Jace will never forget the look on Clary’s face after he says it. Shock at first, blanching into pain.
He has hurt her before, never because he wanted to, though he had lashed out in his own blindness. The time she walked in on him kissing Aline and he said every awful thing he could think of as if the mere words themselves might have the power to make her disappear, to send her back where she was safe.
He has always cared more about whether she was safe than anything else. If he didn’t, none of this would be happening. Jace wonders if she can see it in his eyes, that terror, the shards of all those dozens of dreams in which he stabbed her or choked her or drowned her and looked down at his hands afterward, wet with her blood.
She backs up a step. There is something in her face, but it isn’t fear. It’s infinitely worse. She turns, almost tripping in her haste to get away, and rushes out of the club.
For a moment he stands and looks after her. This is exactly what he wanted, a part of his mind screams at him. To drive her away. To keep her safe, away from him.
But the rest of his mind is watching the door slam behind her and seeing the final ruin of all his dreams. It was one thing to push it to this point. It is another to let go forever. Because he knows Clary, and if she goes now, she will not ever come back.
Somehow he is outside the club and the rain is pelting down like gunfire. He sees everything in a single sweep, the way he always has, the way he was trained to do. The white van at the curb, the slant of the street as it curves back toward Greenpoint, the dark opening of an alley behind the bar, and Clary at the corner, about to cross the street and walk out of his life forever.
She yanks her arm out of his when he reaches for her, but when he puts his hand against her back she lets him guide her into the alley. His hand slides across her back to her arm as she whirls to face him — and he can see everything around them again: the wet brick wall behind them, the barred windows, the discarded musical equipment soaking in puddles of rainwater.
And Clary is lifting her face, small and pale, her mascara running in glittery streaks beneath her eyes. Her hair looks dark, pasted to her head. She feels both fragile and dangerous in his grasp, a glass explosive.
She jerks her arm away from his. “If you’re planning to apologize, don’t bother. I don’t want to hear it.” He tries to protest, to tell her he only wanted to help Simon, but she is shaking her head, her words like stinging missiles: “And you couldn’t tell me? Couldn’t text me a single line letting me know where you were? Oh, wait. You couldn’t, because you still have my goddamned phone. Give it to me.”
He reaches to hand the phone back to her, but he is barely aware of his movements. He wants to say: No, no, no, I couldn’t tell you. I can’t tell you. I can’t say I’m afraid of hurting you even though I don’t want to. I can’t say I’m afraid of becoming my father. Your faith in me is the best thing in my life and I can’t bear to destroy it. “—Forgive me —”
Her face goes white, her lipstick bright against her stark skin. “I don’t even know what you think I’m supposed to forgive you for. Not loving me any more?”
She moves away from him and stumbles, blindly, and he can’t stop himself: he reaches for her. She is delicate and shivering in his arms and they are both soaking wet and he can’t stop. Her mouth is part-open, and be brings his own lips down against hers, tasting lipstick and sweet ginger and Clary.
I love you. He can’t say it, so he tries to tell her with the pressure of his lips and his body and his hands. I love you, I love you. His hands are around her waist, lifting her, and he had forgotten: she isn’t fragile; she is strong. Her fingers are digging into his shoulders, her mouth fierce against his, and his heart is pounding like it’s trying to get free of his body as he sets her down on a broken speaker.
Stop, his mind is telling him. Stop, stop, stop. He forces his hands away from her and places them on the wall, on either side of her head. Only that brings his body closer to hers, and that is a mistake. He can see the pulse slamming in her throat; her lipstick is gone he can’t look away from the carnation-pink of her mouth, flushed from kissing, as she breathes: “Why can’t you talk to me? Why can’t you look at me?”
His heart is pounding as if it wants to leave his body and take up independent residence somewhere else. “Because I love you.”
It is the truth, and an inadequate truth at that, but he feels it punch through him with the force of a lie. Her face softens, her eyes widening. Her hands are against him, small and delicate and careful, and he leans into her, breathing the scent of her under the smell of rainwater. “I don’t care,” he hears himself say. “I’m sick of trying to pretend I can live without you. Don’t you understand that? Can’t you see it’s killing me?”
He is drowning, and it is too late. He reaches for her like an addict reaching hopelessly for the drug he has sworn not to touch again, having decided it is better to burn up in one final blaze than live forever without it.
