Disclaimer: All characters, plot and awesomeness are owned by Cassandra Clare.
A/N: This is me, scratching an itch that won't go away after reading The Mortal Instruments in three days. I am currently neck-deep in writing some Dimitri Belikov stuff and this was just a way to break the dark mood of what I am currently writing. I also blame Boys Like Girls' Two is Better than One for making me think about Jace and Clary obsessively until I HAD to write this.
Chapter Seventeen: The Midnight Flower
Okay, Jace. Knock. It shouldn't be hard. Curl your knuckles into a fist, then rap it on her door. After a few seconds, societal conventions decree that she answers your knock. Unless she's already sleeping.
With someone else… but he didn't let himself think that very far. Besides, he thought that the mundane didn't have it in him. Or he was too much of a nice kid. Both were pathetic reasons he was grudgingly thankful for.
He finally knocked on the door, softly. Well, if Clary was already asleep, then it was just easy to feed these to Church or Hugo or eat it by himself like he always does alone—
The door swung open. There was surprise in Clary's face… she certainly wasn't expecting him. Was that good or bad? He waved uncertain thoughts away and kept his hands behind his back to hide the stuff he was carrying.
A quick dart of his eyes told him that Simon was indeed sleeping on her bed. Jace tried to keep it together—it was not logical to have thoughts of murdering that mundane in his sleep just because he was sleeping on Clary's bed. But the premise was very tempting. Were they lying together just before he knocked?
"Are you asleep?" Jace asked. He rather thought he was able to hide the demanding tone he wanted to yell at her. He noticed what she was wearing—thin, light blue tank top and shorts. Nothing fancy or sexy like what Isabelle prefers wearing. But Jace can't imagine anything more appealing than what Clary was wearing at the moment.
With a discreet glance at Simon, she moved forward at him, stepping fully into the hallway. She closed the door behind her. "No. Why would you think that?"
He let his eyes fall into her sleepwear and suppressed a smirk. "No reason."
But she quickly caught what he was getting at. "I was in bed most of the day." She frowned at him. "What about you? Aren't you exhausted?"
Jace's whole body was aching all over. But that was before Clary opened the door. He shook his head. "Much like the postal service, demon hunters never sleep." He proceeded to recite the United States Postal Creed for her amusement. " 'Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these—"
She recognized it and cut him off. "You'd be in major trouble if gloom of night did stay you."
Jace couldn't help grinning at her. Clary's retorts almost never fails to amuse him. He wasn't used to it.
She stared at him, rubbing her arms. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
How to say this without seeming too… eager? He supposed he could tease her just a little bit more. "Here as in your bedroom or 'here' as in the great spiritual question of our purpose here on this planet? If you're asking whether it's all just a cosmic coincidence or there's a greater meta-ethical purpose to life, well, that's a puzzler for the ages. I mean, simple ontological reductionism is clearly a fallacious argument, but—"
It was almost worth it to see the exasperation flit in her delicately boned face. Clearly, she wasn't amused. "I'm going back to bed." She turned her back on him.
Jace quickly put himself between her and the door. "I'm here, because Hodge reminded me it was your birthday."
She sighed wearily. "Not until tomorrow."
"That's no reason to start celebrating now." he replied matter-of-factly.
She glared at him warily. "You're avoiding Alec and Isabelle."
Part of the reason… yet not quite. But Jace just agreed solemnly at her. "Both of them are trying to pick fights with me."
Her face instantly showed concern. "For the same reason?"
Jace shrugged and looked briskly at the corridor. He wasn't keen on others stumbling on them—it might spoil his plans. "I couldn't tell. Hodge too, everyone wants to talk to me." he returned to study her. "Except you. I bet you don't want to talk to me."
"No." A slight twinge on his insides, but Clary seemed like she didn't mean to offend. She just looked very exhausted. As she should be. Jace sometimes conveniently forgets she was raised as a mundane. Her stomach rumbled faintly. "I want to eat. I'm starving."
