Emma stood in front of the mirror in her bathroom, slowly peeling off her tank top.
Twenty minutes with a bottle of bleach had removed the blood from the inside of the Toyota. That had been fine. She was used to bloodstains. But there was something more visceral about this, about Julian’s blood dried on her skin, red-brown patches over her ribs and shoulder. As she unzipped her jeans and wriggled out of them, she could see splatters of dried blood along the waistband, the telltale pinpricks of it up and down the seams.
She balled up the jeans and top and threw them in the trash.
In the shower, the water scalding hot, she scrubbed away the blood and dirt and sweat. She watched the water run pinkish down the drain. She couldn’t count how many times that had happened, how often she’d made herself bleed during training and battles. Scars slashed across her midriff and shoulders, along her arms, at the backs of her knees.
But Julian’s blood was different.
When she saw it she thought of him, shot and crumpling, the way his blood had run like water through her fingers. It was the first time in years that she’d actually thought he might die, that she might lose him. She knew what people said about parabatai, knew that it was meant to be a loss as profound as that of a spouse or a sibling. Emma had lost her parents; she had thought she knew what loss was, was prepared for it.
But nothing had prepared her for the feeling that the idea of losing Jules wrenched out of her: that the sky would go dark forever, that there would never be solid ground again. Even stranger had been the feeling that had rushed through her when she realized he was going to be all right. She had become aware of his physical presence in a way that almost hurt. She had wanted to put her arms around him, to grab on to him with her fingers digging in as if she could press them together hard enough to seal their skin, interlock their bones. She knew it didn’t make sense, but she couldn’t explain it another way.
She just knew it was intense, and painful, and a thing she hadn’t felt about Julian before. And that it scared her.
The water had gone cold. She spun the shower off with a savage twist of her wrist, stepped out, and toweled her hair dry. She found a clean camisole and boxer shorts folded on her laundry basket and, dressed, stepped out into her bedroom.
Cristina was sitting on her bed.
“Whoa,” Emma said. “I didn’t know you were in here! I could have come out of the bathroom stark naked or something.”
“I doubt you have anything I don’t have.” Cristina looked distracted; her dark hair was down in braids, and she was interweaving her fingers the way she did when she was preoccupied.
“Is everything all right?” Emma asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “You look—bothered.” “Do you think Mark had friends in the Wild Hunt?” Cristina asked abruptly.
“No.” Emma was taken aback. “At least he’s never mentioned any. And you’d think he would have, if there was someone he missed.” She frowned. “Why?”
Cristina hesitated. “Well, he borrowed that motorcycle tonight from someone. I just hope he hasn’t gotten himself in any trouble.”
“Mark’s clever,” said Emma. “I doubt he bartered his soul for the temporary use of a motorbike or anything.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Cristina murmured, and glanced toward Emma’s wardrobe. “Can I borrow a dress?”
“Right now?” Emma said. “Have you got a midnight date?”
“No, for tomorrow night.” Cristina got to her feet to peer into the wardrobe. Several badly folded rayon dresses fell out. “It is meant to be formal. I didn’t bring any formal dresses with me from home.” “You won’t fit into anything of mine,” Emma said as Cristina held up a black dress with a design of
rockets and frowned at it. “We’re different shapes. You’re way more—boom-chicka-boom.” “Is that even English?” Cristina frowned, tossing the rocket dress onto a shelf and shutting the
wardrobe door. “I don’t think that’s English.”
Emma smiled at her. “I’ll take you shopping tomorrow,” she said. “Deal?” “That seems so normal.” Cristina smoothed her braids back. “After tonight . . .” “Cameron called me,” Emma said.
“I know,” Cristina said. “I was in the kitchen. Why are you telling me now? Are you back together?” Emma rocked backward on the bed. “No! He was warning me. He told me that there were people who
didn’t want me investigating these murders.”
“Emma.” Cristina sighed. “And you didn’t say anything to us?”
“He said it about me,” Emma said. “I figured any danger would be my danger.”
“But Julian got hurt,” said Cristina, knowing what Emma was going to say before she said it. “So you are worrying it was your fault.”
Emma picked at the fringe on the edge of her blanket. “Isn’t it? I mean, Cameron warned me, he said he heard it at the Shadow Market, so I don’t know if it was mundanes talking or faeries or warlocks or what, but the fact is, he warned me and I ignored it.”
