Alec stood at the edge of the tent, watching the dancing. The sun was down enough now to simply be a red stripe painted across the distant sky, and the vampires had come out from the farmhouse and joined the party. Some discreet accommodation had been made for their tastes, and they mingled among the others holding sleek metal flutes, plucked from the champagne table, whose opacity hid the liquid inside.
Lily, the head of the vampire clan of New York, was at the ivory keys of the piano, filling the room with the sounds of jazz. Over the music a voice said in Alec’s ear, “It was a lovely ceremony, I thought.”
Alec turned and saw his father, his big hand clasped around a fragile champagne flute, staring out at the guests. Robert was a large man, broad-shouldered, never at his best in a suit: He looked like an overgrown schoolboy who’d been forced into it by an annoyed parent.
“Hi,” Alec said. He could see his mother, across the room, talking to Jocelyn. Maryse had more streaks of gray in her dark hair than he remembered; she looked elegant, as she always did. “It was nice of you to come,” he added grudgingly. Both his parents had been almost painfully grateful that he and Isabelle had returned to them after the Dark War—too grateful to be angry or scolding. Too grateful for Alec to say much of anything to either of them about Magnus; when his mother had returned to New York, he’d gathered the rest of his possessions from the Institute and moved into the loft in Brooklyn. He was still in the Institute nearly every day, still saw his mother often, but Robert had remained in Alicante, and Alec hadn’t tried to contact him. “Pretend to be civil with Mom, all of that—really nice.”
Alec saw his father flinch. He’d meant to be gracious, but he’d never done gracious well. It always seemed like lying. “We’re not pretending to be civil,” said Robert. “I still love your mother; we care about each other. We just—can’t be married. We should have ended it earlier. We thought we were doing the right thing. Our intentions were good.”
“Road to Hell,” said Alec succinctly, and looked down at his glass.
“Sometimes,” Robert said, “you choose whom you want to be with when you’re too young, and you change, and they don’t change with you.”
Alec took in a slow breath; his veins were suddenly sizzling with anger. “If that’s meant to be a dig at me and Magnus, you can shove it,” he said. “You gave up your right to have any jurisdiction over me and my relationships when you made it clear that as far as you were concerned, a gay Shadowhunter wasn’t really a Shadowhunter.” He set his glass down on a nearby speaker. “I’m not interested—”
“Alec.” Something about Robert’s voice made Alec turn; he didn’t sound angry, just . . . broken. “I did, I said—unforgivable things. I know that,” he said. “But I have always been proud of you, and I am no less proud now.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“When I was your age, younger, I had a parabatai,” said Robert.
“Yes, Michael Wayland,” said Alec, not caring that he sounded bitter, not caring about the look on his father’s face. “I know. It’s why you took Jace in. I always thought you two must not have been particularly close. You didn’t seem to miss him much, or mind that he was dead.”
“I didn’t believe he was dead,” said Robert. “I know that must seem hard to imagine; our bond had been severed by the sentence of exile passed down by the Clave, but even before that, we had grown apart. There was a time, though, when we were close, the best of friends; there was a time when he told me that he loved me.”
Something about the weight his father put on the words brought Alec up short. “Michael Wayland was in love with you?”
“I was—not kind to him about it,” said Robert. “I told him never to say those words to me again. I was afraid, and I left him alone with his thoughts and feelings and fears, and we were never close again as we had been. I took Jace in to make up, in some small measure, for what I had done, but I know there is no making up for it.” He looked at Alec, and his dark blue eyes were steady. “You think that I am ashamed of you, but I am ashamed of myself. I look at you, and I see the mirror of my own unkindness to someone who never deserved it. We find in our children our own selves again, who might be made better than we are. Alec, you are so much a better man than I ever was, or will be.”
Alec stood frozen. He remembered his dream in the demon lands, his father telling everyone how brave he was, what a good Shadowhunter and warrior, but he had never imagined his father telling him that he was a good man.
It was a much better thing, somehow.
Robert was looking at him with the lines of strain plain around his eyes and mouth. Alec couldn’t help but wonder if he’d ever told anyone else about Michael, and what it had cost him to say it just now.
He touched his father’s arm lightly, the first time he had willingly touched him in months, and then dropped his hand.
“Thank you,” he said. “For telling me the truth.”
It wasn’t forgiveness, not exactly, but it was a start.
The grass was damp from the chill of the oncoming night; Clary could feel the cold soaking through her sandals as she made her way back toward the tent with Jace and Magnus. Clary could see the rows of tables being set up, china and silverware flashing. Everyone had pitched in to help out, even the people she usually thought of as almost unassailable in their reserve: Kadir, Jia, Maryse.
Music was coming from the tent. Bat was lounging up at the DJ station, but someone was playing jazz piano. She could see Alec standing with his father, talking intently, and then the crowd parted and she saw a blur of other familiar faces: Maia and Aline chatting, and Isabelle standing near Simon, looking awkward—
Clary came up short. Her heart skipped a beat, and then another; she felt hot and cold all over, as if she were about to faint. It couldn’t be Simon; it had to be someone else. Some other skinny boy with messy brown hair and glasses, but he was wearing the same faded shirt she’d seen him in that morning, and his hair was still too long and in his face, and he was smiling at her a little uncertainly across the crowd and it was Simon and it was Simon and it was Simon.
She didn’t even remember starting to run, but suddenly Magnus’s hand was on her shoulder, a grip like iron holding her back. “Be careful,” he said. “He doesn’t remember everything. I could give him a few memories, not much. The rest will have to wait, but, Clary—remember that he doesn’t remember. Don’t expect everything.”
She must have nodded, because he let her go, and then she was tearing across the lawn and into the tent, hurling herself at Simon so hard that he staggered back, almost falling over. He doesn’t have vampire strength anymore; go easy, go easy, her mind said, but the rest of her didn’t want to listen. She had her arms around him, and she was half-hugging him and half-sobbing into the front of his coat.
She was aware of Isabelle and Jace and Maia standing near them, and Jocelyn, too, hurrying over. Clary pulled back from Simon just enough to look up into his face. And it was definitely Simon. This close up she could see the freckles on his left cheekbone, the tiny scar on his lip from a soccer accident in eighth grade. “Simon,” she whispered, and then, “Do—you know me? Do you know who I am?”
He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. His hand was shaking slightly. “I . . .” He looked around. “It’s like a family reunion where I barely know anyone but everyone knows me,” he said. “It’s . . .”
“Overwhelming?” Clary asked. She tried to hide the chime of disappointment, deep down in her chest, that he didn’t recognize her. “It’s all right if you don’t know me. There’s time.”
He looked down at her. There was uncertainty and hope in his expression, and a slightly dazed look, as if he’d just woken up from a dream and wasn’t entirely sure where he was. Then he smiled. “I don’t remember everything,” he said. “Not yet. But I remember you.” He brought her hand up, touched the gold ring on her right index finger, the Fair Folk metal warm to the touch. “Clary,” he said. “You’re Clary. You’re my best friend.”