The liquid was bitter and stung his throat on its way down. Jace, tilting the bottle back for the first of many sips to come, watched slightly cross-eyed as the liquid sloshed back and forth within the glass. He brought the bottle away from his mouth after a moment and held it between his bent knees, hanging his head as he inspected his surroundings.

Bottle upon bottle of alcoholic liquid surrounded him; stacked carefully on the coffee-table in front of him, glass bottles full of amber and clear liquids lay vicariously around his feet, and through the door that led to the kitchen, Jace could see a glimpse of the full crates of beer that he had hauled up the elevator not even ten minutes ago.

The lights were turned off completely, shadowing the large apartment in the fading afternoon light that came in from the window next to where Jace sat. He had planted himself down on the far wall of the living-room, surrounding himself with the life-taking liquid that he desperately would need to make it through the rest of the day.

With a despairing sigh, he brought the bottle back up to his lips and tilted his head back along with it.

This was planned. Jace had known that this was coming for the past few months, and he still wasn't mentally prepared to handle it yet. Sadness, grief, and about one-hundred different emotions stormed his mind, and there was only one way that Jace knew how to handle it.

Alcohol.

It had helped him every year, for the past two, to get through this dreaded day.

It was his escape-goat, and he planned on using it to its fullest capabilities.


One hour earlier…

The wide rolling-cart's wheels squeaked and groaned as Jace maneuvered it through the doorway that led to the backroom in the bookstore. The weight of the books, which had been either on the wrong shelf or were leftovers from when he had restocked the store, made pushing the cart slightly more difficult than it already was, but Jace wasn't focused on doing his job right now.

In fact, Jace was completely unfocused when it came to anything other than what tonight would bring. Mourning, anger, hatred; they all lined up, and he couldn't decide who the winner would be.

He already had plans to take a cab to the nearest liquor-store after he got off of work, after he got the OK from Maia that he was good to head home for the day. Then, after he had purchased all the alcohol that he could possibly consume within the next twenty-four hours, Jace would lug home the deadly drink and lock himself up in his apartment.

There, he would stay isolated until his hangover had worn off, and then he would go back to planning his father's destruction.

He just had to finish putting everything away in the store, and then he would be home free.

"Hey, Jace? Are you done yet? 'Cause I've got a date with Jordan!" Maia's voice traveled through the large doors of the backroom, slightly muffled but still comprehendible.

Jace stopped pushing the cart when it was in its cubby and wiped his hands off on his jeans, before starting to make his way back through the doors to the main part of the store. "Yeah, I'm done." He said casually as he walked around to the front-counter and leaned back against it.

Maia had her bag up on the countertop and was writing something down in a large, black notebook. Her eyes flickered up to his momentarily, her expression slightly panicky –for what reason, Jace didn't know- and then she quickly finished whatever she was writing and stuffed the notebook into her bag. She smoothed a friendly smile onto her face –though a slight tightness still hinted at the corners of her eyes, causing Jace to narrow his eyes at her suspiciously- and slung her bag over her shoulder as she rounded the counter.

"Well, I'm off. Can you lock up? I gotta run." She started walking slowly backwards, throwing a thumb casually over her shoulder as she did. Jace watched her closely, sensing that something was off about her behavior but he didn't exactly know what yet.

After studying her for a moment and coming up with nothing, he nodded slowly. "Sure, I've got it."

She smiled over at him and elbowed open the door, pausing with one foot in and one foot out of the store before she exited entirely. "Oh! I almost forgot! Happy birthday!"

Her words were kind and innocent, but they caused Jace to freeze all the same. He hadn't told anyone his birthday was today, purposely. In fact, he had been very careful not to give away any personal information. To anyone. At all. He was a wanted criminal with a bounty on his head, and he couldn't afford being recognized. Not until his plan was said and done and he had his father put to justice.

"What makes you think it's my birthday?" he questioned her carefully, keeping his voice and facial expressions in check.

