Not forever, Tessa thought. They had a long, long time. A lifetime. His lifetime. And she would lose him one day, as she had lost Will, and her heart would break, as it had broken before. And she would put herself back together and go on, because the memory of having had Jem would be better than never having had him at all.
And yet here he was, looking at Jem Carstairs, a boy so fragile-looking that he appeared to be made out of glass, with the hardness of his expression slowly dissolving into tentative uncertainty. "You are not really dying," he said, the oddest tone to his voice, "are you?"
Jem nodded. "So they tell me."
"I am sorry," Will said.
"No", Jem said softly. He drew his jacket aside and took a knife from the belt at his waist. "Don't be ordinary like that. Don't say you're sorry. Say you'll train with me."
He held the knife to Will, hilt first. Charlotte held her breath, afraid to move. She felt as if she were watching something very important happen, though she could not have said what.
Will reached out and took the knife, his eyes never leaving Jem's face. His fingers brushed the other boy's as he took the weapon from him. It was the first time, Charlotte thought that she had ever seen him touch any other person willingly.
"I'll train with you," he said.
I have mastered many things in my life. Navigating the streets of London, speaking French without an accent, dancing the quadrille, the Japanese art of flower arranging, lying at charades, concealing a highly intoxicated state, delighting young women with my charms..."
"Alas," he went on, "no one has ever actually referred to me as 'the master,' or 'the magister,' either. More's the pity...
Despite everything, I can't bear the thought of this ring being lost forever, any more then I can bear the thought of leaving you forever. And though I have no choice about the one, at least I can choose about the other. I'm leaving you our family ring because you have as much right to it as I do.
I'm writing this watching the sun come up. You're asleep, dreams moving behind your restless eyelids. I wish I knew what you were thinking. I wish I could slip into your head and see the world the way you do. I wish I could see myself the way you do. But maybe I dont want to see that. Maybe it would make me feel even more than I already do that I'm perpetuating some kind of Great Lie on you, and I couldn't stand that.
I belong to you. You could do anything you wanted with me and I would let you. You could ask anything of me and I'd break myself trying to make you happy. My heart tells me this is the best and greatest feeling I have ever had. But my mind knows the difference between wanting what you can't have and wanting what you shouldn't want. And I shouldn't want you.
All night I've watched you sleeping, watched the moonlight come and go, casting its shadows across your face in black and white. I've never seen anything more beautiful. I think of the life we could have had if things were different, a life where this night is not a singular event, separate from everything else that's real, but every night. But things aren't different, and I can't look at you without feeling like I've tricked you into loving me.
The truth no one is willing to say out loud is that no one has a shot against Valentine but me. I can get close to him like no one else can. I can pretend I want to join him and he'll believe me, up until that last moment where I end it all, one way or another. I have something of Sebastian's; I can track him to where my father's hiding, and that's what I'm going to do. So I lied to you last night. I said I just wanted one night with you. But I want every night with you. And that's why I have to slip out of your window now, like a coward. Because if I had to tell you this to your face, I couldn't make myself go.
I don't blame you if you hate me, I wish you would. As long as I can still dream, I will dream of you.
So you don't ever get angry at him?"
Jem laughed out loud. "I would hardly say that. Sometimes I want to strangle him."
"How on earth do you prevent yourself?"
"I go to my favorite place in London," said Jem, "and I stand and look at the water, and I think about the continuity of life, and how the river rolls on, oblivious of the petty upsets in our lives."
Tessa was fascinated. "Does that work?"
"Not really, but after that I think about how I could kill him while he slept if I really wanted to, and then I feel better.
You speak of sacrifice, but it is not my sacrifice I offer. It is yours I ask of you," he went on. "I can offer you my life, but it is a short life; I can offer you my heart, though I have no idea how many more beats it shall sustain. But I love you enough to hope that you wil not care that I am being selfish in trying to make the rest of my life - whatever length - happy, by spending it with you. I want to be married to you, Tessa. I want it more than I have ever wanted anything else in my life." He looked up at her through the veil of silvery hair that fell over his eyes. "That is," he said shyly, "if you love me, too.
Will’s voice dropped. “Everyone makes mistakes, Jem.”
“Yes,” said Jem. “You just make more of them than most people.”
“You hurt everyone,” said Jem. “Everyone whose life you touch.”
