City of Fallen Angels
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"Clary! Over here!" Clary turned and saw the actual Isabelle, seated at a table close to the stage. She wore a dress that shone like a silver beacon; Clary navigated toward it and flung herself down in the seat opposite Izzy. "Got caught in the rain, I see," Isabelle observed.
Clary pushed her damp hair back from her face with a rueful smile. "You bet against Mother Nature, you lose."
Isabelle raised her dark eyebrows. "I thought you weren't coming tonight. Simon said you had some wedding blah-blah to deal with." Isabelle was not impressed with weddings or any of the trappings of romantic love, as far as Clary could tell.
"My mom wasn't feeling well," Clary said. "She decided to reschedule."
This was true, up to a point. When they'd come home from the hospital, Jocelyn had gone into her room and shut the door. Clary, feeling helpless and frustrated, had heard her crying softly through the door, but her mom had refused to let her in or to talk about it. Eventually Luke had come home, and Clary had gratefully left the care of her mother to him and headed out to kick around the city before going to see Simon's band. She always tried to come to his gigs if she could, and besides, talking to him would make her feel better.
"Huh." Isabelle didn't inquire further. Sometimes her almost total lack of interest in other people's problems was something of a relief. "Well, I'm sure Simon will be glad you came."
Clary glanced toward the stage. "How's the show been so far?"
"Fine." Isabelle chewed thoughtfully on her straw. "That new lead singer they have is hot. Is he single? I'd like to ride him around town like a bad, bad pony-"
"What?" Isabelle glanced over at her and shrugged. "Oh, whatever. Simon and I aren't exclusive. I told you that."
Admittedly, Clary thought, Simon didn't have a leg to stand on in this particular situation. But he was still her friend. She was about to say something in his defense when she glanced toward the stage again-and something caught her eye. A familiar figure, emerging from the stage door. She would have recognized him anywhere, at any time, no matter how dark the room or how unexpected the sight of him.
Jace. He was dressed like a mundane: jeans, a tight black T-shirt that showed the movement of the slim muscles in his shoulders and back. His hair gleamed under the stage lights. Covert gazes watched him as he moved toward the wall and leaned against it, looking intently toward the front of the room. Clary felt her heart begin to pound. It felt like it had been forever since she'd last seen him, though she knew it had been only about a day. And yet, already, watching him seemed like watching someone distant, a stranger. What was he even doing here? He didn't like Simon! He'd never come to a single one of the band's performances before.
"Clary!" Isabelle sounded accusing. Clary turned to see that she'd accidentally upset Isabelle's glass, and water was dripping off the other girl's lovely silver dress.
Isabelle, grabbing a napkin, looked at her darkly. "Just talk to him," she said. "I know you want to."
"I'm sorry," Clary said.
Isabelle made a shooing gesture in her direction. "Go."
Clary got up, smoothing down her dress. If she'd known Jace was going to be here, she would have worn something other than red tights, boots, and a vintage hot-pink Betsey Johnson dress of hers she'd found hanging in Luke's spare closet. Once, she'd thought the flower-shaped green buttons that ran all the way up the front were funky and cool, but now she just felt less put-together and sophisticated than Isabelle.
She pushed her way across the floor, which was now crowded with people either dancing or standing in place, drinking beer, and swaying a little to the music. She couldn't help but remember the first time she'd ever seen Jace. It had been in a club, and she'd watched him across the floor, watched his bright hair and the arrogant set of his shoulders. She'd thought he was beautiful, but not in any way that applied to her. He wasn't the sort of boy you could have dated, she'd thought. He existed apart from that world.
He didn't notice her now until she was nearly standing in front of him. Up close, she could see how tired he looked, as if he hadn't slept in days. His face was tight with exhaustion, the bones sharp-looking under the skin. He was leaning against the wall, his fingers hooked in the loops of his belt, his pale gold eyes watchful.
"Jace," she said.
He started, and turned to look at her. For a moment his eyes lit, the way they always did when he saw her, and she felt a wild hope rise in her chest.
Almost instantly the light went out of them, and the remaining color drained out of his face. "I thought-Simon said you weren't coming."
A wave of nausea passed over her, and she put her hand out to steady herself against the wall. "So you only came because you thought I wouldn't be here?"
