City of lost souls, p.5
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       City of Lost Souls, p.5

         Part #5 of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
 
Page 5

 

  Magnus leaned back in his chair, the muscles in his arms flexing as he yawned. The table was strewn with pieces of paper covered in small, cramped handwriting and drawings-the same pattern over and over, variations on the design that had been splattered across the floor of the rooftop from which Jace had disappeared. "How was the Seelie Queen?"

  "Same as usual. "

  "Raging bitch, then?"

  "Pretty much. " Alec gave Magnus the condensed version of what had happened in the faerie court. He was good at that-keeping things short, not a word wasted. He never understood people who chattered on incessantly, or even Jaces love of overcomplicated wordplay.

  "I worry about Clary," said Magnus. "I worry shes getting in over her little red head. "

  Alec set Chairman Meow down on the table, where he promptly curled up into a ball and went back to sleep. "She wants to find Jace. Can you blame her?"

  Magnuss eyes softened. He hooked a finger into the top of Alecs jeans and pulled him closer. "Are you saying youd do the same thing if it were me?"

  Alec turned his face away, glancing at the paper Magnus had just set aside. "You looking at these again?"

  Looking a little disappointed, Magnus let Alec go. "Theres got to be a key," he said. "To unlocking them. Some language I havent looked at yet. Something ancient. This is old black magic, very dark, not like anything Ive ever seen before. " He looked at the paper again, his head tilted to the side. "Can you hand me that snuffbox over there? The silver one, on the edge of the table. "

  Alec followed the line of Magnuss gesture and saw a small silver box perched on the opposite side of the big wooden table. He reached over and picked it up. It was like a miniature metal chest set on small feet, with a curved top and the initials W. S. picked out in diamonds across the top.

  W, he thought. Will?

  Will, Magnus had said when Alec had asked him about the name Camille had taunted him with. Dear God, that was a long time ago.

  Alec bit his lip. "What is this?"

  "Its a snuffbox," said Magnus, not looking up from his papers. "I told you. "

  "Snuff? As in snuffing people out?" Alec eyed it.

  Magnus looked up and laughed. "As in tobacco. It was very popular around the seventeenth, eighteenth century. Now I use the box to keep odds and ends in. "

  He held out his hand, and Alec gave the box up. "Do you ever wonder," Alec began, and then started again. "Does it bother you that Camilles out there somewhere? That she got away?" And that it was my fault? Alec thought but didnt say. There was no need for Magnus to know.

  "Shes always been out there somewhere," said Magnus. "I know the Clave isnt terribly pleased, but Im used to imagining her living her life, not contacting me. If it ever bothered me, it hasnt in a long time. "

  "But you did love her. Once. "

  Magnus ran his fingers over the diamond insets in the snuffbox. "I thought I did. "

  "Does she still love you?"

  "I dont think so," Magnus said dryly. "She wasnt very pleasant the last time I saw her. Of course that could be because Ive got an eighteen-year-old boyfriend with a stamina rune and she doesnt. "

  Alec sputtered. "As the person being objectified, I. . . object to that description of me. "

  "She always was the jealous type. " Magnus grinned. He was awfully good at changing the subject, Alec thought. Magnus had made it clear that he didnt like talking about his past love life, but somewhere during their conversation, Alecs sense of familiarity and comfort, his feeling of being at home, had vanished. No matter how young Magnus looked-and right now, barefoot, with his hair sticking up, he looked about eighteen-uncrossable oceans of time divided them.

  Magnus opened the box, took out some tacks, and used them to fix the paper he had been looking at to the table. When he glanced up and saw Alecs expression, he did a double take. "Are you okay?"

  Instead of replying, Alec reached down and took Magnuss hands. Magnus let Alec pull him to his feet, a questioning look in his eyes. Before he could say anything, Alec drew him closer and kissed him. Magnus made a soft, pleased sound, and gripped the back of Alecs shirt, rucking it up, his fingers cool on Alecs spine. Alec leaned into him, pinning Magnus between the table and his own body. Not that Magnus seemed to mind.

