Simon had heard the word multiple times from both Jace and Alec since his entrance to the Shadow World and yet to him, it was just a fancy way of saying best friends.
It seemed no different from his bond with Clary, or even Magnus' bond with Ragnor and Catarina, but whenever he mentioned this to Jace, the arrogant blonde merely shook his head. Even Magnus had mentioned it to the blonde, Ragnor sitting beside him, but to their surprise the giant green warlock had replied before the Nephilim could.
"We are not Parabatai. That is a fate for Nephilim."
Jace had sneered at the man, who'd looked so sad as he said those words, and Simon had wanted to ask, but the subject changed as soon as Alec entered the room.
So, no, to Simon, Parabatai was merely a word.
Perhaps, that was why the first time he caught a glimpse of the fact it was something other was so memorable.
No, no it wasn't.
It was because of what had occurred when it happened.
It was because of Alexander Lightwood.
Since entering the Shadow World, the eldest of the Lightwood brood had remained cold to him and Clary, even as his siblings warmed up to them. He seemed determined to keep them at arm's length, hazel eyes watching them with that keen disapproving gaze whenever they were in his range.
Even when he'd gotten with Magnus, he was the broody, silent one in the corner of the room, only a fraction softer than he'd been before.
It was enough to make him question the stories that Jace and Izzy told them about the man.
The stories of an older brother who smiled rarely but could light up a room when he did. Of the brother who read to them when it was time for bed and who had sung to them to chase away their nightmares.
Of a softer, warmer Alec Lightwood.
One he was sure they had imagined, because the surly man he was constantly faced with couldn't be that guy.
In fact, he'd been surprised that the man had even joined them that night.
They'd decided to have a movie night at Magnus' loft, even inviting Raphael, and Ragnor along, Catarina working another shift at the hospital. Alec had originally opted out, and Simon had been thankful, sure his presence would only drag the fun out of the atmosphere, but a quiet conversation with Jace had led to him staying.
In a moment that had stunned the daylighter, the eldest Lightwood had chosen to lay on the floor between his siblings, his head resting in his parabatai's lap as he dozed, more relaxed than either Simon or Clary had ever seen him. Even Magnus had seemed surprised, but had ultimately smiled warmly at the scene, his eyes soft in a way that only seemed to happen when the archer was nearby.
The movie they'd been watching was Captain America: Civil War, as they'd been trying to ease the Nephilim into mundane movies and to his shock Jace seemed the most interested. As Captain America and Bucky fought Iron Man, his frown grew deeper, two-toned gaze glaring at the screen as if it had offended him. Even Izzy looked shocked, a perturbed frown crossing her features.
Simon had wanted to ask, but a soft voice had cut in. "I know you wouldn't. Calm down."
As one, everyone glanced at Alec, whose eyes slid open to face Jace, the blonde's frown softening.
Ragnor seemed fascinated but glanced away when his friend's lover met his gaze, and Simon frowned.
Jace rolled his eyes. "We were talking about your movie, fangless."
"You didn't say anything."
The blonde sighed. "See that, that right there is how I know you have no idea what Parabatai is. If you can't have a full conversation with your other half, how can you call yourself parabatai?"
Alec raised an eyebrow. "Vampires don't have parabatai." He deadpanned and Jace snorted.
"Fangless thinks that because he and Clary grew up together and are best friends, they are parabatai."
The archer was silent for a moment, staring up at his brother incredulously, then at Clary and Simon.
Then…he let out a quiet, foreign sound.
A sound that made Magnus' eyes widen and Izzy smile.
A soft husky sound, full of warmth, which was so foreign from this man that it took Simon a moment to recognize it for what it was.
Alec Lightwood, the ice King, was laughing…at him.
Jace grinned at his brother, nodding emphatically.
Curling further into the blonde he let out another huff of laughter, his eyes falling shut once more. Jace chuckled softly in response, while Ragnor shook his head. Simon went to protest, but every time he tried, his brain shorted because Alec Lightwood was laughing.
