City of Ashes – Chapte 12: THE HOSTILITY OF DREAMS

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Chapte12: THE HOSTILITY OF DREAMS

SIMON WATCHED CLARY AS SHE LEANED AGAINST THE refrigerator, biting her lip like she always did when she was upset. Often he forgot how small she was, how light-boned and fragile, but at times like this—times when he wanted to put his arms around her—he was restrained by the thought that holding her too hard might hurt her, especially now when he no longer knew his own strength.

Jace, he knew, didn’t feel that way. Simon had watched with a sick feeling in his stomach, unable to look away, as Jace had taken Clary in his arms and kissed her with such force Simon had thought one or the both of them might shatter. He’d held her as if he wanted to crush her into himself, as if he could fold the two of them into one person.

Of course Clary was strong, stronger than Simon gave her credit for. She was a Shadowhunter, with all that entailed. But that didn’t matter; what they had between them was still as fragile as a flickering candle flame, as delicate as eggshell—and he knew that if it shattered, if he somehow let it break and be destroyed, something inside him would shatter too, something that could never be fixed.

“Simon. ” Her voice brought him back down to earth. “Simon, are you listening to me?”

“What? Yes, I am. Of course. ” He leaned against the sink, trying to look as if he’d been paying attention. The tap was dripping, which momentarily distracted him again—each silvery drop of water seemed to shimmer, tear-shaped and perfect, just before it fell. Vampire sight was a strange thing, he thought. His attention kept getting caught by the most ordinary things—the glitter of water, the flowering cracks in a bit of pavement, the sheen of oil on a road—as if he’d never seen them before.

“Simon!” Clary said again, exasperated. He realized she was holding something pink and metallic out to him. Her new cell phone. “I said I want you to call Jace. ”

That snapped him back to attention. “Me call him? He hates me. ”

“No, he doesn’t,” she said, though he could tell from the look in her eyes that she only half-believed that. “Anyway, I don’t want to talk to him. Please?”

“Fine. ” He took the phone from her and scrolled through to Jace’s number. “What do you want me to say?”

“Just tell him what happened. He’ll know what to do. ”

Jace picked up the phone on the third ring, sounding out of breath. “Clary,” he said, startling Simon until he realized that of course Clary’s name would have popped up on Jace’s phone. “Clary, are you all right?”

Simon hesitated. There was a tone in Jace’s voice he’d never heard before, an anxious concern devoid of sarcasm or defense. Was that how he spoke to Clary when they were alone? Simon glanced at her; she was watching him with wide green eyes, biting unselfconsciously on her right index fingernail.

“Clary. ” Jace again. “I thought you were avoiding me—”

A flash of irritation shot through Simon. You’re her brother, he wanted to shout down the phone line, that’s all. You don’t own her. You’ve got no right to sound so—so—

Brokenhearted. That was the word. Though he’d never thought of Jace as having a heart to break.

“You were right,” he said finally, his voice cold. “She still is. This is Simon. ”

There was such a long silence that Simon wondered if Jace had dropped the phone.

“Hello?”

“I’m here. ” Jace’s voice was crisp and cool as autumn leaves, all vulnerability gone. “If you’re calling me up just to chat, you must be lonelier than I thought. ”

“Believe me, I wouldn’t be calling you if I had a choice. I’m doing this because of Clary. ”

“Is she all right?” Jace’s voice was still crisp and cool but with an edge to it now, autumn leaves frosted with a sheen of hard ice. “If something’s happened to her—”

“Nothing’s happened to her. ” Simon fought to keep the anger out of his voice. As briefly as he could, he gave Jace a rundown of the night’s events and Maia’s resultant condition. Jace waited until he was done, then rapped out a set of short instructions. Simon listened in a daze and found himself nodding before realizing that of course Jace couldn’t see him. He began to speak and realized he was listening to silence; the other boy had hung up. Wordlessly, Simon flipped the phone shut and handed it to Clary. “He’s coming here. ”

She sagged against the sink. “Now?”

