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the math of love triangles

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Coming by Maia's to watch a movie had become a lot less fun for Simon ever since she started going out with Jace.

A third party skews the balance, like a seesaw with too much weight on one side. Jace doesn't get half their references and he's always interrupting to ask the most basic questions, ones that would be answered if he just paid attention. He gets restless any time they want to watch something longer than an hour and a half. But even when he's silent his mere presence is enough to unsettle. Simon and Maia will be watching something, snickering at a private joke or whatever, and suddenly an arm will slide around her from the other side. Simon will be shocked into remembering that Jace exists and he's here and Maia likes him, which is a reminder he could do without. It's a bucket of cold water to the face.

Simon can't quite get over the fact that every girl he really likes seems to have some kind of inexplicable draw to Jace Whateverdale. Sure, Jace was hot and sad and he could be surprisingly kind; that combination of factors might prove itself dizzying, but at the end of the day he was and always would be an arrogant girlfriend-kisser whose blood had once burst candy-sweet across Simon's tongue. Jace is better kept at a distance, which is why it's so deeply irritating that Maia likes to have him next to her all the time.

Like now. Settled in on Maia's couch, Simon tries to pay attention to Alien while discussing the finer points of human incubators with her, but all he can focus on is Jace's hand on Maia's thigh. His thumb rubs in slow circles over her skin. It's casual and possessive but so personal too, a showy intimacy that makes Simon think of the jocks in high school slinging their overstuffed arms around their tiny girlfriends.

Maia treats Jace like an afterthought when they're all together, not giving in to the urge to act coupled up, but the same could not be said for Jace. He always touching her, always putting his hands on her or kissing her neck. Simon doesn't blame him, but he is building up some serious resentment about it.

"I'm gonna…" Simon pulls his gaze away from Jace's hand on Maia's leg. "Bathroom. I'll be right back."

It's not until Simon gets to the bathroom that he remembers he has very little reason to be in one, as a vampire. He addresses himself in the mirror with a pointed warning and a pointed finger. "You are being a ridiculous person," he says. "You need to go back out there and be normal. Normal adjacent. As normal as someone who talks to themselves in bathroom mirrors at the apartment of an all-hearing werewolf can be."

Suitably chastened, Simon washes his hands three times to waste a few minutes and then turns to head back to the living room. But he hasn't even reached the end of the short hallway when he sees that Maia and Jace have found a way to amuse themselves in his absence. And boy do they seem…amused.

Maia is straddling Jace's hips, her face bent to his so they can kiss. Her arms are curled comfortably around his neck, but Jace's hands are decidedly out of frame – Simon is facing the back of the couch, so all he can see is the back of Jace's blonde head, the corona of Maia's curls. Jace tilts up towards her, chasing the kiss every time Maia starts to pull back. They're laughing a little at something Simon missed and he's weirdly jealous over that, the laughing. After a minute he realizes they're laughing about him.

"What do you think he's doing in there?" Jace's hands come into view briefly, high on Maia's waist and then sliding down to her ass.

"Escaping from you," she says, eyes closed and lips curling. "Your lack of appreciation for the movie is making things uncomfortable for everyone."

"Hey, I appreciate the things that matter." Whatever he does out of Simon's line of sight makes Maia moan a little. Jace's voice gets low. "Don't I?"

"You're the worst," Maia groans, laughing again.

"Seriously, though, what do you think he's –"

"What do I think a nervous vampire is doing in the bathroom? Panicking, probably."

It's close enough to the truth that Simon stiffens in offense and clears his throat. They both snap to attention, Jace craning to look over his shoulder, but they make no immediate move to disentangle. Simon gives them a half-hearted little wave.

"Um, hey, so if you guys are…" Simon clears his throat again. "I can go? We can pick up this totally awesome space odyssey – which we should also watch, by the way – another time."

"No, come on, don't be silly." Maia plucks Jace's hands off her hips. He makes a noise of protest. "Blame Jace. It's his fault he's so –"

"Adoring?" Jace tries, smiling at Maia brightly enough that it shows off a dimple Simon never knew he had. "Irresistible?"

"Incorrigible," Maia decides, pushing him back as she finally hauls herself out of his lap. "Don't know why I put up with it." Her voice makes it sound like she does know, though. She motions Simon over so he has no choice but to come sit on the couch again.