It was something he'd never thought cold happen and yet as it did, all he could do was stare in horror and awe. Finally, after a moment, the archer calmed, staring up at his brother. An entire conversation seemed to pass between them at once and the blonde hummed an agreement, lips curled into a smirk. Giving a quiet murmur in reply, Alec closed his eyes and fell back into his dozing state, heedless of the eyes on him.
"Uh…what just happened?" The vampire finally asked and Izzy gave him a pitying smile.
"You compared your friendship to the rarest and most ancient form of bonding that we have, and Alec laughed."
He blinked. "Just because we don't have your fancy rune, doesn't me-"
"It's not the rune," Jace cut in, his voice uncharacteristically serious. "Being Parabatai isn't just about the rune. It's so much more than that, so much more than being best friends or whatever notion you have about it. If you had said that to anyone else, you could have been in serious trouble. The Clave doesn't take too kindly to false claims like that."
Clary frowned. "Simon could get in trouble for saying we're parabatai?"
The blonde nodded, running a gentle hand through his own parabatai's hair. "Yes."
He didn't say anything more on the matter, turning his gaze back to the movie, but the shadows in his eyes warned them not to say anything more on the matter. Still, Simon couldn't help but wonder what was so different about parabatai that even the clave would punish them for saying it?
The next one to realize was Magnus.
Over his life, he'd heard the word parabatai mentioned multiple times, however the true extent of its meaning was lost on him. Having met four separate pairs of parabatai, he'd never seen what made the bond so rare. It seemed to be the most effective of the Nephilim rituals and yet when he'd asked none of the pair had given him a response.
Each pair was more secretive than the last, and even now, as he was dating half of a bonded pair, he realized that his thought process on the bond followed much the same route as the young vampires.
To him it seemed like a glorified way for Nephilim to claim each other as best friends, even as Ragnor claimed that it was much, much more different.
It wasn't until after they'd gotten back together that he realized that perhaps he was wrong.
It had happened a week after Valentine's defeat, just days after they'd gotten back together. It had been their first time sharing a bed since their break up, and he'd gone to sleep happy to be holding the love of his life again.
He'd awakened to the sound of Alec screaming.
Loud, grief filled cries, the likes of which he'd never heard were leaving his Nephilim, the younger's expression twisted into one of pure despair. Each cry was edged with such agony that had he not checked the man over when they'd returned to his home, he'd have thought that he was injured. Another wail left his lover, and it was with shocking clarity that he realized Alec was clutching at his parabatai rune.
The same rune that had seemingly vanished only days before.
With dread pooling in his gut, he shook the archer awake. With a cry of his brother's name on his lips, the raven joined the waking world, his gaze frantic as it darted around the room. With a rare sense of desperation, he jerked himself away from the warlock, yanking up his shirt to gaze upon the rune, only calming once he saw it there stark against his pale skin. He stared at it, panting as if he'd just run a marathon, and Magnus couldn't help but wonder just what he was seeing there.
Rather than asking, he pulled the man into his arms, heart aching when he felt the younger man's shoulders begin to tremble.
So focused on comforting the archer, he didn't even notice they weren't alone until another pair of arms joined his around the Head of the Institute.
"I'm here, Alec." Jace murmured, his own voice raw with emotion in a way Magnus had only seen one other time. "I'm okay. You aren't alone."
With each word, the tremors seemed to calm, until wet hazel eyes glanced up at them. As the parabatai locked eyes, Magnus couldn't help but feel like he was intruding on something private.
Thankfully the moment passed quickly, and with another shared look, Jace was gone as silently as he'd appeared. Alec curled closer to him, calmer than he'd been for the first time since Magnus had awakened. Brushing his lips over the raven's forehead, he silently coaxed him to go back to sleep, all the while wondering how Jace had known to come in the first place.
The walls of their bedroom were soundproof.
Unlike Clary and the downworlders that made up their little group, he'd once had a parabatai of his own.
