"Tessa, you’re a fool," Nate hissed. "This cannot work. The creature is obedient only to-"
"I am Nathaniel Gray!" Tessa shouted up at the metal giant. "And I order you in the name of the Magister to seize this man and hold him!"
Nate whirled on her. "Enough of your games, you stupid little-"
His words were cut off suddenly as the automaton bent and seized him in its pincered grasp. It lifted him up, up, level with its slash of a mouth clicking and whirring inquisitively. Nate began to scream, and kept screaming, witlessly, his arms flailing as Will, finished with whatever he was doing, dropped to the ground in a crouch. He shouted something at Tessa, his blue eyes wide and wild, but she couldn’t hear him over her brother’s screams.
Her heart was slamming against her chest; she felt her hair tumble down, hitting her shoulders with a soft, heavy weight. She was herself again, the shock of what was happening too great for her to hold on to the Change.
Nate was still screaming-the thing had him in a terrible pincer grip. Will had begun to run, just as the creature, staring at Tessa, reared up with a roar- and Will struck her, knocking her to the ground and covering her with his body as the automaton blew apart like an exploding star.
The cacaphony of bursting, clattering metal was incredible. Tessa tried to cover her ears, but Will ‘s body was pinning her firmly to the ground. His elbows dug into the floor on either side of her head. She felt his breath on the back of her neck, the pounding of his heart against her spine. She heard her brother cry out, a terrible gurgling cry. She turned her head, pressing her face into Will ‘s shoulder as his body jerked against hers; the floor shuddered beneath them- And it was over. Slowly Tessa opened her eyes. The air was cloudy with plaster dust and floating splinters and tea from torn burlap sacks. Huge chunks of metal lay scattered haphazardly about the floor, and several of the windows had burst open, letting in foggy evening light. Tessa’s glance darted about the room. She saw Henry, cradling Charlotte, kissing her pale face as she gazed up at him; Jem, struggling to his feet, stele in hand and plaster dust coating his clothes and hair-and Nate.
At first she thought he was leaning against one of the pil ars. Then she saw the spreading red stain across his shirt, and realized. A jagged chunk of metal had gone through him like a spear, pinning him upright to the pil ar. His head was down, his hands clawing weakly at his chest.
"Nate!" she screamed. Will rol ed sideways, freeing her, and she was on her feet in seconds, racing across the room to her brother. Her hands were shaking with horror and revulsion, but she managed to close them around the metal spear in his chest and pul it free. She threw it aside and barely succeeded in catching him as he slumped forward, his sudden dead weight bearing her to the ground. Somehow she found herself on the ground, Nate’s limp body stretched awkwardly across her lap.
A memory rose in her mind-her crouching on the floor at de Quincey’s town house, holding Nate in her arms. She had loved him then. Trusted him.
Now, as she held him and his blood soaked into her shirt and trousers, she felt as if she were watching actors on a stage, playing parts, acting out grief.
"Nate," she whispered.
His eyes fluttered open. A pang of shock went through her. She had thought he was already dead.
"Tessie . . ." His voice sounded thick, as if it were coming through layers of water. His eyes roamed her face, then the blood on her clothes, and then, final y, came to rest on his own chest, where blood pumped steadily through a massive rent in his shirt. Tessa shrugged off her jacket, wadded it up, and pressed it hard against the wound, praying it would be enough to make the blood stop.
It wasn’t. The jacket was soaked through instantly, thin wet streams of blood running down Nate’s sides. "Oh, God," Tessa whispered. She raised her voice. "Wil -"
"Don’t." Nate’s hand seized her wrist, his nails digging in.
"I’m dying. I know." He coughed, a loose, wet, rattling sound. "Don’t you understand? I’ve failed the Magister. He’l kil me anyway. And he’l make it slow." He made a hoarse, impatient noise. "Leave it, Tessie. I’m not being noble. You know I’m not that."
She took a ragged breath. "I should leave you here to die alone in your own blood. That’s what you’d do if it were me."
"Tessie-" A stream of blood spilled from the corner of his mouth. "The Magister was never going to hurt you."
"Mortmain," she whispered. "Nate, where is he? Please. tell me where he is."