And the gray world blazes up around him with color as they come together, bodies slamming hard against the wall behind them. The water soaking her dress has made it as slick as motor oil under his fingers. He catches and pulls at her, desire reshaping their bodies with every touch. Her breathing is ragged in his ears, her eyelids half-closed and fluttering. He is touching her skin everywhere he can: her throat, the back of her neck, her collarbones hard under his fingertips, her arms, smooth and slippery. Her hands are on him, too, no shyer than his own, and every touch seems to burn away the rain and the cold.
She is gripping his shoulders when she raises her legs and wraps them around his waist, and he makes a noise he didn’t even know he could make. It is too late to go back now. His hands clench involuntarily, and he feels the fabric of her tights rip under his fingers, and he is touching her bare skin. And their kisses taste like rain. And if he wasn’t falling before, he is falling now.
He thinks of the Fall, of angels tumbling forever in fire, and Icarus, who had flown too close to the sun. He had thought of the agony of the fall, the terror of it, but never that it might be joyful. Lucifer had not wanted to fall, but neither had he wanted to serve, and as Jace gathered Clary close against him, closer than he had ever thought they could be, he wondered if it was only in the act of falling that one could be truly free.
Later, Jace would remember little about the destruction of the Manor itself, the shattering apart of the only home he’d known until he was ten years old. He remembered only the fall from the library window, scrambling and rolling down over the grass, and catching hold of Clary, spinning her down and under him, covering her with his body while pieces of the Manor rained down around them like hail.
He could feel her breathing, feel the racing of her heart. He was reminded of his falcon, the way it had curled, blind and trusting, in his hand, the rapidity of its heartbeat. Clary was holding him by the front of the shirt, though he doubt she realized it, her face against his shoulder; he was desperately afraid that there wasn’t enough of him, that he couldn’t cover her completely, protect her entirely. He imagined boulders as big as elephants tumbling across the rocky ground, ready to crush them both, to crush her. The ground shuddered under them and he pressed harder against her, as if that might help somehow. It was magical thinking, he knew, like closing your eyes so you didn’t see the knife coming at you.
The roar had faded. He realized to his surprise that he could hear again: small things, the sound of birds, the air in the trees. Clary’s voice, breathless. “Jace — I think I dropped your stele somewhere.”
He drew back and stared down at her. She met his gaze steadily In the moonlight her green eyes could have been black. Her red hair was full of dust, her face streaked with soot. He could see the pulse in her throat. He said the first thing that he could think of, dazed, “I don’t care. As long as you’re not hurt.”
“I’m fine.” She reached up, her fingers brushing lightly through his hair; his body, super-sensitized by adrenalin, felt it like sparks against his skin. “There’s grass — in your hair,” she said.
There was worry in her eyes. Worry for him. He remembered the first time he’d kissed her, in the greenhouse, how he’d finally gotten it, finally understood the way someone’s mouth against yours could undo you, leave you spinning and breathless. That all the expertise in the world, any techniques you knew or had learned, went out the window when it was the right person you were kissing.
Or the wrong one.
“You shouldn’t touch me,” he said.
Her hand froze where it was, her palm against his cheek. “Why not?”
“You know why. You saw what I saw, didn’t you? The past, the angel. Our parents.”
Her eyes darkened. “I saw.”
“You know what happened.”
“A lot of things happened, Jace —”
“Not for me.” The words breathed out on an anguished whisper. “I have demon blood, Clary. Demon blood. You understood that much, didn’t you?”
She set her chin. He knew how much she disliked the suggestion that she hadn’t understood something, or didn’t know it, or didn’t need to know it. He loved that about her and it drove him out of his mind. “It doesn’t mean anything. Valentine was insane. He was just ranting —”
“And Jocelyn? Was she insane? I know what Valentine was trying to do. He was trying to create hybrids — angel/human, and demon/human. You’re the former, Clary, and I’m the latter. I’m part monster. Part everything I’ve tried so hard to burn out, to destroy.”
“It’s not true. It can’t be. It doesn’t make sense—”
“But it does.” How could she not understand? It seemed so obvious to him, so basic. “It explains everything.”
“You mean it explains why you’re such an amazing Shadowhunter? Why you’re loyal and fearless and honest and everything demons aren’t —”
“It explains,” he said, evenly, “why I feel the way I do about you.”
Breath hissed between her teeth. “What do you mean?”
