Chapter 1: Prologue
It starts like any normal day. Well, what counts as normal in the crazy hurricane of events that seems to be Simon’s life now, anyway.
They get a lead that Valentine might have hidden the Mortal Cup in another dimension, and Clary drags him with her to the Institute to follow up on it. Just to find Jace already in the library when they get there, because of course he is; it’s not like anything in Simon’s life can just be easy, these days.
Things have been… weird between him and Jace since the attack on the Institute. Well. Weirder. It was sort of all weird enough, what with him and Clary dating, and then her and Jace not being related after all, but that whole thing’s sort of been even more complicated by the whole blood… sucking… thing.
I would have killed you.
I would have let you.
Matching confessions that Simon really doesn’t know how to even start dealing with. Like, what the hell does that mean? What is he supposed to do with any of that? Is he supposed to sit Jace down and have a talk to him about his suicidal tendencies? Find him a supernatural support group? Or maybe a shrink for himself—some kind of vampire twelve step program where he’ll learn to accept the fact that the bloodlust just never stops . He’s been told that it gets easier—and it has—but there’s still that bone deep urge to attack , to sink his fangs into another person’s neck or wrist and just drink.
Raphael warned him about drinking from people. Has told him time and time again that it makes the bloodlust ten times harder to control. There’s a venom inside him that gets released when he drinks from a living person, apparently—something called yin fen, that sounds a lot like a vampire version of heroin to Simon. According to Raphael, even one taste can be enough to get someone hooked, so maybe that’s why Jace’s eyes seem to be following him around as they search the library for books on dimension travel. And why Simon can feel exactly where Jace is, even when they’re on opposite sides of the room with several book cases between them.
“Hey, guys, I think I found something!” Clary calls out, effectively making Simon snap out of… whatever weird mood he had himself caught in. He hurries over and sees her bent over a large, ancient-looking book at one of the reading tables. It’s written in a language Simon can’t understand a word of, and there’s a red-skinned demon with a long chin and two pointy horns depicted in the margin.
“Who’s that? Is that a demon that can help us find the Cup? Does he have a name?”
“He’s got a hundred,” Jace says, coming up behind them out of nowhere and making Simon jump. So much for the weird point-to-Jace compass power.
“I don’t care what his name is, as long as we can find him,” Clary says to Jace. “What language is this, even? Do you know how to read it?”
“It’s ancient Greek, and yes, I do,” Jace replies, scoffing when both Clary and Simon look back at him in surprise. “Shadowhunters are trained in all things demon from the age of six. Languages included. I might not be as fluent as Alec or Izzy, but I know enough to read a single page in a book.”
“Oh. Well, then, Mr Scholar, why don’t you tell us what this says?” Simon asks. “Is it guarding the Cup? Do we need to kill it? Solve a riddle? Blow up a Death Star? Lay it on me, man.”
“It’s a trickster, and he has the power to create dimensions that are mirrors of existing ones,” Jace replies, rolling his eyes. “Valentine probably got this demon to make him one where he’s hidden the cup, and while it technically could be a desert planet filled with Jawa, I highly doubt it.”
Simon feels a smile spread on his face. “Hey, you finally watched the original trilogy!”
“Who says I hadn’t already seen it?” Jace replies with a smirk. “Now, are we going to hunt down this demon or what? If we’re going to be heading into alternate dimensions, we need to find someone who can make us a portal there, and—”
“Wait, the rune that’s drawn down here, I’ve seen it before,” Clary interrupts. “Jace, what does that one mean?”
Jace leans closer and follows her pointed finger to the corner of the page. He frowns. “I’ve never seen that one before.”
“I’m sure I’ve seen it,” Clary insists. “If I could just remember where…”
“In another book?” Simon asks. “On Valentine’s creepy ship thing? On a person? Any of this ring a bell?”
“Definitely not on a person,” Jace says, rolling his eyes. “There’s a set number of runes approved for personal—no, Clary, wait!”
“Only one way to find out,” Clary says, deftly leaning out of the way of Jace’s grasping arm and putting a finishing flourish to the rune she’s just drawn in mid-air. There’s a flash of light followed by a whooshing sound, and next thing Simon knows, a portal opens up in front of them.
“That’s so cool!”
“That’s— impossible ,” Jace says, sounding downright awed. “You need warlock magic to create a portal. Runes can’t—”
“You’ve obviously never seen Clary enter a pie-eating contest,” Simon replies. “Believe me when I say that ‘impossible’ is not a word that’s able to stop her.” He turns and winks at Clary, who sends him a radiant smile right back. “Come on, are we getting this Cup back or not?”
“We totally are,” Clary tells him. “Jace, are you joining us?”
“This is insane,” Jace mutters, but he pulls up his blade and steps in front of the two of them anyway. “Everybody ready?”
Simon grabs Clary’s hand as they walk through the portal, feeling a familiar thrill to his stomach when she squeezes his hand back. Seconds later, everything is spinning around them, and Simon closes his eyes, hoping for the best.
Chapter 2: Of All the Gin Joints In the World
Jace opens his eyes, and sees a fist coming towards his face.
Instinct takes over immediately. He ducks, dodges to the side and comes up swinging, knocking the guy squarely in his teeth. As he turns towards a second guy on his right, he fumbles at his side for his angel blade and finds nothing.
“Punk!” the guy spits at him, and in the next second, Jace is staring down the barrel of a gun.
“Whoa!” he exclaims, putting up his hands. “OK, hey, hang on. This is all a misunderstanding.”
“You don’t think we know it’s you who’ve been knocking over our gin shipments the last two weeks?” the guy snarls, advancing on him. “You were given a chance to back out. This is our territory.”
Jace looks around, trying to figure out a way out of this mess.
First, take stock. The guys in front of him are wearing embarrassingly high-waisted pants and vests, and they all seem to be unironically wearing suspenders. All the cars look about a hundred years old or something. And what with the talk about gin shipments, Jace suddenly realises that he’s ended up in a very particular time period. The twenties . (Simon made them watch Chicago the week before, talking the whole way through about period inaccuracies.) This whole thing with alternate dimensions is a nuisance, honestly.
Then again, at least this time he isn’t a barista .
He assesses the situation. The guy with the gun has him pretty well pinned down, his hand steady. No beginner, this one. The man Jace punched is sitting a little way off, still massaging his jaw and grimacing, and next to him, another two men are holding themselves back, waiting for the guy with the gun to take point. They are all clearly mundanes, and in the regular world, taking them out would have been easy. From the clear lack of runes when he glances down at his bare forearms, though, he figures his powers haven’t carried over, which makes his odds a lot worse. Still, there’s only four of them, and powers or not, Jace has been fighting since the day he could walk.
Also, he can feel the reassuring shape of a knife down the side of his boot. Nice to see that not all of his alternate selves are wussies.
“Careful there,” he tells the man in front of him, then grins. “Wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.”
“Oh, you little shit ,” one of the other men says, and starts forward. It makes the guy with the gun glance over at him, and just like that, Jace has an opening.
He steps smartly forward and kicks upwards, knocking the gun out of the guy’s hand. As the man swears, pained and startled, Jace leaps in and wrestles him into a hold, twisting him around to act as a shield against the other three.
“Now everyone be calm,” he says, twitching his knife out of his boot deftly. “Let’s discuss this like gentlemen.”
Clary blinks. Across from her, Valentine is staring back at her, a strangely conflicted expression on his face. And next to him, with a matching mix of various emotions, is—
Clary swallows hard. Mom . She manages not to say anything, remembering the many weird and painful interactions she had on her previous visit to an alternate world, but she can feel tears starting to threaten in her eyes. Her mom. Alive. And right there , close enough to touch.
Valentine clears his throat, and Clary’s whole body clenches. She forces herself to stay still, not to reach for a blade or a stele, and just see what happens.
“So, I suppose congratulations are in order,” Valentine says, and that’s when Clary realises that she’s holding hands with Simon.
Also, everyone is dressed really fancy. They’ve been dropped into some kind of retro dimension this time, she thinks. And she’s holding hands with Simon. And staring at her parents. And it would really help if these alternate dimensions came with some kind of primer on what was going on.
Then she hears Simon draw in a sharp breath next to her, and her eyes follow his down to their joined hands, where a sparkling engagement ring is sitting on her fourth finger.
“Thank you,” she manages finally, looking back up. Simon mutters something inaudible and vaguely grateful as well.
“Don’t look so frightened!” her mom tells her, laughing. “It’s sudden, yes, and you’ll forgive us for needing a moment to adjust, but of course we’re delighted for you!” She stands up and walks around the table, putting a hand on each of their shoulders. “Now, when’s the wedding going to be?”
“Oh,” Clary says, and then looks at Simon, who looks back at her with wide eyes. “Um. We haven’t actually set a date yet?”
“A long engagement. Good thinking,” Valentine says from the other side of the table. The smile he sends their way manages to be jovial and threatening all at once. “Get to know each other properly before you take that big step.”
“Don’t listen to your father,” Jocelyn retorts, a slightly too big smile on her face. “Just say the word, and he’ll have the wedding of the century arranged in a jiffy. You know how he dotes on you.”
“Haha,” Clary says weakly.
“In the meantime, I expect you’ll still be wanting to take on that suite on the third floor of our hotel?” Valentine says, turning to Simon.
“What?” Simon says. “Oh. Yes?”
“And I’ll be assigning you both a second bodyguard.”
“Dear,” Jocelyn says, in a somewhat exasperated tone, and it gives Clary the courage to go for the same kind of familiarity.
“Father, no,” she says, smiling. “You really don’t have to—”
“Darling, you’re engaged now,” Valentine cuts her off. “And Mr Lewis needs to be included in the protection detail from now on. I’ll let you know when everything’s been set up.”
Clary narrowly stops herself from recoiling as Valentine walks around the table as well and leans in to press a fatherly kiss to the top of her head. Her mom backs away, and Clary can’t help noticing how she leans away from Valentine as she does so.
“I’ll see you later, sweetheart,” he says. “Jocelyn, please make our guest comfortable; I’ve got some business to attend to.” He holds out a hand to Simon, who, after scrambling to get to his feet, manages to take it. “Mr Lewis.”
Simon manages a weak “Mr Morgenstern” in return, and Valentine’s smile turns sharp and far too pleasant as he leans in and tells Simon something in a voice too quiet for Clary to overhear.
From the way Simon visibly pales, she can guess the gist of it, however. As soon as Valentine has walked off, she reaches out and takes Simon’s hand, drawing his attention back towards herself.
“Hey, Simon. You okay?”
“What? Yes! Yes, of course. Totally fine,” Simon replies, his voice coming out a little higher than usual. “Death threats from your future father-in-law—totally a sign of love, right? Clary, can I talk to you for a second? Somewhere not here? ”
“Yes, of course,” Clary replies, getting off her chair as well. “Let’s… go for a walk?” She looks around them, quickly taking in more of the surroundings, and spots a useful sign. “Let’s go for a walk in the hotel garden.”
“Clary, wait,” her mom interrupts, the same note of slight frustration in her voice that Clary’s heard aimed at herself more times than she can count. She quickly looks away and blinks, taking a couple of quick, deep breaths to collect herself.
“I know the two of you are engaged now, and I realise that your father’s reaction to the news might not have been everything you had wanted it to be,” her mom says gently. “But you both need to still think about your reputation. Fiancé or not, you can’t simply walk off alone into the gardens together. Your father will have Mr Lewis’ head.”
“Oh. Right. Yes, of course. I’m sorry,” Clary says, taking a quick step away from Simon as her mom sends a pointed look down towards their joined hands.
Her mom’s expression softens, and she takes Clary’s arm, walking her a few steps away from Simon and lowering her voice.
“Darling, you know that I’m very fond of Mr Lewis. And I know your father’s… traditional approach can seem limiting.” She glances back towards Simon. “But you must realise that you and Mr Lewis are from very different backgrounds. Just give your father some time to settle into the idea.”
Clary frowns, trying to keep up. “Mother,” she begins, but her mom shakes her head, laughing.
“I know what you’re going to say. Mother, it’s 1926. I know, darling. But for once, try not to rush ahead. Give it some time.”
Clary swallows. Her mom looks different, here. Her hair is gathered into an elegant bun, instead of the straight hair that’s usually falling around her face and getting in the way of everything. She’s wearing pearls, which Clary is pretty sure she hates, and her clothes look careful and old, even for this time—her neckline high and severe, her hands covered by peach-coloured silk gloves. But the way she looks at Clary is just the same as when they sat, both crying, and talked about going to art school and about other options and about making sure Clary had a future through it all.
Her mom’s always supported her, in everything. But she’s always managed to be a sobering, rational voice, too. She’s trying to help. And Clary desperately wants to talk to her mom.
She turns towards Simon. “Could you go get us a drink, please?”
Simon gives her a I-thought-it-was-you-and-me-time-now-look, but nods.
“I’ll give you some time alone,” he says, and melts away towards another corner of the room as Clary and her mom sit back down at their table.
“He is very sweet,” Jocelyn says, looking after him.
“I like him so much, mother,” Clary says, the words falling out before she can stop them. “I feel like I’ve always loved him, all my life. Even though I couldn’t understand it at first.”
Her mom laughs. “Darling, you’ve known him for three months,” she says, putting a hand to Clary’s cheek, the touch familiar and endlessly comforting. “This is what I mean about rushing ahead.”
Clary manages a smile, trying to pull herself together. She longs to just give in, tell her mom everything and have it make sense again.
“Sorry,” she says. “It’s just—it’s hard to explain. But Simon just gets me. And he’s always there for me, whatever happens.”
Her mom pats her cheek again. “Well, I’m not saying I don’t understand,” she says. Her smile shifts slightly; it’s still pleasant and even loving, but now with somewhat of a strain at the corners. “After all, I felt much the same about your father when we first met.”
