Understanding

Disclaimer: If Mortal Instruments belonged to me, I would not be writing this from a cramped university flat.

Warnings: Nothing in particular… just long as hell.

Notes: This came about when I was rereading Luke's chapter of City of Bones and took notice of the part where he says Maryse had a brother who married a mundane. That made me wonder how different characters affected her, and I figured maybe I'd come up with some people and write a few paragraphs for each.

Did I say paragraphs? I meant pages. Jesus, but this thing is a monster.

I take no responsibility for any confusion caused by trying to keep up with all the characters named 'Jonathan' in this. I'm not even kidding, there's like five of them.


Her brother

He is twelve years older than her and, since Julien Trueblood dies when Maryse is hardly three, more of a father than a sibling. Because they have the same eyes and same hair and look startlingly alike, their mother comments dryly that he ought not to take her out alone, or people will think he's her father, and then there'll be a terrible scandal. He only laughs, and Maryse laughs too, even though she doesn't know what 'scandal' means yet.

Because she asks, he teaches her how to use her father's anelace as soon as her hands are big enough to hold the hilt properly. She can wield it like an expert before she turns ten. He shows her the process used in crafting seraph blades and draws out simple runes for her to trace and quizzes her on the exact method of killing an Eligos demon (their brains are in their heads, of course, but they have a secondary nervous system located in the tail that can continue to operate the body even after decapitation, so cut that off as well). She drinks it all in as if she's dehydrated for knowledge and persuades him to just show me one more rune, and then I'll go to bed, I promise. Her brother, she thinks, is amazing, and she will never love someone else as much as she does him.

Their mother watches them, presumably to make sure he doesn't kill her by accident, but Maryse can handle anything he throws at her. "Why," Josephine asks one day, "are you so intent on teaching her all this? She'll learn in school – they're training all the girls now, remember."

"Well, she'll have a head start this way, won't she?" he says.

Josephine shakes her head. "I'm still teaching her how to cook!" she calls on her way back into the manor. They watch her go, silently. Then he turns around and rolls his eyes as though saying who needs to know something like that?

Maryse just grins at him, hoists her blade again, and lunges.

Two weeks after her tenth birthday, the Clave abruptly sends him to the Institute in Paris – "Or so he says," Josephine mutters, pushing a bowl and two eggs at Maryse and telling her to beat them. There is something dark and suspicious in her eyes. Not understanding, Maryse does as she's told and hopes he'll come back soon. He's been odd, lately, disappearing at random and reappearing a few days later without telling anyone where he's been, but he always seems unusually happy upon returning. Maryse thinks he has a girlfriend.

It's the first time she's ever hated being right.

"A mundane, Maryse," her sister says, pale with shock, trembling fingers laced over her mouth. Maryse lifts the heavy curtains to look outside, waiting for her mother – she was summoned to speak with the Clave, probably the moment they found out what he'd done, and Maryse had been sent to stay with her sister in the meantime.

"A mundane," Marguerite repeats, as though she can't believe it, "he ran off and married a mundane. It can't be true. Do you know what they're going to do to him if it's true?"

Maryse knows. She knows before Josephine walks into the living room of Marguerite's house, face blank, and says, "Get in the carriage, Maryse, we're going home." She still walks around the house and peeks in the window.

The glass is too thick for her to hear a sound, but she watches her mother's lips move, watches Marguerite begin to cry, hiding her face in her husband's shoulder, and Maryse bites her lip until it bleeds.

He's allowed back to the manor one last time, to pack up his things and say goodbye. Maryse avoids him. She won't be permitted to be there tomorrow, when they strip him of his Marks and cast him from the Clave, so she knows this is her only chance to tell him how much she loves him before he goes, but she can't make herself leave her bedroom. She just twists her hair into tight braids and undoes and redoes them again and again even after her scalp starts to burn at the slightest tug.

It's very late when he comes to her door. "Maryse," he says, "I'm leaving in a few minutes." She doesn't respond. "I know you're still awake. Can I come in?"

Again, Maryse doesn't say anything, but she experiences a strange feeling of satisfaction when he tries the knob and finds it locked.

He sighs. "Maryse," he murmurs again, sounding like his mouth is very close to the door, "I know you're mad at me. I don't really blame you. But just listen to me for a minute, okay?"

She clenches her fists until her nails cut into her palms and, suddenly, overwhelmingly angry, wishes he would just shut up. He'd known the consequences for marrying a mundane, everyone did. How badly did he want to get away from them, from her, that he'd do such a thing? Did he really hate being a Shadowhunter that much?

But he doesn't shut up – instead, he tells her that he loves her, that she's brilliant and talented and she's going to be an amazing Shadowhunter. He tells her that her father would be proud of her, and her mother is proud of her – "even though she'll tell you what an awful disgrace you are, you know how she is" – and that he was proud of her, too. He tells her that he'd grown up alongside Marguerite, but he had never been able to connect with her the way he did with Maryse. He tells her even if the Clave hadn't chosen to begin routinely training girls as Shadowhunters, he would have made sure she became one anyway if that was what she wanted. By the time he finishes, Maryse is crying, and she doesn't know if it's because she's so furious that she can barely see straight or because she loves him far more than she could ever express.

Then, finally, he says, "This probably doesn't make much sense to you now, but… you're still a kid. You'll understand why I did this, someday. And… maybe then you can forgive me." His voice trembles and he stops, breathes, before whispering, "I love you."

There's a glass figurine of a horse on Maryse's nightstand that Marguerite gave her for her sixth birthday. It shatters when it impacts the door.

And then she's shouting. At first, she doesn't even know what she's shrieking – just vicious, spiteful words, because he's leaving her, he can't leave, he's her big brother and he's supposed to be there for her forever. When she actually gets a handle on her mouth, what she consciously says is just as bad. She screams that she hates him, that she'll never forgive him for leaving, and that she never wants to see him again.

She never does.

Eleven years pass before she can even bring herself to say his name out loud. Not long after that, she forgives him. It isn't until twenty-nine years after he leaves, though, that she finally, finally understands.


Her mother

The thing about Josephine is that she's never really learned how to speak affectionately. Maryse figures out early on that she doesn't mean most of her insults, a good deal of her compliments are backhanded, and when she snaps, "By the Angel, girl, stop swinging that thing in here or I am going to shove it down your throat", she's really saying, "Just because you can handle a sword better than most Nephilim twice your age doesn't mean I won't kill you if you break that lamp". If nothing else, her mother's brusqueness teaches her how to disregard the taunts thrown at her by that obnoxious Lightwood boy she sees in town once in a while. A few well-placed comebacks, and he learns to close his mouth on the rare occasions they run into one another.

Maryse and Josephine don't get along fabulously, but aside from an argument here about the boots her mother won't let her buy and a disagreement there over why she isn't allowed to go with the neighbor's sons to resolve a dispute between two nearby vampire covens, they manage to tolerate one another's presence. Sometimes, Maryse doesn't even mind having her around – not so much when she teases that the only reason the Lightwoods' son calls her names is because he likes her, but the cooking lessons, initially judged torture, actually become fun after a while. She's surprised at how easily something so unrelated to Shadowhunting comes to her.

"You know," she tosses at her mother one afternoon, dicing carrots for tonight's stew, "I'll probably be better than you at this soon."

Josephine snorts. "I'm sure you will, and then you'll be making dinner every night, so enjoy your freedom while it lasts." She smirks at Maryse's glare and sits at the kitchen table with a handful of potatoes and a knife, propping her lame leg up on another chair. She isn't a Shadowhunter, but she's no stranger to defending herself, either – her family grew up five minutes' walk from a Downworld village and frequently had to fend off angry Downworlders – and she'd attained the injury when a vengeful werewolf had jumped her on her way home one night. "He caught me in the leg with his club," she'd said to Maryse when she had first told the story, "shattered my knee. By the time my father got to me and healed it, the iratze couldn't fix all the damage. I survived, though – and that mangy bastard didn't. Doubt he expected me to still be able to put a dagger in his throat after I was down."

Of all the mothers to possibly get stuck with, Maryse thinks, at least she got the one who could kill a werewolf without any formal training.

She asks, once, why they lived that close to Downworlders. "I didn't come from a rich family, Maryse," Josephine explains, "it was what we could afford. The ones who weren't drunken louts weren't all that bad, anyway."

It's the nicest thing Maryse hears about Downworlders for a long, long time.

Half a year after her brother becomes a mundane, she realizes Josephine still talks to a man Maryse refuses to call a sibling anymore, and that triggers what she later considers her first real fight with her mother – meaning, it's the first time she ever actually snaps and yells.

She doesn't yell for very long, though. Three words, to be exact, because the look Josephine gives her makes her vocal chords shrivel up and die. "Do not," Josephine says, in the low, tight voice she only uses when she's about to lose her temper, "shout at me, Maryse Violet Trueblood, or it'll be the last thing you ever do."

Maryse, wisely, keeps quiet.

"Now, what is your problem?"

"You're still writing to him," Maryse says.

Josephine raises an eyebrow. "I am. There's no Law prohibiting that."

"But –" She stops, forces herself to speak calmly, because her mother probably wasn't joking about screaming being the last thing she'd ever do. "He left. He didn't want to be a part of this – of our lives – anymore. Why don't you hate him?"

"That is not why he left. And if you have to ask me that," Josephine replies, "then you're still too young to understand."

Maryse exhales a long, shaky breath. "Marguerite fed me that same line of crap," she says, and anger creeps into her tone again despite her best efforts. "I don't even know what I'm not understanding!"

Josephine sighs and glances up at her, looking worn out and so very tired, and for the first time Maryse realizes exactly how old her mother is. "He's my son," she says. "He could marry a Shadowhunter or a mundane or a Downworlder or a giraffe or go off and become a chaste burlesque dancer and I wouldn't care. I could never hate him, and I will never be able to hate you or Marguerite, either, no matter how much you disappoint me." She turns her attention back to her book, then, with another weary sigh. "If you don't have anything sensible to ask, go away. I'm busy."

Maryse retreats. She still doesn't get it.

The second – and last – 'real' fight they have occurs years later. Maryse starts attending school in Alicante when she turns twelve, spending most of her time training to become a Shadowhunter, and the separation improves their relationship. The first time Maryse comes home for the summer, Josephine remarks that she's never been pleased to see her daughter before, Maryse retorts, and they spend the better part of the evening verbally sparring.

However, when she's away at school, Maryse meets all sorts of new people who challenge her way of thinking, and it isn't long before she develops some opinions her mother doesn't agree with. She keeps the most radical of them to herself, though. For all her faults, her mother is devoted to the Clave, and she still believes that the Laws are to be upheld – no matter how archaic they may be. Telling her that the Circle intends to abolish some would be a quicker death than walking up to a demon and asking it if it enjoyed poetry and long walks on the beach.

Maryse graduates from school at eighteen and plans to get married in a year. Josephine laughs when Maryse tells her about the engagement. "I told you he only made fun of you because he liked you," she snorts. They become fairly close for quite some time. Then, three weeks before the wedding, she says something purposely offensive. Which is nothing new, really, so Maryse is about to laugh it off and come up with a witty reply – but suddenly she realizes what her mother is insinuating.

"Why," she says, gripping the windowsill and staring at the skeletal tree outside instead of turning to face her, "would you say that?"

Josephine's distorted reflection in the glass shows a bit of surprise. "Because, I've always thought you had a thing for the Morgenstern boy," she replies. "You practically worship him – and I shouldn't need to tell you that I think he's trouble, you ought to know that already – but he's got that pretty little redhead, and you can't have what you can't have, hm?"

Maryse whips around, her chest tight. "I'm not marrying Robert because I can't have Valentine," she says through gritted teeth, "I'm marrying him because I love him."

Josephine just shakes her head and picks up the book she was reading. "I'm not saying you don't, but use that brain of yours, Maryse, and imagine how it looks. Although, it might be good for you to devote yourself to someone other than Valentine Morgenstern – maybe that'll get your priorities back in proper order."

When she looks back on this incident, it's a blur. All she can remember is screaming at her mother, just as she did to her brother – except she's no longer a ten-year-old girl, upset for reasons she can't rationalize, and her anger is justified this time.

Josephine yells back, but Maryse isn't afraid of her anymore. She has a fiancé and close friends and her mother's threats no longer have any weight. So when Josephine says, cold as ice, that perhaps Maryse should find somewhere else to be for the time being, that's exactly what she does.

Engaged Shadowhunters traditionally do not live together before the actual marriage takes place. There's already been one massive family scandal, though, so what's another?

The next day, she moves in with Robert and his mother, who's all too pleased to have her. She doesn't talk to Josephine until two days before the wedding. They tentatively reconcile, but things are different, now. There's a wall between them that wasn't there before.

Things do get a bit better, again because they're no longer forced into close quarters. They don't speak of the Circle, or of Valentine, or of much of anything, really – just simple things, like the weather or whether or not Josephine's heart has been acting up. When they see each other, they behave like acquaintances rather than mother and daughter.

In September of the year Maryse is twenty-one, she has her first child. She doesn't think her mother will be unusually overjoyed, since the novelty of grandchildren probably wears off around the third – "I swear they're pretending to be rabbits," Josephine had muttered after Marguerite and Lennox's fourth baby was born – but Josephine is enthralled with Alec. She adores him so obviously that Robert asks Maryse if she's ill.

Maryse smiles and tells him that even her mother has a gentler side. She doesn't tell him that she thinks it's because Alec strongly resembles her brother as a baby. When Isabelle is born and Josephine reacts in her usual tactless manner ("She'll probably grow up to look just like you… I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not."), she knows she's right.

The night of the Uprising, Maryse talks her mother into watching the children, since Jocelyn refuses. Josephine complains but comes willingly enough. "Where are you off to in such a hurry?" she grunts, sitting down and taking a fussy Isabelle from her daughter's arms.

"Raid," Maryse says shortly. Josephine snorts, and Maryse reflects that she hears that sound from her mother an awful lot before leaving.

It is, hands down, the worst night of her life.

She doesn't see Josephine – or her children – for several days, while the Clave decides exactly what to do with them. She has a brief period of sheer panic when it's suggested that her son and daughter stay with her mother, since perhaps she and Robert aren't fit to raise them, but Josephine's heart problem is mentioned and the idea comes to nothing. Since Robert's parents are deceased and Marguerite has more kids than she knows what to do with, they're allowed to keep their children. That makes it only slightly easier to leave Idris for good.

The last time Maryse sees her mother is the morning her exile to New York officially begins. It's early – hardly five a.m.– but the boat leaves at eight and they have a few last things to clear up before departing, so they're already at the Gard. She sits on a bench, Alec and Isabelle both asleep in her lap, and watches Robert and Hodge speak with the Inquisitor until Josephine abruptly stumps into view.

They don't talk about much. The trip overseas, how she'll have to do some work on the New York Institute since nobody's been running it for years, whether or not she was really going to let "that weedy-looking creep" educate her children. "Yes," Maryse says, suddenly feeling very tired, "I will. I don't have a choice."

Josephine shakes her head. "You had a choice," she says flatly.

Sighing, Maryse rests her head against the stone wall behind her and closes her eyes. "I suppose," she murmurs, "you never thought I'd disappoint you like this."

Her mother, naturally, snorts. "Of course I did. Knew it from the moment you picked up that anelace and let your brother teach you to use it even after I told you not to touch the damn thing. Now, your sister, she won't disappoint me… she's a good girl. No imagination, though."

