The young boy ignored his mother's call and continued to run down the hall, his ink black hair bobbing up and down.
"Jian, answer your mother when she calls for you," Maxwell Carstairs said, closing the front door of the Shangai Institute. He looked at his only son with mock disapproval. The young boy hated disappointing his father, and normally the tone would have crushed Jian, but there was a telltale twinkle in the man's eye.
"Father!" Jian ran at the man. Maxwell knelt down and opened his arms; the boy ran directly into them and Maxwell enveloped him into a warm hug. "I missed you!"
"I was only gone for a few hours." The man chuckled. He picked the six-year-old Jian up and swung him around once before sitting him down, turning his attention to his wife.
He wrapped her arms around her and breathed in deeply, inhaling the scent of her hair — it smelled oddly of mangoes — and smiled. "Ming Hai, I've missed you."
"But you were only gone for a few hours." The mocking tone in her voice as she repeated his words made him smile.
"Are you hungry? I think Alice might have dinner ready soon," she said, taking her husband's coat.
"Of course, I just want to give Jian a quick violin lesson before dinner."
"Okay, we'll wait for you."
Jian, whose ears had perked up at the word violin, chased his father down the hall and into the Institute's music room.
He ran to the violin — a Guarneri original. Jian, while young, was still surprised that his father let him touch the priceless instrument. Maxwell, however, was a very optimistic man.
Jian struggled under the weight of the violin, but Maxwell walked up to his son and took the violin from him.
"I'm actually just going to play for you today."
Jian looked at his father, obedient.
"This is something I converted from piano. It is a Frédéric Chopin piece, originally penned for the piano. Now, Jian: Chopin was a wonderful composer, and I wish to teach some of his masterpieces on the piano, but for now, I will stick with the violin version.
"It has special meaning to me, to your mother — to this family."
Jian blinked, waiting for his father to continue.
"I played this for your mother before we were betrothed. I adapted it in hopes of impressing her; it worked. I'm teaching you this for a few reasons, but one main reason in particular. I played this for my bride, and one day, you will play it for yours."
Jian's smile lit up his face. Like most small boys, he aspired to be just like his father one day. He sat patiently and watched his father saw at the strings of the violin, and thought that he had never heard anything more beautiful, when Ming Hai walked into the music room.
"There you guys are! We've been waiting for twenty min —" Ming Hai stopped mid-sentence and smiled. "I remember this — you played it for me just before you proposed. I would have said yes without it."
Maxwell smiled, still playing the piece. In Jian's opinion, he was the best violinist in the world.
By the time he had finished the piece, Ming Hai had taken a seat beside Jian and had a distant look on her face. Maxwell crossed the small space and stopped in front of her, reaching his hand out. She accepted it and smiled, letting him help her stand up. They leaned in for the kiss at the same time, and when their lips met, Jian began a saying the word "ew!" over and over again. He was six, after all..
His parents pulled apart, smiling.
"Oh! Dinner!" Ming Hai half-shrieked. "Alice will not be pleased if she has to reheat it!"
With that, Maxwell placed the violin back on its stand and they all shuffled down to the dining room in unison — the perfect, happy family.
On Jian's eighth birthday, relatives arrive from across the country. He could barely pronounce their names, and their faces sort of melted together in his memory. Seeing someone once a year did little good for a (now proud) eight-year-old's memory.
The celebration, like the Carstairs family in general, was untraditional. They played games of hide-and-seek across the Institute and had dessert for dinner. When the last of the relatives left the next day, Maxwell called the family into the parlor room.
He was lounged in one of the armchairs, but straightened his back when his family walked in.
"So," he began, making sure he had their attention. "I think we should start Jian's training tomorrow." It was unorthodox, but since when had the Carstairs cared?
Jian's eyes lit up with excitement. His mother's, however, took a look of worry.
"Are you sure he's old enough? Most Shadowhunters don't start until ten, at the earliest!"
"I'm not suggesting Marking him yet, my love. I just think we should start with basic weapons and defense training."
Ming Hai considered it for a moment, before she muttered, "Okay, but if our son gets hurt, I'm killing you." Her small smile made Maxwell's face break out in one as well, and Jian literally started jumping up and down.
