"Which is... ?"
"We understand him. I mean, as much as anyone can ever understand him. And that's not something he can erase with a change of plans."
Jace nodded slowly. "You know who else I feel like I understand now? My father."
"Valen-no," Clary said, watching his expression. "You mean Stephen."
"I've been looking at his letters. The things in the box Amatis gave me. He wrote a letter to me, you know, that he meant me to read after he died. He told me to be a better man than he was."
"You are," Clary said. "In those moments in the apartment when you were you, you cared about doing the right thing more than you cared about your own life."
"I know," Jace said, glancing down at his scarred knuckles. "That's the strange thing. I know. I had so much doubt about myself, always, but now I know the difference. Between myself and Sebastian. Between myself and Valentine. Even the difference between the two of them. Valentine honestly believed he was doing the right thing. He hated demons. But to Sebastian, the creature he thinks of as his mother is one. He would happily rule a race of dark Shadowhunters who did the bidding of demons, while the ordinary humans of this world were slaughtered for the demons' pleasure. Valentine still believed it was the mandate of Shadowhunters to protect human beings; Sebastian thinks they're cockroaches. And he doesn't want to protect anyone. He only wants what he wants at the moment he wants it. And the only real thing he ever feels is annoyance when he's thwarted."
Clary wondered. She had seen Sebastian looking at Jace, even at herself, and knew there was some part of him as echoingly lonely as the blackest void of space. Loneliness drove him as much as a desire for power-loneliness and a need to be loved without any corresponding understanding that love was something you earned. But all she said was, "Well, let's get with the thwarting, then."
A smile ghosted across his face. "You know I want to beg you to stay out of this, right? It's going to be a vicious battle. More vicious than I think the Clave even begins to understand."
"But you're not going to do that," Clary said. "Because that would make you an idiot."
"You mean because we need your rune powers?"
"Well, that, and-Did you not listen to anything you just said? That whole business about protecting each other?"
"I will have you know I practiced that speech. In front of a mirror before you got here."
"So what do you think it meant?"
"I'm not sure," Jace admitted, "but I know I look damn good delivering it."
"God, I forgot how annoying the un-possessed you is," Clary muttered. "Need I remind you that you said that you have to accept you can't protect me from everything? The only way that we can protect each other is if we are together. If we face things together. If we trust each other." She looked him directly in the eye. "I shouldn't have stopped you from going to the Clave by calling for Sebastian. I should respect the decisions you make. And you should respect mine. Because we're going to be together a long time, and that's the only way it's going to work."
His hand inched toward her on the blanket. "Being under Sebastian's influence," he said, hoarsely. "It seems like a bad dream to me, now. That insane place-those closets of clothes for your mother-"
"So you remember." She almost whispered it.
His fingertips touched hers, and she almost jumped. Both of them held their breath while he touched her; she didn't move, watching as his shoulders slowly relaxed and the anxious look left his face. "I remember everything," he said. "I remember the boat in Venice. The club in Prague. That night in Paris, when I was myself."
She felt the blood rush up under her skin, making her face burn.
"In some ways, we've been through something no one else can ever understand but the two of us," he said. "And it made me realize. We are always and absolutely better together." He raised his face to hers. He was pale, and fire flickered in his eyes. "I am going to kill Sebastian," he said. "I am going to kill him for what he did to me, and what he did to you, and what he did to Max. I am going to kill him because of what he has done, and what he will do. The Clave wants him dead, and they will hunt him. But I want my hand to be the one that cuts him down."
She reached out then, and put her hand on his cheek. He shuddered, and half-closed his eyes. She had expected his skin to be warm, but it was cool to the touch. "And what if I'm the one who kills him?"
"My heart is your heart," he said. "My hands are your hands."
His eyes were the color of honey and slid as slowly as honey over her body as he looked her up and down as if for the first time since she'd come into the room, from her windblown hair to her booted feet, and back again. When their gaze met again, Clary's mouth was dry.
"Do you remember," he said, "when we first met and I told you I was ninety percent sure putting a rune on you wouldn't kill you-and you slapped me in the face and told me it was for the other ten percent?"
"I always figured a demon would kill me," he said. "A rogue Downworlder. A battle. But I realized then that I just might die if I didn't get to kiss you, and soon."
Clary licked her dry lips. "Well, you did," she said. "Kiss me, I mean."
He reached up and took a curl of her hair between his fingers. He was close enough that she could feel the warmth of his body, smell his soap and skin and hair. "Not enough," he said, letting her hair slip through his fingers. "If I kiss you all day every day for the rest of my life, it won't be enough."
He bent his head. She couldn't help tilting her own face up. Her mind was full of the memory of Paris, holding on to him as if it would be the last time she ever held him, and it almost had been. The way he had tasted, felt, breathed. She could hear him breathing now. His eyelashes tickled her cheek. Their lips were millimeters apart and then not apart at all, they brushed lightly and then with firmer pressure; they leaned in to each other-
And Clary felt a spark-not painful, more like a fillip of mild static electricity-pass between them. Jace drew quickly away. He was flushed. "We may need to work on that."
