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Life Is But A Dream

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Something's wrong, terribly wrong.

 

Jace has no memory of this place. He doesn't recognize a single thing around him; from the mahogany cabinets filled with dusted china, to the figurines hung dangling from the ceiling, glinting in the sunlight. There is an empty space in the middle of the room that doesn't feel right, as if there was once something that belonged there, but it's long gone now. Empty and redacted.

 

Jace is tense, hand slowly lowering to his right thigh, edging to where he knows his thigh holster awaits him. He waits for his hand to bump into leather, but his fingers brushed farther down without interfering.

 

Jace swallows and risks a glance down.

 

This doesn't make any sense. Jace doesn't ever leave the institute without his thigh holster holding, at the very least, one weapon. But now, he just stands in black pants and not a weapon in sight. The door beside the cabinet holding the china swings open, and Jace immediately crouches into a defensive position, body thrumming with energy, mind on autopilot.

 

But it's just… Simon?

 

“Hey, there you are,” Simin greets him with his usual smile, a little dopey and with just a flash of pointed teeth. “You about ready?”

 

Jace cautiously pulls himself out of his stance, relaxing slightly. He knows he and Simon aren't exactly friends, but that doesn't mean it's a cause for worry. Besides, Simon looks at him as if nothing is amiss, which puts Jace off equal footing.

 

Jace frowns. “Where are we?”

 

“Oh, this is one of those things, isn't it?” Simon laughs and snaps his fingers, pointing at Jace with a playful little smile. “Another training simulation, right? Who put you up to it this time; the Clave or Alec?”

 

“What?” Jace asks flatly.

 

Simon huffs a laugh. “Alright, alright, I'll play along, but make it quick; I want to get to the party tonight on time.” He flashes another smile, but this time it's slightly strained. “We just have to make it through dinner first, if we can.”

 

“What? Party, dinner? Simon, you don't eat,” Jace snaps, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes.

 

Simon's arms flail and he steps closer, eyes wide as they dart between the swinging door and Jace. “Jeez, keep for your voice down! My mom has ears like a bat, and don't make that joke.” He huffs and relaxes, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, I know I don't eat, but I can't exactly explain that to my mom. Now, do your thing so we can get this over with.”

 

Jace is immediately sure of two things. The first, he has no idea what the hell is going on. The second, Simon Lewis appears to be his only ally at the moment, much as that sucks.

 

Jace clears his throat. “What, exactly, are we doing again?” When Simon's face falls into confusion, Jace waves a hand. “Just, uh, remind me one more time. Walk me through the plan again. I want to be… prepared.”

 

“You're starting to sound like Alec,” Simon teases, whole face lighting with amusement. “Alright, one more debriefing, Shadowhunter, then we have to actually do it.”

 

“Fair enough.”

 

“Dinner with my mom and sister. Me and you. Get through the night, then meet our friends at Magnus’ for the party.”

 

Jace blinks. Well, that's not too terrible. Maybe he just feels off, or genuinely forgot. It's not implausible, considering everything going on with Valentine. But he has no clue what possessed him to ever agree to go do dinner with Simon and his mundane family. Whatever, once he gets through it, he can get to Alec and ask if Magnus can make sure he hasn't been put under a spell to mess with his mind or memory.

 

“Right,” Jace says carefully, setting his shoulders.

 

Simon beams at him. “Alright, let's do it. And- and don't forget to lay on the charm, okay? Your usual sunny disposition needs to be put away for at least an hour, can you do that?”

 

Jace cocks an eyebrow. “Are you suggesting that I'm incapable of impressing your family?”

 

“Well…” Simon smiles slightly and rolls his eyes. “No, but don't start brooding on me. Me and you, remember? You promised not to leave me hanging in there and I am taking you at your word.”

 

Jace has no idea what Simon is talking about because he doesn't think there is a world in which he'd promise something like that. But Simon looks nervous as shit, more so than usual, and he stares right at Jace like that supposed promise is his lifeline. Jace doesn't think Simon's lying, and he's a man of his word - even if he doesn't recall giving it.

 

So, Jace forces a smile and says, “Not gonna be an issue. They'll love me before anyone even takes a bite. Let's get this over with.”

 

Simon takes in a deep, needless breath and sets his shoulders. He looks kind of… scared, actually? Jace has seen that look on his face multiple times, but he's never seen it when it came to his family. Perhaps even mundanes have fucked up families.

 

“Alright, let's go,” Simon declares.

 

Jace follows simon into the dining room, blinking at the food decorating the table. Not an ounce of alcohol is in sight, but a punch bowl is practically the centerpiece. As soon as they enter, an older woman with a tight smile and laugh lines around her eyes springs up from the table. She resembles Simon a great deal; same smile, same eyes, same colored hair. And the other girl at the table doesn't move an inch, doesn't smile at all, just watches as they enter with something like curiosity.

 

“Oh, Simon, there you are!” The woman, Simon's mom, exclaims. She moves over to grapple Simon into a tight hug, only pulling back to look at him in a mixture of delight and worry. “You barely got in the door good before you wandered off. Let me look at you. Dashing, as always.”

 

Simon, in no way, looks dashing. Jace fights the urge to roll his eyes. Simon's just wearing a collared shirt and dark jeans that rolled over nice boots. Possibly Izzy got to him, but he isn't dashing at all.

 

“Thanks, mom,” Simon says warmly, then clears his throat twice, stepping aside to gesture at Jace with one shaking hand. “Mom, you remember Jace.”

 

Mrs. Lewis’ smile dims, and she blinks at Jace for a few moments. “Yes, I- how could I forget? Jace, it's so… lovely to see you again.”

 

Now Jace knows where Simon got his terrible lying skills from. Still, he allows a sweet smile to grow on his face as he steps forward. Without prompting, he reaches out and takes Mrs. Lewis’ hand, drawing it up and pressing a soft kiss to the back of her hand, all the while maintaining eye contact.

 

“The pleasure is all mine,” he murmurs, pouring every ounce of sincerity he's ever felt into those five words making up one fat lie.

 

“Oh,” Mrs. Lewis says, blinking rapidly and reaching up with her free hand to lightly touch her own chest, just below her throat. She coughs. “Well, we are more than glad to have you for dinner.”

 

The girl at the table - Simon's sister - coughs into her fist, the word coming out loud and clear. “Bullshit.” Then, she seemingly goes into a coughing fit, staring right at them.

 

By the Angel, what has he done to make them hate him so much?

 

“Rebecca!” Simon yelps, reaching out to tug Jace from his mom and lead him to a chair. They both sit down and Simon stares right at Rebecca. “How's that internship going?”

 

Rebecca's eyes narrow. “It's going,” she snips.

 

Simon's grin is full of teeth. “Is it? Because-”

 

“Jace,” Mrs. Lewis interrupts quickly, possibly sniffing out an oncoming sibling war from a mile away, as mother's do, “I hear you have two have an announcement.”

 

Jace looks at Simon with an arched eyebrow, partially because he has no idea what this announcement is, but also because they aren't a unit who gives news together. Simon clears his throat again, fidgeting his seat.

 

“Well, mom, we should probably wait until we've all ate! I- I mean, the food looks beautiful,” Simon stutters, eyes darting about.

 

Rebecca huffs a short laugh. “Oh, please,” she mutters, rolling her eyes. Then, she plasters on a smile and focuses her gaze on Jace. “So, tell us, Jace, how have you been?”

 

To say that his life has been all that great lately would be a huge fucking lie, but he's apparently given his word, so he smiles dutifully.

 

“Life has been a struggle, but I just take it day by day, as we all do.” Jace casually leans back in his chair and sighs. “The world isn't always a great place, but we all make it the best we can, right?”

 

Rebecca smiles sweetly. “Of course! I mean, I'm sure you're making it better, especially after nearly taking a son from his mother, a brother from his sister.”

 

Jace's heart sinks, stomach filling with dread.

 

“Rebecca,” Mrs. Lewis scolds, but it's half-hearted.

 

“No, no, he's the one who brought it up! I mean, how's the world so much better with him in it?” Rebecca waves a hand, eyes cold. “After all, he nearly got Simon killed by being mixed in the wrong crowd. Tell us, Jace, how much better is the world after that?”

 

Jace, honest to god, has no idea what's happening right now. Sure, he hasn't exactly made sure Simon was safe all the time, not like he does with Clary, but he sure as hell never nearly killed him. Well, the thought has crossed his mind, but still.

 

“Um,” Jace says awkwardly, not sure what he's supposed to do in this situation.

 

Mrs. Lewis sighs heavily. “Rebecca, can't you just-”

 

“No, I can't, and I won't,” Rebecca cuts her off forcefully, staring at Jace. “He's the one who put Simon in danger. It was his friends that nearly killed him. Jace barely even stopped them. We watched Simon get stabbed, right here in this front yard, and I don't care that you were the one who nursed him back to health. If you hadn't-”

 

“Enough!” Simon yells, slamming his hand down on the table. Jace jolts when Simon's other hand reaches down under the table and grips his thigh, squeezing hard enough to hurt. “I have said it before, and this will be the last time I repeat myself. If I have to say it again, I won't be back, and I mean that. You don't know all the details; Jace did nothing wrong, despite what you believe. Either you both get over that, or you'll never see me again.”

 

The silence after is heavy and harsh, and Jace stares down at the tabletop in surprise. Now he knows something is definitely wrong. Not only does he not remember any of those things happening, but Simon is defending him. That's just… fucked.

 

Rebecca scoffs. “Look at you, Simon! You can't even see how messed up this is. He's bad for you. You're in an abusive relationship. You need help. Just let us-”

 

Simon leans forward, eyes wide and dark. “If I leave, I will not be back.”

 

There are too many things to process. What, he and Simon are friends now? Seems highly unlikely with everything going on with Clary. And Simon has never been this straightforward before, never so serious and insistent. Rarely, if ever, has Jace seen him so stern, not unless it's about Clary.

 

Mrs. Lewis shakily reaches for a plate and starts scooping food onto it. “Rebecca, please. I just- I want to have a nice dinner, okay? Simon, please don't leave; I can't handle you disappearing again.”

 

All Jace knows at this particular moment is that he's apparently done something horrible to Simon that makes his family hate him. And his word isn't exactly being held up right now. Simon's hand continues to clench on his thigh, which Jace is seconds from peeling it away and breaking it, but that won't ease the tension at all.

 

So, he clears his throat and looks up. “No,” he says softly, “she's right. I did something… horrible, and I can never make that right. Simon didn't deserve it.” Whatever it was, Jace rattles off in his own head. “All I can do now is make up for it, one day at a time, and I assure you, I am trying. Simon is just… fierce, as you all know. Trust me, Mrs. Lewis, I won't stand for him disappearing on his family ever again.”

 

Simon's hand spasms around his thigh, twitching and relaxing, just resting there now, and Jace gives Rebecca a tiny, hopeful smile - one he's crafted perfectly through the years. Rebecca still looks suspicious, but there's also internal doubt there now too, like maybe she believes him, just a little. Mrs. Lewis sighs again, this time soft and sweet, and she passes a full plate to him.

 

“Thank you, I appreciate that,” she murmurs, giving him a tiny smile of her own. “Now, let's eat and just try to have a nice meal, please.”

 

Simon squeezes Jace's leg once in what just be thanks, and gives a soft chuckle. “Of course, mom.”

 

The rest of the meal passes much easier. Not to say the tension just disappears, but it's more of an undercurrent, much simpler to ignore. Simon spends majority of the time finding pockets of space where Rebecca isn't watching them like a hawk to slide food on Jace's plate to cover his whole vampirism issue. Jace doesn't mind that so much, happy to eat double of this, frankly, amazing food, but what he does mind is that Simon's hand still hasn't left his thigh. For every minute that passes where Simon doesn't remove it, Jace thinks of worse ways to break each finger.

 

As the meal draws to a close and Simon brings up the party they have to get off to, Mrs. Lewis gives a pointed cough. “So, the announcement?”

 

Jace just nudges Simon with his elbow, wordlessly telling him to take the lead, only because he has no idea what the announcement is. Simon is silent for a few moments, and his mom and sister watches him expectantly. Jace wonders just how bad this can be, hopes he's not involved somehow.

 

Then, Simon announces, “Jace and I are engaged.”

 

And Jace has no idea what the reactions are, nor how he would react at all, because he suddenly sits upright in his bed with a gasp. He fumbles at his sheets, looking around in shock, staring at the familiar surroundings of his bed at the institute in utter surprise.

 

Just a dream, he thinks, stunned. Just a horrible fucking dream.

 

But by the Angel, it had felt so real.



Chapter Text

The banging on the steel door jolts Simon awake, and he sits up with wide eyes. That most definitely isn't Clary's knock; it's too harsh and quick.

 

Warily, Simon squints as he eases out of bed. He'd worry it's Raphael, except it's daylight. That leaves either a wolf or a Shadowhunter. Or maybe someone actually wants a canoo. No need to freak out, he assures himself as he passes the racks of boats. The beating on the steel door is louder and more urgent, making Simon pick up the pace.

 

Please don't be imminent death, please don't be imminent death, please don't be imminent death, he chants in his mind as he reaches the metal hatch and yanks it aside.

 

It's only Jace, but that doesn't exactly reassure him. Jace hasn't ever liked him, so maybe this is imminent death. But Simon doesn't like him all that much either, and he most certainly isn't going to go down without a fight. If this is one.

 

God, he hopes it isn't.

 

“Jace, hey,” Simon greets nervously. “What, uh, what's up?”

 

Jace spreads his hands, faint smirk curling his lips as he steps inside. “What, I can't come visit you?”

 

“I- I mean, you can, sure. You just, uh- you never really do, so I don't really… know why you'd do that. Um, is- is everything okay? Is Clary-”

 

“Simon, shut up,” Jace interrupts, carefully examining Simon's temporary home.

 

See, the thing is, Simon would love to just shut up sometimes. But that's so much more easier said than done. He's a nervous talker, can't get the words to stop flowing, and since he's nervous nearly all the time, he doesn't really shut up often. The truth is, any emotion that's too strong makes him talk, or fidget, or something annoying. Which, that'd be okay if he didn't feel every emotion so strongly. Not even being a vampire has helped with that.

 

“Yeah, shutting up. Is there something you need, because, ya know, Clary is-”

 

“Simon, I need to ask you something.”

 

Simon sincerely does not like where this is going, not at all. “Yeah, uh, okay,” he replies anyway, clearing his throat and crossing his arms over his chest.

 

Jace turns an unfairly intense gaze on him, admittedly pretty eyes full of seriousness and calculation. His jaw jumps as he stares right at Simon, just watching him closely. Simon knows that if his heart could beat, it would be racing right about now. Even still, he can't mask his anxiety; he starts shifting in place, arms unfurling, hands swaying at his side, then crossing yet again.

 

“Simon, have you been to dinner with your family recently?” Jace asks carefully.

 

Simon blinks. “Uh, no? I- I, well, I haven't had the time. But um, there is a family dinner coming up soon; it's a Jewish thing. I- I don't know if I'm, uh, gonna go, but I feel like I should, you know? I want to! Why? Is there- what's wrong?” Simon's stomach suddenly twists as he goes cold from fear. “Jace, what's- did something-”

 

“Simon, relax,” Jace says firmly, lifting a hand. “As far as I know, your mother and sister are fine.”

 

Immediately, Simon feels better. “Oh! Oh, that's- thats great. Because I was really worried for a minute, not gonna lie. Almost had a heart attack - not that vampires can have those, but you know what I mean. So, why do you ask?”

 

Jace stares at him for a long drawn out moment, far too silent for Simon's sense of security. “Just asking, he says loftily.

 

“Wait, no- that's not… good. You don't just show up here and ask something like that for no reason.” A thought suddenly strikes Simon, making his eyes go wide. “Are you- is this about your… blood? Are you threatening my family, because I would never tell anyone, okay? You don't have to-”

 

“Simon,” Jace snaps roughly, “I am not threatening your family, or you for that matter. I simply needed to know, that is all.”

 

Simon frowns. “But… why? That doesn't make sense at all. What's so important about-”

 

“Goodbye, Simon,” Jace says sharply, pivoting on his heel and walking right back out the door.

 

Simon watches him go, a new cause for worry settling on his shoulders. He stands still for a very long time, the phantom pains of his heart in his throat rooting him to the spot. Then, his mind starts racing again, and he darts across the room to snatch up his phone, fumbling to press the call button below Clary's name.

 

She answers on the third ring.

 

“Good morning,” Clary says kindly, sweetly, bright as she ever is.

 

Simon can't even bask in that. “Clary, I think Jace is going to hurt my mom and sister.”

 

“What?”




 



“So, a Herondale, huh?”

 

Jace looks up from the post he'd been striking, sighing heavily as Alec casually strolls in the room. His hands are behind his back as usual, hunched down as if making himself smaller. Which means, he knows something is wrong. He's off the mark, by a lot, but Jace won't correct him.

 

“Yeah,” Jace agrees lightly. “How's Magnus?”

 

It's a great tactic to change the subject; Alec's whole face softens at the mere mention of the Warlock.

 

“He's good,” Alec says as casually as possible. “Shaken up, but that's fair. Agony runes are no joke. I'll watch out for him.”

 

Jace nods. “Good. He's in good hands.” He smirks when Alec looks down, a little smile on his face. “And Izzy? Is she-”

 

At that, Alec hardens with concern. “Sick, but getting better. She'll be back on missions in no time.”

 

“I'm glad.”

 

“And you?”

 

“Me?” Jace echoes, striking out again at the padded beam, his wooden staff hitting hard enough to leave an indention. “I'm good.”

 

“I see.” Alec hums quietly. “And finding out you have a third last name isn't, in any way, bothering you?”

 

It is, but it isn't what's bothering him the most.

 

“Have you ever… had something happen to you? Something that doesn't make any sense, even for our world?” Jace asks, turning around and leaning on his staff, watching Alec.

 

Alec tilts his head side to side. “Depends on what realm we're talking here. Emotion-wise, or magical, or what?”

 

Jace shrugs. “I don't know. All of it? Any of it?”

 

“Emotionally, yes. Obviously, with Magnus, that didn't make any sense. It worked out, but in the beginning, I just…”

 

“Yeah, I remember.”

 

Alec sighs quietly. “Magic, though? I mean, I'm with the High Warlock of Brooklyn. You'd think so, right? But the strangest thing that's happened so far was Magnus being stuck in Valentine's body.”

 

“Did you know?”

 

“What?”

 

“Did you know that something was off?” Jace asks carefully, averting his eyes.

 

“I was… confused. Invested, even. I thought I was being manipulated, thought my feelings were clouding my judgment. I'd like to say I didn't know, but Jace… I think I did.”

 

“Hey, that's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. It was a really messed up situation.”

 

Alec stares down at his feet. “If Magnus didn't need me right now, I'd probably never forgive myself. But this isn't about me, it's about him.”

 

“You're good for him,” Jace murmurs, lips tipping up slightly. “I'm… really happy for you both.”

 

“Thanks,” Alec replies, his own lips curling.

 

Jace takes a deep breath. “Can I ask you something, without your assumptions or judgement?”

 

Alec's eyebrows furrow. “Of course. You know you can. What's wrong?”

 

“Nothing. Nothing's wrong, per say. Just, uh, how'd you know?”

 

“Know what?”

 

“That you were… gay?” Jace asks slowly, testing the word out on his tongue.

 

“Oh.” Alec blinks rapidly. “I'm not sure you really want to know that answer.”

 

“Tell me anyway?”

 

“If you insist. I knew because of… you. I kinda figured it out when I dreamed of being with you more than any girl there ever was.”

 

Jace's stomach clenches. “Dreams? Like literal dreams?”

 

Alec purses his lips. “I mean, sometimes. It kinda started that way. Your subconscious usually lets you know certain things. Besides, I never had any interests in girls.”

 

“Never?” Jace asks hopefully.

 

“Never,” Alec confirms. “It just wasn't what I liked. I mean, if I had, I'd be like Magnus. He's bisexual, or as some see it… greedy. But that's not what he is. He likes people, he doesn't care about restraints on what people expect of him. He is attracted to the person, gender be damned.”

 

Jace swallows. “But he knew that, from the very beginning, right?”

 

Alec blinks. “I don't actually know. Do you- I can ask him, if you want?”

 

“No,” Jace says quickly, word sharp. “No, that's- that won't be necessary. I was just… looking for an ego-boost. Need you to tell me how pretty my face is every now and again, ya know how it is.”

 

“Oh, please.” Alec snorts, rolling his eyes. “As if you need your ego to grow anymore.”

 

Before Jace can reply with an undoubtedly hilarious quip, heels click into the room sharply, drawing their attention. Clary marches into the room, followed closely by Izzy, and Jace frowns at their rush. Something is wrong, but Clary is heading straight for him with a look of contempt.

 

“Clary, what's-”

 

“You stay away from Simon's family, you hear me?” Clary hisses, marching up to him.

 

Jace groans. “Oh, come on, I didn't-”

 

“Simon told me what happened, and I'm serious, Jace,” Clary snaps. “If you so much as look at them in the wrong way, I swear I'll-”

 

“You'll what?” Jace cuts her off, taking a step forward and staring straight into her eyes.

 

“What the hell is going on?” Alec asks sharply, hovering beside Izzy with antsy energy.

 

“Nothing,” Jace replies shortly. “Nothing at all, because Simon is an idiot. I told him I wasn't threatening his family and I meant it.”

 

Clary falters slightly, eyebrows dropping down and wrinkling together. Jace sometimes dreams of kissing the soft flesh there, just pressing his lips close and easing her worry. But he isn't having those dreams anymore, which is the problem.

 

“Then, why-”

 

“None of your concern.”

 

Clary rears back, eyebrows jumping. “Excuse me? Simon is my concern, in case you forgot.”

 

“Hate to break it to you,” Jace hisses savagely, leaning into her face, staring her down, “but I'm not. And if you want to assume I have bad intentions to your little boyfriend, then by all means, do it. But you're really off the mark.”

 

With not another word, Jace throws down the staff and marches off, ignoring Izzy and Alec's abrupt questions echoing behind him. He snatches his phone out of his pocket and doesn't even hesitate to call Simon as he enters his room.

 

“Uh, hello?” Simon answers, sounding confused, which is fair, considering that he has no idea Jace has had his number for awhile.

 

“I told you I wasn't threatening your family, nor you,” Jace snaps without preamble.

 

Simon sucks in a sharp breath. “Uh, shit, Jace. Hey, man, how'd you- wait, why do you have my number?”

 

“Not the point,” Jace grits out.

 

“Right, um,” Simon replies hastily. “Yeah, I just- I'm sorry, I didn't know what else- what was I supposed to think, okay?”

 

“Oh, I don't know, maybe that I wasn't lying when I told you that I meant you or your family no harm? Don't you think I have better things to do with my time? Do you think, for one second, that I care whether you tell the entire downworld about my apparent magical blood? I don't.”

 

“Okay, okay. I'm- I'm sorry, okay? I just… wait, what do you mean you don't care? Jace, you should care. I- I almost killed you, man.”

 

Jace runs his tongue under his top lip. “As I said that night, I would have let you.”

 

“Why?” Simon blurts, baffled.

 

Jace could lie, could say he doesn't care about his own life, could even brush it off. But the feeling of absolute euphoria he'd felt when Simon bit him still makes his skin tingle, which pisses him off. It had been… worryingly good.

 

So, instead, Jace says, “I'm not worried about what you tell people, or whether it is the truth. And trust me, Simon, when I actually threaten you, you'll know.”

 

“Jace, seriously, I'm not going to tell anyone, okay? No matter what I feel towards you, or how much you hate me, I'm not going to do that. You'd be a target, and that'd be my fault, so no one will ever know.”

 

“Whatever, Simon.”

 

Jace doesn't wait for a reply, just hangs up, and he hopes he doesn't dream tonight when he sleeps.

Chapter Text

The wind brushes his face as he steps along the cobblestone, boots clicking at an easy beat. A hand is in his, and that doesn't make sense at all. He looks down at it, following the arm up.

 

Simon smiles at him. “Excited?”

 

Jace drops Simon's hand quickly, as if it scalds him. Simon blinks in surprise, frown stealing his smile and overtaking it.

 

“What the hell?” Jace breathes.

 

“What's wrong?” Simon asks softly. “Are you nervous? That's, you know, usually my thing, but we can totally swap for tonight. What I wouldn't give to have your endless confidence.”

 

Jace stares at him. “What's happening?”

 

“Well, we're heading to Magnus’ for our engagement party, remember? Just got back from my mom's house.” Simon raises his eyebrows. “Are you sure you're okay? You seem-”

 

“Fine,” Jace blurts, clearing his throat. “I'm fine.”

 

Jace is absolutely not fine, because this doesn't make sense. He and Simon are engaged? When did that happen? He needs to see Magnus now.

 

Simon moves back to his side, taking his hand again, their fingers threading together. “I think mom and Rebecca took it as well as expected, don't you? They certainly eased off after you gave your little speech. Good going, by the way, but I thought we agreed that you wouldn't take the heat for that? Wrong place, wrong time, remember?”

 

Jace does not remember.

 

“Right.” Jace tries not to snatch his hand away or punch Simon in the face. “I just, uh, figured that it would be easier.”

 

“Easier, right,” Simon says, huffing. “Nothing easy about them seeing me get stabbed by a circle member.  I'm just glad you got there before they put a splinter through my heart. Sucks that they called you an old friend though, or this could have all been avoided. Like we said… wrong place, wrong time.”

 

Jace abruptly stops and has to tug Simon to get him to go still. Slowly, Jace says, “We're engaged.”

 

Simon blinks. “Yes? Um, are you-”

 

“Tell me our… story,” Jace demands, squeezing Simon's hand tight.

 

“Are you serious?” Simon asks blandly, eyebrows jerking up. A smile blooms on his face, light and happier than Jace has ever seen. “Look at you, being all romantic. You wanna hear our love story! That's so sweet. I'm telling Izzy.”

 

It doesn't matter what world he's in, that's unacceptable. Jace narrows his eyes. “Just tell me, Simon, and keep your mouth shut about it.”

 

“Fine,” Simon teases, still grinning. “After the circle jerk - bad choice of words, so bad - stabbed me, you swooped in and saved the day. I was fine and healed after some blood, but I also needed protection until the target on my head went away. I wanted Clary, you didn't want Clary to do it, so Alec made you.”

 

“We were fighting over Clary,” Jace says, and that is the first thing that has made any sense.

 

Simon tsks. “Of course we were. Clary's great. But we had to spend a week together, a week full of fighting each other and circle members. In between, we kinda started not hating each other so much. Oh man, do you remember our Lord of The Rings marathon. You actually cried when you thought Gandalf died. It was… you were charming, even when you were a complete asshole.”

 

Sounds like him. Still, it kind of appeases Jace to know that even Simon is susceptible to his charms.

 

“And?” Jace presses.

 

“Well, we eventually got everything handled. I, uh, didn't need protection anymore. It was weird, remember? You were adorably awkward about leaving; I didn't know that I wanted you to stay. All that usual romantic cliches, you know.” Simon sighs dreamily, eyes dancing in the moonlight. “Man, we are so freaking awesome.”

 

“Simon, shift focus,” Jace insists, rolling his eyes. He snaps a finger in Simon's face. “Keep going, it's just getting interesting.”

 

Simon quirked a grin. “Yeah, it is. You remember. Me and Clary were split, you and Clary weren't happening. Alec had done something to piss you off, and Izzy was out on mission. So, you showed up at my door without an explanation, but I knew something was wrong. We watched four of the Harry Potter movies before you actually relaxed.”

 

“It was Alec, definitely.” Jace knows that because only Alec could piss him off enough to rather spend time with Simon of all people.

 

“You started doing that, just showing up out of nowhere. We never- well, it was kinda like a dirty secret. Whenever we crossed paths outside of the boatshack, you acted the same as always. No one knew a thing, and we didn't talk about it.”

 

“And then?”

 

“Then, something happened with Clary. She almost died; we were frantic. And it was really confusing for everyone. Me and you were bickering, but it was worse than normal, so much worse. We started yelling, straight up arguing in the middle of the institute. I said some bad things, you said worse things, but we-”

 

“You can't leave out what we said, Simon. That's lacking in storytelling.”

 

Simon huffs a laugh. “Fair point. I said all you cared about was Clary, you said that was all I cared about. I said you were self-centered, stupid, selfish. I told you Clary would never love you, that she couldn't. You told me I would always be second choice, that she couldn't love me because she wanted you more. It got pretty nasty.”

 

“It did,” Jace agrees faintly, eyebrows raising slightly.

 

It sure sounds pretty messed up, but not that far-fetched. It isn't something Jace hasn't thought, or hoped, or wished. In fact, he's come pretty close to saying those things before.

 

“Well, things got pretty heated. We stayed away from each other for awhile, but another mission came around. I had to be there, you weren't gonna just leave. So, we worked together without even talking to each other. I missed you. I'm pretty sure you missed me too. Then, someone had a stake to my heart and you lost your mind. Went ballistic, like total Darth Vader on them. It was pretty hot.”

 

Jace doesn't know who Darth Vader is, doesn't really care, but that is the only thing that makes sense about what Simon said. Missing Simon? Yeah, that's bullshit. It's all complete bullshit.

 

Jace just says, “Of course I did.”

 

Simon squeezes his hand again, soft and cool, the contact gentle. “I was nervous, so nervous, because you didn't say or do anything. After that, you started showing up again so we could hang out. And when we were around people, you treated me perfectly fine. We didn't fight over Clary anymore, just kind of came to a truce. And maybe she would have picked someone one day, and one of us would be with her.”

 

“She never chose,” Jace murmurs, not entirely certain, but pretty sure.

 

“She never got the chance. Magnus got attacked, some spell that makes everyone's deepest secret take a form of some sort. We didn't know, we were just there by happenstance. Mine came first. It was you, just standing there, like some kind of tell all. No one knew what it meant… but you did.”

 

“Of course I knew. I'm me.”

 

“Har har.” Simon rolls his eyes. “Then, you showed up and I was freaking out because I knew you knew, but you just told me to chill out. We watched three minutes of star wars before I couldn't take it anymore. I was pretty frantic about it, yelling at you, demanding you leave. And you just… got up, crossed the room, and kissed me.”

 

I- what?”

 

“The rest, as they say, was history. We couldn't really leave each other alone after that, didn't want to.”

 

Jace stares at him, clearing his throat. “And Clary?”

 

Simon winces. “She was… upset, at first. Eventually, she came around. Now, we're engaged.”

 

Simon runs his thumb over Jace's hand, tracing circles into his skin. It's unfairly nice, but it has nothing to do with Simon. Jace has no idea what's going on, what world he's in, but this isn't him. He would never do this, not with Simon. He loves Clary. That is something he's been scared to admit, but he clings to it now like a lifeline.

 

“Great,” Jace says weakly, feeling a little sick.

 

Shit, he really needs to talk to Magnus.

 

As if sensing that, Simon pulls him back into movement, tugging him towards Magnus’ loft. They're quiet as they go, something for which Jace is grateful. He honestly has no idea what to say, or do.

 

It's like his life is just continuously getting worse, or weirder, or just so fucked up. He used to think, with Clary's arrival, that things were getting interesting. But now, Jace thinks things have gone too far. Not only has he lost the girl he loves, he's went through three different families and lies, and it seems like everything that can go wrong, does. And now, now, on top of all of that, he's apparently gay with one of the people he dislikes the most?

 

Yeah, Jace is beginning to hate his life.

 

Before long, they're stopping outside of Magnus’ loft and knocking. The door swings open wide, and of course, everyone is there. As soon as they pass the threshold, Magnus pops a bottle of champagne. Everyone is smiling, laughing, moving over to congratulate them. It is their party after all.

 

Izzy reaches them first.

 

“Oh, look at you both,” she says, smiling so wide it must hurt. “Radiant! Oh, come here.”

 

She gathers them both into her arms, hugging them tight, and Jace relaxes into it. At least, no matter the world, Izzy is the same.

 

“Wait, wait!” Magnus calls out, grabbing his camera and stepping forward. “A preserved memory! Trust me, you'll want one. Izzy, move, let the boys kiss for the camera.”

 

Izzy obliges, and Magnus adjusts his angle, tongue poking out as he sets up the shot. Then, he looks up at them with expectant eyes, and Jace has never been more cautious in his life. One wrong move and he'll be liplocking with Simon Lewis. That can't happen, it won't.

 

Simon eases an arm around him and chuckles. “Magnus makes a strong point. The guy's been alive for centuries; I think we should take his advice.” He winks and curls into Jace, still smiling.

 

Radiant, Jace thinks, Izzy's word echoing in his mind. Dammit all to hell, Simon does look happy. Even still, there is no way he's going to kiss Simon, not in his lifetime.

 

But Simon doesn't seem to get that memo, because as confident as he never is, he slides his hand from the small of his back to his hip. Jace is seconds away from stopping all of this and just explaining, but Simon leans forward. And Jace freezes.

 

He's stuck there, tongue sewed to the roof of his mouth, heart stopped, pure horror running through his veins. By the Angel, Simon is going to kiss him. And Jace is going to be too late to stop him, but once it's over, he's going to kick Simon's ass.

 

Except, an alarm sounds and Jace bolts up from his bed, gasping in deep breaths. He blinks around blearily, trying to get his bearings. Shit, he thinks weakly, another fucking dream.

 

Shit, indeed.

 

Jace doesn't have time to dwell. The alarm blares loudly and doors slam as people rush to find what's gone wrong. His stomach recoils as he throws himself out of bed and into suitable clothes. He hopes, more than anything, that Valentine hasn't escaped again.

 

He has to be careful what he wishes for, because sure, Valentine hasn't escaped, but this isn't any better. Shadowhunters are dying, and Jace feels like he's going to be sick.

 

The Madame Inquisitor - his grandmother - surprises him with the news that he'll be running the institute when she leaves, which will be soon. Jace thinks he should be proud, and a part of him is, but he doesn't feel… worthy. The job is more suited for Alec, should have been Alec's.

 

But if it's his, then he'll do what's right, for the Shadowhunters, the institute, and his family name.

 

Luke, as he suspected, isn't the wolf who killed the Shadowhunter. He's known that since before he was brought in, but Jace feels satisfaction at being proved right. After that, the debriefing and the announcement of his title commences.

 

“We can exonerate our friends,” he says as soon as the debriefing is over. “Just a little bit of DNA and they're in the all clear.”

 

Clary nods fiercely. “I'll go to Simon.”

 

“No,” Jace blurts, making three pairs of eyes swing to him. He forces himself not to tense up. “You can't be the one to do it. You'll leave without his DNA if he doesn't want to give it.”

 

“No, I won't. You think I want my boyfriend to be put on trial?” Clary grimaces and shifts awkwardly. “I know how important this is, okay?”

 

Jace just swings his eyes to Alec, insisting with his gaze alone. Thank the Angel for parabatai bonds because Alec just nods.

 

“He's right,” Alec murmurs. “In more ways than one. Izzy, you go see Magnus, I'll talk to Raphael. I think it's important that we start branching out within the downworld community, even past what we're comfortable.”

 

“No,” Izzy objects, mouth parting. “I can go see Raphael. Alec, let me do this.”

 

Alec's mouth twists. “Iz, this is more than that, okay?”

 

“More than what?” Clary asks, eyebrows furrowing.

 

“What are we missing?” Jace demands, watching Alec and Izzy exchange a look with a tense feeling in his gut. They've never kept something from him, not blatant secrets, and he doesn't like it.

 

But then Izzy explains and Jace understands. Even while she tells Clary what exactly she got hooked on, how far it got, how she's doing better now... Jace gets why they weren't telling anyone. The fact that she went there and came back from it just proves how incredibly strong she is.

 

Jace wants to take Izzy in his arms and hold her close, shield her from anything that could harm her. That's his sister, blood be damned. But she's strong, she can do anything she puts her mind to. So, he just allows himself one indulgence of reaching out and touching her arm, giving her a soft look. Not something pitying, not even sympathetic, because she doesn't need to be undermined like that. No, it's a look full of love and faith, and she knows it.

 

“I trust you, Izzy,” Jace assures her. “I know you can get the job done, but Alec makes a strong point. We all have a downworlder we are more tolerable towards and we can't stay in that comfort zone. Trust me, I don't like Simon very much, but he is a part of this now. We have to branch out if we're going to prove to Madame Inquisitor and the Clave that we're right about this.”

 

Izzy grimaces. “I hate it when you're right.”

 

“Alright, we have our orders,” Jace says, dropping his hand. “Let's get our friends off the hook.”

Chapter Text

Simon can't do it.

 

He wishes he could, really. It would make things much easier, but he can't. He won't. He just isn't sure how to explain it to Jace.

 

Jace seems to see his hesitation because he says, “Luke did it, he gave his DNA, and it proved he did nothing wrong. We're just trying to keep everyone else out of trouble.”

 

Simon looks down at his tangled fingers, throat working. “You, uh, know I'm Jewish, right?”

 

“You've mentioned it, yes,” Jace replies, tilting his chin up and watching Simon in confusion, unfairly handsome face collapsing into uncertainty.

 

“I know you don't completely get what that means, and I really don't have time to explain, but a really horrible man killed millions of my people just because of who they were and what they looked like.”

 

“We don't know much about mundanes, but we tend to sit up and take notice when they do their best to ruin the world. Adolf Hitler is a name spoken rarely among Shadowhunters, but he isn't completely unknown. Just assume I know the gist.”

 

Simon nods. “My bubbee - my grandmother - she was only a child when the soldiers came. They wanted her family to put stars in the window of their store, just to know which stores were Jewish, no big deal.” Simon swallows again, heart aching for the history of his people. “Then, they had to wear bracelets, and they couldn't ride the trains. And then, they were forced to ride the trains.”

 

He looks up, and Jace is just staring at him, eyes watching him intensely. Slowly, Jace murmurs, “Simon…”

 

“She was the only one to survive out of her family,” Simon tells him quietly, looking back down at his bouncing knee and tangled fingers.

 

Jace makes a small sound, something like a sigh, something like a grunt. Simon glances back up warily and what he finds surprises him. Jace is looking away, jaw jumping, an internal battle written in every strained muscle. Maybe Jace gets it, maybe he doesn't, but it's clear that he respects it. And that's all Simon needs.

 

“Look,” Jace says firmly, turning his head again, “I'm sorry that happened to your people. I don't- I know I won't ever be able to fully understand, but I can see where you're coming from.”

 

Simon crosses his arms and takes a deep breath. “I'm sorry that I can't make this easier on everyone. I just- I can't do what you ask. For her.”

 

Jace heaves a sigh. “Dammit,” he mutters.

 

“I'm sorry your people are dying,” Simon tells him, and he really is. “If there's anything I can do-”

 

“It's- you've done nothing wrong,” Jace interrupts, looking pained. “I'm going to go; I have to report back. I'll explain to Clary.”

 

“Thank you,” Simon murmurs.

 

Jace just gives a jerky nod and turns on his heel, marching right back towards the door. Simon stares at his broad back, fighting the warmth in his chest. He'd expected more of a fight, or even Jace just snatching some of his hair anyway, but instead, this. Jeez, Simon's actually a little… charmed?

 

Maybe Jace has depth after all.

 

And as Jace goes to step out into the dark, Simon's whole body clenches. Shadowhunters are being hunted and killed, and Jace is a part of that group, anything could happen.

 

Breathlessly, Simon calls out, “Wait!”

 

Jace immediately turns around, blinking rapidly in surprise. “What?”

 

“You can't just leave. What if- there's a killer out there, a killer who wants Shadowhunters. You- I can't just- you need to stay.”

 

“Simon, I can take care of myself and I need to get back to the institute. I'll be fine.”

 

“Yeah, but um, I can't just- look, if you get hurt, I'll feel terrible.” Simon can't believe he's saying that, especially when there was a time that he wished Jace would get hurt, but the words are true. “Just stay, or let me walk you back, or just arrange a ride, or-”

 

“Simon,” Jace cuts him off, lips twitching as his eyebrows rake up, “stop talking. First of all, I can take care of myself, and you walking me back won't help if I'm going to get killed. I'll just have one more person to protect. I don't need a ride and there's no reason for me to stay. Chill out or I'll start to think you actually care.”

 

See, the things is, Simon thinks he kind of does. Because yeah, he and Jace aren't the best of friends, but he doesn't hate him. Actually, he isn't entirely sure of much when it comes to Jace. He knows that he's envious of Jace sometimes, and other times he just feels bad for the guy. He's been through a lot. He knows he thinks Jace is an ass, but he's also pretty sure that he thinks Jace is a good person. It's strange territory, and Simon doesn't want to explore it.

 

But the easiest thing, the one he doesn't have to explore at all, is that Jace is one of the best at his job. He protects people, saves lives, and the world needs him. That goes beyond petty rivalry and childish jealousy. Simon's man enough to admit that.

 

“I mean, I don't not care,” Simon mutters, rolling his eyes. “Look, if you have to go, at least stay on the phone with me.”

 

Jace arches an eyebrow. “Not happening.”

 

“Fine, I'm calling every two minutes. If you don't answer, I'm calling all our friends and coming to find you,” Simon threatens.

 

“Whatever,” Jace replies blithely, turning back around and walking out the door with a ruffle of his perfect blonde hair.

 

Simon keeps his word. He paces the space of his little home, phone in hand, watching the seconds tick by. He bites on one nail, though they're indestructible now, and waits.

 

The moment the two minutes is up, he calls. Jace answers and mutters that he's alive before immediately hanging up. This does nothing to soothe Simon at all, and he knows he won't relax until Jace is back in the institute. He calls two more times before Jace does more than just mutter two words and hang up.

 

Jace doesn't say anything, and Simon freezes in place, fearing the worst.

 

“Jace? Jace? Are you okay? Answer me, are you-”

 

“I'm fine, Simon.”

 

Simon is relieved for possibly one second before, true to form, his anxiety skyrockets. “Where are you? How far away?”

 

“I've only been gone a little over five minutes, Simon. I'm literally two blocks away from you,” Jace says flatly, sighing.

 

“Maybe you should come back. I- I don't think this a good idea. Or maybe wait there, and I'll just- I'll come to you,” Simon insists, uneasiness making him feel nauseous.

 

Jace huffs. “I'm going to hang up again.”

 

“No! No, please. Just… don't. Please.”

 

“By the Angel, you're really being crazy about this. What has gotten into you?”

 

Simon really doesn't know, but he's more nervous than he was when he was taken by Camille, and that's saying something.

 

“I'll feel really bad if you die, okay?” Simon mumbles, reaching up to scrub at his forehead, swallowing thickly. “I don't need that guilt.”

 

“Damn,” Jace declares in amusement, “you really do care, don't you?”

 

That sounds like teasing, and Simon doesn't like it, but he can't exactly deny it either. “Shut up,” he says, sighing and fidgeting in place. “You grew on me, I guess. But you're still a jerk.”

 

There's a long beat of silence, and Simon's just about to freak out and ask if he's alive when Jace quietly murmurs, “You genuinely care about me. Seriously.”

 

“Well, I mean.” Simon pauses, thinking over his response. Jace isn't teasing anymore, isn't even blatantly asking, just stating it in a way one does when they're surprised. “Yeah, I don't want you to die, at least. You're, you know, you.”

 

That doesn't explain much, but it makes sense in Simon's head.

 

“Simon, I don't-”

 

Jace's words are cut off with a grunt, followed quickly by a thud, and Simon's positive that if his heart could race, it would be beating out of his chest at this point. There's a sound of boots on the ground, scraping and heavy, and Jace's voice garbles out in a pissed off hiss.

 

“Jace? Jace! Jace, are you-”

 

Simon doesn't even give himself enough time to finish, his body moves without permission. He darts out the door and in the direction of the institute, mind on autopilot. As Jace has said, two blocks away, there is a dark figure standing over Jace's slumped body, and Simon doesn't even think.

 

He rushes forward, and as the dark figure runs, a part of him knows Jace would want him to follow it, but he can't force himself to leave. He crouches down and rolls Jace over, internally panicking at the lack of reaction from him. But Jace is breathing, even if he's pale and knocked out.

 

“Jace, hey, wake up.” He lightly taps Jace's face, trying to get him to react, but Jace just continues to lay there. “Come on, man, please wake up.”

 

Jace does not wake up.

 

Simon doesn't know what he's supposed to do, but he knows people who will. Without hesitation, he scoops Jace up into his arms with minimal effort. Vampirism, it seems, has a few perks. One being that he can handle Jace's sturdy weight as if it's nothing.

 

He runs to the institute, not even breathing so as not to jostle Jace. Fortunately, the institute has alarms that let people know he's coming. The door bangs open to reveal Clary and a few other Shadowhunters, and one of the guys acts like he's going to take Jace from him.

 

Something in Simon won't let that happen, so he curls Jace closer to his chest and flits out of the man's way. An older woman demands to know what happened as she directs him towards the infirmary, and Simon explains everything while he carries Jace to the room.

 

“Did you see the attacker?” Clary asks, watching Simon lay Jace down.

 

Simon swallows. “No, I didn't.”

 

The older woman walks over to Jace and brushes the hair off his forehead. “Thank you for bringing him here. You didn't see anything?”

 

“No, I- I just made sure he was okay,” Simon mutters, stepping back and nervously pressing his fingers together, intertwining them.

 

Clary heaves a quiet sigh. “Well, you did what you could. We'll see what he knows when he wakes up. Here, I'll walk you out.”

 

Simon doesn't even think, just blurts, “No.”

 

“What?” Clary blinks rapidly. “What do you mean?”

 

“I'm gonna stay. He was almost killed, and I- I tried to get him to stay, and I can't just- I'm staying.”

 

The older woman's head snaps up. “You cannot stay here with Jace, but you will be staying. This is highly suspicious behavior from you.”

 

“What- no, Simon didn't do anything wrong,” Clary exclaims, eyes blazing with the determined defensiveness he loves so much about her.

 

“Can you prove that?” The older woman asks, flicking her cold gaze to Simon.

 

Simon just grinds his teeth. “I'm staying here with Jace,” he insists firmly.

 

“And why else would you want to do that besides silence him when he wakes. No, I do believe you've done enough.” She jerks her chin at two of the guards by the door. “Take him to a cell.”

 

Clary gasps, moving forward. “No! No, he didn't- he saved Jace.”

 

Simon doesn't care what the woman believes, just struggles in the guard's grasp. Filled with panic, he focuses on Clary as he's dragged away. “Tell Jace! Tell him I'm here! Let him know that-”

 

The door slams shut on his shouting, and he never gets to tell Clary that she has to tell Jace that he had been right. Which sucks, because that only happens once in a lifetime. The last thing Simon sees before he is taken to a cell is Clary's baffled expression.





 




Jace is being kissed.

 

That's not always a weird thing; he kisses plenty of girls. What's weird is that he doesn't remember what led up to this point. But it feels nice, so he isn't going to complain.

 

Jace's eyes are closed and there are lips moving gently in tandem with his. He just goes with it, humming into the kiss and lifting his hands to a surprisingly strong jaw. He'll figure out who he's kissing when it's over.

 

It feels good, really good, and he's sucking in a sharp breath and arching closer without much thought. The lips slide over his like they know what he likes, tongue swiping out, just a light nip with teeth, making heat uncoil within his gut. Hands grip his hips, tightening, tugging him closer. Jace is fully on board with getting closer, maybe even getting naked, except there is the sound of a shutter from a camera and cheering breaks through his daze.

 

Wrenching back, Jace's eyes snap open, and it's not some girl kissing him, it's-

 

“Simon!”

 

Jace gasps as he shoots straight up in the bed, eyes wide as he looks around, and Clary's hands gently push him back down. Her face hovers over his, making him swallow the words on the tip of his tongue. Simon kissed me, Simon kissed me, he just kissed me, and I liked it. What the fuck, what in the holy hell is happening to him?

 

“He's fine,” Clary says softly, watching him in concern. “He brought you back to the institute after the attack.”

 

The attack, right.

 

Jace swallows thickly. “We were on the phone; he was worried I'd get attacked. He was yelling when someone got me from behind.”

 

Madame Inquisitor steps forward with a stern face, watching him seriously. “So, the vampire was not the attacker?”

 

“What? No! Simon wouldn't- I know he didn't do it. He was on the phone, yelling, while the attacker was silent.” Jace grits his teeth, tries to provide proof rather than emotion. Madame Inquisitor won't care otherwise.

 

Madame Inquisitor just inclines her head. “Very well. When you're ready, join us for debriefing.”

 

“Of course,” he replies quietly.

 

As soon as she sweeps out of the room, Clary turns to him with a frown. “What's going on with you and Simon, Jace?”

 

Jace averts his eyes for a moment, guilt and confusion making his chest tight and his stomach quiver. He doesn't know why her words make him feel so… so bad. Nothing is going on. Yet, he can't really make himself look her in the eyes.

 

“I don't know what you mean,” Jace croaks, and that, at least, is the truth.

 

Clary crosses her arms and juts out her hip, face full of seriousness. “Look, you know you're my friend. Up until recently, you were my brother. And before that… well, we've always been a team, okay?” She takes a deep breath. “I'm not saying you are, but if you're trying to jeopardize me and him, it isn't going to work.”

 

Jace blinks at her. “Is that really how you see me? You really think I'd do that?”

 

“No,” Clary admits, shoulders sagging. “I don't know what's going on, but you and Simon haven't exactly been on great terms. And- and you're not telling me anything, so I have no idea why you two are suddenly… what exactly? Friends? I don't get it, and I don't know what to think.”

 

“Clary, I specifically didn't tell you that we weren't related because I didn't want that to be a problem. I did that because you are happy with Simon. I don't want to jeopardize your relationship, even if I don't like it,” Jace explains slowly, seriously.

 

“So, are you and Simon just, what, cool now?”

 

“What makes you think that?”

 

Clary shrugs, looking slightly uncomfortable as she takes a few steps around the room. “I don't know. You went and seen him out of the blue, asking him about his family, and no one knows why. You went to get his DNA instead of me, claiming I'd leave without it, then you left without it. And Simon… he was actually worried about you before they took him out. He wanted me to tell you-”

 

As she cuts herself off, Jace sits up in the bed, heart slowly gaining speed in his chest. “Clary, what did he want you to tell me?”

 

She tucks her lips in and shakes her head, eyes downcast. “I don't know if-”

 

“Clary, what was it?” Jace asks sharply, catching her eye, staring her down.

 

Clary sighs. “They took him down to a cell. I- I wanted to go see him, but they won't let me. He wanted me to tell you that he's here. And something else, but he didn't get to finish before he was dragged out of the room.”

 

Jace is up and out of the bed before he can even think, marching past a gaping Clary and making his way down to the cells. It doesn't take him long, not with his determined strides and harsh face: people have seen him like this before, and they know to get out of his way. One of the cells is blocked by two Shadowhunters he's known for years - Davis and Mark. He comes to a halt in front of them and slaps on a bright smile.

 

“Mark, Davis,” he says cheerfully, “how are the wives? The kids?”

 

Davis sighs. “They're doing good, Jace. And no, we can't allow you entry.”

 

Jace scowls. “Come on, it's just me. You know me. Let me talk to Simon and-”

 

“You're not permitted to see the vampire.” Mark has the decency to look apologetic. “I'm sorry, but we have our orders.”

 

Jace goes very still, mind rushing with every possibility to get in, speak to Simon, and free him. But why? Jace hasn't ever particularly cared what happens to Simon before; why does this matter so much? Maybe because Simon saved his life, maybe because Simon cares, and Jace doesn't know how to feel about that. But he does know he doesn't like all these bullshit mixed feelings; he has enough towards Clary, thank you very much, and he really doesn't need to add her boyfriend into the mix.

 

Heaving a breath out of his nose, Jace forces himself to turn away, knowing a dismissal when he sees one. Except, his body isn't exactly listening, and he gets one step before he whirls back around and rushes at the door. Since he's already halfway there, Jace decides to take the full leap into crazy.

 

“Simon! Simon, I'm-”

 

“Jace? Oh shit, Jace! Hey man, are you okay? I was going to tell you-”

 

“I'm fine, I'm- are you okay?” Jace shouts, elbowing Davis as he tries to get one arm around him.

 

Simon slams into the door, smacking his hands against it, Jace can tell. “I'm okay, I'm fine. I wasn't going to leave. I had to make sure you were okay, and I had to tell you that I was right.”

 

Jace gives a breathless laugh as he takes Mark's hand and yanks it down, leading the man to his knees by his wrist. “Really? Is that what you're worried about? I'm fine, and I guess you were, but if you tell anyone, I will stake you.”

 

Simon snorts, sounding relieved. “Fair enough. Hey, uh, any chance you can spring me?”

 

“Don't worry, Simon, I'm going to-”

 

“Jace.”

 

Head snapping up, Jace stares at Madame Inquisitor in surprise. Mark is on his knees in front of him and Davis’ head is in the crook of his other elbow, in a harmless headlock. She arches an eyebrow.

 

“Madame Inquisitor,” Jace greets casually, releasing both guards and clearing his throat.

 

Madame Inquisitor just sighs quietly and jerks her head elegantly. “Follow me, I have something I wish to discuss with you.”

 

Jace smirks at the guards as he follows the sound of her quick heels. “Yes, of course. What about Simon? He hasn't done anything wrong. Are you-”

 

“I will see to it that the vampire be released in the near future,” Madame Inquisitor replies distractedly, waving a hand carelessly.

 

There really isn't much Jace can do about that, short of breaking Simon out himself, but he has to be patient. So, he clenches his jaw and follows her. They meet up with Izzy and Clary - Alec is nowhere to be seen, but Jace isn't worried; their bond hasn't flared with danger.

 

“I'm glad you're okay,” Izzy says and moves over to wrap him in a hug.

 

“I'm good.” Jace gives her a smile. “How'd it go with Magnus?”

 

Izzy's eyebrows rise. “Suffice to say he wasn't completely happy about giving his DNA. But Max went with me and helped convince him.”

 

“That's good,” Jace admits, quirking a smile. “Have you heard from Alec at all?”

 

Izzy frowns. “No, not yet. I figured we'd call after this meeting. Raphael is with him though, and they aren't on the best of terms.”

 

Jace squeezes her shoulder. “He'll be fine.”

 

“And Simon?” Clary asks, crossing her arms.

 

Madame Inquisitor steps forward, a thin smile on her lips. She holds a case. “He will be released eventually. As it stands, this is far more important.” She unclips the case to reveal stele shaped pens of some sort. “These have been tested today. They distribute a tracker into a downworlder. As we are able to track a Shadowhunter through their runes, we are now able to track a downworlder.”

 

Jace's stomach drops, and it's all he can do to keep his face from relaying the horror he feels.

 

Clary, however, isn't subtle at all. “You put a tracker in Simon? What the hell?”

 

Madame Inquisitor glares at her. “No, not your vampire, not yet. We released some Shadowhunters to go and implant others. We only managed to get one werewolf; the other downworlders rebelled.”

 

“Well, yeah. You're trying to track them like pets,” Izzy snaps harshly.

 

Jace swallows. “Shadowhunters are dying, and the downworlders are responsible.”

 

“You can't be serious,” Clary sputters, looking stunned, rage dancing in her beautiful eyes.

 

“Jace is right,” Madame Inquisitor says proudly, dipping her head in acknowledgement. She goes to say something else when a commotion grabs everyone's attention.

 

Maia is being dragged towards the direction of them, and Madame Inquisitor sets the case down to walk over and talk to the men who hold her. Almost in unison, the others sweep around the table to approach. Madame Inquisitor nods as she turns towards them with a faint smile.

 

“What's going on?” Clary demands.

 

“It's precisely as I said.” Madame Inquisitor gestures at Maia. “This wolf was pinged as being near the crime of the latest killed Shadowhunter.”

 

“I was walking home from work! Is that a crime now?” Maia struggles again in their grasp, glaring daggers at Madame Inquisitor. “I didn't do anything!”

 

“Your position says otherwise,” Madame Inquisitor taunts. “This does not look good for you, wolf.”

 

Clary makes an aborted movement forwards; Jace catches her arm. She shrugs him off and hisses, “A hundred others were on that same street. You can't just assume that-”

 

“We can and we are.”

 

“You know, I've been stopped by the police just for being black, but I thought you all were more evolved than that,” Maia growls roughly, squirming in place.

 

“Madame Inquisitor,” Jace says gently, taking a step forward, and she simply raises a hand.

 

“Take the wolf and place her with the vampire. Things will have to be sorted out. Do you disagree with my methods, Jace?” Madame Inquisitor arches an eyebrow in challenge.

 

Jace grits his teeth and reminds himself that she'll be gone shortly. “No, you're correct.”

 

Maia looks betrayed and pissed, and in almost perfect unison, both Clary and Izzy shout, “Jace!”

 

“Take her away.” Madame Inquisitor waves a hand and ignores the growls ripping from Maia's throat. She turns and starts walking away. “Follow me, Jace, I need a word.”

 

Jace sends Izzy and Clary a look, one he hopes they understand, then he follows his grandmother. And that's such a strange concept already.

 

They enter her temporary office and one of her guards brings her the case full of tracking devices. The very sight of it makes him want to cringe, but he masks it. Simon's story, the one that had felt like a punch to the gut, echoes in his head. At first, something small, then worse over time.

 

Jace really doesn't like this.

 

“What can I do for you?” he murmurs.

 

Madame Inquisitor softens, watching him in a way she hadn't before she'd learned who he really is. She sighs and leans back against the desk. “I'm needed in Idris and will be leaving momentarily. I simply wanted to tell you goodbye and wish you luck on running the institute, as well as carrying on with the mission I've left you with.”

 

In the beginning, after learning he is actually a Herondale, he ached to live up to his family name. Herondales are the greats, the people who leave an amazing legacy, and all Jace has is that he's the boy who was raised by a psychopath. He doesn't want to fail, but he's slowly starting to realize something.

 

Throughout every change, every new identity, every lie and every truth, the same people have stuck by his side through it all. Even when he'd been pegged as the boy with demon blood, those same people never strayed. There were bumps, there always is, but his family - his true family - have made themselves apparent.

 

No matter how much Madame Inquisitor softens in his presence, or gives him kind anecdotes of his parents, or treats him with respect and is proud, she is still the woman who didn't feel that before she found out the truth. And if that truth turns out to be another lie, she'd change on him as quickly as she'd switched in his favor.

 

Those he has, who he's always had, they are all he's got. And that's okay, even if it hurts.

 

Knowing that makes it all that much easier to smile in her face and say, “I won't let my family down.”

 

Her eyes practically sparkle, and Jace knows just how much she loved his father, her son. He wishes that changed anything.

 

“I have faith in you, Jace Herondale. You are your father's son; you will not fail.”

 

With that, she walks forward to squeeze his shoulder before gathering her things and leaving. Jace walks her out, watches her disappear through the portal, and he immediately sags in relief.

 

He wastes no time. With the institute under his command, there is nothing stopping him. So, he marches through the training room and waves Izzy and Clary to follow him. They do, both asking questions, but he doesn't reply, just leads them down to the cells.

 

Davis and Mark stare at him as he approaches.

 

“Hey guys,” Jace chirps smugly. “You heard about the change in who's running this joint, right?”

 

Davis sighs. “Yes, we know.”

 

“Greaaaat,” Jace says pleasantly, drawing out the word and jerking his thumb over his shoulder. “In that case, go ahead and scram.”

 

Muttering under their breaths, they leave. Jace rolls his eyes and releases the door with a sigh. Simon and Maia leap of the bed with exhales of relief, both moving towards the door.

 

“Simon!” Clary slams into Simon and hugs him as if she hadn't seen him in years, not hours.

 

Jace forces himself to look at Maia. “Hey, I'm sorry about what happened back there.”

 

Maia gives a shrug. “It's okay. I know what I did and didn't do. But that old lady is a real bitch, isn't she?”

 

“She's my grandmother,” Jace says flatly.

 

“Woah, really?” Simon blurts, tugging away from Clary, still holding onto her waist, grinning in Jace's direction. “Isn't she like the Minister of Magic in the Shadow World?”

 

Jace stares at him. “The what?”

 

Clary chuckles softly, prettily. “It's a thing, don't worry about it. Gotta say, you had me going there for a minute, Jace. I'm glad you see our side.”

 

“You should have more faith next time,” Jace mutters, throwing a look at a chagrined Izzy. “And you. Iz, you've known me for years; you had to know that I wasn't on the crazy train.”

 

Izzy shrugs, biting her lip. “Yes, I know. I was just worried, what with you being a Herondale.”

 

“It's just a name. Besides-”

 

A sudden searing pain in his side cuts him off, shooting up to tug on his heart, mind clouding with nothing but AlecAlecAlec. Gasping, he stumbles into the wall, blinking rapidly around the fuzz taking over his vision, spots dancing in front of his eyes.

 

“Jace? Jace, what's wrong?”

 

Jace slumps into Izzy, reaching down to snatch up his shirt and stare at his irritated parabatai rune. He looks between them and declares, “Alec.”

Chapter Text

The danger dies almost as quickly as it came.

 

It's a rush of people clamoring over themselves to get in touch with Raphael - he doesn't answer - and Magnus. Fortunately, Clary eventually manages to get Magnus on the line, and they're all informed that Alec is okay, but banged up at his loft.

 

Before they can even get out the door good, Magnus provides them with a portal, and they're all stepping through - minus Maia, who has to check in with Luke. And sure enough, Alec is splayed out on the couch, covered in blood, looking pale.

 

Jace doesn't even hesitate, just marches over and drops to his knees beside him. “What happened?”

 

Surprisingly, it's Raphael who answers. “We ran into some issues. Alec and I followed a lead together, and we'd assumed the attacker was Meliorn. But in fact, it was Kaelie. Alec was taken, so Meliorn and I located him. As you can see, Alec is alive, and Kaelie is handed over to the Clave.”

 

“His runes?” Jace swallows, heart clenching at the mere thought of Alec missing any.

 

Magnus steps forward with a soft sigh, running ringed fingers through Alec's hair. “They're all in tact. Most of the blood came from a head wound; you know how those bleed. I've given him a potion to help him heal. He should wake up shortly.”

 

“Why didn't you call us?” Izzy demands sharply.

 

“Things were rather hectic, my dear,” Magnus admits quietly. “Besides, Raphael had only just brought him here a little bit ago.”

 

“And he's going to be okay?” Jace asks, voice strained, the memory of Alec's panic and pain still echoing through his mind.

 

Magnus smiles slightly. “Yes, he will. Thanks to Raphael, I might add. He saved Alec's life.”

 

Jace doesn't even bat an eye, just lifts his head and looks right at Raphael. “Thank you.”

 

Raphael looks faintly surprised, but he masks it well. He dips his head and murmurs, “It was nothing.”

 

“No, seriously,” Izzy says softly, stepping forward to stare at him with gentle eyes, “thank you.”

 

After that, it's just waiting. They all linger, all too eager to be there when Alec wakes. Jace vows to leave and give him time with Magnus, but he needs to see his eyes open before he can do that.

 

Izzy and Raphael step aside to talk, quiet murmurs that Jace pretends not hear. Raphael is talking to her about recovery, wishing her luck, apologizing, and Jace can't find it within him to hate the vampire leader. Magnus doesn't sway from Alec's side, just stares down at him fondly, eyes unmistakably full of love, fingers still brushing his hair back. Simon and Clary are sitting at the bar, just holding hands and waiting quietly together.

 

It's the sight of them like that, like they've been together forever, like they've never been so at ease before; that's what pushes him to do what he does next. That, and plain curiosity.

 

“Magnus,” he says quietly, making the Warlock glance up expectantly. “Can I talk to you for a minute, please?”

 

Magnus seems reluctant to remove himself from Alec, but he sweeps across the room in a cornered alcove, allowing them privacy. “What can I do for you now, Shadowhunter? Come to threaten me about my intentions again?”

 

Jace feels his lips twitch. “No, I think I made my point.” His smile slips. “This is more of the… personal nature. If you don't mind.”

 

“I will not lie and say I'm not intrigued,” Magnus admits, eyes glittering curiously. He dramatically glides his hand in the air. “Continue.”

 

It takes Jace a second. He has to work up to the question, and he checks to make sure that no one is listening. Then, he licks his lips and takes a deep breath, setting his shoulders.

 

“Did you always know you were bisexual?”

 

That clearly is not what Magnus was expecting. His eyebrows shoot up and his lips part, all constant flashiness that he always seems to carry with him coming to a halt for a moment. He hums quietly, seeming to consider it deeply, lips pursing.

 

“You have to understand, I have lived for a very long time. For much of that time, I've known myself in that aspect.”

 

“So, you always knew, like Alec always knew he was gay?” Jace asks, hope slowly rising in his chest.

 

Magnus crushes that hope with on singular shake of his head. “In fact, I did not. Liking men while being one, even half of one, has never been an easy endeavor. It was much worse back when I was aging, as you can imagine. Women were… easier. I loved them, thought them desirable, so why put my own life at risk for something that could be fleeting and repressed with other options?”

 

Jace frowns. “You- you hid it?”

 

“Hard to imagine, right?” Magnus gives a soft laugh, a nostalgic smile crossing his face. “In fact, I didn't even know for a long time. Never noticed, I guess.”

 

“But how'd you find out?”

 

“The gift of Immortality can be influential outside of just living forever. When I had the world at my hands, endless partners to meet, why restrain myself to one gender? I did not ask myself this until I met one French painter. He never grew famous; the world knows nothing of him now. But he was the first man that I ever truly desired. Accepting that, rather than repressing it, made me who I am today, and in the end, it helped lead me to Alexander.”

 

Jace clears his throat, looking to his feet. “I see.”

 

Magnus watches him closely for a long moment, gaze kind. His expression makes Jace want to spill his guts, makes him want to sit down and explain, makes him want to beg for answers. Everything is so messed up, and Magnus has so much experience, and Jace is just so fucking confused.

 

“Did you know that Raphael is asexual?” Magnus asks quietly.

 

Jace blinks. “He's a what, now?”

 

“Asexual. It means he feels no sexual attraction to anyone.”

 

“Wait, he doesn't have sex?”

 

“I'm not saying he doesn't, I'm saying that he does not have the urge to. He simply does not feel it. Whether he is repulsed by it, or is willing to do it, is entirely his business. But he is a man who does not have the urge to have sex.” Magnus snaps his fingers and a martini glass is suddenly in his hands.

 

Jace flicks his gaze over to Raphael. “Why are you telling me this? Won't he be upset?”

 

“No,” Magnus says. “He is - as they say - out. If you were to ask, or proposition him, he would simply tell you. It is common knowledge, whether you know or not. He most especially won't mind in this case.”

 

“And what's this case?”

 

“You need to be aware that sexuality does not define a person; it is merely a footnote. We are who we are, we love who we love, our sexuality is simply a label that helps us and others process it.”

 

Jace averts his eyes, inhaling sharply. “This isn't about me.”

 

“Surely it isn't about Alexander. He's gay as the day is long, I can assure you. He's gay, yet he's strong and masculine and perfect in every way.” Magnus quirks a smile and tips his head. “To me, at least. If not him, who?”

 

Jace doesn't have an answer. “I- I don't.” That's all he can say, so he snaps his mouth closed.

 

“How do I always manage to adopt the hopeless?” Magnus tuts fondly and reaches out to touch Jace's shoulder, meeting his eyes. “I know of your reputation. If you're going through what I assume you are, then you're most likely very confused. But trust me on this, you are who you are no matter who you're attracted to. The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself; do not disservice your heart in that way. Take it one step at a time, remember that nothing is wrong with you, and if - for whatever reason - you wish to talk, I am here.”

 

A tension Jace hasn't been aware of seeps out of his body, and he almost sways on his feet from the relief those words bring. He closes his eyes briefly, basking in the fact that he can tell someone, even if it's the last person he expected to confide in. He is confused, and most of what Magnus said feels like a postcard full of empty promises, but that option to talk is like a balm to a wound.

 

So, Jace croaks out, “Thank you.”

 

Magnus hums in approval. “It is my pleasure, truly. I do so love baby gays; they crawl, they walk, they run. I get to watch it all.”

 

“What the hell?” Jace's eyes bulge, and Magnus’ thick laugh is the only sign he was teasing. “I'm not-”

 

“Jace,” Magnus cuts him off seriously, using his name like never before, “I was only joking. Rest assured, I will never do anything outside of light teasing, as that is my nature. Oh, and don't worry about Alexander; this, I won't tell him. It is not my business to discuss.”

 

Yet another weight lifts off him, and Jace lets out a long sigh. “Thank you,” he repeats.  

 

Before Magnus can say anything else, or tease him again, Alec groans loud enough to draw all their attention. Everyone rushes over and Jace pushes the conversation to the back of his mind.




 




Jace really doesn't want to be here, but Izzy and Alec had insisted, and he sucks at telling them no.

 

Usually, they don't have to push him to come to a little party like this, but Jace has endless reasons not to be here. One, Simon is singing. And that's really unfair, because he's actually got a beautiful voice, and Jace is having a hard time keeping his eyes away from the stage. Two, Magnus is floating around the place, drink in hand. And sure, Jace is partially relieved about the things Magnus said the other day, but it's hard to look him in the eye.

 

Jace really doesn't want to be here.

 

But they're all here to promote unity between new age Shadowhunters and downworlders, doing so by mingling and supporting Simon, and Jace's absence - especially after igniting the soul sword - will be noticeable. So, he sits at the bar and lets Maia pass him drinks. He's already taken out her tracker and genuinely apologized, a thing she'd been openly surprised about. Now, he's just waiting until it's suitable for him to actually leave.

 

“Hey,” a voice says beside him, and Jace turns to give Alec and Magnus a smile.

 

“Hey, you both look like you're enjoying yourselves,” Jace comments, chuckling at their dazed expressions full of unavoidable happiness.

 

Alec gives a little shrug, smile refusing to fall. “We are, but you don't seem to be. What's up?”

 

“Alexander,” Magnus says softly, swiping a hand down Alec's back and smiling prettily. Alec, the enraptured idiot, blinks down at Magnus patiently, looking ridiculously content. “Will you go grab me another drink, if you don't mind?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” Alec replies immediately, eyes practically sparkling when Magnus presses a sweet kiss to his cheek.

 

As Alec walks away, head held high, Jace just shakes his head and laughs. “Well, you've got him whipped.”

 

Magnus winks, sliding in the seat next to Jace. “We're not quite there yet.”

 

Jace blinks. He has no idea what that means. “Um, I really don't wanna know.”

 

“You don't,” Magnus agrees in faint amusement, lips twitching. “So, why are you moping at the bar so lonely-like? Is there not someone for you to be spending time with?”

 

Jace lets his gaze run around the room. Izzy is talking to a vampire girl, all smiles and gesturing hands, reaching out to touch her hair, no doubt giving tips. As she's said before, death is no reason not to look your best. Clary is with Simon on the stage, helping him pack up his instruments, their faces equally soft with fondness. They both look so happy, so radiant, so… beautiful.

 

Swallowing, Jace turns back to Magnus. “I talk with Maia between customers.”

 

“That doesn't count,” Magnus teases, lips twitching up. “She's, quite literally, getting paid to tolerate you. Why don't you find someone to take home? Alec's mentioned your little book club.”

 

“Has he?” Jace asks sardonically, arching an eyebrow and huffing. “Look, I'm just not really into it right now. Besides, most of all the downworlder girls hate me after what happened with the soul sword.”

 

“While I'm sure that's not entirely true, I have another suggestion,” Magnus murmurs, leaning forward and nodding his head towards the corner of the room where seelies are floating around.

 

Jace follows his gaze, eyes blinking rapidly when he realizes that Magnus means Meliorn.

 

“Are you crazy?” Jace sputters, and he knows he looks like a fish out of water, but seriously.

 

Magnus waves a hand. “That's debatable and also for another time. In this, I'm entirely serious. He's very handsome, no?”

 

Jace flicks his gaze back over to Meliorn, and he doesn't think he is. But he forces himself to actually look, to appreciate, not just immediately think along the lines of man, not to engage. And the thing is, even objectively, Meliorn is very handsome. But Jace isn't just observing, he's actively looking, and that's different. The result is the same.

 

“He's- yes, he is,” Jace forces out, nearly choking on the words, feeling like a fucking idiot.

 

“And I have it on good confidence that he has no qualms with you. In fact, he speaks only good things about you after you saved his life.”

 

“He slept with Izzy. I can't just-”

 

Magnus reaches over and touches his hand on the bar, pressing lightly to get him to shut up. “Jace, Meliorn and Izzy were never together. They slept together, yes, and they had a connection, but they are nothing more than friends now. You would not be hurting your sister by approaching him.”

 

Jace swallows. “Well, I'm not- I don't want- I'm not into doing anything, okay? Not- not now.”

 

“That's fair. I am not insisting that you do. But if you want to explore this, he would be the one to do it with. If you ask it of him, he will not mention anything. And if you wish to keep it light and experimental, he's been known to help people explore their sexuality. Much like me, he is bisexual and - as some would say - frivolous, but unlike me, he does not look for love in any of his partners. If it finds him, that's entirely different.”

 

“I- I don't know.”

 

“That's quite alright,” Magnus says gently, smiling kindly. “It's merely a suggestion.”

 

Before Jace can say anything else, Alec's moving beside Magnus and leaning over to sit a martini glass on the bar. He beams at Magnus, sliding one hand around him, and Magnus’ whole face softens. It's nearly sickening.

 

“So, what are we talking about?” Alec chirps, looking at complete ease.

 

“Your promotion,” Jace blurts, smiling. He'd meant to say this later, but he really wants to bring Alec even more happiness tonight.

 

Alec's eyebrows wrinkle together. “My what?”

 

“Well, I can't implement it until we get back to the institute, but first thing in the morning, I will be assigning you as head of the institute,” Jace announces, smiling broadly.

 

“Can you do that?” Alec asks, face going slack.

 

Jace shrugs and fights a grin. “I'm a Herondale and the head of the institute, so yes. Enjoy your last night of freedom.” Jace laughs when Alec visibly perks up. “It's a tough job, but you're a born leader. No one deserves it more than you. And me? I'm much better a soldier; I'll follow you until I die. You're going to do great things, Alec.”

 

Magnus’ fingers spark as he laughs in delight, and all the air in Jace gets knocked out of him as Alec barrels into him for a hug. Jace claps his back, sinking into the pleasant moment, grinning at Magnus over Alec's shoulder.

 

“What are we doing?” Magnus bellows happily, launching from his seat. “We should be celebrating; come along, Alexander.”

 

Alec pulls away from Jace with a bright smile, looking so fucking proud, and Jace knows he's done the right thing. Alec squeezes his shoulder, and before he follows Magnus into the crowd, he breathes out, “Thank you, Jace.”

 

Jace turns back to the bar, smiling at his hands, a blooming warmth in his chest. He was right about his family, and he's going to do right by all of them. If there is anything Valentine has taught him, it's that he was wrong in everything he pounded into him as a child; love, family, the right thing… it's all so much more important than anything else.

 

Jace still doesn't exactly want to be here, but after that moment, he wants to leave a lot less. That is until Simon suddenly sits down on his other side, beaming and waving idiotically at Maia - he looks like a dork, and Jace refuses to admit that it's more adorable than anything else.

 

“How'd you like it?” Simon ask, looking at Jace expectantly. “The music, I mean. I was, y'know, really nervous, but I- I think I was okay. Not great, but not horrible, and-”

 

“Simon,” Jace cuts him off, fighting the smile tugging at his lips, “you did good.”

 

“Really?” Simon flops into himself, looking relieved and thankful. “Man, I am so glad to hear that. So, you- you really like it?”

 

Jace can't help it; his lips spread into a small, warm smile. “Yeah,” he confirms, “I did.”

 

“I practiced for hours, did you know? One of the best things about being a vampire is that my throat doesn't ever get raw.” Simon looks down with a pleased smile. “I'm glad it paid off.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Jace changes the subject, aware his face is entirely too soft right now. “I see Raphael and some of his clan came to support you.”

 

Simon's head snaps up, swinging over to find the aforementioned group. “Yeah, they did! I think it's Raphael's way of apologizing after he- well, it's a long story, but Magnus helped us work it out.”

 

“Or… vampire solidarity,” Jace suggests.

 

Simon snorts. “Yeah, maybe.” His smile drops and he clears his throat, lifting a finger up to scrub at his eyebrow. “I, uh, just wanted to say thank you. About not taking my DNA and then getting me out of prison. I know that we don't- that we aren't-”

 

Jace swipes a hand through the air. “Don't mention it, ever. It's not that big of a deal.”

 

“Its kinda is, to me at least,” Simon murmurs, looking straight at Jace.

 

“Well-”

 

“Hey!” Clary exclaims as she joins them, slipping in next to Simon, their hands threading together, eyes straying to each other effortlessly.

 

Jace feels a wave of guilt and jealousy swirl in his chest, so it's hard to grit out, “Hey.”

 

“What were you two talking about?” Clary asks lightly, but Jace can see just how uncomfortable she is at the moment.

 

“Nothing!” Simon blurts, coughing. “Nothing- we weren't really talking. Um, you ready to get out of here?”

 

Clary looks more than ready for that. “Yes.”

 

They wave awkwardly as they start backing away, and Jace just offers them a nod. He watches them turn and walk out the door, pausing to kiss for a moment; it's just a small peck that breaks around a smile. But Jace immediately thinks about the seemingly never-ending dream, the one that plays out in a series of events, the one that always feels real, the one he never knows is a dream, the one that features Simon as his freaking fiance.

 

Their kiss had been nothing like that.

 

And that's it. Jace can't take this shit anymore. If he's bisexual, he needs to know, and it can't be found out with Simon; he sure as hell doesn't want it to be, even if his subconscious apparently does. No, he's going to do this on his own, and he's not going to run from it. He faces shit head on; he'll do it with this as well.

 

Shoving from the bar, Jace turns and sets his shoulders, ignoring his nerves. Before he can talk himself out of it, Jace marches over towards Meliorn, who is standing with another seelie, just talking. When they see him approach, they go quiet and stare at him curiously.

 

“Shadowhunter,” Meliorn greets lightly, scars only making him more attractive somehow, and that is so not fair. “You look as if you're on a mission.”

 

Jace exhales slowly. “I am, of sorts. May I have a word with you privately?”

 

Meliorn smiles, and it's so pretty, what the fuck. He dips his head at the other seelie. “Please, Abner, excuse me. The Shadowhunter has asked so politely, I feel it would be rude to refuse.”

 

Abner simply nods. “Of course, Meliorn. Search me out if you return.”

 

Meliorn smiles sharply. “Oh, trust me, I will return.”

 

With that, Meliorn turns and leads him towards the back door, gliding past people expertly, looking the opposite of Jace's steady stride. The moment they step outside, the sounds from inside go dull and muffled, making it easier for Jace to breathe. Meliorn turns towards him, waiting patiently with an elegance only a seelie can produce while Jace checks to make sure there are no others in the alley.

 

When he finds it clear, he swallows and steps towards Meliorn, diving right in. “You don't hate me, right?”

 

Meliorn's eyebrows shoot up. “And why do you ask me that, Shadowhunter?”

 

“Please call me Jace, and I'm asking because you can't lie,” Jace says bluntly.

 

“I see.” Meliorn hums quietly. “I do not hate you, per say. Your people, however-”

 

“Don't say anymore,” Jace interrupts quickly. “That's not what this is about. Um, do you think I'm… attractive? Like, would you… you know.”

 

Meliorn slowly looks him up and down, as if he's never considered it before now. Then, he simply says, “Yes.”

 

“Okay, that's- okay. Look, Magnus said you could help me with… me.” Jace takes a deep breath, slowly letting it out. “I've never- I don't know how to- shit, this is so much easier with women.”

 

Yet, Meliorn seems to understand anyway. His eyes light up and he releases a soft laugh. “Well, I must admit, Jace, I am certainly surprised by this.”

 

“You can't tell anyone,” Jace snaps roughly, eyes skirting from side to side. “I don't even know if-”

 

“Rest assured, I will avoid telling this to anyone, if possible. You wish to find out if you're sexually attracted to men, yes?”

 

“Yes…”

 

Meliorn tips his head to the right, dark eyes carefully examining his face. “Do you think you are gay, Jace?”

 

“No,” Jace replies without missing a beat. “I'm into women, always have been, always will be.”

 

“So, you're assuming you like both. Or questioning, at the very least,” Meliorn surmises.

 

Jace nods. “Yeah, exactly.”

 

“Alright. Well, are you sexually attracted to me?” Meliorn asks simply.

 

“You're- I mean, I know that you're… attractive, but I don't know if I'd enjoy doing anything with you.”

 

“So new, so naive. I do so enjoy these moments.”

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “Well, not everyone can just know they like men, okay? Are you going to help or not?”

 

“That depends on you. What do you want from me?” Meliorn asks seriously.

 

“I'm a sexual creature, okay? I dunno if you've heard, but I like sex. I have it a lot. I know what sexual desire feels like. But with women, it's easy. I look at them and I just know I'd have sex with them, or not. But with men, I don't know if I'd have sex with any of them, or even want to.”

 

“What usually gets you excited about sex with a woman? A touch, a kiss, actually getting naked, actually having sex? At what point does that feeling of desire hit you?”

 

“I mean, a kiss, usually? When it heats up, I guess.”

 

Meliorn takes three steps forward, staring at him, so close that Jace tenses. “Very well. I am going to kiss you now, do you object?”

 

Jace's breath gets locked in his throat and he freezes in place. It's all he can do to slowly shake his head, giving Meliorn permission. He needs to know, right? This is probably the best way.

 

Meliorn just smirks slightly, gaze dropping to look at Jace's lips, studying them as if he needs to know the best way to kiss them. Then, he reaches up, lightly runs his fingers up into Jace's hair, and he kisses him. It takes Jace three seconds to realize that Meliorn is not messing around.

 

Jace doesn't react at first, brain too focused on trying to figure out if he actually likes it, but Meliorn is gentle, even in his intensity. It's not rushed, but it definitely is full of heat.

 

About the time that Meliorn runs the tip of his tongue across Jace's bottom lip, just teasing, Jace stops trying to catalogue everything. It's not like kissing him is so ultimately opposite than kissing a girl, even with its differences. Meliorn has soft, pillowy lips; his tongue is wet and textured; his teeth are sharper and more careful when they nip.

 

But all in all, Jace really doesn't care.

 

Mindless with action, he hooks a hand around Meliorn's neck and tugs him closer, curling in and deepening the kiss with a sharp inhale through his nose. And there it is, the coil of pleasant tension in his gut, unfurling hotly. Desire.

