City of Fallen Angels – Chapter 2: FALLING

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Chapter 2: FALLING

“So, did you have fun with Isabelle tonight?” Clary, her phone jammed against her ear, maneuvered herself carefully from one long beam to another. The beams were set twenty feet up in the rafters of the Institutes attic, where the training room was located. Walking the beams was meant to teach you how to balance. Clary hated them. Her fear of heights made the whole business sickening, despite the flexible cord tied around her waist that was supposed to keep her from hitting the floor if she fell. “Have you told her about Maia yet?”

Simon made a faint, noncommittal noise that Clary knew meant “no. ” She could hear music in the background; she could picture him lying on his bed, the stereo playing softly as he talked to her. He sounded tired, that sort of bone-deep tired she knew meant that his light tone didnt reflect his mood. Shed asked him if he was all right several times at the beginning of the conversation, but hed brushed away her concern.

She snorted. “Youre playing with fire, Simon. I hope you know that. ”

“I dont know. Do you really think its such a big deal?” Simon sounded plaintive. “I havent had a single conversation with Isabelle-or Maia-about dating exclusively. ”

“Let me tell you something about girls. ” Clary sat down on a beam, letting her legs dangle out into the air. The attics half-moon windows were open, and cool night air spilled in, chilling her sweaty skin. She had always thought the Shadowhunters trained in their tough, leatherlike gear, but as it turned out, that was for later training, which involved weapons. For the sort of training she was doing-exercises meant to increase her flexibility, speed, and sense of balance-she wore a light tank top and drawstring pants that reminded her of medical scrubs. “Even if you havent had the exclusivity conversation, theyre still going to be mad if they find out youre dating someone they know and you havent mentioned it. Its a dating rule. ”

“Well, how am I supposed to know that rule?”

“Everyone knows that rule. ”

“I thought you were supposed to be on my side. ”

“I am on your side!”

“So why arent you being more sympathetic?”

Clary switched the phone to her other ear and peered down into the shadows below her. Where was Jace? Hed gone to get another rope and said hed be back in five minutes. Of course, if he caught her on the phone up here, hed probably kill her. He was rarely in charge of her training-that was usually Maryse, Kadir, or various other members of the New York Conclave pinch-hitting until a replacement for the Institutes previous tutor, Hodge, could be found-but when he was, he took it very seriously. “Because,” she said, “your problems are not real problems. Youre dating two beautiful girls at once. Think about it. Thats like . . . rock-star problems. ”

“Having rock-star problems may be the closest I ever get to being an actual rock star. ”

“No one told you to call your band Salacious Mold, my friend. ”

“Were Millennium Lint now,” Simon protested.

“Look, just figure this out before the wedding. If they both think theyre going to it with you and they find out at the wedding that youre dating them both, theyll kill you. ” She stood up. “And then my moms wedding will be ruined, and shell kill you. So youll be dead twice. Well, three times, technically. . . ”

“I never told either of them I was going to the wedding with them!” Simon sounded panicked.

“Yes, but theyre going to expect you to. Thats why girls have boyfriends. So you have someone to take you to boring functions. ” Clary moved out to the edge of the beam, looking down into the witchlight-illuminated shadows below. There was an old training circle chalked on the floor; it looked like a bulls-eye. “Anyway, I have to jump off this beam now and possibly hurtle to my horrible death. Ill talk to you tomorrow. ”

“Ive got band practice at two, remember? Ill see you there. ”

“See you. ” She hung up and stuck the phone into her bra; the light training clothes didnt have any pockets, so what was a girl to do?

“So, are you planning to stay up there all night?” Jace stepped into the center of the bulls-eye and looked up at her. He was wearing fighting gear, not training clothes like Clary was, and his fair hair stood out startlingly against the black. It had darkened slightly since the end of summer and was more a dark gold than light, which, Clary thought, suited him even better. It made her absurdly happy that she had now known him long enough to notice small changes in his appearance.

“I thought you were coming up here,” she called down. “Change of plans?”

“Long story. ” He grinned up at her. “So? You want to practice flips?”

Clary sighed. Practicing flips involved flinging herself off the beam into empty space, and using the flexible cord to hold her while she pushed off the walls and flipped herself over and under, teaching herself to whirl, kick, and duck without worrying about hard floors and bruises. Shed seen Jace do it, and he looked like a falling angel while he did, flying through the air, whirling and spinning with beautiful, balletic grace. She, on the other hand, curled up like a potato bug as soon as the floor approached, and the fact that she intellectually knew she wasnt going to hit it didnt seem to make any difference.

She was starting to wonder if it didnt matter that shed been born a Shadowhunter; maybe it was too late for her to be made into one, or at least a fully functional one. Or maybe the gift that made her and Jace what they were had been somehow distributed unequally between them, so he had gotten all the physical grace, and she had gotten-well, not a lot of it.