“It was not your fault. We already know there’s someone, a necromancer most likely, killing and sacrificing mundanes and Downworlders. We already know he has an army of Mantid demons at his beck and call. It isn’t as if Julian wasn’t expecting and prepared for danger.”
“He almost died on me,” Emma said. “There was so much blood.”
“And you fixed him. He’s fine. You saved his life.” Cristina waved a hand—her nails were perfect, shining ovals, where Emma’s were ragged from sparring and training. “Why are you second-guessing yourself, Emma? Is it because Julian was hurt and that frightened you? Because you have taken risks since the first time I ever met you. It is part of who you are. And Julian knows that. He doesn’t just know it, he likes it.”
“Does he? He’s always telling me not to risk myself—”
“He has to,” said Cristina. “You are the two halves of a whole. You must be different, like light and shadow—he brings you caution to temper your recklessness, and you bring him recklessness to temper his caution. Without each other you would not function as well as you do. That is what parabatai means.” She tugged lightly on the ends of Emma’s wet hair. “I do not think it is Cameron that is bothering you. That is just an excuse to berate yourself. I think it is that Julian was hurt.”
“Maybe,” Emma said in a tight voice.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Cristina’s dark brown eyes were worried.
“I’m fine.” Emma sat back against the pillows. She collected kitschy California pillows: some looked like postcards, some were shaped like the state or said I LOVE CALI.
“You don’t look fine,” Cristina said. “You look like—my mother used to say there was a look people got when they realized something. You look like someone who has realized something.”
Emma wanted to close her eyes, to hide her thoughts from Cristina. Thoughts that were treacherous, dangerous, wrong to have.
“Just shock,” she said. “I came close to losing Julian and—it threw me off. I’ll be fine tomorrow.” She forced a smile.
“If you say so, manita.” Cristina sighed. “If you say so.”
After Julian cleaned himself up, washed the blood off, and arranged to send the shreds of his poison-burned gear jacket to Malcolm, he walked down the hall to Emma’s room.
And stopped halfway. He’d wanted to lie down on the bed beside her, and for them to talk over the night’s events, and to close their eyes together, with the sound of her breathing like the sound of the ocean, measuring out the steps toward sleep.
But. When he thought of that night in the back of the car, of Emma hovering over him, panic on her face and blood on her hands, he didn’t feel what he knew he should feel: fear, the memory of pain, relief that he’d healed.
Instead he felt a tightening in his body that sent an ache down to the center of his bones. When he closed his eyes, he saw Emma in the witchlight, her hair tumbling out of its fastening, the light of the streetlamps shining through the strands and turning them to a sheet of pale summer-frozen ice.
Emma’s hair. Maybe because she took it down so rarely, maybe because Emma with her hair down was one of the first things he’d ever wanted to paint, but the long, looping pale strands of it had always been like cords that connected directly to his nerves.
His head hurt, and his body ached unreasonably, wanting to be back in that car with her. It made no sense, so he forced his steps away from her door, down the hall, to the library. It was dark in there and cold and smelled of old paper. Still, Julian didn’t need a light; he knew exactly what section of the room he was headed toward.
Julian was pulling down a red-bound book from a high shelf when a reedy cry drifted down the hall. He grabbed hold of the tome and was out of the room in an instant, rushing down the corridor. He rounded the corner and saw Drusilla’s door open. She was leaning out of it, witchlight in hand, her round face illuminated. Her pajamas were covered in a pattern of frightening masks.
“Tavvy’s been crying,” she said. “He stopped for a while, but then he started again.”
“Thanks for telling me.” He dropped a kiss on her forehead. “Go back to bed, I’ll deal with it.” Drusilla withdrew, and Julian slipped into Tavvy’s room, closing the door behind him.
Tavvy was a curled-up ball under the covers of his bed. He was asleep, his body curved around one of his pillows, his mouth open on a gasp. Tears ran down his face.
Julian sat down on the bed and put a hand on Tavvy’s shoulder. “Octavian,” he said. “Wake up; you’re having a nightmare, wake up.”
Tavvy shot upright, his brown hair in wild disarray. When he saw Julian, he hiccuped and flung himself at his older brother, arms wrapping around his neck.
Jules held Tavvy and rubbed his back, gently patting the sharp knobs of his spine. Too small, too skinny, his mind said. It had been a battle to get Tavvy to eat and sleep ever since the Dark War.
