**The character names of The Mortal Instruments are owned by Cassandra Clare. The original content, ideas and intellectual property of this story are owned by ddpjclaf, 2010. Please do not copy, reproduce, or translate without express written permission.**

29. Hands that Heal

As with any story, it's always hard to let go. But when it's time, it's time. Cass and Spitfire have told their story, and now it's time to move on. I have so enjoyed writing these two. Their passion, humor, and heartbreak became mine. That is my favorite part of crafting stories—to be able to live there, in their lives and world, just for a little while. I'm sad, as always, that this story has come to a close, but I'm happy about where it ends. There will be questions unanswered, things you'll probably wonder about, but if I haven't addressed them, it's probably because I don't know or they're not important. Believe it or not, a writer doesn't always know everything! Do I know what's going to happen after this chapter? Nope. Your guess is as good as mine! You can imagine anything and everything happening and you may be right!

Now, I said this was epilogue-esque, and the reason I said that was because it takes place a little bit into the future—not very far though. The larger plot of the story is over. Clary knows everything. The bad guys are either dead or behind bars. The good guys are either prospering or not. Life is moving on. This is just a teeny, tiny glimpse into the immediate future, and an even smaller one into what may happen later . . .

As always, I thank my lovely beta, Lightlacedwithbeauty. She's stuck with me through this entire beast of a story, and for that I will always be grateful. I love you, girl. *muah*

There are several of you who I have become close enough with to consider friends. You know who you are, and I love you too.

In closing, to all of you who have stuck with me even when you weren't quite sure where I was going . . . thank you for trusting me, for living this journey with me, Cass, and Spitfire. For allowing me to tell their story the way it was meant to be told. I know it wasn't always pretty, and some of you were scared I may do something unforgivable, but none of you ever told me how to write, or in which direction to go (well, some gave strongly worded suggestions, haha), and for that, I will forever be thankful. I've had a wonderful time writing for you all. So wonderful, in fact, I wish I had another story to give you, but I don't. Not right now. Maybe not ever—at least not fanfiction. We'll see how things work out for me. So, just in case we don't see each other again—or for awhile, please, come visit me on twitter and on my blog (links in my profile.) I'll be around. So, as DJ might say: Hasta luego, mis amigos. Te quiero.

I hope you enjoy this final chapter.

XOXO ~ddpjclaf

Chapter Songs:

**Stop Crying Your Heart Out – Oasis

**Halo - Beyoncé

"Just one more."

Clary pushed against the weights with her legs, sweat pouring down her temple and pain lancing her side. She tried to breathe through it like Rachel, her physical therapist, taught her, but it wasn't working. There was always a small ache present, no matter what she did, or how she moved. But when she worked hard, the pulling and stretching of the scar tissue inside was almost too much to bear. She let out a sharp breath through her teeth and dropped her leg. The weights clanged down on the machine.

She shook her head and curled inward, her hand cupped around her side. "I can't." Tears welled in her eyes, not just because of the hurt, but also because of disappointment. Four months had passed since the night she'd been shot. Four months of surgery and pain and therapy. Four months of "two steps forward, two steps back." Things had gotten better, but she was far from healed. Some days, she wondered if she ever would be.

"It's okay. We can try the extra weight on Monday," Rachel said.

Clary dropped her head back onto the padded headrest. She lifted her arm and swiped the sweat and tears away from her face. God, she hated how emotional she'd become. "I know. I was just hoping to be further along by now."

"It's only been a few months, and the trauma your body received was extensive. It's natural for it to resist. Sometimes these things just take time. You can only push so hard."

"I know that." Clary hung her head and drew in a breath, another pain cinched in her abdomen. "It's just . . . my boyfriend's coming back today and I . . . I was hoping . . ." She closed her eyes to hold back another bout of tears.

It seemed like longer than four months since she'd woken in the hospital to Jace leaning over her. Since the last time she'd been with him, since he'd touched her, kissed her.

"I'm sure he'll understand. From how you describe him, he seems like he would."