“Now. Magnus and Alec will be with him. ”

“Magnus?” she said dazedly, and then, “Oh, of course. Jace would have been at Magnus’s. I was thinking he was at the Institute, but of course he wouldn’t have been there. I—”

A harsh cry from the living room cut her off. Her eyes widened. Simon felt the hair on his neck stand up like wires. “It’s all right,” he said, as soothingly as he could. “Luke wouldn’t hurt Maia. ”

“He is hurting her. He has no choice,” Clary said. She was shaking her head. “That’s how it always is these days. There’s never any choice. ” Maia cried out again and Clary gripped the edge of the counter as if she were in pain herself. “I hate this!” she burst out. “I hate all of it! Always being scared, always being hunted, always wondering who’s going to get hurt next. I wish I could go back to the way things used to be!”

“But you can’t. None of us can,” Simon said. “At least you can still go out in daylight. ”

She turned to him, lips parted, her eyes wide and dark. “Simon, I didn’t mean—”

“I know you didn’t. ” He backed away, feeling as if there were something caught in his throat. “I’m going to go see how they’re doing. ” For a moment he thought she might follow him, but she let the kitchen door fall shut between them without protest.

All the lights were on in the living room. Maia lay gray-faced on the couch, the blanket he had brought pulled up to her chest. She was holding a wad of cloth against her right arm; the cloth was partly soaked through with blood. Her eyes were shut.

“Where’s Luke?” Simon said, then winced, wondering if his tone was too harsh, too demanding. She looked awful, her eyes sunken into gray hollows, her mouth tight with pain. Her eyes fluttered open and fixed on him.

“Simon,” she breathed. “Luke went outside to move the car off the lawn. He was worried about the neighbors. ”

Simon glanced toward the window. He could see the sweep of the headlights grazing the house as Luke swung the car into the driveway. “How about you?” he asked. “Did he get those things out of your arm?”

She nodded dully. “I’m just so tired,” she whispered through cracked lips. “And—thirsty. ”

“I’ll get you some water. ” There was a pitcher of water and a stack of glasses on the sideboard next to the dining room table. Simon poured a glass full of the tepid liquid and brought it to Maia. His hands were shaking slightly and some of the water spilled as she took the glass from him. She was lifting her head, about to say something—Thank you, probably—when their fingers touched and she jerked back so hard that the glass went flying. It hit the edge of the coffee table and shattered, splashing water across the polished wood floor.

“Maia? Are you all right?”

She shrank away from him, her shoulders pressed against the back of the sofa, her lips pulled away from bared teeth. Her eyes had gone a luminous yellow. A low growl came from her throat, the sound of a cornered dog at bay.

“Maia?” Simon said again, appalled.

“Vampire,” she snarled.

He felt his head rock back as if she had slapped him. “Maia—”

“I thought you were human. But you’re a monster. A bloodsucking leech. ”

“I am human—I mean, I was human. I got turned. A few days ago. ” His mind was swimming; he felt dizzy and sick. “Just like you were—”

“Don’t ever compare yourself to me!” She had struggled up into a sitting position, those ghastly yellow eyes still on him, scouring him with their disgust. “I’m still human, still alive—you’re a dead thing that feeds on blood. ”

“Animal blood—”

“Just because you can’t get human, or the Shadowhunters will burn you alive—”

“Maia,” he said, and her name in his mouth was half fury and half a plea; he took a step toward her and her hand whipped out, nails shooting out like talons, suddenly impossibly long. They raked his cheek, sending him staggering back, his hand clapped to his face. Blood coursed down his cheek, into his mouth. He tasted the salt of it and his stomach rumbled.

Maia was crouched on the sofa’s arm now, her knees drawn up, clawed fingers leaving deep gouges in the gray velveteen. A low growl poured from her throat and her ears were long and flat against her head. When she bared her teeth, they were sharply jagged—not needle-thin like his own, but strong, whitely pointed canines. She had dropped the bloody cloth that had wrapped her arm and he could see the punctures where the spines had gone in, the glimmer of blood, welling, spilling—

A sharp pain in his lower lip told him that his fangs had slid from their sheaths. Some part of him wanted to fight her, to wrestle her down and puncture her skin with his teeth, to gulp her hot blood. The rest of him felt as if it were screaming. He took a step back and then another, his hands out as if he could hold her back.