She doesn't mean to smile, but her lips twitch upwards anyway. "I'm sorry."

"You'd better be." Maryse opens her eyes, watches Josephine glance over her shoulder at the windows. "I ought to leave – I promised Marguerite I'd stop by and if I don't go now it'll be too late, and then her brood of miniature demons will hunt me down."

Maryse nods. "All right." There are so many things she should say right now.

She doesn't know what any of them are.

Josephine nods, bends down with a wince – her back isn't what it used to be – and kisses the top of Isabelle's head. "Goodbye, baby girl," she says, "drive your mother crazy for me."

She doesn't say anything to Alec, just touches her lips to his dark hair and lingers for a long moment before straightening up. Her eyes, though, are strangely bright. "Well, good luck." She dusts off her coat, and Maryse pretends not to notice that she's blinking a lot more than strictly necessary. "Especially with that," Josephine adds, nudging the small carrier next to the bench with her foot. The scrawny cat inside hisses.

Despite herself, Maryse smiles again. "I didn't want to bring her," she explains, "but I really wasn't given a choice there."

Josephine snorts one more time. "I bet."

And that's all. She turns around and hobbles towards the doors, then pauses halfway there to whack Robert around the knees with her cane and inform him that he'd better take good care of her daughter, or else he'll be sacrificing his claims to manhood. Hodge darts out of the way like he thinks she might do the same to him. If Maryse knows her mother – and she likes to think she does – Josephine's probably considering it. But, in the end, once she's extracted an iron-clad promise from Robert to look after Maryse, she continues on her way and leaves the Gard without looking back.

Josephine passes away three years later. According to the letter informing her of her mother's death, she died in her sleep when her heart problem finally claimed her. Maryse thinks Josephine would have been much happier if she'd gone down fighting a werewolf. They were more alike than either of them had ever wanted to believe.

After the battle on Brocelind Plain, after the Clave lays to rest the man her mother had always known was trouble, Maryse slips away and visits the necropolis. Josephine Trueblood b. Greenbrier is last on the long list of Truebloods buried in the family tomb.

She touches the engraved words and swallows. She didn't know the right words back then, and she isn't sure she does now, but she's willing to improvise.

"You were right," Maryse says. Her voice sounds small and thin in the empty graveyard. "About nearly everything. Not about me settling for Robert – and don't think I've forgiven you for that, because I haven't – but everything else.

"I don't know how you knew. If there was some secret ritual that allowed you to know everything once you became a parent, I wish you would've told me what it was. I could have done with some knowledge… I think I could have been a better mother, then." She leans her forehead against the cool marble. "I never thanked you for – for everything you did for me. Marguerite could probably think of a better way of saying it, but I can't, so… I might not have made the same mistakes if I'd had a different mother, but I still think you did better by me than anyone else could have. Thank you.

"There's one more thing I need to ask of you, though." She steps back from the tomb and shuts her eyes, brushing the wetness from her cheeks. "Please… watch over Max. I know you would have loved him – he was like Marguerite, he was sensible… take care of him for me."

If Josephine can hear her, Maryse imagines she's snorting right about now, and saying something like, "By the Angel, girl, another child? Are you trying to outdo your sister? How many more are you hiding in that drafty place of yours? But fine, I'll watch him – hope he doesn't take after your husband. Not much of a looker, that one."


Her sister

Unlike the rest of the family, Marguerite is small and mousy and quiet, with pale brown hair and dark eyes. She doesn't engage in the fierce banter that usually fills the household, doesn't fight with her mother or her siblings, doesn't do anything that isn't expected of her.

The Clave's choice to train females as well as males isn't finalized until Maryse is almost five. At this point, Marguerite is fifteen, and will continue to attend the tiny school in town with some of her friends rather than take up a weapon. She has no interest in Shadowhunting.

Maryse is eight when she decides her sister is weak.

"I don't get it," she says, leaning on Marguerite's desk. "Why don't you want to be a real Shadowhunter?"

Marguerite gently pushes her little sister's hand away from the letter she's writing. Maryse puts it right back where it was, and she heaves a sigh. "You're smearing the ink," Marguerite says pointedly. "And I've never wanted to be what you think constitutes a 'real' Shadowhunter. I don't derive any pleasure from killing another being – and neither should you."

"Are you really related to me?" Maryse asks.

Rather than get upset at the slight, Marguerite just laughs. "I asked Mother once if I was really her daughter, since we were nothing alike. She said 'Don't be an idiot, Marguerite, I was there when you were born. I think I'd know if you weren't my kid.'"

"You're so weird. So what are you going to do if you're not going to be a real Shadowhunter?"

"I don't know," Marguerite says, looking almost sad. "I'm not like the rest of you, Maryse. I'm not really cut out for anything." She crumples up the letter, which is half-unreadable now, and throws it in the trash. "I'll marry Lennox next month, of course. We've already decided to have at least two children. Maybe they'll grow up to be something wonderful."

"Weird," Maryse says again. She can't imagine what it would be like to have no big dreams for yourself.

Her sister shrugs and leans back in her chair, picking up a fresh sheet of paper. "Did you know that a great deal of Shadowhunting gear has weak spots under the arm? Someone needs to fix that."

Used to Marguerite blurting out the most random tidbits of information unprovoked, Maryse wipes her hand on her skirt, leaving a smear of black ink across the blue fabric. "Great," she deadpans, "if I ever have to kill another Shadowhunter, I'll remember that. I'm going outside."

True to her word, Marguerite marries Lennox Mayfield that August. Lennox is a real Shadowhunter, and a rather good one at that. Maryse barely manages to wait until after the ceremony to get her brother's attention and ask what in the world he sees in her.

"She can hold an intelligent conversation when she feels like being coherent," he points out, "she's pretty, gentle, and sweet, and they've known each other for five years."

"But she's so boring."

He laughs and ruffles her hair. "You might think so, but he obviously doesn't. Anyway, love isn't rational, Maryse."

Maryse doesn't see much of her sister over the next few years, and she can't really say she misses her. After her brother leaves, the house feels empty whether Marguerite's there or not. The only visit that sticks out in her mind is the one when she announces, nearly bursting with pride, that she is pregnant.

It's a bigger deal to Josephine than to Maryse, but she still catches her alone and congratulates her. "Do you know if it's a boy or a girl, yet?"

Marguerite shrugs. "Not yet. I'm not sure I want to know – it might be a nice surprise."

"You're not –" Maryse pauses and rethinks the question she wants to ask, phrasing it so it sounds less vitriolic. "If it's a boy… are you going to name it after him?" It's the sort of thing Shadowhunters do often, naming their children for dead parents or siblings – but as far as she knows, her brother is still alive, and she doesn't think he deserves that honor.

Her sister blinks, expressionless, before smiling slightly and shaking her head. "No. We've already picked out names."

"Oh. Okay."

Maryse is fourteen the day her mother sends her a message at school, informing her that Marguerite had a baby girl a few hours ago. Curiosity, more than anything else, compels her to request leave from school that weekend and catch a carriage out to her sister's place.

I have a niece, she says to herself on the ride. The words feel weird in her mouth. She isn't sure if she wants her own children – there are so many other things she wants to do – but she has a point of reference now, and maybe getting to know her sister's daughter will help her decide.

Marie is tiny and delicate, like a doll, with a tuft of dark hair and light green eyes like Lennox's. What Maryse really notices, though, is how utterly happy Marguerite looks, cradling her daughter in her arms and beaming up at her sister. Lennox slips behind the chair, kisses her on the forehead, strokes Marie's wispy hair, and it occurs to Maryse that Marguerite fits into this picture. Here, she has what she's never achieved with her original family.

On her way back to the city the next morning, Maryse figures that Marguerite is too soft for the sort of life Maryse wants, but if she's content with just being a mother, then she'll try to support her sister.

Marguerite and Lennox pick up and move to France a year later. They come back when Maryse is almost eighteen, toting little Marie, plus two-year-old Nicolas and baby Etienne, and she still wants another child. By this time Maryse has revised her opinion of her sister – she is, in fact, completely insane. This conclusion is backed up when, in an unprecedented display of courage, it is Marguerite who forces Maryse and Josephine to start speaking again.

"You," she says firmly, pointing to her mother, "sit down, put your leg up, and be quiet. Your youngest daughter's wedding is two days from now and you are going to behave yourself long enough to see her through it. That means don't say anything meant to start trouble!"

Josephine looks mildly impressed. "You've never spoken to me like that before."

"I think she left her mind in Paris," Maryse mumbles. Josephine snorts, and just like that, enough of the tension between them melts away that they can talk without screaming at one another.

Christophe is born less than a week after Marie turns five, and soon Marguerite has her fifth child, four months before Maryse's own baby is due. Thankfully, she and Lennox then decide that Victoire completes their not-so-little family. If they change their minds later, Maryse is unaware. She and Marguerite never have the sort of argument that drove her and her brother or her and her mother apart – they really just drift away from one another, having never been held together by mutual interests or, honestly, anything more than reluctant sisterhood.

Ironically, during the Uprising, Maryse thinks of her – she catches a member of the Clave right under the arm with her naginata, sliding the blade between his ribs and piercing his heart, he goes down, and she wonders if Marguerite would be upset that no one had ever solved that little problem.

Too many things happen in the following years to concern herself with a sister she hadn't cared much for in the first place. But when Maryse leaves the necropolis after talking to – at – her mother, rather than go back to her own family, she makes her way to the Mayfield home. They have something in common now, as unfortunate as it may be.

The door is opened by a girl who looks a bit like Isabelle, if Isabelle had shorter hair and a rounder face and green eyes. "Hello?" she says, raising her thin eyebrows.

Maryse pulls her coat tighter around herself. "I'm looking for Marguerite Mayfield."

The girl scrutinizes her for a moment, then nods and steps back, letting her into the front hall. "Mom!" she calls, "There's someone here for you!"

"Just a moment." And then Marguerite walks into the hall, hair graying but otherwise still looking just the way Maryse remembers her, and they stare at one another for a few long moments.

"Thank you, Victoire," Marguerite finally says. Victoire looks between them, shrugs, and disappears upstairs. "Maryse… what made you come here?"

Maryse tries to smile, but her lips won't cooperate. "I heard about your son," she says by way of explanation. Because it doesn't feel like enough, she adds, "I'm sorry."

"Funny," Marguerite replies, "I had planned on saying the same to you, if we happened to come across one another." She absently picks up a cloak that's crumpled on the floor and hangs it on a hook, smoothing out the wrinkles. "But it's not really the same, is it? Etienne – he was what you would have called a 'real' Shadowhunter, when you were younger. He went into that battle knowing he could die. Your son… he was only a little boy."

Maryse's throat closes.

"Did you know," Marguerite says, in the same abrupt manner she's always had, "that he wasn't really my son?"

"I… Mother suggested it, once. She implied that he and Nicolas were his children."

Her sister nods. "It's true. We made the arrangements not long after he married Gabrielle. I was livid, at first, but he wanted them to be raised as Shadowhunters and allowed to make their own choices when they were old enough… and I couldn't say no. Besides, I'm their mother where it counts – and Lennox is their father, even when I told them of their real parentage, and they chose to stay with us. But I don't think I would have loved them any less if they'd decided otherwise." She looks at Maryse, and her eyes are wet. "He died last year," she whispers, "some mundane disease. And all I can think now is that I'll never have to tell him I lost his son."

The room blurs over. Some part of Maryse that's still regal and proud after everything that's happened is annoyed with her, crying over children that aren't even hers and a brother she's only recently remembered how to love. The rest of her feels like she should be apologizing to her sister – for ever having anything to do with the man who masterminded the battle that took Etienne away, for not so much as writing to her once in sixteen years, for telling her she wasn't a real Shadowhunter, for thinking she was weak, because never picking up a weapon hadn't made her into any less of a wonderful and selfless person.

Before she can say a word, though, Marguerite shakes her head. "Never mind that. I'm getting old, I'm half out of my mind, and the other half will probably follow after Marie has her baby. I heard you and Robert practically adopted Valentine Morgenstern's boy – or is he someone else's, I've heard that, too – so I suppose we have something in common after all, hm? Taking in strays… would you like a cup of tea?"

Maryse tries to follow the changes of subject as they occur, but she's never been able to keep up with her sister's odd way of thinking. So instead, she stands up a bit straighter, blinks away the tears, and simply says, "Yes. That would be lovely."


Stephen

There are plenty of other children around her age in the town and the scattered through the outlying area, but Maryse doesn't really get any of them. The girls giggle over silly things, and the boys play-fight with makeshift weapons and won't let her join in, so she has only casual acquaintances.

She ends up meeting her first real friend the summer that she is seven. It's the same year that Marguerite and Lennox begin dating seriously, and he invites her and her family out to the manor so they can meet formally. "It'll be wonderful, Maryse," Marguerite gushes, folding clothes into her suitcase, "you'll like Lennox, I know you will. And he has younger cousins visiting, too, so maybe you can make friends with one of them."

"I doubt it," Maryse mutters.

She turns out to be wrong. It's one of the few times she doesn't mind being wrong.

Maryse smiles politely through the introductions. Lennox isn't as dull as she'd thought any boyfriend of her sister's would have to be, but he, Marguerite, Josephine, and his parents start up an unexciting conversation about Clave politics and her attention wanders after a few minutes.

Then the front door bangs open, a voice calls for Lennox's father, Lachlan, and four people troop into the sitting room. "We're back," the woman says. Her eyes sweep around the room, over Marguerite and Maryse, and stop on their mother. "Hello, Josephine."

"Imogen," Josephine says. "Marcus."

That catches Maryse's elusive attention, and she looks from the thread on her dress that she's been unraveling to the man in the doorway. This, she realizes, must be Marcus Herondale, one of the few people her mother speaks about as if she truly hates. But Josephine's tone is perfectly congenial, and Marcus nods back at her, so either Maryse is wrong or they're doing a good job of pretending they like one another.

There are two boys standing in front of him. He puts his big hands on their shoulders and one, obviously the elder, straightens up importantly, but the other goes rigid, like he can hardly stand to have the man touch him. Maryse watches the younger boy, curious.

"These are my sons," Marcus says, "Jonathan and Stephen."

"Marguerite," Josephine says shortly, tilting her head towards the girl next to Lennox, "and Maryse."

Maryse forces another smile and fidgets uncomfortably, wishing her brother was here – but he and some other Shadowhunters are busy tracking down a rogue warlock, and Josephine couldn't even get a hold of him to ask when he'd be home, much less find out if he had wanted to come along. The adults' conversation starts anew. Jonathan joins in, talking as though he's the same age as Marguerite and Lennox instead of merely twelve, but Stephen looks as bored as Maryse feels and it's not long before the two of them are shooed off to play.

"Stephen," Marcus says as they're leaving the room, "you know the boundaries of this property. Don't leave them."

"Okay," Stephen replies. Maryse follows him into the hall. When they're near the back door, well out of earshot of the others, he suddenly turns around and grins at her. "Jonathan showed me where there used to be a vampire encampment near here. Want to see it?"

The Herondales live in England, running the London Institute, and when Stephen speaks, hearing his accent makes Maryse's heart skip a beat. "Sure," she says. "Is it on the property?"

Stephen makes a face and shoves his feet into his boots. "No, but that doesn't really matter. Even if it was, my father would find something else to be angry with me for." He keeps talking as he shoves the heavy door open. "I kind of want to meet a vampire – Jonathan says any vampires I meet I'll probably have to kill, but wouldn't it be fun just to talk to one?"