Clary's mind was still whirling. "Okay."
He was staring straight ahead, still breathing hard. "I have something I want to give you."
"I gathered that."
At that he jerked his gaze back to hers and-almost reluctantly-grinned. "Not that." He reached down into the collar of his shirt and drew out the Morgenstern ring on its chain. He pulled it over his head and, leaning forward, dropped it lightly into her hand. It was warm from his skin. "Alec got it back from Magnus for me. Will you wear it again?"
Her hand closed around it. "Always."
His grin softened to a smile, and, daring, she put her head on his shoulder. She felt his breath catch, but he didn't move. At first he sat still, but slowly the tension drained from his body and they leaned together. It wasn't hot and heavy, but it was companionable and sweet.
He cleared his throat. "You know this means that what we did-what we almost did in Paris-"
"Going to the Eiffel Tower?"
He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "You never let me off the hook for a single minute, do you? Never mind. It's one of the things I love about you. Anyway, that other thing we almost did in Paris-that's probably off the table for a while. Unless you want that whole baby-I'm-on-fire-when-we kiss thing to become freakishly literal."
"Well, kissing, probably. But as for the rest of it..."
She brushed her cheek lightly against his. "It's okay with me if it's okay with you."
"Of course it's not okay with me. I'm a teenage boy. As far as I'm concerned, this is the worst thing that's happened since I found out why Magnus was banned from Peru." His eyes softened. "But it doesn't change what we are to each other. It's like there's always been a piece of my soul missing, and it's inside you, Clary. I know I told you once that whether God exists or not, we're on our own. But when I'm with you, I'm not."
She closed her eyes so he wouldn't see her tears-happy tears, for the first time in a long time now. Despite everything, despite the fact that Jace's hands remained carefully together in his lap, Clary felt a sense of relief so overwhelming that it drowned out everything else-the worry about where Sebastian was, the fear of an unknown future-everything receded into the background. None of it mattered. They were together, and Jace was himself again. She felt him turn his head and lightly kiss her hair.
"I really wish you hadn't worn that sweater," he muttered into her ear.
"It's good practice for you," she replied, her lips moving against his skin. "Tomorrow, fishnets."
Against her side, warm and familiar, she felt him laugh.
"Brother Enoch," said Maryse, rising from behind her desk. "Thank you for joining me and Brother Zachariah here on such short notice."
Is this in regards to Jace? Zachariah inquired, and if Maryse had not known better, she would have imagined a tinge of anxiety in his mental voice. I have checked in on him several times today. His condition has not changed.
Enoch shifted within his robes. And I have been looking through the archives and the ancient documentation on the topic of Heaven's fire. There is some information about the manner in which it may be released, but you must be patient. There is no need to call on us. Should we have news, we will call on you.
"This is not about Jace," said Maryse, and she moved around the desk, her heels clicking on the stone floor of the library. "This is about something else entirely." She glanced down. A rug had been carelessly tossed across the floor, where no rug usually rested. It did not lie flat but was draped over an irregular humped shape. It obscured the delicate pattern of tiles that outlined the shape of the Cup, the Sword, and the Angel. She reached down, took hold of a corner of the rug, and yanked it aside.
The Silent Brothers did not gasp, of course; they could make no sound. But a cacophony filled Maryse's mind, the psychic echo of their shock and horror. Brother Enoch took a step back, while Brother Zachariah raised one long-fingered hand to cover his face, as if he could block his ruined eyes from the sight before him.
"It was not here this morning," said Maryse. "But when I returned this afternoon, it awaited me."
At the very first glimpse she had thought that some kind of large bird had found its way into the library and died, perhaps breaking its neck against one of the tall windows. But as she had moved closer, the truth of what she was looking at had dawned on her. She said nothing of the visceral shock of despair that had gone through her like an arrow, or the way she had staggered to the window and been sick out of it the moment she'd realized what she was looking at.
A pair of white wings-not quite white, really, but an amalgamation of colors that shifted and flickered as she looked at it: pale silver, streaks of violet, dark blue, each feather outlined in gold. And then, there at the root, an ugly gash of sheared-off bone and sinew. Angel's wings-angel's wings that had been sliced from the body of a living angel. Angelic ichor, the color of liquid gold, smeared the floor.
Atop the wings was a folded piece of paper, addressed to the New York Institute. After splashing water on her face, Maryse had taken the letter and read it. It was short-one sentence-and was signed with a name in a handwriting oddly familiar to her, for in it there was the echo of Valentine's cursive, the flourishes of his letters, the strong, steady hand. But it was not Valentine's name. It was his son's.
Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern.
She held it out now to Brother Zachariah. He took it from her fingers and opened it, reading, as she had, the single word of Ancient Greek scrawled in elaborate script across the top of the page.
Erchomai, it said.
I am coming.