She tensed to spring, just as the door to the kitchen flew open and Clary burst into the room. She leaped onto the coffee table, landing lightly as a cat. She held something in her hand, something that flashed a bright white-silver when she raised her arm. Simon saw that it was a dagger as elegantly curved as a bird’s wing; a dagger that whipped past Maia’s hair, millimeters from her face, and sank to the hilt in gray velveteen. Maia tried to pull away and gasped; the blade had gone through her sleeve and pinned it to the sofa.

Clary yanked the blade back. It was one of Luke’s. The moment she’d cracked open the kitchen door and gotten a look at what was going on in the living room, she’d made a beeline for the personal weapons stash he kept in his office. Maia might be weakened and sick, but she’d looked mad enough to kill, and Clary didn’t doubt her abilities.

“What the hell is it with you?” As if from a distance, Clary heard herself speaking, and the steel in her own voice astonished her. “Werewolves, vampires—you’re both Downworlders. ”

“Werewolves don’t hurt people, or each other. Vampires are murderers. One killed a boy down at the Hunter’s Moon just the other day—”

“That wasn’t a vampire. ” Clary saw Maia blanch at the certainty in her voice. “And if you could stop blaming each other all the time for every bad thing that happens Downworld, maybe the Nephilim would start taking you seriously and actually do something about it. ” She turned to Simon. The vicious cuts across his cheek were already healing to silvery red lines. “Are you all right?”

“Yes. ” His voice was barely audible. She could see the hurt in his eyes, and for a moment she wrestled the urge to call Maia a number of unprintable names. “I’m fine. ”

Clary turned back to the werewolf girl. “You’re lucky he’s not as much of a bigot as you are, or I’d complain to the Clave and make the whole pack pay for your behavior. ” With a sharp tug, she yanked the knife loose, freeing Maia’s T-shirt.

Maia bristled. “You don’t get it. Vampires are what they are because they’re infected with demon energies—”

“So are lycanthropes!” Clary said. “I may not know much, but I do know that. ”

“But that’s the problem. The demon energies change us, make us different—you can call it a sickness or whatever you want, but the demons who created vampires and the demons who created werewolves came from species who were at war with each other. They hated each other, so it’s in our blood to hate each other too. We can’t help it. A werewolf and a vampire can never be friends because of it. ” She looked at Simon. Her eyes were bright with anger and something else. “You’ll start hating me soon enough,” she said. “You’ll hate Luke, too. You won’t be able to help it. ”

“Hate Luke?” Simon was ashen, but before Clary could reassure him, the front door banged open. She looked around, expecting Luke, but it wasn’t Luke. It was Jace. He was all in black, two seraph blades stuck through the belt that circled his narrow hips. Alec and Magnus were just behind him, Magnus in a long, swirling cape that looked as if it were decorated with bits of crushed glass.

Jace’s golden eyes, with the precision of a laser, fixed immediately on Clary. If she’d thought he might look apologetic, concerned, or even ashamed after all that had happened, she was wrong. All he looked was angry. “What,” he said, with a sharp and deliberate annoyance, “do you think you’re doing?”

Clary glanced down at herself. She was still perched on the coffee table, knife in hand. She fought the urge to hide it behind her back. “We had an incident. I took care of it. ”

“Really. ” Jace’s voice dripped sarcasm. “Do you even know how to use that knife, Clarissa? Without poking a hole in yourself or any innocent bystanders?”

“I didn’t hurt anyone,” Clary said between her teeth.

“She stabbed the couch,” said Maia in a dull voice, her eyes falling shut. Her cheeks were still flushed red with fever and rage, but the rest of her face was alarmingly pale.

Simon looked at her worriedly. “I think she’s getting worse. ”

Magnus cleared his throat. When Simon didn’t move, he said, “Get out of the way, mundane,” in a tone of immense annoyance. He flung his cloak back as he stalked across the room to where Maia lay on the couch. “I take it you’re my patient?” he inquired, gazing down at her through glitter-crusted lashes.

Maia stared up at him with unfocused eyes.

“I’m Magnus Bane,” he went on in a soothing tone, stretching out his ringed hands. Blue sparks had begun to dance between them like bioluminescence dancing in water. “I’m the warlock who’s here to cure you. Didn’t they tell you I was coming?”

“I know who you are, but…” Maia looked dazed. “You look so … so … shiny. ”

Alec made a noise that sounded very much like a laugh stifled by a cough as Magnus’s thin hands wove a shimmering blue curtain of magic around the werewolf girl.