"Oh…" she trailed off, her eyes widening slightly in alarm. "I just… um… heard you say it. Yeah, at the –uh- Magnus' party." Her words tumbled out of her mouth, her eyes flickering to anything and everything other than his face.

Jace knew, for a fact, that he hadn't said anything to anybody about his birthday. And he was starting to grow very suspicious of Maia today. What was she hiding?

Deciding to just play along –for now- Jace slowly nodded and forced himself to send a smile in her direction. "Oh, okay. I guess that I'll see you tomorrow?" his words were nonchalant, but his eyes were razor-sharp as he analyzed her expression.

She was twisting a loose thread on the hem of her shirt 'round and around her finger; her lip was caught in between her teeth, the pink piece of skin turning white where she bit into it; and she kept glancing down at her bag.

Weird.

"Y-yeah. Sure. Okay, see you then." Was her quick response, before she bolted the rest of the way through the door and hurried down the sidewalk to hail a cab.

Jace's eyes followed her through the large windows of the store until she turned the corner and disappeared out of sight, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

What was she up to…?

After a moment of confused thought as of why Maia was acting strangely, Jace shook his head and headed to the back of the store once more to retrieve his jacket.

He slipped his arms though its sleeves and pulled the leather up over his shoulders as he was on his way to the front-door. When he was just about to leave the store and lock-up for the day, he turned back once more to make sure that the store was in fact empty of customers.

Barely anyone had entered the store all day, but he just wanted to make sure that he wasn't going to lock anyone in the bookstore along with the cash-register. That would be bad.

When he was finished locking up the store and had made sure that the door was locked securely by tugging on it, Jace started walking down the sidewalk. He hailed a cab, not wanting to walk to the liquor-store, only after he was sitting down in the filthy little yellow car, did he finally allow himself to think of what would come of him in the next few hours.

He didn't know, but he had a pretty good idea.

And it wasn't good.


Present…

Jace glanced down at the bottle in his hand, now empty of the glorious liquid, and sighed to himself. He could feel the alcohol starting to fog up his mind, threatening to replace his blood. His head felt light, though a slight throbbing had taken up residence within his temples and his pulse had slowed. He had no idea of what he had consumed first -most likely Jose or Vodka, something heavy and lethal.

Dropping his chin down to hang near his chest, Jace plunked the empty glass-bottle down onto the hardwood floor beneath him and reached for the bottle nearest to where he sat. He unscrewed the cap, tossing it haphazardly to the side somewhere when he had it off of the bottle, and then he was bringing the bottle up to his mouth and taking a big gulp. He winced slightly and sighed as his throat burned, leaning his head back against the wall behind him with a thud that would've concerned his for his head's health, had he been sober.

He never used to drink. He hadn't ever actually consumed an alcoholic beverage until two years ago, come to think of it. He had been focused on school, and he knew without a doubt that his mother would've been severely disappointed in him had he gotten drunk. Jace had gone to several parties during his high-school years –or the ones that he attended- and he had countless 'acquaintances' that he hung out with during school. He had very few actual friends, though; always spending his weekends at home with his mother, had she been off work, and they watched cartoons or played card games until his father got home.

It might not sound like the ideal 'teenage-weekend', but for Jace, it was perfect. He wasn't really a fan of going wild and breaking the law with people his age; he found them pathetic and downright annoying. He loved his mother, and she was always so happy when they would play Blackjack, that Jace just couldn't deny her when she asked him to stay home and spend time with her. His mother was truly his best-friend, as weird as that sounds, and he didn't mind it one bit. He loved to see her smile when he allowed her to win at Poker, because she always seemed to be so sad.

Even when Jace was younger, his mother had always been sad. He had caught her crying once in her bathroom, and he hadn't known what to do exactly, so he just wrapped his arms around her larger body as best as he could and told her that it would be alright until she calmed down. When she had finally stopped crying, his mother had hugged him to her chest and made him promise that he would never grow up to be like his father. Jace of course, being so little, had been confused, but he had nodded anyway. He was slightly afraid that she would start crying again, and he didn't want that. Whenever his mother cried, it made him feel like crying.

