A/N In attempt to leave this as close to canon as possible, I have worked in and around the first chapter of City of Glass, along with some of the info provided in the Cookies we have received thus far! Set in Alicante. A warm thank you goes to my twin and beta Ande for looking this over, encouraging me to write it, and being awesome enough to know the song lyric referenced within. Also for writing me such heartfail Jace/Clary that we will both likely fail NaNo this year in favor of fanfic. Sadly I do not own Jace (though a girl can dream, right) nor Clary. Characters are the intellectual property of Cassandra Clare, no copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being made from this work, though honestly, reviews are better than money anyway.
Of Illusions and Fairy Tales
The feel of the pencil moving along paper was comforting to Clary, a little piece of home to offset her foreign surroundings. The better part of her afternoon had been spent sprawled beneath the shade of a willowy tree, gazing at the glass towers of Alicante, but sketching something a lifetime away. The drawing was finished now, and Clary examined closely the rendering of her old bedroom back in New York. She didn't need a shrink to analyze why she'd chosen that particular subject to draw. That room had been Clary's safe haven from her problems when her problems had been as small as worrying about history tests and getting grounded. Her own little piece of the world when the world still made sense.
Clary was tempted to rip the paper out of her sketchbook, wad it up, and throw it on the ground. The drawing offended her, not because it was poorly done, but because it was embodied the room too well. She'd added so many of the small details: the hurriedly made bed, the pile of Angel Sanctuary volumes stacked haphazardly on her nightstand, the snapshot on the dresser of her and Simon last Halloween, the art and posters that blanketed the walls, and the clothes wadded on the floor. It looked for all the world like the room of any normal teenaged girl.
Clary knew better. Thinking of her past was not unlike looking at a well-crafted glamour. At first glance, everything seems to be exactly what it appears, but once you know the truth behind the illusion, you can't focus on the façade any more. Trying to blur reality and glamour would only leave you dizzy and disoriented. Clary knew that all too well.
Clary's whole life had been an illusion; her mother had made sure of that. Sometimes, when she let her mind linger on it, Clary wondered what she was angriest about: the fact that her mother had tried to keep the truth from her, or that she hadn't done a better job of it. If Jocelyn had just been honest with her about her past, maybe none of this would have happened. If she'd given Clary basic Shadowhunter training, they may have discovered her ability to create new runes. They might have used it to hide themselves and the Mortal Cup from Valentine forever. Jocelyn wouldn't be in a coma, Luke wouldn't be nearly killing himself trying to shoulder so much, Simon wouldn't be undead and imprisoned, and Clary might have never met Jace... Or if Jocelyn had hidden the truth better, if she'd never let Valentine find her…Clary had been happy in her old life. She had her mom, and Luke, and Simon, and if she hadn't had her feelings for Jace to compare them to, Clary might have believed she loved Simon. They could have been together. They could have been happy. It could have been enough.
But that was a dangerous mental path to take. Blaming her mother only made Clary feel guilty, it was easier to just blame Valentine for being such a psychotic sadistic son of a bitch. Besides, Clary couldn't rewrite the pages of her own personal history any more than she could change her feelings for either of the boys, or their feelings for her. What was it that the Seelie Queen had said? Something about desire not being bestowed on those that deserve it. She'd spoken of desire as if it were a living, breathing entity that controlled people, rather than an emotion that people could control. Clary didn't remember exactly—her sharpest recollections of her time in faerie were the feel of Jace's lips on hers, and the anguish burning in his golden eyes when he pulled away—but she remembered enough to know that the Queen had been right.
She wondered if she would ever stop loving Jace, if she could ever stop wanting him. And if that was impossible, if maybe someday that love would at least stop shredding her from the inside. If the gut wrenching loss that she'd felt when she found Aline in Jace's arms was any indication, Clary sincerely doubted it.
Almost as if thinking of him made Jace appear, his voice broke her silent reverie. "That's very good."
Clary whipped around quickly, nearly spilling the sketchbook from her lap. Jace had crouched down behind her, his eyes fixed over her shoulder at the drawing. She blinked at him in confusion. The last time they'd spoken—though shouted was probably a more accurate word—Jace had left her even more broken than before. Yet here he was, as if nothing had passed between them at all. "What?" she managed.
He pointed at the sketch on her lap. "I said it was very good. Your drawing."
"That room, what is it?" he asked softly, as if he were afraid of the answer.
