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 friend. 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.”
Chapter 8: Today's Rain Is Tomorrow's Whiskey
New arrivals! Reunions! A Talk!
And we're back, just like the rest of the gang are in this chapter.
“Scotch, straight up, please. Keep ‘em coming.”
Alec turns at the familiar voice and comes face to face with Jace, who looks, well—‘utterly miserable’ is probably too nice a way to put it.
He reaches beneath the bar and finds the right bottle. “You okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Jace replies, with a sharp edge to his voice that makes Alec want to go out and punch someone.
“Come on, Jace. It’s me. What happened?” He notes the defeated slump in Jace’s shoulders and makes a not-so-wild guess. “Is it Clary?”
“I don’t need a lecture, okay?” Jace replies, throwing back the first shot Alec poured him and gesturing for another. “Anyway, it’s complicated.”
Alec scoffs. “Isn’t it always?”
“ Extra complicated.”
“More complicated than when you thought she was your sister?” Alec challenges. For a split second, Jace’s face falls, and Alec thinks he’s said the completely wrong thing. The next moment, however, Jace practically throws himself across the top of the bar and wraps his arms tightly around Alec’s neck.
“Oh, thank fuck.”
“Hey, hey, easy,” Alec says, peeling Jace off of him and looking quickly around the room. Thankfully, most of the attention is presently on the stage and the Dippermouth Blues being somewhat haltingly performed. “People are looking, keep it together.”
“Sorry,” Jace says, dropping back onto his chair. “But, man, it’s really good to see you. Is Izzy here as well?”
“She, Magnus and Luke,” Alec confirms. “We just arrived. I’m guessing we were right and Clary’s here too?”
“And Simon,” Jace replies with a sigh. “Like I said, it’s complicated.”
“Please tell me you haven’t killed him?” Alec asks, happy to see that this, at last, coaxes a smile out of Jace.
“Nothing so drastic.” Jace clears his throat, looking away. “It’s been a weird couple of days, let’s just leave it at that.”
“Days?” Alec asks, then realises. Alternate timelines, he thinks (as up on stage Alaric rips into an extended piano solo probably meant to distract from the tepid trumpet performance). Of course, time doesn’t necessarily move at the same speed here. It does make him wonder how much has been going on here, and what exactly has Jace looking like he’s had his heart ground to dust at some point in the time since they left home. “OK, so catch me up. What’s been going on? Valentine owns this place, that much I gathered. And I suppose Clary’s still his daughter in this version of reality?”
“Yeah. He and Jocelyn are still married. Threw both Clary and Simon for quite a loop.”
Alec swallows. He can only imagine what that must feel like. He feels his own heartbeat speed up, looking around the room to see if he can catch sight of this universe’s version of Jocelyn. She’s nowhere to be seen at the moment, at least, and he’s not sure whether to feel relieved about that or not. In a way, it would be good to just rip off the bandaid.
“What else?” he asks, trying to focus.
“I’m Valentine’s errand boy. He tells me to jump, I ask how high. Not a great thing to get back to. You and Izzy work here in the club. There’s something up with that, but I haven’t been able to gather enough gossip to figure out the details.”
Alec nods, but doesn’t pry further into that. At the moment, he’s far less interested in whatever shady form his employment takes than the dead-eyed look Jace keeps slipping back into.
“Oh,” Jace adds, grinning suddenly. “Here’s a bit of gossip I have been able to find: this version of you used to be engaged. Apparently your fiancé left you to elope with another man—at the altar, no less. You’ve been too heartbroken to look at another woman ever since.”
Alec presses his lips together to mask an answering grin. “How terrible.”
“I know, right?” Jace raises his eyebrows. “Thought you’d find that funny.”
“It has a certain symmetry to it,” Alec admits. He gives Jace another searching look. Whatever has been happening here, it seems to go further than just the on-off nature of Jace and Clary’s ongoing relationship experiment and Jace being under Valentine’s thumb once more. There’s something new to this defeated slump.
Jace frowns and looks away from him, apparently only just now noticing the slow trainwreck happening on stage. “Is that our world’s Luke playing the trumpet?” he asks.
“Should we go rescue him? Cause some kind of distraction?”
“Well, Izzy set a guy on fire half an hour ago. If you think you can top that, be my guest.”
Luke steps out into the alley leading from The Circle’s back entrance, sighing deeply. For the first time holding a trumpet since his high school brass band days, he thinks he did pretty OK—then again, judging from the expressions on the faces of the audience, it wasn’t really up to par.
“Hey, mister,” someone asks to his right, and as Luke turns that way, he sees a man gesturing to him. “Do you have a light?”
Luke’s about to answer no—after Sergeant Mathers quit, no one he knows smokes—until he realises what era he’s in and sticks a hand into his coat pocket.
“Here,” he says, brandishing a lighter. The man gives a grateful nod and steps closer to him, putting a cigarette to his lips.
“So, Mr Garroway,” he mutters, as Luke leans in with the light, “do you have any news for us?”
Luke grits his teeth, forcing himself not to start.
“Mrs Morgenstern thinks she can get the books,” he says, rallying quickly. The superiors Jocelyn was talking about seem to be police—now that he knows what to look for, the stance and the carefully cultivated ruffian look is familiar stakeout fare. “Don’t have a timeline yet, but she seems confident.”
“We need something actionable to raid the place,” the man says, inhaling deeply on the cigarette. “Just a page will do.”
Luke raises his eyebrows. He knows police work has been evolving over the century, but he’d never realised just how lax things apparently had been in the twenties.
“Just one page from the books will be enough?” he says. “OK, sure.”
“Look, I know you’ve been making very close friends with some of the people here,” the man says, raising his eyebrows significantly. “And we’ll be able to issue some amnesties for certain parties. Don’t get caught up with them, though. Remember the goal here. Just get us the goods and we’ll take this guy down—we’re ready to go as soon as we get the go ahead from the captain. Let’s meet again tomorrow, noon. If you need to get in touch with me before that, use the regular drop.”
Luke swallows. “Uh-huh?”
The man rolls his eyes, stubbing his cigarette out under one shoe. “Leave a note with the greengrocer on 133rd. Come on, man. You’re not hitting the hooch too hard, are you?”
“Just enough to keep the cover,” Luke says smoothly. “I’ll get you something to act on, don’t worry.”
“Do it and there’s great things in store for you,” the man says. “This is a big one. Thanks for the light,” he adds in a slighter louder tone, then nods to Luke and and strolls onwards, out of the alley.
Simon doesn’t slow down. If anything, he lengthens his stride and moves faster. Clary runs to catch up, cursing the shoes she’s wearing.
“Just leave me alone, Clary!”
Clary watches as he disappears through a pair of double doors, and hurries to catch up. There’s another hallway, then another door, then stairs upon stairs, going steadily upwards.
Simon doesn’t listen, just ups his pace and disappears through a door at the top of the staircase, slamming it shut behind himself. Clary climbs the last two flights and wrenches it open. And then comes to a dead stop.
They’re on the roof.
In the distance, she can see the New York skyline, and above it a starry sky that’s less foggy than she’s used to. She scans the roof and finds Simon over by the edge, hands gripping the railing so tightly, his knuckles are turning white.
Clary slows down, then approaches him carefully.
“Simon, I’m sorry.”
There’s a long, pregnant pause.
“What for, exactly?” Simon asks, finally, his voice carrying easily across the space, even though it’s barely more than a whisper. “Do you even know?”
Clary feels tears well up. She blinks furiously, trying to push them back. “Everything! Anything! I don’t know, Simon; what do you want me to say?”
“How about the truth?” Simon snaps.
She’s about to snap back at him—to defend herself or simply pass the blame, she’s not really sure—but then takes a breath, forcing herself to calm down.
“You first,” she says, challenging.
He turns to glare at her. “Can you stop trying to derail this?” he says. “Just answer the question!”
“Fine, then!” she shouts back. “Yes, I’m attracted to Jace! A lot! But I’m not the only one, right ?”
“That’s not what—can you just be honest with me?”
“What do you think I’m doing?” she snaps. She can see him draw breath to argue, and is struck by how silly this all suddenly feels—like their childhood fights over a toy or a TV show, escalating until the original cause for the argument was entirely forgotten and they were crying in different corners of the room. “I don’t know what you want me to say. Yes, I’m attracted to him. Yes, I think there’s something more there. And, yes , I’m still hopelessly, utterly in love with you, so where the hell does that leave us?”
They stand there, staring at each other, until—finally—something begins to shift.
“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him since I drank his blood,” Simon confesses. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s a pull unlike anything else.” He pauses, swallowing hard. “I want him, Clary,” he says. “I’m not sure how , but it’s there , in my blood. I think of him every waking minute. And it would be so much easier if it was only this—I don’t even know—this purely hormonal thing, I guess? No feelings, just sex, you know? Not that we’ve had sex!” he hurries to add, looking suddenly terrified. “There’s been no sex! None! Just, you know, for the record.”
They stare at each other, and then Clary suddenly feels laughter bubbling up in her throat. She puts one hand over her mouth, then the other, and then she’s suddenly giggling uncontrollably, tears pooling at the corners of her eyes.
Simon stares at her, and then, little by little, the corner of his mouth starts to twitch. And then they’re both laughing, drifting closer until they’re clasping each other tightly, holding on until they both finally start to calm back down again.