"I know he will," Clary said. "But he shouldn't have to simply understand. He shouldn't have to restrain himself when he wants to hold me . . . or even touch me. I'm just . . ." She swiped angrily at her eyes, clearing away the traitor tears that refused to go away. "I'm just sick of it. I want . . . I want . . ." She wanted to be well, to be how she had been and not this weak, useless, damaged . . . thing.

"Clary," Rachel sat on the bench, "you can have everything you had before. You're healing wonderfully. Trust me. It's just going to take a little time and patience. Nothing has to be different between you and your boyfriend." She smiled knowingly. "He'll just have to be a little bit careful with you for awhile."

Clary nodded and dried her cheeks again. Time. Everything seemed to take time. All she wanted was for time to pass. Since the day they'd taken him away, she'd never wanted anything more.

Rachel patted Clary's knee. "Same time on Wednesday, okay?"


"All right." Rachel leaned in and whispered, "I believe your ride is here."

Clary glanced up. Standing near the front of the gym studying a poster for a women's bodybuilding competition, was Simon. He held his head cocked to the side, his lip curled up in disgust. Clary couldn't help the smile creeping over her lips. She stood carefully and limped over to where her things were situated. She shoved her jacket, towel, and sports bottle into her bag, grabbed the ugly, black walking stick the hospital had given her, and made her way over to where Simon waited.

"Hey," she said when she reached him, already aching just walking across the room.

Simon reached out and took her bag absently, his focus still on the poster. His eyes slid away from the beefed up woman, almost as if he had to force them, and met Clary's. "Do these women realize they look like dudes? I mean, seriously."

"I bet you wouldn't say that to their faces."

"No way," Simon said, giving Clary his arm so she didn't have to use the walking stick. He knew how much she hated the thing. "I'm secure enough in my manhood to admit that any one of them could most definitely take me down."

Clary threw her head back and laughed. Through all that had happened, Simon had remained, essentially, the same. She was glad for it. Everything else in her life had been turned upside down, and in some cases, transformed so completely she couldn't even recognize them anymore. But not Simon. He was still goofy, still dorky, still hers. He'd always be hers.

They pushed through the door and exited onto the sidewalk. Sunlight shone down in beams from small breaks in the thick clouds overhead. Clary felt the undercurrent of warmth in the air. Early spring flowers pushed through thin layers of snow, adding a bit color to the bland, gray landscape on the patch of grass outside the hospital doors. A yellow taxi waited near the curb. It cost more than the metro, but Clary had a hard time making it up and down the stairs to the station, especially after one of her therapy sessions. This was just easiest for now.

Simon helped Clary into the cab and directed the driver to their apartment. Clary stared out the window, watching the city blur past and thinking about seeing Jace again. The last image she had of him was when they'd come for him at the hospital. One minute he was bent over her, his hand on her face, a smile on his lips, whispering so softly. And the next, Agents burst into her room, cuffed Jace's hands behind his back, and led him toward the door. She could still clearly remember the way he turned to her, grinned, and said, "No matter what happens, Spitfire, for me, it was all worth it," before they shoved him out the door.

"So, tonight's the night, huh?" Simon's voice broke through her thoughts. He didn't sound pleased. Clary figured he probably wasn't. After everything went down the night of the ball, he'd had a hard time accepting Clary's forgiveness of Jace. Simon assumed she would end things. When she didn't, he hadn't spoken to her for three days—which was a long time for them.

Clary knew she had plenty of reasons to be angry. But how could she stay mad? It had been so clear to her how Jace felt, and when she looked back, she could see how tortured he'd been about everything. But most important of all, she believed him when he said he loved her.

"Yeah." She fidgeted with her fingers.

Simon glanced over at her. "Nervous?"

She nodded. "A little."


Clary shrugged and looked back out the window, but the shrug was a lie. She knew exactly why. When Jace left, or rather had been shipped off, for "rehabilitative training," she'd just woken from surgery. After that, she'd spent nearly eight weeks in the hospital. Surgery after surgery to try and fix everything that had been damaged, treating various infections, and recovering from a bout of pneumonia she'd contracted after being opened up so many times. It had just been a rough time in general. Not to mention the emotional stress having to do with her father—Valentine—her brother, Jonathan, and learning that Luke was, in fact, her biological father. When she thought about it, she could still hardly believe any of it was true. Pretty much everything she'd ever known was a lie.

