Wow, hello. It's been a while, but that's a good thing. If I'd written this chapter at any other time, I don't think it would have turned out quite like I would have wanted to, so hopefully by waiting until I was ready, I've given this story the ending it deserves.

Yep, this is it guys. The last chapter. And it's super long. I'm not going to lie, I got pretty teary whilst writing it. The last seven and a half months have given me so much more than I ever would have expected and I will never be able to thank you all enough for helping me along the way. This story has become one of the most important parts of my life and every single one of you are a part of that, so thank you. Whether you've been there from the very beginning, or you're reading this long after it's finished, know that I appreciate it more than you know. I'd given up almost all hopes of writing before I posted this. I didn't think I'd ever be good enough to write something that people other than myself would want to read, but this story has changed all that. I'm a long way off from being ready to give my own novel the time it deserves, but I know now that I can be and that wouldn't be possible without this.

A lot of you have been asking me if I have any social networks I can keep in touch with you on, and it's true that I don't want to lose contact with any of you guys so if you follow me on my new twitter smimordor, then I'll follow you all back and obviously there's my tumblr as well. All links are on my profile.

So once again, thank you and well done for making it this far. If you hang around for the A/N at the bottom, there'll be something there that will make most of you pretty happy so I won't hold you up any longer.

Here we go.

Disclaimer: I do not own TMI or any of its characters, that all goes to Cassandra Clare. But you guys are awesome.


Chapter 40: Trying to finalise things

"What is it?" I whisper, barely able to form words. His proximity, combined with that scent of his that always makes me heady is affecting my balance greatly.

He dips his head so that his face is just a few inches from mine.

"Clary, I love you." Then he closes the distance.

And just like that, I'm on fire.

I feel the warmth spread within me, from where his lips are on mine to the tips of my toes. It doesn't even take a second. My mind is all over the place but that doesn't matter because being with Jace is instinctual. From the moment he kisses me, all logical thought escapes me and it feels like the only thing that's keeping me tethered to the ground is him. I can tell he was trying to be gentle, at least, he was at first but of course that all goes out the window as soon as I start to kiss him back.

I hadn't realised how much I needed this, how much I needed him until now.

So I thought I could stay away from him indefinitely?

Pah.

It was only a matter of time. I see that now. I run my fingers through his hair, feeling his golden curls knot together between them as he pulls me closer, his arms encircling my waist and I never want him to let go. Never again.

It takes everything I have to hold back the moisture that's teasing at the corners of my eyes.

It's okay, I tell myself.

He's here.

Jace is right here and he –

I pull back, eyes wide. Jace seems just as startled, his breath coming out unevenly.

"Huh?" I gasp, struggling to regain my own.

"What?" He says, leaning towards me again. "What's wrong?"

"I…" What was I going to say? I'm sure it was important… "Wait!" I push him back, holding him at arm's length.

I can't think straight when he's so close to me. Especially when he's close enough to do that again.

He can't just go around kissing me whenever I'm about to – oh.

"You said…you said you…you told me that…" I gape at him, unable to verbalise the thought.

"What?" He shrugs, trying to play innocent.

"You said you…loved me…" I speak slowly, feeling the way it rolls off my tongue. It almost doesn't sound like a real word when I say it like that. But then, it can't be, right?

"Did I?" Jace raises an eyebrow, still feigning surprise.

"Did you?" Did I mishear him after all? It's possible. It's a known fact that essence of Herondale is not exactly good for my brain. And then there was that kiss. Now, that could have done all sorts of irreparable damage.

That definitely seems a more plausible explanation than the truth. He can't love me. We'd already established that. Hadn't we?

Jace must notice the change in my expression, because then he reaches forward to cup my cheek, tilting my head up towards him. "What do you think?"

"I think you make it very hard for me to think…"

"And why's that?"

"I might be able to tell you if I could think."

"How can I make it easier for you?" He whispers, moving a stray lock of hair out of my eyes.

"By not doing that," I say, though my voice is so shaky I can't tell if he understands. "Okay, seriously!" I bat his hand away and take a step back. "I'm not joking, I really can't think and right now, I really think I need to think…"

"Do you now?" He chuckles, biting his lip.

"Stop making fun of me, this is your fault." I roll my eyes, trying to clear my head before I find myself wishing I could be the one biting his lip inst-

Ugh.

Clary, snap out of it!

Where were we again? Ah yes. "Tell me the truth. Plain and simple. Spell it out if you have to."

"Clarissa Morgenstern," he says, completely serious. "I, Jace Herondale, do hereby confess that I am absolutely, positively, one-hundred-and-one percent in love with you."

I stop breathing.

One.

Two.

Three.

How many seconds until I pass out from the lack of oxygen?

Four.

Five.

"Where did the extra one percent come from?" I mumble, because of all things, that's the first coherent thought I have.

"Will. I absorbed it from him before it could get out of hand."

"That was quick thinking on your part."

"I think one Herondale is quite enough for you."

"I think so too," I nod, allowing a smile to creep across my face. I can't describe what changes in me then, but it's almost as significant as the words themselves. It's like a piece of me that I wasn't even aware was missing has finally clicked into place. One Herondale is more than enough for me. This one, in particular.

Jace loves me. He really loves me.

So after all that-

"Ouch!" He moans, rubbing the spot on his arm that I just smacked. "What was that for?"

"Why didn't you tell me?" Three little words. That's all it would have taken and none of this might have happened.

"Because I didn't want you to pick me, Clary. I wanted you to stick by Jonathan. One-hundred-and-one percent."

"Where would I have gotten the extra one percent from?"

"From me." His smile is still teasing but I can detect the emotion behind it, just like before.

"You're an idiot, did you know that?" I finally say, gazing up at him.

"Yeah," he nods, serious again. "I know." Would it have been so hard for him stay out of trouble? Go with the flow? Instead, he made one stupid mistake and almost ruined any possibility of us having a future.

And I never would have known.

I'd have spent the rest of my life never knowing that Jace Herondale loved me just as much as I loved him, impossible as that may sound.

"Come here," I whisper, cocking my head to the side. He takes a step towards me again, though he's more hesitant this time. We stand like that for a while, both a hand's width apart, neither knowing what to say until I let out my breath in a huff and pull him to me. I stand on the tips of my toes, my arms wrapped around his neck so tight it could be mistaken for a chokehold and bury my face in his shoulder. He takes a moment to respond, but then he's clutching me to him just as tightly so that I'm hovering off the floor, his arms forming a cage around me.

"Clary," he murmurs against my hair. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."

"Shhh!" I squeeze my eyes shut. "You're ruining it."

