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City of Shadows

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   If the library had belonged in Hogwarts, then the weapons room was like a cross between Dragon Age and one of the Final Fantasy games. Brushed metal walls were nearly invisible behind the racks of weapons – every kind of sword, dagger, spear, bayonet, and even bows, both long- and cross-, had their place. Quivers of arrows hung neatly next to them. Leather armour was stacked carefully in boxes where it wasn’t hung on mannequins, and punching bags hung from the ceiling, far away from the central space. Everything smelled of metal and leather and polish, but Simon couldn’t see any guns and that seemed pretty stupid. Or did guns not work on demons?

   Alec and Jace, who was now wearing shoes, sat at a long table at the centre of the room, heads bent close together over something they had between them. At the sound of the door, they both looked up. “Where’s Hodge?” Alec demanded.

   Simon smiled as sweetly as he could. “Doing your mom.” He looked at Jace. “Hodge says I can go home to grab a few things if you’ll come with me.”

   “Don’t I get a pretty please?” Jace asked, raising an eyebrow.

   “With whipped cream and a cherry on top,” Simon answered immediately.

   Jace smirked, and then seemed to catch himself. Simon frowned at him, but Jace ducked his head to examine whatever was on the table. “We can go after we put the finishing touches on these,” he said.

   Simon walked forward. “What are ‘these’?”

   Jace moved aside so Simon could see. Three long slim dowels of faintly glowing silver rested between Jace and Alec. They didn’t look at all dangerous, unless they were glowing because they were radioactive. Since Shadowhunters apparently didn’t use guns, Simon doubted they had made the jump to nuclear weapons, however useful they might be.

   “Well, these ones are finished,” Jace explained, pointing to each one as he named it. “Sanvi, Sansanvi, and Semangelaf. And this one,” he pointed at another, “isn’t quite done yet. They’re seraph blades.”

   “You used Sanvi on that Ravener,” Simon remembered.

   Jace nodded, grinning. “See, Alec? Someone appreciates me.”

   Alec glared at them both. Simon ignored him. “It doesn’t look like a knife now,” he pointed out. “Is it magic?”

   Alec exchanged his look of annoyance for one of horror.

   “The funny thing about mundies,” Jace said to nobody in particular, “is how obsessed with magic they are for a bunch of people who don’t even know what the word means.”

   Simon leaned over and punched him – not too hard – on the shoulder. “I warned you,” he said to Jace’s surprised face. “Also, next time you can just say ‘no’. Can we head home now?”

   “Jace,” Alec exhaled, but Jace ignored him.

   “I suppose going through your mother’s things is one way to find out whether or not she’s a Shadowhunter,” he mused. He grinned crookedly. “If we go now, we should have another three, four hours of daylight.”

   “Do you want me to come with you?” Alec asked as Simon and Jace headed for the door. Simon glanced back at him. He was half out of his seat already, eyes expectant. He reminded Simon sharply of a puppy.

   “No,” Jace said without turning around, “that’s all right. Simon and I can handle this on our own.”

   If looks could kill... Simon thought. The look Alec shot him would have had him six feet under and rotted to dust, if it could have. Feeling petty and childish, Simon stuck his tongue out at him.

   Alec gaped, and the door shut between them.

   Jace lead them down the hall and into a marble-floored foyer like the one in Simon’s complex. But this one hadn’t been neglected for decades; the dust that covered most of the Institute hadn’t intruded here. An old-fashioned elevator was set into one wall. Jace pushed the button for it and it creaked as it rose from some unimaginable depths to meet them.

   “Jace?” Simon asked.

   “Yeah?”

   “How did you know I had Shadowhunter blood?”

   The elevator arrived with a final groan, and Jace unlatched the gate. The inside reminded Simon uneasily of a cage, but he supposed that was because it was one. Little bits of gilt lingered on random bars. “I guessed,” Jace said as he closed the door behind them. “It seemed like the most likely explanation.”

   “Oh,” Simon said mildly, and punched him.

   Only this time it wasn’t a joke, and Jace hit the bars with a screech of metal. He didn’t make a sound, and Simon was pretty sure he never would have been able to do that if Jace had been on guard – but he hadn’t been, and now he was holding his jaw with raw surprise written all over his face.