Clary frowns. “When you first met?”
This time, Jocelyn’s expression doesn’t waver at all—her smile perfect.
“Yes, darling, you’ll find yourself that love changes and evolves over time,” she says. “It’s what makes marriage such a wonderful adventure.”
She sits back, looking out over the room, and with an unpleasant start, Clary realises that her mom’s a much better liar in this dimension.
The restaurant bar is tucked away in a corner, appropriately disguised as a server’s station. Simon walks up to it, clearing his throat to get the attention of a server who has his back to him as he puts a row of cleaned glasses back on a shelf.
“Yes, sir. What can I get you?” a familiar voice answers, making Simon jump a little as he’s suddenly faced with the reality of Alec Lightwood in a tux and with his hair combed neatly to the side.
Alec frowns at him, and Simon belatedly realises that this dimension’s version of himself and this dimension’s version of Alec are probably not on first name basis.
“I mean, yes, hi,” he quickly corrects himself. “Mrs F—Morgenstern sent me over to ask if you have something from, uh, the French collection still in the vault?”
Alec’s frown deepens. He looks Simon up and down, and then shrugs. “I’ll go check.”
“Thank you!” Simon calls after him, as Alec disappears behind a curtain.
Simon sighs, looking back out across the room. A few people look away quickly, obviously having been staring, but one of them flashes him a coy smile before doing so. Simon grins back at her, feeling his teeth blunt and safe in his mouth.
He hadn’t realised, before it was no longer there, how heavy the hunger felt. He feels light as air, free and relaxed, no longer having to watch himself from a corner of his own mind.
The room they’re in is opulent in a way which is probably slightly too on-the-nose even in this time, Valentine’s riches obvious everywhere Simon looks. There are heavy draperies all along the walls and rather too much gold to feel classy. The clientele is obviously the loftier kind of high-end, too—there isn’t a store-bought outfit in the place, and the girl who smiled at Simon earlier seems to be wearing real emeralds, enough to buy a small European country with.
Simon can see some faces he recognises, too. None as obviously as Jocelyn, Valentine or Alec, but there are some familiar features here and there—people he’s met as shadowhunters in his own reality, probably, or maybe even a couple of vampires. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of shadow world magic here, though, which should simplify things.
Simon turns quickly. Alec is proffering two bottles for inspection.
“Oh, yes, thank you Al—” Simon stops himself, tries to backtrack and ends up with, “Yes, well done, my good man.”
The way Alec looks at him, Simon can tell that this reality’s version of him, too, does not do well with any kind of condescension. Really, out of all the professions Alec could have gone into, Simon feels like service probably wasn’t the best choice.
“We’ll go with the blanc du blanc ,” he manages, then realises that he should probably find some kind of payment. “Just a moment, I should have something for you…”
“I will just put it on your tab, Mr Lewis,” Alec says, after some time of awkward patting of pockets. “Thank you.”
“Right,” Simon says, relieved. Calculating tips in this era, he realises, is a whole new ordeal. “I’ll just take this along, then. Thank you.”
“Thank you, Mr Lewis,” Alec repeats, and Simon, realising that they’re getting stuck in a loop, just nods and flees.
Jace holds up the matchbook he found in his pocket in front of his face and brushes his thumb over the familiar rune, which in this universe is apparently a logo for a nightclub. He takes note of the address and then puts it back in his pocket. Between that and the information he got from the men who tried to beat him up, he thinks he has the broad strokes of his current reality figured out: he’s still in New York, some time during the prohibition era, and his alternate self is hired muscle, working for Valentine.
He makes his way through the streets until he finds the right address, and mentally shakes his head. He’s standing in front of a hotel that practically oozes luxury; it seems like no matter what dimension he’s in, Valentine just can’t resist showing off.
He ducks around the corner into a back alley, and—sure enough—there’s a staircase there, leading to a pair of doors bearing the same logo as the matchbook he found. Jace tries the handle; the door’s locked. He quickly feels through his pockets for a key, but comes up empty, so he knocks instead, taking a step back when he hears footsteps on the other side, and a small latch opens.
Jace manages to push back the knee-jerk reaction he has at seeing Hodge’s familiar face stare back at him, and masks it by making a show out of rolling his eyes. “Come on, Starkweather, do we really have to do this song and dance every time? I need to speak to the boss. Let me in, already, will you?”
Hodge narrows his eyes, but does as told. “He’s in his office.”
Jace nods and does his best to look like he knows where he’s going as he heads down a hallway, coming out into what must be the main room of the club. It’s the middle of the afternoon, so the place is empty apart from a man sweeping the floor and some girl counting out her cash box.
She turns, sees him and waves.
“Izzy?” Jace says, startled. She’s looking happy and more or less like herself, he finds after a moment’s disorientation, which is comforting to find. Clary told him some stories about meeting familiar faces in another dimension, and it seems like it could get weird quick. “Um. What’s up?”
“I’m pretty sure one of the other girls is trying to con me out of my tips,” she says, sighing. “She’s been giving me a shorted cash box three days in a row—as if I wouldn’t notice. But, you know. Other than that it’s fine. But you seem like you’ve been in a scrape!”
She nods at his right sleeve, torn in the scuffle. He shrugs.
“A couple of rivals. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Would have been easier if I’d had you with me, though.” It slips out before he can think, and he winces at himself. From what he knows of the twenties, girls usually aren’t heavy hitters.
Thankfully, she just laughs. “Sure, I could have thrown cigars at them. Hey, by the way, Mr Morgenstern was looking for you.” She tilts her head in the direction of a dark door next to the bar, half-hidden by a velvet curtain, and grins, raising her eyebrows. “I’d be careful, if I were you.”
“Um. OK? Why?”
“Daddy’s little princess apparently went and got engaged to that cute Jewish boy who’s been coming in lately. Everyone’s talking about it.”
Jace’s mind races, trying to catch up. OK, so Clary and Simon both seem to have made it here fine, then. Although why they felt they had to go and get engaged the first thing they did, he doesn’t really know.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Come down here after?” Izzy says. “There’s bound to be a large crowd tonight, and Alec told me that the band got a new guy on the trumpet. I haven’t heard him myself yet, but he’s supposed to be really good.”
“Yeah, OK,” Jace replies, his mind already back on Valentine. “I’ll be down as soon as I can.”
“I hold you to that!” Izzy calls out after him. Jace gives her a smile and then crosses over to the bar, following it until he’s standing in front of the door that should logically lead to Valentine’s office.
“Come in,” Valentine’s all-too familiar voice calls when Jace raises his hand and knocks.
Jace quickly checks that the gun he stole from one of the guys who jumped him is still tucked securely into the waistband of his pants and takes a steady breath before placing his hand on the door knob and twisting it.
The room on the other side is eerily similar to the offices at the New York Institute—all dark wood and heavy fabrics. Valentine is standing behind a desk, making annotations in a small, leather-bound journal.
“Hello, Jace,” he says, looking up and sending a small, calculating smile in Jace’s direction. “Shut the door, will you? I have something I’d like you to do for me.”
Chapter 3: On the Corner of Fifth And Vermouth
It's Tuesday! Speakeasy AU day! Thank you to everyone who have read and reacted so far. Hope you'll enjoy!
Clary’s mom is sitting with her hands folded, looking over towards where Simon is wrangling with one of the waiters. She’s tapping one gloved finger against the knuckles of her other hand in what seems to be an unconscious gesture, and Clary’s is watching her do it with a growing sense of unease. It’s a small, everyday gesture, but it’s somehow stressful.
Most of all, it isn’t mom .
“Mom—mother,” she corrects herself. “Are you all right?”
Jocelyn looks back at her, smiling.
“Of course I am, darling. You mustn’t worry so. I told you, I like Mr Lewis.”
“I don’t—” Clary begins, frustrated, then forces herself to calm down. “I don’t mean about me. Us. Any of that. You’re—you just seem a little stressed.”
This time, Jocelyn looks genuinely startled. “Oh, Clary,” she says. “What would make you think that?” She shrugs. “It’s always some extra work with the new hires, yes, but you know that I enjoy helping your father out with the personnel questions and organisation.”
“Oh,” Clary says, unsure of how to answer. Her mom was never too much for organising anything, back home. Before Dot came to work for her and knocked everything into shape, Clary doubts her mom even knew half the stuff she sold in her store herself. “Um. Good.”
There’s a strange moment when she feels dizzy, all of a sudden; her mother seems to almost shimmer at the edges, veering in and out between the mom she loves and someone who’s a stranger to her.
Thankfully, Simon arrives back in that moment, carrying a rather dusty bottle and three glasses.
“Bubbles!” he says, brandishing the bottle and grinning at them both. “I thought we could toast to the occasion.”
Clary stares at him, and then as Jocelyn leans away from the table to signal for some snacks as well, leans forward to hiss into Simon’s ear, “Alcohol is illegal here, isn’t it?”
“Wine is allowed if it’s from your personal stores. And I also think that when you’re very rich and powerful, you always have some leeway,” Simon mutters back, wrestling with the cork. “And I have a twenty in my pocket, which is such a lot of money here that I’m embarrassed about it. Also, I think your dad owns basically this entire block.”
He hands the first glass of champagne to Clary’s mom with a bow, which somehow fits in perfectly in this old time at the same time as being infused with her Simon’s irony.
“Mrs Morgenstern?” he says, and Jocelyn laughs.
“Oh, please. Call me Jocelyn, Mr Lewis.”
“Only if you call me Simon,” Simon says, winking back at her with that toothy, charming grin of his, and Clary feels her chest tighten with the beloved familiarity of it all.
As Simon sits down next to her, starting to discuss the import possibilities of French champagnes with her mom—how does Simon know all these things?—and Jocelyn laughs, slipping into a playful dialogue about an old acquaintance from Reims, Clary allows herself to relax into the situation and just smile as her mom and boyfriend sit talking around her. It feels familiar and safe, like Saturday mornings back home before everything became strange and dangerous.
And then, of course, Valentine reappears.
“Clarissa, darling,” he says, “I have arranged that bodyguard for you.”
He gestures behind him, and Clary bites back a gasp as Jace comes into view.
“You might remember Jace,” Valentine says, waving casually. Jace stares back at Clary, and with a certain amount of relief, she recognises that particular pout. This is her— their Jace. “He’ll be in charge of your joint security from now on. And just come talk to me if there’s anything you want to discuss, darling. Anything at all.”
Clary suppresses a wince as Valentine grasps her arm for a moment, gentle and fatherly but still somehow possessive.
“Thank you, father,” she manages. She can still feel the taste of the unfamiliar champagne in her mouth, but it’s turned sour—everything feels threatening and wrong.
She longs to get out of here, away from her father’s sinister smiles and her mother’s worried ones.
Thankfully, she doesn’t seem to be the only one who’s had that idea. As Valentine leaves again, giving Simon a none too subtle look as he does so, Jace bows respectfully to Jocelyn.
“I’m sorry to drag your daughter away,” he says, “but I would like to go over some security arrangements with her and her fiancé. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course,” Jocelyn says pleasantly, and Jace bows again, then gestures for Clary and Simon to follow him.
“Jace?” Simon asks, raising an eyebrow in question as he takes in Jace’s new hair and clothes.
Jace only grunts, putting a finger to his lips.
“Not here,” he says quietly, then shoulders open a door half hidden behind another of the heavy curtains Valentine seems so fond of. It leads into an empty corridor, and Jace does a quick check in either direction before gesturing for Simon and Clary to follow his lead.
Simon does his best to keep up—the vampire speed didn’t come with him in the dimension hop, obviously—as Jace hurries them out of the restaurant and into the hotel proper, up several flights of stairs and through a number of long corridors until they’re standing in one that only has two doors on either side.
“In here,” Jace tells them, drawing a key from one of his pockets and opening the second door to the right. Clary quickly moves inside, but when Simon means to follow her, something about the way Jace is standing makes him hesitate.
Jace is looking grim, he thinks. Not only that, but he’s looking less like his regular ready-to-fight-someone, and more like he already has. Simon takes a closer look, and notes bruised knuckles and a few spots of blood on his sleeves, as well as another bruise starting to form on Jace’s right cheek.
“When did this happen?” he asks, gesturing towards the entire—well, Jace of it all. His voice comes out too affected, and he quickly backpedals, trying for the more familiar feeling of being annoyed at Jace instead. “We’ve been here for like an hour!”
“You’d be surprised how much I can get done in an hour,” Jace retorts, rolling his eyes before practically shoving Simon through the door. “Meanwhile, the two of you seem to have made yourself comfortable.” He looks between them, and then pointedly down at Clary’s left hand. “Mazel tov.”
Simon watches as Clary blushes, and then feels a familiar, sinking feeling in his stomach as she pulls away from him a fraction, hiding her hand behind her back.
“You know how alternate dimensions are,” she says, and the sinking feeling in Simon’s gut intensifies.
“I think it worked out OK, though?” he says, reaching out and taking Clary’s other hand in his. To his relief, she squeezes back, and when she turns her head and smiles at him, everything feels just like it should again.
“Well,” she says, leaning back into Simon’s side, “we had to hit the ground running. But I think we’re getting pretty good at that.”
Simon laughs. Jace pointedly clears his throat.
“Anyway, as far as I can tell, Valentine is running The Circle as a speakeasy, underneath this whole hotel thing he’s got going up top. And I don’t exactly know how everything fits together yet, but I’m working for him. So’s Izzy.”
“And Alec,” Simon volunteers, and sees Jace start at that, something in his shoulders relaxing. Oh yes, Simon remembers— parabatai . It must have been strange for Jace, finding himself in a new world without that bond at his side.
“And my mom’s here,” Clary says. Jace nods and meets her eye, his expression melting into something a great deal softer than Simon’s seen on him before.
