Jace lay on his back in his bed, not doing anything, just staring at the white ceiling. He'd counted every individual decorative mark on the white tiles, but now he had given up and was simply lying there. He was tired, exhausted even, but sleep evaded him. Craning his neck to the right, he looked towards the clock only to sigh in frustration. It was too late for him to fall asleep, yet it was still too early for him to rise and begin his day.
Today it started. Today, he would begin his efforts to get Clary back. He thought of her while he was lying there.
Yesterday, Alec had asked him why he was so invested in this girl. He could not answer, because he did not know. He didn't love her. That much, he knew. He was not looking for a real commitment either. He did not want marriage, he did not want children. He did not want to give up the chase, the alcohol, and the parties; the previous night proved that much, at least. He reverted back to his old playboy self when he was the least bit spooked or stressed.
So what was the deal with Clary? Maybe he was just bored and looking for a change of pace. He was stubborn and tenacious; when he wanted something, he was like a dog with a bone. If he didn't get it immediately, he would worry away, never releasing his death grip until the other party relinquished and gave in. Some said that his spoiled upbringing planted this trait in him. He knew better, but he allowed them all to think that he was just a rich brat; it was easier than letting them all get deep inside of him.
It was true that he felt an uncontrollable urge to be close to Clary. It was probably just his curiosity. He had never dated a girl like Clary before. Yes, he had slept with women who had given birth – he'd had an affair with one of his teammate's mother (to this day, no one but the two of them knew about it) – but they'd only been interested in the simple fact that he was much younger than them and very good looking. They had used him for simple pleasure, and because he got the thrill of deception and craftiness of hiding something from others, he went along with it. The flings never lasted more than a week or two, but there was plenty of physical gratification. He got in, got what he wanted, and got out before her feelings could ever have a chance to develop and entangle him.
Clary was so… different though. She was not invested in his body. In fact, they had not gone beyond kissing or cuddling in the few months that they'd been together. Only in that past week had they actually had sex. It had been great; Jace had never felt so close to someone, such a sense of intimacy, but from a physical sense, it was nothing special. He'd had better. But on a personal, emotional level, Jace was blown away. For once, he was not worried about what he was getting out of sex; he was worried about what he was putting in.
Clary did not care about images or money or any of that. When he tried to buy her things, she got mad. She actually got angry at him. When he bought the mattress and its accessories for her, Clary gave him the silent treatment for several days. She was highly atypical from the girls that she usually dated.
Jace shook his head and tossed the sheets away from his body. He rose and showered, brushed his teeth, combed his hair. Grabbing a power bar from the personal stash he hid from Alec, he quickly dressed and left the apartment. He broke into an easy jog, turning left and right, not paying attention to where or how far he ran. His feet pounded the pavement; he enjoyed the rivers of sweat that ran down over his banded chest, the feel of his breath dragging in and out, and the pounding noise his feet made against the cool gray cement of the sidewalks in the city. It was still early; the sun was only just peeking over the top of the bay, the streetlights still lending themselves to the yet darkened streets. It was strangely eerie; the small bodegas on the corners weren't open yet, cars still drove by, but the streets where not choked with the yellow cabs, green buses, and dark escort cars. He picked up his pace, pushing himself faster and harder, craving the release that hardcore exercise would bring him. Soon after he started his sprint, he was gasping for breath; sweat poured over him. He turned down unknown streets, changed his mind and took a different route, not caring where he ended up. He grunted at the effort.
He stopped. He stood outside Clary's apartment building. He sat on the cool cement steps, breathless and parched, as he tried to calm his mind and body down. He was angry again, at himself, at the world, at the circumstances that had brought him to this point. He was angry at his parents, his friends; even that stupid, ugly tree that peeked up through the cement sidewalk on the corner. Jace pounded a fist against the gray concrete, relishing the pain that shot through his arm and the blood that dripped from the abrasion on his curled fist. He sighed as peeled the fluorescent yellow running shirt Alec had given him over his head, draping it around his neck, and leaned back against the steps. Running his hands over his face, Jace groaned. Of course he ended up here. Where else would he possibly go?
