Author: Claire Watson
Relationship(s): Alec/Magnus future
Genre: AU – goes AU not long after Alec is born
Content Rating: PG – at present
Warnings: None at present
In case you couldn’t tell, Alec Lightwood is half of one of the only OTP’s I have in fandom. Malec is a thing of beauty and hotness. I’m actually pretty indifferent to canon events unless they revolve around Alec, Magnus, and Izzy too. So wherever this goes, don’t expect to see much about anyone else that’s recognisable. Clary who?
For as long as Alec could remember, he had been fascinated by wings. His earliest memories were vague, but the one that sticks out the clearest was of looking at a glorious statue of an angel, wings outspread, bow in hand. He’d wanted to stay and look, but his mother had no patience for her son’s meandering and dragged him away. It wasn’t until he was an adult that he saw that statue again, on a rare trip to London.
Then his sister was born, and his previously single-minded attention was divided. He was a practical boy though, and solved the issue by instructing his sister in his obsession.
Izzy found the wings almost as compelling as her brother did, and together they would search out what information they could find, starting with illustrations and then – as they grew older and started reading – the text that accompanied them.
Maryse and Robert Lightwood allowed, rather than encouraged this pursuit. So long as their children were excelling in all the areas that Shadowhunter children excelled in, it mattered little to their parents what they did in their spare time.
Alec had very soon learned that it was useless to ask for help in anything that wasn’t furthering the future that had been planned out for him. He became adept in finding ways to make his ongoing preoccupation fit in with his training. He hit pay-dirt when he discovered an ancient Shadowhunter text that depicted Jonathan Shadowhunter, flanked by his sister Abigail and his parabatai David, all three of them sporting massive wings.
Eventually he asked his primary teacher and trainer, Hodge Starkweather, about it.
Hodge laughed. “Hoping to fly, little angel?” he teased. “I’m sorry to disappoint you. Historically all of the Nephilim were portrayed as having wings, no doubt as a symbolic reference to our angelic heritage. About five hundred years later they only bothered to give the most revered figures wings, and then a couple of centuries after that the affectation of adding wings to illustrations and statues dropped off entirely.”
Alec stared up at his teacher, thinking about what he’d said. The most important part, of course, was the implication that the older books had a lot more wings in them. In order to get his hands on those books he’d need to either somehow get his parents to take him and Izzy to Alicante, and then to allow them access to ancient texts, or he needed to develop a reputation as a historian, in which case he might be able to get some of the less critical works sent out to them.
Given that Alec loved the New York Institute and had no wish to move, that seemed to be the best option.
He blinked at Hodge, and gave him a solemn nod. “David the Silent broke his parabatai bond to become a Silent Brother,” he ventured, deciding that he might as well start right away. “Did that hurt Jonathan? Did David know it was going to?”
Aside from his ‘wing thing’ – as his parents called it – Alec worked hard to become the ideal Shadowhunter. In memory of that statue so long ago he chose the bow as his primary weapon, but did not slack off with his blade training or his hand-to-hand practice.
At nine years old he had his rune ceremony, and promising Izzy that he would bring home some interesting books to study, left for Idris and the Great Library in Alicante.
Izzy, not having as much engrossment in ancient history as the older brother that she adored, took the opportunity to delve into her interest in the more mechanical side of the wings, into biology and the workings of mammalian bodies – with a side speciality of Downworlder physiology and anatomy. After all, more than one type of Downworlder sported wings.
It was strange being away from the familiar warmth of the New York Institute for more than a few hours. For all that most of the Shadowhunters that he met on a daily basis praised Idris and spoke of their longing to be back there, Alec really couldn’t see the draw. There was a coldness, a sterility that was foreign to what he was used to. There wasn’t even anything that he could point a finger to and say ‘There, that’s what’s wrong!’, it was just the way the place made him feel. Still, he had his self-imposed mission to accomplish, and resolved to just put up with it for a while.
He might have been looking for information on wings and how they related to Shadowhunters, but that wasn’t all that Alec found in his search of the archives in Alicante. He was also brought to awareness of several truths relating to the Uprising that had recently rocked the Shadowhunter community. It was a shock to discover the part that his parents and primary trainer had played in it, and to see the truth of the sentences they’d been given.
Suddenly his parents’ insistence that he and Izzy be perfect, do nothing that might disgrace the Lightwood name, took on new meaning. The way that Hodge seemed to spend most of his time alone looked less like personal preference and more like punishment. After all, Hodge had always been glad to see him and Izzy, always been on hand to help them with whatever they needed help with. Aside from Izzy, Alec would have said that Hodge was the person he was closest to.
The unfairness of it struck him, as he sat there mulling over the implications and the fact that this had been kept hidden from him and his sister. His parents were free to come and go, were actually running the New York Institute, and Hodge was a shackled prisoner. It didn’t seem right, not when as far as he could see the main difference between the two was that Robert and Maryse Lightwood – from old, moneyed and previously reputable and influential families – had a newborn son who was innocent of any wrongdoing, and Hodge Starkweather, poor, unknown, no influential friends willing to speak for him, and nothing but his fighting skills and knowledge of history to recommend him to anyone, was alone.
