Okay, so because I put a song instead of a chapter once, Fanfiction took down this story. So, here it is again, sans song... and I don't remember my snippy chapter titles so... oops!
"Are you still mad?" Jace asked.
"I'm not mad," Alec shot back testily.
"Oh, yes you are," Jace responded with a gesture towards Alec and yelping in pain.
"Perhaps next time," I suggested, "you won't assume the half rotted floor will support your weight?" We all looked like crap, aside from Isabelle of course. The two boys were covered in mud and scratches, my ponytail was a hopeless mess not to mention the dried blood on my forehead from a shallow gash, and Isabelle looked like she'd just been out for a stroll – not demon hunting.
They ignored my comment. Well, not completely, Jace did shoot me an angry glare.
"I am not," Alec insisted, through his teeth. "Just because you said dragon demons were extinct-"
"I said mostly extinct."
Alec advanced on his stepbrother, eyes blazing. "Mostly extinct is NOT EXTINCT ENOUGH."
"I see," Jace said calmly. "I'll just have them change the entry in the demonology textbook from 'almost extinct' to 'not extinct enough for Alec. He prefers his monsters really, really extinct.' Will that make you happy?"
"Hey, Alec," I said, trying to be positive whilst avoiding my reflection in the mirrored wall of the elevator. "At least you knew what a dragon demon was." I had attempted to stay at the Institute when they went out demon hunting but Isabelle had drug me along, pouting.
"Children, children," Isabelle said. "Don't fight."
"You do realize we're all older than you, right?" Jace asked.
"I know. And it was a little more action than we were expecting, but I thought it was fun."
"How do you manage to never get mud on you?" Alec demanded incredulously of his sister.
Isabelle shrugged and smiled brilliantly. "I'm pure at heart. It repels the dirt."
Jace scoffed and waved one dirt coated hand in Isabelle's face. "Filthy inside and out."
"Pleasant," I commented.
"Only for you, my dear."
Isabelle wrinkled her nose in delicate distaste, yanking open the door of the elevator the moment it stopped with an angry screeching sound. "Time to get this thing fixed."
We followed her out into the entryway, all moving gingerly. Alec, I noticed, still walked with a bad limp from the encounter with the Greater Demon even though the crutches were long since gone.
I hissed as I bent to untie the boots Isabelle had lent me, gritting my teeth and kicking them off. Isabelle shot me a concerned look but didn't ask. Completely exhausted, I flopped down on the low wooden bench next to Alec who was still in the process of removing his boots. The two weeks that had passed since the encounter with Abbadon and the discovery of my adoption had contributed to my stress level until the white blood cells of my body were doing tightrope routines on my nerves. "Why, exactly, did you want me to tag along, Izzy?"
"Because," Isabelle said, pulling the pins out of her glossy hair, "it's more fun when you're there. Helps balance out the estrogen to testosterone ratios."
"Nngf." The three actual Shadowhunters fought together perfectly, each fulfilling their role to kill the demon. Me? I was just there, going off of literally no training, ready to leap out protectively in front of any of them. I still believed myself to be extremely expendable. I knew – sort of – how the story ended. Well, the original ending, before I got thrown into the mix. To make a long story short: As awesome as I was, they really didn't need me.
"It wasn't that bad," Alec assured me with a shy smile. We were trying to be friends now, after I'd threatened to desolate his person if he ever hit me again. Well, I'd promised actually, not threatened.
"Alec's right, Jaci," Jace commented, throwing his nasty jacket over my face. "It could have gone worse. Not very likely, but it could have."
I clawed the material from my face and threw the jacket back at him. "I will stab you, Jace Wayland."
"From what I've been informed," a cool voice said from the doorway, "Wayland is hardly appropriate."
"Mom!" Isabelle cried, running to hug the sudden apparition of her mother, Alec getting up to limp after her.
