The apartment is dim when Jace gets home - quiet and empty and not nearly as tense as it had felt when he left this morning.
Tense might be the wrong word; tense implies that they had a fight or they weren’t speaking to each other, but really it felt like the apartment was caging Simon’s stress in a way that made the air suffocating and while Simon is his best friend, he was glad for his shift to come and let him escape for a few hours.
He feels bad about it; it’s not like it’s Simon’s fault that he has his most important midterm starting at eight am tomorrow. But his anxiety seems to reach out and touch everything in the apartment.
Which brings him back to the present - quiet, empty. Simon, seemingly absent despite being adamant that he wouldn’t be going to the Hunter’s Moon to celebrate the end of most of his friend’s exams - who schedules a final exam on a Monday morning? Jace would very much like to have a word with the person or persons responsible.
But, where is Simon?
He doesn’t have to search for long -Jace comes through into their kitchen with an armful of basic groceries. Their refrigerator was almost empty because of study and work and they’ve been living on takeout to survive. He spent some of the morning cleaning out the smelly mu-shu pork and cans of Red Bull to help cope with the atmosphere of the apartment while Simon used the whole coffee table to study.
But apparently he migrated to the kitchen at some point in the eight hours, because he’s snoring quietly on the kitchen table when Jace places the groceries on the counter. The first thing Jace thinks is he’s glad to see his roommate relax.
They hadn’t liked each other at first; it had been biting and antagonistic from the start, and they’d driven each other up the wall in the first few months of sharing a dorm room.
Sure, Jace probably could have flirted his way into a room transfer, but he was under the illusion that he wouldn’t be spending that much time in his dorm in the first place. The way he thought of college then was still a pipe dream - alcohol and parties and going to lectures with whatever body glitter the girl from the night before had left him with still under his clothes.
But then he started going to classes and he very quickly realised that this place would eat him alive if he didn’t up his game. Alec and Izzy cornering him with that mix of judgement-concern in their eyes also helped, arms crossed in the way that forcefully reminds Jace how alike the two really are when you get over their height difference.
So him and Simon could not stand each other until - until they could. It happened slowly, the way coming back to Simon strumming his guitar felt like he was home instead of irritating him to shit. The way Simon humming to the radio soothed him as he desperately tried to stave off his hangover. The way Simon poking his bedhead of hair out from under the comforter when Jace comes home from a party makes him feel guilty.
And getting an apartment together - it isn’t permanent by any means, even though it feels that way when they split the bills and write grocery lists and Jace yells at Simon for putting the empty carton of milk back in the fridge. It’s only as permanent as their lease.
(And even that gives him a funny little turn in his stomach; both at the idea that leases aren’t even permanent, they could break the lease early, or in the opposite way, that it could be more than one lease, more than one apartment. The forever and not forever feelings both twist something inside him that he’d rather ignore.)
He’s got most of the groceries packed away before Simon starts stirring against the tabletop, drowning in a massive NYU hoodie, snuffling quietly as he surfaces towards consciousness. Jace tucks the last packets of ramen onto the shelves quietly, not wanting to interrupt even the last few moments of Simon’s ease.
The papers shift when Jace turns his back to pour himself a glass of water, and Simon rasps out a quiet, “What time is it?” at him.
“Hello to you too, Sleeping Beauty,” Jace teases before he settles down, sitting across from Simon at the table. He shifts some notes to put his glass down. “A little after seven.”
Simon groans and pushes himself up from resting on his folded arms, digging his fingers into his eyes. “I can’t do this,” he says in that tone that means he wants Jace to think he’s kidding. “I’m going to drop out of college and bulk up and become a stripper.”
Jace smirks at the last bit, but that underlying tone of I can’t do this sticks in his chest. “Sure, Simon,” he replies, humouring the ridiculous to dispel that black undercurrent.
“I’m serious,” Simon tells him between his spread fingers. “People will shove singles in my gold booty shorts and I’ll be the richest of all of us.”
Jace snorts. “Izzy’s in medical school, are you really going to get more money than a brain surgeon?”
Simon throws him a disgruntled look before dropping his hands away from his face, arms hitting the wood under him with a dull thud. He sighs. “I still have so much to do. Can you see my glasses?”
Jace looks at Simon for a moment, really taking him in; the dark circles under his eyes, how paled out he is, how small he looks under the hoodie - Jace’s hoodie, he realises - despite the fact that he’s actually a decently sized guy. But the most important thing he takes in -
“I’ll help you find them for five dollars,” Jace says, looking directly at where the pale brown glasses are sitting nestled in Simon’s curls.
“Jace,” Simon says. His voice is reproachful and tired, all the light their banter from before had given him is drained away like the punctured cans of energy drink Jace poured out this morning.
“I really don’t get why you’re so stressed - you’ve been studying for longer than the rest of us and you know your shit. You’re gonna get an A.”
Simon lifts a hand, shaking out the overly long sleeve to pinch the bridge of his nose with his thumb and middle finger. Jace automatically recognises it as the threatening signs of a headache coming on.
“I - I don’t know, I guess I just don’t wanna disappoint my mom, y’know?” He tugs at the sleeves covering his hands, looking down at them despite not seeing them. “Just, after everything last year - I wanna make her proud.”
Jace makes a soft noise of understanding. Last year - was rough. For everyone.
First was Alec and Magnus breaking up in the most explosive manner possible, the one true beacon of love being an acquirable thing in their lives destroyed over misunderstandings, stress and the kinds of insults that are hard to forget.
They only last a month apart, absolutely miserable and - not splitting their friend group, exactly. It was more like, Jace wouldn’t hang around with Magnus by himself the way he would with Clary, even though he cares about the guy a lot. That’s just not something they do. And it’s like that for all of them, trying to reach across the divide of Ship Malec hitting the damn iceberg.
They get back together, but then Clary gets news of her birth-father passing. As far as any of them are concerned, Luke is Clary’s dad and that’s the end of it - but apparently it’s not for Clary. She reaches out and finds her long-lost brother (because what isn’t dramatic about Clary Fray’s life?) who turns out to be a total creepy bastard.
