Now where am I going to sleep? Not that she minded sharing a bed with Simon, but he hadn’t exactly left her any room. She considered poking him awake, but he looked so peaceful. Besides, she wasn’t sleepy. She was just reaching for the sketchpad under the pillow when a knock sounded on the door.
She padded barefoot across the room and turned the doorknob quietly. It was Jace. Clean, in jeans and a gray shirt, his washed hair a halo of damp gold. The bruises on his face were already fading from purple to faint gray, and his hands were behind his back.
“Were you asleep?” he asked. There was no contrition in his voice, only curiosity.
“No.” Clary stepped out into the hallway, pulling the door shut behind her. “Why would you think that?”
He eyed her baby-blue cotton tank top and sleep shorts set. “No reason.”
“I was in bed most of the day,” she said, which was technically true. Seeing him, her jitter level had shot up about a thousand percent, but she saw no reason to share that information. “What about you? Aren’t you exhausted?”
He shook his head. “Much like the postal service, demon hunters never sleep. ‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these—’”
“You’d be in major trouble if gloom of night did stay you,” she pointed out.
He grinned. Unlike his hair, his teeth weren’t perfect. An upper incisor was slightly, endearingly chipped.
She gripped her elbows. It was chilly in the hallway and she could feel goose bumps starting up her arms. “What are you doing here, anyway?”
“‘Here’ as in your bedroom or ‘here’ as in the great spiritual question of our purpose here on this planet? If you’re asking whether it’s all just a cosmic coincidence or there’s a greater metaethical purpose to life, well, that’s a puzzler for the ages. I mean, simple ontological reductionism is clearly a fallacious argument, but—”
“I’m going back to bed.” Clary reached for the doorknob.
He slid nimbly between her and the door. “I’m here,” he said, “because Hodge reminded me it was your birthday.”
Clary exhaled in exasperation. “Not until tomorrow.”
“That’s no reason not to start celebrating now.”
She eyed him. “You’re avoiding Alec and Isabelle.”
He nodded. “Both of them are trying to pick fights with me.”
“For the same reason?”
“I couldn’t tell.” He glanced furtively up and down the hallway. “Hodge, too. Everyone wants to talk to me. Except you. I bet you don’t want to talk to me.”
“No,” said Clary. “I want to eat. I’m starving.”
He brought his hand out from behind his back. In it was a slightly crumpled paper bag. “I sneaked some food from the kitchen when Isabelle wasn’t looking.”
Clary grinned. “A picnic? It’s a little late for Central Park, don’t you think? It’s full of—”
He waved a hand. “Faeries. I know.”
“I was going to say muggers,” said Clary. “Though I pity the mugger who goes after you.”
“That is a wise attitude, and I commend you for it,” said Jace, looking gratified. “But I wasn’t thinking of Central Park. How about the greenhouse?”
“Now? At night? Won’t it be—dark?”
He smiled as if at a secret. “Come on. I’ll show you.”
THE MIDNIGHT FLOWER
IN THE HALF-LIGHT THE BIG EMPTY ROOMS THEY PASSED through on their way to the roof looked as deserted as stage sets, the white-draped furniture looming up out of the dimness like icebergs through fog.
When Jace opened the greenhouse door, the scent hit Clary, soft as the padded blow of a cat’s paw: the rich dark smell of earth and the stronger, soapy scent of night-blooming flowers—moonflowers, white angel’s trumpet, four-o’clocks—and some she didn’t recognize, like a plant bearing a star-shaped yellow blossom whose petals were medallioned with golden pollen. Through the glass walls of the enclosure she could see the lights of Manhattan burning like cold jewels.
“Wow.” She turned slowly, taking it in. “It’s so beautiful here at night.”
Jace grinned. “And we have the place to ourselves. Alec and Isabelle hate it up here. They have allergies.”
Clary shivered, though she wasn’t at all cold. “What kind of flowers are these?”