“Come on, Clary,” Jace said. “Jump. ” She closed her eyes and jumped. For a moment she felt herself hang suspended, free of everything. Then gravity took over, and she plunged toward the floor. Instinctively she pulled her arms and legs in, keeping her eyes squeezed shut. The cord pulled taut and she rebounded, flying back up before falling again. As her velocity slowed, she opened her eyes and found herself dangling at the end of the cord, about five feet above Jace. He was grinning.

“Nice,” he said. “As graceful as a falling snowflake. ”

“Was I screaming?” she asked, genuinely curious. “You know, on the way down. ”

He nodded. “Thankfully no ones home, or they would have assumed I was murdering you. ”

“Ha. You cant even reach me. ” She kicked out a leg and spun lazily in midair.

Jaces eyes glinted. “Want to bet?”

Clary knew that expression. “No,” she said quickly. “Whatever youre going to do-”

But hed already done it. When Jace moved fast, his individual movements were almost invisible. She saw his hand go to his belt, and then something flashed in the air. She heard the sound of parting fabric as the cord above her head was sheared through. Released, she fell freely, too surprised to scream-directly into Jaces arms. The force knocked him backward, and they sprawled together onto one of the padded floor mats, Clary on top of him. He grinned up at her.

“Now,” he said, “that was much better. You didnt scream at all. ”

“I didnt get the chance. ” She was breathless, and not just from the impact of the fall. Being sprawled on top of Jace, feeling his body against hers, made her hands shake and her heart beat faster. She had thought maybe her physical reaction to him-their reactions to each other-would fade with familiarity, but that hadnt happened. If anything, it had gotten worse the more time shed spent with him-or better, she supposed, depending on how you thought about it.

He was looking up at her with dark golden eyes; she wondered if their color had intensified since his encounter with Raziel, the Angel, by the shores of Lake Lyn in Idris. She couldnt ask anyone: Though everyone knew that Valentine had summoned the Angel, and that the Angel had healed Jace from injuries Valentine had inflicted on him, no one but Clary and Jace knew that Valentine had done more than just injure his adopted son. He had stabbed Jace through the heart as part of the summoning ceremony-stabbed him, and held him while he died. At Clarys wish Raziel had brought Jace back from death. The enormity of it still shocked Clary, and, she suspected, Jace as well. They had agreed never to tell anyone that Jace had actually died, even for a brief time. It was their secret.

He reached up and pushed her hair back from her face. “Im joking,” he said. “Youre not so bad. Youll get there. You should have seen Alec do flips at first. I think he kicked himself in the head once. ”

“Sure,” said Clary. “But he was probably eleven. ” She eyed him. “I suppose youve always been amazing at this stuff. ”

“I was born amazing. ” He stroked her cheek with the tips of his fingers, lightly but enough to make her shiver. She said nothing; he was joking, but in a sense it was true. Jace had been born to be what he was. “How long can you stay tonight?”

She smiled a little. “Are we done with training?”

“Id like to think that were done with the part of the evening where its absolutely required. Although there are a few things Id like to practice. . . . ” He reached up to pull her down, but at that moment the door opened, and Isabelle came stalking in, the high heels of her boots clicking on the polished hardwood floor.

Catching sight of Jace and Clary sprawled on the floor, she raised her eyebrows. “Canoodling, I see. I thought you were supposed to be training. ”

“No one said you had to walk in without knocking, Iz. ” Jace didnt move, just turned his head to the side to look at Isabelle with a mixture of annoyance and affection. Clary, though, scrambled to her feet, straightening her crumpled clothes.

“Its the training room. Its public space. ” Isabelle was pulling off one of her gloves, which were bright red velvet. “I just got these at Trash and Vaudeville. On sale. Dont you love them? Dont you wish you had a pair?” She wiggled her fingers in their direction.

“I dont know,” said Jace. “I think theyd clash with my gear. ”

Isabelle made a face at him. “Did you hear about the dead Shadowhunter they found in Brooklyn? The body was all mangled up, so they dont know who it is yet. I assume thats where Mom went. ”

“Yeah,” said Jace, sitting up. “Clave meeting. I ran into her on the way out. ”

“You didnt tell me that,” said Clary. “Is that why you took so long getting rope?”

