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CHAPTER THIRTEEN:
Realization of Long-Held Sentiments and the Such

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This is the final chapter, guys. I think it captures, completes, and sums up pretty much everything I began closing off in previous chapters. I'm so glad so many of you liked it enough to read this far and thanks again for voting for COI at the Mortal Archives Awards. The voting was supposed to have ended a while ago but either way, we're at the front in every category we were nominated for. You guys are amazing. I hope to see you all again after City of Fallen Angels comes out. You better believe I'll be writing another fic. TMI fans are the best out there. Enjoy.

This Chapter's Song: "Kids" by MGMT.

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Jace did not understand Isabelle's need to return home so quickly. He didn't care about deadlines and Seelie Courts and deals with devils. He cared about the girl asleep beside him in bed. It was a bed they had earned with their blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Nobody could really tell them they couldn't be in the same bed anymore, not even the Lightwoods. It was obvious in the way they walked into the Institute, shoulder to shoulder with a never before seen confidence, that made everyone part to let them through.

It was also the first time Jace ever believed he deserved someone. He had come to this conclusion while on his back, dying yet again, in the ink city. It had been Jonathan who relieved him of any remaining doubt or worry, who had cemented what he only once dreamed to be true. Not only would Clary give her life for his time and time again but they were connected on such a celestial level, by a blood so pure and so beautiful, that he actually believed they could never be torn apart.

This, of course, lasted a day.

They were soon back to bickering about the smallest things, just like before the ink city was ever drawn. It was actually a bit more turbulent. Neither was afraid of losing the other so they were able to fight with all their might without the smallest hint of fear. To everyone else, it was the end of the world for the twelfth time since Clary stepped into their lives, but they said nothing.

For Isabelle and Simon, it was a lot harder walking back into the Institute. For one, Simon got hissed at something awful just for being… well, Simon, and Isabelle had a burden hanging over her head the whole walk like she was trying to remember the first 300 digits of pi in one shot. Mr. and Mrs. Lightwood were waiting with a thousand different questions but everyone went every which way, avoiding conversations and inquisitions.

Luke and Jocelyn followed them back through the portal and allowed Simon to stay in Clary's old room for the night so he didn't have to wake up his folks. He didn't know why Izzy showed up at his window later that morning until it was too late. He wasn't big on sleep, not during the night anyway, so he quickly ran to let her in. She wasn't crying yet but it only took a hug hello for all her defenses to break.

"It's okay, Iz!" he tried to assure her, blindly. "Everything's going to be okay."

He led her to Clary's bed and rested her down, lying beside her cautiously as though unsure he belonged there. He would never have the certainty Jace had, only the gentle urge to soothe her and the even smaller hope that she'd allow him the honor. He held her to his cold chest and breathed in her scent, ignoring the fact that he hadn't fed in a while.

Her legs tangled up with his and her nails dug into his back like iron pikes. She cried for a half hour before she ever spoke. "I'm sorry I didn't ask you to come home," she finally whimpered.

He snapped up, leaving the comfort of her scent. "Izzy, I've told you before in my letters—"

"No, you don't get it," she interrupted. "I haven't been able to think about anyone else since you left. And I hated it. I hated you for it, so I found someone else. Meliorn. I knew it was messed up but… we did things, and we got caught and he suffered for it to keep it a secret, to protect me. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I didn't tell anyone. I thought, since you weren't coming back, that I could spend the rest of my life in the court and it wouldn't matter. I'm so sorry."

He shushed her as lovingly as he could. He really didn't care if she'd screwed some other guy while he was away. They hadn't been a couple. He could see how much it hurt her and he was used to falling in love with people who could never really love him back. However, this one did. Wholeheartedly, it seemed. And, as much as he'd have liked to have been the kind of guy who got all possessive and jealous, he cared about her too much to worry about something so trivial.

"Izzy, I don't care. I'm not going anywhere, not until you send me away. Okay?"

He tried to sound as nonjudgmental as possible but the thirst was starting to make it hard to speak. It'd been too long since he last fed. He had his usual meal-in-a-bag somewhere in his things back in Jocelyn and Luke's living room but he didn't really think he could bring himself to part from Izzy so he swallowed hard and hoped he didn't die before she finally told him she loved him and wanted to have his scrawny, vampire babies. That was just the sort of ironic crap he had come to expect of the world and would not be surprised by it at all.