"I'm gonna be a Shadowhunter!"
Maxwell chuckled and ruffled Jian's black hair. "Yes — tomorrow. But for now, I believe it's someone's bedtime."
Jian groaned, but trudged his way up the steps. Maxwell and Ming Hai laughed as they heard his bedroom door shut.
The next morning, Jian was up before his parents. His servant, Harrison, had laid out his training gear the night before and Jian had had a hard time sleeping, thinking about when he'd finally be able to wear it.
He struggled into the uniform and ran down the stairs, catching Alice as she was still making breakfast.
"You're up early," she said warmly, turning away from her preparations to hug the boy. "Excited?"
He nodded, his head bobbing up and down so fast he got a bit dizzy.
"Why don't you go sit on the stool over there while I finish cooking your food?"
Jian smiled and did as he was asked, waiting patiently for the most exciting day of his life. Alice finished with breakfast just as Maxwell and Ming Hai were descending the staircase.
They looked shocked to see Jian waiting in the kitchen, sending puzzled looks to Alice.
"He's been up for a good hour. I'm surprised he hasn't spontaneously combusted yet," she joked.
They ate breakfast in silence, Jian forgoing his manners and scarfing down his food. He sat there, bouncing in his chair as he waited for his parents to finish.
When they were, he jumped out of his seat and ran to the training room, his parents nearly running to keep up.
They started with basic defense positions. Jian got frustrated when he was off-balance or couldn't hold a position, but he never got upset or said anything as his father criticized him. He only smiled and thanked his father.
The next day was a repeat, only that day, they learned about weapons. Jian's favorite was the sword, even though it was nearly too heavy for him to hold. He had practiced holding heavy objects with the violin, and he applied the same concentration now as he did then.
All of the objects fascinated him, especially the Seraph blades. He listened intently as his parents listed off the precautions and need-to-knows.
On the third day, they started doing simple hand-to-hand combat, and Maxwell apologized every time he knocked his son down.
When Jian was barely ten, he was Marked for the first time. His father took him to a house far away from everything and said they would be there for two weeks. Jian was nervous, but also very happy to finally be a real Nephilim.
He follows his father down the staircase to a dark room with a bed. He's placed into the bed and strapped in tight. He looks up at his dad with his innocent eyes and silently asks why. Maxwell apologizes and leaves the room.
He comes back with something that Jian recognizes as a stele and a glass of water.
The next thing he Jian could remember was pain: terrible, excruciating, KILL-ME-AND-GET-IT-OVER-WITH pain that tore at his nerve endings and veins. Jian felt like he was melting from the inside out and he fought against the restraints.
"Be still, my son," Maxwell warned.
A rune. Carstairs.
A rune. Nephilim.
A rune. Protection.
A rune. Strength.
A rune. Sight.
A rune. Servant of God.
He screamed with each new rune until the last — he didn't remember anything after that.
The next thing Jian remembered was waking up in a room filled with light. The light burnt his skin; he screamed and screamed and screamed but he couldn't move. Finally, his father ran into the room and closed the drapes, looking apologetically at himfor accidentally leaving them open.
Tears were falling from Jian's eyes, but he wasn't crying.
"You're going to be sore for a few days, Jian. Quite a few."
Jian nodded, swallowing, only to find his mouth dry. Maxwell nodded knowingly and handed him a glass of water. He took a gulp, only to find it fighting its way back up, running down his chin and onto his chest. Where the water touched the runes, steam wafted off Jian's skin. He looked at his father with a worried look in his eyes, but Maxwell just nodded reassuringly.
He was in and out of consciousness for the next few days, until the last day before the trip ended, he could stand up, drink water, eat minimal food, and wear a shirt.
He was shaking everywhere and he got dizzy easily, but other than that, he was fine. When they got back to the Institute, his mother held him so tight that he could barely breathe, murmuring, "My little man," into his ear over and over again.
When Jian was twelve, his parents were off hunting a lot. An influx of demon sightings and Downworlder infractions had been cropping up in the past few months. Jian, while he was also attached to his parents, enjoyed the time to be a twelve-year-old boy with absent parents. His time was spent mostly with Harrison, his father's servant from England.
