What does it mean to be married? What do we commit to when we commit to each other for life? On a tense, hot summer night at the New York Institute, one couple will begin to find out as they celebrate their engagement. Another couple will explore that step, only to be thrown back by a violent emergency that calls them to duty before love.
When Simon Lewis spontaneously proposes to Isabelle Lightwood, Clary Fairchild has two days to plan a grand engagement party. With a lot of help from their Downworlder and mundane friends, Clary and Jace Herondale pull it off.
But it wouldn't be the Shadow World if trouble didn't arrive to threaten even the most joyous occasion. As the new co-head of the New York Institute, Clary must deal with an impending Downworlder civil war, all while trying to keep Isabelle away from a room suspiciously full of tulips, to which she is dangerously allergic.
Clary and Jace finally find a moment for themselves, but Magnus Bane interrupts them before they can have the conversation they really need to have – a conversation about that longest of conversations, marriage, that they may never get to have if they don't survive the night...
Two days before, Clary's parabatai Simon Lewis had showed up breathless at the Institute and announced that he'd asked Isabelle Lightwood to marry him. After being light-heartedly teased, Simon explained Isabelle's wish to have an engagement party in two days, which confused Clary until Jace Herondale pointed out that it would be Max Lightwood's birthday. Simon asked to have the party at the Institute and Clary agreed to help arrange it.
Still observing the preparations for the party, Clary sadly recalls the room's similarity to the Seelie Court and feels a pang for the loss of faerie magic in the world—a result of the Cold Peace. While watching her friends move around the room, Clary is approached by Beatriz Mendoza who alerts her to the recent delivery of tulips, which Isabelle is allergic to, as Alec Lightwood points out. He asks to speak to Clary alone and reveals his fear that the Clave will take his newly-adopted son Rafael away from him. She assures him everything will be fine.
After a conversation with Simon's sister Rebecca, Clary is sought out by Lily Chen and Maia Roberts, the heads of the New York vampire clan and werewolf pack, respectively. They ask for her help in settling a territorial dispute with the vampires and werewolves, and she reluctantly obliges, bluffing her way through a conversation with one of Maia's pack members and setting up a meeting. The two heads move on and Isabelle arrives, immediately having an allergic reaction to the tulips. She is happy despite this and proceeds to make her late entrance alongside Clary which is accompanied by cheers from the guests.
While toasts are given and pictures shown, Jace pulls Clary aside to the strategy room for privacy and, after reminding her how she fixed his broken heart and made him a better man, he asks her to marry him. Clary freezes up, unable to answer, and is saved from having to do so when Magnus Bane barges into the room and reveals that there has been a flare of necromantic magic on the necromancy map near the Los Angeles Institute. He continues that Malcolm Fade is not answering his calls and that he has only told Robert Lightwood, not wanting to ruin the party in case it was a false alarm. Robert appears in the doorway and reacts awkwardly upon seeing Clary and Jace's disheveled appearance. Magnus opens a Portal and Clary realizes she will have to give Jace an answer when they get back. Dreading it, she pushes it aside for now and steps through the Portal.
Clary looked around the Institute’s music room with a tired but gratified smile. It was a hot New York summer night, the windows were flung open, and Magnus had magicked up icicles that sparkled down from the ceiling and cooled the space. The room was filled with people Clary loved and cared about, and in her personal opinion it looked pretty good, considering she’d had to race to find somewhere in the Institute they could hold a party on about twenty-four hours’ notice.
There was really no reason not to smile.
Two days previously, Simon had showed up at the Institute, breathless and wild-eyed. Jace and Clary had been in the training room, checking in on the new Institute tutor, Beatriz Mendoza, and some of the Conclave students.
“Simon!” Clay had exclaimed. “I didn’t know you were in town.”
Simon was a graduate of Shadowhunter Academy, Clary’s parabatai, and a Recruiter, a job created by the Consul to help replenish the diminished ranks of Shadowhunters. When likely candidates for Ascension were found, Simon would talk to them about what it meant to become a Shadowhunter after a mundane life. It was a job that often took him away from New York, which was its downside; in the plus column, Simon seemed to truly enjoy helping scared mundanes with the Sight feel like they weren’t truly alone.
Not that Simon looked like a dependable voice of reassurance at the moment. He looked like a tornado had hit him.
“I just proposed to Isabelle,” he announced.
Beatriz screamed with excitement. Some of the students, fearing a demon attack, also screamed. One of them fell off a rafter and thumped to the ground on a training mat. Clary burst into happy tears and threw her arms around Simon.
Jace lay down on the floor, arms thrown wide. “We’re going to be family,” he said glumly. “You and me, Simon, we’re going to be brothers. People will think we’re related.”
“No one will think that,” Simon said, his voice muffled against Clary’s hair.