I blinked, trying to clear away the double image. Nope, Isabelle and her mother really did look that much alike. The only difference being Maryse was obviously older and had the same bottle blue eyes as Alec. And Isabelle wasn't that intimidating. Maryse's intense glare wasn't directed at me however, it was aimed at Jace.
"Where's Dad?" Isabelle asked, looking around as though expecting them to appear just as suddenly. "And Max?"
"Max is in his room. And your father, unfortunately, is still in Alicante. There was some business there that required his attention." I noticed that her voice was slightly strained, not that I had much experience with her to compare to, but I figured. I was also desperately trying to make myself nearly invisible, just a little tiny decoration sitting on the bench armed with weapons and a stele that had come from the Institute run by this woman.
"Is something wrong?" Alec asked his mother hesitantly.
"I could ask you the same thing," Maryse said accusingly. "Are you limping?"
"We had a run-in with a Drgonidae demon in the subway tunnels," Isabelle said smoothly. "But it was nothing."
"And I suppose that Greater Demon you fought last week was nothing too?" their mother asked dryly.
"That wasn't planned for," Jace answered, something a bit off with his voice.
I stood up then, drawing attention to myself when I spoke. "The Sensor didn't pick it up before we went in. And you can hardly pin this on Jace. Or Alec or Isabelle, for that matter."
Maryse turned the full force of her eyes on me. "And who, precisely, are you?"
"Mom, this is Jaci," Isabelle said peaceably. "A friend of ours."
"Jaci what?" The question was directed towards me. "Morgenstern? Valentine's unprecedented daughter?"
I cringed at the accusation in her tone. "No, actually. I'm just Jaci, adopted and probably an orphan."
Those blue eyes narrowed harshly. "So you're that one?"
"Jace!" a young voice cried and a small boy in oversized glasses darted around Maryse and spinning to grin at his siblings, eyes sliding over me. "You're back! You're all back. I thought I heard the elevator."
"And I thought I told you to stay in your room," said his mother.
"I don't remember that," the boy said seriously. I grinned at that, he was adorable.
"You must be Max," I said.
He turned to me with wide eyes, taking in my battered appearance. "I don't know who you are."
"I'm Jaelyn, but you can call me Jaci. Everyone else does."
"Nice to meet you," he said solemnly, holding his hand out to me. I shook it and smiled. "Did you help fight the Greater Demon?"
"A little," I hedged, not liking the way Maryse was looking at me.
"Was it awesome?" He directed this question to Jace.
"It was… different," Jace said. "How was Alicante?"
Max grinned and shoved his sliding glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "It was awesome. We saw the coolest stuff. There's this huge armory in Alicante and they took me to some of the places where they make the weapons. They showed me a new way to make seraph blades too, so they last longer, and I'm going to try to get Hodge to show me-"
I cringed at the mention of Hodge. Apparently I wasn't the only one to react because Maryse cut her son off after that.
"But I'm talking to Jace-" he protested.
"I can see that," she said and gave him a push towards Isabelle. "Isabelle, Alec, take your brother to his room. Jace," she paused and looked me over, "Jaci, get cleaned up and meet me in the library as soon as you can. You do know where the library is, I take it?"
I nodded stiffly. Count me as not a fan of Mrs. Lightwood.
"I don't get it. What's going on?" Alec asked, looking between the three of us.
"Is this about my father?" Jace asked quietly.
"The library. We'll discuss the matter there."
Alec looked confused. "What does Jace's father have anything to do with Jaci? And what happened while you were gone wasn't either of their faults. We were all in on it. And Hodge said-"
"Well discuss Hodge later as well." Maryse's eyes flashed in warning.
"But, Mother. If you're going to punish Jace and Jaci, you should punish us as well. It would only be fair," Isabelle argued. "We all did exactly the same things."
"No. You didn't."
I didn't like the way her eyes bore into mine like an attack. And I couldn't help but be relived when she finally turned stiffly on her heel and walked away with her children in tow.
"Jace, what's going on?" I asked softly. He still hadn't moved from where he stood.
He shook his head. "I don't know." For some reason, I didn't completely believe him. "I don't see what anything would have to do with you."
