Chapter 16: FALLING ANGELS
HODGE WAS ENRAGED. HE HAD BEEN STANDING IN THE FOYER, Isabelle and Alec lurking behind him, when Clary and the boys limped in, filthy and covered in blood, and had immediately launched into a lecture that would have done Clary’s mother proud. He didn’t forget to include the part about lying to him about where they were going—which Jace, apparently, had—or the part about never trusting Jace again, and even added extra embellishments, like some bits about breaking the Law, getting tossed out of the Clave, and bringing shame on the proud and ancient name of Wayland. Winding down, he fixed Jace with a glare. “You’ve endangered other people with your willfulness. This is one incident I will not allow you to shrug off!”
“I wasn’t planning to,” Jace said. “I can’t shrug anything off. My shoulder’s dislocated. ”
“If only I thought physical pain was actually a deterrent for you,” said Hodge with grim fury. “But you’ll just spend the next few days in the infirmary with Alec and Isabelle fussing around you. You’ll probably even enjoy it. ”
Hodge had been two-thirds right; Jace and Simon both wound up in the infirmary, but only Isabelle was fussing over either of them when Clary—who’d gone to clean herself up—came in a few hours later. Hodge had fixed the swelling bruise on her arm, and twenty minutes in the shower had gotten most of the ground-in asphalt out of her skin, but she still felt raw and aching.
Alec, sitting on the windowsill and looking like a thundercloud, scowled as the door shut behind her. “Oh. It’s you. ”
She ignored him. “Hodge says he’s on his way and he hopes you can both manage to cling to your flickering sparks of life until he gets here,” she told Simon and Jace. “Or something like that. ”
“I wish he’d hurry,” Jace said crossly. He was sitting up in bed against a pair of fluffed white pillows, still wearing his filthy clothes.
“Why? Does it hurt?” Clary asked.
“No. I have a high pain threshold. In fact, it’s less of a threshold and more of a large and tastefully decorated foyer. But I do get easily bored. ” He squinted at her. “Do you remember back at the hotel when you promised that if we lived, you’d get dressed up in a nurse’s outfit and give me a sponge bath?”
“Actually, I think you misheard,” Clary said. “It was Simon who promised you the sponge bath. ”
Jace looked involuntarily over at Simon, who smiled at him widely. “As soon as I’m back on my feet, handsome. ”
“I knew we should have left you a rat,” said Jace.
Clary laughed and went over to Simon, who seemed acutely uncomfortable surrounded by dozens of pillows and with blankets heaped over his legs.
Clary sat down on the edge of Simon’s bed. “How are you feeling?”
“Like someone massaged me with a cheese grater,” Simon said, wincing as he pulled his legs up. “I broke a bone in my foot. It was so swollen, Isabelle had to cut my shoe off. ”
“Glad she’s taking good care of you. ” Clary let a small amount of acid creep into her voice.
Simon leaned forward, not taking his eyes off Clary. “I want to talk to you. ”
Clary nodded in half-reluctant agreement. “I’m going to my room. Come and see me after Hodge fixes you up, okay?”
“Sure. ” To her surprise he leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. It was a butterfly kiss, a quick brush of lips on skin, but as she pulled away, she knew she was blushing. Probably, she thought, standing up, because of the way everyone else was staring at them.
Out in the hallway, she touched her cheek in bemusement. A peck on the cheek didn’t mean much, but it was so out of character for Simon. Maybe he was trying to make a point to Isabelle? Men, Clary thought, they were so baffling. And Jace, doing his wounded-prince routine. She’d left before he could start complaining about the thread count of the sheets.
She turned around in surprise. Alec was loping down the hall after her, hurrying to catch up. He stopped when she did. “I need to talk to you. ”
She looked at him in surprise. “What about?”
He hesitated. With his pale skin and dark blue eyes he was as striking as his sister, but unlike Isabelle he did everything he could to downplay his looks. The frayed sweaters and the hair that looked as if he had cut it himself in the dark were only part of it. He looked uncomfortable in his own skin. “I think you should leave. Go home,” he said.
She’d known he didn’t like her, but it still felt like a slap. “Alec, the last time I was home, it was infested with Forsaken. And Raveners. With fangs. Nobody wants to go home more than I do, but—”
“You must have relatives you can stay with?” There was a tinge of desperation in his voice.
“No. Besides, Hodge wants me to stay,” she said shortly.
“He can’t possibly. I mean, not after what you’ve done—”
“What I’ve done?”
