Clary slowly blinked herself awake. She stretched, reveling in the fact that she had woken up on her own terms, rather than jolted awake by a small body catapulting itself on top of her. Matthew's birthday was only a week away, and for the past few days, he had taken to waking up early every morning – and he was intent on dragging Clary with him.
Sitting up, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood. She stretched again as she walked towards the kitchen, but a realization hit her, and she stopped short. There was no real need to make coffee. Jace would have left her one at the door. For a week now, Jace had been leaving the presents: in addition to the coffee, twice a day there would be a bouquet of flowers and another gift, a different one every day. Once there was chocolate, once there was a painting by a street artist she admired. She was literally out of counter space on which to keep the flowers, and the whole apartment carried a heavy floral scent.
Before making her way to the door, she cracked open Matthew's door to check on her sleeping son. He was out like a light, and she smiled. She hardly recognized him with his mouth closed, a peaceful expression on his face as he slept. Just as she quietly tugged Matthew's door closed, a knock sounded from door in the living room. Only once, just a single tap on the wood. She frowned, wondering who it was. She quickly crossed the room, tying her robe closed, and opened the door. Her smile froze as recognition set in; it was Jace.
In his hands, he had a cup of coffee, a bouquet of flowers, and small, light blue envelope. He handed each of them to her, his golden eyes big and luminous as he looked at her with a reserved expression. He quickly said, "I'm sorry," and then walked away. Clary looked after him in shock, standing there for a few moments as Jace strode down the hallway. She shook her head, regaining her wits and retreating back into her apartment. She collapsed on the couch, still reeling from her encounter with Jace. So far, he hadn't actually come to the door, just left her things on the front mat.
She was a bit shaken; she had not expected him, nor had she particularly wanted to see him. The coffee and the flowers he lavished her with were too much; it had to stop, but she did not want to see him long enough to end it. He had hurt her, and seeing him brought a fresh wave of pain. In her experience, avoiding the problem was always the best solution. Pushing back emotions and tamping down feelings was always safer. Clary had been hurt too deeply and too many times to risk making any decision that was not planned out and thoughtfully executed; rushing into things could pose a threat to herself or Matthew, and that was something she could not risk. Matthew had to come first, and Jace did not seem to realize that. Getting drunk and coming to her apartment in the middle of the night was simply could not happen. Clary was not the naïve girl she was six years ago; she had learned not to be the forgiving little girl that was so hungry to please others. Now, instead, she was a strong, independent woman. She had changed for the better the moment she saw the ultrasound.
Sighing, she sipped at the coffee and looked at the letter in her hands. She groaned, deliberating on whether or not to read it when a rush of anger hit her like a ton of bricks. Why should she read his letter? Why should she fall prey to his words? Jace was so damn good at sweet talk, laying on the moves, romancing a girl until she gave it up, and then, BAM – he was back to the old Jace, drinking and sleeping around. He probably only seriously dated a girl to make himself feel better and bedding woman after woman. She stood and stomped to her bedroom, shoving the letter in a box on her dresser. Clary crossed her arms in indignation and huffed a breath of frustration.
She reached for the letter, and then paused. She reached for the letter again, and then paused. She groaned, raking her hands through her hair. Why couldn't she just be mature about this? She was twenty-one years old; there was no need for her to act like a fourteen year old girl with her first crush.
Just as she reached for the letter once more, Clary heard a stirring in the next room. "Mommy?" A sleepy little voice called for her. "Momma, where are you?"
"In here, Baby. I'll be right out." Clary sighed, pushing the letter farther into the box it sat in. She would think about it for the rest of the day and decide later that night if she would read it or not.
Sometimes, being a grownup sucked.
The day passed rather uneventfully. Busy, absolutely, but uneventful. Clary had taken Matthew school shopping at some of the thrift stores, having scrimped and saved about a hundred dollars to buy some new (to him) clothes for school. He had grown a great deal in the past year, and he needed new jeans, a few long sleeve shirts, and a warmer winter jacket.
Matthew, of course, acted like a teenager.
"I don't like that, Mommy,"
"This jacket is too big!"
"That's really not my style."