I sighed and pulled my left knee up to my chest, attempting to stretch out my pulled hamstring. It hurt like hell. I hissed again. "Maybe she still thinks I'm Valentine's daughter?"
Jace unbuckled his weapons belt and examined it for new damage. "I don't know why she would. You've already proven it to be impossible. No," he buckled the belt and slipped it over his arm, "my guess is it's because she doesn't know whose daughter you are."
I heard the underlying tension in his voice but didn't comment on it. He had a point. I wasn't a Fray, Fairchild, Garroway, Graymark, Morgenstern, Flynn or any other last name I might have at one point had some sort of tie to. I was the unknown child.
"I'm probably just the not important illegitimate child of some random, not important Shadowhunter couple." I paused, Maryse's harsh face coming to mind. "Well, at least I hope I am."
"Somehow, I doubt it. Come on," he said, starting towards the doorway, "Maryse doesn't like to wait."
With a heavy sigh I followed him, my leg protested every step with a burning ache. "Remind me to get my stele back from Clary."
Jace shot me a curious glance over his shoulder. "Why does she have it?"
"Remember? She used it to get the Mortal Cup…"
"She still has it?"
I nodded and grimaced at the same time. Sometimes walking only makes injuries worse. "I meant to get it the other day when I went to the hospital to see my mo- Jocelyn – but she didn't have it with her."
"Is there a particular reason you want it now?"
Of course he knew, but he seemed to relish in making me admit weakness. Saying I needed a healing rune would make him react one of two ways. The first was he would become all superior and sarcastic, bragging about how he'd fell three stories (whoop de doo) and had yet to complain despite the fact that his entire body was in mind numbing agony and each breath felt like his last. And the second was he would be extremely protective and concerned, demanding to know why I hadn't mentioned the pain earlier. Personally, I kind of hoped for the second reaction. Being… whatever I was to Jace had kind of a whiplash effect. One moment we would be absolutely thrilled by the idea of the other and the next we were bickering and criticizing.
"I just pulled my hamstring a bit is all. I figured an iratze would probably be a good idea." I shrugged like it was no big deal and tried to camouflage my awkward not-quite-limp.
Within moments, Jace had scooped me up into his arms and was carrying me like I was a doll. Apparently Jace was going for option two squared which took me by surprise. All of a sudden, his face was inches from mine and his arms were wrapped securely around my body. It was the closest we'd been for over a week and my mind wasn't processing anymore. In fact, I forgot to protest when he took me in a dumped me in his room on his bed.
"Don't move," he ordered and disappeared out the door again.
As soon as he was gone I stood up, not wanting to get his pristinely white blanket dirty from my filthy gear. The action of standing brought me a nice dose of mind-clearing pain.
Jace had carried me.
Jace was being protective.
I hated when people were worried about me.
But I liked Jace's protectiveness. Lots. I really liked it compared to our awkward distance that had been established.
"I thought I told you not to move," Jace commented, appearing suddenly in the doorway holding a small pile of my clothes which he tossed to me. "Shower in my bathroom and I'll draw your iratze for you. I'm quite good at them."
"That's your excuse?" I asked incredulously. "Are you sure you don't just want me stripping in your bathroom?"
His playful grin didn't quite reach his eyes. "While that may be an ulterior motive, I'm sticking with the first one. Besides, I'm not certain if Maryse knows you've been staying here yet. She might not approve exactly."
The hot shower made me feel worlds better and I came out of it smelling like boy. Well, like Jace to be exact. He had been kind enough not to get any girl soap when he'd gone to my room and I was stuck using his. It wasn't a bad smell but it did remind me awkwardly of live in girlfriends and all around situations my mother had raised me to consider scandalous. One look in the mirror, however, made me feel a lot less like a sexy lover kept around for their looks and more like a battered, teenage girl, kept around because she had no place else to go.
