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Jace has a problem.

“I ‘ave a problem,” his chin rests in a puddle of alcohol on the coffee table.

“Hmm? What?” Clary looks up from her phone. Alec, Izzy, and Simon have only been gone three hours and they’ve already run out of things to talk about. Simon should be back by midnight, he promised he’d help them finish the vodka, but Alec and Izzy won’t be back until Sunday night after Max’s birthday party.

Jace purses his lips. He does like Clary. She slid right into the empty space in his family-away-from-home he didn’t realize existed. He just doesn’t know her as well as he knows Izzy, the first person who talked to him when he moved to a new high school. He had needed a lab partner and she’d sat down next to him when it was obvious everyone else wanted her to choose them. Or Simon, his roommate freshman year who couldn’t keep his dirty laundry on his side of the room. By the time they had to go home for Christmas break, Simon was a fixture in Jace’s life and a daily comfort.

And of course, he doesn’t know her like he knows Alec. Alec, who had taken him under his wing when he joined the football team at his dad’s persistence. Alec, who spent hours training with Jace and taught him how to catch every pass Alec threw. Alec, the guy who convinced Luke to scout Jace during Jace’s senior year of high school so that Jace and Alec could play for the same team in college.

So, no, he doesn’t know Clary that well. She only transferred at the beginning of the semester and it’s labor day. But Clary has slept on their couch more nights than she’s gone back to the dorm and she’s as fiercely protective of Simon as Jace.

“What were you saying Jace?” Clary pokes his shoulder. She’s more put together than Jace right now because she has to wake up early to get breakfast with her mom and Luke. That had left Jace, a bottle of pineapple Smirnoff, and a jug of orange juice all to himself.

“I hav’a problem,” Jace slurs again, sitting up, “thaz not right. I have a idea, but I’d need yer help.”

Clary bites back a smile, “K, what’s up?”

“Date me.”

Clary’s eyes go wide, “What?”

“I need you to date me.”

Clary shakes her head quickly, “Jace, I’m flattered, but I’m not really in a place-”

“I know!” Jace points at her, “You don’t want to date anyone right now. I don’t want to date anyone right now but I have to date someone right now. So we can date each other.”

Clary’s still drawn in, eyebrows creased, “I don’t understand.”

Jace rolls his eyes and falls back onto the couch, arms spread wide, “You don’t want guys to ask you out, right? Pretend to date me. No one will go after the star running back’s girl.”

Clary stifles a laugh, “Ok, but what do you get out of it?”

Jace sours, lolling his head toward Clary, “Doesn’t matter.”

“It kind of does? If you want me to do this, there’s got to be a reason.”

Jace closes his eyes. He can’t say it. If he gets his way, he’ll never have to say it. He’ll live through a successful NFL career being the dashing bachelor Jace Wayland, the guy no woman can sink her claws into. Unfortunately, his parents are asking when he’s going to bring home a nice girl to settle down with, Luke thinks a steady relationship would be good for his temper, and he can never escape the sorority sisters at events who want him to call them back.

Jace swallows, “Please, Clary. Do this for me? It’ll help us both.”

Clary pinches Jace’s chin, moves his face to meet her eyes. Clary’s eyes are beautiful and her lips a soft rose. Jace can see that, he wills himself to get lost in her eyes, to desire her lips on his. He doesn’t.

“Okay,” she nods her head once, “Let’s do it.”

*****

“Clary!” Jace calls across the quad. He’d texted her, at Izzy’s request, to meet them near the coffee cart in the quad after her 2pm class. Jace and Alec have to get ready for their game in a few hours, but they’re soaking up as much of the sun beforehand as possible.

Clary turns, sees them lying in the grass in the middle of the quad and waves.

“You two are cute together,” Izzy grins, watching Clary cross the quad with her portfolio and sketchbooks in hand.

“Are they even really together?” Simon asks from where he’s lying back against a tree in the shade next to them, “It’s been, what, two weeks? I don’t know if you can really consider two people together after such a short period of time. They’re still getting to know each other-”

“Shut up Simon.” Alec’s head is propped on his backpack, eyes closed and face turned to the sky. Jace grins.

“We’re together Simon,” Jace clarifies, “and I asked for your blessing two weeks ago to avoid exactly this.”

“What do you mean ‘this?’ There’s no ‘this.’ I’m theorizing on when you can actually consider two people, who were not anything in particular to each other, together.”

“This,” Jace throws a rolled up piece of paper at Simon’s head, “is you freaking out over me dating someone who is practically your sister.”

Simon fiddles with the crinkled paper, “Yeah, that’s what this is.”

Izzy turns to Jace and flicks her eyes to Simon. Jace rolls his eyes but crawls to Simon and wraps him in a headlock with little fight, “Relax Simon, I promised I’d treat Clary with as much respect as I’d expect you to treat Iz with if you dated her.”

“Not sure if that’s a particularly reassuring example you gave, Jace,” Alec snarks, barely moving a muscle other than the corner of his mouth up in a sharp smirk.

“Big Brother!” Izzy startles and launches at Alec, play slapping his face.  Alec grins at Izzy even as she pouts, lying back and resting her head against his stomach.

“You are all way too tactile,” Clary greets them and sets down her portfolio.

Jace drops his loose hold on Simon and moves closer to Clary, “Looking a little green there.” He holds out his arm for her to tuck up under. She pulls his arm over her shoulder.

They’d slipped easily into the back and forth. Sometime last week, Clary had started sleeping in Jace’s large queen bed rather than on their worn couch. After that, a casual intimacy had easily taken place as they grew their farce into something reasonable.

“Clary, are you going to wear Jace’s jersey to the game tonight?” Izzy asks.

“Yeah, I grabbed it this morning before I left.”

Izzy claps, “Great! Now there’s someone to wear Alec’s jersey and someone to wear Jace’s. I’ve been going back and forth so long with them, it’ll be nice to wear one for awhile.”

Alec snorts, “Can’t wait to have everyone think you're my girlfriend every week instead of half the time. Please don’t bring the pink sign with you.”

“Don’t pretend you don’t love my signs Alec. No girl will ever love you the way I do.” Izzy and Alec both grin.

With speed Jace has only ever seen Alec use on the field, Alec pulls his shirt up from under Izzy’s head and wraps it around her face. She shrieks and tries to get away as Alec tries to maneuver her face into the sweat stains on his sides.

Jace hasn’t seen siblings like the Lightwoods before. He feels the privilege of being chosen by them deep in his bones. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to repay Izzy for the gift knowing them has been. After all of primary school in a strict Catholic boarding school miles away from home, he needed Izzy’s care-free demeanor and Alec’s patience when he entered the world of public high school.

“Hey,” Clary bumps Jace’s side.

“Yeah?” Her face is so close yet he feels so removed from the moment.

“You good?”

Jace nods, “Yeah.” He pulls her closer and buries his face in the crown of her head.

*****

They win. It’s not a surprise to anyone, they’ve been on fire this season. Jace runs a millisecond faster to make sure that Alec’s last season on the team will be his best; that Alec Lightwood will be a name and number that the collective memory of this team will honor long after their gone. Alec deserves it, not only for the skill he shows, but his strong leadership alongside Luke and as a mentor to the younger students.

“Alec, wait up,” Jace catches up to Alec disappearing into the showers. Alec glances back and waits for Jace. They hang their towels on the wall before stepping onto the slippery tile.

