A fire burned in the middle of the cave, the smoke furling up toward the high domed ceiling, lost in shadow. Simon could feel the heat from the fire, a tense crackling against his skin more than the real sensation of warmth. He guessed it was cold in the cave, from the fact that Alec had bundled himself up in a bulky sweater and carefully wrapped a blanket around Isabelle, who was sleeping stretched out across the floor, her head on her brother’s lap. But Simon couldn’t feel it, not really.
Clary and Jace had gone to check the tunnels and make sure they were still free of demons and other possible stray nasties. Alec hadn’t wanted to leave Isabelle, and Simon had been too weak and dizzy to contemplate moving much. Not that he had let that fact be known. Technically he was on watch, listening for anything that might come at them from the shadows.
Alec was staring into the flames. The yellow light made him look tired, older. “Thanks,” he said, suddenly.
Simon almost jumped. Alec hadn’t said a word to him since What are you doing? “For what?”
“Saving my sister,” said Alec. He brushed a hand through Isabelle’s dark hair. “I know,” he said, a little haltingly. “I mean, I knew, when we came here, that this could be a suicide mission. I know it’s dangerous. I know I can’t really expect us all to survive. But I thought it would be me, not Izzy. . . .”
“Why?” Simon said. His head was pounding, his mouth dry.
“Because I’d rather it was me,” Alec said. “She’s—Isabelle. She’s smart and tough and a good fighter. Better than me. She deserves to be all right, to be happy.” He looked at Simon through the fire. “You have a sister, don’t you?”
Simon was jolted by the question—New York seemed a world, a lifetime away. “Rebecca,” he said. “That’s her name.”
“And what would you do to someone who made her unhappy?”
Simon eyed Alec warily. “I would reason with them,” he said. “Talk it out. Maybe an understanding hug.”
Alec snorted and seemed about to reply; then his head snapped around, as if he’d heard something. Simon raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t often a human heard something before a vampire did. A moment later he recognized the sound himself, and understood: It was Jace’s voice. Illumination danced at the end of the far tunnel, and Clary and Jace appeared, Clary holding a witchlight in her hand.
Even in her boots Clary barely came to Jace’s shoulder. They weren’t touching, but they moved together toward the fire. Simon thought that while they had seemed like a couple ever since the first time they’d come back from Idris, they seemed like something more now. They seemed like a team.
“Anything interesting?” Alec asked as Jace came to sit beside the fire.
“Clary put glamour runes on the cave entrances. No one should be able to see that there’s any way in here.”
“How long will they last?”
“Overnight, probably into tomorrow,” said Clary, glancing at Izzy. “What with the runes wearing off quicker here, I’ll have to check them later.”
“And I’ve got a better idea of where we’re positioned in terms of Alicante. I’m pretty sure that the rock wasteland where we were last night”—Jace pointed at the rightmost tunnel—“looks out over what I think used to be Brocelind Forest.”
Alec half-closed his eyes. “That’s depressing. The forest was—beautiful.”
“Not anymore.” Jace shook his head. “Just wasteland, as far as you can see.” He bent and touched Isabelle’s hair, and Simon felt a small pointless flare of jealousy—that he could touch her so carelessly, show his affection without thinking. “How is she?”
“Think she’ll be well enough to move by tomorrow?” Jace’s voice was anxious. “We can’t stay here. We’ve sent up enough warnings that we’re present. If we don’t get to Sebastian, he’ll find us first. And we’re running out of food.”
Simon lost Alec’s murmured response; a sudden stabbing pain shot through him, and he doubled up. He felt robbed of his breath, except he didn’t breathe. Nevertheless his chest hurt, as if something had been ripped out of it.
“Simon. Simon!” Clary said sharply, her hand on his shoulder, and he looked up at her, his eyes streaming tears tinged with blood. “God, Simon, what’s wrong?” she asked, frantic.
He sat up slowly. The pain was already starting to ebb. “I don’t know. It was like someone stuck a knife into my chest.”
Jace was swiftly on his knees in front of him, his fingers under Simon’s chin. His pale gold gaze searched Simon’s face. “Raphael,” Jace said finally, in a flat voice. “He’s your sire, the one whose blood made you a vampire.”
Simon nodded. “So?”
Jace shook his head. “Nothing,” he muttered. “When did you last feed?”
“I’m fine,” Simon said, but Clary had already caught at his right hand and lifted it; the gold faerie ring shone on his finger. The hand itself was dead white, the veins under the skin showing black, like a network of cracks in marble. “You’re not fine—haven’t you fed? You lost all that blood!”
“Where are the bottles you brought?” She cast around, looking for his bag, and found it shoved against the wall. She yanked it toward her. “Simon, if you don’t start taking better care of yourself—”
“Don’t.” He grabbed the strap of the bag away from her; she glared at him. “They broke,” he said. “The bottles broke, when we were fighting the demons in the Accords Hall. The blood’s gone.”
Clary stood up. “Simon Lewis,” she said furiously. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“Say something about what?” Jace moved away from Simon.
“Simon’s starving,” Clary explained. “He lost blood healing Izzy, and his supply was wrecked in the Hall—”
“Why didn’t you say something?” Jace asked, rising and pushing back a lock of blond hair.
“Because,” Simon said. “It’s not like there’s animals I can feed on here.”
“There’s us,” Jace said.
“I don’t want to feed on my friends’ blood.”
“Why not?” Jace stepped past the fire and looked down at Simon; his expression was open and curious. “We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Last time you were starving, I gave you my blood. It was a little homoerotic, maybe, but I’m secure in my sexuality.”
Simon sighed internally; he could tell that under the flippancy, Jace was completely serious in his offer. Probably less because it was sexy than because Jace had a death wish the size of Brooklyn.
“I’m not biting someone whose veins are full of heavenly fire,” Simon said. “I have no desire to be toasted from the inside out.”