It was way past midnight and the hallways in the Institute were completely dark, the witchlights that hung on the walls having long since stopped glowing. In the first few days that Cecily had been in the Institute, she had briefly wondered how they worked, but the matter had soon been dropped as unimportant in her always practical mind. They worked, and that was all that mattered.
The lack of light didn’t bother her in the least, as she sneaked around the hallways in her nightgown and barefoot. She had traced the familiar steps so many times now she could probably find her way in her sleep, without stumbling or waking anyone, which was exactly how she wanted it.
Her head and her heart were in a turmoil after the events of the day and she needed to be alone, but not in her bed, where her thoughts seemed to scream so much louder and twist reality in a weird half-conscious hallucination as she futilely tried to sleep. No, she needed to be somewhere where she could focus, where her mind was clear and she felt safe and in control to put her thoughts and feelings in order.
She was heading for the training room.
The click of the door shutting behind her was like the cue she needed to calm the storm that seemed to have taken residence inside her ever since the talk with her parents earlier that day. Not that she hadn’t loved to see her parents again, or watch their faces when they saw William, or William’s face when they so easily accepted him back, and Tessa as well, that by now was as much a fundamental part of Will that it would be impossible to have one without the other anyway. She had had a lovely evening, had had fun, had been happy. And Gabriel had been there right beside her…
That was when her heart started racing inside her chest again and she had to step away from the door, walking in purposeful strides to the array of weapons that hung by the walls and picking the sword she usually trained with out of the selection. The windows that lined the walls of the training room, near the ceiling, were large and let in a considerable quantity of pearly silver moonlight that doted the floor in long expanses of light and shadow. It was a clear night, and the light that came in was enough for her to see clearly in the room.
The familiar grip and weight of the weapon in her hand grounded her again as she moved to the center of the room and took position, starting in a series of slow practice movements, jabbing, blocking and twirling around. It was like a mortal dance under the moonlight, every move as beautiful as it was deadly, and it absorbed her completely. The mad beating of her heart calmed down to a normal rhythm and her thoughts began to fall into a coordinated motion.
It wasn’t like she had been nervous and uncertain about introducing her parents to Gabriel and him to them. It wasn’t like she had any doubts Gabriel was, or was becoming, as indispensable to her as Tessa was to Will. It wasn’t like she didn’t know where her heart lay and what she wanted. It was just that seeing Gabriel there in their living room, talking to her parents, smiling. Seeing her mother’s wide smiles back and her father’s protective but more and more approving gaze. Seeing how he had stood his ground when her father had revealed he already used to call Benedict “Lightworm” and “Bad News Benedict” since he was young and Will looked like an angel had come from heaven to bestow his grace on him as they teamed up against Gabriel. Seeing him fitting so perfectly and comfortably in her family, like he had always belonged there…
It had suddenly made everything seem that much more real and it was so enormous, so perfect, so right, so much, so soon and yet not enough and not nearly quickly enough, that she hadn’t known how to process it all after they came back. Things had been so awful for all of them for so long; it was hard to believe now everything could just fall into place so easily, like a miracle.
Jab, roll, block. Did she even know how to live easily anymore? Twirl, attack, defend. Was it really alright for her to get everything she had ever wanted like that? Attack, turn, again. Was she really ready for it?
She attacked one last time and stopped, the sequence having come to an end. She was breathing heavily and the sweat had glued her hair to her temples and her gown to her back, but her eyes were fierce, her mind was clear and her heart was set.
She was Cecily Herondale. She had fought like Hell for the things she wanted and she deserved every piece of it, especially the bits that resonated against her very soul and made her heart swell in happiness and longing. She was ready.
The sound of clapping hands cut through the silence of the night like thunder and shocked Cecily out of her thoughts. Before her mind had had time to catch up to it, she had turned around, blade leaving her hand and flying through the air until it was embedded in the back of the door to the training room with a loud thud.
Right next to Gabriel’s head.
She gasped, ready to apologise, but the boy just put his fingers under his chin and looked at her appraisingly.
“That’s too bad, I was willing to give a solid 9 to that sword performance under the moonlight, but with this unfortunate throw that I didn’t even have to move to avoid, I’m afraid I’ll have to lower your score back to a 7.” He smiled, and she scowled at him.
“If I had decapitated you, there would be too much blood and even more explanations to give, I simply wanted to avoid a mess.”