Jace shrugged and sat down, carefully, next to a glossy green shrub dotted all over with tightly closed flower buds. “No idea. You think I pay attention in botany class? I’m not going to be an archivist. I don’t need to know about that stuff.”
“You just need to know how to kill things?”
He looked up at her and smiled. He looked like a fair-haired angel from a Rembrandt painting, except for that devilish mouth. “That’s right.” He took a napkin-wrapped package out of the bag and offered it to her. “Also,” he added, “I make a mean cheese sandwich. Try one.”
Clary smiled reluctantly and sat down across from him. The stone floor of the greenhouse was cold against her skin, but it was pleasant after so many days of relentless heat. Out of the paper bag Jace drew some apples, a bar of fruit and nut chocolate, and a bottle of water. “Not a bad haul,” she said admiringly.
The cheese sandwich was warm and a little limp, but it tasted fine. From one of the innumerable pockets inside his jacket, Jace produced a bone-handled knife that looked capable of disemboweling a grizzly. He set to work on the apples, carving them into meticulous eighths. “Well, it’s not birthday cake,” he said, handing her a section, “but hopefully it’s better than nothing.”
“Nothing is what I was expecting, so thanks.” She took a bite. The apple tasted green and cool.
“Nobody should get nothing on their birthday.” He was peeling the second apple, the skin coming away in long curling strips. “Birthdays should be special. My birthday was always the one day my father said I could do or have anything I wanted.”
“Anything?” She laughed. “Like what kind of anything did you want?”
“Well, when I was five, I wanted to take a bath in spaghetti.”
“But he didn’t let you, right?”
“No, that’s the thing. He did. He said it wasn’t expensive, and why not if that was what I wanted? He had the servants fill a bath with boiling water and pasta, and when it cooled down …” He shrugged. “I took a bath in it.”
Servants? Clary thought. Out loud she said, “How was it?”
“I’ll bet.” She tried to picture him as a little boy, giggling, up to his ears in pasta. The image wouldn’t form. Surely Jace never giggled, not even at the age of five. “What else did you ask for?”
“Weapons, mostly,” he said, “which I’m sure doesn’t surprise you. Books. I read a lot on my own.”
“You didn’t go to school?”
“No,” he said, and now he spoke slowly, almost as if they were approaching a topic he didn’t want to discuss.
“But your friends—”
“I didn’t have friends,” he said. “Besides my father. He was all I needed.”
She stared at him. “No friends at all?”
He met her look steadily. “The first time I saw Alec,” he said, “when I was ten years old, that was the first time I’d ever met another child my own age. The first time I had a friend.”
She dropped her gaze. Now an image was forming, unwelcome, in her head: She thought of Alec, the way he had looked at her. He wouldn’t say that.
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” Jace said, as if guessing her thoughts, though it hadn’t been him she’d been feeling sorry for. “He gave me the best education, the best training. He took me all over the world. London. Saint Petersburg. Egypt. We used to love to travel.” His eyes were dark. “I haven’t been anywhere since he died. Nowhere but New York.”
“You’re lucky,” Clary said. “I’ve never been outside this state in my life. My mom wouldn’t even let me go on field trips to D.C. I guess I know why now,” she added ruefully.
“She was afraid you’d freak out? Start seeing demons in the White House?”
She nibbled a piece of chocolate. “There are demons in the White House?”
“I was kidding,” said Jace. “I think.” He shrugged philosophically. “I’m sure someone would have mentioned it.”
“I think she just didn’t want me to get too far away from her. My mom, I mean. After my dad died, she changed a lot.” Luke’s voice echoed in her mind. You’ve never been the same since it happened, but Clary isn’t Jonathan.
Jace cocked an eyebrow at her. “Do you remember your father?”
She shook her head. “No. He died before I was born.”
“You’re lucky,” he said. “That way you don’t miss him.”
From anyone else it would have been an appalling thing to say, but there was no bitterness in his voice for a change, only an ache of loneliness for his own father. “Does it go away?” she asked. “Missing him, I mean?”
