**The characters of The Mortal Instruments are owned by Cassandra Clare. The original content, ideas and intellectual property of this story are owned by ddpjclaf, 2009. Please do not copy, reproduce, or translate without express written permission.**


For the seventh time in the span of three minutes, Clary's head bashed against the sparring mat. With a groan, she reached up and ran a hand through the back of her hair, feeling the lump that had started to form.

"By the Angel, Jace! Do you have to be so rough?" Black spots danced before her eyes as the dull pain spread from the back of her skull to the front. Her body ached everywhere.

Jace lingered over her, his legs straddling her abdomen and his hands on either side of her head. "You think the demons are going to take it easier on you?" He grabbed her arms and pinned them to the floor next to her face.

"Probably." She looked up at him. His golden eyes glowed with an excitement she'd only seen in them when fighting. His wet hair clung to his head and drips of sweat rolled off the ends of the untidy blond curls. "There is something seriously wrong with you when it comes to fighting."

"This isn't fighting, Clary. It's training."

"Fine. It's training." She blew out a frustrated breath. "Why do you always have to take it so seriously?"

"If I don't you'll be dead."

She scowled. "I think I've done pretty well so far. No one's killed me yet."

"Yet being the operative word." His eyes gave no indication of sarcasm. "Now, what do you do next if you're pinned like this?"

She knew what she should do, what he'd trained her to do, but she didn't feel like playing by his rules right now. His face hovered only a few inches above hers. She knew he'd be mad and that it would hurt, but she didn't care. She was sick of training being more important than everything else. Steeling herself against the inevitable pain and Jace's wrath, she thrust her head forward and smashed into his. With a shocked gasp, he jerked back, his grip on her arms loosening. Clary took advantage of his momentary distraction and pushed him backward to the mat, switching positions so she now straddled him.

His hands flew to his head. "Damn it, Clary! How many times do I have to tell you that nobody wins with a head butt?"

She laughed through her own pain and reached down, taking his hands from his face and interlacing her fingers with his. "I think I just did."

He scowled at her. His expression showed no amusement.

"I'm sorry." She planted a soft kiss on his lips. "But you have to admit, it was a pretty good move."

"Clary." He sighed. "Why won't you take this more seriously? I just want you to be prepared. You know I'll do everything in my power to keep you safe, but as the past has proven, I can't be there all the time."

"I know that and I am. It just can't be everything."

"I never said it was everything."

"Come on, Jace. All we ever do is train." She released one of his hands and moved a wet curl off from his forehead. "I know how important it is and you're an excellent teacher, but . . ."

"But, what?" He watched her curiously.

"But, as much as I like badass Shadowhunter Jace, I miss my boyfriend." She raised her eyes to meet his, relieved to see they'd softened a bit. "Can't you let him come out to play, just for a little while?"

Instead of answering, he reached up, ran his hand around to the back of her neck and pulled her down to him. As usual, when their lips met, an explosion of heat burst in Clary's chest, flooding every inch of her body. If she had her way, she'd spend every second of every day kissing Jace. Not just because it felt absolutely amazing, but also because it had the ability to make her forget everything else. Even the fact that the training room was not in the least bit private.

"Ah-hem," an annoyed voice spoke from the doorway. "How many times do I have to tell you guys that this room is meant for training not making out? You know, it could've been Mom walking in here instead of me."

Clary bent her head toward the voice and grinned. Isabelle stood near the door, a frown affixed to her face. Her black hair cascaded over her shoulders, almost touching the hand she had on her hip. "We were training, Izzy."

"That," she pointed to them and their precarious position, "does not look like training to me."

"Hey Iz, did you find them—whoa!" Alec stepped through the doorway, but stopped abruptly when he caught sight of Clary and Jace. A smile broke over his face. "Well, well, looks like somebody finally got the best of you, huh Jace?"

"Shut up, Alec," Jace growled.

Clary laughed. "He's just embarrassed. I totally did." She placed another small kiss on his mouth and pushed herself to her feet. "What's up guys? You need the mat?"

"No." Isabelle smirked at Jace and then turned back to Clary. "We're going to Taki's to get some takeout, wondered if you wanted anything."

"Sure," Clary said. "Hey, how about we just go out? It's been awhile since I got out of here." She shot a glare at Jace who raised his eyebrows in response.

"For crying out loud Jace," Isabelle said. "You suck as a boyfriend. Take your girl out once and awhile."

"Maybe I would if you two actually did your part with Clary's training," he said.

Isabelle scoffed. "Doesn't look like you mind it much."

Jace narrowed his eyes at her.

Alec laughed. "So, how'd you do it Clary? How'd you get it over on him?"

"If I told you, Alec, it wouldn't be a secret now would it?"

"Ah, seduction, got it. You plan on seducing all the demons who attack you, too?"

Clary grinned. "Nah, just the hot ones." She turned and winked at Jace then strode out the door.