He shook his head. "I-"
"Were you ever planning on talking to me again?" Clary felt her voice rise, and forced it back down with a vicious effort. Her hands were now tight at her sides, her nails cutting hard into her palms. "If you're going to break it off, the least you could do is tell me, not just stop talking to me and leave me to figure it out on my own."
"Why," Jace said, "does everyone keep goddamn asking me if I'm going to break up with you? First Simon, and now-"
"You talked to Simon about us?" Clary shook her head. "Why? Why aren't you talking to me?"
"Because I can't talk to you," Jace said. "I can't talk to you, I can't be with you, I can't even look at you."
Clary sucked her breath in; it felt like breathing battery acid. "What?"
He seemed to realize what he had said, and lapsed into an appalled silence. For a moment they simply looked at each other. Then Clary turned and darted back through the crowd, pushing her way past flailing elbows and knots of chatting people, blind to everything but getting to the door as quickly as she could.
"And now," Eric yelled into his microphone, "we're going to sing a new song-one we just wrote. This one's for my girlfriend. We've been going out for three weeks, and, damn, our love is true. We're gonna be together forever, baby. This one's called 'Bang You Like a Drum.'"
There was laughter and applause from the audience as the music started up, though Simon wasn't sure if Eric realized they thought he was joking, which he wasn't. Eric was always in love with whatever girl he'd just started dating, and he always wrote an inappropriate song about it. Normally Simon wouldn't have cared, but he'd really hoped they were going to get off the stage after the previous song. He felt worse than ever-dizzy, sticky and sick with sweat, his mouth tasting metallic, like old blood.
The music crashed around him, sounding like nails being pounded into his eardrums. His fingers slipped and slid on the strings as he played, and he saw Kirk look over at him quizzically. He tried to force himself to focus, to concentrate, but it was like trying to start a car with a dead battery. There was an empty grinding noise in his head, but no spark.
He stared out into the bar, looking-he wasn't even quite sure why-for Isabelle, but he could see only a sea of white faces turned toward him, and he remembered his first night in the Dumont Hotel and the faces of the vampires turned toward him, like white paper flowers unfolding against a dark emptiness. A surge of gripping, painful nausea seized him. He staggered back, his hands falling away from the guitar. The ground under his feet felt as if it were moving. The other members of the band, caught up in the music, didn't seem to notice. Simon tore the strap of the guitar off his shoulder and pushed past Matt to the curtain at the back of the stage, ducking through it just in time to fall to his knees and retch.
Nothing came up. His stomach felt as hollow as a well. He stood up and leaned against the wall, pressing his icy hands against his face. It had been weeks since he'd felt either cold or hot, but now he felt feverish-and scared. What was happening to him?
He remembered Jace saying, You're a vampire. Blood isn't like food for you. Blood is ... blood. Could all this be because he hadn't eaten? But he didn't feel hungry, or even thirsty, really. He felt as sick as if he were dying. Maybe he'd been poisoned. Maybe the Mark of Cain didn't protect against something like that?
He moved slowly toward the fire door that would take him out onto the street in back of the club. Maybe the cold air outside would clear his head. Maybe all this was just exhaustion and nerves.
"Simon?" A little voice, like a bird's chirp. He looked down with dread, and saw that Maureen was standing at his elbow. She looked even tinier close up-little birdlike bones and a lot of very pale blond hair, which cascaded down her shoulders from beneath a knitted pink cap. She wore rainbow-stripe arm warmers and a short-sleeved white T-shirt with a screen print of Strawberry Shortcake on it. Simon groaned inwardly.
"This really isn't a good time, Mo," he said.
"I just want to take a picture of you on my camera phone," she said, pushing her hair back behind her ears nervously. "So I can show it to my friends, okay?"
"Fine." His head was pounding. This was ridiculous. It wasn't like he was overwhelmed with fans. Maureen was literally the band's only fan, that he knew about, and was Eric's little cousin's friend, to boot. He supposed he couldn't really afford to alienate her. "Go ahead. Take it."
She raised her phone and clicked, then frowned. "Now one with you and me?" She sidled up to him quickly, pressing herself against his side. He could smell strawberry lip gloss on her, and under that, the smell of salt sweat and saltier human blood. She looked up at him, holding the phone up and out with her free hand, and grinned. She had a gap between her two front teeth, and a blue vein in her throat. It pulsed as she drew a breath.