“You’re my sister,” he said, “My sister, my blood, my family. I should want to protect you —” he choked on the words— “to protect you from the sort of boys who want to do to you exactly what I want to do to you.”
He heard her breath catch. She was still staring up at him, and though he had expected to see horror in her eyes, some sort of revulsion — for he didn’t think he’d ever stated so clearly or so tactlessly exactly how he felt — he saw nothing of the sort. He saw only searching curiosity, as if she were examining the map of some unknown country.
Almost absently, she let her fingers trail down his cheek to his lips, outlining the shape of his mouth with the tip of her index finger, as if she were charting a course. There was wonder in her eyes. He felt his heart turn over and his body, ever traitorous, respond to her touch.
“What is it, exactly, that you want to do to me?” she whispered.
He could not stop himself. He leaned down, his lips grazing her ear: “I could show you.”
He felt her tremble, but despite the shiver in her body, her eyes challenged him. The adrenaline in his blood, mixed with desire and the recklessness of despair, made his blood sing. I’ll show her, he thought. Half of him was convinced she would push him away. The other half was too full of Clary: her nearness, the feel of her against him — to think straight. “If you want me to stop, tell me now,” he whispered, and when she said nothing, he brushed his lips against her hollow of her temple. “Or now.” His mouth found her cheek, the line of her jaw: he tasted her skin, sweet-salty, dust and desire. “Or now.” His mouth traced the line of her jaw and she arched up into him, making his fingers dig into the ground. Her small, panting breaths were driving him crazy, and he put his mouth over hers to quiet her, whispering, telling, not asking: “Now.”
And he kissed her. Gently at first, testing, but suddenly her hands were fists in the back of his shirt, and her softness was pressed against his chest and he felt the solid earth give way under him as he fell. He was kissing her the way he’d always wanted to, with a wild and total abandon, his tongue sweeping inside her mouth to duel with hers, and she was just as bold as he was, tasting him, exploring his mouth. He reached for the buttons of her coat just as she bit lightly at his lower lip and his whole body jerked.
She put her hands over his, and for a moment he was afraid she was going to tell him to stop, that this was insane, they’d both hate themselves tomorrow. But: “Let me,” she said, and he went still as she calmly undid the buttons and the coat fell open. The shirt she was wearing underneath was nearly sheer, and he could see the shape of her body underneath: the curves of her breasts, the indentation of her waist, the flare of her hips. He felt dizzy. He’d seen this much of other girls before, of course he had, but it had never mattered.
And now nothing else mattered.
She lifted her arms up, her head thrown back, pleading in her eyes. “Come back,” she whispered. “Kiss me again.”
He made a noise he didn’t think he’d ever made before and fell back against her, into her, kissing her eyelids, lips, throat, the pulse there — his hands slid under her flimsy shirt and onto the heat of her skin. He was pretty sure all the blood had left his brain as he fumbled at the clasp of her bra — which was ridiculous, what was the point of being a Shadowhunter and expert at everything if you couldn’t figure out the clasp on a bra? — and heard his own soft exhalation as it came free and his hands were on her bare back, the fragile shape of her shoulder blades under his palms. Somehow the little noise she made was more erotic than seeing anyone else naked had ever been.
Her hands, small and determined, were at the hem of his shirt, tugging it off. He pushed hers up, around her ribs, wanting more of their skin to be touching. So this was the difference, he thought. This was what being in love meant. He’d always prided himself on his technique, on having control, on the response he could elicit. But that required evaluation, and evaluation required distance, and there was no distance now. He wanted nothing between himself and Clary.
His hands found the waistband of her jeans, the shape of her hipbones. He felt her fingers on his bare back, her the tips finding his scars and tracing them lightly. He wasn’t sure she knew she was doing it, but she was rolling her hips against his, making him shaky, making him want to go too fast. He reached down and fitted her more firmly against him, aligning her hips with his, and felt her gasp into his mouth. He thought she might pull away, but she slung her leg over his hip instead, pulling him even closer. For a second, he thought he might pass out.
“Jace,” she whispered. She kissed his neck, his collarbone. His hands were on her waist, moving up over her ribcage. Her skin was amazingly soft. She raised herself up as he slipped his hands under her bra, and kissed the star-shaped mark on his shoulder. He was about to ask her if what he was doing was all right when she drew back from him sharply, with an exclamation of surprise. . .
