"Oh, he’l be back, for goodness’ sake," said Jessamine crossly, banging her teacup down in its saucer. "He always does come crawling home. Look at the two of you. Like you’ve lost a favorite puppy."
Tessa shot Jem an almost guilty, conspiratorial look as she sat down across from him and took a slice of bread from the toast rack. Henry was absent; Charlotte, at the head of the table, was very clearly trying not to look nervous and worried, and failing. "Of course he will," she said. "Wil can take care of himself."
"Do you think he might have gone back to Yorkshire?" said Tessa. "To warn his family?"
"I . . . don’t think so," Charlotte responded. "Wil has avoided his family for years. And he knows the Law. He knows he cannot speak to them. He knows what he would lose." Her eyes rested briefly on Jem, who was playing industriously with his spoon.
"When he saw Cecily, at the manor, he attempted to rush to her-" Jem said.
"In the heat of the moment," said Charlotte. "But he returned with you to London; I am confident he Will return to the Institute as well. He knows you obtained that button, Tessa. He’l want to discover what Starkweather knew."
"Precious little, real y," said Tessa. She still felt obscurely guilty that she had not found more useful information in Starkweather’s memories. She had tried to explain what it was like to be in the mind of someone whose brain was decaying, but it had been hard to find the words, and she remembered mainly the look of disappointment on Charlotte’s face when she’d said she had discovered nothing useful about Ravenscar Manor. She had told them all of Starkweather’s memories of the Shade family, and that indeed if their deaths had been the impetus for Mortmain’s desire for justice and vengeance, it did seem as if it would be a powerful one. She had kept his shock at seeing her to herself-it was baffling still, and seemed somehow private.
"What if Will chooses to leave the Clave forever?" Tessa said. "Would he return to his family to protect them?"
"No," Charlotte replied a little sharply. "No. I don’t think he Will do that." She would miss Will if he were gone, Tessa thought with surprise. Will was always so unpleasant-and often so to Charlotte-that Tessa sometimes forgot the stubborn love Charlotte seemed to feel for all her charges.
"But if they’re in danger-," Tessa protested, then fell silent as Sophie entered the room carrying a pot of hot water, and set it down. Charlotte brightened at the sight of her.
"Tessa, Sophie, Jessamine," she said. "Lest you forget, you all have training this morning with Gabriel and Gideon Lightwood."
"I cannot do it," Jessamine said immediately.
"Why not? I thought you had recovered from your headache-"
"Yes, but I don’t want it to come back, do I?" Jessamine stood up hurriedly.
"I’d prefer to help you, Charlotte."
"I don’t need your assistance writing to Ragnor Fell, Jessie. I’d really rather you took advantage of the training-"
"But there’s dozens of replies piling up in the library from the Downworlders we’ve queried about Mortmain’s whereabouts," Jessamine argued. "I could help you sort through those."
Charlotte sighed. "Very well." She turned to Tessa and Sophie. "In the meantime you won’t say anything to the Lightwood boys about Yorkshire, or about Will ? I could do without having them in the Institute right now myself, but there’s no help for it. It’s a show of good faith and confidence to continue the training. You must behave in all ways as if nothing is wrong. Can you do that, girls?"
"Of course we can, Mrs. Branwell," said Sophie immediately. Her eyes were bright and she was smiling. Tessa sighed inwardly, not sure how to feel. Sophie adored Charlotte, and would do anything to please her. She also detested Will and was unlikely to be worried about his absence. Tessa looked across the table at Jem. She felt a hollowness in her stomach, the ache of not knowing where Will was, and wondered if he felt it too. His normal y expressive face was still and unreadable, though when he caught her glance, he smiled a gentle, encouraging smile. Jem was Will ‘s parabatai, his blood brother; surely if there were truly something to be concerned about where Will was involved, Jem would not be able to hide it-would he?
From the kitchen Bridget’s voice rol ed out in a sweet high warble: "Must I go bound while you go free Must I love a man who doesn’t love me Must I be born with so little art A s to love a man who’ll break my heart?"
Tessa pushed her chair back from the table. "I think I had better go and get dressed."
