City of Heavenly Fire – Chapter 10: THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

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Chapter 10: THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

Clary’s own harsh breathing was loud in her ears. She thought of the first time that Luke had ever taken her swimming, in the lake at the farm, and how she had sunk so far down into the blue-green water that the world outside had disappeared and there was only the sound of her own heartbeat, echoing and distorted. She had wondered if she had left the world behind, if she would always be lost, until Luke had reached down and pulled her back, sputtering and disoriented, into the sunlight. She felt that way now, as if she had tumbled into another world, distorted and suffocating and unreal. The room was the same, the same worn furniture and wood walls and colorful rug, dimmed and bleached by moonlight, but now Sebastian had sprung up in the middle of it like some exotic poisonous flower growing in a bed of familiar weeds. In what felt like slow motion, Clary turned to run back out through the open door—only to find it banging shut in her face. An invisible force seized hold of her, spinning her around and slamming her up against the bedroom wall, her head hitting the wood. She blinked away tears of pain and tried to move her legs; she couldn’t. She was pinned against the wall, paralyzed from the waist down. “My apologies for the binding spell,” Sebastian said, a light, mocking tone to his voice. He lay back against the pillows, stretching his arms up to touch the headboard in a catlike arch. His T-shirt had ridden up, baring his flat, pale stomach, traced with the lines of runes. There was something that was clearly meant to be seductive about the pose, something that made nausea twist in her gut. “It took me a little while to set up, but you know how it is. One can’t take risks. ” “Sebastian. ” To her amazement her voice was steady. She was very aware of every inch of her skin. She felt exposed and vulnerable, as if she were standing without gear or protection in front of flying broken glass. “Why are you here?” His sharp face was thoughtful, searching. A serpent sleeping in the sun, just waking, not dangerous quite yet. “Because I’ve missed you, little sister. Have you missed me?” She thought about screaming, but Sebastian would have a dagger in her throat before she got a sound out. She tried to still the pounding of her heart: she had survived him before. She could do it again. “Last time I saw you, you had a crossbow in my back,” she said. “So that would be a no. ” He traced a lazy pattern in the air with his fingers. “Liar. ” “So are you,” she said. “You didn’t come here because you miss me; you came because you want something. What is it?” He was suddenly on his feet—graceful, too fast for her to catch the movement. White-pale hair fell into his eyes. She remembered standing at the edge of the Seine with him, watching the light catch his hair, as fine and fair as the feathery stems of a dandelion clock. Wondering if Valentine had looked like that, when he was young. “Maybe I want to broker a truce,” he said. “The Clave isn’t going to want to broker a truce with you. ” “Really? After last night?” He took a step toward her. The realization that she couldn’t run surged back up inside her; she bit back a scream. “We are on two different sides. We have opposing armies. Isn’t that what you do? Broker a truce? Either that or fight till one of you loses enough people that you give up? But then, maybe I’m not interested in a truce with them. Maybe I’m only interested in a truce with you. ” “Why? You don’t forgive. I know you. What I did—you wouldn’t forgive it. ” He moved again, a sharp flicker, and suddenly he was pressed against her, his fingers wrapped around her left wrist, pinioning it over her head. “Which part? Destroying my house—our father’s house? Betraying me and lying to me? Breaking my bond with Jace?” She could see the flicker of rage behind his eyes, feel his heart pounding. She wanted nothing more than to kick out at him, but her legs simply wouldn’t move. Her voice shook. “Any of it. ” He was so close, she felt it when his body relaxed. He was hard and lean and whippet-thin, the sharp edges of him pressing into her. “I think you may have done me a favor. Maybe you even meant to do it. ” She could see herself in his uncanny eyes, the irises so dark they almost melded with the pupils. “I was too dependent on our father’s legacy and protection. On Jace. I had to stand on my own. Sometimes you must lose everything to gain it again, and the regaining is the sweeter for the pain of loss. Alone I united the Endarkened. Alone I forged alliances. Alone I took the Institutes of Buenos Aires, of Bangkok, of Los Angeles . . . ” “Alone you murdered people and destroyed families,” she said. “There was a guard stationed in front of this house. He was meant to be protecting me. What did you do to him?” “Reminded him he ought to be better at his job,” Sebastian said. “Protecting my sister. ” He raised the hand that wasn’t pinioning her wrist to the wall, and touched a curl of her hair, rubbing the strands between his fingers. “Red,” he said, his voice half-drowsy, “like sunset and blood and fire. Like the leading edge of a falling star, burning up when it touches the atmosphere. We are Morgensterns,” he added, a dark ache in his voice. “The bright stars of morning. The children of Lucifer, the most beautiful of all God’s angels. We are so much lovelier when we fall. ” He paused. “Look at me, Clary. Look at me. ” She looked at him, reluctantly. His black eyes were focused on her with a sharp hunger; they contrasted starkly with his salt-white hair, his pale skin, the faint flush of pink along his cheekbones. The artist in Clary knew he was beautiful, the way panthers were beautiful, or bottles of shimmering poison, or the polished skeletons of the dead. Luke had told Clary once that her talent was to see the beauty and horror in ordinary things. Though Sebastian was far from ordinary, in him, she could see both. “Lucifer Morningstar was Heaven’s most beautiful angel. God’s proudest creation. And then came the day when Lucifer refused to bow to mankind. To humans. Because he knew they were lesser. And for that he was cast down into the pit with the angels who had taken his side: Belial, and Azazel, and Asmodeus, and Leviathan. And Lilith. My mother. ” “She’s not your mother. ” “You’re right. She’s more than my mother. If she were my mother, I’d be a warlock. Instead I was fed on her blood before I was born. I am something very different from a warlock; something better. For she was an angel once, Lilith. ” “What’s your point? Demons are just angels who make poor life decisions?” “Greater Demons are not so different from angels,” he said. “We are not so different, you and I. I’ve said it to you before. ” “I remember,” she said. “?