City of Lost Souls – Chapter 2: Thorns

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Chapter 2 : Thorns

Simon was waiting for Clary, Alec, and Isabelle outside the Institute, under an overhang of stone that only just protected him from the worst of the rain. He turned as they came out through the doors, and Clary saw that his dark hair was pasted to his forehead and neck. He pushed it back and looked at her, a question in his eyes.

“Im cleared,” she said, and as he started to smile, she shook her head. “But theyre de-prioritizing the search for Jace. I-Im pretty sure they think hes dead. ”

Simon looked down at his wet jeans and T-shirt (a wrinkled gray ringer tee that said CLEARLY I HAVE MADE SOME BAD DECISIONS on the front in block lettering). He shook his head. “Im sorry. ”

“The Clave can be like that,” Isabelle said. “I guess we shouldnt have expected anything else. ”

“Basia coquum,” Simon said. “Or whatever their motto is. ”

“Its Descensus Averno facilis est. The descent into hell is easy,” said Alec. “You just said “Kiss the cook. ”

“Dammit,” said Simon. “I knew Jace was screwing with me. ” His wet brown hair fell back into his eyes; he flicked it away with a gesture impatient enough that Clary caught a flashing glimpse of the silvery Mark of Cain on his forehead. “Now what?”

“Now we go see the Seelie Queen,” said Clary. As she touched the bell at her throat, she explained to Simon about Kaelies visit to Luke and Jocelyns reception, and her promises to Clary about the Seelie Queens help.

Simon looked dubious. “The red-headed lady with the bad attitude who made you kiss Jace? I didnt like her. ”

“Thats what you remember about her? That she made Clary kiss Jace?” Isabelle sounded annoyed. “The Seelie Queen is dangerous. She was just playing around that time. Usually she likes to drive at least a few humans to screaming madness every day before breakfast. ”

“Im not human,” Simon said. “Not anymore. ” He looked at Isabelle only briefly, dropped his gaze, and turned to Clary. “You want me with you?”

“I think it would be good to have you there. Daylighter, Mark of Cain-some things have to impress even the Queen. ”

“I wouldnt bet on it,” said Alec.

Clary glanced past him and asked, “Wheres Magnus?”

“He said it would be better if he didnt come. Apparently he and the Seelie Queen have some kind of history. ”

Isabelle raised her eyebrows.

“Not that kind of history,” said Alec irritably. “Some kind of feud. Though,” he added, half under his breath, “the way he got around before me, I wouldnt be surprised. ”

“Alec!” Isabelle dropped back to talk to her brother, and Clary opened her umbrella with a snap. It was one Simon had bought her years ago at the Museum of Natural History and had a pattern of dinosaurs on the top. She saw his expression change to one of amusement as he recognized it.

“Shall we walk?” he inquired, and offered his arm.

The rain was coming down steadily, creating small rills out of the gutters and splashing water up from the wheels of passing taxis. It was odd, Simon thought, that although he didnt feel cold, the sensation of being wet and clammy was still irritating. He shifted his gaze slightly, looking at Alec and Isabelle over his shoulder; Isabelle hadnt really met his eyes since theyd come out of the Institute, and he wondered what she was thinking. She seemed to want to talk to her brother, and as they paused at the corner of Park Avenue, he heard her say, “So, what do you think? About Dad putting his name in for the Inquisitor position. ”

“I think it sounds like a boring job. ” Isabelle was holding an umbrella. It was clear plastic, decorated with decals of colorful flowers. It was one of the girliest things Simon had ever seen, and he didnt blame Alec for ducking out from under it and taking his chances with the rain. “I dont know why hed want it. ”

“I dont care if its boring,” Isabelle whisper-hissed. “If he takes it, hell be in Idris all the time. Like, all the time. He cant run the Institute and be the Inquisitor. He cant have two jobs at once. ”

“If youve noticed, Iz, hes in Idris all the time anyway. ”

“Alec-” The rest of what she said was lost as the light changed and traffic surged forward, spraying icy water up onto the pavement. Clary dodged a geyser of it and nearly knocked into Simon. He took her hand to steady her.