They trek out to a wide clearing in the woods, where the ground is pockmarked with holes and chunks of wood that might have held down tents, and Maryse is fascinated but she can't take her eyes off Stephen. He's a little less than a year younger than her, with pale gold curls and brown eyes and the prettiest smile she's ever seen.

If there are real angels on earth, Maryse thinks Stephen could be one of them.

"Is Marguerite going to marry Lennox?" she asks her mother on the trip home a few days later.

"What makes you think that?"

"He introduced his girlfriend's family to his own family," Maryse points out dryly, "that seems like the thing you'd do before asking a girl to marry you."

Josephine laughs. "Nothing escapes you, I see. I don't know for sure… but I'd say it's pretty likely."

"Oh. Neat." Maryse settles against the plush seat of the carriage, watching the scenery roll by, and decides that if she ever has to have a husband, she wouldn't mind marrying Stephen.

They end up seeing one another every summer for the next four years. When she's eleven, she finally gets up the courage and dares him to kiss her. He smirks and leans in, very close, and she closes her eyes… and then she feels him kiss her cheek and laugh.

"Tease!" she complains, pushing him off the low rock wall they're sitting on. He's still snickering when he lands in the grass (and she's pretending to be more annoyed than she really is), but when he stands, he winces and rubs his arm. "What happened to you, anyway?" Maryse asks him. She hadn't missed how banged up he was when he'd arrived at the Mayfields' yesterday.

"I did something stupid," he says, hopping back up onto the wall and rolling down his sleeves. Maryse gets a good glimpse of the bruise around his wrist before he covers it, though, and to her it looks like it was made by a very large hand.

She remembers how much her mother loathes Marcus Herondale, for reasons she never elaborates on, and shivers involuntarily.

Next summer, she flits in and out of her sister's house, but the Herondales don't visit. Then she goes off to school and gets over her crush, because she meets boys who are interested in her rather than the other way around – not, as the other girls like to insist, because she's too busy pining after Robert Lightwood to care about a boy countries away. Besides, Robert's weird and kind of goofy-looking. Maryse kisses Vincent Clearwater in the training room and forgets about Stephen.

A few years later, she hears through the extensive school grapevine that Jonathan Herondale is dead.

Surprisingly – or, perhaps, not so much – it's Valentine who tells her Jonathan was murdered by werewolves, that while he sacrificed himself for his little brother, Stephen had to watch him die. Maryse thinks of the way Jonathan shouted at Stephen when he caught them at the old vampire camp, but then ruffled his hair before they went back into the house and didn't say a word to their father. Her stomach rolls.

She isn't sure if she'll be welcome at the funeral, so she stays away, even though it's held right in Alicante. Rather, she waits until she knows the necropolis is empty before making her way over to the Herondale crypt. Jonathan's name is cut into the marble under a string of names she doesn't recognize. Imogen's and Marcus' are not yet on there. She doesn't like either of them, but she feels sympathy nevertheless. It must be terrible to bury your own child.

"Ave atque vale, Jonathan," she murmurs.

She's still standing there when someone walks up behind her and kisses her on the cheek. "Maryse," Stephen says quietly, sounding utterly exhausted, "what are you doing?"

"Paying my respects," she replies without looking at him. "He might have been insufferably bossy, but… I liked him."

"He was, wasn't he?" His hand brushes hers and she takes it, careful of the bandages cocooning his fingers. "He used to follow us everywhere, but he was an awful watchdog."

Maryse smiles faintly, recalling the number of times Jonathan had caught up with them just moments after they did whatever he was supposed to stop them from doing. "I remember."

She finally turns around. Stephen isn't all that different – same blond curls, same faint scar over his right eyebrow from where he caught himself in the face with a chakram at age nine, still tall and fair and somehow ethereal. It's his eyes that captivate her, now. They are dark and haunted, even empty, and remind her of the way some of her instructors at school look, the ones who've retired after decades of hunting, killing, seeing their comrades-friends-brothers-fathers die in battle. Except the teachers she's thinking of are in their thirties, at least.

Stephen is fourteen.

He comes to Alicante more often after his brother's death, easily becoming friends with Maryse's friends – because, really, nobody can manage to dislike him – and she isn't shocked when he moves to Idris permanently after he graduates. He marries Amatis Graymark soon after, which raises a few eyebrows. Stephen is endlessly kind, but he treats her with the same affectionate detachment everyone else receives, and sometimes Maryse wonders if he actually knows how to love anybody.

But, maybe, she thinks later, he only knew how to love Valentine.

For a while, Stephen stays on the outskirts of the Circle. He isn't technically in it, but Amatis is, and he probably knows more about it than all but the innermost members do. Maryse is certain that Valentine will ask him to join officially. And he does – only after Lucian kills himself, though. She watches him take the oath and wonders if the Stephen she'd known as a child would have been offended at being given such a high position without earning it first. He'd always been so honorable.

Two nights later, he and Valentine take off to England. When they return, something like triumph is blazing in Stephen's eyes. Maryse wants to congratulate him, both for ridding the world of a few more Downworlders and for killing the ones responsible for Jonathan's death, but the words stick in her throat. She's standing close enough to see that the triumph is still backed by that same haunted hollowness. Killing them hadn't changed anything.

Stephen divorces and remarries someone Valentine approves of and, to her amusement, it's Maryse that he comes to after finding out Celine is pregnant. "I don't know how to be a father, Maryse," he mumbles into his knees, tugging fitfully at his hair. "My father is… well, a complete asshole. I don't want to turn out like him."

In earlier times, she would have sat down beside him, but her rounded stomach prevents her from doing so comfortably. Instead, she pulls a footstool over and sits on that. "I don't know how to be a mother," she admits, "and my mother is crazy. I suppose it's trial and error. You could always ask Valentine for advice, if it worries you that much." His little boy is nearly a month old already. If Valentine doesn't know how to be a father, if Jocelyn doesn't know how to be a mother, neither of them show it.

"You don't understand," Stephen says, and when he lifts his head she's surprised at how lost he looks, "I don't know if I can love my child. I haven't even figured out how to love my wife yet."

He puts his head back down on his knees. Maryse leans over and touches his hair. "Oh, Stephen," she murmurs.

A few minutes after he leaves, Robert wanders in to find her still perched on the footstool, watching the moon rise through the window, deep in thought. "Is he all right?" he asks, putting his hand between her shoulderblades. "He isn't going to go home and murder his wife and unborn child, is he?"

Maryse reaches back and swats him on the arm. "Don't be ridiculous." The cynical part of her thinks that's something they ought to watch out for, though. "I wanted to marry him when I was younger, you know," she says suddenly.

Robert chokes on his wine.

"I'm glad I didn't," she adds. "He has more problems than anyone could ever handle."

As it turns out, Stephen doesn't need to worry about becoming his father. He dies just months later on an otherwise routine raid, clearing out a nest of vampires who have been getting far too close to a small and mostly defenseless Shadowhunter village. The only person to hear his last words is Valentine, who is kneeling next to him on the ground – Stephen collars him and pulls him down, a gesture nobody would have ever tried otherwise, and mumbles something. Maryse, standing right behind Valentine, cannot hear a sound over the buzzing in her ears. This isn't happening. Stephen is one of the most brilliant warriors she knows – something as simple as a vampire hunt isn't enough to bring him down – and he'd been fighting alongside Valentine, who would never let anything happen to his second-in-command.

She is still too numb to feel pity when Valentine tells Celine that her husband is dead. The girl turns chalk-white, hands going to her mouth, and sways alarmingly. "He asked me to request," Valentine says, and in his voice is the sympathy Maryse can't conjure up, "that you name your son Jonathan. For his elder brother."

Celine bursts into tears and sinks to the floor. Michael Wayland crouches beside her. Maryse just turns away, taking Robert's arm, and walks out.

The next night, Celine slits her wrists.

Maryse attends Stephen's funeral, which is held alongside that of his father's – she doesn't know exactly what happened to him, but general consensus is that he was already very ill and desperate to reunite with his son before it was too late, and Stephen's death was just too much for him. Good riddance, she thinks. Maybe if he'd figured out how to love both his boys instead of just the eldest a little bit sooner, if he hadn't hated Stephen for living when Jonathan died, Stephen might still be alive.

Imogen is there. She looks like she's aged thirty years in less than a month. The last conversation she had with her son was the argument where she begged him not to join the Circle, and it ended with him cutting her out of his life.

When they put him on the pyre, Maryse whispers, "Ave atque vale, Stephen," and tries not to remember that some of his wounds looked as if they were caused by a blade.

None of the vampires were carrying swords.


Valentine

The first time Maryse speaks to him, it's during a politics class, not long after she goes away to school.

Their debate is silly – his interpretation of a Law is drastically different from hers, and he doesn't believe her thoughts are valid, and that rubs Maryse the wrong way. They eat up the better part of ten minutes snarling insults at one another. She calls him a 'pig-headed moron who needs to remove the seraph blade rammed up his ass', he just smirks at her, and the instructor tells them both to shut up before continuing with the lesson.

After the class ends, she gathers up her books and leaves the classroom. He's waiting for her.

"You're Maryse Trueblood, right?" he says.

Maryse stiffens. Nearly everyone who's asked her that so far follows it up with a question about her brother. She refuses to answer them, but whispers still trail behind her. The Trueblood name was never anything particularly special, yet until her stupid brother, it was at least respectable.

"Yes," she finally mutters, walking past him.

He catches up with her effortlessly. She braces herself for the inevitable, but his words surprise her. "I've met your sister. The Mayfields are the closest neighbors my father and I have."

She eyes him, remembering Marguerite mentioning the lonely manor about half an hour's walk west of her house. "Are you Jonathan Morgenstern's son?"

"Yes," he replies. "My name's Valentine."

"Great." Maryse makes her way down to the training halls. He wanders along after her like a tall, white-blond shadow. "Look, I'm busy. If you're just following me so you can keep telling me that my opinions are wrong, then go away."

Valentine smirks again. "Not at all," he says. "You're the first person in this school who's actually bothered to argue with me." Then he turns away and starts to walk off. "I'll see you around."

She stares after him, and her expression must be very odd, because a girl from her dormitory named Madeleine pauses as she walks by and asks if she's all right. "What? Oh, yes, fine." Maryse shakes her head and goes into the training hall, half-exasperated, half-amused. What a strange kid.

Despite what her mother thinks, Maryse never falls for Valentine. She comes to love him, of course, just like everyone else, but never romantically. In some strange way, he almost replaces her brother – they're the same age, but he's more talented and knowledgeable than anyone she's ever met, and he doesn't care the slightest bit that she hails from a disgraced family.

"It's a bit ridiculous," he says one day when they're thirteen. "I mean, I do believe that Shadowhunters should marry other Shadowhunters, but marrying a mundane isn't the end of the world. They're not all that different from us."

"Except marrying a mundane means giving up being a Shadowhunter, and you're the one who's always going on about needing more Shadowhunters."

He leans over the table towards her, dark eyes shining. "What if it didn't?" he breathes. "What if they knew about us? What if we didn't have to hide what we are?"

Maryse closes the essay she's writing into her textbook. "That's a lot of 'what ifs'," she says, "and I doubt any of them are ever going to happen."

She has no idea that he's already begun to draft out plans for the future.

But before they turn sixteen, before what started as a juvenile fantasy becomes something real and bright and achievable, they are still children. And Maryse feels as useless as a child, that night, sitting on a bench outside the school, digging the point of her stele into the pitted wood.

"Maryse?" she hears, and then Valentine sits on the other side of the bench. The glow from the witchlight lamps lining the street glints off his pale hair. "What are you doing out here? It's nearly midnight."

She shrugs and stares at the cobblestones, because if she looks at him, she'll end up spilling everything. He has that effect on her.

He is quiet for a moment, then says, "I spoke with Stephen earlier. He's returning to London tomorrow."

Maryse's head jerks up, involuntarily, and she gawks. "You know him?" The moment the words are out of her mouth, she feels remarkably stupid – if she's learned one thing about Valentine Morgenstern, it's that he knows damn near everyone.

He merely nods. "Yes. My father and Marcus Herondale used to hunt together – his family usually visited us when they came to your sister's house during the summer."

"So you knew Jonathan, too." Oh, look, another dumb question.

"I did." Valentine crosses his arms over his chest, looks up at the sky. "In fact, it was very hard to get rid of him." Maryse opens her mouth to tell him she understands that, having been caught up in Jonathan's protective anger more often than she would have liked, but he continues before she can. "When I was eleven, I overheard my father speaking of a group of werewolves camped out just north of our home. Stephen and I decided to see if we could find their site and snuck off while everyone else was busy."

Maryse is openly staring now. Valentine speaks constantly, of the future of the Nephilim and the changes they're going to make, but very rarely about himself. She knows next to nothing about his childhood.

"We eventually found the trail and followed it through the woods. We got close – close enough to hear them talking – but no further. I don't know if he found out where we were going or if he just followed at a distance until he realized, but Jonathan caught us, turned us around, and made us go home. He was absolutely furious. On the way back, he made us promise not to tell anyone where we'd been, or we would be in more trouble than we could possibly imagine. When we got inside, though, Stephen's father was waiting for us – and he asked Jonathan where we had gone.

"Jonathan wasn't about to lie directly to his father. He told him.

"My own father didn't think it was a very big deal. 'Curiosity isn't a sin,' he said, 'but perhaps you should both be confined to the manor for the rest of your stay, for your own safety. Werewolves are rarely docile.'" Valentine leans back, eyes darkening. "Stephen's father wasn't pleased. He said, 'If the boy needs punishing, then I will punish him.' They left that day instead of at the end of the week as originally planned."

Almost unconsciously, Maryse recalls pushing Stephen off the wall that one summer, watching him wince, seeing the bruises on his arms. "His father…"

"They were both afraid of him. Marcus Herondale is not a kind man. Jonathan, however, was afraid of disappointing him – Stephen only fears his temper. He told me once that he was sure he'd already disappointed his father just by existing."

Maryse swallows around the lump in her throat. "What about his mother?"

"I suppose she does what she thinks is best." He uncrosses his arms and runs his fingers through his hair. It's an oddly vulnerable gesture, coming from him. "There's no need for you to worry. She won't let his father do any real harm."

The words would be less than comforting, coming from anyone else, but Valentine sounds so sure of himself that her nerves calm the slightest bit. "I'm not too worried about his father harming him," she says softly. "I'm afraid he'll harm himself."

For the first time since she met him three years ago, Valentine actually looks surprised.

Then he covers her hand with his own. "Maryse," he says, "Stephen is not that weak."

Jonathan Morgenstern's death two years later changes Valentine, but not for the worse – he throws himself into what they're now calling the Circle of Raziel, plotting all the time but rarely sharing his plans with anyone besides Jocelyn Fairchild. His morals change, and theirs change alongside him. Maryse only questions his new vitriol against Downworlders once.

"The earth is for humans," he says simply, "not half-human, half-demon mutts."

"I don't disagree, but we're half-human," she points out.

Valentine just looks at her. "And half-angel, Maryse. We are blessed."

Briefly, she imagines that she can see the idealistic thirteen-year-old he once was peering out through his eyes.

The explanation is enough for her. She's the first one to speak the oath, to bind herself to the Circle – and to Valentine – forever. I hereby render unconditional obedience to the Circle and its principles. I will be ready to risk my life at any time for the Circle, in order to preserve the purity of the bloodlines of Idris, and for the mortal world with whose safety we are charged.