‘You have a dark heart in you, Valentine’s daughter. ’?” “Don’t you?” he said, and his hand stroked down through her curls, to her shoulder, and slid finally to her chest, and rested just over her heart. Clary felt her pulse slam against her veins; she wanted to push him away, but forced her right arm to remain at her side. The fingers of her hand were against the edge of her jacket, and under her jacket was Heosphoros. Even if she couldn’t kill him, maybe she could use the blade to put him down long enough for help to arrive. Maybe they could even trap him. “Our mother cheated me,” he said. “She denied me and hated me. I was a child and she hated me. As did our father. ” “Valentine raised you—” “But all his love was for Jace. The troubled one, the rebellious one, the broken one. I did everything our father ever asked of me, and he hated me for it. And he hated you, too. ” His eyes were glowing, silver in the black. “It’s ironic, isn’t it, Clarissa? We were Valentine’s blood children, and he hated us. You because you took our mother from him. And me because I was exactly what he created me to be. ” Clary remembered Jace then, bloody and torn, standing with the Morgenstern blade in his hand on the banks of Lake Lyn, shouting at Valentine: Why did you take me? You didn’t need a son. You had a son. And Valentine, his voice hoarse: It wasn’t a son I needed. It was a soldier. I had thought Jonathan might be that soldier, but he had too much of the demon nature in him. He was too savage, too sudden, not subtle enough. I feared even then, when he was barely out of infancy, that he would never have the patience or the compassion to follow me, to lead the Clave in my footsteps. So I tried again with you. And with you I had the opposite trouble. You were too gentle. Too empathic. Understand this, my son—I loved you for those things. She heard Sebastian’s breath, harsh in the quiet. “You know,” he said, “that what I’m saying is the truth. ” “But I don’t know why it matters. ” “Because we are alike!” Sebastian’s voice rose; her flinch let her ease her fingers down another millimeter, toward the hilt of Heosphoros. “You are mine,” he added, controlling his voice with obvious effort. “You have always been mine. When you were born, you were mine, my sister, though you did not know me. There are bonds that nothing can erase. And that is why I am giving you a second chance. ” “A chance at what?” She moved her hand downward another half inch. “I am going to win this,” he said. “You know. You were at the Burren, and the Citadel. You have seen the power of the Endarkened. You know what the Infernal Cup can do. If you turn your back on Alicante and come with me, and pledge your loyalty, I will give you what I have given to no one else. Not ever, for I have saved it for you. ” Clary let her head fall back against the wall. Her stomach was twisting, her fingers just touching the hilt of the sword in her belt. Sebastian’s eyes were fixed on her. “You’ll give me what?” He smiled then, exhaling, as if the question were, somehow, a relief. He seemed to blaze for a moment with his own conviction; looking at him was like watching a city burn. “Mercy,” he said. The dinner was surprisingly elegant. Magnus had dined with faeries only a few times before in his life, and the décor had always tended toward the naturalistic—tree-trunk tables, cutlery made of elaborately shaped branches, plates of nuts and berries. He had always been left with the feeling, afterward, that he would have enjoyed the whole business more if he had been a squirrel. Here in Idris, though, in the house provided to the Fair Folk, the table was set with white linens. Luke, Jocelyn, Raphael, Meliorn, and Magnus were eating from plates of polished mahogany; the decanters were crystal, and the cutlery—in deference to both Luke and the faeries present—was made not from silver or iron but from delicate saplings. Faerie knights stood guard, silent and motionless, at each of the exits to the room. Long white spears that gave off a dim illumination were by their sides, casting a soft glow across the room. The food wasn’t bad either. Magnus speared a piece of a really quite decent coq au vin and chewed thoughtfully. He didn’t have much of an appetite, it was true. He was nervous—a state he loathed. Somewhere out there, past these walls and this required dinner party, was Alec. No more geographical space separated them. Of course, they hadn’t been far from each other in New York either, but the space that had separated them hadn’t been made up of miles but of Magnus’s life experiences. It was strange, he thought. He’d always thought of himself as a brave person. It took courage to live an immortal life and not close off your heart and mind to any new experiences or new people. Because that which was new was almost always temporary. And that which was temporary broke your heart. “Magnus?” said Luke, waving a wooden fork almost under Magnus’s nose. “Are you paying attention?” “What? Of course I am,” Magnus said, taking a sip of his wine. “I agree. One hundred percent. ” “Really,” Jocelyn said dryly. “You agree that the Downworlders should abandon the problem of Sebastian and his dark army and leave it to the Shadowhunters, as a Shadowhunter issue?” “I told you he was not paying attention,” said Raphael, who had been served a blood fondue and appeared to be enjoying it immensely. “Well, it is a Shadowhunter issue—” Magnus began, and then he sighed, setting down his wineglass. The wine was quite strong; he was beginning to feel light-headed. “Oh, all right. I wasn’t listening. And no, of course I don’t believe that—” “Shadowhunter lapdog,” snapped Meliorn. His green eyes were narrowed. The Fair Folk and warlocks had always enjoyed a somewhat difficult relationship. Neither liked Shadowhunters much, which provided a common enemy, but the Fair Folk looked down upon warlocks for their willingness to perform magic for money. Meanwhile the warlocks scorned the Fair Folk for their inability to lie, their hidebound customs, and their penchant for pettily annoying mundanes by curdling their milk and stealing their cows. “Is there any reason you wish to preserve amity with the Shadowhunters, besides the fact that one of them is your lover?” Luke coughed violently into his wine. Jocelyn patted him on the back. Raphael simply looked amused. “Get with the times, Meliorn,” said Magnus. “No one says ‘lover’ anymore. ” “Besides,” added Luke. “They broke up. ” He