There were many certainties in life.
Like the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the warmth of the sun on a summer day. Sometimes, when Magnus Bane was particularly down, he would strut along Coney Island and watch the mundanes live their mundane lives completely oblivious to the dangers around them. They would hold hands, kiss, hug and laugh.
But it was the dead of winter and there was no sun or ocean near him. Instead, he walked through Chinatown with single-minded determination. He didn’t even stop to look at glittery flowers hanging from a wreath in a little corner shop. His feet took him where he’d never been before…where he never suspected he’d ever go.
The building he found himself staring at was nothing much. The red brick seemed to be fading, the fire ladders peeling. There was one narrow wood door with a row of dirty intercom buttons by it. It was entirely unremarkable, so normal it was almost painful for him to look at it.
He stepped up to the door, his cat-eyes scanning the names by the intercom. He knew not a single one and yet he was sure he had the right place. With his kind of influence, these bits of information were rarely wrong. But than he saw it, or rather felt it, as his hand hovered over apartment 9B. The last name Jin had been decorated with a green dragon that spit silver fire.
Magnus almost laughed at that.
He pressed the button, waited, and pressed it again. A minute passed by without an answer, than another and he began to wonder how long he would have to wait or if this trail was simply one that had gone cold and the person he was looking for was long gone.
He took a step backwards into the sidewalk and looked up. It wouldn’t be hard at all to break into the building and into the apartment itself. For warlocks like him, such acts were about as easy to accomplish as breathing. He rocked on his heels, wandering what the repercussions would be when he heard the soft jingle of keys.
“I know that look,” said a soft, warm voice from behind his right shoulder. “The one you get right before you do something wrong.”
“I imagine you are familiar with it because you catch it on your own face so often,” he replied breezly as he turned to face the newcomer.
She was almost entirely hidden beneath a heavy black coat. Pale brown hair peaked from under her hat while her small hands fumbled in the pocket of her coat. “A seemingly solid statement, I suppose,” she responded in the same tone. “Have you been waiting for long, Magnus?”
“I have only just arrived.” He swept her a look, silently pleading that she would look up and meet his eyes with hers. “Would you like a hand with those flowers?”
She was cradling a bouquet of roses to her chest with one arm as she pulled a ring of keys from her pocket with the other. “Oh, please. That would be wonderful.” She transferred the bouquet gently, like it was too precious to bend any of those sleek petals. She started to open the door. “I’m afraid the elevator is broken, Magnus. We’ll—“
His hand had already closed over her shoulder and like in a fading dream the world seemed to blur and reappear almost immediately. They were standing in front of 9B, nine floors above where they had been seconds before. She giggled that sweet, melodies giggle. “I do enjoy that trick,” she informed him with a grin. For a moment, she even looked her age.
“It’s very simple,” Magnus reminded her.
“Yet I prefer to go through life with as little intervention as possible,” she reminded him. Setting another key to her front door, she looked over her shoulder. “How did you know this was it?”
“Jin is the word for metal. And your pretty little jade dragon breathing silver fire only confirmed my theory. You always did leave the nicest clues, Tessa,” he chuckled as she pushed the door open and granted him entry into her home.
Tessa Gray lived in a very clean and serene space. Everywhere Magnus looked dark brown splotches added depth to a neutral balance of taupe, tan and vanilla tones. And yet everything was busy at the same time; the fabric on her overstuffed sofas and her curtains were as diverse in graphics as her modern and ancient Chinese rosewood furniture.
A minimalist approach was taken with carefully selected accessories — a potted orchid gracefully arching in front of a window, white mats that set off photographs in simple black and silver frames, an oval wooden tray that providing a resting spot for similarly shaped candleholders.
It was all about seriousness and understated vibrancy.
It was Tessa Gray.
“That explains the apartment, Magnus. But not how you found me,” she mused.
Turning, Magnus granted her a shrug. “Where else would you go? The busyness and noise of New York with the elegance of London and the familiarity of Jem…or I suppose, Chinatown.”
As she shed her heavy winter coat and pulled her scarf free of her neck, Tessa granted him a sad smile. “Am I that easily found, then?”
Magnus shook his head. “On the contrary. One must know you well to ever find you. This place is beautiful, Tessa. All the old and the new together.”
“Thank you.” She held her hand out of his jacket and Magnus immediately pulled it off. He could feel those pensive grey eyes studying him even as he turned his attention back to unbuttoning his star buttons. “Could I offer you some tea?”
She grinned. “Of course.”
He followed her through a doorway into a sparse, equally white kitchen. She set the kettle under the tap and then transferred it to the stove before she turned to her cabinets and produced an antique tea set in silver. She went about arranging saucers and cups, tiny spoons and a honey pot in a matching silver tray.