“I’m sorry,” Clary repeats. “For not talking to you. You’re my best friend, Simon. I should know better than to try and shut you out.”
“Same here,” Simon replies, pulling her into a hug. “I love you, Fray.”
“I love you too,” Clary says, and when she leans her head against Simon’s chest and closes her eyes, it’s like none of the last couple of days even happened.
“I can’t believe you can say stuff like it’s there in my blood , though,” she adds, giggling. “It’s such a Twilight thing to say!”
“I can’t believe you can just come out and say I’m attracted to him ,” he replies quickly. “Just like that. What happened to the Clary Fray I knew that blushed at the mention of underwear?”
“Shut up, I did not!”
“Well, panties is just an ugly word. That’s, like, an objective fact.”
Simon gives her an exaggerated searching look. “You’re blushing right now, aren’t you?”
“Not at all,” Clary says, although she’s pretty sure they’re matching shades of red at the moment.
“I don’t know if it’s real,” Simon admits eventually, his voice barely louder than a whisper. “What if it’s all this… how I feel… is all because of some supernatural Downworlder thing that passes once I get used to the change?”
They’re quiet for a moment, and then Clary clears her throat. “I guess we really need to talk to Jace?” she says. Her voice makes it a question even though—against her better judgment—she already knows the answer. It feels weird to say it. Jace has always felt like he’s hers —someone who brought change to everything in her life, including her relationship to Simon.
It stings to realise that the feeling making her stomach turn into knots is jealousy. Hearing Simon talk about Jace this way makes her feel like the ground is suddenly unsteady beneath her feet, like she could lose one or both of them, without being the one who makes the choice to. She feels suddenly sick; her hand automatically shoots out, reaching for Simon to keep her steady.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Simon asks gently, which makes everything ten times worse. She chokes back a sob, and Simon immediately pulls her into his arms to comfort her—because of course he does. In that moment, Clary really hates how nice he is.
“Clary, come on. We’re doing this honesty thing, right now, remember? Lay it on me.”
Clary makes a face against his chest.
“Are you weirded out… you know, about the guy thing?” Simon asks, and the slight tremble in his voice makes Clary feel like the world’s worst person.
“Of course not! Simon, how can you even think that?”
“Maybe because I’m totally freaking out about it,” Simon says. He pulls away from her and puts a bit of distance between them, crossing his arms protectively over his chest. “Like, I’m an open-minded guy, right? I’ve been toting the ‘love the person, not the gender’ horn for years. Sometimes literally! At pride!”
Clary reaches out, putting a hand lightly on his arm. “Simon, it’s okay.”
“How is it okay?” Simon counters. “What? I can get off with Ryan Danvers in an empty classroom after a GSA party, but as soon as I meet a guy I have a deeper connection with, I freak the fuck out? What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” Clary admits. She slumps down on the ground, leaning back against the barrier fencing off the rooftop. “I don’t know, okay? I don’t know what any of this means.”
With a big sigh, Simon slumps down next to her. “So what do we do?”
Clary shrugs helplessly. She can fear tears of frustration welling up, and resolutely pushes them down again.
Simon pokes her in the stomach, pulling a surprised squeak from her throat, which is quickly followed by yelps and giggles as he sets out to tickle her in earnest.
“Simon, what are you—stop!”
Simon stops, pulling back a little and looking back at her with a fond smile.
“I just wanted to make you laugh again,” he says, then leans forward and brushes a stray curl of her hair back.
Clary catches his hand, holds it against her face, as tears again threaten to spill over, but for a whole different reason.
“We really do need to talk to Jace,” Simon tells her quietly, and Clary nods.
“What do we even say?”
“I don’t know,” Simon admits. “But let’s do it anyway.”
Magnus waits, watching Alec and Jace talk, until he can see the tension start to melt out of Jace’s shoulders somewhat. You’d have to be blind not to notice that the two of them need some time to themselves—at the same time, in this world, all the players are on some pretty serious collision courses, and it all seems to be coming to a head.
When he sees Jace duck his head, laughing at something Alec just said, Magnus decides that the touchy-feely-brother-bonding-time is over, detaches himself from the Valentine posse and walks over briskly.
“Gentlemen, we have a problem.”
He takes a certain satisfaction in the drama of the moment, then smiles at Alec. “Oh, and hello . Please feel free to take this outfit with you back home and wear it whenever you like.”
“Hi, yourself,” Alec responds, deadpan, but the corner of his mouth is twitching up into one of those hidden smiles that Magnus has come to love.
“What’s going on?” Jace says, segueing smoothly into guard mode—his shoulders squaring off, his brows lowered.
“Well, let’s just say that this dimension’s version of me is suddenly on a clock,” Magnus says, rolling his eyes. “It appears Valentine wants to take over my hotel. And, to absolutely no one’s surprise, he’s not the kind of man who takes no for an answer.”
“Consent doesn’t seem to be his thing, no,” Alec says.
“Cat warned me that blackmail was on the table.” Magnus clears his throat. “Knowing myself and knowing this time, there are probably plenty of things he wrongly believes he can hold over my head. However, since Valentine just cornered me and started talking about fire safety and the relative flammability of my hotels here in New York, I don’t actually think he’s planning on sticking with just blackmail.” He rolls his eyes. “He was not subtle about it.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Play along for now, and hope to find some way to turn this around on him. What have you found out so far?”
Alec shrugs. “Don’t think I’ll be of much help. Jace seems to think Valentine has some hold over me, as well.”
Magnus raises his eyebrows, looking from Alec to Jace. “Personal, legal or financial?”
“Don’t know,” Jace says. “Haven’t really had the chance to look into it.”
“I’m thinking I’ll have a look through this Alec’s things once I finish my shift,” Alec says.
“Why don’t I help you with that?” Magnus says—probably way too quickly, judging by how Jace rolls his eyes with a grin.
“And that’s my cue to leave,” he says. “I’ll see you guys later.”
The club starts emptying out around three o’clock. Izzy weaves in and out of the thinning crowd, noting handshakes and exchanges and mapping out relationships in her head. This is a world where everyone has dirt on everyone else, and it will probably pay to know who has the bigger hold over one another.
She notices Valentine fade into the background as the night wears on, and he finally seems to head off to bed some time after Magnus and his crew make their cheerful exit around two thirty—Magnus waving an expansive and far too demonstrative goodbye. (Izzy’s pretty sure that he’s sneaking back in immediately.)
Izzy helps the man on the door shepherd the last couple of patrons out the door, pawning off a few final cigarettes to a girl swaying against her with a tipsy lack of personal space, then heads back down into the club and sits down at one of the tables, ostensibly to count her cash box. Two cleaners come in, but apart from them, the place is empty. Even Alec’s checked out—of course, she has an idea of where (or to whom) he’s headed.
She smiles at the cleaners, making a show out of doing her inventory as thoroughly as possible. As they finally finish with the grand room and move towards the bathrooms, she looks around herself once more and then quickly heads towards the door leading to Valentine’s office.
It’s locked, of course, but twenties era locks are a joke compared to what she’s picked at home just for kicks.
Valentine’s office is a mess , with papers and books sorted in no particular order and half empty bottles of assorted liquors and ugly sculptures stashed in between it all. After a while, though, Izzy begins to suspect the chaos is deliberate—misplacements of files and papers occur with too regular a pattern, and once you look past the clutter, there’s an obvious system underneath it all.
Paranoid creep , she thinks, and heads for what seems to be the personnel part of the office.
She sifts through assorted misfilings and dead ends, finding a pile of old cleaning invoices in a folder marked ‘blueprints’, some sort of accounting book bound in tacky red leather stashed in a drawer with a heap of vacation applications that all seem to have been unequivocally denied—really, how this guy manages to find new ways to be unlikable is beyond her—and finally, in a drawer marked Inventory , she finds what she is looking for.
The paper says Bill of Debt , and as she’s looking over it, she can feel her heart start to sink.
In a way, maybe it was too much to hope that this version of her parents were people she could feel proud of.
“Miss Lightwood,” Valentine’s familiar voice comes from behind her. “What on earth are you doing here?”
Chapter 9: The Noble Experiment
Izzy handles a sticky situation, Alec has the blues, Luke has a night time tryst and we get the second installment of The Talk.
“Miss Lightwood, what on earth are you doing here?”
Izzy breathes in deeply, running through a few different scenarios in her head. This could get tricky—more so if he’s been creepily watching her for a while.
She slides the bill of debt casually back into the drawer and turns around, letting a slow, seductive smile grow on her lips.
“Mr Morgenstern, I was hoping you’d come back here tonight.”
As much as she complained about her “uniform” to Alec, earlier, she’s grateful for it now, as she leans back against the desk, and Valentine’s eyes immediately drops to the fringe at the top of her thigh.
Valentine smiles. Izzy isn’t sure what it is about it that makes her skin crawl—she’s acted as bait for literal demons before.
“Is that right?” Valentine asks. He walks closer—too close—stopping just inches away from the desk Izzy is leaning against. “And why would such a talented girl as yourself be waiting for her boss in a dark office, after hours? Even a gentleman might get the wrong idea.”
He leans closer, placing a hand on either side or her, caging her in. Izzy honourably resists the urge to put her knee in his groin.
