Clary watched him as he limped across the foyer toward his unconscious friend. Then she zipped the Mortal Cup into the pocket of her hoodie and got to her feet. Isabelle had crawled to her brother’s side and was cradling his head in her lap, stroking his hair. His chest rose and fell—slowly, but he was breathing. Simon, leaning against the wall watching them, looked utterly drained. Clary squeezed his hand as she passed him. “Thank you,” she whispered. “That was amazing.”
“Don’t thank me,” he said, “thank the archery program at B’nai B’rith summer camp.”
“Simon, I don’t—”
“Clary!” It was Jace, calling her. “Bring my stele.”
Simon let her go reluctantly. She knelt down next to the Shadowhunters, the Mortal Cup thumping heavily against her side. Alec’s face was white, freckled with drops of blood, his eyes unnaturally blue. His grip on Jace’s wrist left bloody smears. “Did I …” he started, then seemed to see Clary, as if for the first time. There was something in his look she hadn’t expected. Triumph. “Did I kill it?”
Jace’s face twisted painfully. “You—”
“Yes,” Clary said. “It’s dead.”
Alec looked at her and laughed. Blood bubbled up in his mouth. Jace pulled his wrist free, touched his fingers to either side of Alec’s face. “Don’t,” he said. “Hold still, just hold still.”
Alec closed his eyes. “Do what you have to,” he whispered.
Isabelle held her stele out to Jace. “Take it.”
He nodded, and drew the tip of the stele down the front of Alec’s shirt. The material parted as if he’d sliced it with a knife. Isabelle watched him through frantic eyes as he yanked the shirt open, leaving Alec’s chest bare. His skin was very white, marked here and there with old translucent scars. There were other injuries there too: a darkening lattice of claw marks, each hole red and oozing. Jaw set, Jace set the stele to Alec’s skin, moving it back and forth with the ease of long practice. But there was something wrong. Even as he drew the healing marks, they seemed to vanish as if he were writing on water.
Jace threw the stele aside. “Damn it.”
Isabelle’s voice was shrill. “What’s going on?”
“It cut him with its talons,” Jace said. “There’s demon poison in him. The Marks can’t work.” He touched Alec’s face again, gently. “Alec,” he said. “Can you hear me?”
Alec didn’t move. The shadows under his eyes looked blue and as dark as bruises. If it weren’t for his breathing, Clary would have thought he was already dead.
Isabelle bent her head, her hair covering Alec’s face. Her arms were around him. “Maybe,” she whispered, “we could—”
“Take him to the hospital.” It was Simon, standing over them, the bow dangling in his hand. “I’ll help you carry him to the van. There’s Methodist down on Seventh Avenue—”
“No hospitals,” said Isabelle. “We need to get him to the Institute.”
“They won’t know how to treat him in a hospital,” said Jace. “He’s been cut by a Greater Demon. No mundane doctor would know how to heal those wounds.”
Simon nodded. “All right. Let’s get him to the car.”
In a stroke of good luck, the van hadn’t been towed. Isabelle draped a dirty blanket across the backseat and they laid Alec down across it, his head on Isabelle’s lap. Jace crouched down on the floor beside his friend. His shirt was stained dark across the sleeves and chest with blood, demon and human. When he looked at Simon, Clary saw that all the gold seemed washed out of his eyes by something she had never seen in them before. Panic.
“Drive fast, mundane,” he said. “Drive like hell was following you.”
They careened down Flatbush and rocketed onto the bridge, keeping pace with the Q train as it roared over the blue water. The sun was painfully bright in Clary’s eyes, striking hot sparks off the river. She clutched at her seat as Simon took the curving ramp off the bridge at fifty miles an hour.
She thought about the awful things she’d said to Alec, the way he’d thrown himself at Abbadon, the look of triumph on his face. When she turned her head now, she saw Jace kneeling next to his friend as blood seeped through the blanket. She thought of the little boy with the dead falcon. To love is to destroy.
