soft kiss on Kit’s forehead.

Chapter Text

Kit passed his fingers through his hair again, his tattoo fluttering restlessly on his hand. He was going for the disheveled look, one that said “I just woke up like this” but in reality meant “I spent half an hour on my hair”. He remembered Cameron carrying his heavy-looking box and Jaime saying that his mum probably sent him expensive hair products. For a few seconds Kit deliberated with himself if maybe he should ask Cameron to burrow some, before he realized that he was almost late.

His tattoo fluttered again, and Kit looked at his arm.

We’re going on a date. We’re going on a date. We’re going on a date.

The words kept disappearing and reappearing again. For the first time, Kit smiled at his tattoo.

“Yes, we are,” he said to his arm, grinning like an idiot. “Ty and I are going on a date.”

He put on a leather jacket, took his wallet, and left his room feeling all sorts of nervous and excited.

He knocked on Ty’s door at exactly 7 PM and Ty opened it immediately, as if he had been leaning against it on the other side, waiting for Kit to arrive.

“Hey,” Kit said, looking up at him. Ty was wearing black pants and a white shirt with a cravat. His dark hair fell on his face, effortlessly lovely, and his silver piercings completed the most captivating picture Kit had ever seen.

He was beautiful. Crushingly, dangerously beautiful. Kit gaped at him for a few seconds before he realized that now would be a good time to speak. “R-Ready?”

Ty nodded.

The night air was chilly, and Ty shivered slightly when they stepped outside.

“Do you want a heating rune?” Kit asked him.

“No. I’m fine.”

They walked the streets in silence. Weirdly, the quiet didn’t make Kit feel awkward or nervous. That was the thing about him and Ty – even the stillness between them was beautiful. Their silence speaks, it’s simply a different language.

Kit stopped in front of a Japanese restaurant, and Ty turned to walk inside.

“Wait, not here,” Kit told him.

Ty’s eyebrows rose, but he followed Kit silently to the back alley.

“Here,” Kit said, opening the door for him.

Ty walked inside, and Kit saw his lips parting in amazement.

He turned to Kit. “What’s this?”

“It’s for us.” Kit smiled at him. “We’re having a private dinner. I thought you’d prefer the quiet.”

Ty smiled back as he took off his shoes and stepped on the tatami of their private room. Around them, paintings of plum and cherry blossoms hung on the walls, painted on thin rice paper. Small bonsai trees and branches of Japanese maple trees decorated the room. At one corner of the room was bamboo water fountain, water flowing through it in a soothing drizzle. Lanterns lit by candles hung from the rafters. In the background, soft, traditional music was heard.

Ty sat down at the low wooden table, still looking around mesmerized. “There’s a cheery blossom bonsai tree!” he said. “And did you see that painting of koi fish? And that bamboo fountain? Did you know that the Japanese used to use a form of bamboo water fountain to break the silence of the gardens and frighten away animals that posed a threat to the agriculture?”

He looked so happy, like a child, and Kit’s cheeks hurt from smiling so much. It was weird, looking at Ty with the newfound realization that he was in love with him. That he might have been for years.

“How did you organize this?” Ty asked him, still looking around the room.

“I have a guy,” Kit said casually. Well, he didn’t technically have a guy for this, and technically he did spend the whole day making call after call and promising favor after favor to get a private dinner with the best Japanese chef currently residing in the United States. Maybe he’d tell Ty that story sometime; but not tonight.

The wooden doors at the back of the room slid open and their waiter walked in. “Good evening, gentlemen,” he said. “The chef will now begin the preparations for your meal.”

He placed two bowls of hot water in front of them, and laid napkins made of thick, woven fabric, before he left, closing the door behind him.

Kit dipped his hands in the warm water and dried them with the napkin. When he lifted his hands, he saw that Ty seemed distressed.

“Hey, is something wrong?” he asked him, concerned.

Ty looked down. “I can’t… take off my gloves.”

“I know,” Kit said softly. He took Ty’s hand and kissed the black leather. “You don’t have to.”

The waiter came back and placed a steaming bowl in front of each. “Suimono, the first course soup.”

He left, closing the sliding doors carefully behind him, leaving them with the sounds of the fountain and the low music.

“It’s really good,” Ty said.

“Yeah,” Kit agreed. “Do you know what’s it made of? I never saw those vegetables before.”

“Oxtail, green hisui eggplant, and matsutake mushrooms. All boiled in soy sauce.”

“When did you get so much into Japanese food?”

“Weirdly, when I lived in Russia.”

“You lived in Russia? What were you doing there?”

“Getting beat up, mostly,” Ty said. “Though I guess all Shadowhunters do.”

“I know I did,” Kit said. “Mostly by Jace. That son of a bitch.”

Ty laughed, and Kit was so busy starting, he missed his mouth with his spoon by half an inch.

Their waiter came back with plates of sashimi.

“I know that song,” Kit suddenly said when he heard the familiar notes. “It’s called the Origami Master.”

“It is,” Ty confirmed with a smile. “I didn’t know you liked Japanese music.”

“I didn’t, at least not until today,” Kit admitted. “I spent the morning looking for top tracks and listening to them.”

Ty’s pale cheeks flushed suddenly. It was such lovely sight; Kit couldn’t take his eyes off him.

“You didn’t have to do that for me,” Ty said quietly.

“I did it for me. I know you like it, I wanted to know why.”

“And what do you like?”

“Cheating at card games.”

“What else?”

“Stealing paintings.”

Ty shook his head, but Kit could see the way the corners of his mouth rose. “What else?”

You, Kit wanted to say. But Ty had spent years looking for freedom and avoiding relationships. Kit’s heart ached suddenly.

Their waiter came back with a plate of vegetables and grilled fish.

“You never told me why you spent a night in a trashcan in Budapest,” Kit said.

Ty smiled. “I was on a mission hunting down a Szépasszony, it’s a female Hungarian demon who often wears a white dress and has long hair. She appears and dances in storms and hail, and, well… seduces young men.”

“No,” Kit said, choking with laughter. “Don’t tell me it worked on you.”

“It did,” Ty said, burying his face in his hands.

“But you’re gay!”

“I know! I can’t explain it, her magic works… differently, I guess. I wasn’t attracted to her, but I was attracted to her, you know what I mean?”

“Absolutely not, but I beg you – do go on. What happened next?”

Ty lowered his hands, letting Kit see his flushed face. “Obviously I stripped down naked –“

“Oh my god –“

“And started dancing in the rain –“

“Oh my god –“

“Blessing the storm and the Szépasszony –“

“Oh my fucking god –“

“Until my friend found me and slapped me,” Ty said. “But by that time, the Szépasszony was gone. My friend went after her, and with my newfound clarity I realized that my clothes were gone too.”

“It just keeps getting better.”

“I had no clothes, no cell phone – “

“Stele?”

“No. Nothing. So, I found the nearest trashcan, climbed inside, and prayed that someone would soon find me.”

“And they did, eventually.”

“Eventually.” Ty grimaced. “Took them until morning though.”

Kit burst out laughing. “That’s amazing. But now I have a request.”

Ty lifted an eyebrow.

“Will you show me the dance?” Kit asked solemnly.

“Will you show me your choreography to Like A Virgin?”

Kit considered it for a moment. “Yes.”

“I really thought you were going to say no.”

“You underestimated how much I want to see that dance. I’m willing to scarify my dignity.”

Their waiter brought a second course of soup, followed by steamed egg custard with salmon roe, another plate of sashimi, and finally a rice dish. When they finally got to the dessert – brown sugar sorbet accompanied by seasonal fruit – Ty had somehow managed to look even prettier in Kit’s eyes, and Kit had managed to somehow fall even deeper in love.

They walked back in the same comfortable silence until they reached the institute and climbed the steps leading to the front door.

“Kit?”

Kit turned to Ty to find his gray eyes focused on some point behind him. “Yeah?”

Ty placed a hand on Kit’s hip and pulled him closer to him. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Kit’s heart fluttered in his chest. “What for?”

Ty pinned him against a pillar and kissed him, pressing his soft, warm lips on Kit’s. Kit opened his mouth under his by instinct, letting Ty slip his tongue inside and meet his own.

“I want you in my bed,” Ty panted, sending shivers down Kit’s spine.

Kit slid his hand under Ty’s shirt, feeling the muscles of his back.

“I want to hear you moan for me,” Ty murmured, and Kit dug his fingernails into his back. “I want to make you cum,” Ty continued. “Is that okay?”

“Yes,” Kit whimpered weakly into him. “Yes.”

He took Ty’s hand and opened the institute door, aiming to get to his bed as fast as possible.

“Kit!” Tamara blocked his way. “Someone’s here to see you.”

Kit resentfully let go of Ty’s hand. “Tell them I’m busy,” he grunted. “You’re my second, they can talk to you instead.”

He tried to get past her, only to find himself on the floor.

“Ow! Why would you do that?”

“I told them that,” Tamara said, reaching her hand to help him get up. “But… you might want to come to your office.”

“Kit!” Jaime came running down the hall. “What happened?” he asked, panting.

Kit got up and gave him a confused look. “What do you mean?”

Jaime looked equally confused. “Tamara said I should come to your office.”

Tamara took Kit and Jaime by their arms and dragged them to Kit’s office, Ty following closely behind.

“What’s happening?” he asked urgently.

Kit cursed. “WHO.” He said angrily. “Who’s the asshole who ruined –“

The door of his office opened with a bang and revealed a furious, murderous-looking Paige Ashdown.

Chapter Text

The door to Kit’s office opened with a loud bang to reveal a furious Paige Ashdown.

“I’ve been waiting for you for twenty minutes!” she yelled at Kit.

“Five,” Tamara corrected dryly.

Kit stared at Paige, confused. To his right, Ty took a deep breath, as if trying to calm himself down. To his left, Jaime took a step back.

“Well?” Paige asked. “Aren’t you going to apologize for keeping me waiting?”

Tamara gave Kit a questioning look. Knowing her, the question was may I please kill her?

“Thank you, Tamara,” Kit said quickly. “I’ll take it from here.”

Tamara gave Paige one last look of disdain before she turned to leave, and Kit immediately leaped at Paige and pulled her into a hug.

“Long time no seen!” he said jovially as he reached his hand into her designer bag, looking for anything suspicious. He felt a thick looking file. Interesting.

“Get off me!” Paige pushed him away, annoyed.

Kit walked past her, the file hidden in his jacket, and got into his office. Jaime and Ty didn’t look remotely surprised by the fact that he had just hugged Paige Ashdown. They already knew Kit well enough to realize he was merely trying to steal something of hers.

“I want to know where my brother is!” Paige said angrily.

“I’m leaving,” Jaime said immediately. “I don’t want to be part –“

“Don’t you dare! This is all your fault!” she yelled.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I also don’t care,” Jaime said. “I’m leaving.”

Ty spoke again. “No,” he said. “Don’t go.”

Kit turned to look at him. Ty had something in mind; but Kit had no idea what. Jaime seemed equally surprised by Ty’s insistence. He clenched his jaw but followed Ty inside and closed the door behind them.

Paige made an impatient sound. “Tell me where my brother is, Rosales!”

Jaime shrugged. “Why the fuck should I know?”

“Don’t play dumb with me,” she hissed. “Where is he?”

