Jace almost envies them. Their easy affection, the way Clary’s delicate artist’s hands reach out to grasp Simon’s arm, the way she snuggles up close to him, tucks her head in the notch above his shoulder and closes her eyes. It’s like she can’t imagine she’d want to be anywhere else but right there – it’s almost sickening in its wholesome goodness.
He’d never been allowed such when he was growing up. Hugs, kisses given just for just, cuddling.
He sneers at the thought and leans forward to stoke the pitiful fire he managed to set, the warmth of it barely penetrates the wintry air.
His father—Valentine—the man who killed his father… he’s not yet figured out what to call that bastard. The Bastard would have beaten him for displaying such neediness. Weak, he’d have spat at this stupid feeling curdling in Jace’s stomach as he watches Clary snuggle up to a vampire of all creatures. He’d have outright laughed at the other sensation that’s putting him on edge—one he reluctantly identifies as: jealousy. Jealous of the way they fold into each other and just seem to fit, like a pair of puzzle pieces that have found a home in each other; the way Simon’s lips brush at Clary’s temple with a sort of quiet reverence as if even he’s not sure how and why he still gets to do this being the abomination he is.
Jace turns away from them, swallows that bitterness down.
If The Bastard was around, he’d have made Jace watch as he slaughtered those two just to teach him a lesson.
(Or perhaps he would have handed Jace the seraph blade and pointed him in their direction, ordered him to do his duty and prove his worth. Jace tries not to let his hand tremble at the thought—at the memory. Tries not to remember what his hands have done the last few weeks, all the orders he followed and blood he spilled. All because some man who used to be his father told him to. All because he’d wanted to, he’d wanted to slit that wolf’s throat clean through, he’d wanted to strangle that faerie with nothing but his bare hands, stab that warlock and watch him bleed to death, another voice hisses into the dark corridors of his mind.
It makes him sick. He makes himself sick. He—)
“Ugh, Simon, I always forget how cold you run, now that you’re a vampire,” Clary says on a giggle, interrupting the morbid turn of Jace’s thoughts.
Simon chuckles, and makes a typically lame joke: “Hey, it’s not my fault – I can’t help how cool I am.”
And all of a sudden a burst of anger erupts inside Jace and he can’t help muttering loud enough for them to hear, “Yeah, well, that’s what happens when you’re nothing but a walking corpse, Lewis.”
It’s snide. Childish, even. Jace is aware he’s striking out at the two of them because of all of those dumb feelings and to silence that fucking voice in his head but he can’t stop himself from doing so, nor will he apologise for it.
“Hey,” the vampire protests. Jace can just visualise the pathetic hangdog expression he probably has on his face as he does.
“Don’t be such a dick, Jace,” Clary says, disapproval apparent.
And it shouldn’t have any effect on him – this girl who he thought was his sister but, it turns out, wasn’t actually his sister; but everything’s still stilted and awkward between them, and he still wants her but has no idea how to say it or what to do – her reprimanding him like that. But it does. He tosses a few more twigs into the fire to intensify the blaze so maybe she’ll feel less cold. It’s as close to an apology as he’ll give either of them, frankly.
They’re blessedly quiet for a few minutes. The reedy whistle of cicadas fills the silence. So does the discernible chattering of Clary’s teeth. She’s freezing. He’d have told her to activate a heating rune but they both lost their steles in their mad dash through the portal to this barren dimension on the run from three of Valentine’s Forsakens. And now they’re stuck here until, hopefully, Alec or Izzy, even Magnus, figures out a way to get them back.
He can only take so much of her too-loud shivering before he lets out a sigh, and stands up. It’s evidently not enough that he found them this cave, that he collected most of the firewood and foraged for a few nuts and berries, easily navigating the unfamiliar environment the way he’d been raised to do—
(once, as a child, The Bastard had taken Jace out into the woods, miles away from their house at the time, right at the start of winter, and left him there with nothing but a seraph blade and a compass, told him if he wanted to get home—he’d have to find the way back by himself. It had taken Jace a day and a half to get there. Once he did, The Bastard had told him to try better next time because even the most hopelessly worthless shadowhunter could make that expedition in less than a day.)
—in order to find them a safe place to wait for some kind of rescue before the sun came up and killed the vampire.