He swallowed hard. “You almost got Jace killed. ”
“I almost—What are you talking about?”
“Running off after your friend like that—do you know how much danger you put him in? Do you know—”
“Him? You mean Jace?” Clary cut him off in midsentence. “For your information the whole thing was his idea. He asked Magnus where the lair was. He went to the church to get weapons. If I hadn’t come with him, he would have gone anyway. ”
“You don’t understand,” Alec said. “You don’t know him. I know him. He thinks he has to save the world; he’d be glad to kill himself trying. Sometimes I think he even wants to die, but that doesn’t mean you should encourage him to do it. ”
“I don’t get it,” she said. “Jace is a Nephilim. This is what you do, you rescue people, you kill demons, you put yourselves in danger. How was last night any different?”
Alec’s control shattered. “Because he left me behind !” he shouted. “Normally I’d be with him, covering him, watching his back, keeping him safe. But you—you’re dead weight, a mundane. ” He spit the word out as if it were an obscenity.
“No,” Clary said. “I’m not. I’m Nephilim—just like you. ”
His lip curled up at the corner. “Maybe,” he said. “But with no training, no nothing, you’re still not much use, are you? Your mother brought you up in the mundane world, and that’s where you belong. Not here, making Jace act like—like he isn’t one of us. Making him break his oath to the Clave, making him break the Law—”
“News flash,” Clary snapped. “I don’t make Jace do anything. He does what he wants. You ought to know that. ”
He looked at her as if she were an especially disgusting kind of demon he’d never seen before. “You mundanes are completely selfish, aren’t you? Have you no idea what he’s done for you, what kind of personal risks he’s taken? I’m not just talking about his safety. He could lose everything. He already lost his father and mother; do you want to make sure he loses the family he’s got left as well?”
Clary recoiled. Rage rose up in her like a black wave—rage against Alec, because he was partly right, and rage against everything and everyone else: against the icy road that had taken her father away from her before she was born, against Simon for nearly getting himself killed, against Jace for being a martyr and for not caring whether he lived or died. Against Luke for pretending he cared about her when it was all a lie. And against her mother for not being the boring, normal, haphazard mother she’d always pretended to be, but someone else entirely: someone heroic and spectacular and brave whom Clary didn’t know at all. Someone who wasn’t there now, when Clary needed her desperately.
“You should talk about selfish,” she hissed, so viciously that he took a step back. “You couldn’t care less about anyone in this world except yourself, Alec Lightwood. No wonder you’ve never killed a single demon, because you’re too afraid. ”
Alec looked stunned. “Who told you that?”
He looked as if she’d slapped him. “He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t say that. ”
“He did. ” She could see how she was hurting him, and it made her glad. Someone else ought to be in pain for a change. “You can rant all you want about honor and honesty and how mundanes don’t have any of either, but if you were honest, you’d admit this tantrum is just because you’re in love with him. It doesn’t have anything to do with—”
Alec moved, blindingly fast. A sharp crack resounded through her head. He had shoved her against the wall so hard that the back of her skull had struck the wood paneling. His face was inches from hers, eyes huge and black. “Don’t you ever,” he whispered, mouth a blanched line, “ever, say anything like that to him or I’ll kill you. I swear on the Angel, I’ll kill you. ”
The pain in her arms where he gripped her was intense. Against her will she gasped. He blinked—as if he were waking up out of a dream—and let her go, jerking his hands away like her skin had burned him. Without a word he spun and hurried back toward the infirmary. He was lurching as he walked, like someone drunk or dizzy.
Clary rubbed her sore arms, staring after him, appalled at what she’d done. Good job, Clary. Now you’ve really made him hate you.
She should have fallen instantly into bed, but despite her exhaustion, sleep remained out of reach. Eventually she pulled her sketchpad out of her backpack and started drawing, propping the tablet against her knees. Idle scribbles at first—a detail from the crumbling facade of the vampire hotel: a fanged gargoyle with bulging eyes. An empty street, a single lamppost casting a yellow pool of illumination, a shadowy figure poised at the edge of the light. She drew Raphael in his bloody white shirt with the scar of the cross on his throat. And then she drew Jace standing on the roof, looking down at the ten-story drop below. Not afraid, but as if the fall challenged him—as if there were no empty space he could not fill with his belief in his own invincibility. As in her dream, she drew him with wings that curved out behind his shoulders in an arc like the wings of the angel statue in the Bone City.
