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Intimate Imitation

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Hell!

Say hello from your throne

thrown over by a hell lot of Hello!'s

Tongues wiggling, flipping

gross and crass

dripping venom

Tongues twisted to a tenth.

 

hello

Born To Be Bored

PRANCE AROUND on your throne

shards of glass cuddling

the tickling flames of your heart

and engrave

Oh, say hello

into the grave of grieving thrones.

 

Hearts

It's so hard

being shipped a-

part

Can you relate?

For peace's sake,

the pieces of the slaves are at stake.

Hello, carry my weight.

Salve-

tion of our own

People define themselves by means of what they’re not.

My fingers hover over the keyboard.

I’m Alec. I’m not Jace. I’m not Izzy. And I’m certainly not someone you know.

God. What am I even doing here, writing some sort of angry dairy entry? I really do sound whiny. And pretentious. Like I’m better than everyone else. You know, I might have “so many holes in this shirt that surely the moths must have grown to a size that even rivals Jace’s ego”, as Izzy always puts it diplomatically, managing to insult both me and my parabatai at the same time, but I’m not that type of guy. The guy who thinks he’s a fucking gift. And that we’d better fucking appreciate him. Because, if we don’t, he’ll fucking kick my fucking ass. Not that I know someone like that–

“Why do you never listen to me?!”

My bedroom door slams against the paper-thin bedroom wall and, no, it doesn’t make me jump. At all. I scramble to close my laptop like a total idiot who’s been caught mid watching porn. Fumbling with the mouse and keeping my back turned to the door, as if to hide something incriminating even though there’s nothing to hide, I say the first thing that comes to my mind.

“Jace?”

Yup. I might also sound slightly panicky.

“Yeah, actually, that’s exactly who I am. Because we weren’t all raised together or anything. That would entail that you’d be able to distinguish our voices. Which would be a herculean task anyway, given the fact that my voice sounds absolutely nothing like Jace’s–”

I nearly collapse in my chair in relief. The rigidity leaves my back, my posture becomes slumped, and I lay my head on top of the now closed laptop with my arms gangling on both sides of my body.

“’m sorry, Izzy… you kinda took me by surprise.”

My words come out muffled and I can practically hear the smile softening my sister’s features.

“That I can see.”

She giggles. I lift my head and turn around in my office chair, just in time to see her grin fade and the dimple in her left cheek disappear.

“Seriously though, Alec. If you had answered the first three thousand times I called you, I wouldn’t have had to run up here into your cave and sneak up behind you doing– What exactly?”

Great. Here it goes.

“Uhm, nothing much. I’m just doing… nothing really. Yes. Just… hanging around.”

Have I already mentioned that lying convincingly isn’t my forte? It isn’t.

“Well, well, well. Is my baby brother watching porn? There’s this amazing site I could recommend to you in case you’d like to spice things up a little.”

Izzy’s back to grinning with full force while she ruffles my hair, pushing my already too long bangs down my forehead into my eyes. Sadly, my hair hasn’t grown out enough to cover the blush heating up my cheeks. Not a day will pass, however, without mother telling me to get a damn haircut before she mistakes me for a girl. Frankly, it’s rather embarrassing that I’m still blushing at the slightest sexual remark. To somewhat regain what is left of my composure, I indignantly respond.

“In the name of the Angel, Isabelle. I am not your “baby brother”. I’m almost nineteen; if anything, it would be up to me to call you my baby sister.”

After an awkward pause I remember to add an important detail.

“And, for the record, I wasn’t watching porn.”

“I know, baby brother. Don’t flutter like a frightened bird. I only came to ask you whether you were up for some training. I’m starting to get out of shape.”

Izzy is in perfect shape and we both know that she’s trying to lure me out of my room with that transparent lie. Not to mention the sulking mode I’ve been stuck in, ever since Jace left for his shopping trip with Clary. The second one over the course of this week. Not that I care. I mean they can buy seraph blades and steles until they drown in the infinite sea of them. And if they come back to the Institute this evening even more lovey-dovey than usual, then that’s none of my business either.