“Sorry,” she said. Her hand felt small and cold in his. “Wasnt really paying attention. ”

“I know. ” He tried to keep the worry out of his voice. She hadnt really been “paying attention” to anything for the past two weeks. At first shed cried, and then been angry-angry that she couldnt join the patrols looking for Jace, angry at the Councils endless grilling, angry that she was being kept virtually a prisoner at home because she was under suspicion from the Clave. Most of all shed been angry at herself for not being able to come up with a rune that would help. She would sit at her desk at night for hours, her stele clutched so tightly in whitening fingers that Simon was afraid it would snap in half. Shed try to force her mind to present her with a picture that would tell her where Jace was. But night after night nothing happened.

She looked older, he thought as they entered the park through a gap in the stone wall on Fifth Avenue. Not in a bad way, but she was different from the girl shed been when they had walked into the Pandemonium Club on that night that had changed everything. She was taller, but it was more than that. Her expression was more serious, there was more grace and force in the way she walked, her green eyes were less dancing, more focused. She was starting to look, he realized with a jolt of surprise, like Jocelyn.

Clary paused in a circle of dripping trees; the branches blocked most of the rain here, and Isabelle and Clary leaned their umbrellas against the trunks of nearby trees. Clary unclasped the chain around her neck and let the bell slide into her palm. She looked around at all of them, her expression serious. “This is a risk,” she said, “and Im pretty sure if I take it, I cant go back from it. So if any of you dont want to come with me, its all right. Ill understand. ”

Simon reached out and put his hand over hers. There was no need to think. Where Clary went, he went. They had been through too much for it to be any other way. Isabelle followed suit, and lastly Alec; rain dripped off his long black lashes like tears, but his expression was resolute. The four of them held hands tightly.

Clary rang the bell.

There was a sensation as if the world were spinning-not the same sensation as being flung through a Portal, Clary thought, into the heart of a maelstrom, but more as if she were sitting on a merry-go-round that had begun to spin faster and faster. She was dizzy and gasping when the sensation stopped suddenly and she was standing still again, her hand clasped with Isabelles, Alecs, and Simons.

They released one another, and Clary glanced around. She had been here before, in this dark brown, shining corridor that looked as if it had been carved out of a tigers eye gemstone. The floor was smooth, worn down by the passage of thousands of years worth of faerie feet. Light came from glinting chips of gold in the walls, and at the end of the passage was a multicolored curtain that swayed back and forth as if moved by wind, though there was no wind here underground. As Clary drew near to it, she saw that it was sewed out of butterflies. Some of them were still alive, and their struggles made the curtain flutter as if in a stiff breeze.

She swallowed back the acid taste in her throat. “Hello?” she called. “Is anyone there?”

The curtain rustled aside, and the faerie knight Meliorn stepped out into the hallway. He wore the white armor Clary remembered, but there was a sigil over his left breast now-the four Cs that also decorated Lukes Council robes, marking him as a member. There was a scar, also, on Meliorns face that was new, just under his leaf-colored eyes. He regarded her frigidly. “One does not greet the Queen of the Seelie Court with the barbarous human hello,” he said, “as if you were hailing a servant. The proper address is Well met. ”

“But we havent met,” said Clary. “I dont even know if shes here. ”

Meliorn looked at her with scorn. “If the Queen were not present and ready to receive you, ringing the bell would not have brought you. Now come: follow me, and bring your companions with you. ”

Clary turned to gesture at the others, then followed Meliorn through the curtain of tortured butterflies, hunching her shoulders in the hopes that no part of their wings would touch her.

One by one the four of them stepped into the Queens chamber. Clary blinked in surprise. It looked entirely different from how it had the last time shed been here. The Queen reclined on a white and gold divan, and all around her stretched a floor made of alternating squares of black and white, like a great checkerboard. Strings of dangerous-looking thorns hung from the ceiling, and on each thorn was impaled a will-o-the-wisp, its normally blinding light flickering as it died. The room shimmered in their glow.

Meliorn went to stand beside the Queen; other than him the room was empty of courtiers. Slowly the Queen sat up straight. She was as beautiful as ever, her dress a diaphanous mixture of silver and gold, her hair like rosy copper as she arranged it gently over one white shoulder. Clary wondered why she was bothering. Of all of them there, the only one likely to be moved by her beauty was Simon, and he hated her.