Clary turned back around, a hard lump lodged in the back of her throat. Isabelle was visible in the badly angled rearview mirror, wrapping the blanket around Alec’s throat. She looked up and met Clary’s eyes. “How much farther?”
“Maybe ten minutes. Simon’s driving as fast as he can.”
“I know,” Isabelle said. “Simon—what you did, that was incredible. You moved so fast. I wouldn’t have thought a mundane could have thought of something like that.”
Simon didn’t seem fazed by praise from such an unexpected quarter; his eyes were on the road. “You mean shooting out the skylight? It hit me after you guys went inside. I was thinking about the skylight and how you’d said demons couldn’t stand direct sun. So, actually, it took me a while to act on it. Don’t feel bad,” he added, “you can’t even see that skylight unless you know it’s there.”
I knew it was there, Clary thought. I should have acted on it. Even if I didn’t have a bow and arrow like Simon, I could have thrown something at it or told Jace about it. She felt stupid and useless and thick, as though her head were full of cotton. The truth was that she’d been frightened. Too frightened to think straight. She felt a bright surge of shame that burst behind her eyelids like a small sun.
Jace spoke then. “It was well done,” he said.
Simon’s eyes narrowed. “So, if you don’t mind telling me—that thing, the demon—where did it come from?”
“It was Madame Dorothea,” said Clary. “I mean, it was sort of her.”
“She was never exactly a pinup, but I don’t remember her looking that bad.”
“I think she was possessed,” said Clary slowly, trying to piece it together in her own mind. “She wanted me to give her the Cup. Then she opened the Portal …”
“It was clever,” said Jace. “The demon possessed her, then hid the majority of its ethereal form just outside the Portal, where the Sensor wouldn’t register it. So we went in expecting to fight a few Forsaken. Instead we found ourselves facing a Greater Demon. Abbadon—one of the Ancients. The Lord of the Fallen.”
“Well, it looks like the Fallen will just have to learn to get along without him from now on,” said Simon, turning onto the street.
“He’s not dead,” Isabelle said. “Hardly anyone’s ever killed a Greater Demon. You have to kill them in their physical and ethereal forms before they’ll die. We just scared him off.”
“Oh.” Simon looked disappointed. “What about Madame Dorothea? Will she be all right now that—”
He broke off, because Alec had begun to choke, his breath rattling in his chest. Jace swore under his breath with vicious precision. “Why aren’t we there yet?”
“We are here. I just don’t want to crash into a wall.” As Simon pulled up carefully at the corner, Clary saw that the door of the Institute was open, Hodge standing framed in the arch. The van jerked to a halt and Jace leaped out, reaching back to lift Alec as if he weighed no more than a child. Isabelle followed him up the walk, holding her brother’s bloody featherstaff. The Institute door slammed shut behind them.
Tiredness washing over her, Clary looked at Simon. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how you’re going to explain all the blood to Eric.”
“Screw Eric,” he said with conviction. “Are you all right?”
“Not a scratch. Everyone else got hurt, but not me.”
“It’s their job, Clary,” he said gently. “Fighting demons—it’s what they do. Not what you do.”
“What do I do, Simon?” she asked, searching his face for an answer. “What do I do?”
“Well—you got the Cup,” he said. “Didn’t you?”
She nodded, and tapped her pocket. “Yes.”
He looked relieved. “I almost didn’t want to ask,” he said. “That’s good, right?”
“It is,” she said. She thought of her mother, and her hand tightened on the Cup. “I know it is.”
* * *
Church met her at the top of the stairs, yowling like a foghorn, and led her to the infirmary. The double doors were open, and through them she could see Alec’s still figure, motionless on one of the white beds. Hodge was bent over him; Isabelle, beside the older man, held a silver tray in her hands.
Jace was not with them. He was not with them because he was standing outside the infirmary, leaning against the wall, his bare, bloody hands curled at his sides. When Clary stopped in front of him, his lids flew open, and she saw that the pupils of his eyes were dilated, all the gold swallowed up in black.