She felt a hand on her knee. "This won't bother him," Simon said.

Tears pricked at her eyes. She'd been crying so much lately and—as with so many other things—she was sick of it. "You don't know that." The doubt over how Jace would feel about her now, seeing her struggling to even walk due to the nerve damage on her left side, had been nagging her for weeks. Would he really want someone like that? What if she never got better? What if hobbling around with a cane was the best it got? Clary shuddered at the thought. She thought she'd be able to make a dent in the physical therapy while he was gone, but she'd barely progressed to walking on her own. She felt pathetic and weak, and she hated it.

Simon sighed and situated himself on the seat so his knees bumped Clary's. "Look, you know I don't like the guy. I didn't before and I especially don't now. But for some ungodly reason you love him, and he loves you. He's not going to turn away from you just because you're healing slower than you thought. And if he does," Simon paused, "I guess I'll just have to punch him again." He shrugged. "It wasn't so bad last time."

"You sprained your hand last time. And he didn't hit you back. You may not be so lucky a second time."

"I'm not worried," Simon said, but his eyes told a different story. "I will always defend your honor. Even if I get my butt handed to me doing it."

Clary laid her head on Simon's shoulder, closed her eyes, and sighed. She stayed that way until she felt the cab come to a stop. Even then, part of her wanted to keep them closed, but reluctantly, she opened them. Simon exited the vehicle and came around to her side, reaching in to help her out. It had become the norm in the past several weeks, both of them learning as they went. Simon went everywhere with her, mostly because she couldn't get up or down stairs by herself, but also, Clary thought, because he felt like he needed to protect her. She still didn't like that, but at that point, she almost didn't have a choice. Her pride would have to take a hiatus because she needed help.

Simon pulled her out of the cab, careful not to yank or jar anything. Despite his efforts, it still hurt. It always hurt. She did her best not to grimace. He handed her the cane and shouldered her bag, then the two of them moved toward the front doors. Once inside, Simon stopped at the bottom of the stairs and crouched down. Clary hesitated.

He glanced over his shoulder. "It's either this or bridal style, you choose."

"God, I hate this," she said, placing her hands on his shoulders and clambering onto his back. The bridal carry hurt less, but Clary just wasn't that comfortable having Simon hold her like that. It was too personal, too . . . intimate.

"Just shut up and deal, all right? Do you think I enjoy carrying another hundred pounds up and down the stairs all day? No, but I try and look on the bright side," he said, starting up the steps to their second floor apartment.

"There's a bright side to all of this?" she asked the back of his head.

"Uh huh. My thigh muscles are going to be outstanding when this is over."

Clary laughed and buried her face into his back. She stayed there, slightly hugging him, until he came to an abrupt halt at the top of the stairs. Simon's breath caught and his body went rigid.

Clary lifted her head. "What's—" But she didn't need to finish her question.

A few yards down the hall, sitting on the floor next to her and Simon's door, was Jace. He was dressed all in black with matching boots and a hat that lay on the floor beside him. It looked like some sort of uniform. Clary had never seen him dressed that way before. Jace glanced up, his eyes taking in the two of them, and pushed himself to his feet.

Clary slid slowly down Simon's back, barely even registering the twinge at her side over the pounding of her heart. He was there. Really there. Clary's hands shook, unable to contain her nerves now that she could see him. Simon muttered something about "taking a walk," dropped her bag, and disappeared back down the stairs. Clary leaned heavily on the cane at her side, just staring.

In the four months he'd been gone, he'd changed. Not a lot, but he had. His hair was a little shorter, a little darker. His face was paler and thinner, but still just as beautiful as always. She had the sudden urge to run and jump into his arms, showering his face with kisses and holding him as tightly as she could manage. But she couldn't. She couldn't run or jump. She could barely walk. Her chin trembled and tears stung at her eyes. Before she could stop them, they fell over her cheeks.

