City of Fallen Angels – Chapter 4: THE ART OF EIGHT LIMBS

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Chapter 4: THE ART OF EIGHT LIMBS

HERE ARE ENSHRINED THE LONGING OF GREAT HEARTS AND NOBLE THINGS THAT TOWER ABOVE THE TIDE, THE MAGIC WORD THAT WINGED WONDER STARTS, THE GARNERED WISDOM THAT HAS NEVER DIED.

The words were engraved over the front doors of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. Simon was sitting on the front steps, looking up at the facade. Inscriptions glittered against the stone in dull gilt, each word flashing into momentary life when caught by the headlights of passing cars.

The library had always been one of his favorite places when he was a kid. There was a separate childrens entrance around the side, and he had met Clary there every Saturday for years. They would pick up a stack of books and head for the Botanical Garden next door, where they could read for hours, sprawled in the grass, the sound of traffic a constant dull thrumming in the distance.

How he had ended up here tonight, he wasnt quite sure. He had gotten away from his house as fast as he could, only to realize he had nowhere to go. He couldnt face going to Clarys-shed be horrified at what hed done, and would want him to go back to fix it. Eric and the other guys wouldnt understand. Jace didnt like him, and besides, he couldnt go into the Institute. It was a church, and the reason the Nephilim lived there in the first place was precisely to keep creatures like him out. Eventually he had realized who it was he could call, but the thought had been unpleasant enough that it had taken him a while to screw up the nerve to actually do it.

He heard the motorcycle before he saw it, the loud roar of the engine cutting through the sounds of light traffic on Grand Army Plaza. The cycle careened across the intersection and up onto the pavement, then reared back and shot up the steps. Simon moved aside as it landed lightly beside him and Raphael released the handlebars.

The motorcycle went instantly quiet. Vamp motorcycles were powered by demonic spirits and responded like pets to the wishes of their owners. Simon found them creepy.

“You wanted to see me, Daylighter?” Raphael, as elegant as always in a black jacket and expensive-looking jeans, dismounted and leaned his motorcycle against the library railing. “This had better be good,” he added. “It is not for nothing that I come all the way to Brooklyn. Raphael Santiago does not belong in an outer borough. ”

“Oh, good. Youre starting to talk about yourself in the third person. Thats not a sign of impending megalomania or anything. ”

Raphael shrugged. “You can either tell me what you wanted to tell me, or I will leave. It is up to you. ” He looked at his watch. “You have thirty seconds. ”

“I told my mother Im a vampire. ”

Raphaels eyebrows went up. They were very thin and very dark. In less generous moments Simon sometimes wondered if he penciled them on. “And what happened?”

“She called me a monster and tried to pray at me. ” The memory made the bitter taste of old blood rise in the back of Simons throat.

“And then?”

“And then Im not sure what happened. I started talking to her in this really weird, soothing voice, telling her nothing had happened and it was all a dream. ”

“And she believed you. ”

“She believed me,” Simon said reluctantly.

“Of course she did,” said Raphael. “Because you are a vampire. It is a power we have. The encanto. The fascination. The power of persuasion, you would call it. You can convince mundane humans of almost anything, if you learn how to use the ability properly. ”

“But I didnt want to use it on her. Shes my mother. Is there some way to take it off her-some way to fix it?”

“Fix it so she hates you again? So she thinks you are a monster? That is a very odd definition of fixing something. ”

“I dont care,” Simon said. “Is there a way?”

“No,” Raphael said cheerfully. “There is not. You would know all this, of course, if you did not disdain your own kind so much. ”

“Thats right. Act like I rejected you. Its not like you tried to kill me or anything. ”

Raphael shrugged. “That was politics. Not personal. ” He leaned back against the railing and crossed his arms over his chest. He was wearing black motorcycle gloves. Simon had to admit he looked pretty cool. “Please tell me you did not bring me out here so you could tell me a very boring story about your sister. ”

“My mother,” Simon corrected.