scrubbed the back of his hand over his eyes and sighed. “And really, ought we to be gossiping right now? I don’t see how anyone’s personal relationships enter into this. ” “Everything is about personal relationships,” said Raphael, dipping something unpleasant-looking into his fondue. “Why do you Shadowhunters have this problem? Because Jonathan Morgenstern has sworn vengeance against you. Why has he sworn vengeance? Because he hates his father and mother. I’ve no wish to offend you,” he added, nodding toward Jocelyn. “But we all know it’s true. ” “No offense taken,” said Jocelyn, though her tone was frigid. “If it were not for me and for Valentine, Sebastian would not exist, in any sense of the word. I take full responsibility for that. ” Luke looked thunderous. “It was Valentine who turned him into a monster,” he said. “And yes, Valentine was a Shadowhunter. But it is not as if the Council is endorsing and supporting him, or his son. They are actively at war with Sebastian, and they want our help. All races, lycanthropes and vampires and warlocks and, yes, the Fair Folk, have the potential to do good or do evil. Part of the purpose of the Accords is to say that all of us who do good, or hope to do it, are united against those who do evil. Regardless of bloodlines. ” Magnus pointed his fork at Luke. “That,” he said, “was a beautiful speech. ” He paused. He was definitely slurring his words. How had he gotten so drunk on so little wine? He was usually much more careful than that. He frowned. “What kind of wine is this?” he asked. Meliorn leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. There was a glint in his eyes as he replied. “Does the vintage not please you, warlock?” Jocelyn set her glass down slowly. “When faeries answer questions with questions,” she said, “it’s never a good sign. ” “Jocelyn—” Luke reached to put his hand on her wrist. He missed. He stared muzzily at his hand for a moment, before lowering it slowly to the table. “What,” he said, enunciating each word carefully, “have you done, Meliorn?” The faerie knight laughed. The sound was a musical blur in Magnus’s ears. The warlock went to set his wineglass down, but realized he had already dropped it. The wine had run out across the table like blood. He glanced up and over at Raphael, but Raphael was facedown on the table, still and unmoving. Magnus tried to shape his name through numb lips, but no sound came. Somehow he managed to struggle to his feet. The room was swaying around him. He saw Luke sink back against his chair; Jocelyn rose to her feet, only to crumple to the ground, her stele rolling from her hand. Magnus lurched to the door, reached to open it— On the other side stood the Endarkened, dressed all in red gear. Their faces were blank, their arms and throats decorated with runes, but none Magnus was familiar with. These runes were not the runes of the Angel. They spoke of dissonance, of the demonic realms and dark, fell powers. Magnus turned away from them—and his legs gave out beneath him. He fell to his knees. Something white rose up before him. It was Meliorn, in his snowy armor, bending to one knee to look Magnus in the face. “Demon-fathered one,” he said. “Did you really think we would ever ally with your kind?” Magnus heaved a breath. The world was darkening at the edges, like a photograph burning, curling in at the sides. “The Fair Folk don’t lie,” he said. “Child,” said Meliorn, and there was almost sympathy in his voice. “Not to know after all these years that deception can hide in plain sight? Oh, but you are an innocent, after all. ” Magnus tried to raise his voice to protest that he was anything but innocent, but the words would not come. The darkness did, however, and drew him down and away. Clary’s heart wrenched in her chest. She tried again to move her feet, to kick out, but her legs remained frozen in place. “You think I don’t know what you mean by mercy?” she whispered. “You’ll use the Infernal Cup on me. You’ll make me one of your Endarkened, like Amatis—” “No,” he said, a strange urgency in his tone. “I won’t change you if you don’t want it. I will forgive you, and Jace as well. You can be together. ” “Together with you,” she said, letting just the edge of the irony of it touch her voice. But he didn’t appear to register it. “Together, with me. If you swear loyalty, if you promise it in the name of the Angel, I will believe you. When all else changes, you alone I will preserve. ” She moved her hand down another inch, and now she was holding the hilt of Heosphoros. All she needed was to tighten her fist. . . . “And if I don’t?” His expression hardened. “If you refuse me now, I will Turn everyone you love to Endarkened Ones, and then Turn you last, that you might be forced to watch them change when you can still feel the pain of it. ” Clary swallowed against a dry throat. “That’s your mercy?” “Mercy is a condition of your agreement. ” “I won’t agree. ” His lowered lashes scattered light; his smile was a promise of terrible things. “What’s the difference, Clarissa? You will fight for me regardless. Either you keep your freedom and stand with me, or you lose it and stand with me. Why not be with me?” “The angel,” she said. “What was its name?” Taken aback, Sebastian hesitated for a moment before he replied. “The angel?” “The one whose wings you cut off and sent to the Institute,” she said. “The one you killed. ” “I don’t understand,” he said. “What’s the difference?” “No,” she said, slowly. “You don’t understand. The things you’ve done are too terrible to ever be forgiven, and you don’t even know they’re terrible. And that’s why not. That’s why never. I will never forgive you. I will never love you. Never. ” She saw each word hit him like a slap. As he drew breath to reply, she swung the blade of Heosphoros out at him, up toward his heart. But he was faster, and the fact that her legs were pinned in place by magic shortened her reach. He whipped away; she reached out, trying to pull him toward her, but he yanked his arm away easily. She heard a rattle and realized distantly that she had pulled his silver bracelet free. It clattered to the ground. She slashed toward him again with her blade; he jerked back, and Heosphoros cut a clean slice across his shirtfront. She saw his lip curl in pain and anger. He caught her by the arm and swung her hand up to slam it against the door, sending a jolt of numbness up to her shoulder. Her fingers went loose, and Heosphoros fell from her grasp. He glanced down at the fallen blade and then back up at her, breathing hard. Blood edged the fabric where she had cut his shirt; not enough for the wound to slow him down. Disappointment shot through her, more painful