“I’m fine.” Clary draws a deep breath, folding her arms together and hunching in on herself. “It’s strange. But—I don’t know. At least she’s here.”
They’re all silent for a few moments, and then Jace clears his throat again.
“Right. Well, let’s move on. Simon, welcome to your new home.” He holds out his arm to turn Simon and Clary’s attention towards the rest of the room.
Simon looks around, and then practically feels his own jaw drop to the floor. The room they’re in isn’t a room, first of all—Simon notes three doors marking different rooms of the suite just from where he’s currently standing. He whistles softly, turning to Clary with a grin on his face.
“Damn, Fray. When your dad does something, he really goes all out. And, I mean, he’s obviously not thrilled about this whole engagement thing, but you have to admit putting your future son-in-law up in a swanky place like this is pretty supportive. Maybe he’s sorry about the death threats?”
Jace leans against the wall, crossing his arms in the way he always does when he’s trying to be dismissive and yet handsome. He has it down to an art. “Maybe not so much. Apparently, I’m supposed to kill you and make it look like an accident.” He looks from Simon to Clary and back again. “Sorry.”
Simon stares back at him. “You’re what ?”
“I mean, it’s a last resort,” Jace says casually. He grins. “First, I’m supposed to try and seduce Clary away from you.”
Clary rolls her eyes, as Simon just sort of mouths helplessly. “OK, you don’t need to be so smug about it. And great, at least we now know that my dad is a terrible person in every reality.”
Simon waves his hands. “Oh, come on, that makes no sense. I mean, no offense, but Valentine’s clearly working towards becoming some sort of upstanding pillar of society, what with the clientele he’s courting here. Why would he want his daughter dating the hired muscle?”
“Simon!” Clary exclaims.
“Sorry, sorry! I’m just saying. Jace might be pretty, but he’s still a fix-it guy here, from what I can tell, and I’m pretty sure that with the kind of upwards mobility Valentine seems to be working for, I’m a much better—”
“And I’m pretty sure none of that matters, because this universe is stuck in the twenties, and this version of Valentine seems to have replaced his hatred for Downworlders with some good old-fashioned anti-semitism,” Jace interrupts, then shrugs. “I mean, sorry, I know it sucks. But he wasn’t exactly mincing words when he told me to get you out of the picture by any means necessary . I don’t think my seduction was meant to be permanent, if that’s any comfort.”
“Can we stop calling it that?” Clary asks archly. “Valentine sucks; we all agree. We clearly need to come up with a plan for how we’re going to handle this. We don’t need anyone coming after Simon’s life—what we need to do is find the Cup. Now, any idea about where to start looking for that?”
“Valentine’s office is located behind a hidden door, next to the bar downstairs,” Jace replies. “I noticed a really ugly painting that’s probably hiding a safe; it’s a place to start.”
“Okay, good, let’s do that,” Clary replies. She walks a few steps away from them both, moving towards one of the windows and looking out over the city below. “The speakeasy is the way in. Let’s begin by heading down tonight and getting to know the place—see if we can figure out any patterns to Valentine’s movements.”
Simon exchanges a look with Jace behind her back. There’s something tensely fragile about Clary right now, and he wishes he knew what to do about it. From the look on Jace’s face, he doesn’t seem to have much of an idea either.
“OK, so if we’re heading down when it opens, I figure we have a couple of hours to get settled,” Simon says eventually. And then something else hits him. “Wait. I’m not a vamp in this dimension! I can actually have dinner that doesn’t come out of a mug!”
Clary and Jace let out matching snorts of amusement.
Simon gives them each a dirty look. “Fine, laugh all your want. While you do that, I’m going to take full advantage of my functioning-again stomach and stuff myself with all the food I’ve been missing. Clary, wanna join me?”
“Actually, I think I’ll just eat in my room today,” Clary says, still smiling at him. “Not that I’m not stoked for you—I really am—but it’s been a long day, and if we’re going after the Cup tonight, I could really use some downtime.” She turns to Jace. “Where’s my room? Do you know?”
“Next floor up,” Jace says. “Hang on, I’ll show you.”
“I’ll, uh, I’ll see you guys later then,” Simon says, trying his best not to feel excluded. “Once the speakeasy opens up, I mean.”
“You’ll see me as soon as I’ve shown Clary her room,” Jace counters. “I’m supposed to stay here with you.”
“Body guard, remember?” Jace raises an eyebrow. “I need to watch you. At all times, apparently.”
“I don’t need to be watched— ” Simon begins.
“I’m sorry, how many times have you been kidnapped again?” Jace interrupts. “And that was before you were engaged to a mobster princess.”
“Hey! I don’t—”
“Oh my God, just stop it, will you?” Clary exclaims, and then rolls her eyes at both of them in exasperation. “Jace, give me the key to my room, please. I’ll find it myself.”
She holds out her hand expectantly, and to Simon’s surprise, Jace simply sighs and pulls a key from his pocket and hands it to her.
“If Valentine sees you walking around on your own—”
“He’ll scold me, and I’ll play the doting daughter card and smile at him until he forgets to be mad,” Clary says. “See you downstairs at ten?”
“Sure,” Simon says, and Jace nods as well.
They both stare after her as she goes, and then Simon clears his throat, not really sure where to go from here.
“So,” he begins, realises he has no idea of what he wanted to say and hears himself continue, “dinner?”
Jace gives him a blank look. “You think it’s a good idea to be eating with the hired muscle?”
“I probably need to report to Valentine anyway. If the culinary trip around New York can wait until tomorrow, I’ll have the hotel kitchens send something up for you.” Jace gives him a quick glance. “You eat meat, right?”
Simon blinks. It feels like Jace started out by going for condescension, but somewhere along the line, it turned into something softer.
“A burger would be great,” he offers, and even as he says it, he can feel his stomach growl impatiently. “And fries. And onion rings if they have them.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Jace replies, clearly amused. “How about a shake as well? Chocolate? Strawberry? Or wait, let me guess…” He cocks his head to the right, and his smile widens. “Vanilla lover, right?”
It’s such an obvious challenge, Simon can’t help himself. Before he knows it, he’s moving forward, neatly blocking Jace’s way out of the room, and then taking a step closer, leaning into Jace’s personal space and putting his mouth next to his ear.
“Takes one to know one.”
The look on Jace’s face is priceless. Simon lets him stew in it for a while before taking pity on him. “Actually, my favourite’s cookies and cream. And if you get me one with hot fudge on top, I promise your vanilla secret’s safe with me.”
“Whatever, Lewis.” Jace grins and pushes him aside, but gentler than expected. “I’m pretty sure you’re about twenty years early with that order, by the way, but I’ll send you up whatever passes for dinner in the twenties.”
“Oh no, everything will be boiled,” Simon says, and Jace closes the door with a laugh.
Clary nods to the man barring the hidden door to the downstairs speakeasy—she recognises him; one of the many hostile faces she saw manning Valentine’s ship while trying to save Jace a few weeks ago. She clenches her hand around her bag, plastering a smile onto her face.
“Good crowd tonight?” she asks, and receives a respectful bow back.
“Evening, miss. Quite a turn-out. Have a good night, miss.”
He touches a panel in the wall, and Clary steps into The Circle .
It’s a cavernous space, dimly lit and with smaller passages leading off in every direction from the central, grand room. There’s a large stage, empty at the moment apart from a pianist playing something smoothly jazzy, and the place is echoing with laughter and spirited conversation. She cranes her neck, trying to see if Simon or Jace have made it down yet, but can’t see them anywhere.
“Cigarettes?” someone says behind her, and Clary turns quickly. Izzy is grinning at her, brandishing a tray. “Good evening, Miss Morgenstern. And congratulations on the happy occasion.”
“Izzy!” Clary exclaims, happy to see a friendly face. She sees Izzy hesitate for a moment, probably thrown by the familiarity, and hastens to amend it to, “Isabelle, I mean. Sorry! Miss Lightwood.”
For a moment longer, Izzy just stares at her, but then she laughs.
“You don’t have to go overboard,” she says. “Isabelle’s fine, Miss Morgenstern. And where’s your fiancé ?”
She puts emphasis on the last word with a grin—and it’s not quite Izzy’s unabashedly filthy sense of humour from back home, but there’s a sense of it, still, at the corners. The pushing of buttons and the romance, both at once.
Clary feels a bright, sudden yearning to be this Izzy’s frien d. The emotion feels old and new all at once—like a familiar ache that’s bubbled back up to the surface. The way Izzy allows Isabelle but insists on Miss Morgenstern , though, makes her suspect that things are more complicated between this universe’s versions of herself and Izzy than just a matter of titles.
“He said he’d be joining me here,” she says. “Um, about now. You haven’t seen him, by any chance?”
Izzy shrugs. “Sorry, not yet. But I’m sure he won’t keep you waiting for long, newly engaged and all.”
She grins again, and Clary casts around for something else to say. It feels weird, finding herself lost for words with Izzy, but she can’t figure out what subjects are OK, or what their relationship is really like.
She’s looking around the room, searching for inspiration, when she hears a pleased murmur go through the patrons. The band is walking onto the stage, and Clary can feel Izzy give her a nudge.
“Check out the new guy,” she says. “Heard them warming up before—he can really play a tune.”
The lights turn onto the stage, and Clary feels her heart jump.
Standing at the front of the band, adjusting something on his trumpet and smiling out into the audience, is Luke.
Luke is here, then, Simon thinks, along with his entire pack—who have turned out to be a surprisingly good band in this version of reality. He turns to Clary, who he just found a few minutes ago, sitting at a table by herself and staring up at Luke with her chin in her hands. It must be so strange for her, seeing both her parents here as other people.
“So apparently Alaric has more talents than just glowering,” he tells her, trying to lighten the mood. “Who knew?”
Clary smiles weakly. “He always used to play the piano at the precinct Christmas parties,” she says, and Simon immediately feels like the world’s greatest asshole.
“Clary, I’m sorry.”
She shrugs. “It’s fine. It’s just—you know, it’s weird, seeing him here, too.”
Simon nods. In a way, that’s the strangest part of this dimension—all these people, dead back home, walking around here and living other lives.
“Um,” he says. “Get you a drink?”
“Perks of being the boss’s daughter: I’m pretty sure no one’s going to care that your fake ID sucks. Or even ask for it.”
Clary rolls her eyes, but smiles, and Simon counts that as a success.
This bar is a lot busier than the one upstairs and is manned by at least four people, but Simon still finds himself face to face with Alec again.
“Do you work both day and night shifts?” Simon asks, incredulous. “When do you have time off?”
“Every other Sunday,” Alec says, deadpan. Simon laughs, because that’s the way Alec usually delivers his jokes, until he realises that this was probably meant as a serious answer. He clears his throat.
“Two glasses of champagne, please.”
Alec nods and moves away, and Simon sighs with relief. Talking to Alec is complicated.
He turns to look back at Clary, bumping into someone as he does so.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he begins, then realises that he’s looking at Maia, fresh off the stage and trailing glitter. “Oh my god, Maia, hi!”
Maia looks back at him, raising her eyebrows. “Yes, it’s me,” she says, signalling to one of the other bartenders. “And you are…?”
“Simon,” Simon says, feeling his face turn hot and wishing he could make it stop. Back home, blushing has stopped being a problem, what with the whole vampire thing. Here, it is apparently quickly reasserting its dominance. “Simon Lewis, sorry, hi. You’re—um, you’re in the band! You’re really good! I didn’t know you could sing.”
“Thank you?” Maia says, but she’s smiling. “So is this your first night here?”
Showing a remarkable lack of timing, Alec chooses that time to reappear.
“I’ve added it to your regular tab, Mr Lewis,” he says, proffering a couple of glasses. “And Mr Morgenstern has asked me to inform you that breakfast will from now on be added to your room; free of charge, of course.”
Simon glances at Maia, who is no longer smiling.
“So you didn’t know I could sing, Mr Regular?” she asks. “What did you think I was usually doing?”
“No, I—that is—” Simon flounders. “I didn’t know you could sing before I heard you sing the first time. Which—I guess that makes sense, why would I have known that…”
Maia just looks at him, taking the glass handed to her by the other bartender and sweeping off back towards the stage.
“I’m an idiot,” Simon sighs, looking back at Alec.
Alec remains stone-faced and silent, so there’s not much change there from real-world Alec. In a way, it’s kind of comforting—in another, it’s just enough like home to make everything else around them unpleasantly strange by contrast.
Suddenly restless, Simon grabs the champagne glasses and walks quickly back to the table.
“Dance?” he asks Clary, who gives him a startled look but then smiles up at him.
The dance floor is almost empty, and as Simon heads onto the floor and leads Clary into a slow foxtrot, he feels the world shrinking to the two of them and the dance. It only takes a few bars of music for them both to settle into it, Clary’s arm resting familiar against his shoulder, their feet moving in sync.
They learned to ballroom dance like this, practising in the Fray living room on Saturday afternoons after their shared lessons, traditional jazz blaring through Luke’s old gramophone—because, as he was overly fond of pointing out, “you just can’t beat the sound of vinyl”.
It was after their first winter showcase that Simon and Clary first decided that they should get married when they got older. At the time it was a very pragmatic engagement—they already had their bridal waltz in place, and they liked to hang out, and at the time Simon was planning to be a firefighter, which they decided would work out well with Clary’s career as a pilot—but looking back, Simon has wondered if there was ever a time in his life when he didn’t see Clary as his life partner.
“This is so nice,” Clary says, leaning her head down to rest against his shoulder, and everything feels familiar and comfortable.
“Didn’t know you were so nostalgic for the good old days at Studio Ginger,” Simon says, pleased when she laughs. “I could have put on an Irish accent and started giving you grief for your posture ages ago. You just had to ask.”
“Oh my god,” Clary says, smiling up at him, “remember when she’d go off on tangents about quickstep?”
“I have to admit I’ve been suspicious of professional quicksteppers ever since.”