Perfect. Jace showed her the food he brought. "I sneaked some food from the kitchen when Isabelle wasn't looking." Much.
Clary smiled widely. A true smile. It lit up her face like a candle. Jace instantly knew this was a good idea. "A picnic? It's a little late for Central Park, don't you think? It's full of—"
"Faeries. I know." Not that they were a problem.
She shook her head. "I was going to say muggers. Though I pity the mugger who goes after you."
Something warm swooped his insides. He knew it was just a careless remark but he was pleased that Clary thought of him as capable of… protecting her. "That is a wise attitude, and I commend you for it. But I wasn't thinking of Central Park." Here goes. "How about the greenhouse?"
Clary's eyes widened with disbelief. "Now? at night? Won't it be—dark?"
Jace couldn't help smiling at her. "Come on, I'll show you."
They walked upstairs to the greenhouse, their shoulders hardly brushing each other. But Jace was never aware of another person in his entire life. Like a pinprick of a flare in an overwhelming sea of darkness.
The view was pretty, as he knew it would be, the way Manhattan's skyline would be so visible through the glass. He peeked at Clary to see what her reaction would be like. It did not disappoint.
"Wow." She breathed, her eyes widening. "It's so beautiful here at night."
Jace couldn't help smiling at her reaction. "And we have the place to ourselves." Clary was touching a moonflower as he spoke. "Alec and Isabelle hate it up here. They have allergies."
They were alone. Jace didn't dwell much on that thought. Clary didn't look at him, just continued looking at the various blooms.
"What kind of flowers are these?" she murmured.
"No idea." He shrugged and sat down, making sure they were near her birthday surprise. The flower buds were still closed, and Clary looked like she had no idea what they were or what they do when the clock strikes twelve. "You think I pay attention in botany class? I'm not going to be an archivist. I don't need to know about that stuff."
"You just need to know how to kill things?" she asked in a deceptively innocent tone.
He grinned at her. "That's right."
She smiled back, amusement dancing in her eyes.
"Also…" Jace pried open the paper bag. "I make a mean cheese sandwich. Try one."
He brought out the food while Clary sat across him, her face mildly curious—then surprised with the contents he had brought.
"Not a bad haul." She commented, eyeing the chocolate.
She took a bite of the cheese sandwich as she watched him produce a knife from his pocket. Jace carefully sliced the apples into thin slices—showing off just a little. But Clary was the type of girl who doesn't impress easily. It irritated him as well as it fascinated him.
He handed her a slice. "Well it's not a birthday cake, but hopefully it's better than nothing."
"Nothing is what I was expecting, so thanks." She took it. The moonlight made her face seem gentler than usual. And a touch bit sad. Jace wanted to erase it away with his fingers pulling the corners of her mouth to a smile.
No, no, no you can't do that.
"Nobody should get nothing on their birthday." He busied his hands with a second apple. Clary was staring at them like they were doing something fascinating. "Birthdays should be special. My birthday was always the one day or have anything I wanted."
"Anything?" Her eyes snapped to his, her face rapt. But he rather liked her paying attention to him. Jace thought that Clary didn't notice just anyone. "Like what kind of anything did you want?"
Jace was distracted by her expression and almost forgot what he was going to say. What the hell was happening? This was not the first time he talked to a girl. Certainly not the first time he wanted to charm someone, to coax someone to laugh…
But a small voice inside of him told him that maybe this was the first time he wanted a girl to talk with him, to make her smile and laugh because of him…
He cleared his throat. "Well, when I was five, I wanted to take a bath in spaghetti."
"But he didn't let you, right?" she guessed.
He shook his head. "No that's the thing. He did. He said it wasn't expensive, and why not if that was what I wanted?"
Jace remembered the disbelief… that gave way to pure, abandoned joy when his father relented to his absurd request. He realized that he had not felt that kind of happiness in a long time now.