"He-" Nate choked, heaving in a breath. A bubble of blood appeared on his lips. The jacket in Tessa’s hand was a sodden rag. His eyes went wide, starkly terrified. "Tessie . . . I-I’m dying. I’m really dying-"
Questions still exploded through her head. Where is Mortmain? How could my mother be a Shadowhunter? If my father was a demon, how is it that I am still alive when all the offspring of Shadowhunters and demons are stillborn? But the terror in Nate’s eyes silenced her; despite everything, she found her hand slipping into his. "There’s nothing to be afraid of, Nate."
"Not for you, maybe. You were always-the good one. I’m going to burn, Tessie. Tessie, where’s your angel?"
She put her hand to her throat, a reflexive gesture. "I couldn’t wear it. I was pretending to be Jessamine."
"You-must-wear it." He coughed. More blood. "Wear it always. You swear?"
She shook her head. "Nate . . ." I can’t trust you, Nate.
"I know." His voice was a bare rattle. "There’s no forgiveness for-the kinds of things I’ve had to do."
She tightened her grip on his hand, her fingers slippery with his blood. "I forgive you," she whispered, not knowing, or caring, if it was true.
His blue eyes widened. His face had gone the color of old yel ow parchment, his lips almost white. "You don’t know everything I’ve done, Tessie."
She leaned over him anxiously. "Nate?"
But there was no reply. His face went slack, his eyes wide, half-rol ed-back in his head. His hand slid out of hers and struck the floor.
"Nate," she said again, and put her fingers to the place where his pulse should have beat in his throat, already knowing what she would find.
There was nothing. He was dead.
Tessa stood up. Her torn waistcoat, her trousers, her shirt, even the ends of her hair, were soaked with Nate’s blood. She felt as numb as if she had been dipped in ice-cold water. She turned, slowly, only now, and for the first time, wondering if the others had been watching her, overhearing her conversation with Nate, wondering- They weren’t even looking in her direction. They were kneeling-Charlotte, Jem, and Henry-in a loose circle around a dark shape on the floor, just where she had been lying before, with Will on top of her.
Tessa had had dreams before in which she’d been walking down a long, darkened corridor toward something dreadful-something she could not see but knew was terrifying and deadly. In the dreams, with each step, the corridor had gotten longer, stretching farther into darkness and horror. That same feeling of dread and helplessness overwhelmed her now as she moved forward, each step feeling like a mile, until she had joined the circle of kneeling Shadowhunters and was looking down at Will.
He lay on his side. His face was white, his breathing shall ow. Jem had one hand on his shoulder and was speaking to him in a low, soothing voice, but Will gave no sign of being able to hear him. Blood had pooled under him, smearing the floor, and for a moment Tessa just stared, unable to fathom where it had come from. Then she moved closer and saw his back. His gear had been shredded all along his spine and shoulder blades, the thick material torn by flying shards of razored metal. His skin swam with blood; his hair was soaked with it.
"Will," Tessa whispered. She felt peculiarly dizzy, as if she were floating.
Charlotte looked up. "Tessa," she said. "Your brother . . ."
"He’s dead," Tessa said through her daze. "But Will -?"
"He knocked you down and covered you to protect you from the explosion,"
Jem said. There was no blame in his voice. "But there was nothing to protect him. You two were the closest to the blast. The metal fragments shredded his back. He’s losing blood quickly."
"But isn’t there anything you can do?" Tessa’s voice rose, even as dizziness threatened to envelop her. "What about your healing runes? The iratzes?"
"We used an amissio, a rune that slows blood loss, but if we attempt a healing rune, his skin Will heal over the metal, driving it farther into the soft tissue," said Henry flatly. "We need to get him back home to the infirmary.
The metal must be removed before he can be healed."
"Then, we must go." Tessa’s voice was shaking. "We must-"
"Tessa," said Jem. He still had his hand on Will ‘s shoulder, but he was looking at her, his eyes wide. "Did you know you’re hurt?"
She gestured impatiently at her shirt. "This isn’t my blood. This is Nate’s.
Now we must-Can he be carried? Is there anything-"
"No," Jem interrupted, sharply enough to surprise her. "Not the blood on your clothes. You’ve a gash on your head. Here." He touched his temple.