And his father had once beaten the absolute shit out of him for crying. 'Crying shows weakness,' is what his father would spit at him, 'and I won't have weakness living under my roof anytime soon'. Jace was so little, that he could only nod and sniffle as his father stormed out of the room and left him alone again.

Long story short, Jace didn't like crying. A matter of fact, he loathed it. The action made him feel weak, as ironic as that was.

And yet here he sat, with a bottle of toxicity and silent tears occasionally slipping out of his eyes as his memories assaulted him from every which way.

The bottle felt unusually light in his hand suddenly, and he glanced down at it after taking another large drink. It was almost empty, only a couple of drinks left of the amber-tinted liquid sloshing around in the bottle. Swallowing heavily and staring intently at the bottle, Jace used the hand that wasn't currently holding the bottle to hoist himself up the wall and into a standing position. He swayed slightly when he was up, having to slam his hand back onto the wall to keep himself upright, and then he was stumbling forward. His foggy mind vaguely registered the sound of glass breaking, the sign that he must've knocked over some bottles, but he was already on his way to the kitchen.

Jace swung out a hand once he was in the doorway that led to the kitchen in order to balance himself, and then he just stood there, swaying lightly with his eyes flickering around the room unfocusedly, for a long moment before continuing on his rampage.

He found the crates of beer and watched them for a moment, debating whether or not he wanted a drink out of them, before he shook his head and headed back into the living room, the near-empty bottle still clasped in hand.

When he was at the couch, he dropped down heavily and stared at the blank TV screen. Jace was confused, and he didn't know what he was supposed to be doing.

Wasn't he supposed to be at school?

When did he get an apartment?

At what point in his life had he left his mother in the hands of his father?

He didn't want her to be sad anymore, and he had left her. She probably hated him, or worse.

She might've thought that he was dead. She must've been so sad…

Had Jace been able to separate his thoughts for five seconds, he would have noticed that he was thinking like an idiot. He had a plan to stick to, but his thoughts just kept derailing until the feeling sadness threatened to consume him whole.

He was suddenly so, terribly sad.

Depressed would be the right word.

Jace was still staring into the black screen of the TV, when he felt something warm and wet trickle down his cheek. He reached a hand up to wipe it away, only to pop himself in the face with the bottle that he still held firmly in his hand. He blinked at it uncomprehendingly for a moment, before he realized that he should probably let go of the bottle.

He flung it at the wall to his left, not caring that it shattered and left sharp fragments all over the floor. He didn't even give it any notice, only wincing slightly at the sharp noise that it created. He was still staring at the TV, and he finally reached for the remote and switched it on.

The first channel was the News, and Jace groaned and immediately pressed the 'UP' button on the remote. After repeating this process several more times, he finally landed on an acceptable station. Scooby-Doo blared out of the box in front of him and he sat back with a smile on his face, snatching a straw bottle full of a clear liquid off of the short table in front of him as he slouched into the couch.

He swallowed his mouthful of bitter liquid slowly as he watched Shaggy and Scooby inhale unrealistically large sandwiches, completely entranced in the silly cartoon.

Jace remembered watching cartoons with his mother every weekend. They would spend their entire Saturday watching the entertaining pictures, and then he and his mother would attend church on Sunday. His father was almost always absent on the weekends, so they were free to do as they pleased. They used to make forts out of the couch cushions and blankets in the living-room, and his mother would make s'mores in the microwave so that they could 'camp-out'.

With a chuckle, Jace brought his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them in order to hold them to his body, resting his chin on top of them and closing his eyes as he lifted the bottle to his mouth for another drink.