Clary raises her head just enough to throw it back in laughter, then moves closer again, curling her hand around his shoulder and resting her head in the crook of his neck.
“It isn’t all bad here, right?” she says. “Even with how different everything is.”
“It definitely has that old-world charm going on,” Simon agrees. “But I think I still prefer the twenty-first century.”
Clary hums in agreement. “We should go to the Hamptons on our honeymoon.”
“I was thinking Las Vegas; my folks have a beautiful hotel right on the Strip,” Simon replies, the words falling from his lips without thinking. He leads Clary into a slow turn and then brings her hand to his lips for a brief kiss. “In fact, we could travel there tonight, be married by tomorrow evening. Run away with me?”
Clary gives him a playful shove. “My father would not be pleased.”
“Who cares? Once we’re married, he’ll have no hold of you. We could go wherever we like.”
“Still, I—” Clary stops short, suddenly frowning. She shakes her head a little and then looks back up at Simon, determination written all over her face.
“Rock Solid Panda is a stupid band name.”
It’s a little like having his attention pulled away from a tricky problem in class, only to realise he doesn’t have a clue what question the professor just asked him. His head spins as he finds his centre again, the people around him floating in and out of focus as he blinks repeatedly.
“Wow. Yeah. I’d say that’s a definite strike against this dimension,” he says, blinking a few more times. “How do we stop that from happening again?”
“I don’t know,” Clary admits. “The last time I went to another dimension, Magnus warned me that without an anchor, I’d assimilate into that world.”
“Right, so let’s find one of those,” Simon replies quickly. “Any idea what it could be?”
Clary frowns, then suddenly smiles up at him. “Well, I think finding a clear and happy memory is a good start. How do you feel about the Brooklyn Bridge?”
Simon blinks at her, and then the memory is there. Clary—happy and cheerful and, to be honest, quite drunk. Not that Simon was much better at the time, but at least he had two shoes on. She insisting that she could walk home from the party they’d been at—he insisting that it was snowing.
In the end, they walked all the way home, Simon carrying Clary on his back. He remembers it as though it was yesterday—Clary’s arms around his neck, both of them giggling like idiots, she singing old boy band songs into his ear as he trudged over the bridge with snow falling all around them and erasing the rest of the world.
“Sure,” he says, the memory like a sunny weight in his mind. “That works.”
Jace has quickly discovered that this universe’s version of Valentine is just as fond of piling work on his shoulders and being constantly disappointed in the results as the not-quite father Jace knows. As soon as he leaves Simon’s room, one of Valentine’s men is on him, reminding him of all the other work he ought to be doing, and so he spends the next few hours running errands in the area around the hotel, while Clary and Simon get to kick back and relax in their respective rooms.
All in all, it makes him late, and when he finally makes it to the speakeasy, the first thing he notices is Clary and Simon, dancing and laughing together in the middle of the dance floor.
He quickly turns away and makes a beeline for the bar, studiously ignoring the sinking feeling in his gut.
A glass is put down next to him moments later, and Jace throws a quick glance at the prices written on a board on the wall and then digs up a few coins from his pocket. “Thanks.” He puts the pint to his lips and drinks it down in a series of quick deep gulps. As soon as he puts down the empty glass, a full one appears, alongside a generous shot of bourbon.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell the boss if you won’t,” a familiar voice tells him.
Jace’s head snaps around. “Alec.”
“What? Were you expecting someone else?” Alec asks drily. “Monday through Saturday, remember? All part of the deal.”
What deal? Jace wants to ask, but Alec’s already moved down the bar to pour a drink for another patron.
Instead, Jace turns his attention to the half-hidden door at the other end of the bar. There are two guards there tonight, both looking the opposite of inconspicuous in their suits, hats and the obvious guns they each carry beneath their jackets.
He finishes his second beer, throws back the shot Alec gave him for good measure, and then makes his way over.
One of the men stops him as he tries to walk past them. Jace gives him an unimpressed look and shrugs himself out of the hold. “Problem?”
“Boss said no one goes in the office tonight,” the man replies. “Not even you, Wayland.”
Jace cocks his head to the side, taking the opportunity to surreptitiously look them both over, cataloguing the weapons they’re carrying. Not good. He can probably take one of them, but both? Less than favourable odds. Brute force is not going to fly here, then.
“Good evening, Jace,” someone murmurs softly behind him, and Jace feels a familiar cold shiver run down his spine. That was the way he would always be chastised, when he hesitated over a demon kill as a child. The soft voice, and then the punishment.
“Sir?” he says, turning.
Valentine is smiling at him, which is always the worst of his anger. “For some reason, I can see my daughter out there, dancing with her,” he spits the word out, “ fiancé . Why do I find you here, lounging about, and not doing something about that?”
I’ve had half a day , Jace stops himself from saying. Never ask forgiveness. Never make excuses.
“I’ll get on it, sir,” he says.
“See that you do,” Valentine says. “I’d prefer not to have to resort to extreme measures. Clarissa would be so upset.”
He gives Jace’s shoulder a squeeze and walks past him into the office, leaving Jace with an unpleasant and all too familiar knot of panic in his gut.
Chapter 4: Never Practice Two Vices at Once
Chapter by FannyT
Red went on holiday and Fanny forgot to post. But here, one day late, is the latest Speakeasy chapter!
“Is he ever going to leave that office?” Simon asks, glaring over towards the bar as he and Clary move across the floor in a smooth waltz. The door next to it, leading into Valentine’s office, is slightly ajar behind its heavy draperies. Valentine himself can be vaguely seen in the shadows, standing in the doorway and looking out over The Circle’s main room like some sort of creep.
Clary rolls her eyes. “I know, right? He doesn’t seem to be doing any work, either. I think he just likes lurking.”
“So what’s our plan for tonight? You play the daughter card, and I try to sneak in while you have him distracted?”
“You will be shot instantly,” Jace says, appearing next to them without warning and making both of them jump. “There are at least five guards apart from the two at the door, and somehow, I don’t think Valentine will be distracted that easily. Meanwhile, do you mind if I cut in?” He holds out his hand to Clary and inclines his head in a bow. “Valentine’s watching.”
“Oh,” Clary says, and then quickly looks back to check in with Simon, before she moves away from him and takes Jace’s hand with a slightly tense smile on her lips. “What do we need to do?”
“Just dance with me,” Jace replies. “Simon, you should go over to the bar and keep watch. Have a few drinks and don’t try to conceal the jealousy.”
“Funny,” Simon throws back. “I’ll have you know that Clary and I have been taken ballroom with Mrs O’Neill since we were eight, and from what I’ve seen of Shadowhunters, you’re all Grr and no polish, so the joke’s on you.”
“That’s cute,” Jace replies, then pulls Clary away from him with a grin. “Now go keep watch.”
Simon grumbles, but does as told. Contrary to what he told Jace and Clary, he doesn’t have to fake the worried look that settles on his face, or the sinking feeling of insecurity in his stomach as he watches Jace lead Clary into a pretty decent foxtrot.
They look beautiful together. Even lacking the inherent grace and agility that comes with being a Shadowhunter, they move smoothly across the floor. Clary says something that makes Jace smile—an open, happy smile, so unlike what Simon’s used to seeing on him. Jace leans closer and replies with something that makes Clary laugh and blush all at once, and the sinking feeling in Simon’s stomach intensifies.
She picked me , he reminds himself. Whatever she and Jace had is all in the past.
He really wishes his inner voice would sound more confident in the matter.
“Don’t worry, Mr Lewis, I’ve seen the way she looks at you,” a voice comes from behind, and Simon turns around and finds himself face to face with Izzy. “I mean, I love Jace like my own brother, but I also work in this club; you’ve been the talk of the town since you first stepped into this joint.”
“Er, thanks?” Simon replies, and then does his best to smile. “So are you working all night?”
He realises he’s said something wrong when Izzy’s eyes widen in surprise. She’s quick to collect herself, and then the smile that spreads across her lips takes on a decidedly predatory tone. “Why, Mr Lewis, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were looking for something more than what I’m currently selling?”
“Wha-what?” he stammers, and, to his eternal mortification, practically jumps backwards when Izzy takes a couple of steps closer to him. “Um. No. No, no no, I just—I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to imply—”
Izzy throws her head back and laughs. “You’re sweet,” she says. “Too bad Miss Morgenstern got a hold of you first.” Then she leans in and puts her vividly red lips against Simon’s cheek, leaving a very obvious imprint there as she pulls back with a wink. “Bye, Mr Lewis.”
Simon can’t help but stare after her, Jace and Clary momentarily forgotten.
The song comes to an end, and Clary immediately lets go of Jace.
“OK, we need to really talk about how we’re going to sell this,” Jace says, looking put upon as she starts hurrying off the dancefloor.
Clary rolls her eyes at him, annoyed at the distraction. Maia and Alaric are still standing on the stage, starting to kick into something soft and bluesey, but the rest of the band are heading off for their break. “I need to talk to Luke, OK? Can you just—can you give me a minute?”
That, at least, makes Jace back off a little, although he still looks concerned. “He doesn’t know you, Clary,” he begins.
“Don’t you think I know that?” Clary interrupts him. “Out of all three of us, who has actually spent a significant amount of time in another dimension? I know what I’m doing. I just need to talk to him.”
Jace just looks at her, so she leaves him standing at the edge of the dance floor and follows Luke off stage into one of the little passageways that leads off from the main stage.
She manages to catch up to him just as he heads into a small room that seems to be the band’s dressing room—there’s a sheet in front of the opening, drawn to one side now that they’ve all been out on stage, and Clary can see instrument cases and clothes strewn about the place when she looks in.
“Well done!” she exclaims, and Luke turns back towards her, confusion melting into a polite smile.
“Thank you, miss,” he says.
“That was a wonderful first set,” Clary says, smiling back at him.
Luke gives her a bow.
“I’m happy it was to your liking,” he says, all polite. “Miss Morgenstern, right? I’m very grateful to your mother for giving me this opportunity.”
“Oh,” Clary says, not sure how to continue this conversation. “That’s—nice. Do you, um, do you like it here?”
“It seems like a great place,” Luke says, still with that polite smile on his face. Clary suddenly recognises it all too well. That’s the smile he gives to salesmen and missionaries—trying to extricate himself nicely from a conversation he doesn’t want to be having.
It hurts to be on the other end of it.
“Well, I should give you time to rest up,” she manages. “I look forward to the rest of your show.”
Just as she’s about to leave, her eye catches on something peach-coloured, hanging off a chair right next to her. She’s pretty sure she recognises the shade.
“Clarissa?” she hears, and feels a shiver go through her. Trust her father to make her full given name feel like a curse.
“Father!” she says, managing to turn towards Valentine and grab the material she noticed in the same movement. “Did you come to give your your thanks to the new band member, as well? Weren’t they all wonderful, tonight?”
“Very nice,” Valentine says, putting a hand on her arm possessively and giving Luke a short nod. “Let’s give them their break, now.”
Clary follows him without protest, clutching one peach-coloured glove in her hand tightly.
“Another.” Jace pushes the last shot glass across the bar and glares at Alec. “Don’t give me that look.”
“You’re not even a day into your new bodyguarding job,” Alec says. “What do you think Mr Morgenstern will do if he catches you being drunk on it?”
“Daddy’s little princess has run off,” Jace says. After her attempt at connecting with Luke, Clary had decided to call it an early night. With Valentine guarding his office like a hawk, Jace understands why—it’s disheartening to have the Cup there, within reach but still so unattainable. “And Blackwell has an extra eye on her, anyway. My job right now is to make sure her fiancé doesn’t get into any trouble by himself.”
“And do you think you’re doing a good job of that?” Alec asks, raising his eyebrows and nodding in the direction of Simon’s table. Jace turns to see that two women have sat down with him, and all three of them are laughing, caught in apparent delighted conversation.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he mutters.
Then again, if Simon manages to screw things up all by himself, there will be no need for Valentine’s darker plans to be set in motion. If Simon could just flit away to the next pretty face, and then go back to his parents’ piles of money and series of expensive hotels in Las Vegas or wherever, and everything could just go back to normal for the rest of them...
Jace blinks. There’s nothing normal here , he reminds himself. We’re all going home together.
He looks back across the bar, and the concern on Alec’s face is familiar enough to pull him all the way back into himself.
“What? He seems to be doing just fine,” he says, and Alec rolls his eyes. “Come on, give me another shot. I won’t tattle to Valentine, promise.”
“Fine,” Alec sighs, and pours him a glass.
Just as he places it on the bar top, Jace feels a hand land on his shoulder, and someone reaches past him to deftly pluck the glass from the bar before he has a chance to reach for it.
“Hey!” he begins indignantly, but turns to see Izzy, holding up one finger for silence as she throws the shot back.
“Thank you, I needed that,” she says, and then puts the empty shot glass back in Jace’s hand. “It’s like every single one of Mr Morgenstern’s business associates are here tonight. I’ve accidentally stepped my right heel into so many feet, I think I wrenched it; almost took a tumble down the steps from the upper section.”
She leans back against the bar and motions for Alec to get her a drink of her own. Alec does, rolling his eyes as he picks up a bottle of tequila and lines up a row of shots.
“Everyone in,” Izzy tells them, reaching for a slice of lemon that Alec’s also produced out of seemingly nowhere and adding salt to it.
“Come on, you know I hate tequila,” Jace tries.
“No, you hate the bad choices you make after drinking it,” Izzy replies, knocking back her shot and then biting into the lemon. “Luckily for you, Alec and I are both here to run interference tonight.”
“Wrong,” Alec says, although he has managed to knock his own shot back with impressive speed. “I will not be moving from this bar, you know that. Please try not to ruin absolutely everything.”
“Whoa. Setting some high goals there, brother,” Izzy says, grinning.