"He had the servants fill a bath with boiling water and pasta, and when it cooled down, I took a bath in it." Jace finished.
Clary looked half-disbelieving, half-amused. "How was it?"
"Slippery." And sticky after.
"I bet." She bit her lip as if thinking of something else. "What else did you ask for?"
He carved random shapes on the apple he was holding. "Weapons, mostly, which I'm sure doesn't surprise you." she smiled at that. "Books. I read a lot on my own."
She tilted her head. "You didn't go to school?"
He paused before answering, wondering if Clary noticed it. He didn't to ruin her birthday with stories of his own. "No."
Clary frowned. "But your friends—"
Ah. "I didn't have any friends besides my father. He was all I needed."
But as he looked at her, he sometimes… questioned that.
"No friends at all?" she gawked at him.
"The first time I saw Alec, when I was ten years old, that was the first time I'd ever met another child my own age." He paused, remembering the feeling of that first day he came to the Lightwood manor. "The first time I had a friend."
Clary looked away, her expression suddenly melancholic. He immediately tried to dispel her thoughts; that he might be sad.
"Don't feel sorry for me. He gave me the best education, the best training. He took me all over the world…London, Saint Petersburg, Egypt. We used to love to travel." He wouldn't forget—he made sure he would never forget everything about his father. "I haven't been anywhere since he died. Nowhere but New York."
But as he looked at her again, he was oddly relieved that he wasn't anywhere but here. Right now.
"You're lucky. I've never been outside this state in my life." She mused. "My mom wouldn't even let me go on field trips to D.C. I guess I know why now." she ended in a somber note.
I frowned at her playfully. "She was afraid you'd freak out? Start seeing demons in the White House?"
She paused on the chocolate. "There are demons in the White House?"
"I was kidding…. I think." Not that demon activity was high there, although some may argue with him on this one. Mundane politics never interested him. "I'm sure someone would have mentioned it."
She nodded slowly, lost in thought. "I think she just didn't want me to get too far away from her. My mom, I mean. After my dad died, she changed a lot."
"Do you remember your father?" Jace asked.
"No. He died before I was born." She answered quietly.
He stared at the glass walls, and into the twinkling lights of the city. Lights in Idris were clearer, more alive. "You're lucky. That way you don't miss him."
"Does it go away? Missing him, I mean?"
Jace slid his gaze from outside to her face again. He tilted his head to study her. "Are you thinking of your mother?"
"Of Luke, actually."
He tore a bit of the apple as he mulled over Luke—or Lucian Graymark. "Not that that's actually his name. I've been thinking about him. Something about his behavior doesn't add up."
A flash of anger passed in her eyes, matching her bitter tone. "He's a coward. You heard him. He won't go against Valentine. Not even for my mother."
"But that's exactly—"
The bell of a nearby cathedral tolled, making Clary jump with the sound. Jace however, was expecting it.
"Midnight." He stood up and offered his hand to her. She took it gingerly and stood beside him, eyes wondering. He gestured towards the bush. "Now watch."
Clary followed his gaze. After a few moments, impatience got the better of her and started to ask what was happening, but he stalled her. "Wait." Even he couldn't get the excitement inhis voice, even though he had seen this a thousand times.
But it was the first time with Clary, so it seemed like it was the only time that mattered.
"Oh!" Clary gasped as the flowers slowly coaxed their petals open and the gold pollen floated to the air around them, fine as glittering powder. Jace never grew tired of this little,
Just as he thought would never grow tired of seeing Clary… happy.
"Do they bloom every night?" she suddenly asked, her eyes meeting his.
"Only at midnight." He couldn't look away from her. The gold dust settled on her hair, making it sparkle in the dim light. "Happy Birthday, Clarissa Fray."
"Thank you." she said warmly.