   Simon folded his arms over his chest and stared at the door, waiting for it to reach their level. “Next time, don’t take risks with my life without asking me first,” he said blandly. “I accept that I needed some kind of medical attention. But next time: ask first.”

   Slowly, Jace straightened. He didn’t say anything.

   By the time he reached forward to open the door Simon felt really, really awful. He’d never hit someone in his life, not even Adam Williams who had bullied him in fourth grade. And this was Jace! Who had saved his life!

   “I’m so sor – ” he began, but Jace stopped him.

   “No, you – you were right. I shouldn’t have done that. Not without asking you.” Jace grinned. “But you only get one free shot. Next time...”

   Simon laughed. “Next time, we’ll set a date and call it a duel.” He felt lighter than he had since he’d woken up in a strange bed. Hell, maybe his mom was at home. Maybe she would be there when he and Jace walked in.

   His heart sank again. She wouldn’t be. If she had reappeared she would have called.

   Unless she doesn’t have her phone, Simon told himself hopefully, but the moment was gone.

*

   They spent the first part of the train ride to Brooklyn in easy enough silence. There didn’t seem to be anything to say, and Simon wasn’t in the mood for small talk. He wanted his mom. He wanted her to be okay, and it was hard to think about anything but that.

   In an effort to distract himself, Simon swept his eyes over the rest of the train carriage. Besides himself and Jace, there were a couple of girls giggling together and sneaking glances at the two boys.

   No, Simon realised with a snort of wry amusement; not at them. At Jace.

   Well, was that really so surprising? Jace wasn’t porcelain-perfect like Alec was, but Simon would be lying if he claimed the blond Shadowhunter wasn’t good looking. Very good looking; Simon tried desperately not to remember the dreams he’d had after Pandemonium, the ones where Jace’s honey-coloured eyes had featured a little too predominantly. It really wasn’t Simon’s fault that Jace looked good covered in blood splatter – even when it was demon ichor instead of normal red blood.

   Jace’s eyebrows rose gracefully, and Simon knew he was blushing.

   “Anything I can help you with?” Jace drawled.

   Simon swallowed and cast about for an appropriate distraction. “Those girls over there are staring at you,” he blurted.

   Really? That was the best he could come up with? He wanted to face-palm himself on principle.

   Jace smirked and, yes, fine, that was a good look on him. “Of course they are,” he purred. “I am stunningly attractive.”

   You really are, Simon agreed, and only just stopped himself from saying it out loud. “No, honestly, tell me what you really think,” he deadpanned instead.

   Jace shrugged. “Only ugly people count modesty as a virtue,” he said confidingly. “The meek may inherit the earth, but at the moment it belongs to the conceited. Like me.” He winked at the two girls, who chirped like birds and hid behind their hair.

   Simon laughed. He should have been annoyed, or at least a little disgusted by Jace’s arrogance, but instead it was just funny. It made a nice change from Clary’s firm belief in her own drabness; it was kind of a relief to meet someone who knew and flaunted what they looked like.

   Jace looked pleased by Simon’s laughter.

   “How come they can see you, though?” Simon asked, leaning back in his seat. The next stop was theirs.

   “Glamours are a pain to use. Sometimes we don’t bother.”

   Jace was still happy when they left the train. Out on the street again, he plucked one of the seraph blades from his pocket and started flipping it back and forth between his fingers and across his knuckles, like a coin trick. He was even humming, something that sounded maddeningly familiar but which Simon couldn’t place.

   Simon breathed deeply and tipped his head back as they walked up the hill to the house. He was feeling good again, as if Jace’s good humour was infecting him, and he liked it. But he couldn’t deny the frission of fear as they passed the box hedges around the complex.

   And it got worse. There was no sign of what had happened, not from the outside at least: no police tape, no broken glass. The brownstone house looked warm, touched with gold by the afternoon light, but it seemed too picturesque, like a serial killer in a beautiful suit – as though it were hiding something.

   Jace reached into his jeans pocket and drew out another Sensor. Simon couldn’t believe he’d mistaken it for a phone; despite the similarity of its plastic and metal shape, it was covered in tiny runes, with no numbers in sight. “How does that thing work, anyway?”

   “It picks up frequencies, like a radio does. But these frequencies are demonic in origin.”

