Chapter 14: IN THE DARK FOREST
“WELL, HOW ABOUT THAT,” SAID JACE, STILL WITHOUT looking at Clary—he hadn’t really looked at her since she and Simon had arrived on the front step of the house the Lightwoods were now inhabiting. Instead he was leaning against one of the high windows in the living room, staring out toward the rapidly darkening sky. “A guy attends the funeral of his nine-year-old brother and misses all the fun. ”
“Jace,” Alec said, in a tired sort of voice. “Don’t. ”
Alec was slumped in one of the worn, overstuffed chairs that were the only things to sit on in the room. The house had the odd, alien feel of houses belonging to strangers: It was decorated in floral-printed fabrics, frilly and pastel, and everything in it was slightly worn or tattered. There was a glass bowl filled with chocolates on the small end table near Alec; Clary, starving, had eaten a few and found them crumbly and dry. She wondered what kind of people had lived here. The kind who ran away when things got tough, she thought sourly; they deserved to have their house taken over.
“Don’t what?” Jace asked; it was dark enough outside now that Clary could see his face reflected in the window glass. His eyes looked black. He was wearing Shadowhunter mourning clothes—they didn’t wear black to funerals, since black was the color of gear and fighting. The color of death was white, and the white jacket Jace wore had scarlet runes woven into the material around the collar and wrists. Unlike battle runes, which were all about aggression and protection, these spoke a gentler language of healing and grief. There were bands of hammered metal around his wrists, too, with similar runes on them. Alec was dressed the same way, all in white with the same red-gold runes traced over the material. It made his hair look very black.
Jace, Clary thought, on the other hand, all in white, looked like an angel. Albeit one of the avenging kind.
“You’re not mad at Clary. Or Simon,” Alec said. “At least,” he added, with a faint, worried frown, “I don’t think you’re mad at Simon. ”
Clary half-expected Jace to snap an angry retort, but all he said was, “Clary knows I’m not angry at her. ”
Simon, leaning his elbows on the back of the sofa, rolled his eyes but said only, “What I don’t get is how Valentine managed to kill the Inquisitor. I thought Projections couldn’t actually affect anything. ”
“They shouldn’t be able to,” said Alec. “They’re just illusions. So much colored air, so to speak. ”
“Well, not in this case. He reached into the Inquisitor and he twisted …” Clary shuddered. “There was a lot of blood.”
“Like a special bonus for you,” Jace said to Simon.
Simon ignored this. “Has there ever been an Inquisitor who didn’t die a horrible death?” he wondered aloud. “It’s like being the drummer in Spinal Tap. ”
Alec rubbed a hand across his face. “I can’t believe my parents don’t know about this yet,” he said. “I can’t say I’m looking forward to telling them. ”
“Where are your parents?” asked Clary. “I thought they were upstairs. ”
Alec shook his head. “They’re still at the necropolis. At Max’s grave. They sent us back. They wanted to be there alone for a while. ”
“What about Isabelle?” Simon asked. “Where is she?”
The humor, such as it was, left Jace’s expression. “She won’t come out of her room,” he said. “She thinks what happened to Max was her fault. She wouldn’t even come to the funeral. ”
“Have you tried talking to her?”
“No,” Jace said, “we’ve been punching her repeatedly in the face instead. Why, do you think that won’t work?”
“Just thought I’d ask. ” Simon’s tone was mild.
“We’ll tell her this stuff about Sebastian not actually being Sebastian,” said Alec. “It might make her feel better. She thinks she ought to have been able to tell that there was something off about Sebastian, but if he was a spy …” Alec shrugged. “Nobody noticed anything off about him. Not even the Penhallows. ”
“I thought he was a knob,” Jace pointed out.
“Yes, but that’s just because—” Alec sank deeper into his chair. He looked exhausted, his skin a pale gray color against the stark white of his clothes. “It hardly matters. Once she finds out what Valentine’s threatening, nothing’s going to cheer her up. ”
“But would he really do it?” Clary asked. “Send a demon army against Nephilim—I mean, he’s still a Shadowhunter, isn’t he? He couldn’t destroy all his own people. ”
“He didn’t care enough about his children not to destroy them,” Jace said, meeting her eyes across the room. Their gazes held. “What makes you think he’d care about his people?”