“I sent him on patrol,” Kit told her. “You’re more than welcome to wait for him outs –“

“Are you planning to tell him the truth about what you did to get him to forget?” Ty suddenly said. Jaime turned his head abruptly to look at him. Kit studied Ty’s face with confusion; he had no idea what Ty was talking about.

Paige studied her fingernails. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I could freshen your memory if you’d like,” Ty suggested. His expression was livid. “You wanted him to go to Shanghai with you, but he didn’t want to. Do you recall why?”

Paige’s gaze flickered to Jaime. “I don’t recall him not wanting to go to Shanghai.”

“Interesting,” Ty said. “I was under the impression he was having second thoughts.”

Jaime grabbed Kit’s arm as if trying to steady himself.

Paige squinted her eyes. “Who told you that?”

Her words were an admittance of Ty’s claim.

You just did,” Kit said slowly. Paige paled.

 “How do you know that?!” she yelled at Ty, looking crazed. “How does Cameron – when did he – “

“Cameron suddenly remembered that he had found something worth staying in France for,” Ty continued loudly.

Jaime’s grip on Kit’s arm tightened. Kit turned his gaze from him to Ty. What did Ty know? And why did he put the weird emphasize on the word remembered? He was sending a clear message to Paige, and by the look on her face she got it loud and clear.

“My naïve brother thought he had found something!” she screamed.

“It was very inconvenient for you, wasn’t it? You needed to make him change his mind,” Ty said with disdain. “But why?”

“I needed him to see the truth!”

“You created a lie.”

“It wasn’t a lie!”

“Are you here to tell him the truth behind the picture?” Ty continued.

“What picture?” Jaime asked, his voice barely audible.

“Don’t play dumb, Rosales!” Paige shrieked. “What did you do? How did you make him come here?!”

“What picture?” Jaime insisted.

Kit used the distraction let the file he was holding behind his back drop to the floor, and discreetly glanced at it. The words “Summon for Official Hearing: Miss Paige Ashdown” jumped in front of his eyes.

“You know very well I’m talking about the picture I took of you and that stupid girl at Nina’s party!” Paige yelled. “As if you wouldn’t have done it with another girl sooner or later. You’re just a little –“

“Oh. My. Fuck,” Kit said slowly, as realization came over him. “You wanted your brother to come to Shanghai with you, but he wanted to stay with Jaime, so you decided to make him believe that Jaime doesn’t care about him. You shoved some random girl into Jaime’s arms and told your brother that Jaime kissed her, didn’t you?” He felt sick to his stomach.

Next to him, Jaime trembled with anger. He was silent, and Kit could only imagine the thoughts that ran through his head; how it must have felt, to know that your happiness was stolen from you so coldly.

“I only showed my brother the truth!” Paige yelled. “Rosales never gave a fuck about him! He only cared about our family’s money and the stuff Cameron bought him, which my brother was too stupid to understand until I told him that! You were leading him on, admit it, Rosales!”

Kit could barely contain his anger. “How dare you –“

“Admit it, Rosales!” Paige yelled, crazed. “You only wanted to increase your social status! You can’t fool me! Everyone knows that the Rosales family is pathetically impoverished –“

“Shut up!” Kit yelled at her. “Don’t EVER speak to him that way, you’re not half the person he is!”

“Don’t you dare compare me to a Rosales.” Paige hissed. “Now, I want to see my brother. Tell him to come here right this second!”

“Get. The hell. Out.” Kit said between gritted teeth.

Paige gave him a serpentine smile. “Oh, no,” she said slowly. “You can’t chase me away. Not unless you want a complaint submitted against you.”

“On what grounds?” Ty asked angrily.

“On the grounds of him not acting professionally.” Paige studied her fingernails. “See, my parents are well connected, and I don’t think that the Clave will be too happy to hear that you mistreated an Ashdown.

“They’ll dismiss you from your post, Herondale. And little Tiberius over here? They’ll take away his Centurion status. And Rosales? I’ll make sure that Rosales is sent back to Mexico to help his poor parents gather leftovers from other people’s dinners. So if you’re smart, you would call my brother right this second.”

Kit let out a low laugh. “I hardly think you’re in a position to make threats.”

Paige froze. “What do you mean?”

“Do the words official hearing ring a bell?”

Paige paled.

“Every crime has a motive behind it,” Ty said slowly. “And I wondered – why go to such lengths to make your brother come to Shanghai? And now that he’s here – why go to such lengths to get him back? You never seemed to like his company that much.

“Now I know. You don’t want your brother to come back with you because you care about him; you need him to come with you because, unknown to him, he had been covering for you during missions since you’re absolutely incompetent. No one ever realized it, because you always went on missions with him in the past. He did all the work, and you took part of the credit. In the haze of the battle no one noticed that you didn’t actually do anything. But now Cameron is here, and you were sent on a mission without him, and the truth came out.”

Kit stared at Ty with admiration.

“You can’t threaten us,” Ty said. “You can’t do anything as long as there’s an open investigation against you. It would make your family look bad.”

Paige’s mouth hung open, her eyes wide with terror. She seemed to realize that any word she would say would only lead her to more trouble. She quickly turned on her heels, aiming to run away.

Ty was faster. He leaped forward and stood between Paige and the door. With one swift motion, he grabbed her hand and twisted it, lowering her to her knees.

“Ow!” Paige yelled. “Let go –“

“You should know the consequences of your actions,” he said coldly. “After you convinced him to erase every memory of Jaime, Cameron began to slowly lose his sanity. He became paranoid that someone stole something from him.“

Jaime was leaning on Kit, as if unsure he could stand by himself.

“It would have pass –“ Paige began, but Ty twisted her hand even more and she screamed in pain.

“I met him six weeks ago. He was sure the Clave was going to rehabilitate him,” Ty continued, his voice quivering slightly. “We got his memories back. But you touched the vial, and now his mind is rejecting them. As he fights to keep them, his body gets weaker.”

Kit glanced at Jaime; he was pale as a ghost. Kit knew that his heart was bleeding, screaming, inside his chest.

“You bound him to Eidolon demons,” Ty continued, his voice filled with anger. “They follow him. They hunt him taking Jaime’s form. That was how I knew someone had taken his memories. And I don’t know how to break this bond; I’m not even sure it can ever be broken.”

“Let – go – off – me,” Paige panted, her eyes filled with tears.

But Ty’s eyes were hard. He applied more force, and suddenly Kit heard a snap as Paige’s wrist broke. Her scream was deafening, but Ty was unaffected.

“Kit. The stone.”

Kit opened his safe and took out the stone they had retrieved in the catacombs of Rome. He handed it to Ty who still hadn’t let go of Paige’s broken hand.

“Look at it,” he told her.

Paige was sobbing now. Ty pulled her hair and made her look up. “Look. At. It.” He commanded, barely able to contain his rage. “Cameron’s life wasn’t the only one you’ve ruined. You paid the witch with the stone of Stolas. She later sold it to human traffickers. You have ruined the lives of dozens of children and their families.”

Paige’s wails became louder. “No – one – will – believe you –“ she said in between sobs.

At that, Ty lost it. “That’s all you care about?” he yelled. “Your name? Not your brother’s health, or the children you helped kidnap?” He let the stone drop to the floor and placed two hands around Paige’s throat, lifting her up. Kit heard her choking.

“Go,” Ty said, his voice dangerously low. “Go, before I kill you.”

Kit knew he meant it.

Ty let go of her and Paige dropped to the floor like a lifeless doll. She got up as fast as she could, her left hand bent in an odd direction, and ran out of the room.

Kit stood frozen, staring after her for a few moments, not processing what had just happened. Ty’s hands were shaking as he picked up the stone. Had Paige been a bit slower, blood would be dripping now from his hands and soaking into the carpet. He kept saying that he wasn’t a fighter; but Kit knew that he would kill to fight injustice. He had seen the way Ty had fallen apart after they came back from Rome, on the snowy bench at Central Park. Had Paige insisted on waiting for her brother, her throat would have sliced open.

Jaime crumpled on the sofa and buried his face in his hands. Ty sat down next to him and put a trembling hand on his shoulder.

“Tell me everything,” Jaime said, his voice quivering.

Ty did. He told him how, six weeks ago, he had met Cameron in Geneva. How paranoid he had been. Kit sat down on Jaime’ other side and listened as Ty described the witch, and the memories, and then what Cameron had remembered – the photo, the lies his sister told him. Kit could almost hear Jaime’s heart fissuring like thin glass as Ty went on.

“He asked me not to say anything, because he wanted to do it himself,” Ty said. “I agreed.”

Jaime nodded, and Kit felt a rush of hot, burning anger running through him. How could someone be so wicked, so heartless and immoral, to separate two people who cared about each other, leaving them to suffer heartbreak and despair? How could Paige be so evil, how could she rip her brother’s heart out of his chest and break it with her own two hands?

And Jaime… Kind-hearted as he was, pure as he was, had suffered so much because of her. Kit wound his other arm around him, and Jaime let him hug him, still quiet.

The door opened with a loud bang, and Cameron burst into the room, panting.

Kit, Ty, and Jaime got up quickly. For a few long moments they were starting at Cameron, who shifted his gaze between the three of them. A long, intense silence stretched, interrupted only by the sound of Cameron’s panting. He looked thin and pale, and now Kit finally knew why. Cameron’s gaze was focused on Jaime, who remained silent.

“Your sister was here,” Kit said. His lips snarled with rage.

Cameron didn’t break his gaze away from Jaime. “I saw her outside,” he mumbled.

“She told us everything,” Ty said. Unlike Kit, his tone was soft. “She told us what she had done to get you to go to Shanghai.”

Kit glanced at Jaime. His arms were crossed, and he watched Cameron with an unreadable expression. Knowing Jaime the way Kit did, his calm was truly frightening. Usually, when Jaime was angry, he let it show. He expressed his anger, and then he calmed down. But this calmness… that was how Kit knew he was furious.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Cameron whispered. “Jaime, I –“

“You erased every memory of me.” Jaime’s voice was steady.

“I’m –“

“You were ready to forget everything about me. Everything we had.”

“I shouldn’t –“

“And if you think that what Paige told us makes it okay, you’re wrong.” Jaime’s tone was so cold it sent shivers running up Kit’s spine.

“No,” Cameron said quickly. His voice quivered, as if he might break down crying. “I know it’s not, but please, let me –“

Jaime cut him off. “You thought I cared about your money. You thought I cared about your self-proclaimed social superiority.”

“Jaime, she lied to me!” Cameron yelled, desperate.

“It takes two people to lie.” Jaime’s eyes were rigid. “One to say the words, the other to believe them.”

Cameron’s hands were shaking and his breathing became short and quick. He opened his mouth but closed it quickly again, as if afraid that the mere action of speaking would break him. Kit glanced at Ty; he was biting his lower lip so hard Kit feared he might soon taste blood.

“Leave.” Jaime’s tone was harsh.

“No! Wait, please,” Cameron begged. “Jaime, please –“

But Kit had had enough of the Ashdowns for one day. He crossed the room and before Cameron could react, he side-kicked his chest, sending him flying back into the hallway, before he slammed the door shut.

He turned around to see Jaime’s pale face. His whole body was trembling. “I have to leave. I have to leave.”

“No,” Kit said immediately. “You don’t have to go anywhere.”