Maybe a fight isn’t such a bad idea after all. It’s been quite some time since me and Izzy put all our skills to practise. Fighting helps me press the pause button on reality, and I can concentrate all my senses on Izzy’s attacks and counterattacks. Impatient as she is, my sister starts tapping her fingers against my table, which she usually does when someone takes too long to answer her, demanding everyone’s full attention.

“You coming or not?”

I guess I’m a tippler of some sorts, and the little prince wouldn’t understand.

I’m fighting. To forget. To forget that I am ashamed. Ashamed of fighting.

Grown-ups are certainly very very queer.

Then maybe the question that remains unuttered but to which everyone has their own answer.

Who are you fighting?

“Okay, okay, let’s show the demons who they’re up against.”

I stand up, already feeling the enthusiasm flowing through my veins. My parabatai may not understand me the way he thinks he does – he prides himself on being able to see past anybody’s armour, detecting their utmost weakness in the time it takes me to shoot an arrow – but my sister certainly knows how to act around me.

Izzy and l leave my room, loudly discussing what exactly we should do today. I’m undecided because archery is the one fighting technique that I’m better at than anyone else in our family, but Izzy insists we infight at which she is superior. After some quarrelling I give in. Mainly because no one except for us is at home, so I risk minimal humiliation when I’ll undoubtedly end up lying on the training mat more often than not.

The door creaks like almost every other door in the Institute when we enter the training room. It has an industrial feel to it as well as exuding the strange atmosphere of an abandoned church. Not very homey. Evening light illuminates the hall through the ceiling to floor windows, show casting the shadowhunter gear thrown over a partition divider and the seemingly endless rows of weapons decorating the brick wall opposite to the entrance. Several ropes hang from the wooden joist ceiling. Training mats of different thicknesses are piled up in one corner.

Obviously, there’s not a single demon we’ll be facing in here, and going on a hunt is out question, since both Clary and Jace aren’t back yet. Hunting without our parabatai makes us only half as good and an easy prey for ira demons lurking in the alleys leading into the poorer areas behind the Pandemonium Club.

It takes us only a few minutes to change into training gear and to lay the right mat in the middle of the room. The obligatory warm-up out of the way, we assume a firm, but not tense, yet challenging stance. Feet shoulder-width apart; bodies facing each other.

Ever so confident in her own abilities, Izzy mockingly riles me up.

“So, dear brother. Prepare yourself to face the master. And to lose.”

When, an instant ago, I wasn’t ready yet, this is my signal to relax. Any insecurity or awkwardness leaves me and my mind turns blank. Muscles relaxed to exactly the right amount, I know what to do. The same way I’ve always known what to do. No matter what father says, I am a shadowhunter after all. Born with adrenaline and instincts as playmates. The Eye of the Tiger starts playing in my head, and I almost laugh, because Izzy would correct me and say, voice dripping with sarcasm:

“More like: Born This Way, am I right?”

I raise my left fist as a shield and keep my right fist a bit lower, waiting for the opportunity to strike. Izzy mirrors my movements. Her posture is lean, every inch of her body under control, and all playfulness is gone. We encircle each other. Izzy attacks first – of course she does – and I dodge it because she lets me. I don’t have time to react otherwise, Izzy isn’t one to relent. Rapid fire succession of attacks.

“Block! Block!”

My father’s harsh voice distracts me, and Izzy’s fist punches me in the stomach. I stumble but don’t fall, quickly trying to retreat to avoid Izzy’s hits hits hits but she finds her target again and again and again. At the speed of light, she changes the side she’s aiming at, making it impossible for me to protect my body correctly or to catch my breath.

“Alec, block her, god dammit! You’ll never stand a chance against her, let alone Jace, if you don’t learn to fight properly. You won’t always be able to hide behind your bow!”

What is father doing here? Shouldn’t he and mother still be at some congress in Idris? Suddenly, Izzy opts for another tactic and, before I realize it, she has her foot hooked around my ankle. One sharp jerk and I fall onto my back with a thud. Our chests heaving and sweat running down our temples and backs, we stay silent for a moment. We’re alone in the training hall.

“Wow, that was even easier than usually.”

