She opened her eyes. "Much." It wasn't perfect-the irazte didn't have much effect on burns caused by demon venom, but those tended to heal quickly on Shadowhunter skin. As it was, they stung only a little, and Clary, still feeling the high of the battle, barely noticed it. "Your turn?"
He grinned and offered her the stele. They were in the back of the antiques store. Sebastian had gone to lock up and dim the lights up front, lest they attract mundane attention. He was excited about "celebrating" and when he had left them, had been debating whether to go back to the apartment and change, or straight to the nightclub in the Mala Strana.
If there was a part of Clary that felt the wrongness of it, the idea of celebrating anything, it was lost in the humming of her blood. Amazing that it had taken fighting alongside Sebastian of all people to flip the switch inside her that seemed to turn her Shadowhunter instincts on. She wanted to leap tall buildings in a single bound, do a hundred flips, learn to scissor her blades the way Jace did. Instead she took the stele from him and said, "Take your shirt off, then."
He pulled it over his head, and she tried to look unaffected. He had a long cut along his side, angry purple-red along the edges, and the burns of demon blood across his collarbone and right shoulder. Still, he was the most beautiful person she had ever known. Pale gold skin, broad shoulders, narrow waist and hips, that thin line of golden hair that ran from his navel to the waistband of his jeans. She pulled her eyes away from him and set the stele to his shoulder, industriously carving into his skin what had to be the millionth healing rune he'd ever gotten.
"Good?" she asked when she was finished.
"Mmm-hmm." He leaned in, and she could smell the scent of him-blood and charcoal, sweat, and the cheap soap they'd found by the sink. "I liked that," he said. "Didn't you? Fighting together like that?"
"It was... intense." He was standing between her legs already; he moved closer, fingers looping into the waistband of her jeans. Her hands fluttered to his shoulders, and she saw the gleam of the gold leaf-ring on her finger. It sobered her slightly. Don't get distracted; don't get lost in this. This isn't Jace, isn't Jace, isn't Jace.
His lips brushed hers. "I thought it was incredible. You were incredible."
"Jace," she whispered, and then there was a banging on the door. Jace let go of her in surprise, and she slid backward, knocking into the faucet, which immediately turned on, spraying them both with water. She yelped with surprise, and Jace burst out laughing, turning to throw the door open as Clary twisted around to turn the faucet off.
It was Sebastian, of course. He looked remarkably clean, considering what they'd been through. He'd discarded his stained leather jacket in favor of an antique military coat, which, thrown over his T-shirt, lent him a look of thrift-store chic. He was carrying something in his hands, something black and shiny.
He raised his eyebrows.
"Is there a reason you just threw my sister into the sink?"'
"I was sweeping her off her feet," said Jace, bending down to grab his shirt. He yanked it back on. Like Sebastian's, his outerwear had sustained most of the damage, though there was a rip down the side of the shirt where a demon's claw had slashed through.
"I brought you something to wear," said Sebastian, handing the shiny black thing to Clary, who had wriggled out of the sink and was now standing, dripping soapy water onto the tiled floor. "It's vintage. It looks about your size."
Startled, Clary handed Jace back his stele and took the proffered garment. It was a dress-a slip, really-jet-black, with elaborately beaded straps and a lace hem. The straps were adjustable, and the fabric was stretchy enough that she suspected Sebastian was right, it probably would fit her. Part of her didn't like the idea of wearing something Sebastian had picked, but she couldn't exactly go out to a club in an unraveling camisole and a pair of soaking-wet jeans. "Thanks," she said finally. "All right, both of you get out of here while I change."
They left, closing the door behind them. She could hear them, raised boys' voices, and though she couldn't hear the words, she could tell they were joking with each other. Comfortably. Familiarly. It was so strange, she thought as she shucked off her jeans and cami and slipped the dress over her head. Jace, who hardly ever opened up to anyone, was laughing and joking around with Sebastian.