“Either way, it’s still a 7.” He pulled the sword out from the door and walked to her. He was still in the same pants and shirt he had worn all day, but he had taken out his coat and vest and was also barefoot, his steps making no sound as he approached and handed the sword back as he eyed her with concern. “May I ask what you are doing sword practicing in your nightwear in the middle of the night?”
She didn’t know how to answer that question. Her thoughts may have concerned him, but they were still intimate and hers and she wasn’t ready to voice them yet, not when they were still so raw and she didn’t know if he was quite at the same place as her yet. “Only if you tell me what you are doing spying on me in my nightwear in the middle of the night.”
She left the practice part out on purpose, the suggestion clear on her tone. It worked. Even in the pale light, she could see the blush that had risen to his cheeks at that. “I didn’t- That wasn’t… It wasn’t like that. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to come here, see if exhausting myself would help me rest, it wasn’t like I knew you were here… And when I realised you were, you just looked so… Beautiful, moving in the moonlight, away from the world. It was like a dance from a fairy queen, so I just couldn’t look away.”
It never ceased to amaze her, how Gabriel could be so shy over some things but then say things like that with unwavering eyes that turned that much softer and loving when he called her beautiful and made her cheeks blush even redder than his. “I…” she licked her lips, drawing his focus downwards for a moment and it was so difficult to keep talking. “I suppose I’ll let it slide, since you called me a queen. Though if I were to dance I’d prefer to do it in a beautiful hall, with a new dress and the orchestra playing in the background, and not with a sword in my hand.”
The words tumbled from Gabriel’s lips in a flurry.
“In Alicante there’s a hall like this. There are balls held there every week, and parties and, you know, weddings, with orchestras and dresses and no swords. I could take you there someday.”
Immediately she was taken back to earlier that day, when Will had asked her why she was taking Gabriel with her and she replied they might get married as well someday. At that moment, she had just wanted to annoy Will and hadn’t taken Gabriel’s feelings into consideration, but now… She had a feeling she knew what was it that was keeping him awake that night and the implications of him being here now and what he said made her heart race again. She grinned.
“Is that your way of saying you want to dance with me?”
Gabriel sputtered for a moment, then steeled his expression, and nodded.
“Yes, I want to dance with you.”
He extended his hand and the sword that had been in hers clattered to the floor, forgotten, as she took it dazedly, before taking a step back, unusually flustered.
“Right now? But there is no music, no… Nothing.”
“That is not a problem, just follow my lead.”
He stepped closer again and this time she stood still, her hand finding its way to his shoulder as his arm went around her waist and his hand rested on her back. She was suddenly very aware of how thin the fabric of her nightgown actually was, as they stood there for a moment without moving or breathing, bodies pressed close as they stared into each other.
After what seemed like eternity, Gabriel took a step to the side and she followed him as they fell into a rhythm that was as easy and natural as breathing, as his hand on her back, as their hearts beating together. They twirled in small circles around the room, with the moonlight shining on them, the patterns of light and shadow seeming to dance with them, and Cecily looked up into Gabriel’s eyes.
The eyes of the man that understood her so well even though they had known each other for a considerable short while in the grand scheme of things. The man that had always supported and helped her on her desire to become a shadowhunter, who had seen the passion for fighting in her eyes when she could barely admit it to herself. The man that never failed to make her laugh and that laughed together with her. A man that had risen above the hell of his life, that had learned, and accepted his faults, and worked and changed right before her eyes. A man that had propelled her to learn and change as well, and they had both grown, together.
The man that had said they didn’t need music, but that Cecily could hear humming lowly to a song as he continued to guide her around the room, and it was that above all else that made a wave of fondness and tenderness and long fall over her. She wanted Gabriel, all of him, now and forever. She was ready, she repeated to herself, and this time it wasn’t a challenge to fate, it was simply the most fundamental of truths. He was the most precious and most beautiful thing in her world and she didn’t even try to stop her feelings from showing into her eyes.
A shiver ran down her spine as his eyes widened in brief surprise and then quickly mirrored her expression, the force of the emotions behind them making her knees feel weak.
She didn’t dare to break eye contact as they came to a stop and his face drew closer until there was barely any space between their lips.
“That was an eight.” She didn’t know why she was whispering now, when they hadn’t been all night, but somehow loud words didn’t seem to fit the dreamlike atmosphere they had fallen into.
His brow creased slightly, and he whispered back. “Nonsense, that was a ten and you know it.”
She smiled widely, and decided to give in, just this once.
“Very well then.”
She kissed him then, and it tasted like home and sugar and moonlight. It was everything she had ever wanted, and all she would ever need again.
“It’s a ten.”