They manage to kick that Sebastian guy to the curb, but then it’s Izzy’s turn to implode as she falls off the wagon for the first time in two and a half years. She cries and cries and Jace never thought he could feel his heartbreak so much as when Robert and Maryse divorced, but god, the pain he has floods everything in him.
And it seems get better after that, Izzy getting her one-month clean token again from her DA group and Ship Malec very much patched up and sailing the high seas and Clary being washed free of Sebastian and his conniving ways, until it doesn’t.
Their lives had very much turned into a but then, but then, but then kind of story, everyone bracing themselves for the next disaster that rocks them no matter what, never resting on their heels for too long in case the world topples them over.
All this time, Jace has been so worried about his brother, his sister, Magnus, Clary, that he stops looking around to see if the world outside of them is crumbling. He doesn’t check if Simon is sleeping enough or if he needs a hug (because sometimes that’s really all Simon needs) because he’s Simon and Simon seems to have an endless well of sunny enthusiasm stored away inside him somewhere
Jace stops one day in the kitchen and realises he hasn’t heard Simon play an instrument in forever, much less heard him hum or sing or bump little rhythms into the table at dinner the way he mindlessly does.
He’s been so fried trying to hold everyone else together that he didn’t realise that maybe he should have been paying attention closer to home.
The next but then is Simon sobbing desperately into the shoulder of Jace’s henley for so long that Jace seats them right there on the kitchen floor, unswept and freezing cold. Simon nearly makes himself sick with the force of crying so hard, and all Jace can do is rock them slowly and murmur soft nothing noises to comfort.
It takes a while - because the American healthcare system is jacked - but Simon finally gets a diagnosis of depression. How Simon survived twenty years without it is beyond Jace.
Simon isn’t weak. Jace knows that. Elaine knows that.
“Your mom is so proud of you, Simon,” he says softly. “Last year was - shitty. Everything went wrong but your mom loves you so much. You’re going to go into that exam and do great because you know what the hell you’re doing.”
Simon sniffles a little, looks away and rubs the sleeve of the hoodie under his nose - again, Jace’s hoodie, gross - before exhaling a deep breath. “Thanks, I needed that.”
Jace smiles, before letting his face drift back towards serious. “And if you need help, then reach out. Me, or your mom, or Rebecca or Clary.” Simon nods with that unfocused look in his eye, watching what must be a golden haired blob across the table from him.
Jace stands up from his chair, hits Simon’s shoulder lightly and says, “C’mon, we’re watching Netflix and ordering Chinese food.”
“Jace -” Simon starts to protest but he is not accepting anything other than Simon moaning over whatever movie Jace picks for them.
“Nope, you’re watching a Nick Cage movie with me and then going to sleep so you’re rested for your exam.”
Simon sighs - and Jace knows he’s won.
“Can I at least shower first? I feel kinda funky.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything but yeah, you reek.”
Simon cracks a smile at that, which is a wonderful sight when he’s been so tightly coiled recently. It’s a wonderful sight on the average day.
Jace moves towards the doorway, already running through what Nicolas Cage movies Netflix has to offer when Simon’s voice calls him back, “Uh, Jace?” He turns back to see Simon standing next to their table. “My glasses?”
Jace walks back towards Simon until they’re standing close, his mismatched eyes level with Simon’s unseeing ones. If he glances briefly down at Simon’s lips, well. It’s nothing he really cares to mention.
He reaches up to Simon’s head, with his friend half ready to recoil from a blow, and knocks the glasses with a controlled force that lands them crookedly on the tip of his nose.
“Oh,” Simon says dumbly, his mouth making a perfect little o shape. Jace just smirks in response and makes his way to his room to set up the movie while Simon showers.
(When the grades come back, Simon will have gotten an A- in his last exam. Jace will smirk and say it was obviously his amazing pep talk. Secretly, Simon will be inclined to agree.)
Mid-January dawns with a light layer of snow that’s mostly gone by the time Simon is leaving for class, and might as well have never been there when he’s finally free for the day. That doesn’t mean it’s not cold; he’s bundled up with his scarf, hat and gloves - he even wore two pairs of socks this morning and it was the right thing to do.
The streets are lit by the many lights that New York seems to boast but the sky is overcast and dark with the sun setting hours ago. The worst thing about winter, Simon thinks, is the lack of daylight. He can deal with being freezing because he usually is regardless; he just runs colder which is why he always wears such big sweatshirts. They’re cosy.
He misses the sun a lot during the winter, how it feels on his skin when Clary drags him out to Central Park - it’s one of the rare times that he’s quiet, not rambling on and on and on in some flash-flood river before one of the gang cuts across him, just - being. Existing.
He’s kind of like a plant in that way - phototropic. He follows the sun, the heat as it shifts in the park, slides along the couch during the afternoon to stay in the rare patch of light that filters its way through the buildings to land inside their home.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the winter - New York during the holidays is beautiful and even though he’s lived here, in the city, all his life and seen the twinkling lights in every place for every year in his memory, it always leaves him breathless.
Brooklyn, of course, is not decorated to the same extent as Time’s Square, but the soft lights of the windows somehow seem to gleam a little more.
It’s late enough now - he could have just gone home from college when he finished a couple of hours ago, but instead he went to Clary and Izzy’s apartment because it’s not far from campus and not far from where he’s headed now. It was nice to just sit down with the two of them. He feels like he hasn’t seen them properly in a long time, mostly texting and snippets of phone calls and facetimes because life just - happened.
He’s gotten most of the gossip about the love triangle unfolding in Paint and Sculpture (they all think the two girls would be better off dating each other than the dude bro they’re competing over - he ain’t shit) and the student in Izzy’s class who was apparently overly interested with one particular cadaver to the point where there have been accusations of - illegal activities regarding the corpse and the student.
But now he has to venture back out into the bitter New York streets to meet Jace after his shift at the coffee shop.
The place is nice, quaint and out of the way of the tourist hustle - Simon knows all the regulars there and they all know him, which is a familiar detail Simon had never thought was possible in a big city.
