Clary stared at him. And stared. And stared. Jace held her gaze, refusing to back down from what he said. He knew he was right; he knew that Clary knew that he was right. She just needed to admit it.
The only sound Clary heard was her breathing; everything else around her faded. All of her world was gold – and red. She was angry.
"How dare you?" Clary asked quietly, keeping Jace's gaze as her hands anxiously trailed around the rim of her coffee mug. "You don't know anything about me. You don't have the right to make assumptions about me based on a few months that we've spent together." She dropped her gaze now, not wanting Jace to see the unshed tears that were gathering in the corners of her eyes. She blinked rapidly, hurrying them away, Jace none the wiser.
"I – I just," she stuttered over her words, needing to get out of there, needing to leave before she broke down and confessed everything to Jace, told him everything that she felt and had been through. She was strong, though, and she bore her griefs on her own. She had been forced to grow up at an early age, and years of experience told her that letting go and letting someone in would not end in her favor. Jace did not need to know everything about her, for he would surely run far and fast if he did. "I need to go." Clary stood abruptly, not looking Jace in the eyes again.
"Clary, wait," he sighed, reaching across the table for to grab at her wrist, begging her to say, but she ducked out of his grasp, grabbing her small bag and sunglasses and scrambling away from Jace.
"No, Clary, seriously, wait. Listen to me," Jace realized too late that she was truly leaving, and by the time he had awkwardly risen to his feet, banging his head off of the low hanging light at their table, grabbed his wallet and rushed after her, Clary was gone from the restaurant and around the corner. Jace shook his head, sighing. He returned to the booth to finish his coffee.
His pride told him to give up. His mind was telling him that a relationship with this girl would never amount to anything. Logic told him that he should quit while he was somewhat ahead, to keep his dignity and stop this ridiculous pursuance of someone who would never truly accept him. His heart and soul told him otherwise. He knew, deep down, that if he did not go after this girl with everything he had, he would regret it. Clary brought out the best in him. He had never had a third date. Yet, here he was almost six months later, still with the same girl, still buying her coffee every morning, regardless of whether or not he saw her for the rest of the day. Here he was, sitting pathetically in a coffee shop, thinking about her curls, her eyes, even her fingers with the bitten down nails.
His mind drifted to the one night that they had truly spent together. He thought of the way she had called his name; sweat dampened skin that slid over his, her face, her eyes watching him trustfully as he marked her body. He thought of how he had felt before, during and after that night; the closeness and sense of devotion he felt toward Clary. He thought about the way that she sleepily smiled at him, firmly tucked into his side, her head resting where his shoulder met his chest. Her ear lay against his heart, and she had been tracing patterns on his chest just as he traced nameless designs on her shoulder. They had not spoken, simply enjoying the moments of closeness that they had together before sleep crept over them. Jace wanted to feel that again. He would give anything to feel that again.
He raised the dark blue mug to his lips again as a troubled sigh blew from his lips. She was keeping something from him – something big. He had no clue as to what it might be, whether it was the secret of Matthew's father – who was probably a dead beat drug addict, in a gang, or a trust fund baby who couldn't be bothered to clean up after himself – or her true feelings about him, or something else entirely. He craved her; he had to know what was going on inside her mind. He needed to know – it was as if he were a heroin addict, and inside Clary's mind was the last bit on earth.
Sighing again, he downed the last of his cup and reached for Clary's leftover, rapidly cooling coffee. He tossed that back as well, standing as he swallowed the last of the bitter drink, and smoothed his designer jeans down over his legs. Pausing for a moment, Jace wondered if that lent to the problem. Was Clary turned off by his wealth and affluence? He was accustomed to women draping themselves over him after catching a whiff of his four hundred dollar cologne or giving him a once over and realizing he wore a six thousand dollar suit. Quickly though, Jace put that thought to rest. He had never treated Clary like one of those women. While he was certainly guilty of using his status and available cash to bed woman after woman, he had never treated Clary like that. His mind drifted to his mother, but with one violent shake of his head, he pushed that stray thought away. Thinking of his mother was a weakness his could not afford.
