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the world from your arms

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1.

They’re walking through Brooklyn the first time it happens. Clary wanted them to go by her old neighborhood and see if anyone’s tried to contact Dot’s now-vacated shop - Dot’s at a much safer place closer to Magnus’ now - to flush out old Circle members, and Simon had volunteered to go so Dot wouldn’t have old memories needlessly dredged up. Jace - well, he only volunteered so Simon isn’t killed. That’s it, he thinks to himself as he watches the way the sunlight catches the slope of Simon’s cheek, that’s definitely all he came out here to do.

“Are you paying attention?” Simon asks, his eyes crinkled with amusement, and Jace blinks, and then scowls, shaking his head.

“Of course I was.” He lies unconvincingly. Simon snorts.

“I was saying,” He emphasizes, “that we should see if anyone’s been staking out the cafe near Dot’s shop too. It’s out of the way, perfect for someone to hide at - “

“But if Valentine consolidated all his troops, no one would have time to wait.” Jace argues. “They’d do periodic checks, maybe.”

“Unless they have a contact in the area.”

“That’s possible, yeah - don’t look now,” Jace says carefully, looking at the reflective surface of a shop, “but we’re being followed.”

“I’ve never been more tempted to look in my life.” Simon groans, his eyes uneasy as he looks at Jace. “How long?”

“Since we got off the train.” Jace mutters. He pauses and bends down to tie his shoe, his gaze sweeping over the man in question. “Taller than both of us. He - by the Angel, he just has his fangs out - vampire?”

Simon slowly pulls his phone out and opens the camera, running a hand through his hair as his eyes slide to the right, looking at the man. Jace gets momentarily lost in the sudden, overwhelming urge to knot his fingers in Simon’s hair and pull -

“Oh shit.” Simon curses softly, and there’s suddenly panic in his gaze. Jace bolts upright.

“What’s wrong?” He asks urgently. Simon swallows.

“You know, uh, some people have been harassing me about the whole Daylighter thing, so, like, it’s possible there’s a whole list of people trying to get me alone and figure out if it’s true or not and Raphael gave me a heads up but - “ Simon’s babbling, his words harried and urgent, and Jace puts a hand on his arm, squeezing briefly.

“He’s not going to try anything in broad daylight.” Jace mutters, his voice low. “Not in front of me.”

“You don’t understand.” Simon’s hands clench into fists. “I can’t let him know the Daylighter thing is true.”

“You - “ But before Jace can finish the sentence, Simon has a firm grip on his shoulder and is tugging him into an alley.

“Sorry, I know you said never, but desperate times.” Simon says in a rush, before his arms are snaking around Jace’s waist and he buries his face in Jace’s neck, hiding his face from the entrance of the alleyway.

Jace suddenly has an armful of cold vampire, chilled fingers pressing against the runes along his waist. It should be cold, but all Jace can feel is a blazing, burning warmth, originating from somewhere deep inside his chest as Simon’s hair tickles the underside of his chin. Simon is solid, unyielding, steady against him, and Jace hesitantly brings his arm up, and then wraps it like a vice around Simon’s shoulders as he turns his face away from the alley’s entrance, his cheek pressing ever so slightly against the top of Simon’s head.

He can feel Simon’s whispered, unnecessary breaths ghosting across his neck, and he swears his nerves are on fire, hyper aware of where Simon’s lips are a centimeter away from his skin. Jace has never realized how broad Simon’s shoulders are before now, how tall he is, how easily he could overwhelm Jace; and now he knows that he wants to be overwhelmed by Simon, wants to sink into the suddenly comforting scent of cologne and boathouse and sandalwood and never resurface. He takes a deep breath, feeling a lump grown in his throat as he hesitantly slides his other arm around Simon’s waist, fingers pressing against the thin t-shirt Simon’s got on. He feels Simon press slightly closer, and Jace sways forward; for a second, it’s just the two of them, in each other’s arms.

“Is he gone?” Simon asks softly, mouth brushing against the base of Jace’s throat. Jace watches through half-lidded eyes as the vampire peers down the alley, frowns, and then wanders off.

“Yeah.” He says, his voice hoarse, “he’s gone now. You’re good.” He turns, skims his lips lightly across the top of Simon’s hair as he pulls away, knowing that Simon can’t feel it as they disentangle themselves.

“Thank you.” Simon says quietly, looking at Jace as he steps back. His eyes are curious, and warm, and Jace feels heat crawling up his cheeks. He clears his throat.

“If I let you die, Alec will skin me.” He says gruffly, and Simon snickers.

“Sure, Jace.” He says, looking far too amused. “Sure.”

 

2..

Simon really needs to get used to Jace being a danger magnet, and a very particular kind of danger at that - the one that’s painful and involves physical beatings, and really, how does Jace always end up like this?

“Why are Seelies attacking us?” Simon asks frantically, narrowly jumping out of the way of a dagger as he and Jace sprint through a confusing series of allies. Jace has an iron grip on his arm as they run, his fingers leaving rapidly-healing bruises on Simon’s skin.

“Who knows anymore? The Clave probably did something. The Clave is always doing something.” Jace groans, and Simon snorts.

“When’s backup getting here?” He asks, as they veer sharply to the right. The sound of the Seelies behind them is growing marginally softer.

“I don’t know. Maybe ten minutes?” Jace huffs. They turn again -

And run straight into a handful of other Seelies. There’s a few rogue vampires in there too, ones that Simon recognizes from the few times he went on patrol with Raphael. 
Crap.” Simon hisses, unthinkingly, even as Jace freezes and unsheathes his blade, putting himself squarely in front of Simon.

“Simon, run.” Jace says in a tone that brooks no argument. “Now.”