Jace's eyes widened. "I'm sorry," he said in a rush, and took a couple of steps forward before pausing. His voice, smooth and low, sent pangs of longing through her. "I should have called and told you I was back early, but I couldn't wait. I—"

Clary shook her head. "It's not that."

Jace's shoulders relaxed but the concern on his face didn't lessen.

"It's just," she drew in a sharp breath, "you don't know how much I want to run over there and wrap myself around you, but I can't. I can't run. I . . ." She lifted the cane as more tears fell, "I just can't."

Jace was across the hallway and wrapping his arms around her before she had the chance to say another word. Clary dropped her walking stick and hugged him around the neck, her fingers slipping into his hair and her nose burrowing into the folds of his shirt. The scent of him crashed over her and a shiver slid down her spine. "God," she said, trying to stop the tears. "I don't think I can let go." She curled her fingers into his clothing.

"You don't have to let go, baby. You don't ever have to let go."

She let out a soft cry and turned her face into him, her lips kissing every piece of skin she could reach. His jaw, his neck, his chin. Jace's hands slid up her back and around to her face, directing her mouth to his. He was warm and soft and tasted just how she remembered—vanilla and mint and Jace. Her tears didn't obey and ran down her face, over her lips, coating their kiss with salt. Her fingers were on his face, in his hair, grasping at his shoulders, desperately pulling, needing, wanting, not able to get close enough.

"Hold me," she demanded, breathless.

Jace bent and tucked his hands under her thighs, lifting her onto his hips. She could tell he was being careful. He didn't squeeze her tight or jostle her too much. Clary wrapped her legs the best she could around his waist and kissed him harder, deeper. The pain in her side was still there, but she barely noticed it, too consumed by him to care.

"I missed you so much," she said between kisses.

"I missed you too." He held her up with one arm while brushing a few straggling hairs out of her face and cupping her cheek with the other. His fingers lingered at her jaw. So soft. So tender. "We should go inside before one of the neighbors decides to watch through their peep hole."

She smiled. "So, you're not into exhibitionism?"

Jace shook his head and peppered kisses to the underside of her chin. "Not today," he whispered in her ear, working his way back around to her mouth. Clary felt him start to move beneath her, then he paused in front of the door. "Keys," he murmured against her lips.

It took Clary a few moments to comprehend what he'd said, her head a mass of fog. "What? Oh." She groaned, still refusing to remove her mouth from his, afraid if she did, she'd wake up and find it was all a dream. If it was, she never wanted to wake up again. "They're in my bag."

Jace turned his face toward where she'd stood just moments before. Her bag and cane lay in the middle of the hall near the top of the stairs. Carefully, Jace lowered her to her feet. She reached out and steadied herself against the wall. He turned and made his way over to her things and bent to collect them. When he stood before her once more, he held out the bag. She rifled through the front pocket and withdrew her keys, turning slightly to place it in the lock. Once the door was open, she turned back to Jace. His eyes were lowered and studying the slick black walking stick in his hand. Clary couldn't tell what he was thinking by the look on his face.

She bit her lip and cleared her throat. Jace glanced up. "My recovery's been a little slower than expected." She reached out and took the stick from him, her fingers shaking. "I was just getting back from physical therapy."

"Hence the piggyback ride up the stairs." He offered a small smile, though it didn't reach his eyes.

"Yeah." Clary ducked her head and heat crawled up her neck. "Stairs don't really agree with me right now." She cocked her head toward the door. "Come on. You probably want to get out of those." She gestured to his clothing.

Jace peered down. When he looked back up, his mouth was pulled up in a devilish smirk. "Anxious to get me out of my clothes already, Spitfire?"

Clary eyed him. "Normally, yes, but I'm liking this whole soldier/Agent look you've got going on."

"You do, do you?" He took a few steps closer until he stood right in front of her, their bodies nearly touching with only a breath of space between them.