When he started tensing up and clenching painfully, Izzy realized what it was and pushed him off her. "Izzy, wait!" he shouted through gritted fangs. "I'm fine. It's fine. Don't go. I'm not going to hurt you!"

"Simon, when was the last time you fed?" she scolded from across the room, her fists firmly planted on her hips. He sat up in bed and looked down, ashamed of his clenched teeth. Izzy sighed and walked towards him, undoing the ties on the back of her dress, one still covered in ink and blood from the day before. She hadn't had time to change.

"Iz, what are you doing?" he hissed, painfully trying to move but finding it too difficult at the sight of her exposed neck and chest. Her dress fell too easily to the floor and Simon now knew that God was trying to punish him for something.

He knew Izzy had no problems with nudity from their last, shameful physical encounter, which he often replayed in his head on those lonely nights in a glass city full of loveable freaks. He knew he loved her body more than he loved food so he couldn't bring himself to break skin. And yet, as she crawled into bed with his immoveable corpse, he began to wonder if she wanted to give for once instead of just take.

She straddled him, which was painful for him in more ways than one, and bent down so he had full access to her neck. When he hesitated, she pulled her hair back, revealing the beautiful, pale flesh. Long and soft and… He gave a low whine, something animalistic that he didn't think himself capable of, and brought his lips to her neck. She was filthy, he knew, from their travels and their friends' ordeal but he didn't care.

He fought with himself to the very end, and then he dug in. And she moaned like she hadn't done that first night and she pressed herself against him, and he drank as much as she allowed.

Afterwards, fully aware that this might be her last night with him as she was, she stripped him down and lied atop him for a moment. This time, he wasn't the same scared little idiot he'd once been. His arms held her with confidence and he kissed her with longing and it made her feel like it was worth living just a while longer. It wasn't exactly love, not to her. It was safety that drew her in. And she drank of it as easily as he drank from her.

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Jace was woken at midnight by the sounds of a creaking door. He'd always been a light sleeper, easily woken by faraway sounds. Clary slept like a rock so he could easily slip away to tend to Izzy, standing at the door in the same clothes as three days ago with a look of triumphant defeat like he'd never seen before. He slipped on some pants and grabbed a shirt off the back of a seat and followed her out into the hall where they could whisper and hiss angrily in peace.

"What the hell is it, Iz?" he asked, pulling his shirt over his head.

She looked from him to the closed door and back again. "Clary's spending the night with you?" she asked so softly that he barely heard it.

He raised an eyebrow at her and shrugged. "Maryse sent you? She didn't say anything before! She even brought us blankets. Come on, Isabelle. Just let Clary sleep, at least."

She clasped her hand over his mouth to shut him up but he glared at her to take it away as though threatening to bite her. "No, no. Mom didn't send me. It's great. Really. It's great that you're getting what you want."

"Then what—"

"It's midnight of the full moon, Jace. I have an appointment with a Queen and I'd like you to take me, if that's okay."

He cursed rapidly to himself. He turned back towards the door and ran two gentle fingers over the carvings on the wood, a small goodbye in case he didn't make it back.

"Don't worry. I told them I'd pay your debt. I intend to keep my word. I just want someone there to watch me go," she begged. "You're the only one who understands why I have to do it, why I have to go. I know you won't try to stop me or do anything stupid to take my place. You've got Clary. You wouldn't risk anything anymore, right?"

He sighed and reluctantly shook his head. He didn't say anything, just followed her out of the Institute, two ghosts in the night. They had to mark themselves to avoid catching pneumonia in the damn lake later on but they make it to the park without incident. Nobody stopped them. Nobody knew they were missing, though they would certainly be missed later on.

Meliorn was waiting for her by the lake entrance, pacing about. He seemed surprised to see Jace there. "I thought you'd leave the runts at home. He decide he's going to grow some balls at last and take his punishment himself?"

