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what the heart sees

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Nobody’s ever heard of a blind vampire. There’s a reason for that, Simon thinks, as he listens to Alec and Izzy spar. He’s leaning against the door of the training room, where he can tell when people come in and out, waiting for Clary to finish packing up her stuff. Raphael says that nobody’s ever heard of a blind vampire because the bite usually cures most afflictions and conditions, but Simon has been blind since the day he was born, and if he had been expecting the bite to change that little fact, then he would have been sorely disappointed. Luckily, Simon hadn’t been expecting that, because Simon hadn’t been expecting to get bitten by vampires at all.

Nobody’s ever heard of a blind vampire, Simon thinks, because a blind vampire is lame.

“I completely agree,” Jace says. His voice comes from a little way to the right, stirring the air beside his ear, and Simon shivers. The clash of metal fills the room and Simon pitches his voice to be heard above it, even though Jace is close enough to hear him anyway.

“Agree with what?”

“That vampires are lame.” Simon can hear the smirk.

“I said blind vampires are lame, and I didn’t mean to say it at all!” Simon protests. He shifts a little, shoulder slipping down the polished doorframe, and a hand catches him around the elbow before he can fall. Simon swallows back the rest of his words. He’s well acquainted with hands. There’s usually one encircling his wrist – Clary – or an arm wrapped around his shoulders – Eric – or a hesitant brush against the back of his knuckles, when he’s with Maureen. Izzy is pretty handsy too, although that’s in an entirely different way, even if she doesn’t genuinely mean it. Alec keeps his distance, which Simon kind of appreciates – even the sound of his voice is intimidating – and Raphael only touches him when he’s yanking him around by his collar or attempting to train him, so his touches are clinical and distant, practical.

Jace is different. Jace is either too far away or entirely too close. Jace seems to touch him just to touch him, or avoid him so well that Simon feels like he’s never laid a hand on him at all. There’s no in between and it’s infuriating, because Simon can never tell if it’s something he’s done or if it’s just Jace, or if he’s like this with everyone. It’s not like he can walk up to Izzy and Alec and say ‘hey, is Jace this hot and cold with you guys or is this just a special hell he reserves for me?’ and he sure as hell can’t ask Clary that, especially not seeing as she just broke up with Jace about a month ago, after everything with Valentine went down.

“Careful,” Jace says, and he’s closer than he was a moment ago. His hand is firm and unyielding, strong where it’s wrapped around the crook of Simon’s elbow, his fingers digging into the soft cotton of Simon’s shirt. Simon stands up properly, the backs of his legs pressed against the doorframe, and one of Jace’s knees knocks against his. “Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean I won’t laugh at you if you fall on your ass.”

“I’d expect nothing else,” Simon says back, grinning. “We both know you’d help me up though. You’re a big softie inside.”

Jace makes a small noise of amusement in the back of his throat, and Simon points a finger roughly where he thinks Jace’s face is.

“Gotcha.”

The hand disappears from around his elbow to hook around the finger and drag it down away from Jace’s face. Jace doesn’t let go, and their hands awkwardly hover close to each other for a moment before there’s a cough from beside them, and Simon jumps, knocking his head against the doorframe in surprise.

“I do hate to disturb this sweet little moment of yours, but you’re blocking one of my favourite views,” Magnus purrs. Simon can tell it’s Magnus from the moment he opens his mouth; nobody else talks like that, all soft and silky and flirting. It’s like honey, his voice, although personally Simon prefers rougher tones. Not to mention he can smell Magnus’s perfume from a mile off, although apparently not when he’s focusing on someone else’s hands. He wonders if he would be this distracted by Jace if he wasn’t a vampire with exaggerated senses, and he thinks the answer is probably yes.

“The training room?” Jace says sarcastically. “Oh, I agree, it’s one of my favourite spots. Sometimes I just sit here for hours and watch the katanas go by.”

“I was referring to watching my delicious boyfriend get all hot and sweaty, but whatever floats your boat, muffin,” Magnus says. He swoops past them and into the room, humming, and Simon hears the tell-tale clash of metal as Alec undoubtedly fumbles his weapon, followed by Isabelle’s delighted, musical laughter.

