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Half My Bones in City Streets, The Other in My Sheets.

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Hunter’s Moon was particularly crowded the night of Simon’s gig. Various downworlders with different origins sat scattered around by the tables and the bar: talking loudly and having a good time while Simon was rigging up his equipment. Clary sat just in front of the stage, being ever so supportive.

   Jace stood by the bar, drink in his hand; he could see from where he was standing how encouraging that smile of hers truly was: Simon smiled at her in return, but it was all nervous and unsure. He wouldn’t admit it to himself, but despite all of the conflicting emotions he had whenever he thought about the pair, he couldn’t help but think that they were really cute when they wanted to. The sting of a green and ill-willing feeling in his gut whenever he let his gaze linger for a little too long was something he tried to repress as much as he could. Whatever that was for, he frankly wanted nothing to do with it.

   ”Doesn’t it make you want to vomit? If they could stop being so openly cute with one another, all of our lives would be easier.”

   Maia’s voice came from somewhere behind the blonde shadowhunter: he turned his head to the side just enough to catch a glimpse of the bartender. There was something particularly electrifying with the werewolf tonight, her eyes contained a fire that remained from earlier when Jace helped to remove the tracking chip. She wasn't as hostile now, Jace couldn't blame her for even being it in the slightest. Hell, he knew that most of the downworlders in here would beat the shit out of him given the chance for what he did. To his defence, he wanted to beat the shit out of himself too for following those orders about using the tracking chips: it was foul, even by his standards.

   Jace sighed and took another swig of his drink. The alcohol was sour and bitter against his tongue, but he loved the feeling of it: he didn't drink all of the time, there was always a need to be sharp if anything would go down (knowing him and the people he called friends, probably something would happen sooner rather than latter) but sometimes he let himself enjoy som drinks. Sometimes truly more than others. ”They’re like sugar: too much of it is just bad for your health.”

   Maia snorted. ”True that.” She went to serve another customer, eyeing the small group of glasses beside Jace on the counter. Raising a questioning eyebrow, she leaned her elbows against the counter and studied him with slightly squinted eyes.

   Jace felt a little uneasy under her gaze: he was almost positive that the werewolf could read his mind or at least sense what he was thinking, even though they didn’t have the best history with each other whatsoever. Despite that, he knew where he had her: knowing that someone couldn't stand your guts from time to time was enough for him to be pleased about, considering just how bad things had been during these last couple of months.

  ”Could you stop with that? If you want to rip my throat out, just say so,” he observed, taking another swig as a small smirk settled over his lips. ”Don’t wanna disturb the guests though, not before the show.”

   Maia rolled her eyes in a very impressive manner, even to Jace’s standards. ”Fuck you, dude. I was just wondering if you hadn’t had a bit too much to drink already, or was it your plan to be absolutely shit-faced by the time the gig starts?”

   ”Careful there Maia, if you keep this attitude up I might almost believe that there’s a tiny part of you that cares about me,” Jace scoffed. If there was any room for care in her for him, Maia truly was the bigger person. He’d done so much to her and she had done almost as much back towards him: that they could talk to each other at all without fighting was something to be proud of.

   ”Don’t come to me when you’re feeling sorry for yourself in the morning,” Maia simply stated before heading back to the other side of the bar. There was a bite to her words that made it clear their small conversation was finished.

   There were plenty of people he knew here at the bar to see Simon perform, but the ones that liked Jace and would actually enjoy his company? He could count those on one hand and still not use all of the five fingers. Maybe he wasn’t the most likeable guy in the world: he tried to do better and not screw everything up all the time, it was just hard when no one gave him a chance to prove that he was better than his own reputation gave him credit for.

 

Jace’s drink was completely empty by the time Simon began his set. The shadowhunter didn’t know what to expect of the mundane-turned-vampire, he had heard both Clary and Simon mention the vampire’s music on occasions, but never heard any actual songs.

   Simon’s messy attire, glasses and the van sent out some kind of signals to what the Rock Solid Panda's music might sound like back when they first met: the truth just happened to be something entirely different than what Jace thought it'd be. The young man up on stage looked so different from the awkward, nervous guy whom Jace met all this time ago: the glasses was no more, Simon’s hair was a bit shorter and his wardrobe still contained shirts with dorky prints, but there was a sense of something almost confident radiating off the vampire now. Something which hadn't been there before, back when Simon still was a mundane.

   For some reason, Jace never even considered the possibility that Simon actually could be good at this. He knew that most people whom claimed to be ”good” at music to be utterly horrible in every way, but Simon? Simon looked so at ease up there, even now without a band to back him up: like he was made to perform in front of a crowd, and it took Jace off guard. He found himself even enjoying it to be fair, there was something about how good Simon sounded that almost mesmerised him.

   Jace could barely take his eyes off the vampire as the set progressed. He found his head moving along to the rhythm as his fingers drummed out a similar beat against his bicep, for a moment he could stop thinking about everything that was going on his life and simply focus on the now: Simon and his music.

   The shadowhunter wasn't alone in enjoying the music, not in the slightest. Clary sat on her chair, mimicking the words and dancing along to the beat like she knew everything by heart, which she also probably did considering that she was both Simon’s best friend and girlfriend. That certainly must give her some sort of privileges when it came to hearing the vampire’s music before anyone else. Jace caught glimpses of Izzy dancing along too with a smile plastered over her face: after all she had been through, she deserved to have a good time, seeing her smile again was enough to make the edge of Jace’s lips curl upwards as well.

   Luke was there too, standing by the wall and looking utterly relaxed as Izzy. A bunch of the other guests were dancing along or bopping their heads in the same rhythm as the beat from Simon’s machine, the atmosphere was contagious and Jace slowly felt himself slip into the same, relaxing state as the others. He closed his eyes for a few seconds: just enough to lose himself slightly in the beat, feeling more at ease than in a very long time.

 

*~*

 

”Wasn’t he good?!”

   Clary beamed brighter than all of the lights combined as she smiled at Jace. Her fiery hair fell in soft curls around her face, framing it nicely. That smile of hers was contagious, before Jace knew it he found himself sporting one of his own, just not nearly as bright.

   ”I’ve heard better,” Jace admitted, mostly to spark a reaction out of the other shadowhunter. It was still so weird to think of Clary as something other than his sister. He had grown so used to have her as family, even if it was hard getting over his feelings for her in the beginning: she was the first person he had let himself feel anything for that was more than platonic, those feelings wouldn’t just go away by themselves over night. They did go away though; they turned into something entirely different than before but with similar intentions: he looked at her and saw a sister, the same sort of love he felt when he glanced at Izzy too.

   He didn’t want to be in the way for Clary’s happiness. To be fair, he didn’t want to be in the way for Simon’s happiness either.

   Clary gaped and smacked his arm, hard enough to cause the older shadowhunter to wince in surprised pain. ”Don’t be stupid, I want to hear your honest opinion, Jace Herondale.”

   The name still brought some weird feeling to Jace’s chest: a tight squeeze around the heart for the family - his parents - he never got to know. Whenever he got a grip around his identity and whom he belonged to, there was something that happened to pull the rug out from under his feet again, causing his world to tremble and fall all over.

   ”I was honest,” Jace defended himself, trying his hardest to sound and look earnest. He should’ve known better though, because a smirk couldn’t stop itself from spreading across his face. ”Simon was good, but I’ve heard better.”

   Both Clary and Maia shot him dirty looks and he wondered when that happened. Last he knew was that the pair didn’t exactly get along well either, but if it meant making fun of Jace in some way Maia seemed eager to team up with anyone.

   ”You’re just jealous,” Maia concluded and placed new drinks on top of the counter, pushing them in the shadowhunters general direction. ”I think Simon was really good, he has a very nice voice.”

   Clary nodded in agreement. She shot Maia a thankful look before taking a hold of one of the glasses filled to the brim with beer. ”He’s so talented and he doesn’t even know it, I just want him to understand how good he actually is at this.”

   Jace didn’t know why it would feel so weird to agree with Clary. Hell, after the whole deal with the Soul Sword, Jace saw Simon as one of his friends: maybe not one of the closest ones, but he wouldn’t deny that the vampire’s company could be pleasant at times. That Simon was a nightmare when it came down to pretty much anything, especially flirting, Jace’s brain reminded him of, was just something Jace would have to cope with.

   Clary didn’t know that though. She didn’t seem to be aware of where Jace stood with Simon, and if it bothered her, she didn’t show any signs of it. Whatever Jace thought of the vampire, he wanted to keep it to himself for now.

   Jace focused on his beer instead and let himself zoom out of the conversation. He let his gaze trail over the other guests: he nodded slightly towards the few whom didn’t look like they wanted to kill him, and managed to belt out a smile at Izzy whom was chatting with some of the shadowhunters from the Institute.

   Simon, the man of the hour, was nowhere to be found though and that made Jace wonder where the guy could possibly be hiding. He needed some air anyway, so he excused himself from his friends and wandered off to the back door: not really keen on meeting all of the tipsy guests out by the front. Getting dirty looks was one thing, to run into an angry mob of downworlders who all would like to see him get shit for the tracking device was a completely different ordeal.

   The cool, gentle air outside was a nice change of the cramped heat inside of the bar. Jace felt a lot more at ease out here: being outside comforted him in some way, he felt a lot more free when he knew he had every possibility to get away whenever he wanted to, literally just disappear into the awaiting night.

   It wasn’t time for a quick exit just yet, he searched the alley after any indications of the vampire’s whereabouts and practically found himself stumbling over Simon in the process. Simon sat on the curb with his arms around his knees: there was something fragile attached to his frame, a whole other persona than the confident guy up on stage just a little more than twenty minutes ago.

   Jace eyed him curiously for a moment, wondering what had caused this change in Simon before he decided to sit down next to him. Simon must’ve heard him when he got out anyway, so he didn’t bother saying anything beforehand.

   The blonde shadowhunter caught a glimpse of Simon’s face: the anxious twist of his mouth and furrowed eyebrows, but it got quickly hidden behind a bright smile that almost met Simon’s brown eyes.

   ”Everyone in there is celebrating a very good debut by solo-artist Simon Lewis, but the man of the hour is nowhere to be found. You haven’t seen a vampire, very dorky looking and this tall to be running around out here somewhere, huh?” Jace teased. There was this odd impulse in him that needed to make that smile truly infest itself in Simon’s eyes and not be fake. Not after a night like this, when the world had proved to be as shining as ever in Simon’s favour.

   Simon managed to laugh at that. He glanced at Jace from the side, like he was unsure of what to make of the blonde’s intentions. To be frank, Jace was unsure of them as well. A minute ago he simply wanted to find Simon and make sure he was okay, but now?

   ”A dork? Don’t know any dorks at that height sadly, but I’ll come back in a minute, just needed some air,” Simon reassured. He couldn’t stop fidgeting with his hands, pulling at the skin around his nails. ”Did Clary send you?”

   Jace scoffed. ”Clary would be looking for you herself, but she’s busy gushing about how good you were to everyone that comes near her, so I took one for the team.”

   The vampire snapped his head around to look at Jace with a smile that looked a lot more real than the one before. A glimpse of something that looked close to surprise could be found in his eyes, Jace couldn’t possibly comprehend why Simon had to be surprised about in that department because Clary didn’t care about anyone the same way she cared about Simon. Didn’t he see that?

   ”Is she?” Simon asked, dragging a hand through his hair. The locks were a lot smaller now: the boyish edge to Simon’s features were toned down from the first time they met each other: this Simon was.. rougher than the old one. Almost…

   Jace bit his lip. ”Yeah? You were great, you should be in there celebrating with the others and not sit out here by yourself. They’re all here for you, Simon.” He bit back the ”I’m here for you” that threatened to fall of his tongue and kept it tucked away in his head. That was.. so far from what Simon needed to hear right now.

   The vulnerability that Jace had spotted when he came out here was fading from the vampire’s features. Glimpses of the confidence Simon possessed up on the stage could be seen in the way his shoulders eased and his smile felt pure and true.

   ”Yeah, I know, it’s just..,” Simon begun, furrowing his eyebrows together again while he seemed to search after the right words. ”Aren’t I supposed to wake up now? Because this can’t be true, right? I just performed my first gig on my own to a crowd that loved it, despite most of them being there because they want to get on the ”Daylighter’s” good side, and the girl I’ve been in love with since I was a kid loves me back. Can’t be real, right? I know that I’ll wake up soon, because stuff like this doesn’t happen to me. No good things does.”

   Jace didn’t know what to say. He had never been any good at expressing emotions with others, not when he actively put his own in a box and locked them away in a far stretched corner inside of him. His skills aided him on the battlefield, not in a dimly lit alley with a vampire who doubted the mere existence of the world and how much said vampire's girlfriend truly loved him.

   Simon seemed to grasp on whom he was confessing all of this too, because he took one look at Jace’s cryptic face and smacked a hand over his own. To say that he looked like he wanted to fling himself into the ocean was a understatement. ”God, sorry, I’m not sure why I’m telling you all of this, of all people, it’s not like you’re interested in knowing about it.”

   Jace still found himself speechless, rapidly trying to decide what he possibly could say to ease some of the worry from Simon’s mind but he found himself stumbling over words that usually would come to his favour. He didn’t want to joke this away with a snarky remark, because they were almost friends and it actually hurt that Simon believed Jace had no interest in knowing anything about the vampire.

   Simon threw him another look and when Jace still couldn’t answer, he got up and looked ready to leave. ”I.., just forget what I said, okay? What happens in the alley behind Hunter’s Moon, stays in the alley behind Hunter’s Moon and so on, fuck, I’m sorry, I’ll just-”

   The vampire’s voice died down when Jace took a hold of his wrist. Jace felt how his heart jolted in his chest at mere contact of his palm against the skin of Simon’s cold wrist, but he fought down the electrifying tingle with every bit of willpower he had because this was not something he needed to think about now and especially not about Clary’s boyfriend.

   ”I.. this is not a dream,” Jace offered lamely. He should really lose his grip around Simon’s wrist, but he was sure that Simon would leave before he was done talking if he did. ”Believe me, I know the world can be quiet fucking horrendous most of the time, but tonight? Simon, this is real, you’re not dreaming. Clary’s in there, she loves you, and I.. I thought you did great, so stop doubting yourself for a second and enjoy this moment, okay? We live in such uncertain times that it’d be foolish not to enjoy the good things when they come around, you know?”

   Unsure of whatever he held onto Simon for Simon’s sake or his own, he let go of the vampire’s wrist and turned away because he would not be blushing in front of a guy with two first names after that. Where did that even come from?

   Simon remained close by, but neither of them said anything for a few seconds and Jace didn’t want to look at the vampire, he would be damned if he wasn’t going to map out every single crack in the pavement before this night was through.

   ”Thanks, Jace,” came the quiet reply after another eternity of agonising silence. The words dripped of honesty so earnest that it made Jace snap his head around to catch a glimpse of Simon before the vampire went back into the bar again, the door closing behind him with a soft click.

   Jace sighed and moved so he could lean against the wall. The uneven bricks grounded him when he felt like disappearing completely, trying to make sense of the conversation that just took place here. His heart shouldn’t skip beats when he thought about how Simon had said his name, it shouldn’t skip beats over anything Simon did.

   Not that he hadn’t encountered guys in the past that brought out similar reactions from him, there was a part of him that was human after all, but this was different and off limits in so many ways. He had to get a grip of himself, he didn’t want to ruin things more than his mere existence already did.

   Simon and Clary were happy together, his heart be damned. That should be enough for him to be happy about as well.

   His traitor of a heart just happened to disagree.

 

*~*

 

Maia found him sitting there when the bar closed. She nudged him with her foot, looking down at him with mixed emotions, one of them being amused.

   ”You were aware that the party was inside of the bar and not out here, right?” she joked, keeping both of her hands in her pockets while Jace rose to his feet.

   Jace felt a little stiff from sitting down for so long (hours? a day?), close to flipping her off but he had started enough fights today to have the energy to provoke another one. He just sighed and started walking, not showing how surprised he was when Maia followed suit.

   ”It was a lot nicer out here, not as many people keen on killing me, you know,” Jace said dryly. He longed to curl up on his bed and go to sleep and forget about this night in it’s entirety, but he would be a fool if he expected sleep to come so easily. Some things were hard to push away, no matter how much you tried to.

   A sound between a laugh and bark came from Maia. ”That’s true, much more neutral environment when it’s only you and a dark alley. Were you having a lovely, heartfelt conversation with the air or what?”

   Normally Jace would answer with something just as snarky, but it was the second time that night he found himself at a loss for words. Maia couldn’t stand him, why did she try to prove otherwise?

   ”That’s your cue for answering with a salty ”none of your business” but okay, silence works too,” Maia continued. She only smirked at the look Jace sent her way, but she stopped talking after that so some of the message must’ve stuck.

   Jace expected her to leave and get back to her home, wherever that was. She didn’t though, she walked beside him through a city which never slept, past mundanes and passing cars. There was a sense of comfort in the gesture: this was probably the most comfortable Jace had felt in the werewolf’s presence ever.

   When they started to reach the familiar streets that lead to Magnus’ loft, Jace had to ask her why she was still with him.

   ”Aren’t you supposed to go home?”

   Maia raised a questioning, yet amused eyebrow at him. ”Is it bothering you that I’m here too or what’s the problem, shadowhunter? Scared what a werewolf might do to you?”

   Jace scoffed. ”You’re not as intimidating as you make yourself out to be, I’m fully capable of walking home on my own thanks.”

   ”You were drinking pretty heavily back at the bar if I recall correctly and since you’re not exactly the most liked person in the downworlders’ books at the moment I thought I’d act as your personal bodyguard,” Maia claimed innocently. Both of them knew that if there was a downworlder that would be up for fighting Jace in this state, it was Maia herself so Jace couldn’t exactly trust her intentions to be good.

   ”Very funny,” Jace sighed. He could see Magnus’ building by now and prayed that he would come home to a quiet house, it always felt awkward to stumble in whenever Magnus had Alec over. Jace had started to stay at the Institute more now when things have started to clear a little bit, but he felt tired and didn’t want to risk running into Clary and Simon so this was his safest option.

   Once they stood outside of the building, when he was on the verge of saying goodbye, Maia spoke up and this time he knew that she was sincere.

   ”I heard your conversation with Simon,” she confessed. There was nothing hard over her features, more a curious glimpse in her eyes like Jace was some big puzzle she tried to make any sense of. ”I didn’t mean to listen, but you know, can’t shut out the hearing so. I didn’t expect you to be so sincere with someone.”

   Jace shoved his hands deeper down into his pockets and stared at the pavement. He felt Maia’s eyes on him and he desperately hoped his face didn’t show any of his emotions. The last thing he needed was a nosy werewolf involved in this mess too. ”I told him what he needed to hear, simple as that.”

   Maia did one of her impressive eye-rolls at him. ”You’re a giant dick and I’m still furious at you over the tracking, but it’s nice to see that you actually can care about people every once in awhile too. I may think that Simon’s an idiot for going out with Clary, but he’s still one of the best friends I got. Thanks for telling him what ”he needed to hear.”

   She smiled thinly at him. ”Stop following stupid orders and show that you’re not as bad as everyone thinks, Jace, and the rest will come around eventually.”

   The shadowhunter simply nodded. ”Thanks for following me home.”

   Maia smiled playful at him before she turned to leave. ”As I said earlier, don’t come to me tomorrow when you’re feeling sorry for yourself.”

Chapter Text

Over the following week, Jace spent a lot of time over at the Hunter’s Moon when he wasn’t knee deep in missions. Maia was blunt and not scared of calling him out on his shit, for some odd reason he really enjoyed her company. It was nice to spend time with someone whom wasn’t scared of ruffling any feathers, even if he mainly sat at the bar and listened to her chattering with the other customers.

  He thought that if he showed himself more and spent time with the people he had caused so much harm in the past, maybe they could at least accept that he wasn't a total asshole all of the time. Spending time here also meant that he didn’t have to see Clary and Simon around either. He hadn’t seen Simon since the night of the gig, but Clary and him went out on missions together and even though things seemed very normal between them, from Jace’s side, they weren’t.

   Clary, he could handle her, but seeing her with Simon? For some stupid reason, that hurt.

   Sebastian found him by the piano one morning after he got back from the bar. Music for him came with a bunch of unpleasant memories; Valentine’s methods were always extreme in the worst ways, Jace knew that better than anyone. He couldn’t stop thinking about how carefree Simon had looked up on stage: he wanted to feel that kind of peace too, he wanted to experience music the same way Simon did.

   He didn’t tell Sebastian any of that though: he told him about Valentine and shook of the praise he got for being able to play at all after what he’d been through as a child.

   Sebastian started asking about why Jace spent so much time over at the bar, teasing about Maia and if it meant that people would get off his back about what he truly felt, Jace more than willingly played along with some devious smiles and drawled ”maybes”.

   When Sebastian started asking questions about Clary, Jace couldn’t help but sound a little irritated. What was it with people and wanting to be involved with everything in his life?

   ”Weren’t you interested in her, I mean before she became your sister? She’s not your sister though, or am I missing something?”

   Jace bit the inside of his cheek. ”I don’t feel anything for her, she may not be my sister but I only see her as one. She’s moved on, I’ve moved on.”

   Sebastian raised a questioning eyebrow at him, giving the vibe that he didn’t believe a single word that came out of Jace’s mouth. Jace had brought this upon himself, but wouldn’t it be a nice change if someone except for Alec and Izzy actually trusted his words every now and then?

   ”If you say so, I’ll take your word for it,” Sebastian stated with a grin curving his lips.

   Clary, thankfully, chose that time to appear in the entrance of the room. ”Alec’s about to release a statement, he wants us all to be there.” She left as soon as she was done talking, and with one last glance at the other blonde, whom couldn’t stop smirking, Jace followed her.

 

*~*

 

Alec made a much better leader than Jace ever could. He stood in front of his parabatai while Alec held his speech, beaming with pride over how well Alec handled all of this: at least he had made one right call in the last few months, because Alec truly was born to lead.

   Afterwards, the newly appointed leader of the Institute sent Jace and Clary out on a mission. The two of them would go to the Seelie realm and have an audience with the Queen to ask about the recent attacks on shadowhunters done by Kaelie.

   The Seelies had a way to twist the truth, there was nothing that could prepare them for what the court could have in store. Alec knew that it was a risky mission, Jace knew the risks too so he was glad that Alec chose him over someone else not as used to the field as him. What made him feel uneasy about the whole thing was that the Queen had asked about them coming to the court personally: that couldn’t mean anything but trouble.

   It was useless to bring weapons, the few times Jace had visited the court in the past he and his party had been stripped at the entrance. Leaving without his stele though, was not even a thing he considered to do. He got dressed in warmer clothes, the faerie realm had a habit to be colder than their realm: the finishing touch, as always, was the stele.

   On his way out, he ran into Clary whom looked like a fiery mess with the brightly coloured hair hanging freely down over her back. The smile on her face said enough, she had this gentle look in her eyes whenever she was in contact with Simon in some way, it was pretty endearing. That it also made Jace’s heart sting was something the shadowhunter would keep to himself until he was laying in his grave.

   ”Are you ready to go?” Jace asked.

   ”Simon said he wanted to see me, it’ll only be for a couple of minutes so I’ll meet you in Central Park later?” Clary suggested. Her phone kept vibrating in her pocket: Jace didn’t have to think twice about it being Simon on the other end. ”Text me the location and I’ll be there as soon as possible.” She gave Jace’s arm a soft squeeze before taking the call, letting out a bright ”Simon!” as she hurried away towards the entrance.

   Jace sighed and watched her go. He waited for her to disappear outside: wanting to be as far away as possible from the Clary-and-Simon world as he could. It would be a lie, a real big one, if he said that he didn’t want to be the one getting a call from Simon every other minute. Hell, he would have his phone switched off all the time due to how much he didn’t want to Simon to call him.

   If anyone heard his thoughts out loud, they probably would think that he was an idiot. For all Jace cared, he probably was one.

 

Jace decided to walk to the park. Being cautious, he hid behind a rune so he could move freely without having to worry about someone recognising him in the crowd. Not that he knew many mundanes, but he were familiar enough to the downworlders to draw attention to himself.

   Who hadn’t heard about the blonde shadowhunter who was believed to be Valentine’s son? The one with extraordinary skills out on the battlefield, the wielder of the Soul Sword which killed plenty of downworlders in the blink of an eye?

   The guilt of what went down on that day would never leave Jace alone. It was a crushing feeling, because he thought with his actions that he would save them all: instead, he just made everything so much worse. The story of his life, he couldn’t escape ruining things, despite what last name he went by.

   Central Park wasn't as crowded as it usually was. Jace could wander around pretty freely: seeing a bunch of kids running around and playing, their laughs piercing through the air. Jace enjoyed the colder weather compared to the heat of a New York summer: with a sweater, leather jacket and jeans, he probably was a bit too warm for the city, but he was confident that it would be just right for the faerie realm.

   Whenever he saw a couple, he forced himself to look away and not get any new impulses. Simon hadn’t shown up at the Institute during the past week, nor the bar, much to Jace’s relief. They hadn’t spoken since the short conversation behind the bar after Simon’s gig. If Jace thought about it long and hard enough, he could still sense the tingling feeling against his palm from where he had held onto Simon’s wrist. It wasn’t the first time they touched each other, far from it in fact, but it was the first Jace could remember the feeling of it afterwards.

   The short, dark hairs on Simon’s arm against his fingertips, how oddly cold Simon was for someone so fully alive in every other sense than what his body said. Thinking about it now caused a small shiver to run along Jace’s spine.

   He needed to stop this now or the Seelies would drag it out of him in more painful ways later. They had the habit to get the truth to come up to the surface, one way or another, Jace wasn't too keen on meeting the truth when he hardly knew what it was himself yet.

   Before he knew it, Jace found himself standing on the bridge beside the entrance to the Seelies’ realm. The water run quietly beneath him; a bunch of leaves had fallen to the ground, some of them floating in the water. He slid his hand into his pocket, pulling out his phone to send Clary a text with his location: it took no more than a second before it buzzed with a reply: ”will be there in a minute!”

   There was not much more he could do than to wait.

 

What Jace should’ve known, was that Clary wouldn't arrive on her own.

   He noticed Clary and Simon pretty quickly, when he still couldn’t make out their faces completely. A gentle ”fuck” left his lips as he tried to compose himself. Of course Simon would come and drop her off, wasn’t that just the thing he would expect Simon to do?

   They couple weren’t holding hands (thank the angel for that) but they walked so closely together that it looked like they were surgically attached by the hip. Their laughs were loud enough for Jace to hear them and he felt his jaw clenching at the sound. He turned to look down at the small river instead: focusing on how it moved down there while the couple only came closer.

   Jace could hear Clary’s ”he’s not going to be happy to see you,” her words causing him to sigh yet again but it was Simon’s reply, the quieter ”when is he ever happy to see me?” that caused Jace to turn back around so he could face them. He bit back the need to defend himself, because both of them were wrong, Simon more than anything.

   ”What’s he doing here?” Jace asked roughly, sounding a lot more aggressive than planned. He hadn’t meant to sound so angry, it slipped out of him before he could prevent it from happening. Truly, he knew how to talk to his friends without sounding so mad at every given moment. He just had a habit of never showing it.

  Clary at least had the sensibility to look apologetic; Simon, on the other hand, smiled with his teeth at Jace and looked like Jace had given him the biggest compliment of his life. His happiness was infuriating: cute, but mostly infuriating.

   ”Didn’t I say that he wouldn’t be happy to see you?” Clary murmured to her boyfriend, but it wasn't quiet enough for Jace to block it out. ”I couldn’t keep him from coming, Jace, I really tried,” she added, a lot louder than the private mutter.

   Jace crossed his arms over his chest, still with his jaw clenched. He noticed how Simon kept looking at him, still with that small smile of his in place. ”Simon’s not invited-”

   ”There’s nothing wrong with some extra back-up,” Simon interrupted, gaining a dirty look from Jace.

   ”As I was saying, Clary and I have been invited by the Queen herself, it would be rude to not follow her command,” Jace continued hastily. ”It requires a certain charm and sensibility to get around with their court, they’re incapable of lying but masters at manipulating the truth.”

   ”Excuse you, Jace, but in eight grade I actually got elected to be the Vice President of my class and let me tell you that it takes a certain charm to win an election like that,” Simon said. He touched Jace’s shoulder out of the blue, causing the shadowhunter to pull back and away from the vampire in pure surprise: the grin on Simon’s face fell slightly and Jace cursed his reflexes for always being on the alerted side. Ready for a fight, but never ready for some friendly touching.

   ”This is not a game, Simon!” Jace exclaimed. ”This is a matter between life and death, if anything goes wrong in there it’ll be our heads rolling, she has the absolute power and final say in everything so we can lose important allies if we don’t handle this with absolute care and finess.”

   ”Have you ever been to middle school, Jace? That’s life and death,” Simon stated, causing Clary to roll her eyes (not at impressive as Maia, but still impressive) affectionately at her boyfriend while laughing quietly. ”I helped with Kaelie, I’m not a waste of time: I can fight and protect myself.”

  Jace let his gaze flicker between the two of them: really trying to make them understand how serious this was. Seelies had powers beyond theirs, if they hurt any living creature in the other realm? Well, the Queen wasn't known to hold back on her suffering towards those who deserved it. He did not want to end up on her bad side, bringing Clary along was bad enough already but Simon too? Why did the vampire have to be searching so desperately after trouble at any given turn?

   ”Don’t eat, touch or drink anything while we’re there. Just let me do the talking and we could possibly have a chance of getting out with all of our limbs still attached,” Jace caved in. He took a few steps back, preparing himself for lunging down into the river to get to the realm.

  Clary and Simon exchanged pleased looks.

   ”Where is the entrance to the Seelie realm exactly?” Clary asked, looking at Jace curiously.

   The slightly older shadowhunter smirked at her, gesturing that the pair stepped to the side to clear the path. ”Well, we need to jump.”

   ”Into the river?” Simon asked, sounding like he thought Jace was joking. Jace may contain a very high level of sarcasm and self-depriving jokes, but even he had to reach the level of seriousness every once in awhile. ”Like, for real?”

   ”We’re jumping through it, there’s a difference,” Jace explained. When he got both of his friends attention, he sprinted forward and jumped over the railing. ”See you on the other side!” There was a familiar skip in his stomach as he floated through the air, bracing himself for something that wouldn’t come: instead, he went through the surface, breaking the illusion and entering a completely different world.

 

*~*

 

”That was awesome!”

   Jace felt himself smiling. There was so much wonder written over the couples’ faces: Jace knew the feeling, when he first came to this realm he was mesmerised by how beautiful everything was: if there was one thing he had learned was that looks could be very deceiving. Behind every tiny bit of this kingdom was a lie or something that could do harm. He knew loads of good, trustworthy Seelies, but the Queen? Jace respected her, but felt intimated by her methods at the same time. Witnessing what her magic could do firsthand had made him wary of it and her intentions.

   ”It’s beautiful,” Clary breathed. She looked around at the falling snow and the trees that looked like they were taken out of a fairytale. Every breeze sounded like a whisper: knowing the Queen, it probably was.

   ”Remember, looks can be very deceiving so keep your guards up,” Jace reminded them. He gestured towards Simon to take the lead. ”After you, Mr Vice President.”

 

Their walk through the forest was a quiet endeavour. Jace kept an eye at the pair as they walked in front of him, talking in hushed voices between one another. The whole forest seemed almost drained of sounds: the snow beneath their feet served as a dampening blanket, good for them but also worrying since it was possible for someone to sneak up on the group if they wanted to.

   Jace couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in his gut. His knowledge about the Queen and her kingdom was far from perfect, if anything actually did go wrong he probably wouldn’t be able to keep them out of trouble.

   After everything he’d done, Jace’s word had lost most of it’s value. Respect was not easily earned in any world, but to earn respect of people whom were incapable of lying when his whole existence were built on lies was an almost impossible task to go through with.

   Thanks to Valentine, a lot of Jace’s once good reputation had turned into nothing more than angry looks and muttered accusations in his presence.

   ”Is that blood?”

   Simon’s voice caused Jace snap back to the now. He lost track of his thoughts for a few seconds and Simon had already paved a new path down the small hill towards a very menacing looking tree. Jace quickly observed the tree and called out as soon as he understood that it wasn’t just an ordinary tree. ”Get away from the tree!” He took a step towards Simon, whom still were approaching the tree with cautious steps.

   Clary looked like she was about to follow her boyfriend: Jace gestured for her to stay as he took a couple of more steps in Simon’s direction, a rising fear clutching at his throat. ”Simon, get away from the tree now!”

   Simon waved with his hands in front of himself, bugs flying around him. He was too close to the tree, Jace could practically see how it began to move: the branches cracked as it slowly slid forward like snakes, closing in around it’s target. Simon noticed the cracks, taking a step back when he finally understood that he might be in danger.

   Jace threw himself forward in a quick sprint. He didn’t have time to think, taking ahold of Simon’s jacket and pulling the vampire back and away from the tree. The bugs flew annoyingly close to his face: Jace swatted them away and threw Simon towards where Clary was standing, all wide-eyed and her mouth shaped as a surprised, yet terrified ”O”. Jace threw a quick glance over his shoulder and moved away from the tree, seeing how it retrieved it’s branches like nothing had happened. The blood was still there, splattered against the roots and across the bark: the irony smell of it filled up Jace’s nose and made him want to puke.

   ”Wh-What was that?” Simon laid on the ground, his panicked eyes travelling between Jace and the smashed bugs on the palm of his hand. ”Trees aren’t supposed to do that?!”

   Jace sighed. If Alec knew that he let Simon accompany them on this mission, he would be flipping out for all of the right reasons. Simon may be a vampire, but it was so much both him and Clary didn’t know about the Shadow World: neither of them had the time to go get the right lessons, their knowledge barely touched the surface. Clary were capable of handling herself and knew a risk when she saw one, even if she was stubborn enough to take on battles that could get her killed: Simon, well, Simon was more of a loose cannon in that sense.

   ”That’s not an ordinary tree. Didn’t I tell you to not touch anything? If you had gotten any closer, it would’ve ripped your pretty face off and that would’ve been bad for all of us.”

   ”Do you think I’m pretty?”

   Simon stood next to Clary, brushing off snow from his clothes and giving Jace a shaky smile. Jace would’ve pushed him down and drenched him in the snow if the guy hadn’t been seconds away from dying just a few moments ago.

   Did he actually call Simon pretty out loud? God, he needed to stay focused on the mission. Simon’s presence wasn’t helping with that in the slightest. Instead of showing how embarrassed he was of calling Simon pretty, he just gave the vampire a bemused, stern look before stomping ahead of them.

   ”The tree would’ve ripped you apart with it’s vines, just, don’t do anything.”

   Jace shoved his hands back into his pockets, creating a slight distance between himself and the pair. He could still hear Clary’s soft ”are you okay? You scared me” and an ever softer, apologetic ”I know, I’m sorry” from Simon.

   If Maia would’ve been here, she would have gaged at them. The thought of the werewolf caused Jace to smile to himself, a comforting thought in this complete mess of a mission. They hadn’t even reached the court yet and Simon had already taken unnecessary risks and jeopardising his safety.

   This would be a very long day.

 

*~*

 

The Queen lived in a castle beautiful enough to take the breath away from anyone who laid eyes upon it. A castle in the realm of the faeries were different from any mundane construction: instead of stone, the castle consisted entirely out of two, gigantic trees. Flowers clung to the surface, only leaving room for a few gaps where twinkling lights glimmered. It fit in with the rest of the landscape and proved the impression of the Seelies being a peaceful folk living hand in hand with nature and all it’s wonders. Simon’s comment about the Seelies being peaceful hippies rang in Jace’s mind and he snorted quietly.

   Despite that this was far from the first time Jace stepped into this realm, he still had difficulty making out what was real and what was part of the illusion. He knew that Seelies had the ability to alter the appearance of things and themselves with their magic: it was easy to get lost in trying to figure out what was what in here.

   Both Clary and Simon made impressed sounds behind him as they strode through the entrance, only to be greeted by an hallway that worked as an extension of the forest outside. The floor was made out of stone, moss and flowers covered the walls while leaves and branches hung from the roof: the only light came from openings in the roof, casting a dim and almost dreamy like glimmer around the room.

   The group didn’t get far before something moved in the shadows. Out from beneath the covered walls, hidden in the dark and the moss, came a group of Seelies to greet them. Their voices floated through the air like water; hands roamed over Jace’s clothes, every whisper feeling electrifying in his ear while the Seelie removed his stele and stepped away.

   ”Jace, my stele, our weapons!” Clary exclaimed, sounding a little threatened. She took a grip around Simon’s arm, almost like she was worried that the Seelies would take him away from her as well. Simon seemed more than grateful for her support, if Jace was honest it kind of looked like the vampire was on the brink of passing out.

   ”I know, it’s nothing to worry about,” Jace reassured. He barely got the words out of his mouth before another group of people entered the room: this one contained a young girl that looked like she wasn't older than 12 at most, flanked by two guards.

   From experience, Jace knew that the Queen liked to take many different forms. Using her magic to look like a child didn’t come as a surprise, she was much, much older than what the illusion made the beholder believe and far more powerful than any of them too.

   ”Is that..?” Clary asked.

   ”Yes,” Jace breathed.

   The Queen stopped a few feet away from them. She casually inspected the two shadowhunters with not too much attention, but at the sight of Simon she cocked her head to the side and studied him narrowly.

   ”My Queen,” Jace cleared his throat and bowed, gesturing for the others to do the same. ”We’re honoured to be invited to your court, we’re grateful for you to take your time to hear us out, your highness.”

   The Queen looked at him. ”I only invited Valentine’s children, why is the vampire here?”

   Jace could hear how both Simon and Clary opened their mouths to speak, but he cut them off before they could so some actual damage. ”My Queen, Simon’s a good friend and one of our most loyal allies. He’s proven himself to be a very skilled and cunning warrior, we insisted on him joining us for this meeting. We do not want to take advantage of your hospitality, but whatever you want to tell us, you can tell it in front of Simon too.”

   There was burning feeling tickling his neck: the gazes of his friends were heavy on him, he probably surprised them both with going to Simon’s aid instead of throwing the vampire under the buss. The conversation at Hunter’s Moon a week earlier flashed to his mind, when he told Simon all of those things and he hoped that Simon understood that Jace meant all of it.

   He wasn’t just making things up to please the Queen, he spoke the truth when it came to Simon. Simon was too good for any of them and he chose to keep Jace’s secret, he had proven himself again and again to be someone worth putting your trust in. So why was it so hard for Jace to not act like a brat around the guy for most of the time? Was it because he knew that Simon had his heart elsewhere?

   Every answer to that question stung more than the other.

   The Queen didn’t even blink as she turned, causing the group and her court to fall in behind her. ”If you say so, Jace Herondale. The vampire could prove to be most interesting, we’ll add an extra plate for him at the table.”

   ”My name’s Simon,” Simon blurted out: Jace shot him a dangerous look over his shoulder, hoping that Simon took the hint and shut up.

   The Queen made a sound that best could be described as a laugh. It made the uneasy feeling in Jace’s gut worsen. ”That I heard, vampire.”

   ”I’m sorry for interrupting my Queen, but you mentioned earlier something about inviting Valentine’s children? I regret to inform you that I’m his only child, it came to our attention recently that Jace and I aren’t related,” Clary pointed out. Where Simon lacked grace, Clary contained all of it with a precision of someone whom knew just how to handle people, with or without power.

   ”Strange, you say that there’s no bond between you and Herondale, Clarissa, but yet at the same blood runs through your veins. Very strange indeed,” the Queen acknowledged with a voice close to a purr. ”We’ll have time to discuss more over dinner, I do hope you’re all hungry because we’ve made quite the feast for your arrival.”

  She disappeared in through another opening and Jace turned to look at his friends, mimicking ”don’t eat anything” to them before he went in after her. Whatever questions she had, it could only get worse than this.

 

*~*

 

The dinner went a lot better than expected. Jace was pleased to see that neither of his friends had touched their plates, at least they could listen to some of the advice he gave to them. If the Queen were angry with them, she didn’t show it.

   She asked questions about what abilities Jace and Clary had: again and again did she ask if the two shadowhunters could show what made them so special. Jace felt bothered by her request and instead tried to focus on the real reason why they where here: to get information about Kaelie and if she worked on her own.

   Changing the subject caused the Queen to look a little irritated, after a few moments of intense glaring at Jace she complied and told them what she knew. According to her intel did Kaelie have an associate: whom that was she didn’t say, but whoever it was, they wouldn’t bother the shadowhunters anymore (dead, dead, dead).

   ”You’ve been most generous, your highness,” Jace bowed his head respectfully. ”The information you’ve told us will be most helpful.” He glanced at the others, showing that it was time for them to leave. ”If there’s nothing else you want of us, we’d like to get back to our realm again.”

   The Queen leaned forward, clasping her tiny hands together with an unnerving look on her young face. Seeing someone so young with such an expression added even more to the uneasy feeling Jace tried to get rid of. It was clever really, he had to give her that: behind this mask of innocence, hid an ancient master of magic. ”I’m not done with you three yet.” Her voice was cold and slick as ice, offering a smile in Jace’s direction.

   ”There’s come to my attention that my kingdom’s attacked. For two months, kids of my people have been kidnapped and taken away from my realm. Are you shadowhunters too busy with your hopeless politics to help us out?” It pained her to ask for their help: since she was incapable of lying, there must be a great need for their support.

   Jace glanced at Clary, whom spoke before Jace had the chance to.” Of course will we help you out, your highness.” Her voice was polite and helpful, showing off the honesty the Queen wanted to hear. ”Do you have any information for us to work with regarding the kidnappings?”

   ”A warlock is involved,” the Queen stated gravely. ”No one but a warlock would be able to get my people out of here without leaving any marks. A powerful one too, but we’re sure that whomever it is: they’re not working alone.”

   She rose from her seat, the guards immediately stepping in by her side ”One of my guards, Valhin, will provide you with the intel we have. In the meantime, I’d like a moment alone with the daylighter.”

   What?

   Both Clary and Simon looked at Jace, whom blinked slowly at the Queen. He had not expected that, the knots in his stomach made him feel even more aware of that this was a bad idea. Simon could surely take care of himself, but alone with the Queen? No, that couldn’t end well.

   ”Your highness, if there’s anything you’d like to say to Simon, you can do so in front of us all. We’d rather not get separated,” Jace protested with great care.

   ”Are you afraid that I might hurt him, Jace Herondale?” the Queen asked innocently. The smile on her face was anything but pure. ”I want to talk with him alone, is that too much to ask for after everything I’ve done for you today?”

   The whole meaning of this mission was to put off some of the pressure on the relationship between the Clave and the Seelies. If Jace continued to argue about this, the Queen could choose to make things a lot worse for Alec and everyone with power back home. He didn’t want to make things worse for his parabatai; Jace nodded at the Queen and clenched his jaw in defeat.

   ”I suppose I don’t have a say in this?” Simon joked half-heartedly.

   The Queen took no notice of the vampire’s words and instead gestured that he should follow her. She looked pleased with herself, holding Jace’s gaze for a couple of moments before she left the room with a nervous looking Simon following her closely behind.

   One of the Seelies from earlier came in through the opening a couple of seconds later. ”I’m Valhin. The Queen asked me to brief you about our situation.”

 

*~*

 

Ten minutes had passed since the Queen requested to speak with Simon alone and Clary looked like she was ready to burn the whole castle down to find where the Seelie had brought him. She kept pacing around the dining room, back and forth to keep herself occupied. The whole room smelled thickly of apples and grass in a weird mixture that would get to Jace’s head if they remained here for too long.

   He probably should reassure Clary that Simon could take care of himself, that he wouldn’t tell the Queen anything that would hurt either of them, but every possible sentence he could come up with fell flat before he even opened his mouth to speak. He settled on watching her pace, trying to repress the worry he felt inside.

   What could they possibly be talking about? What did the Queen want with Simon? She could be torturing him for all Jace knew, maybe she wanted to know about how Simon became a daylighter? God, what if the vampire gave in and told her about that he got it from drinking Jace’s blood? He didn’t even want to think about what consequences that could bring if the information fell into the wrong hands.

   If the Queen hurt Simon in any way, Jace wasn’t sure he would be able to contain himself. He drummed his fingers against his thigh, his whole leg jolting up and down in a way that reminded him a lot of the jittery vampire.

   ”Could you stop that?!” Clary snapped. Her eyes gleamed with the intensity of the sun, but her anger quickly faded into tired annoyance as she dragged a hand through long locks of hair and closed her eyes. ”I didn’t mean to sound so harsh, but could you just not bop your leg up and down like that? I’m losing it already as it is.”

   ”They’re not going to hurt Simon,” Jace said to calm both himself and Clary down. If he squinted, he could almost imagine how it’d feel like to believe in his own words. ”The Queen wouldn’t have wanted to talk to him if she didn't find him worth her time, they’ll be back before you know it.”

   Clary nodded, sighing deeply. She began pacing again, pressing her fist against her temple while muttering quiet words to herself. ”I’m just.., I’m not gonna be able to forgive myself if they hurt him. I brought him here after all, I could’ve been more stern with him and told him not to come. Whatever happens to him here, is on me.”

   Jace felt tempted to give in and blame it on her. She was right in one way, because she could’ve been tougher with the vampire: both of them knew though that Simon would’ve come even if Clary told him not to, when it came to her Simon had no boundaries.

   ”He would do anything to keep you out of harm, Clary, he loves you,” Jace said, his voice sounding all off even to his own ears. It felt wrong to say it out loud, he knew Simon would never consider or even look at him in that way; to say it out loud just hurt. ”I’d do the same if I was in his shoes, I’m sure you’d done the same too.”

   Clary smiled at him at that. She crossed the room to take a hold of one of Jace’s hands, squeezing it for not more than a second with a pained look in her eyes. ”It doesn’t make it any easier for me, though, but you’re right.” She jumped back and let go of Jace’s hand at the sound of footsteps: Jace rose to his feet at the same time as the Queen came in through the opening, Simon trailing behind her looking utterly confused.

   Jace let out a relieved breath, Simon looked unharmed. The expression on the vampire’s face worried him a little, he wondered what the Queen could’ve told him, what parts of her truth she shared with the vampire.

   What Jace wanted was for them all to leave right now. They got the information they needed about Kaelie’s associate and the kidnappers, there was nothing else they needed from the Queen.

   ”My Queen, if there’s nothing more you want of us, I’d like for me and my friends to return to our realm again,” Jace began, repeating the same words from before. He didn’t get far before the Queen held up a small hand to make him stop.

   She let her hand fall back down to her side as she eyed the trio curiously: something dark and mischievous roamed in her eyes and it made the hair on Jace’s arms stand on end. ”You really want to leave so soon? The three of you just got here, you haven’t even taken a bite of your food yet.”

   Jace cleared his throat again and hoped to sound as respectful as he possibly could, the last thing he wanted now was to step on any toes. ”We’re grateful for the hospitality and kindness you’ve showed us today my Queen, but we should get back and tell our boss about the information you’ve told us. It’d be a shame to take up more of your time than needed, your highness: time we instead could spend on finding the kidnapped kids.”

   The Queen smiled, but it was cruel and misplaced with her young features. She clasped her hands together and leaned back against her throne. Whatever words would reach her lips, Jace suspected they wouldn’t be any good. ”Before you leave, there’s one tiny thing we need to adress first.” She clicked her fingers and vines shot out of the ground.

   Jace’s eyes widened in surprise as the vines latched themselves around his legs, the thorns pressing down against his clothes and leaving holes. He tried to shake them off. For every move he made the vines only tightened their hold on him and he knew that it was useless to put up a fight.

   To his fear, he noticed how similar vines were holding onto Simon as well and he heard how his own voice trembled when he called out Simon’s name.

   ”Simon!” Clary screamed, trying to pull the vines of her boyfriend. She fell back, blood trickling her skin from where the thorns had pierced tiny holes on her hands. With fear draped all over her features, she turned towards the Queen. ”Make it stop! You’re killing them.”

   The Queen inspected her nails as they were the most fascinating things she’d ever laid her eyes on. ”Oh, don’t you remember how I said earlier that every living creature, even the bugs and the birds, are my people? Blood for blood, shadowhunter, justice needs to be served.”

   Jace recked his brain after what she possibly could be talking about. With a sigh, he closed his eyes as he remembered the bugs him and Simon accidentally killed during their encounter with the murderous tree. They were doomed to fail from the beginning.

   ”The bugs? You mean the bugs I killed by tree?” Simon asked, his voice strained from one of the vines circling around his chest and up towards his neck and throat. ”It was an accident, I didn’t mean to hurt them!”

   ”Accident or not, they’re still dead and I require justice for their deaths,” the Queen proclaimed. ”Unless you’re willing to play a game, Clarissa.”

   ”Anything,” Clary agreed. She stood up a little taller with her fists curled at her sides. ”I’ll play any game you want if it means that you’ll let my friends go.”

   Jace would’ve argued with her if Simon’s life hadn’t been at stake here, they had no idea what the goal of this game was and if he knew the Queen right, it wasn’t going to be a pleasant ordeal. He gave a short nod towards Clary when she turned to look at him, urging her on.

   The Queen looked up from her hand and stared straight at Clary with the most devouring grin Jace had ever seen. ”To free your friends, all I need is the kiss of deepest desires.”

   Clary furrowed her eyebrows together. ”Do you want me to kiss you?”

   It was if Clary had told the Queen a joke, because the child burst out laughing. The sound was unnatural and chilling, Jace would pay good money not to hear it again. He had his suspicions on where this whole thing was going though, and he didn’t like the direction in the slightest.

   ”No, no, Clary, you need to kiss the one you desire the most. The kiss of your deepest desires.”

   Jace closed his eyes. Defeat washed over him because he knew that he was Clary’s choice. The Queen lived for the drama, but she couldn’t lie. She wouldn’t force Clary to do this if it didn’t ruin something in return.

   This was worse than any physical pain the Queen possibly could put them through, because this meant that Jace would destroy the thing between Simon and Clary. He would crush it without even meaning to because he didn’t even feel anything for Clary anymore, not in the way she apparently felt for him. She was a sister to him and he loved her dearly, nothing more and nothing less than that.

   He thought back to the times when they talked about their feelings in the past, when she assured him over and over that she didn’t feel anything romantically for him either: they had both moved on, Clary was with Simon now and they were happy together.

   By the Angel, Simon.

   ”Just do it, Clary. Kiss me so we can get out of here.”

   Simon didn’t see the outcome, or he tried his hardest to deny it. Jace didn’t want to see the hurt in Simon’s eyes, he kept his eyes shut and heard the soft, wet sound of their lips touching but the vines kept on circling around their bodies.

   The smugness in the Queen’s voice was apparent, Jace could picture the grin on her lips and it made him want to rip something apart with his bare hands. ”Your deepest desires, Clary.”

   The whole room fell deathly silent. Jace focused on his own erratic breathing, in and out, trying to block out the inevitable.

