“Like a special bonus for you,” Jace said to Simon.
Simon ignored this. “Has there ever been an Inquisitor who didn’t die a horrible death?” he wondered aloud. “It’s like being the drummer in Spinal Tap.”
Alec rubbed a hand across his face. “I can’t believe my parents don’t know about this yet,” he said. “I can’t say I’m looking forward to telling them.”
“Where are your parents?” asked Clary. “I thought they were upstairs.”
Alec shook his head. “They’re still at the necropolis. At Max’s grave. They sent us back. They wanted to be there alone for a while.”
“What about Isabelle?” Simon asked. “Where is she?”
The humor, such as it was, left Jace’s expression. “She won’t come out of her room,” he said. “She thinks what happened to Max was her fault. She wouldn’t even come to the funeral.”
“Have you tried talking to her?”
“No,” Jace said, “we’ve been punching her repeatedly in the face instead. Why, do you think that won’t work?”
“Just thought I’d ask.” Simon’s tone was mild.
“We’ll tell her this stuff about Sebastian not actually being Sebastian,” said Alec. “It might make her feel better. She thinks she ought to have been able to tell that there was something off about Sebastian, but if he was a spy …” Alec shrugged. “Nobody noticed anything off about him. Not even the Penhallows.”
“I thought he was a knob,” Jace pointed out.
“Yes, but that’s just because—” Alec sank deeper into his chair. He looked exhausted, his skin a pale gray color against the stark white of his clothes. “It hardly matters. Once she finds out what Valentine’s threatening, nothing’s going to cheer her up.”
“But would he really do it?” Clary asked. “Send a demon army against Nephilim—I mean, he’s still a Shadowhunter, isn’t he? He couldn’t destroy all his own people.”
“He didn’t care enough about his children not to destroy them,” Jace said, meeting her eyes across the room. Their gazes held. “What makes you think he’d care about his people?”
Alec looked from one of them to the other, and Clary could tell from his expression that Jace hadn’t told him about Ithuriel yet. He looked baffled, and very sad. “Jace …”
“This does explain one thing,” Jace said without looking at Alec. “Magnus was trying to see if he could use a tracking rune on any of the things Sebastian had left in his room, to see if we could locate him that way. He said he wasn’t getting much of a reading on anything we gave him. Just … flat.”
“What does that mean?”
“They were Sebastian Verlac’s things. The fake Sebastian probably took them whenever he intercepted him. And Magnus isn’t getting anything from them because the real Sebastian—”
“Is probably dead,” finished Alec. “And the Sebastian we know is too smart to leave anything behind that could be used to track him. I mean, you can’t track somebody from just anything. It has to be an object that’s in some way very connected to that person. A family heirloom, or a stele, or a brush with some hair in it, something like that.”
“Which is too bad,” said Jace, “because if we could follow him, he’d probably lead us straight to Valentine. I’m sure he’s scuttled right back to his master with a full report. Probably told him all about Hodge’s crackpot mirror-lake theory.”
“It might not have been crackpot,” Alec said. “They’ve stationed guards at the paths that go to the lake, and set up wards that will warn them if anyone Portals there.”
“Fantastic. I’m sure we all feel very safe now.” Jace leaned back against the wall.
“What I don’t get,” Simon said, “is why Sebastian stayed around. After what he did to Izzy and Max, he was going to get caught; there was no more pretending. I mean, even if he thought he’d killed Izzy instead of just knocking her out, how was he going to explain that they were both dead and he was still fine? No, he was busted. So why hang around through the fighting? Why come up to the Gard to get me? I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually care one way or the other whether I lived or died.”
“Now you’re being too hard on him,” Jace said. “I’m sure he’d rather you’d died.”
“Actually,” Clary said, “I think he stayed because of me.”
Jace’s gaze flicked up to hers with a flash of gold. “Because of you? Hoping for another hot date, was he?”
Clary felt herself flush. “No. And our date wasn’t hot. In fact, it wasn’t even a date. Anyway, that’s not the point. When he came into the Hall, he kept trying to get me to go outside with him so we could talk. He wanted something from me. I just don’t know what.”
“Or maybe he just wanted you,” Jace said. Seeing Clary’s expression, he added, “Not that way. I mean maybe he wanted to bring you to Valentine.”
“Valentine doesn’t care about me,” Clary said. “He’s only ever cared about you.”
Something flickered in the depths of Jace’s eyes. “Is that what you call it?” His expression was frighteningly bleak. “After what happened on the boat, he’s interested in you. Which means you need to be careful. Very careful. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt if you just spent the next few days inside. You can lock yourself in your room like Isabelle.”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“Of course you’re not,” said Jace, “because you live to torture me, don’t you?”
“Not everything, Jace, is about you,” Clary said furiously.
“Possibly,” Jace said, “but you have to admit that the majority of things are.”
Clary resisted the urge to scream.
Simon cleared his throat. “Speaking of Isabelle—which we only sort of were, but I thought I ought to mention this before the arguing really got under way—I think maybe I should go talk to her.”
“You?” Alec said. And then, looking faintly embarrassed by his own discomfiture, added quickly, “It’s just—she won’t even come out of her room for her own family. Why would she come out for you?”
“Maybe because I’m not family,” Simon said. He was standing with his hands in his pockets, his shoulders back. Earlier, when Clary had been sitting close to him, she had seen that there was still a thin white line circling his neck, where Valentine had cut his throat, and scars on his wrists where those had been cut too. His encounters with the Shadowhunters’ world had changed him, and not just the surface of him, or even his blood; the change went deeper than that. He stood straight, with his head up, and took whatever Jace and Alec threw at him and didn’t seem to care. The Simon who would have been frightened of them, or made uneasy by them, was gone.