“Now where’s the fun in that?” a silky voice asks, and before Simon can blink he’s being thrown backwards against a brick wall, head slamming into something hard, the world abruptly spinning around him and exploding into noise and sound as they all attack.

Jace.” He grunts out, shakily getting to his feet, only to be met with three vampires circling him. He edges away, trying to narrow in on their movements, figure out where he can escape. Just a few feet away, Jace is furiously holding his own against the Seelies, blade whistling as he blocks their attacks.

“Little fledgling,” one of the vampires grins, “this is going to be so much fun.”

Vampires have got the dramatics down, Simon will give them that.

They strike as one, speed blurring their movements as they converge on him; he feints backward, drops low, and kicks as hard as he can, swiping one vampire’s feet from right out under him, before launching into a roll and scrambling to put some distance between the other two vampires. The one he kicked down scrambles to get up, and Simon grabs a trash can and throws as hard as he can, tossing the lid separately as a distraction before the can actually hits. The vampire goes down, and stays down.  

Simon!” Jace hollers, flipping sideways and kicking off the wall, bringing his blade down in a shower of sparks. “You’re supposed to be running!”

Simon doesn’t even bother dignifying that with a response, just launches himself forward and throws a punch at the remaining vampires. The next thirty seconds are a blur of hand to hand combat, Simon ducking and swinging as wildly as possible, trying to keep his elbows tucked like Alec’s taught him and throw his weight from his shoulder. He uses his fledgling strength to his benefit, sacrificing agility in favor of absorbing the brute strength of the other two’s blows and retaliating as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, Jace is being steadily pushed further and further away from Simon, towards the other end of the alley, as the Seelies hem him in. He’s knocked two unconscious and is fighting the last one, spinning so fast that even Simon can’t see him, his labored breathing the one thing Simon’s anchored himself to. He’s anxious about losing Jace, trying to keep his mind focused on his own fight - he narrowly dodges right and backhands a vampire in the face - and pay attention to the Shadowhunter at the same time.

So when one of the remaining vampires pulls out a wooden stake - and what the hell, do vampires actively carry around weapons that could kill them, or is that a Simon Lewis special? - it takes Simon more than a few seconds to realize, and by the time he does he’s spinning around and fearfully backing away, because he’s empty-handed.

“Does your blood taste like sunlight?” The vampire asks, his eyes hungry, and Simon can appreciate the poetic justice of it, and understands the desperation he sees, the need to be a Daylighter, but he doesn’t - he doesn’t want to die. Not like this.

He desperately throws himself at the other vampire, hoping for a small chance to surprise him and run away, but they’re quicker, slamming their feet into his chest and Simon finds himself being thrown back, his ribs caving in with a sickening crack that has him sucking in lungfuls of air, trying to replenish a need for oxygen that he doesn’t have. The world is going a little hazy around him, his fingers scrabbling for purchase as he desperately tries to get up against the wall, to fight through the pain to defend himself, but his arms aren’t working and his eyes are blurring with pain-induced tears. Everything hurts, and he whimpers, his eyes desperately seeking out  -

Jace.” He whispers, meeting blue-brown eyes from across the alleyway, and Jace gives an inhuman shout as his eyes fill with liquid gold, several runes across his body blazing up, brighter than the sun.

Simon!” He takes a running leap, and it all seems to slow down in Simon’s mind - the sweat and blood streaked across Jace’s cheeks, the way his hair whips around his face like an avenging angel’s halo; his blade, glinting steel winking in the darkness of the night, sparks crackling from the fight around them, and the horrified realization in the vampire’s eyes as Jace twists, lithe and sinuous in mid air, and comes down hard, boots slamming into the vampire’s chest.

“Don’t kill!” Simon manages to blurt out, pushing off the wall and stumbling forward, and Jace gives him a look before he readily complies, slamming the hilt of his blade against the vampire’s head as Simon backhands the other one. They both go down, and there’s silence in the alley, bodies littered around them, as Simon stumbles forward, his eyes fixed a little hysterically on the blonde Shadowhunter.

There’s no words, nothing necessary as Jace turns to look at him, his eyes dark and burning, and then he’s dropping his blade and striding forward to catch Simon in his arms, his grip vice-like as he squeezes him and buries his face in Simon’s shoulder. Jace is inhaling raggedly, his shoulders shaking minutely as Simon slides his hands up Jace’s back and splays his fingers over Jace’s spine, thumb smoothing over the dips and curves of it.

“Is it always this dangerous?” Simon asks, his voice tired, and Jace snorts into his shoulder, his nose brushing against the hem of Simon’s shirt.

“No,” Jace says dryly, pulling away far enough to look Simon in the eye, “this is the particular brand of danger that follows you.” Simon grins.

“I’ll take it. I’ve always wanted branding.”

Jace rolls his eyes, and then steps away to pick up the blade he dropped; Simon immediately misses his warmth, and sticks his hands into his pockets instead, resisting the urge to just hold Jace’s hand and go for it.

“I’m getting you some sort of dagger.” Jace says, frowning as he looks at the bodies. “Maybe reinforced with wood so it’ll work against vampires. I’ll see what Izzy knows about it.”

“A staff, I want a staff.” Simons says resolutely. “Can we go before any of these unconscious people wake up and try to kill us?”

“We need to report all of this.” Jace folds his arms and sighs as they walk out of the alley, inspecting a tear in the sleeve of his henley. “Why do you want a staff?” 

“Because it’s cool.” Simon smirks, and he’s fully prepared for Jace to snort at him, maybe make a joke about his other staff or something, but he’s not ready for the way Jace looks at him then, eyes filled with amusement and warm fondness, the corners of his lips quirking up into a soft smile as he gazes at Simon like he’s the only thing in the world that matters right now.

