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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:15

She scrambled to regain her composure. “Jace, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”

“No. You’re not sorry. Don’t be sorry.” He moved toward her, almost tripping over his feet—Jace, who never stumbled, never tripped over anything, never made an ungraceful move. His hands came up to cup her face; she felt the warmth of his fingertips, millimeters from her skin; knew she ought to pull away, but stood frozen, staring up at him. “You don’t understand,” he said. His voice shook. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I didn’t think I could. I thought—the way I grew up—my father—”

“To love is to destroy,” she said numbly. “I remember.”

“I thought that part of my heart was broken,” he said, and there was a look on his face as he spoke as if he were surprised to hear himself saying these words, saying my heart. “Forever. But you—”

“Jace. Don’t.” She reached up and covered his hand with hers, folding his fingers into her own. “It’s pointless.”

“That’s not true.” There was desperation in his voice. “If we both feel the same way—”

“It doesn’t matter what we feel. There’s nothing we can do.” She heard her voice as if a stranger were speaking: remote, miserable. “Where would we go to be together? How could we live?”

“We could keep it a secret.”

“People would find out. And I don’t want to lie to my family, do you?”

His reply was bitter. “What family? The Lightwoods hate me anyway.”

“No, they don’t. And I could never tell Luke. And my mother, what if she woke up, what would we say to her? This, what we want, it would be sickening to everyone we care about—”

“Sickening?” He dropped his hands from her face as if she’d pushed him away. He sounded stunned. “What we feel—what I feel—it’s sickening to you?”

She caught her breath at the look on his face. “Maybe,” she said in a whisper. “I don’t know.”

“Then you should have said that to begin with.”

But he was gone from her, his expression shut and locked like a door. It was hard to believe he’d ever looked at her another way. “I’m sorry I said anything, then.” His voice was stiff, formal. “I won’t be kissing you again. You can count on that.”

Clary’s heart did a slow, purposeless somersault as he moved away from her, plucked a towel off the top of the dresser, and headed back toward the bathroom. “But—Jace, what are you doing?”

“Finishing my shower. And if you’ve made me run through all the hot water, I’ll be very annoyed.” He stepped into the bathroom, kicking the door shut behind him.

Clary collapsed onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling. It was as blank as Jace’s face had been before he turned his back on her. Rolling over, she realized she was lying on top of his blue shirt: It even smelled like him, like soap and smoke and coppery blood. Curling around it like she’d once curled around her favorite blanket when she was very small, she closed her eyes.

In the dream, she looked down on shimmering water, spread out below her like an endless mirror that reflected the night sky. And like a mirror, it was solid and hard, and she could walk on it. She walked, smelling night air and wet leaves and the smell of the city, glittering in the far distance like a faerie castle wreathed in lights—and where she walked, spiderwebbing cracks fissured out from her footsteps and slivers of glass splashed up like water.

The sky began to shine. It was alight with points of fire, like burning match tips. They fell, a rain of hot coals from the sky, and she cowered, throwing up her arms. One fell just in front of her, a hurtling bonfire, but when it struck the ground it became a boy: It was Jace, all in burning gold with his gold eyes and gold hair, and white-gold wings sprouted from his back, wider and more thickly feathered than any bird’s.

He smiled like a cat and pointed behind her, and Clary turned to see that a dark-haired boy—was it Simon?—was standing there, and wings spread from his back as well, feathered black as midnight, and each feather was tipped with blood.

Clary woke up gasping, her hands knotted in Jace’s shirt. It was dark in the bedroom, ambient streetlight streaming from the one narrow window beside the bed. She sat up. Her head felt heavy and the back of her neck ached. She scanned the room slowly and jumped as a bright pinpoint of light, like a cat’s eyes in the darkness, shone out at her.

Jace was sitting in an armchair beside the bed. He was wearing jeans and a gray sweater and his hair looked nearly dry. He was holding something in his hand that gleamed like metal. A weapon? Though what he might be guarding against, here in the Institute, Clary couldn’t guess.

