Clary swept her hair back, baring her throat. “Look, drink my blood. I always said you were welcome to it—”
“No,” Jace said immediately, and Simon saw him remembering the hold in Valentine’s ship, the way Simon had said I would have killed you, and Jace had replied, wonderingly, I would have let you.
“Oh, for God’s sake. I’ll do it.” Alec stood up, carefully repositioning Izzy on the blanket. He tucked the edge around her and straightened.
Simon let his head fall back against the wall of the cave. “You don’t even like me. Now you’re offering me your blood?”
“You saved my sister. I owe you.” Alec shrugged, his shadow long and dark in the light of the flames.
“Right.” Simon swallowed awkwardly. “Okay.”
Clary reached her hand down. After a moment Simon took it and let her haul him to his feet. He couldn’t help staring across the room at Isabelle, asleep, half-wrapped in Alec’s blue blanket. She was breathing, slow and steady. Izzy, still breathing, because of him.
Simon took a step toward Alec, and stumbled. Alec caught him and steadied him. His grip on Simon’s shoulder was hard. Simon could feel Alec’s tension in it, and he suddenly realized how bizarre the situation was: Jace and Clary gawking openly at them, Alec looking as if he were bracing himself to have a bucket of ice water dumped over his head.
Alec turned his head a little to the left, baring his throat. He was staring off fixedly at the opposite wall. Simon decided he looked less like someone who was about to have ice water dumped on their head and more like someone about to endure an embarrassing exam at the doctor’s office.
“I am not doing this in front of everyone,” Simon announced.
“It’s not spin the bottle, Simon,” said Clary. “It’s just food. Not that you’re food, Alec,” she added when he glared. She held her hands up. “Never mind.”
“Oh, for the Angel’s—” Alec began, and closed his hand around Simon’s upper arm. “Come on,” he said, and dragged Simon partway down the tunnel that led back toward the gate, just far enough so that the others faded out of view, disappearing behind a jut of rock.
Though Simon did hear the last thing Jace said, just before they faded out of earshot. “What? They need privacy. It’s an intimate moment.”
“I think you should just let me die,” Simon said.
“Shut up,” Alec said, and pushed him up against the cave wall. He eyed Simon thoughtfully. “Does it have to be my neck?”
“No,” Simon said, feeling as if he had wandered into a bizarre dream. “Wrists are okay too.”
Alec began to push up the sleeve of his sweater. His arm was bare and pale except where the Marks were, and Simon could see his veins under his skin. Despite himself, he felt the sting of hunger, rousing him from exhaustion: He could smell blood, soft and salty, rich with the tang of daylight. Shadowhunter blood, like Izzy’s. He ran his tongue along his upper teeth and was only a little surprised to feel his canines hardening and sharpening into fangs.
“I just want you to know,” Alec said as he held his wrist out, “that I realize that to you vampires this feeding business sometimes equals sexy times.”
Simon’s eyes widened.
“My sister may have told me more than I wanted to know,” Alec admitted. “Anyway, my point is that I am not attracted to you in the slightest.”
“Right,” Simon said, and took Alec’s hand. He tried for a brotherly sort of grasp, but it didn’t quite work, considering that he had to bend Alec’s hand back to bare the vulnerable part of his wrist. “Well, you don’t ring my bells either, so I guess we’re even. Although, you could have faked it for five—”
“No, I couldn’t,” Alec said. “I hate it when straight guys think all gay guys are attracted to them. I’m not attracted to every guy any more than you’re attracted to every girl.”
Simon took a deep, purposeful breath. It was always a strange feeling, breathing when he didn’t need to, but it was calming. “Alec,” he said. “Chill. I don’t think you’re in love with me. In fact, most of the time I think you hate me.”
Alec paused. “I don’t hate you. Why would I hate you?”
“Because I’m a Downworlder? Because I’m a vampire who’s in love with your sister and you think she’s too good for me?”
“Don’t you?” Alec said, but it was without rancor; after a moment he smiled a little, that Lightwood smile that lit up his face and made Simon think of Izzy. “She’s my little sister. I think she’s too good for everyone. But you—you’re a good person, Simon. Regardless of whether you’re a vampire, too. You’re loyal and you’re smart and you—you make Isabelle happy. I don’t know why, but you do. I know I didn’t like you when I met you. But that changed. And I’d hardly judge my sister for dating a Downworlder.”
Simon stood very still. Alec was all right with warlocks, he thought. That much was obvious enough. But warlocks were born what they were. Alec was the most conservative of the Lightwood children—he wasn’t chaos-loving or risk-taking like Jace and Isabelle—and Simon had always felt it in him, that sense that a vampire was a human transformed into something wrong.
“You wouldn’t agree to being a vampire,” Simon said. “Not even to be with Magnus forever. Right? You didn’t want to live forever; you wanted to take his immortality away. That’s why he broke up with you.”
Alec flinched. “No,” he said. “No, I wouldn’t want to be a vampire.”
“So you do think I’m less than you,” Simon said.
Alec’s voice cracked. “I’m trying,” he said, and Simon felt it, felt how much Alec wanted to mean it, maybe even did mean it a little bit. And after all, if Simon hadn’t been a vampire, he would still have been a mundane, still lesser. He felt Alec’s pulse surge in the wrist he was holding. “Go ahead,” Alec said, exhaling his words, clearly in an agony of waiting. “Just—do it.”
“Brace yourself,” Simon said, and lifted Alec’s wrist to his mouth. Despite the tension between them, his body, hungry and deprived, responded. His muscles tightened and his fang teeth snapped out of their own accord. He saw Alec’s eyes darken with surprise and fear. Hunger spread like a fire through Simon’s body, and he spoke out of the drowning depths of it, struggling to try to say something human to Alec. He hoped he was audible enough to be understood around his fangs. “I’m sorry about Magnus.”
“Me too. Now bite,” Alec said, and Simon did, his fangs piercing fast and clean through the skin, the blood exploding into his mouth. He heard Alec gasp, and Simon gripped involuntarily tighter, as if to prevent Alec from trying to pull away. But Alec didn’t try. His wild heartbeat was audible to Simon, pounding down through his veins like the tolling of a bell. Along with Alec’s blood, Simon could taste the metal of fear, the spark of pain, and the eager flame of something else, something he had tasted the first time he had drunk Jace’s blood on the filthy metal floor of Valentine’s ship. Maybe all Shadowhunters did have a death wish, after all.