He smiles at her when she finishes, and Maryse feels as if she's part of something far larger than she could ever comprehend.

Valentine and Jocelyn have their first child a few years later. They call him Jonathan, after his grandfather. "Catherine and I were planning to name our baby Jonathan, if it's a boy," Michael says to Maryse and Robert after the news gets out. "Do you think he'll be upset if we do?"

"Probably not," Robert tells him, "it's a common enough name."

Too common, Maryse thinks. "Robert, we are not naming our son Jonathan."

He looks at her a bit oddly. "I know. I thought we already decided on a name."

"We did," she says. "But just in case you were thinking of changing your mind."

As agreed, they don't name their son Jonathan. Valentine visits Maryse a few days after she gets home from the hospital. "Just imagine," he says, touching her shoulder, "Jonathan and Alexander and Michael's son and Stephen's child… they won't have to grow up hiding the way we did. They'll be free."

Free. Coming from Valentine's lips, it's the most beautiful word she's ever heard.

The freedom her children end up with isn't exactly what she envisions that night. They have an entire city to run around in, but the one place they can be what they truly are is within the impersonal walls of the Institute, and they only meet other Shadowhunters once in a blue moon. Maryse is afraid that her daughter will never see Idris, and she doubts her son can remember it at all.

For her part, she takes to tidying up the old cathedral, attempting to make it look like home, and tries to forget Valentine.

As with Stephen, she can never truly forget, but as the years pass she no longer remembers why she really loved him to begin with. Time dulls the pain of realizing he'd betrayed them all, that everything he'd ever said to her was a coldly-calculated lie. She's spent a good part of her life adoring, and then loathing, Valentine Morgenstern, and she can't bring herself to feel much of anything towards him anymore.

Although, when he turns up alive and Projects himself into her library, she's struck with the urge to throw a book at him. And when he is willing to allow his son to die in exchange for keeping the Mortal Instruments, she finds she can still hate him after all. Even if he doesn't consider himself a Lightwood, Jace is as much Maryse's child as Alec and Isabelle and Max are. She won't give him up that easily.

It comes as a relief when Valentine finally, actually dies. This time, perhaps he can take a few of Maryse's regrets with him.

Maryse watches silently as they set his body alight. She doesn't think of the man who led the Circle, who experimented on his own children (and other people's), who is the reason she had to be present at her nine-year-old son's funeral, who looked so tenderly at his wife while unaware of how much she feared him, who she has always subconsciously suspected of murdering her closest friend, who she loved and hated and who made her into what she is today. She thinks of the laughing, charismatic, 'pig-headed moron with a seraph blade rammed up his ass' who had all the promise in the world.


Robert

"Chicken Legs!"

"Shut up!" Maryse yells shrilly. "You're such a jerk!"

Robert makes a grotesque face at her, grinning maniacally. "And you've got scrawny chicken legs!"

"Go home and take your ugly face with you!" Maryse looks around for a clod of dirt to throw at him, but there aren't any on the cobblestones, so she picks up a rock, instead, and flings it.

He ducks. The rock clatters onto the street behind him. "Your aim is bad, too, Chicken Legs!"

The second throw doesn't miss. But she thinks she might have put a bit too much into it when Robert yelps, clamping a hand over his forehead, and blood starts to well up between his fingers.

Josephine is not happy when she comes out of the shop. Robert's mother, however, seems to find it more amusing than anything else. "Stop whining, you'll live. And next time, don't make fun of her, and maybe you won't get anything thrown at you," she scolds.

"He ran up behind me while I was looking in the window and pulled my hair," Maryse complains on the walk home. "And he keeps telling me I have skinny legs like a chicken!"

"You do."

"Mother!"

"Oh, relax, Maryse," Josephine says. "He only does those things because he likes you and he's too immature to show it. But if I ever catch you throwing rocks at anyone again, I'll cut your hands off."

Maryse huffs and crosses her arms over her chest. "Boys are gross," she mutters.

Robert calls her 'Chicken Legs' every time he sees her for the next three years. When they're nine, she tells him that she might have bony legs, but at least she isn't a goofy-looking midget. He only laughs until she steps closer to him. His head comes up to her chin.

He doesn't tease her quite so much after that. They still make faces at one another across the street, but the exchange of insults tapers off and eventually stops altogether. Maryse tells herself very firmly that she doesn't miss it, and if she never talks to him again, she'll be perfectly content. Besides, the only boy she wants or needs in her life is Stephen. He doesn't give her stupid nicknames or seem to care that she's six inches taller than he is, and that's good enough for her. Stupid Robert. Who needed him, anyway?

They attend the same school in Alicante, but she doesn't know it at first. Their classes are at different times and Maryse is too busy marveling at the city when she isn't working, so it isn't until one morning in December that she runs into him – quite literally, in fact.

Her books are scattered everywhere, the back of her head throbs where it bounced off the cold marble floor, and she's already in a hurry, being ten minutes late for class. She babbles apologies as she tries to collect her things. The person she crashed into coming around the corner tells her it's all right, to just calm down, but she overslept and her History instructor is insanely strict when it comes to lateness and when she stands up the world spins and she goes right back down.

Three blurry boys lean over her, concerned expressions on their faces. They all look exactly alike. She giggles a bit and says, "I didn't know you were a triplet."

Then the dark spots crowding out her vision claim her entirely.

When she comes to, she's lying on a couch in the infirmary near the training halls. A woman hurries over to her and tells her to sit up slowly, to follow her fingers as she moves them back and forth and up and down. "Good," she says, "You had a concussion, but we healed that for you while you were unconscious."

"How did I get a concussion?" she asks blankly.

"The boy who brought you here said you ran into each other and you hit your head on the floor when you fell."

Maryse's memory of the incident is still fuzzy, but when the woman lets her leave and she sees her books and papers all neatly stacked up on a table, she suddenly recalls the 'triplets' she saw after falling and groans out loud.

She plans to avoid him out of sheer embarrassment. She manages for two classes before he comes looking for her and stops her in the hallway.

"Are you all right? I mean – you were out cold."

Maryse flushes. "I'm fine. Thanks for helping me out. I'll see you later." And she brushes past him, cheeks flaming, because Robert might still be shorter than her but he certainly isn't so goofy-looking anymore.

That doesn't mean she likes him, though. He's probably just waiting for the right moment to yell, "Hey, Chicken Legs!" and humiliate her in front of a bunch of people.

She has a string of suitors over the next couple of years – Vincent Clearwater, Henry Vinehill, Franklin Wilcox (who she dumps when she finds out they're second cousins, because that's more than a little weird), even Michael Wayland for a bit, and more. Casual relationships, mostly. She gets somewhat serious with Vincent when they're fifteen, then breaks it off when she recognizes that he isn't going to grow out of his 'strict and proper' phase.

By age sixteen, being desirable is considerably less of a novelty. She's had enough boyfriends to know what she wants.

And she hates, hates, hates herself for wanting Robert.

The problem is that their roles are reversed these days – he's the one who doesn't seem to realize she exists. "It's not fair," she sighs over a demonology textbook, "that I wish he'd say two words to me now, when I used to want him to just shut up."

On the other side of the table, Jocelyn looks up and blinks. She'd been sketching the skyline of Alicante, visible from the tall windows in the girls' dormitory, and probably hadn't even realized Maryse was there until she spoke. "So why don't you ask him to go out with you?" she suggests.

Maryse is horrified. "I can't do that!"

"Why not?" Jocelyn returns to her drawing, and Maryse thinks that's the last she'll get from her, but then she adds, "I don't think he'll reject you, if that's what you're worried about. He just gazes at you whenever you're not looking. It's kind of sweet, really."

Maryse ponders this for a few days. Then, deciding she doesn't have much to lose, she tracks down Michael and asks where Robert is now. He directs her to the library.

She finds him sitting a few tables away from Hodge Starkweather (who everyone agrees is a permanent fixture), bent over a book. He has reading glasses. Maryse thinks he looks ridiculously adorable with them on.

She takes a deep breath, schools her features into an expression that hopefully doesn't suggest she'll strangle him if he refuses, and walks over. "Robert."

He glances up, startled. "Maryse?"

Now or never. Maryse steels herself, and asks if maybe he'd like to do something sometime.

She tries to, at least. He accepts before she even finishes the sentence.

It's sort of funny how an annoying little boy who used to stick leaves into her braids transformed into a smart, proud, serious man who looks at her like she's the only thing in his world. The two of them end up spending a good deal of time on the school roof – which is off-limits to students, but that's one of those rules that isn't really enforced as long as nobody goes jumping off – talking for hours without any concern for anything else. She tells him about her brother, how betrayed she was by his leaving, and shows him a picture of Marie and says that meeting her niece had made her decide that children weren't really so bad after all. He talks about his father, who had died when Robert was eight as his body inexplicably rejected his Marks, so abruptly that the strain killed him. He says that no one had seen such a thing occur before, but he'd feared the same could happen to him, and so he had refused to allow himself to be Marked. Until he met Valentine, at least. They frequently speak of Valentine, since they are both close (or as close as anyone can possibly be) to him, and of his ideals, his visions, his preparation for the future of the Clave. Maryse begins to understand how Lennox could fall in love with her straight-laced, dull-as-a-crayon sister. If you care about someone enough, you can look past their faults – Robert is more of a thinker than a doer, he prefers to follow instead of lead, and he has this bizarre fondness for cats that she does not share – but she barely even notices these things after a while.

The first time they kiss, she opens her eyes, and she can still see the slight indent on his forehead where she struck him with a rock all those years ago.

They go up onto the roof one last time when they're eighteen, the night before they graduate from school. "It's odd," she murmurs, "that we're never going to come back here." Sure, the roof has been a meeting place for a thousand trysting couples, but it still feels special to her.

"I know," he says. He takes her hand, but rather than hold onto it, he presses something small and cool and metallic into her palm. And then he asks her to marry him.

Or he tries to, at least. She says yes before he gets all of the words out.

After the fight with her mother, Maryse packs up her belongings and moves into the Lightwood manor, which is far closer to her friends than her old home was. "I'm sorry to inconvenience you like this," she apologizes to Robert's mother.

Michelle just waves a hand. "Nonsense. You'd be living here soon enough, anyway, and now I don't have to listen to Robert sigh so pitifully every time you leave. Make yourself at home, dear – just watch out for the cats."

As for the cats, they have five of them. There's Freddie, Baby, and Riley in the house, plus a tom named Cinnamon who hangs around in the front bushes when he's not impregnating all the neighborhood strays (and they really should do something about that if they ever manage to catch him), and, finally, a tiny tortoiseshell kitten Robert finds in a puddle by the road. She's so skinny and bedraggled that nobody thinks she'll survive, but she manages, and Robert fondly names her Olivia. Maryse just rolls her eyes and lets him get on with it.

Olivia turns out to be such a vicious menace that she regrets not putting her foot down earlier. They can't find anyone else to take her in, though, and it'd be cruel to put her outside, and soon enough their wedding arrives and Maryse doesn't care that much anymore because it turns out that all the flowery speeches Marguerite gave about it being one of the happiest days of her life are true.

Robert – nearly as reserved as Maryse herself – is completely unable to contain his joy when she tells him she's pregnant, a year after their marriage. He stares for a moment, then gives a whoop and picks her up and twirls her around, laughing. She smacks him on the shoulder and says, "Put me down!", but when Michelle comes in to see what all of the fuss is about, she's laughing too.

She isn't laughing by the time she's seven months pregnant, because at this point she's pretty sure she's going to be having a small cow – and that's certainly what it feels like when she gives birth to her son, nearly eight whole weeks before her due date.

"That one," Josephine says, "is going to be trouble. Early babies are always trouble."

"What?" Maryse mumbles, not really listening. She can't stop looking at her tiny, tiny baby. His eyes are the exact same shade of blue as hers. "That's preposterous."

Her mother grunts and sits in a chair. "I speak from experience. You and your brother were both born early, but your sister was right on time, and guess which one of you never gives me any hassle, hm?"

"I don't care," Robert declares from the foot of the bed, eyes glowing. "He's perfect."

"You say that now," Josephine grumbles, "but just wait until he brings home a girl you don't approve of."

Her son is nine hours old. Maryse thinks they have a bit of time before having to worry about that. She shortens her baby's name to Alec, because four syllables is a bit of a mouthful, but Robert insists on calling him Alexander. Whatever, though. He looks so proud every time he sees his son that she doesn't care what he wants to call him.

He looks equally proud when Isabelle is born almost two years later. "She's beautiful," he whispers, letting her curl her little hand around his finger. "If she's even half the Shadowhunter you are, she'll be amazing."

Maryse is flattered. She still retorts, "Well, I intend on her being twice the Shadowhunter I am, so there."

They continue to live in the Lightwood manor, which Robert inherits after his mother dies, with two kids and a bunch of cats (they're still trying to get rid of Olivia, but Maryse is almost used to the rest of them), and they perform their duties for the Circle admirably. They're making a better world for their – for everyone's – children.

If Maryse has the occasional doubt, a rare flash of fear that something terrible will happen and Alec and Isabelle will grow up alone, she doesn't voice her concerns. Saying it out loud would be acknowledging that, maybe, everything she believes is wrong, and Maryse does not like to be wrong. But Robert always seems to know. They've moved past words. That is why, when the Uprising goes so terribly wrong, that they look at each other, about to give up their lives for the cause, and lay down their weapons in tandem. Better world or otherwise, they cannot abandon their children.

She and Robert sit side-by-side at their trial, stone-faced, as they are sentenced to exile.

The New York Institute is not where she expected to live out the rest of her life. It's dreary, cold, and nobody's set foot in it in years. But they make do – it's more than they deserve – and while it never really becomes home to them, the Institute is the only home Alec and Isabelle and, later, Max, ever know. Between administrative work for the Clave and tedious visits to Alicante, she tries to make it look a bit more like the Lightwood manor. Having two kids and two cats (Church has lived there as long as anyone can remember, and they've resigned themselves to Olivia's presence by now) underfoot makes the task harder than she thinks it'll be.

Still, when she remembers the Uprising, remembers what the Clave could have done to them – and there are things so much worse than even the curse they put on Hodge, who's affixed himself to their library now – she thinks they can manage. They're still a family.

And when Robert hands her the letter from the Clave that night and tells her Michael Wayland is dead, that Jonathan (only ten, just a bit younger than her own son) is an orphan and has no family but his godfather, she simply says, "Write back. Tell them we'll take him."

Robert is severely injured during the battle on the East River. The poison ravaging his body isn't fatal, but it has no known antidote, so she can do nothing except sit beside him and reminisce about their first date and every night up on the rooftop and the expression on his face each time she tells him she loves him, until the poison works its way out of his system.

"Maryse," he mumbles as he wakes, his eyes no longer clouded and unseeing. "My Maryse."

After everything is over, when Valentine is dead and the hole he punched through her heart when he took her baby away from her begins to mend, they leave the house they're borrowing one night and walk through the familiar streets until they reach the school. Together, they slip inside and climb the stairs to the rooftop. The door is unlocked – clearly, the rule about 'no students on the roof' is as rigid now as it was when they were children. Up there, they stand together and look out over the city.

"Can you believe," Maryse murmurs, "that we've been married for almost twenty years?"

He turns to her, takes her face in his hands, leans his forehead against hers. "Yes."

She closes her eyes. "I don't think I've ever apologized for throwing that rock at you, have I?"

"No," he says, and laughs, "but I don't mind. For what it's worth, I never really thought you had skinny legs. I was mad because you were so pretty and you didn't even notice me unless I made fun of you."