 

Meliorn backs him into the brick wall by the door, and Jace lets him. He goes with it, hums in approval when Meliorn tugs a little harder on his hair, uses his free hand to press into the small of his back and pull them hip to hip. They kiss, open-mouthed and wet, and Jace feels it - he feels that desire, and without a doubt, he knows.

 

And he's also gone enough to actually go through with having sex with Meliorn, caught up in the tension, body straining for release. But with one last swipe of his tongue, Meliorn slowly pulls away, smoothing Jace's hair and stepping out of his grasp. Jace swallows and breathes, just blinking at Meliorn in open shock.

 

“Does that answer your question?” Meliorn asks quietly, eyebrows raised, lips swollen.

 

“Yeah,” Jace croaks and immediately clears his throat, coughing slightly and forcing himself to step away from the brick and just relax.

 

Meliorn smiles. “I am glad to be of service. If you wish to continue-”

 

“No!” Jace blurts, raising his hands. Then, he calms himself and licks his lips. Softer this time, he mumbles, “No, I think I need time to… figure some things out.”

 

“That's understandable,” Meliorn says, and he sounds genuine. “If you wish to continue in the future, you may call upon me.”

 

“Thank you, Meliorn.”

 

“Really, Jace, it was my pleasure.”

 

With a sensual smile, Meliorn walks past him and goes back inside, leaving Jace out in the cold. He tips his head back and breathes, closing his eyes, trying to adjust to yet another change in his life.

 

This one, at least, is his.

Chapter Text

Someone is tugging Jace by the hand, and when he glances up, it's just Simon. It's all Jace can do not to snatch away, but he realizes what direction they're heading and his heart starts racing.

 

“Clary,” Simon says excitedly, pulling to a stop in front of the girl in question.

 

Clary smiles beautifully at them, practically glowing, tousled red hair in a braid. “Simon, Jace, you both look so good! How'd it go at your mom's?”

 

“Actually really well,” Simon tells her as if he's faintly surprised himself. With a smile, he presses into Jace's side, free hand running up and down Jace's arm that connects their hands. “Jace actually appeased them a bit. The news took them by surprise though. Rebecca was… well, Rebecca.”

 

“I'm glad,” Clary tells them, and she is. “So, what's up? You came running over here like a chicken with your head cut off.”

 

Simon chews his bottom lip and almost vibrates out of his skin with excitement. “I wanted to ask you something. As my best friend, ex girlfriend, and literal only groupie, would you do the honors of being my best man?”

 

Clary's face brightens with joy and she gives a little squeal, bursting forward to wrap them both in a hug, and her hair smells as nice as Simon's hand feels caressing his arm. She shifts them side to side, pulling back with a huge grin, looking as if this is the best thing that's happened to her ever.

 

“Of course! I'd be honored. Please tell me I get to wear a tux.” Clary laughs and claps her hands when Simon nods. She turns to Jace. “And Alec will be your best man, right?”

 

Jace doesn't even have to think about that. “Yes.”

 

“Perfect!” Clary winks at them. “That means I get to accidentally step on his feet for our dance.”

 

Jace has mostly worked everything that's happening out, simply by gut feelings alone. He has the strangest feeling that he's been here before, but he can't remember. All he knows is that he's so fucking confused about feelings right now. He loves Clary, right? But he has… what, feelings for Simon? Nothing is making sense.

 

But apparently he and Simon are getting married, so that clears things up.

 

Except it doesn't, at all.

 

“I'm gonna go talk to Alec, okay?” Jace says abruptly, pulling away from Simon.

 

Simon smiles at him. “Mmkay. Hey, ask Magnus if he has any O Neg on tap. High emotions at my mom kinda make me hangry.”

 

Jace hides a grimace. “Um, okay.”

 

“You're the best,” Simon chirps as he starts walking away. “Love you!”

 

Jace picks up his pace and pretends like he didn't hear that, even though he's internally panicking because he really did. He surges past Alec, reaching out to grab his arm and literally drag him from Magnus. He gives a smile, one so fake that Magnus looks surprised, but Jace just shoves Alec into a room and slams the door.

 

“Jace, what the hell?” Alec blurts, staring at him like he's grown a second head.

 

Jace reaches up and runs a hand through his hair, knows he looks a little unhinged right now, doesn't even care. “This is crazy, this is- how did Simon and I even end up together?”

 

Alec snorts. “I ask myself that all the time.”

 

“Alec, I'm serious,” Jace hisses, waving his hands around wildly. “I- I was in love with Clary, then I wasn't? And Simon just- I don't understand.”

 

“Hey, hey, calm down,” Alec says gently, amusement crumbling into genuine concern. “You're not second guessing this, are you? Because, Jace, I have never seen you this happy in my entire life, okay? Trust me, I struggled with the surreality of it for awhile; we all did. But somehow - no one knows how - you two just… work. Like me and Magnus.”

 

“This just doesn't make any sense,” Jace croaks, fumbling over to the bed in the room and slowly sinking down, staring at the floor.

 

Alec is quiet as he joins him on the bed, sitting beside him with a soft sigh. “I don't know, Jace. I mean, Izzy says opposites attract like that sometimes, but I just think you two stopped fighting over Clary long enough to actually make a connection. He's less nervous; you make him feel safe. You're softer, but in a good way; he makes you a lot happier. I don't think there's really anything you wouldn't do for each other, even from the beginning. Hell, you both put up with the backlash from the rest of us. It was rough, but everyone came out on the other side happier, especially you and Simon.”

 

Jace takes a moment to process that, feeling slightly sick in the way you do when you've been given terrible news. Slowly, he mutters, “But he's… him.”

 

“Yeah,” Alec agrees with another snort of amusement. Then, with a soft smile, Alec looks at him and declares, “But that's why you love him.”

 

Jace sits up in his bed frantically, heart hammering in his chest, and he slowly realizes where he is. Another dream, he bemoans in his head. This really is starting to worry him; it isn't going away, not even with the knowledge that he's hot for guys too.

 

But he still wants Clary… he's pretty sure. That's his one saving grace, because there's no way he's falling for Simon through dreams. Jace will be damned - again - before he lets that happen.

 

Pushing it from his mind yet again, Jace gets ready for the day, hoping to just avoid all the bullshit that seems to be haunting him now. Except, that goes down the drain when Alec, the head of the institute, tells him in no uncertain terms that he will have to go with Clary to visit the seelie court. But Jace thinks he can get through that, he'll just avoid her and the guilt, focusing only on the mission. Except, that washes away with the arrival of Simon, who refuses to leave, who continues to make his life hell, even without fucking trying.

 

Jace is already tired.





 




“You think I'm pretty?”

 

Simon doesn't know why, but he's stupidly pleased by that. Jace just rolls his eyes, turning away, but Simon can tell that he does because he goes really tense and starts walking away. Clary chuckles quietly, reaching out to grab his hand and pull him into following Jace, rather than stand there with a grin, feeling proud.

 

Being called pretty by Jace is so nice because Jace is pretty, and that feels really good. Simon's never really been the attractive guy in any situation - he's certainly never been called pretty - so this makes his immobile heart swell in his chest. Simon thinks about telling Jace that he's pretty too, because Jace really is, but Clary distracts him before he can.

 

They continue to walk on, Jace giving stern warnings, but Simon's only paying a little bit of attention. He's rotating between looking at Clary's pretty red hair and Jace's pretty blonde hair. It really takes most of his thoughts, leaving him very little room to panic about this trip.

 

If Clary notices, she doesn't say anything. She's not exactly the jealous type, not that Simon knows, but it's hard to be jealous when they're holding hands. Besides, he's just looking, and to be fair, he's looking at them both. Besides, Jace is as straight as they come. Clary knows he's pansexual, she hasn't ever cared, they've actually discussed unobtainable hot guys together before; in his mind, Jace is no different. But they'll never discuss him, because he and Clary have history, and Simon just can't.

 

Those thoughts quickly erase when they meet the seelie queen. It's all he can do not to gape and start hissing about how adopting the body of a child makes her less threatening. He'll wait until they're alone to do that.

 

But then, Jace is saying really nice things about him. Deeper than just calling him pretty. He's a loyal friend, proved himself, good. Simon stares at the side of Jace's face and tries to tell himself to stop looking so starstruck; really, his girlfriend is right there.

 

Clary, however, is staring at Jace in surprise too. But there's something in her gaze that Simon doesn't understand. It's suspicion, and for some reason, that hurts. It's like she thinks Jace can't say those things, and though he knows it's not true, it feels like she thinks they're lies.

 

The seelie queen smirks. “This is going to be fun.”

 

It is not fun.

 

The seelie queen is freaking scary. When she says dead, dead, dead and drops the apple after flashing, frankly, horrifying teeth - and he knows he doesn't exactly have room to talk, but still - it's all Simon can do not to get up and run then. But she suddenly wants to be alone with him, and Simon is freaking out so much that he clamps down on the leg closest to him, fingers digging into a thick thigh.

 

Jace sucks in a sharp breath, but that's the only reaction he gives. Firmly, he says, “Please, your majesty, we don't like to be seperated.”

 

Simon may be a vampire, but he's not even technically legal drinking age yet - close, but not quite, and now cursed never to see it - so he isn't even all that mad when his brain provides him images of him, Clary, and Jace not separated in more ways than one. It's wrong and messed up, but it's not like anyone can read his mind. Shit, he really hopes the seelie can't read his mind.

 

But the queen doesn't appear to be taking no for an answer, so Simon releases his grip on Jace's leg and pushes himself to his feet, trying not to look so terrified as he reassures them both. By the look of worry in Clary's eyes, carefully and surprisingly reflected in Jace's, he guesses he didn't do so well.

 

Things are rocky with the queen anyway, and Simon still doesn't fully understand this world, but the moment she insults Shadowhunters, conviction and the need to defend flares in him.

 

“You mean the circle,” he corrects a little forcefully.

 

The queen quirks a small smile. “So young, so naive. I mean all the Shadowhunters. They always defer to their own kind, careless to ours.”

 

“Look, I can't speak for all of them, but Clary and Jace aren't like that,” Simon insists, feeling as if he can include Jace in this now. They seemed to have reached that point, he thinks.

 

The queen says a lot of things that Simon doesn't like, but he knows an issue when he sees one. This does not look good at all, not for anyone. He just hopes she's wrong about darker days ahead, because Simon really isn't ready for that.

 

As soon as he's free, he rushes out of the room. Jace and Clary scramble to their feet, scanning him head to toe, and Simon just wants to leave, wants to escape the foreboding feeling he has while being here. He nearly collides into Clary, can feel her hands on his arms, still doesn't want to slow down.

 

“We need to go, we need to go right now.”

 

Jace reaches out and jerks him to halt, clearing his throat loudly as Simon fidgets in his grasp. “Your majesty, we really should be going now.”

 

Simon isn't really sure how killing bugs gets him in the next predicament, but when facing death, he prefers a game. He says so, which earns him a sharp glare from Jace.

 

The queen steps forward with a smug smile, eyes dancing in humor. “All I require is a kiss.”

 

Clary draws up short. “You want one of us to kiss you?” she blurts, sound two parts shocked, one part horrified at the thought.

 

Simon can relate.

 

“Oh no, the game is not for me, Clary; it's for you. See, to free your friends, I need the kiss most desired,” the queen declares victoriously.

 

Simon ignores the swoop in his stomach, eyeing the vines slowly crawling up his chest. “Clary, hurry up and kiss me so we can go.”

 

“Fine,” Clary snaps, sending a disgusted look in the queen's direction.

 

It's hard to enjoy the kiss when death is seconds away, but he tries to sink into it anyway. When she pulls away, only seconds later, the vines haven't retreated at all, and they're getting tighter. Simon's on the verge of panicking.

 

“Oh my,” the queen teases, giving a twinkling giggle.

 

Clary whirls around. “Why didn't that work? I did what you asked!”

 

The queen tilts her head. “It appears not. The vines do not lie, Clary Fairchild. The kiss most desired will release them, and you best hurry.”

 

It's as if it happens in slow motion. Simon wants to close his eyes, but it's like watching a horrific car crash; he can't tear his eyes away. Clary walks up to Jace, looking so angry, and Simon suddenly thinks he'd prefer death.

 

“This means nothing,” she hisses at Jace.

 

Jace tries to nod as best he can with vines slowly wrapping around him. And Simon watches as she leans forward and kisses Jace, her whole body still impossibly tense. Her eyebrows are furrowed, lips moving slowly, and she's focusing with more intent than she ever does with Simon. Jace can barely move to kiss back, but Clary doesn't seem to care, tilting her head to kiss him harder with a grunt of determination, like the kiss is almost perfect.

 

Simon know his heart doesn't beat anymore, but he learns then and there that it can still shatter.

 

But that has to be put on hold because the vines are not going away. A part of Simon wants to feel hope at that, but Clary is still kissing Jace as if she's working at it, and that's more of an answer than what she says when Jace jerks his head back from her with a strained choking noise, eyes full of panic.

 

Clary whirls towards the queen. “Okay! Okay, I did it. I gave you the kiss I most desire; let them go. Please, you're killing them!”

 

“Well, I am surprised,” the queen admits, tilting her head slightly. “It seems that your desire is not returned. Your fellow Shadowhunter does not desire you the most, Clary Fairchild.”

 

“I don't care, I don't- please, they're dying!” Clary shouts frantically, reaching out to try and tug at the vines, her face a mask of panic.

 

“You did play the game, so I shall keep my word,” the queen hums, waving a hand.

 

And just like that, the vines recede. Simon starts sucking in choking breath, stumbling to the side, and Jace sounds as bad as him, but it's Jace who catches him before he falls. Clary makes an aborted movement forwards, but Simon jerks back from her, stumbling away from them both.

 

“It- it was a trick,” Clary stutters, watching Simon with nothing but pain, and he wishes he could believe her.

 

The queen tuts lightly. “It wasn't,” she says simply, addressing him. “Do you see, Simon? They always choose their own kind in the end.”

 

Clary takes a step forward, but Jace grasps her elbow, tugging her back. “You little-”

 

“Your majesty, are we free to leave?” Jace asks through gritted teeth.

 

Simon does not wait for her answer. He runs.

Chapter Text

Valentine is going to Idris in a week. Jace wants to feel relief, but all he feels is anxiety. He has this horrible feeling like something is going to go terribly wrong, and he can't shake it.

 

It's that he knows only one person who deals with this, and what happened at the seelie court, that pushes him to go see Simon. He's not sure why exactly, besides the fact that he wants to make sure he's okay. From what he's gathered from Izzy, Clary is an absolute mess and Simon won't talk to her. For once, he doesn't feel guilty, because he's not happy about this at all. In fact, he feels as if he has no part in it, isn't even involved.

 

The queen had solidified what he's been avoiding for weeks now. What he felt for Clary before is no longer the same. He loves her, sure, always will, but it's made of respect and friendship; Jace, somewhere along the way, fell out of love with Clary.

 

But that doesn't mean he isn't partially to blame. The feelings he had are gone. But Clary's, apparently, are not. And that screwed her and Simon's relationship.

 

Jace just wants to check on Simon, maybe even apologize, so he goes out to do just that.

 

Luke gets to him first. “I was going to call Clary, but now that you're here, I think I'll leave her out of it.”

 

The shirt is covered in blood, the fingerprints don't look good, and Luke looks worried. Jace swallows and tries to imagine Simon killing some innocent mundane. Even with the evidence, he can't.

 

“This isn't Simon,” Jace says firmly. “I don't know what happened, but I don't think he killed anybody. But we need to find him.”

 

“Let's hope you're right,” Luke murmurs with a sigh.

 

It takes most of the day, and when Izzy calls and asks him to come help plan for Valentine's move, he politely refuses, says he's busy. Luke asks who's going to be doing the portaling, Jace tells him that Duncan volunteered, and he's never seen Luke look so disappointed for as long as he's known him.

 

“What?” Jace asks, baffled.

 

Luke huffs a quiet breath. “Look, I get it, okay? I was a Shadowhunter, so I understand how easy it is to trust one of your own. But if Valentine has taught you anything, isn't it to not leave yourself open for deceit? With something as important as this, trust no one but yourself.”

 

And that makes too much sense to be offensive, so Jace calls Izzy back and has her reassigned to do the portaling. After he explains, she gets fully on board and thanks him for the tip; he tells her to thank Luke the next time she sees him. Even in the midst of this worrying murder, Luke manages a little proud smile.

 

The fact that Raphael is at the club confirms that Simon is, and hearing that Quinn is the true murderer - not Simon - makes Jace smirk triumphantly in Luke's direction. What they walk in on wipes that smirk away entirely.

 

Simon should not move like that, like he knows how to fight, like he's so full of anger that he wants nothing more than rip everything in front of him apart. A horrible part of Jace's brain whispers that it's incredibly attractive, and Jace firmly ignores it. And when it's over with Simon panting and holding the broken handle, Jace just stares.

 

“Simon,”Luke calls quietly, making Simon jolt and drop the handle, eyes wide, suddenly back to being his normal jumpy self.

 

“I- I didn't-”

 

“We know,” Jace says gently. He walks forward slowly, hands up. “Are you alright?”

 

Simon blinks at him. “I'm- why are you here?”

 

Jace shrugs. “I needed to talk to you.”

 

“I need to go.” Simon stares around, looking dazed. He swallows. “If you still want to talk, I'll meet you back at mine, but- but I need to- I have to go.”

 

“Okay,” Jace replies easily.

 

And then Simon's gone in a blur.





 




“You're always going to be my best friend, Fray.”

 

Clary has tears in her eyes. “Simon, you're one of the most important people to me in this entire world. I'm sorry. I am so sorry.”

 

Simon swallows, looks down at his shoes. He's sorry too, but he understands. “You can't help what you feel. I just… I need time, okay?”

 

“Whatever you need,” Clary whispers.

 

“I'm- man, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm sorry Jace doesn't feel the same,” Simon murmurs, chest pinching with discomfort. Honestly, he wouldn't blame Jace if he did, but he doesn't, and Simon almost can't fathom it.

 

He loves Clary, will love her for as long as he lives, which could be a long time. But even in their relationship, they were best friends first. The more that came with it is just being redacted now, and Simon has to get through that reconstruction, learn to move on, learn to adjust. He's not angry with her; in a way, he understands.

 

She doesn't love Simon any less, she simply can't love him enough. And they could live like that, happy and together, but Simon can't handle it. He thinks he's known it for awhile. It's just how she feels, and a small part of him that can rationalize anything completely gets it.

 

Jace is… well, he's Jace. It would be easier if Simon was blind or didn't start to actually kinda like the guy, but here he is, understanding. What baffles him is that Jace doesn't return those feelings, especially after how he'd acted in the beginning. But perhaps Jace managed to move on.

 

Simon eventually will too.

 

Clary shrugs, sniffling quietly. “I guess it's what I deserve. I- I hate to say this, but it hurts. I broke your heart and he hasn't done anything wrong in all this. I- it just feels so… off? Like I'm not as hurt as I should be? But I know that's wrong and I kind of hate myself for it. All of this, it's my fault, no one else's. I only have myself to blame.”

 

“We're all going to get through this, Clary,” Simon assures her softly, reaching out to squeeze her shoulder. “Maybe we can just all be friends and live that way for awhile. Maybe you two will work out. Maybe he and I will elope in Vegas. We don't know the future, you know.”

 

“Oh jeez.” Clary sniffles again, but this time she's laughing, and Simon feels instantly better. “Well, if you and Jace become a thing, I demand a sex tape to help me get through it.”

 

“Kinky,” Simon teases, waggling his eyebrows.

 

Clary full out grins then. “What can I say? You two together would be hot, don't you think?”

 

Simon purses his lips, picturing it, and he snorts at her bright eyes. “You're right. Look, the day Jace and I get together, I'll let him know about our deal.”

 

“Cross your heart?”

 

“Already died.”

 

Then they're hugging, and it's not easy, but Simon has the feeling that it will be soon. They just have to find equal footing again; time is what they need. So, when he pulls away, his heart heavy, he makes for the door and doesn't look back, even as Clary's soft sobs follow him out.

 

Vampirism helps him get to his makeshift home in no time, and he bangs in with plans knocking around in his head. He needs his blackout curtains, a tub of ice cream he can't eat, and to never leave his bed again. But Jace is sprawled out on his bed like he belongs there, casually scrolling through his phone, and only then does Simon remember that Jace needed to talk to him.

 

“Welcome back,” Jace drawls, still propped up on Simon's bed, in the very spot Clary used to occupy.

 

Without a thought, Simon toes off his shoes, yanks off his jacket, and flops back into the bed beside Jace, staring up at the ceiling. He'd assumed that Jace would be up and off the bed at that addition of proximity, but Jace doesn't move except to lie his phone down on his stomach.

 

“I went and saw Clary,” Simon murmurs.

 

“Oh. How'd that go?”

 

“We broke up.”

 

“Simon,” Jace mutters awkwardly.

 

Simon just sighs heavily. “Don't. It's not your fault, or hers, or even mine. It just… is.”

 

“She loves you, she was happy with you,” Jace says, lifting one arm behind his head, turning his criminally perfect face towards Simon.

 

“Yeah, I- I know that. But it's not the same, and I can't accept what we had.” Simon slowly turns his head too, staring at Jace. “I'm surprised at you, I gotta admit. You not loving Clary? Plot twist.”

 

Jace's jaw jumps as his eyes slide away, gaze shifting as his lips purse slightly. “I love Clary, but I'm not in love with her, not anymore.”

 

“I hate to say it, but I think I'd like to feel the same way right about now,” Simon admits in a croak, throat growing thick as a fresh wave of emotion hits him and makes his whole body ache.

 

“No, you don't. I'm having my own romantic issues to deal with at the moment.”

 

“Hey, we can't all be Alec and Magnus.”

 

Jace huffs a quiet laugh. “No, we definitely cannot.”

 

They dip into a comfortable silence, both just lying on their respective sides of the bed, back to staring at the ceiling. Simon can feels Jace's presence, even feels some of his heat, but he's not overbearing. Simon actually feels… comforted? It's almost like Jace knows exactly what he needs; which is to be talked to casually or completely silent in other moments. Simon actually feels like he can breathe.

 

It stretches on like that for long moments, and Simon can feel himself relaxing in increments. Jace picks his phone back up; he's playing some game that looks like a maze. He watches him play out of the corner of his eye, and when he sees the route Jace can't seem to find, he doesn't even think twice before reaching over and pointing it out. Wordlessly, Jace takes his advice.

 

An hour bleeds away like that. They stay silent and play the game together in gestures. And Simon doesn't even feel that empty anymore, even if that doesn't make much sense.

 

When Simon suddenly remembers why Jace is even here, he breaks the silence with, “Shit, I almost forgot. You needed to talk to me, right?”

 

Jace puts his phone down. “Valentine is being transported to Idris in a week. I'm supposed to feel reassured, but I don't.”

 

“And you wanted to talk to me about it?”

 

“Alec is busy, Izzy is planning the transport, Clary is avoiding me at all costs, and you're the only other person who's spent more than just a few minutes with the man. You know how… bad he is.”

 

“Fair enough,” Simon allows with a sigh. “Yeah, he's the kinda thing you're gonna worry about. But you said Izzy is handling the transport, right? As long as she has her hands on him with you to back her up, Valentine will face justice.”

 

Jace is quiet for a beat. Then, “Thanks.”

 

“Trust me, I completely understand the anxiety. In my opinion, he needs to be put down. He can't destroy shit if he's dead.” Simon tsks lightly, shifting on the bed. “But if he's in Idris, he'll be their problem, won't he? They'll handle him and it won't be on any of us anymore.”

 

“I should have killed him when I had the chance.”

 

“Maybe, maybe not. You did what you did, but you caught him when no others could. Take the win.”

 

“Right,” Jace says, voice quiet and low.

 

When Simon looks at him, he has the brooding expression that Simon usually sees on his face when he feels guilty. And honestly, Simon doesn't want that shit near him right now. Not now, not when he's finally finding a semblance of calm.

 

“Okay, I'm about to introduce you to Harry Potter, and we're both about to stop feeling sorry for ourselves,” Simon declares firmly, popping up from the bed to move over to the TV and put in the very first movie.

 

Jace simply asks, “Who is Harry Potter?”

 

“A boy who can't catch a break; you'll love him, trust me.” Simon quirks a smile as the movie starts, darting back to the bed to lean back into the pillows. Jace props up to stare at the screen curiously. “The books are better, not going to lie, but we'll work up to it. Now, sit back and enjoy.”

 

And they do. Jace is infatuated with the mundane movie, asking questions under his breath, listening intently as Simon answers them. Slowly, Jace becomes engrossed, and as the dark grows heavier, they carry on quiet conversations about the movie. The night draws on, Jace cuts his phone off, Simon gets under the cover, Harry becomes a seeker. It's all so easy and comfortable, and by the time the second movie is ready to be played, they're both asleep.

 

Chapter Text

Clary enters the room just as Izzy pulls back from the plans, and Jace takes a step away.

 

“Are we done here?” he asks Izzy.

 

Izzy flicks her gaze to Clary. “Yeah, you're free to go wherever it is you've been going for the past four nights,” she teases lightly.

 

Jace simply nods and pivots in his spot, heading towards the door. He thinks Clary isn't going to pursue him at first, but then he hears the sound of her boots behind him and she shouts, “Jace!”

 

He hasn't talked to, or even seen her since the seelie queen revealed everyone's feelings. It's not that he's avoiding her exactly, but he definitely isn't searching her out. But he knows they have to hash this out sooner or later, even if he doesn't know what to say.

 

Yeah, so I fell out of love with you by accident. No, really! See, I've been having these recurring dreams about the person I usually don't like - your best friend and, as of recently, ex-boyfriend. And now I'm falling for him instead! I know, crazy right?

 

Because that will go over well.

 

Internally rolling his eyes, Jace turns around and stares at Clary. “What?” he barks.

 

“Jace, you can't keep avoiding me,” Clary says softly, staring up into his face.

 

“I'm not-”

 

“You are. You walk out of a room as soon as I walk in, and you've been spending time out of the institute as soon as the work is over for the day.”

 

Jace clenches his jaw. “Look, it's- it's not like that, okay? I've just been… out.”

 

“I don't care about your book club,” Clary snaps, rolling her eyes, and Jace wants to laugh in her face for thinking that's how he's spending his time at the moment. “I think we should talk about this because I don't want to lose you as a friend, and that goes beyond my… desire for you, okay?”

 

“Clary, you're not losing me as a friend,” Jace says, some of his sharpness fading. “What you feel for me - it's okay, I don't hate you for it. In fact, I get it.” He quirks a teasing smile. “I mean, have you met me?”

 

Clary reaches out and lightly smacks his arm, chuckling and shaking her head. “I know you don't feel the same and I'm not mad. I just want to be friends, partners. You understand things about me that no one else ever will, we fight really good together, and- and I care about you. So, please don't let my feelings ruin… us.”

 

Jace sighs and reaches out to pull her into a brief hug, sweeping a hand up her back, pulling back to give her a genuine smile. “I love you, Clary, and I always will. I just don't… love you. I don't know when it happened, and you wouldn't believe me if I told you how. But that's for another time. I've got to go now, but I'm not avoiding you.”

 

“Just for curiosity sake, where have you been going?”

 

“That's another thing you wouldn't believe.”

 

Jace smirks at her as he turns on the spot and leaves. She huffs a short laugh behind him, but he doesn't turn back around to defend himself. He just picks up the pace and hurries out of the institute.

 

He makes it to the boathouse just as the sky starts darkening, right on the brink of dusk. He's not exactly keeping this a secret, but as long as no one's talking about it, he isn't going to make it noticeable. He stays out of sight of the little chinese restaurant and lightly knocks on the metal door to Simon's home.

 

“Hey, you ready to see Harry start a club?” Simon chirps as he slings the door open with a grin.

 

Jace frowns as he enters and shuts the door behind him with its usual clang. “Why is he starting a club? Shouldn't he be trying to find Voldemort?”

 

“He's kinda busy with Umbridge. Don't worry, you'll get to meet her soon enough, and trust me, you'll hate her.” Simon waggles his eyebrows as he moves over to the DVD player. “And just wait until you see what happens with Cho.”

 

Jace plops back on Simon's bed, shifting back against the pillows in the spot he's basically made his at this point. “Oh, does my boy finally get some? And are Hermione and Krum gonna get some action at any point? Also, is Draco going to stop being a bitch in this one?”

 

Simon just stares at him. “There are so many things wrong with all the things you just said, you have no idea. Harry doesn't, um, get some, as you say. Not yet. And I can't believe you like Hermione and Krum.”

 

“Hey, he was into her. I think she should get with a guy who appreciates her,” Jace mutters defensively. He waves a hand. “Besides, I know Ron and her are gonna be a thing, but I'm not feeling it.”

 

“Damn, you don't know how much that hurts me,” Simon admits, gripping his chest and shaking his head in faux despair. “The books do them more justice. And to answer your other question, Draco is just a little… misunderstood.”

 

“Draco is a little shit.”

 

“I mean, yeah,” Simon agrees with a faint smile. “Just wait until we watch all the movies before you give final judgement. But Umbridge? You're allowed to hate her all you want.”

 

Jace spreads his hands. “Fair enough. Now, play it.”

 

Simon does and plops down beside Jace as the opening credits start. They sink back into the pillows, quiet and comfortable, and Jace knows this should be weird, but it just… isn't.

 

They talk quietly back and forth through the movie, murmuring about the characters and what happens during it. Jace especially likes that the kids are fighting against the, admittedly, stupid rules. In a way, it feels like making peace with the downworlders against the Clave's unsaid disdain.

 

And this is how he's spent the last four days. He wastes away his evenings with Simon, watching these inane movies, pretending that this is completely normal. The thing is, Jace looks forward to this part of his day more than any other, as much as he hates to admit it.

 

This is peak relaxation. Just lying beside Simon, elbows almost touching, watching some mundane movie. They talk a little, but nothing heavy, and Jace is content in a way he rarely ever is. It's like a miniature vacation every night.

 

And Simon is as much of a dork as ever, mouthing lines, lightly tapping Jace's shoulder when something interesting is about to happen on the screen. It should be annoying, but it's mostly endearing. This is how Jace knows he's got it bad; he's watching Simon be himself and he's not itching to get away from him. In fact, he's itching to stay.

 

When the credits roll, Simon asks, “So, what did you think about this one?”

 

“Harry really can't catch a break,” Jace replies soberly, just like every other night.

 

“No, no he cannot.” Simon snorts and hops off the bed to remove the disk and grab his thermal full of blood for a snack break.

 

Just like the nights before. Because they have a routine now. On cue, Simon tosses him a bag of trail mix and a bottled water, which Jace takes without comment. They casually take their snack break together in silence while Simon looks through his DVDs for something to put on as a background. Jace wonders if it will be Yugi-Oh! or Power Rangers this time and has to withhold a snort when Simon predictably chooses Yugi-Oh! yet again.

 

Jace's favorite part of the strange cartoon is the intro, followed closely by the fact that none of the main character's friends seem to notice that he looks more badass when he's dueling. Simon's explained that it's just an illusion, and will be addressed at some point, but Jace finds it hilarious.

 

And just like every other night, they finish their snack break all at once, Simon comes back to bed, and Jace acts like he isn't going to fall asleep in a few episodes. Yeah, it's routine.

 

“Why is he so short?” Jace mumbles, huffing a quiet laugh when Simon clicks his tongue.

 

“Because the artists think they're funny.” Simon goes quiet for a moment. Then, he sighs. “So, I wanted to ask you something.”

 

This is not routine, Jace thinks, tensing.

 

Keeping his cool, he says, “Go ahead.”

 

“Valentine is going to Idris in three days, right?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What happens after?” Simon murmurs.

 

Jace blinks and turns his head to look at him with a small frown of confusion. “What do you mean?”

 

“I just- well, Valentine is what started all this mess, right? When he's gone, what's going to take up your- all of you, I mean- just, what are you all going to be doing?” Simon stutters, looking down at his tangled fingers and audibly swallowing thickly.

 

“Back to missions, most likely. Alec is running the institute, so the downworlder cabinet will hold. Even with Valentine gone, there will still be circle members to put a stop to, the cup to locate, and demons to kill.” Jace heaves a sigh, reaching up to put his hands behind his head. “No rest for the wicked, ya know. Why do you ask?”

 

“You'll be busy. Um, you all will.”

 

“We already are.”

 

Simon rolls his eyes. “More busy.”

 

“Maybe. It really depends on the forces of evil and all that shit.” Jace arches an eyebrow, grabbing Simon's attention. “What are you trying to ask, Simon?”

 

It takes Simon a long time to answer. He chews on his lip, throat working, eyes bouncing around the room. Then, he seems to gather himself. He sits up on his side, facing Jace, leaning on his elbow. He takes a deep breath and meets Jace's eyes.

 

“It's- it's just that I have this feeling that you come here to get away from all of… that. You know, the stuff with Valentine; you, I dunno, take a break with me 'cause I get that you need one? And- and that's fine, really!” Simon's eyes fall down to his tangled, writhing fingers. “But there's three more Harry Potter movies, Valentine will be gone, and… and it just feels like this is gonna end up being some, like, fever dream or something. Not saying I don't want it to be, that'd make more sense, because this by itself really doesn't, but-”

 

“Simon,” Jace says firmly, not harshly.

 

Simon swallows and looks up. “Yeah?”

 

“Are you trying to tell me that you're enamored with my presence and can't bear to lose it?” Jace teases, smirking playfully.

 

“Well, not exactly,” Simon replies, wrinkling his nose. “I'm just- I don't know, forget it.”

 

“Don't stress about it. I'll be around.” Jace can't stop himself from reaching over and clapping Simon's shoulder, mouth going dry at the proximity. “Besides, you do have my number. I'm always just one text away.”

 

“Right.” Simon breaks out into a relieved grin, flopping back into his pillows. “Right.”

 

Jace pretends his heart isn't doing funny things in his chest and goes back to watching Joey fight a zombie pumpkin. He's so tired from training, planning for Valentine's move, and the toll of finally making things right with Clary - even if it feels underhanded, considering the things happening to his heart at the moment, no matter how much he avoids them. On top of that, he's kind of deliriously giddy about the fact that Simon apparently wants him here as much as he wants to be here, even if it's not quite the same. He's full of disgust at the swirl of warmth and guilt swishing in his gut and so exhausted with all of this.

 

Jace is asleep before Joey even defeats Bones.





 




“Mom, do you think it's possible to love two people at once? Is that a thing?”

 

Simon listens to the silence on the other end of the line, chewing his lip, pacing the sidewalk while he keeps his eyes peeled for Clary.

 

Finally, his mom answers. “I don't think it's impossible, honey. What's going on? Girl trouble?”

 

“Sort of.”

 

“Is this about Clary?”

 

“Sort of.”

 

“Simon, honey, you can talk to me.”

 

Simon scans the people surrounding him one more time, keeping an eye out for a flash of beautiful red hair. “Me and Clary dated for a little bit. We, uh, broke up.”

 

“Oh, I'm so sorry. I know how much she meant to you,” his mom says softly.

 

“No, we're- I mean, we're still best friends, mom. But there was this other guy.” Simon takes a deep breath, closing his eyes briefly. “It's complicated, but she didn't do anything wrong. I just… I realized she still had feelings for her ex and I broke it off. But I know she loved me? But she also loved him? I- I don't really know how that works.”

 

His mom hums quietly. “Well, to be completely honest, love is a very fickle thing. It's complicated and mixed up, and it kind of takes a mind of its own. Simon, it's very possible that she loved you both. And if you weren't comfortable with that, it's okay. It doesn't mean she loves you any less, or you love her any less, it just means… you're aware of yourself and what you need. I'm sure she understood.”

 

“She did- she does! We agreed some time apart was good, but we're still best friends. And I think I'm getting past it?” Simon starts pacing again, unaware he'd stopped. “It's just that I'm about to see her for the first time since we broke up and I'm worried it's going to be awkward. Or worse, what if I'm still in love with her? Or what if I'm still angry that she wanted the other guy?”

 

“Okay, calm down, sweetheart. First, is she with the other guy?”

 

“Um, no actually. He, um, didn't reciprocate the feelings. And weirdly enough, he and I have been hanging out a lot. I think we're friends?”

 

His mom laughs softly. “Well, that's good. I'm glad you two aren't fighting. In that case, I sincerely doubt you'll be angry about her feelings. Maybe sad, but definitely not bitter.”

 

“That's true. He's actually a really good guy. And stupidly handsome. I think I understand why she feels how she does,” Simon admits with a slightly hysterical chuckle.

 

“Okay, so that's one thing. Tell me this, do you miss Clary?”

 

“Well… yeah.”

 

“What do you miss about her?”

 

“Just hanging out, honestly. Being able to talk, just being around her, laughing about our inside jokes.”

 

“I'm pretty sure you're not still completely in love with her,” his mom reassures him. “You may have feelings, sure, and that's completely okay. But you miss her, not what you had while you were in a relationship with her. Monkey, you two might just be two souls who have a genuine connection, and it isn't going to go away if you two can't have a romantic relationship. It's hard to distinguish the differences when it's as deep as you two are, and there's nothing wrong with that.”

 

“That's- that's actually really comforting, mom,” Simon admits in awe. “Thank you.”

 

His mom laughs. “I'm known to random bouts of knowledge every now and again.”

 

Simon grins, then it falters when he sees Clary break through the crowd. “Oh, she's here. Okay mom, I gotta go, love you!”

 

“Bye!”

 

Simon hangs up and hopes his smile isn't as awkward as it feels when Clary approaches. If it is, she doesn't let it stop her at all. With a bright smile, she calls his name, runs up to him, and pulls him into a tight hug. And it's… good. Simon doesn't have any of the feelings of hopeless pining that he did before they got together. There's a muted twist in his chest, like the prick of nostalgia, and it's sharper than he hoped it would be, but he figures that will lessen with time. That's all they need; time.

 

“I have so much to tell you,” Clary says, pulling them to the bench by the lake.

 

Simon's eyebrows jump. “Well, you better get to talking, Fray.”

 

And she does. She talks as if there was never a stutter between them. She gestures wide and smiles bright, touching him lightly and not lingering. She leans in his space, laughs, makes faces, and teases him as if they've only ever been best friends. It's so incredibly normal that it almost hurts.

 

The fact that it's not awkward is like a breath of fresh air. At first, Simon is upset that she seems to have erased their time together, but then he realizes that she hasn't. Even in their relationship, they had this. They were best friends who had sex and loved each other, and now, they're best friends who love each other and don't have sex.

 

It should be a hard transition, but it isn't. Simon's laughing right along with her, lightly touching, just as happy to be with her as ever. And maybe his mom is right; they're just two connected souls who are always meant to exist in proximity, whether it involves romance or not. In a way, Simon thinks this is better. There's a part of Clary in this, in what they have as best friends and nothing more, and he had missed it when it was hidden when they were dating. He's so relieved to see her again, all of her, and he sinks into this like there was never a hiccup, just like she has.

 

Maybe he hasn't fully moved on, maybe he will always love her just a bit more than normal, but he thinks that's perfectly okay.

 

They eventually stop catching up like they haven't talked in years, rather than days, and they lapse into more casual conversation. And then, Clary brings up Jace, and Simon's immediately interested.

 

“We're good,” she tells him with a calm smile, looking light and perfect. “I think being just friends is good for us.”

 

“Yeah?” Simon asks in surprise.

 

Clary nods. “Yeah. Me and him took on Alec and Izzy the other day in training and we totally kicked their asses. It was pretty awesome, I gotta admit. And it feels like he's less… intense all the time now? But us not being together shows me a side of him that I never saw. It's kinda nice.”

 

“Well, I'm glad you two are okay,” Simon tells her, and he actually means that.

 

“He certainly seems happier, but I don't think that has to do with just me,” Clary says, pursing her lips and narrowing her eyes.

 

“Oh?” Simon asks innocently, stomach swooping for reasons he can't identify.

 

Clary hums. “Yeah, I think he's doing something in the evenings, but I'm not sure what. I thought book club - which is just code for sex - but Izzy says that doesn't usually make him this happy, so I haven't figured it out yet.”

 

Simon almost tells her. He comes really close, but it feels like something to keep to himself. It's like his and Jace's separate thing, time carved out for themselves, just for them. And Simon doesn't want to share it, doesn't want it to end, so he swallows the words before they can come up.

 

Instead, he says, “Hey, let the man have his happiness. Maybe he goes to yoga or something.”

 

“Maybe,” Clary allows, snorting delicately.

 

And just like that, they move to another topic.

 

As usual, they get caught up together. It's not until the shops starts closing that he realizes it's dark out. He internally panics, thinking about Jace, and mentions the time. Fortunately, Clary has to get back, so she makes her leave without noticing just how urgent he is to get going.

 

It takes all of Simon's effort not to just run at full speed back home, but it's a close thing. He waits until he's out of sight, at least.

 

When he makes it home, Jace is already sprawled out on his bed, playing on his phone, much like the very first time he stayed over. Simon closes the door, and Jace looks up with an expectant expression.

 

“Sorry, I was with Clary,” Simon blurts, moving over to the DVD player.

 

“Doing what?” Jace asks casually, far too casually, and Simon risks a glance over his shoulder. Jace has a perfectly controlled look of indifference on his face, but Simon sees right through it.

 

“Just talking, being best friends, you know… the usual. We're… okay now, I think. Actually, I think we're better off not together,” Simon admits.

 

Jace's face clears and he looks guilty for a split second. “Why do you say that?”

 

Simon hums and grabs Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince from his shelf. “We just work like that, always have. The dating was fun, and I'll miss it, but I don't think I'd go back to it, even if I could. We're moving past it; honestly, it- it's good.”

 

“That's good,” Jace says. “I'm glad we're all okay about it. I was tired of feeling like shit all the time.”

 

“You shouldn't have felt bad; you didn't do anything wrong.” Simon shoots him a confused look as he slides the disk in. “You were innocent through the whole thing, actually.”

 

Jace grimaces and mutters, “Debatable.” It's so low that Simon almost misses it.

 

Simon takes pity on him. “So, you ready to get into the dark parts of the series?”

 

“The last two movies haven't been dark?” Jace asks, baffled.

 

“Oh, you have no idea.” Simon snorts. “This one has some comedy gold moments, but it's mostly intense. Trust me, you'll be on the edge of your seat.”

 

Jace smirks. “Dazzle me.”

 

Simon's brain is very naughty because it has ideas on how to do that, none of which involve pressing play on the movie. He clears his throat and plays the movie, banishing the thoughts with a sharp reprimand. With a sigh, he flops down on the bed, making sure not to get too close.

 

As usual, they converse quietly through the movie, but it's quiet and light, just like every other night. Simon is always surprised by how easy this is. It should be weird, but honestly, it is his favorite part of his day. If he'd been told four months ago that he'd be spending time with Jace, who is kind of one of his favorite people, he'd have laughed in the unfortunate person's face. And yet.

 

Then comes the part where Hermione gets jealous of Lavender, and Jace makes a disgruntled sound.

 

“What?” Simon whispers.

 

Jace huffs. “Do you think if they stopped fighting over Ron, they'd be friends?”

 

Simon chuckles. “Hey, we did it. If we can, anyone can. So, possibly.”

 

“Oh, so we're friends now?” Jace asks, his tone playful, but weighted.

 

“At this point, I dare you to say otherwise,” Simon challenges, never taking his eyes off the screen.

 

Jace just hums. “Fair enough,” he says softly, and Simon can't fight a smile.

Chapter Text

The door to Magnus’ loft springs open with a bit too much speed, but Jace doesn't care. He marches in and declares, “Magnus, I have a problem.”

 

It's too late to take it back, but Jace has the decency to feel slightly guilty as Magnus and Alec rip away from each other, smoothing their clothes and clearing their throats. It takes them a few moments to gather themselves and Jace spends each precious second thinking of a way to get Magnus alone.

 

“What are you doing here?” Alec asks, discreetly buttoning up a few of his top buttons.

 

Jace doesn't know how to answer, so instead, he demands, “What are you doing here?”

 

Alec's eyebrows shoot up. “Magnus is my boyfriend, Jace. Surely you can work out why I'd be around.”

 

“Har har, very funny.” Jace takes a deep breath and figures that a direct approach is best. “Look, I need to speak with Magnus alone.”

 

“Excuse me?” Alec blinks and jerks back slightly, crossing his arms. “Whatever you have to say to him, you can say to-”

 

“Alexander,” Magnus cuts him off quickly, sliding a hand up his arm, “why don't you-”

 

Alec jerks away. “Are you serious? You're serious. Jace is my parabatai, you're my boyfriend. You shouldn't be keeping secrets from me. If something is wrong, we fix it together.”

 

“Alec, I'm sorry,” Magnus says softly, and his face collapses into regret. “I really must ask you to give us a moment.”

 

“Fine.” Alec's face is just a mask of anger and betrayal. “I'm leaving anyway.”

 

Jace hates himself, hates that this is happening. He doesn't want to come between them. They're so… perfect together. As Alec starts towards the door, Jace holds up a hand and steps forward, stopping Alec in his tracks.

 

“Don't be angry with him,” Jace says, taking a deep breath. “I was scared to tell you, and Magnus only knows because I'm not as subtle as I think I am.”

 

Alec just crossed his arms. “What are you talking about, Jace?”

 

Jace swallows thickly, then without missing a beat, he announces, “I'm bisexual.”

 

Jace thinks it's a wonder his head doesn't explode. He can't believe he actually said it, and not just in his head, but out loud; he said it to Alec, his brother in everything but blood. It's out there now, it's real.

 

“What? No, you're not,” Alec replies immediately, eyebrows wrinkling together.

 

Jace feels the pit of his stomach fall away. “What?” he asks faintly.

 

“Alexander,” Magnus reprimands sharply, sweeping forward to stand at Alec's side.

 

Alec just gestures at Jace. “What? You're not. You're- you don't even- I think I'd know. I looked for any sign for years, okay? And- and you've been straight forever. How did you even come up with this?”

 

“Alec, not to be rude, but maybe Jace simply wasn't aware?” Magnus suggests lightly. “It's been known to happen. And disregarding his sexuality is not only wrong, it is unkind.”

 

Alec stares at Magnus like he's suddenly started juggling monkeys. “I know, but-”

 

“I kissed Meliorn,” Jace interrupts, licking his lips. When they both gape at him in surprise, he quirks a small smile. “I, uh, actually liked it.”

 

“Woah, woah, okay. Wait a second.” Alec holds up his hands and takes a few steps away, face betraying his shock and disbelief. “I can't even- how did this happen? I am so confused.”

 

“Yeah, so was I,” Jace admits with a quiet chuckle.

 

“What about Clary?” Alec blurts.

 

Jace arches an eyebrow. “What about her? You heard what happened at the seelie court. I moved on.”

 

“To Meliorn?” Alec demands, hands waving around.

 

“What? No. By the Angel, no,” Jace assures him quickly, grimacing and waving a hand.

 

Alec hangs his head for a moment, taking a deep breath, then looks back up. “Okay. Okay, so you're… bisexual. For real?”

 

Jace nods. “Yes. And I'm sorry, but no, I'm still not in love with you.”

 

Alec rolls his eyes. “I'm not in love with you either.” He jerks his head at Magnus. “I upgraded. Besides, I don't think I ever did, not really.”

 

Magnus smiles slightly. “Aw, darling, you're so sweet. I love you too.”

 

“Guys, this isn't the point. I'm having a crisis; please shift focus.” Jace huffs as their smiles turn sappy. “Look, I wish I could say my biggest shocker is being bisexual. Trust me, it was an adjustment. But things get a lot more crazy than that.”

 

Alec has to forcefully pull his focus from Magnus, his smile stupidly soft. “Right, right. Well, I'm sorry for being a jerk. I'm happy you figured it out, and I'm sorry I reacted that way when you wanted to talk to Magnus; I understand why you would want to have time to keep it to yourself. I won't tell anyone, if that makes you feel any better.”

 

“It's fine. People will find out eventually, right? But now that I've said it… I'm gonna be honest, it actually doesn't seem like such a huge deal.” Jace purses his lips. “I might have been worried for no reason. But that's besides the point.”

 

Magnus snaps his fingers and inclines his head, a glow sparking in his hand. “Ah, yes. You mentioned that you have a problem. What can I do to help?”

 

Well, if he's going to let it all out, he might as well let this out as well. He takes a starting breath, setting his shoulders, trying not to feel so tense.

 

“I'm falling in love with Simon Lewis.”

 

There. It's out. He can't take back the words, can't avoid them, can't stuff them away. They're existing in the air, as real as breathing.

 

It actually feels like relief for a moment, like a weight has lifted off his shoulders. Even when Magnus and Alec just stare at him, Jace feels as if he can breathe a little bit easier. He's addressing the problem and trying to fix it, so there's that.

 

“You're doing what?” Alec shouts.

 

Jace holds up his hands. “Now wait a second, it's not my fault.”

 

“Well, in the matters of the heart…” Magnus trails off, widening his eyes and waving his fingers through the air, looking thrown for a moment.

 

“Look, let me explain, okay? I've been having these… dreams,” Jace says.

 

Alec grimaces. “Jace, we really don't need to know.”

 

“It's not like that. Just listen to me.”

 

So, they do. And Jace explains to the best of his abilities, even while treading over details. He doesn't want to talk about how nice it felt to kiss Simon in the dream, doesn't want to elaborate on how inviting the dreams are, like a succulent proposition he slowly stops wanting to refuse. He keeps it to the point; it's as simple as he's been having dreams about being Simon's fiance and they've ruined his skewed image of the real Simon Lewis.

 

After, Alec and Magnus are silent for a long beat, both ingesting the information. Then, Magnus holds up a finger and leaves the room entirely.

 

Alec heaves a sigh. “Just… just one thing.”

 

“Yeah?” Jace asks warily.

 

Alec runs a hand through his hair, shaking his head as his lips twitch. “Did it have to be Clary and Simon? Out of all the people, how did they become the ones that get to you?”

 

“Your guess is as good as mine. I have no fucking clue, Alec.” Jace leans back against the wall behind him, sighing. “To be fair, you don't completely hate Simon like you did Clary.”

 

“Actually, I've warmed to Clary, a bit. Simon? Not so much,” Alec says, clicking his tongue. “But… I know what it's like to love a downworlder, so we at least have that in common.”

 

“If these stupid dreams hadn't come out of nowhere, I'd probably be with Clary right now.”

 

“Speaking of,” Magnus declares, sweeping back into the room with a leather bound book in his grasp, “when did these dreams start?”

 

Jace blinks as Magnus sets the book down and starts turning the pages. “Um, I'm… not sure.”

 

Except, Jace is sure. They started after Simon bit him. And he hopes it has nothing to do with that, because he never wants to revisit that again. It had been one of the most orgasmic experiences of his life, and he really doesn't want that to be the thing that's opened him up to his own sexuality.

 

“You're not sure when you first had a dream portraying you and Simon as lovers?” Magnus asks, arching an eyebrow in challenge. “Jace, I need you to be completely honest if you want me to help you.”

 

Jace clenches his jaw, crossing his arms, looking away for a moment. Then, he forces himself to loosen up. “When Valentine was in the institute and he had Simon, I infiltrated as Clary in disguise to save Simon in hopes Clary wouldn't go in.”

 

“Right,” Alec says, nodding. “What happened?”

 

“Simon was drained; he- he was dying.” Jace grimaces at the memory of Simon's pale face, weak body trembling, on the verge of death. He hadn't even hesitated, just offered his arm without thinking twice. “He needed the blood.”

 

Magnus sighs. “He bit you?”

 

“He could've killed me, almost lost control, but he didn't. It was- well, you know how the bites are supposed to feel.” Jace ducks his head, keeping his eyes firmly on the ground. “It was my blood, we think. My blood made him a Daylighter.”

 

“This is not good,” Alec says definitively. “You need to stay away from him.”

 

Jace's head snaps up. “What?”

 

“Alexander, perhaps you're being slightly dramatic, darling,” Magnus says easily, closing the book and leaning his hip against the table.

 

Alec waves a hand in the air. “No, I'm not. Jace, you know how these things work. Did any of his blood get in your wound, any at all?”

 

“No! No, this isn't that,” Jace snaps.

 

“Are you absolutely sure?” Alec presses, taking a step forward. “You said he was drained, so he had a wound too, right? Or- or maybe he nicked his own lip when he bit you.”

 

“I don't know, but these dreams aren't that,” Jace insists, taking a deep breath. “I think I'd know the difference in something going on and me accidentally ingesting some of Simon's blood, okay? And if I did, why would he be calling out to me?”

 

“It could be unconscious,” Alec suggests. “He sucks at being a vampire already, maybe he doesn't even know he's doing it.”

 

“I'm not mundane, Alec; I know the signs. I'm not having hallucinations, I don't… crave him, not like that, or not because of that.” Jace rolls his eyes when Alec's eyebrows arch up. “Can you just trust me? Simon isn't going to tell anyone, and I know these dreams aren't because of some blood merge.”

 

Magnus hums. “Tell me more about these dreams. Do they occur every night?”

 

“If I'm really exhausted, no.” Jace clears his throat, averting his eyes. “And they don't happen when I'm with him.”

 

“You've been staying with him,” Alec murmurs, eyes widening in realization. “By the Angel, he's the one you've been spending your free time with?”

 

“It's- it's not like that, okay? We just… watch movies. He stays on his side, I stay on mine,” Jace mutters, trying not to feel so embarrassed.

 

Magnus holds up a hand when Alec starts sputtering loudly. “Okay, there is one clear way to know whether it's what you assume it is, Alexander. But we will need Izzy and her lab.”

 

“Can't you just trust me?” Jace snaps.

 

“Why don't we rule it out?” Magnus quips back, holding his hands out like an offering. “We'll need you and Simon there for a sample of your blood. Are you going to tell him why?”

 

Jace exhales sharply through his nose. “Of course I'm not going to tell him why. We'll just say it's to research more about this Daylighter business.”

 

“You know, lying is not a good way to start a relationship,” Alec taunts in amusement.

 

Jace just flips him off as he heads to the door. “I'll meet you at the institute in an hour with Simon.”

 

 


 

 

 

Simon thinks the song is coming together quite nicely. It's soft and sweet, about love in different forms. He isn't sure who will ever hear it, doesn't think he wants to share it. He strums his guitar and tells himself it's not a secret.

 

He continues like that for a few beats, humming quietly as he writes out a few lyrics. Then, movement catches his eye, making him glance up at breakneck speeds. Jace is leaning against the boat rack, watching him with a soft expression, and for a moment, Simon forgets to breathe.

 

Then, his brain comes back online, and he sits the guitar down quickly. “Jace, hey,” he greets, standing up. “You're here early. I wasn't expecting you for a few more hours at least.”

 

Jace smirks slightly. “Figured you wouldn't mind.”

 

Simon really doesn't. “No, no this is fine. I'm surprised the institute isn't keeping you though, since Valentine is being moved tomorrow. Aren't you, like, busy?”

 

“Are you doubting my ability to do my job?” Jace asks, eyebrows raising, eyes bright with something like teasing.

 

“No, I'm- I'm really not. I just want to make sure that I'm not-”

 

What? That he's not what, exactly? Simon's actually fooled himself into believing that Jace is here for him, not just the comfort of having a break. Jeez, he really needs to slow down.

 

“Things are in limbo right now, actually. Everyone's been working in overdrive, but the plans have been made. It's like the whole world is holding its breath to see if it works. Even the demon activity and circle members have been quiet.”

 

Simon blinks rapidly. “Woah. That's- that must feel like so much pressure.”

 

“Well, now that you mention it,” Jace scoffs, tilting his head and rolling his eyes.

 

“Sorry,” Simon says sheepishly. “Well, it works out for us. We might can squeeze in two movies and start Lord of The Rings early.”

 

Jace huffs a laugh. “We probably could, but I actually need a favor today. I need you to come to the institute and give a sample of your blood so we can look into this Daylighter thing. And before you start to worry, Izzy will be behind it and the blood sample will be thrown out after. This is all off the record.”

 

“I- I don't know, man. I kind of don't want to be a lab rat, if I'm honest,” Simon admits warily.

 

“It's not to study you,” Jace assures him seriously, releasing a deep breath. “It's to study me. I need to know if I'm the reason you're a Daylighter. The Clave won't be involved at all, and the only people who will know is Izzy, Alec, Magnus, and me and you.”

 

Simon feels like an idiot when he murmurs, “You promise?”

 

There's something to be said about the effect that Jace has on people. It's hypnotic, tantalizing even; Simon would like to say he's immune. But when Jace pushes off the rack and walks up to him, lingering just a few steps away, his eyes intense and pinning Simon in place… well, Simon is not immune at all.

 

“Don't you trust me?” Jace asks softly, and the words are so freaking cliche and counterproductive, Simon thinks they should not affect him this way.

 

But they do, and Simon's mouth moves without his permission, spitting out, “I think I do.”

 

Simon thinks he does.

 

As if matters couldn't get worse, Jace takes yet another step forward. He looms over Simon, which isn't fair because Simon's actually a bit taller, though he isn't as broad. But Jace just exudes so much… presence, and he demands attention, and Simon's having a hard time not breaking away to call Clary and just repeat, I get it, I get it, I so get it, over and over until his brain isn't a mess anymore.

 

“I'm not going to hurt you, Simon,” Jace says, voice steady and completely unbothered, gaze unwavering. “I promise.”

 

Simon nods his head so hard and so rapidly that he feels like a rag doll. It takes him a few tries to get his mouth to work, and when he speaks, it comes out in a wheeze. “That's- mmkay. It's, I'm- great.”

 

Jace doesn't smile, per say, but he has this thing he does where the tightness around his eyes soften, his lips curl, and his shoulders twitch as if he's cutting off the laugh that wants to begin there. He does that now, and it boils down to a look of fondness, which Simon inwardly mourns. Great, I've upgraded from idiot ally to idiot friend… again, he thinks irritably.

 

“Good,” Jace replies simply, turning around and heading to the door. “Come along now.”

 

Simon follows, trying to pinpoint the exact moment when he started caring what Jace thinks about him.

 

He can't.

Chapter Text

“Jace, Simon?”

 

Oh, great, Jace thinks wearily, turning in unison with Simon to face Clary.

 

“Hey, Fray,” Simon says lightly, shifting awkwardly in place. “Uh, whatcha up to?”

 

Clary's eyebrows jerk up. “I just got through talking to Sebastian. What are you two doing?”

 

“Izzy and Magnus needed a favor from Simon,” Jace tells her easily, crossing his arms. “I was already going out anyway, so I snagged him.”

 

Simon bobs his head. “Yup. You know me, just a regular friendly neighborhood vampire, ready to fight crime and help out where I can.”

 

Jace turns his head slowly to stare at Simon, asking himself how in the world he even likes the dork. But Clary laughs, like she gets the joke, and Jace wasn't even aware there was a joke. Why does that set his teeth on edge; why does he have to get so stupidly jealous all the time?

 

“Do you need any help?” Clary asks.

 

“No,” Jace replies immediately, reaching out to tug Simon back into stride. “I'll send him your way when we're done. Don't you have training to get to?”  

 

Clary tsks. “Alas, I do. Alright, well let me know if you need anything.”

 

“Sure thing,” Simon chirps over his shoulder, rushing to match Jace's pace.

 

“This way,” Jace directs, mindlessly reaching out to press his hand into the small of Simon's back, leading him around a corner. He quickly drops his hand, fighting the urge to ball the hand into a fist.

 

Simon doesn't even notice. “So, is there any reason we're keeping this from Clary?”

 

“We're not… keeping anything from her. Just the less people that know, the better.”

 

“But you told Alec, Magnus, and Izzy.”

 

Jace sends him a sharp look. “That's different. They're helping us figure this out.”

 

“Clary can help,” Simon insists.

 

“Fine, if you want to tell your ex-girlfriend that you bit me, then be my guest. Why don't you let her know we're besties on top of that?” Jace snaps, throwing up his hands.

 

Simon huffs. “First of all, who taught you that term? Because you're using it wrong. Second, why are you being an ass?”

 

“My natural state,” Jace snips in reply.

 

“Not true.” Simon wiggles a finger in the air near Jace's face. “When you're watching Harry Potter, you're not an asshole. But look, if you don't want people know we're friends, fine. I get it, okay? We had this not-liking-each-other thing going on, until we didn't, so I'm cool with keeping it quiet. I just don't understand why we can't tell Clary about the blood thing and why you're being so cagey about it.”

 

Jace slows to a stop, turning his whole body towards Simon, just staring at him. He really has no idea. Jace figures he should be relieved about that, but in this moment, it would be a lot easier to explain if Simon was aware of Jace's stupid affections.

 

The thing is, Jace doesn't want Clary to know anything. Not because he's ashamed, but because he's guilty. He's always going to be the guy who wants what isn't his, always the one feeling what he isn't supposed to. He's tried and tried to be what Valentine wanted - emotionless, combative, tactile, and nothing else. But instead, he's this bundle of fucked up emotions, and even while he's aware of it, he acts like it's not real.

 

He'd wanted Clary when she was his sister, even when he shouldn't have. He'd wanted Simon when he was with Clary, even when it was wrong.

 

Maybe that's just who he is, maybe he'll forever crave what he shouldn't, maybe he's just messed up. He doesn't know, but he can't stop. And right now, he wants to press into Simon and explain without words just how little he cares who knows they have a thing. But a part of him that feels like a conscious doesn't want Clary to know, doesn't want to have to hurt her, doesn't want to have to admit to his wrongdoings.

 

But Clary isn't going to be in the lab.

 

With renewed determination, he whirls away from Simon and marches towards the lab. Simon rushes to follow, repeating his name over and over, but Jace completely ignores him. He bangs open the door to the lab, making their friends look up.

 

“Simon and I are friends,” Jace declares loudly, voice stern, allowing no room for argument. “I have spent the last week staying at Simon's, watching movies. Just thought you all should know.”

 

With that, Jace turns to look at Simon with an arched eyebrow, crossing his arms. As they say, the blade is in your hand now. Simon looks sheepish and surprised, flicking his gaze at the group in the room, reaching back to rub at his neck, clearing his throat. Jace smirks when Simon rolls his eyes and holds his hands up like you win, you win.

 

Damn right he does.

 

“So that's where you've been!” Izzy exclaims, beaming. “We all thought it was book club. Who knew some bro-time would cheer you up so much? Seriously, Simon, you've worked wonders. The institute thanks you for keeping him so pleasant lately.”

 

Jace looks at Alec, you didn't tell her?

 

Alec purses his lips, not everything.

 

Well, on one hand, he's thankful that she doesn't know he's halfway in love with Simon, but on the other, she might tell Clary. Shit.

 

Jace points at her. “Don't tell Clary.”

 

Izzy laughs and brushes her hair over her shoulder before snapping on gloves. “Don't worry, I doubt she'd believe me anyway. Now, why don't we get started. Simon, come here.”

 

Simon brushes past Jace, shaking his head as he goes. Izzy smiles and pricks his finger without warning, making him wince slightly. She squeezes, making the blood bead on the tip, and it drips on the little glass slide she has.

 

“Make sure to keep them seperate,” Magnus reminds, leaning down to squint at the sample.

 

Izzy hums. “I'm aware, Magnus. Jace?”

 

As Simon sucks on his finger and takes a step back, Jace takes his place in front of Izzy. Not many people know this, but Jace doesn't actually like needles. It's the suddenness of the stab, the pain - no matter how small - he's aware is coming. It doesn't make sense, but he jolts every single time.

 

Izzy knows this, so she makes it quick. Jace looks away so he can't see it coming, even though his muscles are already tensing in preparation. Incidentally, his eyes land on Simon, which makes him relax without warning, because Simon is staring down at his finger with a displeased frown, alternating between sucking it and staring at it. There's no way it can still hurt, Simon's just dramatic, but it's amusing enough to distract Jace from the oncoming needle.

 

Just before the stick, Simon looks away from his finger and right at Jace. Their eyes connect and the needle lands, making Jace jump slightly. Izzy squeezes his finger, making the blood rise, not that Jace even notices. And just like that, Simon's fangs drop and his eyes darken. At the sight of the fangs, Jace's mouth floods with saliva.

 

“Oh, g- oh, I'm so sorry,” Simon stutters, lisping as his eyes widen and he reaches up to cover his fangs.

 

Jace pretends like he didn't momentarily want to be bitten, shifts in place as Izzy takes the sample. “It's fine,” he says as breezily as he can.

 

But it's not fine, it's actually a problem. Jace doesn't want Simon to bite him, he knows that, but his body hasn't forgotten the feeling he got from those fangs puncturing his skin. Not that he'd ever let it happen, but it doesn't help his case. In fact, Alec's looking right at him with eyebrows raised pointedly.

 

The fangs flick away and Simon coughs. “That doesn't always happen. Usually in the heat of the moment or if I'm hungry.”

 

Jace can't help himself. “So, which is it?”

 

Simon rolls his eyes. “I skipped lunch today, so don't flatter yourself.”

 

“Why did you skip lunch?” Alec asks quietly, narrowing his eyes at Simon.

 

But Simon just looks embarrassed. “I was writing a song,” he admits awkwardly.

 

Jace looks over to Magnus and Izzy, but realizes they're virtually in another world. They are looking at the samples through a microscope, making notes, trading words back and forth that Jace really doesn't want to understand. He leaves them to it, knowing they'll tell him what they find soon enough.

 

“And you forgot to eat?” Alec says flatly.

 

“Well, yeah…” Simon waves a hand. “Look, when the muse strikes, you don't ignore it, okay? That's like rejecting a gift from g- well, you know. I had to get it out, or I would lose it entirely.”

 

“Did I interrupt?” Jace murmurs, actually feeling a bit guilty. Simon had been humming a beautiful tune, mumbling out pretty words and using his guitar like an extra arm.

 

“Nah, I got it all out. Just have to piece together a chorus, then it'll be ready,” Simon chirps, face brightening with excitement.

 

Alec tilts his head. “Are you going to play it?”

 

Simon's face crumbles. “No, probably not. It's, uh, kinda personal.”

 

“What's it about?” Jace asks, genuinely curious.

 

“Love,” Simon replies, reaching up to push at phantom glasses, a nervous tick he never lost.

 

Jace feels as if he's been punched in the gut. “It's about Clary.”

 

Simon's eyes lift to connect with his, throat bobbing with a thick swallow. “Not all of it.”

 

The punched in the gut feeling twists into something sharper and more poignant, a fluttering weight tugging at his midsection. It's like the air is being sucked from the room, one second at a time. Jace goes mindless about it, is happy to stand there and stare at Simon fucking Lewis all damn day.

 

Jace remembers being astounded by Clary's green eyes. Like moss, thick and deep, earthy. They are beautiful, and a time ago, Jace would have said they were the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen. But standing here, right now, looking straight into Simon's eyes… Jace realizes he would have been wrong. Simon's eyes are brown and beautiful and wide, brightening with excitement and dimming with confusion, like a dial exists beneath them. They're enrapturing in a way people don't take the time to look, like finding a diamond in the rough, like seeing a beam of light through the clouds.

 

Alec clears his throat loudly, making Jace blink and turn away, the moment breaking. Thank the Angel for that because Jace knows he was seconds from doing something stupid. And hell, that had gotten too sappy for Jace to feel anything but disgust. He throws Alec a grateful look covertly; Alec gives a small smile, like maybe he understands.

 

“There's nothing,” Izzy announces, drawing their attention.

 

Magnus has moved to her side of the table and watches the slides with a surprised look on his face. Jace does not like that expression at all.

 

“What is it? What does that mean?” Jace demands, marching over to see what they're staring at.

 

Izzy shares a look with Magnus. “Well, we're not seeing anything that connects your blood, or it's properties. In fact, it's almost as if you haven't bitten him at all, Simon.”

 

Alec huffs. “So, did he bite you or not?”

 

Jace shoots him a sharp look. “Yes, he bit me. I was there, I think I'd remember.”

 

“You would,” Izzy quietly reassures him, her dark gaze lifting to his with sympathy. Because she knows that feeling of being bitten, knows it intimately.

 

“Look, did I turn him into a Daylighter or not?” Jace snaps, crossing his arms, stomach tense.  

 

“Actually, there is no sign of it,” Magnus answers, eyebrows furrowing as he continues to watch. “If it were, the properties in Simon's blood would show it, as far as we know. It's as if he's no different than any other vampire.”

 

Simon makes a small sound in the back of his throat like he takes offence. “Well, I'm marginally better looking and altogether a lot nicer than the others.”

 

They ignore him.

 

“Put them together,” Jace orders, jerking his chin at the slides. “I want to see what happens if they meet.”

 

Izzy frowns, but moves to do as he asked. It takes a moment to get one sample moved to join the other, but as soon as they're on the same slide, the two beads of blood move together. Nothing really happens except that the bead gets larger.

 

“One moment,” Magnus says, leaning down to look through the microscope. He hums and stands back up, eyebrows raised. “Well, that is strange.”

 

Jace shoots a warning look at Simon. “What is?”

 

“It's as if the blood samples coexist. They shouldn't, technically.” Magnus replies cryptically. “As Simon is a vampire, his blood should have cancelled yours out, Jace. But these have… formed as one.”

 

Simon huffs a short laugh. “Woah. Wait, you're telling me that my blood - and his - just… joined together? Oh man, this is so weird.”

 

“Does this prove anything?” Alec asks with a pointed look at Magnus.

 

Magnus hums. “Not much, but it does disprove your theory. Though it doesn't light the way in much else. Are you certain Jace's blood is the only notable thing that happened to you before you became a Daylighter, Simon?”

 

“I'm pretty sure. I drank his blood and survived the soul sword,” Simon explains, eyebrows furrowing. “And what is Alec's theory?”

 

Jace barrells over him. “So, there's nothing proving I'm connected to Simon in any way?”

 

“No, it appears not.” Magnus gestures towards the merged blood with a flick of his wrist. “I think you should leave this Daylighter business alone; I suggest you don't go about biting Jace to test any theories.”

 

“I- I wouldn't do it.” Simon shakes his head, making wide eyes at Jace, mouth parting around all the promises he clearly wants to make. “I'll never bite you again, I swear. You've done more than enough, and I- I wouldn't just-”

 

“Simon, relax. No one thinks you're going to bite me,” Jace soothes him, voice softening despite himself. “What I want to know is why your blood doesn't cancel mine out .”

 

“You have pure blood, Jace. You were capable of igniting the soul sword, why wouldn't you be capable of this? I'm not completely sure, and we have no way of actually knowing.” Magnus hums as if he's intrigued. “You could always go to the Silent Brothers, but I strongly suggest against it.”

 

Jace sighs. “Well, that answers that.”

 

“But it's okay,” Izzy says simply. “No one will know about this, so no one will get hurt. We just needed to know, right?”

 

“Right,” Alec agrees firmly. “Destroy all traces of this, say nothing to no one. This doesn't leave this room. Are we clear?”

 

Everyone gives some form of agreement.

 

“Simon, can you do me a favor?” Jace asks, and he can't believe he's doing this. By the Angel, he's using a Magnus technique.

 

Simon's head snaps up. “Yeah, sure. I mean, I'll try. What do you need?”

 

Jace smiles sweetly. “Can you go grab my stele out of my room? It should be sitting in the chest in the corner. You'll need the key, which is hidden inside the top of my closet under a small jewelry box that belonged to Maryse.”

 

“Wait, seriously?” Simon asks, eyebrows hiking up his forehead. “You hide everything like that?”

 

“Privacy,” Jace says, by way of explanation.

 

“I would, but I don't know where your room is,” Simon admits sheepishly.

 

Jace waves a hand. “You know where Clary's is, mine is further down the hall on the right. My initials are carved beside the door. If you get lost, have Clary help you. Thanks.”

 

“No problem,” Simon replies easily, smiling as he heads out of the room.

 

As soon as the door clicks behind him, Jace's smile falls and he heaves a sigh. He can feel a headache forming. Reaching up to massage his temple, he takes a moment to just relax.

 

“Your stele is in your pocket,” Alec says, shattering Jace's moment of peace with no mercy.

 

“Shut up,” Jace snaps, pointing at Alec when he smirks in amusement. “You know Magnus is capable of snapping himself a drink, and yet-”

 

“Boys, boys,” Izzy chuckles softly, removing her gloves as Magnus rolls his eyes and starts to literally burn the evidence. “What has gotten into you? There's something you're not telling me, isn't there?”

 

Jace and Alec both snap their mouths shut, a team even when they're sniping at each other. But Izzy has put her hands on her hips, raised her eyebrows, and is watching them with that look she always wears when she is prepared to drag their secrets right out of them. And honestly, Jace doesn't want to lie to her, not about himself.

 

“I'm bisexual,” Jace blurts, and he thinks it's supposed to get easier to say, but his heart thunders in his chest and it's not easy at all.

 

That, in no way, explains anything. But Izzy latches onto that immediately.

 

Izzy blinks slowly, then her mouth slowly curls up and out, breaking into a huge smile. “Really? Jace, that's so exciting! We can talk about boys together; Alec refuses, you know.”

 

Because Jace is a glutton for punishment, he continues, “I kissed Meliorn.”

 

“You… you kissed Meliorn?” Izzy echoes, blinking rapidly. She takes a second to process that, and Jace is prepared for her to hate him, because he's nothing more than the guy who goes after someone else's person. But he isn't prepared for her to grin even wider. “He's a good kisser, isn't he?”

 

Jace is so shocked by that response that he huffs a little laugh. “Yeah, yeah he is.”

 

“Maybe I'm bisexual,” Izzy muses, lightly touching her chest, eyes going foggy. “Ooh, maybe it runs in the family. Do you think Clary would be open to experimentation?”

 

“Okay, enough.” Alec looks put out and vaguely disgusted in a way only a brother can. “As heartwarming as this is, can we all stop switching partners like playing musical chairs? And just as an aside, if any of you even look at Magnus that way, I will kick your ass.” He sends a sharp look bouncing between the both of them.

 

The smile that passes between Jace and Izzy is almost as easy to read as if they'd spoken their plans out loud. Magnus whirls away from the disappeared evidence, snapping his blue fire away, beaming at Alec in pure joy of his possessiveness. He is clearly not prepared for what's to come.

 

Izzy takes the right while Jace sidles up to Magnus’ left. He blinks as they press into him with sweet smiles, leaning into his space and running their hands up his arms. Izzy even pushes her hand into his hair, making Magnus arch an eyebrow, and Jace hooks his chin on Magnus shoulder, lightly running one finger down his chest. Magnus looks between them both in open amusement, not even phased by their double assault.

 

Alec, however, is not so calm.

 

“Stop,” he growls, reaching out to grip Magnus’ hand and tug him away from their grips, tucking him into his side. Magnus looks pleased to be there, all smiles and relaxing limbs.

 

“Oh, you're too easy, big brother,” Izzy teases lightly, laughing with Jace.

 

“He really is,” Jace agrees with a snort.

 

Alec glares at them. “I haven't called dibs on anything since I was ten years old and I wanted my bow.” He tightens his arms around Magnus pointedly, lips twitching. “Dibs.”

 

Izzy hums softly. “Magnus, that is a high honor. Alec rarely cares enough to call dibs on anything.”

 

“That's true,” Jace tells him.

 

“While I object to being compared to some kind of thing to call dibs on, I find myself flattered,” Magnus says, tilting his head back to smile up at Alec.

 

Alec seems unable to stop himself from dropping a quick kiss on Magnus’ mouth, and Izzy and Jace both share a little grin. Then, with a sigh, Izzy sheds her white coat and starts towards the door.

 

“While I would love to sit around and watch you two be disgustingly adorable all day, I have to get back to training with Max. I'll probably drag Clary into helping me,” Izzy tells them.

 

Jace's stomach clenches. “Don't tell her.”

 

Izzy pauses and faces him with a frown. “I wouldn't; that's yours to tell. But you know she won't care, don't you?”

 

“I know,” Jace mutters. “It's… complicated.”

 

“That's fair,” Izzy allows gently. “If you want to talk, I'm always willing to listen. I'm glad you told me.”

 

Jace quirks a smile. “I'm glad you know.”

 

With a sweet smile, Izzy exits the room, leaving him alone with Magnus and Alec. They're still leaning into each other, but they peer at him.

 

“Well,” Alec says grudgingly, “I was wrong.”

 

“Told you.” Jace crosses his arms. “But this doesn't help me figure out why I'm having these dreams.”

 

“Perhaps it truly is your subconscious,” Magnus suggests calmly. “When you activated the soul sword, you accidentally caused the death of many downworlders. Your mind could have clung to a downworlder you didn't want to die, maybe even painted your relationship deeper to help you manage your guilt.”

 

“I was guilty. I am. But if I'm honest, I didn't exactly have positive emotions towards Simon before. I mean, I didn't hate him and I didn't want him to die, but I didn't like him either,” Jace admits.

 

Magnus shrugs. “Maybe that's all you needed. Perhaps the dreams were meant to shock you into seeing him differently, a result of the guilt. You could have unknowingly clinged to the dreams.”

 

“If that were the case, I would have dreamt of you. I actually like you, Magnus.” Jace rolls his eyes when Alec narrows his. “Relax, Alec, I'm not trying to steal your boyfriend.”

 

Magnus chuckles. “You couldn't if you tried, I'm afraid. And though I appreciate the sentiment, your feelings for me aren't tangled. You like me, that's good, but that's simple. What you've felt for Simon hasn't ever been, and everyone knows that.”

 

“What if they don't go away?” Jace asks warily.

 

“My guess is they will, if they haven't already. You said they've stopped since you've been sleeping near Simon. Perhaps they've stopped and you simply aren't aware of it.”

 

Alec hums in faint agreement. “That's true, Jace. And if they haven't stopped, I think they will. You said it's a sequence of dreams, that they continue like a story, right?”

 

“Right,” Jace confirms.

 

“Well, all stories end,” Alec murmurs.

 

Jace heaves a sigh. “So basically… I shouldn't worry about it too much.”

 

“I know it seems that the dreams have effectively changed your life, but I don't think they have. You change your life, Jace, nothing else.” Magnus leans his head into Alec's shoulder. “Why don't you go find Simon and take him home? Spend some time with him before you get caught up with Valentine's transport tomorrow.”

 

“I guess,” Jace agrees awkwardly, trying not to be so embarrassed with how eager he is to do just that. He starts to the door, but before he leaves the room, he turns towards them. “Thank you.”

 

Magnus smiles. “Anytime.”

Chapter Text

Simon feels like an idiot.

 

“Where the hell is his stele?” he mumbles to himself, digging through the chest with an urgency he doesn't fully understand.

 

With a huff, he pushes a few clothes out of the way and shifts books to the side. Simon isn't exactly organized himself, but he has no idea how Jace finds his stele in this chest. But the sight of a photo album ends his search, grabbing his attention. It's leather bound and has runes engraved in it.

 

Simon glances over his shoulder to the open door, and when he finds no one, he lifts the photo album up and perches it on the edge of the chest. Feeling like a weirdo, he hesitates before opening. But upon seeing the first photo, he stops caring about how odd he's being.

 

The first picture is just Jace. It's not recent; Jace looks to be around twelve or thirteen. He's sprawled out in a meadow that has no business being as pretty as it is in the photo, and Jace isn't smiling. He just has his face tilted up towards the sun, looking as if he's never known peace until that moment. Simon feels an intense sadness; no child should have such an expression like that.

 

The page squeaks as it turns. The next picture makes Simon's breath leave him in a long whoosh of air. He's only ever seen Maryse Lightwood a few times in passing, but he's never seen her smile like this. In the picture, Jace is only a little older than the first, but he's taller and less scrawny. Yet, next to Maryse, he looks small. She has her arms wrapped around him, face shockingly beautiful like this, and even still, Jace isn't even smiling. He has a strange look on his face, like he's waiting for the other shoe to drop, but isn't willing to stop basking in the moment the picture managed to capture.

 

Slowly, Simon keeps turning the pages. Every time he sees a new picture, Jace grows up and relaxes more. He starts smiling, just small smirks at first, then full on grins later. There are pictures of him and Alec before they were parabatai, looking just as connected as they do now, like an extension of each other even then. In more than one picture, Izzy is in Jace's arms or on his back, beaming at the camera, and Jace looks endlessly fond, like brothers look when their sisters manage to make them soft.

 

It doesn't take long to get closer to the end. Over the time caught in the pages, Jace grows up and out, his personality unfolding behind the camera. He goes from not smiling to smirking proudly, and Simon can't stop the smile from growing on his face.

 

Simon knows it's almost over when he comes across a picture that has Clary in it. They're all in a training room of some sort; Alec, Izzy, Jace, and Clary. They're all sweaty and smiling, arms around each other, looking thoroughly pleased. Simon feels his throat go thick, a mixture of sadness and genuine compassion. On one hand, he's happy that they are, but on the other… he's not in the picture. That feeling of being the last kid picked for a team hits him in a way he hasn't felt in years.

 

The next few pictures are very recent. It varies of Jace being alone or being with Alec, Izzy, and rarely, with Clary. There's even a picture where Jace and Clary are standing side by side, brandishing their weapons, and Jace is looking at Clary in pure adoration. Simon stares at that one for a very long time, a lump stuck in his throat.

 

The last picture erases all of that. It's just Jace, but it holds something the other pictures haven't. Jace has his head tossed back, arms wrapped around his bare chest, face bright with pure joy. He's laughing, a genuine deep belly laugh, and Simon has never actually seen it. Which, that's probably a good thing because Simon's immediately entranced by the sight. It's contagious too, because his lips curl up in a small, warm smile.

 

“See something you like?”

 

Simon jolts so hard his knee knocks into the steel chest, making him curse sharply. In jerky movements, he slams the photo album closed and tosses it back in the chest, shutting the lid and whirling to his feet. He clears his throat, doing his best not to look so fucking embarrassed.

 

“What? I'm- what? Nothing.”

 

Jace's lips twitch. “Relax, Simon, I'm not angry. If I cared about you looking through my stuff, I wouldn't have ever let you know where the key was.”

 

“Oh, dude, I'm so sorry. That- that was an invasion of privacy. I- I didn't mean to… well, I did, but I wasn't trying to- I'm sorry.” Simon swallows and reaches back to scratch at his nape. “I couldn't find your stele either.”

 

“I have it,” Jace replies, reaching in his pocket and waving it. “I forgot I'd already grabbed it.”

 

“Oh,” Simon mutters.

 

Jace reaches out and closes his door, the click making Simon jittery. Suddenly, he's in an enclosed space with Jace, which isn't the first time. Hell, they've slept in the same bed in the boathouse. But somehow, this is so much different. Simon's a bundle of nerves already, but he's trying not to be so obvious about that.