My skin was a grey-ish pale hue that made the already thin skin under my eyes show the blue veins more vividly. My eyes themselves – while not being particularly bloodshot – looked to be off-white. My only color was from my hair which was almost black from being wet. I looked like one of the terrible creatures from my nightly dreams, ghosts of my last trip to Central Park. And not to mention the new scars I carried on my previously unmarked skin. There were the faint swirls from Marks and the two shiny, pink scars from my encounter with a Ravener.
With a sound of disgust, I turned away from the mirror, using the towel to harshly dry my face. My skin felt tight and restricting. Still with my back to the mirror, I pulled on the clothes Jace had brought me, not impressed with his choices. The shirt was the one I'd worn the first time I'd ever encountered one of the Forsaken and still had a darker patch from where my blood hadn't completely washed out and he'd brought me pajama bottoms Isabelle had given me. Little shorts I had promised myself I would never be caught dead in. So much for that promise. As I went to pull them on, a surprised gasp of pain escaped past my lips and I sat heavily on the edge of the tub.
The door swung open to show Jace looking concerned. "Jaci?"
He had abandoned his muddy shirt at some point and now stood in the doorway, bare foot and bare chest. I couldn't help but take in the swell of muscles under his lightly tanned – and badly bruised – skin. Despite the unsightly mars, I still couldn't think of any boy sexier than him with his silvery scars lacing across the entirety of his body and the swirling black Marks he usually bore but were now faded.
All of a sudden the bathroom was much too hot with me wearing a t-shirt and my underwear and Jace looking at me. Thinking of my scars and the vivid purple bruising I'd glanced on the back of my leg, I felt gross and unattractive and desperately wanted to disappear. Instead I simply refused to look at him and hooked the tiny shorts with my right foot, grabbing them and laying them on my lap so I felt at least a little bit more covered.
"Could you knock next time?" I asked, trying and failing to keep the accusation out of my voice. This was exactly what I needed right now, a major hit on my self-esteem. At least with clothes on I could pretend my body was as graceful and willowy as Isabelle's or as delicate and petite as Clary's. My legs weren't terrible, in fact I had very delicate ankles and nicely shaped calves but with my thighs added in I did not look pretty. Usually I didn't care but for once in my life could I look just a little bit girly?
"Sorry," he said. I could tell from his voice he didn't mean it. "Do you want me to Mark you now?"
I shook my head vehemently. "I would like to finish getting dressed first."
Jace glanced at the shorts and grinned at me. "I don't think that would make much difference."
I could just feel my face growing multiple shades darker.
"Unless you'd rather wait until I'm showered?" he suggesting, closing the door. I watched as he pulled out his stele and drew a rune on the wood, securing it shut. He then placed the stele on a ledge in the tub, reaching over me. "Excuse me."
I stared at him with wide eyes. "What are you doing?!"
His hands were at the button of his pants. "Taking a shower."
"Oh Angel," I clapped a hand over my eyes so I wouldn't see. "Is there a particular reason why you have to do this in front of me?"
"No," I heard him say. "You just happen to be here and I didn't have the heart to kick you out. You don't have to close your eyes by the way, I still have clothes on."
"I don't trust you."
Jace tsked sadly from somewhere to my right. "This is a sad day, Jaci."
"Hurry up and get in the shower, would you?"
"That's not going to help."
"With you sitting where you are I am unable to close the curtain so you can either open your eyes and move or stay where you are and ignore the fact that you might get a tad damp."
Keeping my eyes tightly shut, I slid off the edge of the tub and lowered myself carefully to the floor with an involuntary groan. Somewhere above me he chuckled and then some warm and damp piece of fabric fell in my lap. I squirmed and blindly threw what could only have been his pants away from me.
"Now, now, Jaci. I thought I was doing you a favor." A sound like rain started as he turned on the shower, the curtain rattling closed.
"Hurry up and shower, would you?"
"Are you really going to sit there with your eyes closed the entire time?"