Most of the servants in the Institute were English speaking, and in fact, had followed Maxwell from England. There was, however, a female servant that was one of his mother's that sat in on his Mandarin lessons and provided help with the dialects. Jian didn't like her too much, mostly because she acted like she was his mother — and not his mother, but a controlling and rude one.
His parents had just gotten home from a hunt — two hours after Jian had finished his dinner — and were telling him about this minor demon that had been killing mundanes at a a pub. They were sitting in the parlor, talking about Jian's training and studies when they heard something that sounded like china shattering. Maxwell motioned for his family to stay still and he exited the room, taking small steps to avoid making noise.
Ten minutes passed and Maxwell hadn't made additional communication. Ming Hai made the same motion that his father had and left Jian alone in the room. Jian sat patiently, waiting for his parents to return. It was late at night — his usual bedtime was drawing nearer, and the heat from the fire was licking his face, making him drowsy.
He awoke sometime later, his teeth chattering against each other from the cold. He looked at the fire: it was completely out; even the embers had gone cold. Jian figured that Harrison had assumed that he would be in his room soon, so he had simply attended to the fireplace in there. He rubbed his limbs in attempt to warm them up, but it didn't work well. He yawned and opened the door, heading for the stairs when he heard a strange noise. It scared him (even Shadowhunters get scared when they're small). He ran up to his parents' bedroom and burst in even though because of an incident last year he had learned to not enter before knocking. He found his parents room cold — no sign of a fire there either — and their bed un-slept in.
Curious, Jian walked back down the stairs and started exploring when he heard the sound again. It sounded like it was coming from the foyer. He passed through the kitchen and screamed when he saw Alice lying on the ground, blood pooling around her from a gaping hole in her chest.
He stood frozen for a few moments before backing up and turning around to run — but he saw the ugliest creature he had even laid eyes on. Its eyes were pure silver and it started moving toward him.
That was the last thing he remembered.--
The next thing he saw was his mother, gagged and struggling against the ties that bound her to the chair. She was looking at him and screaming; her words were muffled by the gag, but it was obvious that she was yelling run. As if he could. He squirmed, struggling against the tight knots that bound him to the chair.
His father's eyes were closed and he was shaking; he kept opening them, glancing at Jian, and closing them again, almost as if he had been hoping the image of his son was a dream.
Unfortunately, it wasn't.
It was like that for some time: them sharing horrified glances at each other. Eventually, the demon from earlier came in.
It was huge and black (Jian would guess about nine feet tall) with claws the size of Jian's head. It made sure Maxwell and Ming Hai were watching him before he approached Jian and removed his gag.
"What — what are you? What are you doing?" Jian was shaking, so his words weren't that clear, but the demon understood him.
"My name is Yanluo." The sound that was coming out of Yanluo's mouth was not English, nor Chinese, but for some reason Jian could understand it. "Your mother over there —" Yanluo gestured to Ming Hai, who struggled against her binds again, before continuing "— has caused me great pain. You see, she has been responsible for the murder of several of my children. I find it only fair for her to feel the same pain that I have."
Maxwell and Ming Hai were screaming now, obviously heard even through the cloth. Yanluo made a crude sound; Jian figured it was a laugh.
Yanluo must have seen the panic in his eyes, because he said, "Don't worry, young Shadowhunter. You're not first."
He turned to Maxwell, who stopped struggling and appeared to be focusing hard on something. "No, young one. Your mother must know what it is like to loose everyone."
Jian noticed something in his father's hand, a Seraph blade. He silently thanked the Angel and closed his eyes.
He heard a high-pitched howl and opened his eyes. Silver liquid was flowing from Yanluo and his father's smile, while at first bright, soon diminished. Why wasn't he turning to dust?
Yanluo regained his posture and started laughing. "Silly Nephilim, those might kill a lesser demon, but not me." He surveyed the damage: the blood was still flowing, but it was slowing. He touched the blood and a smile spread across his face. A smile that terrified Jian.
"Young one, open your mouth."
Jian shook his head and pressed his lips together.
"I said, open your mouth."