She tried to draw her mother, last. She had told Jace she didn’t feel any different after reading the Gray Book, and it was mostly true. Now, though, as she tried to visualize her mother’s face, she realized there was one thing that was different in her memories of Jocelyn: She could see her mother’s scars, the tiny white marks that covered her back and shoulders as if she had been standing in a snowfall.
It hurt, knowing that the way she’d always seen her mother, all her life, had been a lie. She slid the sketchpad under her pillow, eyes burning.
There was a tap on the door—soft, hesitant. She scrubbed hastily at her eyes. “Come in. ”
It was Simon. She hadn’t really focused on what a mess he was. He hadn’t showered, and his clothes were torn and stained, his hair tangled. He hesitated in the doorway, oddly formal.
She scooted sideways, making room for him on the bed. There was nothing strange about sitting in bed with Simon; they’d slept over at each other’s houses for years, made tents and forts with the blankets when they were small, stayed up reading comics when they were older.
“You found your glasses,” she said. One lens was cracked.
“They were in my pocket. They came through better than I would have expected. I’ll have to write a nice note to LensCrafters. ” He settled beside her gingerly.
“Did Hodge fix you up?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I still feel like I’ve been worked over with a tire iron, but nothing’s broken—not anymore. ” He turned to look at her. His eyes behind the ruined glasses were the eyes she remembered: dark and serious, ringed by the kind of lashes boys didn’t care about and girls would kill for. “Clary, that you came for me—that you would risk all that—”
“Don’t. ” She held up a hand awkwardly. “You would have done it for me. ”
“Of course,” he said, without arrogance or pretension, “but I always thought that was the way things were, with us. You know. ”
She scrambled around to face him, puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” said Simon, as if he were surprised to find himself explaining something that should have been obvious, “I’ve always been the one who needed you more than you needed me. ”
“That’s not true. ” Clary was appalled.
“It is,” Simon said with the same unnerving calm. “You’ve never seemed to really need anyone, Clary. You’ve always been so … contained. All you’ve ever needed is your pencils and your imaginary worlds. So many times I’ve had to say things six, seven times before you’d even respond, you were so far away. And then you’d turn to me and smile that funny smile, and I’d know you’d forgotten all about me and just remembered—but I was never mad at you. Half of your attention is better than all of anyone else’s. ”
She tried to catch at his hand, but got his wrist. She could feel the pulse under his skin. “I only ever loved three people in my life,” she said. “My mom and Luke, and you. And I’ve lost all of them except you. Don’t ever imagine you aren’t important to me—don’t even think it. ”
“My mom says you only need three people you can rely on in order to achieve self-actualization,” said Simon. His tone was light but his voice cracked halfway through “actualization. ” “She says you seem pretty self-actualized. ”
Clary smiled at him ruefully. “Did your mom have any other words of wisdom about me?”
“Yeah. ” He returned her smile with one just as crooked. “But I’m not going to tell you what they were. ”
“No fair keeping secrets!”
“Who ever said the world was fair?”
In the end, they lay against each other as they had when they were children: shoulder to shoulder, Clary’s leg thrown over Simon’s. Her toes came to just below his knee. Flat on their backs, they stared up at the ceiling as they talked, a habit left over from the time when Clary’s ceiling had been covered with paste-on glow-in-the-dark stars. Where Jace had smelled like soap and limes, Simon smelled like someone who’d been rolling around the parking lot of a supermarket, but Clary didn’t mind.
“The weird thing is”—simon wound a curl of her hair around his finger—“I was joking with Isabelle about vampires right before it all happened. Just trying to get her to laugh, you know? ‘What freaks out Jewish vampires? Silver stars of David? Chopped liver? Checks for eighteen dollars?’”
Simon looked gratified. “Isabelle didn’t laugh. ”
Clary thought of a number of things she wanted to say, and didn’t say them. “I’m not sure that’s Isabelle’s kind of humor. ”
Simon cut a sideways glance at her under his lashes. “Is she sleeping with Jace?”
Clary’s squeak of surprise turned into a cough. She glared at him. “Ew, no. They’re practically related. They wouldn’t do that. ” She paused. “I don’t think so, anyway. ”
Simon shrugged. “Not like I care,” he said firmly.
“Sure you don’t. ”
“I don’t!” He rolled onto his side. “You know, initially I thought Isabelle seemed, I don’t know—cool. Exciting. Different. Then, at the party, I realized she was actually crazy. ”
Clary slit her eyes at him. “Did she tell you to drink the blue cocktail?”