The door bears a We’re closed! sign in the window but Simon just pushes through anyways, knowing that only Jace and Maia will be inside, snipping at each other over coffee stained cups and whose turn it is to wipe down the whirring machine at the counter.
The chairs are all flipped up onto the small single tables with Maia sweeping underneath them. Jace looks very unhappy to be behind the counter with a dishcloth in hand.
“Hey, Simon,” Maia greets him, pausing from her task to give him a smile.
The two of them had ended their - whatever they were, on very good terms, mutual and Simon hadn’t felt a shred of jealousy for Lydia when those two finally worked up to being Facebook official, something her and Simon never managed to be.
His mom still asks how she’s doing; she was by far the most taken by Maia with her neckerchiefs and bright smile than the other sparse few girlfriends (and one boyfriend) he’s brought home. He’s pretty sure his mom and Maia are Facebook friends.
He leans against the counter casually, careful not to knock anything over. The three talk about nothing for a few minutes before Maia looks at the clock on the wall, and announces her leave.
“I’m meeting Lydia for dinner,” she tells them, tossing Jace the keys to the front door. “Remember to lock up, Wayland.”
Jace catches them with none of the panic Simon would have been flooded with, muttering, “No, Maia, I’m just going to let someone rob the register,” as he buffs the cloth more vigorously into the metal of the hulking coffee machine.
“Tell Lydia we say hi!” Simon says as she goes. He turns to where Jace is still cleaning. “That new Thai place just opened around the block from us, do you wanna check it out tonight?”
“Weren’t you the one who said we didn’t cook enough?”
Simon rolls his eyes. “Okay, fine, I did, but Clary said they had really good pad thai and I want to try it. Also - if I cook, we might get food poisoning again.”
Jace gives him a look that clearly means that he thinks Simon is a dumbass. “How you survived this far in life without actually dying still amazes me.”
Simon counts it as a win because Jace has given up on arguing against his suggestion, smiling as Jace hangs his apron in the backroom, flicks off all the lights together and plunges the coffee shop into near complete darkness. “Did I ever tell you about the time I ran headfirst into a tree as a kid? That’s how my parents figured out that I needed glasses.”
Jace stops putting on his jacket to stare at Simon. “It took them until that to realise you couldn’t see half a foot in front of you?”
He shrugs. “I was like three at the time. And Rebecca was a difficult seven year-old.”
Jace finally does the zipper on his jacket but instead doing anything, Jace stares at him for a couple of seconds. Simon wonders if he has something on his face.
And just like that, Jace grins that impish grin, the one that’s gotten them in trouble with campus security more than once and in trouble with Alec more than a million times. All he can think is uh oh before the nearly six foot of his best friend is reaching for him.
It happens so quick that it takes Simon a couple of seconds to really understand what even happened. Having recoiled into a flinch, he opens his eyes and takes in the twilight of the coffee shop and -
“Jace, give me my glasses back,” he says. He stays exactly where he’s standing because he can barely see the darker masses of the stacked chairs against the dark shade of the room and he doesn’t want to knock them over
“You know,” Jace says conversationally, and Simon can just imagine the smirk he has on his face, the asshole, “You running headfirst into a tree explains a lot of things.”
“Fuck you,” Simon says - but he doesn’t really mean it. Jace is a giant dick but damn, where would he be without him? Probably with a shitty stranger of a roommate, at very least.
“At least buy me dinner first,” Jace jokes.
It’s perfectly fine for that kind of statement to throw him a little, right? One, because his best friend just said that to him, and two, because Jace is his best friend but damn is Simon completely crushing on him hard and would totally jump at a chance to have sex with him if it wasn't only in a Hook Up™ kind of way. Oh, and third because -
“You are literally the easiest lay anyone has ever had,” Simon tells him with a roll of his eyes like his heart hasn’t suddenly decided to thunder away out of his chest. “I don’t need to buy you dinner.”
Jace laughs and Simon lets out a subtle breath of relief that he hasn’t made it weird.
“Hey,” Jace says, closer than before. Simon can separate his figure from the grotesque shapes of the chairs with their legs facing upwards on the tables. “How do I look?”
Simon blanks for a second.
“I don’t know,” he says, “I can’t see you.”
Jace chuckles with an unexpected breathlessness, a beautiful sound rattling around the empty coffee shop. Simon can’t help but laugh too.
“I look good,” he tells Simon, still giggling, and he can imagine Jace preening into the front camera of his phone, looking over the top rim of the glasses to see himself clearly. Simon laughs again.
When the noise pitters out into just quiet breathing, Simon is almost sure Jace is going to say something.
Instead, he jumps when Jace pushes the glasses gently back onto his face. He smiles when they’re on, adjusting them so they sit just a little crooked across the bridge of his nose. The tender moment barely lasts a full second but Simon feels his heart swell in a soft, fond way.
Jace pats the side of Simon’s face twice with a rough hand, contrasting the soft way he’d moved near Simon’s eyes.
“Let’s go,” Jace says, turning and moving away with that walk of his - not a strut but it’s like he knows where he’s going and exactly what he’s doing.
Simon pushes down the swell of something in his chest and follows. He just wants his goddamn pad thai.
Simon hates being the sober friend.
It’s not that he’d rather be drunk, because to be quite honest he hates being drunk - all loose limbed and loose lipped and very much an embarrassing mess someone needs to carry home. A beer or two, some wine, even a glass of whiskey - those plus some good company and no thumping music or overzealous crowds; that’s a good time.
What he really means is he hates being the babysitter of his all his friends. He’s not the designated driver - because this is New York, and he may have his van parked in his Mom's garage but he is not transporting five potentially intoxicated people in it after two or three am. However he is the one that was collectively agreed to be the responsible one for the night. Everyone is either in within drunk walking distance (drunk walking distance and normal walking distance are two different things which is something he’s learned as a college student) or they can call an Uber (or Simon can call an Uber for them).
The club is hot, filled to the brim with bodies grinding on the dancefloor he doesn’t even consider setting foot on. The area is thick with sweat and perfume and other things he can’t discern from the pressing wall of smells.
