Actions

Work Header

you better work, bitch

Work Text:

The whole thing is Clary's idea. She's the one who finds the Groupon deal for one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer at the new gym downtown. She's the one who gives Simon cartoon puppy eyes until he agrees to be her gym buddy. She's the one who drags him to that space age kombucha hellscape. She's the one who ditches him as soon as Isabelle, the pretty trainer with the high ponytail, winks in her direction. And by doing so, she's the one who leaves Simon behind with Jace.

Jace. Even his name is irritating. It's such a bro name, Jace, all one-syllable smoothness, sleek and obnoxiously cool. It's stamped on his nametag in all caps as though intended to antagonize Simon specifically, J A C E, pinned to a spandex top that Simon would be more comfortable with if it was on a character in one of his comic books. Jace. The name would have been more than enough to trigger Simon's pettiness but then taking into account the blond hair, the tattoos, the arms, the cocky grin? Jace never stood a chance.

Still, Simon is just self-aware enough to know that he's being childish, so he would have given Jace a shot. Maybe appearances are deceiving. Maybe Jace is not a muscle-bound jock douchebag, but a kind, thoughtful person who also happens to be ridiculously good-looking. Maybe today is actually Simon's lucky day.

But then Jace speaks.

"Looks like you got here just in time," Jace the Personal Trainer says, gaze dragging up from the soles of Simon's ratty Converse to the fluff of his un-brushed hair. "You know video games aren't cardio, right?"

The whole thing is Clary's idea, so as far as Simon is concerned it's her fault too.

 

 

 

Simon tells her as much later on the train ride home, but he does not receive any remorse in response. Instead Clary rolls her eyes, a curly little smile on her lips as she reaches out to squeeze his (very sore) arm. "I'm sure it wasn't that bad," she says. "He seemed nice."

"Seemed," Simon says. "Seemed nice. Did I already tell you about the hair?" He attempts to illustrate the annoyingly effortless sweep of Jace's hair with a hand gesture. "Like, what was that about? Whose hair does that?"

"It was very nice hair," Clary replies with a nod, totally missing the point, before she continues, "Hey, did you see how high Isabelle can kick? Wasn't that amazing?"

Clary is useless for the rest of the ride after that, too caught up in dreamy reminiscences about Isabelle's high kick to entertain Simon's bitterness. And even in his sourest of moods Simon wouldn't dare begrudge her those hearts in her eyes. He's not a monster.

 

 

 

The deal is for twice-weekly sessions, so on Tuesdays and Thursdays after class Simon and Clary meet up to take the train into Manhattan. Clary, now verging on dangerously smitten, spends the entire ride buzzing with anticipation while Simon sighs morosely, draped against one of the subway poles. Though usually very compassionate, Clary laughs at him. "You'll survive, Simon," she says.

But Simon is not so sure.

Once they get to the gym, it always goes the same way: Clary darts off to be with Isabelle and Simon is left, again and again, with Jace. So much for gym buddies. Jace will usually open with some kind of annoying promise ("No plans to take it easy on you today, pal.") or another up-and-down look followed by a tsking, "Not quite there yet, are we?"

Simon kind of wants to punch him. Maybe he could pass it off as a kickboxing accident.

Every session feels like stepping into a bad eighties comedy where Simon is the undervalued nerd with his glasses always slipping down his nose to Jace's blond rich boy asshole. Simon bets he even skis in his free time. Jace has that look about him.

Simon tries to utilize it, channeling his not at all juvenile hatred for Jace into every slam of his knuckles against the unforgiving fabric of the punching bag, into every pounding step as he runs, into those pushups he holds endlessly. "Hold it…" Jace says, voice pitching up mockingly. "Hold it. Thirty more seconds. Come on. Thirty seconds is nothing." Jace is always telling Simon to hold it longer, to push harder, take a breath, push harder.

Simon tries to let his irritation fuel him as his muscles strain and his breathing quickens, as his face goes red with exertion. It's probably all so easy for Jace. Every time he shows Simon how to do something, it looks impossibly easy: the lines of his body are graceful and careless, his form perfect no matter how little effort he puts into what he's doing. He looks like he was made to do these things. Simon is always gasping for breath.

Part of the problem is also that Jace is hot and more aware of it than any person has ever been in the history of human existence on the planet earth. The entire gym is mirrored and Simon is one hundred percent certain he has seen Jace sending flirty looks at his own reflection. Once after a particularly trying session Jace actually pours a bottle of water on himself, shaking off droplets like a golden retriever.

Simon watches him, tugging on the hem of his old worn-out Star Wars t-shirt with the hole at the shoulder, and is stupidly, miserably furious.

 

 

 

After a round of plank-ups that lock Simon into a Sisyphean cycle of forearms to hands to forearms that he thinks might never cease, he collapses onto the mat face-first, his glasses all smudgy and jammed into his temples. He can't see it, but he hears Jace make a soft sound like a premature laugh.

"Come on, tough guy," Jace says. "Your girlfriend's watching. You might want to pick yourself back up."

Simon is so confused that he actually does push himself up onto his weak noodle arms so he can look around the gym for said girlfriend, because he hasn't had one of those in like a year, at least. Finally his eyes settle on Clary and he realizes with a startled blink what Jace meant. Simon looks up at him, standing there all brochure-perfect with his arms crossed so every muscle stands out, and figures it's a good thing Jace is hot, because he's obviously not perceptive.

"Clary's not my girlfriend," Simon tells him. "Isn't Isabelle your sister? Don't you know the two of them are like one nanosecond away from sending out engagement announcements?"

Jace makes an expression that Simon can't quite decipher – the tiniest lift of his eyebrows, the corners of his mouth twitching ambiguously ¬– before he says, "Oh, I must have missed that. I thought you two were living together."

"We are, but it's like a Three's Company situation where there are a ton of zany mishaps but no one is actually boning down," Simon explains. "And it's a lot more actually gay, instead of weird winking 1970s implied gay. Seemed pretty obvious, dude."

"Yeah," Jace agrees, expression much more blatantly amused now. "I must be oblivious. Now why don't you give me another set? I'll count you down. Sixty –"

Later that night Simon is sitting alone in the apartment while Clary is out on another date with Isabelle. As happy as he is for them, he's feeling kind of pathetic and abandoned, restlessly turning his attention from one thing to the next without being able to focus on anything. He knows it's largely irrational but that only serves to make him feel guilty about feeling bad, which makes him feel worse. It doesn't help that his body is still vaguely dying thanks to Jace kicking his ass earlier, so it's like the crappy feeling has enveloped Simon on a cellular level.

Like all sad people alone on a Friday night, Simon ends up tooling around on his phone, checking his feed and soaking in his loneliness as he takes in every picture of his friends having a good time without him. Maia's on vacation with her new boyfriend, the sunset behind them; Maureen is performing with her new band; Clary and Isabelle have posted their first Official Couple Kissing Selfie. It's a good thing Raphael eschews social media, because Simon really didn't need to be reminded of that whole situation.

