What Clary knows is that seelies can’t lie. Izzy has repeated this bit of information so many times, she doesn’t think she’ll ever forget it. What Clary is also knows is that Meliorn has seemingly switched sides just as many times. She knows that lies come in all forms and just because it isn’t a lie, doesn’t make it a truth.
So when they step into the faerie world to meet with the Seelie Queen, Clary gathers her truths deep within and weaves a lie around her shoulders.
The Queen is suspected to have known of Kaelie’s actions all along. They’ll never get that assurance; Jace has said as much. After all, because of their ignorance and errors, hundreds of Downworlders were dead, including a good number of Seelie. When Clary feels like being honest, she can’t blame Kaelie for acting out. The direction of her kills was misguided, but the Downworld lost so much that night. It’s not really a surprise that at least one chose to seek revenge.
Plus, the Queen requested Valentine’s children and Clary finds it hard to believe that she doesn’t know about Jace.
It screams that games are afoot and Clary plays to win.
When the Queen takes Simon away to chat, Clary suspects what seeds of doubt might be planted. She just hopes that whatever test the Queen has for them, whatever deceit lies in their path to exit the faerie wood, her own manipulations are enough to set them free unharmed.
“The kiss that will set them free is the kiss you most desire,” states the Queen.
Clary breathes deep, steels herself, and pulls that layer of deception in tighter around her thoughts. There are things the seelie can sense, none better than the Queen. Clary can’t let her know that this, this was exactly the game she hoped for. It’s too early and the Queen can change the rules. She needs to appear defeated, devastated by the emotional turmoil, to win her side of the game.
And so Clary whispers an apology deep down, because Simon believes in the very best of people and never looks for deception. She whispers another, because Jace believes in the worst of people and struggles to accept the truth.
She kisses Simon. Certain of her love for him. Certain of her desire for him. Simon just as certain of her. And Clary, more certain of anything, that it won’t work.
She has to sell it. She turns on the Queen, demanding to know why they aren’t free. Did she not kiss the one her words desire?
The Queen smiles, dangerous as ever. The smile is that of victory. Of someone who sees the discord they’ve created and revels in it.
And so Clary plays the next hand. “This means nothing,” says the soldier. Because this moment, in this moment, is going to hurt both Jace and Simon. But this moment is necessary. This is the bluff and Clary needs the Queen to go all in.
“I do this,” says Clary, looking at the Queen once more, “And you’ll let us go?”
“Of course,” replies the Queen, condescension dripping from her tone.
“Not just today,” demands Clary. “You’ll relinquish any and all bonds or promises made? No more tricks, no more deception. Isn’t this enough?” She pours all the anger she has in her into her words. “You’ve already torn us apart with this.”
The Queen gives the most elegant of shrugs. “I give my word. I will hold no ties past, present, or future on any of the three of you.”
It’s the all in call. So Clary does what she must.
She kisses Jace, pouring all the pent up frustration of the last few months into that one kiss. They never got a goodbye. Didn’t get a normal breakup. They were ripped apart at once, by the lies of a madman and it will be the truth that brings them back. Clary kisses Jace, and she twists just enough to see the Queen’s face in her peripheral, and so she sees as the Queen smirks in victory.
Now. Now Clary has her.
The vines loosen ever so slightly as she kisses Jace. But they are vines of truth and as Clary lets her truth shine, lets her deceptions fall away, the vines tighten again, holding Simon and Jace firm in their grasp and Clary steps back.
The Seelie Queen’s face grows dark. Her eyes burn with an anger far deadlier than any demon Clary has faced. “What is the meaning of this?”
“You said the vitas veritas only allow the truth.” Clary smiles at the Queen. The smile of Valentine’s daughter. The smile of the Jocelyn who led a rebellion and was willing to kill anyone necessary to protect her. Because her father may be the monster, but her mother was every bit as deadly. And Clary is the child of both. “Perhaps, your grace, you’ve misjudged what kiss I most desire.”
“Clary, I don’t understand,” says Simon. The vines have allowed breath enough to speak, though no more. “Why didn’t it release us?”
Jace, for once, seems every bit as confused as Simon. “Clary?” He asks in that young and haunted voice that Clary hates.
