The sun’s been fully down for nearly four hours, but the sweltering heat of the day is still clinging to the night as tightly as a blanket. The air is thick, feels like it might simply drop down and suffocate them like a pillow at any point. It’s bad enough out in the open, with nothing but the sky above and the lake below; Simon can only imagine how brutal it is up in the tin roofed cabins, which were all built in the 1950’s and sorely lack even rudimentary air conditioning.
There’s only so much a few open windows can do.
Thankfully, Simon has a feeling that, by the time he makes it back to the cabin he’s in charge of, he’ll be too worn-out to notice the heat (and, hopefully, the entangled smells of sweat, unwashed socks and moldy towels).
Blessedly, the lake is the absolute perfect temperature, hovering in the ideal zone between tepid bathwater and heart-stopping cold (which is how it’d been on the first day of camp, back in late May; Simon is about eighty percent sure that the reasons his campers spent the entire summer not listening to him had something to do with the embarrassing scream he’d let out when he’d jumped in on day one without so much as dipping his toe in the water). They’re out past the sandy, carefully maintained beach, on the other side of the floating string of buoys, above where the floor of the lake goes from a gentle slope to a sudden drop-off. The mosquitoes are still around, but they’re tolerable enough, and the sky is lit up by a dazzling full moon.
All things considered, it’s only the heat keeping it from being a perfect summer night.
“I can’t believe camp is over tomorrow,” Clary sighs, her fingers brushing against Simon’s, floating on her back. She was diligent about wearing sunscreen all summer, and she’s so pale that the moonlight seems to make her skin glow. Her long hair is gently drifting back and forth with the subtle current flowing through the lake, tickling Simon’s shoulders.
“Same,” Jace says from down by Clary’s feet. “Feels like the summer just started.” His arms are tucked underneath his head, which has to make it more difficult to float, but he makes it look impossibly easy. He’s more tan than Clary, but the black tattoos dotting his arms and chest, all graceful lines and swooping curves, still stick out from the rest of his skin. Simon’s fingers itch with the urge to trace over them, but he isn’t quite close enough to reach, and moving would take way too much effort.
“I really hope no one comes looking for us,” Simon says, for what he knows has to be the third time, but he can’t help himself. No matter how many times he tells himself to calm down, the steady hum of anxiety remains in the back of his mind.
“They won’t,” Jace says authoritatively. “Izzy and Alec said they’d cover for me and Clary, if anyone asked. And didn’t you ask Raphael-”
“Yeah,” Simon interrupts, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything good.” After a few moments of stammering and stuttering, which Raphael had spent just staring at him with a raised eyebrow, he’d finally managed to ask his co-cabin leader if he could watch over their campers by himself for a few hours.
Raphael had said yes, quickly followed by, “But you owe me a favor,” and frankly, that’s about the most terrifying thing Simon has ever heard anyone say.
“Like, what kind of favor does he even mean?” he groans towards the sky. “He’s probably going to make me chase the snakes out from underneath the cabins. Guys, I’d rather die.”
“There’s only so much he can ask you to do tomorrow,” Clary says, splashing him slightly as she swims closer. “We’ll be too busy. And besides, if he does ask you to take care of the snakes, we’ll take care of them for you. Right, Jace?”
“Right. I ain’t afraid of no snakes.” He says it to the exact rhythm and tune of the theme song from Ghostbusters, which Simon had made him watch earlier in the summer on one of their free days, because seriously, how had Jace made it to twenty years old without having seen freaking Ghostbusters?
Clary’s giggle cuts through the air as she turns and splashes water at Jace’s face. He splashes back, rolls onto his stomach and grabs her around the waist, which just makes her laugh harder, loud and clear and sweet. Abruptly, she goes quiet, and when Simon glances over, he discovers that the reason she’s no longer laughing is because she’s kissing Jace. Her legs are wrapped around his waist, and her arms are draped around his neck, while his are underneath the water, presumably holding her up, big hands curved around her slim thighs.
The sight makes a tiny pang of resentment sting Simon in the general vicinity of his heart. Sure, he can usually lift Clary up easily; she’s a pretty tiny person, always has been. But lifting her up on land, where there’s solid ground beneath his feet and (usually) a wall or tree that he can back her up against for support, is one thing entirely. Doing it in the middle of the freaking lake, with nothing but a fifty foot drop underneath him and legs that have been treading water for at least an hour, is another thing entirely.
He thinks it might be time to level the playing field.
(Also, he really wants to kiss the both of them, and the sooner they can get somewhere they can do that without the risk of one of them swallowing a lungful of lake water that is probably teeming with microbes, the better.)
“Should we maybe take this to the boathouse?” he suggests. When Jace breaks away from the kiss, there’s a smirk on his face that just screams that he’s about to say something annoying, but Clary thankfully speaks up before he gets the chance.
“Boathouse sounds great. Unless Gretel and Maia are already using it.” She leans over and kisses Simon’s cheek before she lets go of Jace’s neck and immediately moves into a graceful backstroke. “Race you there.”
By the time Simon realizes what she said, she’s already well on the way, cutting through the water swiftly. He glances over at Jace, who simply shrugs.