“That last catch was incredible Jace,” Alec turns his shower up all the way to hot. Jace has long trained himself to look no lower than the shower knobs in these communal showers. It’s a safe distance, waist height, and if he focuses hard enough on the silver, his peripheral vision blurs. He’s grown comfortable with the familiarity of Alec waiting a few moments for the temperature to rise before stepping under the clouds of steam.

“The throw was incredible,” Jace smiles, stepping back as the water runs down his neck.

“Not like there was much pressure to get it right. We were already up.”

“We’re going to kill this season,” Jace grins. Alec holds out a fist and Jace bumps his fingers against the dark hair on Alec’s knuckles.

“Do you need a ride to the party tonight? Or is Clary gonna drive you?”

Jace rinses the last of the soap off his arm and turns off the shower, “I’ll ride with you. Don’t leave without me.”

“Ok, but don’t take too long. I’m not waiting half an hour for you to do your hair,” Alec grinds his fingers into his own hair, fluffing white soap into his sweaty curls. Jace watches Alec’s forearms tense as he scrubs.

“I’ll be quick,” Jace swallows and darts away from the temptation of lowering his gaze.

*****

“Thank god you’re here,” Clary pulls him onto the dance floor as soon as Jace gets to the frat party in honor of the win, “some of the guys on the team can’t seem to get the picture.”

He interlaces their fingers and pulls her close, “Give me names and I’ll talk to them.”

She quirks her head, “Over protective much?”

“Adequately pissed off if people who are supposed to be my brothers are trying to pick up the girl I’ve changed my dreadful ways for.” She wraps her hands around his waist and they pick up a slow rhythm with the beat.

“Point made,” she whispers in his ear. They must paint quite the picture, people give them space so prying eyes can see Jace Wayland and the new girl cuddle up.

“Hope you don’t mind if I cut in,” Simon dances up next to them with the song change. It’s more upbeat and he uses his best vogue to make Clary laugh and break away from Jace, falling into a gentle sway. Izzy, tugging Meliorn behind her, inhabits the rest of the space and leads Jace into a hip bump in time with the music. It feels like their prom all over again, except Izzy’s wearing Alec’s jersey and Meliorn moves like a fairy, a beat to frantic for the music. Jace surveys the room for the last needed addition to their dance circle.

Alec is sitting on a couch in the corner, the king on his throne. There’s a girl on the armrest with her hand on his shoulder. Another is next to him. She moves Alec’s arm around her slender waist. A shadow passes Alec’s face and there is fear there for a moment before Alec meets Jace’s eye contact. Jace beckons with a tip of his head and Alec grins, shakes his head, and pulls himself out of the pile of bodies. He skirts the dance floor, heading toward the front door.

Jace steps toward Alec but a hand on his chest stops him, “I’ve got him.” Izzy pats his heart and shimmies through the crowd, hitting the doorway a moment after Alec had disappeared through it.

“Jace!” Clary pulls his attention back to the floor, “Spin me!”

Jace laughs, spinning Clary around his finger as Simon attempts to do the same with Meliorn. A smile doesn’t leave Jace’s face for the rest of the night. Alec doesn’t show up again when Izzy rejoins the group ten minutes later.

*****

I have to stay late to talk with my TA, s ee you at home

Ill wait outside, no rush

Jace pockets his phone and approaches Magnus, his Physiology 337 TA, “Hey Magnus, can we talk for a second?.”

“Of course Jace, is this about the midterm?”

“Yeah,” Jace nods, “I’m not asking for a free pass or anything. The team is swamped with training lately and I wanted to get a head start. I was hoping you had a study guide or at least some pointers?”

“Of course,” Magnus nods, collecting his papers and the attendance sheet, “I’ll post something on the class forum tonight.” He shoulders his messenger bag, “I am glad you stopped. I have something to ask you as well.”

“Yeah?”

“Coach Garroway asked me to do some team,” Magnus smirks, “maintenance.”

Jace turns, “What do you mean?”

“You’ve all been working so hard and Coach Garroway wants to ensure you’re all taking proper care of yourselves,” Jace trails after Magnus to the door, “He asked me to assist the other PTs in keeping you in top shape. You being my only student on the team, I wanted to ensure you would be comfortable with that.”

Jace shrugs and pulls open the door, “Sure, I don’t care.”

Magnus opens his mouth to speak, but his attention is pulled away, “And who might you be?”

Jace only sees Alec standing on the other side of the door. Alec glances up from his phone, eyes wide, “Me?”

“Of course you,” Magnus steps closer, hips swaying into the step.

“I’m Alec,” Alec smiles at Magnus, ducking his head.

“Magnus, this is Alec Lightwood, the quarterback?” Jace moves into the space between them.

“I guess I’ve never seen you without out your helmet before,” Magnus grins, “Pity they keep all that hidden.”

Alec’s jaw slackens, “Oh?”

“Thanks for giving me the heads up about practice Magnus,” Jace inserts himself in the conversation again, “I’ll see you next week.”

“Yes, have a good weekend Jace,” Magnus waves at the two as Jace turns away, “You as well, Alec Lightwood.”

“Bye!” Alec shouts. Jace grabs his elbow and pulls him down the hallway, “Let go.” Jace drops his arm but keeps walking in the opposite direction of Magnus, “Jace, slow down. What’s up with you?”

“Me?” Jace stops, “Did you want to hang out with my TA trying to pick you up?”

Alec blushes, “You think-” coughs, “You think he was flirting with me?”

Jace crosses his arms, “Of course he was flirting with you Alec. How did you not notice? People flirt with you almost constantly and you don’t see that?”

“A guy’s never flirted with me before,” Alec shrugs but keeps walking in the direction of home, “What do you want to do about dinner? Chinese again?”

Jace let the conversation morph, “Yeah, that’s fine with me.”

*****

Jace waits for Alec on the hood of Alec’s SUV after practice the next week. Alec is always prompt in leaving, wanting to get back to their apartment as soon as they can. Jace has been here fifteen minutes.

“Jace,” Jace sits up. Coach is standing at the front of the car, arms crossed, “You’re here late.”

“Waiting for Alec,” Jace sits up, “We drove together.”

“He’s in with Magnus still. Something about his shoulder,” Jace tries not to react, “Have you gotten checked out yet?”

“I’m fine, nothing feels off so I won’t fix what isn’t broken.”

Coach nods, “Alright, but don’t be afraid to take an easy day if you need it. I’d rather have you sit out practice if it means it’ll keep you injury-free.”

“I’ll let you know Coach, thanks,” Jace pushes his hair back, eyes darting to the locker room door.

“How’s Clary?” Coach asks.

Jace smirks, “How’s Ms. Fray?”

Coach chuckles, “She’s great. A little nervous about her little girl dating the school heartbreaker, but she’ll get over it.”

“Did you talk me up?” Jace questions.

“Yeah, I let her know you’re a good guy. Does Clary have any plans of introducing you two soon?”

Absolutely not. One of the strict rules from the get go has been to keep their families as far away from their relationship as possible. Clary and Jace have a plan, breaking up right before Valentine’s Day and hoping they can milk the broken heart for the rest of the school year to avoid attention. That would be eighty times harder if Jace’s mother met Clary and convinced herself that Clary was her future daughter-in-law.

“It’s still pretty new and we’re trying to take it slow,” Jace offers.

“Good for you. It would make my life hell if my girlfriend had it out for my star player.” Coach slides away from the car, “Here’s Alec. I’ll see you both tomorrow.”

