Isabelle straightened up, putting her shoulders back. "Need me for what?"

"To go to the Iron Sisters," said Alec. "We need a weapon that will divide Jace and Sebastian so that they can be hurt separately-Well, you know what I mean. So Sebastian can be killed without hurting Jace. And it's a matter of time before the Clave knows that Jace isn't Sebastian's prisoner, that he's working with him-"

"It's not Jace," Isabelle protested.

"It may not be Jace," said Magnus, "but if he dies, your Jace dies right along with him."

"As you know, the Iron Sisters will speak only to women," said Alec. "And Jocelyn can't go alone because she isn't a Shadowhunter anymore."

"What about Clary?"

"She's still in training. She won't know the right questions to ask or the way to address them. But you and Jocelyn will. And Jocelyn says she's been there before; she can help guide you once we Portal you to the edge of the wards around the Adamant Citadel. You'll be going, both of you, in the morning."

Isabelle considered it. The idea of finally having something to do, something definite and active and important, was a relief. She would have preferred a task that had something to do with killing demons or chopping off Sebastian's legs, but this was better than nothing. The legends surrounding the Adamant Citadel made it sound like a forbidding, distant place, and the Iron Sisters were seen far more rarely than the Silent Brothers. Isabelle had never met one.

"When do we leave?" she said.

Alec smiled for the first time since she'd arrived, and reached to ruffle her hair. "That's my Isabelle."

"Quit it." She ducked out from his reach and saw Magnus grinning at them from the sofa. He levered himself up and ran a hand through his already explosively spiky black hair.

"I've got three spare rooms," he said. "Clary's in one; her mother's in the other. I'll show you the third."

The rooms all branched off a narrow, windowless hallway that led from the living room. Two of the doors were closed; Magnus drew Isabelle through the third, into a room whose walls were painted hot-pink. Black curtains hung from silver bars over the windows, secured by handcuffs. The bedspread had a print of dark red hearts on it.

Isabelle glanced around. She felt jittery and nervous and not in the least like going to sleep. "Nice handcuffs. I can see why you didn't put Jocelyn in here."

"I needed something to hold the curtains back." Magnus shrugged. "Do you have anything to sleep in?"

Isabelle just nodded, not wanting to admit she'd brought Simon's shirt with her from his apartment. Vampires didn't really smell like anything, but the shirt still carried with it the faint, reassuring scent of his laundry soap. "It's kind of weird," she said. "You demanding I come over right away, only to put me to bed and tell me we're getting started tomorrow."

Magnus leaned against the wall by the door, his arms over his chest, and looked at her through slitted cat eyes. For a moment he reminded her of Church, only less likely to bite. "I love your brother," he said. "You know that, right?"

"If you want my permission to marry him, go right ahead," said Isabelle. "Autumn's a nice time for it too. You could wear an orange tux."

"He isn't happy," said Magnus, as if she hadn't spoken.

"Of course he isn't," Isabelle snapped. "Jace-"

"Jace," said Magnus, and his hands made fists at his sides. Isabelle stared at him. She had always thought that he didn't mind Jace; liked him, even, once the question of Alec's affections had been settled.

Out loud, she said, "I thought you and Jace were friends."

"It's not that," said Magnus. "There are some people-people the universe seems to have singled out for special destinies. Special favors and special torments. God knows we're all drawn toward what's beautiful and broken; I have been, but some people cannot be fixed. Or if they can be, it's only by love and sacrifice so great that it destroys the giver."

Isabelle shook her head slowly. "You've lost me. Jace is our brother, but for Alec-He's Jace's parabatai, too."

"I know about parabatai," said Magnus. "I've known parabatai so close they were almost the same person. Do you know what happens, when one of them dies, to the one who's left-"

"Stop it!" Isabelle clapped her hands over her ears, then lowered them slowly. "How dare you, Magnus Bane?" she said. "How dare you make this worse than it is."

"Isabelle." Magnus's hands loosened; he looked a little wide-eyed, as if his outburst had startled even him. "I am sorry. I forget, sometimes... that with all your self-control and strength, you possess the same vulnerability that Alec does."