"Sorry," he says again. I can feel the laugh vibrating through his chest and I make a mental note never to forget this moment. This kiss was incredible, but it's times like this when I realise just what it is that I have.

I want to commit this to my memory forever. How it feels to have him in my arms, the muscles of his shoulders tensed beneath me; the curls at the base of his neck, a paler blonde than the rest of his hair; the way his scent clouds my senses, vaguely exotic, musky and just all completely Jace.

How it feels to have him love me.

"Since we're here," I say, tilting my head to speak into his ear. "You may as well know that I love you too."

"Of course you do," he chuckles, but I notice the way he stiffens at first. "What's not to love?"

"Do you really want me to answer that? I probably should have mentioned I'm only ninety-seven percent sure."

"What?" He jerks his head back to look at me, though he doesn't let go. "What happened to the other three?"

"I'm just going to need a little more convincing, is all," I shrug, trying to keep a straight face. This whole casual thing has worked out much better than I ever thought it would.

"Really?" His eyes narrow with the challenge. "And how can I go about doing that?"

"I'll have to think about it," I say, pursing my lips.

"Well, don't take too long." He lets go of me, dropping me onto the floor with a wink. "I'll be a famous metal god soon enough, and then the entire female population, as well as a good portion of the men will be after me. Strike while the iron is hot, as they say."

"Like I said," I roll my eyes, pushing him towards the practice room. "I'll have to think about it. Now go and err…do whatever prospective metal gods are supposed to do. You won't be getting anywhere if you're not good enough to play tomorrow."

"Woman, please," Jace holds his hand to his chest, quirking an eyebrow. "Do you know who you're speaking to? I'm always good enough."

"I'll be the judge of that, as will the actual judges."

"Oh ye of little faith…"

"Go!" I point at the door behind him. "Or would you prefer it if Jonathan came out and dragged you in? I'm sure he'd love to know what you were doing with his little sister in the hallway just now…"

"I'm going!" Jace turns around without another word and runs into the practice room so quick you'd think he was being chased by rabid wolves. I wait outside for a while and then let the grin spread across my face as I hear the music start up.

Then I lean back against the wall and sink down to the floor, the tears finally falling. And for the first time in longer than I can remember, they're the good kind.

-o-O-o-

The next twenty-four hours pass much faster than I could have imagined and before I know it, the boys are practicing again, but this time it's for the sound check. The final of the Battle of the Bands contest is taking place at the Pandemonium Club, by far the largest venue yet and telling from the line that's already started to form outside, this will also quite easily be the biggest show Mallard Massacre have ever played.

It's strange to think about how quickly everything has returned to normal. Just one day, that's all it's taken, and the guys are back to being a solid unit. There are no sides. No fences. No reservations. Mallard Massacre are well and truly back, in the literal sense, but it also goes deeper than that. It's as if the mould that these five boys fit into has been honed into perfection through the years; so well defined that nothing can truly change it. At least, certainly not a mere fortnight. Their structures were shaken and cracks have formed that will probably always serve as a reminder to this time, but their foundations have remained intact.

They managed to fit back into their old routine so quickly because it felt so right. Jamming is natural to them. Joking around is as simple as breathing. And pulling together when they need each other the most, well, that's impossible to resist.

Jace explained after practice exactly what that had entailed, two nights ago.

He told me how after a phone call with Will, he'd gone to visit Magnus in the hopes that it might not be too late to find a miracle. Will had assured him that Magnus had some sort of plan and so once he'd gotten to his house, dripping with rain, he'd walked straight into a meeting with one of the last people he would have expected at the Bane residence: Catarina Loss. She was the other member of Ragnor Didn't Fall and had also played with Magnus in their old band, Children Of Lilith. Catarina had gotten back in touch with Magnus as soon as she'd found out about Mallard Massacre's 'decision' to leave the contest and after speaking with Ragnor, he'd filled her in on all the gruesome details.

She was furious, that's something she couldn't deny. She'd always regarded Magnus as a friend and hadn't begrudged him for leaving the band like Ragnor had. But at the same time, she was just as furious at Ragnor himself. His insistence upon having his lyrics in front of him had always annoyed her and now, because of his drama queen antics, he'd cost them their place in the contest. They'd played the songs so many times before, she knew he could sing them by heart so the day he pulled out, she was incensed.

Yes, she blamed Magnus. She'd never been completely at peace with continuing to play his songs, but there were better ways to go about getting revenge. I couldn't agree with this more myself. So she'd made him a deal. She'd help to clear Mallard Massacre's name in return for their help, though Jace wasn't as forthcoming with what that meant. Magnus was going to take the fall, but since he was never a part of the band, disqualification couldn't hurt him.

"After all," Jace told me. "I didn't actually steal the book. Magnus did."

It was a technicality, since Jace had practically orchestrated the whole plan, but it was enough. The only evidence that the judges had received about Jace's involvement was the conversation that Kaelie had overheard that night as Woolsey's place. The boys hadn't bothered contesting it at the time because it was the truth, but if they did, it could cause quite a few complications. And so, after speaking to Catarina, Jace realised he'd have to go right to the top: Angle Raziel himself.

But here's the part that surprised us most of all.

Jace hadn't gone to see Angle on his own. Of all the people he could have taken with him, who did he choose?

My father.

Valentine Morgenstern.

No, you're not hallucinating. You read those words right.

He'd come to our house early yesterday morning, while Jonathan and I were still very much asleep, and talked to my father. I don't know quite how that conversation played out and Jace didn't feel like telling me everything, but somehow he'd managed to convince him to help. It turned out that my dad had worked with Raziel's assistant – Ithuriel – back in the day and that he owed him a favour. So with my father at his side, Jace had gone to Mortal Cup Productions to meet with the music mogul and together, they'd landed Mallard Massacre back on the bill. All before ten in the morning. Again, I suspect there was more to it than Jace was letting on, but I'll have to weasel the whole truth out of him later.

After that, things fell into place fairly quickly. Jordan and Sebastian were more than happy to come over to our house as soon as Jace told them what had happened and though Alec took some persuading, he was there when they arrived. Being apart from Magnus had been taking a larger toll on him than he'd let any of us see and though he hadn't forgiven his boyfriend completely, he was more than willing to give it a try.

The hardest part was dealing with Jonathan himself. Jace had considered talking to him first, but then he realised that with my brother, you had to have an ultimatum. Negotiating with Jonathan wouldn't have gotten him anywhere. Jon would just have hung up and that would be that. Jace decided that the best way to get his attention would be to give him no other option. Invade his home. Disturb his sleep.

It was a risky plan, but it worked.

Just twenty-four hours ago, I thought we'd lost out on this.

But now here we are.

Sound check.

The final of the Battle of the Bands contest.

