“I did not make a pie,” Alec announced when Jace and Clary returned to the large central chamber of the cave. He was lying on his back, on an unrolled blanket, with his head pillowed on a wadded-up jacket. There was a fire smoking in the pit, the flames casting elongated shadows against the walls.
He had spread out provisions: bread and chocolate, nuts and granola bars, water and bruised apples. Clary felt her stomach tighten, realizing only then how hungry she was. There were three plastic bottles next to the food: two of water, and a darker one of wine.
“I did not make a pie,” Alec repeated, gesturing expressively with one hand, “for three reasons. One, because I do not have any pie ingredients. Two, because I don’t actually know how to make a pie.”
He paused, clearly waiting.
Removing his sword and leaning it against the cave wall, Jace said warily, “And three?”
“Because I am not your bitch,” Alec said, clearly pleased with himself.
Clary couldn’t help but smile. She undid her weapons belt and laid it down carefully by the wall; Jace, unbuckling his own, rolled his eyes.
“You know that wine is supposed to be for antiseptic purposes,” Jace said, sprawling elegantly on the ground next to Alec. Clary sat beside him. Every muscle in her body protested—even months of training hadn’t prepared her for the day’s draining trek across the burning sand.
“There’s not enough alcohol in wine to be able to use it for antiseptic purposes,” said Alec. “Besides, I’m not drunk. I’m contemplative.”
“Right.” Jace swiped an apple, sliced it expertly in two, and offered half to Clary. She took a bite of the fruit, remembering. Their first kiss had tasted of apples.
“So,” she said. “What are you contemplating?”
“What’s going on at home,” Alec said. “Now that they’ve probably noticed we’re gone and all that. I feel bad about Aline and Helen. I would have liked to warn them.”
“You don’t feel bad about your parents?” Clary said.
“No,” Alec said after a long pause. “They had their chance to do the right thing.” He rolled onto his side and looked at them. His eyes were very blue in the firelight. “I always thought being a Shadowhunter meant that I had to approve of what the Clave did,” he said. “I thought otherwise I wasn’t loyal. I made excuses for them. I always have. But I feel like whenever we have to fight, we’re fighting a war on two fronts. We fight the enemy and we fight the Clave, too. I don’t—I just don’t know how I feel anymore.”
Jace smiled at him fondly across the fire. “Rebel,” he said.
Alec made a face and levered himself up onto his elbows. “Don’t make fun of me,” he snapped, with enough force that Jace looked surprised. Jace’s expressions were unreadable to most people, but Clary knew him well enough to recognize the quick flash of hurt across his face, and the anxiety as he leaned forward to reply to Alec—just as Isabelle and Simon burst into the room. Isabelle looked flushed, but in the manner of someone who had been running rather than someone who had been giving in to passion. Poor Simon, Clary thought with amusement—amusement that vanished almost instantly when she saw the looks on their faces.
“The east corridor ends in a door,” Isabelle said without preamble. “A gate, like the one we came in through, but it’s broken. And there are demons, the flying kind. They’re not coming near here, but you can see them. Someone should probably keep watch, just to be safe.”
“I’ll do it,” Alec said, standing up. “I’m not going to sleep anyway.”
“Me neither.” Jace scrambled to his feet. “Besides, someone should keep you company.” He looked at Clary, who offered an encouraging smile. She knew Jace hated it when Alec was angry at him. She wasn’t sure if he could feel the discord through the parabatai bond or if it was just ordinary empathy, or a little of both.
“There are three moons,” Isabelle said and sat down by the food, reaching for a granola bar. “And Simon thought he saw a city. A demon city.”
“I wasn’t sure,” Simon added quickly.
“In the books Edom has a capital, called Idumea,” said Alec. “There could be something. We’ll keep an eye out.” He bent to retrieve his bow and started off down the east corridor. Jace retrieved a seraph blade, kissed Clary quickly, and headed after him; Clary settled down on her side, staring into the fire, letting the soft murmur of Isabelle and Simon’s conversation lull her to sleep.
Jace felt the sinews in his back and neck crack with exhaustion as he lowered himself down among the rocks, sliding back until he was sitting with his back to one of the larger ones, trying not to breathe too deeply in the bitter air. He heard Alec settle beside him, the rough material of his gear scratching against the ground. Moonlight sparked off his bow as he laid it across his lap and looked out over the landscape.
The three moons hung low in the sky; each fragment looked bloated and enormous, the color of wine, and they tinged the landscape with their bloody glow.
“Are you going to talk?” Jace asked. “Or is this one of those times where you’re mad at me so you don’t say anything?”
“I’m not mad at you,” Alec said. He ran a leather-gauntleted hand over his bow, idly tapping his fingers against the wood.
“I thought you might be,” Jace said. “If I’d agreed to look for shelter, I wouldn’t have been attacked. I put us all in danger—”
Alec took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The moons had inched slightly higher in the sky, and they cast their dark glow across his face. He looked young, with his hair dirty and tangled, his shirt torn. “We knew the risks we were taking coming here with you. We signed up to die. I mean, obviously I’d rather survive. But we all chose.”
“The first time you saw me,” Jace said, looking down at his hands, looped around his knees, “I bet you didn’t think, He’s going to get me killed.”
“The first time I saw you, I wished you’d go back to Idris.” Jace looked over at Alec incredulously; Alec shrugged. “You know I don’t like change.”
“I grew on you, though,” Jace stated confidently.
“Eventually,” Alec agreed. “Like moss, or a skin disease.”
“You love me.” Jace leaned his head back against the rock, looking out across the dead landscape through tired eyes. “You think we should have left a note for Maryse and Robert?”
Alec laughed dryly. “I think they’ll figure out where we went. Eventually. Maybe I don’t care if Dad ever figures it out.” Alec threw his head back and sighed. “Oh, God, I’m a cliché,” he said in despair. “Why do I care? If Dad decides he hates me because I’m not straight, he’s not worth the pain, right?”
“Don’t look at me,” said Jace. “My adoptive father was a mass murderer. And I still worried about what he thought. It’s what we’re programmed to do. Your dad always seemed pretty great by comparison.”
“Sure, he likes you,” said Alec. “You’re heterosexual and have low expectations of father figures.”
“I think they’ll probably put that on my gravestone. ‘He Was Heterosexual and Had Low Expectations.’?”