Alec looked from one of them to the other, and Clary could tell from his expression that Jace hadn’t told him about Ithuriel yet. He looked baffled, and very sad. “Jace …”
“This does explain one thing,” Jace said without looking at Alec. “Magnus was trying to see if he could use a tracking rune on any of the things Sebastian had left in his room, to see if we could locate him that way. He said he wasn’t getting much of a reading on anything we gave him. Just … flat. ”
“What does that mean?”
“They were Sebastian Verlac’s things. The fake Sebastian probably took them whenever he intercepted him. And Magnus isn’t getting anything from them because the real Sebastian—”
“Is probably dead,” finished Alec. “And the Sebastian we know is too smart to leave anything behind that could be used to track him. I mean, you can’t track somebody from just anything. It has to be an object that’s in some way very connected to that person. A family heirloom, or a stele, or a brush with some hair in it, something like that. ”
“Which is too bad,” said Jace, “because if we could follow him, he’d probably lead us straight to Valentine. I’m sure he’s scuttled right back to his master with a full report. Probably told him all about Hodge’s crackpot mirror-lake theory. ”
“It might not have been crackpot,” Alec said. “They’ve stationed guards at the paths that go to the lake, and set up wards that will warn them if anyone Portals there. ”
“Fantastic. I’m sure we all feel very safe now. ” Jace leaned back against the wall.
“What I don’t get,” Simon said, “is why Sebastian stayed around. After what he did to Izzy and Max, he was going to get caught; there was no more pretending. I mean, even if he thought he’d killed Izzy instead of just knocking her out, how was he going to explain that they were both dead and he was still fine? No, he was busted. So why hang around through the fighting? Why come up to the Gard to get me? I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually care one way or the other whether I lived or died. ”
“Now you’re being too hard on him,” Jace said. “I’m sure he’d rather you’d died. ”
“Actually,” Clary said, “I think he stayed because of me. ”
Jace’s gaze flicked up to hers with a flash of gold. “Because of you? Hoping for another hot date, was he?”
Clary felt herself flush. “No. And our date wasn’t hot. In fact, it wasn’t even a date. Anyway, that’s not the point. When he came into the Hall, he kept trying to get me to go outside with him so we could talk. He wanted something from me. I just don’t know what. ”
“Or maybe he just wanted you,” Jace said. Seeing Clary’s expression, he added, “Not that way. I mean maybe he wanted to bring you to Valentine. ”
“Valentine doesn’t care about me,” Clary said. “He’s only ever cared about you. ”
Something flickered in the depths of Jace’s eyes. “Is that what you call it?” His expression was frighteningly bleak. “After what happened on the boat, he’s interested in you. Which means you need to be careful. Very careful. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt if you just spent the next few days inside. You can lock yourself in your room like Isabelle. ”
“I’m not going to do that. ”
“Of course you’re not,” said Jace, “because you live to torture me, don’t you?”
“Not everything, Jace, is about you,” Clary said furiously.
“Possibly,” Jace said, “but you have to admit that the majority of things are. ”
Clary resisted the urge to scream.
Simon cleared his throat. “Speaking of Isabelle—which we only sort of were, but I thought I ought to mention this before the arguing really got under way—I think maybe I should go talk to her. ”
“You?” Alec said. And then, looking faintly embarrassed by his own discomfiture, added quickly, “It’s just—she won’t even come out of her room for her own family. Why would she come out for you?”
“Maybe because I’m not family,” Simon said. He was standing with his hands in his pockets, his shoulders back. Earlier, when Clary had been sitting close to him, she had seen that there was still a thin white line circling his neck, where Valentine had cut his throat, and scars on his wrists where those had been cut too. His encounters with the Shadowhunters’ world had changed him, and not just the surface of him, or even his blood; the change went deeper than that. He stood straight, with his head up, and took whatever Jace and Alec threw at him and didn’t seem to care. The Simon who would have been frightened of them, or made uneasy by them, was gone.
She felt a sudden pain in her heart, and realized with a jolt what it was. She was missing him—missing Simon. Simon as he had been.