Jace wasn’t laughing. “Where,” he asked, “is Luke?”

“He’s outside,” Simon said. “He was moving the truck off the lawn. ”

Jace and Alec exchanged a quick look.

“Funny,” Jace said. He didn’t sound amused. “I didn’t see him when we were coming up the stairs. ”

A thin tendril of panic unfurled like a leaf inside Clary’s chest. “Did you see his pickup?”

“I saw it,” Alec said. “It was in the driveway. The lights were off. ”

At that even Magnus, intent on Maia, looked up. Through the net of enchantment he had woven around himself and the werewolf girl, his features seemed blurred and indistinct, as if he were looking at them through water. “I don’t like it,” he said, his voice sounding hollow and far away. “Not after a Drevak attack. They roam in packs. ”

Jace’s hand was already reaching for one of his seraph blades. “I’ll go check on him. Alec, you stay here, keep the house secure. ”

Clary jumped down from the table. “I’m coming with you. ”

“No, you’re not. ” He headed for the door, not glancing behind him to see if she was following.

She put on a burst of speed and threw herself between him and the front door. “Stop. ”

For a moment she thought he was going to keep right on going even if he had to walk through her, but he paused, just inches from her, so close she could feel his breath stir her hair when he spoke. “I will knock you down if I have to, Clarissa. ”

“Stop calling me that. ”

“Clary,” he said in a low voice, and the sound of her name in his mouth was so intimate that a shudder ran up her spine. The gold in his eyes had turned hard, metallic. She wondered for a moment if he might actually spring at her, what it would be like if he struck her, knocked her down, grabbed her wrists even. Fighting to him was like sex to other people. The thought of him touching her like that brought the blood to her cheeks in a hot flood.

She spoke around the breathless catch in her voice. “He’s my uncle, not yours—”

A savage humor flashed across his face. “Any uncle of yours is an uncle of mine, darling sister,” he said, “and he’s no blood relation to either of us. ”

“Jace—”

“Besides, I haven’t got time to Mark you,” he said, lazy gold eyes raking her, “and all you’ve got is that knife. It won’t be much use if it’s demons we’re dealing with. ”

She jammed the knife into the wall beside the door, point-first, and was rewarded by the look of surprise on his face. “So what? You’ve got two seraph blades; give me one. ”

“Oh, for the love of—” It was Simon, hands jammed into his pockets, eyes burning like black coals in his white face. “I’ll go. ”

Clary said, “Simon, don’t—”

“At least I’m not wasting my time standing here flirting while we don’t know what’s happened to Luke. ” He gestured for her to move aside from the door.

Jace’s lips thinned. “We’ll all go. ” To Clary’s surprise he jerked a seraph blade out of his belt and handed it to her. “Take it. ”

“What’s its name?” she asked, moving away from the door.

“Nakir. ”

Clary had left her jacket in the kitchen, and the cold air sheeting off the East River cut through her thin shirt the moment she stepped out onto the dark porch. “Luke?” she called. “Luke!”

The truck was pulled up in the driveway, one of the doors hanging open. The roof light was on, shedding a faint glow. Jace frowned. “The keys are in the ignition. The car’s idling. ”

Simon shut the front door behind them. “How do you know that?”

“I can hear it. ” Jace looked at Simon speculatively. “And so could you if you tried, bloodsucker. ” He loped down the stairs, a faint chuckle drifting behind him on the wind.

“I think I liked ‘mundane’ better than ‘bloodsucker,’” Simon muttered.

“With Jace, you don’t really get to choose your insulting nickname. ” Clary felt in her jeans pocket until her fingers encountered cool, smooth stone. She raised the witchlight in her hand, its glow raying out between her fingers like the light of a tiny sun. “Come on. ”

Jace had been right; the truck was idling. Clary smelled the exhaust as they approached, her heart sinking. Luke would never have left the car door open and the keys in the ignition like that unless something had happened.

Jace was circling the truck, frowning. “Bring that witchlight closer. ” He knelt down in the grass, running his fingers lightly over it. From an inner pocket he drew an object Clary recognized: a smooth piece of metal, engraved all over with delicate runes. A Sensor. Jace ran it over the grass and it obliged with a series of loud clicking noises, like a Geiger counter gone berserk. “Definite demonic action. I’m picking up heavy traces. ”

“Could that be left over from the demon who attacked Maia?” Simon asked.