   ”Clary..?”

   Simon’s voice came out as a plea. A plea.

   Jace felt Clary moving closer: the heat of her body radiating somewhere just inches away from him. She placed her hand on his cheek, a fierce and grim ”this doesn’t mean anything” leaving her lips before they crashed together with Jace’s own.

   There was nothing beautiful with the kiss they shared. From the second Clary kissed him, it felt wrong. His stomach was full with ugly knots and he wanted to push her off, because he could hear Simon breaking beside him and he wanted it stop so the vampire didn’t have to witness this. The love of his life kissing a dude she had told him repeatedly she didn’t feel anything for anymore? Man, Jace could’ve ripped Simon’s heart out of his chest and it would’ve been more merciful than this.

   After what felt like an eternity, Clary pulled away and Jace could breath again. The vines let go of him and he collapsed against the floor, gasping for air. His vision was all blurry when he opened his eyes, the ceiling looking a lot like a patchwork blanket of various shades of green and brown.

   The Queen’s laugh echoed through the room: it sent shills down Jace’s spine, he scrambled to his feet and kept staring at the ancient woman in a child’s body. Her sharp teeth were visible, the air around her made her features uneven and blurred out: the illusion was slipping up.

   ”How can you do this?!” Clary exclaimed heatedly. A downright frightening expression blazed in her eyes, if Jace touched her he probably would burn up with her. He kept his distance, careful not to look over at Simon because it was enough just to sense the vampire’s presence to know that it wasn’t good. ”Playing us like this with your lies!”

   ”Oh young shadowhunter, we both know that’s not the case,” the Queen grinned. ”I suggest that you both leave, because one of you have already done so.”

   Both Jace and Clary snapped around to look at the place where Simon had been standing only moments before, finding it to be empty. Clary ran past him without not as much as glance in Jace’s direction: leaving Jace all alone with the Queen.

   It pained him to do it, the shame and guilt turning his cheeks red as he bowed shortly in front of the Queen. ”Your kindness is always admirable, my Queen.”

   ”This was for the best, Jace Herondale. Maybe I should’ve let you play the game instead? I’m sure both young Clarissa and the daylighter would’ve been surprised of that outcome,” there was a gleeful touch to her words, she enjoyed this tremendously.

   Jace felt warm all over and clenched his jaw. Not bothering to answer, even though it wasn’t the appropriate behaviour to the Queen, he turned on his heel and left the room abruptly.

   The sound of her laugh alone was enough to fuel his recurring nightmares for the foreseeable future.

Chapter Text

”I could feel that something was wrong through the bond, but that bad? By the Angel, how are Clary and Simon holding up?”

   Alec leaned against the table, careful not to crush any important papers in the process. He looked a little worn-out as well: from what Jace had gathered through sheer gossip alone had Alec’s attempt at a meeting with the downworlders gone over expectations, but it was still tough to have your motives questioned for hours at an end. At least Alec had Magnus to back him up, Jace didn’t have to feel through their bond to know that it meant a lot to Alec that Magnus was there tonight.

  ”You’ve had quite the night too, Alec. Maybe not being the tool in any forbidden kisses, but still, being in a room with those dudes for hours is not a simple task, ” Jace said sheepishly. ”Clary ran before I got to talk to her about what happened, Simon too, I’m a bit at a loss here because I don’t feel anything in that sort of way for Clary anymore and I still managed to ruin their relationship.”

   Alec nodded, sighing heavily. ”Don’t blame yourself, even if you don’t feel anything for Clary, it was still her emotions that got used against her. You can’t magically change them, Jace. She’ll come around when she’s ready to talk.”

   Of course Alec was right, but it didn’t erase the heavy stone of guilt in Jace’s chest. He felt used: the Queen had used him as a way to destroy something beautiful between his friends, in the process ruining any chance he had to get to know Simon better.

   Simon must hate Jace for taking the one person he loved the most away from him. He didn’t know how long Simon had feelings for Clary, but if Simon’s confession about loving her since he was a kid was anything to go by, Simon must have loved her for a really long time.

   ”At least we got some useful information about Kaelie’s associate, ”Jace finished lamely. ”I’ll get to work on the mission about the missing kids with the intel we got in the morning. There’s no time to waste if it’ll keep all us from going into war.” He threw a quick glance over at the open hallway and caught a glimpse of something bright and fiery that couldn’t be anything but Clary’s hair.

   ”Clary!” he called out, excusing himself from Alec with an apologetic smile while he made his way over to where the other shadowhunter stood. Getting closer to her, he noticed how broken she truly looked.

   Clary, whom usually stood strong and put people in their places, looked like a bleak copy of herself. There was tears still rolling down over her cheeks, her eyes looking all red and puffy with an expression that tore Jace’s heart in pieces. The only thing lively about her was the hair she couldn’t do anything about, but even that seemed pale and dim in comparison to the pain attached in her every feature.

   She looked at him like he was the source of all of her problems, which in a way, he probably was.

   ”Clary,” Jace offered softly. ”I think we should talk about what happened, there’s something I need to tell you.”

   Clary just shook her head. ”Jace, I can’t talk about this right now.” Her voice was barely louder than a whisper. Without another word, she walked past Jace and towards the safety of her room.

   Jace watched her go. The contrast towards how happy Clary had been that morning was stunning: two sides of the same coin. It settled it for Jace: he could feel Clary’s guilt and pain in the walls, so he strode over to the entrance and disappeared out into the awaiting night. God, after a day like this, he really needed a drink.

 

*~*

 

Much to Jace’s own dismay, Maia had a night off. He felt lost when he entered the bar and didn’t see her curly head standing behind the counter, because he really wanted to complain about his day to someone who could make him laugh over his own misery.

   The bartender, a man with the bushiest eyebrows Jace had ever seen, gave him a rather unpleasant look when Jace sat down by the counter. Jace paid no mind to it and looked around the bar to see if there was someone he knew there while he ordered a drink.

   He recognised some, thankfully there was no one he knew well enough to have a chat with. None of the usual excitement was present: the whole room seemed to be under a blanket of stillness for a change. People kept to themselves, talking with low voices and gentle smiles.

   Sipping on his beer, Jace wondered what Simon was doing. Clary hadn’t told him anything about Simon, but from her tears alone he knew that things were bad between them. She must’ve run off to her boyfriend directly, Jace couldn’t help but think about what could’ve happened between them. He had nothing to do with it, a part of him hoped Simon and Clary could work through this. If he told both of them that he had no feelings for Clary, maybe they could ignore that this ever happened and start over? Just how naive was he trying to be exactly?

   Jace sighed, taking a large chug of beer. He knew better: Clary’s feelings for him, for Jace, how deep and hidden they might’ve been, fucked this thing up sole-handedly. Did she ever get over him like she said, or did she just get really good at pretending she did?

   He looked at the clock. A little over midnight, in the span of 24 hours things truly had turned upside down. Was Simon still up? Jace wanted to go and see how the vampire was, but what if Simon screamed at him? What if Simon told him, to Jace’s face, just how much he hated him?

   Jace swept the rest of his beer in a few, hurried gulps. He paid and got out of his seat in a matter of seconds, gaining a few curious looks from the other guests. It was better to try than to sit here and do nothing about the situation: maybe he tried to rip off the bandaid too soon, but at least he wouldn’t have to go around clueless about where he stood with Simon if things turned south now. That was something, right?

 

The glowing sign of Luke’s restaurant threw a red shine over the road. Even the Jade Wolf looked closed and uninviting, only a few, tiny lights being lit in the windows. As he knew, looks could be very deceiving: in the safety of the dark restaurant, Luke’s pack were probably going through the night’s spectacle.

   Jace kept himself cloaked with a rune, he had no intentions to run into members of Luke’s pack. After what happened at Alec’s meeting, he at least didn’t have to worry about things being too strained with the werewolves: some may still think of the tracking chips and blame Jace for them, considering he was the one whom put one in Maia’s neck. He wondered if he ever would be able to meet a downworlder who greeted him with warmth and kindness or if he was a lost cause in every way.

   Jace removed the rune in front of the boathouse Simon called a home. Music was audible through the walls, a frustrated guitar with heavy riffs. It took Jace by surprise: he found himself simply standing there, listening to how Simon devoured the guitar for a couple of minutes before he got a hold of himself enough to knock on the door.

   The metal felt cold against Jace’s hand. He scrunched his nose at the heavy smell of salt and fish that came from the sea with every breeze. How Simon could live down here with a smell like that was beyond Jace’s understanding.

   ”Simon? You in there?” he called out, loud enough to cause some seagulls to stir and fly away from their spots up on the roof. He banged on the door a bit more, did Simon even hear anything over the sounds of the guitar? Jace doubted it, but he didn’t want to leave until he at least got a glimpse of the vampire.

   ”It’s Jace,” he continued.

   The music didn’t stop: a clear indication that Simon either didn’t hear him or just chose to ignore Jace’s attempts at making contact. It came as no surprise, Jace would’ve been more surprised if Simon actually had opened up. He didn’t want to leave just yet though: he slid down against the door, pulling his knees up towards his chest. The ground was damp and slightly chilly, Jace didn’t mind it in the slightest, even if it made his clothes a bit wet too.

   His body was warm enough to make it feel pleasant to sit here, finally getting a moment of peace.

   At least he could listen to Simon’s music this way. He could be patient if needed: if he had to sit here all night just to make sure that Simon was okay, he would gladly do so. After the peril Jace put him through, it was the least thing the blonde could do for him.

   The aggressive riffs stopped when the sky had turned a tender shade of red and gold. Jace had no idea how long he’d been sitting here by the door, but the way his limbs cracked when he stood up and his rosy fingertips was indication enough that it was more than a couple of minutes.

   Jace stood still, trying to hear if Simon was moving around in there but the boathouse was quiet as a grave. He braced himself and knocked on the door again, a lot gentler this time around. There was no need to wake up the whole neighbourhood now when the music stopped drenching out every other sound.

   ”Simon? It’s me, Jace. I.. I just want to see if you’re okay, tell me to fuck off and I’ll leave you alone.”

  The shadowhunter took a step away from the door, not sure what to do with his hands so he put them on his back and hoped he looked as sad as he felt inside over this whole thing. He still didn’t hear any indication coming from inside of the boathouse that Simon had heard him, but there was a change in the air that made Jace feel sure of that Simon knew that he was there.

   It took an eternity before the door slid open.

   Jace still stood with his hands behind his back, directly in view and with a pained expression spread over his face. He caught a glimpse of Simon’s face and it was enough for him to feel like someone had stabbed his heart repeatedly for hours.

   Neither of them said anything: Simon clung to the doorway with his head hanging low while Jace kept eyeing a hole in the metal next to Simon’s head. Well, this was going just great.

   ”I..,” Jace cleared his throat, shifting his weight from leg to leg. He felt incapable of finding the right words that truly showed how sad he was over this, sorry felt not nearly enough to cover the crushing guilt in his stomach. ”How are you feeling?”

   Simon didn’t say anything at first. He kept staring at the ground, the tiniest sounds escaping his lips: if the vampire hadn’t been this low, it probably would’ve been something close to a snort. When he finally did, Jace almost wished that Simon would’ve stayed quiet.

   ”Why do you care?”

   The question was full of a sadness so deep and gut-wrenching that it hurt Jace just to liten to it. Simon still didn’t look at him, which probably was for the best.

   Jace chewed on his lip, letting out a shaky breath. ”I’m sorry, Simon. It doesn’t even begin to cover up what I feel about this, but I need you to know that I didn’t want this to happen.”

   Maybe it was something in Jace’s voice that made the vampire look up and meet the shadowhunter's eyes: Jace, devastated from all of this, had actually managed to show some of his feelings for once with the tone of his voice. He very rarely showed his emotions, to love was to be destroyed after all, so when he did, it showed pretty quickly that they were sincere and real.

   Simon looked beyond broken. There was no trace of anger in his deep, brown eyes. ”What did you want to happen then? Aren’t you supposed to rejoice now when I’m out of the picture, huh?” The vampire was hurt, Jace knew that, but Simon actually believing that Jace wanted this? That hurt more than anything, Jace wasn't a heartless beast, no matter what his fucked up reputation might say about him. He would always live in the shadow of his own self.

   ”I didn’t want this, Simon. I don’t love Clary the way you do, I’ve moved on and thought she had done that too,”Jace argued, gesturing with his hands. ”I know I’m probably the last person you want to see right now, but if you need anything, I’m here for you. I had no idea that she still felt.. this towards me, I thought we both had moved on. Please, I wish none of this would've happened but it did and I just want you to know that I didn’t. Want. It. To. Happen.”

   Jace had no idea of what was going on in Simon’s head: the vampire looked at him with the same, pained expression as before, keeping any other emotion hidden behind the hurt. He could only stand there and wait for Simon’s response.

   Time crept past, Jace barely even breathed when Simon finally said something.

   ”Clary’s always had feelings for you, Jace. You’re perfect, meanwhile I’m too blind and selfish to see her love for what it was all along: a way to get over you. I’m just.. I loved her so much, she’s my best friend for fuck’s sake, I wish I never told her how I felt in the first place.”

   Every word was so full of regret, it seemed to be eating away at Simon and Jace didn’t know what he was supposed to do. His mind lingered on how Simon had called him perfect, even though he understood that the word wasn’t mean to be a compliment.

   ”I believe you,” Simon whispered after a another agonising silence. His fingers massaged his temples, trembling slightly. ”You wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

   Jace nodded, agreeing. ”I’m not lying to you, Simon. I promise.” Even though Simon actually said that he believed in Jace’s words, he wanted to make sure that Simon truly understood how serious Jace was about this. He meant it, every word: the impulse to pull Simon in for a tight hug was overwhelming, but Jace fought it back and instead settled on giving the vampire’s arm a quick pat.

   The sun was high enough to throw golden rays over the boathouse: Jace stood with his back against it, but it made Simon look like he was glowing. The only word that came to mind was beautiful: Simon was beautiful.

   ”Nice that at least one person on the entire planet have the guts to be honest with me,” Simon said with a shaky laugh. Due to the sun, he had to squint when he looked at Jace and it was a lot cuter than what should be allowed. ”You keep on surprising me, Jace, but right now I’d like to be alone, if that’s okay?”

   Jace nodded. ”Of course, will you be okay though?”

   ”Yeah, I have my music, it’s just.. I need to think a lot of things through, and I’ll do that best on my own,” Simon took a step back, away from the sunlight and into the dimness of his own home. ”Thanks for checking on me.”

   ”Anything for you, mr Vice President,” Jace said with a small smirk. Relief sparked in him when he heard how Simon laughed at his words, the two of them sharing a tiny smile before the sliding door closed.

 

*~*

 

For the following three weeks, things were slowly going back to some sort of normality. Alec tried his best at keeping the Institute afloat: after the meeting with the representatives of the Shadow World, there was a rising need to get Valentine out of New York and to the Clave’s headquarters in Idris. He was a good leader, but the pressure was more than what one person could handle alone: thankfully to all of them, Magnus was there to support his boyfriend whenever he could.

   Jace helped Alec with the things Magnus didn’t: he went out on missions, guarded over Valentine and did a lot of the dirty work while Magnus kept Alec mentally together. It kept Jace’s mind off his own feelings and his situation with Clary. They still hadn’t spoken properly about what happened during their visit to the court: whenever they were in the same room, Clary hardly even looked at him and what little they did say to one another was short and awkward. Jace sometimes wanted to yell the truth at her, just to get it out of his way, but she wasn't ready to hear it: she kept to herself and only talked openly with Izzy, while everyone else got cryptic responses for the most part.

   During this time, Jace didn’t see Simon at all. He knew that something had happened with Simon: the vampire had almost been framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Izzy told him about it afterwards, how Luke and Clary found him stabbing the vampire who did murder the innocent mundane, but Jace hadn’t heard Simon’s side of the story so the details were in the dark. If Simon wanted to see Jace, the vampire knew where to find him.

   It was easier to stay focused on doing his job when Simon wasn't around. Jace gave it his all out on the field: he trained harder, fought better than ever and proved that he was loyal to his friends and ready to make a change for the better. He barely went out to hang at the Hunter’s Moon during the evenings due how finished he was after the missions.

   Jace wanted to help, so that was what he did.

   When it was close to a month after their visit to Seelie’s realm, they finally got a breakthrough with the search after the kidnapped kids. Alec had posted several shadowhunters around the city to keep an eye out after suspicious activities while Jace, Clary and Izzy gathered information from reliable sources.

   One of the shadowhunters on lookout reported one particularly busy afternoon that he heard about some business going down in a old facility in the outskirts of the city. He was unsure about of what sort of business it truly was, but if the intel he got from a werewolf in the whereabouts was true, it could be the kidnappers they were searching for.

   With a stern ”be careful” Alec sent Jace, Clary and Izzy on their way, and with Magnus’ help, the three of them found themselves sitting in a abandoned building across the street from their target in a matter of minutes. All of them knew the risks: if they didn’t succeed in finding the kids, relations with the Seelie’ court would become even more strained than they already were, and their hands would be red with the blood of innocent children.

     Clary prepped the last of her runes while Izzy and Jace kept an eye at the building. Magic caused a certain electrifying feeling in the air: for them, it was possible to sense if someone had been using large doses of magic nearby recently.

   This place? It reeked of magic.

   ”Clary, you’ll use one of your runes to get us inside,” Jace ordered. ”We have to handle this with care, because we can’t risk the lives of the missing children.”

   Clary nodded. ”I’ll do my best. Did John’s werewolf say anything about what we’re up against?”

   ”According to the source, the facility is now owned by a warlock under the name of Oliver Winter. I asked Magnus about him, but Magnus wasn't familiar with the name so we don’t have much information about how powerful Oliver actually is, or if it’s even him we’re up against,” Izzy explained, keeping an eye at the building while she dragged her fingers over her whip: anxious for going out and get the job done. She was still not fully recovered from the Yin-Fen, there was a slight tremble to her fingers at times and her gaze could flicker around a lot, but she was fit enough to go out on missions again.

   Jace was more than happy to have her back at his side again: she truly was the most skilled fighter he knew.

   ”We’ll stick together in there: keep our guards up and be ready for anything. It seems likely that Oliver’s involved in this, so keep an eye out for any magical activity. He’s probably not working alone, there could be plenty of guards once we’re through those doors. Don’t get separated. I’ll work as a distraction if it’s needed; Clary you’ll use your runes when needed, and Izzy will keep us under cover. There’s a lot of information in the dark here, loads at stake, but we can do this.”

   Both Clary and Izzy nodded in agreement.

   The street was eerily quiet as the group sneaked towards the rundown facility. Clary used one of her runes to get them inside, creating a hole big enough for them to get through in the warlock’s safety net. Jace tried to listen after footsteps or any indications that the kidnappers knew that they where there, but he heard nothing but the sounds they caused themselves.

   Izzy took the lead, her hand ghosting over the silver of her whip as she slowly moved through the deserted room. The storage room was a lot smaller than expected, but there were two doors scattered by the far side, along with a staircase that lead to the second floor: there was a platform that leapt around the room: perfect for spotting any intruders trying to hide behind the old cars that stood down on the floor. The group crouched behind them and used the vehicles as cover.

   Jace felt uneasy. The lack of sound was disturbing; there was a heavy, oily smell in the air and it stung in his nose. Wasn’t this a bit too easy? They had practically walked right in through the door thanks to Clary’s runes, shouldn’t there be guards or something more?

   This was starting to feel more like a trap by every step they took. He sensed that the others could feel it too, throwing alarmed glances all over the room to make sure that no one was either watching or following them. It remained empty: not even with the help of a rune to spot anyone using illusions to cloak themselves could help them spot any living creature.

   They huddled behind a rusty car once they were close to one of the doors.

   ”This doesn’t feel right,” Clary murmured. ”What should we do?”

   ”We’ve come this far,” Jace whispered back. ”Keep an eye out, I’ll take the lead from here. Izzy, you’ll cover me and Clary will take the back.” The older shadowhunter pressed his body against the car and slowly made his way alongside of it to the very edge: the last few feet between the car and the door were unguarded, but also out in the open. He wouldn’t have anything to protect himself with once he was out there: Jace enjoyed being the diversion if it meant keeping the harm off his friends. He gladly took one for the team.

   ”Ready?”

   Izzy barely moved her lips. ”Ready.”

   Jace took a deep breath and lurched forward.

   Everything after that happened in a blur.

   As soon as Jace sprinted out on the floor, still partially crouched, a roaring sound pierced through the room. He covered his ears with his hands: it was still loud enough to make his skull hurt and his blood boil.

   A man stood up on the platform with burning eyes. He held both of his hands up in the air, Jace knew that the sound came from the man as two balls of pure fire shot out of the man’s fingers and towards Jace with rapid speed.

   ”Watch out!” Izzy called from somewhere behind the blonde shadowhunter. Jace threw himself out of the way, rolling over the floor with the grace of someone whom knew the battlefield inside and out.

   ”Find the kids!” he screamed at his friends. ”I’ll take care of the warlock!” The girls looked like they were about to protest, but the glare Jace sent their way as he ran towards the staircase caused them to run towards the doors: splitting up to cover more ground.

   This was not what Jace wanted. There was a bigger chance that they got hurt if they split up: there was a certain strength in numbers and knowing that he had someone who protected his back. Desperate times meant desperate measures.

   Dodging for another wave of fire, he ran and slid over the cars to get to the staircase before the warlock burned the whole place down. It was a miracle that neither of the old vehicles had caught fire yet, it surely was bound to happen in a matter of minutes.

   They needed to be quick. If the building caught fire, there was a big change that neither of them would get out of this alive. Clary and Izzy were two of the absolute best: Jace had faith in them succeeding while he kept the warlock occupied.

   ”Do you want to blow all of us up?!” Jace roared. He reached the staircase, swiftly running up the steps and dodging for the warlock’s attempts to slow him down. ”Oliver, stop this!”

   The warlock showed no signs of being affected by the name: he backed away over the platform and conjured more spells against Jace. There was a manic glimt to his features that normally would be worrying: now, with the fire, it looked dangerous.

   Jace had managed to dodge the warlock’s attempts at hurting him, but his luck ran out once he reached the platform. As he tried to throw himself out of the way, some of the fire burned his elbow: straight through the jacket and stinging his skin.

  A hiss of pain came from the shadowhunter. He had fallen close enough to the edge to have his head hanging out from the platform: the smell of burnt leather and scorched skin was overwhelming.

   ”Why are you fighting this?!” the warlock laughed. His voice was light with a touch of something raspy: it sounded unused, like the warlock mostly kept quiet and let others do the talking for him. ”Even if you win here, shadowhunter, you won’t be able to stop me and what I’ve put in motion.” The warlock crashed into the wall: all of his focus had been on Jace, he hadn’t realised that he’d reach the very end of the platform he was standing on.

  Jace scrambled to his feet in the blink of an eye and ran forward with everything he got. The sword worked as a extension of his arm, the familiar metal filled him with an odd peace that spread through his whole body. He threw himself at the warlock, causing both of them to stumble down onto the second platform with a loud bang that made the whole construction rattle.

   The warlock tried to push Jace off him with sheer strength, but Jace was taller and heavier, manging to pin the man down as he threw a punch to the warlock’s face. ”Stop resisting, give up and this won’t end too badly for you,” Jace growled. The elbow where the warlock’s fire had scorched him hurt with every punch, Jace pushed the pain down and focused at keeping the warlock occupied enough for his friends to get the kids out.

   He hadn’t seen nor heard any sign of where his friends where and how they were doing. The silence was good though, he fooled himself into believing that they were fine.

   The warlock squirmed beneath him: a gurgling sound escaped his lips, showing off bloody teeth as he smiled widely. ”You’re wrong.” With a twist of his hand, the warlock pushed Jace off him with the help of his magic.

   Jace flew back a couple of feet, crashing against the wall and dropping his sword in the process. There was a moment where he forgot how to breath, an overpowering pain spreading in his head from where it had collided with the wall. The warlock was nowhere to be seen, only a few drops of blood remained on the floor where they had fought seconds ago.

   ”Jace! We got them out!”

   Clary stood down on the floor beneath him: he could focus on her hair that reminded him so much of the fire spilling from the warlock’s fingers. He couldn’t pinpoint where Izzy was, but the sound of fighting and the unmistaken sound of her whip told him what he needed to know.

   Jace rose from the ground with shaky legs. The warlock's sudden exit gave him enough time to scan the room and see what they were up against. Izzy was fighting two men on her own by the doors on the lower level, moving with ease and dodging from their attempts at bashing her skull in.

   Clary stood over by the entrance: torn if she should help her friends or keep the kids safe, whom were gathered around her and looking horrified about the whole thing.

   ”Get them out of here, call Magnus and get him to portal us out of here now!” Jace shouted at her. ”I’ll help Izzy!” He ran towards the staircase, expecting the warlock to pop out at any given second. Clary, along with the kids, hurried out through the entrance and out onto the street, at least that was one less problem to worry about for now. In his worry over Clary, he managed to take a wrong step that sent him stumbling down the remaining steps of the staircase: the aching parts of his body screamed in pain at every impact he had against the metallic steps.

   Much to his own luck, he rolled right into one of Izzy’s opponents and made the man fall to the ground.

   ”Always so graceful, Jace!” Izzy laughed.

   Jace merely grunted in reply. After the embarrassment of falling down the stairs, Jace pinned down the man and punched him hard enough to keep him out of it for the rest of the night. With a cracking sound, the man’s head tumbled to the side and Jace took it as his cue to go on to the next target.

   ”Let’s go! Magnus’ here!”

   Clary had reappeared by the entrance.

   With a growl, Izzy knocked out the man she’s been fighting with and she teamed up with Jace to get to the entrance where Clary waited.

   Still perplexed that the warlock had vanished, Jace couldn’t shake the feeling that this still was too easy. All that jabbering about the warlock winning whatever the outcome was here made him worry: was there a bigger picture here that they didn’t understand?

   A piercing scream brought Jace back to his senses.

   ”Clary, look out!” Izzy screamed. Just as the words passed her lips, Jace noticed that there was someone standing up on the platform again. Too late, he noticed the warlock along with a Seelie, the later of the pair wielding a bow; the arrow hit Clary, causing her to fall forward with a pained shriek.

   As Clary fell, time seemed to seize to exist. The arrow looked misplaced, it stuck out of her like a thin pole and it made Jace furious just to look at it. He turned around, heading back towards the staircase with newly found strength and adrenaline pumping through his veins. There was no time to draw any new runes: he would have to deal with what the human-side of him could provide.

    He saw the warlock look at him with amusement: smiling so wide that the bloody teeth showed again. The Seelie at least got the guts to look frightened, because while Izzy had continued towards Clary, Jace had turned and went for the stairs.

   The warlock was playing with them, it was easy to see. ”You should’ve finished what you started, Herondale.” Twisting his hand, the warlock opened a portal, much to the relief of his companion.

   The Seelie looked like he wanted to run into the portal directly, dismay was clear as day when the warlock held him back. A thick scar leapt over the Seelie’s face: red and rather ugly-looking, causing the man to look rather twisted.

   Jace was almost there. The anger drove him forward: they hurt Clary, god, if they hurt her bad, he was going to make them pay for it. ”Fight me then, cowards!” he spat out. ”Fight me!”

   An arrow came for him, missing only with a couple of millimetres. The Seelie looked terrified, like he just now realised that what a grave mistake he did for shooting an arrow that missed a very furious shadowhunter.

   Just as Jace was about to take ahold of either of the two, the warlock used the spell to push Jace away again. Rock-solid air hit him with the force of a truck: he tumbled backwards, completely losing his footing once again and he was mad. Mad. Furious, even. What he didn’t realise was how close he’d been to the edge of the platform, one wrong step and he would have fallen over.

   The air pushed him back, he couldn’t get a grip on his footing and he felt how the ground vanished from beneath his feet.

   For a moment or two, Jace felt weightless. No fear, simply a serenity and peace that couldn’t be more out of place.

   The ground wasn't far away, not more than a couple of meters at tops. He should brace himself for the impact, do a rune, something. Instead, he just let himself fall.

   A fire roared to life up at the platform. There was a sickly loud sound that pounded through his ears, despite that he could still make out the warlock’s laugh: the horrendous sound reminded Jace of the chilling one of the Queen of the Seelies.

   When Jace landed at the top of one of the rusty cars, the air got knocked out of his lungs again. He saw stars scattered over the ceiling: there was a darkness roaming at the very edge of his vision. Spots of orange, red and yellow along with the smell of smoke. There was a ringing in his ears he couldn’t block out. Where were the others? Did Clary make it?

   After a few painfully long minuters, hours or days, someone came into view. At first, Jace couldn’t focus enough to see whom it was: there was a gentle voice he recognised.

   Magnus.

Chapter Text

Jace woke up at the Institute in his own bed. His head felt full to the brim with cotton and there was a dull ache in his bones. Moving proved to be a slow occasion, like his body still felt worn down from the last mission. A bitter taste lingered on his tongue when he thought about how horribly wrong everything went.

   How was Clary? Was she okay?

   Dressed in proper clothes instead of a simple tee and slacks, Jace went out to search for answers. There was an eery silence infecting the walls, Jace didn’t run into anyone until he’s walked a good five minutes and through a couple of rooms that usually were crowded with people.

   He took the elevator downstairs, hoping he could find some more people in the centre of the building. Luckily, he was right: as the doors slid open, a bunch of people where walking around. Most of them seemed to be in a hurry, Jace tagged along and went into the heart of the Institute to find most of his friends standing by one of the consoles: Alec, Magnus and Sebastian.

   Izzy was there too, Jace noticed as Alec took a step to the side. Her long, black hair was pulled back in a ponytail. From what Jace could see, she had no major injuries and seemed to be in okay shape considering the circumstances. She was talking loudly with her brother, from the sound of it, they were discussing the mission.

   When she noticed Jace, she ran over to give him a long hug. ”I’m so glad that you’re up!” The smile on her lips was contagious, Jace felt himself smile as he gave her a small squeeze. ”Gave us quite the scare when you took your swan dive, Jace.”

   Jace snorted dryly. ”Thanks for reminding me, Iz. How’s Clary? Do we have anything to go on to find the warlock and the Seelie? Did the kids make it out okay?” A bunch of other questions brewed beneath his skin, but he kept himself contained enough to hold it for a moment.

   ”Clary’s fine. We have people observing her in the infirmary, but she’s eager to get out in the field again,” Isabelle explained. Smiling over Jace’s relief, she continued. ”The kids are kept in the infirmary as well. We’re not sure what they’ve been through, neither of them had said anything to us yet, but they’re at least safe here for the moment.” Her smile faded while she spoke; Jace had no idea to what the other rooms back at the facility had contained, if it caused Izzy to look this pale and alarmed, he didn’t really want to know. Izzy was one of the closest friends he had: Jace trusted her judgement, most of the time even more than his own.

   ”What about the warlock?” Jace pressed on as the two of them joined the others by the console.

   ”The warlock is a very old acquaintance of mine,” Magnus sighed. He was leaning against the console that showed of a map of the city, something cryptic and unreadable over his features. There was a small look shared between the warlock and Alec before Magnus continued with another sigh. ”I haven’t seen him for centuries, back then he didn’t go by the name Oliver Winter. I knew him as Nathaniel De’Leavue, believe me, he was a real firecracker even then.”

   Nathaniel De’Leavue didn’t ring any bells for Jace. Seeing the expression on Magnus’ face caused him to wonder just how much harm this Nathaniel had caused, how dangerous he truly was.

   ”Nathaniel have always had a thing for the dramatic and liked to dabble with things that were strictly forbidden,” Magnus continued. ”I’ve seen good people fall to his crazy antics, but I didn’t think that he possibly could have survived all these years.”

   ”How do you know that Oliver Winter is Nathaniel?” Jace asked. ”Did you manage to get a look at him before they left through the portal?”

   Magnus nodded. ”That I did. His face is not one I’m going to forget anytime soon. He’s very powerful, especially when it comes to taming fire. If you run into him again, he won’t be as easy on you as he was yesterday.”

   Jace blinked. It felt like he’d been gone for not more than an hour, was he really asleep for a whole day? No wonder why his head felt all fuzzy and slow.

   ”We don’t have much to go on yet, but Magnus have promised that he’ll seek out some of his old friends that used to know Nathaniel back in the day,” Alec said, continuing from where Magnus left off. They stood next to one another, their fingers barely touching at the table. Sometimes giving even the smallest signs of comfort were enough. ”While he’s away, I suggest we focus on finding out more information about the Seelie. Unfortunately, we lost the two other men Jace and Izzy knocked out to the fire, our only casualties, so we don’t have much to go on there either. I propose that we seek out the Queen again, she may know something about the man or know someone who will.”

   Alec turned to look at Jace. ”I’m not commanding you to go, Jace, but since you got the best look of the man, I think you’re right for the job. Use the runes to help you remember. Are you up for this? I can order someone else to go if you don’t want to meet with the Queen again.”

   Jace shook his head. Personally, he thought that any place was better than going back to meet with the Queen after what happened the last time; since Alec needed him to, Jace put his own feelings aside to do the job he was supposed to do. He had been closest to both the warlock and the Seelie, while Izzy was busy with helping Clary after she got shot with the arrow, Jace had gone after the attackers.

   This was something he needed to do to help.

   ”I’ll do it,” Jace agreed with a sigh.

   The smile on Alec’s face was the definition of grateful. Alec may hate putting his parabatai in danger, Jace could feel it through their bond and he was positive that Alec could feel that Jace had similar feelings for Alec in that matter, but he also knew that Jace was skilled with both weapons and words. ”Good. I’ll request an audience with her as soon as possible.”

   Sebastian, whom for the whole conversation had been listening to the others talk, clasped his hands together and looked like there was something bothering him. ”We’re still in the dark about so much. Isabelle, you told us last night about a lab? What would the warlock be doing with a lab?”

   ”Clary and I found a lab when we searched after the missing kids,” Izzy explained, looking at Jace. ”There was so much stuff there, but we didn’t have the time to go through it all since our priority was to get the kids out of there. Nathaniel was working on something, and from what little we saw, it seemed to be pretty big.”

   ”I suggest that we head back there tomorrow. The fire could’ve left some of it untouched,” Sebastian offered. ”Isabelle and I can go there tomorrow. If we’re lucky, we’ll find something that’s worth our time.”

   It seemed like a reasonable plan. They were empty-handed and grasping at straws, anything was better than just staying still and waiting for Magnus to return with news from his friends.

   Alec nodded. ”Okay, we’ll work with that. Jace, you head to the court once I get an audience fixed for you, Izzy and Sebastian sees if there’s something left at the facility tomorrow and Magnus you’ll seek out your old friends and get intel on Nathaniel. I’ll talk with John and see if he can get in touch with the werewolf whom knew about Oliver Winter and also keep people on the lookout after information regarding any of this. Dismissed.”

   The group scattered, as Jace was about to turn around and head towards the infirmary, Alec took a hold of his arm. Magnus remained as well, eyeing the map but it was clear that his head was some place else entirely.

   ”How are you doing?” Alec asked, softening his grip around Jace’s arm. The confidence and sternness from the meeting had switched to something a lot more sympathetic, kinder even. ”Izzy told me that you fell pretty far, apparently landed on the roof of a car. Some heavy stuff, if you ask me.”

   Jace gave Alec’s arm a slight shove. ”I’m okay, really. It wasn't as bad as Izzy told you, I’m okay enough for a new mission when you need me to, Alec.”

   Alec smiled at that. ”You’re tough Herondale, I’ll give you that.” He laughed when Jace shoved at him again, causing the blonde shadowhunter to smile a little as well. ”I think Clary wants to see you, she asked about you earlier. Have you told her about how you feel yet?”

   With a sigh, Jace shook his head. ”No, I’m not sure if now’s the right time for that either.”

   ”Just tell her about it so both of you truly can move on,” Alec proclaimed. ”Stop keeping her in the dark when she deserves to know the truth.” Of course, the taller shadowhunter was right. It was bad enough that Clary and him barely had spoken since their last visit to the court, he didn’t need Clary to believe that something was going to happen between them when it clearly wasn't.

   ”Fuck you for being right all the time,” Jace sighed.

   ”Go to her, I need to say goodbye to Magnus,” Alec said, gently pushing Jace away. ”I’ll see you in the morning.”

   

 

*~*

 

Clary got a small room of her own down at the infirmary. When Jace gets there, she’s propped up on the bed with a bunch of sketchbooks; one of the bigger ones with golden details along the edges was sprawled out on her lap. She looked up at the sound of his knock, breaking out a smile when she saw that it was him.

   ”I hoped you would come by.”

   The softness and general friendliness of her voice was a welcoming change from the previous weeks of awkward silences and short answers. Clary meant a lot to him, even though it weren’t romantic anymore, it wasn’t right when they were arguing and not speaking to one another.

  ”Apparently I was out of it too, otherwise I would’ve come to check on you sooner,” Jace said, holding up his hands to show that he came with good intentions. ”I think you scared all of us yesterday when you got hit by that arrow. How are you holding up?” He sat down at the edge of her bed; the sketchbook was still open and showing a partially unfinished portrait of a young man. It took Jace no more than a second to grasp that he saw a drawn version of Simon’s face. Not the broken reality which he had met by Simon’s home a couple of weeks ago: this was the real deal, the happy Simon with crinkles by his eyes and a smile that could give the sun a run for it’s money. Jace wanted to rip the sketch out and carry it with him, how could Simon not see how beautiful he was?

   Clary noticed that Jace was eyeing the drawing and shut the book in a hurry, her cheeks flashing with a rosy colour. Her reaction was a little odd, but since she didn’t know that Jace’s feelings had changed for her, she maybe still thought Jace felt jealous of Simon. If she truly just knew whom he was jealous of in that regard.

   ”I’m fine,” the redhead insisted, her fingers meddling with the sketchbook’s cover. ”Izzy said that there was some sort of substance found at the arrow, they’ve given me a bunch of tests and nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. The healing rune helped out, I’m fit for fight but I’m kept here for observation for a couple of more days to make sure that there’s truly nothing wrong with me. Makes me restless to just sit here though you know, the arrow didn’t go that deep and I feel great so it’s just a waste of time that I’m not out in the field.”

   ”Do we have any information about the substance? Is it dangerous?” Jace asked. He recalled that neither of his friends had mentioned anything about some kind of substance earlier.

   Clary shook her head. ”Not that I know of. Alec got people working on it though, Magnus’ gonna ask Dot to help out too. I’m doing okay so I guess that whatever was on it, isn’t causing me any particular harm.”

   Knowing that the arrow was dipped with some unknown substance made Jace feel a bit sick. Clary could’ve been poisoned yesterday because he didn’t stab the warlock quick enough: her life could’ve been lost for one of his lousy mistake. He agreed with the others about keeping Clary in bed for a few more days, she needed to regain all of her strength before she could get back out in the field again.

   ”Since no one seems to know for sure what it is yet, I also think it’s best for you to stay in bed for a few mors days,” Jace said quietly. ”I’m not allowed to go out in the field for at least one more day, so I can keep you company if you want, but you have to understand that Alec’s not ordering you to stay put out of spite: we’ve lost enough people as it is, we don’t need to risk your life too until your ready for it.”

   Clary glared at him, probably because of his agreement with her not being allowed to leave the Institute. She put the sketchbook by the others at the nightstand and threw herself back against the pillows: her hair sprawled out over the covers, looking a lot like liquid fire. ”It makes me anxious to know that the others are out risking their lives while I’m stuck in here with my drawings. Ever since Simon I’ve… I need to keep myself occupied.” The look she had in her eyes as she looked at the blonde was glimmering with feelings she didn’t want to acknowledge: a longing that barely could be contained and the gentleness of a summer’s breeze.

   Feelings Jace didn’t share with her.

   Jace bit the inside of his cheek hard enough to taste blood. ”Clary, there’s something I’ve wanted to talk to you about ever since we went to meet the Queen.”

   Neither of the reactions Jace thought would come did: Clary didn’t act angry or resentful; she didn’t brush him off, instead, she looked at him with something that only could be described as sadness. Like she knew what the next words out of Jace’s mouth were before he even got the chance to say them out loud.

   ”What happened at the court was wrong. The Queen used your feelings against you and that was cruel to both you and Simon: it pains me to have been the marionette in her game, but the kiss… Clary, I don’t feel that way about you anymore. I’m not in love with you, it’d be cruel to the both of us to keep you in the dark when you should get the same chance as me to move on and put this behind us.”

   The conversation Jace had worried about for weeks took not more than a minute. All of the guilt he felt over his part in the situation ate him up from the inside, especially considering his growing feelings for Simon and how much he already saw Clary as his family.

   Putting this whole thing behind them was one of the few things that still mattered. They were a team: if they couldn’t trust each other, they wouldn’t be able to work together anymore.

   Shaking her head, the sea of liquid fire moved along with her. One tear was threatening to fall, but she did her best to hold it back. ”I knew that something along those lines would come. Believe me, I’ve tried to fight this with every piece of myself ever since it came out that you were my brother. With Simon, it was easier to forget about them, but I feel terrible for doing this to him. I love Simon, I really do, he’s my best friend and the sweetest boyfriend in the world, that’s why it hurts that I couldn’t get you out of my head. It’s not as strong as it was before, but there’s still something there and that was enough to ruin whatever I had with Simon. You’ve done nothing wrong, Jace. It’s not like you have any power in who gets feelings for you.” She wiped the tear away with her thumb, trying to smile but it looked bleak.

   Jace wanted to comfort her in some way: his heart hurt to see Clary this sad. He scooted closer, just enough to hold out his hand for Clary to take it if she wanted to. Her hand felt small in his own: the skin almost as thick from the various fights they’ve been in the past. Being a shadowhunter didn’t come with a lot of opportunities of vacations to warm beaches and sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas every other weekend.

   ”Simon and I are through,” Clary confessed a few moments later, her voice a lot quieter than before: shielded with pain. ”He said that he needed space, I can’t blame him because I can’t begin to understand what he must be going through right now. I’ll give him an eternity if it means that we’ll be able to get back to being at least friends in some way again one day.”

   ”I’m sorry to hear that,” came from the older shadowhunter. Whatever Jace felt towards the vampire, it still felt bad to hear the end of something that made his friends so happy once. Would Simon even care about him now when Clary wasn’t in the picture anymore? What did they really have together without her?

   ”It was bound to happen after the kiss, but it doesn’t mean that it feels any fucking better,” Clary almost spat out. Her emotions seemed to be all over the place, Jace knew that it might’ve been a mistake to bring up the break-up now when she’d been hurt just a little over a day ago, but he still thought it was the right decision to not keep her in the dark anymore. ”I’m sorry, I just don’t like talking about it. If you see Simon, can you please not tell him about what happened? Even if we don’t speak at the moment, I don’t want him to worry about me when I’m the least thing he wants on his mind right now.”

   ”Of course, if that’s what you want,” Jace smiled gently. He gave Clary’s hand a small squeeze before he dropped it. ”I’ve made you talk about heavy things enough for a week now, get some rest and I’ll see you in the morning.”

   Clary laughed thinly at his words. ”We needed to clear the air, Jace, I’m actually relieved that you brought it up. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She pulled the blanket up over her legs, taking the sketchbook from before and moving her body so she could continue working on her drawings.

   Jace threw one last look at it before he exited the room. Some of the weight of the past weeks had lifted from his shoulders, Clary finally knew about his feelings for her. That in itself would be enough to get him a good night’s sleep for once.

 

*~*

 

The yard between the Jade Wolf and the boathouse Simon called a home still smelled heavily of fish. Seagulls were shrieking above Jace’s head as he made his way down towards to the storage, wondering what they possibly had to be yelling about this late at night.

   He shouldn’t even be here, if Alec knew that Jace left the Institute, his parabatai probably would drag him back himself. Jace wasn't sure why he found himself standing outside of Simon’s home at 2 AM in the morning, but after his talk with Clary it just felt right to be here.

   Simon hadn’t showed any signs of still even being alive since the night after their trip to Seelies’ realm, was it really so hard to send a text every now and then to tell your supposed friends that hey, I’m alive and not out on a killing spree, or was that too hard?

   Apparently, for Simon it was.

 

Jace was just about to knock when he heard voices coming from somewhere nearby. Unsure of if it was one of Luke’s werewolves or not, he quickly went to hide in the shadows by the containers, hoping that whomever it was didn’t catch a glimpse of his scent.

   His wardrobe contained a majority of dark clothes, that was at least something to be happy about in a situation like this.

   The voices grew louder for each passing second: with the help of a rune, Jace could make out that it was a man and woman before they even came into view. Both of the voices were ones he recognised, he felt his heart sinking in his ribcage when Simon and Maia appeared by the boathouse.

   Maia and Simon were friends, that much Jace knew. He had noticed the stolen glances Maia threw in Simon’s direction when she thought no one noticed her, but he never actually considered that Simon might feel something for her too. Hell, Maia was funny and beautiful, but she was the complete opposite to Jace: he was the tip of an iceberg while she burned like a thousand suns.

   They weren’t talking about anything in particular: stupid things, like sci-fi movies and favourite foods. Normal things.

   Jace didn’t know why he remained there in the shadows for as long as he did. His body felt numb while he watched them hug when they said goodnight; Simon remained by the door and watched her leave, all while Jace looked at him and felt a blackness in his gut that made him want to break something apart; there was nothing but seagulls and emptiness in front of the door, long after Simon disappeared inside, but Jace still couldn’t move a muscle.

   What he wanted to do was to walk over to the door, knock on it until Simon finally opened and tell him about every dark detail Jace's kept hidden for so long. He wanted Simon to know about how scared he was of always being the burden, how he couldn’t stand being close to ducks for more than seconds at a time and how he slept with one arm holding onto the pillow when he could sleep at all.

   What he did do was to walk home alone with all of his secrets still intact.

 

*~*

 

 

For the following two days, Jace went to spend time with Clary. They didn’t talk about Simon: for them moving forward, it was the right call to make. Jace was still conflicted about seeing Simon so carefree with Maia the other night, the black feeling with what felt like claws around his heart made him mad at himself. His feelings for Simon shouldn’t go out over Maia, they weren’t the best of friends but he still cared about her.

   Mostly Jace sat at the edge of Clary's bed and read books about magic he borrowed from Magnus before the warlock left town while Clary continued with drawing in her sketchbooks. Her portrait of Simon remained unfinished: instead, Clary started on a portrait of Izzy directly from her memory. To see Izzy come to life on paper truly was a magic on it’s own: it never really struck Jace before just how talented Clary was at this, it looked almost like a photograph.

   It was nice to be able to share someone’s company without having to speak all that much. Jace knew he should talk about his growing affection for the vampire, because that was how people healthily dealt with their problems. He was not raised to make reasonable decisions about his own life thank you very much.

   Clary seemed to be doing fine. She hadn’t gotten worse: it was only a matter of time before she could head out on missions again. When the third day came around and Jace was sent out to check out a reported suspicion about demonic activity, Clary was on the brink of coming with him.

   ”I’m okay,” she kept repeating to Izzy and Alec over and over again, all while they just shook their head and shared amused grins. ”You can’t keep me here against my will, I want to be out there with Jace or any of you guys, I feel useless in here.”

   Jace left her when she was practically begging on her knees to Izzy to at least let her help out with sorting through the information they got from Nathaniel’s burned facility. Her eagerness to help was admirable, Jace knew how frustrating it could be to have nothing to do so he felt for her, he really did.

 

The mission took him the entire day to finish. There was an especially nasty revenant seeking refugee in the basement of a mundane apartment building: scaring and hurting some of the residents whom lived there.

   Jace, with the help of a rune, was able to detect the revenant and bring him down with a mere bruises and scratches of his own. He felt sore and tired when he got back to the Institute that evening. To be back out in the field was exactly what he needed: there was nothing which could keep his mind off things as good as a good fight did.

   There was a smell of freshly made food lingering in the hallway when Jace came back to the Institute. Hungry as a wolf, Jace followed the smell towards the kitchen to see if he could grab some of whatever it was that smelled so heavenly. He was positive that it wasn’t Izzy’s making, because her food usually smelt like something had burned to death. She may be capable of many various things, but cooking wasn’t one of them.

   Clary stood by the stove, dressed in some ordinary jeans and a big sweater: her hair tied into a messy bun. She smiled as Jace stepped inside.

   There was something slightly off with her, but Jace couldn’t press the finger on what the issue was. Didn’t she look a little pale? Wasn’t her eyes a bit more red around the edges than what they’ve been earlier that day?

   ”It smells wonderful,” Jace said as a greeting. He gave Clary a once-over and couldn’t spot any other things out of order, but there was a slight worry in his chest he couldn’t erase. ”Is there something I could get a bite of?”

   Clary tried to glare at him. It looked a lot less threatening than intended. ”I’m not sure, you didn’t back me up before with Izzy and Alec, I don’t give food to traitors.” There was no malicious meaning in her words, only a joking touch to her smile and those eyes that looked even more red now than before.

   Jace drew his brows together, looking at the younger shadowhunter and completely skipping the friendly banter to focus on the more pressing matter. ”Are you feeling okay, Clary? You seem a little pale.”

   After a particularly snide smirk, Clary opened her mouth to say something but it fell shut almost immediately. Her legs were shaking bad, Jace couldn’t believe he missed that when he walked in: he managed to catch her when she lost her footing.

   ”Don’t tell Simon,” Clary’s voice was barely louder than a whisper. She felt so breakable and vulnerable in Jace’s arms, he knew that if he released her she would most likely collapse against the floor. Her body was warm: a lot warmer than normal, even for a shadowhunter.

   He couldn’t understand how she thought about Simon in a moment like this.

   ”Izzy!” Jace shouted. ”Izzy, Alec! Anyone?! There’s something wrong with Clary!” He placed the back of his hand against Clary’s forehead: it was scorching hot. Her skin felt sticky against his. With a swift motion, he swept her off the ground and held her in his arms as he hurried out of the kitchen.

   He met Izzy on his way to the infirmary.

   Izzy looked collected, but her eyes showed off a glimpse of panic that was unusual for her. ”What’s wrong with her?!”

   ”Call Dot and turn off whatever’s on in the kitchen, we don’t need to start a fire too,” Jace exclaimed.  ”Maybe she have found something from her studies of that weird substance. I’ll take Clary down to the infirmary!” He sprinted forward while talking, hearing how Izzy shouted a ”see you there!” before she disappeared the other way.

   By the time Jace had reached the infirmary, Clary was unconscious. He took a step inside and found out that there was complete chaos in there too. People jogged between beds, checking the kids they saved from Nathaniel: all of them looked pale with the similar redness along the edges of their eyes. Jace didn’t like it in the slightest.

   He found an empty bed for Clary and placed her there with swift movements. Not even a rune could bring the fever down, she was still so warm beneath his fingertips and he was on the verge of panicking too. There was something going on here, but he had no idea what that was.

   ”Come on Clary, wake up,” he murmured, checking her pulse every other second. ”Don’t do this, please don’t do this.” He gestured for one of the other workers to come over.