“Bye Coach,” Jace salutes Luke goodbye and walks to the passenger side. Alec speeds across the parking lot, head down and the hint of a smile on his face, “What’s with you?”

“Nothing,” Alec clips and hits the unlock button on his key fob. He doesn’t make eye contact with Jace as he gets into the car.

“What took so long? Are you hurt?”

Alec shakes his head throws the car into reverse, “Magnus taught me a few stretches to add into my routine.”

Jace prods Alec’s side, wagging his eyebrows, “Oh yeah, what type of stretches? For your groin? Did he get his hands-”

“It wasn’t like that,” Alec takes a hard left, “He was- it was nice.”

Jace sits close to the window, turning his whole body to look at Alec, “What’s up with you? Are you-” he sits forward in the seat, “blushing?”

“Drop it Jace.” Alec has been setting the pace for them for years. Jace isn’t going to break the pattern now.

*****

“Stop staring,” Clary bumps his shoulder and brings him back to their table. His Calc textbook is open in front of him and she has her sketchbook open to a clean page. He can’t remember what number problem he was on.

“I’m not staring,” Jace shifts and releases the white knuckle grip on his pencil.

“You’re staring and people are starting to notice,” Clary moves his face back to look at her, “that you aren’t staring at me.”

“Sorry,” Jace grumbles turning back to his homework.

He hadn’t been staring. He’d been watching to make sure Alec didn’t need him to intervene. Magnus had offered to help Alec with his anatomy homework. Magnus points at Alec’s text book, sitting far too close to Alec for Jace’s liking.

“Jace, seriously, stop,” Clary puts her hand on his knee to distract him.

“What does he think he’s doing?” Jace gives into his inner turmoil, “Flirting with Alec like that in public? Alec’s going to get a bunch of shit from people all because Magnus can’t keep his hands to himself.”

“I don’t think Alec minds,” she nods her head toward the pair, sitting at a picnic table in the quad, Magnus talking with his hands and Alec laughing along with the movement. “He’s into Magnus too.”

“What?” Jace scoffs, “No. He’s not. This is Alec we’re talking about. Alec hardly dates women.” Clary tilts her head, the meaning of his own words hitting him squarely in the chest, “No, not Alec.” Jace shakes his head, “He’s just being nice to Magnus because he’s a new part of the training team.”

“Jace, look at the situation.” She holds one of Jace’s hands in one of hers, “I know this is hard for you-”

“It’s not about me!” Jace stands, ripping his hand from her grasp, “This is- you're wrong, ok Clary? No one knows Alec as well as I do. I’d know.” Jace quakes. Clary is wrong. He can’t face the reality of her being right.

Jace throws his books and notes into his bag and swings it over his shoulder, “I’ll see you at the apartment later, ok?”

In Jace’s haste, he darts a look toward Alec and meets his eyes. Alec is assessing, posed to stand and come to Jace’s rescue. Magnus’ hand is lost somewhere behind Alec’s back.

Jace grimaces, flares his nostrils and shakes his head at Alec. He turns before the hurt completely covers Alec’s face. Jace takes off at a sprint towards the gym to work the coiled tension out of his muscles away from the prying eyes that track his progress across the quad.

*****

Jace gets home from class, opens the door and sees Clary pull Simon’s face down. Jace’s first thought, standing in their apartment building’s hallway with the door wide open, is that he cannot believe he did not see it coming. Confronted with the pairing, it makes senses.

“Not to interrupt, but you should probably get a room before anyone else comes home,” Jace throws his bag in the corner and drops onto the couch.

Simon’s reaction is visceral, pulling away from Clary and turning apologetic eyes on Jace, “Jace, I am so sorry, I can explain everything-”

“Save it Simon,” Jace waves away the apology, “But next time I ask your permission to date someone you’re into, don’t lie to me.” He flicks open his phone and checks Facebook.

Simon is frozen next to Clary who still has a hand in his hair, “What? You’re not angry.”

Clary grins, “I’ll explain.” She turns to Jace, “And we’ll talk later?”

Jace nods and smirks, “Use protection. I know how long it’s been for both of you so let me know if you need any help.”

Simon’s jaw drops, “I am so confused right now.”

“Come on,” Clary tugs Simon behind her towards his room, “We need to talk. Don’t leave Jace!”

“Turning the TV on loud now!” Jace teases as the door shuts. His smile drops. This puts a kink in the plan.

*****

There’s a knock on Jace’s door. He keeps scrolling on Facebook, “S’open.”

Simon doesn’t say anything when he walks in, merely shuts the door and leans against it.

Jace looks up from his laptop, “What can I do for you?”

Simon purses his lips. Simon isn’t one to keep his words in so Jace, as tired as he is and worried about how his brilliant plan has dropped a riff into all of their lives, stays calm for Simon’s sake.

“So,” Simon starts, “there are a lot of things we need to talk about. First, I am so sorry.” Simon steps into the room and sits backward on Jace’s desk chair, arms flying as he speaks, “I would absolutely never try to do that and I honestly don’t even know how Clary and I got to that spot but it happened and it’s the best thing to happen to me in awhile, maybe ever-”

“Simon, stop,” Jace shakes his head, “We’re fine. You know us both so well, you probably subconsciously knew or something. And I’m happy you guys have each other.”

Simon smiles to himself, “Thanks for saying that when I, for all intents and purposes, stole the only girl you’ve ever dated seriously since I’ve known you.”

Jace cocks his head, “She did tell you we weren’t actually dating, right?”

Simon sighs, “Yes. Yes, which brings us to the next part of the conversation.”

“Which is?” Jace crosses his arms and arches a brow. He’s not walking this path with Simon.

Simon wrings his hands, “Clary has some ideas why you suggested you fake-date. Do you want to tell me why?”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

“You’re right, you don’t have to but did you ever think maybe you should, I don’t know, talk to me? Or anyone else?” Simon is smiling but Jace can tell it’s exasperation more than positivity, “Because Clary, and I will say she tried really hard not to say anything, but it sounds like she was your beard, Jace.” Simon spreads his hands, “Which is really unlike the Jace I know but besides you genuinely liking Clary, I have no idea what other benefit you could gain from dating her and I’m freaking out a bit because I feel like I don’t even know you.”

Jace can’t look at Simon, “Drop it Simon.” Jace doesn’t watch but he feels Simon deflate and pause.

It’s a whisper, “You’re not denying it. I figured Clary was crazy and that I’d bring it up and you’d deny it and laugh at me and say how I knew you and your way with the ladies or something like that- Oh my god Jace, you’re not denying it.”

“Simon,” Jace keeps his voice level, looking up, “Get the fuck out of my room.”

“No.”

Jace practically pleads, “Drop it, ok? You’ve got Clary, be fucking happy and just forget this conversation. Please.”

They maintain eye contact for a beat too long and Jace knows Simon will do as he asks. Simon stands and walks to the door, hand on the knob, but he turns around.

“I promise I’ll drop it as soon as I leave this room but I’m not leaving until I say two things. One,” he breathes, “Absolutely no one who matters would treat you bad. If it’s because of football or the team or, fuck, your parents, know that this apartment and this family has got your back. You hear me?”

Jace grimaces, staring at the wall in front of him, “What’s the second thing?”

Simon fidgets at the door, “The second thing is that I was not the only best friend who- let’s say struggled-when you and Clary started dating. If anything, I was much more subtle than him.”