“Not you,” Will whispered. “I hurt everyone but you. I never meant to
Jem put his hands up, pressing his palms against his eyes. “Will —”
“You can’t never forgive me,” Will said in disbelief, hearing the
panic tinging his own voice. “I’d be —”
“Alone?” Jem lowered his hand, but he was smiling now, crookedly. “And
whose fault is that?
He knew Alec enough by now to know the conflicting impulses that warred in him. He was conscientious, the kind of person who believed that the others around him were so much more important than he was, who already believed he was letting everybody down. And he was honest, the kind of person that was naturally open about all he felt and wanted. Alec's virtues had made a trap for him; these two good qualities had collided painfully. He felt he could not be honest without disappointing everyone he loved. It was a hideous conundrum for him. It was as if the world had been designed to make him unhappy.
Life is a book, and there are a thousand pages I have not read. I would read them together with you, as many as I can, before I die -"
She put her hand against his chest, just over his heart, and felt its beat against her palm, a unique time signature that was all its own. "I only wish you would not speak of dying," she said. "But even for that, yes, I know how you are with your words, and, Will- I love all of them. Every word you say. The silly ones, the mad ones, the beautiful ones, and the ones that are only for me. I love them, and I love you.
Sometimes," Jem said, "our lives can change so fast that the change outpaces our minds and hearts. It's those times, I think, when our lives have altered but we still long for the time before everything was altered-- that is when we feel the greatest pain. I can tell you, though, from experience, you grow accustomed to it. You learn to live your new life, and you can't imagine, or even really remember, how things were before.
And then there was you. You changed everything I believed in. You know that line from Dante that I quoted to you in the park? 'L'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle'?"
Her lips curled a little at the sides as she looked up at him. "I still don't speak Italian."
"It's a bit of the very last verse from Paradiso - Dante's Paradise. 'My will and my desire were turned by love, the love that moves the sun and the other stars.' Dante was trying to explain faith, I think, as an overpowering love, and maybe it's blasphemous, but that's how I think of the way I love you. You came into my life and suddenly I had one truth to hold on to - that I loved you, and you loved me.
Do you remember,” he said, “when we first met and I told you I was ninety percent sure putting a rune on you wouldn’t kill you—and you slapped me in the face and told me it was for the other ten percent?” Clary nodded.
“I always figured a demon would kill me,” he said. “A rogue Downworlder. A battle. But I realized then that I just might die if I didn’t get to kiss you, and soon.” Clary licked her dry lips. “Well, you did,” she said. “Kiss me, I mean.”
He reached up and took a curl of her hair between his fingers. He was close enough that she could feel the warmth of his body, smell his soap and skin and hair.
“Not enough,” he said, letting her hair slip through his fingers. “If I kiss you all day every day for the rest of my life, it won’t be enough.
Of course you can have a true Shadowhunter name," Will said. "You can have mine."
Tessa stared at him, all black and white against the black-and-white snow and stone. "Your name?"
Will took a step toward her, till they stood face-to-face. Then he reached to take her hand and slid off her glove, which he put into his pocket. He held her bare hand in his, his fingers curved around hers. His hand was warm and callused, and his touch made her shiver. His eyes were steady and blue; they were everything that Will was: true and tender, sharp and witty, loving and kind. "Marry me," he said. "Marry me, Tess. Marry me and be called Tessa Herondale. Or be Tessa Gray, or be whatever you wish to call yourself, but marry me and stay with me and never leave me, for I cannot bear another day of my life to go by that does not have you in it.
If Jem dies, I cannot be with Tessa,” said Will. “Because it will be as if I were waiting for him to die, or took some joy in his death, if it let me have her. And I will not be that person. I will not profit from his death. So he must live.” He lowered his arm, his sleeve bloody. “It is the only way any of this can ever mean anything. Otherwise it is only —”
“Pointless, needless suffering and pain? I don’t suppose it would help if I told you that was the way life is. The good suffer, the evil flourish, and all that is mortal passes away,” Magnus said.
“I want more than that,” said Will. “You made me want more than that. You showed me I was only ever cursed because I had chosen to believe myself so. You told me there was possibility, meaning. And now you would turn your back on what you created.
Pulvis et umbra sumus. It's a line from Horace. 'We are dust and shadows'. Appropriate, don't you think?" Will said. "It's not a long life, killing demons; one tends to die young, and then they burn your body - dust to dust, in the literal sense. And then we vanish into the shadows of history, nary a mark on the page of a mundane book to remind the world that once we existed at all.