Je Ne Regrette Rien
"What's the most resilient parasite?"
He looks at her, mismatched eyes twinkling and a smirk on his lips. "I failed Biology." he jokes and can tell she wants to smile. Jace leans forward, hands clasping on the table. He knows the uniform makes his muscles look good; he also knows she couldn't give less fucks about that if she tried. Still, he thinks it doesn't hurt.
Branwell lifts an eyebrow. "Do I need to repeat the question?" she's as close to him as she can get without touching, and Jace finds it a form of torture on its own. Her eyes mirror his now, the same twinkle in them as they both lean back in their chairs at the same time. Not really giving up, rather pausing long enough to get the business out of the way.
Jace wants in on that program. Lydia is the only way he gets there - if he hasn't fucked it up already by fucking her.
"What is the most resilient parasite, Officer Herondale?"
Jace lifts his chin defiantly. Doesn't waste any more time. "An idea, Major Branwell."
She smiles and he thinks You'll be the death of me.
He smiles back and thinks Fuck, I love you.
He's sitting at a long table across from Raphael Santiago, who hasn't aged a day anywhere but in his eyes.
"I'm here to bring you back." he says. "This isn't real."
If he stares long enough, it's almost as if the distance between them is never-ending, as if the table goes on forever. It's subtle, barely noticeable, but enough for Jace to want to wring Raj's neck. Jace hasn't designed in a while - and for a good reason - and the longer this lasts, the bigger the threat looming over him gets.
Raphael nods his head to the side. "What do you know about reality?"
"Not nearly enough." Jace says. "But I know that my kids are real, and they're not here. Therefore, this isn't real."
"Maybe your kids are what's not real."
Jace clenches his fists. It hits close; way too close for him to be comfortable. Especially now. Jace feels like she is listening, and if she weren't close, then this is like an open call to her. "Remember." he settles on saying. Settles on keeping the memories of similar responses far away from his mind. Settles on not reaching for his totem to spin it and double check what is reality. To double check that he hadn't made a mistake all those years ago. But, the table is enough for him; the length of it enough of a mistake to ground him. Fuck Raj.
Until: "A dream."
"You're waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope the train will take you, but you can't know for sure. Yet it doesn't matter. Why?"
"Because we'll be together."
The train came.
It took her far away.
You're not together anymore.
He knew the Architect was shit before he even took him on the job, but he was optimistic enough to think having both Lightwood siblings on Point would balance it out long enough for them to successfully finish the job, and desperate enough that he needed to do the job and he needed to do it now.
He's known the Lightwoods for years - all being in the same Institute Dreamshare program years ago, the rune tattoos all over their bodies forever staying as the biggest reminder - and has done more jobs with them than he could possibly ever count once the program was officially discontinued and then unofficially moved to the illegal underground of acquiring information. All their parents - the Lightwoods and the Herondales and the Waylands - were military royalty and following in their footsteps was what they all were almost taught to do. Rumors that flooded the compound were that they were the ones who jumpstarted the Dreamshare program - by far Jace's highlight of his entire, though short-lived military career. He doesn't know for sure because he was never allowed to ask, but he put the pieces together that Maryse Lightwood - Isabelle and Alec's mother, who divorced their father a while back and now lived in Paris, adjusting to civilian life better than most and wishing the same for her children in vain - was the only one of their parents to sport the same rune tattoos, the unofficial symbols of the program, so she was definitely there at the very start. Whether or not she went under the PASIV or how much, he doesn't know, and maybe it's for the best. Jace can only hope she's clean; he knows he's gone too far to ever completely be.
The business is fickle enough in the way where you're only as good as the people you work with, which means that even with the best Point people on your side, you're not worth shit without a decent Architect, and Raj half-assed the job as much as he thought he could get away with, and then promptly left as soon as it all went to shit, leaving Jace to pick up the pieces. He transferred them to his dream, risking the whole job but saying fuck it, and trying to save their asses as much as he could, but the threat was there. Jace is a brilliant Architect - one of the best in Dreamshare, and for a reason - and the only one who was ever better than him was Lyds. Who is also the reason why he doesn't dream.
Jace thinks he almost salvaged it, and he was playing through a successful Plan G on Raphael Santiago, earning his trust and edging closer to the secret he's supposed to get when all of a sudden there she is.
"Miss me, darling?" it's a whisper against his ear and he hates the way it still makes his entire body shiver in want because this isn't her, it isn't.
Before he can compose himself - a complete fault on his side, he'll admit it, but it's been so fucking long - she's already made her way towards an immensely surprised Raphael Santiago, a gun drawn.
"You really should take better care of your secrets, Señor Santiago." she says, a smirk on her lips. "My husband is quite good at taking them."
Realization dawns on Santiago's face but he barely reacts before she's pushing him out of the way to get a good look at Alec who just ran up to them.
He looks from Lydia to Jace. "What the fuck-"
Lydia shoots him before he can finish, and Jace winces even though he knows Alec will only wake up.
Jace composes himself quickly and manages to get to Izzy and finish the job, Jace then shooting himself as quickly as possible to avoid Izzy's comments, but she still manages to send him a steely glare.
When they wake up, Alec is waiting for them, pissed.
"She shot me."
"Not for the first time-"
"Right between the fucking eyes, Jace!" Alec yells, all patience he has gone. "You told me you dealt with it."
"I did." Jace's voice suddenly sounds exhausted. "I can keep her in check."
Alec laughs bitterly. "Obviously, you can't, because the projection of your dead wife just shot me in the fucking head."
Jace rubs his eyes with one hand, the other then going through his hair. He's not sure whether to feel anxious or delighted that Izzy hasn't said anything yet, rather was silently putting the PASIV away and preparing their exit.