She turned to look at herself in the mirror. The black washed the color out of her skin, made her eyes look big and dark and her hair redder, her arms and legs long and thin and pale. Her eyes were smudged with dark shadow. The boots she had been wearing under her jeans added a certain toughness to the outfit. She wasn't sure if she looked pretty exactly, but she sure looked like she was someone who shouldn't be messed with.
She wondered if Isabelle would approve.
She unlocked the bathroom door and stepped out. She was in the dim back of the store, where all the junk that wasn't housed up front had been tossed carelessly. A velvet curtain separated it from the rest of the establishment. Jace and Sebastian were on the other side of the curtain, talking, though she still couldn't make out the words. She pulled the curtain aside and stepped out.
The lights were on, though the metal awning had been lowered over the glass front of the store, rendering the inside invisible to passersby. Sebastian was going through the stuff on the shelves, his long careful hands taking down object after object, subjecting them to a cursory inspection, and placing them back on the shelf.
Jace was the first one to see Clary. She saw his eyes spark, and remembered the first time he had seen her dressed up, wearing Isabelle's clothes, on her way to Magnus's party. As they had then, his eyes traveled slowly from the boots, up her legs, hips, waist, chest, and came to rest on her face. He smiled lazily.
"I could point out that that's not a dress, that's underwear," he said, "but I doubt it would be in my best interest."
"Need I remind you," said Sebastian, "that that is my sister?"
"Most brothers would be delighted to see such a clean-cut gentleman as myself squiring their sisters about town," said Jace, grabbing an army jacket off one of the racks and sliding his arms into it.
"Squiring?" Clary echoed. "Next you'll be telling me you're a rogue and a rake."
"And then it's pistols at dawn," said Sebastian, striding toward the velvet curtain. "I'll be right back. I've got to wash the blood out of my hair."
"Fussy, fussy," Jace called after him with a grin, then reached for Clary and pulled her against him. His voice dropped to a low whisper. "Remember when we went to Magnus's party? You came out into the lobby with Isabelle, and Simon almost had an apoplectic fit?"
"Funny, I was thinking about the same thing." She tipped her head back to look up at him. "I don't remember you saying anything at the time about the way I looked."
His fingers slid under the straps of her slip dress, the tips brushing her skin. "I didn't think you liked me much. And I didn't think a detailed description of all the things I wanted to do to you, delivered in front of an audience, would have been the thing to change your mind."
"You didn't think I liked you?" Her voice rose incredulously. "Jace, when has a girl ever not liked you?"
He shrugged. "Doubtless the lunatic asylums of the world are filled with unfortunate women who have failed to see my charms."
A question hovered on the tip of her tongue, one she had always wanted to ask him but never had. After all, what did it really matter what he'd done before he met her? As if he could read the expression on her face, his golden eyes softened slightly.
"I never cared what girls thought about me," he said. "Not before you."
Before you. Clary's voice shook a little. "Jace, I wondered-"
"Your verbal foreplay is boring and annoying," said Sebastian, reappearing around the velvet curtain, his silver hair damp and tousled. "Ready to go?"
Clary stepped free of Jace, blushing; Jace looked unruffled. "We're the ones who've been waiting for you."
"Looks like you found a way to pass the agonizing time. Now come on. Let's go. I'm telling you, you're going to love this place."
"I am never getting my security deposit back," said Magnus glumly. He sat on top of the table, among the pizza boxes and coffee mugs, watching as the rest of Team Good did their best to clean up the destruction left by Azazel's appearance-the smoking holes pocked into the walls, the sulfurous black goo dripping from the ceiling pipes, the ash and other grainy black substances ground into the floor. Chairman Meow was stretched across the warlock's lap, purring. Magnus was off cleaning duty because he'd allowed his apartment to be half-destroyed; Simon was off cleaning duty because after the pentagram incident no one seemed to know quite what to make of him. He'd tried to talk to Isabelle, but she'd only shaken her mop at him in a threatening manner.
"I have an idea," Simon said. He was sitting next to Magnus, his elbows on his knees. "But you're not going to like it."
"I have a feeling you're right, Sherwin."
"Simon. My name is Simon."
"Whatever." Magnus waved a slender hand. "What's your idea?"
