The stores that lined the square had their doors thrown open, light spilling out onto the pavement. Partygoers streamed by, carrying plates of food and long-stemmed glasses of wine and brightly colored liquids. Simon watched a kelpie skip past, carrying a glass of blue fluid, and raised an eyebrow.
“It’s not like Magnus’s party,” Isabelle reassured him. “Everything here ought to be safe to drink.”
“Ought to be?” Aline looked worried.
Alec glanced toward the mini-forest, the colored lights reflecting in the blue irises of his eyes. Magnus stood in the shadow of a tree, talking to a girl in a white dress with a cloud of pale brown hair. She turned as Magnus looked toward them, and Clary locked eyes with her for a moment across the distance that separated them. There was something familiar about her, though Clary couldn’t have said what it was.
Magnus broke away and came toward them, and the girl he’d been talking to slipped into the shadows of the trees and was gone. He was dressed like a Victorian gentleman, in a long black frock coat over a violet silk vest. A square pocket handkerchief embroidered with the initials M. B. protruded from his vest pocket.
“Nice vest,” said Alec with a smile.
“Would you like one exactly like it?” Magnus inquired. “In any color you prefer, of course.”
“I don’t really care about clothes,” Alec protested.
“And I love that about you,” Magnus announced, “though I would also love you if you owned, perhaps, one designer suit. What do you say? Dolce? Zegna? Armani?”
Alec sputtered as Isabelle laughed, and Magnus took the opportunity to lean close to Clary and whisper in her ear. “The Accords Hall steps. Go.”
She wanted to ask him what he meant, but he’d already turned back to Alec and the others. Besides, she had a feeling she knew. She squeezed Simon’s wrist as she went, and he turned to smile at her before returning to his conversation with Maia.
She cut through the edge of the glamour forest to cross the square, weaving in and out of the shadows. The trees reached up to the foot of the Hall stairs, which was probably why the steps were almost deserted. Though not entirely. Glancing toward the doors, Clary could make out a familiar dark outline, seated in the shadow of a pillar. Her heart quickened.
She had to gather her skirt up in her hands to climb the stairs, afraid she’d step on and tear the delicate material. She almost wished she had worn her normal clothes as she approached Jace, who was sitting with his back to a pillar, staring out over the square. He wore his most mundane clothes—jeans, a white shirt, and a dark jacket over them. And for almost the first time since she’d met him, she thought, he didn’t seem to be carrying any weapons.
She abruptly felt overdressed. She stopped a slight distance away from him, suddenly unsure what to say.
As if sensing her there, Jace looked up. He was holding something balanced in his lap, she saw, a silvery box. He looked tired. There were shadows under his eyes, and his pale gold hair was untidy. His eyes widened. “Clary?”
“Who else would it be?”
He didn’t smile. “You don’t look like you.”
“It’s the dress.” She smoothed her hands down the material self-consciously. “I don’t usually wear things this … pretty.”
“You always look beautiful,” he said, and she remembered the first time he’d called her beautiful, in the greenhouse at the Institute. He hadn’t said it like it was a compliment, but just as if it were an accepted fact, like the fact that she had red hair and liked to draw. “But you look—distant. Like I couldn’t touch you.”
She came over then and sat down next to him on the wide top step. The stone was cold through the material of her dress. She held her hand out to him; it was shaking slightly, just enough to be visible. “Touch me,” she said. “If you want to.”
He took her hand and laid it against his cheek for a moment. Then he set it back down in her lap. Clary shivered a little, remembering Aline’s words back in Isabelle’s bedroom. Maybe he’s not that interested in you anymore. I mean, now that it’s not forbidden. He had said she looked distant, but the expression in his eyes was as remote as a faraway galaxy.
“What’s in the box?” she asked. He was still clutching the silver rectangle tightly in one hand. It was an expensive-looking object, delicately carved with a pattern of birds.
“I went to Amatis’s earlier today, looking for you,” he said. “But you weren’t there. So I talked to Amatis. She gave me this.” He indicated the box. “It belonged to my father.”
For a moment she just looked at him uncomprehendingly. This was Valentine’s? she thought, and then, with a jolt, No, that’s not what he means. “Of course,” she said. “Amatis was married to Stephen Herondale.”
“I’ve been going through it,” he said. “Reading the letters, the journal pages. I thought if I did that, I might feel some sort of connection to him. Something that would leap off the pages at me, saying, Yes, this is your father. But I don’t feel anything. Just bits of paper. Anyone could have written these things.”
“Jace,” she said softly.
“And that’s another thing,” he said. “I don’t have a name anymore, do I? I’m not Jonathan Christopher—that was someone else. But it’s the name I’m used to.”
“Who came up with Jace as a nickname? Did you come up with it yourself?”
Jace shook his head. “No. Valentine always called me Jonathan. And that’s what they called me when I first got to the Institute. I was never supposed to think my name was Jonathan Christopher, you know—that was an accident. I got the name out of my father’s journal, but it wasn’t me he was talking about. It wasn’t my progress he was recording. It was Seb—It was Jonathan’s. So the first time I ever told Maryse that my middle name was Christopher, she told herself that she’d just remembered wrong, and Christopher had been Michael’s son’s middle name. It had been ten years, after all. But that was when she started calling me Jace: It was like she wanted to give me a new name, something that belonged to her, to my life in New York. And I liked it. I’d never liked Jonathan.” He turned the box over in his hands. “I wonder if maybe Maryse knew, or guessed, but just didn’t want to know. She loved me … and she didn’t want to believe it.”
“Which is why she was so upset when she found out you were Valentine’s son,” said Clary. “Because she thought she ought to have known. She kind of did know. But we never do want to believe things like that about people we love. And, Jace, she was right about you. She was right about who you really are. And you do have a name. Your name is Jace. Valentine didn’t give that name to you. Maryse did. The only thing that makes a name important, and yours, is that it’s given to you by someone who loves you.”
