Isabelle Lightwood had always been lonely.
It seemed that everyone around her had found their Person. That one person that understands them completely- and loves them anyway.
She hadn't. Instead she had watched from the sidelines as Alec found Jace and they became parabatai, the literal definition of soulmates (platonic or not). The jealousy from that alone had almost turned her to ash.
But then the jealousy began to be tempered by the softness of their love for her, and she began to wilt in turn. Around them, the steel in her bones always became that much weaker; that much more silver than iron. Part of her hated them for it. Part of her believed she always would.
Because what was the tempering of her rage if not a weakness?
Still, she moved on. Not forward, but on.
There were new things to be jealous of and rage over. Alec proved
their his parents right in loving him more and she moved on. Jace watched her with brotherly affection in his eyes, and she sunned herself in it like a cat by a fireplace. But then Jace would look on and she would stutter in the silence, weakened by the cold. Then she moved on.
Not forward, but on.
Jace was... warmer than the others. When he ignored her or silenced her, it was never because of her. It was always just him. He was constantly blind to life, so enamoured with the fruits of drifting dejectedly that he didn't notice his younger sister waiting (always waiting) for him to just turn and see her.
After a while, she convinced herself that the love her brothers gave her was enough, that she didn't even need her parents' adoration. She wanted it anyway. She still moved on, though. Never stopping, never faltering. Always, always moving so the cold didn’t catch up to her and bite at her aching heels.
Isabelle Lightwood had forged herself into a new person by the time they remembered to turn and look at her. When they finally saw, oh how they moaned and screamed for the horrors they glimpsed. She laughed her beautifully fake laugh and ignored the blood staining her too-sharp teeth. And when they tried to tear their eyes away from her she made herself louder and louder- until she was screaming and shouting through red-stained lips that only released threateningly pretty simplicities.
Isabelle made herself into a monster of chaos and darkness until they couldn't look at her and see anything other than hard-earned power.
She was a female Shadowhunter and, unlike the other beautiful, sharp things in this world, she made them focus on the female. She became sinuous shadows, dark eyes and the sensual movement of lips promising war. There was no part of her that was not beautiful, just like there was no part of her that wasn't dangerous.
Jace was the first to notice the figurative claws gracing her fingertips, the first to see just how sharp they'd gotten under her delicate care and look afraid. She saw the moment he flinched when they were in the midst of battle, as she slammed a demon to the ground with a flick of her fingers before slamming a blade through its throat.
It had looked like
their his father. She hadn't hesitated.
Later she wondered whether that made her a monster. Then she remembered all of the condescension and patronising and decided she didn't care.
She moved on.
One of the only things she couldn't protect herself from was the longing that clawed at her insides. She had moved past the jealousy when it came to Alec and Jace, and had even began to lose her resentment for the bond they shared and the exclusion it pushed upon her.
But the longing. It was inescapable. Everywhere she went, it was there, like a hammer in her head just pounding into her soul how lonely she was, how sad. She just wanted- she just wanted someone to care. And yes, she has her brothers, but there was only so much they could do when they didn't understand the walls erected around her, couldn't even see them to begin to fathom how to bring them down in the first place.
So she kept wanting, and hurting, and weighed every statement she made down with blood-stained hope disguised as honey.
When she went to Pandemonium, all she wanted was to release some of the rage tearing at her (not all, never all) so she could breathe without it straining her heart. Admittedly, the girl had been a surprise, but she followed her brothers and kept her safe. Her brother returned from his wild goose chase successful, and his eyes were clearer than Isabelle had ever seen them. She didn't know whether to love or hate the girl for it.
Demands were made for a mother in the tone of someone shredded to pieces and Isabelle decided on hate. It was easier, and the girl just had something about her that rubbed her the wrong way. A voice in the back of her head whispered that it was because you are the same, two vicious, ugly creatures hidden beneath a flowery façade.
The vouce sounded just close enough to
the monster's her mother's for her to ignore it. It didn't matter. Isabelle still longed, but this girl didn't deserve to be brought down too. All Isabelle really wanted was someone to join her at the bottom. She moved on.
Over time, Izzy began to get glimpses of the real personality hiding beneath the girl's fear, and her interest piqued. Jace and the girl- Clary- had began this kind of fumbling dance, which fascinated Izzy as it was Jace who did the stumbling. Jace, who had been smooth as spun sugar even when blind to the world, was stumbling. it made Izzy want to know why. (Was it you? Why is it always you they are blind to?)
Isabelle learned that Clary was intelligent and fast, she picked up fighting like she was crafted for war yet her words flowed as if she were a diplomat made to forge peace. That alone explained why Jace was enamoured with her. Then Isabelle saw Jace staring at her one day, and saw the hopeless look of a sailor drowning in the sea. So in love with the force of nature that Clary had revealed herself to be, and yet so lost in what to do about it. She realised that there must be something else. So she began to look for it.
Ever watching, she began to form a tentative friendship with Clary, and found that she fit with her.
In a way she had heard about from lessons and
her their father and Alec. Parabatai.
One day the realisation hit her, and Isabelle couldn't help but laugh. A real, long laugh that echoed around the suddenly silent kitchen.
Alec had glanced up from his book, shifting to peer up at her in concern from his seat at the dining table. She felt rather than saw Jace turn towards her, heard him whisper to Clary, "She's terrifying," even as he raised his voice to say, "You alright there Iz?"
Isabelle turned from the window she had been staring aimlessly out of, a grin lighting up her face, and realised that Clary hadn't even really moved. She had just raised an eyebrow questioningly, and placed a delicate hand on Jace's arm. As if to calm, as if to ask him to be gentle. And Isabelle released another laugh as she realised she finally knew why.
