Kissed: Magnus and Alec’s First Kiss
Standing in the stairwell of Magnus’ home, Alec stared at the name written under the buzzer on the wall. BANE. The name didn’t really seem to suit Magnus, he thought, not now that he knew him. If you could really be said to know someone when you’d attended one of their parties, once, and then they’d saved your life later but hadn’t really hung around to be thanked. But the name Magnus Bane made him think of a towering sort of figure, with huge shoulders and formal purple warlock’s robes, calling down fire and lightning. Not Magnus himself, who was more of a cross between a panther and a demented elf.
Alec took a deep breath and let it out. Well, he’d come this far; he might as well go on. The bare lightbulb hanging overhead cast sweeping shadows as he reached forward and pressed the buzzer.
A moment later a voice echoed through the stairwell. “WHO CALLS UPON THE HIGH WARLOCK?”
“Er,” Alec said. “It’s me. I mean, Alec. Alec Lightwood.”
There was a sort of silence, as if even the hallway itself were surprised. Then a ping, and the second door opened, letting him out onto the stairwell. He headed up the rickety stairs into the darkness, which smelled like pizza and dust. The second floor landing was bright, the door at the far end open. Magnus Bane was leaning in the entryway.
Compared to the first time Alec has seen him, he looked fairly normal. His black hair still stood up in spikes, and he looked sleepy; his face, even with its cat’s eyes, very young. He wore a black t-shirt with the words ONE MILLION DOLLARS picked out across the chest in sequins, and jeans that hung low on his hips, low enough that Alec looked away, down at his own shoes. Which were boring.
“Alexander Lightwood,” said Magnus. He had just the faintest trace of an accent, something Alec couldn’t put his finger on, a lilt to his vowels. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Alec looked past Magnus. “Do you have — company?”
Magnus crossed his arms, which did good things for his biceps, and leaned against the side of the door. “Why do you want to know?”
“I was hoping I could come in and talk to you.”
“Hmmm.” Magnus’ eyes raked him up and down. They really did shine in the dark, like a cat’s. “Well, all right then.” He turned abruptly away and disappeared into the apartment; after a startled moment, Alec followed.
The loft looked different without a hundred churning bodies in it. It was — well, not ordinary, but the sort of space someone might live in. Like most lofts, it had a big central room split into “rooms” by groupings of furniture. There was a square collection of sofas and tables off to the right, which Magnus gestured Alec toward. Alec sat down on a gold velvet sofa with elegant wooden curlicues on the arms.
“Would you like some tea?” Magnus asked. He wasn’t sitting in a chair, but had sprawled himself on a tufted ottoman, his long legs stretched out in front of him.
Alec nodded. He felt incapable of saying anything. Anything interesting or intelligent, that was. It was always Jace who said the interesting, intelligent things. He was Jace’s parabatai and that was all the glory he needed or wanted: like being the dark star to someone else’s supernova. But this was somewhere Jace couldn’t go with him, something Jace couldn’t help him with. “Sure.”
His right hand felt suddenly hot. He looked down, and realized he was holding a waxed paper cup from Joe, the Art of Coffee. It smelled like chai. He jumped, and only barely escaped spilling on himself. “By the Angel —”
“I LOVE that expression,” said Magnus. “It’s so quaint.”
Alec stared at him. “Did you steal this tea?”
Magnus ignored the question. “So,” he said. “Why are you here?”
Alec took a gulp of the stolen tea. “I wanted to thank you,” he said, when he came up for air. “For saving my life.”
Magnus leaned back on his hands. His t-shirt rode up over his flat stomach, and this time Alec had nowhere else to look. “You wanted to thank me.”
“You saved my life,” Alec said, again. “But I was delirious, and I don’t think I really thanked you. I know you didn’t have to do it. So thank you.”
Magnus’ eyebrows had disappeared up into his hairline. “You’re . . .welcome?”
Alec set his tea down. “Maybe I should go.”
Magnus sat up. “After you came so far? All the way to Brooklyn? Just to thank me?” He was grinning. “Now that would be a wasted effort.” He reached out and put his hand to Alec’s cheek, his thumb brushing along the cheekbone. His touch felt like fire, training tendrils of sparks in its wake. Alec sat frozen in surprise — surprise at the gesture, and surprise at the effect it was having on him. Magnus’ eyes narrowed, and he dropped his hand. “Huh,” he said to himself.
