His lowered lashes scattered light; his smile was a promise of terrible things. “What’s the difference, Clarissa? You will fight for me regardless. Either you keep your freedom and stand with me, or you lose it and stand with me. Why not be with me?”
“The angel,” she said. “What was its name?”
Taken aback, Sebastian hesitated for a moment before he replied. “The angel?”
“The one whose wings you cut off and sent to the Institute,” she said. “The one you killed.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “What’s the difference?”
“No,” she said, slowly. “You don’t understand. The things you’ve done are too terrible to ever be forgiven, and you don’t even know they’re terrible. And that’s why not. That’s why never. I will never forgive you. I will never love you. Never.”
She saw each word hit him like a slap. As he drew breath to reply, she swung the blade of Heosphoros out at him, up toward his heart.
But he was faster, and the fact that her legs were pinned in place by magic shortened her reach. He whipped away; she reached out, trying to pull him toward her, but he yanked his arm away easily. She heard a rattle and realized distantly that she had pulled his silver bracelet free. It clattered to the ground. She slashed toward him again with her blade; he jerked back, and Heosphoros cut a clean slice across his shirtfront. She saw his lip curl in pain and anger. He caught her by the arm and swung her hand up to slam it against the door, sending a jolt of numbness up to her shoulder. Her fingers went loose, and Heosphoros fell from her grasp.
He glanced down at the fallen blade and then back up at her, breathing hard. Blood edged the fabric where she had cut his shirt; not enough for the wound to slow him down. Disappointment shot through her, more painful than the ache in her wrist. His body pinned hers to the door; she could feel the tension in every line of him. His voice was knifelike. “That blade is Heosphoros, the Dawn-Bringer. Where did you find it?”
“In a weapons shop,” she gasped. Feeling was coming back to her shoulder; the pain was intense. “The woman who owned the place gave it to me. She said nobody else would ever—would ever want a Morgenstern blade. Our blood is tainted.”
“But it is our blood.” He pounced on the words. “And you took the sword. You wanted it.” She could feel the heat burning off him; it seemed to shimmer around him, like the flame of a dying star. He bent his head until his lips touched her neck, and spoke against her skin, his words matching the tempo of her pulse. She closed her eyes with a shudder as his hands ran up her body. “You lie when you tell me you’ll never love me,” he said. “That we’re different. You lie just like I do—”
“Stop,” she said. “Get your hands off me.”
“But you’re mine,” he said. “I want you to—I need you to—” He took a gasping breath; his pupils were blown wide; something about it terrified her more than anything else he had ever done. Sebastian in control was frightening; Sebastian out of control was something too horrible to contemplate.
“Let her go,” said a clear, hard voice from across the room. “Let her go and stop touching her, or I will burn you down to ashes.”
Over Sebastian’s shoulder she saw him, suddenly, where there had been no one standing a moment ago. He was in front of the window, the curtains blowing behind him in the breeze off the canal, and his eyes were as hard as agate stones. He was wearing gear, his blade in his hand, still with the shadow of fading bruises on his jaw and neck, and his expression as he looked at Sebastian was one of absolute loathing.
Clary felt Sebastian’s whole body tighten against hers; a moment later he had spun away from her, slamming his foot down on her sword, his hand flying to his belt. His smile was a razor slice, but his eyes were wary. “Go ahead and try it,” he said. “You got lucky at the Citadel. I wasn’t expecting you to burn like that when I cut you. My mistake. I won’t make it twice.”
Jace’s eyes flicked to Clary once, a question in them; she nodded that she was all right.
“So you admit it,” said Jace, circling a little closer to them. The tread of his boots was soft on the wooden floor. “The heavenly fire surprised you. Threw you off your game. That’s why you fled. You lost the battle at the Citadel, and you don’t like to lose.”
Sebastian’s razor smile grew a little brighter, a little brittler. “I didn’t get what I came for. But I did learn quite a bit.”
“You didn’t break the walls of the Citadel,” said Jace. “You didn’t get into the armory. You didn’t Turn the Sisters.”
“I didn’t go to the Citadel for arms and armor,” Sebastian sneered. “I can get those easily. I came for you. The two of you.”
Clary looked sideways at Jace. He was standing, expressionless and unmoving, his face as still as stone.
“You couldn’t have known we’d be there,” she said. “You’re lying.”
“I’m not.” He practically radiated, like a torch burning. “I can see you, little sister. I can see everything that happens in Alicante. In the day and in the night, in darkness and in light, I can see you.”
“Stop it,” Jace said. “It’s not true.”
“Really?” Sebastian said. “How did I know Clary would be here? Alone, tonight?”
Jace went on, prowling toward them, like a cat on the hunt. “How didn’t you know that I would be here, too?”
Sebastian made a face. “Hard to watch two people at once. So many irons in the fire . . .”
“And if you wanted Clary, why not just take her?” Jace demanded. “Why spend all this time talking?” His voice dripped contempt. “You want her to want to go with you,” he said. “No one in your life has done anything but despise you. Your mother. Your father. And now your sister. Clary wasn’t born with hate in her heart. You made her hate you. But it wasn’t what you wanted. You forget we were bonded, you and I. You forget I’ve seen your dreams. Somewhere inside that head of yours, there is a world of flames, and there is you looking down at it from a throne room, and in that room are two thrones. So who occupies that second throne? Who sits beside you in your dreams?”