“I’m so delighted for you, Simon,” Clary said. “You and Izzy will be so, so happy.” She turned and glared at Jace. “As for you, get up and congratulate Simon or I’ll pour all your expensive shampoo down the drain.”
Jace bounced up, and he and Simon pounded each other on the back in a manly way, which Clary was pleased to feel she had engineered. Jace and Simon had been friends for years now, but Jace still seemed to think he needed excuses to show his affection. Clary was happy to provide them.
“Did the proposal go well? Was it romantic? Did you surprise her? I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you were going to do it.” Clary smacked Simon on the arm. “Did you have roses? Izzy loves roses.”
“It was on impulse,” Simon said. “An impulse proposal. We were on the Brooklyn Bridge. Izzy had just snipped the head off a Shax demon.”
“Covered in ichor, she had never appeared to you more luminous?” said Jace.
“Something like that,” said Simon.
“That’s the most Shadowhunterish thing I’ve ever heard,” said Clary. “So, details? Did you get down on one knee?”
“Shadowhunters don’t do that,” said Jace.
“That’s a pity,” said Clary. “I love that part in movies.”
“So why are you looking so wild-eyed?” Jace asked. “She said yes, didn’t she?”
Simon raked his fingers through his hair. “She wants an engagement party.”
“Open bar,” said Jace, who had developed an interest in mixology that Clary found amusing. “Definitely open bar.”
“No, you don’t get it,” said Simon. “She wants it in two days.”
“Um,” Clary said. “I can see why she’d be excited to share this with her friends and family but surely it can wait a little longer…?”
When Jace spoke, his voice was flat. “She wants to do it on Max’s birthday.”
“Oh,” Clary said softly. Max, the smallest, the sweetest Lightwood, Izzy and Alec’s little brother. He would be fourteen now, almost the same age as Tiberius and Livvy Blackthorn. She could understand entirely why Isabelle would want to have her engagement part at a time when it would feel most genuinely to her that Max was there. “Well, did you think of asking Magnus?”
“Of course I did,” said Simon. “And he said he’d help if he could, but they have the whole situation with Rafael…”
“Right,” Clary said. “So you want our help?”
“I was hoping we could have it here,” Simon said. “In the Institute. And you could help me with a few things I don’t really understand.”
Clary felt a growing sense of dread. The Institute had undergone major renovations recently; some were still ongoing. The ballroom that was hardly ever used was being turned into a second training room, and several floors were full of stacks of tiles and lumber. There was the music room, which was enormous, but packed with old cellos, pianos, and even an organ. “What kind of things?”
Simon looked at her with big brown puppy eyes. “Flowers, catering, decorations...”
Clary groaned. Jace ruffled her hair. “You can do it,” he said, and she could tell just from the tone of his voice that he was grinning. “Come on, you saved the world once, remember? I believe in you.”
And that was how Clary had come to be standing in the Institute’s music room, with Magnus’s sparkling icicles dripping down onto her green dress. Every once in a while Magnus would change it up a little, and illusory rose petals would blow through the room. Some of Maia’s werewolf pack had helped move the harp, the organ, and a smatter of other instruments into the adjoining empty room. (Its door was closed firmly now, half-obscured by a glamoured waterfall of tumbling butterflies.)
It reminded Clary a little of the Court of the Seelie Queen, which had been different each time she had visited it years ago: sparkling ice at some times, plush scarlet velvet at others. She felt a small pang, not for the Queen herself, who had been cruel and traitorous, but for the magic of the fey. Since the Cold Peace had been put into practice, she had not visited the Courts of Faerie again. Central Park was no longer filled with dancing on nights when the moon was full. You could no longer see pixies and mermaids in the waters of the Hudson. Sometimes, late at night, she would hear the high lonely sound of the Wild Hunt’s horn as they pounded through the sky, and think of Mark Blackthorn, and grieve. But Gwyn and his people had never been subject to any laws, and the sound of the Hunt was no replacement for the music of faerie revels that had once drifted from Hart Island.
She had talked to Jace about it, and he had agreed with her, both in his capacity as her boyfriend and also as second head of the Institute: the Shadowhunter world, without the Fair Folk, was unbalanced. Shadowhunters needed Downworlders. They always had. Trying to pretend the Fair Folk didn’t exist would only lead to disaster. But they weren’t the Council—they were only the very young leaders of a single Institute. So they waited, and tried to be prepared.
Certainly, Clary thought, there was no other Institute she could think of that would be likely to host a party quite like this one. Beatriz’s students were standing in as waiters, carrying platters of canapés around the room—the canapés had been provided by Simon’s sister, who worked at a restaurant in Brooklyn, and the platters and cutlery were pewter, not silver, out of deference to werewolves present.
