Chapter 15: Claws

I was crouched in the dirt peering through the leaves of a bush. My hands and knees were muddy and I looked like an idiot. Part of me worried what else it would look like when Jace and I stepped out from behind a bush in this condition. I didn't want to be arrested for public indecency. But there were more important things to worry about. Like Isabelle and Alec.

"I still don't get why we have to be here. We can see this park from my back window," I said to Jace, turning to look at him and pouting.

"It's much more fun sneaking around if we do it properly," he replied with a winning grin, handing me some binoculars. I raised my eyebrows.

"I think you are enjoying this far too much," I smiled.

Jace shrugged and lie down next to me, looking out into the park. "Bite me," he said.

I was about to take him up on the offer when I spotted our target. Well, one of them. I shh'd Jace and pointed to Alec. He nodded. I even looked through my binoculars.

So, yeah, maybe this was a ridiculous way to get them to sort out their differences. Staging a fake meet up in a park while we sneakily watch Alec and Isabelle probably yell at each other for hours and not come to any resolution. But it has to be said: it beats therapy, and it is funny as hell.

Alec walked across the park and looked round quizzically. He was looking for Jace, who he had justifiably assumed was meeting him here. After a look of confusion he sat down on the bench by the pond. Just as planned.

Ten minutes passed and Jace grew fidgety. "Isabelle should be here by now. Why isn't she here? What if Alec leaves?"

But no sooner had he voiced his concerns when long, black tight-clad legs came into view, followed by a killer-short dark wash denim skirt and a black chemise. This level of style and confidence in the walk could only belong to one person. Isabelle Lightwood had arrived.

And so it began.

She walked up to the pond and almost got to the bench when she stopped abruptly. She raised her sunglasses. She had seen Alec. She studied the area around her, no doubt looking for me. As her view passed our bush I fell flat to the ground. When I came up she was looking at Alec again, still silent.

"Did she see us?" I whispered worriedly.

"I think you'd know by now if she had." Jace chuckled, and then looked down at me, breaking into a full laugh when he saw the amount of dirt on my face.

I clapped my hand over his mouth and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Isabelle apparently hadn't heard or noticed the Bush That Laughed.

I watched the siblings and saw Isabelle open and close her mouth, and Alec whipped his head round.

I held my breath as they studied each other.

I heard snippets of the conversation that followed. Isabelle asked a question, and I saw from her lips it had 'Clarissa' in it. Alec shook his head, and said 'Jace'. Jace appeared to have super-sensory hearing, or was just excessively perceptive, for he began to softly translate what was going onto me, his breath hot on my ear.

"Isabelle just asked if he was invited here by you. Alec said that it was me instead," he spoke. I nodded; that made sense.

"How do you know?" I asked, curiously.

"I learnt sign language while we were apart, lip-reading was really important to the deaf people we talked with and I guess picked it up," he said casually. I was learning more and more about him. He was seemingly perfect. I instantly regretted all the time we had been apart. I longed in that moment to know everything about him as I once did, and the strength of the feeling startled me.

"Isabelle made some snide remark under her breath, something about 'manipulating'," Jace continued with mirth in his voice.

There wasn't much to say for a number of seconds. The pair stood apart in an awkward silence and Isabelle looked ready to leave.

Then Alec sighed and called over to Isabelle.

"He's inviting her to sit with him?" Jace seemed incredulous.

Isabelle huffed and barked out a negative response, flinging her hands up in anger.

"I knew it wouldn't be that simple…" said Jace, grimacing. I turned my head to face his and pecked his cheek in reassurance. I myself was in a state of grim determination. However fun for us, this was a conversation that the siblings needed to have. It was our fault they weren't close anymore and it would be fixed. I had promised myself.

Isabelle then started pacing, speaking and gesticulating furiously. I looked to Jace for clarity.

He told me that she appeared to be saying how ridiculous this whole thing was. Apparently she wasn't too happy with us and didn't think it was fair for us to do this to her.

"Basically, it's everything we expected her to say," I said, troubled. Jace nodded.