than the ache in her wrist. His body pinned hers to the door; she could feel the tension in every line of him. His voice was knifelike. “That blade is Heosphoros, the Dawn-Bringer. Where did you find it?” “In a weapons shop,” she gasped. Feeling was coming back to her shoulder; the pain was intense. “The woman who owned the place gave it to me. She said nobody else would ever—would ever want a Morgenstern blade. Our blood is tainted. ” “But it is our blood. ” He pounced on the words. “And you took the sword. You wanted it. ” She could feel the heat burning off him; it seemed to shimmer around him, like the flame of a dying star. He bent his head until his lips touched her neck, and spoke against her skin, his words matching the tempo of her pulse. She closed her eyes with a shudder as his hands ran up her body. “You lie when you tell me you’ll never love me,” he said. “That we’re different. You lie just like I do—” “Stop,” she said. “Get your hands off me. ” “But you’re mine,” he said. “I want you to—I need you to—” He took a gasping breath; his pupils were blown wide; something about it terrified her more than anything else he had ever done. Sebastian in control was frightening; Sebastian out of control was something too horrible to contemplate. “Let her go,” said a clear, hard voice from across the room. “Let her go and stop touching her, or I will burn you down to ashes. ” Jace. Over Sebastian’s shoulder she saw him, suddenly, where there had been no one standing a moment ago. He was in front of the window, the curtains blowing behind him in the breeze off the canal, and his eyes were as hard as agate stones. He was wearing gear, his blade in his hand, still with the shadow of fading bruises on his jaw and neck, and his expression as he looked at Sebastian was one of absolute loathing. Clary felt Sebastian’s whole body tighten against hers; a moment later he had spun away from her, slamming his foot down on her sword, his hand flying to his belt. His smile was a razor slice, but his eyes were wary. “Go ahead and try it,” he said. “You got lucky at the Citadel. I wasn’t expecting you to burn like that when I cut you. My mistake. I won’t make it twice. ” Jace’s eyes flicked to Clary once, a question in them; she nodded that she was all right. “So you admit it,” said Jace, circling a little closer to them. The tread of his boots was soft on the wooden floor. “The heavenly fire surprised you. Threw you off your game. That’s why you fled. You lost the battle at the Citadel, and you don’t like to lose. ” Sebastian’s razor smile grew a little brighter, a little brittler. “I didn’t get what I came for. But I did learn quite a bit. ” “You didn’t break the walls of the Citadel,” said Jace. “You didn’t get into the armory. You didn’t Turn the Sisters. ” “I didn’t go to the Citadel for arms and armor,” Sebastian sneered. “I can get those easily. I came for you. The two of you. ” Clary looked sideways at Jace. He was standing, expressionless and unmoving, his face as still as stone. “You couldn’t have known we’d be there,” she said. “You’re lying. ” “I’m not. ” He practically radiated, like a torch burning. “I can see you, little sister. I can see everything that happens in Alicante. In the day and in the night, in darkness and in light, I can see you. ” “Stop it,” Jace said. “It’s not true. ” “Really?” Sebastian said. “How did I know Clary would be here? Alone, tonight?” Jace went on, prowling toward them, like a cat on the hunt. “How didn’t you know that I would be here, too?” Sebastian made a face. “Hard to watch two people at once. So many irons in the fire . . . ” “And if you wanted Clary, why not just take her?” Jace demanded. “Why spend all this time talking?” His voice dripped contempt. “You want her to want to go with you,” he said. “No one in your life has done anything but despise you. Your mother. Your father. And now your sister. Clary wasn’t born with hate in her heart. You made her hate you. But it wasn’t what you wanted. You forget we were bonded, you and I. You forget I’ve seen your dreams. Somewhere inside that head of yours, there is a world of flames, and there is you looking down at it from a throne room, and in that room are two thrones. So who occupies that second throne? Who sits beside you in your dreams?” Sebastian gave a gasping laugh; there were red spots on his cheeks, like fever. “You are making a mistake,” he said, “talking to me like this, angel boy. ” “Even in your dreams you are not companionless,” Jace said, and now his voice was that voice Clary had first fallen in love with, the voice of the boy who had told her a story about a child and a falcon and the lessons he had learned. “But who could you find who would understand you? You don’t understand love; our father taught you too well. But you understand blood. Clary is your blood. If you could have her beside you, watching the world burn, it would be all the approval you ever needed. ” “I never desired approval,” said Sebastian through gritted teeth. “Yours, hers, or anyone’s. ” “Really?” Jace smiled as Sebastian’s voice rose. “Then why have you given us so many second chances?” He had stopped prowling and stood opposite them, his pale gold eyes shining in the dim light. “You said it yourself. You stabbed me. You went for my shoulder. You could have gone for the heart. You were holding back. For what? For me? Or because in some tiny part of your brain you know that Clary would never forgive you if you ended my life?” “Clary, do you wish to speak for yourself on this matter?” said Sebastian, though he never took his eyes from the blade in Jace’s hands. “Or do you require him to give answers for you?” Jace cut his eyes toward Clary, and Sebastian did as well. She felt the weight of both gazes on her for a moment, black and gold. “I’ll never want to come with you, Sebastian,” she said. “Jace is right. If the choice was to spend my life with you or die, I’d rather die. ” Sebastian’s eyes darkened. “You’ll change your mind,” he said. “You’ll mount that throne beside me of your own accord, when the end comes to the end. I’ve given you your chance to come willingly now. I’ve paid in blood and inconvenience to have you with me by your own choice. But I will take you unwilling, just the same. ” “No!” Clary said, just as a loud crash sounded from downstairs. The house was suddenly full of voices. “Oh, dear,” said Jace, his voice dripping sarcasm. “I just might have sent a fire-message to the Clave when I saw the body of the guard you killed and shoved under that bridge. Foolish of you not to dispose of it more carefully, Sebastian. ” Sebastian’s expression tightened, so momentarily that Clary imagined most people would never have noticed