Sorry this one's a little shorter than usual, but it seemed like a good place to stop.
In all the time Simon and I had been friends, I had never bothered to knock on his door. We had that relationship where we didn't care about the other's privacy—or maybe that was just me. Simon was a lot more modest, and I think he was deathly afraid of walking in on something he didn't want to see. But me? Simon could have been preforming a naked moon dance in the middle of his bedroom, and it wouldn't have fazed me.
But today felt different. The atmosphere of his apartment felt altered, like everything that had happened had changed Simon and those changes had bled into the building. His mom let me in, smiling hugely as usual, hugging me, telling me she was so glad I could stop by, that Simon had been bored out of his mind lately. He was pretty much bedridden right now, still recovering from the bullet to the shoulder.
I had barely seen Simon lately. I'd only managed to visit him once in the hospital, and at the time he'd been pretty doped up on morphine; he hadn't been allowed many visitors, and I hadn't had much time to go, either, as terrible as that sounds. But after what had happened, my mom barely let me out of her sight anymore. She had just upgraded from Paranoid Parent to Monster Mom. I felt like she was always breathing down my neck, watching my every move. It meant we argued a lot, but that wasn't really anything new.
Now Simon was home, had been for about a day, and I had been bursting to visit him. My mom had very reluctantly let me go. She had made me swear that I would text her when I got to Simon's, which I found to be rather annoying, but I obliged anyway to keep her happy.
But now that I was here, now that I was walking those few steps down the skinny hall to Simon's room, I felt strangely unsure.
I hovered outside his door, feeling awkward. After almost a minute of warring with myself, I lifted my hand and knocked.
I waited a second, fidgeting nervously, and then I heard, "Come in," from inside.
I opened the door. Simon was stretched out on his bed, nose buried in a comic book. He didn't look up as I entered. He had that crease between his eyebrows that he got when he was really concentrating on something.
"Mom?" he said absently, and I almost laughed, but I was too nervous for that.
I cleared my throat and said, "Uh, no. It's me. Clary." I felt stupid, like I'd forgotten how to act around Simon.
Simon dropped his comic book and his eyes lifted to me, stunned. "Clary? Did you just knock on my door? Are you actually respecting my privacy for once?"
"Yeah," I said, wishing I didn't feel so tense. "But don't expect it to become a habitual thing."
His face split into a grin, and instantly I felt relieved. He obviously didn't feel the awkwardness that I did. He struggled into a sitting position, wincing as he jostled his hurt shoulder.
"Hold on," I said, crossing his bedroom. I sat down at the foot of his bed. "Don't get up on my account."
"It's about time you got here. I'm bored," he complained. "Mom will barely even let me go to the bathroom by myself."
"Wow, okay. TMI," I said.
His smile faded a little and his brows drew together. "How are you doing?"
"I'm…coping," I said. It was too hard to lie to Simon and say "I'm fine." Because I wasn't, really.
"You look exhausted. Have you even been sleeping?"
"Kind of," I said, drawing invisible little patterns on his bedspread with my finger.
"It's okay. If it weren't for the prescription drugs the doctor gave me, I wouldn't be sleeping, either," he said dryly. "Some…pretty crazy stuff went down, huh?"
"Yeah." I bit the corner of my lip, bracing myself, and then went for it. "Simon, I have to apologize. I tried to apologize at the hospital, but you seemed too out of it to really get what I was saying, so I'm going to try again. It's all my fault that you got shot." My voice shook on the word. "If I hadn't been stupid and let Isabelle trick me into coming to the park, none of it would have happened. No one would have gotten hurt. It's my fault you were involved in any of this at all. And I could just kick myself for getting you hurt. You could have died—"
"Clary?" Simon put his hand on my shoulder, looked at me seriously. "Shut up."
I obeyed, snapping my mouth closed and looking at him anxiously.
"I don't blame you," he said. "Not one bit. Not for any of it. If you hadn't gone to Central Park that night, she would have found another way to get what she wanted. She would have had a plan B, then a plan C, and so forth, until you had been in that exact same situation. But it might have worked out differently. She might have killed you. We might not have escaped. Someone could have gotten hurt even worse than I was. In this scenario, at least we all made it. At least Isabelle and Raphael are someplace where they can't hurt anyone anymore. So don't even try to apologize anymore, okay? I don't blame you. At all."