“The levels are too high. There’s been more than one demon here tonight. ” Jace rose to his feet, all business. “Maybe you two should go back inside. Send Alec out here. He’s dealt with this sort of thing before. ”

“Jace—” Clary was furious all over again. She broke off as something caught her eye. It was a flicker of movement, across the street, down by the cement rock-strewn bank of the East River. There was something about the movement—an angle as a gesture caught the light, something too quick, too elongated to be human…

Clary flung an arm out, pointing. “Look! By the water!”

Jace’s gaze followed hers and he sucked in his breath. Then he was running, and they were running after him, over the asphalt of Kent Street and onto the scrubby grass that bordered the waterfront. The witchlight swung in Clary’s hand as she ran, lighting bits of the riverbank with haphazard illumination: a patch of weeds there, a jut of broken concrete that nearly tripped her up, a heap of trash and broken glass—and then, as they came in clear sight of the lapping water, the crumpled figure of a man.

It was Luke—Clary saw that instantly, though the two dark, humped shapes crouching over him blocked his face from her view. He was on his back, so close to the water that she wondered for a panicked moment if the hunched creatures were holding him under, trying to drown him. Then they drew back, hissing through perfectly circular lipless mouths, and she saw that his head was resting on the gravelly riverbank. His face was slack and gray.

“Raum demons,” Jace whispered.

Simon’s eyes were wide. “Are those the same things that attacked Maia—?”

“No. These are much worse. ” Jace gestured at Simon and Clary to get behind him. “You two, stay back. ” He raised his seraph blade. “Israfiel!” he cried, and there was a sudden hot burst of light as it blazed up. Jace leaped forward, sweeping his weapon at the nearest of the demons. In the light of the seraph blade, the demon’s appearance was unpleasantly visible: dead-white, scaled skin, a black hole for a mouth, bulging, toadlike eyes, and arms that ended in tentacles where hands should have been. It lashed out now with those tentacles, whipping them toward Jace with incredible speed.

But Jace was faster. There was a nasty snick sort of noise as Israfiel sheared through the demon’s wrist and its tentacled appendage flew through the air. The tentacle tip came to rest at Clary’s feet, still twitching. It was gray-white, tipped with blood-red suckers. Inside each sucker was a cluster of tiny, needle-sharp teeth.

Simon made a gagging noise. Clary was inclined to agree. She kicked at the spasming clot of tentacles, sending it rolling across the dirty grass. When she looked up, she saw that Jace had knocked the injured demon down and they were tumbling together across the rocks at the river’s edge. The glow of Jace’s seraph blade sent elegant arcs of light shattering across the water as he writhed and twisted to avoid the creature’s remaining tentacles—not to mention the black blood spraying from its severed wrist. Clary hesitated—should she go to Luke or run to help Jace?—and in that moment of hesitation she heard Simon shout, “Clary, watch out!” and turned to see the second demon lunging straight at her.

There was no time to reach for the seraph blade at her belt, no time to remember and shout out its name. She threw her hands out and the demon struck her, knocking her backward. She went down with a cry, hitting her shoulder painfully against the uneven ground. Slick tentacles rasped against her skin. One braceleted her arm, squeezing painfully; the other whipped forward, wrapping her throat.

She grabbed frantically at her neck, trying to pull the lashing, flexible limb away from her windpipe. Already her lungs were aching. She kicked and twisted—

And suddenly the pressure was gone; the thing was off her. She sucked in a whistling breath and rolled to her knees. The demon was in a half crouch, staring at her with black, pupil-less eyes. Getting ready to lunge again? She grabbed for her blade, spat: “Nakir,” and a spear of light shot from her fingers. She’d never held an angel knife before. The hilt of it trembled and vibrated in her hand; it felt alive. “NAKIR!” she cried, staggering to her feet, the blade outstretched and pointed at the Raum demon.