Speaking of Downworlders, Maia was laughing in a corner of the room with her hand in Bat’s. She wore a floating orange dress, her curls piled on her head and her Praetor Lupus medallion gleaming at her brown throat.
She was talking with Clary’s stepfather, Luke, whose glasses were pushed up onto his head. There was a bit more gray in Luke’s hair these days, but his eyes were as bright as ever. Jocelyn had gone off to one of the offices to have a long chat with Maryse Lightwood, Simon’s prospective mother-in-law. Clary couldn’t help but wonder if she was delivering the maternal speech about how the Lightwoods were lucky to have Simon in their family and they’d better not forget it.
Julie Beauvale, Beatriz’s parabatai, passed by them, carrying a platter of tiny puff pastries. As Clary watched, Lily, the head of the New York vampire clan, snagged a pastry off the platter, winked at Bat and Maia, and sashayed over to the piano, passing by Simon—who was making conversation with Isabelle’s father, Robert Lightwood—on her way. Simon wore a charcoal-gray suit and looked nervous enough to jump out of his skin.
Jace was playing, his velvet blazer tossed over the back of his chair, his slim hands dancing over the piano keys. Clary couldn’t help but remember the first time she’d seen him in the Institute, playing the piano, his back to her. Alec? he’d said. Is that you?
Jace’s expression was focused and intent, the way it was only when he was doing something he considered worthy of his entire focus—fighting, or playing music, or kissing. He glanced up as if he could feel her gaze on him, and smiled at her. Even after all this time, he still gave her shivers down her spine.
She was amazingly proud of him. They had been as surprised as anyone when the Conclave had voted them in as the new heads of the Institute when Maryse had left. They’d been only nineteen years old, and she supposed they’d assumed Alec of Isabelle would take over, but neither of them wanted it. Isabelle wanted to travel, and Alec was involved with the Downworlder-Shadowhunter Alliance he was building.
They could always turn it down, Clary had said to Jace at the time. No one could force someone to head up an Institute, and they’d planned to go around the world together, while Clary painted and Jace fought demons in unusual locations. But he’d wanted to it. She knew that in his heart he felt it was a way of paying back for the people they’d lost in the war, the people they hadn’t been able to save. For the good fortune they’d had in coming through it all with most of the people they loved unscathed. For the fact that the universe had given him Alec, and Isabelle, and Clary, when once he’d thought that he would never have a best friend, or a sister, and that he would never fall in love.
Running the Institute was hard work. It required all Jace’s ability to charm, and Clary’s instinct to keep peace and build alliances. Alone, neither of them could have done it, but together, Clary’s determination balanced his ambition, her knowledge of the mundane world and its practicalities, his ancient Shadowhunter blood and training. Jace had always been the natural leader of their small group, a proven strategist, excellent at being able to judge who would be best at what. Clary was the one who could reassure the frightened, as well as the one who finally got a forbidden computer installed in the strategy room.
Lily said something in Jace’s ear, probably a song request—she’d died in the twenties and was always demanding ragtime—before twirling on her red heels and heading off toward a blanket that had been spread in one corner of the room. Magnus was seated on it, his son Max, a three-year-old warlock with navy-blue skin, curled up against his side. Also on the blanket was a five-year-old boy, this one a Shadowhunter, with tangled black hair, who reached for a book Magnus held out to him and gave the warlock a shy smile.
Beatriz was suddenly at Clary’s side. “Where’s Isabelle?” she whispered.
“She wants to make an entrance,” Clary whispered back. “She was waiting for everyone to get here. Why?”
Beatriz gave her a meaningful look and cocked her head toward the door. A few seconds later, Clary was following her down the hall, the skirt of her dress hoisted up so she wouldn’t trip on the hem. She could see herself in the mirror along the corridor wall, her green dress the color of a flower stem.
Jace liked her in green, and it matched her eyes, but there had been a time when the color had troubled her. She had been unable to look at it without thinking of her brother, Jonathan, whose eyes had turned green when he died.
When he had been Sebastian, his eyes had been black. But that had been years ago.
Beatriz led her into the dining room, which was full of flowers. Dutch tulips, Clary was pretty sure. They were piled on the chairs, on the table, on the sideboard.
“These just got delivered,” Beatriz said in a dire tone, as if they had been talking about a dead body and not some local flora.
“Okay, so what’s the problem?” Clary said.
“Isabelle’s allergic to tulips,” said a voice from the shadows. Clary jumped. Alec Lightwood was seated in a chair at the far end of the table, wearing an untucked white shirt over black suit pants and holding a yellow tulip in one hand. He was busy plucking off the petals with his long fingers. “Beatriz, can I talk to Clary for a second?”
Beatriz nodded, looking relieved to have the problem handed off to someone else, and slipped from the room.
“What’s wrong, Alec?” Clary asked, taking a step toward him. “Why are you in here and not with the rest of the party?”