He tried to get answers from the main librarian, to no avail. After a week of frustration and being listening to obvious falsehoods when he was being told that he shouldn’t worry about it, that it didn’t concern him, Alec decided that if he truly wanted to get to the bottom of all of it he needed to talk to the true archivists and historians. He needed to see the Silent Brothers. They might refuse to answer his questions, they might even refuse to see him. What he could be certain they would not do, at least, was lie to him.
Unfortunately, that was easier said than done. One didn’t just ‘pop in’ to the Silent City, one needed a reason, a good one. Luckily, this is where Alec’s reputation as a history buff came in handy. This, along with his generally serious demeanour and a number of earnest questions, managed to get him a pass in order to examine some of the older tomes, relics that were kept under specific conditions and available for viewing only by appointment.
The Silent Brothers were scary. They looked scary, everything he’d ever seen written about them made them seem scary. Not all that surprisingly then, they weren’t exactly invited to a lot of functions or parties – unless they were officiating, of course. Which luckily meant that there wasn’t much of a wait to see them. In fact, writing his name down on the schedule seemed more of a formality than anything else.
The bored woman at the desk told him that he would be able to gain entry in an hour, and gave him a token to present to ‘prove his credentials’.
Appointment thus made, Alec took some time to walk around the public part of the Museum dedicated to the Nephilim and everything they’d done since Jonathan Shadowhunter had first drunk from the Mortal Cup.
He ended up in front of an out of the way alcove that held a sculpture of the moment that Raziel bestowed the Mortal Instruments on his chosen one. It was old and worn, and once again Jonathan Shadowhunter had wings, although close inspection showed that they were depicted merely as smaller versions of Raziel’s more magnificent plumage. Alec wondered if this was another expression of artistic licence, or if it could be added to the evidence that he’d been collecting. As far as he could see, in the beginning Shadowhunters all had wings. Where or why they disappeared, he hadn’t been able to figure out yet, but he was certain in a way that he couldn’t explain that his theory was correct.
Hour nearly up, he made his way back to the arched doorway and presented his token. Taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and walked through.
His entry into the Silent City gave him something new to think about. All of the reading he’d done had indicated that the ‘City of Bones’ was a place to be feared, that it’s very walls exuded a sense of it’s purpose making those traversing it feel small and unwelcome.
Instead, he was enveloped in the same sensation of warmth that he’d been missing from home. He followed the clearly delineated path, small glowing lights hanging magically in the air lighting his way. He ended up in large room, once more lit only by a few of those glowing lights. In the dim distance he could make out row upon row of books, their spines facing towards him in invitation.
Alec really wanted to go over and look, to see what amazing things might be kept here, but he figured it would probably be better to wait for some guidance, or at least till he got permission. No one who cared for their books wanted a stranger messing up what looked like a great shelving job, after all.
Dragging his eyes away from the siren call that the books were sending his way, he nearly jumped out of his skin. Without him noticing, seven Silent Brothers had appeared, and were now arrayed behind him.
He’d seen pictures of them before, but seeing them right there, in the flesh… it was a pretty big shock.
“Uh, hi,” he said, trying to sound calm, in control, and not three seconds away from running screaming back to the New York Institute to hide under his bed.
‘Welcome,’ one of the Brothers projected into his mind. ‘We have been waiting a long time for one such as you, Alexander Gideon Lightwood.’
Alec returned to New York with a new area of focus in addition to his ongoing obsession with wings. His interest in history had been diverted less into ancient battles, and more into ancient treaties.
The night of his return Izzy sneaked into his room so that they could talk privately about things they didn’t necessarily want getting back to their parents.
“So, what did the Silent Brothers say?” she asked, excitement making her eyes gleam in the dim light. They were sitting curled up on his bed, eating from the box of fancy chocolates he’d brought back for her.
“We were right!” Alec replied, remembering the feeling of triumph that had slid through him at the confirmation of his theory. “That’s pretty much all they would tell me, though. Brother Samuel told me that for the moment, that was all that was allowed but if I pass the tests I’ll learn more.”
Izzy frowned. “Well, that’s a bummer. What tests.”
“I know,” Alec agreed. “And he wouldn’t tell me, only that they would come and that I’d know them when they did. It was kind of weird how excited they all were about it, though.” He made a face. “But he also said that if the circumstances dictate, he and the other brothers would be happy to be of service.”
“’Be of service?’” Izzy parroted. “What a strange thing for them to say. Be of service how?”
“I know,” Alec said again. “I think I know why he said it though. I ‘happened’ to find a text that laid out the oaths a Silent Brother takes, and they have to do their best to obey the most recent directives of the highest ranking Shadowhunter.”
“No single Shadowhunter holds the position of highest rank,” Izzy pointed out. “Technically the Council holds that position collectively.”
Alec just shrugged.
“The Silent Brothers somehow expect you to become highly ranked enough that they’ll be able to answer your questions,” Izzy said slowly.
“That’s the conclusion that I came to,” Alec said. “Brother Samuel sounded pretty final, so I’m pretty sure that’s all I’ll be getting from them for now.”
“So, not the full revelation we were hoping for, but not a kick in the teeth either,” Izzy concluded.
