Later that afternoon, Julian called a family meeting in the library. As soon as the last two people trickled in — he couldn’t help but notice Mark and Christina were holding hands — he clapped his hands together enthusiastically.
“How does everyone feel about a trip to New York?”
Diana perked up and came out of her office. “Do I get to come?”
Julian laughed. “Di, as much as we all love you, someone has to hold down the fort.”
Diana pretended to pout and sat back behind her desk. “You got it, chief. Anyway, you guys can handle yourselves. I’ve seen as much; I trust you.”
“When?” Ty asked, eager to see Kit but not letting it show.
“Well, can everyone pack what they need in an hour? Julian asked, “Clary doesn’t have all day, you know.”
Exactly an hour later, everyone was packed and raring to go on this seemingly out-of-the-blue vacation. Julian had helped Tavvy get his things together, of course, but he was still surprised to find that his youngest brother didn’t want to take much with him. Then again, eight-year-old Shadowhunters didn’t have many options for toys. Even if they did, Julian doubted Tavvy would’ve been interested. For one thing, he quite understandably looked up to his older siblings, counting down the days until he turned thirteen, when he could start training. For another, an unintended side effect of war was that it hardened even the most innocent.
Julian sent the text message to Kit to tell Clary they were ready. Not even ten minutes later, the Blackthorns — and Christina, of course, who was basically a Blackthorn by default at this point — stepped into the swirling vortex that would take them to New York City.
No matter how many portals a Shadowhunter went through, it never got easier. Even if they managed to stay on their feet, nausea was still common. Even better if you didn’t immediately make a beeline for the bushes to hurl. Tavvy was the first domino to fall. He’d been hanging onto Julian, per usual these days, but he lost his grip and couldn’t get his footing. Julian tried to catch him, to no avail. So really, there was no way avoiding tripping over each other. After the portal closed, there was silence, followed by a faint whimper at the bottom of the human fumble on the grass.
“Guys,” Julian said. “We gotta move. I don’t think Tavvy can breathe.”
So they got to their feet as fast as they could with any display of dignity.
“Ah, that’s what all the noise was! I figured,” Kit laughed, making his way towards them. “Need help?” he asked Tavvy, who was still trying to catch his breath on the ground.
Tavvy’s eyes lit up. “KIT!” He said, hugging the older boy around the waist.
“Hey little buddy, I missed you too!” Kit ruffled Tavvy’s hair and looked up to see someone else walking towards him.
“Hi,” Ty said staring at the ground in front of him, too nervous to meet Kit’s eyes.
“Hey Ty!” Kit said cheerfully. “How have you been?”
Before Ty could even formulate a response, a high pitched squeal came from nearby.
“CLARY!” Emma ran towards her friend who was more like an older sister, stopping just shy of knocking the other girl over.
“Hey Emma!” Clary said, enthusiastically embracing her friend.
“I’ve missed you, if you haven’t noticed,” Emma said sheepishly when the hug broke. “Sorry.”
Clary laughed. “Don’t sweat it girly! The feeling’s definitely mutual.”
“Hey! Julian!” Simon Lovelace called from the patio doorway, Jace right on his heels.
“Simon! By the Angel, I haven’t seen you since, well, we can talk about that. Hey Jace!”
“So, Blackthorn, how did you want to pull off this surprise?” Jace asked, not in the mood for pleasantries.
“Oh,” Julian said, not expecting to get down to business so soon. This was supposed to be a vacation too, after all. “Well, Cristina helped me with a photo collage, but I’m not quite ready yet. I figured Emma and I would explore the city a bit.”
“That’s absolutely fine,” Jace winked at him. “Just let us know when you need us.”
“Wait,” Simon said, taking a seat between the other two on the couch. “Is there something going on here that I don’t know about?”
“Clary didn’t tell you?” Jace asked. “I thought you two shared everything. You’re parabatai for crying out loud!
“Even parabatai have their secrets. I thought you of all people would know that, Herondale.”
“Is that supposed to be a challenge, Lovelace? Because it’s a weird way to go about it.”