Instead, she lets her eyes drop; for some reason embarrassment is something men of Valentine’s caliber seem to always enjoy a little too much.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh, I think you know exactly what I mean,” Valentine replies. He presses closer, and Izzy’s aware of his hands shifting next to her.
She briefly wonders if killing this universe’s version of Valentine will have any impact on the one in her own universe. If their Valentine no longer has a body to jump into when he wants to visit, could he even get here to retrieve the Mortal Cup?
Her thoughts are interrupted as Valentine straightens up, taking a step back from her, holding up a piece of paper in his hand with a triumphant smile on his face.
“Nice try, Miss Lightwood,” he says. “I’m sure your parents appreciate the effort, but as I’m sure you read for yourself, their situation is really quite hopeless.”
He holds the paper up high, as though to hold it out of her reach, and she forces herself to not kick his knee out, but instead tries for looking forlorn. She’s been caught, but she might still get out of it. And now she knows what hold Valentine has over the other her, at least.
Valentine takes the piece of paper detailing Maryse’s and Robert’s gambling debts between thumb and forefinger in each hand, looks Izzy in the eye and then, with some amount of relish, tears the document clean in half.
Izzy feels the breath catch in her throat—knowing Valentine, this is not what it seems, and she waits for the other shoe to drop. Valentine seems to take her reaction at face value, throwing his head back to laugh loudly.
“Did you really think that was the only copy?” he asks, and then, to add insult to injury, tears the piece of paper again, and again, until he’s got pieces small enough to throw them in the air and let them rain down on both of them.
“I’ll see you at work, Miss Lightwood,” he says, and then turns and walks out of the room.
The Alec in this dimension lives in a small room on the first floor of the hotel. It faces the back of the next building over, and the small window on one wall probably doesn’t provide much light even in the daytime. There’s a single bed, a desk, a chair, a sink and a bookshelf—every piece of furniture simple and practical. A gramophone and a single photo stand on the desk; the photo shows younger versions of Izzy and himself, seated in front of their parents. Something clenches in Alec’s chest when he looks at it.
“Wow, this is bleak,” Magnus says. He walks over to the bookshelf and slowly runs a finger across the spines of the books. A small smile crosses his lips. “This isn’t, though. The other you has some lovely titles here.”
“First edition of The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. Actually, there are several books by her on this shelf—seems this other you likes a good mystery.”
Alec takes the book Magnus holds out to him, turning it over in his hands. “If he lives here alone and has to work in Valentine’s club, he probably has some time on his hands.”
“Mhm, I guess you’re right,” Magnus responds. He moves over to a pair of doors which turn out to be hiding a closet, shifting hangers aside with quick, practiced hands.
Alec walks over to the desk and checks the drawers. There’s a leatherbound book in one of them that looks like it could be a notebook or a journal. He takes it out and unties the cord that keeps it closed.
“This one looks promising,” Magnus says, stepping away from the closet with a box in his hands. He brings it over to the desk and opens the lid. Inside is a small stack of records. “All right, maybe not the box of hidden secrets I was hoping for.”
“Look through it anyway,” Alec suggests. “There might be something further down.”
Magnus nods and carefully starts sorting through the records, as Alec starts to thumb through the journal. It doesn’t make for happy reading. There’s nothing that even hints of the machinations that have brought him to work here or of the kind of stranglehold Valentine seems to have—in fact, there’s nothing much of anything in it. It’s simply a record of small observations from each day without any kind of personal judgement or sentiment, and there’s something uncomfortably familiar in its careful restraint.
Alec remembers being this guarded; this afraid to admit to any kind of feeling at all.
“Oh, I haven’t heard this one in ages,” Magnus says, happy surprise colouring his voice. He takes out one of the records and brings it over to the gramophone. Alec looks up from the journal to watch him, smiling, as the gramophone first crackles dustily and then starts playing a jazzy tune. A woman’s voice begins to sing.
“This takes me back,” Magnus says, his body swaying to the music. “Catarina, Dorothea and I would go to the dance halls in Harlem and dance until our feet bled. Figuratively, of course—perks of being a Warlock.”
He closes his eyes, a smile touching his lips, then opens them again, and holds out a hand to Alec. “Care to dance, Alexander?”
“I don’t know how; it’s not exactly part of the Shadowhunter training regimen.”
“Nonsense. This little pocket dimension is a replica of the 20s. In the real 20s, everyone danced. I’m sure this body you’re in remembers how.”
Alec isn’t quite so confident, but how is he to say no when Magnus is holding out his hand for Alec to take, his body swaying lightly back and forth in time to the music?
He puts the journal down, then takes Magnus’ hand and lets himself be pulled close. Magnus guides his hands into what he claims to be the proper hold, and then starts moving.
To his pleasant surprise, Alec finds his feet start moving on their own with purpose and rhythm. To his mortification, they move right on top of Magnus’.
“Sorry,” Alec says quickly, “I’m so sorry—I told you—”
“No, no,” Magnus says, laughing and wincing, “I should have figured you’d only have learned how to lead. Hang on, let’s start over…”
He switches their grip and starts moving again, and after a few moments’ hesitation, Alec lets his feet take over and just moves with Magnus to the music. It’s surprisingly comfortable, and even fun. He thinks he can start to see the appeal.
“It feels so weird,” he says, “thinking about what kind of life this world’s version of me has. I wish we could have met, here. This version of him, and this version of you, I mean.”
Magnus hums softly in agreement. “Well, they actually did. Right before you and I crashed the party; Dorothea was raving about it when I arrived.”
Alec doesn’t reply for a while, searching for the right words. In a way, it feels like fate, but he’s pretty sure he won’t be able to say that out loud in any kind of coherent manner. Still, though, he’s done way too much repressing on his own, in his quite liberal time, to think that this 20s Alec’s life can be changed so quickly.
“Wish I could be sure it’d stick,” he manages eventually.
Magnus leans back, taking his hand off Alec’s shoulder to put it against his cheek. Alec leans into the touch, amazed as always at how familiar and comforting it is.
The song comes to an end, the needle scratching away uselessly, but for a while they stay like that, just moving together softly; lips, and cheeks and noses brushing, happy in each other in this sad room.
Finally Magnus pulls back.
“I have an idea,” he says. “What if we leave him something?”
Alec laughs. “What?”
“Well, I have business cards,” Magnus says, raising his eyebrows.
Alec opens his mouth, then closes it again. “Can’t hurt to try,” he says. “Hand me one?”
He tucks one into the journal, at the first blank pages, then ties it back together. They’ve given the other him a chance, at least, he thinks.
Magnus smiles at him, holding up the record and flipping it over.
“Should we give the B-side a whirl, too?” he suggests, placing the needle back down.
To Luke’s great relief, he seems to be boarding at the same house as Alaric. He doesn’t know what he would have done otherwise, without someone to show the way home—bunked down in a pile of stage clothes in the band’s dressing room or something, probably.
The band’s shift ended at two thirty, and even with the post-gig drink that seemed to be too standard to pass up, Luke’s in bed by four o’clock. Still, he’s too wired from adrenaline and the unfamiliar bed and the strange sensation of portal travel to fall asleep immediately, and when the knock comes at his window at four thirty, he’s awake to hear it.
“Luke?” Jocelyn’s voice says, muted through the glass.
For a few seconds, he considers feigning sleep. Talking to this Jocelyn hurts ; all the pains from back home, compounded with new ones. Still—he can’t not see her.
“Jocelyn,” he says, opening the window and leaning out.
She appears suddenly out of the darkness, her coat and shawl having made her melt into the shadows, and smiles at him, as bright as his own Jocelyn from back home.
“My love,” she says, putting a hand to his cheek. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” Luke lies. She raises her eyebrows.
“You seemed—distracted, before.”
Luke breathes in deeply, debating with himself what to say and fighting the impulse to just tell her everything, just like he used to.
“I don’t like it,” he manages at last, shortly. “That place. You, trapped there. And him . Lurking and plotting.”
She looks pained. “I know, love. But it will all be over soon. I just need a way to get into his office again. I think I know where to start looking now.”
“I don’t want you to risk anything—”
“I’m being careful.”
He stares at her helplessly. “Couldn’t we just leave?” he blurts out. “Go somewhere far away and leave him to his schemes.”
She opens her mouth, then looks away. “I’d love that,” she says. ”When I know he’s gone. And Clary is safe.” She smiles. “And hopefully happy, with her Mr Lewis.”
“Simon?” Luke says, without thinking. “I like him. He seems kind.”
She looks at him, surprised, and he realises his mistake.
“He offered the band to put the beer on his tab tonight,” he lies quickly. “Maybe he’s trying to impress Clary?”
Jocelyn laughs. “He doesn’t need to try so hard,” she says. “But it’s sweet.”
There’s a sudden, drunken shout somewhere to her left, and she shrinks back into the shadows, peering around her for signs of someone seeing her.
“I should go.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow. Night, love.”
And then, before he even has time to say goodbye, she’s gone from him again.
It’s well into the small hours when Jace makes his way back to his room. He wants to tell himself that the extra sweep around the blocks surrounding the hotel was necessary (or even just part of keeping up appearances for his current job), but it’s late, and he’s too tired to successfully lie to himself.