"We have about half an hour until his sedative wears off." For all of her other traits, Izzy's always been a no-nonsense person when it came to getting a job done right. "I suggest we clear out as soon as possible, and then you two can continue fighting over Lydia until Santiago ultimately locates us." She pauses, giving them a pointed look that bordered on a glare. "Which he will. This job was shit." she finishes and leaves the room.
Jace gives Alec a firm look and finds the same one sent back. It's a silent power-play until Alec nods, and goes through the hotel door Izzy's opened.
As soon as Alec passes through the door and into the hallway, Jace sighs and feels a hundred pounds heavier.
"Fuck, Lyds." He sighs, painfully, his eyes stinging and he tries to rub it away.
When he leaves, he shuts the door behind him with more force than necessary.
"When are you coming home, Daddy?"
He grips the phone tighter, calms his breathing. He gave up on the tears from the moment he dialed the number. "Soon, Princess. Soon."
"Grandpa says you're never coming back."
He has to move the phone away until he composes himself. Every phonecall, it gets harder. Henry implied he should stop calling. Jace would sooner die.
"I promise you I'll be back, Johnny."
The last time he saw them John had turned six. Céline was four.
He doesn't think about how old they are now.
"Daddy will be back soon."
This table doesn't have a fault, no matter how carefully he stares at it.
Raphael Santiago is sat opposite him, and Jace silently curses as he readjusts his shoulder. He didn't even last two weeks; Alec is gonna love that.
"Do I get any last words?" he asks, looking around the empty restaurant. They're in one of the DuMort hotels Santiago owns - the same ones that are often hosts to the type of clientele who value discretion above all else, those whose secrets are the most valuable - and Jace doesn't feel like going on a suicide mission. This time, Santiago has ten bodyguards instead of four, and from what Jace has noticed, the other man is carrying heat. Jace leans back in his chair. "I'd want to call my kids."
Raphael smiles. "So you weren't lying about being a father." he states. "It almost makes me emphathetic."
His teeth are sharp and white. "The phonecall to your children won't be necessary, Mr. Herondale." he says. "In fact, if you take my job offer, you might be seeing them in the flesh soon yourself."
Jace tries not to react, but his pulse quickens. His children; there's no way he could go home. Not after Lydia. "What's the job?" he asks.
Raphael nods his head, and one of his bodyguards drops a file on the table in front of Jace. He spares a careful look to Santiago before he opens it. "Jonathan Morgenstern?"
"His father Valentine owns a rival chain of businesses I would like gone." Raphael says, biting into his dinner. "Currently he is on his deathbed, and Jonathan is his sole heir."
"And what exactly do you want me to do here?"
"Let's just say I need Jonathan Morgenstern to consider... letting go of his father's legacy."
Jace closes the file, looks back Santiago, poker face impenetrable. "You're talking-"
"Inception." Raphael says almost nonchalantly. "Is it possible?"
"Of course not."
Raphael wipes his mouth with a napkin before placing both hands on the table, leaning in. The look in his eye is cold and sharp. "If you can steal an idea from someone's mind, why can't you plant one there instead?"
"This is how you plant an idea." Jace starts, leaning his elbows on the table. He can see the corners of Raphael's mouth twitch ligthly in disdain. "Don't think about elephants." he instructs.
Reluctantly, Raphael nods.
"What are you thinking about?"
"Exactly." Jace says. "But it's not your idea. You know I gave it to you. The subject's mind can always trace the genesis of the idea. True inspiration is almost impossible to fake."
Raphael narrows his eyes. "Almost?" he repeats. "So you can do it?"
"I won't do it." The mere idea makes it hard to think, hard to breathe; he can smell her perfume, can taste her in his mouth.
"Not even when the reward is going home to your children?" Jace feels struck by lightning.
"You can't fix that." Jace can hear the pain in his own voice. "Nobody could."
Raphael smirks. "Just like inception."
Until: "How complex is the idea?"
The Lightwoods are on the first plane there.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Isabelle is furious; her black hair is falling down her shoulders, her manicured nails pointed at his chest. "I know how bad you want to go home, but-"
"You don't." Jace's voice is sharp, meant to hurt. Isabelle takes a step back.
Alec shakes his head. "Inception can't be done." his voice is rising, echoing through the room.
"We just have to go deep enough." Jace replies, looking away. Quietly, he adds: "I've done it before."
Isabelle's eyes widen. Alec's brows furrow. "Did it work?" he's not sure if Isabelle sounds impressed or frightened.
He doesn't look her in the eyes. He can't. "Yes."
"Who did you do it to?"
He doesn't answer.
Alec sighs, deep and almost with his whole body, hands running through his hair. He meets their gazes. "We're going to need a new Architect."
"Here to corrupt yet another one of my students?"
Luke's voice is calm but strong as it carries through the room. Jace still hasn't figured out how he knows exactly who walks into any room without looking, but he's not dumb enough to ask - contrary to popular belief.
He's surprised that it's been five minutes and he still hasn't gotten punched in the face, but Jace figures there's still time for that, too.
He tries his luck, as always. "Maybe if you didn't have shitty students, I wouldn't have to corrupt so many."
The chuckle that leaves Luke's lips is bitter, and he shakes his head lightly as he finishes packing up his things.
"Should you be here?"
Jace cocks his head to the side, shrugging. "The extradition laws between France and the U.S. are a nightmare."
Luke finishes collecting the exams off his desk, placing them in his bag. Setting it down, he sits at the edge of his desk. "What do you want, Jace?"
