Oh my goodness. HELLO :D Okay, okay, okay. So first off, I owe all of you a MAJOR apology, because as I'm sure most of you have noticed, it has been an extremely long time since I have updated this story (as in over two months)! So. I do have an extremely lengthy explanation, but I don't want to bore you all, so I'll just give you a quick rundown in an overly long run-on sentence since this author's note is going to be massive as it is. Basically, in November my laptop crashed and I was left laptopless for a few weeks, and by the time I got my new laptop, it was finals week, which took up ALL of my time and sanity. Then, I couldn't really write because I hadn't gotten Word on my new laptop yet. Then the holidays came up... And then classes started back up... So yeah, it's been a crazy two months in which I haven't gotten much writing done (and I didn't even get to write a Christmas or New Year's oneshot *sigh*). I want to thank all of you who have stuck around and to those who continuously favorited, followed, and reviewed this story during its hiatus. I CANNOT express how thankful I am. I tried to keep updates on my author's page, but I just wasn't sure when I would be able to come back. I promise if I ever go on hiatus again, I will let you know in advance and have consistent updates on my page, though I don't plan on doing it again because I hate giant gaps between updates because then it's like you need to refresh yourself with the story :/ ALSO. I recently learned (as in a little over a week ago) that I can reply to your reviews!? I'm sure you're all like "well, duh" but this is news to me! So again, thank you to all of the amazing reviews and now I'll get to respond to future ones :) I will also be getting back on a Sunday-update schedule, so keep an eye out for the weekly updates. To end this overly long author's note, I really just want to reiterate my thanks and gratitude to you all, y'all are awesome! So without further ado, the next chapter (finally!) of Paint & Coffee. Please enjoy and review ;)

Disclaimer: I do not own anything regarding The Mortal Instruments series.


"You'll protect me right?"

"Of course I will Clary."

"Promise me."

"Clary, I will protect you with my life."

I jolt up in my bed with a start, gasping for air. Goddamn dream.

No. Not a dream.

A nightmare.

The same freaking nightmare that I thought I had seen the end of two weeks ago when Clary and I started being friends.

I bring my hand over my chest to feel the rapid pounding of my heart, like it has no intention of stopping its slamming rate. Holy shit.

I take deep, steadying breaths, trying to calm myself down.

Breathe in… two seconds… breathe out… two seconds…

Focus on the breathing Jace, not Clary's face, not the fear coursing through your veins, not anything but the breathing. You don't get scared.

No, I stopped getting scared after my dad never came home.

I haven't had that goddamned nightmare in two weeks, and now all of a sudden it decides to pop up again.

The same exact nightmare.

Java Jones…

The smell of coffee…

Clary's red hair…

Clary's terror…

Clary needing my protection...

So why am I so shaken this time?

As the pounding in my chest starts to slow even the slightest amount, I lay back down in bed and stare at the white ceiling above me. I haven't had a nightmare wake me like this since I was twelve, but I've always dealt with them the same way. Focus on the breathing, not what caused it. Watch the ceiling, make your mind as blank as the ceiling.

I can feel myself begin to drift off, and before I know it, I'm back in Java Jones alone, again, my feet stuck to the ground as I watch my girlfriend's hair flash in my peripheral as she turns the corner.

"JACE!" I can hear pounding on my door, "Jace Lightwood you better be up! You will not be late on your first official day of having a decent girl waiting for you at school!" And then the knocking continues. A weird sense of déjà vu rushes over me as I open my eyes and look directly at the white ceiling while listening to Izzy's incessant knocking and yelling.

I groan as I try to lift myself up in bed and hear my joints crack from sleep, well, the little bit of sleep that I actually got, and then I flop back down in bed. Izzy continues the knocking, but I can't bring myself to actually get out of bed yet and open the door.

"Jace! If you don't open up this door I will literally drag you out of the house in whatever god forsaken attire you're in right now, no matter how little it actually is!"

Not even that brings a smile to my face. "That would be nothing then Iz!" I call out, though my heart isn't in my remark. "Though, I'm sure the ladies would love to see that," I say, not having the energy to yell it. And yet, Izzy hears it all the same.