Clary had had enough; "Matthew James Fray," her voice was stern and commanding; her son looked at her guiltily as Clary's green eyes snapped. "You are six years old. Far too young to have this kind of attitude. The jacket needs to be a little big because you will grow, and I am not buying you three coats in one year. You do not get to have a style because I am buying your clothes." Her voice, though not raised, was stern and commanding. She sighed, relenting as she looked at Matthew cowering in front of her. "You can pick what kind of clothes you want to wear, but you cannot be picky." She ran her hands through his too long hair, already beginning to curl like hers, and tilted his head up. "Okay?"
He nodded, and cast his eyes down. "Okay, Momma. Sorry." He mumbled.
"It's alright. Now," Clary added, clearing her throat, "If you see another jacket that you like that is a little big, you can get that one. Otherwise, we're going to stick with this one." Clary motioned to the piece, a perfectly fine dark blue coat that would keep him warm through the bitter New York winters, the only thing that Clary really worried about.
Matthew smiled and turned to keep looking as Clary took inventory of their cart. Six pairs of jeans: twenty-five dollars. Eight long sleeve shirts, two short sleeve shirt, and three polos: thirty-five dollars. A new winter coat: fifteen dollars. She had almost topped out her budget.
"Here, Mom. I like this one." Matthew presented her with a denim jacket, the inside lined with flannel. It was thick, padded well against the cold air, and better yet, it was about two sizes too big. Perfect.
"That will do just fine. You'll look like a little lumberjack… or maybe a cowboy." Clary held the coat up to inspect it.
"Mom, please." Matthew scoffed, smiling. "I'll look like a seven year old."
Heads turned as Clary's laughter echoed through the store.
By the time they had had gotten to the thrift shop, finished shopping, checked out, and gotten to the subway to take home, hours had passed. It was late afternoon, and neither of them had eaten since breakfast. It didn't really help that the smell of the hot dogs and knishes from the vendor down the street from the train station was wafting towards them. Matthew looked down the street, and then glanced up at Clary hopefully.
Clary sighed; pulling her hand from Matt's to reach into the large, Bohemian bag she used as a purse. She had five dollars left. "Alright." She said. "Let's get a hot dog. You can have one," she cautioned, "And then I'll make dinner as soon as we get home."
"Oh, let him have two. My treat." A golden voice rang from behind her. She turned to see Jace pulling headphones from his ears, rings of sweat staining his shirt, the droplets of perspiration dripping down his face. He was breathing hard, clearly out on a strenuous run.
Clary's eyes flashed and she shook her head, annoyed. Matthew leapt forward with a shout of joy to throw his arms around Jace, the older man's past indiscretions long forgotten.
"What are you doing here, Jace?"
"Oh, come on, Clary. It's not like you own the street." Jace answered, returning Matthew's hug gently. He instantly regretted his words when he saw her eyes snap to his face. "Sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
"Matthew, here," She thrust the money at her son, "Go get a hot dog and come right back."
Matthew took the money from her hand and scampered down the street, recognizing that something was going on between the adults.
"Did you read my letter?" Jace asked as he tugged his shirt over his head, enjoying the both the cooling breeze that washed over his chest and the half annoyed, half lustful look on Clary's face.
"Did you really need to take off your shirt?" Clary asked.
"Did you read my letter?" Jace replied.
"Shirt?" Clary's words were pointed.
"Letter?" Jace smirked.
Clary looked around, sighing in frustration. "No. I didn't read your letter. I have a six year old; it's not like I can do everything as it presents itself."
"Yes, I did need to take my shirt off. I get very hot when I'm running and I don't like sweaty clothes."
Clary tried her hardest to avoid looking at his very well toned chest. Jace noticed her not noticing and smirked again. "See something you like, Fray?"
Her face snapped up to meet his. She sighed and crossed her arms, looking down at her feet, then back up to him. "Jace, this has to stop."
Jace's smile fell. "What do you mean?" He asked quietly.
"The coffee, the flowers, everything. It has to end; we can't go on like this."
"Just…" he trailed off, looking for the right words, "Just read the letter."
"Jace," Clary started in again, but he had already replaced the headphones and Clary could hear the music pumping through.
"Just read the letter, and then call me." Jace leaned in and placed a lingering kiss on her forehead, wrapping one hand around the back of her neck. "Please." His voice was soft as his eyes burned into hers. As he took off running, Matt showed up, happily biting into the hot dog, grease dripping down over his chin. Clary stared after Jace for a few moments, watching his golden curls bounce with every step, the muscles in his back and legs pulsing with every moment, and then looked down at her son and clicked her tongue.
"Did you get a napkin?" Clary asked disapprovingly.