“Well met, Nephilim, Daylighter,” she said, inclining her head in their direction. “Daughter of Valentine, what brings you to me?”

Clary opened her hand. The bell shone there like an accusation. “You sent your handmaiden to tell me to ring this if I ever needed your help. ”

“And you told me you wanted nothing from me,” said the Queen. “That you had everything you desired. ”

Clary thought back desperately to what Jace had said when they had had an audience with the Queen before, how he had flattered and charmed her. It was as if he had suddenly acquired a whole new vocabulary. She glanced back over her shoulder at Isabelle and Alec, but Isabelle only made an irritable motion at her, indicating that she should keep going.

“Things change,” Clary said.

The Queen stretched her legs out luxuriously. “Very well. What is it you want from me?”

“I want you to find Jace Lightwood. ”

In the silence that followed, the sound of the will-o-the-wisps, crying in their agony, was softly audible. At last the Queen said, “You must think us powerful indeed if you believe the Fair Folk can succeed where the Clave has failed. ”

“The Clave wants to find Sebastian. I dont care about Sebastian. I want Jace,” Clary said. “Besides, I already know you know more than youre letting on. You predicted this would happen. No one else knew, but I dont believe you sent me that bell when you did-the same night Jace disappeared-without knowing something was brewing. ”

“Perhaps I did,” said the Queen, admiring her shimmering toenails.

“Ive noticed the Fair Folk often say perhaps when there is a truth they want to hide,” Clary said. “It keeps you from having to give a straight answer. ”

“Perhaps so,” said the Queen with an amused smile.

“Mayhap is a good word too,” Alec suggested.

“Also perchance,” Izzy said.

“I see nothing wrong with maybe,” said Simon. “A little modern, but the gist of the idea comes across. ”

The Queen waved away their words as if they were annoying bees buzzing around her head. “I do not trust you, Valentines daughter,” she said. “There was a time I wanted a favor from you, but that time is over. Meliorn has his place on the Council. I am not sure there is anything you can offer me. ”

“If you thought that,” said Clary, “you never would have sent the bell. ”

For a moment their eyes locked. The Queen was beautiful, but there was something behind her face, something that made Clary think of the bones of a small animal, whitening in the sun. At last the Queen said, “Very well. I may be able to help you. But I will desire recompense. ”

“Shocker,” Simon muttered. He had his hands jammed into his pockets and was looking at the Queen with loathing.

Alec laughed.

The Queens eyes flashed. A moment later Alec staggered back with a cry. He was holding his hands out before him, gaping, as the skin on them wrinkled and his hands curved inward, bent, the joints swollen. His back hunched, his hair graying, his blue eyes fading and sinking into deep wrinkles. Clary gasped. Where Alec had been, an old man, bent and white-haired, stood trembling.

“How swift mortal loveliness does fade,” the Queen gloated. “Look at yourself, Alexander Lightwood. I give you a glimpse of yourself in a mere threescore years. What will your warlock lover say then of your beauty?”

Alecs chest was heaving. Isabelle stepped quickly to his side and took his arm. “Alec, its nothing. Its a glamour. ” She turned on the Queen. “Take it off him! Take it off!”

“If you and yours will speak to me with more respect, then I might consider it. ”

“We will,” Clary said quickly. “We apologize for any rudeness. ”

The Queen sniffed. “I rather miss your Jace,” she said. “Of all of you, he was the prettiest and the best-mannered. ”

“We miss him too,” said Clary in a low voice. “We didnt mean to be ill-mannered. We humans can be difficult in our grief. ”

“Hmph,” said the Queen, but she snapped her fingers and the glamour fell from Alec. He was himself again, though white-faced and stunned-looking. The Queen shot him a superior look, and turned her attention to Clary.

“There is a set of rings,” said the Queen. “They belonged to my father. I desire the return of these objects, for they are faerie-made and possess great power. They allow us to speak to one another, mind to mind, as your Silent Brothers do. At present I have it on good authority that they are on display in the Institute. ”

“I remember seeing something like that,” Izzy said slowly. “Two faerie-work rings in a glass case on the second floor of the library. ”

“You want me to steal something from the Institute?” Clary said, surprised. Of all the favors she might have guessed the Queen would ask for, this one wasnt high on the list.