Raphael flipped a dismissive hand. “Whatever. Some female in your life has rejected you. It will not be the last time, I can tell you that. Why are you bothering me about it?”

“I wanted to know if I could come and stay at the Dumont,” Simon said, getting the words out very fast so that he couldnt back out halfway. He could barely believe he was asking. His memories of the vampire hotel were memories of blood and terror and pain. But it was a place to go, a place to stay where no one would look for him, and so he would not have to go home. He was a vampire. It was stupid to be afraid of a hotel full of other vampires. “I havent got anywhere else to go. ”

Raphaels eyes glittered. “Aha,” he said, with a soft triumph Simon did not particularly like. “Now you want something from me. ”

“I suppose so. Although its creepy that youre so excited about that, Raphael. ”

Raphael snorted. “If you come to stay at the Dumont, you will not address me as Raphael, but as Master, Sire, or Great Leader. ”

Simon braced himself. “What about Camille?”

Raphael started. “What do you mean?”

“You always told me you werent really the head of the vampires,” Simon said blandly. “Then, in Idris, you told me it was someone named Camille. You said she hadnt come back to New York yet. But I assume, when she does, shell be the master, or whatever?”

Raphaels gaze darkened. “I do not think I like your line of questioning, Daylighter. ”

“I have a right to know things. ”

“No,” said Raphael. “You dont. You come to me, asking if you can stay in my hotel because you have nowhere else to go. Not because you wish to be with others of your kind. You shun us. ”

“Which, as I already pointed out, has to do with that time you tried to kill me. ”

“The Dumont is not a halfway house for reluctant vampires,” Raphael went on. “You live among humans, you walk in daylight, you play in your stupid band-yes, dont think I dont know about that. In every way you do not accept what you really are. And as long as that is true, you are not welcome at the Dumont. ”

Simon thought of Camille saying, The moment his followers see that you are with me, they will leave him and come to me. I believe they are loyal to me beneath their fear of him. Once they see us together, that fear will be gone, and they will come to our side. “You know,” he said, “Ive had other offers. ”

Raphael looked at him as if he were insane. “Offers of what?”

“Just . . . offers,” Simon said feebly.

“You are terrible at this politics business, Simon Lewis. I suggest you do not attempt it again. ”

“Fine,” Simon said. “I came here to tell you something, but now Im not going to. ”

“I suppose you are also going to throw away the birthday present you got me,” Raphael said. “It is all very tragic. ” He retrieved his motorcycle and swung a leg over it as the engine revved to life. Red sparks flew from the exhaust pipe. “If you bother me again, Daylighter, it had better be for a good reason. Or I will not be forgiving. ”

And with that, the motorcycle surged forward and upward. Simon craned his head back to watch as Raphael, like the angel he was named for, soared into the sky trailing fire.

Clary sat with her sketchpad on her knees and gnawed the end of her pencil thoughtfully. She had drawn Jace dozens of times-she guessed it was her version of most girls writing about their boyfriends in their diaries-but she never seemed to be able to get him exactly right. For one thing, it was almost impossible to get him to stand still, so shed thought that now, while he was asleep, would be perfect-but it still wasnt coming out quite the way she wanted. It just didnt look like him.

She tossed the sketchpad onto the blanket with a sigh of exasperation and pulled her knees up, looking down at him. She hadnt expected him to fall asleep. Theyd come to Central Park to eat lunch and train outside while the weather was still good. Theyd done one of those things. Take-out containers from Takis were scattered in the grass beside the blanket. Jace hadnt eaten much, picking through his carton of sesame noodles in a desultory fashion before tossing it aside and flinging himself down onto the blanket, staring up at the sky. Clary had sat looking down at him, at the way the clouds reflected in his clear eyes, the outline of muscles in the arms crossed behind his head, the perfect strip of skin revealed between the hem of his T-shirt and the belt of his jeans. She had wanted to reach out and slide her hand along his hard flat stomach; instead shed averted her eyes, rummaging for her sketchpad. When shed turned back, pencil in hand, his eyes were closed and his breathing was soft and even.