Jace took a step forward and was about stab Meliorn with the first weapon he could carve out of a tree or something when he realized that it was exactly what the man wanted. "You don't want her to stay?" Jace whispered his realization aloud. "Ah, dammit, Iz. He loves you too? What do you have, a candy shop under that skirt?"

Meliorn scoffed but Izzy didn't let him reply. "I know," she answered for him. "But it's okay. It wouldn't have mattered if he did or not. There's no reason for me to stay behind anymore. I don't want to hurt anyone else anymore."

She stared down at her hands folded before her. "Izzy, no!" both boys scolded.

"Just take me to the queen." Before either could stop her, she had already walked into the freezing lake. Jace had no choice but to follow. He gritted his teeth and clenched his hands into fists and dove in. It was the same experience as always. Unpleasant.

He rose up out of the water and found Izzy was already being walked to the queen. He ran up after her but she held the determined walk of a reluctant bride going down the altar. He felt useless for once. No amount of angelic strength was going to keep these creatures at bay. He knew he had Clary to get back to, just like Izzy had foreseen. But he also knew that maybe he could wrangle some kind of deal to his previous deal. There had to be some other way.

He had perhaps a second to spare before the queen stood but he ran up behind Izzy and ripped off part of her skirt. She screamed out for him to stop. Meliorn came to pull him off but the queen ordered everyone still.

"I have it!" shouted Jace, waving a filthy piece of dress in the air. "I have what you asked for, your highness."

"Jace, what the hell do you think you're doing?" hissed Izzy, pulling him back away from the queen who now eyed the piece of cloth curiously.

"Bring it to me," she ordered and Jace carefully handed it to one of the others to pass to her on her throne. He backed up and took Izzy's hand, so firmly that his knuckles turned white and her fingers went numb. She didn't care. They were both staring with awe and anticipation at the queen who now studied a large blot of black ink on the dress.

"It's what you asked for," said Jace. "The blood of the other boy? It's there, in the ink. His bones are probably there too. And on time, I might add."

Izzy's jaw fell a little open. Meliorn took a step forward and did the same. Nobody else seemed to notice or care about their interaction. They got bored the moment the ripping of the dress just showed a little leg and nothing more.

After the longest minute of their lives, the queen – already having deemed their accord pointless given both visitors' love-filled aura – waved them off. "You may go," she said. "But first… I want a kiss."

Jace rolled his eyes. "Another one? Clary isn't even here. And she's not my sister!"

The queen ignored him completely. Her attention was fixed on Izzy and Meliorn. Isabelle quickly understood and straightened, turning slowly towards Meliorn.

"Oh Iz…" whispered Jace. He stood back and let it happen. This wasn't a matter of cruelty or vengeance. This was about giving her subject one last chance with his current, human obsession.

"Goodbye, Isabelle…" Meliorn whispered, leaning in slowly.

Jace had hoped that no one had missed him but time could be a little tricky in the court, if the queen deemed it so. They got out just before sunrise and didn't make it back to the Institute till a bit after that. They could hear the screaming from the entrance. Jace groaned and hurried down the path to his room. Surely enough, just as he'd heard, Clary was throwing a tantrum into her cell phone.

"…Simon, I don't care if the Institute doesn't like you! My boyfriend is missing and you're my supernaturally charged best friend. Get your butt over here! No, he didn't leave a note! Would you just get here?" She went on and on.

He leaned in the doorway and watched the scene with a small smirk. He kind of liked seeing her worry, pacing before their bed. Alec reclined in the sofa in the corner, obviously sleep-deprived and still clearly wearing his boxers and a t-shirt. He used to be a pajama kind of guy before Magnus but maybe flannel was too much of a hassle. In the low lamp light, Jace was sure he saw some errant glitter in his hair, making his smirk brighter.

Alec saw him first and quickly crossed his legs, straightening up. He'd been slipping down his seat and the boxers were quickly turning into briefs. He rubbed at his eyes and, noticing Jace's confident smirk, relaxed even further. He got up, stretched, and walked right past Jace, yawning. Clary turned around then, going to scream about a search party, when she caught Jace's easy stance against the doorframe.

"Forget it, Simon. I found him," she said and hung up quickly.