"There is only one 'lady' you should be concerned with at the moment! You know, short, red hair, bad temper? God, what the hell does she see in you?" Izzy says the last part more to herself, but loud enough that I can hear. The mention of Clary brings me back to the reason why I'm lying in bed half asleep while I should be getting ready to leave.

I thought after waking up from the nightmare I would be able to have a dreamless sleep.

I guess that was too much to ask for.

I should have woken up overjoyed and ready to spend the first official day of dating Clary with a stupid grin on my face and happy as can be, but instead, I wake up after having that nightmare three times in one night and a bundle of uneasy nerves settled in my stomach.

The feeling is enough to set me on edge.

And having this nightmare repeatedly in one night is new. Maybe it's making up for lost time.

"Oh god, you're not sick, are you!?"

I thought maybe Izzy had left.

I literally put all of my energy into getting out of bed and trudging to the door to crack it open the smallest amount possible to be met with worried onyx eyes.

Izzy takes a step back to take a look at my rugged appearance. "Holy shit you look awful."


"Not all of us take three hours to make themselves look like a human being. I'll be ready in five," I comment with more sarcasm than I meant to. Those worried eyes instantly switch to "pissed off" mode at my tone.

"Jeese, sorry for caring," she throws back with sarcasm to match my prior comment, "you know what? I'll drive myself and you can look like an asshole in front of Clary. As if you haven't already."

I sigh in defeat, not wanting a full on argument when I really need to get ready, "I'm sorry Iz, I just didn't get much sleep at all and I feel like if I close my eyes I'll be zonked for hours."

Her facial expression softens slightly with a bit of humor, "Did you just say the word 'zonked'?"

I give her an extremely confused look, "Uh, yeah? Why is that funny?"

She glances down at her feet shyly, something I have never seen Izzy do, and says, "that's just something Simon would say. I think Clary's rubbing off on you Jace," she adds with mild amusement.

Great, now I look like shit and sound like a geek. Fan-freaking-tastic.

"Iz, there's never going to be a time or place where comparing me to that video game-loving, four-eyed nerd will be okay."

She glares at me again. "Don't insult Simon," she reproves, and then she walks away without another comment. That's it? That's all she's going to say? "And seriously get ready asshole, you really do look like shit and I don't think you want Clary to see you like that or have her waiting for you at school. We need to leave in like ten minutes," she says as she walks away down the hall.

"Thanks, you really know how to make a guy feel good," I mutter under my breath as I close my bedroom door. I momentarily forgot about the uneasiness in my stomach while talking to Izzy, but now it slams back full force.

What the hell? I'm not nervous about seeing Clary.

Actually, I feel like if I don't see her soon, I might go crazy. I need to see her. Need to make sure that she's okay. Need to see her beautiful smiling face and hear her infectious laugh.

My feelings for Clary are being jumbled with the aftereffects of these freaking nightmares. Dammit. They're screwing with my head.

I glance around my room to find my cell laying on my nightstand. I walk over and pick it up, scrolling to Clary's number.

Morning, hope you slept well and your mom and step-dad weren't too mad about detention. Can't wait to see you. I'll see you soon.

After I send the text, I sit on the edge of my bed and close my eyes, clearing my head like I did last night. I have a beautiful girl who I am lucky enough to call my girlfriend.

A girl who I can be myself around, who I feel I can tell anything to. Well, almost everything.

A girl I can trust.

A girl who makes me feel things I have never felt before.

A girl who makes me smile by just thinking about her.

And I'll be damned if I let some pretend images concocted in my head of her being scared mess with the reality set in front of me that Clary is fine and going to be waiting for me at school with that nerdy best friend of hers and I'm going to show the school how lucky of a guy I truly am.

And that if I don't walk out of this bedroom in two minutes Izzy will be coming in guns blazing.

That image brings a smirk to my face and I get up and grab some clothes from a drawer just as my phone buzzes.

Morning! The parents weren't too angry about detention. Luke actually wants a picture of the black eye, haha. And I think you managed to almost get Simon to barf up his breakfast with that text. He says I'm making you soft :P But I loved it, see you soon! I'll be waiting outside the school!

