“Heroes save worlds,” Clary said. “They don’t destroy them.”
“And I am offering you that chance,” said Sebastian. “When you ascend that throne, you save the world. You save your friends. You have power unlimited. I am giving you a great gift, because I love you. You can embrace your own darkness and yet always tell yourself that you did the right thing. How is that for getting everything you want?”
Clary closed her eyes for one heartbeat, and then another. Only enough time to see faces flash behind her eyelids: Jace, her mother, Luke, Simon, Isabelle, Alec. And so many more: Maia and Raphael and the Blackthorns, little Emma Carstairs, the faeries of the Seelie Court, the faces of the Clave, even the ghostly memory of her father.
She knew what she had to do. The silver seed of it had been planted in the shadows behind her heart a long time ago, and it had grown, bit by bit, watered with blood and pruned with nightmares. Until now, here, in this moment, when it blossomed like the medianox Jace had shown her all those months ago; all at once, pushing forth petals of the softest black velvet.
And wreathing itself in steel thorns.
“No,” Clary said.
She opened her eyes in time to see wounded pain flash across Sebastian’s face, an expression like a child abandoned. But it vanished almost before she could register it, crystallising into something hard and sharp and vicious. “Well then,” Sebastian said. “If you’ve made your choice – ”
“Let me finish,” Clary snapped, her voice cracking like a whip in the huge, empty room, and to her surprise her brother actually flinched, just a little. Just enough.
She didn’t climb the steps to the throne. She walked towards him, instead, calling on every drop of righteous rage she could muster and weaving them into a cloak of fire about her shoulders. She reached for Isabelle’s stance and poise and liquid, feline grace and found them waiting for her in a gilded casket behind her breastbone. “Who do you think you are, telling me what I want?” she asked, cold as frostbite. “Have you ever asked me what I wanted, Sebastian? Did you even think to?”
Her heart pounded as she approached him, her stomach tight with dread and anticipation, but she ignored it. She had eyes only for Sebastian’s dark gaze, his confusion and his wariness. He had a hand on the hilt of his sword, but he didn’t back away from her, not even when she stopped directly in front of him.
His suspicion dissolved into shock as she reached up to touch his face, utterly taken aback as she laid her palm against his jaw. She swept her thumb over his lower lip and he inhaled sharply, eyes wide and locked on her and she felt a tug of heat in the pit of her stomach, electrically stirred by the way he stared at her; as if, as if –
“What did you think you were going to do?” she asked. Her voice was snow; soft, and gentle, and ice. “You thought you could steal me, force me? Blackmail me?”
Without warning she stabbed her hand into his hair and jerked, twisting cruelly. He snarled with pain but she was ready for him, prepared for him, and she slammed the heel of her free hand into his solar plexus, wrenching on his hair so that between the two he stumbled to his knees, gasping.
“No,” Clary breathed, gazing down at him, at this dark angel kneeling at her feet, “no, Sebastian, you are going to earn me.”
He stared up at her, his chest heaving as he got his breath back, and she still had hold of his hair, the white-gold locks wound around her fingers like platinum rings. His expression was pure shock, and wonder, and a terrible dark desire that made her mouth go dry to see. “And how,” he asked, rough and low, “am I to do that, little sister?”
He didn’t fight her. Didn’t try to tug himself out of her grip, or rise to his feet, and Clary felt a warm purr rise in her throat, a flutter of smug pleasure and wild, awful elation. She smiled. “Edom,” she said softly, “is not the world I want.”
She saw understanding streak across his face like light, as it never would across Jace’s, Simon’s, her mother’s. None of them would understand what Sebastian realised in an instant, and it made her smile grow, pleased with him. She softened her hold on his hair, carding her fingers through it in a wordless reward, and felt him shudder with her approval.
“I want our world, Sebastian,” she murmured. “I want all of it.” She brushed the fingers of her free hand over his cheek meditatively. “Idris first, and Idris alone, for the first few years. Until we’re used to ruling. Then, the rest.”
“We?” he said huskily. The look on his face was very close to adoration, to triumph, to a deep, black longing.
Clary felt her lips curve, sharp and dangerous. “Make me the Nephilim’s Queen,” she said, “and I’ll take you for my consort. My beautiful, deadly weapon; the dagger at my thigh.” Her voice cooled. “But there will be rules.”
“Tell me.” His voice was hoarse.