Izzy brushes back a strand of her black hair, tone sarcastic and proud of herself. Then she looks at me and another emotion swims in her ice blue eyes.

“I’m better at boxing than you…”

“Yeah, no shit.”

“… but you’re not that abysmal either…”

“Thanks for the amazing compliment, I’m swooning–”

Izzy cuts me off with a swift hand motion and kneels next to the mat which I’m still lying on.

“Alec, cut the crap. I know something’s off. Why did you get distracted when you started out decent? And no cynical comments anymore. I’m not Jace, they don’t fool me. Please, stop distancing yourself from me as well. I’m here for you. I’m your sister, not a threat. What’s wrong, Alec?”

I’m painfully aware of what she wants me to tell her, but, for some reason, when I open my mouth, nothing comes out of it. It’s not even like I’m trying to resist, because I’m so sick of not talking. I want to talk. I just cannot. Hodge might come up with some scientific explanation along the lines of:

“The human brain is divided into different sections, and each section has its own function. Take Broca’s area for example. The roles of the Broca area are thought to be various speech and language functions. If that region is damaged, say because it’s slowly been destructed by brain tumours, your speaking ability may stay relatively intact because the functions can shift into nearby regions. But, what if Broca’s area was hermetically sealed off from the rest of the brain? You couldn’t talk anymore.”

I stare at the brick walls surrounding me, deliberately not meeting Izzy’s gaze, and all they do is stare back. Who knew that, one day, I’d understand how Hodge feels in his prison in the big library next to mother’s office.

“Oh, Alec. It’s okay. Let’s get out of these gross excuses for clothes first. Honestly, who thought they were a good idea? Mother, of course. Because they’re “practical”. Meet me in my room, and we can be brother and sister and nothing else.”

“Izzy… What are trying to suggest to poor innocent Alec here? I don’t condone your frivolous, incestuous propositioning! How could you.”

Ripped out of my melodramatic thoughts, I scramble to my feet and frantically look around, attempting to sort out the disarray that is my hair. Naturally, it’s Jace who’s lingering at the entrance of the training room. Casually leaning against the doorframe with a gigantic grin on his face. A grin almost as gigantic as the one Clary’s sporting next to him.

My hands slowly leave my hair while I shoot the pair a murderous glance. That’s when I feel Izzy’s manicured fingers smooth down the front of my sweaty black training shirt.

“Jace, Jace, Jace. Could it be that you’re jealous? You want in?”

Izzy’s words are met with silence. Until Clary bursts into roaring laughter. Quickly followed by Jace. I swear, there are even tears in the corners of their eyes. Yes, I like a good joke as much as the next one but not today. Not today.

“Izzy! The hell?!”

Apparently, that’s all it takes for my sister to cave in as well. Fantastic. Now they’re having a laugh fest at my expense.

I stump towards the door, shove Jace out of the way which earns me a “Hey!” that could as well have come from a suffocating hyena, and go upstairs. After turning to the right twice, I stop dead in front of Izzy’s room. I hesitate. Then I decide to go inside. It was she who invited me after all. I slam the door shut to be extra childish.

My eyes follow the movement of the door and fall onto an old-fashioned key in the lock. I turn it around, locking myself into Izzy’s room. Or, to be more exact, locking everyone else out of it. Upon closer examination, the key itself is rather simple. It seems to be made out of silver plated brass, but the coat has come off a bit, creating a bronze and goldish patina. The flashy ribbon tied to the key bow unmistakeably marks the key as one of Izzy’s possessions, though. When she was a child, she used to even tie ribbons around the hilt of her seraph blades. (Mother put an end to that.) Izzy went all out with this particular ribbon. In tiny writing, she added her commentary on the satiny fabric: “This is the key bow”. A miniscule smile creeps its way onto my face.

Someone presses down the door handle, then rattles it when the door won’t open.

“Alec, I know you’re in here. Open up.”

I sit down on Izzy’s queen-sized bed and wrap myself in the burgundy blanket.

“Alec, I also know that my bedroom door has a warded lock. That’s far from a challenge for someone who’s been picking locks from the age of ten.”