Before she could begin to complain, Isabelle walked up behind him, looking just as shabby, wet, and with a rip up the side of her dress. Jace looked back and realized what it probably looked like. A midnight romp in a nearby swimming pool. His eyes shot open and he snapped around to face her, to explain, but she was already wrapping her arms around his neck and embracing him like he'd been gone a year.

"Don't you ever leave in the middle of the night again without leaving me a note! I was worried!" she said into his neck.

He chuckled and pushed her away, caressing her cheek before leaning in for a soft kiss. It wasn't like his usual kisses, the forbidden ones or the we're-about-to-die-so-make-it-good ones. It was the I-think-we're-gonna-make-it kind and even someone as uneducated in the language of kisses as Clary understood. She smiled. It was all she could do in reply. She understood crazy one-man crusades against untold evil. She had pioneered that specific category of crazy.

"I'm glad you're home," she whispered and they walked off to the shower where he explained everything over the sounds of running water as Clary stood nearby, watching through steam-covered glass.

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"This dress is ridiculous," Clary muttered for the fourth time, flattening the purple ruffles in the front into place with her free hand. The other held her bouquet and, precariously dangling from two fingers, her matching purple heels.

Izzy and Jace watched in amazement on the other side of the room, already dressed to perfection. Leave it to Izzy to make purple ruffles seem sexy and to Jace to look like he's not really trying in a fancy black tux. "Clary, you can't fit that many knives on a garter belt," he warned. "This is not the best place to practice your concealed weapons training."

"Oh no. She can do it," replied Izzy. "I bet her a week's whip training on it."

"She wanted an extra week of training?" asked Jace, astonished given the state of the training room dummy, Bobby, after the last session.

Clary scoffed and started putting on her shoes, hopping around on one foot. Jace went to help but she just shoved the bouquet at him to hold. "I wanted a week without training. God, don't you remember what happened to Bobby the Forsaken Dummy?"

"I have faint memories of screaming like a schoolgirl at the sight of it, yes," he answered through gritted teeth. She ended up holding onto his shoulder for balance then quickly straightened. A light knock sounded at the door and Simon snuck his head in.

"Everybody decent?" he called out, a bit too enthusiastic about catching one of us in mid-wardrobe change. Clary glared at him and Jace shoved the bouquet at him to hold. He barely noticed. His eyes were fixed on Isabelle, as they usually were. They'd had this routine for months. They'd stand on opposite sides of the room and stare awkwardly, trying to avoid and acknowledge each other at the same time.

Clary and Jace just sighed in unison, more than tired of the routine already. It hit a crescendo at the rehearsal dinner two nights ago when the staring apparently got violent and Simon stormed out of room with his Don't Feed the Vampire joke bib still wrapped around his neck. It had been Jace's idea, of course, and Simon had been too distracted by the low neck on Isabelle's little black dress to notice, making it all the funnier to everyone else at the dinner table.

"For crying out loud, guys!" shouted Jace. "Simon, if you really can't stand the sight of her, go back to Idris already. Or better yet, go find Maia and get laid already. Just stop it with the crazy looks. Life's too short, man."

"I'm immortal," he reminded, turning his deathly stare to Jace.

"Oh… right. Well, you're fucked then. Looks like you're going to be stuck being all grumpy and brokenhearted for eternity. More live theater for the rest of us."

Simon was about to punch Jace for the third time since the ink city dried up when Clary stepped in the middle, looking like a cross-pollination between a Disney piñata and an eggplant. Both men took a step back. Nobody messed with that dress. In fact, Jace was quite sure that he should keep her from the kids' table at all cost to prevent even more unnecessary crying at the reception. He'd already had about six arguments with Clary about the wedding alone and he didn't need another one, not tonight.

Or maybe he did. He figured Clary would have marriage on the brain and would start putting out words like "life partner" and "mate" into everyday conversation one of these days. They had pretty much gone from strangers to casual flirtations to forbidden romances in a matter of months. They were at the soulmates stage and he was starting to get freaked. He was actually quite sure that he'd be the one crying today if Clary decided to pull an emotional bridesmaid act all of a sudden.

After all, it was her mom getting married. Her mom and her surrogate, werewolf father. It didn't get more apple pie than that.