“What?” Alec was suddenly very worried that he’d done something wrong. “What is it?”
“You’re just . . .” A shadow moved behind Magnus; with fluid agility, the warlock twisted around and picked up a small gray and white tabby cat from the floor. The cat curled into the crook of his arm and looked at Alec with suspicion. Now two pairs of gold-green eyes were trained on him darkly. “Not what I expected.”
“From a Shadowhunter?”
“From a Lightwood.”
“I didn’t realize you knew my family that well.”
“I’ve known your family for hundreds of years.” Magnus’ eyes searched his face. “Now your sister, she’s a Lightwood. You—’
“She said you liked me.”
“Izzy. My sister. She told me you liked me. Liked me, liked me.”
“Liked you, liked you?” Magnus buried his grin in the cat’s fur. “Sorry. Are we twelve now? I don’t recall saying anything to Isabelle . . .”
“Jace said it too.” Alec was blunt; it was the only way he knew how to be. “That you liked me. That when he buzzed up here, you thought he was me and you were disappointed that it was him. That never happens.”
“Doesn’t it? Well, it should.”
Alec was startled. “No — I mean Jace, he’s . . . Jace.”
“He’s trouble,” said Magnus. “But you are totally without guile. Which in a Lightwood, is a conundrum. You’ve always been a plotting sort of family, like low-rent Borgias. But there isn’t a lie in your face. I get the feeling everything you say is straightforward.”
Alec leaned forward. “Do you want to go out with me?”
Magnus blinked. “See, that’s what I mean. Straightforward.”
Alec chewed his lip and said nothing.
“Why do you want to go out with me?” Magnus inquired. He was rubbing Chairman Meow’s head, his long fingers folding the cat’s ears down. “Not that I’m not highly desirable, but the way you asked, it seemed as if you were having some sort of fit —”
“I just do,” Alec said. “And I thought you liked me, so you’d say yes, and I could try — I mean, we could try —” He put his face in his hands. “Maybe this was a mistake.”
Magnus’ voice was gentle. “Does anyone know you’re gay?”
Alec’s head jerked up; he found he was breathing a little hard, as if he’d run a race. But what could he do, deny it? When he’d come here to do exactly the opposite? “Clary,” he said, hoarsely. “Which is . . . Which was an accident. And Izzy, but she’d never say anything.”
“Not your parents. Not Jace?”
Alec thought about Jace knowing, and pushed the thought away, hard and fast. “No. No, and I don’t want them to know, especially Jace.”
“I think you could tell him.” Magnus rubbed Chairman Meow under the chin. “He went to pieces like a jigsaw puzzle when he thought you were going to die. He cares —”
“I’d rather not.” Alec was still breathing quickly. He rubbed at the knees of his jeans with his fists. “I’ve never had a date,” he said in a low voice. “Never kissed anyone. Not ever. Izzy said you liked me and I thought —”
“I’m not unsympathetic. But do you like me? Because this being gay business doesn’t mean you can just throw yourself at any guy and it’ll be fine because he’s not a girl. There are still people you like and people you don’t.”
Alec thought of his bedroom back at the Institute, of being in a delirium of pain and poison when Magnus had come in. He had barely recognized him. He was fairly sure he’d been screaming for his parents, for Jace, for Izzy, but his voice would only come out on a whisper. He remembered Magnus’ hands on him, his fingers cool and gentle. He remembered the death-grip he’d kept on Magnus’ wrist, for hours and hours, even after the pain had passed and he knew he would be all right. He remembered watching Magnus’ face in the light of the rising sun, the gold of sunrise sparking gold out of his eyes, and thinking how oddly beautiful he was, with his cat’s gaze and grace.
“Yes,” Alec said. “I like you.”
He met Magnus’ gaze squarely. The warlock was looking at him with a sort of admixture of curiosity and affection and puzzlement. “It’s so odd,” Magnus said. “Genetics. Your eyes, that color —” He stopped and shook his head.
“The Lightwoods you knew didn’t have blue eyes?”
“Green-eyed monsters,” said Magnus, and grinned. He deposited Chairman Meow on the ground, and the cat moved over to Alec, and rubbed against his leg. “The Chairman likes you.”
“Is that good?”
“I never date anyone my cat doesn’t like,” Magnus said easily, and stood up. “So let’s say Friday night?”