She was now three drafts into her illustration, and no closer to a drawing that satisfied her. Looking at him now, she wondered why on earth she couldnt draw him. The light was perfect, soft bronze October light that laid a sheen of paler gold over his already golden hair and skin. His closed lids were fringed with gold a shade darker than his hair. One of his hands was draped loosely over his chest, the other open at his side. His face was relaxed and vulnerable in sleep, softer and less angular than when he was awake. Perhaps that was the problem. He was so rarely relaxed and vulnerable, it was hard to capture the lines of him when he was. It felt . . . unfamiliar.

At that precise moment he moved. He had begun making little gasping sounds in his sleep, his eyes darting back and forth behind his shut eyelids. His hand jerked, tightened against his chest, and he sat up, so suddenly that he nearly knocked Clary over. His eyes flew open. For a moment he looked simply dazed; he had gone startlingly pale.

“Jace?” Clary couldnt hide her surprise.

His eyes focused on her; a moment later he had drawn her toward him with none of his customary gentleness; he pulled her onto his lap and kissed her fiercely, his hands winding into her hair. She could feel the hammering of his heart with hers, and she felt her cheeks flush. They were in a public park, she thought, and people were probably staring.

“Whoa,” he said, drawing back, his lips curving into a smile. “Sorry. You probably werent expecting that. ”

“It was a nice surprise. ” Her voice sounded low and throaty to her own ears. “What were you dreaming about?”

“You. ” He twisted a lock of her hair around his finger. “I always dream about you. ”

Still on his lap, her legs straddling his, Clary said, “Oh, yeah? Because I thought you were having a nightmare. ”

He tipped his head back to look at her. “Sometimes I dream youre gone,” he said. “I keep wondering when youll figure out how much better you could do and leave me. ”

She touched his face with her fingertips, delicately running them over the planes of his cheekbones, down to the curve of his mouth. Jace never said things like that to anyone else but her. Alec and Isabelle knew, from living with him and loving him, that underneath the protective armor of humor and pretended arrogance, the ragged shards of memory and childhood still tore at him. But she was the only one he said the words out loud to. She shook her head; her hair fell forward across her forehead, and she pushed it away impatiently. “I wish I could say things the way you do,” she said. “Everything you say, the words you choose, theyre so perfect. You always find the right quote, or the right thing to say to make me believe you love me. If I cant convince you that Ill never leave you-”

He caught her hand in his. “Just say it again. ”

“Ill never leave you,” she said.

“No matter what happens, what I do?”

“Id never give up on you,” she said. “Never. What I feel about you-” She stumbled over the words. “Its the most important thing Ive ever felt. ”

Dammit, she thought. That sounded completely stupid. But Jace didnt seem to think so; he smiled wistfully and said, “Lamor che move il sole e laltre stelle. ”

“Is that Latin?”

“Italian,” he said. “Dante. ”

She ran her fingertips over his lips, and he shivered. “I dont speak Italian,” she said, very softly.

“It means,” he said, “that love is the most powerful force in the world. That love can do anything. ”

She drew her hand out of his, aware as she did that he was watching her through half-lidded eyes. She locked both hands around the back of his neck, leaned forward, and touched his lips with hers-not a kiss this time, just a brush of lips against each other. It was enough; she felt his pulse speed up, and he leaned forward, trying to capture her mouth with his, but she shook her head, shaking her hair around them like a curtain that would hide them from the eyes of everyone else in the park. “If youre tired, we could go back to the Institute,” she said in a half whisper. “Take a nap. We havent slept together in the same bed since-since Idris. ”

Their gazes locked, and she knew he was remembering the same thing she was. The pale light filtering in through the window of Amatiss small spare bedroom, the desperation in his voice. I just want to lie down with you and wake up with you, just once, just once ever in my life. That whole night, lying side by side, only their hands touching. They had touched much more since that night, but had never spent the night together. He knew she was offering him more than a nap in one of the Institutes unused bedrooms, too. She was sure he could see it in her eyes-even if she herself wasnt exactly sure how much she was offering. But it didnt matter. Jace would never ask her for anything she didnt want to give.

