City of Ashes – EPILOGUE

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EPILOGUE

“CLARY!” SIMON’S MOTHER BEAMED ALL OVER HER FACE AT the sight of the girl standing on her doorstep. “I haven’t seen you for ages. I was starting to worry you and Simon had had a fight. ”

“Oh, no,” Clary said. “I just wasn’t feeling well, that’s all. ” Even when you’ve got magic healing runes, apparently you’re not invulnerable. She hadn’t been surprised to wake up the morning after the battle to find she had a pounding headache and a fever; she’d thought she had a cold—who wouldn’t, after freezing in wet clothes on the open water for hours at night?—but Magnus said she had most likely exhausted herself creating the rune that had destroyed Valentine’s ship.

Simon’s mother clucked sympathetically. “The same bug Simon had the week before last, I bet. He could barely get out of bed. ”

“He’s better now, though, right?” Clary said. She knew it was true, but she didn’t mind hearing it again.

“He’s fine. He’s out in the back garden, I think. Just go on through the gate. ” She smiled. “He’ll be happy to see you. ”

The redbrick row houses on Simon’s street were divided by pretty white wrought iron fences, each of which had a gate that led to a tiny patch of garden in the back of the house. The sky was bright blue and the air cool, despite the sunny skies. Clary could taste the tang of future snow on the air.

She fastened the gate shut behind her and went looking for Simon. He was in the back garden, as promised, lying on a plastic lounging chair with a comic open in his lap. He pushed it aside when he saw Clary, sat up, and grinned. “Hey, baby. ”

“Baby?” She perched beside him on the chair. “You’re kidding me, right?”

“I was trying it out. No?”

“No,” she said firmly, and leaned over to kiss him on the mouth. When she drew back, his fingers lingered in her hair, but his eyes were thoughtful.

“I’m glad you came over,” he said.

“Me too. I would have come sooner, but—”

“You were sick. I know. ” She’d spent the week texting him from Luke’s couch, where she’d lain wrapped up in a blanket watching CSI reruns. It was comforting to spend time in a world where every puzzle had a detectable, scientific answer.

“I’m better now. ” She glanced around and shivered, pulling her white cardigan closer around her body. “What are you doing lying around outside in this weather, anyway? Aren’t you freezing?”

Simon shook his head. “I don’t really feel cold or heat anymore. Besides”—his mouth curled into a smile—“I want to spend as much time in the sunlight as I can. I still get sleepy during the day, but I’m fighting it. ”

She touched the back of her hand to his cheek. His face was warm from the sun, but underneath, the skin was cool. “But everything else is still … still the same?”

“You mean am I still a vampire? Yeah. It looks like it. Still want to drink blood, still no heartbeat. I’ll have to avoid the doctor, but since vampires don’t get sick…” He shrugged.

“And you talked to Raphael? He still has no idea why you can go out into the sun?”

“None. He seems pretty pissed about it too. ” Simon blinked at her sleepily, as if it were two in the morning instead of the afternoon. “I think it upsets his ideas about the way things should be. Plus he’s going to have a harder job getting me to roam the night when I’m determined to roam the day instead. ”

“You’d think he’d be thrilled. ”

“Vampires don’t like change. They’re very traditional. ” He smiled at her, and she thought, He’ll always look like this. When I’m fifty or sixty, he’ll still look sixteen. It wasn’t a happy thought. “Anyway, this’ll be good for my music career. If that Anne Rice stuff is anything to go by, vampires make great rock stars. ”

“I’m not sure that information is reliable. ”

He leaned back against the chair. “What is? Besides you, of course. ”

“Reliable? Is that how you think of me?” she demanded in mock indignation. “That’s not very romantic. ”

A shadow passed across his face. “Clary…”

“What? What is it?” She reached for his hand and held it. “You’re using your bad news voice. ”

He looked away from her. “I don’t know if it’s bad news or not. ”

“Everything’s one or the other,” Clary said. “Just tell me you’re all right. ”

“I’m all right,” he said. “But—I don’t think we should see each other anymore. ”

Clary almost fell off the lounge chair. “You don’t want to be friends anymore?”