Alec just gives her one of his patented looks and moves on down the bar towards another customer.
“And speaking of aiming high,” Izzy goes on, lowering her voice enough that Jace has to lean in to hear her, “what are you doing , Jace?”
“You heard me.” Izzy looks back at him seriously. “The boss’s daughter? You know better than this.”
“It’s my new gig, remember?” Jace tries, going for oblivious. “I’m their bodyguard now.”
“I’ve seen you dance with people like that before,” Izzy says, taking his wrist in a firm grip. “Jace, come on. You’re usually careful. What’s got into you tonight?”
The thing people usually forget about Izzy, Jace reflects, is that she sees everything .
“I know what I’m doing,” he says finally.
She looks back at him skeptically. “You do remember that the last time you said that to me, we ended up having to sneak out of Hansberry’s through a bathroom window because someone called a raid on the place?”
Jace laughs. Apparently, he and Izzy manage to get into just as many scrapes in this reality as back home, even without the demons. “Sorry about that?” he says. “But I promise you, I won’t have this blow up on me. Or you. Trust me.”
She gives him another long stare, then nods.
“Fine,” she says and shrugs, then reaches out and snatches his untouched shot of tequila.
“Oh, come on. I was starting to look forward to that.”
“I’m saving you from yourself,” Izzy says, grinning at him.
“So… this is weird,” Simon tells him, once they’ve left the club and gone back to the suite they’ve been given.
“Why?” Jace asks, opening a set of doors and finding yet another closet behind them. “These rooms are at least half the size of Magnus’ loft. It’s not like we’ll have to fight to get some space.”
“There’s only one bed.”
Jace smirks. “Correction. There’s my bed. You’ll get the couch in the living room, obviously.”
Simon narrows his eyes at him. “Why do you get the bed? I’m the VIP in this dimension. You’re some kind of second grade bodyguard with a really bad haircut.”
Jace’s hands immediately goes to his head. His hair is definitely a lot shorter than he remembers it being, parted at the side and slicked back in some kind of flat wave. He quickly draws his hands through it, loosening it so that it falls forward the way he’s used to.
“It’s not like yours looks any better,” he tries, even though Simon’s hair looks pretty similar to the way Jace is used to seeing it. “Now move out of the way and let me have some peace and quiet, will you?”
Simon crosses his arms in front of his chest. “No.”
Jace frowns. “What do you mean, ‘no’?”
“I mean, no, you’re not getting the bed,” Simon says. “You’re not a Shadowhunter here. You hold no authority over me, informal or otherwise. In this universe, I’m practically your boss.”
Jace can’t hold back the grin that curls at the corner of his mouth. “Really? My boss?”
“It’s a figure of speech.”
“ Really .”
“Right. Figure of speech. Meaning what, exactly?”
He walks closer to Simon as he speaks, feeling his smile widen as it gets Simon backing away from him on instinct. This is fun; needling Simon makes him feel like all the dark things that are threatening to come and grab them keep away for a while, leaving just the two of them and a line in the sand to be drawn and redrawn until one of them comes out the winner.
“You’re supposed to be my bodyguard,” Simon says, obviously trying and failing to sound stern, which Jace finds pretty adorable. “What if, I don’t know, someone comes in to clean the room or something? I have a reputation to uphold in this universe, you know.”
Jace grins. “From what I gather, your reputation is cute but cowardly rich guy . So I wouldn’t worry about it, if I were you.”
“Hey! That’s totally unfair!”
“Since when am I supposed to care about what’s fair?” Jace replies, the thrill in his blood growing stronger as Simon backs himself up against a wall. “Whoops. Looks like you got yourself in a bit of a pickle, there.”
He moves in close, placing one hand right next to Simon’s head on the wall. He’s expecting Simon to push back, either with a sharp lash of words, or with his whole body, but instead, he just stands there, meeting Jace’s eyes without flinching, until Jace is the one who can’t bear it anymore, and has to look away.
“Shit. Okay, fine . I guess you can have the bed. Tonight . If we’re not heading home by tomorrow, we’re taking turns.”
“Really?” Simon asks, then quickly pulls himself together. “I mean, yeah. Yes. There you go. Respect my authority, bruno!”
“What did you just call me?”
“See, the fact that I know that and you don’t is exactly why I’m getting the bed. So suck it up.”
Simon says the last part with a smirk, and Jace is hit with a sudden, uncharacteristic need to push himself even closer to him. He can feel his blood rushing in his ears, and he wonders if Simon can hear it too. Or smell it, or sense it with whatever freaky vampire skills have managed to carry over.
“Whatever,” he manages, pushing himself away and taking a few step backwards for good measure. “I don’t care. We’re here on a mission, so it’s not like I was planning on sleeping, anyway.”
He walks out of the bedroom, telling himself that he’s not running away—not from the situation he’s in, and definitely not from Simon—and goes and finds an extra blanket and pillow for the couch.
The protests sound hollow even to his own ears.
Simon can’t sleep.
He’s in one of the most comfortable beds he’s ever slept in—seriously, it feels like it’s made entirely of clouds—in a perfectly tempered room, with no immediate threats to the life of himself or anyone he loves (his creepy alternate universe father-in-law notwithstanding).
He turns over for the hundredth time, pushing his face into the pillow with a groan. Maybe the weeks as a vampire have completely ruined his ability to sleep during the night?
After another half hour of tossing and turning, he gets out of bed with a sigh, figuring he’ll go get a glass of water. The first thing he sees as he walks into the next room of the suite is Jace, who is sleeping curled up on the too-short couch. One of his feet is slipping out from underneath his blanket, curled-up toes just visible, and his head is held at what looks like a really uncomfortable angle.
Simon walks into the bathroom, pours himself a glass of water and stares at himself in the mirror, then sighs and walks back out.
“Hey,” he says, giving Jace a poke and trying to hide a grin when Jace starts awake, arms flailing as though to bat away an enemy. “Come on, this is just stupid. I have an enormous bed, courtesy of scary father-in-law Valentine.”
“Seriously?” Jace asks, and that’s actually kind of sweet. Simon rolls his eyes at him, just for good measure.
“I’m not going to ask twice. Take it or leave it.”
He walks back into the bedroom without checking if Jace is following and gets into bed, not entirely sure what he’s hoping for here. After only a few moments, however, Jace pads into the room and crawls into the other end of the bed.
“Just to be clear,” Simon says quietly, suddenly aware of how close Jace is now, “if you turn out to be a blanket-hogger, I will kick you back out there.”
Jace laughs shortly. “Well, we’ve both dated Clary, so I imagine we’re both used to sleeping in the cold.”
It takes a moment, and even in the dark Simon can see Jace’s expression shift to uncertainty, like that was a bad joke to pull. Simon isn’t sure it wasn’t; he shifts a little further towards the edge of the bed. Uncomfortable silence stretches out between them.
“Sorry,” Jace says eventually. “That was a stupid joke.”
Simon shakes his head, even though Jace won’t be able to see it in the darkness. “No, it’s fine.”
There’s another few minutes of compact silence.
“She really does hog the blankets,” Simon tries, once the tension in the room has reached a truly awful level. “It’s embarrassing. It was a problem during middle school camping trips.”
Jace makes a half-disbelieving, half-amused sound next to him.
“She once managed to steal three people’s blankets. In her sleep. Susan Jeffords was out for blood.”
This time, the sound coming from Jace is definitely more towards the side of a laugh, and the mood in the room grows noticeably lighter.
“We should trap Alec and Clary in a tent together,” Jace says eventually. “Alec has this huge blanket that’s twice the size of his bed, and whenever Iz and I come into his room to wake him up for a mission, he’s always managed to turn it into a cocoon for himself in the middle of the bed.”
“So they’d sleep-duel to the death, is what you’re saying?”
“Pretty much. It’d be hilarious to watch.”
“Or painful, if either of them woke up and realised who put them in that tent in the first place.”
“What’s life without risk?” Jace replies, grinning, and Simon suddenly realises that they’ve both drifted a lot closer to the centre of the bed than they were a few minutes ago.
Simon pauses, some of the earlier tension seeping back into his chest. He debates the question that’s on the tip of his tongue for several minutes, before uncertainty and curiosity gets the best of him.
“When exactly did you sleep with Clary?”
Jace stares back at him, awkward, and then hastens to explain, “I haven’t. I mean, we never actually—I was dying at the time!”
To his own surprise, Simon finds himself barking out a laugh.
“I never thought I’d say this, but I definitely need more details there.”
“It was after we came out of the alternate dimension,” Jace says, looking a bit embarrassed. “The other one, where I thought I’d found my dead dad. We shared a couch, nothing more. In my defense, I’d been stabbed by a poisonous demon and was kind of delirious.”
“I remember. I got you blood.”
“Oh, right.” Jace clears his throat. “Did I ever say thank you for that?”
“Um, I’m pretty sure not.” Simon grins. “Have you met you?”
Jace doesn’t smile back at him. “I should have,” he says, quietly.
Lying there like he is—fluffy blanket pulled up to his chin, looking back at Simon through his fringe and with all his hard edges hidden away—it’s difficult for Simon to recall why he used to find Jace so intimidating. Sure, there’s still the unfairly gorgeous part, which is intimidating in and of itself, but the mutual posturing and constant provocations between them have somehow been lost to the intimacy of darkness.
“I guess we’re even now, then, huh?” he says, feeling suddenly bold. “With, you know, you saving my life when Valentine sliced me open.” His eyes fall to Jace’s neck without thinking, and even with the whole being-alive-and-human-again situation going on, something stirs inside of him at the thought of following the path with his mouth, feeling Jace’s strong pulse against his tongue.
Jace visibly swallows. “Yeah.”
“I’ve never tasted blood like that,” Simon continues, words falling from his mouth at a speed that makes him helpless to stop them. It’s too open, too honest , but he can’t help himself. “Like pure light in my mouth, rolling over my tongue and washing down my throat.”
“If Valentine hadn’t stopped me, I wouldn’t have been able to,” Simon confesses—a different version of what he told Jace several days ago.
Jace looks back at him helplessly, pupils blown even wider than can be blamed on the darkness surrounding them. “Listen, Simon, I—”
Simon doesn’t let him finish, suddenly sure that whatever Jace is planning to say is something neither of them wants to hear. He surges forward, catching Jace’s face in both hands and pulling him in, their lips meeting in a bruising kiss.
For a glorious couple of seconds, Jace responds, his mouth opening under Simon’s and kissing back with an underlying passion that’s enough to make Simon’s head spin.
And then, as soon as it started, it’s over. Jace pulls back, bringing a hand up to stop Simon from following him.
“I should go sleep on the couch,” he says, sounding decidedly out of breath as he rolls off the bed and quickly makes his escape towards the living room.
“Yeah,” Simon agrees to the now-empty room, collapsing back against the pillows and putting both hands over his face. “Good idea.”
Chapter 5: It’s Happy Hour Somewhere in the World, My Dear
“So this is the competition!” Magnus says loudly enough to carry to the entire assembly, throwing his hands out. “How very darling.”
You just can’t keep yourself from fucking things up, now can you, son?
The voice inside Jace’s head manages to sound like Michael and Valentine all at once, the disapproving look he can see in his mind’s eye morphing back and forth between their faces. He stays on the couch until dawn, twisting and turning—scared to death that Simon will come out of the bedroom to try and talk about what happened between them.
Or worse, kiss him again. Because Jace honestly doesn’t know that he has it in him to push Simon away a second time if he does.
He turns over on his stomach, burying his face in the pillow in frustration. He doesn’t get it; he’s never been that into men—not beyond the theoretical, at least. Alec’s uncomfortable crush on him probably has something to do with that, because while he never felt attracted to Alec, he was also never able to really look at another guy without feeling a strange kind of guilt about it.
Makes sense that the minute that issue is no longer a thing, Jace goes and fucks up another great thing in his life.
Clary isn’t his sister, and Jace honestly has no idea how to feel about that. She and Simon are great together, with their shared life and effortless ability to finish each other’s sentences. A blind man can see that they adore one another. Which leaves Jace… where, exactly?
He rolls over on his back, turns a few more times, and then gives up on trying to fall asleep. He makes the mistake to close his eyes, and is immediately attacked by the memory of Simon’s lips against his own, and then—ten times worse—by the way it felt before, when his fangs tore into Jace’s wrist, taking every thought and feeling away and leaving only a sense of a deep, pulsing connection and a light, floating sensation in his body.
He pushes himself off the couch, quickly pulling his clothes back on and drawing a hand through his hair. He needs to get out and do something. Hunt some demons, or at least punch something.
It’s easier than expected to make his way out of the hotel, and he doesn’t have to go more than a couple of blocks to run into exactly the kind of trouble he’s itching for.
“Well, well, if it isn’t one of Morgenstern’s boys,” a guy says, stepping out of the shadows with a gun in his hand. “You’re outside your turf, boy. Azazel doesn’t take trespassing lightly.”
Jace has to smile. This is almost too perfect.
“Azazel?” he says, letting his grin spread across his face. “You mean that jumped-up scratcher has managed to keep his sorry excuse of a joint going? And he’s even employing. That’s almost sweet.”
He tracks the gun’s erratic movements out of the corner of his eye. Sure enough, a rookie trigger man, this one. They never put the trained muscle on the dog hours.
“You just shut your mouth,” the man says. He’s straightening at the insult, and his hand is slipping with his anger.
“No, I mean it,” Jace continues, his hands held disarmingly up. “He’s always looking out for the little guys, right? It’s nice that he lets you practise here before joining the big league. He’s a real blue sarge, that one.”
These guys, he thinks. They think they can come in here with their shiny new club and take over The Circle ’s territory. Well, they’re going to have a fight on their hands.
Mr Morgenstern’s given Jace everything. He’s not about to let it go.