No, he decided, Clary was hiding something from him. What it was, he had no clue, but he would find out. He was determined now to get Clary back, and Jace always got what he wanted. He was stubborn and unrelenting; learned traits from his father that had manifested at an early age and developed into a full blown personality. It was just a matter of time, he knew, before Clary was in his arms again, and he was counting the seconds.
"Oh, come here; just let me look at you." Clary's voice was a little shaky. Her six year old son was about to start his first day of school; she reserved the right to cry a little if she wanted to. She was only twenty-one, and she knew that she wanted more children (however far down the road they may come), but at the moment, her baby was growing up, and she decidedly did not like it.
"Mom," the little boy groaned, "It's not like I'm five anymore. I'm growing up. You have to accept it."
"Um, you, young man, are my son, and I don't have to accept that if I don't want to." Clary shrugged playfully. "Sorry, not sorry."
Matthew rolled his eyes at his mother's antics. "Seriously, Mom. It's not that big of a deal."
Clary scoffed. "You are starting school! You're growing up and leaving the nest. Soon you'll be married and I'll be a grandma."
Matthew looked horrified as he ran into his mother's arms, burying his face in the soft green material of her Taki's uniform. "No, I don't want to leave, Mommy, please don't make me get married!" He looked up at her, his face stricken, and Clary couldn't help but smile comfortingly at her son.
"Oh, Baby, you don't have to get married for a long, long time yet. How about not until you're forty?" She rubbed his back soothingly, trying not to laugh at Matthew, who had shown such bravado at the idea of going to school and yet had gone bone white and trembled at the idea of leaving his mother. He nodded, his face still pressed tightly to stomach.
"Okay," he said, his answer muffled against her skin.
"Alright," she said, pulling Matthew away from her to look in his eyes. "Do you have your backpack?" He nodded, and she continued down the list, waiting for confirmation before moving on to the next item on the list. "Lunch? Jacket in case it gets cool? Shoes tied? Teeth brushed?" He shook his head and scampered off to the bathroom, humming an unknown tune under his breath. Clary smiled, shaking her head as she gathered up all of his school supplies and placed them by the door. She finished tying her own shoes, preparing for the eight hour shift before her. She had enrolled Mattie in an after school art program, provided free of charge by the public school system, that would keep him for an hour and fifteen minutes after classes ended, giving her just enough time to work her eight-to-four shift, get off, and get back to his school to pick him up.
While after the first few days of school, Matthew would be taking the bus to school (she would continue to pick him up afterwards and they would walk the twelve blocks back to their apartment), but for today, she wanted to take him there herself. It would not only give her peace of mind, but she would be able to see the place where her son would be spending more than eight hours a day. Thankfully, Taki's was only about six blocks past the school. She would have to rush, but it was worth it. Matthew's head popped out of the bathroom, his mouth foamy and his face wet, to tell her that he needed only a few more seconds. Clary nodded, trying not to smile at how serious her son was being. He disappeared back into the bathroom, only to re-emerge a few moments later, grabbing her hand in one of his and his backpack in the other, tugging her toward the door in his anxiousness to get to his first day of school.
Clary just smiled and let him pull her forward, knowing that later in life, she would wish that she had prolonged the moment, but for now, she just wanted to keep that smile on her son's face.
Forty minutes later, Clary arrived at Taki's, five minutes to spare before she had to clock in. A twenty-four hour diner, Taki's was very popular and seemingly always busy. Today was no exception, and it seemed like every other table had a waiting customer sitting at it. Clary hurried to the back to secure the bag that carried her wallet, keys, and makeup. She signed in, put her hair back into the familiar braids that made her look younger than her actual twenty-one years, tied her apron, and began serving those that were waiting. She moved in a flurry, pouring coffees and clearing plates where she could, knowing that the breakfast rush would end soon. There would be a little bit of down time where the wait staff could recover, the cooks could start preparing for the next rush, and Clary would be able to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee.
While she was standing at the window pinning an order to the rack, Maia crept up behind her. "So girl," she said loudly, startling Clary, "Tell me what's up with Blondie."