Jace had actually seen her old bedroom before, but Clary understood how he might not recognize it. The sole time he had been there it had been emptied of her possessions, and inhabited by a Forsaken warrior that had tried to kill them both. Clary hesitated for a moment, about to give a sarcastic reply, before deciding to answer with the truth.
"Just an illusion," she sighed, not looking away from the paper.
Jace drew his eyebrows together, but didn't press her further. "Clary, I want to show you something."
"What?" she jerked her head around quickly, meeting his cautious gaze with her steely one. "You want to make out with some more girls for my viewing pleasure? Because if that's it Jace, I think I'll pass."
"Clary…I…look. I don't want to fight with you. I told you, Aline just…"
Angrily she tore the drawing from her sketchbook, ripped it into pieces, and released them into the wind. She stood up to find Jace staring blankly at her. "You're right," she cut him off. "We've already had this conversation. Why are you here Jace?"
"You can't litter in Idris, Clary," Jace ran after the strips of blowing parchment. The wind was too strong though, and even with his notable speed, Jace would never catch them all. Clary thought he was chasing after the pieces of her old life as fruitlessly as she had done all afternoon.
After a moment or two, he returned with most of the battered paper held between his slim hands. He gave Clary a stern look.
"What? Are they going to throw me in prison for littering? At least then maybe I could get in to see Simon." Clary spat out.
If she'd thought Jace might have the decency to look pained by her statement, seeing as it was his fault that Simon was locked up, Clary would have been disappointed. His features were slack and completely unreadable.
"No," she interrupted him again. "You're right. We've said all this already. We can't change what happened. We just have to try to do the best we can with the future. Holding onto what is gone won't heal it."
"Is that from a poem?" Jace tilted his head slightly, sending a wave of golden locks in front of his amused eyes."
"No. Song lyrics, but that's not the point. I don't want to talk about it anymore, not any of it," her voice was growing louder as she spoke. "Jace, I don't even want to think about it, but I can't stop. Everywhere I look, everything I do…I can't get away from it. I can't even escape it when I draw!" Clary clenched her fists so tightly that her fingernails made deep half moon impressions in her palms. "I just want, if only for awhile, to be somebody else. Somebody who isn't me!"
Clary felt the warm pressure of Jace's hand on top of her own. He softly pried her fist open, and slid his fingers through hers, and she timidly allowed herself to look up and meet his gaze. Despite the desperation of her statement, he was looking at her with something akin to pride.
"Come on," he said, giving her hand a soft tug as he started walking away from the tree.
"Jace, what?" she followed after him, not breaking the comforting contact of their hands.
"I told you," he said evenly. "I have something to show you."
Jace held her hand while they walked from the grassy field and into the city itself. Clary tried not to read too much into the gesture, maybe that was a perfectly normal way for a brother and sister to act? Considering her feelings for Jace, she was hardly the expert on appropriate sibling behavior. When they'd entered the building, however, Jace let go and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "This way." He said, and headed up the marble staircase without so much as a glance back to make sure she was following. They ascended five sets of increasingly dark stairwells, each step echoing through the empty space, before Jace spoke.
"Nearly there," he said.
"You'll see," he turned to grin at her. "It's a surprise."
Clary groaned. "I've had enough surprises to last me several lifetimes, thanks."
His grin didn't falter, though he did stop moving. Clary nearly crashed into him, not realizing they'd reached the staircase landing. The corridor beyond was cloaked in darkness so absolute that she could see nothing beyond where Jace stood. He reached out his arm to steady her, but the touch of his hand on her shoulder only made her feel dizzier than before. She wished she'd thought to bring her witchlight.
Jace pulled on her shoulder, leading Clary further into the darkness and away from the cavernous staircase. Why had he brought her here to this dark, quiet place? She could think of several good reasons for that, but she silenced those thoughts immediately. It was wishful thinking on her part, nothing more, and she knew that allowing her mind to wallow in the fantasy would be less than helpful. They'd gone a few slow steps when Jace stopped again. His other arm came up to grasp her shoulder and he spun her towards him. They stood face to face in the pitch black. They'd moved far enough into the hallway now that Clary could not even see Jace's face, only inches away from hers, but even without use of her vision, she'd never been so acutely aware of another person. For an endless moment they stood there in the silence and the dark, not moving, not speaking, hardly breathing. She could hear the sound of her own heartbeat in her ears, and imagined that Jace's was beating out the same furious rhythm.