He was going to be so hung-over in the morning…

The TV cast a bluish hue through his eyelids and the sound of the familiar cartoon invaded his ears. Jace barked out a random laugh, for what reason he didn't know, and moved his chin to lay flat against his chest and moved his forehead to rest against his knees.

With his eyes closed, memories flooded into his mind and threatened to overcome his sanity.


Suddenly, Jace was five years old again. His mother was standing in the doorframe of the bathroom, her arms folded lightly across her chest and a soft smile gracing her lips. She looked so much younger than she had the last time that Jace had seen her, three years ago. She was wearing an apron and had flour caked on her forearms and across her cheeks, but she didn't seem to mind. Her eyes were bright as she locked gazes with Jace and giggled heartily.

"Oh, Angel. What have you gotten yourself into now, Sweetheart?" she asked kindly, walking into the bathroom further and taking a seat on top of the closed toilet-seat. She wiped her hands off on her apron and watched with amused eyes as Jace picked up a handful of bubbles from his bath and blew them at him.

"Hi, Momma." He said, giggling when the bubbles landed in his mother's hair and she made a silly face at him.

"What's my boy doing? You made a mess of the kitchen, Sweetheart. It looks like a winter-wonderland." Her voice was soft, no anger showing in her soft-brown eyes.

Jace burrowed deeper into the warm water to hide his smile, thinking of the massive amounts of flour that he had accidentally scattered throughout the kitchen. He was just trying to make his mother a cake, but he couldn't find all of the ingredients. And the flour jar had tipped over almost immediately after he had started 'making' the batter, so…

"Sorry. I was trying to make you a cake, but it didn't work out." He admitted sheepishly, an innocent blush dusting his cheekbones.

His mother, Celine, laughed again and leaned over the edge of the tub to tap his nose lightly with her finger. "It's okay, Sweetheart. I just need you to be more careful next time, though. You could've gotten hurt, getting that big flour-jar down out of the cupboard."

Jace nodded, the edge of his chin brushing the mountains of bubbles on the surface of the water, and locked his eyes with his mother's. "Okay, Momma. I promise."

His mother smiled another one of her soft, loving smiles down at him and opened her mouth to speak, but she never got the chance.

"Celine! Jonathan! What the hell is going on down here?!" the booming voice of Jace's father sounded through the massive house, causing Jace's eyes to widen and his entire body to stiffen. The curse words were always a bad sign. Always.

He didn't like it when his father yelled. It almost always was the sign of punishment, the signal that Jace was about to get hurt again. He might not have liked getting hurt by his father, but he feared more for his mother's well-being than anything else.

She would get yelled at, and Jace would hear her crying late at night afterwards. She always sounded so sad, and Jace didn't know what to do about it. He didn't know how to make it better.

His mother signed –a resigned, almost dreadful sound- and stood from her perch on the toilet-seat, quickly scrubbing her hands under the running faucet of the sink before grabbing one of the fluffy towels from the town-rack and spreading it out along her arms.

"Okay, Sweetie. Time to get out; Daddy's home." Her voice was calm, but Jace could read her eyes like one of the books that he and his mother read before bedtime. Fear was bright and shining in her irises, and Jace felt a slight tremble start in his tiny body.

He just nodded in response and stood up in the bath, allowing his mother to help him out of the warm water and wrap the large towel around his shivering form. He clutched at the edges of the towel that swallowed up his body and walked in front of his mother as she led him out of the bathroom and back into his bedroom from the en-suite, wet tendrils of hair dripping water onto Jace's forehead as he walked.

After his mother had helped him get dressed and ready for bed, Jace followed his mother hesitantly down the large, marble steps of the stairs to the kitchen. He was starting to regret requesting a snack before bed, but what was done, was done.

"Celine! What's taking you so long?! Get down here NOW!" the demanding voice of Jace's father caused him to flinch violently and halt mid-step on the stairs. His mother apparently had the same feeling of fright as him, because he saw her pause in front of him and inhale deeply before continuing on her trek downstairs.