Simon swallows, his dead heart feeling like it’s slamming violently against his bruised rib cage, yearning to be held in Jace’s hands.

3.

The third time they hug, it leaves Simon confused and trembling in the hallway of the Institute.

They've just come back from a mission, something that was supposed to be simple until a demon Simon had never seen before breathed down his neck, and yeah, maybe Simon almost died. It was - definitely more than a little terrifying, and while he’s usually cavalier about the chances of him dying, he’d seen Alec and Jace’s furious looks and it had occurred to him that he doesn’t - he isn’t really okay with dying. Not anymore. And when Jace and Alec’s glares had turned deadly and they’d whirled through the rest of the demons like furious hurricanes, Simon hadn’t been able to feel anything but an immense surge of relief, and a furious burning in his veins at the dark look in Jace’s eyes.

So when the three of them walk into the institute, Simon limping beside them as his leg slowly sets itself and his bruises fade to a mottled yellow, it isn't long until Alec puts a hand on his shoulder, fixing him with a stern look. "Watch out for yourself, Simon," he says, almost caring, and Simon would be surprised if it wasn't for the friendship that seems to be growing between them lately, "no one wants to lose you."

Simon opens his mouth, about to say something smart and witty that will surely make Alec smile at least a little, but instead his mouth falls open in shock as he's pulled away roughly by Jace, who grabs him by his arm and doesn't stop walking until they're safely tucked away in a silent hallway, where no pairs of curious eyes can watch them.

Simon supposes this is a thing, now, as he's pulled against Jace's bloodied shirt, this hugging that they do. There’s a buzzing in his head, anxious thoughts second-guessing all of it, wondering if he’s being made a fool of, but Jace is safe, and warm, and he still smells like himself despite the overlay of demon, and Simon can ignore that part of himself for a little while, lost instead in feeling the heat of the space between them.

Jace, meanwhile, digs his fingers in Simon's messy curls, his other hand wrapping around Simon’s torso protectively. His gloves feel rough in contrast to his soft skin, and Simon can finally breathe again, an ache he didn’t know was present easing off of his chest as he hears the rise and fall of Jace’s breaths, his heart beating rabbit-fast and sure next to Simon’s own silent one.

"I almost fucking lost you," Jace says, voice thick, and Simon is surprised to realise he's crying, his eyelashes suspiciously damp and his eyes glimmering. This close, Simon can trace the point where the brown and blue in Jace’s eyes melt together, alluring and intensely dizzying when they’re fixed intently on Simon.

“You - you didn’t.” Simon says, trying to be comforting, but it’s the wrong thing to say, and Jace’s forehead furrows as he looks furiously at Simon.

This time.” He says roughly, and Simon sighs and tries to step away from the circle of Jace’s arms, and is surprised when Jace’s hold on him tightens in response. He swallows hard.

“I have you.” Simon tries instead, half-smiling, his hand going up to grip Jace’s arm. “We’re gonna be okay.” He squeezes gently, trying to get Jace to relax, and slowly, slowly, Jace’s expression melts away into something softer, infinitely more fond.

“Yeah.” Jace says. He leans forward, even closer, his hair falling into his face. “We are. Because we should - you should always have me. You always will.”

The moment changes between them then, suddenly electric and sparking as adrenaline shoots through Simon’s veins and Jace’s eyes grow heavier, darker. Jace's tongue darts out to wet his bottom lip, and Simon’s eyes are drawn to Jace’s ridiculously pretty mouth. When he looks back Jace is watching him, eyes intent and predatory.

“That - “ Simon is lightheaded, dizzy with anticipation as he lets his hand slide up until he’s clasping the side of Jace’s neck, idly tracing over the thick stroke of the rune covering the fragile skin there. “That makes less sense than anything I’ve ever said, Jace.”

“Less sense than Simon Lewis? Impossible.” Jace says dryly, but he’s smiling now, a stupid grin that looks like it could light up the world, and Simon - has never wanted anyone more in his life than he does now, staring desperately at Jace. Jace searches his eyes for something, and he must find it, because he suddenly ducks his head and presses his lips together tightly before he looks back at Simon, a determined look on his face, and says, softly, “I like you, Simon.”

Oh.” Simon breathes out. “I like you too, Jace.”

It feels inevitable, like coming home, to close the scant few inches between them and press his lips to Jace’s; he feels more than he sees Jace’s sharp intake of breath, and he lets his eyes flutter shut as he presses closer. Jace makes a low, wounded noise before he presses back, his lips soft and pliant under Simon’s, and it’s warm and simple, sweet in its own way. Here, now, wrapped up in Jace’s arms, with Jace’s heart skipping a beat as Simon kisses him again, he feels like he can do anything.

 

4.

A week later, they're lying on the couch at Magnus', Jace safely tucked in Simon's arms. He's half asleep, and Simon is dozing off, too, the safety he feels with Jace much needed after the long day they've had.

In hindsight, maybe this was a bad idea. Magnus and Alec both have keys to the apartment, and he's pretty sure they had a movie night planned tonight. Or maybe it’s tomorrow. Simon's mind is a little fuzzy, and Jace snores softly against his chest, then wiggles himself closer against Simon's chest, his breath fanning out across Simon’s exposed collarbone. The sensation tickles, and a thrum of laughter runs through Simon’s body.

He melts, a soft smile spreading over his face, and gently tucks the hair that falls over Jace's eyes behind his ear, brushing his fingertips over his forehead.

"Go to sleep," Jace mumbles, voice so low Simon almost doesn't catch it. “Says you,” he mumbles, at the same time as Jace continues, “you’re warm,” but they both come to a comically sudden standstill when there’s the sound of a key turning in the lock, bursting the Jace and Simon bubble they’d been in.