Jace gets out of the bed at that. Somewhere inside he knows that Simon is trying to help and that he doesn’t see what he said as insulting in any way. That place inside does not have control over his motor functions because he’s in Simon’s space a second later.

“Don’t you dare,” Jace is practically spitting on Simon, “say a word about him. If you really consider yourself a friend to me, or to him, you won’t even think of this conversation again.”

Simon, confronted with one of the school’s most aggressive football players, doesn’t back away. Instead, his eyes traces over Jace’s face and he slides his arms around Jace’s tense body, pulling him taut until Jace relaxes into his shoulder.

“I won’t, because I care about you. Both of you.” Simon lets him go with a pat to his shoulder and is out of the room.

Jace reclines against the shut door, stomps his foot against it, “Damnit.”

*****

After all is said and done, the world does not collapse around Jace. Clary and Simon tell Alec and Izzy they’re together now, and no Clary didn’t cheat on Jace, yes it is a little weird but Jace is ok with it, yes they’re sure about this.

The rest of the school makes jokes for a few days about Jace’s ability to keep a woman satisfied but they roll off his shoulder. He makes some crass comments about the other guys being nervous he’s back in the game and that shuts them up.

Luke tries to talk to Jace about it after practice but Jace brushes him off. There’s nothing much to say other than Clary is great and Simon is great and he’s happy they’re happy. Besides, every moment Jace is a way from Alec after practice is time that Magnus can chat him up and that is not happening on Jace’s watch.

“Hey, Alec, you almost ready to go?” Jace doesn’t knock when he opens the therapy room door. Alec sits on the bench, one leg extended with Magnus’ hands just below the bottom hem of Alec’s shorts. They’re both smiling.

“You can go ahead,” Alec barely looks at Jace, “Magnus can give me a ride home.”

“I don’t mind waiting,” Jace plops down in the chair across from them.

“Of course you don’t,” Magus removes his hands from Alec’s person and Jace breathes for the first time since he entered the room, “Everything looks good Alexander. Keep doing those joint strengtheners and you’re knee shouldn’t bother you anymore.”

“Your knee’s bothering you? And you didn’t tell Coach?” Jace sits forward.

Alec blushes, “It’s fine now. No reason to tell Coach.” He mumbles the last part, looking over at Magnus. From the pop of Magnus’ hip, Jace knows he’s smirking.

Jace consciously pushes down the growl in his throat, “If it’s all fine, then let’s go.”

“Have a good night superstars, and see you tomorrow night,” Magnus turns with a gleam in his eyes, “Alexander.”

“Bye Magnus,” Jace practically drags Alec out of the room and picks up a fast pace toward his truck.

Jace doesn’t slow and Alec doesn’t jog to keep up, “Jace hold up.”

“What?” he turns and suddenly Alec is right there.

“What’s your problem?” Alec matches his gait out to the parking lot, “Magnus could have taken me home.”

“I don’t have a problem. I’m trying to protect you.”

“Protect me? From what? Magnus?”

Jace unlocks the car and grabs Alec’s arm, “Alec, he’s obsessed with you. He’s always touching you and showing off and flirting.”

Alec shakes his head, “He’s a physical therapist Jace. If by showing off you mean doing his job right, and touching me you mean examining, then sure. I’m so worried.” Alec takes his arm back and moves to the passenger side of the car. Jace takes a breath before getting in the driver's side.

“Look, Jace,” Alec’s voice is gentle, “I know you must be hurting because of Clary and Simon-”

Jace laughs, bitter, “You have absolutely no idea how wrong you are.”

“You don’t-” Alec sighs, “You can be honest with me about your feelings.”

Jace knows the route home blind which is how he stays focused in on the conversation, “I feel fine. I’m happy for them. What else do you want?”

“The only girl you’ve ever, ever dated long term left you for one of your best friends. That’s going to have an effect on you,” Alec turns down the radio, clearing the air for Jace.

“Alec, listen to me,” Jace grips the wheel hard on the left turn, “You are my best friend. I am fine, absolutely fine, with Simon and Clary. I would tell you if I wasn’t, ok?”

Alec shifts and purses his lips, “Ok.” He watches out the window for the rest of the ride and Jace turns the radio back up to block out the images of Alec’s smile directed at Magnus.

*****

Jace rouses from his room a little after six Saturday night. He’d finished season five of the Office and could hear the Lightwood siblings bickering in the kitchen.

“What are arguing about now?”

Izzy, dressed in a killer dress and ready to go, leans over the island, “Alec doesn’t want to go home for Thanksgiving this year.”

“Why not? You won’t be able to see Max until Christmas break,” the cool air of the refrigerator stings his bare chest when Jace grabs a beer from the bottom shelf.

“There’s no point driving home for two days when we have practice on Wednesday,” Alec sits at the island on one of their mismatched stools. Jace notices the nice button down and the gold watch Maryse gave Alec as a high school graduation present.  

“Practice is optional, coach told us we could skip.”

“You’re not.”

“Yeah, because I’m using it as an excuse not to go home,” Jace gestures with the beer, “You actually like seeing your parents sometimes.”

“Oh, I see,” Izzy turns her eyes on Alec, “Why didn’t you say you wanted to keep Jace company? That I totally understand.”

“That’s not-” Alec blinks, “No I- we need to practice more. I can’t skip practice and expect everyone else to go. I’m the captain.”

“You’ll still have a month after that,” Jace grabs the stool next to Alec, “and if you were staying to keep me company, I’ll be fine bro.”

“That’s not it!” Alec insists, “I’m going to practice, end of discussion,” He points at Izzy who grins wicked back.

Simon’s door opens and the giggling couple tumble out. Clary has Simon’s old suit jacket on her shoulders and she pulls the lapels close over her cocktail dress. Simon slides his right hand around her and into one of the pockets.

Jace wolf whistles, “Look at you two all dressed up.”

Clary drags Simon by the hand into the kitchen, “That banquet thing that mom invited us to last month, when she insisted I bring my ‘dashing young boyfriend,’” she rolls her eyes at that, “is tonight. Luckily Simon has a suit so we won’t waste the ticket.”  

“Have fun. It sounds like a cool party,” Jace takes a swig of his beer.

“Thanks,” Simon says, wrapping an arm around Clary’s back, “It’s the first time I’m seeing Jocelyn since Clary and I got together so I’m a little nervous.” Clary smiles and shakes her head slightly.

Jace bumps his fist to Simon’s shoulder, “You’ll be fine, you’re already a part of that family anyways.”

“Does no one else see the issue here?!” Alec’s voice is almost a yell when he cuts through Jace and Simon’s banter. Jace startles back and the shiny mood crumbles.

“Alec,” Jace reassures, “I told you everything is fine.”

“Everything is not fine,” Alec stands, he points at Clary, “You were going to introduce Jace to your mother tonight. How can you replace him like that? And you,” Alec turns to Simon, “You’re supposed to be one of Jace’s closest friends and you steal the first girl he’s ever shown any lasting interest in? Not even that, but both of you are so comfortable flaunting your relationship in front of Jace like he doesn’t care at all-”

“I don’t!”

“Of course you do, you must! She was going to introduce you to her family Jace!” Alec’s shoulders sit high and tense, “You can’t let people treat you this way, you deserve so much better. You deserve everything and they’re treating you like you don’t matter!”

“Alec, stop!” Izzy pulls her brother back into the stool, “Is someone going to tell him or am I going to have to?”

