A/N: So this is the last chapter. I may go through and edit the grammar issues in all of the chapters because my boyfriend is finally reading this and I don't wanna embarrass myself. I don't intend on having an epilogue or a sequel and I'm not sure if I'll revisit Clace in my fanfics because this story was my favorite of anything I've ever written. If I get a good idea, I'm willing to write it, so if you have a Clace fic you want to see, suggest it in the comments or message me. I hope you like this. I do a lot because it ended basically exactly how I wanted to, but it was a little hard to write. I post on fanfiction to grow, so constructive criticism, suggestions and comments are appreciated. What did I do well? What did I suck at? How can I improve? Please let me know. I love you guys. Leave me a comment!
"I know you don't understand why I did it."
She couldn't explain how she'd known without looking that it was Jace who'd entered the room, the door shutting behind him. It was the pull they both knew but would never be able to put into words.
He didn't answer, though she knew he'd heard her, and instead sat with his back to her in the bed and worked to remove his boots. If she'd turned to look at him, she could've noted the furrow in his brow, the tension in his shoulder. But she didn't turn her head, her gaze focused instead on her fingers, knit together over her knees against her chest. Jace had lent her a long-sleeved, dark green shirt that he swore he hadn't brought to match her eyes. It gaped on her, but the comfort she'd felt immediately was almost unfamiliar in its recent scarcity.
They'd arrived at the hotel hours ago where apparently Jace's brother had been holed up since Jace had first reached out to him. Clary had come to learn that, after she'd left, Jace had gone right to work to call his brother and formulate the plan she'd seen come to fruition. Alec and his men had managed to arrest nearly all of Jonathan's men who were on or around the grounds and the rest had most likely gone into hiding. With Jonathan's cruelty, Clary doubted she'd hear from any of them again.
When they'd arrived, they'd each been questioned by Alec and his partner separately. Clary's questioning took a little over three hours, as she'd had a lot to unpack. Alec had assured her that it was fairly obvious that she'd killed Jonathan in self-defense and the courts would be so pleased to have finally caught and ended the gang that she'd testify and it would be open and shut. Telling him her story would have usually unnerved her, but killing Jonathan had taken everything out of her, so she'd very easily been able to dissect her past under Alec's cool, focused gaze.
When they'd dismissed her, Alec had offered her two key cards – one for her room and for Jace's. There'd been no explanation, only Alec's apparent disinterest in her choice, which had remained stagnant when she eventually took both.
She'd hesitated only momentarily before keying into Jace's room. What if he didn't want to see her? Her fingers were inserting the card and pushing open his door as she wondered if this was the right call. He was on the other side of the door as she pulled it open, his hand outstretched as if he'd been on the way out.
His eyes widened in surprise, but he stepped aside in a silent invitation almost instantly. Clary obliged, ducking past him with a loaded, "Are you heading out?"
He nodded, scanning her from head-to-toe, still clad in three layers of t-shirts from her stay with Jonathan. He had to clear his throat before answering, "I'm just going to talk with Alec for a little bit. I'll be back soon." A pause, heavy in its intensity followed and he added, "I was hoping you'd come by, so I left some clothes for you on the bed, if you want them. And if you wanted to take a shower, feel free."
She nodded wordlessly, attempting to offer a grateful smile and eliciting an awkward laugh from Jace. She tilted her head to the side, a question in her eyes, to which he answered, "I feel like this is our first day all over again. Should I offer some eggs? I could make a grocery run."
Her laughter was easier than she'd have expected after all she'd been through. Her time in his cabin felt years and years ago and she'd begun to worry that they'd have to start over if they still wanted to try at all. But she was raw before him, nothing like the hardened girl she'd been. It wasn't what they'd been, easy, natural, when she'd left, but they weren't starting over.
"I know. It's been," she paused, searching for the right word. "A lot. I'm sorry."
He dismissed her apology with a shake of his head and a heavy smile. Leaning forward, he left a kiss on her forehead and promised, "Clean up. I'll be back and we can talk."
Now he was back and neither of them knew how to start.
They were close, nearly shoulder to shoulder though they faced in opposite directions. She could feel the heat seeping from his skin through the fabric of his cotton t-shirt. His shoes were off now and without the distraction his eyes naturally focused on her. She could feel the weight of his attention as his eyes traced the slopes of her face, much thinner and paler now that her hair hung around her cheeks, still wet from the shower she'd taken.