“I want to. ” The heat she saw in his eyes, the ragged edge to his voice, told her he wasnt lying. “But-we cant. ” He took her wrists firmly, and drew them down, holding their hands between them, making a barrier.

Clarys eyes widened. “Why not?”

He took a deep breath. “We came here to train, and we should train. If we just spend all the time were supposed to be training making out instead, theyll quit letting me help train you at all. ”

“Arent they supposed to be hiring someone else to train me full-time anyway?”

“Yes,” he said, getting up and pulling her to her feet along with him, “and Im worried that if you get into the habit of making out with your instructors, youll wind up making out with him, too. ”

“Dont be sexist. They could find me a female instructor. ”

“In that case you have my permission to make out with her, as long as I can watch. ”

“Nice. ” Clary grinned, bending down to fold up the blanket theyd brought to sit on. “Youre just worried theyll hire a male instructor and hell be hotter than you. ”

Jaces eyebrows went up. “Hotter than me?”

“It could happen,” Clary said. “You know, theoretically. ”

“Theoretically the planet could suddenly crack in half, leaving me on one side and you on the other side, forever and tragically parted, but Im not worried about that, either. Some things,” Jace said, with his customary crooked smile, “are just too unlikely to dwell upon. ”

He held out his hand; she took it, and together they crossed the meadow, heading for a copse of trees at the edge of the East Meadow that only Shadowhunters seemed to know about. Clary suspected it was glamoured, since she and Jace trained there fairly often and no one had ever interrupted them there except Isabelle or Maryse.

Central Park in autumn was a riot of color. The trees lining the meadow had put on their brightest colors and circled the green in blazing gold, red, copper, and russet orange. It was a beautiful day to take a romantic walk through the park and kiss on one of the stone bridges. But that wasnt going to happen. Obviously, as far as Jace was concerned, the park was an outside extension of the Institutes training room, and they were there to run Clary through various exercises involving terrain navigation, escape and evasion techniques, and killing things with her bare hands.

Normally she would have been excited to learn how to kill things with her bare hands. But there was still something bothering her about Jace. She couldnt rid herself of the nagging feeling that something was seriously wrong. If only there were a rune, she thought, that would make him tell her what he was really feeling. But she would never create a rune like that, she reminded herself hastily. It would be unethical to use her power to try to control someone else. And besides, since shed created the binding rune in Idris, her power had lain seemingly dormant. She had felt no urge to draw old runes, nor had she had any visions of new runes to create. Maryse had told her that they would be trying to bring in a specialist in runes to tutor her, once training really got underway, but so far that hadnt materialized. Not that she minded, really. She had to admit she wasnt sure she would be entirely sorry if her power had vanished forever.

“There are going to be times when you encounter a demon and you dont have a fighting weapon,” Jace was saying as they passed under a row of trees laden with low-hanging leaves whose colors ran the gamut from green to brilliant gold. “At that point, you cant panic. First, you have to remember that anything can be a weapon. A tree branch, a handful of coins-they make great brass knuckles-a shoe, anything. And second, keep in mind that you are a weapon. In theory, when youre done with training, you should be able to kick a hole in a wall or knock out a moose with a single punch. ”

“I would never hit a moose,” said Clary. “Theyre endangered. ”

Jace smiled slightly, and swung to face her. They had reached the copse, a small, cleared area in the center of a stand of trees. There were runes carved into the trunks of the trees that surrounded them, marking it as a Shadowhunter place.

“Theres an ancient fighting style called Muay Thai,” he said. “Have you heard of it?”

She shook her head. The sun was bright and steady, and she was almost too hot in her track pants and warm-up jacket. Jace took off his jacket and turned back to her, flexing his slim pianists hands. His eyes were intensely gold in the autumn light. Marks for speed, agility, and strength trailed like a pattern of vines from his wrists up and over the swell of each bicep, disappearing under the sleeves of his T-shirt. She wondered why hed bothered Marking himself up as if she were a foe to be reckoned with.