They really did it.

I stand on the other side of the floor, as far back from the stage as I can get. As soon as the song begins to die down, I raise three fingers in the air.

"Better," I yell, walking towards the boys. "I can hear Jordan more now, but you still need to turn up Alec's amp a little more. I can barely make him out over the other guitars."

I don't quite understand why they chose me to help them with the sound check – it's not like I can actually tell when their songs are coming out okay, since they all sound terrible to me anyway – but I try to judge it as best I can. My scale peaks at five fingers, translating to 'If you were all seven years old, this would be endearing' to one finger, which is 'See that pool of red on the floor? Yeah, that's the last of my ears.'

"Are you sure, Clary?" Jonathan looks sceptical. "I mean, picking out the bass line isn't exactly the easiest thing for the untrained ear. Maybe you just can't tell which part is Alec?"

"And maybe you could get someone else to stand here all afternoon and listen to you instead?" I retort, glaring at him. I look to Jace for backup but he stays irritatingly quiet.

"I think she's right," Sebastian says, coughing. He seems to shrink down slightly as soon as Jonathan turns his gaze on him, but he keeps talking. "Jace and I are pretty loud and so are you, so it can't hurt turning Alec's amp up. I'm sure Clary knows what she's talking about." Wow. Sebastian Verlac standing up to Jonathan Morgenstern. Who'd have seen this day coming?

I grin at the dumbfounded expression on my brother's face.

"How about we all take a break and come back to this?" Alec suggests, his cheeks more pink than usual. "I could use some Ribena."

"Yeah," Jordan nods. "That's a good idea. Let's go and get some Ribena."

I step back to let the guys jump off the stage, all of them but Jace retreating backstage. He stops next to me, looking sheepish.

"What do you want?" I say, my expression carefully composed. It's hard to stay mad at him, but it's definitely fun to make him squirm.

"Whatever you want, light of my life," he smiles a little too brightly, eyes wide and pleading. "Whatever makes you happy, makes me happy."

"You're still trying to make up that three percent, aren't you?" He's been trying to 'win the rest of my love' ever since I told him yesterday. Of course, I was lying. It'd be harder to convince me I didn't love him completely, but he didn't need to know that. With an ego the size of his, he could do with the occasional let down.

"Is it working?"

"Nope, not when you suck up to my brother instead of agreeing with me."

"I didn't think you needed me to rescue you," he insists, taking my hands in his. "You're the strongest woman I know, Clary. You can take care of yourself just fine."

"Really? That's the route you're going with?"

"Is it working yet?"

I roll my eyes and shove him away from me, trying not to smile. "Get me a Ribena and then we'll talk."

The atmosphere leading up to the show is very different this time around.

The boys seemed to get increasingly more tense as the first three rounds progressed, but it's harder to gauge their emotions now. They're at the last hurdle, but it's as if that hasn't hit them yet. Everyone is fairly calm and relaxed while they wait backstage, as if they were about to have a day at the spa rather than play to hundreds of people for a shot at an EP deal.

Perhaps it's the nature of it all. They were all so convinced that they'd never make it here, I can imagine the whole experience would be pretty surreal for them. I'm still not completely convinced I'm not dreaming.

Magnus, Maia, Isabelle and Simon turn up around half an hour or so before it's meant to start at which point I can tell the nerves are beginning to kick in a little, but it's nothing compared to how they were before the semi-final. If anything, I'm the one who is the most nervous. I want this for them so badly that I can barely sit still.

Strange, isn't it?

Just four months ago, I was hoping they'd fail. I wished they'd be kicked out at the first round so my life could return to normal.

And now?

I'm as invested as they are. Maybe even more.

Jace keeps looking at the clock, watching as the minutes tick closer to seven and then it's time.

The bands all have to wait backstage in their respective rooms this time and then stay in an allocated area to the side of the stage when it begins, so though Mallard Massacre aren't due to play for at least another hour or so, I have to leave them.

I hover at the doorway, the last non-member to go.

"Well," I say, nodding slowly. The boys stand around me, some leaning against the wall, some standing in uneasy poses. I'm reminded of Stonehenge. "I'd wish you luck but I think you have plenty of that already." Why else would they even be here? "So yeah, just keep doing what you're doing and I'm sure you'll be fine."

Jonathan raises an eyebrow at me.

"Oh, stuff it," I wheeze, flinging myself at my brother. "Good luck!" He takes a step back, completely unprepared for my embrace but after a while he concedes and pats me on the back awkwardly. I don't know where the sudden rush of emotion comes from, but I decide not to overthink it.

I'm allowed to hug my brother sometimes.

Then I realise that if I want to hug Jace too, I'll have to make it a collective thing so I proceed to hug Alec, Jordan – who returns it enthusiastically – and Sebastian. Then I turn to Jace.

I'm mindful of Jonathan watching us out of the corner of my eye, so I try not to linger for too long as I wrap my arms around his midriff.

"Will you still love me if we lose?" He whispers to me, just before I let go.

"Not a chance," I wink. "This is your one and only chance to win my hand."

"Then I guess I better play hard."

"What did you say?" Jonathan snaps.

I cough violently as Jace's eyes widen.

"I meant I'd play extra hard tonight, y'know, so we win." He laughs nervously and I take that as my cue to leave.

I join the others again in the main hall, standing where I was for the sound check. I prefer standing as far back as possible so I can appreciate the entire band, rather than having my ears assaulted to the degree where I'm not able to comprehend anything. The rest of the floor is completely packed now, with the Mallard Massacre fans clearly visible in their black and yellow. The rest of the crowd seem to blur into one, though I spot a few groups of people sporting animal ears. I can't tell much more than that from this distance.

"Where's Magnus?" I ask Isabelle, looking out for his fluorescent yellow jacket. Either he's become more lax on the dress code or he didn't have enough notice to have a bumblebee-striped one made for him.

"Had to pop back for something," she shrugs. I lean against the wall next to her, scoping out the rest of the crowd. They seem a little older on average than they were for the rest of the rounds, but that's to be expected considering the bands playing. After what happened last time, the boys had no problem with researching their competition as soon as it was announced so we knew what we were dealing with instantly.

The replacement band that was added in their stead was called Servants Of The Institute and as per the deal, they'll still be playing tonight. I don't know all that much about them except that I've apparently seen their singer before. Jonathan was very ambiguous about it. However, since they only came second in their semi-final and even then are only playing at all because Canard Cannibal refused a spot in the final, the boys shouldn't have too much to worry about on that front. The fact that they're here at all is by chance.

The real competition is the other band that won their way to the final: Feline Tendencies. I'm assuming that's what the animal ears in the audience are about. Magnus filled us in a little more on this one since back in his Children Of Lilith days, he'd actually supported them in a local gig.