Clary, him, Izzy and Jace press through the crowd to get towards the bar, the room dim with strobing lights that Simon knows will give him a headache after a while. Jace gets served first with just a simple beer in its bottle but Clary and Isabelle got stuck in the thick rounds of people trying to get their drinks.
He comes back to stand beside Simon but before he can say anything, Jace gives that cocky flirtatious look and winks to a girl just out of Simon’s eyeline.
Simon huffs a laugh. “Text me if you decide to bring someone home, I’m sure Izzy and Clary will let me sleep on their couch.”
Jace has a look on his face that Simon can’t read before his expression changes into something fake and arrogant.
Simon knows that deep down under all that bravo Jace likes to project that he’s not really all that cocky. He has panic attacks about small spaces and he hates the dark and he doesn’t think much of his own intelligence because he’s always been considered just a body by people.
But Jace - he’s always been much more than a body to Simon; sure, he can appreciate Jace’s body, the look, the strength and power - but he’s secretly a giant dork who didn’t know who Captain America was until they got over their unfounded beef with each other. He’s amazing with kids. He loves his family with a fierceness Simon’s never seen before. He’s quick witted and funny in an understated way.
So that egotistical side of Jace he gets in response is no doubt a shield. Simon just wonders what nerve he struck.
“I’ll leave a sock on the door,” Jace replies smoothly, a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth. Simon lets the unknown look slide.
Across the room, he spots Kirk gesturing wildly while talking to a girl who is politely nodding along to whatever he is (no-doubtedly drunkenly) saying. He figures he should probably save her from Kirk’s idiocy.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” he tells Jace, “Kirk’s over there, I’m gonna go say hi.”
Jace nods at him before Simon walks off.
Kirk grabs him into an unstable hug when he greets him, and the girl gives him a thankful look when he tilts his head to let her know she can make her escape from the mess currently slurring loudly about how he hasn’t seen you in ages, dude, we should totally get the band back together -
Kirk seems to completely forget about the girl in his fervor to talk to Simon, which brings Eric and Matt over, dramatically less drunk but still pleasantly buzzed.
A minute turns into thirty turns into seeing a bunch of people from high school he kind of doesn’t want to speak to but he makes small talk with them anyways. Once he’s in it's hard to get away even if he wants to.
Finally he disentangles himself from the throes of people, wishing them a good night with a smile that is almost completely false.
He hasn’t seen the others in a while, but he’s almost sure that Magnus dragged Alec into the sweltering mass of people to dance when they arrived and before either of them had any alcohol - which really shows how much Alec loves his boyfriend because Alec would likewise rather not be here and he also can’t dance for shit.
Clary and Izzy must have also disappeared into the crowd after getting their drinks, so Simon looks for Jace among the enthusiastic clubgoers.
He’s leaning against the wall casually nursing the beer in his hand, not that far from the bar. Jace looks good, Simon has to admit; its not much of a variant on his usual dress, dark jeans, leather jacket, combat boots but his v-neck is white instead of his usual black-grey-burgundy (because apparently Jace shares the same wardrobe with the pre-Magnus version of Alec), and the cut is deeper, revealing more of his chest.
Simon looks away and wishes he had a drink in his hand so he could down it. Or pour it over his own head.
This is supposed to be Jace’s night - the night they all set aside from study and work and life to celebrate Jace's birthday a week after the fact, no parents, no too young family members, nothing to stop them from having a good time. And here’s Jace standing by himself, Simon staring at him from a distance like a creep, and the rest missing in a sweating crowd of people.
He’s not feeling it, admittedly. He knew when the first thing he did when he woke up this morning was stub his toe incredibly hard against his dresser that today would not be a good day. Add in the coffee he accidentally spilled on himself in the afternoon, and putting his contact lens in inside out this evening, and he’d much rather be at home reading Star Wars fan theories and eating microwave popcorn.
But it’s Jace’s birthday and he got the day off from the little music store he managed to get some shifts at and he’s the responsible friend, so - he came.
He makes his way over to Jace, weaving awkwardly between people to get across the room.
Jace looks up at him when he finally gets there, and Simon can already tell that the beer in his hand is obviously not his first and might not even be his third. How he’s managed to down several beers in the time they’ve been in the venue is beyond him, but Jace has always managed to defy his expectations with his stupidness.
“My old band mates are here tonight,” he says.
Jace just looks at him, with a slightly upturned brow and a tiny narrow of his eyes.
“It’s weird,” Simon says to fill the silence. “I haven’t seen them in forever, not since the band went on official hiatus like a year and a half ago, what are the odds that they’d be here tonight of all nights -”
“You’re not wearing your glasses,” Jace says suddenly.
Simon stops talking.
He’s said it, as if it's a question, as if he’s worried for Simon being at a club and not being able to see anything right. Jace is clearly more drunk that Simon first thought.
“Have you been doing shots?”
Jace keeps looking at him with an innocent kind of confusion. He’s definitely been doing shots. Probably with Clary and Izzy before they disappeared into the crowd.
Simon sighs. “I’m wearing my contacts.”
Jace still seems to be kind of confused. He’s pouting . “But you look hot with your glasses on.”
Simon’s brain goes blank for a second.
“Uhh, thanks, dude,” he laughs nervously, blush creeping up his neck.
“Why aren’t you wearing them?” Jace asks, persistent. He seems genuinely confused. It’s cute , his brain says and Simon pushes the thought aside.
“I just thought it’d be less annoying to wear my contacts.”
Jace keeps staring at him with that muddled expression, adorably unable to understand Simon’s bare face. Simon’s almost sure he’s still blushing.
“You look better with your glasses on,” he says quietly, the most aware he’s sounded this whole conversation.
Simon looks at Jace and there’s something in his eyes, something like the something before, all unreadable and unknown. All Simon can really take from it is that it is a heavy feeling. He can feel it on his skin like a tangible thing, and for a split second he swears Jace’s eyes drop to his mouth.
Simon is about to respond - what, he’s not sure - when Clary and Izzy seem to appear out of the ether, giggling and clutching each other.
Their arrival brings laughter, Magnus and Alec following soon with kiss bitten lips, the moment of tension falling away as the chatter of the group takes it’s place.