“It is not theft,” said the Queen, “to return an item to its rightful owners. ”

“And then youll find Jace for us?” said Clary. “And dont say perhaps. What will you do exactly?”

“I will assist you in finding him,” said the Queen. “I give you my word that my help would be invaluable. I can tell you, for instance, why all of your tracking spells have been for naught. I can tell you in what city he is most likely to be found-”

“But the Clave questioned you,” interrupted Simon. “How did you lie to them?”

“They never asked the correct questions. ”

“Why lie to them?” demanded Isabelle. “Where is your allegiance in all this?”

“I have none. Jonathan Morgenstern could be a powerful ally if I do not make him an enemy first. Why endanger him or earn his ire at no benefit to ourselves? The Fair Folk are an old people; we do not make hasty decisions but first wait to see in what direction the wind blows. ”

“But these rings mean enough to you that if we get them, youll risk making him angry?” Alec asked.

But the Queen only smiled, a lazy smile, ripe with promise. “I think that is quite enough for today,” she said. “Return to me with the rings and we will speak again. ”

Clary hesitated, turning to look at Alec, and then Isabelle. “Youre all right with this? Stealing from the Institute?”

“If it means finding Jace,” Isabelle said.

Alec nodded. “Whatever it takes. ”

Clary turned back to the Queen, who was watching her with an expectant gaze. “Then, I think we have ourselves a bargain. ”

The Queen stretched and gave a contented smile. “Fare thee well, little Shadowhunters. And a word of warning, though you have done nothing to deserve it. You might well consider the wisdom of this hunt for your friend. For as is often the happenstance with that which is precious and lost, when you find him again, he may well not be quite as you left him. ”

It was nearly eleven when Alec reached the front door of Magnuss apartment in Greenpoint. Isabelle had persuaded Alec to come to Takis for dinner with Clary and Simon, and though he had protested, he was glad he had. He had needed a few hours to settle his emotions after what had happened in the Seelie Court. He did not want Magnus to see how badly the Queens glamour had shaken him.

He no longer had to ring the bell for Magnus to buzz him upstairs. He had a key, a fact he was obscurely proud of. He unlocked the door and headed upstairs, passing Magnuss first-floor neighbor as he did so. Though Alec had never seen the occupants of the first-floor loft, they seemed to be engaged in a tempestuous romance. Once there had been a bunch of someones belongings strewn all over the landing with a note attached to a jacket lapel addressed to “A lying liar who lies. ” Right now there was a bouquet of flowers taped to the door with a card tucked among the blooms that read IM SORRY. That was the thing about New York: you always knew more about your neighbors business than you wanted to.

Magnuss door was cracked slightly open, and the sounds of music playing softly wafted out into the hall. Today it was Tchaikovsky. Alec felt his shoulders relax as the door of the apartment shut behind him. He could never be quite sure how the place was going to look-it was minimalist right now, with white couches, red stacking tables, and stark black-and-white photos of Paris on the walls-but it had begun to feel increasingly familiar, like home. It smelled like the things he associated with Magnus: ink, cologne, Lapsang Souchong tea, the burned-sugar smell of magic. He scooped up Chairman Meow, who was dozing on a windowsill, and made his way into the study.

Magnus looked up as Alec came in. He was wearing what for Magnus was a somber ensemble-jeans and a black T-shirt with rivets around the collar and cuffs. His black hair was down, messy and tangled as if hed run his hands through it multiple times in annoyance, and his cats eyes were heavy-lidded with tiredness. He dropped his pen when Alec appeared, and grinned. “The Chairman likes you. ”

“He likes anyone who scratches behind his ears,” Alec said, shifting the dozing cat so that his purring seemed to rumble through Alecs chest.

Magnus leaned back in his chair, the muscles in his arms flexing as he yawned. The table was strewn with pieces of paper covered in small, cramped handwriting and drawings-the same pattern over and over, variations on the design that had been splattered across the floor of the rooftop from which Jace had disappeared. “How was the Seelie Queen?”

“Same as usual. ”

“Raging bitch, then?”