“They’re home,” Jace hisses, suddenly wide awake, and before Simon knows it, there’s a cold feeling where Jace had been before. He’s climbing over Simon, hastily putting on the leather jacket he’d discarded on an armchair just about half an hour earlier, when he’d declared he wanted to cuddle Simon until he fell asleep.

Simon scrambles up into a sitting position, eyes darting around the room until he spots the remote. He furiously presses the on button, sighing in relief when the tv flickers to an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. “Lucky,” Jace hisses to him as he sits back down next to Simon, a perfectly normal amount of space left between them. The entire scene is as normal as possible, Simon convinces himself, but his tense shoulders and the way Jace’s jaw is clenched as his gaze keeps flickering sideways to look at Simon makes him pretty sure that this is far beyond the realm of normal, totally appropriate, bro-behavior.

Meanwhile, not only Magnus and Alec, but also Clary, Izzy and Maia have stepped into the apartment, all looking at the situation before them with amusement.

"Hey," Simon says after the silence that starts to stretch out uncomfortably long. His voice comes out shaky and high pitched, and he hears Jace snicker next to him. Maia purses her lips, eyes flicking between the two on the couch curiously. She's been suspecting something since a few days ago, when she found the two behind Hunter’s Moon, looking interestedly at the brick wall and very pointedly not at each other. She rolls her eyes, then, and falls down on the couch between them. “You know that we can hear if the tv is on through the door, right?”

Simon splutters, a lie about how the sound had been off already ready on his tongue, but Maia flaps her hand at him, “I don't think I want to know, Simon. I've had a long day at Hunter’s Moon. Drunk Luke is funny, sure, until he gets sticky beer all over the counter.”

Magnus raises his eyebrows, amused at the thought of a drunk Luke, and Alec fixes Simon with a look, then nods toward the kitchen in an attempt to get Simon to follow him.

He does, jumping up from the couch and happily leaving Jace to deal with Izzy narrowing her eyes and asking a sudden barrage of questions, her eyes gleaming with amusement. He glances back at his boyfriend quickly, and notices the tight grip he has on his phone, his cheeks flushed red. Seconds later, Simon’s phone pings with a message from Jace saying 'I hate you'. Simon smiles secretly at it, then pockets his phone as Alec leans against the counter next to him, arms crossed.

"Did you forget about movie night?" Alec asks, his lips twitching upward helplessly as he tries to contain his laughter. Simon glares balefully at him before sighing, as Alec flat-out grins, apparently giving up the innocent act.

Alec’s the only one who knows he's dating Jace, because Simon apparently tells Alec everything now. When that happened, he doesn't know. It must’ve been sometime after Luke asked Alec to take care of a sick Simon a few months ago, when they found out about their similar interests, and Simon happily let Alec talk about archery for hours. A week later, Simon had tentatively sent him a picture of a Groupon he’d gotten for a few hours at a private Mundane archery range, and Alec had responded with a screenshot of his calendar for the week, with Simon archery practice booked for Thursday night, right after Mumbai Institute meeting.

They'd started… hanging out, after that, if that's what you can call Alec’s sudden upsurge in impromptu visits and random texts through the day. It’s easier between them now, the conversations and the jokes, so it had been unexpected - but not strange - when Simon had accidentally said that he and Jace were a thing now. It slipped out over coffee, and Alec had raised his eyebrows at the sudden panicked look in Simon’s eyes as he rambled about breaking the unspoken promise between him and Jace to not tell anyone yet, but had done nothing but flash him a small smile and say that he was happy for Simon, that he was happy for Jace, who had apparently been feeling particularly smug and content over the bond - Alec’s words, not his. Later that night, when Simon had told Jace, hands deep in the pockets of his hoodie, Jace had smiled at him and assured him that it was okay, that he didn't mind, because Jace told Alec everything eventually anyway.

So it's nice to be on the same page like this with Alec, Simon thinks as he looks at him, still leaning against the counter, waiting patiently for Simon to get his thoughts together. Was it really just a year ago that he and Alec would barely communicate beyond Alec rolling his eyes at Simon’s attempts at making Alec laugh? They’ve come such a long way, even though Alec really only still smiles slightly at his jokes and spends most of his time gently teasing Simon or rolling his eyes at him - or even just sitting quietly, both of them absorbed in their own work but content to keep each other company. Their friendship isn’t particularly loud, or energetic, or as huge of a deal as Simon’s friendships with the girls, or Magnus - but it’s something, and surely no one can take away the sudden bond they’d created when Alec was forced to be in an apartment with a sick Simon all day, listening to him snuffle and  whinge about the entire Marvel and DC universe.

And Simon does notice the fond smile Jace sends their way every time they're bickering about what the best Star Wars movie is, and it always manages to ease Simon’s shoulders a little, knowing that Jace is happy that his brother and his boyfriend have a better bond than before, when the world was falling apart and Alec was mostly confused by Simon’s presence in the middle of it.

So, with careful consideration, Simon answers Alec’s awaiting stare.

"A little," he says, shrugging. His stomach tightens with anxiety, and he starts tugging at the sleeves of the grey hoodie he borrowed from Jace. "I just - I don't know if either of us is ready to tell the others, I guess," he mumbles, and then it's Alec who pulls him into a short hug, his grip firm as he squeezes Simon’s shoulder.

It's a new thing they do, the hugging, and it's always short and feels weirdly intense with coiled strength Alec puts into it, but it’s something Simon definitely doesn't mind. In the same way that Alec’s presence makes Magnus relax more easily, Magnus makes Alec more openly affectionate and easy with his smiles and his hugs.

"Take all the time you need, Simon," Alec says, and then nods before walking back to the living room.