"I have a job." he replies. "I was wondering if you could connect me with Maia."
Luke laughs. "Maia's out." he replies. "She's getting her Marine Biology degree in the States. She's happy. She's safe." Luke repeats. "She's out."
"Well, then I'm happy for her." Jace replies honestly. "But I need someone, and it has to be someone good." he continues. "Maia was the best."
"Why?" Luke asks. "What job is this?"
"One that could get me back to my kids."
Luke's voice is bitter. "You really are here to corrupt one of my students."
"Maia had her choice; everyone deserves to make their own. Especially someone that's good enough." Jace comes closer, talking with his hands. "This is a chance they'll never get in the real world: the chance to build cathedrals, entire cities, things that have never existed, things that couldn't exist - that shouldn't exist." Jace pauses. "Don't act like you weren't there at the very beginning, next to Maryse, talking about how Dreamshare was there to set us free."
"We were both wrong!" Luke yells. "That's why we got out." the look on his face is pained. "And not a day goes by that we don't wish the same for all you kids."
"All they have to do is design the levels and teach them to the Dreamers." Jace bargains. "They won't get hurt. Not with me."
Luke shakes his head. "No." he doesn't give up. "Design them yourself."
"Lydia won't let me!" Jace's voice breaks. "I just want to get back to my kids. And then I'm done." he explains. "This job is how I get out."
The silence that falls around them is deafening. Jace gives it one more try.
"Please." he says. "I need someone who was as good as me. As good as Lyds."
Luke doesn't reply for a few minutes. He gets up, picks up his bag, and comes to stand face-to-face by Jace. Looks him dead in the eyes.
"I've got someone better."
Clary Fray sits at a table at a caffe in Paris, red hair tied in a ponytail, a notebook and a pencil in her hands.
"You don't look like someone who can actually help me pay off my student loans." she says, looking at Jace Herondale who's sitting opposite her, a smirk on his face.
Jace chuckles. "What did Luke tell you about the job?"
Clary shrugs. "Just that it's not strictly legal." she replies.
Jace nods, then points to her hands. "You have two minutes to draw a maze that takes me one minute to solve."
Her eyes twinkle with curiosity, an eyebrow lifting. Then, she sets her chin and grabs her pencil so tight her knuckles turn white.
She starts drawing concentic circles, again and again, doesn't repeat the same pattern twice.
It takes Jace eight minutes to solve it.
"So, what exactly am I supposed to be doing?"
"You're building the world of the dream, one that'll be filled with the subject's subconscious once we get him there." Jace explains. "We don't want him to realize he's dreaming."
Clary laughs in disbelief. "That's impossible! I'll never be able to get enough detail for that." she says. "How the hell am I supposed to convince him the Dream is real?"
Jace shrugs. "Our dreams are real while we're in them. Once we wake up is when we realize something was strange to begin with."
Clary pauses, looking at him carefully. "Jace-"
"You never remember the beginning of your dreams, do you?" he asks, waits for her to get it.
"So how did we end up here?"
"Fuck." she says, her voice barely above a whisper. "We're dreaming."
"You need to calm down, Clary." he says, placing a hand on her forearm at the table. "We're perfectly safe."
The Dream collapses around them.
They wake up.
It's their fifth Dream, and Jace stops abruptly, grabbing her by the hand so hard it hurts. "I know this place." he says, looking around them.
Clary looks at him, confused. "I cross this bridge every day to class, what's wrong?"
He pulls at her hand again, and she moans in pain. "Never, ever recreate from your memories. Always think of something new."
"Jace, you're hurting me!" she yells and he lets go.
"If you build from memory, you get lost in it. You forget what's real."
Clary's eyebrows furrow. "Did that happen to you?" she asks. "Is that why I have to design the Dreams?"
He's looking past her, not listening, and she turns around to face a Projection; a woman her hight, her blonde hair in a braid, her lips as red as blood, matching her dress.
Clary wakes up screaming, Jace following her, but he's barely rattled.
Isabelle runs to their chairs. "What happened? Clary, are you okay?"
Clary calms her breathing. "I'm... I'm fine." she replies. "Just not used to getting shot."
Jace avoids Alec's look.
"She'll need a totem." he tells him instead.
Isabelle answers her as she removes her from the PASIV. Jace removes himself. "Something only you know about, an object, to remind you of what's real." she explains. "We all have one."
Jace moves to the table in the back, takes out the totem from his pocket and spins it on the table.
Alec gives him a final concerned look before turning to Clary. "Make sure it's small and somewhat heavy. And never let anyone touch it, no one should know the details of it. That's the point." He tells her, pulling out his totem from the inside of his shirt and showing her as he holds it in his hand. It's a necklace with a bow and arrow pendant. Clary doesn't try to see, but she can tell there's some writing in the back. She shouldn't know, anyways. "So you know, without a doubt, that you're not in someone's dream."
Clary nods, and turns to Isabelle. She hesitates before asking, "Who's Lydia?"
Alec clenches his jaw and leaves. Isabelle watches him go and sighs. "So, you've met Mrs. Herondale."
Clary shakes her head. "That was his wife?"
"He has it under control." Isabelle is quick to say, but Clary can tell she barely believes it herself. "Just... Don't worry about it and do your job, okay?"
In the back of the room, Jace picks up his totem and clings to it.
"You good?" Alec asks him and Jace nods, his eyes still closed.
"Yeah." he says. "Get her working on the mazes."
Alec crosses his arms. "How do you know she'll stay?"
Jace still isn't looking at him. "I know." he says. "The look in her eyes. You've seen it. The real world isn't enough for her anymore."
Alec nods. "And where are you going?"