“Pretty much. ” Alec gave Magnus the condensed version of what had happened in the faerie court. He was good at that-keeping things short, not a word wasted. He never understood people who chattered on incessantly, or even Jaces love of overcomplicated wordplay.

“I worry about Clary,” said Magnus. “I worry shes getting in over her little red head. ”

Alec set Chairman Meow down on the table, where he promptly curled up into a ball and went back to sleep. “She wants to find Jace. Can you blame her?”

Magnuss eyes softened. He hooked a finger into the top of Alecs jeans and pulled him closer. “Are you saying youd do the same thing if it were me?”

Alec turned his face away, glancing at the paper Magnus had just set aside. “You looking at these again?”

Looking a little disappointed, Magnus let Alec go. “Theres got to be a key,” he said. “To unlocking them. Some language I havent looked at yet. Something ancient. This is old black magic, very dark, not like anything Ive ever seen before. ” He looked at the paper again, his head tilted to the side. “Can you hand me that snuffbox over there? The silver one, on the edge of the table. ”

Alec followed the line of Magnuss gesture and saw a small silver box perched on the opposite side of the big wooden table. He reached over and picked it up. It was like a miniature metal chest set on small feet, with a curved top and the initials W. S. picked out in diamonds across the top.

W, he thought. Will?

Will, Magnus had said when Alec had asked him about the name Camille had taunted him with. Dear God, that was a long time ago.

Alec bit his lip. “What is this?”

“Its a snuffbox,” said Magnus, not looking up from his papers. “I told you. ”

“Snuff? As in snuffing people out?” Alec eyed it.

Magnus looked up and laughed. “As in tobacco. It was very popular around the seventeenth, eighteenth century. Now I use the box to keep odds and ends in. ”

He held out his hand, and Alec gave the box up. “Do you ever wonder,” Alec began, and then started again. “Does it bother you that Camilles out there somewhere? That she got away?” And that it was my fault? Alec thought but didnt say. There was no need for Magnus to know.

“Shes always been out there somewhere,” said Magnus. “I know the Clave isnt terribly pleased, but Im used to imagining her living her life, not contacting me. If it ever bothered me, it hasnt in a long time. ”

“But you did love her. Once. ”

Magnus ran his fingers over the diamond insets in the snuffbox. “I thought I did. ”

“Does she still love you?”

“I dont think so,” Magnus said dryly. “She wasnt very pleasant the last time I saw her. Of course that could be because Ive got an eighteen-year-old boyfriend with a stamina rune and she doesnt. ”

Alec sputtered. “As the person being objectified, I. . . object to that description of me. ”

“She always was the jealous type. ” Magnus grinned. He was awfully good at changing the subject, Alec thought. Magnus had made it clear that he didnt like talking about his past love life, but somewhere during their conversation, Alecs sense of familiarity and comfort, his feeling of being at home, had vanished. No matter how young Magnus looked-and right now, barefoot, with his hair sticking up, he looked about eighteen-uncrossable oceans of time divided them.

Magnus opened the box, took out some tacks, and used them to fix the paper he had been looking at to the table. When he glanced up and saw Alecs expression, he did a double take. “Are you okay?”

Instead of replying, Alec reached down and took Magnuss hands. Magnus let Alec pull him to his feet, a questioning look in his eyes. Before he could say anything, Alec drew him closer and kissed him. Magnus made a soft, pleased sound, and gripped the back of Alecs shirt, rucking it up, his fingers cool on Alecs spine. Alec leaned into him, pinning Magnus between the table and his own body. Not that Magnus seemed to mind.

“Come on,” Alec said against Magnuss ear. “Its late. Lets go to bed. ”

Magnus bit his lip and glanced over his shoulder at the papers on the table, his gaze fixed on ancient syllables in forgotten languages. “Why dont you go on ahead?” he said. “Ill join you-five minutes. ”

“Sure. ” Alec straightened up, knowing that when Magnus was deep in his studies, five minutes could easily become five hours. “Ill see you there. ”

“Shhh. ”

Clary put her finger to her lips before motioning for Simon to go before her through the front door of Lukes house. All the lights were off, and the living room was dark and silent. She shooed Simon toward her room and headed into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. Halfway there she froze.