“I know that I will not leave my sister here in your Court,” said Jace, “and since there is nothing to be learned from either her or myself, perhaps you could do us the favor of releasing her?”
The Queen smiled. It was a beautiful, terrible smile. The Queen was a lovely woman; she had that inhuman loveliness that faeries did, that was more like the loveliness of hard crystal than the beauty of a human. The Queen did not look any particular age: she could have been sixteen or forty-five. Jace supposed there were those who would have found her attractive — people had died for love of the Queen — but she gave him a cold feeling in his chest, as if he’d swallowed ice water too fast. “What if I told you she could be freed by a kiss?”
It was Clary who replied, bewildered: “You want Jace to kiss you?”
As the Queen and Court laughed, the icy feeling in Jace’s chest intensified. Clary didn’t understand faeries, he thought. He’d tried to explain, but there was no explaining, not really. Whatever the Queen wanted from them, it wasn’t a kiss from him; she could have demanded that without all this show and nonsense. What she wanted was to see them pinned and struggling like butterflies. It was something immortality did to you, he’d often thought: dulled your senses, your emotions; the sharp, uncontrollable, pitiable responses of human beings were to faeries like fresh blood to a vampire. Something living. Something they didn’t have themselves.
“Despite his charms,” the Queen said, flicking a glance toward Jace — her eyes were green, like Clary’s, but not like Clary’s at all — “that kiss will not free the girl.”
“I could kiss Meliorn,” suggested Isabelle, shrugging.
The Queen shook her head slowly. “Nor that. Nor any one of my Court.”
Isabelle threw up her hands; Jace wanted to ask her what she’d expected — kissing Meliorn wouldn’t have bothered her, so obviously the Queen wouldn’t care about it. He supposed it had been nice of her to offer, but Iz, at least, ought to know better. She’d had dealings with faeries before.
Maybe it wasn’t just knowing the way the Fair Folk thought, Jace wondered. Maybe it was knowing how people who enjoyed cruelty for the sake of cruelty thought. Isabelle was thoughtless, and sometimes vain, but she wasn’t cruel. She tossed her dark hair back and scowled. “I’m not kissing any of you,” she said firmly. “Just so it’s official.”
“That hardly seems necessary,” said Simon, stepped forward. “If a kiss is all . . .”
He took a step toward Clary, who didn’t move away. The ice in Jace’s chest turned into liquid fire; he clenched his hands at his sides as Simon took Clary gently by the arms and looked down into her face. She rested her hands on Simon’s waist, as if she’d done it a million times before. Maybe she had, for all he knew. He knew Simon loved her; he’d known it since he’d seen them together in that stupid coffee shop, the other boy practically choking on getting the words “I love you” out of his mouth while Clary looked around the room, restlessly alive, her green eyes darting everywhere. She’s not interested in you, mundane boy, he’d thought with satisfaction. Get lost. And then been surprised he’d thought it. What difference did it make to him what this girl he barely knew thought?
That seemed like a lifetime ago. She wasn’t some girl he barely knew anymore: she was Clary. She was the one thing in his life that mattered more than anything else, and watching Simon put his hands on her, wherever he wanted to, made him feel at once sick and faint and murderously angry. The urge to stalk up and rip the two of them apart was so strong he could barely breathe.
Clary glanced back at him, her red hair slipping over her shoulder. She looked concerned, which was bad enough. He couldn’t stand the thought that she might feel sorry for him. He looked away fast, and caught the eye of the Seelie Queen, glimmering with delight: now this was what she was after. Their pain, their agony.
“No,” said the Queen, to Simon, in a voice like the soft slice of a knife. “That is not what I want either.”
Simon stepped away from Clary, reluctantly. Relief pounded through Jace’s veins like blood, drowning out what his friends were saying. For a moment all he cared about was that he wasn’t going to have to watch Clary kiss Simon. Then Clary seemed to swim into focus: she was very pale, and he couldn’t help wondering what she was thinking. Was she disappointed not to be kissed by Simon? Relieved as he was? He thought of Simon kissing her hand earlier than day and shoved the memory away viciously, still staring at his sister. Look up, he thought. Look at me. If you love me, you’ll look at me.
She crossed her arms over her chest, the way she did when she was cold or upset. But she didn’t look up. The conversation went on around them: who was going to kiss who, what was going to happen. Hopeless rage rose up in Jace’s chest, and as usual, found its escape in a sarcastic comment.