“Exactly. On a different note, a little bird told me that you’ve been pretty busy while I haven’t been here to keep you out of trouble.”
Izzy flushed with pleasure, and started to give him an update on what had gone on with her.
Before Alec’s trip to Idris, he had pretty much been the focus of Izzy’s days. They would train together, study together, eat and do their chores together. In the void left by his absence, Izzy had looked around for something to fill her time and tentatively dipped her toe into science. She’d quickly discovered that her strong interest in the biological side of the profession they had been born to was matched with an aptitude that had the healers and researchers alike drooling at the thought of being able to grow her potential.
Aside from her enjoyment at being good at something she found fascinating, Izzy was thrilled to find an area of expertise where she could shine, well out from under her brother’s shadow. It felt really good to not always have her achievements measured against his and found wanting.
“I love you, Big Brother,” she said earnestly, “and I’m proud as anything when you cane the academy trained snots whenever they get too uppity, but it’s nice to have something all of my own.”
“It’s not fair to compare yourself to someone with two whole years more training than you have,” Alec said firmly. “And wow, Izzy, that’s amazing! Have you thought about where you’d like to specialise? I know you too well to think for one second that you’d be content to be anything less than the best in some field or other.”
Izzy dropped her eyes to where her hands were twisting in her lap. “You don’t think I should concentrate on healing, since it’s the most prestigious and lucrative? Mom said that-”
Alec stiffened. “Ignore what Mom said,” he instructed her, trying to keep just how angry he was out of his voice and body language.
Izzy stared at him. “What?”
“Mom has made her own choices,” Alec said carefully. “So has Dad. They did what they thought was best for them. You are allowed to do what you think is best for you.” He tried for a lighter tone. “Unless I think it’s a bad idea, of course. Then you have to stop what you’re doing right away and obey my commands.”
Izzy uncurled one leg and shoved him off the bed with her foot. “Yeah, like that’s going to happen.” She waited until he’d retaken his seat before looking at him searchingly. “What’s going on, Big Brother?”
Alec sighed. “I wanted to get my head around it a bit more before sharing this with you,” he said reluctantly. He propped a pillow up behind his back and got comfortable, waiting for Izzy to do the same. “So… you’ve heard of the Circle, and the Uprising, right? Of the rebellion against the Clave, Shadowhunters fighting and murdering each other, and Downworlders dropping like flies. I know you have, you get the same lessons that I do.”
Izzy nodded with a slight frown. “Not that there’s a lot to read about it,” she replied. “The Clave is too afraid it’ll give us fledglings ideas, I suppose.”
“That’s what I thought too,” Alec agreed. “Well, in Alicante I found out the true reason why all the literature we have here has been rather heavily redacted. It’s not some edict handed down by the Clave so that we don’t find out something unsavoury about them, it’s an edict handed down by Mom and Dad, so that we don’t find out that they were members of Valentine’s Circle.”
Izzy recoiled, shock written all over her face. “What!?”
“Oh yes,” Alec said grimly. “Rather prominent members, in fact. Not just them either, Hodge too.”
“You mean, the reason that he can’t leave the Institute… that was the Clave’s doing?” Izzy jumped ahead slightly. “But how can- Our parents come and go all the time! They run this Institute! Hodge is stuck here!”
“Yes, well it seems that while Maryse and Robert were happy enough murdering Downworlders with Valentine and their bunch, they were less enthusiastic about killing fellow Shadowhunters. I wasn’t able to find much on the circumstances of Hodge’s capture – to be honest I didn’t look that hard – but Mom and Dad surrendered to the Clave when it was clear that their attack was doomed,” Alec said. “Personally, I just think that they realised that there was no way the Uprising could succeed and decided to accept defeat. They were granted leniency. Hodge… was not.”
“So it wasn’t some Warlock or Witch who was pissed off at the Clave who cursed him,” Izzy said furiously. “It was the Clave themselves. They could have deruned him and sent him to live amongst the mundanes, but no. They’re basically torturing him, every single day. And no one thought this was information that we could possibly need.”
“Hodge can’t talk about anything Circle related,” Alec revealed. “It’s part of his sentence, enforced by the same curse that keeps him here.”
“He trains us,” Izzy said, voice softening. “He trains us so well that you and I are both considered by pretty much everyone to be ‘naturally skilled’, we’re rated that highly for our age. It’s not just the fighting skills, either. He’s been teaching us that we should be wary, that we shouldn’t trust sweet words, but should demand to see evidence, do our own research before accepting something. He’s been training us so that we don’t become him. So that we get the benefit of his mistakes, when we don’t even know about them. Our parents, on the other hand…”
“Our parents don’t care if we’re miserable or if we’re happy, so long as everything we do reflects well on the Lightwood name,” Alec finished. “Well, Dad seems less obsessed with it, but Mom…”
“I thought there must be something wrong with me,” Izzy said, dropping her chin again. “Even at the top of my year group, nothing I do ever pleases her enough, I’m never as good as-”
“As me,” Alec said with a sigh. “I’ve told you before, that’s an unfair comparison. I’ve had twice the training that you have. I don’t know if the way she constantly gets on your back about not being better than me is some kind of weird way to get you to train harder, or something, but it’s utter rubbish. You are incredible, and skilled, and smart, and-”
“Okay, okay, I get the picture,” Izzy said with one of the sweet smiles that were becoming rarer the older she got. “I love you too, Big Brother.”
