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 Jace's love of overcomplicated wordplay.
"I worry about Clary," said Magnus. "I worry she's 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?"
Magnus's eyes softened. He hooked a finger into the top of Alec's jeans and pulled him closer. "Are you saying you'd 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. "There's got to be a key," he said. "To unlocking them. Some language I haven't looked at yet. Something ancient. This is old black magic, very dark, not like anything I've 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 Magnus's 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?"
"It's 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 Camille's out there somewhere? That she got away?" And that it was my fault? Alec thought but didn't say. There was no need for Magnus to know.
"She's always been out there somewhere," said Magnus. "I know the Clave isn't terribly pleased, but I'm used to imagining her living her life, not contacting me. If it ever bothered me, it hasn't 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 don't think so," Magnus said dryly. "She wasn't very pleasant the last time I saw her. Of course that could be because I've got an eighteen-year-old boyfriend with a stamina rune and she doesn't."
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 didn't like talking about his past love life, but somewhere during their conversation, Alec's 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 Alec's expression, he did a double take. "Are you okay?"
Instead of replying, Alec reached down and took Magnus's 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 Alec's shirt, rucking it up, his fingers cool on Alec's 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 Magnus's ear. "It's late. Let's 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 don't you go on ahead?" he said. "I'll join you-five minutes."
"Sure." Alec straightened up, knowing that when Magnus was deep in his studies, five minutes could easily become five hours. "I'll see you there."
Clary put her finger to her lips before motioning for Simon to go before her through the front door of Luke's 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 mother's voice was audible down the hall. Clary could hear the strain in it. Just like losing Jace was Clary's 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 won't be any punishment."
"All of it is my fault." Jocelyn sounded muffled, as if she had buried her head against Luke's shoulder. "If I hadn't brought that... creature into the world, Clary wouldn't be going through this now."
"You couldn't have known..." Luke's 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 he'd 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-they'd slept over at Luke's often enough when they were growing up. She'd 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 Shadowhunter's 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. "She's really not doing well."
"Isn't she relieved? I mean about you being cleared?"
"She can't get past thinking about Sebastian. She can't get past blaming herself."
"It wasn't her fault, the way he turned out. It was Valentine's."
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 aren't your fault. You blame yourself for leaving Jace on the roof-"
She jerked her head up and looked at him sharply. She wasn't aware she'd 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 Alec's his parabatai. There's no way we could have known. And it might have been worse if you'd stayed."
"Maybe." Clary didn't want to talk about it. Avoiding Simon's 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 wasn't 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 he'd bought at Taki's.
She came forward and ruffled his hair. "You can keep the bottles in the fridge, you know," she said. "If you don't 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 hadn't been able to sleep. She had piled five blankets over herself, but she'd 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, she'd come home and crawled into bed. She'd lain there wide awake until there'd been a knock on her window and Simon had crawled inside, nearly tumbling onto the floor. He'd climbed onto the bed and stretched out beside her without a word. His skin had been cold from the outside, and he'd 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."
She'd turned on her side to look at him. "Won't Izzy mind?"
"She's the one who told me I should come over here. She said you weren't 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," she'd 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 doesn't 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. I'm 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 couldn't even imagine distracting herself with reading right now. "You're 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-I'm always better when you're 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 you're going to do it? Steal the rings for the Queen?"
"Yes." She let out her held breath. "Tomorrow. There's a local Conclave meeting at noon. Everyone'll be in it. I'm going in then."
"I don't like it, Clary."
She felt her body tighten. "Don't like what?"
"You having anything to do with faeries. Faeries are liars."
"They can't 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 don't like getting mixed up with the Court. But I'd do it for you," she said. "And you'd do it for me, wouldn't you?"
"Of course I would. But it's 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 isn't dead."
"I know. I wasn't saying that. It's just-You don't need to say you're better when I'm there. I'm always there with you. Grief makes you feel alone, but you're not. I know you don't believe in-in religion-the same way I do, but you can believe you're surrounded by people who love you, can't 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.