They have three members, all with equally peculiar names. Yossarian is the drummer, someone who Simon's mother apparently used to know, while Chairman Meow plays synths and Church sings. I assume they're all stage names, because surely no one's parents are that cruel?

Magnus claims he knows the latter two fairly well and says that they tend to keep to themselves, but they're excellent musicians. Since they've been around for much longer than Mallard Massacre too, it definitely seems like these are the guys we'll have to look out for all night, but I haven't lost faith yet. Doubting them before didn't stop them from winning the semi-final, so there's no reason why they shouldn't rise as the underdogs and snatch the title again.

Then again, it's not entirely up to the fans this time. From what I've been told so far, the final will begin in the same way as the other rounds, but the ultimate vote will be given to the judges. I crane my neck to see if I can spot them, when another figure looms ahead of me.

"Dad?!"

"Clarissa!" My father steps out of the shadows and comes to stand beside me. "There you are!"

"Dad?" My eyes bug wide. "What are you doing here?"

"I've come to support my boys, what else?"

"But…but you've never come to see them before…"

"That's because they haven't needed my help before. Your mother and I thought we might as well come and see the fruits of our labour. You know, metaphorically. Though, I guess also literally in your mother's case."

"Wait, Mum's here too?" I stand on my toes and see a redheaded figure across the room. She's ordering some drinks from the bar.

"I'd like to think it was a group effort though. No fruit can be grown without the seed, if you get my meaning." He nudges me in the shoulder.

"Dad," I groan. Sometimes I truly do not understand my father. It's like he'd prefer for me to remain celibate for the rest of my life, but then he's quite happy to flaunt his own relationship in front of me.

Then again, that usually makes me feel so sick that I do briefly consider abstinence, so perhaps that's just his strategy. It's working right now, that's for sure.

"Shh, it's starting."

The overhead lights dim and a spotlight shines on the far right side of the stage. Out steps Luke, two blonde men not far behind him.

"Pandemonium!" Luke yells into his microphone, tapping it when it sends back screeching feedback. "This is the day you've all been waiting for! I welcome you all to the final of the Battle of the Bands!"

A deafening cheer resounds through the room.

"But before we talk about the bands, I'd like to introduce you to some very important people." He gestures the other men forward. "We could not be here today if it weren't for the sponsors at Mortal Cup Productions, who are kindly funding the grand prize of a small record deal. The band that wins will earn the opportunity of recording their very first EP under the guidance of one of our very own, the esteemed Angle Raziel." He points to the man closest to him. He's tall, but built and has bright blonde hair - a shade somewhere between Jonathan and Jace.

"Thank you, Mr Graymark," Raziel says, taking the microphone from him. "It's truly an honour to be here today, to witness the gathering of so many music fans to support our next generation of talent. I have always considered myself to be incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunities I was, being only sixteen when Arkangle Michael from Glorious Sword Entertainment signed me. It was due to that and the glory of God that I became inspired to set up my own record company – Mortal Cup Productions – with my good friend Angle Ithuriel."

So many Angles. Maybe they're all just Scandinavian or something?

Raziel nods to the man next to him, who smiles meekly in response. He's far leaner than his colleague and so pale that he looks almost blue in the sheen of the spotlight. "And so to commemorate the company's tenth anniversary, we decided we should give something back to the community we both heralded from. The idea of the Battle of the Bands contest came to us, so that not only could we find the best and most promising musicians from the area, but also give them a platform to introduce themselves to the world. That is why it is so important that you have all shown up today, because in this digital day and age, it is even more necessary to support our local bands and prove that talent and hard work will always be enough to see you through. There's no reason for any one of us not to reach for the heavens in our aspirations. So once again, I thank you for being here tonight and I also thank all of the many musicians that entered this contest. If it was within my power to sign every one of them, I absolutely would."

I turn to wink at Simon. Everyone seems to forget that he was ever part of the contest, mainly because we only entered them so Mallard Massacre wouldn't go through, but The Banister Complex/Hammer To The Tool Shed were still important along the way. They still beat Smeliorn's band, after all.

That all seems so long ago now.

"Alas," he continues. "Only one band will be chosen tonight. I will pass you on to Mr Graymark to explain the rest."

Raziel hands the mike back to Luke who talks about how the evening will be laid out. There'll be an opening act to start up the show, and then the three finalists will each play one song each. Initially this was meant to be two, but having one extra band and the same time constraints meant that their sets had to be cut down. After that, just like in the previous rounds, the audience will be given a chance to vote for their favourite.

The band with the lowest votes will be eliminated and then the remaining two will play one last song each. Then it will all be down to the judges.

"So let's not waste any more time. Please welcome our opening act, a band that I'm sure many of you will be pleased to see again: Ragnor Didn't Fall!"

Wait, what?

The crowd applauses and my father releases a wolf whistle – huh - as Catarina Loss and Ragnor Fell walk onto the stage. Ragnor's carrying his lyric book with him and then I'm given the shock of my life as Magnus and Jace follow them on.

Simon turns to give me a questioning look but I simply shake my head at him in response.

"There're my boys!" Dad yells, whistling again at them.

"What's going on?" I ask him, because he seems like the only one who isn't confused by this turn of events.

Meanwhile, Catarina sits down at her drum kit and begins to arrange it, while Ragnor sits in front of the microphone with his ukulele. Behind him, Magnus and Jace both stand next to a microphone of their own and they're holding…what are those? I squint to see that Magnus has a tambourine in his hand and Jace is holding a triangle.

"The fruits of my very own labour," my father says. He doesn't raise his voice much, but I can still hear his booming voice perfectly over the noise of the crowd. "This was the deal."

"The deal? As in the one they made with Catarina?"

"Yes," he nods. "She said she'd help if they managed to get Ragnor Didn't Fall onto the bill tonight, even as a support act. She was robbed of her chance to play last time, so she wanted it now."

"What has that got to do with them playing?"

"The only way Ragnor would agree to it was if Magnus re-joined the band for the show, and since Jace was also part of the situation, he thought he'd rope him into it as well."

So this is what Jace was hiding from me.

"How do you know all this?"

"Jace told me yesterday, of course. He happened to mention what instruments Ragnor wanted them to play and that's where I also came in."

"A tambourine and a triangle?"

"Back in Switzerland," Dad smiles. "I used to be the percussionist for my school choir."

"Seriously?" My eyebrows shoot up into my hairline. I guess that's where Jonathan must get it from then.

"Yes, they wouldn't let me sing – probably because I was so good that I'd overshadow all the other children – so I played percussion instead. When Jace told me what they'd be playing tonight, I insisted on coaching them both."

