Magnus got up at the sight of Alec and came over to talk to him; Izzy appeared to recognize someone else across the pews and darted away in her usual manner, without pausing to say where she was going. Clary went to greet Luke and Amatis; both of them looked tired, and Amatis was patting Luke's shoulder sympathetically. Luke rose to his feet and hugged Clary when he saw her. Amatis congratulated Clary on being cleared by the Council, and she nodded; she felt only half-there, most of her numb and the rest of her responding on autopilot.
She could see Magnus and Alec out of the corner of her eye. They were talking, Alec leaning in close to Magnus, the way couples often seemed to curve into each other when they spoke, in their own contained universe. She was happy to see them happy, but it hurt, too. She wondered if she would ever have that again, or ever even want it again. She remembered Jace's voice: I don't even want to want anyone but you.
"Earth to Clary," said Luke. "Do you want to head home? Your mother is dying to see you, and she'd love to catch up with Amatis before she goes back to Idris tomorrow. I thought we could have dinner. You pick the restaurant." He was trying to hide the concern in his voice, but Clary could hear it. She hadn't been eating much lately, and her clothes had started to hang more loosely on her frame.
"I don't really feel like celebrating," she said. "Not with the Council de-prioritizing the search for Jace."
"Clary, it doesn't mean they're going to stop," said Luke.
"I know. It's just-It's like when they say a search and rescue mission is now a search for bodies. That's what it sounds like." She swallowed. "Anyway, I was thinking of going to Taki's for dinner with Isabelle and Alec," she said. "Just... to do something normal."
Amatis squinted toward the door. "It's raining pretty hard out there."
Clary felt her lips stretch into a smile. She wondered if it looked as false as it felt. "I won't melt."
Luke folded some money into her hand, clearly relieved she was doing something as normal as going out with friends. "Just promise to eat something."
"Okay." Through the twinge of guilt, she managed a real half smile in his direction before she turned away.
Magnus and Alec were no longer where they had been a moment ago. Glancing around, Clary saw Izzy's familiar long black hair through the crowd. She was standing by the Institute's large double doors, talking to someone Clary couldn't see. Clary headed toward Isabelle; as she drew closer, she recognized one of the group, with a slight shock of surprise, as Aline Penhallow. Her glossy black hair had been cut stylishly just above her shoulders. Standing next to Aline was a slim girl with pale white-gold hair that curled in ringlets; it was drawn back from her face, showing that the tips of her ears were slightly pointed. She wore Council robes, and as Clary came closer she saw that the girl's eyes were a brilliant and unusual blue-green, a color that made Clary's fingers yearn for her Prismacolor pencils for the first time in two weeks.
"It must be weird, with your mother being the new Consul," Isabelle was saying to Aline as Clary joined them. "Not that Jia isn't much better than-Hey, Clary. Aline, you remember Clary."
The two girls exchanged nods. Clary had once walked in on Aline kissing Jace. It had been awful at the time, but the memory held no sting now. She'd be relieved to walk in on Jace kissing someone else at this point. At least it would mean he was alive.
"And this is Aline's girlfriend, Helen Blackthorn." Isabelle said with heavy emphasis. Clary shot her a glare. Did Isabelle think she was an idiot? Besides, she remembered Aline telling her that she'd kissed Jace only as an experiment to see if any guy were her type. Apparently the answer had been no. "Helen's family runs the Los Angeles Institute. Helen, this is Clary Fray."
"Valentine's daughter," Helen said. She looked surprised and a little impressed.
Clary winced. "I try not to think about that too much."
"Sorry. I can see why you wouldn't." Helen flushed. Her skin was very pale, with a slight sheen to it, like a pearl. "I voted for the Council to keep prioritizing the search for Jace, by the way. I'm sorry we were overruled."
"Thanks." Not wanting to talk about it, Clary turned to Aline. "Congratulations on your mother being made Consul. That must be pretty exciting."
Aline shrugged. "She's busy a lot more now." She turned to Isabelle. "Did you know your dad put his name in for the Inquisitor position?"
Clary felt Isabelle freeze beside her. "No. No, I didn't know that."
"I was surprised," Aline added. "I thought he was pretty committed to running the Institute here-" She broke off, looking past Clary. "Helen, I think your brother is trying to make the world's biggest puddle of melted wax over there. You might want to stop him."
Helen blew out an exasperated breath, muttered something about twelve-year-old boys, and vanished into the crowd just as Alec pushed his way forward. He greeted Aline with a hug-Clary forgot, sometimes, that the Penhallows and the Lightwoods had known each other for years-and looked at Helen in the crowd. "Is that your girlfriend?"
Aline nodded. "Helen Blackthorn."
"I heard there's some faerie blood in that family," said Alec.
Ah, Clary thought. That explained the pointed ears. Nephilim blood was dominant, and the child of a faerie and a Shadowhunter would be a Shadowhunter as well, but sometimes the faerie blood could express itself in odd ways, even generations down the line.