 

“Did you have to hunt down Clary?” Jace asks casually, walking over to his bed and perching on the edge, watching Simon curiously.

 

Simon shakes his head. “No, I- I found it on my own. By the way, you really need to clean out that chest, man. I mean, it's a mess, Jace.”

 

Jace arches an eyebrow. “Have you seen your room? You don't even have a chest to put stuff in.”

 

“I've been meaning to get a dresser.”

 

“I could help you look for one, if you want.”

 

Simon releases a short, delirious laugh. “A trip to best buy, with you, why not?”

 

“Yeah, why not?” Jace echoes.

 

“It's just so… mundane.”

 

“Simon, some things can't be helped. It's not like we have a Shadowhunter furniture store.”

 

“Fair enough.” Simon looks down at his feet, fighting a grin. When he looks back up, Jace is watching him with that patient curiosity still. “You're serious, aren't you? You'd really go dresser shopping with me? We really are friends.”

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “We established that already. But I can't tell right now. You're all the way across the room; that's not very friendly.” He pats the bed beside him with a smirk. “I won't bite.”

 

“Very funny.” Simon tuts and forces himself to relax, not entirely sure why he's so keyed up. He moves over to the bed and sits beside Jace. “So, when are we going shopping?”

 

“Can't do it tomorrow,” Jace replies, the relaxed ease on his face shifting into strain. “Once Valentine is safely in Idris, we'll go shopping.”

 

“Sounds like a date,” Simon chirps pleasantly.

 

Immediately after the words leave his mouth, he wants to take them back. His gay is showing, yet again, shit. He turns to Jace with wide eyes, trying to smooth it over, but Jace just knocks his shoulder into his, bobbing his head.

 

“Could be fun. I always did enjoy picking on the mundies. They're so… simple.”

 

“Hey! I was a mundie.”

 

Jace laughs quietly, a real one, even if it's not quite large. “I haven't forgotten, trust me. You were my least favorite mundane.”

 

“But your favorite vampire?” Simon asks teasingly, lifting both eyebrows.

 

“You don't exactly have much competition,” Jace retorts lightly, which sounds like a yes to Simon.

 

“Hey,” Simon whispers, suddenly feeling softer than he ever has, “can I ask you something?”

 

“Depends on the question.”

 

“About your childhood.”

 

“I'd rather you didn't.”

 

“Will you answer me if I ask?”

 

Jace swallows, the lightness surrounding them evaporating. “Yes,” he croaks, like the word is being dragged from his deepest dredges.

 

“Were you ever happy with Valentine?” Simon asks carefully, watching Jace closely.

 

“I was… complacent. I didn't know there was anything wrong until I got with the Lightwoods.” Jace clenches his jaw and looks down at his tethered hands in his lap. “It wasn't all bad. Valentine was cruel at the best of times, a hard trainer, but there were moments that I think he loved me.”

 

“Like when?” Simon prompts gently.

 

Jace looks up and clears his throat. “Once, I had gotten sick. Shadowhunters rarely do, and if it happens, they're expected to fight through it. I figured my dad would make me anyway, so I didn't tell him. I was training, pushed too hard, and got sick all over the mat.” His lips curl up in what seems to be an unconscious gesture. “I thought he'd be furious, but… he just scooped me up and put me to bed. He made me soup and stayed up all night to keep a cool towel on my forehead.”

 

“I think he loved you, in his own way,” Simon murmurs, unable to hide just how much the story gets to him.

 

“He, uh, did. Two days after that, it was back to normal, but I- I loved him so much for that.”

 

“You still do.”

 

Jace's head snaps to the side, eyes wide and full of shock. “No, I- that wasn't real.”

 

“Jace, it's okay,” Simon says gently, limbs moving without his permission, a hand reaching out to squeeze Jace's knee. “It was real to you, it matters to you. That doesn't mean everything else he did was okay, doesn't mean you don't know how bad of a person he is. Having mixed feelings doesn't make you horrible; actually, it makes you… human.”

 

Jace's throat works, eyes glittering as a sheen forms over them, and Simon suddenly wants to hug him. He hasn't ever had that urge before, to hug Jace, so he isn't prepared for it. There's no warning, no caution; he just wants to, so he does. His arms reach out, hands drawing him in close. One hooks at the back of Jace's neck, the other sweeps up his back.

 

It takes Jace a moment to relax, but when he does, he sags into the embrace. Simon feels Jace's face bury into his neck, feels his arms lift to close the circuit, and just like that, they're hugging.

 

It's really nice.

 

Simon's perfectly content to do this forever, a thought he refuses to examine, but Jace slowly pulls back slightly while clearing his throat. Ah, so macho, Simon thinks in amusement.

 

That thought disappears the moment that Jace stops moving away, his whole body going abruptly still. They're still sort of holding each other, hands in the same places but looser. Except now, Jace is mere inches away, his face hovering ridiculously close to Simon's, just staying there.

 

Simon's mind goes completely silent, provides him with nothing; it's like everything has been wiped away and replaced with this one tantalizing moment. It's a suggestion in the air, hanging on the precipice, and Simon doesn't need brainpower to know what could happen next.

 

Jace's eyes are even more unfairly vivid so close, and they flick down to Simon's lips for a bare second before jumping right back up. Simon realizes he's not breathing, not moving. He can't because he's really about to kiss Jace, that's really about to happen. There is no mistaking this.

 

He's not sure who leans forward first, doesn't care, just knows that it's actually going to happen. He can feel Jace's breath on his lips, can taste the warmth wavering before him. His eyes close, but he still feels entranced, like he's high on the moment that stretches between them.

 

Then, there is a knock on the door, and the moment shatters as if it never existed.

 

Simon's eyes snap open just in time to see Jace's do the same. The fog in them clears, making the beautiful mixture of color stark and bright. Their eyes slide away from each other and they wrench apart, putting space between them like it hasn't ever been reduced before. Like it was never going to happen, Simon muses in a daze.

 

Jace walks to the door and leans to block the room as he cracks it. Simon carefully gets up from the bed and moves out of sight, sure he isn't ready to face another person at the moment. He isn't even sure if he's allowed here. He's pretty sure he's not.

 

Then, Jace says, “Oh, Clary,” and Simon backs against the wall beside the door, eyes wide, mouth going dry.

 

Holy shit, holy shit, he was seconds from kissing the guy she loves. That's so messed up; oh, that crosses so many lines. How could he have forgotten her that easily, like she doesn't even factor in this at all?

 

“Hey, have you seen Simon? You said he'd come find me when you were done with him,” Clary reminds Jace, her voice floating through the door.

 

The implications his mind comes up with at her words makes Simon think he might relearn how to blush. He has the mental image of him stumbling from Jace's room with hickeys and a dopey smile. Jeez, that is so messed up.

 

Jace hums quietly. “I think he went home, actually. He said something about forgetting to eat, I think.”

 

Simon's eyes widen. Oh no. Oh no. He hasn't ate since this morning. And he was seconds from kissing Jace, which would have undoubtedly made him get… excited, which would have made his fangs drop. He could have hurt Jace. Because he's an idiot. Simon lets his head tap against the wall as he tips it back, swallowing thickly.

 

“Oh,” Clary says softly, sighing. “Well, thanks for letting me know. Um, can I ask you something?”

 

“You just did,” Jace replies sardonically.

 

Clary huffs quietly. “Okay, but I was just wondering… are we okay?”

 

“Yeah, we're fine,” Jace says quickly. “Why wouldn't we be okay? We had our talk.”

 

“Yes, but I… miss you, Jace. I know you don't have feelings for me anymore, and that's- it's okay. But I wish we could still hang out.” Clary sighs heavily again. “I mean, me and Simon do, and I fully expected him to hate me forever. But he's the best person in this whole world; he forgave me when I didn't deserve it. We're mostly back to normal, or getting there, and I'm so happy. But me and you? Jace, it's like… it's as if you don't want to be near me, like you're disgusted by me.”

 

Jace shifts awkwardly in the doorway. “Um, it's- that's not true, Clary. I'm not disgusted, okay? We are friends and we should hang out more. I've just been pretty busy lately is all. Dealing with this Valentine stuff, you know.”

 

“I get it. You can talk to me about it, you know that right? If anyone understands, it's me,” Clary murmurs softly, gentle and caring.

 

“Thanks,” Jace says and he sounds sincere.

 

Clary huffs a quiet laugh. “I know that's not all you've been busy with. Who is she?”

 

“Who is who?”

 

“The girl. The one you've fallen in love with.”

 

Jace is silent for a beat. “What are you talking about?” he asks slowly.

 

“Come on, I know you, Jace. You were in love with me at one point, remember? I know what you look like when you're in love. Besides, you disappear every day to go spend time with her; don't deny it, I know you do. You're so much happier the closer it comes to you getting to leave and you're much more pleasant in the mornings after spending the night with her. So… who is it?”

 

“Clary, you're so far off the mark it isn't even funny. There's no girl, okay?”

 

“You can tell me, honest. It isn't awkward. I'm actually starting to move on from you; I just want you to be happy,” Clary tells him.

 

Jace coughs around a laugh. “Oh, are you now? It's not that simple to get over this pretty face, Clary; trust me, I haven't managed yet.”

 

Clary laughs, soft and light, just like Simon loves. “The funny thing is… I actually believe you're in love with your own reflection.” She chuckles again, then sighs. “Fine, keep your secrets.”

 

Simon nearly spasms against the wall; Clary made a Lord of The Rings reference, and it almost makes him blow his cover just for a high five. But he manages to stay still and just grin like a fool.

 

“Well, they are mine,” Jace says lightly. “But I swear to you, there isn't a girl.”

 

“Fine,” Clary allows. “But since you said we can hang out, when better than the present. Whatcha up to? Wanna watch a movie?”

 

Jace jolts as he keeps the door closed as Clary starts to try and enter. He clears his throat. “Uh, actually, I was… um, I was going to have some- I was doing me time. You understand, right?”

 

“Me time? Isn't that code for- oh! Oh, you're- okay. That's- wow, okay,” Clary stutters, words breaking around giggles. “I'll, uh, just leave you to it then. Um, you and your… hands have fun, I guess.”

 

Simon bites his lip, fighting the rising laughter, and he hears Clary's shoes pad away. Jace waits until she's seriously gone before he closes the door and leans against it, lightly smacking his forehead against the wood over and over.

 

“I hate my life,” Jace mutters.

 

And that's it. Simon can't hold it in anymore. He nearly folds in half with laughter, breaths wheezing out as he shakes with silent chortles. He laughs so hard and for so long, tears actually dribble down his cheeks and it hurts when it's over. When he manages to catch his breath and focus, Jace is just watching him with an arched eyebrow, arms crossed, but Simon sees the amusement he's hiding.

 

“That,” Simon declares, “was hilarious.”

 

Jace shakes his head, hands dropping at his sides, eyes betraying his own laughter. “I'm glad you enjoyed that.”

 

“I did,” Simon confirms. “I really did. I want you to know how hard that was to keep quiet.”

 

“You're effort deserves awards,” Jace replies dryly, rolling his eyes.

 

Simon nods somberly. “That it does.”

 

Then, they trail off into silence, the moment suddenly really stilted. The almost kiss is abruptly in the air between them, dancing and demanding attention, but Simon wants to avoid it desperately. There are so many things that come with it; most of them revolve around Clary and her feelings.

 

Jace sighs quietly. “You haven't ate.”

 

“No, I- I haven't. I should probably get home,” Simon murmurs, traitorous eyes slipping down to focus on Jace's lips. They're unfairly pretty - pink, plump, slightly pursed, kissable.

 

“Yeah,” Jace agrees, head ducking, looking for a brief moment as if he's insecure, but Simon knows that's impossible. Jace isn't capable.

 

“I'd say you come with me to watch Deathly Hallows, Part One, but I know you have to help with Valentine tomorrow,” Simon tells him.

 

Jace slowly raises his head slightly, just enough to look up through his lashes. “I could come back here in the morning,” he suggests casually, though his body language is anything but.

 

And shit, Simon's weak.

 

“In that case,” he breathes out.

 

Jace smiles, slow and wide. “Let's go.”

 

Simon swallows. “Let's.”





 



Lying in the bed beside Simon feels different now.

 

Jace is acutely aware that he can slide a little to the left and slip on his side to curl into Simon and just… yeah. By the Angel, he's losing his mind.

 

It's one thing to want Simon, it's another to almost get him, even for a moment. Jace can still feel the phantom grip of Simon's fingers on his neck, can still vividly remember the comfort that came from hugging him. Every time he takes in a breath, he remembers how Simon had exhaled softly against his lips, trading air like Jace needed it.

 

Jace tries to focus on the movie. He doesn't want to get caught up in this. It had been a mistake on his part, a small slip, and Clary showing up to send it spiralling to its end was just the ironic reminder he needed. He can't do this with Simon, won't. It doesn't matter how much he stupidly wants to.

 

He tries to remember what it was like when he didn't like Simon. He can't. He tries to remember what it was like when he didn't want him. It's a faint memory now. It's like he's consumed by it at this point, and isn't that just true to form?

 

Jace Wayland, Jace Morgenstern, Jace Herondale, Jace Lightwood; no matter the name, he's always the idiot who can't do anything half-assed. No, if he's going to desire and love, he's going to do it with every cell in his body. He'd done it with Clary, now he's doing it with Simon.

 

But… but.

 

Jace likes Simon because it's easy with him. Simon is good, pure, always has been. He's adorable in that dorky way, like no matter how bad the world gets, there's always a reason to smile. Jace likes that, needs that. And that's why he eventually manages to relax and let go of what almost happened.

 

He chalks it up to a moment they'll never explore, and that's just fine with him.

 

So, he relaxes into the bed and watches the movie, eyes growing heavier throughout. But Ron has left, and Jace is kind of pissed that he did, so he forces himself to stay awake.

 

“You're mad at Ron,” Simon notes in amusement.

 

Jace scowls at the screen as Hermione and Harry dance in a circle. “Yes, I am. You don't just abandon your friends. That's fucked up.”

 

“No, I get that. But Ron has his reasons and is a little bit of an emotionally repressed idiot.”

 

“I'm emotionally repressed, but I'd never do that.”

 

“I'm glad you're self aware.” Simon chuckles. “Ron, however, is not.”

 

The movie continues on and before he knows it, Jace is fully invested in it. He hasn't forgotten about what happened with Simon, but it seems less important than enjoying a movie with him. Just like that, the atmosphere eases back into comfortable territory, and they're drawing closer on the bed, almost touching, just like normal.

 

When Hermione loses it on Ron, Jace just hums in approval and says, “Good.”

 

Simon snorts. “Jace says women's rights. I can get behind that message.”

 

“She should be angry. Ron did something without even considering her feelings,” Jace mutters, wrinkling his nose.

 

“Because you're so good about not doing that,” Simon teases, and for a split second, Jace thinks he means the almost kiss and Clary.

 

Jace frowns. “I am, actually.”

 

“So, all those women from your book club,” Simon presses, voice lilting with amusement.

 

“They all know what they're getting into. I don't sleep with any of them until they completely understand that I won't do a relationship. Most of them don't want one either, just want a good lay.”

 

“And what, you provide?”

 

Jace slowly turns his head to meet Simon's gaze head on. “Yes,” he answers, voice dropping low without his permission, succulent and seductive.

 

Simon's throat bobs visibly, even in the dark of the room. “Oh. Lucky them.”

 

“Yeah, lucky them,” Jace agrees, smirking as he turns back to the screen.

 

They go back to silently watching, the tension that had spiked yet again slowly deflating. Like waves, he goes from being calm and casual to nearly throwing all caution to the wind and pinning Simon to this shitty mattress. But eventually, he relaxes and gets back into the movie.

 

When Draco doesn't reveal who Harry is, Simon heartily says, “See, he's not completely evil.”

 

“He's still a little shit,” Jace retorts seriously.

 

“Well, yes, but he's also just a kid in a messed up situation. He was horrible to Harry, but things got really messed up when Voldemort came back.”

 

“How do you always see the best in people?”

 

“It's a gift,” Simon quips, and when he shrugs, Jace feels the movement against his shoulder.

 

And it goes on, just like that. They quietly talk back and forth, Simon actually sniffles when the elf dies, and Jace mindlessly reaches over to rub his arm. Simon doesn't seem to notice that he shifts closer, but Jace slowly withdraws his hand and works to keep his breathing regular.

 

Then, Voldemort retrieves the Elder Wand and the movie is over. Simon does not move to get up and switch it out for some other inane show to play in the background. Jace waits for him to move, but he never does.

 

Now that the movie is over, Jace is already nodding off. Simon isn't moving, isn't saying anything, and Jace can feel sleep welcoming him. He's right up against Simon, his shoulder is right there, begging to be a pillow. It's not even a choice at this point.

 

Jace closes his eyes and drops his head over to Simon's shoulder, drifting. He thinks he feels fingers in his hair before he completely drops off, but he's asleep before he can make sure.

 

And when he wakes up, he's curled into Simon's side, hand thrown over his waist, head on his chest. It's early in the morning, Jace hasn't ever slept better, and as he slips away, he tries to tell himself it isn't because he slept in Simon's arms.

 

It's a lie, but he tries.

Chapter Text

Jace is pretty sure he's going to throw up.

 

Izzy's hair is around her head like a halo, pale skin making the blood on her temple look stark and deadly. He's frozen on the spot, heart hammering in his chest, stuck between staring at the portal Duncan just passed through with Valentine and looking on in horror at the sight of Izzy sprawled on the ground.

 

Someone curses sharply and the spell is broken. Jace skids to Izzy's side, fumbling for her stele, shakily lighting her healing rune. The gash on her head slowly stops bleeding, her eyes eventually open. And she's pissed.

 

“Duncan,” she hisses.

 

Jace nods. “Duncan.”

 

The rest is a shitshow, as expected, especially from the Clave. The blame goes on Alec, though he's the farthest from being at fault. They're not even back at the institute good before Robert comes as a Clave representative. Everything is a rush to locate Valentine and fix this mistake.

 

Jace thinks about calling Luke, so he does.

 

“Jace?” Luke answers, sounding worried.

 

“I just want you to know you were right. About not trusting our own.”

 

“What happened?”

 

Jace explains, Luke sighs. It's like this now. This is what their lives are now, all of them. It's pieces of life between Valentine's latest ploy. Somehow, he managed to get Duncan on his side, but Jace doesn't understand. He's known Duncan for years. It doesn't make sense. Seeing him swing out, strike Izzy, snatch Valentine and run… it makes Jace feel as if he's going to be sick.

 

“I'm sorry,” Jace says, after. “I know how much- I know that, with Jocelyn-”

 

“Jace, it's not your fault. None of you kids are at fault. You've all done your best, I know that,” Luke tells him softly, as gentle as a werewolf never usually is, and Jace is comforted by it.

 

“We'll make this right.”

 

“I know. I just wish it wasn't on you all. None of you should have to. All of you are paying for my generation's past mistakes.”

 

“If it's not our fault, it isn't yours either. You've been doing everything you can.”

 

“And I will continue to do so. Keep me posted.”

 

Jace swallows. “Will do.”

 

Alec steps up beside him a few moments after, jaw working, looking put out. “Simon?” he guesses.

 

“Luke, actually,” Jace says with a sigh.

 

“Is he okay?”

 

“As good as to be expected.”

 

Alec looks at him and says something Jace never expected to hear. “You should go be with Simon.”

 

“What? No, I have to stay here. I need to-”

 

“You need to decompress. We aren't going to find him easily, and we need to be at our best when we do. This has been a horrible day, we all need to recover. For you, that's Simon.”

 

“And for you?” Jace challenges.

 

Again, Alec surprises him. “I'm going to Magnus’ in a bit,” he says with a smile. “I've been so busy lately; I haven't been spending enough time with him. I'm bringing Izzy and Max with me. Why don't you get Simon and Clary and join us?”

 

“I thought I was supposed to be recovering?”

 

“Jace, you need to be with your family right now, your real family.”

 

Jace stares at his feet, heart heavy in his chest, hating that Alec always, always manages to get him without even putting in any effort. It's fair, he supposes. It's like that for him with Alec. Even before the parabatai bond. They've always just clicked, even when they were at odds, and now, they're fighting the same war and needing the same break. Jace can't argue that.

 

“I'll get them,” Jace murmurs.

 

“Good,” Alec replies, squeezes his shoulder, and walks away.

 

Jace licks his lips and takes out his phone, opening up his conversation with Simon. They actually text casually throughout the day. Well, Simon does. He text like he talks, rambling and full of chatter. Most of the messages consist of Simon sending him a random thought or fact with Jace replying with a snarky remark that sets off five more texts from Simon. The last message from Simon is from this morning and it makes his heart squeeze.

 

Dork, 9:19am: good luck!

 

The words stare up at him, utterly optimistic and like a slap to his face now. Jace sighs, long and heavy, blinking rapidly. The name, at least, makes his lips twitch. Simon had been offended when he'd noticed it, but only in the way that meant he was slightly pleased. Jace knows why. No one else in his contacts have a special nickname; even Clary doesn't and never did. It's just Simon.

 

Jace frowns and starts typing.

 

Jace, 5:12pm: i need you at the institute. can you be here?

 

A minute barely passes before his phone pings.

 

Dork, 5:13pm: on my way.

 

Jace hates how relieved he is by those three words. His eyes sting for a moment, but he thickly swallows and pockets his phone. With renewed energy, Jace marches into the central room in the institute. Clary is glaring at a monitor, swiping images rapidly, her hair haphazardly pulled out of her face. Even still, she looks utterly beautiful.

 

When he reaches out and touches her shoulder, she jolts and whirls around. “Jesus,” she hisses, “don't do that. You scared me.”

 

“You're tense,” Jace mumbles.

 

“Aren't you?” Clary snips back, running her tongue under her top lip. “We have every reason to be.”

 

Jace takes a deep breath. “Look, I want to find him as much as you. Everything has went to shit far too quickly. Right now, we can't do anything. Alec brought up a good point; things are about to get crazy and we need to take a moment for ourselves. Come with me? Everyone is staying at Magnus’ tonight, just… being together.”

 

Clary frowns at him. “Seriously?”

 

“Yep.” Jace nods. “Simon too. He should be here in a few. You coming?”

 

“Yeah,” Clary says, softening entirely. Her tension lessens, face losing some of its bitterness, looking less frazzled. “Let me go grab a couple of things. I'll meet you outside.”

 

Jace just turns and walks away. His phone buzzes in his pocket and when he pulls it out, it's just Simon letting him know he's almost here. Jace nearly breaks into a grin at knowing that Simon is running at full speed to get here. And sure enough, Simon is approaching when Jace moves down the steps.

 

“What happened?” Simon asks warily.

 

Suddenly, Jace wants to fall apart. He feels it in his chest, like a crack in his chassis, widening the longer that Simon looks at him with so much concern. Jace tries to stop his face from screwing up, tries to keep his breathing even, tries not to end up in shambles at Simon's feet.

 

“Valentine, he- we didn't-”

 

That's all he manages to get out before Simon's darting forward and crushing him in a tight hug. It's almost too tight, but Jace suddenly feels as if he can breathe. His eyes blur and he clings to Simon, fingers digging into his stupid graphic t-shirt.

 

“Breathe, Jace, just breathe. Match my breathing. In, pause, out. In through your nose, out through your mouth.” Simon's words are soft and slow, drawn out, lulling Jace. “In and out. In and out. That's good.”

 

They sway and they breathe, and Jace closes his eyes. Every time he inhales, he smells the faint scent of cologne and the slightly sweet curl of decay that every vampire has. It's just on the brink of smelling bad, but not quite, and combined with Simon's usual cologne, it's a nice smell.

 

Simon sways them back and forth and Jace realizes he's trembling like a fucking lunatic. He starts to pull away, but Simon holds him firm, shushing him quietly in his ear. Jace doesn't really want to let go anyway, so he sinks into it and keeps breathing.

 

Eventually, Simon lets him go, and Jace stares at his shaking hands. “What was that?” he asks.

 

“A panic attack,” Simon tells him carefully. “I used to get them sometimes, still do occasionally. You just have to keep breathing through it, man.”

 

Jace blinks at him. “But I'm not panicking.”

 

“It's not always that simple. Look, you're having a rough time right now and that's to be expected if Valentine escaped. Tell me what I can do.”

 

“Actually, that's just it. There isn't anything we can do just yet. Alec's getting everyone together at Magnus’ place so we can all just… be together.”

 

Simon blinks, looks taken aback. “And you… you thought of me?”

 

“Yeah, I- yeah,” Jace replies weakly. “You weren't busy? I didn't take you away from anything, did I?”

 

“No, I- well, yes, actually. I have a dinner with my family; it's a Jewish thing.” Simon waves a hand and cracks a smile. “It's- it's okay, though. Maia didn't think I should go because of what happened with Quinn anyway.”

 

“Did you want to go?” Jace asks seriously.

 

Simon looks down at his feet and takes a deep breath. “My bubbee is gonna be there. It's- it's kind of tradition. But I want to be with you- with everyone. So, it's not-”

 

“We'll make a pit stop,” Jace interrupts him firmly. “It's your family, Simon. You can have both.”

 

The door clangs shut behind them, making them both turn to watch Clary wearily descend the stairs. As soon as Simon sees her, he moves over to wrap her into a hug. She buries his face into his chest and cries softly, clutching at his shirt much like he had moments before.

 

Jace watches and he wonders why he feels nothing. He's not jealous, or envious, or bitter. If anything, he just watches with a numb feeling. It's so fucking sad to witness, and Jace has to take in a deep breath to try and stave off the feeling that he's being choked. He stares down at his shoes and blinks.

 

A hand suddenly tugs at his, and when he looks up, one of Clary's hands have reached out to grip his as she cries. He threads their fingers together and lets her hold on as tightly as she wants.

 

The three of them stand there like that, just holding on, just breathing.

 

She releases his hand first, then pulls away from Simon. She scrubs at her splotchy cheeks, taking in a shuddering breath. Then, she does what she always does; she pulls herself together and smiles.

 

“Ready to go?”

 

“Actually,” Jace says quietly, “we have to make a pit stop.”

 

Simon tuts. “No, no it's fine. We should just-”

 

“Simon, we're going.” Jace fixes a look on Clary, demanding her support. “He has a family dinner, a Jewish tradition. His bubbee is there.”

 

“Of course,” Clary says immediately. “We can go, enjoy some normalcy, then head to Magnus’ loft.”

 

Jace smirks at Simon. “Exactly.”

 

“I don't like it when you two double team me,” Simon says decidedly.

 

Jace and Clary share an amused glance, and for a moment, everything feels alright in the world.





 




“Guys, this isn't something you just bring someone to, let alone two.”

 

“Well, in what circumstances do you bring other people?” Jace asks lightly.

 

Clary hums. “Usually a spouse, right? Converted, preferably. I remember you telling me about this.”

 

Simon wants to bang his head against the door to his house, but he refrains. Barely. They don't completely get it, probably never will. But they aren't just going to go away, and after the day they've had, Simon wouldn't ask them to. On top of that, they're his two favorite people in the whole world and he doesn't want them to leave; he has no idea how Jace got added to that mix, but he really is just going with it at this point.

 

Simon squares his shoulders and opens the door, involuntarily relaxing into the smell of food he's grown up around his whole life. Kugel assaults his nose - savory this year - and Simon wishes he could eat it. He wishes he could eat, period.

 

“Simon?” his mom calls out loudly.

 

“Yeah, mom, it's me,” he calls back, leading Jace and Clary into the dining room.

 

Rebecca, his mom, and his bubbee all look up with smiles, and he watches their faces form into polite confusion. He has no idea what to say.

 

“Simon,” his mom says, eyebrows raising, “who is this? Hello Clary, lovely to see you again, dear.”

 

Simon can't answer. Clary does instead.

 

“Hi, Mrs. Lewis,” Clary says pleasantly. “I'm terribly sorry to intrude, but I'm working on a survey for college and was hoping to learn more about Jewish cuisine from the source.”

 

His Bubbee perks up. “No other way! That internet of yours isn't true to real life,” she says seriously. “And who is this lovely young man?”

 

Clary smiles prettily and says, “This is Simon's boyfriend, Jace.”

 

Simon nearly chokes on his tongue and Jace doesn't even hesitate. He smiles brightly and grabs Simon's hand, slotting their fingers together. They fit perfectly, which is annoying. Rebecca's eyebrows shoot up, his mom blinks rapidly, and his bubbee's smile wanes slightly.

 

“Hi,” Jace says, charm turned all the way up. “I've heard so much about you all. Simon loves you all very much.”

 

At that, Rebecca's smile turns feral, his mom softens, and his bubbee narrows her eyes.

 

Great. Just great. Simon is going to kill Clary.

 

Actually, it's not so bad, all things considered. Clary literally takes a pen and pad out of her bag to draw the food and jot down any notes his bubbee insists she know. Jace dazzles his mother effortlessly and successfully evades Rebecca's playful taunts. In fact, Simon hasn't felt this... comfortable in his family's presence since before he became a vampire.

 

Even shrouded in lies, even full of faux stories, it feels like being normal again. He has his best friend on one side of him and his… something on the other. What should make things worse, helps instead.

 

Everything is mostly okay, outside of Rebecca's well-meaning teasing and the fact that his bubbee is out for blood. While she's aware Simon is pansexual, not that she fully gets what that means, she hasn't hidden her interest in great grandchildren. She's his hero, without a doubt, but he could go without her telling him to settle down with a nice Jewish girl and giving her grandbabies before she croaks - which, Simon objects to the morbid phrasing every time, even as she chortles goodnaturedly.

 

It's obvious that his bubbee would like Jace if he wasn't hypothetically standing in the way of her chance at grandchildren from him, but it's almost as if Jace is specifically equipped for tittering older women who aren't quite against the gays, but aren't rallying behind them either.

 

She says, “So, young man, just what are your intentions with our Simon, hmm? You planning to make an honest man out of him?”

 

Simon wants to crawl under the table and maybe die again, even as Clary snorts into her palm and his mom chastises his bubbee lightly. Rebecca sits back and watches in interest, waiting to see how this will play out. Jace looks right at his bubbee, stares into her eyes, and smiles so handsomely and convincingly that Simon almost forgets that this is all a facade for a moment.

 

“One day, perhaps.” Jace gives a light laugh and reaches over to grab Simon's hand, covertly stealing a bit of food off his plate, which makes him a saint in Simon's book. “Simon is a really good person, and I'm pretty sure you deserve credit for that. He told me about what you went through, because to be completely honest, I didn't fully understand. I want you to know I have tremendous respect for you and you're a key reason in why so many women today grip the world in their hands and stay strong. You're a role model, not only to Simon, but to me.”

 

Everyone is silent and still after that. Simon watches as his bubbee virtually falls in love with Jace right then and there, practically erasing the faceless forms of future grandchildren and replacing all her hopes with him instead. She has tears in her eyes, a smile threatening to crack her face, and Simon will never be able to repay Jace for this moment, nor will he be forgetting it anytime soon.

 

“Well,” his bubbee says thickly, sniffling, “I have to say, I like you a lot.” She points a shaking finger at Jace and looks right at Simon. “Keep this one.”

 

Simon smiles at her softly. “I intend to.”

 

His bubbee takes a sip of water. “And here I thought nothing could be greater than grandchildren.”

 

Well, at least she's self aware.

 

“Oh, we'll have children,” Jace tells her casually, smiling as he takes a bite.

 

She blinks at him. “I- you will?”

 

Jace swallows and looks at her curiously, eyebrows meeting on his forehead. “Of course? There are so many children who need a good home. I have plans to adopt, I always have. I was adopted, so I wanted to give a child the same chance I was lucky enough to get. Who knows, maybe I'll adopt a child from a Jewish decent.”

 

Rebecca's fork scrapes against the plate as she leans forward and waggles her eyebrows at him. “Look out, bro, bubbee is about to plan your wedding.”

 

Simon is about to plan their wedding, holy shit. Even Clary is gaping at Jace in shock. And Simon knows why. Jace is being completely sincere about this, not even a facade, and he doesn't even seem to realize what he's just done.

 

His mom stares at Jace. “You are really the full package, aren't you?”

 

“I wouldn't say that,” Jace replies and winks at her playfully.

 

“Modest too,” his mom says, sending a pointed look in Simon's direction.

 

“Simon,” his bubbee says gravely.

 

“Yes, bubbee?”

 

“If you never listen to anything else I say, hear me now. Keep this one.”

 

Simon stifles a laugh. “You got it.”

 

After that, things rock along smoothly. Jace pretty much garners all the attention from his bubbee, but he doesn't seem to mind in the least. Clary and Rebecca casually talk across the table, picking out dishes to draw at different angles. And Simon quietly talks with his mom, checking in with her, catching up on what he's missed. It's moments like these that he really misses being human and being home, but it's bittersweet in the best way.

 

Then, Simon says he has to go, and his mom makes him wait as they lightly bicker over their family tradition of announcing their biggest regret in the past year. It seems morbid, but it's supposed to remind them to try to be better people the following year, and if Simon is honest, it has helped him in the past. Even if there are moments each year that he stops and thinks, this is my biggest regret.

 

Simon's thought that plenty recently.

 

“No, it's fine,” his mom insists. “I'll go first. My biggest regret is that I fell back into a old, toxic habit. I started drinking again. But I am seeking help and staying healthy.”

 

She spreads her hands and gestures to Jace, silently urging him to go next. For a moment, Jace looks as if he's a deer caught in headlights, terrified and not sure where to go. Then, he seems to really think it over, and just as Simon is about to save him, Jace leans forward and opens his mouth.

 

“My biggest regret this year was believing that family can't be found, only given.” Jace blinks and looks down at the tabletop. “My, um, father entered my life again, and he's not a good person. He made me believe that family aren't capable of being… toxic. But they can be, and that's why I now know that real family doesn't always have to end with blood, nor does it start there either.”

 

Simon doesn't even think about it, just reaches over and smooths his hand up Jace's spine, infinitely pleased as the tension melts away. Jace looks over at him and smiles slightly, a short look meant only for them, and Simon returns the smile.

 

“Simon?” his mom prompts softly.

 

Right. His turn. He drops his hand from Jace and takes a deep breath. “My biggest regret is that I put you through a really hard time, mom. You and Rebecca. You both were worried for me, and I didn't- I wasn't there for either of you. But I'm not going anywhere, not ever again.”

 

Rebecca smiles softly and reaches across the table, taking his hand and squeezing it. “You know we love you,” she says seriously.

 

Simon smiles at her. “I know.”

 

“Clary?” his mom says, dipping her head to continue the circle.

 

Clary releases a soft laugh, her throat bobbing as she averts her eyes for a moment. “My biggest regret? I- I think it is that I didn't appreciate my mom like I should have before she passed. I thought- I always thought we'd have more time. We always think that, don't we? But I know she knew I loved her more than anything and I know she loved me as well.” She gives a small, wet chuckle and swipes at her eyes.

 

Simon drops Rebecca's hand to reach over and squeeze Clary's, holding her steady as she has her moment. Seeing her like that, it makes him want to hold her, shield her, take away her pain so she never has to feel it ever again. But it's a part of her, it makes her who she is, and as horrible as it is, she needs it.

 

“My turn?” Rebecca says lightly, watching Clary sympathetically. “I guess mine is that I gave up a chance at happiness because I was scared. There was someone, but I let my fear of loss get in the way. But I haven't given up hope; I will try again.”

 

“Oh, honey,” his moms says with a soft sigh, her eyes gentle and sad.

 

Simon knows he's been out of touch, because he has no idea what Rebecca's talking about. He won't ask, but he's guilty that he wasn't there for her.

 

“Well, I can't remember my whole year,” his bubbee announces lightly. “I can barely remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. But I have a regret that feels important now.” She looks directly at Jace and Simon. “I let my own prejudice and hopes get in the way of seeing happiness within someone I love. But I'm a quick learner and came around easy enough.”

 

It's so light and loose that everyone laughs, letting the heavy moment ease around them. It is heavy, but it's cathartic. Simon already feels as if a weight has been lifted off his chest, like he can breathe just a bit easier now that he's admitted something that's been bothering him, and now he can move on and do better. It's tearing open a poorly treated wound and helping it heal properly. Simon suddenly remembers why they do this.

 

After that, they say their goodbyes with hugs and light conversations. His bubbee says in no uncertain terms that Jace better be here next time, and he promises with a smile and kiss to her cheek - Simon never thought he'd see the day. His mom holds onto Clary tight and for a long time, mothering her in a way she hasn't had in awhile, and Clary clings to her. Rebecca hugs Simon, kisses his forehead, ruffles his hair. They all swap out and hug each other other, trading goodbyes with ease.

 

And his mom walks them to the door. She ushers Jace and Clary out the door, holding Simon back. He's not sure what's coming, but he's willing to listen. She leans close and talks quietly.

 

“Is that the boy?” she asks. “The one Clary loved?”

 

Simon clears his throat. “Yeah, that's him.”

 

“Funny, how things work out, isn't it?” she murmurs lightly, patting his cheek.

 

Simon flicks a gaze out to his favorite people and can't stop the smile from spreading on his face.

 

“Yeah, yeah I guess it is."

Chapter Text

“You and Clary have mission.”

 

Jace knows that, but he doesn't like it. Still, he nods sharply and leads Clary out of the room. He can feel Alec's eyes on his back, piercing and demanding he just follow orders for once. But when has Jace ever?

 

Jace knows they have to get to Valentine's cabin. It doesn't matter what he's supposed to be doing, not when his chance to catch Valentine might be so close. He wants to end this… now.

 

It doesn't take much to get Clary on board. In fact, she's willing to go to the cabin almost immediately. Jace knows why, knows that she's just as hellbent on ending this with Valentine once and for all. This ends in bloodshed or it doesn't end; they know that now, even if no one else seems to.

 

The only problem is that they have no way to get there. That is until Clary makes a freaking portal. Sometimes, she's so damn amazing that Jace wonders how he's not still in love with her.

 

Things get hectic way too fast. Jace doesn't have a weapon, doesn't even have his stele. It's like walking around naked and he hates it. What he hates even more is that Clary just up and disappears on him. Dodging rabid werewolves and searching for her, it's like a breath of fresh air when he sees Izzy.

 

“Did you drink the water?” she demands immediately after she nearly chops his head off.

 

Jace holds his seraph blade, feeling instantly better. He frowns at her. “No, I didn't. I'm pretty sure Clary did though. Why?”

 

He does not like her answer.

 

They set off to find Clary, and Jace hopes she's okay. When they eventually find her, she is not okay. Fighting her goes against every cell in his body, like fighting Alec or Izzy, really fighting. This isn't training, this is fighting for his life. Despite the lack of lifelong training, Clary is not something to be scoffed at. She has natural abilities and she's been training vigorously. It's not until he locks her into his arms and sets off her healing rune by instinct alone that she comes back to herself.

 

“I'm sorry,” she whispers, sagging into his arms.

 

He pushes her hair out of her face. “It's okay, you didn't mean to. Can you keep going?”

 

She can and she does, like always. Though, she leans into Izzy, both keeping an arm around each other, and Jace watches the rear. They reach the cabin as the sun starts setting, giving them cover but taking away their chance to scope the place out.

 

They have to go in fighting, and they do, except there's no one to fight. The place stinks with rotted flesh; Duncan's engorged body is a horrific sight. Jace pities him, pities his family, swears he'll see to it that he gets a proper funeral in Idris. His grandmother might do it if he really wants her to.

 

All they manage to find is Valentine's journals, the ones he was never allowed to touch. The one time he had, they'd never returned. That alone tells him they're important, so they take them.

 

Back at the institute, they get a stern reprimand from Robert, but Alec quickly steps in. There's a sharp look in his eyes, a heaviness there that comes from being a leader, and Robert leaves with a clenched jaw. Alec then proceeds to lecture him and Clary all over again.  

 

Once he stops, he says, “I have to tell you something. All of you.”

 

“What is it?” Jace asks.

 

“The Clave never had the soul sword; they lied. They don't know where it is or who has it. But even with it powered down, it can be used with the cup and the mirror to form the mortal instruments.”

 

Clary says, “Shit,” and that about sums it up.

 

“What are we supposed to do?” Izzy asks, a worried look on her tired face.  

 

Alec taps one of the journals. “Clary, you and Jace see what you can get from these. I have a downworlder meeting to get to. Izzy, you get cleaned up, rest, then help prepare Max for his first mission.”

 

“And about the mortal instruments?” Jace murmurs, crossing his arms.

 

“Our focus has to be the mirror. That's what Valentine will be going after next. We need to find it before he does,” Alec says seriously.

 

Izzy hums. “Are you going to tell the downworlders about the soul sword?”

 

Alec's lips tighten. “We don't need a revolt. There isn't reason to panic. For now, this stays quiet.” His gaze sharpens on Jace. “Tell no one.”

 

Jace hears it for what it is, don't tell Simon.

 

“Agreed,” Jace murmurs, nodding.

 

They disperse to do as they're told. Jace plants himself across from Clary and gets started on the journals. What he finds makes his stomach churn.

 

It's the fact that this could have been him. What happened to Jonathan could have truly been his burden. If Valentine had picked him instead, if he'd chosen to swap the experiments. Jace can barely think about it without his stomach recoiling. When Clary asks what's wrong, he's honest with her.

 

“Jace, you can't do this to yourself,” she tells him softly, reaching over to lightly touch his hand.

 

He sucks in a shuddering breath and goes to reply when his phone buzzes in his pocket. Blinking, he tugs it out and slides it open. It's Simon.

 

Dork, 8:19pm: this is gonna sound weird, but it's going to feel odd not sleeping next to you

 

Jace reads those words, then rereads them. He's only half aware of the smile slowly curling his lips. To be fair, he and Simon have slept beside each other for the past eight days. Even at Magnus’ loft, they piled on separate ends of the couch and slept a few hours there, two cats curling up in the space between their feet. So, he gets it.

 

Jace, 8:21pm: makes sense

 

Dork, 8:22pm: wyd

 

Jace, 8:23pm: my job. found some of Valentine's journals. lots of stuff about me in here

 

Dork, 8:25pm: wanna talk about it?

 

Jace, 8:29: honestly, I'm more fucked up about the stuff about the real Jonathan. Valentine saw us both as nothing more than experiments. it's hard to explain. im so done with this day

 

Dork, 8:31pm: you should sleep. I know you'll be busy but you don't need to wear yourself out. and that's fair. being Valentine's experiments isn't a joke. I imagine you're messed up about it

 

Jace, 8:33pm: ill sleep when I'm dead. and yeah, but its more than that. I could have been him. also are you using vamp speed to type

 

Dork, 8:34pm: maybe, how'd you know

 

Dork, 8:36pm: and don't blame yourself for Valentine's sick games. also pls dont talk about being dead. I don't like it

 

Jace stares at the last four words, heart thumping unevenly in his chest. By the Angel, how has he ended up here? So utterly taken with Simon fucking Lewis that those four words do unfortunate things to his chest. He shakes his head with a smile, starts to type but stops when Clary clears her throat.

 

“What?” he asks awkwardly, suddenly yanked back to earth by her arched eyebrow.

 

“Is that the girl you're denying exists?”

 

“What- no? Why are you stuck on this?”

 

“Jace, you're smiling at your phone like a lovesick idiot. In the mess of all of this, someone is making you smile.” Clary's other eyebrow joins the first in rising up her forehead. “I'm not blind and I'm definitely not stupid.”

 

Now isn't the time, nor the place, but the words rise up and escape anyway. “It's a guy.”

 

Clary blinks. “You're gay?” she blurts.

 

“No,” he mutters, shaking his head. “Bisexual. Still the guy girls weep about.”

 

“No one weeps,” Clary says. “And you know, I don't mind. I think it's cool, actually. If I'm honest, I probably have a bit of bisexual tendencies myself.”

 

“Yeah?” Jace asks, intrigued. “How so?”

 

Clary smirks. “Izzy has that effect.”

 

Jace snorts. “It's funny, when I told her, she mentioned something about wondering if she was bisexual, said something about asking you if you were down to experiment.”

 

“That's actually very… flattering,” Clary admits with a laugh, face lighting up with amusement. “So, Izzy knows? Does Alec?”

 

“Alec and Magnus.” Jace looks down at his phone, rereading those four words again.

 

“Ah,” Clary says delicately, smile falling. “So I'm the last to know.”

 

Jace winces involuntarily. “I- I'm sorry.”

 

“Did you think I'd be angry?” Clary asks, eyebrows wrinkling with confusion. “I mean, it's your business and you can tell whoever you want; I just- I don't know. I wish I was one of those people.”

 

“I didn't think you'd be angry, not about this,” Jace admits quietly. “I just didn't know how to tell you. I barely knew how to tell the others. It seems so insignificant in the face of all this other shit.”

 

“Jace, if it's important to you, it's important to us. And if you ever want to tell me anything, I will listen. I'm always here for you; we all are.”

 

He almost tells her about Simon right then, almost just opens his mouth and comes clean. He's on the brink of it. His inner turmoil has turned more poignant, visceral and rancid now. He's breathing in guilt and exhaling self-disgust day in and day out, as if he's back to being in love with his sister. That had turned out to be a lie and he'd sworn to never allow himself to feel like that again, yet here he is. And that's what nearly pushes him to spills his guts.

 

But his phone rings with another text from Simon and he just breathes out, “Thank you, Clary.”

 

Clary smiles a genuinely kind smile. “Anytime, Jace.”

 

Jace looks back down at his phone.

 

Dork, 8:46pm: Jace?

 

Jace, 8:47pm: not dead yet. just busy.

 

Dork, 8:49pm: fair enough. and if you do want to come over, you know you can. we still have part 2 and my bed is big enough for you

 

Jace, 8:50pm: maybe tomorrow. slammed right now. ill text you in the am

 

Dork, 8:52pm: okay

 

Dork, 8:53pm: goodnight Jace

 

Jace, 8:55pm: goodnight Simon

 

With a sigh, Jace turns his phone off and pockets it, turning back to the journals. He gets through three more pages before he's incapable of holding back the words in his mind.

 

“You don't think I'm different?”

 

Clary looks up from the journal, staring at him seriously. “No? You like guys too, so what? Same old Jace to me.”

 

“You know the Shadowhunter world isn't as… accepting as mundanes are. What Alec did with Magnus was ballsy.” Jace frowns in bemusement, watching Clary. “I'm not ashamed, but I don't know how Alec is so effortlessly… himself.”

 

“It isn't effortless. Alec has to work for it, which he shouldn't. I know you hear the whispers, I know you notice the looks he gets, and it's not just because he's with a downworlder.” Clary huffs and shakes her head in disapproval. “It's not easy for him. That's not fair, but he fights for it anyway. He fights to be himself, fights for love. And Jace… you're the same, even if you don't realize it.”

 

“I wish that was true.”

 

“It's still new, isn't it? Give yourself time, Jace. Do it at your own pace. We're all here to support you.”

 

Jace tilts his head. “How are you so… you? It's like you know exactly what to say.”

 

“I have a friend, a guy I've known since I was a kid. He went through his own sexuality crisis when we were teenagers. It took him by surprise, and I was there for him.” Clary shrugs slightly, looking vaguely proud. “Now, he's comfortable in his own skin, knows exactly what he likes.”

 

“So basically… you're like a gay sidekick?”

 

“I think the term is ally, actually.”

 

Jace cracks a smile. “And you're sure your not bisexual? I mean, if I am, I don't put it past anyone at this point.”

 

Clary waggles her fingers at him playfully. “To be explored at a later date. For now… journals.”

 

“Journals,” Jace agrees with a grimace.

 

Not even thirty minutes later, Clary realizes Jonathan is alive, and things get even more complicated, if that's possible.






 




Jace knows it's a dream almost immediately. He's not sure why, but it feels as if he's been in this dream before. It's foggy and disorienting, making Jace blink sluggishly around the room.

 

“Hey,” Simon says gently, “you okay?”

 

Jace blinks at him. “Am I dreaming?”

 

Simon grins. “Aw, aren't you sweet? You're really aiming to get some tonight, huh? You're a flirt.”

 

And Jace suddenly knows. It comes to him like a splash of cold water. He knows exactly where he is, knows what the dream is about, knows about the dreams before. He is dreaming because he's not lying next to Simon. It should worry him, but somehow, Jace knows this is the last one.

 

“How do you love me?” Jace asks in a croak.

 

“How can I not?” Simon replies simply.

 

It doesn't matter that this is a dream. Jace doesn't care that there are people moving around in Magnus’ loft. He barely even notices Clary walking by with a drink in her hand. Everything comes into focus and centers on this one moment.

 

Jace breathes out slowly. “I love you. I really love you. This isn't some mishap. This is me. This is- I understand.”

 

“Well, hey, I love you too,” Simon says easily, all smiles and crinkling eyes.

 

“Not really,” Jace tells him. “But you could. Fuck, Simon, you could.”

 

“What- Jace, I don't-”

 

Jace grabs his cheeks and pulls him in, pressing in close and going for a kiss. He never gets the chance. He knows the moment he's going to wake up because Simon's skin disappears beneath his hands. And he jerks awake in his bed, blinking around blearily in the dark.

 

Suddenly, Jace understands.

 

Chapter Text

“Hey, hey, slow down. Talk to me.”

 

Alec continues down the corridor, his face a blank mask of indifference. “Nothing to talk about.”

 

“I know something is wrong,” Jace insists. “Alec, please, I can feel it, okay?”

 

“It's nothing,” Alec replies firmly.

 

Jace reaches out and snatches him around by the shoulder, exhaling harshly. “Look, times are really fucking hard right now, okay? I'm barely hanging on with all this. I don't want us to fall out, I can't handle that. Just- just talk to me.”

 

Alec stares at him hard. Jace isn't letting this go. There is something wrong, Jace can feel it like an itch under his skin. Alec's messed up right now, needs something, but Jace can't help him if he doesn't know. When Alec crumbles and explains in a croak, Jace realizes this isn't something he can fix.

 

“Magnus and I broke up.”

 

“Shit, Alec… I'm sorry.”

 

The wetness of Alec's eyes gets blinked away and he gives an aborted shrug, lips working around a stilted smile, one so pain-filled that Jace feels it like a hit to his solar plexus. Alec's really hurting and it's not going to just go away.

 

“It's okay,” Alec tells him, voice just barely above a whisper, the lie scraping its way out of him.

 

Jace's chest is tight. “What happened?”

 

“I didn't tell him about the soul sword. I- I should have, but I-

 

“Hey, hey, come here.”

 

Alec lets himself be hugged, but he doesn't hug back. He doesn't cry. Hell, he doesn't even tense up or go limp with relief from comfort. He just stays still in Jace's arms, empty and hurting, nothing more than a shell at this moment. Jace wants to piece him back together, but Magnus holds all the pieces in his hands, keeping them without even knowing.

 

“It just happened,” Alec explains blandly. “I- I think I'm in shock. I just need to be alone.”

 

Jace pulls away and nods. “Go to your office. There's a report of a dead Warlock. I'll take Clary and go check it out. Call me if you need me.”

 

Alec's smile isn't even a smile. “Thanks, Jace.”

 

There isn't anything he can do, so they go their separate ways. Every step that takes him from his aching parabatai feels like blasphemy. He should be fixing this, should be marching over to Magnus’ and demand he get his shit together. But he has a job to do, Alec has to pull himself together, and Magnus has every reason to be angry.

 

So, Jace throws himself into his work. Clary seems to sense that something is wrong, but she doesn't mention it. He's thankful for that.

 

Sebastian talks to them before they head out, asks if they need help, but Jace is in no mood to deal with anyone outside of his family right now. If it isn't Alec, Izzy, Clary, Simon, or even Magnus, he doesn't want to be around them. So as kindly as he can at the moment, he refuses and continues on.

 

It's not that Jace doesn't like Sebastian. He does, actually. He's a good Shadowhunter, helped Izzy get clean, even helped Clary when she was struggling with her runes. And when Jace had opened up to him, Sebastian had given great advice. But that feels like ages ago and Jace just doesn't have the patience.

 

The Warlock hadn't stood a chance.

 

But it's the self-inflicted wounds that get Jace. He wonders what the Warlock had seen to make him kill himself, wonders what had taken him to such measure. He asks Luke, but that's a bust as well.

 

They know it's Jonathan, and Jace can no longer feel sympathy for him. He thinks that if it was him, he would want to be handled rather than helped. He knows that doesn't make much sense, and Clary tells him so, but he can't manage to rip away the layered image of him and Jonathan, like they're two sides of the same exact coin.

 

When they return to the institute, Alec is no longer just hurting. Now, he's pissed.

 

“He's going to side with the seelie queen,” he hisses, jaw jumping in anger. “He hasn't yet, but she's offered protection for his people. He'll take it.”

 

“Maybe not,” Jace says, but that feels like an empty promise.

 

They don't have time to figure that out, not with Dot showing up and providing them with the lead to the mirror that they need.

 

It's all going so quickly that Jace forgets his suggestion to Simon about spending the night with him. It isn't until his phone rings as Dot continues to narrow down the location of the mirror that Jace is sharply reminded. Dork is staring at him from his screen and Jace scans the people surrounding him; they're all busy with Dot, so he steps back.

 

“Hey,” Simon greets cheerfully.

 

Jace paces away. “Hey, you okay?”

 

“Yeah. You sound like you're not. What's up?”

 

“You heard about Jonathan?”

 

“Clary told me. Another brother. Why does this keep happening? How does Valentine keep track?” Simon teases, undoubtedly trying to make Jace laugh.

 

It works. Jace chuckles, despite the severity of the situation. “I honestly don't know and I don't care. Things are starting to get so messy, it's hard to keep up with it all.”

 

“You're not sleeping tonight, are you?” Simon asks, a frown most definitely in his voice.

 

Jace glances back over to the group surrounding Dot. “Probably not. But hey, don't worry about me. I've got a stamina rune for that.”

 

“Is that all it's for?”

 

“Well, not exactly.”

 

Simon makes a small sound, something between intrigue and amusement. “I wonder how that works. Is it like a flood of adrenaline? Is it like jumpstarting a car? Or is it more of a wipe-away kind of deal, like all the exhaustion leaves your body?”

 

“It's all of that and none of it. Hard to explain.”

 

“But useful.”

 

“Can be.” Jace purses his lips and throws another look over to the group. “I'll show you sometime.”

 

“That sounded more like an innuendo than I think you meant it to,” Simon informs him with a laugh.

 

“Who says I didn't mean it to?” Jace asks, only half-joking at this point, and he cannot believe he's flirting with an unassuming Simon right now.

 

Simon snorts. “Tease.”

 

“I've been told,” Jace replies playfully.

 

“I'm sure.” Simon sighs, and Jace can feel the mood turn serious through the line. “Are you okay, seriously? I know I'm not a welcome face around there and I know things are complicated with… with everything, but if you need me, I'll be there.”

 

By the Angel, if Jace opens his mouth right now, he's going to confess his love, and that's not okay. Simon is so fucking selfless sometimes, it kills him. Jace is literally incapable of holding the words back, can feel them rising in the back of his throat. His mind is just one long litany of, Iloveyou, Iloveyou, Iloveyou.

 

Fortunately, Clary - once again - saves him. “Hey,” she chirps as she suddenly appears at his shoulder, making him jolt in the air. “Who's that? Is it your-”

 

Jace ends the call before she can even finish her sentence. “No,” he says simply.

 

“Aw, his name is Dork in your phone?” Clary teases, jerking her chin at Simon's nickname on the screen. Jace glares and pockets his phone. “Well, time to suit up, lover-boy. We've got a mirror to find.”

 

That, Jace thinks, is something he can agree with.





 



Jonathan is, honest to god, ugly as sin.

 

And that's mostly literal.

 

His skin is charred and lumped, eyes bottomless pits. It's like looking into the abyss and learning what it means when they say it peers back. Jace is scared in the way that he's not scared. It's hard to explain, but his brain knows that's a monster, even when his reflexes don't care.

 

Jace would like to believe that he's capable enough on his own to take Jonathan out, but he knows he can't. Even with Clary at his side, they struggle. And when Clary stops to try and reason with him, Jace is seconds from tossing up his hands.

 

This is not how these things work.

 

Still, Clary holds up her hand and soothes, “Jonathan, I'm your sister. My name is Clary.”

 

Jonathan's horrific head clicks as it tilts to the side, his marred body expanding and deflating as he pants ragged breaths. Everything in Jace screams to attack, but he must be as crazy as Clary is because he waits to see how this will play out.

 

“I want to help you. Let me help you. Jonathan, come with me. You're my family.”

 

Jace remembers how twisted up Clary had been about finding out Jace was never her brother. On one hand, she'd been relieved to know she'd never had feelings of the incestual sense - much like Jace himself. But there was something else too, something Jace can't relate to.

 

Clary had lost a brother all over again. If nothing else, she'd believed that her and Jace were family, and losing that… it had bothered her. But this mangled creature is like a second chance, and Jace knows all about those, so he doesn't stop her when she tries to save him.

 

Even if he thinks Jonathan is beyond saving.

 

Moments later, he proves that. In the end, Dot saves their lives… again. If she survives, Jace vows to plan the woman a vacation of some sort. Because seriously, if it wasn't for her, neither Jace or Clary would be alive right now.

 

But the panic is short-lived.

 

They have the mirror, which means Valentine can't get it, though he will try. So will Jonathan. But that means they have to come to the institute, and if they do, Jace plans to be ready.

 

For once, it feels like they've actually come ahead in this tragic game they have no choice but to play. It's normal for Valentine to be two steps ahead, them always playing catch-up. Here and now though, it's like a small victory. And Jace is high on it.

 

It's nearly two in the morning, but Jace slips into his room and calls Simon anyway. He half hopes Simon will answer, half hopes he won't.

 

Simon answers with a groggy, “Mmrg, ‘ello?”

 

Jace is immediately, stupidly charmed. “Morning, sunshine. Sounds like you're gargling, by the way.”

 

“Jace? 'S two am,” Simon mutters, the sound of rustling sheets echoing in the background. “You 'kay? Sleep yet?”

 

“How have I never heard your sleepy voice?” Jace muses with a hum of laughter. “It's actually kinda cute, I'm not gonna lie.”

 

“Jace, 's too early to try and 'member you're only joking,” Simon tells him, immediately following that with a loud yawn.

 

Jace huffs a quiet laugh. “I just wanted to call and tell you that something good happened tonight.”

 

“Oh?” Simon mumbles, smacking his lips and slowly sounding more alert. “Something to do with Valentine, I take it?”

 

“It's not blade through his face, but it's something. I'm taking our wins.”

 

“Sounds like my kind of positivity.”

 

“You're rubbing off on me,” Jace admits, rolling his eyes when Simon chuckles.

 

“You know, a lesser man would take that opening.”

 

“You're a vampire.”

 

“Good point,” Simon says. “In that case, when and where did the rubbing off happen?”

 

Jace narrows his eyes as he flops back into his bed, grinning up at the ceiling. “Wherever you want. Use your imagination; that's what it's there for.”

 

“Stop blurring lines, I'm not at full mental capability at the moment,” Simon says, his voice sounding slightly strained.

 

“Lines are lame,” Jace mutters.

 

“Who taught you that word?” Simon asks immediately.

 

“You did.”

 

“Well, stop.”

 

“Simon, I'm a Shadowhunter, not a recluse. I knew what lame meant before you came along.”

 

“How do you do that thing with your tone that makes it sound like you're teasing and being seductive all at once?”

 

Jace smirks, knows Simon doesn't even need to see him to know it's there. “Years of practice.”

 

“Can you teach me?” Simon asks curiously.

 

“I could,” Jace murmurs, letting his voice go lower, slowing and drawing out each syllable sensually. It's a gift. “Personally, if you'd like.”

 

“You're doing it on purpose now.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Simon groans. “That was one word. How did you do that? I hate you.”

 

“You don't,” Jace counters, voice back to normal.

 

“You're right, I don't.”

 

“I know.”

 

There's a long pause and it hits Jace in that exact moment that he has no idea what he's doing. There was a time that Jace would have never even considered calling Simon for no other reason than to just talk to him because he was in a good mood. But here he is, so ridiculously pleased to hear his voice, to flirt with him harmlessly, to just… have something to do with him for no other reason than because he wants to.

 

By the Angel, he's got it so bad.

 

It feels like Jace is just being reminded over and over how far he's come. It feels so normal, so easy; he keeps forgetting, or omitting, that they weren't always like this. It feels like it, feels like he's known Simon his whole life, even while it feels like he can't possibly ever know him enough.

 

Simon yawns again through the line, says, “You still coulda came over.”

 

“Miss my face?”

 

“It's been three days, Jace.”

 

“That is not a yes or a no,” Jace taunts.

 

“Whatever,” Simon scoffs. “I'm just saying, the hour wouldn't have bothered me. I was napping.”

 

“And what? I was just supposed to come crawl in the bed with you and let you wake up to find me in the morning?” Jace challenges, frowning at the ceiling.

 

“Yeah,” Simon says easily. “I told you, man. You're always welcome. Besides, I know things are kind of intense over there. I offer solitude and solace.”

 

Jace wrinkles his nose. “The fact that you said that so genuinely makes me wanna hurl. You're too nice for your own good sometimes.”

 

“Oh, shut up.” Simon hums quietly. “So, what are you doing tomorrow?”

 

“I actually think I'll be free tomorrow. We have something Valentine will want, but he won't strike so soon. I have at least one free day.”

 

“And how do you plan to spend your one free day?”

 

“Not sure yet.” Jace bites his lip to stop himself from grinning like an idiot. “Any suggestions?”

 

“Depends. How keen are you on Chinese food? And just how interested are you in finding out what Voldemort does with the Elder Wand?”

 

“I like egg rolls. And I'm more interested in finding out if McGonagall kicks ass and survives or not.”

 

“Well, in that case, boy do I have a suggestion for you. Come over to the dark side; spend your free day with me,” Simon says with a faux cackle that attempts to be evil, but is more adorable than anything. “We'll get egg rolls, which I will watch you eat with sad puppy eyes, then stroll around the city like normal free birds. After, we'll crash at mine and watch the last movie.”

 

“You make a tempting offer,” Jace murmurs, lips twitching in amusement. The words are not a lie.

 

Simon hums in a pleased fashion. “We could even go dresser shopping.”

 

“We could,” Jace agrees.

 

“I'm not hearing a yes out of you, whatever your last name is now,” Simon chastises playfully.

 

Even that slight jab makes Jace feel like he's seconds from turning into goo. Oh man, he's so fucked, so fucked. Still, he laughs and says, “Yes.”

 

“Yeah?” Simon echoes, sounding pleased.

 

“Yeah,” Jace confirms a little breathlessly.

 

“Alright, I'll see you tomorrow. For now, I'll resume my nap and you should sleep.”

 

“I'll drift off in seconds if you do that thing you always do and never stop doing.”

 

It takes Simon less than a second to get it. “You want me to talk you to sleep?” he asks dryly.

 

“Yes, that.”

 

“And what am I supposed to talk about?”

 

“I dunno, you always have something to say.”

 

“Yeah, but most people don't ask me talk, so now that you are, I can't think of shit to say.”

 

Jace wonders if what he wants to say makes him too soft, but then goes and says it anyway. “Tell me a story. I know you know some.”

 

“Alright,” Simon agrees, unphased by the request, rolling with it. “So, you wanna hear about Jack and the beanstalk or the guy who lived in the shoe?”

 

“Not the shoe,” Jace replies immediately, shifting to kick off his shoes and slide under his cover.

 

Simon hums and clears his throat. “Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack…”

 

By the time Simon gets to the part where Jack gets his beans, Jace is fast asleep.

Chapter Text

When Jace wakes up, his phone is dead and he hasn't dreamed. As expected, he won't have those dreams anymore. He isn't sure how he knows; he just does.

 

Jace figures he can charge his phone at Simon's and gets ready for the day. After a nice shower and a change of clothes, Jace makes his way into tying up any loose ends before he makes his leave. He checks that the mirror is secure - it is. He makes sure Alec is okay - he's not. And after adjusting some of the security plans with Underhill, Jace is free.

 

Before he can make it out the door, there is an ear crushing screech echoing from the halls. It makes him slam to a halt; he knows that scream, knows it intimately. Izzy.

 

Jace turns and runs, slamming against the crowd making their way, panic pushing him past people. He makes it to the front just as they turn the corner. Alec is on his left, Clary is on his right. Everyone comes to a screeching halt at the sight waiting for them. There, lying too still, Max.

 

Jace feels as if his world has tipped on its side. Everything feels like it's coming through a tunnel. He's there, checking for a pulse, nearly sobbing in relief when he feels a faint thump under his fingers. Alec barks orders, Clary physically pushes at people to get them moving, and Izzy cries and cries and cries. Jace doesn't know if he's breathing.

 

Time passes in increments, just broken flashes of memory. Izzy is nearly inconsolable. Clary holds her, crying for her, with her. The only reason Jace is standing is because Alec is leaning on him for support, seconds from slipping himself.

 

Things come back into focus when the healer steps out the room and looks so pitiful that Jace very nearly punches a woman. She tells them gently, but firmly, that Max is alive. Only barely though, and he probably won't make it.

 

Izzy hits the floor, Clary goes down with her. They cry and cry and cry. Jace leans hard into Alec, they stumble back into the wall, the world doesn't make sense. Jace isn't breathing.

 

After that, it's just shattered moments. Splintered pieces not making any sense when he tries to stop and examine them. He crouches down, Clary crouches with him, pulls his head into her chest, holds him while he cries and cries and cries. He grips her thighs so hard there will be bruises later in the shape of his fingers, not how he ever imagined them getting there; he wants to feel bad, can't get enough oxygen to his brain to do so.

 

Maryse and Robert are contacted at some point. Jace can still hear the wails of his adoptive mother through the phone. He thinks they travel through his mind and clog his throat. Alec slides down the wall and plops on his ass, face blank with disbelief, eyes distant and dazed. He doesn't know he is, but he cries and cries and cries.

 

Clary tries to touch them all at once, flitting between them like a restless emotional punching bag. Everyone holds her hard enough to grind her bones. Alec lets her crawl beside him, doesn't flinch when she brushes the hair off his forehead, kisses him there, and lets him blankly cry into her neck.

 

Jace thinks there is something he's supposed to be doing, something from another life possibly, can't remember. He holds onto Izzy, just breathing slow and steady. She isn't crying anymore, can't, all cried out and just stuck now.

 

It could be years or minutes before someone thinks to stop and ask why - it has to be Clary, no one else can breathe, let alone piece two thoughts together. That's when they realize Jonathan is here.

 

Alec and Jace march through the institute with a single mindedness that makes highly skilled Shadowhunters rush to get out of their way. Jace has no idea what his face looks like, but Alec's looks like the promise of death.

 

“Shut it down,” Alec shouts as they enter the core room. Multiple jump and go still. “I want this place locked tight. No one in or out of the institute without my say so, got it?”

 

No one moves, frozen in terror, staring at Alec with wide eyes. “Now!” Jace barks.

 

The people scatter like ants.

 

Everything else is like a rush. If it was a tunnel before, this is a freefall. Jace has no idea when they'll land, but they aren't stopping until they do. Jonathan is not leaving this institute alive.

 

Clary might honestly be a saint. It's her who leads Maryse and Robert to Max's room. It's her that explains what happened to a confused Sebastian. It's her that goes behind people, double checking and triple checking, making things work while Jace and Alec and Izzy can't.

 

More news.

 

Nothing a Warlock can do will help. Alec insists on getting Magnus anyway. Jace offers to go with him, Alec wants him to stay and make sure nothing happens in his absence. Jace follows that order like it's his lifeline, an empty feeling in his gut, like someone reached in and scraped his insides out.

 

People do as he says, reinforce where he orders, goes where he points. He checks the perimeter three times. He watches everyone with distrust, sure that any person he looks at could be the traitor. He nods at Sebastian when he offers him a sympathetic smile. Jace hasn't taken one full breath since he heard Izzy's scream.

 

Maryse cries and cries and cries. Robert holds her; it's a testament to how bad things are that she clings to him. Jace forces himself to keep walking, a part of him wilting and dying when he remembers that Max is not actually his brother. But fuck, he is.

 

Jace could kiss Clary when she comes up with the idea of the whip. He almost offers to, willing to give her anything she wants in that moment, but she dashes off before can. He doesn't know why he's so thankful about that.

 

Magnus comes. He has a flower that is dying; Jace can't stand the sight of it. The dead petals make bile rise in his throat. He thinks, Max isn't a flower, Max is a fighter. Magnus goes into the room, comes back out later and looks at Alec with so much regret. Alec dissolves into a wheezing breath, pulls away, leaves Magnus alone, staring at that dying flower.

 

There is an option, but it is not much of an option. It is, however, their only one. Maryse makes the call, holds Izzy, and together… they cry and cry and cry.

 

Jace can't stay here. He knows they want him to, can see it in the way Alec looks for him in a dazed state, can tell by how Maryse sniffles and reaches for him, can see it in the frown Robert gives him that asks him to grieve with them. Jace can't, doesn't.

 

No, he makes himself the last defence between the mirror and whatever is coming. Let him come, please come, Jace pleads in his mind, pacing the internal cage in his head. He's restless, itching for a fight, waiting and waiting and waiting. He wants to put his hands around Jonathan's throat and squeeze until he has enough leverage to pop his eyeballs out one little centimeter at a time.

 

Jace doesn't care if he's lost it.

 

Eons pass, or seconds. Just blimps of time and emotion that flicker over each other. Jace tries to breathe, can't. His chest hurts.

 

Then, one of guards looks down at his phone, sucking in a sharp breath. Slowly, he raises his head and turns the phone so Jace can read the four words that steal his breath for good.

 

Max didn't make it.

 

The message's subject just reads: FOR JACE. After that, it's those four words that could mean anything else in different sentences. But pieced together like this, it means agony. Jace doesn't realize he's running until he skids to halt into the corridor where everyone is waiting. They aren't crying, only look on the precipice of falling apart.

 

“Max, is he-”

 

Alec looks up. “We don't know anything yet.”

 

“I just got the message. It said…” Jace trails off, the feeling of his limbs slamming back into him abruptly. They stare at him. He says, “Jonathan.”

 

That's all that needs to be said. Alec makes to stand, but Jace just holds up a hand, halting him. Wordlessly, he turns right back around and marches back towards the heart of the institute. As he's about to head back to the mirror, he hears the alarm, whirls around to see Clary and Sebastian get locked in the security panels.

 

He hears Luke's voice in his head. I know how easy it is to trust one of your own.

 

People rush to Clary's aid. It's no use. They can't get through, Jace can't get through. He just listens to her fight, tries not to flinch at every grunt and clash of blades. There is the sound of flesh giving to a dagger, grinding and squelching - Jace would know it anywhere. He holds his breath until he hears Sebastian - no, Jonathan - grunt in the telltale reaction to a dagger in his gut.

 

That's my girl, Jace thinks. Clary is strong and determined and a fighter. She's his friend, his family. She can't lose, not now.

 

She doesn't.

 

Even though Jonathan is gone, Clary is alive and she has the mirror. It's destroyed easily, too easily. They need to investigate it, but someone calls for him. Clary matches him stride for stride as they race back towards Max's room.

 

Maryse looks up at them with teary eyes and shakily says, “He's okay.”

 

The first words out of Max's mouth are, “Did you get Jonathon?”

 

This time, everyone all cries and cries and cries together, but it's in relief.





 



Simon wakes up to a face pressing into his throat.

 

At first, he thinks he's being attacked. Before he can panic, he smells Jace. His eyes adjust to the dim lighting, and he blinks down at Jace in surprise. Before he'd drifted off to sleep, he'd been bitter. Jace had bailed on their free day, one Simon had been immensely excited about.

 

But now, with Jace awake and clinging to him for dear life, Simon isn't mad. Something went wrong, he doesn't know what, but something did. So, Simon wraps his arms around Jace and holds him.

 

“Max,” Jace gasps out, shuddering in his arms.

 

Simon goes solid and cold all at once. “No,” he says simply, eyes immediately picking with tears.

 

“Almost, almost. Simon, it was almost- Jonathan nearly killed him,” Jace stutters out.

 

He's a complete mess, but that's completely valid. Thoughtlessly, Simon turns on his side and tugs Jace closer, tucking his face into his neck as Jace returns the favor with his. Hot breath and hot tears assault his throat and Simon thinks the stain will live there forever. He feels nothing but deep sorrow as he presses his lips into the crook of Jace's neck.

 

“He's okay?” Simon has to know.

 

Jace shudders again. “He's okay,” he confirms, voice cracking. “It was close though, so close.”

 

“I'll kill him,” Simon vows, and for this, for what's falling apart in his arms right now, he really will.

 

“Not before I do,” Jace replies, voice dripping in danger and harsh promises.

 

Simon reaches up and presses a hand over Jace's hair, sighing softly. “I'm sorry I wasn't there.”

 

“I'm sorry I didn't come. I should have-”

 

“No, no. Don't you dare apologize. You did nothing wrong, Jace, not one thing.”

 

“I don't feel like me.” Jace sucks in a deep breath, fingers clenching into Simon's shirt. “I saw him there, just… just still. So still. He looked dead, but he wasn't, and I- I haven't breathed since.”

 

“You can,” Simon tells him. “He's okay. He's going to be okay. You can breathe.”

 

Jace tries. Simon can feel his chest expanding, brushing against his, but it twitches and collapses as Jace gasps in air like he doesn't know how lungs work. Simon carefully reaches out and takes one of Jace's hands, presses it flat against his chest.

 

“I can't,” Jace says feebly.

 

“Yes, you can. Focus on my breathing. Breathe in.” Simon takes in a deep breath, stretching and pulling in more and more, feeling Jace mirror him. He holds it for a moment, knows Jace's lungs are burning, but that's good for this. Simon will reset his lungs one burn at a time if he has to. “Exhale. Easy, easy. Good. Now, do it again. Follow me.”

 

Jace breathes with him until he can suck in air without shaking from head to toe. Slowly, painstakingly, Jace's lungs reset to normal. Simon knows the moment Jace feels like he can breathe again. He sags with relief, pressing into Simon, drops kisses at Simon's throat like a thank you.

 

Simon doesn't look into it, not now.

 

“I could kiss you,” Jace declares in a croak.

 

“Don't, you're breathing will get all messed up.”

 

“That's your reply?”

 

Simon hums into Jace's neck. “For tonight, that's my reply. Tell me again when your head isn't a mess and you don't need me to breathe.”

 

“What if I always need you to breathe?” Jace asks, possibly to be contradictory.

 

“Then I'll keep you breathing,” Simon replies without missing a beat, “but you won't.”

 

Jace is quiet for a long time. Long enough that Simon thinks he's asleep. Then, he says, “I could have kissed Clary today too, even though I didn't want to. She- Simon, if it wasn't for her-”

 

“I know, she always comes in a clutch, doesn't she?”

 

“She figured it out. It was Sebastian. She fought him, but he got away.”

 

Simon wrinkles his nose. “Sebastian was Jonathan all along?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Ew.”

 

Jace blinks, and Simon only knows that because he can feels Jace's eyelashes flutter against the column of his throat. “Not that I disagree, but you sound seriously grossed out.”

 

“Sebastian actually kissed Clary one day. Just out of the blue, grabbed her and smacked one on her, then promised to always be there for her.”

 

“Ew.”

 

“Yeah,” Simon agrees. “She told me about it, said it was weird, but figured he was just a good guy with a crush on her.”

 

“That did not age well,” Jace mutters.

 

Simon tsks. “No, it did not.”

 

There's another long beat of silence. Simon closes his eyes and presses his face into Jace's throat. Tomorrow, or never, he'll think this over. He'll figure out why this feels so good, why he'd be happy to be here forever, why he never wants to leave. But for right now, he sighs and gets a little drowsy on the smell of Jace's skin and blood, a genuinely good scent. Good enough to eat, but Simon's not hungry.

 

Jace breaks the silence again. “Magnus and Alec broke up.”

 

Simon nearly jerks back. “I'm gonna be honest, that's even more shocking that Sebastian being Jonathan the whole time.”

 

“Alec didn't tell Magnus something. It was important.”

 

“What was it?”

 

“The Clave doesn't have the soul sword, they don't even know where it is, but even with it powered down, it can be used with the cup and mirror to form the mortal instruments,” Jace says wearily, sounding bone-deep tired.

 

Simon chews his lip. “You weren't supposed to tell me that, were you?”

 

Jace burrows farther into Simon's neck, seeming so fragile and vulnerable suddenly. When he speaks, his words come out muffled. “No, I wasn't.”

 

“It's bad. Really bad.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Alec should have told him.”

 

“I know.”

 

Simon swallows, feels Jace's cheek under his bobbing throat. “Is that why you told me?”

 

“Yes,” Jace whispers.

 

“A part of me wants to warn the downworlders, but I know it would just make things worse.”

 

“Things are already worse. Everything is falling apart, nothing makes sense, and it's worse.”

 

Simon tightens his arms reflexively, brushing his lips along Jace's jaw. “Things always get worse before they get better. Give it time.”

 

Jace makes a small mmm sound, tipping his head to the side so that Simon can trail his lips farther and farther. “That's nice,” he says softly, words sliding out so low and breathy that Simon doesn't think Jace is even aware he said them. With intention, he continues, “You and your boundless optimism, Simon. Where do you get it from?”

 

“I'm not sure,” Simon admits, eyes sinking closed. His lips part and he exhales near Jace's ear, tries not to get lost in his own head when Jace gives a full body shiver.

 

It's just a split second, Simon almost doesn't see it coming. It's only Jace's nose dragging across his cheek that warns him. Jace's lips press into the corner of Simon's, and he almost lets it happen. He comes very close to just turning his head to the left and letting the moment get the best of them, allowing a kiss to unfurl. But Simon knows Jace isn't in the right headspace right now, knows he'll hate it later, and he doesn't want Jace to ever look at him with stilted regret.

 

So, Simon turns his head away and tucks his face into Jace's neck, reaching up to tucks Jace's head into his shoulder. Jace goes limp, releasing a muted, yet disappointed sigh.

 

“Simon…”

 

“Go to sleep, Jace.”

 

They're silent again, and this time, they do not break it. They drift off to sleep in each other's arms.

Chapter Text

The real Sebastian didn't deserve it.

 

Jace tries to not to imagine his family finding out the truth, realizing that their Sebastian had been kidnapped and tortured before being brutally murdered, and then turned into a monster.  A mere catalyst to circumstance.

 

But he won't die in vain. It's another person to fight in the name of. For Izzy, who feels shaky on her own recovery after realizing the person who helped her is not who she thought he was. For Clary, who continues to lose her family over and over again. For Max, who still has dizzy spells in certain moments. For all of them, for the real Sebastian.

 

An emergency meeting is called. Alec is hopeful, Jace can tell. They stand as a unit, but Jace can feel the ache through their bond as Magnus very clearly picks his side. The seelie queen refuses to help them, makes her stand with who she believes will win; she is rarely wrong.

 

She's wrong this time, she has to be. Even if it takes his last breath, Jace won't let Valentine and Jonathan win. He'll die before that happens.

 

As the downworlders walk out of the room, Magnus’ head held high as he sweeps out, Jace steps up beside Alec. They've never been good about hiding their intense feelings, the ones that cloud everything else, the ones that take priority. For Jace, he struggles with covering love the most. And right now, Alec cannot mask his pain.

 

“Hey,” Jace says gently, standing steady at his side.

 

Alec's throat bobs. “He looks so pretty today.”

 

“I don't think I've ever seen Magnus Bane look anything other than pretty,” Jace admits quietly.

 

“Sometimes, he looks incredibly… human. In the early corners of the morning, when his magic has faded through the night and his makeup is smudged, he doesn't look pretty. His mouth will be slack, he drools in his sleep, and wrinkles in his clothes make him look a little rumpled.” Alec's breath leaves him in one gush. “He doesn't look pretty then, he looks… beautiful.”

 

Jace closes his eyes, feeling Alec's sorrow as if it's his own. “Alec…”

 

“How am I supposed to forget that?” Alec turns to look at him, a little lost. “I- I can't forget anything. He's- he- even now, Jace… I love him.”

 

“I know.” Jace puts his hand on Alec's shoulder, squeezes and hopes the grip pushes some comfort into him, knows it doesn't. “I know.”

 

Clary leaves, says she needs to talk to Simon; Jace pretends like he isn't itching to go with her. He forces himself to stay back, tells himself it's for the best. He can't be around Simon, not right now, not after what happened.

 

Jace still remembers leaving the institute three nights ago and falling into bed with Simon. After Max had been watched and talked to thoroughly, he'd eventually went to sleep. While Maryse and Robert kept vigil at his bedside, Alec and Jace made sure everyone else was okay.

 

Izzy had been ushered to bed, Clary had been forced into the infirmary. The mirror, Jonathan, all of it… everything needed to wait. The worst part of it all was that everything was crumbling around them and the world didn't have the decency in pausing its turning for one damn second.

 

In the end, Jace had made sure Alec didn't stay up all night, beating himself up about what could have been. And Jace… well, Jace hadn't been able to breathe. When he remembered what the day was supposed to be, remembered the time that Simon had helped him breathe before, it was almost on autopilot that he made it to Simon's boathouse.

 

Lying there in Simon's arms, cracking apart, shattered in a way he hadn't been since Valentine had taken him under his wing… Jace had held on for dear life. He let Simon help him breathe, he told Simon the truth about the soul sword, and he'd selfishly tried to kiss him.

 

Simon had stopped him. That hurt. But Simon didn't push him away, held him closer, never let go, even in his sleep. The next morning, Jace had left and didn't look back.

 

The truth is, Jace can't do this with him right now. His focus is skewered. Simon doesn't want him, Jace knows that. He can't be torn up over that right now; he has mission. So, Jace doesn't answer his calls or returns his texts, pushes through the days and tells himself the ache in his chest comes from Alec, feels guilty for pinning that on him. It's not true, he knows that deep down, but Jace wants it bad enough to lie to himself.

 

Alec can be heartbroken, he's earned that.

 

Jace hasn't.

 

So, Jace ignores and deflects and avoids. He moves around the institute, reads and rereads the journals, searches until his eyes burn. He stands in front of monitors for far too long, but he doesn't give himself a break. Now isn't the time for a break.

 

Learning that the mirror is actually Lake Lyn takes most of his focus. His grandmother agrees to keep it secret and has it protected, which only brings him a small amount of comfort. There isn't anything else to do on that front, so he throws himself into narrowing down the search for Valentine and Jonathan. Despite the seelie queen's refusal to help and the downworlders shifting to her favor, Luke and Raphael keep him updated. The vampires can't do much until the sun fully sets, the werewolves are tracking circle members, and things start to feel like it's all coming to a close, getting near the end.