He takes a few steps toward his companions, a muscle ticking in his jaw as he debates just how close he has to get in order to share an adequate amount of body heat.
Clary looks up from Simon’s shoulder, and the warmth in her gaze almost makes Jace lurch back.
(Or run. Far away from her, and those eyes that make him feel things and want things that he shouldn’t. That he has no right to.)
“You gonna sit down or what, Wayland?” she asks. And there’s a teasing edge to her voice, her lips curled up with this sweet smile that lures him close, he’s helpless to resist it. She’s either a siren or a spider welcoming into her web—he can’t tell which. He sits down beside them with a thud.
“Not sure how you sitting all the way over there in Mexico is gonna be much help here, Bear Grylls.” This, of course, comes from Simon. Jace can hear the laughter in his words and he wants to lash out again, tell Simon—
(the vampire—to shut up, to stop talking to him, to not even look at him because he’s not worthy, he’s not even fit to kiss the bottom of Jace’s shoes, he’s filth—)
—Jace gulps. Shifts closer. A moth doing everything it can not to be drawn to a flame because it knows it won’t live through it, but flitting towards certain death anyway.
He takes off his jacket – thankful that he’d worn a long sleeved Henley today, and places it gingerly over Clary’s body. She looks at him in surprise, like she can’t imagine a situation in which he’d ever be this chivalrous. He wants to roll his eyes at that, he’s not a complete savage.
Then she does this thing where she blinks really slow and breathes in deep, like she’s scenting his jacket, and nibbles on her lower lip in that distracting way of hers.
Jace stares at her teeth worrying the soft flesh of her mouth for a long few seconds before jerking his gaze away from her where he runs into Simon’s.
He’d expected Simon to look annoyed or offended about Jace poaching on his territory or something. After all, Jace had caught the two of them kissing in Clary’s room a day or three before. And it had taken every bit of self-control The Bastard ever taught him to not stomp into that bedroom and rip the two of them apart or something equally drastic. He has no say where Clary’s concerned, no claim. She can kiss whoever she wants. It doesn’t matter if it grates on him, especially, to know that it’s Simon Lewis, of all people, that she’s making out with these days.
But instead there’s something odd glinting in the vampire’s dark eyes. It’s… curious, challenging, and just as inviting as Clary’s. But there’s also a shadow of fear, like he’s sure Jace would sooner stake him or spit on him than lie on the ground next to him, even with the red-haired buffer between them.
Ever the contrarian, Jace arches his eyebrow and shuffles even closer, bracketing his body around Clary in a mirror to Simon’s.
Clary lets out a sigh that sounds like relief and Jace tries not to do something dumb like shiver at just the feel of her warm breath on his neck. He glances down at her, and she’s watching him, intent. She’s still got a hold of Simon’s arm, which is curled around her abdomen like it belongs there. Weirdly, he doesn’t feel compelled to fling it off—it does belong there.
He glances back at Simon who’s watching him, gaze still and steady, the firelight playing across his moon-pale skin. It strikes Jace then, out of nowhere, that the vampire’s quite… nice-looking in a bizarre death-warmed-over way. Harmless. Soft. There’s still something so innocent and young about his face, like he’s not yet understood that he’s a blood-sucking predator now. It makes Jace realise that, of the three of them, there’s only one true monster here.
(You. You’re the monster. You’re the thing that goes bump—)
And then Simon does something unexpected: he nods, closes his eyes, snuffles in against Clary’s hair in some semblance of sleep. Jace stares at him and his girly-long eyelashes and the way his lower lip juts out a little in sleep. An uncomfortable feeling tingles in his belly, like someone set a box of spiders loose inside him. It’s a feeling that he can’t explain and that he’s not entirely sure what to do with.
The soft flutter of fingertips at his jaw is what draws his disconcerted gaze away from the vampire and down to Clary. Clary who’s observing him in that probing way of hers that makes him feel naked and too-open and strangely safe all at once. He leans into her touch without thinking. It’s been so long—too long.
She grins, drags her fingers up along his cheek leaving little sparks of heat along the way, up to his forehead, and then gently across his eyelids so he shuts them tight.
“Sleep, Jace, sleep.”
And, for the first time in maybe months, he does.