“I think I’ll have a try at getting Isabelle to talk to me,” said Simon. “It can’t hurt. ”
“But it’s almost dark,” Clary said. “We told Luke and Amatis we’d be back before the sun went down. ”
“I’ll walk you back,” Jace said. “As for Simon, he can manage his own way back in the dark—can’t you, Simon?”
“Of course he can,” Alec said indignantly, as if eager to make up for his earlier slighting of Simon. “He’s a vampire—and,” he added, “I just now realized you were probably joking. Never mind me. ”
Simon smiled. Clary opened her mouth to protest again—and closed it. Partly because she was, she knew, being unreasonable. And partly because there was a look on Jace’s face as he gazed past her, at Simon, a look that startled her into silence: It was amusement, Clary thought, mixed with gratitude and maybe even—most surprising of all—a little bit of respect.
It was a short walk between the Lightwoods’ new house and Amatis’s; Clary wished it were longer. She couldn’t shake the feeling that every moment she spent with Jace was somehow precious and limited, that they were closing in on some half-invisible deadline that would separate them forever.
She looked sideways at him. He was staring straight ahead, almost as if she weren’t there. The line of his profile was sharp and clear-edged in the witchlight that illuminated the streets. His hair curled against his cheek, not quite hiding the white scar on one temple where a Mark had been. She could see a line of metal glittering at his throat, where the Morgenstern ring dangled on its chain. His left hand was bare; his knuckles looked raw. So he really was healing like a mundane, as Alec had asked him to.
She shivered. Jace glanced at her. “Are you cold?”
“I was just thinking,” she said. “I’m surprised that Valentine went after the Inquisitor instead of Luke. The Inquisitor’s a Shadowhunter, and Luke—Luke’s a Downworlder. Plus, Valentine hates him. ”
“But in a way, he respects him, even if he is a Downworlder,” Jace said, and Clary thought of the look Jace had given Simon earlier, and then tried not to think of it. She hated thinking of Jace and Valentine as being in any way alike, even in so trivial a thing as a glance. “Luke is trying to get the Clave to change, to think in a new way. That’s exactly what Valentine did, even if his goals were—well, not the same. Luke’s an iconoclast. He wants change. To Valentine, the Inquisitor represents the old, hidebound Clave he hates so much. ”
“And they were friends once,” Clary said. “Luke and Valentine. ”
“‘The Marks of that which once hath been,’” Jace said, and Clary could tell he was quoting something, from the half-mocking tone in his voice. “Unfortunately, you never really hate anyone as much as someone you cared about once. I imagine Valentine has something special planned for Luke, down the road, after he takes over. ”
“But he won’t take over,” said Clary, and when Jace said nothing, her voice rose. “He won’t win—he can’t. He doesn’t really want war, not against Shadowhunters and Downworlders—”
“What makes you think Shadowhunters will fight with Downworlders?” Jace said, and he still wasn’t looking at her. They were walking along the canal street, and he was looking out at the water, his jaw set. “Just because Luke says so? Luke’s an idealist. ”
“And why is that a bad thing to be?”
“It’s not. I’m just not one,” said Jace, and Clary felt a cold pang in her heart at the emptiness in his voice. Despair, anger, hate. These are demon qualities. He’s acting the way he thinks he should act.
They had reached Amatis’s house; Clary stopped at the foot of the steps, turning to face him. “Maybe,” she said. “But you’re not like him, either. ”
Jace started a little at that, or maybe it was just the firmness in her tone. He turned his head to look at her for what felt like the first time since they’d left the Lightwoods’. “Clary—” he began, and broke off, with an intake of breath. “There’s blood on your sleeve. Are you hurt?”
He moved toward her, taking her wrist in his hand. Clary glanced down and saw to her surprise that he was right—there was an irregular scarlet stain on the right sleeve of her coat. What was odd was that it was still bright red. Shouldn’t dried blood be a darker color? She frowned. “That’s not my blood. ”
He relaxed slightly, his grip on her wrist loosening. “Is it the Inquisitor’s?”