 

Jace almost has himself convinced that he can keep his mind completely focused. Then, Simon texts him something that makes Jace fumble.

 

Dork, 7:12pm: so the seelie queen is a bitch

 

Jace reads that and rereads it, frozen in place while people muddle around him. Questions fill his mind, mostly consisting of what the fuck Simon was doing with the seelie queen. And if Simon is calling her a bitch, a word he's never applied to any woman, then something is wrong. Before Jace can reply, his phone dings yet again.

 

Dork, 7:14pm: i hate that word, especially for a woman, but she's evil

 

Jace, 7:15pm: GET HERE NOW

 

And maybe he's overreacting, he doesn't know. He won't know until he finds out what the hell happened and why. Jaw clenched, Jace turns around marches out of the institute to meet Simon outside of the wards. The longer he waits, the angrier he gets. Simon does not text back.

 

He shows, though. Just blurs to a stop in front of Jace, his face open and concerned. “Are you okay? What happened? Is-”

 

“Why did you go see the seelie queen?” Jace asks sharply, making Simon recoil in surprise.

 

“I- uh, Clary asked me to? She thought that since the queen likes me, maybe I could convince her to change her mind,” Simon explains slowly, eyebrows furrowing.

 

Jace can feel his anger rising, heating up with every second, an itch starting up under his skin. “What the hell were you thinking?” he hisses. “You know how dangerous she is.”

 

“Hey, I haven't killed any bugs since then, okay? Look, the Shadowhunters needed my help, Clary needed my help, and I-”

 

“And you just do everything she fucking asks you to because you're destined to follow her around like a lovesick puppy! Why can't you just stay out of trouble for one second?”

 

Simon blinks rapidly, clearly stung by Jace's words and tone. “I didn't do it because I love her, you asshole; I did it because she's my best friend.”

 

“Tell it to someone who'll believe you.” Jace exhales sharply through his nose, clenches his jaw, looks away for a moment. “Look, I get that you're trying to help, but just stop. You're just adding to the workload. We don't have time to save you when you inevitably fuck up again.”

 

“When I- are you serious right now? I did a favor for Clary, for your people!” Simon steps forward and jabs a finger into Jace's chest. His eyes are wide with blistering fury, lips curling into a snarl. “I can handle myself.”

 

Jace grabs Simon's fingers and flings it away, stepping forward to get in Simon's face. “No, you can't! Why can't you see that? Simon, I'm too busy to pause in what I'm doing right now and come save your ass yet again because Clary feels guilty and is the only one who cares!”

 

Simon flinches, his anger deflating almost as soon as it ignited. “The only one, huh?” he croaks, blinking rapidly.

 

Jace's words catch up to him then, echoing in his head. He hears them reverberate in his mind, hates them, wishes they never left his mouth. He's just so freaking upset. Upset and worried and freaking out and maybe, just a bit, seething with jealousy. Clary had asked him to risk his life, and Simon had done it without even batting an eye.

 

That's love, that's all it can be.

 

But that doesn't excuse what he said. Jace swallows, takes a step forward, and Simon jerks back, just staring at him with wide eyes.

 

“Simon, I- I didn't-”

 

“No. No, you made yourself very clear.”

 

Except, Jace hasn't. He's frustrated and scared, pent up with so much mixed emotion, only able to filter out the worst ones. It's taking everything in him not to whirl around and beat the shit out of the tree on his right, and it's only his need to fix this that manages to keep him in his place.

 

The words are there, teetering on the tip of his tongue. He'll say them, I love you, and he'll explain. Simon can hate him, but at least he'll understand. The words rise up and up. Jace opens his mouth, ready to lay it all out between them.

 

Then, Clary shouts, “Jace!”

 

Like a leaf floating along the current of wind, the words slip away. Jace just stares at Simon, mouth slowly closing, and Simon watches him in unabashed betrayal and hurt. He looks seconds from crying, Jace wants to kiss the space under each eye.

 

Clary jogs up to his side, breathing in excitement, eyes sparking. She glances over at Simon, her face twisting in confusion. “What are you doing here?”

 

Simon says nothing, just blinks and swallows, ripping his eyes away from Jace and looking down at his feet. Jace can't stop staring at him, feels as if watching Simon in blatant pain is his penance.

 

“Is- is… everything okay?”

 

That snaps Jace out of it. He turns his head to glare at her. “What do you need?” he snaps.

 

Clary frowns. “I think I know how to find Jonathan, but I need your help.”

 

Jace gives a curt nod. “Fine, let's go.”

 

“I'm coming with you,” Simon blurts, looking back up and staring at a spot over Jace's shoulder.

 

“Go home, Simon,” Jace says seriously.

 

Simon meets his eyes. “No.”

 

Firmer, “I'm serious, go home.”

 

Not budging, “No.”

 

“Guys, we don't have time to argue right now,” Clary says, huffing. “I don't know what's going on, and right now, I really don't care. Just come on!”

 

When she turns and starts back to the institute, Simon immediately follows her, slamming his shoulder into Jace roughly. Jace grits his teeth and walks behind them, stuck somewhere between boiling in anger and feeling nauseous with regret.

 

Clary leads them to the courtyard where Alec and Izzy are already waiting.

 

Izzy paces. “Is this going to work?”

 

“It's all we got right now. Jonathan and Valentine are stuck here, they can't leave. The mirror is protected by the Clave's best. All we need is a shot, this might just be it.” Clary's face is grim with determination as she flings off her jacket. “Jace?”

 

Jace steps forward. “What am I doing?”

 

“You're going to track Johnathan using my blood. We're family, so with your power, you should be able to pinpoint his location,” Clary tells him, flipping her dagger from its holster.

 

“I don't know if I can do that.”

 

“You have to try.”

 

Clary doesn't give him much of a choice. With a twist of her lips, she drags the dagger across her palm, wincing slightly but continuing nonetheless. Her blood is thick and pooling into her hand when she offers it to him.

 

They stand like he and Alec do when they're doing a strong track with their parabatai bond. Their hands clasp together, and Jace takes a deep breath, closing his eyes. He forces himself to breathe, hears Simon's voice in his head like a breeze, In and out, that's it.

 

He focuses. The world melts away around him until there's nothing but Clary's hands in his. He can feel the energy within him, pulsing out in ripples, searching. The first thing he finds, of course, is Clary. He can feel her, can hear the beating of her heart in his ears, can see the metaphorical tracking like gold encasing veins, spreading faster and faster.

 

It's not enough. The connection isn't deep enough, no closed circuit allowing him ample opportunity to search far enough. He seeks it out, pulls Clary into his chest, tries harder.

 

In this moment, Jace is completely aware of the vastness of his feelings for Clary. He loves her, not quite like Izzy, nowhere close to Simon. She is his friend, his family, and he would die for her. He thinks about the alternate universe he and Clary had travelled to. A version of themselves are together, happy and in love, and Jace wishes them well.

 

But that's not him, and he is okay with that.

 

He digs deeper and deeper, searches harder. Then, like lightning strikes, he's got it. Jace's eyes snap open and he sees his own glowing gold in the reflection of her green.

 

“I got it,” he breathes. “I know where he is.”

 

Everyone celebrates with laughter and smiles, relieved to have this one moment. Everyone, that is, except for Simon.





 



They leave, but no one objects to him coming with. Jace does clench his jaw, but says nothing. Simon kind of wants to punch him, kind of wants to cry.

 

He doesn't know where things went wrong. One moment, he and Jace are fine; they're great, even. The next, Jace is basically admitting he doesn't give two shits what happens to Simon. He doesn't know how they went from… whatever they were to this, but it doesn't take a genius to work most of it out.

 

Simon had seen how Jace and Clary had held onto each other, their runes glowing gold like the epitome of perfection. He's never seen more beautiful people than them two, and after that sight, he knows he never will. The way Jace and her had embraced, it painted a clear picture of what Simon has been afraid of.

 

Jace may have moved on before, but he's in the thick of it yet again. Simon tries not to be bothered by it so much; it's easy to love Clary. Simon is upset by it, despite that, even when a part of him is happy for them. They're his two favorite people in the whole world; he wants them to be happy, even if that means they are without him.

 

It's just…

 

Well, Simon thought - a mistake, apparently - that he and Jace had something. A friendship, certainly. They both had having Clary and then losing her in common, maybe that's what they built off of? Maybe that's why it's all crashing down now, because Jace has Clary again.

 

He wants to tell Jace that it's okay, that they can still be friends, but he knows he won't be able to. It's a lie. He won't be able to stomach the fact that Jace is with Clary again; he doesn't know why. The thought alone is infinitely worse than finding out Clary had desired Jace more than him.

 

Simon wants to go back in time. Maybe go back and steal that kiss, though he can't imagine why he'd want such a thing. Or maybe, he'll go back to the first night Jace slept beside him, relive that wonderful week. He wants to flip the switch and rewatch Harry Potter with Jace. Or better yet, he wants this horrible day to have never happened.

 

But he doesn't have time to dwell or even process the depth of his own turmoil. They make it to the cemetery, and just like that, everything is compartmentalized as they go into fight mode.

 

The forsaken are horrifying creatures. Fast as they are strong. Simon can handle himself, he knows that, so he proves it.

 

He's an emotional creature, always has been. When anger and determination takes over fear and anxiety, he's always managed to pull ahead. With vampire abilities backing him, directly tied into those emotions, he handles his own. Just like he knows he can. In the midst of battle, Simon looks directly at Jace and rips the head from a Forsaken, not even flinching as he does it.

 

They keep coming though, and so does Jonathan. It's far too easy to get taken over, to get seperated. Somehow, Simon ends up with Alec. They fight side by side, a blur of movement. Arrows fly, Simon's fangs refuse to flick away, and grunts and garbled shrieks are the soundtrack they're subjected to.

 

A forsaken tackles Alec to the ground and Simon doesn't even think, just rushes it and frees Alec to watch his back, not even sure that he will. Alec does, and they get a moment to breathe.

 

“Thanks,” Alec pants, docking another arrow.

 

Simon beams at him. “No problem.”

 

They eventually meet back up with Izzy and Clary, but Jace is nowhere to be seen. Simon's earlier ire flickers out of existence, replaced with worry so strong he struggles to breathe - he doesn't even need to anymore.

 

Simon offers to go with Izzy, no one objects. Alec and Clary will be fine, they'll catch up. They race to find him, not a word passing between them, and Simon wishes he could reassure her. Izzy is clearly worried, but so is Simon; he can't even find the words to calm himself, let alone her.

 

The sight that meets them when they reach the bridge makes Simon come to a complete stop.

 

Blood pours out of Jace's mouth, and even from here, Simon can smell it. The scent of it is like literal heaven, making his gums tingle, but Simon is too caught up with the sight of a blade leaving Jace's body to even think about them. They stay sheathed, Jace falls to the ground, and Izzy rushes forward.

 

Jonathan grin sharply at Izzy. “I suppose this won't be a fair fight then.”

 

“That didn't seem to be a problem for you when you went after my baby brother.” Izzy cracks her whip and steps forward. “I trusted you when I was at my lowest, allowed you in my life, let you into my family, and you betrayed us!”

 

The whip cracks against Jonathan's skin so sharply that Simon flinches out of his frozen state. Jace is clutching at his side, grimacing as he tries to crawl to his feet. Jonathan suddenly grabs Izzy's whip, holding on and dragging it, careless to his own burning flesh.

 

Simon doesn't even hesitate, doesn't stop to get scared, doesn't even care. His thoughts are a litany of Not Izzy, Not Izzy. He rams into Jonathan and shoves him back a step or two, broadening his stance and glaring at him.

 

“Well, what do we have here?” Jonathan taunts, straightening up with a slow smile.

 

Simon relaxes, flashing his fangs with a hiss, and holds his arms out. “Come at me, bro.”

 

Jonathan does. And he's strong, very strong. Lethal in every single way, cruelty pouring out of every single orifice of his fake skin. Izzy's whips sails through the air behind him, back into the fray, and Jonathan lands one punch that makes Simon stumble back a step.

 

Jace launches from the ground with a growl that's a warcry of pain and determination. “Do not touch him,” he snarls, sinking the blade straight through Jonathan with blazing eyes.

 

Jonathan is a determined monster because he stumbles around, eyes wide, puts his hands around Jace's throat and squeezes. Simon feels it, that feeling he's only felt once before when he fought Quinn. Serious, worrying bloodlust, and not in the hunger sense. Red tints his vision and Simon moves forward to yank the blade from Jonathan's back, slicing it through the air in one smooth motion.

 

Thunk, thunk. Silence.

 

Simon drops the blade with a hiss, hand burning from contact with the seraph blade. But in front of him, Jonathan's head and body lays in two different spots. Simon stares at the decapitated monster and feels absolutely nothing.

 

“Simon,” Jace says weakly, still clutching the wound, blood seeping around his fingers.

 

Mindlessly, Simon forces his fangs away. “Jace, are you- hey, look at me,” he says, easing forward with his immobile heart aching.

 

Simon hears Alec and Clary approaching, dares to look back. Clary is practically carrying most of Alec's weight, his face a grimace, and Simon knows why. The parabatai bond. Jace is hurt, so Alec is.

 

Jace takes a step forward. “Simon,” he says again, then he crumbles to the ground.

 

Simon falls to his knees and crawls to Jace's side, trembling hands covering the steadily bleeding wound. Jace's mouth is stained with blood, teeth splashed with red. Izzy and Clary hover behind him, Alec is talking to someone, but Simon barely notices they even exist.

 

“Hey, hey, look at me. Stay awake.” Simon can barely see Jace through the veil of tears in his eyes. “You're gonna be fine, everything is going to be fine.”

 

Jace blinks up at him, dazed. “I think I'm dying.”

 

Simon's lip trembles as he forces a laugh. “No, we- we talked about that, didn't we? You're okay, you- Jace, you're okay. Everything is okay.” The tears travel down his face, he hates them, they mean something he isn't willing to accept. “You're not dying, you can't. You- you promised me. Remember? That day we went to the lab, when you came and got me. You- Jace, you promised me.”

 

“Already broke it.” Jace coughs, fresh blood wets his lips. “Sorry 'bout that.”

 

“No, no you didn't.” Simon shakes his head and gives a little sniffle. “You didn't hurt me, I'm okay. But- but you have to be okay, or else you will break it. So, just- just stay awake, okay?” He squeezes his eyes closed and takes one bloody hand and grips one of Jace's equally bloody hands. “Please stay awake.”

 

Jace's grip on his hand grows fainter and fainter, Alec is yelling in the background, Simon doesn't care. Jace coughs again. “M'fine,” he says, blinking slowly. “It's fine.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. There's that optimism,” Simon says, breath shuddering out of him. “Stay awake, Jace. Don't close your eyes, look at me. You promised me, so just- just keep looking at me.”

 

“Mmkay,” Jace says groggily and his eyes close.

 

Simon cries in earnest then, his body aware of something that his mind is not capable of fathoming. He feels the panic rush in, feels every single limb go numb, feels himself shake from head to toe. He can't breathe and he's gripping Jace's limp hand so hard that there will be an ache later.

 

A portal suddenly opens directly beside him, and Magnus steps out of it, his eyes wide. “Get him to the institute, go now!”

 

Simon, full out weeping, scoops Jace's deadweight up in his arms like it's nothing and steps through the portal.

Chapter Text

Jace isn't supposed to be having these dreams anymore. He tilts his head back and looks at Simon's peaceful expression.

 

“I'm not supposed to be here,” Jace murmurs.

 

Simon smiles at him. “You're not, no.”

 

“Why did I start dreaming?”

 

“The soul sword knows all, Jace. When you activated it, who did you think of first?”

 

Jace blinks. “I- I- it wasn't like that.”

 

“And how was it?” Simon asks softly.

 

“I just didn't want you- him to die, that's all. I knew he was there, knew he would, and I didn't want to kill him,” Jace admits, voice cracking.

 

“You cared for him, even then.”

 

“The bare minimum.”

 

Simon inclines his head with a soft laugh, looking faintly amused. “Perhaps, but it was enough. You activated the soul sword, Jace, surely you were aware it would have an impact on your soul.”

 

“But why Simon?” Jace sputters, baffled.

 

“In that split second before the sword went into action, you thought of one other soul. Not Clary, not even yourself. You made that connection, the soul sword simply activated that as well.”

 

“And that's why he became a Daylighter?”

 

“Oh no, that was because of your blood,” Simon tells him calmly. “Had it not been for that, you would have dreamt of a dead man.”

 

Jace swallows, leans his head back down on Simon's chest, hears no heartbeat. He thinks he should be surprised, but he's not. It's true; he really did think of Simon when he activated the soul sword. It hadn't been fear or concern, just a sudden sweep of regret; he didn't want to cause Simon's death, even then, even when things were complicated.

 

Things are still complicated.

 

“Am I dead?” Jace murmurs.

 

Simon hums again. “Yes,” he replies simply. “Briefly, though. Your heart is only stopped for a moment, but it's enough to leave you here while they attempt to bring you back.”

 

“Are they going to be able to?” Jace asks warily.

 

“That depends entirely on you,” Simon replies sagely, turning his head to kiss Jace's hair.

 

Jace closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, imagining the panic that must be taking place over his dead body right now. It would be so easy to stay here, just lay like this with Simon forever, and a part of him wants to. But a larger part of him knows he has a job to get back to, a family to see again, and a guy to confess his love to, even if it is unrequited.

 

Jace breathes out slowly. When he opens his eyes, he's in the infirmary at the institute, glaring lights making him squint. Slowly, he lifts his head to look down the bed. Alec is on one side, head bent in the crook of his elbow, mouth parted as he snores slightly. Izzy is on the opposite side, her fingers twined with his, hair brushing over her shoulder as she breathes evenly with her eyes closed.

 

At the foot of his bed, Clary is perched in Simon's lap in a chair, practically wrapped all around him. His tearstained face is leaning against her chest, eyes closed, face relaxed, and Clary cradles him with every limb, her head resting atop his.

 

Everyone is asleep, drained, waiting.

 

“Hey,” he croaks, shifting in the bed.

 

Alec jerks up immediately, blinking around blearily, then focuses on him. “Jace! You're awake.” He exhales loudly and surges forward to grip him in a tight hug, holding him there.

 

“Jace? Jace! Guys, guys, he's awake,” Izzy blurts as soon as she wakes and sees Alec hugging him. She kicks out at the chair to wake Simon and Clary, then joins in on the hugging. “By the Angel, don't ever scare me like that again!”

 

“Oh, thank g- fuck,” Simon breathes out, barely even stumbling over the word, standing up out of his seat and nearly dumping Clary on the floor.

 

“Jesus Christ, you scared me,” Clary tells him, sounding angry about that, in the way that lets him know she's really relieved. As soon as Izzy and Alec pull back, Clary moves forward to latch onto him, pressing a quick kiss to his forehead. “If you never do that again, it'll be too soon.”

 

Jace really wants to bask in their affections because it makes him feel warm to his core, but his eyes aren't capable of straying from Simon right now. Simon has his hands over his mouth, as if he's about to pray, and there's a sheen of tears over his eyes. He keeps breathing and shaking, and Jace wants to get up to wrap him into an embrace.

 

“Hey, Clary, Izzy, why don't you two come with me to give everyone the good news?” Alec says lightly, and Jace flicks his gaze over to his, barely holding back a smile when Alec sends him a significant look.

 

Jace squeezes Clary's hands and gently urges her towards the door. “Yeah, go with him. I'll be moving around soon enough.”

 

It's a testament to how relieved they are that they just do as he says without questioning why. Alec leads them out of the room, the door shuts with a click, and Jace focuses back on Simon.

 

“I was so scared,” Simon tells him, voice cracking on the last word. “Jace, I-”

 

“Come here,” Jace says gently, opening his arms and waving Simon over.

 

Simon practically falls into him, nearly crawling in the bed with him to get as close as possible. Jace sighs pleasantly, pressing his face into Simon's shoulder, holding him tight. Simon is crying, Jace knows he is, can feel the sobs wracking his body.

 

Maybe, Jace thinks, this isn't unrequited.

 

“I'm so sorry,” Simon blurts out, yanking back abruptly, eyes puffy and red. “We- we fought before, and I thought you were- and I never got to-”

 

Jace kisses him.

 

He just reaches up to cradle his cheeks and kisses him square on the mouth, tugging him down to meet him halfway. At first, it's just the press of two mouths, but then Simon's whole body unclicks and sinks into his, a muffled sound of pleasant surprise making Jace part his lips. After that, it's much more.

 

Their lips catch and move in tandem, heads shifting angles as Simon finishes crawling onto the bed, giving them the room to deepen the kiss. Simon holds his body up above Jace's, hovers there, which gives Jace the freedom to run his hands down Simon's neck and grip his shoulders.

 

Tongue gets involved then, teasing and tasting and testing, brushing together and running over bottom lips. Simon is either braver that Jace ever thought or he's too gone to care; he licks into Jace's mouth, nips his bottom lip, and buries one hand in Jace's hair that's mushed up against the pillow, holding his body up with one arm. Jace would like to be able to say that doesn't elicit a groan from him, but that would be an outright lie.

 

It's heated and comes with a little fumbling, but the best things do, Jace has learned. He's more than happy to carry on making out with Simon in this uncomfortable infirmary bed for the rest of his days, thinks that he would give up his need to breathe to stay like this. Of course, that's too good to be true.

 

“Oh!” Magnus exclaims as he barges in the room, effectively interrupting the kiss and making them pull apart. Jace scowls at him. “I am terribly sorry, I wasn't aware you were awake. I was coming to check on you.” His lips twitch. “You look perfectly healthy to me. Full recovery. I am good.”

 

Simon clears his throat and shuffles off the bed, showing signs of embarrassment in every way but a blush. “I- we- um.”

 

“You fixed me?” Jace asks simply.

 

Magnus nods. “I worked some magic. The institute gave you blood, but the rest was me.”

 

Jace sighs. “Thanks. What was your price?”

 

“I don't charge my friends, Jace,” Magnus says softly, then squints and tips his head. “Well, not in these situations. I'm just glad you're okay.”

 

“Me too,” Jace replies.

 

“Well,” Magnus says, straightening the lapels of his suit, “I suppose my job here is done.” He waves a hand between Jace and Simon. “I'll leave you to your canoodling. Next time, try not to die simply to spend time with me. I am only a phone call away.”

 

Jace watches him turn away, blurts, “Magnus!”

 

Magnus turns back around with raised eyebrows, a patient expression on his face. “Yes?”

 

“He loves you,” Jace tells him seriously. “He's unhappy without you, misses you all the time, aches. He tries to hide it, but I can feel it. And- and I'm not trying to guilt you, or tell you how to live your life, or even back Alec up and make excuses for him. You helped me once, I just want to return the favor. So, in case you aren't sure… he loves you.”

 

Magnus’ chin trembles and he blinks twice, hard. Clearing his throat, he says, “Thank you for that, but I must really be going now.”

 

Jace just watches him leave with a soft sigh, heart aching for his brother. If they can't work out, the world will never make sense. The door swings shut slowly and clicks, which instantly reminds Jace what was happening before it was opened. His flicks his gaze over to Simon, staring at him.

 

“Hi,” Simon says awkwardly.

 

Jace smirks. “Hey.”

 

“So, uh, we- we did that.”

 

“Yeah, we did.”

 

Simon reaches up and scratches at the back of his neck, face spasming in an amusing way. “Why, uh, did we do that? I- I mean, it was… awesome. But why exactly did that happen? Not that I didn't want it to!” Simon's eyes widen. “Not that I did! I'm not hitting on you, I'm not not hitting on you. I just- can you stop smiling at me like that and say something, because I dunno what the right thing is to do here, and- and I'm not sure what-”

 

“Simon.” Jace takes pity. “Shut up. Please.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Simon croaks, bobbing his head.

 

“I'm going to tell you something, or well… I'm going to tell you everything.” Jace takes a deep breath, settling back into the bed. “Just listen to me before you say anything. Can you do that?” When Simon nods, Jace jerks his chin towards the chair. “Go ahead, sit down. Trust me, you'll want to.”

 

Simon has never looked so terrified in his entire life and Jace has never related to that feeling so much before. Simon sits, Jace opens his mouth.

 

“It started with a dream…”





 



Simon is still reeling. He almost can't form words, isn't sure how he hasn't sunk out of the chair into a pile of incapable limbs. He had listened, had bit his tongue so hard not to interrupt, and now he doesn't know what to say.

 

It takes a moment, but the most important thing suddenly comes to him. “Wait,” he says, lifting one finger, “you love me?”

 

Jace nods. “Trust me, I didn't plan on it.”

 

“But you do?” Simon checks, eyebrows furrowing.

 

“Yes, Simon, I do,” Jace confirms with a heavy sigh.

 

Simon blinks rapidly. “Oh. Are you sure?”

 

“Positive.”

 

“And you're just gonna… keep doing that?”

 

Jace rolls his eyes hard enough that his head tips to the side. “Well, I can't just make it go away. And believe me, I tried. I love you and I guess I'll be cursed to do it until I die.”

 

“Okay, wait, let me get this straight. So, you had a bunch of dreams about us being engaged, which made you stop hating me so much. You kissed Meliorn, found out you were bisexual. Then, after Clary and I broke up, you decided to become my friend because the dreams were making you confused, which is when you accidentally fell in love with me. And we almost kissed twice. After that, we got into a fight because you were actually scared that I would get hurt and lowkey jealous because you thought I was still in love with Clary. And then, you died and had a dream where you found out that the soul sword gave you the dreams because when you activated it, I was the person you thought of.”

 

“Yeah, that about sums it up.”

 

Simon sits back into the chair and breathes out a long sigh. “Shit, man.”

 

“That sums it up too.”

 

“So… the stuff at the lab, it was you trying to figure out why the dreams were happening?”

 

Jace nods. “Yeah. Sorry for lying. I didn't want you to know, if I'm being honest.”

 

“And Alec and Magnus know how you feel about me, but Izzy and Clary don't?” Simon asks.

 

“Yep. I worried Izzy would tell Clary, and I didn't want Clary to know for obvious reasons.” Jace waves his hand, like that makes sense.

 

“But Clary knew you were falling in love, thought it was some girl, and you told her it was a guy. You just failed to mention it was me,” Simon says dryly.

 

Jace bites his lip for a moment. “Look, I wanted to tell her, okay? I almost did. I just- I was guilty. I am guilty. You two broke up and I… wasn't happy about it, even though I wanted you. I know it's fucked up, you don't have to tell me.”

 

Simon snorts. “You think you were fucked up? You were chasing after the guy she didn't want. I, on the other hand, was having really confused feelings about the guy she did want.”

 

“Well, that's not-” Jace's head snaps up, his words cutting off abruptly. “You had confused feelings? What kind of confused feelings?”

 

“Jace, look at yourself,” Simon says, rolling his eyes when Jace actually looks down at his chest. “Even straight guys get confused in your presence. I'm not straight, so it was much worse.”

 

“Bisexual?” Jace asks lightly.

 

“Pansexual, actually.”

 

“You're a pan? Like… baked goods?”

 

Simon chuckles. “No, it's- you know, for a guy in the LGBTQ community, you don't know shit.”

 

“I'm new,” Jace retorts. “What's pansexual?”

 

“I know the actual definition,” Simon tells him proudly. “It's the sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction towards people, regardless of their sex or gender identity. So… basically, I can feel desire of all kinds for any person, don't care what they are.”

 

Jace's eyebrow creases. “Isn't that Magnus?”

 

“Bisexuality and pansexuality are similar. Before pansexual was coined, there was only bisexual. Magnus says he's bi, so he's bi.”

 

“Fair enough.”

 

“This is not how this conversation was supposed to go,” Simon admits with a small smile.

 

Jace grins. “You know how we are. Once we start, we don't really know how to quit.”

 

“We're all over the place,” Simon agrees.

 

“I like that,” Jace tells him sincerely, grin softening into a sweet smile. “We're a mess, but the good kind. We're… clutter, like the kind that makes a house a home, you know?”

 

“Shit,” Simon says weakly, “I think I love you too.”

 

Jace's eyebrows hike up. “You don't have to sound so alarmed by that.”

 

“It's just… you say things like that and I- I get all soft, which is fine, I'm not accepting any toxic masculinity in my life, but come on. How do you always do this?” Simon groans, reaching up to scrub a hand through his hair.

 

“It's a gift.” Jace sounds pleased. “Simon, I'm not asking you to reciprocate anything, okay? If- if you don't want me, fine. I'll get over it. Well, I won't get over you, I'm like a dog with a bone that way, but I won't hold you back or anything. I just felt like you needed to know.”

 

Simon snaps his fingers and presses his lips into a thin line, wagging a finger in Jace's face, chest tight with too much emotion. “See, the thing is, I like you. And I didn't expect to, I swear. But then you turned out to be… well, amazing. And you became one of my favorite people in the world. So, I like you, and I'm definitely attracted to you, so everything points to me just… rolling with it.”

 

“You do that a lot, just roll with the punches,” Jace muses, lips quirking at the corners. He takes a deep breath, face falling slightly. “I can tell you're about to tell me that this isn't going to happen, so go ahead. Rip the bandaid off.”

 

“I'm- I am not saying that, stop looking so pitiful, you're so dramatic.” Simon rolls his eyes, balling his fists so he won't reach out and smooth the wrinkle of sadness between Jace's eyebrows. “I just think, before we do anything… we gotta tell Clary.”

 

Jace blinks at him. “Seriously?”

 

“She's my best friend, always will be. I'm not going to keep this from her.”

 

“And if she doesn't like it?”

 

Simon swallows thickly. “If it hurts her, I don't think I can do it. You'll have to live with knowing that I want to instead.”

 

“If you were a Shadowhunter, she would be your parabatai,” Jace murmurs, eyes softening with understanding. “Alright, we'll tell her.”

 

“I'm going to text her, ask her to come to the room,” Simon warns, digging out his phone to do just that. His stomach quivers as he sends the text. “We should do it now.”

 

“Before she gets here,” Jace says carefully, scooting up in the bed, licking his lips, “we should kiss. You know, just in case.”

 

Simon's eyes are immediately drawn to Jace's lips, nervousness in his stomach being replaced with a buzzing heat instead. “What if we start and don't stop?” he asks warily, hands itching to dive into that soft hair again.

 

“We'll stop,” Jace says softly, the words low and curling a hook into Simon, practically pulling him out of his seat.

 

“Seriously,” Simon says breathlessly, “you have got to teach me how to do that with my voice.”

 

Jace leans up, hand reaching out, eyelids drooping as Simon leans down to meet him. Before their lips brush, Jace whispers, “I'd rather not, for my sake.”

 

Then they're kissing, and you know, Simon's really never going to be able to get over this. It's stupidly good, which Simon can't even understand. Maybe Jace just has that effect on everyone. But Jace arches up into him, swiping his tongue out, eager in every single thing he does. More than anything, Simon can't make sense of that.

 

But he's not going to reject a gift, it's rude.

 

He folds over Jace, dragging his fingers into the blond strands, spreading Jace's lips apart and kissing him for all he's worth. One thing that most don't know and don't expect from him is that he can kiss. It mostly comes from the rather embarrassing fact that he used to make out with his pillow all the time for practice in case he and Clary would ever kiss. In the end, it paid off, but that's something no one will ever know; he'll take it to his grave. Again.

 

So, he pulls out all the stops. Adds a little bit of vampire speed when he flicks his tongue, makes sure to be careful when he bites Jace's bottom lip and tugs, minds what his hands are doing. And when his brain goes all quiet and foggy, he doesn't even miss a beat, letting his body carry him along.

 

He gets caught up in it, forgetting why they can't just do it forever, but Jace tears himself away and gulps in a breath, leaning his forehead against Simon's. And just like that, it's over.

 

“That's unnecessarily good,” Simon mutters, untangling from Jace and moving back to the chair.

 

“Yeah,” Jace agrees faintly. “Where in the hell did you learn to kiss like that?”

 

Simon doesn't even hesitate. “My pillow.”

 

Jace blinks. Simon blinks. That settles in the room, slowly sinking in, and Simon realizes that he's really dazzled by Jace if he's admitting that. If they ever kiss again, he'll have to remember to not blurt out whatever secret Jace wants to know.

 

“Your pillow,” Jace echoes. “You-”

 

“Practiced on my pillow, yeah.”

 

“Anyone else, literally anyone else, and that would not be so fucking adorable. Why? Why?”

 

Simon snorts at Jace's miniature crisis. “Yeah, love will do that to a person.”

 

Jace starts to reply, but the door eases open and Clary walks in with a bright smile. Simon's never been disappointed to see her before. That makes him feel bad because he adores her, but he really doesn't want to do this.

 

“What's up?” Clary chirps. She smiles at Jace. “How are you feeling?”

 

Jace looks at Simon, which only earns him a shrug. Sighing, Jace turns to Clary with his back ramrod straight. “Clary, do you still love me?”

 

Clary blinks, eyes flicking over to Simon. “I- I told you that I was moving on.”

 

“And did you?”

 

“I don't want to hurt your feelings, Jace, but I- uh, I have kinda been over you for awhile. I actually think I'm developing a crush on someone. Uh… why?”

 

Jace licks his lips. “Because I- well, do you remember the guy?”

 

“Yeah! His name is Dork in your phone,” Clary says, face brightening. Then she frowns. “Wait, Simon knows you're bisexual?”

 

“He just found out.”

 

“Oh. Anyway, you were saying?”

 

Jace opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again, lets it hang there. An aborted sound rises from his throat, like he's trying to say something, but no words will form. He's floundering, Simon thinks.

 

Simon stands up, drawing both of their gazes when his chair scrapes against the floor. He takes a deep breath, looks Clary straight in the eyes, and firmly announces, “I'm Dork.”

 

Clary stares. She stands there, just staring at him. He sees the moment she processes it, can practically pinpoint the moment her brain starts working again. Slowly, her eyes drag from him to Jace, then back again. She looks between them over and over, her eyes steadily getting wider, and Simon knows exactly what she's doing. She's going in reverse, looking at every interaction they ever had in front of her from different angles. Once she's done that, she fixes her gaze on Jace.

 

“At the seelie court, you- you wanted him.”

 

Jace's eyes sink closed, and when he speaks, his voice is thick with guilt. “Yes.”

 

Clary's lips tuck in and her eyebrows shoot up. She stands very still. “So.” She stops, tries again. “So, you two have been… together?”

 

“No,” Simon blurts. “No, I swear we haven't. We've- we were just friends. It's really hard to explain.”

 

Jace looks up with a blank expression. “It's really not. When I activated the soul sword, my only thought was of Simon, because I didn't want to kill him. Because of that, the soul sword granted me dreams where Simon and I were engaged. Everything changed. I stopped hating him, got really confused about myself, figured out I was bisexual by kissing Meliorn. You and Simon split, and I swear to you, I was not happy about that. Yes, I had feelings for him at that point, but- but it wasn't serious, and I wanted both of you to be happy. I was messed up about Valentine and wanted to make sure Simon was okay because I felt guilty. We started hanging out every night, became friends. And I- I messed around and fell in love with him.”

 

“Yeah, that,” Simon says.

 

Clary blinks once, twice, a third time. She slowly turns to him. “And when did you fall in love with Jace?” she asks quietly.

 

Simon reaches up and scratches his eyebrow. “I- I don't know. I'm not even sure if- Clary, all I know is that when he died… I felt like I did too. He became so important to me so quickly, and I know I love him, I do know that.”

 

“And nowhere, during any of this, did either of you think to just… tell me?” Clary mumbles.

 

“I was avoiding it, my feelings, I mean.” Jace sighs and looks down at his lap. “Even when I accepted it, I just kept pushing it aside. There was so much going on, I didn't want to hurt you, and I was sure Simon wouldn't be interested anyway.”

 

“And- and as soon as I realized everything, I demanded we tell you,” Simon assures her seriously. “Literally just now.”

 

“I see,” Clary says in such a way that tells them that she does not see, and Simon's stomach drops when she turns to him. “So, when we made a deal about the sex tape if-”

 

“Oh g- no! Me and him weren't even really friends then,” Simon blurts, eyes going wide as soon as he realizes what she's referencing.

 

Jace sits up. “Wait, what? What sex tape?”

 

“When Clary and I broke up, we were still cracking jokes. I- I think I said something about me and you running off to get hitched in Vegas, but only because I literally could never have seen this coming. And Clary mentioned that we'd be hot together, and if we did happen, she joked about wanting a sex tape.” Simon coughs awkwardly. “We, uh, obviously did not expect this to happen at all.”

 

Jace arches an eyebrow at Clary. “Were you joking about that?”

 

Clary purses her lips. “We're gonna have to put a pin in that while I figure out what the hell I'm feeling with all this.”

 

“That is not a no,” Simon says, eyes wide, voice nearly a squeak.

 

Jace leans back, all casual and cool. “Well, if you give us your blessing, I am down to make that happen for you, Clary.”

 

“Uh, no you're not,” Simon says.

 

“Nevermind, no I'm not,” Jace tells Clary, throwing her an apologetic expression.

 

Clary rolls her eyes. “Okay, what do you mean about me giving you my blessing?”

 

“As soon as we figured out that we were… interested in seeing where this could go, we both came to an agreement to tell you.” Simon takes a deep breath, giving Clary a small smile. “We also agreed that if it hurt you, we wouldn't do it.”

 

“Really?” Clary asks softly, looking between them in blatant surprise.

 

Jace and Simon nod in unison.

 

Simon isn't sure what he expects her reaction to be, but he knows it isn't that she just cries. But sure enough, her eyes well up and she lifts a hand to cover her mouth as a small sob escapes. Jace springs up from the bed at the same time he rushes over, both of their hands reaching out towards her. She waves them off with a sniffle, swiping at her eyes, taking a few steps back.

 

“Stop, stop, I'm fine,” she insists. “It's just- you guys really care about me.”

 

“What, of course we do! How could you think anything different?” Simon reaches out to squeeze her shoulder. “You're my best friend, Fray.”

 

“You're family,” Jace tells her seriously. “I love you, I always will. I'll fight alongside you, give my life for yours, and will always have your back.”

 

“Okay, so his speech was better, but you know what we mean,” Simon says, sending Jace a glare.

 

Clary gives a small laugh. “It's just that… I want to be angry because I feel like you guys purposefully kept me in the dark about this, but then you go and- do you even know how major this is to me? The fact that you'd give up your shots at love for my comfort - I can't even imagine that. How can I be mad at that?”

 

“Maybe… don't… be?” Simon suggests lightly.

 

“Who else knows about this?” Clary asks warily.

 

“I told Magnus and Alec how I felt because I was worried about the dreams, but they don't know the whole story like you do. Outside of them and us, no one else knows anything.” Jace has the decency to look ashamed when he says, “Told you I was trying to avoid it.”

 

“I want to be honest with you both,” Clary says slowly, throat working. “I- I don't actually have that many feelings about this. I know that sounds bad, but hear me out. I really don't have feelings for you guys, not like before. The romantic parts feel so… fake. I won't lie and say it won't take adjustment, but that's only because it will be strange to see both of my ex-boyfriends, ya know, dating. But I think it's kind of cute, actually. And I'm mostly upset because I think I'm a little worried to lose you guys; you're both so important to me. But I want you to be happy, and somehow you find that with each other, god only knows how.”

 

“So… you're not angry?” Simon asks warily.

 

Clary huffs a laugh. “No more angry that when you steal my socks.”

 

“And you don't hate us?” Jace checks cautiously.

 

“I couldn't if I wanted to,” Clary assures them with a bright grin. “I love you both. You're my guys; come here.” She spreads her tiny arms as wide as they will go and watches them expectantly, completely serious about fitting them both in her embrace all at once. “Well? Bring it in!”

 

They try, to be fair. It ends up with her in their arms, but she's only mildly annoyed that she can't wrap them both up in her grasp. They each hug her from the side and she smiles between them in soft fondness, looking as if she really is at peace with it.

 

“I take it we've got your blessing,” Jace teases lightly when she lays her head over on his shoulder.

 

Her head immediately pops back up as she regards them with bright eyes. “On one condition.”

 

Simon feels as if every muscle in his body is jumping in excitement. “Which is?” he asks breathlessly.

 

“I get to tell Izzy,” Clary replies with a devious little smirk, green eyes sparking in mischief.

 

Jace looks at Simon. “She drives a hard bargain.”

 

“You're the one in love, man. You decide if it's worth it,” Simon replies playfully.

 

“Deal,” Jace tells Clary immediately.

 

“Oh, and by the way, I really am happy for you both,” Clary tells them softly. “Now, I'm going to very deliberately leave you two alone to go and find Izzy. You'll have maybe two minutes, at best, before you will undoubtedly be swept up in her storm.”

 

“You'd be surprised what could happen in two minutes,” Simon tells her, shoving his hands between his sides and inner arms to keep from fidgeting so obviously.

 

Clary snorts as she steps out of the room. “I really wouldn't,” she says, then shuts the door.

 

Before her footsteps even fade, Jace has him pushed up against the wall and is kissing him with a ferocity that Simon only needs half a second to match. Once he's there, he whirls them around and slams Jace against the wall, preferring it that way, and by Jace's heavy breathing and cocky grin, that's exactly how he likes it too.

 

They get less than two minutes, a time in which they spend celebrating the triumph of climbing the mountain that was telling Clary. They spend entirely too much time getting things started they know they won't be able to finish, but Simon doesn't have it in him to care. They just gasp into each other's mouths and tug at clothes they know they can't actually remove.

 

It's safety in the midst of danger, like skydiving - the parachute almost always works, but it has been known to fail. They know they shouldn't get too invested in taking this too far, but that doesn't stop Simon from slotting his leg between Jace's and recklessly sucking marks into his neck. The only thing Jace has to say about that is directly translated into a low moan as he rocks his hips forward and tilts his head farther to the side.

 

Then, of course, Izzy barges right in.

 

“By the Angel, Clary you weren't kidding!”

 

Alec and Clary head into the room at a calmer pace. While Clary tilts her head and studies their compromised position, Alec's face screws up like he doesn't know where to be jealous or disgusted. Simon thinks he must really miss Magnus.

 

“Okay, I'm gonna say no on the sex tape. In fact, I don't find anything about this even remotely attractive. It's weird, you'd think I'd have this fantasy of my two ex's being like this, but it's like looking at a lamp? I mean, I'm happy for you guys, but it isn't exactly... thrilling to see ,” Clary tells him seriously, head straightening.

 

Izzy snorts. “You're telling me. Like they think women actually like their-”

 

“Izzy!” Alec blurts, grimacing.

 

“What?” Izzy mutters, rolling her eyes. “They look weird, okay? They feel good, but they really aren't very practical or attractive.”

 

“Speak for yourself,” Alec mutters.

 

Izzy ignores him. “Like, where do you put it?”

 

“You chose a leg, usually,” Simon says, still leaning against Jace, who groans as if he's in immense pain and knocks his head into the wall he's pinned against. “Oh, I should move, huh?”

 

“No, they should move,” Jace snaps, waving a hand at Izzy, Alec, and Clary. “Seriously, can you just-”

 

“Oh no, absolutely not,” Izzy says, marching over to the bed and plopping down with a wide smile, her legs crossing. “I want to know everything.”

 

Jace sighs. “Kill me now.”

 

Simon pulls away from him, stomach feeling light and floaty when Jace's fingers tighten on him for a moment before letting go. “We've talked about this,” he tells Jace, fighting a smile.

 

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Jace mutters, moving over to stand beside Alec, crossing his arms like his parabatai is his last ally in the room.

 

Izzy pulls her shoulders forward, swaying excitedly in her seat. “I want to know how it happened, when you knew, your first kiss, everything, all of it.” Reaching out a hand, she waves Clary over, grabs her hand and tugs her to the bed beside her. They lean into each other, hands in a small pile on Izzy's leg, bright hair next to dark. “Tell us the tale of your love. And don't leave anything out.”

 

Simon clicks his teeth and makes fingerguns at Jace, winking at him. “This is all you, boo.”

 

Jace arches an eyebrow. “Never call me that again.”

 

“Babe? Honey? Sweetheart? Darling? Sugar plum? Love bug? Cupcake? Stud muffin? Oooh, what about-”

 

“Simon, just because I like your face more than everyone else's does not mean that I won't kick your ass, because I will.”

 

“Noted.” Simon nods, then grins. “Shnookums.”

 

Jace just glares at him. “No.”

 

Izzy laughs and laughs and laughs.

Chapter Text

Jace can't believe this is happening to him.

 

After everything, after finding his slice of happiness, he's here. He sighs quietly and shifts on his ass, staring at the fairy food, inwardly wishing he'd ate dinner last night. Before he can start daydreaming about what exactly he would've fixed for himself if he'd known that he would get kidnapped by seelies, the queen herself drifts in the room.

 

Jace straightens up. “Your majesty,” he greets politely, forcing a smile.  

 

“Hello, Jace Herondale.” The queen dips her head in greeting and moves to sit on the other side of the table. “I'm glad you could join me.”

 

Not like I had a choice, he thinks bitterly.

 

“I'm happy to be here,” he lies, because he can.

 

“Tell me, how have you been faring?”

 

“Oh, you know, been busy with Valentine running amuck. And you?”

 

The queen smiles paper thin. “Honestly, I haven't been too well. In fact, I've found myself in a bit of a pickle if I'm honest.”

 

“That's unfortunate,” Jace says carefully.

 

“I was hoping you could help me.”

 

“Me? Help you with what, exactly?”

 

“The Daylighter,” the queen tells him seriously, earnestly, eyes cold where her words ring with truth. “He's blatantly refused to align himself with me, but I'm not entirely sure why.”

 

Jace's heart does a funny squirming thing in his chest, and if Simon were here, he'd send him a look that said, See, this is what I was talking about. But Simon isn't here, and Jace can't let his discomfort show, so he smacks on a frown.

 

“I wish I could tell you,” Jace says, so thankful he isn't a seelie in that moment. “But honestly, your majesty, I wouldn't know anything about it.”

 

“Oh, I'm sure that's not true.” The queen's voice has a steely edge to it now as she stares right into his eyes. “There is, after all, certain things that only a boyfriend would know.”

 

Jace inwardly curses, wonders what bug crawled into the infirmary, and throws up a prayer that his people find him and fast.





 



“Hey, has anyone seen Jace?”

 

Alec arches an eyebrow. “He's your boyfriend. How'd you get in here anyway?”

 

Simon smiles, a little giddy jolt running through him when he thinks about the fact that, yes, Jace is his boyfriend. “Underhill let me in.”

 

“You know his name?” Alec mutters, looking vaguely confused by this.

 

“Uh, yeah? Alec, most of the people in the institute know me by name. Not many vampires come through here, you know.”

 

“Fair point. Well, what do you need?”

 

“Jace,” Simon says, then nearly chokes on his tongue when he realizes how that sounded. “No, not like that. Well, sometimes like- you know what, you don't care. What I mean is, I was texting him last night when he suddenly stopped responding. And now I can't find him.”

 

“Trouble in paradise already?” Alec heaves a sigh and gets to his feet. “Take it from me, love is shit and it's one purpose is to cause pain. But also, if you break Jace's heart, I will kick your ass.”

 

“What is it with you guys and kicking asses? Don't answer that. Um, I know you and Magnus are on outs right now, but… but that's not what love is. Even with the bad, you don't regret the good, do you?” Simon watches Alec's eyes slide to the side, throat bobbing. “Anyway, I'm not here to make unhappy people even more miserable.”

 

Alec sighs. “Right. So, what did you say to piss him off? If he's gone, you did something.”

 

Simon frowns. “Actually, no. We were texting about business. I got in touch with Raphael and got an update on what the vampires are doing to look for Valentine. Raphael asked if I'd pass along the message, so I did. Or well, I tried. I texted Jace and asked what he was doing, he said he was walking the perimeter, then when I asked if he wanted an update, he said yes. So I sent it and he never answered me.”

 

“That's weird,” Alec mutters, going still. “There was never any report on an update. If Jace doesn't report it, he usually just tells me. But…”

 

Simon swallows. “Have you seen him since last night? Please say yes.”

 

“I haven't,” Alec replies grimly instead.

 

Simon's mouth goes dry and his head spins.





 



“Meliorn tells me that he was your conquest to discovering your sexuality. Is that true?”

 

Jace's eyes flick over to Meliorn, who just dips his head with a small smile. Jace would be angry, but he sees the flash of regret on his face, knows that seelies can't lie, especially to their queen.

 

“It was just a kiss,” Jace tells her. “A very good kiss, but that was all.”

 

The queen hums. “And now you're with Simon?”

 

“Why are you so interested in him?” Jace counters, trying to keep the hardness out of his voice, using her own tactics against her. If she can evade direct questions, so can he.

 

“He's a Daylighter. Not many of those around,” the queen replies, then flicks her gaze away from a moment. “There is also the fact that he's interesting. Surely you agree with me.”

 

“He's actually pretty lame,” Jace says honestly, not letting the fond smile rise from the depths of his fond heart. “And a dork.”

 

“Yet, you've taken him to your bed.” The queen arches an eyebrow in challenge.

 

Jace knows that's an old saying for getting together, but for him, that means sex. And they haven't done that, so he smiles right in the queen's face and tells the fucking truth. “I haven't, actually.”

 

The flash of confusion on her face makes immense satisfaction fizzle through him. As long as he keeps her guessing, doesn't let any information slip, or make any deals… he should be good. He just has to bide his time until his friends get here; he just hopes they've realized he’s gone by now.

 

“I see,” the queen murmurs, humming. “I know you've been very busy dealing with Valentine, but I'm almost certain my sources were correct.”

 

Jace doesn't know everything about seelie customs, but he knows enough. Between what he's learned and what Izzy has told him, he knows that there is something wrong with what she just said. That being, the way she addressed Valentine's name.

 

Seelies are very big on respect, in their own ways. If they like you, they call you by your name, Jace knows that. Sometimes, they do it just to try and make people think they like them, hence the reason she calls him by his name now. But otherwise, it's usually a full name or a title. Like Meliorn calling him Shadowhunter, like the queen calling him Jace Herondale. The way she says Valentine makes alarm blare through his mind.

 

She spoke his name with a casualness that comes with a deeper interaction than just wanting him dead. No, it rang with honesty and respect. Jace's heart drops, worry creeps in, and it's all he can do to keep it hidden as he realizes that they have bigger problems than just this.

 

Jace doesn't smile, can't, but keeps his voice casual when he says, “Perhaps your sources are mistaken.”

 

The queen just stares at him and hums quietly.





 



“And no one can get in contact with him?”

 

Simon shakes his head as he follows Alec, Izzy, and Clary through the institute. “No, we've been trying. His phone is cut off.”

 

“Magnus should be here soon,” Alec says, leading them to one of the monitors and swiping his hand through the air.

 

“Wait, Magnus? Why does he need to be here?” Simon asks, swallowing thickly.

 

Alec shoots him a look as he goes into the camera logs from last night. “If we can't find him, I'll need his help to track him through the parabatai rune.”

 

“Alec, no,” Clary hisses, stepping forward to frown at him. “You know what happened last time. We will find him, but not like that.”

 

“He's my parabatai,” Alec replies simply, scrolling through the logged times. “I'll do what I have to.”

 

“Clary is right, Alec,” Izzy murmurs, eyes flicking between him and the screen. “Jace wouldn't want you to. I think it's extreme.”

 

Simons crosses his arms, uncrosses them, shifts into place. He feels a little sick. “Maybe it's not even that big of a deal. What if- I mean, it's possible that he just got really tired and fell asleep somewhere.”

 

Everyone turns to look at him sympathetically.

 

“Alright,” Alec announces, clicking on the screen and enlarging the footage. “There he is, going to check the perimeter.”

 

The screen clicks by slowly, each frame making Jace's movements seem distorted. He pauses at the door and looks down at his phone with a smile.

 

“Who is that?” Izzy asks, squinting at the screen. She elbows her way forward and zooms in. “It just says Dork. I don't-”

 

“That's me,” Simon says, smiling like an idiot. He waves a hand when Alec and Izzy turn to look at him identical looks of disbelief. “I'm Dork.”

 

Alec heaves a sigh. “Well, we know that Jace is a secret sap, but that doesn't tell us where he is.”

 

“Secret?” Clary snorts. “Jace is undoubtedly one of the softest guys I know. He doesn't hide it well.”

 

Simon hums in agreement. “He really doesn't.”

 

“No, he does not,” Magnus says as he suddenly sweeps into the room with a sigh, hands floating through the air as he moves to join their group. “How did he end up in trouble again? I was just here yesterday; I told him to use his phone next time.”

 

Alec's elbow knocks into the monitor, making it sway in the air, and he fumbles to catch it, nearly knocking it over. It's only Izzy's steady hands that keep it from crashing to the ground. Alec is blushing fiercely and darting his eyes anywhere but at Magnus, clearing his throat.

 

“Hey,” Alec mumbles.

 

Magnus looks at him softly. “Hello, Alexander.”

 

Simon tucks his lips in to keep from smiling at their admittedly cute interaction and he sees Izzy and Clary doing the same.

 

“Right,” Alec says, squaring his shoulders and focusing back on the screen. “Okay, so he goes to check the perimeter.”

 

The frames continue to click by. Jace walks outside and starts moving with familiarity and alertness. They watch as he sweeps one side and whirls around to do the other. He does stop to look at his phone again, Simon informs them that is him asking if Jace wants an update. Jace types out his reply and starts walking again, veering behind a tree.

 

He never walks from behind it.

 

“He's just… gone,” Simon croaks, stomach feeling heavy with dread.

 

Izzy frowns. “There is only so far those cameras reach. On the other side of that tree, we go blind. Something must have happened.”

 

Clary steps forward to stare at the screen, her arms wrapping around herself. “Play it over.”

 

Alec does, slower this time. They click through and Jace disappears behind the tree. Izzy's heels click as she takes a step closer, her eyes narrowing.

 

“Wait,” she says. “Zoom in.”

 

“What do you see?” Alec asks, doing as she said.

 

Izzy points in the very corner of the screen. There is a grainy flash of hair that is not Jace's. It's dark with blue tips, but that's all there is. Simon has no idea who or what that is, and he can feel the tendrils of panic slithering up the inside of his ribs to wrap around his dead heart.

 

“That's Meliorn,” Izzy tells him without a hint of a doubt. “I'd know that hair anywhere.”

 

The panic subsides for a brief second, turning into anxiety immediately after. “Oh,” he says, blinking rapidly. “So, Meliorn showed up and Jace just… disappeared? That's not- yeah, I don't like that.”

 

“Simon,” Clary murmurs, a firm warning in her voice, but it's too late.

 

Simon spirals into a stuttering mess. “I- I mean, you guys don't think- he wouldn't, right? Because they did kiss, and Jace said it was good, and- and you know, I can't really compare with Meliorn. He's- he's, well, you all have eyes. What if- maybe Jace isn't hurt at all, maybe they're just-”

 

Alec slaps a hand over his mouth, glaring at him, eyes narrowed. “Wow, insecure much?”

 

Simon just nods, the hand over his mouth moving with the bob of his head, and Alec's eyes soften before he drops his hand.

 

“Simon, Jace wouldn't do that,” Izzy says firmly. “Yes, Meliorn is a very good kisser, but he isn't who Jace loves. Trust me, it's not that.”

 

“I don't understand why Meliorn was here,” Magnus speaks up, eyebrows pinched as he stares at the screen. “He mostly does what he wants, outside of following the queen's orders, but I can't imagine what he wanted with Jace.”

 

And just like that, Simon knows what happened.

 

“Oh my g- oh shit. This is my fault,” Simon blurts, eyes going wide. He pushes both hands through his hair, sucking in a sharp breath. “He- he told me, and I- I didn't believe him. This is my fault.”

 

“Slow down,” Alec demands sharply. “Explain.”

 

So, with his voice cracking, Simon does.





 



The conversation is stilted and evasive, words as much of an attack as they are a dodge. Jace doesn't think he's lied this much in his entire life, even though most of his lies are just half-truths and omitted information. The queen matches him sentence for sentence, doesn't miss a beat, isn't uncomfortable like he is; this is her domain.

 

Jace stops focusing on Simon, casually needles information about Valentine instead. She's good, but she doesn't realize she's made a mistake. She thinks he's still worried about the Simon issue, and he is, but he shifts priority.

 

“Simon is a musician, a very good one, at that,” the queen informs him, as if he isn't aware.

 

Jace just nods. “The only instrument I know how to play is a piano. Valentine taught me, did you know? If I messed up, he broke my fingers and then healed them before making me do it again.”

 

“I suppose you didn't mess up very often then,” she says, a bit of impatience coming through the cruelty of her words.

 

“True. He's a very cruel man - Valentine. Don't you think so?” Jace asks casually.

 

The queen pauses, going still for a split second, then smiles. “I think Simon is not cruel. He's a very good person, isn't he?”

 

“But Valentine isn't,” Jace shoots back, as if they're having two different conversations. “I mean, he wants all the downworlders dead, and that includes you and your people, doesn't it?”

 

Even with the visage of a child, the queen looks full of ancient power when her expression hardens. She narrows her eyes. “Meliorn,” she calls.

 

“Yes, my queen?” Meliorn asks immediately, stepping forward, his seelie armor flowing around him like water.

 

“Would you like to come join us?” The queen turns to look at him.

 

Meliorn waits a beat, then very deliberately doesn't answer the question. “I will join you, my queen.”

 

The queen waves him over. “Very well. We are happy to have you, aren't we, Jace?”

 

Jace exhales sharply through his nose, but twists a smile onto his face. “The more, the merrier.”

 

Meliorn moves over to the table, following his queen's gesture to sit beside Jace. His knee bumps into Jace's as he sits. Jace tries not to let his discomfort show; that will only give the queen the ammunition she needs.

 

“The last time you were here, you managed to surprise me. I believed that you desired Clary Fairchild, but in fact, you desired another more. If it isn't too forward, who exactly was it that you desired? Perhaps I can give you advice.”

 

“That would be a high honor. As everyone knows, your advice is highly appreciated. You're rarely wrong about anything.”

 

The queen smiles sharply. “That is true. Allow me to aid you now? It would be my pleasure.”

 

Jace smiles back, just as sharp. “Certainly. I think I'd benefit in advice about Valentine. We can't locate him, you see. Care to help with that?”

 

The queen is silent for a long moment, giving away everything in the fact that she says nothing. She knows where he is, Jace realizes, heart racing in his chest. She has betrayed them all.

 

“That, I won't help you with,” the queen finally says, flicking her gaze to Meliorn. “However, I find myself intrigued about your apparent feelings - or lack thereof - towards Simon.”

 

“Why?” Jace snaps, growing more and more irritated by her refusal to waiver on the topic.

 

The queen smiles, slow and genuine, a pleased little thing that lets Jace know he's screwed up.

 

Shit.





 




“Can you get us there?” Alec asks Magnus yet again, whirling around and staring right at him, his face hard with determination.

 

Magnus sways for a moment, like he's being reeled in, and Simon sees their gazes flick down to each other's mouths in perfect sync before jumping right back up. Jeez, they've got it bad. Simon can't understand why they don't just kiss and make up already; they clearly want to.

 

“I can, but if I do, I will be risking the protection of my people,” Magnus says quietly, mouth tipping down into a frown.

 

Ah, Simon thinks, that's why.

 

Alec clenches his jaw, looking away for a moment, then heaves a deep breath. “Why can't you just- Magnus, please. We are trying to find Valentine so we can handle him. When we do, you won't need the protection. Just- just trust me.”

 

“I can't,” Magnus snaps, eyes sparking with some kind of anger that looks more like betrayal. “You lied to me. As of now, you have no idea where where Valentine is, therefore you can't handle him. My people need me to protect them.”

 

“I'm not asking you to choose,” Alec growls, stepping closer to Magnus to loom over him. “I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry I lied to you, I'm sorry you don't trust me to care about your people too, I'm sorry I need you all the time. But right now, the queen has my brother and she can't be trusted. I need to get to her, to him, and I need your help to do it.”

 

“I told you,” Magnus whispers, “we can't have both.”

 

Alec's eyes ease closed and he turns his head away, throat working. Izzy's hand clasps Simon's, squeezing tight enough to hurt, and Clary looks down to her feet. This is incredibly hard to witness, tragic in all the ways it shouldn't be. Alec and Magnus just… work. They're meant to be, Simon genuinely believes that, and they love each other so freaking much; it's amazing. But this, right now, is painful to see.

 

And Simon isn't standing for it.

 

“Look,” he snaps, ripping his hand away from Izzy and looking right at Magnus, “I get it, you're hurt, but Alec made a mistake. And he didn't do it because he wanted to hurt you, he did it because he didn't want to. Jace told me about the soul sword before we were together, on the night Max almost died, and you know what? I wanted to be angry at them for keeping it from the downworlders, but I also understood why they did. It's not because they don't trust us, it's because they care about us. They didn't want there to be two seperate sides that split all of us apart, and Alec did everything is his power to keep you and your people safe.”

 

Magnus just stares at him, eyes a little wide, mouth parting. “That doesn't mean-”

 

“I know!” Simon bellows. “I know it doesn't make up for it, but come on, Magnus. He loves you, he- he wouldn't do a damn thing to hurt you if he can help it. And you love him. It's epic and magical and intense. And right now, my epic love is in danger and it's my fault, so I'm asking you to help me. Please.”

 

Everyone waits. Magnus just stands stock still, not breathing, not reacting. Alec is staring right at Simon, just looking at him, but Simon refuses to look away from Magnus. Izzy and Clary shift restlessly behind him, their shoes clicking against the floor, breaking the moment.

 

Magnus releases a deep breath. “Very well,” he says softly, eyes sliding over to Alec.

 

Alec immediately gets back into motion. He turns to face Izzy and Clary. “You two are to stay here, keep the search on Valentine going. There are people here who are stirring trouble; put them in their place. Until I'm back, you two are in charge.”

 

“Of course,” Izzy says, nodding seriously.

 

Clary cracks her knuckles, which has no business being as frightening as it is, considering just how tiny she is. “Don't worry, we'll keep this place going. Just make sure to bring Jace home.”

 

Alec nods curtly. “Of course. Magnus?”

 

“Follow me,” Magnus says, starting towards the front door. “This will be best done outside the wards among nature.”

 

Shoulder to shoulder, Simon and Alec follow Magnus outside, the only sound being their shoes keeping a brisk pace. Then, Alec murmurs, “That was some speech, Simon.”

 

“Yeah, well, I get a little antsy when the people I care about are in danger,” Simon mutters.

 

“About what you said, thank you for… for having my back,” Alec says awkwardly.

 

Simon's too worried to throw him a huge grin, but he manages a small smile. “I was just telling the truth, man. And you know… if you'll allow me to give you some advice, maybe you should fight for him instead of being so quick to believe that it's over. Some things are worth fighting for.”

 

“I know, and that's why I get what he's doing. He's fighting for his people, I can respect that.” Alec sighs quietly, coming to a halt beside Simon as Magnus starts waving his sparking hands a few feet in front of them. “I just wish… things were easier.”

 

Simon clicks his tongue. “Nothing that matters is ever easy, Alec. I learned that the hard way.”

 

Alec blinks in surprise, goes to say something, but never gets the chance because a portal opens up in front of them and takes priority.

 

Magnus arches an eyebrow. “Ready to go?”





 




“So, you and Simon are not together?”

 

Jace barely holds back a sigh. “I gotta ask, why are you so invested in my love life?”

 

“I'm not,” the queen replies seriously. “Rather, I'm interested in Simon's.”

 

“Why do you care?” Jace mutters, grimacing.

 

The queen hums, lifting up an apple and rolling it in her hands. “I could give him everything my court has to offer. A chance to learn and practice music, protection from anything that should want to harm him, and most importantly, me.”

 

Jace tries to catch the flash of jealousy on his face, but she sees it. Her eyes sharpen on him, the side of her mouth curling into a smirk. Jace refuses to be rattled, refuses to allow the fact that she wants Simon to get to him.

 

“I see,” Jace murmurs.

 

The queen tilts her head. “This bothers you?”

 

Jace latches onto one of the least incriminating parts that make her wanting Simon a problem. “It's just, your majesty, you look like a child.”

 

“Ah,” the queen says, like she's considered this in length. “Yes, I realized that is an issue. I have another form that I would take if Simon were to ever stop refusing me.”

 

“Oh.” Jace clears his throat.

 

“Yet, he has refused me twice now. I must admit, I do not appreciate the sentiment. I can't understand why Simon would not wish to join me, not until I heard of your involvement.”

 

“I'm sure he didn't mean to… upset you. Simon doesn't fully understand our world; he was a mundane before he became a vampire, barely knew anything, and he's only been a vampire for a short time, a Daylighter for even shorter.”

 

“Oh, I'm aware,” the queen says, humming as she sits forward. “All more the reason he should blindly accept. My world must be interesting to him, he must be curious. But something clearly holds him back. At first, I assumed it was Clary Fairchild, but she broke his heart, so surely not. Then, I was informed that you were the cause.”

 

Jace huffs a quiet laugh, shaking his head. “I promise you, I'm not the reason he refused you.”

 

Jace knows he isn't. Simon refused because he doesn't want to be here. Jace wants to tell her that, wants to just bring her supremacy crashing down around her, but he knows that won't end well for him. It takes great effort to bite back the words.

 

“In that case, you're a free bird, yes?” The queen waves a hand towards Meliorn. “If you're not involved with Simon, prove it.”

 

“That's not very hospitable, your majesty.” Jace has to be careful, has to tread lightly. “I am not in the business of pushing myself on people who don't consent. I'm sure you understand.”

 

“Oh, I do,” the queen says, fixing her gaze on a very still Meliorn. “Tell me, Meliorn, did you enjoy your kiss with Jace?”

 

Meliorn is quiet for a moment. “The kiss was for him, my queen,” he says, not actually answering the question, and Jace knows he's trying to wiggle his way around this, helping in his own way.

 

“Yes, but did you enjoy it?” the queen asks bluntly.

 

Meliorn is no match for his queen and he cannot lie to save them. “Yes, I did.”

 

“And would you enjoy another?”

 

“Another kiss?”

 

“That, and more, if Jace were so inclined,” the queen prompts, waving a hand yet again, like her words make complete sense.

 

Meliorn lets the question hang there for as long as possible, buying them time, trying to find a way around it. There isn't one. “Yes, I would enjoy it.”

 

The queen smiles at Jace, her eyes dancing with cruel amusement. “It seems you have your consent.”

 

Before Jace can say anything, a beautiful seelie girl dances over to the queen and dips down to murmur low in her ear. The queen simply nods and focuses back on Jace, arching an eyebrow. Jace knows what that was, knows his friends are here. He needs to stall for as long as he can.

 

“Your majesty-”

 

“Well, go on. Prove that you've not lied to me. If you need your privacy, I will happily transport you and Meliorn to the wandering woods. Otherwise, you're welcome to do it here.”

 

Jace licks his lips. “So, you want me to kiss Meliorn, right?” he asks slowly, knowing very well what that means, knowing that if he gets taken to the wandering woods, he'll never go home.

 

“Yes,” the queen answers, dipping her head.

 

“See, the thing is, I'm not entirely sure if I'm still into Meliorn,” Jace says carefully.

 

The queen slams her hand down on the table, eyes blazing with anger. “Do it, now. If you don't, I will have you moved.”

 

Jace swallows. “I- I really don't-”

 

“Guards,” the queen snaps, and instantly, seelie guards start to move towards him.

 

“Wait! Wait, okay,” Jace blurts, holding up his hands towards the guards.

 

It's not until the queen holds up her hand that they stop. She jerks her chin at Jace. “Kiss him. Prove to me that you're not involved with Simon. I will not ask you again.”

 

Jace takes a deep breath through his nose, jaw clenching so tight that it hurts. His friends should be here in moments, Simon among them, and if he doesn't kiss Meliorn, the queen will have him escorted out before they find him.

 

Jace doesn't want to do this, doesn't want want Simon to walk in and see this, but he also doesn't want to be lost in the wandering woods forever. He slowly twists to the side and looks at Meliorn. The look he's met with is perfectly guarded regret, like Meliorn genuinely feels bad for this. Jace just releases a small sigh and reaches out to grab Meliorn's cheeks and pull him close.

 

Jace tries to force himself forward, tries to save himself, but he can't do it. He feels as if he's going to be sick. He can't do this to Simon; it's just… wrong.

 

They stay like that for a moment and Jace just can't. He frowns and drops his hands, seconds from pulling away. Then, Meliorn surges forward and presses a hard kiss to his lips. Jace immediately wrenches away, scooting back a few inches, staring at Meliorn with wide eyes.

 

Of course, at the entrance, Alec and Magnus are standing side by side, just staring at him with identical frowns. Simon is partially behind them, eyes fixed right on him, his face crumbled into shock and hurt, and Jace wants to bang his head against any available surface.

 

“Well, hello,” the queen says casually.

 

“Your majesty,” Alec grits out.

 

The queen smiles pleasantly at them. “Won't you come join us? Though, I can't imagine how you got here. Is that your doing, Magnus?”

 

“Yes,” Magnus says, word clipped.

 

“I find myself surprised. You must know what this means. If I can't trust you to keep Shadowhunters out of my realm, how can I trust you while protecting your people?” the queen asks in faux innocence, eyebrows raised.

 

“You know… I don't think my people will need protection from you after all,” Magnus says firmly, lips twisting. “Consider the deal and the offer rescinded. With all due respect, of course.”

 

The queen's eyes narrow. “Won't you come join us? We were all just getting… acquainted.”

 

“We see that,” Simon mutters bitterly, eyes dark and fixed on Meliorn.

 

Jace's heart flutters.

 

“Actually, your majesty, we came to get Jace. While I'm sure you've enjoyed his company, he must return home.” Alec takes a step forward, a stern look of strength on his face. “And really, the next time you would like any Shadowhunter, or any downworlder affiliated with us, to join you at your court… as the head of the institute, I must insist that you extend a formal invitation.”

 

The queen's lips thin into a hard line. Jace fights the urge to smirk, thinking, gotcha. With that put out there, if the queen were to kidnap any of them ever again, she would practically be declaring war.

 

“I see,” she says shortly.

 

Alec doesn't even miss a beat. “And in case you aren't sure, I will be sending you a list of the downworlders that are under my protection. Just to avoid confusion, you understand.”

 

The queen's young features twitch and twist into annoyance for a moment. “And the Clave will accept such a correspondence?”

 

“Yes,” Alec replies firmly, “they will.”

 

“Very well,” the queen says, breathing harshly through her nose, dropping the apple she still holds onto the table with a dull thunk. “You are all free to leave, of course. And Simon?”

 

Simon's head snaps up. “Uh… yes?”

 

“You know where to find me,” the queen replies simply, smiling at him warmly.

 

“Right,” Simon mutters awkwardly, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

 

“Well, time to go,” Jace says sharply, pushing himself to his feet.

 

They don't exactly sprint away, but they do walk fast. Everyone is silent as the guards lead them to the entrance, then turn back around to go the way they came. Without a word between them, they travel back to safety, and it's not until they're officially out of the seelie realm that Jace releases a sigh of relief.

 

“Magnus,” Alec says as soon as they're back. “You didn't have to do that.”

 

Magnus tilts his head back, staring up at Alec with a sad smile. “I really did, though. You were right. The queen isn't to be trusted, and if I'm honest, I trust my people in your hands more than hers.”

 

Jace's eyebrows shoot up when Alec sort of sags forward and presses into Magnus, dragging him into a deep kiss. Magnus gives a low groan and clutches at him, getting wrapped up into it immediately. Well, at least that one thing is fixed.

 

Which reminds Jace of his current issue.

 

“Simon,” he says quietly, turning towards him, wincing at the anger on his face.

 

Simon crosses his arms, running his tongue under his top lip, bouncing slightly in place. He looks wound up and pissed, which he rarely does. Jace wants to soothe him, wants to explain, wants to kiss him after this horrible fucking day. But he knows Simon is upset with him right now, so he just swallows and waits be fussed out.

 

Simon surprises him. “She did that to you. She- she made you- and that's my fault.”

 

“What?” Jace blinks. “Wait, you're not pissed?”

 

“Of course I'm pissed!” Simon tosses his hands up and stares at him like he's crazy. “I- I don't know why or how, but she made you and Meliorn kiss. And I'd be upset about that, kinda am, but I saw your face after; you looked horrified. I thought Meliorn was a good kisser? Wait, that's not- look, I am mad, but I'm mad at her… and myself.”

 

“I did warn you,” Jace agrees lightly. “She somehow found out we were together, which really pissed her off, by the way. Promise me, even if we don't work out, never get with her.”

 

Simon's face screws up in disgust. “Ew, I would never. Is- is that why she took you? Oh my g- that's why she had you and Meliorn kiss! Oh man, that is so freaking creepy.”

 

Jace huffs a laugh. “Yeah, it really is. But, thanks to Alec, she can't lay a hand on us again.”

 

They both turn to look at Alec, who's still kissing Magnus like that's his only source of air. Simon's face softens and Jace snorts in amusement.

 

“You know, I really did not expect our first day of dating to go like this,” Simon admits.

 

Jace hums, reaching out to grab Simon's hand, tugging him close. “And how did you see it going?” he asks cheekily, running both hands around Simon.

 

Simon's hands rest against his chest, one raises to poke him. “Get your mind out of the gutter, shnookums. I figured we'd watch the last Harry Potter movie or go dresser shopping.”

 

Jace grimaces at the horrible nickname that Simon is not letting go of, but it quickly morphs into a smile. “We will, there's just a lot of stuff going on.”

 

“I know, I know. With Valentine out there-”

 

“Oh shit.”

 

“What? What's wrong?” Simon asks warily, unconsciously running his hands over Jace's shoulders, trying to press the tension out of him.

 

“Magnus,” Jace calls sharply, making Alec and Magnus finally break apart, “it's a good thing that you switched sides when you did.”

 

Magnus blinks dazedly. “I'd say so,” he agrees slightly breathlessly, leaning into Alec.

 

Alec is beaming, Jace rolls his eyes.

 

“Not that! Well, yes, that. But not just that. We have a huge problem,” Jace says grimly. “The queen wasn't the only one trying to gather information. I think she made a deal with Valentine and betrayed us.”

 

Alec's joy seeps out. “We need to go, now.”

 

As Magnus starts forming a portal, Jace nods sharply. “Yeah, and we need to find Valentine.”

 

Simon shifts in his arms, making him tighten his grip reflexively. “Do we know how?” he asks warily. “And don't even think I'm not coming with you.”

 

“Not yet,” Jace mutters, then blinks. “And I didn't think you'd be anywhere else.”

 

“Damn right I won't,” Simon replies with a bright smile that makes Jace feel so soft.

 

Jace just covers his apparent ability to be an idiot around Simon with a smirk and says, “Yeah, I already know that I can't get you to go away. Trust me, I've been trying.”

Chapter Text

Alec, Magnus, and Izzy don't look too pleased about staying behind, but they don't object.

 

With the Madame Inquisitor giving them permission to help protect Lake Lyn, they have to split the group into two. Three and three. They have to keep searching for Valentine while Clary, Jace, and Simon all portal to Idris. The fact that his grandmother actually agreed to let Simon help the cause is enough to let Jace know that this is serious.

 

So, with simple goodbyes between them, they go their separate ways. Alec claps Jace's shoulder before they disappear through the portal, Izzy lightly squeezes Clary's hand, and Magnus smiles softly at Simon. This, Jace thinks before leaving, this is my family.

 

“That will never get any easier,” Simon announces, stumbling out of the portal, looking a little queasy.

 

Jace helps him straighten up, sweeps a hand up his back, smirks in amusement. “You'll get used to it.”

 

Simon barely notices, staring at the camp in surprise. “This is Idris?”

 

“No,” Clary says, moving over to grab Simon and turn him towards the castle, “that's Idris.”

 

“Woah,” Simon breathes in awe.

 

“I've never been there,” Clary murmurs with a soft sigh, staring up at it. “I want to. My mom wanted me to. I think she'd still want me to.”

 

“Actually, all of this is Idris,” Jace corrects, then throws a soft look at Clary. “And when this is over, you'll get to visit. I promise.”

 

“Why is a vampire here?” A voice calls out sharply, snagging their attention.

 

“Malachi,” Jace addresses the Consul, standing up straight and crossing his wrists behind his back, “he is with us. We've come to warn you about Valentine's alliance with the seelie queen and help protect Lake Lyn.”

 

Malachi narrows his eyes, flicking his gaze over Simon with distrust. “Does Madame Inquisitor-”

 

“My grandmother knows,” Jace cuts him off, throwing that connection out there without shame, not enjoying the way Simon is being treated.

 

“Very well,” Malachi says. “Follow me.”

 

Things are fine, right up until they aren't. It isn't until Malachi pulls down his collar, revealing the circle marked on his neck, that Jace realizes what is happening. Malachi tells them in no uncertain terms, that they will not win.

 

“Stop this,” Jace demands, struggling in the grasp of two men. “Valentine is wrong, you have to know that. What he wants, what he's trying to do-”

 

“Is the same thing I want,” Malachi interrupts ruthlessly, lip curling as he points at Simon. “That- that thing, it deserves to die. Valentine is the only one who actually understands. Your lives is just a small price to pay.”

 

“You can't actually mean that,” Clary spits, wriggling to try and get free. “Valentine is insane!”

 

Malachi leads them farther into the woods, waving the men who hold them towards a tree stump, and Jace's heart catches in his chest when he sees the executioner swinging his axe. It becomes apparent what's going to happen and they all struggle against their captivity to no avail.

 

Malachi steps forward. “You may be his daughter, but you understand nothing. I won't allow you to bring ruin to this.” He waves a hand at the men holding her. “Valentine will understand the importance of this sacrifice.”

 

“Clary!” Simon yells, shoving forward, only to have a stake pressed over his heart in threat.

 

Clary is shoved to her knees and pressed against the stump, her head roughly pushed to the side. She's gritting her teeth and squirms, even as tears spring to her eyes, and Jace's heartbeat is loud in his ears. The executioner walks forward and grips his axe firmly. Jace can't breathe.

 

The axe rises into the air and Clary goes very still, just looking small and scared in a way she hasn't since her mother's funeral. Like a floodgate, energy pulses through Jace and changes the tides.

 

Simon kills most of them, hissing with his fangs out as he snaps necks effortlessly. Jace and Clary hold their own, fighting together as Simon blurs all around them, dropping bodies. It's Simon who kills Malachi, ripping his head clean off, and once it's over, Simon stares at the blood on his hands with wide eyes. Jace and Clary step on either side of him, gently cleaning his hands and leading him away.

 

“I scare myself sometimes,” Simon says quietly, gripping each of their hands tightly. “I feel like a monster when I lose control like that.”

 

Jace pulls him to a halt, drops his hand, and turns to stand right in front of him. “You're not a monster, Simon. You did it because you wanted to protect us, not because you wanted to drink their blood.”

 

Clary runs her free hand up Simon's arm, still holding his hand with her other. “Jace is right,” she says softly. “Besides, you weren't the only one who killed them, Simon. Do you think we're monsters?”

 

“No,” Simon admits in a rasp.

 

“It's going to be okay,” Jace swears.

 

He doesn't know why he does it; there is just an intense need burning inside of him to make sure that Simon is okay. Without any preamble, he steps forward, grabs each of Simon's cheeks, and moves close to kiss him.

 

It's the first time they've kissed since the infirmary, but the heat that they had before is gone. It can't exist here and now, not with Simon feeling like he does. This kiss is about comfort and love and reassurance, gentle as it is sweet. It's a promise, a vow, a wordless pledge to always be there to help each other when they're down.

 

It's not long, but it is intense, and when Jace pulls away and rests his forehead against Simon's with his eyes closed, he feels settled.

 

“We need to go,” Simon whispers.

 

Jace drops his hands, opens his eyes, and pulls away to sigh. “Yeah, we do,” he agrees moving back over to grip Simon's open hand.

 

“That was sweet,” Clary comments, still gripping Simon's other hand. “I think I'm gay.”

 

Simon and Jace both jerk to a halt, turning to look at her in equal amounts of surprise. With the same inflection of shock, and in perfect sync, they both blurt, “What?”

 

Clary clears her throat. “Probably not the best moment for that, but uh, yeah. I- I really think I am.”

 

“Wait, didn't you two have sex?” Jace asks, flicking a finger between them, and wow, that is so weird.

 

“Yeah,” Clary says simply.

 

Jace's eyebrows shoot up. “So… was it not good? Because I really need to know these things.”

 

“Hey! It was good,” Simon shouts, offended. Then, he falters and turns to Clary. “It was good, right?”

 

Clary laughs, a kind smile on her face. “It- it was good and I was attracted to Jace. But I just… I don't know. I think- I know that I don't feel that anymore. Jace is attractive, yes, but when I kissed him… it was really nice, but that's it. And I think I thought I was supposed to feel taken with it because he is so attractive and we have a connection - we always have. And with you, Simon… the sex was good, but I couldn't get into it until- well, until you did that thing with your tongue. That felt good, and being with you, it made me feel safe. But I had to work for it. And that's why I desired him more at the seelie court - not because I was in love with him, but because I thought I wouldn't have to work as hard. But I've realized recently… I shouldn't have to work to want guys, if I don't… I don't.”

 

“Hey, that's true,” Simon says gently, pulling his hand from hers to touch her cheek. “I don't care what society tells you, Fray. You don't have to want anyone you don't.”

 

Clary bites her lip. “When I was in tenth grade, I kissed Marly Fletcher behind the bleachers. It was just a joke, but I liked it a lot. But then I kinda forgot about it and kept on crushing on guys, so I never even considered that I was a lesbian.”

 

“It's okay not to know,” Jace tells her with a casual shrug. “I sure as hell didn't know I was bisexual.”

 

“Well, if you say you're gay, you are. It doesn't matter if you've been with guys. And if you find out you're bisexual, that's fine too. Anything is fine. You were there for me when I had my freak out,” Simon tells her with a wink, “I'll be there for you.”

 

Jace blinks. “Wait. Simon is the friend you helped support through finding out their sexuality?”

 

“Yeah,” Clary replies, like duh. “Who else did you think I was talking about?”

 

“I thought Simon was straight.”

 

Simon snorts. “Shnookums, I'm far from it.”

 

“Please stop calling me that,” Jace says, rolling his eyes and sighing, even when his heart does a stupid thump of joy in his chest.

 

“Anyway, I haven't told anybody that yet. And- and I just wanted to say it in case I'm going to die,” Clary announces, smile flickering weakly on her face.