Maybe that was why he kept going back to Clary. He could talk to her about anything. He had never opened up like that with anyone else, ever. Not his father, not his high school basketball coach, the man who had shaped Jace more than anyone ever had. Not even Alec, who had been his best friend for twenty years, knew everything about Jace, but Clary did. Clary understood him, and appreciated him, and calmed him. For his whole life, Jace had been tossed around and trained and belittled, unloved and unknown by those whom he had worshipped. Yes, he had friends that he would willingly lay down his life for and who would return the favor, but on some levels, they just did not connect. Clary was just one of those people that bonded with. She would keep their secrets, understand the darkest part of themselves that they offered and never bat an eyelash.
Groaning, he lifted his wrist to check his watch. Seven AM. He'd been running for three hours. He sighed again. He had to make it up to her, to get her back. He needed someone like that, someone who would never turn him away, who would not be frightened off by his dark past. Someone who would accept him for everything he was. He knew that this thing he had with Clary could not last forever, and he didn't want it to, but for the moment, it was the most perfect thing in his life. Lifting his body from the uncomfortable position on the steps, he stood and began jogging in the general direction of his apartment.
After another hour of jogging, Jace reached the large penthouse he shared with Alec. It's proximity to campus and the degree of luxury it offered were acceptable in Jace's mind, so he bought it. It barely dented his trust fund. He loved living in the city; his family owned several properties both in the city and the suburbs. He had always preferred living the city, though, intrigued by the busyness of people rushing past him when he was four years old, clutching his father's large hand in his much smaller one, having to take three steps to match one of his father's long strides.
He liked weekend trips to the big stone house in the quaint countryside, however. The house was perfectly settled, built in the late 1700's by a wealthy Dutch merchant. It was far enough from the city that one could escape the pollution and noise, but close enough that one could be back to the skyscrapers and concrete of the city in less than two hours. When he was little, Jace's mother had taken him there every weekend for years to escape his father. They had played pretend; he was a prince that had to save the beautiful queen from the evil dragon, or they were space explorers, or sometimes, if his mother was feeling particularly generous, they would pretend to have a cooking show. Oh, the messes they would make. Flour and eggs everywhere, but the cookies they produced were delicious. Most of the time.
He pushed the door open as he pushed the memories from his mind; he couldn't afford to think like that. Alec was inside, speaking in hushed tones on the phone. "No, he's not here, but he might be back soon, so you can't come over." A pause. "Because you might run into each other, that's why. You're not ready for that. No! I don't want you here right now. Look, I like you." Another pause. "A lot, okay? I like you a lot, but it's too much too fast. Please, please try to understand. I'll come over later. I promise. I need to just… I don't know. Regroup or something. Please, just try to – I'm sorry, okay? I really am. I'll call you later?" Alec's voice went up slightly at the end of his speech, signaling a question, signaling his uncertainty.
Jace closed the door a bit louder than he usually did, enjoying watching Alec jump in surprise, hanging up his phone with a quick press of his thumb. He stood before Jace, squirming under his scrutiny.
"Lady trouble?" Jace asked, somewhat facetiously.
"I wish." Alec muttered under his breath. "Where were you?" He asked louder, changing the subject before Jace could hone in on his last comment.
"Running. I couldn't sleep." Jace brushed past Alec towards the kitchen, yanking the refrigerator open to grab a thirty-two ounce Gatorade and a microwaveable breakfast sandwich.
"When did you start? You're soaked." Alec's comments were droll and mundane, mindless filler designed to distract both of them from the fight last night.
"I don't know. Like four or something." Jace replied, twisting the top from the cold Gatorade bottle and downing half of it. "Ah, nutrients." He muttered. The microwave dinged; Jace opened it and retrieved his sandwich. Turkey sausage, egg, cheese, and a croissant. He bit into it, not bothering to exert the energy of walking to the table.
