Authors Notes: Okay, someone stop me! Another one shot for your reading pleasure! A million thanks go to Marcy who not only beta's for me but also encourages me to write...something I never thought I was very good at much less that I'd actually ENJOY! Thanks, Girly! You give me the confidence to write and share!
Music that inspired this writing: "Hallelujah" by Hana Pestle, "Breakin' Me" by Jonny Lang, and "Kissing You" by Des'ree. All three songs gave a great deal to this piece, go listen!
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not own Clary, or Jace or any part of the Mortal Instruments Series for that matter.
By Any Other Name
Clary nervously picked at her fingernails while the elevator rose slowly. She was still unsure why she was here at all; for company! She insisted to herself once more. Luke had gone out to take care of some things for the pack and Simon was at band practice; neither were activities she particularly cared to participate in.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened to a darkness.
"Hello?" She called out. Silence was the only response she received. She stepped out of the elevator and into the institute. It was creepy here without anyone else around. She made her way upstairs looking for any lights that might indicate human life. She found none. The only other place she could think to look was the greenhouse. She made her way to the beautiful glass room.
It proved to be empty as well; and dark, without even the moon to provide the gentle glow that lit the room last time she was in it. She didn't turn and leave right away. With nowhere to go she decided to stay for a few minutes and enjoy the peace and serenity that had found its way into her heart as soon as she'd entered the room.
She wandered around the room, gently touching the feather soft petals of the flowers. Their colors were muted in the darkness but that didn't distract from the beauty that the room held. She made her way to the center of the room and looked up through the glass ceiling. The stars seemed to have intensified without the moon or city lights hindering their glow. It was a startling vision...breathtaking.
The sound of someone turning the handle of the door startled her. She whirled, whoever was coming into the greenhouse hadn't turned on any of the lights in the institute; they were still completely shadowed in darkness. Clary hid, not because she was afraid but because if whoever it was meant harm she'd be better off with the element of surprise.
She guessed her 'visitor' was male judging from the height and build. He closed the door quietly behind him and pushed his hood back, a shock of light hair fell around his face. Clary let out a tiny gasp; it was Jace. He strode into the room with purpose and sat on a stone bench that stood under a small blossoming tree that she couldn't name. His elbows rested on his knees and he put his face in his hands.
Clary almost went to him; he looked in obvious emotional distress. She'd nearly stood all the way when he started speaking.
"Where are you?" He spoke softly, and Clary almost thought he knew she was there. "If you exist like everyone says you do, where are you?" Clary crouched back down.
He took his face out of his hands and looked up into the night. The very dim glow emanating from the stars gave his skin an almost otherworldly radiance.
"Have you forgotten about me? Have you really stopped caring?" He sighed and let his gaze fall on the plant in front of him. "Perhaps it's just some sick joke. A funny way to teach me about karma?"
His head dropped again, his golden strands curling around in front of his eyes. "How could you let this hap- ...happen?" His voice, barely a whisper, broke at the end of his question.
Clary held her breath. She'd never seen him this way...never. This was a Jace that he'd reserved for himself, only to be let out when he was sure he was alone.
" Death? ...Now, I understand death. It's inevitable, a goal we are all working toward and one we will all one day reach. That's just a matter of timing." He stood and walked slowly over to the plant he'd been studying only a moment ago. Clary watched as he took one of the large green leaves between his fingers and pulled.
He held it up in front of him and studied it, turning it from one side to the other. "Is it that easy for you? I'm sure it must be a decision no more difficult than pulling a leaf from a plant; no different from a writer placing a period at the end of a sentence." He closed his hand on the leaf and lifted his closed fist to his mouth.
He was quiet for a long moment, just standing there.
Abruptly, he let his fist fall and the leaf tumbled to the cold floor. He lifted his head, "Listen to me, carrying on like some love sick tortured Romeo wannabe...how pathetic."
He scoffed at himself and Clary saw him roll his eyes. She almost giggled at the fact that he was irritating himself...almost.
"That fool had it easy. What I wouldn't give to have my problem be someone my parents didn't approve of rather than someone that shares my parents."
Clary covered her mouth to keep from crying out. She'd suspected that he was talking about her, but hearing him say it aloud caught her off guard none the less. His Problem?
He made his way across the room, his shoulders hung in a way she'd never seen before, like they carried a great weight...nearly too much to bear. He stopped at a rose bush, dotted with large white blooms. "Hmm, he did get one thing right; 'that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.' ...or by the same name in this case." He chuckled at himself as he broke one of the flowers off low down on the stem, and lifted it to his face.