Clary heard the shaky intake of Jace's breath before he blew it back out in a soft whisper that tickled her skin. "Close your eyes."
Her own breathing hitched audibly. Was he going to kiss her? She hoped so. Even though she knew it would be like taking her already bruised heart out and stomping on it with combat boots, she wanted it desperately. She needed it.
Jace didn't kiss her.
"Are they closed?" he whispered.
"Huh? Oh, no," she fought to regain composure. "That's hardly necessary Jace. I can't even see the tip of my own nose."
"You can't see me?" he sounded surprised.
"No," said Clary, annoyed. "Can you see me?"
He mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like "you're all I see," before pulling his hands away from her shoulders and stepping back. "It's easy to forget you don't have all the permanent runes I do. The vision rune is one of the earliest ones we get. I was nine when my…" he trailed off. "when I received it."
Clary didn't respond. The absence of his hands on her skin felt like a physical blow.
"Just humor me, okay. Close your eyes."
"Fine," Clary closed her eyes. The darkness—though she would have thought it impossible—became even more liquid, drowning her.
"Stay there," Jace called, his voice moving away. "And keep them closed."
Clary sighed. There was a soft creak followed by a whooshing noise. A door being opened? The blackness behind her eyelids slowly grew to a soft pink and then to a shining red. There were lights on somewhere. She felt Jace before her again, and struggled not to peek at him. He took her hand once more, and pulled her forward towards the pink light.
They'd gone only a few feet before Clary sensed the lightness all the way around her. The ground beneath her sketchers was no longer stony and hard, but gave to her footsteps like wood.
"Alright," Jace dropped her hand, but let his fingertips trace painstakingly slow paths up her palm and wrist before falling away. "Open them."
When Clary opened her eyes, the first thing she noticed was Jace standing inches away from her with a hopeful expression on his golden face. Then she looked away from him, saw the room where he'd led her, and gasped.
"Jace! Oh. Oh, wow." The room was a library, but to simply call it that was an understatement so grand it could hardly be allowed. They stood on a balcony overlooking stories and stories of books. There had to be thousands if not hundreds of thousands of brightly colored book spines set into glass shelves all around the room. And the room itself was itself bigger than the public school she had attended back in Brooklyn.
"You like it?" Jace asked, giving her a catty grin. "I thought you would. I remembered how you reacted to Hodge's study, and well, there really isn't any comparison between the stodgy old study and the library of Alicante."
Clary giggled. "I feel like Belle!"
Jace drew his light eyebrows together. "Like Izzy?"
"No. Belle. In the movie? Beauty and the Beast? He gives her a library."
Jace looked taken aback. "Beauty and the Beast? I'll grant you the beauty part, but Beast? Really? That's insulting."
Clary rolled her eyes and tried to ignore the dueling pleasure and pain of his indication that she was beautiful.
"And besides," Jace continued, "I'm not actually giving you the library. But you are a Shadowhunter, so in a way it is yours. I just thought," his grin slipped away and was replaced by a vulnerability that nearly crushed Clary, "you know. You said you wanted to escape; to be somebody else. Reading was that for me when I was younger."
"Before you were old enough to start killing things instead?" Clary asked lightly.
His grin returned. "Exactly."
"So, shall we go down?" he indicated one of the dozens of spiral staircases interspersed throughout the room. "I hear the selection here is pretty good."
Clary let her eyes sweep once more across the expanse of books. "I hope they have a good cataloging system."
Jace laughed and gave her one of those rare, unguarded smiles. Clary took a step forward and wrapped her arms tentatively around him. She was surprised and pleased when he returned the pressure of her hug. Though she wouldn't have thought it possible, she did feel better now.
Nothing about their situation had changed, and they certainly hadn't resolved any of their issues. Their problems were still waiting for them outside the doors of this fairy tale library, but for now, that was alright. Jace had given her the only gift he could, the knowledge that he understood her, and the knowledge that despite it all, he truly cared. That she wasn't alone. It was a comfort she hadn't expected.
Besides, they would need each other. Valentine still had the Mortal Cup, still had the Mortal Sword. Their mother was still unconscious, and Simon was still imprisoned. Unlike the books that filled this room, their story was not yet finished. So maybe Jace would never get to play the role in it that they both wished for, never the handsome prince to her fairy princess, but Clary could not lie to herself. She was glad, whatever character he was, that this boy was a part of her story.