“Clary—”

“Is it because of the demons? Because I got you turned into a vampire?” Her voice was rising higher and higher. “I know everything’s been crazy, but I can keep you away from all that. I can—”

Simon winced. “You’re starting to sound like a dolphin, do you know that? Stop. ”

Clary stopped.

“I still want to be friends,” he said. “It’s the other stuff I’m not so sure about. ”

“Other stuff?”

He started to blush. She hadn’t known vampires could blush. It looked startling against his pale skin. “The girlfriend-boyfriend stuff. ”

She was silent for a long moment, searching for words. Finally, she said: “At least you didn’t say ‘the kissing stuff. ’ I was afraid you were going to call it that. ”

He looked down at their hands, where they lay intertwined on the plastic of the lounge chair. Her fingers looked small against his, but for the first time, her skin was a shade darker. He stroked his thumb absently over her knuckles and said, “I wouldn’t have called it that. ”

“I thought this was what you wanted,” she said. “I thought you said that—”

He looked up at her through his dark lashes. “That I loved you? I do love you. But that’s not the whole story. ”

“Is this because of Maia?” Her teeth had started to chatter, only partly from the cold. “Because you like her?”

Simon hesitated. “No. I mean, yes, I like her, but not the way you mean. It’s just that when I’m around her—I know what it’s like to have someone like me that way. And it’s not like it is with you. ”

“But you don’t love her—”

“Maybe I could someday. ”

“Maybe I could love you someday. ”

“If you ever do,” he said, “come and let me know. You know where to find me. ”

Her teeth were chattering harder. “I can’t lose you, Simon. I can’t. ”

“You never will. I’m not leaving you. But I’d rather have what we have, which is real and true and important, than have you pretend anything else. When I’m with you, I want to know I’m with the real you, the real Clary. ”

She leaned her head against his, closing her eyes. He still felt like Simon, despite everything; still smelled like him, like his laundry soap. “Maybe I don’t know who that is. ”

“But I do. ”

Luke’s brand-new pickup was idling by the curb when Clary left Simon’s house, fastening the gate shut behind her.

“You dropped me off. You didn’t have to pick me up too,” she said, swinging herself up into the cab beside him. Trust Luke to replace his old, destroyed truck with a new one that was exactly like it.

“Forgive me my paternal panic,” said Luke, handing her a waxed paper cup of coffee. She took a sip—no milk and lots of sugar, the way she liked it. “I tend to get a little nervous when you’re not in my immediate line of sight these days. ”

“Oh, yeah?” Clary held the coffee tightly to keep it from spilling as they bumped down the potholed road. “How long do you think that’s going to go on for?”

Luke looked considering. “Not long. Five, maybe six years. ”

“Luke!”

“I plan to let you start dating when you’re thirty, if that helps. ”

“Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad. I may not be ready until I’m thirty. ”

Luke looked at her sideways. “You and Simon…?”

She waved the hand that wasn’t holding the coffee cup. “Don’t ask. ”

“I see. ” He probably did. “Did you want me to drop you at home?”

“You’re going to the hospital, right?” She could tell from the nervous tension underlying his jokes. “I’ll go with you. ”

They were on the bridge now, and Clary looked out over the river, nursing her coffee thoughtfully. She never got tired of this view, the narrow river of water between the canyon walls of Manhattan and Brooklyn. It glittered in the sun like aluminum foil. She wondered why she’d never tried to draw it. She remembered asking her mother once why she’d never used her as a model, never drawn her own daughter. “To draw something is to try to capture it forever,” Jocelyn had said, sitting on the floor with a paintbrush dripping cadmium blue onto her jeans. “If you really love something, you never try to keep it the way it is forever. You have to let it be free to change. ”

But I hate change. She took a deep breath. “Luke,” she said. “Valentine said something to me when I was on the ship, something about—”

“Nothing good ever starts with the words ‘Valentine said,’” muttered Luke.

“Maybe not. But it was about you and my mom. He said you were in love with her. ”

Silence. They were stopped in traffic on the bridge. She could hear the sound of the Q train rumbling past. “Do you think that’s true?” Luke said at last.

“Well. ” Clary could sense the tension in the air and tried to choose her words carefully. “I don’t know. I mean, he said it before and I just dismissed it as paranoia and hatred. But this time I started thinking, and well—it is sort of weird that you’ve always been around, you’ve been like a dad to me, we practically lived on the farm in the summer, and yet neither you nor my mom ever dated anyone else. So I thought maybe…”

“You thought maybe what?”