While he and Valentine had never been as close as Jace and Alec, they'd still been closer than they would ever be to anyone else. He knew the soul-crushing agony of feeling one's parabatai bond break.
Worse, he knew the reality of the bond.
To majority of the Shadow World, parabatai was a word, a fancy rune marking the Nephilim that were closest to each other. It was another way for the Clave to differentiate themselves from the people they ruled over, and yet he couldn't help but wonder if anyone beside those that were marked truly knew what it meant.
Standing before Aldertree and Inquisitor Herondale, he doubted it.
The two had decided to attend the first Cabinet meeting that Alec had scheduled since Valentine's defeat and had spent the majority of that time insulting New York's Head of Institute. Alec bore their words gracefully, yet with each passing moment his hazel eyes grew darker, and worse, so did Jace's.
The blonde had decided to attend the meeting to help explain his actions with the soul sword and while not everyone was forgiving to the man's plight, they had understood and allowed him to stay and help. With every word that left Aldertree's lips the blonde shadowhunter's grew tenser, his bichromial gaze burning with fury.
It was a wonder that no one else could feel it.
He couldn't help but wonder why no one could see the eerie way the shadows at Alec's feet swayed and trembled. Why no one else saw the brief flash of wings that graced the shadows in the wall behind Jace.
Worse, he couldn't help but wonder why no one else realized that it was only the pair's patience that kept the meeting from becoming a bloodbath.
A brief memory superimposed itself over the room, the memory of bloodstained walls and terrified screams, the taste of blood on his tongue.
He shuddered, looking away briefly as Alec's dark eyes met his own, a terrifying beast lurking in their depths, bloodthirsty and all consuming.
No, the Shadow World had no idea just how dangerous parabatai could be…but he couldn't help but wonder how they would react if they did.
Clary realizes the truth when it all comes to a head.
She, like Simon, had always assumed that parabatai was just a word. She had thought that Alec was using it to cover for his vastly obvious crush on Jace, then as a way to exclude her and Simon. Sure he'd never called Izzy his parabatai but she knew that the whip user was usually in on everything Alec and Jace did.
When Alec and Jace had revealed that Simon claiming that she was his parabatai could get them both in trouble, she had thought it was a joke. It wasn't until Izzy had pulled her aside to speak to her that she'd realized that maybe it wasn't. The whip user had told her that Alec had been telling the truth, that if Simon were to claim they were parabatai in front of higher ranking Clave officials they could be imprisoned or worse. When she'd asked why, the older woman had gone quiet, her gaze dark and pained.
"The Clave fears what it doesn't understand and while Parabatai bonds are our most sacred bond, only people in the bond understand it. The Clave…they fear it."
She'd wanted to question it, ask why Jace and Alec had been allowed to bond if the Clave was so against them, but she hadn't been able to bring herself to do so. Not when Izzy's expression begged her not to. Instead she'd buried the question, hoping one day she'd be able to bring herself to ask Jace.
She wished she'd asked, if only to prevent the terror racing through her veins in that moment.
They'd gone to the docks near Jade wolf to meet Magnus and Luke, who had reported a ravager demon nest only to walk into a trap. Demons of all shapes and sizes had been in the house, courtesy of the Seelie Queen and they'd quickly found themselves surrounded. Alec, had traded his bow for twin seraph blades and he and Jace were weaving in and out of the fray, Magnus' magic banishing any demon that got too close to the pair. Beside her, Izzy was a whirlwind of motion, a dagger in one hand and her whip cracking in the other, Luke covering her back.
They'd been holding their own, steadily working their way through, but she could see they were faltering.
Then one of the demons caught Alec in the back, claw stabbing through his shoulder.
The archer cried out, teeth bared when Jace killed his assailant before the two met each other's gaze. She wanted to say something about it, about them mid battle, but the rage and fear in Jace's eyes stopped her.
The shadows flickered…then her boyfriend and his parabatai were moving.