Slouching my shoulders, I sigh and let Izzy in. My sister opens her mouth to talk but interrupts herself, taking in my state. Damn. I still haven’t showered and I’m hugging her favourite satin sheets.

“I’m sorry, Izzy, for locking you out. And for probably ruining your sheets. And for being so… cranky lately. I–”

Before I can continue my pitiful apology, she takes two quick steps towards me and fiercely hugs me. I’m lost. I carefully rest my chin on top of her head. Then I hug her back even more carefully. It’s been so long since we had to hold each other.

“I love you, Alec.”

Izzy whispers, her chin tucked in the crook of my neck.

“If you think crumbling my sheets is gonna change that, you’ll have to try harder.”

Her arms tighten around my middle.

And I don’t know why, but an invisible hand flips an equally as invisible switch on, and seven flashlights scream at me from the left, and seven candles go up in flames on my right. Their light, their bright and shiny light; it blinds me and turns me invisible as well. My sister is still here with me, and she’s still whispering. She’s my eyes now that I have none. And she tells me things. She tells me how we’re standing on the stage, since we’re the star’s supporting act. She says the audience doesn’t see us, since they’re always looking. Now I see. And how I see. I guess I got my eyes back now. How I wish I didn’t. How I wish I couldn’t see the things she didn’t tell me about.

My sister’s eyes are a reptile’s eyes. My sister’s neck is strangely elongated. It runs all around my neck. Her arms stretch and stretch until they envelop my torso. No, they don’t envelop me; they strangle me. Iron snake. And the serpent, it talks:

Ye shall not surely die:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

No, please, no. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I can’t Know!

The iron snake turns into black waterfalls, and then the waterfalls get pushed up into the mighty sky, and then they fall back down, they all fall down. Transparent –

“Alec. What happened? Alec, say something, please, tell me. Alec, do you hear me? Alec, shhh, it’s alright. Everything’s okay. I’m here. You’re here.”

My fingers are trembling, but I can see my hands. My cheeks are soaked in tears, but I can feel them. My heart is beating too fast, but I can almost hear it. And I can see her hands. I can see my sister’s hands. Actually, they’re blurred. Izzy’s hands are fluttering so hectically, not knowing where she can touch me, that I decide to clasp them in mine – I hear a sharp intake of breath – maybe a bit too forcefully. I loosen my grip and look up. We’ve ended up on her bed. Izzy tries to conceal how terrified she is, but her guard is down. Weirdly enough, that helps me to calm down. I almost feel tired now.

“I’m back, Izzy, I’m okay now. It’s okay.”

I can’t possibly explain to her what happened to me, but I’m here, and maybe that’s all that matters. I didn’t lie. I’m okay. As okay as someone can be after landmines from World War I blew up in one’s face. But still. Izzy’s head falls against my shoulder. Then it snaps back up and her eyes – and, thank the Angel, they’re blue again – openly fix me.

“Don’t you dare frighten me like this ever again! I nearly had a heart attack when you shouted something about not wanting to know, and I just–. And then you were crying. I didn’t know what to do.”

Izzy’s fingers leave mine as she repeatedly ties her hair into a ponytail and opens it again. Until her hair tie snaps. She gives up and lets her hair fall back down.

“Izzy?”

I hesitate, because I really don’t know if I can do this. I take a deep breath. My fingers are trembling again, so I smooth out creases in my sweatpants. There are none and it doesn’t help. Oh my God, I’m going to throw up. Fuck, I can’t breathe. I step on the last mine.

“Um, Izzy?”

“Yes?”

“The question… back in the training room? When, when you– after you beat me and… Fuck, I… Can you… Can you ask me again, can you ask me now, Izzy?”

Realization of what I mean dawns upon her. Then her features undergo a metamorphosis. She lifts the veil of blissful, peaceful ignorance, and I’ve never seen my sister so delicate and soft. It’s drastically unfitting, since I have never given her so much power over me. Hopefully, the mine is just another stone. Maybe a stone on a child’s drawing. Or even one of those heart shaped witch lights my sister collects.

“Alec?”

I nod.

“What’s wrong?”

A slide show starts in front of my eyes. Each slide is accompanied by a song. Angels weeping and demons screaming. Hallelujah.

