Here it is, the last chapter! I really hope you all had as much fun reading this as I did writing it! Drum roll please...
The first thing Tessa was aware of was pain.
It stole over her like a shadow and chased away unconsciousness. It started as a slow, deep burn in concentrated places, her hand and her ankle, and then spread outward, intensifying until it became unbearable.
Her eyes jerked open of their own accord, and she drew in a wild breath. She could feel herself moving, rocking back and forth. Her eyes went in and out of focus, and she glimpsed the small, square ceiling of a carriage above her.
Instinctual panic seized her, and her body tried to tense up, tried to bolt her into a sitting position so that she could take stock of her surroundings. The pain flooding through her wouldn't allow for that, however.
She felt a hand pressing gently down on her shoulder, fingers brushing hair off her forehead. "Shhh," a voice murmured. "You're all right now, Tessa. You're all right."
The sound of the voice was familiar, though Tessa's foggy thoughts couldn't place a face or a name to it. She relaxed against the carriage seat, the pain already starting to recede as her mind slipped away again.
"Will?" she managed to whisper, her voice so soft she wasn't sure it could be heard.
There was a seemingly endless beat of silence, so long that Tessa almost lost consciousness before she got her answer.
"He's alive," the voice said quietly.
Tessa thought she heard herself sigh, a sound of blessed relief, and then the world disappeared again.
"Miss Gray? Can you hear me? I have your breakfast for you."
The voice came distantly, fuzzy and hardly distinguishable from the silence that had been Tessa's world for who knew how long. Her eyelids fluttered and then opened, that small movement sending a sharp stab of pain through her skull. Instantly, the pain returned, trickling into her body to fill every inch of it, and she silently cursed whoever had dragged her out of the painless place she'd been before.
Her vision was blurry, and she had to blink several times in order to focus on the woman standing over her. The moment she recognized her, Tessa's eyes filled with tears.
"Sophie," she whispered.
Sophie's scarred face broke into a smile. "There," she said, sounding rather smug. "I told them you'd wake up eventually, when you were good and ready."
It was beyond wonderful to see the maid again. Tessa tried to remember the last time they had spoken…it had been too long. Too long since she'd seen any of the members of the Institute. It seemed that she had been gone for years. All she had known in the time she'd been away had been Mortmain, the damp cell he'd kept her in, the hulking demon, the automatons, fire, pain, fear. Being separated from those things now was surreal.
Tessa's tears spilled over, sliding down her cheeks and disappearing into her hair. "Sophie," she said again, her voice breaking, and threw her arms around the unsuspecting maid, who was bent over so she could peer into Tessa's face.
Sophie made a noise of surprise, but after a moment her arms came around to hesitantly encircle Tessa, awkward and unsure of herself, but it was all the comfort Tessa needed from her.
"You're safe now, miss," Sophie said gently, and Tessa felt the other girl's hand caress her hair, a touch so light it was as if a butterfly had brushed against her.
Sophie disentangled herself from Tessa, stepping back and giving her a scrutinizing look. "You still look a mess," she remarked. "But it's nothing you won't heal from."
"How long have I been unconscious?" Tessa asked hoarsely, gingerly trying to shift into a position that wouldn't bother her numerous injuries. Her attempt wasn't fruitful, and she winced, settling awkwardly back on the pillows of her bed.
"It's been about three days since the lot of you got back from the raid on Mortmain's mansion," said Sophie seriously. "We had to keep you here in your own room, seeing as how there wasn't room enough in the infirmary."
Tessa tore her eyes away from Sophie and realized that she was indeed in her own room. The sight of the familiar space brought more tears to her eyes, but she managed to blink these away.
Slowly, the fragmented memories of what had happened that night began to piece themselves together again. She could see bodies littering the floor, the knife sticking out of Mortmain's chest that she herself had driven into him, blood on her hands and dress, the house shaking as it began to collapse, her arms screaming with the effort of carrying Will…
Will. Tessa shot upright again, gasping as flares of pain responded to her abrupt movement.
"Now, you just calm down, miss," said Sophie, hands firmly pressing her shoulders so that she would lie back again. "You've been through a lot. You need rest."
"Where's Will?" The words spilled out of Tessa's mouth before she could think to stop them.