He wanted to avoid Simon, simple as that. If there even is a Simon to avoid after Clary ran after him—Jace honestly isn’t sure which option is worse. He opens the door and kicks off his shoes. The carpet is stupidly soft under his feet, reeking of luxury, just like everything else in the suite.
Fuck Valentine, and his expensive tastes, and his habit of using them to lure people into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under their feet. Jace’s a soldier now. And a good one. He has no need for the finer things in life, and—
He stops suddenly, frowning at himself. By now, he’s starting to recognise when this world’s version of himself begins to blend with his thoughts. He closes his eyes and tries to focus. There are memories at the back of his mind, trying to swim forward into focus. A woman’s voice, light and happy; a chandelier making light dance around the room; a brace of hunting dogs barking happily, waiting for Jace to bring them a treat…
He shakes his head and pushes the images back, takes a deep breath. No matter what this Jace’s story is, he can’t lose himself in it. They’re here for one reason: to find the Cup. He just needs to remember that, and everything else will sort itself out.
“I’m glad you came back,” Simon’s voice cuts through the darkness, and while Jace is far too jaded after having been a Shadowhunter all his life to jump at sudden noises, he’s not too proud to admit that his heart stutters slightly. A very tiny bit.
“What are you doing here?”
“I live here,” Simon replies. “Or, this version of me does. Where have you been?”
“What are you, my mom?”
Simon makes a weird, choking sound. “Erm, no. No . That would be—oh God, please don’t mention yourself and my mom in the same sentence. Like, ever again.”
Jace crosses his arms over his chest. Simon’s words hurt more than he’d like to admit.
“Well, sorry, I know I’m not the kind you bring home to mother,” he says, dismissive, trying to push down the feeling of disappointment.
His eyes are still getting used to the darkness after the lit corridor outside, but he can see Simon’s mouth drop open.
“ What ?” Simon says. “What are you even—I was—oh my God, how are you this bad at understanding words ?”
“What?” Jace says, but Simon is barrelling on.
“It’s like you’re hard-wired to misunderstand things, seriously,” he says. “I’m attracted to you, so when you call me your mom that’s just unpleasant and—I mean, we made out and everything! So, you know, weird!” He pauses, but only momentarily. “Also, hang on, wait, do you want to meet my mom?”
There’s kind of a lot to unpack in that, and for a while Jace just stares.
“My mom doesn’t even know I’m a vampire,” Simon continues, oblivious of Jace’s lack of reply. “Like, oh my God, she thinks I’m still in college! She thinks I’m going to be an accountant and work in an office and say things like ‘yes, Karen, I do think it’s a shame what they’re doing to the state education system’. And, I mean, I came out to her when I was sixteen, and she was super supportive, but this ? Me bringing home not just a guy—and one who looks like he’s in some kind of hipster heavy metal band, with the combo of your hair and all the runes—I mean, no offense, but, yeah. Anyway. Well, not just you—then also Clary. Who’s, you know, Clary ! My mom helped her with her homework and taught her how to not microwave fish! And now she—”
Jace acts on instinct, grabbing Simon and putting his hand over his mouth to stop the flow of words from getting steadily worse.
“Please,” he says. “Slow. Down. What?”
Simon gives him an offended look. Jace removes his hand.
“My mom,” Simon probably thinks he clarifies, while doing nothing of the sort. “I’m not saying I don’t want to, but the thought of introducing you to her—both of you, I guess, which let’s not get into—I mean, it’s a bit daunting to—”
“Stop talking about your mom!” Jace exclaims.
“You brought it up,” Simon throws back, clearly affronted.
“I was—” Jace sighs, takes a step back and runs his hands through his hair, trying to understand where this conversation got away from him. “I just—no. Screw this. Let’s just go to sleep.”
“Sorry, no. I promised Clary that I’d talk to you.”
“Well, tough luck, I don’t want to talk.”
“It’s four am! I waited up for you!”
Something inside of Jace breaks, the frustration that’s been building inside of him since before the soulsword—before Clary even—boiling over.
“No one fucking asked you to!” he shouts, then immediately tries to bite his own tongue off as he sees the wounded look on Simon’s face. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I just—this is all a bit much. I’m not handling it well.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Simon replies. But then he moves a couple of steps closer, carefully reaching out to put a hand on Jace’s arm.
“I don’t know what this is either,” he says. “But I know you’re a part of it. So will you try and talk to me instead of just lashing out with your whole macho-guy-with-no-feelings-routine?”
Jace takes a deep breath, forcing himself not to shrug off Simon’s hand.
“I don’t know, Simon,” he says helplessly. “What do you want out of this?”
“You,” Simon says simply. “ And Clary.”
For a long time, they just stare at each other. Jace swallows. There’s something welling up inside him—something a bit like fear, and a bit like hope.
Simon blinks, clearing his throat. “Oh wow, that was really blunt. Um.”
“I think maybe we need blunt right now,” Jace says, realising he means it. We , he thinks, and it makes that hope or fear squirm again.
“What do you want?” Simon says, looking closely at him.
I really want to kiss you , Jace almost answers, but the memory of the woman in the happy room full of dogs makes him pause. Everything here is distorted and unreal. He thinks he’s starting to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s just echoes from another Jace, but there’s no way to really be sure. And even apart from that, he and Simon are connected by blood now, and they should really try to figure out what that means first.
“I don’t know,” he says. He sees Simon frown, frustrated, and barrels on, “Come on, you must have thought about it—what if this is all just here , not the real us? Or otherwise, just part of the Daylighter… thing? I mean, were you even attracted to me before then?”
Simon stares at him, his mouth falling open. “Uh, yeah? I thought that was embarrassingly obvious?” He clears his throat. “OK, so obviously not. Guess I angsted about that for nothing.”
For a few moments after that, they stare in awkward silence at one wall each. Then Simon coughs theatrically.
“Have I thought about it? Sure. Everything here is weird, and sort of hazy. But the thing is—it’s easy, though. And nothing about this feels easy.”
“How do you mean?”
Simon frowns. “I’m not sure how to explain it. I guess… when I’m this Simon, things are simpler. I want simple things, like a spring wedding, and for Clary’s scary, possibly-in-the-mob father to approve of me. It’s all—two-dimensional, I guess I’m saying. Which makes it pretty easy for me to spot.”
Jace nods, not sure of what else to do.
“And outside of that?”
“Outside of that is chaos!” Simon exclaims. “There’s a hundred things all crashing down on me at once, and I have no idea how to deal with any of them.”
“Look, it’s like music, right?” he continues, once Jace has been staring back at him for a while. “The things that belong to this universe are like someone playing a simple melody on a piano, and the things that don’t—they’re like three bands playing the same festival, where the organisers have totally failed to do a good sound design.”
“What? So you’re saying that I’m a guitar crashing into a song where I don’t belong?”
“ Yes ,” Simon says empathically. Jace raises a questioning eyebrow, and Simon’s eyes widen. “I mean, no! Not like that! Jesus, can you just try to not completely misunderstand me for a minute?”
Jace crosses his arms over his chest. “Well, it’d be easier if you managed to make sense.”
“Oh, God, I can’t even deal with this right now,” Simon throws back. “Come over here and let me bite you.”
That—is not something Jace ever expected would come out of Simon’s mouth. He falters. “What?”
“Come here,” Simon replies. His voice softens as he moves in closer to Jace. “You wanted to know if this thing between us is just the result of this dimension, right? Or the Daylighter thing? Or what other stupid excuse you have thought of?”
He moves in close, and Jace finds himself powerless to move away. He stands where he is, keeping perfectly still, as Simon places a hand on his upper arm, his other hand coming up between them to touch Jace’s chin, and guide his head to the side.
“This universe’s version of me is totally freaking out right now,” he tells Jace, following it up with pressing his mouth to Jace’s neck in a row of slow kisses. “He hasn’t even considered that he isn’t straight.”
“What if he is?” Jace replies, sucking in a sharp breath as the shock coming from his 20s counterpart surges through him. Simon grazes his blunt teeth over the skin of his neck again, sending a shiver of excitement down the length of Jace’s spine.
“Oh, he really isn’t, trust me on that,” Simon whispers, mouthing more insistently at Jace’s neck. He bites down, just hard enough to break the skin, and Jace gasps again, subconsciously tilting his head further to the side to give Simon better access.
Simon pulls away, spluttering wildly.
“ God . Blood tastes completely disgusting when you’re not a vampire,” he says, furiously wiping at his mouth.
Jace feels laughter bubble up his throat, sudden and easy.
“Well, I guess that rules out this all being down to vampire stuff?” he says, and Simon laughs back at him, then yawns.
Jace takes pity on him and grabs the back of his neck, shoving him playfully in the direction of the bedroom. “Come on, time for bed.” Then, after enjoying the way Simon flushes and splutters for a few moments, he adds, “Nothing untoward. If we’re going to have responsible, adult conversations in the morning, we need to get some sleep.”
“Wow, you’re the worst kind of person,” Simon grumbles in reply. “I hate how much I like that about you.”
Chapter 10: A Little Party Never Killed Nobody, Part I
Plotting, plotting, some more plotting, and a surprise engagement party.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
For the first time since arriving in this new dimension, Clary wakes up clear-headed and rested. It feels like something has fallen into place, with none of the fuzziness and disorientation she’s become accustomed to, and the day doesn’t disappear from her like earlier ones have.