"My charm, good looks, and devotion?" Jace offers.

"Your incredible beer-fetching abilities?" Maia suggests instead, waving her empty bottle from side to side with a teasing smile.

Jace accepts the bottle, leaning in to kiss her cheek. "Make no mistake, they are incredible."

Maia watches him go before returning her focus to Simon. Eyes warm, she says, "So is this totally driving you crazy or what?"

She cuts to the point so unexpectedly that it makes him laugh. But it's something Simon always liked about Maia: no bullshit. "Hmm." He pretends to think about it. "Do I love third-wheeling on a Jace Wayland –"

"Herondale."

"– makeout sesh?" he finishes, and smiles. "No. But I will survive." He does a little disco finger.

Maia snorts. "Are you sure? Because I can make him go sit in the extra chair in the corner. All by himself."

Simon smiles again, but it's softer this time. Even though she's kidding, Maia has a way of being casually considerate that touches Simon even now that he has come to expect it. "No, it's cool," he says, adding genuinely, "I'm happy you're happy. You know, even if it's with Jace." They share another small smile before he tells her, quietly, "You deserve it."

"You do too," Maia says, with just enough force that he knows she really means it. She shifts so she can tug at the hem of her skirt, which is when Simon realizes it had ridden up an inch or two after climbing in and out of Jace's lap.

"Hey, I'm cool," Simon insists. "I've got my tunes. I've got my mom's pestering phone calls. Clary and I are back to using emojis in our text convos. Things are going okay for me."

They've turned towards each other on the couch, close and comfortable as they sink into the cushions. Sometimes Simon has to remind himself that he's only known Maia a handful of months, less than a year, because it feels like he's known her his whole life. He's never clicked with anyone so quick and so sure before. She just gets him, no questions asked, and he knows he can trust her. She has his back.

"I would never condescend to say that I worry about you," Maia says, corner of her mouth lifting a little. "But I don't want you to be lonely."

"Oh no, I'm the sad single friend. I'm Bridget Jones."

"Shut up." Maia pushes his shoulder, laughing. "You know what I mean."

"Yeah. I know." Simon adjusts his position, moving ever so slightly closer. Not for the first time, he finds himself wishing that he and Maia had ended up single simultaneously. "I like it. That you think of me like that. Condescending or not."

Maia's smile almost seems to sparkle, and she's so close. Close enough that it's easy – too easy, stupid easy – to move forward another half inch and kiss her on the cheek. In a friendly way, of course. But then Simon turns a fraction of a degree and kisses her on the mouth. That's less friendly.

They've never kissed before. They hadn't even had one full date before they went their separate ways, romantically-speaking. But Simon has wanted to kiss her so many times. The first time he heard her laugh. When she told him how much she missed chocolate. That time he spilled the shot everywhere and she wiped blood from his stupid clumsy mouth. The craziest part is that it took this long, but now his mouth is on Maia's and her lips are parted as she kisses back, fingertips feather-light on the line of his neck.

"Getting started without me?"

A bucket of cold water to the face. Simon had forgotten that Jace was here.

Simon jolts back from Maia as though electrified and jumps to his feet, apologizing profusely. "I totally did not mean to do that, nor would I ever if I was not obviously out of my right mind, I am not a dude who kisses other dude's girlfriends – no offense, Jace –"

Jace snorts as he takes his seat again. He slips an arm around Maia's waist and hands her a fresh beer. He seems unperturbed about catching Simon in flagrante with his girlfriend. "None taken."

Maia doesn't look particularly bothered herself. "Actually…" She slides a sideways look in Jace's direction. "This is kind of something we've been talking about."

They both look at Simon, gazes fixed and open. Simon stares back at them. His brain is adding two and two but he refuses to believe he's actually coming up with four.

But then after a minute, he ventures, "Is…this what it's like to be solicited for a threeway?"

"Not always," Jace says. "Maia thought it would be better to ease you into it."

"You don't actually want to know Jace's first suggestion for broaching the topic," she says.

Simon is still having some trouble. "But… you're straight?" he says to Jace.

Jace shrugs. "I never said that."

"But…you don't like me," Simon tries instead.

"Never said that either," Jace says. Simon gives him an impatient look, because he'd at least implied it. "Not for a long time, anyway, Simon."