   ”What’s wrong with the kids? Is it the same thing that’s going on with Clary?” Jace asked. Keeping his emotions under control in times like these was taking a toll on him: he needed to stay collected, he couldn’t slip now.

   The shadowhunter sighed grimly. The woman, whom Jace knew as Amira, checked Clary’s pulse and tried to gently lift at Clary’s eyelids. ”We don’t know what’s wrong with them, Dorothea haven’t given us any update on what we’re dealing with but whatever’s going on with Clary is probably the same thing as what’s happening with the kids. It seems to be some kind of infection, she’s alive and breathing but none of the kids have slipped into unconsciousness yet.”

   It only took a couple of minutes until Izzy, Dot and Alec sprinted in through the doors. The three of them rushed to Clary’s bedside where Jace was still standing. Amira had gone back to check one of the younger kids who barely could keep her eyes open.

   Nathaniel had done something with these kids and to Clary, thanks to that godforsaken arrow. Jace wanted to rip his throat out with his bare hands.

   ”Oh no,” Dot whispered at the sight of the young woman. She quickly looked at the gathered group of shadowhunters, biting her lip.

   Jace couldn’t stop himself from lashing out. ”What’s wrong with her? Magnus told us that you had things under control, Dot. What are we dealing with? Aren’t your magic supposed to keep this from happening?!”

   ”We’re not without flaws, Jace,” Dot said, her voice cold and furious. ”Whatever screwed version of warlocks you believe in, we’re not almighty. I’ve worked day and night to try to find out what the substance we found at the facility is but I still haven’t made the progress I hoped for. What I do know is that it’s not something out of this world: it’s demonic, and I think that it’s not contagious if you don’t get it injected into you in some way. The kids have all marks on their bodies that would go with my theory: Clary got hit by an arrow that dug into her flesh, I think that’s how it spread through her body.”

   Alec was checking the status on the kids while Izzy and Jace listened to Dot’s explanation. This truly was the worst sort of problem because there was nothing Jace could do against a disease: he couldn’t beat something like this with his strength and that made him feel hopeless.

   ”You need to have more to go on than that?” Izzy said, sounding more like a question than anything else. ”Are they going to be okay, why did it take days before something happened to any of them?”

   Dot shook her head. ”I only have my theories at the moment, nothing’s 100% certain yet, but I think it has something to do with how the disease works: some takes time before it starts showing signs, it must be something truly dark if the rune didn’t help and since it didn’t show up in any of our tests, it’s unknown territory. The kids could’ve been injected with some kind of stabiliser back when they were captured that kept them from getting sick. Since they’re also now starting to show signs at the same time as Clary, it feels like the same disease is at work within all of them.”

   Jace sunk down at Clary’s bedside. His whole body felt heavy. Not only from the day’s mission, but from Clary’s uncertain fate as well. He tried to listen to Dot’s explanation, make sense of what she was saying. Words, so many words Jace couldn’t get a hold of.

   Clary looked peaceful where she laid with her hands at her sides. If it hadn’t been for the constant rise and fall of her chest, she could’ve passed for being dead already. All of it had happened so quickly: in the span of not more than a minute had Clary gone from a standing, living person to a broken shell.

   He remained there at her side until Alec was done with questioning the other shadowhunters: his parabatai looked concerned as he sat down beside Jace while Dot and Izzy kept discussing possible ways to get through this.

   ”We’ll find a way to make all of them better,” Alec said with that stern, honest voice of his. ”Magnus will get back tomorrow, he’ll know what to do.”

   ”You’re putting a lot of faith in one man,” Jace warned. ”What if he knows a little as we do?”

   Alec placed a hand at Jace’s shoulder, comforting him as best as he could. ”I need to believe that we still have something to hope for. Magnus’ powerful, I know he can do a lot to help us out now when Dot have made some progress for him to begin with.”

   He sighed and looked like he didn’t want to continue with this conversation. ”I hate to say this, but I need you to be focused tomorrow. I meant to tell you when you got back from your mission that your audience with the Queen is confirmed: you need to head to their realm in the morning, I’ll be here at the Institute with the others, we’ll keep an eye at Clary and all of the kids.”

   Jace rose from the bed and left the room without saying another word to either of them. None went to stop him from going: he could feel their eyes on him as he went through the doors. What he needed was to disappear.

 

*~*

   

Don’t tell Simon.

   Clary’s last words rung clear as a day in Jace’s ears as he walked to the Jade Wolf and Simon’s boathouse. Izzy sent him a text that Clary was in a coma. He had fought the urge to throw his phone against the ground just to see it shatter like his heart did in his chest.

   Don’t tell Simon.

   Jace knew he probably should stay away from Simon altogether. There was a possibility that he would break down completely at the mere sight of the vampire now considering everything: he needed to tell Simon that Clary was.. sick. Despite the old couple not being on good terms with each other, Jace didn’t want to keep Simon in the dark about something like this. Clary and Simon were best friends for over a decade, if something happened to Alec during a fallout, Jace would’ve wanted to know.

   Don’t tell Simon.

   Jace pounded on the door.

   ”It’s open!” came a voice from inside: Simon. The vampire didn’t even bother with asking whom it was, that could seriously put him in danger.

   Without thinking twice about it, Jace dragged the door open with a bang and marched inside. He didn’t have time to admire how Simon had managed to make the old building cosy, there was more pressing concerns at hand than some nice rugs and furniture.

   Simon looked surprised at Jace’s arrival. ”Jace!” he exclaimed, flying off his bed in an awkward mess of limbs. For being a vampire, there was nothing graceful about how he moved: Simon had no control of most his body parts. ”What are you doing here?” he added, a little more contained.

   Jace paced around in the small space that wasn't cluttered with things. ”Don’t you know better than to not have a lock on your door?! Whoever could just walk in here and poof, you’d be dead? Are you really that stupid?!” Anger was always easier to channel than any other emotion: Jace knew how to handle anger, especially his own. Behind the anger, all of his other emotions could remain hidden. Hurt. Panic. Guilt.

   Surprised by Jace’s outburst, Simon drew his eyebrows together and crossed his arms over his chest in confusion. ”What’s your problem, dude? Of course I have a lock, I just don’t see why I should keep it locked while I’m awake and aware if someone’s at the door?”

   ”You’re still so naive,” Jace snarled. He kept on pacing around angrily. If he didn’t look at Simon, it was almost bearable to hold off the need to push Simon against the wall and kiss him. This whirlwind of emotions were a heavy weight around his heart: he craved to feel something else, something real that hurt in all of the best ways.

   Simon whimpering beneath him, pleading his - Jace’s - name.

   The shadowhunter had to hold onto a nearby boat to keep himself controlled. He noticed a chain and lock laying on the ground beside the door. Of course.

   ”Dude, what the fuck? I know you’re in a constant war with the world, but I was just sitting here minding my own business and you’re barging in here like I’ve ruined your life, why do you even care about my safety?!”

   Simon’s voice was heavy with accusations and the same confusion as before.

   Jace snapped around, his eyes shooting daggers. There was so much he wanted to say. So much that would change everything between them. ”I care because you’re my friend. With everything that's going on, I want my friends to stay safe from all of the shit out there in the world. Now more than ever.” He stared at the wall, chewing on the inside of his cheek and repressing the need to cry.

   A bunch of photos were taped against the metal. People Jace didn’t recognise: a girl with the same smile as Simon and the same crinkles around her eyes. An older woman smiling at the camera, probably a little over 40. Glimpses of memories Simon held dear.

   In the middle, there was one of Clary and him. Painfully happy, laughing at something that wasn’t present in the picture.

   Clary who was in a coma.

   Don’t tell Simon.

   ”Jace, it’s okay. I’m just not used to you stomping in here looking like you want to smack the shit out of me, what’s going on?” Simon assured. He took a few steps forward, Jace could see him moving out of the corner of his eye: leaving a few feet between them. ”Is there something wrong?”

    When Jace tried to answer, the air went out of his lungs and left him speechless. The words were like stones on his tongue, glued and incapable of leaving. He opened and closed his mouth a couple of more times, looking over at Simon with a pleading look in his eyes: why couldn’t Simon just see on him what had happened? Why did Jace have to say those words out loud?

   Jace’s silence made Simon look cautious. He met Jace’s gaze with one that said it’s okay, whatever it is, it’s okay and Jace desperately wanted to believe him. ”Is it…. is it Clary?”

   After a few seconds of trying to get his head to work, Jace managed to nod the tiniest bit. He closed his eyes to prevent him from seeing how Simon’s face broke, keeping the picture of a happy Simon at his eyelids. ”Clary’s in a coma.”

   Every sound seized to exist.

   Jace wanted to stop himself from breathing: every breath sounded like a bomb dropping in the compact silence. He could feel Simon’s presence, the vampire’s emotions filling the air with a weight of despair that clung to Jace’s clothes and skin, forced him to take an even stronger hold around the boat’s edge to keep himself standing upwards.

   Breaking Clary’s last wish filled him with guilt. He felt bad for doing the complete opposite as to what she wanted him to, but this was not some small, minor injury he could pretend was nothing. Clary was in a coma.

   Simon’s voice was hoarse with unshed tears when he spoke a lifetime later. ”What?”

   ”Clary’s in a coma,” Jace repeated, every word crushing to say out loud. ”We don’t know if she’ll make it.”

   More silence.

   There was a dry, painful sob that broke through the silence. Followed by a ”no, please no.”

   Simon was on the brink of leaving. Jace could sense how the vampire moved forward, not with his super-speed but regular, human steps. The shadowhunter managed to open his eyes just as Simon was about to move past him, Jace took a hold of Simon’s wrist and begged with his eyes for the vampire to stay.

   ”Don’t go,” Jace whispered, tugging at the wrist gently. ”Please, don’t go.”

   No answer came from the immortal. Simon kept shaking his head, like he couldn’t believe that any of this was real and that was when he began to cry. There was nothing beautiful nor cute about it: every sob was pained, raw and fit with the tears of blood that rolled down Simon’s cheeks.

   It took one look from Simon to make Jace pull him into a hug. One look of the devastation and realisation that he might lose his best friend to something he couldn’t do anything about. The vampire collapsed against Jace’s body in a mess of tears and limbs that were holding onto Jace for all they got. They kept each other upwards, Jace forced his eyes shut again as he absorbed everything of having Simon’s body pressed against his own like this.

   A coolness from the skin, warm tears and a smell of something softly irony and salty. It would’ve been intimate if it weren’t for the mourning and the bloody tears. Now, it contained two people with the need to keep themselves together.

   ”I don’t,” Simon stuttered against Jace’s shoulder. ”I don’t want her to die.”

   It took all of Jace’s willpower to softly push Simon away in that moment. He felt a part of himself being ripped apart and staying attached to Simon: remaining in the arms of the one person he wanted to be with. His hands remained at he vampire’s shoulders, the fingers really digging in to prevent Simon from trying to leave.

   ”Dot’s working to find a way to save her,” Jace said, trying to make them both believe in that there could be hope. Neither of them seemed to believe it, but Simon’s eyes got a shade lighter. ”I’m gonna do everything in my power to make her feel better again, Simon. Tomorrow I’m heading back to meet with the Seelie’ court to find out information about the Seelie who shot Clary with an arrow. That arrow’s the reason to why she’s ill, there was some sort of substance on it that poisoned her.”

   Simon nodded. His eyes fell tightly shut, it looked like he was repressing a strong headache from the way that he winched quietly a few seconds later. ”Take me with you. Jace, if there’s anything I can do to help, I want to do it. Take me with you.”

   ”I can’t risk it,” Jace stated. ”I can’t risk losing you too.”

   With those words, Simon pulled back and away from Jace’s hands. His eyes were wet with tears, a determination battling with the sadness. ”You don’t get to decide about what I do with my life. I don’t want to to sit here and know that Clary could… could die any second. I’d go mad, Jace, I’m gonna come with you whatever you want me to or not.”

   Simon,” Jace more or less begged. ”It could be dangerous, I don’t want to put anyone else in danger. Clary’s hurt because of me.”

  Simon stepped forward again, their bodies almost touching and it caused Jace’s breathing to grow stuck in his throat. If Simon kissed him now, it would ruin the little sanity the shadowhunter still had left.

   ”I’m coming with you. You can’t take on the whole world by yourself, Jace. You’re my friend too.”

   It was worthless to argue.

   Simon wouldn’t give in.

 

”Please reconsider,” Jace said when he was leaving a couple of minutes later. He stood by the door, looking out at the dark sky and the dimly lit containers. ”You don’t need to be involved with this mess if you don’t need to.”

   ”You came here to tell me about Clary, didn’t you even for a second consider that no matter what you said, it would end like this?” Simon tried to smile: there was no hint of happiness, merely a twisted tug to his lips that made him look even more like he was suffering. ”I’ll see you tomorrow.”

   Jace let the door slide shut behind him.

  Before he left, he heard the rattling of a chain and a lock snapping into place.

Chapter Text

After Jace got back from the Institute, he went straight to bed. Or, that at least was his plan. He kept rolling around and trying to find a position comfortable enough for him to sleep in but came up empty-handed.

   Hours went by. Jace weren’t able to shut out the race of thoughts in his head. After a bunch of failed attempts at getting the rest he needed, he decided to go down to the gym to blow off some steam. There was nothing more rewarding than a good workout.

   While Jace kept throwing punches at the sandbag, he thought about the last few days. Imaging that the punching bag was the warlock - Nathaniel - Jace kept hitting it until his knuckles felt sore and the skin turned red. He fixed the tape to cover up the wounds more so he could keep hitting the bag of sand.

   There was a tightness in his chest: a slight, raspy touch to every breath. He begun kicking the bag, his skin slick with sweat and his hair hanging in loose strands by his face. With all of the guilt he felt towards Clary: ruining her relationship, not being able to help her properly at the mission, unable to get his hands on the people who did this to her, there was nothing quite as bad as the electrifying feeling he still had in chest from earlier when he held Simon.

   Removing all of the pain and anger of it all, he wouldn't be able to hold Simon like that again. What Jace needed was to get over his feelings for the vampire if they were going to be able to work together to help Clary. He wanted them gone.

   ”Can’t sleep either?”

   Alec stepped up, putting the tape around his own knuckles with the tiniest of smirks. His shoulders were also tightened with worry: a similar worry over the same fate, worry over Clary.

   Jace didn’t need to say anything. That was the good thing about Alec, they could feel what was going on with the other through the bond to some extent. He kept on kicking at the sandbag: some small sounds slipped from his lips, putting more force behind each hit.

   The parabatai stood and watched Jace hit the punching bag a couple of more times before he interrupted it. He threw Jace one of the large sticks they used to practice with sometimes, ready to go some rounds.

   ”You’re going through something, and when you’re ready to talk about it, I’m willing to listen. Until then, you can ease some stress this way.”

   Jace took the stick, still not saying anything. He wasn’t ready to voice any of his concerns out loud yet, taking it out with physical force felt like the better way to handle things for now. With a swift motion, he latched out against Alec whom blocked him with ease.

   ”You can do better than that, Herondale. Show it.”

   Alec blocked another attack from Jace, making an attack of his own that Jace barely managed to block. He pushed forward, harder and harder with every leap until Jace found himself stuck in a corner. Both of them were breathing heavily: Jace felt a new sense of frustration over the fact that he didn’t manage to perform well at all.

   He pushed forward with a bit more power: channelling the anger and using it in his movements. After a few disappointing attempts at lowering Alec’s guard, he managed to strike Alec with a hit. And another one. And another one.

   Before he knew it, Jace had Alec pinned against the opposite wall.

   That’s the Jace I know.”

 

*~*

 

The late-night workout with Alec bare fruit: Jace managed to fall asleep and get some of the rest he needed. During a usual night, nightmares would keep Jace from sleeping more than an hour or two: spending the entire day on his feet helped some to keep the dreams away. A part of him actually wished he could remain asleep, even his nightmares were more pleasant than the now.

   Jace left the Institute as soon as he got dressed. On his way over to Central Park, Jace stopped to buy some breakfast. It was a beautiful day: there was plenty of leaves laying on the ground and covered most surfaces. If he could stop thinking about Clary, he probably would’ve found the beautiful morning pleasant.

   He hadn’t texted Simon in an attempt at keeping the vampire out of this mess. Simon could hate him all he wanted for it later, Jace simply needed to be sure that nothing happened to his friend.

   When he got to the right bridge, he almost dropped his breakfast in pure surprise since there was a person sitting at one of the benches there. Barely over the shock, he was close to choking on his sandwich when he noticed that it wasn’t a random mundane: no, of course it had to be Simon.

   ”What are you doing here?!” Jace demanded to know: repeating the very same phrase as the last time they where on this bridge; the only missing ingredient was Clary.

   The vampire snapped up at the sound of Jace’s voice. Simon's bones creaked when he moved, brushing dirt off his jeans and it made Jace wonder for just how long the vampire had sat there. Not that the chilly weather bothered vampires the same way it did with living creatures, it still sent shivers down Jace’s body just to think about sitting here all night.

   ”Well, I had a hunch that you weren’t going to tell me when you were on your way here, so I thought it was better to wait for you to come,” Simon shrugged his shoulders, squinting slightly in the bright morning light to get a good look at Jace. There was a touch of awkwardness between them after last night: could they hug as a greeting, had they reached that stage in their friendship yet? Jace took another bite of his sandwich to show that he wanted his space, which was a lie if he’d ever told one.

   What he wanted and what the situation needed were two entirely different things.

   ”You have to understand that I’m doing this because I do care about you and not because I’m a fucking asshole,” Jace pointed out with a sigh. ”I can’t stop you now, but it’ll make me sleep at night knowing that I tried to.”

   Simon snorted, a rather joyless sound as he made a grimace that probably was meant to be a smile. ”With you, Jace, it’s not easy to see the difference between the two. I told you last night that I was serious about helping out: I want to see Clary back up at her feet as much as all of you do.” He put his hands in his pockets, waiting for Jace to finish his breakfast.

   Sighing, the older shadowhunter finished his breakfast without saying another word. Tiny leaves were stuck in Simon’s hair and the way they rattled when Simon moved his head took up all of his attention. The need to brush them off was almost overwhelming.

   ”Let me handle the talking, it’s even more of a delicate, political mission than the last time so just keep your guard up and don’t kill any bugs this time,” Jace said, backing away enough to do the jump.

   The vampire merely rolled his eyes at him. He gestured towards Jace to take the lead: he didn’t have to ask twice, Jace sprinted and jumped over the fence like it was nothing more than a curb. Once again he felt himself float through the air: his body went through the illusion and he landed with a well-calculated roll on the ground in the other realm.

   Brushing some of the snow off his clothes, he moved to the side to give Simon some room to land at as well. The blonde hair were a little damp from the roll and hanged nicely by his cheek again, one of those tiny smirks appearing on his chapped lips as Simon broke through the illusion and stumbled down at the ground next to him.

   ”I’m not sure what I feel about being back here,” the vampire called out while standing up, glancing at their surroundings. Much looked the same as the last time they where here, the biggest difference was the sense of caution that seemed to infest the air.

   Jace had a strong feeling that they were being watched.

   ”Let’s make this quick, I have no need to remain here longer than absolutely necessary either,” Jace were already on his way over to the small hill and towards the path. His heavy, black boots stomped easily through the snow and he was grateful for the extra layer of clothing he put on before he left.

   This realm could be chillier than the mundane world, but today it was worse than usual.

   Simon caught up with him pretty quickly, vampire-speed and all that. Out of nowhere, Jace felt how someone touched his hair: brushing something off and it made him bat at the intruder with his hand to make it stop.

   ”I’m sorry,” Simon apologised immediately. ”You had some dirt stuck in your hair.” The vampire took a step to the side to create some more space between them, Jace felt bad about hitting Simon but still, Simon couldn’t just come here and do stuff like that when they were in a realm full to the brim with people whom may wanted to see them both hurt. The vampire should know that Jace’s reflexes were on the edge at any given moment.

   ”I can brush dirt out of my own hair thanks,” Jace muttered, not sure that Simon could even hear him. ”You need to warn me, I’m on edge already as it is for any of your surprises,” he added a bit louder, trying to sound like he usually did: all dry sarcasm, but it was like his ability to joke fell flat in these circumstances.

   ”Sorry,” the vampire repeated earnestly. ”I.. Jace, there’s something I want to ask you. Maybe it’s the wrong time to ask, but.. what happened with Clary? You said she got shot with an arrow, but that’s hardly the whole story, is it? You don’t need to answer if you don’t want to, but.. I don’t know, I guess I just want to understand this better. What we’re up against.”

   The mission that had gone so terribly wrong. In one sense, it was a success since they got all of the kids out of there, but thanks to the fire they lost a lot of important information they could’ve used to find out what was going on with all of them, Clary included. There was nothing but bitterness in his gut when Jace thought about it.

   ”Me, Clary and Izzy we’re sent to check out a lead about those missing kids the Queen asked us to search for,” he begun, looking straight ahead at some of those dangerous trees. ”It felt like a trap from the start, we had little knowledge about what we were up against and it showed. Izzy and Clary managed to find the kids while I fought with a warlock, Nathaniel De’Leavue. He disappeared after he threw me against a wall, I thought we were good to go but then the warlock, along with a Seelie, just shows up and the Seelie shoots an arrow at Clary.
   I tried to stop them, but the warlock pushed me off a platform and Magnus found me at the roof of a car when the attackers already had left. The whole thing was on fire by the time Magnus got me out, I don’t remember how we got out but Magnus have his ways I guess. There was some sort of poison at the arrow, as I told you yesterday, we think that’s why Clary’s ill.”

   ”Shit,” Simon breathed thinly. Out of all the things Simon could’ve said, that was the thing that fit the most. ”Has Dot found anything yet? Is Magnus back?”

   Jace shook his head. ”They didn’t have anything to tell me before I left this morning, and Magnus is supposed to get back tonight, Alec told me that at least.”

   Nodding, Simon sighed and remained quiet.

   The remaining walk to the castle was spent in silence. Not unpleasant in a awkward way, more that both of them had their own things to go through. How Jace actually got along with Simon was surprising: in the past, there were more downs than ups: being in love with the same girl and generally just not clicking did that to people, but as time progressed and they got to spend more time together, things changed.

   Simon was funny, ridiculously funny when he wanted to, always quick to crack a joke and smile all of the time with a passionate love for everything science fiction. That version of Simon wasn’t present now: this Simon was quiet with a vulnerable glimmer in his eyes.

   Was the same glimmer showing in his own eyes? What happened the night before, Jace felt ashamed for showing his emotions like that. After growing up with punishment as the answer towards any shown feelings, it was hard to to feel anything but shame about showing them.

   The difference between them was that Simon showed his emotions more freely, while Jace hardly showed anything at all. Except when he was with Simon, it seemed.

 

The castle were a lot livelier than during their last visit. Even before they reached the yard in front of it, Jace saw groups of faeries walking around: some with uniforms while others wore more casual attire. Their own clothing stood out compared to the Seelies’ earthy garments: still, the faeries with the casual clothes hardly even glanced at the newcomers while the guards mostly gave them once-overs.

   ”We’re here for an audience with the Queen,” Jace answered when a lone guard asked about their errand. The guard, with impressive root-like tattoos that went along their neck and face, looked rather disbelieving at first, but a familiar voice interrupted her thoughts before she could answer.

   ”Shadowhunter! The Queen is expecting you,” Valihn called out. He nodded towards the guard in a respectful manner: the guard showing the same gesture before she left the trio alone. ”Daylighter, I believe you’re not invited to this meeting.”

   ”Simon’s here as my companion in a very important matter, since the Queen so graciously let him be a part of our last audience, I hoped she wouldn’t mind him taking part of this one as well,” Jace answered.

   The guard eyed Simon carefully: under the pressure of the Seelie’s gaze, Jace noticed how the vampire’s body trembled ever so slightly. He placed a hand at the back of the trembling body, the urge to help stronger than any other feeling.

   ”I’m not here to cause any trouble,” Simon’s voice sounded slightly hoarse as he spoke.

   Valihn studied the vampire for another second, finally gesturing for them to follow him inside once he was done with the observation. Jace removed his hand from Simon’s back, keeping it at his side while they entered the castle.

   ”Can we try to not get separated this time? Sam and Frodo work better together,” Simon murmured quiet enough for only Jace to hear him.

   ”If you stop with the lousy fantasy references I’ll keep it in mind,” Jace answered with a mutter of his own.

   What?! How can you not like Lord of the Rings, are you even real?!” for a guy whom were incapable of being stealthy at any given situation, Simon had at least mastered the ability to scream at someone while simply whispering. ”I don’t understand why I’m not surprised, because it’s you, Clary told me-”

   The rest of the sentence remained unfinished. Mentioning Clary’s name caused Simon to draw his eyebrows together with a tormented look in his eyes, lips thin as line.

   Jace didn’t push the vampire to continue.

The throne room were a lot more crowded as well. Valihn entered the room with the pair in tow, causing all of the people in there to look at them in a mix of annoyance and surprise. Jace noticed that Meliorn was one of them: the Seelie looked as surprised as the other participants in the room: the only one who looked like their visit was expected, smiled with her teeth.

   Simon inhaled sharply next to the shadowhunter, stepping forward to walk over to where the Queen was perched up on her throne: she were older than last time, instead of looking like a 12 year old, she looked like a teenager with her red hair cascading down over her back, flowers and leaves tangled within the locks.

   ”Don’t do anything stupid,” Jace barely moved his mouth as he held out his arm to prevent the vampire from starting something they wouldn’t be able to finish. Simon tired to push his arm away, but Jace was stubborn.

   ”Jace Herondale, so you’ve returned to my court with the precious Daylighter at your side,” the Queen smiled almost smugly. ”Tell me, how’s dear Clary doing?”

   Jace took a hold of Simon’s wrist, urging him to stay in place with the mere touch of his hand. The shadowhunter met Simon’s irritated, desperate stare with one full of knowing and sympathy. Provoking a reaction out of them both, the Queen sure had her methods to show who had the absolute power.

   ”Your highness,” Jace begun, bowing towards the Queen and feeling more at ease when Simon did the same. Manners were still important, both sides needed one another in some way. ”On the behalf of the Clave, we’re here for information. Dear Clary, along with your missing kids, are all in our care back at the New York Institute, because they’re all very ill with an unknown disease. We request you to help us to save both our friend and the kids of your people.”

   The Queen’s smugness vanished in the blink of an eye. With a flick of her fingers, the whole crowd of people left the room quietly. Some of them looked worried as the walked past Jace and Simon, but no one said a thing.

   When the room was completely empty except for the two guests, the Queen and one of her guards, she motioned for them to come closer. Jace urged Simon on, placing his hand again at the vampire’s back to give him some kind of comfort.

   ”This illness you speak of, do you shadowhunters know what it is?” the tone of seriousness in her voice was different from anything Jace had heard before: her laugh sent chills down his spine, while this made him feel a bit of worry in his stomach.

   ”As of right now, we’re not sure. Friends, warlocks, are doing everything they can to find out what we’re dealing with. Dot, one of the warlocks, have a theory that it might be something demonic, possibly some sort of infection.”

   The Queen nodded slightly. For wearing the face of a young woman, centuries of sorrow filled her eyes. ”We’re no strangers to illness created with demonic sources. I’ll send some of my best healers to your Institute to help the warlocks with the disease, but I sense there’s more to the story than this. What do you know, Jace Herondale?”

   Jace gave the Queen the same explanation as the one he gave Simon earlier: he told her about how  the mission felt off from the start, about the facility and the two kidnappers he managed to see, along with what little remained when Izzy and Sebastian went to check the place out afterwards. She listened without asking any questions, looking almost lost in thought.

   ”One of the kidnappers were a Seelie while the other one was a warlock. The Seelie had a deep, ugly-looking scar over one of his eyes: slightly taller than I am with short, black hair. The warlock on the other hand, we have a name for: Nathaniel De’Leavue, going under the name of Oliver Winter too. Does the description or the name ring any bells for you, my Queen?”

   Slowly, the Queen got up from her seat and strode over to a nearby opening in the wall that must be used as a window. ”The name I’ve heard of, but it was a very, very long time ago. I thought he was dead.

   Nathaniel was a man with strong principles and unethical methods with a strong fascination for the power of fire. I heard he died in a fire back in the 17th century, it brings back.. memories I wish not dwell on to hear that he’s still alive. That one of my people helps him is beyond anything I could have imagined. The Seelie you speak of… a couple of months ago, one of my guards vanished. He had a scar that matches your description, we never thought much of it since he used to go to the mundane world a lot, this was before the kidnappings started. It never dawned on me that he could have something to do with the kidnappings, his disappearance and the first kidnapping was so far apart.”

   ”What’s his name?” Simon blurted out before Jace had even begun to open his mouth.

   The Queen snapped her head in their direction at the sound of Simon’s voice. Whatever the name was, it pained her to give away one of her own like this. ”His name is Jahni, he was a part of my court for many years. He used to spend a lot of time at one of the bars in the mundane city of Los Angeles. Venom. If you’re looking for him, I suggest you head there.”

 

*~*

 

”I won’t apologise for what happened here the last time you two came to visit.”

   The Queen sat at her throne again, her slender hands clasped over her knees. Childlike, but with the power of a whole sun at her fingertips. ”The truth always comes out one way or another. It would’ve hurt even more if I hadn’t forced Clary to step forward with how she truly felt.”

   ”You could’ve warned me about how much it would hurt,” Simon barked. He still stood beside Jace, merely inches apart. They were so close that Jace could sense how the vampire’s chest rose and fell, even though Simon didn’t even have to breath anymore to function.

   ”Oh, but I did warn you, daylighter, you can’t accuse me of otherwise,” the Queen smiled sadly. ”Hearts can mend, love can be found around the corner if you search for it.”

   Her gaze met Jace’s and the shadowhunter wanted to fall of the Earth. The last thing he needed was for Simon to know about what he felt, not when he finally had some kind of functioning thing going on with the younger man. Jace would fuck up eventually and Simon would hate him for it, he didn’t need to do it now when the vampire’s world already was upside down due to Clary being in a coma.

   ”I think it’s time for us to leave, your highness. Your generosity is as always admirable.”

   The Queen kept smiling. ”Of course, you know where to find me if things goes south.”

 

*~*

 

The Queen sent two of her best healers with Simon and Jace when the pair where due to return to their realm again. She wished them luck with their mission, swearing that if one of the kids fell victim to the illness, she would come and kill the warlock herself.

   Jace felt a glimmer of hope as he walked behind the two faeries with Simon at his side. They had a lead to go on, how small that might turn out to be it still was something. He had no idea if Izzy or Alec had gotten any new information from Magnus, no mundane technology worked in the faeries’ realm: he could only hope that Magnus had more concrete leads than he and Simon had.

   With a warlock’s help, they could get to Los Angeles easily. Jace had visited the city a couple of times for work, it was years ago now so he wasn’t sure what they could expect there. Venom didn’t ring any bells either, there was a chance someone back at the Institute knew more about it so Jace planned to ask around once they got back.

   He thought about the last time he walked here. Both Clary and Simon had run off by the time Jace walked home, miserable and with a crushing guilt weighing on his shoulders. It felt like a lifetime ago since that day.

   ”Have you ever been to Los Angeles?” Simon asked.

   Ever since they left the castle, they hadn’t really said anything but a couple of sentences to one another, both yet again so lost in their own thoughts.

   ”Yeah, twice,” Jace answered, keeping an eye out at their new companions, whom were quietly talking to one another ahead of them. ”Both times, I went there for missions. Never got to see the city that much, it’s a lot sunnier than New York so that’s that.”

   ”You’re really selling this to me, a sunny place? Truly never experienced a sunny day in my whole life. City of dreams, am I right?” Simon snickered dryly. ”I’ve always wanted to go, I’ve barely left New York to be honest. Magnus, god, Magnus teleported me to India once, that was unreal. I battled with a snake, maybe not the highlight of the trip but I won, so worth mentioning.

   Jace felt the corners of his lips turn upwards. To hear Simon ramble on like this, even if it only lasted for a short while, made things almost feel.. normal. He could almost picture how it could feel to be a normal mundane without the weight of the world on his shoulders, it was addicting.

   ”You still want to come with me? You heard the Queen, Nathaniel is not someone you want to mess with.”

   Simon took a hold of Jace’s arm and the sudden touch made Jace’s breath hitch in his throat. He wondered when they so casually began touching one another, had this always been there thing?

   ”That Nathaniel guy is a massive dick. He did things to innocent kids and hurt Clary bad, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than tracking him down to make him pay for what he did to all of these people,” Simon offered Jace a smile that almost, just almost, could pass as an attempt. ”Why is it okay for you to throw yourself at danger while I’m questioned whenever I even try to help out?”

   There was no easy answer to the question that would stop Simon from continuing to ask about it. Jace couldn’t say the truth, he couldn’t form sentences that worked as lies either, so he settled with the only thing he could come up with that almost sounded reasonable to his own ears. ”I’m a shadowhunter, you’re not.”

   Simon actually scoffed at that. ”You’re shitting me, right? That’s the worst excuse I’ve ever heard. I’m a shadowhunter, you’re not, well no shit Sherlock, I’m a vampire and I could give you a run for you money if I wanted to. As long as you’re throwing yourself at danger, I’m gonna be right there with you.” After succeeding at doing the worst impression of Jace’s voice in history, Simon stomped off and created new distance between them.

   Jace shook his head, cursing at himself for always managing to fuck things up even when he tried not to. He kept looking at Simon’s back: how tight the vampire’s shoulders were, the jittery way his legs moved while he stomped on, leaving fresh footprints in the snow, some of them mixing with the two Seelies’.

   ”What did the Queen talk to you about before? The last time we where here?” Jace called out after a few minutes.

   Simon didn’t stop, he continued forward but threw a quick glance over his shoulder back at Jace with what looked as something close to annoyance. A look Jace was most used to. ”She told me to watch out for you shadowhunters. You only care about yourselves, I begged to differ and told her that Clary wasn’t like that: she cared about me, but minutes later she kissed you and I knew the Queen was right. If a shadowhunter have to choose between one of their own and a downworlder, the answer is always the same.”

   Behind Simon’s boyish features, there was a sea of thoughts and feeling Jace merely had touched the surface of. He wanted to prove Simon wrong, but what would he accomplish with that? There was nothing Jace could do to make the vampire feel better, in the short amount time they had worked together Jace had managed to make things worse a bunch of times already.

   This time he let Simon walk further away, enough so Jace didn’t have to see every sharp line of Simon’s body whenever he looked ahead. He chewed at the inside of his cheek, the familiar taste of blood presenting itself rather quickly. Pushing Simon away surely was one way to get rid of the vampire, it still felt black and grey inside of Jace at the mere thought of hurting Simon further. That very sea of emotions in the vampire he’d barely seen, did he really have to add to the pain too?

 

Simon waited for him by the entrance along with their two companions. He still looked annoyed with Jace: the shadowhunter didn’t like it, but he had the habit to make everything into a joke if he needed to.

   ”No need to wait for me, mr Vice President,” he proclaimed, doing a little bow towards Simon as he waved with his hand in a dismissive gesture. ”I think both me and our new friends knows the way to the Institute from here, your highness can go on without us.”

   The Seelies were smart enough to go through the entrance directly: Jace had to remember to text Alec or Izzy about it so they knew to expect the healers as soon as he got out of this realm.

   Simon raised a accusing eyebrow at Jace’s antics: there was exhaustion showing in the way the vampire moved. He didn’t leave though, he simply stood there with his arms crossed over his chest and looked like the definition of bemused. ”I honestly don’t know what your fucking problem is because you’re the most confusing person I’ve ever met, but if we’re going to work together, I need you to put some faith in me. I’m not some kid you can boss around, I’m a grown man with abilities that could help us find a way to save Clary and I’ll do it with or without your help, you know that’s true. All I ask of you is some goddamn respect, Herondale, and that you treat me like I ain’t made of fucking glass.”

   Jace felt stunned by Simon’s honesty and anger. He knew he could be pushy at times, but he actually didn’t think he’d already managed to push Simon to the brink of exhaustion by simply worrying over the vampire’s decision to come with him.

    There was truth to Simon’s words because of course it was, Jace knew that, even though he pretended he didn’t. Simon would travel across the whole world if it meant that he could make Clary wake up again, if Jace truly wanted to keep him safe he needed to make this thing work and stop making decisions that Simon were perfectly capable at making himself.

   Defeated, Jace held up his hands. ”Okay, fine. You win, but you got to promise that you’ll listen to my advice every now and then. I’ve been out on missions countless of times, I have experience you lack, Simon.”

   ”Deal, I’ll listen to you if you’re not talking complete and utter bullshit,” Simon agreed. He held out his hand towards Jace, an invitation the shadowhunter couldn’t decline even if he wanted to.

   The memory of the past night, when Simon had cried tears of blood against his chest and held onto him like Jace was the only thing keeping him grounded felt like another lifetime. Did it even happen or was it just a dream?

   ”Glad that’s settled. I need to go back to the boathouse and pack some extra clothes and blood, then I’ll be ready to head out.”

   ”I’ll come with you.”

 

*~*

 

”What do you mean by ”Simon’s in”, Jace? Is he going to help with the mission too?”

   Jace sighed into his phone. One hand held onto the small, black object while the other hand held onto the railing on the roof as the subway cart took them further away from the city centre: towards Simon’s boathouse. Simon sat on a seat in front of him, his eyes closed as he soaked in a few moments of rest.

   ”He insisted to come, Izzy. It wouldn’t be fair to him if I said no, he’s every right to help if he wants to,” Jace argued. He hated arguing with Izzy, because he always lose to her. To his defence, he tried to call Alec three times but the guy was the worst at checking his phone, what was Jace supposed to do? They needed updates on Clary and the kids; if Magnus was back yet.

   ”You got that right,” Simon mumbled, opening one of his eyes enough to send a tame glare in Jace’s direction. He looked everything but threatening, Jace didn’t have the heart to tell him to stop.

   ”Is it such a good idea? I’m not against it, Simon decides that himself, but still, are you sure about this?”

   ”It’s not like I have a say in it, is it? He’s made up his mind and I won’t be stoping him if it’s what he feels is the right thing to do,” the blonde shadowhunter sighed. ”We’re on our way over, Simon just need to grab some things from the boathouse. How’s things at the Institute?”

   Simon sat up a little more straight, still with his eyes closed. You didn’t have to have any magical abilities to understand that he was eavesdropping on Jace’s conversation. It made Jace snort slightly, rolling his eyes at the vampire.

   ”Still the same. I’ve checked on Clary regularly all day, no change. Some of the kids have slipped into comas now too, Dot haven’t slept at all since last night and I’m worried she’ll pass out soon. I can’t look at Clary without getting this huge lump in my throat, it’s just.. tough, you know.”

   Jace knew too well what Izzy meant by that. ”Dot needs to sleep, the Queen sent some of her best healers to help us out, make them take over when they get there so she can get some rest. When’s Magnus coming back?”

   ”I’ll tell Alec to be on the look-out. Alec said Magnus’ onto something, he’ll try to get back tonight but otherwise he’ll be here by tomorrow.”

   ”That’s a relief,” Jace breathed out, that flicker of hope from earlier coming back to life for a brief moment. ”The Queen told us some stuff that’ll be to our help, I’ll debrief fully when we get back. See you soon, Iz.”

   ”Bye, Jace.”

   The phone weren’t even fully in Jace’s pocket before the vampire opened both of his eyes and looked eager to talk about the call.

   ”How’s… things at the Institute?”

   ”Still no change, Dot’s working around the clock. Magnus had something to go on, so that’s at least good. I’ll tell them about Los Angeles when we get back later.”

   Simon threw a glance at the other passengers, jumping from person to person. He lingered at Jace for a brief period of time. ”You didn’t have to come with me. I could’ve run home, since you know.

   ”Don’t even think about it, you know what’s out there, Simon,” Jace deadpanned. ”If something happens, I’ll be there and help out.”

   ”Does this mean that you’re my bodyguard or something?” the vampire couldn’t help but smile thinly at him.

   ”Don’t press your luck, Lewis.”

 

*~*

 

For someone whom literally lived in a boathouse, Simon had loads of stuff to go through. He tried to be as quick as he possibly could, only gathering the essentials that seemed to be blood, clean underwear and a couple of shirts.

   Jace stood by the door while Simon packed. Going through Simon’s clothes felt like an invasion on the vampire’s privacy, guarding the door seemed a productive way to spend his time. Something he noticed while he kept an eye at the door was that Simon sang to himself.

   Quiet words, barely audible at all but Jace caught the softest hymn of them and he couldn’t stop listening. Modern music was undiscovered territory for the shadowhunter: he liked instrumental compositions, it helped him focus a lot easier if the songs lacked a voice. Simon’s voice though, he could grow used to listening to that.

   ”I think I’m all-” Simon begun, only to get interrupted by a loud pounding at the door. He looked at Jace, whom held a finger over his lips, mouthing ”hide.”

   Jace had one hand ghosting over the knife tucked into the holster on his thigh, ready to attack while he pushed the door to the side. He let the hand fall back to his side when the sliding door revealed a very surprised Maia.

   The werewolf blinked at him, crossing her arms over her chest. ”What… are you doing here?” she asked in the lack of better things to say. ”Is Simon here or did I catch you in the act of going through all of his things while he’s away?”

   ”He’s here,” Jace stated flatly. His body were blocking Maia’s way inside, he had no intentions to let her in. What Simon and Jace needed to do was to get back to the Institute as soon as possible: Maia didn’t fit into that equation. ”He can’t chat though, we need to head back to the Institute so you can leave a message to me and I’ll pass it along to Simon.”

   ”Fuck you, Herondale,” Maia exclaimed and used her werewolf-strength to push Jace out of the way enough to slip inside, shooting him a dirty look as she ventured deeper into the boathouse.

   ”You have a visitor,” Jace called out dryly. ”Don’t take too long, we need to go.” Whatever Maia needed to tell Simon, Jace didn’t want to hear it. He slipped outside, catching a snarky ”got yourself a cocky shadowhunter bodyguard, Si?” before he got to close the door behind him.

   The door shut their voices out, Jace could breath again as he leaned against the wall, his forehead touching the cold metal for a second before he turned to let his back rest against it instead. Thinking about what Simon and Maia were talking about would only hurt him, imaging how Simon had to lean down just a few inches to kiss her tore a hole in Jace’s heart.

   The mission came first, he needed to remember that now more than ever. So what if Simon and Maia were a thing now, Jace shouldn’t be so bothered by it. His full focus should be at finding a way to help Clary and the kids, not mop over the guy he.. liked being with someone else. If he kept repeating it to himself, that Maia was the right pick for Simon, he could maybe start believing it some day.

   It was not like Jace deserved any of it, really. What had he done to Simon that was good? He ruined the vampire over and over again, what he wanted was not something he was allowed to get.

   At the sound of footsteps coming from inside, Jace opened the door and went back inside. Maia and Simon stood by the first row of boats, both of their heads snapping in Jace’s direction when the shadowhunter appeared in the doorway.

   ”Simon, we need to go,” he urged on.

   Simon gave a nod at that, sighing as he looked back at the werewolf. ”Maia, I really need to get going-”

   ”I know, I’ll be off, but Jace? A word?” the werewolf was out with a steady grip around Jace’s wrist before either of them knew what was going on. The door fell shut behind them, Maia dragged the shadowhunter far away from the boathouse so Simon wouldn’t be able to eavesdrop on whatever she needed to tell Jace.

   The feeling in Jace’s gut was rather worrying.

   ”If Simon gets hurt on this fuck-up of a mission, I’m gonna rip your throat out,” Maia stated fiercely. ”I can’t believe you’re allowing him to go with you, he’s not like you, Jace. Clary truly makes him drop all of his rational thinking.”

   ”You don’t think I’ve tried to tell him how dangerous it is? I can’t force him to stay put, Maia, even if I desperately wants him to stay here with you instead of getting involved, but it’s not fair to him: he wants to help, I can’t change that,” Jace exclaimed with a desperate tone in his voice. He dragged a hand through his hair, noticing how the blonde strands trembles between his fingers. Curling his hand into a fist, he tried to not let it show.

   Maia simply looked at him like it’s the first time she’s ever seen him. Surprised maybe over the fact that Jace did have a heart: if she only knew how much it ached, he was torn between showing everything and letting everyone keep on believing that he was the beast without sympathy. Things were a lot easier when people didn’t expect anything from you, but he was tired of this charade.

   Jace felt things so heavily that it made his head spin and his breath catch in his throat.

   ”It just baffles me every time you show that there’s something human within you, that’s all,” Maia explained, but Jace couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something she kept from telling him. ”I’m sorry to hear about Clary and the kids, I hope you shadowhunters find a way to make them better. Just, keep Simon safe for me?”

   ”I can’t protect him from himself,” Jace pointed out.

   ”Don’t break the illusion with that cockiness of yours, Herondale. I know you care about him, sometimes I even wonder if you don’t care about him a lot more than you give on.”

   A cold shiver ran down along Jace’s spine. Could Maia know how Jace felt about Simon? Was it that obvious for everyone else? By the Angel, Jace truly thought he kept up a good facade to hide behind: maybe he’d been wrong all along.

   ”Give me your phone.”

   Stunned, Jace blinks at the werewolf. ”What?”

   Maia smacked his arm, hard enough to leave a bruise. ”Dude, give me your phone, I’ll hand you my number so you can call if something happens to either of you idiots.”

   Jace handed it to her without arguing further. He threw a look over at the boathouse, feeling a weird knot in his stomach at the sight of Simon standing outside of it: looking everywhere except at Maia and Jace. Not suspicious behaviour at all.

   ”Bring him back or I’ll kill you,” Maia offered as a goodbye, flashing a smile that was too forced and too sweet to be real. She waved towards Simon as she walked up towards Jade Wolf. ”Stay out of trouble, Si!”

   ”She’s a real piece of work, that one,” Jace muttered as he caught up with the vampire.

   Simon simply snickered. ”Maia’s awesome.”

 

*~*

 

”Can I go.. I mean, can I see.. Clary when we get to the Institute?”

   The subway cart rattled slightly while it took a smooth turn to the left. Their fingers touched, Jace’s skin was burning at the place where Simon’s finger was against his own. Close enough to be distracting.

   Simon’s question was quiet. Sincere. Tormented, like Clary’s been eating away at him all day. Which, in all honesty, she probably had. Wonder if Simon felt as guilty as Jace did over that he could be out here, breathing, smiling and living while she was in a coma back at the Institute?

   ”She won’t answer you, but if you want to see her, I won’t stop you,” Jace commented. ”It’s… it’s tough to see her like this, you’ve been warned.”

   ”I need to see her,” Simon said with a sigh. ”There’s so much.. I just need to make sure she’s still breathing.”

   ”I understand, I need to make sure of that, too.”

 

*~*

 

Izzy, Alec and Jace remained by the doors while Simon went inside to see how things were with Clary: Jace had enough of the still, unconscious Clary the day before. To see her laying there, it was just hurtful.

   ”How are you holding up, Iz?” Jace softly asked. He had noticed how there was a certain puffiness around her eyes: if he was honest, it looked like she’d been crying just before they met up. Izzy was the strongest person he knew: to see her this broken, it hurt more than any words would ever do. Izzy cared a lot about Clary, that much was clear. How deep that care went, was a completely different story.

   ”I’d be lying if I said I was fine,” Izzy sighed. Her eyes flickered between the door to the infirmary and Jace. ”Dot is sure that the illness is not contagious: she was right about her theory. She’s also sure of that it’s something demonic, thanks to the two healers the Queen sent us. They’ve helped Dot a lot, we need to thank the Queen for her help when all of this is over.”

   ”That’s at least something,” Jace agreed quietly. He fought the impulse to look through the window on the door to see how Simon was doing, no need to hurt more than he already did over this whole thing. ”The Queen knew about both Nathaniel and the Seelie that shot Clary with the arrow,” he added, looking at Alec whom had remained quiet in front of them since Simon went inside the infirmary. ”Apparently, the Seelie’s name is Jahni and used to be a part of the Queen’s court. He disappeared a couple of months ago, long before the kidnappings of the kids even started, so the Queen never considered him to be involved. She got a name on a bar in Los Angeles, Venom, that Jahni went a lot to while he was working for her. At the moment, I think that’s our best lead.”

   ”What about Nathaniel?” Alec asked.

   ”The Queen also thought he was dead, same as Magnus did. She told us that he was not someone to take lightly, he has crossed paths with demonic powers before: we can’t be dismissive, it’s still a lot we don’t know about Nathaniel and what his motives are.

   When will Magnus get here? Does he have anything to go on?”

   Alec’s lips were thin as he shifted his weight from one leg to another. ”He got delayed, but he’ll try to be here as soon as he can. From what it sounded like on the phone, Magnus’ onto something too. How do we go forward from this? I think we should send a team to Los Angeles to check this bar out, someone there can know things about the suspects.”

   ”I want to go there,” Jace said, almost sounding a bit like he was commanding the taller shadowhunter, who happened to be his boss. ”Simon’s coming with me, too.”

   Alec glared at him. ”Is it really wise to take the vampire along? It’s important not to let our emotions cloud our judgements, especially when there’s something like this that hits so close to home.”

   ”I’ll go with them,” Izzy proposed, turning to face her older brother with her arms crossed over her chest; stern look in her dark eyes. ”I’m as good with words as I am with my weapons, my charm along with Jace’s could be very useful.”

   For a few moments, Alec let his gaze flicker between his siblings; it looked like he didn’t believe that any of them had some sanity left. He clenched his jaw, dark eyes closing for a moment as he let out a sigh. ”I don’t like it, but you two are this Institute’s best shadowhunters so I think it’s for the best. How Simon fits into this, I don’t see it but if you insist that he’ll be helpful, I’ll let him tag along.”

   Both Izzy and Jace nodded over Alec’s words. Jace felt relief that Alec wouldn’t stand in his way, placing a hand on his parabatai’s shoulder and giving it a squeeze.

   ”I think we should wait for Magnus, I want him to come with you.”

   ”Do you think we can wait for that long? Isn’t it better if Dot makes a portal for us today?” Jace argued.

   ”Magnus knows this warlock, he’s come across him in the past, I think it’s safer to have someone with his expertise coming along with you,” Alec continued. ”I would like to come with you too, but I can’t leave New York, not when Valentine’s still here.”

   Izzy stepped forward to give Alec a tight hug when Jace stepped back. ”Don’t worry about it, we’ll be cautious and back before you know it. What happened last time was a mistake neither of us wants to repeat.”

   With another sigh, Alec nudged closer to his sister’s much shorter frame and held her tightly. ”I know.”

   ”Is there anything more you need of us today?” Jace asked.

   ”No, I suggest all of you get an early night. Tell Simon there’s some spare rooms if he wants one to sleep in. If something new comes up, I’ll call on you both.”