 

“Yeah, I wouldn't want to die with people thinking I was straight either,” Simon agrees.

 

“First of all, no one is dying; second, being straight is not that bad. More options for us, right? Uh, not that I'm looking,” Jace adds hastily when Simon and Clary both stare at him with an arched eyebrow.

 

They casually start walking again, heading towards Lake Lyn, and Simon tsks lightly. “Not all the straights are bad, true. I mean, who do we know that's straight for sure? Oh! Luke. He's a good straight guy. Love that man.”

 

“Is that really the only straight person we interact with closely?” Clary asks in surprise.

 

Jace frowns. “I mean… Izzy? But she said something about experimenting, so maybe not. Oh! Hey, if she isn't, Clary, you should date her!”

 

Clary laughs nervously. “How about I walk before I run?” she mutters. “Izzy is- she'll give me a heart attack before I even get a kiss.”

 

“Sounds pretty gay,” Jace says in amusement. “But also, where is the fun in walking when you can run? I mean, look at me. I was halfway in love with a guy before I even knew I was bisexual.”

 

“That's because men are idiots,” Clary quips back.

 

“I would take offense to that if it wasn't true,” Simon tells her, then hums quietly. “You know, I read an article about this once. Did you know that it's pretty common for LGBTQ people to unconsciously search each other out and form groups, even before they're aware of their sexuality or gender identity? So basically, we all sorta knew we weren't straight and found other people just like us. Isn't that, like, freaking wild? Talk about pack mentality.”

 

“Huh,” Jace grunts in surprise.

 

Clary hums. “But chances are, at least someone in our group is straight, right? What about Raphael? I mean, I know we aren't all that close to him, but we do interact with him plenty.”

 

“He's asexual,” Jace informs her.

 

Simon's eyebrows shoot up. “You know what that is? Wait, how'd you know that?”

 

“Magnus told me. How'd you know?”

 

“I may have insinuated that Raphael was giving me some sexual tension vibes. He very firmly told me that wasn't the case and he wasn't interested in sex. Not gonna lie, I think I came really close to asking him out, totally cool with no sex, but then I remembered he was pissed about Camille and I was in love with Clary.”

 

Jace scowls. “Great, now I have to hate him.”

 

“Nah, you don't,” Simon tells him easily. “Raphael is a good guy - a bit of an ass, but not completely evil. If you hate him, I get to hate Meliorn.”

 

“Meliorn isn't evil either.” Jace sighs and rolls his eyes. “Fine, we don't have to hate anyone.”

 

“Knew you'd see it my way, shnookums.”

 

“Simon, if you don't stop-”

 

Clary chuckles. “You two are too much. Even the jealousy is cute.”

 

“I'm not cute,” Jace declares immediately.

 

Clary and Simon share a look. “Riiiight.”

 

“Anyway, so Raphael isn't straight,” Simon says, swinging their hands back and forth. “What about Maia? She's our friend.”

 

“I… don't actually know,” Jace admits.

 

“Maybe she's the straight friend,” Clary suggest in uncertainty. “We could always ask.”

 

“If we survive,” Simon chirps.

 

Jace swallows. “We're not dying.”

 

They break through the trees just then, Lake Lyn glittering in the darkness, and suddenly they're snatched back into reality. For a moment, walking through the woods, talking about sexuality and being so… well, normal, it seemed as if their lives weren't at stake. They'd carved out that one moment for themselves, needing it to keep going, but it dissipates as if it had all been a dream.

 

Clary breaths out a shaky breath. “He's not here yet; we beat him here.”

 

The easy pace they'd had before is gone. They rush onto the gravelly sand and stare out at the still water. It looks like a black pit in the dark of the night, unnaturally immobile, not a ripple in sight. Jace's stomach churns as they stare at it.

 

Then, as sudden as anything, Clary is being ripped away from Simon's right and knocked onto the ground. Simon and Jace both whirl around at the same time to see Valentine snap handcuffs on her wrists and spring up to face them.

 

Clary doesn't even hesitate, just sweeps her feet in a wide arc and sends Valentine to the ground with a grunt of pain. As Jace takes out his seraph blade and moves forward, Valentine scrambles to his side, rolling away from Clary with a sharp kick to her side. Clary gasps in pain and tries to fumble to her feet, but Valentine beats her to his, reaching out to wrench her by the hair and shove her roughly back to the ground. Clary's head bounces off the small rocks worryingly and goes still.

 

“Not today.” Valentine slowly approaches them, chest heaving. “Not when I'm so close.”

 

“You'll never get the chance,” Jace tells him, flipping his blade in one smooth motion and broadening his stance. “Simon, help Clary.”

 

Simon hesitates, but eventually does break away to rush to Clary's side, keeping a wide berth from Valentine. And Jace realizes then that Simon is terrified of Valentine, but that makes complete sense. Valentine is the maniac that wants him and his people dead, and with his Jewish background, it's like living that same war.

 

“Of course, you would bring a downworlder here,” Valentine says, shaking his head in disappointment, slowly walking forward. “I thought I raised you better than that.”

 

“Maryse and Robert Lightwood raised me, you abused me,” Jace hisses, waiting like a coiled spring, gripping his blade hard.

 

“No, son, I made you strong, I made you a soldier. You're the perfect weapon.” Valentine smiles and gives a breathless laugh of wonder. “You're everything I wanted and more, even with your affinity to downworlders.”

 

“I'm not going to let you do this,” Jace says sharply, narrowing his eyes.

 

Valentine smiles wider. “I'm not going to let you stop me. Do you remember the falcon? Do you remember what I taught you?”

 

Jace sucks in a sharp breath. “You were wrong.”

 

Valentine steps closer, closer, closer. “Was I?”

 

Then, Valentine strikes, pulling out his own blade, and Jace meets him hit for hit. The blades spark as they come together over and over, the force of it making Jace's whole body rattle.

 

Valentine is strong and fast, possibly from skill, possibly from his own injections. Jace fights with all his might, anger and resentment rising every time he fails to put a blade through his body. Valentine seems to be taunting him, knocking him back, laughing mockingly when Jace keeps coming with garbled shrieks of anger.

 

“Fight me!” Jace shouts, panting as he moves forward yet again. “Fucking fight me!”

 

Valentine dances around him, laughing as if this is just some game to him. “Remember, son, don't let emotion cloud your judgement!”

 

“This. Is. Not. A. Lesson!” Jace emphasizes each word with an advance, blades clashing together and sailing apart, lighting up the night sky.

 

“Oh, but it is,” Valentine tells him, suddenly whirling in a high arc, twisting and ducking behind him. He pulls Jace back into his chest and places his blade to his throat, making Jace freeze.

 

“No!” Simon shouts, whirling away from a slowly rousing Clary, darting forward.

 

“Stop,” Valentine orders, digging his blade into Jace's throat harder, making Jace have to tilt his head back so as not to get cut.

 

Simon freezes only a step away, eyes wide, hands raised. Jace slowly lowers his seraph blade and swallows, looking right at Simon. Clary groans as she sits up, blinking over at them, a blood stain on the side of her head. A small gasp leaves her as she takes in what's happening.

 

“What are you waiting for?” Jace growls roughly, eyes still on Simon. “Kill me, father.”

 

“Remember the falcon?” Valentine asks him again, voice deceptively soft. “Do you remember what you learned?”

 

Jace grits his teeth and snarls, “To be loved is to be the one destroyed. But you're wrong. You don't know anything about being loved, not like you are now. You're a monster.”

 

“No, he's a monster,” Valentine says, obviously talking about a silent and still Simon. “But you forgot the other part of that lesson. How could you forget? To love is to destroy.”

 

Valentine drops the blade from Jace's throat, letting it clatter to the sand, and reaches down, wraps his hands around Jace's, bringing his hands up to grip the seraph blade. In one smooth motion, Valentine uses Jace's hands to swing the blade up and out, forcing it straight into Simon's unbeating heart.

 

It all happens so fast, Jace doesn't even fully realize what happened until Simon's whole body begins to glow and his face twists into agony. The holy light within the blade burns Simon from the inside out, piercing his heart and ending it. Simon says one word before he disintegrates before Jace's very eyes.

 

“Jace?” he chokes out, sounding confused, and then he melts into nothingness.

 

Jace drops the blade and sags back into Valentine, going limp in his grasp. “No, no, no, please no,” he gasps out, reaching out to where Simon's body would be if he hadn't been a vampire.

 

“Shh, shh,” Valentine soothes, one arm curling around his chest and holding him up, the other arm lifting so his hand can pet Jace's hair. “It's okay, it's okay, son; you did the right thing.”

 

Jace clings to the arm wrapped around him, clawing at it to try to pull it closer, and weeps. He's not holding himself up anymore, not even thinking, just sobbing with a horrible feeling rocking through him. He is numb, he is aching, he is being stabbed repeatedly through the heart over and over. He doesn't know what's happening to him, but he can barely breathe through it.

 

It's a rising, choking sense of despair, of crushing loss. Jace can feel it happening - falling to the ground with Valentine, blood draining from his face, throat tightening, wellspring of tears erupting.

 

Over and over, he begs, “No, please, no. Please, please, please.”

 

Valentine holds him, gently rocking them. “It's okay, you learned the lesson, you understand now.”

 

Jace screams.

 

He clutches at Valentine's jacket and just howls, unable to escape the deep gashes on the inside of his chest. They throb open and sob agony. Simon's abrupt death the very talons that cause those wounds - they will never heal. So, Jace screams. He screams because his heart is being flayed one piece at a time. He screams because he can't stop seeing the image of his hands putting the blade through Simon's heart. He screams because he can't do anything else, because he is broken.

 

He screams until his throat is raw and he can no longer form sounds. Then, he is shivering in Valentine's arms and staring into nothingness.

 

“Jace, listen to me.” That's Clary's voice. It's trembling, thick with tears. “Jace! Jace, you have to-”

 

Just like that, Jace realizes what's happened, who's at fault, who has to die for it. With a surge of pure fury, he twists in Valentine's arms and wraps both hands around his throat, squeezing with all his might, a hoarse growl falling from his mouth. Valentine chokes and squirms, fumbles for something, then clicks yet another pair of handcuffs on his wrists.

 

Jace is only distracted for one second, but that's all Valentine needs. He flings his leg up, driving it into Jace's stomach, and twists them to the side. Jace's air is knocked out of him and Valentine rolls off of him, springing to his feet with an ease that looks effortless. He reaches down and wraps one hand around the link of chain between both of Jace's wrists, dragging him over to Clary with strain, grunting when he yanks Jace over to her and lets him go. He smiles.

 

“There, that's handled. Now, sit back and wait for me, okay? We'll all be a family again soon.”

 

As if not a thing is wrong in the world, Valentine turns away and wades into the lake, grabbing the bag he'd dropped on the way. Clary steadily tries to scoot over to Jace, her face tearstained and red, but no less determined. Jace takes in deep, shuddering breaths, stares at his hands, replaying the moment he destroyed the one he loves over and over.

 

“Jace,” Clary hisses. “Jace, it's not your fault. Listen to me, you didn't- you didn't kill him.”

 

Jace slowly looks up, feeling empty and exhausted and faint in a weak way he never has, not even when he was dying. “I destroyed him,” he whispers.

 

“No.” Clary's voice is strong and fierce as she continues to scoot towards him. “Jace, you didn't destroy him. You loved him.”

 

“I know,” Jace chokes out.

 

And he's crying again, curling in on himself and gasping out body shaking sobs. Vaguely, he hears Valentine talking to an Angel. He can feel the warmth from its presence, can hear its booming voice, vibrates from the force of it. He doesn't care, he doesn't care, he doesn't care.

 

“Jace, listen to me,” Clary says harshly, sounding a bit frantic. “I know you loved him, and- and I did too, but we- we have to keep going. Please, I need you right now. Think about Magnus, think about Raphael, and Maia, and Luke, and all of the downworlders in this world. Think about the ones you care about, the ones other people love, about- about what Simon would want. Jace, please, please stop crying and help me!”

 

Jace takes in a deep breath and thinks about it. He thinks about everything and he feels like he's going to be sick. But as much as it hurts, as much as he wants to curl in a ball and never move again, Clary is right. She breaks through all of his pain and he does what needs to be done.

 

“My- my stele,” Jace stutters, rolling on his side towards her.

 

Clary immediately digs in his pocket, snatching it out and fumbling through a rune. The handcuffs unlock, just as Valentine lifts the dagger to his palm. Clary curses sharply and drops the stele, shoving to her feet and putting on a burst of speed.

 

Jace fumbles for the stele as Valentine and Clary begin fighting. Valentine is good, but right now, fueled by losing her best friend and needing to save the world, she is better. He's never seen this kind of ruthlessness from her, not like this, and as the handcuffs unlock from his wrists, she slices Valentine's throat with a harsh snarl.

 

Valentine chokes on his own blood, hands coming up to grasp at his neck, eyes wide. Moments later, he slumps to the ground with a vacant gaze, dead. It's a death that does not match the depth of his malicious life; his breathless body feels like a facade.

 

But… he's dead.

 

The Angel hovers, watching without interference, waiting until he can retreat back to wherever he came from. Then, Jace realizes there is still a wish.

 

Simon.

 

Without a second thought, Jace stands to his feet and stumbles towards the lake, bypassing Clary. Her chest heaves as her victory takes its toll, but she makes an aborted move after him. He doesn't stop, just scoops up the dagger and wades into the lake.

 

“Jace, what are you doing? Jace!”

 

He ignores her.

 

“Jace Herondale,” the Angel greets calmly, his voice strong and powerful. “Your blood may grant you one wish, one I cannot refuse.”

 

Jace cuts his palm, watches the blood drip into the water, feels no sting. Nothing compares to the gaping hole in his chest. “Simon,” he chokes out in a rasp, “please bring him back to life.”

 

The Angel hums. “So be it.”

 

As the Angel sinks back into the lake, Jace nearly trips over himself to rush back to the last place Simon ever stood. The imprint of his sneakers are still in the ground. Clary moves over to help him, keeping him upright as he sucks in sips of air and waits to see if his wish worked.

 

“Jace,” Clary says quietly.

 

Jace lightly pushes her away, stumbling forward on his own. “Don't. I know I shouldn't have. I don't care, Clary. I- I don't-”

 

“No, no,” she chokes out, moving forward with shining eyes, “thank you.”

 

Before Jace can say another word, there's a thump as Simon's body suddenly appears sprawled out on the ground. Jace immediately skids to his side, knees smarting from the sharpness of the rocks. But Simon sucks in deep breath of air, gasping, and jolts forward.

 

“Hey, hey,” Jace says, tears streaming from his eyes, relief and pure fucking elation washing through him so hard he nearly tips over. “Simon, Simon, you're here, it's okay.”

 

Simon blinks rapidly, breathing heavily, hands fluttering out towards Jace. “What- what happened? I was- there was pain, then- then-”

 

“I'm sorry, I'm so sorry,” Jace stammers, unable to stop from reaching out and dragging Simon into his arms. He can feel Simon's forehead against his cheek, so he turns and kisses it, then can't stop. Relentlessly, he presses kisses over Simon's whole face, reaching up to hold his cheeks to keep him still. He's blabbing between each kiss, not even fully aware of what he's saying. “I love you, I'm sorry, I love you so much, I'm so sorry, I-”

 

“Wait, wait,” Simon insists, jerking back, “I don't- something's wrong.”

 

Jace goes very still, everything suddenly crashing down around him. He knows what happens to people who die - really die, not the undead - and come back. He's heard the talks, heard the whispers, heard the horror stories. But he also died, only for a second, and he came out just fine. Mundies die and get revived all the time. Jace had selfishly hoped Simon would be okay.

 

Clary slowly approaches, moving to Simon's other side, sinking down beside him. “What's wrong, Simon? Tell us what's wrong.”

 

Then, Simon says the very last thing Jace would have ever expected to hear.

Chapter Text

“My heart is beating.”

 

It is. His heart beats strong and heavy in his chest, so real and there. Simon can feel it like an invasion in his chest, a steady throb moving in what used to be a hollowed out space of stillness. It feels like an echo from a different life, merging into his now.

 

“What?” Jace breathes, blinking rapidly.

 

Simon presses his hands into his chest, feeling his heartbeat beneath his fingers. “I- I'm alive. My heart is beating, it's- Jace, it's actually beating. Oh my god, its- god. God. I can say god!” He flings his head back and forth to stare at Clary and Jace in shock. “My heart is beating, and I actually feel cold, and I can say god, and I'm not- I'm not… hungry.”

 

The hunger, the absence of it, that's what beats out everything else. From the moment he crawled out of his own grave, Simon has always had a deep craving locked away within himself, never to go away. He wishes he could say that it lessened over time, or became unnoticeable, but he simply got used to it and learned to have a life outside of it.

 

But now… it's just gone.

 

“The wish,” Clary says quietly, her eyes widening. “Jace, you wished him to be brought back to life! Simon's not a vampire anymore, he's- he's alive!”

 

Jace slowly sits back onto his haunches. “By the Angel, I- I didn't mean to.”

 

“Wait,” Simon blurts, flinging his hands out, nearly knocking Jace in the nose. “What wish? The wish from the Angel? You- you used a wish to make me a human? I don't- I don't understand.”

 

“What do you remember last?” Jace asks softly.

 

Simon frowns as he tries to recall the last thing that he remembers happening. “Valentine… he had you, and I was trying to- I couldn't do anything, and then there was a lot of pain. Then I woke up here.”

 

“You died,” Clary murmurs bluntly. “Again. Valentine killed you.”

 

“I killed you,” Jace corrects sharply, eyes averting as his jaw jumps.

 

“What? No, you didn't, you wouldn't,” Simon denies immediately.

 

Jace gives a feeble shrug. “But I did. It was me who-”

 

“No. No. That's not true,” Clary spits fiercely, giving Simon emotional whiplash. “Valentine made you put a blade through his heart, you didn't want to. You did not kill Simon, you hear me?”

 

Simon waves his hands in the air, scooting back away from them both. “Just- guys, hold up. Let me, just, give me a second.”

 

Clary and Jace proceed to partake in a glaring match, both trying to stare one another down for their beliefs. Simon resolutely ignores them. He needs a minute, needs a breather to get himself settled and in working order. His mind is too scrambled right now to work anything out.

 

Simon breathes quietly, feels his heartbeat, traces his gums to remind himself there are no fangs, breathes some more. He scans the area, freezes when he sees Valentine's dead body. For a long moment, he relishes in that. Once the safety of Valentine never breathing again sets in, Simon forces himself to go over what he knows.

 

Jace had explained about the wish and the Angel, so he already knows how that works. He assumes Valentine managed to actually summon the Angel, but never got to use his wish. Instead, Jace made a wish - the one to bring Simon back to life, possibly too messed up in his own head to realize that back to life meant back to life… literally.

 

Simon circles back to his own death, closes his eyes, tries to remember. He muddles through his own foggy memories. It's like the pain clouds everything, then he remembers waking up. But before that, Valentine had a blade to Jace's throat. Simon thinks Valentine dropped that blade and reached for Jace's. The harder he thinks on it, the more he's sure that Valentine forced Jace to swing his blade up.

 

Okay. Okay. Simon sorts it out and breathes.

 

“Clary is right,” he announces, drawing both of their gazes. “You didn't kill me. Jace, it might have been your blade, even your hands, but it was not your choice. And you totally brought me back, so it's kinda like it doesn't even count.”

 

Clary shoots Jace a victorious look. “See?”

 

“I'm sorry,” Jace murmurs, looking right at Simon with a heartbreakingly pretty face and sad eyes, which tug at Simon's heartstrings, making his heart beat faster because it can do that now.

 

“I love you,” Simon says as a reply, which weren't the words he was going to say, but now that they're out there, he feels like they make sense.

 

Jace just stares at him.

 

Clary, apparently, has held back long enough. She flings herself at Simon and wraps her arms around him tight. Simon releases a small laugh and hugs her back, burying his face into her shoulder, very aware of the fact that he can't smell her blood. He doesn't know whether to laugh or cry about that.

 

“You're warm now,” Clary says as she pulls away, sniffling, her eyes red-rimmed. “Simon… you're alive. I'm- I don't know what to say.”

 

“I don't either.” Simon admits, flicking his gaze to Jace. “You used the wish for me? You could have wished for anything, but you wished for me to be alive instead?”

 

Jace swallows. “I didn't want anything else.”

 

His voice is small, but the words are honest. Simon doesn't care that they're all sweaty and cold, doesn't care that they're all a little bloody and muddy, doesn't care that Jace is wet. Simon shifts over and shuffles in front of Jace to fling his arms around him, pressing in to give him a firm kiss.

 

Jace can't just say things like that and expect not to be assaulted with love. Simon is a very weak person; he can't ignore that.

 

“Thank you,” Simon mumbles against his lips.

 

Jace hums, hands pressing into his back, fingers catching against his shirt. “Can't do it again.”

 

At that, Simon jerks back. “What?”

 

“Yeah.” Jace sighs and drops his hands, face twisting into a grimace. “I'm probably going to be in a lot of trouble. The Angel can only be forced to grant one wish, ever. The Clave might just kill me.”

 

Simon's eyes bulge. “Wait, you used the only wish the Angel would grant on me?”

 

“Yeah,” Jace says simply.

 

Clary tuts. “He beat me to it.”

 

“Fray, not now,” Simon hisses, then because he's him, he tacks on, “but thank you.”

 

Clary snorts while Jace just sighs. “I have to tell the Clave that the wish is gone,” he mutters.

 

“But you don't have to tell them that you used it,” Clary says triumphantly, making both of them stare at her incredulously. “Jace, you did the right thing. Simon would have done it for either of us. I would have done it for either of you. Alec, Izzy, Magnus. We all would have made the same choice. Would you make us tell the Clave the truth?”

 

“No,” Jace admits grudgingly.

 

Clary huffs a laugh and smirks. “We have a wish granted and a vampire who's no longer a vampire and a dead body. We are the only people here. I'm not all for lying, but we can make a decision right here, right now, to come up with a story. We'll carry on with our lives, happy. After everything, don't we deserve that?”

 

“She has a point,” Simon agrees, reaching out to take Jace's hands. “Besides, if you say you did it, I'll just say I did it, and then we will both be in trouble. So, you are kinda in a corner here.”

 

Jace shakes his head, lips tightening. “Maybe I deserve to-”

 

“No,” Simon snaps. “No, Jace. You did not kill me, you did bring me back to life though. Do you remember when I almost drained you of your blood and you told me to shut up about it?”

 

Jace narrows his eyes. “Yes, but-”

 

“Shut up,” Simon cuts him off. “Just shut up. The facts are, I almost killed you. I felt guilty, always will, but it happened and we moved past it. This is just like that. We will move on. It's okay.”

 

“And what are we going to tell them? That Valentine brought you back?” Jace challenges sharply.

 

“Actually, yes,” Clary speaks up, slowly standing to her feet. “That's the beauty of it. Think about it, all you wanted was Simon to come back to life; you didn't care if he was a vampire or not, but the Angel took you literally. What if Valentine was so sure of himself - like he really was - that when he made his wish, he said something else. What if he wished that everything he'd done today was made right, thinking it would kill all downworlders, because he genuinely thought he was right? But all he got for his troubles was Simon coming back to life as a human.”  

 

“They're not going to believe that,” Jace says.

 

Clary shrugs. “They'll have to. What other choice do they have? We're the only ones who know what really happened here, so what we say… is what happened.”

 

“Clary, you're a genius,” Simon blurts with a bright smile. “I mean, they're not going to care what I have to say, I'm just a- well, a mundane now, but you know. Wait, I'm a mundane! How am I still here? How can I see all of this?”

 

“You had the sight before as a downworlder,” Jace tells him with yet another shrug. “It isn't just going to go away. You were a vampire, even if you aren't anymore. The Clave is going to want to do something about your situation.”

 

“Like what?” Simon asks warily.

 

Jace frowns. “I don't know.”

 

That settles around them, dipping them into silence. At that, Clary begins to look worried. Her plan for the wish is a good idea, Simon thinks. They just have to stick to their story and band together. Simon knows he and Clary will do that easy enough, but it's Jace he's worried about.

 

Before he can dive back into making a case for Jace to band together with them, pounding footsteps break through the trees. Magnus, Izzy, and Alec come barreling through the woods, jerking to a halt when they see everyone. Simon knows they must look a little crazy right now, what with Clary standing while Jace and him are on their knees, almost embracing, and Valentine's dead body a few feet away probably makes the scene even more insane. To be fair, it kind of is.

 

Alec pushes his hands through his hair, looking so relieved that he can't hide it. “What happened? I thought- Jace, I've never felt that level of pain from you before.”

 

Simon and Clary both look at Jace, waiting. Simon is pretty sure that he knows why Jace was in pain. A part of him is warmed that Jace was so hurt by losing him, but the other part of him hates that he is, not liking Jace in any pain at all.

 

Izzy wraps her whip back up, loosening out of her battle stance, and Magnus’ hands stop sparking. They all wait for an explanation, a retelling of the events, and they all look at Jace.

 

“Simon died,” Jace whispers, blinking hard, and Simon sees Alec wince as if he's in pain once again. “Valentine forced me to kill him, used my hands to do it. He- I was… not okay. And he chained me and Clary up, summoned the Angel.”

 

“We saw,” Izzy murmurs, her face softening. “Jace, I'm so sorry that happened.”

 

“It's okay,” Simon blurts out with a bright smile, reaching out to sweep one hand up Jace's arm, lightly squeezing. “See, I'm fine now? And Jace knows it's not his fault.”

 

“How exactly are you alive?” Alec demands with a frown, staring right at Simon.

 

Jace clears his throat. “Valentine. He- he summoned the Angel.” He goes silent and Simon tenses up, stares at Jace hard, silently begs him to lie with his eyes. Jace releases a harsh breath and pulls away from Simon. “I used the wish to bring Simon back.”

 

Simon sees Clary sag in despondency as he does the same, dropping his hands and swallowing thickly.

 

“Oh, Jace,” Izzy whispers, eyes going wide, her hand coming up to cover her mouth.

 

Alec takes a step forward. “You did what?”

 

“Darling,” Magnus says softly, lightly shifting to place himself in front of Alec, reaching up to try and cradle his cheeks. Alec pushes his hands away.

 

“No, you don't- you don't get it. That was the only wish that Raziel could be forced to grant! What were you thinking? The Clave are going to have you imprisoned, if they don't have your head,” Alec spits, hands waving around as if he can't grasp the monstrous size of Jace's idiocy.

 

“What if it were me?” Magnus takes a step forward, not reaching for Alec now, but pushing himself into his space, forcing Alec to back down. “What would you have done? Would you have let go of your chance to bring me back if you lost me, especially if you felt at fault for my death? Look me in the eyes and tell me you wouldn't have done the same.”

 

Alec actually curls into himself, bringing his arms close to his chest like Magnus might reach out and rip the very heart from his chest. His mouth hangs open, words trying to cross the bridge of his teeth, but he is unable to speak. Simon's never actually seen Magnus so… insistent, not like this.

 

Alec eventually regains his words. “I would have, but that would have been my life, not Jace's. He's going to face massive consequences; you just expect me to be okay with that? I- I can't!”

 

“So, your problem isn't that Jace committed a crime, but that he'll get in trouble for it?” Clary asks, head snapping up.

 

“No, I- look, what he did… I understand.” Alec swings his gaze over to Jace, face going slack with unguarded camaraderie. “You're my parabatai, have been for a very long time, but I have never felt that from you. It was- it's indescribable, and if that's how you would have lived the rest of your life, or even just a piece of it… I would have used the wish myself to stop it. But the Clave-”

 

“Doesn't have to know.” Clary inches closer to Alec, waving a hand as if batting away a fly.

 

“Clary,” Jace says, looking so tired, so completely drained of fight. He slowly gets to his feet with a weary sigh, and Simon quickly scrambles to his, shuffling forward as if he's metal and Jace is a magnet. “I already told you-”

 

“No, keep talking,” Alec says firmly, lifting a hand in Jace's direction. “I want to know.”

 

Clary beams. “As of right now, no one knows what happened here but us. As far as they are concerned, anything could have happened. So, we tell them that Valentine used the wish.”

 

“That doesn't explain away anything,” Izzy says with a frown, cocking her hip, looking thoughtful.

 

“When Jace used the wish, all he asked for was that Simon be brought back to life. He didn't ask for anything else, but the Angel brought Simon back to life completely. Meaning, Simon's no longer a downworlder at all.”

 

Magnus arches an eyebrow. “Is that so? How interesting. The Clave will want to do something about that. He was a mundane who became a vampire and now is a mundane again. This is quite the unusual situation.”

 

“We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Clary is still focused on Alec. “My point is, the Angel took liberties in his own hands where Jace didn't specify. What if, in his last breath, Valentine asked for what he did today to turn out right? Think about it, he thought everything he was doing was right, but he wasn't - even the Angel said that. So, if Valentine simply got those words out, maybe the Angel just fixed what he did wrong today, which was kill Simon. And who are they going to ask? They have no choice but to believe us.”

 

“That could work,” Izzy says breathlessly, a slow smile spreading across her face. “Clary, you beautiful mastermind, that could work!”

 

Clary's face blooms red. “Th-thanks.”

 

“Alec,” Jace says quietly, shaking his head, “you're the head of the institute. You can't just lie.”

 

And that's it. Simon can't take it. He's so tired of his life being yanked in so many endless directions. He's beyond done with happiness being taken from his hands at every turn. And he's fed up with Jace's stupid determination to ruin his own life.

 

“Why are you fighting this?” Simon demands sharply, stepping close to Jace to look him right in the eyes. Jace flinches back. “Why can't you just, for once, do this one thing? Please, just- can you stop trying to sabotage yourself every five seconds?”

 

“Simon,” Jace murmurs softly, “I deserve-”

 

“No!” Simon's not even thinking, just reaches out with both hands and shoves hard against Jace's chest, heart thundering in his ears. “I don't- I can't care what you think you deserve! I'm asking you, begging you, please just go with this?”

 

Jace just looks at him with a gentle regret, his hands half raised as if to calm Simon down. Quietly, he says, “I killed you, Simon. I can't let that go.”

 

“For me?” And Simon knows his voice is cracking, his eyes slowly pooling with tears, his whole body shaking. “Let it go, for me. I- I'm- please, Jace.” He shudders out a deep breath and closes his eyes, hands dropping limply at his sides. “Please?”

 

“Okay, Simon,” Jace croaks. “For you, okay.”

 

Simon still has his eyes closed when hands slowly curl around him, pulling him into the warmth of Jace's arms. Simon breathes softly and lets his forehead land against Jace's with a quiet tap, keeping his eyes closed. A kiss lightly brushes the corner of his mouth, soothing him, and Simon raises his arms to cup each sides of Jace's neck.

 

“There is a bit of a conundrum, isn't there?” Magnus asks loftily. “Jace being so quick to pay penance seems so on par for him, but we have one thing to counter that. If we all agree to one story and he tells the genuine truth, we all will be seen as committing treason, which will get us all punished. I'm not quick to believe he'll do such a thing.”

 

Jace slowly pulls away from Simon, his eyes dropping into slits, and Simon opens his eyes and looks over to Magnus to grin at him. Izzy and Clary share a broad smile while Magnus just smirks and winks at Jace in a knowing way.

 

“Magnus,” Jace declares firmly, “you may be my brother-in-law, but you're still a dramatic asshole. Said with love, of course.”

 

“Why thank you.” Magnus preens.

 

“Wait, did you just propose to Magnus for me?” Alec blurts, eyebrows scrunching in confusion.

 

“I think he was insinuating that we are already married, dear,” Magnus clarifies.

 

Alec contemplates that, then shrugs it off and goes back to being serious. “Whatever, I can dwell on that later in length, but right now… we need to figure out the exact story we're going to tell.”

 

Jace's mouth parts slightly as his eyes go wide. “Are you serious? Alec, you can't agree with this?”

 

“I can and I am.” Alec arches an eyebrow, expression firm. “You didn't kill Simon, they're right. And if it had been Magnus, I would have done the same. Also, you're my parabatai and apparently a fool if you think I wouldn't do everything in my power to keep you safe and happy.”

 

“Alec,” Simon announces with a dreamy sigh, eyes fixated right on him, “you're my hero.”

 

“That's really saying something,” Clary tells Alec seriously. “That's a hard title to comindere; Simon nearly had a meltdown when Batman stopped being his hero and Spiderman took that title. It was a whole thing, so… be proud of that.”

 

Alec just stares at her. “I'm not.”

 

“Alec Lightwood, gay superhero, better than Spiderman since… uh, when were you born?” Simon waits for an answer and does not get one. “Fine, since whenever you were born.”

 

“So,” Clary chirps brightly, “the story?”

 

Jace heaves a sigh.





 



Simon slowly leaves the office with a peculiar look on his face, lips twisting as if he wants to frown and smile at the same time, eyebrows drawn down as his eyes dart around the hall.

 

“Hey, you okay?” Jace asks, tilting his head back as Magnus disappears into the office.

 

Simon presses his lips together; they immediately pop back out when he releases a sigh. “I think they liked me? I'm not sure? Your grandmother took me aside to talk to me in private.”

 

“Oh?” Jace's eyebrows shoot up, even as a jolt of alarm skitters through him. “What did she say?”

 

“Ah, well, she asked me if you knew I loved you.” Simon reaches up to rub at his eyebrow. “She also is having someone bring me contacts because she's tired of me squinting so much.”

 

“Okay, go back to the love thing,” Jace hisses, leaning forward. “What did you tell her?”

 

“I just stuttered around the topic until she got that look you used to get, you know the one.”

 

“Yeah, the one where I'm tired of your shit.”

 

“Has anyone ever told you how romantic you can be?” Simon mutters.

 

Jace huffs a laugh, drops it when he remembers Simon disappearing before his eyes, immediately feels guilty. “Sorry,” he says quietly.

 

Simon waves a hand. “Nah, I like your snark. It's kind of hot actually? Stupid cliches; I always used to say no one liked assholes.”

 

“So, you didn't tell her anything?” Jace presses warily, stomach squirming in discomfort.

 

“No, but I think she knew,” Simon admits.

 

Jace bites his lip. “Shit, I wanted to tell her.”

 

“Tell her that I love you?”

 

“No, you- damn, you can be so lost sometimes. I meant I wanted to tell her we are… together.”

 

Simon beams. “Aw, shnookums, that's so sweet. You're not just an asshole, you also have a really big heart that's very soft.”

 

Jace can't even feel mildly upset at the horrendous pet name, just glad he gets to hear it again, relieved Simon's alive to say it. “Whatever,” he mutters halfheartedly, rolling his eyes.

 

“Also, I have to be back here in a week to attend another meeting where they basically figure out what they're going to do with me,” Simon tells him calmly, though his hands twist nervously. “Just to be sure, they can't just… kill me, right?”

 

“No, Simon, they can't justify killing anyone like that,” Jace replies gently. “I wouldn't let them if they could. But what they can do is alter memories, or remove them, or force you to stay in Idris for an indefinite amount of time, or relocate you to a different jurisdiction that can properly handle this situation - which could put you anywhere on the planet. Dying is the least of your worries.”

 

Simon's eyes bulge. “Why would you say that? What if that happens? I don't want-”

 

“Simon, relax,” Jace says with a small laugh, reaching out to hook two fingers on the belt loops of Simon's jeans, slowly dragging him to stand in the space between his legs. Simon releases a long breath and rests his hands on Jace's shoulders. “They probably don't want to deal with this as it is, plus they'll get it a lot of backlash from us if they try any of those things. And you know us, we can be real headaches when we want to be. Especially Clary.”

 

“Especially you,” Simon corrects lightly, lifting one hand to poke Jace in the cheek. “So, what will they most likely do?”

 

Jace hums. “Probably drop you at the institute. Make you Alec's problem. Demand secrecy from you. Check in intermittently. That kind of thing.”

 

“So, I have a week of freedom before my fate is decided for me?”

 

“Sounds about right. What's your plans?”

 

Simon cracks a smile. “What, you interested?”

 

“Consider me invested,” Jace shoots back, shrugging and tipping his head to the side, feeling his hair brush across his forehead.

 

“I already have a list,” Simon informs him like this is serious business indeed.

 

“Dazzle me.”

 

“Alright, shnookums. First on the list - watch the last Harry Potter movie with you.”

 

Jace snorts. “How original. Continue.”

 

Simon holds up a finger, as if to warn Jace from judging too quickly. “Dresser shopping that turns into a date. With you, again.”

 

“Not being dazzled here, sweetheart,” Jace says lightly, though he really is.

 

Simon slowly leans down, a look of mischief on his face that he never really shows as he moves. Jace still has his fingers hooked in Simon's pants, holding him in place, so Simon bends at the waist, hovering over Jace. His lips come to a stop right by Jace's ear.

 

“Have sex on the dresser that we picked out,” Simon says in a way that would be casual if those were not the words to come out of his mouth.

 

Jace is most definitely dazzled.

 

“Great fucking list,” he chokes out.

 

Simon pops up with a smile that makes his squinty eyes even more squinty. “Isn't it?”

 

Jace is seconds from tugging Simon down into his lap right then and there, but he's stopped by the sight of his grandmother coming out of the room that Magnus had disappeared into. She looks around until she locates them, a small box in her hands, then starts towards them with her heels clicking loudly against the floor.

 

“These are for you, Mr. Lewis,” she says by way of greeting, holding out the box.

 

Jace lets Simon go, dropping his hands and refusing to fidget. As Simon steps away to put the contacts in, cursing quietly as he struggles, Jace turns to Madame Inquisitor. “Everyone almost done?”

 

Madame Inquisitor nods. “Everyone should be out shortly. They're just writing up the Warlock's statement now.”

 

“Oh,” Jace says, bobbing his head, “cool. That's- yeah. Cool.”

 

He feels like a freaking kid who's about to get scolded for having his hand in the cookie jar. He can barely meet her eyes, not when images of being slammed into a dresser keeps replaying in his mind. He needs to get a grip, like now, but his brain is not cooperating at all. Simon, the jerk, seems to have carried right on like his admission of wanting sex hasn't changed the world or anything, scowling at the contacts as he tries to force them on his eyes.

 

Jace kind of wants to hit him, kind of wants to kiss him. He's used to that by now though.

 

“I wanted to personally inform you of the Clave's decision to initiate Clary Fairchild into becoming an official Shadowhunter. She will be receiving her rune of angelic power in two days time,” Madame Inquisitor informs him.

 

Jace blinks, his lips spreading into a grin without his permission. “Really? That's- that's great!”

 

“She handled a threat, even if she was unable to stop him from making a wish, she brought upon his demise,” she replies. “As for you and the mundane, I will be making special accommodations that will allow him to come as a guest with your escort.”

 

“Oh.” Jace swallows thickly, chest filling with warmth from her unsaid acceptance. “Thank you.”

 

“You've both done well,” she says simply. “I, as well as the Clave, can never repay all those involved in ending Valentine's reign. Alec Lightwood has the opportunity to come work in a high position with the Clave, Isabelle Lightwood could become the new Head of the Institute if he says yes, and Magnus Bane will be paid handsomely for his involvement, as we have nothing else to offer him.”

 

Jace takes in that information slowly, his lips moving over the words silently, not quite imagining that they're true. “I… honestly didn't expect the Clave to be so… thankful.”

 

Madame Inquisitor tilts her head, lips pursing for a moment. “We have made many mistakes recently - such as Malachi - and your little group has went to great lengths to fix them, even when we were not making it easy for you to do so.” Her lips twitch into a brief smile. “There is also the fact that we are slowly realizing that we cannot continue to allow children to do what we should be.”

 

“Oh, about time,” Simon says brightly as he walks over, red eyes blinking rapidly. “I mean, seriously, it was starting to feel like we were living in teen novel where all the adults are idiots who don't-”

 

“Simon,” Jace hisses, eyes going wide, jerking his head at Madame Inquisitor. Her mouth is in a thin line, shrewd eyes fixed on Simon.

 

Simon's smile falters. “Uh, I wasn't talking about you! You're just the leader… which makes what I said worse. Oh my god, I'm so-”

 

“Simon, please shut up now.” Jace is literally begging, seconds from hiding his face behind his hands and peering through the cracks between his fingers. “Please, for the love of all things, shut up.”

 

Simon mimes zipping his lips.

 

Madame Inquisitor sighs. “Well-”

 

“I'm so sorry,” Jace mutters, shooting a stern look at Simon. “He's just… him. Wonderful, but a bit of a dork. It's- it grows on you.”

 

“I'll take your word for it,” she replies flatly, an eyebrow sweeping up. “As it stands, your friends should be released soon. I bid you farewell until I see you both in two days.”

 

“Of course,” Jace says cordially as she turns and starts walking away.

 

“Oh, and Jace?” she calls over her shoulder, pausing to look at him in faint amusement.

 

“Yes?” he asks warily.

 

“Do teach your boyfriend some manners before the ceremony.”

 

With that, she continues on her way, head held high as she takes a corner and disappears from sight. Jace releases a soft laugh, one that's just on the edge of hysteria. Honestly, that went a lot better than he expected it to.

 

As if summoned by her words, Magnus steps out of the room he'd given his report in. Seconds after, Izzy and Clary round the corner of the opposite side of the hallway while Alec steps out of a different room in their path. As Izzy walks by, Alec snags her arm and tugs her farther away, murmuring low in her ear, his eyes darting between her and them.

 

“What's that all about?” Magnus asks lightly, curious.

 

Jace shrugs. “No idea,” he says as he stands up, though he knows exactly what that is.

 

Clary reaches them then. “So, I have news!”

 

“We were all already invited, biscuit,” Magnus tells her gently, face lighting up. “Jocelyn would be so proud of you.”

 

“I'm so happy for you,” Simon tells her excitedly, moving forward to grasp her in a hug.

 

Then, she's passed around with congratulations from everyone. When they join the group, even Alec wraps Clary into a hug, though it's possibly one of the most “no-hetero” hugs he's ever witnessed. Clary ends up in Izzy's arms and stays there, them breaking apart to keep one arm around each other. When Izzy isn't looking, Jace waggles his eyebrows at Clary, who blushes and rolls her eyes all at once.

 

“Do you think they'd let Luke come?” she asks hopefully. “I mean, they invited Simon and Magnus.”

 

“They're also dating the Head of the New York institute and Madame Inquisitor's grandson.” Izzy sighs heavily. “They may seem like they're becoming better, but they're still the same old Clave.”

 

“I might be able to help with that,” Magnus tells her. “The Clave had no idea how to reward me for my involvement with all of this, so they offered money if I couldn't come up with something else.”

 

“You'd do that for me - invite Luke on my behalf?” Clary asks, face softening.

 

Magnus waves a hand, eases into Alec's side, gets a kiss on his forehead for his troubles. “Mmm, I was thinking something a little more… dramatic, but Luke would certainly be involved.”

 

Clary snatches from Izzy's side to slam into Magnus, squealing happily as she sways him hard enough to jostle a disgruntled Alec.

 

“I can't ever thank you enough. I'll owe you a debt, hold me to it,” Clary tells him as she backs away, strategically putting herself back in Izzy's casual hold in such a way that it looked like an accident.

 

Magnus smirks. “Trust me, my dear, it will be my absolute pleasure.”

 

Chapter Text

Simon actually can't believe they've done it.

 

By all means, the ceremony should be enough to make everyone gape on its own. The room is beautiful, the people are all unfairly beautiful, and everything has a feeling of other-worldliness to it. But what seems to really take the cake is the downworlders that walk around the room, some look as if they are uncomfortable, others acting as if they own the room themselves.

 

The Clave actually did what Magnus asked - allow downworlders to attend the ceremony as well. Which means that Luke can be here. But as per Magnus’ flare for the dramatic, it also is the reason that all of the Warlocks are here, as well as Maia, Raphael, and Meliorn. A few other seelies, wolves, and vampires move around the room, but that's about all that came.

 

Simon is always seconds from breaking into giggles at any given moment and being on Jace's arm like some trophy wife does not help at all.

 

“You're laughing again,” Jace hisses quietly, smiling calmly as a random Shadowhunter moves past with a strange look on her face.

 

Simon clears his throat and glances over his shoulder to watch her continue on. “Sorry, I'm finding it really hard to keep it in. Who was that, by the way?”

 

“Jia Penhallow,” Jace answers. “She's the new Consul after Malachi.”

 

“I'm rooting for her,” Simon says lightly, turning back around to face the little table they're standing at. “More women should be in power honestly.”

 

Jace snorts. “Simon, your feminist is showing.”

 

“Who taught you that word?”

 

“Do you think I live under a rock or something?”

 

Simon arches an eyebrow at him. “Izzy or Clary?”

 

“Maia, actually.”

 

“Well, good. Get on my level. I'm right.”

 

“Yes, dear,” Jace mutters, rolling his eyes.

 

Simon is seconds from launching into a rant about feminism when Luke suddenly sidles up beside them, looking marginally uncomfortable. Jace automatically shifts them so that he's included in their little space, shielding him from majority of the guests that mill around.

 

“If it wasn't for Clary, I would be gone,” Luke says with a huff, wrinkling his nose over their heads.

 

“People giving you a hard time?” Simon asks sympathetically, squeezing the arm that's linked through Jace's to hold him still.

 

Luke grimaces. “Yeah, from both sides. The Shadowhunters all have opinions on my now dead parabatai and me being a werewolf, and the werewolves that came all have opinions on me favoring the Shadowhunters and demanding I be a better alpha for the pack.”

 

“Point, say the word, and I can see that those people take a little unwilling nap in the gardens,” Jace offers seriously, grinning with all teeth.

 

“That's cute, but I can handle myself,” Luke replies with a snort, like Jace is a young whippersnapper sent to make Luke chortle. “Besides, I don't want to make a scene. Look at Clary, she's so happy. Jocelyn would have been so proud of her.”

 

They all turn their heads to take Clary in. She's at the front of the room, talking to a few people with a bright smile and a new rune. Izzy and Alec stand on either side of her, mediating the conversation, and a few feet away, Magnus entertains Madzie. Luke's right though; Clary does look very happy and her hand is on display in pride the whole time.

 

They all turn back as yet another person steps up beside them. Raphael is dressed as nicely as always, but Simon can see that he brought out the nice cufflinks for the occasion. Simon offers him a nervous smile, even as Jace eyes him suspiciously.

 

“Hey,” Simon greets.

 

Raphael looks up as if they were the ones who wandered over to him. “Ah, the daylighter who no longer is a vampire.”

 

Simon nods. “Yeah, that's me. Call me Simon.”

 

“How'd you get so lucky, huh? What God do you pray for miracles to, so I may do the same?”

 

“As if you'd ever convert. Catholic to the bone. But uh, I wouldn't say I'm lucky in the least. Matter of fact, I have pretty shit luck.”

 

“From your point of view,” Raphael says, reaching out to the table to pick up a small cake that is only slightly larger than his thumb. “From mine, you continue to get the best of both worlds.”

 

“From mine, I keep dying,” Simon corrects with a wince as Jace tenses against him. “Also, why are you eating?”

 

Raphael takes a bite with a blank expression. “It confuses the Shadowhunters who don't know much about Vampires.”

 

Simon snorts. “You're as bad as Magnus.”

 

“He did raise me,” Raphael says, lips twitching.

 

“Look, anything that makes these Idris assholes uncomfortable, I can get behind,” Luke says with a scoff, his eyes flashing green for a moment.

 

Raphael takes another bite, swallows, and says, “That is the first time you've ever said anything worth listening to, wolf.”

 

Luke smiles wide, gnashing his teeth for a moment, eyes dimming. “Well look at us, agreeing on something. Shadowhunters have that effect.”

 

“Hello, I'm right here,” Jace mutters, still shooting Raphael vaguely annoyed looks.

 

Simon thinks the jealousy is cute.

 

Well, he thinks that right up until Meliorn drifts over with his small, serene smile. He looks especially pretty tonight with earthy colors draped all over him and eyes that shine with his hair pulled back from his face, revealing both ears and his scars with blatant pride. Simon goes to throwing his own suspicious looks then, and Meliorn very calmly steps up between Raphael and Luke.

 

“You all look more promising than anyone else here, if I'm honest,” Meliorn tells them, then his smile blooms handsomely. “Which I always am.”

 

Jace snorts in amusement and the hand Simon's resting in the crook of his elbow tightens.

 

“We're probably the most terrifying group here, and yet,” Jace teases, not even noticing.

 

“I'm not terrifying,” Raphael says with complete seriousness. Everyone pauses to look at him.

 

Simon huffs a short laugh when Raphael simply stares back. “Yeah, okay. You're really freaking scary, Raphael. No, seriously.” He turns to face Luke to tell his story. “One time, I stabbed him and he got really angry about me messing up his suit. So, when I was staying with him, he made me iron all his suits. Did you know that he has over-”

 

“Simon,” Raphael says sharply, narrowing his eyes when Simon snaps his mouth shut, “do you, by any chance, ever shut up?”

 

Jace's teeth audibly grind. “That's my line.”

 

“I'd hope not,” Meliorn objects, a crinkle forming in his scarred eyebrow. “You should want your lover to talk at all times, as their voice is the symphony to your heart, the calm to your storm, the only sound that invokes true ecstasy. And Simon is a very good singer. Does he sing for you?”  

 

Simon coughs so hard and so loud that Jace actually drops his arm to thump him on the back. When Simon figures out how to breathe again, he leans back into Jace's side, just staring at Meliorn.

 

“I think I'm making a connection,” Simon tells them seriously.

 

Luke chuckles. “Oh man, you're so late. But I'll leave you to work that out. Maryse is flagging me down again, so I suppose I can mingle with people who aren't in the midst of love drama.”

 

“Can I go with you?” Jace asks hopefully.

 

Simon curls one arm around Jace's, holding him firmly in place. “No, stay. I'm connecting dots.”

 

“You're connecting nothing,” Raphael quips back.

 

Meliorn looks genuinely interested. “Tell me your theories, young one. Perhaps your discovery is interesting. I'd like to know. Are you aware that while consuming a specific plant, you become-”

 

“Oh my god,” Simon breathes.

 

Luke hums. “There it is. Alright, this has been fun, but I'll leave you to it.”

 

Jace watches Luke leave with envy. “What I would not give to be anywhere else right now.”

 

“Hey,” Simon says, lifting a hand and flicking it between Raphael and Meliorn, “you should date.”

 

Raphael arches an eyebrow. “We've talked about this before. I am in no way interested in sex.”

 

“Sex and love are two very different things, vampire,” Meliorn tells him sagely. “While often intimately entwined, they do not exist as one.”

 

Simon blinks at Jace, jutting his hand out at Meliorn and Raphael. “Are you not seeing this right now?”

 

“Actually, I have no idea what's going on,” Jace admits, rolling his eyes. “I checked out as soon as the only sane one went to find my mother.”

 

“Seelies are very sexual creatures,” Raphael tells Meliorn, as if he might not know.

 

“Connection matters more,” Meliorn says. “In fact, I was once in a relationship with a man who was castrated. We managed very well.”

 

Raphael narrows his eyes. “He still had a mouth.”

 

“Ah, yes, but he was not fond of his body. Our unison went much deeper than sex.” Meliorn's face softens with fondness. “We were never naked together, never shared a kiss. I loved him deeply.”

 

“Please date,” Simon says desperately, tugging on Jace's arm. “This is too good. This has to happen. This is like- like when you watch those movies about reincarnation. This is exactly like that.”

 

Jace huffs and reaches out to tuck Simon's arm back through his, clamping down to stop his incessant flailing. “Simon, stop spazzing out, you're making people look over, and they might approach us.”

 

“Listen to your Shadowhunter,” Raphael hisses, shifting to move into Luke's vacated spot, avoiding the eyes of other people.

 

“Express yourself,” Meliorn counters, waving a hand and smiling slightly. “Your body cannot help how it reacts to deep emotions.”

 

Simon is seconds from ripping his own hair out by the roots. “Jace, shnookums, please tell me you're seeing this?”

 

“He calls you shnookums?” Raphael asks immediately, face twitching into amusement. “That officially makes coming here worth it.”

 

“I told you to stop calling me that,” Jace grits out, unable to hide the blush creeping into his face.

 

Simon grimaces. “Sorry, habit.”

 

“Shnookums,” Raphael tacks on with a genuinely large grin.

 

Meliorn tsks. “You should be so lucky to be addressed with such fondness. Jace, you are cared for very much by this… mundane? Vampire? I no longer know what you are.”

 

“Mundane turned vampire turned mundane,” Simon clarifies easily. Then, he reaches over with his free hand to lightly smack Jace's chest. “Look at them, listen to them… they're us! Well, more extreme versions of us, and not technically us, but we really have a type.”

 

Raphael is already frowning again. “In no world could I ever be associated with you, Simon.”

 

Simon rolls his eyes. “Yeah, no, not me. You're Jace. Well, Jace adjacent. Think about it, you're both standoffish, both care about family, both stick to your guns, both can charm your way out of any situation, both like quiet, both don't really like people, both sarcastic, both-”

 

“Okay, we get it,” Jace snaps, breathing harshly through his nose. “Whatever, Raphael and I have a few similarities. Your point?”

 

“I agree with nothing you just said, but continue. It's not as if you'll shut up anyway,” Raphael mutters, rolling his eyes.

 

Jace clicks his tongue. “I'm getting real tired of you talking to Simon like that. One, he's my annoying person to be annoyed by. Two, he's got me to kick your ass if you don't show some respect.”

 

Raphael's eyebrows jump and Simon flings a hand out. “Wait, before you get all hissy and pissed off, you should know that he only threatens to kick people's ass if he likes them. You're both basically friends now. And if you consider my theory, that's just him having a conversation with his mirror self. Well, his parallel, but-”

 

“Simon,” Jace growls.

 

Simon tosses his hand up. “See? He's about to threaten to kick my ass. With love, of course.”

 

“I would like to hear more about this theory of yours, mundane,” Meliorn says seriously, not even bothered by Jace's threat.

 

“Look at him, he's so nice. I can't be jealous of that.” Simon waves a hand at Meliorn. “He's basically me if I was a hippie with a cool fighting style. Maybe a bit more extreme, but you get the point.”

 

“There is no need to be jealous of me,” Meliorn tells him immediately. “I would never intrude on your relationship willingly.”

 

That snags Jace's attention. “But you did though? At the seelie court? You kissed me.”

 

“As my queen wished,” Meliorn replies firmly, eyes glinting with a spark of anger, “and to save your life. You should be grateful.”

 

Simon waves his hand again. “He is, we are. I totally get why you did it. Kinda wanted to rip your throat out, but I get it.”

 

Meliorn ticks up a small smile. “That would have been an amusing battle, I admit.”

 

“I would pay to see that now,” Raphael says, which basically translates into go ahead, please beat Simon into the dirt while I throw twenties at you.

 

Simon beams. “This could be cute.”

 

“You and your obsession with love,” Jace says with a fond smile. “Even at Alec's not-wedding.”

 

“I have a thing for epic romances, sue me,” Simon retorts defensively.

 

“There will be no romance, epic or otherwise,” Raphael tells him with narrowed eyes.

 

“Yeah, see, I think you're just saying that. If you didn't at least like Meliorn, you'd have left already.”

 

“Which reminds me.” Raphael turns and walks away, heading right for a vampire with blonde hair.

 

Simon frowns. “I set myself up for that one, didn't I?”

 

Jace chuckles. “Yeah, you did.”

 

“A pity,” Meliorn says with a sigh, “I could have loved him like no other.”

 

“Hey, maybe you should-”

 

“Ah, it appears that your fellow Shadowhunters are on their way to join you. I shall leave you all to it. Have a wonderful night.”

 

Simon groans as Meliorn floats off. “Aw man, that could have been something.”

 

Jace pats his hand in consolidation.

 

“Hey!” Clary is beaming and looking beautiful in her dress as she sidles up with Alec and Izzy, each of her arms linked with one of theirs. “Looked like you were having a downworlder meeting over here.”

 

“Not a downworlder,” Jace reminds her.

 

Izzy waves a hand and smiles wickedly. “You're completely a downworlder by penetration. It's a thing. Just ask Alec.”

 

Alec and Jace make the same exact sputtering noises, going red in the face, which Simon thinks is really hilarious and all kinds of adorable. He shares a smile with Clary.

 

“Wait, so does that make me a Shadowhunter by penetration?” Simon asks.

 

“Now you're asking the right questions.” Izzy winks at him, swaying slightly. “Magnus must be as well.”

 

Simon snorts. “If he's- you know what, I don't even want to think about it.”

 

“Alec, wanna go get a drink?” Jace asks sharply, going redder by the moment.

 

Alec coughs. “Please?”

 

Jace removes himself from Simon as Alec does the same to Clary, both of them walking quickly away, and the remaining people all start laughing in amusement. Simon almost feels bad for Jace, but the moment is too light and too funny.

 

“You know, I've never seen Jace so… awkward.” Clary actually looks impressed. “That must mean we're right. He is a downworlder by penetration.”

 

“Actually, no,” Simon tells her, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck.

 

Izzy arches an eyebrow. “So you're a Shadowhunter by penetration?”

 

“This is the weirdest “are you a top or bottom” conversation I've ever had,” Simon informs them. They show no shame, just wait with expectant looks, demanding information. “Fine. Neither of us are anything by penetration because we haven't…”

 

Clary's mouth drops open. “You mean to tell me that Jace hasn't tried to, you know-”

 

“We haven't exactly had the time,” Simon mutters defensively, crossing his arms. “And besides, we're just… waiting.”

 

“You've had free time for two days now,” Izzy says, tapping her wrist like there's a watch there. “What's the wait for?”

 

Simon can feel heat crawling into his face, almost misses being a vampire because of the fact that he couldn't blush. But instead, his face is practically on fire when he admits, “We're waiting for a dresser.”

 

Almost in perfect sync, their eyebrows jump up their foreheads. Izzy and Clary stare at him, wanting him to elaborate. He refuses to do so. He doesn't know how to explain to them that having sex bent over a dresser is going to be the thing that makes their first time special. He's aware that is weird and maybe a little counterproductive, but he also remembers before they were dating and how it had felt when they agreed to go dresser shopping. So, if he wants to have sex with his boyfriend on or pressed up against a new dresser because it will make their first time special, he will, dammit.

 

“I have so many questions,” Clary says.

 

Simon rolls his eyes. “Shut up. What about you two? You're over here grilling me about my love life, what about yours?”

 

Izzy clicks her tongue. “Sadly barren, I'm afraid. I would live vicariously through you but you're with my brother, so that's disgusting.”

 

“I'm sure there's someone out there for you,” Simon presses, watching Clary stare across the room as if she can teleport away. “I mean, a guy you like? Or, you know, maybe a girl?”

 

“I'm sure,” Izzy says lightly, giving absolutely nothing away as she turns to look at Clary. “And you, Clary? Is there a guy?”

 

Clary just turns to look at her, blinking rapidly, her eyebrows scrunching together. “Oh! You don't know? I never told you, Alec, or Magnus.”

 

“Tell us what?”

 

“Oh, I'm gay. I think? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm gay.”

 

Izzy's eyebrows jump. “Oh? And when did you figure this out? Why wasn't I told?”

 

“I figured it out right before we fought Valentine. I mean, I always had a sense, but didn't know. Still can't be sure until- well, let's just say that my experience with women is limited.” Clary gives a small smile, shrugging slightly. “But I mean, I had to try really hard with guys, to even… desire them. Conventionally attractive men were easier - like Jace. Men I've known forever, who make me feel safe, made it easier to think I was doing it right - like Simon. But… it was never easy, and I'm pretty sure that it's not supposed to be hard like that.”

 

Izzy nods seriously. “I see. And you believe you aren't sure because you haven't had much experience with a woman?”

 

“Well, I kissed a girl once when I was younger, and I really liked it, but I went back to crushing on boys like it wasn't a big deal.” Clary frowns lightly, head tilting to the side. “Outside of that, I've never actually stopped to consider it. So, yeah, I guess I'm not completely sure because of my lack of experience with women.”

 

Izzy's smile turns a little naughty. “Would you like some more?”

 

“Oh my god, that was so smooth,” Simon blurts, eyes going wide.

 

Clary blinks, lips parting. “Um, I- yeah. I mean, I'll probably have a heart attack, but what a way to go.”

 

“What the hell? You both have game?” Simon is ready to throw his hands up. “I can't believe Jace is missing this; he's gonna flip his shit.”

 

“Then go find him,” Clary grits out through her teeth, shooting him a look that tells him in no uncertain terms to go the fuck away.

 

When Izzy laughs, she sounds pleased.

 

Simon takes the hint, though he really doesn't want to. But he does want to tell Jace about this, so he starts heading towards the drink table. About halfway there, a girl who can't be much older than him steps in his path. She has long blonde hair and pretty blue eyes, her skin pale like cream. In a world that he wasn't already smitten with Jace, he'd have instantly been into her.

 

“Hi,” she says pleasantly.

 

Simon blinks. “Oh, hi.”

 

“They're about to start the dancing,” she tells him playfully, powder blue eyes bright.

 

“Dancing?”

 

“Indeed. At any ceremony, they have a dance. It's to celebrate the event.”

 

“Oh. Oh, that's cool. Is it slow dancing or-”

 

“It is. Could you see Shadowhunters doing any other type of dancing?”

 

Simon chuckles. “Fair point.”

 

“Would you care to dance with me once the music starts? I think we'll have a good time.”

 

And suddenly, Jace is right there, sliding a hand around him possessively. “Sorry, he'll be busy. Lovely to see you again, Ivanna,” he says sharply, sounding as if seeing her is anything but.

 

The girl - Ivanna - loses her smile. “Jace Wayland. Or is it Herondale now?”

 

“Just Jace works fine,” Jace replies with a harsh edge to his tone. “How's that right hook coming along?”

 

“Better now that I picture your face beneath it,” Ivanna answers quickly, words syrupy sweet. “Tell me, did you ever figure out how to distinguish between any runes?”

 

“It's like motion memory now, but it really helps to jog my memory when I think of the sound of you getting your back slammed to the mat,” Jace tells her, just as sweetly as she was.

 

Ivanna's jaw clenches. “Well, I'm glad we have our systems. Now, if you'll excuse me, I was asking this handsome man to dance.”

 

“Wouldn't be because you've seen him here with me, would it?” Jace leans harder into Simon's side, his hand tightening around his hip.

 

“Oh, surely not. I just noticed him walking by. But I'm sure you can part with him for one dance.”

 

“Nope.”

 

Ivanna's eyebrows sail up. “No? Well, I'm sure your friend wouldn't mind a dance. Would you?”

 

Simon is pretty much reeling at this whole interaction, so it takes him a moment to realize she's addressing him. “Me? Oh! Yeah- no, I mean, my boyfriend wouldn't like that too much, I don't think.”

 

“I'm sure your boyfriend won't mind too terribly; it is just one dance after all,” Ivanna tells him kindly, her pretty eyes staring right at him.

 

“Oh, my boyfriend would definitely mind.”

 

“And what would you like?”

 

“Uh, my boyfriend?” Simon says slowly, willing this girl to understand just how little he cares to dance with her and also that he's, you know, in a relationship.

 

“Well, perhaps we don't have to tell him,” Ivanna suggests with a cheeky wink.

 

Simon snorts and gestures to Jace. “You just did.”

 

Ivanna blinks, staring at Jace in blatant confusion, her gaze flicking to his arm firmly around Simon. The little “o” of surprise her mouth makes nearly has Simon bursting out into laughter. Jace just smirks at her and tugs Simon towards the open area of the floor where people are already lingering. He has a look on his face like he's seconds from turning back to Ivanna and sticking his tongue out at her.

 

“By the Angel, I can't stand her.” Jace huffs and grimaces, focusing on Simon.

 

“I take it she's not a friend of yours?”

 

“Not at all. She came to the institute to train while her parents were on business for the Clave. We didn't like each other and she always wanted what was mine. Guess that hasn't changed.”

 

Simon bites back a snort. “You're adorable.”

 

“Shut up.” Jace rolls his eyes. “Dance with me?”

 

“Not sure if my boyfriend would approve. He's a possessive guy, I'm learning.”

 

“And my boyfriend is a complete dork who should dance with me.”

 

“I'll dance, but I shouldn't,” Simon tells him, just as a slow tune starts pouring through the room. “I'm warning you right now, I'm going to be a hazard.”

 

Jace shrugs. “Just step on my feet, I got you.”

 

There are moments in Simon's life where he is absolutely capsized by emotion, where someone says something, or does something, and his heart nearly can't handle the feelings.

 

When he was fourteen years old, a little girl told Clary that her nose looked weird. It was the first time that Simon ever saw Clary insecure about her own body. It had been devastating in the way that makes you feel as if your heart is mashed up the wrong way in your chest. So, Simon decided to take three hours and write her a poem where he named every freckle on her face after her favorite celebrities - the ones she thought were so pretty. And he told her that if she could have a freckle as beautiful as Jessica Alba, then she was undoubtedly the most beautiful girl in the world. She'd cried softly and told him that she wanted a freckle named after him too.

 

That had sent Simon spiralling into his first genuine realization that he was in love with Clary Fray.

 

And it's those moments, the ones that catch him off guard, the ones that feel like a physical touch, the ones that kind of stop the world for a moment. It's little snapshots of moments that can't be compared, tucked somewhere inside of his mind, always ready to be used for any situation.

 

Not all of them are happy. He remembers at his father's funeral when his mom kneeled down and looked right into his eyes. She'd told him, with a sense of urgency and reliable sincerity, that his father was always going to be proud of him. And that's not a happy one at all, because his dad should be around to do that, but it's one of those moments that he holds near and dear.

 

This, right here and now, is a moment.

 

Jace just says “step on my feet, I got you” like those words are the most casual of things to ever leave his mouth. But for Simon, for some reason, it feels like a promise for the rest of their lives.

 

Jace holds his arms out, urging Simon to step into his arms with a flip of his wrists, and he has no idea that Simon is sort of choking around tears. Jace is actually pulling them to the dance floor, finding them a spot, getting his feet ready to carry Simon in circles, and Simon is seconds from melting into a puddle of helpless goo.

 

“I am so hopelessly in love with you,” Simon croaks out, his hands dangling at his sides, his eyes wide.

 

And it hits him then. They somehow went from genuine animosity to being enamored with each other, but Simon can't remember a time that Jace was someone he didn't care about. Even when they were fighting for Clary, both wanting her, Simon knows he cared about Jace - even just a little.

 

Just a little was all they needed. Here Simon is, pathetically gone on Jace, knowing that this is it, and it feels inevitable and illogical, but worth it. And Simon doesn’t have anything to offer. He's not strong or fast anymore, not after becoming a mundane. He can't hear all that far, can't lift Jace up with ease, can't just carry weapons in the pocket of his gums anymore. He's just some guy who knows too much and can't leave well enough alone. But Jace stares at him like he's something to marvel at.

 

“You are?” Jace asks softly, his arms slowly lowering.

 

Simon's throat is very tight. “I- I am. I really am, and I didn't know it before, not like this, but Jace, I'm- I'm really in the thick of it, man. And it's- this isn't like anything else. This is terrifying.”

 

“Yeah, sounds about right.” Jace releases a soft breath, nodding slowly. He looks as if he's had all the air knocked out of him. “Welcome to my world.”

 

“I mean, I knew we loved each other; I knew you loved me. But this is- this-”

 

“Yeah, I- I know.”

 

Simon swallows. “I think I'd like to dance now.”

 

Jace's answer is to open his arms. Simon immediately steps into them, choosing not place his feet on Jace's. The music is a rise and fall of gentle and slow, never a break in the steady drawn out glide of the tempo. It's actually fairly easy to wrap their arms around each other, hold on for dear life, and simply sway.

 

They occasionally drift in an easy circle, most likely pass other couples, but Simon's not looking. He knows that things like this only happens in the movies or the books, but he is very aware of the fact that he and Jace are simply staring at each other, not looking away longer than to blink. Simon's chest is tight with emotion; he feels as if the sun lives in his lungs now, bright and warm.

 

Unfortunately, they get yanked out of their prolonged gazing by bumping into another couple. Simon blinks and jerks his head around to frown at whoever dared to ruin his moment. But when he sees Magnus and Alec both looking at them in faint amusement, his anger evaporates.

 

“You two look sickeningly happy,” Jace comments, lips tugging up into a crooked grin.

 

Magnus quirks a smile. “Us? You two look as if you've just begun your honeymoon.”

 

“In other words, stop it, you're both gross,” Alec says firmly, but his lips twitch for a split second.

 

“No, that's gross,” Magnus challenges, jerking his chin towards the other side of the dance floor.

 

They all look to see Clary and Izzy slowly swaying to the music, their fingers fluttering awkwardly over each other as if they aren't sure where to put their hands. But even with their uncertainty, they both wear bright grins - like all that matters is that they want to touch, even if they're too nervous to do so.

 

“I'm placing bets,” Simon says. “They'll be together by the end of the week.”

 

“I'll take that,” Alec replies immediately, challenge sparking in his eyes. “They'll be together by the end of tonight.”

 

Magnus tsks. “Darling, what did I tell you? After you lost the bet about these two, are you sure you-”

 

“You made a bet about us?” Jace asks with a frown, eyes narrowing slightly.

 

Alec has the decency to look sheepish. “Well, after you told us you were accidentally falling in love with Simon, we made a bet on when you would inevitably confess everything. I didn't think you could last much longer than a week. Magnus bet longer.”

 

“And I won,” Magnus informs them all with a victorious little smirk.

 

Simon stares at Jace. “Should I take the bet?”

 

Jace frowns. “Nah, I wouldn't. Like Clary said, men are idiots. What took us awhile to work out will probably take them five minutes.”

 

“He's got a point,” Alec agrees.

 

“Let's never tell them we had this conversation,” Simon replies reasonably.

 

Magnus nods. “Yes, that's smart.”

 

And with little smiles, both couples twirl in opposite directions, going their separate ways. The music crescendos and then plateaus early; Simon wishes he could make input on the music, maybe play something that swells around everyone, making each moment more potent.

 

Jace pulls him closer, arms curling around his back, and Simon's got his arms around Jace's shoulders. He should feel like a damsel in distress, or a swooning idiot, but he can't even care that he's melting right into Jace's embrace.

 

“Hey,” Jace says lightly, tucking his cheek against Simon's, breathing his words over his ear, “I was thinking we watch the last Harry Potter movie tomorrow. Then, we could go grab a bite at some mundane restaurant you like.”

 

Simon swallows, knows Jace can feel it against his chin. “You didn't want to go dresser shopping?”

 

“I've been thinking about that,” Jace tells him casually, pulling back to look at Simon in something that might be nervousness. “If you think about it - and trust me, I have - the dresser is something we should probably work up to. Maybe before we actually have sex on or against a dresser, we should try doing it in an actual bed. Maybe Clary had something going with the whole walk before you run thing that she mentioned.”

 

Simon purses his lips. “Yeah, but we're sticking to a theme here. Which is, be extreme and dumb.”

 

“That's fair.” Jace chuckles, then his face softens as he licks his lips. “Except, that doesn't actually help the issue I'm having right now.”

 

“Which is?” Simon's pressed right up against Jace, he'd feel it if Jace was struggling with keeping his dick unnoticeable.

 

“Which is that I'm having a hard time not just snatching you into any available nook and cranny at any given time.” Jace arches an eyebrow. “I may be a Shadowhunter, but I am also part human. Cut me some slack. You can't just insinuate that we're going to have sex on a dresser without expecting that to haunt my every waking moment.”

 

Simon's lip break into a grin. “So, what you're telling me is that you're eager.”

 

“Nevermind, I take it back. In this moment, I am seriously considering never having sex again.”

 

“I never said I wasn't eager too.”

 

Jace hums. “Reconsidering.”

 

“Look, why don't we see what happens? If we make it to the dresser, we'll go with it. If we don't… that's fine too,” Simon tells him easily. “Deal?”

 

Jace smiles at him and spins him in a circle. “Deal.”

Chapter Text

The thing is, Jace is about to die.

 

Really, if he spends one more day not managing to get Simon alone, Jace is just going to kneel over and embrace death.

 

It shouldn't be this hard. The first two days before Clary's ceremony was spent mostly with friends, celebrating the fact that everything is going back to normal now. No more Valentine, no more Jonathan. The worst of it is over, just some Circle members to handle, back to regular scheduled programming.

 

After the ceremony, Jace is very aware of the fact that if they had the time, or the chance to be alone, they'd be having sex without much thought. It's not so much that he's desperate for it, but it's more that he's aware just how close it is, yet no matter how hard he pushes towards it, the chance is just out of reach. The closest they came was three days after the ceremony.

 

Jace had snuck away to Simon's with no intentions of actually watching the last Harry Potter movie, but then Simon had played it with the assumptions that they wouldn't watch it, and Jace had immediately got sucked into it.

 

He couldn't help it. Even with how aware of Simon's body he was, he couldn't stop himself from watching the final battle. Simon had thought it amusing and endlessly adorable, assuring him that they'd get their chance eventually. So, Jace had stopped being a sex-fiend and talked to Simon about the movie.

 

In a way, it had been better than sex, and Jace can't believe he thought that, but it's true. Being laid up in Simon's bed, talking about movies with Yugi-Oh! playing in the background, just casually curled behind Simon, arms flung over him… it had been like all the times before, but infinitely better. It had been like finding solid footing, like acknowledging that theirs friendship held strong through their love, and it had been an important thing to do.

 

Also, the conversations they'd gotten out of it had been pretty hilarious stuff too. Jace had thoroughly enjoyed the rants and tangents they'd gone on, sometimes agreeing, sometimes debating. Among other things, it was like coming home.

 

But now, Jace is past the point of being frustrated.

 

“I. Am. Going. Dresser. Shopping. Today!” Jace slams his seraph blade into the body of a shax for every word that he spits out. Six horrific creatures lay near his feet and Jace just glares at them in annoyance, his chest heaving. “So help me-”

 

“Jace,” Alec says in faint amusement, “you're a little tense there. You sure you're okay?”

 

“A lot tense,” Izzy mutters as she glides into the room with Clary, her whip back onto her wrist.

 

Clary nods as she flips her new daggers in her palms, sheathing them. “I actually think you scared the demons. What's wrong with you?”

 

“He needs a dresser apparently,” Alec says, waving a hand at Jace. “Don't know why, he already-”

 

Izzy and Clary's laughter make Alec go silent, a look of judgement crossing his face. Jace, on the other hand, can tell by their laughter alone that they know what the dresser symbolizes, so he immediately wishes there was a shax he could give his life to.

 

“Shut up.” Jace jerks a finger between both cackling girls. “Not a word.”

 

Alec sighs. “I don't get it.”

 

“Oh, can't you tell?” Izzy teases, smiling and wrinkling her nose playfully. “This is how Jace acts when he isn't getting any.”

 

“I've never seen him act like this,” Alec replies, then immediately looks disgusted as Izzy's words catch up to him and break through.

 

Jace kicks at the rocks underfoot, glaring at the now empty spots around him - the shax had all melted away. “Shut up, Izzy.”

 

Izzy does not shut up. “You haven't ever seen him sexually frustrated because he usually doesn't get this way. When he wants it, he just- you know. But now… he has to wait for Simon. Or, rather their dresser that they seem fascinated with.”

 

“You know,” Clary says lightly, leaning against the concrete walls with a smirk, “Simon was almost scared to touch me before we had sex the first time. He babbled for almost an hour about safe sex, ways to watch for his fangs, and flipped wildly between just never having sex with me or doing it with a gag so he'd shut up.”

 

“I really didn't need to know that,” Alec mutters, wrinkling his nose.

 

Jace can feel his horrified expression. “Why would you tell me that? Why-”

 

“So, what happened?” Izzy interrupts, clearly interested by the story.

 

Clary steps away from the wall with a self-satisfied smile. “I got tired of his rambling, so I told him I knew a better way for him to shut up and shoved his head between-”

 

“Okay!” Alec waves both hands, going a little pale, looking close to vomiting. “We get it, thank you.”

 

“I'm just saying.” Clary holds her hands up in surrender, winking right at Jace. “He's got a very talented tongue and his fingers-”

 

“Please, I'm literally begging you,” Alec wheezes, eyes wide, hand curling around his stomach.

 

Jace looks at the ceiling. “You are not helping me. None of you are helping me.”

 

Izzy claps her hands. “New mission. Get Jace laid.”

 

“Jace, you're my parabatai, and I love you, but this is going to be painful,” Alec warns, then shuffles awkwardly and breathes harshly through his nose, setting his shoulders like he's seconds from going to war. “But… if you need to- to talk about, um, what- I just mean, if you need help, no, advice, then-”

 

Jace whines. “I hate all of you.”

 

Alec throws his hands up. “Look, I'm trying to help. I don't really get the dresser thing, but if it's - I don't know - some sort of thing you need, we'll get you a dresser. And if you, uh, don't know how to- where-”

 

“Where the parts go,” Izzy puts in with a smile so sharp a shark would be jealous.

 

“Yeah, that.” Alec grimaces, still looks seconds away from being sick. “I'm just- well, me and Magnus have tried pretty much-”

 

“Stop! Just- just stop. Fuck, I can't take this,” Jace snaps, scrubbing his hands over his face, contemplating death very seriously. “I know how to have sex with men and women. I have a phone and access to the internet. I know it's not the same, but I get the fundamentals. The dresser is… hard to explain. Before we dated, we joked about going dresser shopping - it was a whole thing. It's- it's not what I need. What I do need is one freaking day where I'm not busy. Can any of you please make that happen for me? If not, just shut up.”

 

Clary hums. “We can probably do that. Simon goes to his meeting in two days, right? What about tonight? I can pick up your patrols and we can handle missions on our own for one day.”

 

“Wait, really?” Jace blurts, head snapping up.

 

“We could do that,” Alec mutters, rolling his eyes. “I have an in with the Head of the Institute, so I'm pretty sure he'll give you at least one day.”

 

Izzy beams. “You're going to get laid!”

 

“How can I love and hate you all in one go?”

 

“It's us.”

 

Jace huffs a short laugh. “Right.”





 



Simon gets two words out of his mouth before Jace has him pinned back to the pillows and swallows his words like he's hungry for them.

 

Simon is not, at all, complaining.

 

Jace kisses him roughly, with purpose, a little bit more teeth than usual, and it takes Simon only three seconds to realize why. Sex. Of course. It takes Simon half a second more to get fully on board.

 

There is a sense of urgency as Jace plunders his mouth, humming in approval as he does. His hands are trying to simultaneously get Simon's shirt off while also attempting to trace the soft skin of his stomach. Simon is a little too dazed to help in either direction, caught up in breathing around the wonderful assault on his mouth. In this moment, he misses being a vampire who didn't need to breathe.

 

“Wait, wait,” Jace mumbles, yanking back with a sharp inhale of air, blinking rapidly.

 

Simon has to force himself not to surge up and drag Jace back down. “What? What's wrong?”

 

“You're not talking.” Jace narrows his eyes. “You should be trying to talk about this.”

 

“I'm- what? Talk about what?”

 

“Sex. Simon, I'm trying to have sex with you.”

 

“Yeah,” Simon replies. “Let's get back to that.”

 

This time, Simon does move to surge up, but Jace stops him with one flat palm on his chest. “Wait, are you sure? Because you always talk, always. And I'd expected you to want to talk about this too. Which, that's okay, if you want, because I'm-”

 

“Jace,” Simon says, fighting a laugh, “do you want to talk about it?”

 

“What, no, I'm- I mean, if you want to-”

 

“Jace, I have never been sure about anything in my entire life when I met you. At first, I was completely sure you were the worst person on this planet, but then I turned out to be wrong. I was sure we'd never be friends, but then I turned out to be wrong. Later, I was sure that I wasn't going to actually fall in love with you, but then I turned out to be wrong. And recently, I was - without a doubt - sure that I'd be unsure about having sex with you, but now, I am so very wrong. I'm one hundred percent behind having sex with you, I want to, so I don't need to say anything unless you need to.”

 

Jace stares at him, mouth hanging open slightly, gorgeous eyes blown wide. “So, you're just… totally on board with having sex, right now?”

 

“Yep,” Simon replies with an easy smile.

 

Jace kisses the smile away, shifting to throw his leg over Simon's hips, straddling him. And having a bulky, sturdy Shadowhunter in his lap is not how Simon expected his night to go, but he is unwilling to change it now. He traces the outward arch of Jace's back, kissing him a little messily, a little distractedly - he's far more interested in removing the cloth covering his skin.

 

Jace seems to get the message because he jerks back, lifting himself off Simon's hips with his knees, reaching down to pull his shirt over his head. Simon feels heat pool through his every limb, making him feel heavy and tense all at once.

 

Jace is hovering over him, his knees spread on either side of Simon's hips, his lean body slightly angled away as he tosses the shirt over his head. But honestly, it's the runes that are splattered all across his chest that makes him lose all ability of using his brain. Simon suddenly, desperately wants to trace each and every one with his tongue.

 

Simon sees no reason not to.

 

Sitting up puts his nose nearly brushing the slight firmness of his abdomen. Jace starts to move back, but Simon circles both arms around his waist, holding him in place, mind focused on this one task. Simon picks out the rune on his left side, just drawn over the bottom of his ribs, and he doesn't even give warning before he starts running his tongue along the slightly scarred skin.

 

Jace makes a strangled sound, Simon ignores him. He feels like he has tunnel vision, only able to see this one thing. He has to focus really hard to keep his nose from mashing into Jace's chest and stay within the lines of his rune, but in the end, it's worth it. Jace clasps onto each shoulder, his nails digging in, and does not stop him.

 

Simon figures he's going to be able to do this more in-depth later, so he pulls back with his one track mind set on a new goal. Without preamble, he tightens his arms around Jace and hauls him up and over, pleased that he's got the strength to do that, even without being a vampire.

 

It's supposed to be smooth, but Simon has to squirm and shift to be able to follow the movement and force his way into Jace's lap. But it manages to look smooth, so Simon beams at the change of position.

 

“Okay.” Jace blinks and grins, slow and sharp. “If that's how you want to do it, sweetheart.”

 

Simon gives a breathless laugh. “I won't win, but I will put up a fight, so tread carefully.”

 

Jace just laughs, reaching up to tug at Simon's shirt, even while bucking his hips to try and switch the position back. Simon obliges him, yanking his shirt off and silently thanking whoever created contacts, because they single handedly helped that movement look easy - there are no glasses for his shirt to get tangled up in.

 

And it's fun, this little game they are playing. Simon knows, just as Jace does, that he couldn't actually keep Jace underneath him if it was a real tussle, not with Simon being a mundane again. But it's nice to have Jace shifting beneath him halfheartedly, mostly focused on rubbing his hands down Simon's sides like they're some amazing discovery.