“Well, I’m not kissing the mundane,” he said. “I’d rather stay down here and rot.”
“Forever?” said Simon. His eyes were big and dark and serious. “Forever’s an awfully long time.”
Jace looked back at those eyes. Simon was probably a good person, he thought. He loved Clary and he wanted to take care of her and make her happy. He’d probably make a spectacular boyfriend. Logically, Jace knew, it was exactly what he ought to want for his sister. But he couldn’t look at Simon without wanting to kill someone. “I knew it,” he said nastily. “You want to kiss me, don’t you?”
“Of course not. But if—”
“I guess it’s true what they say. There are no straight men in the trenches.”
“That’s atheists, jackass.” Simon was bright red. “There are no atheists in the trenches.”
It was the Queen who interrupted them, leaning forward so that her white neck and breasts were displayed above the neckline of her low-cut gown. “While this is all very amusing, the kiss that will free the girl is the kiss that she most desires,” she said. “Only that and nothing more.”
Simon went from red to white. If the kiss that Clary most desired wasn’t Simon’s, then . . .the way she was looking at Jace, from Jace to Clary, answered that.
Jace’s heart started to pound. He met the Queen’s eyes with his own. “Why are you doing this?”
“I rather thought I was offering you a boon,” she said. “Desire is not always lessened by disgust. Nor can it be bestowed, like a favor, to those most deserving of it. And as my words bind my magic, so you can know the truth. If she doesn’t desire your kiss, she won’t be free.”
Jace felt blood flood into his face. He was vaguely aware of Simon arguing that Jace and Clary were brother and sister, that it wasn’t right, but he ignored him. The Seelie Queen was looking at him, and her eyes were like the sea before a deadly storm, and he wanted to say thank you. Thank you.
And that was the most dangerous thing of all, he thought, as around him his companions argued about whether Clary and Jace had to do this, or what any of them would be willing to do to escape the Court. To allow the Queen to give you something you wanted — truly, truly wanted — was to put yourself in her power. How had she looked at him and known, he wondered? That this was what he thought about, wanted, woke from dreams of, gasping and sweating? That when he thought, really thought, about the fact that he might never get to kiss Clary again, he wanted to die or hurt or bleed so badly he’d go up to the attic and train alone for hours until he was so exhausted he had no choice but to pass out, exhausted. He’d have bruises in the morning, bruises and cuts and scraped skin and if he could have named all his injuries they would have had the same name: Clary, Clary, Clary.
Simon was still talking, saying something, angry again. “You don’t have to do this, Clary, it’s a trick—”
“Not a trick,” said Jace. The calmness in his own voice surprised him. “A test.” He looked at Clary. She was biting her lip, her hand wound in a curl of her hair; the gestures so characteristic, so very much a part of her, they shattered his heart. Simon was arguing with Isabelle now as the Seelie Queen lounged back and watched them like a sleek, amused cat.
Isabelle sounded exasperated. ‘Who cares, anyway? It’s just a kiss.”
“That’s right,” Jace said.
Clary looked up, then finally, and her wide green eyes rested on him. He moved toward her, and as it always did, the rest of the world fell away until it was just them, as if they stood on a spotlighted stage in an empty auditorium. He put his hand on her shoulder, turning her to face him. She had stopped biting her lip, and her cheeks were flushed, her eyes a brilliant green. He could feel the tension in his own body, the effort of holding back, of not pulling her against him and taking this once chance, however dangerous and stupid and unwise, and kissing her the way he had thought he would never, in his life, be able to kiss her again.
“It’s just a kiss,” he said, and heard the roughness in his own voice, and wondered if she heard it, too.
Not that it mattered—there was no way to hide it. It was too much. He had never wanted like this before. There had always been girls. He had asked himself, in the dead of night, staring at the blank walls of his room, what made Clary so different. She was beautiful, but other girls were beautiful. She was smart, but there were other smart girls. She understood him, laughed when he laughed, saw through the defenses he put up to what was underneath. There was no Jace Wayland more real than the one he saw in her eyes when she looked at him.
But still, maybe, he could find all that somewhere else. People fell in love, and lost, and moved on. He didn’t know why he couldn’t. He didn’t know why he didn’t even want to. All he knew was that whatever he had to owe to Hell or Heaven for this chance, he was going to make it count.
