She headed toward Jace and Jordan, leaving Simon to scamper up the rocky ground to where Alec and Isabelle were sitting; he collapsed beside Isabelle, who immediately leaned over to say something to him, her black curtain of hair hiding her face.
Clary stopped in front of Jace, rocking back on her heels with a smile. “How’s it coming along?”
“Jordan wants me to think about the beach,” Jace said gloomily.
“He’s stubborn,” Clary said to Jordan. “What he means is that he appreciates it.”
“I don’t, really,” said Jace.
Jordan snorted. “Without me you’d be bouncing down Madison Avenue, shooting sparks out of all your orifices.” He rose to his feet, shrugging on his green jacket. “Your boyfriend’s crazy,” he said to Clary.
“Yeah, but he’s hot,” said Clary. “So there’s that.”
Jordan made a face, but it was good-natured. “I’m heading out,” he said. “Got to meet Maia downtown.” He gave a mock salute and was gone, slipping into the trees and vanishing with the silent tread of the wolf he was under the skin. Jace watched him go. Unlikely saviors, he thought. Six months ago he wouldn’t have believed anyone who’d told him he was going to wind up taking behavioral lessons from a werewolf.
Jordan and Simon and Jace had struck up something of a friendship in the past months. Jace couldn’t help using their apartment as a refuge, away from the daily pressures of the Institute, away from the reminders that the Clave was still unprepared for war with Sebastian.
Erchomai. The word brushed the back of Jace’s mind like the touch of a feather, making him shiver. He saw an angel’s wing, torn from its body, lying in a pool of golden blood.
I am coming.
“What’s wrong?” Clary said; Jace suddenly looked a million miles away. Since the heavenly fire had entered his body, he’d tended to drift off more into his head. She had a feeling that it was a side effect of suppressing his emotions. She felt a little pang—Jace, when she had met him, had been so controlled, only a little of his real self leaking out through the cracks in his personal armor, like light through the chinks in a wall. It had taken a long time to break down those defenses. Now, though, the fire in his veins was forcing him to put them back up, to bite down on his emotions for safety’s sake. But when the fire was gone, would he be able to dismantle them again?
He blinked, called back by her voice. The winter sun was high and cold; it sharpened the bones of his face and threw the shadows under his eyes into relief. He reached for her hand, taking a deep breath. “You’re right,” he said in the quiet, more serious voice he reserved only for her. “It is helping—the lessons with Jordan. It is helping, and I do appreciate it.”
“I know.” Clary curled her hand around his wrist. His skin felt warm under her touch; he seemed to run several degrees hotter than normal since his encounter with Glorious. His heart still pounded its familiar, steady rhythm, but the blood being pushed through his veins seemed to thrum under her touch with the kinetic energy of a fire just about to catch.
She went up on her toes to kiss his cheek, but he turned, and their lips brushed. They’d done nothing more than kiss since the fire had first started singing in his blood, and they’d done even that carefully. Jace was careful now, his mouth sliding softly against hers, his hand closing on her shoulder. For a moment they were body to body, and she felt the thrum and pulse of his blood. He moved to pull her closer, and a sharp, dry spark passed between them, like the zing of static electricity.
Jace broke off the kiss and stepped back with an exhale; before Clary could say anything, a chorus of sarcastic applause broke out from the nearby hill. Simon, Isabelle, and Alec waved at them. Jace bowed while Clary stepped back slightly sheepishly, hooking her thumbs into the belt of her jeans.
Jace sighed. “Shall we join our annoying, voyeuristic friends?”
“Unfortunately, that’s the only kind of friends we have.” Clary bumped her shoulder against his arm, and they headed up toward the rocks. Simon and Isabelle were side by side, talking quietly. Alec was sitting a little apart, staring at the screen of his phone with an expression of intense concentration.
Jace threw himself down next to his parabatai. “I’ve heard that if you stare at those things enough, they’ll ring.”
“He’s been texting Magnus,” said Isabelle, glancing over with a disapproving look.
“I haven’t,” Alec said automatically.
“Yes, you have,” said Jace, craning to look over Alec’s shoulder. “And calling. I can see your outgoing calls.”
“It’s his birthday,” Alec said, flipping the phone shut. He looked smaller these days, almost skinny in his worn blue pullover, holes at the elbows, his lips bitten and chapped. Clary’s heart went out to him. He’d spent the first week after Magnus had broken up with him in a sort of daze of sadness and disbelief. None of them could really believe it. She’d always thought Magnus loved Alec, really loved him; clearly Alec had thought so too. “I didn’t want him to think that I didn’t—to think that I forgot.”