 

They let the game go as quickly as they started it, deciding without words to just kiss instead. And Simon is right here, making out with Jace, which has no business being as enticing as it is.

 

Their hands move over each other, pressing, exploring. Simon can't imagine what Jace likes about the supple muscle he has - it's not defined or encouraged, simply there. Jace, however, is firm and sharp, as he always is. His jaw could cut glass; his hips and abs are no different. Instead of being envious, Simon wants.

 

Simon eventually shifts focus from Jace's mouth and latches onto the underside of his jaw instead, mouthing at the salty skin near his bobbing throat. Simon is so fucking pleased that he can nip at the skin and not desire what's beneath it. By the way Jace's hands scrambles to his back and clench him closer, his head tipping back as he groans a low sound of approval… well, he's pleased too.

 

“We- I- shit.” Jace sounds a mixture of blissed out and baffled.

 

Simon presses a quiet laugh into his throat. “What? You okay?”

 

“Clary was right, what the fuck,” Jace breathes out.

 

“Come again?” Simon asks, leaning back to stare down at Jace in slight apprehension.

 

Jace blinks. “What- no, nothing. Shut up.”

 

“But you-”

 

“Shut up and kiss me.”

 

Simon really kinda wants to do that forever, so he lets it go, filing it away for a time that they're not about to get naked. Jace reaches one hand behind his head to squeeze at the back of his neck, while his other moves purposefully down Simon's chest, inching closer to the button of his jeans.

 

See, the thing is, Simon has been with a guy before, just once. They didn't really get that far, to be honest. It had ended with Simon's mouth wrapped around the boy's dick and a father kicking his son's ass for daring to like it. That boy had never spoken him to again and Simon never looked him in the eyes after that. But after that experience, Simon did all the research he could on two males having sex of any sort, so he has a basic sense of what's about to happen to him, even if it never has.

 

That, in no way, prepares him for the feeling of Jace shamelessly digging his hand against the bulge in his pants, adding pressure. He's not sure why it makes him gasp and nearly collapse on Jace face-first, but it does. The contact's not even that… well, good. It's a press of rough jeans and causes the barest of stirs within him, but it's enough of a spark to send Simon reeling.

 

“Sorry,” Simon mutters, arms shaking like he's this weak thing that can't hold his own body weight.

 

Jace hums into his throat. “S'fine. You okay?”

 

“I'd be more okay if I took my pants off,” Simon blurts out without even the slightest amount of embarrassment, not in this moment.

 

“Yeah, yeah- that's- let's do that.”

 

They start to do that, but they do not end up doing that at all. Simon doesn't want to get off Jace; the same thought seems to go through Jace's head. Too reluctant to move away, they go back to kissing and try a different tactic. Jace fumbles with both hands to pop his button open, lightly spreading the front of his jeans open wide.

 

“Don't laugh at my boxers.”

 

Jace immediately breaks away from their kiss after those muffled words to do just that. His eyes practically sparkle as his head tosses back to release a deep, rich laugh. Simon suddenly remembers the picture he'd found in Jace's chest, the one where he'd look so carefree and happy. Jace looks just like that now, so beautiful and open. Even if he is laughing at Simon's Spider-Man boxers.

 

“That is, undoubtedly, the best thing I've ever seen with my own two eyes,” Jace informs him, still grinning, his hair draped over the pillow behind him. Simon thinks he's so pretty he might cry.

 

“Wait until you see what they contain,” Simon retorts with an over exaggerated wink.

 

Jace smirks. “I promise not to laugh.”

 

“I'll love you even if you do,” Simon reassures him, watching Jace's face soften.

 

“Stop, you're making me sick. We're supposed to be hot and heavy, not soft and sweet.”

 

“Why not both?”

 

“Can we get back to the kissing?”

 

“I thought you'd never ask.”

 

They do. It's languid and easy, just two pairs of lips meeting over and over. They let the mood come back slowly, sweeping them up in it. Jace bites his bottom lip, hard, and tugs. Simon's hips jerk in response, while he inhales sharply through his nose. Mindlessly, he reaches one hand out and grips Jace's jaw to hold him in place, kissing him firm and hot.

 

Jace goes back to his jeans, rolling the front further apart, pushing down the waist of them, fingers brushing the front of his boxers by accident. A low curl of heat slams into Simon, making him lose his grip on the moment. A fog very firmly crowds in his mind, makes him hazy and reckless, shutting down any semblance of doing this slow.

 

Simon lets go of Jace's jaw and reaches down between them to shove his hand right in Jace's pants, his target very clear. He nearly makes it.

 

A phone rings.

 

“Ignore it, ignore it, ignore it,” Jace insists fiercely, moving his hands down to wrench at his own pants, trying to wriggle them down and give Simon more room to press farther down into his curls.

 

Simon removes his hand. “What if someone's hurt?”

 

Jace slams his head back into the pillow. “It's probably just someone calling about something stupid. Please don't make me answer that.”

 

“Better idea.” Simon very deliberately starts inching down the length of Jace's body. “You answer it, I find something else to do, and then we resume if no one is dead or dying.”

 

Jace picks his head up off the pillow to stare down at Simon with an arched eyebrow. “What if it's an important call?”

 

“Then you better stay focused,” Simon tells him, kissing his way down Jace's chest after.

 

“Fuck,” Jace curses weakly.

 

Simon smiles against the one soft part of Jace's stomach - just beneath his belly button - and reaches in Jace's pocket to pull out his phone. He holds it out as it rings and uses his other hand to tug Jace's pants father down, revealing light blond curls below the V of his hips.

 

Simon watches Jace grab the phone and look at the screen, chewing his lip. “Who is it?”

 

“Alec,” Jace replies.

 

“Answer it.”

 

“I can't believe I'm doing this.”

 

“You're just talking on the phone, I'm going to be doing all the work,” Simon informs him cheekily.

 

“Maybe I should-”

 

“Answer it.”

 

Jace reacts immediately at the order, swiping his finger across the screen and putting it to his ear. Before he can even say hello, Simon focuses back on the, admittedly, naughty plan in his mind.

 

“Alec, hey- shit. Ah, ah, no, I'm-”

 

Simon hums, his mouth too busy to laugh, raises his gaze to stare up at a steadily blushing Jace.

 

“Yeah, I'm okay. What's- holy fuck- no, I'm not talking to you. What do you want? I'm a little- fuck, Simon, what the fuck-”

 

Jace nearly sits up as his upper body comes clean off the bed, eyes fluttering closed. Simon just can hear the faint sound of Alec's voice.

 

“Jace, Jace, are you okay?” Alec asks loudly.

 

Jace flops back onto the bed. “This better be life or death. What do you want?”

 

Simon continues what he's doing, so endlessly thankful for all his previous practice with the boy he hasn't thought about in years.

 

Alec's voice floats out in pieces. “Magnus- there was- and the Warlock- but it- Jace, it's- Circle member- we have to- need you- now.”

 

“Are- are you sure? By the Angel, I can't-” Jace drops the phone from his ear, groaning and clenching his fists into the bedsheets. “Simon, I'm not- you have to stop. I'm not going to-”

 

“Jace? Jace, what are you-”

 

Simon almost hangs up on him, but his words pierce the fog in his brain and draw him up short. With a sigh, Simon pulls away, leaving Jace gasping, and scoops up his phone.

 

“What's going on?” Simon asks with a frown.

 

Alec groans. “Oh, please tell me what my brain is assaulting me with did not just happen?”

 

“Okay, I'm telling you it didn't happen. I don't even know what- you know what, I'm going to save us both.” Simon looks over at Jace, who is blinking and yanking at his pants to pull them back up. “So, what's going on?”

 

“Basically, a circle member took Madzie and is forcing Magnus to do some intricate spell that might bring a shadow of Valentine's spirit back,” Alec explains in a clipped tone, his voice holding a frantic edge to it. “I need Jace's help.”

 

“He'll be there soon,” Simon says immediately. “I- I want to come too, but I don't-”

 

“The Warlocks are here at Magnus’ and there are children. You can stay with them while we go get Magnus and Madzie.”

 

“Alright, we're on our way.”

 

“Thanks,” Alec says, letting out a relieved breath. “Oh, and Simon?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Sorry for, you know, interrupting.”

 

“Eh, a little bit of anticipation is good for the soul. Besides, this is more important.”

 

Alec thanks him awkwardly and hangs up, so Simon tosses the phone on the bed and goes to search for his shirt. Jace is already sliding his over his head, eyes narrowed as he does.

 

“How'd you get so good at that?”

 

“Had a little practice.” Simon quirks a small smile of amusement. “Plus, I have one, remember? I generally know what feels good.”

 

“I love Magnus, I really do, but I really wish he could have gotten into trouble at least ten minutes later,” Jace admits grudgingly.

 

Simon huffs a laugh. “You're a menace.”

 

“But you love me?”

 

“But I love you.”





 



Jace absolutely relishes in putting his seraph blade through the Circle member's heart. She slumps back into Clary, who's holding her, and her eyes go vacant. Jace yanks his blade back out of her chest cavity with a sharp tug and huffs.

 

“Magnus!”

 

As the woman's body hits the floor with a dull thump, Jace turns in sync with Izzy and Clary to watch Alec grasp Magnus in an embrace. Magnus holds him just as tight, his face disappearing behind the shelter of Alec's shoulder.

 

Jace looks down in surprise when Madzie comes running by him, launching herself at Magnus and Alec, wrapping her little arms around their legs. Alec immediately reaches one arm down to scoop her up and hold them both, dropping a quick kiss against her forehead, all the tension leaving his body.

 

Jace tilts his head.

 

“So, I take it you didn't get laid,” Izzy says lightly, nodding towards the dead body.

 

Jace blinks and turns to look at her. “No, I- we almost, but no. It's okay, though. This is… worlds more important than my libido.”

 

“I'll say,” Clary agrees with a snort.

 

They all go silent and turn back to continue watching Alec. He has an arm wrapped around Madzie, hoisting her up in the air easily, and Magnus has pulled away to murmur to her quietly. The look in their eyes, so patient, so… in love, it makes Jace's heart squeeze.

 

Alec is really out here in love with Magnus Bane, really a parental figure to a very powerful little girl, and Jace has to marvel at how quickly their lives have all changed with Clary's entrance in it.

 

After getting reacquainted, Magnus explains that he's too worn out to instantly transport them back to his loft and he definitely can't make a portal in this state. So, Jace cracks a grin and waves his phone in the air like it solves all their transport problems. It actually does. Jace texts Luke.

 

Luke is technically on duty, but he comes and scoops them up anyway. He chatters pleasantly to Madzie, who seemed insistent to sit in Alec's lap in the front seat. Magnus plants himself between Jace and the door, alternating between leaning on him and it when Jace feels too warm or the door feels too cold. Jace lets him and doesn't say a word when Magnus’ head eventually sags over to his shoulder and doesn't move, lolling slightly in his sleep.

 

When they do reach Magnus’ loft, Jace gently nudges him awake. Magnus blinks and yawns, lightly brushing Jace's shoulder with his hand in thanks. They all pile out and Luke bids them farewell, asking Clary to stop by his place next week.

 

Once they enter the loft, Jace comes to a screeching halt. Simon is surrounded by five Warlock children, all who are listening to him babble with bright smiles. The other Warlocks watch in blatant amusement, but when they enter, they immediately turn their focus to Magnus.

 

But Jace is frozen, just stuck. A little boy with webbed hands reaches out to lightly tap those hands to Simon's cheeks. Simon simply bobs his head as if that makes perfect sense, earning a smile from the boy. Jace watches, heart twisting sharply in his chest, and thinks, oh no.

 

“I know that look,” Alec tells him, sidling up to him with a quiet sigh. “I see it in the mirror every morning. You're screwed.”

 

“Thank you, Alec, for that completely unhelpful piece of commentary,” Jace grits out, unable to tear his eyes away from Simon and the children.

 

“I can tell, you know,” Alec murmurs, as if Jace isn't completely freaking out. “I know what it felt like when you thought you loved Clary. I know what this is. This is not that.”

 

“Why, Alec, that sounds like approval,” Jace replies sarcastically, heart still thumping unevenly. A little girl reaches up to pat at Simon's hair, lips gleaming blue like mermaids, and Jace is pretty sure he's seconds from having a heart attack.

 

“It is,” Alec says honestly. “Which is why I'm officially giving you the day off tomorrow. I'm leaving Izzy and Clary in charge of the institute, staying with Magnus for the day, and you now have orders to do the same with Simon.”

 

Jace huffs a laugh. “This time, don't call me.”

 

“This time, turn your phone off.”

 

“Hell, why didn't I think of that?”




 

 

It happens late in the evening of the following night.

 

It's not at all like their first attempt.

 

It starts with Jace quietly saying, “I had a nightmare. Well, I keep having a nightmare.”

 

Naturally, Simon asks, “You wanna talk about it?”

 

Jace doesn't. But he explains anyway. “I keep seeing me kill you, over and over. Sometimes, you're a vampire and you disappear. Sometimes, you're not and you die in my arms.”

 

“Oh, Jace.”

 

And that's where it takes off. Simon just goes in for a kiss, something bred from the desire to comfort, and Jace nearly snaps in half.

 

It escalates, quickly.

 

It's nothing like the first time they tried this a mere day ago. It's like those instances are ages apart. That had been tumbling into desperation, bursting at the seams with excitement and urgency. Jace had wanted to rip Simon's clothes off with his teeth.

 

This is something else entirely. This is careful and reverent, each second spread apart like every touch is encased with emotion. Jace treats every piece of Simon like it is pure heaven, even down to his washed out hoody - a scrap of fabric that is as much a part of Simon as his smile.

 

They fit, of course they do, and months ago, Jace would have been appalled and irritated that they do. But here and now, he feels such an immense relief by that he nearly cries. They cradle, they caress, they clutch, and Jace forgets himself and all his nightmares. He no longer knows why they exist, why they even hound him, not when he has Simon in his arms. For a long drawn out moment, one he wants to capture and exist in forever, Jace does not know where he begins or when Simon ends; they're so connected and entwined, Jace is sure that he could live in Simon's soul now.

 

And when they crash together, spent and a little bit lost, it takes a monumental effort not bury his face into Simon's neck and cry. A part of him that will never leave knows that's a weakness, knows that he can't ever allow himself that. But a different part, one Jace feels Simon is responsible for helping grow, it knows that it's all okay.

 

Later, they'll have sex for no other reason than because they can't keep their hands off each other. Because Jace smiles a certain way, or Simon actually manages to pull off a wink that makes Jace's heart race without permission. They will have sex because there's a mission and Jace has to go; it will be quick and little rough, and Jace will be full of energy when he takes down a demon. There will be times where they have sex because they've fought and realized how much they love each other all over again, and it will be a little desperate and full of breathless decorations of love. And there will be the lazy morning sex they have, just because they want to.

 

Jace is looking forward to all of it.

 

But their first time, tonight, that will always last forever. It's like a permanent rune, embedded in his skin, yet it's something no one can remove from him. It was as special as he'd secretly hoped, sans dresser and all.

 

So, he doesn't cry, but he does allow Simon to spoon him without a snarky comment. And they drift off pressed together, hands linked over Jace's heart.

 

When he wakes up the following morning, he has a text from Alec that just says, congrats. Jace sends back an emoji that rolls its eyes. Simon is still asleep, but he has to be at the institute in an hour, so Jace gently nudges him awake.

 

“Strawberries,” is Simon's muffled answer, his eyes not even opening, hands lazily lifting to bat at Jace as if that will stop him.

 

Jace's heart has Simon's name tattooed on it, and Jace isn't even mad. “Simon, you gotta get up.”

 

“Mmm, nah,” Simon replies drowsily, one eye cracking open. “Morning, shnookums.”

 

“You need to get ready to go to the institute.” Jace smirks as he hovers over Simon's face. “Also, be prepared for all of our friends to know we had sex last night.”

 

Simon's other eye snaps open. “You told them?”

 

“Didn't have to. Alec knows,” Jace says simply.

 

“You told Alec?”

 

“No.”

 

“So, how does he know?”

 

Jace arches an eyebrow. “He's my parabatai, Simon.”

 

Simon's eyes go wide. “Oh my god, did he- was he, like, here? Holy shit, do you feel it when he and Magnus-”

 

“No, Simon, it's not like that.” Jace rolls his eyes, dropping a light kiss on his lips before standing up off the bed. “It's hard to explain, okay? He doesn't feel what I feel, not physically. But there are certain things, certain… heavy things, that leave a residue of sorts. He just knows I'm happy. Intimately happy.”

 

“But you feel each other's pain?” Simon asks, slowly pulling himself out from under the covers.

 

“Pain is different. It's a mixture of an outside force and an internal emotion. Even when we're in physical pain, our emotions respond to it; fear, anger, that sort of thing. And it's like an alarm, a painful alarm, but it helps in certain situations. This is kind of like that, but in a different direction.”

 

“Kinda like me knowing when Clary is sad or happy by just how she acts? But more intense.”

 

Jace tilts his head from side to side, watching Simon pull his shoes on. “Sort of. Like I said, it's hard to explain. But don't worry, Alec didn't feel any of… that last night, and I don't feel anything from him and Magnus. So, don't stress.”

 

“How did you know? I mean, what made you want Alec as a parabatai?” Simon asks curiously as he moves over to the small open bathroom that holds his toothbrush. Simon leans against the doorway and brushes his teeth with an expectant expression.

 

“Honestly?” Jace watches Simon nod. “He's my best friend, my brother. There isn't anything in this world I wouldn't do for him. I'll never stop loving him, never hurt him, never stop fighting at his side. I'm always going to have his back and he's always going to have mine. And we knew that from a pretty young age. Knew that we didn't want to get through a fight, or our lives, or anything… without each other. So, that's why.”

 

Simon frowns, and at first, Jace thinks he's uncomfortable, but then he spits out the foam of toothpaste and says, “But you two fought before?”

 

“Yeah, we did. We will again, probably. Maybe not to that extreme, but we will. We're parabatai, not robots. We're not always going to agree or get along. But I'll never be able to seriously hurt him. Not like Valentine did Luke.”

 

“If being parabatai is what you say it is, how did Valentine even… manage that?”

 

“I wish I could say,” Jace murmurs with a deep frown. “I can't even imagine what Luke felt. That's- it's impossible for me to think about. What Valentine did to him; it's- it's messed up. All I can think is that by that point… he was already a monster.”

 

“So, Luke just walks around feeling like half of himself is missing all the time?” Simon looks incredibly sad, a little bit of toothpaste clings to the corner of his mouth. “I can't even… I don't know.”

 

“Maybe not,” Jace suggests. “I don't know if being a werewolf changed that or not.”

 

Simon heaves a sigh. “Is it selfish of me that I don't want to know?”

 

“No,” Jace replies simply.

 

“Alright, well, do you need to use anything?” Simon asks, waving his toothbrush pointedly.

 

Jace smiles, flashing his teeth. “Already did.”

 

“That has an unfair effect on my heart and body. Warn a guy,” Simon mutters, drawing his toothbrush close to his chest like it should be cherished.

 

“Just finish up so we can go.”

 

“Sure thing, shnookums.”





 



“So… did you get the dresser?”

 

Jace rolls his eyes, crossing his arms. “Izzy, why are you so invested in my love life? What, is yours falling so flat that you need to know mine?”

 

Izzy narrows her eyes. “Well, Clary-”

 

“And that's where you stop,” Alec says as he walks up, though he has a light smile on his face. “Seriously, Iz, you're my sister and most things about Clary make me feel sick, so please.”

 

Clary tsks as she marches away from an older Shadowhunter, face twisted in a scowl. “I can't believe they aren't letting us join in the meeting! What are they even talking about in there?”

 

“Whatever it is, it's definitely not as interesting as the conversation we're about to have.” Izzy smirks and crosses her arms. “Look at them, Clary, they're both all relaxed and soft.”

 

“Jace and Simon had sex,” Clary says simply.

 

“Well, yes, but we don't know any details.”

 

“I do.”

 

“What?” Jace barks, head snapping over to take in her satisfied expression.

 

Clary shrugs smugly. “I'm Simon's best friend, who else is he going to give his official review to?”

 

“You are all so problematic.” Alec waves a hand between them. “I mean, seriously. Clary dated Jace, had sex with Simon, and is now messing with my sister. Simon had a crush on Izzy, dated Clary, and now is with Jace. Don't you ever get confused?”

 

“Don't be too quick to forget that you were in love with this pretty mug once upon a time,” Jace says, gesturing to his own face.

 

“Magnus is prettier,” Alec retorts in a way that, if Jace was braver, he'd say was bitchy.

 

Jace hums a high pitch. “Debatable,” he replies simply, pursing his lips.

 

“Alec, we're friends, right?” Clary asks abruptly, making Alec blink and stare at her.

 

“Uh…”

 

“Yes or no, Alec.”

 

“We're not… not friends,” Alec answers carefully, grimacing like that admission physically pains him.

 

“Cool,” Clary chirps. “I'm not bi, I'm gay.”

 

Alec blinks. “Me too.”

 

“What is happening right now?” Jace murmurs to Izzy, watching Alec and Clary share a small smile.

 

Izzy shrugs. “I have no idea, but I think I'm worried?”

 

“Not the point.” Jace turns to Clary. “So, what did Simon say?”

 

“Ooh, do tell,” Izzy presses eagerly, smile widening.

 

Alec snorts, looking away. “Well, if you're wondering, Jace definitely enjoyed himself.”

 

Jace reaches out to smack Alec's shoulder, pointing a finger in his face. “That's not fair. We're parabatai.”

 

“You teased me for three days after the first time Magnus and I had sex,” Alec says flatly.

 

“Well, Simon enjoyed himself too. Babbled for a solid ten minutes about how-”

 

“Woah, woah,” Izzy says, holding her hands up, face tightening in discomfort. “Don't forget, Jace is my brother. I don't need… descriptions.”

 

Clary rolls her eyes. “Fine. Needless to say, Simon was very pleased with Jace's… work.”

 

“I'm good at everything.” Jace smirks, hides his relief behind false bravado. “Now that the sex talk is out of the way, let's move onto something else.”

 

“Actually, Alec, can I talk to you for a moment?” Clary asks carefully. “Privately?”

 

Alec looks baffled, but he nods. Jace watches them move down the hall with a frown, sharing a look with Izzy. It's not that Alec hates Clary, not anymore, not that he ever truly did. It's just that… well, they've always kept their friendship out of the light. Everyone knows, of course, but they don't display that they actually get along okay, not like this.

 

Jace still remembers the time Alec had crawled into his bed and cried for hours about the fact that it was his hands that took Jocelyn's life. Jace had let Alec curl into his side, lightly rubbed his back, and listened to Alec stutter out how he didn't actually hate Clary and would never forgive himself for being a murderer and the one to hurt Clary on top of it.

 

Jace remembers how Clary had searched Alec out after he'd nearly thrown himself off a roof from his guilt. When Magnus had left and Jace had refused, Clary had marched right up to Alec and hugged him. Jace will never forget the way Alec pressed his cheek to the top of Clary's head and choked out just how sorry he was, all the while she told him that his death would have been a loss too.

 

They're friendship is complicated and Jace has never taken the time to look into it; they don't really do it either. But when things get tough, Alec is there for Clary and she's there for him. They fight good together, whether in battle or in the training room, and they both thrill in the slight edge they have when they spar, like they've softened their recent animosity into something fun.

 

But even with it being a little strange, Jace knows that they are friends and consider each other family, so he's not worried that they're talking alone. It's just a little… disconcerting to see.

 

“It would be rude to eavesdrop,” Izzy says with a sigh, “but damn, I'm curious.”

 

“Maybe it's a gay thing?” Jace suggests.

 

Izzy hums. “Maybe? I might be able to get her to convince me later.”

 

“So, you and her?”

 

“It's… complicated.”

 

Jace's eyebrows shoot up. “How so?”

 

“Well, we haven't actually done anything,” Izzy admits with a frustrated sigh. “I think it's because we're friends? I expected her to, I don't know, try something, but she hasn't.”

 

“Well, she didn't know she was gay before, but she knows for sure now, so something must have happened for her to realize it.”

 

“Couldn't have been with me. We danced at her ceremony, but that was it. We trained yesterday and I think she was going to do something, but then she just bolted out of the room.” Izzy crosses her arms and tilts her chin up. “It's beginning to get awkward and I am not willing to lose a friend because she doesn't know how to tell me she isn't interested.”

 

Jace uncrosses his arms and puts both hands on Izzy's elbows. “Okay, first, I'm going to need you to relax. By the Angel, we joke about straight people but we are all literal disasters.”

 

“I'm no disaster,” Izzy says firmly, sniffing primly.

 

“You are, but we all are, so it's okay.” Jace squeezes her arms lightly and smiles. “Have you considered that, maybe, Clary is waiting for you to make a move? You've never actually said you weren't straight; maybe she's just as scared as you are about losing a friend.”

 

Izzy blinks, her arms dropping at her sides. “I thought I made myself clear?”

 

“Well, maybe you need to be more clear.”

 

“And if that isn't what she wants?”

 

“Apologize and then come tell me so I can knock her on her ass the next time we train,” Jace tells her seriously, lips quirking when Izzy's face softens. “You're my sister, Izzy. No one is good enough for you, but I'd lay anyone out who hurt you.”

 

“I could lay anyone out who hurt me.”

 

“As we are all aware. My point is… maybe just talk to her? I mean, things got loads easier when I just came clean to Simon.”

 

Izzy's smile is soft and sweet. “He's good for you. Really good. I'm happy for you.”

 

Jace clears his throat, dropping his hands and straightening up. “Whatever, that's not- we're talking about you.”

 

“You're funny,” Izzy says, tipping her head with a bright smile. “Your constant refusal to admit how soft Simon makes you is adorable.”

 

“What are we talking about?” Clary asks as her and Alec approach, both looking a little more relaxed than when they left.

 

Izzy blinks, smile dropping. “I was just telling Jace that he's gone soft because of Simon.”

 

“Like I said,” Alec tells him, “screwed.”

 

“I still hate all of you,” Jace informs them.

 

They all laugh.

 

The conversation lulls and starts back up, lulling again before going silent, then they start back just as easily. As the minutes tick by and turn to hours, they all linger in the hallway, walking around, perching against the wall. Eventually, three hours have passed and Simon still hasn't come out of the meeting. They all have sat on the floor beside each other, backs against the wall, legs out in front of them.

 

They continue to talk. Mostly, it's not about anything too important. They discuss fighting stances and strategies, then flip over to the gossip within the institute just as easily. They all complain about Raj and laugh at recounting how Lydia had very coldly turned him down. They all joke about Gregory's lack of skill, then all share the same guilt because Gregory is actually a really nice guy.

 

Another hour slides by. Jace is beginning to get impatient and, frankly, a little worried.

 

“So,” Alec says in his serious voice, “I wasn't going to mention it so soon, but I got an offer to go to Idris and work for the Clave.”

 

Only Clary sounds surprised by this. “Wow, Alec, that's amazing. Are you going to take it?”

 

“I would have been so excited a year ago, some months ago even, but…”

 

“Magnus,” Jace puts in easily.

 

Alec hums. “Magnus.”

 

“Who would have been the new Head of The Institute?” Clary asks curiously.

 

“Me,” Izzy answers. “But I already told Alec not to do it because of that. He's doing really good and he shouldn't have to uproot his life if he doesn't want to. Besides, I'm happy as I am.”

 

“What did Magnus say about it?” Jace asks curiously, leaning his head forward to look over Clary and stare right at Alec.

 

“He told me he was proud of me. I thought- well, I thought he wanted me to go, but we talked about it and it turns out that he didn't,” Alec says, sounding ridiculously pleased. “He felt bad; can you believe that? He would have let me go, if I really wanted, but he felt horrible for wanting me to stay.”

 

“Magnus is a complicated man,” Clary murmurs.

 

Alec huffs a laugh. “You're telling me.”

 

“When are you two going to get married already?” Jace mutters with a laugh.

 

There is a suspicious silence from Alec's general direction and three heads whip around to stare at him. He immediately goes red in the face, throat bobbing, a small smile creeping on his face.

 

“Oh my god, did you two get hitched?” Clary gasps, hands reaching up to cradle her cheeks. “When? What happened? Where? How-”

 

“No, we didn't! We didn't, I swear,” Alec says quickly, eyes going a little wide. “I- I just… I've been thinking about, you know.”

 

“You're gonna propose?” Jace breathes.

 

Alec shrugs awkwardly. “Not- not now. I just, I know I want to. Does that make sense?”

 

“That's so amazing.” Izzy sounds close to tears and her smile is nearly blinding. “I'm so happy.”

 

“But first, I have to get him to let me move in. Which, I basically live at his place anyway,” Alec tells them with a huff of laughter. “I keep finding my stuff all over the place.”

 

“You two are… gross,” Jace announces with his usual amount of teasing. “It's great, never stop.”

 

“Says you,” Alec retorts playfully. “You're the one who fell in love with Simon Lewis.”

 

“Yeah.” Jace tuts. “I have no room to talk, I guess. But speaking of Simon, where is he? It's almost been four hours. We can't wait here all day.”

 

“What do you think they're talking about in there?” Clary asks warily.

 

Izzy sighs. “There is honestly no telling. This is such a unique situation, unheard of.”

 

“They won't… do anything, will they?” Clary audibly swallows. “I mean, I know the Clave isn't all… forgiving, but Jace's grandmother is the Inquisitor, so that's got to count for something, doesn't it?”

 

“I doubt they'll do anything to Simon,” Jace assures her with a gentle smile.

 

Twenty minutes later, he eats those words.

Chapter Text

Three Months Later…



“Duck!”

 

Jace does, just barely. He gets clipped in his ear for his miscalculation and goes down hard, grunting. There's a loud sigh and a hand hovering over his face a moment later. Jace takes it with a grimace.

 

“Sorry,” he mumbles, letting Magnus pull him to his feet, brushing the dirt off his pants.

 

“It's quite alright, Jace,” Magnus tells him. “I'm simply happy you're okay. Alec would be devastated if I let you get killed.”

 

Jace rolls his eyes and snatches his seraph blade off the ground. “Glad to know that's your only motivation. So, did we get them?”

 

Magnus hums, scanning the room with flashing cat eyes. “I do believe we did. That's the third wave of Raveners this week.”

 

“They do this every year. It's like they pick a time of year to come over here all at once.” Jace heaves a weary sigh. “It'd be too much to ask to get a break. Now, with people fighting the new alliance, it's like everyone is trying to make our lives hard.”

 

“I never asked you how you felt about that.”

 

“What, the alliance?”

 

Magnus nods. “Izzy seemed ecstatic and Clary adored the idea, but you never gave your opinion on it. I'm just curious.”

 

“Alec's the Head of The Institute and my parabatai; I'll have his back forever.”

 

“Loyalty and personal opinion doesn't always match, Jace. I want to know what you think.”

 

Jace clenches his jaw, looking away for a moment, breathing harshly through his nose. “I think it's smart. Hypothetically. Shadowhunters and downworlders coming together to fight demons? That almost guarantees that more lives will be spared. But it also stirs up those who believe it shouldn't happen, from both sides.”

 

“Hmm.” Magnus purses his lips, thinking that over seriously. “I agree with you, believe it or not. Alec's idea is brilliant and is working out wonderfully, but there are those who do not agree.”

 

“You know the Clave is pissed,” Jace mutters with a snort, lip curling.

 

“Not that any of us care what they think after-”

 

Magnus cuts himself off, averting his eyes, but Jace hears the rest of his sentence anyway. After Simon.

 

The reminder - as if he's forgotten - makes him feel sick with anger, his stomach recoiling in on itself, his blood heating within his veins. Some days, it's easier to temper, easier to ignore, but one misstep and he's right back to inescapable fury.

 

Jace can still vividly remember the panic on Simon's face as he was dragged away.

 

“We should head back,” Magnus murmurs, lifting his eyes and smiling softly. “I know you wish to check on Clary and Maia.”

 

“Actually, can you cover for me?” Jace asks with a sigh, crossing his arms. “Just text me and let me know they're fine. I have somewhere to be.”

 

Magnus simply nods. “Sure. I'll give the official report as well, much as I hate to.”

 

At that, Jace can't help but crack a smile. “You do hate the paperwork.”

 

“It's dreadful,” Magnus regales dramatically, tossing his hands up. “It's far too many forms for a simple routine Ravener case.”

 

Jace chuckles as he starts backing away towards the cave entrance. “You should see the packet that we have to fill out for greater demons, in the rare case that there is one. You'd faint.”

 

“You're probably right.” Magnus snaps his fingers, palms sparking, but he doesn't move. “Jace, promise me one thing.”

 

And this is where things get tough.

 

“What?” Jace croaks.

 

Magnus looks incredibly sad. “Promise me you'll take care of yourself tonight.”

 

“You got it,” Jace replies breezily, though his chest feels as if it's crumbling in on itself.

 

Magnus sighs as he hurries out of the cave, activates his speed rune, and runs. The run is nice, helps him clear his head, but he's not nearly fast enough to make it where he's trying to go before the lamps lined along the roads flick on.

 

Jace grimaces when he remembers Magnus’ request to take care of himself. That's the deal. They ask, he does. Even if everything in him wants to find the closest bar and drink until he blacks out. His family asks him not to, so he doesn't.

 

The first few days after Simon was taken away, no one had worried about Jace. Not because they didn't care, but because he - and all of them - were focused on getting Simon back. They'd believed, as they always do, that they wouldn't fail.

 

Which no, that's not right either. It's not that they think they can't fail, it's that they fight with everything they have not to. It's a deep belief to right the wrongs that has occurred, a restless thirst for justice and peace. Even when they get knocked down, they always get back up again.

 

Case in point: Valentine, Jonathan, every single other thing that dragged them down.

 

It took them ten days, two visits from Madame Inquisitor, and one sharp warning before they realized that they couldn't fix this. It took Jace two days to spiral after that. In the end, it had been his family that stopped him from wasting away in bars or throwing himself recklessly into battles. And it had been Clary who came up with the system. As long as they ask him to take care of himself, even just enough to get by, he has to do it.

 

Never, not once, in the following seventy-nine days have they failed to ask him to do so.

 

Jace doesn't know whether to love or hate them for that. A part of him wants to ignore them anyway, but he made a promise and he's a man of his word, so he does what he always does when he wants to lose himself but can't do it destructively.

 

The subway is where he spends most of his nights now. He finds the closest entrance and slips inside. This late at night, there aren't that many people around. There are more homeless than any others, so Jace doesn't have to worry about dodging crowds.

 

There is one homeless man - his name is Duke. Even the other homeless people avoid him, think he's completely off his rocker. He has long dreads, fingerless gloves, ratty clothes, and is missing most of his teeth. He's frail and old, he creaks when he walks, and no one likes to look him in his eyes.

 

The truth is, he has the sight.

 

After seeing the things he's seen, he might actually be crazy at this point - Jace doesn't know how any mundie deals with that. But the man absolutely adores Jace, which is why Jace tries to come and visit him at least once or twice a week.

 

“Duke,” he greets as he edges down the stairs.

 

“Jace!” Duke gives a toothy grin, his hands shaking as he shuffles over. “You're here again.”

 

The few people around - homeless and others - look at Duke like he's insane. Jace feels guilty for a moment because they can't see him, can't see that Duke isn't actually nuts. But Duke never seems to mind that people keep their distance, even if that hurts his chances at getting any handouts.

 

“Yeah, Duke, I'm here again,” Jace says with a soft sigh. “How are you holding up tonight?”

 

“Cold, always cold. Would it kill the damn government to put some heaters in the subway?”

 

“Might hurt their pockets a bit.”

 

“Them's some deep pockets, I tell ya. It's the damn illuminati again, pulling the strings from behind the curtains. Poor stay poor, rich stay warm,” Duke grumbles maliciously.

 

Jace cracks a smile. “Let me guess? Capitalism?”

 

Duke waggles a finger at him. “Yeah! You knows about 'em too? I served this godforsaken country, you'd think they'd give a shit.”

 

“Those in power don't care about anything but their own personal gain,” Jace mutters, crossing his arms and gritting his teeth.

 

“This about that boy again? Whashisname? Sheldon? Steve?” Duke frowns and snaps his fingers. “No, it's Sam! No, that's not right.”

 

“Simon,” Jace croaks, blinking rapidly, shifting to make sure he doesn't lean against the stained tiles on the wall. “His name is Simon.”

 

Duke bobs his head. “That's right! They took your boy. Simon. Poor boy. What'd they want with him? Knew too much, didn't he?”

 

Jace swallows. “Yeah, he- yeah.”

 

“Ah, well, they's gonna get what's coming to 'em, I promise ya that,” Duke tells him, waving his wiry hand through the air. “All's well that ends well, I say. Sorry about your Steven.”

 

“Simon,” Jace corrects automatically.

 

“Right, Simon.” Duke frowns. “You gon’ be on the trains again tonight?”

 

“Maybe,” Jace replies, lips twitching. “You want anything specific tonight?”

 

“I'd like me's a couple of smokes, but don't forget the flame,” Duke tells him, waggling his knobbly finger yet again. “Always forget the damned flame.”

 

Jace shoots him a sharp look. “Maybe I don't bring the flame because I don't want you killing yourself with those horrific cigarettes.”

 

“Ah, don't goes worrying about me, Jace.” Duke suddenly looks incredibly exhausted. “Who needs the years when ya ain't living?”

 

“Don't talk like that,” Jace says firmly. “You have a purpose, even if it's just to keep me company.”

 

“You the only one who cares,” Duke mutters, the small amount of teeth he has disappearing behind his lips as he presses them in a thin line.

 

“Simon would have cared,” Jace tells him.

 

Duke just looks at him. “That don't count for nothing, now does it? He ain't here.”

 

Jace swallows thickly, a harsh thud hitting him low in the stomach, making him feel as if all the air has been forced from his body. “Right,” he manages to get through a tight throat. “I'll bring you your smokes, Duke.”

 

“And my flame!” Duke calls after him as he starts towards the train about to close its doors.

 

Jace waves a hand. “And the flame,” he confirms.

 

With that, Jace slides through the doors to the train just as they close. He finds an empty seat in the back where no one is lingering and sits down. He presses his head back into the seat and breathes, closing his eyes, sinking into his exhaustion.

 

He so rarely sleeps these days.





 



“You brought me the flame!”

 

Jace sighs. “I did. Don't go smoking all of those in one day. I'm getting you money next time.”

 

“Ah, what's the point?” Duke waves a hand, grimacing. “They's don't serve me as it is. Too crazy, too dirty, too old.”

 

“Then I'll get you food,” Jace says firmly.

 

Duke huffs. “How's about some blankets?”

 

“I might be able to pull that off.”

 

“I'd be tickled with 'ems.”

 

Jace smiles softly. “I'll see you later, Duke. I've got to get back now.”

 

“Oh.” Duke immediately looks sad. “You'll come back, won't ya?”

 

“Yeah, Duke, I'll be back,” Jace promises.

 

“Thas fine, I guess. Stay away from them illuminati folks; never know where they are. You already know too much,” Duke tells him seriously.

 

Jace sighs, lips twitching. “I'll be fine.”

 

Duke just nods sadly, like he always does, like he thinks he'll never see Jace again. There really isn't a way to reassure him, so Jace bids him goodbye and heads back out onto the street. From here, he's not too far from the institute. He should be able to make it back before Alec begins to worry.

 

Alec is Alec, so he's worried even though Jace makes it back at a reasonable time. As soon as he walks into the central room, Alec's shoulders sag with relief and he breaks away from Underhill to come over with his overgrown concern.

 

“You were out all night,” Alec says with a frown, crossing his arms. “Again.”

 

“I was busy,” Jace replies simply. “Magnus didn't tell you? I had a thing.”

 

“You always have a thing.” Alec's eyebrows crumble together. “Did you sleep any?”

 

“Enough.”

 

“Jace…”

 

“I'm fine, Alec,” Jace snaps, immediately sinking his eyes closed and taking a calming breath. Once he doesn't feel like he's ripping out of his own skin, he opens his eyes. “Sorry. I'm just- I'm fine.”

 

Alec sighs again, this time quiet. “Okay, well, if you're feeling up to it, I have a mission.”

 

“Since when do you ask me if I'm up to do a mission? You give the orders, I follow them.”

 

“It's like you didn't spend the last years of our lives together experiencing the same things as me.”

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “You're the Head of The Institute, Alec. You're supposed to tell me what to do.”

 

“Yeah, well… you're not going to like this one,” Alec mutters, wrinkling his nose.

 

“Lay it on me.”

 

“The seelie queen has-”

 

“Nope,” Jace says immediately, moving to turn around and walk away. Alec catches his arm.

 

“The seelie queen has information on a rift that might be opening up near the harbor. I've already arranged for you to have an escort in and out. She's been falling in line since Valentine's downfall,” Alec explains gently. “I know you don't like her, but we need the intel.”

 

Jace's nostrils flare. “Who's the escort?”

 

“Raphael,” Alec says. “I know you two hang out occasionally these days.”

 

“By hang out, you mean we occasionally sulk in the same space.”

 

“Which makes you friends, honestly.”

 

“And how did you get him to agree?” Jace asks doubtfully, arching an eyebrow.

 

Alec waves a hand. “I actually was going there to ask if he'd let me borrow someone to do it. He didn't actually offer until I told him it was to go to the seelie court, and when I said it was with you, he demanded he go.”

 

“I'm sure he has his reasons.”

 

“I'm sure he does. So, will you go?”

 

“Why does it have to be me?” Jace narrows his eyes as Alec averts his gaze. “She asked for me specifically, didn't she?”

 

Alec sighs once again. “Yeah. We need you to be able to get the intel. If we can find the start of this rift, we can close it before any demons can slip through. I'm just- I want to be proactive. With everything going on, between the Clave and the new alliance, I just want to lighten the load.”

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “Fine, I'm going. But so help me, if she takes me hostage again, I will stab her through the heart. You know I'm not kidding. I'm in just the state of mind to do it.”

 

“I'm asking you not to.”

 

“That's not fair.”

 

“Jace,” Alec says softly, face dropping into something like pain, “promise me.”

 

And there it is again - the demand that he keeps himself together. It feels like someone is cracking his chest open and squeezing his lungs. It hurts. Their consistent need to make sure he makes it, even when he doesn't want to… it hurts so much, like an ache that flares up at the worst times.

 

Alec grimaces, like he always does when someone makes him promise. Jace knows that he hurts deep enough for Alec to feel it too. He tries so hard to keep that pain to himself, but he can't contain it.

 

Jace takes in a deep, shuddering breath. “Fine. Fine. I promise not to do anything stupid.”

 

“Thank you.” Alec clears his throat. “And don't worry about getting kidnapped again. Raphael and I have a contingency plan set, just in case.”

 

“Being proactive again?”

 

“Shut up.”

 

Jace throws Alec a teasing grin on his way out of the room, but it slips away as soon as he's out. It's as if any break he gets from the hollow feeling that exists within him all the time now belongs to a very few people. Duke, surprisingly, is one of them.

 

Raphael is too, in his own way.

 

Before Jace found the subway and Duke, he used to wander the streets until he was so exhausted that he could barely stand up straight. One night, he'd been seconds from collapsing on the sidewalk when a random vampire darted in front of him. Jace had just known that she was going to kill him, but she'd taken one look at him and scooped him up like he weighed nothing more than a feather.

 

She'd taken him to Raphael, dropped him at his feet, and left like she was a fever dream. Raphael had taken one look at him and said, “Dios mio, you look like shit. I take it this is about Simon?”

 

That had set Jace off pretty much immediately. He'd curled into a ball and sobbed his little heart out, careless to who would know. Raphael had simply sighed and reached down to scoop him up yet again, walking him to the unnecessarily comfy couch in his room and dropping him on it with firm orders to sleep. So, Jace had cried himself to sleep and didn't wake up for nearly sixteen hours.

 

Upon waking up though, Raphael had acted like nothing had happened. He'd simply sat beside Jace on the couch in complete silence. That was the first time Jace had felt like he could breathe.

 

When things got particularly rough, that's where Jace went. Raphael never questioned him, never stopped him, never talked without prompting. If they did speak, it was about meaningless things like whether Jace could borrow a blanket and Raphael simply telling him that they had no blanket. But the next time he went, Raphael gave him a blanket.

 

So, Jace guesses he and Raphael are friends in a weird, uncertain way.

 

That's why he's not too surprised that Raphael had insisted on being his escort. People talk, so of course everyone knows that Jace sometimes spends the night at Raphael's - which, everyone immediately assumes that makes them friends. He guesses they're right, in a way.

 

That's why he offers a nod at Raphael when they meet up at the entrance to the seelie court. They're generally silent together more than anything, but Jace likes it that way. Everyone always wants to talk to him, wants to make him promise, wants to say things to make it all better, even if they know that it's never going to be better. Raphael doesn't do any of that, doesn't demand anything, doesn't offer anything, and sometimes that's like a breath of fresh air that Jace needs to make it through a week.

 

“This is not going to be easy for you,” Raphael comments lightly.

 

Jace sighs. “No, it's not.”

 

“Tell me the moment you wish to leave.”  

 

“And if she isn't willing to let me go?”

 

Raphael arches an eyebrow. “You can leave whenever you wish, I'll make sure of that.”

 

“Is that why you came? To make sure that I make it out of here alive?”

 

“That, among other things.”

 

“Which are?” Jace presses, eyes narrowing.

 

“Nothing to concern yourself with,” Raphael answers lightly. “Now, are you ready?”

 

“Not in the least,” Jace tells him and then follows that by scaling the fence and plunging.

 

Raphael's laughter follows behind him.






 



“Are you ready?”

 

Simon takes a deep breath. He stares at the cup. It's the very thing that started all this; it may be the very thing to end him. He looks up into Sabien's eyes.

 

“Do I have a choice?”

 

Sabien tilts his head, considering. “You can train for a few more months.”

 

“Not happening,” Simon retorts sharply.

 

“This is your way home,” Sabien tells him, holding the cup out to him.

 

Simon swallows, flicks his gaze at the scattering of Clave members. Madame Inquisitor watches from the sidelines too, her eyes locked on him, face twisted into a grim expression. Simon thinks she might be rooting for him, but then again, she always looks like the world might end, so he can't be sure.

 

“If I die, you'll tell them, won't you?” Simon asks, addressing the room at large.

 

It's Sabien who answers. “Would you want us to?”

 

Simon glares at him. “Yes, I would. Closure is really important, not that any of you would know anything about that. I swear, I'm surrounded by androids.”

 

As if to prove his point, no one in the room reacts to his insult at all.

 

“Are you ready to go home or not?” Sabien demands roughly, pushing the cup forward even more.

 

Of course, he is. Simon's been thinking of nothing but going home for the past three months. Everything he's done over these last ninety-one days has been to get him home. All the training, all the studying, all the lessons, all the pain and sweat and tears… it's been to go home.

 

Simon just wants to go home.

 

He wants to be back with his friends, with his family. He wants to listen to Clary talk to him with her light voice; he can barely remember the sound of it. He wants to see Alec roll his eyes; he can't recall what color they are. He wants to watch Izzy saunter across the room without a break in her stride, head held high; he can't hear the echo of her heels in his head anymore. He wants to see Magnus glide into a room; he can't grasp the image of his hands waving in the air. He wants to be in Jace's arms again, just touching him, just feeling his heartbeat; he clings to the memory of Jace's smile, but it is barely there.

 

Simon once watched a documentary on brainwashing. It was one of those that was practically all conspiracy, but he'd been enraptured by it. In the documentary, one of the main things about brainwashing is that it isn't actually all that hard to make happen.

 

According to the hour-long show, it's nothing more than blunt hypnotism. It follows the basic principles; tell someone something enough, they'll believe it; fill a mind with enough new information, it will forget the old. Simon had munched on popcorn and laughed when the credits rolled.

 

He realizes now just how true it had been.

 

They'd pressed into him over and over to forget his friends, that they didn't matter, to focus on his training, that it was the most important thing. It was more than that, other things too. Life isn't some joke, Lewis, stop laughing. Movies won't keep your mind focused, Lewis, stop referencing them. Your friends can't save you, Lewis, save yourself.

 

But, even with their vigorous attempts, they couldn't completely alter him. Simon is still himself, or he thinks he is. He's enough of himself to know that he wants to to home and be with his family.

 

He squares his shoulders. “Give me the cup.”

 

Simon drinks. 

Chapter Text

“Jace Herondale,” the queen greets calmly, her young face just as blank as ever, “it has been some time, hasn't it?”

 

Jace heaves a sigh as he steps into the room, shooting a look at Raphael who casually shadows him. Meliorn visibly leans forward to look right at Raphael in blatant curiosity. Jace ignores them both and steels himself for what's coming.

 

“Yes,” he replies simply. “I'm here about whatever information you have about the opening rift.”

 

The queen hums quietly. “I will tell you all that you wish to know, but before I do, I have a few questions of my own.”

 

“I didn't come here for an interrogation.”

 

“Then you may leave.”

 

Shit. Jace grits his teeth, taking a deep breath. He knows they need this information, can recall Alec's reluctance to send him, even while he insisted they be proactive. Shit, shit, shit.

 

“Fine,” Jace snaps. “Go ahead.”

 

“You lied to me, Jace Herondale. The last time you were here in my court, you told me that you were not involved with Simon.” The queen tilts her head, eyes flashing. “Do you remember?”

 

“I didn't lie to you actually,” Jace replies with a ghost of a smirk on his face. “You asked if I had taken him to bed, I hadn't. Outside of that, I never actually told you that we weren't involved.”

 

“I see,” the queen says lightly. “I do believe you would have made a good seelie.”

 

“Thank you. Is that all?”

 

“That's just the beginning. Tell me, are the rumors true about what happened to Simon?”

 

Jace breathes in slowly. “You're aware that I can lie to you, aren't you?”

 

“Certainly,” she agreed, raising a hand. “The question is, however, if you can lie successfully. Answer me. Was Simon removed by the Clave after being changed from a Daylighter to a mundane, due to Valentine's mistake?”

 

“Yes,” Jace replies simply, fully aware that she knows, even if it hasn't been confirmed until now.

 

“Did you love him?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“So, this must have hurt you deeply,” the queen murmurs, as if she's genuinely sympathetic.

 

Jace swallows, his fists clenching, nails digging half moons into his palm. “Yes,” he croaks out.

 

The queen hums quietly. “Meliorn,” she calls, holding her hand out limply.

 

Meliorn is immediately there, dropping to one knee to kiss her dainty hand. “Yes, my queen?”

 

“You attended Clary Fairchild's ceremony, did you not?” the queen asks.

 

“Yes, I did attend.”

 

“Did you enjoy your time there?”

 

Meliorn seems to consider that. “Mostly, yes.”

 

The queen gently pulls her hand from Meliorn's grasp, watching him with curious eyes. “Was Simon Lewis there?”

 

“Yes, he was.”

 

“And was he with Jace Herondale?”

 

“Yes, they were together,” Meliorn confirms.

 

“Were they happy?” The queen flicks a serious look at Jace. “In love, even?”

 

Meliorn pauses again. “From what I saw, they were very deeply in love and happy.”

 

The queen hums, reaches up to rub her hand over Meliorn's hair. “Thank you. You may proceed with what you were doing before.”

 

“Of course, my queen,” Meliorn replies, dipping his head and going to back to stand where he was.

 

“Are you going to tell me about the rift or do I need to leave now?” Jace asks gruffly, crossing his arms.

 

“I will tell you about the rift momentarily. But before I do, I want to ask your feelings about the Clave.”

 

“What about them?”

 

“Surely, you must feel slighted? Vengeful? They took the one you loved most from you.”

 

“Well, I don't feel great.”

 

“And that is sorely the fault of the Clave's.” The queen slowly stands up from her throne. “They ripped out the very heart of you. From what I hear, you are not handling it well.”

 

Jace doesn't want to do this. “Can you ask what you want to so I can get the information I need and be on my way?”

 

“Is he alive?”

 

Jace's heart shrivels in his chest, like it has been punctured and all the pain seeps out and breaks into the rest of his body. He wishes he could tell her yes, but the truth is… he doesn't know.

 

All he knows is what he saw and was told. What he saw was Simon being dragged from the room, looking terrified, only having time to shout his name, just once. Jace and the rest of everyone who lingered immediately had rushed after him, even going as far as to fight - it had been instinctual. But then, his grandmother had stepped out the room and calmly told them all that Simon was being handled, to move on and let it go.

 

Of course, it wasn't until after they'd stormed Idris, demanded to get Simon back, and caused quite the fuss with the Clave, that they were told in no uncertain terms that they had work to do. They'd been sent off with a threat, that if they weren't going to do their jobs, they would be kept from doing their jobs ever again. Deruned, basically.

 

Jace never got an answer; he never will.

 

“I don't know.”

 

The queen frowns. “Does this not anger you?”

 

“Of course it angers me,” Jace snaps, working hard not to drag his hands through his own hair. “What is the point of this conversation?”

 

“The point is that the Shadow world is held in the hands of people who don't do any right by it.” The queen takes a few steps forward, her bare feet dirty and pale. “Do you know what I saw in Valentine that made me rally behind him?”

 

“I haven't the faintest fucking clue.”

 

“Change. I saw change.”

 

Jace can feel the incredulity on his face. “Change? That's the kind of change you're into?”

 

“I'm intrigued by so little things, Jace. Change, perhaps, is the only one. Things get very boring when they stay the same. One thing that has yet to change, but needs to, is the shift in power.”

 

“You don't think we're trying? We- we've done everything we could to make things better! It's not easy to build up an entire world when it continuously gets ripped down by all sides. Alec is doing the best he can to-”

 

The queen holds up a hand, slowly drifting closer to him. “I know of Alexander Lightwood's efforts; they have not slipped my attention. I intend to help him to the best of my abilities. No Shadowhunter in power has ever attempted to bridge the gap between them and the downworlders. Hence the reason that I allow my seelies to hunt with your kind.”

 

“But you expect us to do more?” Jace asks, clenching his jaw as she stops right in front of him, head tilting back to stare up at him.

 

“Don't you want to?” The seelie queen gazes at him soft expression, one of her hands lifting to lightly cup his cheek. “Simon had such faith in you, Jace Herondale. You loved him so, I can feel it.”

 

Jace swallows, forces himself not to jerk away from her touch. “Stop,” he says firmly.

 

She doesn't. “Do you know that upon meeting Simon, he stood up for you. He believed in you irrevocably. When I told him of my disdain for your kind, and why, he told me that you were not like that. You were better than them, in his eyes.”

 

“Your majesty,” he says quietly, a lump slowly forming in his throat.

 

“They took him from you, took your heart in the process. It was wrong, you know that. A part of you aches to tear them all apart, snatch the injustice straight from the root.”

 

“You're lying.”

 

The queen smiles and strokes his cheek. “I cannot lie. You love him and you lost him, and they are at fault. They deserve to face the consequences.”

 

“Shut up, just- shut up,” Jace spits, flinging her hand away from his face.

 

Like magic, Meliorn is suddenly there, his spear at the ready, face guarded. Raphael immediately surges forward with a hiss, fangs dropping as he glares right at Meliorn. The queen simply raises her hand and Meliorn straightens up, his lips tugging into a smirk as he looks at Raphael in apparent amusement. It takes Jace lightly tugging Raphael on the elbow to diffuse his obvious tension.

 

“You are hurt,” the queen murmurs, keeping her hands to herself this time. “You know my words ring true.”

 

“No, it's all half-lies. You want the Clave destroyed for yourself. You want the power, you want the control, you want to rule. That's why you chose to betray everyone for Valentine,” Jace says harshly, crossing his arms and glaring at her.

 

“Fine.” The queen's lips twist. “You want the truth, Jace Herondale? Yes, I want to rule. Yes, I want the Clave destroyed. But I know that those who seek power are not fit to have it. More than anything, I want peace and harmony for my subjects, for the entire world. I cannot ensure that under my complete reign, but I can help to put someone in power who will do right and consider my advice. The Clave have silenced us for far too long.”

 

“What you want is treason. It is war.” Jace gives a weary sigh, dropping his hands to his sides limply. He is so, so tired. “I've fought enough wars already. I'm tired of it.”

 

“But for Simon, for your family, you would fight every war there is until your last breath,” the queen replies simply. “What I want is equality, respect, recognition. You, your family… you're capable of making change.”

 

“And that doesn't make us any better than Valentine,” Jace tells her, sighing. “Don't you get it? Everyone always thinks they're right, that their cause is worth fighting for, worth dying for. We all think what we want is best, but no one really knows what's best, not even you.”

 

“How can you turn a blind eye to a broken system? Simon was a vampire. Many of your friends are downworlders. Surely, you care about them enough to want to make the world a better place for them.”

 

“You're right, I do, and we are. We're not going to storm in and take over, we're not going to sneak in and usurp them before they can think to defend themselves, we're not even going to rally everyone and force their surrender. We're going to do this smart and safe, keeping as many people alive as possible. We'll lead by example, change one mind at a time if we have to, and it could take years, could take our very last breath, but we will do it. Just not how you want us to.”

 

The queen's lips thin out. “You may change your mind, Jace Herondale, and if you do… you are always welcome to pay me a visit.”

 

Jace just nods. “The information?”

 

The queen slowly walks back to her throne, grudgingly tells him what he needs to know, then asks Meliorn to escort them out. Jace does not bow or say goodbye before he leaves.

 

Meliorn seems completely amused at Raphael's expense. “You should know, vampire, I would not have lost against you.”

 

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” Raphael replies flatly, eyes fixed ahead of him.

 

Jace sighs.





 




They gave him runes. Simon did not enjoy it.

 

For a guy who's been through so much pain, he sure doesn't handle it well. His skin still buzzes with discomfort, scars feeling tight and out of place. Sabien had told him not rub at them, but it's incredibly hard to do when he's standing in front of a mirror in just his boxers.

 

Simon knows - from his time with Jace, naked - that runes go anywhere they're drawn. His body is covered in them now; he knows every one from each lesson. Stamina, speed, healing, so many that wind all over his limbs. He can feel the undercurrent of power within him, knows he can use his stele and feel that power surge.

 

But Simon just thinks about how his bubbee and mom is going to kill him. He's never had a tattoo, never wanted one, and these aren't that, but they won't see it as anything else. He's gone from having no tattoos to being covered in them.

 

Yeah, they're going to kill him.

 

At least they look cool. Simon can honestly say that he thinks he looks good. The training is vigorous and rough, but it honed his body into something worth looking at twice. His muscles are defined now, clear and cut, taut with power and energy. The runes make him look badass too.

 

Simon fidgets in the mirror, staring into his own eyes. He doesn't really recognize himself anymore, not that he's drastically changed. But sometimes, he'll catch his reflection by accident and see a grim determination that all Shadowhunters seem to have painted on his face. The sight of it always catches him off guard, makes him think that all those lessons and training actually impacted him, much as he fought it every step of the way.

 

To be fair, Simon did not make this easy on anyone. He'd demanded to go home everyday for the first month. The first week, he'd tried to go on a hunger strike, but he'd eventually been unable to outlast them. After that, he'd argued and dug his feet in, fighting against everything they told him, everything they demanded from him. He'd fought so hard not to change, not to lose himself.

 

But the truth is… when Simon had been told that he was ready, he'd felt a flood of warmth and pride.

 

He can't lie to himself though. He looks into the mirror, staring at himself, and he thinks really hard about what's going to happen soon.

 

He's going home today. Well, to the institute, but his friends and family are home to him. That's been his main objective the whole time he's been here. Every single ache, every single late night study session, every single bruise, every single test… it had been for one thing and one thing only. To get home.

 

But now that it's happening, Simon's terrified.

 

He's scared he'll go back and no one will have missed him. He's scared he'll go back and no one will treat him the same. He's scared he'll go back and no one will want him as he is now. And mostly, he's scared that he'll go back, but nothing will be the same because he's changed.

 

His mind assaults him. What if Jace got a girlfriend while you were gone? What if Alec demands you be transported to a different institute? What if your family hates you for being away so long? What if Clary got a new best friend? What if, what if, what if…

 

Simon forces himself away from the mirror, sucking in a deep breath. He forces himself to relax, to stay calm until a problem arises, and god, he really has changed. Grimacing, he snatches on his shirt and shoves his way into some pants. He desperately misses his graphic-tees and hoodies and battered jeans. They make him wear breathable shirts that cling to him for easy mobility, much like the ones Alec and Jace wear. His pants are like theirs too, full of clips and buckles and places to put weapons and a thigh holster, but easy to move in as well. They even forced him into combat boots, tossing his beloved converses out without sympathy.

 

Simon has all plans to go shopping and get a piece of himself back when he gets home. He needs to be… grounded. Ever since he was taken out of that dreadful meeting, he feels as if someone cut all his strings and left him adrift. He's been trying to make it back to safety ever since.

 

A sharp rap against the door snags Simon's attention. His body automatically straightens and tenses, prepared for a fight, and he hates that as much as it brings him comfort. With a sigh, he goes to open the door. Sabien is leaning in the doorway, a slight smirk on his face.

 

“Look at you, all grown up,” Sabien teases, waltzing into the room as if he owns it.

 

When Simon had first met Sabien, he'd initially been stunned. Sabien is only three and half years older than Simon and looks as if Jace and Alec had a baby. He's tall and blond, has a wicked smirk and a variety of expressions to get through any situation, and his skin is a very light tan color and unfairly perfect.

 

Seriously, it's like Alec and Jace formed into one person to make Sabien. But his personality is a mixture of Magnus and Izzy, eccentric yet genuine. Even when he's knocking Simon flat on his ass in the training room. And Simon's just at that point in his life where he compares everyone to his friends; they can't ever match up to them, but that doesn't keep him from doing it.

 

“I guess,” Simon mutters, wrinkling his nose as Sabien throws himself on Simon's bed.

 

“I have to admit, I never thought I'd see the day you graduated,” Sabien admits, not apologetic in the least. “I deserve a raise.”

 

“I was a joy to work with.”

 

“That's a very big lie.”

 

Simon snorts. “So, have you come here to take me home? Are you my escort?”

 

“The one and only.” Sabien pops right back off the bed easily. He holds his arms out as if he's presenting himself as a gift. “Do you think that Jace Herondale will hit me when he sees me?”

 

“Your very obvious crush on my boyfriend makes me really uncomfortable,” Simon tells him, even as his lips twitch into a grin.

 

Sabien clicks his tongue. “Honestly, he makes me wish I was gay.”

 

“That's pretty gay,” Simon assures him.

 

“But alas,” Sabien continues, as if Simon hadn't spoken at all, “I will never be. Which, frankly, is a bit disappointing because Jace Herondale is amazing. Did you know they offered him my job when he was only sixteen?”

 

Simon blinks. “I… did not know that, actually.”

 

Sabien nods seriously. “He turned them down, wanting to stay with the Lightwoods.”

 

“The Clave don't usually offer young people jobs like that,” Simon says, because he knows that now, knows the Clave and their history. His history, now.

 

“Like I said, Jace is amazing. If he punches me, I will wear the bruise with honor and pride.”

 

“Like I said, your not gay crush on my boyfriend is really weird.”

 

Sabien rolls his eyes. “Is he still your boyfriend? I mean… it has been three months. The Jace I heard so much about wouldn't stay away from sex that long.”

 

That makes Simon feel like he's going to throw up, so he swallows and hauls his duffle onto the bed. He makes sure everything he has is stuffed into the large bag - all he really has are clothes that aren't really his own and stacks of books he's read backwards to forwards at this point. He acts like he isn't absolutely capsized by the thought of Jace with anyone else, shrugging off his obviousness in a way he's never been able to do before.

 

“Just stay behind me and don't say anything and you might not get attacked,” Simon says quietly, slinging the strap over his shoulder.

 

Sabien tsks as he heads over to the door, opening it wide. “If it's Jace we run into, I'm definitely not staying behind you.”

 

Simon shrugs. “Your funeral.”

 

“Mhm,” Sabien agrees. “Now… are you ready to go home, Simon?”

 

Simon doesn't know, to be completely honest. It's all he's been thinking - and talking - about for the past three months, so by all means, he should be racing for the door. But Simon is aware that once he walks through that door, he can't ever come back, that his life as a Shadowhunter will start. And he's also very aware that what he goes home to might be something that will break his heart.

 

Three months of intense training and studying, all for him to take a sip from a cup and nearly die. They'd made him train beforehand, giving him one-on-one lessons, taking nearly every waking moment out of the last three months to shape Simon into something that could at least pass as a Shadowhunter. And when he'd survived, they hadn't really wanted anything else to do with him after that; they'd obviously been ready to pawn him off on his friends as soon as he was runed. All of that, just to send him home. All of that, just for him to be scared to go. 

 

Simon swallows. “I- I don't-”

 

“Simon,” Sabien says firmly, his playfulness draining; it's like they're back in the training room all over again, “we do not run from our fear, we embrace it. So… embrace it.”

 

Simon takes a deep breath, shaking his hands out, and gives a jerky nod. With his stomach a ball of nerves, Simon strides right through the door without looking back.





 




It's Alec they see first. Which, that's fair. They are transported directly to his office.

 

Alec is already out of his chair, staring at the portal with narrowed eyes, knowing it has to be the Clave. The moment Simon steps through, he feels as if his knees are going to buckle. Alec's eyes are hazel; how could Simon have forgotten?

 

“Simon?” Alec breathes out, lips parting, eyes going wide in blatant shock.

 

Simon gives a nervous wave. “Hey.”

 

“By the Angel,” Alec blurts, his hands shaking, whole body making an aborted movement towards him, halting when Sabien steps out behind him. Alec narrows his eyes. “Who are you?

 

Sabien stays behind Simon. “His escort,” he answers simply. “Simon? Are you okay from here?”

 

Simon throws him a look over his shoulder. “Yeah, I- I'll be fine. They'll send the papers over soon?”

 

“Madame Inquisitor is drawing them up now,” Sabien replies, smiling faintly. “Take care, Simon. I do hope we meet again.”

 

“Yeah, man… me too,” Simon murmurs, watching Sabien back into the portal and disappear as if he never even existed.

 

Simon doesn't have much time to dwell on that because Alec is suddenly gripping his shoulders, and Simon's first instinct is to defend himself, but he realizes that he's not being yanked around . Simon feels yet again as if all his strings have been cut, but this time it feels like a different reason. Alec is just clasping his shoulders, staring at him with pinched eyebrows, and his lips press into a thin line.

 

“Simon, what the hell happened to you?” Alec bursts out, dropping his hands, frowning as his eyes flick over his visible runes.

 

“It's a really long story. I- I want everyone here when I explain it. Where's- is Clary- is Jace-”

 

“Right. Right. Okay, hold on.”

 

“Thanks,” Simon says weakly, barely managing to keep from reaching out to touch Alec. He's clinging, he knows that, but… he can't help it.

 

Alec digs his phone out of his pocket, shooting regular looks at Simon like he might disappear. He puts the phone to his ear, sharply clips, “Get to Magnus’ now.” He immediately hangs up after.

 

Alec repeats that process three more times. Simon can tell when he's talking to Magnus because his voice softens and he simply asks him to wait at his loft. Alec gives no explanation, doesn't even give whomever he's called time to respond, and through it all, he stares right at Simon.

 

“It's good to see you as the same old Alec,” Simon jokes lightly. “How, uh- how've you been?”

 

Alec pockets his phone. “I've had better days,” he says simply, crossing his arms. “You're a Shadowhunter.”

 

“Yeah, I- yeah,” Simon replies awkwardly.

 

“Did they make you?”

 

“They didn't give me much of a choice.”

 

“Are you- before we go, do you want… to talk about it? I know it's not… easy.” Alec's eyes are fixated on him, intense and steady.

 

Simon shrugs, staring down at his feet in open wariness. “I missed everyone.”

 

“Everyone missed you,” Alec tells him, voice softening.

 

“Even you?” Simon teases, trying to get back into the swing of things, trying to be himself.

 

Alec's lips twitch. “Yeah, Simon, even me.”

 

And Simon moves over to hug him because he can't stop himself; Alec tenses, but lets him. Now that it's happening, Simon really is going to have to do at least once a day. He sees why Jace and Izzy hug him often; Alec gives great hugs, all encasing arms that wrap all the way around him and a solid chest that radiates warmth. It's awkward and brief, but Simon thinks Alec knows just how much he needs it.

 

Alec's not exactly a touchy-feely kind of guy, not unless it's his family, but Simon finds himself thinking that he's considered that now too.

 

This is how Simon finds his hope. Right there, in Alec's arms, clinging to his friend… Simon begins to think that things might just be okay.

 

When they pull away, Alec gives him a genuine smile, one that lights up his face, and claps him on the shoulder. Simon can feel it, that old optimism, that boundless joy, it rises into a bright smile and nearly splits his face in half. Simon hasn't smiled like this in three months.

 

“Can we go?” Simon asks, heart thundering in his chest. “I- I want to see everyone.”

 

Alec nods. “Do you know how to activate your runes? If you use speed, we can make it there quicker than it would take to arrange a ride.”

 

Simon fumbles for his stele, his heart in his throat, eyes wide. “Yeah, I know how.”

 

“Perfect. Let's go outside and run.”

 

Simon thinks that's the most exciting idea he's heard in a very long time.





 



“Magnus? Alec?”

 

Jace grumbles quietly under his breath when he gets no answer. He has no idea why he's been ordered to come here, doesn't really care. He'd been on the way to the institute to give his report on the seelie queen and the rift when Alec called him and had him turn around and go in the opposite direction.

 

“Shit,” he mutters.

 

A small voice behind him echoes, “Shit.”

 

Jace whirls around, eyes wide, biting back the curse that nearly falls from his lips again. Madzie smiles at him, her little arms behind her back, rocking on her heels. She's far from the little girl she used to be before Magnus and Alec started spending so much time with her. Now, she's actually a bit of a handful, and she's always capable of making him smile.

 

“No, Madzie,” Jace hisses, slowly sinking down to one knee to get eye level with her, “that's a bad word. Don't tell Alec I taught you that.”

 

Madzie smiles wider, reaching up with one hand to pat his cheek. “Are you sad today?”

 

As always, the question she asks him every time she sees him is like a blunt object to his chest. He has to swallow and force a smile onto his face, but there is an understanding in her eyes that tells him she sees right through it. Madzie is perfect, can't do any wrong in Jace's eyes, but even with her gentle innocence, he knows she's wiser than her age.

 

“Yeah,” he tells her softly. “But that's okay. I'm always less sad when I see you.”

 

“You're my favorite,” Madzie whispers, like it's a big secret, leaning close to his ear.

 

Jace laughs. “Now, that's not true. We all know Alec's your favorite.”

 

Madzie makes a face like she's seconds from raising her little hands and saying, I concur. She smiles at him again. “You're my second favorite.”

 

“And what a high honor it is,” Jace tells her sincerely, grinning as he covers his chest with one hand, watching her beam. “Now, do you know where Magnus or Alec is?”

 

“Magnus is outside. He saw Alec through the window, told me to stay here, then ran out the door. I'm staying here,” Madzie informs him seriously.

 

Jace frowns. “I didn't see them.”

 

Madzie simply shrugs. “Can I turn your hair pink?”

 

Shit, Jace thinks weakly.





 




Simon is hyperventilating.

 

There are four hands rubbing his arms and Simon has his eyes screwed shut, leaning back into the tree, focusing on the scrape of the bark against his neck. The image of Jace marching right up to Magnus’ loft without even looking in their direction still plays a loop in his head.

 

“Simon, calm down,” Magnus soothes, and it is so nice to hear his voice.

 

Simon reaches out and balls his fist into whatever shirt is closest, forcing his breathing to calm. In through his nose, out through his mouth. Slow and steady. Good.

 

Slowly opening his eyes, he sees his hand grasping Magnus’ shirt, immediately feels bad for wrinkling it, lets go. “Sorry, I'm- he's-”

 

“Simon?”

 

Clary's voice breaks through his daze, making his head snap up. And there she is, standing right beside Izzy, their hands linked together. Simon fumbles away from the tree, eyes stinging at the very sight of her. Clary rips away from Izzy's side and sprints towards him as he rushes to her.

 

They collide so hard they nearly topple over. Clary's nails dig into his back as if she's afraid he might turn to dust in his grasp. Simon buries his face into her hair and cries. He has missed her so much, so much.

 

When she pulls back, her hands grasp his cheeks, and she stares at him like she's about to kiss him. She does actually, her lips smacking against his forehead as she drags him down. Simon fists his hands into the back of her shirt.

 

“Where- how- when- Simon.”

 

“Yeah, Fray,” he laughs wetly, “it's me.”

 

Lips press into his cheek and Simon blinks to see Izzy at his other side, her eyes shining, her perfect lips spread into a huge grin. Simon doesn't even think, just uncoils one arm from Clary and tugs her into a hug too. She presses her temple against his, eyes closing as they all hold each other.  

 

They stay like that for a long time. But curiosity eventually beats out the immense relief, so Clary and Izzy shuffle back to stare at him. He knows what they see, knows they're staring at his runes.

 

“You're a Shadowhunter,” Izzy breathes.

 

Clary reaches out to trace the rune running up the side of his neck. “How?”

 

“I- I'll explain, but…”

 

And just like that, Simon is sharply reminded of Jace. It was like a kick in the teeth seeing him walk by with a crease in his eyebrow, head tilted back as he gazed up at Magnus’ window. At that point, Magnus had already rushed down to hug him and try and get answers. Upon seeing Jace, Simon had gone worryingly pale and hid behind a tree, mind sort of folding in on itself.

 

The thing is… Jace looks  different. But also not? He's the same old Jace, still too pretty not to be considered an alien, still walking with that determined gait that could part crowds. But he'd looked… tired. His shoulders had been slumped, the dark circles under his eyes obvious from even that far away, and there was something that seemed to cling around him. Jace appeared as a shell of himself.

 

“Oh my god,” Clary blurts, eyes going wide. “Jace!”

 

Simon swallows. “He's- I saw him. He looks… sad. Is he okay?”

 

They all stare at him, and in perfect unison, they gravely croak out, “No.”





 



“Okay, now turn it back.”

 

Madzie giggles behind her hand. “But it's pretty. Magnus will like it.”

 

Jace can't stop the smile from spreading on his face, Madzie's delight like a balm to a wound. “I thought we agreed no one would see it.”

 

“But it's pretty,” Madzie repeats, like that explains why their deal is null and void. She reaches up to pat his hair. “What about purple?”

 

“Marginally better. Go for it.” Jace closes his eyes and waits for the tickling in his scalp to fade. “How does that look?”

 

“Pretty,” she says, frowning slightly. “Can I add glitter? It would look better with glitter.”

 

Jace shakes his head. “No, no way. You're definitely spending too much time with Magnus.”

 

Madzie frowns harder. “Please?”

 

Jace isn't going to fold, not again. He is a grown man, dammit, he should be able to resist her sad eyes. But she just stares at him imploringly, her brown eyes like chocolate, wide and soft with begging. Jace folds embarrassingly quick, sighing deeply.

 

“Fine, but not a lot,” he mutters.

 

Madzie beams, lifting her hands yet again. Jace closes his eyes and smiles, feeling the telltale prick of magic slithering over his scalp. He wouldn't say it to anyone, ever, but this is one of the moments of peace he rarely gets these days. Here and now, with Madzie having her fun, Jace can surface from the deep chasm of his own pain, even for a moment.

 

Madzie is like the opposite of Raphael. He lets Jace drown in his chasm, knows that's what he needs. Madzie, however, helps him get the air he can't achieve on his own. He comes to visit her sometimes, just for that, even if he feels guilty afterwards. A part of him feels as if he needs to drown forever, never breathe again.

 

“Oooh,” Madzie giggles, clapping her hands. “It's much prettier with glitter.”

 

“Is it?” Jace asks, opening his eyes and reaching up to feel his hair. It feels like it usually does. “I'm going to go look in the mirror, I'll be right back. Stay.”

 

Madzie nods, still beaming. Honestly, Jace would walk around with purple, glittery hair for the rest of his life if it made her happy. He internally rolls his eyes and ducks into Magnus’ guest bathroom to stare at his reflection.

 

So, he looks a little ridiculous, that's true. His usual haircut is the same, pushed back from his face, buzz cut underneath peeking through. But now, the old blond strands are a dark purple and sparkling with enough glitter that he winces. All in all, it isn't that bad, but he definitely wants it gone.

 

Sighing, Jace walks back out of the bathroom, talking before he even gets in the room. “Madzie, honey, it looks great, but what about blue? Or, maybe you could make it go away?"

 

Madzie pouts slightly, but dutifully waves him over. He crouches down in front of her with a soft smile, closing his eyes while her magic does its work. When he opens them, his blonde strands are back in place, flopping in his eyes. Madzie pats his hair and drops her hands, rocking back on her feet.

 

Jace goes to say something to her, maybe to tease her lightly, but the front door eases open and people start to file in. Jace pops up in surprise as everyone starts to enter the room, sharing looks and watching him closely. They're all shifting a little, inching in carefully; Jace knows they're hiding something immediately, but he never gets the chance to ask.

 

Simon enters last, slowly walking in the room with his lip caught between his teeth and his visible skin covered in runes. His hair is longer than Jace last saw it, more curly on top, and he's wearing all black with no defining pop of color or references - that alone is enough to send Jace reeling. But he also has runes, lightly scarred or just a bit fresh, and they pepper his forearms and neck, dipping beneath the cloth of his shirt. He looks leaner too, like he's been working out vigorously for the last three months.

 

What gets Jace though, out of all of that, is the guarded look in his gaze. Brown eyes lift slowly and lock on him, watching patiently and warily. Jace's breath freezes in his chest, unable to slide past his closed throat, and he can't fucking do anything. Simon just stands there, not fidgeting, not talking, waiting; Jace knows he's doing the same thing.

 

Everyone else melts away.

 

Jace has dreamed of this moment every day for the past three months. He always imagined that he'd say something witty and kiss Simon breathless. But he never expected Simon to have runes all over him. Jace doesn't know what to do with this.

 

Jace wants to open his mouth and get words out, fix that guarded look in Simon's eyes. More than anything, he wants to walk over and touch Simon to make sure he's real. He's scared that this is one of those nightmares he's been having when he does manage to sleep; one where he finds Simon again, but before Jace can get to him, Simon melts into nothingness.

 

"Jace," Alec says softly, breaking him out of his own head, making Jace's whole body flinch. Alec stares at him, slowly nodding. "It's okay, it's real."

 

Jace flicks his gaze back to Simon, taking in a shuddering breath. Simon is standing beside Clary, their hands threaded together; there was a time that the sight of them hanging onto each other for dear life would have made his stomach roll with jealousy from both ends, but that seems almost laughable now. In this moment, Jace wants someone to hold his hand, to ground him and get him through this, to keep him in this moment so it won't ever fade.

 

Simon swallows and opens his mouth like he's going to say something, but the words seem to catch. All that makes it out of his throat is a strangled sound, then he snaps his mouth closed with an audible click. Jace blinks rapidly as Madzie reaches up to squeeze his hand before drifting over to stand beside Magnus, her lips curling into a serene smile.

 

Despite what Alec said, Jace isn't sure - he can't be sure that this isn't some horrific nightmare until he has his hands on Simon. So, he hesitantly takes a step forward, pushing his luck, and Simon does not disappear. In fact, Simon drops Clary's hand and steps forward too, coming closer like he never does in those dreams. Jace throws all caution to the wind, letting hope get the best of him, and he reaches out as they draw close, his fingers trembling as they slide up his arms.

 

Simon does not fade away.

 

“Fuck,” he chokes out, blinking against the sting in his eyes, stumbling back a few steps.

 

Simon's hands catch his wrist, fingers circling and gripping tight, pulling him back in. He hesitates, trepidation in every inch of his frame, like maybe tugging Jace back into his orbit isn't something Jace would want. But that's exactly what Jace wants; he wants Simon to be the world he can't stop rotating around. He sucks in a sharp breath and fumbles forward with a low sound he's only distantly aware of, something tragic and beautiful breaking apart and mending back together in his chest.

 

"Hey," Simon whispers against his cheek, hands sliding up Jace's arms to rest against each side of his neck, lips pressed achingly close to his lips.

 

Jace garbles out a delirious laugh; it's broken and weak. "Hey? Hey?" he gasps out, sliding his fingers over Simon's newly toned arms, digging his nails in hard enough to hurt. "I could- fuck, I could just-"

 

"Kill me?" Simon asks gently, thumbs sweeping over his jaw, lips fluttering against his skin.

 

"Kiss you," Jace corrects in a rasp.

 

So, he does.

 

The amount of relief he feels from the contact is groundbreaking. It's a wonder he doesn't melt on the spot, or sink to the floor, or cry. Everything besides Simon's lips crashing into his fades away, leaving him completely tethered to this one moment.

 

Simon clutches Jace's shoulders and kisses him back reverently. Jace kisses Simon for all he's worth, pouring every single emotion from the last three months into the space where their lips meet. Simon tastes like emotions have come alive to dance on his tongue, joy and intense liberation transferring from one mouth to the other.

 

Simon's hands drop from his face to wrap around his back, yanking them chest to chest just as he pulls away with a deep inhale of air. They've kissed until their lungs demanded they stop. Jace buries his face into Simon's neck and holds on for dear life; he doesn't know if he'll ever let go.

 

But then, Simon chokes out, “Please don't be in love with someone else.”

 

Jace's head snaps up so fast that he's pretty sure he'll get a crick in his neck for it. “What did you just say to me?” he asks softly.

 

"Just- please," Simon murmurs, blinking breathtakingly sad eyes at him.

 

"Shut up, Simon, just… shut up."

 

Jace doesn't give him much of a choice, just fists his hands in Simon's stupidly blank shirt and yanks him close again. They don't kiss, just bury their faces into each other's shoulders and breathe each other in. Jace doesn't realize he's crying until Simon's hands sweep up his back in a clear effort to stop his body from shaking so violently.

 

Nothing else matters. Not the runes on Simon's body, not the sturdiness of his stance, not even the journey that's got him here. Not now, not in this moment. Jace wants to exist here forever.

 

He's vaguely aware of Clary crying in the background, her head tipped over on Izzy's shoulder, their arms around each other. Through the veil of tears in his eyes, he can see the way Alec grips Magnus' hand, tight and like a lifeline, a direct contrast to how Madzie holds the other, her little hand lightly clasped in ringed fingers and tenderly cradled like what is held in his hands are the most important things in this world. The heaviness of the moment, of the unbridled emotion crowding them all in the room… it makes Jace feel as if he's being slowly peeled away, one layer at a time, yet also as if he's being stitched back together again.