Alec listened in silence. He moved his satchel off the seat and motioned for her to sit by him again. She took up the offered olive branch this time, but before we could get our hopes up, she put her head in her hands and continued to speak angrily, occasionally darting killer looks at Alec.

"She thinks he was involved in setting this up," Jace said, looking miffed. Fair enough, I thought, I was quite mad at her myself; Alec was innocent in this scenario.

We weren't the only ones. The man in question finally got his perfectly buffed claws out.

Alec snapped back. By this point I didn't need Jace's perceptions. I understood the interactions.

Isabelle screeched at him, and this was where it truly began. The name 'Clary' was used in the same sentence as 'bitch'. We were getting into the main arguments now. Old hurts were creeping to the surface. Alec retaliated using the words 'Jace' and 'manwhore', which made me giggle.

This continued for a long ten minutes. I lost my happy edge as the fighting seemed it would never end. Eventually the combatants had no more ammo. The argument faded into a tense silence.

I watched Isabelle's face intently. The anger fell away. Her emotionless face started to lose its composure. Her lip quivered and her eyes blinked several times, and I saw a glint on her cheek. Was Isabelle crying?

"Isabelle never cries." I stated this fact, plainly and dumbly. Jace just sighed and kissed the top of my head.

Alec's arm raised and lay lightly around Isabelle's shoulders. She shrugged it off. Alec just hugged her harder. Isabelle didn't protest, she leant into her brother and huge wracking sobs attacked her body. Alec stroked her hair.

I smiled and blinked and noticed my own cheeks were damp. This was far from over, but it was a beginning.

Jace ran his fingers through my silky red hair, "I knew my plan would work."

"Your plan, eh?" I laughed at his arrogance and swatted him in the sides. He fell back comically and ended up landing on the binoculars, groaning. This only served to increase my amusement tenfold.

"Hey! Abuse! I thought those guys were supposed to be the unstable ones," Jace retorted, still clutching at his sides melodramatically.

I just shook my head and poked him regardless, watching his smiling face angelic face and feeling truly happy for the first time in ages.

Isabelle

Isabelle fished her phone from her bag as she dumped it on the floor of her explosively-coloured flat. She shakily dialled the number. She had been regretting this call. She had known it was necessary since she left Alec's company. She had seen how much her brother was attached to Clary and those around her. How could she ruin that?

Her brother. Alec. She had missed him so much. She drew in a shuddery breath and smiled lightly. Isabelle felt both fragile and assured in this moment. Her emotions were still going haywire but she felt so much better getting everything out into the open with her brother.

She strode into her kitchen, carefully stepping over her discarded clothes from last night's affairs. She pressed the 'call' button and breathed in once more.

He picked up immediately.

"Isabelle." He said coolly. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

He didn't sound very pleasured at all. She remembered then how he used to flirt incessantly, made her feel special. He didn't bother anymore.

"I can't do this," Isabelle stated as calmly as she could manage.

"Can't do what exactly?" His voice became sharper.

"This! This… s-sabotage!… this plot, all of it. Do it yourself," Isabelle spat out, passionate anger filling her voice.

He barked out a humourless laugh. "This is rich, coming from a girl with no morals. You think you can just quit? I thought you were smart, Belly."

"Don't call me that!" Isabelle snapped loudly. She used to think it was cute. How could she be stupid? "You aren't the boss of me. I'm taking no further part in this."

"You will regret this."

"Bye, Sebastian."

Clary

I was finishing up the last of the press releases for the launch of the latest book in the 'hit' dystopian story of this year, when Maia walked in. Our magazine had expanded into publishing recently due to my pitch on the importance of diversifying. We were already doing extremely well, bagging huge deals over the larger publishing houses. Maia dropped a large pile of paperwork on my desk and sighed. No-one ever said that this much work was going to be easy.

"Are you going to the launch party tonight?" Maia inquired.

I had seriously considered not going, but I couldn't be antisocial forever. I had pushed this book deal and could hardly skip it.

"Yes I am. You?" I asked.

"I can't, Jordan and I are going out." Maia told me. I got it; they needed their couple time while they could have it.

I smiled wearily in reply.