She debates with herself on whether to head over to Simon’s room right away, or give him and—hopefully—Jace a few more hours to themselves. A sting of uncertainty flares up inside her as she combs out her hair, a voice at the back of her head whispering that maybe they changed their minds, in the end. Maybe she’s no longer needed in whatever it is that they’re starting to build.
She’s still working up to going over to see them when there’s a soft knock at her door, and her mom steps inside.
“Good morning, darling. Did you sleep well?”
Clary manages a smile, pushing down the confused flare of pain and happiness that comes with seeing her. “Hi, mother. Yes, I guess I did, actually. You?”
Jocelyn walks up stand behind her, reaching over Clary’s shoulder to grab one of the brushes lying on the vanity. “Oh, quite all right.” A yawn comes over her, right on cue. “I fell asleep a bit too late, I have to confess. All the thoughts of wedding planning swirling in my head!”
Her tone of voice is light, but this version of her mother has much the same tells as her real one. Clary knows that strain in her cheeks.
“Mom, are you okay?” she asks, stilling Jocelyn’s hand before she can start in on fixing her hair. “I mean, fully okay? You… look worried.”
Jocelyn looks back at her through the mirror, startled for a moment, before the practiced smile slides back into place. “Don’t be silly, honey. I’m a bit tired, is all. You know how your father snores.”
She starts brushing Clary’s hair with a vigour, and Clary bites down on the next sentence that wants to break from her throat. It’s not real , she reminds herself. This is not her mom .
“Give me some of those pins, will you, honey?” Jocelyn asks.
Clary takes some from the vanity and hands them over to her, then makes the mistake of looking in the mirror. It takes every ounce of her self-control to stop the tears that well up in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Jocelyn asks, worry clear in her voice. “Did you want it done differently?”
Clary shakes her head. The faux-bob bounces a little, exactly the way it did before her junior prom. Her mom grabs a bejewelled ribbon from the vanity and ties it around her head.
“There. Now it’s perfect. Come, let’s pick out something for you to wear. Your father is expecting us down in the dining room shortly.”
Simon is definitely feeling some nerves as he walks down the main staircase. One of Valentine’s burly bodyguards knocked on his door none-too-gently half-an-hour earlier, ordering him to get his ass down to brunch. Jace was already gone when he woke up, a short note left by the bed saying he’d been called away on an errand for Valentine and asking Simon not to get himself killed in his absence.
There’s something about the note that makes Simon smile—it’s sweet in a very Jace kind of way, trying to hide thoughtfulness behind curt speech. He remembers their first meeting—the way Jace managed to push at all his buttons at once, while his warm, steady hand clasped Simon’s and completely threw both his mind and body for a loop.
Maybe that’s why he feels that this crazy thing they seem to be inching towards might actually work . Clary is someone he knows in and out, and yet, she’s always able to surprise and excite him; Jace is someone he doesn’t really know at all, but somehow, he manages to steady Simon in ways he hasn’t experienced with anyone before.
He spots Clary with Jocelyn in front of the entryway to the dining room, and hurries his steps.
She turns towards him, and Simon’s breath catches in his throat as she smiles at him. She looks absolutely beautiful.
He leans in for a kiss on her cheek, sliding an arm around her waist briefly as he does it. “Morning to you too.”
“I’ll go ahead and meet up with your father,” Jocelyn says, giving them both a wink. “Don’t keep him waiting too long, now.”
Clary answers her with a “Yes, mom,” and a smile. Then she takes a step closer to Simon and exhales happily as she leans her head on his shoulder.
“Missed you,” he murmurs. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. You?” She turns her head and looks up at him. The next part is barely above a whisper, but he still hears her perfectly. “Both of you?”
Simon grins, then leans in and pretends he’s breathing in the scent of her hair. “We talked a few things through.”
“And?” she asks.
“And I think we’re good. All of us.”
Clary breathes in, and Simon feels elation and uncertainty and hope mingle in one confusing tangle. This isn’t going to be without its share of complications, he knows. But right now, he mostly feels unbelievably happy.
Because he obviously fell into a magic well as a kid and ended up with a blessed kind of timing, this is when Jace shows up, walking through the front doors with an ease and a confidence that Simon would really like to not find quite so devastatingly attractive.
“There you are,” he says, moving towards them as though he means to pull them both into a hug. He seems to realise how public the setting is, however, and stops himself before he can make contact, choosing instead to stop a couple of feet away from them, clasping his hands behind his back.
“Miss Morgenstern. Mr Lewis.”
Clary snorts out a laugh. Simon bites back one of his own.
“Mr, um, Herondale?” he says, then notes the way Clary’s other bodyguard Blackwell is staring at him. “Uh. Lightwood? Wayland?” He makes a show out of sighing. “It’s still Jace , right?”
“Right,” Jace says, and there’s definitely a grin in there somewhere. Then, as Blackwell seems distracted by one of the serving girls walking past, Jace moves closer to them and mutters, “Me and Alec talked about meeting up this morning to discuss plans.”
He looks between the both of them, apparently noticing their utter bewilderment. “Oh, wow, sorry. Actually, Alec and the rest of the gang travelled to this dimension, too.”
“You should have mentioned that!” Simon exclaims.
“Um, we were a little busy. Sorry for letting it slip my mind as we were fighting off the bad guys.”
Clary snorts again.
“You could have mentioned it after ,” Simon says, while Jace just sort of stares at him. “When we were, you know, talking about us .”
“I said sorry,” Jace says.
“Alec and who?” Clary asks. “Who else is here?”
“Um,” Jace says. “Izzy, Magnus and Luke.”
“Oh,” Clary says softly, smiling, and some level of tension that Simon didn’t even notice before suddenly melts away. “I’m so glad.”
Blackwell sidles over again, clearing his throat pointedly.
“I think your father is waiting for you, Miss Morgenstern,” he hints, giving Simon an extra glare.
Simon, Clary and Jace all sort of look at each other, and then Simon offers Clary his arm with an ironic little bow.
“Shall we?” he says, raising his eyebrows at the both of them.
She grins back. “Sure.”
Nearing the dining hall, Simon can hear some sort of string quartet music playing; as they enter, it swells for a few moments and then fades away. He looks around, noting that even for this time, people seem to be more dressed up than for just the regular weekend morning. There are more servers around than he’s ever seen before, carrying trays of canapés and drinks, and there’s a huge and very overstated floral arrangement in shades of white and cream adorning the central table.
With a sinking feeling, he realises what is happening.
“Clarissa!” Valentine shouts, walking over with two champagne flutes in hand, Jocelyn following two steps behind.
“Surprise, darling,” she says, with a smile that’s not entirely there.
Valentine moves in between Clary and Simon, forcing Simon to let go of her arm, then hands her a champagne glass and turns her to face the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he says, “I’m so happy that you could all be here to help me surprise my little darling. Doesn’t she look beautiful? Let’s all give her a hand!”
As the room applauds, Simon finds himself standing to the side somewhat pathetically, which he supposes is the point of all this. Jocelyn hands him a glass of his own with an apologetic smile.
“It’s a sad day in any father’s life when he realises that his little girl has grown up, and that some other man will now try to take the foremost spot in her life,” Valentine is continuing, managing to combine soppy and threatening in one creepy sentence. “But of course, despite these fatherly worries, love is first and foremost something to be celebrated. So join me in raising your glasses to these happy two: Simon Lewis, and my darling daughter, Clarissa Morgenstern.”
As the room once more erupts into cheers and applause, he pulls Clary closer to him and plants a possessive kiss on her cheek.
Simon applauds with the rest of them, because he doesn’t really have any other choice.
Izzy looks around to make sure no one is paying attention, and then quickly slips behind the curtain that separates the main ballroom from the servers’ corridor that leads down to the kitchens.
Alec is already there when she arrives, ostensibly sorting through a number of dusty crates in search of more champagne for the party upstairs. She sits down on a bench next to him, kicking off her shoes and putting her feet up for a moment.
“I swear, if one more guest tells me how pretty I look when I smile, I’m not going to be held responsible for my actions.”
“Better hide out here for a while, then,” Alec replies. “I saw some of Valentine’s business associates arrive just before I went down here. Seems the guy you set on fire decided to shave off the remaining half of his moustache.”
“Well, good. Didn’t do anything for his chin, anyway.”
The door swings open again, and they both turn around quickly, ready to slip into character. Luke grins at them, holding up his hands.
“Just me,” he says. “So, where’s Magnus?”
“Think he’s still sleeping,” Alec says. “We were up pretty late.”
“ Were you, now?” Izzy says, but Alec mimes a kick in her general direction before she can even get a good joke started.
“Don’t you even—” he begins, but is interrupted by the door opening again.
“Hey guys,” Simon says, entering breathlessly. “Jace told me that you were all planning to meet, but we agreed that someone had to keep an eye on Valentine and Clary has her hands full just trying to kind of keep everyone at bay, so he’s staying up there to hold down the fort. I probably don’t have much time, but even though I’m supposed to be under constant guard now I can still pretty much go where I want, whenever I want—which is kind of weird, but I think Valentine is hoping I’ll get myself killed accidentally. Anyway, it’s super exciting you’re all here as well now! What’s the plan? What can I do?”