“Alec?” Simon calls after him, and Alec turns around, his eyes patient and encouraging. He must’ve noticed the nervous tone in Simon’s voice. God, they really do know each other, don't they? Simon’s almost embarrassed by how easy he is to read, but he consoles himself with the knowledge that Alec is the leader of the Institute, and smarter than the average person.

“Uh - Thank you. You know, for… Not telling Magnus. I know you tell him everything.” Simon says, shifting from one foot to the other.

Alec shrugs. “You two don't think it's time to tell everyone yet. Of course I’ll respect that. He’s my brother, and you're my friend, Simon. Okay?” He looks firmly at Simon, making sure he gets his point across.

Simon smiles, nods. “Okay,” he echoes, and then watches Alec as he walks back and sits down in an armchair with Magnus, Izzy settling in on a pile of cushions near them as she flops onto her stomach and takes out her phone. Clary presents a stack of DVDs from a room she’d previously disappeared into, and she settles next to Maia on the couch, leaving just enough room for Simon to sit next to his best friend. He takes a deep breath and wanders over, expression turning fond as he locks eyes with Jace as he sits down. “Okay?” Jace mouths at him, and Simon smiles, a surge of emotion hitting him square in the chest as he looks at his boyfriend. “Perfect,” he mouths back, and then Jace switches his gaze to Alec for a firm nod as Clary starts rattling off movie titles, and Simon can't help to think that everything really is okay and perfect right now. 

“Moana!” Maia hollers beside Clary, her hand darting in to snatch the movie in question from the stack in Clary’s hands, and Clary flinches away dramatically, leaning against Simon as Maia rolls her eyes.

“You almost gave me a heart attack, Roberts!” She scolds, mock exasperated, and Simon laughs with them. They all do, and soon Magnus and Alec wander off to make popcorn as Clary pops Moana into the DVD player.

“A modern classic,” Maia says dreamily, heavily leaning against Clary as she lets herself fall back. Clary grins, her eyes going suspiciously soft, and Simon wonders if there's more going on there than he thinks. He doesn’t dwell on it, though, and turns back to the screen, watching fondly as Izzy starts reciting, from memory, the entire script of the movie, and Jace throws a pillow at her. He misses the feeling of Jace in his arms, but he’s more than okay with the feeling of home that’s replaced it.

 

5.

Jace figures out about halfway through the day that today is just going to be…bad. He doesn’t sleep well, stirring in bed and sweating all over during the night, nightmares and memories of Valentine and Lake Lyn wrecking him, only letting him sleep minutes at a time before waking up again, hands automatically reaching out beside him. But Simon isn't there, and later Jace thinks that it was stupid of him to expect a text or a call, like Simon can somehow magically feel when something's wrong.

He and Simon didn't share a bed often, anyway. Not yet, Jace always tells him, a broken smile making Simon's frown lines appear, his brown eyes full of worry. Jace hates making Simon look like that, hates the feeling that sparks in his chest whenever Simon moves as if to comfort him and then stops, unsure of how far to push Jace when Jace has never made his boundaries with Simon clear. He wants Simon to be there, wants to let him know that Jace craves it like nothing else, but he doesn’t know how to make himself form the words and ask Simon for that.

So the morning had started on an awful note when he’d woken up with his sheets wrapped around his sweaty body, and he'd felt so gross he'd taken a shower, flinching as he saw himself in the mirror. He feels haggard, stretched too thinly over his bones. Is this what it feels like to rot away inside?

He'd skipped brushing his teeth and washing his hair, only standing in the shower long enough for him to feel somewhat clean again. There’s a stain of something vaguely copperish on the corner of a tile in the far corner, and he numbly thinks back to a week ago, when he’d flung his blood stained shirt out of the shower without bothering to think. He’s pretty sure it’s a spot of blood on the wall that he never fully got out, and he presses his fingers to it briefly, rubbing at it until it disappears. Blood is always everywhere in his life. Most days, he doesn’t care, but days like today - it matters.

He'd hoped the memories of Valentine flashing through his head in slow motion were only creatures of his mind at night, but after his shower they come back full force, and Jace sits on his bed, shaking, listening to Valentine's voice telling him that to love is to destroy, to love is to destroy, to love is -

He doesn't deserve to be loved. He doesn't deserve to love, to hurt Simon like he eventually will. He’s afraid he'll wreck Simon, the way he wrecked Alec, the way he wrecked Clary. Like Valentine told him, again, and again and again, like the voice inside his head continues to echo until his eyes feel heavy and tired from tears.

He really just wants to crawl back in bed, but because Alec’s in a meeting and Izzy’s on patrol, he’s called in to smooth things over when Max gets in a fight with another young Shadowhunter in his class, and goes through getting his little brother angry at him for being grounded. He’s feeling moody, awful, and tired, and when he gets a text from Simon - a dopey selfie of him in front of an old manor and a few vampires pulling weird faces in the background, photobombing him, with the caption going to visit an old ally and possibly pick up that thai food u like for dinner if u agree to watch lord of the rings with me tonight - he feels his mood plummet straight to melancholy, all the tiredness and sadness dripping out of him like a faucet.

It’s not that it’s Simon. It’s that it’s a small, silly thing, and it’s the kind of thing that people do when they’re in love. And love is not - love isn’t something that Jace is good at. Love isn't something Jace deserves, Valentine tells him again, and he yells as an attempt to get the voice to just fucking leave him alone.

He doesn't need this, he really, really doesn't, so he drags himself back to bed, only bothering to kick his boots off, and lays there, the covers pulled up over him, until Simon's name flashes on the screen of his phone.

He doesn't answer at first, doesn't want Simon to notice the lack of usual energy in his voice, but by the second call he's feeling lonely and miserable and he misses Simon's voice. He picks up, and the way Simon says "Jace!", his voice bright but worried, makes a lump rise in Jace's throat.