And there goes that stupid grin…

She loved it.

God, I sound like a giddy kindergartener.

I get dressed in a hurry, do a mental check to make sure everything is in order, and sprint out of my bedroom, so beyond ready to get to school.

Clary Fray, here I come.

My heart does a little jolt as I turn the car into the parking lot and I see red hair in my line of vision near the entrance to the school. She doesn't see Izzy and I pull in, so I speed up the car into the nearest parking spot, slamming on the breaks and putting it into park.

"Jesus!" Izzy gasps, "Could you be any less graceful?" She looks over at me with a scowl on her face only to see my attention transfixed on that splash of red in the sea of students filtering into the school. Next to her I see a smudge of brown with eyes pointing right at my car through his dorky glasses. I roll my eyes both at Izzy's comments and rat boy's stare and get out of the car, making my way over to Clary.

She must sense me walking over, because just as I walk up behind her she turns around and flashes me a dazzling smile.

"Simon was beginning to think you'd already snuck into the school and that you were going to make him late for class," she remarks as I take the last few steps toward her and my face breaks out in an earsplitting grin, completely forgetting the uneasiness I felt this morning.

See? Perfectly fine.

"He didn't have to wait if he'd rather go to calculus and start next month's homework," I say as I bend to capture her lips with mine for a brief kiss, catching her by surprise.

I pull away too soon, only to tilt my face mere inches away from hers.

"Good morning," I say in a low voice while admiring those green eyes of hers, which are staring back at me with the slightest bit of shock, and dare I say it… shyness?

That beautiful smile returns again, and she looks at me like she did last night.

Like I'm the only thing in her world.

"Hi," she whispers back.

"Oh my god, this time I'm really going to be sick Clary. I can't take all the googly eyes and lovestruck smiles."

She rolls her eyes toward me as she completely pulls away to face her best friend. "Don't be a drama queen Simon," she chastises, even though I can see a blush slowly creep onto her cheeks, which makes me smirk at Simon, who in turn glares at me.

"I'm literally going to beg to guys. Please, please keep the PDA to a minimum. I would like to keep my meals where they belong… in my stomach... and not on the ground," he says as he glances at both of us.

I give him a lazy shrug. "No promises nerd," I say as I turn to Clary, "I think he likes me. Seems to be okay with the dating thing? No outbursts on how I'm stealing you away from your video game bonding time?"

It takes me about half a second to see that I said something wrong.

Clary noticeably flinches, and I know I'm missing something. Know that whatever I just said had an immediate negative effect on both her and Simon.

She reaches out and laces our fingers together, squeezing my hand gently and pulling me closer to her. "A story for another time," she murmurs so that only I can hear. Confusion must be written all over my face, but she just gives me another smile before glancing back over at Simon, who if possible, seems to have become more awkward in mere seconds.

And then Izzy decides to grace us with her presence.

"And thanks for waiting the whole, oh, I don't know, five seconds for me to get out of the car Jace. Really, I think you would have died if you waited a whole five seconds to get to your girlfriend," she remarks with a heavy dose of sarcasm before glancing down at Clary's and my joined hands, "and really Clary, I think you would have died if you responded to one of my, oh, I don't know, twenty-eight text messages last night regarding you dating my brother."

Instead of either of us responding, we both look at each other and roll our eyes, completely unfazed by Izzy's dramatics.

"Twenty-eight text messages, really?" I ask with a small amount of disbelief, knowing my sister's persistence and how aggravated she was after I had announced to my family that Clary was my girlfriend and I wouldn't tell her anything more than that.

Only Max got any sort of very mild details. The rest stays between Clary and me.

"And that's not including the ones referring to the fight," Clary adds while shaking her head knowingly at Izzy. "Iz, I hadn't checked my phone all day, and by the time I did, it was after explaining the whole fight ordeal to mom and Luke and my phone was so flooded with messages from you, Simon, and Jon that I just went to sleep."

I can't help but notice the flash of guilt that washes over Clary's face as her eyes flick to Simon, and then back to Izzy, who moves so she's standing right next to Simon. Izzy gives him a bashful smile before looking back over at Clary and me.