Feeling he did something right, for a change, he felt his pocket for his gift. "I have something for you." he took her warm hands and gave her the witch light rune-stone.
"Huh." Clary looked at it with lightly disguised confusion. "You know… when most girls say they want a big rock, they don't mean, you know," she widened her eyes for emphasis, making Jace want to burst out laughing. "…literally, a big rock."
"Very amusing, my sarcastic friend." Of course she knew nothing about a Shadow Hunter's tools. Was it really that short a time they've known each other? That first time in Pandemonium.
"It's not a rock, precisely. All Shadowhunters have a witchlight rune-stone."
"Oh." She gripped it more tightly, making the stone glow a little.
"It will bring you light even among the darkest shadows of this world and others." he said.
Looking at Clary now, he thought how similar she was with the witchlight. Capable of lighting his world up with a roll of her eyes, or an exasperated sigh, or the way she stared like she could see straight to his soul—when he hadn't seen it for so long.
"Well, thanks." She cleared her throat as she put it in her pocket. Jace felt a silent satisfaction that something of his was now in her possession, always. "It was nice of you to give me anything. Better than a bath in spaghetti anyday."
Now she was teasing him. He gritted his teeth. "If you share that little bit of personal information with anyone, I may have to kill you."
Clary looked amused with his threat. She toyed with her hair as she spoke. "Well, when I was five, I wanted my mother to let me go around and around inside the dryer with the difference is, she didn't let me."
Jace nodded solemnly. "Probably because going around and around inside a dryer can be fatal whereas pasta is rarely fatal. Unless Isabelle makes it."
She giggled before continuing. "When I was twelve, I wanted a tattoo," Clary then sighed. "My mom wouldn't let me have that, either."
Ah, this one he might have understood Jocelyn Fray's motives. "Most Shadowhunters get their first Marks at twelve. It must have been in your blood."
"Maybe." She allowed. "Although I doubt most Shadowhunters get a tattoo of Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on their left shoulder."
Jace stared at her, completely thrown off. "You want a turtle on your shoulder?
"I wanted to cover my chicken pox scar." Swiftly, before Jace can react anything else, she shifted her hair to the other shoulder and slightly tugged at the strap of her tank top to reveal thescar she was talking about. "See?"
But all Jace can comprehend was the soft-looking skin of her neck and the curve of her shoulder. It almost glowed in the moonlight.
Jace averted his gaze. He knew how to handle girls who tried to be charming, flirty or seductive with him. But with Clary, all he could do was try not to gawk at her. Before he did something completely stupid and regretful.
"It's getting late. We should go back downstairs."
She nodded and righted her strap again. Thank God.
"Have you and Isabelle ever-dated?" she suddenly blurted out.
"Isabelle?" Jace looked at her again, surprised at her question. Clary looked even more surprised than he was, if that was possible.
"I thought…." Her voice trailed away. She cleared her throat. "Simon was wondering."
Somehow, he didn't believe her. Or was that just wishful thinking on his part?
"Maybe he should ask her." Jace replied, careful to keep it neutral.
"I'm not sure he wants to. Anyway never mind." she took a deep breath, suddenly eager to change the subject. "It's none of my business."
"The answer is no." Jace replied. Clary peeked at him beneath her lashes. He never thought how green her eyes were. Similar to the color of fresh grass that only grew in Idris. "I mean, there may have been a time when one or the other of us considered it, but she's almost a sister to me. It would be strange."
She blinked at him. "You mean Isabelle and you never—"
"Never." Jace said with finality.
"She hates me." Clary said in a low voice.
He shook his head. "No she doesn't." Seeing Clary didn't believe him, he tried to explain the simple state of things. "You just make her nervous, because she's always been the only girl in a crowd of adoring boys, and now she isn't anymore."
"But she's so beautiful." She protested.
"So are you."
They both looked at each other, equally surprised with the words that came out. Jace couldn't help it, how could he lie about that? He continued. "…and very different from how she is, and she can't help but notice that. She's always wanted to be small and delicate, you know. She hates being taller than most boys."