“I… I can’t,” Jaime whispered, his voice quivering. “I can’t be here when he’s here –“

“I’ll make sure you never see him,” Kit promised. “I’ll make sure your patrols never overlap, you’ll never have mission together, I’ll let him train with –“

“No, Kit, I can’t.” His voice broke. “I - I can’t have my whole world turn around him anymore. I can’t look at him, knowing that I was worse than dead to him. That’s I… that he chose to erase me like I was nothing… I - I have to go.”

“You’re not the one who should leave!” Kit yelled. “He should be the one forced to go.”

“You can’t relocate him based on personal reasons,” Ty said quietly. “Only professional ones. And in that respect, he’s irreproachable.”

“I don’t have to send him away. I can make him leave,” Kit hissed. “Starting tomorrow, Cameron Ashdown’s life is going to become a living nightmare.”

Chapter Text

“I’ll make Cameron leave before the end of the week,” Kit promised.

He and Ty were sitting with Jaime in the kitchen, watching him eat his nachos with whipped cream.

Jaime nodded, then took another bite, a miserable expression on his face. Ty remained, his eyes fixed on the door.

“Jaime!” Dru burst into the room, followed by Ash. “Kit texted me. That bitch is lucky I wasn’t there –“

“Oh, I forgot to mention - Ty broke her wrist,” Kit said, not bothering to hide the glee in his voice.

Dru smiled. “That’s my Ty-Ty!” she said. “So, what next? We’re breaking Cameron’s wrist as well? We could also take another approach. I heard of this mundane torturing technique, it’s called water –“

“Why would you torture Cameron?” Ash asked, confused. “He’s the victim of his sister’s –“

“He believed his stupid sister,” Kit said angrily.

“But he’s –“

“Could we please not talk about Assdowns anymore?” Jaime said miserably. “Ever?”

“Sorry,” Ash mumbled. “Um… Dru and I made you origami,” he said quickly to change the subject. “To um… cheer you up.”

Kit snorted. “Why would origami cheer him up?”

“Wait, it might work,” Jaime said, shoving another nacho into his mouth.

Ash took out a red piece of paper folded meticulously. “It’s a dragon,” he said as he handed it to Jaime.

“I do love dragons.” Jaime said, sounding slightly amused.

“And I,” Dru took out a paper folded into quarters and unfolded it,“made you an origami floor.”

She handed it to him with a proud look on her face, and for the first time in what seemed like ages, Jaime laughed.

“That’s better,” Dru said happily. “Now, what do you want to do? We could watch Kit’s –“

“No!” Kit said immediately. “Enough with that damn video!”

“Do another dance then.” Dru crossed her hands. “Give me new material to work with.”

“We could climb on the roof and look at the stars,” Ash said quietly.

He sounded a bit sad, and for the first time Kit realized how hard it must have been for him, not being allowed to leave the institute at all.

“Yeah,” Jaime said. “Why not.”

They climbed on the roof and Ash lay on his back, gazing upward in silence. Dru lay on her back, her head on his chest and her body vertical to his. They seemed so comfortable, so calm together, it made Kit almost ashamed of the way he had treated Ash when he first came to the institute.

Jaime rested his head on Dru’s shins, and Kit rested his head on Jaime’s. Finally, Ty lay down next to Kit, taking his hand discreetly in his. They all remained silent for a while, gazing at the stars together. Kit passed his thumb over the back of Ty’s hand absent-mindedly. How lucky he was, to lay next to the man he loved, after all those years. But did Ty…?

“Damn it, I hate that guy!” Jaime said, aggrieved. “Couldn’t I have fallen for someone less cold? Like… that fucking rock or something?” he gestured at the moon angrily.

“You don’t have a chance with the moon, it likes women,” Dru replied. “That’s’ what I learned in Brazil.”

“Sounds like there’s a legend surrounding it. Do tell,” Kit said, hoping that the story would distract Jaime.

“According to the Brazilian legend, if the moon liked a young girl, it would make her a star in heaven,” Dru began. “A girl called Naia fell in love with the moon and after learning about the legend, dreamed of turning into a star. Every night, she would leave home to watch the moon and wait for the moment that it would reach the horizon, then rush out to try and catch it.

“One day, while trying to reach the moon, Naia saw its reflection in the stream of water and without hesitating dived in, hoping to touch it, and drowned.

“The moon saw her efforts, and, touched, transformed her into the large flower of the Amazon, the Victoria Regia which only opens its petals in the moonlight.”

“That’s a beautiful story,” Ash said quietly.

“The story of a flower,” Jaime said sadly. Kit knew the story did nothing to cheer him up; it only made him think of the one person he had wanted to forget, who used to tell him facts and legends about flowers.

They stayed together for hours after that, looking at the sky and talking, and Ty had not let go of Kit’s hand. Finally, Ash and Dru left to go to bed, and Ty bid them goodnight as well – and went to check on Cameron, Kit knew – and Jaime and Kit remained alone.

“So, you and Ty?” Jaime asked.

“How –“

“You’re happy. Happier that I’ve ever seen you.”

“You deserve to be happy too,” Kit said. “I’m going to –“

“I know.”

“And he’ll –“

“Yes. I know.”

They remained silent after that.

*******

The first rays of sun found Kit already in his office, reading files related to a case transferred to them from Boston.

A knock on his door made him smile, and then Ty walked in, prettier than the dawn itself. “I got your text,” he said sleepy. “Did they send the material?”

 “Yeah. Take a look.”

Ty sat in front of him and began going over the files. They read in silence, taking notes here and there, and Kit wondered if it would be okay to just lean in and kiss him. Did Ty want this too? Was he afraid of making mistakes as well?

Someone knocked on the door.

“Oh, that would be our dear Cameron.” Kit lifted his eyes from his notes. “Come in!”

The door opened and Cameron walked in, looking tired and pale. His hair was messy, and he had dark shadows under his eyes. He nodded stiffly at Ty when he saw him, then turned back to Kit.

“Good morning, Mr. Ashdown.” Kit said dryly. He gestured for him to take a seat in front of his desk.

“Good morning,” Cameron replied hesitantly. He sat down next to Ty, looking uncomfortable.

“I was making the schedule, and I’d like to inform you of your duties,” Kit told him easily. “You will spend today cleaning every bathroom in the institute.”

Cameron gaped at him. “Other institutes have cleaning personnel - mundanes with the sight – so the Shadowhunters could focus on battle. Doesn’t yours have them?”

“We do have a cleaning lady, but I figured she deserves a paid vacation.” Kit smiled sweetly at him. “So, you’re the lucky guy who’s going to clean the bathrooms. And do the dishes. And mop the floors.”

Cameron remained silent.

“But if you have a problem with the way I run this institute,” Kit continued. “You’re more than welcome to relocate back to Shanghai. In fact, I have the papers right here and I can sign –“

Kit could see Cameron’s eyes flashing with understanding at what he was trying to do.

“No,” Cameron said firmly. “I’m staying here.”

“How fortunate.” Kit’s smile did not reach his eyes. “Start by cleaning the bathrooms, you’ll find what you need in the supply closet near the entrance. Please come by my office again to notify me when you’re done.”

Cameron got up in silence and turned to leave.

“Oh, and Cameron?” Kit added. “If I were you, I’d leave Whitestrider’s bathroom for last; he’s a nasty one.”

Cameron left without a word, Ty got up, looking troubled.

“He’s upset,” he said. His gloved hands fluttered at his sides.

“Yes,” Kit agreed. “And he’ll be even more upset when he sees the patrol schedule. I gave him the worst shifts, and whenever he’s not in patrol I scheduled him to clean stuff.”

Ty was pacing around the room now. “Are you sure about that?” he asked, looking distraught.

“Absolutely,” Kit replied without hesitation. “I’m doing what’s best for Jaime.”

Ty bit his lower lip and sat back down.

They resumed their work in silence. Ty turned another page, then rested his hand on the table. Kit took it in his and squeezed it, and Ty smiled as though he had understood the feelings Kit had wanted to convey.

An hour later, Ty already had three pages filled with notes and Kit had managed to chew his pencil enough that it looked as though it was attacked by a crazed beaver, and someone knocked on the door again.

“Yes,” Kit grunted, not lifting his eyes from the report.

Jaime entered the room and quickly closed the door behind him. “Whitestrider just told me that the ‘new guy’ cleaned his bathroom, and that since he had cheesecake for breakfast and he’s lactose intolerant, the ‘new guy’s’ job was not easy.”

Kit lifted his eyes to look at Ty. “In all fairness, I did warn Cameron that Whitestrider is a nasty one,” he said easily.

Jaime stared at him.

“Oh, yes,” Kit said casually. “Our cleaning lady deserved a paid vacation, and Cameron graciously took on the extra responsibilities.”

Jaime lifted an eyebrow.

“I told him he could go back to Shanghai if he didn’t like the way I run the institute, but he seemed keen to stay. I guess he just likes cleaning bathrooms,” Kit said thoughtfully.

Ty pursed his lips.

“The spoiled brat is not going to last cleaning bathrooms.” Jaime said.

“I hope for his sake that he doesn’t last, because his life is just going to be miserable,” Kit said easily. “After he’s done cleaning the entire institute, he’s scheduled to patrol with Whitestrider. I bet he’s going to come back, begging me to relocate him to Shanghai.”

“Whatever,” Jaime said irritably. “I’m going to train.”

With that he left the room and not half a minute later there was another knock on the door, and Cameron opened it, looking flushed. His t-shirt was drenched, and he smelled strongly of a lemony detergent.

“I’m done –“

“Oh, no, you’re not,” Kit said sweetly. “Here’s a list of your chores.” He handed him a piece of paper. “According to this, you should have begun mopping the training room floor half an hour ago. Rude of you to be late.”

Cameron bit the inside of his cheek but did not reply. He simply nodded then walked out, closing the door carefully behind him.

Kit got up and walked over to Ty. “You’re mad at me, aren’t you?”

Ty got up. “I don’t agree with you,” he said. He gently pushed a strand of hair from Kit’s face, then brushed his fingers over his cheek. “But I’m not mad. I know you want what’s best for Jaime.”

Kit took his hand and kissed it. “Do you think I should let Cameron stay?” he asked quietly.

“Yes.”

“Take a walk with me, will you?”

Ty kissed his temple. “Okay.

Kit led him to the training room. As expected, Jaime was the center of attention. He was practicing hand-on-hand combat with Redcastle on the mat, and around them people were cheering loudly, placing bets and commenting on their forms. Jaime seemed distracted, however. He kept sending glances at the corner of room, at Cameron.

The copper haired Shadowhunter was mopping the floor quietly, not daring to lift his gaze and meet anyone’s eye, his clothes soaked, his hair a mess, and the dark shadows under his eyes were more noticeable than ever. The rest gave him questioning looks. Some were whispering among themselves, wondering what he could have done to be assigned to cleaning duties. One snickered at the sight of him.

Finally, Jaime gave Cameron one glance too many, and his temporary distraction caused him to lose. His opponent brought him down to the floor and restrained him.

“Damn, Jaime, what happened!” Redcastle yelled.

Cameron lifted his eyes at that. He quickly lowered them, however, when Mildwright batted her eyelashes and offered to take care of Jaime’s injuries. Jaime politely declined.