“How is he?” she asked, as gently as she could.
“He’s lost a lot of blood. Demon poisonings are common, but since it was a Greater Demon, Hodge isn’t sure if the antidotes he usually employs will be viable.”
She reached to touch his arm. “Jace—”
He flinched away. “Don’t.”
She sucked in her breath. “I never would have wanted anything to happen to Alec. I’m so sorry.”
He looked at her as if seeing her there for the first time. “It’s not your fault,” he said. “It’s mine.”
“Yours? Jace, no it isn’t—”
“Oh, but it is,” he said, his voice as fragile as a sliver of ice. “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”
“What does that mean?”
“‘My fault,’” he said. “‘My own fault, my most grievous fault.’ It’s Latin.” He brushed a lock of her hair back from her forehead absently, as if unaware he was doing it. “Part of the Mass.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in religion.”
“I may not believe in sin,” he said, “but I do feel guilt. We Shadowhunters live by a code, and that code isn’t flexible. Honor, fault, penance, those are real to us, and they have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with who we are. This is who I am, Clary,” he said desperately. “I am one of the Clave. It’s in my blood and bones. So tell me, if you’re so sure this wasn’t my fault, why is it that the first thought in my mind when I saw Abbadon wasn’t for my fellow warriors but for you?” His other hand came up; he was holding her face, prisoned between his palms. “I know—I knew—Alec wasn’t acting like himself. I knew something was wrong. But all I could think about was you …”
He bent his head forward, so their foreheads touched. She could feel his breath stir her eyelashes. She closed her eyes, letting the nearness of him wash over her like a tide. “If he dies, it will be like I killed him,” he said. “I let my father die, and now I’ve killed the only brother I ever had.”
“That’s not true,” she whispered.
“Yes, it is.” They were close enough to kiss. And still he held her tightly, as if nothing could reassure him that she was real. “Clary,” he said. “What’s happening to me?”
She searched her mind for an answer—and heard someone clear his throat. She opened her eyes. Hodge stood by the infirmary door, his neat suit stained with patches of rust. “I have done what I can. He is sedated, not in pain, but …” He shook his head. “I must contact the Silent Brothers. This is beyond my abilities.”
Jace drew slowly away from Clary. “How long will it take them to get here?”
“I don’t know.” Hodge started down the corridor, shaking his head. “I’ll send Hugo immediately, but the Brothers come at their own discretion.”
“But for this—” Even Jace was scrambling to keep up with Hodge’s long strides; Clary had fallen hopelessly behind the two of them and had to strain her ears to hear what he was saying. “He might die otherwise.”
“He might,” was all Hodge said in response.
The library was dark and smelled like rain: One of the windows had been left open, and a puddle of water had collected under the curtains. Hugo chirruped and bounced on his perch as Hodge strode over to him, pausing only to light the lamp on his desk. “It is a pity,” Hodge said, reaching for paper and a fountain pen, “that you did not retrieve the Cup. It would, I think, bring some comfort to Alec and certainly to his—”
“But I did retrieve the Cup,” said Clary, amazed. “Didn’t you tell him, Jace?”
Jace was blinking, though whether it was because of surprise or the sudden light, Clary couldn’t tell. “There wasn’t time—I was bringing Alec upstairs …”
Hodge had gone very still, the pen motionless between his fingers. “You have the Cup?”
“Yes.” Clary drew the Cup out of her pocket: It was still cold, as if contact with her body could not warm the metal. The rubies winked like red eyes. “I have it here.”
The pen slipped from Hodge’s hand entirely and struck the floor at his feet. The lamplight, thrown upward, was not kind to his ravaged face: It showed every etched line of harshness and worry and despair. “That is the Angel’s Cup?”
“The one,” said Jace. “It was—”
“Never mind that now,” said Hodge. He set the paper down on the desk and moved toward Jace, catching his student by the shoulders. “Jace Wayland, do you know what you’ve done?”