Finally, Jace pushes himself away from the table and turns around, pocketing his totem. "I'm going to get Magnus Bane."
Alec shakes his head in surprise. "Magnus is in Jakarta, you can't just go to the other side of the world." he says. "There are plenty of other thieves."
Jace stops next to Alec as he goes to leave the room. "We don't just need a thief, Alec." he says. "We need a forger."
"Word on the street is you fucked up a job."
Magnus never pulls his punches. Jace shrugs. "I got a new one. A better one." Jace says. "And I could use your expertise."
Magnus raises his eyebrows, sipping on his martini. The rings on his fingers clink against the glass. "And which job would that be?"
Jace leans in. "Inception." he says. "And don't bother telling me it's impossible."
Magnus shakes his head and puts his glass back on the table. "It's not." he says. "It's just difficult." Magnus winks. "That's why you need me."
"Exactly what I said to Alec."
Magnus stills only for a second. It's enough for Jace to notice. "I'm not surprised you're still teaming up with the Lightwoods; they're the best Point duo anyone could have." he says. "But this job needs creativity, imagination, improvisation. I'm not sure Alec is built for that."
Jace focuses on Magnus' words, ignoring the jabs at Alec that are far too frequent in the relationship between the two. "You've done this before?"
"Tried it, but the idea didn't take." Magnus explains. "It needs to be implanted deep, yes. But it also needs to be the simplest version of the idea, one that can then grow on its own. Subtle. Careful. Art."
"And that's why I'm here." Jace points out. "I need you."
Magnus thinks it over, finishes off his martini. Jace leans back. Relaxes. He knows Magnus won't decline.
"What's the idea we're implanting?"
Jace jumps straight in. "Jonathan Morgenstern needs to decimate his father's company once he dies."
Magnus pauses. "Politics, economy, morals... Those are all possible angles but they're the roof of the house. We need to go for the foundation."
"His relationship with his father." Magnus states like it's obvious. "Does he love him? Hate him? Envy him? Resent him? Does he want to make him proud, spite him, or be free of him?" he continues. "We figure out that, we're one step closer to successfully implanting the idea."
Magnus gets up, puts on his coat and goes to leave, pausing next to Jace's chair. The Indonesian sun is setting and the restaurant patio is filling with people.
"Do you have a chemist?"
Simon Lewis currently resides in Amsterdam, which is more than fitting, and while only a third of his apartment actually serves as a living space, while another third is dedicated to his chemistry equipment and the third is what should be the living room filled with worn down PASIVs that work on prayers and ducktape and about half a dozen customers currently under with his drugs that they pay a pretty penny for, he's more than satisfied with his life.
But, when Magnus Bane knocks on your door, you answer.
"Don't worry." Simon says, waving a hand dismissively. "They're all dreaming for at least another half hour, you can talk openly."
Jace can't shake the discomfort from his shoulders. "Is this safe?"
"My drugs are." Simon replies, crossing his arms defensively. "And that's all that matters."
"This much Dreamshare wouldn't be good for anyone." Jace is seemingly calm, but Magnus can tell there's a storm brewing. He mediates.
"Their real lives are their Dream lives." Magnus says. He pulls in closer to Jace and whispers, "Let it go."
Magnus can see Jace hesitate, no matter how subtly, but Jace ultimately gives in.
"Moving on." Magnu says. "Simon, meet Jace Herondale."
Simon extends a hand, Jace shakes it. "I've heard about you." he says. "You work with Somnacin?" he asks and Jace nods. Simon turns around, opens a few drawers, before taking a vial and putting it on the table in front of Magnus and Jace.
Jace narrows his eyes. "As good as the real thing?"
Simon gives a smug smile. "Better." he says. "I call it Yin Fen." he lifts the vial, raising it to the lights above. It looks almost silver. "It binds the dreamers to a single dream, makes it real." he puts the vial back down then takes a seat, looking up at Magnus and Jace. "You looking for a Chemist?"
Jace curtly nods. "We'll need you in the field."
Simon narrows his eyes questioningly. "Why?"
"We need to go deeper." Jace explains. "So you'll need to tailor compounds by necessity."
"A dream within a dream." Simon says, leaning onto the back of his chair. Jace can tell he's already in - the twinkle in his eyes giving him away. It throws him off for a fraction of a second, the yearning for danger the young man has. He never would've guessed it initially. "How many levels?"
Simon clicks his teeth, shaking his head. "Not possible." he says. "That many dreams - too unstable."
"Not if you add a sedative."
"Yeah, a powerful one." Simon says. "How many team members?"
Simon thinks it over, takes the vial off the table and plays with it, looking at it.
Then: "Then you came to the best."
You are waiting for a train.
You can hear it; the sound it makes as it goes along the tracks.
You can see it; the lights as they grow bigger and bigger.
You are waiting for a train.
You are waiting.
You wake up.
Clary is finishing her totem when Jace walks into the room. "You're going under alone?"
"Someone had to test the compound." Jace shrugs. He watches carefully as she pockets her totem, but doesn't see what it is. He smirks. "You're learning."
Jace shakes his head. "Lydia's."
Clary doesn't hesitate. "Will I get to meet her?" she says. "She did try to kill me, after all."
Jace's smirk falls. He takes out the totem from his pocket. "This one was hers." he says, avoiding the question. "She'd spin it in a dream and it'd never topple." he puts it back into his pocket, looks at Clary again. "She's dead. Don't ask about her again." he knows it's a useless request as soon as he says it - Clary doesn't seem like the type to let anything go. "How are you doing with the mazes?"