Her mothers voice was audible down the hall. Clary could hear the strain in it. Just like losing Jace was Clarys worst nightmare, she knew that her mother was living her worst nightmare too. Knowing that her son was alive and out there in the world, capable of anything, was ripping her apart from the inside out.

“But they cleared her, Jocelyn,” Clary overheard Luke reply, his voice dipping in and out of a whisper. “There wont be any punishment. ”

“All of it is my fault. ” Jocelyn sounded muffled, as if she had buried her head against Lukes shoulder. “If I hadnt brought that. . . creature into the world, Clary wouldnt be going through this now. ”

“You couldnt have known. . . ” Lukes voice faded off into a murmur, and though Clary knew he was right, she had a brief, guilty flash of rage against her mother. Jocelyn should have killed Sebastian in his crib before hed ever had a chance to grow up and ruin all their lives, she thought, and was instantly horrified at herself for thinking it. She turned and swung back toward the other end of the house, darting into her bedroom and closing the door behind her as if she were being followed.

Simon, who had been sitting on the bed playing with his DS, looked up at her in surprise. “Everything okay?”

She tried to smile at him. He was a familiar sight in this room-theyd slept over at Lukes often enough when they were growing up. Shed done what she could to make this room hers instead of a spare room. Photos of herself and Simon, the Lightwoods, herself with Jace and with her family, were stuck haphazardly into the frame of the mirror over the dresser. Luke had given her a drawing board, and her art supplies were sorted neatly into a stack of cubbyholes beside it. She had tacked up posters of her favorite animes: Fullmetal Alchemist, Rurouni Kenshin, Bleach.

Evidence of her Shadowhunter life lay scattered about as well-a fat copy of The Shadowhunters Codex with her notes and drawings scribbled into the margins, a shelf of books on the occult and paranormal, her stele atop her desk, and a new globe, given to her by Luke, that showed Idris, bordered in gold, in the center of Europe.

And Simon, sitting in the middle of her bed, cross-legged, was one of the few things that belonged both to her old life and her new one. He looked at her with his eyes dark in his pale face, the glimmer of the Mark of Cain barely visible on his forehead.

“My mom,” she said, and leaned against the door. “Shes really not doing well. ”

“Isnt she relieved? I mean about you being cleared?”

“She cant get past thinking about Sebastian. She cant get past blaming herself. ”

“It wasnt her fault, the way he turned out. It was Valentines. ”

Clary said nothing. She was recalling the awful thing she had just thought, that her mother should have killed Sebastian when he was born.

“Both of you,” said Simon, “blame yourselves for things that arent your fault. You blame yourself for leaving Jace on the roof-”

She jerked her head up and looked at him sharply. She wasnt aware shed ever said she blamed herself for that, though she did. “I never-”

“You do,” he said. “But I left him, Izzy left him, Alec left him-and Alecs his parabatai. Theres no way we could have known. And it might have been worse if youd stayed. ”

“Maybe. ” Clary didnt want to talk about it. Avoiding Simons gaze, she headed into the bathroom to brush her teeth and pull on her fuzzy pajamas. She avoided looking at herself in the mirror. She hated how pale she looked, the shadows under her eyes. She was strong; she wasnt going to fall apart. She had a plan. Even if it was a little insane, and involved robbing the Institute.

She brushed her teeth and was pulling her wavy hair back into a ponytail as she left the bathroom, just catching Simon slipping back into his messenger bag a bottle of what was almost surely the blood hed bought at Takis.

She came forward and ruffled his hair. “You can keep the bottles in the fridge, you know,” she said. “If you dont like it room temperature. ”

“Ice-cold blood is worse than room temperature, actually. Warm is best, but I think your mom would balk at me heating it up in saucepans. ”

“Does Jordan care?” Clary asked, wondering if in fact Jordan even still remembered Simon lived with him. Simon had been at her house every night for the past week. In the first few days after Jace had disappeared, she hadnt been able to sleep. She had piled five blankets over herself, but shed been unable to get warm. Shivering, she would lie awake imagining her veins sluggish with frozen blood, ice crystals weaving a coral-like shining net around her heart. Her dreams were full of black seas and ice floes and frozen lakes and Jace, his face always hidden from her by shadows or a breath of cloud or his own shining hair as he turned away from her. She would fall asleep for minutes at a time, always waking up with a sick drowning feeling.