“Where were we?” Jace asks, and Simon laughs.

“Talking about how lame blind vampires are, as opposed to just vampires in general,” Simon says.

“You being blind has nothing to do with how lame you are,” Jace says firmly.

Simon pretends to swoon. “Aww, shucks. You say the sweetest things.”

He hears Jace laugh, which abruptly cuts off as footsteps clack towards them. Simon cocks his head – it’s not Isabelle’s high heels, and there’s a kind of tension in the air that indicates that it could only be Clary heading for them. There’s a light touch to his shoulder.

“Ready to go?”

“Whenever you are,” Simon says. He holds his arm out in a way that would be awkward to a stranger but is pretty natural now, and Clary gently guides his hand to her arm. He has a cane folded up in his back pocket, but he doesn’t like to use it in the Institute, not if he can help it.

“Next time, you’re not allowed to just stand there and listen,” Jace says, with something smug to his tone, just before they leave. “Next time I’m going to make you participate.”

Simon squeaks as Clary leads him away. There are lots of things he’d like to participate in with Jace, but dancing around a training room whilst people brandish sharp metal objects at him isn’t one of things.

*

The thing about being blind is that Simon’s already learned to use how other senses to make up for what he can’t see. It doesn’t work quite like it does in the movies, and it’s definitely not an exact science, but he’s gotten pretty good at identifying noises and sounds and smells and textures. The trouble is, now that he’s a vampire, everything is so heightened that it’s impossible to get through a conversation without spacing out because he’s trying to figure out who’s playing music so loudly, only to be told that it’s probably coming from a house almost a block away.

So now he has to learn everything all over again, and it’s painfully difficult. It’s especially so when Jace is the one trying to teach him, because Simon has very little self-restraint when it comes to his new senses.

“So, what’s this?”

Simon runs a finger along the edge of the blade, lightly. “Sharp.”

Simon.”

“Well, it is. Alright, alright, don’t sigh at me. It’s a blade.”

“What kind of blade?”

“A sharp one.”

“For fucks sake, Simon.”

“Did I say sharp? I meant a seraph blade. It’s a seraph blade.”

“Good. Now, what’s this?”

Jace turns one of his hands over and presses something into his palm, folding his fingers back over it loosely. It’s a little bigger than Simon’s hand and thin, made of smooth, cold metal. Simon frowns, feeling his way around the curved, sharp edges, and then grins.

“It’s a ninja star. Can I keep it?”

“It’s a Shuriken, and no, you can’t. You’ll fall and kill yourself with it and Clary will never forgive me for accidentally murdering her best friend.”

Simon tips his head to the side, considering. “So, how’s that going then? Still awkward as hell? Still avoiding each other to the max and making everyone uncomfortable with your silences?”

Jace sighs heavily, and Simon grins at him. “Hey, I’m just saying, you two were totally made for each other. And I asked Clary, and she implied that it wasn’t an entirely mutual thing on her part, so what’s going on with that, buddy? Got a thing for someone that isn’t an adorable red-head?”

“You could say that,” Jace mutters. “And I’m not your buddy.”

“What are you then?”

There’s a short, tense silence whilst Simon curses his own inability to hold sentences in and Jace presumably stares at him, mind blank. There’s a soft, slick sound as Jace licks his lips, and Simon can feel the weight of his gaze like it’s something heavy draped across his skin.

“You’re holding that incorrectly,” Jace says, after a beat. His hands come up to correct Simon’s grip, callused fingerprints sliding across soft skin.

“It’s not like I’m ever going to be able to use one of these, so what does it matter?” Simon says. He pretends to throw the ninja star and hears Jace duck neatly to the side, brushing up against him.

“It’s always good to know the correct stances and grips, just in case,” Jace says firmly. “You never know when you might need to identify a weapon, or defend yourself. You can’t rely on fangs for everything.”

“I can’t rely on them at all,” Simon says, wincing. He hasn’t entirely come to terms with being a vampire yet – it’s not exactly something that you get over in one night, but it’s nice of Jace to pretend that he’d be of any use in a fight, when in truth they both know he’d just stand there flailing around until someone came and got him out of there. Not that he’s helpless, of course, and Simon hates it when people assume that just because he’s blind he can’t fucking do things, but he’s certainly a lot less helpful than everyone else in this damn institute. It’s why he doesn’t use the cane here, even though he desperately wants to.

