Font Size:  

Camille snorted. "That's another thing," she said. "You no longer need other people in your life once you have found your true love. No wonder Magnus feels he cannot open up to you, when you rely so heavily upon these other people. When love is true, you should meet each other's every desire, every need-Are you listening, young Alexander? For my advice is precious, and not given often..."

The room was filled with translucent dawn light. Clary sat up, watching Jace as he slept. He was on his side, his hair a pale brass color in the bluish air. His cheek was pillowed on his hand, like a child's. The star-shaped scar on his shoulder was revealed, and so were the patterns of old runes up and down his arms, back, and sides.

She wondered if other people would find the scars as beautiful as she did, or if she only saw them that way because she loved him and they were part of him. Each one told the story of a moment. Some had even saved his life.

He murmured in his sleep and turned over onto his back. His hand, the Voyance rune clear and black on the back of it, was splayed across his stomach, and above it was the one rune that Clary did not find beautiful: Lilith's rune, the one that bound him to Sebastian.

It seemed to pulse, like Isabelle's ruby necklace, like a second heart.

Silent as a cat, she moved up the bed and onto her knees. She reached up and pulled the Herondale dagger from the wall. The photograph of her and Jace together fluttered free, spinning in the air before landing face-down on the floor.

She swallowed and looked back at him. Even now, he was so alive, he seemed to glow from inside, as if lit by inner fire. The scar on his chest pulsed its steady beat.

She lifted the knife.

Clary came awake with a start, her heart slamming against her rib cage. The room swung around her like a carousel: it was still dark, and Jace's arm was around her, his breath warm on the back of her neck. She could feel his heartbeat against her spine. She closed her eyes, swallowing against the bitter taste in her mouth.

It was a dream. Just a dream.

But there was no way she was getting back to sleep now. She sat up carefully, gently moving Jace's arm away, and climbed off the bed.

The floor was icy cold, and she winced as her bare feet touched it. She found the knob of the bedroom door in the half-light, and swung it open. And froze.

Though there were no windows in the hallway outside, it was lit by pendant chandeliers. Puddles of something that looked sticky and dark marred the floor. Along one white-painted wall was the clear mark of a bloody handprint. Blood spattered the wall at intervals leading to the stairs, where there was a single long, dark smear.

Clary looked toward Sebastian's room. It was quiet, the door shut, no light showing beneath it. She thought of the blond girl in the spangled top, looking up at him. She looked at the bloody handprint again. It was like a message, a hand thrust out, saying Stop.

And then Sebastian's door opened.

He stepped out. He was wearing a thermal shirt over black jeans, and his silver-white hair was rumpled. He was yawning; he did a double take when he saw her, and a look of genuine surprise passed over his face. "What are you doing up?"

Clary sucked in a breath. The air tasted metallic. "What am I doing? What are you doing?"

"Going downstairs to get some towels to clean up this mess," he said matter-of-factly. "Vampires and their games..."

"This doesn't look like the outcome of a game," Clary said. "The girl-the human girl who was with you-what happened to her?"

"She got a little frightened at the sight of fangs. Sometimes they do." At the look on her face, he laughed. "She came around. Even wanted more. She's asleep in my bed now, if you want to check and make sure she's alive."

"No... That's not necessary." Clary dropped her eyes. She wished she'd worn something besides this silk nightgown to bed. She felt undressed. "What about you?"

"Are you asking if I'm all right?" She hadn't been, but Sebastian looked pleased. He pulled the collar of his shirt aside, and she could see two neat puncture wounds just at his collarbone. "I could use an iratze."

Clary said nothing.

"Come downstairs," he said, and gestured for her to follow him as he padded past her, barefoot, and down the glass staircase. After a moment she did as he'd asked. He flicked on the lights as he went, so by the time they reached the kitchen, it was glowing with warm light. "Wine?" he said to her, pulling the refrigerator door open.

She settled herself on one of the counter stools, smoothing down her nightgown. "Just water."