   Simon nodded. “Demon shortwave.”

   Jace glanced at him. “Something like that.” He held the Sensor out in front of him as he approached, and almost immediately it started clicking.

   Simon raised his eyebrows. “I’m guessing that’s not good.”

   Jace frowned. “It’s picking up trace activity, but that could just be left over from the other night. I’m not getting anything strong enough for there to be demons present now.”

   “If you’re sure.” But Jace was the Shadowhunter, not Simon – no matter what was in his veins – so he deferred to the other boy’s expertise. When he reached for the door, keys extended, Jace placed a hand on his arm.

   “I’ll go first.”

   Very gently, because he understood and appreciated the gesture, Simon pushed Jace’s arm away. Even though the thought of facing another demon made him want to be sick, even though it made adrenalin pool cold and venomous in his stomach – “I can’t hide behind you.”

   Jace glared at him. “This is not the time for pride,” he started, but Simon cut him off.

   “It’s – it’s not about pride. I swear. It’s...” Simon struggled to find the words – or, not the words, because those were easy and obvious. But words that he could safely say, ones that wouldn’t turn things awkward, wouldn’t weigh between them like stones. “It’s not that I’m not terrified. I am, okay? But if I let it rule me, it’s always going to. And I have the feeling that sorting this out – ” finding his mother, and whoever was sending demons after them, and maybe even discovering more about having Shadowhunter blood, “ – is going to take a while. I can’t...” He ran his hand through his hair. “I can’t afford to get into the habit of being scared,” he said finally.

   Instead of answering, Jace pushed something into Simon’s hand. “Take this, then.”

   Simon glanced down. Jace had handed him one of the seraph blades. “Um... I’m touched, really, but this isn’t what I – ” 

   “Say its name – Simiel – and it will extend,” Jace said over him. His gold eyes were less honey and more yellow diamond, now – hard and unyielding. “You’re not going in there without it.”

   Uncertain, Simon folded his fingers around the cool crystal. The round ingot fit perfectly into his palm, and it felt – important. Symbolic of something larger. He didn’t know enough about Shadowhunters or their weapons to be able to say for sure, but he felt like – like it wasn’t normal for Jace to be handing over a seraph blade. Especially not to some untrained mundie. “I think you’ll regret that when I take my own eye out, but thank you.”

   Jace dipped his head in acknowledgement. “Now, can we go?”

   The interior was dark, and for a moment Simon froze on the threshold, adrenalin-certain that something would spring at him from the shadows if he entered. But he shoved himself forward, taking in the bulb that had yet to be replaced, and the disgustingly dirty skylight. It was those, not demons, that had cloaked the foyer in darkness.

   “Wait,” Jace ordered as Simon was about to climb the stairs. The Shadowhunter ran his fingers over the banister, and even in the bad light Simon could tell that they came away wet.

   “Is – is that – ”

   “Blood,” Jace said simply. He rubbed his fingers together, frowning.

   Simon swallowed hard. Wet meant fresh. “Could it – do you think it’s my mom’s?” he asked lowly. Could Jocelyn have come back here, only to run into – what? Another Ravener?

   No. No. The world would not be that cruel.

   “No way to tell.” Jace lowered his arm. “Come on.” He jerked his chin up the stairs, and this time Simon didn’t protest when Jace took point.

   Simon clutched the seraph blade Jace had lent – or given? – him. “Simiel,” he whispered. It extended with the softest snick into a shard of ice or starlight that was more short-sword than knife, but if Jace heard it he pretended not to.

   The door to his apartment was closed, but unlocked. Jace gestured sharply but this time, with Simiel glowing like starlight on black water in his hand, Simon refused to hide in the blond’s shadow. Jace scowled but Simon ignored him – and his own pounding pulse – and stepped inside.

   The hallway was dark, almost pitch black, but Simon had lived here his whole life; he could have found his way around blindfolded and hopping on one leg. Automatically he turned into the sitting room, drawn by some masochistic instinct to look over the damage again.

   But it was gone. Not just the mess, but – everything. The room was stripped bare, so that Simon felt as if he were viewing a flat on the market, not standing in the middle of his own home. Even the curtains were gone; even the carpet.