He almost contemplates not saying anything and just hanging up the phone, but then he'll get worried texts from everyone and Simon will come rushing to his room immediately, and he doesn’t want that either. It's tiring, though, using his voice - but he musters enough energy from the small boost hearing Simon's voice gave him, and says "Hey". It's soft, his voice rough from the day he’s had, and Simon doesn't go on a rant about the night he has planned for him and Jace like he normally would. Instead, he repeats Jace's name, softer and full of concern this time. "Are you okay?" He asks, like he doesn't already know the answer. "I could come over and make you tea, watch Moana with you instead of Lord of the Rings?"

Simon is so considerate, Jace's heart clenches. "No, it's - it's fine. Go hang with Alec, you guys haven't met up in a while. I'm fine, I -"

"Jace. You don’t have to be fine. Emotions are normal and not scary or weird - everyone has them, you’re allowed to have them too, okay?"

Jace nods to no one, and clutches the phone tighter to his ear, fighting hard to bite back tears that stain his cheeks anyway. "Simon," he says again, determined to keep him away, somewhere where Jace can't hurt him, but he chokes on his own words when Valentine comes back to the forefront of his mind.

"I'll be there soon," Simon says, "take a nap, honey." The endearment is new and soothing and startles Jace for long enough that he feels the lump in his throat recede minutely, something sad and pathetic unfurling in his chest as the words begins to repeat in his mind like a mantra.

The phone drops from Jace's grip, and he lays back, eyes closed as he shudders, curling in on himself, and soon he falls back into a restless sleep, nightmares still there but less powerful than before, and he manages to get what must have been thirty minutes of sleep before he's awoken by fingers gently running through his damp hair, waking him up to a feeling somewhat more comfortable than before, though negative thoughts still roam his mind, his whole body feeling alive and buzzing with it.

"Hey," Simon says gently, moving further onto the bed to sit next to him. Jace could die like this, he thinks, with Simon's hands on him, even if it's just subtle, the light drag of Simon’s fingertips across his sides.

"I called Alec, you don't have to come in tonight, or tomorrow."

Jace feels too tired to protest, and finally gives in on just talking to Simon. In the past few weeks they've been together, Simon has already managed to break through a few more walls his childhood built. It’s not perfect, and Jace knows that Simon has his own stuff that they never talk about. Their relationship is wrapped up in layer after layer of hurt, and sometimes Jace is deeply afraid that they’re never going to get to the end.

But for now - at least he can talk a little, now. The first time this had happened he'd ignored Simon completely for two days, until Alec came by to talk some sense into him. That was when Simon had managed to break down that first wall, and Jace had felt like he could breathe if Simon was next to him, rather than feeling like suffocating at someone else’s touch when he’s in the middle of his own hell.

"I was just -" He pauses to bite at his lip, "Valentine." He says, and then he breathes in and out and in again, like his siblings taught him. Simon understands, it seems, and he pulls Jace close to hug him. "You're not going to break me, Jace," he says, "I'm a vampire, after all."

It's not a good time for jokes, logically, but it's them, and Simon's words make Jace's chest feel a little lighter. He buries his face in Simon’s neck and breathes shallowly, his heart squeezing painfully in his chest. He’s exhausted, and tired of the tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes, but it’s impossible to stop - he can feel death creeping through his veins, the moment at the lake when his blood had boiled and for one interminable second he’d felt every single one of his nerves alight, on fire, and then the pure agony of being brought back to life.

Simon starts rubbing circles and other shapes into Jace's back, and Jace tries to focus on the drag of Simon’s nails, the smell of Simon’s soap and aftershave. His body is wracked with sudden tremors, and his eyes are damp again; he curls his fingers in Simon’s shirt and tries to press closer, settling firmly into Simon’s lap as he does.

It feels like an eternity later, when the ache of the heavenly fire recedes from his veins and he doesn’t feel like death warmed over anymore, when he can breathe without remembering Valentine plunging his knife into Jace’s chest. When he stops shuddering, he takes a deep breath and tenses his muscles, squeezing Simon. "Thank you," he mumbles. I love you crosses his mind, and his heart stutters in his chest, his eyes widening in panic.

He pushes Simon away as gently as possible, eyes darting around the room. "You can go now," he says gruffly, disentangling his fingers and running a hand through his hair, but Simon reaches out, slowly laces their fingers together. "Jace. Talk to me, baby."

Jace manages a strained smile.

“It’s nothing.” He shifts, noting for the first time that he’s still in his clothes from yesterday, uncomfortable and tired. “You really should go, Simon, you have other things to do.”

“I don’t want to do anything else.” Simon replies, and he insistently tugs on Jace’s hand. “Come back here, am I not good at cuddling? Is that why you left?”

And Jace  - Jace just loses it, for what feels like the umpteenth time that day. He collapses back into Simon’s arms, mumbling “I’m afraid”, hating the way his voice breaks, and Simon makes an understanding noise and falls backwards, pulling Jace with him. Jace ends up half on Simon’s chest, and Simon cradles Jace’s face between his large hands, his eyes intent and searching as he looks at Jace.

“I know.” He says quietly, and with feeling. “No one goes through something like you did and comes out unafraid. It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Jace closes his eyes and takes a deep, ragged breath, and he feels Simon stroke along the slope of his cheekbone, tracing dried tear tracks. A soft, gentle kiss is pressed to his lips, and then Simon tugs at his shirt.

“Off.” He instructs, and Jace opens his eyes and blinks wearily at Simon. “Let’s get you changed into some sleep clothes, and then we’ll sleep for a while before we eat something. If - if that’s okay. I can leave too if you want - “

“No.” Jace says vehemently, pressing closer and chasing Simon’s lips. “No, you can stay.”