Sophie withdrew her hands and her pretty eyes sparkled with amusement. "Ah," she said. "I see."
Tessa felt her cheeks heating with a blush. "He was dying," she said, dropping her eyes to her bandaged hands in her lap. "Mortmain…he came up behind him…and he had a knife…"
"Never you mind about Master Herondale," said Sophie, and Tessa stared at her incredulously. "You just worry about getting yourself back up to tip-top condition, miss."
"Sophie!" Tessa exclaimed. "Is he all right? Where is he?"
Sophie sighed in exasperation. "I don't see why you trouble yourself worrying about that man," she muttered, though the words didn't seem intended for Tessa's ears. She decided not to comment on them. "He's fine," Sophie added, resigned. "Well, maybe not 'fine,' but he's certainly well enough to make my life miserable."
Tessa felt as if a great weight had just been lifted off her chest. She tried to hide her relief, but Sophie gave her a knowing look and said, "He's been asking after you too, miss. Demanding, more like. I no sooner walk into the room before he's badgering me with questions about you. He keeps trying to come and see you, but I've seen to it that the infirmary is well guarded. He won't be getting out of there any time soon." She smiled, perhaps envisioning Will's discomfort.
"And everyone else?" Tessa asked, feeling suddenly guilty that she had put Will before the others. "Jem? Charlotte? Henry?"
"They all made it back in one piece…more or less," said Sophie. "We had to call in the Silent Brothers for some rather serious healing work, but they'll live."
Tessa allowed herself to bask in the knowledge that she was at the Institute again, safe, alive, and that everyone else had made it back as well. She closed her eyes and let out a long, shaky breath, feeling as if she were exhaling all of the fear and despair that had been building up inside her for so long.
"There were casualties, though," said Sophie sadly. "Many Shadowhunters were lost, and twice as many Downworlders."
Tessa's eyes opened and turned to Sophie. "You said everyone was all right," she said, trying not to sound accusing.
"Everyone that resides in this Institute is fine," said Sophie, busying herself with a food tray on Tessa's bedside table. Tessa didn't miss the sorrow on the other girl's face. "Not everyone could be saved."
"And Mortmain?" said Tessa, swallowing the sudden bitter obstruction in her throat. "What of him?"
"I think you should know better than any of us," Sophie replied. "Were you not the one that did away with him, miss?"
Tessa flinched, a cold hand closing its fingers around her heart. She had hated Mortmain; never had she met such a foul man, so hungry for power and revenge that he had been willing to put millions of lives in danger. She knew he would have died in the end, no matter the outcome of that battle; even if she had not driven that knife into his chest, he would have been killed, if not by another Downworlder of Shadowhunter, then by Cruor when it was unleashed. But it still did not erase the realization and the pain that she had been responsible for the death of another human being, no matter how terrible a being he had been.
Sophie's eyes softened and she touched Tessa lightly on the shoulder. "You did the right thing, Tessa," she said solemnly, and the sound of her name chased away some of the blackness invading Tessa's heart. "If you had not done what you did, more lives might have been lost. You saved them all." She reached out and took Tessa's hand, squeezing it once before releasing it.
Tessa nodded, though she still felt doubtful.
"His clockwork abominations ceased to work after he was dead," Sophie went on. "At least, that's what I've been told. His hideout collapsed, and the demon was sent back to its own dimension. Mortmain is well and truly gone."
There was a long beat of silence as they both took this in.
"Eat up," said Sophie, her tone abruptly brisk. She nodded at the tray. "I'll be back to redress your leg in about an hour. Try to get some more rest." She gave Tessa one last smile before turning and withdrawing from the room.
Tessa waited precisely twenty seconds, counting each tick of the clock, before throwing the blankets off her legs and sliding out of bed.
At first she stumbled as her burned ankle struggled to hold her weight. But after walking a few circles about her room, she discovered that if she barely touched the toes of her injured leg to the ground and depended heavily on her healthy foot, she could manage the journey from her room to the infirmary easily.
Tessa stuck her head out her bedroom door. It was almost bizarre, being able to open doors whenever she liked; she had grown used to being under lock and key at all times. She glanced both ways down the corridor, making sure that Sophie was nowhere in sight, before slipping out and limping her way toward her destination.