One click leads to another and somehow Simon goes from Clary's profile to Isabelle's to Jace's, very casually and not at all on purpose. And then he sort of stays there for a while.

It's not stalking if you don't like someone. It's just enthusiastic recreational hatred, which is a totally different thing.

Simon is petulantly unsurprised to find that Jace posts mostly fitness stuff. There's a lot of videos of him working out with no shirt on, sweat lending a sheen to his skin as he does a pull-up or some kind of stupidly showy flip, camera catching his grin just before the video cuts off. Pictures of Isabelle. Pictures of some tall, somber-looking guy. And selfies – a truly staggering amount of selfies. Apparently Jace has a thing for leather in his non-spandex life.

It isn't until Simon glances at the date on one picture that he realizes he's scanned three years back in time and forty-five minutes have passed. Fed up, Simon shoves his phone under one of the couch cushions and pretends he doesn’t know what Jace looks like with his shirt off.

 

 

 

Simon is sore all the time now, constantly. A session with Jace always seems to leave him aching, bruised up, worn out. He walks from class to class slow as an old man, winces as he lowers himself into his seat. His legs get stiff if he sits for too long and he takes the stairs at a snail's pace. At first it sucks royally, but then something changes. At a certain point a strange sense of satisfaction kicks in; instead of punishment, his sore muscles start to feel like accomplishment. His body is reflecting the effort he put into it. Sometimes working out will even quiet his brain for a minute or two.

He lies in bed at night after a particularly grueling day, the slightest twitch making him overly aware of his body and how it fits together. He stretches his arms above his head to feel the ache travel along his triceps and down into his shoulders. He presses his fingertips into his stomach and sides, which are firmer now, more solid. His thighs tense as the heel of his hand coasts hard along the skin.

Jace had referred him to the on-site masseuse (a guy named Meliorn whose hands Simon really wouldn't mind having all over him) but every so often Jace would catch Simon unawares with an absent rub of his shoulders or a brief touch to correct Simon's stance. It was companionable, nearly bro-y, the way Jace's fingers would dig deeply into Simon's overworked muscles for just a moment – but never enough to help. Simon had wondered before if Jace was even supposed to touch him at all.

In his bed with his hands on himself, Simon can't help but think about that. It makes him hard – the attention, the touching, the tenderness in his muscles that feels both painful and satisfying at once. Every twinge makes Simon think of Jace's jackass smirk and eventually he gives in, slides a hand under the waistband of his boxers.

He doesn't even like Jace.

 

 

 

Jace is goading him.

Sometimes it feels like Jace is always goading him, needling at Simon's insecurities to provoke a reaction, but his smug smirks and snide remarks are particularly grating today. Simon was already edgy going into the session because of the whole accidentally-jerking-off-while-thinking-about-Jace thing, but being confronted with Actual Jace – who is just as hot as he was in the abstract but about three million times more irritating – only makes things worse.

It's later than they usually meet. Simon had to switch days so he could study for an exam and it's just him and Jace in a corner of the almost empty gym, no Clary to roll his eyes at across the room. They're circling each other as they make their very first attempt at sparring, and Jace is goading him.

In retrospect it will seem obvious that this wasn't going to go well.

"God," Jace says, bored, as he dodges one of Simon's lackluster lunges. "We've been having session after session but who would ever believe it if they saw us?"

Simon's jaw sets and he makes another strike, but Jace tilts lazily out of the way.

"I mean, I know it's all a journey and progress can be slow going, but you'd think after all the drilling I put you through, you might be able to make one hit –"

Jace neatly steps to the side as Simon tries again.

"Are you afraid, is that it? C'mon, nerd, do you think I can't take your pitiful beginner attempts at –"

Simon cracks a little bit then, up to here with how Jace is so blond and so sporty and such an unrepentant asshole.

"You don't get to talk to me, Captain America," Simon says furiously, regretting his choice of words as soon as he sees Jace's eyes light up.

"I'm the guy calling the shots here," Jace says. "I get to say what I want."

Simon, however, has had enough of Jace calling the shots. He's all keyed up, feeling like he did during the one fight he got into in the fifth grade when the class bully broke his glasses in half: that same impotent anger. (Said bully had later been rewarded with a Clary Fray punch to the jaw.) Simon had never been in a fight before or since. "Come at me, bro!"

Jace appears improbably delighted by this, a grin alighting on his face. "Oh yeah? Show me what you got, nerd. Dazzle me."

It's so obnoxious that without even thinking Simon hauls back and hits Jace, big padded glove against his stupidly perfect cheekbone. As soon as he does it, Simon feels a horrible kind of guilty relief. Jace makes a sound like the breath has been knocked out of him but then he actually laughs a little, teeth bright. Simon's pulse spikes again and he finds himself diving forward, barreling right into Jace and knocking them both to the mat.

"Uncle!" Jace calls, utterly relaxed under Simon despite the ungainly tumble. That's when Simon notices that somehow in the scuffle Jace's lip had split; there's blood smeared across his chin. Simon isn't so great with blood and he's not thrilled about making someone bleed either, even if that someone is Jace.

"Oh, man, oh no," Simon says, dismayed. He wipes at the blood with the end of his sleeve. "I'm so sorry, that's not what I meant to –"

"Yeah it is," Jace says, unperturbed. "It's exactly what you meant to do. And I wanted you to do it."

"You're bleeding, though." As though Jace hadn't noticed. Then Jace's words hit him and Simon realizes, "You were goading me!"

"It's called motivation," Jace says. Simon stares at him. "What? Got results, didn't it?"

"You got hurt, I look like an asshole, and I'm probably going to get kicked out of the gym, which I deserve," Simon says. "How are those results?"

Jace licks a little of the blood from his lower lip. "It was an accident," he says firmly, the trademark Jace meanness missing from his voice. "Sometimes those happen here." He pushes Simon back so he can sit up. The bleeding seems to have mostly stopped. "Don't beat yourself up. You did a good job, nerd."

Simon frowns, confused. "I really am sorry."

"Are you?" Jace pushes up to his feet, pulls his gloves off, and reaches down to haul Simon up too. "I figured you'd been dying to hit me since day one." Simon gives Jace his most innocent face and Jace laughs again. "You get one, alright? Don't try it again."

"Stop calling me nerd, then."

Jace claps him on the back, fingertips digging into Simon's skin ever so slightly. It feels like he's too close when he asks, "Would you prefer I motivated you some other way?"

Heat suffuses Simon, caught somewhere between embarrassed and turned on. "Yeah, actually. Your way sucks."

Jace's grip tightens briefly and then he lets Simon go. Simon doesn't know how to feel about that either. "It's always worked for me."