She shook her head. “I actually think it’s Sebastian’s. ”
“Yes—when he came into the Hall the other night, remember, his face was bleeding. I think Isabelle must have clawed him, but anyway—I touched his face and got his blood on me. ” She looked more closely at it. “I thought Amatis washed the coat, but I guess she didn’t. ”
She expected him to let go of her then, but instead he held her wrist for a long moment, examining the blood, before returning her arm to her, apparently satisfied. “Thanks. ”
She stared at him for a moment before shaking her head. “You’re not going to tell me what that was about, are you?”
“Not a chance. ”
She threw her arms up in exasperation. “I’m going inside. I’ll see you later. ”
She turned and headed up the steps to Amatis’s front door. There was no way she could have known that the moment she turned her back, the smile vanished from Jace’s face, or that he stood for a long time in the darkness once the door closed behind her, looking after her, and twisting a small piece of thread over and over between his fingers.
“Isabelle,” Simon said. It had taken him a few tries to find her door, but the scream of “Go away!” that had emanated from behind this one convinced him he’d made the right choice. “Isabelle, let me in. ”
There was a muffled thump and the door reverberated slightly, as if Isabelle had thrown something at it. Possibly a shoe. “I don’t want to talk to you and Clary. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Leave me alone, Simon. ”
“Clary’s not here,” said Simon. “And I’m not going away until you talk to me. ”
“Alec!” Isabelle yelled. “Jace! Make him go away!”
Simon waited. There was no sound from downstairs. Either Alec had left or he was lying low. “They’re not here, Isabelle. It’s just me. ”
There was a silence. Finally Isabelle spoke again. This time her voice came from much nearer, as if she was standing just on the other side of the door. “You’re alone?”
“I’m alone,” Simon said.
The door cracked open. Isabelle was standing there in a black slip, her hair lying long and tangled over her shoulders. Simon had never seen her like this: barefoot, with her hair unbrushed, and no makeup on. “You can come in. ”
He stepped past her into the room. In the light from the door he could see that it looked, as his mother would have said, like a tornado had hit it. Clothes were scattered across the floor in piles, a duffel bag open on the floor as if it had exploded. Isabelle’s bright silver-gold whip hung from one bedpost, a lacy white bra from another. Simon averted his eyes. The curtains were drawn, the lamps extinguished.
Isabelle flopped down on the edge of the bed and looked at him with bitter amusement. “A blushing vampire. Who would have guessed. ” She raised her chin. “So, I let you in. What do you want?”
Despite her angry glare, Simon thought she looked younger than usual, her eyes huge and black in her pinched white face. He could see the white scars that traced her light skin, all over her bare arms, her back and collarbones, even her legs. If Clary remains a Shadowhunter, he thought, one day she’ll look like this, scarred all over. The thought didn’t upset him as once it might have done. There was something about the way Isabelle wore her scars, as if she was proud of them.
She had something in her hands, something she was turning over and over between her fingers. It was a small something that glinted dully in the half-light. He thought for a moment it might be a piece of jewelry.
“What happened to Max,” Simon said. “It wasn’t your fault. ”
She didn’t look at him. She was staring down at the object in her hands. “Do you know what this is?” she said, and held it up. It seemed to be a small toy soldier, carved out of wood. A toy Shadowhunter, Simon realized, complete with painted-on black gear. The silver glint he’d noticed was the paint on the little sword it held; it was nearly worn away. “It was Jace’s,” she said, without waiting for him to answer. “It was the only toy he had when he came from Idris. I don’t know, maybe it was part of a bigger set once. I think he made it himself, but he never said much about it. He used to take it everywhere with him when he was little, always in a pocket or whatever. Then one day I noticed Max carrying it around. Jace must have been around thirteen then. He just gave it to Max, I guess, when he got too old for it. Anyway, it was in Max’s hand when they found him. It was like he grabbed it to hold on to when Sebastian—when he—” She broke off. The effort she was making not to cry was visible; her mouth was set in a grimace, as if it were twisting itself out of shape. “I should have been there protecting him. I should have been there for him to hold on to, not some stupid little wooden toy. ” She flung it down onto the bed, her eyes shining.