Having changed from her day dress into gear, Tessa sat down on the edge of her bed and picked up the copy of Vathek Will had given her. It did not bring the thought of Will smiling to her mind, but other images of Will -Wil bending over her in the Sanctuary, covered in blood; Will squinting into the sun on the roof of the Institute; Will rol ing down the hil in Yorkshire with Jem, splattering himself with mud and not caring; Will fal ing off the table in the dining room; Will holding her in the dark. Will, Will, Will.
She threw the book. It struck the fireplace mantel and bounced off, landing on the floor. If only there were some way to scrape Will out of her mind, like scraping the mud off your shoe. If only she knew where he was. Worry made it worse, and she could not stop herself from worrying. She could not forget the look on his face as he had gazed at his sister.
Distraction made her late to the training room; fortunately, when she arrived, the door was open and there was no one there but Sophie, holding a long knife in her hand and examining it thoughtful y as she might examine a dust mop to decide if there was still use in it or if it was time for it to be thrown away.
She looked up as Tessa came into the room. "Well, you look like a wet weekend, miss," she said with a smile. "Is everything all right?" She cocked her head to the side as Tessa nodded. "Is it Master Will ? He’s gone off missing for a day or two before. He’l be back, don’t you fear."
"That’s kind of you to say, Sophie, especial y as I know you are not overfond of him."
"I rather thought you weren’t either," said Sophie, "least-ways not anymore . . ."
Tessa looked at her sharply. She had not had a real conversation with Sophie about Will since the roof incident, she thought, and besides, Sophie had warned her off him, comparing him to a poisonous snake. Before Tessa could say anything in reply, the door opened and Gabriel and Gideon Lightwood came in, fol owed by Jem. He winked at Tessa before disappearing, closing the door behind him.
Gideon went straight over to Sophie. "A good choice of blade," he said, faint surprise underlining his words. She blushed, looking pleased.
"So," said Gabriel, who had somehow managed to get behind Tessa without her noticing. After examining the racks of weapons along the wal s, he drew down a knife and handed it to her. "Feel the weight of the blade there."
Tessa tried to feel the weight of it, struggling to remember what he had told her about where and how it should balance in her palm.
"What do you think?" Gabriel asked. She looked up at him. Of the two boys he certainly looked more like his father, with his aquiline features and the faint shading of arrogance to his expression. His slim mouth curled up at the corners. "Or are you too busy worrying about Herondale’s whereabouts to practice today?"
Tessa nearly dropped the knife. "What?"
"I heard you and Miss Col ins when I was coming up the stairs.
Disappeared, has he? Not surprising, considering I don’t think Will Herondale and a sense of responsibility are even on speaking terms."
Tessa set her chin. Conflicted as she was about Will, there was something about someone outside the Institute’s smal family criticizing him that set her teeth on edge. "It’s quite a common occurrence, nothing to fuss about," she said. "Wil is a-free spirit. He’l return soon enough."
"I hope not," said Gabriel. "I hope he’s dead."
Tessa’s hand tightened around the knife. "You mean that, don’t you? What did he do to your sister to make you hate him so much?"
"Why don’t you ask him?"
"Gabriel." Gideon’s voice was sharp. "Shal we get to the instruction, please, and cease wasting time?"
Gabriel glared at his older brother, who was standing quite peaceably with Sophie, but obediently turned his attention from Will to the day’s training.
They were practicing how to hold blades today, and how to balance them as they swept them through the air without the blade point drooping forward or the handle slipping from the hand. It was harder than it looked, and today Gabriel wasn’t patient. She envied Sophie, being taught by Gideon, who was always a careful, methodical instructor, though he did have a habit of slipping into Spanish whenever Sophie did something wrong. "A y Dios mio," he would say, pul ing the blade from where it had stuck, point down, in the floor.
"Shal we try that again?"
"Stand up straight," Gabriel was saying to Tessa meanwhile, impatiently.
"No, straight. Like this." He demonstrated. She wanted to snap at him that she, unlike him, had not had a lifetime of being taught how to stand and move; that Shadowhunters were natural acrobats, and she was nothing of the sort.
"Hmph," she said. "I’d like to see you learn how to manage sitting and standing up straight in stays and petticoats and a dress with a foot’s worth of train!"