"Don’t be ridiculous," Tessa said. "I’m perfectly all right." She put her hand up to touch her temple-and felt her hair, thick and stiff with blood, and the side of her face sticky with it, before her fingertips touched the ragged flap of torn skin that ran from the corner of her cheek to her temple. A searing bolt of pain shot through her head.
It was the last straw. Already weak from blood loss and dizzy from repeated shocks, she felt herself begin to crumple. She barely felt Jem’s arms go around her as she fell into the darkness.
Chapter 17: In Dreams
Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again.
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.
-Matthew Arnold, "Longing"
Consciousness came and went in a hypnotic rhythm, like the sea appearing and disappearing on the deck of a boat in a storm. Tessa knew she lay in a bed with crisp white sheets in the center of a long room; that there were other beds, all the same, in the room; and that there were windows high above her letting in shadows and then the bloody light of dawn. She closed her eyes against it, and the darkness came again.
She woke to whispering voices, and faces hovering over her, anxious.
Charlotte, her hair knotted back neatly, still in her gear, and beside her Brother Enoch. His scarred face was no longer a terror. She could hear his voice in her mind. The wound to her head is superficial.
"But she fainted," said Charlotte. To Tessa’s surprise there was real fear in her voice, real anxiety. "With a blow to the head-"
She fainted from repeated shocks. Her brother died in her arms, you said? A nd she may have thought Will was dead as well. You said he covered her with his body when the explosion occurred. If he had died, he would have given his life for her. That is quite a burden to bear.
"But you do think she’l be well again?"
When her body and spirit have rested, she will wake. I cannot say when that will be.
"My poor Tessa." Charlotte touched Tessa’s face lightly. Her hands smel ed of lemon soap. "She has no one in the world at all now. . . ."
The darkness returned, and Tessa fell into it, grateful for the respite from light and thought. She wrapped herself in it like a blanket and let herself float, like the icebergs off the coast of Labrador, cradled in the moonlight by icy black water.
A guttural cry of pain cut through her dream of darkness. She was curled on her side in a tangle of sheets, and a few beds away from her lay Will, on his stomach. She realized, though in her state of numbness it was only a faint shock, that he was probably nak*d; the sheets had been drawn up to his waist, but his back and chest were bare. His arms were folded on the pil ows in front of him, his head resting on them, his body tensed like a bowstring.
Blood spotted the white sheets beneath him.
Brother Enoch stood at one side of his bed, and beside him Jem, at Will ‘s head, wearing an anxious expression. "Will," Jem said urgently. "Will, are you sure you won’t have another pain-kil ing rune?"
"No-more," Will ground out, between his teeth. "Just-get it over with."
Brother Enoch raised what looked like a wickedly sharp pair of silver tweezers. Will gulped and buried his head in his arms, his dark hair startling against the white of the sheets. Jem shuddered as if the pain were his own as the tweezers dug deep into Will ‘s back and his body tautened on the bed, muscles tensing under the skin, his cry of agony short and muffled. Brother Enoch drew back the tool, a blood-smeared shard of metal gripped in its teeth.
Jem slid his hand into Will ‘s. "Grip my fingers. It Will help the pain. There are only a few more."
"Easy-for you to say," Will gasped, but the touch of his parabatai’s hand seemed to relax him slightly. He was arched up off the bed, his elbows digging into the mattress, his breath coming in short pants. Tessa knew she ought to look away, but she couldn’t. She realized she had never seen so much of a boy’s body before, not even Jem’s. She found herself fascinated by the way the lean muscle slid under Will ‘s smooth skin, the flex and swel of his arms, the hard, flat stomach convulsing as he breathed.
The tweezers flashed again, and Will ‘s hand bore down on Jem’s, both their fingers whitening. Blood well ed and spilled down his bare side. He made no sound, though Jem looked sick and pale. He moved his hand as if to touch Will ‘s shoulder, then drew it back, biting down on his lip.
A ll this because Will covered my body with his to protect me, Tessa thought. As Brother Enoch had said, it was a burden to bear indeed.
She lay on her narrow bed in her old room in the New York flat. Through the window she could see gray sky, the rooftops of Manhattan. One of her aunt’s colorful patchwork quilts was on the bed, and she clutched it to her as the door opened and her aunt herself came in.