The flurry of motion that followed their stunning discovery seemed to last seconds and years all at once. Clary froze, eyes wide with terror while Jace sprung into action. Before she could blink, Valentine was flat on his back with Jace on his chest, the oven mitt a foot away as Jace’s boot found a place on her father’s wrist. Alec had Jonathan pinned to the wall with a hand on his neck while Isabelle and Magnus quickly moved through the rest of the house.
“Clary, go out back and draw a portal. Go…home. We’ll meet you there.” Jace’s voice was tight with tension, his rage barely restrained as he held Valentine by the throat, his dagger hand itching with the need to eliminate any threat to his girl.
“Wait!” Valentine’s dark eyes widened, a hint of panic hidden in their depths. “Don’t-please! Just hear us out!”
Jonathan huffed and rolled his eyes. “You said you weren’t going to be here.”
Alec tightened his grip, his dagger digging roughly into his cheek. “And here I thought you actually wanted to help.”
Emerald eyes met azure ones as Jonathan glared steadily at the man. “I do. You can hear us out or you can kill us. But the only way you’ll get real answers is to let us go.”
Clary backed up slowly, her back pressing against the wall as she tried to comprehend what was happening. Jace’s eyes flitted over to her, noticing the complete absence of emotion she displayed. His heart broke for her. This was the absolute last thing she needed-as if the last few months hadn’t been enough.
“Isabelle?” He paused, waiting for his sister to appear by his shoulder. “Take this and tie him to something. Secure him with the runes-everything you have. Hear me?”
She nodded, her hand taking Jace’s place as he stood quickly. Magnus shuffled over to help Isabelle secure Valentine, who did nothing to fight back, placidly going along with whatever the Shadowhunters chose to do.
“Hey.” Jace grazed his fingers gently over Clary’s cheek, wincing when she didn’t immediately register his touch. She blinked once, twice before her head tipped back to look at him. Her eyes were blank and Jace felt like he was drowning as he reached out to take her hand.
“Come on, love. Talk to me.” His fingertips ran gently over her cheek as he saw a single tear well up. “Clary? You don’t need to be here for this. Please? Let’s get you home, alright?”
She ducked her head, throwing herself into his arms as her shoulders shook with silent sobs. Jace wrapped his arms tightly around her, his fingers tangling in her hair as he pressed kisses to her forehead.
“Clarissa?” The plaintive plea echoed around them and she stiffened in his arms. Her eyes raised slowly, meeting Valentine’s as Isabelle ushered him to the living room. “Please? Just hear me out.”
His eyes, so loaded with hate the last time they’d encountered him, shone with unshed tears and Jace wrinkled his nose. He pressed Clary further into his chest, trying to shield her from any more hurt. She trembled in his arms, her fingers fisted in the soft cotton of his shirt as she fought to compose herself.
She reached a hand out, catching Magnus’ jacket and pulling the trio to a stop. “Why? Why are you-why should I-just…why?”
Jonathan’s voice broke through their connection and Clary whipped her eyes to her brother, her face twisted into a frown.
“Because we have answers. What’s the worst that can happen, huh? You don’t like what we say or you don’t believe us-you kill us or leave us tied up while you escape. What’s the harm in listening?”
Jace scowled as he felt the tension in Clary’s body ratchet up to an impossible degree. Sometimes her bleeding heart was such a nuisance.
“Fine.” Magnus huffed in annoyance as Clary spoke. “Just-make sure they can’t get loose. And give me a few.”
Jace nodded to the others as he took her hand, leading her down the hall and back to the porch. “Clary, why are you doing this? You don’t owe them anything.” His fingers brushed her cheeks softly and her eyes drifted shut. She nuzzled against his palm, inhaling the lemony smell of sunlight that always seemed to surround him.
“I don’t, you’re right. But I owe it to myself. My whole life has been done on everyone else’s terms. And I’m sick of it.”
Jace nodded, his eyes drifting around aimlessly. He knew she needed this-needed to take control of her own life. And he knew without a doubt that he’d do anything to help her.
“Alright.” He sucked in a deep breath, the crisp air biting his lungs. “Let’s go.”
x . x . x . x . x
Valentine’s eyes swept over Clary, widening with each pass. She fidgeted nervously as she sat on Jace’s lap, his only condition for allowing her to stay. He wasn’t letting her go for anything. Jace tightened his arms around her, his eyes narrowing with every pass Valentine made.
“Are you going to talk? Or continue your exceedingly creepy appraisal of my girlfriend…and your daughter.”