He reached down and took her hands, winding his fingers with hers, and whispered in her ear. “You can close your eyes and think of England, if you like,” he said.
Her eyes fluttered shut, her lashes coppery lines against her pale, fragile skin. “I’ve never even been to England,” she said, and the softness, the anxiety in her voice almost undid him. He had never kissed a girl without knowing she wanted it too, usually more than he did, and this was Clary, and he didn’t know what she wanted. He slid his hands up hers, over the sleeves of her damply clinging shirt, to her shoulders. Her eyes were still closed, but she shivered, and leaned into him — barely, but it was permission enough.
His mouth came down on hers. And that was it. All the self-control he’d exerted over the past weeks went, like water crashing through a broken dam. Her arms came up around his neck and he pulled her against him, and she was soft and pliant but surprisingly strong like no one else he’d ever held. His hands flattened against her back, pressing her against him, and she was up on the tips of her toes, kissing him as fiercely as he was kissing her. He flicked his tongue along her lips, opening her mouth under his, and she tasted salt and sweet like faerie water. He clung to her more tightly, knotting his hands in her hair, trying to tell her, with the press of his mouth on hers, all the things he could never say out loud: I love you; I love you and I don’t care that you’re my sister; don’t be with him, don’t want him, don’t go with him. Be with me. Want me. Stay with me.
I don’t know how to be without you.
His hands slid down to her waist, and he was pulling her against him, lost in the sensations that spiraled through his nerves and blood and bones, and he had no idea what he would have done or said next, if it would have been something he could never have pretended away or taken back, but he heard a soft hiss of laughter — the Faerie Queen — in his ears, and it jolted him back to reality. He pulled away from Clary before he it was too late, unlocking her hands from around his neck and stepping back. It felt like cutting his own skin open, but he did it.
Clary was staring at him. Her lips were parted, her hands still open. Her eyes were wide. Behind her, Isabelle was gaping at them; Simon looked as if he was about to throw up.
She’s my sister, Jace thought. My sister. But the words meant nothing. They might as well have been in a foreign language. If there had ever been any hope that he could have come to think of Clary as just his sister, this — what had just happened between them — had exploded it into a thousand pieces like a meteorite blasting into the surface of the earth. He tried to read Clary’s face — did she feel the same? She looked as if she wanted nothing more than to turn around and run away. I know you felt it, he said to her with his eyes, and it was half bitter triumph and half pleading. I know you felt it, too. But there was no answer on her face; she wrapped her arms around herself, the way she always did when she was upset, and hugged herself as if she were cold. She glanced away from him.
Jace felt as if his heart was being squeezed by a fist. He whirled on the Queen. “Was that good enough?” he demanded. “Did that entertain you?”
The Queen gave him a look: special and secretive and shared between the two of them. You warned her about us, the look seemed to say. That we would hurt her, break her as you might break a twig between your fingers. But you, who thought you could not be touched — you are the one who has been broken. “We are quite entertained,” she said. “But not, I think, so much as the both of you.”
These were all written by Cassie :)
The Institute’s bell begins to toll, the deep loud heartbeat of the apex of the night.
Jace sets his knife down. It’s a neat little pocketknife, bone-handled, that Alec gave him when they became parabatai. He’s used it constantly and the grip is worn smooth from the pressure of his fingers.
“Midnight,” he says. He can feel Clary beside him, sitting back amongst the remains of their picnic, her breathing soft in the cool, leaf-smelling air of the greenhouse. He doesn’t look at her, but straight ahead, at the shining closed buds of the medianox plant. He isn’t sure why he doesn’t want to look at her. He remembers the first time he saw the flower bloom, during horticulture class, sitting on a stone bench with Alec and Izzy on either side of him, and Hodge’s fingers on the stem of the blossom — he had woken them up at nearly midnight to show them the marvel, a plant that normally grew only in Idris — and remembered his breath catching in the wintery midnight air, at the sight of something so surprising and so beautiful.
Alec and Isabelle at been interested but not, he remembers, caught by the beauty of it as he had been. He was worried even now, as the bells rang on, that Clary would be the same: interested or even pleased, but not enchanted. He wanted her to feel the way he had about the medianox, though he could not have said why.
A sound escapes her lips, a soft “Oh!” The flower is blooming: opening like the birth of a star, all shimmering pollen and white-gold petals. “Do they bloom every night?”