“My mother told me the Consul might drop by,” he said darkly.
Clary stared. “And?” she said. It wasn’t as if Alec was a wanted criminal.
“You know about Rafe, right?” he said. “I mean, all the details.”
Clary hesitated. A few months previously, Alec had been sent to Buenos Aires to follow up on a set of vampire attacks. While there, he had come across a five-year-old Shadowhunter boy, a survivor of the decimation of the Buenos Aires Institute during the Dark War. He and Magnus had Portaled back and forth form Argentina over and over, telling no one what they were doing, until one day they appeared in New York with a skinny, wide-eyed little boy and announced they were adopting him. He would be their son, and Max’s brother.
They named him Rafael Santiago Lightwood.
“When I found Rafe, he was living on the street, starving,” Alec said. “Stealing food from mundanes, having nightmares because he had the Sight and could see monsters.” He bit his lip. “The thing is, they let us adopt Max because Max is a Downworlder. Nobody wanted him. Nobody cared. But Rafe is a Shadowhunter and Magnus—isn’t. I don’t know how the Council will feel about a Downworlder parenting a Nephilim kid, especially when they’re desperate for new Shadowhunters.”
“Alec,” Clary said firmly. “They won’t take Rafe away from you. We won’t let them.”
“I won’t let them,” said Alec. “I’d kill them all first. But that would be awkward and ruin the party.”
Clary had a brief but vivid mental image of Alec shooting at the party guests with his bow and arrow while Magnus took them out with magical fire. She sighed. “Do you have any reason to think they’ll take Rafe? Has there been any sign, any complaint from the Council?”
Alec shook his head. “No. It’s just—you know this Council. The Cold Peace means they’re edgy all the time. And even though there are Downworlders on the Council now, they don’t trust them. Sometimes I think they’re even worse than they were before the Dark War.”
“I’m not going to say you’re wrong,” Clary said. “But can I suggest something?”
“Is it poisoning the punch?” Alec asked with worrisome eagerness.
“No,” Clary said. “I was just going to say that you might be displacing your anxiety.”
Alec looked puzzled. Mundane psychological terms were fairly hit or miss with Shadowhunters.
“You’re really worried because having a kid is a big deal, and this was sudden,” said Clary. “But Max was sudden too. And you and Magnus are terrific parents. You love each other so much, and that just makes for more love that you have to give. You should never worry that you don’t have plenty of love for as many kids as you would ever want to have.”
Alec’s eyes glittered for a moment, bright blue under coal-black lashes. He stood up and came over to where Clary was standing by the door. “Wise girl,” he said.
“You didn’t always think I was wise.”
“No, I thought you were a pest, but I know better now.” He dropped a kiss on top of her head and went out the door, still carrying his tulip.
“Throw that out before you get back to the music room!” Clary called after him, imagining Isabelle laid out on the floor with hives.
She sighed and stared at the tulips. She supposed they could have a party without flowers. Still—
There was a knock on the door. A girl in a patchwork silk dress with long brown braids peeked through it. Rebecca, Simon’s sister. “Can I come in?” she asked, swinging the door open. “Whoa, tulips!”
“Isabelle’s allergic to tulips,” said Clary grimly. “Apparently.”
“Bummer,” said Rebecca. “Can you talk for a second?”
Clary nodded. “Sure, why not?”
Rebecca came in and perched herself on the corner of the table. “I wanted to thank you,” she said.
“For everything.” Rebecca looked around the room, taking in the portraits of Shadowhunter ancestors, the motifs of angels and crossed swords. “I still don’t know much about this Shadowhunter business. Simon can only tell me a little bit without tripping off some kind of alarm. I don’t really know what his job is—”
“He’s a Recruiter,” said Clary, knowing that this would mean nothing to Rebecca, but she was proud of Simon. Everything that had happened to him that was hard, that was painful, that was a challenge—being a vampire, losing his memories, becoming a Shadowhunter, losing George—he had turned into a way to help people. “We lost a lot of Shadowhunters in the war five years ago. And since then we’ve been trying to make new ones. The best candidates are mundanes who have some Shadowhunter blood, which often means they don’t know they’re Shadowhunters but they do have the Sight. They can see vampires, werewolves, magic—things that might make you think you were going crazy. Simon talks to them, tells them about becoming a Shadowhunter, why it’s hard—and why it matters.”
Clary knew she probably shouldn’t be saying any of this to a mundane. On the other hand, she probably shouldn’t have let Rebecca into the Institute at all, much less hired her to provide catering. But when Clary and Jace had taken over running the Institute, they had sworn to each other that they would be a new kind of guardian.
After all, Clary and Simon had both once been mundanes who weren’t supposed to be in the Institute too.
Rebecca was shaking her head. “Okay, I don’t understand any of this. But my little brother is a big deal, right?”