 

Simon slowly pulls back, reaching up to cradle his face, his eyes staring into Jace's like he never wants to look away. He takes a deep breath and says something that absolutely destroys Jace.





 



“I love you."

 

Simon does. He's never loved someone like he's loved Jace, never will. This is unimaginable and like falling into the warmest abyss with no bottom, but enjoying each and every second of the drop. The words rip their way out of him, echoing straight from his soul, and Jace looks absolutely wrecked by them. His lips tremble and he nods distractedly.

 

"I love you too.”

 

Simon gently traces his thumbs over the dark circles under Jace's eyes. "I wish I could explain just how much I love you, but there aren't enough words. You have absolutely no idea."

 

"If it compares to the love I have for you, then I understand completely," Jace whispers, blinking like he's a little dazed.

 

"Soft. So freaking soft." Simon closes his eyes and leans forward to rest his forehead against Jace's, basking in the moment. "There's so much we have to talk about, so much to say, but I'm not ready to- I can't do it right now."

 

"So, don't," Jace says.

 

Simon huffs a small laugh, quiet and splintered around a groan of exhaustion. "Okay," he agrees.

 

They cradle each other's cheeks and rest their foreheads together, and Simon doesn't think there is anything in the world worth stopping this. They stay like that for a very long time, long enough that their tears have wrought smiles, long enough that the mourning has turned to reunion, long enough for Simon to feel more like himself than he has in the past three months.

 

"I love you," Simon says once again, so pleased that he gets to say them to Jace yet again.

 

Jace hums contentedly. "I know."

 

That makes Simon jerk back. “You watched Star Wars without me?”

 

“Um.” Jace blinks, looking distinctly guilty.

 

“You totally did!” Simon drops one hand down to pinch Jace's arm, hard. “I can't believe I was gone for three months and you watched Star Wars without me. How could you? This is worse than if you cheated on me. It's not, I take that back immediately, please tell me you didn't sleep with someone else.”

 

Jace's lips are curling up. “No, I didn't sleep with anyone else. I just went to lay in your bed, watch all your movies, and cry myself to sleep.”

 

“Oh,” Simon says weakly. “Is that all? Well, I'm not too mad then.”

 

“That's not all,” Jace tells him. “I befriended a homeless man named Duke, threw Clary down a flight of stairs, and punched a hole through the wall in my room.”

 

Simon's eyebrows sail up. “You- wait, you punched a hole through the wall? The institute has reinforced walls. Wait! You pushed Clary down a flight of stairs?”

 

“She was getting on my nerves.”

 

“Oh my god.”

 

Jace just looks far too many levels of soft, his enrapturing eyes never straying from Simon's face, like he's drinking him in. “I love you so much.”

 

“We are going to- I can't say what we are going to do because a child is present, but just know, we are going to so hard.” Simon hears a snort from somewhere to his right, which reminds him exactly what else needs to happen before he can lick every inch of Jace's body. “But first, I should explain what happened to me after I was… ya know.”

 

“That'd be nice,” Alec pipes up dryly, swinging Madzie up into his arms. “Wait for me to put her to bed, then you can start.”

 

Simon nods, watching Alec head towards the hall, already lightly arguing about which story he'll read before she goes to sleep. Magnus’ fond expression makes Simon ache deep in his gut.

 

“I missed you guys,” he whispers, “so much.”

 

“We missed you too,” Clary tells him softly, leaning into Izzy's side. “I'm going to be talking your ear off for days. There is so much I have to tell you. I've been writing letters to you every day, just in case.”

 

That almost sets him off again, but he manages to avoid crying by blinking rapidly and clearing his throat. “I can't wait to hear it. But first, I need to know- my family? My mom, is she-”

 

“I handled it,” Jace says, making Simon swing his gaze to him. Jace is still staring at him as if he's scared he might disappear. “Your phone, you left it with me to go to the meeting. I texted your mom, pretending to be you, telling her that you got a chance at going on tour. I text her at least every week, just to check in.”

 

Simon nearly comes apart at the seams. He can feel the tears pool into his eyes. “You do?”

 

“Yeah,” Jace confirms, face softening, “I do.”

 

And that pretty much earns Jace another kiss, or a thousand. The fact that he just… did that means so much to Simon, so much more than words can say. Simon is mentally picking out a theme for their wedding and Jace has no idea, caught up in the kiss, humming into it with approval.

 

“Okay, you two can kiss for days once Simon tells us why he's a Shadowhunter,” Alec declares as he walks back into the room.

 

“Right,” Simon says gruffly, then clears the arousal out of his throat. Not now. “We might as well sit down because this is gonna be a long story.”

 

They all oblige him, moving over to the couches in the room. Jace doesn't remove himself from his side, practically in Simon's lap, but Simon isn't going to complain. Everyone else arranges themselves how they're comfortable; Simon knows Clary and Alec are gay just by how they perch chaotically on the couch. Izzy and Magnus sit in the middle, his head leaned over on her shoulder, her head resting atop his. Simon feels Jace reach out and grab his hand, linking them together.

 

In that moment, Simon wonders why he was ever afraid to come home. These are his people, his family, his life. Maybe he's not completely the same Simon he was three months ago, but three months before that, he wasn't the same either. Changes are okay to go through with the people who won't leave his side. So it doesn't matter how much of himself he is without them, because with them, he's exactly who he's supposed to be.

 

Simon quirks a small smile and starts talking.

Chapter Text

“So, basically… they gave you three options. One, lose all your memories; two, become either a wolf or a vampire; three, become a Shadowhunter. And you didn't want any of those, but you especially refused the first two. So… they took you away for three months, trained you to become a Shadowhunter, then you Ascended, and now you're back?”

 

Jace watches Simon nod at Alec's quick summary.

 

Izzy releases a low whistle. “That is intense. I can't imagine learning everything in three months. I wonder why they didn't tell us?”

 

“In case I died,” Simon says, lips twisting bitterly.

 

Jace's heart twinges in his chest at those words. The thought of Simon dying, of never coming back… it's one of the worst things to ever exist. Jace wants to banish it, never let it have life. The mere idea of it needs to go up in smoke as far as Jace is concerned.

 

“That's terrible,” Clary murmurs, looking a little like she might be sick. Jace can relate.

 

Alec frowns. “The Clave took this too far. I understand our numbers dwindle over time, but there shouldn't be unwilling participants.”

 

“Technically, I consented to ascending.” Simon heaves a sigh, leaning his head over on Jace's shoulder, lips tipped down. “That has to be willing. I knew it was my only ticket home, so I… did it.”

 

“What did it feel like?” Izzy asks curiously.

 

“It was… terrible. There was this booming in my head, voices getting louder and louder, screeching. I felt like I was burning alive, but on the inside. And- and I thought I was going to die, but before the voices could split my head apart, I heard this one low hum. It- it was beautiful. It had to have been an Angel. And then… it was over.”

 

“Just like that?”

 

Simon looks over to Clary. “Just like that. It was simultaneously the worst and best thing I've ever experienced in my entire life.”

 

“And that guy,” Alec says, like he's just remembering something, “what was his name? Sebas- no, Sabien. What did he mean about papers?”

 

“Oh, Sabien. Yeah, he was my trainer. The papers are actually for you. It's official release for me to be under your jurisdiction.” Simon lifts a hand and twirls a finger in the air. “I'm your soldier now, whoopty-doo. Use me as you please.”

 

Alec blinks. “You're cleared for mission?”

 

Simon sighs quietly. “It was a really grueling three months. It would've taken longer, but I- I knew the sooner I graduated, the sooner I could come back.”

 

“Simon, that's amazing. It takes many Shadowhunters years of lessons and training before they're prepared for mission,” Izzy tells him softly.

 

“Honestly, I kind of already knew a lot of stuff? I mean, just from being a vampire. Raphael taught me a lot before we had our spat. And I picked up a lot of things from you guys. But more than anything, I think I annoyed them enough for them to want to get rid of me one way or another.”

 

Magnus hums in amusement. “Sounds like you. I'm glad you gave them hell.”

 

Simon swallows audibly. “I- I did, there for awhile. But then, what they were saying started to get to me. I feel like- I know this sounds weird, but I don't feel like myself.”

 

“How so?” Jace asks softly, staring down at their entwined fingers, heart aching for him.

 

“I'm- I'm better, mostly. Quicker, stronger. But they were so rigid, so… emotionless; it was really easy to get cynical with the principals Shadowhunters have.” Simon sighs again. “It was always focus, forget your friends, fight for your life, for the world. I felt like I was forgetting everything.”

 

“I get that,” Clary assures him. “When I was first figuring things out, I thought I couldn't possibly be a Shadowhunter. Everything seemed… diluted, like being under water, like I was supposed to be a machine. But Simon, it doesn't have do be like that. Look at us, we're not like that.”

 

Simon lifts his head, swallowing thickly. “On the fifty-second day, I forgot the color of Alec's eyes. I cried myself to sleep because, for the life of me, I couldn't remember. Three days after that, I forgot the sound of Izzy's heels clicking when she walks. The next week, I couldn't remember what Magnus looked like when he waved his hands around. I panicked, tried to remember the sound of your voice, but I couldn't. I- I literally forgot things, too full and focused on other stuff. The only thing I managed to hold onto was Jace's smile, but that faded more and more everyday.”

 

Jace has to work very hard not to squeeze Simon's hand hard enough to hurt. He turns his head to the side, hiding his sorrow, clenching his jaw. No one says anything for a moment; even Alec looks stricken. Jace suddenly wants exactly what the seelie queen said he did - to rip the Clave apart.

 

“But you came back,” Magnus says gently, his voice a soft timbre of understanding. “What happened to you was unfair and horrific, but you are home. We are all here, together, and we aren't ever going to let anything like this happen again.”

 

Simon snorts, suddenly brightening. “Oh, they want nothing to do with me. The Clave made it very clear that I'm free to exist with you guys and do my own thing. They did this because they were tying up loose ends. Righting the wrongs, so to speak.”

 

“They shouldn't get away with this,” Jace snaps, turning his head to look right at Alec. “The seelie queen made me an offer. We help her, she helps us. We could stop them - the Clave - and do right where they keep failing to.”

 

“You went to the seelie queen?” Simon demands sharply, eyes narrowing.

 

“Not the point, Simon.”

 

“Why were you there? What did she-”

 

“Simon,” Jace barks, giving him a look, making Simon's mouth snap closed, “nothing happened. I promised not to do anything stupid. I went because it was mission and we needed to know about a possible rift opening. That's all.”

 

Simon frowns. “But she offered to help us take down the Clave. That's treason.”

 

Jace is a little blown away that Simon knows that, mentally smacks himself in the face. “I know. I told her that we wouldn't do it, said we were fixing things the right way, with the alliance and everything.”

 

“What alliance?” Simon blurts.

 

Alec sits up, like he's been called on. “I started an alliance between the downworlders and the Shadowhunters. So, we usually pair off and hunt demons together. Downworlder and Shadowhunter, a team instead of fighting each other.”

 

“Woah! Alec, that's so cool. Do the downworlders actually do it?”

 

“Most of them, even if unwillingly. Raphael agreed, Luke agreed, and the seelie queen agreed. Magnus too, obviously. Those under their ruling don't have a choice, but people are complaining less and less every day. It's just the stragglers, the ones that flat out refuse or aren't under them, that have the issues. We're still, uh, working the kinks out.”

 

“A work in progress.” Simon bobs his head, smiling brightly. “I can dig it.”

 

“The point is, maybe the seelie queen was onto something,” Jace says, getting them back on topic with a roll of his eyes. “If they were fine doing that to Simon, abusing their power like that… shouldn't we at least consider her offer?”

 

“Jace, none of us like what the Clave did anymore than you do,” Clary tells him, looking a bit uncomfortable. “And trust me, it goes against grain for me to say this… but taking down the Clave sounds like a horrible idea.”

 

“It sounds like war,” Magnus puts in, eyes a little distant, frown tugging at his lips.

 

Izzy tuts quietly. “It is war.”

 

“Where I could, you know, die… so,” Simon says, eyes going a little wide. “How about we don't and say we did?”

 

Jace grinds his teeth. “And what, we're supposed to just let the Clave go on like they didn't do this?”

 

“Well, it's not like you can file a report against the Clave to the Clave.” Simon's eyebrows tug close together. “That's actually a really bad system. Where is the checks and balances? What ranks higher than the Clave?”

 

Izzy huffs a bitter laugh. “An Angel, but good luck getting one of them to answer your prayers.”

 

Clary's whole body snaps up, her eyes brightening in delight. “Wait, what about Ithuriel? I saw him, at Lake Lyn, after I drank the water. He warned me about Jonathan in his own way.”

 

“That's a really bad idea,” Jace says immediately.

 

Izzy turns to look at Clary, her hand snapping out to grab Clary's wrist like she can hold her in place. "Absolutely not." 

 

"Izzy-" 

 

"No. No. You still have nightmares about it." 

 

Clary's face softens. She twists her hand up and threads their fingers together. "I know you care about me, Izzy, but-" 

 

"I don't just care about you, Clary, I love you," Izzy informs her softly, yet with a fierce sincerity in her tone. "And it is with love that I tell you that this idea is very stupid." 

 

Simon's voice wafts over Jace's ear, nearly silent and full of amusement. "So, they fell into it headfirst, huh?" 

 

"Yeah," Jace admits gently, whispering too. 

 

Clary leans forward and reaches out to card her fingers through Izzy's hair, her eyes tracking the movement. Then, like she can't help herself, she leans forward in a contorted position just to press a kiss to Izzy's lips. Jace has seen this plenty; they got together officially about a week after Simon was taken - they haven't been able to keep their hands off each other ever since. Like always, Jace rolls his eyes and averts his gaze, not caring to watch his sister make out with another girl who is kind of like a sister. Simon, however, sits up and watches in delight, like he's just now seeing the fourth wonder of the world. 

 

There he goes again, Jace thinks fondly, obsessed with love. 

 

When Clary pulls back, her eyes fluttering open, she murmurs, “I came out of it alive once, I can do it again. I think we should at least try to do something. Joining the seelie queen is a bad idea, but an Angel isn't.”

 

“Fray, isn't that water the kind that makes you go a little coo-coo for coco puffs?” Simon asks warily.

 

“You really studied, didn't you?” Jace murmurs, marveling at Simon like he's the smartest man alive, like countless Shadowhunters didn't go through the same training.

 

Simon beams at him. “You know what coco puffs are?”

 

“Maybe Clary has a point,” Alec says slowly, carefully, like he's baffled that he's agreeing with her. “If the Clave is out of control, we can't just let them go unchecked.”

 

Magnus sighs softly, looking at Alec with a fond expression. “Darling, the Clave has been out of control for many years. This is simply your first exposure to the lengths they're willing to go.”

 

“Wait, these aren't our only options,” Simon says reasonably, waving a hand. “You were right about doing it the right way, Jace. If we can make change over time, the Clave will barely notice it. By the time things are turned all the way around, the Clave won't have a choice but to go with the wave. Heh, that rhymed.”

 

“You're a dork and I love you,” Jace says, because he's been wanting to say that for the past three months and Simon's finally beside him to hear it.

 

“I never thought I'd say this, but I'm so glad you two get to be sickening again,” Alec mutters.

 

Simon just leans over to press a kiss to the corner of Jace's mouth, still smiling. Jace's eyes drift closed in sheer contentment as Simon replies, “And you're a big softie, who I love very much.”

 

“Look, why don't we talk about this more tomorrow?” Clary suggests. “I, for one, am emotionally drained and could use some sleep. Is it cool if we stay over, Magnus?”

 

The way she licks her lips and can't tear her eyes from Izzy suggests that it's more than just being tired, but Jace swallows his comment. 

 

Magnus sweeps out a hand. “What's mine is Alec's, what's his is Jace's and Izzy's, what's theirs is yours and Simon's. Feel free.”

 

“I'm too tired to work out if we just got ranked at the bottom of the totem pole,” Clary says to Simon, her lips twitching. “Come on, Izzy. Sorry, Jace, Simon, ladies get the guest room.”

 

Jace just shrugs and pulls the duvet off the back of the couch. “It's fine, we'll sleep here.”

 

Everyone says goodnight then. Clary leans down to kiss Simon's cheek, looking at him softly before following Izzy to the guest room. Alec nods at Jace, a certain look in his eyes that tells Jace, I'm happy for you, before he leads Magnus to their room. Jace curls up on the comfortable couch, pulling Simon more firmly into his side, eyes already sagging.

 

“Hey,” Simon whispers.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Jace frowns into the dark. “What do you mean?”

 

“It's just that… you're skinnier. I can- Jace, I can feel your ribs really easily. And you look like you haven't slept in days. Talk to me.”

 

“What a way to tell me I look like shit. Thanks so much, Simon, you really know how to boost a guy's self-esteem.”

 

Simon sighs heavily. “Look, I- I just know that I've missed you with every fibre of my being for these past three months, and if it had been possible in the midst of my training, I would have wasted away under it. So, just- just talk to me. Please.”

 

“What do you want me to say? Do you want to hear that I was okay?” Jace breathes out harshly, pressing his hands into Simon's lower back. “I wasn't. Simon, I was a mess. If it wasn't for- for them, I don't know if I would be in the shape I am now. I just… I didn't know how I was supposed to let it go.”

 

Simon's lips brush his cheek. “I'm sorry.”

 

“Don't apologize, you did nothing wrong.”

 

“Sometimes, I ask myself how we got here. Then I remember that the soul sword is at fault, and Jace, I feel horrible for saying it… but I'm so happy you activated it. That's selfish, I know that, but I haven't ever loved anyone like this, never been loved like this, and I never will.”

 

“I feel like this is all a dream sometimes. It scares me. I keep thinking I'm just going to wake up one day and you'll be- it will all be gone.”

 

“If this is a dream, when you wake up, you go find me and you kiss me. I don't care, just… kiss me. I'm going to love you all the time, no matter the world, no matter the dream.”

 

Jace closes his eyes, focuses on breathing. “I was messed up, really messed up. When I pushed Clary down the stairs, it was- I didn't mean to. She was talking about you, trying to get me to- to talk to her, and I just… snapped. I didn't even think, just shoved her away from me, and she fell. I knew something was wrong, really wrong, so I made a deal with all of them. As long as they asked me to take care of myself, even at the bare minimum, I would. And they did, all of them. There wasn't a day that went by that they didn't make me promise.”

 

“There was a guest instructor who came to help me with my hand to hand combat. He kept trying to motivate me by taunting me that I was never going to graduate, never get to go home. I just kept getting more angry, so angry; I thought I was going to burst. And- and I did. I punched him in the face over and over, even when I wasn't allowed, and they had to pull me off of him. I closed his nasal airway and he got sick from the pain, so he nearly died choking on his own vomit. I couldn't even cry about it.”

 

“I was never hungry, so I barely ate. Everyone would always shove food at me, they knew I was getting thinner, but I just- I couldn't even taste the food, and if I ate too much, I got sick. I started forcing myself recently, got better about it, but I'm still struggling to feel hungry.”

 

Simon sighs. “I cursed out your grandmother. Sorry about that. She checked on me sometimes, wouldn't tell me a thing about you or anyone, just stopped in to see my progress. I asked her to take you a note, begged her actually, but she refused. The next thing I knew, Sabien was pulling me away while I screamed at her. She didn't even flinch.”

 

Jace knows what they're doing, knows that they're unburdening themselves and sharing the weight of these last three months, knows this isn't a competition. It feels like slowly gaining the ability to fly, like wings sprouting from their backs, the relief of admitting their darkest moments giving them a chance to soar. It's peaceful.

 

“I really did go to your bed and cry myself to sleep. I watched all your movies, thinking that it'd make me feel closer to you, but when I finished them… I just felt so hollow. I never went back. Started going to the subway on some nights, sleeping on the train, talking to Duke. I couldn't shake you, but then again, I wasn't really trying.”

 

“I was so scared that you'd find someone else. The thought haunted me. I seriously thought every night, before bed, that you might be sliding into bed with someone else. I didn't sleep much.”

 

“Simon,” Jace whispers, “there isn't going to be anyone else. Maybe in another life, but this one? I can't even- it isn't possible. You're it for me; I'm officially screwed.”

 

“How romantic,” Simon says, sniffling quietly, laughing thickly. “We're gonna be okay, we just- we have to keep going. Just a snag in the road, that's all. We keep having those, but we always force a path where we can walk together.”

 

“Yeah, we do,” Jace agrees quietly. They're quiet for a long time, then he speaks up again. “Want to know something potentially life-ruining?”

 

“Who doesn't?” Simon quips in that nervous way of his, hands fluttering over Jace's chest.

 

“I missed you calling me shnookums,” Jace mumbles, feeling his face heat up in the dark.

 

Simon's head lifts off his shoulders. “You didn't.”

 

“I did.”

 

“Oh my god, that's so sweet.”

 

Jace coughs and reaches up tug Simon's head back on his shoulder. “Tell anyone and I'll make the rest of your life miserable.”

 

“Sure thing, shnookums.” Simon hums in a pleased way, one hand lifting so he can start drawing shapes on Jace's shirt, making his chest tickle.

 

“I am so stupidly, pathetically in love with you.”

 

“Wow. So, we're- ya know. Reluctantly in love. Sounds like us, seems on brand.”

 

“Yeah, it really does,” Jace agrees with a snort.

 

Simon scoots up so he can press his lips to Jace's cheek, lingering for one moment. “You should get some sleep.”

 

“So should you.”

 

“I am.”

 

“Good,” Jace says with a soft sigh, closing his eyes and drifting leisurely towards unconsciousness.

 

Just before he falls into deep sleep with the absence of nightmares, Jace realizes that no one made him promise to be okay. That's fair.

 

They don't need to anymore.





 



“And it's just- just routine? No demons, right?”

 

“Simon, focus.”

 

“I am focusing. Seriously, Izzy, will there be- ow!”

 

Simon rubs his arm where the staff had smacked against bare skin. Izzy arches an eyebrow and broadens her stance, flipping her staff through the air expertly. Simon holds his awkwardly, throwing glances at the people watching on the sidelines. He feels like he's auditioning.

 

“Don't look at them.” Izzy nods her head, watching him. “Look at me. I'm the only one you need to be worried about.”

 

“But Jace is watching.”

 

“So, show him what you got.”

 

Simon chews his lip. “This feels weird. I'm not sure how to fight you and be serious.”

 

“This is sparring, Simon,” Izzy corrects, rolling her eyes. “And it will feel serious when you get knocked on your ass. I won't warn you again.”

 

“Man, you sure are tough. Did you train Max like this? At what point do- ouch, shit! Oomph!”

 

Izzy slowly approaches him, one eyebrow raised. Her braids brush her shoulders as she moves forward. Simon stares at her from the floor, blinking in surprise. She really just knocked him on his ass, to prove a point. Clary's probably gazing with hearts in her eyes from the sidelines.

 

“I did warn you.”

 

“Fine,” Simon says with a huff, sitting up. “If you want me to embarrass myself, I will. But just be aware, I know how to cry on command.”

 

Izzy's lips twitch. “I can't wait to go on mission with you. I'll be laughing the whole time.”

 

“At me, yeah.”

 

“No, Simon, at your jokes.”

 

“Wait, seriously?” Simon scrambles up from the floor with a smile. “So, I can joke while I'm stabbing demons? Because that actually makes me feel a lot better. Humor is my defense mechanism.”

 

Izzy gets back into position, her lips still curled up in amusement. “You can do whatever you want as long as you're killing the demons. Alec likes to brood, Jace likes to taunt them, Clary is like a warrior goddess, and I mostly pretend I'm doing an intricate dance. Fight to your natural style, make it your own. It's not about being the best, it's about being your best.”

 

Simon blinks. “That's- that's really insightful. Sabien never said anything like that.”

 

“Then Sabien is an idiot. Now, are you ready?”

 

“Not even a little, but come kick my ass anyway.”

 

Izzy attacks with a laugh.

 

The thing is, Simon actually isn't so bad at this part. A part of him still remembers being a vampire in a fight, how he'd rush through like a whirlwind, killing without any control. That had scared him. And learning to fight as a Shadowhunter had been as equally terrifying. The way Sabien taught it, he had to fight clean and sharp, each movement precise and methodical. In that sense, Simon had caught on quickly enough by thinking of combos from video games while he fought.

 

But Izzy had said a few words and taught him more than Sabien did in three months.

 

Simon doesn't force himself to be rigid and efficient. He lets his limbs loosen, gets a little messy, finds the optimism in his movements. He feels more at home in his body than he has in months.

 

Izzy does attack like she's dancing, body curving and twirling, her movements fluid. Simon forgets the people watching, lets his focus latch onto her. He grins at her and makes a joke, stumbling awkwardly out of her range of motion, immediately dropping to his knees to slide low and strike out, sending her staff skittering to the floor.

 

“Good,” Izzy praises.

 

Simon grins at her. “Really?”

 

“Yes, but we're not done.”

 

“We're not? But I- oof!”

 

Izzy tackles him to the ground, wrenching his own staff away and pointing it down at him, resting on one knee beside him. Simon winks and kicks his leg out, sending her toppling to the side while he hops to his feet. Energy thrums through him as Izzy narrows her eyes and gets to her feet.

 

“Your training was well done,” she comments, dropping the staff and kicking it away. “But we will see how you handle me without a weapon.”

 

Simon clicks his teeth and points at her. “Come at me, sis. Lemme see what ya got.”

 

Izzy has no business being as fast as she is. She's like a flurry of movement, pushing herself forward with furious intent. Simon's actually a bit terrified, even though he knows she won't actually kill him, even if she can. But that's him, a terrified, nervous mess. So, he embraces that too.

 

It isn't pretty, but it gets the job done. Flailing and spazzing out has always been a thing he couldn't get rid of in his life, so he uses it now. When Izzy advances, he ducks out of the way, waving his hands wildly and distracting her for the barest of moments. If he's all over the place, she really has no idea when or where he'll attack.

 

Well, he doesn't either, but that's besides the point.

 

Simon finds his opening and snakes an arm around her waist, snatching her back against him and immediately pushing her away. She nearly topples over but corrects herself, just in time for him fling himself to the floor and grasp her ankles, yanking her feet right out from under her.

 

Izzy grunts as she lands, but immediately twists away, sliding unfairly majestically across the space between them to fling one leg over his waist. Simon reaches up and pokes her right in the forehead, which makes her eyes cross in confusion for one split second, which is all he needs. With one buck of his waist, he rolls them over, slamming her wrists to the ground.

 

Izzy is really in the zone because she shoves her knee up into Simon's side, making the air leave his lungs, and Simon doesn't have time to stop the move before it happens. She rolls her wrists, gets free, latches onto one of his arms, and squirms until she's able to wrap both legs around his head and tug at his arm until it twinges uncomfortably.

 

“Can you get out, or do you give up?” Izzy asks through clenched teeth, increasing pressure on his arm in increments.

 

Simon coughs. “So, this must be what it feels like to be Clary, huh?”

 

Izzy yanks on his arm roughly, making him wince, squeezing her thighs around his head. “Are you able to escape, Simon? Or, do you give?”

 

“Jeez, okay, I can get out,” Simon tells her, grimacing as her pull becomes tighter.

 

“Prove it.”

 

“You asked for it.”

 

Simon raises his free hand and digs it into her side. Izzy immediately bursts into laughter, squirming out of the way of his fingers, her grip slacking in the process. Simon chases her side, tickling relentlessly, and Izzy eventually shifts far enough up that he can yank out of her grasp.

 

Izzy points at him, still laughing. “That doesn't count, demons aren't ticklish.”

 

“But do you actually know that for sure though?” Simon challenges, arching an eyebrow.

 

“Well… no, but-”

 

“So, technically, that could have worked.”

 

“Possibly,” Izzy allows, lips twitching. “Also, we aren't done until one of us gives.”

 

“Are you going to wrap your legs around my head again? Because I'm kinda in love with your brother.” Simon smiles large and wide, teasing. “And I think Clary might get jealous.”

 

Izzy rolls her eyes. “Just come on.”

 

Then, they're at it again. In the end, Izzy totally kicks his ass, but Simon really puts up a fight. All in all, it's the most fun he's had sparring in, well, ever.

 

Izzy's a good sport, so she helps him to his feet with a smile. They're both sweaty and panting, coursing with energy and beaming at each other. Simon is pondering asking her to give him extra training when he recalls that there are people watching.

 

Simon glances over to the sidelines to see the reactions of his fellow Shadowhunters. Alec looks mildly impressed in the way that he's not scowling and his eyebrows are raised. Clary is grinning, fanning herself playfully and jerking her chin very pointedly at Izzy. Jace, though… he's just looking at Simon with his lips pursed, eyes intense, arms crossed. There is just a shadow of a quirk in his eyebrow and Simon realizes what that look is.

 

Jace thought that was hot, his mind screeches at him, which does not help his heart to calm down at all.

 

Alec and Jace push away from the wall they're leaning against in perfect sync, like they planned it. Clary is one step behind them as they approach, her eyes running up and down Izzy's body in a way that is not subtle at all. It takes Simon a second to realize that Jace is doing the same to him.

 

“Good enough,” Alec says simply. “You'll manage with us having your back.”

 

“I don't know if that's supposed to make me feel better or not,” Simon tells him honestly.

 

Jace huffs a laugh, lips twitching. “You'll be fine. For now though, you're all sweaty. Maybe you should-”

 

“Stop that,” Alec scolds, smacking Jace's hand away as he attempts to tug at the bottom of Simon's shirt.

 

“No, no, I'm with him,” Clary says playfully, smiling with all her teeth as she reaches out to run her fingers over the small strip of skin that Izzy's too short top reveals. Alec leans over and smacks her hand away too.

 

“Focus, we have a rift to get to,” Alec says sharply, all business. “As far as we know, there is no demonic activity yet, but it could happen at any time. Magnus will meet us on the harbor in an hour.”

 

“Well, I know what I'm doing,” Jace chirps, reaching out to snag Simon's arm and quite literally drag him out of the room.

 

Simon flings up a hand. “Bye!”





 



The only good thing about the rift in their dimension is that it's out of the way. It's placed on the other side of large containers overlooking the water, locked behind a fence that keeps the mundies from going in… usually. But for them, they just break in the gate and head in.

 

“Well, this is convenient,” Simon comments, a little skip in his step, back in his old hoody and a pair of jeans that do nothing for his frame.

 

Jace won't say it, but Simon's never looked better. The runes are a little to get used to, but Jace now knows Simon's infatuation with tracing them with his tongue. Jace has a new appreciation for them now that they've melted in his mouth.

 

So yes, the sex was good. Really good. Having only done it once, before being ripped apart for three months… well, it has a different impact after that.

 

But that's not it either. They look and touch each other more carefully now, like they're still marveling at the fact that they get to. Jace knows it will take some time to heal from what they went through. He can tell they're trying, even if it isn't easy. Before Simon had to spar with Izzy earlier, Jace had sat down and ate a full meal with everyone. It had been hard and most of the food was still bland, but at least he could taste that.

 

Jace still has nightmares. Simon clings to him so hard in his sleep that Jace wakes with bruises. They're a little messed up, but Jace can't recall a time when he hasn't been. This, at least, is the happiest he's been while being a mess. They're getting back to themselves, slowly but surely. It's like they all know to treat each other like they haven't been put through the ringer. They acknowledge what they've dealt with, but they won't let it define them.

 

Jace kept some of Simon's clothes in his room - he sometimes slept with Simon's shirts, but stopped after Clary found him like that one day and cried. So, Jace had helped Simon get back into his clothes, which had a visible effect on him.

 

Simon is slowly looking more at ease with himself, with being back. His smiles come easier, his jokes flow a bit more often, his stuttering and nervousness doesn't get stomped out at every turn. He's different, but he's also the same, and Jace is so fucking happy that he's back home.

 

No one looks at Jace like he might splinter apart at the drop of a hat, which makes him feel more comfortable than anything. They all tease him again, which feels like shrugging on a jacket he's worn for years. Alec, too, is better off for it; he no longer carries the weight of Jace's constant ache.

 

Things aren't perfect, they probably never will be, but they are getting better. Jace is good with that.

 

“It is convenient, but don't let that fool you,” Clary mutters, flipping a dagger into her palm. “Just when you think you're in the clear, it all goes to shit.”

 

Simon blinks. “That's… not comforting.”

 

Jace chuckles and claps him on the shoulder as he walks by. “You'll be fine.”

 

“Well, I can close it,” Magnus announces, cocking his head and frowning at the very tiny crack in the cement. “Is this all? Seriously? This is not even worth my time. Madzie could close this.”

 

“Magnus,” Alec says lightly, lips twitching.

 

Magnus rolls his eyes. “What, darling? I'm just- fine. I'll close the tiny crack. But just so you're aware, Mr. Lightwood, I expect payment for wasting my time.”

 

“Oh? And what would you like, Mr. Bane?”

 

“Hmm, what about a trip to Cuba?”

 

Alec grins. “I suppose I can find the time.”

 

“Oh, that's not all.” Magnus snaps his fingers and curls his upper body as he begins waving his arms around. “I want you in as little clothing as socially acceptable. We'll be going to the beach.”

 

“You two make me gag,” Jace says flatly, watching Alec jolt as if he's forgotten there are other people in the world besides him and Magnus.

 

“Shut up.” Alec frowns. “I can't believe I'm saying this, but do you and Simon want to come?”

 

Magnus makes an affronted noise, even as he focuses on the shrinking crack. “That was not a part of my plan, Alexander.”

 

“Hey, what about us?” Izzy asks in offense, waving a hand at Clary. “I want to go to Cuba.”

 

“If Izzy is going to be in a bathing suit, I'm definitely going to Cuba,” Clary announces.

 

Simon waves his hands at Clary. “You've, uh, really embraced your gay, haven't you?”

 

“Nevermind, I take it back,” Magnus grumbles, huffing as the ground reforms and closes up. He straightens up with narrowed eyes. “I don't want to go to Cuba anymore.”

 

Jace snorts. “While I appreciate the offer, I think we should figure out what we want to do about the Clave before we go frolicking off into the sunset.”

 

“I don't frolick,” Alec tells him firmly.

 

“I already told you what we should do,” Clary mutters, rolling her eyes.

 

Jace goes to reply that her idea is very stupid, as most of them are, but there is suddenly a breeze as Raphael flits to a stop in front of them. They all whirl to stare at him in light surprise; he's wearing a nice suit, as he usually does, but it looks like he's actually went for more color and styled his hair more carefully. He's looking right at Simon.

 

“How do you continue to be alive?” Raphael asks with a frown. “And now you're a Shadowhunter; it's as if you live to mock me.”

 

Simon breaks into a grin. “I missed you too, buddy. Look at you, looking good!”

 

Jace clears his throat, arching an eyebrow.

 

“Not in a million years, don't worry,” Raphael says flatly, on the brink of rolling his eyes.

 

“What are you doing here?” Jace asks, crossing his arms, lips tipping down.

 

Raphael open his mouth to answer, but there is a quiet thud on top of one of the containers, making everyone look up. Meliorn is wearing his seelie armor as he dashes off the container, flips in the air, and lands on his feet elegantly. Show off, Jace thinks.

 

“I called him,” Meliorn says.

 

Simon's eyebrows jump. “You have his number?”

 

Raphael barrels over that. “We have a problem.”

 

“No, we just fixed a problem,” Alec says, pointing at the now sealed rift. “What we have now is the chance to go home and not be bothered.”

 

“I wish that was the case,” Meliorn says, leaning on his spear and frowning. “My queen informed me of your location and had me get here. It seems that those who are rebelling against the alliance were the ones to try and open this rift. They know you're here to close it; they plan to attack.”

 

“Wait, what?” Simon blurts. “Who?”

 

Meliorn waves a hand. “Circle members. Vampires outside of Raphael's clan. Wolves outside of Lucian's pack. Warlocks rebelling against Magnus. No seelies, of course. We obey our queen.”

 

“To a fault,” Raphael mutters, lip curling in disgust.

 

“So, let me get this straight,” Simon interrupts, flapping a hand wildly, “they made an alliance to stop the alliance. Isn't that… ironic as hell?”

 

“Ironic or not, they're almost here,” Meliorn informs them seriously.

 

Simon's eyes go wide. “Oh god, I'm not ready for this. I'm going to die. Again. I'm not-”

 

“Simon,” Izzy snaps, making his mouth shut with an audible click, “you will be fine. Now is not the time to freak out. Put up and shut up.”

 

Jace shoulders his way stand beside Clary, automatically finding his spot beside her. If he's not fighting with Alec, he's fighting with her. It's just instinct at this point; they make great partners. At his movement, they all begin to pair off naturally, getting in position for what's to come.

 

Raphael looks vaguely annoyed that Meliorn places himself at his side, but he doesn't comment on it. Magnus and Alec shift closer together as if they're molding into one breathing unit, just an extension of each other. Simon flounders for a moment, looking as if he feels out of place, but Izzy just steps beside him and snaps her whip out in one sharp crack.

 

They wait, but not for very long. The vampires make it first, faster than the rest. There are only five, but they hiss menacingly at Raphael, who hisses back.

 

Jace gets lost in it, just as he always does. He likes this, the fighting; it's always been a part of him, easy as breathing, as fun as training. Vaguely, he can hear Simon mocking one of the vampires about sparkling skin - whatever that means - but he forces himself not to worry about him.

 

They fight good as a group, working like a well oiled machine. He and Meliorn end up back to back at one point when the wolves join the dwindling vampires, and Raphael and Clary swoop in to take on their enemies in perfect unison, as if they'd practiced it. When the Circle member's come up from behind, it's Magnus that throws up some magical shield that keeps Alec from getting a blade to his back.

 

After that, it's the battle and nothing else.

 

Jace is aware that he's goading whatever opponent he faces, but he has no idea what he's saying. There is a buzz in his mind, an energy in his limbs, and someone at his back at all times. He feels on top of the world, feels like nothing is wrong, even though anything could take a horrible turn at any point.

 

The anti-alliance, as Simon has dubbed them if his shouts are anything to go by, slowly dwindle. They all chop them down, one at a time, working as a group. At one point, Jace pants heavily with Magnus at his side, at another, he stands between Simon and Alec. He has never felt so much a part of a family as he does in this moment.

 

It ends as abruptly as it begins. Meliorn smoothly swings his spear in an arc, sending the head of the Circle member moving to stake Raphael into the air. As if he's practiced it, Meliorn catches the head before it hits the ground and tosses it at Raphael with a smirk and a wink.

 

Raphael holds the head and arches an eyebrow, not looking impressed in the least. “Just so you're aware, that did absolutely nothing for me, sexually.”

 

Meliorn continues to smirk. “Is it not customary to give gifts to the one who's earned your affections?”

 

“Right, because a decapitated head is just the gift of romance anyone would want,” Raphael drawls, holding the head out with disdain. He huffs and mutters, “Wouldn't kill you to get turned down with flowers, you know.”

 

“Ah!” Meliorn produces a flower from somewhere, a bright red rose. He moves forward and tucks the rose behind the ear of the head. “There you are.”

 

Raphael drops the head and sighs. “Seelies.” With that one word, he turns and walks away from Meliorn, approaching Magnus.

 

“Harsh,” Simon comments.

 

“Indeed,” Meliorn agrees, watching Raphael walk away with a furrowed brow, lips pursing slightly.

 

Jace tries not to laugh. “Are you pouting? You're actually pouting.”

 

Meliorn gestures to the head. “He didn't like my gift. It was a nice gift.”

 

“It really wasn't,” Izzy says with a soft smile. “You never gave me a decapitated head.”

 

“I saved his life,” Meliorn says, narrowing his eyes.

 

Simon sighs and moves over to grip Meliorn by the shoulder, dipping his head and looking at him seriously. “While I'm over the moon that you two are doing… whatever it is you're doing, lemme give you a piece of advice when it comes to Raphael.”

 

Raphael is suddenly right at Simon's side, glaring at him. “Not another word.”

 

“Jesus Christ, okay.” Simon nearly falls over himself to try and jerk back from Meliorn, face comically displaying fear. “I was just- no, okay. Um, sorry, Meliorn. You'll, uh, have to work it out on your own. But uh- okay, shutting up now.”

 

“Never going to happen,” Raphael tells Meliorn, eyes narrowed. He turns to Alec. “Call me when the next meeting is. Otherwise, leave me alone. Simon… say nothing. Are we clear?”

 

Simon bobs his head. “Yeah, man.”

 

With that, Raphael turns around and darts out the same way he came. Meliorn sighs mournfully.

 

“Harsh,” Clary agrees.

 

“Don't worry about it, Meliorn,” Simon says cheerfully, doing exactly what Raphael told him not to do. “You've definitely got a chance. He wore his good suit and spent time on his hair.”

 

Magnus hums. “I did raise him.”

 

“Yep!” Simon bobs his head so hard it looks ready to roll off his neck. “You didn't hear it from me, but Raphael is a total romantic. All that dark and mysterious dramatics is just for show.”

 

“Wait, isn't he asexual?” Izzy asks, eyebrows furrowing.

 

“Which is why it is so hard to seduce him,” Meliorn says, staring at Simon in consideration. “Seelies are very sexual, that's like a secret weapon for us. But mostly, we care about the connection between two souls. Raphael does not appear to want to connect.”

 

“First of all, that's not a secret,” Magnus tells him, limply waving a hand. “Second of all, Raphael feels no sexual desire, but that does not mean he doesn't feel romantic desire. As Simon said, he hides it, but he actually has a very soft heart. Maybe try a flower without the decapitated head.”

 

Meliorn purses his lips. “He's a very confusing one, this vampire. I will woo him.”

 

Jace snorts. “Good luck. Simon says he's the extreme version of me. You've got your work cut out for you.”

 

“Then, work I shall.” Meliorn dips his head and begins backing away. “Farewell Shadowhunters, Magnus. I enjoyed this battle. As Raphael said before me, call me for the meeting.”

 

Simon sighs as Meliorn leaves. “Well, this night has been completely wild. Who wants to go home and watch movies after a hot shower?”

 

“Actually,” Alec speaks up, his lips twitching in amusement, “you'll be on patrols with Clary tonight. No movies or a shower for you.”

 

Simon's mouth drops open. “What? Seriously? I totally just kicked ass!”

 

Alec smirks. “Welcome to being a Shadowhunter.”

 

Jace can't help it, he laughs.

Chapter Text

“I am so tired.”

 

Jace looks up from the papers he's looking over for Alec. Simon plops into the chair beside him, eyes drifting shut as he heaves a sigh. Jace frowns.

 

“Run into trouble?” Jace asks.

 

Simon cracks open one eye. “Yeah, if you could call Izzy and Clary talking my ears off trouble. Why did I agree do go shopping with them again?”

 

“Because Izzy was paying and Clary is her girlfriend and also your best friend.”

 

“Right.”

 

Jace turns back to the papers. “So, Alec got a full contract from the downworlder cabinet about the alliance. They've all signed it.”

 

“That's great! Good for him, for all of us really.”

 

“Mhm. I think Alec is going to frame it.”

 

“Stop it, let him be proud,” Simon scolds lightly, tilting his head back. “He's doing good things, really good things.”

 

“I'm proud of him,” Jace admits quietly. “There was a reason I made him Head of The Institute. He's changing the world, for Magnus, for everyone.”

 

“Love changes everything.”

 

“Yeah, yeah it does.”

 

Simon lifts his head, smiling. “Your voice just got all soft. You're being lovey-dovey again.”

 

“I'm not,” Jace denies automatically. “Okay, a little bit. Not the point. Anyway, we're all going to the Hunter's Moon to celebrate tonight. I was thinking you could perform.”

 

“I- I don't know. I haven't sang a word since- god, I can't even remember,” Simon says, looking seriously displeased by this. “I'll be terrible.”

 

“Impossible.” Jace sits the papers down on Alec's desk, kicking his feet up right beside them. “You have a great voice. You'll be fine.”

 

“I don't even know what I'd sing,” Simon mutters, reaching up to smack a hand against his forehead. “All my new stuff got played the last time I was at the Hunter's moon. I can't do that again.”

 

“You wrote a song, after,” Jace mumbles, averting his eyes. “About… love. Remember?”

 

Simon hums quietly. “Yeah, I- well, it was about Clary and… you. Also Magnus and Alec. Izzy, too. It's not a love song, it's a song about love.”

 

“So, sing that,” Jace suggests.

 

“I dunno. Maybe I shouldn't.”

 

“Simon, you love to sing. It's a part of you.”

 

“I know.” Simon swallows and sits forward, putting his elbows on his knees, hands coming up to hold his chin. “I feel like I keep remembering how to be myself again. I guess I'm just nervous I'll suck.”

 

“First of all, you're always nervous,” Jace tells him with a roll of his eyes. "Second, even before I liked you, I grudgingly thought you had a good voice. So, if a Jace who didn't like you thought that, it has to be true. You'll do great.”

 

“Are you going to laugh at me if I get booed off the stage?”

 

“Probably.”

 

Simon kicks his foot out at Jace and huffs a quiet laugh. “Thanks so much, love of my life.”

 

Jace smirks. “You're welcome, annoyance of my life.”

 

The door to Alec's office opens yet again, but it's just Alec this time. He frowns at Simon and shoves Jace's feet off his desk as he snatches the papers up. He reshuffles them and gingerly puts them in a folder.

 

“Did you see?” Alec asks Simon as he sits down in his leather chair, nodding at the folder where his beloved papers reside.

 

Simon grins at him. “I heard. Congrats!”

 

“Are you performing?” Jace asks pointedly.

 

“Thinking about it.”

 

“Well, think harder,” Alec says, arching an eyebrow in challenge. “We already told Maia you would.”

 

“What? No!” Simon nearly comes out of his seat, waving his hands. “I- I don't even have time to prepare, or- or choose what I'm going to sing, and if I do play that song, I need a pianist, but- but I don't have anyone, and I- I would need to practice, but I-”

 

“Simon!” Alec barks, scowling. “By the Angel, how do you say so much on one breath?”

 

Simon shrugs sheepishly. “My panic fuels me.”

 

“Well, you better work it out fast; we're heading to the Hunter's Moon tonight at seven.” Alec does not look sympathetic to Simon's cause at all. “And no, I will not put you on patrols so you can get out of it.”

 

“I guess I can play that song, but I don't know how I can adapt it to a guitar.” Simon frowns and buries his face into his hands. “This is going to be a disaster. I'm going to be laughed off the stage.”

 

Jace isn't going to do it. He is not going to say it. Alec keeps shooting him looks, pointed ones that makes Jace want to taunt his hair or something. There is no way Jace is going to do this. He opens his mouth to mock Simon, that's it.

 

What comes out is, “I can play the piano.”

 

Annnnd, shit.

 

Simon's head snaps up. “What, you can? Wait, why didn't I know that? Why didn't you tell me? Can you seriously play? Because if you can, I will literally die with relief, so you better not be teasing.”

 

“I can play,” Jace replies simply, sighing heavily, internally scoffing at his weakness.

 

“Oh, that's- wow, that's awesome. Will you?”

 

“Will I, what?”

 

“Play the piano, for my song? Please?” Simon asks, smiling hopefully.

 

Jace crumbles like a stack of cards in a horrible storm. “If you want me to, I will.”

 

“Whipped,” Alec says, then immediately starts coughing into his fist, eyes bright with amusement.

 

“Okay, I'm gonna call Luke,” Simon tells them breathlessly, already getting up out of his chair, not even sparing them a glance. “I need a ride to the last place I left my van. Jace, find a piano and text me. K, love you, bye!”

 

Jace sighs as Simon darts out of the room.

 

“So whipped,” Alec teases, smirking.

 

“Shut up. You're gay for Magnus Bane,” Jace retorts childishly, slumping down in his chair.

 

Alec hums. “Yeah, I am. You, however, are bisexual and head over heels for Simon. I did not get the short end of the stick here, in case you were wondering. I got lucky.”

 

Jace just rolls his eyes and stands up from the chair, heading to the door to go to the piano in the recreational room. Before he leaves, he turns to Alec with pursed lips and declares, “For your information, Alec, so did I.”





 




“Wow, you really can play!”

 

Jace's fingers falter and miss a chord. He flinches as soon as he does and Simon frowns as he enters the room with his lyrics. Jace flexes his fingers, clearing his throat, and looks up with a ghost of a smile.

 

“Yeah, I guess I'm alright.”

 

“No, you were great,” Simon assures him, nearly scrambling over himself to do so. “It was really beautiful. You must have had a great teacher.”

 

Jace's face hardens. “Valentine taught me.”

 

“Oh.” Simon blinks and draws up short. “Wow. Uh, foot meet mouth. Sorry.”

 

“It's fine. I'm- it's not the worst thing that's happened to me,” Jace says simply, looking back down at the piano keys.

 

Simon slowly walks around to slide onto the piano bench beside Jace. “Was it one of those things where he didn't seem so evil?”

 

“No, the opposite actually. He made me practice, and if I messed up, he…” Jace lightly dances his fingers over the keys, throat audibly clicking as he swallows.

 

“You don't have to tell me,” Simon murmurs, reaching out to touch Jace's hand, freezing when Jace jerks his hand back and glances up with wide eyes, suddenly looking young and innocent.

 

Jace clears his throat, moving his hand back over to wrap around Simon's wrist. “Sorry. I just- reflex. When I messed up, Valentine would break my fingers, heal them, and make me do it again.”

 

“Shit,” Simon breathes, feeling as if someone has hit him right in the middle of his chest with a battering ram. “God, Jace, that's- I can't even-”

 

“It's fine.”

 

“It's not fine. I can't even begin to explain all the ways that it's not fine.”

 

Jace drops his wrist and sighs. “I know. It's fucked up. But I got really good at the piano.”

 

“Yeah, but at what cost?” Simon mutters.

 

Jace cracks a smile, just as Simon hoped he would, and he starts pressing a few of the keys again, lightly beginning a tune. “With Valentine, the end always justified the means. He broke my fingers over and over again, but at least I got good at the craft. He used to make me play for him when he got headaches, once I stopped messing up, and he praised me for it. I was always proud when he did.”

 

“Sometimes, I wish it was possible to kill him all over again,” Simon admits.

 

“Me too,” Jace agrees.

 

“If you don't want to play tonight, you don't have to. I can adapt the song, or play something else.”

 

“Nah, I'm fine. I mess up all the time, on purpose. He isn't here to break my fingers anymore.”

 

“Spite is a good look on you.”

 

“Everything is a good look on me.”

 

Simon purses his lips to hide a smile. “I don't know,” he teases. “You're hair was purple once, and if I'm honest, I hear it wasn't your best look.”

 

“You're lying. You would have been seconds from ripping all my clothes off if you saw it.”

 

“You got me there.”

 

Jace chuckles. “You should have seen it when it was pink. Madzie was in love.”

 

“You're, uh, really good with her,” Simon tells him, turning his eyes to the piano keys. “You seem, I don't know… like you want one someday.”

 

“The kids talk, really?” Jace challenges, arching an eyebrow and looking at Simon in faint amusement.

 

Simon shrugs, waving his hands around wildly, eyes going wide. “I know, I know, but I just- well, you were really good with her, and I was just… asking, that's all. I mean, if- if you don't want to-”

 

“Simon, shut up. Do you remember when we went to dinner with your family? When I was your pretend boyfriend?”

 

“Heh, yeah. Man, that feels like forever ago. I think I was falling in love with you then.”

 

“I was already a goner. Do you remember what I told your bubbee?”

 

“Yeah, about adopting a- oh!”

 

Jace nods. “I wasn't kidding. One day, I'm going to adopt a kid. I always planned to, whether I ended up with a woman or not. I want to give some kid the same chance I was given.”

 

“You really have no idea what that does to me, do you? Jeez, I'm gonna melt,” Simon mutters, reaching up to push a hand through his hair. “Well, if it makes you feel any better… I'm down with the adopting.”

 

“That's good to know,” Jace says, lips twitching.

 

“So, as for potentially relationship ruining topics, should we tackle marriage next?”

 

“Don't push it.”





 



The last chord on the piano slips into silence and Jace lifts his head as people begin clapping goodnaturedly. Before he can even swing one leg over the bench, Simon's draping himself over Jace's back and smacking a kiss against his cheek. Jace would be embarrassed about that, especially with the snickers from the crowd, but it feels too nice.

 

“You did great,” Simon whispers in his ear before he pulls away. “Thanks, shnookums.”

 

At that, Jace winces. There are at least twelve vampires in this bar tonight, which means that's at least twelve people who know he gets called shnookums. When he glances out at the crowd, Raphael is already grinning in a mocking way. Jace sighs quietly and pushes himself off the bench.

 

“Whatever.” Jace jerks his chin at the various equipment Simon has all over the place. “Need help getting that in your van?”

 

“You just want to go outside and make out.”

 

“That's a given. Still. Need help?”

 

Simon snorts. “Actually, Magnus is gonna transport it for me. As for us, we're going to go over to the booth with our friends and get wasted.”

 

“That's fair,” Jace says, heading to the edge of the stage and dropping the short distance to the floor.

 

There are a few seelie girls who seem to have forgotten that he's the reason that a good amount of downworlders died when he touched the soul sword. They crowd around him as he tries to push past and head to the booth that now looks like salvation. One of the seelie girls pushes her hands into his leather jacket and leans into him in a way that could never be considered subtle, and if he wasn't absolutely gone on Simon, he'd be grinning in triumph right about now.

 

“Okay, hands off the goods,” Simon says, suddenly at his side and very firmly - but gently - grabbing the girl’s wrists and pushing her hands away from Jace. He is scowling, which is adorable.

 

“Oh, Jace, what happened to you,” one of the girls complains - he thinks her name is Aradaile. “You never go to book club anymore!”

 

Simon tsks. “He's busy.”

 

“What could he possibly be doing?” another girl asks, lip poking out. Madeline, his mind tells him.

 

Jace gives a laugh and holds his hands up, as if he's surrendering. “Ladies, ladies, I'm-”

 

“Me. He's doing me,” Simon says with a huff, reaching out to grab Jace's shoulder and yank him away. Jace stumbles along with a laugh.

 

Jace knows that Clary is already drunk, though she's only had five drinks if he's counting the glasses in front of her correctly. She's leaning into Izzy's side and cackling as he and Simon approach.

 

“That was hilarious,” she declares through her laughter, pointing right at Simon. “You should have seen your face! I haven't seen you look at someone like that since you looked at Jace like that over me. Ooh hoo, you got it bad, my friend.”

 

“Yes, Clary, thank you for your drunk input,” Simon mutters, shuffling into the booth beside Magnus with a frown.

 

Maia walks over to the table with a tray of drinks and she's smiling, dimples flashing. She passes out the drinks and lines up shots for them. Once she's done, she leans over Jace to poke Simon's cheek, her eyes squinting teasingly.

 

“Aw, was Simon jealous,” she taunts.

 

Simon knocks back a shot with a grimace and presses into Jace's side. “I don't like any of you.”

 

“Will you be joining us, wolf?” Meliorn asks as he walks up, sliding into the booth beside Izzy as if he belongs there.

 

“When I get a break, maybe,” Maia tells them.

 

Clary leans forward on her elbows, her eyes glassy as she smiles wide. “You should! We like you a lot. You're pretty. I love Izzy. We'd be happy to have you. Are you straight? I don't know why I keep saying these things. Am I drunk?”

 

“Oh, this is going to be fun,” Jace announces with a bright smile, reaching out to take a shot of his own.





 



An hour later, they're all drunk. Well, mostly.

 

“No, no, what's it say?” Alec demands, words slurring just a bit as he stares soulfully into Maia's eyes. “I gotta know.”

 

Maia, who is officially off, is not as drunk, but getting there. She says, “It doesn't say anything. It's a butterfly.”

 

Raphael, who somehow migrated to the table and treats them all as if they're the ones who sat with him, is not drunk at all and throws them all looks of judgement. But he appears to be slightly invested in the conversation because he stares at Maia as if she's grown a second head.

 

“Why would you get a tattoo of a butterfly?” he asks, genuinely baffled by that.

 

Maia shrugs, swaying a little bit against Raphael when she does. Her smile is loose and pretty. “Was going through a rebel phase. My mom hated it.”

 

“I want to see it,” Alec declares.

 

“I'd have to take my pants off,” Maia replies.

 

Alec frowns. “I don't want to see it.”

 

“Alexander, I adore you.” Magnus looks kind of small and sappy against Alec's side. “You don't have a straight bone in your body.”

 

“I tried to hook him up with a girl once,” Jace tells him, nearly face planting the table. “Wanna know what he told me? This idiot said he had homework. What teenage boy puts off romance for homework? I can't believe I didn't know.”

 

Simon pats his head. “S'okay, shnookums. You didn't know you were half gay until, like, me. So.”

 

“I didn't know I was gay until you either,” Clary slurs, then hiccups a laugh.

 

“I'm too drunk to be offended,” Simon tells her.

 

“It's really hot in here,” Izzy says loudly, tugging at her shirt. “I need to get naked.”

 

“Maybe let's not do that, Isabelle,” Meliorn warns gently. He's also not drunk, though not for a lack of drinking. He reaches out and stops Izzy from pulling her shirt off. “Leave just enough to the imagination, remember? Don't show it all.”

 

Izzy smiles brightly at him. “You're very good at sex. Raphael, why don't you like him? He's very good at sex,” she says, forgetting her shirt and focusing on Raphael with bleary eyes.

 

Raphael arches an eyebrow. “I don't care about sex, Isabelle. You know that.”

 

Simon shoves a finger at him. “But you do care about love! Ha, I knew it!” Simon shakes his finger when Raphael narrows his eyes. “Just admit it, you're a big 'ol softie who wants to be held and treated like royalty. Was gonna do that, once. Me, I mean. Forgot why I didn't. Coulda, but didn't.”

 

Jace jerks his head up, frowning. “Camille. It was that horrible, horrible woman.”

 

“Oh, I hate her,” Alec spits viciously, reanimating where he'd gone quiet. “She just- what, thought it'd be okay to kiss Magnus? Who does that? Who even- I can't believe- and then, she tried to take him away from me!” Both of Alec's hands go up. “The audacity! I shoulda shaved her hair off. Was gonna sneak in to the hotel when she was caught, just shave it all off, but then I didn't. Shoulda.”

 

Magnus sighs. “I told you, darling, it-”

 

“Meant nothing, I know,” Alec grumbles, sinking back in the booth to sulk. “Horrible woman.”

 

Simon bobs his head. “Horrible woman,” he agrees.

 

“Wait, what were we talking about?” Jace asks.

 

“Raphael being a romantic,” Izzy reminds them, blinking slowly, her smile a little wobbly.

 

“Oh yes,” Magnus agrees, leaning forward with bright eyes, “my son and his bleeding heart.”

 

Alec snorts. “You gotta son. Well, not an actual son, but a son. So, I'm like a step-dad. Ha, that's- that's not funny actually.” Alec's amusement melts into a frown. “I'm too young to be a step-dad to a seventy-something old man.”

 

“No,” Raphael says simply.

 

“S'okay, Alec,” Clary slurs, lifting her head off the table and beaming. “Raphael isn't actually Magnus’ son, but he might as well be. You don't have to be a step-dad yet, not like Luke. But Luke is kinda my dad. Valentine isn't, he's mean. And dead.” She giggles for a moment. “I killed him.”

 

“It was awesome,” Jace confirms.

 

“Wait, we're off topic,” Simon says, feeling as if he's spinning. “Raphael and Meliorn are in love and Magnus and Alec are their dads.”

 

“I feel like we need more drinks,” Maia says, taking her chin away from her hand. “I'm gonna get more drinks. Raphael, guard this seat with your life.”

 

Raphael rolls his eyes.

 

“This will be much funnier when they're sober and able to feel regret,” Meliorn tells him with a small smile of amusement.

 

Clary slaps her hand down on the table, making the glasses rattle. “I regret nothing!”

 

Simon nods. “I am with you, Fray! Until the bitter end. Always and forever.”

 

“You might be right about that,” Raphael agrees, sighing as if he hates everything going on around him. “This is embarrassing.”

 

Meliorn shakes his head and slides away from Izzy, taking the seat Maia vacated. “No, this is leverage. Or, blackmail, if you prefer that term.”

 

“Do you ever think about how, you know, we're all connected in some way?” Simon asks, dropping his head over onto Jace's shoulder. “I mean, really. Magnus is with Alec, who used to be into Jace, who used to be into Clary, who used to be with me, who used to be into Raphael, who's now into Meliorn, who used to be with Izzy. And now, like, we're all over the place. Clary is with Izzy, I'm with Jace, Alec is with Magnus, and Raphael is with Meliorn. It's crazy.”

 

Raphael frowns. “I'm not-”

 

“It's just… we're a family,” Simon says, feeling a little emotional. “All of us, even me. I love you guys.”

 

Jace hums. “Can you believe I used to despise you? I mean, I really didn't like you.”

 

“Didn't like you either.”

 

“Well, I didn't like you more.”

 

“I always liked Izzy,” Clary says, making Jace and Simon immediately forget their competition.

 

“You're pretty and tiny,” Izzy tells her seriously, pulling her hair over her shoulder. Then, her gaze turns to Raphael. “So, why won't you let yourself be in love? You don't have to have sex, relationships aren't about sex!”

 

Meliorn sweeps out a hand, gesturing at Izzy, eyebrows jerking up. “Isabelle makes a very good point. Sex is not, at all, the point of a relationship.”

 

“There just isn't anyone I'm interested in,” Raphael tells them flatly, face blank.

 

Izzy waggles a finger. “Not true! You were interested in me, but we couldn't be together because I always wanted you to bite me. Wait, are you still-”

 

“No, not at all,” Raphael cuts her off, shaking his head. “You seem very happy with Clary, though I cannot imagine why. I am your friend, nothing more, and I much prefer it that way.”

 

“Ah, so you're only romantically attracted to women.” Meliorn nods as if everything makes complete sense. “Why didn't you just say that? Surely, it must be annoying hearing everyone attempt to pair us together.”

 

“Oh, it is annoying, but that's not why,” Raphael replies, sighing yet again. He seems to be doing that a lot. “Is this just a thing you all do? Find someone who is unpaired and try to pair them?”

 

Izzy and Simon answer in unison. “Yes.”

 

Alec and Jace shake their heads. “No.”

 

“So, you also like men?” Clary asks, confused. “You're so mysterious, I never know exactly what you're saying. Definitely Magnus’ son.”

 

“I am happy alone,” Raphael snaps.

 

“Untrue!” Simon flaps his hands, nearly knocking the table out of place. “It's totally possible to be happy alone, but you, my friend, are lonely. And there is a difference. Maia? She's happy alone! You aren't. You need… connection.”

 

“I'm good at connections,” Meliorn says, shrugging and making an innocent face.

 

Clary's face scrunches up. “I'm still confused. Do you like men or not? I mean, if you don't, that's okay - I don't either - but I can't tell.”

 

“He likes Meliorn,” Simon says with a solemn nod, like he's telling a grave secret. “He always wears his best suits when he knows he's gonna see Meliorn.”

 

“Oh!” Jace leans forward with a grin. “He came to the seelie court just to see Meliorn one time. They almost got into a fight. It was pretty intense.”

 

Raphael looks seconds from stabbing himself in the eye, or setting them all on fire. “What exactly do you hope to achieve? Do you think that we'll just, what, kiss and run off into the sunset?”

 

“Theoretically, that would be lovely,” Magnus says with a shrug.

 

Raphael actually looks betrayed. “Magnus, not you too. I'm perfectly happy.”

 

Magnus tilts his head. “Rosa would approve of him. You should take him to meet her.”

 

“Who's Rosa?” Meliorn asks.

 

Izzy sighs softly. “Rosa is lovely.”

 

“My sister,” Raphael says, eyebrows furrowing, lips tipping down as he stares at Magnus. “My last living relative. And you can't be serious.”

 

“I would love to meet your sister,” Meliorn says with complete sincerity.

 

“Oh, come on, Raphael,” Izzy chastises lightly, smiling wide, “Rosa would love him.”

 

Raphael frowns harder. “I-”

 

“Raphael,” Magnus says firmly, suddenly looking completely lucid, “I think you should. Izzy is entirely correct; Rosa would love him. You can't deny her the chance to meet him if he's offering.”

 

It appears as if Raphael can't deny Rosa anything because he exhales heavily through his nose. “Fine,” he snaps, eyes narrowing. “But this means nothing.”

 

Meliorn grins. “It's a date!”

 

“It's not,” Raphael replies.

 

“I'm dating Jace,” Simon says, staring at his own hands. “I've had sex with Jace. Multiple times. Jace. That's so… I can't even believe it.”

 

“Oh my god,” Clary says, “I think that all the time about Izzy.”

 

“What is it about the Lightwoods?” Magnus asks lightly, smiling up at Alec.

 

“They're all Angels,” Simon says, turning to stare at Jace in blatant curiosity. “How'd I end up with an Angel? I'm just… me.”

 

“I think Maia got lost,” Clary murmurs, eyes drooping as she leans into Izzy.

 

Simon watches her sink into Izzy and close her eyes, breathing evenly. It's such a peaceful moment that Simon really has the urge to do the same. So, he leans into Jace and blinks slow.

 

He passes out before Maia brings more drinks.





 



Jace is no stranger to hangovers. He doesn't like them, but he's had enough to know how to handle them. One wave of his stele over his healing rune and his feeling of nausea, pounding head, and distinct fuzziness in his eyes fade away. It won't cure what happened while he was drunk, won't stop him from feeling sluggish all day, but it does remove the painful side effects.

 

Simon, however, is not aware of this.

 

Jace maybe has a little too much fun watching Simon be an absolute grump about it. Okay, so the way Simon curls into him and groans weakly, face pressed into his neck, voice thick with sleep and regret… well, that's has something to do with it too.

 

“How are you feeling?” Jace asks in amusement.

 

Simon groans. “Do you have to be literally amazing at everything? You don't even get hangovers.”

 

“No, I do. I just know how to handle them.”

 

“Don't rub it in, asshole.”

 

Jace chuckles and activates Simon's healing rune. It takes a moment, but Simon eventually hisses in relief and lifts his head away from Jace's neck.

 

“Better?” Jace asks.

 

Simon stares at him. “You're the best thing that has ever happened to me. Thank you for existing.”

 

“Shut up, you sap.” Jace snorts and disentangles himself from Simon's side. “Come on, we have to meet up with everyone and talk about the Clave.”

 

“Are we going to actually do that now? I thought we were all avoiding the issue?”

 

“Gotta face it sometime. Alec texted us in a group chat. We're meeting at Magnus’ to deal with it.”

 

Simon sighs. “No rest for the wicked.”

 

Jace hums. “The descent into hell is easy.”

 

“That's the Shadowhunters motto.”

 

“If you can quote Cage The Elephant, I can quote our people.”

 

“Your people. My people want me to bring you to dinner soon,” Simon corrects, rolling out of Jace's bed and moving to the closet that they now share.

 

“Your mom invited me to dinner?”

 

“Mhm. I talked to her when I got back, told her I was off tour. She asked if we were still together, I said yes, so she invited us for dinner.”

 

Jace purses his lips and tugs his shirt on. “Wanna go tonight? After the meeting and patrols?”

 

Simon's head snaps up. “Really? Because that would be- well, I'd love to. It's been three months and I- I really miss them.”

 

“I know.” Jace's lips twitch. “I'm good with sooner, rather than later. Plus, I'm looking forward to hearing your mother call you monkey in person.”

 

“Oh no, how'd you know about that?”

 

“I've known the whole time. Back when you died, I went with Clary to offer support as she tried to explain that you were dead. She obviously failed at that, but that's when I first heard it. Your mother also calls you monkey over text.”

 

Simon looks as if he's ready to die all over again from embarrassment. “Shut up, she's my mom.”

 

“It's cute,” Jace teases playfully.

 

“You know, if we stay together long enough, she'll give you a nickname too. Probably “handsome” or “menace to society” or something equally unfair, but it will happen,” Simon warns without shame.

 

Jace smirks. “Looking forward to it.”





 



“So, I'm smarter than all of you, so I have a better idea,” Alec announces as soon as everyone is sitting down and waiting for the meeting to commence.

 

Magnus makes an offended sound in the back of his throat, eyebrows raising. “Excuse me?”

 

Alec immediately backpedals. “I mean, me and Magnus are smarter than all of you, so we came up with a better idea.”

 

“Better.”

 

“What is it?” Jace asks.

 

Simon doesn't like how tense he is. Every time the Clave is brought up, Jace resembles a guitar string that's pulled too taut. It's like something inside of him is trying to claw out, like he's itching to burst from his own skin and take the matters into his own hands. Simon knows that's because of what the Clave did to him, but that doesn't make him feel any better. In fact, it makes him feel worse.

 

He doesn't want to be the cause that sends Jace into dangerous territory. He agrees that the Clave needs to be handled, but he doesn't want a war. He doesn't want to be the reason Jace goes to war.

 

“We're doing good things here,” Alec says with a heavy sigh. “Between the downworlder cabinet, the alliance, and the example we're setting… things have slowly started to shift. But that's just here.”

 

“There are many institutes all over the world,” Magnus says quietly, lips tipping down into a frown of disapproval. “Most of those do not run as Alec runs the New York institute.”

 

Simon clears his throat. “I've been meaning to ask about that. Are you guys aware how… odd all of this is? When I was learning the history and purpose behind everything, I was so confused.”

 

“I don't get it,” Clary says.

 

“It's just that… institutes don't usually work like this. They're not a- a home. It's for all Shadowhunters, not just the ones in this region, and normally… the kids who train in an institute are supposed to travel for a year after they're eighteen to go to other institutes and learn from those too. When a new Head of The Institute is elected, it's not usually someone from the family of the previous one.” Simon crosses his arms and frowns. “Actually, everything about the New York institute is… backwards.”

 

Jace huffs a laugh, looking amazed. “Yeah, that's about right. We've kind of been giving the Clave a big middle finger for awhile now. But if you're wondering, me and Alec did go spend time in the Los Angeles institute for a little while after we turned eighteen. Izzy went to the Paris institute for six weeks. We all just… came back.”

 

“But that's not how it works. You can't just…”

 

Izzy gives a soft, sweet laugh at Simon's baffled expression. “And why not? We did. We weren't causing any trouble, just wanted to go home. The Clave needed people at the New York institute, we wanted to stay, so why not?”

 

“Lightwoods,” Magnus quips, shaking his head, looking endlessly fond.

 

Alec's lips twitch. “We do what we want.”

 

“So, what's the new idea?” Jace waves a hand, crossing his arms. “What does it have to do with this region and how is it going to work?”

 

“Well, it's less about this region and more about the others.” Alec heaves a sigh. “Jia Penhallow is the new Consul, which doesn't work out really well in our favor, even if we're friends with her daughter - who, from what I gather, thinks a lot like us.”

 

Clary blinks. “What? Why does that not work in our favor? Isn't that friendship… good?”

 

“It's not good because Jia Penhallow is a Shadowhunter, through and through,” Magnus explains gently, shaking his head. “Aline is her daughter, who she loves very much, but she is not shy about her complete loyalty to the law.”

 

“She really isn't,” Jace agrees. “It's almost unheard of for someone in that position to be any other way. But that doesn't mean she can't be persuaded.”

 

Alec nods seriously. “We may not realize it, but our impact isn't completely small. There are people popping up in position of power all over the place that lean towards our way of thinking. The Clave have made too many mistakes; people are shifting, growing up, fighting for their chance to make change. Just like us.”

 

“But it isn't enough, not so scattered like this. We need a noticeable shift,” Magnus says, taking a deep breath. “We need over half of the other institutes to implement the same things we are.”

 

Izzy laughs. “Oh, you can't be serious.”

 

“We are,” Alec tells her grimly. “If we can get over half to start up the same things we have, we can make a big enough impact that the world will change much quicker. And if I can show that to the Clave, to Jia... we can implement it everywhere.”

 

“The Clave won't ever agree.” Izzy runs her tongue under her top lip, looking bitter. “They cling to their rules, to their control. They're not giving that up.”

 

“They won't have a choice,” Alec argues, crossing his arms. “If over half of their people demand change, they can't refuse it. They turn a blind eye to us on some things, treat us like the problem child that they can keep out of sight of everyone else, but what if we showed everyone else why we're like this?”

 

“No, there is something to that,” Simon agrees, pointing at Alec. “The Clave are like any typical powerful force. If the change outgrows them, they'll grasp it and claim it as their own. If we do it right, the Clave will still be in power, but they'll be doing what we want, which is changing the world for the better. This could work, this could really work.”

 

Magnus nods. “Exactly.”

 

“So, what are you suggesting?” Jace asks, lips tipping down in confusion.

 

Alec takes a deep breath. “A meeting. A really big meeting. Disguised as a party. All the Heads of all the Institutes, all the High Warlocks, all the vampire clan leaders, all the wolf pack's alphas. Even the seelie queen.”

 

“Oh, brother, you've really lost your mind,” Izzy blurts out, shaking her head.

 

“No,” Simon says firmly, snapping his fingers and nodding, “the thing about smart people is that they seem crazy to dumb people.”

 

Izzy narrows her eyes. “Did you just call me dumb?”

 

“No, I- no. It's a quote.” Simon holds his hands up in surrender. “Look, when ideas seem crazy, it means they have a real chance of working.”

 

Magnus huffs a quiet breath. “That was not the vote of confidence we were hoping for, but we'll take it.”

 

“The only problem is… how are we going to make this happen? You can't just get everyone to leave their posts all at once. That leaves everywhere vulnerable,” Jace says, still frowning.

 

Alec swallows. “That's where it gets tricky. But what we're counting on is that we'll only need an hour. Well, we will only have an hour. The whole world will be left in command by those trusted underneath the ones we need to come to the party. It will have to be quick and thorough.”

 

“And just how are we going to get them here?” Clary asks doubtfully.

 

“Well, my dear, that will have to be left up to all of us.” Magnus points at each of them in turn. “We're going to have to go and convince everyone to come.”

 

Jace drops his arms, looking at Alec and Magnus in disbelief. “That's never going to happen. It will take us at least a week to convince even half.”

 

“Wait a second,” Clary says, brightening. “Do you guys know the game telephone?”

 

“Clary, that's perfect!” Simon blurts, eyes widening as he gets her idea immediately.

 

Everyone else stares at her blankly.

 

Clary rolls her eyes. “It's this game we played as kids. Everyone would sit in a circle and someone would start with a whisper to the person next to them. You get one whisper, can't repeat what you said. It goes in a circle until the last person has to say out loud what the first person did. But it's usually never the same because things get lost in the whisper and information gets changed. It's kind of like a big metaphor for the dangers of gossip.”

 

“Okay,” Izzy says slowly, drawing out the word, eyebrows pinched, “that's strange, but what does that have to do with this?”

 

“If there is anything I've learned about the Shadow World, it's that word travels fast. What if, instead of convincing them to come to the party, we let them convince themselves?”

 

Alec's eyes brighten. “Just how would we do that?”

 

Clary smirks. “It starts with a small comment, just that the other people are coming too. No one wants to be left out. By the end of the week, institutes and downworlders will be reaching out for an invite.”

 

“Fray, you're a literal evil genius and I am so glad you're on our side.”

 

Magnus gives a soft laugh. “Well, I must say, I think we can pull this off.”

 

“Maybe,” Jace allows, lips twitching. “But if we're going to do this… we better get started.”

 

Alec grins. “I'll draw up the plans.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, monkey, give us a moment?”

 

Jace watches Simon pull back with a faint look of confusion. Mrs. Lewis has her arm wrapped around Jace's, holding him in place, so Jace stays perfectly still. He has no idea what she wants to talk about.

 

Jace is mostly sure that the dinner went really well. Well, after the initial shock of Simon showing up with “tattoos” and a new physique wore off. Jace had to force himself not laugh as Simon's mom scolded him for over thirty minutes, while also throwing in a steady stream of comments to Jace that she meant nothing against his. It wasn't until Rebecca had told her mom to calm down, that they looked cool, and weren't ever going away now that Mrs. Lewis seemed to officially let it go.

 

Other than that, the dinner had been… nice. Jace had felt mostly at home, even if he'd been nervous for the majority of the evening - not that he'd ever admit that out loud. It's obvious that Simon's family likes him, which pleases Jace. But now, Mrs. Lewis wants to talk to him alone, and Jace really has no idea what he's going to do if she admits to hating him. It probably would break his heart, honestly.

 

“Uh, mom…”

 

Mrs. Lewis just smiles. “Go on, he'll be right out.”

 

“Yeah, I'll be fine,” Jace agrees, forcing himself to relax. He winks. “I might just stay.”

 

“I- okay,” Simon stutters, looking as nervous as Jace feels. He slowly walks outside with a frown.

 

Mrs. Lewis turns to him. “You love him.”

 

Jace blinks. “Uh, yeah. Yes. I mean, yes, I do.”

 

“I can tell, you know. I see it in the way you look at him.” Mrs. Lewis smiles. “A mother always knows.”

 

“I won't hurt him, if that's what you're worried about,” Jace murmurs, swallowing. He laughs weakly. “Actually, I spend most of my time trying to make sure he doesn't get hurt.”

 

“Very accident prone, my son,” Mrs. Lewis says in blatant amusement. Her face softens. “I am not concerned if you'll hurt him or not. I genuinely don't think you will, but I'm asking you to keep looking after him. He's- well, anyone can tell he's been through so many changes. Sometimes, I barely recognize him, but he is always my son. So, just, promise me that you'll do right by him.”

 

Jace has to work very hard not to cough around the lump in his throat. “I'll do my best,” he croaks.

 

“That's all I ask,” she says gently, her smile sweet and loving. “He adores you, Jace, and you make him very happy. It's all a mother wants for her children. Thank you for seeing his heart and giving him yours. I won't ever be able to repay you for that, but if you ever need anything, just call me. You're family now.”

 

“Ah, that's- I appreciate that. Thank you.” It's all Jace can choke out, a strange warmth in his chest making it hard to stop from tearing up. “You're a great mom and Simon loves you so much. I'm- you are- thank you. That's all I can say.”

 

Mrs. Lewis beams at him and tugs him into a hug, patting him on the back lightly. Jace clears his throat and tries to be normal, suddenly not sure how hugs are supposed to work. Mrs. Lewis takes pity on him and pulls away with a bright smile.

 

“Well, go on, go tell my son I don't hate you,” she says with a laugh. “Poor thing, he's probably panicking right about now.”

 

Jace gives her a lopsided grin. “Yeah, that sounds like him. Thank you again, Mrs. Lewis.”

 

After that, Mrs. Lewis ushers him out the door with a quick shout to Simon that she loves him and then closes the door. Simon watches him approach, fidgeting in place, and Jace just… feels.

 

He doesn't know how to explain it. He'll just look at Simon and remember how far they've come, and Jace will forget how to breathe for a second. Waves upon waves of emotions, tremulous things that can't be described, will hit him without warning. And Jace doesn't know what to do with that, can't do anything but walk right up to Simon and kiss him.

 

He does that now, helpless to do anything else.

 

Simon makes a muffled sound against his mouth, clearly not expecting to be kissed hard, yet sweet in front of his childhood home. He doesn't seem to dwell long, reaching up to tangle his fingers in Jace's hair seconds later. Jace keeps the kiss innocent, lightly rests his hands against Simon's hips, just enjoys the tranquility he gets from having Simon's lips glide in motion with his.

 

“What was that for?” Simon asks dazedly, blinking when Jace pulls back.

 

“Because I can,” Jace replies simply.

 

Simon's lips break into a huge smile. “Well, feel free to do that anytime. Also, what did my mom say?”

 

“She said… thank you,” Jace says slowly, a selfish part of himself wanting to keep the things she said to him for his own. “Don't worry, she doesn't hate me. I'm already her favorite and completely irreplaceable, so good luck finding someone else.”

 

“Oh, is that your elaborate plan?” Simon laughs, loud and proud into the night. “Make my family love you, then they'll talk about you forever and I'll never be free of you.”

 

Jace shrugs, pursing his lips. “Something like that. Just think about that the next time you make eyes at someone else.”

 

“Jace, I'm already blind. Now, thanks to you, my heart is too.”

 

“You're going to make me throw up.”

 

“That was pretty sweet, wasn't it?”

 

“Excessively so, yes.”

 

Simon shakes his head, grinning down at his feet and reaching out to hook his pinky on Jace's, swinging their hands back and forth. “Look at us, reluctantly in love. We're perfect for each other.”

 

“Stop it,” Jace warns, “I'll kiss you again.”

 

“That's not going to do anything but encourage me.”

 

“Okay, what about this? If you stop right now, we'll go home and get naked.”

 

“You really should have led with that.”

 

“Yeah, probably.”

 

As they start walking back towards the van, Simon suddenly asks, “Do you really not know how to drive? I mean, I feel like you can do everything.”

 

“I can, mostly. I can braid hair, kick ass, charm anyone I want.” Jace heaves a sigh, fighting back a frown. “But I can't drive.”

 

“You can braid hair?”

 

“Yeah, Izzy taught me.”

 

Simon blinks. “Oh. That's- why is that so attractive? Jesus, you could sneeze and I would probably be turned on by it.”

 

“I'm me, of course you would.”

 

“And then you start talking.”

 

“Shut up. Are you going to teach me to drive?”

 

“Do you want to learn?”

 

Jace hums, considering that. He's gotten by so far without it, but it could be fun. He shrugs. “Yeah, if you've got the time. What could it hurt?”

 

Twenty minutes later, Jace finds out. The jolt of the van colliding with the sidewalk and jerking to an abrupt stop as they hit a tree nearly makes Jace shout in fear. But they are suddenly still, and Jace doesn't feel harmed at all, so his worry fades. Simon doesn't give him time to be concerned about him, just piles out of the van with his hands in his hair.

 

“Oh my god,” Simon bursts out, staring wide eyed at the tree that put a dent in his van, “it's smoking. Why didn't you brake? You crashed my van!”

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “I'm sure it's fine.”

 

“It is not fine!” Simon waves both arms wildly, gesturing to his van. “That was my ride! And- and I can't afford to get it fixed! Jace, I have no money!”

 

“Okay, Simon, relax. Let's just- look, help me push the van back on the road, okay?”

 

Simon does, scowling and muttering under his breath the whole time. They don't even activate runes to get it pushed away from the tree, just put it in neutral and push. It is smoking, but only lightly, and when Simon turns the key, it just clicks.

 

“Great. Just great.”

 

“I told you I couldn't drive,” Jace says, crossing his arms and working not to show that he actually does feel kind of bad.