Matthew smiled around the food in his mouth and waved a flimsy white napkin in the air. Clary took it from his and wiped his mouth before taking his hand and reaching down to pick up the discarded thrift store bags and lead him down the steps to the waiting train.
Dinner made. Matthew bathed. Teeth brushed. Matthew tucked in. Clary showered.
The rest of her night passed in a blur. It was 10:30 before she knew it. Tomorrow was Matthew's sixth birthday, a fact that he had crowed over and over again until Clary had forced him into bed, turning out the lights and kissing him good night. Clary felt old. She knew it was ridiculous to feel like that; she was only twenty-one. She guessed having a six year old does that to a person.
She craved alone time right now. Her thoughts kept going back to Jace. His handsome face flashed before her eyes every time she blinked; his voice as he pleaded with her to just read the letter. She sat curled on the couch, internally arguing with herself as she flip-flopped back and forth.
Read the letter. He didn't actually sleep with that girl.
Don't read the letter. He didn't respect you enough to not go out, get plastered, and almost have sex with some nameless, faceless woman.
Read the letter. Everyone makes mistakes. You certainly did.
Don't read the letter. You have a son to protect.
Back and forth and back and forth she went for a long time. Finally, after almost an hour of debating with herself, she stood from her comfortable spot on the couch, crept into her bedroom, pulled the letter from its spot on the dresser and collapsed on the bed. Slowly, agonizingly, she slit the envelope and pulled the crinkled paper from its place. Taking a deep breath, she began to read.
Have I ever told you how much I love your name? I've never heard the name "Clary" before. It's beautiful. Just like you. From the moment I saw you, I thought you were gorgeous. Way too pretty to be a mom, that's for sure. You're probably reading this right now, shaking your head and rolling your eyes, thinking that I'm just trying to butter you up.
With a start, Clary realized that he had accurately predicted her emotions. She smiled, but kept reading.
And now I bet your smiling because you didn't realize that you were doing that. Damn, I'm good. But back to you.
I've never been good with words. Sure, I can make a witty comeback or verbally spar with the best of them. I can charm anyone at any time, but when it comes to outwardly expressing my emotions, I'm not so good. For that, I have reasons that would fill a hundred letters. That's a different story for a different time though.
Letters, I am good at. I can have a thousand chances to write what I feel. It's not a one and done deal where whatever I blurt out is what's out. I can think and plan; I'm not distracted by your reactions or the interruptions of a very cute almost six year old. (You can tell him I said that.)
Clary, what I'm trying to say is that I'm sorry. I'm scared. I've never had a real, actual, honest to God relationship with a woman before. I meet, we have sex, and it's done. I never see them again. But I don't want that with you. The past four months have been the most exciting, the most fun, and the scariest of my life. I've never bought a girl a mattress before, but I found myself wanting to – for you. I want to spend time with you and get to know you. I want to be around you. I want to kiss you. I want to wake up next to you in the morning after I made love to you.
I can keep going – if there is one thing I can do, it's talk. But I don't want to mindlessly talk at you, Clary. I want you to see that I'm serious. I'm not perfect – I have no doubt that I will screw up again – but I'm serious.
Please. Please. Please. Call me. Talk to me. Let me know that you understand and that you want this too.
Clary froze, her face blank with the amount of emotions surging through her at that moment. She wanted to cry. She wanted to laugh. Part of her wanted to scream. Instead, she reached for her phone and punched in the familiar set of numbers.
He picked up after only one ring; the relief and thankfulness in his voice was palpable.
"I read it."
"And?" His voice was pitched low; he waited on bated breath.
"And…" She trailed off for a moment, looking for the right words. She had not thought this through, simply given into her emotion and called him. "And I don't know what to think."
"Try," he begged. "Please. Just try and get it out."
"Jace, I don't know what to say." Clary started, still grasping at the pieces the letter had left her mind in. "It was a beautiful letter." She admitted. She could hear him chuckled once through the phone. Clary raked her hands through her hair. "Why don't we get coffee tomorrow?"
"What about Friday?" Jace asked slowly, having already made plans with Alec, and since they were still tense over his estrangement from Clary, he wasn't eager to cancel on Alec.
"Friday is Mattie's birthday. I can't tomorrow." Clary's voice was quiet, wondering why, after pushing so hard for this, Jace wanted to prolong it.
Jace deflated. "That's right. I'm sorry. I had plans with Alec tomorrow, but I'll move them around. It's no big deal."