A great wave of relief came over Alec. “Really? You want to go out with me?”
Magnus shook his head. “You have to stop playing hard to get, Alexander. It makes things difficult.” He grinned. He had a grin like Jace’s — not that they looked anything alike, but the sort of grin that lit up his whole face. “Come on, I’ll walk you out.”
Alec drifted after Magnus toward the front door, feeling as if a weight had been taken off his shoulders, one he hadn’t even known he was carrying. Of course he’d have to come up with an excuse for where he was going Friday night, something Jace wouldn’t want to participate in, something he’d need to do alone. Or he could pretend to be sick and sneak out. He was so lost in thought he almost banged into the front door, which Magnus was leaning against, looking at him through eyes narrowed to crescents.
“What is it?” Alec said.
“Never kissed anyone?” Magnus said. “No one at all?”
“No,” said Alec, hoping this didn’t disqualify him from being datable. “Not a real kiss —”
“Come here.” Magnus took him by the elbows and pulled him close. For a moment Alec was entirely disoriented by the feeling of being so close to someone else, to the kind of person he’d wanted to be close to for so long. Magnus was long and lean but not skinny; his body was hard, his arms lightly muscled but strong; he was an inch or so taller than Alec, which hardly ever happened, and they fit together perfectly. Magnus’ finger was under his chin, tilting his face up, and then they were kissing. Alec heard a small hitching gasp come from his own throat and then their mouths were pressed together with a sort of controlled urgency. Magnus, Alec thought dazedly, really knew what he was doing. His lips were soft, and he parted Alec’s expertly, exploring his mouth: a symphony of lips, teeth, tongue, every movement waking up a nerve ending Alec had never known he had.
He found Magnus’ waist with his fingers, touching the strip of bare skin he’d been trying to avoid looking at before, and slid his hands up under Magnus’ shirt. Magnus jerked with surprise, then relaxed, his hands running down Alec’s arms, over his chest, his waist, finding the belt loops on Alec’s jeans and using them to pull him closer. His mouth left Alec’s and Alec felt the hot pressure of his lips on his throat, where the skin was so sensitive that it seemed directly connected to the bones in his legs, which were about to give out. Just before he slid to the floor, Magnus let him go. His eyes were shining and so was his mouth.
“Now you’ve been kissed,” he said, reached behind him, and yanked the door open. “See you Friday?”
Alec cleared his throat. He felt dizzy, but he also felt alive — blood rushing through his veins like traffic at top speed, everything seemingly almost too brightly colored. As he stepped through the door, he turned and looked at Magnus, who was watching him bemusedly. He reached forward and took hold of the front of Magnus’ t-shirt and dragged the warlock toward him. Magnus stumbled against him, and Alec kissed him, hard and fast and messy and unpracticed, but with everything he had. He pulled Magnus against him, his own hand between them, and felt Magnus’ heart stutter in his chest.
He broke off the kiss, and drew back.
“Friday,” he said, and let Magnus go. He backed away, down the landing, Magnus looking after him. The warlock crossed his arms over his shirt — wrinkled where Alec had grabbed it — and shook his head, grinning.
“Lightwoods,” Magnus said. “They always have to have the last word.”
He shut the door behind him, and Alec ran down the steps, taking them two at a time, his blood still singing in his ears like music.
Because It Is Bitter: The scene that takes place in City of Ashes, in the chapter The Seelie Court, here from Jace’s point of viewThe scene that takes place during pages 170-174 of City of Ashes, in the chapter The Seelie Court, here from Jace’s point of view. I even gave it a name — “Because It Is Bitter.” Because boy, is Jace bitter here.
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.” — Stephen Crane
“I know that I will not leave my sister here in your Court,” said Jace, “and since there is nothing to be learned from either her or myself, perhaps you could do us the favor of releasing her?”
The Queen smiled. It was a beautiful, terrible smile. The Queen was a lovely woman; she had that inhuman loveliness that faeries did, that was more like the loveliness of hard crystal than the beauty of a human. The Queen did not look any particular age: she could have been sixteen or forty-five. Jace supposed there were those who would have found her attractive — people had died for love of the Queen — but she gave him a cold feeling in his chest, as if he’d swallowed ice water too fast. “What if I told you she could be freed by a kiss?”
It was Clary who replied, bewildered: “You want Jace to kiss you?”