Kit crossed the room in a curved line, purposefully stepping through the areas Cameron had mopped and had not yet had time to dry, leaving muddy footprints after him.

“That was pitiful,” he said easily.

Jaime lifted his eyes and gave him a strained smile, then glanced at Cameron again, as if compelled to do so. Cameron’s gaze traced the muddy trail Kit left. Kit could see Jaime’s jaw clench at the sight of the mess.

“Oh, sorry,” Kit said easily. “Cameron!” he yelled. “The floor is dirty. Clean it up!”

Everyone stared as Cameron picked up his mop and his bucket and began cleaning Kit’s footprints in silence.

“You could always go back to Shanghai!” Kit said loudly.

Cameron shook his head. “I’m staying here.”

“Marvelous,” Kit said, venom dripping from his voice. He then turned to Jaime. “Don’t worry. We’ll break him soon.”

“Yeah,” Jaime said slowly.

“He’ll beg to be transferred back to Shanghai.”

“Yeah. He probably will.”

But one glance at Cameron’s face confirmed what Kit already knew; he was not going to break.

Kit gave Jaime a pat on the shoulder then crossed the room again, making as much mess as possible, and went to join Ty.

They left the training room and walked the corridor in silence.

“You’re doing it on purpose,” Ty said quietly when they were out of earshot. “You want Jaime to see Cameron cleaning and being mocked, and you want him to see that even though you give him a choice, he refuses to leave.”

“Yes,” Kit said with a smile.

“Why?”

“I told you. I’m doing what’s best for Jaime. And I think that the best thing for him would be to see how much Cameron cares about him.”

“You want Jaime to take him back?”

“I want him to make the decision that will make him happy.”

“And he can’t make the best decision unless he has all the data.”

Kit nodded. “The way he reacted after Paige had confessed what she had done, I knew he was in shock. He didn’t know what to think.” Kit bit the inside of his cheek. “I just want him to be happy. Whether he’ll be happy with Cameron or not – I don’t know. But I want him to know… he needs to know how much Cameron loves him.”

They reached the door to Ty’s bedroom.

“You’re different than anyone else,” Ty said quietly.

Kit looked up at him. “What do you mean?”

“I can understand you better; and somehow not at all,” Ty said. But before Kit could question him again, Ty leaned in to press a soft kiss on his lips. “Would you like to come in?” Ty murmured in his ear. “We didn’t get to finish our date last night.”

Kit swallowed. “Y-Yes,” he said.

Ty opened the door and pulled Kit inside, then took him in his arms and kissed him again.

Chapter Text

“Draw a silencing rune on the door,” Ty murmured in his ear. “I want you to be as loud as you need tonight.”

Kit swallowed, then did as Ty had told him before closing the door. The room was dark, only lit by the faint moonlight from the window. Ty took him in his arms again and kissed him feverishly, and Kit melted into him, into his warmth and his familiar scent, and then Ty pushed his jacket over his shoulders and Kit let it drop to the floor. Ty continued to pull Kit’s t-shirt over his head and for a second Kit hesitated before he remembered that it was too dark for Ty to see his tattoo. It was fluttering excitedly on his arm, probably admitting his love for Ty, and that would be too much to explain and too much for Ty to handle right now.

Kit groaned and pulled at Ty’s cravat and Ty let him unknot it and reveal the smooth skin of his neck. It wasn’t enough; Kit wanted to feel as much of him as he could. He unbuttoned Ty’s shirt, his hands trembling with excitement, and pushed the fabric, revealing Ty’s chest. It was dark and Kit mourned the fact that he did not have the night vision rune, but he was too eager to touch Ty to bother. He put his hand on his chest, spreading his fingers over his heart, feeling it beating loudly under his palm.

“Leave another one,” Ty panted.

“What?”

“I want you to leave another bitemark on my neck. The last one has already faded.”

Kit smiled in the dark. “You liked it?”

“You have no idea,” Ty whispered. “What happened back in the cave, I… I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards.”

Kit pulled him closer by the nape of his neck. “Then why did you stop me?”

“Because you weren’t yourself.”

Kit brought his lips closer to Ty’s neck. “I think that, somehow, I was more myself than I had been in years.”

He bit him, and Ty moaned in his ear, sending shivers down his spine and making his cock swell. Kit dug his teeth deeper into Ty’s skin, and Ty fisted his hand in Kit’s hair and let out another moan of pleasure. Kit released his bite, then passed a careful tongue over the fresh bitemark, and suddenly Ty picked him up and crossed the room with Kit in his arms, then carefully lay him on the bed. He mounted him and unbuttoned his pants and Kit lifted his hips up to help him remove them. Ty shrugged off his own, and lay back on Kit, his hard cock pressed against his, separated only by the thin fabric of their boxers.

“Do you want to top?” Ty asked, passing his fingers over Kit’s cheek. Kit felt a jolt of electricity wherever Ty’s fingers touched him; he had removed his gloves.

“Okay,” Kit said, trying in vain to control the trembling of his voice. His tattoo felt cold, as if it was traced over with an ice pick.

“Are you nervous?” Ty asked gently.

“Yes,” Kit said quietly. “I’ve never… you know.”

Ty leaned in and kissed his forehead. “I’m nervous too,” he admitted.

“Why?”

“Because it’s you,” Ty whispered.

Kit placed his hand on the nape of Ty’s neck and pulled him into a kiss. “I want this,” he breathed into him, in case there was any doubt. “I want you.”

Ty’s hands slid over his chest, large and warm, and Kit’s heartbeat quickened as they traveled down, down to the waistband of his boxers. Ty kissed him again as he pulled his boxers down and threw them on his bedroom floor, and suddenly Kit was completely naked under him, vulnerable and excited and so desperately in love.

Ty lay on his side next to him and kept kissing his mouth as he wrapped his hand around Kit’s cock and began stroking him slowly. Kit closed his eyes, panting, his mind drowning in the sea of feelings and sensations as Ty’s warm hand kept stroking him, sending waves of pleasure throughout his body.

“Ty,” Kit whimpered. It might have been a plea; he wasn’t sure anymore.

“You like that?” Ty whispered in his ear.

“Yes,” Kit moaned. “Fuck, yes.”

Ty kissed his cheek and lifted himself up. Before Kit could protest the loss him his proximity, Ty mounted him and began attacking his neck, licking and sucking, then kissed a trail down from his sternum to his navel.

“Ty,” Kit panted weakly.

Ty kept kissing him, from his navel and down until he reached the base of his hard cock and licked a trail from the base to the tip.

Kit’s eyes opened in shock; the sensation was almost too much to handle. “That’s amazing,” he groaned, fisting his hand in Ty’s black hair.

Ty licked him again and Kit pulled his hair, moaning, and then Ty passed his tongue slowly over Kit’s slit, licking the precum that had formed there.

“I like your taste,” he murmured, then took him in his mouth.

Kit let out a cry of pleasure as Ty sucked him, slowly moving up and down. His mouth was warm and wet around Kit’s cock, and Kit heard himself moan and whimper as his consciousness slowly ebbed and all that was left was the feeling of Ty’s lips around him.

When Ty let go of him, Kit was a whimpering mess. He listened, panting, as Ty opened the drawer of his bedside table and unscrew the lid of the small vial. Kit was suddenly nervous again; what if he wouldn’t prepare Ty right, and what if Ty didn’t like it, and what if –

“Are you okay?” Ty asked softly.

Kit knew Ty would never judge him. “I’m just nervous. I’m not sure what to do.”

Ty kissed his forehead. “You don’t have to do anything. Just let me take care of you.”

He coated his fingers in lube and Kit’s heart raced as Ty opened himself up, preparing to take Kit in.

“Are you ready?” Ty asked him gently.

“Yes,” Kit panted. He could barely believe that this was happening; it was too good to be true.

Ty sat on top of him, tights spread on either sides of his body, and lowered himself slowly on his cock, and Kit moaned as he felt the tightness and warmth of Ty’s body around him, the sensation so incredible Kit could barely think. He put his hands on Ty’s hips, desperate to touch him, and Ty began moving up and down. The friction felt so good it was almost overwhelming and Kit got louder and louder as Ty rode him faster and faster.

Kit had always thought that bottoming was a passive role, but Ty fucked him hard and fast, somehow making Kit the submissive one. He controlled his body and his reactions, made him beg and whimper, and Kit loved every second of it. Every small moan Ty let out was perfect. Every movement he made was the best thing Kit had ever felt.

He opened his eyes. Under the faint moonlight he watched, mesmerized, the form of Ty’s body as he moved on top of him, falling deeper and deeper in love as Ty fucked him harder and harder, until finally Kit couldn’t hold himself any longer.

“Ty, I need… please, I can’t…”

Ty pushed damp hair away from Kit’s face. “Do you want me to cum first?”

“Yes,” Kit said, adrenaline pumping though him, his tattoo fluttering like crazy.

“Okay, I’ll get –“

“No,” Kit breathed. “I want you to cum on me.”

Ty leaned in and kissed his lips, then lifted himself up again and began stroking himself.

“Wait,” Kit said. “I want to make you cum.”

He reached his hand in between Ty’s thighs. He was shaking slightly, but he didn’t feel that he had to hide his nervousness from Ty. It was just the two of them; just him and the man he loved. He wrapped his hand around Ty and began moving it up and down. Ty’s cock was thick and the feeling of it in his hand made Kit feel so intimate with him, his nervousness quickly faded away, replaced by a burning desire to please Ty.

Ty leaned forward, one hand on the mattress next to Kit’s head, the other passing through the blonde curls.

“Yes, Christopher, keep going,” he panted, and Kit felt the fervent need to please him again. He moved his hand faster around Ty, desperate to hear him moan, desperate to hear his approving words.

“Ty,” he whimpered. “Tiberius.”

Ty knew what he craved. “You’re so good, Christopher,” he whispered, caressing his hair. His words made Kit want to cum on the spot. “I’m close.”

Kit stroked him faster, consumed by the need to satisfy him. He felt Ty swelling up in his hand before he let out a groan and spilled his cum over Kit’s chest as he kept stroking him.

Kit let him go, half-dazed.

“You’re incredible,” Ty panted as he cleaned him with a tissue.

Ty just came. Because of him. Fuck, Kit was so impossibly aroused by the feeling of Ty’s warm cum dripping on his chest.

“Now’s your turn,” Ty said softly. “Do you want to do me from behind?”

“Are – are you sure?” Kit asked, a bit anxious.

“I want you to,” Ty said, and Kit could hear the excitement in his voice.

He positioned himself on all four and Kit placed himself behind him and passed his hands slowly over Ty’s back. “Promise that you’ll say something if I’m doing it wrong, or if I’m hurting you, or –“

“Promise.”

Kit spread him open and pushed the tip of his cock inside him. He placed his hands on Ty’s hips and slowly pushed deeper inside.

“You’re not hurting me,” Ty reassured him. “You can go deeper.”

Kit put one hand on Ty’s shoulder and massaged him as he pushed deeper until he felt Ty’s ass against his pelvis.

Ty let out a small whimper. “Keep going,” he panted. “Don’t stop.”

Kit pulled out and pushed in again, feeling the tightness of Ty’s ass around him, feeling the friction around his cock sending wave after wave of pleasure, feeling Ty’s soft skin under his fingertips. He moved inside Ty faster, moaning his name, his orgasm building up.