He remembered running through the streets of Alicante with Tavvy in his arms, stumbling on the
cracked paving, trying to keep his little brother’s face mashed against his shoulder so that he wouldn’t see the blood and the death all around him. Thinking that if they could just get through everything without Tavvy seeing what was happening, it would be all right. He wouldn’t remember. He wouldn’t know.
And still Tavvy woke up with nightmares every week, shaking and sweating and crying. And every time it happened, the dull realization that he hadn’t really saved his baby brother at all went through Julian like spikes.
Tavvy’s breaths evened out slowly as Julian sat there, arms around him. He wanted to lie down, wanted to curl up around his youngest brother and sleep. He needed rest so badly it was dragging at him, like a wave pulling him under and down.
But he couldn’t sleep. His body felt restless, unsettled. The arrow going into him had been agony; pulling it out had been worse. He’d felt his skin tear and a moment of pure, animalistic panic, the surety that he was going to die, and then what would happen to them, livvyandtyanddrusillaandtavvyandmark? And then Emma’s voice in his ear, and her hands on him, and he’d known he was going to live. He
looked at himself now, the mark on his ribs entirely gone—well, there was something there, a faint line of white against his tanned skin, but that was nothing. Shadowhunters lived through scars. Sometimes he thought they lived for them.
Unbidden, in his mind rose the image he’d been trying to crush down since he’d returned to the Institute: Emma, in his lap, her hands on his shoulders. Her hair like drifts of pale gold around her face.
He remembered thinking that if he died, at least he would die with her as close to him as she could possibly be. As would ever be allowed by the Law.
As Tavvy slept, Julian reached for the law book he’d taken from the library. It was a book he’d looked at so many times that it now always fell open to the same well-worn page. On Parabatai, it said.
It is decreed that those who have undergone the ceremony of parabatai and are forever bound by the terms of the oaths of Saul and David, of Ruth and Naomi, shall not enter into marriage, shall not bear children together, and shall not love each other in the manner of eros, but only the manner of philia or agape.
The punishment for the contravention of this law shall be, at the discretion of the Clave: the separation of the parabatai in question from each other, exile from their families, and should the criminal behavior continue, the stripping of their Marks and their expulsion from the Nephilim. Never again shall they be Shadowhunters.
So it is decreed by Raziel.
Sed lex, dura lex. The Law is hard, but it is the Law.
When Emma came into the kitchen, Julian was by the sink, cleaning up the remains of breakfast. Mark was leaning against the kitchen island in dark jeans and a black shirt. With his new short hair, in the daylight, he looked astonishingly different from the ragged feral boy who’d pushed back his hood in the Sanctuary. She’d gone for a deliberately long run on the beach that morning, missing the family meal on purpose,
trying to clear her head. She grabbed a bottled smoothie out of the refrigerator instead. When she turned around, Mark was grinning.
“As I understand it, what I am currently wearing is not semiformal enough for the performance tonight?” he inquired.
Emma glanced from him to Julian. “So Mr. Rules unbent and decided you could come tonight?” Julian gave a fluid shrug. “I’m a reasonable man.”
“Ty and Livvy have promised to help me find something to wear,” said Mark, heading for the kitchen door.
“Don’t trust them,” Julian called after him. “Don’t—” He shook his head as the door closed. “Guess he’ll have to learn on his own.”
“That reminds me,” Emma said, leaning on the counter. “We have an emergency situation.” “An emergency?” With a concerned look, he thumbed off the water and turned to face her.
Emma set her bottled drink down. Soap suds were clinging to Jules’s forearms, and his T-shirt was damp from the hot water. She couldn’t help a flash of memory: Jules in the back of the car, looking up at her with gritted teeth. The way his skin had felt, under her hands, the slipperiness of his blood.
“Is it Diana?” he said, reaching for paper towels.
“What?” That snapped her out of her reverie. “Is Diana all right?”
“Presumably,” he said. “She left a note saying she was going to be gone today. Back to Ojai to see her warlock friend.”
“She doesn’t know about tonight.” Emma leaned on the counter. “Does she?”
Jules shook his head. A damp curl stuck to his cheekbone. “Didn’t exactly get a chance to tell her.” “You could text,” Emma pointed out. “Or call.”
