It was another sticky, clammy night in Pandemonium. Bodies heaved together almost as one entity on the dancefloor and the booths around the outside were practically empty, save for a few individuals sipping drinks of various exotic colours. Jace stirred his own murky dark drink morosely with a straw. He had asked for the strongest cocktail they had on the bar (in a tall glass of course, he couldn't be seen drinking out of those silly Martini-glass-umbrella contraptions) and had hardly touched it thus far. He didn't feel like getting blind drunk this evening; the drink he'd been given looked quite ominous anyway.

His eyes scanned the dancefloor for what felt like the thousandth time that evening. Jace told himself he was looking for signs of trouble, but it was a lie. Since Clary had met them outside the club about two hours previously, he had been overcome by feelings that were far from brotherly. She wasn't dressed in one of Isabelle's annoyingly revealing get-ups, but the combination of her plain black jeans and tank top was utterly devastating anyway, to Jace at least. He was quite sure he saw a few of the guys in the line leering at Clary with less-than-brotherly expressions and wondered whether he would get his own black shirt dirty if he committed murder right there in the street.

Once inside the club however, Isabelle had looped her arm through Clary's and pulled her into the mass of bodies on the dancefloor. Jace thought the term 'dancefloor' was rather loosely used here. The movements most of the people in the middle of the room were making could hardly be defined as dancing. Some just jumped up and down on the spot and waved their arms like they were helping to land a plane. Again, his eyes examined the crowd, hoping to maybe find Clary or Isabelle attempting such moves. He'd never let them live it down.

What his eyes eventually fell on was far from amusing. Two hands interlinked, fingers plaited together. A large hand on a small waist. A strap falling down a pale, star-marked shoulder and being pulled up again by said large hand. A shy smile and an expressed gratitude.

Jace looked down at his own hand resting on his leg and was surprised to find it clenched tight. His knuckles were white, something burning in his limbs; the burning ache to spring from his seat and rip whoever it was mauling his sister into tiny pieces. He could feel his mouth curling unpleasantly into a snarl, felt powerless to stop himself from standing up and slamming down his drink, which splashed everywhere. Before he could rein in his temper, he was weaving through the thrashing bodies on the dancefloor.

The man (he definitely didn't look like a boy. Jace's anger and revulsion flared) had leaned in closer to Clary and was shouting over the music into her ear. Later on, Jace would probably think about his reaction and pass it off as brotherly instincts. But had he given it any thought at the time, Jace would know without any doubt that what he was feeling was pure jealousy. As he neared, Jace thought he heard phrases like, 'hot in here', 'get some fresh air' and 'come with me?'. The odd burning sensation that was pulsing through him like lava was intensifying the closer he got.

Clary was nodding and being led through the crowd, but the two of them didn't get far before Jace caught the man's shoulder and landed a punch square on his jaw, with all of his might. The man crashed to the floor, thankfully letting go of Clary's hand and clutching his face in agony. Some satisfaction filtered through the blistering heat of Jace's anger, but it dissipated when he turned to Clary and saw the mutinous expression on her face.

"What the hell are you doing?" she yelled at him over the music. Someone, somewhere shrieked about getting a bouncer and a small circle had formed around Jace, Clary and the writhing and bloodied figure on the floor. It was as though Jace had tunnel-vision; all he could see was Clary's fury.

"Taking his filthy paws off of you," he shouted back. "You're welcome, by the way."

There couldn't have been a worse thing to say. Clary reached out and grabbed Jace's wrist in a manner that would probably have been painful to someone who hadn't endured much worse. "Outside," she intoned. "Now."

For a split second, Jace wondered if intended to follow or whether she was just telling him to get out of her sight. But when he saw a muscular bouncer pushing through the crowd he decided it was probably best he called it a night anyway. Not bothering to check if Clary was behind him, Jace snaked through the crowd nimbly and didn't stop until he felt the cold New York air cooling his face and his temper. He wondered whether he should just head straight back to the Institute. Clary would most likely inform Isabelle and Alec of what had just happened and Jace could guess how it would go from there. He could see, in his mind's eye, Isabelle's eyes rolling and Alec staying silent but sneaking from the club five minutes later to head back home and make sure his parabatai was alright. Yes, they'd all presume he'd go to the Institute. And so that's exactly where he didn't go.

***

Clary pushed down the filthy toilet lid and perched on top of it, putting her head in her hands. The music was muffled in the toilets of Pandemonium but her head still pounded. It had been an hour since Jace had sucker-punched Andy in the middle of the club and since then, Clary just hadn't been in the party mood. After apologising hundreds of times to Andy and enlisting Isabelle to take him off her hands, she had gone back to the table that they had claimed at the start of the night. Jace's glass was almost empty on the table, most of its contents splashed across the surface as though he'd slammed it down with some force. He probably had, she realised. It was a miracle Andy's jaw hadn't been broken; judging by the vivid purple bruise rising on his face, Jace must have thoroughly lost his temper.

Replaying the events in her mind again, Clary tried to make sense of it all. The events themselves were easy to get her head around. Jace had obviously thought Andy had dishonourable intentions and had taken it upon himself to swoop in and save the day. Making sense of her feelings about it all was a completely different kettle of fish. At the time she was so angry she could barely find words to express it and needed Jace to be out of her hair before she said something she might regret. But now when her blood had cooled, she found herself oddly touched. Jace had wanted to look out for her. This was hardly a new development; he'd risked much more than being thrown out of a club to protect Clary before. But it felt different when the monster he was protecting her from was so, for want of a better word, mundane. They could almost be an ordinary brother and sister.

Enough thinking. Clary wanted out of Pandemonium. She needed some peace and quiet. Alec and Isabelle would be fine getting back to the Institute together, and Clary would see them back there later. There was a stop on her way home that would guarantee her some peace and quiet.