Slowly Charlotte reached out and took it. She pulled at the flap, then frowned and crossed the room to take a letter opener from her bureau. Will took the opportunity to stare at the Inquisitor covertly. The man was frowning at Charlotte and ignoring Will entirely. He could not help but wonder if the scar on the Inquisitor’s cheek was a relic of the Council’s battle with Mortmain’s automatons.
Will had been sure that they were all going to die, together, there under the mountain, until Tessa had blazed up in all the glory of the angel and struck down Mortmain like lightning striking down a tree. It had been one of the most wondrous things he had ever seen, but his wonder had been consumed quickly by terror when Tessa had collapsed after the Change, bleeding and insensible, however hard they’d tried to wake her. Magnus, near exhaustion, had barely been able to open a Portal back to the Institute with Henry’s help, and Will remembered only a blur after that, a blur of exhaustion and blood and fear, more Silent Brothers summoned to tend the wounded, and the news coming from the Council of all who had been killed in battle before the automatons had disintegrated upon Mortmain’s death. And Tessa-Tessa not speaking, not waking, being carried off to her room by the Silent Brothers, and he had not been able to go with her. Being neither brother nor husband he could only stand and stare after her, closing and unclosing his bloodstained hands. Never had he felt more helpless.
And when he had turned to find Jem, to share his fear with the only other person in the world who loved Tessa as much as he did-Jem had been gone, back to the Silent City on the orders of the Brothers. Gone without even a word of good-bye.
Though Cecily had tried to soothe him, Will had been angry-angry with Jem, and with the Council and the Brotherhood themselves, for allowing Jem to become a Silent Brother, though Will knew that was unfair, that it had been Jem’s choice and the only way to keep him alive. And yet since their return to the Institute, Will had felt constantly seasick-it was like having been a ship at anchor for years and being cut free to float on the tides, with no idea which direction to steer in. And Tessa-
The sound of tearing paper interrupted his thoughts, as Charlotte opened the letter and read it, the color draining from her face. She lifted her eyes and stared at the Inquisitor. "Is this some sort of jest?"
The Inquisitor’s frown deepened. "There is no jest, I assure you. Do you have an answer?"
"Lottie," said Henry, looking up at his wife, even his tufts of gingery hair radiating anxiety and love. "Lottie, what is it, what’s wrong?"
She looked at him, and then back at the Inquisitor. "No," she said. "I don’t have an answer. Not yet."
"The Council does not wish-," he began, and then seemed to see Will for the first time. "If I could speak to you in private, Charlotte."
Charlotte straightened her spine. "I will not send either Will or Henry away."
The two of them glared at each other, eyes locked. Will knew that Henry was looking at him anxiously. In the aftermath of Charlotte’s disagreement with the Consul, and the Consul’s death, they had all waited breathlessly for the Council to hand down some sort of retributive judgment. Their hold on the Institute felt precarious. Will could see it in the minute trembling of Charlotte’s hands, and the set of her mouth.
He wished suddenly that Jem or Tessa were here, someone he could speak to, someone he could ask what he should do for Charlotte, to whom he owed so much.
"It’s all right," he said, rising to his feet. He wanted to see Tessa, even if she would not open her eyes, not recognize him. "I had meant to go anyway."
"Will-," Charlotte protested.
"It’s all right, Charlotte," Will said again, and he pushed past the Inquisitor to the door. Once out in the corridor, he leaned against the wall for a moment, recovering himself. He couldn’t help remembering his own words-God, it seemed a million years ago now, and no longer in the least bit funny: The Consul? Breaking up our breakfast time? Whatever next? The Inquisitor over for tea?
If the Institute was taken from Charlotte …
If they all lost their home …
If Tessa …
He could not finish the thought. Tessa would live; she must live. As he set off down the corridor, he thought of the blues and greens and grays of Wales. Perhaps he could return there, with Cecily, if the Institute was lost, make some kind of life for themselves in their home country. It would not be a Shadowhunting life, but without Charlotte, without Henry, without Jem or Tessa or Sophie or even the bloody Lightwoods, he did not want to be a Shadowhunter. They were his family, and precious to him-just another realization, he thought, that had come to him all at once and yet too late.