His fingers grazed her chin, faintly tracing her jaw and turning her to face him. She searched his eyes for the disgust, the fear, the hatred she expected. Now, he knew. Now, he's seen it. The poison she was talking about had never so clearly been on display than when she was pointing a gun at her brother.
"You're right," he answered, expelling a breath she hadn't realized he was holding. His gaze was steady though, a question in his eyes.
There was so much to say and she had no idea where to start. Where were the words that would describe how looking at Jonathan had begun to feel like she was looking at herself? She'd begun to identify the darkest corners of her mind in his eyes, cold and calculating and ready to do what it takes. What was worse was she'd begun to feel grateful for those parts of her. She'd have never survived without them, but nothing about them translated to the softness of Jace's fingers against her face. They didn't fit.
It was becoming hard to believe she could be both girls and the line between them had become increasingly blurred. Something had to give and she'd shot her brother to try. She'd never have been safe with him alive, it was true. But her move had been about more than survival. It was her making her choice. Killing the part of her that was Jonathan.
And in the process, she was worried she'd only made it stronger.
"I thought," she began, her voice vulnerable and her eyes wide and searching. "I thought it would make me better."
Better. The word wasn't right, but his eyes exuded a sense of understanding, which was fantastic considering how little she understood it herself.
"Do you think it did?"
The question would've been easy if it hadn't been the very one she'd been asking herself. He seemed to be genuinely asking her, rather than attempting to lead her to his preconceived answer. So maybe he really wasn't sure.
Neither did she and he must have been able to see that painted across her face because his fingers landed on hers still draped over her knee. It was a gesture of comfort, timid as it was.
"I don't know if I care that you killed him," Jace stated, his face thoughtful. "I'm glad the son of a bitch is dead honestly. I have no idea what you went through while you were with him, but, as far as I'm concerned, you had every right to end him."
She felt her gaze shift to offer him a question, "Then why did you ask me to stop?"
His smile was soft and apologetic in nature and he answered, "I was worried about what that would do to you. I still am. I know he said some awful things about you, but I'm guessing he wasn't lying, Clary." She sucked in a breath, tears stinging at the corners of her eyes as the implication of his words set in. His grip on her hand tightened, continuing, "Oh, don't cry. Please, don't cry. I know how that sounds, but I don't think anything he said was actually bad. Of course, you're tough. Of course, you'll do what you feel you have to. I see that. I always have, but now it's clearer than ever. So, you'll make the hard choices and stand tall the next day because that's who you are. He said it made you evil, but it doesn't. It makes you a survivor."
She blinked hard, his words hitting their mark and balming her unease.
"But that's not why you fired the gun today, Clary, and I could see that. It was like you were trying to win against something."
Clary quirked her lips to the side in a lost expression and agreed, "I just don't want him to be right. About me. About us. I want to be the girl who saw movies and went dancing and kissed you. Not the girl who stabs her brother and holds someone while they die. No one wants that girl. That girl doesn't get the guy of her dreams. That girl doesn't live a normal life.
"I know it's crazy, Clary, but you are those two things. Maybe you won't be forever, but you can't just shoot the parts of yourself you don't like. It doesn't work like that. You have to own all of the bullshit or else it's going to overwhelm you and you'll never be more. I believe you can be more."
He was right, of course. She knew that. She was ready to become more than ultimatums and extremes. But it would take time. It would take patience. It would take gentleness. She wasn't sure those were things he still wanted to offer her.
"Where does that leave us? Do you still want me?"
There was a hesitation before his smile spread across his face that made her heart stop beating in her chest very painfully. She hadn't actually allowed herself to imagine a scenario where, at the end of the day, Jace was done with her. The idea that they could come so far and she could feel the way she does about him and still lose him broke her heart.
"After everything we've been through, I can't believe you'd think I wouldn't want you," he answered simply, burying his fingers into her hair at the back of her scalp, bringing her forward again so that their foreheads were touching. She released a sigh, the tension easing from her body. "I want you so much I can't breathe sometimes and that scares me. You scare me."
She nodded, her voice small as she agreed, "You scare me too. A lot."
"How about we stop scaring each other?" he asked, his tone lighter than the gaze he'd draped over her.
Her lips were on his almost before he finished his last word, attempting to glean as much strength from him as she could. It was a lot and imperfect. She still had to figure out who Clary was without Jonathan. Without pain and death and hatred. She'd lost a lot and Luke's sacrifice made her heart beat harder, almost painfully in her chest.
But when she slept that night, his arms around her and her head on his chest, the only eyes that hovered on the edge of her mind were gold.