“I heard a rumor that the new instructor were getting next week is a master of Muay Thai,” he said. “And sambo, lethwei, tomoi, krav maga, jujitsu, and another one that frankly I dont remember the name of, but it involves killing people with small sticks or something. My point is, he or she isnt going to be used to working with someone your age whos as inexperienced as you are, so if we teach you a few of the basics, Im hoping itll make them feel a little more generously toward you. ” He reached out to put his hands on her hips. “Now turn and face me. ”

Clary did as instructed. Facing each other like this, her head came to the bottom of his chin. She rested her hands lightly on his biceps.

“Muay Thai is called the art of eight limbs. Thats because you use not just your fists and feet as strike points, but also your knees and elbows. First you want to pull your opponent in, then pummel him with every one of your strike points until he or she collapses. ”

“And that works on demons?” Clary raised her eyebrows.

“The smaller ones. ” Jace moved closer to her. “Okay. Reach your hand around and grip the back of my neck. ”

It was just possible to do as he instructed without going up on her toes. Not for the first time, Clary cursed the fact that she was so short.

“Now you raise your other hand and do the same thing again, so your hands are looped around the back of my neck. ”

She did it. The back of his neck was warm from the sun, and his soft hair tickled her fingers. Their bodies were pressed up against each other; she could feel the ring she wore on a chain around her neck pressed between them like a pebble pressed between two palms.

“In a real fight youd do that move much faster,” he said. Unless she was imagining it, his voice was a little unsteady. “Now that grip on me gives you leverage. Youre going to use that leverage to pull yourself forward and add momentum to your upward knee kicks-”

“My, my,” said a cool, amused voice. “Only six weeks, and already at each others throats? How swiftly mortal love does fade. ”

Releasing her hold on Jace, Clary whirled, though she already knew who it was. The Queen of the Seelie Court stood in the shadows between two trees. If Clary had not known she was there, she wondered if she would have seen her, even with the Sight. The Queen wore a gown as green as grass, and her hair, falling around her shoulders, was the color of a turning leaf. She was as beautiful and awful as a dying season. Clary had never trusted her.

“What are you doing here?” It was Jace, his eyes narrow. “This is a Shadowhunter place. ”

“And I have news of interest to Shadowhunters. ” As the Queen stepped gracefully forward, the sun lanced down through the trees and sparked off the circlet of golden berries she wore around her head. Clary sometimes wondered if the Queen planned these dramatic entrances, and if so, how. “There has been another death. ”

“What sort of death?”

“Another one of you. Dead Nephilim. ” There was a certain relish to the way the Queen said it. “The body was found this dawn beneath Oak Bridge. As you know, the park is my domain. A human killing is not of concern to me, but the death did not seem to be one of mundane origins. The body was brought to the Court to be examined by my physicians. They pronounced the dead mortal one of yours. ”

Clary looked quickly at Jace, remembering the news of the dead Shadowhunter two days before. She could tell Jace was thinking the same thing; he had paled. “Where is the body?” he asked.

“Are you concerned about my hospitality? He bides in my court, and I assure you that we afford his body all the respect we would give a living Shadowhunter. Now that one of my own has a place on the Council beside you and yours, you can hardly doubt our good faith. ”

“As always, good faith and my Lady go hand in hand. ” The sarcasm in Jaces voice was clear, but the Queen just smiled. She liked Jace, Clary had always thought, in that way that faeries liked pretty things because they were pretty. She did not think the Queen liked her, and the feeling was mutual. “And why are you giving this message to us, instead of to Maryse? Custom would indicate-”

“Oh, custom. ” The Queen waved away convention with a flip of her hand. “You were here. It seemed expedient. ”

Jace gave her another narrow look and flipped his cell phone open. He gestured at Clary to stay where she was, and walked a little ways away. She could hear him saying, “Maryse?” as the phone was answered, and then his voice was swallowed up by shouts from the playing fields nearby.