  "Come on," Alec said against Magnuss ear. "Its late. Lets go to bed. "

  Magnus bit his lip and glanced over his shoulder at the papers on the table, his gaze fixed on ancient syllables in forgotten languages. "Why dont you go on ahead?" he said. "Ill join you-five minutes. "

  "Sure. " Alec straightened up, knowing that when Magnus was deep in his studies, five minutes could easily become five hours. "Ill see you there. "

  "Shhh. "

  Clary put her finger to her lips before motioning for Simon to go before her through the front door of Lukes house. All the lights were off, and the living room was dark and silent. She shooed Simon toward her room and headed into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. Halfway there she froze.

  Her mothers voice was audible down the hall. Clary could hear the strain in it. Just like losing Jace was Clarys worst nightmare, she knew that her mother was living her worst nightmare too. Knowing that her son was alive and out there in the world, capable of anything, was ripping her apart from the inside out.

  "But they cleared her, Jocelyn," Clary overheard Luke reply, his voice dipping in and out of a whisper. "There wont be any punishment. "

  "All of it is my fault. " Jocelyn sounded muffled, as if she had buried her head against Lukes shoulder. "If I hadnt brought that. . . creature into the world, Clary wouldnt be going through this now. "

  "You couldnt have known. . . " Lukes voice faded off into a murmur, and though Clary knew he was right, she had a brief, guilty flash of rage against her mother. Jocelyn should have killed Sebastian in his crib before hed ever had a chance to grow up and ruin all their lives, she thought, and was instantly horrified at herself for thinking it. She turned and swung back toward the other end of the house, darting into her bedroom and closing the door behind her as if she were being followed.

  Simon, who had been sitting on the bed playing with his DS, looked up at her in surprise. "Everything okay?"

  She tried to smile at him. He was a familiar sight in this room-theyd slept over at Lukes often enough when they were growing up. Shed done what she could to make this room hers instead of a spare room. Photos of herself and Simon, the Lightwoods, herself with Jace and with her family, were stuck haphazardly into the frame of the mirror over the dresser. Luke had given her a drawing board, and her art supplies were sorted neatly into a stack of cubbyholes beside it. She had tacked up posters of her favorite animes: Fullmetal Alchemist, Rurouni Kenshin, Bleach.

  Evidence of her Shadowhunter life lay scattered about as well-a fat copy of The Shadowhunters Codex with her notes and drawings scribbled into the margins, a shelf of books on the occult and paranormal, her stele atop her desk, and a new globe, given to her by Luke, that showed Idris, bordered in gold, in the center of Europe.

  And Simon, sitting in the middle of her bed, cross-legged, was one of the few things that belonged both to her old life and her new one. He looked at her with his eyes dark in his pale face, the glimmer of the Mark of Cain barely visible on his forehead.

  "My mom," she said, and leaned against the door. "Shes really not doing well. "

  "Isnt she relieved? I mean about you being cleared?"

  "She cant get past thinking about Sebastian. She cant get past blaming herself. "

  "It wasnt her fault, the way he turned out. It was Valentines. "

  Clary said nothing. She was recalling the awful thing she had just thought, that her mother should have killed Sebastian when he was born.

  "Both of you," said Simon, "blame yourselves for things that arent your fault. You blame yourself for leaving Jace on the roof-"

  She jerked her head up and looked at him sharply. She wasnt aware shed ever said she blamed herself for that,
though she did. "I never-"

  "You do," he said. "But I left him, Izzy left him, Alec left him-and Alecs his parabatai. Theres no way we could have known. And it might have been worse if youd stayed. "

  "Maybe. " Clary didnt want to talk about it. Avoiding Simons gaze, she headed into the bathroom to brush her teeth and pull on her fuzzy pajamas. She avoided looking at herself in the mirror. She hated how pale she looked, the shadows under her eyes. She was strong; she wasnt going to fall apart. She had a plan. Even if it was a little insane, and involved robbing the Institute.

  She brushed her teeth and was pulling her wavy hair back into a ponytail as she left the bathroom, just catching Simon slipping back into his messenger bag a bottle of what was almost surely the blood hed bought at Takis.