And I'm momentarily speechless at seeing Izzy smile bashfully, because I didn't think such a thing existed. My sister. Bashful.

Dear lord.

But then she's back to business with the interrogations as Simon gives her his own shy smile. "Oh no, let's just leave me in complete suspense after my brother comes home and announces to our entire family that he is dating my best friend, and says that he just came from your house but refused to tell us anything no matter how much Magnus, Alec, and I harassed him, and how Magnus was literally hovering over my shoulder as I sent you those twenty-eight messages because nobody told me anything about this relationship, and how surely the only reason that you didn't answer me was because you were talking to your parents and not that you were thinking about whatever make out session or whatever the heck went on between you two earlier."

"Isabelle!" Clary yells in what is an attempt at scolding, but is a complete failure as she starts laughing at how accurate, and slightly ridiculous, Izzy sounds at the moment. I can't help but notice that Simon averts his eyes at the mention of what Clary was doing after I left and wonder if that would be explained in the 'story for another time.'

Izzy puts her hands up in mock surrender, "okay, okay, I'll let it go… for now. But only because you guys look so happy that it's almost sickingly sweet."

"That's what I said," Simon not-so-subtly mutters under his breath.

"Pretty sure your comments included the implication of puking," Clary remarks, "which is so not the same thing."

Simon just looks at Izzy, and they both roll their eyes at each other just like Clary and I had done moments ago, connections beginning to form in my head, drawing a smirk that twitches at my lips.

We hear the bell ring, realizing that mostly everyone has gone inside already. Whatever sarcastic remark that would have come out of our mouths next is forgotten as we head up the main stairs. Izzy and Simon walk in together ahead of us, starting up their own conversation as I'm pulled backward when Clary stops right in front of the entrance, still holding my hand.

"You okay?" I ask, seeing how her facial expression has changed to one of worry.

She nods, though that worried furrow in her brow doesn't go away. I reach out and gently smooth it away with my thumb, glancing down at her face.

"People are going to talk, you know," she states matter of factly, directly meeting my gaze, "I mean, it wouldn't be a normal high school if they didn't."

I give her a reassuring smile before saying, "Eh, let them. I'm the one with the hot girlfriend, so it'll all be jealousy anyways."

Her smile is small, but it's a smile nonetheless. "Hey," I say while bringing both of my hands to either side of her face, "You and me, right? You're all that matters." By now we're the only ones standing at the entrance, but I can hear the typical sounds of students moving from their lockers to their classrooms right inside the doors.

Her smile gets a little bit wider as she nods her head in agreement. "We're all that matters," she corrects me as she pulls away to open the door.

I nod my head in agreement with her, pulling her bag out of her hands and throwing it over my shoulder as I wrap my other arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to me and placing a kiss on her temple.

We push through the door and start walking, immediately becoming a spectacle to those in the surrounding area, already creating sparks for a whole reel of rumors.

Did you see Clary and Jace?

I can't believe he got to her.

Are they dating?

Did they hook up?

And my only thought to all of it is screw them all, because I have my arm wrapped around this beautiful girl.

And I couldn't be happier.

Aside from the steady murmur of rumors that started upon our arrival, which we do our best to ignore, the day has gone pretty normally. We sit at what has become the 'normal' lunch table with Izzy, Simon, Jordan, Maia, and Aline, and everything is just as it always has been. Maia, Aline, and Jordan, if anything, actually seem completely unfazed by Clary's and my shift in relationship, which brings a grateful smile to my face. It also helps me realize how I've come to consider them actual friends over the past two weeks.

Something I haven't really ever had.

Jordan and I discuss the usual sports, Aline and Izzy try to get Clary to go shopping with them, and Simon and Maia ramble on about some video game. Really, the only difference is that I haven't let go of Clary's hand that's resting on her lap since we sat down, and I have no intentions of doing so any time soon.

Even as the bell rings.

We stick together as a little group, still continuing with our conversations as we head toward the cafeteria exit. Clary's hand is still in mine, and I see her lips curve upwards. I'm momentarily mesmerized by them and how badly I want to kiss them.