Alec smiled back, and they leaned companionably together, shoulder to shoulder. Finally, he spoke. “At first I was just as angry with Hodge as I was with Mom and Dad,” he said. “But over the last week I’ve come to see that once he was sentenced, there was no real way he could have done anything differently. Well,” he corrected himself, “he could have not bothered to train us so hard, I guess. No one would have blamed him if he’d just done what was required. No one was forcing him to devise strategies for us, and to work so hard on our situational awareness.”
Izzy laughed. “If I never see another water gun again, I won’t complain,” she agreed.
Alec hesitated for a moment, and then decided to just come out and say it. “I want to try and find a way to set him free,” he said all in a rush.
She stared at him. “You are nine years old. I am seven. You really think that we can do that? Undo whatever it is that the Clave did to him and let him go, all without getting caught and winding up taking his place?”
“Yes,” Alec replied, heart in his throat. “Brother Samuel told me that due to their oaths, the Silent Brothers had to perform certain actions as the Clave commanded, but that it was a perversion of the Runes. He didn’t come right out and tell me that there would be a way around it, but when you read between the lines…”
Izzy was silent for a minute. “You know that if we let anyone know that we know, and that we we think that what they’re doing is wrong, if we even look like we want to free him, it will only end up worse for him.”
“I know,” Alec agreed, relieved that she was on the same page as him. “Brother Samuel was very helpful, actually, for someone who didn’t give me what I actually went for. I’m pretty sure he wants me to come back. Would you be interested in coming with me? When you’ve gone through your Rune Ceremony, that is?”
“That won’t be for another two years, at least,” Izzy reminded him.
Alec shrugged. “Or more, if you want to split your focus, concentrate harder on the squidgy internal organs and stuff. The runes aren’t going anywhere, after all. Neither are the Silent Brothers. In the end the only one you have to answer to is yourself.”
Izzy’s smile lit her face like a rising sun. “You’re right,” she nearly breathed. “I don’t have to hold myself to her impossible standards anymore.”
“Unless you want to,” Alec amended. “So long as you know that you tried your best, I think that’s enough. You and me, we’re done paying a price that we could never hope to pay, trying to make up for something that we never took part in. What we do from now on? We’ll do it for us, we’ll do it for our fellow Shadowhunters and the Downworlders who share this world with us, and we’ll do it for the Angel. Screw anyone else.”
“Screw everyone else!” Izzy echoed, eyes gleaming with fire and purpose.
True to the promise they’d made each other, both Izzy and Alec stopped trying so hard to please their exacting mother, instead striving to make each other proud. It’s possible that no-one but Hodge noticed though, since he was the only one who seemed to really care about why they were driving themselves to new heights of excellence.
Hodge had no reason to mention their training motivations to anyone, and was just glad to see his charges excel, hopeful that the skills they were learning would help keep them alive once they started going on regular missions. He made sure to squash any overconfidence the moment he saw it, ensuring that no aspect of battle was neglected.
Then, just before Izzy’s Rune Ceremony – held when she was ten, unlike her brother who had his at nine – Jace Wayland came to live with them.
Jace’s upbringing had been similar to what theirs had been, only without Hodge’s kindness to offset his father’s harsh training, and without a sibling to confide in and keep close. Then, his father had been killed as some sort of revenge – whether it was on Valentine’s instructions or because he’d been part of Valentine’s Circle, it was unclear. But Jace was determined to avenge his father in either case, and given his skill as a fighter, he would probably manage to achieve that, so long as he didn’t go off half-cocked.
Suddenly Alec was no longer the best fighter in his age bracket. Jace was over a year younger than him and was clearly stronger, faster, and generally better. He tried not to take it to heart, tried to use it as motivation to train harder and improve, and did his best not to blame Jace. He comforted himself that it was probably good for him, and that if it was bothering him this much then his ego had probably needed to be punctured.
There was also something almost magnetic about Jace, and Alec found himself drawn to him on more than one level. Maryse and Robert were thrilled with their new son, with his excellence at all the things a Shadowhunter was supposed to be excellent at. Izzy liked him too, and before too long it seemed – to the Lightwoods at least – like Jace had always been living with them. It took Jace a little longer to feel like he really fit, but that was only to be expected.
Not long after Jace joined them Maryse announced her pregnancy. Alec was thrilled at the thought of having another sibling, and immediately began planning ways to ensure that his new brother or sister had as much support as they needed.
Max’s birth ended up being the catalyst that made Jace truly feel like one of the family. Alec watched as the prickly and sometimes aloof boy was broken open and remade by the simple fact that he was trusted with this small and delicate being that adored him. He stopped trying to convince Alec and Izzy that personal attachments were a weakness to be exploited, and began to integrate himself with them properly.
Despite the pull he felt to Jace, Alec wasn’t quite ready to trust him with all of his secrets immediately – the ongoing quest to find a way to free Hodge, in particular, was too precarious to risk. Given Jace’s perfectly natural feelings about Valentine and the Circle, Alec and Izzy decided it was best to just keep that part to themselves.