“You damn bruno,” the man begins, and he seems to have all but forgotten about the gun in his hand as he starts forward.
Jace cracks his knuckles and leaps.
It’s their second night at the club, and at least from where Clary’s standing, it looks like their luck is about to change.
She and Simon are having drinks at the bar—trying to navigate a weird kind of tension between them that Clary can’t quite place—when, suddenly, an excited whisper runs through the room. She looks up, wondering what’s going on, and sees Magnus Bane walk into the room, followed by more than half a dozen extravagantly dressed people. Clary notices Raphael and Meliorn straight away—although the latter sporting fewer tattoos and less pointy ears than she’s used to.
“So this is the competition!” Magnus says loudly enough to carry to the entire assembly, throwing his hands out. “How very darling.”
He smiles around at The Circle’s patrons, then turns to one of his friends and adds in a stage whisper, “For some reason, I thought it would be bigger on the inside.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Clary can see Valentine’s office door being thrown violently open. She turns that way to see Valentine striding out, an unconvincing smile plastered hastily onto his face but rage evident beneath.
“Mr Bane,” he begins, and Magnus turns his way in a parody of surprise.
“Ah, the man himself!” he exclaims. “How lovely. Could I trouble you for three bottles of your best champagne for my little party? If you carry champagne, of course. Otherwise, we’ll settle for beer, or whatever it is you serve here instead. What a charming little place you have here!”
Valentine’s smile now looks positively feral.
“Of course we’ll get that sorted. Can I offer your party a table?” he asks, snapping his fingers towards a server hovering nearby. “Please come this way…”
“The office is empty,” Simon tells Clary quietly. “Look, the guards are heading over as well, to back up Valentine; this is our shot at getting in.”
His eyes keep darting around the room, seemingly looking everywhere other than right at her. There’s a tension in his shoulders that Clary recognises all too well: there’s something Simon isn’t telling her. And judging by the number of jokes he’s been telling in the past hour, it’s something pretty big.
Right now, though, she can’t afford to let herself get distracted; they’ve got a mission to complete.
“I’ll go,” she replies quickly. “If he catches me, I can just say I was waiting to talk to him about arrangements for the wedding.”
“Go for your birthday for the combination on the safe,” Simon calls after her. “It always works in movies.”
Clary rolls her eyes at him and slips away from the bar. She gets into the office without problem, and then heads straight for the painting Jace told them about. She grabs the frame and lifts, unhooking the painting and making it come off the wall.
The wall behind the painting is empty.
Clary clenches her teeth and carefully puts the painting back up. She looks around the room, looking for another possible hiding place.
“Clary, what on earth are you doing in here?” her mother’s voice comes from behind her.
Clary spins around, doing her best not to look guilty. “Mom!”
Jocelyn looks a bit shaken as well, but quickly finds her footing. “You shouldn’t be in here. You know how your father is about his place of business.”
“Yes, I’m sorry. I just wanted to go over some things with him for the wedding. There are so many things to arrange.”
“Well, you might need to find a better moment,” her mom replies, trying and failing to hide a wince. “From what’s happening out there, I doubt that your father will be in a charitable mood, once he finishes his business.”
Clary nods, turning in the direction of the office door, while surreptitiously trying to get a better look at the piece of wall half-hidden by the drapery beside it. “The man who just came in, who is he?”
“Magnus Bane? Well, he’s a potential business associate of your father’s, I suppose. Your father has been thinking about getting him to invest in the hotel; Magnus owns some of the finest in the city.” Jocelyn motions to her, and Clary joins her reluctantly.
“Let’s save the wedding preparations for another time, darling,” Jocelyn says. “Or why don’t you and I go find Mr Lewis and try to see if we can’t settle on a date, for now. Or at least a season.”
She smiles at Clary and takes her arm, and Clary allows her to lead the way out of the office.
As they step out into the main room again, they see Valentine and his two guards hovering around Magnus Bane’s colourful party—Valentine trying his best to play the gracious host, which is a bit like seeing a bear do ballet. Clary can feel her mom stiffen, and in that moment she realises that Jocelyn never said why she was in the office, either.
She looks up at her mom to ask her, but Jocelyn isn’t looking at Valentine. Instead, she’s gazing towards the band up on stage. Luke’s center stage, playing a soft solo.
“He’s good,” Clary says, and then on a whim adds, “Where did you find him?”
“I had a recommendation from someone who’d heard him play in a little place over on 133rd street,” Jocelyn says. “You know your father wants us to have a strong house band. So I asked Mr Garroway in to audition and was pleased with the result.”
It all comes out a little too pat. Clary can’t put her finger on it, but something about her mom’s answer feels rehearsed. The peach-coloured glove stuffed in the back of a drawer up in her room comes to mind, and Clary feels suddenly and intensely worried about her mom.
Are you happy here?
It’s one of those questions you don’t really ask your mom, and especially not when you’re sure the answer would be “no”.
“Shouldn’t we try to get away for a few days, mother?” she manages finally. “I’m sure Simon could arrange a spot for us in one of his family’s hotels.”
“Oh, Clary, you know I have much too much to do at the moment,” her mom replies, just a touch too light-hearted. “Now, why don’t we go get a table and find your Mr Lewis? Ask him to give his input on that date, hm?”
Simon stands at the bar, sipping a glass of what someone told him is called a French 75, but which basically seems to be champagne that someone has ruined with gin.
Waking up this morning was the strangest thing. He found himself reaching over to the other side of the bed while still half asleep—and then everything about last night came crashing into him at once, embarrassment and guilt and then a couple of more emotions that he has decided not to look at too closely.
He was going to go talk to Clary the first thing he did, but once he pushed himself out of bed, it’s all a blur. He half-remembers eating breakfast in his room—Jace conspicuously absent—and then it’s all blank until the moment when he found himself getting dressed in his finest to head down to The Circle once more.
It’s as though most of the day never even happened.
So now he’s here, wondering how he’s supposed to tell his girlfriend he kissed her ex-boyfriend. Not only that, but—
Brooklyn Bridge , he thinks, but it does nothing to stop whatever’s going on with him.
Someone steps up to the bar, and Simon starts when he realises that it’s Magnus.
“Bartender,” Magnus says, “could I trouble you for—oh, hello .”
“Hello,” Alec says, monotone as always. “How can I help you, sir?”
“Oh, please don’t call me sir,” Magnus says, leaning his arms casually on the bar top. His whole stance has loosened, becoming playful and inviting. “Magnus is quite enough. And I don’t know—do you have something to recommend?”
“What do you like?” Alec asks.
“Well, in the words of Lord Byron, I’m a bit of a Horatian.” Magnus raises his eyebrows. “And how about you?”
To Simon’s surprise and delight, he has the privilege of seeing Alec momentarily speechless.
“Um. Would you like to have a drink?”
“I’d love to,” Magnus says quickly, grinning. “Just name a time and a place.”
Aaand, that’s Simon’s cue to leave. He grabs his own drink, as well as the new one he ordered for Clary, and walks away from the bar—only to very nearly crash into Izzy, who’s heading in the opposite direction with her tray of cigarettes.
“Whoa, sorry,” he says, narrowly managing to move out of her way. “I didn’t see you there.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it, Mr Lewis,” Izzy replies, with a sweet, guileless smile that looks all wrong on her face.
“I’m just heading back to our table,” Simon says. “Clary wanted more champagne.”
“Then you shouldn’t keep her waiting; it’s a terrible thing for a gentleman to do.”
Simon clears his throat and looks around the room, trying to think of something intelligent to say. Izzy has the ability to render people speechless no matter the universe, it seems. In a way, it’s actually pretty nice to find something so recognisable.
His eyes land back at the bar, where Alec is somehow managing the feat of scowling and blushing all at the same time.
“Wow. Magnus is really pulling out all the stops to impress,” he says, and Izzy’s attention immediately shifts. “I mean, he’s… clearly a colourful individual,” he continues, remembering too late what time period he’s in.
“He owns eight of the top ten hotels in New York,” Izzy replies. “And he has holdings in several countries overseas. I’d say he’s impressive without trying.”
“Right. Well, um.”
“I’ll let you get back to your party,” Izzy says, clearly taking pity on him.
Simon nods, and takes the escape where it’s offered.
“How about December?” Jocelyn says, smiling around the table.
Clary manages a smile, too, trying to catch Simon’s eye. This whole situation is so bizarre—the familiar and the strange mixed in the weirdest fashion. Back home, she and Simon have been dating for only a couple of weeks. Sitting here and planning their wedding, she’s reminded of how short a time that is in their real lives, but she’s also startled by familiar this all seems. They’ve always planned all their important milestones together, after all—birthdays, graduations, Simon’s bar mitzva and Clary’s confirmation.
“That sounds good,” she says.
Valentine glances at her, distracted for a moment from glaring over towards Magnus’ table. “Are you sure you want a winter wedding, Clarissa?” he asks, leaning over and giving her hand a squeeze that’s slightly too hard. “You’ve always said you wanted to get married in the spring. Wouldn’t it be better to push the date towards next year? Maybe May?”
Clary sighs. Simon still isn’t looking at her.
“May is such a busy time of the year for social events, though,” her mother says. “Maybe sometime in March or April would be better?”
Clary feels herself beginning to zone out. Her mother keeps talking; Simon still doesn’t meet her eye.
She stands up. “Would you excuse me for just a minute?”
“Oh, certainly,” her mom says. “Are you quite all right?”
“I’m fine. Just—I’m going to make a quick stop at the ladies’ room. Please excuse me.”
“Clary—” Simon starts pushing himself to his feet as well. Clary puts a hand on his shoulder and tries to tell him with her eyes to please just give her a moment.
“I’m partial to a spring wedding, myself,” Simon continues, sitting back down and aiming a charming smile at Jocelyn. “Maybe the end of May could work? Or the beginning of June?”
Clary sends him a grateful look and quickly walks away from the table, towards the restrooms located at the back of the club.
The ladies’ room is hidden in another of the long passages leading out from The Circle ’s main room. Clary walks past it, even further down the winding passage, until she’s out of sight from anyone heading this way.
She leans back against the wall, putting her hands over her face. Everything feels wrong and difficult, every conversation a mine field. Not only with her parents, either; even Simon feels closed off and strange. She needs to do something about this. Simon’s acting all weird—has been, ever since Clary and Jace danced last night.
She wishes she knew how to deal with it.
As she’s standing there, breathing deep breaths and trying to make the world make sense again, she suddenly becomes aware of a set of voices, a little further down the passageway.
“What on earth is this all about, Magnus?” a woman’s voice says.
“Just a little friendly scouting of the competition,” Magnus Bane answers. “Why? Aren’t you having fun?”
“Not until I’m sure what your intentions are,” the woman answers, and with a start, Clary recognises the voice— Dot . “Magnus, come on. I listen to rumours, you know. Do you really want to invest in this clip joint?”
Magnus chuckles softly. “Don’t worry, dear. I’ve no intention of going into business with Valentine Morgenstern.” He scoffs. “The man’s a thug who’s playing at being respectable. I wouldn’t touch a deal with him with a ten-foot pole.”
“So why are you letting him think you are?”
“Well, for one, it’s fun to watch him bend over backwards to pretend he doesn’t loathe the very ground I walk on,” Magnus says. “And secondly, this place has some definite charms that I don’t mind exploring.”
Dot laughs. “I noticed you hanging out by the bar,” she says. “Magnus, you’re incorrigible. Is that why you’ve been pushing for us to go here?”
“I promise, that was an unintended bonus,” Magnus says. “My main objective tonight was simply to be the thorn in Morgenstern’s side.”
There’s a brief pause.
“Although never let it be said that I let a good opportunity slip through my fingers,” Magnus adds, and Dot laughs again.
“Let’s not keep the boy waiting, then,” she says, her voice coming through clearer than before, and Clary realises that they’re getting closer to her. She quickly retraces her steps and ducks into the ladies’ room, listening carefully until the sound of Dot’s heels has passed by where she’s standing and disappeared towards The Circle ’s main room.
Clary sighs deeply, aware that she was holding her breath. In a way, it’s nice to see that things never really change. Even in this reality, Magnus will never work with Valentine. And it’s also fun, seeing how much power Magnus and Dot hold in this world.
Thinking of which—where did they come from?
Clary ducks back out of the ladies’ room, following the passageway to its very end. Magnus and Dot must have been right around here, but then—
As Clary runs her hand over the wall, leaning her weight against the frame of a painting, something clicks and a partition of the wall slides aside. So, somehow, Magnus must have found out about this passage—which probably means he knows more about The Circle than he should.
For now, however, Clary is more interested to find out where this secret passage actually leads.
She follows the winding little passageway carefully, bending down as it gets increasingly claustrophobic, until she finally arrives in a back alley that she vaguely recognises as belonging to the hotel’s service entrance. This must be some sort of escape route in case of a raid, she thinks. That, at least, explains how Magnus knew about this passage—he’s the kind of man who always knows where the exit is.
As she standing there, reflecting on ways of escape, she hears what sounds like fighting, just around the corner.
“You little punk,” someone says. “Not so tough now, are you?”
“You’re twice as many as yesterday, sure, but you seem to be just as stupid as last time. So I’m pretty sure I’m still in the lead,” another person replies, and Clary sighs as she recognises the tone. Jace . That bravado is going to get him murdered one of these days, she’s pretty sure.
Probably by either Alec or Izzy.
“Jace!” she exclaims, darting around the corner.
The scene that meets her is pretty much what she expected. Two guys have Jace’s arms pinned behind him, while a third man stands in front of him, shirt sleeves pulled up past the elbows and fists balled. Another four men are spread out in the alley, although a few of them seem to be hanging back. One of them has a recently broken nose.
They all stare at her.
“Who the hell’s this chippy?” the man standing in front of Jace says finally. He has an ugly scar down one side of his face which makes him look almost parodically villainous.
