This one-shot is based on and inspired by the song "Can I Be Him" by James Arthur.
I definitely don't own the song, James Arthur, The Mortal Instruments, the characters, and I am definitely not Cassandra Clare… in case anyone was wondering.
Can I Be Him
Jace Herondale was seated at his usual booth in the darkest corner of the cigar lounge he had been frequenting for the past few months. He was dressed, as usual, in all black to try to blend into the background of the smoky bar. Jace was a prominent businessman in the city and the last thing he needed was to be recognized; no, that would just be a distraction from her. Although, he knew with his golden hair and eyes, he would still stand out among the crowd, but he stayed in the shadows to conceal himself as best he can.
His favorite booth also allowed him direct sight to the dark-haired man, Sebastian Verlac, that he had grown to secretly despise over the past few months. The asshole was always flirting with the waitresses, and Jace was pretty sure he was sleeping with one or two of them by the way they allowed his hands to linger on their thighs and asses just a little too long. This man would never deserve her. Not that Jace felt he did, but he would never disrespect her like that.
As the curvy blonde waitress brought him his double bourbon he immediately took a large swig from the glass and dismissed her curtly. At one point she may have caught his eye, but not anymore. There was only room is his thoughts for one woman the past few months, and she didn't even know he existed.
Jace rubbed his large calluses hand down his face as he remembered how he had gotten to this point.
He had originally come to the bar for a work meeting, and although it wasn't his typical establishment of choice his client insisted on the cigar lounge as their meeting point. Jace had reluctantly agreed, but soon changed his mind when the lights on the stage went on and a gorgeous red head with the most captivating voice he had ever heard began to sing along with the jazz band. He can still remember the way his hand froze with his drink halfway to his mouth and his jaw dropped open as he took her in for the first time.
She was wearing a sleeveless deep green dress that hung to the floor and hugged her curves perfectly, while showing off the creamy skin of her thigh with a deep slit that went almost to her hip. The neckline was low and her loosely curled red hair was hanging down past her breasts and Jace couldn't help but notice her emerald colored eyes matched the dress perfectly. Jace wanted to grab her hand and take her away from every other man in the establishment and their surely dirty thoughts of this goddess. Her deep sensual voice as she sang her first song, Hello, had rocked him to the core and his meeting and client were completely forgotten as he was lost in a trance.
After she finished her second song, he finally came out of his trance and picked his jaw up off the ground. He knew he was officially hooked, and hadn't been able to think of another woman since. She had completely wrecked him and they had never even made eye contact, let alone spoken to each other.
Jace watched his vixen, who the host called "Clarissa Fairchild", walk over to greet tables and when she approached a dark haired man sitting a few tables away she was abruptly pulled onto the man's lap as he kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear. Clarissa threw her head back and giggled at the man and continued to look into his eyes with all the love in the world. Jace would have given his soul to have her look at him like that. He felt like his heart was being crushed and his chest was tight as he watched the man run his hand up and down her exposed thigh.
After that night, Jace returned to the lounge every night without fail, quickly learning that Clarissa sang on Monday and Thursday nights. Twice a week for the past three months he had sat at this table and watched her. He learned her routine of singing two songs, making rounds in the lounge to talk with the patrons, singing three more songs, making more rounds, and then making her way to the dark haired man who she would drink and flirt with until the bar closed.
Watching her with the man he came to know as Sebastian never got easier, especially as he watched the vile man grope other women when he knew his redhead couldn't see. The sight made Jace sick with rage and he wanted nothing more than to take Clarissa away from the man and never let her out of his sight again. He knew it was past the point of obsession, and damn near turning into stalking... his only saving grace was that he never tried to find her outside of the bar, and never spoke to her. Content to watch in the shadows and brood in peace... or so he thought.
Tonight, when the lights came on the stage, Clarissa was there in a tight midnight blue dress that came to just above her knees and dipped low in the back showing off her toned muscles and milky white skin. Jace was captivated, as usual, but noticed a darker look in her eyes and a deeper emotion in the words that she sang. She always sang from the heart, but tonight it was as if she was singing from her soul and Jace swore she was singing to him as the rest of the crowd faded away. She sang of being broken while finding love and the emotion was so strong he saw her eyes glistening with tears even through the smoky room. He so desperately wanted to be the man she was singing about. He wanted it to be him that she loved... not that cheating asshole, Sebastian.
When Clarissa finished singing and made her usual rounds, Jace couldn't help but see her flinch away from Sebastian's table. He watched as the man stood and roughly grabbed her arms pulling her onto him. Jace couldn't help but clench his jaw and ball his fists at the sight. This asshole was hurting her. He could see it in the way her muscles tightened in her backless dress and her creamy arms showed angry red patches from his rough hold on her.