it. He reached for Clary, his lips shaping words—a spell to free her from whatever force held her clamped to the wall. She pushed, shoved at him, and then Jace leaped at them, his blade driving down— Sebastian spun away, but the blade had caught him: It drew a line of blood down his arm. He cried out, staggering back—and paused. He grinned as Jace stared at him, white-faced. “The heavenly fire,” Sebastian said. “You don’t know how to control it yet. Works sometimes and not other times, eh, little brother?” Jace’s eyes blazed up in gold. “We’ll see about that,” he said, and lunged for Sebastian, sword slicing through the darkness with light. But Sebastian was too quick for it to matter. He strode forward and plucked the sword out of Jace’s hand. Clary struggled, but Sebastian’s magic kept her pinned in place; before Jace could move, Sebastian swung Jace’s sword around and plunged it into his own chest. The tip sank in, parting his shirt, then his skin. He bled red, human blood, as dark as rubies. He was clearly in pain: His teeth bared in a rictus grin, his breath coming unevenly, but the sword kept moving, his hand steady. The back of his shirt bulged and tore as the tip of the sword broke through it, on a gout of blood. Time seemed to stretch out like a rubber band. The hilt slammed up against Sebastian’s chest, the blade protruding from his back, dripping scarlet. Jace stood, shocked and frozen, as Sebastian reached for him with bloody hands and pulled him close. Over the sound of feet pounding up the stairs, Sebastian spoke: “I can feel the fire of Heaven in your veins, angel boy, burning under the skin,” he said. “The pure force of the destruction of ultimate goodness. I can still hear your screams on the air when Clary plunged the blade into you. Did you burn and burn?” His breathless voice was dark with poisonous intensity. “You think you have a weapon you can use against me, now, don’t you? And perhaps with fifty years, a hundred, to learn to master the fire, you could, but time is exactly what you don’t have. The fire rages, uncontrolled, inside you, far more likely to destroy you than it is to ever destroy me. ” Sebastian raised a hand and cupped the back of Jace’s neck, pulling him closer, so close their foreheads almost touched. “Clary and I are alike,” he said. “And you—you are my mirror. One day she will choose me over you, I promise you that. And you will be there to see it. ” With a swift darting motion, he kissed Jace on the cheek, fast and hard; when he drew back, there was a smear of blood there. “Ave, Master Herondale,” Sebastian said, and twisted the silver ring on his finger—there was a shimmer, and he vanished. Jace stared for a wordless moment at the place where Sebastian had been, then started toward Clary; suddenly freed by Sebastian’s disappearance, her legs had collapsed under her. She hit the ground on her knees and threw herself forward immediately, scrabbling for the blade of Heosphoros. Her hand closed around it and she drew it close, curling her body around it as if it were a child that needed protecting. “Clary—Clary—” Jace was there, sinking to his knees beside her, and his arms were around her; she rocked into them, pressing her forehead to his shoulder. She realized his shirt, and now her skin, was wet with her brother’s blood, as the door burst open, and the guards of the Clave poured into the room.

“Here you go,” said Leila Haryana, one of the newest of the pack’s wolves, as she handed over a stack of clothes to Maia. Maia took them gratefully. “Thanks—you have no idea what it means to have clean clothes to wear,” she said, glancing through the pile: a tank top, jeans, a wool jacket. She and Leila were about the same size, and even if the clothes didn’t quite fit, it was better than going back to Jordan’s apartment. It had been a while since Maia had lived at pack headquarters, and all her things were at Jordan and Simon’s, but the thought of the apartment without either of the boys in it was a dreary one. At least here she was surrounded by other werewolves, surrounded by the constant hum of voices, the smell of take-out Chinese and Malaysian food, the sound of people cooking in the kitchen. And Bat was there—not getting in her space, but always around if she wanted someone to talk to or just sit silently with, watching the traffic go by on Baxter Street. Of course there were also downsides. Rufus Hastings, huge and scarred and fearsome in his black leather biker clothes, seemed to be everywhere at once, his grating voice audible in the kitchen as he muttered over lunch about how Luke Garroway wasn’t a reliable leader, he was going to marry an ex-Shadowhunter, his loyalties were in question, they needed someone they could depend on to put werewolves first. “No problem. ” Leila fiddled with the gold clip in her dark hair, looking awkward. “Maia,” she said. “Just a word to the wise—you might want to tone down the whole loyalty-to-Luke thing. ” Maia froze. “I thought we were all loyal to Luke,” she said, in a careful tone. “And to Bat. ” “If Luke were here, maybe,” said Leila. “But we’ve barely heard from him since he left for Idris. The Praetor isn’t a pack, but Sebastian threw the gauntlet down. He wants us to choose between the Shadowhunters and going to war for them and—” “There’s always going to be war,” Maia said in a low furious voice. “I’m not blindly loyal to Luke. I know Shadowhunters. I’ve met Sebastian, too. He hates us. Trying to appease him, it isn’t going to work—” Leila put her hands up. “Okay, okay. Like I said, just advice. Hope those fit,” she added, and headed off down the hall. Maia wiggled into the jeans—tight, like she’d figured—and the shirt, and shrugged on Leila’s jacket. She grabbed her wallet from the table, shoved her feet into her boots, and headed down the hall to knock on Bat’s door. He opened it shirtless, which she hadn’t been expecting. Aside from the scar along his right cheek, he had a scar on his right arm, where he’d been shot with a bullet—not silver. The scar looked like a moon crater, white against his dark skin. He raised an eyebrow. “Maia?” “Look,” she said. “I’m going to tell off Rufus. He’s filling everyone’s head with crap, and I’m tired of it. ” “Whoa. ” Bat held up a hand. “I don’t think that’s a good idea—” “He’s not going to stop unless someone tells him to,” she said. “I remember running into him at the Praetor, with Jordan. Praetor Scott said Rufus had snapped another werewolf’s leg for no reason. Some people see a power vacuum and they want to fill it. They don’t care who they hurt. ” Maia spun on her heel and headed downstairs; she could hear Bat making muffled cursing noises behind her. A second later he joined