“You were unconscious,” Simon protested. “You nearly died, Izzy. There was nothing you could have done. ”
Isabelle shook her head, her tangled hair bouncing on her shoulders. She looked fierce and wild. “What do you know about it?” she demanded. “Did you know that Max came to us the night he died and told us he’d seen someone climbing the demon towers, and I told him he was dreaming and sent him away? And he was right. I bet it was that bastard Sebastian, climbing the tower so he could take the wards down. And Sebastian killed him so he couldn’t tell anyone what he’d seen. If I’d just listened—just taken one second to listen—it wouldn’t have happened. ”
“There’s no way you could have known,” Simon said. “And about Sebastian—he wasn’t really the Penhallows’ cousin. He had everyone fooled. ”
Isabelle didn’t look surprised. “I know,” she said. “I heard you talking to Alec and Jace. I was listening from the top of the stairs. ”
“You were eavesdropping?”
She shrugged. “Up to the part where you said you were going to come and talk to me. Then I came back here. I didn’t feel like seeing you. ” She looked at him sideways. “I’ll give you this much, though: You’re persistent. ”
“Look, Isabelle. ” Simon took a step forward. He was oddly, suddenly conscious of the fact that she wasn’t very dressed, so he held back from putting a hand on her shoulder or doing anything else overtly soothing. “When my father died, I knew it wasn’t my fault, but I still kept thinking over and over of all the things I should have done, should have said, before he died. ”
“Yeah, well, this is my fault,” Isabelle said. “And what I should have done is listened. And what I still can do is track down the bastard who did this and kill him. ”
“I’m not sure that’ll help—”
“How do you know?” Isabelle demanded. “Did you find the person responsible for your father’s death and kill him?”
“My father had a heart attack,” Simon said. “So, no. ”
“Then you don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?” Isabelle raised her chin and looked at him squarely. “Come here. ”
She beckoned imperiously with her index finger. “Come here, Simon. ”
Reluctantly he came toward her. He was barely a foot away when she seized him by the front of his shirt, yanking him toward her. Their faces were inches apart; he could see how the skin below her eyes shone with the marks of recent tears. “You know what I really need right now?” she said, enunciating each word clearly.
“Um,” Simon said. “No?”
“To be distracted,” she said, and with a half turn yanked him bodily onto the bed beside her.
He landed on his back amid a tangled pile of clothes. “Isabelle,” Simon protested weakly, “do you really think this is going to make you feel any better?”
“Trust me,” Isabelle said, placing a hand on his chest, just over his unbeating heart. “I feel better already. ”
Clary lay awake in bed, staring up at a single patch of moonlight as it made its way across the ceiling. Her nerves were still too jangled from the events of the day for her to sleep, and it didn’t help that Simon hadn’t come back before dinner—or after it. Eventually she’d voiced her concern to Luke, who’d thrown on a coat and headed over to the Lightwoods’. He’d returned looking amused. “Simon’s fine, Clary,” he said. “Go to bed. ” And then he’d left again, with Amatis, off to another one of their interminable meetings at the Accords Hall. She wondered if anyone had cleaned up the Inquisitor’s blood yet.
With nothing else to do, she’d gone to bed, but sleep had remained stubbornly out of reach. Clary kept seeing Valentine in her head, reaching into the Inquisitor and ripping his heart out. The way he had turned to her and said, You’d keep your mouth shut. For your brother’s sake, if not your own. Above all, the secrets she had learned from Ithuriel lay like a weight on her chest. Under all these anxieties was the fear, constant as a heartbeat, that her mother would die. Where was Magnus?
There was a rustling sound by the curtains, and a sudden wash of moonlight poured into the room. Clary sat bolt upright, scrabbling for the seraph blade she kept on her bedside table.
“It’s all right. ” A hand came down on hers—a slender, scarred, familiar hand. “It’s me. ”
Clary drew her breath in sharply, and he took his hand back. “Jace,” she said. “What are you doing here? What’s wrong?”
For a moment he didn’t answer, and she twisted to look at him, pulling the bedclothes up around her. She felt herself flush, acutely conscious of the fact that she was wearing only pajama bottoms and a flimsy camisole—and then she saw his expression, and her embarrassment faded.
