“Nothing?” echoed Simon, disbelief plain in his tone.
“Nothing,” Clary repeated firmly, glancing out the window so that he wouldn’t see the blood staining her cheeks. They were passing a row of restaurants, and she could see Taki’s, brightly lit in the gathering twilight.
They turned the corner just as the sun disappeared behind the rose window of the Institute, flooding the street below with seashell light that only they could see. Simon pulled up in front of the door and killed the engine, jittering the keys in his hand. “Do you want me to go up with you?”
She hesitated. “No. I should do this on my own.”
She saw the look of disappointment flicker across his face, but it vanished quickly. Simon, she thought, had grown up a lot in these past two weeks, just as she had. Which was good, since she wouldn’t have wanted to leave him behind. He was part of her, as much as her drawing talent, the dusty air of Brooklyn, her mother’s laughter, and her own Shadowhunter blood. “All right,” he said. “Are you going to need a ride later?”
She shook her head. “Luke gave me money for a cab. Want to come over tomorrow, though?” she added. “We could watch some Trigun, pop some corn. I could use some couch time.”
He nodded. “That sounds good.” He leaned forward then, and brushed a kiss along her cheekbone. It was a kiss as light as a blown leaf, but she felt a shiver far down in her bones. She looked at him.
“Do you think that it was a coincidence?” she asked.
“Do I think what was a coincidence?”
“That we wound up in Pandemonium the same night that Jace and the others just happened to be there, pursuing a demon? The night before Valentine came for my mother?”
Simon shook his head. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” he said.
“Neither do I.”
“But I have to admit,” Simon added, “coincidence or not, it turned out to be a fortuitous occurrence.”
“The Fortuitous Occurrences,” said Clary. “Now there’s a band name for you.”
“It’s better than most of the ones we’ve come up with,” Simon admitted.
“You bet.” She jumped down out of the van, slamming the door behind her. She heard him honk as she ran up the path to the door between the slabs of overgrown grass, and waved without turning around.
The interior of the cathedral was cool and dark, and smelled of rain and damp paper. Her footsteps echoed loudly on the stone floor, and she thought of Jace in the church in Brooklyn: There might be a God, Clary, and there might not. Either way, we’re on our own.
In the elevator she stole a look at herself in the mirror as the door clanged shut behind her. Most of her bruises and scrapes had healed to invisibility. She wondered if Jace had ever seen her looking as prim as she did today—she’d dressed for the hospital in a black pleated skirt, pink lip gloss, and a vintage sailor-collared blouse. She thought she looked about eight.
Not that it mattered what Jace thought about how she looked, she reminded herself, now or ever. She wondered if they’d ever be the way Simon was with his sister: a mixture of boredom and loving irritation. She couldn’t imagine it.
She heard the loud meows before the elevator door even opened. “Hey, Church,” she said, kneeling down by the wriggling gray ball on the floor. “Where is everyone?”
Church, who clearly wanted his stomach rubbed, muttered ominously. With a sigh Clary gave in. “Demented cat,” she said, rubbing with vigor. “Where—”
“Clary!” It was Isabelle, swooping into the foyer in a long red skirt, her hair piled on top of her head with jeweled clips. “It’s so great to see you!”
She descended on Clary with a hug that nearly overbalanced her.
“Isabelle,” Clary gasped. “It’s good to see you, too,” she added, letting Isabelle pull her up to a standing position.
“I was so worried about you,” said Isabelle brightly. “After you guys went off to the library with Hodge, and I was with Alec, I heard the most terrific banging explosion, and when I got to the library, of course, you were gone, and everything was strewn all over the floor. And there was blood and sticky black goo everywhere.” She shuddered. “What was that stuff?”
“A curse,” Clary said quietly. “Hodge’s curse.”
“Oh, right,” Isabelle said. “Jace told me about Hodge.”
“He did?” Clary was surprised.