With a feeling of cold dread, she looked back at the Queen. She had not seen the Lady of the Seelie Court since her last night in Idris, and then Clary had not exactly been polite to her. She doubted the Queen had forgotten or forgiven her for that. Would you truly refuse a favor from the Queen of the Seelie Court?

“I heard Meliorn got a seat on the Council,” Clary said now. “You must be pleased about that. ”

“Indeed. ” The Queen looked at her with amusement. “I am sufficiently delighted. ”

“So,” Clary said. “No hard feelings, then?”

The Queens smile turned icy around the edges, like frost riming the sides of a pond. “I suppose you refer to my offer, which you so rudely declined,” she said. “As you know, my objective was accomplished regardless; the loss there, I imagine most would agree, was yours. ”

“I didnt want your deal. ” Clary tried to keep the sharpness from her voice, and failed. “People cant do what you want all the time, you know. ”

“Do not presume to lecture me, child. ” The Queens eyes followed Jace, who was pacing at the edge of the trees, phone in hand. “He is beautiful,” she said. “I can see why you love him. But did you ever wonder what draws him to you?”

Clary said nothing to that; there seemed nothing to say.

“The blood of Heaven binds you,” said the Queen. “Blood calls to blood, under the skin. But love and blood are not the same. ”

“Riddles,” Clary said angrily. “Do you even mean anything when you talk like that?”

“He is bound to you,” said the Queen. “But does he love you?”

Clary felt her hands twitch. She longed to try out on the Queen some of the new fighting moves shed learned, but she knew how unwise that would be. “Yes, he does. ”

“And does he want you? For love and desire are not always as one. ”

“Thats none of your business,” Clary said shortly, but she could see that the Queens eyes on her were as sharp as pins.

“You want him like you have never wanted anything else. But does he feel the same?” The Queens soft voice was inexorable. “He could have anything or anyone he pleases. Do you wonder why he chose you? Do you wonder if he regrets it? Has he changed toward you?”

Clary felt tears sting the backs of her eyes. “No, he hasnt. ” But she thought of his face in the elevator that night, and the way he had told her to go home when shed offered to stay.

“You told me that you did not wish to make a compact with me, for there was nothing I could give you. You said there was nothing in the world you wanted. ” The Queens eyes glittered. “When you imagine your life without him, do you still feel the same?”

Why are you doing this to me? Clary wanted to scream, but she said nothing, for the Faerie Queen glanced past her, and smiled, saying, “Wipe your tears, for he returns. It will do you no good for him to see you cry. ”

Clary rubbed hastily at her eyes with the back of her hand, and turned; Jace was walking toward them, frowning. “Maryse is on her way to the Court,” he said. “Where did the Queen go?”

Clary looked at him, surprised. “Shes right here,” she began, turning-and broke off. Jace was right. The Queen was gone, only a swirl of leaves at Clarys feet to show where she had stood.

Simon, his jacket wadded up under his head, was lying on his back, staring up at the hole-filled ceiling of Erics garage with a sense of grim fatality. His duffel bag was at his feet, his phone pressed against his ear. Right now the familiarity of Clarys voice on the other end of it was the only thing keeping him from falling apart completely.

“Simon, Im so sorry. ” He could tell she was somewhere in the city. The loud blare of traffic sounded behind her, muffling her voice. “Are you seriously in Erics garage? Does he know youre there?”

“No,” Simon said. “No ones home at the moment, and Ive got the garage key. It seemed like a place to go. Where are you, anyway?”

“In the city. ” To Brooklynites, Manhattan was always “the city. ” No other metropolis existed. “I was training with Jace, but then he had to go back to the Institute for some kind of Clave business. Im headed back to Lukes now. ” A car honked loudly in the background. “Look, do you want to stay with us? You could sleep on Lukes couch. ”

Simon hesitated. He had good memories of Lukes. In all the years hed known Clary, Luke had lived in the same ratty but pleasant old row house over the bookstore. Clary had a key, and she and Simon had whiled away a lot of pleasant hours there, reading books theyd “borrowed” from the store downstairs, or watching old movies on the TV.

