“I’m alone,” Simon said.
The door cracked open. Isabelle was standing there in a black slip, her hair lying long and tangled over her shoulders. Simon had never seen her like this: barefoot, with her hair unbrushed, and no makeup on. “You can come in.”
He stepped past her into the room. In the light from the door he could see that it looked, as his mother would have said, like a tornado had hit it. Clothes were scattered across the floor in piles, a duffel bag open on the floor as if it had exploded. Isabelle’s bright silver-gold whip hung from one bedpost, a lacy white bra from another. Simon averted his eyes. The curtains were drawn, the lamps extinguished.
Isabelle flopped down on the edge of the bed and looked at him with bitter amusement. “A blushing vampire. Who would have guessed.” She raised her chin. “So, I let you in. What do you want?”
Despite her angry glare, Simon thought she looked younger than usual, her eyes huge and black in her pinched white face. He could see the white scars that traced her light skin, all over her bare arms, her back and collarbones, even her legs. If Clary remains a Shadowhunter, he thought, one day she’ll look like this, scarred all over. The thought didn’t upset him as once it might have done. There was something about the way Isabelle wore her scars, as if she was proud of them.
She had something in her hands, something she was turning over and over between her fingers. It was a small something that glinted dully in the half-light. He thought for a moment it might be a piece of jewelry.
“What happened to Max,” Simon said. “It wasn’t your fault.”
She didn’t look at him. She was staring down at the object in her hands. “Do you know what this is?” she said, and held it up. It seemed to be a small toy soldier, carved out of wood. A toy Shadowhunter, Simon realized, complete with painted-on black gear. The silver glint he’d noticed was the paint on the little sword it held; it was nearly worn away. “It was Jace’s,” she said, without waiting for him to answer. “It was the only toy he had when he came from Idris. I don’t know, maybe it was part of a bigger set once. I think he made it himself, but he never said much about it. He used to take it everywhere with him when he was little, always in a pocket or whatever. Then one day I noticed Max carrying it around. Jace must have been around thirteen then. He just gave it to Max, I guess, when he got too old for it. Anyway, it was in Max’s hand when they found him. It was like he grabbed it to hold on to when Sebastian—when he—” She broke off. The effort she was making not to cry was visible; her mouth was set in a grimace, as if it were twisting itself out of shape. “I should have been there protecting him. I should have been there for him to hold on to, not some stupid little wooden toy.” She flung it down onto the bed, her eyes shining.
“You were unconscious,” Simon protested. “You nearly died, Izzy. There was nothing you could have done.”
Isabelle shook her head, her tangled hair bouncing on her shoulders. She looked fierce and wild. “What do you know about it?” she demanded. “Did you know that Max came to us the night he died and told us he’d seen someone climbing the demon towers, and I told him he was dreaming and sent him away? And he was right. I bet it was that bastard Sebastian, climbing the tower so he could take the wards down. And Sebastian killed him so he couldn’t tell anyone what he’d seen. If I’d just listened—just taken one second to listen—it wouldn’t have happened.”
“There’s no way you could have known,” Simon said. “And about Sebastian—he wasn’t really the Penhallows’ cousin. He had everyone fooled.”
Isabelle didn’t look surprised. “I know,” she said. “I heard you talking to Alec and Jace. I was listening from the top of the stairs.”
“You were eavesdropping?”
She shrugged. “Up to the part where you said you were going to come and talk to me. Then I came back here. I didn’t feel like seeing you.” She looked at him sideways. “I’ll give you this much, though: You’re persistent.”
“Look, Isabelle.” Simon took a step forward. He was oddly, suddenly conscious of the fact that she wasn’t very dressed, so he held back from putting a hand on her shoulder or doing anything else overtly soothing. “When my father died, I knew it wasn’t my fault, but I still kept thinking over and over of all the things I should have done, should have said, before he died.”
“Yeah, well, this is my fault,” Isabelle said. “And what I should have done is listened. And what I still can do is track down the bastard who did this and kill him.”
“I’m not sure that’ll help—”
“How do you know?” Isabelle demanded. “Did you find the person responsible for your father’s death and kill him?”
“My father had a heart attack,” Simon said. “So, no.”
“Then you don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?” Isabelle raised her chin and looked at him squarely. “Come here.”
She beckoned imperiously with her index finger. “Come here, Simon.”
Reluctantly he came toward her. He was barely a foot away when she seized him by the front of his shirt, yanking him toward her. Their faces were inches apart; he could see how the skin below her eyes shone with the marks of recent tears. “You know what I really need right now?” she said, enunciating each word clearly.
“Um,” Simon said. “No?”
“To be distracted,” she said, and with a half turn yanked him bodily onto the bed beside her.
He landed on his back amid a tangled pile of clothes. “Isabelle,” Simon protested weakly, “do you really think this is going to make you feel any better?”
“Trust me,” Isabelle said, placing a hand on his chest, just over his unbeating heart. “I feel better already.”
Clary lay awake in bed, staring up at a single patch of moonlight as it made its way across the ceiling. Her nerves were still too jangled from the events of the day for her to sleep, and it didn’t help that Simon hadn’t come back before dinner—or after it. Eventually she’d voiced her concern to Luke, who’d thrown on a coat and headed over to the Lightwoods’. He’d returned looking amused. “Simon’s fine, Clary,” he said. “Go to bed.” And then he’d left again, with Amatis, off to another one of their interminable meetings at the Accords Hall. She wondered if anyone had cleaned up the Inquisitor’s blood yet.