"Smile," she said.
Twin jolts of pain went through Simon as his fangs slid free, digging into his lip. He heard Maureen gasp, and then her phone went flying as he caught hold of her and spun her toward him, and his canine teeth sank into her throat.
Blood exploded into his mouth, the taste of it like nothing else. It was as if he had been starving for air and now was breathing, inhaling great gasps of cold, clean oxygen, and Maureen struggled and pushed at him, but he barely noticed. He didn't even notice when she went limp, her dead weight dragging him to the floor so that he was lying on top of her, his hands gripping her shoulders, clenching and unclenching as he drank.
You have never fed on someone purely human, have you? Camille had said. You will.
And when you do, you will never forget it.
FROM FIRE UNTO FIRE
Clary reached the door and burst out into the rain-drenched evening air. It was coming down in sheets now, and she was instantly soaked. Choking on rainwater and tears, she darted past Eric's familiar-looking yellow van, rain sheeting off its roof into the gutter, and was about to race across the street against the light when a hand caught her arm and spun her around.
It was Jace. He was as soaked as she was, the rain sticking his fair hair to his head and plastering his shirt to his body like black paint. "Clary, didn't you hear me calling you?"
"Let go of me." Her voice shook.
"No. Not until you talk to me." He looked around, up and down the street, which was deserted, the rain exploding off the black pavement like fast-blooming flowers. "Come on."
Still holding her by the arm, he half-dragged her around the van and into a narrow alley that bordered the Alto Bar. High windows above them let through the blurred sound of the music that was still being played inside. The alley was brick-walled, clearly a dumping ground for old bits of no longer usable musical equipment. Broken amps and old mikes littered the ground, along with shattered beer glasses and cigarette butts.
Clary jerked her arm out of Jace's grasp and turned to face him. "If you're planning to apologize, don't bother." She pushed her wet, heavy hair back from her face. "I don't want to hear it."
"I was going to tell you that I was trying to help out Simon," he said, rainwater running off his eyelashes and down his cheeks like tears. "I've been at his place for the past-"
"And you couldn't tell me? Couldn't text me a single line letting me know where you were? Oh, wait. You couldn't, because you still have my goddamned phone. Give it to me."
Silently he reached into his jeans pocket and handed it to her. It looked undamaged. She jammed it into her messenger bag before the rain could ruin it. Jace watched her as she did it, looking as if she'd hit him in the face. It only made her angrier. What right did he have to be hurt?
"I think," he said slowly, "that I thought that the closest thing to being with you was being with Simon. Watching out for him. I had some stupid idea that you'd realize I was doing it for you and forgive me-"
All of Clary's rage rose to the surface, a hot, unstoppable tide. "I don't even know what you think I'm supposed to forgive you for," she shouted. "Am I supposed to forgive you for not loving me anymore? Because if that's what you want, Jace Lightwood, you can go right ahead and-" She took a step back, blindly, and nearly tripped over an abandoned speaker. Her bag slid to the ground as she put her hand out to right herself, but Jace was already there. He moved forward to catch her, and kept moving, until her back hit the alley wall, and his arms were around her, and he was kissing her frantically.
She knew she ought to push him away; her mind told her it was the sensible thing to do, but no other part of her cared about what was sensible. Not when Jace was kissing her like he thought he might go to hell for doing it, but it would be worth it.
She dug her fingers into his shoulders, into the damp fabric of his T-shirt, feeling the resistance of the muscles underneath, and kissed him back with all the desperation of the past few days, all the not knowing where he was or what he was thinking, all the feeling like a part of her heart had been ripped out of her chest and she could never get enough air. "Tell me," she said between kisses, their wet faces sliding against each other. "Tell me what's wrong-Oh," she gasped as he drew away from her, only far enough to reach his hands down and put them around her waist. He lifted her up so she stood on top of a broken speaker, making them almost the same height. Then he put his hands on either side of her head and leaned forward, so their bodies almost touched-but not quite. It was nerve-wracking. She could feel the feverish heat that came off him; her hands were still on his shoulders, but it wasn't enough. She wanted him wrapped around her, holding her tight. "W-why," she breathed, "can't you talk to me? Why can't you look at me?"