 

*~*

 

Simon was unusually quiet when he got out of the infirmary an hour later, much to Jace’s own prediction. He said a short ”let’s go” as soon as he got out through the doors and had almost reached the end of the corridor before Jace caught up with him again. Tension radiated off the vampire: there was something attached to his shoulders, causing it to look like Simon was fighting back the urge to cry.

   Unsure of what he should do, Jace remained quiet and hoped his presence alone would be calming to the other. He kept glancing at Simon while they went to the other part of the Institute; towards the living quarters. Nothing he could say in this moment would make any of it better, Jace knew that, even if the urge to state something as painfully simple as ”she’ll be okay” threatened to spill of his lips whenever he looked at Simon.

   When the duo reached the more homey part of the Institute, a dry sob escaped the brunette. The flash of something bright and red spilling out of Simon’s eyes were quickly covered with a hand, Simon desperately trying to wipe the tears away.

   Jace ignored the tears, still not sure of what to say. He projected all of his feelings towards a particularly uneven brick in the wall, hoping that some of the share agony he felt over seeing Simon cry would remain there.

   Neither of them uttered a word until they reached the corridor were most of the guest rooms where. The dim lights along the walls and the long, red rugs on the floors were as homey as this place could get: it may not feature a lot to trinkets and stored memories like a normal home, but Jace loved it. This was his home, even though the feeling of still not being fully welcomed back here settled in his gut whenever he spent time with shadowhunters that weren’t Izzy or Alec.

   ”I can stay here for the night, right?” Simon said with that familiar hoarseness that came with crying. One of his hands were still rubbing at his eyes, the skin looking slightly rosy thanks to the red tears.

   ”Of course, that was the plan all along, remember?” Jace tried his best at smiling, it never seemed to look real when he did. Scowling, on the other hand, came naturally to him. ”You can pick any of these rooms, I’ll help you get it sorted out.” He trailed behind the vampire, Simon picking one of the first rooms available in the corridor.

   It looked similar to the shadowhunters own rooms: big bed, wardrobe, bookcase and desk. While the residents of the Institute had various amounts of personal items stored inside their rooms, the rooms for the guests were a lot less crowded with things.

   The room was a skeleton of what it could be: a lot like Jace’s own room. He'd never been one of those who held onto things, with a past he wanted to keep in the past it felt utterly useless to collect things to remember it through.

   Simon had stayed at the Institute in the past, he was familiar with the routines and outline of the place. He placed his bag of essentials at the desk, sighing a little over the missing sheets on the pillows and blanket.

   ”I’ll get you some sheets, make yourself at home in the meantime,” Jace offered. He had just crossed the tresold when Simon spoke.

   ”This helpful and understanding version of you, I’m not sure what to make of it, Jace.”

   The way Simon said it intended it to be taken as a joke, but his flat tone caused Jace to come to a halt and turn around to face the vampire.

   ”I’m not always an asshole, y’know, Lewis. Deep down, even I have some manners, but since you’re from Brooklyn I don’t expect you to understand what manners are,” he said with the corner of his lip turned upwards slightly, on the verge of a real grin.

   Hey! Captain America is from Brooklyn, the very sign of goodness and mannerism before Marvel fucked him over and made him into a Hydra, like what’s up with that?! You can’t make Captain America into a fucking Nazi for shock value, that’s just beyond stupid. I’m like the old version of Captain America, the one who were polite as fuck to the people whom deserved it and not a Nazi, obviously. Do the current writers even know that Captain America is written originally by a Jewish person? I can’t even begin to understand how fucked up your values as a human being must be to make Captain America a Nazi and shit all over us Jews.”

   Jace let Simon ramble, he stood out in the corridor with an amused eyebrow raised at the other as Simon kept on babbling about Captain America, of all things. The shadowhunter may not be that invested in any of the pop culture of the mundane world, but he knew enough that he could keep up with Simon’s spoken endeavours.

   ”Captain America or not, your manners still suck,” Jace concluded with a small smirk. ”I’m not even that big of a fan, but that sounds pretty fucking shit so I get why it makes you upset.”

   ”You’re not a fan of Captain America?! First, you come here and disrespect my Lord Of The Rings references, then you’re not that big fan of Captain America, Jace, like I know you live in a completely different world, but when all of this is over, I’m gonna make you watch all of the movies he's in, I’ll tie you down if have to,” Simon continued babbling, his hands shaking a little as he searched through his bags after something; probably some pyjamas.

   Jace felt a glow in his chest from Simon’s words. If it meant that Simon wanted him around, he would gladly pain through a bunch of superhero movies to do it. Those could always be a good laugh, because come on? Superpowers? Absolutely ridiculous and unrealistic.

   ”If it makes you happy dude, I’m gonna succumb of boredom.”

   Simon flipped him off and Jace took it as his cue to get the sheets.

 

Jace found Simon standing with his head against the wardrobe, hands in front of his face when he got back. Quietly, he slipped inside and begun putting the sheets on the bed; pillows and blanket. He couldn’t blame Simon for the switches in his mood: it took everything, literally everything of Jace to keep him afloat in this. Suppressing his feelings for so long, any feeling except for the anger, had prepared him for this sort of heartbreak.

   Sure, it hurt, but he had his head where it needed to be.

   When Jace finished with the last pillow, he looked over at Simon: the vampire hadn’t moved, there was no tears either so that was a plus too.

   ”Are you okay? I know it’s not easy to see.. Clary like that,” Jace couldn’t help but pause at Clary’s name, the name felt like dropping a bomb with how everything was.

   ”Seeing my ex and best friend for the major part of my life in a coma was certainly not fucking something I ever wanted to do,” Simon sounded so miserable, the contrast from just a few minutes ago was clear as day. No more laughing, no more smiles. ”I just.. just expect her to come in through the door any second now and tell me about her day. Clary’s the happiest, nicest person I know and the world is a dark fucking place if it takes her away. Seeing her there, she didn’t even look real? She’s so still, she’s never that still. It’s not fucking right.”

   Simon threw himself at the bed, burying his head against one of the pillows with a groan. ”I hate myself for still being mad at her, but I am and at the same I still miss her like crazy. We used to talk at least once a day. Once a day man, to nothing at all.”

   The shadowhunter leaned against the wall, thinking that it was the safest bet for the moment. ”I can’t look at her, I haven’t been in there since yesterday. I actually talked to her about the court days before she got sick. I wanted to give her a way to move on and not dwell on something that never will happen, I thought things would be better but here we are. Fuck, we shouldn’t be talking about this, we need to stay focused on the mission.”

   ”What did you tell her?” Simon flipped over to lay on his back, squinting his eyes at Jace.

   ”You know, the same stuff I told you before,” Jace shrugged his shoulders. He avoided meeting Simon’s look head-on, instead he found a particular spot at the roof that enlightened him plenty. ”She told me about how sorry she was for how things ended between the two of you: she didn’t want to hurt you, but I’m sure you’ve heard all of that from her already. As I said before, we shouldn’t dwell on what if’s and what could’ve been’s now when we’re heading out to Los Angeles tomorrow.”

   Counting the seconds, Jace continued to stare at the ceiling and wonder if he said the wrong thing again.

   ”I’m trying to get a grip of this shitty reality, Jace, give me a second to process it and I’ll be acing this mission,” Simon said, sounding a little snappy. ”I wish I could’ve been on better terms with Clary before all of this, it fucking sucks that the last talk I had with her was all tears and us breaking up. I don’t want to think about what’ll happen if she doesn’t wake up.”

   Jace’s eyes were fiercely glowing when he looked at the vampire. ”Don’t think about that. Focus on the mission, I stood up against both Izzy and Alec to get you to come along on this, so you need to prove yourself useful.” Simon needed to stay sharp: they all did, they couldn’t let their feelings get in the way for what was about to come.

   ”Thanks for standing up for me,” Simon said a lot softer, sinking deeper down against the mattress and closing his eyes. ”I won’t let you guys down, Jace, I’ll do everything I can to make Clary okay again.”

   ”Get some rest, Lewis, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Chapter Text

A lot like the night before, Jace couldn’t seem to get any sleep. He tried countless positions, but neither of them worked for longer than a few minutes at best; by the Angel, if the higher powers could just grant him one night’s sleep now when he needed it the most; was that truly too much to ask for?

   The universe had always hated Jace; this night was no different.

   Annoyed with himself, Jace went to get some training done instead. If he was going to spend another night wide awake, at least he could do something productive. He didn’t end up at the gym though, no, after zooming out and letting his feet guide him, Jace soon found himself standing in the very same corridor he left only hours earlier. Simon’s room for the night was a few meters away from him; the door both taunting and inviting all at once.

   Cursing, he turned to leave because this was getting out of hand - Jace needed to get a grip - but as he took a step away from the door, he swore he heard a sound coming from inside. It was brief, Jace wasn’t even sure he heard it correctly; still, he couldn’t seem to be able to get his feet moving.

   What was he expecting? That Simon would hear Jace’s stupid heartbeats and rush out through the door and hold him? How old was he exactly, five? Jace was never one for big dreams, but this - the thing he dreamed of - he should let it go.

   Simon had more pressing issues to deal with, like the fact that his ex-girlfriend/best friend was in a goddamn coma that he only found out about not more than 24 hours ago. He didn't need to have Jace's feelings for him added to that mess. God, Jace was such a fool. He barely knew for sure what he was feeling towards Simon in the first place! And more importantly, how could he be so sure that these feelings would even last? He didn't exactly have much to compare them with. 

   With Clary, everything happened fast and was over before he even got the chance to fully embrace everything he felt for her. She came in like a whirlwind and set things in motion inside of him; things that now were fully functioning thanks to Simon.

   Jace sighed. He threw an almost spiteful glance at the door, like he dared Simon to come out and see him in this state; barely functioning, a broken mess of the golden boy everyone used to speak so highly of. Dragging his hands over his face, massaging strained temples and pushing down a headache, Jace mustered up the strength to move away. He slowly made his way down the corridor, letting his hands slip down into his pockets while he kept his gaze downwards.

   There was an underlying need to make sure that Simon was doing okay, but in this state Jace probably would do more harm than good. He hadn't had a good night's sleep for god knows how many nights, and this whole emotional turmoil didn't make him feel any better. Yet, with every step he took away from Simon's room, the need to rush back and make sure that Simon was okay only grew more and more persistent.

   Falling for someone as good as Simon? Truly a load of bullshit.

 

On his way back to his room, Jace almost crashed into a very worn-out looking Magnus. The warlock didn’t even flinch over almost getting knocked down by a muscular shadowhunter; he simply sighed and held out a hand against the wall to keep himself from falling over.

   ”Magnus!” Jace exclaimed, almost dumbfounded. ”You’re back.”

   ”Thank you for stating the obvious,” Magnus said dryly. Exhaustion dripped off the warlock; Jace wondered when the last time Magnus slept was. A good, whole night's sleep, that was. ”I’ve talked to Alec about the mission, Los Angeles have always treated me well. I wish the circumstances would've been better, but everything's always a matter of life and death with you shadowhunters.”

   ”Are we heading out directly?” Jace said.

   Magnus gave a small nod. ”Alexander wants us ready in the Obs Centre in 20 minutes. I’ll go get the others.”

   ”See you there,” Jace concluded and darted past the warlock to get his things from his room. Eager to get going, he switched into more practical attire than his pyjamas: his favourite pair of black jeans, a light, long-sleeved sweater and the black boots. The blonde hair stood out in a unruly mess of strands; he tried to flatten it slightly with his hand as he slid the leatherjacket on with his other hand.

   Jace took the backpack with him after he stored his weapons in their right holster. When he was finished, he headed out towards the Obs Centre to meet with the others. The nervous itch in his bones had grown stronger, accompanied with timid anticipation of what was about to come. To wait around and have nothing to occupy his time with made Jace feel restless. He preferred to constantly be on the move or at least have something to do; that’s why he always found himself down at the gym whenever things were too slow or he needed to blow off some steam.

   It took him not more than a few minutes to get to the Obs Centre. Alec was already there, along with a very tired looking Sebastian.

  ”Any change with Clary and the kids?” Jace asked as he reached the others. He zipped up his jacket and made sure that his stele was in the right place. Better to be safe than sorry.

   ”Two more of the kids went into a coma earlier, there’s just two left now that’s still awake, but according to Dot there's only a matter of time before they join in,” Alec sighed. Wearing the same clothes at the day before, the head of the Institute didn’t seem to have slept at all. ”Dot will be here in a sec, we’ll have a full meeting when the others get here.”

   ”Does it come with the parabatai rune to not sleep and still be fully charged for a fight? I want some of what you’re having,” Sebastian muttered while rubbing at his eyes.

   Alec merely gave him a pointed look while Jace didn’t bother at all. He’d never been overly fond of the newest addition to their team: there was something off with Sebastian, Jace just couldn’t put the finger on what that was.

   The others trusted Sebastian, so it had to be something good in the guy even if Jace couldn’t see it. Way too nosy for his own good.

   ”I’m not sure why you’re here, Sebastian, it’s not like you’re part of the team heading out,” Jace replied, not even trying to keep the edge out of his voice. ”You could probably run along and go back to sleep.”

   Sebastian looked slightly surprised over Jace’s sour reaction, blinking at him. Before the brit had the chance to retort, the rest of the team came into the room and cut any dispute short.

   Izzy had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, all dressed in black; matching Jace’s outfit down to the boots. Magnus followed closely behind her. Most of them seemed to have the same memo for when it came to clothing since they were wearing nothing but black, except for Simon, who stuck out like a sore thumb with his green shirt. Not even the dark jacket could keep it hidden, Jace was about to say something snarky about dressing up to blend in with the crowd but kept it down when Alec gave him one of his looks.

   ”Good to see you all up,” Alec began, searching after Magnus’ hand and holding onto it while he continued speaking. The gesture broke Jace’s heart; how did it feel to be able to find such comfort in another person? ”Since this is a mission of grave importance, I made the call to not wait until morning. Magnus, can you tell the others what you told me?” The softness in Alec’s eyes as he looked at the warlock was so different from how Alec usually was; with Magnus, Alec let himself be soft. Fragile even, not the stern force of stubbornness and snarky comebacks that Jace was used dealing with. He enjoyed this side of Alec, it suited him.

   ”Of course, Alexander,” Magnus said with a slight tug at his lips, squeezing Alec’s hand. ”I’ve visited some old friends of mine to get information about Nathaniel. Most of them, unfortunately, were as shocked as myself when I told them that he was still alive: he was believed to have died in a fire. But now when we know he’s alive, I can't understand how he fooled us all by faking his own death with fire - we should’ve noticed that there was something fishy about it, years ago.

   One of my associates knew something, though. She hadn’t heard anything about Nathaniel in particular, but she was aware of the name Oliver Winter. According to her, Mr Winter’s a regular troublemaker at some of the most popular clubs and bars all over the Shadow World. Strange considering that I haven’t heard his name until recently, the troublemakers are usually the ones I tend to keep an eye on. He’s been said to have tried to gather people for some unknown cause, almost obsessively. He's also not a fan of Seelies nor shadowhunters in general, but that goes way back. So it surprises me a great deal that he’s working with a Seelie. What’s his agenda?”

   ”Does Oliver Winter hang out at Venom in Los Angeles?” Izzy said, leaning against the table. "The Queen did say Jahni uses to go there, makes sense if that's where they met."

   Magnus nodded. ”He does. My associate has seen him there loads of times; she’s a regular guest there. Oliver Winter, or Nathaniel, has a temperament and likes staging fights between the other guests. Real piece of work.”

   ”That settles it,” Jace concluded. He wanted to go to Los Angeles right now, they could take the briefing when they got there. ”Venom is our best lead, since both of our suspects have been spotted there I think it’s wise for us to go and check the place out. See what the fuzz is about for ourselves.”

   ”I agree with you, Jace, but Venom is not exactly your ordinary kind of bar,” Magnus explained, briefly meeting the blonde shadowhunter’s gaze before he turned to look at Alec again. ”The thing is that you need an invitation to get inside, since it's a rather highly regarded in the area; only downworlders worth something gets in there, so naturally I’ve been there a couple of times, being the high warlock of Brooklyn and all that. I could probably get a hold of an invitation for us but it means that we have to be cautious. They’re not very fond of shadowhunters, the best thing would be if Simon and I went there on our own since we’re both of the Shadow World. A lot less suspicious than the four of us walking in and asking questions.”

   Jace blinked. Was Magnus out of his mind? There was no way in hell that Jace would sit this one out and put either of them in danger; he needed to get into that club, if Simon was going Jace would be right there with him.

  ”There’s no way in hell I’ll let you two wander in there on your own,” Jace said, his tone not leaving any room for arguments. ”You’ll get us all inside, Magnus, or none of us. We can’t risk splitting up, not when there’s so much at stake.”

   ”I kind of agree with Jace on this one,” Izzy said with an apologetic look towards the two downworlders. ”It’s better to stick together incase things goes south.”

   Magnus waved with his hand almost dismissevly, rolling his eyes at the spectacle. ”I might be magical, but I’m not sure I’m a miracleworker. Still, if that's what the majority wants, I'll see what I can do.”

   ”Get us all inside and that’s enough of a miracle for me,” Jace huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. ”Where’s Dot? Wasn’t she supposed to be here as well?”

   As on cue, the other warlock came stumbling out from a nearby elevator in a mess of scarfs and loose clothing. She headed for the group, something ecstatic about her features; a welcomed change from the despair all of them had been feeling over the past few days.

   ”Apologise for the delay, but I believe I’ve found something,” the warlock called out as a greeting. It caught the attention of the others, all of them looking at Dot with slight hope infesting their expressions. ”Thanks to the two healers, I believe that we’re in fact not dealing with a specific illness. We’ve been searching in the wrong place - what if we’re not dealing with an infection, but a possession? What if a demon is feeding on the kids and Clary? It’s not unheard of, powerful demons can feed on others to keep themselves alive; draining them of life.”

   Magnus looked at Dot like she was made out of gold. ”Dorothea you brilliant minx, that’s genius. It would make sense as to why nothing shown in our tests! God, if we find the demon and kill it, Clary and the kids should be able to wake up again.”

   Hope rattled in Jace’s chest, much like a trapped bird on the verge of escaping. ”Then we need to find this demon and kill it.”

  Dot nodded. ”Yes, we need to do it soon, we can’t be sure how long it’ll take until the demon’s drained them entirely. It’s already got a grip on them, what happens now needs to happen fast. To be able to feed on all of them at the same time, that’s not any lower level demon; we’re dealing with one of the bigger ones. I’ll try to read up on the old ones, you need to know what kind of demon it is before you can kill it.”

   Alec clasped his hands together, gaining all of the others attention without even uttering a word. He also tried to keep the string of hope under control, but there was a light glimt in his eyes that couldn’t be denied. ”Your mission is to get into Venom, find out as much as you can about Nathaniel and also look up the Seelie that works with him. The priority is to find the demon responsible for the state Clary and the kids are in and put an end to it. Dot will remain here with me and Sebastian, trying to find out more about how long we have left and what type of demon we’re dealing with. We’ll keep things under control while you’re in LA. Any questions?”

   As the group all shook their heads, Alec took it as a sign for him to continue. ”Good, I’ll follow you out then. Let’s get to work.”

   They split up into two groups: Sebastian and Dot went back to the elevators, while the others went towards the entrance. Alec took the lead along with Magnus, the two of them talking quietly with one another about things Jace couldn’t make out. He was last in the group, a step behind Izzy and Simon. Risks came with being a shadowhunter; this mission had a lot of them and even higher stakes than usual. Challenges was what kept it all interesting, but with the risk of losing Clary and innocent children, Jace thought it might be one of their toughest challenges yet.


  ”It’s weird that me, the vampire, seems to be the only one that actually caught some sleep,” Simon said, slowing his pace down a notch to walk beside Jace. His hair stood out in all messily, probably from the sleep; Jace shouldn't find it as cute as he does. ”I’m giving vampires everywhere a bad name.” He didn't mention anything about hearing Jace outside of his room; Jace was determined not to bring it up on his own accords, and therefor grateful for Simon ignoring the matter.

   ”It’s good that one of us can relax enough to sleep,” Izzy offered with a sad smile. ”I’d give a lot to be able to sleep without having any.. dreams for once.”

   Jace was with Izzy on this matter, sleeping without any sort of dreams would've been a blessing. Yet, to walk beside Simon, having a somewhat decent moment in what usually was a story of ups and downs, was the closest thing Jace had to a blessing all night.

   ”I’m restless to get going,” Jace said, on the verge of being defensive. ”I’ll sleep when all of this is over and my head’s not running in circles.” He held the door for his sister and Simon, pulling his jacket closer around his body when they came out in the chilly night.

   Magnus and Alec stood outside of the Institute’s wards. A twisting portal waited behind the warlock, who managed to look even more exhausted out here in the dark. They were all pushing themselves to their absolute limit here; Jace just really hoped it would all be worth it in the end.

   ”I never get used to travel by portal,” Simon muttered behind Jace, eyeing the slithering vortex with slight suspicion.

   ”If you want to go to LA without magic, be my guest,” Jace commented dryly and sent Simon an bemused look. ”Heard the price on flights were affordable even for us non-workers.”

   ”Fuck you,” Simon stated and shoved at Jace’s arm lightly. ”Can’t help that even though I find teleportation unbelievably cool, it still fucks with my head. Not exactly in a good way.”

   They caught up with the others, Alec letting his gaze travel and linger on each of them before he opened his mouth. ”I’ll contact the Los Angeles Institute and tell them that you might need help if things get ugly. Izzy, could you go there and talk to them when you get there too? I’m sure they’ll provide all the assistance you need, but it could be good to show yourselves beforehand.”

   ”Of course, I know a few of the people there, it won’t be any problem,” Izzy said, nodding her head. ”Are we ready to head out?” she added shortly afterwards, gesturing towards the portal. ”Then I suggest we get going.”

   With ease, she moved over to the portal and went through it. Jace followed suit, smirking to himself when he heard how Simon scrambled behind him to catch up before he went into the portal. There was a sucking feeling in his stomach as the magic took it’s hold of him: feeling a little like he was floating through time and space before he landed in some unfamiliar living room with a tiny grunt.

   Izzy was already looking around the small room with mild interest. Her bag laid thrown on the black couch. The room was a lot smaller than the living room back at Magnus’ loft: while the New York loft gave a more sensual impression, this apartment seemed a lot more cramped together since it lacked half of the loft’s space.

   One couch that barely seemed used; coffee table along with a bunch of magazines that all dated back to previous years; grey walls with big windows that showed a pretty decent view of Los Angeles along with a small balcony. Barely any paintings nor pictures hanged on the walls, but a nice, big rug with a intriguing pattern in deep, blue colours covered most of the wooden floor.

   Jace was about to take a look at the rest of the apartment when another sucking sound interrupted the silence and Simon came into view. The vampire looked rather disoriented as he leaned against the couch for support, brown eyes scanning the room quickly, relaxing when everything seemed normal enough.

   It only took a couple of seconds until the sound appeared again and Magnus stood there next to Simon with a tiny frown attached to his features. With a flick of his hand, the curtains moved into place and hid them from the outside world; there was a spark of something electric in the air, a sign that Magnus had protective wards around the apartment already.

   ”Welcome to the LA version of casa Bane, then,” Magnus called out, heading towards the kitchen with quick steps. ”It’s not as exclusive nor big as my New York loft, but it’ll make do for us while we’re here.”

   ”There’s only one bedroom,” Izzy called out; her head popping out through one of the doorways to Jace’s right. ”One bed for four people is a bit much, isn’t it?”

   ”I can sleep on the couch,” Simon proposed, dropping his own backpack next to Izzy’s on said piece of furniture. He still looked a little unsteady on his feet; Jace couldn’t blame him, teleportation could sometimes be a bit much to process, especially if you were half-asleep beforehand.

   ”Magnus, you and Izzy can take the bed, I can sleep on the floor,” Jace more or less commanded. He was no stranger to discomfort, a few days on a floor was something he could handle. Not that he planned on sleeping that much either, not when they had so much to do.

   Magnus appeared with a glass of water in hand, giving Jace a look that could challenge Alec’s stern stares with ease. ”I can treat my guests, Jace, no one’s gonna have to sleep on the floor on my watch. There’s a spare mattress in the closet, use that.”

   Jace went past Izzy into the bedroom and came back out carrying a mattress not more than a minute later. The mere thought of him and Simon sleeping in the same room was enough to make his heart flutter, which was ridiculous. He placed the mattress on the side of the couch: not close enough to be in Simon's space, but he’d be able to keep an eye on both Simon and the hallway if he wanted to.

   ”So, what’s the plan?” Simon asked while Jace went to gather spare blankets and pillows. He found a bunch neatly stocked in the closest, beneath Magnus’ considerable amount of clothes. Why one person needed so much clothes was beyond Jace’s understanding: he had half of what Magnus had, and this was only one of Magnus’ apartments. Call Jace boring, but he was more for practical than fashionable: according to Izzy, Jace happened to be one of those lucky people that could wear anything and make it look good.

   Jace knew he looked good; another thing he could to his own advantage.

   ”I have a friend that works at Venom,” Jace heard Magnus’ explain through the thin walls (he noted that he shouldn’t come here if both Magnus and Alec would be here at the same time). ”I plan to pay her a visit and get us invites for tomorrow. She’s not a fan of shadowhunters, so I think it’s for the better if I go there alone.”

   ”I can go and make ourselves known to the LA Institute,” Izzy offered. ”I’ll ask them to keep their eyes open for something we could use, Alec’s probably already contacted them by now.”

   Jace, his arms filled to the brim with pillows and blankets came back into the living room just as Izzy was done talking. With a grunt, he placed the things on the coffee table and straightened himself to look at Magnus.

   ”Seems like the two of you got things to take care of, is there something Simon and I can do in the meantime? Not really up for sitting here and do nothing when we don’t got time on our side,” Jace said, the itch to get to work still present beneath his skin.The restlessness ran deep in his bones.

   ”When the stores open, you both should head down and get yourselves some suits,” Magnus suggested; the smirk on his lips over both Jace’s and Simon’s furrowed eyebrows was more than a little amused. ”Venom is not Hunter’s Moon, boys. It has a dresscode, and I’m afraid that neither of you’ll get inside with what you’re wearing right now.”

   Simon looked down at his clothes with confusion. ”Maybe The Hulk isn’t the most appropriate thing to wear to a fancy club, I get it.”

   Jace rolled his eyes. ”It’s hours left until the shops open, there’s nothing we can do right now?”

   ”I’ve got books you can go through. There could be something in them that could give us clues to what demon we’re dealing with. I think Dot’s right about the demon being old and powerful: no ordinary demon can feed on more than person at a time, not like this anyway. The goo on the arrow, what little got into Clary’s body, was enough for it to establish power over her; that’s not the work of a simple, lower level demon.”

   Reading books wasn’t what Jace wanted to do, not in the slightest, but what could he do about it? Izzy could handle herself, Magnus didn’t need their help either and even though Jace wanted to head out and take a look at the club, staying in and reading up about the demon seemed to be the most logical thing to do.

   Jace sighed, not pleased with the situation in the slightest. ”Fine, call if there’s any problems.”

   

Magnus seemed to hoard as much books as he did clothes. Even in this tiny apartment, there were plenty of bookshelves full of books in various shapes and sizes. There were so many of them that Jace had no idea in what end they should start searching in.

   He picked out a few that had ”demon” in the title and placed them at the dining table in the kitchen, where Simon was sitting with his head resting in his hands. The books hit the table with a loud bang; Simon almost flew out of the chair, eyes wide and a hand over his heart.

   ”I might be undead, but God, Jace, give a poor man a head’s up.”

   Jace quirked an eyebrow at the vampire. He picked the book at the top of the pile, one that looked very thick and utterly tough to get through. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy reading; he had problems with concentrating if he was already restless to begin with. This would be a nightmare in that sense, when the only thing Jace wanted to do was to head out and kick some baddies. ”No falling asleep at the job, Lewis.”

   Simon shot him a dirty look over the pile of books and took one of his own. ”I don’t need a shadowhunter alarm clock thank you very much.” He slumped into a position where he rested his head against one of his hands; his back would murder him in a few hours.

   At first, it was hard to concentrate properly at the books when Simon sat there merely inches away from Jace. They didn’t have much time, he couldn’t let his crush get in the way for the mission. He managed to get a grip and skim through the endless texts; searching after whatever could point them in the right direction with the demon. There was not a lot about the old demons; mostly, the books were about demons you could face in your day-to-day life as a downworlder. Neither of the demons he came across fit what little they had to go on in this case.

   Hours went by. Neither of them had found anything worth thinking twice about, despite their best efforts to skim through the texts. Simon’s leg jittered under the table; it made the furniture shake along with every move. Jace could only handle as much, thinking back to when Clary snapped at him doing the same move back at the Seelie court. It felt like a lifetime ago. ”Dude, you’re causing an earthquake, stop it.”

   ”Sorry, I just can’t focus,” Simon admitted. His hands were shaking almost as much as his leg was when the vampire dragged them over his face. ”What if we don’t find anything in these? We have no idea what kind of demon we’re up against and Clary could be dead in a matter of days- hell, hours, and I try not to think about it but then I keep doing it and just fuck.” The vampire seemed to wander on the fine line between sanity and a complete breakdown. Jace knew that battle a little too well.

   ”Simon,” Jace snapped, causing the other to look at him. ”Clary’s not going to die. If you could stop feeling guilty for breathing and living while she’s stuck in a coma for ten seconds, maybe you could get some reading done.” He didn’t mean to sound so harsh; the words stumbled out of his mouth before he could consider if this was such a good idea or not. It was hypocritical of him to phrase it like that; he of all people should know how hard it was not to blame yourself over something like this, he probably felt just as guilty as Simon did for feeling fine while Clary was on the verge of dying.

   For a moment, Jace was positive that Simon would hit him. He couldn't deny that the signs were there: the fire in Simon’s eyes, the way the his fist curled on top of the table and the overall tension in the air. He met Simon’s fire with the utter coldness of a truth neither of them wanted to hear; staring the vampire down until Simon gave up.

   ”I’d fucking hit you if it weren’t for the fact that you’re right,” Simon grumbled. He stared at the book in front of him, but his eyes weren’t moving over the pages. ”Honestly Jace, aren’t you feeling guilty too? She’s like a sister to you, aren’t you feeling at least a little bad about any of this?”

   Jace didn’t answer. If he did, he was scared that Simon would sense how little control Jace actually had of himself. Simon was not worth dragging down into Jace’s mess; no one deserved to be dragged down there.

   The tension made it even harder for Jace to focus on the books. He could do with a break, it was worthless to sit here and still not be able to absorb a single written word on the pages. They could still be productive, Jace itched to take a look at Venom and map out the surrounding area.

   If he was lucky, he could get a glimpse of Jahni or Nathaniel in the process.

   The chair made a shrieking sound against the floor when Jace pushed it back. He took a piece of paper and placed it at the page he was at before shutting the book completely. Leaving this room meant no going back; this was a reckless idea, what could Jace do about it? He had tried to play after Magnus’ guidelines, he really did, but sitting here wasn’t helping him in the slightest; and more importantly, it wasn't helping Clary nor any of the kids.

   Simon eyed him curiously. ”Where are you going?”

   When Jace didn’t answer and instead headed towards the hallway, Simon shot to his feet; he almost knocked down the pile of books from the table in his hurry to follow Jace out. ”You’re not leaving me here alone, not happening.”

   Jace threw a look over his shoulder, his hand holding onto the handle of the front door. ”Would’ve been awkward if I had gone to the bathroom with you following me around like this.”

   ”But you’re not going to the bathroom!” Simon exclaimed. ”Magnus told us to stay put! We shouldn’t head out there, they could be back any-”

   ”Are you coming with me or not?” Jace interrupted. He found a spare key on top of the dresser and was out through the door even though Simon hadn’t had the time to answer his question yet.

   The vampire muttered something to himself that sounded a lot like ”I don’t like shadowhunters” when he made his way past Jace and down the stairs.

   Jace snickered quietly, locking the door. He had to jog down the stairs to catch up with Simon, who gave him a bemused look. There truly was something special about making Simon look at him like that; Jace both loved and hated it at the same time.

 

*~*

 

The biggest problem with finding Venom was that neither of them had an adress. Jace really should have considered this beforehand, he usually was one step ahead but this time all logical reasoning seemed to have gone out the window.

   He could count the times he’d been to Los Angeles on one hand. This was not like New York; he knew the city that never slept like the back of his own hand. With Simon there next to him, being his usual self, it was even harder to concentrate on their surroundings. The vampire kept looking like every building was the coolest thing he’d ever seen; the wonder and amazement almost reached his guilt-ridden eyes at some points and that was enough for Jace to feel a little better about the whole situation.

   ”We’ve been here before.”

   Simon stopped dead in his tracks, his eyebrows drawn together and aimlessly chewing on his bottom lip in a way that made Jace feel warm inside. ”I swear we’ve seen this building before, do you even know the way to Venom or are we walking around in circles?”

   Jace tapped his foot impatiently against the pavement. ”It can’t be too hard finding an exclusive club for downworlders, right? If you don’t stop and take pictures of everything, we’d probably be there already.”

   Simon pulled out his phone for the 10th time and sent Jace an unimpressed look. ”Why do you shadowhunters have to be so scared of asking for help? There’s a thing called technology, we could probably just look up the directions on Google. Or text and ask Magnus.”

   Google? Had Simon tripped and hit his head on something? Jace could literally not do anything but scoff at the vampire’s suggestion. ”Simon, are you stupid? We can’t find the directions to such a club on Google, this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. We can’t ask Magnus either, he’ll just stop us from going if we tell him about it.”

   Simon ignored him, all of his focus on the phone in his hands. He began walking in the direction they came from. ”Google Maps says it’s a 10 minute walk from here, try to keep up will ya?” He was insufferable.

   ”You gotta be kidding me,” Jace exclaimed. He followed Simon, glaring a hole at the back of the vampire’s head and hoping that he’d drop that stupid phone. ”This isn’t going to work, we don’t have the time to run around the whole city thanks to your phone.”

   ”Following your instincts have proven to be ever so giving then?” Simon bit back. ”Let’s try and see where we end up okay, if it ends up being a dead-end we could head back to Magnus’ apartment and wait for him and Izzy to come back, like we’re supposed to.”

   Jace grumbled to himself, but he didn’t protest. It was beneath his pride to admit that he may have been wrong, so he clenched his jaw and glared at anyone that even dared to look their way.

   He was positive they wouldn’t end up at the right place.

   Fucking Google.

 

Fifteen minutes later, they found themselves in a building on the opposite side of Venom. With the help of a rune, Jace managed to get them inside while Simon stumbled in after him. There was no electricity; Jace tried to flicker the light switch, nothing happened even after the third try. Thankfully, some light came in through the few windows that weren’t shut; dust covered the floor, what Jace found disturbing were the clear as day footprints.

   ”This is cosy,” Simon said dryly. ”Clean and not at all uninviting. Got this serial killer kind of vibe, just my thing to be honest.”

   ”Don’t touch anything and stay behind me,” Jace deadpanned and went towards a staircase that lead up to the second floor. The seraph blade was a welcoming addition, he held it out in front of him incase whomever left the footprints behind still was there.

   Slowly, Jace walked up the stairs with Simon trailing behind him. The landing was covered in even more dust; no signs of any footprints though, they were alone for now. He kept his blade up and went towards one of the doors, pushing it open with his boot.

   The room was empty. A single window on the wall; Jace went over to it and sighed in slight relief when he could see Venom from here. The club was in front of their building; neon lights, a sign with ”Venom” written in bright colours and two bouncers standing by the entrance. No one except for the bouncers were out on the street; just what they needed.

   ”I think we could take a look from here,” Jace said. ”Can you search through the rooms up here while I check downstairs? No need for any surprise guests.”

   Simon nodded and used his speed to run around to check the rooms; it was fascinating to see how the vampire was nothing but a blur when he moved past Jace who headed for the stairs. Jace was fast; years and years of training had made him both strong and quick on his feet. Compared to the vampires though, what he had was nothing. Simon could outrun him five times over at the very least on a good day.

   Unreal amounts of dust were the only thing keeping them company, along with some bugs. Jace found no other signs at the first floor, the only indication that someone had been here before were the footprints by the door. He used his runes to see if there was something hidden behind glamour or magic; thankfully, he came up empty-handed. Nothing but Simon and him. Emptiness, Jace could deal with that.

   ”We’re in the clear,” he called out when he got back up to the second floor again. Simon stood by the window in the first room, he barely looked at Jace when the shadowhunter came to join him. He held a finger over his mouth; the gesture was just wrong when Simon did it, because if there was someone whom should learn to shut up more often it surely was the vampire himself.

   ”I think it’s a good idea to be quiet.”

   Jace raised an eyebrow that sent plenty of signals, looking out through the window and down at club. A group of people had gathered by the entrance; everyone were dressed in gowns and tuxedos: proof of that dresscode Magnus talked about earlier. Most of the clothing looked like it would cost more than everything Jace owned.

   ”Look after a Seelie with a big, red scar over one of his eyes and short, black hair. He's one of our suspects,” Jace instructed with a quiet whisper. There was no sign of any of their targets; for all they knew, this wasn’t even the right place. Google could’ve lead them wrong, Jace didn’t trust technology the way Simon did. ”You’re a vampire, can you see if they’re downworlders?”

   The disrespect Simon sported in his eyes would make Jace smirk, but there was an odd knot of tension in his gut he couldn’t shake. It almost felt like someone was watching them just as closely; the problem was that he didn't find anyone that seemed to have noticed their presence at all.

   ”One of the women have glowing eyes,” Simon murmured. ”The bouncers wear a couple of matching scratch marks; could be werewolves or a fucked up way to become bloodbuddies for all I know.”

   ”Can you be serious for two seconds?” Jace tried to spot the things Simon had noted; he drew a ”Vision” rune with his stele and activated it. A couple of seconds passed before the rune fully kicked in, everything turning clearer by the second. He could see the guests now and he was sure that they were dealing with downworlders. Simon’s heightened senses picked up what Jace’s runes lacked, completing him nicely. He would never admit that to the vampire though, no need to make Simon more insufferable than he already was.

   ”I use humour as a way to deflect my emotions, Jace, let me live,” Simon replied, his tone dry. ”I’m not sure of anything though, it could just be the light tricking my eyes. Ghost this place for an hour and then get back to see if Magnus and Izzy are back? We could’ve asked Magnus for directions, you know.”

   ”The whole thing with sneaking out, Simon, is that Magnus and Izzy don’t know that we went here,” Jace responded. ”We’ll tell them about it if we find out something worth mentioning, okay. Can’t you use your vampire-senses to smell their blood or something? Just for the extra confirmation?”

   ”Yeah, sure, that could work, but you’re forgetting this tiny little detail; I can’t focus on their smells when you’re right next to me. Your smell is kind of hard to ignore.”

   Dumbfounded, Jace’s breath hitched in his throat. This was not a conversation they needed to have now while being on a stealthy mission. If Jace’s stuttering heart was anything to go by, Simon should never bring up how Jace smelled ever again, good or bad.

   ”Oh,” was the only thing his mind could come up with.

   The light from the glowing sign was bright enough to light up their faces, but Jace couldn’t be sure if Simon was blushing or not. Not that he cared.

   ”Let’s just-,” Simon started.

   ”Yeah,” Jace agreed.

 

The silence after that was on the verge of disastrous. By the Angel, Jace could never get it right when it came to Simon. The vampire drove him crazy in so many ways at the same time; he wanted to punch, laugh and kiss him all tied into one giant mess of intriguing impulses.

   Venom’s clientele decreased rapidly as the night progressed: less and less guests went in through the doors. Music, loud and with loads of heavy bass, was audible from the club, even from their spot across the street; the party definitely seemed to be going well. Jace could only speculate on how it must look on the inside: he had expected a club with the name Venom to be a little more.. let’s say, dark and brooding. Loads of colours and bright lights? Not even close to what Jace had imagined. This had lot of resemblance to the exclusive mundane clubs he’d seen in the past, for movie stars and other types of celebrities.

   Simon only spoke when he had something to tell about the guests. This was probably the most quiet Simon’s been in Jace’s presence since the day they met. In the past, Jace had often wondered if it was physically impossible for the mundane-turned-vampire to be quiet for longer than a couple of minutes at a time.

   A blabbering Simon was better than a guilt-ridden one.

   ”I don’t think this is worth our time,” Simon sighed after another ten minutes of deep silence. ”We’ve been here for more than an hour now, Jace, we should head back and continue reading the books Magnus asked us to go through.”

   Jace wanted to stay longer, even though he knew that Simon was right. They had spent time they didn’t have on nothing; sure, they found the building and mapped out the area a little better. Except for that, they had nothing new to report.

   ”Fine,” he admitted in defeat. ”If they ask, let’s not tell them where we went.” One last look down at the empty street, the pair moved towards the stairs and out of the building.

   A shiver ran down Jace’s spine when they got back out on the street again. The feeling of being watched crept beneath his skin; yet again, he tried to find the source of his discomfort. Nothing. He should draw another rune to find out if there was something invisible hidden, but the need to just get out of the alley was greater than any other feeling.

   Simon looked relieved to be out of the building. He walked a step in front of the shadowhunter, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jacket. The tension in his shoulders were ever so apparent. Jace wondered if Simon also felt like they were being watched, or was the paranoia getting the upper hand?

   They had almost reached halfway, when Simon stopped Jace with a firm grip around the shadowhunter’s arm. Jace was about to ask him what was going on, when he too heard unknown voices coming from somewhere ahead of them.

   ”Werewolves,” Simon whispered, panic starting to spread in his voice. ”Remember what Magnus said about the people around here not being utterly friendly towards shadowhunters? Fuck.”

   The voices only grew stronger. Jace wracked his brain after a solution; they wouldn’t be able to run back to where they came from and the alley didn’t provide with any good hiding spots. He could only come up with one thing, but it was risky as hell and would only make things even more awkward.

   ”Push me against the wall and cover the runes on my neck with your hands,” Jace commanded. ”Make it look like we’re into each other. Just do it,” he added on the verge of desperation over the way Simon’s eyebrows shot into his hair, the vampire’s mouth hanging open a tiny bit in pure surprise.

   Simon quickly got a hold of himself; he looked like he wanted to argue, but at the sound of the laughing group of people, Simon pushed Jace back with force and did exactly what Jace commanded him to do. Cold hands around Jace’s neck; the vampire’s breath hot and heavy against Jace’s skin and he felt himself spiralling.

   Jace was used to make the occasional stupid decisions; this idea however? It was as in the very top of that list. Why did he do this to himself? Simon was right there; their bodies touched, Jace had no way to move without touching the vampire and he couldn’t breath properly.

   From the way his heart was ripping apart his chest from the inside, there was no way that Simon didn’t hear it. Did Simon notice that Jace war burning up under his touch?

   ”What do we do now?” the words were a stuttered mess through gritted teeth. The group of downworlders came into view, talking and laughing loudly to one another.

   Jace tensed at the sight of them. His mouth felt dry and he could practically smell the panic radiating off Simon in shockwaves. ”Act normal, show your teeth if you have to. Don’t take your hands off my neck.”

   By pure impulse, Jace leaned forward just the tiniest bit. He let his lips hover above Simon’s throat, creating the impressions that he was about to kiss him there while the werewolves only came closer. Not thinking about the way Simon shivered, inches away from Jace’s lips, Jace closed his eyes and let out a breath he couldn’t hold in any longer.

   Please, god, could the werewolves just walk by and not notice them, could the universe grant Jace one of his wishes for once?

   Simon’s fingers, or more specifically his thumbs, moved up and down in jittery patterns over Jace’s throat, barely touching his jaw. The movement was unnecessary, gentle at best, but it was Simon touching him and that was enough to make Jace’s heart implode on itself.

   A few of the werewolves whistled at them. They cheered Simon on when they walked past the duo’s spot by the wall. Jace held his breath again, counting the seconds until the werewolves reached the very end of the alley.

   As soon as the group got out of sight, Simon shot back and away from Jace with the speed only a vampire could muster. The sudden loss of cool skin around his neck made Jace feel strangely pained inside; the memory of the little movements of Simon’s thumbs would keep him up at night until he found someone else - someone that wasn’t Simon that could take it's place. His body was against him, every fiber of his being wanted to push Simon up against the opposite wall and kiss him until Simon couldn’t do much else than plead Jace’s name.

   Simon didn’t look at him. In fact, Simon tried to look anywhere but at Jace. He looked ravished, like he’d just gotten electrified and now tried to gain back his senses again. It was not what Jace would’ve expected, far from it even; where was the anger, the disgust? What did this mean?

   The tension drove Jace out of his mind. He closed his eyes and tried to get some control over his breathing, the shame and embarrassment of the situation making his cheeks turn traitorously pink. This was not how Simon would find out about his feelings, not in a million years.

   ”Let’s go back,” Jace managed to get out, his throat as dry as sandpaper. ”Izzy should be back by now, same goes for Magnus.”

   ”Okay,” Simon agreed. His voice sounded all off and strained as well, it felt like they were balancing on the edge of a knife: tipping in either direction would only lead to heartbreak. They didn’t need to think about this right now, not when Clary still was in a coma and they had no idea to how they would find the demon draining her and the kids.

   They both moved like they had forgotten how to walk. Every step was off and jittery, until Jace with the sheer power of his own will managed to take back control over his own limbs; not that they were near each other, but Jace put even more space between them and therefor took the lead.

   When he reached the street, he noticed a Seelie walking on the other side, away from Venom. From taking a look at the man’s back, Jace instantly knew that it was Jahni. He turned and gestured for Simon to hurry before he quickly drew the ”Soundless” rune on his arm and activated it.

   Jahni hadn’t noticed him; he kept his head down and walked swiftly along the empty street. Jace kept enough distance between them not to draw attention, yet close enough to have a good look at where the man was headed. Simon used his speed to catch up with Jace, a breathless ”should I run and catch him?” dripping from his lips as he threw a quick glance at the determined shadowhunter.

   ”Try to grab some of his hair, anything that we could use to track him,” Jace advised. ”Quickly before he gets away, try not to show your face.”

   Simon went off, his hood pulled up over his head; his body became a blur of colours when he moved over the pavement towards the unaware Seelie.

   Jace started to run; sprinting towards the man when he saw how Simon’s blurry frame became solid again. Jahni had a hand around Simon’s arm; he must’ve grabbed the vampire in the middle of a step because Simon looked stunned. Simon tried to fight him off, Jace saw how the vampire struggled and it only drove the shadowhunter to run even faster.

   With a cracking sound, the Seelie punched Simon and sent the vampire flying backwards: Simon flew in a mess of limbs and landed on the street. There was darkness, one so black Jace could barely make out it if it was real or not around the Seelie; so far from anything normal, Jace had no idea what it was.

   No ordinary creature should be able to fling someone with such ease over a whole street. Something was seriously off with Jahni.

   Jace, close to screaming Simon’s name, pushed himself as much as he could. The Seelie looked back and spotted him there; recognition burning in his eyes. He started to run away, matching Jace’s speed without much effort.

   Without checking if Simon was okay, Jace followed Jahni; his feelings had already gotten enough in the way, if they let the Seelie slip out of their fingers now, all of this would’ve been for nothing. Jahni turned and went down another empty street, Jace a few meters behind him. The black smoke seemed to pour out of the Seelie; blocking the man from Jace’s view.

   He blinked and Jahni was gone. Desperation infected Jace’s body, he turned around and searched the street after any sign of the Seelie. Nothing, it was like Jahni hadn’t even existed in the first place. Whatever that dark smoke was, Jace was positive it had something to do with Jahni’s disappearance.

   ”Fuck,” Jace snarled. He wanted to break something, kicking a empty can that rattled loudly as it flew over the pavement. ”Fuck!”

   So close. So close.

   Jahni wasn't a warlock, what did the smoke do to him? What abilities did the Seelie have?

   Jace turned and sprinted back the same way he came from; if he couldn’t catch Jahni, he had to make sure that Simon was okay. The vampire had managed to stand back up on shaky legs. He held a hand over his nose, blood seeping through his fingers.

   Jace’s chest was tight of guilt and regret. This wall his fault; if he hadn’t dragged out Simon on this risky mission, none of this would've have happened. Simon was hurt and Jahni had managed to escape, Alec would kill him when he found out about this.

   ”Simon! Are you okay?” Jace called out, the guilt fading enough to make room for worry instead. Not sure if he could touch the vampire after what happened earlier in the alley, Jace crossed his arms over his chest and studied the injury from looking at it. It would be healed soon, Simon was a vampire after all. Still gnarly to look at.

   Simon nodded. ”Peachy.” His voice sounded thick, spitting out a mix of blood and saliva on the ground. He managed to smile when he held out his other hand: there, on the top of his palm, was a small tangle of short, black strands of hair.

   ”Think I got something worth our time.”

 

*~*

 

”You two did what?!”

   Magnus, the very definition of collected and under control, had daggers shooting out of his eyes and a uncharacteristically grim twist to his mouth. The warlock avoided looking at Simon, who sat with cotton in his nose and his head rested against the back of the couch; all of his attention was focused on Jace, who wanted nothing more than to get out of there.

   ”We went out, ran into Jahni and managed to get some of his hair so now we can track him,” Jace repeated slowly, emphasising every word. ”To me, that sounds like a pretty good night’s work.”

   ”You could’ve gotten yourselves killed!” Izzy exclaimed heatedly. She had a different kind of anger than Magnus: where Magnus was contained fire, Izzy was cold and spiky as ice. ”I know you act before thinking, always putting everyone before yourself, Jace, but come on. We’re meant to do this as a team, you didn’t even leave a message or anything. What if you hadn’t been so lucky? What if Nathaniel had kidnapped you both or something? You could’ve at least told us.”

   ”I agree with Isabelle on this one,” Magnus piped in. ”I’ve had to bargain with things I didn’t want to part with to get us inside of Venom. It’s risky enough for shadowhunters to be there as it is, but running after and trying to attack a downworlder at the same street? It could’ve ruined all of our chances.”

   ”I did my part, didn’t I?” Jace spat. ”Simon got hair from Jahni, shouldn’t you be happy that we got something to track the fucker down with? Now we don’t even have to get inside of Venom, Jahni’s our way to get to Nathaniel and the demon.”

   ”I’ve tried tracking the hair, but nothing happens,” Magnus threw back. ”There’s something wrong with it, since Nathaniel’s involved it doesn’t surprise me. I can’t use it, so guess what? We still have to get inside of Venom.”

   ”You mean I got thrown across a street for nothing?” Simon asked with a sigh, winching when he moved his nose too much. ”That’s just great.”

   The past rush of accomplishment poured out of Jace like water. A warlock’s tracking was a lot more effective than a shadowhunter’s; if Magnus couldn’t use it, neither Jace nor Izzy would be able to use it either. He didn’t want the warlock to look at him with the suppressed glee of being right; he stared out through the window at the city that slowly was coming back to life.