“Cum for me,” Ty whispered.

Kit let go. He shot his cum inside Ty, hugging him from behind, holding him close.

Trembling and panting, he slowly pulled out, his cum dripping out of Ty’s.

“I’ll clean you,” he mumbled, then picked up the tissues and gently wiped Ty’s rim before kissing his lower back and collapsing on the mattress.

Ty lay down as well, and Kit crawled over to him and placed his head on his chest, still catching his breath.

Ty passed his fingers through his hair soothingly. “You were amazing,” he said so tenderly it made Kit want to kiss him, and cry, and hold him close and never, ever let him go.

“Tiberius,” Kit heard himself whisper.

“I’m here,” Ty said softly, still caressing his hair. “You can go to sleep. I’m here.”

Kit pulled himself closer to him, making as much contact between them as he could, then buried his face in Ty’s neck and fell asleep immediately.

Chapter Text

Kit was in the middle of the nicest dream he had ever had – of warm hands holding him, and Ty’s voice whispering his name – when he was woken up by the sound of his alarm clock. He turned it off and looked around the room, slowly registering that the dream he had was no dream at all. It was his reality. His sweet, beautiful reality. He and Ty made love last night. It happened. All of it.

But when he turned around to Ty’s side of the bed and found it empty, he began panicking immediately. Where was Ty? Did he regret last night? Did he not want him anymore?

The door opened and Ty walked in, holding a mug, and Kit could breathe again.

“Good morning.” Ty smiled at him, a bit shyly, and Kit’s heart melted. “I made you coffee.”

Kit sat up and took the mug from Ty’s gloved hand, and regretted it immediately. He was still naked under the covers, and now that the room was filled with sunlight Ty could clearly see his tattoo. But Ty didn’t say anything; he just kissed his forehead and sat on the bed next to him. When Kit glanced at his arm he exhaled in relief; it said “Christopher”. Had Ty seen what it said last night, it could have been a disaster.

He drank his coffee while Ty gazed out of the window in silence, then put the mug down on the bedside table and Ty brought him his clothes, neatly folded. Kit put on his boxers and got off the bed, his cheeks slightly flushed under Ty’s gaze. It was different, being half-naked in front of him like that, when the room was lit and Ty wasn’t holding him.

But Ty pulled him into his arms and kissed his naked shoulder. “You’re beautiful,” he murmured in his ear.

The words made Kit’s heart flutter. He closed his eyes, surrendering to the feeling of Ty’s lips on his skin, drowning in his love for him.

“Ty,” he whispered.

I love you.

The words almost came out; but Kit stopped himself just in time. He cringed away, as if he had been punched.

“What’s wrong?” Ty asked, concern tinging in his voice.

Kit stared at him in horror. He had told Ty he loved him eight years ago, only to have his heart broken. He couldn’t… he couldn’t risk getting his heart shattered again; and he could never risk ruining everything by scaring Ty away.

“Was last night not… good?” Ty asked, his voice trembling slightly.

Kit came back to his senses. “No!” he said quickly. “I mean, it was! Good, I mean. No, it was amazing. You’re amazing.” Was he rambling? It felt like he was.

Ty wound his arms around him, holding him tight against his chest. “You fell asleep in my arms,” he said quietly.

Kit relaxed in his embrace. “That was my favorite part,” he mumbled into him. He wished they could do that every night.

“Let’s get you some breakfast?”

Kit smiled at that. “That’s a great idea. Let’s get Jaime too,” he said casually, putting on his shirt.

Ty understood immediately. He shook his head as Kit put on his pants, but didn’t say anything. Kit knew that while Ty disliked watching Cameron suffer, he still believed in his plan.

They knocked on Jaime’s door and Jaime opened it, looking disgruntled. “What could you possible want at this hour,” he grumbled.

“I want cereal, and cereal tastes better with your pretty face next to it,” Kit said innocently.

Jaime rolled his eyes. “Ugh. There are days I wish I could kill you without facing the repercussions.”

Still, he agreed to come down for breakfast.

Kit opened the kitchen door to find the exact sight he was expecting. Ty entered the room after him, stopped for a moment, then sat down at the counter. Lastly, Jaime entered the kitchen, and froze in place.

Cameron was mopping the floor, with his messy hair and drenched t-shirt, flushed and smelling like detergent. He froze when he saw Jaime and his gaze flickered to his face before he quickly lowered it down again.

Jaime shrugged and sat down next to Ty.

“So, how about that cereal,” Kit said lightly. He took out a carton of milk from the fridge, opened it and let it fall from his hand. Milk splashed all over the floor and the kitchen cabinets.

“Oh, no. Look at this mess,” Kit said dryly. “Cameron, clean it up.”

Cameron nodded, his eyes still fixed on the floor.

Kit opened a kitchen cabinet and took out a new box of cereal. He opened the carton and took out the plastic bag. “These are always hard to open, aren’t they,” he said easily. He pulled two corners with way too much force, and the bag tore apart, sending little chocolate covered flakes flying everywhere.

“Oh my, I’m so clumsy!” he said. “Cameron, clean it up.”

Cameron nodded again, and Kit glanced at Jaime to see that his eyes were hooded and his jaw was clenched.

“You know, I feel like making some hot chocolate instead,” Kit declared. He opened a cabinet, took out cocoa powder and made sure to open the bag in the messiest way possible. He then took out more milk and casually poured half of it on the floor. He made his hot chocolate, taking special care to break two mugs in the process.

“The kitchen is a mess!” he said. “Cameron, clean it faster!”

Cameron’s face was flushed. He was clearly offended by the way Kit had spoken to him and embarrassed that Jaime should see him like this. But he didn’t say a word. He just got a broom and swept the remains of the mugs Kit had broken.

Kit glanced at Jaime. He was staring at Cameron, but for the first time since Cameron came to New York, his eyes were not entirely filled with anger.

“You could always go back to Shanghai,” Kit suggested sweetly. “I’m sure the head of the institute there is not as clumsy as I am.”

“I’m staying here,” Cameron said quietly.

“How lucky we are,” Kit said flatly. He put his half-filled mug on the kitchen counter and elbowed it. It fell and spilled hot chocolate all over the floor.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, and for the first time in his life, Kit smiled when he saw the old hag’s name on the screen.

“Hello Mrs. Whitestrider” he said easily. “What can I do for you today?”

“My son says the cleaning lady has been replaced,” Whitestrider’s mother began, sounding hot and bothered. “And he says that his bathroom is not clean enough! WHAT KIND OF HEAD OF INSTITUTE DOES NOT TAKE CARE OF THE BATHROOMS?”

Cameron jumped as her shrill voice echoed in the room. Ty and Jaime looked at Kit with pity in their eyes.

“I’LL REPORT YOU!” the old hag yelled. “I’LL REPORT –“

“You’re absolutely right,” Kit cut her off. “This is inexcusable. Let me get the person responsible for this scandal.” He handed the phone to Cameron. “Ashdown! Someone wants to talk to you.”

Jaime stared, mouth open, as Kit handed the phone to Cameron. Kit watched Cameron’s eyes widening as Whitesrtiders mom yelled at him, cursing his incompetence, insulting his intelligence, and accusing him of sabotaging her son’s well-being.

“I – I’m – “ Cameron tried, in vain, to begin an apology.

“AND IF IT EVER HAPPENS AGAIN, I’LL MAKE SURE THE CLAVE EXILES YOU TO THE DARKEST, REMOTEST, COLDEST CORNER OF SIBERIA!”

“I-It won’t, I’m sorry,” Cameron mumbled.

Whitestrider’s mom hung up, and Cameron stood frozen in place, clearly shocked, for a few more seconds before he handed the phone back to Kit.

“Aw, look at you, making new friends,” Kit said sweetly. “I think I’ll let you handle her from now on.”

Cameron paled, staring at Kit, looking like he had much rather Kit had offered to rip out his fingernails one by one.

“Is that a problem?” Kit said innocently. “You know, she won’t be calling you if you just agreed to transfer –“

“I’m staying,” Cameron said quietly.

“How wonderful – “

“Why didn’t you just tell her you were an Ashdown?” Jaime cut him off.

Cameron dared to lift his eyes to look at him. Kit could see that Jaime truly wanted to know the answer; why had Cameron let her speak to him that way? Why not just tell her he’s an Ashdown, that he’s way more connected than she is, and give the phone back to Kit?

But Jaime didn’t want Cameron to know he cared. “She would been easier on you. After all, everyone knows Ashdowns are incapable of manual labor.” He said dryly. “Anyway, I’m going to… train.”

Kit sent a glance to Ty, who nodded back.

“I’ll join you,” Kit told Jaime.

“Your plan is not working,” Jaime muttered once they were out of earshot.

Oh. But it is. Kit thought. “Give it time,” he said out loud.

They spent the day training. Jaime had been too distracted to win any fights, Dru was too fierce to lose any, and Kit beat Ash mercilessly again and again until his whole body was covered in bruises and Dru nearly chopped Kit’s head off. Cameron, meanwhile, had finished cleaning the mess in the kitchen, dusted every book in the library, and, per Kit’s request, began cleaning the training weapons.

“I’m going to take a shower,” Jaime said when he saw Cameron enter the room, carrying his cleaning supplies.

“No,” Kit said quickly, his eyes fixed on his phone, reading the text he had hoped to get from Redcastle. “There was another Eidolon attack. Go put on your gear. You too, Ashdown.”

“Fuck no!” Jaime protested. “Let him go alone. He’s the one responsible for this mess.”

“Ashdown is coming to make sure the Eidolon demon is easily recognizable; you and I are coming to make sure Ashdown doesn’t die,” Kit said decisively. “Look at him. He can barely stand.”

Jaime looked at Cameron’s frail figure with clear pain in his eyes. When Cameron looked back, however, his eyes became hard again.

“Fine, whatever. I’m going to change.”

Cameron waited a few seconds after he left to leave as well. In less than ten minutes they already were in the car, Jaime behind the wheel and Cameron in the backseat, gazing outside in silence. They reached the nightclub and Jaime parked the car and got out, slamming the door behind him. He walked inside without looking back and Kit had to run to catch up with him.

The air inside was stuffed with smoke, the loud music filled their ears, and the darkness made it harder to make out the details of people’s faces.

“Great. How the fuck are we supposed to find it?” Jaime grunted.

“Yeah… I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” Kit said.

In front of then, Jaime was making his way through the crowd, looking for his next victim.

Kit charged forward, followed by the real Jaime. The demon, figuring out that he was being chased, began running. Kit caught up to him and leaped forward, and the demon fell to the floor with Kit on top of him. But instead of diving his Seraph blade into his heart, Kit lifted the demon up to his feet, holding him by the collar of his shirt, and studied its face before turning to Jaime, who stared at the demon, lips parted in shock.

“It’s… it really is me,” he said slowly.

The resemblance was almost frightening; had Kit not known who the real Jaime was, he would have never been able to guess.

“Sucks for Cameron to be hunted by you, huh?” Kit said easily. Ty had told them that Eidolon demons take Jaime’s form to torture Cameron, but Kit knew that seeing it with his own eyes would have an entirely different effect on Jaime.

“Let’s get this over with,” Jaime muttered.