To her surprise, the demon skittered backward, tentacles waving, almost as if it were—but this wasn’t possible—afraid of her. She saw Simon, running toward her, a length of what looked like steel pipe in his hand; behind him, Jace was getting to his knees. She couldn’t see the demon he’d been fighting; perhaps he’d killed it. As for the second Raum demon, its mouth was open and it was making a distressed, hooting noise, like a monstrous owl. Abruptly, it turned and, with tentacles waving, dashed toward the bank and leaped into the river. A gush of blackish water splashed upward, and then the demon was gone, vanishing beneath the river’s surface without even a telltale spray of bubbles to mark its place.

Jace reached her side just as it vanished. He was bent over, panting, smeared with black demon blood. “What—happened?” he demanded between gasps for breath.

“I don’t know,” Clary admitted. “It came at me—I tried to fight it off but it was too fast—and then it just left. Like it saw something that scared it. ”

“Are you all right?” It was Simon, skidding to a stop in front of her, not panting—he didn’t breathe anymore, she reminded herself—but anxious, clutching a thick length of pipe in his hand.

“Where did you get that?” Jace demanded.

“I wrenched it off the side of a telephone pole. ” Simon looked as if the recollection surprised him. “I guess you can do anything when your adrenaline is up. ”

“Or when you have the unholy strength of the damned,” Jace said.

“Oh, shut up, both of you,” snapped Clary, earning herself a martyred look from Simon and a leer from Jace. She pushed past the two of them, heading for the riverbank. “Or have you forgotten about Luke?”

Luke was still unconscious, but breathing. He was as pale as Maia had been, and his sleeve was torn across the shoulder. When Clary drew the blood-stiffened fabric away from the skin, working as gingerly as she could, she saw that across his shoulder was a cluster of circular red wounds where a tentacle had gripped him. Each was oozing a mixture of blood and blackish fluid. She sucked in her breath. “We have to get him inside. ”

Magnus was waiting for them on the front porch when Simon and Jace carried Luke, slumped between them, up the stairs. Having finished with Maia, Magnus had put her to bed in Luke’s room, so they set Luke down on the sofa where she’d been lying and let Magnus go to work on him.

“Will he be all right?” Clary demanded, hovering around the couch as Magnus summoned blue fire that shimmered between his hands.

“He’ll be fine. Raum poison is a little more complex than a Drevak sting, but nothing I can’t handle. ” Magnus motioned her away. “At least not if you get back and let me work. ”

Reluctantly, she sank down into an armchair. Jace and Alec were over by the window, heads close together. Jace was gesturing with his hands. She guessed he was explaining to Alec what had happened with the demons. Simon, looking uncomfortable, was leaning against the wall beside the kitchen door. He seemed lost in thought. Not wanting to look at Luke’s slack gray face and sunken eyes, Clary let her gaze rest on Simon, gauging the ways in which he looked both familiar and very alien. Without the glasses, his eyes seemed twice their size, and very dark, more black than brown. His skin was pale and smooth as white marble, traced with darker veins at the temples and the sharply angled cheekbones. Even his hair seemed darker, in stark contrast to the white of his skin. She remembered looking at the crowd in Raphael’s hotel, wondering why there didn’t seem to be any ugly or unattractive vampires. Maybe there was some rule about not making vampires out of the physically unappealing, she’d thought then, but now she wondered if the vampirism itself wasn’t transformative, smoothing out blotched skin, adding color and luster to eyes and hair. Perhaps it was an evolutionary advantage to the species. Good looks could only help vampires lure their prey.

She realized then that Simon was staring back at her, his dark eyes wide. Snapping out of her reverie, she turned back to see Magnus getting to his feet. The blue light was gone. Luke’s eyes were still closed but the ugly grayish tint had gone from his skin, and his breathing was deep and regular.

“He’s all right!” Clary exclaimed, and Alec, Jace, and Simon came hurrying over to have a look. Simon slid his hand into Clary’s, and she wrapped her fingers around his, glad for the reassurance.

“So he’ll live?” Simon said, as Magnus sank down onto the armrest of the nearest chair. He looked exhausted, drawn and bluish. “You’re sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Magnus said. “I’m the High Warlock of Brooklyn; I know what I’m doing. ” His eyes moved to Jace, who had just said something to Alec in a voice too low for any of the rest of them to hear. “Which reminds me,” Magnus went on, sounding stiff—and Clary had never heard him sound stiff before—“that I’m not exactly sure what it is you think you’re doing, calling on me every time one of you has so much as an ingrown toenail that needs clipping. As High Warlock, my time is valuable. There are plenty of lesser warlocks who’d be happy to do a job for you at a greatly reduced rate. ”

Clary blinked at him in surprise. “You’re charging us? But Luke is a friend!”