"How can you not?" I said miserably. "I was stupid."
"True," he agreed. "But we all have our stupid moments. And I'm just glad it's over. So let's forget about it, okay? We don't have to ever speak of it again."
I nodded, so relieved I could have cried. I had deluded myself into thinking that Simon would be furious with me. He had every right to be. He didn't need to get involved in that whole mess, but he had because of me. He almost died for my sake.
But he was Simon, best friend extraordinaire, and I should have known he would instantly forgive me. That he wouldn't think there was anything to even forgive.
"So how's the boy toy?" Simon leaned back against his pillows, settling in comfortably.
"Don't call him that," I said, grimacing. "And he's…good." I had to suppress a goofy grin as my thoughts turned to Jace. Jeez, why did the thought of him always make me want to smile? Did love just inherently make you act sappy, or was that just me?
"Good?" Simon scoffed. "Admit it. You're in paradise, Clary."
"Okay, maybe he's a little more than good," I allowed. "But we don't have to talk about Jace, Simon."
"Why not? Does he make you uncomfortable?" he asked innocently, and it was all I could do not to burst into laughter at a joke he wouldn't get.
"No. But I thought he might make you uncomfortable." My voice softened. "After all, the bullet that hit you was meant for him."
"That doesn't make me uncomfortable. That just means he's forever in my debt," said Simon with a devilish grin. "I could make him my servant if I wanted. That's how much he owes me."
"Why did you do it, Simon?" I asked, the question popping out without my permission. "Why would you take a bullet for Jace? Last I knew, you didn't even like him."
"I don't, really," Simon admitted, frowning a little. "I didn't do it for him. I did it for you."
I looked at him, stunned.
"If Jace had gotten hurt again…or even killed…you would have been devastated, Clary. Destroyed. And I couldn't watch you go through that. That Raphael guy has deadly aim. Jace probably would have died, and I know how you feel about him. So I saved him." And then he shrugged, like it was no big deal.
I felt like I was about to burst into tears. "Simon," I said, voice trembling. "You're the best person I've ever known."
He smiled. "I know."
I scooted toward him and wrapped my arms around his neck, holding on tight. "Thank you," I said into his shoulder. "Thank you so much."
He patted me on the back. "Any time, Clary," he said softly. "I know you would do the same for me."
"In a heartbeat," I whispered.
"And don't go thinking this is all about you. I wouldn't sit by and let someone get shot, no matter how annoying and arrogant they are." His laughter blew against my ear.
"Well, I'm grateful," I said, smiling in response.
"Speaking of undying love." Simon pulled back, and he was smiling again. "I might have met someone."
I stared at him. "Met someone?"
"As in…a girl," he said.
I continued to look at him.
"As in…a potential girlfriend," he clarified, beginning to look exasperated.
"Wait. You have a girlfriend?" I said, dumbfounded.
"Maybe. I mean, we just met," he said, his cheeks beginning to turn red. "Her name is Maia. We met at the hospital. Her mom is a nurse, so she helps out with the patients sometimes. She brought me lunch every day. She's really nice and funny and cool and…she seems to like me." He shrugged, looking so adorably embarrassed.
"Oh my gosh!" I squealed. "I'm so proud of you!" I threw my arms around him again, only to pull back quickly as he hissed in pain. "Sorry. Sorry!"
"It's okay. At least you're showing the proper enthusiasm," he said wryly, unable to stop himself from grinning.
"Really, Simon. I'm happy for you," I said, smiling warmly at him. "I knew you were going to find true love."
"I'd say that's jumping the gun, but thanks," he said, making a face at my exaggeration.
"So what are you reading?" I picked up his comic book, and his face instantly became alive, as it always did when he talked about his fandoms.
We spent the rest of the day together. Sometimes we talked about his video games, sometimes we talked about Maia or even Jace, though that still made me uncomfortable. We never talked about that night, though, never mentioned Isabelle or Sebastian. We pretended like it had never happened, and like life was just as it had been before, and for a while it was easy to imagine that that was true.