She watched him as he poured two glasses of mineral water-one for her, one for him. His smooth economical movements were like Jocelyn's, but the control with which he moved must have been instilled in him by Valentine. It reminded her of the way Jace moved, like a carefully trained dancer.

He pushed her water toward her with one hand, the other tipping his glass toward his lips. When he was done, he slammed the glass back down on the counter. "You probably know this, but fooling around with vampires certainly makes you thirsty."

"Why would I know that?" Her question came out sharper than intended.

He shrugged. "Figured you were playing some biting games with that Daylighter."

"Simon and I never played biting games," she said in a frozen tone. "In fact, I can't figure out why anyone would want vampires feeding on them on purpose. Don't you hate and despise Downworlders?"

"No," he said. "Don't mix me up with Valentine."

"Yeah," she muttered. "Tough mistake to make."

"It's not my fault I look exactly like him and you look like her." His mouth curled into an expression of distaste at the thought of Jocelyn. Clary scowled at him. "See, there you go. You're always looking at me like that."

"Like what?"

"Like I burn down animal shelters for fun and light my cigarettes with orphans." He poured another glass of water. As he turned his head from her, she saw that the puncture wounds at his throat were already beginning to heal over.

"You killed a child," she said sharply, knowing as she said it that she should be keeping her mouth shut, going along with the pretense that she didn't think Sebastian was a monster. But Max. He was alive in her head as if it were the first time she'd ever seen him, asleep on a sofa at the Institute with a book on his lap and his glasses askew on his small face. "That's not something you can be forgiven for, ever."

Sebastian drew in a breath. "So that's it," he said. "Cards on the table so soon, little sister?"

"What did you think?" Her voice sounded thin and tired to her own ears, but he flinched as if she'd snapped at him.

"Would you believe me if I told you it was an accident?" he said, setting his glass down on the counter. "I didn't mean to kill him. Just to knock him out, so he wouldn't tell-"

Clary silenced him with a look. She knew she couldn't hide the hatred in her eyes: knew she should, knew it was impossible.

"I mean it. I meant to knock him out, like I did Isabelle. I misjudged my own strength."

"And Sebastian Verlac? The real one? You killed him, didn't you?"

Sebastian looked at his own hands as if they were strange to him: there was a silver chain holding a flat metal plate, like an ID bracelet, around his right wrist-hiding the scar where Isabelle had sliced his hand away. "He wasn't supposed to fight back-"

Disgusted, Clary started to slide off the stool, but Sebastian caught at her wrist, pulling her toward him. His skin was hot against hers and she remembered, in Idris, the time his touch had burned her. "Jonathan Morgenstern killed Max. But what if I'm not the same person? Haven't you noticed I won't even use the same name?"

"Let me go."

"You believe Jace is different," Sebastian said quietly. "You believe he isn't the same person, that my blood changed him. Don't you?"

She nodded without speaking.

"Then, why is it so hard to believe it might go the other way? Maybe his blood changed me. Maybe I'm not the same person I was."

"You stabbed Luke," she said. "Someone I care about. Someone I love-"

"He was about to blow me to pieces with a shotgun," said Sebastian. "You love him; I don't know him. I was saving my life, and Jace's. Do you really not understand that?"

"And maybe you're just saying whatever you think you need to say to get me to trust you."

"Would the person I used to be care if you trusted me?"

"If you wanted something."

"Maybe I just want a sister."

At that, her eyes flicked up to his-involuntary, disbelieving. "You don't know what a family is," she said. "Or what you'd do with a sister if you had one."

"I do have one." His voice was low. There were bloodstains at the collar of his shirt, just where it touched his skin. "I'm giving you a chance. To see that what Jace and I are doing is the right thing. Can you give me a chance?"

She thought of the Sebastian she had known in Idris. She had heard him sound amused, friendly, detached, ironic, intense, and angry. She had never heard him sound pleading.

"Jace trusts you," he said. "But I don't. He believes you love him enough to throw over everything you've ever valued or believed in to come and be with him. No matter what."

Her jaw tightened. "And how do you know I wouldn't?"