"What?" Clary asked, hand over her heart, trying to get the point across that sneaking up on someone was not okay.
"The hot blonde guy that was always around," Maia answered, snapping her gum as she too pinned an order and spun the wheel to get it to the irritated cook. "Then disappeared for a few days, and now is back and sitting in the booth in the corner of your section."
"What?!" Clary screeched, hands flying to her head, trying to smooth her humidity frizzed hair automatically. "Where?"
The other girl rolled her eyes. "Chill, chica. He's in your corner. He's been sitting there for a while. Any time someone else tries to wait on him, he always says he's waiting for you." Clary rolled her eyes and sighed when she heard this. "Kaelie's really trying to jump on him." Maia snickered. "Probably literally, too."
"Not funny." Clary glared her friend. Maia shot her a sugary sweet smile, knowing exactly how to get under Clary's skin.
"You, my dear, need to go take care of business." At the sight of Clary shaking her head, Maia rolled her eyes. "At least go take his order. You know the boss lady will throw a fit if he is sitting there not ordering anything."
"I'm mad at him." Clary pouted, crossing her arms.
"Yeah, well, put on your big girl panties and go take care of him. Not everything is always sunshine and butterflies." Maia blew her a kiss, smacking her lips teasingly at Clary before flouncing off, flirtatiously leaning in to take a group of college age boys' order. Clary shook her head and rolled her eyes, knowing that Maia would never consider actually following through on anything with anyone other than her completely devoted and hopelessly in love boyfriend, Jordan.
Taking a deep, yet not very calming, breath, Clary marched to Jace's table and looked down at him. "Can I help you?" Jace looked up at her and smirked; a devilishly handsome quirk of his lips that somehow made his eyes more golden and his unshaven stubble even more attractive.
"Coffee and coconut pancakes-"
"You don't like coconut." Clary cut him off, lowering her pad and pencil to look at him with an annoyed twitch of her lips.
"You didn't let me finish." Jace answered. Clary rolled her eyes, a quickly forming habit today, it seemed.
"Do you have a date or something?" Clary asked, shaking her head and not looking him in the eye.
"Yes, actually, with you." Jace smiled half tenderly, half patronizingly. "Those pancakes are for you. On your break." Clary looked at him, eyes wide. Jace snorted. "You look confused."
"I'm sorry, what?" Clary snapped, a hand on her hip.
"You're cure when you're mad." Jace smirked at her. When Clary raised her eyebrows are him, he smiled and shook his head. "I want you to eat with me when you're on your break." He, in turn, raised his eyebrows at her. "That's why I ordered the coconut pancakes." Seeing Clary still blankly staring at him, he swallowed and tried again. "Look, Clary. I want to talk to you again. Please," he gazed up at her, silently begging her with his eyes, "Please eat with me. Even if it's just your fifteen minute break. Have a cup of coffee if you're not hungry."
Clary sighed and nodded once. She knew she was too abrupt yesterday, but she had not been comfortable with Jace's sudden accusations. "Fine. But I don't get a break for at least another hour."
"That's fine," Jace answered, relieved, "I'll wait."
"Do you want something to eat, or are you going to come back?" Clary asked, exhaling all the words at once.
Jace glanced down at the menu and ordered the first thing he saw, not wanting to lose her attention – or her promise to sit down and talk with him. "I'll have the Hunter's Special." Clary snorted. Jace furrowed his brows at her. "What's funny?" he asked, wanting to be let in on the joke.
"That's like, huge. Aren't you supposed to be on like, a preseason diet or something?"
Jace looked taken aback. "Are you saying I need to be?" He accentuated his question by rubbing a hand over his very flat, very toned stomach. Clary narrowed her eyes and crinkled her nose at him, knowing that he knew that she knew that he was in peak physical condition.
"How do you want your eggs cooked?"
"Kind of toast?"
"Wheat. Apparently, I'm meant to be watching what I eat."
"Sausage, bacon, turkey bacon, or ham?"
"Sausage, I guess. Links, please."
"It also comes with grits, plain pancakes, baked apples, and potatoes." Clary said, not understanding how boys could eat so much.
