"I was just wondering why you pretend to be mean all the time, I know you're not but no one will believe me," Max was looking down at the ground, a frown present on his young face.
Clary felt her chest tighten, she couldn't lie to him, she wouldn't, "okay Max, I'll tell you the truth but how about we go sit first."
Max's face lit up immediately, "Kay, where do we go?"
Clary pointed to the swing and Max took off running, "hurry up," he called out as he neared the swing.
Clary shook her head smiling as she followed behind him.
Max made himself comfortable in the swing while Clary sat on a platform covered in pillows, "this place is so cool, thanks for bringing me here."
Clary genuinely laughed, "You're welcome Max, you act as if you've never seen a garden and swing before."
Max shook his head, "no that's not what I mean, this place is special to you, you're sharing it with me so thanks."
Clary's breath left her as she stared back at Max, how was it that he was so young but so wise at the same time, he knew exactly what to say to make her walls simply fall away. Never had she wanted to share her life with anyone, not since her mother and Luke, Max was different though, he was someone she could see sharing her life with, a little brother she could love. Love Clary, how can you love someone when you don't even love yourself, besides when Max finds out your secrets he will hate you, just like everyone else; Jace Wayland hates you and you actually saved his life.
"Did you even hear me," Clary was pulled away from her thoughts by Max's voice.
"Um, sorry Max, I was just thinking," Clary replied.
"What about," Max was staring at Clary intently waiting for her answer.
Clary sighed, "You want the truth, right."
Max's went wide, "well I don't want a lie."
Clary chuckled lightly, what was she expecting him to say, of course he wanted the truth, "I was just thinking that you are the first person I've cared about in a very long time," Clary looked up slowly fearing Max's reaction.
Max stood from the swing walking over to where Clary was sitting, he sat down beside her, his big brown eyes were staring directly at her, "I care about you too."
Clary felt a lump form in her throat, had anyone besides her mother and Luke ever cared for her, no of course not, she was a Morgenstern, people did not care or love her, they feared her, hated her, some even wanted to kill her.
"Does it get lonely?"
Clary's green eyes shot up meeting Max's stare, "no," she bit the inside of her cheek, Clary couldn't lie to Max, "at first I was very lonely, then I got used to it."
Max pinched his eyebrows together, "no one should ever be alone, where's your family?"
This was it, the moment of truth, Clary knew that the moment she told Max about who she really was, he would hate her just like the rest of his family, "I will not lie to you Max, any questions you ask me I will answer truthfully," Clary saw Max nodding so she continued, "choose your questions wisely Max, my answers may be ones you don't necessarily want to hear."
Clary watched Max's reaction; the young boy seemed to feel important, sitting up straighter. He moved his hands to his glasses, removing them to clean the lenses with the hem of his shirt, "my dad told me once that we can't judge someone by their past but by what they are now," once Max finished cleaning his glasses he placed them back on his face, straightening them before removing his hands, folding them in his lap, "you may lie but you're not bad and my teachers have all told me I'm an excellent judge of character."
Clary nodded, she took a deep breath, this would be the very first time she had ever told anyone about her past, about who she really was, "I am a Morgenstern, Seraphina Morgenstern, my father is Valentine Morgenstern, my mother was Jocelyn Morgenstern and I have an older brother Johnathon Morgenstern," Clary could see that her hands were shaky, she had to keep going if she stopped she would never be able to finish, "my mother, Jocelyn ran away with me when I was almost fifteen years old, she built this place with her friend Luke, she wanted this place to help others, the Institute would be a safe haven for people like us, people that needed to start over hiding from the bad people in their lives, we were going to live here together, be a real family, the three of us, my mother had changed her name to Jocelyn Fray, I became Clary Fray."
Max gasped, pointing a finger toward her, "I knew it, I did, you're Clary."
"Yes, I'm Clary, I hope you're not disappointed," Clary felt her heart racing; she feared that Max would say he was disappointed.
The young boy frowned shaking his head, "why would I be, I'm glad that I was right."
Clary bit her bottom lip, "no, are you angry that I'm Clary."
Max smiled, a big toothy smile, "nope, you're my friend, besides I like you better as a Clary, why do you want people to call you Seraphina?"
Clary felt that tightening in her chest again, Max liked her, he wasn't angry, not yet anyway, "I go by Seraphina Morgenstern when I feel threatened, you could call her my alter ego, Seraphina's intimidating where Clary's not."
Max opened and closed his mouth several times before he finally spoke, "is it like you have two different people inside your body, hey, are you like the Hulk?"
Clary smiled, Max seemed to be taking all of her secrets quite well, "I guess you could compare me to the Hulk, not that my body changes into a big green monster or anything."
Max giggled, "That'd be cool if you could," Max sighed, "I like Clary better than Seraphina but Seraphina's not so bad, I like you no matter who you are."
"Thank you Max, that means a lot to me," Clary could not believe how easy their conversation was going.