   ”I know both of you did what you thought was right, but this isn’t the time to act reckless. We don’t have much time, we need to act as fast as we can without taking any unnecessary risks,” Magnus continued, a lot less intimidating. ”There’s powerful magic at work here: to be able to shield from my tracking, that takes tremendous power. As for what you said about Jahni vanishing into thin air, that’s even more odd.”

   ”Jahni’s a Seelie, he’s used to travelling between realms, right?” Izzy asked. ”Couldn’t it be that he went to a different realm, a realm where neither of our tracking works? The shadowhunters at the institute here said that they had problems with rifts to other realms lately. Maybe the rifts are caused by the demon we’re dealing with?” She leaned against the wall next to the bedroom door; there was still ice in her eyes, but her posture wasn't as shielded, she was open for negotiating.

   Magnus clicked his fingers together. ”Yes, Isabelle that’s brilliant! We can’t know for sure until we’ve interrogated either of them, but let’s just conclude that whatever they’ve bargained for with the demon, their powers are out of this world. The black smoke around Jahni must be something demonic, there’s nothing but dark powers at work here.” His face fell; the motivation he had a second ago was switched to a thin line of worry. ”This is not an ordinary mission: usually, we know what we’re up against. Now, now we have no idea of how strong our contenders are.”

   ”We have to be prepared for anything,” Jace sighed. ”Even if it’s not an ordinary mission, we’ll have to act like it is.”

   ”You’re right,” Magnus agreed. He dragged a tired hand through his dark hair, touching the red tips. ”There’s still time left before the store opens. I suggest we all get some rest and eat something before we have to venture out. We don’t know when we’ll get the chance to sleep again.”

   The other three agreed with Magnus’ proposition. Izzy went to take a shower; Magnus headed into the kitchen to make some food and call Alec; Simon seemed ready to pass out on the couch, still with the cotton in his nostrils, even though his nose looked fine again.

   Jace took it as his cue to go out. He slipped out on the balcony, shutting the door behind him to keep the others from joining in because he desperately needed some time alone to think. A lot had happened in the last few hours, some of it more life-changing than the rest.

   First of all, he had to deal with his own impulses. It wasn’t like him to act so blindly on his feelings: he was not as stubborn as Alec when it came to following the rules, some rules were meant to be broken, but he usually didn’t let his emotions cloud his mind from making the right decisions. Was he even fit to go through with this mission? If he couldn’t control himself, what good was he to the others? He risked everything just to damp some of the restlessness in his bones; he had the angels to thank for him and Simon not ending up in a dumpster somewhere.

  Secondly, he had to deal with what happened between him and Simon. Jace had never bothered with putting a label on his sexuality: he was attracted to people, despite their gender. What he felt for Simon was crushing and real in a way that the shadowhunter barely could handle. He had no idea what Simon defined himself as; they had never been close enough to talk about anything of depth before this problem entered their lives, Jace had no idea if Simon even could be attracted to him at all.

   The way Simon had shivered against him; how his thumbs had caressed Jace’s throat and the edge of his jaw. That was enough to make him question everything he knew about Simon. Was there something between them or was Jace simply imagining a reality he desperately wanted to be real? He shouldn’t hope for the impossible; despite it at all, Simon had Maia waiting for him at home. Simon was with her. Jace wouldn’t be the reason to why another relationship fell apart, he couldn’t do that to Simon again.

   He needed to swallow the electric pulsing in his fingers whenever he thought about Simon, how he almost touched Simon’s throat with his lips. Needed to swallow it down, push it so far away that it couldn’t hurt him anymore.

   Lastly, the team was still not close enough to save Clary. Neither had gotten an update on how the victims were doing back home, the silence could be answer enough. Things were just as bad. Jace was so ridden with guilt that he was torn between personal problems and the real priority: the mission, saving Clary and all of the children (did he ever remember all of their names, or was Clary the only one with substance?); putting an end to all this misery before it ruined more than it already had.

   With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Jace slumped down against the wall. Los Angeles was a lot warmer than New York, he could feel the sun tickling his skin as it rose over the rooftops. Sitting here at Magnus’ tiny balcony wasn’t as therapeutic like the roof of the Institute back home, but it would have to do for now.

   The fresh air helped him think, even though there was a strong smell of gasoline lingering in the air from the heavy traffic below. He probably would’ve fallen asleep out there if Simon hadn’t interrupted.

   First the vampire knocked at the door, then he popped his head out with an unsure expression spread over his beautiful features. The hollow look in his brown eyes were back again; the sea of unknown emotions always being just beneath the surface, out of Jace’s reach.

   ”I don’t want to talk about it,” Jace said, shutting down any attempts Simon had at making conversation. ”There’s nothing to talk about.”

   Simon slipped out through the open door, going on a few seconds of pure determination as he stopped to stand right beside where Jace was sitting at the ground. ”Whatever you’re dealing with, because dude, you’re dealing with something, I’m here if you want to talk about it. You’ve been listening to me talk about Clary, everything, while you’ve barely said anything at all. If you don’t talk to me, fine, but talk to Alec or Izzy then. You said so yourself, Jace, that we need to be clear and focused on the mission; talk to someone before you drown in it.”

   He gave Jace’s shoulder a small squeeze before he went back into the apartment; the door fell shut behind him, and Jace wished it hadn’t. Because now, the feeling of drowning in his own thoughts seemed to be more of a possibility than ever.

 

*~*

 

When Jace came back inside, the apartment had turned almost completely dark. The thick curtains in front of the windows blocked out the raising sun outside: it took Jace a good twenty seconds before his eyes had grown used to the sudden darkness.

   The door to the bedroom was shut; Simon laid on the couch, back turned against the balcony with a blanket thrown over his still frame. He seemed to be asleep, and from the lack of Izzy, it was safe to say that she probably was asleep too.

   A voice came from the kitchen. Jace couldn’t make out any words, but he knew that it was Magnus. He tipped on his toes not to wake Simon; slowly making his way through the room towards the kitchen.

   Magnus wasn't talking to himself, surprisingly enough. On the table, by the books, laid a phone; the warlock was talking to Alec on speaker. Jace wondered why the warlock always did that; he had hardly seen Magnus make a call to Alec without having it on speaker. It was cute, to be honest.

   ”-need to see each other properly when all of this is over. Feels like I haven’t slept next to you for years.”

   Jace cleared his throat. Better to make himself known before things went somewhere too private.

   Magnus, whom was leaning against the counter with a plate of food in his hands, looked up at Jace with a small smile. ”I miss you too, Alexander, we’ll make up for lost time when I get back, but Jace's here to interrupt our talk.”

   ”Hi Alec,” Jace said, ignoring the amused jibe in Magnus' words. He thought about what Simon had told him earlier, that he needed to talk about his problems with someone. Alec was his parabatai: if there was someone willing to listen to Jace, it was him. ”Sorry for interrupting your conversation, no one else is up.”

   ”It’s fine, we were just chatting. Magnus told me about what you and Simon did earlier, what were you thinking? If you head out without telling the others, it’s an unnecessary risk. What’s going on with you, Jace?”

   Magnus focused on his food; he didn’t look like he thought about leaving the room any time soon, so Jace would have to talk in front of the warlock, too. It didn’t bother him as much as it should have, maybe it was a good thing to have someone here with him that knew about what was going on inside of his head.

   He felt the words pressing in the back of his throat. It was just scary, this whole opening-up-to-someone thing. At least Alec wasn’t here; it felt a little better knowing that Jace didn’t have to look at his parabatai’s reaction firsthand. There was comfort to be found in the fact that he would pour everything out while looking at a ordinary kitchen cabinet.

   ”I just wanted to do something. I know it was reckless, both Simon and I could’ve gotten hurt a lot more than we did. It felt like a good idea at the time, I see now afterwards that it clearly wasn’t,” Jace explained shortly, all while he tried to remove loose splinters from the table. ”I try so hard not to let my emotions cloud my judgement and get in my way, but everything I do seems to make things worse.”

   You have to let yourself feel, Jace. I’m the last person that should say that, but you can’t carry everything inside; it’ll eat you up eventually.”

   Jace sank down more into the chair. He leaned his head back; legs spread out in all their long glory in front of him as he tried to find the right words. A hurricane lingered against his tongue, after a few seconds of fighting down the utter shame of reaching the breaking point like this: he let it free.

   ”The problem isn’t that I don’t feel, because I feel everything so much. After years of repressing everything, it just hurts to let myself deal with what I’m actually feeling. I’m crushed over Clary, because I can’t help to feel like it’s all my fault. If I hadn’t been so slow, if I had stabbed Nathaniel when I got the chance, maybe neither of this would’ve happened.

   On top of that, I ruined her relationship with Simon, I try to get over it but I just can’t. They had something so good, and I ruined it by fucking existing. And now, now, when Simon’s finally begun to get over it and move on, I drag him back into this whole mess by telling him about Clary, even though Clary didn’t want him to know?! He’s moved on, he has Maia now while I’m torn in two. If I tell.. if I tell him how I feel, I’ll ruin everything for him again.”

   Neither Alec or Magnus said anything at first. Thanks to the years Jace had known Alec, he could sense more in Alec’s silence than others could. Alec’s contemplated face was clear as a day in front of his parabatai; Jace’s heart hammered so feverishly in his chest, why couldn’t any of them just say something?

   ”You’re blaming yourself for things out of your control, Jace. We can’t know what would have happened if things had gone down differently, it’s no use dwelling on it when we all have to deal with the now. I know it fucking sucks, believe me, but you’re no help to Clary and the kids if you’re stuck in the past.

   What has your feelings for Simon to do with it all, though? Why would it ruin anything?”

   Magnus snapped his head up, eyes wide when the realisation hit him. ”You’re in love with him, aren’t you?” The expression on the warlock’s face was intrigued; like Jace's sudden confession was a puzzle he'd finally solved, despite how surprising it may have been.

   Hearing the words out loud made Jace’s chest knot itself together in a mix of emotions. In one way, he was relieved that the cat was out of the bag, but he was also terrified of what it all meant. His friends knew about what he felt know. They would know the meaning of every stolen glance Jace shot in Simon’s direction. Would they pity him for falling for the vampire? Falling for someone he wouldn’t be able to have, just like his previous feelings for Clary?

   Is it true, Jace? Are you in love with Simon?”

   ”I…I,” Jace wet his lips, trying to push through the dry and gluey feeling in his throat. ”I’m not sure what I feel towards Simon yet, but I know I’m falling for him. Hard. It doesn’t matter though, it’s not like I can act on them. He has Maia now, after all. I don’t want to ruin another one of his relationships.”

   ”Are you so sure that he’s already dived into a new relationship?” Magnus asked, one delicate eyebrow raised. ”Have you actually asked Simon about where he stands with Maia or are you just jumping to your own conclusions as always?”

   The shameful blush covering Jace’s cheeks gave him away. Offended at the accusation, he stood up and looked like he was about to leave, he even got to the doorway before he snapped back around and stared at Magnus with embarrassment written all over his face.

   ”It’s not like I can drag it up in a conversation, like ”oh hi Simon, are you together with Maia now or what’s deal there? Ha ha ha, no pal, I might be falling for you but good luck with the girl, dude.” He doesn’t like me enough as it is, I don’t need to humiliate myself even more in the process.”

   ”You shadowhunters truly expect the world to revolve around you at any given second,” Magnus muttered. ”After the mission, ask Simon what he feels. Don’t let your emotions for him get in the way now, you have to keep them under control.”

   ”Magnus’ right, Jace. I’ll have to send someone else if you don’t think you can focus on the mission.”

   ”I can do this,” Jace argued fiercely. ”Izzy and me are the best ones you got, Alec, we can get this done.”

   ”Don’t prove it with words, Jace. Prove it by getting Clary and the kids to wake up again.”

 

*~*

 

The front door fell shut; Izzy laughed at something Simon said, causing Jace to jolt awake. His sudden awakening almost made him hit his head against the coffee table. He had no idea for how long he’d been asleep. Once the call with Alec ended, Jace went to bed; from the looks of it, he actually managed to fall asleep as well. His head didn’t feel as cluttered with thoughts as before; some of the weight on his shoulders had faded away, he felt lighter to have opened up about a lot of his worries earlier.

   Groggily, he looked around the room, all while his friends’ voices came from the hallway. Jace hadn’t even heard when the others left. He must’ve really been out of it.

   ”You’re awake!” Izzy grinned when she entered the living room, carrying a plastic bag of some kind. There was something red and silky inside of it. A dress? ”We weren’t sure when you would wake up, so we went shopping without you.”

   ”Shopping?” Jace asked, confusion written over his tired features. He rubbed a little at his eyes while he tried to sit up. The blanket fell off his chest, revealing toned muscles and loads of dark runes.

   ”To get into Venom, we need to follow their dresscode, remember?” Izzy said with a tiny grin. ”We got you and Simon some suits, I got this beautiful dress. At least we’ll look good while spying and battling demons,” she tried to joke, but it never reached her eyes. If Simon had looked worn out, it was nothing compared to the pain in Izzy’s eyes. She wasn’t afraid of showing it, that’s why she was the strongest one of them all.

   ”You’re lucky you missed out,” Simon pointed out. His eyes directly darted towards Jace’s chest when he got inside the living room; they lingered for not more than a second. Jace still felt like he was burning up and got this odd need to cover himself up with something. ”None of them fit, Magnus had to use some of his magic to make it work in the end. Nightmare, really.” The vampire flopped down on the couch; one of his legs poked out, if Jace leaned forward just a bit he’d be able to touch it, give him an understanding pat.

   Not that he thought about doing it, not in the slightest.

   ”Sounds awful,” Jace agreed with a grimace to match. ”You got us invites for tonight right, Magnus?”

   ”Yes, there’s one thing I forgot to mention earlier, thanks to your mess,” Magnus let a glare travel between Jace and Simon, clasping his hands together. ”I got two invites for me and Simon. I had to do a lot of arguing to get one for you, Simon; when I told my friend that you’re the infamous daylighter, she had to give you one too. They only let downworlders inside, but to get in you need to be something. Famous.”

   ”Wait a minute, only two tickets?” Izzy asked with a frown. ”What about me and Jace? Why did you get clothes for us if we can’t even get inside in the first place?”

   ”That’s the part I’d like to talk about, dear Isabelle,” Magnus continued. He had the guts to look uneasy when he let his gaze flicker between the other three. ”You two will have to be our dates. Shadowhunters are not highly regarded here, you can save the world ten times over and they still wouldn’t let you in through the door. But, as our dates, we could get you two inside. It won’t be easy, that should be known, everyone in there will be watching you like hawks, but we can make it work long enough to get something valuable out of it.”

   Magnus deliberately looked anywhere but at Jace.

   The shadowhunter felt like he was going to be sick. He clenched his jaw, focusing on his hands as he took out a clean shirt from his backpack. This wasn’t happening. Nope. Not at all.

   ”Okay, wow, nice way to get back up in the saddle again,” Simon tried his best to make a joke, but the tension in the room was thick as a blanket. Izzy frowned, looking between Jace and Magnus for an answer to why things were so stiff.

   ”Jace, wanna be my date then?”

   Jace froze with the tee in his hands. Thankfully, he could hold onto it and not show how his fingers were trembling. ”Are you sure that’s such a good idea?”

   ”Why wouldn’t it be?” Simon pressed on. ”I think we’ll look smashing together; the daylighter and his Adonis.”

   Jace ignored the look Magnus sent his way.

  
By the Angel.

  ”If you’re sure about it, Simon, Isabelle can go with me,” Magnus said slowly, almost pausing after every word to give Simon time to change his mind. He threw an apologetic look in Jace’s direction when Simon remained content with his decision.

   Izzy’s confused look burned a hole through Jace’s skull. He deliberately focused on putting on the tee in his hands. Nothing else but the t-shirt mattered: acknowledging how the fabric felt against his skin, how nicely it slipped over his head.

   ”It’s for the mission, I think Jace can handle being my date for the sake of the greater good,” Simon insisted. ”Right, Jace?”

   ”Sure,” Jace said, his voice sounding odd even to his own ears. If Simon had any idea of how this made him feel, would the vampire still agree so willingly to act as his date for the mission? Would he throw himself at Izzy instead? ”Fine with me.”

   ”That’s.. settled then,” Magnus concluded with a strained smile. ”I’ll try to find something useful in my books about the demon, you three should do the same.”

   Izzy looked at Jace like she was trying to figure out what just had happened. Simon was still there on the couch, Jace didn’t want him to know so he simply sent her a look, one that said that he would tell her later.

 

*~*

 

”Still nothing?”

   Magnus sighed and leaned back; the black strands of hair were as worthless as before. They just laid there, oozing of a burned, sticky smell.

   ”Wherever Jahni is at the moment, we’re still not able to see him.”

   Jace sighed. ”I should get dressed. We got a party to crash.”

 

*~*

 

Venom had bigger crowds inside than out on the street. For being an exclusive, invitations-only kind of club, plenty of downworlders roamed in the fancy rooms. It looked like a tiny version of a mansion with the golden details and marble. A fountain completely made out of some sort of rich, stony material met them in the hallway; water in different colours pouring over the bleak stone. Jace felt a little breathless over how beautiful it was.

   Not that he had any breath in his lungs to begin with; Simon had a firm grip around his arm, dressed from head to toe in a black suit that made him look like a completely different person. Simon was stunningly beautiful. Rocking a smile and acting like he was someone of great importance; Simon truly had this charm which made him absolutely irresistible. Surprisingly, the other guests thought so as well.

   While Jace scanned through the crowded rooms after Jahni, Simon talked and entertained the downworlders; circling them all around his finger. He knew exactly which questions to ask without causing any suspicion. Jace could be charming as well, but it was nothing compared to Simon. Where Jace knew how to get people in bed, Simon knew how to make people feel valued; there was a big difference between their techniques. The memory of when he tried to teach Simon how to flirt back at Hunter’s Moon still made him smile. A completely different life, for both of them.

   Magnus and Izzy looked like royalty. It was weird to see the two of them together without Alec being there too. They moved through the crowds with icy grace; Jace noticed how both men and women stared after the pair with longing looks, he couldn’t help but smirk slightly.

   Izzy was beautiful with her long, red dress and lips to match. She enjoyed dressing up, using her good looks as an asset. The dark hair cascaded in soft waves down over her back; a spectacular sight to everyone there. Magnus completed Izzy’s daring dress perfectly with his suit; dark, like the rest, but plenty of necklaces and a loose scarf hanging around his neck. The waistcoat matched the colour of Izzy’s dress; both of his friends took pride in their looks, they truly moved around the club like they owned it.

   Jace felt like a spare. He was the brooding hottie hanging on Simon’s arm in a suit that felt a little too tight. Nothing more, nothing less.

   ”Enjoying yourself?”

   Jace sat by the bar; he’d been listening to Simon chat with a couple of other vampires for the past five minutes (”A Seelie? You mean Jahni? He’s here all the time, really cocky though. Always on the verge of picking fights. Blondie here seems like he could take him down in a fight though, I’d pay to see it”) while Jace looked at the new guests that kept pouring in through the doorway.

   Simon was smirking at him, taking a break from the conversation with the vampires. He touched Jace’s elbow lightly; it sent shivers down Jace’s spine.

   ”Kind of hard to have fun when we’re out on a job,” Jace snorted. The buzz of the music was hard to ignore; he thought back to the first night when he met Clary at the Pandemonium. She would have loved this; how beautiful everything was.

   Simon’s smile faltered. ”Does this place make you think of Clary too? Like, it’s such a difference from Hunter’s Moon back home.”

   ”Yeah, it does,” Jace breathed. ”We need to find Jahni.”

   ”You’re looking for Jahni?” the bartender asked.

   Both Jace and Simon snapped around, looking at the Seelie who was standing there with a glass and a towel in her hands, smirking at the eager looks in their eyes.

   ”Yeah we are,” Simon said, leaning against the counter. ”Do you know him? We’d like to get in touch with him.” Here’s to throwing out all of your cards at once, Jace knew it was a risk but there was something about the woman that he couldn’t place; he let Simon handle it.

   The woman placed the glass down at the counter with a bang; Simon made a small jump in pure surprise. ”You two are getting a lot of looks. If I was you in your shoes, vampire, I’d keep better watch on my hot date. Shadowhunters aren’t exactly liked here," she gave Jace a pointed look, before glancing back to Simon, "it’s risky asking questions about the golden favourite, you could easily end up with the wrong crowd. Luckily for you, I’m feeling frisky.”

   Jace and Simon shared a look. Frisky sounded a lot better than risky.

   ”Spill the dirt,” Simon urged the Seelie to go on, offering her one of his winning smiles. ”We’re all ears.”

      ”Jahni and I dated a while back. He was nice, y’know, normally cocky in a very narcissistic manner," Jace ignored the look Simon sent his way, "but then, a couple of months ago he just.. changed. There’s something wrong with him, worse than normal I mean.”

   ”Why are you telling this to us?” Jace asked; someone offering help this willingly usually meant problems. She was a Seelie though, there must be some truth to her words. ”What’s your deal?”

   Simon elbowed him, giving him a look. ”Don’t mind him, is there anything else you know about Jahni? Like where he lives?”

   The woman gave Jace a dirty look. She turned towards Simon instead, because of course, Simon was the sweet, nice vampire while Jace was the intimidating shadowhunter.

   ”He used to live down by the sea, not sure if he still does it. You’re a shadowhunter, aren’t you supposed to help us when we have problems? There’s something wrong with Jahni; he’s not himself, it’s like he’s.. possessed.” She shivered; there was actual worry in her eyes, along with the need to throw loads of dirt at her ex. It was like she cared for him still, but at the same time she wanted to punch him.

   ”Could you write it down for us, the adress I mean?” Simon continued. He brought out his phone and handed it to the woman, despite Jace’s glares. ”It’d be a lot of help.”

   The Seelie did what they asked her to; she handed the phone back to Simon with a small, sad smile over her lips. ”Jahni shouldn’t be too hard to find. He still pops around here every other night. Just, you two look like you can handle yourselves but no fighting in the club. Take it outside or your head’s the one that’s gonna roll.” She directed the last words towards Jace, cautions look in her eyes. With that, she left to tend to the other customers; leaving the shadowhunter with a buzzing vampire at his side.

   ”This, Jace, this is it,” Simon said. There was even a hopeful glimpse in his eyes, drastic change from the pain that had been there for the past few days. Since Clary. ”We should head out there directly, what if he’s at his home?!”

   ”Wait here, I’ll go and get Izzy and Magnus. We’ll have to decide what to do together,” Jace said before leaving Simon by the bar. He straightened his jacket, flashing smiles to the guests he passed by while he searched through the crowd after his friends.

   People kept looking at him, some with interest and others with caution. His blonde hair wasn’t slicked back, he let it fall freely around his face. The looks usually made him feel invincible, but now he mostly felt watched. He pushed through the crowd; in the far end, where the lights were dimmer and a red glow fell over everything, Izzy and Magnus stood: looking as exclusive and dangerous as ever.

   ”Iz, Magnus, we got something,” Jace managed to call out over the loud music. ”Simon’s waiting by the bar.”

   He felt how someone grabbed his arm; a hot, sleazy breath against his cheek. Out of the man’s mouth, came a voice Jace didn’t recognise.

   ”You shadowhunters all think you’re so high and mighty. Guess what, angel-face, you’ve come to the wrong club asking questions about one of our friends. Jahni’s promised to make everything more worthwhile for us downworlders. A world free from the likes of you.”

   Jace tensed. He tried to pull his arm free, but it was useless; the man held him with an iron grip. ”Iz-”

   The man smashed Jace up against the wall with a bang; the impact of the hit knocked the breath out of his lungs, he was so used to being pushed around by others. It was all a part of of the lovely deal of being a shadowhunter.

   Jace had his head pressed against the wall, not able to move a muscle. He still hadn’t gotten a good look at his attacker. The sleazy breath was enough; it made the small hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

   ”Get away from him!” Izzy yelled over the pumping music. ”Magnus!”

   ”Hey, dickhead! Get your lousy hands of my date!”

   The grip the attacker had on Jace lifted for a second. It was enough for Jace to break one of his arms free, elbowing the attacker in the face. Simon was there, throwing a punch at the man who grunted in response.

   Magnus shot a wave of air and sent the man sliding over the floor; the other guests had noticed by now that something was up, darting towards the exit and screaming. A bunch of guards came around, seemingly out of thin air; Jace didn’t fight them as they took a hold of him and forced him towards the exit.

   The lack of bodies, music and warmth was a step up compared to how crowded everything was inside of the club. Jace caught himself from landing straight on his face, quickly getting back up on his feet.

   Along with the others, the attacker also got thrown out on the street. The man, who turned out to be a particularly muscular and grim-looking Seelie, spat some blood on the pavement and cursed at the sight of Jace.

   The smirk that curved the man’s lips made Jace want to smash him to pieces. ”Your time will come, shadowhunter. There’s no place left for you here.”

   ”We’re gonna find your master and kill him, you hear me?!” Jace roared after the man. ”He’s after your kind too, kidnapping and hurting your kids! What do you have to say to that?!”  He was so mad; the anger burned in his stomach, Jace took a few, long strides after the attacker even though the man didn’t even look at him anymore. The man was running down the street, about to be swallowed by the night.

   ”Jace!” Simon was there, right by his side. Cold hands that sent waves of chills through Jace’s body. ”The dude’s gone, we need to focus.” A gentle fingertip touched the shadowhunter’s cheek. It stung, there was a small wound there he hadn’t noticed until now.

   Simon had blood at his fingertips: he stared at it with such fear, along with a worrisome hunger.

   ”Simon, hey, Simon, it’s okay,” Jace snapped his fingers in front of the vampire. He threw a look back at Magnus and Izzy; Izzy looked as worried as Jace felt, while Magnus had an unreadable look in his eyes; lips formed into a thin line.

   ”Simon, you can fight it,” Magnus insisted with the calm and knowing tone of someone who had came across this before. The warlock slowly moved towards them, ready to to hold onto Simon if needed. He sent Jace a look, telling the shadowhunter with his eyes that Jace should step back just incase.

   ”Y-yeah,” Simon breathed, still not able to look away from his fingers. His teeth were out, barely showing beneath his lip. Had Simon had anything to eat today?

   The memory of how Simon had sucked his blood back at the Institute, when Jace had used a glamour to look like Clary came back with full force. Simon’s teeth sinking into him, how he’d been so sure that Simon would end up killing him. How he would’ve let him do it.

   ”Simon, look at me,” Jace pleaded. He took the sleeve of his jacket and wiped away the blood off Simon’s fingers, on the verge of desperately. Why was fear still in Simon’s eyes? Why couldn’t he look at Jace?

   He covered Simon’s rosy fingers with his own. Shutting out the place where the blood had been.

   A jolt of electricity tore through the blonde’s body when Simon met his gaze. His whole world was imploding on itself; every single word Jace’s ever told himself of not deserving anything flew out of the window; every impulse he had forced down into the very depth of his soul came back up to the surface.

   Jace.”

   His name falling from Simon's lips, so small, so quivering - it shattered worlds

   Jace felt his entire body grow weak and trembling. He couldn't look away, not when Simon looked so broken. Inside of him, there was a fire burning with such intensity that it left Jace with smoke in his throat and heart threatening to pound a hole in his rips. Seeing Simon like this was enough to break his heart in two.

   He felt himself leaning closer, stopping just before he did something he would grow to regret. Instead, he held onto Simon's hand for all he got, forcing his own impulses away to focus on what really mattered: Simon. Always Simon. "You're okay," he breathed, "Simon, you're okay."

Chapter Text

Simon stood so still. Jace had never seen him this still; with Simon, there was always some part of him moving; a jittery leg or a trembling hand, but now he looked like he was made out of stone. He had his eyes closed by now, lips slightly parted and his fangs were no longer present, seemingly unaware of how Jace had been leaning forward just seconds ago.  Dark eyelashes against skin, the rim of something red and wet around the edge of the vampire’s eyes. Tears, on the very verge of falling.

   It took every part of Jace not to throw his arms around Simon there and then to keep him shielded from anything that could possibly harm him; to lean in and close what little distance there was left in a kiss he'd been aching for for so long. Instead, he rubbed Simon's fingers gently until Simon had some colour returned to his face and the tension faded from his shoulders; praying that Simon hadn't noticed what Jace had been close to do.    ”Simon, are you okay?”

   Jace had completely forgotten about Izzy and Magnus. Izzy stood there and couldn’t stop staring at where Jace's fingers were curled around Simon's hand with her eyes full of a thousand questions. It would’ve been comical, but now it just was. Somehow, Jace just knew that she knew about what he felt from this simple touch alone.The warlock came closer; close enough to place a hand on Simon’s shoulder.

   Magnus’ touch caused Simon to make a sound close to a whimper. So low, barely a sound at all, still enough to force Jace to remove the grip he had around Simon’s fingers and step away. 

   ”I.. I’m fine, guys, really,” it didn’t sound like Simon when the vampire talked. A mess of sounds that made it into a few words. He briefly shot a unreadable look in Jace's direction. ”Just give me a minute here. Got some stuff I need to push away first.”

   Jace’s jaw tightened. He looked down the street, feverishly biting at the inside of his chin. There was so much he wanted to ask; what was going on in Simon's head? Did he think that Jace had stepped over a line with his behaviour today? First what happened back in the alley, and now this? Did Simon know what Jace felt for him?

   ”Okay, I'm back, nothing to worry about", Simon began, his words shaking as much as his hands did. "Jace-"

   ”We should get going,” Jace cut off abruptly. He avoided looking at Simon; even though he wanted to discuss everything that's happened, this was not the time nor place to do it. They had a mission; it was of grave importance that this mission had to come first. ”It feels a bit to open here, we should find somewhere private to talk about what we found.”

   Everyone moved at that; even Simon, though a bit reluctantly. He walked a few feet behind Jace with a sullen look on his face. Jace had to fight back the urge to wrap his around Simon's again. His fingertips tingled with the memory of Simon's cool touch.

   Their shoes clattered against the pavement. Izzy swept past Jace; her dress reminded him of Clary when the colour glimmered in the streetlight. The fire of Clary's hair, enchanted in darker shades, like the very last rays of sunlight in a sunset.

   ”What did you two find back at the club?” Izzy lead them into an empty street, finding a secluded pathway where they could talk freely with one another. ”Please, tell me it’s something good because I’ve suffered through hours of listening to people brag about themselves and knowing little to nothing about any of the men we’re looking for.”

   ”Some downworlders surely have an appetite for talking about themselves,” Magnus acknowledged with a nod. ”That club just makes it look like we’re all like that, which is a bit of false advertising.”

   Jace shot Simon a quick glance; the vampire stared at the wall and bit at his lip. ”There was a bartender who used to date Jahni before, also a Seelie. She told us that he changed for the worse a couple of months ago: he became a completely different person, she’s worried that something’s wrong with him and from what we know, there truly is something wrong with him. Simon managed to get her to give us Jahni’s old adress; she wrote it down in a text on Simon’s phone.”

   The phone in question was in Simon’s hand. He held it out towards Magnus and Izzy, both of them stepped forward to look at it. Jace threw a glance at it as well, but the name of the street didn’t ring any bells. Not that he knew that many streets in Los Angels to begin with.

   ”It’s supposed to be somewhere down by the sea,” Simon said. The strained tone from before was gone; he sounded more like his usual self again. ”Since this is my first time here, it doesn’t tell me an awful lot.”

    ”Can’t look it up with your precious Google? Worked well last time,” Jace pointed out, offering the vampire a tiny, faintly amused smile. 

   Simon scoffed at Jace’s words, sending Jace his best attempt at a glare; amusement mixed with annoyance, not particularly threatening. ”I’m sure Google Maps can help us out, if you two aren’t familiar with the bay area of LA?”

   Izzy shook her head; eyebrows drawn together. ”Not really, Magnus?”

   ”I’ll portal us wherever we need to go,” the warlock replied. "I've been to most places."

   ”Then I guess our next to stop is Jahni’s evil lair,” Simon said sheepishly. ”Who would’ve thought that an evil lair would be by the beach in LA? Must be a glorious life being a villain and all that.”

   Jace forced down the need to smack Simon over the head. Hard.

 

*~*

 

Jahni’s apartment was in fact right by the beach. The neighbourhood looked wealthy enough to house a variety of A-list celebrities; compared to Jace's room back at the Institute, even the yards in front of the buildings had more to offer.

   Neither of the buildings fit in on the description of evil and demonic. When Magnus stopped them in front of a tall, fancy place with well over ten floors, Jace’s first instinct was to believe that the warlock was joking. Magnus walked with determination towards the entrance, leaving no room for doubt as the others followed suit; Jace trailed behind the others, throwing glances all over to make sure no one was following them. He’d drawn a rune to spot anything hidden by magic, all he had to do was to activate it if needed.

   ”The bartender even wrote which floor the apartment’s at,” Simon exclaimed once they where inside. The hallway wasn't nearly as luxurious as the outside; minor cracks here and there, dirty floors and a elevator that rattled rather worryingly on it’s way down. ”Bless her.”

   ”Isn’t it a bit too early for that? We haven’t even seen the place yet, could still be a trap for all we know,” Jace pointed out. He observed the narrow elevator rather unpleasantly, throwing out a hand to catch himself against the wall just as the elevator began travelling upwards. ”I can’t help that it feels like he wants us to find him.”

   ”I don’t feel any magic at work here, which is somewhat worrisome,” Magnus pondered. The warlock’s eyes glowed while he channeled his magic; the electrifying feeling in the air caused the small hairs on Jace’s arms to rise in dismay. ”There used to be though, that much I can say for sure.” Snarling, he stared at the ceiling with distaste. ”Dark magic.”

   The elevator came to a halt, a mellow bing conforming it’s arrival. Jace, whom stood closest to the door, hurried outside and scanned the awaiting corridor after any of the other tenants. None where out, the group could walk as they pleased through the dully lit room in their search after the right apartment.

   Simon had the phone and therefor stumbled upon taking the lead. Izzy, always with her hand ghosting over her whip followed; Magnus after that, his head snapping around at every little sound that were out of the the ordinary; Jace was last, seraph blade by his fingertips as he continued searching after any signs of any living creature.

   ”A-ha!” Simon exclaimed. In front of him was a door with the number ”62” written on a tiny sign. No name could be found, the only indication that they had arrived at the right place was the number. ”This should be it.”

   Magnus moved his finger over the door; out of his fingertip came a purple, sparkling line, almost like he was using it to draw in the air. He drew the lines into a square, and through the square, Magnus could see into the apartment effortlessly. ”No one seems to be home, I still can’t sense any wards nor protectional magic. The place’s a mess, whoever used to live here seemed to have left things in a hurry.” The square disappeared, revealing the smooth exterior of the door once again.

   He turned towards Izzy. ”Isabelle, could you open the door for us?”

   Izzy retrieved her stele from a pocket of her dress; she drew the rune over the handle and the door opened with a small click. She pushed the handle down and dragged it backwards, sliding in with the stele still in a firm grip between calculated fingers. The others trailed behind her, Jace covering their backs and throwing one last lock down the corridor before he shut the door behind them.

   A heavy, dusty smell drifted in the air throughout the cluttered apartment. Stacks of papers, books and various trinkets covered most surfaces; there was a piece of furniture that looked a lot like a couch, but it was coated from top to bottom with things. How anyone could live and move around in this mess was beyond Jace’s understanding.

   He kneeled down to look through a few stacks of books and magazines; nothing out of the ordinary, most of them were crime novels and tips about gardening, of all things. ”Let’s spread out; check a room each, I’ll look through this one.” The group split, soon leaving Jace alone in the hallway-turned-living room as he went through further stacks of things.

   How many magazines about roses could someone have before it could be described as a obsession? The poor plants seemed like they hadn’t gotten any water in weeks; some of them were all brown and crinkled; Jace was positive that they would crumble beneath his touch.

   The lack of protective wards was worrying; even though Jahni was merely a Seelie, his work with Nathaniel should give him some perks. Were they really that arrogant about keeping their secrets protected or was Jace just missing something here?

   He was in the middle of going through the folders at the coffee table when Simon came back into the room. The shadowhunter didn’t look up from the papers; he angled himself slightly more in Simon’s direction to show that he was aware of the vampire’s presence.

   ”Nothing in the bathroom,” Simon stated. ”Have you checked the stuff over here?” Vaguely, he gestured towards two bookshelves that seemed like they were about to crumble under their own weight.

   ”Go for it,” came Jace’s reply, the blonde bending down to look under the couch. He felt Simon’s eyes on him, burning at the back of his neck from time to time. Jace ignored the looks, furrowing his eyebrows together over a small lump beneath the couch. His fingers graced over it, he had to skit closer to be able to fit his arm in a better angle and get ahold of whatever the thing was.

   ”Simon, can you lift the couch up a bit? There’s something here.”

   Simon complied, lifting the furniture just enough for Jace to remove the lump; the piles of things on top of the couch rattled a bit too much for their liking. The last thing they needed was to make this place more of a mess than it already was.

   The lump was in fact a phone covered with a green, silky pouch. Jace sat up with the phone in his hands, turning the object over to inspect it narrowly; the design seemed ancient compared to what people used now days; tiny buttons, tiny screen and thicker than some of Jace’s fingers.

   ”Is that a phone? God, how do baddies even get ahold of phones like that anymore?” Simon questioned, looking at the phone with pure disbelief. ”What’s wrong with having a iPhone like everybody else to discuss your evil plans on?”

   Jace snorted. ”Got to keep the vintage vibe alive I guess.” He rose from the floor, searching after some button that would turn the device on. ”Guys, I think I’ve found something!”

   Both Magnus and Izzy appeared almost instantly in their respective doorways; Izzy held a stack of folders to her chest, while Magnus’ eyes glimmered of magic. ”What’s that?” Izzy asked with a frown. ”A phone?”

   ”Give it to me,” Magnus inquired, holding out his hand towards Jace. ”Let me see if I can get it to work.” The warlock didn’t have to do more than touch the device to make it jump back to life. It made a buzzing sound, much to Magnus’ liking.

   While Magnus checked the phone, Jace turned to see what Izzy had found in the bedroom. She noticed his interest and held out the folders towards him. He took one, turning it over in his hands. Nothing was written at the front; inside of it, on the other hand, a bunch of papers were thrown together in various shapes and conditions. Some were tiny; dates, names of streets and short sentences, all familiarly alike little reminders to whoever wrote them. The bigger ones held a higher level of details; lists of places, names and dates. At the very back of the folder, there was a page seemingly ripped out of a book; a name written at the top.

   Zhadok?” Jace mumbled to himself. He wrecked his brain after if the name was familiar or not but came up empty-handed. Below the name, was a few lines written. Most of it was simply descriptions of Zhadok; a demon of some kind, seemingly one of the old, greater ones. Lost his physical form in a battle with an angel centuries ago, merely an astral being at this point.

  Was this the demon they had been looking for? The one feeding on Clary and the kids?

   ”There’s nothing but a number on here. No messages, nothing,” Magnus called out. ”I could try calling the number. Here goes nothing, right?” In some magical way, the phone could be switched to speaker; Magnus held out the phone towards the others, angling it so they all would be able to hear.

   At first, it was completely silent. No dial tone, nothing.

   Neither of them knew what to expect.

   The light in the room seemed to go out; it was still pretty early into the night - Los Angeles never truly went completely dark - so this sudden darkness wasn't normal; something was off with the room. Jace looked at Magnus, whom looked around the room with an almost frightened glimmer in his eyes. The warlock’s grip around the phone tightened.

   The phone still hadn’t made a sound. One of the few sources of light left in the room was the screen; it sent a faint glow around itself, the tips of Magnus fingers were bright as day while the warlock in general was almost completely faded into the dark. Jace felt a shift next to him; Simon didn’t look at him, but he was close enough for their bodies to touch. Offering some sort of reassurance, Jace placed a hand on Simon’s elbow.

   Simon didn’t shake it off.

   ”This can’t be right,” Magnus breathed when the room began to tremble; magazines, books and the furniture shook for a few seconds before everything went completely still and quiet again.

   The dial tone came sudden and without warning. It rang three times, then there was a cracking sound coming from the other end.

   ”So, you found the phone, shadowhunter. I’ve been expecting your call.”

    ”You really should learn how to protect your things, Jahni,” Jace teased by pure reflex. ”Leaving important things lying around your place without wards is pretty stupid, if you ask me.”

   Izzy glared at him from the other side of the table. This was not the right time for sarcasm, they needed to be very careful with their words if they wanted to get the directions they needed.

   ”It’s stupid not to think that you’re right where you’re supposed to be, shadowhunter. I see that my trail of crumbs lead you right to where I wanted you to be.”

  
Jace frowned. Even though he could barely see the others, he could sense the same confusion in them. Was this organised by Jahni, but for what purpose? ”What do you mean? Did you want us to find your apartment?”

   ”Yes. I’ve waited for this since we ran into each other back at Nathaniel’s facility in New York. I’m sorry about shooting your friend, but believe me when I say it was something that had to be done.”

   ”You shot Clary because it was necessary? You fucking-” Simon spat, pacing around at the spot. Jace interrupted him by squeezing Simon’s elbow; he gave the vampire a cautious glare as a warning. They were all upset about this information, but they couldn’t let their anger direct the outcome of this.

   ”Ah, you must be the daylighter. You have to understand that she’s a piece of a much bigger puzzle. Her blood is the key to everything.”

   ”How do you know that I’m the daylighter?” Simon was still angry, but he managed to get ahold of his feelings this time.

   ”I’ve been keeping an eye on you all. I like to know who I’m dealing with you, see.”

   Whenever Jace had felt like they were being watched over the last few days, it must’ve been Jahni. He’s been following their every move, leading them here to this room and this phone. They were lured into something, not knowing if it was a trap or if Jahni had a similar goal to theirs.

   ”What do you mean by Clary’s the key? What does her blood have to do with anything?” Magnus spoke up. ”We need answers, Jahni. Help us understand, help us take down your master.”

   ”I’ve said too much over the phone already. It’s not safe for neither you nor me to talk like this; my master has fed on the children of my people for too long. I’ll tell you more, but we need to meet in person for that.”

   It could be a trap. Jace wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to meet on Jahni’s conditions, but what choice did they have? Clary and the kids were not getting any better; this was the best shot at killing the demon.

   ”How can we know that you’re on our side?” Magnus continued. ”How do we know that this is not your master trying to get us all killed?”

   A bitter laugh came from the phone. ”The things I’ve done for that thing, it’s too late for me to redeem my actions. I know how to end him, but for that I need your help. I can’t make you trust me with words alone; all I ask of you is that you come meet me, I’ll give the answers you seek. I’ll help you get to the other realm, the one where he’s hiding.”

   ”Your master, do you mean Nathaniel? Or is Nathaniel just a piece of the puzzle too?” Jace asked sternly.

   Another laugh came through the raspy speaker. ”Nathaniel’s a puppet, but his need for power is enough to make him dangerous. This is no place for people with a conscious nor empathy, shadowhunter. Nathaniel will do anything to keep his power.”

   Then it must be the demon, Zhadok, behind all of this. Thanks to Dot, it was clear that there was a demon feeding on the victims; draining them of life, if Zhadok was the one, he could be doing it to regain his physical form again. It made sense, how terrifying the thought may be for Jace to even consider.

   The last thing the world needed was a reborn, greater demon with a lust for revenge.

   ”Do you want to meet or not? I’ve spoken too long already, I need to go.”

    ”Okay, let’s meet. Where do you have in mind?” Jace said after a moment of silent negotitating with the others. No one was fond of the idea, but it was worth the risk if it meant that Clary and the kids would get better again.

   ”Santa Monica pier. 1PM sharp. I’ll be by the very edge. Send the daylighter. It’s too dangerous to meet at your place, I can’t promise that I won’t be followed.”

   Simon tensed. He stared at Jace with a mix of panic and determination in those brown, deep eyes of his. There was acceptance present too; he wouldn’t fight this decision.

   Jace, on the other hand, wanted to scream at Jahni that it wasn’t even an option open for discussion. Simon was still so new to all of this; Jace didn’t want to put him danger, why couldn’t Jahni agree with meeting him instead? Why did it always have to be the people Jace cared about?

   ”Do we have a deal, shadowhunter?”

   ”No” threatened to slip of Jace’s tongue; it was so much easier to disagree than tell Jahni the word he needed to. A weight of entire worlds dressed up as a simple ”yes.” Jace wanted to take it back as soon as he felt it slip out.

   ”Don’t call me again. I can’t promise that’ll be the one picking up the next time.”

   The line went dead with a raspy crack. Slowly, light started to seep into the room and the pressing feeling in the air lifted too. The four of them remained standing, all of them staring at the phone in Magnus’ hand. The screen was black and lifeless; Magnus tried pressing the button on the side, but nothing happened. It was truly dead this time.

   ”I’m not gonna go there by myself even if the dude wants me too, or?” Simon asked slowly. ”Maybe we should listen to him.”

   Izzy shook her head; folders pressed against her chest and a cold fire burning in her deep, dark eyes. Her lips were thin as a line. ”That’s not gonna happen, Simon. It’s probably a trap, you could get killed if we let you off on your own.”

   I think we should let you meet Jahni alone to not raise any suspicion, but we’ll all be around to help you out if something would actually happen,” Magnus suggested. He paced around the room, studying the stacks of magazines with a frown. ”It’s been years since I went to the Santa Monica pier, it could be worth a shot to go there and see how it looks.”

   Jace remained quiet, lost in thought. Sending Simon on his own to a talk with Jahni was not ideal, the Seelie had thrown Simon across a street without breaking a sweat the night before; there was no way knowing if the man felt like repeating that or not. It could work if they all went with him as back-up, hiding and observing the conversation from afar. Possibly, Jace could agree to such a thing.

   ”There’s no way Jahni’s going to meet with you alone, he could be dragging an army with him for all we know. He may have given us the impression that he wanted to help us, but it could still be him playing with us,” Izzy pressed on. She flickered between looking at Simon and Magnus, searching after confirmation that she was right. ”We could find someplace to hide and observe everything quietly and discreetly.”

   Simon glanced at Jace, drawing his eyebrows together over how unreasonably quiet the blonde was all of a sudden. ”Jace, what do you think?”

   ”It’s dangerous to send you on your own; I’m with the others on this, we should all go to the pier and be ready to back you up if something would happen,” Jace agreed with a deep sigh. He wanted to get out of this damn tuxedo and sleep for a year, his words fell flat as he spoke. ”I also think it’s a good idea to head there and take a look at the pier; get the upper hand on things for once.”

   ”Are you forgetting about that Jahni wanted us to find him like this? He’s a Seelie, can’t lie, I’m not against you guys coming with me, I’m just wondering if it shouldn’t be better to listen to him this time,” Simon wondered. He was fidgeting, nervously scratching at the back of his neck. The very tips of his fingers were still rosy from Jace’s blood. ”We want him to help us right?”

   ”Simon, he threw you across a street like you were a plastic bag, even if he agreed to meet us it doesn’t change that. He knows things, we can’t be sure if there’s a price for his information or not,” Jace scolded. ”It’s unwise to not consider the possibilities that this could be a way for him to get what he wants.”

   Simon threw his hands up in a sign of defeat. ”Then that’s settled. I’ll talk to the guy.” He pushed past Jace without even touching the shadowhunter; delicately avoiding Jace altogether as he walked towards the door. ”Are we taking a look at that pier or what?” Annoyance radiated off the vampire, Jace shared a concerned look with Izzy while Magnus just sighed.

   ”We should get going,” the warlock agreed. He cleaned up the mess with the help of his magic; papers going back to their rightful places. Lastly, he picked up the phone and slid into the pocket of his coat. ”It could still come in handy.”

   Jace let the others go ahead, he needed a moment alone before he could get on with the rest of the night. He glanced around the cluttered apartment, snorting bitterly to himself over how much this mess resembled his own life, and more specifically his own feelings.

   Would he ever be able to get back to some sort of normality or was he doomed to forever ruin everything he touched?

   He closed the door behind him with a aggravated sigh. In the span of a little more than 24 hours, Jace felt like he had aged a decade.

 

*~*

 

Santa Monica pier. Of all places Jahni could’ve picked for his meeting with Simon, it had to be the Santa Monica pier. Only a few - mundane - stragglers where at the pier when the group got there. Loud voices and the sound of waves crashing against the beach, Jace spotted a group of teens running around and laughing down at the beach. The smell of salt and a lingering touch of cotton candy oozed around the pier; nothing was open, at 4AM in the morning this didn’t seem to be the most popular place to be at.

   During the two previous times Jace went to Los Angeles, he never got the time to look at any of the popular tourist attractions. Work took up most of his time, as it always did, he barely got to see the city at all except for dully lit alleys and shady buildings; not the areas worth writing home about, really.

   The cold breeze tugged at his hair as they made their way down the pier. Izzy and him had drawn runes to hide themselves from the mundanes, it looked a lot less suspicious with Magnus and Simon walking by themselves instead of the four of them cluttering together like a group. He had opened the tuxedo, the jacket still clutching to his body like a second, much warmer skin. Whatever he did, it still felt like he was burning up from the inside.

   With the sun about to rise by the horizon, the sea shimmered with spots of red and gold. It was breathtakingly beautiful; he would have enjoyed this, truly enjoyed this, if it weren’t for the reason why they had to be here.

   One day, he promised himself to come here and enjoy the city and not just work the entire time.  Maybe he could bring Alec or Izzy; the only two people in the world that still loved him. It was too much of wishful thinking that he ever could take Simon here as anything other than friends. He didn't need to torture himself with imagining them as anything other than that.

   Izzy slowed down enough for Jace to catch up with her. The dress matched the red colour of the sea and the sky; she looked like a deadly goddess with the way her hair soared in the wind. For Jace, the most worrying thing about her was the way she glared at him.

   He was in for an interrogation. A caring interrogation, if Izzy had anything to say about it.

   ”You’ve been so distant lately,” Izzy murmured quietly. Simon and Magnus were far ahead of them, the vampire probably wouldn’t be able to hear a single thing of their talk but Izzy still kept her voice low, for Jace’s sake. ”What really happened outside of Venom tonight?”

   Jace tightened his jaw, staring straight ahead at the rising sun. ”I don’t know for sure what happened, Iz. All I’m sure of is that Simon was hurting and I wanted to make him feel better. I just.. I care about him. A lot.”

   Izzy wrapped her arm around Jace’s elbow. There was so much unspoken glimpses hidden in those dark eyes he knew so well; so much he wanted to ask her, but the right words escaped him. ”Simon just needs time to process what's happened, Jace. We can't be sure what seeing the blood made him remember,” she offered, her voice warm and full of genuine care that Jace didn’t deserve. ”He'll get around, you did everything you could. ”

   ”I know, it’s just, I’m scared, Iz. I mean, he has so much on his plate already and I keep adding stuff to it, like I want him to know much I really care, but I'm also breaking at the same time because I don't want to ruin our friendship. I almost kissed him, Iz!” Jace continued in a heated whisper. He lingered at the vampire in question for a couple of seconds, sensing the annoyance and tension earlier in the way Simon’s shoulders were back. ”I want to keep him safe and above the surface.”