"Yeah, and there's something very wrong with you," Simon says, which makes Jace laugh again.

It's not a bad sound.

 

 

 

When he first hears it, Simon assumes he's hallucinating. That's the only explanation.

He's doing his food shopping for the week, utterly unsuspecting as he debates between two brands of sugary cereal (it feels like a Count Chocula week), when he hears someone call his name again. It wouldn't be that implausible for someone to recognize Simon in his own neighborhood, but the problem is that Simon knows that voice. And that voice in this place a major nope. All that gym time is really making him crack up.

"Hey, Simon!" More impatiently, "Nerd!"

But at a certain point he really can't ignore it anymore.

Simon sighs to himself with quiet resignation before he turns. Even though he's expecting it, the sight of Jace is still somehow startling. It's like seeing a teacher outside of school; robbed of context, the image simply doesn't make sense. Jace isn't even wearing breathable stretch fabrics. Standing there in a sweater and jeans with his hair tucked behind his ear, he's just a hot guy smiling at Simon in the cereal aisle.

Then he says, "Please tell me you're not buying that."

Simon clutches the box of Count Chocula to his chest. "No," he says, sensing danger. "No. Nope. You are not infringing on my food. No, sir. I need joy in my life and you have already robbed me of so much."

Jace rolls his eyes before brazenly reaching into Simon's basket to start sorting through everything he's picked up so far, making tsking noises as he goes. Every so often an expression of pure horror crosses his face, accompanied by an "oh god" and a shake of the head. "You just don't care about what you put in your body, do you?"

So that's how, with nary a hello, Simon ends up getting dragged through the supermarket all over again. Jace returns anything fun to its shelf and replaces it with things that are whole grain, sugar free, steel cut, organic. "You look like you're low on fiber," he informs Simon unhelpfully.

Out go the off-brand sandwich cookies Simon loves, the double-size bag of chips, the refreshingly chemical bottle of soda. The Count is staked through the heart. Instead Simon finds himself looking down at a basket full of leafy greens and leans meats, almond milk and fresh fruit. The horrors keep mounting.

"Noo," Simon tries again, the low cry of a man who has already given up everything he holds dear. "Not the quinoa salad –"

But Jace is not to be deterred.

It isn't until they're waiting in line that it occurs to Simon to ask Jace what the hell he's doing in this particular Brooklyn supermarket.

"Izzy and Clary kind of took over at home," Jace says. "Izzy kept shooting me death glares, so I figured I'd better give them their space. My brother and his boyfriend live around here, but turns out three was a crowd there too."

"So when all else failed you decided to go food shopping in Brooklyn?"

Jace shifts his weight from one foot to the other before he answers. "I saw you through the window."

Simon's ears go pink. "Stalker."

Jace rolls his eyes. "Shut up. I was just going to say hi, but someone had to save you from yourself."

By then the cashier has finished ringing up Simon's very depressing groceries, so he fishes out his wallet to pay the astronomical tab. He wonders if his health is really worth taking this chunk out of his budget. "You also assassinated my bank account, so thanks for that."

"You're welcome," Jace says, smirking again. It really is his natural state.

As he hauls the bags up, Simon inexplicably finds himself saying, "Since you forced me to buy all this junk, are you down to help me eat it? Gotta reap the consequences of your actions, dude."

Jace gives him a strange look. "Wow, you must really be lonely if you're inviting me over."

"Yep, I'm like one scarf away from going full Grey Gardens." Simon shoves the heaviest bag into Jace's arms; he's buff, he can handle it. "So are you in, or what?"

Jace's lips purse a little and he tightens his hold on the groceries. "Don't make me regret this."

 

 

 

They eat prepared food out of the containers while sitting on opposite ends of the couch. Simon is dramatic about every healthy bite until Jace flings a tofu meatball at him to shut him up.

Having Jace in his apartment is even weirder than running into him out in the wild. It makes Simon feel edgy and sharp, even though he tries to make himself very still instead. He wishes he'd known Jace was coming so he could have done all those things he always promised his mom he did: sweep and dust, pick up the stray socks and sweatshirts, tidy the messy piles of DVDs and games by the TV. He wishes he'd gone food shopping in something besides a Blade t-shirt from high school. It's not like Jace usually sees him at his best or anything (Simon feels his "best" is neither here nor there, and Jace regularly has front row seats to Simon expiring slowly on exercise equipment, which has to be worse than a messy apartment) but it's different here. This is Simon's space and now Jace is here, two very separate worlds colliding.

Simon keeps trying to look at Jace without looking at him, to sneak sideways glances without seeming too obvious about it. It's during one of those surreptitious little looks that he realizes, "Hey, Izzy has one of those too."

Simon reaches out before he can stop himself to touch the tattoo on the inside of Jace's left forearm. It's a distinct, knotted shape: two hooks curving down into something almost like a diamond. Isabelle has the same thing tattooed on her chest. Clary doodles it all over every spare piece of paper in their apartment now.

"It's a family thing," Jace says offhandedly. He lifts his arm so Simon can look closer. "We all have one, me and Izzy and Alec. My brother."

"That's an intense level of sibling bonding."

Jace doesn't say anything for a minute, but then he offers, "Yeah. Well, you know, we're not… I'm adopted."

Simon is quiet too, but he's never been good at staying quiet. "Dude, I wasn't going to say anything, but you and Izzy look nothing alike."

Jace stares at him and then laughs, a funny and startled sound. "Tact is not your thing, is it?"

Sheepishly, Simon says, "Not especially."

Jace tells him that he came to live with the Lightwoods when he was ten, moving into their Upper East Side townhouse after a childhood that he pointedly does not share the details of. Jace and Isabelle still live there, thrashing around that luxurious and mostly empty house together, their littlest brother away at boarding school and their parents always travelling for work. Isabelle works at the gym to help pay for school. Jace just works.

Simon tells him about being good at math but loving music more, how thrilling it isn't to go after an accounting degree, how his band busted up after he slept with Maureen.

"Hit it and quit it," Jace says obnoxiously with a low whistle. "Didn't know you had it in you, Lewis."

"Yep, I can be as much of an asshole as the next guy," Simon replies. "Give me a medal. My reward is getting to play my guitar all alone in my room. Sometimes Clary applauds on the other side of the wall."

Jace's lips quirk up at the corners. "A story that sad needs beer."

"Oh, does it? Am I allowed to have that on my new diet?"

Magnanimously, Jace says, "Exceptions can be made."

All Simon has in the fridge is the hard cider that Clary likes and half a bottle of rosé, both of which cause Jace to make a horrified-but-amused expression that ends up looking like he wants to sneeze. "You should have prepared me for this," he says, staring down at the cider despondently.

"I can pour you a glass of rosé," Simon tells him, straight-faced. "Clary bought some vintage crystal. It's really an experience."