Hodge’s blasé rationalism.

“Slowly destructed by brain tumours”

‘Whiny and pretentious’

And then it’s not a slide show anymore. Hands grab their steles and start burning runes into my skin. The worst thing is that my hand follows suit. Each time. Each and every time.

“Hermetically sealed off from the rest”

‘The little prince wouldn’t understand’

Then more voices join and form a screeching cacophony.

Mother’s disdain.

“Get a damn haircut, before I mistake you for a girl”

‘Only half as good and an easy prey without our parabatai’

Jace’s blind mockery.

“Poor innocent Alec”

‘Embarrassing that I’m still blushing’

Izzy’s double-edged sword.

“The star’s supporting act”

‘How terrified she is’

Father’s anger.

“You’ll never stand a chance against her, let alone Jace”

‘Ever since Jace left with Clary’

And always there. Always the shrill soprano.

‘Clary bursts into roaring laughter’

It hurts, the way I can’t breathe. All I hear is Jace’s, Clary’s, and Izzy’s laughter. Amplified laughter filling up my brain, threatening to spill out of my ears. Because, of course, there are high-end speakers in my brain; blaring what should be the lightest of sounds but ends up being slick and gross. Mud clustering up the bleak stone floor of my brain. Slurping with every giggle. Squelching with every snicker.

My clenched fists alternate between gripping the sheets and marking up my palms with angry crescents. I must open my mouth. If only to drown out what everyone else has to say. I must say something this time, or I’ll turn insane with the notes climbing higher and higher–  I’m screaming in my head. Still, all I manage, is to force out a strained whisper.

“I’d like to tell you that, uhm, actually, I’ve wanted to tell you for a while now, but I never felt like it was the right time to do so–”

The sentences overflow my lips. Stumbling and bubbling out, they grow louder with every word.

“But, you know, maybe it won’t ever be–, I mean it probably won’t, since this whole thing is not exactly right. Anyway, I’m gonna– now. Just– I love you, Izzy. And I’m so sorry, please, don’t forget that and maybe– No, I know this is wrong. But maybe you’ll understand and–?”

I tug at strands of my hair at the nape of my neck, fingers violently shaking.

“I– I’m gay.”

Izzy looks at me with an expression that’s mostly blank but also… amused? Then she holds me in a bone-crushing hug. Gently she untangles my hand with which I was gripping my hair. I exhale. When I move to grip her shoulders just as tightly, she starts to laugh softly into my shirt.

“Alec, damn, we’re both so fucked.”

Not expecting this answer, I flinch as though she had lashed out with her whip. I push her away and hold her at arm’s length. Lips infinitesimally twitching, Izzy rushes to explain.

“I’m sorry, the coincidences are simply– Do you remember when Jace brought Clary home for the first time? Two years ago? Well, I opened the front door, after I had gotten Jace’s ominous text about a surprise, and, indeed, Clary was a surprise. I simply stood there and kind of stared. She was– bright. She burned so bright, and it sort of hit me that she was beautiful. When I turned sixteen, I asked her to become my parabatai. I didn’t want to lose her, but I know now that a piece of her heart is with Jace. At least, I share a piece of my soul with her. Pathetic, innit? Alec, you have to know that I would never judge you. I love you so much, big bro.”

My mind is buzzing with all the information swarming around. I part my lips, but they form a blinding smile as if someone were tugging at strings attached to the corners of my mouth. My sister is here for me, we’re still fine. It’s ecstatic.

“Thank– Izzy, I– Thank you so much, I– Wait. Are you…too…?”

“Don’t hurt yourself with the words, Alec. But, no. I prefer bi. There are so many people waiting for me to grace them with my presence.”

She smirks. The tension has left the room when we weren’t paying attention. Now it’s my turn to laugh, and the hysterical sounds get violently ripped out of my throat. Izzy was attracted to Clary and saw them becoming parabatai as the only solution to keep her. If the universe were any funnier, I might award it with an Oscar for best comedic performance. Izzy gives me a quizzical look in return.

“I thought this was going to be my only revelation tonight, but I guess it’s time to go get all the skeletons out of the closet.”