"Don't overwork yourself, Clary. You aren't a workaholic singleton anymore. You've got to be in at least vaguely good mood when you are living with someone." Maia chastised me.

"We aren't living together." I told her.

"Why not? You have a good-sized house and you are both adults who love each other. Its perfect, Clary, seal the deal." Maia advised, smiling.

I knew she was trying to help but the 'L' word hit me like a punch to the stomach. I murmured a non-committal response and asked her if I could be alone, saying I had a headache. She left with a concerned look.

Did I love him?

I looked out my glass mirror. I saw him in the office, talking to Alec. It just looked like pleasantries, but it made me very happy that they were patching their tattered friendship.

I watched Jace's face. His strong jaw was relaxed and his features calm. I loved watching him when he didn't know I could see him. I would spend many minutes in the mornings studying his features, wishing his eyes would open so I could sink into the deep topaz, but wishing they would stay closed, so I would never have to look away.

I loved the way his hair was like spun gold. When I first ran my fingers through it, it was so inexplicably soft that I had demanded to see what hair products he used.

My heart yearned for the man who was only a few seconds away.

Did I love him? Yes. I knew I did. I couldn't deny it. Had I ever stopped loving him?

The real question was: would I tell him? Not yet, I thought. I didn't want to scare him when it was going so well.

Jace looked over at that moment and gave me a dazzling smile. He had known I was watching. I blushed but didn't look down. Smiling coyly back I twirled my hair in my fingers and gave him a little embarrassed wave with my other hand.

At that moment, Aline came up behind Jace and wrapped her fingers over his shoulder, leaning in close. She asked a question. Jace answered still looking at me.

My smile had dropped and I looked down at my papers. I knew he barely payed her any attention. But I wasn't happy. He didn't tell her to move away. Maybe that was far too much to expect. As usual I was being too hard on him. I gathered my wits together and pieced my face back into the smooth blank sheet that it was usually in.

I looked up at Jace and gave him the best smile I could manage. It didn't quite reach my eyes. Looking back down at my reports, I began to sign my names on the right spaces.

Then the door opened and Jace was there. I looked into his eyes.

His gaze was hard to read. It was unwavering. "Clary, can you meet me in the janitor's closet now please?"

Then he was gone, turning on his heel and departing as swiftly as he had arrived.

I stood, straightened my skirt and composed my face. Business-like, I walked out of the office, all the while panicking that he was angry at me for getting jealous at Aline.

I entered the janitor's closet. Jace was sat on an upturned bucket. I sat on the floor.

"I'm sorry," I began, "I shouldn't have got jealous, it was silly and petty-"

"It wasn't that," Jace said, squeezing the bridge of his nose.

I was confused. What else had I done?

"Jace?" I asked, searching for clarity.

"The jealousy was fine, adorable even. I had no problem with that. For you to be jealous of a skank like Aline was hella cute. To think I would in any way by tempted by any other woman than yourself was laughable." Jace told me, a grin forming. It faded too quickly for my liking.

That gave me warm fuzzies. He thought I was cute. I smiled slightly, then realised he was still mad for something. My brow furrowed. "Then what did I do wrong?"

"You composed yourself. I watched as you pretended that it hadn't bothered you at all. That smile you gave me was more hurtful than any accusations of falsehoods on my part." Jace explained.

"Okay." I frowned, still somewhat confused.

"Clary, I want you to be yourself. Stop thinking that showing emotion is weakness. Emotion is the one thing that makes us human. When you are sad, angry, happy, anything; I want to know. I can't be in a relationship with a woman that suppresses every emotion she tries to have. Let me be there for you."

I nodded. I had told him I would take my armour off around him, and I hadn't.

"No more Ice Queen?" Jace asked, hopeful, holding my cheeks lightly.

I looked into his eyes. "No more Ice Queen. Though I make no promises to how many of Aline's limbs will be left at the end of this launch party."

Jace winked. "Gotta love a good cat fight."

I smirked. Oh yeah, my claws were coming out tonight, I thought.

OMG aren't you impressed? Weekly update! I'm so nice to you folks. Please please please leave me a review I read all of them of course and wish I could at least 200 this chapter? Humour me? Thanks guys x