How can it be possible for the mere sound of someone's voice to give you butterflies? And turn your knees to Jell-O? And make you feel like the sun just got about ten times brighter, the air ten times fresher, the day twenty times better?
I guess that's love for you. It has its ups and downs. In my opinion, the ups far outnumber the downs, but then, I wasn't terribly experienced yet.
I turned around to see Jace striding down the school hallway toward me. He was already wearing his heavy coat, the same coat he had once borrowed to me. When he caught my eye, he smiled, a smile that seriously lit up the entire building.
"Hey, Golden Globe," I answered as he reached my side and wrapped an arm around my waist.
He raised an eyebrow at me. "'Golden Globe'?"
I scowled and he laughed, playfully tugging on a piece of my hair. I'd been trying out nicknames for days, trying to find one that stuck. He had an array of redhead-related jokes at his disposal, not to mention an annoyingly witty sense of humor. I had a decidedly smaller list to choose from. Blonde jokes worked, but most of them were overused and boring. But mark my words, I would find one someday, and then he'd be sorry.
"Where's Alec?" I asked. Ever since…that night…Jace and Alec had become a lot closer. Alec had once shadowed Isabelle's every step through the halls of the school, and after she had been taken away, he had seemed so lost. Jace, who normally ran with a different crowd, had swooped in and taken Alec under his wing. After all, he seemed a little lost himself, without Sebastian by his side. They helped each other out in their loss.
I felt for Alec, I really did, but sometimes it was a little irritating when he hung around, when he didn't get the subtle hints that we wanted some privacy.
"He's with Magnus," said Jace, and the look he gave me was pure mischief.
"Magnus?" My eyebrows shot up. I never saw them together, although sometimes I would catch Magnus watching Alec from afar, always with that slightly frustrated look on his face. Alec seemed to be avoiding him, though. Now that Sebastian was no longer around to blackmail him, Alec seemed content to let his secret stay buried. I felt terrible for Magnus, but it really wasn't my business.
"He finally agreed to talk," Jace said, twining his fingers with mine. We had grown accustomed to the stares we got, and most of the student body had become accustomed to us. There were still a few that seemed to struggle with the concept of our relationship, most of them being Jace's friends and Aline's pack. Aline especially gave me looks that felt like they could melt the skin off my face.
"That's good," I said, and I meant it, but my mind was on something else. "So…I guess Alec won't be joining us today."
His hand tightened around mine. "Nope."
"So." I met his eyes, which shone. "What should we do, Brad?"
"Brad?" he repeated, frowning.
"Like, Brad Pitt. What?" I said defensively as Jace roared with laughter. "He's blonde!"
"You're improving," he told me, full-out grinning. I could see the little chip in his tooth, and it was all I could do not to lean forward and kiss him right there in the middle of the hall.
Then he leaned close, his lips just barely brushing the top of my ear, and said, "But I can think of a few things we could do."
A thrill went through me, and my cheeks started to warm. No matter how much I was around him, I would never stop blushing at just about everything he said. I could foresee that much.
He took my hand and tugged me toward the main doors. "Where are we going?" I asked.
"It's a surprise," he said, still grinning away.
I rarely knew where we were going after school. Jace loved to surprise me. He said the little look of surprised delight on my face when we showed up at our destination was what got him out of bed in the morning. He was just teasing, of course, but it still made the butterflies living in my stomach flutter their wings.
"What are we doing here?" My voice came out a little sharper than I'd intended.
"Come on." He tugged me forward, holding firmly to my hand like he was afraid I was going to bolt. And honestly, I was seriously contemplating that option.
We'd taken a taxi from the school. Jace had gone to great measures to keep our destination a secret, even going as far as whispering it into the taxi driver's ear, who looked confused and annoyed but drove us there all the same.
And now we were standing outside Central Park. The place where IT had happened. The place we hadn't gone to since that night.
"Jace, I don't think this is a good idea." I pulled on his arm, tried to get him to head back toward the taxi.
"Relax, Clary." He treacherously turned his charming little smile on me. "Nothing bad will happen."
"We could have flashbacks," I argued. "We could go into shock, or something."
He rolled his eyes. "Don't be a chicken." He smirked at me. "Are you really that scared of a park?"