“I could,” he said neutrally. “But then I’d feel like I needed to tell her about me getting hurt last night.” “Maybe you should.”
“I’m fine,” he said. “I mean, really, fine. Like nothing ever happened.” He shook his head. “I don’t want her insisting I stay back from tonight. The theater could be nothing, but if it’s something, I want to be there.” He dropped the paper towels in the trash. “If you’re there, I want to be there.”
“I like it when you’re deceptive.” Emma stretched up on her toes, arms behind her head, trying to work out the kinks in her back muscles. Cool air touched the bare skin of her stomach as her tank pulled up. “If you’re totally fine, though, maybe you don’t ever have to tell Diana? Just a suggestion.”
When Julian didn’t answer, she glanced up at him.
He was arrested midmotion, looking at her. Each of his lashes was a perfect dark line; he was expressionless, his gaze shuttered, as if caught in a peculiar stillness.
He was beautiful. The most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. She wanted to crawl inside his skin, live where he breathed. She wanted.
She was terrified. She had never wanted like this around Julian before. It was because he’d almost died, she told herself. Her whole system was wired to monitor his survival. She needed him to live. He’d nearly died, and everything inside her was short-circuiting.
He would be horrified, she told herself. If he knew how she was feeling—he’d be disgusted. Things would go back to the way they were when he’d first come back from England, when she’d thought that he was angry at her. That maybe he hated her.
He knew even then, said a small voice at the back of her mind. He knew about your feelings. He knew what you didn’t know.
She pressed her hands hard against the counter, the marble digging into her palms, the pain clearing her head. Shut up, she told the voice in her head. Shut up.
“An emergency.” His voice was low. “You said there was an emergency?”
“A fashion emergency—Cristina needs a dress to blend in tonight, and there’s literally nothing in the house.” She glanced at her watch. “It should take us thirty minutes, tops.”
He relaxed, clearly relieved. “Hidden Treasures?” he asked. It was a good guess: Emma’s favorite vintage store was well known to the family. Every time she went she picked things up for them: a bow tie for Tavvy, a flowered headband for Livvy, an old horror movie poster for Dru.
“Yep. Do you want anything?”
“I’ve always kind of wanted a Batman clock that says ‘WAKE UP, BOY WONDER’ when it goes off,”
he said. “It would liven up my room.”
“We’ve got it!” Livvy said, bounding into the kitchen. “Well, some of it, anyway. But it’s weird.” Emma turned to her with relief. “Got what?”
“In English, Livvy,” said Julian. “What’s weird?”
“We translated some of the lines in the cave,” said Ty, trailing in on Livvy’s heels. He was wearing an oversize gray hooded sweater that swallowed up his hands. His dark hair spilled over the edge of the hood. “But they don’t make sense.”
“Are they a message?” Emma said.
Livvy shook her head. “Lines from a poem,” she said, unfolding the paper she held.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee. . . .
“‘Annabel Lee,’” said Julian. “Edgar Allan Poe.”
“I know the poem,” Livvy said, scrunching up her eyebrows. “I just don’t know why it was written on the walls of the cave.”
“I thought maybe it was a book cipher,” said Ty. “But that would mean there was a second half of it. Something in another location, maybe. Might be worth checking with Malcolm.”
“I’ll add it to the list,” said Julian.
Cristina stuck her head in through the kitchen door. “Emma?” she said. “Are you ready to go?” “You look worried,” said Livvy. “Is Emma taking you somewhere to kill you?”
“Worse,” Emma said, heading over to join Cristina at the door. “Shopping.”
“For tonight? First, I am so jealous, and second, don’t let her take you to that place in Topanga Canyon —”
“That’s enough!” Emma clapped her hands over Cristina’s ears. “Don’t listen to her. She’s lost her mind from all that code breaking.”
“Pick me up some cuff links,” Jules called, heading back toward the sink. “What color?” Emma paused halfway out the door with Cristina.
“I don’t care as long as they hold my cuffs together. Otherwise they’ll be sad and unlinked,” Jules said. “And get back as quick as you can.” The sound of the water running in the sink was drowned out by Livvy, who had already begun reciting more of the poem.
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea . . .
“This is where you want to buy clothes?” Cristina asked, her eyebrows arched, as Emma pulled the Toyota into a dirt parking lot surrounded by trees.
