City of Heavenly Fire / Page 19

Page 19


“Here you go,” said Leila Haryana, one of the newest of the pack’s wolves, as she handed over a stack of clothes to Maia.
 
Maia took them gratefully. “Thanks—you have no idea what it means to have clean clothes to wear,” she said, glancing through the pile: a tank top, jeans, a wool jacket. She and Leila were about the same size, and even if the clothes didn’t quite fit, it was better than going back to Jordan’s apartment. It had been a while since Maia had lived at pack headquarters, and all her things were at Jordan and Simon’s, but the thought of the apartment without either of the boys in it was a dreary one. At least here she was surrounded by other werewolves, surrounded by the constant hum of voices, the smell of take-out Chinese and Malaysian food, the sound of people cooking in the kitchen. And Bat was there—not getting in her space, but always around if she wanted someone to talk to or just sit silently with, watching the traffic go by on Baxter Street.
 
Of course there were also downsides. Rufus Hastings, huge and scarred and fearsome in his black leather biker clothes, seemed to be everywhere at once, his grating voice audible in the kitchen as he muttered over lunch about how Luke Garroway wasn’t a reliable leader, he was going to marry an ex-Shadowhunter, his loyalties were in question, they needed someone they could depend on to put werewolves first.
 
“No problem.” Leila fiddled with the gold clip in her dark hair, looking awkward. “Maia,” she said. “Just a word to the wise—you might want to tone down the whole loyalty-to-Luke thing.”
 
Maia froze. “I thought we were all loyal to Luke,” she said, in a careful tone. “And to Bat.”
 
“If Luke were here, maybe,” said Leila. “But we’ve barely heard from him since he left for Idris. The Praetor isn’t a pack, but Sebastian threw the gauntlet down. He wants us to choose between the Shadowhunters and going to war for them and—”
 
“There’s always going to be war,” Maia said in a low furious voice. “I’m not blindly loyal to Luke. I know Shadowhunters. I’ve met Sebastian, too. He hates us. Trying to appease him, it isn’t going to work—”
 
Leila put her hands up. “Okay, okay. Like I said, just advice. Hope those fit,” she added, and headed off down the hall.
 
Maia wiggled into the jeans—tight, like she’d figured—and the shirt, and shrugged on Leila’s jacket. She grabbed her wallet from the table, shoved her feet into her boots, and headed down the hall to knock on Bat’s door.
 
He opened it shirtless, which she hadn’t been expecting. Aside from the scar along his right cheek, he had a scar on his right arm, where he’d been shot with a bullet—not silver. The scar looked like a moon crater, white against his dark skin. He raised an eyebrow. “Maia?”
 
“Look,” she said. “I’m going to tell off Rufus. He’s filling everyone’s head with crap, and I’m tired of it.”
 
“Whoa.” Bat held up a hand. “I don’t think that’s a good idea—”
 
“He’s not going to stop unless someone tells him to,” she said. “I remember running into him at the Praetor, with Jordan. Praetor Scott said Rufus had snapped another werewolf’s leg for no reason. Some people see a power vacuum and they want to fill it. They don’t care who they hurt.”
 
Maia spun on her heel and headed downstairs; she could hear Bat making muffled cursing noises behind her. A second later he joined her on the steps, hastily pulling a shirt on.
 
“Maia, I really don’t—”
 
“There you are,” she said. She had reached the lobby, where Rufus was lounging against what had once been a sergeant’s desk. A group of about ten other werewolves, including Leila, were grouped around him.
 
“. . . have to show them that we’re stronger,” he was saying. “And that our loyalties lie with ourselves. The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” His voice was as gravelly as Maia remembered it, as if something had injured his throat a long time ago. The deep scars on his face were livid against his pale skin. He smiled when he saw Maia. “Hello,” he said. “I believe we’ve met before. I was sorry to hear about your boyfriend.”
 
I doubt that.
 
“Strength is loyalty and unity, not dividing people with lies,” Maia snapped.
 
“We’ve only just been reunited, and you’re calling me a liar?” Rufus said. His demeanor was still casual, but there was a flicker of tension under it, like a cat readying itself to pounce.
 
“If you’re telling people that they should stay out of the Shadowhunters’ war, then you’re a liar. Sebastian isn’t going to stop with the Nephilim. If he destroys them, then he’ll come for us next.”
 