I glared at him. "You know that's not my problem."
He sobered, brushing his thumb lightly against my cheek. "The thing is," he said slowly, "yes, something bad happened here. Something that we aren't going to forget, ever. But you know what? We had good memories here, too. And I'm not willing to let those memories get overshadowed by the bad things."
"I'd say the bad things outweigh the good in this instance, Jace," I said edgily.
"Then I'm going to have to remind you what the good things are like," he said. Then he put his arm around my waist, holding me prisoner, and all but dragged me into the park.
I don't know what I expected when we walked in. A murderer to jump out of nowhere and attack us? That certainly didn't happen. It was just a normal winter day, the sky blanketed by gray clouds. The trees were completely leafless now, reaching thin fingers in all directions.
I also wasn't hit with a barrage of flashbacks like I'd expected. But then, this wasn't the exact spot where it had happened. I hoped Jace wasn't planning on bringing us there.
It didn't take me long to figure out where he was headed. I had sort of guessed it when we'd come to a stop outside the park. There were only a few good memories I had in this park that involved Jace.
The gazebo loomed into view, and now I did have flashbacks, good ones—sitting underneath it with him in the rain. He had listened to me as I talked about my father. He had shown sensitivity for the first time since I'd known him. And he had looked so peaceful, staring into the rain, like for the first time in weeks he had let himself relax. I thought of how he had given me his coat, without a thought.
Jace hopped up the stairs, releasing my hand and pacing into the middle of the gazebo. He spun and faced me, his hands in the pockets of his coat. Then he smirked, all proud of himself.
"Okay," I said, doing my best to sound unconcerned. "It's a gazebo."
"Don't pretend like you don't remember."
"I remember," I said, walking over to the railing I had leaned against the last time we were here. I stared out at the gray day, keeping my back to him so he wouldn't see my face. "You told me to meet you here…I mean, Isabelle told me to meet you here."
Jace was quiet behind me, and I cursed myself for ruining today. He'd been excited to bring me here, and I was squashing his enthusiasm. We didn't say Isabelle's name much; it brought back too many bad memories.
I felt Jace behind me more than I heard him approach. "Clary?" he said, a question in his voice.
I took a deep breath, composed myself, and then turned to face him. "But I remember that day," I said softly, giving him a small smile. "When we ran into each other here. You said it was fate."
"It was," he said, responding to my smile with one of his own. "Fate wanted us together."
"Uh-huh," I said dubiously, though the idea gave me a thrill.
"Look," he said suddenly, stepping up to the railing beside me, our arms touching. "It's snowing."
I followed his gaze, and sure enough little snowflakes were drifting down from the sky. It didn't snow a lot here, something that was strange for me after living most of my life in Colorado, and seeing the tiny flakes float down was like a little piece of home. They would most likely turn to rain soon, but for now they looked beautiful.
"I like the snow," said Jace distractedly. "It muffles everything. Makes it quieter. I used to pretend that I was the only person in the world when it snowed. It made me feel…I don't know, invincible. Untouchable."
I couldn't help glancing at him, wanting to watch his face as he watched the snow, in that same rapt way he'd looked at the rain.
"Now I don't want to pretend to be alone. At least, not completely." He reached out and took my hand. His fingers were warm. "I want to pretend that it's just you and me, and the rest of the world doesn't exist."
I felt like my heart had stopped. How did he come up with this stuff? Who would have thought that there was a poet inside Jace Wayland?
"Okay," I said softly. "It's just you and me. What are you going to do now?"
"Now," he said, turning his head and giving me a smile that stopped the spinning of the entire world, "I kiss you."
So he did.
FIN. Heh, I always wanted to say that.
Wow, I can't believe it's finally finished! Took long enough, huh? Thank you SO much for sticking with me till the end! Thank you for your encouraging and kind words, and thank you for your enthusiasm. What's a story without someone to read it?
I'll do my best to write a sequel. I don't really have any ideas yet, but if I get another story posted, I'll put a notice on this fic so you'll know, just in case you want to check it out.
In conclusion, THANK YOU! I could never say that enough. You guys are so awesome, and I hope I get to write for you again soon!
Over and out, ~I'm a Muppet of a girl