   With a gentle tug, Izzy made Jace stop. The same pain swirling in his chest was mirrored in her eyes. He could practically feel it buried beneath her skin. ”Jace, believe me when I say how it feels like to want someone who would never look your way the way you want them to. It hurts, beyond words. The difference between us, is that I think you’ll get a shot at what you want. I’ve seen how Simon looks at you when you’re not noticing; there’s something there, Jace. Give him time and he’ll come around.”

   Jace understood, then. The pain in Izzy's eyes went so much deeper than he originally expected it to. ”It’s Clary, isn’t it?”

   The question made Izzy’s eyes shimmer with unshed tears. Had she ever voiced her feelings out loud, did she keep them all bottled up inside like Jace did? He could sense a similar battle inside of Izzy as the one raging on inside of himself.

   She was his sister; Izzy deserved the world, same as Alec and Max did too. When Jace felt like the entire world was against him, he always had the Lightwoods’ there to catch him.

   ”She makes me happy,” Izzy confessed, her voice thick and on the verge of breaking. Sniffling, she wiped at her eyes and braced herself. ”It’s a struggle, but it’s better to be there for her when she needs me to than to shield myself from her completely. I want to make her happy, make her feel loved. It’s ripping me apart that I never got to tell her about how I feel. Why did they have to take her away from me?” The last word was a plea; an accusation at the world; something beyond raw.

   ”Iz, it’s not too late,” Jace held Izzy’s face between his hands, forcing the her to look at him with all that pain. ”Clary’s gonna be okay, you’ll get your chance to tell her about everything. We’re closing in now, we’re going to save them all.”

   Izzy tried to smile; a tormented twist to her mouth, not reaching her eyes. ”I love you, Jace. Never forget that.”

   Jace pulled her into a tight hug, feeling how she clung to him just as desperately. ”I love you too, Iz.”

 

Magnus and Simon waited for them by the edge of the pier; the warlock sent them a knowing look and a comforting smile, while Simon stared at the sunrise; avoiding to look at any of them for the moment.

   ”This is the very edge of the pier,” Magnus stated the facts. ”I’m certain this was the place Jahni talked about on the phone; as you all can see it’s very out in the open, not a lot of good hiding spots up close.” He was right; there where some buildings nearby, one with a second floor that more looked like some sort of tower; next to it, was the roller coaster. Tables were scattered around the area, some benches too.

   Jace studied the surroundings, frown in place. This place would be packed with mundanes around noon, they had a shot at blending in with the crowd. Jahni had already gotten a good look at him, but maybe Izzy and Magnus had a better chance at not getting spotted in a mass of mundanes? He looked at the tower; he could stay by the entrance, slipping inside of the building if he needed to hide. It could work, while the others were out and roaming around with the mundanes.

   ”I’ve got an idea,” Jace proposed, causing the others to look at him. Even Simon, reluctantly. ”It’ll be loads of people here by noon, right? We could use that to our advantage; Izzy, you and Magnus could blend in with the crowd of mundanes; I’ll stay here by this building, Jahni could be put off by seeing me so I can hide inside of the building if he looks my way. I’ll be able to keep an eye at the conversation without drawing any attention to myself.”

   ”That could work,” Magnus admitted. ”It’s a risk with all of the mundanes present, we need to be prepared that Jahni could do something to put them all in danger.”

   ”I’m not sure, Jahni still wanted me to come alone. I could call you if something happened and you could teleport here, I just don’t want to risk him slipping away if he sees any of you,” Simon urged on. He leaned against the railing, a hard glimmer in his usually happy, light eyes. This habit of putting himself in danger at any given turn was truly tiring; Simon reminded Jace too much of himself in situations like these.

   ”We’ve already discussed this, Simon,” Jace snarled, a lot harsher than intended. He was exhausted of having to fight to keep Simon safe and out of trouble; couldn’t the vampire see that this was for the best? ”What if you don’t get to your phone fast enough, what if they teleport you to the other realm with no means of reaching us, Simon? It’s not even up for debate; we all go or none of us do.”

   ”If it means that Clary and the kids wake up, I’m willing to put my life on the line,” Simon spat back. He took a step towards Jace; eyes blazing. ”I’ll take any risk to see this mission through, Jace.”

   ”No, it’s dangerous. I’m not letting you walk in here without back-up,” Jace pressed on. He stared Simon down; he was a few centimetres taller than Simon, using his height to really get the point across. He truly hoped that the vampire understood why Jace did this. It was important to save Clary and the kids, hell that was their top priority, but Jace wouldn’t allow any of his team to put their lives on the line for this. He was the one worth sacrificing, he was the one no one would miss in the end.

   ”Just because you have feelings for me doesn’t mean that you get to decide what I do and not do!”

   Simon’s words felt like a slap to the face. Simon knew.

   Both Magnus and Izzy stared at Simon with matched horror; the vampire didn’t seem to notice, he looked straight at Jace with a pulsing anger that hurt more than any hits would ever do.

  Exposed to and by the truth; Jace had never felt as vulnerable as he did in that moment, meeting Simon’s burning gaze with the sheer brokenness of his own. That hurt; having his own feelings used against him hurt. He never wanted to feel anything ever again.

   ”Jace is right,” Izzy glared at Simon with fire of her own; nothing could match her ice. ”We’re doing this together, Simon. I know you can handle yourself, but it’s safer to be prepared for the worst.”

   Magnus held his hands in front of his mouth, cryptically looking between the other three. ”We all want to save Clary and the kids, Simon. Don’t mistake our caution for lack of caring.” He flicked with his fingers; a portal swirled to life beside him, a black and purple hole into oblivion. ”I think it’s time for us to get back to the apartment and rest, we’re all going to need it for what’s about to come.”

   Izzy gave Simon one last glare before she went into the portal; Simon stormed in after her. The warlock gazed at Jace, who hadn’t moved an inch since Simon’s truthful accusation.

   ”Simon’s not thinking straight,” Magnus tried to ease some of the pain from Jace’s eyes.

   ”He’s still right,” Jace muttered lowly. He pushed the tears back, the pieces of his life that crumbled beneath his fingertips. He pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing as he walked towards the portal and went inside.

 

*~*

 

The tension back in the apartment was thick enough to cut with a knife. They split up in two; Izzy sat with Simon in the living room, searching for more information about Zhadok while Magnus and Jace went through the lists and papers Izzy found back at Jahni’s apartment in the kitchen.

   It was easier not to think about Simon when he had something to occupy himself with. He studied the lists, hoping to find a pattern that connected all of the names and numbers; it laid just out of his reach, he could practically feel the connection and it made him even more annoyed with himself when he couldn’t put it into words.

   Magnus seemed to be just as annoyed as Jace was. He kept mumbling things to himself under his breath, flickering back and forth through the pages after whatever he was missing. These lists didn’t make any sense, who were all these people?

   Jace buried his head in his hands, rubbing at his temples slowly to get some of the tension away. ”What are we missing? What are all these names and numbers for? I have the answer at the tip of my tongue, but I can’t seem to connect the dots.”

   ”Unfortunately, that makes two of us,” Magnus sighed. ”Maiev, Henry, Luca, 12th. It keeps going on and on, I can’t wrap my head around this. Maybe we should call it quits for now and go to sleep, we’re no use if we can’t focus straight… wait. Wasn’t one the kids’ name Maiev? Back at the Institute?”

   Jace drew his eyebrows together with a thoughtful frown. He had been so caught up on Clary to focus on the kids; it was shameful and embarrassing, to not put names to the people they where here to save. To admit his lack of decency to Magnus, was harder than expected. ”I don’t remember to be fair, I was too caught up on Clary.”

   Magnus gave him an unimpressed glare. ”Professional of you, Jace. I’m so sure about it though, because it’s not an ordinary name and it stuck out to me. What.. what if these lists are of the victims? Zhadok is old, ancient even; these lists could be of every single one of the demon’s victims.”

   Jace nodded solemnly. It made sense, if Zhadok needed to rebuild his body again; he could’ve been feeding on people for centuries, god, how many kids had he destroyed? How many more would he kill if they didn’t stop him? ”It makes sense, but we don’t have time to confirm our speculations. Maybe you should teleport to the Institute and get some of Alec’s personel to look into it?” Out here, they lacked a lot of the resources the Institute normally would provide with.

   With the meeting coming up just in a few hours, rest and keeping their heads sharp was the thing they needed to do. The possibility of the theory being right though, that sent a spark of excitement through Jace's chest.

   They were getting somewhere, how slow their steps might be; it was still something.

   Magnus nodded. ”Yes, I need to check in if Alec has any updates after all. I’ll head there at once.” He gathered all of the lists and put them back in the folder, patting Jace’s shoulder before heading out to where the other pair of the group where; Jace heard how they talked to one another, but he couldn’t focus on what they were saying.

   Accompanied by his body’s disapproving, cracking sounds, Jace got up from the chair. He stretched out his arms over his head and rolled his neck from side to side. Voices came from the living room; Simon and Izzy were talking about something. He should get out there and talk to them about their findings, hear what perspectives they had on the whole thing. Instead, he lingered for as long as he could in the kitchen; a part of him was scared to face Simon again after the fiasco at the pier, because the small chance that Simon would take this opportunity to talk about everything was overwhelming. Jace knew they needed to talk about it, he wasn’t stupid after all, but if Simon told him face to face that he didn’t want anything to do with Jace ever again, meaning the very end of their friendship, he would lose it.

   Despite how they bickered and had trouble with getting along from time to time, Jace valued Simon’s friendship a lot. Losing Simon would break him completely. He was already trading on thin ice, not having the vampire there by his side even as a friend would be the final crack to send him spiralling down in unknown waters.

   Hate. Jace hated that his mind lingered to focus on Simon instead of everything they had found out during the night. Why was he still up? He should try to get some sleep before the meeting, but here he was; a scared fool that hid in the kitchen instead of dealing with his problems.

   Jace found himself standing by the window; looking down at the street, aimlessly searching after something, when Magnus returned. Izzy’s tone alone was enough to make the other shadowhunter head towards the door; she sounded worried, for good reasons too it turned out since Magnus stood completely still; his face clouded with sorrow.

   Both Simon and Izzy stood up as well; Simon looked like he was about to hug the warlock for some reason Jace still couldn’t fully make out while Izzy glanced at the other man with that deep wory infecting every part of her.

   Whatever the reason for Magnus’ sullen look, it couldn’t be good.

   ”What’s wrong, Magnus? Have something happened back at the Institute?” Jace more or less commanded. All of them were on edge enough as it was; if something bad had happened, they all deserved to know. ”Is it-”

   ”It’s not Clary,” Magnus finished lamely; there was a cold edge to his whole persona, the sadness running deep in his eyes. ”It’s.. one of the kids, Luca, passed away. So young, gone.. just like that.” He had to lean against the couch for support; Magnus usually was the one in control, he had this demeanour that he was carefree and full of surprises, so good at hiding all of the care and pain behind this facade he put up.

   The room fell painfully silent. Crushing guilt laid thick as blanket over the whole group; they had worked so hard, all for nothing. One of the kids Jace and the others swore to keep safe, was dead. Gone. Too late, why did they always have to be too late? Just when it felt like they had something going on, the world came crushing down with it’s horrendous reality.

   Jace could barely breath. Defeat tasted thick and bitter, clogging his throat.

   ”What..?” Izzy’s voice was low; a broken whisper, covering her mouth with her hand. ”Fuck.”

   ”He was one of the youngest, without the stabiliser he.. the demon drained him whole. Alec’s trying to get ahold of the Seelie Queen to inform her about the death, just.. I don’t know what to say. Dot tried everything to save him, but.. nothing.”

   Tears started to burn behind his eyelids. The living room felt too small, too crowded. They hadn’t done enough. A kid was dead.

   He wanted to scream.

   He wanted to puncture Nathaniel’s worthless heart with his sword and see the light leave the man’s eyes. A kid. Dead. On their watch. He wanted to burn and banish the demon to hell using only his own anger.

   He was suffocating in here. Jace couldn’t get his breathing to work, his chest heaved up and down erratically. He needed to get out, now, he couldn’t stand being another second in here. A kid was dead. Luca was dead.

   ”Jace, wait-” Izzy called out, but Jace ignored her. He rushed past the others, out into the tiny hallway and let the door fall shut with a bang behind him. His boots boomed with every frantic step he took down the stairs; his vision was blurry, eyes stinging with warm tears.

   Anywhere but Magnus’ apartment would work. He just needed to get away, clear his head and remove that crushing weight over his heart. His breathing still came out as drained hisses; was he shaking?

   Jace aimlessly stumbled around on the unfamiliar streets. No one could see him thanks to the rune, but it still felt like their eyes left burns all over his body. A ghost, wandering aimlessly. He turned and found himself in a narrow path between rundown buildings. Without thinking too much about it, he collapsed to the ground behind a dumpster; catching himself with his hands, blood prickling through fresh wounds caused by sharp stones.

   His hands shook badly, he stared at them and curled one into a fist, even though it hurt. Biting down, he screamed and screamed until his throat gave in.

 

*~*

 

Jace had no idea how long he’d been out for when he got back to the right street again. The curtains were still drawn shut; there was no telling if the others were still up or not. Every move felt like he carried a mountain on his back, exhaustion dripping off him like murky water.

   His throat felt raw from all of the screaming; the puffiness around his eyes was also worse than ever. This version of him was so far from the cocky, sarcastic self he usually was. Jace loathed this broken version of himself; he couldn’t keep it together when he needed it the most. He who usually endured everything, putting on a brave face for the camera; look at him now.

   As he made his way up the stairs to the fourth floor, where Magnus’ apartment was, he sensed that there was someone else out in the stairwell with him. A door closed, quick steps echoing from the floors above him; before Jace got the chance to sprint back down, he found himself face to face with Simon.

   The vampire was close to stumbling over his own feet when he noticed Jace standing there, blocking his way. His eyes grew wide; there was a certain rosy colour in thin, uneven lines along Simon’s cheeks and beneath his eyes. Jace wasn’t the only one whom cried over the news about the kid.

   ”Jace,” Simon breathed in a shaky greeting. He held onto the railing, looking down at Jace from where he was perched a few steps above the shadowhunter. ”I was just about to head out and look for you. No time for assembling a bigger search party, I’m afraid, so it’s good to see you back.” There was an uncertainty plaguing Simon’s eyes, on the verge of being apologetic.

   ”Glad to be at service for once,” Jace spat coldly. The slow, quiet anger seeped into his bones; he wanted to comfort Simon at the same time as he wanted to make him feel as bad as Simon had made him feel back at the pier. Constant battle with himself. ”Did you want something or?”

   Simon seemed a little off about Jace’s reaction. His eyebrows furrowed together over a confused frown, until his face fell and remorse covered every feature. ”Look, I’m sorry for what I said back at the pier earlier. I didn’t mean to hurt you, it was stupid of me to hold your feelings against you. I’m just, I was pissed at you for not letting me decide what I should do or not do-”

   ”The thing about working in a team, Simon, is that we together make a decision based on what the whole group thinks is right,” Jace snapped, interrupting whatever Simon had to say. ”You argued against a decision we all made together, putting your own safety as well as ours on the line just because you feel the need to sacrifice yourself for the sake of Clary and the kids. What I feel towards you has nothing to do with seeing the logical way out in this matter; we’ve already lost one of the kids, we don’t need to lose you too due to ignorance.”

   ”But, if it was you meeting with Jahni tomorrow, alone, we wouldn’t even have this conversation,” Simon argued. ”When it’s you giving yourself up again and again for the greater good, it’s okay? Why is that so, Jace? Why are you the only one who’s allowed to sacrifice yourself to save the people you love?”

   ”Because no one would miss me if I died!” Jace exploded. Simon had ripped his chest open; pushed through every wall and into the very core of Jace’s being. Simon brought out the ugliest part of him; the things he had tried to keep hidden for so long. Guilt. Hatred. Pain. ”No one would miss me the way they would miss you, Simon. I’ve made so many mistakes, brought so much pain to people I care about. I’m only worth something when I have a blade in my hand.”

   Simon looked like he was on the verge of crying again. Those deep, brown eyes Jace loved so much hurt to look at. They were filled to the brim with such warmth and care that it made his head spin. He could drown in those eyes; he wanted to do it.

   Jace,” was the only thing that crossed the vampire’s lips. The one word that shattered Jace completely; he felt tears rolling down his cheeks and he couldn’t do anything to stop them.

   Simon closed the space between them with two long strides; he placed his hand on Jace’s neck and pulled the shadowhunter forward in a mix of limbs and trembling fingers. "Can I..?"

   Jace nodded, breathlessly. He felt himself break as Simon's lips touched his own, ravishing him with the desperation that could be found in Jace's own heart. Simon was kissing him. With the same overwhelming need; it knocked the air out of Jace’s lungs and he had no idea what to do other than kiss back. He couldn’t stop trembling.

   Simon pushed him up against the railing, the metal pressed into Jace’s back in a rather unpleasant way. He didn’t care, not in the slightest because Simon kissed him with the force of a hurricane and pleaded Jace’s name over and over into the kiss; like he couldn’t get enough; Jace was his lifeline, as Simon was Jace's.

   ”Simon,” Jace barely got a word out, his lips puffy and red from the kiss. Simon was still in his space; foreheads touching, Simon’s breath warm and electric against Jace’s cheek. ”I… the mission, we can’t..”

   ”If we’re going to die today, can we just have this moment?” Simon’s fingers were doing that thing again; rubbing up and down along Jace’s neck. ”I know you think that no one would care if you died, Jace, but you’re wrong. You have Izzy, Max and Alec; your parabatai. All of them would be devastated if something happened to you.”

   He bit his lip, looking at Jace through his fluttering eyelashes. It was the most beautiful thing Jace had ever seen. ”I would fucking lose it if something happened to you.” For a moment, Jace doubted the honesty in Simon’s words; when the vampire kissed him, this time slower, yet still with a burning crave for more, he knew Simon was telling the truth.

   Jace let out a shuddering breath against Simon’s lips. The rational part of him knew he should say no; they had hours until the meeting. Hours. Rationally, what they should was to go to sleep and focus on what was about to go down. Rest.

   The other part of him - the human one - wanted something entirely different.

   What little restrain he had left flew out the nearest window when Simon whispered his name again. Low, pleading.

   ”You’re ruining me,” he breathed before leaning in to kiss Simon again. This time, he took the lead. He pushed Simon back, following the vampire’s movements with his own; urging on, desperately craving to feel everything all at once.

   Somehow they made it up the stairs without falling. For Jace, it was no miracle; Simon, on the other hand, could fall from simply standing up the wrong way. Jace could’ve helped out a little; possibly, he lifted Simon at some points, preventing the vampire from stumbling over and dragging them both down in the fall.

   Jace pushed Simon against the front door; he felt a leg around his hips, holding him in place while Simon somehow managed to fumble enough with the handle to open the door, causing them both to tumble inside. Jace would’ve commented on their lack of safety, but he was too busy with getting his breathing back to normal while Simon slid down and stepped away, barely out of reach while Jace locked the door.

   The apartment was silent; Magnus and Izzy were both probably asleep, the heavy silence indicated that much at least. It was just him and Simon awake in the dim apartment; the lack of sunlight made everything feel like a part of a dream; dust circled the air, Simon stood there with a hand in his hair and looked ravished in a way that made Jace want to kiss him again.

   Jace leaned against the locked door, his hair hanging in unruly tangles around his face. The pure need from out in the stairwell had faded into something different; it wasn’t as strong, what remained was a lot tender. Affectionate even.

   ”You’re the most confusing person I’ve ever met,” Simon said with a smirk that didn’t reach his eyes. There was two seas of emotions hiding in each of them; the need mixed with the guilt of finding solitude in times like these, with a race against the clock and the whole Shadow World on the brink of war.

   Here in this hallway, for a moment, none of that existed.

  ”Why so?” Jace asked with a small smile of his own.

   ”One day you act like you hate me, the next you kiss me like your whole life’s depending on it. Not that I’m complaining about the kissing, far from it actually when it comes down to things, but it’s kind of sending mixed signals. I just.. after everything, this mess we’re caught in the middle of, I need something real, Jace.”

   ”What about Maia?” Jace felt another stone in his throat when he thought about the werewolf. He was so caught up in Simon that he didn’t think twice about the vampire’s deal with the werewolf. How could Simon talk about something real when he just kissed Jace even though he had Maia?

   ”There’s nothing going on between Maia and me. We’re friends, I like her a lot but it’s not like that,” Simon explained gently; quiet, with complete honesty. ”Honestly, for a long time the only one I’ve been able to think about is you.”

   Jace squeezed his eyes shut, feeling every heartbeat pulse in his fingertips. A hurricane raved inside of him; everything he thought he knew about the world was a lie. ”Don’t say that. Don’t..” He had no idea how to finish that sentence. It was too good to be true, in this mess of a world something went his way. There was no way he could believe any of this was actually happening.

   Simon came closer; he moved slowly, giving Jace the chance to back away if he wanted to. The shadowhunter waited for him. He leaned forward; foreheads touching again, Simon’s hands cradling through the stubby, blonde hair on the back of Jace’s neck.

   ”I know. Jace, just” Simon murmured quietly. His fingers moved to cradle through the loose hair by Jace’s face, placing his hand so he held the hair out of the way. He pressed his lips against Jace’s cheek; his temple. This level of intimacy was different from anything Jace had ever experienced before. It was a dangerous thought to think that he could get used to it.

   Simon backed away. His hands remained, tugging Jace along towards the living room. Still close, so close it made Jace’s heart skip beat after beat.

   They ended up together on Jace’s mattress. Tangled together, Simon’s head on Jace’s chest. It was far from ideal, being cramped together on a way too small mattress, but the weight of the vampire against him was enough to make Jace fall asleep; his nose nuzzled into Simon’s hair.

 

*~*

 

The team got to the pier thirty minutes early. As expected, there where a lot more people now compared to the few stragglers during the night. Magnus and Izzy had walked ahead; dressed in their most insignificant clothing, they were already blending in with the crowd. The sunglasses and hats helped with the impression; Simon muttered something about Izzy and Magnus looking like Captain America and Sam Wilson going incognito in some civil war movie; Jace couldn’t help but roll his eyes at that. Fondly, of course.

   Simon had a habit of dropping a movie reference when the timing was not exactly ideal. It was aggravating and overly cute at the same time.

   The pair walked slowly through the crowds of people. Jace also wore a cap and a pair of sunglasses; the glasses were a bit too big, they kept sliding down over his nose. He must look absolutely ridiculous, but for the sake of blending in, it was a necessary omen.

   Neither of them had spoken about what happened earlier. Jace woke up with Simon’s body still firmly attached to his own; quietly snoring, arm thrown over Jace’s chest to hold him in place. He would be lying if he didn’t say it was confusing at first, but it was a pleasant confusion.

   There was still plenty of talk about, but it would have to wait until the mission was done with in some way. Whatever changed between them, it changed for the better though.

   ”You’re ready for this?”

   They stood beneath the rollercoaster, just past the fence. Kids kept screaming and the structure rattled whenever a train flew by above their heads. Jace held a hand over Simon’s elbow, squeezing it gently.

   Simon smiled nervously. The usual jitteriness in his step was back; the vampire tried to hide it by putting his hands in his pockets. ”I think so, just a little nervous.”

   ”The most important thing is that we get to know where the demon is and how we get to it,” Jace said, surveying the nearby crowds after suspicious activity; he kind of expected Jahni to pop up out of the blue and knock them out. ”We don’t know for how long he can meet, just try to get out as much information as you can with the little time we have.”

   This meeting was the biggest shot they got. If it didn’t go well, they could lose another kid’s life to this ugly demon. He still had a sour taste in his mouth whenever he thought about Luca’s unnecessary death.

   Simon nodded; the hard look in his eyes and the grim twist to his mouth resembled some of the pain Jace felt as well. He hid it behind a mask of nonchalance, like he always did. ”I hope he’s reasonable. I’m worried that one of the mundanes could get hurt; this is not exactly a safe spot for a meeting.”

   Jace sighed. There was a family walking a few feet away from where they stood; a girl, not older than five, along with the father and older brother. All laughing and smiling. It broke Jace’s heart slightly to just look at them. ”We’ll try to keep the casualties to a minimum, as always.”

   ”I should go, it’s still a bit early but I think it’s better if I make myself known. Testing the waters and all that jazz,” the vampire remarked. He shot Jace a look that could be described as reassuring, but failed completely to what it was intended for.

   Jace took ahold of Simon’s hand before the vampire got too far away from him. Bewildered, Simon looked at him with wide eyes. ”I.. just be careful, okay? If you feel threatened, don’t hesitate to call on us.”

   ”I’m always careful, boss.”

 

*~*

 

Jace stood by the entrance to the building; hidden behind a rune from the mundanes. He kept himself by the wall, making himself as small and invisible as he could. It was a beautiful day; the sun stood high up in the sky, not a single cloud in sight. Such a contrast to everything going on in his life; the ugly, dark reality.

   Simon stood by the railing; even from where Jace stood, it showed how nervous the vampire truly was. He kept switching his weight from leg to leg; his head snapped from side to side, probably trying to spot Jahni in the crowd of mundanes. An uneasy feeling settled in Jace’s stomach from simply getting a glimpse of the vampire’s nervous antics.

   He had to be ready for anything, otherwise it would go out over Simon. Magnus sat on one of the benches not too far away from where Simon stood; reading a newspaper, looking pretty unbothered by the whole thing. Izzy stood on the other side, leaning against the railing with a silky scarf thrown around her neck; covering her runes. Rather convincingly, she checked her phone and glanced around her to give off the impression that she was waiting for someone.

   The tension in Jace’s stomach only increased with every passing minute. A well-known, restless itch crept beneath his skin. Fingers barely ghosting over the handle of his blade.

   ”Simon’s in position, you’re ready, Jace?”

  
Jace held the phone against his ear; noticing with a swift glance to the side, that Izzy did so too, while Magnus’ phone was nowhere in sight. Most likely on his lap, never against his ear.

   ”Yeah, Magnus, I have a nice view over Simon for now. I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary yet, how’s things at your end?” Jace leaned against the wall, tightening his jaw.

   ”In the clear too, nothing out of the ordinary yet.”

   ”Good, be ready for anything. I’ll keep my eyes on Simon while you two cover the sides. I’ll keep my phone on for as long as possible, shout as soon as you spot something suspicious. How’s things on your end, Izzy?”

   ”All good, it’s getting crowded. Still sure that Jahni’s gonna show?”

   ”I think so, he picked the place and time after all. There’s a couple of minutes left, he can till pop up any second,” Jace murmured. He kept glancing ahead of him; mundanes of all origins, ages and sizes walked along the pier; at times, Jace could barely spot where Simon stood by the railing.

   Jahni’s reasons to why this was the perfect spot for a crucial meeting would surely be captivating.

   ”Guys, I think I see Jahni. ”

    Izzy had her head turned slightly to the left. Jace blended in with the doorway; trying to spot where the Seelie was. It didn’t take him long at all, because the Seelie stood out from the others: he was a lot bigger up close like this than Jace expected him to be; muscular, noticeable by the black, short hair and the scar Jace remembered from their previous encounters.

   Some Seelies changed their appearance with magic; others weren’t afraid to look and be who they really were. Jahni seemed to be one of the later category. The Seelie casually strolled up to where Simon stood by the railing; his sudden arrival caused the vampire to jump slightly in surprise or fear. Jace activated his runes; he easily blocked out the unnecessary voices, focusing on the two he recognised.

   ”You must be Jahni!” Simon exclaimed a bit too loudly and held out his hand towards the Seelie. Jahni simply stared at Simon’s outstretched hand like it was contagious. ”I’m the daylighter, we spoke on the phone earlier. I’m glad you could make it.”

   Jahni glanced around the crowd; it was a nervous twitch, like he was on the lookout for something. It was a bit unnerving; what was the Seelie looking for? Was he being followed, did someone else know about their place to meet?

   ”There’s something going on with Jahni,” Jace murmured into the phone. ”Keep an eye out, he seems to be looking for something. He could be followed.”

   ”Noted.”

   ”Keep your voice down a little, will you?” Jahni sounded tense; it matched with the rest of his body language. ”I can’t be long, what do you need to know?”

   ”I, ehm, we need to get to the realm where the demon’s at. Could you get us there?” Right on point, that’s how it’s done; Simon was truly learning from the best.

   Jahni made a loud, grunting noise in reply. ”It’s not like travelling between the Seelie world and this one, daylighter. I’m not sure you’ll be able to get there without my help.”

   ”You said on the phone that you wanted to help us, can you do it? If you help us, we’ll be able to save the kids and our shadowhunter,” Simon stepped forward; he didn’t know where to put his hands, he kept fidgeting.

   Even from where Jace by wall behind a crowd of mundanes, he could glimpse how Jahni’s face dropped. This was different than the version of the man the bartender told them about the other night; no sign of a cocky, arrogant man; this was someone with deep regret. Utter and sheer regret.

   ”Being here is a risk; I’ll help you, but my help comes with certain risks-”

   ”There’s something wrong.”

   Izzy, whom had been leaning against the railing a few feet away from the meeting, stood up and turned to look at something out of Jace’s sight. She took a step forward, and that was when people started to yell.

   Jace straightened up, searching after the source to why the mundanes ran and screamed. ”Don’t let go of Jahni, keep him protected!” he barked into the phone, pushing his way into the crowd; towards where Simon and Jahni still stood.

   ”Get out, there’s a bunch of downworlders heading our way!”

   ”Give them all you got, Iz!”

      A sound so agonisingly loud it pounded in his ears. Looking around, he couldn’t locate the source of it; Jace held his hand over his ears to try to block it out, he noticed how a mundane next to him kept screaming ”bomb!” over and over.

   The heat took them all off guard. It burned through the air; the building Jace just left went up in flames; bits and pieces flying through the air, large chunks of it crashing against the pier as the shockwave of the blast sent all of them flying backwards.

   Jace crashed against the railing with a loud boom. His ears were ringing, he could barely see anything in front of him due to how blurry and out of focus his sight was. Getting back up on his feet was a too big of a task, every limb he had trembled in pure chock. He needed to know if the others were okay, but he couldn’t find his phone anywhere.

   The impact caused his back to hurt; Jace tried to grab his stele and draw a Iratze rune, but he couldn’t get his fingers to move. His body was revolting against him and there was nothing he could do about it.

   The building made a loud, cracking sound. Due to the blast, the tower shook disastrously before tipping forward. Jace saw how it fell as in slowmotion; he heard the screams coming from the mundanes, along with deafening bangs of the rubble crushing through the wooden planks of the pier and down into the ocean.

   With a last push of all the energy Jace could muster, he threw himself to the side with sheer will alone. The tower landed centimeters away from his feet; it went through the floor and left a large, gaping hole in it’s aftermath.

   Jace tried to hold onto the railing. His fingers still didn’t fully listen to his commands, there was a panicked voice screaming in his head that he had to hold on, had to get out of there before he ended up in the sea. With a grunt, he felt the metal slipping beneath his fingers; his hands were covered with a cold sweat, he felt himself sliding backwards when his hands slipped of the metal and he fell down into the hole the tower created.

  Jace felt dizzy. He saw how the pier remained above him, the pure panic of the situation eating him up on the inside as he flew through the air and pierced through the surface. The tower was just there, beneath the surface; Jace hit his head against the wooden planks; everything turning black around the edges while he sank deeper towards the bottom.

 
He was barely conscious, the surviving instinct roared in his head for him to move, but the pain of it all, the pounding pain against the back of his head and his back was too much. A gentle steam of something red and clear floated through the water ahead of him and he wondered if it was his blood.

   The air started to leave and Jace thought that drowning was not how he was supposed to die. This couldn’t be the end of him.

Chapter Text

When Jace finally regained consciousness, he was being dragged out of the water. He coughed, streams of salt water running out and down over his wet clothes; the taste of it made him want to puke. It was gnarly and burned at the inside of his throat.

   ”Jace! Are you okay?!”

   He recognised that voice.

   Simon.

   The vampire let go of Jace, the blonde crumbled into a pile of wet clothes and body parts on the warm ground. His chest was heaving up and down after air, desperately trying to get some back after being down under the water for god knows how long.

   There was a hand on Jace’s shoulder, squeezing. His eyes stung when he blinked, the water irritating and causing tears to slip down his cheeks too; just as salt, but warmer than the sea. Was he kneeling in sand or what was going on?

   He tried to speak; his voice was raw and burning on the inside. When he got a word out, it was hoarse and barely coherent. ”I’m.. fine. Go get.. the others.”

   ”Are you sure?” Simon knelt down beside him; droplets of water slid down the vampire’s cheeks, his eyes glistering of worry. His hand was cold against Jace’s burning cheek. Cold, yet blazing at the same time.

   ”Yes.. go,” Jace repeated; throat still strained from the lack of air.

   The relief of being alive was bleak compared to the relief of Simon still being up and running. Jace managed to get a look of the vampire’s wet, dissolved self before the vampire ran off to help mundanes out of the water.

   Jace managed to slip the stele out of his pocket, slowly drawing the right runes on his arm because he couldn’t manage to push away the wet fabric from his stomach. It took time, he managed to get them right and that was the key to all of it. Slowly, he felt his body starting to come back to it’s senses; he got his sight back, everything stopped trembling so much and he managed to stand up completely without falling over.

   As he looked at the pier, everything was a mess. Simon was dragging out mundanes out of the water; saving lives, while there was some kind of fight going on up at the pier. A gut-wrenching fear infested his body, because what if Magnus and Izzy was in the middle of it? He needed to get to them.

   Jace drew a speed rune and ran as fast he could towards where the fight was. Simon was out of reach, he wouldn’t have to worry about the vampire for now. It would only be a matter of time before the mundanes own police, paramedics and fire department came to the scene. Much to Jace’s own surprise, neither of those had arrived at the pier already. The LA traffic must truly be something out of this world.

   When he got closer, he noticed the bodies. Mundanes; whimpering after help to someone they couldn't even see. Jace wanted to help, every part of him screamed that he should head back and drag these poor people to safety. What kept him from acting on his impulses was that the need to find Izzy and Magnus was even greater. He vowed that he would come back for them, if the paramedics didn’t get there first.

   Why did Jahni have to pick this place for the meeting? Now they had even more innocent lives ruined because of their ignorance. Stupidity.

   The sounds of the fight came from the very edge of the pier; the place where Jace fell into the sea thanks to the tower. Smoke laid thick in the air, ravishing the inside of the shadowhunter’s already hurting throat as he came closer.

   The fight was divided between two groups. A sound unmistakably alike Izzy’s whip came from the group closest to Jace; a blur of bodies, along with a silver line cutting through and latching against it’s enemies. In between the men, Izzy flied around with the speed of a whirlwind.

   Spells shot through the air from the other group. Magnus was there; holding the attackers off. Jace couldn’t see Jahni anywhere.

   He focused on the men attacking Izzy. With a swift move, he took his blade out of it’s holster and went for it. The attacker didn’t see what hit him before he was face down to the ground, a particularly precise wound causing him to scream out in agony.

   Jace gave the man a merciful kick before jumping onto the next one. The element of surprise was gone now; the others had noticed that Jace had joined the fight, the men around Izzy were splitting up to focus on the newcomer as well.

   ”Where’s Jahni?!” Jace yelled, his voice breaking due to the raspiness in his throat. He dodged one of the attackers attempts at kicking him in the stomach; launching forward, he cut the man’s hip with his blade.

   ”Good to see you too, Jace,” Izzy hollered back. Silver flashed through the air, circling around another of the man’s legs and causing him to fall over. The heel of her boots were especially pointy and gave a crushing sound when it collided with the man’s nose. ”He’s here somewhere, I saw him fighting alongside Magnus a few minutes ago!”

   ”Can you handle these on your own?” Jace barked in reply. He laid pinned down beneath a gruff looking man that showed his teeth at the shadowhunter; werewolves were a lot stronger than some of them gave the impression to be. One of Jace's arms was free, he grabbed the back of the werewolf’s head and pulled roughly at the hair. While he smacked his head against the werewolf’s, he heard Izzy replay with a cocky ”I can handle a bunch of dudes, Jace.” Even though the pain made him grit his teeth, he couldn’t help but feel a spark of content over his sister’s ability to always make everything feel that tiny bit better.

   Luck was not on Jace’s side; he made his way with pure talent and experience. The werwolf went out from his collision with Jace’s head, the shadowhunter stumbling to his feet and lurching towards where Magnus was fighting against a bunch of mean-looking men. He had to jump across the hole in the pier caused from the fallen tower; the water laid uninviting and blue as ever beneath his feet when he flew across with one calculated jump.

   There was one downworlder which stuck out compared to the others. One of the Seelies happened to be the same man as the one whom tried to start a fight back at Venom the night before. What the biggest change was that the man now had a similar, dark aura around him as Jahni had moments before teleporting from this realm.

   It was a frightening sight: the dark, haunting smoke along with how brightly green the man’s eyes were. They looked unnatural, reminding Jace of a run-down neon sign over a shady bar somewhere. It gave him the creeps to look at the man for too long, so instead of a well-thought plan of attack, Jace threw himself at the man and managed to tackle him down against the ground.

   Magnus must’ve seen the attack, because the warlock called out a loud ”I wondered where you went, Jace!” while shooting his attackers backwards with a wave of air. There was dirt and a thin scar leaping across the warlock’s cheek, his usual flawless demeanour ruffled from the on-going battle.

   Jace merely grunted in reply, using all of his weight to pin the Seelie down to ground. It was much harder than expected; the Seelie couldn’t stop laughing, a grim sound that made Jace’s blood boil in his veins; the sickly green eyes never leaving Jace’s. Jace tried his hardest to ignore the man’s gaze. With every punch, water splattered against the man’s skin thanks to Jace still being dripping wet from the sea; a splatter of blood and water, all mixed in one.

   ”You’ll never win, shadowhunter,” the Seelie laughed, mirth infecting his eyes. ”Jahni’s a traitor, I’ll rip him apart myself.” He managed to elbow Jace in the face, sending the shadowhunter backwards with another grunt, this one full of sudden pain.

   Blood crept out of Jace’s nose, he collided with the ground and didn’t even get the chance to get back up on his feet when the Seelie hovered above him like a predator over it’s prey. The man stomped at Jace’s hand, fingers breaking from the impact of the man’s boot; Jace screamed in intense agony, tears welling up in his eyes from pure reflex.

   The seraph blade had slipped out of his hand when he fell to the ground; it laid beside him, centimeters out of reach. He had a small knife in his pocket; the Seelie wasn’t ready for it, Jace smashed it into the man’s leg.

  The man screamed, dropping the laugh for a few seconds while he toppled forward. He tried to pull the knife out, but it was almost completely buried from the handle and down into the leg. Jace took the man’s change of focus as a chance to roll away and get back up on his feet; he tried not to look at how his fingers swelled out in angles that were highly unnatural.

   With a loud roar, the Seelie lurched towards Jace; the knife still stuck out of his leg, the man barely showed it from the way he pressed on. Jace had no time to fix his fingers, he jumped out of the way and felt how a dark, absorbing feeling radiated off the Seelie when they got close again.

   Something flashed past Jace in a blur. Simon jumped and clung to the Seelie’s back, fangs out and a small blade in his hand. His sudden appearance took the Seelie by surprise; the man stumbled slightly under Simon’s added weight, grunting when the vampire stabbed his shoulder with the blade.

   ”Get off me!” the man exploded; a wave of dark, blinding magic shot out of his body and sent them all backwards. Jace collided with the wall, crying out in pain when he landed on his broken hand.

   The man soared above the ground; the dark, gooey materia dripped off him and burned when it hit the ground. His eyes were piercingly green; he held out his hand towards Jace, a surge of magic causing the shadowhunter to leave the ground as well. There was a invisible grip around his throat; Jace tried to claw at it, there was nothing he could remove; he couldn’t ease off the pressure and regain his breathing.

   ”Mag..n..us,” he managed to hiss in between pained breaths. His body hanged there in the air like a ragdoll; boots barely touching the ground. Air went in and out, every breath shorter and more irrational than the other.

   ”You’re nothing!” the Seelie laughed, grinning wide enough to show off a set of black teeth. The gooey substance streamed out of his mouth in thin perils, despite it the man didn’t seem to mind. ”My master’s going to be so pleased with the death of the famous Jace Herondale.”

   He spat the word ”famous” like a curse.

   Jace’s vision turned blurry again; he felt like he was back down in the sea, the pressure of the water turned into the grip around his throat.

   Izzy, whom had been occupied with her pack of attackers on the other side of the hole, jumped across with her whip in hand; the long, silver line hit the man with a snapping sound. He screamed at the contact; the grip around Jace’s throat eased just a tiny bit, the shadowhunter gasped for air while he tried to make his legs work.

   ”Magnus, now!” Izzy called out, rolling out of the way from one of the man’s attacks; the black goo missing her with not more than a inch.

   The warlock, with a steady grip around Simon’s arm, sent out a glistering light that was strong enough to blind. The light kept pulsating through the air, like a golden line streaming from Magnus’ raised hand; it collided with the man and made him scream in sheer agony. Black ichor poured out of the man’s skin, mouth and eyes.

   Jace fell to the ground when the grip around his throat disappeared in it’s entirety. Stars danced at the edge of his vision, he kept gasping for air; every breath raw and painful. He tried once again to get back up on his feet to join the fight, just as he managed to stand he saw how Izzy thew herself at the man; in her hand was a blade that sunk deep into the man’s chest.

   The man made a gurgling sound before tipping to the side; defeated.

   Izzy pulled her blade out, wiping some of the blood and ichor away on the man’s jacket. Magnus, with the help of Simon, came over to where Jace was leaning against one of the few pillars that survived the blast; Izzy quick to join them, the only one of them who didn’t look like she could fall dead to the ground in a second.

   ”What did you do to him?” Jace asked, every word a struggle between raspy breaths, gesturing towards the Seelie’s body.

   ”I used an old spell to push the demon out of him, he would’ve died from it if Izzy hadn’t stepped in to quicken the process,” Magnus explained. There was no power in his words, every breath seemed to pain him a great deal. ”It drains the caster an incredible amount, I had to relay on some of Simon’s strength to make it work.”

   Simon smiled over the mention of his name. ”Always happy to help, Magnus.”  He studied Jace with great worry, exclaiming a panicked ”Jace, your hand!” when he noticed the broken fingers. In the blink of an eye, the vampire stood in front of Jace, cradling the broken hand with his own; always cold to the touch, but ever so gentle.

   ”It’s nothing, hold it in place while I draw a rune,” Jace murmured in reply. He managed to draw a rune after a couple of failed attempts; his fingers snapped back in place with unsettling sounds, Simon looked like he was going to faint at the sight of the moving bones.

   ”See, all better,” Jace offered with a lousy attempt of a smile, letting Simon turn his hand over to look at the healed fingers. There was still a deep ache in the bones, he gritted his teeth and pushed it back down.

   Without further explanation, Simon threw his arms around Jace and pulled him in for a tight embrace. Fingers digging into the shorter hair on Jace’s neck, mixing with what remained of the blood from where he hit his head against the debris in the sea.

   Jace knew there was much left unspoken through the embrace. Simon’s chilling presence made him shiver, despite that he only held onto the vampire harder; he let himself sink against Simon’s chest.

   The only way he wanted to drown, was from looking into Simon’s eyes for too long, he thought as they broke apart.

   ”Where’s Jahni?” Izzy asked, looking around at the broken pier. Sirens echoed in the distance, the mundane services where about to get here. They needed to get away before the place crawled with police.

   ”Over here,” came a weak voice from behind some nearby rubble. Izzy ran over in a heartbeat, holstering the Seelie up and helping him to reach the others. The Seelie winched for every move, he held a hand over his side; skin stained with fresh blood. Bruises leapt over his throat and face.

   ”How badly injured are you?” Magnus asked. He looked like he was on the verge of collapsing himself, the determination in his eyes showed that he would help the Seelie if needed to. ”I may be able to heal some of the worst injuries now.”

   ”I’ll live,” the Seelie grunted. ”Use your energy to teleport us out of here, Bane.”

   The warlock gave him another once-over before he nodded. He flicked with his fingers; the black and purple portal came into view, all of them sighing in relief at the sight of it. Soon they would be safe, for the moment at least.

   Izzy readjusted her grip around Jahni and staggered with him through the portal. Jace went in afterwards with Simon at his side.

 

*~*

 

Magnus used the last of his energy to heal some of Jahni’s wounds. The warlock went above and beyond time after time for his friends, Jace wondered what they would’ve done without him, watching how Simon helped Magnus to get to the bedroom without falling over. Without Magnus’ extensive knowledge and magical abilities, the group would be fumbling in the dark.

   Jahni gave Magnus a grateful look before the warlock left the room. He had regained some colour in his cheeks and he removed his hand from his side; his injuries had been worse than first expected.

   ”There’s no food to be found in here by any chance?” the Seelie pondered; a tired tone to his words. He sat by the small table in the kitchen, studying the piles of books with mild interest. ”It feels like I haven’t eaten in weeks.”

   Jace shared a look with Izzy. He searched through the refrigerator and found some leftovers from the night before. ”Does this work for you?”

   Jahni eyed the plate curiously, nodding when he found it satisfying. ”Thank you.”

   The Seelie ate in silence. Both of the shadowhunters stood by the sink, observing Jahni’s every move to be ready for the worst. They didn’t have to worry; Jahni finished his meal in a few minutes, taking a large gulp of water as he peered at Jace & Izzy over the top of his glass; hints of the same, sickly green colour showing in his eyes as the attacker’s back at the pier. The difference between them was that Jahni’s eyes flickered between the green and a natural, brown colour.

   ”What’s wrong with your eyes?” Jace asked after noticing how the eye colour switched for the third time in as many minutes.

   ”When you bound yourself to a demon, shadowhunter, there’s more than one price you must pay,” Jahni explained. He placed the glass down with a light bang; the sound caused Simon to poke his head through the doorway to make sure that everything was alright. He remained there as Jahni sighed. ”There’s demon blood in me, more than it should be possible. I’ve always wanted to be the very best at everything; my whole life I’ve been searching after a worthy cause, something that would make me be remembered for eternity. Nathaniel recruited people for his cause, months ago; I saw it as my chance to get somewhere, leave behind my worthless job at the court and escape a Queen I wanted nothing to do with.

   My ignorance was also my downfall. I left a good life behind for nothing. Nathaniel’s mad with the thought of power, he’s tied with Zhadok in a way none of us could even begin to match. He wasn’t like that in the beginning, Nathaniel seemed to be a man with a plan to bring glory to us downworlders, but he’s just a puppet in Zhadok’s web. The selfish bastard only wants to bring his body back; he want revenge. Revenge on those who destroyed his physical form in the first place. He’s draining Nathaniel on life, just as much as he does on those kids.”

   ”Does any of them know that you’re with us? Could the Seelie and the attackers from the pier have told Nathaniel or the demon about you working with us?” Izzy asked. She crossed her arms over her chest, biting her lip gently as she kept looking at Jahni; her intense stare caused the Seelie to laugh roughly.

   ”There’s no need to stare a hole through my head, shadowhunter,” he offered with a bitter smile. ”It’s only a matter of time before they hear it. We need to get to the other realm as soon as we can, there’s no telling in what they’ll do to me if they find out about my treason.” His eyes flickered colour. ”The demonic essence in me, what Zhadok gave me, is the key to get inside.”

   ”Why are you helping us?” Jace demanded. While Izzy could handle the softer approach with ease, Jace plowed through it with the force of a bulldozer. Enough time had passed already, they had not room left for manners. ”You’re here, but that’s not good enough. Give me a reason to why we should trust you to help us.”

   Jahni rose from the chair; he was taller than Jace, bigger in general. He stared down at the shadowhunter, matching Jace’s blazing fire with some of his own. ”I’ve risked my life more times than I could count over the last few months to take Zhadok down. I’ve been all over different realms to find a way to kill his astral form and erase him from this world altogether; while you weren’t even aware of his existence, he poisoned my mind over and over again with power I couldn’t even begin to understand. You know nothing of what I’ve been through, shadowhunter. The things I’ve done to get here.”

   ”Then tell us about them!” Jace exclaimed. ”We’ve all done things we regret, it comes with the job.”

   Jahni’s eyes shot daggers at Jace as he leaned in close enough for Jace to see every red line of the man’s scar. The eye was barely open; what was glimmered green and sickly in contrast to irritated, red skin alongside it. ”I’ve kidnapped and hurt kids of my people. I’ve forced them to stay alive for months, just so Zhadok could drain them of life over and over again. You know why? Because kids still have something to live for; they’re so full of life, Zhadok can drain them for months at a time while adults provides him with energy for not more than a week or two. I’ve been tortured for my errors; all of it seem as easy price to pay for good, shadowhunter, but when you spend day after day in a realm built on the souls of innocent people and darkness, it’s hard to remain hopeful about life. I’ve worked day and night for a chance to kill the demon, and I found it without your help. We all have our parts to play in this game, shadowhunter. Without my help, neither of you will be able to win.”

   Jace’s mouth set in a hard line. He pushed too far, but it needed to be done to really understand where Jahni stood in all of this. Desperate times called for desperate measures after all, it should not come as a surprise to any of them.

   To hear about what the demon had done to countless of kids.. that was another reason to why Jace wanted to rip the demon apart with his bare hands. He understood Jahni’s pain to some extent; it must be the heaviest of burdens to know that you had inflicted so much pain on innocent people.

   Izzy glared in Jace’s direction. ”We’re not doubting your loyalty, Jahni. My brother’s not the best with words sometimes, I believe that your intentions align with ours. How do we get to the demon, and how do we kill it?”

   Jahni took a step back from Jace; the Seelie sent Simon a quick, knowing look as the vampire let his guard drop at the sight of Jace not being in any apparent trouble for the moment. He went back to sit by the table, dropping down with a long, tired sigh. ”I found out that Zhadok can’t stand angelic blood. The demon gets sick and weak over time for feeding on angelic creatures; I came across a rumour of a shadowhunter with more angelic blood than the norm; one with powers out of the ordinary, and I knew that she was the best way to go without getting an actual angel to use. I have nothing personal against your friend, I’m sorry for using her as a tool to take him down, but I believe it to be a risk worth taking. With her blood, Zhadok should be weaker now; weak enough for us to kill him.”

   The mere thought of Clary’s life being used as a tool sent flames of anger through Jace’s body. What annoyed him even more, despite it being Clary - one of the few people he trusted - was that he understood Jahni’s reason to use her.

   The Seelie did what he thought was right to take out a demon killing kids for it’s own, horrendous agenda. If Jace’s mind wasn’t clouded with his own relationship with Clary, he wouldn’t be as angry about it.