"There is nothing weak about Alec," said Isabelle.

"No," said Magnus. "To love as you choose, that takes strength. The thing is, I wanted you here for him. There are things I can't do for him, can't give him." For a moment Magnus looked oddly vulnerable himself. "You have known Jace as long as he has. You can give him understanding I can't. And he loves you."

"Of course he loves me. I'm his sister."

"Blood isn't love," said Magnus, and his voice was bitter. "Just ask Clary."

Clary shot through the Portal as if through the barrel of a rifle and flew out the other end. She tumbled toward the ground and struck hard on her feet, sticking the landing at first. The pose lasted only a moment before, too dizzy from the Portal to concentrate, she overbalanced and hit the ground, her backpack cushioning her fall. She sighed-someday all the training really would kick in-and got to her feet, brushing dust from the seat of her jeans.

She was standing in front of Luke's house. The river sparkled over her shoulder, the city rising behind it like a forest of lights. Luke's house was just as they had left it, hours ago, locked and dark. Clary, standing on the dirt and stone path that led up to the front steps, swallowed hard.

Slowly she touched the ring on her right hand with the fingers of her left. Simon?

The reply came immediately. Yeah?

Where are you?

Walking toward the subway. Did you Portal home?

Luke's. If Jace comes like I think he will, this is where he'll come to.

A silence. Then, Well, I guess you know how to get me if you need me.

I guess I do. Clary took a deep breath. Simon?

Yeah?

I love you.

A pause. I love you, too.

And that was all. There was no click, as when you hung up a phone; Clary just sensed a severing of their connection, as if a cord had been cut inside her head. She wondered if this was what Alec meant when he talked about the breaking of the parabatai bond.

She moved toward Luke's house and slowly mounted the stairs. This was her home. If Jace was going to come back for her, as he had mouthed to her that he would, this is where he would come. She sat down on the top step, pulled her backpack onto her lap, and waited.

Simon stood in front of the refrigerator in his apartment and took a last swallow of cold blood as the memory of Clary's silent voice faded out of his mind. He had just gotten home, and the apartment was dark, the hum of the refrigerator loud, and the place smelled oddly of-tequila? Maybe Jordan had been drinking. His bedroom door was closed, anyway, not that Simon blamed him for being asleep; it was after four in the morning.

He shoved the bottle back into the fridge and headed for his room. It would be the first night he'd slept at home in a week. He'd grown used to having someone to share a bed with, a body to roll against in the middle of the night. He liked the way Clary fit against him, curled asleep with her head on her hand; and, if he had to admit it to himself, he liked that she couldn't sleep unless he was with her. It made him feel indispensable and needed-even if the fact that Jocelyn didn't appear to care whether he slept in her daughter's bed or not did underscore that Clary's mother apparently regarded him as about as sexually threatening as a goldfish.

Of course, he and Clary had shared beds often, from the time they were five until they were about twelve. That might have had something to do with it, he mused, pushing his bedroom door open. Most of those nights they'd spent engaged in torrid activities, like having contests to see who could take the longest to eat a single Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Or they'd sneaked in a portable DVD player and-

He blinked. His room looked the same-bare walls, stacked plastic shelves with his clothes on them, his guitar hanging on the wall, and a mattress on the floor. But on the bed was a single piece of paper-a white square against the frayed black blanket. The scrawled, looping hand was familiar. Isabelle's.

He picked it up and read:

Simon, I've been trying to call you, but it seems like your phone is turned off. I don't know where you are right now. I don't know if Clary's already told you what happened tonight. But I have to go to Magnus's and I'd really like you to be there.

I'm never scared, but I'm scared for Jace. I'm scared for my brother. I never ask you for anything, Simon, but I'm asking you now. Please come.

Isabelle.

Simon let the letter fall from his hand. He was out of the apartment and on his way down the steps before it had even hit the floor.

When Simon came into Magnus's apartment, it was quiet. There was a fire flickering in the grate, and Magnus sat in front of it on an overstuffed sofa, his feet up on the coffee table. Alec was asleep, his head in Magnus's lap, and Magnus was twirling strands of Alec's black hair between his fingers. The warlock's gaze, on the flames, was remote and distant, as if he were looking back into the past. Simon couldn't help but remember what Magnus had said to him once, about living forever:

Someday you and I will be the only two left.