Things were different now, though.

“Maybe my mom could talk to your mom,” Clary said, sounding worried by his silence. “Make her understand. ”

“Make her understand that Im a vampire? Clary, I think she does understand that, in a weird kind of way. That doesnt mean shes going to accept it or ever be okay with it. ”

“Well, you cant just keep making her forget it, either, Simon,” Clary said. “Its not going to work forever. ”

“Why not?” He knew he was being unreasonable, but lying on the hard floor, surrounded by the smell of gasoline and the whisper of spiders spinning their webs in the corners of the garage, feeling lonelier than he ever had, reasonable seemed very far away.

“Because then your whole relationship with her is a lie. You cant never go home-”

“So what?” Simon interrupted harshly. “Thats part of the curse, isnt it? A fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be. ”

Despite the traffic noises and the sound of chatter in the background, he could hear Clarys sudden indrawn breath.

“You think I should tell her about that, too?” he said. “How you put the Mark of Cain on me? How Im basically a walking curse? You think shes going to want that in her house?”

The background sounds quieted; Clary must have ducked into a doorway. He could hear her struggling to hold back tears as she said, “Simon, Im so sorry. You know Im sorry-”

“Its not your fault. ” He suddenly felt bone-tired. Thats right, terrify your mother and then make your best friend cry. A banner day for you, Simon. “Look, obviously I shouldnt be around people right now. Im just going to stay here, and Ill crash with Eric when he gets home. ”

She made a snuffling laughing-through-tears sound. “What, doesnt Eric count as people?”

“Ill get back to you on that later,” he said, and hesitated. “Ill call you tomorrow, all right?”

“Youll see me tomorrow. You promised to come to that dress fitting with me, remember?”

“Wow,” he said. “I must really love you. ”

“I know,” she said. “I love you, too. ”

Simon clicked off the phone and lay back, holding it against his chest. It was funny, he thought. Now he could say “I love you” to Clary, when for years hed struggled to say those words and had not been able to get them out of his mouth. Now that he no longer meant them the same way, it was easy.

Sometimes he did wonder what would have happened if there had never been a Jace Wayland. If Clary had never found out she was a Shadowhunter. But he pushed the thought away-pointless, dont go down that road. You couldnt change the past. You could only go forward. Not that he had any idea what forward entailed. He couldnt stay in Erics garage forever. Even in his current mood, he had to admit it was a miserable place to stay. He wasnt cold-he no longer felt either cold or heat in any real way-but the floor was hard, and he was having trouble sleeping. He wished he could dull his senses. The loud noise of traffic outside was keeping him from resting, as was the unpleasant stench of gasoline. But it was the gnawing worry about what to do next that was the worst.

Hed thrown away most of his blood supply and stashed the rest in his knapsack; he had about enough for a few more days, and then hed be in trouble. Eric, wherever he was, would certainly let Simon stay in the house if he wanted, but that might result in Erics parents calling Simons mom. And since she thought he was on a school field trip, that would do him no good at all.

Days, he thought. That was the amount of time he had. Before he ran out of blood, before his mother started to wonder where he was and called the school looking for him. Before she started to remember. He was a vampire now. He was supposed to have eternity. But what he had was days.

He had been so careful. Tried so hard for what he thought of as a normal life-school, friends, his own house, his own bedroom. It had been strained, but that was what life was. Other options seemed so bleak and lonely that they didnt bear thinking about. And yet Camilles voice rang in his head. What about in ten years, when you are supposed to be twenty-six? In twenty years? Thirty? Do you think no one will notice that as they age and change, you do not?

The situation he had created for himself, had carved so carefully in the shape of his old life, had never been permanent, he thought now, with a sinking in his chest. It never could have been. Hed been clinging to shadows and memories. He thought again of Camille, of her offer. It sounded better now than it had before. An offer of a community, even if it wasnt the community he wanted. He had only about three more days before shed come looking for his answer. And what would he tell her when she did? Hed thought he knew, but now he wasnt so sure.