“That he got the curse taken off him and left? Yeah, he did. I would have thought he’d have stayed to say good-bye.” Isabelle added, “I’m kind of disappointed in him. But I guess he was scared of the Clave. He’ll get in touch eventually, I bet.”
So Jace hadn’t told them that Hodge had betrayed them, Clary thought, not sure how she felt about that. Then again, if Jace was trying to spare Isabelle confusion and disappointment, maybe she shouldn’t interfere.
“Anyway,” Isabelle went on, “it was horrible, and I don’t know what we would have done if Magnus hadn’t showed up and magicked Alec back to health. Is that a word, ‘magicked’?” She crinkled her eyebrows. “Jace told us all about what happened on the island afterward. Actually, we knew about it even before, because Magnus was on the phone about it all night. Everyone in Downworld was buzzing about it. You’re famous, you know.”
“Sure. Valentine’s daughter.”
Clary shuddered. “So I guess Jace is famous too.”
“You’re both famous,” said Isabelle in the same overbright voice. “The famous brother and sister.”
Clary looked at Isabelle curiously. “I didn’t expect you to be this glad to see me, I have to admit.”
The other girl put her hands on her hips indignantly. “Why not?”
“I didn’t think you liked me all that much.”
Isabelle’s brightness faded and she looked down at her silvery toes. “I didn’t think I did either,” she admitted. “But when I went to look for you and Jace, and you were gone…” Her voice trailed off. “I wasn’t just worried about him; I was worried about you, too. There’s something so … reassuring about you. And Jace is so much better when you’re around.”
Clary’s eyes widened. “He is?”
“He is, actually. Less sharp-edged, somehow. It’s not so much that he’s kinder, but that he lets you see the kindness in him.” She paused. “And I guess I resented you at first, but I realize now that was stupid. Just because I’ve never had a friend who was a girl doesn’t mean I couldn’t learn how to have one.”
“Me too, actually,” said Clary. “And Isabelle?”
“You don’t have to pretend to be nice. I like it better when you just act like yourself.”
“Bitchy, you mean?” Isabelle said, and laughed.
Clary was about to protest when Alec swung into the entryway on a pair of crutches. One of his legs was bandaged, his jeans rolled up to the knee, and there was another bandage on his temple, under the dark hair. Otherwise he looked remarkably healthy for someone who’d nearly died four days before. He waved a crutch in greeting.
“Hi,” Clary said, surprised to see him up and around. “Are you …”
“All right? I’m fine,” Alec said. “I won’t even need these in a few days.”
Guilt swelled her throat. If it hadn’t been for her, Alec wouldn’t be on crutches at all. “I’m really glad you’re okay, Alec,” she said, putting every ounce of sincerity into her voice that she could muster.
Alec blinked. “Thanks.”
“So Magnus fixed you?” Clary said. “Luke said—”
“He did!” said Isabelle. “It was so awesome. He showed up and ordered everyone out of the room and shut the door. Blue and red sparks kept exploding out into the hallway from underneath the floor.”
“I don’t remember any of it,” said Alec.
“Then he sat by Alec’s bed all night and into the morning to make sure he woke up okay,” Isabelle added.
“I don’t remember that, either,” Alec added hastily.
Isabelle’s red lips curved into a smile. “I wonder how Magnus knew to come? I asked him, but he wouldn’t say.”
Clary thought of the folded paper Hodge had thrown into the fire after Valentine had gone. He was a strange man, she thought, who’d taken the time to do what he could to save Alec even while betraying everyone—and everything—he’d ever cared about. “I don’t know,” she said.
Isabelle shrugged. “I guess he heard about it somewhere. He does seem to be hooked into an enormous gossip network. He’s such a girl.”
“He’s the High Warlock of Brooklyn, Isabelle,” Alec reminded her, but not without some amusement. He turned to Clary. “Jace is up in the greenhouse if you want to see him,” he said. “I’ll walk you.”
“Sure.” Alec looked only slightly uncomfortable. “Why not?”