“Guess the race is on.” With that, he dives under the water, immediately disappearing under the dark surface.
Simon curses and swims after them.
He makes it to the boathouse just as Jace pulls himself up onto the dock jutting out into the water. Clary is standing just inside, wringing her hair out, water puddling around her feet. Aside from the moths and mosquito swarming around the dim light hanging from a frayed cord attached to one of the beams criss-crossing overhead, the boathouse appears to be empty. Even though they try to keep the place as organized as possible, it still shows unmistakable signs of the hundreds of people that have passed through it over the last few months; there are life-preservers scattered across the floor, some of them with stuffing leaking out of them, broken canoe paddles tucked into the corners, half-empty bottles of sunscreen forgotten on the shelves. As far as good memories of the summer go, this place holds more than a few.
(That still holds true even if Simon doesn’t include the numerous times that they’ve fooled around in here, after their campers have gone to sleep or on their free days or on the weekly bonfire nights, when all the campers are too distracted by Luke’s amazing ghost stories to notice that three of their counselors have slipped away.)
There’s a loft above the main floor, reached by a ladder secured to the wall, that’s nominally for storage, although it’s definitely served another purpose (a more interesting one, Simon would argue), this summer. Simon leads the way, pulls himself hand over hand carefully, just in case a splinter decides to dig into the meat of his palm. There’s an old rowboat in the middle of the space, more than big enough for the three of them, interior lined with a smorgasbord of items; old blankets and towels, more leaking life-preservers, pillows stolen from some of the cabins. Simon climbs inside and barely gets his back flat against the bottom of the boat before Jace slides on top of him, movements impossibly fluid per usual. His mouth drops to the hinge of Simon’s jaw and throat, and there’s a moment where his teeth dig in, just enough for it to pinch a little, before he starts worrying a mark into Simon’s skin.
Simon is fairly certain that Jace didn’t have much of a neck thing (or, at least, not such a strong one) at the beginning of the summer, but they’ve all worn off on each other.
In this case, it’s totally his bad.
Palms skimming over the damp skin stretched across Jace’s back, he digs his fingers into two of the tattoos lining Jace’s spine and tilts his head back. The next time Jace bites down, it’s harder, at the base of Simon’s neck, definitely hard enough to leave a mark.
Another thing that has happened this summer: he’s become quite adept at using concealer (usually borrowed from Izzy) to hide hickies.
The ladder creaks as Clary climbs up, and when Simon opens his eyes (he isn’t quite sure when they fell closed, but that has a way of happening around Clary and Jace), it’s just in time to see her step into the loft, utterly naked, skin still dappled with lake water.
(Thankfully, there are no leeches dappling her as well. Not this time, at least.
Now that’s a memory Simon would rather forget.)
“You two look like you’re having fun,” she says, brushing her long hair back over her shoulders as she crosses the loft. “Is there room for me?” It almost sounds like an actual question, but the teasing, sharp smile on her face makes it very clear what she wants.
Not that Simon would ever dream of excluding her. Not in a million years.
“There’s always room for you,” he says, gasping as Jace’s teeth scrape against his collarbone. It comes out softer than he intends, definitely not the teasing vibe he was hoping for but, thankfully, it doesn’t shut the moment down. Clary just grins and carefully steps over the edge of the boat, slides into the narrow space between the side and Simon’s hip. Her skin is damp and cool where she’s pressed against him, and he manages to wriggle one arm around her narrow waist so that he can pull her even closer.
Jace bites down on his collarbone again and rolls his hips down hard, and after that, it’s a long time before Simon is soft again.
Afterwards, when they’re all sated and panting for breath, tangled together in a flurry of limbs, Simon really ponders going for another swim.
He’s slicked with sweat, and the night hasn’t cooled down much. There’s not even a hint of a breeze; the air is utterly still and quiet, aside from the gentle thunk of boats rocking against the docks below them or the occasional buzz of a mosquito. While he doesn’t have his phone or his watch (both of them are with his clothes, on the shore), he knows that it has to be nearly three o’clock. In four and a half hours, they’ll have to get their respective campers up and get them ready for their last day. There will undoubtedly be screaming when someone can’t find a treasured possession they started their session with, possibly a few attempts at fistfights, definitely some last minute pranks that will lead to more screaming and fighting.
And after all of that, it’ll be time for them to pack, to get their stuff together and head back to the city.
That doesn’t exactly leave much time to talk about this. About the thing that’s arisen between the three of them this summer, the thing that’s had them sneaking off at every opportunity, the thing that’s led to rushed quickies in the woods and free nights that passed by in a blur of skin against skin and swallowed gasps and curses.
He’s not worried about him and Clary, about that particular side of their triangle. Prior to this summer, they’d been dating for two years, two years built strong on a foundation of friendship that was in the double digits, and he isn’t afraid that Jace’s presence (or, lack of it, really) will weaken their relationship. If anything, he’s pretty sure that it’s made them stronger, made them address some of the lingering jealousies and doubts that have always been there, hovering just underneath the surface.