"Look, I promise that I will meet you tomorrow. Wherever you want," she offered, "Call me when you're done with Alec. We can talk then. It will give us time to collect our thoughts and do whatever." She finished lamely.
"Thank you." Jace breathed through the phone. He gave her a location only three blocks from her apartment. He had never taken her there before, but the coffee was excellent and pastries were top notch.
"Okay, that's fine. I'll see you there." Clary paused for a moment. "Good night, Jace."
He sighed. "Good night, Clary."
Jace sent Clary a quick text, letting her know that he was done with Alec and would meet her at the coffee shop as soon as she was able. Within twenty minutes, he got a reply saying she would be there at three.
He glanced at the clock in the corner of his cell phone. That gave him thirty minutes to get there. He left immediately, wanting to beat her there to get a good seat, one in the corner that would give them at least a little privacy. This was between them, no one else.
He got there with just a few minutes to spare, sliding into a corner booth just as Clary walked through the door, spying his waving hand out of the corner of her eye. He slid her sunglasses from their spot on the tip of her nose to set on the crown of her head, loosely pushing back the red, spiraling curls that cascaded over her shoulders.
"Hi," Jace murmured as she sat across from him, smiling uncertainly at him and returning his greeting. "What would you like to drink? Or eat?"
"Uh, just coffee. Thanks." Clary said as he rose to place their order. A few moments later, he returned, two cups of steaming coffee in hand. He placed one in front of her before sipping out of the one in his hand.
"So what did you want to talk about?" Clary asked, just as Jace said the same thing. They smiled bashfully, recognizing that this was even more awkward than a middle school dance.
"You first," Clary insisted.
"Well," Jace started haltingly, "You read my letter, so you pretty much know where I stand." Clary nodded slowly. "Do you have any questions about it?"
"Why did you do it?" She whispered.
"I told you. I was scared."
"Scared of what? Jace, I'm scared of a lot of things, but I don't run off and almost have sex with some random guy." She deadpanned.
"I'm scared of you, Clary." Jace answered simply. "You scare me with all your ferocity and love and protectiveness."
"That's nothing to be scared of, Jace."
"It is for me." He said quietly, tracing the rim of the dark blue coffee mug with his index finger.
"Is that one of those 'hundreds of letters things'?" Clary asked, her curiosity getting the better of the buzz of anger she had going.
"Yes. But that's not what we're here to talk about right now." He was deflecting, Jace knew he was, but he was desperate to keep that part of him hidden for a little while longer yet,
Clary rolled her eyes and took an angry sip of coffee.
"Well, Jace, you can't do that with me. I have a six year old son who was asking me all kinds of questions about you." Her green eyes were snapping. "'Why was Jace acting like that, Mommy?' 'Is Jace sick, Mommy?' 'Why isn't Jace here today, Mommy, where did he go?'" She sighed heatedly. "I will not have my son in that kind of environment. If I wanted that, I would find his father or move back in with my parents again. I am not dealing with this anymore." She finished strongly, knowing that her point was coming across, yet puzzled as to why Jace was sitting across from her so calmly. "I won't let him be hurt."
"You're hiding behind your son." Jace said plainly. "You were hurt, and you are using Matthew as a wall."
Clary gaped at him.
"I understand. I really do. I would probably be doing the same thing if the situation were reversed." He looked up to meet her eyes, gold on green. "But you can't let that rule your life. Clary, Matthew is going to get hurt. It's a part of life. You cannot protect him from everything. But above all, you can't use him to protect yourself."
Clary just stared at him.
Yeah, I know. It's been a while. For that, I apologize. This update is a little bit longer to make up for it. I also have TWO story recommendations, rather than just one, to try to appease you. Both are of the Vampire Diaries, Klaroline persuasion, which, if you don't ship Klaroline, I don't think we can be friends. #SorryNotSorry
(Yes, I did just use a hashtag on Fanfiction. It's late, I got six hours of sleep last night, and I have codeine infused cough syrup for my most recent bout with bronchitis. I do apologize for any errors, I am actually very sick, and I don't have a beta, so it's all on me if there is anything wrong.)
Anyway, one rec is Prowl by withfireandblood, and the other is The Domestication of a Hybrid by thedeadsea.
In other news, follow me on tumblr! wearedustandshadows-1118 – it's nothing fancy, but I have some fun with it.
Peace and Love,