He closed his eyes and inhaled the flowers heady scent. "No, he got that wrong as well." He said with half a laugh. "Nothing. The sweet scent of this rose holds nothing next to her. Her scent...her beauty...her innocence." He stepped back over to the bench and laid the delicate flower down.
Clary released a breath that she didn't know she'd been holding in as quietly as she could. He legs were beginning to cramp and her breathing was ragged. She was having a hard time maintaining control of her emotions.
She struggled to keep herself together as she watched Jace begin to pace slowly back and forth. "Why me?" He looked heavenward again. "Why her? ...How could you let this happen?" He repeated his question from earlier.
He stopped pacing and looked down at the floor. In the dim light it was difficult for Clary to tell the difference between him and stone angel that he stood next to; both looked so tortured...so unable to help themselves.
"I don't know what to do anymore." He sounded dangerously close to tears. "I can't...I don't know- I've tried. I'm not sure what-" He couldn't finish his thought.
His grief was breaking Clary's heart all over again. Her chin trembled and she pressed her lips together hard to stop it.
"I don't think I can do this." He whispered, and then he fell to his knees. He didn't try to catch himself, almost as if he hoped the cold hard concrete would offer some kind of distraction from the ripping in his chest and the burning in his throat. "I can't just be her friend...her brother." He spat the word as if it tasted foul. Clary watched as he crumpled in on himself, shoulders hunched and his head nearly touching the floor.
"I've tried." His voice strained as he spoke into the floor. She could hardly hear him and the emotion that was now coloring his voice made it even more difficult. Not that it mattered much at that point. There was a steady stream of salty tears making their way down her face now, staining her blouse with spots of darkness.
His figure shook, and she knew he must have been fighting the same tears she couldn't stop. "I can't see her every day, and not...not want-" She heard him sniffle and put her fist to her mouth to hold in the sob that was fighting to get out.
Jace stilled but Clary could still hear his quiet weeping. He sucked in a great breath and slammed his fist down hard on the concrete floor. "I AM NOT WEAK!" He shouted. "Why can't I get past this trial!?"
A startled cry escaped Clary, and she got very still in fear that he'd heard her. He didn't move though, he just stayed there curled on the floor. Half a man. Broken.
She'd done that. Her own grief washed over her, covering what she was feeling for Jace. She shouldered all of his pain and hers rested heavily on top. All of his musings, declarations, and pains found solid ground in her own heart. The pain of losing him was new all over again.
She stood and made her way around the large shrub she'd been hiding behind. She walked slowly over to him, falling to her knees beside him before he became aware of her presence. She leaned over him, embracing him and laying her head on his back.
He sat up and looked at her, swiping at his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. "Clary...?" His surprise at her being there masked by relief, he pulled her into his arms.
Her head rested under his chin and she struggled to get control of her own tears. He held on to her tightly, too tightly; and she welcomed it. It was like he was desperate for her. Desperate for her to be real and there, desperate for her to be just Clary Fray, desperate for her to be allowed to love him as he loved her.
He pulled on her shoulders so she'd lift her head and look at him. "Clary, I-I can...I mean-I can't. I don't know what to-"
She placed two fingers over his lips, stopping him from saying anything more. She slowly turned her head from side to side. Her eyes begging him to understand her without words because she didn't think she would have been able to get any out.
Clary took her hand from his lips and placed it on his cheek, running her fingers up into his hair and down the back of his head, settling on the nape of his neck. She licked her lips and pulled him to her. Keeping eye contact the whole way there; slowly...so slowly, she touched her lips to his.
They were salty; flavored by his dried tears. She felt a sob make its way up his throat before his hands wound in her hair. He deepened the kiss, and with the salt from their tears she could taste all of his desperate longing for her. She returned all she had...more than she'd even known was there.
Clary was unwilling to let him go, and he didn't seem to have the ability even if he'd wanted to. Before long though, the need for air forced space between the two. Both hauled in great gulps of air, heaving chests and rapid heartbeats synchronized in an undetectable rhythm.
"What are we...going to do, Clary?" He asked between breaths.
She studied his face, her own breathing slowing to a manageable pace. Her eyes flickered from his eyes to his hair, back down to his eyes; from his eyes around his strong cheeks and across his nose, settling on his swollen lips. She leaned in and captured them once more, briefly.
"I don't know," She breathed against his mouth. "I don't know."
He pulled her to his chest once more, supporting her like she was him. Give and take. Win and lose. Right and wrong. Why did it have to be so defined, these lines that govern life? There was no way to draw a line between them; sister and brother, woman and man...friends? Lovers? There were no answers, only question upon question.