Jace had seen enough. He quickly downed the rest of his third bourbon in one gulp and walked over to Sebastian's table. He purposefully leaned down to glare at Sebastian's black, soulless eyes and forcefully removed his hands from Clarissa's arms. Once she was removed from Sebastian's grasp, Jace gently pulled her to stand and looked into her eyes with such gentleness and adoration as he asked if she was okay with his eyes rather than words.
Sebastian stood up and tried to grab Clarissa again as Jace shielded her with his body. "Mind your own fucking business." Sebastian growled out.
Jace did his best to ignore him, so as not to cause a scene that would surely be plastered on every media site in the morning, thanks to his status in the community. He simply looked deep into Clarissa's eyes and when she gazed back this time he could see the beginning of tears forming in her eyes. "Please, come with me. I need to get you away from him, please." Jace begged gently. They were the first words he had ever spoken to the girl who plagued his thoughts and dreams for the past three months. In all his dreams, he never envisioned their first encounter to go quite like this.
Clarissa continued to stare into Jace's eyes with awe and simply nodded her head and let him lead her away from her asshole of a lover.
"Clary, if you leave with him we are through! No crawling back to me when he uses you and dumps you on your ass in the morning!"
Clarissa finally pulls her eyes from Jace and looks back at Sebastian and says with conviction "Seb, we've been through. I will never come back to you."
Sensing that was all the closure she needed, Jace wrapped his arm around Clarissa's waist, resting his hand on the exposed small of her back and gently led her towards the exit. As soon as he touched her bare skin he felt electrified and at peace all at the same time.
God, this woman is everything to me, and we haven't even had a fucking conversation yet, Jace thought to himself.
Once they exited the bar Jace realized he wasn't sure where to go from there, but there was no way he was about to say goodbye to her so soon.
"Is there somewhere I can take you, or are you hungry? There's a diner nearby that has the best waffles in the city..." Jace rambled out quickly.
Clarissa laughed softly and Jace thought it was the most amazing sound he had ever heard. Forget her singing, if he could listen to her laugh every day for the rest of his life he would die happy, he thought. "I assume you mean Taki's, and if not we need to seriously rethink your waffle choices." she teased gently.
Jace looked at her with admiration, "ah, so you've been before? So how about it, late night waffle therapy?"
"Sounds perfect." Clary said with a smile. "Can we walk? It's such a nice night."
Jace quickly agreed knowing that it would only prolong his time with her, and he could never deny her anything, anyway.
"So, Clarissa... how long have you been singing at The Seelie Lounge?" Jace asked.
Clarissa wrinkled her nose in disgust and laughed loudly, "Clarissa, yuck! Only my parents and dirty old men at the Seelie call me that. Please, for the love of God, call me Clary." She looked at him and smiled at the confusion in his eyes at her outburst.
"Well, Clary..." Jace loved the way her name rolled off his tongue, "I'm Jace, and it's so nice to meet you finally. I feel like I know you through your songs, but that's not really true now, is it? I didn't even know your actual name until tonight." Jace smirked at her even though he was internally cursing himself for somewhat letting on about how he's been watching her. Great, I sound like some creepy stalker now, he internally groaned.
Clary glanced up at him through her eyelashes as she surprised him by saying "I know who you are. And, I know you've been coming to my shows for months, but never once tried to talk with me, until tonight. Why is that, Jace?"
Jace blew out a deep breath as they got to the restaurant and walked inside. He ran his hand through his hair as they slid into opposite sides of a booth. He internally debated whether or not to bare his soul and be honest with her. Hell, that's what she deserved, isn't it? Not some asshole trying to fuck anyone that walked by, but someone who would cherish her and respect her and love her the way that he knew only he could.
Jace knew there was no going back, his dream woman was finally in front of him and he was about to bare his soul to her, he could only hope she wouldn't run out of this damn cafe once he did.
He looked into her eyes and forced himself to say with conviction, "Honestly, Clary... honestly, the second I saw you on that stage three months ago I was hooked. I felt this pull towards you in that moment that I haven't been able to resist. Hell, I don't even want to resist. But I thought you were happy with that asshole, Sebastian, and if you were happy then I was content to brood and wallow in my misery forever. If telling you how I felt meant you getting hurt in the process, then it sure as hell wasn't worth it. I know I look like a desperate fool telling you all this and we've just met, but I would tell you anything, Clary. You deserve love and honesty, not infidelity and lies. I could kill him for treating you like that, but then again his mistreatment brought us together, so maybe, just maybe it was meant to be and maybe you feel the connection too."
Clary swallowed roughly and looked at Jace with a newfound sparkle in her eyes as she smiled softly and said, "Yeah, Jace, maybe I do."