her on the steps, hastily pulling a shirt on. “Maia, I really don’t—” “There you are,” she said. She had reached the lobby, where Rufus was lounging against what had once been a sergeant’s desk. A group of about ten other werewolves, including Leila, were grouped around him. “. . . have to show them that we’re stronger,” he was saying. “And that our loyalties lie with ourselves. The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack. ” His voice was as gravelly as Maia remembered it, as if something had injured his throat a long time ago. The deep scars on his face were livid against his pale skin. He smiled when he saw Maia. “Hello,” he said. “I believe we’ve met before. I was sorry to hear about your boyfriend. ” I doubt that. “Strength is loyalty and unity, not dividing people with lies,” Maia snapped. “We’ve only just been reunited, and you’re calling me a liar?” Rufus said. His demeanor was still casual, but there was a flicker of tension under it, like a cat readying itself to pounce. “If you’re telling people that they should stay out of the Shadowhunters’ war, then you’re a liar. Sebastian isn’t going to stop with the Nephilim. If he destroys them, then he’ll come for us next. ” “He doesn’t care about Downworlders. ” “He just slaughtered the Praetor Lupus!” Maia shouted. “He cares about destruction. He will kill us all. ” “Not if we don’t join with the Shadowhunters!” “That’s a lie,” Maia said. She saw Bat pass a hand over his eyes, and then something struck her hard in the shoulder, knocking her backward. She was caught off her guard enough to stumble, and then steadied herself on the edge of the desk. “Rufus!” Bat roared, and Maia realized that Rufus had hit her in the shoulder. She clamped her jaw shut, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing the pain on her face. Rufus stood smirking amid the suddenly frozen group of werewolves. Murmurs ran around the group as Bat strode forward. Rufus was enormous, towering over even Bat, his shoulders as thick and broad as a plank. “Rufus,” Bat said. “I’m the leader here, in Garroway’s absence. You have been a guest among us but are not of our pack. It’s time for you to get out. ” Rufus narrowed his eyes at Bat. “Are you throwing me out? Knowing I have nowhere to go?” “I’m sure you’ll find somewhere,” Bat said, starting to turn away. “I challenge you,” Rufus said. “Bat Velasquez, I challenge you for the leadership of the New York pack. ” “No!” Maia said in horror, but Bat was already straightening his shoulders. His eyes met Rufus’s; the tension between the two werewolves was as palpable as a live wire. “I accept your challenge,” Bat said. “Tomorrow night, in Prospect Park. I’ll meet you there. ” He spun on his heel and stalked out of the station. After a frozen moment Maia dashed after him. The cold air hit her the minute she reached the front steps. Icy wind was swirling down Baxter Street, cutting through her jacket. She clattered down the stairs, her shoulder aching. Bat had nearly reached the corner of the street by the time she caught up with him, grabbing his arm and spinning him around to face her. She was aware that other people on the street were staring at them, and wished for a moment for the Shadowhunters’ glamour runes. Bat looked down at her. There was an angry line between his eyes, and his scar stood out, livid on his cheek. “Are you crazy?” she demanded. “How could you accept Rufus’s challenge? He’s huge. ” “You know the rules, Maia,” said Bat. “A challenge has to be accepted. ” “Only if you’re challenged by someone in your own pack! You could have turned him down. ” “And lost all the pack’s respect,” said Bat. “They never would have been willing to follow my orders again. ” “He’ll kill you,” Maia said, and wondered if he could hear what she was saying under the words: that she’d just watched Jordan die, and didn’t think she could stand it again. “Maybe not. ” He drew from his pocket something that clanked and jingled, and pressed it into her hand. After a moment she realized what it was. Jordan’s keys. “His truck’s parked around the corner,” Bat said. “Take it and go. Stay away from the station until this is resolved. I don’t trust Rufus around you. ” “Come with me,” Maia begged. “You never cared about being pack leader. We could just go away until Luke comes back and sorts all this out—” “Maia. ” Bat put his hand on her wrist, his fingers curling gently around her palm. “Waiting for Luke to get back is pretty much exactly what Rufus wants us to do. If we leave, we’re abandoning the pack to him, basically. And you know what he’ll choose to do, or not do. He’ll let Sebastian slaughter the Shadowhunters without lifting a finger, and by the time Sebastian decides to come back and pick us all off like the last pieces on a chessboard, it’ll be too late for everyone. ” Maia looked down at his fingers, gentle on her skin. “You know,” he said, “I remember when you told me you needed more space. That you couldn’t be in a real relationship. I took you at your word and I gave you space. I even started dating that girl, the witch, what was her name—” “Eve,” Maia supplied. “Right. Eve. ” Bat looked surprised that she remembered. “But that didn’t work out, and anyway, maybe I gave you too much space. Maybe I should have told you how I felt. Maybe I should—” She looked up at him, startled and bewildered, and saw his expression change, the shutters going up behind his eyes, hiding his brief vulnerability. “Never mind,” he said. “It’s not fair to lay all this on you right now. ” He let go of her and stepped back. “Take the truck,” he said, backing away from her into the crowd, heading toward Canal Street. “Get out of town. And look after yourself, Maia. For me. ” Jace set his stele down on the arm of the sofa and traced a finger over the iratze he had drawn on Clary’s arm. A silver band glittered at his wrist. At some point, Clary didn’t remember when, he had picked up Sebastian’s fallen bracelet and clipped it onto his own wrist. She didn’t feel like asking him why. “How’s that?” “Better. Thanks. ” Clary’s jeans were rolled up above her knees; she watched as the bruises on her legs began to fade slowly. They were in a room in the Gard, some kind of meeting space, Clary guessed. There were several tables and a long leather sofa, angled in front of a low-burning fire. Books lined one of the walls. The room was illuminated by the firelight. The unshaded window gave out onto a view of Alicante and the shining demon towers. “Hey. ” Jace’s light golden eyes searched her face. “Are you all right?” Yes, she meant to say, but the reply stuck in her throat. Physically she was fine. The runes had healed her bruises. She was all right, Jace