“That maybe you’ve been together all this time and you just didn’t want to tell me. Maybe you thought I was too young to get it. Maybe you were afraid it would start me asking questions about my dad. But I’m not too young to get it anymore. You can tell me. I guess that’s what I’m saying. You can tell me anything. ”

“Maybe not anything. ” There was another silence as the truck inched forward in the crawling traffic. Luke squinted into the sun, his fingers tapping on the wheel. Finally, he said, “You’re right. I am in love with your mother. ”

“That’s great,” Clary said, trying to sound supportive despite how gross the idea happened to be of people her mom’s and Luke’s age being in love.

“But,” he said, finishing, “she doesn’t know it. ”

“She doesn’t know it?” Clary made a wide sweeping gesture with her arm. Fortunately, her coffee cup was empty. “How could she not know? Haven’t you told her?”

“As a matter of fact,” said Luke, slamming his foot down on the gas so that the truck lurched forward, “no. ”

“Why not?”

Luke sighed and rubbed his stubbled chin tiredly. “Because,” he said. “It never seemed like the right time. ”

“That is a lame excuse, and you know it. ”

Luke managed to make a noise halfway between a chuckle and a grunt of annoyance. “Maybe, but it’s the truth. When I first realized how I felt about Jocelyn, I was the same age you are. Sixteen. And we’d all just met Valentine. I wasn’t any competition for him. I was even a little glad that if it wasn’t going to be me she wanted, it was going to be someone who really deserved her. ” His voice hardened. “When I realized how wrong I was about that, it was too late. When we ran away together from Idris, and she was pregnant with you, I offered to marry her, to take care of her. I said it didn’t matter who the father of her baby was, I’d raise it like my own. She thought I was being charitable. I couldn’t convince her I was being as selfish as I knew how to be. She told me she didn’t want to be a burden on me, that it was too much to ask of anyone. After she left me in Paris, I went back to Idris but I was always restless, never happy. There was always that part of me missing, the part that was Jocelyn. I would dream that she was somewhere needing my help, that she was calling out to me and I couldn’t hear her. Finally I went looking for her. ”

“I remember she was happy,” Clary said in a small voice. “When you found her. ”

“She was and she wasn’t. She was glad to see me, but at the same time I symbolized for her that whole world she’d run from, and she wanted no part of it. She agreed to let me stay when I promised I’d give up all ties to the pack, to the Clave, to Idris, to all of it. I would have offered to move in with both of you, but Jocelyn thought my transformations would be too hard to hide from you, and I had to agree. I bought the bookstore, took a new name, and pretended Lucian Graymark was dead. And for all intents and purposes, he has been. ”

“You really did a lot for my mom. You gave up a whole life. ”

“I would have done more,” Luke said matter-of-factly. “But she was so adamant about wanting nothing to do with the Clave or Downworld, and whatever I might pretend, I’m still a lycanthrope. I’m a living reminder of all of that. And she was so sure she wanted you never to know any of it. You know, I never agreed with the trips to Magnus, to altering your memories or your Sight, but it was what she wanted and I let her do it because if I’d tried to stop her, she would have sent me away. And there’s no way—no way—she would have let me marry her, be your father and not tell you the truth about myself. And that would have brought down everything, all those fragile walls she’d tried so hard to build between herself and the Invisible World. I couldn’t do that to her. So I stayed silent. ”

“You mean you never told her how you felt?’

“Your mother isn’t stupid, Clary,” said Luke. He sounded calm, but there was a certain tightness in his voice. “She must have known. I offered to marry her. However kind her denials might have been, I do know one thing: She knows how I feel and she doesn’t feel the same way. ”

Clary was silent.

“It’s all right,” Luke said, trying for lightness. “I accepted it a long time ago. ”

Clary’s nerves were singing with a sudden tension that she didn’t think was from the caffeine. She pushed back thoughts about her own life. “You offered to marry her, but did you say it was because you loved her? It doesn’t sound like it. ”

Luke was silent.

“I think you should have told her the truth. I think you’re wrong about how she feels. ”

“I’m not, Clary. ” Luke’s voice was firm: That’s enough now.