Clary itched to grab his shirt and pull him into her, hard. "Mmhmm." Instead, she let her fingers trail over his face, down his neck, and trace along his collarbone, gripping the starched fabric of his collar. His breath caught and his eyes darkened. "Very much." Her gaze moved over him, studying the line of his brow, the plane of his nose, the curve of his lips, the bright gold of his eyes. She thought she'd already known them all by heart, but as she stared at him now, she realized how fickle her memory really was.

"Then I should probably thank the asses who made me wear this on the flight back," his voice was rough like he was using every bit of strength to restrain himself.

Clary clutched his shirt tighter. "You really need to get in here."

"Yes, Ma'am." He nodded as his lips slammed down on hers and his arm went around her, pushing her through the open door.

Pain sliced through her side and she cried out involuntarily. Jace released her and jumped back, almost as if he'd been burned.

"Oh, God," he said, his face morphing into a look of panic. "I forgot for a second." He thrust his hand up into his hair and reached out with the other, dropping it before he actually touched her. "Are you okay?"

Clary struggled to catch her breath as the waves subsided, realizing that her entire body ached from her workout. She nodded. "It's always worse after a session. A long, hot shower usually helps."

Jace swallowed. "Right. Maybe you should go do that, then." He didn't look her in the eye.

Clary's chest squeezed. She took a step forward and tentatively reached out for him, running her hand up his arm. "You could always join me," she said, lacing her words with hope. It had been too long. Way too long. And she needed to feel him again, against her, around her.

He reached up and took her hand, entwining their fingers together before lifting them and kissing the back of hers. He smiled at her but it was reluctant, almost shy, very unlike him. "I don't think that'd be a good idea."

Disappointment rippled through her. With a short nod, she stepped back and withdrew her hand from his. She felt his eyes on her, but she couldn't bear to look up at him. "Okay then, I'll just be a few minutes."

"Clary . . ."

She heard him call to her as she turned her back and limped away, the cane clicking against the tiled parts of the floor. Tears burned her eyes, but she held them back. "Make yourself at home. You can eat or change or . . . whatever. I won't be long." Clary didn't know how she made it to her room and into the bathroom before tears fell over her cheeks. It wasn't that she didn't understand, she did. More than anyone knew. But she'd hoped it would be different. Hoped he could see her the way he had before, but maybe that was too much to wish for. Maybe she was too damaged now.

While the water heated, Clary undressed, catching her reflection in the mirror. For the most part she looked the same. Still short, still thin, still pale. It was the collection of raised, red scars lining the left side of her abdomen that really marked any change. The circular one in the middle—the one the bullet made as it ripped through her flesh—was the ugliest. It had no definite edges, only jagged ends that looked pieced together haphazardly. Several straighter scars surrounded the wound where she'd needed surgery after surgery in the months following. She closed a hand over the area and stepped into the shower, letting the hot water trail over her and wash away the grief and ache.

Clary didn't know how long she'd taken, but the water started to run cool before she turned it off. Stepping out, she dried and slipped into a clean pair of panties and a camisole she'd left in there that morning. She ran a brush through her hair and wrapped herself in a robe before exiting to her room once more.

She paused in the doorway and her breath caught when she saw Jace sitting on the corner of her bed, his hands clasped and dangling between his knees, his head down. Clary cleared her throat and he looked up, his brows drawn together and eyes pained. He hadn't changed, hadn't even taken off the heavier outer shirt of his uniform.

"I feel better now," Clary said, hoping her words would reassure him that she was okay.

He nodded slowly. "Good." His eyes traveled over her bathrobe clad body before meeting hers. There was so much emotion flashing through them, Clary didn't know how to interpret what they were trying to say. After a few moments, he spoke again, "When I said it wasn't a good idea . . . I didn't mean I didn't want you, Clary. I always want you. I just . . . I'm . . . I . . ." He lowered his head and drew in a breath, his shoulders moving up and down visibly.

Clary gripped her cane and crossed the room, stopping only when she stood less than a foot in front of him. She tucked two fingers under his chin and lifted his face to hers. "You're what?" she whispered.

He closed his eyes for a moment then opened them again. "I'm scared."

Clary frowned and studied him, her gaze raking his face and seeing the truth behind his words. "Why?"