"Do you drink it in a bubble bath with a sheet mask on?"

"Don't bring your masculinity issues to me, man. That stuff is delicious."

Jace sort of laughs a little, again. It feels like getting a present.

Over one drink and then two, everything gets a little softer. The summer sun is finally setting and the apartment takes on that hazy outside glow, room growing dim around them. Jace keeps tucking and re-tucking the hair behind his ear. Simon forgets to feel weird about things, allowing the line to blur between the Jace who busts his ass at the gym and the Jace holding a glass of pink wine like it might secretly be a bomb.

"You look like every guy who gave me shit in high school," Simon says.

Jace gives him a curious look in return. "Is that why you don't like me?"

"Probably. But it doesn't help that you can be a major dick." Simon salutes when he says it to make it into a joke. Major Dick.

Jace snorts. "It's motivation," he says, yet again. "You have to have something to push against. You're not going to get anywhere if people coddle you."

"Oh yeah?" Simon arches an eyebrow. "Who taught you that?"

It's the brief hesitation before Jace says, "My dad," that makes Simon realize he's not talking about the guy who adopted him. But Jace's tone is otherwise casual, unrevealing.

"Were you close?"

Jace shrugs. "He died when I was ten."

His face is so carefully blank that Simon resolves to keep his own reaction from showing. "Mine too. Uh, except I was nine. He taught me how to play the guitar."

Jace glances at him. "Are you going to like me now that both our dads are dead?"

The corner of Simon's mouth turns up a little. "Probably," he offers.

"You have to admit it works, though." Jace's voice gets more strident as he pushes past the moment so it doesn't become A Moment. "I mean, look at you now."

"Look at me what?" Simon glances down at himself: same crummy t-shirt, same sore abs, same Simon. "What is there to see?"

Jace rolls his eyes, reaching over to grab Simon's arm and arranging him so it's bent at the elbow, hand folded into a fist. His fingers move over the flexed muscles of Simon's arm with brisk efficiency. "Look," Jace says again, but Simon's more concerned with the sensation of Jace's hands on him. "And it's not just that. Think of everything you couldn't do that first day that you can do now without blinking. Your strength, your endurance, your reflexes – they've all improved. You gotta stop feeling sorry for yourself."

Simon is overly aware of Jace touching him, captivated by the bright intensity in Jace's expression. The cut on his lip is still healing; Simon wonders if it hurts. "I'm feeling a lot more motivated now. And that was probably the nicest you've ever been to me."

Soberly, Jace says, "I'm going to have to be twice as mean to make up for it, then."

"Honestly, I expect nothing less," Simon answers.

 

 

 

"Come on. Again. You can do it again."

Jace has Simon doing sit-ups, propelling himself up with gritted teeth before dropping back against the mat with a gulp of relief, then doing it all over again. Jace sits at Simon's feet to keep him rooted to the ground but he keeps leaning closer until his body is pressed up against Simon's legs, hands curling around Simon's thighs.

Jace is wearing a Captain America t-shirt today. When Simon first stepped into the gym that afternoon, the sight of that white star emblazoned on Jace's chest had yanked his attention abruptly from his conversation with Clary. It sent a rush through Simon that came out half in laughter, half in nerves. He got the joke immediately. He knew Jace chose to put that shirt on today for him, because it was Simon's day. Jace thinks about him.

Jace thinks about him.

Every time Simon forces himself through another sit-up, he's right there in Jace's personal space. Their faces are incredibly close. The distance is an accordion, compressing and expanding; Simon advances and retreats, caught up in the assessing stare of Jace's mostly-blue eyes. The exercise is repetitive and relentless, but as far as motivation goes, it's not the worst. It's like coming up for air in the ocean.

"You're killing me, man," Simon complains.

"Don't be a baby. I'm going soft on you."

Jace always likes to level things up if Simon whines, so on the next one Jace's hand snakes out to grab a handful of Simon's shirt. He holds Simon in place until he starts to feel an involuntary tremor in his core, body pushed to the limit; then Jace releases him and Simon falls back against the ground, taking a gasping breath. He closes his eyes.

"You're killing me," Simon reasserts. "I was dire hungover this weekend thanks to you and now you are destroying what's left of my body. You're a menace, Wayland."

Jace smiles a little but pokes Simon in his sore midsection unforgivingly. Then his hand settles flat on Simon's stomach, a warm and sure weight. Simon's skin tingles. "Again?"

Simon nods and sucks in a breath, letting it go as he brings himself upright once more. His body wants to shake but he holds the position all on his own, eyes locked on Jace. Jace counts him off by tapping his fingers against Simon's leg. Simon falls back, breathes in.

"I hate you," he says.

Jace grins. “I love it when you talk dirty.” He gestures come here. “Again.”

Simon doesn't get up right away when they finish. He has the urge to grab Jace by the shirt like Jace had grabbed him, to pull Jace down with him and against him, to feel Jace's weight on his overworked body. Instead Jace gets to his feet and looks down at Simon with a faint smile on his face. Simon wonders what he's thinking.

"You're a lightweight, Lewis," Jace says, but Simon doesn't hear the insult. He hears what's underneath.

Simon holds up a hand and waits for Jace to take it, to haul Simon up easy as anything. Momentum almost makes Simon stumble right into his chest, but Jace pushes him back lightly before he can make contact. Simon is a little let down by that.

"Hit the showers," Jace tells him. "Go home and take a nap. I'll give you hell again on Thursday."

"Looking forward to it." The worst part is Simon's not even lying.

 

 

 

It's a rare thing for Clary to be flying solo these days. Ever since Isabelle appeared on the scene, it's felt like Simon has a ghost for a roommate: Clary is never there, but signs of her remain. Dishes appear in the sink, or the laundry will miraculously get done. Food comes and goes in the fridge. It's like a very pleasant poltergeist has moved in with Simon. Clary the Friendly Ghost.

But tonight is one of the rare ones, so Simon and Clary decide to celebrate with a good old-fashioned roomie binge: a feast of pizza, Whole Foods mac and cheese, and chocolate rugelach from the good deli accompanying a marathon of Black Mirror.

"After this we should watch that horror movie with the weird name," Simon tells her, and he's heartened by the way Clary nods in perfect understanding, unquestioning. They've been apart lately but they still speak the same language.

Then, lightly, Clary says, "I saw Maureen the other day."

"Hm." Simon takes a slow bite of pizza and chews thoughtfully. "Still hates me?"

"Still hates you," Clary confirms with an apologetic little wince. "But she said something kind of interesting."

"If it's all the ways she could murder me and make it look like an accident, then I already got that group text."

Clary punches his arm none-too-lightly, but Simon has muscles now so he can take it. "No. Her band is playing Hunter's Moon this weekend and their opener bailed."

Simon waits for her to say something else, but when she doesn't, he prompts, "So?"