Alec did tell Jace about his investigations into angelic wings, though. To start with, Jace seemed to pass it off as a harmless obsession, much the same as Robert and Maryse did. As time went by and Alec shared more material as it was gathered, his interest was piqued. He began to see just why Alec and Izzy were so intrigued, and started wondering what it could all mean. Why Shadowhunter history used to be awash with pictures of wings and poetical references to wings, and the possible reasons why that changed over the centuries.
On the morning of his thirteenth birthday, Alec woke up feeling like he’d been run over by a steamroller, or like he’d done a nine hour training session with no breaks. Every muscle in his body ached, particularly the ones over his shoulders and down his back.
It was pure luck that Izzy came in while he was getting dressed, walking in with her usual unconcern for his modesty.
“Alec!” she gasped, eyes wide and mouth open.
Alec looked down at the jeans he was just buttoning. Was there something wrong? Did they have something on them that he hadn’t noticed? He looked up again, seeing that Izzy had moved around so that she could get a good view of his back. “Are these jeans stained or something? Izzy? Izzy!”
“By the Angel, Alec, they’re beautiful!” Izzy whispered. “When did you get them done? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Get what done?” Alec asked, getting annoyed. “What are you talking about, Izzy? You’re not making any sense.”
“Very funny Alec,” she replied, looking unimpressed. Her expression slowly changed. “Oh. You actually… you don’t know!”
“Here,” she said, dragging him over to stand with his back to the dresser with the mirror on it that was tucked into a corner. “Now, look over your shoulder.”
Alec did as she asked, and then nearly sprained something in his neck trying to get a better look. There on his back were a stylized representation of-
“Wings,” Alec breathed. “There are wings on my back.”
He got into a lot of trouble for ‘sneaking out to get an illegal tattoo, what were you thinking, Alec?’ but decided that it was probably better for him in the long run to be thought slightly rebellious than to become some sort of test subject for the Clave.
Izzy and Jace were the only ones in the Institute that he felt comfortable revealing the true nature of his new wings to, that they had appeared on their own. “Maybe the Silent Brothers will know more?” he suggested, running fingers over the affected skin that he could reach, trying to feel the edge of the markings. As of yet he was unable to discern any textural difference between marked skin and his usual skin.
“I’m coming with you this time,” Izzy declared.
“Me too,” Jace promised. “We need to find out if having these here is going to affect your ability to use runes, or if they’re going to affect a parabatai bond.”
Alec had never seen the Silent Brothers so excited. They couldn’t – or maybe wouldn’t – tell Alec anything about where his new wing markings had come from or why, but they were able to assure Jace that there would be no negative impact on a parabatai bond. They also advised Alec that he would only be able to use runes on areas of skin that didn’t have any wing markings on them.
“Maryse and Robert are going to be pissed,” Izzy said, sounding slightly too gleeful at the prospect.
“I really don’t care,” Alec replied, wondering if he could put his shirt on again. It wasn’t as if he was ashamed of his bare skin, but the City of Bones was a weird place to be shirtless in. He’d already stood still while one of the Brother’s made a careful record, including a sketch that looked almost as real as a photograph.
Three more Silent Brothers approached, obviously hoping to get a glimpse of his new back art. He sighed and turned so they had a better view. That made nearly thirty all up. Until that day he hadn’t been aware that there even were thirty Silent Brothers. Seeing them all in one place was kind of eerie.
“They sure are excited,” Jace observed with a smirk. “Mind you, it’s probably years since they’ve seen naked skin. Hey Alec, do you think if you did a little dance they might stuff money in your waistband?”
Alec just gave Jace a withering look before turning to Brother Samuel. “How much longer is this going to take?” he asked.
‘Two more of our Brothers are on their way,’ Brother Samuel replied. ‘Forgive us our excitement, Alexander. There were many who believed that the days of blessed were gone, never to return. You bring much joy and hope to us.’
“Well, I’m glad I could help,” Alec said. “You sure that there’s nothing you can tell me? Nothing at all?”
‘I’m afraid we are unable to help any more than we already have,’ Brother Samuel said, regret clear in his eyes. ‘I promise you that there will come a time when all your questions will be answered.’
It was around that time that Alec came to the inescapable conclusion that he was gay.
In a lot of ways it was extremely scary. Shadowhunter society didn’t openly persecute homosexuality, but there was an unspoken stigma against it. Those with ‘leanings’ were encouraged to ignore them and concentrate on producing the next generation. Arranged marriages amongst the more influential families was not uncommon, and Alec had grown up knowing that as the eldest, his parents would probably pick his wife for him.
Discovering he was gay was like being able to shed the last of the chains that had been holding him to his parents’ expectations. His parents didn’t bother to hide their horror and disgust, but both Izzy and Jace were fully supportive of him.
Hodge only shook his head when they told him. “You just can’t do anything the easy way, can you?” he asked. “I do admire your bravery. The path that you walk just got so much harder.”
Hodge was right. While Alec wasn’t precisely flaunting his sexuality, he had decided that there was no point in hiding it either. It didn’t take long before the whispers started, before he stopped being praised when he outfought his peers, before his ideas and strategies were no longer considered great, but became merely acceptable.
