Simon was vaguely aware of Clary and Jace standing up and leaving the cavern, whispering to each other as they went. Not as subtle as you think you are, he thought at them, half-amused, but he hardly grudged them the time together, considering what they were all going to face the next day.
“Simon.” It was barely a whisper, but Simon propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at Isabelle. She turned onto her back and gazed up at him. Her eyes were very huge and dark, her cheeks flushed—his chest tightened with anxiety.
“Are you all right?” he said. “Are you feverish?”
She shook her head and wiggled partway out of her cocoon of blankets. “Just warm. Who wrapped me up like a mummy?”
“Alec,” Simon said. “I mean, maybe—you should stay in them.”
“I’d rather not,” Isabelle said, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pulling him close to her.
“I can’t warm you up. No body heat.” His voice sounded a little tinny.
She nuzzled her way into the juncture of his collarbone and shoulder. “I think we have established in so many ways that I am hot enough for the both of us.”
Unable to help it, Simon reached out to run his hands up her back. She had shed her gear and wore only a black thermal top, the material thick and soft under his fingers. She felt substantial and real, human and breathing, and he silently thanked the God whose name he could now say that she was all right.
“Is there anyone else here?”
“Jace and Clary snuck off, and Alec took first watch,” Simon said. “We’re alone. I mean, not alone alone, like I wouldn’t—” He gasped as she rolled over so that she was on top of him, pinning him to the ground. She laid an arm delicately across his chest. “I wouldn’t maybe do that,” he said. “Not that you should stop.”
“You saved my life,” she said.
“I didn’t—” He broke off as she narrowed her eyes. “I am a brave heroic rescuer?” he tried.
“Mmm-hmm.” She nudged his chin with hers.
“No Lord Montgomery stuff,” he warned. “Anyone could walk in.”
“What about regular kissing?”
“Seems all right,” he said, and immediately Isabelle was kissing him, her lips almost unbearably soft. His hands found their way up under her shirt and smoothed up her spine, tracing the line of her shoulder blades. When she broke away, her lips were reddened, and he could see the blood pounding in her throat—Isabelle’s blood, salty-sweet, and even though he wasn’t hungry, he wanted—
“You can bite me,” she whispered.
“No.” Simon wriggled back slightly. “No—you’ve lost too much blood. I can’t.” He could feel his chest heaving with unnecessary breath. “You were asleep when we were talking about it, but we can’t stay here. Clary put glamour runes on the entrances, but they won’t hold that long, and we’re running out of food. The atmosphere’s making everyone sicker and weaker. And Sebastian will find us. We have to go to him—tomorrow—at the Gard.” He raked curled fingers through her soft hair. “And that means you need all your strength.”
She pressed her lips together, her eyes darting over him. “When we came through from the Faerie Court, into this world, what did you see?”
He touched her face lightly, not wanting to lie, but the truth—the truth was hard and awkward. “Iz, we don’t have to—”
“I saw Max,” she said. “But I saw you, too. You were my boyfriend. We lived together and my whole family accepted you. I can tell myself I don’t want you to be part of my life, but my heart knows differently,” she said. “You weaseled your way into my life, Simon Lewis, and I don’t know how or why or even when but it happened, and I kind of hate it but I can’t change it, and here it is.”
He made a small choking sound. “Isabelle—”
“Now tell me what you saw,” she said, and her eyes glittered like mica.
Simon braced his hands against the stone floor of the cave. “I saw me being famous, a rock star,” he said slowly. “I was rich, my family was together, and I was with Clary. She was my girlfriend.” He felt Isabelle tense on top of him, felt her start to roll away, and he caught at her arms. “Isabelle, listen. Listen. She was my girlfriend, and then when she came to tell me she loved me, I said, ‘I love you, too—Isabelle.’?”
She stared at him.
“Isabelle,” he said. “It snapped me out of the vision, when I said your name. Because I knew the vision was wrong. It wasn’t what I really wanted.”
“Why do you tell me you love me only when you’re drunk or dreaming?” she asked.
“I have awful timing,” said Simon. “But it doesn’t mean I don’t mean it. There are things we want, down under what we know, under even what we feel. There are things our souls want, and mine wants you.”
He felt her exhale. “Say it,” she said. “Say it sober.”
“I love you,” he said. “I don’t want you to say it back unless you mean it, but I love you.”
She leaned back over him, and pressed the pads of her fingertips against his. “I mean it.”
He raised himself up on his elbows just as she leaned down, and their lips met. They kissed, long and soft and sweet and gentle, and then Isabelle pulled back slightly, her breathing ragged, and Simon said, “So have we DTRed now?”
Isabelle shrugged. “I have no idea what that means.”
Simon hid the fact that he was inordinately pleased by this. “Are we officially boyfriend and girlfriend? Is there a Shadowhunter ritual? Should I change my Facebook status from ‘it’s complicated’ to ‘in a relationship’?”
Isabelle screwed up her nose adorably. “You have a book that’s also a face?”
Simon laughed, and Isabelle bent down and kissed him again. This time he reached up to draw her down, and they wrapped themselves around each other, tangled in blankets, kissing and whispering. He lost himself in the pleasure of the taste of her mouth, the curve of her hip under his hand, the warm skin of her back. He forgot that they were in a demon realm, that they were going into battle the next day, that they might never see home again: Everything faded away and was Isabelle.
“WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?” There was a sound of shattering glass, and they both sat up to see Alec glaring at them. He had dropped the empty bottle of wine he had been carrying, and there were bits of sparkly glass all over the cave floor. “WHY CAN’T YOU GO SOMEWHERE ELSE TO DO THESE HORRIBLE THINGS? MY EYES.”
“It’s a demon realm, Alec,” Isabelle said. “There’s nowhere for us to go.”
“And you said I should look after her—” Simon began, then realized that would not be a productive line of conversation, and shut up.
Alec flopped down on the opposite side of the fire and glared at them both. “And where have Jace and Clary gone?”
“Ah,” said Simon delicately. “Who can say . . .”
“Straight people,” Alec declared. “Why can’t they control themselves?”
“It’s a mystery,” Simon agreed, and lay back down to sleep.
Jia Penhallow sat on the desk in her office. It felt so casual, she couldn’t help but wonder if it would be frowned on, the Consul sitting irreverently on the ancient desk of power—but she was alone in the room, and tired beyond all measures of tired.
In her hand she gripped a note that had come from New York: a warlock’s fire-message, powerful enough to bypass the wards around the city. She recognized the handwriting as Catarina Loss’s, but the words were not Catarina’s.
This is Maia Roberts, temporary leader of the New York pack. We understand you are doing what you can to bring our Luke and the other prisoners back. We appreciate that. As a sign of our good faith, I wish to pass on a message to you. Sebastian and his forces will attack Alicante tomorrow night. Please do what you can to be ready. I wish we could be there, fighting by your side, but I know that isn’t possible. Sometimes it is only possible to warn, and wait, and hope.
Remember that the Clave and the Council—Shadowhunters and Downworlders together—are the light of the world.
With hope. Jia folded the letter again and slipped it into her pocket. She thought of the city out there, under the night sky, the pale silver of the demon towers soon to turn to the red of war. She thought of her husband and her daughter. She thought of the boxes and boxes that had arrived from Theresa Gray only a short while ago, rising up through the earth in Angel Square, each box stamped with the spiral symbol of the Labyrinth. She felt a stirring in her heart—some fear, but also some relief, that finally the time was coming, finally the waiting would be over, finally they would have their chance. She knew that the Shadowhunters of Alicante would fight to the last: with determination, with bravery, with stubbornness, with vengeance, with glory.