As one they lunged head first into the throng of demons, and she could barely hear Magnus' fearful cry of Alec's name over her own cry of Jace's. Only Izzy and Luke seemed to know what was happening, a matching expression of pain and worry on their faces, although Luke's was edged with knowing.
A roar sounded and from within the crowd she caught a glimpse of black feathers, of thick ink colored appendages and golden eyes. Ichor began to fly, the demons turning away from them to converge on the direction that Alec and Jace had gone only to be swallowed by the shadows.
Then, as suddenly as it began…it was over. Where the hoard of demons had been, stood Alec and Jace, the former leaning against the blonde with a sated expression, his gaze half-lidded and content. One of Jace's hand were stroking the raven's hair, the other wound around his waist, his gaze no less satisfied than his counterparts.
She moved to hug him, her heart racing, but Luke stopped her, especially as Alec's dark eyes snapped in her direction.
Jace's grip on the archer tightened, lips pulling back into a snarl, revealing ichor cover teeth.
W-What the hell?
W-Why was there ichor in his mouth?
How the hell had they defeated the demons so fast?
"A-Alexander?" Magnus whispered faintly, and a soft cooing noise left Alec, his head lolling back to rest on his parabatai's shoulder. The shadows at their feet continued to writhe, almost as if they had a mind of their own, curling up their ankles as the two got closer to the group.
There wasn't a single feather, nor ink-black tendril in sight.
What the hell was happening?
And why were she and Magnus the only ones that didn't know about it?
Jade eyes watched as the archer ran a placating hand over the blonde's arm, her heart twinging at the intimacy in the action. The care.
Perhaps there was more to their relationship after all. But where did that leave her and Magnus?
She watched as the two finally broke away, Alec immediately finding his way into Magnus' arms. The warlock embraced him readily, blue magic running over his for as if to check for injuries.
Alec bore it all calmly, while Jace's arms wrapped around her.
"What the hell was that?" She finally broke and the duo glanced at her in unison, their heads cocking.
"What was what?"
She gestured to where the demons had been only moments before, and clarity dawned in Jace's gaze.
He shrugged. "We're parabatai."
She scowled, pulling away from him so that she could glare up at him. "What does that have to do with this?"
It was Alec that answered, his voice soft, but matter-of-fact. "Everything."
Magnus frowned. "How?"
The archer glanced back at him, then at Clary, his brow furrowing in confusion, then in hurt. Jace glared at them, and the swaying in the shadows grew more agitated.
"We didn't do anything wrong." He growled, and for just a moment his eyes seemed to flash a vivid topaz color.
Izzy nodded in agreement. "I know, Jace. They just want to understand. Remember even some of the Clave don't understand parabatai."
"Ours." Alec stated adamantly, and there was something off about his voice, a low otherworldly undertone and the younger Lightwood sighed.
"I know it's yours, Alec. They won't interfere with your bond."
The raven was silent, then he sighed.
"We are parabatai," he repeated. "Our souls are one, even though we are two bodies."
Jace took over, his eyes drifting to his dark counterpart. "When we are one, we are deadly. Those higher in the Clave fear us, so they forbid it unless we are in danger of death. Our Other Form is…not safe for our allies, so we do not use it where others can see."
It was…eerie. Like Alec, Jace's voice carried the same undertone, as if thousands were talking from his mouth, and she could see the way he and Alec were finishing each other's gestures. It was as if they were mere extensions of each other's bodies.
Suddenly, the blonde's words to Simon came to mind, and she felt his heart clench.
"Being Parabatai isn't just about the rune. It's so much more than that, so much more than being best friends or whatever notion you have about it."
She could see it now.
See it in the way Alec's gaze was tracking the blonde even as he stood quiet in his lover's arms. In the longing in Luke's gaze, as if he were thinking about his own former parabatai.
In Jace's dangerous gaze as it flittered over Alec, over the wing shaped shadows behind his brother.
Parabatai, was so much more than they'd believed and yet…as she stood with her family, her mind reeling from the revelations she'd made she couldn't help but wonder, just what else it entailed. Something told her that if she stuck around long enough she would find out.