Clary can see Jace’s entire posture change, his shoulders tightening and his face shuttering down into the scaringly empty expression she’s seen on him while fighting demons.
“You watch your damn mouth about her,” he says quietly, then looks up at Clary. “Miss Morgenstern, please go back inside. This isn’t for you.”
Clary blinks, then rolls her eyes. “Just because we’re far away from home doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten everything , Jace.”
He just stares back at her, looking somehow confused, but the man with the scar grins at her.
“Bit of a fiery kitten, isn’t she? You’ve been getting up in the world, pal. How’d you nab a looker like this?”
“I told you,” Jace says through gritted teeth. “Don’t talk about her like that, pal . Miss Morgenstern, I’m sorry. Please just go. Find your father.”
It’s at that moment that Clary realises that she’s not actually talking to Jace.
The man with the scar jerks his head towards her.
“Get the moll,” he says, then grabs Jace by the hair and draws his other hand back for a punch.
Clary punches first.
She surges forward, managing to knock into the guy’s arm and push it away. As he stumbles, caught in his own momentum, Clary turns on the backhand to hit one of the guys holding Jace back. He stumbles backwards in shock, leaving Jace with one arm free.
After that, it’s short work for Jace to free himself completely, and within moments they’re standing next to each other, fists raised and staring over towards the men getting ready to charge them.
“Miss Morgenstern, what are you doing ?” Jace says.
“Shut up, Jace.”
The men are all closing on them—most of them heading towards Jace, and only two veering towards Clary. She smiles. Izzy once told her that her greatest ally in the demon war was the way men would tend to underestimate her. Obviously, that applies here, too.
She spins on her left foot, getting one of the men straight in the face with a solid roundhouse kick. He falls to the ground, and Clary turns her focus to the second guy. He’s keeping back, clearly hesitating to charge at her. Clary gives him the sweetest smile she can manage, and then moves forward in an aggressive series of punches and kicks, just like Izzy taught her.
The second man collapses, knocked out cold by a punch to the face. Clary takes a moment to breathe, surveying the situation.
Jace is doing well, as far as she can see. The taunting, cocky personality she’s used to seeing is back in full force, as he eggs on the competition—only to slam the men into the ground and knock them unconscious as soon as they get near him.
“Clary, on your six!” he calls out, and Clary immediately spins around—just in time for the man who tried to sneak up on her to get a solid punch in the nose.
She turns to Jace, smiling. “Thanks.”
“Here, get on my right,” Jace replies. “I’ll take the guy in the blue pants if you take the one in the grey fedora.”
“On it.” She pauses, just for a moment. “It’s you, right?”
Jace grins back at her, and that’s really answer enough. “Sorry for zoning out on you,” he says. “But now I’m expecting you to kick that guy’s ass.”
“How hard can it be?” Clary shoots back. The guy in the fedora is advancing towards them, but he’s not carrying any weapons, and that’s just his mistake.
As she moves to cover Jace’s right, Clary steps out of her pumps and picks them up. The man in the fedora grins at her.
“Don’t want to damage your pretty shoes?” he says.
Clary grins back. One thing she has picked up from watching Izzy and Jace is that everything is a weapon if you need it badly enough.
“Not exactly,” she says. As he steps towards her, arms out as though to try and simply catch her, she tightens her grip around one shoe and smashes it into his face, heel first. He reels, his fedora flying off him, and she kicks one foot into his knee to send him sprawling in agony.
One man comes running into the alley. “More of them are coming!” he shouts. “Scram!”
In the confusion that is several battered men trying to run away at once, Clary and Jace just stare at each other.
“Good job,” Jace says eventually, grinning at her. “In that getup, I was impressed you could even get a kick in.”
“This dress was designed to do the charleston in,” Clary says, raising her eyebrows. “Believe me, kicks are not a problem.”
Jace laughs. “I’ve seen it in action now. I believe it.” His eyes catch on something. “Hang on, though, let me just—”
His hand comes up to her face, pushing a lock of hair back behind her ear. Clary draws in her breath sharply, suddenly brought back to the other times they’ve stood here like this, just after a battle, skin humming with the energy of it. Jace’s other hand falls to her waist, their bodies gravitating closer together; it’s the easiest thing in the world to slide her arms around Jace’s neck in return, pulling him down towards her.
Someone clears their throat behind her, and she turns quickly.
“So,” Simon says, looking uncomfortably between her and Jace. “I think the three of us need to talk.”
Chapter 6: Interlude
“Have you seen Jace? He’s not answering his phone,” Alec asks, as he walks into her lab and sits down on a bench next to where Izzy is currently running tests on mundane tissue samples in a seelie-magical environment.
“No, I haven’t seen him since yesterday,” Izzy replies. “Maybe he’s out with Clary?”
Alec winces. “Not with the way he’s been avoiding her since the battle. Seeing her and Simon happy together really threw him for a loop.”
Izzy sighs. She straightens up and turns off the microscope, then carefully puts the samples she was studying back into their respective containers. “Well, last I saw Clary, she was heading to the library with Simon to check out something about parallel dimensions,” she says. “Help me clean up here and then we can go there together?”
Alec nods and goes to gather up the various pieces of equipment spread around the room and carry them over to the washing station at the other end of the room. Once it’s all done, they head over to the Institute library—and then stop in their tracks as they round the section of shelves that lead into the part of the library that contains books about dimension travel and portals.
“What the hell?” Alec swears softly. They’ve both gone straight into battle mode on instinct, moving forward carefully through the mess of scattered books and torn parchment.
There’s glass on the floor, large shards of it, as though someone took a hammer to a massive mirror. Izzy watches as Alec kneels and pulls a pack of kleenex from his pocket, using one to carefully pick up one of the broken pieces of glass from the floor.
He holds it up towards the light from the windows, and the frown on his face grows more pronounced.
“Is that a bar ?”
Izzy leans forward and looks as well. There’s an image caught in the glass, something that definitely looks a lot like a bar, yes: long rows of bottles behind a stretch of polished wood.
“What happened here?” she asks, carefully taking the piece of glass from Alec and turning it to inspect it from multiple angles.
“No idea,” Alec replies. “But we need to find out. I’m calling Magnus.”
“I’ll take this shard back to the lab in the meantime. See if I can run some tests and get some information out of it,” Izzy replies. “Let me know when Magnus is here?”
Alec gives her a curt nod and walks out of the room, already pulling his phone out of his pocket.
“Please state what business you have at the New York Institute today.”
“Alec Lightwood called and asked me to come down,” Luke replies, steadily meeting the eye of the very heavily armed Shadowhunter standing guard at the door.
The Shadowhunter raises a hand and presses a button on her earpiece, relaying the information. Luke waits for an insultingly long time, before the guard finally opens the door and lets him through.
“Straight ahead, third corridor to your right. Fairward will be along in a minute to take you through.”
Luke raises an eyebrow at the young woman, who, to her credit, has the grace to look embarrassed.
“High Inquisitor’s orders, sir,” she tells him. “We’ve been on high alert since the attack.”
Luke is just about to reply when he spots Izzy at the other end of the corridor, coming towards him.
“Luke! Thanks for coming so quickly.” She gives the guard at the door a nod. “I’ll take it from here. Tell Fairward to stand down.”
“So what’s going on?” Luke asks her quietly as Izzy leads him down the hall. “Alec said something about Clary and Jace having gone missing?”
“Simon too, we think now,” Izzy replies. “We’ve got all three of them on tape, heading into the library yesterday, but after that, it’s like they vanished into thin air. And there’s some strange signs of disturbance—I’ll let you see for yourself when we get there.”
“Magnus should be portalling in any minute,” Izzy continues. “Okay, here we are. I’ll give you a moment to take a look at everything. Let me know what you see.”
Luke nods, taking a slow, even breath to center himself as Izzy unlocks the heavy oak door in front of them with her stele and pushes it open. His eyes widen despite himself—the room before him looks like it’s been hit by a tornado. There are books everywhere, some torn apart, with stray pages littering the floor. Whole shelves have been toppled over; paintings have been pulled from the walls, their frames broken to pieces. Luke carefully walks deeper into the room and comes to a stop in front of what seems to have been the centre of whatever happened.
He looks around at the solid walls surrounding him, all lined with bookshelves, and frowns. “Where’s all this glass on the floor coming from?”
“We don’t know,” Izzy replies. “They look like portal shards to me, but the tests I’ve run have all been inconclusive.”
Luke nods again. “Got any gloves?”
“Right here,” Izzy says, picking up a bag from the floor and handing him a box. “I can up the light as well if you want to?”
“No, that’s all right.” He pulls a fresh pair of gloves from the box and goes to work, methodically searching his way through the room, but finding more questions than answers.
“Whoa,” Magnus says suddenly from the doorway. “Someone’s got a thorn in the side towards higher learning.”
“Yeah, I’m not touching that one,” Luke hears Alec reply. “You know Jace can’t actually hear you through our bond when you’re talking to me, right?”
“Well, I sure hope not,” Magnus says, his voice turning flirty and dropping a few notes. Luke pointedly clears his throat.
“Alec, Magnus, glad you could join us,” he says, turning back towards the doorway. “Let’s get to work, shall we?”
Alec quickly squares his stance and schools his face into something neutral and professional. “What have you got?”
“I agree with Izzy that these look like portal shards. Magnus, what do you think?” Luke holds one of the pieces of glass out to Magnus, who snaps his fingers and levitates it towards himself.
“Let me see that.”
“They were scattered all over the floor in this section,” Alec tells him. “Circular pattern, as though someone broke through a big mirror.”
“I see,” Magnus replies. He turns the piece of glass over in the air in front of him, narrowing his eyes. “That’s impossible.”
“What is?” Alec immediately asks. “Magnus, what do you see?”
“It’s definitely a portal shard,” Magnus replies. “What you see in the glass is a reflection of where the portal connected to.”
“So Jace and Clary are in this bar?” Izzy asks, sidling up next to Magnus and looking at the piece of glass over his shoulder. “And Simon as well?”
“Assuming they went through together,” Magnus says. “But none of this makes sense; I worked on the Institute wards just a few days ago, after Valentine’s attack—if something opened a portal in this room, it wasn’t through any magic I’m familiar with.”
“Then what else could it be?”
“I don’t know. And that makes me very uncomfortable. I’ve lived a very long time, and I’ve never seen or heard of anything similar to this.”
“So, what can we do?” Luke asks. This academic discussion is something he knows appeals to Magnus, but it’s his family on the other side of the problem. “Can we follow them to wherever they went?”
“Yes, that’s easy, seeing as we have the shards,” Magnus replies. “Question is, what kind of dimension have they got themselves thrown into, and will that dimension allow us to travel back?”
“I don’t really care,” Luke says. He can see the rest of them stare at him, but this time, he doesn’t care about how this impacts the downworlder/shadowhunter relations, or whatever it is they’re worried about. “This is my daughter. I’m going to get her back. Can you get me there or not?”
Magnus stares back at him, then nods shortly. “Of course.”
“Then let’s go.”
Izzy clears her throat. “I hope you think you’re not heading into this alone. That’s our brother in there, you know.”
Luke looks back at her and Alec, who rolls his eyes but then gives a nod.
“Well, then,” Magnus says, looking around the room, and he looks slightly exasperated but still smiling. “I guess this is a road trip.”
He raises his hands, and everything turns golden.
Chapter 7: And We’ve Often Rewound the Clock
Alec, Izzy, Magnus and Luke join the other dimension.
Did someone order heartache with a side of family feels? Yes? No? Well, here it is anyway. Enjoy!
Simon steps out into the alley just in time to see Clary hit a guy in the face with her shoe and then kick him in the knee hard enough to make him collapse and fall to the ground. Jace is next to her, making quick, brutal work of taking down his own opponent, and Simon stares, a moment of overwhelming, conflicting emotion washing over him. The two of them fight effortlessly together, perfectly in sync, even without their Shadowhunter powers. Beautiful. Powerful. More than a little bit intimidating.
The moment is broken when another man comes running into the alley, calling off the men Clary and Jace are fighting. As soon as they’re gone, Jace and Clary turn towards each other, oblivious to anything outside of the two of them.
Jace grins and says something too low for Simon to overhear, gesturing towards Clary’s dress. Simon doesn’t catch Clary’s reply either, too busy taking note of how their bodies begin to drift closer together, how Jace’s hand comes up to caress the side of Clary’s face, and how Clary leans into the touch and wraps her arms around him.
He clears his throat. Clary and Jace practically jump away from each other, Clary spinning around, towards the sound, her eyes growing wide and guilty as she sees that it’s him standing there.
“So,” Simon finds himself saying, feeling his own guilt rise back up to the surface as he looks between her and Jace. “I think the three of us need to talk.”
“Excuse me, miss, could you point me in the direction of the ladies’, please?”
Izzy opens her eyes and finds herself face to face with a middle-aged woman wearing feathers in her hair and several long strands of pearls around her neck. There’s something vaguely familiar about her, and Izzy blinks back at her, her head still reeling with the aftereffects of the unfamiliar portal travel.
Still, she sees after performing a quick check of her surroundings and noting no imminent threats, Magnus’ portal seems to have done its job. The room they’re in matches details of the bar they were able to see a reflection of, back home in the library, and although she can’t see Alec, Magnus or Luke anywhere right now, they’re bound to be around somewhere.
“Miss?” the woman in front of her says sharply, pulling Izzy’s attention back to her. The woman raises an eyebrow, clearly not accustomed to having to wait for an answer.
Izzy looks around the room, finding the appropriate sign almost immediately and wondering to herself if the woman even looked for herself before deciding that someone else had better provide her with the information she was after.
“Right over there, ma’am,” she replies, and the woman sweeps off, not even bothering with a ‘thank you’.
It hits Izzy, then, where she knows the woman from. Back in her world, this woman is an Iron Sister.