It hurt, of course it did. Sometimes he wondered if it would really have been so bad to have squashed that part of him down, to have accepted a life of duty and service without hoping for more. Izzy was always there to assure him that he’d done the right thing.
There were a number of people who tried to get Jace to change his mind about taking Alec as his parabatai. Even Alec’s parents spoke to him about it, hinting delicately that he might find Izzy to be a better bond-mate.
“It’s like these people never bothered to get to know you at all!” Jace said angrily after one such intervention. “I don’t know why the Clave doesn’t do something about it! Come on, Alec, let’s spar. I suddenly have a lot of energy I need to work off.”
“Remember what we said?” Izzy said, looking Alec in the eye. “Screw anyone else. Screw everyone else. It’s you and me, Alec. And Jace too, of course. We don’t need to conform to anyone’s expectations but our own.”
So Alec walked tall, worked hard, and did his best to ignore the whispers and the slurs, and the times he was excluded from exercises that some instructors didn’t think he’d need. Hodge was more skilled and a better teacher than a lot of the puffed up windbags from Idris, anyway.
Over the next couple of years the wing markings changed slightly, somehow becoming more there.
“It’s almost like they’re more wing-like,” Izzy commented. “I can’t see any actual changes to the lines, they’re not thinner or thicker, they haven’t changed colour or placement. But the overall effect is more somehow.”
Alec flexed his shoulders, watching the markings move with his skin. “Sometimes I can almost see them in the corner of my eye,” he confessed. “They never are, of course, but sometimes it’s like they’re just out of sight.
Then, on Izzy’s thirteenth birthday she awoke with wing markings too. “Alec, look!” she whispered, having woken him up at four in the morning. She turned so that her back was to him.
Still blinking to focus his eyes properly, Alec reached out a hand to touch the dark lines. They were warmer than the skin surrounding them, and Izzy shivered as he ran his fingertips along the outside edge. Filled with a joy he didn’t know how to articulate, Alec pulled his sister into a hug.
When he released her, it was to the disconcerting realisation that she was crying. Izzy didn’t cry very often – as Shadowhunters they were expected to deal with trials and tribulations calmly and without excess emotion – and it twisted something deep inside him to see her eyelashes clumped together and her eyes glassy with tears.
“Hey, are you okay?” he asked, pulling her into another hug. “Don’t you like them?”
“I love them!” Izzy insisted. “It’s just that… it will sound silly.”
“Nothing that makes you cry is silly,” Alec said firmly, giving Izzy a squeeze for emphasis. “I won’t laugh, I promise.”
“I’ve been so afraid that you would leave me behind,” she said in a rush, the worlds slightly muffled by the t-shirt that he slept in. “There were the wings, and the parabatai bond with Jace, and I’m just your little sister-”
“Hey, you are not just anything,” Alec interrupted her. “You are the smartest person I know, the best person I know. You’re my sister, and no-one can get in the way of that, not Jace, not our parents. Blood siblings can’t form a parabatai bond, or you would definitely be my first choice. And Jace…”
“Jace really wants it,” Izzy said, sounding calmer. “It’s like he’s determined to bind us to him as a family as much as he possibly can.”
“I’m happy to do it too,” Alec said. “Jace is an amazing fighter, and loyal and smart. I think the bond could be great, as well as maybe settling him down a bit. So I do want it, but not at the expense of your happiness, Iz. If it’s going to hurt you, then it’s off the table. I’ll find a way to break it to Jace so that it doesn’t sound like a rejection.”
“No,” Izzy said with a sigh, relaxing into his arms. “You don’t need to do that. Go ahead with the parabatai bond, I’ll be fine I promise.”
“Are you sure?” Alec asked.
“Yes, I’m sure. I think maybe I just needed to hear that you wouldn’t do it if I didn’t want you to. Selfish, I know, but there it is.”
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you, okay? You’re not just my sister, you’re my best friend. A parabatai bond with Jace isn’t going to change that. For starters, he’s really not interested in talking about cute boys with me.”
She smothered her laugh in his sleep-shirt.
“Hey,” Alec said as a thought struck him, “remember how thrilled the Silent Brothers were when I showed up with my markings? Imagine how they’re going to react to this!”
Izzy pulled away, eyes bright with mirth. “You think we’re going to see a bunch of scary mind readers have their first collective orgasm?”
Alec scrunched up his face in disgust. “Ew, gross Izzy. Are you trying to put me off my food?”
Alec went with Izzy to show Jace what had happened, and so he noticed the look that flashed across his adopted brother’s face, it was obvious Jace wondered why Alec and Izzy had the markings, but he didn’t. It made Alec glad that Izzy hadn’t actually asked him to not go through with the parabatai bond after all. Jace was clearly already feeling left out.
‘It is happening,’ Brother Gamaliel’s excitement was almost tangible. ‘It is happening, just as was foretold!’
“You know, I’m getting pretty sick of all this cryptic crap,” Izzy said testily as she waited for the Brother who was making a detailed sketch to finish. “Why can’t they just come out and tell us what’s happening?”
