City of Fallen Angels / Page 44

Page 44


Alec's eyebrows went up, but he made no comment as he bent over Clary, blocking her view of Isabelle and Simon. He touched the stele to her skin, and she jumped at the stinging pain. "I know it hurts," he said in a low voice. "I think you hit your head. Magnus ought to look at you. What about Jace? How badly is he hurt?"

"I don't know." Clary shook her head. "He won't let me near him."

Alec put his hand under her chin, turning her face from side to side, and sketched a second light iratze on the side of her throat, just under her jawline. "What did he do that he thinks was so terrible?"

She flicked her eyes up toward him. "What makes you think he did anything?"

Alec let go of her chin. "Because I know him. And the way he punishes himself. Not letting you near him is punishing himself, not punishing you."

"He doesn't want me near him," Clary said, hearing the rebelliousness in her own voice and hating herself for being petty.

"You're all he ever wants," said Alec in a surprisingly gentle tone, and he sat back on his heels, pushing his long dark hair out of his eyes. There was something different about him these days, Clary thought, a surety about himself he hadn't had when she had first met him, something that allowed him to be generous with others as he had never been generous with himself before. "How did you two wind up here, anyway? We didn't even notice you leave the party with Simon-"

"They didn't," said Simon. He and Isabelle had detached themselves, but still stood close to each other, side by side. "I came here alone. Well, not exactly alone. I was-summoned."

Clary nodded. "It's true. We didn't leave the party with him. When Jace brought me here, I had no idea Simon was going to be here too."

"Jace brought you here?" Isabelle said, amazed. "Jace, if you knew about Lilith and the Church of Talto, you should have said something."

Jace was still staring through the doors. "I guess it slipped my mind," he said tonelessly.

Clary shook her head as Alec and Isabelle looked from their adoptive brother to her, as if for an explanation of his behavior. "It wasn't really Jace," she said finally. "He was ... being controlled. By Lilith."

"Possession?" Isabelle's eyes rounded into surprised Os. Her hand tightened on her whip handle reflexively.

Jace turned away from the doors. Slowly he reached up and drew open his mangled shirt so that they could see the ugly possession rune, and the bloody slash that ran through it. "That," he said, still in the same toneless voice, "is Lilith's mark. It's how she controlled me."

Alec shook his head; he looked deeply disturbed. "Jace, usually the only way to sever a demonic connection like that is to kill the demon who's doing the controlling. Lilith is one of the most powerful demons who ever-"

"She's dead," said Clary abruptly. "Simon killed her. Or I guess you could say the Mark of Cain killed her."

They all stared at Simon. "And what about you two? How did you end up here?" he asked, his tone defensive.

"Looking for you," Isabelle said. "We found that card Lilith must have given you. In your apartment. Jordan let us in. He's with Maia, downstairs." She shuddered. "The things Lilith's been doing-you wouldn't believe-so horrible-"

Alec held his hands up. "Slow down, everyone. We'll explain what happened with us, and then Simon, Clary, you explain what happened on your end."

The explanation took less time than Clary thought it would, with Isabelle doing much of the talking with wide, sweeping hand gestures that threatened, on occasion, to sever one of her friends' unprotected limbs with her whip. Alec took the opportunity to go out onto the roof deck to send a fire-message to the Clave telling them where they were and asking for backup. Jace stepped aside wordlessly to let him by as he left, and again when he came back in. He didn't speak during Simon and Clary's explanation of what had happened on the rooftop either, even when they got to the part about Raziel having raised Jace from the dead back in Idris. It was Izzy who finally interrupted, when Clary began to explain about Lilith being Sebastian's "mother" and keeping his body encased in glass.

"Sebastian?" Isabelle slammed her whip against the ground with enough force to open up a crack in the marble. "Sebastian is out there? And he's not dead?" She turned to look at Jace, who was leaning against the glass doors, arms crossed, expressionless. "I saw him die. I saw Jace cut his spine in half, and I saw him fall into the river. And now you're telling me he's alive out there?"

"No," Simon hastened to reassure her. "His body's there, but he's not alive. Lilith didn't get to complete the ceremony." Simon put a hand on her shoulder, but she shook it off. She had gone a deadly white color.

