Your Hand In Mine
“Sir, do you have a moment to spare?”
Alec looked up from the report he was reading. Ever since becoming Inquisitor, his workload had doubled. He didn’t really mind, as he now had the chance to take down the Shadowhunters who didn’t uphold the Law. Most Shadowhunters wouldn’t want his job, but when the Clave had offered and Jia agreed, he’d accepted straight away. This was his chance to change the Clave from the inside, fight corruption, and take care of threats before they became problematic.
The newest threat was that of an organization that modeled itself after the Circle. So far, he’d researched all rumors going around and he had also acquired four names of Shadowhunters said to have rallied after “The Righteous”, as this new organization called itself. One of those names was that of his father; Robert Lightwood. He would have liked to say it had surprised him, but it hadn’t. A lot had changed after his little brother Maxwell had died. His entire family had fallen apart.
“Sir? Should I come back later?”
Andrew sounded impatient and Alec reminded himself that his secretary and head of security wouldn’t bother him if it wasn’t urgent. “I’m sorry,” he said and looked up from his paperwork. “No, that won’t be necessary. Tell me what’s wrong.” He gestured for his friend and fellow Shadowhunter to sit down opposite him. He trusted Andrew explicitly. If his friend sought him out like this, it had to be important.
After placing the report aside, he gave Andrew his full attention. Underhill wasn’t just his secretary, but also a good friend. The Shadowhunter had lost many so called friends when he’d revealed he was gay and dating a warlock named Lorenzo Rey. Alec couldn’t have cared less and had deepened their friendship, letting the other man know he had his support. He’d even gone as far as to lecture those so called friends for excluding Andrew merely because he was gay. Although he was gay himself, something like that hadn’t happened to him – yet.
“There’s something fishy going on in the lowest level of the Gard.” He handed his superior another file, at which Alec cringed. Andrew understood only too well. There was too much paperwork as it was.
Alec opened the file, but then leaned his head back and watched Andrew instead. “Can you summarize it? My head’s beginning to hurt. I’m not yet used to being stuck in an office all day.” When he’d run the New York Institute there had been paperwork too, but nothing like this. Sometimes he envied Isabelle, who ran the New York Institute these days.
“Sure, I can do that.” Normally Andrew would feel amused, but not this time. “I have a bad feeling about this,” he said, cocking his head thoughtfully. “Two nights ago a group of Shadowhunters arrived, claiming to escort a prisoner. They had documents which told the guards to put the prisoner in a cell at the lowest level of the complex. Apparently they were afraid their prisoner might try to escape. The guards complied.”
“So far I’ve heard nothing that worries me.” These things happened, so why had Andrew brought it to his attention? “Can’t this wait until tomorrow?” He could really do with some shuteye; it was already one in the morning and he found it hard to focus.
“I don’t think so. Call it a gut feeling.”
“Fine, go ahead. What’s your gut telling you?” he said, opting for a little humor, which would normally make Andrew smile, but not this time. Underhill’s expression remained serious. All right, message received, he’d better start paying attention then as he trusted Andrew’s instincts.
“When their arrival came to my attention, I checked my data.” Andrew was a bit of a control freak, but as far as he was concerned that was a good thing for a head of security. “I wanted to know who the prisoner was, what he was accused of, and why he needed to be in one of our most secure cells.” They hardly used those.
“What did you find?” Alec reached for the last bit of cold coffee, swallowed it, and shuddered, but he needed whatever caffeine he could get his hands on, even if coffee was frowned upon by the older and more traditional Shadowhunters. Every so often Izzy sent him a batch and he’d even secretly acquired a coffee maker, which he kept out of sight. As far as he was concerned, it was ridiculous that the Council condemned drinking coffee!
“Not much.” Andrew pointed at the file, which held alarmingly little information. “According to our filing system that cell is empty. Our prisoner doesn’t exist. He never arrived and was never processed.”
Now Alec did frown. “That’s odd – and worrying. Did you investigate the matter?” He knew what Andrew was like; his friend was curious and didn’t mind getting his hands dirty if it got him answers. It was one of the reasons why he’d taken Underhill with him when he’d accepted his new position. He’d wanted at least one Shadowhunter running security whom he trusted. He needed someone he could depend on; there was too much corruption in the system as it was.