Yanluo was right in front of him now, and one of his claws was two inches from Jian's face. Silver blood dripped from it onto his lap, warming the areas it touched. When Jian refused to open his mouth, Yanluo prized his lips apart, leaving the bloody tip of the claw in his mouth, the blood leaking onto Jian's tongue, and eventually sliding down his throat.
The feeling was . . . warm, exhilarating. All of the exhaustion left Jian's bones as the liquid travelled further through his body. He could hear his mother's sobs and his father's silent protests, but he couldn't find it in him to feel anything but light.
"Mmhm," Yanluo said. "This was a great idea. Thank you, Maxwell."
Maxwell had somehow freed himself of the gag and he screamed, "You bastard!"
"Now, now, now, Maxwell, remember: this was your idea."
Maxwell was panting heavily, but he said nothing, only exchanging glances with Ming Hai.--
The next few days were a blur for Jian. He only remembered his parents pleading, and the demon feeding him more of its blood. As the time went on, he became less and less reluctant to swallow the blood; at one point, he even began to beg for it . . .
By that time, his parents were crying, begging, and pleading to Yanluo to stop. He ignored them, continuing to give Jian the blood. Jian could feel the blood coursing through his body; it felt like it was ripping his body apart from the inside, but he felt better as soon more of the blood touched his tongue.
He was in and out of consciousness for the next few days, only waking to ask for more blood.
Each time he woke up, there was more screaming and more crying. Then, it was only his mother crying, and he wondered where his dad was, but he soon got more of the drug and was happy to go back to sleep.
One time, when he awoke, he was alone. He was craving more of the blood, and he called out for it.
His throat was dry; he needed more of the drug and he could feel exhaustion settling in.
He looked around.
He was completely alone.
He continued to fall in and out of consciousness. His bouts of unconsciousness were longer now, since he didn't have the drug to sustain him.
One time when he awoke, he felt sick — almost as if he was moving. He groaned but soon fell back asleep.
The next time he awoke, he felt different, more alert. He was on something soft; he thought it was a bed. When he opened his eyes, he learned that his suspicions were correct. The candlelight was bright against his eyes, so he kept them shut.
Minutes later, he heard the door open then a voice say, "No, he's still asleep."
He made a noise. It was meant to come out as "No", but it ended up sounding more like "Nurrrg."
"Wait!" the voice said. "I think he's awake!"
There was some movement on his bed, and he thought someone had sat down. He felt a hand on his shoulder and then someone was shaking him.
"Jian. Jian, are you awake?"
Jian turned around to face them. "How do you know my name?"
"One of the Silent Brothers told us." Her smile was sweet, but her eyes were worried. Her tone turned more serious. "Do you know what happened to your parents?"
"My — my parents? Where are they?" He tried to sit up, but the woman extended her hand and pushed him back down. The tone in her eyes was full of pity.
Jian could feel himself choking on air, but no tears came out. The woman's smile was sad, and she pulled him into a hug.
"Oh! How terribly . . ." she trailed off, as if looking for the right word. "Anyway, my name is Charlotte Branwell."
Jian nodded. "Where am I?"
"You're at the London Institute."
Breathing got difficult. Charlotte held him tighter. Some of his crisis training kicked in and he swallowed, hard. "Can I speak to the head of the Institute, please?"
"I am the head of the Institute."
His eyes widened a bit, but he remembered his manners. "Of course. Who inhabits this place?"
"Uhm, there's me; my husband, Henry; a Welsh boy your age, Will; and an eleven-year-old girl named Jessamine. You should watch out for her. She can be very . . . hard to deal with, but we all love her."
"Do you have an English name?"
"Well, I don't know how well people can pronounce 'Jian', so . . ."
"Oh, right, uhm. I think my dad said it was 'James'?"
"Okay. Do you want something to eat? The Silent Brothers did their best to heal you, but unfortunately they couldn't provide you with nourishment. You must be starving."
Jian nodded again. "Could I have some toast please?"
"Of course." Charlotte smiled and left the room.--
It took him a long time to get used to his English name, and by that time, people were calling him 'Jem', which he was told was short for 'James.'
He had taken up training at the Institute. This one was much different than the Shanghai Institute. That was his home, and this place was so much colder and darker.