Jace refuses to meet his eye for the rest of the night.
The thing about being friends with Simon is it’s simple.
Jace doesn’t feel like he needs to keep up this act of being big and tough the way he sometimes does around other people. Maybe that’s why they couldn’t stand each other at first, because Simon saw through him the minute they met and Jace knew he couldn’t charm Simon the way he did with everyone else. He didn’t take Jace’s shit, not at all and three years down the line, Jace is grateful the guy refused to back down.
Because what they have is good. He can be real, and sometimes real is playing drinking games with Simon like they’re still college freshman, and sometimes real is crying over his childhood before the Lightwoods ‘cos that shit still hurts.
And he doesn’t want to be anything more than friends with Simon because - he just doesn’t.
“Bullshit,” Alec says, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he walks. Izzy and Clary are just few steps behind them, unashamedly listening to their conversation. The walk to the coffee shop, not the one Jace works at, is only ten minutes away and will cross their paths with Simon, Magnus and Raphael as they come to meet them. “You and Simon are basically dating and you have been for like two years. You live together.”
“Clary and Simon lived together for a while,” Jace counters weakly, knowing full well that that isn’t going to deter Alec. “We’re just roommates,” he adds and he hopes he doesn’t sound pathetic.
“I’m a lesbian,” Clary pipes up.
“I had no idea,” Alec deadpans before she can continue and Jace looks back just in time to see Clary roll her eyes.
“All I mean is that me and Simon were only ever going to be roommates because I’m gay,” she says. “But you and Simon -” she points a gloved finger at Jace, the wool dramatically muffling any sort intimidation she would have had, “You’re both multi-gender attracted so -”
“If Simon being into men is your argument,” Jace interrupts, starting to get genuinely irritated, “Then tell me - why didn’t Alec and Simon just elope?"
“Because he’s Simon, ” Alec counters, something of disdain in his voice.
“C’mon, dude,” Jace starts, feeling suddenly protective. “I thought you were done with your I Hate Simon Lewis phase.”
“I am,” Alec says, “But I’m also done with you refusing to acknowledge that you have feelings for him.”
“Suddenly you know how we all felt when you were still pretending you weren’t in love with Magnus.”
“You do realise you just compared you and Simon to Alec and Magnus, the most loved up couple we know?” Izzy says, but Jace just keeps shaking his head.
“Look,” he says, “If I was in love with Simon, don’t you think I’d have done something about it already?”
The other three chorus no together.
“You’re too self-sabotaging to let yourself have anything good,” Clary says.
“You think he’s too good for you,” Izzy says.
“The only way you know how to start a relationship is with casual sex,” Alec says.
“I can so start a relationship without sleeping with them first.”
“When’s the last time you went on a date?” Alec asks it like he already knows the answer. Jace stays silent, which is answer enough.
“Told ya,” Izzy mutters.
“Okay, okay - if me and Simon have supposedly been stealth dating for two years, then what about Maia? And Maureen? George?”
“And how long were those relationships? Two or three months, at best?” Izzy asks. “Have you ever thought about why none of Simon’s relationships last? It’s because his priority is you.”
Which - she’s not wrong. There was the time he left a date with Maureen early because Jace took ill, and the time he cancelled a date with George because Jace had a panic attack when the lock on their tiny dorm bathroom got jammed and it felt like the walls were closing in on him, and -
“You’re insane,” he says, instead of thinking of all the times Simon has picked him over the person he was dating, because thinking too hard means seeing too much and -
Being anything but friends with Simon is not simple. Being less, Jace thinks, terrifies him. He doesn’t know where he’d be without Simon; he probably would have dropped out of college by now, he would have never gotten his job at the coffee shop, he might even be living with Maryse at home again - all alone in the big Trueblood town house she inherited.
But being more - being more might destroy him. The idea of getting that happiness, getting to hold onto someone as burningly bright as Simon Lewis and hurting him - to love is to destroy and to be loved is to be destroyed , the voice in his head whispers the way it does sometimes when he hasn’t slept enough or it's been a bad week. The thought that he could destroy Simon, with his sunlight smile and delicate glasses and little rambles - it haunts him.
“You’re insane,” he says again, to none of them in particular.
“Who’s insane?” says a voice and Jace has to stop himself from violently jumping out of his skin as Simon appears behind him, Magnus and Raphael following in his wake to join the group.
“Alec,” Jace says smoothly, and he hopes to whatever divinity is in the sky above him that Alec will go along with it. “He said that the coffee in his coffee machine is better than the one in the shop.”
“That’s not what I said,” Alec says, and Jace crosses his fingers where they’re shoved in his coat pockets. “I just think instead of spending five dollars on coffee, we could have just gone back to the apartment and had perfectly good coffee for free.”
Jace lets out a relieved breath. He looks at Alec and he can already tell that Alec is totally going to use this moment as leverage when he needs Jace to do something later. Jace is completely okay with that.
Magnus sidles up to Alec and loops his hand through the crux of Alec’s elbow. Raphael falls in step with them to carry on his conversation with Magnus, the three gliding over the frosty pavement in sync.
“Yeah, but then we’d have to walk like thirty blocks all the way to Magnus and Alec’s apartment and it’s too cold for that,” Simon says, taking his place next to Jace has they make the last stretch towards their destination.
Jace looks at Simon and frowns. “Maybe you’re cold because you’re not wearing a proper coat, you idiot,” he tells Simon, starting to unwind his own scarf. “It’s still February, you’re going to get sick. You always complain how cold you are and then you leave the house dressed like that.”
He thrusts the scarf at Simon, who is definitely underdressed in a thin jacket and beanie. Simon laughs as he takes it, peals of happiness that gives a phantom warmth to Jace’s body. Simon laughing is like turning the sun on, it’s like hearing church bells in the distance, it’s like Marvel movie marathons and hot cocoa, it’s -
Jace isn’t in love with Simon. He can’t be.
“Dude, you okay?” Simon’s voice is quieter now, private. That sunny disposition is gone and replaced with a genuine concern, softening Simon’s face.
“Yeah,” Jace says, “I’m just cold because I’m a gentleman and you’re a dumbass.”