It's not a thought that Simon has ever actually had. As in, these specific people, this specific situation? Never crossed his mind. His masturbatory fantasies were a lot more indulgent and relatively faceless, slotting in the odd celebrity or superhero when the moment called. But him and Maia and Jace? Simon wouldn't have even thought to put that on his wish list.

"So." Maia lifts an eyebrow and then her chin, curious and inviting. "You in?"

Simon is very much in.

That's not to say it's without awkwardness. Simon is still Simon, after all, and this is the first – it's a lot of firsts. He's never touched Maia's cheek like this, never tipped up her chin to kiss her playful smile. He's never put his hand on her neck and felt the shape of her scars. He's never trailed kiss after kiss down her throat until he reached her collarbone, the slope of her chest.

He's never felt Jace's hand curl around his wrist so gently.

The farthest Simon ever went with a guy was some intense high school pining and one handjob behind his bunk at summer camp. Simon is good at wanting but less practiced at getting, so he keeps waiting for the pinch that wakes him up. Is he really allowed to touch Maia, does she really want him to? Is he really going to kiss Jace and finally figure out what all the fuss is about?

Apparently he really is, because Jace tugs on his wrist to pull him back up and then kisses him over Maia's shoulder, unyielding but surprisingly sweet. And Simon thinks, oh. Oh, he might get it after all.

It's a firm and certain kiss, Jace tilting his head and urging Simon's mouth open, but there's something teasing in it too, the way his tongue flirts against Simon's and withdraws. It's goading. Jace pushes because he wants you to push back. So that's what Simon does: he fists a hand in Jace's hair and yanks his head back before diving in to kiss him again, harder. Simon relishes in the startled, breathy sound Jace makes, Maia's quiet laughter.

"Quick study," she says before nudging in for a kiss of her own.

"Or maybe," Simon mumbles against her mouth, "Jace is just really predictable."

"I'm right here," Jace says, miffed.

"We didn't forget," Maia says, and then very pointedly puts herself in Simon's lap. "Hey."

She grins down at him and he grins back, feeling better about his decision to come here tonight than he's felt about possibly anything ever. "Hey."

Simon leans up for one more kiss that quickly turns to two more and then three, and after that it's hard to count. He feels a hand that must be Jace's sliding over his stomach under the hem of his t-shirt, but it withdraws before Simon can so much as shiver. Next Jace insinuates his hand in a much more intimate place: tucked between Maia and Simon, nestled between her legs with his knuckles against Simon's zipper. It takes the moment from a ten to a ten thousand, a sudden racketing up of tension that turns Simon and Maia's kiss messier, interrupts it with moans.

Simon is just trying to angle himself against Jace's hand for a more satisfactory result when the pressure lifts, Maia abruptly pulling away. She throws herself into Jace's arms instead, finding his mouth in a wild kiss. Guess her angle had been satisfactory.

Jace laughs and hauls her the rest of the way over, scooping her up and standing with a succinct, "Bedroom."

For a moment Simon doesn't know if he's been abandoned or not. He has that dejected kickball feeling, like he's still the last kid waiting in line to get picked, glasses and all. But then they both reach back with distracted hands for him, Jace grabbing a handful of t-shirt and Maia almost making off with a fistful of hair. And Simon doesn't feel so bad after that.

Once they find themselves in Maia's bed with the burnt orange sheets it's all grasping hands and traded kisses and clothes being stripped off. Jace pulls Simon's shirt over his head while Maia plucks at Jace's belt. And naked is – it's a lot, it's real. Being with another person is always vulnerable, but this has the volume turned up. Unnerving times three.

It must show in his face because Maia's fingers are gentle on his cheek. "Hey," she says again. "How you doing there?"

Simon smiles and opens his mouth and shuts it. "This is more hands than I know what to do with?"

"You'll figure it out –" Jace starts to say but Maia puts her hand directly into his face and hooks Simon closer with the other one. Jace pouts. "You're nicer to Simon than me."

"Duh," Maia says, nose against Simon's. "Make yourself useful, pretty boy."

Jace playfully bites at her shoulder before sliding down her body, kisses dropped to her ribcage and the curve of her hip.

"Go slow," Simon tells him. Jace glances up and then smiles, gives Simon a quick little nod like yes sir.