Clary smiled. “He’s always been a big deal to me.”
“He’s really happy,” Rebecca said. “With his life, with Isabelle. And that’s all thanks to you.” She leaned forward and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. “When you and Simon first got to be friends and he brought you home from school, my mom said to me: ‘That girl is going to bring magic into his life.’ And you did.”
“Literally,” Clary said. Rebecca looked blank. Oh dear. Jace would have laughed. “I mean, that’s lovely, and I’m so glad—you know I love Simon like a brother—”
“Clary!” Clary looked up in alarm, fearing that it was Isabelle, but it wasn’t. It was Lily Chen, with Maia Roberts. The heads of the New York vampire clan and the New York werewolf clan, together.
Not that it was unusual to see them together: They were friends. But they were also political allies who occasionally found themselves on the opposite sides of an argument.
“Hi, Rebecca,” Maia said. She waved, and the plain bronze band on her finger glittered. She and Bat had exchanged promise rings some time ago, but nothing was official. Maia was the head of the werewolf pack of Manhattan, in charge of rebuilding the Praetor Lupus, and pursuing a BA in business management. She was terrifyingly competent.
Lily looked at Rebecca without interest. “Clary, we must speak to you,” she said. “I tried to talk to Jace, but he playing the piano, and Magnus and Alec are busy with those small creatures.”
“Children,” Clary said. “They’re children.”
“I informed Alec we needed assistance, but he told me to ask you,” said Lily, sounding put out. She was fond of Alec, in her way. He’d been the first Shadowhunter to truly buckle down and work with Maia and Lily, fusing his Shadowhunter knowledge with their Downworlder skills. When Jace had taken over the Institute, they’d taken on the odd alliance as well, and Isabelle and Simon joined when the could. Clary had put together a strategy room for them, full of maps and plans and important contacts in case of emergency.
And there were plenty of emergencies. The Cold Peace meant that the parts of Manhattan that had belonged to the Fair Folk had been ripped away from them, and other Downworlders scuffled and battled over the scraps. Many were the nights that Clary and Jace, with Alec and Lily and Maia, had sat up trying to hammer out some detail of the vampire/lycanthrope truce or stop a revenge plan before it could begin. Magnus had even woven special spells so that Lily could come into the Institute despite the fact that it was hallowed ground, something that Jace said as far as he knew had never been done for another vampire.
“It’s about the High Line,” said Maia. The High Line was a public park built atop a disused elevated train line on the West Side, recently opened to the public.
“The High Line?” Clary said. “What, you’re suddenly interested in urban development projects?”
Rebecca waved at Lily. “Hi, I’m Rebecca. Your eyeliner is incredible.”
Lily ignored this. “Because of its elevation, it is a new piece of land in Manhattan,” she said, “and therefore it does not belong to either the vampires or the lycanthropes. Both clans have been trying to claim it for their own.”
“Do we really have to talk about this now?” Clary said. “It’s Isabelle and Simon’s engagement party.”
“Oh God!” Rebecca leaped up. “I forgot! The slideshow!”
She bolted from the room, leaving Clary staring after her. “The slideshow?”
“I understand that at functions such as this, it is a tradition to humiliate the future bride and groom with pictures from their childhoods,” said Lily. Clary and Maia both stared at her. She shrugged. “What? I watch television.”
“Look, I know it’s a bad time to be bothering you,” said Maia, “but the thing is, apparently there’s a group of werewolves and a group of vamps facing off there right now. We need an assist from the Institute.”
Clary frowned. “How do you know this is going on?”
Maia held up her phone. “I just talked to them,” she said.
“Give it to me,” Clary said grimly. “All right, who am I talking to?”
“Leila Haryana,” said Maia. “She’s one of my pack.”
Clary took the phone, hit the redial button, and waited until a girl’s voice picked up on the other end. “Leila,” she said. “This is Clarissa Fairchild at the Institute.” She paused. “Yes, the head of the Institute. That’s me. Look, I know you’re on the High Line. I know you’re about to fight a clan of vampires. I need you to stop.”
Indignant yelling followed. Clary sighed.
“The Accords are still the Accords,” she said. “And this breaks them. According to, um, section seven, paragraph forty-two, you’re required to bring a territorial dispute to the nearest Institute for settling before you start a fight.”
More subdued arguing.
Clary cut it off. “Tell the vampires what I said. And be here tomorrow at the Sanctuary, early.” She thought of the champagne in the music room. “Maybe not that early. Get here at eleven, two vamps and two lycanthropes, and we’ll hash this out. If not, you’ll be considered enemies of the Institute.”
Clary paused. “Okay,” she said. “Good-bye, then. Have a nice day.”
She hung up.
“Have a nice day?” Lily said, raising her eyebrows.
Clary groaned, handing Maia back her phone. “I suck at a good sign-off.”