“Jace?” she whispered. He was standing by the head of her bed, still wearing his white mourning clothes, and there was nothing light or sarcastic or distant in the way he was looking down at her. He was very pale, and his eyes looked haunted and nearly black with strain. “Are you all right?”
“I don’t know,” he said in the dazed manner of someone just waking up from a dream. “I wasn’t going to come here. I’ve been wandering around all night—I couldn’t sleep—and I kept finding myself walking here. To you. ”
She sat up straighter, letting the bedclothes fall down around her hips. “Why can’t you sleep? Did something happen?” she asked, and immediately felt stupid. What hadn’t happened?
Jace, however, barely seemed to hear the question. “I had to see you,” he said, mostly to himself. “I know I shouldn’t. But I had to. ”
“Well, sit down, then,” she said, pulling her legs back to make a space for him to sit at the edge of the bed. “Because you’re freaking me out. Are you sure nothing’s happened?”
“I didn’t say nothing happened. ” He sat down on the bed, facing her. He was close enough that she could have just leaned forward and kissed him—
Her chest tightened. “Is there bad news? Is everything—is everyone—”
“It’s not bad,” said Jace, “and it’s not news. It’s the opposite of news. It’s something I’ve always known, and you—you probably know it too. God knows I haven’t hid it all that well. ” His eyes searched her face, slowly, as if he meant to memorize it. “What happened,” he said, and hesitated, “is that I realized something. ”
“Jace,” she whispered suddenly, and for no reason she could identify, she was frightened of what he was about to say. “Jace, you don’t have to—”
“I was trying to go … somewhere,” Jace said. “But I kept getting pulled back here. I couldn’t stop walking, couldn’t stop thinking. About the first time I ever saw you, and how after that I couldn’t forget you. I wanted to, but I couldn’t stop myself. I forced Hodge to let me be the one who came to find you and bring you back to the Institute. And even back then, in that stupid coffee shop, when I saw you sitting on that couch with Simon, even then that felt wrong to me—I should have been the one sitting with you. The one who made you laugh like that. I couldn’t get rid of that feeling. That it should have been me. And the more I knew you, the more I felt it—it had never been like that for me before. I’d always wanted a girl and then gotten to know her and not wanted her anymore, but with you the feeling just got stronger and stronger until that night when you showed up at Renwick’s and I knew.
“And then to find out that the reason I felt like that—like you were some part of me I’d lost and never even knew I was missing until I saw you again—that the reason was that you were my sister, it felt like some sort of cosmic joke. Like God was spitting on me. I don’t even know for what—for thinking that I could actually get to have you, that I would deserve something like that, to be that happy. I couldn’t imagine what it was I’d done that I was being punished for—”
“If you’re being punished,” Clary said, “then so am I. Because all those things you felt, I felt them too, but we can’t—we have to stop feeling this way, because it’s our only chance. ”
Jace’s hands were tight at his sides. “Our only chance for what?”
“To be together at all. Because otherwise we can’t ever be around each other, not even just in the same room, and I can’t stand that. I’d rather have you in my life even as a brother than not at all—”
“And I’m supposed to sit by while you date boys, fall in love with someone else, get married …?” His voice tightened. “And meanwhile, I’ll die a little bit more every day, watching. ”
“No. You won’t care by then,” she said, wondering even as she said it if she could stand the idea of a Jace who didn’t care. She hadn’t thought as far ahead as he had, and when she tried to imagine watching him fall in love with someone else, marry someone else, she couldn’t even picture it, couldn’t picture anything but an empty black tunnel that stretched out ahead of her, forever. “Please. If we don’t say anything—if we just pretend—”
“There is no pretending,” Jace said with absolute clarity. “I love you, and I will love you until I die, and if there’s a life after that, I’ll love you then. ”
She caught her breath. He had said it—the words there was no going back from. She struggled for a reply, but none came.
“And I know you think I just want to be with you to—to show myself what a monster I am,” he said. “And maybe I am a monster. I don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is that even if there’s demon blood inside me, there is human blood inside me as well. And I couldn’t love you like I do if I weren’t at least a little bit human. Because demons want. But they don’t love. And I—”
He stood up then, with a sort of violent suddenness, and crossed the room to the window. He looked lost, as lost as he had in the Great Hall standing over Max’s body.