"I'm almost done." she says. "But that's as much as I'm telling you." Clary walks closer to him. "Isabelle said you had it under control, but you don't. I can tell." she says. "You would have designed all of this yourself, but she won't let you. She's going to sabotage this mission, Jace."
Jace laughs bitterly. "Well, I won't let her." he replies. "I need this job to work, or I can't get back to my children."
She's close; too close for him to handle. "Why can't you go home, Jace?"
Jace looks away from her. "They think I killed her." he steps away.
"How did she die?"
He's yelling but his voice isn't loud enough.
She's looking back at him, her long blonde hair being blown by the wind around her face. She's smiling, smiling, smiling.
"You're waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away."
"Thank you." he says, later.
"Not asking if I did it."
"I WILL SPLIT UP MY FATHER'S EMPIRE." Simon reads it out loud, the words written on the whiteboard in the middle of the room.
"This is the idea we must implant into Jonathan Morgenstern's head." Alec says. He hesitates. "Three levels deep."
"A dream within a dream within a dream." Isabelle says.
Clary looks at Jace. "Is that even possible?" Jace nods.
Magnus speaks up. "The subconscious is motivated by emotion, so we need to translate this idea into an emotional concept." he moves around the room with ease, words like poetry. He's captivating, Alec knows that. "It also must be positive emotion, as it trumps the negative ones; we yearn for reconcilliation, catharsis." he moves to the board and wipes the idea, replacing it. "MY FATHER ACCEPTS I WANT TO CREATE FOR MYSELF, NOT FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS."
Jace nods. "That might work."
"Might?" Alec says. "We need better than that."
Magnus turns to him, smiling. "Thank you for your contribution, Alec."
"Forgive me for wanting a little specificity."
Magnus rolls his eyes. "We split the idea into emotional triggers." he says. "On the top level, we open up his relationship with his father, assert I WILL NOT FOLLOW IN MY FATHER'S FOOTSTEPS. Next level down we've accessed his ambition and self-esteem. We feed him: I WILL CREATE SOMETHING MYSELF. Then, the bottom level, we bring out the emotional big guns: MY FATHER DOESN'T WANT ME TO BE HIM." he explains, writing each idea on the board.
Alec looks up at him, contemplating. "How will you do it?"
"I forge them." Magnus says. "Using the style and manner of Lilith Morgenstern, his aunt and mother figure who is crucial in his emotional life. I've already begun tailing her, learning her presence and mannerisms. She is much more prominent than she used to be, as she had to take over more of the company's work the sicker Valentine got. She grew powerful." turning around to face each of them, he finishes. "Through her, I will feed these ideas to Jonathan, and on the deeper level his subconsciousness will start feeding the ideas right back to him."
Alec nods, impressed. "He gives himself the idea." he says. "I'm impressed." he admits, looking up at Magnus, smiling.
Magnus smiles back. "Your condescension, as always, is much appreciated, darling."
"When will we do it?" Isabelle says. "I see no clear openings in his schedule, and we'll need a good ten hours."
"Sydney to Los Angeles." they all turn to look at Raphael Santiago, who has not spoken for the entire meeting but insisted on sitting in. "One of the longest flights in the world." he says. "Twelve hours and forty-five minutes. And he takes it every two weeks."
Jace looks at him, doubtful. "I assume he flies private?"
Raphael shrugs. "Not if there's something unexpectedly wrong with his plane."
Alec speaks up. "It'll have to be a 747." he says. "The pilots are up above and first class is in the nose, so no one is passing through. We'll have to buy out the whole cabin-"
"I bought the airline." Santiago interrups.
Next to Alec, Simon laughs. "Of course he did."
"Okay." Clary speaks. "But what about the levels? That far deep, the smallest turbulence will translate into an earthquake."
Simon shrugs. "The compound we'll be using to share the dream is an advanced Somnacin derivative. It creates a very clear connection between dreamers, whilst actually accelerating brain function, which should give you more time in each dream."
Clary looks at him, brows furrowing. "How much more?"
"Brain function will be about twenty times normal, and once you enter a deeper level, that's compounded." Simon explains. "So it'll basically be a week one layer down, six months two layers down-"
"And ten years three levels down." Isabelle finishes and Simon nods. "Who would want to spend ten years in a dream?"
Simon shrugs. "Depends on the dream." his smile is sad.
"It won't take us that long to work Jonathan." Magnus says. "We'll be out in a few days."
"And how do we plan to get out?" Alec asks. "I hope it's not shooting me in the head." he gives a glare to both Jace and Magnus. They've done it before. He leans back onto his chair, lifting it on its back legs.
Magnus nods to the side. "We'll need a kick."
"What's a kick?" asks Clary.
Magnus smiles, then nudges Alec's chair that he almost falls. Alec's heart stops for a second, and he glares at Magnus again. "That, biscuit, is a kick." Magnus laughs.
Clary chuckles. "But how will we feel it so deep?"
"Ah." Simon exclaims. "I've got that covered, don't worry, Fray." he says. "We just need to synchronize the different kicks."
Jace pushes himself off the table he was leaning on and goes to leave the room, dismissing the team.
"We'll use music."
"Do you remember when you asked me to marry you?" Lydia asks him and Jace can feel the tear coming to his eyes. "You said you had a dream."
"That we'd grow old together." his voice breaks, hoarse.
Lydia grasps his forearm with both her hands. "And we still can!" she yells, and as Jace is shaking his head she notices someone behind him. She freezes, and Jace turns around.
"Clary-" he says and gets up fast, pulling her back into the elevator she used to get to the level in his Dream. "You're not supposed to be here."