But Kit let the demon go. It immediately threw Jaime against the wall. Jaime looked at his double, wide-eyed, clearly a bit shocked, and then the demon put a hand around his neck trying to chock him. Jaime managed to kick its knee and the demon let go, them Jaime punched it – or maybe it punched Jaime – it became hard to tell. Soon one of the Jaime’s was pinned against the wall, but Kit still kept his distance. Instead of helping, he gazed around, waiting. He had barely scanned half of the room before Cameron leaped out of the unsuspecting crowd, his Seraph blade drawn. Both Jaimes turned to look at him, and suddenly ichor gushed out from one of them and the body volatilized to its home dimension.

Jaime stared at the spot where his double was still standing mere seconds ago, before he caught himself and turned on his heels. Kit and Cameron ran after him.

Once they reached the car, Jaime finally stopped and turned to look at Cameron. Kit took a step back, then another, aiming to give them privacy.

“Jaime,” Cameron said, his voice quivering.

Jaime’s eyes were fixed on his. Kit took another step back.

“WHAT THE HELL?!” Jaime yelled, making both Kit and Cameron jump. “You just leaped forward and stabbed the first thing you saw! You could have killed me!”

“I knew what I was doing!” Cameron’s face was flushed.

“No, you couldn’t have possibly known who the real one is –“

“Yes I could –“

“Not in the darkness of the club!”

“You’re wrong. It was easy,” Cameron said quietly. “The Eidolon demon did not look at me with such hatred in his eyes.”

Jaime stared at him in shock.

“Well, maybe it should have!” He finally retorted angrily before he turned around. “Kit! What the fuck are you doing over there?! Get in the car! We’re leaving.”

Kit knew better than to argue with him. He cursed silently and got into the car.

*******

The sun had already set, and the rest of the institute members had finished their training and were getting ready for patrol or go to bed. But Cameron was back in the freezing kitchen, doing everyone’s dishes.

He knew very well what Kit was trying to do: He could only send him away if Cameron had failed to do his job or was acting unprofessional. But Cameron’s behavior could not be reproached, and Kit wanted him gone because he hated him, so he was making his life miserable in the hopes that Cameron would break down and ask for a transfer.

But Cameron was not going to ask for one. No matter how many bathrooms he had to clean, no matter how terrible the patrols he got, no matter how many times he was going to get yelled at. He was not going to leave until Jaime agreed to talk to him.

Footsteps echoed behind him as someone entered the kitchen. “Your teeth are shattering,” Ty’s voice came behind him.

Cameron turned to him. “I’m cold,” he mumbled.

Ty studied him, a compassionate expression on his face.

“They only turn on the heat when people are eating or when the cleaning lady is here. It saves money.” He said apologetically. “It’s also better for the environment, but the clave doesn’t care much about that.”

“Yes,” Cameron mumbled.

“You should draw a heating rune.”

Cameron couldn’t, in fact, do that. He had broken his stele after they got back from their mission. Paige had given it to him as a birthday present. It had the emblem of their family carved on it, along with the words “Pride, Honor, Dignity”. Cameron threw it against the wall, shattering it to pieces.

“I broke my stele,” he told Ty.

Ty didn’t ask why. “I don’t have mine here either, but I can text –“

“No, it’s fine,” Cameron said quickly. “If it gets too bad I’ll find someone and ask them to draw one on me.”

Ty didn’t believe him, Cameron knew, but he didn’t insist further.

“Kit is making you miserable,” he said quietly. “But still, you stay.”

“I would have been more miserable elsewhere.”

Ty smiled at that.

“But you seem happy here,” Cameron said. He really did seem happy; much happier than he had been when Cameron had seen him in Geneva.

“It’s not going to last,” Ty said, looking at some distant point beyond Cameron, his eyes dark.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not like you. There’s no redemption for me.”

With that he turned around and left, and Cameron stared after him, unsure what to make of his words.

*******

“Call,” Jaime said, placing another lockpick on top of the pile. Kit saw the way the corner of his mouth twitched; Jaime was bluffing.

They had decided to spend the evening playing poker, but the real game was not being played using cards.

“Fold,” Ash said sadly. He was probably the worst poker player Kit had ever met; utterly terrible at hiding his joy when he got good cards and absolutely incapable of bluffing.

The door opened and Ty walked in, looking distraught.

“Ty, thank the Angel you’re back,” Dru said. “Kit keeps winning and he’s really smug about it.”

But Ty seemed troubled in other matters. “Kit, could you please turn on the heat in the kitchen? It’s freezing and Cameron doesn’t have his stele.”

“So?” Kit raised an eyebrow, making sure to keep a bored expression on his face. Jaime shifted in his seat.

“His body is weak,” Ty said urgently. “He can barely do the chores you give him as it is, he might get seriously hurt if you keep this up.”

A muscle twitched in Jaime’s jaw, but he kept silent.

“Too bad,” Kit said dryly.

“Kit!” Ty stared at him.

But Kit was going to win this game. “Then maybe he should go back to Shanghai,” he said casually before he turned to Jaime. “I raise.”

The expression on Jaime’s face told Kit he had won.

“I have to go.” Jaime got up. “I promised my brother I’d call him tonight.”

He left and Ty took his place. Kit leaned in, but before he could explain, Ty turned to him.

“I know,” he said softly.

Kit smiled at him. From the corner of his eye he could see that Dru was smiling as well.

*******

The cold that had seemed mild at first had numbed Cameron’s face and hands. He washed the dishes in the icy water, so cold it felt like burns on his skin. There was nothing to do for it now, because Cameron didn’t dare leave the kitchen to ask anyone for help. He knew that Jaime hadn’t told anyone expect his close friends about what he had done, but he still felt so ashamed of himself he barely had the volition to look anyone in the eye. Besides, he deserved it. He deserved all of it and more.

The biting cold chilled his fingers into clumsy numbness and Cameron dropped a plate. It fell to the floor and shattered on the impact, leaving thousands ceramic shards on the floor.

I’m not like you. There’s no redemption for me.

Cameron wasn’t sure there was redemption for him at all.

He got a broom and swept the shards, collecting them carefully one by one, as if he could use them to put the plate back together again. As if it could make time reverse somehow.

But time could not be reversed, and what had once been broken could not be mended again. Cameron threw the fragments into the trash and turned back to the dishes, the icy water burning his skin again.

He could hear footsteps behind him but took a few breaths before he turned around; Kit must have come to check on him. Maybe give him another chore.

He turned around and met deep brown eyes.

Jaime stood in front of him, dangerously beautiful, mercilessly cold. Cameron’s mind could not process the image of him; simultaneously so familiar yet so different. His usual warmth was missing, only intended to the people he considered as friends. The light in his eyes, the kind look he would always give Cameron, were long gone. All that was left was the cruel reminder of what Cameron had once had but foolishly let go.

They stood in the cold kitchen, facing each other, for a few long moments. Cameron wished he could finally fall to his knees and beg for Jaime’s forgiveness; that he could explain, that he could tell him everything he came to New York to say. But he knew that if he were to even move, Jaime would throw something at him or worse – leave. So instead he stood frozen in place, not daring to make a sound, barely letting himself breathe.

Jaime took a step forward, and Cameron’s heart rate shot up so quickly, dark spots began covering his vision. He still didn’t dare to move, keeping his eyes fixed on Jaime in silence.

Without a word, Jaime took his arm. His touch sparked something deep inside Cameron, reviving him like a flower blooming under the first rays of sun.

Still quiet, Jaime took his stele out of his pocket and began tracing lines on Cameron’s arm. The warmth spread from his arm to his entire body as Jaime traced the Heating rune, and Cameron closed his eyes as the memory of another heating rune – a memory he had forgotten long ago - came surfacing back.

“I’m kidding, though,” Jaime said. They were working together in the garden, a week before Cameron had to leave. “I’m sure everyone will like you in Shanghai.”

Cameron looked at him; they could plant a thousand flowers more and still none of them would compare to a single one of Jaime’s smiles.

“Yeah,” Cameron muttered. “Maybe they will.” He realized that he didn’t even care.

They went to their rose garden and Cameron took Jaime’s shirt off. The air was chilly, and Jaime shivered slightly. Cameron pulled him close and drew a Heating rune on his shoulder. If Jaime hadn’t pulled away to kiss him, Cameron didn’t think he would have been able to ever let him go.

Under a twilight sky, a few feet away from the place where they had kissed for the first time, they had sex again, then lay side by side gazing at the stars. Cameron had already known then.

“Jaime?” he said quietly.

“Yeah?”

Cameron looked into his eyes, finding the whole universe inside them. “When we first met, at that party,” he said. “You told me that we only live once.”

Jaime hadn’t broken his gaze. Cameron’s heart clenched painfully.

“But I don’t agree,” he continued quietly. “We only die once. We live every day.”

And Cameron wanted those days to be spent at Jaime’s side. Only ever at his side. But Jaime kept bringing up Shanghai like it was no big deal, and Cameron felt stupid for thinking for a second that he might feel the same way. So he didn’t say anything more.

Jaime finished drawing the rune.

Don’t let go of my hand, Cameron begged him silently. Please, don’t ever let go.

But Jaime did. He put his stele down on the kitchen counter and let go of Cameron’s hand, then turned to leave.

Without thinking, Cameron spoke. “Wait, Jaime, your ste-“

“Rosales,” Jaime said with his back to him. “It’s Rosales for you.”

Cameron watched him walk away, taking the light with him, leaving Cameron wilting in the dark. The memory of the heating rune resurfaced in Cameron’s mind, blurrier and blurrier, and Cameron forced himself to catch it, hold on to it so it wouldn’t be forgotten again. It made him feel ill again and he fell on his knees in front of the trash can and threw up.

He heard footsteps in the hallway again. Slowly, he lifted his watering eyes.

“Get up,” Kit said harshly. “I’ve got a new assignment for you.”

“Great,” Cameron mumbled in exhaustion. “What am I cleaning now?”

“You’re not cleaning anything,” Kit said, a diabolical smile on his face. “I have something much more suited for your talents.”

Chapter Text

Five days had passed since Kit gave Cameron his new assignment, which meant that Cameron should soon come to report.

When Jaime returned to their poker game after Ty had insisted that Cameron was freezing in the kitchen, Kit glanced at Ty to see him equally disappointed. But, by Raziel, Kit suddenly had an epiphany.

“I’ve got a new assignment for you,” he told Cameron.

“Great,” Cameron mumbled, looking tired and pale. “What am I cleaning now?”

“You’re not cleaning anything,” Kit said, making sure to give him a diabolical smile. “I have something much more suited for your talents.”

He led him up the spiral staircase at the top of the institute and opened the door of the abandoned greenhouse. Cameron stepped inside and froze in place.

“This greenhouse has been abandoned more than fifteen years ago, when Hodge Starkweather had betrayed the Lightwoods,” Kit said.

Jace had told him that when he was a teen, the greenhouse was filled with dozens of plants used for medicinal purposes, and so many flowers it smelled like an eternal spring.

Kit walked along the dead garden beds, and Cameron followed, looking around mesmerized.

“I want you to replant it all,” Kit told him. “With some additions.”

For the first time since he came to New York, Cameron looked almost happy. The change in his face was so striking, he seemed almost like a different person.

“I have a list of the plants we need,” Kit took out a paper from his pocket and unfolded it as Cameron stared at the dome's ceiling, designed to look like a lake as seen from below.

