Alec raised his head slowly. “What?”
“Well, I mean since Magnus is immortal and you, you know, aren’t,” she clarified.
“He’s immortal?” Alec’s voice was colder than Kit had ever heard it. “I wish you’d told me before. I would have turned back time and found myself a nice mortal husband to grow old with.”
“Well, wouldn’t that be better?” Zara said. “Then you could get old and die at the same time.”
“At the same time?” Alec echoed. He had barely moved or raised his voice, but his rage seemed to fill the room. Even Zara was starting to look uneasy. “How would you suggest we arrange that? Jump off a cliff together when one of us started feeling sickly?”
“Maybe.” Zara looked sulky. “You have to agree the situation you’re in is a tragedy.”
Alec rose to his feet and in that moment was the famous Alec Lightwood Kit had heard about, the hero of past battles, the archer boy with deadly aim. “This is what I want and what I’ve chosen,” he said. “How dare you tell me it’s a tragedy? Magnus never pretended, he never tried to fool me into thinking it would be easy, but choosing Magnus is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. We all have a lifetime, Zara, and none of us know how long or short it might be. Surely even you know that. I expect you mean to be rude and cruel, but I doubt you meant to sound stupid as well.”
She flushed. “But if you die of old age and he lives forever—”
“Then he’ll be there for Max, and that makes both of us happy,” said Alec. “And I will be a uniquely lucky person, because there will be someone who always remembers me. Who will always love me. Magnus won’t always mourn, but until the end of time he will remember me and love me.”
“What makes you so sure?” said Zara, but there was an edge of uncertainty in her voice.
“Because he’s three thousand times the human being you’ll ever be,” said Alec. “Now get out of here before I risk his life by waking him up so he can turn you into a garbage fire. Something that would match your personality.”
“Oh!” said Zara. “So rude!”
Kit thought it was more than rude. He thought Alec meant it. He kind of hoped Zara would stick around to test the theory. Instead she stalked toward the door and paused there, glancing back at them both with dislike.
“Come on, Alec,” she said. “The truth is that Shadowhunters and Downworlders aren’t meant to be together. You and Bane are a disgrace. But you can’t just be content with the Clave letting you pervert your angelic lineage. No, you have to force it on the rest of us.”
“Really?” said Kieran, who Kit had nearly forgotten was there. “You all have to sleep with Magnus Bane? How exciting for you.”
“Shut up, faerie dirt,” said Zara. “You’ll learn. You’ve picked the wrong side, you and those Blackthorns and Jace Herondale and that ginger bitch Clary—” She was breathing hard, her face flushed. “I’ll enjoy watching you all go down,” she said, and flounced from the room.
“Did she really say ‘pervert your angelic lineage’?” said Alec, looking stupefied.
“Faerie dirt,” mused Kieran. “That is, as Mark would say, a new one.”
“Unbelievable.” Alec sat down next to the sofa again, drawing up his knees.
“Nothing she said surprised me,” said Kieran. “That is how they are. That is how the Cold Peace has made them. Afraid of what is new and different, and filled with hatred like ice. She may seem ridiculous, Zara Dearborn, but do not make the mistake of underestimating her and her Cohort.” He looked back at the window. “Hate like that can tear down the world.”
“This is a very strange request,” said Diego.
“You’re the one in a fake relationship,” said Cristina. “I am sure you’ve been asked for stranger things.”
Diego laughed, not with much humor. They were sitting a row away from the Blackthorns in the Council Hall. The clock had stopped chiming to announce the meeting’s beginning and the room was full, though the dais was still empty.
“I am glad Jaime told you,” he said. “Selfishly. I could bear that you hated me, but not that you despised me.”
Cristina sighed. “I am not sure I ever really did despise you,” she said.
“I should have told you more,” he said. “I wanted to keep you safe—and I denied to myself that the Cohort and their plans were your problem. I didn’t know they had designs on the Los Angeles Institute until too late. And I was mistaken in Manuel, as much as anyone. I trusted him.”
“I know,” Cristina said. “It is not that I blame you for anything. I—for such a long time, we were Cristina-and-Diego. A pair, together. And when that was over, I felt half myself. When you came back, I thought we could be as we were before, and I tried, but—”
“You don’t love me like that anymore,” he finished.
She paused for a moment. “No,” she said. “I don’t. Not like that. It was like trying to return to a place in your childhood you remember as perfect. It will always have changed, because you have changed.”
Diego’s Adam’s apple moved as he swallowed. “I can’t blame you. I don’t like myself much right now.”
“Maybe this could help you like yourself a little more. It would be a great kindness, Diego.”
He shook his head. “Trust you, I suppose, to take pity on a lost faerie.”
“It isn’t pity,” said Cristina. She glanced back over her shoulder; Zara had left the room some moments earlier and hadn’t returned yet. Samantha was glaring at her, though, apparently in the belief that Cristina was trying to steal Zara’s fiancé. “They frighten me. They will kill him after he testifies.”
“The Cohort is frightening,” Diego said. “But the Cohort is not the Centurions, and not all Centurions are like Zara. Rayan, Divya, Gen are good people. Like the Clave, it is an organization that has a cancer at its heart. Some of the body is sick and some healthy. Our mission is to discover a way to kill the sickness without killing all of the body.”
The doors of the Council Hall opened. The Consul, Jia Penhallow, entered, her silver-flecked dark robes sweeping around her.
The room, which had been full of lively chatter, sank to hushed murmurs. Cristina sat back as the Consul began to climb the stairs to the dais.
“Thank you all for coming on such short notice, Nephilim.” The Consul stood in front of a low wooden podium, its base decorated with the sigil of four Cs. There was gray in her black hair now that Emma didn’t remember seeing before, wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. It couldn’t be easy, being the Consul during a time of unspoken war. “Most of you know about Malcolm Fade. He was one of our closest allies, or so we thought. He betrayed us some weeks ago, and even now we are still learning of the bloody and terrible crimes he committed.”
The murmur that went around the room sounded to Emma like the rush of the tide. She wished Julian was next to her so that she could bump his shoulder with hers, or squeeze his hand, but—mindful of the Inquisitor’s instruction—they had sat at the opposite end of the long bench after he’d told her Magnus had collapsed.
“I promised Annabel Magnus would be with her,” he’d said in a low voice, not wanting the younger Blackthorns to hear and be panicked. “I gave my word.”
“You couldn’t have guessed. Poor Magnus. There was no way to know he was sick.”
But she remembered herself, saying, Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. And she felt cold, all over.
“There is a longer story to Fade’s betrayal, one you might not know,” Jia said. “In 1812 he fell in love with a Shadowhunter girl, Annabel Blackthorn. Her family deplored the idea of her marrying a warlock. In the end, she was murdered—by other Nephilim. Malcolm was told she had become an Iron Sister.”
“Why didn’t they kill him, too?” called someone from the crowd.