Before the elevator goes up to get the to wake up, Clary sees the room turn into a beach where Lydia is playing in the sand with two blonde children; a boy and a girl. "I had to see what you do on your own every night." she says, looking up at him. She touches his arm. "Why?"
"In my dreams," Jace says, closing his eyes to Clary's touch. "we're still together."
"You told me never to use memories." she says. "You're keeping her alive."
A flash of pain spreads through Jace's face. He opens his eyes, and his mismatched find Clary's green. "Everything I'm doing it so get back to my children."
When the elevator stops, they don't wake up. Instead, they're in a hotel room.
"What are you doing here?" Lydia is back, and she snarls at Clary, who is carefully walking into the room.
Clary looks at her, pity in her eyes. "I just want to understand."
"You're waiting for a train." Lydia responds. "A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure. Yet, it doesn't matter." she's so close to Clary now that Clary is sure Lydia can hear her heart beating out of her chest. "How can it not matter where the train will take you?"
"Because you'll be together." Jace responds quietly, still in the elevator. He's seen this too many times. He's lived it.
Lydia looks at him. "How could you bring her here?!"
Clary shakes her head, eyes puzzled. "What happened here?"
Before she gets an answer, Jace pulls her back into the elevator and has them wake up. The last thing Clary remembers seeing it Lydia lounging at them, a broken champagne bottle in her hand.
"You can't keep her locked in there forever." she tells him as she detaches from the PASIV.
She walks out without another word.
"Valentine Morgenstern just died in his sleep." Raphael calls them to say. "You need to move, now."
Clary is close enough to Jace to whisper. "You need me on that plane." she says. "I'm going."
He doesn't argue.
"If I get on this plane and you haven't taken care of things... when we land I go to jail for the rest of my life." he tells Santiago on the phone.
"Complete the job, and I make one phone call - you will have no trouble clearing immigration. You have my word."
Raphael Santiago hangs up.
In the Dream, it's raining.
"You really could've done without that glass of welcome champagne, Simon." Magnus says, voice between annoyed and teasing. Simon doesn't respond, but simply rolls his eyes.
"You'll live." Alec replies instead. "I'm more worried about other things." Magnus turns to face Alec, face suddenly serious.
Alec locks eyes with Magnus for a moment before turning away, shrugging. "At least with this weather he'll want to get a cab." he says and moves down the street where he finds a yellow New York City cab waiting unlocked. Next to it stands a black SUV, and Jace, Isabelle, Clary and Simon fall into it.
Alec addresses Magnus without looking. "You know the play." It's a statement.
Magnus smiles. "Always, darling."
"This isn't part of the design." Clary says from the back of the car, leaning in between Jace and Isabelle. "Something's wrong."
They followed as Morgenstern - and then Magnus following him - entered into the cab and was supposed to be taken care of, but suddenly there are two more cars coming seemingly out of nowhere closer and closer to the cab.
"Fuck." Isabelle swears. "They're getting ambushed." she reaches under her seat and takes out two guns. She turns to Jace. "Get as close to them as you can without getting cut off." she says. "Jonathan's subconscious has been trained."
"Fuck." Jace echoes.
That's when the blaze of bullets starts.
They pull an unconscious Jonathan Morgenstern out of the car and head for a nearby abandoned building which Clary had put into the design earlier.
"Has anyone been hurt?!" Isabelle is yelling. "Did they get anyone?"
"We're fine." Magnus replies.
Simon chuckles nervously. "You better be." he says. "We're too heavily sedated to wake up by dying. If any of you get hurt-"
"It can be permanent." Magnus finishes. "Well, isn't that just brilliant?"
Clary huffs. "How could his projections be trained?"
Jace's voice is angry and sharp. "He's had an extractor train his mind to defend itself. It should've shown in the research-"
Isabelle turns around quickly. "It's not our fault!" she yells, agitated. "Alec and I researched every single bit of information we could find. This isn't something one would broadcast openly." she says.
Jace sighs. "And I'm not blaming you, Iz." he says. "I'm just pissed off."
"So is everyone else, Jace." Alec finally speaks, his voice strained. "Because right now we're stuck in a militarized subcionscious where, if we get shot, we'll end up in fucking Limbo."
"That was the only way we could go three layers deep." Jace turns to him and says. "Trust me, Alec. I've done this before."
"What, with Lydia?" his voice is bitter. "Well, look how that turned out."
Jace backs away. "All we have to do is finish the job. Wait for the kick."
Alec puts on the balaclava. Magnus has already forged himself into Lilith. "Then let's just fucking do it, then."
It's later, when they're done with the first part of the plan to break Morgenstern, leaving Magnus-as-Lilith to continue the work, Clary corners Jace.
"How long were you stuck?" she asks. "In Limbo."
He doesn't see a point in lying to her. "Fifty years. With Lyds." he says. "We lived. We built. But soon, you can stop seeing the difference between what's reality and what's a dream; what's real and what you made up." he says. "But Lydia... she decided to forget that our world wasn't real."
Clary's hand brushes against his. "So what happened after, when you finally woke up?"
"At first, everything seemed fine." Jace says, shrugging. He can't look her in the eyes. "But then... I started to realize something was wrong. Eventually, she admitted it. This idea she was possessed by. This simple little idea that changed everything."
"And what was it?"
Jace finally looks at her. "That our world wasn't real. That in order to go back to our real world, real home, real children, we'd have to kill ourselves."
Clary's eyes widen with realization. "The hotel room... Her death..."
"She arranged for the blame to fall on me." he says. "She thought... she thought it'd convince me to die with her." Jace laughs bitterly. "And ever since then she's been haunting me."
Once Magnus leaves the room, he slowly forges back into himself as he walks to Alec. "His relationship with his father is more abysmal than we thought."