“Ahem,” Julian said. Once he had their attention, he explained the situation to Simon.
“So you did find a way to selectively break the curse.” Simon said when Julian finished. “I’m impressed bro!”
“Seriously though, anything you need, the Shadowhunters of New York City are at your disposal!” Simon said dramatically. Jace punched him in the arm. “Ouch! What the Angel was that for?”
“So you could stop being a Drama Queen,” Jace suppressed a laugh. So what’s the plan for tonight?” he asked, turning back to Julian.
Julian looked down at his rumbling stomach, then back at the others.
“I think we could use some dinner.”
“Alright then!” Jace said, clapping his hands. “Let’s get you guys settled in your rooms and then figure out where we’re going.”
Emma set her surprisingly very heavy duffle bag down in the doorway and let herself fall back onto the bed. “Aaah, comfy. Let the vacay commence!”
Clary laughed. “Glad you like it. It’s nice to use the other rooms for a change. Usually it’s just the five of us, plus Magnus and the kids.”
“I LOVE it! But first, I think we have some catching up to do,” Emma said, patting space on the bed next to her.
Clary walked over and plopped down. “Okay, what do you want to know that we haven’t discussed through text messages?”
“Hmm,” Emma pretended to think for a bit. “Oh yeah! What’s up with you and Jace? Have you changed your mind? Because I think it’s obvious you’re not dead yet.”
Clary got quiet. Emma was afraid she’d hit a nerve and started to apologize, but Clary cut her off.
“He hasn’t asked again,” Clary said. “I like to think it’s because we’ve both been busy running the Institute, but I know it’s probably in the back of his mind just as much — if not more than — it’s in mine. I hope I haven’t turned him away from the idea completely. I mean, I love him more than anything in the world. Actually being his wife would be amazing. Sometimes I wonder why we haven’t made it official yet. It seems like we’ve been together forever.”
“As someone who is younger than you, I’m probably not the best person to turn to for dating advice,” Emma began. “But I do know this. Jace loves you as much as you love him, and no one can change that or take it away from you. Seeing you guys together is like seeing a match made in heaven. You’ll figure it out.”
“Thanks Em,” Clary said, hugging her. She was about to ask about Julian, but she bit her tongue as she remembered. Emma didn’t know the real reason she was here. Clary couldn’t ruin the surprise. So she fished around her brain for something else to talk about.
Jace saved her from an awkward silence, knocking softly on the door. “How about Taki’s for dinner?”
Taki’s was a little hole in the wall a few blocks from the Institute. It was easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. It really hadn’t changed much over the years, Clary mused. If anything, it had gotten dingier. And that was saying something, because it wasn’t very clean to begin with. They headed for the back of the restaurant where there was a booth big enough for all of them.
Clary sat down between Simon and Emma. “Know what you want?” she asked the other girl.
“Honestly, I was just gonna follow your lead,” Emma admitted, not pretending to browse the menu anymore.
Clary laughed. “Okay mini-me.”
“What?” Emma asked. “I’ve looked up to you since we first met; I thought you knew this.”
“Oh, I could tell,” Clary said with a smile. “I think I’ll introduce you to my favorite then. You really can’t go wrong with the cinnamon roll pancakes.”
“Wait, you could tell? And here I was thinking I was being discreet about it. I’m sorry,” Emma said, mortified.
“Well, you could talk to Jace like it was nothing, but you were really shy around me. Usually it’s Jace who leaves girls speechless. I can’t blame them; I’m just glad he’s mine. And I mean, it’s totally fine that you look up to me. I’m actually … I don’t know, is honored the right word? But you didn’t need to be skittish at all.” Clary said.
“Well, I’ve definitely gotten over most of it now that we’re actually friends. Then again, sometimes I still can’t believe I’m friends with you.” Emma laughed.
The only thing that kept Dru from slipping into a blissful food coma was the latest Stephen King novel. She was nearly finished with it when she heard a knock on her door and looked up, startled. It was Isabelle Lightwood. Or was it Lightwood-Lovelace these days? Ah, it didn’t matter; Dru was excited either way. She looked up to Isabelle the way Emma looked up to Clary.