The first day the Council had interrogated her, shed come home and crawled into bed. Shed lain there wide awake until thered been a knock on her window and Simon had crawled inside, nearly tumbling onto the floor. Hed climbed onto the bed and stretched out beside her without a word. His skin had been cold from the outside, and hed smelled like city air and oncoming winter chill.

She had touched her shoulder to his, dissolving a tiny part of the tension that clamped her body like a clenched fist. His hand had been cold, but it had been familiar, like the texture of his corduroy jacket against her arm.

“How long can you stay?” she had whispered into the darkness.

“As long as you want. ”

Shed turned on her side to look at him. “Wont Izzy mind?”

“Shes the one who told me I should come over here. She said you werent sleeping, and if having me with you will make you feel better, I can stay. Or I could just stay until you fall asleep. ”

Clary had exhaled her relief. “Stay all night,” shed said. “Please. ”

He had. That night she had had no bad dreams.

As long as he was there, her sleep was dreamless and blank, a dark ocean of nothingness. A painless oblivion.

“Jordan doesnt really care about the blood,” Simon said now. “His whole thing is about me being comfortable with what I am. Get in touch with your inner vampire, blah, blah. ”

Clary slid next to him onto the bed and hugged a pillow. “Is your inner vampire different from your. . . outer vampire?”

“Definitely. He wants me to wear midriff-baring shirts and a fedora. Im fighting it. ”

Clary smiled faintly. “So your inner vampire is Magnus?”

“Wait, that reminds me. ” Simon dug around in his messenger bag and produced two volumes of manga. He waved them triumphantly before handing them to Clary. “Magical Love Gentleman volumes fifteen and sixteen,” he said. “Sold out everywhere but Midtown Comics. ”

She picked them up, looking at the colorful back-to-front covers. Once upon a time she would have waved her arms in fangirl joy; now it was all she could do to smile at Simon and thank him, but he had done it for her, she reminded herself, the gesture of a good friend. Even if she couldnt even imagine distracting herself with reading right now. “Youre awesome,” she said, bumping him with her shoulder. She lay down against the pillows, the manga books balanced on her lap. “And thanks for coming with me to the Seelie Court. I know it brings up sucky memories for you, but-Im always better when youre there. ”

“You did great. Handled the Queen like a pro. ” Simon lay down next to her, their shoulders touching, both of them looking up at the ceiling, the familiar cracks in it, the old glow-in-the-dark paste-on stars that no longer shed light. “So youre going to do it? Steal the rings for the Queen?”

“Yes. ” She let out her held breath. “Tomorrow. Theres a local Conclave meeting at noon. Everyonell be in it. Im going in then. ”

“I dont like it, Clary. ”

She felt her body tighten. “Dont like what?”

“You having anything to do with faeries. Faeries are liars. ”

“They cant lie. ”

“You know what I mean. Faeries are misleaders sounds lame, though. ”

She turned her head and looked at him, her chin against his collarbone. His arm came up automatically and circled her shoulders, pulling her against him. His body was cool, his shirt still damp from the rain. His usually stick-straight hair had dried in windblown curls. “Believe me, I dont like getting mixed up with the Court. But Id do it for you,” she said. “And youd do it for me, wouldnt you?”

“Of course I would. But its still a bad idea. ” He turned his head and looked at her. “I know how you feel. When my father died-”

Her body tightened. “Jace isnt dead. ”

“I know. I wasnt saying that. Its just-You dont need to say youre better when Im there. Im always there with you. Grief makes you feel alone, but youre not. I know you dont believe in-in religion-the same way I do, but you can believe youre surrounded by people who love you, cant you?” His eyes were wide, hopeful. They were the same dark brown they had always been, but different now, as if another layer had been added to their color, the same way his skin seemed both poreless and translucent at the same time.

I believe it, she thought. Im just not sure it matters. She knocked her shoulder gently against his again. “So, do you mind if I ask you something? Its personal but important. ”

A note of wariness crept into his voice. “What is it?”

“With the whole Mark of Cain thing, does that mean if I accidentally kick you during the night, I get kicked in the shins seven times by an invisible force?”

She felt him laugh. “Go to sleep, Fray. ”

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