Simon shuddered, and Magnus looked up. "Isabelle called you over, I know." he said, speaking in a low voice so as not to wake Alec. "She's down the hall that way-the first bedroom on the left."

Simon nodded and, with a salute in Magnus's direction, headed off down the hall. He felt unusually nervous, as if he were prepping for a first date. Isabelle, to his recollection, had never demanded his help or his presence before, had never acknowledged that she needed him in any way.

He pushed open the door to the first bedroom on the left and stepped inside. It was dark, the lights off; if Simon hadn't had vampire sight, he probably would have seen only blackness. As it was, he saw the outlines of a wardrobe, chairs with clothes thrown over them, and a bed, covers thrown back. Isabelle was asleep on her side, her black hair fanning out across the pillow.

Simon stared. He'd never seen Isabelle sleeping before. She looked younger than she usually did, her face relaxed, her long eyelashes brushing the tops of her cheekbones. Her mouth was slightly open, her feet curled up under her. She was wearing only a T-shirt-his T-shirt, a worn blue tee that said THE LOCH NESS MONSTER ADVENTURE CLUB: FINDING ANSWERS, IGNORING FACTS across the front.

Simon closed the door behind him, feeling more disappointed than he had expected. It hadn't occurred to him that she'd already be asleep. He'd been wanting to talk to her, to hear her voice. He kicked his shoes off and lay down beside her. She certainly took up more real estate on the bed than Clary did. Isabelle was tall, almost his height, although when he put his hand on her shoulder, her bones felt delicate under his touch. He ran his hand down her arm. "Iz?" he said. "Isabelle?"

She murmured and turned her face into the pillow. He leaned closer-she smelled like alcohol and rose perfume. Well, that answered that. He had been thinking about pulling her into his arms and kissing her gently, but "Simon Lewis, Molester of Passed-Out Women" wasn't really the epitaph by which he wanted to be remembered.

He lay down flat on his back and stared at the ceiling. Cracked plaster, marked by water stains. Magnus really ought to get someone in here to do something about that. As if sensing his presence, Isabelle rolled sideways against him, her soft cheek against his shoulder. "Simon?" she said groggily.

"Yeah." He touched her face lightly.

"You came." She stretched her arm across his chest, moving so that her head fit against his shoulder. "I didn't think you would."

His fingers traced patterns on her arm. "Of course I came."

Her next words were muffled against his neck. "Sorry I'm asleep."

He smiled to himself, a little, in the dark. "It's okay. Even if all you wanted was for me to come here and hold you while you sleep, I would have done it."

He felt her stiffen, and then relax. "Simon?"

"Yeah?"

"Can you tell me a story?"

He blinked. "What kind of story?"

"Something where the good guys win and the bad guys lose. And stay dead."

"So, like a fairy tale?" he said. He racked his brain. He knew only the Disney versions of fairy tales, and the first image that came to mind was Ariel in her seashell bra. He'd had a crush on her when he was eight. Not that this seemed like the time to mention it.

"No." The word was an exhaled breath. "We study fairy tales in school. A lot of that magic is real-but, anyway. No, I want something I haven't heard yet."

"Okay. I've got a good one." Simon stroked Isabelle's hair, feeling her lashes flutter against his neck as she closed her eyes. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

Clary didn't know how long she'd been sitting on Luke's front steps when the sun began to come up. It rose behind his house, the sky turning a dark pinkish-rose, the river a strip of steely blue. She was shivering, had been shivering so long that her whole body seemed to have contracted into a single hard shudder of cold. She had used two warming runes, but they hadn't helped; she had a feeling the shivering was psychological as much as anything else.

Would he come? If he was still as much Jace inside as she thought he was, he would; when he had mouthed that he would come back for her, she had known that he had meant as soon as possible. Jace was not patient. And he didn't play games.

But there was only so long she could wait. Eventually the sun would rise. The next day would begin, and her mother would be watching her again. She would have to give up on Jace, for at least another day, if not longer.

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