With nothing else to do, she’d gone to bed, but sleep had remained stubbornly out of reach. Clary kept seeing Valentine in her head, reaching into the Inquisitor and ripping his heart out. The way he had turned to her and said, You’d keep your mouth shut. For your brother’s sake, if not your own. Above all, the secrets she had learned from Ithuriel lay like a weight on her chest. Under all these anxieties was the fear, constant as a heartbeat, that her mother would die. Where was Magnus?
There was a rustling sound by the curtains, and a sudden wash of moonlight poured into the room. Clary sat bolt upright, scrabbling for the seraph blade she kept on her bedside table.
“It’s all right.” A hand came down on hers—a slender, scarred, familiar hand. “It’s me.”
Clary drew her breath in sharply, and he took his hand back. “Jace,” she said. “What are you doing here? What’s wrong?”
For a moment he didn’t answer, and she twisted to look at him, pulling the bedclothes up around her. She felt herself flush, acutely conscious of the fact that she was wearing only pajama bottoms and a flimsy camisole—and then she saw his expression, and her embarrassment faded.
“Jace?” she whispered. He was standing by the head of her bed, still wearing his white mourning clothes, and there was nothing light or sarcastic or distant in the way he was looking down at her. He was very pale, and his eyes looked haunted and nearly black with strain. “Are you all right?”
“I don’t know,” he said in the dazed manner of someone just waking up from a dream. “I wasn’t going to come here. I’ve been wandering around all night—I couldn’t sleep—and I kept finding myself walking here. To you.”
She sat up straighter, letting the bedclothes fall down around her hips. “Why can’t you sleep? Did something happen?” she asked, and immediately felt stupid. What hadn’t happened?
Jace, however, barely seemed to hear the question. “I had to see you,” he said, mostly to himself. “I know I shouldn’t. But I had to.”
“Well, sit down, then,” she said, pulling her legs back to make a space for him to sit at the edge of the bed. “Because you’re freaking me out. Are you sure nothing’s happened?”
“I didn’t say nothing happened.” He sat down on the bed, facing her. He was close enough that she could have just leaned forward and kissed him—
Her chest tightened. “Is there bad news? Is everything—is everyone—”
“It’s not bad,” said Jace, “and it’s not news. It’s the opposite of news. It’s something I’ve always known, and you—you probably know it too. God knows I haven’t hid it all that well.” His eyes searched her face, slowly, as if he meant to memorize it. “What happened,” he said, and hesitated, “is that I realized something.”
“Jace,” she whispered suddenly, and for no reason she could identify, she was frightened of what he was about to say. “Jace, you don’t have to—”
“I was trying to go … somewhere,” Jace said. “But I kept getting pulled back here. I couldn’t stop walking, couldn’t stop thinking. About the first time I ever saw you, and how after that I couldn’t forget you. I wanted to, but I couldn’t stop myself. I forced Hodge to let me be the one who came to find you and bring you back to the Institute. And even back then, in that stupid coffee shop, when I saw you sitting on that couch with Simon, even then that felt wrong to me—I should have been the one sitting with you. The one who made you laugh like that. I couldn’t get rid of that feeling. That it should have been me. And the more I knew you, the more I felt it—it had never been like that for me before. I’d always wanted a girl and then gotten to know her and not wanted her anymore, but with you the feeling just got stronger and stronger until that night when you showed up at Renwick’s and I knew.
“And then to find out that the reason I felt like that—like you were some part of me I’d lost and never even knew I was missing until I saw you again—that the reason was that you were my sister, it felt like some sort of cosmic joke. Like God was spitting on me. I don’t even know for what—for thinking that I could actually get to have you, that I would deserve something like that, to be that happy. I couldn’t imagine what it was I’d done that I was being punished for—”
“If you’re being punished,” Clary said, “then so am I. Because all those things you felt, I felt them too, but we can’t—we have to stop feeling this way, because it’s our only chance.”
Jace’s hands were tight at his sides. “Our only chance for what?”
“To be together at all. Because otherwise we can’t ever be around each other, not even just in the same room, and I can’t stand that. I’d rather have you in my life even as a brother than not at all—”
“And I’m supposed to sit by while you date boys, fall in love with someone else, get married …?” His voice tightened. “And meanwhile, I’ll die a little bit more every day, watching.”
“No. You won’t care by then,” she said, wondering even as she said it if she could stand the idea of a Jace who didn’t care. She hadn’t thought as far ahead as he had, and when she tried to imagine watching him fall in love with someone else, marry someone else, she couldn’t even picture it, couldn’t picture anything but an empty black tunnel that stretched out ahead of her, forever. “Please. If we don’t say anything—if we just pretend—”
“There is no pretending,” Jace said with absolute clarity. “I love you, and I will love you until I die, and if there’s a life after that, I’ll love you then.”
She caught her breath. He had said it—the words there was no going back from. She struggled for a reply, but none came.
“And I know you think I just want to be with you to—to show myself what a monster I am,” he said. “And maybe I am a monster. I don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is that even if there’s demon blood inside me, there is human blood inside me as well. And I couldn’t love you like I do if I weren’t at least a little bit human. Because demons want. But they don’t love. And I—”
He stood up then, with a sort of violent suddenness, and crossed the room to the window. He looked lost, as lost as he had in the Great Hall standing over Max’s body.
“Jace?” Clary said, alarmed, and when he didn’t answer, she scrambled to her feet and went to him, laying her hand on his arm. He continued staring out the window; their reflections in the glass were nearly transparent—ghostly outlines of a tall boy and a smaller girl, her hand clamped anxiously on his sleeve. “What’s wrong?”
“I shouldn’t have told you like that,” he said, not looking at her. “I’m sorry. That was probably a lot to take in. You looked so … shocked.” The tension underlying his voice was a live wire.
“I was,” she said. “I’ve spent the past few days wondering if you hated me. And then I saw you tonight and I was pretty sure you did.”