He nodded. “Sorry. I didnt want to freak you out. ”

“He means,” said Isabelle, “he didnt want to spoil the romantic mood. ” She bit her lip. “I just hope it wasnt anyone we know. ”

“I dont think it could have been. The body was dumped in an abandoned factory-had been there for several days. If it had been someone we knew, we would have noticed they were missing. ” Jace pushed his hair back behind his ears. He was looking at Isabelle a little impatiently, Clary thought, as if he were annoyed shed brought this up. She wished hed told her earlier, even if it would have spoiled the mood. Much of what he did, what they all did, Clary knew, brought them into frequent contact with the reality of death. All the Lightwoods were, in their own ways, still grieving the loss of the youngest son, Max, who had died simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was strange. Jace had accepted her decision to leave high school and take up training without a murmur, but he shied away from discussing the dangers of a Shadowhunting life with her.

“Im going to get dressed,” she announced, and headed for the door that led to the small changing room attached to the training area. It was very plain: pale wood walls, a mirror, a shower, and hooks for clothes. Towels were stacked neatly on a wooden bench by the door. Clary showered quickly and put on her street clothes-tights, boots, jean skirt, and a new pink sweater. Looking at herself in the mirror, she saw that there was a hole in her tights, and her damp and curling red hair was an untidy tangle. She would never look perfectly put together like Isabelle always did, but Jace didnt seem to mind.

By the time she came back to the training room, Isabelle and Jace had left the topic of dead Shadowhunters behind and had moved on to something Jace apparently found even more horrifying-Isabelles date with Simon. “I cant believe he took you to an actual restaurant. ” Jace was on his feet now, putting away the floor mats and training gear while Isabelle leaned against the wall and played with her new gloves. “I assumed his idea of a date would be making you watch him play World of Warcraft with his nerd friends. ”

“I,” Clary pointed out, “am one of his nerd friends, thank you. ”

Jace grinned at her.

“It wasnt really a restaurant. More of a diner. With pink soup that he wanted me to try,” Isabelle said thoughtfully. “He was very sweet. ”

Clary felt instantly guilty for not telling her-or Jace-about Maia. “He said you had fun. ”

Isabelles gaze flickered over to her. There was a peculiar quality to Isabelles expression, as if she were hiding something, but it was gone before Clary could be sure it had been there at all. “You talked to him?”

“Yeah, he called me a few minutes ago. Just to check in. ” Clary shrugged.

“I see,” Isabelle said, her voice suddenly brisk and cool. “Well, as I said, hes very sweet. But maybe a bit too sweet. That can be boring. ” She stuffed her gloves into her pockets. “Anyway, it isnt a permanent thing. Its just playing around for now. ”

Clarys guilt faded. “Have you guys ever talked about, you know, dating exclusively?”

Isabelle looked horrified. “Of course not. ” She yawned then, stretching her arms catlike over her head. “Okay, off to bed. See you later, lovebirds. ”

She departed, leaving a hazy cloud of jasmine perfume in her wake.

Jace looked over at Clary. He had started unbuckling his gear, which clasped at the wrists and back, forming a protective shell over his clothes. “I suppose you have to go home?”

She nodded reluctantly. Getting her mother to agree to let her pursue Shadowhunter training had been a long, unpleasant argument in the first place. Jocelyn had dug her heels in, saying that shed spent her life trying to keep Clary out of the Shadowhunter culture, which she saw as dangerous-not just violent, she argued, but isolationist and cruel. Only a year ago, she pointed out to Clary, Clarys decision to be trained as a Shadowhunter would have meant she could never speak to her mother again. Clary argued back that the fact that the Clave had suspended rules like that while the new Council reviewed the Laws meant that the Clave had changed since Jocelyn had been a girl, and anyway, Clary needed to know how to defend herself.

“I hope this isnt just because of Jace,” Jocelyn had said finally. “I know how it is when youre in love with someone. You want to be where they are and do what they do, but Clary-”

“I am not you,” Clary had said, struggling to control her anger, “the Shadowhunters arent the Circle, and Jace isnt Valentine. ”

“I didnt say anything about Valentine. ”

“Its what you were thinking,” Clary had said. “Maybe Valentine brought Jace up, but Jace isnt anything like him. ”

“Well, I hope not,” Jocelyn had said softly. “For all our sakes. ” Eventually she had given in, but with some rules:

Clary wasnt to live in the Institute but with her mother at Lukes; Jocelyn got weekly progress reports from Maryse to assure her that Clary was learning and not just, Clary supposed, ogling Jace all day, or whatever she was worried about. And Clary wasnt to spend the night at the Institute-ever. “No sleepovers where your boyfriend lives,” Jocelyn had said firmly. “I dont care if it is the Institute. No. ”

Boyfriend. It was still a shock, hearing the word. For so long it had seemed a total impossibility that Jace would ever be her boyfriend, that they could ever be anything to each other at all but brother and sister, and that had been too hard and horrible to face. Never seeing each other again, they had decided, would have been better than that, and that would have been like dying. And then, by a miracle, they had been set free. Now it had been six weeks, but Clary wasnt tired of the word yet.