was all right—Simon, knocked out by the spiked blood, had slept through it all and was currently still sleeping in another room in the Gard. A message had been sent to Luke and Jocelyn. The dinner they were attending was warded for safety, Jia had explained, but they would receive it on leaving. Clary ached to see them again. The world felt unsteady under her feet. Sebastian was gone, for the moment at least, but still she felt torn apart, bitter and angry and vengeful and sad. The guards had let her pack a bag of her things before she’d left Amatis’s house—a change of clothes, her gear, her stele, drawing pad, and weapons. Part of her wanted to change her clothes desperately, to get rid of Sebastian’s touch on the fabric, but more of her didn’t want to leave the room, didn’t want to be alone with her memories and thoughts. “I’m fine. ” She rolled the legs of her jeans down and stood up, walked over to the fireplace. She was aware of Jace watching her from the sofa. She put her hands out as if warming them at the fire, though she wasn’t cold. In fact, every time the thought of her brother crossed her mind, she felt a surge of anger like liquid fire rip through her body. Her hands were shaking; she looked at them with a strange detachment, as if they were a stranger’s hands. “Sebastian’s afraid of you,” she said. “He played it off, especially at the end, but I could tell. ” “He’s afraid of the heavenly fire,” corrected Jace. “I don’t think he’s exactly sure what it does, any more than we are. One thing’s for certain, though—it doesn’t hurt him just to touch me. ” “No,” she said, without turning around to look at Jace. “Why did he kiss you?” It wasn’t what she’d meant to say, but she kept seeing it in her head, over and over, Sebastian with his bloody hand curling around the back of Jace’s neck, and then that strange and surprising kiss on the cheek. She heard the creak of the leather sofa as Jace shifted his weight. “It was a sort of quote,” he said. “From the Bible. When Judas kissed Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. It was a sign of his betrayal. He kissed him and said ‘Hail, master’ to him, and that was how the Romans knew who to arrest and crucify. ” “That was why he said ‘Ave, master,’ to you,” said Clary, realizing. “?‘Hail, master. ’?” “He meant he planned to be the instrument of my destruction. Clary, I—” She turned to look at Jace as he broke off. He was sitting on the edge of the couch, running a hand through his messy blond hair, his eyes fixed on the floor. “When I came into the room and saw you there, and him there, I wanted to kill him. I should have attacked him immediately, but I was afraid it was a trap. That if I moved toward you, either of you, he would find a way to kill you or hurt you. He’s always twisted everything I’ve ever done. He’s clever. Cleverer than Valentine. And I’ve never been—” She waited, the only sound in the room the crackle and pop of the damp wood in the fireplace. “I’ve never been afraid of anyone like this,” he finished, biting off the words as he spoke them. Clary knew what it cost Jace to say it, how much of his life had been expertly hiding fear and pain and any perceived vulnerability. She wanted to say something in reply, something about how he shouldn’t be afraid, but she couldn’t. She was afraid as well, and she knew they both had good reason to be. There was no one in Idris who had better reason than they did to be terrified. “He risked a lot, coming here,” Jace said. “He let the Clave know he can get in through the wards. They’ll try to shore them up again. It might work, it might not, but it’ll probably inconvenience him. He wanted to see you badly. Badly enough to make it worth the risk. ” “He still thinks he can convince me. ” “Clary. ” Jace rose to his feet and moved toward her, his hand outstretched. “Are you—” She flinched, away from his touch. Startled light flared in his golden eyes. “What’s wrong?” He glanced down at his hands; the faint glow of the fire in his veins was visible. “The heavenly fire?” “Not that,” she said. “Then—” “Sebastian. I should have told you before, but I just—I couldn’t. ” He didn’t move, just looked at her. “Clary, you can tell me anything; you know you can. ” She took a deep breath and stared into the fire, watching the flames—gold and green and sapphire blue—chase each other. “In November,” she said. “Before we came to the Burren, after you’d left the apartment, he realized I’d been spying. He crushed my ring, and then he—he hit me, pushed me through a glass table. Knocked me to the ground. I almost killed him then, almost shoved a piece of glass through his throat, but I realized that if I did, I’d be killing you, and so I couldn’t do it. And he was so delighted. He laughed and he shoved me down. He was pulling at my clothes and reciting pieces of the Song of Solomon, telling me about how brothers and sisters used to marry to keep royal bloodlines pure, how I belonged to him. Like I was a piece of monogrammed luggage with his name stamped on me. . . . ” Jace looked shocked in a way she had rarely seen him shocked; she could read the levels of his expression: hurt, fear, apprehension. “He . . . Did he . . . ?” “Rape me?” she said, and the word was awful and ugly in the stillness of the room. “No. He didn’t. He . . . stopped. ” Her voice fell to a whisper. Jace was as white as a sheet. He opened his mouth to say something to her, but she could hear only the distorted echo of his voice, as if she were underwater again. She was shaking all over, violently, though it was warm in the room. “Tonight,” she said, finally. “I couldn’t move, and he pushed me up against the wall, and I couldn’t get away, and I just—” “I’ll kill him,” Jace said. Some color had washed back into his face, and he looked gray. “I’ll cut him into pieces. I’ll cut his hands off for touching you—” “Jace,” Clary said, feeling suddenly exhausted. “We have a million reasons to want him dead. Besides,” she added with a mirthless laugh, “Isabelle already cut his hand off, and it didn’t work. ” Jace closed his hand into a fist, drew it up against his stomach, and dug it into his solar plexus as if he could cut off his own breath. “All that time I was connected to him, I thought I knew his mind, his desires, what he wanted. But I didn’t guess, I didn’t know. And you didn’t tell me. ” “This isn’t about you, Jace—” “I know,” he said. “I know. ” But his hand was so tightly fisted that it was white, the veins standing out in a stark topography across the back of it. “I know, and I don’t blame you for not telling me. What could I have done? How am I not completely useless here? I was just standing five feet from him, and I have fire in my