"Does that help us?" Alec says, pulling out a sniper rifle and taking out a few more of the militarized projections that have now started to catch up with them.
"The bigger the issues, the bigger the catharsis." Magnus replies. "I'm working on the reconciliation."
Arthur shoots two snipers. "Well, you better work quickly. The projections are closing in on us." when Alec looks back at Magnus, the man is now holding a granade launcher.
"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling." Magnus says before firing.
Alec tries to hide his smile, but fails.
As they all get into the van and attach themselves to the new PASIVs, Isabelle turns to Simon who is now driving the car. "Remember, the levels from now on will be really unstable. Stay ahead of the projections, but drive safe."
"Got it." Simon replies.
Alec turns to him. "And don't do the jump too quickly. We only get one shot at the kick."
Simon nods. "I'll start the music to let you know it's coming, but the rest is up to you."
Jace looks at Alec and Isabelle. "We'll be doing the Stele play, like on the Aldertree job."
Isabelle shakes her head. "Are you sure?" she asks. "It... did not go well."
Jace sighs, nodding. "True. But with a subconscious this militarized, it's the best play we've got."
"What's the Stele play?"
"It's designed to turn Jonathan against his own subconscious." he says. "We reveal to him that he's in a dream, but let him know that we're the ones here to help him, so he gets to trust us instead of his projections."
Clary narrows her eyes. "Sounds like a gamble."
"Yeah, well." Jace says. "Let's hope we get lucky."
Alec is the dreamer for Level Two, so he has to stay behind as the rest of them have managed to successfuly execute the Stele plan and ended up going into Jonathan's subconscious by having him think it'll be Lilith; he's slowly begun to distrust her, and will in turn fight his own subconscious even harder.
As they get set up, Alec helps Magnus connect to the PASIV.
"Morgenstern's subconscious is going to run you down hard." Magnus says, lying on the floor, as Alec inserts the needle to his arm.
Alec smiles. "Then I will lead them on a merry chase." he says, looking at Magnus and gently placing his fingers around Magnus' wrist.
Magnus moves his hand to connect their fingers, entertwining them. He brings Alec's hand up to kiss. "Just be back for the kick." he says, his eyes smiling.
Alec smiles, his eyes loving. "Go to sleep, Magnus."
"You're the dreamer." Jace says to Isabelle. "I need you to draw the security away from the complex."
Isabelle looks at him, concerned. "Then who will get Jonathan in? You?"
Jace shakes his head. "If I know the route, it could be compromised. You know that." Isabelle nods.
Clary steps closer. "I could do it."
"No." Jace says. "I need you with me."
"I'll do it." Magnus says. "Isabelle, brief me on the route."
Simon starts the music.
"Fuck, Lewis!" Alec yells as he's taking down the third man. The room is now tilted, so he can only imagine Simon's driving. "You're too soon."
"Can you hear that?" Clary asks.
"I hoped it was wind." Jace says, but when he listens closely, he knows it isn't.
"No." Clary shakes her head. She looks up at Jace, and the wind changes pitch. "It's music." she says. "How long do we have?"
"For Simon it's about ten seconds, which means Alec has about three minutes, which gives us-"
"Sixty." Clary says. "Okay. Then we better get it done."
Clary lets out a gutteral scream as she watches Lydia shoot Jonathan. Jace, who had a gun on her the whole time but couldn't make himself pull the trigger, finally shoots her almost instinctively when he hears the gunshot.
Magnus barely managed to avoid getting shot himself, though she did get his leg bad enough that his blood made a large puddle on the ground. He ties his leg off and keeps the pressure. Isabelle calls in through the radio.
"We can... we can still do it." Clary's voice is low and hoarse, but it gets louder. "Jonathan is in Limbo." she says. "We just have to follow him. We have time; down there it'll be even more." she explains, then turns to Magnus. "Find a way to give him a kick - have Izzy dream something up. Then blow up this whole place, and we'll ride the waves until we're out."
Jace concedes. "It's the only chance we have." he says and Magnus does his best to get up and do as needed.
Clary turns to Jace, speaking privately. "Can I count on you down there?" she says sharply. "We can't afford another mistake."
Jace grabs her hand and nods. "She'll be there. And she'll have Morgenstern with her. She wants me to follow her to Limbo. But I promise you, you will leave. Whatever happens, all of you will leave."
Clary looks around in awe at the world Jace and Lydia spent building for fifty years. The details, the intricacies, the design. She can barely catch her breath.
"You reconstructed all of this from memory?" she asks. Jace doesn't look at her when he grabs her hand again.
"There's something you have to understand about me. About inception." he says. "You see, an idea is like a virus. Resilient." he finally turns to look at her. "Highly contagious, and an idea can grow. The smallest seed of an idea can grow to define or destroy your world."
Suddenly, in the corner of her eye, Clary noticed Lydia appear. "The smallest idea, such as Your world is not real." Jace's eyes move away from Clary's and he turns to Lydia. "A simple little thought that changes everything..."
He moves towards her, touching her hands with his, holding them, lifting them up to cup her face. So much tenderness, so much softness, so much love.
Clary's heart breaks.
"This world..." he says to Lydia, and Clary can tell he's crying. "It's not real. It was never real. Our children, they're waiting for me, and I need to go back to them, Lyds. I need to-"
Lydia pulls away from him. "Our children are here, Jace!" she yells. "This is our world. This is reality." she says. "How are you so sure in what you believe when you have never trusted me when I said the same?" she says. "What if you're wrong? What if I'm what's real?" she moves back to him, her hands cupping his face this time. "You keep telling yourself what you know... but what do you believe? What do you feel?"