He reaches for the fabric wrapped around his throat, “If you want it back -”
“No!” He’s loud enough that Izzy and Clary, the closest to them of the group, turn back to look. “I am not dealing with your ass when you get a cold.”
They arrive on their destination, finally, and they all pile in the doors to the warmth inside that smells like coffee. Everyone is starting to shed their layers, pulling off gloves and hats now that they’re no longer outside.
“Uh,” Simon says, and Jace turns to look at him. His glasses have completely turned white from the heat of the coffee shop against the cold glass, leaving him completely blind. He laughs.
“Yeah, I can’t see anything,” he tells Jace.
Jace looks around and sees that Izzy and Alec have already sat down on some soft chairs at the back, Magnus and Clary presumably getting their coffees for them. Jace reaches down to grab Simon’s hand and pull him along to where the group is going to end up sitting.
Simon’s hand jerks at first, shocked at the contact - and he’s cold. Something in the back of his mind notes it but the voice that panics at that first flinch drowns it out. By the time his brain one hundred percent kickstarts enough to comprehend what he’s doing, he’s already dragged Simon halfway across the coffee shop.
Simon is gripping onto him tightly, and his hand is still freezing but something hot - not the low curl arousal or the angry flame of rage - but hot nonetheless burns in his chest, in his heart, for this one taste of something that he knows he’ll never have.
To love is to destroy and to be loved is to be destroyed - and Jace would let Simon destroy him in a heartbeat.
He still hasn’t reached the tables, where Alec and Izzy are staring at him with the Lightwood-patented Look of Judgement™ that clearly means that any sort of credibility he had possibly built up about not being in love with Simon Lewis is shattered.
Because he is. He’s in love with him.
And the thing is - the thing is it doesn’t feel like the world has stopped, like the rotation of the earth has switched directions, like everything has come to a grinding halt. Because - nothing is different. Absolutely nothing has changed.
“Dude, there’s a chair behind you,” he tells Simon calmly - calmly! Why isn’t he freaking out more over this! - and he takes his place on the seat next to where Simon is making himself comfortable. Izzy and Alec are still giving him that look that tells him that they both think he’s a dumbass.
Simon is rubbing the steam from his glasses, only to huff when the lens fog up again.
“They’re still too cold,” Jace tells him, “Let them warm up first.” I’m in love with you, he thinks.
Simon throws him a hazy and disgruntled look but places his glasses on the table (with surprisingly minimal fumbling) for the time being. The others descend on the tables, cardboard cups in hand, trading off paper sleeves and sugar packets.
Jace is in love with his best friend, and he has no idea what he’s going to do.
And it starts like this -
When Jace was about seven months into the academic year, and a month into his tentative awareness of his and Simon’s evolution from enemies to casually friends, he has his first full blown sexuality crisis.
It’s definitely not the first time he’s looked at guys; when you’re a teenager with all of those hormones and all those questions, you do weird things, right?
(Not that being not straight is weird, he thinks, because Alec is gay and he doesn’t think of Alec as weird. Izzy isn’t weird for being pretty much open to all kinds of people. He thinks the reason it's weird is - they seem so sure. And Jace isn’t.
And, okay, maybe the one in college isn’t the first one he’s ever had, but it's the first one that changes anything.)
Looking back, Jace can see he was being over-dramatic about it all and the guy wasn’t worth shit. Jared, fuckboy name and all, was straight and hench and a misogynistic asshole. He treated girls like possessions and Jace doesn’t know what it is about him that makes him so attractive, but it’s there and it’s not going away.
“You okay?” Simon asks when Jace nearly slams the door coming into their dorm room, very much ready to punch something because as hard as he tries to get rid of the butterflies in his stomach over Jared, he always fails.
Simon is sitting at his desk in the spinny chair that he goes round and round in circles in sometimes purely to piss Jace off. He spins to face the room as Jace stomps his way over to his bed, dumping all his stuff down more forcefully than he needs to.
Simon hasn’t hid the fact that he’s not straight - pansexual, Jace rolls the word around in his head like he might on his tongue if he were alone. He knows Simon was frightened to tell him at first - which Jace gets. He’s a big dude, with a personality composed of spitting sarcasm. He’s not exactly the most inviting of people.
But Simon had pinned a little pink-yellow-blue flag to the wall, and Jace mentioned Izzy, said “Yeah, my sister’s pan,” mindlessly. Simon had perked up at that, melted back into his seat from the rigid posture of before. And they still didn’t like each other at that point, but then Izzy and Clary basically fell into their relationship, and suddenly their friendship groups had merged into one mass.
“I’m fine,” he tells Simon, voice harsh and all of his movements fast and overly strong. “I’m going to the gym.”
“You know,” and he turns and Simon is swaying in half-circles in the goddamn spinny chair, “Punching something until you hands bleed doesn’t really help release anger - it’s actually the opposite. They did a study and people who punched a punching bag while angry were actually making themselves more angry -”
“Simon, shut up.”
Jace sits down on the edge of his bed, positions his elbows on his knees and pushes his hands up into his hair for something solid to grip onto.
“If you want to talk about it,” Simon’s voice says, understanding, reassuring, “Then you can talk to me.”
Jace doesn’t know if he wants to talk about it. He should probably talk to Alec or Izzy, right? They’re his siblings, and they’ve both been through what he’s going through, but somehow they feel - too close, too much, too personal. They’re his family and they’ve seeped their way into every corner of his life since the day he arrived at ten years old.
And Simon isn’t that. Sure, they shared a room and they’ve kinda only recently gotten over hating each other’s guts, but Simon isn’t so deeply ingrained into everything Jace is and does and knows about himself the way they are.
The chair creaks as he turns away to face into his desk, go back to the studying that Jace’s dramatic entrance disturbed. “Just - let me know.”
At times, Simon seems like he has it together. He may have somehow managed to burn his ramen noodles last week, but at least he knows who he is. He has a word he can stick to, can say and have other people understand in a few syllables who Simon is and who he likes.