(Oh, you're oh so delicate aren't you, little flower? But you're a Fairchild. There's nothing in you but steel.)
"I'm fine thank you, brother dear," she says, not even trying to tame the relief running through her. "Clary?"
Clary doesn't seem startled by the question, but instead stands up and steps beyond Jace, quieting his confusion with the raising of her hand. "What do you need, Isabelle?"
Oh, thank the angel. This. This is what the wanting and the longing and the yearning was all for, someone who understands.
Because she said she always wanted a sister, but what she meant was she always wanted an equal. Someone to laugh with and share with, someone who saw all the ugliest bits of you and was just as monstrous. There was a beast prowling beneath Izzy's skin that had clashed with the one simmering behind Clary's eyes when they first met.
And Izzy could finally see it.
Isabelle discovers 3 very important things about Clary that day, and what each of them mean.
1. Her full name is Clarissa Adele Morgenstern, and she is the heir to 3 mighty bloodlines.
Morgenstern is the name forced upon her, wreathed in the blood and destruction placed there by her father. But it's an honourable name, bolstered throughout history by brave shadowhunters and downworlders alike (though those are forgotten, of course). Her mother's maiden name was Fairchild, the family of creators famous for their inventions and forgiving hearts.
With a sad smile, Izzy is told that Fray is her youngest name, born of gratefulness for an almost warlock and remembrance for the world her mother had to leave behind. It is the name of her childhood, the name she grew up under and believed to be hers. It is the name of her mundane life and, as such, is the one Clary looks upon with the most fondness. (whenever anyone asks Clary her name, it's always Fray, then Fairchild and then, with a wilted sadness, Morgenstern.) (Isabelle never tells anyone this.)
2. Clary was an only child, but she chose Simon.
Simon became her brother, but first and foremost he is Clary's friend. This means that, no matter what Simon did, there were times when Clary was alone. These are the times she doesn't like to talk about. (Isabelle soothes her through the nightmares anyway)
Loneliness creates things, acts as a catalyst for great and terrible events. The loneliness Isabelle went through had mutated her into something deadly, something damned. Clary's had crafted her into a being of sharp words and soft touches. (Isabelle thinks it's worse. The pain streaked across Clary's face tells her she thinks so, too.)
3. Clary was raised with kindness.
When Isabelle first hears this, part of her thinks it means Clary was raised to be gentle. To be weak. And it doesn't matter how much she hates the thought because it's there, because that's how she was raised. (Sometimes the voice in her head sounds like her mother's. Clary never asks why that's such a scary thing when Isabelle tells her after she woke up screaming one night, and she's thankful for it)
But the monster that roils beneath Clary's skin is beautiful and sharp and stained golden with sunlight, and Izzy thinks that if it were real, it would be a prowling, terrifying thing, with claws that topple mountains and wings that would cast the world in shade. Isabelle thinks sometimes -when the shadows are a shade too dark and the only light is a fading streetlamp- that she can see the outlines of great wings cast from Clary's back, and she wonders if Clary is really just an angel cast to Earth to repent.
She debates whether that would make a difference to the love she sees Jace gift her, and then realises it wouldn't. After all, Jace can see now, and you'd have to be truly blind to miss the fire that emanates from Clary.
Especially when her loved ones are threatened. Because then those great wings are spread, the glory of an eagle taking flight in her eyes while she plans vengeance on those brave enough to stand against her. (Isabelle calls it stupidity, so does Jace.) (Alec doesn't see it yet -the danger in Clarissa Morgenstern's love- but he will. After all, he is one of the many she has bestowed it upon.)
Isabelle tells her these things once.
Clary tells her gentleness is its own kind of strength.
Clary doesn't watch her with affection, or dismiss her as someone to be protected- in fact, she doesn't dismiss her at all. The way Clary treats her is refreshingly simple; as an equal. They laugh together, and mock others together. Isabelle finds herself being softened by the other woman's presence, but not overbearingly so. It's like Clary smooths over only her deadliest edges, the ones that she might otherwise turn upon herself.
So when Clary asks her to be her parabatai about 10 minutes before they have to leave on a hunt, Isabelle isn't surprised, or even remotely shocked. There's just a warm, pleasant feeling rising in her.
"Yes," she says, the memory of ice on her tongue distant and forgotten. Clary smiles, unrestrained and soft and, because theyre alone in the sitting area, Isabelle lets a small smile slip loose in return. Sister, friend, parabatai and soulmate. The word slips into the list of what Clary is to her as if it was always there.
Perhaps, she muses as they clasp each other's arms in the common embrace of the parabatai for the first time, it always was.
The ceremony ends in shiver of stars across the nightsky, and Isabelle feels the connection sink into her skin until it rests intrinsically alongside her bones, even as the mark remains only just gently gracing her skin.
The world hasn't changed, hasn't tilted off its axis or crashed into a demon realm. But Isabelle can tell her life has altered by the emptiness she doesn't have anymore. Day to day stuff is the same, she still fights demons and argues with her brothers, still makes disgusted noises when Clary and Jace return from a too-long sparring break rumpled all the way to Hell. Except now she can feel Clary's soul alongside her own, golden and thriving and terrifying in it's righteousness. She can feel the monster that simmers beneath Clary's eyes alongside her own now, and she thinks that it feels better.
Her claws are still deadly, her teeth still sharp and stained with blood, but she isn't empty any more, doesn't have a reason to have them constantly unsheathed. Because with Clary at her back, Izzy is safe enough to be vulnerable and weak. With Clary at her back, Izzy feels comfortable enough to be kind.
With Clary by her side, Isabelle finally begins to move forward.