Magnus took a thin blue cigarette out of his shirt pocket. “Not a friend of mine,” he said. “I met him only on the few occasions when your mother brought him along when your memory spells were being refreshed. ” He passed his hand across the cigarette’s tip and it lit with a multicolored flame. “Did you think I was helping you out of the goodness of my heart? Or am I just the only warlock you happen to know?”

Jace had listened to this short speech with a smolder of fury sparking his amber eyes to gold. “No,” he said now, “but you are the only warlock we know who happens to be dating a friend of ours. ”

For a moment everyone stared at him—Alec in sheer horror, Magnus in astonished anger, and Clary and Simon in surprise. It was Alec who spoke first, his voice shaking. “Why would you say something like that?”

Jace looked baffled. “Something like what?”

“That I’m dating—that we’re—it’s not true,” Alec said, his voice rising and dropping several octaves as he fought to control it.

Jace looked at him steadily. “I didn’t say he was dating you,” he said, “but funny that you knew just what I meant, isn’t it?”

“We’re not dating,” Alec said again.

“Oh?” Magnus said. “So you’re just that friendly with everybody, is that it?”

“Magnus. ” Alec stared imploringly at the warlock. Magnus, however, it seemed, had had enough. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in silence, regarding the scene before him with slitted eyes.

Alec turned to Jace. “You don’t—” he began. “I mean, you couldn’t possibly think—”

Jace was shaking his head in puzzlement. “What I don’t get is you going to all these lengths to hide your relationship with Magnus from me when it’s not as if I would mind if you did tell me about it. ”

If he meant his words to be reassuring, it was clear that they weren’t. Alec went a pale gray color, and said nothing. Jace turned to Magnus. “Help me convince him,” he said, “that I really don’t care. ”

“Oh,” Magnus said quietly, “I think he believes you about that. ”

“Then I don’t…” Bewilderment was plain on Jace’s face, and for a moment Clary saw Magnus’s expression and knew he was strongly tempted to answer. Moved by a hasty pity for Alec, she pulled her hand out of Simon’s and said, “Jace, that’s enough. Let it alone. ”

“Let what alone?” Luke inquired. Clary whirled around to find him sitting up on the couch, wincing a little with pain but looking otherwise healthy enough.

“Luke!” She darted to the side of the sofa, considered hugging him, saw the way he was holding his shoulder, and decided against it. “Do you remember what happened?”

“Not really. ” Luke passed a hand across his face. “The last thing I remember was going out to the truck. Something hit my shoulder and jerked me sideways. I remember the most incredible pain—Anyway, I must have passed out after that. The next thing I knew I was listening to five people shouting. What was all that about, anyway?”

“Nothing,” chorused Clary, Simon, Alec, Magnus, and Jace, in surprising and probably never-to-be-repeated unison.

Despite his obvious exhaustion, Luke’s eyebrows shot up. But “I see,” was all he said.

Since Maia was still asleep in Luke’s bedroom, he announced that he’d be just fine on the couch. Clary tried to give him the bed in her room, but he refused to take it. Giving up, she headed into the narrow hallway to retrieve sheets and blankets from the linen closet. She was dragging a comforter down from a high shelf when she sensed someone behind her. Clary whirled, dropping the blanket she’d been holding into a soft pile at her feet.

It was Jace. “Sorry to startle you. ”

“It’s fine. ” She bent to retrieve the blanket.

“Actually, I’m not sorry,” he said. “That’s the most emotion I’ve seen from you in days. ”

“I haven’t seen you in days. ”

“And whose fault is that? I’ve called you. You don’t pick up the phone. And it’s not as if I could simply come see you. I’ve been in prison, in case you’ve forgotten. ”

“Not exactly prison. ” She tried to sound light as she straightened up. “You’ve got Magnus to keep you company. And Gilligan’s Island. ”

Jace suggested that the cast of Gilligan’s Island could do something anatomically unlikely with themselves.

Clary sighed. “Aren’t you supposed to be leaving with Magnus?”