  She came forward and ruffled his hair. "You can keep the bottles in the fridge, you know," she said. "If you dont like it room temperature. "

  "Ice-cold blood is worse than room temperature, actually. Warm is best, but I think your mom would balk at me heating it up in saucepans. "

  "Does Jordan care?" Clary asked, wondering if in fact Jordan even still remembered Simon lived with him. Simon had been at her house every night for the past week. In the first few days after Jace had disappeared, she hadnt been able to sleep. She had piled five blankets over herself, but shed been unable to get warm. Shivering, she would lie awake imagining her veins sluggish with frozen blood, ice crystals weaving a coral-like shining net around her heart. Her dreams were full of black seas and ice floes and frozen lakes and Jace, his face always hidden from her by shadows or a breath of cloud or his own shining hair as he turned away from her. She would fall asleep for minutes at a time, always waking up with a sick drowning feeling.

  The first day the Council had interrogated her, shed come home and crawled into bed. Shed lain there wide awake until thered been a knock on her window and Simon had crawled inside, nearly tumbling onto the floor. Hed climbed onto the bed and stretched out beside her without a word. His skin had been cold from the outside, and hed smelled like city air and oncoming winter chill.

  She had touched her shoulder to his, dissolving a tiny part of the tension that clamped her body like a clenched fist. His hand had been cold, but it had been familiar, like the texture of his corduroy jacket against her arm.

  "How long can you stay?" she had whispered into the darkness.

  "As long as you want. "

  Shed turned on her side to look at him. "Wont Izzy mind?"

  "Shes the one who told me I should come over here. She said you werent sleeping, and if having me with you will make you feel better, I can stay. Or I could just stay until you fall asleep. "

  Clary had exhaled her relief. "Stay all night," shed said. "Please. "

  He had. That night she had had no bad dreams.

  As long as he was there, her sleep was dreamless and blank, a dark ocean of nothingness. A painless oblivion.

  "Jordan doesnt really care about the blood," Simon said now. "His whole thing is about me being comfortable with what I am. Get in touch with your inner vampire, blah, blah. "

  Clary slid next to him onto the bed and hugged a pillow. "Is your inner vampire different from your. . . outer vampire?"

  "Definitely. He wants me to wear midriff-baring shirts and a fedora. Im fighting it. "

  Clary smiled faintly. "So your inner vampire is Magnus?"

  "Wait, that reminds me. " Simon dug around in his messenger bag and produced two volumes of manga. He waved them triumphantly before handing them to Clary. "Magical Love Gentleman volumes fifteen and sixteen," he said. "Sold out everywhere but Midtown Comics. "

  She picked them up, looking at the colorful back-to-front covers. Once upon a time she would have waved her arms in fangirl joy; now it was all she could do to smile at Simon and thank him, but he had done it for her, she reminded herself, the gesture of a good friend. Even if she couldnt even imagine distracting herself with reading right now. "Youre awesome," she said, bumping him with her shoulder. She lay down against the pillows, the manga books balanced on her lap. "And thanks for coming with me to the Seelie Court. I know it brings up sucky memories for you, but-Im always better when youre there. "

  "You did great. Handled the Queen like a pro. " Simon lay down next to her, their shoulders touching, both of them looking up at the ceiling, the familiar cracks in it, the old glow-in-the-dark paste-on stars that no longer shed light. "So youre going to do it? Steal the rings for the Queen?"

  "Yes. " She let out her held breath. "Tomorrow. Theres a local Conclave meeting at noon. Everyonell be in it. Im going in then. "

  "I dont like it, Clary. "

  She felt her body tighten. "Dont like what?"

  "You having anything to do with faeries. Faeries are liars. "

  "They cant lie. "

  "You know what I mean. Faeries are misleaders sounds lame, though. "

  She turned her head and looked at him, her chin against his collarbone. His arm came up automatically and circled her shoulders, pulling her against him. His body was cool, his shirt still damp from the rain. His usually stick-straight hair had dried in windblown curls. "Believe me, I dont like getting mixed up with the Court. But Id do it for you," she said. "And youd do it for me, wouldnt you?"

  "Of course I would. But its still a bad idea. " He turned his head and looked at her. "I know how you feel. When my father died-"

  Her body tightened. "Jace isnt dead. "

  "I know. I wasnt saying that. Its just-You dont need to say youre better when Im there. Im always there with you. Grief makes you feel alone, but youre not. I know you dont believe in-in religion-the same way I do, but you can believe youre surrounded by people who love you, cant you?" His eyes were wide, hopeful. They were the same dark brown they had always been, but different now, as if another layer had been added to their color, the same way his skin seemed both poreless and translucent at the same time.

 

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