"So you said you wanted to do more solo gigs." Clary keeps her eyes on the television screen with such dedicated focus that her forcefully chill demeanor comes off as anything but.

"Fray," Simon laughs a little. "Opening for a band I started that has since moved on without me is a level of tragic I don't really want to hit until I'm, like, at least forty and totally washed up. Plus, as you said yourself, Maureen still hates me."

Clary gives up any attempt at pretending to be chill right then and there. "That's what makes it perfect! You can play at a bar that you love, where you're totally comfortable, and get some practice playing on your own. Meanwhile Maureen will be down with it because of the aforementioned tragedy! It's a lose-lose win-win."

"That is not a thing," Simon says. "And did you forget about Maia? Because all you have to do is invite Raphael to this thing and it's going to get very Scott Pilgrim vs. the World very fast."

"None of your exes are evil," Clary says, which is officially the nicest thing she's ever said about Raphael. "Come on, it'll be fun!"

"This isn't enough time to prepare," Simon protests.

"You sing your sad boy music to yourself in your room all the time," she says playfully. "You're prepared."

"Cute, very cute." Simon shakes his head. "No."

 

 

 

Obviously, Simon ends up doing the gig.

It's not much, just three songs and Simon's stomach churning painfully with nerves. He only does covers, soft-voiced and acoustic; it's the kind of thing he used to perform with Maureen, and it feels like there's something missing without the sound of her keyboard. She's there in the crowd, but she doesn't look at Simon. Still, it not a total loss: Maia gives Simon finger guns from behind the bar before he starts, which makes him smile. Then there's Clary and Isabelle clapping and shouting encouragements like overeager stage moms and Jace –

Jace.

Jace is here.

He's sitting on Isabelle's other side, looking deeply amused by her and Clary. A deep green leather jacket hangs off the back of his chair and he's got a beer in one hand that he brings up to his lips to take a slow swallow from, throat working in a motion Simon can't help but track with his eyes. Jace is as annoyingly cool and relaxed and comfortable as he always is, and once again the unfamiliar sight of him in a familiar place jolts Simon. His fingers fumble over his guitar strings and a jarring chord rings out like a lead weight. Simon winces, the crowd makes an audibly sympathetic sound, and Jace meets Simon's eyes. He smiles like he does when Simon is wiped out at the end of a session: a little condescending, but almost fond.

Simon collapses next to Clary when he's done, letting out a groan. She pats his back comfortingly. "It wasn't bad," Clary insists. "It was…an artistic choice."

Simon snorts. "I bet Maureen was happy, at least. Nothing like watching an ex totally bomb on –"

"Don't be dramatic," Isabelle says, not unkindly, as she reaches across the table to ruffle Simon's hair. "It was great!"

"That's a word for it," Jace remarks. Isabelle elbows him so he holds up his hands in apology. "C'mon, nerd, let's go drown your sorrows."

Jace gets up and tugs at the back of Simon's shirt so he'll follow Jace to the bar, Simon ambling along with as much deep-rooted malaise as a Peanuts character. Once there Jace's hand finds its way to the nape of Simon's neck as it sometimes does, one of those companionable, masculine pats to the back that linger a little longer than necessary. It makes Simon feel all jumbled inside, but not in a bad way. He thinks about blaming his onstage slip-up on Jace (since it really was his fault) but it feels like giving too much away.

"Izzy dragged me along," Jace tells him indifferently. He leans against the bar, waiting for Maia to grace him with her presence but not actively trying to flag her down. "She said I couldn't miss the show, and now I see why."

"I didn't expect to see you." The idea of Jace and Maia interacting gives Simon a spike of low-grade anxiety, which is stupid; Maia is his ex-girlfriend but they're on good terms and Jace – Jace isn't anything.

Jace gives him a sidelong look. "I know."

Simon resists the urge to roll his eyes but he can't suppress the flush of heat that creeps up his neck. "I had a totally inexplicable hand spasm. Don't flatter yourself."

Jace leans in. "Don't need to. You do it for me."

Despite himself, Simon laughs. "You are unbelievably arrogant."

"Is it arrogance if it's earned?"

"Yes," Maia interjects, appearing suddenly in front of them. "Pride is a sin, pretty boy, or haven't you heard?"

Jace's attention shifts and he grins at her flirtatiously. "I shouldn't be punished for having high self-esteem."

"But maybe for being totally deluded." Simon knocks his shoulder into Jace's, then feels like a chump, Betty and Veronica battling for Archie's affections. As if Maia even cares. But then Jace looks over at him with a little smile and Simon forgets to feel stupid, because mission accomplished.

Maia smirks a little, raising an eyebrow at Simon. She always could read him too well. "What would you like, Lewis?

"All of it," Simon says. "All the booze. Load 'em up."

By the time he and Jace return to the table with a heaping tray of shots, their party has increased by two: the dour guy from Jace's Instagram who must be the third Lightwood and a sexy pirate who Simon assumes is his boyfriend. A round of shots accompanies the introductions, then another, and right after that things start to get hazy.

Simon ends up smushed in the corner of the table closest to the wall, Jace next to him. He has an arm draped on the back of Simon's chair and his body is angled promisingly in Simon's direction, but Simon's ability to enjoy that is compromised by the next words out of Jace's mouth: "Did you write those songs?"

He can only blink at Jace. "Dude. Are you for real?" Jace, apparently, is for real, as indicated by his blank expression. "Dude. You don't know who Elliott Smith is?"

Jace shrugs and takes a sip of beer. "Why, should I?"

Simon is agape. "Should you? Should you? Oh my god."

"Seemed kind of…slow," Jace offers diplomatically.

"Slow? Sl– I can't." Simon shakes his head, pressing fingertips to his forehead for a breath as he tries to rationalize this. "Okay. This isn't your fault. I bet all you listen to all day are remixes of top 40 hits."

Jace neither confirms nor denies this.

"Okay," Simon continues, resolved. "Okay. This is nothing a crash course in pop culture can't cure. Let's start in nineteen fifty-one –"

Though Jace appears to be listening intently, Simon suspects he is not quite taking in every word. Simon rambles on and on about rock'n'roll and guitars and movies and scores, losing the plot himself more than once as he tries to unload on Jace everything he likes, all at once. It feels important that Jace know and appreciate these things for Simon to be able to continue appreciating him, but drunk in a bar populated with other people he's slept with is perhaps not the ideal venue for such a conversation.

Still, Jace listens. Every so often he nods or hm's but his hand has also slipped from the chair to rest low on Simon's back, thumb trailing up and down in slow half-circles. That, combined with an improbable amount of drinks, makes Simon kind of lose his ability to focus.

"I'm talking a lot," he notes abruptly in the middle of a sentence about eighties power ballads.

"You usually are," Jace replies.

Simon's lips twitch but he doesn't quite smile. "Were you listening at all?"