"You had to coach Jace to play the triangle?" I don't know whether to laugh or cry. No one's ever going to let Jace live this down. The thought of Mallard Massacre's hardcore lead guitarist playing the triangle in a folk band is so hilarious it'd be enough to have me in hysterics for weeks. The only downside is that said guitarist happens to be my boyfriend, so I'll have to stay composed around him. That's going to be hard.

Very hard.

"It's not as easy as it looks!" He snaps, glaring at me. "The triangle is an incredibly underestimated instrument and actually requires a lot of skill to play. All you kids ever see is that you bang it with a metal rod and it makes a tingly sound."

"But it does…"

Valentine Morgenstern saying the words 'tingly sound' is enough to make me crack a smile.

"That's not all it does. There are different techniques involved that can produce highly complex tones and textures…" He's cut off as Ragnor begins to speak.

"Hello, Pandemonium," he says, clearing his throat. "My name is Ragnor and this is Catarina on drums. We are Ragnor Didn't Fall, but we're also going to be joined by one of our past members Magnus Bane on this occasion, as well as Mallard Massacre's very own Jace Herondale! Everyone give them a hand!" He grins toothily as the audience begin to cheer for Magnus and Jace. Magnus laps it up, waving his tambourine in the air but Jace looks ready to kill someone. Possibly Magnus if he continues drawing attention to the two of them.

I catch his eye and break out into a full-on smile, which only makes him scowl even deeper.

"It's an honour for us to open for the final tonight, so let us begin. Tonight we'll be playing one of our oldest songs 'Ravens Scar the Manor.' Sing along if you know the words!" Then Ragnor begins plucking away at his ukulele as Catarina provides a steady beat in the background and they start to sing.

My father begins to raise his arms up and down like a conductor when Magnus and Jace join in. Magnus smacks his tambourine against his hand and sways on the stage, clearly getting back into the groove of things. My boyfriend, on the other hand, stands as straight as a pole. His movements are all very forced and mechanical as he attempts to avoid eye contact with everyone and hits his triangle haphazardly. I can just about hear its high-pitched ring above the other instruments, but I have no idea if he's playing it like he's meant to be.

"Wait for it," Dad says, holding still.

And then I fall to the ground clutching my stomach because I'm laughing so hard.

Because Jace and Magnus start singing.

At random intervals, the two of them lean into the microphone and sing the word 'Automatons' in harmony. Magnus takes the baritone, his voice low and grounded while Jace edges on a falsetto, so high you'd think someone had kicked him where he stores his seeds.

I cannot do this.

Meanwhile, Ragnor strums furiously on his ukulele and Catarina continues without hesitation. By the time the song is over, I'm crying so much that my vision is completely blurred.

I know, I'm the world's most supportive girlfriend.

People should be lining up to give me awards.

I vaguely register Simon on the floor next to me and Isabelle and Maia are kneeling next to us, each one of them hooting with laughter.

"Wasn't that beautiful?" I hear Dad say. "See, it was so amazing it's knocked you all off your feet."

"You could say that…" Simon says, between hitched breaths.

By the time we make it back onto our feet, the band have already left the stage and Luke is announcing the first finalist of the night.

"Did you have any idea that was about to happen?" Maia asks me, wiping her face.

"If I did, I would have recorded it. Ah damn, I hope there are recordings. Do you have any idea how much leverage this would give me?"

"You'd be winning every argument for the rest of your lives," she agrees. "Man, I've already heard Jordan sing so I don't think it would be that weird for me to deal with if he did something like that, but the triangle would have been enough to set me off on its own. But the girly voice and triangle combo?" She pats me on the shoulder sympathetically. "I don't know who to feel more sorry for. Him for having to do it, or you to have to put up with being the girl whose boyfriend did that."

"It's Clary," Isabelle grins. "I definitely feel more sorry for Clary. Jace actually looked quite happy up there. I think he might have a career in triangle-playing, don't you think?"

"I don't know," I roll my eyes. "I think he was a bit too stiff."

"Yeah," Dad nods. "He needs to loosen up a bit, but with some more coaching he'll be ready."

Remind me to keep Jace away from my father forevermore.

Maia hushes us as the first band finally makes it out onto the stage. The fun part was over, now we're really down to business. Servants Of The Institute take the stage to a slightly more enthusiastic reaction from the crowd.

I sober up immediately as I'm reminded of how serious this is. SOTI may not be their greatest competition, but they still stand between Mallard Massacre and that record deal. I begin to watch the crowd more closely now to see how everyone reacts to them.

"Hi!" The singer chirps, bringing us all to attention. She's a short, slim redhead with her hair piled up on top of her head in a tight bun. "My name is Bridget and with me here is Agatha on drums, and Thomas and Cyril on the guitars. Thank you all so much for having us here. This was certainly unexpected but we hope we can prove to you that we deserve our place here. We are Servants Of The Institute and the song we'll be playing for you tonight is 'We have the Sight.'"

The moment she starts singing, I recognise her immediately. She's the woman who was proving the 'entertainment' that night of the company ball, as in the one where Jace and I ended up escaping to the balcony to entertain ourselves.

My face reddens at the memory.

Her whiny voice is enough for me to remember how much I'd despised sitting and listening to her dismal songs, though the rest of the band is fairly decent. The song they sing tonight is just as bleak, but surprisingly, the crowd seems to love it.

Damn.

I'd forgotten that for them to make it to the semi-final, they must still have had a fairly large fan base. I just hope that it's not enough for them to contest Mallard Massacre.

"Our boys will be fine," Maia reassures me once their set is over. "Loathe as I am to admit it, they're better than that."

"Let's hope the crowd agrees," I say, biting my nail. I thought I'd gotten rid of that habit a long time ago. Then we lock eyes and start to laugh. "What's happened to us, Maia? Have we become Mallard Massacre fangirls?"

"I fear we have," she sighs. "I mean, supporting them is bad enough but did I seriously just call them 'our boys'!?"

"You did," I shake my head, linking my arm with hers. "And I didn't even question it."

"We've come a long way, you and I. Though whether we've been going in the right direction, I can't say."

"I guess we'll find out soon enough," I say, because then Luke introduces Mallard Massacre.

The crowd goes wild and so do we. Even Dad – and Mum, since she's now joined us – cheer as the boys walk out on stage. The girls (and boys, but mainly girls) in black and yellow jump up and down and wave their hands, all trying to get their attention. Maia's grip on my arm tightens and Isabelle comes up behind us, throwing her arms over our shoulders.

"Here we go, girls," she says.