veins that ought to be able to kill him, and I tried and it didn’t work. I couldn’t make it work. ” “Jace. ” “I’m sorry. It’s just—you know me. I only have two reactions to bad news. Uncontrollable rage and then a sharp left turn into boiling self-hatred. ” She was silent. Above everything else she was tired, so tired. Telling him what Sebastian had done had been like lifting an impossible weight, and now all she wanted was to close her eyes and disappear into the darkness. She had been so angry for so long—anger always under the surface of everything. Whether she was shopping for presents with Simon or sitting in the park or alone at home trying to draw, the anger was always with her. Jace was visibly struggling; he wasn’t trying to hide anything from her, at least, and she saw the quick flicker of emotions behind his eyes: rage, frustration, helplessness, guilt, and, finally, sadness. It was a surprisingly quiet sadness, for Jace, and when he spoke at last, his voice was surprisingly quiet too. “I just wish,” he said, not looking at her but at the floor, “that I could say the right thing, do the right thing, to make this easier for you. Whatever you want from me, I want to do it. I want to be there for you in whatever the right way is for you, Clary. ” “There,” she said softly. He looked up. “What?” “What you just said. That was perfect. ” He blinked. “Well, that’s good, because I’m not sure I have an encore in me. What part of it was perfect?” She felt her lip quirk slightly at the side. There was something so Jace about his reaction, his strange mixture of arrogance and vulnerability, of resilience and bitterness and devotion. “I just want to know,” she said, “that you don’t think any differently of me. Any less. ” “No. No,” he said, appalled. “You’re brave and brilliant, and you’re perfect and I love you. I just love you and I always have. And the actions of some lunatic aren’t going to change that. ” “Sit down,” she said, and he sat down on the creaking leather sofa, his head tipped back, looking up at her. The reflected firelight clustered like sparks in his hair. She took a deep breath and walked over to him, settled herself carefully in his lap. “Could you hug me?” she said. He put his arms around her, held her against him. She could feel the muscles in his arms, the strength in his back as he put his hands on her gently, so gently. He had hands made for fighting, and yet he could be so gentle with her, with his piano, with all the things he cared about. She settled against him, sideways in his lap, her feet on the sofa, and leaned her head against his shoulder. She could feel the rapid beat of his heart. “Now,” she said. “Kiss me too. ” He hesitated. “Are you sure?” She nodded. “Yes. Yes,” she said. “God knows we haven’t exactly been able to do all that much lately, but every time I kiss you, every time you touch me, it’s a victory, if you ask me. Sebastian, he did what he did because—because he doesn’t understand the difference between loving and having. Between giving yourself and taking. And he thought that if he could make me give myself, then he’d have me, I’d be his, and to him that’s love, because he doesn’t know anything else. But when I touch you, I do it because I want to, and that’s all the difference. And he doesn’t get to have that or take it away from me. He doesn’t,” she said, and she leaned up to kiss him, a light touch of lips to lips, bracing her hand against the back of the sofa. She felt him draw in his breath at the slight spark that jumped between their skins. He brushed his cheek against hers, the strands of their hair tangling together, red and gold. She settled back down against him. The flames leaped in the grate, and some of their warmth soaked into Clary’s bones. She was resting against the shoulder that was marked with the white star of the men of the Herondale family, and she thought of all those who had gone before Jace, whose blood and bones and lives had made him what he was. “What are you thinking?” he said. He was drawing his hand through her hair, letting the loose curls slip between his fingers. “That I’m glad I told you,” she said. “What are you thinking?” He was silent for a long moment, as the flames rose and fell. Then he said, “I was thinking of what you said about Sebastian being lonely. I was trying to remember what it was like to be in that house with him. He took me for a lot of reasons, sure, but half of it was just to have company. The company of someone who he thought might understand him, because we’d been raised the same. I was trying to remember if I’d ever actually liked him, liked spending time with him. ” “I don’t think so. Just from being there, with you, you never seemed at ease, not exactly. You were you, but not you. It’s hard to explain. ” Jace looked at the fire. “Not that hard,” he said. “I think there’s a part of us, separate even from our will or our minds, and it was that part he couldn’t touch. It was never really exactly me, and he knew that. He wants to be liked, or really loved, for what he is, genuinely. But he doesn’t think he has to change to be worthy of being loved; instead he wants to change the whole world, change humanity, make it into something that loves him. ” He paused. “Sorry about the armchair psychology. Literally. Here we are in an armchair. ” But Clary was deep in thought. “When I went through his things, at the house, I found a letter he’d written. It wasn’t finished, but it was addressed to ‘my beautiful one. ’ I remember thinking it was weird. Why would he be writing a love letter? I mean, he understands sex, sort of, and desire, but romantic love? Not from what I’ve seen. ” Jace drew her up against him, fitting her more neatly against the curve of his side. She wasn’t sure who was soothing whom, just that his heart beat steadily against her skin, and the soap-sweat-metal smell of him was familiar and comforting. Clary softened against him, exhaustion catching her up and dragging her down, weighting her eyelids. It had been a long, long day and night, and a long day before that. “If my mom and Luke get here while I’m sleeping, wake me up,” she said. “Oh, you’ll be woken up,” Jace said drowsily. “Your mother will think I’m trying to take advantage of you and chase me around the room with a fireplace poker. ” She reached up to pat his cheek. “I’ll protect you. ” Jace didn’t reply. He was already asleep, breathing steadily against her, the rhythms of their heartbeats slowing to match each other. She lay awake as he slept—looking into the leaping flames and frowning, the words “my beautiful one” echoing in her ears like the memory of words heard in a dream.

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