“What’s section seven, paragraph forty-two?” Maia asked.
“I have no idea,” Clary said. “I made it up.”
“Not bad,” admitted Lily. “Now, I am going to go back to the music room and tell Alec that next time we need him, he had better hop to it or I might nibble on one of those children of his.”
She flounced off in a swirl of skirts.
“I’m going to go prevent that disaster from happening,” Maia said hastily. “See you later, Clary!”
She departed, leaving Clary to lean back against the massive table in the middle of the room and take deep, calming breaths, She tried to envision herself in a soothing place, maybe at the beach, but that just made her think of the Los Angeles Institute.
She and Jace had gone there in the year after the Dark War to help put the place back together—it had been the most badly hit of the Institutes Sebastian had attacked. Emma Carstairs had helped them in Idris, and Clary felt protective of the small blond girl. They’d spent a day sorting books in the new library, and then Clary had taken Emma down to the beach, to look for shells and sea glass. Emma had refused to go in the water, though, or even really look at it for very long.
Clary had asked her if she was all right.
“It’s not me I worry about,” Emma had said. “It’s Jules. I would do anything, if only Jules would be all right.”
Clary had given her a long look then, but Emma, gazing out at the flaring orange-red sunset, hadn’t seen it.
“Clary!” The door burst open again. It was finally Isabelle, looking radiant in a lilac silk dress with sparkling sandals. The moment she stepped into the room, she started to sneeze. Clary bolted upright. “By the Angel—” The Shadowhunter epithet came to her now without a thought, when once it had seemed an odd saying. “Come on.”
“Tulips,” Isabelle said in a choked voice as Clary steered her out into the hallway.
“I know,” Clary said, fanning the other girl and wondering if a healing rune would help allergies. Isabelle sneezed again, her eyes watering. “I’m so sorry—”
“Ib not your foot,” Isabelle said, which Clary translated as allergic-speak for it’s not your fault.
“It is, though!”
“Pffbt,” Isabelle said inelegantly, and waved a hand. “Doan worry. It’ll be better in a second.”
“I ordered roses,” Clary said. “I swear I did. I don’t know what happened. I’ll go down to the florist and kill them tomorrow. Or maybe Alec might do it. He seems murderous tonight.”
“Nothing’s ruined,” Isabelle said in a more normal voice. “And no one needs to be killed. Clary, I’m getting married! To Simon! I’m happy!” She beamed. “I used to think there was something weak about giving your heart to someone. That they might break it. But I know better now. And it’s thanks to Simon, but also thanks to you.”
“What do you mean, thanks to me?”
Isabelle shrugged a little shyly. “It’s just that you love so much. So hard. You give so much. And it’s always made you stronger.”
Clary realized she was tearing up. “You know, you’re marrying Simon means we’re going to be sisters, basically, right? Isn’t the person married to your parabatai like your sister?”
Isabelle threw her arms around her. For a moment, they clung to each other in the shadowy hallway. Clary couldn’t help but remember the first friendly overtures she and Isabelle had really made toward each other, so long ago, here in the hallways of the Institute. I wasn’t just worried about Alec, I was worried about you, too.
“Speaking of love and love-related things,” Isabelle said with a mischievous smile, drawing away from Clary, “what about a double wedding? You and Jace—”
Clary’s heart skipped a beat. She’d never been someone who was good at hiding her expressions or feelings. Isabelle looked at her, puzzled, about to ask something—probably if there was anything wrong—when the door to the music room opened and light and music poured into the hallway. Isabelle’s mother, Maryse, leaned out.
She was smiling, clearly happy. Clary was pleased to see it. Maryse and Robert had finalized their divorce after the Dark War. Robert had moved to the Inquisitor’s house in Idris. Maryse had remained in New York to run the Institute, but she had handed it over gladly to Clary and Jace a few years later. She had stayed in New York, nominally to help them in case they were ever in over their heads, but Clary suspected it was to be closer to her children—and to her grandson Max. There was more white in her hair now that Clary remembered her having when they’d met, but her back was straight, her stance still a Shadowhunter’s. “Isabelle!” she called. “Everyone’s waiting.”
“Good,” Isabelle said, “then I can make an entrance,” and she linked her arm with Clary’s before starting down the hallway. The flaring lights of the music room were in front of them suddenly, the room full of people turning, smiling to see them in the doorway.
Clary saw Jace, as she always did: his was always the first face she saw when she walked into a room. He was still playing, a light, unobtrusive melody, but he looked over when she came into the room and winked.
The Herondale ring on his finger sparked in the illumination from the dozens of star-shaped globes of light that were drifting around the room—doubtless Magnus’s work. Clary thought of Tessa, who had given her that ring to give to Jace, and wished she were there. She had always loved to see Jace play the piano.