She stroked his hair to show she was pleased with him – then tangled her fingers in it tightly, ruthlessly, jerking his head back to bare his throat. “You will not be my King,” she said, soft and cold. “But I will be your Queen. You will kill only when I say, but when I say so you will kill instantly, without hesitation. You will kneel when I tell you to kneel, crawl when I tell you to crawl. You will be my knife in the dark and the leader of my armies, and you will beg me to touch you.”
She brushed her thumb over his lips, and smirked as his breathing hitched. “I will take your Cup,” she murmured, “and the Iron Sisters will fashion it into a collar, and when they are done I will lock it around your throat.” She bent down, and touched her mouth to his hair. “And you will be mine,” she whispered.
He shuddered, his lips parting beneath her finger. “Yes,” he breathed.
So easy. Clary straightened up and examined him, smiling. “Good boy,” she said softly, letting him hear how he’d pleased her. Feeling the tight, molten coil of pleasure in her belly as he ducked his head and shivered under the weight. She trailed her fingertips down the back of his neck.
“What about Jace?” Sebastian asked hoarsely, without looking up at her.
Involuntarily, Clary glanced over her shoulder, her stomach cramping at the sight of Jace lying so still. “We’ll have to see,” she answered, keeping her voice calm. “I don’t know yet how he’ll feel about me taking you.”
His head jerked up at that, and she saw in his face that he understood what she wasn’t saying: that even if Jace was hurt, was angry, was furious, Clary wasn’t going to back down. And she wasn’t. It would break her heart if Jace couldn’t accept the bargain she had struck, but there were things more important than hearts.
Clary cupped Sebastian’s face between her hands. “You are mine,” she said, and her voice was dark. “No one will take you from me. No one will touch you but me. And you will serve only me.” Her thumbs swept across his cheekbones, soothing and possessive. “Do you understand?”
There was something vulnerable in his expression, but he nodded. He looked at her as if she were a goddess, dark and glorious and terrible, and it struck against her soul like flint against steel.
He was not her brother in any way that mattered.
“Our world is so broken,” she murmured. “The Nephilim are broken.” She thought of the Inquisitor, who had thrown Jace in a cell and tortured him with binding runes; the Consul who had locked Simon in prison; the despotic, idiotic Clave who got in the way at every turn. She thought of Shadowhunters forced to choose between their runes and their mundane loves, who could still lose their children even after they’d left the Shadow World for good. She thought of teenagers sent out to hunt demons and court death every night, and children Marked with the brands of runes before they’d even reached puberty. She thought of the fact that it had been children, not adults, who stopped the war with Valentine; and now here she was, saving the world again without an adult in sight. What did that say about the uselessness of the Angel’s children?
And what about the mundane world? Mundane governments couldn’t work together to stop climate change, and slave trafficking, and the war on women? Politicians were too afraid of losing their wealth or their voters to make the calls that needed to be made? The Western countries used their trade tariffs to cripple the third world? Then she would take the control from their hands. Sebastian would lay cities at her feet like jewels in tribute, and she would take them all, and repair what was broken. She would set it all right.
“But you’re going to help me fix them, aren’t you?” she said softly.
Sebastian’s eyes were dark. “Whatever my Queen desires,” he said raggedly.
She smiled. “You accept it, then,” she said. “You accept your choice?”
They both knew it wasn’t any choice at all.
He closed his eyes. “I do.” Barely a breath – and so heartfelt it echoed in Clary’s chest.
Gently, she tugged, raising him up from her hold on his jaw. His eyes flicked open, and after a beat he rose to his feet, carefully, watching her closely. The air around him all but shimmered with heat, with hunger, and the knowledge that it was her will holding him back – leashing him, as no one else had ever leashed him – thrilled her to the bone.
“Then kiss me,” she said. She lowered her hands to his chest. “Kiss me like you love me.”
He did not hesitate. He bent his head to hers, cradling her face in his hands as though she was unspeakably precious, made of diamond or light, and brought their lips together.
It was like sunlight on ice; sharp and bright and wild, the knowledge of what he could do a whetstone to the thrill. He was a monster in a beautiful skin, and he was not tame, but she would master him. She would make him hers, bind him to her until he could not breathe without her, and she did not care that it was wrong.
There was so much wrong in the world. What was one more drop, when she would fix all the rest?
She parted her lips, tracing his lips with the tip of her tongue, and he groaned, a deep, broken sound that traced a jolt of desire down her body and between her legs.
She didn’t love him. He didn’t love her. Not yet. But he would.
“I’ll teach you to love me, Sebastian,” she whispered against his mouth, sliding her hands into his hair once more, drawing him closer. “I’ll teach you how to be mine.”
And we will remake the world.