“I remember once I asked her why she didn’t date,” Clary said, ignoring his admonishing tone. “She said it was because she’d already given her heart. I thought she meant to my dad, but now—now I’m not so sure. ”

Luke looked actually astonished. “She said that?” He caught himself, and added, “Probably she did mean Valentine, you know. ”

“I don’t think so. ” She shot him a look out of the corner of her eye. “Besides, don’t you hate it? Not ever saying how you really feel?”

This time the silence lasted until they were off the bridge and rumbling down Orchard Street, lined with shops and restaurants whose signs were in beautiful Chinese characters of curling gold and red. “Yes, I hated it,” Luke said. “At the time, I thought what I had with you and your mother was better than nothing. But if you can’t tell the truth to the people you care about the most, eventually you stop being able to tell the truth to yourself. ”

There was a sound like rushing water in Clary’s ears. Looking down, she saw that she’d crushed the empty waxed-paper cup she was holding into an unrecognizable ball.

“Take me to the Institute,” she said. “Please. ”

Luke looked over at her in surprise. “I thought you wanted to come to the hospital?”

“I’ll meet you there when I’m finished,” she said. “There’s something I have to do first. ”

The lower level of the Institute was full of sunlight and pale dust motes. Clary ran down the narrow aisle between the pews, threw herself at the elevator, and stabbed at the button. “Come on, come on,” she muttered. “Come—”

The golden doors creaked open. Jace was standing inside the elevator. His eyes widened when he saw her.

“—on,” Clary finished, and dropped her arm. “Oh. Hi. ”

He stared at her. “Clary?”

“You cut your hair,” she said without thinking. It was true—the long metallic strands were no longer falling in his face, but were neatly and evenly cut. It made him look more civilized, even a little older. He was dressed neatly too, in a dark blue sweater and jeans. Something silver glinted at his throat, just under the collar of the sweater.

He raised a hand. “Oh. Right. Maryse cut it. ” The door of the elevator began to slide closed; he held it back. “Did you need to come up to the Institute?”

She shook her head. “I just wanted to talk to you. ”

“Oh. ” He looked a little surprised at that, but stepped out of the elevator, letting the door clang shut behind him. “I was just running over to Taki’s to pick up some food. No one really feels like cooking…”

“I understand,” Clary said, then wished she hadn’t. It wasn’t as if the Lightwoods’ desire to cook or not cook had anything to do with her.

“We can talk there,” Jace said. He started toward the door, then paused and looked back at her. Standing between two of the burning candelabras, their light casting a pale gold overlay onto his hair and skin, he looked like a painting of an angel. Her heart constricted. “Are you coming, or not?” he snapped, not sounding angelic in the least.

“Oh. Right. I’m coming. ” She hurried to catch up with him.

As they walked to Taki’s, Clary tried to keep the conversation away from topics related to her, Jace, or her and Jace. Instead, she asked him how Isabelle, Max, and Alec were doing.

Jace hesitated. They were crossing First and a cool breeze was blowing up the avenue. The sky was a cloudless blue, a perfect New York autumn day.

“I’m sorry. ” Clary winced at her own stupidity. “They must be pretty miserable. All these people they knew are dead. ”

“It’s different for Shadowhunters,” Jace said. “We’re warriors. We expect death in a way you—”

Clary couldn’t help a sigh. “‘You mundanes don’t. ’ That’s what you were going to say, isn’t it?”

“I was,” he admitted. “Sometimes it’s hard even for me to know what you really are. ”

They had stopped in front of Taki’s, with its sagging roof. The ifrit who guarded the front door gazed down at them with suspicious red eyes.

“I’m Clary,” she said.

Jace looked down at her. The wind was blowing her hair across her face. He reached out and pushed it back, almost absently. “I know. ”

Inside, they found a corner booth and slid into it. The diner was nearly empty: Kaelie, the pixie waitress, lounged against the counter, lazily fluttering her blue-white wings. She and Jace had dated once. A pair of werewolves occupied another booth. They were eating raw shanks of lamb and arguing about who would win in a fight: Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books or Magnus Bane.