   Without a word Simon spun on his heel and moved into the kitchen, Jace padding silently beside him like a tiger. It made Simon forget to be afraid, having this sleek, powerful creature at his side. Tiger, Tiger, burning bright...

   The kitchen was just as empty.

   “I will allow,” Simon said slowly, “that a refrigerator might be useful for storing bodies, if you took the shelves out. But I can’t think of any reason demons would want a microwave.” He paused. “Cannibal microwave meals?”

   “I’ve no idea, but I’m not sensing any demonic presences right now. I’d say they’re long gone.”

   Simon breathed slowly and carefully. “Let me check my room,” he said quietly. “And then – then I guess we can get out of here.”

   He wasn’t sure what he was expecting as he made his way between rooms. Would his room be naked, too? In his head, it was untouched, exactly as he’d left it, but he knew full well that was only because he couldn’t imagine it unmade. A person’s room was their sanctuary, and the thought of some interloper – demons – going through his things, taking them, made him feel violated. His room was the summation of himself. It couldn’t just be – gone.

   He paused a moment too long with his hand on the handle of his bedroom door.

   It blew outward with a burst of sound, slamming into Simon and sending him flying; he hit the wall, and Simiel tumbled uselessly from his fingers. His ears were full of roaring.

   Jace fumbled in his pocket, his face a mask of surprise. Framed in the doorway was an enormous thing that Simon at first thought was an Uruk-hai. But no, it wasn’t as ugly as the Tolkien orcs, and it looked – it looked human, mostly, just corpse-pale and filthy.

   The enormous axe in its hand didn’t look too clean either.

   “Sansanvi!” Jace shouted, and the little cylinder became as long as his forearm, wicked as a shard of glass. It lashed out and the creature roared, stumbling backwards clumsily.

   Instantly Jace spun and raced for Simon. Without pausing, he wrenched Simon up by his arm and shoved him ahead.

   “Wait!” Simon yelled. He scooped Simiel up from the ground before Jace – who hadn’t let go of him – could pull him out of range.

   “Are you mad?!” Jace shouted. The thing was coming after them, its footsteps so heavy they vibrated through the floorboards. But despite that it was fast; Simon didn’t have to look back to know it was gaining. He was breathlessly terrified, but also disconnected, as though he were running through molasses; the world was strange and heavy and something apart from himself.

   This just can’t be real.

   They hurtled through the entryway and onto the wide landing. Jace whipped around and slammed the door closed with a kick. Simon heard the lock engage and clutched the stair’s banister, trying to catch his breath, figuring that now, they must be safe –

   The door shook on its hinges; Simon yelped, and immediately clapped his hand over his mouth. But Jace didn’t notice. “Get downstairs!” he ordered. His eyes were bright, almost manic, as if he’d just hit the high of some drug. “Get out of the – ”

   Another blow came, and this time the door surrendered; it flew free of its hinges, and if Jace hadn’t moved quicker than thought he would have been hit. Abruptly Jace was on the other side of the landing, as if frames had been cut from a film – one moment here; the next, elsewhere, with nothing in between. He shouted something, but Simon couldn’t hear what it was, not over the creature’s bellows as it burst from the doorway, swinging its axe.

   “Jace!” Simon shouted. Jace only laughed.

   The insult of it drove the creature mad. It hurled itself at Jace, abandoning its axe in favour of raising its bowling-ball fists. And Jace –

   Spun, like a dancer, flowing out of the way like he was made of water, and as the giant bowled past him he slashed Sansanvi across its shoulder.

   The monster roared. Simon scrambled to his feet, his palm sweaty against Simiel’s cool crystal. He didn’t know what to do. Jace had told him to run, but Simon – he couldn’t do that, couldn’t leave Jace to face this thing on his own. It didn’t matter that Jace was trained for this, that he knew what he was doing when Simon didn’t. He couldn’t abandon the guy who’d saved his life.

   Jace was circling, darting back and forth like a cat, avoiding the monster’s clumsy snatches. Simon could hear the ocean in his ears, and he thought he might be shaking; he felt frozen and hot, both at once.

   It’s just like a video game. It’s just like a video game, Simon chanted silently, but even his mental voice was edging closer to hysterical than calm. Come on. Come on. Come on, you said you weren’t going to be scared, you said that, come on, you can do this, just move, just move, just – move –

   He ran forward, nearly as clumsily as the giant. He had enough sense to skirt around in the dimmer parts of the landing. It’s just like a video game, it’s just like a video game!