He shook his head. “That was all me. I saw you go off with Jace and Alec, and I don’t know … You looked so different from usual. You seemed so different. I couldn’t help thinking you’d changed already, and this new world of yours would leave me out. I wanted to do something that would make me more a part of it. So when the little green guy came by with the tray of drinks …”
Clary groaned. “You’re an idiot. ”
“I’ve never claimed otherwise. ”
“Sorry. Was it awful?”
“Being a rat? No. First it was disorienting. I was suddenly at ankle-level with everyone. I thought I’d drunk a shrinking potion, but I couldn’t figure out why I had this urge to chew used gum wrappers. ”
Clary giggled. “No. I mean the vampire hotel—was that awful?”
Something flickered behind his eyes. He looked away. “No. I don’t really remember much between the party and landing in the parking lot. ”
“Probably better that way. ”
He started to say something but was arrested mid-yawn. The light in the room had slowly faded. Disentangling herself from Simon and the bedsheets, Clary got up and pushed aside the window curtains. Outside, the city was bathed in the reddish glow of sunset. The silvery roof of the Chrysler Building, fifty blocks downtown, glowed like a poker left too long in the fire. “The sun’s setting. Maybe we should look for some dinner. ”
There was no response. Turning, she saw that Simon was asleep, his arms folded under his head, legs sprawled. She sighed, went over to the bed, plucked his glasses off, and set them on the night table. She couldn’t count the times he’d fallen asleep with them on and been woken by the sound of cracking lenses.
Now where am I going to sleep? Not that she minded sharing a bed with Simon, but he hadn’t exactly left her any room. She considered poking him awake, but he looked so peaceful. Besides, she wasn’t sleepy. She was just reaching for the sketchpad under the pillow when a knock sounded on the door.
She padded barefoot across the room and turned the doorknob quietly. It was Jace. Clean, in jeans and a gray shirt, his washed hair a halo of damp gold. The bruises on his face were already fading from purple to faint gray, and his hands were behind his back.
“Were you asleep?” he asked. There was no contrition in his voice, only curiosity.
“No. ” Clary stepped out into the hallway, pulling the door shut behind her. “Why would you think that?”
He eyed her baby-blue cotton tank top and sleep shorts set. “No reason. ”
“I was in bed most of the day,” she said, which was technically true. Seeing him, her jitter level had shot up about a thousand percent, but she saw no reason to share that information. “What about you? Aren’t you exhausted?”
He shook his head. “Much like the postal service, demon hunters never sleep. ‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these—’”
“You’d be in major trouble if gloom of night did stay you,” she pointed out.
He grinned. Unlike his hair, his teeth weren’t perfect. An upper incisor was slightly, endearingly chipped.
She gripped her elbows. It was chilly in the hallway and she could feel goose bumps starting up her arms. “What are you doing here, anyway?”
“‘Here’ as in your bedroom or ‘here’ as in the great spiritual question of our purpose here on this planet? If you’re asking whether it’s all just a cosmic coincidence or there’s a greater metaethical purpose to life, well, that’s a puzzler for the ages. I mean, simple ontological reductionism is clearly a fallacious argument, but—”
“I’m going back to bed. ” Clary reached for the doorknob.
He slid nimbly between her and the door. “I’m here,” he said, “because Hodge reminded me it was your birthday. ”
Clary exhaled in exasperation. “Not until tomorrow. ”
“That’s no reason not to start celebrating now. ”
She eyed him. “You’re avoiding Alec and Isabelle. ”
He nodded. “Both of them are trying to pick fights with me. ”
“For the same reason?”
“I couldn’t tell. ” He glanced furtively up and down the hallway. “Hodge, too. Everyone wants to talk to me. Except you. I bet you don’t want to talk to me. ”
“No,” said Clary. “I want to eat. I’m starving. ”
He brought his hand out from behind his back. In it was a slightly crumpled paper bag. “I sneaked some food from the kitchen when Isabelle wasn’t looking. ”
Clary grinned. “A picnic? It’s a little late for Central Park, don’t you think? It’s full of—”
He waved a hand. “Faeries. I know. ”
“I was going to say muggers,” said Clary. “Though I pity the mugger who goes after you. ”
“That is a wise attitude, and I commend you for it,” said Jace, looking gratified. “But I wasn’t thinking of Central Park. How about the greenhouse?”
“Now? At night? Won’t it be—dark?”
He smiled as if at a secret. “Come on. I’ll show you.”