He laughed. "Because you're my sister."

"We're nothing alike," she spat, and saw the slow smile on his face. She bit back the rest of her words, but it was already too late.

"That's what I would have said," he said. "But come on, Clary. You're here. You can't go back. You've thrown your lot in with Jace. You might as well do it wholeheartedly. Be a part of what's happening. Then you can make up your own mind about... me."

Not looking at him but down at the marble floor, she nodded, very slightly.

He reached up and brushed away the hair that had fallen into her eyes, and the kitchen lights sparked off the bracelet he wore, the one she had noticed before, with letters etched into it. Acheronta movebo. Boldly she put her hand on his wrist. "What does this mean?"

He looked at her hand where it touched the silver on his wrist. "It means 'Thus always to tyrants.' I wear it to remind me of the Clave. It's said this was shouted by the Romans who murdered Caesar before he could become a dictator."

"Traitors," said Clary, dropping her hand.

Sebastian's dark eyes flashed. "Or fighters for freedom. History gets written by the winners, little sis."

"And you intend to write this portion?"

He grinned at her, his dark eyes alight. "You bet I do."

Chapter 12: The Stuff of Heaven

When Alec returned to Magnus's apartment, all the lights were off, but the living room was glowing with a blue-white flame. It took him several moments to realize it was coming from the pentagram.

He kicked his shoes off by the door and padded as quietly as he could into the master bedroom. The room was dark, a strand of multicolored Christmas lights wrapped around the window frame the only illumination. Magnus was asleep on his back, the covers pulled up to his waist, his hand flat against his belly-button-free stomach.

Alec quickly stripped down to his boxers and climbed into bed, hoping not to wake Magnus. Unfortunately, he hadn't counted on Chairman Meow, who had tucked himself under the covers. Alec's elbow came down squarely on the cat's tail, and the Chairman yowled and darted off the bed, causing Magnus to sit up, blinking.

"What's going on?"

"Nothing," Alec said, silently cursing all cats. "I couldn't sleep."

"So you went out?" Magnus rolled onto his side and touched Alec's bare shoulder. "Your skin's cold, and you smell like nighttime."

"I was walking around," Alec said, glad it was too dim in the room for Magnus to really see his face. He knew he was a terrible liar.

"Around where?"

One must preserve some mystery in one's relationship, Alec Lightwood.

"Places," Alec said airily. "You know. Mysterious places."

"Mysterious places?"

Alec nodded.

Magnus flopped back against the pillows. "I see you went to Crazytown," he muttered, closing his eyes. "Did you bring me anything back?"

Alec leaned over and kissed Magnus on the mouth. "Just that," he said softly, drawing back, but Magnus, who had started to smile, already had hold of his arms.

"Well, if you're going to wake me up," he said, "you might as well make it worth my time," and he pulled Alec down on top of him.

Considering they'd already spent one night in bed together, Simon hadn't expected his second night with Isabelle to be quite so awkward. But then again, this time Isabelle was sober, and awake, and obviously expecting something from him. The problem was, he wasn't sure exactly what.

He had given her a button-down shirt of his to wear, and he looked away politely while she climbed under the blanket and edged back against the wall, giving him plenty of space.

He didn't bother changing, just took off his shoes and socks and crawled in next to her in his T-shirt and jeans. They lay side by side for a moment, and then Isabelle rolled against him, draping an arm awkwardly across his side. Their knees bumped together. One of Isabelle's toenails scratched his ankle. He tried to move forward, and their foreheads knocked.

"Ouch!" Isabelle said indignantly. "Shouldn't you be better at this?"

Simon was bewildered. "Why?"

"All those nights you've spent in Clary's bed, wrapped in your beautiful platonic embraces," she said, pressing her face against his shoulder so her voice was muffled. "I figured..."

"We just slept," said Simon. He didn't want to say anything about how Clary fit perfectly against him, about how being in a bed with her was as natural as breathing, about the way the scent of her hair reminded him of childhood and sunshine and simplicity and grace. That, he had a feeling, would not be helpful.