“It’s the closest place,” Emma said, turning off the car. In front of them was a single freestanding building with a sign boasting foot-high letters in glitter that spelled out the words HIDDEN TREASURES. A massive red-and-white popcorn machine stood next to the store, along with a painted model of a curtained caravan, advertising the services of Gargantua the Great. “And besides, it’s awesome.”
“This does not look like a place you buy glamorous dresses,” Cristina said, wrinkling up her nose.
“This looks like a place where you are kidnapped and sold to the circus.” Emma grabbed her by the wrist. “Don’t you trust me?” she wheedled. “Of course not,” Cristina said. “You’re crazy.”
But she let Emma drag her into the store, which was filled with kitschy knickknacks: Fiestaware platters, old china dolls, and, up by the register, racks of vintage jewelry and watches. A second room opened off the first. It was full of clothes—amazing clothes. Secondhand vintage Levi’s, fifties pencil skirts in tweed and bombazine, and tops in silk and lace and crushed velvet.
And in a smaller second room off the main one, the dresses. They looked like hanging butterflies: sheets of red organza, watercolor-printed charmeuse, the hem of a Balmain gown, the froth of a tulle petticoat, like foam on water.
“Didn’t Julian say he needed cuff links?” Cristina said, pulling Emma to a stop by the counter. The salesgirl behind it, wearing a pair of cat’s-eye glasses and a name tag that said SARAH, studiously ignored them.
Emma ran her eyes over the display of men’s cuff links—most were joke items, shaped like dice or guns or cats, but there was a section of nicer ones: consignment Paul Smith and Burberry and Lanvin.
As she ran her gaze over them, she felt suddenly shy. Picking out cuff links seemed like something a girlfriend would do. Not that she’d ever done it for Cameron, or anyone else she’d dated even briefly, but she’d never cared enough to want to. When Julian had a girlfriend, Emma knew, she would absolutely be the sort of girl who would pick out cuff links for him. Who would remember his birthday and call him every day. She would adore him. How could she not?
Emma picked up a pair of gold-plated cuff links with black stones set in them, almost blindly. The thought of Julian with a girlfriend sent a pain through her that she couldn’t comprehend.
Setting the cuff links down on the counter, she walked into the small room full of dresses. Cristina followed her, looking worried.
I used to come here with my mom, Emma thought, running the back of her hand across the rack of satins and silks and bright rayons. She loved crazy vintage things, old Chanel jackets, beaded flapper dresses. But out loud all she said was “We have to hurry—we shouldn’t be spending so much time away from the Institute while the investigation’s happening.”
Cristina grabbed up a shimmering cocktail dress in pink brocade sprinkled with tiny gold flowers. “I’m going to try this on.”
She disappeared into a changing booth with a curtain made from a Star Wars bedsheet. Emma pulled another dress from the rack: pale silk with beaded silver straps. Looking at it made her feel the way she did when she looked at a gorgeous sunset or one of Julian’s paintings or his hands moving over the brushes and bottles of paint.
She went into the dressing room to change. When she came out, Cristina was standing in the middle of the room, scowling down at her pink dress. It clung like Saran Wrap to her every curve. “I think it’s too tight,” she said.
“I think it’s supposed to be that tight,” said Emma. “It makes your boobs look great.” “Emma!” Cristina looked up, scandalized, then gasped. “Oh, you look so lovely!”
Emma touched the ivory-and-silver material of the dress with uncertain hands. White meant death and mourning to Shadowhunters; they rarely wore it casually, though the fact that it was ivory meant she could get away with it. “You think?”
Cristina was smiling at her. “You know, sometimes you are just like I thought you would be, and sometimes you are so different.”
Emma moved to look in the mirror. “What do you mean, what you thought I would be like?”
Cristina picked up a snow globe and frowned at it. “You know, it wasn’t just Mark I heard about before I came here. I heard about you. Everyone said you would be the next Jace Herondale. The next great
“I’m not going to be that,” said Emma. Her own voice sounded calm and small and distant in her ears. She couldn’t believe she was saying what she was saying. The words seemed to be coming out without her thoughts forming them first, as if they were creating their own reality by being spoken. “I’m not special, Cristina. I don’t have extra Angel blood or special powers. I’m an ordinary Shadowhunter.”
“You are not ordinary.”
“I am. I don’t have magic powers, I’m not cursed or blessed. I can do exactly what everyone else can do. The only reason I’m good is because I train.”