A wave of relief goes through him. Her green eyes are shining, fixed on it. She is flexing her fingers unconsciously, the way he has come to understand she does when she is wishing she had a pen or pencils to capture the image of something in front of her. Sometimes he wishes he could see as she did: see the world as a canvas to be captured in paint, chalks and watercolors. Sometimes when she looks at him that way he finds himself almost blushing; a feeling so strange he almost doesn’t recognize it. Jace Wayland doesn’t blush.
“Happy birthday, Clarissa Fray,” he says, and her mouth curves into a smile. “I have something for you.” He fumbles, a little, reaching into his pocket, though he doesn’t think she notices. When he presses the witchlight runestone into her hand, he is conscious of how small her fingers are under his — delicate but strong, callused from hours of holding pencils and paintbrushes. The calluses tickle his fingertips. He wonders if contact with his skin speeds her pulse the way his does when he touches hers.
Apparently not, because she draws away from him, her expression showing only curiosity. “You know, when most girls say they want a big rock, they don’t mean, you know, literally a big rock.”
He smiles without meaning to. Which is unusual in and of itself; usually only Alec or Isabelle can startle laughter out of him. He had known Clary was brave the first time he’d met her — walking into that room after Isabelle, unarmed and unprepared, took the kind of guts he didn’t associate with mundanes — but the fact that she made him laugh still surprised him. “Very amusing, my sarcastic friend. It’s not a rock, precisely. All Shadowhunters have a witchlight rune-stone. It will bring you light even among the darkest shadows of this world and others.”
They were the same words his father had spoken to him, upon giving him his first runestone. What other worlds? Jace had asked, and his father had only laughed. There are more worlds a breath away from this one than there are grains of sand on a beach.
She smiles at him and makes a joke about birthday presents, but he senses that she is touched; she slips the stone into her pocket carefully. The medianox flower is already shedding petals like a shower of stars, lighting her face with a soft illumination. “When I was twelve, I wanted a tattoo,” she says. A strand of red hair falls across her eyes; Jace fights the urge to reach out and push it back.
“Most Shadowhunters get their first Marks at twelve. It must have been in your blood.”
“Maybe. Although I doubt most Shadowhunters get a tattoo of Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on their left shoulder.” She is smiling, in that way she does when she says things that are totally inexplicable to him, as if she is fondly remembering. It sends a jealous twinge sparking through his veins, though he isn’t even sure what he is jealous of. Simon, who understands her references to a mundane world Jace can never be a part of? The mundane world itself that she could one day return to, leaving him and his universe of demons and hunters, scars and battle, gratefully behind?
He clears his throat. “You wanted a turtle on your shoulder?”
She nods, and her hair falls back into place. “I wanted to cover my chicken pox scar.” She draws the strap of her tank top aside. “See?”
And he sees: there is some sort of mark on her shoulder, a scar, but he sees more than that: he sees the curve of her collarbone, the light dusting freckles on her skin like a dusting of gold, the downy curve of her shoulder, the pulse at the base of her throat. He sees the shape of her mouth, her lips slightly parted. Her coppery lashes as she lowers them. And he is swept through with a wave of desire, a kind he has never experienced before. He’s desired girls before, certainly, and satisfied that desire: he had always thought of it as hunger, a need for a sort of fuel that the body wanted.
He has never felt desire like this, a clean fire that burned away thought, that made his hands — not tremble, exactly, but thrum with nervous energy. He tears his eyes away from her, hastily. “It’s getting late,” he says. “We should go back downstairs.”
She looks at him, curiously, and he cannot help the feeling that those green eyes can see through him. “Have you and Isabelle ever dated?” she asks.
His heart is still pounding. He doesn’t quite understand the question. “Isabelle?” he echoes. Isabelle? What did Isabelle have to do with anything?
“Simon was wondering,” she says, and he hates the way she says Simon’s name. He has never felt anything like this before: anything that unnerved him like she does. He remembers coming to her in that alleyway behind the coffee shop, the way he had wanted to draw her outside, away from the dark-haired boy she was always with, into his world of shadows. He had felt even then that she belonged where he did, not to the mundane world where people weren’t real, where they passed just beyond his vision like puppets on a stage. But this girl, with her green eyes that pinned him like a butterfly, she was real. Like a voice heard in a dream, that you know comes from the waking world, she was real, piercing the distance he has set so carefully about himself like armor.