The guys take their places on the stage and I'm relieved to see Jace back with his electric guitar. He seems much more relaxed now that he's back in his natural habitat.

"PANDEMONIUM!" Jordan shouts and the entire hall screams in response, as if it were a command rather than the name of the club. He introduces each member in turn and they all receive an equally ecstatic response, though the Jace and Jonathan fans seem to be slightly more active. Yep, more bras on stage. "We're Mallard Massacre and we are so grateful to be back here tonight. When we first started out in the contest, we never dreamed we'd make it this far and we know that the only reason we did, is down to you." He sweeps his arms out across the crowd, inciting pockets of fans as he goes along like some sort of erratic Mexican wave. "And you."

Now he points to the group of us at the back, grinning particularly at Maia. She laughs, but smiles just as widely back at him. I smile at Jace too, but that's mainly because the second I lay eyes on him all I hear is 'Automatons' in his high-pitched voice, so really I'm laughing at him too. I don't think he can tell the difference though. It's smiles all round.

"So whether this is the last time we ever get to play to you as a part of this contest or not, I can promise this won't be the end. Thank you again, this is 'Touch My Mango.'"

People have already started whooping before he finishes speaking, but the atmosphere becomes even more electric when they start playing. It's a song that they also played at their very first gig and that seems to make it even more special. Since a lot of people have heard it before, almost everyone is singing along and Jordan even holds out the microphone at some parts to let the crowd sing for him.

I'm not ashamed to say Maia, Isabelle, Simon and I even join in. Of course, the only bit we can really decipher among the screams are the words of the chorus, but we sing as loudly as we can anyway and jump around for the rest of it. I can't tell if it's the advice I gave them earlier about equalising their volumes that makes it sounds better, or if it's the energy they give off on stage that's contagious, but it does.

For once, Mallard Massacre actually sound alright.

That's as far as you're getting from me, at the moment.

The boys have more stage presence than they've ever had before. It's actually hard to keep track of them all. I beam as I watch Sebastian and Alec playing back-to-back during some parts and then Jordan's bounding from one side of the stage to the other. Jace moves away from the side of the stage he usually gravitates towards – his right – and jumps up onto the floor amps at the front, and then at times he's right at the back of the stage, grinning at Jonathan as they play to each other.

And just like that, it's over.

Too soon.

I find myself wanting more. Wanting to see them play and laugh and rouse the entire crowd so that every single person in the room can't look away.

That's when I realise it.

Mallard Massacre need to play again.

Jordan's right, whether they get to the last stage of the contest or not, this can't be the end for them. I won't let it be the end of them. I've never seen any one of them more alive than they were during those four minutes of being on stage. That's where they belong. That's where they're at home. And nothing's going to take that away from them.

The rest of the audience clearly feel the same way since they all start yelling 'encore' as soon as the boys finally shuffle off the stage, throwing backward glances at their fans and giving the occasional wave which will no doubt make the recipient's evening.

"Wow," I say, because I have no other words for it.

"Wow," Isabelle agrees. Simon and Maia just nod.

And then it's time for the last act: Feline Tendencies.

I feel a knot form in the pit of my stomach as I notice how the crowd stops cheering for Mallard Massacre to come back and welcome the new band instead. I know it's irrational. You're meant to cheer for a new act. But I almost wish that they'd loved Mallard Massacre so much that their minds would already have been made up for them.

Ah well.

This is the final. We never said it was going to be easy.

Unlike the other lead vocalists, Church has no introductions to give. He assumes a superior air as he strides towards his microphone and his fellow band members act the same. The three of them are all clad in fur robes and wear cat ears with their hair slicked back, just like some of their fans.

The only warning we get that they're about to begin is when Chairman Meow moves his hand towards his synth deck and presses a button that initiates a robotic countdown. The audience join in with the counting, getting louder and louder as they approach zero.

Then all hell breaks loose.

Yossarian starts playing a fast, sporadic beat on the drums and then Chairman Meow hits another button and it's like the entire club has been dumped into the middle of an intergalactic war. There's a steady pulsing bass in the background to which Church nods his head and begins making strange, indecipherable noises into the microphone. The rest of it is drowned out by the electronics as Chairman Meow's hands fly across the synth boards and meanwhile, the floor that had held a mosh pit just minutes earlier turns into a rave zone. The music is so hypnotic and rhythmic that even I find myself bobbing my head along.

I can't tell if it's good or bad, but it doesn't matter because we're all still dancing. It's like something else has taken control of my limbs and now moves them back and forth in time with the futuristic music. To my horror, my father is doing the same.

I suspect Feline Tendencies might actually be aliens.

The song ends even more abruptly, with the drums and synths cutting off at exactly the same time without a visible cue. There's no slowing down, no fading out. They all just stop, bow in unison and walk off the stage, leaving the rest of our hearts racing.

It takes us a few moments before any of us can speak.

"That was…" Dad clears his throat. "That was really something."

"Yeah. It was something." Not sure what. But something.

I don't have time to analyse it any further, because then Luke is back on stage announcing the start of the audience vote. The DJ plays some music during the interval and I recognise him as Jordan's mechanic friend, Bat. I whip out my phone and we all go straight to the Mallard Massacre option on the app. If Feline Tendencies truly are aliens, my boys are going to need all the support they can get.

There we go again.

My boys.

Speaking of the devils, they're released from wherever they had to sit during the sets at that moment and head straight towards us. I don't think twice before running straight into Jace's arms.

"That was amazing!" I breathe, thankful for once that it's the truth. "You guys were so great up there and the audience really loved you."

"You think?" Jace grins, but I can tell he really does want my opinion. He can come off as arrogant as he likes, but there's always vulnerability around him when his music's in question.

"I know," I say, then I bite my lip. "It wasn't quite as entertaining as your first performance of the night though."

"Ugh," Jace moans, burying his face in his hands. "Can we please agree to never mention that again?"

"Aha…NOPE. Do you have any idea what kind of gift that is? I am never going to let you forget that, ever. Next time you want to make fun of my height or my hair or whatever else you find an excuse to pick on, I will not let you forget."

"Well, I'm glad it amused you so much," he deadpans.

"It really did. I'm surprised Jonathan didn't kick you out of the band after that. Couldn't have been good for his reputation."

"I was tempted, believe me," Jon says, arriving on cue. He looks happier than I've seen him in a long time. "But the blackmail options were too good."

"My thoughts exactly," I nod. Great minds, eh.

"You Morgensterns are ruthless," Jace glares.

"What was that?" Perfect. Mention Morgensterns and my father will appear.

"I said 'you Morgensterns are ruthless,'" Jace repeats, to my surprise.