“He doesn’t care about Downworlders.”
 
“He just slaughtered the Praetor Lupus!” Maia shouted. “He cares about destruction. He will kill us all.”
 
“Not if we don’t join with the Shadowhunters!”
 
“That’s a lie,” Maia said. She saw Bat pass a hand over his eyes, and then something struck her hard in the shoulder, knocking her backward. She was caught off her guard enough to stumble, and then steadied herself on the edge of the desk.
 
“Rufus!” Bat roared, and Maia realized that Rufus had hit her in the shoulder. She clamped her jaw shut, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing the pain on her face.
 
Rufus stood smirking amid the suddenly frozen group of werewolves. Murmurs ran around the group as Bat strode forward. Rufus was enormous, towering over even Bat, his shoulders as thick and broad as a plank. “Rufus,” Bat said. “I’m the leader here, in Garroway’s absence. You have been a guest among us but are not of our pack. It’s time for you to get out.”
 
Rufus narrowed his eyes at Bat. “Are you throwing me out? Knowing I have nowhere to go?”
 
“I’m sure you’ll find somewhere,” Bat said, starting to turn away.
 
“I challenge you,” Rufus said. “Bat Velasquez, I challenge you for the leadership of the New York pack.”
 
“No!” Maia said in horror, but Bat was already straightening his shoulders. His eyes met Rufus’s; the tension between the two werewolves was as palpable as a live wire.
 
“I accept your challenge,” Bat said. “Tomorrow night, in Prospect Park. I’ll meet you there.”
 
He spun on his heel and stalked out of the station. After a frozen moment Maia dashed after him.
 
The cold air hit her the minute she reached the front steps. Icy wind was swirling down Baxter Street, cutting through her jacket. She clattered down the stairs, her shoulder aching. Bat had nearly reached the corner of the street by the time she caught up with him, grabbing his arm and spinning him around to face her.
 
She was aware that other people on the street were staring at them, and wished for a moment for the Shadowhunters’ glamour runes. Bat looked down at her. There was an angry line between his eyes, and his scar stood out, livid on his cheek. “Are you crazy?” she demanded. “How could you accept Rufus’s challenge? He’s huge.”
 
“You know the rules, Maia,” said Bat. “A challenge has to be accepted.”
 
“Only if you’re challenged by someone in your own pack! You could have turned him down.”
 
“And lost all the pack’s respect,” said Bat. “They never would have been willing to follow my orders again.”
 
“He’ll kill you,” Maia said, and wondered if he could hear what she was saying under the words: that she’d just watched Jordan die, and didn’t think she could stand it again.
 
“Maybe not.” He drew from his pocket something that clanked and jingled, and pressed it into her hand. After a moment she realized what it was. Jordan’s keys. “His truck’s parked around the corner,” Bat said. “Take it and go. Stay away from the station until this is resolved. I don’t trust Rufus around you.”
 
“Come with me,” Maia begged. “You never cared about being pack leader. We could just go away until Luke comes back and sorts all this out—”
 
“Maia.” Bat put his hand on her wrist, his fingers curling gently around her palm. “Waiting for Luke to get back is pretty much exactly what Rufus wants us to do. If we leave, we’re abandoning the pack to him, basically. And you know what he’ll choose to do, or not do. He’ll let Sebastian slaughter the Shadowhunters without lifting a finger, and by the time Sebastian decides to come back and pick us all off like the last pieces on a chessboard, it’ll be too late for everyone.”
 
Maia looked down at his fingers, gentle on her skin.
 
“You know,” he said, “I remember when you told me you needed more space. That you couldn’t be in a real relationship. I took you at your word and I gave you space. I even started dating that girl, the witch, what was her name—”
 
“Eve,” Maia supplied.
 
“Right. Eve.” Bat looked surprised that she remembered. “But that didn’t work out, and anyway, maybe I gave you too much space. Maybe I should have told you how I felt. Maybe I should—”
 
She looked up at him, startled and bewildered, and saw his expression change, the shutters going up behind his eyes, hiding his brief vulnerability.
 
“Never mind,” he said. “It’s not fair to lay all this on you right now.” He let go of her and stepped back. “Take the truck,” he said, backing away from her into the crowd, heading toward Canal Street. “Get out of town. And look after yourself, Maia. For me.”
 