Maryse opens her eyes again. She can still see the scar on his temple.

She winds her arms around his neck and kisses him like it's the first time and knows, beyond even a shadow of a doubt, that she loves this man.


Hodge

As far as Circle members go, Maryse is the least familiar with Hodge Starkweather. He interacts mostly with Valentine and spends the rest of his time buried in books. There's a table in the history section of the school library with his name on it – literally, because Michael etches it into the wood with his stele as a joke, gets caught, and is sentenced to three extra hours of training as punishment.

"Why ever did you think that was a good idea?" Maryse asks Michael when he returns, soaked in sweat and bleeding. They're casually dating at this point, and she thinks he's very intelligent and rather good-looking, but they both know it's not a long-term relationship.

He shrugs a shoulder and shucks off his gear. "Because Hodge always sits there. Any day now he's going to start putting down roots."

True enough, she thinks. History is not her forte, so she frequently asks Hodge questions about their reading, listens to him explain, with a strange vigor she never sees from him otherwise, things she doesn't understand, and that is the extent of their interaction. He's part of the Circle, though, so obviously he shares the same beliefs as she does.

After they graduate, Hodge takes up arms and goes on raids, although not as often as the rest of them. He remains in Alicante, acquires a position at the school (teaching History, naturally), and passes information along to Valentine.

Maryse continues to have little contact with him until after the Uprising. He too is exiled to New York, but, lacking the connections the Lightwoods have, is not let off so lightly. The moment he steps over the threshold of the Institute, the curse the Clave placed on him kicks in. He will never be able to leave.

Maryse tries to feel sorry for him, but all she can manage is a vague sense of relief that that's not her fate.

Just like he had as a student, he devotes himself to his books, but they are of all disciplines now. When Alec and Isabelle are old enough, he'll teach them in lieu of the education they would be getting had they remained in Idris. Since there are unusually few Shadowhunters in New York City, the New York Institute isn't a school the way the ones in London and Beijing and Seattle are. Maryse feels like she's depriving them of something they desperately need – not schooling so much as other Shadowhunters to befriend – but there is no other choice.

She regards him as a necessity for a while. As long as he gives her children the best education he can, she'll tolerate him. Robert adopts a similar stance and they move on with their lives.

It isn't until a few years have passed that Maryse begins to see Hodge as less of a necessary evil and more of something that could practically be considered a rival. Her and Robert's duties to the Clave take them away from New York, almost every month, and sometimes for weeks at a time. When they're not around, he raises their children. He is almost more of a parent to Alec and Isabelle than Maryse has the time to be.

Still, she has no choice.

She and Robert handle as much of their Shadowhunting training as they can, to make up for their absence. Again, given the lack of Nephilim – and the startlingly vast Downworld population – in the area, it is far too likely that they'll be demon hunting while other Shadowhunters their age are still learning how to wield a seraph blade. It's Hodge that does the majority of the work, though, and Maryse comes home one weekend to discover that he has Marked her son.

"He's eleven," Maryse hisses. Max, sitting on her lap, grabs at Hugo's tail feathers, and she gently nudges his hands away before the raven decides he doesn't like that treatment. "He shouldn't have been Marked for another year."

"Maryse," Hodge says, standing and letting Hugo take refuge on his shoulder, "the other day was the first time I have ever known Alec to display an interest in Shadowhunting that didn't seem forced. He came to me and asked. I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think he was ready – and I did, so I saw no need to discourage him."

Maryse hates that he kind of has a point. She nods, stiffly, and stands. "Where is he?"

As if on cue, there is a loud thud from the floor below them, followed by a shout, and followed still by the sound of something shattering.

"In the training room with Jace." Hodge picks a book from a crammed shelf and thumbs through it. "Breaking the mirrors, apparently."

Speaking of Jace, he takes to Hodge with startling quickness. They are habitually having long, involved conversations about some obscure event in history before Jace even looks comfortable sitting down to eat with the rest of the family. Maryse tells herself she isn't jealous. It's good that he's connecting with someone, even if it's not her or her husband.

But she is jealous, and she knows it. When there is a young demon rooting around in an alley several blocks from the Institute, when Alec and Jace – thirteen and twelve, respectively – are sent out alone to kill it, she and Robert aren't even in the country. They only hear about it when they get the message from Hodge. It's short and impersonal, yet she can still tell how proud he is.

And why shouldn't he be, she thinks, a tad bitterly. Her pride feels almost misplaced, like she's taking credit for someone else's work.

Maryse keeps her mouth shut whenever Hodge casually mentions something about her children she didn't know. She pretends it doesn't bother her that he is the one to comfort Isabelle after the werewolf boy she was not old enough to be dating dumps her, even though that is very much a mother-daughter thing, because she wasn't there at the time. She isn't there when Jace nearly gets killed by an Oni demon and spends a week recuperating in the infirmary. She isn't there when Alec starts having nightmares that leave him exhausted and dead-eyed (although he refuses to tell even Hodge what they're about, which oddly makes her feel a bit better). Frankly, she's pretty certain that she is the worst mother ever, but everything always boils down to the fact that she has no choice.

The mundanes have a saying – "You've made your bed, now lie in it." She brought this on herself and has no one else to blame.

It doesn't stop Maryse from resenting Hodge. And while she's livid when she finds out what he's done – turned over the Mortal Cup and Jace to Valentine in exchange for the removal of his curse and left the Institute while Alec was dying, some tiny part of her is glad that he's gone.

Hodge's death is well overshadowed by Max's, and Maryse is too blinded by her grief and anger to even register the words when Jace mentions, in passing, that someone will need to retrieve his body from up near the Gard. She isn't even aware the Clave is performing a funeral for him until she goes looking for her children and Robert tells her where they are.

The turnout is very small – besides Alec, Jace, and Isabelle, there are only a few Shadowhunters they knew in school and the elderly history professor he replaced, plus a handful of relatives. She stands on Isabelle's other side as a man she dimly recognizes as Hodge's much younger brother touches the torch to the pyre, setting it alight. Isabelle looks rather surprised to see her there. "We didn't think you'd want to come," she says later. "I mean… I never got the impression that you liked him very much."

"Was it that obvious?" Maryse asks. Isabelle shrugs, and she sighs. "I suppose it bothered me – that he could spend so much time with you and your brothers when your father and I couldn't." It's the first time she's ever acknowledged her jealousy to anyone else, and it still sounds childish and petty, but… saying it out loud is a little liberating.

"But you're our mom," Isabelle points out, "and Hodge… Hodge was like a weird uncle that one side of the family totally hates, so he's never invited to parties, but he always finds out about them and shows up anyway."

Maryse stares.

"That… sounded completely ridiculous, didn't it. Look, I'm tired. It's been a long week. The point is, he couldn't really replace you and Dad or anything. And he turned out to be a bit of a dick in the end, rejoining Valentine and all – you know, I'm not really sure I'm the person you should be talking to about all this. I have no idea how I feel about him anymore."

For a moment, Maryse loathes Hodge Starkweather all over again, for putting that tired, confused expression on her daughter's face.

Isabelle suddenly brightens before she can really think about it, though. "I think he did love us, at least. Jace told me that's what he said." She yawns, brushes back a few stray hairs that have escaped her tight braid. "He could have just left that night and let Alec die, but he didn't – he got Magnus to come and heal him – so I guess he wasn't really all bad."

"Oh?" Maryse raises an eyebrow. "That's news to me. Why doesn't anyone ever tell me these things?"

"No offense, Mom, but you never ask the right questions."

Maryse shakes her head, laughs, and drapes an arm across Isabelle's shoulders as they make their way back to the house. She'd never liked Hodge, but, since she'll never have the chance to learn to live with him, maybe it's time she forgives him. After all, his job was to teach and make sure they weren't neglected, and he took the extra step and actually loved them as if they were his own.

She has a choice, this time. She chooses to forgive.


Max

It is, perhaps, because of Hodge that Maryse decides things will be different with her youngest child.

Before coming to that conclusion, however, she stands outside the doors to her and Robert's office, uncharacteristically nervous. Most Shadowhunters tend to have their children within a short period of time so as to be able to return to their duties sooner. Her mother was a tad unusual, having two children in two years, then a third a decade on. Maryse and Robert had decided ages ago that Alec and Isabelle were enough, especially considering they barely can make time for them as it is.

This was not in their plans.

She pushes the doors open. Inside, Robert is slaving away at the usual monthly Institute paperwork – Downworlder troubles, demons in the area, expenses, et cetera – with Isabelle in the chair across from the desk, playing with a hair ribbon and babbling on about something.

"Robert," she says when her daughter pauses for air, "can I speak to you for a minute?"

"Sure," he responds, frowning at the stack of work they haven't yet put a dent in. "Isabelle, go play with your brother for a while."

Isabelle frowns. "I was. He got mad at me for annoying him and kicked me out of his room."

"Well, I'm giving you permission to annoy him for a bit," Maryse says. Isabelle grins and hops off the chair, scampering out of the office and shutting the door behind her.

Robert looks up. "I think we – what's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong." She takes Isabelle's vacated seat, smoothes down her long skirt, and breathes in, deeply, before meeting his eyes. "But I'm pregnant."

There is a long silence.

"You're… how?"

"I would have thought that you'd know how it works by now," Maryse says dryly.

Robert gives her a look and sighs, pressing his palms into his eyes. Then, abruptly, he laughs, leans against the back of his chair, rubs a hand across his beard, and says, "You do realize that once we tell Alec and Isabelle, they will never come near our bedroom again?"

And that is that.

Alec and Isabelle, predictably, respond as any pair of children realizing their parents still have a loving physical relationship would – shock, mild disgust, and horror. Maryse isn't sure they've even processed the fact that they'll have another sibling in less than a year. Actually, that worries her a bit.

"I don't want them to resent him for taking away our attention." She stops, considers, and adds, "Or her." It's the middle of the night, the thought just won't leave her alone, and Robert is dead to the world, so she's swallowing her pride and speaking to Hodge. It isn't surprising that he's still awake, the man keeps odd hours. And, as much as she absolutely hates to admit it, he can probably predict how they'll react better than anyone else.

"I see." Hodge runs a hand down Hugo's back, stroking the gleaming feathers into order. "I wouldn't worry too much," he says. "They aren't very little anymore. I think they're old enough to understand how much time a baby takes up." He pauses for a moment. "Although, I was seventeen when Benjamin was born, and I hated him… mostly because he liked to rip up my books, though."

"Ah." She excuses herself to bed, makes a mental note to keep the baby out of the library, and wonders why she ever bothers talking to him.

For some reason, they have a hell of a time trying to decide what to name this child, even after the doctor tells Maryse she's having another boy – to the point that she's actually holding her baby, exhausted after eleven hours of labor, and Robert is still shooting down all of her suggestions.

"Oh, fine!" She snaps after he refuses to even think about 'James'. "Why don't we just name him after your father, then?"

Robert looks utterly horrified. "You want to call him Templeton?"

"What – no, I thought you said your father's name was Maxwell."

"That's what he went by, but it was his middle name."

If she didn't have her arms full of snoozing newborn at the moment, she would have flung her hands in the air. "Well, that's what I meant."

"Oh." He sits on the bed and touches their son's small, round cheek. His hand is enormous next to the baby's head. "You know, that's not a bad idea."

"Fine, then, it's settled," she says, just so it's out of the way and she can get some desperately-needed sleep, but after a few hours of rest she decides that it's an excellent name after all, and it becomes official.

When they get back to the Institute a week later, Isabelle is obviously less than impressed. "What does he do?" She wonders, prodding at the infant's bare foot. Max sleeps through the assault.

"Nothing, yet," Maryse says. "He's only a baby."

Isabelle makes a face. "What did you expect?" Alec asks her from the armchair he's curled himself into, sounding faintly amused. He is, at best, completely apathetic towards his little brother. It's better than outright jealousy, Maryse assumes.

"I don't know," she admits. Then Max blinks his eyes open and she leans over him, smiling. "Hi, Max," she coos.

Max stares at her for an entire minute.

"This is boring," Isabelle complains. "Alec, come play Monopoly with me."

"No. You cheat."

"I do not!"

"You embezzle money from the bank."

"Oh, I did that once!"

They walk off, arguing, and Maryse looks down at Max. He burbles. "You make more intelligent conversation than they do, sometimes," she tells him.

Since he's too young for formal education, and it would be unfair to burden Hodge with his care, Max comes with her and Robert every time they're summoned to Idris. In the beginning, it's almost weird. Other members of the Clave (the ones that don't glare every time she or her husband walk by, at least) ask about him, tell her how adorable he is or exclaim, "He's getting so big!" like they've never seen a baby before. But, after a while, it makes her feel accepted – like she's one of them again, instead of a disgraced ex-Circle member who everyone knows was a major orchestrator of the Uprising. She doesn't comprehend how much she's missed the socialization until it's a part of her life again.

That isn't really the reason she keeps bringing him along even after he's old enough for school, though. Hodge starts teaching him as soon as he turns five and can sit still long enough to listen. The problem with this setup is that he needs to carve out another chunk of time to do this, since he already has to teach Alec, Jace, and Isabelle. After a couple weeks of trying to rearrange schedules, Maryse and Robert decide that they can teach him the basics.

"The basics" end up continuing for far longer than they originally intended, simply because Maryse doesn't want to stop. This feels right – like, instead of leaving him to Hodge all the time, she's actually his mother. There isn't that detachment between her and Max.

Instead, it's between him and his siblings. Isabelle and Max get along well enough, but it's clear she thinks he's much too young to understand her, and Alec doesn't know how to make conversation with him (talking to people is not his strong point) and thus rarely bothers. Oddly, Jace seems to like Max quite a bit, but even then, the age gap makes it difficult for them to interact.

Hodge tells her not to worry about that either. "In a few years, Max can start his training, and that'll help," he says. "I intend on having them do most of the work, anyway – the best way to make sure they know what they're doing is to make them teach someone else."

"I want Jace to train me," Max mumbles, fiddling with a puzzle Robert bought him at a shop in Alicante.

"He will, but Alec and Isabelle are going to help too."

Max lifts his head and blinks at Maryse from behind his glasses. He's the only one in the family who's remotely near-sighted. "Isabelle's not a good teacher. She's too impatient," he explains solemnly. "And Alec doesn't like me."

"Of course he does," Maryse says, "don't be silly."

Shrugging, Max looks at his puzzle again, inspects it from all angles, and gives it a twist. It falls apart. Instead of getting upset, though, he merely gathers up the pieces and begins putting it back together with a single-minded focus not usually present in seven-year-olds.

He continues to tag along on their trips anytime she and Robert are going to be gone for more than a week. While the Clave is in session, he usually reads, but he sometimes has the chance to interact with other children close to his age. Maryse leaves the Gard one afternoon to find him running around with Esther Clearwater in a nearby park, pretending to duel with sticks.

And suddenly she understands why she just can't let him go. This is the way it should be – making friends, seeing his parents more than a few days out of the month, not having the pressures of training forced upon him, living in a country where being a Shadowhunter is something to be proud of, not hidden. This is what she should have been able to give to Alec and Isabelle, what Jace had had taken away from him after his father's death. She wants at least one of her children to have the life they deserve, rather than living in the shadow of mistakes their parents made.

Max, however, seems to see it from a slightly different angle. When she asks, one afternoon, if he likes it here in Alicante, he tilts his head to the side and thinks. "Yeah," he says, "but I don't mind being home, either. Isabelle said she was going to show me how she can completely bind someone with her whip, but we left before she could. She probably forgot by now."