“What?” Jace’s face contorts, “How do you know?”

“I’m not blind, now fess up Jace, before Alec murders Simon for betraying you,” she scoffs and tosses her hair over her shoulder, forever underestimated.

Jace crosses his arms and turns to Clary. Clary smiles small, encouraging and waits for him to pick the story they’re going with.

Alec’s legs are crossed, already on the defense and Jace already knows this isn't going to be pretty, “Me and Clary weren’t actually together.”

Alec cocks his head, “What do you mean? I- we all saw you.”

“We were faking it,” Jace shrugs, “That night we told you we got together, I asked Clary-” Jace swallows and picks his words, “I asked if she wanted someone to keep the guys away from her and she said sure so we pretended to date.”

Alec looks at them each in turn, his lips pursed, “So it was all fake?”

“Yes,” Clary says and Jace nods.

“And you knew,” he looks at Izzy.

“I suspected, but I didn’t know until Simon and Clary got together.”

“Did you know?” Alec’s voice is hoarse when he asks Simon.

Simon shakes his head, “No, not until Clary kissed me.”

Alec folds his hands in his lap. He fiddles with a hangnail and then stands, “I’m going to go.”

“Wait-” Jace can tell this conversation isn’t over.

“No, I have to go,” Alec speaks to Jace alone, “because I have dinner plans with Magnus and I’m already late. But know that I cannot believe you would lie to me for two months about something as big as this. I thought-” Alec bites his lip, “It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter.”

“Alec-”

“I don’t know when I’ll be home. Have a good night!” the door slams behind him. They watch the door for a moment before turning back to each other.

“Well,” Simon raises his brow, “That was dramatic. I’m feeling much more confident about seeing your mom.”

“Not now Simon,” Clary mumbles before stepping close to Jace, “You ok?”

“I’m absolutely fine. I don’t know why people keep asking me that because I am so fine. I am good,” Jace drains the last of the beer and throws it with a clang into the recycling.

“Ok,” Clary kisses his cheek, “We’re going to head out. Night, night Izzy.”

“Bye Clary, have fun you two!” Izzy waves them away. She waits until the door closes behind Simon to move closer to Jace.

“Don’t do this Iz,” he throws up his hands, “Everyone keeps wanting to talk to me about my feelings and I’m not doing it.”

“I could care less about your feelings, I want to talk about my big brother’s feelings,” Izzy pulls her hair back and sits on the stool Alec vacated, “Did you see what Alec was wearing?”

“Yeah?”

“Those are his date clothes,” Izzy taps on the counter with her nails to stress the point, “Maybe he didn’t say ‘I’m going on a date with Magnus’ but he did say he was getting dinner with a man wearing his date clothes.” Jace rests his head on the counter and turns it in her direction, “He’s not too far away from being open about who he is and who he loves, Jace. I know you’re not that close, but are you ready to lose him over it?”

“Nothing to lose,” Jace sighs, “He’s already with Magnus.”

Izzy smiles, “You’re both so oblivious of the other. It is so clear to me that the only reason he took notice of Magnus was because he lost all hope of being with you. Maybe you and Alec weren’t physically in a relationship, but you emotionally supported, protected, loved each other. The only way you’re going to get that back is by being honest with him. You’ve got to be the one to make the first move.”

Jace grits his teeth and whispers, “Why does it have to be me?”

Izzy rests her hand on his neck, “There’s a reason we haven’t had this conversation before even though I knew you needed someone to talk to. I’ve been having this conversation with him since we were sixteen. He’s content to pine forever if it means he won’t lose you, so it’s got to be you.”

Jace sits up, “Really?”

Izzy smiles, “You have to promise not to tell him I told you. I broke a sibling oath.”

Jace looks at his hands. They’re not shaking. The count is up to three people. His mind is working in overdrive, imagining how he could muster the strength to look Alec in the eye. What would Alec’s face fall into after Jace said what needed to be said? Would it be joy? That subtle edge of awe Alec gets when he hears good news? Disappointment? Rejection?

The contentment swimming in his stomach is washed away by the bucket of cold water that is the thought of his parents. They wouldn’t allow it. Plus, it’d be throwing away any chance at an NFL career for either of them. They’re good, but they’re not worth a gay controversy good. After weathering all of that, after watching dreams crash around them, would they even be able to stick together? Is Alec right, keeping his feelings in when an option is the loss of each other?

Jace groans, “Why can’t it be simpler.”

“I don’t know, looks pretty simple from my end,” Izzy rubs his back, “Quit listening to the thoughts in your head and do what will make you the happiest.”

Jace swallows and meets her eyes, “Thanks Iz. I think I’m gonna go for a run.”

“Ok, I’m headed out to. I can wait and drop you off at the field if you want?”

“No, go ahead. I’ll run there.”

Izzy wraps her arms around his shoulders, “I love you.”

“Sure you do,” Jace musses her hair, “I’ll see you later.”

“Bye,” the front door closes behind her and he throws on a sweatshirt and sneakers.

*****

Jace sprints.

Hard, physical work is the only thing that’s ever gotten him out of his head. Luckily they keep the lights on the field at night. His body hurts, already exhausted but he keeps pushing past his limits because he doesn’t feel any better.

It feels like he’s been there hours but it can’t be more than 20 minutes of suicides before he sees the headlights pull into the upper parking lot. In the dark, he can’t be sure by the figure but he knows the shadow that walks down the stairs. He keeps running.

A lap around the field later, Alec yells, “Catch!” and throws the ball from the side of the field. Jace races, body doing what it’s been trained to do until he picks the ball out of there and pushes the last bit of energy into his feet as he runs to the end zone.

“And he’s done it! The crowd roars!” Jace whoops in the end zone, making light of the situation. He rouses a laugh from Alec, still on the other side of the field. They move toward each other, their shadows cutting long stretches through the lights on the field.

“Knew I’d find you here,” Alec calls when they’re still ten yards apart. He’s got his leather jacket on and his voice turns to frost in the cool air.

“What happened with Magnus?” Jace tosses the ball in the air, acting unaffected.

“I told him I had somewhere else to be,” they both stop walking, still a few yards away, “pass it here.” Jace does.

“You didn’t have to do that. I told you I’m fine,” Jace tucks his hands into the pocket of his hoody, giving himself something to do and escaping the chill.

Alec fixes his grip on the ball, keeping his eyes lowered, “I’m not.”

“Alec-”

“It was a date,” Alec nods his head to the ground, “He never used that word but I knew what it was. I said yes.”

“Ok,” Jace breathes.

“Is it?” Alec glances up, “Because you really hated Magnus when he started- talking to me. But I liked it, encouraged it and-”

“That’s not why,” Jace’s voice has never been so low but the world has never felt so distant, “it wasn’t because- it wasn’t that. It’s ok, if you want to go on dates with guys, it’s ok.”

Alec bites his lip, his hands press into the ball like he’s trying to pop it, “Why did you pretend to like Clary for so long?”

Jace clenches his teeth. He hears Izzy’s voice in his ear saying he has to be the one to do something. He does something.

Jace closes those last few steps between them quickly. His hand is steady as he moves it to Alec’s cheek, raising Alec’s face so he can meet his eyes. Alec’s heartbeat resounds in his neck against Jace’s fingers and it pushes him forward onto his toes and up to Alec. Alec leans forward right before their lips seal together.