   Both Simon and Izzy seemed to have similar fights with themselves. Anger mixed with a reluctant understanding. Izzy knew how to keep her emotions under control; Simon, on the other hand, was known to keep his heart on his sleeve. The pain was more present in his features, while it ran just as deep in Izzy’s masked ones.

   ”How do we kill him?” Jace repeated Izzy’s question, every word sharp as a knife.

   ”It won’t be easy. Even in his weakened state, Zhadok will be beyond dangerous. You need more people than this, shadowhunter. People willing to fight for what’s right,” the Seelie explained. He smiled with that same bitterness as before when he looked at Jace. ”There’s a way to kill it; you can invite the demon into your body. I’m going to invite him to take over mine, when he does, the warlock will be able to use the same spell as the one he used back at the pier. When Zhadok’s inside of me, the spell will kill both of us.”

  
”You’re willing to let him into your body so we can kill him?” Jace asked in pure disbelief. Was this Jahni’s hidden agenda? Sacrificing himself for the greater good? That was a noble cause, Jace didn’t expect it to come from a man who made a deal with a demon in the first place. ”Why would you do such a thing?”

   ”Like I told you, shadowhunter; I want to make amends for the things I’ve done. With your friend’s blood, Zhadok will accept my offer to stay strong and in control. He’ll be desperate enough to do it; what I need from you, is to keep me alive long enough to make it work. If Nathaniel invites Zhadok in, the demon will choose him over me, if the warlock’s not in worse shape than me,” Jahni explained slowly. He didn’t look like a man on the verge of dying; he looked almost peaceful, determined to go through with this. ”Nathaniel needs to go, then we can kill Zhadok. Aren’t you supposed to have similar powers as the redhead? You could use them to fight, shadowhunter.”

     A sudden dryness spread in Jace’s mouth. Was Jahni talking about his enchained abilities? Even if Jace wanted to, he had no control over his powers. He hardly understood what he was capable of; him and Clary had just began there training to understand what they could do; due to how early it still was, he knew he couldn’t call on his abilities when needed to. Not yet. He couldn’t rely on them to help in this situation when he barely even understood how to use them in the first place.

   ”I’m not sure how to use my abilities,” Jace grimaced. ”We can’t rely on them to get us out of this mess, that much I can promise you, Jahni. Magnus’ spell will work, it did so earlier and it will work again.”

   ”Aren’t you supposed to be the absolute best?” Jahni asked, almost mockingly. ”If one of you opens up to Zhadok, there won’t be a way back. Magnus will have to kill whoever invites Zhadok to their body, that’s why I want it to be me. Your angelic abilities could help with the process.”

   Panic lingered in Jace’s chest; a thin layer, barely covering every surface. Yet, it crushed everything beneath; hope, anger, even the pain. How was he supposed to challenge something he barely knew anything about? The pressure on his shoulders increased for every glance Jahni sent his way; the Seelie had put faith in Jace’s abilities. A lot of faith.

   ”We’ll make it work,” Izzy interrupted; a saint in a shadowhunter’s body. ”Magnus needs to rest, healing you and draining that other Seelie of demonic influence exhausted him a great deal. We can’t storm into the other realm before he’s better. Your sacrifice won’t be forgotten, Jahni.”

   ”Time’s not something we have on our side, Lightwood,” Jahni pointed out, stating the crushing facts. ”The warlock will have to use our strength if it’s necessary, we’ll have to leave as soon as possible.”

   ”Magnus needs to rest, we can use that time to gather some allies,” Jace snarled. With one last glare at the Seelie, Jace excused himself from the kitchen to go and make some calls. He slipped past Simon, his fingers sliding over the vampire’s hand gently before he continued towards the hallway. Simon remained in the kitchen with Izzy and Jahni; he understood where he was needed the most.

    Phone pressed against his ear, the dial tones echoed gently. It didn’t take long until Alec’s familiar voice answered on the other end. How long had they been here in LA? Not more than two days? It felt like years since Jace saw Alec in the flesh. He missed his parabatai, a lot.

   ”Jace? Please tell me you got some good news.”

   ”We found Jahni. He’s here with us now, we’re set to travel to the demon’s realm today,” Jace confirmed; maybe not perfect news, but the treacherous, hopeful feeling in his chest was a sign that it at least meant something. ”Nathaniel’s not the one organising this thing, Magnus may have told you about it already. There’s a demon behind it, as we expected.”

   ”Magnus told me about the demon earlier, but Jahni’s with you now? That’s a relief, what’s his deal?”

   ”He says he’s on our side. I’m not sure if I trust him fully yet, but he seems to have similar intentions as we do. It’s worth taking the risk if it end up saving the kids and Clary,” Jace paced around the small hallway, hair damp and messy around his face. ”He’s found a way to kill the demon, let’s just hope it works.”

   ”Keep an eye on him, Jace. I got a message from the Seelie court earlier. The Queen wants to join you, I’m not sure I trust her intentions but her powers could be most useful. What do you think?”

   The Queen? They did need back-up, Jace couldn’t deny that. He just didn’t trust the Queen to not act for her own interests when it came down to it. She was helpful during their last visit; there could be a chance that she kept going with that attitude since it still was about the kids of her people.

   ”I suppose we can’t deny her request even if we wanted to,” Jace sighed, dragging a hand through his damp hair. ”We do need all the help we can get.”

   ”I’ll send her a message then, I know it’s not ideal but what can we do? There’s a lot at stake here. Jace, you know it kills me not to be out there with you guys; there’s nothing more I’d like to do then to punch the demon back to Hell. Feels wrong to be stuck here.”

   Jace felt a smile pulling at his lips. Alec and him both loathed to sit out a fight; even if this mission had proved again and again to be dangerous, Jace wouldn’t dream of giving in. He missed having his parabatai with him out on the battlefield; he worked well with Izzy, but not as good as he did with Alec. ”You’re the leader now, Alec. The Institute comes first. How’s things with Valentine? How’s .. Clary?”

   ”I know, doesn’t make it easier to accept though. Valentine’s still not giving us anything new on the Mortal Cup, shadowhunters and downworlders alike are growing impatient. We need to do something soon or the tension will grow tough to handle. Clary’s.. no change, I’m afraid.”

   A bitter, short laugh escaped Jace’s mouth. He stopped with his pacing to glance at the various jackets hanging by the door. Everyone of them were almost as classy and elegant as their owner. ”Good to know there’s work waiting for us when we get back. If everything goes as planned, we’ll be back tomorrow.”

   ”Be careful, Jace. I know you like to throw yourself at danger, just, don’t do anything reckless. From what I’ve gathered, this is a very old demon that knows how to fool people. Be ready for anything and keep the others safe.”

   ”Of course, I’ll tell Izzy you said hi,” Jace concluded. ”See you tomorrow.”

   ”Take care.”

   A mellow weight settled around his heart when the call ended. He held his phone in his hand, tight enough to make his newly healed fingers ache. If everything went as planned, they would be back home by tomorrow.

   It was terrifying and relieving at the same time. In a matter of hours, they would be in another realm to kill the demon. The list of things that could go wrong was endless, thinking about it made Jace’s head throb.

   Was the little time they had left enough for Clary and the remaining kids? The loss of Luca was still fresh in Jace’s mind; the aching of not doing enough present around his heart, squeezing at it.

   ”Hey.”

   Simon stood in the doorway; he had changed clothes into a pair of fresh, dry ones. His hair was damp, just like Jace’s. Brown strands in soft, messy curls. The stress of the past week where taking out it’s toll on all of them; Simon looked exhausted, there was no way for Jace to tell just how much of the vampire’s energy Magnus used earlier for the spell.

   ”Hi,” Jace said; he almost managed to get his voice as soft as Simon’s, there was still a line of roughness attached to it.

   ”Do you really think we’ll be back in New York tomorrow?” The vampire asked, fidgeting with his hands. He looked so earnest, watching Jace through dark eyelashes. Vulnerable, yet the most beautiful person Jace had ever seen.

   ”Whatever’s gonna happen, it’s going to happen tonight.”

   Jace was sure of that. As soon as Magnus was fit enough to fight, they would head out and get to the other realm. He longed to put an end to this awful mission once and for all. One way or another.

   Simon nodded slightly over Jace’s statement. ”I hope you’re right. I hope we’re not too late.”

   ”I won’t let it happen,” Jace vouched. He should get out of these wet clothes; they were like a winter’s embrace; cold and sticky against his skin, he felt chills pumping through his body. The coldness of the truth - that he might not be able to stop anything - weighed on him as well.

   Simon said nothing. Every part of the vampire told a story about all of the things Simon wanted to ask Jace; the seriousness of the mission kept him from it.

   ”Thanks for dragging me out of the sea,” Jace managed to smile; some of the gratitude reached his eyes, mixing with the burden of everything else. ”You saved me. Not as classy as Baywatch due to the lack of red shorts, that needs to change.” Could he go one conversation with Simon without cracking a joke? Was it physically impossible for Jace to not try to make Simon smile at any given moment?

   Simon huffed out a surprised snort, eyes wide and round. ”You don’t get my Marvel references, but you’re aware of Baywatch?! The utter disrespect, Jace we need to have a serious discussion about your knowledge in mundane pop culture when this is over, because David Hasselhoff in red shorts should not be something you quote ever. It doesn’t fit at all with this brooding persona you have going on.”

   Jace had to bite back a laugh. ”Oh, will I learn from the master himself? What a blessing, I’ll only agree if I get the lecture on a date.” He didn’t know where the words came from; they spilled out of his mouth and he felt how his own eyes widened.

   Simon looked as surprised as Jace felt inside. The smile which followed, bright enough to light up the whole room, fell almost instantly. There was something oddly sullen and painful lingering in Simon’s eyes; Jace hated that he was the cause of it.

   ”If you don’t want to it’s fine,” Jace felt himself on the verge of rambling, which was so far from how he normally did this. He was a natural charmer with his good looks and dangerous reputation, but for a dorky vampire, none of that apparently existed. ”Forget that I-”

   ”Shut up will you?” Simon interrupted. ”It’s not that I don’t want to, dude we were making out in the stairwell just hours ago, why wouldn’t I want - it’s, just, I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep.”

   The meaning of Simon’s words settled in Jace’s chest like a sinking stone. He understood the pain in the vampire’s eyes, because now he found it ripping inside of him too.

   ”If we both make it out of this alive, I’ll let you skip the line and get ahed of my other suitors so you can ask me again,” Simon tried to ease the situation with a smile.

   Jace mirrored Simon’s smile with a one just as uneasy. ”I think I can handle that.”

 

Simon went back to check how Izzy was doing with Jahni in the kitchen after that. Jace remained in the hallway, still with his phone in hand. There was another call he had planned to make, before Simon interrupted him with his presence.

   Jace searched through his slim list of contacts and dialed Maia’s number. He felt a weird, almost nervous feeling in his stomach while he waited for her to pick up. Did she even have his number? She gave him hers, but did he ever return the favour?

   ”Hello, who is this?”

   Apparently, he hadn’t.

   ”Maia hey, it’s me, Jace,” Jace said as a greeting, sounding a little apologetic. ”I forgot to send you a text so you could save my number, it seems.”

  ”Jace? Wow, didn’t expect you to ever call, to be honest. What’s going on? Are Simon and you back from your mission yet?”

   The surprise in Maia’s voice made Jace smile slightly. He had missed her a little, not that he ever would admit it to anyone: especially not her. No one liked to joke as much as Jace’s expense as Maia did. It truly was refreshing in some ways.

   ”That’s the thing I want to talk to you about,” Jace dragged a hand through his hair, holding some of it back as he continued. ”It’ll be dangerous, we’ve found out who’s behind this whole mess, but we can’t do this on our own. The Queen of the Seelies is coming here too, would it be possible if Luke could come as well? He could be most useful and help us save Clary, could you ask him about it?”

   ”If Luke comes, I’ll come too, y’know.”

   Jace wasn’t surprised. He expected that, even. ”You know it’s risky, Maia.”

   ”So? If Luke’s going, I’m going too. Werewolves are stronger in numbers, Herondale.”

   ”We need all the help we can get, talk to Luke. I’ll text you the address, okay? You don’t have to get involved if you don’t want to, Maia, keep that in mind.”

   ”See you soon, blondie.”

   Jace rolled his eyes and ended the call with a sigh. He stood there, quietly going through everything in his head for a couple of minutes. When he was done with contemplating the mission, Jace ventured into the living room and noticed that the mattress he had been using for the past two nights wasn't there; frowning, he went into the kitchen to find Jahni asleep on said mattress. The sight surprised him so much that he stopped in the doorway, eyebrows raised in a questioning manner.

   Izzy sat by the table, reading one of Magnus’ books. She looked up when Jace appeared in the doorway, something close to amusement in her eyes when she noticed how Jace stared at the sleeping Seelie.

   ”Sorry for using your bed,” she whispered. ”Figured you could share with Simon if you needed to sleep.” The innocent smile didn't match the mischievous look in her eyes. A welcomed change from the torment that’s been haunting her for days.

   Jace didn’t blush at her comment, he stared at her with he hoped would be a distinctive glare. ”Very thoughtful of you, Iz. I called Alec - he says hi, by the way - and he told me that the Seelie Queen wanted to join us. She’ll be here soon, and I think Luke and Maia are coming over too. Jahni said we needed help, so I got us some back-up.”

   ”The Queen’s a bit of a surprise, but her powers could come in handy,” Izzy pondered, pushing her hair back and placing it behind her ears. ”I’ll stay up and wake you guys when the others arrive, if you need some rest. We’ve had quite the eventful night and day.”

   ”You sure? I can stay up with you if you want,” Jace offered. He felt the impact of the past days crashing down on him; barely any sleep at all, the little he had plagued by nightmares and restlessly rolling around.

   First, he needed to get out of his damp clothes.

   ”Positive, go get some sleep. I wouldn’t be able to sleep even if I wanted to,” Izzy concluded; she didn’t even wait for Jace to leave the room before she got back to her book. Jace complied, stretching out his arms over his head as he turned; all of it came to an abrupt end when he noticed Simon on the couch.

   The vampire was curled up under a blanket, eyes firmly shut and locks of dark hair muzzled against a pillow. Eyebrows drawn together, lips slightly parted. Simon snored. Quietly. If Jace was going to die tonight, seeing Simon this content and snoring certainly was one of the best last views he could ask for.

   There was ache in his heart when he thought about all of the things he may not be able to experience. With a slight tremble, Jace removed his jacket and the damp shirt; they landed in a puddle on the ground, soon followed by his jeans and underwear too.

   He had managed to put on a clean pair of underwear by the time Simon stirred awake with a dry sob. Jace turned around, holding one of his henley shirts in his hands while he stared at the vampire with a worried frown.

   Simon sat up, wiping at his eyes with erratic movements. His fingers were rosy from the few, bloody tears that managed to escape.

   ”Simon?”

   Jace’s voice made the vampire snap around to look at the shadowhunter, hiding himself with the blanket due to the embarrassment. ”Fuck, Jace, it’s nothing, had a bad dream, that’s all.” He continued to wipe at his eyes; not adding to the impression of being ”fine.”

   The shadowhunter put on his shirt; he headed towards the couch and sat down next to the vampire with a tiny sigh. Even with the blanket covering Simon’s legs, the vampire’s coldness radiated through and pressed against Jace’s bare thigh.

   ”You don’t have to look so worried,” Simon lowered his hands, leaning against the back of the couch. ”It’s just a nightmare.”

   ”Well, I know from past experience that nightmares can be fucking horrible, Simon,” Jace pointed out with a twist to his mouth. ”Was it about the mission? Clary?”

   Simon’s face fell at the mention of his friend’s name. That on it’s own was the answer to Jace’s question. ”I.. I dreamed that she died. In my arms. Again and again. I don’t want her to die. That's .. ah, that's what happened outside Venom too. Your blood made me think of her, and how she was dying, I just. Fuck.

   Jace thought back to when he hugged Simon back at the boathouse in New York. How Simon had pleaded against his chest, wishing for Clary to get well again. It felt like a different life; so much had happened since that night, even though it only was a couple of days ago.

    The pain was still there; for every passing moment, it grew stronger and stronger.

   ”Scoot over.”

   Simon looked bewildered. He did scoot forward, giving Jace enough space to slide in behind him. How the couch was even more cramped than the mattress, Jace didn’t know. Space wasn’t necessary in this case, Jace sank down against the cushions; Simon placed himself against Jace’s chest like he belonged there, his head finding the very same spot over Jace’s heart as the last time they slept together.

   Again, Jace thought that this could grow into a habit.

   ”We’re going to bring Clary back,” Jace whispered, his fingers gently playing with the short locks on Simon’s head. ”I’ll personally make sure that the demon doesn’t lay another goddamn finger on anyone ever again.”

   ”I’ll help you,” Simon breathed. He was already relaxing; Jace wondered if Simon could hear how hard Jace’s heart pounded in his chest.

   ”I know you will, we’ll do this together. All of us.”

 

*~*

 

”- not something I expected to see. Wow. When did that happen?”

   ”The only good thing to come out of this damn city, Maia. Don’t jinx it.”

   There was a stir against Jace’s chest; the movement caused the shadowhunter to come back to his senses, groaning slightly due to how much his back ached from sleeping on this couch. The cold weight against his chest shifted; followed by a sleepy, crocked ”Maia? Luke? What are you two doing here?”

   ”We’re here to help with the demon,” came a deep, familiar voice. Jace fluttered his eyelids open; he had to squint and rub at them, since there was a brightness in the room he wasn’t prepared for. Luke stood by the couch, unreadable look in his eyes; Maia right next to him, leave it to her to find something amusing in this mess if the look her eyes were anything to go by.

   Izzy was there too. Neither Jahni nor Magnus were present, so Simon and him weren’t the only ones not dressed and ready to head out. Simon removed himself from Jace, getting up and directly heading for his bag of clothes; he had to squeeze his way past the two werewolves, Maia raising an impressive eyebrow at him. Simon had the sensibility to blush at her shown interest.

   Jace ignored how much it unnerved him to lose Simon’s weight against his body. He longed for a day when he would be able to wake up with Simon without having either a crowd to witness them or a time to pass. If such a day even existed, so to speak.

   ”How’s Magnus?” Jace asked. He pulled his jeans up, pushing his hair back and away from his face.

   ”He’s still in his bedroom,” Izzy informed; now when the couch was clear, she gestured for Maia and Luke to sit down. ”The Queen’s here too, she’s in the kitchen with Jahni.”

   ”The Queen? Oh god, is it the Queen I think it is?” Simon asked, fumbling with his own clothes.

   ”She wanted to help, we can’t deny her the chance to do it,” Izzy pointed out. ”Can you check on Magnus, Jace? I’ll see if they’re done in the kitchen.”

   Jace complied with a nod. He skilfully avoided the furniture and bumping right into Simon; the vampire sat down at one of the armrests on the couch to avoid confrontation.

   The door to the bedroom was closed. Jace knocked on it, slipping inside at the quiet ”come in” he got in reply.

   Magnus laid on his bed. Jace had never seen the warlock look so fragile; Magnus looked paler than usual, hands clasped over his chest. His eyes fluttered open when Jace shut the door, a thin, bleak smile tugging at his lips.

   ”Good to see you up and running, Herondale,” Magnus said; his voice was barely audible, the fragility showing in his words too.

   ”How are you, Magnus? Luke and Maia are here to help, along with the Queen. We’ll leave as soon as you’re up for it,” Jace said; he leaned against the door, watching Magnus with a worried frown.

   Magnus tried to laugh, but it came out short and broken. He sat up, every move looking like it was a struggle. This was no man they could bring to a battlefield. Magnus wouldn’t stay here, he was as stubborn as the rest of them when it came to step down from a fight.

   Alec would shatter completely if something happened to Magnus.

   ”Sounds like we have ourselves quite the team for the occasion,” Magnus agreed. ”I’m far from ready, but we can’t wait any longer. We need to finish this, Jace. I’ll rest when Zhadok’s victims are safe and sound.”

   ”Are you sure? You can sit this one out if you’re feeling too weak, Magnus. Neither of us will hold that against you, you’ve already done so much,” Jace needed the warlock to know that he had options; Magnus could do what was best for his health, or risk his life helping them.

   ”Nonsense, I won’t leave this for you to finish without me. I’ll come,” Magnus said dryly. He managed to get up from the bed, his phone sliding out and landing on top of the blanket. Jace wondered if Magnus had been talking to Alec too since they got back from the meeting; he wondered if he had let Alec lull him to sleep, always on speaker.

   ”Why do you always speak to Alec on speaker?” the question blurted out by accident; truly, Jace was not beginning to think out loud. He was curious to know though.

   Magnus gave him a surprised look, much to Jace’s understanding since the question came out of nowhere. He slid on his coat, contemplating for the right words to say. ”Well, it’s silly. If I close my eyes while listening to his voice, it feels like Alec’s right next to me, even when he’s many miles away. It’s a small comfort, especially during times like these.”

   Jace nodded slightly. There was something about Magnus’ honesty about the matter that the shadowhunter found endearing. When the rest of the world went into flames, at least Magnus and Alec’s relationship could brighten things up a bit.

   Jace would be lying if he said that he didn’t want to have a similar connection with someone too. Someone he would have on speaker in every call just to feel like they were right next to each other. The want made his head spin.

   ”Actually, it makes sense when you put it like that.”

   The warlock offered Jace a smile, patting the shadowhunter’s shoulder gently. ”It’s one of those habits I can’t seem to change. Not to ruin the mood, but we do have a demon to get rid off. After that, I’ll tell you all about why it’s better to have your phone on speaker, Jace.”

   Jace couldn’t help but smirk at the ridiculous offer.

 

*~*

 

”Zhadok’s not your ordinary demon. He’s a master at manipulation, believe me when I say that because I’ve fallen for it myself. To get his body back, he’ll use any means necessary. For centuries, he’s made people do his dirty work; kidnapping kids from all over the different worlds, using their energy to regain his own.

   I’ve kidnapped kids of my own people to satisfy his need. Why did I do it? Because of the power Zhadok promised me. Him and my superior, Nathaniel, gave me a taste of what it felt like to have true power. My whole life I’ve been searching after a way to leave something behind, I thought that his power would help me with that goal.

   The power corrupts from the inside; without a way to stabilise it, I’ll turn out just like the kids and your friend. For the moment, I’m still able to use it as I’ve done in the past. By using my power at certain locations in the city, where the veil between worlds is thinner, I’ll be able to open up a portal for us all to get to Zhadok’s realm.

   Zhadok’s been poisoned with angelic blood. He’ll be weaker thanks to the blood, but it also means that he’ll be even more desperate for a way to get a body. We could kill him, it’ll be tough but it’s a possibility. I’ll offer myself to Zhadok; I’ll invite him into my body, and he won’t say no. Nathaniel will try to stop us. He’s too far gone, he’ll do anything to keep Zhadok safe at this point. I’m not sure for how long he’s been under Zhadok’s control, but it’s long enough for him to have become powerful in ways I couldn’t even begin to dream about. He’s a threat, but he’s also arrogant. Both of them are, that trait is something we could use to our advantage.

   I know I’ve not given any of you reasons to trust me. I’m a Seelie, and therefor I cannot lie. What I ask of you all is to believe me. I’ve worked for months to find a way to stop Zhadok; thanks to the injured shadowhunter’s angelic blood, I’ve taken the necessary risks to bring an end to this.

   Hate me if you want, it won’t change what’s done. The only way to bring any of them back is to kill Zhadok once and for all. There’s no redemption for me at this point, but I want to try to make things right. When Zhadok’s inside my body, he’ll be in control. If Bane uses his spell, the one you used at the pier before, you’ll be able to banish Zhadok. It’ll work, but there’s no going back for me. The spell will kill me. I’m willing to take that risk.”

   Jahni sank back down against the chair. The others looked at him with various emotions; most of the group looked sullen over Jahni’s decision, it was tough when a sacrifice had to be made, but each and every one of them would give themselves away if needed to. Only the Queen showed a feeling close to content over the situation; she was glad to get this man out of the picture, he’d done enough to their people to make her feel that way.

   Jace chewed on the inside of his cheek. He felt anxious over what would happen over the next few hours. For a plan, this wasn’t a particularly good one. Not in the slightest.

    ”What happens if you die before Zhadok enters your body?”

   Maia asked the question that was in all of their heads. Jace, along with Izzy, knew from their previous chat with Jahni that one of them would have to invite Zhadok in instead, but the rest of the group hadn’t heard of that yet.

   ”One of us will have to go through with it then,” Jace spoke up. He glanced around at the others, tightening his jaw with determination. If Jahni didn’t make it that far, there was only one other candidate for the job. Jace himself. ”I’ll do it if Jahni fails.”

   Before any of the others even had the chance to argue against Jace’s statement, Luke opened his mouth. He had mostly observed the rest of the group, not sharing as much as he usually did; the quiet leader who stepped down from making the decisions here. ”We don’t have time to argue about who’ll take Jahni’s place; our priority is to keep him alive long enough to make his initial plan work. Magnus too, since he’s the one that will cast the final spell. All of us here know that there might not be a way back once we’re in the realm; we’re all willing to sacrifice everything to end this.”

   ”I have no intentions to die at the hands of a demon,” the Queen said dryly. Even when she was the only one sitting down except for Jahni, it still felt like she was looking down at them. ”It’s almost as unsatisfying as getting killed by a shadowhunter.”

   Jahni made a pained sigh, not even bothering to comment on the Queen’s statement. ”Luke’s right. If you all don’t mind, I think it’s time for us to head out; there’s a portal I need to make.”

 

*~*

 

Finding a place where the veil was thinner wasn’t tough at all. A couple of blocks away from Magnus’ apartment, Jahni knew there would be a perfect spot for it. Since Magnus needed to save his strength for the battle itself and not use any of his magic, the group had to walk there.

   Thanks to the short distance, it didn’t take them long to reach the right part of the town where the place was. The clock was a little past eight in the evening; families where on their way home, some sending curious glances after the group of people. They were quite the bunch, Jace had to give them that.

   Izzy and Jahni in the lead; her with her heels that could puncture a man’s lung and him with hard muscles and the red scar on full display; Maia, Luke and Simon right behind them; Maia kept cracking horrible jokes with Simon about the situation, probably to ease off some of their own anxious feelings, while Luke kept quiet and marched on with determination; the Queen, along with two of her guards, strode after the trio, still in the form of a young woman with long, deeply red hair. She kept glancing between Jace and Simon ever so often, the smirk on her lips telling that she was most pleased by the turn of events between the pair.

   Jace and Magnus were last; Magnus tried to hide how affected he was by the pace the group had, he soldiered on with gritted teeth and dark eyes. Incase the warlock’s willpower would seize to exist, Jace walked by his side to be ready to catch him from falling. They were an odd bunch of people, all sharing the same goal; to bring an end to the demon.

   Sometimes, the necessity to work with an enemy to bring down a common enemy, was a risk worth taking.

   Jace felt the pressure of Jahni’s words on his shoulders. The Seelie hadn’t brought up Jace’s abilities during their final meeting before they left, but Jace still felt the need to deliver. His abilities could help them, he needed to get them to work.

   He knew he’d been able to wield them in extreme situations in the past, like when he and Clary saved the captured angel from Valentine. It happened by mere chance, a heat of the moment kind of thing. There was no way he could be sure that could happen now against Zhadok.

   So much inside of him was new and hard to understand. He longed for something easy to deal with. Apparently such a wish was too much to ask for.

   Magnus didn’t say anything as they walked along the streets of a lively Los Angeles. It was enough for him to focus on keeping his body upwards; Jace felt no need to break the silence either, he studied their companions with lingering gazes to see how everyone was holding up.

   Jace had thought that Izzy and Simon took Clary’s coma hard, but it was nothing compared to Luke. The werewolf had barely said a word since him and Maia got here; he usually was the first one to offer a reassuring smile when needed, the glue that kept the pack together; with Clary on the brink of death, so close to Jocelyn’s death, Luke hid everything behind a stony mask.

   Hard, unforgiving eyes were the only parts of the older man that showed how he truly felt about this mess. Luke would stop at nothing to make Clary okay; he may not be her father by blood, yet he still was the closest thing she had to one.

 

Jahni slowed down when the group reached a particularly quiet street. Some kind of electric pulse lingered in the air; the small hairs on Jace’s arm stood up, along with an unnerving feeling settling in his gut.

   The street looked like every other they had passed during the last ten minutes: houses scattered on both sides, barely any people walking around. It was as private as it could get for a city of this size. The man glanced back over his shoulder and nodded.

   This was it.

   ”No matter where we travel from, all of the portals lead to the same place,” Jahni explained. The sickly green colour in his eyes glimmered; due to veil being thinner here, it must bring out the demonic parts of him. ”There’ll be plenty of guards. Zhadok’s realm is a maze of caves and tunnels, it’s easy to get lost if you don’t know the way. Luckily for all of you, I’ll be your guide.”

   ”Go through with the portal now,” the Queen more or less snapped; she looked tensed, not as smug as she was back at the apartment. There was an eagerness around her for things to get going. ”The demon have tormented my people enough.”

   Jahni clasped his hands together; the others gathered around him in a half circle, observing his actions as the black smoke begun to seep out of him. All of the light faded away; just as it did back at Jahni’s apartment, when they used the phone Jahni had left for them.

   By impulse, Jace placed his hand on the handle of his blade. The familiar feeling of metal against his fingers calmed his nerves. This was like any other mission; he needed to stay sharp, let his blade do the talking.

   The smoke floated together, swirling into a vortex that ripped open a hole in the air. Nothing of it reminded Jace of how Jahni had vanished into thin air before. This hole was small, a dark window to a world without lights.

   Zhadok’s realm.

   Jahni turned to look at them; the green had taken over completely, there was nothing left in his eyes except for that. ”I won’t be able to hold it for long, get inside!”

   Izzy ventured through without hesitation. She was gone in a heartbeat; Maia and Luke followed shortly afterwards. Simon looked like he was hesitating; as he stared at the open portal, the Queen and her guards slipped past him and ventured through the small hole to another world.

   ”See you on the other side,” Jace murmured, memories of an easier time lingering behind his eyelids. Jumping from the bridge in Central Park was less intimidating than this window of darkness; he would gladly fly through the air again and again if it meant that he never would have to go through this window one more time.

   Simon looked at him with fear infecting his brown eyes. He didn’t say anything, he simply held Jace’s gaze as he hurried over to the open portal; with one last, worried glance, Simon turned and climbed through the portal; leaving Jace behind with Magnus and Jahni.

   ”Can’t turn back now,” Magnus sighed and stepped forward. He gave the portal a once-over. ”Not very impressive, thought the pathway to another dimension would be grander than this.” With another sigh, Magnus went through.

   Jace threw a look at Jahni. The Seelie urged him on, and Jace listened. He felt how the darkness called at him; the smoke filled his nose, his mouth and made his eyes fill with tears. It was hard to tell where the portal begun and where it ended, because everything was dark as the night around him.

   Magnus’ teleportation was a lot nicer than this; Jace felt like his stomach had turned upside-down when he finally landed on solid ground. A dull light made it possible for him to see anything at all; the others were examining the walls; the light came from Izzy’s stele and the lights in Maia and Simon’s phones.

   Jace stood up, brushing dirt off his clothes as he looked around. They were in some sort of cave; the roof wasn't too far above their heads, giving the open space a narrow feeling. Moss and plants grew on the walls; colours could be spotted through a thin layer of ash; everything seemed to be covered with ashes.

   Some of the ashes floated in the air, much like black, warm snowflakes. The most surprising thing about this whole other world was the butterflies that slowly fluttered with their wings around the cave. They were big enough to cover Jace’s whole hand, seemingly unbothered by the group’s presence.

   ”This looks like something out of Stranger Things,” Simon murmured next to where Jace stood; along with Maia, the vampire gazed around the room with glistering eyes. ”Not that I ever wanted to take a trip to meet with the demogorgon, but still.”

   Jace didn’t have time to comment on Simon’s need to crack a reference whenever they were out and about, because Jahni landed next to him and caught the whole group's attention.

   ”We’re in his realm now,” Jahni stated. He moved towards a gaping opening in one of the walls; his muscular frame stood out against the deep darkness of the tunnel in front of him. ”Be cautious. Follow me.”

   Jahni ventured into the awaiting darkness without further explanation. The rest of the group scrambled to follow the Seelie.

   Jace was not scared of the darkness nor what hid in it. What he was scared of, despite gaining a couple of allies to help out, was that they were taking on too much. He would give everything he got to make sure all of his friends made it out of here alive.

Chapter Text

The tunnel stretched out for what felt like an eternity. Jahni kept walking ahead of the group; leading them deeper into the darkness. There was a deep smell of something old and musky radiating off the walls, from the plants and the moss. Almost like something had died, but leaving no trail of bodies behind.

   Just like in the first cave, the butterflies soared through the darkness without taking much notice to the newcomers. Their size made Jace think of bats; both lurking in the lack of daylight, fluttering with wings and scaring the living shit out of someone if they weren't ready for it. Some of the creatures flew past Jace’s head, the flutter of their wings almost close enough to touch. Ash fell from them, getting stuck all over.

   ”I wonder if Ron would’ve liked this,” Simon muttered out of the blue. He was walking in front of Jace with Maia, causing both the shadowhunter and the werewolf to look at him with confusion. ”You know, in Chamber of Secrets, Ron asks Harry why they couldn’t follow butterflies instead of spiders into the Forbidden Forest? I mean, these butterflies are pretty scary, so I’m not sure he would like to follow these either.”

   ”We’re on the hunt for a demon in a whole different realm, and you’re thinking about Harry Potter?” Maia asked, words dripping of both disbelief and admiration at the same time. ”Simon, never change.”

   A similar sentiment was in Jace’s heart as well. Leave it to Simon to manage to be the life of the party, no matter what they were going through.

   Jace gave Simon’s elbow a quick pat when he walked past him, throwing a smile over his shoulder when the vampire almost jumped out of his skin. ”I’m with Maia; never change.”

   Even in the dim light from Simon’s phone, Jace could see how the vampire blushed.

   Jace pushed his way past the others to get to Jahni. They had been walking for God knows how long without running into anyone nor anything other than the butterflies. The shadowhunter had a knot of tension in his chest that he couldn’t shake; he needed some clarification on what was up ahead.

   Jahni barely looked at him when Jace reached the Seelie. He felt the Queen’s eyes on him; burning holes through his neck. ”It’s not like the mundane realm now, is it?” The seelie's voice was a quiet mutter, keeping his gaze focused on the darkness ahead of them.

   ”Don’t say that, the mundanes can be pretty dark too,” Jace commented, gaining a short laugh out of the older man.

   ”You’re not wrong,” Jahni agreed. ”Zhadok’s not overly fond of the light. Most of the realm is constantly dark. I’ve never seen the sky, just these tunnels and caves.”

   To live like this, constantly hidden in the darkness; was that even a life? How did Jahni feel about dying down here?

   ”How much longer? I’m not sure I like that we haven’t run into anyone yet, didn’t you say that this realm would be crawling with Zhadok’s people?” Jace asked.

   ”You’re pretty straightforward, aren’t you?” Jahni raised a amused eyebrow at Jace. Glad that he could amuse someone at least. ”I like it when people are blunt with what they want, not tip-toeing around the issue like they’re scared of knowing the truth.”

   ”That’s me, add my charms and you got yourself the ideal shadowhunter,” Jace deadpanned; his own lips turned slightly upwards when he noticed how Jahni snickered over his words.

   ”So I hear, Jace, so I hear,” Jahni fell silent after that; Jace was just about to repeat his question when the Seelie finally spoke, this time without the amusement and easiness in his words.

   ”Zhadok must know that we’re coming. Guards aren’t usually in this part of the tunnel; they come in numbers further ahead, I guess the demon likes to fool anyone that comes here to believe they’re safe before they get killed. Demons have a different sense of humour than us, I guess.”

   ”And I thought I had a bad sense of humour,” Jace said, bitter smirk gracing his features. ”Nothing compared to those bastards.”

   Jahni laughed. A booming sound that bounced between the walls; if Zhadok’s people didn’t know that they where here already, they sure would do it now. The others sent the Seelie alarming looks, Luke and Maia both on the verge of turning.

   Jace at least had the sensibility to send an apologetic look their way, while Jahni brushed their looks off like it was nothing.

   ”You’re not so bad for being a shadowhunter, Herondale,” the Seelie confessed, thin smile in place over his dry lips. The scar stood out against his skin even here when the light was dim and close to non-existing. ”I admire your will to take Zhadok on if I die. It takes courage to do such a thing, you have my respect.”

   ”To protect the people I care about, I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” Jace stated. It was the truth; Jace may not show it as much as he probably should, but without the people he cared for, there was no point in this at all. His life had no value if he couldn’t use it to protect his friends and try to do the right thing after years of constant mistakes. ”There’s no point in being an idle bystander. I like to take matters into my own hands, seems like you enjoy that too.”

   Jahni looked like he was going to pat Jace’s shoulder; hand slightly raised, but he changed his mind. Instead did he shove both of his hands deeper down into the pockets of his coat. ”I’ve got nothing to lose, it’s easy for me to take the risk. You, on the other hand.. there’s people here who will mourn your loss. Some more than others, so think about what you’re giving up before you throw yourself into the fire.” The Seelie’s eyes glistened oddly; he quickened his pace enough to create distance between him and the startled shadowhunter.

   ”Remember, under no circumstances can Zhadok enter Nathaniel’s body. Their powers mixed together will be the end of us; the demon usually stays away from fights, but his ties with Nathaniel will bring him out when Nathaniel’s weak. I’ve seen it happen before, it’ll happen again. We can’t kill Nathaniel before Zhadok’s showed himself,” Jahni shouted over his shoulder, loud enough for everyone to hear it. ”Nathaniel’s a pain in the ass, try not to get burned.”

   Thinking about what Jahni said, Jace peered over his shoulder at the others. Would any of them truly mourn his loss? Izzy would, that much he was sure of. They were siblings; she knew him almost as good as Alec did, and the older Lightwood was his parabatai so that said a lot about their relationship. But the rest? Jace doubted it.

   This was not the time to think about things like that. Dwelling on feelings would only make it harder for him to go through with letting the demon in if Jahni didn’t succeed. He didn’t need distractions.

   He pressed on. That’s what they had to do; press on.

 

After awhile, the darkness felt more and more like a home. All of their phones showed different times and the reception was non-existent, as expected. Neither of them had any idea of how long they had walked around down in this tunnel or how long they had left until they would find something. Anything that wasn’t black butterflies, ash and weird plants.

  The laugh came out of nowhere. Bouncing against the walls; a chilling, unpleasant sound. Something about it rang some bells, Jace recognised it from somewhere. Couldn’t it be..?

   ”It’s Nathaniel!” Jahni called out. A light appeared in the end of the tunnel; it was small, but it quickly grew bigger and bigger; spreading over the tunnel, like a wall of burning heat. Fire.

   ”Fire, see if there’s some place to hide! Quick!” The group scattered over the tunnel, searching for a crack in the wall or something they could hide behind. There was nothing, the tunnel was of compact rock and no other objects where present in the narrow space. The wall of fire moved forward, Jace felt a rise of panic in his chest. If the fire pressed on, they would get burnt.

   Magnus pressed through the crowd, placing a hand on Jace’s arm as his eyes asked for permission. ”I can stop it, but I need your help.”

   ”Do it.”

   A sudden wave of dizziness spread through the shadowhunter. There was a tingling beneath his skin, a sensation that someone was pulling at his veins dragging the life out of him. He shivered while Magnus stood up a little more straight; his eyes glimmered with life.

   The fire crashed against an invisible shield. Magnus held out his hand, fingers stretched out; the magic soared out from his fingertips; small drops of sweat were breaking out around the warlock’s hairline. Flames roamed over the shield; licked at it, out of harm’s way. The shield protected them, enough for the fire to fade out completely.

   Magnus let the shield fade out too. He removed his hand from Jace’s arm; the weird sensation stopped, Jace felt like his senses were slowly starting to come back to normality. Lending his energy to a warlock truly was a different experience.

   ”That.. was awesome!”

   Simon stared at Magnus with true and utter awe. The boyish glee in his features was so endearing, how could Simon always manage to look at the world with such optimism and positivity when everything else was crumbling?

   ”Thank you, Simon,” Magnus said; amusement radiating off him too.

   Out of the darkness, a man lurched towards Jahni with a scream; soon, three more joined the first attacker and chaos enfolded. Jace felt how someone smacked right into him; it happened so fast he didn’t even manage to pull his blade out of it’s holster.

   They collided with the ground in a huff. Around them, the rest of the group scrambled with the other attackers; Jace had a hard time pushing his attacker off while avoiding getting stepped on by anyone.

   A ball of light appeared and floated along the roof. It made it a lot easier; with the added light, Jace smacked his elbow against the attacker’s face. He did it again for good measure. The attacker grunted; blood dripping from his damaged lip. Busy with avoiding the blood, Jace was not ready for the attacker to return the favour. The elbow hit him square over his nose; hard enough to draw blood as well.

   Jace managed to push the attacker off him with one, strong push. The blade was out of it’s holster in seconds; he didn’t think twice about slamming it down into the man’s chest, just before he had to roll out of the way for a large wolf.

   Both Maia and Luke had turned by this point. Together they launched towards one of the attackers that was aiming for Magnus; in the mess of bodies, Jace had a hard time seeing where Jahni was. A blur beside him caught his attention; Simon pulled him back up, fangs out and a similar blade to Jace’s own in his other hand.

   ”Try not to get stomped on,” the vampire suggested before jetting off again. With a roll of his eyes, Jace smirked and joined the fight.

   There were eight attackers in total. Izzy used the narrow space to her advantage; bouncing off the walls with her whip soaring through the air, hitting target after target. It was a miracle that she didn’t end up hurting anyone on her side; Simon had a close call, barely dodging it when the tip smacked against one of the attackers heads with a crushing sound.

   The Queen had a few tricks of her own, too. She danced through the battlefield with both grace and ease; a faerie’s flexibility was well-known in the Shadow World, even without their magical abilities, they could still overpower their contenders with how good they were in hand to hand combat.

   Jace was good, that wasn’t a lie. Compared to the Queen, he looked like a rookie. Even if he didn’t trust her intentions in the slightest, he was still happy about her being on their side.

   They managed to get it under control. Fighting in a tunnel was not ideal; everyone, except for the Queen had gotten minor injuries from the fight.

  Jahni was the first one to get hit by the attackers, and therefor also the one with the deepest wounds. A long, bleeding wound leapt along the man’s arm; he winched when Magnus placed a bandage around it; the warlock was already drained from casting the shield and keeping the ball of light above their heads functioning, he used as much magic as he could to heal the Seelie, but it wasn’t enough to heal the wound in it’s entire.

   ”I’ll be fine,” the Seelie grunted as a greeting when Jace came over to see how bad it was. ”Suits you,” he added, pointing at Jace’s bleeding nose.

   Jace wiped the blood away with his sleeve. ”I’ll take the lead from here, okay? Tell me where to go.” He walked past them and stopped at the very edge of the light’s reach. Staring into the darkness, he tried to see if there was anyone else waiting for them.

   Nothing yet again. Except for the butterflies; they were unbothered by the whole thing, aimlessly flying around the tunnel. Jace had to fight the urge to just run straight into the unknown before more of those guards popped out of nowhere.

   Only one of them knew how to move in these tunnels. The guards had their knowledge of this place to their advantage. It made Jace frustrated, to say the least.

   ”We’re good to go,” Magnus called out when Jahni’s bandage was in place.

   Jace took the lead this time; the small ball of light floated above their heads, providing as much guidance as Jahni’s directions did.

   Every now and then Nathaniel’s laugh bounced between the narrow walls. The warlock knew they were coming; he was toying with them, his laugh made everyone feel uneasy and ready for another attack.

   They went further and further into the tunnels.

   Just when Jace thought that they would succumb to the darkness, they reached the end of their tunnel. Magnus’ guiding light flew out of the tunnel and floated up, towards a much higher ceiling. Tiny lights were scattered across the walls; barely providing with any assistance, the ground was still mostly dim and hard to make out properly.

   Water was pouring from somewhere too. Bigger masses of water, almost like a bunch of waterfalls. Jace could see some of them across the walls, water cascading down against the ground; disappearing into the unknown.

   The ground was made of solid rock. The first platform the group stood on was shaped as half of a circle; in the middle and far off by the end of the structure, a bridge leapt to an even bigger, whole circle. Pillars of various heights and shapes stuck out of the ground; one was located in the very centre of the room.

   On top of it, a man sat; kicking his legs back and forth, the heels of his shoes clashing against the stone. The man was not alone. Perched on top of the other pillars, there was a bunch of figures; people, all staring down at the newcomers.

   ”So, you’ve finally found me again, shadowhunter. And you brought some friends too, that’s cute.”

   Nathaniel. Of course.

   ”Behind me, in formation, now,” Jace demanded with a low snarl. ”Protect Jahni and Magnus, whatever the cost.” He stared at the warlock, whom eyed them all curiously from the top of his pillar.

   ”You’re not easy to find, Nathaniel,” he more or less shouted at the warlock. His fingers held onto his blade; the crowd of people up on the pillars weren’t a sign of something good. ”Where’s your master?” He said the last word with as much mockery as he could; they were well past trying to be cautious by now, the fight would happen whatever they wanted it to or not.

   Nathaniel laughed. Again. The warlock stood up; he was in worse shape than when they last ran into each other; in a matter of days, Nathaniel had changed from looking like an ordinary warlock to a wreck. His clothes were damaged; holes big enough to show off grey skin with red burns, veins green and visible; same colour as his burning eyes.

   ”Oh, he’s here too. Won’t be missing out on the fun, y’know. He’s not very fond of you angelic people,” Nathaniel cooed. He clicked his fingers together; a tiny orb of fire soared above his hand. The orb moved from hand to hand; always with the same, amused grin playing on his lips. ”Jahni’s here too! Glad to see you, pal, getting the gang back together. Up for kidnapping some more Seelies? Wouldn’t that just be sweet, or what do you say, Queenie?”

   ”Make him shut up or I will,” the Queen sneered behind Jace’s back. Her eyes were blazing with anger as she watched the warlock; it wouldn’t take long before she would do something drastic.

   ”We’re not here to talk,” Jace shouted. ”For too long you’ve killed innocent kids; you and that fucking demon that doesn’t even dare to show itself. Cowards! The whole lot of you!” He tried to provoke a reaction out of the warlock; Nathaniel didn’t seem to bother, he simply continued to laugh like Jace and the group were the funniest people in the entire world.

   ”You’re so cute when you think that you have a chance at winning. In a few hours, your friend will be dead. The kids too. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Nathaniel shrugged his shoulders, sounding like he was talking about the weather. ”Kill them.”

   The people on top of the closest pillars jumped down; Jace pulled his blade out and sprinted forward to take down the first attacker. He had almost reached a man that looked a lot like a mundane when a familiar, blurry frame flashed past him; Simon was on top of Jace’s target, sinking his fangs into the man; both of them toppling over and colliding with the ground.

   Jace jumped across the vampire, rolling over the smooth stones towards another one of Zhadok’s guards. Promptly, he got his knife out of his boot and stabbed it into his new target’s leg.

   The man hissed, pulling at the knife but Jace managed to knock him down before the man had gotten a good grip around the handle. In a desperate attempt to get Jace off him, the man took ahold of Jace’s hair and pulled. It hurt, Jace’s scalp was on fire until he managed to punch the man hard enough to knock him out. The grip around Jace’s hair disappeared, the shadowhunter pulled back and showed the man an merciful end.

   Next to Jace, one of the wolves was battling with two guards on it’s own. Jace couldn’t make out for sure whom it was, but if the size was anything to go on, he figured that it was Luke. Zhadok’s men had a tough time dealing with the wolf; Luke seemed to be handling it well.

   The Queen and her guards were plowing a way through the mass of guards; she laughed too, almost as chilling as Nathaniel, whom still stood on top of his own pillar and watched the whole mess with a smile. They had the guards under control, but Nathaniel still didn’t seem bothered by their success.

   Jace sprinted towards where Jahni and Magnus were fighting with three of the guards. One of them, a woman, ran around them in a blur much like Simon’s; she had to be a vampire too. Almost instantly after Jace thought that her speed reminded him of Simon, the daylighter came out of nowhere and tackled her down.

   Jace was about to join in when something collided with his side; a massive weight that knocked the air out of his lungs. He really had to stop crashing to the ground like this, all of his fights were fought on the floor. This time, he didn’t let his attacker pull at his hair; he squirmed and slid around, out of the attacker’s reach. His boot collided with the new man’s head; it snapped back, but the man was quick to gather himself enough to launch forward. Hands were around Jace’s leg, pulling the shadowhunter towards him with one hasty move; Jace’s jacket scrapped against the floor, the blonde threw his leg around the man’s head and used all of his strength to pull the man down. Izzy had showed him some good ways to crush things using only her thighs; Jace wasn't nearly as skilled at it nor as graceful as his sister, but he at least could handle the technique.

   He managed to pull the man down enough to give him a hard punch. Still with his leg around the man’s neck, Jace managed to switch places and continued to throw punches at the man.

  ”Setting a reminder to myself to never make you angry, Jace,” Simon stopped by Jace’s side, helping the shadowhunter back up on his feet once the guard was dealt with. A fresh wound leapt across Simon’s forehead; other than that, he didn’t seem to have any major injuries. ”Wouldn’t want to get in one of those thigh-headlocks you got going on.”

   Jace barked out a laugh, pushing his hair away from his face. He held onto Simon’s hands for a bit longer than needed; entwining their fingers and squeezing gently. One moment of peace in this constant chaos of stress and panic. ”Dude, you should see how Izzy does it, if I were you I’d stay away from making her angry.”

  Another attacker sprinted towards them; Jace threw one last look at Simon, squeezing his fingers one last time before pulling away and meeting the man halfway. Simon joined him, of course, and they took down the man together.

   ”Well, shouldn’t we add some more fun? Think it’s time for me to join the game too!”

   A ball of fire exploded against the ground; waves of heat erupted from the centre, throwing all of them back. Jace, along with Simon and their attacker tumbled over the ground and almost crashed against the wall. Between the wall and the ground was a deep crack; Jace’s head poked out over the edge, almost ramming straight into one of the waterfalls.

   Nathaniel jumped from the pillar; he landed on the platform and sent out new waves of heat.

   The Queen’s guards sprinted towards Nathaniel. He waited for them, grinning the entire time.  When they reached him, he made them burn.

   Magnus tried to extinguish the fire with water; the flames didn’t die, whatever sort of magic Nathaniel was using, it was stronger than Magnus’ water. Nathaniel was tied to the demon; when Magnus was in this state, drained from days of difficult spells and emotional situations, he didn’t have much to put up against Nathaniel without someone else lending him energy.

   Nathaniel laughed at Magnus’ weak attempt. ”And you’re the high warlock of New York? God, I can eat people like you in my sleep.” He threw Magnus back with a wave of air; the warlock crashed against the wall, remaining there on the ground in a mess of limbs.