“Did you sleep well?”

She nodded. Her mouth felt thick. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“I thought you could use the rest. Besides, you were sleeping like the dead. You even drooled,” he added. “On my shirt.”

Clary’s hand flew to her mouth. “Sorry.”

“It’s not often you get to see someone drool,” Jace observed. “Especially with such total abandon. Mouth wide open and everything.”

“Oh, shut up.” She felt around among the bedcovers until she located her phone and checked it again, though she knew what it would say. NO CALLS. “It’s three in the morning,” she noted with dismay. “Do you think Simon’s all right?”

“I think he’s weird, actually,” said Jace. “Though that has little to do with the time.”

She shoved the phone into her jeans pocket. “I’m going to change.”

Jace’s white-painted bathroom was no bigger than Isabelle’s, though it was considerably neater. There wasn’t much variation among the rooms in the Institute, Clary thought, closing the door behind her, but at least there was privacy. She shucked off her wet shirt and hung it on the towel rack, splashed water over her face, and ran a comb through her wildly curling hair.

Jace’s shirt was too big for her, but the material was soft against her skin. She rolled the sleeves up and went back into the bedroom, where she found Jace sitting exactly where he had been before, staring moodily down at the glinting object in his hands. She leaned on the back of the armchair. “What is that?”

Instead of answering, he turned it over so that she could see it properly. It was a jagged piece of broken glass, but instead of reflecting her own face, it held an image of green grass and blue sky and the bare black branches of trees.

“I didn’t know you kept that,” she said. “That piece of the Portal.”

“It’s why I wanted to come here,” he said. “To get this.” Longing and loathing were mixed in his voice. “I keep thinking maybe I’ll see my father in a reflection. Figure out what he’s up to.”

“But he’s not there, is he? I thought he was somewhere here. In the city.”

Jace shook his head. “Magnus has been looking for him and he doesn’t think so.”

“Magnus has been looking for him? I didn’t know that. How—”

“Magnus didn’t get to be High Warlock for nothing. His power extends through the city and beyond. He can sense what’s out there, to an extent.”

Clary snorted. “He can feel disturbances in the Force?”

Jace slewed around in the chair and frowned at her. “I’m not joking. After that warlock was killed down in TriBeCa, he started looking into it. When I went to stay with him, he asked me for something of my father’s to make the tracking easier. I gave him the Morgenstern ring. He said he’d let me know if he senses Valentine anywhere in the city, but so far he hasn’t.”

“Maybe he just wanted your ring,” Clary said. “He sure wears a lot of jewelry.”

“He can have it.” Jace’s hand tightened around the bit of mirror in his grasp; Clary noted with alarm the blood welling up around the jagged edges where they cut into his skin. “It’s worthless to me.”

“Hey,” she said, and leaned down to take the glass out of his hand. “Easy there.” She slid the piece of Portal into the pocket of his jacket where it hung on the wall. The edges of the glass were dark with blood, Jace’s palms scored with red lines. “Maybe we should get you back to Magnus’s,” she said as gently as she could. “Alec’s been there a long time, and—”

“I doubt he minds, somehow,” Jace said, but he stood up obediently enough and reached for his stele, which was propped against the wall. As he drew a healing rune on the back of his bleeding right hand, he said, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

“When you got me out of the cell in the Silent City, how did you do it? How did you unlock the door?”

“Oh. I just used a regular Opening rune, and—”

She was interrupted by a harsh, tolling ring, and clapped her hand to her pocket before she realized that the sound she’d heard was much louder and sharper than any sound her phone could make. She looked around in confusion.

“That’s the Institute’s doorbell,” Jace said, grabbing his jacket. “Come on.”

They were halfway to the foyer when Isabelle burst out of her own bedroom door, wearing a cotton bathrobe, a pink silk sleep mask pushed up on her forehead, and a semi-dazed expression. “It’s three in the morning!” she said to them, in a tone that suggested that this was all Jace’s, or possibly Clary’s, fault. “Who’s ringing our doorbell at three in the morning?”