“I did.” Andrew moved his chair closer to the desk. He didn’t think someone had ears in the Inquisitor’s office, but he was a cautious man by nature. He didn’t trust easily. “That cell isn’t empty and it’s guarded by four Shadowhunters, two of them former Circle members. Since I was outnumbered, I retreated. They didn’t notice me and I wanted to keep it that way until we made our move.” Alec’s expression told him all he needed to know.
Alec nodded thoughtfully. “You’re right. This is something we need to investigate.” Former Circle members guarding a supposedly empty cell? That was more than enough reason to investigate – and to worry him. In the Angel’s name, what was happening under his nose? “You were right to tell me.”
“There’s something else.” This was the part Andrew wasn’t looking forward to. “Those four Shadowhunters? They reside at the Lightwood family estate. The two former Circle members? Close friends of your father’s and rumored to be part of The Righteous.”
At first, Alec thought he’d misheard, but Andrew’s expression told him the other Shadowhunters was deadly serious. So his father was involved? That did complicate matters, but he wasn’t going to shy away from this. If there was a crime happening, he was going to investigate. “I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not.” Not so long ago his mother had been deruned for crimes which she’d committed while being a Circle member. His father had barely gotten a slap on the wrist.
Instead, Robert had been promoted and was a valued member of the Council these days. No one had even suggested stripping him of his runes and Alec gathered it was due to his father having friends in high places. It only made him dislike him more.
And then there was the matter of Robert having cheated on Maryse when they’d still been married. He didn’t like his father at all these days. It was also the reason why he didn’t mind delving into this, even if did compromise his father.
After careful consideration Alec made up his mind. “Get me Lucian and Jace. Tell them to meet me at the gates to the Gard. My father’s men will try to stop us from opening that cell and I don’t want them to overpower us. We’re going in strong, that way they might give in. I don’t want this to turn into a fight.” He didn’t want Shadowhunters to fight each other, or even worse, kill other Shadowhunters when there was a way around it. “And make sure the three of you are armed. I’ll meet you there in thirty.”
“We’ll be there.” Andrew got to his feet and didn’t envy his friend and superior. Taking on this case might mean Alec had to go up against his own father.
Alec waited for Andrew to close the door behind him before he sighed and briefly rested his head on the table, his brow making contact with the soothing wood. The sensation was oddly reassuring. In his heart, he’d always known it might come to this one day. His father had distanced himself before, but had truly deserted his family when Max had died. For some reason Robert had no longer wanted and needed them in his life. Had he ever loved them? Had his father ever truly loved Maryse?
But who was he to judge? At twenty-four he hadn’t been in love yet. He’d met plenty of Shadowhunters, but the women his parents had introduced him to when he’d turned eighteen hadn’t interested him, and later the men he’d met in the line of duty, hadn’t sparked any attraction on his part either. So far, he hadn’t met THE ONE. That one person he was supposed to utterly fall in love with. Shadowhunters loved only once, but fiercely. He was still waiting to meet the Shadowhunter that would set his heart afire. Hopefully he was out there.
Maybe his father had never experienced that with Maryse? Was that the reason he’d cheated on her? But then again, Robert still had two biological children and one he’d adopted. Why hadn’t Isabelle, Jace and he been enough? Robert must have known he’d hurt his children by cheating on their mother, but apparently his father hadn’t cared about that.
Isabelle had probably taken it the hardest. She had rallied with her mother, especially after Maryse had been deruned. Alec still suspected Robert had everything to do with her being punished for crimes she’d committed while they had been part of the Circle. Had it been Robert’s way to get back at her?
Jace had tried to stay neutral at first, but that hadn’t lasted long. His parabatai had accidentally walked in on their father and his new girlfriend making out. Jace had slammed the door on his way out. As far as Alec knew his parabatai hadn’t talked to Robert since. He’d briefly found refuge with his grandmother, Imogen, a high standing council member and former Inquisitor, but then she’d been killed. Until recently Jace hadn’t even known he was a Herondale. In his heart, Alec knew, his parabatai wanted to be a Lightwood, but Robert made that hard.
Alec himself had thrown himself into work. Being named Inquisitor had come at a time when he’d struggled with several issues; Robert’s infidelity, losing his little brother Max, his mother living as a mundane and practically forbidden to talk to her children. Those things kept him up at night. The three of them still broke the rules though; seeking out their mother whenever they could.