"What, honey?" his mother inquired with false-brightness when they reached the kitchen, plastering a fake smile on her face. Jace hedged reluctantly into the wide kitchen behind his mother, sticking in the doorway cautiously as he took in the scene in front of him.

His father was leaning against the one surface in the kitchen that wasn't covered in flour: the countertop that held the microwave. He had his arms crossed stiffly over his chest and was glaring at Jace's mother fiercely, anger apparent in his furious gaze. Had that gaze been directed at Jace, he would have wanted to run and hide as fast as he could. His father's anger was a force to be reckoned with, and not even the strongest man would dare to challenge it.

His mother, her back gone straight as a board, was bustling around the white-coated kitchen, grabbing a wet rag from the sink and wiping off one of the many countertops. Her smile had settled down to a grim line and her eyes were sharp as she worked to clear off the counter of the white substance.

"What happened in here." Jace's father, Stephen, demanded, his question coming out through his teeth as a command, more than a question. Jace's mother paused momentarily in the process of cleaning, before continuing at a much slower pace.

"We were baking." Her voice shook and her grip on the rag tightened until her knuckles were white. Stephen nodded slowly, calmly.

"I'm sure you were." He stated quietly, the anger enough to make Jace duck behind the doorframe slightly and watched with scared eyes as his father straightened up and fixed an ugly scowl on his face in the direction of Jace's mother. "And just who is going to clean this shit up?!"

Oh, no, Jace thought with a whimper. His father was going to explode, and then somebody was going to get hurt. Jace slowly edged his way into the room and scooted along the wall further into the kitchen, trying to not alert his father that he was there.

No such luck.

His father's eyes darted to him immediately, and then he was crossing the room and grabbing a fistful of Jace's shirt, lifting him clear off his feet and scaring him to death.

"What did you do?!" he roared, shaking Jace harshly. Jace whimpered and turned his eyes to the floor, afraid of what was to come. "Look at me when I'm talking to you." A large had grabbed ahold of his chin and forced his eyes to meet his father's.

Small tears threatened to spill over, but Jace held them back and swallowed before responding. "Y-yes, sir." His voice was small, yet firm. Or as firm as he tried to make it be…

"Now," his father paused, glancing over his shoulder at Celine. She was watching the encounter with sharp eyes and a concerned expression, her task of cleaning completely forgotten. "Are you going to clean this up?" it wasn't a question, as much as a demand.

Jace nodded frantically, not wanting to anger his father any more than he already was.

A moment of silence passed, the grip on his shirt tightening so much that it threatened to rip the material, before he was dropped back onto his feet and his father was storming across the room. Towards his mother.

"Make sure that this shit is cleaned up. I don't work all day, just to come home a pick up after your son." He spat lowly, grabbing ahold of Jace's mother's bicep harshly and shoving her harshly back into the counter behind her, before barreling out of the kitchen.

A door slammed a moment later from somewhere else in the house, and Jace's mother relaxed and let out a shaky breath. Jace was still frozen from where his father had left him against the wall, but he moved then, making his way over to his mother and hugging his arms tightly around her legs. He buried his face into her hip and sniffed, trying to keep his tears at bay.

A gentle hand came down to rest on his head, fingers threading themselves through his damp hair, and then he was being lifted up into his mother's arms. She crushed him to her body and he buried his head in the crook of her neck, breathing in the comforting smell of laundry detergent that always seemed to linger on her.

"I'm sorry, Momma. I didn't mean to-," he started to say, his voice a muffled whimper against his mother's skin. She cut him off with a gentle kiss on his head and squeezed him tighter to her.

"Don't apologize, Sweetheart. It's not your fault; Daddy's just being moody." She reassured him, patting his hair soothingly and rocking him slightly in her arms. He never called his father 'Daddy', but he never tried to correct his mother. It was better that she thought they had a good relationship, better that she didn't have to worry about something else. She already had too much on her plate, and she didn't need any more.