There’s a bit of a pause, which often happens when Simon starts talking and then sort of forgets to stop. Izzy decides to break the tension with a hug.
“I’m so happy you’re all fine,” she says, ruffling his hair. He laughs shortly, then steps back with an embarrassed expression.
“Sure,” he says. “I mean, it’s been weird. Really weird. Super weird. Did you know that this version of you likes this version of me? Wild, right?”
There’s another small pause. Luke clears his throat.
“Anyway,” he says. “I hear you’ve been looking for the Mortal Cup.”
“Oh, yeah.” Simon sits down on a crate breathlessly. “Yeah, Clary’s been in his office and also in his suite, and she couldn’t spot it anywhere. Jace has been searching for it, too, when Valentine has had him running different errands and stuff. And I’ve been talking to the regulars, but no one seems to know anything about it.”
“I did a search of his office, too,” Izzy says. “No cup there.”
“The band have their dressing room behind the stage in a sort of cavern,” Luke says. “I haven’t noticed anything out of place, but all those little corridors leading out of the main room are potential hiding places. I can take another look tonight when the club opens.”
They all look at Alec, who rolls his eyes.
“I’ve been stuck behind a bar top the entire time since I got here,” he says. “I promise I’ll let everyone know if I find myself pouring a gin rickey into the Mortal Cup.”
“It has to be here somewhere ,” Simon insists.
“According to Magnus, we’re in some kind of pocket dimension,” Alec continues. “He says they take a lot of energy to keep running, so it’s unlikely the demon Valentine roped into creating it made it very big.”
“Well, then we should head out and keep looking. Listen, I just want to get it and finally get out of here. I’m tired of wearing suits all day.”
“This must all have been so hard for you,” Alec says, deadpan.
“Well, I don’t want to ‘just get out of here’,” Luke says. “This might be a manufactured dimension; I still don’t want to leave this world’s Valentine free to roam it. He made himself the king of his castle, and before we go, I want to knock him off that throne.”
“I mean, yeah, he’s a criminal,” Simon agrees. “Could we just sic the IRS on him or something?”
“Well, he’s done a pretty neat job laundering the club money through the hotel,” Izzy says. “But there aren’t any obvious traces in the hotel finances. So if we’re going to get to him, it’s going to have to be directly through The Circle.”
“ How have you had time to go over the hotel finances?” Simon asks, staring at her. “You can’t have been here for more than a day !”
Izzy raises her eyebrows. “Well, I had time to kill this morning and the hotel accountant is lonely and bored,” she says.
There’s a sort of aha noise from Luke, and they all turn towards him to find him frowning thoughtfully.
“Hold on,” he says. “You’ve seen The Circle’s books?”
“Sure,” Izzy says. “They’re in his creepy office, downstairs in the club. Pretty nicely managed. There’s a steady stream of false invoices between the hotel and the club, but it’s not obvious unless you compare the finances side by side.”
Luke stares at them for a long moment, and then his lips slowly turn into a satisfied grin.
“Well, if you have the evidence, I have the contacts—or this dimension’s version of me does,” he says. “Once we have the Cup, I know a way to bring this Valentine down for good.”
“Are you OK?” Jace mutters, as Clary smiles between gritted teeth at another couple advancing towards her.
“Fantastic,” she says tightly, and then stretches out her hands. “Hiiii!” she trills, her voice high-pitched and sing-song.
“Congratulations, my dear,” the woman approaching her says, taking her hands and looking with mouth annoyingly agape at her fourth finger. “Oh, would you look at that ring!”
“Impressive,” the woman’s partner says, although he mostly sounds disapproving.
“Well, I think this is just all so romantic,” the woman burbles on. “Like something at the pictures. Who would have thought? But I think you’ve snagged yourself a, um, a wonderful —actually, where is your young man?”
“He had some business to attend to,” Clary says quickly. “Something about one of his hotels.” She plasters a big smile onto her face. “Thank you so much for coming!”
Jace is impressed. That was cute and undeniably dismissive, all in one.
He brushes up against her carefully as the pair leave. She leans into the touch for a moment, and he’s struck by how strange it feels—familiar, but also completely new.
“This is a nightmare,” she says quietly, still smiling that too-wide smile.
“I know—is it weird that this makes me long for just a good old fight against soul-sucking demons?” he quips, pleased when she laughs.
“Speaking of demons,” she says, and he sees Valentine moving towards them again.
Jace frowns. There’s something different about Valentine; something he can’t quite put his finger on. People always move out of the way for him here, but now there’s practically an empty space around him as he strides through the room—moving like a predator about to strike its prey.
“Clarissa, darling,” he says. “Come join me for another little announcement.”
Magnus looks around carefully. He’s sneaked out of a lot of rooms in his life, but it feels weird to be back to that kind of behaviour. The 20th century has allowed him to be out and proud of loving people of all genders and backgrounds for quite a while now, and it feels sort of regressive to be looking around fearfully, searching for a disapproving face.
Not that the roaring twenties—back home in their real world—were the worst, by any stretch. As he remembers it, it was actually a time of some sexual liberation. But he’s quite certain that for him, in this time and place, being caught leaving the male servants’ quarters will not go unremarked.
He gets to the main corridor unnoticed, and breathes a sigh of relief. One of the girls he recognises from the club last night spots him as he steps out from the servants’ wing into the hotel proper, and from her smile he suspects she at least guesses something in the ballpark of the truth. She only winks at him as he passes, though, so he feels he’s probably safe with her.
Breathing another sigh of relief, he passes through the hotel, briefly wondering what he’s supposed to do next. He ought to find his own place and change, he supposes, but he doesn’t really know how to go about doing that. He flexes his hands out of habit, wincing when his magic doesn’t immediately spring forth. He can still feel it inside him, moving sleepily beneath his skin, as though this version of him hasn’t used it in a very long time (or ever—which is a scenario he would rather not contemplate). He ducks into a new corridor, heading for the main entrance, when two men step in front of him, blocking his path.
“Mr Bane?” a deep voice says, and he turns to see another two of Valentine’s innumerable thuggish bodyguards standing behind him. “Mr Morgenstern would like to have a word.”
Valentine leads Clary to the head of the room again, an arm draped possessively over her shoulder as he turns her to face the room. She has a creeping sensation of something being wrong, suddenly—different and somehow dangerous.
“Everyone!” he shouts, and the string quartet in the corner comes to an abrupt halt along with the conversation and laughter, everybody turning to face them. “Thank you, everyone. I just have to say again, isn’t she beautiful? My darling, darling daughter. I can’t believe I’m going to have to give her away soon. My beautiful little Clarissa.”
There is laughter and some light applause, in a polite kind of way.
“Now,” Valentine says, turning directly towards Clary. “I know you have your modern ways, darling, but you must allow an old man born before the turn of the century his little ceremonies. I want to bring out a very special toast for you, you see. A drink from an old heirloom of our family, meant to bring… well, strength, and enlightenment.”
He gestures to a server, who hurries forward with a tray. Clary turns to watch him, and doesn’t quite manage to stifle a gasp.
Valentine takes the Mortal Cup from the tray and holds it up, toasting her.
“To you, Clarissa, and to your beautiful future.”
As applause breaks out all around them, he looks straight into her eyes and says quietly, “Oh, were you looking for this, darling ? Well, you almost made it.” His arm around her shoulders tightens to the point of pain, as Valentine toasts the room again, every bit the doting father.
“Drink, Clarissa,” he says, raising a mocking eyebrow at her as he holds up the Cup to her lips. He turns to the room. “To a glorious future!”
“A glorious future!” the crowd repeats, raising their glasses towards them.
Clary feels anger surge through her, hot and unyielding as Valentine stares her down, a look of pure mockery written all over his face. Up close, the differences compared to this dimension’s version of him are glaring. The real Valentine looks healthier than his counterpart—although he’s still inhabiting this body, with its gin-soaked puffiness and reddened eyes, he somehow manages to convey the strength of a man with no such vices. His eyes are steadier, that intense gaze Clary remembers, instead of this world’s flickering attention. And while there’s always menace emanating from the 20s version of Valentine, too, it’s blunt and crude compared to the real Valentine’s vicious, twisted wit.
Clary breathes in deeply. With Valentine, the best course of action has always seemed to be pushing back just as hard.
“Thank you, father,” she replies, smiling back at him as sweetly as she can manage.
She takes the Cup from his hands and drains it.
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Chapter 11: A Little Party Never Killed Nobody, Part II
Valentine makes his move, and everything comes to a head.
That's all folks! Please join us in the comments for more flailing and headcanons. :D
“Are you OK?” Jace hisses, trying and failing to shift the ropes binding his wrists together.
Against his shoulder, Clary’s head slips and falls towards her chest. She’s tied up next to him, but he’s not sure the ropes are even necessary—she looks like a ragdoll, limbs loose, expression unfocused, pupils blown wide enough to swallow up every last bit of colour in her eyes.
“I’m at the lake,” she murmurs. “The one with the flowers…”
“What the hell did you give her?” Jace snarls up at Valentine, who’s looking down at Clary with a strange expression on his face.