"'Not really alive' isn't dead enough for me," she said. "I'm going out there and I'm going to cut him into a thousand pieces." She turned toward the doors.

"Iz!" Simon put his hand on her shoulder. "Izzy. No."

"No?" She looked at him incredulously. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't chop him into worthless-bastard-themed confetti."

Simon's eyes darted around the room, resting for a moment on Jace, as if he expected him to chime in or add a comment. He didn't; he didn't even move. Finally Simon said, "Look, you understand about the ritual, right? Because Jace was brought back from the dead, that gave Lilith the power to raise Sebastian. And to do that, she needed Jace there and alive, as-what did she call it-"

"A counterweight," put in Clary.

"That mark that Jace has on his chest. Lilith's mark." In a seemingly unconscious gesture, Simon touched his own chest, just over the heart. "Sebastian has it too. I saw them both flash at the same time when Jace stepped into the circle."

Isabelle, her whip twitching at her side, her teeth biting into her red bottom lip, said impatiently, "And?"

"I think she was making a tie between them," said Simon. "If Jace died, Sebastian couldn't live. So if you cut Sebastian into pieces-"

"It could hurt Jace," Clary said, the words spilling out of her as she realized. "Oh, my God. Oh, Izzy, you can't."

"So we're just going to let him live?" Isabelle sounded incredulous.

"Cut him to pieces if you like," Jace said. "You have my permission."

"Shut up," said Alec. "Stop acting like your life doesn't matter. Iz, weren't you listening? Sebastian's not alive."

"He's not dead, either. Not dead enough."

"We need the Clave," said Alec. "We need to give him over to the Silent Brothers. They can sever his connection to Jace, and then you'll get all the blood you want, Iz. He's Valentine's son. And he's a murderer. Everyone lost someone in the battle in Alicante, or knows someone who did. You think they'll be kind to him? They'll take him apart slowly while he's still living."

Isabelle stared up at her brother. Very slowly tears welled in her eyes, spilling down her cheeks, streaking the dirt and blood on her skin. "I hate it," she said. "I hate it when you're right."

Alec pulled his sister closer and kissed the top of her head. "I know you do."

She squeezed her brother's hand briefly, then drew back. "Fine," she said. "I won't touch Sebastian. But I can't stand to be this close to him." She glanced toward the glass doors, where Jace still stood. "Let's go downstairs. We can wait for the Clave in the lobby. And we need to get Maia and Jordan; they're probably wondering where we went."

Simon cleared his throat. "Someone should stay up here just to keep an eye on-on things. I'll do it."

"No." It was Jace. "You go downstairs. I'll stay. All of this is my fault. I should have made sure Sebastian was dead when I had the chance. And as for the rest of it..."

His voice trailed off. But Clary remembered him touching her face in a dark hallway in the Institute, remembered him whispering, Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

My fault, my fault, my own most grievous fault.

She turned to look at the others; Isabelle had pushed the call button, which was lit. Clary could hear the distant hum of the rising elevator. Isabelle's brow creased. "Alec, maybe you should stay up here with Jace."

"I don't need help," Jace said. "There's nothing to handle. I'll be fine."

Isabelle threw her hands up as the elevator arrived with a ping. "Fine. You win. Sulk up here alone if you want." She stalked into the elevator, Simon and Alec crowding in after her. Clary was the last to follow, turning back to look at Jace as she went. He had gone back to staring at the doors, but she could see his reflection in them. His mouth was compressed into a bloodless line, his eyes dark.

Jace, she thought as the elevator doors began to close. She willed him to turn, to look at her. He didn't, but she felt strong hands suddenly on her shoulders, shoving her forward. She heard Isabelle say, "Alec, what on earth are you-" as she stumbled through the elevator doors and righted herself, turning to stare. The doors were closing behind her, but through them she could see Alec. He gave her a rueful little half smile and a shrug, as if to say, What else was I supposed to do? Clary stepped forward, but it was too late; the elevator doors had clanged shut.

She was alone in the room with Jace.