And now this had popped up; his father causing even more problems. He had no idea what was happening, but he didn’t doubt Robert was behind it. The two former Circle members and confidants of his father being involved proved that.
He’d rather not activate his stamina mark, but he did. He needed the energy to keep him going. He’d prefer to collapse on the bed in his adjourning suite, but sleep wasn’t an option yet. He’d better prepare himself for an ugly confrontation.
As he’d requested, Alec found his friends at the gates to the Gard, armed and ready. Lucian, who’d only recently became a Shadowhunter again after living as a werewolf for many years, still seemed uncomfortable in his former garb. Jace was grilling Andrew for more information, but the Shadowhunter merely shrugged helplessly. Alec understood his friends’ frustration. They needed to find the missing answers.
“It’s good to see you here,” Alec greeted them. It was almost two in the morning and except for some guards, the place was deserted and still. “Did Andrew tell you why we’re here?”
“Something about Robert getting his hands dirty again?” Jace sneered. He’d never forgive his adoptive father for wrecking their little family. He especially hated Robert for hurting Isabelle. She’d always looked up to their father and him cheating on Maryse had shaken her. The fact that Isabelle blamed herself for Max’s death made everything even worse.
“Maybe,” Alec conceded. “But we need more information first. We need to find out who’s in that cell and why Robert wants him there. Andrew told you about the four guards?”
“And two of them being former Circle members, yes,” Lucian confirmed. He’d been one himself once, but he’d eventually seen through Valentine’s act and had tried to stop his former parabatai. He still regretted he’d failed to kill him that day.
Jace was more than ready for action. “What are we waiting for? Let’s find out what’s going on.”
Alec nodded, but also placed a restraining hand on his parabatai’s shoulder. “Remember, we don’t want to spill any Shadowhunter blood. We have to do this by the book, even when they don’t uphold the Law. Should this turn into a trial one day, we need to make sure we’re not at fault.” If they ever needed to prosecute their father, he didn’t want Robert to weasel his way out because of technical loopholes.
“I’ll be careful,” Jace promised. Like Alec, he wanted to see justice served, and if Robert was in the wrong here, he wanted his adoptive father to suffer the consequences.
“Follow my lead. Don’t do anything rash.” Alec gave Jace a stern look for good measure. He didn’t worry about Andrew and Lucian following the rules, but his parabatai was impulsive by nature.
“Please!” Jace rolled his eyes back. He could behave himself – if he wanted to.
They descended the stairs towards the lowest level of the complex. Guards stopped them once, but once they recognized the Inquisitor they quickly let them pass and moved on. Good, Alec wasn’t in the mood to deal with them.
“There they are. Be alert!” Alec noticed the four guards at once. The Shadowhunters had spread throughout the small yard in front of the cell. The moment they caught sight of him, their hands moved toward the hilt of their blades, which was purely provocation as far as Alec was concerned. Shadowhunters weren’t supposed to act like that when their own approached. It merely served to remind him that this might turn ugly.
“Sir, did you get lost?”
Alec knew the Shadowhunter, whose name was David Earthwood. He’d seen him around the Lightwood residence before, but he wasn’t a Circle member as far as he knew. “No, not lost. Do you know who I am?”
This time the Shadowhunter who’d been leaning against the wall addressed him. He knew that fellow as well. Alan Nightweather, and this Shadowhunter WAS a former Circle member, and a prominent one at that. Lucian moved closer and came to stand next to him. Being a former Circle member himself, Lucian knew Nightweather from their shared past and Alec hoped the situation wouldn’t escalate.
“He’s the Inquisitor, so you’d better show him some respect,” Lucian growled in warning. He wasn’t a werewolf any longer, but respect was important to him. As an alpha he’d expected his pack members to show him due respect and he recognized an upstart when he saw one. Nightweather hadn’t changed at all!
“Oh, we ARE respectful. We wouldn’t dare offend the Inquisitor.”
Another former Circle member, Alec noted, walked up to them. Stan Keywalker was another confidant of his father’s, maybe even Robert’s second in command. Keywalker being here indicated that whatever was going on was important to his father. “Good, because I want you to open that cell. My head of security wants to inspect it. We found some irregularities. According to the logs you brought in a prisoner, but when Underhill checked, this cell was supposedly empty.”