A cheer had gone up when Isabelle came into the room. She looked around, glowing, clearly in her element. She blew a kiss toward Magnus and Alec where they sat snuggled up with Max and Rafe, who was watching with dark-eyed puzzlement. Maia and Bat whistled, Lily raised her glass, Luke and Rebecca beamed, and Maryse and Robert watched proudly as Isabelle stepped forward and took Simon’s hand.
Simon’s face blazed with happiness. On the wall behind him the slideshow Rebecca had mentioned was still going on. A framed quote flashed up against the wall: Marriage is like a long conversation that always ends too soon.
Ack, Clary thought. Morbid. She saw Magnus put his hand over Alec’s. Alec was watching the slideshow, Rafael on his lap. Pictures of Simon—and much fewer of Isabelle; Shadowhunters weren’t big on photographs—flickered, appearing and disappearing on the blank wall behind the harpsichord.
There was Simon as a baby, in his mother’s arms—Clary wished she could have been there, but Elaine’s knowledge of Shadowhunters was nil. As far as she knew, Isabelle was a nice girl who worked in a tattoo parlor. And Simon when he was six, grinning with two teeth missing. Simon as a teenager with his guitar. Simon and Clary, ten years old, in the park, under a shower of falling autumn leaves.
Simon glanced at the picture and smiled at Clary, his eyes crinkling around the corners. Clary touched her fingers to her right forearm, where her parabatai mark was. She hoped he could see in her eyes all that she felt: that he was her anchor, the bedrock of her childhood and the guidepost of her adult life.
Through a blur of tears she realized the music had stopped. Jace was across the room, whispering to Alec, their dark and light heads bent together. Alec’s hand was on Jace’s shoulder and he was nodding.
For so long she had looked at Jace and Alec and seen best friends. She’d known how much Jace loved Alec, known since the first time she’d seen Alec injured and Jace—whose self-possession was near terrifying—had come apart. She’d seen the way he’d looked at anyone who said a bad word about Alec, his eyes narrowed, deadly gold. And she’d thought she understood, thought best friends, the way she and Simon were.
Now that Simon was her parabatai, she understood so much more. The way you were stronger when your parabatai was there. The way they were like a mirror that showed you your best self. She couldn’t imagine losing your parabatai, couldn’t imagine what hell it would be.
Keep him safe, Isabelle Lightwood, she thought, looking at Isabelle and Simon, hand in hand. Please keep him safe.
“Clary.” She’d been so lost in thought she hadn’t seen Jace move away from Alec and come toward her. He was behind her now; she could smell the cologne she’d given him for Christmas, the faint scent of his soap and shampoo, felt the softness of his blazer as he brushed his arm against hers. “Let’s go—”
“We can’t duck out, it’s our party—”
“Just for a second,” he said, in that low voice of his that made bad ideas seem like good ones. She felt him step backward and followed; they were near the door to the strategy room, and they slipped through it unnoticed.
Well, nearly unnoticed. Alec was watching them go, and as Jace shut—and locked—the door behind him, he flashed Jace a thumbs-up gesture. Which puzzled Clary a great deal, but she didn’t dwell on it, mostly because Jace strode toward her with a determined look on his face, took her in his arms, and kissed her.
Her whole body sang, the way it always did when they kissed. She’d never grown bored or tired of it or used to it, any more than she imagined that you could get tired of beautiful sunsets or perfect music or your favorite book in the world.
She didn’t think Jace had gotten tired of it either. At least not from the way he held her, as if each time could be the last time. It was often the way, with him. She knew he’d had a childhood that had left him uncertain of love, and fragile as glass in some ways, and she tried to be mindful of that. She was worried about the party and the guests outside, but she let herself relax into the kiss, her hand lingering against his cheek, until they finally drew apart to breathe.
“Wow,” she said, running her finger around the inside edge of his collar. “I guess all that romance and flower petals falling from the sky did a number on you, huh?”
“Shh.” He grinned. His blond hair was tousled, his eyes sleepy. “Let me be in the moment.”
“What moment is that?” She glanced around, amused. The room was dim, most of its light coming from the windows and the band of illumination beneath the door. She could see the shapes of musical instruments, pale ghosts covered in white sheets. A baby grand piano was wedged up against the wall behind them. “The moment of hiding in a closet while our friends’ engagement party happens?”
Jace didn’t answer. Instead he took her by the waist and lifted her up, sitting her down on the closed lid of the baby grand. Their faces were on a level; Clary looked at him, surprised. His expression was serious. He leaned in to kiss her, hands on her waist, fingers knotting in the material of her dress.
“Jace,” she whispered. Her heart was pounding. His body leaned into hers, pressing her back against the piano. The sounds of laughter and music from outside were blurring; she could hear Jace’s quick breathing, remembered the boy he had been, in the grass with her in front of the Wayland manor in Idris, when they had kissed and kissed and she had realized that love would cut you like the edge of a blade.