Valentine seems to shake himself out of his thoughts. “She has such a limited grasp of the concept of consequences,” he says, attempting a light tone but obviously having to force it. He turns his gaze to Jace and adds nastily, “I see you’ve managed to patch things up. So happy for you. Nothing pleases me more than to see my children getting along.”
“You’re not my father,” Jace bites out, trying not to let the comment rile him. Valentine has always played mind games, but Jace knows how those work now. The tone is kind, but there’s always a sting in the tail.
“Did you know that the Stephen and Céline of this dimension died tragically as well?” Valentine continues blithely. “Drowned in the Hudson after a terrible misunderstanding when you were… five, I think? Needless to say, you were far better off without them.”
It’s like being punched. The woman with the room full of dogs flashes briefly through Jace’s borrowed memories again, leaving a dull ache behind. How many times is Valentine going to dangle parents in front of him only to snatch them away again?
And then he realises what Valentine is doing right now—a distraction, the kind of tantalising sidetrack he’s always been so good at providing.
“What did you do to Clary?” he repeats stubbornly, and suddenly, he thinks he’s managed to find a crack. Valentine looks caught off guard, uncertain.
“She’ll have to answer for her own actions,” he replies shortly. “I don’t know what happens when you drink from the Mortal Cup in this dimension any more than you do.”
“So why the hell did you offer it to her?”
“I figured she’d fold,” Valentine answers. Then he chuckles to himself, almost proudly. “Guess she’s even more of a Morgenstern than I thought.”
“Butterflies,” Clary mumbles next to him. “Catch them, Simon.”
Valentine chuckles again. “Awkward,” he says, raising his eyebrows. “Jilted again, son?”
Jace stares back at him, a strange feeling of elation surging through him as he realises that Valentine is wrong .
Valentine has always made it seem like he knows everything—those needling comments of his always managing, somehow, to find their mark perfectly. It used to give him an air of omnipotence. But this thing that’s been growing between him and Simon and Clary all together, Jace realises, this is something Valentine never foresaw. And it turns all of Jace’s thoughts on their head—transforming Valentine from an all-knowing force to someone small and petty and grasping.
Clary’s head moves against his shoulder again, buffing at his chest more than nuzzling against it, and Jace feels something molten and fierce move up inside him. His eyes feel like they’re burning, suddenly, and he quickly ducks his head, breathing deeply to regain his focus.
And that’s when he feels it. The rush of power that comes with one of his runes being activated is as familiar to the real him as breathing, but the body he’s in now is wholly unfamiliar with the process.
Not to mention that the body he’s in doesn’t have runes. And yet…
He takes another deep breath as he feels the familiar surge of power again. Strength . He carefully tugs at his bindings, testing the give. He could break free, he thinks. And quite easily too. The temptation to do so immediately is overwhelming, but another loll of Clary’s head brings him back to the situation at hand, makes him keep his cool.
Waiting for the opportune moment to strike is a lesson he’s well-versed in, after all.
Izzy looks around the ballroom, noting how the waiters are all milling about uncertainly and how the guests keep sharing furtive glances.
Something’s gone wrong.
Valentine was gone when she arrived back up at the engagement party, as well as Clary and Jace. Something about Clary being overwhelmed by the party and needing to lie down for a bit, the other waiters had suggested vaguely, which was suspicious enough on its own without seeing Jocelyn hovering anxiously near the door.
Obviously, Izzy thinks, Valentine’s made some kind of move. And considering that Alec was supposed to meet up with Magnus and then join her here, and that he’s already been gone over half an hour, it seems probable that he’s been caught in some kind of crossfire.
Izzy does another quick scan of the room to check that she hasn’t missed anyone, then dumps her tray of nibbles unceremoniously onto another waiter and leaves.
She heads for the hotel entrance, noting that the bodyguards who Valentine always have lurking in various corners around the hotel seem to have multiplied since last night. Something is definitely going down. She wishes she wasn’t heading into it without weapons.
Well, apart from the knife she pocketed in the kitchen earlier.
“There she is,” someone says, ducking out almost in front of her and then having to take a few quick, stumbling steps to actually get in front of her. “My favourite cigarette girl.”
For a few moments, Izzy can only stare at him, trying to place his face. As he leers at her, however, the pieces fall into place and she recognises the unctuous little man from yesterday. He really does look better without the ridiculous moustache—although that’s a low bar to clear.
“Sir,” she says sweetly. “You must have me mistaken for someone else. I’m a waitress here in the hotel. What you’re talking about sounds like something from a club. Those are illegal, you know.”
“Sure, you know nothing about it,” he says, winking creepily at her. “Virtuous by day, is that it? That’s fine. It’s going to make it all the better to see you again tonight.”
“You seem to be confused, sir. Maybe you ought to go home.”
“You girls,” the man says, oozing closer. “You’re something, all right. And Valentine has assured me that you’re all very generous with your time. Especially you, he said.”
Izzy sighs, deeply. “You know,” she says, “I didn’t really want to draw attention to myself right now. But I just don’t have time for all this.”
She grabs his wrist and twists, quickly but carefully. The man’s face drains of colour.
“For now, you’re fine,” she says quietly. “But a little more pressure, and you won’t be using this hand for a very long time. And I feel like you usually enjoy using this hand for a variety of functions. So what we’re going to do is, you’re going to leave very quietly now, and then never return to this hotel again. Is that clear enough for you? Because I haven’t even got to the really fun threats yet, so if you want I can go on for a while.”
The man shakes his head, his lips pressed tightly together.
“I’m so glad,” Izzy says and releases her hold. The man bolts.
As she rolls her eyes and turns, Izzy realises that two of Valentine’s bodyguards are now watching her.
“Drunk nuisance,” she says, shrugging. “Glad he seemed to realise he had somewhere else to be.”
They just stare back at her, then start moving towards her.
“I think you’d better come with us,” one of them says.
Izzy almost laughs. She may not have her powers from back home, but groins and noses make just as effective targets working with only mundane strength.
“The two of you?” she says. “Come on, you could at least try to make it a challenge.”
There’s a cough behind her, and four more bodyguards step into view when she turns that way.
OK , she thinks. Walked into that one .
Simon doesn’t know what happened up in the ballroom while he was gone, but when he gets back, it seems that everyone from his world is missing. He looks around the room for Clary or Jace, then wanders around checking the crowds for Izzy and the bar for Alec.
Nothing. Everyone has seemingly gone up in smoke.
“Mr Lewis, I was hoping to trade a word with your lovely fiancée,” a woman says—one that Simon doesn’t recognise. “That looked like a nasty fainting spell, back then—I do hope that she’s all right?”
Simon’s blood runs cold. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a waiter walk up to Jocelyn and hand her a note, causing her to quickly duck out of the room as well. Simon smiles at the woman in front of him and makes his own excuses, exiting the ballroom and heading toward the corridor that leads to the hidden entrance of the Circle.
Instead of catching up with Jocelyn, however, he finds only an empty staircase on the other side of the door. There’s voices coming through from down below—too quiet to identify—but something about them makes Simon keep moving forward. He moves down the flight of stairs as quietly as he’s able, then carefully makes his way down the next empty corridor.
He wishes he’d had more time to explore the different passages down here. He knows that the entertainers have their own corridor, and then there’s a passage for the bathrooms and one for all kinds of storage, but he isn’t comfortable below ground at the best of times and this place is strange and foreign.
He hears a noise behind the closest door to his right, and half on instinct, he shoves the door open.
Magnus stares back at him. His hands are pinned above his head with a pair of handcuffs, and a piece of cloth is gagging his mouth. He looks absolutely livid.
“Oh my god,” Simon says. “Um. Hi. This is weird.”
Magnus makes a muffled sound through the gag and rolls his eyes.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. Let’s just start with getting that off you...”
“Ugh,” Magnus spits, stretching his tongue out as Simon removes the gag carefully. “I think they were using that thing to wipe the bar down. I guess it would be too much to hope this version of you carries a hip flask with something to wash this taste out?”
“Sorry.” Simon shrugs, and tries for a joke. “Think I’m too rich for that.”
Magnus gives him a long stare. “Not that this confidence isn’t doing wonders for you,” he says, “but at some point, you and I are going to have a talk about how to carry yourself without accidentally slipping into asshole. For now, though, do you have any of your strength in this world? Could you get these things off me?” He rattles the handcuffs pointedly.
Simon winces. “I’m more useless than normal, sorry.”
“You say sorry far too much,” Magnus says, flashing him a quick smile. “Another thing we need to work on. But all right, in that case, if you see Isabelle hanging around, could you send her my way? I’m sure she could pick these in her sleep.”
“Sure,” Simon nods. “And I’ll see if I can find some keys, or like—I don’t know, um… a saw?”
“Something a little less drastic, if possible; I like my hands,” Magnus says dryly. “And, while my magic in this world seems all but dormant, I still think it’s our best chance of portalling out of here.”
Simon nods. “I’ll see what I can do. Sorry, I don’t want to leave you, but…”
“What did I say about saying sorry all the time?” Magnus says. “It’s fine. Go save the girl, and the boy. I heard Valentine’s goons drag Jace and Clary down this corridor earlier, and I’m sure they’d appreciate a dashing rescue by now.”
For a few moments, Simon just stares at him, wondering if he heard that right.
“I guessed some time around the first time the three you all came to my loft together,” Magnus says gently. “I didn’t know how to bring it up with you earlier. Sorry.”