"I'm scared to touch you. Scared I'll hurt you again. It's been so long. So long . . . I don't know if I can control myself enough to not hurt you."

She let her fingers slide along his jaw and cupped his cheek. "You won't hurt me." He started to shake his head, but Clary gripped his face tighter. His eyes rested on hers. "You won't hurt me," she repeated, her words barely a breath. "Touch me, Jace."

For what seemed like an eternity, he stared at her, indecision flashing through his eyes, but finally, he raised one hand. Anticipation flowed through Clary as Jace's fingers tangled with the knot on her robe, prying it apart and letting the ends fall to her sides. The fabric parted and Clary closed her eyes. With them shut, she knew nothing but the sensation of the smooth pile as it brushed away from her skin and the feel of his soft, tentative touch when it ghosted over her. So warm, so right, against her flesh. She knew he was seeing her scars, but she tried her hardest not to let it bother her.

Jace's fingers traced along the top of her panties, paused when they reached her left side, and Clary heard the intake of his breath before he continued upward, grazing the raised, scarred skin. It didn't hurt, he was too gentle for that, but she still felt anxiety creep over her. What did he think? Was he repulsed? But just as that thought entered her mind, she felt an entirely different sensation. It was warmer, softer—if that were possible—against the damaged part of her body. Her eyes flew open and she glanced down. Jace sat forward, his hands cupping her hips and his lips kissing her stomach, lightly, carefully. His fingers lingered at the dip of her waist, then trailed around back, curling into her, drawing her in.

"I'm sorry," he said, his breath hot against her skin. "I'm so sorry."

Clary threaded her fingers into his hair. "You didn't do this."

He shook his head and looked up at her, his eyes containing more grief than Clary ever imagined he felt. "I may as well have." He paused, and a visible shudder shook him. "It was my job to protect you and I failed. I failed you."

Clary bent and touched her lips to his forehead. "You didn't fail me." He let out an uneven breath as she moved to his cheeks and kissed one, then the other. "You saved me." Her mouth moved to his, taking it gently. "You've always saved me." He closed his eyes, and Clary slid her fingers over his face, taking in each crease and arc, the roughness of the scruff on his jaw. "You're still saving me," she whispered before kissing him again.

Jace's lips parted, in invitation, in surrender. Clary's mouth molded over his, claiming, tasting, reveling in how good it was. How good it still was. His hands stayed light at her sides, but Clary's trailed down his neck, over his shoulders, and across his chest until she met the first of the buttons on his shirt. Slowly, she popped them open, one by one. Jace moved his hands under the flaps of her robe, tracing the opening until he reached her shoulders and slipped the loose fabric from her arms. It fell in a pool at her feet. Once it was gone, he touched her again, leaving a line of fire along her back.

Clary shivered, but didn't let it stop her from pushing the shirt off from him. He helped her remove it completely, revealing a charcoal t-shirt underneath. Clary grabbed the hem and pulled it over his head without pause. There was no reason to wait. It had been long enough. Too long. An expanse of inked skin lay bare before her and she could not resist the urge to touch. She lowered her hands to his shoulders and ran them down his arms, feeling each line and curve, the flex and release of his biceps as he pulled her carefully down to the bed next him.

She lay on her side, her hands all over him, spreading over his chest, ghosting down his stomach, and trailing up over his side. Jace stretched out beside her and slipped his hand under her camisole, his touch smooth and cool like silk. His fingers spread over her ribs, his thumb brushing the side of her breast. Clary couldn't hold back the gasp that fell from her lips and pressed her hips harder into him. She pulled his face down to hers, her fingers twisted in his hair, kissing him until she couldn't breathe. Jace grasped her leg under the knee and draped it over his hip, fitting them even closer together.

Being with him like that, their bodies aligned at every point, connected by their mouths and hands, their bare skin sliding against each other, Clary could almost forget everything that had happened four months earlier. Nothing felt any different. His hands were just as careful, yet, confident, his kiss just as delicious, his body just as in tune with hers as it always had been. The same all-consuming fire, the same never-satisfied need, was all there. If she had to measure, she'd have to say it was even more. And she needed it, needed him.