Maryse pauses midway through folding her cloak into her bag. "Would you rather stay home next month?"

"Will Hodge answer all my questions with a history lecture like he does to Alec and Jace and Izzy?"

"Probably."

Max hops off the bed and pads, barefoot, over to her, dragging his own suitcase. "Then no, I want to come. That'd make me crazy after a week."

"You would get used to it. The rest of us did... eventually."

"I still want to come with you. They don't really do anything fun there and they won't teach me how to use any of the weapons," he says, shoving his feet into his sneakers, "and Izzy usually watches me, and she just talks about boys all the time."

Maryse smiles. "She's sixteen, Max. A lot of sixteen-year-old girls talk about boys."

"It's so boring, though." Max shoves his feet into his sneakers without untying the laces and picks up one of his comic books. "Esther said I was her boyfriend yesterday."

"Oh, did she?"

"Uh huh. I said I didn't want to be her boyfriend and she cried, so I let her have that puzzle you got me a few years ago and told her she was my friend." He looks up and notices Maryse staring at him, and hastily adds, "Was that bad?"

She shakes her head and zips her suitcase closed, smiling again. "No, of course not." She's thinking quite the opposite, actually – that Max is such a sweet boy and she is damn lucky to have him. "You're much too young for a girlfriend, anyway."

"Okay, good. Can we go to the armory next time?"

They do make time to show him the armory during their next visit, and Max is so incredibly fascinated with the various types of weaponry Robert suggests that perhaps they begin training him after all. "Not heavily," he says, "but if he's interested in learning to use them, then we should probably capitalize on that interest."

Maryse does put some thought into it. The part of her that wants to cling to her youngest, wants to let him be a kid for as long as possible, protests. By the time they were his age, Alec and Isabelle could identify and use nearly every weapon they have in the Institute. Neither of them got to have much of a childhood. On the other hand, if it's what Max wants, it'd be selfish of her to keep him away from what he would still need to learn eventually – and younger children learn more easily, so perhaps it would be best.

Of course, then she gets a hastily-scribbled message from Isabelle informing her that they were all doing fine, not having any trouble, and, oh yeah, they fought a Greater Demon last week and Alec almost died, but he's all right now so don't worry, and that sort of takes precedence over everything else. Robert has to stay behind, but Maryse packs up quickly, gets a ride out of the country, and flies back to New York with Max in tow. She lets him buy another comic at the airport to make up for cutting the trip to the armory short. "We'll go back," she says in the taxi, "I promise."

She doesn't get the chance to keep that promise.

Later, she won't remember the run from the Gard to the Penhallows' house. All she can think the whole time is that her children are there and she needs to get to them, no matter how old or capable of defending themselves they may be. The street alongside the canal is unlit and eerily quiet, but the background noise is a blend of screaming and roaring and all manners of unholy sounds she tries to block out.

The Penhallows' house is dark, which causes a tiny spark of hope to flare up in her heart – maybe they've all gotten somewhere safer, or at least had the sense to make it look as if no one is home. Robert takes the front steps in one easy stride and shoves the door open.

"Alec? Jace?" Maryse calls, holding up her witchlight stone. There is shattered glass on the living room floor and a chair is overturned, and it looks like someone tried to cover a broken window with chunks of wood, but the room is mostly undisturbed otherwise. "Isabelle? Max? Aline?"

No response.

"I don't think they're here," Robert says in a low voice. He peers into the hallway, into the den and the dining room. "I'll check upstairs, though."

"No, I don't either." The witchlight illuminates something at the edge of the kitchen floor, something she initially thinks is just an oddly-shaped shadow. "All right, then we should go –"

And then she realizes it isn't a shadow. It's hair.

Maryse almost drops the stone.

In three steps, she's on the threshold, and her daughter is sprawled bonelessly across the tile, eyes closed, blood pooled around her head. "Isabelle!" she cries, dropping to her knees. Isabelle doesn't stir, and for one heart-stopping moment, Maryse thinks she's dead – but then she notices the rise and fall of her chest. By the time Robert comes thundering back downstairs and into the kitchen, Maryse has already pulled Isabelle half into her lap and is tracing an iratze on her forehead with her stele. "I've got her. Look for the others," she says brusquely, and he nods. There isn't time for sentimentality. If anyone else is here, they might be hurt, and need to be seen to immediately.

Isabelle wakes as soon as the Mark fades. "Mom?" she mumbles, raising a hand to wipe the blood from her eyes. "What happened?"

"I was hoping you could tell me that," Maryse says quietly.

For a moment, Isabelle is quiet, running her fingers through her hair and grimacing at how matted it is. "I… wait. A demon broke the window and grabbed Aline, and I went after it and killed it but she ran. Then… then I came back. Alec went to look for her and I – Jace wasn't there, he's been gone for ages – he made us stay here and wait for you, but when I came down I couldn't find Max, and Sebastian… he…" Without warning, she sits up straight, head missing Maryse's chin by about half an inch, and screeches, "That slimy son of a bitch! He hit me with a hammer! What the hell is his – Mom, where's Max?"

Before Maryse can do more than process the information her daughter has spit out, Robert – who just finished poking around the kitchen and is now in the back hall – makes a noise she's never heard out of him. There are no words to describe it. He sounds horrified and sick and disbelieving. "Robert?" she asks.

There is a rustling like cloth rubbing on leather, and then he walks back inside, carrying Max. "Oh, god," Isabelle mutters, groping around for her stele, "that bastard – put him down, I can help –"

The rest of her words are lost on Maryse. Max looks unhurt, even peaceful, his dark eyes half-lidded, and if it weren't for the slightly unnatural angle at which his head is lolling, she would think he was fine. Just scared, or shocked into silence. But the world slows around her and Maryse knows Max isn't fine.

"Dad, don't just stand there, he's probably hurt – do something!" Isabelle is trembling, violently. Her voice rises to a shriek. "Daddy, do something!"

But there is nothing he can do.

He's dead. My baby is dead – murdered. He was only nine. He didn't even have a chance. What kind of monster could do that to a little boy? He's dead. My baby is dead.

Maryse has been to a lot of funerals. Max's pyre is the smallest one she's ever seen.

Isabelle refuse to attend, but Alec and Jace come. They stay for a bit after the body is buried before Maryse sends them home, and then she and Robert stand at his grave for a long time without speaking. She starts to understand why Imogen Herondale was so bitter, now. Words don't cover the pain of having to bury a child. She can't even cry, though, and she wonders if there's something wrong with her.

Nearly an hour after her sons (over seven years have passed since that number has been two instead of three) leave, she whispers, "We should go. Make sure they're all right… check up on Isabelle…"

Robert merely puts his arm around her, and together they turn and begin to walk away from Max.

Halfway up the hill, he glances over his shoulder and stops. "Maryse," he says, and she looks back to see a little girl crouched in front of Max's grave, placing something in the dirt. She has to think for a moment until the blonde pigtails become familiar. "Who –"

"Esther!" A sharp voice breaks the silence of the necropolis and Vincent Clearwater strides past them. "Come back here!"

Esther stands and hurries towards him, but she suddenly spots Robert and Maryse a little further up the path and freezes. Vincent takes her arm. "I told you no," he says. Then he looks at them. "I'm sorry."

Maryse has no idea if he's apologizing for his daughter or their son. She just nods.

"He let me have his puzzle," Esther says quietly. "I wanted to give it back to him." Her lips start to tremble, and Vincent's strict gaze softens as he strokes her hair. "He was always so nice to me…"

They haven't had much contact since they dated fourteen years ago, so Maryse cannot profess to know Vincent or his daughter very well (he has a son about Alec's age, too, and she doesn't even know his name), but she's heard more than one person say that a lot of the children aren't kind to Esther. Rumor has it that there's something a little bit wrong with her head, and Shadowhunters are not known for their tolerance, even towards an eight-year-old. Max had been her friend nevertheless.

And just like that, she's crying.

Robert guides her to a bench, sits her down, and holds her, face buried in her hair. She can feel him shaking. The grief is almost overwhelming in its intensity, crashing over her in waves and threatening to pull her under, and she thinks she'd lose herself in it were it not for the fact that there are three children back at home who still need her. It's hard, though, because all she can think about is how compassionate and intelligent and loving Max was. He'll never get to go out on his first hunt with his siblings like they had planned. He won't even see his tenth birthday. He's dead, because (to borrow Isabelle's phrase) some slimy son of a bitch decided a little boy was too much of a threat to be allowed to live. Maryse had thought there was no one she could abhor more than Valentine, but Sebastian murdered her youngest son, and could very easily have killed Alec and Isabelle and Jace.

There is a tiny piece of Maryse that can remember Valentine as he once was and is incapable of hating him. She despises Sebastian with everything she is.

Even after Sebastian (or whoever he might be) is disposed of, she can't find the closure she needs until the day before leaving Idris. When they left the Penhallows', Robert had quickly packed all of Max's belongings in a box, which remained untouched in the house they'd appropriated. She takes it up to the bedroom when everyone else is out and opens it.

He had only brought along the things he'd absolutely need. Clothes, mostly, plus his toothbrush and comb and a few books. Strangely, the small assortment of items seems to reflect her son's personality quite well – serious, practical, but one of the books is one of those intricate comics he had liked so much because he was still just a kid. A wonderful, remarkable kid who died well before his time.

Letting him go is the most difficult thing she's ever had to do.

A piece of paper is sticking out of another book. She plucks it out. It's a letter, written in Max's neat handwriting, to Esther. He'll never know, yet reading it still feels like an invasion of privacy, so she starts to put it back – but she notices how he signed it, though, and smiles despite herself.

I'm still not your boyfriend.

Love, Max.

In the front hall, the door slams, and Isabelle's laughter drifts up the stairs. Alec says something too muffled to make out, Jace retorts, and whatever they're talking about must be very amusing because Isabelle laughs even harder.

Maryse sets the letter aside to send to the Clearwaters. Then she repacks the box, closes it, sets it with her bag, and goes downstairs to be with her children.


Jace

When Maryse first sees him, the only thought that comes to mind is he looks nothing like Michael or Catherine.

He really doesn't, either. Catherine had blonde hair, as does Jonathan, and that's where the resemblance ends – in fact, his is more of a golden shade rather than dark blonde, so perhaps that doesn't even count. But it isn't important, because he's ten years old and just had to watch his father's murder.

He disembarks the boat with only a small bag, peering around the harbor with a mixture of fascination and wariness, and Maryse and Robert stand there for a full minute before realizing he would have absolutely no idea who they are. So she makes the first move.

He narrows his eyes against the sunlight as she approaches. "Hi."

"Hello," Maryse says. "You're Jonathan Wayland?"

"Yes," he replies.

She nods and tries to smile, pushing away the unpleasant reality behind this meeting – Michael is dead. Just because she hadn't been as close to him as Robert was didn't make his death any less painful. "I'm Maryse, and this is Robert." She hesitates, not knowing what to say. "We have three children at home – our oldest is about your age. You'll probably get along." And that didn't sound at all awkward, she thinks.

"Once you get him to talk to you," Robert adds. He's obviously as lost as she is. Neither of them ever thought something like this was going to happen when he agreed to be Jonathan's godfather.

"We should go," Maryse says when Jonathan doesn't immediately respond. "Max is only about a year and a half old and I don't like to leave him alone too long."

"All right."

And that's how it starts – Jonathan is now a part of their family. Isabelle takes a shine to him instantly, dragging him around the Institute to point out where every single light switch is and jabbering non-stop about anything that comes to mind. Maryse almost tells her to quit it after three days of this, but he seems amused by her enthusiasm, and her delight makes up for the fact that Alec will not talk to him at all. "Don't take it personally," Isabelle explains, "usually he won't even come out of his room when other people are here, but you're not leaving – you're not, right? You're staying with us from now on? – and he needs to eat sometime. It's like living with a hermit crab. Want to play with my baby brother? He's probably awake right now."

On the fifth night after his arrival, Maryse calls him 'Jace' by accident. She doesn't even know where the name comes from – trying to make dinner and stop Max from eating a sheet of paper at the same time takes up most of her attention – but when she apologizes, he shakes his head.

"Jace, huh?" he muses, looking thoughtful. "I kind of like it."

"We can call you that, if you want."

He shrugs, then his lips curve upward, and even though his eyes are still rather guarded, it's the closest he's come to seeming genuinely happy. "Okay."

She gets him to smile for real a few days later. He's wandering around their old piano, absent-mindedly tracing runes in the dust atop it, when she spots him. "Do you know how to play?" she asks.

Jace glances at her. "Yes," he says, "my father taught me."

Maryse nods, pulls out the bench, and sits on it. "I remember. Michael was very good." Lifting the cover, she pokes a key. It twangs horribly out of tune. "My mother made me learn," she murmurs. "I suppose I was all right, but I didn't enjoy it very much. I think she just wanted me to be a bit more ladylike so she could marry me off and get me out of the house sooner."

When she looks up, Jace is watching her. Then, without any preamble, he laughs.

She remembers that laugh when she sits up with him at night, not talking, just waiting for the remnants of the nightmares he won't admit he has to dissipate. Jace is clearly troubled, and not just because of the loss of his father – Maryse doesn't think to wonder about Michael's child-rearing skills until one day she notices the faint, white patterns of faded Marks on his arms. She would never even consider Marking Alec, who is a few months short of eleven, and yet Jace has more rune scars than she recalls having at fifteen or sixteen. It's a sobering realization. Perhaps Catherine's death, barely three weeks before the Uprising, unhinged Michael a bit. Why else would someone Mark a child?

Still, as time goes by, she finds herself worrying about him less and less. She never stops, of course, because he's her responsibility now, but as he adjusts to living with them, the haunted look lurking in his eyes is reduced. She's impressed by how intelligent and articulate he is when he isn't being smarmy (although Jace is the single most sarcastic person she has ever known, so that isn't often). Sometimes, she even forgets he's not really her child.

About a month and a half passes before Jace achieves the unachievable. Maryse returns from a long, tedious weekend arguing with what felt like every Shadowhunter in Alicante, and as she walks past the living room, she hears voices from behind the closed door. One is Jace's. The other she hasn't heard in nearly ten weeks.

"Okay, Operation Ceiling Fan has failed."

"I told you military-style planning probably wouldn't get Church down."

"Then come up with something better – that doesn't involve turning the fan on."

A brief pause, followed by a sigh. "I can't. This was a really stupid idea."

"Alec, this was your idea."

"That doesn't mean it was a good one."

Deciding she'll let Robert handle this situation, Maryse continues on her way. But apparently, an extremely convoluted chain of events leading to Church getting stranded on the ceiling fan was enough to break through Alec's self-imposed silence and the two of them very rapidly become inseparable.

"It's like watching myself and Michael as kids," Robert says, "except I don't think we tried to kill each another quite as often when we were training."

"Speaking of training, we have to replace three of the mirrors downstairs," she tells him. He rolls his eyes fondly.

Michael's questionable parenting techniques aside, Jace proves himself to be an incredibly capable Shadowhunter by the time he's twelve. Isabelle, more of a fighter than her older brother, hounds him to show her how to do this or that until he relents, and they spend an inordinate amount of time in the training room (breaking several more mirrors in the process). Even Max takes to him, toddling along behind Jace like a tiny, bespectacled shadow, hanging on his every word.