"Of course we are," Valentine grins, apparently taking it as a compliment. "We have to be or we'd never get anywhere. If I hadn't been so hard on you, you wouldn't have played the triangle as well as you did today, now would you?"

"I guess not," Jace blushes as Jon and I snicker to ourselves.

"Well, I think you all did an amazing job," my mother adds, joining the circle. "I'm so proud of you. All three of you."

"All three?" I raise my eyebrows.

"Well, look at you, supporting your brother. It's about time."

I'm about to say it's Jace I'm here for, but then I realise she's right. I do support Jonathan. If these last few weeks have taught me anything, it's that he's not as big a pain in the arse as I'd always believed him to be and that deep down – very deep, mind – he does care about me. And I do care about him.

Jace and Jonathan may belong on the stage but I belong right here. Surrounded by all the people I love. Just give me a sketch book and I could probably live in this moment forever.

But forever only lasts a few more minutes because then it's just Jace and I left and Luke is on stage, ready with the results. I look around for the rest of the band members, but they're all scattered across the floor. Alec and Magnus are standing furthest from us, both completely distracted by the other and Sebastian is by the barrier with…his aunt? Jordan is sitting by the bar with Maia and I can't see Jonathan at all.

"The results are in," Luke says. "And I can reveal that the two bands who will be making it through to the judges' vote, in no particular order, are…"

I grip Jace's hand and squeeze it.

"Feline Tendencies…"

Okay. I try to calm myself. We knew they would.

"And…"

Mallard Massacre. Please say Mallard Massacre.

"Mallard Massacre."

Oh thank god.

I relax as Jace pulls me to him and let out my breath in a rush.

"Commiserations to Servants Of The Institute," Luke continues. "However, it's clear you still have a solid fan base and I have no doubt you'll go far. Let's give them another hand." Everyone claps for the other band, though they don't look too disappointed. Since they'd already lost to Feline Tendencies once, I guess it wouldn't have been too much of a shock for them to lose again. "I'd like to ask the final two bands to please make their way back to the designated area as we prepare ourselves for the final sets."

"Congratulations," I say to him, reluctant to let go.

"Have I made up that three percent yet?" He smirks, pulling back to look at me.

"Almost," I grin. "It all rests on this last song."

"Then I'll make it worthwhile." He gives me a quick peck on the cheek – my parents are still in the general vicinity somewhere – and then heads back to join the others at the side of the stage. It was expected that Mallard Massacre would make it this far, but everyone seems relieved nonetheless.

I go back to my own group at the back of the hall and we all wait patiently while the judges prepare themselves. I spot Mr Dieudonne from school among them and find myself wishing he's put the book incident behind him. Both Raziel and Ithuriel are obviously there, as well as two other people who I don't recognise.

Everyone quietens down as the lights dim again, for the final time, and Luke announces who will be performing first.

"Thank you for voting, Pandemonium. The two bands that are now left are here because of your support, but this is the point where we leave the contest in the more than capable hands of our judges. On the panel we have Malachi Dieudonne, Josiah Wayland, Jia Penhallow, Angle Ithuriel and of course, Angle Raziel. The remaining two bands will each play one last song each, after which the judges will make their decision. Each will pick the band that they feel should win and the majority will take it. The bands will play in alphabetical order. So without further ado, fighting for their place to win, let me present to you, Feline Tendencies."

Once again, the three furry men walk on stage and execute another perfectly organised set. No one knows what this song is called. No one even knew what the last song was called. They just come on, looking just as apathetic as before and still manage to ignite the crowd with their insane electronic music. You wouldn't even think they knew they were at a final of a contest. It seems like they'd behave this way for a daily trip to the supermarket.

I find myself bobbing along again and the audience are left just as dumbstruck as before by their sudden departure.

Short. Not quite sweet, but definitely something.

And then it's time.

As I watch the stage technicians clear their set away, my heart's in my throat.

Luke comes back on.

"And now," he glances backstage. "Hoping that you'll give them the deal of a lifetime, ladies and gentlemen, I give to you…Mallard Massacre."

I know people are shouting and screaming, but it all seems muted to me.

This is it.

Four months of awkward rides home, power cuts, sleepovers, spiders, arguments, English Lit lessons, Ribena, broken drumsticks, headaches and practice, endless practice have boiled down to this.

The final of the Battle of the Bands.

The last hurdle.

The one we all thought they'd never even reach.

My eyes begin to well up as Jordan, Sebastian, Alec, Jonathan and Jace walk onto the stage for the very last time. Maia and I don't hold hands this time. Isabelle doesn't have her arm around me. We're all wrapped up in our own little cocoons, trying to take this all in.

I watch them all this time. I follow Alec as he slings his bass over his shoulder and rifles through his case of guitar picks. I notice Sebastian checking the tuning of his guitar, his ear up against the amp. I look at Jordan sidling up to the microphone, gulping down some of his water before he starts to speak. At the back, I see Jonathan sit down on his drum stool, moving the floor tom further away until his kit is set up the way he likes it.

And then I watch Jace. I watch him adjust the strap of his Ibanez until it's at the comfortable height for him to play, and then he looks up, watching me.

"Pandemonium," Jordan says, speaking just loud enough to be heard over the crowd. "Thank you all so, so much for getting us here. I can't tell you enough how much it means for us to be playing in front of you today. It certainly hasn't been an easy journey getting here." I notice Jace and Jonathan smile at each other wryly. "But it's been worth it. Every step along the way has been worth being able to stand here, on this stage and say that 'We are Mallard Massacre.' And this is the last song we are about to play you. It's called 'Better In Black.'"

And that's what they do.

They play it as if it's the last song they'll ever get to play and if I thought the performance before was crazy, I have no words to describe what it's like to watch them now. So close to the finish line they can practically taste it. But it's more than that. They may be fighting to win a contest, but I can tell that doesn't even cross their minds as soon as they start playing.

Because the moment all those instruments meld together, they become Mallard Massacre. They become those five unruly boys cramped up in the practice room and the rest of the room might as well not exist. They play to each other more than they play to the audience, but the onlookers love them for it. I love them for it. I beam all throughout as I watch the ways they interact with each other and how so often, they need no cue at all.

For them, this is instinct.

And once again, it's over far too soon. I realise I have actual tears in my eyes as Jace strums the final chord and Jonathan hits his crash cymbal at the exact same time. No one's fighting to have the last say anymore. No one wants the last say.

The answering response from their fans is magical.

They all seem frozen on stage for a while as they look at the hundreds of faces standing before them, chanting their name; until Luke comes to usher them off, that is, and then it truly is over.

The boys head backstage and this time, we're allowed to go and join them.

I burst through the doors and run into Jace, just as he steps out of the side stage entrance.