As the Queen and Court laughed, the icy feeling in Jace’s chest intensified. Clary didn’t understand faeries, he thought. He’d tried to explain, but there was no explaining, not really. Whatever the Queen wanted from them, it wasn’t a kiss from him; she could have demanded that without all this show and nonsense. What she wanted was to see them pinned and struggling like butterflies. It was something immortality did to you, he’d often thought: dulled your senses, your emotions; the sharp, uncontrollable, pitiable responses of human beings were to faeries like fresh blood to a vampire. Something living. Something they didn’t have themselves.
“Despite his charms,” the Queen said, flicking a glance toward Jace — her eyes were green, like Clary’s, but not like Clary’s at all — “that kiss will not free the girl.”
“I could kiss Meliorn,” suggested Isabelle, shrugging.
The Queen shook her head slowly. “Nor that. Nor any one of my Court.”
Isabelle threw up her hands; Jace wanted to ask her what she’d expected — kissing Meliorn wouldn’t have bothered her, so obviously the Queen wouldn’t care about it. He supposed it had been nice of her to offer, but Iz, at least, ought to know better. She’d had dealings with faeries before.
Maybe it wasn’t just knowing the way the Fair Folk thought, Jace wondered. Maybe it was knowing how people who enjoyed cruelty for the sake of cruelty thought. Isabelle was thoughtless, and sometimes vain, but she wasn’t cruel. She tossed her dark hair back and scowled. “I’m not kissing any of you,” she said firmly. “Just so it’s official.”
“That hardly seems necessary,” said Simon, stepped forward. “If a kiss is all . . .”
He took a step toward Clary, who didn’t move away. The ice in Jace’s chest turned into liquid fire; he clenched his hands at his sides as Simon took Clary gently by the arms and looked down into her face. She rested her hands on Simon’s waist, as if she’d done it a million times before. Maybe she had, for all he knew. He knew Simon loved her; he’d known it since he’d seen them together in that stupid coffee shop, the other boy practically choking on getting the words “I love you” out of his mouth while Clary looked around the room, restlessly alive, her green eyes darting everywhere. She’s not interested in you, mundane boy, he’d thought with satisfaction. Get lost. And then been surprised he’d thought it. What difference did it make to him what this girl he barely knew thought?
That seemed like a lifetime ago. She wasn’t some girl he barely knew anymore: she was Clary. She was the one thing in his life that mattered more than anything else, and watching Simon put his hands on her, wherever he wanted to, made him feel at once sick and faint and murderously angry. The urge to stalk up and rip the two of them apart was so strong he could barely breathe.
Clary glanced back at him, her red hair slipping over her shoulder. She looked concerned, which was bad enough. He couldn’t stand the thought that she might feel sorry for him. He looked away fast, and caught the eye of the Seelie Queen, glimmering with delight: now this was what she was after. Their pain, their agony.
“No,” said the Queen, to Simon, in a voice like the soft slice of a knife. “That is not what I want either.”
Simon stepped away from Clary, reluctantly. Relief pounded through Jace’s veins like blood, drowning out what his friends were saying. For a moment all he cared about was that he wasn’t going to have to watch Clary kiss Simon. Then Clary seemed to swim into focus: she was very pale, and he couldn’t help wondering what she was thinking. Was she disappointed not to be kissed by Simon? Relieved as he was? He thought of Simon kissing her hand earlier than day and shoved the memory away viciously, still staring at his sister. Look up, he thought. Look at me. If you love me, you’ll look at me.
She crossed her arms over her chest, the way she did when she was cold or upset. But she didn’t look up. The conversation went on around them: who was going to kiss who, what was going to happen. Hopeless rage rose up in Jace’s chest, and as usual, found its escape in a sarcastic comment.
“Well, I’m not kissing the mundane,” he said. “I’d rather stay down here and rot.”
“Forever?” said Simon. His eyes were big and dark and serious. “Forever’s an awfully long time.”
Jace looked back at those eyes. Simon was probably a good person, he thought. He loved Clary and he wanted to take care of her and make her happy. He’d probably make a spectacular boyfriend. Logically, Jace knew, it was exactly what he ought to want for his sister. But he couldn’t look at Simon without wanting to kill someone. “I knew it,” he said nastily. “You want to kiss me, don’t you?”
“Of course not. But if—”
“I guess it’s true what they say. There are no straight men in the trenches.”