“Hey girl,” Izzy said.
“Hi,” Dru tried to keep her voice normal so Isabelle wouldn’t realize she was internally fangirling.
“So … word on the street is you like horror movies.” Isabelle was actually quite out of her own comfort zone at the moment. Other than her late brother Max and her nephews, she’d always had a harder time relating to younger people. She didn’t know what to do or how to interact with them.
“I do indeed.” Dru internally face-palmed. Indeed? Really? Where the Angel did that come from? It definitely wasn’t part of Dru’s regular vocabulary.
“Well, why don’t you go in my room and pick one out while I pop some popcorn and see what other junk food I can find?
“I’m definitely down for that! Where’s your room again?”
“Down this hall, take a left, go to the end of the next hall. It’ll be on your right,” Isabelle supplied helpfully.
Izzy’s room was a horror enthusiast’s dream. Not to mention everything Drusilla Blackthorn had ever wanted. The walls were a dark, blood red. All the furniture was black so glossy that it shined. Oh, and there were gargoyles perched on the bed’s footboard. Dru walked over to the bookcase, standing on tiptoe to see all the movies. Then, she found it. The mother of all horror movies: Halloween.
“Jackpot!” Dru whispered to herself. Another movie in the franchise was due out this year, so it was perfect timing too. She met Izzy back in the living room.
“Ah, that’s a classic! You want to put it in?” Izzy plopped down the couch, her arms full of snacks. So Dru stood on tiptoe again — she really hated being short — and put the movie in the movie in the DVD player, grabbing a handful of popcorn as she sat next to Izzy.
“This is one of my favorites,” Dru said.
“Mine too,” Izzy replied. “Like I said, it’s classic.”
About halfway through the movie, Dru realized she still had some popcorn in her hand. She wasn’t going to eat it, so she attempted to throw it back in the bowl. But it flew in Isabelle’s face instead.
Shit Dru thought.
Izzy turned toward her friend. “Is this a food fight?”
“I didn’t mean —“
“Too late. It’s already on!” Izzy said, throwing a Twizzler back at Dru.
“Ow! That actually hurt!” Dru exclaimed.
“Sorry not sorry!” Izzy teased.
Dru ripped open a pack of M&Ms, this time purposely aiming for Izzy’s face. Somehow, she was able to catch everything single one of them with her mouth. Isabelle paused the movie while she chewed and swallowed.
“You know,” she told Drusilla, “If you want, we can spar some time and I’ll show you my whip.”
“I would love that!” Dru tried not to jump up and down.
“Good!” Isabelle smiled.
The next morning, Emma heard what sounded like sonic booms pounding on her door.
“Jules?” she said groggily.
Wake up sleepyhead, we’ve got some sights to see!” Julian was way too excited for eight in the morning.
“Alright, alright!” Emma groaned. She honestly didn’t understand morning people. “Just give me half an hour.”
“Someone woke up on the cranky side of the bed.”
“Oh, just save it. I’m not even awake right now.” Emma grabbed her stuff, brushing shoulders with Julian on her way to the bathroom.
Half an hour later than Emma said she would need, she shouldered her backpack and she and Julian left the Institute by way of the front door.
“Where to?” she asked, looking at Julian.
Julian, always the prepared one — having to grow up too fast will do that to you, Emma knew all too well — shifted his own backpack and dug his phone out of its usual place in his back pocket.
“I mean, I had a few ideas,” Julian pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head so he could see his phone. “But all we really need is a map.”
“You mean you’re letting me take the lead?” Emma was more than a little suspicious. Having to be responsible for his siblings for so long had understandably made her best friend a bit of a control freak.
“Yeah — Carstairs. I’ll follow.”
Carstairs? Now Emma knew something was up. The only people who ever used her last name were other Shadowhunters, and occasionally her Uncle Jem when he and his wife, Tessa, got around to visiting. They were the only two Carstairs left, after all.