Ashland, the fourth guard, moved closer to the cell door and shook his head. “Sorry, sir, we can’t do that. The Shadowhunter inside doesn’t want any visitors. We need to make sure she’s ready for when the righteous one returns. She needs to rest and this is the safest place for her to be right now.”
Not in a million years did Alec expect them to mention The Righteous, an organization that wasn’t supposed to even exist! What in the Angel’s name was happening here? “If she needs protection, I’ll gladly offer it to her. She’d be much more comfortable in my rooms, which are heavily guarded.” He would play along for now and see how they’d react.
“She likes her privacy very much, sir. She’d rather stay here until we move on. We’ll leave tomorrow as she’s on her way to her family estate. However, we kindly thank you for your generous offer,” Nightweather replied, his hand still resting on the hilt of his sword.
Next to him, Lucian scoffed, a reaction Alec understood only too well. They were actually being way more diplomatic than he’d expected. Someone had given them instructions in case this happened, and he knew his father well enough to recognize Robert’s hand in this. “I’m afraid I have to insist on checking on her well being.”
“And I’m afraid I can’t allow you to disturb her. She’s pregnant and needs her rest,” Keywalker said, taking up position next to Earthwood with Ashland and Nightweather moving in front of the door.
“You might want to rethink your strategy,” Underhill said in his best head of security voice. “The Inquisitor has every right to check on her and I already alerted the night watch. It’s only a matter of time before they arrive. If you want to turn this into a fight, you need to realize you’ll lose.”
A few seconds later, several Shadowhunters on guard duty marched down the stairs and joined them, blades drawn and ready. Alec hated that it had to come down to this. He didn’t want Shadowhunters to fight among themselves. That was how Valentine had started his war. “Step aside and let us see for ourselves. If she doesn’t want our assistance we won’t force it upon her.”
The four Shadowhunters exchanged looks and whispered among themselves. Alec sincerely hoped they’d do the sensible thing and step aside, otherwise he couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t be apprehended without shedding blood. “What do you say?” It was Nightweather who eventually addressed him. The expression in the Shadowhunter’s eyes told Alec that this wasn’t over yet.
“You shouldn’t do this, Lightwood. Your father won’t like it. You don’t want to compromise him, do you? He’s blood.”
Alec felt increasingly angry. Robert Lightwood hadn’t been blood for quite some time. That man had exchanged his wife and children for his new girlfriend, so why should he remain loyal then? “I care about the Law, Nightweather, and I need to know what’s happening here. Now stand aside and let us check on whoever’s inside that cell.” Turning about he addressed Lucian, since he stood closest. “I want them secured. Make sure they’re locked up and can’t flee. Jace will question them later.” And he might even join in himself.
“Consider it done.” Lucian walked toward the four Shadowhunters and disarmed them. “Get moving, boys,” he told them, sneering at his former circle companions. If only he’d seen Valentine’s evil before his former parabatai had managed to build his army.
“You’re going to regret this, Lightwood. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself in to. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you,” Nightweather hissed.
Alec waited until the four Shadowhunters had left and then nodded at his friends. “Let’s do this. Since we don’t know what to expect, let’s proceed with caution. I highly doubt they’re chivalrously escorting a pregnant Shadowhunter, but we can’t rule it out. We don’t want to scare anyone.”
Jace nodded. “We’ll be careful.” But just in case, he did uncover his seraph blade.
Alec had no idea what to expect when Andrew drew the open rune onto the lock of the door. Alec nodded and waited for his friend to slowly push the door ajar. Behind him Lucian and Jace took up their positions, ready to move in case of an attack.
“By the Angel,” escaped Andrew who was the first to enter. His, “Fuck,” seemed more appropriate and definitely more heartfelt. He’d never been more relieved to have followed up on a mere hunch. “It’s bad,” he told Alec when he moved forward. He had a hard time believing what he saw.
Bad, but not dangerous, Alec realized, seeing Andrew sheath his blade. He entered the cell next and stepped into darkness, as only a little bit of moonlight made it inside. Andrew uncovered a witch light and the white glow illuminated their surroundings. Alec took another step and finally realized what had shocked Andrew. “By Raziel…” His voice failed him, looking at the wretched man chained to the wall.