The salesgirl, Sarah, stuck her head back around the door, her eyes saucer wide. Emma had forgotten she was there. “Do you need any help?”
“I need so much help, you have no idea,” Emma said. Alarmed, Sarah retreated to her counter. “This is embarrassing,” Cristina said in a whispered hiss. “She probably thinks we are lunatics. We
Emma sighed. “I’m sorry, Tina,” she said. “I’ll pay for everything.”
“But I don’t even know if I want this dress!” Cristina called as Emma vanished back into the changing cubicle.
Emma whirled around and pointed at her. “Yes, you do. I was serious about your boobs. They look amazing. I don’t even think I’ve ever seen that much of your boobs before. If I had boobs like that, you better believe I’d show them off.”
“Please stop saying ‘boobs,’” Cristina wailed. “It’s a terrible word. It sounds ridiculous.” “Maybe,” said Emma, yanking the dressing room door shut. “But they look great.”
Ten minutes later, dresses in shopping bags, they were driving back down the canyon road toward the ocean. Cristina, in the seat next to Emma, sat with her legs crossed demurely at the ankles, not propped up on the dashboard like Emma’s would have been.
All around them the familiar scenery of the canyon rose up: gray rock, green scrub, and chaparral. Oak trees and Queen Anne’s lace. Once, Emma had climbed up into these mountains with Jules and found an eagle’s nest, a tiny cache of the bones of mice and bats inside it.
“You are wrong about why you are good at what you do,” Cristina said. “It is not just training. Everyone trains, Emma.”
“Yeah, but I kill myself training,” Emma said. “It’s just about all I do. I get up and train, and run, and I split my hands on the punching bag, and I train for hours into the night, and I have to, because there is nothing else special about me and nothing else that matters. All there is, is training and finding out who killed my parents. Because they were the ones who thought I was special, and whoever took them away from me—”
“Other people think you are special, Emma,” said Cristina, sounding more like an older sister than ever.
“What I have is trying,” said Emma, her voice tinged with bitterness. She was thinking of the tiny bones in the nest, how fragile they’d been, how easily snapped between a pair of fingers. “I can try harder than anyone else in the world. I can make revenge the only thing I have in my life. I can do that, because I have to. But it means it’s all I have.”
“It’s not all you have,” Cristina said. “What you haven’t had is your moment. Your chance to be great. Jace Herondale and Clary Fairchild weren’t heroes in a vacuum—there was a war. They were forced to make choices. Those moments come for all of us. They will come for you, too.” She laced her fingers together. “The Angel has a plan for you. I promise it. You are more prepared than you think. You have stayed strong not just through training but through the people around you—loving them and being loved. Julian and the others, they have not let you isolate yourself, alone with your revenge and your bitter thoughts. The sea wears down cliffs, Emma, and turns them into sand; so love wears us down and breaks
our defenses. You only do not know how much it means, to have people who will fight for you when it goes wrong—”
Her voice cracked, and she looked toward the window. They had reached the highway; Emma almost drove into traffic in alarm. “Cristina? What is it? What happened?”
Cristina shook her head.
“I know something happened to you in Mexico,” Emma said. “I know someone hurt you. Just please tell me what it was and what they did. I promise I won’t try to hunt them down and feed them to my imaginary fish. I just—” She sighed. “I want to help.”
“You cannot.” Cristina glanced down at her interlaced fingers. “Some betrayals cannot be forgiven.” “Was it Perfect Diego?”
“Let it go, Emma,” Cristina said, and so Emma did, and the rest of the way back to the Institute they talked about their dresses and how best to conceal weapons in items of clothing that were not meant to hide an armory. But Emma had noticed the way Cristina had flinched when she’d said Diego’s name.
Maybe not now, maybe not today, she thought, but she would find out what had happened.
Julian flew downstairs at the loud, repetitive pounding on the front door of the Institute. He was still barefoot; he hadn’t had a chance to put shoes on yet. Once he’d finished cleaning up after breakfast, he’d spent an hour trying to convince Uncle Arthur that no one had stolen his bust of Hermes (it was under his desk), found out that Drusilla had locked herself in Tavvy’s playhouse in a sulk because she hadn’t been invited to the diner the night before. Tavvy discovered Ty had been hiding a skunk in his room and started screaming. Livvy was busy convincing Ty to release the skunk back into the wild; Ty thought that the fact that he and Livvy had translated the Poe lines meant he’d earned the right to keep the skunk.