“You will be able to, though, once you’ve grown used to them,” Jace says. “You just need to keep practicing, and training with us can help you. Come on. Archery’s next.”

Simon flails wildly with one arm – he’s learned to keep from full-body flailing the hard way – and whacks Jace in the side of the face. “Archery?

*

If Simon had a pulse, it would be racing. Jace is pressed up against his back, a long line of heat and pressure and comfort, and his hands are wrapped around Simon’s, gently urging them to the right places on the bow. He can feel the smooth texture of the wood and the soft feathers of the arrow brushing his cheek. He can also Jace’s breath on the back of his neck, warm and tickling the fine hairs there. Every time he breathes out, a shudder travels up Simon’s spine.

“The target is a round circle, about the size of the shield I gave you a minute ago, and it’s only ten feet away, directly in front of you.”

Only, he says,” Simon scoffs. “Only ten feet away. It might as well be ten thousand feet away for all the good it will do me. You do realise that I’m blind, yes? That has come up in the conversation before?”

Jace snorts softly. “Yes, Simon, I know you’re blind. I also know that you can do this. I’m right here with you, and there’s nobody else in the room for you to accidentally impale. The worst thing that can happen is that the arrow hits the wall, or the floor, and I laugh at you for a bit, and we move on.”

“Dickhead.” Simon elbows him in the ribs and Jace laughs, puts his hands back on Simon’s.

“Remember, take a deep breath in and then release.”

“Vampires don’t need to breathe.”

Release.”

There’s a soft twang as the arrow flies through the room, presumably in the right direction, but there’s no accompanying thump of the arrow hitting the target. Simon sighs before Jace can say anything and lowers the bow.

“That wasn’t too bad.”

“Is it anywhere near the target?”

“Define near.”

Simon snorts, throws one of his hands up. “This is pointless. I’m useless. It’s not like anyone I’m aiming for is going to stand still and wait for me to fire a volley of arrows at them in the hope that one might hit them.”

“It’s not pointless,” Jace says. There’s a hand on Simon’s shoulder, turning him carefully, and Simon puts his hands out and gets a fistful of Jace’s shirt as he reorients himself. The bow falls to the floor with a clatter as Simon grips one of Jace’s shoulders, the other one smoothing down the wrinkles in his shirt. Jace makes a small noise of surprise, but doesn’t back away.

“You’re not useless,” Jace says quietly. He sounds almost embarrassed to be speaking so plainly, and Simon tips his head to the side, only for Jace to laugh softly.

“What?”

A finger taps his chin. “I like when you do that. You look like a bird.”

“Is that a good or a bad thing? I can never tell if you’re insulting or complimenting me.”

“It’s usually a mixture of both.”

Simon slides one hand along Jace’s shoulder and then up the side of his neck. Izzy asked him, when Simon first came to the Institute, if Simon did the thing like in the movies, where he traces people’s faces to learn the way they look. Simon doesn’t, as a rule, do that. He uses touch to communicate, but he’s never felt the need to rub his hands all over strangers’ faces to get to know them.

Jace, though, Simon kind of wants to know this way.

“Is this alright?”

His ghosts his fingers along Jace’s jaw. Jace breathes out slowly, purposefully, like he has to remind himself to do it, and that’s kind of gratifying.

“You touching my face?”

“Me kissing your face. Mouth. Me kissing your mouth.”

He traces the shape of Jace’s lips, tucks his finger in the dip of his cupid bow. His other hand slides up, finding his cheekbones and sliding back, up his temple and into his hair. He feels two hesitant hands rest gently on his hips and sucks in a breath even though he doesn’t need to. Jace swallows once, twice. The sound is an audible click in the hushed silence.

“But you aren’t kissing my mouth.”

“Not yet,” Simon agrees, with a lightness he doesn’t feel. He pauses, the pad of his thumb on Jace’s bottom lip. “I’m waiting for you to surrender to my overwhelming charm and do the work for me.”

Jace snorts, laughs, kisses him hard.