Phew, Julian thought to himself, that was a close one. But now he knew that she knew something was up; hardly anyone called her Carstairs. Still, it was better than him accidentally blurting out a pet name, which is what would’ve happened if he hadn’t caught himself at the last second. He’d just have to play it cool and hope it didn’t happen again.
“Hmmm,” Emma clicked her tongue, looking at the Maps app on her own phone. “Do you wanna just go to Taki’s for breakfast and figure out a plan there?”
“Sure,” Julian said. “Like I said, you lead, I’ll follow.”
So they walked the few blocks to the restaurant, quietly seating themselves in a two-person booth and browsing their menus.
“You know,” Emma said matter-of-factly, “I think I’m just gonna stick with those pancakes I had last time. They were really good.”
“And because you love Clary,” Julian teased.
“Shut up, Jules!” Emma tried to swat at Julian from across the table, which he dodged.
Before either of them could say anything else, a waitress came to take their drink order.
“I’ll have black coffee please,” Julian said.
“Do you have hot chocolate?” Emma asked.
“Did you want whipped cream with that?” the waitress asked.
“Do you like your hot bean water?” Emma asked Julian when the waitress brought their drinks.
“Hey, it’s not that bad! Plus, it’s actually healthy; lots of antioxidants.
Emma still grimaced. “At least cream would give it some flavor. What would you know about antioxidants anyway?”
“You know I read the news,” Julian said.
“Yeah, but where?” Emma raised her eyebrows. “Jules, you of all people would know we’re not allowed to have a computer, let alone use the internet. The Clave would Strip all of us if they found out. Tavvy doesn’t even have Marks yet. Who knows what they would do to him? An educated guess tells me they wouldn’t go easy on him.”
Julian leaned back into his side of the booth and crossed his arms. “You know, I kind of like it when you’re the one throwing the rule book at me for a change.”
“I just care, that’s all,” Emma replied. “Your siblings are just as much mine as they are yours.”
“And this is why we’re best friends,” Julian reached across the table for her hand, catching himself again. He’d been about to say And this is why I love you.
After they ate — Emma had the cinnamon pancakes, (Why not stick with something she knew she liked?), Julian had chicken and waffles — Julian took out one of the tourist brochures he’d picked up and spread it out on the table so they could find attractions.
“Do you have any idea of what you might want to do?” Julian asked Emma.
“Not really,” she replied. “I’m down for anything!”
“Okay cool. I really want to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; we’ll start there so we make sure we get to it.”
“Of course you want to go there,” Emma smiled at him. “It would be weird if you didn’t. Maybe you’ll get some inspiration for your next piece. We’re really good at getting away with things, aren’t we?”
“Yeah, we are,” Julian chuckled. “Sometimes I’m surprised we haven’t been caught yet. Then again, if you think about it, it is kind of weird that we’re not supposed to have any hobbies. Life would get boring without other things to do when we’re not fighting demons, don’t you think?”
“That makes sense. But I don’t think I have a hobby, honestly.”
“Really? Somehow I don’t believe that.”
“Maybe I should rephrase it then: I don’t have a single hobby because I borrow from the rest of the family.” Emma winked.
“Now that I believe!” Julian laughed. “Shall we get going?”
“We shall.” Emma stood up, walked around to Julian’s side of the table and reached for his hand with a smile. Julian took her hand, got to his feet, tossed some cash on the table for the check, and together they walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As they walked around the museum, hand in hand, perusing the art, Julian couldn’t help but feel that this was the way things were supposed to be. He and Emma, together. They’d always been an inseparable team, but things got complicated after they became parabatai. They’d made the decision when they were young; neither of them wanted to be separated from the other. They’d been too young to understand that feelings can change, that there was a possibility that they could be anything more than best friends.