“That’s atheists, jackass.” Simon was bright red. “There are no atheists in the trenches.”
It was the Queen who interrupted them, leaning forward so that her white neck and breasts were displayed above the neckline of her low-cut gown. “While this is all very amusing, the kiss that will free the girl is the kiss that she most desires,” she said. “Only that and nothing more.”
Simon went from red to white. If the kiss that Clary most desired wasn’t Simon’s, then . . .the way she was looking at Jace, from Jace to Clary, answered that.
Jace’s heart started to pound. He met the Queen’s eyes with his own. “Why are you doing this?”
“I rather thought I was offering you a boon,” she said. “Desire is not always lessened by disgust. Nor can it be bestowed, like a favor, to those most deserving of it. And as my words bind my magic, so you can know the truth. If she doesn’t desire your kiss, she won’t be free.”
Jace felt blood flood into his face. He was vaguely aware of Simon arguing that Jace and Clary were brother and sister, that it wasn’t right, but he ignored him. The Seelie Queen was looking at him, and her eyes were like the sea before a deadly storm, and he wanted to say thank you. Thank you.
And that was the most dangerous thing of all, he thought, as around him his companions argued about whether Clary and Jace had to do this, or what any of them would be willing to do to escape the Court. To allow the Queen to give you something you wanted — truly, truly wanted — was to put yourself in her power. How had she looked at him and known, he wondered? That this was what he thought about, wanted, woke from dreams of, gasping and sweating? That when he thought, really thought, about the fact that he might never get to kiss Clary again, he wanted to die or hurt or bleed so badly he’d go up to the attic and train alone for hours until he was so exhausted he had no choice but to pass out, exhausted. He’d have bruises in the morning, bruises and cuts and scraped skin and if he could have named all his injuries they would have had the same name: Clary, Clary, Clary.
Simon was still talking, saying something, angry again. “You don’t have to do this, Clary, it’s a trick—”
“Not a trick,” said Jace. The calmness in his own voice surprised him. “A test.” He looked at Clary. She was biting her lip, her hand wound in a curl of her hair; the gestures so characteristic, so very much a part of her, they shattered his heart. Simon was arguing with Isabelle now as the Seelie Queen lounged back and watched them like a sleek, amused cat.
Isabelle sounded exasperated. ‘Who cares, anyway? It’s just a kiss.”
“That’s right,” Jace said.
Clary looked up, then finally, and her wide green eyes rested on him. He moved toward her, and as it always did, the rest of the world fell away until it was just them, as if they stood on a spotlighted stage in an empty auditorium. He put his hand on her shoulder, turning her to face him. She had stopped biting her lip, and her cheeks were flushed, her eyes a brilliant green. He could feel the tension in his own body, the effort of holding back, of not pulling her against him and taking this once chance, however dangerous and stupid and unwise, and kissing her the way he had thought he would never, in his life, be able to kiss her again.
“It’s just a kiss,” he said, and heard the roughness in his own voice, and wondered if she heard it, too.
Not that it mattered—there was no way to hide it. It was too much. He had never wanted like this before. There had always been girls. He had asked himself, in the dead of night, staring at the blank walls of his room, what made Clary so different. She was beautiful, but other girls were beautiful. She was smart, but there were other smart girls. She understood him, laughed when he laughed, saw through the defenses he put up to what was underneath. There was no Jace Wayland more real than the one he saw in her eyes when she looked at him.
But still, maybe, he could find all that somewhere else. People fell in love, and lost, and moved on. He didn’t know why he couldn’t. He didn’t know why he didn’t even want to. All he knew was that whatever he had to owe to Hell or Heaven for this chance, he was going to make it count.
He reached down and took her hands, winding his fingers with hers, and whispered in her ear. “You can close your eyes and think of England, if you like,” he said.
Her eyes fluttered shut, her lashes coppery lines against her pale, fragile skin. “I’ve never even been to England,” she said, and the softness, the anxiety in her voice almost undid him. He had never kissed a girl without knowing she wanted it too, usually more than he did, and this was Clary, and he didn’t know what she wanted. He slid his hands up hers, over the sleeves of her damply clinging shirt, to her shoulders. Her eyes were still closed, but she shivered, and leaned into him — barely, but it was permission enough.