###

The hot water felt like heaven on Clary's tired muscles. She hadn't been lying when she said Jace was a good teacher, he really was. She'd learned more in the two weeks since they'd returned from Idris than any battle they had before. Of course, she was nowhere near as good as him and suspected she never would be. The way he could anticipate every move—other than her glorious head butt—and the way his body moved through every sequence amazed her. However, he was totally ruthless. It never mattered how tired she got, he just pushed harder. She knew when the time came and she faced a real demon, she'd be thankful for his persistence. But for the moment, she was just happy for the shower.

When the water started running cold, she twisted the knobs tight and stepped out, wrapping her body in a fluffy white towel. Her room at the institute was the same as everyone else's. The bedroom portion consisted of a twin-sized bed, dresser, nightstand, closet and small attached full bathroom. It was pretty stark in comparison to her room back at Luke's, but she was happy to just be here.

Her mother, Jocelyn, had put up quite a fight when the suggestion of her moving there came up.

"Absolutely not," Jocelyn said, shaking her head violently.

"Mom! You know it's important for me to train. After everything that happened in Idris, I thought you'd finally put to rest your crazy dreams about keeping me out of the Shadowhunter world."

"That's not it."

Clary glared at her mother. "Why then?"

Jocelyn looked away, unwilling to meet Clary's eyes.

Clary's brows shot up in realization. "It's Jace isn't it?"

"Clary, I understand what it's like to be young and—and in love." Jocelyn swallowed hard. "I just—I just don't know that it's a good idea for you two to live under the same roof."

"Mom, it's not like we'd be sharing a room!"

Jocelyn winced.

"Seriously, Mom, the Institute is huge. And it isn't like Maryse wouldn't be there most of the time. The woman has eyes like a hawk. You wouldn't have to worry about Jace and me."

"Clary, I don't know . . ."

She knew her mother was breaking down. The mention of Maryse's presence eased her fear—Clary knew it would. Maryse was scary. "I'll let you pick out my room. You can pick one as far from Jace's as you want."

Jocelyn glanced up, her lips pursed in an attempt not to smile. "You know I'm not thrilled with this, right?"

Clary's heart sped up in her chest. "Does that mean yes?"

Jocelyn sighed and nodded. Clary squealed and threw her arms around Jocelyn's shoulders. "But," Jocelyn continued, "I get to pick your room—and it will be as far from Jace's as humanly possible—and I want you to promise me something."

Clary pulled back and met her mother's gaze. "What, Mom?"

"Just promise me you'll be careful. With training and with Jace."

"Mom!"

"Clary, I wasn't born yesterday. Just promise me and make me feel a little better about letting you do this."

"I promise, Mom."

Jocelyn wrapped her arms around Clary once more. "I can't believe I'm allowing this. I mean, it's bad enough that you'll be training to kill demons, but you'll be doing it while living a few doors down from your boyfriend. I must be insane."

"You're not insane, Mom. You just know this is what's best for me. Thank you."

Jocelyn wasn't kidding when she said she'd find the room furthest from Jace as possible. She'd picked one on the complete opposite end of the hall. Clary didn't mind and neither did Jace. She was just glad Jocelyn allowed her to stay on the same floor. Luckily, her room was only a few doors down from Isabelle, so it wasn't all bad.

Clary heard a knock on the door. She tucked the towel tighter around her and opened it a crack. Isabelle scowled when she saw Clary wasn't dressed.

"How long does it take for you to shower?" She barreled her way into the room.

"Sorry." Clary closed the door, walked over to the closet and started pawing through various shirts and sweaters. "I worked out hard today and the hot water just felt so good."

"Uh-huh, sure."

"Shut-up, Izzy."

Isabelle laughed and plopped down on the bed.

Clary grabbed a green t-shirt that said, "Kiss Me I'm Irish," from its hanger—a gift from Simon who told her that since she looked Irish she should have one. She'd told him that just because she was pale with red-hair didn't mean she was Irish nor did it mean she needed a shirt that invited any old fool to kiss her. He bought her the shirt anyway.

She made her way over to the dresser, grabbed a pair of white cotton underwear and matching bra from the top drawer and a pair of jeans from the bottom.

"God, your wardrobe is pathetic," Isabelle said.

Clary glanced over at Isabelle's tight black leather pants, thigh high boots, white blouse and long black trench coat. "Not all of us can be fashion goddesses, your majesty."

"You could if you let me shop for you."

Clary laughed, pulled on the underwear and then dropped the towel. Isabelle gasped.

"What?" Clary turned to her.

She held her hand to her mouth, her eyes wide with shock. "He really worked you over didn't he?"

Clary glanced down at her body. Purplish bruises in the shape of Jace's hands covered the skin of her upper torso. "Huh, I guess so. No wonder I'm so sore."

Isabelle reached to the nightstand next to the bed, picked up Clary's stele, and flicked it across the room to her. Clary caught the small, cold instrument in her hand and studied it for a moment before placing it on top of the dresser.

"What are you doing? Use it. You'll feel better."

"I don't know." Clary moved to stand in front of the floor length mirror on the closet door, studying her reflection. "I kinda like it. It makes me feel like I'm actually accomplishing something. Like war wounds or something."