A grinding noise interrupted his reverie. The garage door was ratcheting upward, bright light spearing into the dark interior of the space. Simon sat up, his whole body suddenly on the alert.

“Eric?”

“Nah. Its me. Kyle. ”

“Kyle?” Simon said blankly, before he remembered-the guy theyd agreed to take on as a lead singer. Simon almost flopped back down onto the ground again. “Oh. Right. None of the other guys are here right now, so if you were hoping to practice. . . ”

“Its cool. Thats not why I came. ” Kyle stepped into the garage, blinking in the darkness, his hands in the back pockets of his jeans. “Youre whatshisname, the bassist, right?”

Simon got to his feet, brushing garage floor dust off his clothes. “Im Simon. ”

Kyle glanced around, a perplexed furrow between his brows. “I left my keys here yesterday, I think. Been looking for them everywhere. Hey, there they are. ” He ducked behind the drum set and emerged a second later, rattling a set of keys triumphantly in his hand. He looked much the same as he had the day before. He had a blue T-shirt on today under a leather jacket, and a gold saints medal sparkled around his neck. His dark hair was messier than ever. “So,” Kyle said, leaning against one of the speakers. “Were you, like, sleeping here? On the floor?”

Simon nodded. “Got thrown out of my house. ” It wasnt precisely true, but it was all he felt like saying.

Kyle nodded sympathetically. “Mom found your weed stash, huh? That sucks. ”

“No. No . . . weed stash. ” Simon shrugged. “We had a difference of opinion about my lifestyle. ”

“So, she found out about your two girlfriends?” Kyle grinned. He was good-looking, Simon had to admit, but unlike Jace, who seemed to know exactly how good-looking he was, Kyle looked like someone who probably hadnt brushed his hair in weeks. There was an open, friendly puppyishness about him that was appealing, though. “Yeah, Kirk told me about it. Good for you, man. ”

Simon shook his head. “It wasnt that. ”

There was a short silence between them. Then:

“I . . . dont live at home either,” Kyle said. “I left a couple of years ago. ” He hugged his arms around himself, hanging his head down. His voice was low. “I havent talked to my parents since then. I mean, Im doing all right on my own but . . . I get it. ”

“Your tattoos,” Simon said, touching his own arms lightly. “What do they mean?”

Kyle stretched his arms out. “Shaantih shaantih shaantih,” he said. “Theyre mantras from the Upanishads. Sanskrit. Prayers for peace. ”

Normally Simon would have thought that getting yourself tattooed in Sanskrit was kind of pretentious. But right now, he didnt. “Shalom,” he said.

Kyle blinked at him. “What?”

“Means peace,” said Simon. “In Hebrew. I was just thinking the words sounded sort of alike. ”

Kyle gave him a long look. He seemed to be deliberating. Finally he said, “This is going to sound sort of crazy-”

“Oh, I dont know. My definition of crazy has become pretty flexible in the past few months. ”

“-but I have an apartment. In Alphabet City. And my roommate just moved out. Its a two-bedroom, so you could crash in his space. Theres a bed in there and everything. ”

Simon hesitated. On the one hand he didnt know Kyle at all, and moving into the apartment of a total stranger seemed like a stupid move of epic proportions. Kyle could turn out to be a serial killer, despite his peace tattoos. On the other hand he didnt know Kyle at all, which meant no one would come looking for him there. And what did it matter if Kyle did turn out to be a serial killer? he thought bitterly. It would turn out worse for Kyle than it would for him, just like it had for that mugger last night.

“You know,” he said, “I think Ill take you up on that, if its okay. ”

Kyle nodded. “My trucks just outside if you want to ride into the city with me. ”

Simon bent to grab his duffel bag and straightened with it slung over his shoulder. He slid his phone into his pocket and spread his hands wide, indicating his readiness. “Lets go. ”

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