"Tessa. Wake up. Please, wake up."
Sophie’s voice now, cutting through the darkness. Tessa struggled, forcing her eyes open for a split second. She saw her bedroom at the Institute, the familiar furniture, the drapes pulled back, weak sunlight casting squares of light on the floor. She fought to hold on to it. It was like this, brief periods of lucidity in between fever and nightmares-never enough, never enough time to reach out, to speak. Sophie, she fought to whisper, but her dry lips would not pass the words. Lightning shivered down through her vision, splitting the world apart. She cried out soundlessly as the Institute broke into pieces and rushed away from her into the dark.
It was Cyril who finally told Gabriel that Cecily was in the stables, after the younger Lightwood brother had spent much of the day searching fruitlessly-though, he hoped not obviously-through the Institute for her.
Twilight had come, and the stable was full of warm yellow lantern light and the smell of horses. Cecily was standing by Balios’s stall, her head against the neck of the great black horse. Her hair, nearly the same inky color, was loose over her shoulders. When she turned to look at him, Gabriel saw the wink of the red ruby around her throat.
A look of concern passed across her face. "Has something happened to Will?"
"Will?" Gabriel was startled.
"I just thought-the way you looked-" She sighed. "He has been so distraught these past few days. If it were not enough that Tessa is ill and injured, to know what he does about Jem-" She shook her head. "I have tried to speak to him about it, but he will say nothing."
"I think he is speaking to Jem now," Gabriel said. "I confess I do not know his state of mind. If you wish, I could-"
"No." Cecily’s voice was quiet. Her blue eyes were fixed on something far away. "Let him be."
Gabriel took a few steps forward. The soft yellow glow of the lantern at Cecily’s feet laid a faint golden sheen over her skin. Her hands were bare of gloves, very white against the horse’s black hide. "I …," he began. "You seem to like that horse very much."
Silently he cursed himself. He remembered his father once saying that women, the gentler sex, liked to be wooed with charming words and pithy phrases. He wasn’t sure exactly what a pithy phrase was, but he was sure that "You seem to like that horse very much" was not one.
Cecily seemed not to mind, though. She gave the horse’s hide an absent pat before turning to face him. "Balios saved my brother’s life."
"Are you going to leave?" Gabriel said abruptly.
Her eyes widened. "What was that, Mr. Lightwood?"
"No." He held his hand up. "Don’t call me Mr. Lightwood, please. We are Shadowhunters. I am Gabriel to you."
Her cheeks pinked. "Gabriel, then. Why did you ask me if I am leaving?"
"You came here to bring your brother home," said Gabriel. "But it is clear he is not going to go, isn’t it? He is in love with Tessa. He is going to stay wherever she is."
"She might not stay here," Cecily said, her eyes unreadable.
"I think she will. But even if she does not, he will go where she is. And Jem-Jem has become a Silent Brother. He is still Nephilim. If Will hopes to see him again, and I think we know he does, he will remain. The years have changed him, Cecily. His family is here now."
"Do you think you are telling me anything I have not observed for myself? Will’s heart is here, not in Yorkshire, in a house he has never lived in, with parents he has not seen for years."
"Then, if he cannot go home-I thought perhaps that you would."
"So that my parents are not alone. Yes. I can see why you would think that." She hesitated. "You know, of course, that in a few years I would be expected to be married, and to leave my parents regardless."
"But not to never speak to them again. They are exiled, Cecily. If you remain here, you will be cut off from them."
"You say it as if you wish to convince me to return home."
"I say it because I am afraid you will." The words were out of his mouth before he could recapture them; he could only look at her as a flush of embarrassment heated his face.
She took a step toward him. Her blue eyes, upturned to his, were wide. He wondered when they had stopped reminding him of Will’s eyes; they were just Cecily’s eyes, a shade of blue he associated with her alone. "When I came here," she said, "I thought the Shadowhunters were monsters. I thought I had to rescue my brother. I thought that we would return home together, and my parents would be proud of us both. That we would be a family again. Then I realized-you helped me realize-"
"I helped you? How?"