"I can make you real food," Alec said.
"I could have made myself real food, but I only cared about the instant gratification." Jace remarked.
"Whatever, smart ass. What do you want to eat?" Alec answered.
"A caviar, pate, and lobster pizza drizzled with Parisian wine." Jace knew he was acting out against Alec, but he was so tired and angry that he did not care. It was becoming a pattern, and neither of the boys, though they recognized the problem, wanted to create another issue by attempting to solve this one. Both knew it would blow over in a few days; Alec thought it would happen because Jace would move on from his fling with Clary, Jace thought it would happen when Alec realized Clary was good for Jace.
"Eggs and toast it is." Alec said, slipping a false note of cheerfulness into his voice.
"I am a man, men eat meat. Bacon too, please." Jace took his sandwich and drink and collapsed on the couch.
"Don't!" Alec shouted. "You're filthy! Isabelle will kill us both if we mess up the couch she just bought us."
Jace nodded wearily and stood. "I expect my food will be waiting for me when I emerge fresh and smelling wonderful from my shower."
"Whatever, princess." Alec tossed back over his shoulder. Of course, it was. Alec couldn't say no to Jace, no matter how hard he tried. Sometimes, it really sucked to be in love with your best friend.
Jace ate quickly and was out the door again. Dressed in a clean pair of jeans and a black band t-shirt, he slipped his sunglasses over his nose and climbed into his car. He was at Clary's apartment in just a few minutes; traffic was extraordinarily good and he only needed to make one stop – the fresh flower market. He bought the prettiest bunch he could find; something simple and yet unassumingly gorgeous. He was gentle with the delicate blossoms, softly placing them on the seat next to him before he finished the drive to Clary's. Thankfully, there was a coffee cart at the end of the street where she lived and he purchased the largest size available.
Staring up at the brick building in which she lived, Jace took a deep breath. He was scared. One at a time, he took the steps to the third floor. He placed the coffee and the flowers on the floor outside of her door and listened for a moment. Within, he could hear Matthew watching his cartoons, chattering about something that Jace couldn't quite make out. He could see it in his head – Mattie would be sitting on the edge of beat up, raggedy, blue couch, his head turned just enough that he could at Clary if need be, but not too much so as to obstruct his view of the television. Clary was probably making his breakfast in the kitchen, nodding and smiling and answering when she needed to, completely absorbed in her son. A small ache built in his chest; he wanted to be in there with them more than he wanted to breathe right now. He wanted to be a part of a family, even if just for a moment. He swallowed, took a deep breath, and knocked three times.
Then he turned and walked away. Clary said she did not want to see him, so he would respect that. But he wouldn't stop trying. He stepped around the corner to hide and watch as Clary opened the door.
Matthew was talking about how cool elephants are. Clary was in the kitchen making their breakfast while her son was watching cartoons and speaking at a mile a minute. She had worked the graveyard shift last night, and was completely exhausted. Matthew had slept in the back room as usual, and was very well-rested. Thankfully, he had a play date today, and so she had a reprieve. She could nap, do laundry, get some cleaning and paperwork done, maybe sketch a little. He was not supposed to be back until five or six that night, and Mrs. Dewitt would be by soon to pick him up. Almost ten hours, all to herself.
"That's great, Baby. Come eat, Jared's mom will be here soon." She scooped scrambled eggs onto a plate just as the toast popped up from the toaster. She poured a glass of milk for him, and set everything together on the table. Matthew sat down and promptly began to shovel everything in with great gusto.
"What am I going to do when you get older and actually start eating like a boy?" Clary teased with a little smile as she dropped a kiss on the top of her son's head.
"I am a boy!" He protested, his small voice squeaking in his indignation.
"I know, buddy. It was a joke."
"Well, it wasn't very funny." He spoke around a mouthful of eggs, little particles of yellow food spattering from his mouth when he talked.
"Don't talk with your mouth full, young man."
They bantered back and forth for a few moments, stopping only when there was a knock at the door.