"Why don't you let us girls finish getting ready, eh?" suggested Clary.

"Us girls?" echoed Izzy, her annoyance reaching its zenith. "I'm not—You're already dressed!"

"Oh come on!" Jace shouted, pulling Izzy outside. They just didn't want her and Simon in the same room longer than necessary. They closed the door behind them and Clary was left with her greatest friend, dancing around each other like schoolchildren at their first dance. It hadn't been this awkward before, had it? They were as close as ever but when it came to the topic of Isabelle, they still danced.

"What happened? You ran out at dinner and I still don't know why. Why aren't you answering your phone?" Clary asked, going to put the little flowers in her hair like Jocelyn instructed. He took a seat across the room and watched, bored and all sorts of conflicted.

"How do you and Jace do it?" he asked.

Clary spun around. "Do what?" she screeched.

Instantly, he shot her a look and explained, "How do you have a relationship like you do? I mean, you fight all the time. He's back to being his usual jerky self and you're back to defending him like he's some messiah and you still love each other. How do you do it?"

She shrugged and, sure there was no fixing her hair anymore, gave her answer her full attention. "It's love," she said, unsure of what else could be said. "What happened between you two? You never said and I didn't think it was right of me to ask."

He closed his eyes. "She never came back," he whispered. "After that night at the Seelie Court. She never came back to me. She never… It started everything. It ended everything."

Clary fought the urge to laugh. "Hey Simon, you know how Jace and I fight but we still love each other to bits? Do you ever wonder if maybe relationships are just a balance between chaos and support? We make mistakes every day. Most can be forgiven. Believe me when I say that if you love her, and I sort of know you do, you'll go after her. She didn't stay with Meliorn, right? She could have. Maybe she's just waiting for you to go after her. That's the one thing Jace always got right. He may have been wrong to love me back then but he sure as hell went after me while he could."

"I remember," he said, narrowing his eyes into slits.

"But what happened at the dinner?"

He sighed. "Well, I hadn't eaten and she saw that and started… well, it was vampire neck porn, Clare."

She shook her head with disbelief. She didn't even answer. His problems were completely inconsequential in comparison to the evils that lurked outside that church. He knew this but he also never went back to Idris. That was the true conflict. He might be leaving soon. He might not. And, as much as Simon hoped her presence made some difference on his decision, it didn't. He just wanted some assurance that she'd be there for him when he came back. At the same time, Izzy knew that he was to leave soon and she didn't know if she could wait. She had considered going with him but none of that mattered today.

It was Luke and Jocelyn's wedding. Clary went to meet Jace before the entrance to the hall. He shot her a smirk and fought back the giggles. They, being best man and maid of honor, walked in first and took their place. Luke looked like an anxious puppy, oddly decent without all the plaid. His hair was cut, his face shaved, and it seemed that his hands were sweating profusely because he kept fumbling about with them. Folded in front or folded in back? Down by his sides? He couldn't seem to decide. Behind him was Magnus, trying to whisper to him to relax. He wore a white suit, something Chinese in style but simply enough to make it obvious he was presiding over the ceremony, not the second groom.

Then Jocelyn walked in wearing white, her hair cascading down in red waves adorned with white flowers. Everyone held their breath as she walked, an instinctive reaction to beauty. Even eight months pregnant and large as an ox, no one could compare. She reached the altar and everything stood still before their new life could begin.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" Magnus' voice boomed throughout the hall. "I am not one for traditional speeches or quoting from bibles but, on this occasion, I think it appropriate to begin with these words. We have traveled far just to come back where we began, to prove we deserve to be here, and if that doesn't say something about the inevitability of this perfect union, I don't know what does."

Clary looked to Jace. Magnus looked down to Alec, whose hand flew up to his heart over his new tattoo. And Simon, against his better judgment, faced Izzy in hopes that she'd be looking back. Their eyes met and it was a silent accord. As Magnus continued, the words grew more and more significant. Even if they never got to find their mate the way Jocelyn and Luke had found each other, at least they had learned what love was.

In their own ways, they had each found a reason to fight and it made it that much easier to go on.

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Reviews are better than I-think-we're-gonna-make-it kisses… but only slightly.