It’s nice. Alec didn’t shave today and his jaw leaves pinpricks against Jace’s hand and cheeks. Jace clutches the collar of Alec’s jacket and Alec’s got one hand over Jace’s heart and the other wrapped in the back of Jace’s sweatshirt. The moment is more about all the spots they can touch and less about their lips meeting and sliding together. Jace unfastens his mouth and tips his forehead against Alec’s. Alec sighs, content.

“Jace,” Alec pulls him closer, absolutely crushing them together, as if he’s trying to join their souls together as one. Jace runs his thumb up and down the slopes of Alec’s lips.

“I’m sorry,” Jace whispers.

Jace can feel Alec’s brow crease against his, “About what?”

“I messed it all up with Clary and now everything is wrong,” all of the feelings and anxieties Jace keeps locked deep and away from the world pour out.

“What are you talking about?” Alec loosens his hold so he can look at Jace.

“If I hadn’t pulled that stunt with Clary we could have kept doing what we had been,” Jace runs a hand through his hair, “all of this is going to ruin everything and it’s all my fault. I’m so sorry Alec.”

“What- Jace, nothing is ruined. Everything is better now,” Alec reaches for Jace but Jace steps back.

“How can you think that?” Jace’s voice is harsh, “We can’t do this. It will absolutely ruin any chance either of us have for the NFL, and we’d be laughed off the team.”

“Coach won’t care-”

“Coach isn’t the only one on the team Alec, and yes, some of the coaching team will care. Are you really willing to risk our futures so we can date?”

Alec’s jaw is dropped, “you don’t even like football!”

“Sure I do!”

“No you don’t, you only ever did it because your father made you,” Alec stands taller, “and then you stuck with it because we wanted to stick together. You like being the best at something, but you don’t care if it’s football.” Alec gestures around the stadium.

“But you do love it,” Jace points at the ball on the ground next to Alec’s feet, “you have dreams Alec, are you really going to give up something you love-”

“I love you!” Alec shouts, shock only briefly taking over his face. He swallows, eyes wide and bright, the light that is Alec pouring out of them. He takes a step towards Jace’s frozen body and gentles, “I love you Jace.” Alec shrugs, “Do you love me?”

Jace purses his lips, staring straight into Alec’s eyes, “Yes. Yes, I do.”

Alec smiles and all the breath rushes out of Jace’s body because he has never seen this smile before. He’s seen smug, joy, humourous, sarcastic. Crooked grins and devious smirks. This smile must have been hidden under all the weight Alec carries and here it is and Jace will do everything he can to keep Alec joyful for this smile alone.

“There’s nothing to ruin, Jace.” Alec cups Jace’s face in both of his, gentle with his body pressing close.

Jace is only 90% sure he’s not hallucinating so he rests his hand on the back of Alec’s neck and pulls him tight. Alec wraps around Jace’s shoulders, buries his face into Jace’s neck and rests his lips there in the warmth. Jace can’t help but slip a hand under Alec’s jacket and clutch Alec closer.

“Let’s go home,” Alec whispers directly into Jace’s ear. Jace nods but doesn’t let go for at least another minute before Alec pulls him by the hand to the stairs up to the car.

*****

Alec doesn’t knock when he comes into Jace’s bedroom. He never has, which now means something different to Jace. The drive back had been silent aside from the radio and the occasional content sigh from Alec. They’d split at the door so that Jace could take a shower and Alec could change into sweats. Half an hour later, Alec is finally back to him.

“Hey,” Jace is leaning against the headboard, scrolling on twitter and now puts his phone aside. He pulls the covers back for Alec to get under. Alec quickly complies as the situation is not at all foreign to them.

“Hi,” Alec lies down on the bed, head snuggled down right next to Jace’s hip, “I missed doing this.” Jace drops his hand to Alec’s neck and plays with the hair gathered there. Alec hums. They bask a minute before Alec breaks it, “I called my mom to let her know I won’t be home for Thanksgiving. Sorry it took so long, she wasn’t exactly happy.”

“You should go home. I really will be fine here.”

“Would you come with me?” Alec asks, “With me and Izzy, I mean. Mom and Dad would love to have you.”

“My parents would find out,” Jace sighs, “but I’ll probably need a place to stay over Christmas since God knows I’ll be disowned by then.”

“They wouldn’t do that to you,” Alec rolls closer, hand resting on Jace’s knee, “they’re not great parents but they love you.”

“We’ll see.” Alec has one patch of hair that goes against the rest and Jace finds he loves running his fingertip over it. The very idea that he knows it exists sends a shiver down his spine.

Alec coughs, “If you’re expecting that, does that mean,” Alec twitches, uncomfortable, “what are you thinking?”

Jace slides down the bed, Alec’s hand sliding up as he does and coming to rest on his hip. Jace slides his hand to Alec’s neck, and turns to face him in bed.

“I don’t know, I truly honestly don’t know,” Jace frowns, “We can’t really take a step back at this point, so we’re going to have to push forward.”

Alec grins, “so you do want me?”

Jace’s brow creases, “Of course I want you. I’ve always wanted you and didn’t think I would ever have you. If you want to do this, I’m there by your side.”

Alec pulls their bodies together with the hand on Jace’s hip. He hides his face against Jace again and it humbles Jace, being the strength for someone so strong.

“I wasn’t sure-.”

“Hey,” he gets Alec’s eyes, “Everything you’ve said tonight, it’s true for me too. I love you-” Alec cuts him off, lips pressing to Jace and Jace loses himself in the push of Alec’s mouth.

*****

Jace wakes to a knock on the door, “Jace, I’m coming in. Alec isn’t here and-” Izzy opens the door and squeals, “AH! Yes! Don’t move, I need to get my phone!”

Alec, snuggled up to Jace’s back with his arms linked with Jace’s, noses against the back of Jace’s neck, “We have ten seconds before she comes back to move.”

“Let her have her picture. I’m going back to sleep,” Jace closes his eyes. He lulls back to sleep to the Lightwoods quiet squabble and the quack sound Izzy’s phone makes when she takes a pictures. Alec stays pressed up against him through the entire ordeal.

*****

“Clary says they’re on their way,” Simon puts down his phone and the two cups of coffee for him and Clary. They managed to secure a booth in the corner for a last minute study break.

It’s been five days since the night on the field and it’s been good. Not much has changed except that he’s started sleeping in Alec’s room more nights than not and Alec smiles all the time. Like when he and Clary walk in the door a few minutes after them. Alec is laughing with Clary when not even a month ago he avoided spending time with her at all.

“Hi boys,” Clary pecks Simon as she slides in next to him. Alec brushes his hand down Jace’s shoulder as he sits. Jace grins back, happy to have him near.

“I got you something,” Alec reaches for his backpack.

“I also got you something,” Jace shifts a cup of coffee in front of Alec, “decaf so you’re not wired all night.”

“Thanks,” Alec sits up, a pop of color in his hand, “here.”

Jace takes the thing in his hand. A thin green rod with plastic fanned out at the top, “Thank you?”

Alec tips his chin down, voice low, “They were selling them in the foyer. They’re flowers,” Alec rearranges the top and Jace sees the shape, “they don’t die like real flowers.”

Jace watches Alec crimp the top, brow creased until he gets it right. When he’s satisfied, he pulls his hands away and sets them in his lap, flicking his eyes back and forth between Jace’s face, the flower, and his coffee.

Jace turns, eyebrow quirked, “Are you trying to be romantic?”