Mark, the only sibling who hadn’t given Julian any trouble that day, was hiding somewhere. Julian swung the door open. Malcolm Fade stood on the other side, wearing jeans and the kind of
sweatshirt you could tell was expensive because it appeared to be filthy and torn, but artfully so. Someone had spent time and money ripping that sweatshirt.
“You know, it’s not a good idea to whack on the door like that,” said Julian. “We keep a lot of weapons down here in case someone tries to break in.”
“Huh,” said Malcolm. “I’m not sure what that first statement has to do with the second statement.” “Don’t you? I thought it was obvious.”
Malcolm’s eyes were a brilliant purple, which usually meant he was in a peculiar mood. “Aren’t you going to let me in?”
“No,” Julian said. His mind was whirling with thoughts of Mark. Mark was upstairs, and Malcolm couldn’t see Mark. Mark’s return was too much of a secret to ask him to keep—and too much of a clue as to the reason for their investigation.
Julian schooled his features into a look of pleasant blandness, but didn’t move from his place blocking the door. “Ty brought a skunk inside,” he said. “Believe me, you don’t want to come in.”
Malcolm looked alarmed. “A skunk?”
“A skunk,” Julian said. Julian believed that all the best lies were based on truth. “Did you translate any of the markings?”
“Not yet,” Malcolm said. He moved his hand—not much, a small gesture, but the copies of the partially translated markings they’d given him appeared, held delicately between his fingers. Sometimes, Julian thought, it was easy to forget that Malcolm was a powerful user of magic. “But I did discover their origins.”
“Really?” Julian tried to look shocked. They already knew the language was an ancient one of Faerie, though they hadn’t been able to tell Malcolm that.
On the other hand, this was a chance to check and see if the Fair Folk had been telling them the truth.
Julian eyed Malcolm with renewed interest.
“Wait, maybe this isn’t the markings.” Malcolm eyed the papers. “It seems to be a recipe for orange cake.”
Julian crossed his arms over his chest. “No, it isn’t.”
Malcolm frowned. “I definitely remember looking at a recipe for orange cake recently.” Julian rolled his eyes silently. Sometimes with Malcolm you just had to be patient.
“Never mind,” Malcolm said. “That was in a copy of O magazine. This—” He tapped the paper. “An ancient language of Faerie—you were right; it predates Shadowhunters. Anyway, that’s the language origin. I can probably get more done in the next few days. But that’s not why I came by.”
“I did some examining of the poison on that fabric you sent me last night. I checked it against different toxins. It was a cataplasm—a concentrate of a rare type of the belladonna plant with demon poisons. It should have killed you.”
“But Emma healed me,” said Julian. “With an iratze. So are you saying we should be looking for—” “I wasn’t saying anything about looking,” Malcolm interrupted. “I’m just telling you. No iratze should
have been able to fix you. Even accounting for the strength of parabatai runes, you absolutely shouldn’t have survived.” His odd violet eyes fixed on Julian. “I don’t know if it’s something you did, or something Emma did, but whatever it was—was impossible. You shouldn’t be breathing right now.”
Julian trailed up the stairs slowly. He could hear yelling from above him, but not the sort that sounded as if anyone was in actual trouble. Telling the difference between play yelling and actual yelling was an absolute necessity when you were in charge of four kids.
His mind was still on what Malcolm had told him, about the cataplasm. It was unnerving to be told that you should be dead. There was always the possibility that Malcolm was wrong, but somehow Julian doubted it. Hadn’t Emma said something about finding belladonna plants near the convergence?
Thoughts of poison and convergences vanished from his mind as he turned down the corridor from the stairs. The room they kept Tiberius’s computer in was filled with light and noise. Julian moved into the doorway and stared.
There was a video game alive and flickering on the computer screen. Mark was sitting in front of it, mashing rather desperately at the buttons on a controller as a truck sped toward him on-screen. It crushed his character with a splat, and he tossed the controller aside. “The box serves the Lord of Lies!” he announced indignantly.
Ty laughed, and Julian felt something tug at his heart. The sound of his brother laughing was one of Julian’s favorite noises, in part because Ty did it so sincerely, without any attempt to cover up his laughter or any sense he should hide it. Wordplay and irony often weren’t funny to Ty, but people acting silly was, and he had an absolute and sincere amusement at the behavior of animals—Church falling off a table and trying to regain his dignity—that was beautiful to Julian.