   
 
 
 
Jace set his stele down on the arm of the sofa and traced a finger over the iratze he had drawn on Clary’s arm. A silver band glittered at his wrist. At some point, Clary didn’t remember when, he had picked up Sebastian’s fallen bracelet and clipped it onto his own wrist. She didn’t feel like asking him why. “How’s that?”
 
“Better. Thanks.” Clary’s jeans were rolled up above her knees; she watched as the bruises on her legs began to fade slowly. They were in a room in the Gard, some kind of meeting space, Clary guessed. There were several tables and a long leather sofa, angled in front of a low-burning fire. Books lined one of the walls. The room was illuminated by the firelight. The unshaded window gave out onto a view of Alicante and the shining demon towers.
 
“Hey.” Jace’s light golden eyes searched her face. “Are you all right?”
 
Yes, she meant to say, but the reply stuck in her throat. Physically she was fine. The runes had healed her bruises. She was all right, Jace was all right—Simon, knocked out by the spiked blood, had slept through it all and was currently still sleeping in another room in the Gard.
 
A message had been sent to Luke and Jocelyn. The dinner they were attending was warded for safety, Jia had explained, but they would receive it on leaving. Clary ached to see them again. The world felt unsteady under her feet. Sebastian was gone, for the moment at least, but still she felt torn apart, bitter and angry and vengeful and sad.
 
The guards had let her pack a bag of her things before she’d left Amatis’s house—a change of clothes, her gear, her stele, drawing pad, and weapons. Part of her wanted to change her clothes desperately, to get rid of Sebastian’s touch on the fabric, but more of her didn’t want to leave the room, didn’t want to be alone with her memories and thoughts.
 
“I’m fine.” She rolled the legs of her jeans down and stood up, walked over to the fireplace. She was aware of Jace watching her from the sofa. She put her hands out as if warming them at the fire, though she wasn’t cold. In fact, every time the thought of her brother crossed her mind, she felt a surge of anger like liquid fire rip through her body. Her hands were shaking; she looked at them with a strange detachment, as if they were a stranger’s hands.
 
“Sebastian’s afraid of you,” she said. “He played it off, especially at the end, but I could tell.”
 
“He’s afraid of the heavenly fire,” corrected Jace. “I don’t think he’s exactly sure what it does, any more than we are. One thing’s for certain, though—it doesn’t hurt him just to touch me.”
 
“No,” she said, without turning around to look at Jace. “Why did he kiss you?” It wasn’t what she’d meant to say, but she kept seeing it in her head, over and over, Sebastian with his bloody hand curling around the back of Jace’s neck, and then that strange and surprising kiss on the cheek.
 
She heard the creak of the leather sofa as Jace shifted his weight. “It was a sort of quote,” he said. “From the Bible. When Judas kissed Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. It was a sign of his betrayal. He kissed him and said ‘Hail, master’ to him, and that was how the Romans knew who to arrest and crucify.”
 
“That was why he said ‘Ave, master,’ to you,” said Clary, realizing. “ ‘Hail, master.’ ”
 
“He meant he planned to be the instrument of my destruction. Clary, I—” She turned to look at Jace as he broke off. He was sitting on the edge of the couch, running a hand through his messy blond hair, his eyes fixed on the floor. “When I came into the room and saw you there, and him there, I wanted to kill him. I should have attacked him immediately, but I was afraid it was a trap. That if I moved toward you, either of you, he would find a way to kill you or hurt you. He’s always twisted everything I’ve ever done. He’s clever. Cleverer than Valentine. And I’ve never been—”
 
She waited, the only sound in the room the crackle and pop of the damp wood in the fireplace.
 
“I’ve never been afraid of anyone like this,” he finished, biting off the words as he spoke them.
 
Clary knew what it cost Jace to say it, how much of his life had been expertly hiding fear and pain and any perceived vulnerability. She wanted to say something in reply, something about how he shouldn’t be afraid, but she couldn’t. She was afraid as well, and she knew they both had good reason to be. There was no one in Idris who had better reason than they did to be terrified.
 
“He risked a lot, coming here,” Jace said. “He let the Clave know he can get in through the wards. They’ll try to shore them up again. It might work, it might not, but it’ll probably inconvenience him. He wanted to see you badly. Badly enough to make it worth the risk.”
 