"Yes, Jace. I am." Whether I wanted to look or not, and we're not going to discuss that, I wasn't going to. Instead I sat there feeling the humidity on my skin and listening to the occasional comments Jace made. I could tell when he was washing his hair because he commented on precisely how much of his shampoo I had used and continued on for a bit remarking on how much soap girls in general wasted.
Eventually, the water was shut off and the curtain rattled open. "It's all right now."
I scoffed. "I don't know if I can really believe you."
"What if I promise?" I could feel his breath on my face and my eyes sprang open in surprise. He was crouched in front of me, a towel secured around his hips. The dirt was gone from his body but the bruises seemed almost darker than before. I noticed the dark shadows under his eyes and his overall gaunt appearance. Maybe I wasn't the only one having trouble sleeping at night.
"I guess I'll just have to hold you to that promise," I said with a smirk that usually was bestowed upon his face.
He helped me to my feet and retrieved his stele before turning to me with a quirked eyebrow. "Your hamstring you said?"
I nodded and felt the blood pooling in my face and neck and ears and any other visible bit of skin. I became painfully aware of my hair sticking to me from both the moisture in the air and my own sweat. Pleasant.
Moving quickly, Jace hooked a hand under my knee and gently pulled it up, he used his other hand to carefully extend my leg so my heel rested on his shoulder. I was too surprised by my own flexibility for a moment to feel pain or mortification that Jace was... apsdofahsdfh.
"Ouch," I said dazedly.
The sting of the stele crossed my leg swiftly and then it was gone along with the pain.
My leg was still over his shoulder. Neither of us moved. After a terribly long, awkward pause, I swung my leg off of him and we stood facing each other, not quite sure what to do. My heart was hammering in my chest, ecstatic and terrified by the proximity. I could feel my hands shaking terribly and I fidgeted with the hem of my shirt. What was the big deal? He'd just healed me, that was all. We hadn't even kissed and I was a mess.
Nervous or not, I wanted to change that.
Without really being aware of how I got there, suddenly I was pressed up against his body with my hands around his neck and my lips millimeters away from his. Jace closed the remaining distance with an almost painful delicacy.
The last time we had kissed had been just before going to fight Abaddon. I wasn't going for gentle now. Still with un unusual amount of nerve, I moved my hands to his shoulders and wrapped my legs around his waist, wanting to be as close to him as possible so bad it nearly hurt. I wanted a few blissful moments to forget everything that was going wrong and focus on the one thing that was going right.
My initiative inspired him and I was suddenly against a wall, his mouth now urgent and fierce on mine. Carefully, he pulled my bottom lip in between his teeth and bit. My eyes fluttered open in surprise momentarily. I took advantage of my position to run my hands over his shoulders and chest, exploring every bit of skin I could find. Whenever I came across a scar, I traced it lightly as Jace's mouth explored my neck, sucking and biting just soft enough not to leave a mark.
His hands were at the hem of my shirt and then creeping under it – flat on my stomach and sending chills throughout my entire body. They crept higher on my rib cage, teasing the delicate flesh just enough to make me squirm and giggle. His lips at my throat curled into a smile. He moved his mouth to the hollow at the base of my neck and my head rolled backwards, letting him do as he wished.
Jace nuzzled at the collar of my shirt, stretching it out in the process. I probably wouldn't have even protested if he ripped it if two things hadn't happened. His towel began to slip dangerously lower on his hips and I was suddenly reminded of the ugly scars on my shoulder, not far from his warm lips.
"Hmm?" He drew his lips lightly over my skin to just below my ear, damp locks ghosting against my cheek.
I disentangled my legs from around him – the towel didn't fall – and ducked out of his embrace reluctantly. "Maryse. You said she doesn't like to wait."
He groaned but there was no denying I had a point, as much as I wanted to. He mumbled something I didn't catch and pulled me back into his arms, crushing my body to him with his burning mouth on mine making my heart pound. This time, I wasn't going to be the one to break the kiss.
"We should do this more often," he said raggedly, slowly releasing me.
"Yes," I agreed, my hand resting on his bare chest, "we should."