“Dumbledore would totally win,” said the first one. “He has the badass Killing Curse. ”

The second lycanthrope made a trenchant point. “But Dumbledore isn’t real. ”

“I don’t think Magnus Bane is real either,” scoffed the first. “Have you ever met him?”

“This is so weird,” said Clary, slinking down in her seat. “Are you listening to them?”

“No. It’s rude to eavesdrop. ” Jace was studying the menu, which gave Clary the opportunity to covertly study him. I never look at you, she’d told him. It was true too, or at least she never looked at him the way she wanted to, with an artist’s eye. She would always get lost, distracted by a detail: the curve of his cheekbone, the angle of his eyelashes, the shape of his mouth.

“You’re staring at me,” he said, without looking up from the menu. “Why are you staring at me? Is something wrong?”

Kaelie’s arrival at their table saved Clary from having to answer. Her pen, Clary noticed, was a silvery birch twig. She regarded Clary curiously out of all-blue eyes. “Do you know what you want?”

Unprepared, Clary ordered a few random items off the menu. Jace asked for a plate of sweet potato fries and a number of dishes to be boxed up and brought home to the Lightwoods. Kaelie departed, leaving behind the faint smell of flowers.

“Tell Alec and Isabelle I’m sorry about everything that happened,” Clary said when Kaelie was out of earshot. “And tell Max that I’ll take him to Forbidden Planet anytime. ”

“Only mundanes say they’re sorry when what they mean is ‘I share your grief,’” Jace observed. “None of it was your fault, Clary. ” His eyes were suddenly bright with hate. “It was Valentine’s. ”

“I take it there’s been no…”

“No sign of him? No. I’d guess he’s holed up somewhere until he can finish what he started with the Sword. After that…” Jace shrugged.

“After that, what?”

“I don’t know. He’s a lunatic. It’s hard to guess what a lunatic will do next. ” But he avoided her eyes, and Clary knew what he was thinking: War. That was what Valentine wanted. War with the Shadowhunters. And he would get it too. It was only a matter of where he would strike first. “Anyway, I doubt that’s what you came to talk to me about, is it?”

“No. ” Now that the moment had come, Clary was having a hard time finding words. She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the silvery side of the napkin holder. White cardigan, white face, hectic flush in her cheeks. She looked like she had a fever. She felt a little like it too. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you for the past few days—”

“You could have fooled me. ” His voice was unnaturally sharp. “Every time I called you, Luke said you were sick. I figured you were avoiding me. Again. ”

“I wasn’t. ” It seemed to her that there were vast amounts of empty space between them, though the booth wasn’t that big and they weren’t sitting that far apart. “I did want to talk to you. I’ve been thinking about you all the time. ”

He made a noise of surprise and held his hand out across the table. She took it, a wave of relief breaking over her. “I’ve been thinking about you, too. ”

His grip was warm on hers, comforting, and she remembered how she’d taken the bloody shard of the portal out of his hand at Renwick’s – the only thing that was left of his old life – and how he’d pulled her into his arms. “I really was sick,” she said. “I swear. I almost died back there on the ship, you know. ”

He let her hand go, but he was staring at her, almost as if he meant to memorize her face. “I know,” he said. “Every time you almost die, I almost die myself. ”

His words made her heart rattle in her chest as if she’d swallowed a mouthful of caffeine. “Jace. I came to tell you that—”

“Wait. Let me talk first. ” He held his hands up as if to ward off her next words. “Before you say anything, I wanted to apologize to you. ”

“Apologize? For what?”

“For not listening to you. ” He raked his hair back with both hands and she noticed a little scar, a tiny silver line, on the side of his throat. It hadn’t been there before. “You kept telling me that I couldn’t have what I wanted from you, and I kept pushing at you and pushing at you and not listening to you at all. I just wanted you and I didn’t care what anybody else had to say about it. Not even you. ”

Her mouth went suddenly dry, but before she could say anything, Kaelie was back, with Jace’s fries and a number of plates for Clary. Clary stared down at what she’d ordered. A green milk shake, what looked like raw hamburger steak, and a plate of chocolate-dipped crickets. Not that it mattered; her stomach was knotted up too much to even consider eating. “Jace,” she said, as soon as the waitress was gone. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You—”