“They have their reasons,” Alec said with a shrug, long since inured to not getting proper answers to his questions. “Sometimes when I search the records for things that they won’t tell me I find some pretty amazing stuff. Like that portal rune.”
Brother Samuel was ‘talking’ with Jace, who was still feeling left out. ‘Do not fear, young one. You will not be left behind. Wait but awhile longer, and have faith.’
“Ugh,” Jace replied, pulling a face. “I hate having faith.” But his expression cleared, and he seemed comforted.
When Maryse and Robert found out that Izzy had markings that were similar to Alec’s they placed most of the blame on their eldest son. Alec stood and listened to the chewing out they gave him and accepted the restrictions they placed on him without comment.
“I don’t know why you don’t just tell them,” Jace said, still slightly baffled by Alec and Izzy’s relationship with the elder Lightwoods. Maryse and Robert had been delighted to welcome Jace into their family and doted on him in a way that neither Alec nor Izzy could ever remember experiencing.
“You think they would believe us?” Izzy asked, raising one finely sculpted eyebrow. “You note that they never actually asked any proper questions just now. They’ve already decided what happened, and I doubt ‘it was magic, honest’ would be very convincing.”
It was just over a year later that Jace woke up with his own markings. Just like Izzy, he stole into Alec’s room first thing in the morning to share the news. Then they had to visit Izzy who was just as thrilled as Alec was.
“Whatever is happening, it’s happening to all three of us,” Izzy said, reaching out to trace her fingers over Jace’s back.
“Just as it should be,” Jace said stoutly. “We go together, after all.”
“That’s right,” Alec agreed. “We go together.”
“We go together,” Izzy echoed. An impish smile crossed her face. “We go together to the Silent Brothers, to see if they’re willing to give us answers yet.
The Silent Brothers remained as silent as ever, although Brother Samuel was able to pull Alec to one side and provide him with a small booklet.
“What’s this?” Alec asked, glancing over to where Jace was being fawned over by a group of Brothers, having careful drawings done the same way that they’d done for Alec and Izzy.
‘A copy of a recent translation of an ancient tome,’ Brother Samuel replied. ‘It holds the answer that you sought many years ago. Be very careful how this is used, young Lightwood. In the wrong hands it could cause much damage.’
“I’ll be careful,” Alec assured him, tucking the small booklet away in a convenient pocket on the inside of his jacket.
‘Once you have used the information therein, you must destroy that copy,’ Brother Samuel insisted.
Alec nodded. “I promise,” he swore.
The information in the booklet was indeed pretty shocking. It contained detailed instructions on how to remove runes, quickly and painlessly.
Izzy naturally wanted to test the method. Alec was fine with that, until he realised that she intended to run the test on herself. He had objected, tried to get her to use him as a test subject, but she refused him. “I’ll have a better idea of what actually happens if I can feel it, Alec,” she said patiently. “Look, who’s the scientist here? Who knows all about the workings of angelic bodies?”
“You do,” Alec said with a sigh. “I suppose when you put it like that…”
“Hah!” Izzy said, and proceeded to use her steele to burn an Acceleration rune into her arm, since that one was fairly common and wouldn’t excite much interest if their experiment failed.
“Right, let’s give this a go,” Izzy said. “Hold that book for me, Alec, I need to be able to read it while I do this.”
Alec held the book and watched anxiously as Izzy spoke what sounded like gibberish as she ran her steele over her new rune. Even though he was expecting it, it was still a shock to see it disappear as if it was never there.
“But they say that deruning is agony,” Izzy said, staring at her bare forearm. “That didn’t even tickle.”
“Maybe the Clave wants to make it hurt?” Alec suggested. “It is a punishment, after all.”
“We should memorise this,” Izzy said, reaching for the book that Alec had closed as soon as she was finished.
“We can’t,” Alec replied. “Brother Samuel was right when he said this could do a lot of damage in the wrong hands.”
“I wasn’t going to go around telling anyone,” Izzy said, sounding exasperated and a little bit hurt.
“What if someone was holding me hostage?” Alec asked, eyebrows raised. “What if they told you they were going to torture me to death unless you gave them what they wanted to know? Would you still be able to keep the secret? I know I couldn’t, if it was you.”
Izzy folded her arms across her chest and frowned at him. “Sometimes it’s a real pain in the ass that you’re always so reasonable,” she said crossly. “Fine. We’ll do what we have to do and not make any attempt to hold on to this priceless knowledge.”
“The Silent Brothers still have the original that this came from,” Alec reminded her. “If we really need it again, we can always go and ask them.”
“I already agreed with you Alec, you don’t need to keep convincing me.”
“Oh, come on,” Alec said, poking her gently in the ribs and causing her to flinch as he hit her ticklish spot. “You think I don’t know you? You think I don’t know that you’re wondering how bad it could really be, and that maybe it would be okay if you only memorised a little bit?”
“You can stop any time now,” Izzy tried to keep frowning, but it was obviously an effort. She gave a sigh and put her steele away. “So, who’s going to tell Hodge the good news? You know, that we know all about his sordid past and have been planing to work directly against the Clave and set him free?”
“I’ll do it,” Alec volunteered. “It was my idea from the start, after all.”