She did not realize until she was over halfway to the infirmary that she was wearing nothing but a nightgown, and nothing on her feet at all. She stopped in the middle of the hall and stared down at herself in dismay. It had taken her long enough to get this far; she wasn't sure she could manage the trip back to her room to dress, and then another walk back to the infirmary. Besides, the longer she took, the larger chance there was that she would run into Sophie.
Praying that there wouldn't be too many other patients in the infirmary, Tessa stuck her chin in the air and limped bravely on.
It took her ages to get to the infirmary, and by the time she arrived she was gritting her teeth against the agony in her leg and seemingly every other place in her body. But with every step she took, her anticipation grew. This was more important than resting.
Tessa's hand reached for the knob on the infirmary door, but a light hand touching her shoulder stopped her. She spun around with a gasp, prepared to defend herself, only to find Jem standing there, looking a little sheepish.
"Forgive me," he said, sounding strangely formal. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"Oh," Tessa breathed, putting a hand to her heart. Her eyes stuck to his face. There was a long scar near his hairline, but otherwise his skin seemed unmarked. "Jem!"
"I'm very glad to see you're well," he said, offering her a small smile that filled her with impatience.
"Jem," she said again, grinning. "I'm so happy to see you."
Pink colored his cheeks, and he dropped his eyes, seeming embarrassed. "Ah. Well, I'm happy to see you as—"
Tessa reached out and, much to the astonishment of both of them, she pressed the palm of her hand against his cheek. His skin was warm. His silver eyes were wide as he looked at her.
"You're hardly hurt at all," she said wonderingly.
"Iratze healing runes," he replied. His hand came up to hold hers to his face, and Tessa felt her stomach flip. He shut his eyes for a moment and sighed before dropping his hand and stepping away from her, letting her hand fall from his face.
"You're here to see Will, aren't you?" he said, and Tessa was startled by the regret in his voice.
"Y-yes," she answered, blushing. "I…I have to thank him. For saving my life. I should thank you, too," she said gently. "You saved me, Jem."
"Don't thank me," he said, shaking his head. "It was Will who realized what was happening. He was the one that suspected that that...thing that impersonated you wasn't really you. I refused to believe him. Will had to go as far as running her through with a blade before we finally realized the truth." There was pain in his eyes when he looked at her now. "I'm sorry, Tessa."
"Don't be," Tessa said, her hands itching to reach out and take his hands, but something held her back. "You came. That's all that matters."
Jem's eyes roved over her face, and Tessa saw the longing in them. "I've admired you for quite a long time, Tessa," he said. He held up his hand when Tessa tried to stutter out a response. "But I know now that I…that we can never happen."
Tessa felt a splinter of pain crack her heart. "Jem," she said softly, not entirely sure what she was going to say, but he went on before she could utter another word.
"When we were heading back from Mortmain's in the carriage," he said, "you woke up, only for a few seconds. The only thing you could ask about was Will. I'd suspected before, but that was when I understood. And hearing him go on and on about you, driving himself mad with worry, for the past few days…"
Tessa tried to ignore the soaring feeling that his words inspired in her. Will was going on and on about her. "Jem?" she said, and this time she didn't resist the urge to touch his hand. He didn't draw away; he stared down at her fingers intently. "You are the kindest man I have ever known," she said quietly. "You hardly ever think of yourself. You always put Will first, or me, or anyone else in the Institute. You're pure and good, more so than any other human being in the world." She smiled faintly at him. "You are beautiful, James Carstairs." She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. His eyes were full of sadness as she drew away, but he smiled at her, a small, pained smile.
Tessa felt a sharp feeling of anguish as she turned away from him, her hand reaching for the doorknob again. She thought back to the night when all this had begun, when Will had told her that Jem loved her. She couldn't bear the idea that she was hurting him now. Telling her what he just had, that he believed she belonged with someone else, must have been one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do.
She didn't deserve Jem. She never would.
Tessa pushed the door to the infirmary open and stood there in the threshold for a moment, taking in the bright room that was full of more beds than usual, most of them occupied. Most of the occupants seemed to be Shadowhnters, but Tessa was astonished to recognize a few Downworlders beneath the sheets as well, though they were the ones who were unconscious and ashen, clearly badly wounded.
A beautifully familiar voice floated to her from the other end of the room. Tessa's eyes flew back and forth until she found the source of it.