Jace is messy - he doesn’t know who Jace Wayland is, but he knows who he’s supposed to be. He’s not supposed to be the guy who has panic attacks over tight spaces or can’t eat spaghetti without feeling nauseated. He’s supposed to be a womanizer and a stud and the bad boy.
He ends up at the gym and because Simon said it, the punching bag doesn’t make him feel any better. It never really did before - Jace just never wanted to admit it to himself, but Simon fucking Lewis has managed to take away the last thing he had to make himself feel better by being right.
When he does get around to talking about it, it flows out of him. Simon just lets him talk and talk and says yeah or I get it or mm-hmm when Jace pauses for breath.
All of it comes out - tears and laughter and pain, all these things he’s held onto in his chest with burnt hands for far too long, just because he didn’t know that he still needed to let them go.
In return, Simon gives up his own secrets - the internal struggle he had between being attracted to men and being Jewish, even if everyone at Temple still welcomes him with open arms. His dad’s death. His mother’s sobriety.
Jace has never felt catharsis like it; to know his own messed up section of life is mirrored in every person on the Earth, including Simon who has an endless amount of positivity most days.
- So the fact that it ends like this makes sense, in a way.
Simon’s body is warm against his hands, solid and strong and just right for digging his fingertips into when they grapple for each other. It’s probably not decent to do this in the hallway of their apartment building, but Jace doesn’t care about decent right now. What he wants is his hands on Simon.
He’s pressing biting kisses into his neck, hot and breathless while Simon’s hands shake trying to get the key in the door. He’s gasping little breathless sounds every time Jace hits somewhere that feels especially good, and Jace growls from where he’s pressed up against his back.
Maybe they shouldn’t be doing this after they’ve been drinking - but they’ve had three and a half beers between them tonight, hours in the Hunter’s Moon celebrating Magnus’ promotion at the magazine. Maia served their beers in those clear handled glasses, promising that she'd spit into one. Jace thinks she really suits her new job even if he’s going to miss her in the coffee shop.
Simon is giggling, still fumbling for the lock, finally turning it after what feels like an eternity of waiting. Jace is loath to let go of him to stumble into home, his home, their home together, but Simon is pressing him up against the door with a slam that rattles the frame.
Pushing Simon’s jacket from his shoulders, he’s clutching him to his body, trying to arch up into him. He’s been aching to put his hands under Simon’s Batman logo shirt all night and now that he has the chance, he does and scratches his nails along his back.
This has been building for weeks. He’s not sure what changed it, when meeting Simon’s eyes across the room became similar to meeting the eyes of the person he’d hook up with later, in a bed or a back alley. He’s not sure when he was finally allowed to look Simon up and down like that and be seen. He’s not sure when Simon started looking back.
It’s probably a bad idea, Jace thinks when he flips them and starts kissing down Simon’s stomach with his shirt rucked up around his chest. This is going to hurt in the morning when Simon says that it means nothing, that they just haven’t gotten laid in awhile, they’re just helping each other out, right?
And Jace will laugh and agree, let his own heart break into a million pieces and fuck half of Brooklyn to get over it.
(Not that sleeping around helps much when you always go home to the guy who you’re trying to get over.)
His lips are on Simon’s hips now, reaching to pop the button on his jeans when Simon is urging him up from his knees by the shoulders.
“Bedroom,” he says with a fire burning in his eyes, shoving him further into the apartment. Jace’s jacket and shirt are lost on the way to Simon’s room, which is the closer of the two. It’s filled with nerdy knick-knacks and comics and boxsets he doesn’t use anymore because they have Netflix, but he keeps anyways. It’s so Simon that Jace laughs.
He doesn’t let the melancholy set in; he doesn’t want to ruin what might be his only chance to have Simon and he doesn’t want to miss any of it moping over his caught feelings.
They both go down onto the bed with an oomf, laughing and grabbing at each other, Simon straddled across his hips. He pushes down and their laugher is lost to the moans that push out of their mouths
Jace feels completely electrified, like his whole body is on fire. Simon grinding against him feels heavenly, kissing messily with their teeth clanking together.
Simon bites down on Jace’s lip, tongue soothing over the sting after, and Jace thinks this might genuinely be his best sexual experience, which is - insane, completely ludicrous considered how plentiful and, uh, varied his sexual history is and this - this! - is just some frottage and making out and it’s already surpassed all of them.
“How far do you want to go?” Jace asks, voice husky and his lips wet, Simon’s forehead pressed to his.
And like a flash, everything about Simon changes; his whole body goes to stone, stiff and rigid, he pushes back so he’s across Jace’s thighs rather than the crest of his hips and pulls away, whispering, “I don’t think I can do this.”
Jace feels his heart stop and he’s flooded with ice. He takes his hands off Simon’s hips where they’d slid when Simon pulled away from him. He moves up onto his elbows to be more at level with Simon. Does he regret this already?
“It’s okay, dude,” Jace says even though he feels like he’s been punched. Does Simon really not want to sleep with him? Have they ruined their friendship forever? “We can pretend this never happened and it’ll all be fine -”
“ IthinkI’minlovewithyou,” Simon lets out in a rush of breath, “I’m in love with you and I can’t have sex with you if this is just going to mean nothing -”
Jace just sits there in stunned silence while Simon keeps talking, rambling about how he’s in love with Jace which is honestly a curve ball he never considered.
He surges up to cut off Simon, kissing his still talking mouth with a renewed passion. “You idiot, oh my god, I love you too,” he says, breathless when he finally pulls away again. “It’s always been you, we could have had this all this time -”
“ - And we didn’t because we’re both idiots,” Simon says, a hint of a laugh in his voice before he turns serious again, and just like that, the moment has slowed down to a softer pace, not as desperate as before.
Familiar, Jace realises, it feels familiar.
“You mean it,” Simon says, quiet, scared, “You love me?”
Jace knocks his forehead gently against Simon’s, “Of course I do. Have you seen yourself?”
Simon giggles, soft and fond as Jace’s hand pushes gently under the seam of his shirt again.
“Now that that’s all worked out,” Jace says, pushing his hand further under the shirt, teasingly revealing skin, “Can we get back to the sex?”
“One track mind, Wayland,” Simon responds, his tongue poking out of his smile.