"Bring it on," Jace said with a twist of his face. "The more I have to eat, the more time I have to sit here and wait for you."
Clary shook her head and started to walk away, only to be called back by Jace's simpering, "Waitress!" Clary squared her jaw and turned around, plastering a fake, overly sweet smile on her face.
"Yes, sir?" She asked in a bubblegum tone.
"I would also like some coffee." Jace's smile was arrogant and cocky.
"Right away." She smiled that same, burnt sugar smile and walked away, mischievously giggling to herself. She turned her back, effectively blocking Jace's view of the mug, and poured about a quarter cup of sugar into the cup before filling it the rest of the way with coffee. She mixed it together until she was sure the sugar was completely dissolved. A smug smile crept over her face, and Maia noticed.
"You didn't, like, spit in that coffee, did you?" she asked suspiciously.
"No, no, of course now," Clary answered, flushing bright red, "But it is about half sugar." She was met with a blank stare. "Jace hates sugar in his coffee." Maia nodded appreciatively.
"Go get him, girl." She winked and returned to another table.
Clary handed Jace the large mug with an annoyed, "Anything else?"
Jace lifted it to his lips, and it took everything Clary had to not smile. "No, no, this is-" he choked on the coffee, sputtering at the unexpected sweetness. Eyes watering, he finished his sentence. "Perfect."
"Oh, good," Clary answered. Jace set the coffee down and slid it away from himself. "Is something wrong with your coffee?" Clary asked innocently, drawing her hands behind her back.
Jace glared up at her. "Not at all."
Clary just smiled.
"Alright, I have fifteen minutes." Clary slid into the corner booth with her coffee (conveniently, the sugar jar had been almost empty this time) and folded her hands together. Then she paused. Jace looked a little green, and half of the food he had ordered still sat on the plate. "Jace, are you okay?"
"So… much… food." He answered weakly.
Clary laughed outright. "I told you." She said, reaching over to snag a few bites of the now rubbery eggs and the cold pancakes.
Jace shook his head, but sat up and looked at Clary. He was being slightly dramatic to make her laugh. He had missed that sound more than almost anything else.
"Look," they both started at the same time, but Clary motioned for him to go ahead, taking a sip of her coffee and another bite of pancakes.
Jace nudged the plate toward her as he started in with a deep breath. "Clary, look. I want to be with you. I can't explain why, because I've never wanted anything like that before." He looked up at her now, catching her green eyes with his. "I want you. You get me, okay?" He shook his head. "I understand you. I crave you. I can't explain it," he repeated, shrugging his shoulders as he traced the rim of his now sugarless coffee, "But I do. Don't worry," he paused to briefly interject some humor. "I don't want to say something sappy like 'You complete me,' or anything, but I'm drawn to you." He paused to breathe for a moment. "I screwed up, okay? I got scared and I reverted back to my old behavior. I can't say it won't happen again because I like to drink. I like having a few beers." Clary's eyes narrowed and a forkful of hashbrowns paused on the way to her mouth. "Hey," he continued, noticing her, "Full disclosure, okay?" Clary nodded, and he continued. "I want you to give me another chance, because now I know what I'll lose if I screw up again." His eyes sought hers, and the gold shone through, warming her and holding her hostage. "And I really don't want to screw up again."
He took a deep breath.
"I really like you, Clary."
She took a deep breath, placing her fork down.
"I like you, too." She took another deep breath and covered his hand with hers. Jace looked down at their joined hands and Clary's heart almost broke at the joyful look on his face. "And I'm sorry about how I acted yesterday and earlier." Jace looked back up at her quizzically. "When I sugared your coffee."
Jace laughed, shrugging his shoulders. "I deserved that."
Clary smiled as well, but sobered quickly. "I think you're right. I probably do use Mattie as a wall to hide behind sometimes." She was looking down at the dark brown table, not liking to admit that she perhaps was not as strong as she always pretended to be.
"Hey," Jace said softly, lifting her hand up to touch it to his cheek, "It's okay. It's okay. I shouldn't have just blurted it out like that."