He glanced at her, and she was still staring. In a strange way that made him think about stepping closer and holding her hand and—why was he so hesitant to do all of those things? When he had ever became so indecisive about his actions? He had kissed so many girls in the past. Some of the time it was pleasurable. Most of the time it was just skin to skin.
But he had a feeling that kissing her would be like breaking the wall of a dam that wanted to break.
What if she refused? Could he take it? Only his ego would be hurt.
Only your ego? You wish, Wayland.
"We should probably go downstairs." He suddenly said, feeling defeated.
"All right." She replied calmly. Did she feel anything at all?
She started to walk back to the exit when she missed a step, avoiding his knife on the floor. Her bare shoulder brushed his, and he swiftly held her arm so she wouldn't fall. Clary faced him again, her mouth opening to blurt out another mundane habit of apologizing, and Jace knew he was undone.
Things happened so quickly, or in slow motion, Jace couldn't figure it out now. All he knew was he couldn't let this moment go by without—
He pulled her against his chest and pressed his lips to hers. He felt a gasp from her—as if she too, was caught by surprise. His arms held her tighter like what he had wanted to do ever since this girl tumbled into his life. Clary. With her flaming hair and stubbornness and fierceness of heart… Is it possible to feel so much for one person?
He moved his lips slower, afraid he was being too rough, but Clary tiptoed in his arms and slid her fingers on his hair, tangling them, wounding them to her, pulling him to her deeper and deeper until he was sure he never wanted to emerge ever again.
A soft, sound of flapping wings pricked his hearing. He opened his eyes and found Hugo staring at hem like he was immensely enjoying himself.
Jace pulled away from the kiss. He channeled his frustration to amusement. "Don't panic, but we've got an audience."
She turned to look. He bent his lips to her ears to whisper—and to get closer. Clary wasn't removing his arms around her either. "If he's here, Hodge won't be far behind. We should go."
Clary narrowed her eyes, clearly irritated. "Is he spying on you? Hodge, I mean."
"No. He just likes to come up here to think. Too bad—we were having such a scintillating conversation." He couldn't help laughing at Clary's annoyance over the disturbance. He felt more than annoyed actually—but he can't murder Hugo without incurring the wrath of his tutor.
They silently made their way downstairs to the rooms. He kept her close to him, his hand securely keeping hers until they reached the hallway where he would have to leave her.
Or not, if he could help it.
Clary didn't immediately open the door to her bedroom, however. She leaned on the wall, her face looking up on his. It was said that when girls dawdle on the door before ending the
night, that she was expecting a kiss. Not that Clary was an ordinary girl by any standards. Sometimes he took one step forward, she would back two steps away. Why?
"Thanks for the birthday picnic." She said neutrally. It was a complete contradiction to the blush on her cheeks and the fire in her eyes.
Jace was still holding her hand. It can't be over, not yet. "Are you going sleep?"
He wanted to be selfish.
"Aren't you tired?" she asked instead of answering, but her gaze was lowered on his lips.
Tired. What was tired? Tired was after slaying a horrible demon and being splattered by blood after. Tired was bickering with Alec or Isabelle over some petty thing. Tired was being alone all this time. Tired was seeing the world with half-opened eyes.
And then Clary came.
Jace tugged her chin to his. "I've never been more awake."
This time, he would make sure the feel of her lips against his would last longer.
A/N: Don't stare at the screen like that. You already know what happened after. :P I left it at that because I wanted to end this on Jace's terms. For a change. Bummer, I know.
Give some love to the TMI newbie and review with a pretty please. =)
If you liked this, visit ashemoon(dot)wordrpress(dot)com for more of my weird ramblings and music inspiration why I suddenly came up with this out of the blue. Haha.
There's so much time
To figure out the best of our life
And you've already got me coming undone