“No. Let me finish. ” He was staring down at his fries as if they held the secrets of the universe. “Clary, I have to say it now or—or I won’t say it. ” His words tumbled out in a rush: “I thought I’d lost my family. And I don’t mean Valentine. I mean the Lightwoods. I thought they’d finished with me. I thought there was nothing left in my world but you. I—I was crazy with loss and I took it out on you and I’m sorry. You were right. ”

“No. I was stupid. I was cruel to you—”

“You had every right to be. ” He raised his eyes to look at her and she was suddenly and strangely reminded of being four years old at the beach, crying when the wind came up and blew away the castle she had made. Her mother had told her she could make another one if she liked, but it hadn’t stopped her crying because what she had thought was permanent was not permanent after all, but only made out of sand that vanished at the touch of wind or water. “What you said was true. We don’t live or love in a vacuum. There are people around us who care about us who would be hurt, maybe destroyed, if we let ourselves feel what we might want to feel. To be that selfish, it would mean—it would mean being like Valentine. ”

He spoke his father’s name with such finality that Clary felt it like a door slamming in her face.

“I’ll just be your brother from now on,” he said, looking at her with a hopeful expectation that she would be pleased, which made her want to scream that he was smashing her heart into pieces and he had to stop. “That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”

It took her a long time to answer, and when she did, her own voice sounded like an echo, coming from very far away. “Yes,” she said, and she heard the rush of waves in her ears, and her eyes stung as if from sand or salt spray. “That’s what I wanted. ”

Clary walked numbly up the wide steps that led up to Beth Israel’s big glass front doors. In a way, she was glad she was here rather than anywhere else. What she wanted more than anything was to throw herself into her mother’s arms and cry, even if she could never explain to her mother what she was crying about. Since she couldn’t do that, sitting next to her mother’s bed and crying seemed like the next best option.

She’d held it together pretty well at Taki’s, even hugging Jace good-bye when she left. She hadn’t started bawling till she’d gotten on the subway, and then she’d found herself crying about everything she hadn’t cried about yet, Jace and Simon and Luke and her mother and even Valentine. She’d cried loudly enough that the man sitting across from her had offered her a tissue, and she’d screamed, What do you think you’re looking at, jerk? at him, because that was what you did in New York. After that she felt a little better.

As she neared the top of the stairs, she realized there was a woman standing there. She was wearing a long dark cloak over a dress, not the sort of thing you usually saw on a Manhattan street. The cloak was made of a dark velvety material and had a wide hood, which was up, hiding her face. Glancing around, Clary saw that no one else on the hospital steps or standing by its doors seemed to notice the apparition. A glamour, then.

She reached the top step and paused, looking up at the woman. She still couldn’t see her face. She said, “Look, if you’re here to see me, just tell me what you want. I’m not really in the mood for all this glamour and secrecy stuff right now. ”

She noticed people around her stopping to stare at the crazy girl who was talking to no one. She fought the urge to stick out her tongue at them.

“All right. ” The voice was gentle, oddly familiar. The woman reached up and pushed back her hood. Silver hair spilled out over her shoulders in a flood. It was the woman Clary had seen staring at her in the courtyard of the Marble Cemetery, the same woman who’d saved them from Malik’s knife at the Institute. Up close, Clary could see that she had the sort of face that was all angles, too sharp to be pretty, though her eyes were an intense and lovely hazel. “My name is Madeleine. Madeleine Bellefleur. ”

“And…?” Clary said. “What do you want from me?”

The woman—Madeleine—hesitated. “I knew your mother, Jocelyn,” she said. “We were friends in Idris. ”

“You can’t see her,” Clary said. “No visitors but family until she gets better. ”

“But she won’t get better. ”

Clary felt as if she’d been slapped in the face. “What?”

“I’m sorry,” Madeleine said. “I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just that I know what’s wrong with Jocelyn, and there’s nothing a mundane hospital can do for her now. What happened to her—she did it to herself, Clarissa. ”

“No. You don’t understand. Valentine—”

“She did it before Valentine got to her. So he couldn’t get any information out of her. She planned it that way. It was a secret, a secret she shared with only one other person, and she told only one other person how the spell could be reversed. That person was me. ”

“You mean—”

“Yes,” Madeleine said. “I mean I can show you how to wake your mother up.”

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