“Jace?” Clary said, alarmed, and when he didn’t answer, she scrambled to her feet and went to him, laying her hand on his arm. He continued staring out the window; their reflections in the glass were nearly transparent—ghostly outlines of a tall boy and a smaller girl, her hand clamped anxiously on his sleeve. “What’s wrong?”
“I shouldn’t have told you like that,” he said, not looking at her. “I’m sorry. That was probably a lot to take in. You looked so … shocked. ” The tension underlying his voice was a live wire.
“I was,” she said. “I’ve spent the past few days wondering if you hated me. And then I saw you tonight and I was pretty sure you did. ”
“Hated you?” he echoed, looking bewildered. He reached out then and touched her face, lightly, just the tips of his fingers against her skin. “I told you I couldn’t sleep. Tomorrow by midnight we’ll be either at war or under Valentine’s rule. This could be the last night of our lives, certainly the last even barely ordinary one. The last night we go to sleep and get up just as we always have. And all I could think of was that I wanted to spend it with you. ”
Her heart skipped a beat. “Jace—”
“I don’t mean it like that,” he said. “I won’t touch you, not if you don’t want me to. I know it’s wrong—God, it’s all kinds of wrong—but I just want to lie down with you and wake up with you, just once, just once ever in my life. ” There was desperation in his voice. “It’s just this one night. In the grand scheme of things, how much can one night matter?”
Because think how we’ll feel in the morning. Think how much worse it will be pretending that we don’t mean anything to each other in front of everyone else after we’ve spent the night together, even if all we do is sleep. It’s like having just a little bit of a drug—it only makes you want more.
But that was why he had told her what he had, she realized. Because it wasn’t true, not for him; there was nothing that could make it worse, just as there was nothing that could make it better. What he felt was as final as a life sentence, and could she really say it was so different for her? And even if she hoped it might be, even if she hoped she might someday be persuaded by time or reason or gradual attrition not to feel this way anymore, it didn’t matter. There was nothing she had ever wanted in her life more than she wanted this night with Jace.
“Close the curtains, then, before you come to bed,” she said. “I can’t sleep with this much light in the room. ”
The look that washed over his face was pure incredulity. He really hadn’t expected her to say yes, Clary realized in surprise, and a moment later he had caught her and hugged her to him, his face buried in her still-messy-from-sleep hair. “Clary …”
“Come to bed,” she said softly. “It’s late. ” She drew away from him and returned to the bed, crawling up onto it and drawing the covers up to her waist. Somehow, looking at him like this, she could almost imagine that things were different, that it was many years from now and they’d been together so long that they’d done this a hundred times, that every night belonged to them, and not just this one. She propped her chin on her hands and watched him as he reached to jerk the curtains shut and then unzipped his white jacket and hung it over the back of a chair. He was wearing a pale gray T-shirt underneath, and the Marks that twined his bare arms shone darkly as he unbuckled his weapons belt and laid it on the floor. He unlaced his boots and stepped out of them as he came toward the bed, and he stretched out very carefully beside Clary. Lying on his back, he turned his head to look at her. A very little light filtered into the room past the edge of the curtains, just enough for her to see the outline of his face and the bright gleam of his eyes.
“Good night, Clary,” he said.
His hands lay flat on either side of him, his arms at his sides. He seemed barely to be breathing; she wasn’t sure she was breathing herself. She slid her own hand across the bedsheet, just far enough that their fingers touched—so lightly that she would probably hardly have been aware of it had she been touching anyone but Jace; as it was, the nerve endings in her fingertips prickled softly, as if she were holding them over a low flame. She felt him tense beside her and then relax. He had shut his eyes, and his lashes cast fine shadows against the curve of his cheekbones. His mouth curled into a smile as if he sensed her watching him, and she wondered how he would look in the morning, with his hair messed and sleep circles under his eyes. Despite everything, the thought gave her a jolt of happiness.
She laced her fingers through his. “Good night,” she whispered, and her hand clasped in Jace’s as if they were children in a fairy tale, she fell asleep beside him in the dark.