Clary glanced at Isabelle, who shrugged. Whatever Alec was up to, he hadn’t shared it with his sister. “Go on,” said Isabelle. “I’ve got stuff to do anyway.” She waved a hand at them. “Shoo.”
They set off down the hallway together. Alec’s pace was fast, even on crutches. Clary had to jog to keep up. “I have short legs,” she reminded him.
“Sorry.” He slowed down, contrite. “Look,” he began. “Those things you said to me, when I yelled at you about Jace …”
“I remember,” she said in a small voice.
“When you told me that you, you know, that I was just—that it was because—” He seemed to be having trouble forming a complete sentence. He tried again. “When you said I was …”
“Sure. Never mind.” He clamped his lips together. “You don’t want to talk about it.”
“It’s not that. It’s that I feel awful about what I said. It was horrible. It wasn’t true at all—”
“But it was true,” said Alec. “Every word.”
“That doesn’t make it okay,” she said. “Not everything that’s true needs to be said. It was mean. And when I said Jace had told me you’d never killed a demon, he said it was because you were always protecting him and Isabelle. It was a good thing he was saying about you. Jace can be a jerk, but he—” Loves you, she was about to say, and stopped. “Never said a bad word about you to me, ever. I swear.”
“You don’t have to swear,” he said. “I know already.” He sounded calm, even confident in a way she’d never heard him sound before. She looked at him, surprised. “I know I didn’t kill Abbadon either. But I appreciate you telling me I had.”
She laughed shakily. “You appreciate me lying to you?”
“You did it out of kindness,” he said. “That means a lot, that you would be kind to me, even after how I treated you.”
“I think Jace would have been pretty pissed at me for lying if he hadn’t been so upset at the time,” said Clary. “Not as mad as he would be if he knew what I’d said to you before, though.”
“I’ve got an idea,” said Alec, his mouth turning up at the corners. “Let’s not tell him. I mean, maybe Jace can behead a Du’sien demon from a distance of fifty feet with just a corkscrew and a rubber band, but sometimes I think he doesn’t know much about people.”
“I guess so.” Clary grinned.
They’d reached the bottom of the spiral staircase that led to the roof. “I can’t go up.” Alec tapped his crutch against a metal step. It rang tinnily.
“It’s okay. I can find my way.”
He made as if to turn away, then glanced back at her. “I should have guessed you were Jace’s sister,” he said. “You both have the same artistic talent.”
Clary paused, her foot on the lowest stair. She was taken aback. “Jace can draw?”
“Nah.” When Alec smiled, his eyes lit like blue lamps, and Clary could see what Magnus had found so captivating about him. “I was just kidding. He can’t draw a straight line.” Chuckling, he swung away on his crutches. Clary watched him go, bemused. An Alec who cracked jokes and poked fun at Jace was something she could get used to, even if his sense of humor was somewhat inexplicable.
The greenhouse was just as she’d remembered it, though the sky above the glass roof was sapphire now. The clean, soapy smell of the flowers cleared her head. Breathing in deeply, she pushed her way through the tightly woven leaves and branches.
She found Jace sitting on the marble bench in the middle of the greenhouse. His head was bent, and he seemed to be turning an object over in his hands, idly. He looked up as she ducked under a branch, and quickly closed his hand around the object. “Clary.” He sounded surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you,” she said. “I wanted to know how you were.”
“I’m fine.” He was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. She could see his still-fading bruises, like the dark spots on the white flesh of an apple. Of course, she thought, the real injuries were internal, hidden from every eye but his own.
“What is that?” she asked, pointing to his closed hand.
He opened his fingers. A jagged shard of silver lay in his palm, glimmering blue and green at the edges. “A piece of the Portal mirror.”
She sat down on the bench next to him. “Can you see anything in it?”
He turned it a little, letting the light run over it like water. “Bits of sky. Trees, a path … I keep angling it, trying to see the manor house. My father.”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com