“Maybe it’s the Inquisitor,” Clary said, feeling suddenly cold.

“She could get in on her own,” said Jace. “Any Shadowhunter could. The Institute is only closed to mundanes and Downworlders.”

Clary felt her heart contract. “Simon!” she said. “It must be him!”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake,” yawned Isabelle, “is he really waking us up at this ungodly hour just to prove his love to you or something? Couldn’t he have called? Mundane men are such twits.” They had reached the foyer, which was empty; Max must have gone to bed on his own. Isabelle stalked across the room and toggled a switch on the far wall. Somewhere inside the cathedral a distant rumbling thump was audible. “There,” Isabelle said. “Elevator’s on its way.”

“I can’t believe he didn’t have the dignity and presence of mind just to get drunk and pass out in some gutter,” said Jace. “I must say, I’m disappointed in the little fellow.”

Clary barely heard him. A rising sense of fear made her blood slow and thick. She remembered her dream: the angels, the ice, Simon with his bleeding wings. She shivered.

Isabelle looked at her sympathetically. “It is cold in here,” she observed. She reached up and took down what looked like a blue velvet coat from one of the coat hooks. “Here,” she said. “Put this on.”

Clary slid the coat on and drew it close around her. It was too long, but it was warm. It had a hood, too, lined with satin. Clary pushed it back so she could see the elevator doors opening.

They opened on a hollow box whose mirrored sides reflected her own pale and startled face. Without a pause for thought, she stepped inside.

Isabelle looked at her in confusion. “What are you doing?”

“It’s Simon down there,” Clary said. “I know it is.”

Suddenly, Jace was beside Clary, holding the doors open for Isabelle. “Come on, Izzy,” he said. With a theatrical sigh, she followed.

Clary tried to catch his eye as the three of them rode down in silence—Isabelle pinning up the last long coil of her hair—but Jace wouldn’t look at her. He was looking at himself sidelong in the elevator mirror, whistling softly under his breath as he always did when he was nervous. She remembered the slight tremor in his touch as he had taken hold of her in the Seelie Court. She thought of the look on Simon’s face—and then of him almost running to get away from her, vanishing into the shadows at the edge of the park. There was a knot of dread inside her chest and she didn’t know why.

The elevator doors opened onto the nave of the cathedral, alive with the dancing light of candles. She pushed past Jace in her hurry to get out of the elevator and practically ran down the narrow aisle between the pews. She stumbled on the dragging edge of her coat and bunched it up impatiently in her hand before dashing to the wide double doors. On the inside they were barred with bronze bolts the size of Clary’s arms. As she reached for the highest bolt, the bell rang through the church again. She heard Isabelle whisper something to Jace, and then Clary was hauling on the bolt, dragging it back, and she felt Jace’s hand over hers, helping her pull the heavy doors open.

Night air swept in, guttering the candles in their brackets. The air smelled of city: of salt and fumes, cooling concrete and garbage, and underneath those familiar smells, the scent of copper, like the tang of a new penny.

At first Clary thought the steps were empty. Then she blinked and saw Raphael standing there, his head of black curls tousled by the night breeze, his white shirt open at the neck to show the scar in the hollow of his throat. In his arms he held a body. That was all Clary saw as she stared at him in bewilderment, a body. Someone very dead, arms and legs dangling like limp ropes, head fallen back to expose the mangled throat. She felt Jace’s hand tighten around her arm like a vise, and only then did she look more closely and see the familiar corduroy jacket with its torn sleeve, the blue T-shirt underneath now stained and spotted with blood, and she screamed.

The scream made no sound. Clary felt her knees give and would have slid to the ground if Jace hadn’t been holding her up. “Don’t look,” he said in her ear. “For God’s sake, don’t look.” But she couldn’t not look at the blood matting Simon’s brown hair, his torn throat, the gashes along his dangling wrists. Black spots dotted her vision as she fought for breath.