Clary shook her head. "But you were right." She whispered.
Jace shook his head. "It doesn't matter. We're together again. That's all I care about, alright?" He smiled at her, his teeth white against his tan face. Clary smiled back at him, and Jace used all of his power to memorize everything about that smile; the way her eyes crinkled, her lips pulled back, the freckles scrunching together.
Clary started to stand up, but Jace frowned and attempted to pull her back down into her seat. "Where are you going?" He asked.
"Back to work," Clary said through a smile."That was my fifteen minutes."
"Are you kidding? You're a hard worker, you deserve more than that." Jace was still frowning, not appreciating that his reunion was cut short. Clary smiled and leaned for a chaste kiss. While Jace was distracted, she detached her hand, pulling back to touch his face.
"When do your classes start?" Clary asked, looking at his eyes, getting lost in them again.
"Two weeks." He grunted, trying to pull her back in, but she resisted.
Clary sighed. After his classes started again, their schedules would get crazy and they would not see each other much once again. "Why don't you come over for dinner tonight?" She asked hopefully. "We can spend some time together and," she trailed off, "Maybe you can spend the night?" She looked back up at him for a moment and he smiled.
"I would love to." He smiled.
Thankfully, the rest of the day passed uneventfully. Jace left soon after Clary's fifteen minute break was over, promising to show up to dinner that night. Clary smiled at him, still grinning as she watched him through the window, strolling down the street to wherever he had parked his car. He had been joking that he was going to the gym to work off the breakfast he had eaten, he would see her in about eight hours. (To this, she smacked his chest and rolled her eyes playfully.)
Clary picked Matthew up from the after school arts program and listened attentively while he chattered happily about his day, proudly showing off the pictures he had painted that afternoon. Clary "oohed" and "ahhed" at the appropriate times, laughing and grinning at her son before excitedly breaking the news that Jace would be eating dinner with them that night. When he had shown up, Matthew jumped into his arms, attempting to tackle Jace to the ground. Instead, Matthew had ended up with his arms around Jace's neck, hugging him fiercely.
That night, Clary cooked dinner while Jace played with Matthew. She turned away at one point, trying to hide the tears that sprang to her eyes – they were happy tears, of course – she loved seeing them together. It cut her to the quick though; she was instantly reminded of a family that she had never had, but desperately wanted.
Quite a while later, Clary, being the ever generous mother that she was, allowed Matthew to stay up for an extra half an hour, playing board games with her and Jace, who were snuggling on the couch. Jace was sprawled out; exhausted from his intense work out that day, and Clary was tucked contentedly into his side, her legs draped across his lap. Finally, Mattie was forced to put away the toys and games, brush his teeth, and climb into bed. Jace stayed put on the couch while Clary tucked her son in, returning to Jace's side after only a few moments; though from the way Jace pulled her in and furiously kissed her, she would have thought she had been gone for weeks.
"Jace," she whispered, "let's go to bed." She stood, pulling him up with her, the look on his face making her heart ache; it was full of hope and light and longing, and she never wanted his expression to change. Jace stood close to her, leaning down and ducking his head to place his lips on hers and softly kiss her until she was gasping for air. His lips trailed over her cheek, across her ear. His hands went around her waist, lifting her and wrapping her legs around his hips while his lips ghosted over her collarbone.
"Jace," she tried not to let the words come out as a moan, but was only somewhat successful, "Let's go to bed." She repeated, and this time, he complied.
Well, there you go. Chapter 16, and they're back together. I could have dragged that out for another chapter, but I figured you could use some fluff after Clockwork Princess…
Speaking of, did everyone read it and how did you feel about it? Leave it in the review box, because I honestly want to know. Those are the questions for the day. =)
CP2 is basically the reason I wrote this today. I was so inspired by it (though I did spend a lot of the book crying) that I had to write. (Well, half that and half I wanted to see you guys' reaction to it.)
Drop me a line the reviews letting me know what you think of this chapter, and of my writing in general as well, please. I would like to know how I'm doing or what I can do better or differently.
Story Rec: Amuse Me by faultylilac
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