“He still thinks he can convince me.”
 
“Clary.” Jace rose to his feet and moved toward her, his hand outstretched. “Are you—”
 
She flinched, away from his touch. Startled light flared in his golden eyes.
 
“What’s wrong?” He glanced down at his hands; the faint glow of the fire in his veins was visible. “The heavenly fire?”
 
“Not that,” she said.
 
“Then—”
 
“Sebastian. I should have told you before, but I just—I couldn’t.”
 
He didn’t move, just looked at her. “Clary, you can tell me anything; you know you can.”
 
She took a deep breath and stared into the fire, watching the flames—gold and green and sapphire blue—chase each other. “In November,” she said. “Before we came to the Burren, after you’d left the apartment, he realized I’d been spying. He crushed my ring, and then he—he hit me, pushed me through a glass table. Knocked me to the ground. I almost killed him then, almost shoved a piece of glass through his throat, but I realized that if I did, I’d be killing you, and so I couldn’t do it. And he was so delighted. He laughed and he shoved me down. He was pulling at my clothes and reciting pieces of the Song of Solomon, telling me about how brothers and sisters used to marry to keep royal bloodlines pure, how I belonged to him. Like I was a piece of monogrammed luggage with his name stamped on me. . . .”
 
Jace looked shocked in a way she had rarely seen him shocked; she could read the levels of his expression: hurt, fear, apprehension. “He . . . Did he . . . ?”
 
“Rape me?” she said, and the word was awful and ugly in the stillness of the room. “No. He didn’t. He . . . stopped.” Her voice fell to a whisper.
 
Jace was as white as a sheet. He opened his mouth to say something to her, but she could hear only the distorted echo of his voice, as if she were underwater again. She was shaking all over, violently, though it was warm in the room.
 
“Tonight,” she said, finally. “I couldn’t move, and he pushed me up against the wall, and I couldn’t get away, and I just—”
 
“I’ll kill him,” Jace said. Some color had washed back into his face, and he looked gray. “I’ll cut him into pieces. I’ll cut his hands off for touching you—”
 
“Jace,” Clary said, feeling suddenly exhausted. “We have a million reasons to want him dead. Besides,” she added with a mirthless laugh, “Isabelle already cut his hand off, and it didn’t work.”
 
Jace closed his hand into a fist, drew it up against his stomach, and dug it into his solar plexus as if he could cut off his own breath. “All that time I was connected to him, I thought I knew his mind, his desires, what he wanted. But I didn’t guess, I didn’t know. And you didn’t tell me.”
 
“This isn’t about you, Jace—”
 
“I know,” he said. “I know.” But his hand was so tightly fisted that it was white, the veins standing out in a stark topography across the back of it. “I know, and I don’t blame you for not telling me. What could I have done? How am I not completely useless here? I was just standing five feet from him, and I have fire in my veins that ought to be able to kill him, and I tried and it didn’t work. I couldn’t make it work.”
 
“Jace.”
 
“I’m sorry. It’s just—you know me. I only have two reactions to bad news. Uncontrollable rage and then a sharp left turn into boiling self-hatred.”
 
She was silent. Above everything else she was tired, so tired. Telling him what Sebastian had done had been like lifting an impossible weight, and now all she wanted was to close her eyes and disappear into the darkness. She had been so angry for so long—anger always under the surface of everything. Whether she was shopping for presents with Simon or sitting in the park or alone at home trying to draw, the anger was always with her.
 
Jace was visibly struggling; he wasn’t trying to hide anything from her, at least, and she saw the quick flicker of emotions behind his eyes: rage, frustration, helplessness, guilt, and, finally, sadness. It was a surprisingly quiet sadness, for Jace, and when he spoke at last, his voice was surprisingly quiet too. “I just wish,” he said, not looking at her but at the floor, “that I could say the right thing, do the right thing, to make this easier for you. Whatever you want from me, I want to do it. I want to be there for you in whatever the right way is for you, Clary.”
 
“There,” she said softly.
 
He looked up. “What?”
 
“What you just said. That was perfect.”
 
He blinked. “Well, that’s good, because I’m not sure I have an encore in me. What part of it was perfect?”
 
She felt her lip quirk slightly at the side. There was something so Jace about his reaction, his strange mixture of arrogance and vulnerability, of resilience and bitterness and devotion. “I just want to know,” she said, “that you don’t think any differently of me. Any less.”
 