   ”Magnus!” Jace shouted. He was back up on his feet in no time, running towards where the warlock was sprawled on the ground. Izzy and the Queen took on Nathaniel; they skilfully avoided Nathaniel’s fire, but whenever they got too close, Nathaniel sent them back with a wave of air.

   Jace fell to his knees, checking Magnus’ pulse. The warlock was alive; he barely reacted when Jace turned him over. There was a wound on the back of his head from where Magnus collided with the wall. ”Fuck,” he muttered.

   They were three men down. Magnus was alive, but wounded. Both of the Queen’s guards were burned into ashes; they were losing people fast.

   Jahni came rushing over and knelt beside Jace; the Seelie was injured as well, the scar on his face looked almost harmless compared to the one that leapt across his chest. ”Is he alive?”

   ”Yes, but’s he unconscious,” Jace sneered. He ripped off a piece of cloth from Magnus’ coat and pressed it against the wound. ”What are we supposed to do?”

   ”Nathaniel’s Zhadok’s biggest source of energy. We need to injure him quickly, otherwise I won’t be able to invite Zhadok in. Nathaniel’s arrogant, he won’t see the opportunity until Zhadok shows himself; when it happens, I need to be alive, and so does Magnus,” Jahni bit out roughly. He had looked composed until this point, but now with two people dead and Magnus wounded, hope was in short supply. ”Get someone to make Magnus wake up, he needs to get new energy quickly. You need to be out on the battlefield, Jace.”

   ”Simon!” Jace yelled; he tried not to let his panic infect his voice. He kept on pressing the cloth against Magnus’ wound, hoping it would stop the bleeding.

   The vampire came to him in a matter of seconds. ”What is it? How’s Magnus?”

   Jace pulled at Simon’s wrist, forcing the vampire to kneel down next to him. ”Stay with Magnus, you need to make him wake up and borrow energy of you so he can heal. Please, do this for me.”

   Simon didn’t look too pleased about getting benched, but he agreed. Both of them knew that it was more important to save Magnus’ life. ”Don’t do anything reckless.”

   Jace barked out a bitter laugh; he dragged his fingers over Simon’s cheek, briefly, before running off towards the fight. He would protect them for as long as he could, with everything he got.

   All of the others were focused on Nathaniel.

   The warlock sent out waves of fire towards them. He kept laughing, floating through the air and sending fireballs out that exploded as soon as they touched the ground. The whole room felt like it was burning up, like the inside of a volcano. There was a smell of burned flesh infecting the air, sticking in Jace’s nose and on his clothes.

   The Queen almost matched Nathaniel’s powers. She gave him a run for his money; dodging his fire and launching forward whenever she got the chance. Izzy and both of the werwolves helped out; they attacked from all angles.

   Nathaniel had stopped laughing at this point. There was sweat dropping off him, the green veins really standing out against his skin. He was draining the demon off energy; his whole body was trembling, pulsing with a power it barely could contain.

   Jace joined in, throwing himself into the fight. He pushed himself to the very brink; fuelled by the need to avenge those who couldn’t avenge themselves. Thinking about Luca, the kid that passed away; Clary, the other kids, all of the kids Zhadok had killed over the centuries. Nathaniel had helped the demon with that: he had given up innocent lives for his own need to get power.

   The shadowhunter was almost too caught up in the fight to notice the black figure floating above their heads. It was barely a shape at all; black smoke that dripped of something green and gooey. A pair of glimmering, green eyes soared in the middle of the thing.

   Jace felt chills running down his neck. Zhadok. This bodiless figure had to be the demon.

   ”He’s here!” he called out, dodging from Nathaniel’s fire. ”Zhadok’s here!”

   Nathaniel looked bewildered over Jace’s words; losing focus for a few moments. It was enough for the Queen to get in close and bring Nathaniel down. She used her own magic to block his attempts at pushing her off.

   ”Master, I invite you in!” Nathaniel shrieked, his hands burning. The others could only stand and watch the display in front of them; Jace felt hope trickling around his heart, he just didn’t dare to believe in it.

   Not yet. Not until the demon was banished.

   ”Zhadok, I invite you in!” Jahni boomed. He stood up straight; the scar on his chest was partially healed, thanks to the warlock whom was sitting on the ground; conscious, but weak. ”I’m the stronger choice, Zhadok. Nathaniel will crumble before you.”

   The demon listened. Nathaniel screamed, calling at his master with pure agony while the Queen clawed at his arms, chest, everything, while Zhadok slowly soared towards the Seelie.

   The Queen stabbed Nathaniel before the demon had reached it’s target. The warlock made a loud, gurgling noise while blood welled up in his mouth; the black goo mixed with it, coming out of the man’s mouth and eyes.

   Jace couldn’t look away at first; that was before he heard Jahni’s scream. He watched in horror as the smoke pressed his way into the Seelie; it didn’t get far, because just as the smoke crept down into Jahni’s throat; an arrow pierced through the older man’s heart.

   Time stood still. Jahni looked down at his chest in pure surprise, trembling fingers touching the blood that came out of the wound. Jace felt a scream pressing in the back of his throat, but no words came out.

   Jahni collapsed to the ground. The demon soared back; it looked like it was about to escape. Before Jace could get the right words, another voice pierced through the silence. A voice Jace would’ve given anything, anything to shut out in that moment.

   ”Hey, Zhadok! I invite you in, come and get a piece of me!”

   Simon stood with his arms spread in a welcoming gesture towards the demon. Almost like he was welcoming a friend.

   Jace screamed this time. Long, painful sounds. He ran towards Simon, but his legs didn’t move fast enough. This wasn’t happening, no, not Simon - please - not Simon, no, no.

   ”Simon, no! Please, don’t!” The words ripped apart Jace’s throat. Tears began to well up with the force of a tidal wave. He felt how another scream parted his lips when Simon offered him a sad smile, one on the verge of apologetic, before the demon reached the vampire.

   Zhadok entered Simon through his mouth. Black smoke with green eyes; all of it disappeared into Simon without leaving any traces behind.

   ”Get away from Simon!” Jace screamed to Magnus. The warlock shakily managed to scramble to his feet and run towards Jace; barely holding it together. Jace held onto Magnus’ wrist as he watched in agony how Simon’s body collapsed in front of them.

   For a few moments, everything was perfectly still. Jace heard his own, frantic heartbeat. Someone was whispering ”no” over and over again, it took Jace a minute to understand that the painful sound came from him.

   It felt like his whole world was falling apart. He wanted to run over to Simon and see if the vampire way okay; make sure that this wasn’t happening. Magnus kept him from doing it; they had no idea what would happen now; their only source of knowledge had been Jahni, who was laying facedown in a puddle of his own blood.

   After seconds that spanned over complete decades, Simon started to scream. The sound screeched in Jace’s ears, tore his heart out of his chest and stomped on it. How any living creature could make such a noise was beyond his understanding.

   That the screams came from Simon, made it unbearable.

   The vampire’s body began to shake. Limbs moved like he was nothing more than a doll, his head tumbling from side to side while the screams continued.

   ”What’s happening with him?” Jace asked, his voice barely more than him begging Magnus to make him understand. ”Magnus.”

   ”I’m not sure,” the warlock whispered. He couldn’t tear away his eyes from Simon either; a low growl came from somewhere behind them; Jace turned his head just to catch Maia running past them, still in her wolf shape. She stopped a few feet away from Simon’s shaking body, growling at the sight of it. ”I think the demon’s reacting to the angelic blood in Simon’s veins. Your blood, Jace.”

   Jace choked on a sob. He curled his hand into a fist, holding it in front of his mouth; every part of him trembling because of how heavily he was sobbing. This was his fault. Simon wouldn’t be in this much pain if Jace hadn’t offered him to drink his blood before. Whatever he did, it always turned out to be the wrong choice to make.

   Izzy placed a hand on Jace’s shoulder, giving him the support he needed. Luke followed Maia; the two wolves stood a few feet away from Simon, eyeing the whole thing cautiously.

   Jace felt on the verge of passing out.

   ”I dealt with the guy who killed Jahni, thanks for asking,” the Queen stated when she joined them. The coolness in her eyes while she watched Simon on the ground was enough to make Jace want to punch her teeth out. "What a pity."

   He threw a broken glare at her before he ran forward. Not another minute of this torture; Jace couldn’t stand seeing Simon suffer like this. Simon, whom was the happiest person Jace knew, the dorkiest vampire in New York that always had a movie reference at the tip of his tongue.

   Simon, whom Jace was going to ask out on a date.

   Simon.

   Jace fell to his knees by Simon’s body. The vampire had stopped shaking; he just laid there, eyes closed and the sickly green goo filling his veins. He reached out to touch Simon’s hand, but he never reached it.

   Instead, Jace got pushed down to the ground by the very person he desperately wanted to help. Simon’s eyes weren’t his own anymore. They were green and black, mixed into a unrecognisable mess of colours that didn’t fit at all with the boyish features or the blood stained Star Wars shirt Simon was wearing.

   This wasn’t Simon, Jace had to remember that. This was a demon, inside of Simon’s body.

   The demon had Jace pinned down against the ground, hand squeezing around his neck. Hard, but not hard enough to make Jace lose his ability to breath altogether.

   ”Simon,” he hissed in between troubled breaths. It pained him to meet those demonic eyes, he had to force himself from not looking away. This wasn’t Simon. ”It’s me, Jace.”

   A laugh that was all sorts of wrong left Simon’s mouth, twisting the vampire’s face with a look of cruelty that had never been there before. ”Simon? Is that the name of this body? He can’t hear you now, shadowhunter. He’s gone.”

   ”Jace, I need to cast the spell!” Magnus called out in pure desperation. ”We can’t wait!”

   ”Don’t do it! Not yet,” Jace managed to get out, hoping that Magnus could hear him still. He needed to get out of Simon’s grip, or he would suffocate. ”I know you’re in there, Simon, don’t let him win. Fight it, fight him with everything you got.”

   ”You’re pathetic,” the demon laughed, giving Jace’s throat another squeeze that caused him to gasp for air. ”Do you think that your love for Simon will save him? You’re even more stupid than I ever would’ve imagined. Nothing you can do can save him now.”

   Both of the werewolves collided with the demon and set Jace free. One of Luke’s paws managed to leave a scratch on Jace’s cheek, the shaodwhunter hissing at the sudden pain while he panted for air. The three bodies rolled over the floor in a mess of growls and whimpers; Luke and Maia were both strong and capable warriors, but Zhadok was stronger, even in his weakened state. He threw Maia against the wall and cracked one of Luke’s legs like he was breaking a twig.

   Jace, we need to stop him!” Magnus yelled again, even more desperate now.

   Jace ignored his friend’s cries and went after the demon. He wouldn’t hurt Simon, he just needed to keep the demon occupied long enough for them to come up with a solution. Magnus was right, they needed to do the spell; Jace’s heart ached from merely thinking about that it would end Simon too, he would give anything to not have it that way.

   There had to be another solution.

   Desperate to stop the demon from hurting anyone else, Jace threw himself over Zhadok. They landed on the ground again, this time Jace was the one in control. He tried to pin the demon down with his weight only; Zhadok knew that Jace wouldn’t be able to hurt the body he was in, he used Jace’s lack of resistance against the shadowhunter.

   ”Fight me!” he screamed at Jace’s face. ”Kill me!

   The first punch hit Jace over the already broken nose. The second one on his temple. Again and again, the pain spread through Jace’s whole head and the panic inside of his chest told him to fight back. He needed to fight back, or else he would surely get beaten into a bloody pulp.

   With every punch, a piece of him died inside. Jace couldn’t fight back; he couldn’t hurt Simon, not even in this state. He would gladly let Simon beat him into hell if it meant that the vampire would come out of this unharmed. His head kept snapping to the side, it hurt all over and Jace's sight was blurry from tears.

   ”Si..mon,” he whispered, blood prickling his beaten lips. ”Please. I was meant.. to ask you out on a date after.. this. Please.”

 

Light.

   There was a light; stronger, brighter than any other. It hit the demon right in the chest and pushed him off Jace. The sound coming out of the demon’s mouth was ten times worse than the sound from before, when Jace’s blood had boiled inside the demon’s veins.

   Jace’s whole head felt like it was going to explode. He tried to understand what was going on; turning, he saw how Magnus stood with his hand out and his other around the Queen’s arm. A sudden fear and realisation spread inside of the shadowhunter when he understood what that meant.

   ”No,” he pleaded. Simon’s body was shaking again, he could see how the black goo already was rolling out of his mouth and his eyes; thick, black lines over the vampire’s sickly pale cheeks. ”No, no, no.”

   Jace’s body screamed at him to let it be; every move felt like he was breaking another bone. He was too weak to stand, he crawled towards Simon’s body, barely able to hold the vampire when he finally reached him. ”Simon, no, please-”

   Simon squirmed in his arms; the goo didn’t stop, god, Jace needed it to stop. Why didn’t it stop?

   ”Please, please, take me, take me instead,” he cried, fingers dragging over every part of Simon he could reach. Simon wasn’t going to die, no, Jace wouldn’t allow him to die like this. No. No.

   There was a sudden glow in his stomach that took him off guard. It spread through his chest; up to his head; down in his legs; to the very tips of his fingers. Almost all of the pain vanished, it faded into something dark in the back of his head while the glow kept pulsating; he could barely see anything through the tears, pleading Simon’s name over and over again, asking him to just wake up, but he could see the golden light that came from his fingers.

   Jace was bathing in a golden light. He radiated like the sun; it felt like he could run straight for years without any breaks, all while his heart was breaking in his chest because Simon, god, Simon. The golden light spread; it poured out over Simon’s body, washing away the demonic essence Zhadok left in him.

   Jace felt it. He held Simon harder against his chest, whispering all of the things he never got the chance to say while his light removed every stain of Zhadok’s existence. The whole room lit up, rays of light moving across the floor and ruining anything spoiled by Zhadok in it’s way.

   Simon still didn’t wake up.

   Why didn’t he wake up? Wasn’t he free now? Hadn’t Jace used his powers to help him?

   Was Jace too late?

   ”Simon, please,” Jace pleaded again, pressing his lips against Simon’s forehead. ”Don’t leave me, please, don’t leave me.”

   The shadowhunter felt a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t even have to turn around to know that it was Izzy’s. ”Jace, we got to go. The realm’s collapsing.” His sister was right; the whole room had started to shake worryingly; layers of ashes rained through the air, looking even more like dark snowflakes this time around. Without Zhadok, there was nothing that kept this place alive.

   If they didn’t leave, they would be destroyed along with the crashing realm.

   ”I’m not leaving him behind, I can’t,” Jace wailed, still holding onto Simon like his own life depended on it. ”I can’t leave him.”

   The pain in Izzy’s eyes was mutual. Nothing she could say would save anything. ”Magnus, come over here! Do the portal here!”

   The others gathered around Jace; Maia was up and walking again, she limped a little but she was alive; same went for Luke, he had turned back into his human form and had to lean against Magnus for support due to his leg.

   The warlock shook with exhaustion as he conjured a portal; he was using the last bits of his energy to leave this realm. There was no time to gather any of the other fallen ones; Izzy had to more or less drag Jace and Simon’s body with her through the portal.

   Jahni and the two guards succumbed with the rest of the realm; Jace saw how the room collapsed on itself just as they got sucked into the vortex. There was nothing back there for them now.

 

The group landed outside of the Institute back in New York.

   Jace collapsed on top of Simon; the vampire was still not breathing and Jace can’t understand why. He kept screaming - pleading - for Simon to wake up, this wasn’t funny anymore. Couldn’t Simon see that this was ripping Jace apart? Didn’t he understand how much this hurt?

   ”Jace,” Izzy tried to pull him away from Simon’s body. It didn’t work, Jace only clung to the vampire harder. ”Jace.”

   ”I’m not leaving him,” Jace sobbed, voice hoarse from all of the crying and screaming. ”I’m not leaving him, Iz.” There was still a faint glow to his fingers, he kept digging them down into Simon’s arm but nothing happened.

   ”Magnus! Izzy! You’re back!”

   Alec, along with Sebastian and a bunch of other shadowhunters came running out from the Institute. The leader was smiling from ear to ear at the sight of his friends, but it quickly vanished when he saw Jace on the ground with Simon’s body. He must’ve felt the pain through the bond, it must affect him too because when he reached the group, his eyes were also full of tears.

   ”Jace,” he offered, kneeling down beside his parabatai. ”Jace, he’s gone.”

   ”No!” Jace exploded. How could Alec even say something like that? Simon wasn’t gone, no, he wouldn’t do such a thing. No. ”He’s not - he can’t be, Alec, no.” Desperately, he pressed another kiss against Simon’s forehead, squeezing his eyes shut because it hurt just to look.

   ”You’re glowing,” Alec breathed when he noticed the golden light radiating off Jace.

   Jace paid no mind to it, he had been glowing since Magnus used his spell on Simon. He couldn’t control his powers, but in times like these, it didn’t matter.

   When Alec reached over to give Jace’s shoulder a tight squeeze, Simon began to cough. First, it was weak, not quite showing; he then proceeded to tremble, holding a shaky hand over his mouth and that was when Jace lost it.

   ”Simon,” he stammered through messy sobs. ”Simon, are you okay?!”

   He shot Alec a look over the vampire’s head, smiling from ear to ear when he met Alec’s gaze. Even his parabatai managed to smile, relief written over his features. Similar relief could be found in the others too; Izzy had fresh tears in her eyes, smiling so wide that it looked like it would crack her face in two; Luke cried openly, because the vampire in Jace’s arms was like a son to the alpha, he kept an arm around Maia’s shoulder and the younger werewolf beamed like the sun. Nothing could beat the look on Magnus’ face. The warlock had a shade of relief that was entirely on a different level; for all Jace knew, the warlock probably blamed himself for hurting Simon this way to get rid of the demon. He could only guess what sort of emotional baggage the warlock carried with him; it truly was a relief that Simon now wasn’t a part of it.

   Everyone seemed to have lost the ability to speak; they just looked at Simon while the vampire tried to get a grip of reality.

   Simon squinted when he looked up at Jace. ”God, Jace, why - you’re glowing!” the vampire exclaimed, slowly placing quivering fingers against Jace’s cheek. ”That’s, wow, wow, you’re awesome.”

   Jace choked on his own laugh; every single emotion inside of him was bubbling up towards the surface and he most look like he was on the verge of breaking down again due to how the others kept looking at him. He didn’t care. Simon was alive.

   ”I hate you, fuck,” the shadhowhunter managed to press out, placing his own hand around Simon’s. He never wanted to let go. ”I thought you died, you idiot!”

   Simon couldn’t stop smiling. ”You know, I’m still undead so I am dead, but I had this beautiful guy that wanted to ask me out on a date, and I couldn’t be like Steve Rogers and never show, y’know the whole falling into the ice thing, so. Here I am.”

   Jace leaned down and kissed the blabbering mess of a vampire with every unspoken word still lingering at the tip of his tongue. There was nothing beautiful about this kiss either; it was messy, with tears and blood because Jace’s powers hadn’t healed his nose (focusing entirely on Simon instead); he didn’t care about how much it hurt when his nose pressed against Simon’s face, because Simon was kissing him back and that was everything he could ask for. Everything he needed.

   As soon as the kiss broke, Maia threw herself at them. She pulled in them both for a crushing hug. An awkwardly nice embrace with limbs in the wrong places, but Jace wasn’t able to stop smiling when the ”you’re such an idiot, Simon!” came from the werewolf. He agreed full-heartedly.

   ”I’ve already had enough experiences of dying and coming back to life, thank you very much, so I would be really happy if you didn’t kill me too, Maia,” Simon pointed out, smiling the whole time.

   Alec cleared his throat. He held his arm around Magnus, who was leaning against the shadowhunter for support. The warlock fit with Alec like two pieces of a puzzle. ”Well, now when Simon’s done with stealing the show, there’s something I’d like to say. Before you got here, some of the younger kids began to show signs of getting back to their conscious selves. Last I heard, Clary’s one of them.”

   Alec hadn’t even finished speaking before Izzy ran over to him and pulled him in for a hug. She was sobbing, uncontrollably so, but the smile on her lips was so real and genuine that it could light up the whole of New York.

   Jace’s eyes fell shut and he tipped his head back. The impact of Alec’s words was enough to live on for the rest of the year, hell, decades to come. Every single moment of this dreadful week had been worth something.

  Clary was going to wake up.

   They did it. They actually did it.

   Simon was so happy he began to cry too. He clung both to Jace and Maia while he sobbed, the smile on his face almost matching Izzy’s in brightness. ”Clary’s okay. She’s not going to die.”

   Jace pressed a kiss against the top of Simon’s head. ”Didn’t I say that she would be okay?”

 

*~*

 

Simon, Luke and Maia went with Sebastian down to the infirmary; Simon needed to go through a bunch of tests to make sure that there was nothing left of Zhadok inside of him, while the two werewolves needed time to heal. Jace didn’t want to leave the vampire, not now when he finally got him back, but duty had to come first; he went with Alec, Izzy, the Queen and Magnus to the Obs Centre to debrief about the mission.

   It was a necessary omen that would happen anyway, it was better to get it done directly. He felt a pang of longing when he watched how Simon trailed after Sebastian; Simon must’ve felt his eyes on him, because he turned and offered Jace a small smile that was just for him.

   Jace could grow a habit out of this.

   The Queen, whom hadn’t battered an eyelid over the whole ordeal outside, clasped her hands together and leaned against the console with a unreadable look over her features. ”I cannot stay long, I need to get back to my realm and deliver the news. I want to offer my deepest gratitude to your aid in this matter, quite frankly the kids may have not made another day without you all.” It pained her to praise them, that much was obvious. Despite saving the kids of her people, her opinion on them hadn’t seemed to change.

   ”We’re always happy to help,” Alec said. ”You may have distrust in the Clave, my Queen, but I hope you reconsider. We’re here to help, not demolish. That’s why I would like to hold a memorial for the fallen warriors of your people, to honour their sacrifices.”

   The Queen laughed, sounding as chilling as always. ”Oh Lightwood, when you start believing in your own words, I might do so too. Nothing has changed on that point; whatever happens now on, will happen the way it’s intended to. Your proposition, on the other hand, it’s.. thoughtful of you. I’ll send one of my representatives, you could work out the arrangements then.”

   Alec gave a nod, lips thin and eyes full of condolences. ”As you wish, your highness.”

   The Queen looked around the room, a small, disgusted wrinkle between her eyebrows. She really didn’t like them. ”Could you get one of your workers to escort me to the kids? I want to see how they’re doing before I leave.”

   Alec clenched his jaw, gesturing towards a nearby shadowhunter to come over. ”John, follow the Queen down to the infirmary.”

   The shadowhunter nodded, the Queen left with a chilling smile spread over her face. Jace was just relieved to see her go. She was the most unnerving person to be around, there was no way in telling what was going on behind that innocent facade of hers.

   The Queen, along with Valentine, probably were the two most dangerous people he knew. There was some comfort in knowing that the Queen stood at their side for the moment at least, while Valentine still wanted to destroy the world.

   When she was out of sight, Alec sighed. ”Sometimes, that woman gives me the creeps,” he muttered. Looking at the other three, his body relaxed and the tension from the previous conversation faded. There was even a smile ghosting over his lips by the time he started to talk. ”First, I’d like to tell you all how proud I am. This hasn’t been easy on any of us, but you still managed to get the mission done; the demon’s dead, it’s victims are on their way to recover; the ones who tragically passed are avenged.”

   ”Thank you, Alec,” Jace said. His eyes glimmered with exhaustion and gratitude, he could sleep for the next three years or so without having to wake up a single time. He had aged decades in the span of a week. ”None of this success could’ve happened without the team. We’ve done everything we could to bring the victims back, and to see us succeed like this is truly the best thing that could’ve happened at this point. We’ve lost enough people to this demon already, I’m very happy that it’s finally where it belongs.”

   ”Couldn’t agree more,” Magnus stated. ”What do you need of us, Alexander? I for one would like to rest, if that’s okay?”

   Alec softened when he looked at his boyfriend. He leaned across the console to gently drag his fingers across the back of Magnus’ hand. ”I need a report on the mission, I’m sure I can get it from Izzy and Jace. You can use my room, if you want? We can go back to the loft together when I’m finished here.”

   ”See you in a bit,” Magnus slowly walked away from the room; even now, when they were out of harm, Magnus kept his head raised high and moved with determination.

   Alec watched the warlock leave; his eyebrows were arched a certain way when he was worried, small wrinkle between them.

   ”Magnus have been through a lot, he need some time to recover,” Jace reassured Alec, giving his parabatai a sincere look. ”We all have, I’d be up for sleeping for the next year or so, but that may just be me.”

   ”Yeah, I know, let’s get the formalities over with then, shall we?”

 

Jace and Izzy told Alec about everything that happened from the moment they touched down in LA. It took them a lot longer than expected; Jace left out the private parts, details about what had happened between him and Simon; Alec probably already was aware of it some extent due to their bond. He wanted to keep some things to himself; Simon’s soft smile and the way he curled up against Jace’s chest was things Jace would take with him to his grave.

   The shadowhunter felt exhausted by the time they reached the end of their explanation. There was still a lot they didn’t understand, things that didn’t make sense; why Nathaniel kept the kids in New York, how the demon’s ichor had made Zhadok able to feed on others, why they did any of it; some mysteries were left to remain unsolved. When Zhadok was out of the picture, frankly Jace didn’t give a damn about the why’s and how’s.

   What he gave a damn about was currently down in the infirmary, being checked for traces of demonic ichor. He wanted to go down there and see how Simon was doing so badly; he wanted to see how Clary was doing, make sure that both of them were fine.

   When Dot came running from the elevators with the biggest smile on her face, the meeting was finished. She threw her hands up in the air, exclaiming a loud ”Clary’s awake!” which made them all run towards the elevators.

   Izzy could give a vampire a run for it’s money due to how quickly she ran ahead. She grabbed Dot’s arm and dragged the warlock with her. They were both looking equally as happy when Jace joined them in the elevator; Alec soon followed, his excitement being a bit more discreet than his sister’s.

   The younger Lightwood practically flew out when the doors opened. She had disappeared into the infirmary before the other three had even left the elevator behind.

   ”Someone’s excited,” Dot laughed. Dark circles around her eyes, shoulders hanging low; it really showed how much she had pushed herself to the absolute limit during the last few days. She had done everything she could on her end; keeping the victims safe while they had been out searching for the demon.

   ”Can you blame her?” Jace smirked. He shot Alec a challenging look before he ran after Izzy; he gracefully avoided to run straight into one of the doctors as soon as he came through the doors. A bright, familiar laugh caught Jace’s attention and he felt his whole face lightening up at the two women watching him from one of the beds.

   Izzy sat next to Clary on the bed; she was crying, good tears this time. She looked like she never would leave that bed ever again; not without Clary. Jace couldn’t blame her, he started to understand how that felt now as well.

   Clary was prompted against a bunch of pillows. A little colour had returned to her cheeks, but she was bleaker than usual. Her eyes were warm, sparkling. Alive.

   ”So, Sleeping Beauty finally wakes up again,” Jace joked by sheer impulse. He quickly darted through the room to lean down and give the younger shadowhunter a tight hug. A hand clapped against his back; there was no effort behind the hit, it made him laugh.

   ”Ha ha, Simon already used that one,” Clary rolled her eyes. Her mention of Simon’s name caused Jace to look around the room after the vampire in question; he frowned when Simon was nowhere to be found. Clary, truly observant when she wanted to be, raised a surprised eyebrow at Jace’s reaction. ”He left a few minutes ago with Maia and Luke, said he had something to take care of. I’m happy to see you, Jace.”

   Jace ignored the sting in his chest. He thought that, after everything, Simon would’ve found him after his tests. It was stupid to get so hung up on something this irrelevant; Simon probably had reasons to leave, Jace couldn’t expect the vampire to stop everything for him.

   ”I’m happy to see you too, Clary,” he offered, a lot softer. ”It’s good to have you back.” He couldn’t press down the stinging feeling in his chest; the happiness for Clary was there, seeping through every part of him. But the lack of Simon made him want to ..do something. Jace didn’t want to rain on Clary’s parade, not now when she was out of her coma.

   Alec chose that moment to appear by his parabatai’s side. He leaned past Jace to give Clary a quick hug too, even managing to smile towards the redhead with honest happiness. Clary and Alec hadn’t exactly seen eye to eye in the past; almost dying changed things between people. ”Glad you’re okay, Fray.”

   ”Thanks Alec,” Clary smiled. Her sparkling gaze flickered between the three shadowhunters; she tried to hide it, but exhaustion dripped off her as much as it did from Jace and Izzy. ”So, who wants to tell me about what went down? Simon told me only a little, don’t leave a girl hanging here, guys.”

   Jace raised an eyebrow to Izzy. ”Iz, you up for that?”

   Like Jace even needed to ask. Izzy made herself comfortable next to Clary; when she looked at the redhead, she seemed to be looking at the entire world. Seeing the beauty, the flaws, everything all at once.

  It felt like Alec and him were trespassing on a private moment when they listened to Izzy’s take on everything that had happened since Clary fell into her coma. By the time Izzy reached the part when they got to LA, Jace excused himself with a promise to visit Clary once he had gotten some much needed rest.

   Alec followed him back up to the ground floor.

   ”If Simon hurts you, I’m gonna put an arrow in his head. Deal?”

   Jace had almost forgot that Alec knew about how he felt towards the vampire. Not that anyone could’ve missed how he kissed Simon before when the vampire woke up in his arms, Jace just felt a little unsure about if he liked others knowing about it yet or not. ”Alec, I assure you that you’ll be the first one to know it he does. Do you need me to do anything else or am I free to go to bed?”

  ”Go to sleep,” Alec commanded; he even held out a warning finger in Jace’s direction, which usually meant business. ”I can handle things from here.” He pulled in his parabatai for a quick hug before he stomped off towards the Obs Centre.

  Jace itched to go down the gym; hit some sandbags, fight his way out of feeling any of his emotions. He knew that his body would give up on him if he did that, Alec would probably also murder him, so instead he went towards his room.

   To his surprise, Magnus waited outside Jace’s door.

   Frowning, Jace approached the warlock with a confused ”what are you doing here?” spilling from his lips. He opened the door and gestured that the warlock should come inside, but Magnus firmly declined with a shake off his head.

   ”I thought about what happened before, and I owe both you and Simon an apology.”

   ”What for?” Jace asked, still frowning because he couldn't possibly understand what Magnus had to apologise for. Magnus had done everything by the book, he was the reason why all of them found themselves back home with nothing but mere scratches and aching bones (Jace still needed to heal his broken nose, life just kept getting in the way).

   ”I shouldn’t have used the spell on Simon,” Magnus clarified, clasping his hands together. He looked genuinely sad when he met Jace’s stare. ”The Queen kept telling me to use it, and when I saw him beat you on the ground, it felt like the right to do. I did what I felt like was the right thing at the time, I hope you can forgive me.”

   Jace stood there, dumbfounded. His mouth opened and closed, at a loss for words over Magnus’ sincere apology. The warlock had nothing to be sorry about, didn't he see that? If Magnus hadn’t conjured the spell, Jace wouldn’t have gotten the emotional push he needed to to channel his own powers. ”Hey, Magnus. You saved us; if you hadn’t used the spell, I wouldn’t have been able to use my powers. Simon’s okay, I’m okay, I’m not going to hold any of it against you; you made the right call in a very difficult position. In fact, I admire you for it.”

   Magnus tilted his head to the side, eying Jace curiously for a moment. When the thin smile finally spread over his face, it felt like a victory to the shadowhunter. ”Well, if you say so. Thank you, Jace. Alec’s probably wondering where I’ve gone, I should head back.”

   ”Get some rest, Magnus. I’ll see you later,” Jace lingered in the doorway while Magnus strode down the corridor; he was about to close the door when the warlock suddenly turned around and came back.

   ”Actually, there’s one more thing I need to do first,” Magnus barely got the words out of his mouth before he held out a hand over Jace’s face. A stream of white light came from the warlock’s fingertips and Jace made a grunting sound when his nose snapped back in place again. ”Much better.”

   Curiosity got the upper hand, the blonde gently poked at the bridge of his nose and smiled when it didn’t hurt at all. ”Thanks Magnus.”

   The warlock simply nodded his head before disappearing down the corridor again. This time, Jace closed the door and Magnus went out of his sight.

   Closing the door, Jace realised too late, meant shutting out everything; voices, warmth, sounds in general. His room was almost too quiet for Jace to even be able to handle it. After constantly sharing personal space with other people for days, it felt wrong to have this whole room to himself.

   He could enjoy the quiet, sure, but not when his head was full of screams. The silence spoke louder than a war ever would.

   To regain some of his carefully fragile sanity, Jace began to pace around the familiar space. One step at a time, not thinking about anything than putting one foot in front of the other. He could do this; it wasn’t too hard, he had blocked out worse feelings than this in the past.

   Jace had no idea for how long he kept pacing. It felt like a year had passed when he collapsed onto his bed. Drained of any sort of energy, Jace buried his head against one of the pillows and fell asleep almost instantly.

 

*~*

 

Jace woke up to the sound of someone knocking at his door. It was no easy, gentle knocks; no, whomever was on the other side really wanted to wake up the whole Institute. Charmer.

   Deep sleep had yet to get out of his body, groggily he got up on his feet and made his way towards the door. He hadn’t even undressed before going to sleep, even his boots were still on his feet.

   Without a word, Jace opened the door.

   Simon stood on the other side; his hand was raised and ready for another knock. He looked startled at Jace’s sudden appearance; brown eyes gaping at the mere sight of the blonde. If Jace hadn’t felt so tired, he probably would have laughed over how comically it all looked.

   ”Jace, ah, hi,” Simon stuttered. He kept fidgeting with the straps of the backpack he wore, looking everywhere but at Jace in that moment. There’s this weird awkwardness between them that’s completely new and different from the previous few days; Jace’s not sure what he should say; he had hoped all day that Simon would seek him out, but his hopes died at Clary’s mention of Simon leaving the Institute without telling Jace about it.

   With the vampire on his threshold, Jace couldn’t do much but stare.

   Simon kept fidgeting, examining every centimeter of the walls next to Jace’s doorway. He had apparently done his part with that quick, stuttered greeting.

   ”Do you want to come in?” Jace croaked after another embarrassed eternity of silence. He pushed the door open wider when the vampire gave him a quick nod; their arms brushed against one another when Simon pushed past him and Jace felt his breath getting stuck in his throat again.

   Jace’s head was somewhere else entirely, he couldn’t stop thinking about how the hair on his arm stood out from where Simon had touched him and entirely missed out on what the vampire was saying. He only noticed that Simon had said anything at all due to questioning look Simon sported when he looked at him.

   ”Ehm, sorry what?” he asked, forcing his cheeks with the sheer power of his will not to turn red.

   ”I asked you if you have free socket where I can plug in my laptop,” Simon repeated. There was a charger and a laptop resting in his hands, if Jace had paid attention he probably could have guessed what Simon’s question was about. ”Clary’s sockets are located at the weirdest places, I’d like to talk to the person who designed this place because who thought it was a good idea to have a socket up by the roof? It’s not like the charger to my phone is five meters long or whatever, it’s stupid.”

   Jace blinked, because Simon was rambling and it felt so right. Why was he upset in the first place? God, Simon was here in his room. Laptop in hand. He was here.

   ”There’s one under my desk you could use,” Jace offered, actually forming a proper sentence this time. He sat down on the edge of his bed to remove his boots, noticing how a bunch of DVDs slid out of the open compartment of Simon’s backpack.

   Simon was busy with muttering about how shadowhunters needed to learn how to decorate their rooms, kneeling under Jace’s desk, so Jace leaned to get a better look at the DVDs Simon had brought with him.

   There was an odd knot in his throat when he read the first title.

   Captain America: The First Avenger.

   During one of the first times they met each other, Simon had called Jace ”Captain America.” At the time, Jace found it annoying, everything about Simon at that point had been annoying, but now? Maybe Jace should’ve seen it as a compliment of some sort.

   Even if it weren’t more than a couple of days since Simon had told him that the vampire would make Jace watch all of the Captain America films with him once the mission was over, it made Jace’s heart swell in his chest over that Simon actually remembered it too.

   In that moment, Jace had never wanted to kiss anyone more than he wanted to kiss Simon. He had to blink back the tears, he felt a glow in his chest that only increased as he spread all of the cases out on the bed.

   Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War. Even two Avengers movies, which both sported a particular superhero on the cover.

   ”A-ha!” Simon exclaimed from where he was under Jace’s desk. ”Found it!” He plugged the charger in with a happy sigh, reappearing almost instantly after that. As soon as he noticed that Jace was studying the DVDs, the vampire froze. Blushing.

   ”I told you, before we went to LA, that I’d make you watch all of the Captain America movies,” Simon explained, like he thought Jace had forgotten about it. ”So, yeah, that’s what I’m doing now.” He bit his lips, looking almost shy when he shot Jace a quick glance before focusing on his computer again.

   Jace didn’t know what to say. Something as simple as a bunch of stupid superhero movies felt like the entire world to him. ”I remember, I just.. was that why you left earlier? To get these?”

   Simon’s head snapped in his direction at Jace’s words. He was in the middle of trying to find a good spot to place his laptop, currently testing the chair by Jace’s desk. A small frown spread over his face. ”Yeah. I talked to Clary when she woke up, then Maia and Luke said they would go back to the Jade Wolf so I said I’d go with them. I wanted to tell you, but you were in the middle of a meeting with Alec and Izzy so I didn’t want to disturb you. So, I ran around all of New York to gather the DVDs I was missing out on. Can you believe that my mum have given away a lot of my movies since I moved out? Like, who does that?! So rude, it’s not like I’m up to fight with someone over the last copy of The Avengers whenever I wanna see the film, she doesn’t understand why hoarding is a preferable lifestyle.

   Jace was down on the floor in a matter of seconds; losing one of his boots in the process. He took Simon completely by surprise; the vampire had just found a functioning spot for his laptop when Jace placed a hand on Simon’s neck. The vampire almost jumped out of his skin, turning to look at the shadowhunter and Jace just went for it.

   Their kisses had up to this point mostly been fuelled by desperation; when Jace kissed Simon this time, it was sweet and with the full intention of making the vampire understand how much this meant to him.

   Kissing Simon was surely a habit he could grow used to.

   ”I hope you brought the rope too,” Jace said breathlessly when the kiss broke.

   Simon made the most ridiculous sound, his eyes looking like they might be popping out of his skull while his whole face turned a deep shade of red. ”Jace, what, no -”

   Jace laughed harder than he’d done in a very long time. He couldn’t fight it back, even if he wanted to. Simon’s reaction was worth all the money in the world, the vampire had this look that screamed that he would murder Jace, but the blonde kept on laughing, even when the tears began to roll down his cheeks. He fell backwards and just laid there on the floor, laughing until he was out of air.

   ”You should’ve seen your face,” Jace explained, hardly getting any proper words out due to how raspy his throat was. ”God, Simon, it was everything.”

   Simon pushed at Jace’s thigh with his foot, sliding the shadowhunter further away from him centimetre by centimetre over the floor. He also threw a DVD at Jace’s head. It hit him right on the forehead and managed to shut up the blonde for at least a couple of seconds. ”I hate you, oh my god, you can’t just say things like that! You’re a menace, god, I should just leave you to rot in here, it’s what you deserve.”

   ”You told me that you would tie me down to make me watch these movies, remember? I was just checking if you were prepared to do that or not,” Jace defended, rubbing at the spot where the DVD had hit him. ”I won’t go down without a fight, y’know.”

   ”I feel very threatened by a dude wearing only one shoe, Jace, keep up the good work,” Simon smirked. He gave Jace’s body another push with his foot before he scrambled to start the laptop up instead. ”If you remove the other I’ll probably die of fear, to be honest.”

   Jace rolled his eyes. He removed the other boot and continued with the rest of his clothing. Simon was busy with the computer; while Jace pulled his jeans off, he got a glimpse of the picture Simon used as his wallpaper; it was so typical Simon that Jace had to bite back a smile. Who else except for the vampire would have a background with those masked dudes from Star Wars wearing a suit along with the words ”Just chillin’” next to it?

   No one, literally no one.

   ”We’ll start with The First Avenger,” Simon called out when he was done with the setup. Jace had placed himself on top of his bed by then, only wearing boxers and a loose shirt (he didn’t want to make Simon feel awkward, so he kept the shirt on for safety precautions) and he would be lying if he didn’t say that he was at least a tiny bit excited about the movies. ”Then we’ll take it in the chronological order from there.” He turned to get the right DVD off the bed, his gaze flickering up and down along the bare skin on Jace’s legs.

   The shadowhunter couldn’t stop smirking. ”Fine by me.”

   Simon glared at Jace’s legs, kind of like they were the source of all of his problems. It was endearing, in a way, Jace thought. The vampire then proceeded to shut off the light and start the movie.

   There was still a light on by the window. Even so, the atmosphere in the room had shifted from easy and playful, to something a lot more intimate. Jace felt somewhat exposed to the dimness, he pulled the blanket over his legs and shifted until he found the perfect position.

   Simon sat next to him. Much to Jace’s dismay, Simon hadn’t even removed his jacket yet. He was hugging his own legs, all while telling Jace about the characters on screen; bits and pieces of trivia Jace really didn’t care about, but since it was Simon he listened and tried to keep up with was happening on the screen at the same time.

   He wanted to tell Simon to remove the jacket, it was a bit overcompensating since it was pretty warm in Jace’s room and the shadowhunter himself was close to naked in comparison. The space between them was also discouraging; he wanted Simon to lay down next to him, but he didn’t dare to ask him about it.

   Jace could barely understand that he - hours ago - had been holding Simon’s lifeless body against his chest and believed the vampire to be dead. Surely that happened in an entirely different life? In this life, Simon had always sat on Jace’s bed and talked about Steve Rogers’ upbringing, safe and sound.

   When the first movie was over, Jace felt himself growing more and more tired. He closed his eyes while he listened to Simon rambling about how Jace had to pay attention during the next movie, because apparently some iron dude and the Hulk would be in it and Jace couldn’t miss that. If he did, it sounded like Simon would probably sacrifice Jace’s firstborn to some higher powers out of pure spite.

   He fell asleep to the sound of Simon’s voice before the movie had even properly started.

 

*~*

 

Jace woke up with an added weight to his side. The laptop was still on; sounds of a fight and some dude cracking dry jokes, mixing with Simon’s soft snores; the light from the small screen danced over the roof and the sheets.

   The best would be if he shut the computer off, since Simon also was asleep. Jace was way too comfortable to even try to move; Simon laid next to him, his head on Jace’s chest as the two previous nights. Just where Jace wanted him to be.

   No world had ended due to a laptop being on for a couple of hours. Jace shut his eyes again; the sounds of the movie and Simon’s snores lulling him back to sleep.

   Now, when the mission was over, Jace would let himself make a habit of this.

 

*~*

 

Three days after the team got back from their mission, the Queen invited them all to take a part of the memorial for the fallen Seelies she arranged with Alec. She sent Meliorn in her place; the Seelie strode into the Institute with that usual smirk of his only minutes after Jace returned from a mission with Raj. He caught a glimpse of Meliorn’s meeting with Alec, whom later sent out the carrier’s information to the ones involved. All of the people from the team were invited, along with Alec and Dot, who did what they could from here instead of out in the field.

   Jace got a text from Simon about the memorial half an hour later; the vampire got an invite as well, even though Jace wanted to stay out of the Seelies’ realm in the near future, he agreed to go with Simon as his moral support.

   It was the first time Clary left the Institute since she woke up from her coma; she was far from ideal shape, but Izzy kept an eye on her; helping her whenever Clary needed it. If the redhead found Izzy’s constant presence aggravating, she showed no signs of it. More the opposite, to be fair; she was always smiling brightly, a look that showed in her eyes too, when Izzy was near her.

   They left late that afternoon to meet with the downworlders by the bridge in Central Park. Jace hadn’t seen Simon in person for two days and was eager to meet him again; he’d spent the whole day after their return holed up in his room with the vampire, except for a short break when both of them went to sit with Clary for awhile. They didn’t do much at all; Simon played the movies in the background while they talked about everything and nothing at the same time. Jace had never felt so pleased about doing nothing before.

   The day after, he got sent back out on missions again. He liked to have something to do, but he also missed being close to Simon. It felt strange to talk through texts and not face to face.

   The shadowhunters drove to the park. Clary was too weak to walk longer distances, despite how much her stubbornness tried to say otherwise. She kept telling them that they could walk there, she would handle it, but everyone knew that it was merely wishful thinking from her part. Both Izzy and Jace steadied her as they made their way through the park to the bridge.

   Luke, Magnus, Dot and Maia where already waiting for the shadowhunters when the group got there. The alpha smiled widely at the sight of Clary; in a matter of seconds, the man had sprinted over to the trio and pulled Clary into a tight hug. He spinned her around, still smiling from ear to ear.

   ”Luke!” Clary laughed, holding onto the werewolf with all she got.

   ”Let a man be happy about seeing his daughter up on her feet again,” the werewolf grinned. Even when he placed Clary on the ground, the shadowhunter kept hugging Luke. ”It’s really good to see you doing better, Clary.”

   Maia strode over to where Jace stood a few feet away from the whole hugging scene. Hands tucked into the pockets of her leather jacket, a bunch of pins held some of her curly hair in place and the usual smirk graced her lips. ”Hi you.”

   ”Hey,” Jace greeted with a matching smile of his own. ”You look great, Maia.” He told the truth; Maia had healed nicely since the attack, and on top of that Jace really liked her hair styled this way. It was different, but still just as cool and beautiful as Maia always was.

  
Tilting her head to the side, Maia raised a amused eyebrow towards the shadowhunter. ”I think Simon’s done some good influence on you, Herondale. Keep this up and people might get the impression that you’re actually nice behind the cocky exterior.”

   Jace snorted. ”Simon’s too nice for his own good, y’know. Honestly though, Maia, I’m glad that you’re okay after what happened.” He let the rest remain unspoken; there would be a time to talk about what they went through when the demon had control over Simon’s body, today was not that day.

   Maia’s face softened too, smile nearly not as cocky as before. ”Thanks, Jace. Really. It’s good to see you doing better too, with everything.” She winked at the last word. Winked.

   Jace would’ve expected Maia to hold some sort of grudge towards him since he was.. something with Simon now, nothing could’ve prepared him for this understanding and teasing Maia. He enjoyed it, as he had grown to do so often whenever Maia took the piss out of him.

   ”You’re not mad about it?”

   Maia patted Jace’s shoulder with a sigh, smiling while she shook her head. ”Mad? I’ll be mad if you hurt Si, since he’s one of my best friends, but now? I’m happy for you, in some weird fucking way since you’re not the best of news all of the time, but if you hurt him, know I’ll have his back no matter what.”

   Jace respected her honesty. ”I know.”

   A swishing sound and a slight tug at their clothes; Simon stopped next to the pair; becoming a steady frame after the blurry run. He was dressed in black, sharp contrast to Jace whom was dressed all in white.

   ”Hi you two,” the vampire leaned to give Maia a hug; he smiled shyly towards Jace, who offered a smile of his own in return. ”I’m not late, am I?”

   ”Your timing is flawless, as always,” Maia smirked, giving Simon a slight nudge with her elbow.

   ”Hey, it’s time to go! Good to see you, Simon!” Luke called out, waving at the sight of the newcomer. Clary joined in on the wave too, exclaiming a pleased ”Hi Si!” with a smile.

   Simon waved back. ”Hi guys, good to see you both too!”

   The trio went to accompany the others; Maia walked ahead, catching up with the alpha.

   Jace felt no rush; he enjoyed to simply walk next to Simon, even if he felt oddly nervous about the whole thing. It was a day of mixed emotions; the guilt from not being able to stop the deaths of those they where going to honour laid like a blanket over everything. Jace was pleased to see all of his friends in one place, alive and content, but duty and respect towards those who had suffered the most had to come first.

   Jace took Simon’s hand when they reached the other realm. Cold fingers entwined with his own, as reassuring as they were jittery. So Simon.

  

 

*~*

 

The memorial was be held deep in the forest. Meliorn guided them through the beautiful and traitorous landscape; trees that seemed to grow right into the sky threw a shimmer of green and golden over the snowy ground. Streams of pouring water, clear as the sky itself, flowers in various colours, the sight was always breathtaking; even when you were aware of the dangerous that could be hiding behind the mask.

   Simon let go of Jace’s hand, only because the terrain didn’t allow them to walk next to each other. The whole group was quiet as they made their way through the forest; there was sorrow lingering in the air, thick and impossible to yield from. Words would only ruin, not make anything better.

   When they reached the edge of the forest, right by a cliff with a view over what felt like the entire kingdom, a crowd of people greeted them. Most of them were Seelies, a few nodding their heads while the group walked past them; not many held shadowhunters in a high regard, Jace had lately began to understand why.

   The Queen stood in front of four altars. She was in the form of the child again; any source of smugness and cruel amusement was switched to a cold, biting rage over the loss of her people. Only one body could be recovered, the one of the child who died back at the Institute. The other three, Jahni’s included, was lost in the demon’s destroyed realm.

   She nodded her head at the sight of their arrival, gesturing that they should come closer. Meliorn lead them to stand by the front, but at the side so the people still could witness what the Queen did in the centre.

   All of the shadowhunters were dressed in white to show their respect to the victims and their loved ones.

   Jace ended up standing next to Simon, Maia and Luke on the edge of the group; Alec, along with Magnus, were in the middle while Clary sat on a rock with Izzy right beside her. He couldn’t look at where Luca’s body was; flowers scattered along the boy’s arms and legs. It was hard enough to not cry as it was, Jace was sure he would never get over the guilt.

 

The Queen spoke about the fallen ones. Told the whole crowd about who they were, where they came from and why they died. Putting names to faces, pictures to lives. It was a necessary hurt to know what the demon took away.

   Losing a life was more than enough; losing four was a disaster.

   Clary, along with the other kids who sat in the front as well along with their loved ones, served as reminders of what the demon could’ve taken. Their lives would’ve been a small loss compared to all of those the demon had already taken, and could’ve continued to take until he one day would’ve been able to seek out the revenge he so desperately had wanted to bring upon the world.

   It was a tiny victory in the grander schemes of things. They were still on the brink of a war, who knew how many lives could be at risk thanks to Valentine and the tension he caused with the other factions.

   When Luca’s body and the trinkets that represented the other three turned into leaves, Jace cried. While the leaves soared into the air, carried by the strong winds, he cried for the useless waste of lives. He cried because even if it hurt beyond words, the ceremony was still achingly beautiful with the thousands of leaves dancing around in the wind and the setting sun in the background, throwing red and orange rays of light over the whole realm.

   The tears on Simon’s cheeks were just as red as the sky. He took Jace’s hand and didn’t let go this time. It was a reminder that in this very moment, the fight against one demon was over.

   Tomorrow, the fight to keep the world from falling apart, began.