“Butcher’s Bells,” Kit began reading off the list. “Whatever the fuck that means –“

“It’s a plant named after its flowers which are blood-red and shaped like little bells,” Cameron said immediately. “Butcher’s bells are not easy to grow, but the roots of the plant can be used to make antidotes to Yamauba bites.”

“Okay, sure. Plant that,” Kit said indifferently. “We also need moonflowers, not sure what that –‘

“It’s a species of night-blooming morning glory, native to tropical and subtropical regions of the New World –“

“Don’t care. Plant them… here,” he gestured at a random flower bed.

“Given the position of the sun at noon, I would put them over there,” Cameron said. “And I would also add wolfsbane, they tend to grow well together.”

His knowledge was truly impressive. Kit feigned disinterest in anything Cameron said, but had tried to memorize every fact Cameron had told him, so he could later tell Ty.

They kept walking along the greenhouse and Kit kept reading off his list, and Cameron made comments about each plant, speaking about them with passion, and Kit realized that this, this was the Cameron that Jaime fell in love with. He couldn’t explain why or how, but somehow Kit understood completely why they fit so well.

Finally, they reached the stone bench at the center of the greenhouse.

“Clean the rock pool,” Kit told Cameron. “And put something nice in it, like… I don’t know, water lilies or something.”

“We could put something more useful,” Cameron began. “There’s a flower called Maiden’s Heart. It’s beautiful but also useful in alleviating pain caused by burns. And what do you want over here?” he gestured at the dead trees surrounding the pool.

Kit pretended to think about it. “Whatever you want,” he finally said, waving his hand dismissively. “This area is yours.”

Cameron had worked in the greenhouse for five days. Had Ty not gone up there three times a day and forced him to eat, Kit suspected he wouldn’t have done even that. They got an overwhelming amount of deliveries during these five days, of plants and roots and flowers. Dru and Ash were in charge of getting them all up to Cameron, and Kit handled the budgeting of the project. However, based on the numbers Cameron gave him and the amounts of deliveries they have received, Kit suspected that Cameron used his own money to buy most of the things.

Someone knocked on his bedroom door, and Kit opened it, making sure to look as bored as humanly possible. But instead of Cameron, he found Ty standing in front of him, a huge smile on his face.

“T-Ty,” Kit managed to say. “Hi.”

Ty walked inside. “Look!” he said happily, waving the locket Kit had given him weeks ago, that same day he had tried to heal his bruise and Ty refused. “I finally did it!”

He sat on Kit’s bed and took out a tension wrench and a pin and used them to open the lock. “See?”

He seemed so proud of himself, it was adorable. Kit burst out laughing.

Ty got up. “What?” he pouted. “I did it!”

“You did,” Kit didn’t hide his fond smile.

Ty pulled him closer. “You’re a good teacher,” he said, planting a soft kiss on his forehead.

Kit gave him a mischievous smile. “Now’s your turn to teach me something.”

Ty’s eyes studied him curiously. “What do you want to learn?”

Slowly, Kit got down on his knees in front of him.

Ty swallowed. “Kit –“

Kit passed his hand over his belt buckle. “Teach me.”

Ty caressed his hair. “Beg.”

“Please,” Kit whispered.

“Again,” Ty commanded.

“Please, Ty,” Kit panted, impossibly aroused by Ty’s authoritative tone. “I want this so much.”

Ty nodded, and Kit opened his belt buckle, his hands trembling with excitement. He unbuttoned his pants, pulled down his zipper, and finally, finally pulled down his boxers.

Ty’s cock was hard and swollen. Kit’s mouth watered as he registered its width, the veins, the pink head. Maybe he should have been nervous as he had never done this before; but somehow he wasn’t. Maybe because Ty was taking control.

Ty pulled his hair. “Lick the tip.”

Kit passed his tongue obediently over Ty’s slit, his own cock twitching in his pants.

“Again.”

Kit passed his tongue over Ty’s slit again, licking the precum that gathered there, tasting him.

“Do you like it?”

Kit nodded.

“Now pass your tongue from the base to the tip.”

Kit passed his tongue over Ty’s cock and let out a moan of excitement. Ty tasted amazing and licking him was the hottest thing Kit has ever done. Fuck, he was so far gone for him.

“Yes,” Ty panted. “Just like that.”

Kit licked him again and again, losing whatever was left of his dignity with every passing second, overwhelmed by his desire to please Ty and get his praise.

“Now open your mouth,” Ty said, and Kit got so hard it almost hurt.

Ty’s thick cock filled his mouth and Kit placed his hands on Ty’s thighs and sucked him, listening to Ty’s moans, whimpering on his cock.

“Very good.” Ty panted, and Kit’s cock twitched again. He could feel his boxers getting wet as precum was dripping from him.

“Deeper now,” Ty ordered, and Kit took him deeper mouth, letting the tip graze the roof of his mouth.

He moaned as he sucked Ty, taking him as deep as he could. Ty caressed his hair, mumbling words of approval, and Kit went faster and faster until Ty pushed him away, panting.

“I’m close –“

“Let go.”

“I need… tissues – “

“No!” Kit protested. “I want you to cum in my mouth.”

“Fuck, Kit, are you sure?”

But Kit had already taken him in his mouth again, and soon he could feel Ty’s cock swell inside him.

“It will be easier if you take it deeper,” Ty panted.

Kit took him deeper and Ty moaned his name as he came in his mouth, filling it with his warm cum. It was a lot more than Kit had expected, but taking him deeper did help. Ty pulled out and Kit swallowed, but before he could open his eyes Ty had gotten down on his knees as well and pulled him into a kiss. He then pushed him on the floor and lay on top of him and covered his face with gentle kisses, his lips fluttering like butterflies over Kit’s skin.

“You’re amazing, Christopher,” he whispered in between kisses, and Kit couldn’t help but giggle like a love-stuck idiot.

“Now you.” Ty passed his hands over his chest. “What do you want?”

Kit swallowed. “There was something I… wanted to ask,” he mumbled. Ty kissed his lips, and Kit gained his courage. “When we… the other night, you asked me to top.”

“I thought you might be more comfortable doing that,” Ty said softly. “Since you have never done it before.”

“Ah… you’re right,” Kit realized. Damn it, Ty was perfect. “But do you… is this what you prefer?”

“Do you want me to top?” Ty asked, his voice low. Kit could swear he knew how seductive it was and was doing it on purpose.

“Yes,” he panted.

“Yes what?” Ty asked, his voice hoarse.

“Yes please.”

Ty gave him a feline smile. “You’re such a good boy, Christopher,” he said, caressing his cheek with the back of his gloved hand.

His words drove Kit wild. He caught his mouth in his, kissing him fiercely. He had to have him. He had to have right now.

“Wait.” Ty pulled away. “I… You’ve never done this before.”

Kit’s lips felt lost without having Ty’s skin pressed against them. “As already established,” he said, trying to catch his mouth again.

“Then why now?” Ty insisted.

“Because you’re here now?” Kit smiled. “Are you planning on making me wait? I’m not very good at waiting, you know.”

“No, I meant… I meant why me?” Ty asked quietly. “Why do you want to do those things with me?”

Kit looked up at him. Because I love you, the little voice in his head said.

“Because I’m attracted to you,” he replied instead.

“Ah.”

“And also - “ because I love you. “Because I trust you.”

And because I love you, the little voice in his head repeated.

Because I love you.

I love you.

I love you, Ty. I love you. I love you. I LOVE –

A knock on the door saved Kit from himself. “What?” he asked loudly, keeping an apathic tone.

“It’s me,” Cameron said from the other side of the door. “You wanted me to report.”

Ty got off him and helped Kit get up. Cameron would never know how much Kit owed him.

Still, Kit opened the door with an apathic look on his face. “Let’s go,” he said coldly.

As much as he tried, he could not hide his amazement when Cameron opened the door to the greenhouse.

It was almost half restored already; a small medicinal herbal garden greeted them when they walked in, plants with huge green leaves hung over the path, ferns with small, yellow flowers covered the floor, a scary looking flower with what resembled shark teeth nearly bit Kit’s finger when he walked past it, red flowers that looked like little bells trembled when he passed them, as if scared of him. They reached the small rock pool surrounded by the area Kit had told Cameron he could plant whatever he wanted in. The ground was covered with colorful flowers; Kit only recognized one of them.

He crossed his arms. “What are those?”

“Flowers,” Cameron said non-committedly.

“Do they have healing properties?”

“No.”

“Are they poisonous?”

“No.”

“Then get rid of them.”

“No!” Cameron cried out. “Please,” he said, placing himself between Kit and the flowers, protecting them like children. “You said I could plant whatever I want there!”

“Ugh, fine.” Kit waved his hand dismissively. “Keep your damn flowers.”

He turned around, smiling to himself, and walked out.

“Jaime,” he said nonchalantly when he finally found him in the training room.

“Kit!” Jaime said urgently. “Could we –“

“I want you to come with me to the greenhouse. Let’s see what Cameron has done.”

“W-what? No!”

“Yes. Let’s go.”

“Absolutely not. But listen,” Jaime’s expression was solemn, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about Ty.”

“You mean, how he’s amazing?” Kit said happily. He pushed open the training room door. “Sure. But let’s do it in the greenhouse.”

“Ugh, fine, whatever.” Jaime sighed and followed him. He kept quiet until they reached the spiral staircase. “So, I’ve been thinking,” he said. “There must be a reason why –“

“Why he’s so perfect?” Kit said dreamily. “My theory is that he was blessed by Raziel when he was a baby.”

“Kit, I’m being serious,” Jaime insisted. “We’ve never seen his –“

“Oh, I know what this is about,” Kit smiled at him. “You think Ty likes Cameron better than he likes you. We’re not choosing sides, you know.”

“I’m not talking about that – although – “

“He cares about you a lot,” Kit said. “When you got bit by the Yokai and we stayed with you at the infirmary, he hasn’t slept all night. And I was fast asleep, mind you.”

Jaime stopped walking. “He hasn’t slept?” he repeated, his eyes narrowed.

“Yeah,” Kit said, confused about Jaime’s reaction. It wasn’t that interesting.

Jaime expression was somber. “Kit, I noticed a few things about him, that... if we could just talk for –“

“We’ll definitely do that sometime,” Kit cut him off. “Now come on, let’s go.”

He dragged him by his arm until they reached the door to the greenhouse and Kit pushed it open and let Jaime walk inside.

His eyes widened in amazement as he looked around at the beds of flowers and herbs, as his gazed trailed over the green leaves and colored petals. “C-Cameron did all this in five days?” he asked weakly.

“Yeah, he’s not bad, huh?” Kit said easily. “Although, there was one weird thing he did.”

“What?” Jaime asked immediately. “I meant… yeah, he’s weird. That’s no surprise.” He tried to sound casual.

“I gave him one area to do what he wanted with. I figured he would plant something useful. Instead it’s just flowers. Hundreds of them.”

“Where?” Jaime asked, his voice trembling.

Kit led him to the rock pool and Jaime froze, his lips parted, his eyes widened, surrounded by hundreds of flowers Cameron had planted for him.

For a long time, Kit had tried to make them talk but failed. But after Jaime returned to their poker game, Kit realized: he should have made them speak with their own language. The language of flowers.

Slowly, he retreated back, leaving Jaime alone surrounded by the flowers that replaced the words Cameron had wanted to say all along.