"God, you're just as sadistic as Jace. You two are a match made in Heaven."

Clary laughed, pulled her clothes on, ran a brush through her hair, and turned back to Isabelle. "Okay, I'm ready."

Isabelle rolled her eyes. "It's a good thing you already have a boyfriend because there's no way you'd attract any sort of man looking like that."

Clary looked down at herself. What was wrong with jeans and a T-shirt? "I think I look fine."

"Whatever." Isabelle walked over to the dresser and grabbed Clary's stele, handing it to her. "Don't forget this. Jace would have your head."

Clary grinned and pocketed the stele. "I'm not scared of Jace. I know how to handle him."

Isabelle laughed. "I'm sure you do."

Grabbing a jacket from the hook on the back of her door, Clary followed Isabelle out of the room and down the hall. Jace and Alec waited for them near the elevator. Clary grinned as she spotted Jace dressed completely in black, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets. A glint of silver from his belt caught Clary's eye. She knew he hid a myriad of weapons under his long coat.

"Finally," Alec said when he spotted them. "I'm starving. What took so long?"

Isabelle cocked a thumb over her shoulder at Clary. "Apparently working out with Jace is dirtier business than we thought."

"Thanks for the mental image, Izzy." Alec scrunched his nose and turned to press the elevator button.

"No problem." She shoved her gleaming black hair over her shoulder. "I figure if I have to endure it so should you."

Jace smiled, shook his head, and lowered his gaze to the floor. Isabelle's teasing was nothing new for either of them. Both Clary and Jace attributed it to her extreme jealousy over not having found Mr. Right for herself. Clary thought maybe Simon would be the one for Izzy, but things had cooled down considerably since their return from Idris. She knew Simon had feelings for Isabelle, but because of his duties for the New York vampire clan, he didn't have time for much of anything anymore. Being the only known daylighter put a serious cramp in his love life—and consequently Isabelle's too.

Clary walked up to Jace, stood on tip toes, and kissed his cheek before grasping his hand. He grinned down at her just as the elevator dinged open. The group rode down in silence, which was a first since Isabelle usually couldn't stand not hearing herself talk. Clary just enjoyed the feeling of Jace's hand in hers. He'd been so distant lately, even now she didn't feel the warmth radiating off from him that she used to. She wished she knew what was bothering him, but every time she asked, he'd make some excuse about being distracted with training stuff. She didn't buy it.

The elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open. Isabelle and Alec bounded out, making their way quickly toward the front door. Clary tugged on Jace's arm, holding him back.

He met her eyes, questions in his.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know. You just seem so . . . distant lately."

"I'm fine, Clary." He bent down and brushed his lips against hers. "You worry too much."

She stared at him skeptically. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"

He rolled his eyes. "Yes. I know. There's nothing wrong, I promise."

She narrowed her eyes. "You're a really crappy liar, Jace. But fine, don't tell me." She jerked her hand out of his and stalked forward to meet up with Alec and Isabelle.

"Clary—wait," he called.

She sighed and turned to face him, her hands on her hips.

"It's really nothing—just my overprotective side, okay?"

"What are you talking about?"

He let out a slow breath and raised his gaze to the ceiling before meeting hers. "It's hard for me to watch you—you know, fight."

"I thought we weren't fighting, we were training."

He smirked. "Don't be a smart ass."

"I come by it honestly." She raised her brows at him.

He stepped closer to her, placing his hands on her waist. "You know what I mean. My first instinct is to protect you, always protect you. So, fight—training with you is difficult for me. Don't get me wrong, it's good for you—I know that—it's just hard for me to see you hurt. Especially since I know that I'm the one hurting you."

Clary raised her hands to his face. "Stop looking at it like you're hurting me. I don't see it that way. You are protecting me. You're teaching me to defend myself, that's the best thing you could ever do for me." She stretched up and kissed him. "Now quit pouting and let's have some fun."

He grinned. "Fun, huh?" He gripped her waist tighter and pulled her roughly to him. She giggled as his lips met hers and his hands twisted in her hair, holding her against him. Clary's heart pounded in her chest and she fell into Jace's arms, allowing the feel of him to completely envelop her.

"Uh, guys?" Clary heard Isabelle's voice from further down the aisle, but chose to ignore it as she engrossed herself in Jace's kiss.

"Guys!" Izzy's voice came more forcefully.

Jace pulled away and snarled, "What—" The word died on his lips as the color drained from his face and his eyes widened.

Clary furrowed her brows at the look on his face and turned to follow his gaze. A gasp escaped her lips as she caught sight of what awaited them at the door.

Simon stood just outside the gate, his dark hair plastered to his face and his clothing torn almost to shreds. Dark red stains smeared across his body. A deep, healing gash stretched the length of his chest and a giant set of teeth marks encased his right arm.

"Simon?" Clary managed before tearing herself from Jace's embrace and bolting outside. When she reached him, she cried out. "What happened?"

His eyes passed over her shoulder and met Jace's before finding hers. "We have a problem. A big problem." And then he collapsed to the ground.