Jace sniffed again and turned his face further into her neck, trying to hide in the comfort and warmth that only his mother provided for him. "I'm sorry." He repeated. "I love you, Momma." He told her as an afterthought, his voice soft and his eyelids starting to droop from exhaustion.

It was bedtime, and he would usually be reading with his mother by now. They always read before bed, it was like a ritual.

"Oh, I love you, too, Sweetheart." His mother gave him another gentle kiss on his head, before she slid him back down onto the floor and smiled down at him. "Now, what shall we eat?" her tone was light, and a smile spread across Jace's face when he caught sight of her own grin. All thoughts of the previous dread flew out of his head at the sight of his mother's joyous smile, and he bit his lip in thought of what to eat before bed.

"Um… Goldfish?" he asked hesitantly, looking hopefully up into his mother's eyes. She nodded down at him in approval and started towards the pantry.

When she returned at his side, with the bag of goldfish in hand, she led him back out of the messy kitchen and up to his room to eat his snack and then tuck him into bed.


Jace, now back in the present, remembered that day with a vivid memory. It was painful, remembering his life before everything went to hell.

After Jace had been tucked into bed, read to, and his mother thought that he was asleep, he had heard yelling from his parents' bedroom down the hall. Glass shattering had sounded through the walls of his room, and then heartbreaking sobs followed another slamming of doors. He had buried his face into his pillow and cried himself to sleep during it all, feeling guilty because he had caused it.

Truth was though, was that it wasn't his fault. He hadn't known that he would make that big of a mess; he was just trying to do something nice for his mother. Like she always did for him…

Anger caused his head to throb and Jace's eyes flashed open with a furious thought. His father didn't have to react so harshly, even if it was provoked. He didn't have to cause his wife to cry, and he didn't have to manhandle Jace like a ragdoll.

He was a bully, and Jace hated him because of it.

Stumbling up to stand on his feet, Jace looked down at the mess of bottle around him. He glanced down at the one in his hand, and threw it at the TV on a split-second decision. It shattered above the glowing black-box, glass raining down around the cartoon still displayed on the screen.

His eyes flickered over all of the bottles around him, taking in the massive amounts of bottles with heavy eyes. He stormed over to the side of the room where he had placed most of his alcoholic loot, and then he was throwing bottles around the room in a furious haze. Glass shattered off of walls and furniture, but Jace didn't even notice. He just kept destroying bottle after bottle, his thoughts derailing in his drunken state.

He thought about how he had grabbed Izzy the other day, how he hadn't spared a second thought as he reacted carelessly. He could've seriously hurt her, if he hadn't screwed his head on straight when he had.

He was a bully, too. Just like his father.

Monster, monster, monster, a cruel voice chanted inside of his head. He shook his head quickly and stumbled blindly over to the wall where he had originally started his night off at. He backed against the wall and slid down it until he was sitting with his head hanging in between his knees. He was gasping for air, not seeming to be able to take in enough oxygen.

Jace was suddenly so, very exhausted. His eyes were heavy and felt swollen, and he was trembling something fierce.

Reaching his hands up to rub them over his face, in hopes to wake him up more, he found out with surprise that his cheeks were wet. Was he crying? Apparently he was, but he didn't actually know when he started.

That was probably why his chest felt tight all of a sudden and it was hard to breath. He closed his eyes briefly, and was just about to drift off into sleep's welcoming hold, when a loud knocking sounded through his apartment.

Jace lifted his head, its weight more than he thought he could handle, and he stared at the small hallway that led to the front door.

What was it now? What more could the world possibly want from him?

"Jace! Please open up! I heard glass breaking. Oh, god. Please be okay." A familiar, urgent voice yelled through the door, muffled by the heavy wood.

Shit. Now that was a whole other problem on his list.


Dum. Dum. Dum.

Long chapter!

TWB:

A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne

Cassandra Clare owns all her stuff, I own mine. :D

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