One afternoon when Jace is almost fourteen, Maryse comes looking for Max, intent on putting him down for a nap, and finds the two of them in the library with Hodge. Jace is talking, leaning on the desk. She's late to the conversation, so she has no idea what's going on, but his eyes are bright and animated – and, for just an instant, Maryse sees herself in Hodge's position, with another boy in Jace's, looking almost exactly the same as he told her that the Nephilim shouldn't have to hide.

Then the moment passes. She shakes her head and walks inside, interrupting the debate to scoop up Max and take him to his room.

It isn't the first time Jace will remind her of Valentine, but she dismisses the resemblance as the product of an overworked mind – until the gossip mill starts circulating the rumor that Jace and some girl he met ran into Valentine, that Clarissa Fray was his and Jocelyn's daughter, that Jace was their son.

She doesn't believe it, initially. It sounds entirely like a ridiculous story someone made up to get a reaction. Then she gets the letter from Isabelle, confirming everything, and her stomach contorts itself into knots.

They've been harboring Valentine's son. He's lived in the Institute for seven years, training with Alec and Isabelle and entertaining Max and being a part of their family. For all they know, he could be a spy. Something tells her that's not true, Jace was devastated by his father's "death" and no child could fake that sort of pain, but she can't help her suspicion.

Still, when she finds out the Inquisitor will be coming to question them, just minutes before leaving the city, she makes a decision. And when she returns to the Institute, she purposely instigates an argument. It's heartbreaking, forcing Jace to believe that she can neither trust nor love him any longer, to watch that hollow look return to his eyes as he stands up.

"Fine," he says, in a tight, controlled voice that belies no pain, "I'll go to Clary's."

Maryse just nods, relieved – she'd been afraid that he wouldn't have anywhere else to go, but she had also forgotten about his sister. "All right." As long as he isn't here when the Inquisitor arrives.

Of course, then he comes back with Clary and Lucian Graymark, of all people, in tow, and refuses to leave again. Despite his prodigious intelligence, he is rather lacking when it comes to common sense. Can't he see that Maryse is doing this to protect him? And, in the end, all it gets him is a night in the cells of the Silent City, injured, and put into the care of a warlock she doesn't trust as far as she can throw. Imogen makes it very clear that she hates every bone in his body, and she isn't above using a seventeen-year-old as a bartering piece.

Which fails. Miserably. Maryse is viciously pleased. No one is handing Jace over to Valentine as long as she's around to prevent it. Which is why she's rather amused by the expression on Imogen's face when Alec informs them he told Jace how to get out of the Malachi Configuration.

"Impossible," she mutters. "There is no way out of the Configuration unless I remove the rune."

"That's not entirely true," Alec says.

The Inquisitor looks at him like she wants to ask how, but, knowing full well they don't have time for this, Maryse interrupts. "So Jace is no longer here?"

"Right," Isabelle confirms. "He went with Luke and Clary to the waterfront. We're supposed to meet him there."

"Good. Then let's go. We have a battle to fight."

Talking Jace out of leaving is both easier and harder than she thought it would be. When he unzips his bag and sits back on the bed he's slept in for years, the relief wraps around her like a heavy blanket and she can only sigh.

He is her son. How did she not realize how much she loved him until he was about to leave them all behind?

Watching him struggle with his feelings for Clary, knowing he can't have her because she's his sister but unable to repress them anyway, is painful. Being in Idris doesn't seem to help. He cares about her – maybe even loves her – and the way she looks at him makes it clear she feels the same way. As if Jace hasn't had enough hardship in his life.

Then Max is killed.

Jace hadn't liked Sebastian to start with, but he'd tolerated the other boy's existence, even though it drove him crazy to watch Sebastian's affection towards Clary. "As long as he doesn't start groping my little sister –" and it had hurt him to say the words, she could see it – "in front of me, then I'll go on pretending he doesn't make me want to strangle him." After Max's death, though, Maryse is sure he's going to strangle Sebastian – and, honestly, she isn't going to stop him if he does.

She wakes up a few days later, and Jace is gone.

"He'll be all right," she tells Robert, but really, she's trying to reassure herself. She's a mother, it's her nature to fret over her children when they're doing something stupid. "He knows what he's doing." He has to know what he's doing. "He'll be fine." Please, let him be all right. Let him come home.

During a battle, especially such a large, unorganized one, it's dangerous to think about anything but the matter at hand. Maryse is good enough at compartmentalizing to push her fears to the back of her mind – she dispatches demon after demon after demon, not thinking about Jace or Alec or Isabelle (because if she goes back to the Penhallows' house, she has the feeling she won't find her daughter there). She tells herself not to think about them between breaths. As long as she forgets everything but the battle, the possibly that she could lose one or all of her remaining children cannot touch her.

And she does lose Jace, but by the time she finds out what really happened near Lake Lyn, he's up and walking around again, having been freed from the hospital. She doesn't ask him about it. If he wants to talk, he'll come to her.

She does seek him out one night, though. There's a thought that will not stop jabbing at the back of her mind, keeping her from sleeping, and she finally gets up and goes into the hall just in time to see him walking out of the bathroom.

"Jace," she says.

He stops and turns around, rubbing his face. "What?" In the dim moonlight shining through the window, his gold hair is sleep-mussed, his eyes only half open. He looks like an ordinary seventeen-year-old boy.

He no longer reminds her of Valentine.

"You –" She pauses, gathers her thoughts into a semblance of coherency. "I don't know," Maryse begins, "what you think of your name."

Jace blinks, obviously a bit too tired to come up with a snide quip.

"I mean, I don't know if you think that it isn't truly yours," she continues hurriedly, "if you think you were only called Jonathan because your – Valentine needed to pretend you were someone you weren't. But I thought you should know that you would have been given the same name anyway. Stephen… his elder brother, Jonathan, died to protect him when they were young. He wanted to name you after him." Jace says nothing, just stares, and she adds, "I just thought you might like to know."

"I… yeah." Suddenly, he shakes his head. "Wait, let me see if I have this right. There would have been Michael Wayland's son, Jonathan – Valentine and Jocelyn's son, Jonathan – and me, Jonathan."

"Right." It does sound absolutely ridiculous, put like that.

"Not a very imaginative bunch, huh?" he mutters. Then he yawns and smiles, however slightly, and Maryse wonders how she never noticed the similarity between himself and Stephen. They have the same hair, the same smile, the same somewhat obnoxious way of replying to everything with sarcasm. But Stephen never looked like this, like he'd finally found a way past all of the nightmares that haunted him. "I think I'll stick with 'Jace'."

Before she even knows she's moving, Maryse is standing right in front of him, and her arms are around his shoulders. "I love you," she says softly.

Jace is perfectly still for what feels like a long time.

Then, finally, he reaches up and touches her back, and rests his head on her shoulder. "I know," he replies. "I've always known."


Isabelle

Maryse insists she doesn't have a preference when her sister asks if she'd rather her second child be a boy or a girl, but secretly, she thinks it would be nice to have a daughter. Robert had wanted a boy first – it was that whole 'firstborn son' thing so prevalent in Shadowhunter culture – and she'd given him Alec, so a little girl would round things out nicely. She isn't biased one way or another, though, and she certainly hasn't decided what she would name a hypothetical daughter.

"You want a girl," her mother tells her.

"I said I don't care."

"But you do, and you want a girl. It's obvious."

Maryse threw her hands in the air. "Fine, I want a girl! Happy now?"

"Very."

Arguments aside, she is more than ecstatic when her baby daughter is born. She'd known what to expect this time around, but the pregnancy had felt far longer than it had when she was carrying Alec – though, it was actually longer, since Isabelle had had the courtesy to wait until around the nine-month mark before coming to the conclusion that the womb was a bit too boring for her tastes. She looks just like Maryse does in her baby pictures, except with Robert's dark eyes, and she's small and precious and absolutely beautiful.

Alec doesn't seem to know what to do with her. He's almost two when Maryse brings Isabelle home from the hospital, and he pokes at her a few times, then decides she isn't as exciting as watching Olivia chase Freddie and Baby around. Within a week, though, he takes to sitting next to her cradle while she sleeps and glares at anyone who walks by too noisily. "I think he's protecting her," Maryse tells Robert. "It's adorable."

"Yes, right now it is," Josephine (who wasn't invited into the conversation, or even into the house) says, "but just wait until she's a teenager and complaining that he's scaring all her boyfriends off."

"I'm going to be the one scaring all her boyfriends off," Robert corrects.

"And could you stop making dire predictions about our children's lives?" Maryse says. Her mother just laughs, and she knows that's a no.

Not long after that conversation, they move to New York.

From the age of three, it's clear that Isabelle is unusually coordinated. She easily catches things that are thrown to her – first with two hands, then with one – and doesn't stumble or trip nearly as much as Maryse expects her to. She stands on the edge of stairs without wobbling, jumps off of chairs and tables and beds, and when she does sustain a bruise or cut, wears the injury like a badge of honor.

"She's more adventurous than I was," Maryse muses over her coffee, watching Isabelle climb unaided onto the high back of an armchair to pet a sleeping Church, "and I tried to scale the living room curtains when I was five. We should probably tie ours up soon."

"I think we're going to have to watch her," Robert says, "closely. Or she'll be sneaking out to fight demons before she's ten."

Isabelle does not, however, have any patience for Hodge's teaching. Maryse promises to talk to her, after the third or fourth time Hodge complains that she likes to crumple up paper balls and throw them for Hugo to fetch, then conveniently forgets. She can get behind anything that ruffles Hodge's feathers. Besides, Isabelle is by no means dumb. One night, Robert asks Maryse, off-handedly, how many stingers a Furcas demon has – and she barely registers what he's asking before Isabelle pipes, "Four!"

Robert blinks at her, then looks at Maryse, who just smiles. "She's right." To her daughter, she says, "How did you know that?"

"Hodge was talking about it once," Isabelle explains. "Most of everything he says is boring, but I like learning about the demons. How old do I have to be before I can hunt them?"

"Much, much older. Now go get ready for bed."

If Maryse expects age to slow down her daughter's tongue, she's sorely mistaken. Isabelle has a habit of rambling on and on in a way reminiscent of Marguerite, although her sister had hardly ever said anything that interested her. But Isabelle talks about demons, about the old electrum whip in the weapons room that Maryse is teaching her to use, about the stupid thing Jace said to the witch girl in the park that got him turned into a rabbit for three hours ("I don't know why he bothered flirting with her, really, she looked fifteen or so but was probably about two hundred –"), and Maryse listens and comments and hopes the attention can make up for her frequent absences.

When Isabelle is eleven, she starts complaining about how unfair it is that Jace and Alec are allowed to go on actual hunts while she has to stay home. "I'm just as good as they are. Why can't I go too?" she demands of her mother. "Is it because I'm a girl?"

"Don't be absurd, Isabelle. You haven't even been Marked yet."

"So Mark me. You Marked Alec when he was eleven."

"I didn't, and I wouldn't have let Hodge do it if I'd known." Maryse sets down her pen and sighs, massaging her temples. "If it was up to me, they wouldn't be out there either. So, cool it – you'll be fighting soon enough."

Honestly, the only thing Maryse doesn't do because Isabelle is a girl is teach her to cook – and she sort of regrets that later. Isabelle is lethal in the kitchen. "If we just bring along some of her 'Pasta Surprise' and feed it to the things we're supposed to kill," Jace says once, "we could solve the demon problem here in no time, and without even picking up a weapon."

"Is she really that bad?" Maryse asks.

"Yes," Alec and Jace say in unison.

"Then why don't one of you cook?" They're both capable, at the very least. Alec is actually pretty good at it.

"We can't," Alec says. "She throws me out every time I try."

"I think she actually gets offended when we suggest someone else make dinner," Jace adds. "God forbid we imply that she's terrible at something."

Well, Maryse thinks, this way she'll have the chance to be the great Shadowhunter she's shaping up to be, rather than getting stuck in the kitchen all the time.

Robert gives Isabelle a brand new electrum whip for her twelfth birthday. Just a few weeks later, while they're away, she ventures out with her brothers to hunt down a Ravener running around unchecked. Hodge has the decency to write and ask first, this time, and Maryse reluctantly gives permission. The next morning, there is another message for her, this one in her daughter's messy scrawl – I killed it. It was amazing, Mom.

The note confirms what she knew all along. Isabelle is one of those Shadowhunters who are born to love what they do.

As she gets older, Isabelle gets prettier, and Maryse isn't too shocked when she starts slipping off at night to go on dates and to parties. While she's rarely pleased with her daughter's choice in boyfriends, she doesn't worry too much – Isabelle is tough enough that few people want to tangle with her, and anyone who does hurt her will have to answer to her overprotective older brothers.

"It's so annoying," she gripes, sitting on the edge of her mother's desk and sharpening one of her daggers. "John was supposed to call me, and he never did. He was so sweet, too."

"He was also a mundane."

"Shut up, Alec. Did you guys threaten to throw him in a dumpster again?"

"Of course not," Jace says soothingly. "We threatened to throw him in a garbage compactor. He has a far smaller chance of coming out of that alive."

Isabelle throws the dagger at him. Jace ducks and it embeds itself in the wall.

"Whoops," she says. "Oh well. You and Dad wanted to repaint this room, right?"

Maryse sighs heavily and suppresses a smile. "All of you, out, now. I have work to do."

"All right, all right, I'm going." Isabelle hops off the desk, retrieves her dagger, and sashays out of the room, humming tunelessly.

"Yeah, we should go, too," Jace says, sharing a look with Alec. "We have to go find whoever she's meeting tonight and kill him."

"I heard that!" Isabelle hollers from down the hall.

"Stop killing your sister's boyfriends."

"Can we at least maim him a little?" Alec asks. "You saw how she was dressed."

"I'm going to maim you both if you don't stop sabotaging my dates!"

Because Maryse has always thought of her daughter as strong, even unbreakable, and hasn't seen her cry in over ten years, she doesn't know what to do when Isabelle pries the tiny wooden soldier from her dead brother's hand, looks at it, and bursts into tears. Nor does she know what to do when Isabelle disappears into a bedroom at the house they borrow and locks herself in. She blames herself for Max's death, and Maryse can't find a way to tell her that it's not her fault without the words sounding empty.

The morning of Max's funeral, Maryse knocks on the door. "Isabelle?" It's not the first time she's asked if she is coming, but Isabelle has yet to answer. "We're leaving in just a minute. Are you coming?"

"No."

Maryse leans her head against the doorframe and closes her eyes. "He's your brother."

Then she jumps as something hits the door from the other side. "I don't want to go! Just leave me alone!"

"All right," Maryse sighs. She's too exhausted to argue. "If you change your mind… you know where we'll be."

Isabelle doesn't change her mind, but when Maryse goes upstairs later to make sure she's okay, she catches voices through the door – Isabelle's, obviously, plus Simon's. And while she isn't entirely comfortable around him (lingering prejudices, perhaps, or maybe just guilt over having once planned to wipe out his species), if he can make Isabelle feel better, she won't say a word. Although she tries very hard not to think about how he might be making her little girl 'feel better'.

When they're preparing for the battle, Maryse seeks out Isabelle and tells her, very firmly, that she's to go with Aline and some of the children to the Penhallows' house, and she is to stay there until the fighting is over. Isabelle looks like she wants to argue, but she bites her lip and nods. Maryse is slightly suspicious at her quick agreement. Before she gets a chance to find Aline and tell her to keep Isabelle in sight until they get to the house, though, the order to move out reaches her, and there is no more time for thinking.

