The Great Hall in Idris was much as Clary had remembered. The past 5 years had been spent rebuilding and scourging and remaining mark that Valentine might have left. Tonight, in remembrance of his defeat, the Shadowhunters had gathered to celebrate the victory over him. For such a celebration, the Shadowhunters had decorated the Hall with as much grandeur as they could muster. There were sparkling lights everywhere. Some of them witchlights, but many old-fashioned candles and lanterns. Silvery streamers hung from every available surface and swayed in the cool evening breeze coming through the front entrance as people arrived.
Clary arrived with the Lightwoods and Jace. Jace had his arm around her waist and she leaned into his side, head against his shoulder.
"Have I told you that you look exceptionally beautiful tonight?" Jace whispered in her ear. Clary had chosen a gown reminiscent of the one she wore 5 years ago, silver in color and delicate. Her red curls glowed in the light of the candles, and the sparkling clips reflected the light and shone brightly in contrast.
Feeling oddly formal, Clary replied, "Why thank you, sir. May I say, you are looking quite handsome yourself." Jace had chosen a well fitting suit, black of course. His black shirt and tie creating a monochromatic look that on anyone else would have caused them to look like a mortician. Jace, on the other hand, managed to look even more perfect than usual. His golden hair shone brightly against the dark material of his outfit, and his eyes were sparkling in the candlelight. Grasping her hand, he began to lead her through the crowd.
As they walked, Clary became aware that people were whispering and staring as they walked by. It did not subside as they reached the refreshments. As Jace turned to pour them both something to drink, Clary whispered, "Why is everyone staring at us?"
Jace smirked, "Well, they're looking at me because I look rakishly handsome. They're looking at you, because you are with me. And, perhaps, because you have a unique gift with runes that everyone has heard about and most have not seen in person." He handed her a flute of champagne. "I'm sure together, we are a fascinating subject."
"Well, it's making me uncomfortable," Clary said, casting furtive glances at the other party-goers.
"It's something we must learn to deal with. Such is the fate of...well, well, well, look who just arrived." Jace indicated the entrance with a finger.
In walked a man followed by a swirl of glittery capes. Clary immediately recognized him as the warlock Magnus Bane. She watched as he threaded his way through the crowd, ignoring the increased glances and whispers of the onlookers. When he reached them, Clary greeted him. Jace expressed his surprise at Magnus's presence at the celebration.
"Well, little Shadowhunter, I was rather instrumental to the reason for this shindig." Magnus drawled, helping himself to some grapes from the table behind them.
"Actually, I was more surprised that you didn't seek Alec out before finding us."
"Alec asked that we arrive separately. Though, really, I don't understand why. The last time we were in this room together he was kissing me with rather wild abandon, seems like us arriving together would rather pale in comparison." Though Magnus's words seemed as though he was hurt by Alec's actions,he had long accepted the fact that Alec was still not quite comfortable with flouting their relationship in public. "I see, though, that I am not the only one attracting intrigued looks this evening. Ms. Clary, I see several men looking your way. As they should, you look magnificent!" He grabbed her hand and forced her into an awkward swirl as he appraised her outfit.
Once she regained her composure, Clary said, "I've noticed, but I doubt it has anything to do with the way I look."
"Well, it's certainly one reason. You are a beautiful young Shadowhunter with extraordinary gifts. Any man in this room would love to have you on his arm."
"Good thing she's taken then." Jace's arm snaked around her waist, becoming more possessive than affectionate.
"Unfortunately for you most of the powerful men in this room will not care that she is with you, so long as there is no official announcement..." Magnus looked significantly at Clary's left hand.
It was actually quite unusual for Shadowhunters to have been together for as long as Clary and Jace had been without at least becoming engaged. It was a subject that neither of them felt comfortable discussing in private, or in public. People tended to do that for them, and each knew that coming back to Idris would only increase the discussions surrounding their relationship. Speculations ran rampant as to why they were not moving in the marriage direction, but both Clary and Jace resolutely ignored them.
Before Jace or Clary could respond to Magnus a loud clap resounded throughout the Hall, followed by a booming voice. "Welcome ladies and gentleman. The Clave is happy to welcome each of you to this grand celebration. Five years ago, the Clave's greatest threat was defeated. Many of our own Shadowhunters gave their lives fighting the demons raised by Valentine. Tonight we remember them, and the brave Shadowhunters and Downworlders who fought for Idris." The man raised his glass, and the group echoed his motion. "Now," he said, "drink and enjoy the evening!" With that, soft music filled the room, and Shadowhunters began to migrate to the dance floor.
It was at this point that Alec chose to join them. Magnus offered him a glass of champagne, which he took gladly. Alec always looked extremely uncomfortable in social situations. He drained the glass in one gulp and motioned for another.
