"It's over," Magnus had said. "…I love you. Not that it matters."

Alec looked at the December sky outside his window, pale blue and gray like stone, and at the chair under his feet, and finally up at the rope he'd tied to one of the lower rafters in the training room, the rope that came down and looped around his neck. If he just jumped off the chair-

"What the hell?" Alec muttered to himself, looking back up at the rope. "Wait a minute, this is death here. I haven't even been to South Carolina." He shook his head, almost unable to believe that he'd really come this close to killing himself. "By the Angel, I haven't even been anywhere!"

Unfortunately, it was at that moment that the door swung open, knocking him off the chair and tugging the rope tight around his neck. Alec shoved his fingers under the cinched noose, trying to widen the circumference and keep it from crushing his windpipe as Isabelle stalked into the room, oblivious to Alec and his struggle, as the door was now between them.

"Church!" she called. "Church, where are you?" She looked around the room, and then turned back towards the door. "Where is that damn cat?" she murmured to herself as she walked away and shut the door behind her.

"Suicide is never the answer, buddy," said Jace an hour later. They were in the grocery store, produce section, and Alec was slumping into the shopping cart as he pushed it around the displays of fruits and vegetables. "Look around you- I bet you can count on one hand the number of friends your age that you have. You can't die before you've lived."

"I miss him," Alec said, barely audible above the general din of restocking and shopping and whining kids. He hadn't really been listening to most of what Jace had been saying, caught up in his own misery. "You know what would make me feel better? Could you pretend to be Magnus?"

"Not even a little bit," said Jace, dumping an armful of mangoes in the shopping cart. "Seriously, Alec, it's going to get better."

"How do you know?" he said, watching with minute curiosity as Jace tossed a couple of more mangoes in the cart.

"Because," said Jace, gesturing that he should turn the cart around and head back to the register, "it can't get worse. You look like a kid whose dog's been killed by a duck."

"Why a duck?" said Alec, pushing the cart into line behind a tired-looking woman buying cat food.

"No reason."

"Maybe," said Alec as he and Jace, laden with plastic bags, stepped onto the sidewalk outside the supermarket, "I should just let myself get bitten by a vampire or something." Jace stared at him. "Now I'm back to suicide."

"Seriously," Jace said again, though this time his tone was actually serious. "As your parabatai, I'm telling you- next time you feel like you need to jump off a building or cut your wrists, you come to me. I'm here for you." His eyes were pale in the New York dusk, the lights of nearby buildings glinting off of them.

"Thanks," said Alec, looking down.

"We'll get you really drunk, you'll forget the whole thing," said Jace with a smirk. "Now, come on, let's go throw Magnus's ring into the East River."

"He didn't give me a ring," said Alec. Jace frowned.

"Really?" he said. "He had plenty of them. Must've been attached."

"He also didn't give me his letterman jacket, Jace," said Alec, growing irritated. "We don't live in the fifties."

"Regrettably," Jace said. "You want to throw one of my mangoes?" Alec sighed, then looked at the plastic bag in his hand, back at Jace.

"I kind of do."

"Excellent," said Jace, throwing an arm around Alec's shoulders and pulling him down the street, towards the river. "If you aim right, you might be able to hit a duck…"