“I think I’m surprised, Magnus,” she said after a while.
He’d been watching her hands working, long fingers surely grasping everything with methodical precision. The kind only a person who’d done the same movement thousands of times before could do. “You think?”
“After our meeting in Alicante I thought it would be a while before I saw you again,” she told him. The kettle began to whistle and she quickly and quietly filled the teapot before dispersing tealeaves into the water. “Living room?”
Picking up the tray, she led the way again. He had to follow, smiling to himself when he came to the realization that aside from the colorful yellow lantern he could see from her window, he was the brightest thing in her home. “We’ve been terrible about keeping touch, you know.”
“You are busy man,” she began, “and I’m busy reading through Jane Austin’s novels.”
Tessa grinned. “They are some of my favorites. Sugar or honey?”
“Neither, thank you.” He accepted his cup and saucer and he couldn’t help but wonder when they, old, old friends, had returned to such polite and distant tones. “Tessa?”
She was lifting was teacup to her lips. Her hands froze. It was the first time their eyes had made direct contact.
Magnus remembered clearly a time when those eyes had stared at him with awe and curiousity. He remembered how wide they had been and how anything he did caused in her great burst of desire for more knowledge. She had always wanted to learn.
Now they were reserved, attentive, yet not questioning. “Yes?”
"I thought that after Alicante you would have stepped forward to meet the children.”
The words hung in the air.
Tessa’s hand was steady as she sipped her tea. Her lips were pressed tight, one rigid line on her face. “The children. That Lightwood boy is truly beautiful, Magnus, but young. So very young.”
“They are all very young. The young ones need the most guidance.” It wasn’t exactly what she’d been referring to, but Magnus didn’t want to discuss his own life when it was obvious that she was avoiding hers.
“I know from experience, Magnus, that no one can offer guidance quite like you. You made me what I am.”
Magnus had no doubt that he was responsible for many of the things Tessa had become. From a shape-shifter to a talented warlock, he’d taught Tessa everything that he knew. Everything he had been able to teach.
“And yet I can’t quite offer a glimpse into the past,” Magnus reminded her.
“Is that why you are here?” Tessa stood, beginning to pace across the room. He hadn’t paid much attention to her wardrobe until now. Gone were the corsets and petticoats of old and in were the sleek trousers and expensive knit sweaters. Resting against her bare throat was the clockwork angel that had once caused so much trouble and offered them salvation, too.
“Did they not even peak your curiosity?”
He was getting tired of her silly go-arounds. “Alec has two siblings—“ Magnus’s throat tightened, “he had two siblings. Isabelle and Max. Max was murderer by Valentine’s son.”
Tessa didn’t stop pacing, but she didn’t tell him to stop talking either so Magnus didn’t. At the mention of Valentine, her eyes narrowed, but she stayed silent.
“Isabelle is a fighter. A good one, but she’s pathless. Max’s death has…derailed her. And Alec is sensitive. He’s thoughtful and he’s gentle. It’s easy to forget that he can take care of himself. You never expect someone so quiet to be so—“
“Capable?” Tessa whispered.
“Does it sound familiar?” He inquired.
Tessa’s eyes flashed with anger. But she bit her tongue.
“Clarissa is learning. She has a long way to go, but she’s talented. Very talented.”
“Angel children usually are.”
Magnus was silent for a while. “And then there’s Jace. The Herondale name will die with him if you don’t do something.”
“If I don’t do something?” In anyone else, Magnus would have called that a shriek, but from Tessa it sounded more like…pure anger. “I fail to see why you think I can correct this.”
“Jace doesn’t see himself as a Herondale because he’s never met anyone who could tell him about his family. Imogen sacrificed herself for him and Amantis can’t bring herself to talk about Stephen without crying. If you could at least—“
“Tell him about Will?” The strangled words came from her parted lips. “You think that if I told him everything I know about Will that it will change his view of his family? It wouldn’t, Magnus. It would just convince him that he should let the name die.”
She set her teacup down so loudly on the tray that he feared she would break the beautiful bone china. Tessa was shaking.
“Loss has made you bitter, Tessa.”
She set her jaw. He’d never seen her like this. “You can see yourself out, Magnus.”
She stood, heading to a closed door. “Tessa, he’s so much like Will that it’s frightening. So reckless, so bold. He doesn’t understand self-preservation, yet he would do anything to save his friends. Or Clary. He loves her. Like Will loved you.”
She didn’t look at him. And when the door closed quietly, Magnus wondered if he’d said the right things.