His mouth came down on hers. And that was it. All the self-control he’d exerted over the past weeks went, like water crashing through a broken dam. Her arms came up around his neck and he pulled her against him, and she was soft and pliant but surprisingly strong like no one else he’d ever held. His hands flattened against her back, pressing her against him, and she was up on the tips of her toes, kissing him as fiercely as he was kissing her. He flicked his tongue along her lips, opening her mouth under his, and she tasted salt and sweet like faerie water. He clung to her more tightly, knotting his hands in her hair, trying to tell her, with the press of his mouth on hers, all the things he could never say out loud: I love you; I love you and I don’t care that you’re my sister; don’t be with him, don’t want him, don’t go with him. Be with me. Want me. Stay with me.
I don’t know how to be without you.
His hands slid down to her waist, and he was pulling her against him, lost in the sensations that spiraled through his nerves and blood and bones, and he had no idea what he would have done or said next, if it would have been something he could never have pretended away or taken back, but he heard a soft hiss of laughter — the Faerie Queen — in his ears, and it jolted him back to reality. He pulled away from Clary before he it was too late, unlocking her hands from around his neck and stepping back. It felt like cutting his own skin open, but he did it.
Clary was staring at him. Her lips were parted, her hands still open. Her eyes were wide. Behind her, Isabelle was gaping at them; Simon looked as if he was about to throw up.
She’s my sister, Jace thought. My sister. But the words meant nothing. They might as well have been in a foreign language. If there had ever been any hope that he could have come to think of Clary as just his sister, this — what had just happened between them — had exploded it into a thousand pieces like a meteorite blasting into the surface of the earth. He tried to read Clary’s face — did she feel the same? She looked as if she wanted nothing more than to turn around and run away. I know you felt it, he said to her with his eyes, and it was half bitter triumph and half pleading. I know you felt it, too. But there was no answer on her face; she wrapped her arms around herself, the way she always did when she was upset, and hugged herself as if she were cold. She glanced away from him.
Jace felt as if his heart was being squeezed by a fist. He whirled on the Queen. “Was that good enough?” he demanded. “Did that entertain you?”
The Queen gave him a look: special and secretive and shared between the two of them. You warned her about us, the look seemed to say. That we would hurt her, break her as you might break a twig between your fingers. But you, who thought you could not be touched — you are the one who has been broken. “We are quite entertained,” she said. “But not, I think, so much as the both of you.”
This scene was in the ARC for Ashes but was later deleted. It's a good scene for Isabelle, I think, but wasn't really necessary to the story. It begins at exactly the top of page 288 in the hardback US edition of City of Ashes.
"How convenient. Everyone's either unconscious or apparently delirious," said the Inquisitor. Her knife-like voice cut through the room, silencing everyone. "Downworlder, you know perfectly well that Jonathan Morgenstern should not be in your house. He should have been locked up in the warlock's care."
"I have a name, you know," Magnus said. "Not," he added, seeming to have thought twice about interrupting the Inquisitor, "that that matters, really. In fact, forget all about it."
"I know your name, Magnus Bane," said the Inquisitor. "And quite a bit more about you, besides. You were raised by the Silent Brothers of Madrid in the seventeenth century. They named you and turned you out on the world when you were sixteen. I know the things you've done, things you'd rather stayed hidden. It took you this long to build up your reputation; a word from me could tear it down again. So consider very, very carefully, if you wish to remain involved in this situation. You've failed in your duty once; you won't get another chance."
"Failed in my duty?" Magnus frowned. "Just by bringing the boy here? There was nothing in the contract I signed that said I couldn't bring him with me at my own discretion."
"That wasn't your failure," the Inquisitor said. "Letting him see his father last night, now that was your failure."
There was a stunned silence. Alec scrambled up off the floor, his eyes seeking out Jace's -- but Jace wouldn't look at him. His face was a mask.
Luke spoke first. "That's ridiculous," he said. Clary had rarely seen him look so angry. "Jace doesn't even know where Valentine is. Stop hounding him."
"Hounding is what I do, Downworlder," said the Inquisitor. "It's my job." She turned to Jace. "Tell the truth, now, boy," she said, "and it will all be much easier."
Jace raised his chin. "I don't have to tell you anything."
"Really?" The Inquisitor's words were like the flick of a whip. "If you're innocent, why not exonerate yourself? Tell us where you really were last night. Tell us about Valentine's little pleasure boat."