Now here they were, Emma unaware the curse was broken, and Julian about to take one of the biggest risks of his life. Proposing to Emma was more intimidating than facing down any demon. He had a feeling she’d say yes, but he couldn’t be sure. Emma was the one who wanted to try and make their partnership as parabatai work, after all. However, knowing what Cristina had told him, Julian was pretty sure that Emma had only been trying to keep her distance because Jem and Tessa had told her about the curse during their last visit.
After stuffing themselves with the greasiest, most delicious street food ever — and that was saying something, being that they were from Los Angeles — Emma finally decided she wanted to check out the Museum of Natural History. Neither she nor Julian were surprised to find Ty and Kit there; the two had been practically attached at the hip since Livvy’s life was cut too short. Julian was glad Ty had found someone to step into Livvy’s shoes, even though no one would ever be able to replace his twin sister.
“Hey Emma, look up,” Kit winked.
There, on the second floor balcony, was a face Emma would recognize anywhere. It was Jem. She smiled as her “uncle” leapt over the railing and landed with the all the grace and stealth of a panther pursuing its prey. Once a Shadowhunter, always a Shadowhunter. Tessa was right behind him.
“Well, well, well. Emma Cordelia Carstairs. What a surprise.” Jem smiled.
“Fancy seeing you here, Jem!,” Emma said as they embraced.
“Hi Emma!” Tessa smiled at her over Jem’s shoulder.
“Hey Tessa! How are you?”
“Um,” Julian spoke up, “I hate to break up the family reunion, but Jem, can I talk to you?”
“Sure lad! What do you need?”
“Can you walk with me?”
Once they were outside the museum, Julian told Jem everything.
“Julian, you hardly need my blessing. I’m happy for both of you. Emma found herself a good young man,” Jem said when Julian was finished. “You must really love her, if you were willing to find a way to selectively break the curse. I’m impressed.”
“Ha, that’s what my friend Simon said when I told him. And I do love her; I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it. But I’m not asking for your blessing so much as, well, I need your help.”
“Absolutely! Anything you need.”
“I was thinking you might escort Emma to the party. It’s a surprise; she thinks this is just a vacation.”
“I’d be honored, Julian.”
“Thank you!” Julian could hardly contain himself. It was happening. It was really happening. He stepped away to call Jace.
Twenty minutes later, Jace showed up with Clary on the back of his motorcycle.
“I told Clary she didn’t need to come, but she insisted. She hardly ever listens to me.” Jace said.
“Oh, please! When was the last time you went anywhere without me?” Clary countered as she climbed off the motorcycle, kissing Jace on the cheek. “What’s up Julian?”
“I called in Emma’s Uncle Jem to help us wrap up this little surprise of ours, that’s what’s up!”
“Well, James Carstairs is my given name,” Jem laughed, stepping forward to greet Clary and then Jace.
“So, wait a sec,” Jace paused to count on his fingers. “If I remember correctly, you were best friends with my three-times great-grandfather.”
“Yeah, something like that,” Jem smiled. “And, we were parabatai.”
“Clary, do you still have mundane connections?” Julian asked.
“I’ll always have a few,” Clary said. “What are you thinking?”
“Do you know anybody who will pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top-and-friendship let us borrow the Empire State Building for a night?”
“Say no more,” Clary winked at Julian and stepped away from the group to make the phone call.
She called one of her friends from high school, Josh. He worked there some nights, or at least he did before they lost touch. She hoped she wasn’t wrong now.
“Hey Josh! Yes, it’s Clary. You still work at the Empire State Building? Perfect! I was wondering if you might be able to pull a few strings for a little party I’m having with some friends. Julian!” she turned to face the others and waved Julian over.
“Yeah, Clary?” Julian said as he jogged over to her.
“When did you want to have the party?”
“Oh, um …” Julian thought for a moment. “Cristina was almost done with the posters before we left; she’s probably finished them by now, so all we really need to do is set up. How about tomorrow?
“Josh,” Clary turned back to her phone call, “How about tomorrow night after hours? Thanks man! You’re the best.”
Clary hung up the phone and turned to Julian. “Okay, so my friend Josh is gonna leave a key under the mat so we can get in the building after visiting hours tomorrow.”