“Jace what?” he said. “Jace Herondale?”
“Oh, please,” she said. “You’re Jace Lightwood. You know that.”
He raised his eyes to hers. His lashes shadowed them thickly, darkening the gold. She thought he looked a little less remote, though perhaps she was imagining it.
“Maybe you’re a different person than you thought you were,” she went on, hoping against hope that he understood what she meant. “But no one becomes a totally different person overnight. Just finding out that Stephen was your biological father isn’t going to automatically make you love him. And you don’t have to. Valentine wasn’t your real father, but not because you don’t have his blood in your veins. He wasn’t your real father because he didn’t act like a father. He didn’t take care of you. It’s always been the Lightwoods who have taken care of you. They’re your family. Just like Mom and Luke are mine.” She reached to touch his shoulder, then drew her hand back. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Here I am lecturing you, and you probably came up here to be alone.”
“You’re right,” he said.
Clary felt the breath go out of her. “All right, then. I’ll go.” She stood up, forgetting to hold her dress up, and nearly stepped on the hem.
“Clary!” Setting the box down, Jace scrambled to his feet. “Clary, wait. That wasn’t what I meant. I didn’t mean I wanted to be alone. I meant you were right about Valentine—about the Lightwoods—”
She turned and looked at him. He was standing half in and half out of the shadows, the bright, colored lights of the party below casting strange patterns across his skin. She thought of the first time she’d seen him. She’d thought he looked like a lion. Beautiful and deadly. He looked different to her now. That hard, defensive casing he wore like armor was gone, and he wore his injuries instead, visibly and proudly. He hadn’t even used his stele to take away the bruises on his face, along the line of his jaw, at his throat where the skin showed above the collar of his shirt. But he looked beautiful to her still, more than before, because now he seemed human—human, and real.
“You know,” she said, “Aline said maybe you wouldn’t be interested anymore. Now that it isn’t forbidden. Now that you could be with me if you wanted to.” She shivered a little in the flimsy dress, gripping her elbows with her hands. “Is that true? Are you not … interested?”
“Interested? As if you were a—a book, or a piece of news? No, I’m not interested. I’m—” He broke off, groping for the word the way someone might grope for a light switch in the dark. “Do you remember what I said to you before? About feeling like the fact that you were my sister was a sort of cosmic joke on me? On both of us?”
“I never believed it,” he said. “I mean, I believed it in a way—I let it drive me to despair, but I never felt it. Never felt you were my sister. Because I didn’t feel about you the way you’re supposed to feel about your sister. But that didn’t mean I didn’t feel like you were a part of me. I’ve always felt that.” Seeing her puzzled expression, he broke off with an impatient noise. “I’m not saying this right. Clary, I hated every second that I thought you were my sister. I hated every moment that I thought what I felt for you meant there was something wrong with me. But—”
“But what?” Clary’s heart was beating so hard it was making her feel more than a little dizzy.
“I could see the delight Valentine took in the way I felt about you. The way you felt about me. He used it as a weapon against us. And that made me hate him. More than anything else he’d ever done to me, that made me hate him, and it made me turn against him, and maybe that’s what I needed to do. Because there were times I didn’t know if I wanted to follow him or not. It was a hard choice—harder than I like to remember.” His voice sounded tight.
“I asked you if I had a choice once,” Clary reminded him. “And you said, ‘We always have choices.’ You chose against Valentine. In the end that was the choice you made, and it doesn’t matter how hard it was to make it. It matters that you did.”
“I know,” Jace said. “I’m just saying that I think I chose the way I did in part because of you. Since I’ve met you, everything I’ve done has been in part because of you. I can’t untie myself from you, Clary—not my heart or my blood or my mind or any other part of me. And I don’t want to.”
“You don’t?” she whispered.
He took a step toward her. His gaze was fastened on her face, as if he couldn’t look away. “I always thought love made you stupid. Made you weak. A bad Shadowhunter. To love is to destroy. I believed that.”
She bit her lip, but she couldn’t look away from him, either.
“I used to think being a good warrior meant not caring,” he said. “About anything, myself especially. I took every risk I could. I flung myself in the path of demons. I think I gave Alec a complex about what kind of fighter he was, just because he wanted to live.” Jace smiled unevenly. “And then I met you. You were a mundane. Weak. Not a fighter. Never trained. And then I saw how much you loved your mother, loved Simon, and how you’d walk into hell to save them. You did walk into that vampire hotel. Shadowhunters with a decade of experience wouldn’t have tried that. Love didn’t make you weak; it made you stronger than anyone I’d ever met. And I realized I was the one who was weak.”
“No.” She was shocked. “You’re not.”
“Maybe not anymore.” He took another step, and now he was close enough to touch her. “Valentine couldn’t believe I’d killed Jonathan,” he said. “Couldn’t believe it because I was the weak one, and Jonathan was the one with more training. By all rights he probably should have killed me. He nearly did. But I thought of you—I saw you there, clearly, as if you were standing in front of me, watching me, and I knew I wanted to live, wanted it more than I’d ever wanted anything, if only so that I could see your face one more time.”
She wished she could move, wished she could reach out and touch him, but she couldn’t. Her arms felt frozen at her sides. His face was close to hers, so close that she could see her own reflection in the pupils of his eyes.
“And now I’m looking at you,” he said, “and you’re asking me if I still want you, as if I could stop loving you. As if I would want to give up the thing that makes me stronger than anything else ever has. I never dared give much of myself to anyone before—bits of myself to the Lightwoods, to Isabelle and Alec, but it took years to do it—but, Clary, since the first time I saw you, I have belonged to you completely. I still do. If you want me.”