She gives the room another quick scan. Sure enough, as she lets herself take in her surroundings, more and more familiar faces come into focus—although here, they’re all dressed like extras from The Great Gatsby .
This other dimension they’ve landed in seems populated by a lot of people she knows. So this might truly be an alternate reality, then, where they all took different paths and the world was changed for it.
Or, she considers after another moment—since she can see both Raphael and Magnus sitting a little further away, despite the fact that they ought to have been born hundreds of years apart—this is a created reality. And created by someone she knows, probably, judging by all the familiar faces.
Her gaze strays to the bar, and she lets out a quiet breath of relief as she spots Alec working behind it. Good; the placement of the bar means Alec will be able to keep an eye of most of the open floor, as well as the exits. Izzy quickly surveys the rest of the club, then grabs the cigarette tray hanging from around her neck and makes her way towards the roped off section in the back.
Jace feels cold all over as he watches Simon turn and walk back into the club, with Clary immediately hurrying after him. Because he already knows how this will go: it’s clear as day every time he sees the two of them together.
Whatever connection Jace has with either of them pales in comparison to Clary and Simon’s years and years of shared history. He’s a blip on their radar at best, a pretty distraction. It was bad enough when it was just Clary who seemed to pull at all his strings without even trying, but now… Jace closes his eyes and takes a long, even breath, desperately trying to keep the memories from the night before from re-entering his mind.
He should stay away from them both. Play his role in this universe, nothing more, nothing less. And then go back home, resuming life as normal.
His feet move forward, his hands pushing open the back door of the club of their own accord in order for him to follow Simon and Clary down the secret passageway.
Great. So much for self control. What a pathetic picture he makes.
He comes out of the passageway, the hidden door clicking into place behind him. And, to his surprise, finds Clary and Simon both waiting for him.
“There you are,” Clary says, and for a moment she makes as if to reach out her hand to him, before she catches herself and clears her throat awkwardly. “Um, should we go to your room? To talk, I mean?”
Jace looks over at Simon, noting a slight flush in his cheeks, and the way he suddenly can’t seem to meet Jace’s eye.
“Maybe we could go up to your suite instead, Clary?” he suggests, pulling her attention towards himself instead of Simon’s total lack of poker face. “The guards stationed on your floor are all down in the club right now.”
Clary looks between them, obviously noticing the tension, and Jace feels shame burn hot in him. Why can’t he stop himself from ruining things for everyone?
“Sure,” she says eventually. “Let’s go now, while Valentine is still too busy staring daggers at Magnus to notice how long I’ve been gone.”
“Magnus. Are you even listening to me?”
Magnus gives himself a little shake. He’s seated in a plush chair, surrounded by people, most of whom he recognises from his own world. He picks up the cocktail glass in front of him, using the moment taking a sip from it buys him to centre himself.
“My apologies,” he says, turning his attention to Dot, who’s sitting in the chair next to him. “You were saying?”
Dot rolls her eyes, even as she sends him back a smile that’s too fond for her and this dimension’s version of himself to be anything less than close friends. “Honestly, Magnus. Just go make your move already, if the boy is distracting you so. The rest of us will make sure that Morgenstern and his goons stay out of your way.”
Magnus follows her gaze to the large bar at the opposite side of the room, and immediately spots Alec behind it. He sees the precise moment when the Alec from this dimension gets replaced with the Alec from Magnus’ own world—a stutter in the fluid movements of an experienced bartender mixing drinks, the bottle in his right hand slipping from his grip before Alec’s reflexes kick in, and he catches it again before it can hit the floor.
Magnus downs the rest of his drink. “Looks like I need a refill.”
“Oh, Lord, here we go again,” another voice drawls from close by. Meliorn. Magnus raises a questioning eyebrow in his direction, which Meliorn replies to with a snort and a long drink of champagne.
“Meliorn, behave,” Catarina admonishes, walking past Meliorn’s chair and neatly stealing the glass of champagne out of his hand. “You ought to be careful, though,” she tells Magnus. “From what I hear, Valentine Morgenstern is not one to let an opportunity for blackmail pass him by.”
“I’ll be the very soul of discretion,” Magnus promises, giving everyone around him a stern look when at least half of them can’t quite contain their laughter. “I’m glad I amuse you. Now go out on the dance floor and make yourself useful dazzling the crowd; I have important business to attend to.”
Luke is kissing Jocelyn.
For a moment, everything is right in the world. Jocelyn is in his arms, her lips against his, her hands cupping his face.
Then, reality comes crashing into him. He pulls back, staring at her.
“It’s fine,” Jocelyn tells him. “My husband is occupied with Magnus Bane and his Pandemonium entourage. He won’t look for me for a while yet.”
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Luke tries to file all this information away to try and make sense of how this dimension works, but it’s all too much to take in. He swallows hard, blinking against the stinging of his eyes and tries to focus on her.
His and Jocelyn’s relationship has always been one of losing and finding. They were friends first, and have been each other’s support through all that their chaotic lives have had to offer. She was there when he turned, losing everything he’d ever known, and he was there when Clary’s memories were locked away—for all they knew, closing off a part of their lives from her forever.
But this—finding Jocelyn again after he knew she was lost—this is cruel.
“What is it?” Jocelyn asks, smiling at him.
She looks so different, here. In this alternate dimension, Jocelyn looks tired and worried. But her hands are the same as the ones that have held his back home, and he can recognise her steady smile, too. It’s painfully familiar.
He can’t let himself get caught up in this aching nostalgia—Clary is here somewhere, and he needs to find her.
“I just—” he tries, fumbling for an excuse. “I, um, I need to—”
Jocelyn nods solemnly. “Of course, sorry. I get caught up. But you need an update, of course.”
Luke blinks, doing his best not to look utterly confused. Whatever this dimension’s version of himself has with Jocelyn, it’s suddenly sounding less like a garden variety extra-marital affair. (And isn’t that a kicker; being relegated to the other man once more.)
“I know where the books are,” Jocelyn says. “And I think I have an idea of how to get them. You can tell your superiors that I should have something for them in a few days.”
“Oh.” Luke frowns, trying to figure out how to handle this. “Good.”
Jocelyn smiles at him again, her hands slipping over his shoulders, and it’s so easy to just lean in and pretend for a few moments that everything is as it should be.
A sudden burst of applause somewhere further away makes Jocelyn break away from him, patting her hair down and looking around herself.
“You have to go; you’re needed back on stage.”
She pushes a trumpet into his hands and then gives him a surprisingly mischievous smile.
“I’ll see you again after your set,” she says, stretching up to give him a kiss on the cheek and then hurrying away from him, leaving him holding an instrument he hasn’t played since high school with mounting dread.
“Okay. Let’s all—take a seat or something.”
Clary gestures vaguely towards the sofa group in her living room, realising only too late that there’s exactly one chair. She takes it quickly and awkwardly, and then sees Jace and Simon freeze in a parody of politeness, each offering the other the place on the couch.
“So!” Simon exclaims, too cheerfully. “Game of chess, anyone?”
“Simon,” Clary says, feeling shame and frustration combine to make her eyes smart with tears. This is when Simon makes her feel the worst; when he hides everything that’s bothering him behind a wall seven jokes thick, impossible to break through. This cheerful, glassy friendship is the most effective way he has of shutting her out.
Simon opens his mouth again, as though for another joke, but then to her immense relief, he just sits down. Jace hovers in indecision for a few moments, until finally he manages to perch down on one armrest, as far away from Simon as possible.
And then, for a little while, there is just awful silence. Clary can feel her heart beating harder in her chest than it ever has during battle, sending blood to her cheeks and a lump to her throat, knowing what she needs to say but just not managing to spit it out.
“Look—” Simon begins, just as she has managed to gather her courage.
“I’m sorry,” she blurts out. He stops, staring at her, but now that the words are out, she finds it’s easier to continue than to wait for his reaction. “It didn’t mean anything. You know that, right? We were just caught up in the moment. It was nothing.”
Simon frowns, looking somehow more upset now. He doesn’t believe me , Clary thinks, the lump in her throat growing even tighter.
“I don’t feel anything for him,” she insists. “I love you , Simon.”
“Stop it.” It’s quiet, almost a whisper. “That isn’t true, Clary. And it’s mean.”
“Of course it’s true! How can you even say that?”
“Don’t,” Simon says, still far too quietly. “Don’t pretend you don’t feel what you feel, Clary. Not with me.”
“I’m not pretending!” Clary argues, blinking furiously as the first couple of tears escape her eyes. “Simon, please!”
Simon crosses his arms over his chest. He bites down on his bottom lip, the way he does when he’s trying to figure out how best to phrase something, and Clary waits, her heart hammering.
“It’s—it’s not like I wouldn’t understand,” Simon says finally. “I’ve known there was something between the two of you since I first saw you together. And then there was the whole… fake siblings thing, which—Valentine is so fucked up, like, seriously, what was he even thinking? But, yeah, so, anyway, I realise that confused things. And then you and I—anyway. What I mean to say is,” he says, looking nervously at her and Jace in turn, “is that I kind of get it? I mean, it’s a weird feeling, and it’s definitely bringing all my insecurities to the surface, but at the same time…” He trails off, looking down at his feet.
Clary swallows. This skirts close to something they’ve never really discussed properly, but maybe now is the time. “I know you keep feeling like you can’t compete,” she says. “But Simon, I love you for who you are. And there’s nothing you need to be worried…”
“Oh, come on, can’t you just for once listen to what I’m trying to tell you?” Simon bursts out. “I’ve kissed Jace, too!”
For a few moments, it’s impossible to take in. Then it’s as though everything hits her at once—shock, disbelief, and a sense of eerie discomfort pooling in her stomach and making her sick. Suddenly, she sees Simon’s evasive, joking chatter from earlier in the evening for what it actually was, and she feels her face flush with the realisation of how blind she’s been.
“You what ?” she says, and hears it come out far too high.
For the first time, her gaze swivels to Jace, and finds him looking almost ridiculously uncomfortable, trying to lean as far away from the both of them as possible. He clears his throat.
“The two of you clearly have a lot to talk about,” he begins, standing up and gesturing vaguely towards the door. “So maybe I should just…”
“Oh, you’re saying you had nothing to do with any of this?” Clary snaps. Anger is washing away everything else, now. “Simon just said that the two of you’ve been kissing behind my back.”
“It was just one kiss,” Jace tries, which immediately turns Simon’s anger in his direction instead.
“Are you kidding me, right now?” he says, astonishment mixing with hurt in his voice. Then he turns back to Clary, his jaw set in an angry line. “Wow. The two of you really are perfect for each other.”
He gets up from the couch and stalks out of the living room.
“Simon, wait,” Clary tries, getting to her feet as well, her throat tightening again. This is the other thing Simon does—he just leaves, with no space for explanations or discussion or understanding.
Jace stops her with a hand on her arm. “Let me talk to him.”
Clary pulls out of his grip. “What, so you can try and seduce him again?”
Jace stares back at her—shocked and angry, but actually looking more hurt than anything else, she thinks. Suddenly, she has a realisation of how this conversation must have felt for him.
But Simon left. She needs to go after him first of all.
She leaves Jace standing there, shoulders hunched in and face stormy.
“Have you seen this?” Izzy hisses, sliding onto a bar stool and giving Alec an incredulous look. “What am I wearing ?”
Alec looks at her, raising his eyebrows. “Basically your last Halloween costume?” he suggests.
Izzy rolls her eyes. “That one was custom made and moved like a dream. This is my uniform , I’m supposed to wear it for hours on end, for work , and it doesn’t even let me breathe!”
Alec shrugs. “Well, I’m not an expert on corsets, but to me, it looks pretty similar to what you wore at the sting at the demon hangout last month.”
“OK, you’re being obtuse on purpose now,” she tells him, and he grins at her.
“Seen any of the others?” he asks. He’s already clocked Magnus, who was on his way over to the bar until he was waylaid by none other than Valentine Morgenstern . This dimension they’ve landed in has its share of villains as well, apparently.
“Just you and Magnus so far,” she says. “What do you—”
“Sweetheart,” someone interrupts, and a man steps up to the bar, giving Izzy a not-at-all-surreptitious pinch. “Give me couple of Turkish, there’s a doll.”
Izzy’s jaw tightens.
“Something to drink for you, sir?” Alec asks quickly.
“Sidecar,” the man says dismissively, still leering at Izzy. Alec throws her a look that hopefully spells out please don’t murder everyone here immediately clearly enough for her to get the message, and sets to work on the drink. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a smile spread across Izzy’s lips, and figures he’d better work quickly.
He’s suddenly grateful for Magnus’ patient attempts to find cocktails Alec actually likes, and all the trawling through recipes that has entailed. At least he has some idea of where to begin.
He’s just finished shaking the drink when he hears Izzy inquire sweetly if the man wants a light, too. He looks back at them just in time to see her lean in to light the cigarette the man has placed in his mouth—and then apparently stumble, setting the flame to the man’s moustache instead.
“Oh gosh, sir, I’m so sorry!” she exclaims, as the man screams.
Alec grabs a towel hanging by the sink, quickly soaks it and slaps it onto his face.
“On the house,” he says tightly, sliding the man’s drink over towards him, then glares at Izzy.
“I’ll just keep the change, then?” she says, winking at Alec and flaunting the dollar bill she’d been handed, as the man with now only half a moustache makes himself scarce.
“Izzy, you can’t just—” Alec starts, then thinks better of it and shrugs. “Never mind. So, you, me and Magnus are all here, meaning Luke should be close by, and hopefully Jace, Clary and Simon as well. We should spread out, see if we can find them.”
Izzy nods, opening her mouth like she’s just about to tell him something, then pauses as something over towards the band’s stage seems to catch her eye. She grins.
“Look,” she says. “I think we’ve found our missing member.”