"Guilt." Jace answers, his eyes closed as he leans into her touch. She wipes his tears. "I feel guilt. And however confused I might get. However lost I might seem... it's always there, reminding me of the truth."
"That the idea that drove you to question your reality was a lie."
"How could you know it was a lie?"
"Because it was my lie."
Lydia drops her hands from him, realizing. "Because you planted the idea in my mind."
Clary comes up behind him, grabs his elbow lightly, grounding him. "Why?"
Jace's voice is broken, guilt and sadness covering it. "I couldn't make Lydia understand that we needed to break free. To die." he explains. "So, I started researching. Finding the right place in her mind. And, when I found that place, I broke into the deepest recess of her mind, to give her the simplest little idea. A truth that she had once known, but had chosen to forget."
Jace walks into Lydia's childhood bedroom, and locks in on the safe. He opens it, and sees it - her totem, lying on one side on one of the shelves of the safe. He takes it, holds it between his fingers, circles it with his palm and breathes.
Then, he puts it back into the safe, and as he sets it down, he spins it.
The totem keeps spinning, and spinning, and spinning. Not once dropping.
And Jace closes the safe.
"That her wold was not real." he says. "That death was a necessary escape."
They're lying on the train tracks in their world. Lydia is crying. Jace takes her hand, reassuring her.
"You're waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you can't know for sure. Yet it doesn't matter..."
Lydia smiles, kisses him. "Because you'll be together."
The train comes.
"I never thought that it would continue even after we woke. That you would continue to believe that your world wasn't real. That you'd still believe-"
"That death was the only escape." Lydia finishes. "You killed me." she says, and Jace winces at her words. "You infected my mind. You betrayed me. But you can make amends. You can still keep your promise. We can still be together."
Alec starts the music. Edith Piaf surrounds the room and bleeds into the levels. Magnus closes his eyes to the tune when he hears it. Isabelle's joined him, so he takes her hand. Asks for some courage.
They hope they'll see each other again.
He then grabs the defibrilator pads and uses them on Jonathan.
Clary finally speaks to Lydia. "We need Jonathan."
"No." Lydia doesn't even look at her.
Jace takes her hand in his. "If I stay, can she take him?"
"Jace-" Clary tries to argue, but Lydia cuts her off, finally looking at her.
"He's back there."
"Jace, you can't do this."
Jace doesn't look at her. "Go check if he's alive, Clary." he says. "Finish the job."
Alec holds the detonator and starts the countdown.
Magnus shocks Jonathan Morgenstern one more time.
Clary returns with Jonathan. Lightning strikes and she knows it's the countdown. "He's here. We have to go, Jace. You have to come with us." Jace doesn't respond, so she yells again. "I'm not going to let you lose yourself in here! You have to get back to your children!"
"I have to stay."
"You can't stay here to be with her!"
Jace finally turns to look at Clary. "I can't stay here to be with her because she's not real." he looks at Lydia again. "I wish you were. But I couldn't make you real. I'm not capable of imagining you in all your complexity and... perfection. As you really were. You're the best I can do. And you're not real."
Lydia's fury gets to her, but when she rushes to aim her gun at Jace to kill him, Clary uses her gun to shoot her.
Clary walks back to Jace. "I'm improvising."
With one last shock, Morgenstern wakes up.
"Get in there!" Isabelle yells as he staggers to get up on his feet. "Qucikly, there isn't much time. Your father, he-" she doesn't finish when he opens the door and enters the room.
There, Jonathan Morgenstern find his father on his deathbed.
Valentine Morgenstern's voice is small and broken, his breathing difficult. Still, he speaks. "I... was... dis... dis..."
"I know, Dad." Jonathan says, his head bowed. "You were disappointed that I couldn't be you."
Valentine shakes his head with surprising energy. Brings his hand to where Jonathan is sitting. Uses his last strength to cup his face and say, "I was disappointed... that you tried."
Jonathan smiles brokenly.
Isabelle presses the button on her detonator as the music rises even more.
Jace holds Lydia in his arms as Clary is calling to him to go. He puts one of his hands over hers, their wedding bands touching, making the slightest noise. Oh, how he misses it.
"We'd be together forever. You promised me." she whispers, tears falling down her face.
Jace's heart won't stop breaking.
"I know. I'm sorry, Lyds. I'm so sorry."
Lydia takes her last breath.
"My father wanted me to to be my own man, not live for him."
Clary watches Jace's eyes open. When his mismatched eyes meet hers, she sighs in relief and a laugh escapes her. Jace smiles back.
They're on a plane.
Jace makes a phonecall.
Raphael Santiago keeps his promises.
Passing through baggage claim, Jace watches as Magnus and Alec leave together, the Point Man's arm around the Forger's shoulder.
Isabelle is not far behind, but instead of leaving the airport she heads to another gate with one last smile at Jace. Somehow, she's taken Simon with her.
Next to him, Clary quietly says goodbye as she grabs her bag and heads for the gates that will take her back to school. Back to normality.
Jace takes his bag and makes his way home.
His father-in-law meets him at the door and gives him a gentle hug. "The kids are in the back yard." he says softly. When he moves away, he can see tears in the older man's eyes. "They've missed you."
Jace nods, tearing up as well. "I've missed them, too."
They pull apart and walk in, and after he puts his bag down, Jace takes out Lydia's totem out of his pocket and spins it on the kitchen table.
He doesn't wait for it to stop spinning before he sees his kids through the glass doors to the back yard and runs to them. They hug him tightly, and he feels his heart mend.
On the kitchen table, the top tilts slightly.
The ring finger on his left hand is empty.