 

Simon shoots him a sharp glare. “Yeah, I see that. You- I can't believe you! This is- you don't know how important this van is to me. You're just standing there, and this is- it's my van. You don't get it.”

 

“Hey, don't get testy with me,” Jace snaps, a pressure slowly growing in his chest. “You're the one who can't teach a simple lesson. It's not my fault I crashed this piece of crap van.”

 

“Yes, it is! I told you to press the brake! You just don't listen, and now you think this is some kind of joke to laugh about,” Simon yells, jabbing a finger towards the van. “That piece of crap means more to me than you can ever know. Because of you, it's broken and I can't fix it!”

 

“It's just a van!” Jace shouts, tossing his hands up and staring at Simon in disbelief.

 

Simon looks seconds from screaming, and when he argues, his voice echoes. “My van, Jace! Mine. It's something I care about, something from my stupid, mundane life, and it's important to me! You wouldn't know anything about that because you're just a Shadowhunter who can't get attached to anything! This is just one more thing for you to laugh about after you've broken it!”

 

“Oh, yeah?” Jace growls, feeling his face twist into an angry amusement that he only ever gets with Simon, laughing because he's just so pissed off that he can't do anything else. “Maybe I will laugh, maybe I don't care about stupid, meaningless shit like you do! What else can I fuck up for you, huh? Got a stupid action figure somewhere I can stomp on, because right about now, I'd love to!”

 

“And I'd love it if you'd go away!”

 

“Fine! Stay here with that hunk of metal, see if I care. I hope it sets on fire!”

 

Simon flips him off. “I hope you set on fire, asshole!”

 

Jace releases a strangled snarl and whirls in place, marching off in some pointless direction. He doesn't care where he's going, just needs to get away. He takes long strides up the street, lips twisting into a grimace, anger skittering under his skin like needles, prickling hot and invasive.

 

Only the sound of a shoe slamming into metal over and over again manages to make him jerk to a halt. He breathes heavily through his nose, tells himself not to turn around, then immediately disobeys himself to do just that. Simon is standing near the back of the van, kicking its side over and over in blatant anger, bracing his hands against the body as he does it. Jace feels all the anger drain out of him at the sight of Simon beating his broken van.

 

Jace fights an internal battle for a moment, struggling with his pride. But eventually, the fact that he's in over his head with Simon fucking Lewis makes his mind up for him. Heaving a sigh, he starts walking back towards Simon, his hands shoved into his pockets, something like shame twisting in his chest. He's pretty sure his dignity is in shrivels, but his affection for Simon sure isn't.

 

Simon stops kicking the van when Jace comes to a halt behind him. He doesn't turn around, just drops his arms and sighs quietly. Jace purses his lips and ignores his wounded pride.

 

“Sorry,” he mutters.

 

“Sorry?” Simon echoes in disbelief, turning around to stare at Jace incredulously. “You're sorry? Are you serious? That's all you-”

 

Jace huffs, grimacing. “Yes, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to crash your van, or suggest that it's not important, or treat your feelings like some joke. So yeah, I'm sorry.”

 

Simon looks away and crosses his arms, gaze falling to the ground as he scuffs his shoe against the pavement. “Well, I- I guess I'm sorry I said you were some robot who didn't have feelings for anything. And for saying you breaks things all the time. And for saying you should burn in a fiery death; I especially don't want that to happen.”

 

“It's okay,” Jace mumbles, staring at his own feet now, frowning at the discomfort around him.

 

“I'm not sorry for saying you're a bad driver,” Simon tells him with a sigh. “Jace, you suck.”

 

“Well, at least I'm not good at everything,” Jace replies, looking up through his lashes to watch Simon's body sag as his lips twitch.

 

Simon rolls his eyes and opens his arms out wide, staring right at Jace. “Come on, get over here. We gotta kiss and make up now.”

 

“I thought you wanted me to go away.”

 

“I always want you to go away. But I also never want you to go away. Do you see my problem?”

 

Jace huffs a quiet laugh. “I can relate.”

 

“Well, if you're not coming over here, I'm coming over there,” Simon warns.

 

Jace just shrugs, doesn't move. Most of him wants to go kiss and make up, as Simon put it, but he can't. He doesn't know why, just can't move. Luckily, Simon is shameless, or doesn't care about dignity and pride, because he just walks right up to Jace with an unfairly cute smile. He hugs Jace before he can get his hands out of his pockets.

 

In a moment like this, Jace isn't great with words or actions. When he's done something wrong, it's easy to beat himself up over it. Rather than seek out forgiveness, he just deals with it and tells himself that he'll be fine. He forgets sometimes that it affects the other person when he gets like this.

 

When Alec had been marrying Lydia and going through his “the law is the law” phase, Jace had avoided him at all costs when things evened out. He'd wallowed in the separation, knowing he was wrong for what he did, just as much as he was right. Of course, they overcame it just fine; they're brothers, they can do it easily.

 

But Simon isn't Alec. Simon isn't his brother. Simon is his boyfriend, is the other half of this relationship. He knows he has to go out of his comfort zone and make the effort too. Simon deserves that.

 

So, Jace pulls his hands out of his pockets and hugs Simon back loosely, pressing a kiss to his cheek and trying not to feel embarrassed by it. He knows they're going to fight, all couples do, even perfect ones like Magnus and Alec. But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

 

“I still love you,” Jace mutters, wrinkling his nose when Simon pulls back to look at him in genuine amusement. “And I hate you too, don't forget that.”

 

“Love you too, shnookums,” Simon says easily, pressing a short kiss to his lips. When he pulls back, he's smiling softly. “So, that was our first fight as a couple. Pretty intense.”

 

Jace clears his throat. “I would be fine never doing that again.”

 

“Well, it's not like you can wreck my van again,” Simon teases, turning to look at his van, his face falling as soon as he sees it. “Damn, that sucks. I wish I had the money to fix it.”

 

“About that,” Jace says calmly, sweeping his hands up Simon's sides, “you don't have the money now. But you'll get your first check soon. And until then, I can loan you the money.”

 

Simon turns to blink at him. “You'd do that?”

 

“I would prefer to pay for it in full, but I have a feeling you won't let me.” Jace arches an eyebrow and Simon shakes his head. “So, let me pay half. I'll loan you all the money and you can give me half back when you get paid.”

 

“Really?” Simon blurts, eyes brightening.

 

At that, Jace has to laugh. “Yes, Simon, really. We are in a relationship; if we can't swap money, or share it, we probably shouldn't be dating.”

 

“That's- well, that's a fair point. I dunno, my parents used to fight about money before my dad died. I mean, they were happy and in love, but financial issues are very common for couples. And you know, I never really thought about Shadowhunters having to deal with, like, money and stuff.”

 

“What's that supposed to mean?”

 

“I just- I don't know. Before I was taught, I never knew that Shadowhunters got paid. I just thought you guys fought demons and lived in secrecy and didn't have a whole- well, a society, really. And I know that's weird, but I never even considered finances and all of that.”

 

“Well, yeah. We don't just get all of our things for free. We have to eat too.”

 

Simon rolls his eyes. “I know that; I just never thought about it.”

 

“Well, I don't think finances will be an issue for us,” Jace says with a shrug. “I don't much care for money, if I'm honest. I actually have money saved up on top of my Lightwood trust fund. I use my money for nice jackets and drinks, that's about it.”

 

“Oh god, I should have known you, Alec, Izzy, and Max are trust fund kids.”

 

“I don't know what that means.”

 

“Which makes it so much funnier,” Simon tells him, snorting. “Well, money has been a pretty big issue for me recently. I'll probably cry when I get my first check. I almost cried when Izzy took me shopping. You don't even wanna know how much she spent.”

 

Jace tips his head from side to side. “Knowing Izzy, probably over two hundred dollars. She's a bit extravagant when it comes to clothes.”

 

“God will rue the day she and Magnus ever end up in a mall together.”

 

“As if Magnus shops in a mall.”

 

Simon chuckles. “Good point.”

 

“So?” Jace asks, nodding towards the van. “Will you let me pay for half the damage?”

 

“Yeah, I guess I can do that.” Simon smiles wide and pretty. “Thanks, Jace, really.”

 

Jace has to fight not soften. “It's really not a big deal. Tell no one about this.”

 

“Oh no, I'm definitely telling everyone about this. In the morning, I'll call and have it towed to Luke's mechanic. He's had his SUV worked on by the same guy for years; he doesn't even let the mechanic the precinct provides near it. He's loyal, as you know.”

 

“Oh yeah, sounds like him.”

 

“Anyway, I'll see if I can get a discount through him. It's good to have contacts,” Simon murmurs, smirking slightly. His smile falls. “Until then, it looks like we're walking back home. There's no way I can afford an uber all the way across town.”

 

A thought suddenly strikes Jace. “I probably can, but the night isn't even over yet. What if we did something else?”

 

Simon shrugs. “Sure. What did you have in mind?”

 

“The subway. But first, a detour.”





 



Simon stares at Jace over the rack of hangers, watching him flip through jackets in bemusement. He has no idea why they're in a shop full of blankets, clothes, and threads. It's an hour from closing, but Jace is perusing all the items as if they have all the time in the world.

 

“Is there anything I can help you with, sir?” An older woman approaches them with a kind smile, looking between them curiously. “Are you looking for anything specific?”

 

Jace stops flicking the hangers and crosses his arms, nodding seriously. “I am, actually. I need a jacket, a really good one. The kind that is more about warmth than looks. And a blanket. One that's preferably warm, thick, and very big.”

 

Simon blinks in surprise.

 

“Oh,” the woman says, and her name tag reads Olivia, “well, I have a few suggestions. If you'll follow me, I can show you what we have.”

 

“That'd be great, thanks,” Jace says, waving Simon around the rack and grabbing his hand to tug him along behind the woman.

 

Simon sort of loses focus after that. There's actually something really amazing about how normal this is. Jace doesn't drop his hand as he looks over the suggestions Olivia gives him. For a moment, they're a normal couple in a normal world and nothing is out of place.

 

Simon gets lost in it. He crafts a whole world in his head where he and Jace met normally, where demons don't lurk in the dark, where he's never died at all. For as long as they're in the shop, Jace picking out a blanket and jacket, Simon pretends that they're a couple who don't know the horrors of the world.

 

When it's over and they step back out into the cold, Simon lets the fantasy wash away like water swirling down a drain. He doesn't cling to it, doesn't feel an ounce of envy, doesn't regret the life he leads now. He's thankful, so thankful, that he gets this. Much like Clary, he doesn't think he'd ever give it up if he had the choice.

 

“So,” Simon says, forcing the word out through a throat thick with emotion, “why did you buy an expensive blanket and coat?”

 

The corner of Jace's lip twitches. “You'll see.”

 

“Oh, it's a surprise?”

 

“It's just hard to explain.”

 

“Fair enough,” Simon allows.

 

They're quiet as they stroll down the street, hands still linked together. People bump into them as they walk - this is New York - but Jace doesn't seem to mind. Simon is glad he doesn't have to be glamoured all the time, just on mission. He likes feeling normal.

 

Eventually, Jace pulls him down to a subway entrance, taking the stairs two at a time. Simon figures they're going back to the institute now and lets himself be tugged inside the dank station. He hums as they enter. They'll have to wait for a train, but it shouldn't be long.

 

“This way,” Jace urges, pulling him towards the back of the station where most of the homeless people linger far from everyone else.

 

Simon frowns. “Uh, what are we doing?”

 

Jace throws him a smile. “There's someone I'd like you to meet.”

 

Simon isn't sure what is going on, but he trusts Jace enough to follow. Jace walks towards a man sat against the dirty tiles. He's got long dreads, dark skin, and patchy clothes that look ready to fall apart. As they approach, the man looks up and breaks into a smile with missing teeth.

 

“Jace!” the man exclaims, pushing himself to his feet shakily, dark eyes brightening.

 

Suddenly, Simon remembers Jace saying something about befriending a homeless man. He'd thought that was a joke, but it appears not.

 

Jace sets the bags down by the man's feet, his smile soft. “Hey, Duke, how are you tonight?”

 

“Im's good, real good. Well, good enough.” Duke looks down at the bags. “Is this that blanket?”

 

“It is. Got you a new coat too, for good measure.”

 

“Oh, that's nice, real nice. You ain't go spending your money to them capitalists, did ya?”

 

“Maybe, but it was for a good cause.” Jace rolls his eyes when Duke frowns. “Just take it. Also, there's somebody I want you to meet. Duke, this is Simon. Remember me talking about him?”

 

Duke's face lights up. “Oh! You found your boy? Samuel! Jace was so sad about them illuminatis taking you.”

 

Simon is having a really hard time not gaping at shock at this entire exchange. But he does have some manners, so he clears his throat and smiles. He feels like he's not walking on solid ground, his world altering before his very eyes, but he shifts with it.

 

“It's- well, yeah, I'm back.” Simon blinks as Duke purses his lips suspiciously. “Um, what?”

 

“How'd you get free?” Duke asks, crossing his skinny arms. “You knew too much. They ain't just let you go. No way, not uh. You kill anyone?”

 

Jace snorts. “Duke, it's not like that. They just, uh, locked him up for a little bit. He's good now, he's home. I just- I wanted you to meet him.”

 

Duke nods easily at that, his wrinkled face softening into a heartwarming grin. “Well, that's really good. Reals good. Jace was so sad ‘bout you, Steve, so sad.”

 

“Simon,” Jace corrects, rolling his eyes. “Duke, you know his name is Simon.”

 

“It's nice to meet you too, Duke,” Simon says weakly, watching Duke scoop up the bag and poke around in it with narrowed eyes. “I was pretty sad too when I was away, but it's good to know that you kept Jace company while I was gone.”

 

Duke looks up and blinks. “Nah, Jace kept me company. Saved my life, he did. Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but he doesn't.”

 

“Oh.” Simon swallows thickly. “I'm sorry.”

 

“Mhm.” Duke suddenly smiles again, large and happy despite everything. “Jace said you's the type to care, guess he was right. You're good in my book then, Simon.”

 

Jace huffs a quiet laugh. “Told you that you'd like him. Have I been wrong yet?”

 

Duke flaps a hand carelessly, digging out the jacket from the bag. “Well, I ain't never met him until now, have I? Oh, this is nice, Jace. Real nice.”

 

“I can't make the government put heaters down here, but I can help you keep warm,” Jace says lightly, smiling as Duke starts removing his own thin jacket. It's ready to fall apart. The new one encases his thin frame, looking out of place against his dirty appearance. Jace beams. “What was it you said? Poor stay poor, rich stay warm? Not anymore.”

 

Duke pats his new jacket, smoothing it down, looking seconds from crying. “Well,” he whispers in a strangled voice, staring at Jace in unbridled emotion, “guess this makes me rich, don't it?”

 

Jace just shrugs. “Guess so.”

 

Simon didn't know it was possible for him to fall in love with Jace harder and all over again, but here he is, struggling to breathe as it happens.

 

When they leave, Duke is beaming in joy as he wraps up in his new blanket, Jace looks as if he hasn't done a thing worth appreciating, and Simon is ready to fall to his knee and propose. Jace has no idea what he's just done to Simon's heart, doesn't even think what he's done deserves any recognition. Simon can barely breathe while Jace acts as if the world hasn't stopped turning at all.

 

They take a train as close to the institute as it can get them, then casually walk the rest of the way. The night is cold and their breath floats out in front of them. Simon is holding Jace's hand and keeping his mouth shut, scared that if he tries to talk, he really will do something drastic. He hopes Jace doesn't notice his silence, but that's too good to be true.

 

Jace abruptly tugs him to a halt, turning to stare at him with an eyebrow cocked in question.

 

“What?” Simon croaks.

 

“You haven't said a word for the last thirty minutes, Simon. That's a new record.” Jace drops his hand and crosses his arms. “What's wrong?”

 

“Nothing! God, nothing. It's just- I'm-”

 

“Simon, talk to me.”

 

Simon sucks in a sharp breath. “You- you're just- I'm so in love with you it hurts. How can you not see what you just did? Do you even- of course not. People don't just- just do things like that, without a second thought, without expecting something. I'm having a really hard time not just- well, if I had- if there was a ring, I'd probably-”

 

Jace's eyebrows fly up, which makes Simon snap his mouth shut. Jace blinks, his arms uncrossing, lips slowly parting. “Probably what, Simon?”

 

Simon swallows. “How can you be the most infuriating, selfish, prick? But also be the most loving, selfless, sweetheart?”

 

“It's a gift,” Jace says simply. “What is it? That Duke is my friend? He really helped me when you were gone. A lot of people did, but he was- he helped me keep going when promises weren't enough.”

 

“Shit.” Simon reaches up and digs the heels of his palms into his eyes, upsetting his contacts. He doesn't care, just pushes until black spots dance in his mind's eye. “Fuck, shit, fuck.”

 

Jace laughs softly. “Simon, relax, it's not that-”

 

“Don't you say it's not a big deal!” Simon blinks rapidly as he drops his hands, lifting one to point at Jace's face. “It is a big deal, to me, to Duke. God, you can't even see it and that makes it so much worse. We've had one fight. One! That's it. We haven't even been able to- we haven't been together that long! But if I had something, anything, I would just-”

 

“Don't stop now, it's just getting good,” Jace teases, lips quirking. “Seriously, what?”

 

Simon shudders out a long breath and waves his hands. “Nothing. It's too soon. I'm- I'm compromised. I wanna see Clary.”

 

Jace's eyebrows jump again. “Compromised? Simon, what on earth are you talking about?”

 

“I would ask you to marry me,” Simon whispers, his voice small, whole body shaking. “Right now, right here on this empty street, I would just- and you don't even- god, I'm so sorry.”

 

Jace just stares at him, mouth opening and closing like he's supposed to be saying words but no sounds come out. Simon's heart is thumping wildly, and nerves makes his stomach quiver and squirm. Simon immediately regrets saying that, starts fidgeting, wants to snatch the words right back out of the air, even if they’re the truth.

 

“You look like you're gonna faint,” Jace comments quietly, his face slackening into fondness.

 

“I might. Jace, I might actually faint. I can't believe I just told you that. Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I-”

 

“Shut up.”

 

Simon doesn't have a choice in the matter, not when Jace grabs either side of his face and presses a hard kiss against his lips. Simon immediately sinks into it with a soft sound in the back of his throat, whole body relaxing into it. Jace kisses him with intent, each shift of his lips full of purpose.

 

Simon is only half aware that he's shifting closer, hands coming up to grip Jace's arms, back arching as he presses closer. He gets swept up in it far too easily, but to be fair, Jace is not messing around.

 

The kiss is like no other. It's not sexual at all, or desperate, or even dripping with relief. Simon almost can't work it out, but it hits him hard when he does. Right there, in the midst of the cold, clinging to each other, Jace is saying yes.

 

Simon didn't actually propose, they're not technically engaged, but he knows what this means. One day, they will be. If Simon asks, Jace will say yes. Simon isn't going to ask, not now, but one day.

 

That is so liberating, Simon nearly cries.

 

Jace pulls away slow, his eyes still closed when Simon opens his. There's a gentle look of peace on his face, like he's basking in this moment. Simon reaches up and hooks his hands on Jace's wrists, lightly rubbing his thumbs over the back of his hands. Jace doesn't open his eyes for a long time.

 

Finally, he does, and Simon says, “Thank you.”

 

“You're welcome,” Jace rasps.

 

“Let's go home.”

 

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

Jace knows next to nothing about Miami, Florida.

 

Fortunately, he doesn't have to. The portal Magnus conjures takes them pretty much right beside the Florida Institute. All he can gather from the walk to the old, abandoned chapel is that Miami is hot.

 

“You know,” Maia comments casually, “I always wanted to come to Florida. They have an amazing marine biology program here.”

 

Jace hums. “I don't see the appeal.”

 

Maia snorts. Their amusement drains as they approach the institute. This is the twelfth one they've visited together this week. They go in pairs in between mission and their own lives, tackling institutes together. The way Alec set it up, one Shadowhunter goes with one downworlder. Jace had pretty much immediately demanded to go with Maia since Alec had Magnus and Clary took Luke - he was not willing to subject himself to Raphael's constant complaining about Meliorn, nor was he eager to deal with Meliorn talking about Raphael. Izzy had taken Meliorn, Simon went with Raphael.

 

Jace likes Maia. He thinks they could have had a thing, a fling possibly, if their lives were different. From what he gathers though, she and some guy named Bat are getting along like a house on fire, so he's happy for her. And they work together really well, so that's a plus.

 

“Think we got this one?” Maia asks as they break past the wards and head to the door.

 

“I don't know much about this institute, but I think we should be fine,” Jace replies easily.

 

It's not that it's a competition, but it's completely a competition. They probably didn't mean to turn it into a little friendly competition to see who could get more institutes to agree to show up to the party, but they're all competitive by nature. The official tally shows that Simon and Raphael are in the lead, though no one knows how. Clary and Luke follow close, Magnus and Alec are right behind them, and Jace and Maia barely beat out Izzy and Meliorn.

 

As for the amount of institutes that have agreed to come… well, it didn't look good - not at first. But as the number slowly rises, it gets easier and easier to convince people to agree.

 

How it works is, Alec picks ten institutes in a day, schedules a time to meet with them, and the five pairs take two in a day. Getting the institute to gather all the higher-up downworlders at the institute is usually a fight, but Alec is insistent. They have to time it correctly so no one is late to the next location.

 

“State your business,” a guard says sharply, eyes zeroing in on Maia with suspicion.

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “We have a meeting with Marcus, she's with me.”

 

The guard simply opens the door and starts leading them down the hall. “Very well. Follow me.”

 

Jace has long gotten used to the other institutes looking different than the one he lives in. They usually have the same structures with a slightly changed layout, but the thing that is different is how incredibly bare they are. Like Simon said, institutes aren't exactly homes, but Jace never really stopped to think about how they've made the New York institute into one.

 

They're led to a room fit for a meeting. It has a long table with six different people sitting around it. Jace can tell who the Head of The Institute is by his runes immediately; what appears to be his wife stands behind his chair. On his left sit two vampires, their backs ramrod straight, eyes fixated on the Warlock and wolf sitting across from them.

 

“Well, doesn't this look tense?” Maia chirps with a bright smile, lightly smacking Jace on the shoulder.

 

Jace snorts. “It always does.” He smirks as everyone stares at them, watching him pull out a chair for Maia, because he's a gentleman, obviously.

 

“Mr. Herondale,” the Head of The Institute - Marcus - says cordially, “did you make it over alright?”

 

“Sure did.” Jace turns towards Maia. “And you, Maia? How was your trip?”

 

Maia purses her lips, tipping her head from side to side. “Fine, mostly. Portaling always makes me stumble though; it's a bitch to do in heels.”

 

Jace hums. “Well, I wouldn't know.”

 

“So, what's your name?” Maia asks, leaning forward suddenly and looking directly at Marcus.

 

“I'm the Head of the Florida Institute,” Marcus tells her, warmth draining from his voice.

 

A vampire at the table scoffs, and Jace leans forward beside Maia. “She didn't ask your title, she asked your name.”

 

Marcus blinks. “My name is Marcus, this is my wife, Genevieve. That's the High Warlocks of Miami, Gregor. This is Kenleigh and Kevin, the siblings who run the largest vampire clan in Miami. And that's Daniel, the pack leader of all werewolves here.”

 

Maia's eyebrows shoot up. “Damn, Daniel,” she praises, making the man look over with a frown of confusion, “that's quite a feat. How many wolves?”

 

“Not that many,” Daniel replies gruffly.

 

“Well, I'm Jace and that's Maia,” Jace introduces, talking directly to the downworlders. “We're here to invite everyone to a highly inclusive party held by the New York Institute.”

 

Marcus hums, placing his palms flat down on the table. “Yes, I've heard of this party. It seems that many other regions will be taking the hour to go. Tell me, why is it important that you invite more than just Shadowhunters?”

 

“Because in New York, the Shadow World doesn't embrace hierarchy,” Maia says, tilting her head, curls bouncing.

 

“We don't turn away any guest,” Jace tells him seriously. “We're inviting important members from each region; that includes the downworlders.”

 

“Not usually,” Kevin mutters sarcastically.

 

Maia purses her lips. “In New York it does. Wolves, Warlocks, seelies, and vampires alike are just as informed as the Shadowhunters. We work as a unit, rather than a disconnected machine.”

 

“In New York,” Marcus retorts sharply.

 

Jace bobs his head. “Yes, in New York. And it works out quite well. You'd be surprised the amount of relief you'd have from working together instead of against each other. Actually, this may come as a shock to you, but you might just find yourself liking each other if you tried.”

 

The awkward silence that follows is comical, mostly because Jace isn't a part of it. The Florida group all exchange uncomfortable looks, as if the mere idea of them being friends seems unfathomable. Jace watches Marcus wrinkle his nose.

 

“Well,” he says a bit forcefully, “this is Florida. We have been doing the same things for decades; we are fine with the way they are.”

 

“Really?” Maia challenges, arching an eyebrow. She jerks her chin at the downworlders on either side of the table. “Are you sure they agree?”

 

Marcus doesn't even glance at them. “As I said before, this is not New York.”

 

Jace pushes himself from his seat. “Fine. The offer only stands if you can come as a group, otherwise it doesn't. So, if you're interested in coming at all, like everyone else is, then you'll get acquainted really quick. If not, well… that's your problem.”

 

“That's unfortunate,” Maia grumbles with a put upon sigh, shaking her head. “I was really looking forward to talking about marine biology.”

 

“I'm sure someone else from all the other regions can help there,” Jace says with a light smile, purposefully ignoring the frown on the faces of everyone else in the room. “This is a lost cause. You ready to head back? We can stop and grab a bite before we pick up that blood for Raphael.”

 

Maia stands up as well. “Sure, sounds good to me.”

 

They get two steps.

 

“Wait,” Marcus calls, “I'm sure everyone in this room can come to some sort of… agreement.”

 

Jace and Maia turn in sync, their arms crossing in perfect unison.

 

“We were thinking of something a little bit more… cooperative,” Maia says.

 

Jace nods. “Yeah, like a partnership.”

 

“I mean… why not?” Maia asks lightly, her lips curling into a smirk. “If New York can, surely Florida can manage it for an hour.”

 

“Well, they'll have to get better acquainted before then too,” Jace tells her in faux seriousness, waving a hand at the group. “I mean, they can't be partners if they don't know anything about each other. Like this! Maia, what's my favorite rune?”

 

Maia looks right at a gaping Marcus. “Why, Jace, it's your parabatai rune, of course! Say, what's my least favorite book series?"

 

Jace hums and taps his lips. “Well, that's tricky! I could say Twilight or 50 Shades Trilogy.”

 

“Well, you got me there,” Maia quips back.

 

“We see your point,” Marcus says dryly.

 

“Well, would you look at that?” Jace teases with a sharp, cocky smile. “You're already getting into the flow of things. Did I hear you say “we”? So, we can expect the Florida region at the party?”

 

More uncomfortable looks.

 

Marcus sighs. “Yes, we will be there.”

 

Maia gives a little smile, eyes squinting, and it's so fake that Jace nearly bursts out laughing. She tuts and says, “We're glad you won't be missing it. We'll expect this group to be well acquainted by then, so you best get started. The party is almost ready.”

 

“As for us,” Jace says with a grin, “we have a portal to catch. You all have a fine day!”

 

With that, Maia and Jace turn and leave. They're escorted out by the same guard and the room is full of awkward silence as they go. They have about a minute before their scheduled portal is opened up, so they head back to the place they showed up at. Even though it's in the evening, the air is still thick with heat, so they fan themselves as they wait.

 

“You don't think we come on too strong?” Maia asks curiously. “Maybe that's the reason we're almost in last in this little competition.”

 

Jace's lips tug down at the corners as he makes a considering expression. “Nah, can't be that at all.”

 

Maia shrugs.






 




“Ha! We won!”

 

Simon rolls his eyes as Luke and Clary high-five, hip checking each other like dads and daughters do when they're complete dorks. The sight of their grins makes him feel so fond he almost doesn't feel annoyed at losing. He huffs and taps Raphael on the arm repeatedly.

 

“They cheated, they totally cheated,” Simon tells him, frowning. “We had that in the bag.”

 

Raphael sighs. “I told you I wasn't participating in the strange competition.”

 

Simon snorts. “Oh, please, you were totally participating. You even smiled.”

 

“I smile. See?” Raphael's whole face suddenly lights up as he slaps on a charming smile.

 

“And what a beautiful sight it is,” Meliorn says, suddenly right there at Raphael's side, looking at him in amusement. “And that is not mockery, as you're well aware that I cannot lie.”

 

Raphael's smile drops. “Do you ever just… not?”

 

Meliorn smirks. “No, never. As it stands, when you smile, I see the resemblance between you and the lovely Rosa. Tell me, when may I visit her again?”

 

“Are they being weird again?” Izzy asks as she walks over, watching Raphael and Meliorn in amusement.

 

Simon chuckles. “They're them. When are they anything else?”

 

“Rosa has been asking after you,” Raphael mutters, looking disgusted by that. “Which is the only reason you're coming with me to visit her tomorrow.”

 

“I would be delighted to join you,” Meliorn says with a smile. “Perhaps we could-”

 

Raphael cuts him off with a look. “No.”

 

As Raphael turns and walks away, going to stand by Jace with a blank expression, Meliorn sighs sadly. Jace just spares one glance at Raphael and goes back to being quiet and broody, as they appear to like to do together. Simon knows he's right about them being parallels - they both like silence and mystery and giving Simon a heart attack.

 

“Well,” Meliorn says quietly, “I did try.”

 

Simon gasps. “Oh no! You're giving up?”

 

“That I am,” Meliorn tells him, his smile just a little flickering thing. “I may be a man who is well versed in the language of love, but even I know when to take a hint. He says no, he must mean it.”

 

“Oh, you can't give up now,” Simon groans, reaching up to smack his forehead. “He's taking you to see Rosa and everything!”

 

“Because Magnus told him to.”

 

“Only once. He's taking you again.”

 

“Because Rosa adores me.”

 

“So does he! I mean, he has a weird way of showing it, but you can't let that get to you.”

 

Meliorn simply shrugs. “If Raphael does not enjoy my affections, I will cease plaguing him with them. We can simply be colleagues from this point on.”

 

“What about Rosa?” Izzy asks warily.

 

“I will continue to visit Rosa for as long as she wishes and he allows me to,” Meliorn replies, dipping his head.

 

Simon huffs in annoyance. “I can't believe this.”

 

Meliorn's lips twitch. “Do not look so down, Simon, you are not the one being rejected.”

 

“Who's being rejected?” Magnus asks as he floats over, leaving Alec with Raphael and Jace.

 

“Meliorn.” Izzy frowns. “Raphael has told him no for the last time apparently.”

 

Magnus sighs, rolling his eyes. “That boy, honestly. Sometimes, I think he got too much of my dramatics. Finally pushed you away, has he?”

 

“No, of course not,” Meliorn tells them sincerely, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind one pointy ear. “Raphael is a very good man, he has changed my view on vampires, and I enjoy his presence. We shall stay friends.”

 

“Meliorn, has anyone ever told you that you have a really good heart?” Simon asks.

 

Meliorn tilts his head. “Hmm, I believe the last person who told me that died moments after as I stabbed them through theirs.”

 

“Aaaand you ruined it.”

 

“Okay, listen up!” Alec calls out abruptly, moving to the front of the room with a serious expression.

 

Simon snorts. “Look at him in leader-mode.”

 

“I do love a man who can take charge,” Magnus says with a hum, reaching up to rub an arc over his ear, eyes bright on Alec.

 

“Out of all the regions, we couldn't manage to get thirty. By the time we got a quarter of the regions to agree, many of the others were reaching out to us to say they're coming.” Alec nods at Clary. “Thank you for that, Clary. Out of the ones who initially refused, only three did not change their minds. We have approximately a week to find a place to host a party, set up for said party, and figure out a way to get everyone to implement the same things we have in New York. If anyone has any ideas, now would be a great time to speak up.”

 

“What if we actually have a party?” Meliorn asks, his light voice carrying in the silence.

 

“How would that be helpful in any way?” Raphael asks sharply, looking much angrier than usual.

 

Simon narrows his eyes, whispers, “Raphael sucks,” and like magic, Raphael's eyes snap to him.

 

Oh god, he heard Meliorn! Simon realizes, lips breaking into a grin. And now he's pissed.

 

Magnus waves a hand. “No, that's a lovely idea. Why simply use the party as a facade when we can use it as a disguise?”

 

“We could hand out packets,” Simon suggests with a shrug. “Just make those little pamphlets with all the important stuff in bullet points. Make them read it. That could work.”

 

Jace's raised eyebrows can be seen all the way across the room. “Simon, no.”

 

“We only need half of them to agree, so remember that. Just enough to get back to Idris and the Clave, enough to make an impact,” Alec reminds them.

 

“Wait, I've got an idea,” Jace blurts, jerking up straight. “When me and Maia were inviting regions, we got a lot of them to agree by reverse psychology. What if, instead of telling them they should do it, we tell them that they can't?”

 

Clary snaps her fingers. “Now, that could work! But it also could backfire horribly. We'd need a balance, a strong voice working both sides.”

 

“What about an argument?” Izzy asks, lips spreading into a broad smile.

 

“Uh, Iz, that's kinda what we're trying to avoid actually,” Simon says seriously.

 

Izzy rolls her eyes. “Think about it,” she insists seriously. “If they were to see both sides of what happens between us, while also being encouraged to be like us, they might be swayed.”

 

“Elaborate,” Alec orders with a frown.

 

“Say, for example, you and Magnus gave a speech about changing the world, asking them to join you in doing so. Many of them may be moved enough to do so, but there will be many more who simply don't care to. But as Jace said, if there was an opposing couple to say that no others could do it, not like us, then they'll actually want to, thus thinking it was their idea the whole time.”

 

“Good cop, bad cop,” Luke says in approval, bobbing his head. “No, that's a great idea. All of us, by nature, are competitive - I mean, just look at us. If we make people strive to compete to be better, without them knowing it, we'll get what we want without a doubt.”

 

“So, me and Magnus are good cop?” Alec asks.

 

Magnus sniffs, lips pressing out into a pronounced pout. “I would make a far better bad cop, but very well. If you insist.”

 

“So, who's the bad cops?” Jace asks with a frown.

 

“We need a downworlder and Shadowhunter duo,” Clary says, frowning. “I don't actually know anyone besides Magnus and Alec.”

 

“I'm not fake-dating anyone,” Simon says, pointing around the room. “Just so we're clear.”

 

“No, it would have to be at least a little genuine, something believable. Everyone knows of the couples here,” Izzy says with a sigh.

 

Luke clears his throat loud and awkward, making everyone look at him. “What about me and Maryse? We're not, uh, dating, but we are friends and unattached. Plus, it would help add to the image of bad cop, considering we're ex-circle members.”

 

Simon watches as all three Lightwood siblings all twitch into the same expression, their eyebrows rising in sync. He has to give it to Luke, the man doesn't even flinch when Alec, Izzy, and Jace all stare at him with a hard consideration, like they're sizing him up for their mom where he stands.

 

Clary looks baffled. “Maryse?”

 

“No, that's perfect,” Magnus says, nodding his head, not even noticing the strange moment.

 

Jace heaves a sigh. “I guess I'll call mom.”

 

“And everyone else needs to find their date; don't look at me like that Raphael,” Alec says, holding up a hand as Raphael scowls. “It's just someone on your arm, a united front, nothing more. Unless, of course, you'd like it to be.” His lips twitch. “Like me and Magnus. But that's entirely up to you. I want everyone representing New York to be in pairs. We will attack this stealthily, drop seeds wherever we go, show everyone else how we do things.”

 

“Shnookums, that means me and you,” Simon calls, winking at Jace, who just rolls his eyes.

 

Alec doesn't pay him any mind. “Me and Magnus will find the venue, we'll meet up there and start decorating over the week; yes, you have to be there. Everyone clear on what we're doing?”

 

A low murmur of agreement passes around the room, rising in enthusiasm and dipping in disgruntlement. Simon figures that's fair, most families are like that.





 




“Boost me up.”

 

Jace clenches his jaw and presses his palms into Clary's bottom, pushing her up from his shoulder with a huff. She smirks down at him and starts hanging the fairy lights just over the bay windows. Jace's arms tremble.

 

“Couldn't Magnus do this?” Jace grits out.

 

Clary chuckles. “He's busy, stop whining.”

 

Jace doesn't whine, hasn't ever whined in his life, so he snaps his mouth shut and holds her up. Clary takes her time, seeming to enjoy being hoisted up in the air like royalty. Eventually though, she does get all the lights up, so he lowers her down to the ground slowly. She beams at him.

 

“Anything else, your majesty?” Jace asks sarcastically. “Here, why don't I lay down so you can walk over me instead of the dirty floor?”

 

“I mean, if you're offering,” Clary says lightly, eyes dancing in amusement.

 

“You're the worst.”

 

“Lies, all lies.”

 

“Hey, guys!” Simon says brightly, practically skidding to a halt. He has a box in his hands full of tablecloths. “Guess what I just saw?”

 

“What?” Clary asks.

 

“We don't care,” Jace says.

 

“Luke and Maryse were flirting,” Simon tells them with a giddy smile.

 

Jace suddenly does care. “I knew he liked her. Me, Izzy, and Alec will have to talk to him later.”

 

Simon and Clary frown at him.

 

“Luke is a good man,” Clary says firmly. “Your mother would be lucky to have him.”

 

“Yeah,” Simon agrees.

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “I know Luke is a good man, but we still have to give him a talk. She's our mom. He can't hurt Maryse, not after Robert did.”

 

Clary frowns. “Jace, he won't.”

 

“He really won't.” Simon shifts to the side and leans forward to peck Jace on the lips. “Okay, I have to go help Alec with color coding tablecloths. Raphael needs your help with the seating chart cards.”

 

“Why?” Jace grumbles, already turning around to head over to Raphael.

 

Izzy smiles and pecks his cheek as he passes, working with Magnus to make origami napkins of some sort. Meliorn dips his head forward in acknowledgement as brushes past him, his hands busy arranging flowers with Maia. Luke and Maryse sure are flirting, but Jace has to bite back a smile at the sight of Maryse laughing in a genuine way she has so rarely done in these past few years.

 

“There you are,” Raphael snaps, glaring down at the list in his hands and the bent cards in a stack with names printed prettily on them.

 

“Here I am,” Jace agrees, arching an eyebrow at Raphael's visible annoyance. He seems even more prickly than usual. “What do you need me for? Can't you just run really fast and put the cards on the back of the chairs?”

 

Raphael turns his glare to Jace, most definitely more pissed for some reason. “I can't remember where they all go. I need you to list the table number and the region for me, that's all.”

 

Jace shrugs. “As long as I don't have do lift you up.”

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“Good. Give me the list.”

 

Raphael does use his vampire speed to place the cards on the back of the chairs, darting around the room in a blur. In between, he stops to give a snarky comment before dashing off again. All in all, Jace much prefers this than lifting Clary up wherever she needs to reach. Why Magnus put the shortest person on hanging things up, Jace will never know.

 

Meliorn walks up while Raphael is gone for a moment. “I need a favor from you, Jace.”

 

Jace takes the pen out of his mouth and crosses out yet another name. “Yeah, what's up?”

 

“Could you tell Alec to tell Magnus that the carnations don't go with the color scheme? A set of peony would set the room much better.”

 

“Can't you tell him that?”

 

Meliorn's lips twitch. “Not without him getting offended. Alec will listen to you, Magnus will listen to him. Please?”

 

Before Jace can answer, Raphael flits back over. He then proceeds to crash into a chair, making it topple over with a loud crash. Raphael immediately attempts to pick it up, but only manages to knock over the stand holding lists of things already done and crossed off. He fumbles to catch the papers, but the chair catches on his foot and knocks into another one, sending it sailing to the floor.

 

“Dios mio,” Raphael groans, eyes sinking closed in open embarrassment.

 

Jace can't help it, he snorts. “I didn't know vampires could be so… ungraceful.”

 

“Are you alright?” Meliorn asks with just a touch of concern, lips twitching in faint amusement.

 

Raphael takes a deep breath, setting his shoulders, and quietly fixes everything that he'd managed to knock over. Then, and only then, does he fix Meliorn with a glower. “I'm fine. What do you want?”

 

“Nothing.” Meliorn blinks. “I was just here to ask Jace a favor.”

 

“Speaking of,” Jace says, snapping his fingers as he remembers, “just let Alec know. He'll work it out.”

 

Meliorn hums. “If you're sure?”

 

“I am.”

 

“Very well. Thank you, Jace.”

 

With that, Meliorn turns and walks away without another word. Raphael narrows his eyes, gaze locked on Meliorn's retreating back. Jace looks between them, a slow piece of the puzzle clicking into place in his brain. He blinks.

 

“By the Angel, Simon was right,” Jace blurts.

 

Raphael jolts as if he'd abruptly been slammed back to earth. “What? Simon is never right.”

 

“You'd be surprised.” Jace crosses his arms, tilting his head and just staring. “So, you like him, but you're mean to him. That does sound like me.”

 

“I don't know what you're talking about.”

 

“Mm, I think you do.”

 

“I don't,” Raphael insists, snatching up yet another stack of cards.

 

“Word of advice, maybe stop being angry with him for leaving you alone when you are the one who told him to,” Jace says lightly.

 

Raphael clenches his jaw, cheek jumping in obvious anger. “The lengths you people will go to annoy me knows no bounds. Just tell me the next on the list.”

 

“You people? Raphael, you are us people?” Jace snorts and rolls his eyes. “You haven't noticed yet? You're one of us now, whether you like it or not. That means forever, basically. You'll be invited to all weddings, you'll know our children, you'll join us for nights out. You're screwed, man.”

 

Raphael looks absolutely disgusted by this abrupt announcement, but Jace has spent enough time with him to notice the hint of mystified shock in his eyes, the one bred from being pleasantly surprised.

 

“How did this happen?”

 

“I don't know, it happened to me too with Simon. You just kinda look up one day and realize you're in the shit and never getting out.”

 

Raphael actually looks a little terrified. “But I don't even like any of you.”

 

“That's a lie,” Jace quips back. Then, he smirks slow and pointed. “You like Meliorn.”

 

“I very much do not like Meliorn.”

 

“Oh, really? And why not? Do you not like men?”

 

“I'm not-”

 

“I know you're asexual. But you're also capable of romantic attraction.”

 

Raphael presses his lips into a thin line. “He is annoying, a seelie, indebted to his queen, and very much not worth my time.”

 

“And you like him anyway,” Jace says.

 

“Yes, I like him anyway,” Raphael hisses, moving forward to point at Jace with a fierce blaze of anger in his eyes. “If you say one word, Jace, I will-”

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “I couldn't care less who you like, or don't, but I do care about Simon, who cares about your happiness for some reason. So, another piece of advice, don't sabotage your own life, man. What's the worst that could happen if you do go for a little romance? It either works out or it doesn't.”

 

Raphael just shakes his head. “I sometimes forget just how young all of you are.”

 

“Magnus isn't young,” Jace tells him, shrugging shamelessly. “He still believes in love and shit.”

 

“And he's paid for that.”

 

“You know what they say, what's a little love without pain, what's worth the pain if not love?”

 

“No one says that.” Raphael heaves a sigh and grimaces. “Just tell me the next name.”

 

Jace frowns. “You're not going to ask him out?”

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“You should.”

 

“I'm not.”

 

“Raphael.”

 

“Jace.”

 

“I'm serious. You're both in the need of a date. Why don't you just, you know, offer? You know he likes you already.”

 

“I'd rather not,” Raphael says, frowning.

 

“Do it anyway,” Jace says.

 

Raphael glares. “No.”

 

“Fine, if you want to be lonely and miserable all your life, then who am I to stop you?”

 

“Have you ever considered that people don't need to be in a relationship to be happy?”

 

“You're right, they don't. But if you like someone, and they like you back, you're just being an asshole if you refuse to do something about it out of spite.”

 

“I don't want to be in this group anymore.”

 

Jace smirks. “Too bad.”



 


 



Simon wraps his arms around Jace's back, resting his hands against the cold belt buckle on the front of his waist. Jace leans back into him for a moment, putting down the sheer curtains and resting his hands over Simon's, squeezing lightly.

 

“I feel like I haven't seen you all week,” Simon murmurs, pressing a light kiss to the bend in Jace's shoulder and neck.

 

Jace obligingly tilts his head to the side to give Simon more access. “We've been pretty busy. In fact, Magnus will kill you if you're not helping with the finishing touches before tonight.”

 

“So, you want me to stop?” Simon trails his lips farther up Jace's neck. “Because I can stop.”

 

“Shouldn't be anything wrong with a break between all this madness,” Jace says with a soft sigh, tilting his head back to lean against Simon's shoulder.

 

Jace always does this thing where he acts like he's invincible to Simon's affections, but he also melts like a butter over an open flame whenever Simon takes the time to actually apply them. They're in a room full of bustling friends, but Jace practically sinks back into him as Simon kisses up the line of his throat. Simon loves that.

 

Simon would be lying if he said he didn't get lost in it too. Jace's skin beneath his lips is unfairly intoxicating, not in the way it was when he was a vampire, but something else entirely. It's the power that comes with it, that he can make Jace forget where he is, that he can wrap Jace up and instantly transport them to another world with just his embrace. It's like nothing else, empowering and absolutely lovely in every way.

 

“We should get back to work,” Simon murmurs, eyes sliding closed as he nips at the skin beneath Jace's ear, tongue immediately sliding over the echo of his teeth pressing into the skin.

 

Jace hums. “Yeah, probably.”

 

“Hey!” Magnus is suddenly right there, scowling and shoving the sheer curtains back into Jace's hands. “No more canoodling, boys! We have too much to do. If you can't keep your hands off each other, I will separate you both.”

 

Simon pulls away with a sigh, the low curl of heat in his stomach fizzing out under the force of Magnus’ glare. He holds his hands up in surrender and steps up to Jace's side, reaching over to tug up one side of the curtains that needs to be hung up. Once Magnus sees that they're back to work, he darts off to keep Alec from doing something or another.

 

“You think he wouldn't care so much,” Simon muses, standing up on his tiptoes to reach above the window. “I mean, this is just all for show.”

 

Jace snorts. “Like Magnus Bane will ever miss an opportunity to throw a party, fake or not.”

 

“Good point.”

 

“So, are you ready for tonight?”

 

“Yeah.” Simon jerks his head back to stare at Jace over his raised arm. “Why wouldn't I be? I'm charming. People are going to love me.”

 

“It doesn't matter if people love you or not; they're supposed to feel bad for you. We're planting seeds about the Clave, okay?”

 

“Like the story isn't enough on its own.”

 

“Hey, look, you know you don't have to do this if you don't want to,” Jace murmurs, eyes softening.

 

Simon cracks a smile. “What's a little walk through some trauma to save the world?”

 

“Not required if you don't want to.”

 

“Jace, of course I don't want to, but I'm going to do it anyway. It's just one night, one hour, the same story. It's not like someone hasn't heard a version of it at this point anyway. I'm just setting things straight.”

 

Jace sighs and leans up to clip the curtain into place, jumping slightly to reach, which makes Simon swallow a chuckle. “We could have a safe word or something. Just a word you say if you don't want to talk about it anymore, or if you need to be pulled away. I think it's a good idea.”

 

“That's sweet. You're sweet.” Simon shakes his head with a small smile. “Fine, how about… serendipity?”

 

“Serendipity?” Jace echoes in disbelief.

 

“Yeah, I like the word, it's easy to remember, and it basically means happy accident. Pretty covert, if you ask me. Does it work?”

 

“Yeah, that's fine. I'll keep an ear out for it.”

 

Simon sighs as he stumbles back to regular height, lips twisting bitterly. “I probably won't use it. I mean, I'm just going to be rehashing what the Clave did to me to a bunch of people who probably agree with the Clave. What could go wrong?”

 

Jace facepalms. “Simon, have you learned nothing? Never ask that, now it is going to go wrong.”

 

“I'm optimistic.”

 

“You always are.”

Chapter Text

It doesn't seem like a lot of people in retrospect, but when nearly the whole word comes together in one room, it can get crowded pretty quickly.

 

Jace watches yet another group from yet another region walk in the door. This one looks just as awkward as many of the others. It's like each group realizes they only know each other, but also don't like each other, so they have no idea what to do. Even with only knowing each other, it looks as if each person from every group wants to go find their own kind; thanks to the seating arrangements, they can't actually do that.

 

Magnus and Alec greet every group that enters, all smiles and charisma, while Maryse and Luke slouch visibly on the other side, playing the role of bad cop really well. Clary and Izzy have already started going table to table, talking casually with bright smiles.

 

Raphael, Jace notices, is with Meliorn as his date, but that seems to be a reluctant decision. Meliorn doesn't stray too far from the seelie queen, who looks out of place amidst the rest of the room. She's young and styled earthly as ever, her calculating gaze sweeping around the room and making most of everyone uncomfortable. Raphael does manage to get Meliorn to leave in increments, sweeping around to charm the guests along with Clary and Izzy.

 

“Have I told you how handsome you are yet?” Simon asks lightly, possibly for the hundredth time.

 

Jace's lips twitch. “Yes, Simon, you have. You act like you've never seen me in a suit.”

 

“Honestly, if I have, I can't remember,” Simon admits, smiling brightly as a vampire walks by with a champagne glass full of blood.

 

“I wish Maia were here,” Jace complains, wrinkling his nose. “She made this fun.”

 

“I think you've got a crush,” Simon teases.

 

Jace waggles his eyebrows. “Maybe I do. Jealous?”

 

“No, not at all,” Simon tells him playfully, lips curling up. “In fact, I completely get it. What do you say? Me, you, and Maia. That could be a good time.”

 

“It probably would, honestly. But I'm a one partner at a time kinda guy, and Maia is dating a wolf named Bat,” Jace replies easily.

 

“Look at you, all monogamous.” Simon shifts and smiles a closed-lipped smile, adjusting his suit as if he's proud. “You kill those rumors, Jace; I believe in you. Shut that gossip down.”

 

“You're so annoying.”

 

“Which is a complement in Jace-speak. I know your language now, shnookums. Good try though.”

 

They continue to bicker lightly back and forth as more groups pour in. Eventually, the massive hall feels as if it's bursting with people. Jace can barely hear himself think over the sound of people talking, even with the conversations being so low and stilted. But at some point, the last group comes in and Izzy shuts the doors while Magnus and Alec approach the small stage at the front of the room.

 

“Good evening,” Alec greets loudly with a bright smile, his Head of The Institute charm on full blast, which makes the whole room suddenly slam into complete silence. “It's so lovely to everyone here together in one room tonight.”

 

Luke snorts from the crowd.

 

Magnus frowns for a split second, then his face brightens again. “We appreciate everyone coming and being eager to do so! This party was made for the guests, so… why don't we all enjoy our hour before we have to go back to the real world?”

 

Jace feels his lips curling into a smirk. Magnus is smart, even to a devious point. Sometimes, putting an idea in someone's head is just as efficient as trying to convince them of it. Telling everyone that this party is a break from work, indicating that it should be fun, lightly suggesting that this environment is more appealing to their daily lives… well, it has its own impact.

 

Alec bobs his head in agreement and raises his glass to a toast. “Everyone, I implore you to enjoy yourselves. Before the night is over, I'll be making an announcement and a request. Until then, have fun!”

 

And that's their que.

 

Jace presses his hand into the small of Simon's back, pushing him across the room. None of the groups seem to understand what the purpose of this is, but at least they're not all getting up and leaving. They have a window before people begin filling the silence with inane chatter.

 

Jace pulls Simon right up to the seelie queen, seeing multiple heads turn to watch them in interest. Jace hadn't really wanted to do this, but it is necessary, so he does it anyway.

 

“Your majesty,” Jace greets, his voice loud in the room, “you look lovely this evening.”

 

The queen watches him bow with shrewd eyes, her hand lifting in the air. “As do you, Jace. I can see why Simon is so taken with you.”

 

Jace kisses her hand, then holds it while Simon leans down to do the same. “Thank you, your majesty. We just wanted to say how wonderful it is that you're here with us tonight.”

 

“Well, of course,” the queen says, blinking in a perfect impression of innocence. “Alexander Lightwood requested that I be here, so I came. I have tremendous respect for him.”

 

“As do we,” Simon chirps pleasantly, clearing his throat. “And I just wanted to say that it's actually nice to see you again like this.”

 

And here it is.

 

“I must admit, Simon,” the queen tells him, lips curling up sweetly, “I am pleased you are alive, even if we were not certain there for a moment. I cannot lie and say that I am happy you are a Shadowhunter though. I much preferred you as a Daylighter.”

 

Simon takes a deep breath, nervously smoothing down the lapels of his suit jacket. “Well, I didn't have much a choice in the matter. The Clave forced me.”

 

“Pity,” the queen says.

 

Like magic, Simon's words set in with the surrounding tables and begins spreading across the room in a low murmur. Jace nods at the queen cordially, his warmth towards her going a little frosty now that no one is watching. They linger for a moment, saying their farewells, then Jace works hard not to forcefully drag Simon away.

 

After that, the plan is officially in motion.

 

Clary and Izzy are the buffers. They go around table to table and engage with downworlders and Shadowhunters alike, drawing them into conversation, doing their best to point out the similarities between each member of the group. They ask for stories where they've saved each other or gotten along or worked together, then share some of their own to keep it balanced.

 

Meliorn and Raphael are the ones who go against the grain. They go to each group to talk about the downworlder cabinet and how it's changed their views on, well, everything. Meliorn can't lie, so his sincerity in liking the Shadowhunters and approving of the alliance rings true. When Jace looks over, Meliorn has one hand pressed against Raphael's back, looking as a unit should, and Raphael doesn't seem to be fighting to escape the touch.

 

Magnus and Alec focus solely on their relationship, on how being and Shadowhunter and downworlder together has changed things for each of them. They seem equally in their element and out of it, uncomfortable sharing parts of themselves while enjoying getting to regale their love.

 

Maryse and Luke are the outliers. They go table to table and taunt everyone else. Pride themselves on their children being the only ones smart and capable enough to make such a change. Luke has no issues looking down on the other Shadowhunters, bluntly telling them that they could never be so ballsy. Maryse focuses on slighting the downworlders, insulting them in that way of hers, saying without saying it that they're not capable of bonding with their fellow region members.

 

That just leaves Jace and Simon.

 

Their focus is planting the seeds of doubt about the Clave, just casually explaining what they did to Simon. Jace has to talk about being without Simon, about his job being threatened without due cause, about the lack of transparency the Clave has. Simon, on the other hand, has to explain how he was kidnapped as a mundane and forced to become a Shadowhunter as penance for Valentine's mistake. Well, Jace's mistake, but no one else besides his closest family knows that.

 

It's utterly and completely exhausting.

 

Everyone has to get around the whole room in rotation, timing it just right, making it look natural instead of choreographed. They only have an hour to start the change that will make the world a better place, but Jace feels like it's gone on forever.

 

Simon never uses his safe word, even when Jace thinks he really wants to. He braves on though, pushes through, keeps his inherent optimism. Jace actually admires him for that.

 

The seelie queen gets approached by a few people warily, but she seems to hold her own, using her own weakness to her own gain. As she's the ruler of all the seelies over the entire world, she's the only one in power who does not belong to a region. Many seelies travel to other regions through portals only the seelie knows about, going around the world in a blink, but they live in her realm otherwise.

 

Jace feels absolutely drained by the time the hour starts to come to a close. Between going over something he'd rather forget, hastily diffusing tense moments, and keeping an eye out for everyone else in on the plan… he's ready to drop from the mental strain. Fortunately, Magnus and Alec head back to the stage and call for quiet, implementing the final piece of the plan.

 

“Here we go,” Jace whispers, shaking his hands out, staring up at Alec and Magnus. It's in their hands now; well, theirs and Maryse and Luke's.

 

“Well, this last hour has been all that we hoped and more,” Magnus says, spreading his hands and smiling out to the crowd. “If I'm being completely honest… it went a lot better than expected. In fact, I think many of you actually enjoyed yourselves.”

 

That's actually true. Jace had noticed many of the groups loosening up over the hour. It's hard not to, he knows that, not when they all live in the same world. Everyone in this room shares one big secret, one that ties them together whether they like it or not. To prove his point, a low murmur of laughter sweeps through the room at Magnus’ words.

 

“What we saw here tonight gave us all so much hope for the future of the Shadow World,” Alec says seriously, looking out at the crowd. “Whether you know it or not, the people you showed up here with tonight are your union - bound by duty, local civility, and the same simple wish; the wish to be heard.”

 

“And heard you can be,” Magnus reassures them, leaning into Alec's side. “We wish to end this night on a hopeful note. Our announcement is our request, if you'd believe us.”

 

“We ask the same thing of all of you,” Alec calls out strongly, determined gaze sweeping around the room. “We want you to leave here tonight and form your own alliances. Listen to each other, work together, care for each other - genuinely. I know it seems impossible; believe me, I know. The New York Institute used to run just as yours do, the downworlders here felt the same as all of you, but against all odds… we found peace.”

 

Jace looks around at the groups, gazing at the reactions from everyone. Most people look doubtful or distinctly uncomfortable, but a few look either as if they're considering it or like they're disgusted by the mere thought. It's certainly not the half they need, but the plan isn't over yet.

 

“As if,” Luke calls out in disbelief, slowly edging towards the stage. “Come on, Alec, you can't seriously expect these people to be able to do what we have.”

 

Maryse has a tight grip on Luke's hand and joins him with a grim expression. “Son, I know you're trying to do something amazing here, but these people… they're not capable of it.”

 

Alec's face hardens. “I refuse to believe that. My people, our people, protect and serve. That includes the downworlders. And they're not powerless either. If they can join forces and just-”

 

“But they can't,” Maryse insists, sighing heavily and frowning at the crowd of people. “Alec, look at them. Look at the downworlders, look how uninterested they are by this idea.”

 

Magnus crosses his arms. “Because they've never been given a chance, much like the downworlders here hadn't before Alexander.”

 

“Ha, the Shadowhunters are no better,” Luke says, tossing up his free hand. “Magnus, they're not capable of change, not like ours. They don't have it within them to take that leap.”

 

“Yes, they do,” Alec snaps, nostrils flaring wide as he stares out at the groups. “Them? Us? We are them. And they are us. Shadowhunters are brave, they stand up when they know they should, and they always do the right thing.”

 

Simon shifts at the obvious lie, but Jace just clamps down on his hand to keep him still. He feels as if he's on the knife's edge, just seconds from being cut into two. People are watching the exchange intently, faces slowly clearing. Some of them are inspired by Alec and Magnus, that much is clear, but just as many seem to want to spite Maryse and Luke.

 

“Alec,” Luke says.

 

Magnus slices a hand through the air. “They are capable of change, Luke, we have seen that. Downworlders… us… we're just as capable as they are. They can do this, I know they can. All of them.”

 

“I wish I could agree,” Maryse says, shaking her head and looking full of regret. Luke sighs and pulls her into a hug, one arm pulling her into his side.

 

Alec steps forward, blatantly ignoring them and focusing on the crowd. “No matter what any of us believe, it is entirely up to you what to do. Go home, consider it, let me know what you decide.”

 

Like it was perfectly planned, the clock strikes loud on the new hour, signalling the party officially over. People linger for a bit, still stuck in place by the moment, but the seelie queen rises and heads for the door, looking as if she's floating. Jace watches Meliorn lean over and press a lingering kiss to Raphael's cheek, who looks pissed at that new development, then he follows his queen with his head held high. One by one, all the seelies get up and file out behind their queen.

 

After that, people start moving. Everyone is silent as they head outside to portal home. The process takes awhile with so many people trying to leave at once, but before long, the whole place empties out. As soon as the doors shut with a clang, Jace sinks down into the closest chair like his strings have been cut.

 

“By the Angel,” Izzy moans, sagging down into her own chair, “that was the most stressful hour of my life. I have never been so happy for a party to end.”

 

“My dear, I feel exactly the same,” Magnus agrees, gracelessly plopping down on the edge of the stage with a weary sigh, tugging Alec down beside him.

 

“So?” Maryse asks. “How'd we do?”

 

“Perfect,” Alec replies with a tired grin. “You did great mom, thank you. And you too, Luke.”

 

Simon sighs heavily. “So… now what?”

 

Alec blinks and looks at all of them with a wary expression. “Now… we wait.”




 



“Simon, we have to be there in twenty minutes.”

 

“We can be late.”

 

“We can, but I'd prefer it if we're not.”

 

“What about now?”

 

Jace looks up with a sigh, the sound freezing in his throat when gets sight of Simon shirtless. He goes rigid and stops shrugging on his jacket, as if someone has abruptly pressed pause on him, and his mouth is suddenly very dry. Simon puts each hand on his hip, slowly turns for Jace to see every inch of his naked back and torso, coming to a halt when he faces him again, his lips breaking into a bright grin. That kind of ruins it, if Jace is honest, but after two weeks of not spending nearly any time together… well, he's a little weak right now.

 

“We literally have fifteen minutes,” Jace says once his voice comes back. It's lower and more raspy, but he isn't responsible for that.

 

Simon simply shrugs and repeats, “We can be late.”

 

“Shit.”

 

Jace groans and snatches his coat back off, tossing it carelessly on the ground to scoop up later. Simon beams, already crossing the room to slam into him and greet him with a kiss. Jace hums into it, helping Simon fumble with his shirt to get it over his head. They break apart for that one second to fling the offending fabric away, then they're immediately back to licking into each other's mouths.

 

Needless to say, they are late - very late - but Jace feels a lot better, so he isn't worried about it.

 

Everyone gives them knowing looks when they do eventually make it to Magnus’ apartment, and Jace wonders how they know. He wonders if sex clings to their skin, if they're just obvious, or what. They didn't put their clothes on inside out, Jace already checked. As Alec gives him a sharp look of reprimand, Jace simply slaps on an expression of innocence and tells himself no one can prove anything. He's also not going to put that to the test.

 

“Okay, so what are we waiting on?” Simon asks, completely oblivious to the looks they're getting.

 

Meliorn looks vaguely amused. “Until this very moment, we were waiting for you two.”

 

“We're here now,” Jace snaps, crossing his arms.

 

“That you are,” Meliorn agrees, one eyebrow arching at his testy tone. “As of now, we're waiting for Raphael. He is on his way.”

 

“Has anyone seen him since the party?” Simon murmurs with a frown. “He's kept himself pretty scarce, which is a little like him, but I'm also a little worried? Izzy? No? Okay, Meliorn?”

 

Meliorn hums and looks to the ceiling. “The stars are very beautiful on a clear night.”

 

Simon narrows his eyes. “That's not an answer.”

 

“I'm aware,” Meliorn replies simply.

 

“Don't even try it,” Izzy warns in amusement, crossing her legs as she sits back into the couch with a smirk. “Meliorn could talk circles around you if he doesn't want you to know something.”

 

Magnus suddenly sweeps out of his room, humming loudly and carrying three different vials in his hands while a bubbling cauldron floats in front of him. He's not even looking at anyone, his eyes fixated on a book that hovers in the air in front of his face, held immobile by magic. Jace watches Alec soften immediately, his eyes tracking the Warlock through his own loft.

 

“Hey, Magnus,” Clary greets casually.

 

“Biscuit, looking lovely as ever. I must say, I appreciate Izzy's wardrobe migrating over to yours. That top is absolutely darling on you.”

 

“Thanks! Actually, hey, I was wondering if you had free time tomorrow. Luke has this thing with the precinct and he wants me to go. I was hoping you could do my makeup, maybe even my hair.”

 

Magnus looks as if he's never been asked to do something so wonderful in his life. “Why, I'd love to. I'll even do it for free, if you let me borrow those boots with all those buckles on them. The heel is perfect and I can magic it to my size.”

 

Clary shrugs. “Yeah, sure. Thanks, Magnus.”

 

“Jace could do your hair,” Simon offers, jerking his thumb at Jace without any warning.

 

Everyone turns to stare at Jace.

 

“Uh, what?” Clary asks, eyes squinting.

 

Jace sighs. “Izzy taught me how to braid hair, and I made the mistake of telling Simon.”

 

“You still remember?” Izzy blurts, face lighting up with delight. “I taught you when you were fourteen.”

 

“What can I say? Girls love it,” Jace says with a little smirk, rolling his eyes when Simon gives an offended squawk.

 

“You didn't tell me that!”

 

“I was waiting for the opportunity just like this.”

 

“No surprise there,” Alec mutters with a huff of laughter, shaking his head. When a knock sounds at the door, he jolts up. “I'll get it.”

 

Jace is almost completely positive that he only says that so he can reach out and kiss Magnus as he heads to the door, but he keeps that to himself. When he opens the door, Raphael walks in with his usual blank look of annoyance, wearing yet another good suit tailored to his body.

 

“I'm here. Let's get this over with.”

 

Simon beams and bounds over, resembling a puppy who's master has just returned after a very long trip away. “Hey! Where have you been, man? We haven't seen you since the party. Well, Meliorn has, maybe. I'm not actually sure about that, but seriously, what have you been doing, because we all-”

 

“Jace, tell your boyfriend to shut up.”

 

Jace's lips twitch. “Simon, do shut up.”

 

“I liked it better when you two weren't friends, I think,” Simon mutters, crossing his arms and moving over to plop down beside Clary - his only ally at the moment, apparently.

 

Raphael heaves a sigh and walks purposefully in the room, comes to a stop beside Meliorn, their arms almost brushing, and then waits. Meliorn looks pleased by this, eyes dancing in amusement, but Raphael does not spare him a glance.

 

“Well,” Alec says, shutting the door and walking over to Magnus, “let's put this away and get on with it.”

 

Magnus lets Alec help him set the book, cauldron, and ingredients on the table. After that, they wave any people lingering in the room to the chairs and couches circling a coffee table. With a significant look, Alec nods at Magnus, and with a snap of his sparking fingers, Magnus suddenly has the coffee table full of stacks of letters.

 

“By the Angel,” Izzy breathes.

 

Alec nods. “Everyone finally replied one way or another. I had to chase down some answers, but I got every single one.”

 

“There has to be more than four hundred here,” Clary comments, staring at the pile of letters.

 

“There are 195 countries, my dear,” Magnus tells her, tapping his chin. “That's every single region within those countries. Even the ones who did not attend the party.”

 

Jace threads his hands together, pushing out until his fingers crack. “I guess we better get started then, shouldn't we? How are we doing this?”

 

“Two piles,” Magnus says simply. “Yes on the right, no on the left. I'll use my magic to keep tally.”

 

“How many do we need?” Clary asks warily.

 

“At the very least, two hundred and ten is what we'll need,” Alec mutters, wrinkling his nose.

 

“Right about now, I miss being a vampire,” Simon groans, shifting forward with a sigh.

 

They all pick up a letter and open it. Jace's first one is a very firm no from a region in India, so he's immediately disheartened. He tosses the letter to the left of the chalkboard that's near the coffee table. Out of everyone, they get two positive answers, and without any chalk, two straight lines tally on the board. Jace sighs; this is going to take awhile.

 

It does take awhile. For nearly two hours, it's just the sound of rustling and ripping paper as they meticulously go through every single letter.

 

Raphael is a big help, as expected. His vampire speed is an asset, breezing through majority of the letters on his own. The large pile slowly grows smaller and smaller until the two piles beside the chalkboard are prominent. Jace has no way of knowing which is in the winning; both piles look equal and the tally on the board is just for the positive replies.

 

Alec ends up with the very last letter on the table. Everyone stares at him as he opens it. His eyes flick over the words, then he very deliberately tosses it into the positive pile with an upward turn of his lips. They sit back and watch as numbers slowly draw out on the chalkboard, the final tally in numeric form.

 

212.

 

“Holy shit,” Clary breathes, her eyes wide.

 

“We- we did it,” Simon stutters, his mouth hanging open in shock. “We actually did it.”

 

Alec blinks, hard. His throat works as Magnus reaches down to squeeze his shoulder. “We got it. By the skin of our teeth, but we got it.”

 

“Well, I never thought I'd see the day,” Raphael admits quietly, his lips actually twitching.

 

Jace can feel it, that victorious swell in his chest. It's immense relief and pleasant surprise, the hope he's been carrying around since they've started this being flourished rather than squandered. It's actually a bit emotional. Because here they are, a group of people who, by all expectations, should not be a family, but they are anyway.  

 

And they're actually changing the world. Them. They all have their reasons. Jace can see it in the way Alec raises his hand and places it on top of Magnus’, blinking away tears of relief as they share a look. He can see it in the blatant delight from Meliorn and Raphael, two downworlders who's finally seeing genuine change for their people. He feels it in the way he looks to Simon, eyes searching out the one he'd been doing this for.

 

So yeah, they have their own personal reasons, but it's more than that. It's about what's right, about the world as a whole, about facing down an impossible enemy with no weapons but their intelligence and sheer force of will. And then winning.

 

“The Clave is going to be pissed,” Izzy declares with a bright smile, her own eyes shining.

 

“Alec, you- you did it!” Jace blurts out, the force of his pride hitting him square in the chest.

 

Jace is up and out of his seat in an instant, tugging Alec's from his to wrap him in a hug. They laugh against each other, hands pressing into each other's shoulders. For a second, no one in the world exists outside of his parabatai - Alec, who loves Magnus so much that he's done the impossible.

 

Jace is so, so endlessly proud of him.

 

Alec pulls back with a smile, his face flushed with triumph. “No, you guys are- all of you did this. All of us, together. We couldn't have done this without you.”

 

“Nah,” Clary says with a lopsided grin, “you're the type to get it done one way or another. You and Magnus? You two started this; you two made this happen. We're just glad we could help.”

 

“Well, before we get ahead of ourselves, there is so much more to do,” Alec says, his wind going out of his sails immediately. “We need a committee to follow up with those who agreed, helping ease them in the transition, people who are able to help those regions adapt to their own alliance for themselves. We need to help them implement it and love it, that way we have backing when we convince the Clave. We also need people to continue and try to get the other regions - and eventually, Idris - to follow the wave. We'll have to start-”

 

“Big brother, slow down,” Izzy says, standing up with her hands held out. “There is plenty to do, yes, but tonight… we won. We need to celebrate.”

 

Alec's shoulders sag, his little proud smile slowly creeping on his face. “You're right.”

 

Izzy grins. “Of course I am,” she tells him, then marches over to hug him tight.

 

“I'm going to call Maryse,” Magnus announces, popping up from the couch with a bounce in his step. “She's going to be ecstatic.”

 

“I'll call Luke,” Clary says, already digging her phone out of her pocket.

 

Jace suddenly wants to tell Maia. “I'm going to let Maia know,” he declares, stepping back to pull out his phone and thumb down to her number.

 

She answers on the fourth ring. “Hey, Jace. You're lucky, you caught me on my break. What's up?”

 

“We got all the answers from the regions.”

 

“Finally? So, what's the status?”

 

Jace releases a soft laugh. “We did it, Maia. We got over half to agree. Just barely, but we did.”

 

“Are you serious?” Maia bursts out, her voice cracking over the line. “Jace, that's amazing! I can't- that's- wow, I can't believe it.”

 

“Neither can we, really, but we couldn't have done this without your help. We are planning to celebrate. When do you get off?”

 

“In an hour. But if you guys want to come to the Hunter's Moon, I'll get you all a free round.”

 

“I'll let them know,” Jace says, then softens his voice without meaning to. “Thank you, Maia, really.”

 

Maia huffs a laugh. “Hey, no task is too big. Not even tricking half the world into being better.”

 

“Yeah, I mean, what's doing the impossible anyway? Just a regular Tuesday for us.”

 

“You're telling me.”






 




“To us!”

 

Eleven glasses raise in the air and clink loudly as everyone toasts. Simon knocks back his drink with a grimace, the alcohol warming his chest immediately. Jace has an arm wrapped around him, fingers mindlessly rubbing his hip, and Simon has never felt this good in his entire life.

 

For one moment, everything whites out in his head. The voices and laughter fades, leaving him staring around at the people all pressed into one booth. This is his family, his people, his… life.

 

There isn't a mouth that isn't smiling. Even Raphael is relaxed and softer, not scowling with Meliorn pressed into his side in the corner of the booth. It's as if every single thing they've been through has led to this one moment. Right here, right now.

 

Every single trial, every tribulation, every horrible experience… it was worth it for this.

 

“Hey,” Simon says, turning his head to stare right at Jace with a soft smile.

 

Jace arches an eyebrow at him expectantly. “Hey.”

 

“I just… I wanted to tell you,” Simon says, struggling against the strangle of his own happiness. “I love you, more than you can ever know.”

 

Jace's lips curl up. “I love you too.”

 

“Reluctantly?”

 

“Shut up, Simon.”

Chapter Text

Epilogue: Six months later…




“So, how are we supposed trust that they won't side with their kind in a battle?”

 

Jace rolls his eyes. “It's called trust for a reason, Georgia. Look, stop thinking of it as a you versus them situation. This is collectively your region, all of you. None of you want to lose people, none of you want mundanes to die, and none of you want to be judged on the sins of the bad eggs of your people.”

 

Georgia arches one thin eyebrow. “We have no bad eggs, Mr. Herondale.”

 

“Oh, so you've forgotten about Valentine and the circle members already?” Jace asks with a sharp grin. “Let me jog your memory. Just tonight, an uprising rocked New York as multiple Circle members came together to try and continue with Valentine's mission, one downworlder at a time. Do you want to know what we did?”

 

“I have a feeling you're going to tell us,” Georgia replies sardonically.

 

Jace slams his hand down on the table flat, making everyone in the room jolt. “This isn't a joke. One of our own was injured needlessly because of our one bad egg. But countless lives were saved. Do you want to know how? I'm going to tell you and you are going to listen. We used our alliance and we finished the uprising off for good. More will pop up because that's how the world works, but I'm not worried. I'm not because I know that I have a whole region behind me. Don't you want that reassurance?”

 

Maia steps forward, lightly touching Jace's shoulder, her smile small. “We've heard about the rogue vampire clans that are merging together here. They're tearing through mundanes faster than any of you can stop them.”

 

Georgia's lips press into a thin line. “Yes, and I don't feel as if Ms. Resivitch is helping the cause at all.”

 

“It's not as if you are,” Florence Resivitch, the major vampire clan leader in the region, hisses.

 

“Stop,” Maia orders firmly. “You don't want another war brewing on your doorstep. There are countless mundanes being turned into vampires here with no one to guide them. Florence can help them, and you, Georgia, need to help her.”

 

“Have you even asked what Florence thinks about the new threat?” Jace challenges. When Georgia's jaw clenches, Jace waves a hand. “Of course, you didn't. Do it. Ask her, hear her. You might be surprised by what she tells you.”

 

“Fine. Fine.” Georgia slowly turns in her seat, frowning at Florence. “Ms. Resivitch, how do you feel about the new threat?”

 

“Before you answer,” Maia cuts in as Florence opens her mouth, “remember that she's asking you because she wants to know, because she wants your council, because your answer matters.”

 

Florence slowly closes her mouth, then takes a deep breath. “In all honesty, I am worried for my own clan. The widespread chaos of vampires being made all over the city has most of the mundanes in a panic, which effects us, believe it or not. If people aren't leaving their homes out of fear, they certainly aren't donating blood. Those who are causing this chaos need to be turned into the Clave or put down, not because they are vampires, but because they are purposefully choosing to ruin our city.”

 

Georgia blinks. “I- I didn't know that's how you felt. Why didn't you just say that?”

 

“You never asked,” Florence grits out.

 

Jace heaves a sigh. “Look, we're not your babysitters. We're mediators. Animosity can be a hell of a blinder; you need to move past it and work together. Use all the resources you have, discuss things openly, remember that you all share one goal, and you can eliminate this threat.”

 

“I- yes, thank you,” Georgia says, clearing her throat, her delicate blush obvious on her fair cheeks.

 

“We have to get back,” Maia murmurs, squeezing Jace's shoulder. “Like we said, one of our own was injured. Our family needs us, so we can't be here to help you fully. Just- just try. We will be back to check in with you in a week's time.”

 

Georgia stands, offering her hand. “Thank you so much for coming despite that. I hope the injured Shadowhunter has a full recovery.”

 

Jace smiles tightly. “It's a vampire, actually, but thank you anyway. Lillian?”

 

The young Warlock woman smiles at them as she waves her hand. “Got the portal ready for you, Mr. Herondale, Ms. Roberts. Where can I escort you?”

 

“Magnus’ apartment, please,” Maia says softly.

 

Lillian nods and her magic sparks purple as she forms a shaky portal. They know she can't keep it long, being so young, but Magnus had referred her for the job and she's lovely, so they got used to making the transport quick. Wasting no time, Jace and Maia offer Georgia and her region's downworlders a nod of farewell before stepping through to Magnus’ apartment.

 

The scene is the same as they left it two hours ago.

 

Raphael is laid out on Magnus’ couch, far too pale and still, and Meliorn is still kneeling by his side, one hand stroking his forehead. When they enter, Izzy and Clary's heads snap up, some tension easing out of their shoulders. Alec pulls away from Magnus, who is clearly racked with concern, and approaches with a grave expression.

 

“Anything?” Maia asks quietly as Lillian slips out of the room to grab an uber.

 

Alec shakes his head. “Simon is out getting more blood. He had a contact from before that gave him healthy donations, so that's what he's getting.”

 

“How long has he been gone?” Jace asks quietly, crossing his arms and staring at Raphael's limp form with a horrible gnawing feeling in his chest.

 

“Not too long,” Alec murmurs. “He'll be back soon enough. How did the meeting go?”

 

“The usual,” Maia replies with a sigh. “Horrible communication, abrasive attitudes, not stopping to look at the big picture. Jace was in rare form; I honestly thought he was going to knock their heads together at one point. Which would have been fair.”

 

Jace scoffs. “Other people's problems are the least of my worries right now.”

 

“Well, unfortunately, you get paid to make other people's problems your concern,” Alec says, reaching out to squeeze Jace's shoulder. “He's going to be fine. He's strong, you know that.”

 

Jace just grits his teeth and nods, pushing past Alec to move over to Meliorn. His face is drawn in sadness, his hand smoothing the uplift of Raphael's hair in a consistent loop. Jace reaches out and touches his shoulder; Meliorn doesn't even jerk.

 

“He saved my life,” Meliorn murmurs softly, one eyebrow creasing. “I had to watch him fall.”

 

Jace remembers. The memory makes his stomach feel as if it's in knots. The Circle members had been ruthless, fixated on one thing. They wanted to take out the downworlders, even if that meant taking themselves out in the process. They'd all ended up on the roof of a high building, fighting together, and when a Circle member had tried to toss Meliorn over the side, Raphael had saved him. As the Circle member fell, he'd tugged Raphael down with him.

 

“It's not your fault,” Jace says softly.

 

“I believe it to be.” Meliorn never looks away from Raphael's face. “If he wakes, I will challenge him for putting me through the stress.”

 

Jace snorts. “Yeah, maybe let him heal before you guys do your weird flirting. And it's not if, it's when.”

 

Meliorn simply hums and goes silent.

 

Jace drops his hand from Meliorn and walks away, moving over to check on Magnus. He gives a tight smile of worry when Jace squeezes his arm, trying to comfort in some way. Then, he moves over to stand beside Izzy and Clary, accepting when they both hug him from each side. The room is silent.

 

It stays like that, just Meliorn watching over Raphael, Magnus closing his eyes as Alec wraps him up and kisses his forehead, and Jace holding Clary and Izzy in each arm.

 

Then, Simon bursts back in the door.

 

“Okay, so I got the good stuff,” Simon says, rushing into the room. “And I got plenty. His body should be healing up quickly, he just needs more blood. Um, sorry, Meliorn, excuse me for a second.”

 

Meliorn blinks as Simon leans into his space, hovering over Raphael. “What are you doing?”

 

“What needs to be done,” Simon says simply, reaching into his thigh holster to flip a dagger into his hand in one quick practiced move.

 

Jace frowns and goes to move forward as Simon slices his palm with a wince. For a second, he thinks Simon is going to give Raphael his blood, but he just reaches down and pulls Raphael's bottom jaw open as he waves the wound under his nose. The reaction is immediate; Raphael's fangs drop with a flick. Simon reaches in his brown paper bag to pull out the blood he'd gone to get and carefully punctures it so he can pour a slow stream into Raphael's mouth.

 

“He's drinking,” Meliorn comments in surprise.

 

Simon nods. “Yeah, it's instinct. Um, can you actually- thanks.” He passes the blood to Meliorn and waves his stele over his healing rune, watching his skin knit back together. “Don't want that open and bleeding when he wakes up.”

 

“He'll be hungry?” Meliorn asks curiously.

 

“Very. He's healing, so he needs to ingest more blood to do it.” Simon waves the bulky bag. “Lucky for us, I used to be a vampire with some pretty cool blood donors, so.”

 

Meliorn nods solemnly. “Thank you, Simon.”

 

“Hey, no big deal,” Simon replies with a nervous laugh, throat bobbing. “Not exactly how I was hoping my engagement party would end up, but hey, it's never a dull moment with us.”

 

Jace can't stop his lips from twitching in amusement at Simon's endless optimism. Even when their engagement party had been abruptly called to a stop with Circle members ruining their evening, Simon still finds a reason to flash the grin that still makes Jace's heart flutter.

 

As if sensing his gaze, Simon looks over to him, his smile broadening. Jace pulls away from Clary and Izzy, palms itching with the hopes of getting in contact with his fiance. Simon seems to agree because he leaves Meliorn to slowly nurse Raphael back to health and presses into Jace's side.

 

“You're sweaty,” Jace comments lightly, hands pressing into Simon's damp shirt anyway.

 

Simon presses a short kiss to his lips. “I was running back and forth to the van. Pretty much in complete panic, I might add. So, leave me alone.”

 

“Not gonna happen,” Jace replies, reaching down to tap the ring on Simon's finger. “I'll have to kill you to be rid of you, remember?”

 

Simon beams. “I remember. Only way you're leaving me is in a bodybag.”

 

“That's going in the vows.”

 

“Well, duh.”

 

Raphael suddenly bolting up with a hiss breaks the sweet moment, garnering attention from everyone. Meliorn is the only one who doesn't flinch as Raphael snatches the blood and begins drinking it in earnest. As if he does it every day, Meliorn digs out more blood and passes it over casually as soon as Raphael finished the first. Like that, Raphael drains most of the blood Simon had brought.

 

“Feel better?” Meliorn asks lightly.

 

Raphael blinks, reaching up with one thumb to swipe the only line of blood that slipped from his lips - even his mindless feeding had been classy and clean. He frowns. “Much.”

 

Meliorn nods a