Jace's gaze is heavy enough to feel like a physical touch, eyes half-lidded. "I was looking at your mouth."

Simon can taste his last drink on his lips, ice and whiskey. He can hear the laughter of their friends like it’s an insulated bubble set apart from the buzz of the rest of the bar. And Jace is so close, flushed a little with booze and pushing his hair out of his face again.

"I really want you to kiss me," Simon says, all in a rush.

Jace's smile is both indulgent and self-satisfied, and he leans in close to murmur, rough-voiced, "You're gonna have to wait."

"Give me a date and time," Simon murmurs back inanely. "I'll put it in my calendar."

Jace laughs then, so soft and surprised that Simon thinks it could easily become a kiss, but instead there's a wolf-whistle from Isabelle and a groan from Alec, the moment shattered just like that. But when Simon looks at Jace again and sees the pleasant sheepishness on his face, he isn't really all that bothered.

 

 

 

Simon wakes up with a blistering headache and a roiling nausea that can mean only one tragic thing: he has a hangover.

He stumbles into the living room like a sunblind vampire with his duvet wrapped around him. He finds Clary and Isabelle looking much too fresh-faced and awake, sitting side by side on the couch with matching bouncy ponytails and pink cups of coffee.

"You make the rest of us look bad," he tells them. "What happened last night?"

The girls exchange a glance and wince. "Oh, Simon," Clary says, with the inflated sympathy of someone breaking the news that a beloved pet has died. "You kind of passed out?"

"Crashed right on the table," Isabelle confirms. "You had a coaster pretty much imprinted into your face." At his look of dismay, she adds, "None of us were in great shape. Magnus and Alec practically carried Jace home."

At Jace's name, Simon hauls the duvet up over his head so he is totally obliterated from sight. "Oh god. He was putting the moves on me and I fell asleep."

"He should take that as a hint to up his game." Isabelle's voice is cheerfully dismissive. Sisters, Simon thinks.

"And maybe next time less shots," Clary tries.

"Thank you, Dr. Fray," Simon says, flopping right onto the couch with them in a blankety slump. "I'll keep that in mind."

 

 

 

Simon can't stop thinking about it, what Jace said. You're going to have to wait.

Wait until when? Will Jace kiss him the next time they see each other, or did Simon miss his window? Will he be able to tell when it's about to happen? Will he have time to prepare? Will it live up to every fantasy Simon has half-smothered so he wouldn't jinx it?

Knowing it's coming without knowing when fills Simon with an impatience he can't shake. It's going to happen sometime, someday: he and Jace are going to kiss. Simon knows Jace wants to kiss him and Jace knows Simon wants to be kissed. It's there around every corner, coloring every moment. And waiting is the best kind of torture, sweet and twisty like the steady climb of a rollercoaster before it nosedives. The anticipation is killing him; he can't wait for the drop.

When he turns up for his next – and, fittingly enough, final – session with Jace, Simon is practically buzzing. He loiters near the entrance as his gaze sweeps the gym, wanting to spot Jace before Jace sees him. Simon finds him at the far end of the floor: he's facing away from Simon, blond hair combed to a perfect point at the nape of his neck and shoulders made broader by a dark blue gilet. His face is reflected in the mirrored wall in front of him. Jace is focused as he fusses with the settings on a machine but then, as though he senses he's being watched, he looks up – first at his reflection and then past it, right at Simon. His lips press together like they want to smile but he won't let them.

"Simon," Jace calls. "We're on the clock. You just going to stand there?"

Simon can't help a smile, excitement thrumming through him. "No, sir," he says, cheeky.

Jace rolls his eyes, but the corner of his mouth lifts up. "Get over here, Lewis."

Things are weird that day. It's like they're bad actors reading off a script: all the lines are right, but everything else is wrong. Jace tries to give Simon a hard time and put him through his paces with his usual punishing routine of reps and machines and weights, but at the same time he's too soft. Jace's touch is nervous and skittering, fingertips grazing Simon's skin but barely making contact before flitting away just as fast. And Simon wants to do a good job too badly. He's too quick to acquiesce and fall in line. There's no edge, no pushback, no flirtatious banter. Simon makes stupid mistakes – drops things, misses steps, trips over himself.

After one too many Leading Lady In A Rom-Com fumbles, Jace begins to lose patience with him. Jaw tight and lips pursed, Jace says, "Please don’t tell anyone I was your personal trainer, because the stunning lack of progress is going to fuck up my five star rating."

Prickling with embarrassment, Simon snipes, "Why would I brag about the worst eight weeks of my life?"

Jace's entire face goes stony. "You know what? We're almost done anyway, so there's no reason to prolong this." He shrugs, a hard and jerky motion. "Congratulations, you've been trained."

Simon's stomach sinks in disappointment. They have twenty minutes left. "But –"

"You should be glad. The worst eight weeks of your life are over," Jace interrupts, arms crossed.

Simon glares at him, wondering how one person can be so stupid and so obstinate, before he gets up, grabs his towel. "Fine," he says. "Goodbye, asshole."

As Simon stalks off towards the locker rooms, he feels a spike of panic kick in but instead of turning back around he keeps going. Turns out Jace isn't the only one who's stupid and obstinate. He gets as far as yanking open the door of his locker when he hears someone enter the room behind him.

"That wasn't very nice, Simon."

Simon spins to face him. "You're one to talk. You know negging's not a real thing, right?"

"Really?" Jace raises his eyebrows. "Seemed to work pretty well on you."

"Don't confuse my bad judgment with you having any kind of game."

Jace's expression does that thing it sometimes does – his tightly set jaw twitches and his eyebrows draw together, corner of his lips lifting almost imperceptibly. He's enjoying this, Simon realizes. Figures.

"And another thing," Simon continues, taking a step closer. "I'm going to leave the worst review. Cocky, rude, no sense of boundaries –" ("Hey! " Jace interrupts.) "Say goodbye to those five stars, I'm going to give you one."

"It wasn't really the worst eight weeks of your life, right?" Jace says. "You look like you've probably had some pretty pitiful summer camp experiences that could rival this."

Simon stares at him. "You really are an idiot," he says, then reaches over to grab a fistful of Jace's dumb skintight vest so he can pull him in for a kiss.

Funny. This isn't how Simon thought it would go at all.

He didn't think it would happen here in this utilitarian locker room with its rows of carefully numbered gray doors, the bench between them like an uninvited guest. Simon is still a little breathless and tender from the workout, skin sticky with sweat and face flushed. Jace's skin is warm under Simon's hands too, solid and ever so slightly sheened, heated. Jace grips Simon's sides so hard his fingers are molded to the line of Simon's waist, and he pulls Simon so close so fast that Simon has to bring a knee up to rest on the bench just to stay steady. His body presses up against Jace's, sturdy and unmovable. Simon wraps his arms around Jace's neck and kisses him forcefully, mouths sliding open and wet. The kiss is a burner turned on too high, water boiled over.