"I've been groped three times by two old women who keep eying me and making rude comments about my...anatomy."
"You probably shouldn't wear such tight pants." Jace commented wryly.
"It doesn't help that you are so unbelievably attractive. Of course I'm sure I could help you with that. I doubt they would bother you if they realized you didn't...swing that way." Magnus drawled.
The group laughed, but it was interrupted when a young man joined them and asked "Clary, may I have the next dance?" The young man was tall, taller than Jace and even Alec. He had light brown hair, cut short. His features were sharp, but not unpleasant. His eyes were dark blue, and stood out in contrast to his golden skin. He looked at her expectantly, holding out a hand. He was certainly attractive. Clary felt Jace tense beside her.
"How do you know my name?" Clary asked.
"I doubt there is anyone in this room who does not know your name, Clarissa Morgenstern." He took her hand and led her to the dance floor. With an apologetic look back towards Jace, she followed him.
Once on the floor, the young man put his strong arms around her and confidently led her across the floor. Clary had never really attempted dancing before, but with this man it seemed effortless. It probably helped that she wasn't really doing anything besides following his lead. Lost in thought, Clary realized something.
"I don't even know your name."
The man laughed. "My name is Andrew. Andrew Peverell."
Clary looked perplexed, but commented, "I don't think I've heard your name before. Does your family usually stay in Idris?"
"No, we stay abroad. Paris mostly, but we travel a good bit. I haven't been back to Idris in years."
"So what brought you back tonight?"
Andrew flashed a grin. "You, actually."
"Me?" Clary questioned.
"Of course. Your name has become quite famous among Shadowhunters, even abroad. I was curious to meet you, and discover exactly what made you so special."
Feeling uncomfortable, Clary said, "And what do you think?"
He laughed, "I think you are beautiful, and interesting. I've been watching you this evening and you are even more of a mystery than you were before I met you. You are the daughter of one of the most notorious Shadowhunters in history, have these rumored gifts none of us even dreamed were possible, and yet you seem so unpretentious and almost uncomfortable with the attention. Yes, you are very interesting Clarissa."
Not knowing how to respond, Clary and Andrew remained silent for the remainder of the dance. Clary glanced back at Jace and could see the tautness in his jaw even across the crowded dance floor. When the music finally ended, Clary withdrew from Andrew's touch.
"Thank you for the dance, Clarissa."
"Thank you, Andrew." After an awkward second, she continued, "I should really get back to my friends."
"Of course. I hope to get the chance to speak with you again before the night is over."
Clary nodded and turned around. She felt confused and uncomfortable. She had never gotten used to the thought of other people knowing who she was, who she was related to, and whatever "gifts" she had. It made her especially uncomfortable knowing that there were strangers out there who thought she was someone worth meeting, and getting to know, as if she was a political or society connection.
When she reached the table where Jace, Alec and Magnus were seated, she took the chair next to Jace. Still silent, she realized they were all staring at her.
Magnus spoke first, "You do realize who that was, right?"
"He said his name was Andrew Peverell. Am I supposed to know who that is?"
Alec spoke next, "His father is Nicholas Peverell, a very high ranking member of the Clave. Andrew is expected to succeed him in a few years, since his father died a few years back. Of course, there are rumors..." his voice trailed off.
"What rumors", Clary asked.
Alec started, "Well, it's been said-"
"He has to get married." Jace interrupted, his voice empty.
Alec shot him a look. "Right. That's what I was going to say. Andrew has a bit of a reputation with women. His grandfather is threatening to offer his seat to a cousin if he doesn't settle down. Of course, he also wants Andrew to make an advantageous marriage, someone of a good name and family."
"Or fame." Magnus added. "And it appears, little Shadowhunter, that Andrew has taken a liking to you."
At this statement, Jace violently shoved his chair back from the table and stalked away from the group. Knowing what was wrong, Clary didn't voice her concerns, she just watched his retreating form disappear into the crowd.
"You know, if you two would just make some sort of step with your relationship this wouldn't be a problem." Alec stated once Jace could no longer be seen.
"It's not that simple. I mean, yes, we've been together for a while, but that doesn't mean we're ready to make that step. Besides, I think you forget that I wasn't raised a Shadowhunter. The whole 'getting married young' thing still seems weird to me" Clary didn't add one of the larger reasons why she and Jace hadn't taken their relationship further. Jace was still afraid of the stigma of being "siblings", even though by now most people knew that they weren't related by blood, they did both have a connection to Valentine. Jace still thought of him as a father of sorts, and he was Clary's father. It wasn't incestuous, and technically, there wasn't anything wrong with it, but it was still looked on as a bit...strange.
Having clearly missed part of the conversation, Clary came back to hear Magnus talking.