   Thank Harkness this house used to be grand. If the landing hadn’t had the square footage to rival Simon’s apartment... If he and Jace and the Forsaken had been stuck in a balcony-sized space...

   Jace lunged, his blond hair and seraph blade glinting in the faint light. Simon didn’t see the hit, only heard the monster bellow, bull-like, and saw the spray of red blood, saw Jace’s wild, elated grin. 

   Simon stared. The monster swayed on its feet, its bulbous, black-latticed face twisted into a grimace of shock. Then it fell, forward, hands out and grasping. Jace moved, but this time he wasn’t quite quick enough, Simon saw it coming, it was going to grab Jace and they would go down together, down the stairs and into the dark –

   That was – unacceptable, that was completely unacceptable, no, Simon’s mind flashed and sparked at a thousand light-years a second and no, no, no, he sprinted the short distance and jumped from his toes, just like a springboard. Simiel plunged into the creature’s back and Simon heard a snarl like that of a wild animal, fierce and vicious and full of rage.

   He didn’t realise until later that the sound had come from his own lips.

   The force of his leap drove the seraph blade in deep, but he’d leapt at an angle and the Forsaken half-turned in mid-air, arms thick as trees reaching for him in its death-throes. One caught Simon in the shoulder and flung him clear – not far, but he landed hard on his back, gasping at the shock of dull pain.

   Simiel glittered in the monster’s back, at the top of its spine.

   Before Simon could really process what had just happened Jace was kneeling at his side,   “Simon!” His voice was panicked. “What’s wrong? Did it get you?” He ran his hands over Simon’s shoulders, arms, his chest, frantic. “I can’t see – where are you hurt, Simon, where are you hurt – ”

   “Wh-what?” Simon sat upright, groaning at the ache in his muscles. “What are you talking abou – ”

   He glanced down, and his heart nearly stopped. His shirt was covered in blood. Christ, had he been hurt, had he cut himself with Simiel somehow?

   He swallowed hard. “No – no, Jace, calm down, it’s – I don’t think any of it’s mine. Stop that,” he added sharply, and Jace withdrew his hands as if burned. “Just – just give me a second, okay?”

   Jace nodded mutely, his eyes wide, and Simon took a deep breath and banished the memory of Jace’s hands on him.

   “Alec’s going to kill me for getting blood on his shirt, isn’t he?” he asked finally, when he thought he was more or less solid again. He was beginning to get the adrenalin shakes, and his arm felt bruised, but – but he felt okay.

   “Forget Alec, I’m going to murder you if you keep stealing my kills,” Jace said lightly. “You’re beginning to make me look bad.” Despite his tone, there was a wild look around his eyes. Simon wondered if the same expression was etched around his own, and reminded himself that adrenalin did not justify pulling the Shadowhunter down and laying one on him. But God, he wanted to. Just, right now – right now he desperately wanted to be close to somebody.

   He took another deep breath. Jace wasn’t really the one he wanted, but thank God Clary wasn’t here. “Yeah, well. You’ll just have to step up your game.” Simon pushed gently at Jace’s shoulder. “I mean, so far, I have to admit that I’m not very impressed.”

   Jace looked scandalised, and Simon laughed. It was a short bark of a laugh, and it sounded a little hysterical even to his own ears, but – still.

   And then his eyes found the corpse again, and he sobered. “Um, Jace – I thought the bodies vanished when you killed them?”

   Jace shook his head. “No, I said that’s what happened to demons.” Standing up, he went and retrieved Simiel from the Forsaken’s back. He wiped it on his shirt, and when he handed it back to Simon it was no longer a knife, just a little dowel of crystal again. Simon clutched it so tightly his knuckles turned bone-white. “That wasn’t a demon. It was a Forsaken – which is what you get when you put Marks on a mundane. If they don’t die outright.” He nudged the body with his boot. “We’re going to have to report this to Hodge,” he said. “He’ll freak out.” He sounded delighted by the prospect.

   Simon was more concerned with the dawning horror in his chest. “You risked turning me into that?” he demanded.

   Jace pulled a face. “I thought we were past that?”