"Easy there, Midge," he snorts. "Where's the fire?"

"Everywhere," I answer.

"Really?" His mouth pulls up at the corner.

"Shut up." I whack him in his right arm.

"Careful, that's my strumming arm."

"But you're left-handed…"

"I play right-handed, have you never noticed?"

"I just assumed…well, I guess I hadn't thought about it."

"It's probably a good thing that no one taught me the other way," he says. "I mean, if I'm this good playing with the wrong hand, can you imagine what I would have been like if I played left-handed?"

"I don't think the world could have handled it, Jace."

"Exactly."

"But even with the handicap, you weren't too shabby just now."

"Didn't think so," he agrees, and then because we're alone in the hallway, he leans down to kiss me.

"In fact," I say, twirling a stray curl of his hair with my finger. "You were surprisingly good."

"Now she gets it," he grins.

"So aren't you going to ask me?"

"Ask you what?"

"If I'll still love you if you lose?"

"Nope," he says, popping the 'p.' "It doesn't matter."

"It doesn't matter?" I gape at him. Maybe I was too casual. Maybe casual doesn't always work.

"No, it doesn't matter, because I won't lose."

"Jace…" A little confidence is good, but it's necessary to be prepared too.

"I won't lose either way," he explains. "Because I've already won. Do you know why I stole the book?"

"Jace, I really don't think…"

"I stole the book because I wanted Mallard Massacre to get through to the next round. I needed us to get through. Not just because it would've been good for the band, but there was a reason I was so desperate. Do you know why?"

I shake my head.

And so he tells me.

He tells me everything.

He tells me how it all began, that summer I came back from Charlotte's and how he couldn't believe it was me. Coincidentally, that was the same summer I realised quite how beautiful Jace Herondale was. And then he'd ruined it.

"I made fun of your hair," he says. I nod, because he did. He made fun of me and I figured that was the way it was always going to be. No matter how much of an effort I made, no matter how nice I was to him, Jace was never going to take me seriously.

But he did.

He tells me how he realised that being a part of the Battle of the Bands would mean spending more time at my house, and then meant spending more time with me.

He tells me all the things I've ever wanted to hear and never thought I would and all the while, I can't believe it's happening. It's just not possible. All this time, could he really have wanted me like I wanted him?

I'd thought it was a fluke that he'd picked up on me wanting The One Ring for my birthday, but if what he's saying is true, then it wasn't a coincidence at all. He knew what I wanted because he'd been listening. He'd cared.

All that time.

It's so much to process that when he's done, it's all I can do to not just stand there and stare at him.

I don't even know what to say to all of that.

So I say the only thing I do know for sure.

"I love you," I say and grab him by the collar, pulling him down so that I can kiss him. "I love you so much. One thousand percent."

"That's not even possible," he laughs, his lips brushing against mine, but he doesn't let go of me.

"Clearly you haven't heard of hyperinflation."

"You're comparing our love to hyperinflation?"

"Why not? I think I can't love you any more and then you go and say something like that and it all seems worthless compared to how I feel about you now."

"Yeah, but…"

"Don't argue with me on this."

"Okay." And he doesn't. He just keeps kissing me.

By the time we make it back out front, I can barely even concentrate on the contest. Jace is right.

We've already won.

Four months of awkward rides home, power cuts, sleepovers, spiders, arguments, English Lit lessons, Ribena, broken drumsticks, headaches and practice, endless practice didn't boil down to the EP deal.

It boiled down to this.

Jace and I hand-in-hand. My brother to the other side of me, still smiling so much that he'll probably have cramp tomorrow because his face isn't used to it. My parents, looking more at ease than most parents would who have just witnessed their son's band scream the place down. My friends, Simon and Isabelle wrapped in each other's arms; Maia and Jordan, happy and relaxed; Alec and Magnus, with Magnus answering to Alec's every beck and call and even Sebastian, speaking so animatedly you wouldn't think he was the same person.

The Battle of the Bands was so much more than any of us could ever have dreamed of. What started off as a massive headache for me turned into the best thing that could have ever happened to us.

Yes, Jace was right.

We had already won.

And that's why, when Luke took the stage that one last time, with Angle Raziel standing next to him, and told us that the winner of the Battle of the Bands contest was Feline Tendencies, I just kept smiling.

They could have their EP deal.

I had my boys.

Shit.


-o-O-o-

The End.

Okay, not quite. And here's the surprise. A lot of you have been asking for the characters from The Infernal Devices back, so I've decided I'm going to write an Epilogue which will be set at her aunt Charlotte Fairchild's wedding (which I've hinted at a few times), but here's the catch: if I'm going to be including all of the main TID characters then there's a possibility that it might get a little spoilery for those of you who haven't read them yet. I won't give major plot points away, but if you're the kind of person who doesn't want to know about ships either then it's probably best to avoid it until you have. Either way, it'll give me a great chance to tie up some loose ends (including Jonathan on the dating front ;)) and explain what'll be happening to Mallard Massacre, though it'll probably be a little while before I get round to it.

Speaking of, I will keep their tumblr page up and will update it occasionally with news on what's going on with their lives. So yep, feel free to keep asking questions. The boys aren't going anywhere just yet.

Also, the first chapter of the Valentine spin-off From Switzerland With Love is already up so go and check that out if you haven't already.

And finally, I will eventually be adding outtakes to this fic based on some of the ideas you've given me, so I'll set a poll after I've posted the epilogue for ideas. Keep sending them in until then.

Right. Phew.

Thank you all so much again for taking the time out of your lives to read this story. It bowls me over every day to think about how many of you are out there and the people who know me honestly can't believe so many people would be interested in my crazy brain vomit (more of which is on twitter). So really, you guys are so epic you have no idea. Thanks to this story, I have also now developed an obsession with Switzerland and may well be VISITING IT WITH MY BANDMATES THIS DECEMBER AAAAAAAAAAH. It's also great to see how many of you have gotten into The Word Alive because of this. They're my favourite band and Zack Hansen is literally the real-life Jace Herondale - he was actually the inspiration for this fic, so that means a lot too.

For those of you who won't be reading the epilogue just yet, it's been a good one, friends. Thank you and have fun waiting for City of Heavenly Fire to destroy all our souls. Also, TID. If you haven't spoken to me before, I'd love to hear from you now. So yeah, let me know what you think. What made you laugh? What made you cry? (I'm sorry if anything made you cry) I'm making myself cry.

I'll be back with a couple more crack fics within the next few months, and then I'm hopefully planning another full-length like this one in the summer, so keep your eyes peeled till then or subscribe if you want to get an update when I do.

And for those of you who are sticking with me a little bit longer,

Till the next time...

smim xx