“You’re pining,” said Jace.
Alec shrugged. “Look who’s talking. ‘Oh, I love her. Oh, she’s my sister. Oh why, why, why—’?”
Jace threw a handful of dead leaves at Alec, making him splutter.
Isabelle was laughing. “You know he’s right, Jace.”
“Give me your phone,” Jace said, ignoring Isabelle. “Come on, Alexander.”
“It’s none of your business,” Alec said, holding the phone away. “Just forget about it, okay?”
“You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you stare at your phone, and I’m supposed to forget about it?” Jace said. There was a surprising amount of agitation in his voice; Clary knew how upset he’d been that Alec was unhappy, but she wasn’t sure Alec knew it. Under normal circumstances Jace would have killed, or at least threatened, anyone who hurt Alec; this was different. Jace liked to win, but you couldn’t win out over a broken heart, even someone else’s. Even someone you loved.
Jace leaned over and grabbed the phone out of his parabatai’s hand. Alec protested and reached for it, but Jace held him off with one hand, expertly scrolling through the messages on the phone with the other. “Magnus, just call me back. I need to know if you’re okay—” He shook his head. “Okay, no. Just no.” With a decisive move he snapped the phone in half. The screen went blank as Jace dropped the pieces to the ground. “There.”
Alec looked down at the shattered pieces in disbelief. “You BROKE my PHONE.”
Jace shrugged. “Guys don’t let other guys keep calling other guys. Okay, that came out wrong. Friends don’t let friends keep calling their exes and hanging up. Seriously. You have to stop.”
Alec looked furious. “So you broke my brand-new phone? Thanks a lot.”
Jace smiled serenely and lay back on the rock. “You’re welcome.”
“Look on the bright side,” Isabelle said. “You won’t be able to get texts from Mom anymore. She’s texted me six times today. I turned my phone off.” She patted her pocket with a significant look.
“What does she want?” Simon asked.
“Constant meetings,” Isabelle said. “Depositions. The Clave keeps wanting to hear what happened when we fought Sebastian at the Burren. We’ve all had to give accounts, like, fifty times. How Jace absorbed the heavenly fire from Glorious. Descriptions of the Dark Shadowhunters, the Infernal Cup, the weapons they used, the runes that were on them. What we were wearing, what Sebastian was wearing, what everyone was wearing . . . like phone sex but boring.”
Simon made a choking noise.
“What we think Sebastian wants,” Alec added. “When he’ll come back. What he’ll do when he does.”
Clary leaned her elbows on her knees. “Always good to know the Clave has a well-thought-out and reliable plan.”
“They don’t want to believe it,” said Jace, staring at the sky. “That’s the problem. No matter how many times we tell them what we saw at the Burren. No matter how many times we tell them how dangerous the Endarkened are. They don’t want to believe that Nephilim could really be corrupted. That Shadowhunters could kill Shadowhunters.”
Clary had been there when Sebastian had created the first of the Endarkened. She had seen the blankness in their eyes, the fury with which they’d fought. They terrified her. “They’re not Shadowhunters anymore,” she added in a low voice. “They’re not people.”
“It’s hard to believe that if you haven’t seen it,” Alec said. “And Sebastian has only so many of them. A small force, scattered—they don’t want to believe he’s really a threat. Or if he is a threat, they’d rather believe it was more a threat to us, to New York, than to Shadowhunters at large.”
“They’re not wrong that if Sebastian cares about anything, it’s about Clary,” Jace said, and Clary felt a cold shiver at her spine, a mixture of disgust and apprehension. “He doesn’t really have emotions. Not like we do. But if he did, he’d have them about her. And he has them about Jocelyn. He hates her.” He paused, thoughtful. “But I don’t think he’d be likely to strike directly here. Too . . . obvious.”
“I hope you told the Clave this,” Simon said.
“About a thousand times,” said Jace. “I don’t think they hold my insights in particularly high regard.”
Clary looked down at her hands. She had been deposed by the Clave, just like the rest of them; she’d given answers to all their questions. There were still things about Sebastian she hadn’t told them, hadn’t told anyone. The things he’d said he wanted from her.
She hadn’t dreamed much since they’d come back from the Burren with Jace’s veins full of fire, but when she did have nightmares, they were about her brother.
“It’s like trying to fight a ghost,” Jace said. “They can’t track Sebastian, they can’t find him, they can’t find the Shadowhunters he’s turned.”