Personaggi: Will Herondale, Charlotte Branwell, Jem Carstairs
Genere: Intrsopective, Drama
Avvisi: Pre-slash, Angst
Rating: PG-13
Note: I've cried on the third book of this series for, like, three days and I swore I would never write anything about Will and Jem because it hurt too much. Well, yeah. Apparently, I wrote something about them. *cough*
I don't remember if this fits with the canon or not, but see if I care.
Prompt: Written for the Purple Army during the Cow-t #4 @ maridichallenge (prompt: blood)

Riassunto: Jem has been sick for days, but he didn't tell Will. When things get worse, tho, he reaches out to Will and they both realize how little they're prepared to say goodbye to each other.

Charlotte is always very calm. Her strength lies in her ability to face problems with a lucid mind, no matter how bad they look, no matter how hopeless. So when she starts to fret, to Will that's the sign to panic. His body tenses like it never does even in battle. His mind starts racing and his thoughts stop responding to logic. His every action is fueled not by his determination and his trust in a well planned strategy but by sheer fear because there is only one reason why Charlotte loses her calm, and that reason is Jem.

The moment she enters his room, Will knows something happened to his parabatai. Despite her efforts to hide him how worried she is this time, the look in her eyes betrays her. It's a torturing game they play with each other, this one. She always tries to act like this is just routine when they both know each time is worse than the one before. There's no getting better for Jem, only a constant decay. And that it keeps being slow, that's the only good news they usually get.

“How bad is it?” He asks, before Charlotte can say anything. He sees the surge of guilt in her eyes when she realizes once again that she can't shelter him from this in any way because he always knows. He always senses it, even before she knows. Every time something's wrong with Jem, it resonates inside Will like someone has struck a chord in him and it makes an ominous sound.

“Bad enough,” she says, a lump in her throat making her voice tremble. “He's spitting blood.”

Will remembers the first time that happened like it was yesterday and how it shattered his conviction that Jem was tiny and fragile-looking but nothing could destroy him. Up to that moment, Jem's illness had been nothing but a vague notion tied up to the fact that he had to take Yin Fen every now and then. When he saw him spitting blood though, his thin frame shaken by fits of coughing, everything suddenly felt more real. He distinctly thought: Jem is going to die. And the certainty of that statement had dug a hole inside his soul. He was not ready to lose him – and he instantly knew he was never going to be.

But Jem didn't die. And it was both a great relief and a burden for Will, because now he knew – he really knew – that Jem could be taken away from him at any given time without any notice. Being him a Shadowhunter, constantly risking his life on the battlefield, he shouldn't have been affected by such unpredictability but he was when their enemy was something he couldn't even try to protect Jem from. He couldn't cure his illness. He couldn't stop it from getting worse.

“What happened?” Will asks, as he and Charlotte run down the halls of the Institute. Jem has bouts of his illness all the time, but they're never triggered by the same thing, they've never the same patterns. And that's because nothing really makes it worse. It's just the way it is. He would probably have them even if he never did anything.

“He felt sick in the weapons room,” Charlotte replies. “Henry brought him in his room.” Will senses carefulness in her voice, as if she were trying to avoid bringing up a certain argument by saying the wrong words.

“What was he doing?” He asks again.

“Training, I guess,” Charlotte says, not looking at him. “He just collapsed.”

Will stops, forcing her to do the same. An heavy silence falls between them as Will looks at her, silently demanding her to say what they both know now. But Charlotte doesn't speak, her eyes stubbornly staring down. “How long has he been feeling sick, Charlotte?” He asks eventually, his voice stern so she won't even think of not answering now.

“A couple of weeks,” she murmurs. And then she quickly adds, “He didn't want me to tell you, Will.”

Will curses loudly, making her wince. “What was he thinking?”

Charlotte sighs, her hands crossed over her stomach. “In the beginning it was just as it always is. He felt weak and tired,” she explains. “He didn't want to make you worry over nothing. He took his medicine and that was it. But he got worse and...”

“And none of you thought I could be of any help!” He says, raising his voice. He doesn't know if he's angrier because they hid this from him or because, in the end, it's true that he was useless. Even if he knew, what would he have done? Jem hates to be pitied. He doesn't want to be treated like a sick person. Still, Will feels like it was his right to be there for him, even though he knows that the only right he has is to be there if Jem wants him to be.

“He's asking for you,” Charlotte says, as if she read his mind. “He might have kept you away but he needs you now. Go inside, I'll let you know when the Brothers arrive.”

He feels his stomach clench in alarm. Wherever Jem is sick enough to require the Silent Brothers' presence, it could be the last time they will need to call them, and he's not ready for that. He wonders how you're supposed to be ready to wake up one morning and suddenly know this is the last day you have with someone. Jem always jokes about it, saying that this is better than dying suddenly. At least they can prepare for it.

Will refuses to get ready to be without Jem, though. So when moments like this come, when Jem's bouts are bad enough to make them wonder if this is really the end, he always regrets the days he spent pretending nothing was wrong. It's a little like it was at school, when he would not study and then feel guilty when his teacher asked him something and he wouldn't know the answer.