Clary stared at him. She could read nothing in his face. I went for a walk, he'd said. But that didn't mean anything. Maybe he really had gone for a walk. But her heart, her stomach, felt sick. You know what the worst thing I can imagine is? Simon had said. Not trusting the person you love more than anything else in the world.
When Jace didn't speak, Robert Lightwood said, in his deep bass voice: "Imogen? You're saying Valentine is -- was -- on a boat?"
"In the middle of the East River," said the Inquisitor. "That's correct."
"That's why I couldn't find him," Magnus said, half to himself. He still looked stunned. "All that water -- it disrupted my spell."
"But how would Jace even have gotten there?" Luke said, bewildered.
"Shadowhunters are good swimmers, but the river water is freezing -- and filthy --"
"He flew," said the Inquisitor. "He borrowed a motorcycle from the head of the city's vampire clan and he flew it to the boat. Isn't that right, Jonathan?"
Jace had dropped his hands to his sides; they were clenched into fists. "My name is Jace."
"There is no Jace. Jace is a ghost, a construct you and your father invented to fool the Lightwoods into loving you. You're your father's son and you always have been."
The Inquisitor turned to Isabelle. "Go around the side of this house," she said. "You'll find a narrow garbage alley. There's something blocking the far end, something covered with a tarp. Come back and tell us what it is."
"Izzy." Jace's thinned with strain. "You don't have to do what she tells you to."
Isabelle's dark eyes were snapping like firecrackers. "I want to. I want to prove to her that she's wrong about you." She spoke as if the Inquisitor wasn't there as she rose to her feet. "I'll be right back."
But she was gone, the door falling softly shut behind her. Luke went over to Jace and tried to put a hand on his shoulder, but Jace shook him off and went to stand by the wall. The Inquisitor was looking at him greedily, as if she meant to drink every drop of his misery like wine. Vicious bitch, Clary thought. Why is she torturing him like this?
Because she's right. The answer came as if another voice, a treacherous voice, were speaking inside her head without her desire or permission. He did exactly what she said he did, look at his face.
But Jace's face was a blank, his eyes all that lived behind the smooth, unruffled façade. Maybe this was all part of some plan of his to discredit the Inquisitor. Though she didn't look as if she feared discrediting, she looked --
The front door flew open with a bang and Isabelle marched back into the room, her black hair whipping around her face. She looked from the Inquisitor's expectant face to her parents' worried ones, from Jace's set jaw to Alec's furious scowl, and said, "I don't know what she's talking about. I didn't find anything."
The Inquisitor's head whipped back like a king cobra's. "You liar!"
"Be careful what you call my daughter, Imogen," said Maryse. Her voice was calm but her eyes were blue fire.
The Inquisitor ignored her. "Isabelle," she said, lightening her tone with an obvious effort, "your loyalty to your friend is understandable --"
"He's not my friend." Isabelle looked over at Jace, who was staring at her in a sort of daze. "He's my brother."
"No," said the Inquisitor, in a tone that was almost pitying, "he's not." She sighed. "You do realize what a serious breach of the Law denying information to an officer of the Clave is?"
Isabelle lifted her chin, her eyes blazing. In that moment she looked like nothing more than a smaller copy of her mother. "Of course I realize it. I'm not stupid."
"Christ, Imogen," Luke snapped, "do you honestly have nothing better to do that bully a bunch of children? Isabelle told you she didn't see anything; now leave it."
"Children?" The Inquisitor turned her icicle gaze on Luke. "Just as you were children when the Circle plotted the destruction of the Clave? Just as my son was a child when he --" She caught herself with a sort of gasp, as if gaining control of herself by main force.
"So this is about Stephen after all," said Luke, with a sort of pity in his voice. "Imogen--"
The Inquisitor's face contorted. "This is not about Stephen! This is about the Law!" She turned on Isabelle, who shrank back, startled at the fury on the older woman's face. "By defying me, you break the Law, Isabelle Lightwood! I could have you stripped of your Marks for this!"
Isabelle had recovered her composure. "You can take your Law," she said in a measured tone, "and shove it right up your--"
"She's lying." The words were spoken flatly, almost without affect. It Clary a moment just to realize that it was Jace speaking; he moved to stand in front of the Inquisitor, partly blocking Isabelle from her view. "You're right. I did everything you said I did. I took the cycle, I went to the river, I saw my father, and I came back and stashed the bike in the alley. I admit to all of it. Now leave Isabelle alone."