"So would I," said Gideon from across the room.
"Oh, by the Angel," said Gabriel, and he took her by the shoulders, flipping her around so she stood with her back to him. He put his arms around her, straightening her spine, arranging the knife in her hand. She could feel his breath on the back of her neck, and it made her shiver-and fil ed her with annoyance. If he was touching her, it was only because he presumed he could, without asking, and because he thought it would irritate Will.
"Let me go," she said, under her breath.
"This is part of your training," said Gabriel in a bored voice. "Besides, look at my brother and Miss Col ins. She isn’t complaining."
She glanced across the room at Sophie, who seemed earnestly engaged in her lesson with Gideon. He was standing behind her, one arm around her from the back, showing her how to hold a needle-tipped throwing knife. His hand was gently cupped around hers, and he appeared to be speaking to the back of her neck, where her dark hair had escaped from its tight chignon and curled becomingly. When he saw Tessa looking at them, he flushed.
Tessa was amazed. Gideon Lightwood, blushing! Had he been admiring Sophie? Apart from her scar, which Tessa barely noticed anymore, she was lovely, but she was a mundane, and a servant, and the Lightwoods were awful snobs. Tessa’s insides felt suddenly tight. Sophie had been treated abominably by her previous employer. The last thing she needed was some pretty Shadowhunter boy taking advantage of her.
Tessa looked around, about to say something to the boy with his arms around her-and stopped. She had forgotten that it was Gabriel beside her, not Jem. She had grown so used to Jem’s presence, the ease with which she could converse with him, the comfort of his hand on her arm when they walked, the fact that he was the only person in the world now she felt she could say absolutely anything to. She realized with surprise that though she had just seen him at breakfast, she missed him, with what felt almost like an ache inside.
She was so caught up in this mixture of feelings-missing Jem, and a sense of passionate protectiveness over Sophie-that her next throw went wide by several feet, flying by Gideon’s head and bouncing off the windowsill.
Gideon looked calmly from the fal en knife to his brother. Nothing seemed to bother him, not even his own near decapitation. "Gabriel, what is the problem, exactly?"
Gabriel turned his gaze on Tessa. "She won’t listen to me," he said spiteful y. "I can’t instruct someone who won’t listen."
"Maybe if you were a better instructor, she’d be a better listener."
"And maybe you would have seen the knife coming," said Gabriel, "if you paid more attention to what’s going on around you and less to the back of Miss Col ins’s head."
So even Gabriel had noticed, Tessa thought, as Sophie blushed. Gideon gave his brother a long, steady look-she sensed there would be words between the two of them at home-then turned to Sophie and said something in a low voice, too low for Tessa to hear.
"What’s happened to you?" she said under her breath to Gabriel, and felt him stiffen.
"What do you mean?"
"You’re usual y patient," she said. "You’re a good teacher, Gabriel, most of the time, but today you’re snappish and impatient and . . ." She looked down at his hand on her arm. "Improper."
He had the good grace to release her, looking ashamed of himself. "A thousand pardons. I should not have touched you like that."
"No, you shouldn’t. And after the way you criticize Will -"
He flushed along his high cheekbones. "I’ve apologized, Miss Gray. What more do you want of me?"
"A change in behavior, perhaps. An explanation of your dislike of Will -"
"I’ve told you! If you wish to know why I dislike him, you can ask him yourself!" Gabriel whirled and stalked out of the room.
Tessa looked at the knives stuck into the wal and sighed. "So ends my lesson."
"Try not to be too put out," said Gideon, approaching her with Sophie by his side. It was very odd, Tessa thought; Sophie usual y seemed uneasy around men, any men, even gentle Henry. With Will she was like a scalded cat, and with Jem, blushing and watchful, but beside Gideon she seemed . . .
Well, it was hard to define. But it was most peculiar.
"It is not your fault he is like this today," Gideon went on. His eyes on Tessa were steady. This close up she could see that they were not precisely the same color as his brother’s. They were more of a gray-green, like the ocean under a cloudy sky. "Things have been . . . difficult for us at home with Father, and Gabriel is taking it out on you, or, real y, anyone who happens to be nearby."