“Will?” Jem's thin voice comes from inside. “I know you're there.”

Will swallows and opens the door. He plasters a smile on his face as he enters the room, his eyes darting to the bed where Jem is lying. Jem offers him a tired smile in return. “Come in,” he says. His long, pale fingers pat the bed. “Have a seat.”

Will has tried to play it cool since the moment he knew what was happening to Jem. He lies so much about himself, pretending not to care for anything or anyone, that he thought it would be an easy thing to do, pretending Jem was perfectly fine. But it's not. Seeing him so drained, almost unable to move, makes his eyes sting. The only thing he wants to do is hug him and never let him go, which would be both pointless and awkward, he thinks.

“I know you're angry with me,” Jem says matter-of-factly.

“I'm not,” he says as he sits down on the bed, right next to him. Now that they're together, he doesn't want to waste any precious second fighting with him.

Jem smiles tenderly. “I know you are,” he repeats, patiently. “That's what you usually are, anyway. But this time you're right and I must apologize to you.”

“You don't have to.”

Jem sighs. “Will, please. Don't patronize me,” he says, tiredly. “I know what I did and I'm taking full responsibility for it. You don't have to go easy on me just because I'm sick. You know I hate that.”

“Alright. I am angry with you,” he confesses. “You were an idiot. Why didn't you tell me?”

Jem can't help but laugh. It's so typically Will to act like he's perfectly calm and then lash out at you the moment you call him out for being angry. “I didn't want to make a fuss over something I thought was yet another bout,” he sighs. “How many of them did I have already? How many of them will I have? I can't call you every time I'm a little weak.”

“Actually you can,” Will says. “I want you to. I need you to, Jem. Is that so hard to understand?”

Jem face tenses. His features, usually so soft and delicate, suddenly grow angles and straight lines and his eyes turn as hard as stone. Sometimes the most delicate people have the sternest expressions. “Maybe I didn't want to call you then,” he says. “Have you ever thought of that?”

Those words seem to remain in the air above them for a moment, their meaning hitting Will hard. Then, Jem sighs. “Listen, I didn't want to make you worry and certainly I didn't want to keep you at distance. But calling you when I fall sick makes it real,” he explains. “I can't fight it when I see myself through your eyes, Will. You're so scared of it and when you're scared, I'm scared with you.”

This is something Will can understand. Jem manages to deal with his illness as long as he's the only one who's dealing with it. This is exactly what Will himself is doing with his own curse. Yet, understanding what's inside Jem's mind doesn't make Will less angry. He still wants to punch something. “So why am I here now?” he asks.

The question comes out a little rougher than expected, but Jem doesn't seem to mind. “Because for a moment I really thought I was wrong,” he simply says. Then he coughs and it's a series of raw, deep coughs that bends him in half.

Will starts to move but Jem shakes his head, covering his mouth with both his hands. When the coughing stops, they come away with blood. They share a look before Jem cleans his hands on an handkerchief that quickly disappears under his blankets. “I thought I was wrong, Will,” he says again. “I started coughing like this, I couldn't breath and the only thing I could think of was that you didn't know and maybe I couldn't get to you in time. I panicked.”

Something warm and familiar makes its nest into Will's heart and he prefers, for everybody involved, not to give it a name. “So you overreacted? That's what you're telling me?” He asks, just to make sure.

Jem chuckles, even if weakly. His face is pale and even the slightest movement seems to cost him a great effort but his eyes are vivid, showing that there's a stream of lively energy inside a body that can't quite catch up with it at the moment. “Yes, you can say that,” he confirms. “I think I'm gonna get through this one.”

“Don't talk like that,” Will immediately says. “There will never be one you can't get through.”
Jem sighs and tries to sit up. When he can't, he lets Will help him.

“You see, this is where we're both wrong,” Jem says. “We shouldn't think like that. We should be ready for when the time comes. Say each other goodbye when we still can, in case we don't get to.”

“No.” Will shakes his head. “No, it's bad luck and I won't do it.”

“So you will let me go without saying goodbye?”

“No, I won't let you go at all!” Will almost screams. “That's what you don't understand.”

Jem searches for his hand and holds it between both of his own. “I understand very well, that's why I want you to listen to me carefully,” he says patiently, his voice sweet as it always is when he explains something to his parabatai. “It will happen but it won't be your fault, Will. It does not and it will not depend on you. That's why you should be ready. I don't want you to think you didn't do enough.”


“Promise me,” Jem cuts him off, gently. “Promise me that we will both be ready to face what's expecting us.”

Will takes his head in his hands and rests his forehead against Jem's. Their eyes meet in the familiar, intimate darkness between their faces. There's nothing he'd want more than give Jem the reassurance he needs, but he cannot lie to him and he won't. So he presses his lips on Jem's in something close to a kiss, but he doesn't speak, making no promises he can't keep.

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