The room was littered with dead bodies-crumpled figures all in gray hooded tracksuits, flung or crumpled or slumped against the wall. Maia stood by the window, breathing hard, looking out across the scene in front of her with disbelief. She had taken part in the battle at Brocelind in Idris, and had thought that was the worst thing she would ever see. But somehow this was worse. The blood that ran from dead cult members wasn't demon ichor; it was human blood. And the babies-silent and dead in their cribs, their small taloned hands folded one over the other, like dolls...

She looked down at her own hands. Her claws were still out, stained with blood from tip to root; she retracted them, and the blood ran down her palms, staining her wrists. Her feet were bare and bloodstained, and there was a long scratch along one bare shoulder still oozing red, though it had already begun to heal. Despite the swift healing lycanthropy provided, she knew she'd wake up tomorrow covered in bruises. When you were a werewolf, bruises rarely lasted more than a day. She remembered when she had been human, and her brother, Daniel, had made himself an expert in pinching her hard in places where the bruises wouldn't show.

"Maia." Jordan came in through one of the unfinished doors, ducking a bundle of dangling wires. He straightened up and moved toward her, picking his way among the bodies. "Are you all right?"

The look of concern on his face knotted her stomach.

"Where are Isabelle and Alec?"

He shook his head. He had sustained much less visible damage than she had. His thick leather jacket had protected him, as had his jeans and boots. There was a long scrape along his cheek, dried blood in his light brown hair and staining the blade of the knife he held. "I've searched the whole floor. Haven't seen them. Couple more bodies in the other rooms. They might have-"

The night lit up like a seraph blade. The windows went white, and bright light seared through the room. For a moment Maia thought the world had caught on fire, and Jordan, moving toward her through the light, seemed almost to disappear, white on white, into a shimmering field of silver. She heard herself scream, and she moved blindly backward, banging her head on the plate glass window. She put her hands up to cover her eyes-

And the light was gone. Maia lowered her hands, the world swinging around her. She reached out blindly, and Jordan was there. She put her arms around him-threw them around him, the way she used to when he came to pick her up from her house, and he would swing her into his arms, winding the curls of her hair through his fingers.

He had been slighter then, narrow-shouldered. Now muscle corded his bones, and holding him was like holding on to something absolutely solid, a pillar of granite in the midst of a blowing desert sandstorm. She clung on to him, and heard the beat of his heart under her ear as his hands smoothed her hair, one rough, soothing stroke at a time, comforting and ... familiar. "Maia ... it's all right..."

She raised her head and pressed her mouth to his. He had changed in so many ways, but the feel of kissing him was the same, his mouth as soft as ever. He went rigid for a second with surprise, and then gathered her up against him, his hands stroking slow circles on her bare back. She remembered the first time they had ever kissed. She had handed him her earrings to put in the glove compartment of his car, and his hand had shaken so badly he'd dropped them and then apologized and apologized until she kissed him to shut him up. She'd thought he was the sweetest boy she'd ever known.

And then he was bitten, and everything changed.

She drew away, dizzy and breathing hard. He let her go instantly; he was staring at her, his mouth open, his eyes dazed.

Behind him, through the window, she could see the city-she had half expected it to be flattened, a blasted white desert outside the window-but everything was exactly the same. Nothing had changed. Lights blinked on and off in the buildings across the street; she could hear the faint rush of traffic below. "We should go," she said. "We should look for the others."

"Maia," he said. "Why did you just kiss me?"

"I don't know," she said. "Do you think we should try the elevators?"


"I don't know, Jordan," she said. "I don't know why I kissed you, and I don't know if I'm going to do it again, but I do know I'm freaked out and worried about my friends and I want to get out of here. Okay?"

He nodded. He looked like there were a million things he wanted to say but had determined not to say them, for which she was grateful. He ran a hand through his tousled hair, rimed white with plaster dust, and nodded. "Okay."

Silence. Jace was still leaning against the door, only now he had his forehead pressed against it, his eyes closed. Clary wondered if he even knew she was in the room with him. She took a step forward, but before she could say anything, he pushed the doors open and walked back out into the garden.

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