He looked at her obliquely, but didn’t answer. “Are you thinking of your mother?”
No. She wouldn’t think of her mother that way. “Of Luke, actually.”
“Not that that’s actually his name.” He took a thoughtful bite of apple and said, “I’ve been thinking about him. Something about his behavior doesn’t add up—”
“He’s a coward.” Clary’s voice was bitter. “You heard him. He won’t go against Valentine. Not even for my mother.”
“But that’s exactly—” A long clanging reverberation interrupted him. Somewhere, a bell was tolling. “Midnight,” said Jace, setting the knife down. He got to his feet, holding his hand out to pull her up beside him. His fingers were slightly sticky with apple juice. “Now, watch.”
His gaze was fixed on the green shrub they’d been sitting beside, with its dozens of shiny closed buds. She started to ask him what she was supposed to be looking at, but he held up a hand to forestall her. His eyes were shining. “Wait,” he said.
The leaves on the shrub hung still and motionless. Suddenly one of the tightly closed buds began to quiver and tremble. It swelled to twice its size and burst open. It was like watching a speeded-up film of a flower blooming: the delicate green sepals opening outward, releasing the clustered petals inside. They were dusted with pale gold pollen as light as talcum.
“Oh!” said Clary, and looked up to find Jace watching her. “Do they bloom every night?”
“Only at midnight,” he said. “Happy birthday, Clarissa Fray.”
She was oddly touched. “Thank you.”
“I have something for you,” he said. He dug into his pocket and brought out something, which he pressed into her hand. It was a gray stone, slightly uneven, worn to smoothness in spots.
“Huh,” said Clary, turning it over in her fingers. “You know, when most girls say they want a big rock, they don’t mean, you know, literally a big rock.”
“Very amusing, my sarcastic friend. It’s not a rock, precisely. All Shadowhunters have a witchlight rune-stone.”
“Oh.” She looked at it with renewed interest, closing her fingers around it as she’d seen Jace do in the cellar. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she could see a glint of light peeking out through her fingers.
“It will bring you light,” said Jace, “even among the darkest shadows of this world and others.”
She slipped it into her pocket. “Well, thanks. It was nice of you to give me anything.” The tension between them seemed to press down on her like humid air. “Better than a bath in spaghetti any day.”
He said darkly, “If you share that little bit of personal information with anyone, I may have to kill you.”
“Well, when I was five, I wanted my mother to let me go around and around inside the dryer with the clothes,” Clary said. “The difference is, she didn’t let me.”
“Probably because going around and around inside a dryer can be fatal,” Jace pointed out, “whereas pasta is rarely fatal. Unless Isabelle makes it.”
The midnight flower was already shedding petals. They drifted toward the floor, glimmering like slivers of starlight. “When I was twelve, I wanted a tattoo,” Clary said. “My mom wouldn’t let me have that, either.”
Jace didn’t laugh. “Most Shadowhunters get their first Marks at twelve. It must have been in your blood.”
“Maybe. Although I doubt most Shadowhunters get a tattoo of Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on their left shoulder.”
Jace looked baffled. “You wanted a turtle on your shoulder?”
“I wanted to cover my chicken pox scar.” She pulled the strap of the tank top aside slightly, showing the star-shaped white mark at the top of her shoulder. “See?”
He looked away. “It’s getting late,” he said. “We should go back downstairs.”
Clary pulled her strap back up awkwardly. As if he wanted to see her stupid scars.
The next words tumbled out of her mouth without any volition on her part. “Have you and Isabelle ever—dated?”
Now he did look at her. The moonlight leached the color out of his eyes. They were more silver than gold now. “Isabelle?” he said blankly.
“I thought—” Now she felt even more awkward. “Simon was wondering.”
“Maybe he should ask her.”
“I’m not sure he wants to,” Clary said. “Anyway, never mind. It’s none of my business.”