But he is more than a little worried about the point of their triangle.
Because the thing is, he loves Clary, more than he can really understand, more than he can properly comprehend, but he thinks he could get to that point with Jace too. He’s definitely grown to like the guy, a lot, even if the persona he shows off to his campers, all arrogance and ‘talent from the gods’ is so aggravating.
Simon knows about summer flings (from movies, primarily, but that still totally counts), and he knows that most of them fizzle out come end of August, once the location and scenery changes. And part of him, the unfailingly curious part that he’s never been able to shut up, even when it would have undoubtedly been better for him, wants to see if that will happen when they leave camp, when there’s no longer their job keeping them in such close proximity.
Mainly, he just wants to know if Jace will continue to fit in with them once they’re back in the city.
More to the point, he wants to know if Jace wants to continue to fit in with them.
“Alright, so I have a confession,” he begins, trailing his fingers down the smooth length of Clary’s arm. Her head is resting on his chest, and when she turns to look up at him, her chin momentarily digs into the top of his ribs.
“A confession?” she asks. “That sounds serious.”
“Is this going to be another one of your embarrassing stories?” Jace mutters. His head is resting on Simon’s stomach, and when he talks, his breath tickles the hair underneath Simon’s navel. “Like the one where you fell off a desk and into a garbage can in front of your entire art class?”
“God, why did I tell you that?” Simon groans, running his fingers over the shorn sides of Jace’s head.
“Because I’m irresistible.”
“That’s debatable,” Clary says, and the look of sheer offense that passes over Jace’s face is almost enough to make Simon lose his train of thought.
“I’m being serious,” he sighs. The two of them fall silent and he takes a moment to figure out what exactly he wants to say. He probably should have talked this over with Clary first, just in case she doesn’t feel the same way about Jace-
(although frankly, that’s nearly impossible for him to believe, seeing how easily they fell together, like they were made for it)
-but there’s no time for that now, not unless he wants to pull her aside for a sidebar, which would just be even more awkward, especially since they’re both completely naked, and-
“I don’t want this to end tomorrow,” he blurts out, keeping his eyes fixed on the beams criss-crossing the ceiling. “Alright? There’s the confession. This whole thing that we’ve got going on with you,” he says, waving his hand around Jace’s head, “I don’t want this to just be some kind of summer fling. If that’s what either of you want, that’s cool, but... just thought I’d put that out there.” He drops his hand back down beside his hip, close enough to feel the body heat emanating from Jace’s shoulders but not quite close enough to touch.
The silent seconds that tick by after that each feel like an eternity. Part of him wants to look down at them, see if he can figure out what's going through their minds, read it on their faces, but the very thought that he might see something like annoyance, or maybe even anger, is enough to keep his eyes firmly rooted on the ceiling overhead.
At least until Jace speaks up.
“Am I missing something here?”
Simon tears his gaze away from the ceiling just in time for Jace to sit up and stare at him with a raised eyebrow.
“What?” Simon asks, glancing from Jace over to Clary, who is giving him a look that’s almost identical.
They really have rubbed off on each other.
“You seriously thought this was just going to end tomorrow?” Jace continues, huffing out a laugh and sliding a little closer, until his legs are thoroughly entangled with both Simon and Clary’s.
“I guess we should have talked about this, right?” Clary asks, sitting up as well. “Because I kind of just assumed we were all on the same page.”
“Well, I think we’re all there now,” Jace says, grasping Simon’s chin with his thumb and forefinger. “You’ll have to try a lot harder than that to get rid of me.”
“Oh,” Simon murmurs. It doesn’t do much justice towards explaining the sheer gratitude swelling in his chest like a balloon, but he hopes that they’ll understand nonetheless. “Well, I’m not going to try any harder then.”
“Me neither,” Clary laughs, crowding in even closer, until Simon isn’t quite sure where he ends and where she begins, or where any of them begin, really.
“Good.” Jace attempts to pull them both into a kiss, which results into a tangle of foreheads banging together and spilled laughter and teeth accidentally scraping against skin.
It takes a few moments for them to figure things out again, for them to click back together, but when they do...
Well. When they do, they click.
By the time they manage to get back to their respective cabins, it’s nearly four o’clock in the morning, and they’re all littered with love bites and drying sweat. Simon tries to sneak back in quietly, but he makes it two steps into the front hallway before Raphael steps out of the room housing their campers, closing the door softly behind him.
“Well,” he says, dark eyes lingering on Simon’s throat, and when Simon slaps his hand to the spot, a particularly large hickie throbs against his palm, “you definitely owe me a favor now.”
Much as Simon feared, that favor does turn out to be scaring out the clusters of snakes that take up refuge under the cabins.
Thankfully, just as Clary and Jace promised, they do most of the dirty work, and once they’re finished and they’re all packed up, they manage to fit in a quickie in the back of Simon’s van. They finish up mere moments before Alec pops up looking for Jace, and Jace leaves them with a promise to meet them for dinner the next day, once they’re all settled back in New York.
So, when all is said and done, Simon thinks that it’s the perfect end to the summer.
(He really could have done without the snakes though.)