Alec and Isabelle were perched on the sill of the window. Behind them Clary could see the colors of sunset sparking off the water of the canal below. Jace was sprawled on one of the single beds, his boots rather defiantly planted on the velvet coverlet.
“I think they mean they can’t just wait around for Sebastian to attack more Institutes,” Alec was saying. “That would be hiding. Shadowhunters don’t hide.”
Jace rubbed his cheek against his shoulder; he looked tired, his pale hair rumpled. “Feels like hiding,” he said. “Sebastian’s out there; we’re in here. Double-warded. All the Institutes emptied out. No one to protect the world from demons. Who will watch the watchers?”
Alec sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. “Hopefully it won’t be for long.”
“Hard to imagine what would happen,” Isabelle said. “A world with no Shadowhunters. Demons everywhere, Downworlders attacking one another.”
“If I were Sebastian—” Jace started.
“But you’re not. You’re not Sebastian,” Clary said.
They all looked over at her. Alec and Jace looked absolutely nothing alike, Clary thought, but every once in a while there was a similarity in the way they glanced or gestured that reminded her that they’d been raised together. They both looked curious, a little concerned. Isabelle seemed more tired, and upset.
“You all right?” Jace said by way of greeting, giving her a lopsided smile. “How’s Emma?”
“Wrecked,” Clary said. “What happened after I left the meeting?”
“The interrogation was mostly over,” said Jace. “Sebastian’s obviously behind the attacks, and he has a sizeable force of Endarkened warriors backing him up. Nobody knows exactly how many, but we have to assume all of the missing have been Turned.”
“Still, we have greater numbers by far,” said Alec. “He has his original forces, and the six Conclaves he Turned; we have everyone else.”
There was something in Jace’s eyes that turned them darker than gold. “Sebastian knows that,” he murmured. “He’ll know his forces, down to the last warrior. He’ll know exactly what he can match and what he can’t.”
“We have the Downworlders on our side,” said Alec. “That’s the whole point of tomorrow’s meeting, isn’t it? Talk to the representatives, strengthen our alliances. Now that we know what Sebastian’s doing, we can strategize around it, hit him with the Night’s Children, the Courts, the warlocks. . . .”
Clary’s eyes met Jace’s in silent communication. Now that we know what Sebastian’s doing, he’ll do something else. Something we don’t expect yet.
“And then everyone talked about Jace,” said Isabelle. “So, you know, the usual.”
“About Jace?” Clary leaned against the footboard of Jace’s bed. “What about him?”
“There was a lot of back-and-forth about whether Sebastian’s basically invulnerable now, and if there are ways to wound and kill him. Glorious could have done it because of the heavenly fire, but currently the only source of heavenly fire is . . .”
“Jace,” Clary said grimly. “But the Silent Brothers have tried everything to separate Jace from the heavenly fire, and they can’t do it. It’s in his soul. So what’s their plan, hitting Sebastian over the head with Jace until he passes out?”
“Brother Zachariah said pretty much the same thing,” Jace said. “Maybe with less sarcasm.”
“Anyway, they wound up talking about ways to capture Sebastian without killing him—if they can destroy all the Endarkened, if he can be trapped somewhere or somehow, it might not matter as much if he can’t be killed,” Alec said.
“Put him in an adamas coffin and drop it into the sea,” Isabelle said. “That’s my suggestion.”
“Anyway, when they were done talking about me, which was of course the best part,” Jace said, “they went back pretty quickly to talking about ways to cure the Endarkened. They’re paying the Spiral Labyrinth a fortune to try to unravel the spell Sebastian used to create the Infernal Cup and enact the ritual.”
“They need to stop obsessing about curing the Endarkened and start thinking about how to defeat them,” Isabelle said in a hard voice.
“A lot of them know people who were Turned, Isabelle,” said Alec. “Of course they want them back.”
“Well, I want my little brother back,” said Isabelle, her voice rising. “Don’t they understand what Sebastian did? He killed them. He killed what was human about them, and he left demons walking around in skin-suits that look like people we used to know, that’s all—”
“Keep it down,” Alec said, in his determined-older-brother tone. “You know Mom and Dad are in the house, right? They’ll come up.”
“Oh, they’re here,” said Isabelle. “About as far away from each other, bedroom-wise, as you could possibly be, but they’re here.”
“It’s not our business where they sleep, Isabelle.”
“They’re our parents.”
“But they have their own lives,” said Alec. “And we have to respect that and stay out of it.” His expression darkened. “A lot of people split up when they have a child who dies.”