"—don't bloody well need to lie down. You see? I'm standing right now. I don't think I should have to stay in the infirmary like some sort of disease-ridden invalid."
"Will, please be reasonable," Gideon's voice answered, sounding quite exasperated. "You do know that you took a knife to the back, don't you? And Sophie specifically told me not to let you leave."
"Jem was injured," said Will stubbornly. His dark hair was ruffled around his head, and his brilliant blue eyes sparkled with life and energy and irritation. Tessa could only stand there staring at him as a warm feeling welled up inside of her, filling her from head to toe. "I don't see him stuck in here."
"Jem requested a private room," said Gideon impatiently. "You, however, are much too pigheaded to be trusted in a private room—"
"Pigheaded? I resent that sentiment!" Will said indignantly.
"Oh, you do, do you—" Gideon's eyes shifted past Will and landed on Tessa; his sentence broke off and he stared at her in astonishment. His surprise may have been a result of her mere presence, or by the fact that she was hardly dressed at all. Tessa was too busy staring at Will to remember her rather indecent state.
"Run out of arguments, have you?" Will glanced briefly over his shoulder, almost as a reflex, and then did a double take. His eyes widened as they met Tessa's.
"Well?" The voice to her right made Tessa jump. She looked over to see that Magnus was lying in the bed nearest her, eyeing her with a dry expression. His face was pale and drawn, but he still had a glint in his catlike eyes. "Are you going to stand there staring at him, or are you going to run into his waiting arms?"
Tessa felt her face breaking into a smile, and she started limping across the room as fast as her leg would allow her to go. Will started toward her, walking quickly at first and then breaking into a run. He reached her before she had gone more than few steps, and, heedless of their sizable audience, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tight against him.
"Tessa," he whispered in her ear, and, without releasing her, he headed straight for the door, lifting her slightly so that her feet barely skimmed the ground. Tessa peeked over his shoulder into the room to see that everyone was watching them with varying expressions of alarm, disapproval, and amusement. Gideon stared after them with a helpless look, and Magnus winked at her.
Will shouldered past the door to the infirmary and set Tessa on the ground. She had enough time to ensure that the corridor was deserted—Jem had disappeared—before Will's lips came down on hers.
Tessa responded immediately, her arms wrapping around his neck and pulling him closer to her. Will kissed her passionately, pressing her against the wall as his hand came up to frame her face. Fire passed through Tessa, burning away the pain, the knowledge that there was a crowd of people on the other side of the door, the world in its entirety until it was just her and Will.
"Don't ever do that again," he moaned, burying his face briefly in her neck.
"Do what?" she said breathlessly, one hand fisting itself in the back of his shirt.
"Leave." He raised his head and cupped her chin, looking at her fiercely. "You have to make me a promise, right now," he said.
Tessa leaned toward him until their mouths barely had any space between them at all. "Anything," she murmured, and felt him shiver as her lips brushed his.
"Stay with me."
"What kind of a silly promise is that?" Tessa said, grinning.
Will's expression turned playful. "Say it, or I shall be forced to throw myself from the top of the Institute out of the sheer agony of my grief."
"Well, we mustn't have that," she said, raising her eyebrows. Her voice softened. "I promise I'll stay with you, Will."
His smile was radiant. He bent his head to whisper once more in her ear. "I love you, Tessa Gray."
She smiled to herself, reveling in the words she had dreamed of hearing for such a long time. "Of course you do," she responded loftily.
He pulled back and gave her a look. "You can do better than that."
She looked at him innocently. "I've no idea what you're talking about."
The way he looked at her then, his blue eyes soft and almost reverent, the joy that shone from within them like light through a window, was too much for her to withstand. She had rarely seen that look in Will, that happiness that he seemed to lack, and the knowledge that she was the cause of it, that he was looking at her like that, meant more to her than she could say.
"Oh, all right. I suppose I love you too," she sighed.
"It's about time you admitted it," Will said, and stooped to kiss her again, sealing the promise, the words, and the rest of forever for them both.
And there you have it! I'm a sucker for happy endings. Well, happy for Tessa and Will...but don't worry, Jem finds another girl in the near future and finds happiness as well. At least, in my imagination he does.
Thank you all so much for reading! You gave me such encouragement throughout the story! You guys are awesome!