His mouth twisted and she saw something fracture behind his eyes, a starburst of pain. “Can’t wait to get rid of me?”

“No. ” She hugged the blanket against herself and stared down at his hands, unable to meet his eyes. His slender fingers were scarred and beautiful, with the faint white band of paler skin still visible where he had worn the Morgenstern ring on his right index finger. The yearning to touch him was so bad she wanted to let go of the blankets and scream. “I mean, no, it’s not that. I don’t hate you, Jace. ”

“I don’t hate you, either. ”

She looked up at him, relieved. “I’m glad to hear that—”

“I wish I could hate you,” he said. His voice was light, his mouth curved in an unconcerned half smile, his eyes sick with misery. “I want to hate you. I try to hate you. It would be so much easier if I did hate you. Sometimes I think I do hate you and then I see you and I—”

Her hands had grown numb with their grip on the blanket. “And you what?”

“What do you think?” Jace shook his head. “Why should I tell you everything about how I feel when you never tell me anything? It’s like banging my head on a wall, except at least if I were banging my head on a wall, I’d be able to make myself stop. ”

Clary’s lips were trembling so violently that she found it hard to speak. “Do you think it’s easy for me?” she demanded. “Do you think—”

“Clary?” It was Simon, coming into the hallway with that new soundless grace of his, startling her so badly that she dropped the blanket again. She turned aside, but not fast enough to hide her expression from him, or the telltale shine in her eyes. “I see,” he said, after a long pause. “Sorry to interrupt. ” He vanished back into the living room, leaving Clary staring after him through a wavering lens of tears.

“Damn it. ” She turned on Jace. “What is it about you?” she said, with more savagery than she’d intended. “Why do you have to ruin everything?” She shoved the blanket at him hastily and darted out of the room after Simon.

He was already out the front door. She caught up to him on the porch, letting the front door bang shut behind her. “Simon! Where are you going?”

He turned around almost reluctantly. “Home. It’s late—I don’t want to get caught here with the sun coming up. ”

Since the sun wasn’t coming up for hours, this struck Clary as a feeble excuse. “You know you’re welcome to stay and sleep here during the day if you want to avoid your mom. You can sleep in my room—”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. ”

“Why not? I don’t understand why you’re going. ”

He smiled at her. It was a sad smile with something else underneath. “You know what the worst thing I can imagine is?”

She blinked at him. “No. ”

“Not trusting someone I love. ”

She put her hand on his sleeve. He didn’t move away, but he didn’t respond to her touch, either. “Do you mean—”

“Yes,” he said, knowing what she was about to ask. “I mean you. ”

“But you can trust me. ”

“I used to think I could,” he said. “But I get the feeling you’d rather pine over someone you can never possibly be with than try being with someone you can. ”

There was no point pretending. “Just give me time,” she said. “I just need some time to get over—to get over it all. ”

“You’re not going to tell me I’m wrong, are you?” he said. His eyes looked very wide and dark in the dim porch light. “Not this time. ”

“Not this time. I’m sorry. ”

“Don’t be. ” He turned away from her and her outstretched hand, heading for the porch steps. “At least it’s the truth. ”

For whatever that’s worth. She shoved her hands into her pockets, watching him as he walked away from her until he was swallowed up by the darkness.

It turned out that Magnus and Jace weren’t leaving after all; Magnus wanted to spend a few more hours at the house to make sure that Maia and Luke were recovering as expected. After a few minutes of awkward conversation with a bored Magnus while Jace, sitting on Luke’s piano bench and industriously studying some sheet music, ignored her, Clary decided to go to bed early.

But sleep didn’t come. She could hear Jace’s soft piano playing through the walls, but that wasn’t what was keeping her awake. She was thinking of Simon, leaving for a house that no longer felt like home to him, of the despair in Jace’s voice as he said I want to hate you, and of Magnus, not telling Jace the truth: that Alec did not want Jace to know about his relationship because he was still in love with him. She thought of the satisfaction it would have brought Magnus to say the words out loud, to acknowledge what the truth was, and the fact that he hadn’t said them—had let Alec go on lying and pretending—because that was what Alec wanted, and Magnus cared about Alec enough to give him that. Maybe it was true what the Seelie Queen had said, after all: Love made you a liar.

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