"A little," said Aline. "Look, I wanted to thank you, Alec."
Alec looked bewildered. "What for?'
"What you did in the Hall of Accords," Aline said. "Kissing Magnus like that. It gave me the push I needed to tell my parents... to come out to them. And if I hadn't done that, I don't think, when I met Helen, I would have had the nerve to say anything."
"Oh." Alec looked startled, as if he'd never considered what impact his actions might have had on anyone outside his immediate family. "And your parents-were they good about it?"
Aline rolled her eyes. "They're sort of ignoring it, like it might go away if they don't talk about it." Clary remembered what Isabelle had said about the Clave's attitude toward its gay members. If it happens, you don't talk about it. "But it could be worse."
"It could definitely be worse," said Alec, and there was a grim edge to his voice that made Clary look at him sharply.
Aline's face melted into a look of sympathy. "I'm sorry," she said. "If your parents aren't-"
"They're fine with it," Isabelle said, a little too sharply.
"Well, either way. I shouldn't have said anything right now. Not with Jace missing. You must all be so worried." She took a deep breath. "I know people have probably said all sorts of stupid things to you about him. The way they do when they don't really know what to say. I just-I wanted to tell you something." She ducked away from a passer-by with impatience and moved closer to the Lightwoods and Clary, lowering her voice. "Alec, Izzy-I remember once when you guys came to see us in Idris. I was thirteen and Jace was-I think he was twelve. He wanted to see Brocelind Forest, so we borrowed some horses and rode there one day. Of course, we got lost. Brocelind's impenetrable. It got darker and the woods got thicker and I was terrified. I thought we'd die there. But Jace was never scared. He was never anything but sure we'd find our way out. It took hours, but he did it. He got us out of there. I was so grateful but he just looked at me like I was crazy. Like of course he'd get us out. Failing wasn't an option. I'm just saying-he'll find his way back to you. I know it."
Clary didn't think she'd ever seen Izzy cry, and she was clearly trying not to now. Her eyes were suspiciously wide and shining. Alec was looking at his shoes. Clary felt a wellspring of misery wanting to leap up inside her but forced it down; she couldn't think about Jace when he was twelve, couldn't think about him lost in the darkness, or she'd think about him now, lost somewhere, trapped somewhere, needing her help, expecting her to come, and she'd break. "Aline," she said, seeing that neither Isabelle nor Alec could speak. "Thank you."
Aline flashed a shy smile. "I mean it."
"Aline!" It was Helen, her hand firmly clamped around the wrist of a younger boy whose hands were covered with blue wax. He must have been playing with the tapers in the huge candelabras that decorated the sides of the nave. He looked about twelve, with an impish grin and the same shocking blue-green eyes as his sister, though his hair was dark brown. "We're back. We should probably go before Jules destroys the whole place. Not to mention that I have no idea where Tibs and Livvy have gone."
"They were eating wax," the boy-Jules-supplied helpfully.
"Oh, God," Helen groaned, and then looked apologetic. "Never mind me. I've got six younger brothers and sisters and one older. It's always a zoo."
Jules looked from Alec to Isabelle and then at Clary. "How many brothers and sisters have you got?" he asked.
Helen paled. Isabelle said, in a remarkably steady voice, "There are three of us."
Jules's eyes stayed on Clary. "You don't look alike."
"I'm not related to them," Clary said. "I don't have any brothers or sisters."
"None?" Disbelief registered in the boy's tone, as if she'd told him she had webbed feet. "Is that why you look so sad?"
Clary thought of Sebastian, with his ice-white hair and black eyes. If only, she thought. If only I didn't have a brother, none of this would have happened. A little throb of hatred went through her, warming her icy blood. "Yes," she said softly. "That's why I'm sad."
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.
"I'm cleared," she said, and as he started to smile, she shook her head. "But they're de-prioritizing the search for Jace. I-I'm pretty sure they think he's 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. "I'm sorry."
"The Clave can be like that," Isabelle said. "I guess we shouldn't have expected anything else."
"Basia coquum," Simon said. "Or whatever their motto is."
"It's '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 Kaelie's visit to Luke and Jocelyn's reception, and her promises to Clary about the Seelie Queen's help.
Simon looked dubious. "The red-headed lady with the bad attitude who made you kiss Jace? I didn't like her."
"That's 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."
"I'm 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 wouldn't bet on it," said Alec.
Clary glanced past him and asked, "Where's Magnus?"
"He said it would be better if he didn't 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 wouldn't 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 didn't 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 hadn't really met his eyes since they'd 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 didn't blame Alec for ducking out from under it and taking his chances with the rain. "I don't know why he'd want it."
"I don't care if it's boring," Isabelle whisper-hissed. "If he takes it, he'll be in Idris all the time. Like, all the time. He can't run the Institute and be the Inquisitor. He can't have two jobs at once."
"If you've noticed, Iz, he's 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.