"I've got the Mark of Cain," said Simon. "That means nothing can kill me, right?"
"You can kill yourself," Magnus said, somewhat unhelpfully. "As far as I know, inanimate objects can accidentally kill you. So if you were planning on teaching yourself the lambada on a greased platform over a pit full of knives, I wouldn't."
"There goes my Saturday."
"But nothing else can kill you," Magnus said. His eyes had drifted away from Simon, and he was watching Alec, who appeared to be battling a Swiffer. "Why?"
"What happened in the pentagram, with Azazel, made me think," said Simon. "You said summoning angels is more dangerous than summoning demons, because they might smite down the person who summoned them, or scorch them with heavenly fire. But if I did it..." His voice trailed off. "Well, I'd be safe, wouldn't I?"
That snapped Magnus's attention back. "You? Summon an angel?"
"You could show me how," said Simon. "I know I'm not a warlock, but Valentine did it. If he did it, shouldn't I be able to? I mean, there are humans who can do magic."
"I couldn't promise you'd live," Magnus said, but there was a spark of interest in his voice that belied the warning. "The Mark is Heaven's protection, but does it protect you against Heaven itself? I don't know the answer."
"I didn't think you did. But you agree that out of all of us I probably have the best chance, right?"
Magnus looked over at Maia, who was splashing dirty water at Jordan and laughing as he twisted away, yelping. She pushed her curling hair back, leaving a dark streak of dirt across her forehead. She looked young. "Yes," Magnus said reluctantly. "Probably you do."
"Who is your father?" asked Simon.
Magnus's eyes went back to Alec. They were gold-green, as unreadable as the eyes of the cat he held on his lap. "Not my favorite topic, Smedley."
"Simon," said Simon. "If I'm going to die for you all, the least you could do is remember my name."
"You're not dying for me," said Magnus. "If it weren't for Alec, I'd be..."
"You'd be where?"
"I had a dream," Magnus said, his eyes distant. "I saw a city all of blood, with towers made of bone, and blood ran in the streets like water. Maybe you can save Jace, Daylighter, but you can't save the world. The darkness is coming. 'A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.' If it weren't for Alec, I'd be gone from here."
"Where would you go?"
"Hide. Wait for it to blow over. I'm not a hero." Magnus picked up Chairman Meow and dumped him onto the floor.
"You love Alec enough to stick around," said Simon. "That's kind of heroic."
"You loved Clary enough to wreck your whole life for her," said Magnus with a bitterness that was not characteristic of him. "See where that got you." He raised his voice. "All right, everybody. Get over here. Sheldon's had an idea."
"Who's Sheldon?" said Isabelle.
The streets of Prague were cold and dark, and though Clary kept her ichor-burned coat wrapped around her shoulders, she found the icy air cutting into the buzzing hum in her veins, muting the leftover high from the battle. She bought a cup of hot wine to keep the buzz going, wrapping her hands around it for warmth as she, Jace, and Sebastian lost themselves in a twisting labyrinth of ever narrower, ever darker ancient streets. There were no street signs or names, and no other pedestrians; the only constant was the moon moving through thick clouds overhead. At last a shallow flight of stone steps took them down into a tiny square, one side of which was lit by a flashing neon sign that said KOSTI LUSTR. Below the sign was an open door, a blank spot in the wall that looked like a missing tooth.
"What does that mean, 'Kosti Lustr'?" Clary asked.
"It means 'The Bone Chandelier.' It's the name of the nightclub," said Sebastian, sauntering forward. His pale hair reflected the changing neon colors of the sign: hot red, cold blue, metallic gold. "You coming?"
A wall of sound and light hit Clary the moment she entered the club. It was a big, tightly packed space that looked like it had once been the interior of a church. She could still see stained-glass windows high up in the walls. Darting colored spotlights picked out the blissed-out faces of dancers in the churning crowd, lighting them up one at a time: hot pink, neon green, burning violet. There was a DJ booth along one wall, and trance music blasted from the speakers. The music pounded up through her feet, into her blood, vibrating her bones. The room was hot with the press of bodies and the smell of sweat and smoke and beer.