She felt a sudden pain in her heart, and realized with a jolt what it was. She was missing him—missing Simon. Simon as he had been.
“I think I’ll have a try at getting Isabelle to talk to me,” said Simon. “It can’t hurt.”
“But it’s almost dark,” Clary said. “We told Luke and Amatis we’d be back before the sun went down.”
“I’ll walk you back,” Jace said. “As for Simon, he can manage his own way back in the dark—can’t you, Simon?”
“Of course he can,” Alec said indignantly, as if eager to make up for his earlier slighting of Simon. “He’s a vampire—and,” he added, “I just now realized you were probably joking. Never mind me.”
Simon smiled. Clary opened her mouth to protest again—and closed it. Partly because she was, she knew, being unreasonable. And partly because there was a look on Jace’s face as he gazed past her, at Simon, a look that startled her into silence: It was amusement, Clary thought, mixed with gratitude and maybe even—most surprising of all—a little bit of respect.
It was a short walk between the Lightwoods’ new house and Amatis’s; Clary wished it were longer. She couldn’t shake the feeling that every moment she spent with Jace was somehow precious and limited, that they were closing in on some half-invisible deadline that would separate them forever.
She looked sideways at him. He was staring straight ahead, almost as if she weren’t there. The line of his profile was sharp and clear-edged in the witchlight that illuminated the streets. His hair curled against his cheek, not quite hiding the white scar on one temple where a Mark had been. She could see a line of metal glittering at his throat, where the Morgenstern ring dangled on its chain. His left hand was bare; his knuckles looked raw. So he really was healing like a mundane, as Alec had asked him to.
She shivered. Jace glanced at her. “Are you cold?”
“I was just thinking,” she said. “I’m surprised that Valentine went after the Inquisitor instead of Luke. The Inquisitor’s a Shadowhunter, and Luke—Luke’s a Downworlder. Plus, Valentine hates him.”
“But in a way, he respects him, even if he is a Downworlder,” Jace said, and Clary thought of the look Jace had given Simon earlier, and then tried not to think of it. She hated thinking of Jace and Valentine as being in any way alike, even in so trivial a thing as a glance. “Luke is trying to get the Clave to change, to think in a new way. That’s exactly what Valentine did, even if his goals were—well, not the same. Luke’s an iconoclast. He wants change. To Valentine, the Inquisitor represents the old, hidebound Clave he hates so much.”
“And they were friends once,” Clary said. “Luke and Valentine.”
“‘The Marks of that which once hath been,’” Jace said, and Clary could tell he was quoting something, from the half-mocking tone in his voice. “Unfortunately, you never really hate anyone as much as someone you cared about once. I imagine Valentine has something special planned for Luke, down the road, after he takes over.”
“But he won’t take over,” said Clary, and when Jace said nothing, her voice rose. “He won’t win—he can’t. He doesn’t really want war, not against Shadowhunters and Downworlders—”
“What makes you think Shadowhunters will fight with Downworlders?” Jace said, and he still wasn’t looking at her. They were walking along the canal street, and he was looking out at the water, his jaw set. “Just because Luke says so? Luke’s an idealist.”
“And why is that a bad thing to be?”
“It’s not. I’m just not one,” said Jace, and Clary felt a cold pang in her heart at the emptiness in his voice. Despair, anger, hate. These are demon qualities. He’s acting the way he thinks he should act.
They had reached Amatis’s house; Clary stopped at the foot of the steps, turning to face him. “Maybe,” she said. “But you’re not like him, either.”
Jace started a little at that, or maybe it was just the firmness in her tone. He turned his head to look at her for what felt like the first time since they’d left the Lightwoods’. “Clary—” he began, and broke off, with an intake of breath. “There’s blood on your sleeve. Are you hurt?”
He moved toward her, taking her wrist in his hand. Clary glanced down and saw to her surprise that he was right—there was an irregular scarlet stain on the right sleeve of her coat. What was odd was that it was still bright red. Shouldn’t dried blood be a darker color? She frowned. “That’s not my blood.”
He relaxed slightly, his grip on her wrist loosening. “Is it the Inquisitor’s?”
She shook her head. “I actually think it’s Sebastian’s.”
“Yes—when he came into the Hall the other night, remember, his face was bleeding. I think Isabelle must have clawed him, but anyway—I touched his face and got his blood on me.” She looked more closely at it. “I thought Amatis washed the coat, but I guess she didn’t.”
She expected him to let go of her then, but instead he held her wrist for a long moment, examining the blood, before returning her arm to her, apparently satisfied. “Thanks.”
She stared at him for a moment before shaking her head. “You’re not going to tell me what that was about, are you?”
“Not a chance.”
She threw her arms up in exasperation. “I’m going inside. I’ll see you later.”
She turned and headed up the steps to Amatis’s front door. There was no way she could have known that the moment she turned her back, the smile vanished from Jace’s face, or that he stood for a long time in the darkness once the door closed behind her, looking after her, and twisting a small piece of thread over and over between his fingers.
“Isabelle,” Simon said. It had taken him a few tries to find her door, but the scream of “Go away!” that had emanated from behind this one convinced him he’d made the right choice. “Isabelle, let me in.”
There was a muffled thump and the door reverberated slightly, as if Isabelle had thrown something at it. Possibly a shoe. “I don’t want to talk to you and Clary. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Leave me alone, Simon.”
“Clary’s not here,” said Simon. “And I’m not going away until you talk to me.”
“Alec!” Isabelle yelled. “Jace! Make him go away!”
Simon waited. There was no sound from downstairs. Either Alec had left or he was lying low. “They’re not here, Isabelle. It’s just me.”
There was a silence. Finally Isabelle spoke again. This time her voice came from much nearer, as if she was standing just on the other side of the door. “You’re alone?”