His words made Valentine flinch and Jonathan sputtered comically as Isabelle finished etching a rune onto the back of his neck. “Was that necessary!? That’s a visual I’ll never get out of my head!”
Clary fought back a grin, wiping her expression after her momentary weakness. Her back straightened as she debated how to start.
“Okay. You’re going to answer my questions. Anything I forget-or don’t know-to ask, you’ll explain after. Understand?”
The men nodded, their eyes glued to the small girl, their expressions filled with hope. Jace shifted nervously. There was something tugging at the back of his mind, but he couldn’t quite place what it was and it was driving him insane.
Clary paused, her nose scrunching as she thought. Her brain had abruptly stopped firing-every single question she’d ever wanted to ask fleeing in a mad exodus.
“Uh-why did you come looking for me?”
Jonathan rolled his eyes, pursing his lips as he scowled at her. “I already told you. We’re trying to keep you safe!”
“You also told me that there was a traitor among us-someone loyal to Valentine. Were you talking about yourself? Or was that a crock of shit?” Jace growled the question. His hand latched onto Clary’s, their fingers tangled together to keep himself in check.
Valentine hung his head slightly. “There is a traitor. But no one loyal to me. This is…complicated.”
Clary turned, her lovely green eyes catching Jace’s amber ones. “Why do adults always dismiss things as being ‘complicated’? It’s very frustrating.”
He chuckled as she stuck her lip out in a pout. “You’re an adult, ya know. Twenty-one is considered an adult.” His lips lightly met hers and she sighed into him.
Isabelle scoffed and Alec turned his head into Magnus’ shoulder, clearing his throat softly. Clary’s head whipped up, her eyes surveying the room spastically before they fell on her father. His eyes were soft, a small smile curling his lips up into an expression she’d never seen in any pictures of him.
Valentine sighed again, the smile on his face making him seem so much younger than a few minutes before. “I’ve wanted to meet you ever since I found out about you. You’re so very beautiful. And so very strong.”
“Yeah-you should see her fight.” Jonathan muttered, cringing away as Jace shot him a look.
“Okaaaaaaaayyyy. Well-that’s…fun.” Clary clapped her hands together. Jace could feel her tension ratcheting up and his hand moved slowly to cover the pommel of her dagger. “But tell us what we need to know.”
Valentine sighed. “I’m afraid this story doesn’t exactly paint me in the best light.”
Isabelle rolled her eyes. “It can’t be any worse than what we’ve been told about you, so why don’t you just start explaining before I get itchy and start slicing.”
Jonathan grimaced, hopping his chair slightly further away from the girl. She glared at him and grabbed his T-shirt to yank him back.
“Before you were born-both of you-” He nodded toward Jonathan and Clary nodded. “-I was…quite rigid in my beliefs. I did believe that all Downworlders deserved to die. They’re part demon after all. But it was nothing more than a general dislike-until I met your mother.”
Clary’s eyebrows furrowed, her lips pursing in thought. “But Jocelyn doesn’t have a problem with Downworlders.”
Valentine’s dark eyes bugged, his jaw dropping nearly to his chest as he stared incredulously at Clary. “That’s-not the Jocelyn I know then. She-well, she had her reasons. Not good reasons in my opinion, but reasons nonetheless. Before we met, she was-involved-with a man. She called him Gabriel. But they were out one night when he got drunk. He provoked a group of vampires.” Isabelle cringed backward as Alec’s eyes widened.
“Gabriel? What was his last name?”
“Uh-” The older man’s eyes narrowed as he thought. “Lightwood. Gabriel Lightwood.”
Alec’s face blanched to the whitest Clary had ever seen. Magnus’ yelp was the only warning they had before Alec’s knees buckled. He crumpled lifelessly to the carpet, his limbs sprawled erratically at his sides. Jonathan dove to the side,his chair topping to its side, drawing Clary’s eyes as Isabelle sank down on top of him. She was conscious, though staring with wide eyes at nothing as Jonathan laid underneath her.
Jace jumped up, holding Clary in his arms before placing her gently on her feet. He rushed toward Isabelle and lifted her carefully off of Clary’s brother before setting her gently on the couch he’d just occupied. Clary stepped toward Magnus, who was cradling Alec in his lap like a child. She dropped to her knees, running her fingers through the Shadowhunter’s messy hair.
She turned to stare at her father and brother, her expression wary though not angry. Her lip quirked up into a sardonic smile. “Well, meet Alec and Isabelle Lightwood. Congratulations, I think you broke them.”