Or maybe I deserve the award.

“You won’t believe it but when Jace asked me to become his parabatai? You know what I thought? ‘Yes, I may be damned, but when am I not the shadow?’, and, ‘Yes, I might never have a chance with Jace. But, this way, he won’t completely leave me’, I thought. I accepted his offer.”

My sister and I are mirrors. We’re both grinning and sadly doing so.

“God, everything makes so much sense now. Does anyone else know, Alec?”

The Lightwood name dragged through the mud and trampled upon by both children. Mum and dad will be fucking delighted. I shudder.

“By the Angel, no.”

Izzy nods vehemently.

“Yeah, same here. I don’t know if it’d be a good idea to tell our parents. And the Clave– I had to admit to Clary how I felt, though. I knew she’d find out sooner or later through the bond. She said that she had her suspicions but was flattered. We’re clear. And then Jace surprised me and Lily in my room last week.”

“Lily? The envoy from the vampires?”

My sister blushes uncharacteristically and stutters something about vampire mojo. Recollecting herself, she inquires smugly.

“What about you and Jace, huh?”

I raise an eyebrow, ready to defend myself. Like hell, I’ll ever even breathe a word to him. Then I freeze in my thought process. It’s such a relief to know for sure that I’m not alone. To have one less person for whom I have to play masquerade. If I told Jace– Not how I feel about him but maybe that I’m gay? He’s certainly arrogant, bordering on cold at times, but never did he act like he supported the Clave’s ruling. In fact, the more laws he could challenge the better.

“Izzy, how did Jace react when he saw you and Lily doing–, you know?”

“He was a bit surprised and slammed the door closed. I confronted him after that, and he said he had never entertained the possibility of me liking women as well, but he assured me that nothing had changed between us. Oh, and that he was “obviously” still better at seducing luxuria demons, the dickhead.”

A shutter falls down in front of my eyes. I jump off the bed, clasp Izzy’s hand – I’ll need her –, and hurriedly walk towards the bedroom door. Leaving her room, I almost drag her down to the kitchen where Jace is playing with the leaflet from Taki’s, waiting for us to order dinner. Clary has already left, Luke and Jocelyn generally insist on her being home for their weekly telly evening. When we enter the room, Jace turns around, wearing his constantly bored expression.

“Ah, here you are. Finally. What took you so fucking long? I’m taking roots while you’re–”

Maybe he senses how nervous I am, or his gaze just happens to fall on our linked hands by chance, but he stops mid-sentence. I steel myself for whatever Jace could do and spat the words out in one breath.

“Jace, I have something to tell you, and youhaveeveryrighttobemadatme.”

Izzy squeezes my hand in reassurance but he leans back on the counter, oblivious.

“C’mon, Alec. Didn’t we establish that I don’t want to see you and Izzy all over each other? At least have the decency to keep it behind closed doors.”

I clench my jaw at the exaggerated way he looks us up and down.

“This isn’t a joke. What I want to tell you, you might not like it. And I apologize if it makes things weird between us. Maybe I can ask the Clave to sever our bond or something?”

Jace’s body tenses all over. Fire flashes in his eyes, and he steps forward abruptly.

“Are you completely mad?! I’d never– How can you even suggest that?!”

Before he can touch my arm, I hastily take a step back, putting Izzy half in front of me. Trying to feel his emotions through our bond, I’m met with a jumbled knot of disbelief, anger, fear, and overall chaos. I can’t determine which strings belong to me and which ones connect me to Jace, so I blurt out:

“I’m gay, Jace. I’m sorry that I led you into this trap with me, and I’m sorry if you’re disgusted. I knew that you deserved a better parabatai from the beginning. I should have told you, fuck, I’m so sorry.”

Jace deflates. This time, I let him put his hand on my biceps. He hits my arm once, then twice, then he wraps both of his arms around me, standing on his tip toes.

“You idiot. You bloody idiot. I love you. We’re brothers, we’re parabatai. I won’t ever regret that I asked you. Your sexuality doesn’t change that.”

“Iz said so as well, but I wasn’t sure. Thank you. I don’t regret it either. Never.”