It's funny, but they do sort of fall into place. Maia leans back, head on her pillow, while Jace settles himself between her spread thighs. Simon fits himself into Maia's side and slips one arm underneath her neck. He trails his fingertips down from the hollow of her throat to her stomach before tangling his fingers in Jace's hair. Simon's mesmerized by Maia. Eyes closed, she turns her face into his shoulder when it gets to be too much; lips parted, she tilts up for a kiss from him. Her fingers convulse and tighten and release, not holding onto anything. He wonders suddenly if she's afraid to, if she's broken things before. He feels attuned to her every little twitch and reaction, and he can hear her pulse thundering. It's like music. It's overwhelming.

He's aware of her blood, too.

Simon can sense it, drawn close to the surface of her skin, heating her up. Whatever he'd assured Luke, this part was hard for Simon; he could feel his gums tingle in response to it, the urge to sink his teeth in and drink. He's starting to feel guilty about it, thinking he should pull back, when Maia opens her eyes and they flash green. Her fingers are curled into tight fists, so Simon reaches over to smooth one out, to lay her hand against his arm.

"It's okay," he says. "You won't hurt me."

Maia bites her lip a little and lets her fingers tighten. She doesn't hurt him.

After, Simon pulls Jace back up by the hair and licks the taste of Maia from his mouth, sharp almost like oranges. It's the closest Simon's come to tasting fruit since he turned and he chases it until Jace is panting, gasping, clutching at him. There's a headiness to that, having Jace desperate for him. For the first time Simon wonders whose idea this was; he'd assumed Maia's, but the way Jace is looking at him is making that certainty falter.

"What do you want?" he asks Jace, needing to do something to assuage that craving in his eyes. Simon knows all about craving, but this is the only way he's allowed to indulge. "Tell me."

Jace searches his face, and the hesitation there is something else Simon wouldn't have expected from Jace. "I've never done it before," he starts.

Simon would've thought Jace was the kind of guy who didn't do a damn thing in bed besides look good. He had never ascribed nerves or doubts to Jace, never gave him the space for them. But no time like the present, right?

Simon smiles. "That makes two of us."

They do it like this: Simon flush against Jace's back, arm locked around him; Maia and Jace forehead to forehead, their eyes intent on each other. One of her strong legs wrapped around them both. Holding everyone together, holding them close.

Sex as a mundane had nothing on Simon now. It's almost like he can pinpoint the exact moment Jace is going to come from the sound of his heart. Simon can feel everything. He's buzzing with both of them; he can't get enough. As soon as it feels like they've finished they start all over again.

Once they've been drowsing sleepily for long enough that it doesn't look like anyone's rising to the occasion again, Maia gives them both a push. "Someone has to shower," she says. "Werewolf senses. Sheets to change. Maybe a mattress to flip."

"Just throw it out, your mattress sucks," Jace says as he pushes up on shaky arms.

"You gonna buy me a new one, prince of the Shadowhunters?"

"May have to if tonight was anything to go by." He gives her an impertinent little wink as he gets to his feet. He kisses her and then Simon and then both again before finally dragging himself towards the bathroom. The shower starts moments later.

There's something sweet in how ordinary the aftermath is. Simon takes it upon himself to vamp-speed through the bedroom cleanup; Maia pledges her eternal devotion before leaving to kick Jace out of the shower ("You can use all my hot water when you start paying rent."). Jace immediately defeats the purpose of this whole portion of the evening by pinning Simon to the clean sheets and giving him a lazy blowjob that lasts until it's Simon's turn under the spray.

He takes a moment to look at himself in the bathroom mirror, his image warped by steam, and thinks you are a ridiculous person. It has its perks.

When he comes back to the bedroom, Jace appears to have fully fallen asleep with his face buried in the crook of Maia's neck while she looks affectionately exasperated by it. The way she smoothes his hair might be the sweetest she's ever been to Jace in front of Simon. "He always gets like this," she says.

Simon smiles a little, because he gets that now. He still has the old impulse to ask if he should leave them to it, but instead of giving in he just climbs back into bed. There's a waterfall of resettlement as Maia leans back against his chest and Jace presses closer to her again, his breathing deep and even.

"You know," Maia says. "This isn't a one time thing for us."

Did he know how much he wanted to hear that until he heard it?

"Cool," Simon says. "Me either."

She gestures to her computer on the bedside table. "Aliens?"

Did he know how much he wanted to hear that until he heard it?

"Aliens," Simon agrees happily, reaching for the laptop.