   Simon ground his teeth, but it was true. He had punched Jace and Jace had allowed it. The rules of Guy Code said that the issue was dealt with. “Well, if it’s dead, I still want to go check my room,” he said firmly.

   Jace looked up at the ceiling as if appealing to God. “There might be more of them,” he told the roof conversationally. “If you insist on going back in there, this time I really am sweeping it first.”

   “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a familiar voice shrilled. “There are more of them where the first one came from.”

   Jace whirled to stare down the steps. Simon struggled to his feet and padded up next to him, peering into the gloom. “Madame Dorothea?” he asked uncertainly.

   The old woman nodded her turban-crowned head regally. Standing in the doorway of her apartment, she was half-drowned in purple silk and gold chains that shone in the dark.

   “But...” Jace was looking confused.

   “More Forsaken?” Simon asked.

   “Indeed,” Dorothea replied, with a cheerfulness that seemed spiteful in its intensity. “You have made a mess, haven’t you? I’m sure you weren’t planning on cleaning up, either. Typical.”

   “But you’re a mundane,” Jace protested.

   “Nobody cares,” Simon told him.

   “So observant,” Dorothea added. “The Clave really broke the mould with you.”

   Jace’s expression was morphing from bewilderment to anger. “You know about the Clave?” he demanded. “You knew about them, and you knew there were Forsaken in this house, and you didn’t notify them? Just the existence of Forsaken is a crime against the Covenant – ”

   “Neither Clave nor Covenant have ever done anything for me,” Madame Dorothea sniffed. “I owe them nothing.” For a moment her familiar New York accent slid into something else – something deep and thick.

   “Jace, shut up,” Simon ordered tiredly. The blood was wet, making his shirt stick to his skin, and he desperately wanted to change into something clean, desperately did not want to think about what had just happened. It used to be a person. That thing was – “Madame Dorothea, do you know what happened to my mom?”

   Dorothea’s earrings swung wildly as she shook her head, glinting in the dim light of the skylight. “My advice to you,” she said quietly, with something far too close to pity on her face, “is to forget about your mother. She’s gone.”

   A bullet couldn’t have hurt as much, and Simon stumbled back as if he really had been shot. Cold. Everything was instantly cold and dizzying and – “She’s dead?” he whispered. No. Please, please, please – no.

   “No,” Dorothea said slowly. Reluctantly. “I’m sure she’s still alive. For now.”

   Simon closed his eyes and pressed the heels of his hands to them, fingers slipping stickily beneath his glasses. Oh thank God. He could breathe again. His knees felt weak. He swallowed. “Then I have to find her.” It was that simple.

   He lowered his hands when Jace touched his elbow, his face concerned.

   “I have to find her,” Simon said again, to Jace this time.

   Jace nodded. “We will,” he promised, gently, as though Simon might break if he’d heard any other words. Simon couldn’t fault him for his fear; it seemed a valid one, just then.

   “Do you know where she is?” Simon asked, turning back to Dorothea.

   She held up her hand in a warding gesture. “I don’t want to involve myself in Shadowhunter business.”

   The cold still lingered under his skin, like ice that hadn’t quite melted. The chill of it stabbed into his brain and his voice cut the air like a dagger, like Simiel, hard and arctic and so ruthless that it scared him. “I don’t give a damn about ‘Shadowhunter business’. I don’t give a damn about the Clave. I want to find my mother.”

   For a moment, no one spoke. Jace looked shocked; Dorothea, calculating. Simon didn’t take his eyes from her face. He didn’t threaten her. Right then, he felt as though he didn’t need to, as if he was the threat, standing there on the stairs covered in blood with a seraph blade in his hand.

   Finally, Dorothea nodded, and Simon felt the tension waterfall out of his chest. “I suppose you might as well come in,” she said slowly. “Why don’t you and your pet Shadowhunter go and change out of those bloody clothes – I happen to know they left your room alone – ” Simon thought about asking how she knew that, but then changed his mind, “and then we can have tea like civilised people.”

   Simon dipped his head. “That would be wonderful,” he said honestly as Jace bristled. Without thinking he clapped his hand over the blond’s mouth, before he could say something to make Dorothea change her mind.

   Dorothea’s eyes glittered with amusement. “I think I’m going to enjoy this,” she murmured.