The boy his age, Will, was a sour person with a funny accent. They had a weird relationship, in that they were training partners, so they had learned to lean on each other.
He fell into a routine: wake up, eat breakfast, dress in his training gear, train with Will, eat lunch, train with Will, eat dinner, study some mathematics, history, or language subjects, sit in his room with Will doing different things, then dressing for bed.
It was simple, and it helped him keep his mind off the incident.
But the routine didn't last. He started getting sick more often, and often spent days in bed. Charlotte called the Silent Brothers to the Institute and they spent hours studying him. When Charlotte came back in, her face was solemn.
"When we rescued you, we had some fears, but when you healed so quickly, we thought it might not have happened. Did Yanluo feed you any of his blood?"
Jem flushed darkly, glad Charlotte couldn't read his thoughts to know he'd begged for it. "Yes."
"Right, the Silent Brothers are afraid you might be addicted to it."
Jem thought for a moment. "So what does this mean?"
"It means that you must continue taking it, starting soon, or you will die within the month."
Jem swallowed again. "So what's the problem? I'll start taking it now."
"Well, the thing is . . . eventually, your body will become so dependent on it that you won't be able to go a minute without it. There isn't a large supply of the blood — we refer to it as the drug yin fin — and you will die."
Jem sat in silence.
"You're taking this remarkably well."
He was silent for a bit longer, and then, "What else can I do? I can freak out or I can accept it. Either way, I'm dying. Do I have access to my parents' money? I'm going to need it to buy some of the — what did you call it, yin fin?"
"Don't worry about that, the Institute will take care of it."
"I would protest, but I'm really sleepy. We can discuss the issue of the second payment, I suppose. And Charlotte, I don't mean to sound rude, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm exhausted. Could I please be alone?"
She nodded. "Of course."
As soon as he started taking the drug again, Jem went back to training as normal.
He was practicing sword fighting with Will — he really was lousy at that — when he knocked the sword out of Will's hand. Will cursed and bent to pick it up, but stopped halfway through straightening up. "Is your hair lighter?"
"And your eyes, too!"
Jem walked over to the mirror and gasped. "We must see Charlotte."
Will nodded and followed him.
"You knew this would be a side effect?"
Charlotte looked down.
"You didn't think it'd be a good idea to tell me, so I wouldn't get freaked out?" Jem froze and swallowed his anger. "I'm sorry, it just alarmed me."
"I didn't tell you because I didn't want to freak you out."
"That worked well."
Jem stalked back to the training room, with Will shrugging at Charlotte before following.
Jem picked up a sword and tossed one to Will, who flinched but caught it nonetheless.
"I want you to be my parabatai."
"Don't be ridiculous, William. Now, let's fight."
"I hope you mean train, but I'm serious. I want you to be my parabatai."
Jem swung his sword in circles. "It's not happening."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because I'm dying." He stabbed the air.
Will pursed his lips.
"So, let's make a deal."
"What deal?" He stabbed the air again.
"If I can disarm you first, you'll be my parabatai."
Jem snorted. "Deal."
"Swear on the Angel."
"I swear on the Angel."
"Good, now go."
Jem didn't know how it happened, but he ended up pinned against the wall, his sword ten feet away, and Will's against his throat.
"So, parabatai?" Will smirked.
"We'll tell Charlotte immediately," Jem sighed.--
It was chilly in the Bone City, but Jem resisted shivering. He stared across the Shining Stars at Will, who was stoic. Jem could see right through him.
The Silent Brothers' voices were projected into their minds in unison.
Step onto the floor, Will Herondale and James Carstairs.
They did as they were told, and smiled when they were standing face-to-face.
Put your right hand on the Mortal Sword.
Will's hand was warm against his and Jem's breathing slowed to a normal pace.
The Mortal Sword glowed.
Repeat after us: I swear.
"I swear." Two voices in unison.
With not only my heart, soul, and mind — but with my life.
"With not only my heart, soul, and mind — but with my life."
Embrace your brother.
The Mortal Sword cooled down and they removed their hands from it. They both stood still, awkwardly staring at each other.
Finally, Will walked around the sword and pulled Jem into a hug.
--Also, for credit/thanks, or if you'd just like to read it there, this has also been posted on FFN.