Isabelle gave a little gasp.
“Izzy?” Alec seemed to realize he’d gone too far. Mentions of Max seemed to devastate Isabelle more than they did any of the other Lightwoods, even Maryse.
Isabelle turned and ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Alec shoved his fingers into his hair, causing it to stick up like duck fluff. “Goddammit,” he swore, and then flushed—Alec hardly ever swore, and usually when he did, he muttered. He shot Jace an almost apologetic look and went after his sister.
Jace sighed, swung his long legs off the bed, and stood up. He stretched like a cat, cracking his shoulders. “Guess that’s my cue to walk you home.”
“I can find my way back—”
He shook his head, grabbing his jacket off the bedpost. There was something impatient about his movements, something prowling and watchful that made Clary’s own skin prickle. “I want to get out of here anyway. Come on. Let’s go.”
“It’s been an hour. At least an hour. I swear,” Maia said. She was lying on the couch in Jordan and Simon’s apartment, her bare feet in Jordan’s lap.
“Shouldn’t have ordered Thai,” said Simon absently. He was sitting on the floor, fiddling with the Xbox controller. It hadn’t been working for several days. There was a Duraflame log in the fireplace. Like everything else in the apartment the fireplace was poorly maintained, and half the time the room would fill with smoke when they used it. Jordan was always complaining of the cold, the cracks in the windows and walls, and the landlord’s disinterest in fixing anything. “They never come on time.”
Jordan grinned good-naturedly. “What do you care? You don’t eat.”
“I can drink now,” Simon pointed out. It was true. He’d trained his stomach to accept most liquids—milk, coffee, tea—though solid food still made him retch. He doubted the drinks did anything much for him in the way of nutrition; only blood seemed to do that, but it made him feel more human to be able to consume something in public that wouldn’t send everyone screaming. With a sigh he dropped the controller. “I think this thing is broken. Permanently. Which is great, because I have no money to replace it.”
Jordan looked at him curiously. Simon had brought all his savings from home when he’d moved in, but that hadn’t been much. Fortunately, he also had few expenses. The apartment was on loan from the Praetor Lupus, who also provided Simon’s blood. “I’ve got money,” Jordan said. “We’ll be fine.”
“That’s your money, not mine. You’re not going to be watching me forever,” Simon said, staring into the blue flames of the fireplace. “And then what? I’d be applying for college soon if—everything hadn’t happened. Music school. I could learn, get a job. No one’s going to employ me now. I look sixteen; I always will.”
“Hm,” Maia said. “I guess vampires don’t really have jobs, do they? I mean, some werewolves do—Bat’s a DJ, and Luke owns that bookstore. But vampires are all in clans. There aren’t really vampire scientists.”
“Or vampire musicians,” said Simon. “Let’s face it. My career is now professional vampire.”
“I’m actually kind of surprised the vampires haven’t been rampaging through the streets, eating tourists, what with Maureen leading them,” said Maia. “She’s pretty bloodthirsty.”
Simon made a face. “I assume some of the clan are trying to control her. Raphael, probably. Lily—she’s one of the smartest of the vampire clan. Knows everything. She and Raphael were always thick as thieves. But I don’t exactly have vampire friends. Considering what a target I am, sometimes I’m surprised I have any friends.”
He heard the bitterness in his own voice and glanced across the room at the pictures Jordan had tacked up on the wall—pictures of himself with his friends, at the beach, with Maia. Simon had thought of putting up his own photos. Though he hadn’t taken any from his house, Clary had some. He could have borrowed them, made the apartment more his own. But though he liked living with Jordan and felt comfortable there, it wasn’t home. It didn’t feel permanent, as if he could make a life there.
“I don’t even have a bed,” he said out loud.
Maia turned her head toward him. “Simon, what is this about? Is it because Isabelle left?”
Simon shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, yes, I miss Izzy, but—Clary says the two of us need to DTR.”
“Oh, define the relationship,” Maia said at Jordan’s puzzled look. “You know, when you decide if you’re actually girlfriend and boyfriend. Which you should do, by the way.”
“Why does everyone know this acronym but me?” Simon wondered aloud. “Does Isabelle want to be my girlfriend?”
“Can’t tell you,” said Maia. “Girl code. Ask her.”
“She’s in Idris.”
“Ask her when she gets back.” Simon was silent, and Maia added, more gently, “She’ll come back, and Clary, too. It’s just a meeting.”