Why lie? Mark had asked her. Why lie, really, about dating Mark when she could just date him, Julian’s brother, the chink in Jules’s armour, the broken faerie boy, with all the wildness of the Hunt in his eyes that gleamed, sometimes, in hers too?
Why lie, why not act as if it was so effortless to create an insurmountable rift between her and Julian, to burn to ashes their love until all that would be left was philia and agape, not eros, not the love that would tear them to pieces? Why only pretend to hurt Jules so irreparably when she could do it for real, to save both their lives from a horrible fate? Why create such an impossible fabrication that would tear at the fabric of her soul, the very foundation of her relationship with Julian, when she could simply do it for real, dig out her heart and stomp on it herself, and then give it to Mark as if a relationship with him would ever even come close to one with Julian?
She thought back to being on the motorcycle with Mark, the flying feeling, the understanding of I wouldn't leave the Hunt that easy either if there was the whole world to see from this high up. The wild feeling that rose in her sometimes and demanded to be addressed, sated by a run on the beach or a demon hunt or a routine patrol turned dangerous.
But then she thought of Julian, even before he had been Julian, when he had been Jules, playing in the sand with her, the two of them getting their Voyance runes together, training together, years of words written on skin, sentences drawn by fingers, deciding to be parabatai, knowing that if anyone was forever, it was Emma-and-Jules. It was a Herculean task to think of her life and not think of Julian, not think of I don't live if you die.
Emma thought back to the time when Mark had just come back to L.A., and was disoriented and angry, Cristina the only one who could calm him down, and she had thought even then, even with Mark as broken as he was, that Julian did not deserve to be hurt by him, not even the brother he loved so much, had missed so much.
“You don't need to know,” she said levelly, calmly, coldly.
Mark held up both hands, a human gesture, one that contrasted with the faerie-ness of him that had shone through only moments before, with all the beautiful cruelty of the faeries. “All right,” he said. “When do you want us to start lying?”
Seeing Mark with Emma felt wrong to Julian, the very sight of their relationship coated in wrongness as his hands were in turpentine.
Every time Mark talked to Emma, touched Emma’s blonde, impossible-to-paint-even-with-gold-leaf hair, traced over her skin with the scars of old Marks that he knew glimmered silvery in the starlight, a frisson of wrongness surged through him. It wasn't simply jealousy, for this brother that he loved so much, this brother that all of his children loved so much -apparently Emma loved so much- but it felt as if… As if he were painting a picture of the beach, with all of the right outlines but all the wrong colours, blue-green where the sand was, and golden-brown where the ocean lapped over it. Wrong.
It wasn't just that, though. Julian was the master of deception, had been lying so much that perhaps his idea of love was deceive, to protect by hiding the truth, burying it. So he knew when someone was lying to him, and… Mark and Emma’s relationship didn't simply seem to be full of wrongness, but it gave off also an air of falseness. It seemed far too much like a perfect storm that he had said to Emma, If you and Mark ever… I don't think I could come back from that. And then she had gone and said she was falling in love with Mark.
Nowadays, it seemed that when Julian wasn't painting, he was watching horror movies with Dru, talking to Ty about Sherlock Holmes, taking care of Tavvy, or in the training room.
However, Emma, being Emma, was always in the training room. Throwing knives and talking to Dru about Perfect Diego, fencing with Livvy to work on her saber-wielding skills and speculating on Kieran’s whereabouts -Mark had not mentioned him since he had showed up to help them out, but Kieran seemed to be around often, lurking about the outskirts of the Institute- or working on hand-to-hand combat with Ty while he wore headphones. But most often, Emma was wielding Cortana, hacking dummies to bits and pretending they were bloody, gory, dead demons. She ran on the beach three hours a day now that there was no investigation, and sometimes Cristina would join her, or more surprisingly, Perfect Diego. They never talked, but she was grateful for his (perfect) company. Julian, though, Julian was the one Blackthorn she longed to see and couldn't.
She missed him. It was funny, really, how it was only now that Emma had broken things off with Julian that she realized how much she’d missed him when he was in England, or New York, how much she loved him, in the all-encompassing way that one loved their parabatai, but also more than that, in the way that Julian was like half the strands in a tapestry that would unravel if he was pulled out. He was a part of her, had cleaved to her and her to him; it made her think of gardeners who cut off branches of one tree and attached it to another, where the branches stuck, and grew that way until you couldn't tell that they had ever been two separate entities.
She put on an iratze, the movements of her stele clumsy on her skin; she was using her right hand. Her bruises faded, but only slightly.
“Here, let me,” said the one voice she would know anywhere. Julian. “What have you been doing, Emma?”
“Falling,” she answered, pulling in a breath, the scent of him filling her lungs. Cloves and paint and Jules, familiar and heartbreaking. Emma didn't want to ruin the one moment she’d had alone with him in what feels like forever; she stayed very still, holding in the air that was Julian’s, too.
“I can see that,” he told her, and beyond his playful tone there was the slightest, subtlest tinge of hurt, one no one else would hear. There was the unspoken Falling for Mark, right?
He finished the iratze. It glowed and stung, and for a moment they stood there, staring at the rune he'd put on her arm, watching it burn before it faded to normal- but there was nothing ordinary about it, only the extraordinary. She let out the inhale and took another, leaned into him as she exhaled, knew he could feel her breath warm on his neck, wished she could feel his. Emma wished she could kiss him. She wished she could tear off her skin if it meant the parabatai rune would be gone, if it meant she could be with Julian, love him in every capacity, with every kind of love; philia and agape and eros because she loved him in every way.
A montage of Julian touching her flooded her mind: iratzes placed on her myriad injuries, splashing each other in the ocean, their parabatai ceremony, his hands gentle -always gentle with her, with the things he loved- as he drew the rune on her arm, and more recently, their handful of kisses, him fisting her hair as if it were something precious, his fingers grasping at their clothes to pull them off, his lips against her skin murmuring Emma, Emma.
She wanted to touch him.
His breath hovered near her jaw.
Emma turned and walked out of the room.