“No. No,” he said, appalled. “You’re brave and brilliant, and you’re perfect and I love you. I just love you and I always have. And the actions of some lunatic aren’t going to change that.”
 
“Sit down,” she said, and he sat down on the creaking leather sofa, his head tipped back, looking up at her. The reflected firelight clustered like sparks in his hair. She took a deep breath and walked over to him, settled herself carefully in his lap. “Could you hug me?” she said.
 
He put his arms around her, held her against him. She could feel the muscles in his arms, the strength in his back as he put his hands on her gently, so gently. He had hands made for fighting, and yet he could be so gentle with her, with his piano, with all the things he cared about.
 
She settled against him, sideways in his lap, her feet on the sofa, and leaned her head against his shoulder. She could feel the rapid beat of his heart. “Now,” she said. “Kiss me too.”
 
He hesitated. “Are you sure?”
 
She nodded. “Yes. Yes,” she said. “God knows we haven’t exactly been able to do all that much lately, but every time I kiss you, every time you touch me, it’s a victory, if you ask me. Sebastian, he did what he did because—because he doesn’t understand the difference between loving and having. Between giving yourself and taking. And he thought that if he could make me give myself, then he’d have me, I’d be his, and to him that’s love, because he doesn’t know anything else. But when I touch you, I do it because I want to, and that’s all the difference. And he doesn’t get to have that or take it away from me. He doesn’t,” she said, and she leaned up to kiss him, a light touch of lips to lips, bracing her hand against the back of the sofa.
 
She felt him draw in his breath at the slight spark that jumped between their skins. He brushed his cheek against hers, the strands of their hair tangling together, red and gold.
 
She settled back down against him. The flames leaped in the grate, and some of their warmth soaked into Clary’s bones. She was resting against the shoulder that was marked with the white star of the men of the Herondale family, and she thought of all those who had gone before Jace, whose blood and bones and lives had made him what he was.
 
“What are you thinking?” he said. He was drawing his hand through her hair, letting the loose curls slip between his fingers.
 
“That I’m glad I told you,” she said. “What are you thinking?”
 
He was silent for a long moment, as the flames rose and fell. Then he said, “I was thinking of what you said about Sebastian being lonely. I was trying to remember what it was like to be in that house with him. He took me for a lot of reasons, sure, but half of it was just to have company. The company of someone who he thought might understand him, because we’d been raised the same. I was trying to remember if I’d ever actually liked him, liked spending time with him.”
 
“I don’t think so. Just from being there, with you, you never seemed at ease, not exactly. You were you, but not you. It’s hard to explain.”
 
Jace looked at the fire. “Not that hard,” he said. “I think there’s a part of us, separate even from our will or our minds, and it was that part he couldn’t touch. It was never really exactly me, and he knew that. He wants to be liked, or really loved, for what he is, genuinely. But he doesn’t think he has to change to be worthy of being loved; instead he wants to change the whole world, change humanity, make it into something that loves him.” He paused. “Sorry about the armchair psychology. Literally. Here we are in an armchair.”
 
But Clary was deep in thought. “When I went through his things, at the house, I found a letter he’d written. It wasn’t finished, but it was addressed to ‘my beautiful one.’ I remember thinking it was weird. Why would he be writing a love letter? I mean, he understands sex, sort of, and desire, but romantic love? Not from what I’ve seen.”
 
Jace drew her up against him, fitting her more neatly against the curve of his side. She wasn’t sure who was soothing whom, just that his heart beat steadily against her skin, and the soap-sweat-metal smell of him was familiar and comforting. Clary softened against him, exhaustion catching her up and dragging her down, weighting her eyelids. It had been a long, long day and night, and a long day before that. “If my mom and Luke get here while I’m sleeping, wake me up,” she said.
 
“Oh, you’ll be woken up,” Jace said drowsily. “Your mother will think I’m trying to take advantage of you and chase me around the room with a fireplace poker.”
 
She reached up to pat his cheek. “I’ll protect you.”
 
Jace didn’t reply. He was already asleep, breathing steadily against her, the rhythms of their heartbeats slowing to match each other. She lay awake as he slept—looking into the leaping flames and frowning, the words “my beautiful one” echoing in her ears like the memory of words heard in a dream.

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