“That sounds good!” Julian said. “What are we going to tell the others though? I don’t want to ruin the surprise or anything.”
“Just tell them we’re gonna have a party before you guys go back home.”
“Alright!” Julian pulled out his finger guns and gave Clary his best Matthew McConaughey impression.
Clary laughed. “See you soon.”
“Cristina, these look great. Thank you so much!” Julian said as he helped Cristina set up the posters for the party.
“Thanks Julian! The pleasure’s mine. And, if you think about it, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t help two of my best friends get engaged?”
“Touché,” Julian stepped back and looked at the final product. “I think we’re ready! You want to call the others?”
Before Julian knew it, the others had arrived. He saw Jace, Clary, and Kit first, and he walked over to embrace them.
“Thank you so much,” he said softly. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
“Don’t mention it bro,” Kit smiled. “Anything for family.”
Of course, Ty was right on Kit’s heels. “Hey Julian,” he said, turning to his brother. “What exactly are we doing here?” Ty didn’t really do surprises. He liked to know exactly what was expected of him in any given situation.
“Ty, all I need you to do is relax. Go enjoy yourself with Kit.” Julian winked.
The Lightwoods arrived next, Isabelle on Simon’s arm — or Simon on Isabelle’s arm; you could look at it either way — followed by her brother Alec, his partner Magnus, and their sons, Max and Rafe. Julian was somewhat surprised to see the latter group of Lightwoods; he’d hardly seen them at all during the trip. Still, it was nice. And Tavvy finally had some friends who were his age.
Last but most definitely not least, Tessa, Jem, and Emma made their entrance. Tessa was on Jem’s right arm, and Emma was on his left. And Emma, as always, looked beautiful. She was in a very flattering green dress that actually brought out the green of her eyes. Tessa went to sit with others while Jem and Emma continued toward him.
“What the Angel is going on?” Emma asked, hugging her best friend.
“Just take a walk with me, and try not to overthink anything.” Julian said with a smile. Jem went to sit with Tessa, and Julian slowly guided Emma past the posters. Emma wasn’t the best at Spanish — she had Cristina for that — but as they rounded the corner, she thought she recognized the word for “to marry”: casarse. Was he asking what she thought he was asking?
Her suspicions were confirmed when they reached the last poster, where Mark and Cristina were waiting. She and Cristina hugged, and Cristina whispered in her friend’s ear: “Just go with it”.
Emma met Julian over by the railing, where he was looking at the sunset.
“Nice night, eh?” Julian said.
“Yeah, it’s beautiful. Maybe this should be your next painting.”
“I think it might be. But first, I have something I’d like to ask you,” Julian said, facing Emma and taking a small box out of his jacket. “Emma, we’ve known each other forever, and you’ve always been my best friend. You always will be. But now …”
Julian trailed off, and his fingers were shaking so much that he had trouble opening the box. Inside was the Blackthorn family ring on a silver chain. Emma gasped.
“Hold on, now,” she said, throwing a hand up between them and taking a step back. “First off, wow! Just wow. And what about the curse?”
“Selectively broken!” Julian told her, grinning mischievously.
“Are you serious? Emma threw her arms around him.
“Completely,” Julian leaned down for a kiss, “and I don’t think you’re objecting to this, either.”
“Of course I’m not! Julian, we’ve always been a team, and it’s always been you. I couldn’t imagine my life without you.”
“I’ll help you put this on and then we’ll go show ourselves.” Julian went behind Emma and put the necklace on her. Everyone’s probably wondering what we’re doing.”
“Yeah, let’s go celebrate.” Emma said, taking Julian’s hand without a care in the care in the world.
As they walked back around the corner, all of their friends started cheering; Emma knew some of them had to be in on this whole surprise. Julian couldn’t have pulled this off all by himself. Normally, she would be mad at whoever had kept her in the dark. But tonight, she wasn’t. Everything just felt so magical; there wasn’t another word for it. She couldn’t help herself; she pulled her boyfriend in for another, definitely longer, kiss.