She could feel his pulse. His hand slid up, caressed the strap of her dress. His lowered eyes glittered in the dark. “‘Green to mend our broken hearts,’” he quoted. It was part of a Nephilim children’s rhyme, one Clary knew well. His eyelashes brushed her cheek; his voice was warm in her ear. “You mended my heart,” he whispered. “You picked up the pieces of a broken, angry boy and you made him into a happy man, Clary.”
“No,” she said in a shaking voice. “You did that. I just—cheered you on from the sidelines.”
“I wouldn’t be here without you,” he said, soft as music against her lips. “Not just you—Alec, Isabelle, even Simon—but you’re my heart.”
“And you’re mine,” she said. “You know that.”
He raised his eyes to hers. His were stark gold, hard and beautiful. She loved him so much her rib cage hurt when she breathed.
“So will you?” he said.
“Will I what?”
“Marry me,” he said. “Marry me, Clary.”
The ground seemed to sweep out from under her. She hesitated, only for a second, but it felt like an eon; she could have sworn a fist was squeezing her heart. She saw the beginning of puzzlement cross his face, and then there was an explosion and the door of the room blew open in a shower of splinters.
Magnus strode in, looking hectic, his black hair sticking up and his clothes rumpled.
Jace leaned away from Clary, but only slightly. His eyes were narrowed. “I would say ‘Don’t you knock?’ but it seems evident you don’t,” he said. “We are, however, busy.”
Magnus waved a dismissive hand. “I’ve walked in on your ancestors doing worse,” he said. “Besides, it’s an emergency.”
“Magnus,” said Clary, “this better not be about the flowers. Or the cake.”
Magnus scoffed. “I said an emergency. This is an engagement party, not the Battle of Normandy.”
“The battle of what?” said Jace, who was not up on his mundane history.
“The alarm connected to the map went off,” said Magnus. “The one that charts necromantic magic. There was a blast of it in Los Angeles just now.”
“But I was going to give a toast,” said Jace. “Can’t the apocalypse wait?”
Magnus gave him a dark look. “The map’s not that exact, but the blast was close to the Institute.”
Clary straightened up, alarmed. “Emma,” she said. “And Julian. The kids—”
“Remember, last time this happened, it was nothing,” said Magnus. “But there are a couple things that worry me.” He hesitated. “There’s a big convergence of ley lines not far from them. I checked it out, and it looks like something had happened there. The area was wrecked.”
“Have you tried to reach Malcolm Fade?” Jace asked.
Magnus nodded grimly. “No answer.”
Clary slid off the piano. “Have you told anyone?” she asked Magnus. “Besides us, I mean.”
“I didn’t want to ruin the part for a false alarm,” Magnus said. “So I only told—”
A tall shadow appeared in the doorway. Robert Lightwood, a bag looped over his shoulder; Clary could see the hilts of several seraph blades protruding from the top. He stopped short as he caught sight of Clary and Jace’s disheveled attire and flushed faces.
“—him,” Magnus finished.
“Excuse me,” said Robert.
Jace looked awkward. Robert looked awkward. Magnus looked impatient. Clary knew he wasn’t enormously fond of Robert, though their relationship had improved since Alec and Magnus had adopted Max. Robert was a good grandfather in the way he had never been a good father: willing to get down on the ground and roll around with Max, and now Rafe as well.
“Can we stop being weird about Jace and Clary’s sex life and get going?” Magnus asked.
“That’s kind of up to you,” Clary said. “I can’t make the Portal—I didn’t see the map. You’re the one who knows where we’re going.”
“I hate it when you’re right, biscuit,” Magnus said in a resigned tone, and spread his fingers wide. Blue sparks illuminated the room like targeted fireflies, a strangely beautiful effect that opened out to a wide rectangle, a shimmering Portal through which Clary could see the outline of the Los Angeles Institute, the long stretch of distant mountains, the surge and roll of the sea.
She could smell salt water and sage. Jace moved up beside her, taking her hand in his. She felt the light pressure of his fingers.
Marry me, Clary.
When they returned, she would have to give him her answer. She dreaded it. But for now, they were Shadowhunters first. Back straight, head high, Clary stepped through the Portal.
- The party in this story is mentioned in Lady Midnight.
- A Love That Never Tires, a short story released in first editions of Queen of Air and Darkness, functions as a sequel to this story.
- Here, Clary mentions that the reason Alec found Rafael was because he was in Buenos Aires in response to some vampire attacks. In The Land I Lost, however, Alec was there to help Jem and Tessa and solve the disappearances of werewolf women. It is unclear if what Clary states in this story is retconned by the latter or if she was not told the real story of Alec's trip and believes this to be true.