Jace pulls away first but he doesn't get far; Simon can't quite give it up yet, chasing after Jace's mouth for a kiss that feels like air dragging into your lungs after you've been drowning. Necessary.

The second time Jace laughs, his teeth bright. "I don't actually want to get fired," he says, then nudges his nose against Simon's a little, sweetly.

Simon thinks. "Brooklyn's closer. When does your shift end?"

"Right now, if I want," Jace tells him. "I only came in today for you."

And, god, Simon has to kiss him again for that.

 

 

 

They stagger into Simon's apartment and through to his bedroom so single-mindedly that Simon isn't sure they even locked the door behind them. Or closed it. He's too busy putting his hands all over Jace: clutching at his stupid silky hair, sliding underneath Jace's shirt, running his palms over the muscular arms Simon kind of wants to sink his teeth into. Jace keeps groaning low in his throat, surprised and soft sounds muffled further against Simon's mouth. So far he's just keeping Simon close, one hand on his ass and the other flat in the middle of his back, mouth insistent as he demands kiss after kiss.

Simon nips at Jace's lower lip, says, "What do you want to do?"

"Everything," Jace tells him. "Take off your clothes." He gives Simon a little push away before dropping back to sit on the edge of the bed. He's got his eyes locked on Simon, watching him with the same focus he has when they're training and he's about to offer a correction – not one of his asshole gibes, but something measured and honest. Simon wonders if that look has always been this heated and he just had blinders on.

Then Jace lifts a hand to his zipper and Simon stops thinking about anything at all. Jace tugs it down leisurely, dark blue fabric parting over his tattooed chest inch by inch. The rest of his clothes follow at the same unhurried pace, Jace leaning back against the bed as he pushes his loose shorts off his hips and reveals the sharp lines of his pelvis, the curve of his well-shaped thighs. And his cock, thickly outlined against the material of his stone gray boxer briefs.

Simon just breathes for a minute, taking him in. "Jesus."

"I know," Jace says, all smirks, and Simon has to roll his eyes.

"Shut up."

Challengingly, "Make me."

Simon pulls his clothes off with way less showmanship, carelessly dropping t-shirt and sweats to the already-cluttered floor. He climbs into Jace's lap and pushes him flat against the bed with one hand on his chest to hold him there. The smirk fades from Jace's expression, replaced with something softer and more intense. He watches Simon from under heavy lids. His hand snakes down to fit itself over Simon's erection, fingers splayed as he strokes slowly, letting the involuntary rocking of Simon's hips set the pace. Simon presses into Jace's hand, feels the shift of Jace's hips pressing up against him.

It's so slow, almost lazy, that Simon is surprised to feel Jace's heartbeat drumming so fast under his palm. He leans in and tucks himself close, thighs spread so he can really sink down and kiss Jace carefully, deliberately. It starts off gentle but quickly becomes uncontrollable, messy and deep, the kind of kissing that probably wouldn't even feel good if they weren't so desperate for one other, teeth clacking. Jace lets Simon in so easily, pushes back like he needs this too, too badly.

“You can do me,” Jace murmurs, pressed up against Simon, mouth open.

"Oh," Simon says, and, "Oh," kissing back, "I can do that. I can definitely do that."

They tumble around a little first, legs tangled, hips flush. Jace rolls them over so he's on top, and when they try to kiss his hair gets in the way, blonde strands sticking to their lips. Simon pfft's it away impatiently, twists his fingers in Jace's hair to push it back so he can kiss Jace's pink mouth again without interruption. He likes Jace's weight on him, Jace's hands on his chest; he wonders if they'll do it like this – Jace in his lap, sinking onto him. God. Simon can't believe this is actually happening.

Simon rolls Jace's briefs down and touches before he looks, wraps a hand around where Jace is hot to the touch and hard, revels in Jace's throaty little noises. He noses along Jace's jaw to his neck, stubble a pleasant scratch against his lips. He tips Jace over onto his side so he can more easily kiss down his chest: smooth skin, solid muscle, tattoos Simon traces with his tongue, scars he doesn't know the stories to yet.

Jace pulls him back up again (none-too-gently, either) before reaching down to peel off Simon's underwear, tilting his head to the side and looking down with interest. He gives a low whistle at the sight of Simon's dick, curls his fingers around it and squeezes.

Simon, laughing: "Shut up."

"Just thinking…" Jace tangles his fingers with Simon's and pulls their hands behind him, puts Simon's fingers where he wants them. "About how good it'll feel."

It's Simon's turn to moan helplessly.

The lube is on the bedside table (it had come in handy more than once since Simon first met Jace) but Simon has to disentangle from Jace so he can hang over the edge of the bed fishing around for pants, wallet, and condom – in that order. Jace taps along Simon's side to hurry him up, finally pinching him sharply to get his attention. "While we're still young, Simon."

He glares at Jace over his shoulder, so Jace leans down to kiss the ruddy, irritated spot of skin. It fills Simon with a stupid, more-than-sex feeling that he's not sure whether to give into yet or not. "Alright," he says. "Everything's in order. Paperwork has been filed. Let's get this show on the road."

Jace rolls his eyes. "Hot," he deadpans.

What's hot is Simon working his fingers into Jace minutes later, watching Jace's eyes fall closed and throat work in a swallow. A shudder travels its way from his clenched jaw through his torso and down to his hips, which jerk into Simon, press down on his hand. Simon kisses the crease of Jace's thigh, his hipbones. He sucks Jace off as he opens him up, thinks that he wouldn't mind if Jace came like this, body caught up in Simon's hands and mouth, sweat already making his skin glossy.

"Simon," Jace breathes, and he thinks Jace is trying to get his attention until he looks up and sees Jace is saying his name just to say it, just to have it on his tongue. He says it again, the end of Simon's name twisting up into a groan.

Simon pulls off to say, "Are you going to come? It's okay, if you want – We can do it just like this, we can –"

"I want you to fuck me," Jace interrupts. "Now, if you're done talking. But are you ever done talking?"

The breathlessness kind of undercuts the sarcasm.

"Are you ever done being obnoxious?" Anticipation zipping through him, Simon grabs for the condom and rips the packet open. He holds himself over Jace, biting his lip, and Jace reaches down to help put it on. "Ready?"

Jace's hand settles warmly on the back of Simon's neck and he wets his lips, nods. There's that feeling again: more than. There are tremors in Simon's sore arms as he presses into Jace, slow and steady on sheets that are already all rucked up. Jace brings his legs up around Simon's hips, cages him in and spurs him on. Simon dips down to catch Jace's mouth at the same moment Jace leans up, their bodies falling into rhythm together with startling ease. Sex always takes some figuring out but with Jace that part of it is so minimal, almost nonexistent. They just get it – surprising for two people who can't go thirteen seconds without sniping, even naked.