Chapter Text

Jaime couldn’t break his gaze from the sight. Cameron had spent days planting them and now Jaime was standing there, surrounded by the colors and the smells and by Cameron’s intentions. Jaime wouldn’t listen to his words, so Cameron told him everything through flowers.

Forget-Me-Not. Memories. Purple Hyacinth. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Carnation. My heart aches for you. Blue Roses. I know I can’t have you, but I can’t stop thinking about you. Red Chrysanthemum. I love you.

Jaime’s lower lip was trembling.

Memories.

Jaime stood there, frozen in place.

I know I can’t have you, but I can’t stop thinking about you.

Jaime’s heart was racing.

I love you.

Did Cameron…? Was he, really?

I love you. I love you.

Stupid tears were forming in the corners of Jaime’s eyes.

He heard steps behind him. Oh damnit, he forgot that Kit was there. He must think that Jaime’s an idiot, looking at flowers and bawling. He took a deep breath, managed to put a neutral expression on his face, and turned around.

Cameron stood in front of him, his jeans covered in dirt, looking startled.

“I’m sorry.” He took a step back. “I… I thought you were Kit.”

“No… I’m… not.” Jaime said weakly.

He remained silent for a few more moments before he managed to speak again.

“Are these…?” the words died on his lips as he gestured at the flowers.

“For you,” Cameron said quietly.

Jaime stared at him, the first time he had truly been able to look at him in over a year. Cameron was even more beautiful than Jaime had dared to remember, with his copper hair and sharp features. He had shadows under his eyes; they reminded Jaime of the ones he had that night in Nantes when they patrolled together, and Cameron had collapsed on Jaime’s bed and they fell asleep tangled in each other.

“Why did you believe her?” Jaime blurted out.

What made him ask that? His heart was pounding loudly in his chest as he waited for Cameron’s answer.

Cameron lifted his eyes. “Because it was easy.”

Jaime held his gaze. “It was easy,” he echoed, unsure what he should make of it.

“Yes. Easy,” Cameron repeated quietly. “You’re so many leagues above me. You’re beautiful, and funny, and outgoing, and you have a talent to make friends everywhere you go… And I was scared. It was easy to believe that you meant more to me than I to you. I told her that I’m in love with you and when she said that you don’t feel the same, I believed it so easily, and I… I’m sorry.” His voice broke. “I’m so, so sorry. I’m just a coward. I was so scared of getting hurt and in the end I broke my own heart and lost the only person I ever truly cared about.”

“You were in love with me?” Jaime asked quietly.

Cameron held Jaime’s gaze when he answered.

“I still am.”

Jaime stared at him, trying to process the words that had just left Cameron’s lips.

In love.

Jaime remained frozen, unmoving, but inside he could feel the hurricane Cameron had created, pulling him into his vortex. Jaime could feel the winds clipping his core.

Cameron still held his gaze, and Jaime’s head was starting to spin.

“You… are.” Was all he managed to say.

“Yes,” Cameron said without missing a beat. “I don’t know when it happened, but we were… we were together one day, and we talked about Shanghai and I realized that I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to go anywhere if you weren’t there and I… I realized that I was in love with you. I kept telling myself that the pain will fade, and that my feelings will fade, but they only intensified over time.

“I’m not telling you this because I hope you’ll take me back. I’m telling you this because it’s the truth, and for once I want to be honest with you… and with myself. I came here because I wanted to apologize to you in person. I know that Kit is trying to make me leave, but I couldn’t do it until I told you how sorry I am, because you deserve to know how much I hate myself for what I did. But if you… If you want me to leave now, I will. I’ll do anything you want.”

Jaime crossed his arms. “I want you to leave.”

Cameron’s shoulders were slumped, and he bit his lip tightly in an attempt to hide any sound that tried to escape his lips. His eyes cast down and Jaime could see that they became glazed as tears were formed in the corners. Still, he didn’t argue. He turned around and walked past him in silence.

Jaime watched his back as he crossed the greenhouse and reached out a hand to open the door.

“Wait,” he said.

Cameron turned around abruptly.

Jaime held his gaze. “You still have my stele.”

Cameron lowered his head. “Yes. Of course,” he mumbled.

Slowly, he came to stand in front of Jaime, not lifting his eyes as he reached his hand to his pocket. Jaime grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him towards him, and Cameron let out a small surprised gasp and let the stele drop to the floor.

Jaime put two fingers under his chin and forced him to look at him. “Before you left,” he said. “I thought I was in love with you.”

Cameron looked down again, but Jaime cupped chin and held him still.

“After you came to New York,” Jaime continued. “I knew I was.”

Cameron’s eyes widened. “Jaime –“

Jaime put his hand at the nape of his neck and pulled him closer until their faces were only a few inches apart. “If you ever do anything like this again –“

“I won’t,” Cameron panted. “You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me, Jaime, I won’t ever, ever do anything so stupid again –“

“You better not, because I will end you.”

“I know,” Cameron panted. He cupped Jaime’s face in his hands. “I know you will.”

“Good,” Jaime whispered. “Also, I love you so fucking much, you stubborn idiot.”

Cameron chuckled and lowered his face to his and their lips met. Jaime placed his hand on Cameron’s waist and drew him closer, deepening the kiss. Elation coursed in his veins as he continued to press his lips more impenetrably and rougher onto Cameron’s. His lips were soft and warm, and the kiss smelled like roses and forget-me-nots and like Cameron, and suddenly his insistent mouth was parting Jaime’s lips, sending wild tremors along his nerves, inflicting sensations he had long forgotten he was capable of feeling. As they parted, he could see Cameron’s eyes sparkle and his lips curved up into a smile and Jaime couldn't help but smile back.

“Is it really happening?” Cameron whispered. “Is this real? Oh my God,” he said quickly. “It’s another false memory. I have to wake up –“

Jaime tightened their embrace. “It’s real. I’m here, and I love you.”

“You have no idea how much I missed you.” Cameron pulled him ever closer as if trying to melt Jaime into him. “I felt hollow without you. Just… empty.”

“I can’t believe you planted all those flowers for me. You’re such a nerd.” Jaime mumbled into him, and Cameron laughed again. “Also, you’re covered in dirt, and now I am too.”

“Sorry.” Cameron pulled away.

“We need to shower.”

“We…” Cameron’s eyes widened. “As in, you and me? Together?”

“Do you have a problem with that?” Jaime gave him a feline smile.

“Absolutely not,” Cameron said quickly.

Jaime took his hand and led him out of the greenhouse and to his room. Luckily, they didn’t encounter anyone on their way, because that would have been hard to explain.

He closed his bedroom door behind them and took out his phone to place an order. “I’m ordering pizza,” he told Cameron. “You need to eat.”

“Oh,” Cameron looked worried.

Jaime laughed. “I’ll get you a knife and a fork, I know your weird eating habits.”

“No, it’s not that… I’m just… I sort of don’t like… food anymore.”

Jaime stopped laughing. “I know,” he said gently. “We’ll take care of that.”

Cameron did not waste another second; he pulled Jaime’s shirt and threw in on the floor, then proceeded to take his own shirt off.

They slipped out of the rest of their clothes and Jaime got into the shower, pulling Cameron in after him. They kissed under the warm water and Jaime let himself rediscover Cameron’s mouth. His kiss was comfortingly familiar, as if Jaime’s lips had waited for Cameron’s for over a year and finally found their place again. Yet somehow it was new as well; more real.

Jaime pulled away to look at him. Cameron had lost so much muscle mass since Jaime last saw him.

“You’re beautiful,” he said. “I don’t think I ever told you that.”

Cameron blushed. “You haven’t,” he said quietly.

Jaime passed his fingers over Cameron’s torso. “That one is new,” he said, gesturing at a large, circular scar under his neck. It looked like a bitemark.

Cameron put his hand on his neck as if trying to his it. “An Eidolon demon,” he said. “The first one that took your shape.”

Gently, Jaime pealed Cameron’s hand off his neck and took it in his.

They finished their shower and Jaime barely let Cameron time to dry himself with a towel before he pushed him onto the bed and mounted him. “I. Missed. Your. Face.” He panted in between kisses.

“I missed feeling clean,” Cameron sighed. “Over the past week I was either cleaning a bathroom or doing the dishes.”

“If it makes you feel better, you looked very sexy when you did it.”

“Thanks, I was actually very worried about that,” Cameron said. “I mean what would have been the point of cleaning bathrooms if it didn’t turn you on?”

Jaime laughed. He stared at Cameron’s naked torso. “While I do enjoy the sight – I guess I should give you some clothes?”

“That would be nice, yes.”

Jaime grinned and handed him a pair of sweatpants and turned to his closet to look for a t-shirt. “I don’t think I have something in your size anymore… I had to burn all my clothes a while ago, including my favorite –“

“Oh, I have something for you,” Cameron said. He put on the t-shirt Jaime had tossed him and walked out of the room before Jaime could protest. He came back a minute later, holding a large carboard box.

Jaime chuckled. “Aw, you’re giving me some of your hair products?”

Cameron rolled his eyes. He turned over the cardboard box, and Jaime squinted his eyes as he read the words “Jaime Rosales” written in black marker.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Everything you left behind in Nantes.”

Jaime came to sit on the floor and opened the box. “My old clothes,” he said. “The phone you gave me. My books. Oh, my favorite shirt!” He put it on. “Damn, I look so good in it.” He lifted his eyes to look at Cameron. “Thank you,” he said. “I asked Nina to burn everything.”

“Yeah, she said our generation is crazy and that in her days they weren’t going around burning stuff.” Cameron told him. “Also, the writing is smudged over here because I hugged the box while crying. Just putting it out there in case you ever hear it from Nina.”

Jaime took out another shirt from the box; it was black and on it were written the words “Introvert, but willing to talk about plants”.

“That one is yours,” he tossed it to Cameron. “You must have left it in my room.”

“It is?” Cameron looked at it.

It suddenly occurred to Jaime. “I gave it to you as a gift,” he said gently. “I told you it would help you make friends in Shanghai.”

“Oh,” Cameron said. He stared at the shirt as if it was the most precious possession he had. “Thank you for reminding me. I don’t always… you know.”

Jaime lifted his hand to touch his cheek. “I know.”

His phone rang. “Our pizza is here. Don’t move.”

He threw on some clothes, ran downstairs to the front door, tipped the delivery guy everything he had in his wallet, picked up a knife and a fork from the kitchen, and ran upstairs again.

He opened the door to find the beautiful sight of Cameron sprawled on his bed. Jaime put the pizza on the bedside table and came to lay on top of Cameron, covering his face with gentle kisses.

“Jaime,” Cameron managed to say. “There’s one problem –“

“What?”

“The head of the institute hates me and wants me to move to Shanghai, so I’m not sure how –“

“Oh, he’s sort of doing that because I told him that I can’t be in the same institute as you,” Jaime admitted.

Cameron looked half-amused, half-exasperated. “Oh well, I guess I’ll just get better acquainted with Whitestrider’s mom. You know, last time she only called me an idiot twice –“

“No!” Jaime said, looking horrified. “I can’t let you – oh, God. I’m going to have an awkward conversation with Kit and explain that I’ve actually been in love with you the whole time, huh?”

Cameron laughed. “I guess so.”