She’s not the only one. She’s also not the only one who wants to pull Jace in tighter when he gets that voice. Not the only one who reaches a hand out for Jace. Who looks for him as a beacon in a fight. At this point, it’s fairly common knowledge in her corner of the world. It’s as natural to fall in love with Jace Wayland as it is to expect the sun to rise.
Clary reaches her hands out and grips the vines wrapped around each of her boys. She pulls them together, holds them steady as they stare at each other. They’re close in height, but Jace has to tilt his eyes up to meet Simon’s. “Turns out,” teases Clary, “He really does think you’re pretty.”
Simon gets it first. Clary expected nothing less. Simon believes in love, believes in the good parts of magic and joy and happy endings. Even vampires couldn’t beat that out of him. And Clary sees him. She sees the occasional look he gives Jace, those moments when Jace wins in training or in battle and is proud of himself. Those are the moments Jace looks a man who could conquer the world. She’s not exactly surprised Simon would want to be part of the world conquered.
Jace too, is easy to read once you know him. He listens to Simon, calls him by name, using the mundane insult only when he’s clearly stressed.
None of them had a chance to really talk about any of this yet. Not until forced by the Queen’s games. But Clary knows her boys. She knows herself. And if a Shadow world can exist, well, she’s pretty sure they can make this work too.
She watches as Simon leans in, presses his lips to Jace’s. They stand frozen for a moment, the Queen seething in fury behind them, Clary breathless in hope, Jace in shock, and Simon...ever so patient Simon. For a moment Clary thinks they’ve lost. Because a single innocent kiss is not what she wants, its not what she desires. And if Jace can’t believe that this is real, they’ll lose.
She doesn’t give Simon enough credit.
“We think you’re pretty too,” breathes Simon against Jace’s lips. He nips at them, kisses Jace again and the vines loosen just a touch.
It’s all Jace seems to need. He kisses Simon back like a man possessed, like a man told he was going to live after accepting his death.
The vines slither away, releasing the two completely and Simon presses his advantage, using one arm and no small amount of vampire strength to tug Jace closer. Clary watches and waits, lets her boys explore each other. She can tell the Queen is confused and yet already seeking an advantage, looking perhaps to exploit a solo Clary.
Clary is not alone though and if she wasn’t clear enough, she makes sure her heart is firm in its truth. These are her boys.
Her convictions are grounded all the more firmly as Simon reaches his other hand out to Clary, pulling her in. She tugs at his shirt to pull him down to kiss her, before using her other hand to bring Jace’s lips to hers. Jace, if possible, looks even more surprised than before. “Don’t look so surprised,” she teases. “I learned to share in kindergarten.”
They kiss for several more minutes, trading between the three until Clary thinks maybe they don’t need to be set free, not if she can stay like this forever. But needs must and all that, so reluctantly, she pulls away and turns back to the Queen, letting Simon take care of pulling Jace close to his side.
“A pleasure, Your Grace,” says Clary and by the angel, if looks could kill they’d all be dead. But a promise is a promise and the Queen dismisses them, whirling the three through a portal and back to the Institute. They tumble to the ground just outside the doors.
“Clary,” starts Jace as they catch their breath. “Simon...how does this, how do we?”
“Shh,” hushes Clary. “This will take some figuring out. We’ll get there.”
“And in the meantime?” asks Jace.
Clary grins. “Mmm, you know how you’ve um, experienced a few downworlders over the years?”
Jace flushes all the way to his collar.
“I happen to know that you’ve still never had the...shall we say pleasure...of vampire stamina.”
Simon blushes too at that and Clary marvels at their ridiculousness. “I seem to remember a soundproofing rune on your doorpost,” she adds.
Simon finds his courage first. Or his libido. Clary doesn’t really care as long as it gets her what she wants. “She’s right,” says Simon, leaning over to suck a bruise into Jace’s neck, scraping the edge of his teeth just enough to make Jace arch towards him. “There are a few perks to being a vampire.”
“Is that right?” Jace is breathless.
“That’s right,” whispers Clary, her breath a ghost of sensation across the newly formed bruise. She pulls Simon to her, kissing him deeply as Jace watches. “Now, why don’t we go inside and teach you a little more about vampires.”
They get up off the ground and head inside, Clary watching as the boys move faster ahead of her, even as they turn every few seconds to make sure she’s coming. Yes, she thinks, she plays a very, very good game.