“What? I mean-” Alec shakes his head, “I wouldn’t- no, of course not. Me, what?” Alec’s hands fidget on the handle of his coffee mug and he takes a sip to cut himself off, setting it down immediately and choking down the hot coffee.

Jace grins, “Alec Lightwood, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to woo me.”

Alec pouts, “That is not what is happening.”

“You are a closet romantic,” Jace sits back and puts his arm behind Alec on the bench, “Is that what all those after practice trainings in high school were about? Trying to impress me with your skill so that I’d ask you to prom?”

Alec hides his face in his hands but he can’t conceal all the blush hitting the edges of his cheeks. Jace leans in to kiss him and- stops. His face is inches from Alec’s and he pauses, reroutes to Alec’s ear, “Cute.”

Jace leans back and tries to look like he hadn’t just whispered sweet nothings into his boyfriend’s ear. Judging by the way Clary and Simon are covering their faces with their hands with stars in their eyes, Jace does not think he is pulling off cool or heterosexual.

“Shut up both of you,” Jace takes a sip of his coffee.

“I didn’t say anything,” Simon puts a hand to his chest in mock shock, “Did you say anything Clary, because I don’t think either of us said anything.”

“You’re a barrel of laughs Simon,” Alec leans back onto Jace’s arm on the back of the booth. It’d take little effort for Jace to move his hand to Alec’s back. To run his palm down Alec’s spine and rest his hand on Alec’s hip, stake his claim.

Speaking of, “Hello Alexander, Jace,” Jace grits his teeth and turns to Magnus.

“Hey Magnus,” Alec raises his hand in acknowledgment.

“I saw you and thought I’d check in,” Magnus smiles down at Alec, “See if you’re feeling better than you did over the weekend.”

“He feels fine now,” Jace doesn’t recognize his own voice tumbling out coated green with jealousy.

“Jace,” Alec pats his knee under the table, “I am feeling better though. Thanks for asking.”

Magnus’ eyes are a heavy weight over the two of them, “I was going to ask if you wanted to reschedule but it looks like you are unavailable for the foreseeable future.” Magnus smoothes his shirt and smiles, “Good luck boys. I’ll see you on the field.” With that Magnus walks away and Alec follows him with his eyes.

“Hey,” Jace jostles Alec’s leg, “My eyes are all the way over here and not retreating in leather pants.”

Alec scoffs, “I wasn’t doing that. I just feel bad.” Alec takes a sip of coffee.

Clary pats Alec’s hand, “It wasn’t a great situation for him to be in but I think he’s fine. If anything, he’s probably happy for you. He seems kind of like a gay mentor.”

“Let’s hope he’s not bitter,” Jace adds, “he’s scoring my final paper in that class.”

Alec snorts, “At least you have an excuse if you get a bad grade now.”

“It will have absolutely nothing to do with how little I pay attention in that class,” Jace taps his fingers against Alec’s shoulder quickly. “And I get it, but I can’t feel too sorry for him.”

“I guess I’m not that sorry either,” Alec whispers, “since I got you instead.”

Jace shakes his head, “God, you sap.” There’s a sharp squeal from the other side of the table, “Clary, I said shut up.”

Simon raises his hand, “That was me actually, and I’m sorry, I can’t help it.” Clary laughs and Alec hides his face in his hands again after shifting just an inch closer to Jace.

*****

Alec yawns and arches his back, jostling Jace from his place on Alec’s chest. Jace resettles, wrapping his arms around Alec’s waist and moving his head away from Alec’s heartbeat. He can’t hear any of the dialogue over the strong beat in his ear.

Izzy comes back from break tomorrow morning, Simon and Clary not long after. It’s been three days of take out and bad movies and partial nudity. Not an hour after Izzy left, they pulled the bedding from Jace’s room and made a nest on the couch from the quilts and pillows. This morning, they’d put on the Freeform Harry Potter marathon and 6 hours later they’ve only slightly changed their positions.

“I have a paper due Wednesday,” Alec’s voice booms in his ear, echoing through his chest.

“No, you are not getting up,” Jace tugs at a few of Alec’s chest hairs, “Tomorrow is for last minute homework.”

“It’s a long paper.”

“And you’ve probably already written most of it.”

“No, actually,” Alec twists his fingers in Jace’s hair to turn his head, “I’ve been pretty distracted.”

Jace takes that opening to push himself forward to kiss Alec. There has been so much kissing over the past three days. Kisses are easy. Kisses are tongues tangling, lips to skin and the ridges of each other’s bodies. Hands get more difficult.

“Wasn’t an invitation,” Alec mumbles as Jace shifts focus to the corner of Alec’s jaw.

“You didn’t just say, ‘Jace, please distract me’ because that’s what I heard,” Jace’s hands trail up Alec’s body, catching on the muscles sculpting Alec’s body, “Guess I’ll stop.”

“Don’t,” Alec pulls Jace up to his mouth and keeps his hand firm on his neck.

They make out on the couch like they should have done when they were seventeen. The quilts wraps through their legs and Jace moves to straddle Alec. Alec smiles at Jace perched on his lap, fingers wrapped around Jace’s hip bones.

“Alec,” Jace breathes, his palms sliding along Alec’s ribs, “do you-”

“Yes.” Alec nods, hasty as he sits up to be level with Jace, “I do.”

Jace holds Alec’s face between his palms, “Is there a reason we haven’t yet?”

Alec looks away and swallows, “It’s not a reason. I just- I haven’t.” Alec meets Jace’s eyes again, “but I want to. With you.”

“I haven’t with a guy either-”

“With anyone,” Alec leans into Jace’s neck and places a kiss next to his adam’s apple, “I haven’t with anyone.”

Jace startles back, “But you told me when you lost your virginity. Jen, after the junior prom.”

Alec shakes his head, “You thought I did and I didn’t correct you. You always assumed, and everyone else assumed but I-” Alec bites his lips, “I’ve been- intimate with people but it’s never been- I haven’t had sex. And I’ve never done anything with anyone I actually cared for.”

“Two of us in that boat,” Jace kisses the shamed look off Alec’s face, keeping his hands on Alec’s face, feeling the warmth of him under his palms, addictive in and of itself.

“Can we go back to my room?” Alec’s breath hitches when Jace moves his hips, “I have stuff back there and we can try-”

“Been doing research?” Jace laughs, breathless, “all alone in there?”

“Come on Jace, please,” Jace can’t deny him when he asks so nicely.

*****

Jace waits for Alec by the open door to Luke’s office. Alec high fives one of the guys before they head into the shower and then darts toward Jace.

“You sure you want to do this?” Alec murmurs, keeping space between their bodies, “You shouldn’t do it for me.”

“It’s going to get obvious real fast Alec,” Jace quirks his lip, “I can hardly keep my hands off you right now. We owe it to him to have it come from us.”

Alec nods once and knocks on Luke’s door, “Coach, you got a sec?”

“Hey Alec, come in,” Luke is writing notes at his desk but looks up as Jace closes the door, “Jace, what’s up?”

They’d agreed Alec would tell him. Luke has been a guardian for Alec for four years now and needs his approval more than Jace does. Luke is the first person in a long line of people they have to tell and he’s a safe first shot.

“I, well, we,” Alec gestures between the two of them, “wanted to tell you something.”

“Ok,” Luke leans back in his chair, “whenever you’re ready boys.”