"You're welcome, so if your mom and her friend built this place, why are you alone, where are they?" Max asked.
Clary closed her eyes tightly, "not long after we moved in, it was my fifteenth birthday to be exact, my mother and Luke left the Institute, they told me they had to run a few errands, I figured it was to get me a present or something since they wouldn't let me go, they left early that morning," Clary felt her mouth go dry, her heart began to race.
"Clary, I'm here, right here beside you," Clary opened her eyes finding Max sitting right beside her, his hands cautiously reaching over for hers.
Clary nodded, allowing Max to intertwine their hands together, "You can talk when you're ready Clary, I've got all the time in the world," Max's voice was gentle as he spoke.
Tears silently streamed down Clary's face, knowing that if she stopped now she would never be able to continue, "they left that morning, my mother kissed me on the cheek, telling me how much she loved me, Luke picked me up, embracing me in a bear hug, he told me happy birthday and then they left, that was the last time I saw them," Clary could see her mother and Luke so clearly, they had been happy but their happiness would not last, "as night fell I knew something was wrong, I wanted nothing more than to go out and look for them but my mother had warned me never to leave the Institute, so I didn't, I just waited and waited, it was a little over a week when I found out about my mother and Luke," Clary's breathing was not coming quick enough, she could see their dead images flashing in her head, "they shouldn't have left, not for cake, some stupid present," Clary ripped her hands from Max's and began pulling at her hair, "my fault, all my fault, I'm the reason their dead."
"Clary, please stop," somewhere deep inside Clary could hear Max's frantic voice begging her to stop but it was already too late, she was too far gone.
Max had tears streaming down his face as he waited impatiently for the elevator doors to open, he knew Clary would be mad with him but he had no other choice, she needed help and she needed it now. Before the elevators had even opened all the way, Max was already jumping inside, pressing the numbers on the elevator quickly.
"Come on, Come on," Max muttered, watching the elevator doors close, as the elevator began it descent Max began to hit his head on the back of the elevator wall.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid, I shouldn't have made her tell me those things," Max was so caught up in reprimanding himself that he did not even notice that the elevator stopped and the doors were beginning to open.
Jace had all he could take of the Institute's infirmary; he didn't care where he went or what he did, he just had to get out of there, now. He was leaning against the wall when the elevator doors finally opened. Jace went to step in the elevator, stopping in his tracks when he found that Max was in the elevator and he was crying.
"Max, what happened, what's wrong," Jace was kneeling down beside Max, his eyes searching the young boy's body for any cuts or bruises.
Max shook his head, his tear coming faster.
"Please Max, please tell me what's wrong," Jace's voice was pleading, Max was not one to cry, if Max was crying then there was something wrong, terribly wrong.
Max looked at Jace, tears still falling from his big brown eyes, "she needs help," Max took his finger pointing upward.
"Who Max, who needs help," Jace was already standing, pressing the button on the elevator.
"Clar-, no I mean Seraphina, just please hurry she needs help," Max was pulling at Jace's arm as if it would make them get to her faster.
"It's okay Max, Seraphina's going to be fine, I promise," Jace held Max close to him, rubbing the small boy's back.
When the elevator reached the fourth floor and the door opened, Max took off running leaving Jace to run after him.
"Max, just wait," Jace called out, he saw Max running toward the swing.
As Jace approached he heard Max crying, "Please Clary stop, please, you don't have to talk anymore just please stop hurting yourself."
Jace's eyes landed on Max immediately, the little boy was on his knees rocking back and forth weeping, "Max," Jace whispered as he began to approach the boy.
When Jace reached Max's side his eyes were immediately drawn to the small form lying on the ground, his breath left him as he fell to his knees. There on the ground before him lay a broken Seraphina Morgenstern; her body was shaking uncontrollably, the ground beneath her body stained from tears, in her tiny balled up fist she held handfuls of bright red curly hair that she had pulled out by the roots.
"Max, I need you to do something for me," Jace was trying to keep his voice steady as he spoke to Max.
"No, she's my friend, I'm not leaving her, I'm all she has," Max wiped the tears from his face, refusing to look at Jace.
Jace swallowed, it was obvious that Max cared deeply for the Morgenstern girl, Jace knew that in order to help the girl he had to get Max to leave, "She has me too."
Max head turned toward Jace, studying him closely, "I don't know if I believe you," Max spoke in a stern voice.
Jace couldn't help but feel a little hurt by Max's words, he had never been untrustworthy, "Max, you know I wouldn't lie to you, now in order for me to help her I need you to go to your room, stay there, don't tell anyone about this, please Max."
Max eyed Jace suspiciously before glancing back down at Clary one more time, "okay," he sighed in defeat, "but you promise to come get me when she's alright."
Jace nodded, "I promise, now go, remember straight to your room, if anyone sees you don't tell them about this."
Max was already moving toward the elevators, "I know, I know."
When Jace could no longer see Max he turned his attention back to Seraphina, silent sobs still shook her tiny body.