“Alright.” Simon replies, and he’s sitting up again, pressing a kiss to the corner of Jace’s mouth before he lets Jace go and gets up. Jace watches as Simon moves around the room, confident and sure of himself as he gets pants and shirts out, and comes back to kneel on the bed. He makes a small noise and lifts up Jace’s shirt; numbly, Jace lets him, torn between instantly shying away from the gentle touch and leaning closer and closer to it. Simon goes slowly though, choreographing his every move, and he eases Jace’s shirt off and tugs down a softer, cleaner one over his chest, his finger lingering across the precision rune.

“You’re beautiful.” Simon says suddenly, ducking his head. “Sorry, this isn’t the right moment, but - I’ll never get over it, I think.”

Jace actually grins at that, surprised and pleased, and it makes Simon’s face collapse with joy and relief. Jace half-mumbles to himself, quietly you’re the one that’s beautiful as Simon moves away to toss the shirt in the laundry, and Simon stumbles over the rug and looks back at Jace like he’s not sure he heard correctly. Jace doesn’t say anything, just gazes back mildly at Simon, until Simon shakes his head and moves to the laundry basket, a tiny smile playing across his lips.

Jace’s shoulders slump suddenly as a wave of exhaustion hits him, unexpected and unwelcome, and he shakes his head, trying to clear the fogginess that’s making him slow and sluggish. When Simon’s helping Jace into his pyjama pants, Jace gives in to the tiredness weighing him down, and yawns before clinging himself to Simon like a panda as Simon turns the lights off and lays them down.

“You - you gonna get off anytime soon?” Simon asks, amused, stroking Jace’s back slowly. “This can’t be comfortable.”

Jace doesn’t respond, just shuffles their legs a little until he and Simon are tangled together a little bit easier. He doesn’t let up on the grip he has on Simon, because a small part of him is afraid that he’ll wake up and Simon will be gone, like a dream fading away. He can’t be embarrassed about how needy he is, how clingy, because he’s spiralled low enough that he’s willing to admit to himself that sometimes he’s selfish, and sometimes he needs to keep Simon there with him. Fuck being the good guy; he’s darkly okay with keeping Simon for himself even if it feels like the best course of action is pushing him away.

And, well, a small part of him whispers, it’s not like Simon has shown any inkling of leaving, at all. Isn’t that something?

“Hey.” Simon whispers, the sound loud in the dark. Jace focuses on Simon’s face, and slides one of his hands back to cup Simon’s neck. “I really like you, you know?”

Jace rolls his eyes but he flushes pink in the dark, his breath hitching. “Yeah.” He says, swallowing hard. “I like you too. You’re - you made it - today - “

“I know.” Simon tucks a lock of Jace’s hair behind his ear, and Jace’s heart does a funny stutter in his chest. “C’mere.”

He pulls Jace’s face closer, his thumb stroking Jace’s lower lip, and kisses his forehead, his eyelids, his temples. He drags his lips across Jace’s cheekbones and peppers tiny kisses across the corner of Jace’s mouth. Jace feels his eyes fluttering shut, his tiredness overtaking him even as he clings to being awake, not wanting to fall back into a nightmare, not wanting to leave the feeling of Simon’s soft, reverential kisses, and the last thing he remembers as he falls asleep is Simon pressing one last, long kiss to Jace’s lips, before he mutters “Sweet dreams, Jace.”

Jace dreams of Valentine again, but this time, when he reaches out for Simon in a blind terror, Simon is there, solid and steady in the dark.

 

+1

Simon thinks he’s worn a hole in Alec’s office, the way he’s paced back and forth over the same spot for three days now.

“I just,” Simon says again, for what feels like the hundredth time, “don’t understand why we can’t have any contact at all.”

Alec throws his hands in the air. “Frankly, I don’t either.” He says, exasperated. “But what could I have done, fought against that too? I have to be careful what I fight the Inquisitor on.” He doesn’t sound angry at Simon, just frustrated with the situation in general, and he frowns down at his desk. Simon grimaces sympathetically.

Izzy and Jace have been gone for four days. It’s a joint mission between them and two members of the Paris Institute, combing through the seedy parts of Paris’ underworld, the blood dens and desire brothels. They have to find and put an end to Sebastian - Jonathan’s - leftover contacts who helped him infiltrate the Institute and get to the Verlac family. That means glamour spells and undercover surveillance, and it means that for four days nobody can verify if Jace and Izzy are even alive.

Logically, Simon knows that they have to be alive. They’re good, the best at what they do, and they’ve got failsafes set up - some of them planned by Simon himself, in conjunction with the Paris clan. And Alec will know, immediately, if anything happens to his parabatai. But logic is hard to keep in mind when Simon has reports from the Paris clan on how dangerous the demonic underbelly of Paris can be, the side of the Downworlders and Shadowhunters who are uncaring in their pursuit of their own pleasure and power.

“You need to stop thinking so hard.” Alec groans and shakes his head. “I need to stop thinking so hard. Want to play chess?”

“Don’t you have those reports from the Silent Brothers to review and respond to?” Simon asks, sinking into the chair across from Alec’s desk and drumming his fingertips across his thigh.

“It can wait.” Alec says, looking seriously at Simon, and Simon’s so grateful for the other man’s friendship. “Perks of being the leader - you get to set your own schedule.” He spreads his hands in a what can you do gesture and Simon snorts, getting out the chessboard Alec keeps in a small wooden box on the side.

“I mean, so do I.” Simon says, shrugging. “Perks of being a freelance agent.” He pushes the black pieces towards Alec. Alec takes them and gives him a look.

“You’re definitely employed by me,” Alec says, slightly indignant, “and I make your schedule.”

“Lies and slander.”