"They're here!" Matthew gasped, pushing back from the table and running into his bedroom to get the bad he packed.
Clary chuckled to herself as she strode over to answer the door. Opening it with a smile, she was shocked to see that no one stood in front of her. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought saw someone disappearing around the corner, but when she stepped out into the hallway, glancing around to see if someone had knocked on the wrong door, there was no one. However, she nearly kicked over something that looked suspiciously like a coffee cup. It sat next to a beautiful bouquet of flowers, but there was no note. Bending down to pick it up, she realized that it was, in fact, a large cup of coffee. On the white plastic lid, parts of it dyed brown by splashes of coffee, two words were scrawled in black sharpie.
So it was from Jace. She sighed and shook her head tiredly. He couldn't take a hint, apparently. Still, they were beautiful flowers. And the coffee smelled amazing. And she hadn't made any coffee yet this morning. She studied the objects in her hands for a moment before sighing, shrugging, and turning to enter her apartment again.
She didn't see the smile that Jace wore; in fact, she didn't even see him hidden around the wall at the end of the hallway.
Inside, Matthew was emerging from his bedroom, the backpack slung across his shoulder, looking around for his friend. "Where's Jared?" he asked, confused.
"He's not here yet, honey. It was someone dropping off this stuff for me. Go put your plate in the sink, because he really will be here any minute." As if on cue, there was another knock at the door. This time, it really was the Dewitts, and a few moments and hastily discussed plans later, Matthew was gone and Clary was alone in the apartment. She sipped at her coffee and studied the flowers for a moment before running some water into a vase. She set the bouquet at the window, where it could gather the sunlight and live just a little longer. Below her, she could see Jace pull away in his Aston Martin. Maybe it had been him at the end of the hallway.
Exhausted, she pulled off work uniform and collapsed on her bed in her underwear, too tired to even pull on a t-shirt. Clary snuggled down under the covers and closed her eyes, but sleep evaded her now.
"Damn caffeine." She muttered. Her thoughts drifted. Jace was sneaky. She had said that she didn't want to see him, so she didn't. She saw his gifts, but he was nowhere to be found.
She was done though. If Jace wanted to get drunk and screw around, he wouldn't come crawling back to her afterwards. She didn't roll like that. She didn't necessarily want a full out commitment, but they'd slept together. She knew what kind of guy Jace was before they'd met, but Clary had honestly thought that he had changed. She wanted that more than anything else, but it hadn't happened. She supposed that she ought to be thankful for the fact that he had not actually slept with someone else, but she really could not bring herself to be that forgiving. It wasn't as if he'd tripped and fallen against this girl with only their clothes as a barrier. It took willful actions on both sides, and that was unacceptable.
The fact that he was so drunk he did not remember any of it did not help his case either.
It did seem, on the other hand, like he was making an effort. Jace didn't strike Clary as the type of person to try and get someone back.
"Ugh, I don't know what to do!" Clary shrieked, covering her face with her hands.
She was not in love, not with Jace, not with anybody. She wouldn't be that weak. But, the magnetism she felt when she was around Jace was undeniable. She was drawn to him. She wanted to be near him all the time, she wanted to listen to and talk to him.
She wanted to go back to him, but she couldn't. She wouldn't be placed in a position like that again. That was one of the most painful things she had ever done, and returning to Jace would all but ensure that she would go through that again.
She had Matthew to think about. Jace had hurt him too, and that could not happen again either. Sighing and turning to her side, Clary realized what she needed to do.
So, there's chapter 14. You guys are really gonna regret asking where the angst was. *evil smile* I just needed to get you hooked on the fluff so you had to keep reading. *double evil smile*
Story Rec: Amuse Me by faultylilac. It's under my favorites. It's just a drabble, but it's wonderful.
Please keep sending me Story Recs and prompts for when I start my drabble fic. If you aren't sure what a drabble fic is, please read A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That by Orlissa92. That's what I want to do.
As always, thanks for reading!