Not just a peck. A kiss like the one last night.

The mind-blowing kind.

"This is a joke, right?"

The voice is loud enough to make all of us turn around to see its source, even though I'm pretty sure we all already know the answer.

Kaelie stands only a few feet in front of us with her hands on her hips and a smirk on her face as if she's amused by what she just saw. And what she just saw was Clary and I staring at each other while holding hands.

"I mean, really Jace, you can't possibly tell me that you're in a committed relationship with carrot head over there. Who do think you're kidding?" By now, it's not just our little group that has turned around, it's everyone who was heading toward the exit, which to put lightly, is pretty much the entire senior class. And Kaelie's speaking loud enough so that all can hear.

I feel Clary's tension through her entire body as she squeezes my hand reflexively. I squeeze back reassuringly, knowing that whatever Kaelie has in mind in saying, she's going to say it whether I try to shut her up or not.

But that still doesn't stop me from trying.

"Actually, this isn't a joking matter, Kaelie. I am telling you and everyone else too nosy to walk away that I am in a committed relationship with Clary. That's all there is to say."

At that, Kaelie outright laughs as if I said the funniest joke on the planet. Whatever little friends of hers stand behind her and trade amused glances as well. I for one don't see what's so funny, and I can feel impatience and aggravation battling inside me.

"Oh my god- you're h- hilarious Jace," she laughs out. As she puts on a show for the crowd with her continuous hysterics, I glance down at Clary, who seems both tense and confused as she gives me a questioning look.

"Let's get to class," I tell her as I go to turn around.

"Oh no," Kaelie speaks again, seemingly controlling herself, "I'm not done Jacey."

I can feel an aggravated flush begin to settle on my neck at that freaking annoying nickname she insists on calling me.

"Actually Kaelie, I don't really care, I am done and I'm heading to class," I tell her with my impatience clearly seeping into my tone.

Kaelie rolls her eyes, "oh please, since when are you worried about getting to class? Last year you and I would skip class all the time and have a completely different type of anatomical education," she drawls as she stares right at Clary, who I feel tense all over again so much so that I can visually see her shoulders tense and her eyes flash with anger.

Aggravation wins out over impatience. Kaelie wants to put on a show and flaunt our loosely defined past relationship to Clary, which really was no relationship at all. Just hook ups. Hook ups that I never wanted Clary to hear about, even though she knows how much of a player I've been in the past.

I've never regretted something so much in my life.

I grit my teeth before saying, "Kaelie, I don't know what delusions you're under, but whatever you're trying to do here is a complete waste of time and a shout for attention, okay? Neither of which I'm interested in, so if you will excuse us-"

"God Jacey, do you think that prude will do anything for you? It won't be long before you're tired of lugging her virgin ass around."

The senior crowd, which has been extremely quiet and attentively listening, starts murmurs that can only center around Clary, Kaelie, and myself, more specifically Clary.

My aggravation turns to flat out disgust.

Because none of them know me at all.

None of them have a right to judge Clary. And none of them have any business in discussing Clary like that.

"What did you just call me?" Clary spits out with an equal amount of disgust that I am feeling.

She still holds on to my hand, and I feel as if in this moment, we're anchoring each other. I steal another glance at her as she glares at Kaelie, the anger and frustration practically radiating off of her.

I've seen that look three times since I've known Clary.

Once when she hunted me down in the hallway, demanding the return of her sketchbook. Again when Kaelie threw punch all over her. And then yesterday when she slugged Sebastian in the face.

And that look is channeled toward Kaelie for a second time, only this time, I don't feel the need to carry Clary away for her own good.

This time? Clary's not dealing with a girl who's jealous over stealing her date's attention. Or whatever stupid reason Kaelie had for the punch incident.

This time? Clary's dealing with a girl who's broadcasting Clary's personal life for her peers to hear and gossip about.

And I have a strong inclination to think Clary doesn't take too kindly to that.

Please, if you have a chance, drop a review and let me know what you think (because now I can respond to them too, haha)! Have an awesome week everyone, and thanks :)