“Fuck off.” Jace nuzzles his lips against Simon’s in something like a kiss, and starts to properly pull Simon’s shirt off.
They struggle with the head hole, chuckling nonstop, before Simon finally pops free and accidentally loses his glasses. It only renews the laughter twice fold, and Jace knows this is how sex with Simon was always going to be, filled with accidents and missteps of the best kind that they can just brush off happily, enjoying each other. The shirt gets tossed onto the sheets.
Except, when Simon shoves him hard back down onto the bed from sitting up to wrestle Simon out of his shirt, he feels the give of plastic and hears a snap! under him that makes them both stop.
From under his back he removes two broken segments of Simon’s glasses, cracked down the bridge connecting the two lens.
“Uh, your glasses -?” Jace starts but Simon shakes his head.
“I have a second pair somewhere,” he says, dismissing the snapped pieces, and leaning down to kiss along Jace’s collarbone.
And if Jace drops them into the sheets in favour of curling his hands in Simon’s hair, well - who could blame him?
plus one; gained
Simon overestimates how much his life would change after finally getting together with Jace.
It’s not that he thinks that absolutely everything would change, that life would never be the same - but it feels like so little changes.
They sleep in the same bed now, and Jace is like an octopus with how he cuddles, which he already knew because they’ve fallen asleep watching movies together enough times to be very aware. They kiss each other good morning and goodnight but they still have arguments over Simon leaving the empty milk carton in the fridge.
“You’re lucky,” his Mom says over a cup of coffee when he comes home to visit, “It was terrible when your father and I first moved in together - he used to leave wet towels on the floor and pick his nose and wash whites with colours. He was a disaster.”
Simon grins around the rim of the coffee mug, the mention of his father a warm fond ache rather than a stab the way it used to be. “We’ve been living together for over two years already, Mom, this part isn’t exactly new.”
“Oh, that reminds me -” she says, getting up to refill her cup from the machine on the counter, “Who won the betting pool?
“How did you know about the betting pool?” Simon chokes out around the mouthful of coffee he’s just inhaled. His throat is burning.
“Clary told Rebecca, but neither of them won.” She returns to the table, mug in hand, and rubs Simon’s back as he tries to hack out the liquid still stuck in his throat.
“Rebecca was in on it?!” he gets out, neck finally clear.
“From the way she talked about it, it was a substantial loss.” His mom gives him a raised eyebrow and a meaningful look. “Who won?”
Simon shrinks into the chair a little more. “Magnus. He said the last week of February. Apparently they started the pool in October.”
Her eyes widen. “That’s - strangely accurate.”
When they told the gang that they’d finally got their shit together and crossed over into romantic territory, they all seemed to groan in unison and reach for bags and pockets to hand their money over to Magnus, who was sitting there with a proud smirk.
“Two weeks,” Izzy had moaned. “I was out by two weeks. Why couldn’t you have gotten together on Valentine’s Day?”
“Guess who's buying a new pair of shoes.” Magnus counted the cash in his hands, not at all put off by the bemused looks on Jace and Simon’s faces.
“Sometimes I think Magnus can see the future. Or he’s some kind of wizard,” Simon tells his mom. Simon thinks wistfully of Magnus in some long Harry Potter-esque robes, embroidered with golden threads and jewels.
His mom snorts into her cup, before placing it down again on coaster. They sit in a comfortable silence for a minute before Simon looks down at his watch.
“I should go,” he says, standing and downing the dregs of his mug. “Jace should be home from his book club by now.”
“How’s he liking it?”
Simon smiles, all soft and fond. “He won’t admit it, but he’s having fun. The old ladies keep giving him hard-boiled candies. They’re reading Slaughterhouse Five right now.”
“I’m glad he’s enjoying himself.”
He hums and leans down to kiss her forehead.
“And don’t forget that you’re both coming over for dinner on Sunday,” she adds just before he goes into the hallway to shrug on his jacket.
It’s been nice to see his Mom embrace Jace into their family - not like she didn’t treat him well before, but now he’s almost like a second son to her.
When Simon was really depressed, he knew that Jace was talking to his mom at least once every two days, because while his Mom isn’t hugely overbearing, she was worried and Simon would feel sorry for anyone who ever got in her way of being his mother.
And her suggesting that Jace take up a new hobby to help with his anxiety was a stroke of genius; Jace was never much of a reader before now, never valued his brainpower much because his body was always the thing that people commented on. Few cared for what was going on inside his head, liked to pretend that he was basically Rocky from Rocky Horror - not a single intelligent thought in his head, a dumb blond to be paraded for his body.
Except Jace is smart and quick-thinking. So reading fits. And it’s lead to a few more discoveries about Jace Wayland than anyone was expecting.
It smells beautiful when he gets home - something with a kick to it, the spices a rich smell throughout the apartment. Jace is in the kitchen when he finds him, an intent look on his face as he chops onions, and his hand reaches up to -
Push his glasses up his nose.
When Jace muttered about maybe needing reading glasses, Simon had laughed and kissed him, and told him that is was payback for all the shit he’s pulled over the years with Simon’s glasses.
Turns out he’s far-sighted and he never even knew.
Jace looks up from the vegetable at Simon’s arrival, and a smile spreads across his face. Simon decides he has to kiss him. He pushes Jace gently back against the counter and kisses him sweetly, arms looped over his shoulders. Jace’s hands slide over his waist and then settle with his fingers hooked into Simon’s belt loops.
“You miss me?” Jace asks quietly, voice filled with mirth.
“Shut up, four-eyes,” Simon tells him.
Jace rolls his eyes. “I slave away all day over this fire -”
“It’s a stove and you used a premade flavour packet -”
“- And this is the thanks I get? Unbelievable.” But he’s grinning wide and Simon has to kiss him again for that.
Jace pulls away after a minute, muttering about the food, so Simon actually needs to move off of him. He reaches to take out some dishes to plate up, asking about Jace’s day.
Listening to Jace tell him about Edith-from-book-club’s neighbour’s husband’s affair is weirdly the best way he can imagine spending his evening.
But then again, he’s with Jace. What else could he want?