“Read it and weep, Simon.” Alec says, taking out his tablet and tapping away until the screen displays a calendar with the name SIMON LEWIS - DOWNWORLD LIAISON plastered across the top. Simon squints at it, shaking his head.

“You have me scheduled for a round-table discussion with Duncan and Raj?” He asks. “If they don’t kill each other first, I’ll probably kill them, from sheer annoyance.”

“I’m sure you can handle it.” Alec smirks as he sets his side of the board up. “You’re in a relationship with my brother, how much more annoying can it get?” 
“He walked in on you guys again?”

Twice last week.” Alec shudders, horrified. “How many times can one person reenact the same scenario? I’m starting to think he has our place bugged or something. Or - maybe Magnus is scheming with him, I don’t know - “

Simon laughs, about to interrupt him, when Raj himself suddenly bursts into the room, without knocking. Alec frowns, rising, but Raj beats him to the punch, blurting out “They’re back - and they don’t look so good.”

For a split second, Simon’s heart shatters, and then he’s up and running, pushing past Raj and flying down the corridors. There’s a thunderous rushing in his ears, the sound overwhelming and all-encompassing, and all he can think about is Jace, who promised he’d come back in one piece, who means the world to Simon, who gives Simon something to smile for, who -

Who’s standing in the center of the ops room, looking bruised and battered and standing awkwardly on one leg, but smiling, his eyes lighting up as he sees Simon. He’s breathing hard, and Simon can smell the blood, but he’s there, and Simon doesn’t even stop to think about it when Jace calls his name and holds a hand out to him; he throws himself into Jace’s arms, with enough force that Jace staggers backwards and Simon tightens his grip hard enough in response that he lifts Jace clear off the ground for a second, before Jace plants his foot down and leans into Simon, his fingers knotted tight around Simon’s neck.

"Jace," Simon breathes out against his neck, like he needs confirmation that Jace is really there and alive, that this is not just a dream he's having. “Raj said - I thought - “

“I’m going to have words with Raj about being unnecessarily dramatic.” Jace says, smiling slightly at Simon, but then coughs, and it sounds loud and bounces off the walls in the silent Institute as everyone around them stops to gape at the two, while Alec exchanges a look with Magnus.

"You knew about this, didn't you?" Magnus asks Alec, softly, and Alec shrugs, smirking.

"A little." 

Magnus smiles back, and they're lost in their own moment as Simon cups Jace's face in his hands and turns his head several angles to check for injuries. "Babe," Jace says, grabbing Simon's hands and lacing their fingers together, "it's just my leg and a lot of demon blood. I'm fine, my iratze is working as we speak."

"Just your leg," Simon mutters under his breath, only then noticing how heavily Jace is leaning against him, his left leg hanging uselessly by his right one. "Jace," Simon says again, but whatever else Simon wanted to say gets interrupted by Izzy, who's leaning on Alec and scoffs, "I'm back too, you know?"

“Iz!” Simon laughs and turns, stepping forward and drawing her into a quick hug. She smells like leather and sweat, and she pulls back to look at him, laughing when she notices that Jace has a hand twisted in the back of Simon’s shirt, not letting him go even as he hugs Izzy.

“Get back to my brother.” She tells Simon. “I need to go wait for Clary to come back from her mission so I can surprise her anyway. And all of you,” she raises her voice, looking pointedly around her at the gathered Shadowhunters, who are looking at the group of them with barely concealed interest, “don’t you all have work to do?”

They scatter, and Jace insistently tugs Simon backwards until Simon acquiesces and presses into Jace’s space, sliding a hand around his waist and forcing Jace’s arm over his shoulder until he’s taking most of Jace’s weight, keeping him off his bad leg.

“So,” Simon mumbles, “I guess everyone knows now.”

Jace laughs, and he sounds tired but happy, and Simon doesn't think he's ever seen that combination in Jace before in public, here where everyone can see the arrogant Shadowhunter mask slipping away. It’s exhilarating to think that Simon is bringing it out in him. “I guess. But Clary doesn't, though.”

Simon groans, and Jace swallows that sound by kissing him softly as everyone around them rushes to leave the room.

“Do you mind, though?” Simon asks, pulling away, worrying at his bottom lip. Jace frowns, but then smiles when he understands what Simon means, squeezing Simon’s shoulder and giving him a stupidly attractive lopsided smirk as he says, “I don't mind everyone knowing, if that's what you mean. They're just gonna have to deal with this all the time now.” He gestures at himself, and then Simon, and then wiggles his eyebrows ridiculously.

Simon rolls his eyes fondly, but nods. “Okay.” He says, and they begin to trudge towards Jace’s room, his limp growing less pronounced as the iratze works its way into his system. “I was worried about you.” Simon adds lowly, and Jace snorts.

“When are you not worried?” He asks, and Simon scowls.

“It’s not funny.” He warns, and Jace sighs as they turn the corner.

“I know.” His mouth twists into a wry smile. “We’ll figure something out, alright?”

“Right.” Simon says, as they push open the door to Jace’s room, and it isn’t alright because they probably won’t be able to figure anything out, but -

Jace is warm and solid in his arms as they curl up against the headboard of Jace’s bed and talk, voices quiet and exhausted as they catch up on the last three days. Simon mentions him and Alec trying to play chess and Jace wrinkles his nose, because he hates chess, and Simon can’t stop laughing at that and the ensuing indignant look in Jace’s eyes, a swell of overwhelming affection hitting him as he laughs and laughs and laughs and cups Jace’s cheek with his hand, smoothing his thumb over the rough, almost-beard that Jace hasn’t had a chance to shave off yet. The world is quiet around them, muted, and there’s a terrifying frailty to the way Jace is holding him, but it still feels right.

It still feels like home, in all the ways that matter, and that’s more than enough to last him until the next time they’re in each other’s arms.

.