"Your father did not give you choices," she said. "He demanded that you be what he wanted. And that demand broke your family apart. But my father, he chose to leave the Nephilim and marry my mother. That was his choice, just as staying with the Shadowhunters is Will’s. Choosing love or war: both are brave choices, in their own ways. And I do not think my parents would grudge Will his choice. Above all, what matters to them is that he be happy."
"But what of you?" Gabriel said, and they were very close now, almost touching. "It is your choice to make now, to stay or return."
"I will stay," Cecily said. "I choose the war."
Gabriel let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. "You will give up your home?"
"A drafty old house in Yorkshire?" Cecily said. "This is London."
"And give up what is familiar?"
"Familiar is dull."
"And give up seeing your parents? It is against the Law …"
She smiled, the glimmer of a smile. "Everyone breaks the Law."
"Cecy," he said, and closed the distance between them, though it was not much, and then he was kissing her-his hands awkward around her shoulders at first, slipping on the stiff taffeta of her gown before his fingers slid behind her head, tangling in her soft, warm hair. She stiffened in surprise before softening against him, the seam of her lips parting as he tasted the sweetness of her mouth. When she drew away at last, he felt light-headed. "Cecy?" he said again, his voice hoarse.
"Five," she said. Her lips and cheeks were flushed, but her gaze was steady.
"Five?" he echoed blankly.
"My rating," she said, and smiled at him. "Your skill and technique may, perhaps, require work, but the native talent is certainly there. What you require is practice."
"And you are willing to be my tutor?"
"I should be very insulted if you chose another," she said, and leaned up to kiss him again.
When Will came into Tessa’s room, Sophie was sitting by her bed, murmuring in a soft voice. She swung around as the door closed behind Will. The corners of her mouth looked pinched and worried.
"How is she?" Will asked, pushing his hands deep into his trouser pockets. It hurt to see Tessa like this, hurt as if a sliver of ice had lodged itself under his ribs and was digging into his heart. Sophie had plaited Tessa’s long brown hair neatly so that it would not tangle when she tossed her head fitfully against the pillows. She breathed quickly, her chest rising and falling fast, her eyes visibly moving beneath her pale eyelids. He wondered what she was dreaming.
"The same," Sophie said, rising gracefully to her feet and ceding him the chair beside the bed. "She has been calling out again."
"For anyone particular?" Will asked, and then was immediately sorry he had asked. Surely his motives would be ridiculously transparent.
Sophie’s dark hazel eyes darted away from his. "For her brother," she said. "If you wish a few moments alone with Miss Tessa …"
"Yes, please, Sophie."
She paused at the door. "Master William," she said.
Having just settled himself in the armchair beside the bed, Will glanced over at her.
"I am sorry I have thought and spoken so ill of you for all these years," Sophie said. "I understand now that you were only doing what we all try to do. Our best."
Will reached out and placed his hand over Tessa’s left one, where it plucked feverishly at the coverlet. "Thank you," he said, unable to look at Sophie directly; a moment later he heard the door softly close behind her.
He looked at Tessa. She was momentarily quiet, her lashes fluttering as she breathed. The circles beneath her eyes were dark blue, her veins a delicate filigree at her temples and the insides of her wrists. When he remembered her blazing up in glory, it was impossible to believe her fragile, yet here she was. Her hand felt hot in his, and when he brushed his knuckles against her cheek, her skin was burning.
"Tess," he whispered. "Hell is cold. Do you remember when you told me that? We were in the cellars of the Dark House. Anyone else would have been panicking, but you were as calm as a governess, telling me Hell was covered in ice. If it is the fire of Heaven that takes you from me, what a cruel irony that would be."
She breathed in sharply, and for a moment his heart leaped-had she heard him? But her eyes remained firmly shut.
His hand tightened on hers.
"Come back," he said. "Come back to me, Tessa. Henry said that perhaps, since you had touched the soul of an angel, that you dream of Heaven now, of fields of angels and flowers of fire. Perhaps you are happy in those dreams. But I ask this out of pure selfishness. Come back to me. For I cannot bear to lose all my heart."