Her hands slid from his hair and moved down his body, taking their time to touch, to memorize, until they stopped at his belt. She fingered it lightly, then with more determination, undoing it and pulling it through the loops of his pants. But when she reached for the button-fly, Jace stopped her.

"Wait," he said, his voice strained. "We don't have to do this right now." Jace took her hand and entangled it with his. "You know that, right? I don't expect . . . It's okay if we don't."

His breath flowed over her face, fast and shallow, and she wanted to taste it, but she stayed still. He was still afraid. She could feel it in the slight tremble of his hand. "What do you want?" she asked.

Jace cupped her face and pressed his forehead to hers. "I want to keep going, but . . ."

"But what?"

He met her eyes. "But I don't need to. Not if it means hurting you."

"What do you need?" Clary wrapped her fingers around his wrist.

His thumb brushed over her cheek and his eyes moved from one of hers to the other. "You." He kissed her once. "Just you. Just this. All I need, all I'll ever need, is to be here with you. To touch you. To hold you. To fall asleep and wake up next to you. To know that when I kiss you," he placed another chaste kiss to her lips, "I won't wake up in a barrack with fifty other men. To know that when you touch me, it's really you and not just another dream." His voice lowered to a whisper. "To know that I can do this, see this, feel this for the rest of my life."

Clary's throat tightened. There were so many things she wanted to say, so many thoughts and questions swirling through her mind, but the only one that came out was, "You dreamt of me?"

His eyes shone as they stared into hers. "Every night."

"Me too." Her breath hitched. "Every single night I wished for this, for you."

His hand slid back into her hair. "Listen," he said, his voice trembling now, "before we go any further, I need to make sure."

Clary's heart thudded against her ribs. "Make sure of what?"

"That you understand."

She pulled back and his hand fell from her face. "Understand what?"

"What it'll be like if you choose to be with me." Jace swallowed. "Now that you know . . . what I am, what I do. There are certain . . . things that come along with that. Things you might not like. Things that might make you change your mind."

"Like what?"

"Like the fact that there will be times when I have to leave. It could be in the middle of the night or in the middle of the afternoon. And I can't tell you where I'm going or how long I'll be gone. I could be gone a few hours or a few weeks. Sometimes I can't contact you." He looked down, almost as if he were ashamed. "There will be lies. Some of omission and some flat out. And you'd have to lie too. No one outside of who already knows can know what I am."

Clary sighed in relief. "Is that all?"

Jace glanced up, the shock evident in the curve of his brow. "Isn't that enough?"

She nodded and reached out for his hand, lacing their fingers together. "Yes, but I already knew that."

"And you're okay with it?"

"Does being okay with it get me you?"

His eyes traveled over her face. "They still own me, Clary. They still get to tell me where to go and what to do, and I have to do it."

"But," she lifted her hands and held his face, "do I still get you?"

"Always. No matter where I am, what I'm doing, or who I'm pretending to be, I will always be yours."

"Then that's all I need." She leaned in, pausing just before she touched his lips. Her fingers traced the curve of his mouth. "I choose you, Jace. For better or worse, I choose you."

He grinned. "Are we reciting marriage vows now?"

Clary didn't return his smile; instead, she glanced up at him. She bit her lip and shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe." She looked down.

"Clary? What . . ."

"I don't know," she repeated. "Just . . . maybe, someday . . . I might like that." She chanced a peek and found him staring at her, his eyes wide. "I'm sorry," she spluttered, her face heating. "I don't mean to freak you out. I didn't mean now. I just meant someday. You know . . . maybe . . . Oh, just forget I said any—"

Her words were cut off by his mouth. It took her a moment to comprehend what was happening, but once she did, she couldn't help but let herself give in to it. After a few seconds, Jace pulled back. Clary slowly met his eyes. They didn't show fear or hesitancy like she would have expected. His hand swept her cheek and he smiled, that mischievous, cocky smile she'd first fallen in love with.

"Well then, Spitfire," he said, his thumb brushing over her mouth, "maybe someday I'll ask."