“What was that about saying sorry all the time?” Simon quips, because he’s not really comfortable starting any conversation more serious than that right now. “I’ll go in search of handcuff keys or, well, Izzy. See you back here. Um. I guess.”
“You do that,” Magnus says, giving him a stunted wave of his cuffed hand.
Simon exits his room and then heads carefully down the rest of the corridor, now keeping an ear out for any activity from Valentine’s guards. He opens door after door, finding nothing but storages for food and booze and guns.
Finally, just as he’s ready to give the whole thing up as a lost cause, he shoulders a door open and finds Jace staring back at him with Clary at his side.
“Um,” Simon says, and feels every smart comment leave his mind instantly. “Hello! I’m here to rescue you.”
Jace snorts back laughter.
“Thank you,” he says, then grits his teeth and flexes, tearing his arms free from their bonds. He grins easily. “I guess it was just knowing you believe in me that I needed all along.”
“Jerk,” Simon says faintly, because the sight of Jace standing happily smiling with tattered ropes hanging from his wrists is a visual that will follow him for a long time, and he doesn’t really have the presence of mind to come up with something snappier. “How did you even do that?”
“Guess some of our powers must have carried over,” Jace replies. “I could use your help with Clary, though. Valentine made her drink from the Mortal Cup, and I’m not sure what that did to her.”
“Oh, come on, I’m fine,” Clary says dreamily, making both Simon and Jace jump. “A bit woozy, that’s all. You didn’t think all that was for real, did you?”
She stretches and stands, breaking her bonds in one fluid moment, then sways. Jace is there to catch her before Simon has the time to reach her, but for the first time, Simon doesn’t mind.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Jace says. “You were talking in riddles. Lakes and flowers and butterflies.”
“Oh,” Simon says, the memory arriving clear in his mind. “That one from… after fifth grade? The summer camp? The one where we saw the Monarch migration.”
Clary gives him a radiant smile back. “Right. You remembered.”
Simon senses something stiffening in Jace’s shoulders, and moves closer to the two of them.
“We should all go back there,” he says. “Together.”
Clary takes his hand, while keeping her other hand firmly in Jace’s. For a while, they all just look at each other, and then Simon takes Jace’s free hand.
Simon isn’t sure who smiles first, but soon, they’re all grinning stupidly at each other.
“Well,” he says. “Let’s get out of here, then, shall we?”
Just as he says it, sirens start blaring.
“I have to say, Mr Garroway, when you claimed you could deliver Morgenstern’s operations to us, there were a lot of sceptical faces around the office,” the man who Luke supposes is his handler in some way or another says. He’s looking awfully pleased, puffing away on his cigarette as uniformed officers lead Valentine and most of his creepy bodyguards away.
Luke shrugs, projecting what he hopes is just the right balance between confidence and subordination. “Thank you, sir. Happy to be of service.”
“I can’t make any promises,” the man continues, “but I have a feeling you’d be one hell of an asset for the Bureau. If you’re willing, I could put in a word for you, see if we can’t cut through some of that red tape.”
“Thank you again, but I have a feeling I’ll be going out of town for a bit. So unless you can put in a word for me somewhere Valentine’s people will never think to look, I think I’ll have to keep to my day job.”
“Fair enough,” the man replies. “You know, you didn’t hear it from me, but LA is supposedly very nice this time of year. And there’s a talent agency there called Auerbach Theatrical that’s always looking for fresh faces.”
“Thank you, sir,” Luke says, beginning to feel like a parrot. “I’ll take it under advisement.”
His handler nods and takes another long drag on his cigarette, before moving on to help with some of the numerous arrests being made.
Luke lets out a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding and steps away from the chaos as well. Out of instinct, his feet bring him back to his lodgings. The window of his bedroom is open, the curtains inside blocking the view. Luke closes his eyes and lets this universe’s version of him float to the surface, then quickly pushes the top pane of the window out of his way and climbs inside.
Jocelyn is waiting for him as he enters the room, pacing back and forth with a worried look on her face.
“Is it over?” is the first thing out of her mouth. Then, “Clary? Is she okay?”
Luke catches her in his arms when she flings herself at him. And if he holds on a little too tight, well, no one in this universe will ever be the wiser.
“She’s fine,” he says, hugging Jocelyn a little tighter still. “She, Jace and Simon were brought out of the Circle and taken down to the station to give their testimonies a little while ago. Valentine’s been taken into custody; now that the police has finally got access to the club, his whole operation is bound to fall like a house of cards.”
Jocelyn breathes a sigh of relief, a smile forming on her face. It breaks Luke’s heart all over again, and for a desperate moment, he entertains the thought of simply… staying. Live out the rest of his life in this pocket dimension and never going back home to face reality.
“You know, now that Valentine can’t stop us, we should take that trip out West,” Jocelyn murmurs into his chest. “Find a place on the coast, all to ourselves. I could set up a shop in a nearby town, and you could—”
“—help you with the books,” Luke fills in, unable to stop himself. The answering smile on Jocelyn’s face echoes similar conversations from years ago, when they were both newly on the run from the Clave, and a newly-born baby Clary would wake up and put their planning on hold every few hours.
He allows himself another few moments of weakness, cupping Jocelyn’s face in his hands and kissing her before he forces himself to let go of the fantasy.
“Go pack a bag, and then come pick me up here in the morning,” he tells her. “Ask Mr Lewis to take Clary home with him to his family; I need to tie up some loose ends with my boss.”
Jocelyn nods, then leans in for another kiss. She lets go and walks out of the room, looking back over her shoulder as she leaves.
Luke looks after her for a long time, and then walks over to his counterpart’s closet, carefully packing the man’s belongings into a suitcase he finds under the bed. He lingers at his task, folding each garment several times before he’s finally able to take a deep breath and close the lid of the suitcase.
Time to face reality.
When Alec and Magnus arrive back at the Circle, by now free from both Valentine’s goons and the police, they find the rest of their gang there, laughing and sharing stories of the raid.
“So then they take me to this wine cellar,” Izzy is telling Luke, “and that’s when they make the big mistake of letting go of my arm—just in reach of the bottle rack.”
“Oh, so that’s why those four men reeked of Bordeaux when the police were bringing them out!” Magnus exclaims. “I figured they’d just been making the most of their last free time after the sirens went off.”
“Hey, Magnus!” Simon says, breaking free from a conversation that has Jace actually laughing. It’s been a while since Alec saw him that relaxed. “How did you get free in the end?”
Magnus grins at Alec. “My knight in shining armour came to save me.”
“And by that he means that Valentine’s guards moved me into the same room and tied me up next to him,” Alec says dryly. “Then after the raid started, the guards all fled and were replaced with police. It was pretty easy to convince them we were innocent bystanders what with the whole prisoner thing, so they’re just expecting me in for interviews tomorrow.”
“Me as well,” Jace says. “Clary and Simon have immunity deals, so they’re excused. Some people have all the luck.”
“I told you,” Luke says, grinning. “I had a limited number of get out of jail free cards to work with. I figured Jocelyn, Clary and Simon would have the hardest time claiming duress. There’s ample enough evidence that the rest of you were forced to work here.”
“And as far as anyone knows, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Magnus says lightly. “I was just here for brunch when I oversaw something I shouldn’t have. A shocking experience, of course.” He grins. “This world’s version of me will be telling stories of being at the Circle raid for months. Speaking of which, should we leave this world to it? I’m enjoying this suit a whole lot, but I really want to get back to the cats. You’ve got the Mortal Cup, yes?”
Clary nods, taking the Cup from her shoulder bag.
“I got us here,” she says. “It was a rune. I think maybe I made it? I don’t remember seeing it before, anyway, but I sort of knew what it was supposed to do. And I got some of my powers back after drinking from the Mortal Cup, so I think I could get us back as well—if I can just find a stele...”
“That’s very nice, biscuit,” Magnus says, smiling at her. “But this one is a portal I would leave to the professionals. My magic here is slow, but it’s here. I’ve been saving it up.” He clears his throat. “I could use a little boost though, so if everyone could hold hands...”
Alec coughs to hide his smile as Magnus holds his hand out to him, tipping him a wink. Then he notices the significant glance Magnus throws somewhere past his shoulder and turns to look that way.
Simon is holding Clary’s hand in his left, and Jace’s in his right. The three of them are looking at each other, smiling, and something about the way they’re all tilted towards each other makes something click in Alec’s mind.
Oh, he thinks. That does explain a thing or two.
He meets Jace’s gaze, and after a moment, Jace gives him an awkward grin, raising one shoulder in a half shrug. Alec grins back at him. He’s almost surprised at this feeling—it feels like there’s supposed to be some lingering jealousy, but there’s only happiness for Jace’s sake.
As he moves to take Jace’s hand with his left, Magnus’ hand still steady in his right, it somehow feels like coming full circle.
“Everyone in?” Magnus says. “The Mortal Cup is still with us? No one needs to pee before we go? OK.” He breathes in deeply, then grins at Simon. “Let’s go…”
“Back to the future!” Simon exclaims, raising his and Jace’s joined hands to point back at him.
“Who allowed them to become friends?” Jace asks of no one in particular, and as the world begins to spin dizzily around them, Alec hears Clary’s laughter fill the room.