Red sprinkled her ivory exterior, causing a contrast of pale skin with a dark, rich scarlet. Her hands were loose, hung at her sides. But he could tell. He could see how terrified she was. She was shaking.
And at that moment, Simon realized the redheaded girl in front of him was not Clary the Shadowhunter. She was not Clary, the Girl Who Stopped the War. She wasn't Clary, Jace's girlfriend. She was Clary, Jocelyn's child. She was Clary, the girl that wore blue plastic barrettes until she was 11 years old. She was Clary, the girl that wore baggy clothes. She was Clary Fray, his best friend.
It pained him. Struck him to the core. She looked so helpless, so dormant. The teenager that was in front of him, held firmly by a possessed Jace, was not the active girl that trained with Isabelle and sometimes Alec. This wasn't the Clary that he had seen. This girl that stood before him was the girl he grew up with. This was the girl that drew flowers on her sketchbooks and grumbled when boys didn't pay attention to her. Real attention. But he always did.
Simon's eyes were still fixated on Clary and sometimes wavering up to look at the blonde Shadowhunter that loomed behind her. Jace… what are you doing? he mentally questioned, pleading brown eyes locked in at Jace's fierce gold ones. Jace. Jace, don't. And then Simon's eyes traveled down to look back at Clary, her once elegant curls turning into red twigs. His mind's instantly transported to a time in which he and Clary would climb up a tree just near the playground by their school and just sit there. They'd sit there for hours on end, either playing I Spy or watching the clouds, making up items that resembled the shapes of the ever-changing fluffy white objects. He'd end up laughing at how Clary's hair would get tangled up as she climbed down the tree, twigs collectively gathering at her ginger hair.
His head diverted from this nostalgic memory to another. His mind quickly formed the images that he would see her create on paper. Spired castle. Running horses. Characters she had made up in her head. And then it hit him. What if this was just one of those things? Like a fairytale. And they were all characters from a fairytale? And they were in the middle of the fight, entering the climax. Entering the end of the story. But he knew that this wasn't a dream. He knew this wasn't a fairytale. Simon knew that it wasn't anything to do with fantasy. This was real. He knew this was so very real.
And he remembered a set of words that Clary's mother had told to her. You can walk to school by yourself, but only if Simon goes with you. Simon created a silent laugh in his head, wanting to savor the fond memory. The moment of his hand slipping into hers as they prepare to cross the street. That time that he could feel her hold tighten when a car came to a stop right before them as they did. That moment when she wouldn't let go of his hand until they safely crossed the street. Oh, how he could hold her hand now. To reassure her that it would be okay. To have her never let go of him.
Suddenly, another memory rammed itself into his head. The ninth time he held Clary's hand. It was a simple brush of their fingers. Innocent and lovely. Completely platonic. He'd comforted her about something that happened at school. She was upset, but Simon seemed to have forgotten what that reason was. But he held her hand to comfort her. He was around 10, his 11th birthday arriving the month after. He remembered that she was trying to fight back the tears, but knew it was useless when she spurted out nonsense. So, he held her hand. No hugs or kisses or anything like that; just the simple action of holding hands. Silence accompanied their session, and that was when Simon realized he was in love with Clary.
She was Clary. She was his best friend. She was a part of him. She was his first crush. That was it. Simple as that. It had always been her. Undoubtedly and unashamedly her.
Simon witnessed her shake her head. Just slightly enough to let Jace think it was nothing to worry about. And he knew what she was saying. She didn't want him to do this. Clary didn't want Simon to give Lilith what she wanted. It was marked in those green eyes of hers. Don't do it. Don't give her what she wants. Let whatever happens to me happen.
No. No. I know what I have to do. Simon mentally protested. I don't care what you have to say, Fray, but I'm going to do this. You're my responsibility. You always had been. His eyes softened and he saw that Clary's green eyes hardened with childlike anger and desperation. He finally looked away from her. The vampire couldn't handle it anymore.
And with that last exchange of looks, Simon took a firm step into the circle.