Jace’s hands are clasped behind his back. He waits by Alec’s side, a statue for support, as Alec shifts next to him. Alec can’t seem to look up from his hands clenched tight in front of his body.

“Alec? Is everything alright?” Luke asks when Alec doesn’t say anything.

Alec takes a breath but it lodges in his throat. Jace may not be confident in who he is, but he’s confident in who he loves. He reaches forward and unravels one of Alec’s hands, interlacing their fingers. Jace’s words are for Luke but he keeps eye contact with Alec, “Everything’s great.”

Alec stands tall, hand hanging with Jace’s between their bodies, and they both turn to Luke for his reaction.

Amusement. Luke’s smirk and his relaxed posture can only mean that he’s amused by their display, “Glad to hear it. Just don’t let it interfere with your dynamic on the field and do not have sex in the locker room.”

Jace feels tension bleed out of his body when he laughs. Alec is stupefied next to him, jaw loose, “What?”

“What did you expect me to say? Kick my captain to the curb this close to the national championship? Like hell.”

“Glad to know you care coach,” Jace grins, sliding his hand up to Alec’s bicep, “thanks.”

“Give me a heads up before you tell the team so I can prepare a menacing speech about not giving people shit about who they like until they can throw or catch a pass like you two.”

Alec still looks stunned but he nods, “Thank you.”

“Nothing to thank me for. Now, get out of my office,” Luke leans back over his work with a wink in Jace’s direction.  

*****

Jace gets home, throws his backpack in the corner and looks for his oversized, teddy bear of a boyfriend. Not on the couch, not in the kitchen. No one in the bathroom and Alec’s bedroom is empty so Jace tries his room.

The lump under Jace’s covers moves when Jace opens the door. Jace toes off his boots and drops on top of the lump. Alec groans and adjusts so his elbow isn’t digging into Jace’s stomach.

“What’s the matter bro?” Jace tries to pull the quilt from Alec’s face but Alec keeps a tight grip.

“I told my mom,” Alec mumbles.

Jace bites his tongue on a curse, “You did.”

“I swear it was an accident,” Alec quivers beneath Jace, “We were talking and she kept on talking about how great you were and how happy she was that I had you in my life and I just- I thought she’d be happy for us.”

“Was she happy for us?” Jace noses at Alec’s cheek through the comforter, imparting strength.

Alec shrugs, “Maybe? She got really quiet and then she said it made sense. She didn’t say she was happy though, and she didn’t say she loved me before she hung up the phone.”

Jace rubs Alec’s arm and pulls at the blanket again. It gives this time and he can get to Alec’s face, kissing away the numb edge to his expression.

“She’ll come around,” Jace reassures, trying to lighten the mood, “She does love me a lot so there’s that.”

“What if she doesn’t love either of us now?”

“Nope, not your mom. She may be shit at showing it, but she cares.” Jace’s ramble is cut off by Alec’s phone buzzing on the pillow, “It’s your dad.”

“I don’t want to talk to him,” Alec pulls the comforter over his head again. Jace sighs, rolling off and taking the call.

“Hi Mr. Lightwood,” Jace keeps close to Alec.

“Oh! Jace!” Robert hesitates, “How are you?”

“Depends on why you’re calling.”

“Is Alec there?”

Jace glances at the Alec lump under the covers, “That also depends on why you’re calling.”

“Oh christ,” Robert mumbles, “Tell him his mother and I are very happy that he’s found someone who makes him happy. She’s been googling ‘how to support my gay son’ for the past twenty minutes and didn’t think to just call and say it.”

Jace breathes a sigh of relief, “Give me a second, I’m putting you on speaker.”

“I can hear him,” Alec grumbles.

“Alec?”

“Yeah Dad?”

“Your mother and I don’t care that you’re gay. We’re going to need a learning curve, but we’ll get used to it. And we’re glad it’s Jace.”

“Yes!” Jace throws two fists in the air, “Knew they liked me more.”

Alec punches him through the blankets. His voice is quiet, “Thanks Dad.”

“Alec?” It’s Maryse’s voice.

“Mom.”

“I love you very much and I do not think you are any less of a person because of this. Thank you for having the strength to share this with me.”

Alec peeks his head out of the blankets, eyebrows creased and puzzled, “Are you reading that off your computer?”

The other side of the phone is quiet besides Robert’s laughter in the background.

*****

Jace feels fried when he walks out of the lecture hall. Alec sits on the floor across from the doorway, scrolling through his phone and Jace just wants to plop on top of him.

“Hey,” Alec jumps up, “How’d it go?”

“Fine. I need to not think about muscle groups for the next 24 hours, but I think I passed.”

Alec nods, “At least now it’s over.”

“Yeah,” Jace agrees, “two weeks of freedom before we have to come back for practice.”

Alec smirks, “I’m sure we’ll find something to do.” Jace bumps his shoulder into Alec’s and tries to wipe the smirk off his face.

“Come on,” Jace turns away and heads towards the exit, “they’re waiting.”

It never gets too cold on their campus. Jace tugs Alec's leather jackets closer around him and shivers walking through the brisk air. Alec’s wearing one of Jace's sweaters and five o’clock shadow. The lowlights on the street make Alec ethereal and inviting against the cold.

Izzy, Simon and Clary are at a bar with some friends, all celebrating the end of the semester. Jace is tempted to back out and run toward their apartment, hide away from the next two weeks, of looking his parents in the eye and telling them he’s disappointed them yet again. He wants to roll under the blankets of Alec’s bed and run his fingers over the dips in Alec’s spine rather than facing a world that tends to be unkind.

“I have a problem,” Jace mutters halfway through the quad.

“Hmm?” Alec turns his whole body to Jace, putting his attention on Jace alone. Jace feels powerful, knowing it’s all for him.

“I love you,” Jace breathes. Alec grins bright and steps closer.

“That’s not a problem,” Alec bumps his hand to Jace’s shoulder, a small gesture to link them.

Jace glances around the quad. It’s too cold for anyone to be lying out but there are people. A group of girls walks between two buildings and a couple holds hand as they saunter through the grass.

Jace kisses Alec. He slides his hands up Alec’s chest to latch around his neck and pull his face down. Alec leans into it, following Jace’s momentum. No one yells at them.

Alec pulls away, “Jace-”

“I’m sorry, that was-”

“No, it’s fine, is everything ok?” Alec’s hand is still jumbled in Jace’s sweatshirt.

“Yeah, just wanted to do that,” Jace swallows, meeting Alec’s eyes, “Are you ok with that?”

Alec grits his teeth before rapidly nodding his head, “We really doing this?”

“Yeah,” Jace wraps his fingers into the hair at the nape of Alec’s neck, “Yeah, you and me, right? We’re in this together?”

“Yes, always.”

“Then we can do this,” Jace darts in, kisses Alec’s slack jaw, and takes Alec’s hand in his own, “we’re going to have to eventually.”

“No time like the present,” there’s still a fear in Alec’s eyes but it’s overshadowed by the joy dancing across his features. Alec squeezes Jace’s hand and pulls him in the direction of the bar, “Come on.”

“Ok,” Jace follows behind in lock step. He focuses on calming his heart rate and slowing his breaths.

In ten minutes, they’ll get to the bar. Someone might give them shit. Someone might tweet about it. Maybe no one will even notice. Jace doesn’t know what’s going to happen in 10, 60, 500 minutes. He tries not to care. Right now, he gives into the sensation of Alec close and hopes for the best.

*****