Sebastian gave a gasping laugh; there were red spots on his cheeks, like fever. “You are making a mistake,” he said, “talking to me like this, angel boy.”
“Even in your dreams you are not companionless,” Jace said, and now his voice was that voice Clary had first fallen in love with, the voice of the boy who had told her a story about a child and a falcon and the lessons he had learned. “But who could you find who would understand you? You don’t understand love; our father taught you too well. But you understand blood. Clary is your blood. If you could have her beside you, watching the world burn, it would be all the approval you ever needed.”
“I never desired approval,” said Sebastian through gritted teeth. “Yours, hers, or anyone’s.”
“Really?” Jace smiled as Sebastian’s voice rose. “Then why have you given us so many second chances?” He had stopped prowling and stood opposite them, his pale gold eyes shining in the dim light. “You said it yourself. You stabbed me. You went for my shoulder. You could have gone for the heart. You were holding back. For what? For me? Or because in some tiny part of your brain you know that Clary would never forgive you if you ended my life?”
“Clary, do you wish to speak for yourself on this matter?” said Sebastian, though he never took his eyes from the blade in Jace’s hands. “Or do you require him to give answers for you?”
Jace cut his eyes toward Clary, and Sebastian did as well. She felt the weight of both gazes on her for a moment, black and gold.
“I’ll never want to come with you, Sebastian,” she said. “Jace is right. If the choice was to spend my life with you or die, I’d rather die.”
Sebastian’s eyes darkened. “You’ll change your mind,” he said. “You’ll mount that throne beside me of your own accord, when the end comes to the end. I’ve given you your chance to come willingly now. I’ve paid in blood and inconvenience to have you with me by your own choice. But I will take you unwilling, just the same.”
“No!” Clary said, just as a loud crash sounded from downstairs. The house was suddenly full of voices.
“Oh, dear,” said Jace, his voice dripping sarcasm. “I just might have sent a fire-message to the Clave when I saw the body of the guard you killed and shoved under that bridge. Foolish of you not to dispose of it more carefully, Sebastian.”
Sebastian’s expression tightened, so momentarily that Clary imagined most people would never have noticed it. He reached for Clary, his lips shaping words—a spell to free her from whatever force held her clamped to the wall. She pushed, shoved at him, and then Jace leaped at them, his blade driving down—
Sebastian spun away, but the blade had caught him: It drew a line of blood down his arm. He cried out, staggering back—and paused. He grinned as Jace stared at him, white-faced.
“The heavenly fire,” Sebastian said. “You don’t know how to control it yet. Works sometimes and not other times, eh, little brother?”
Jace’s eyes blazed up in gold. “We’ll see about that,” he said, and lunged for Sebastian, sword slicing through the darkness with light.
But Sebastian was too quick for it to matter. He strode forward and plucked the sword out of Jace’s hand. Clary struggled, but Sebastian’s magic kept her pinned in place; before Jace could move, Sebastian swung Jace’s sword around and plunged it into his own chest.
The tip sank in, parting his shirt, then his skin. He bled red, human blood, as dark as rubies. He was clearly in pain: His teeth bared in a rictus grin, his breath coming unevenly, but the sword kept moving, his hand steady. The back of his shirt bulged and tore as the tip of the sword broke through it, on a gout of blood.
Time seemed to stretch out like a rubber band. The hilt slammed up against Sebastian’s chest, the blade protruding from his back, dripping scarlet. Jace stood, shocked and frozen, as Sebastian reached for him with bloody hands and pulled him close. Over the sound of feet pounding up the stairs, Sebastian spoke:
“I can feel the fire of Heaven in your veins, angel boy, burning under the skin,” he said. “The pure force of the destruction of ultimate goodness. I can still hear your screams on the air when Clary plunged the blade into you. Did you burn and burn?” His breathless voice was dark with poisonous intensity. “You think you have a weapon you can use against me, now, don’t you? And perhaps with fifty years, a hundred, to learn to master the fire, you could, but time is exactly what you don’t have. The fire rages, uncontrolled, inside you, far more likely to destroy you than it is to ever destroy me.”
Sebastian raised a hand and cupped the back of Jace’s neck, pulling him closer, so close their foreheads almost touched.
“Clary and I are alike,” he said. “And you—you are my mirror. One day she will choose me over you, I promise you that. And you will be there to see it.” With a swift darting motion, he kissed Jace on the cheek, fast and hard; when he drew back, there was a smear of blood there. “Ave, Master Herondale,” Sebastian said, and twisted the silver ring on his finger—there was a shimmer, and he vanished.
Jace stared for a wordless moment at the place where Sebastian had been, then started toward Clary; suddenly freed by Sebastian’s disappearance, her legs had collapsed under her. She hit the ground on her knees and threw herself forward immediately, scrabbling for the blade of Heosphoros. Her hand closed around it and she drew it close, curling her body around it as if it were a child that needed protecting.
“Clary—Clary—” Jace was there, sinking to his knees beside her, and his arms were around her; she rocked into them, pressing her forehead to his shoulder. She realized his shirt, and now her skin, was wet with her brother’s blood, as the door burst open, and the guards of the Clave poured into the room.