“The answer is no. I mean, there may have been a time when one or the other of us considered it, but she’s almost a sister to me. It would be strange.”
“You mean Isabelle and you never—”
“She hates me,” says Clary.
Despite everything, Jace almost laughs; like a brother might, he takes a certain delight in observing Izzy when she’s frustrated. “You just make her nervous, because she’s always been the only girl in a crowd of adoring boys, and now she isn’t anymore.”
“But she’s so beautiful.”
“So are you,” Jace says, automatically, and sees Clary’s expression change. He cannot read her face. It is hardly as if he has never told a girl she’s beautiful before, but he can’t remember a time it wasn’t calculated. That it was accidental. That it made him feel like going to the training room and throwing knives, and kicking and punching and fighting shadows until he was bloody and exhausted and if his skin was flayed open, it was only in the way he was used to.
She just looks at him, quietly. The training room it is, then.
“We should probably go downstairs,” he says again.
“All right.” He can’t tell what she’s thinking from her voice, either; his ability to read people seems to have deserted him and he doesn’t understand why. Moonlight spears down through the glass panes of the greenhouse as they make their way out, Clary slightly in front of him.
Something moves ahead of them — a white spark of light — and suddenly she stops short and half-turns to him, already in the circle of his arm, and she is warm and soft and delicate and he is kissing her.
And he is astonished. He doesn’t work like this; his body doesn’t do things without his permission. It is his instrument as much as the piano, and he has always been in perfect command of it. But she tastes sweet, like apples and copper, and her body in his arms is trembling. She is so small; his arms go around her, to steady her, and he is lost. He understands now why kisses in movies are filmed the way they are, with the camera endlessly circling, circling: the ground is unsteady under his feet and he clings to her, small as she is, as if she could hold him up.
His palms smooth down her back. He can feel her breathing against him; a gasp in between kisses. Her thin fingers are in his hair, on the back of his neck, tangling gently, and he remembers the medianox flower and the first time he saw it and thought: here is something too beautiful to properly belong in this world.
The rush of wind is audible to him first, trained as he is to hear it. He draws back from Clary and sees Hugo, perched in the crook of a nearby dwarf cypress. His arms are still around Clary, her weight light against him. Her eyes are half-closed. “Don’t panic, but we’ve got an audience,” he whispers to her. “If Hugo’s here, Hodge won’t be far behind. We should go.”
Her green eyes flutter all the way open, and she looks amused. It pricks his ego slightly. After that kiss, shouldn’t she be fainting at his feet? But she’s grinning. She wants to know if Hodge is spying on them. He reassures her, but he feels her soft laughter travel through their joined hands — how did that happen? — as they make their way downstairs.
And he understands. He understands why people hold hands: he’d always thought it was about possessiveness, saying This is mine. But it’s about maintaining contact. It is about speaking without words. It is about I want you with me and don’t go.
He wants her in his bedroom. And not in that way — no girl has ever been in his bedroom that way. It is his private space, his sanctuary. But he wants Clary there. He wants her to see him, the reality of him, not the image he shows the world. He wants to lie down on the bed with her and have her curl into him. He wants to hold her as she breathes softly through the night; to see her as no one else sees her: vulnerable and asleep. To see her and to be seen.
So when they reach her door, and she thanks him for the birthday picnic, he still doesn’t let go of her hand. “Are you going to sleep?”
She tilts her head up and he can see that her mouth bears the imprint of his kisses: a flush of pink, like the carnations in the greenhouse, and it knots his stomach. By the Angel, he thinks, I am so…
“Aren’t you tired?” she asks, breaking into his thoughts.
There is a hollow in the pit of his stomach, a nervous edginess. He wants to pull her back to himself, to pour into her everything he is feeling: his admiration, his new-born knowledge, his devotion, his need. “I’ve never been more awake.”
She lifts her chin, a quick unconscious movement, and he leans down, cupping her face with her free hand. He doesn’t mean to kiss her here — too public, too easy to be interrupted — but he can’t stop touching his mouth to hers lightly. Her lips part under his and he leans into her and he can’t stop. I am so --
It was at precisely that moment that Simon threw open the bedroom door and stepped out into the hall. And Clary pulls away from him hastily, turning her head aside, and he feels it with the sharp pain of a bandage ripped off his skin.
I am so screwed.
This series is written by Cassandra Clare, a very talented amazing writer.