Simon loves the flush on Jace's neck and cheeks, the way he bites his lip and tosses his head to the side, the feeling of Jace clutching at him. They switch positions, mess around. Jace gets on top, head tipping back and then lolling forward as he lowers himself onto Simon, hair spilling golden in front of his face; Simon bends Jace over and fits himself against Jace's back, hands gripping his hips while Jace's fingers scrabble at the cheap wood of the Ikea headboard.

They end up on their sides, Simon behind Jace, an arm locked around his chest and face buried in his neck. Simon's palm presses against Jace's stomach, slides over his cock every other thrust. He can't keep his teeth off the tendons of Jace's neck, can't stop compulsively smoothing his hair back. One of Jace's hands is fisted in the wrecked sheets.

"Harder," Jace demands, "No, no, hold it – hold it right there –" His eyes are screwed shut, tears spilling out the corners and leaving wet lines to his temples.

When Jace comes Simon stays perfectly still inside him, pressing kisses to Jace's damp cheekbone. Only when Jace's rapid heart and wild breathing have become manageable does Simon start to move again, Jace murmuring to him to keep him going. "I need it harder than that," Jace says, rough. "I want to feel it after."

Simon bites down too hard on the juncture of Jace's neck and shoulder when he finishes, can't help it. His whole body seizes, muscles tight with it, fingertips digging into Jace's skin and brow deeply furrowed. His heartbeat is in his ears. Jace moans. The world drops out and when it comes back Simon feels the aftershocks everywhere. He's all over sensitive and shivery, vulnerable.

Jace is breathing heavily through parted lips. "You're a biter, huh," he remarks. Then, "You're shaking."

"You're crying," Simon accuses, immediately defensive.

Jace glares at him as much as he can over his shoulder with his eyes half-closed. "Involuntary eye watering."

"Weeping," Simon counters, grinning now. He extricates himself from Jace and flops down beside him. "Weeping from the force of our passion and –"

Turning, Jace says, "Shut up," right before his lips meet Simon's hard enough to keep him from saying anything else. Simon finds himself smiling into the kiss, even more so when Jace presses a hand flat to Simon's chest and adds in a murmur, "You were quivering, nerd."

Simon's tongue flicks out to lick at Jace's mouth. "Guess the passion got me too."

Surprise makes Jace grin and then laugh, and he kisses Simon again like he doesn't know what else to do. His knuckles run lightly over Simon's stomach, back and forth, until Simon stills Jace's hand with his own, knots their fingers together.

It's more than, maybe.

 

 

 

When Simon wakes up, Jace is gone. He reaches for his glasses, bleary-eyed, only to remember that he had fallen asleep with his contacts in. He's surprised his eyes aren't fused shut. He gets out of bed to shuffle around for eye drops and pull on some clothes, feeling crummy right down to the pit of his stomach. Not even a note? Not even a text?

He goes into the living room slash dining room slash kitchen (all roughly the size of a postage stamp, God love New York), rubbing at his face and getting ready to complain to Clary, when the sight that greets him stops him dead in his tracks. Clary and Isabelle and Jace are all seated around the tiny table together, pleasantly enjoying coffee and multigrain puff cereal.

They look up when Simon enters the room, and Jace's face lights up in one of his signature condescending grins. He's wearing Simon's Spiderman hoodie half-zipped over his bare chest, and there are still teeth marks on his neck. "Morning, sunshine."

The relief that blooms in Simon is so all-encompassing that he's almost embarrassed by it.

"You two must have had a good night," Isabelle notes, eyes very mischievous over her cup. "You both look like hell."

"How did it finally happen?" Clary wonders teasingly. "Did Simon wow you with his superior wooing skills?"

Mildly, Jace wonders, "What skills?"

"Jerk," Simon says without heat, flicking the back of Jace's neck as he wanders past him towards the kitchenette, which has an illusion of a wall separating it from the rest of the apartment. "Please tell me you guys left at least a single drop of coffee for me to lick out of the coffee pot, or I will not be able to reanimate this morning."

"Sorry, were we supposed to?" Jace asks, getting up to follow him. Isabelle and Clary exchange fondly rolled eyes.

While Simon makes more coffee (those callous jerks couldn't even be bothered to think of him at all), Jace moves around the kitchen like he owns the place, going in and out of the fridge and the cabinets.

"I thought you'd pulled a disappearing act," Simon tells him, quiet so the girls won't overhear, giving Jace a sideways glance.

Amused, Jace says, "You didn't even get two steps out of your bedroom before freaking out, did you?"

"Not even one," Simon confirms with a grin.

Moments later Jace sets a bowl of cereal in front of him, but fibrous puffs they are not. Simon looks from the bowl to Jace and raises an eyebrow. "Are you actually condoning Count Chocula right now? At least tell me that's soy milk."

"Full dairy," Jace confirms, lip curling.

"My god," Simon says with mock horror. "You take a man to bed and he's a different person in the morning."

Jace smiles a little. "Shut up and eat your breakfast."

Simon leans in to kiss him. "Thank you for my children's cereal."

When Simon starts to pull away, Jace brings a hand up to his cheek to hold him in place. He kisses Simon again, less casual and more intent like he's trying to say something with it, but eventually all he offers is, "You're welcome, nerd."

"I think now it's going to have to be 'Simon' full time," he tells Jace, still soft. "I liked hearing you say it too much last night."

Jace drags his thumb over Simon's lower lip slowly. "Well, in that case, Simon, I guess I'll have to get used to it."

Simon forgets about coffee and dry eyeballs and much-need showers, because all he really wants to do for maybe the next thirty years – and definitely the next thirty seconds – is kiss Jace stupid. Then take him to bed a thousand more times. No time like the present, so he presses his mouth to Jace's again and again until they're crowded up against the counter making out, morning mouth be damned. They break apart with Jace laughing a little, moaning a little. "Simon."

And then there's catcalling from the living room. "Insatiable!" Clary calls, and Isabelle follows up with, "Get a room!"

Jace steals Simon's coffee cup and wanders back to the table. "Get your own!" he tells her. "There's an empty townhouse in Manhattan you could be nesting in, but oh, no, we all have to crowd into one Brooklyn apartment."

"I can't bear to be away from you, brother," Isabelle teases him, and it devolves into more petty sibling squabbling from there, Clary interjecting on Isabelle's behalf from time to time.

Simon lets their conversation wash over him as he makes his way back inside to perch on Jace's lap and eat his breakfast. It seems strange and kind of awesome all of a sudden that this is his life – that all of this belongs to him.

"We're going on a run after this," Jace tells him. "Those mini-marshmallows aren't going to burn themselves off."

"I hate you," Simon replies, voice infused with as much affection as he can manage, and he feels truly, genuinely good.