“You don’t think we should tell him together?”
Alec shook his head. “No, I think that if I was in his shoes I would want a few people around as possible.”
“Okay,” Izzy said. “I’ll leave it up to you then. Make sure you let me know how it goes. I’ll need to help you with the actual process, so maybe warn him about that.”
Alec decided that there was no point in wasting any time, and asked to speak with Hodge in private the next day. Jace had been taken into Alicante by Maryse and Robert to see to some details of his dead father’s estate, and Izzy was assisting with an autopsy of an extremely rare demon that had bee killed several nights previous.
Without going into a lot of detail, Alec told Hodge about what he’d learned when he was nine, and offered to set him free, if he wished it.
“You know how to free me,” Hodge said, his whole body tense and his hands shaking.
“I do,” Alec said gently. “It’s your choice, of course. I won’t force this on you. But Izzy and I both agree that the Clave was wrong to sentence you the way they did. We want to make it right for you.”
“No,” Hodge said hoarsely, shaking his head. “You can’t understand what I’ve done…”
“Yes, I do,” Alec told him. “Izzy and I have both read the uncensored transcript of your trial that is held in the City of Bones. We know. We offer you this anyway.”
“I have to- I have to think about it,” Hodge said.
Alec shrugged. “You know where to find me when you’ve come to a decision.”
It took three weeks for Hodge to bring up the subject again. He waited until they were recovering after a particularly tough hand-to-hand session, sitting side-by-side with their backs to the wall, sipping from water bottles.
“I don’t think you can know what your offer means to me,” Hodge said, staring across the room. “At first it wasn’t so bad. I deserved it, after all, being imprisoned here like some sort of pet Circle member. Perhaps if we’d all been treated the same I might have kept that mentality. But watching others, others who did worse, being let off with just a slap on the wrist? Being given a coveted post, even? For what, because they had the contacts that come with having an old and honoured name, because they conveniently had a young son that they argued shouldn’t be punished for their crimes?” His eyes flashed for a moment, and then he was calm again. “Although I suppose I do agree with that part. Their son bears no blame, and shouldn’t have to suffer. I can’t help but feel that there were other ways to achieve that than letting his parents off with a warning and a superficial punishment.”
“You don’t have to beat around the bush,” Alec said, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling. “It wasn’t just your transcript I looked through, I know that child was me. I know what my parents were accused of, and how they leveraged their name and my existence.”
“Oh. They told you?”
“No, they’ve quite carefully kept all written references away from this Institute,” Alec replied dryly. “My parents have yet to tell any of us of their past. They’re as vocal as ever about how Izzy and I must do nothing to ‘disgrace the Lightwood name’, that our reputation with the Clave is the most important consideration in every decision. But nothing about how that reputation was brought into disgrace in the first place.”
Hodge’s lips took on a wry twist. “No, well they wouldn’t, would they?” He shook his head, and then emptied his water bottle in three big gulps. “Going back to your offer… The thing is, that you and Izzy, and Jace too for that matter, you shouldn’t have to put yourselves on the line for the likes of me. You’re young, you have your whole lives ahead of you. Much as I want to be free of this nightmare, I made my own decisions and now I have to pay for them.”
“It’s your choice,” Alec said with a shrug. “The knowledge of what we’d need to do isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, so if you change your mind, just let either me or Izzy know.”
Alec hesitated. “Jace… is in love with the idea of the Clave. Not that I can blame him, the idea of the Clave is-” he broke off, uncertain of how to continue.
“The idea of the Clave does not reflect the reality of the Clave,” Hodge finished for him.
“Yes,” Alec said gratefully. “It’s understandable. If I hadn’t done so much reading on history, looked so hard into how the Clave is actively pursuing – or not, as the case may be – the ideals it’s supposed to stand for, I would probably have been the same way. Worse, even. And knowing what I do about the flaws in the system makes it easier to see just how the Circle got started in the first place.”
“You want to be very careful who you express those ideas to,” Hodge warned. “Dissatisfaction with the current system is how a lot of-” he winced as the rune on his neck began to burn, “-the Circle members were pulled in.”
Alec watched with some concern. “Don’t worry, I have no plans to start or take part in anything like the Circle or the Uprising,” he said when it looked like Hodge’s mark wasn’t hurting him any more. “Even without that as an example, it’s pretty clear that terrorists never actually solve the problems they claim to be working towards. And I’m pretty sure that Downworlders were here before we were, it would be rude to try and wipe them out in some bigoted, prejudiced killing spree.”
Hodge shook his head and got to his feet, reaching down to give Alec a hand up. “I wish I’d had your clear-sightedness when I was your age,” he said, walking over to the sink to re-fill his water bottle.
“My teacher taught me well,” Alec replied. “You have always done your best for us, Hodge. How could we do any less for you?”
Hodge shook his head again, but he was smiling. The smile slowly faded, and he sighed. “There’s something that you should probably know,” he said slowly. “Jace – I’m pretty sure he’s not really a Wayland.”
“What?” Alec asked, staring in shock. “If he’s not a Wayland, then who is he?”
“I’m not one hundred percent sure,” Hodge said, “but I think he’s the son of Stephen and Céline Herondale.”