“I have to get home,” she said. “Its almost eleven, and my mom freaks if I stay here past ten. ”

“All right. ” Jace dropped his gear, or at least the top half of it, onto the bench. He wore a thin T-shirt underneath; Clary could see his Marks through it, like ink bleeding through wet paper. “Ill walk you out. ”

The Institute was quiet as they passed through. There were no visiting Shadowhunters from other cities staying right now. Robert, Isabelle and Alecs father, was in Idris helping set up the new Council, and with Hodge and Max gone forever, and Alec away with Magnus, Clary felt as if the remaining occupants were like guests in a mostly empty hotel. She wished other members of the Conclave would come around more often, but she supposed everyone was giving the Lightwoods time at the moment. Time to remember Max, and time to forget.

“So have you heard from Alec and Magnus lately?” she asked. “Are they having a good time?”

“Sounds like it. ” Jace took his phone out of his pocket and handed it to her. “Alec keeps sending me annoying photos. Lots of captions like Wish you were here, except not really. ”

“Well, you cant blame him. Its supposed to be a romantic vacation. ” She flipped through the photos on Jaces phone and giggled. Alec and Magnus standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, Alec wearing jeans as usual and Magnus wearing a striped fishermans sweater, leather pants, and an insane beret. In the Boboli Gardens, Alec was still wearing jeans, and Magnus was wearing an enormous Venetian cloak and a gondoliers hat. He looked like the Phantom of the Opera. In front of the Prado he was wearing a sparkling matador jacket and platform boots, while Alec appeared to be calmly feeding a pigeon in the background.

“Im taking that away from you before you get to the India part,” said Jace, retrieving his phone. “Magnus in a sari. Some things you dont ever forget. ”

Clary laughed. They had already reached the elevator, which opened its rattling gate when Jace pushed the call button. She stepped inside, and Jace followed her. The moment the elevator started down-Clary didnt think shed ever get used to the initial heart-stopping lurch as it began its descent-he moved toward Clary in the dimness, and drew her close. She put her hands against his chest, feeling the hard muscles under his T-shirt, the beat of his heart beneath them. In the shadowy light his eyes shone. “Im sorry I cant stay,” she whispered.

“Dont be sorry. ” There was a ragged edge to his voice that surprised her. “Jocelyn doesnt want you to turn out like me. I dont blame her for that. ”

“Jace,” she said, a little bewildered by the bitterness in his voice, “are you all right?”

Instead of answering he kissed her, pulling her hard against him. His body pressed hers against the wall, the metal of the mirror cold against her back, his hands sliding around her waist, up under her sweater. She always loved the way he held her. Careful, but not too gentle, not so gentle that she ever felt he was more in control than she was. Neither of them could control how they felt about each other, and she liked that, liked the way his heart hammered against hers, liked the way he murmured against her mouth when she kissed him back.

The elevator came to a rattling stop, and the gate opened. Beyond it, she could see the empty nave of the cathedral, light shimmering in a line of candelabras down the center aisle. She clung to Jace, glad there was very little light in the elevator so she couldnt see her own burning face in the mirror.

“Maybe I can stay,” she whispered. “Just a little while longer. ”

He said nothing. She could feel the tension in him, and tensed herself. It was more than just the tension of desire. He was shaking, his whole body trembling as he buried his face in the crook of her neck.

“Jace,” she said.

He let go of her then, suddenly, and stepped back. His cheeks were flushed, his eyes fever-bright. “No,” he said. “I dont want to give your mother another reason not to like me. She already thinks Im the second coming of my father-”

He broke off, before Clary could say, Valentine wasnt your father. Jace was usually so careful to refer to Valentine Morgenstern by name, never as “my father”-when he mentioned Valentine at all. Usually they stayed away from the topic, and Clary had never admitted to Jace that her mother worried that he was secretly just like Valentine, knowing that even the suggestion would hurt him badly. Mostly Clary just did everything she could to keep the two of them apart.

He reached past her before she could say anything, and yanked open the elevator gate. “I love you, Clary,” he said without looking at her. He was staring out into the church, at the rows of lighted candles, their gold reflected in his eyes. “More than I ever-” He broke off. “God. More than I probably should. You know that, dont you?”

She stepped outside the elevator and turned to face him. There were a thousand things she wanted to say, but he was already looking away from her, pushing the button that would bring the elevator back up to the Institute floors. She started to protest, but the elevator was already moving, the doors closing as it rattled its way back up. They shut with a click, and she stared at them for a moment; the Angel was painted on their surface, wings outspread, eyes raised. The Angel was painted on everything.

Her voice echoed harshly in the empty room when she spoke. “I love you, too,” she said.

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