"...get over it, really."
"Get over what?" Clary asked indignantly.
"I said, either get over it, or be done with it. That Andrew is one hot dish, he's got connections, and he obviously wants you. If you and Jace aren't going to go anywhere, and people have noticed that by the way, then other men are going to pursue you. You're special, Clary, to us for many reasons, but to the Clave for different ones. I told you before, you are someone most Shadowhunter families would like to be connected with, " Magnus stated matter of factly.
"Thank you, Magnus, glad to know I can always come to you for personal advice." Clary was beginning to become seriously uncomfortable with this situation. She looked around the room for Jace, and spotted him leaning against a far wall.
"It's what I'm here for, Clary. I tend to tell the truth, how I see it anyway."
Clary sighed, "I should go find Jace." She stood up and made her way through the crowd. When she reached him, she lifted her hand to take his.
"Hey," she said softly.
Jace clenched his jaw, but said nothing. He stood with one shoulder pressed against the wall, his face turned away from the crowd. She saw his strong profile, and rather inappropriately for the situation, admired the strength in his face and the affect that the clenching had on accentuating his cheekbones.
"Hey," she said, louder this time. "You realize I did nothing wrong here, right? There's absolutely no reason for you to take out your insecurities on me" Realizing that was probably a little harsher than she had intended she said, "I love you, Jace."
Still not facing her, he said, "It was difficult to tell that, with you prancing around the dance floor with that pin-headed oaf."
"Now you're just being mean. Just because some other man looked at me is no reason to get so angry."
He sneered, "I bet you enjoy that, don't you? That other men admire you? Like you? Want to marry you?"
Clary felt her own anger rise. "Well, it's not like I've had any other offers!"
Jace looked at her then, and his expression was as if she had physically slapped him. The anger in his eyes died out completely, and was replaced with this infinite sadness. When he spoke, his voice sounded thick, as if he were holding back tears, "If that's what you want, then you should go to him." He turned his head away again, and leaned it against the wall, closing his eyes.
Clary had never seen Jace like this. Jace fought for things, it was his nature. She'd never seen him give up on anything, ever. That it was her that he was letting go either said that he truly wanted her to be happy, or that he was just so insecure about their relationship that he actually thought she would rather be with someone else. She figured it was probably a combination of the two.
She grabbed his face and turned it toward her, though he still wouldn't open his eyes. "What I want, Jace, is you. In whatever package that means-marriage, engagement, relationship, friendship, whatever. As long as you are in my life, I'm happy. If you can't tell that, if you think I've just been wasting my time with you for the last five years, then you're just crazier than I thought."
He looked at her then, his golden eyes full of sorrow. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then thought better of it and closed his mouth again.
Clary spoke again, "We fought too hard to be together. I get that we have issues. I can handle that, but if you can't..." She let the weight of her words finish the sentence for her.
Pausing again, Jace looked at her thoughtfully, then held out his hand. "May I have this dance?"
Rather taken aback by the abrupt change in subject, she said, "Jace, I'm not sure if right now - "
With a resigned sigh, he interrupted her, "Just dance with me, Clary."
For the second time that evening, a confused and rattled Clary followed a man onto the dance floor. Once among the other dancing couples, Jace slowly encircled his arms around Clary's waist. Her arms went around his shoulders and she automatically leaned into his chest, loving the familiarity and comfort of being close to Jace. While dancing with Andrew had been effortless, dancing with Jace was like a perfect harmony. The two of them complementing each other as they eased around the floor.
Teasingly, Clary said softly, "Is there not some manly rule against dancing?"
She was surprised to see that when she looked up in his face, tears were running down Jace's cheeks. When he spoke, it was so quietly whispered, she had to strain to hear it. "Clary, I love you so much. It sounds cliche and contrite, but I don't know what I would do without you."
Then, he was kissing her. For a moment, she gave thought to the fact that she was surrounded by strangers who were probably already discussing her, but then she gave in and reveled in the bliss of being kissed by the man she loved. The feel of his lips on hers was both familiar and exciting. She could feel the wetness on his cheeks and taste the saltiness in his mouth. They did not break it off for several seconds, and when she finally pulled away she saw a small smile on Jace's face and knew it was echoed on her own.
From beside her, she heard a laughing voice, "what is it with the Lightwood family and making a spectacle of their love lives in this room?" She turned to see Magnus and Alec nearby. Alec responded, "At least now no one can claim they didn't realize Clary and Jace are a couple!"
Without replying, she and Jace laughed. Easing back into his arms, she realized that what she said earlier was true. As long as Jace was in her life, she was happy. They had problems, and they would have to face them eventually, but for now she was happy just being close to him and knowing that he was hers. Ring or no ring.