In the dead of night, lying in bed staring at his murals of thorns, Julian sometimes wished he could put down the role that required him to always be the one telling Ty he couldn’t have skunks in his room or reminding him it was time to study or coming in to shut his lights off when he was reading instead of sleeping. What if, like a normal brother, he could watch Sherlock Holmes movies with Ty and help him collect lizards without worrying that they were going to escape and run through the Institute? What if?
Julian’s mother had always stressed the difference between doing something for someone and giving them the tools to do it themselves. It was how she had taught Julian to paint. Julian had always tried to do that for Ty, too, though it had often seemed like he was feeling his way in the dark: making books, toys, lessons that seemed tailored to the special way Ty thought—was it the right thing to do? He thought it had helped. He hoped. Sometimes hope was all you had.
Hope, and watching Ty. There was a pleasure in seeing Ty become more himself, need help and guidance less and less. Yet there was a sadness, too, for the day his brother wouldn’t need him anymore. Sometimes, in the depths of his heart, Julian wondered if Ty would want to spend time with him at all, once that day had come—with the brother who was always making him do things and was no fun at all.
“It’s not a box,” Ty said. “It’s a controller.”
“Well, it lies,” said Mark, turning around in his chair. He saw Julian, leaning in the doorway, and nodded. “Well met, Jules.”
Julian knew this was a faerie greeting and struggled internally not to point out to Mark that they’d already met that morning in the kitchen, not to mention several thousand times before that. He won over his baser impulses, but just barely. “Hi, Mark.”
“Is everything all right?”
Julian nodded. “Could I talk to Ty for a second?”
Tiberius stood up. His black hair was messy, getting too long. Julian reminded himself to schedule a haircut for both twins. Another thing to add to the calendar.
Ty came out into the corridor, pulling the computer room door shut behind him. His expression was wary. “Is this about the skunk? Because Livvy took it back outside.”
Julian shook his head. “It’s not about the skunk.”
Ty lifted his face. He’d always had delicate features, more elfin than Helen or Mark’s. His father had said he was a throwback to earlier generations of Blackthorns, and he looked not unlike some of the family portraits in the dining room they rarely used, slender Victorian men in tailored clothes with porcelain faces and black, curling hair. “Then what is it?”
Julian hesitated. The whole house was still. He could hear the faint crackle of the computer on the other side of the door.
He had thought about asking Ty to look into the poison that he had been shot with. But that would require him to say, I was dying. I should be dead. The words wouldn’t come. They were like a dam, and behind them were so many other words: I’m not sure about anything. I hate being in charge. I hate making the decisions. I’m terrified you’ll all learn to hate me. I’m terrified of losing you. I’m terrified of losing Mark. I’m terrified of losing Emma. I want someone to take over. I’m not as strong as you think. The things I want are wrong and broken things to want.
He knew he could say none of this. The facade he showed them, his children, had to be perfect: A crack in him would be like a crack in the world to them.
“You know I love you,” he said, instead, and Ty looked up at him, startled, meeting his gaze for a flicker of a moment. Over the years, Julian had come to understand why Ty didn’t like looking into other people’s eyes. It was too much movement, color, expression, like looking into a blaring television set. He could do it—he knew it was something people liked, and that it mattered to them—but he didn’t see what the fuss was about.
Ty was searching now, though, seeking in Julian’s face the answer to his odd hesitancy. “I do know,” Ty said, finally.
Julian couldn’t help the ghost of a smile. It was what you wanted to hear, wasn’t it, from your children? That they knew they were loved? He remembered when he had been carrying Tavvy upstairs, once, when he’d been thirteen; he’d tripped and fallen, twisting his body around so that he would land on his back and head, not caring if he was hurt as long as Tavvy was all right. He’d cracked himself pretty hard on the head, too, but he’d sat upright fast, his mind racing: Tavvy, my baby, is he okay?
It was the first time he’d thought “my baby” and not “the baby.”
“I don’t understand why you wanted to talk to me, though,” Ty said, his dark brows drawn together in puzzlement. “Was there a reason?”
Julian shook his head. In the distance, he could hear the front door open, the faint sound of Emma and
Cristina’s laughter carrying. They were back. “No reason at all,” he said.