Somehow, over the deafening cacophony of the battlefield, she hears a voice shout, "MOM!" At first, she thinks it's a random Shadowhunter calling after a hurt parent, but then the sound repeats, she recognizes the voice, and a hand grabs her arm.

Maryse isn't very surprised to see her daughter. What does surprise her is the state Isabelle is in – bruised, bloodied, with long, deep cuts all over her arms and legs like someone struck her with her own whip. "What happened to you? What are you doing here?"

"I followed Jace – we killed Sebastian." For a moment, Isabelle's eyes are filled with triumph, and Maryse knows she's laid her little brother to rest. Then the look is replaced with worry. "Mom, he went to find Valentine. He's going to Lake Lyn. We have to get to them!"

Maryse nods. "All right. We'll go after them. Get back to the house."

"What – no. I don't care how dangerous it is, Jace is my brother, I have to help him." When Maryse hesitates, Isabelle yells, "Mom, please!"

"Okay," Maryse breathes, "okay." Then she grabs the closest Shadowhunter who's still standing and relays the message.

Much later, Isabelle tells the story as Maryse carefully draws healing runes on her skin. She wants to be furious with her, for expressly disobeying orders and taking off after someone who could have killed her. But she knows that, had Isabelle stayed behind, Jace would be dead, as would Clary, and Valentine would be unstoppable. Maryse has never been prouder of her daughter.

In the following days, she watches Isabelle flit around, talking to Clary and Aline and annoying her brothers and flirting with Simon. She's a better person than Maryse could ever hope to be. And she turned out to be far more than twice the Shadowhunter her mother is.

Maryse is preparing dinner when Isabelle wanders in, alone, and sits herself on the counter. "Hey," she says.

"Hey yourself. Where did Jace go?"

"He's off making googly eyes at Clary. Those two really need to get over it and just admit they want to screw already." Isabelle grins when Maryse sputters. "Well, they do, it's really obvious. Guess it's a good thing they're not related after all, or they'd be having babies with eyeballs growing out of their toes. Anyway, listen, I was walking around earlier and I saw this really, really gorgeous purple skirt in the window of some store, and I was thinking that I have the perfect top to go with it…"


Alec

"Maryse."

"Hmmm?"

"Olivia is purring."

Maryse opens one eye halfway and peers at her husband, who is standing in the doorway of their bedroom. "Are… you sure? I didn't think she knew how to purr. Maybe she's just growling very quietly."

"No, I'm sure. She's purring. She is lying next to Alec's cradle and she's purring." He pauses, then asks, "Would it sound utterly moronic if I said I'm afraid she might eat him?"

"Yes, it would." With some effort, Maryse sits up and swings her legs over the side of the bed. "But we should probably get her out of there before she decides he's annoying her and gets mad."

No matter how often they throw her out of Alec's bedroom, though, Olivia finds a way to sneak back in. When Alec outgrows the cradle, she climbs into his crib and lays next to him, purring quietly. Alec treats her like a stuffed animal. It's just bizarre, because Olivia absolutely hates every other person and animal she's ever come into contact with, but she allows herself to be picked up and dragged around and cuddled by an eighteen-month-old. Maryse eventually decides not to get rid of her, despite having endured four full years of being tormented by the tortoiseshell menace. Alec adores Olivia and she hasn't yet figured out how to deny him anything.

Not that he seems to want very much. He was a quiet baby, and he's a quiet toddler. Marguerite tells Maryse that she has a classic case of 'First Child Syndrome', because she's fascinated by everything he does. He's smart and curious and adorable, and as far as she and Robert are concerned, he's perfect.

But he doesn't talk.

Maryse has watched her sister's children grow and knows the basic timeline of developmental milestones, and when Alec's second birthday passes without a single word out of him, she starts to worry. Naturally, her mother thinks she's being ridiculous. "Honestly, Maryse," she grumps, "if I thought your boy was mentally subnormal, don't you think I would have told you?"

"You aren't an expert," Maryse points out irritably. She's running on two hours of sleep, Isabelle won't quit crying for more than ten minutes at a time, Robert is out on a hunt with Michael and hasn't checked in at all yet, and she's afraid there might be something wrong with her son. Josephine's attitude is not welcome right now.

"True," Josephine concedes, "but I've raised three kids, so lower yourself long enough to consider that I might have some knowledge on the subject. He's not dumb – hell, I tell him to get that devil cat of his away from me in French and he does it – and he can hear just fine. Give him a little longer before pushing the panic button, will you?"

She lets it go, despite her concern, because moving from Idris to New York takes up a lot of her energy, and once they're there, she has no support besides her husband. So Maryse does the only thing she can and keeps talking to him, and hopes he'll actually answer someday.

Finally, a little while after he turns four, Alec starts talking. Not a lot, but he speaks clearly and in complete sentences, so she stops worrying.

Unlike his sister, who can recite fifteen different ways of killing an Oni demon before age five, Alec displays very little interest in the practical side of Shadowhunting. He spends most of his time in the library, reading, pretending not to notice Olivia trying to make lunch out of Hugo. Robert tries to teach him how to use a few of the simpler weapons they have, but it's clear he's only going through the motions.

"I don't know what to do," Robert says, frustrated. "He just doesn't care."

"He's not even seven yet," Maryse points out. "I know we agreed to start the kids early, but maybe it's too early."

The next morning, just as she finishes dressing, there is a odd-sounding thwak from outside her door. She peers into the hall to see Isabelle standing a bit further down, and Alec carefully working a throwing knife out of the painting at the end of the corridor. It's a hideous painting that Maryse keeps forgetting to throw away – nobody can figure out exactly what it's supposed to be, but Isabelle's suggestion of 'somebody threw up hot dogs on a piece of paper' seems to be the best description. "What on earth are you doing?" she asks.

Alec glances over his shoulder and frees the knife from the canvas. "It's a very, very ugly picture," he explains matter-of-factly. "The holes are an improvement."

"I… agree, but that doesn't tell me why you're stabbing it."

"He's not stabbing it," Isabelle cuts in. "He can throw the knife from here and get it right in the middle. It's really cool."

Maryse looks at her, then back to Alec. "Can you?" At his nod, she says, "Show me."

So he does, and Isabelle, occasionally prone to exaggeration, is absolutely right. Maryse is impressed. She goes to Robert that same morning and tells him that maybe they're going about this all wrong, trying to start him off with bladed weaponry. He considers this for a moment, then wonders out loud if they could possibly requisition from the armory a bow small enough for a child.

Already possessing impeccable aim, Alec is incredibly good at archery. Maryse stops worrying about him again.

And then she starts once more, because out of all her children, he seems to be the one who inspires the most distress. It doesn't bother her very much that he's too shy to talk to anyone he doesn't know, but the fact that he won't talk around anyone he doesn't know is a little more alarming. Whenever there are other Shadowhunters staying in the Institute – which happens a few times a year at most – he goes completely mute for the duration of their stay. Maryse can't understand why he has such a hang-up when it comes to speaking, and she can't reassure him that there's nothing to be afraid of. She feels helpless. It's not something she's used to.

Once Jace has been living in the Institute for a while and Alec stops skirting around him, they end up friends, which comes as a relief. He's still unnervingly quiet most of the time, but having someone around that he hasn't grown up with seems to help a bit. They spend most of their time in the training room and try to see how many mirrors they can break within a six-month period (the record ends up being thirteen).

Alec doesn't seem to enjoy Shadowhunting the way Jace and Isabelle do, but he makes it his job as their older brother to protect them. "They're both a little reckless," he says one evening over the top of a worn textbook. "Or a lot reckless… okay, neither of them have any common sense at all. I just keep them from getting themselves killed. It's harder than it looks."

"I imagine it is," Maryse replies, and attempts to not think too much about how he sounds like he's trying to convince himself that he's needed, rather than her. But she can't avoid it – and, as if his reluctance to talk and lack of confidence isn't enough, when he's fourteen, Hodge mentions that he has nightmares. It isn't a big issue until she discovers that he cries in his sleep. That scares her. So, one night, she wakes him up and sits on his bed and practically pleads with him to tell her what's wrong.

"Nothing," he insists. He shies away from her hands, watching her with something almost like fear in his eyes, and tightens his arms around Olivia the way he did when he was very small. She purrs and rubs her cheek against his shoulder. Then he curls back up and refuses to say anything more, and eventually Maryse just strokes his hair and leaves him alone.

She doesn't sleep for the rest of the night – just stares at the ceiling and wonders how long her son has been afraid of her.

Olivia, two years older than him, finally kicks the bucket when Alec is sixteen. He's the only one who's sorry to see her go, but the rest of the family acts properly upset. He tells them to quit it after a few hours. "You can stop pretending now," he says at dinner, "I know you all hated her."

"I didn't hate her," Jace says, "I just thought she would have made a better throw pillow than a pet."

Alec flings a spoon at him.

Within the next few years, he stops clamming up around everyone he's unfamiliar with, gains some confidence, and nearly gets killed by a Greater Demon, and Maryse thinks that maybe she'll just kill him and save herself the gray hairs. He's almost as bad as his siblings sometimes.

He turns eighteen a few days before they're supposed to go to Idris. Maryse has no idea what to buy him – he's one of those people who is impossible to shop for – so she tells him she'll get something while they're in Alicante. Between Clave meetings, she finds a long coat that's almost the same color as his eyes. And he looks good in it, when she drags him into the shop to try it on, so she buys it, bringing the total number of clothes he owns that aren't black up to about one. Now, she thinks, she just has to get him to let her cut his hair.

Maryse has been aware for a very long time that, even though he's her son, she simply does not know Alec very well, even compared to her other children. Sure, she knows that he's probably never gone a day without reading something, that he plays the violin, that he can still speak French (and her mother taught him a lot of profanity), that he is annoyingly literal without meaning to be because sarcasm rarely translates for him, but those are all things anyone could find out after talking to him for a while. Sometimes, she feels like he's more of a distant relative than the boy she's raised for eighteen years now.

The point is driven home in the Hall of Accords. Maryse happens to spot Alec in the crowd, and for some reason – the fear that he could die tonight, maybe – she keeps looking as he traces the Alliance rune on that one warlock's hand. She doesn't really know what to think of Magnus Bane, aside from the fact that he is fifty-two kinds of strange. He's the sort of person she would probably murder Isabelle for dating.

She's still watching when Magnus says something too quiet to make out. Alec glances up at him – he almost looks angry – and then his stele clatters to the floor and he flings his arms around the warlock's neck and kisses him.

Maryse's train of thought hits a cow on the tracks, veers off into a ravine, and explodes into fiery chunks.

Magnus looks surprised for all of two seconds before winding his own arms around her son's waist and kissing back. It is blatantly evident that this isn't the first time they've done something like this.

Two things occur to Maryse at once. The first is that she should be upset, furious, horrified, something, but all she can manage is a lot of confusion and a sudden surge of fierce pride that she can't even pinpoint the origin of.

The second is the realization that her cripplingly shy little boy has been replaced with someone brilliant and independent and amazing and she does not know who he is.

After what feels like a few decades, Alec pulls away from the warlock and glances around. Then, as if he just noticed that every single being in the room is staring at them, he looks very uncomfortable, mutters something, and takes off. Magnus stays behind for a moment, lips curved into a satisfied smile. Maryse continues to stare at him, instead, and he hikes an eyebrow before cheerfully announcing, "Show's over, children," and following Alec out of the Hall.

Maryse manages to snag Isabelle by the collar a minute later. "Did you know?" she demands.

"Yeah," Isabelle says, sounding casual but grinning so widely it's apparent she thinks that was the best thing she'd seen all night, "they hooked up a while ago. I don't think any of us thought they'd actually get that serious, though…"

"'Any of us'?" Maryse echoes. "Am I the only one who didn't know about this?"

Isabelle looks at Robert, and Maryse follows suit. He clears his throat. "Er. I may have suspected…"

"Then yes," Isabelle tells Maryse. "Sorry."

Thinking maybe animals that ate their young had the right idea, Maryse lets her go and prepares for the battle. Now is not the time to be planning how she's going to kill her husband for never saying anything, or how she's going to kill her son (and Isabelle, and maybe Jace) for the same reason, or deciding that they really need to have a chat about his appalling lack of taste.

Actually getting to that point is more difficult than she anticipates, because Alec makes a point of avoiding her and Robert. Four days of trying and failing to catch him pass. It drives Maryse crazy – she's not angry, and he should know that, but suddenly a lot of his behavior over the last few years makes more sense – so maybe she is angry, with herself. What had she done to make him think she wouldn't love and accept him just the way he was?

He does have to sleep sometime, though. Maryse eventually gives in to the little voice in her head telling her to be sneaky and underhanded and slips into his bedroom at two o'clock in the morning. Once she's inside, though, she doesn't have the heart to wake him. She just sits on the bed instead and brushes his hair out of his eyes, strokes his cheek with her thumb, touches the fading bruises around his neck where "Sebastian" tried to choke him. He looks very, very young.

For a while, she just thinks. About a lot of things, really, but her repaired train of thought keeps returning to the same topic. It's the first time that she can really say she understands why her brother did what he did. He loved that mundane girl so much that he was willing to give up absolutely everything he had for her. And while she can't quite figure out why, Alec loves that oddly-dressed warlock enough to live with whatever consequences loving him might come with. No matter how much she cares about Robert, she isn't sure she could do the same thing. Her child is so much stronger than she is.

Maryse never has learned how to deny him what he wants. If he wants Magnus Bane, then she'll make sure he's allowed to have him, no matter what ridiculous notions about sexuality and Downworlders the Clave might hold.

Alec is her son. She cannot hate him, ever.

Maryse leans down and kisses his forehead. He doesn't stir. "I love you," she murmurs. "Always. No matter what."

And suddenly he's clinging to her neck and pressing his face into her shoulder and babbling that he's sorry, he wanted to tell her but didn't know how and was afraid of how she'd react, and she thinks he might be crying but she is too so it doesn't really matter. All of her words are stuck in her throat. She just winds her arms around him and lets him talk himself into silence, and then she strokes his hair and says she loves him over and over again until she's sure he believes it.

When he falls back asleep, worn out, Maryse returns to her own room and slides into bed next to Robert. He mumbles something incoherent about giggling kittens and nuzzles her hair. She smiles, closes her eyes, and thinks that, although they would never meet, her brother would have been proud of the boy she'd named after him.


If anyone made it to this point, there are free internet cupcakes on the table.

A few notes:

I cannot write Jace or Valentine well, so I apologize if their parts sucked, but I couldn't leave either of them out, for obvious reasons.

Luke's and Amatis' stories of what happened to Stephen Herondale are completely different. I'm serious, go look for yourself. It's annoying as hell. I ended up going with Luke's version of events just because it fit the fic better. And, maybe I'm just crazy, but I totally saw implications in CoG that Valentine killed Stephen (who I really enjoy screwing up - try it sometime, it's fun).

Took a lot of creative liberties? Oh, hell yes. This fic is 90% personal fanon, 8% canon, 2% "…whut."

Finally, I probably butchered the canon timeline, but that's only because it was damn near impossible to figure out when any of these things happened. My apologies. Feel free to ask questions about what the fuck I was thinking, but I can't guarantee I'll have a satisfying explanation. Anyone who wants to know what my thought processes were while writing this, click the 'homepage' link on my profile to get to my LJ. All the entries from October 12th on chronicle my descent into insanity.

And I still can't title things.

Reviews are not only greatly appreciated, they might inspire me to write more often than once a year. :D