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Romeo & Juliet for 4th Graders

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“Your big plan is to do Romeo & Juliet with a bunch of kids? Isn’t that a tragedy in itself? Is Lydia really on board with this?”

  Magnus clasps his hands together and oh boy - he’s offended, Simon can sense it and he instantly regrets even opening his mouth in the first place. He knows that Magnus is the most passionate person he’s ever met when it comes to his job: Magnus loves teaching the kids at the school how to act and the teamwork that comes with putting up a play, Simon’s usually the one cheering his friend on but? A love tragedy between a bunch of 7 - 10 year olds? That can’t possibly go well, right?

  “Simon, you’re underestimating the emotional performance of a 10 year old. I assure you, this will be a success, and Lydia will be fine -”

  “The characters die in the end, Magnus.”

  “ - as I was saying, if you could stop interrupting me, is that I think it’ll be good to introduce the kids to the classics early on. Death’s a natural part of life, even kids know that. Lydia won’t be a problem, I know she’s a big fan of the original play so,” Magnus’ giving him a proper scold now while gathering the pappers on his desk.

   Simon’s still not convinced it’s a good idea.

   Besides, I’ve asked Jonathan to make some arrangements to the script: make it a bit more .. approachable,” Magnus clarifies. Much to the drama teacher’s liking, Simon trips over his own feet at the mention of Jonathan: who, more commonly around the school, went under the name Mr Wayland. Or Jace, if you were a friend.

   God, Simon wants to be so much more than a friend with that guy.

   ”Jace’s gonna be in on the project?” Simon asks despite better judgement: he knows he can be obvious, but come on? Maybe he should walk around with the words ”I love Jace Wayland” written over his forehead, that would surely be the icing on the cake. Fidgeting with the pristine, silk curtain doesn’t help him in the slightest.

   ”Of course, Jace’s probably more excited about this than I am,” Magnus smiles, a playful tint in his eyes that makes him look somewhat like a very pleased cat. ”He volunteered to help with the script, it’s not like I turn down free help. Are you sure you don’t want to do this? You could have some of the kids from you music classes play the soundtrack: you’d have to work very closely with Wayland for that.”

   ”I hate you,” Simon declares, dropping the curtain and heading to the door. He knows Magnus knows that he’s crumbled, all thanks to that stupid history teacher with the prettiest eyes Simon’s ever seen and a laugh like Jace’s can’t be human -

   ”So, are you in?”

   Simon’s lingering in the doorway, one hand curled around the handle. He’s honest to god blushing at this point, there’s no way he’ll turn around and face the smugness awaiting him on his friend’s face.

   Every teacher in this forsaken school wants Simon dead, Simon’s sure of that now.

   ”When do we start?”

 

*~*

 

Simon loves his job. He’s worked at Idris Elementary School for two years: he loves the atmosphere, the kids (98% of the time) and he’s formed some great friendships with his co-workers. He’s even managed to get on the principal’s good side after months of hard work.

   From an early age, the energetic kid born and raised in Brooklyn knew he wanted to work with music in some way: it never struck him until he found himself buried in college applications, that he could teach music to others.

   Fresh out of school with a diploma to match, he got hired at this school and there’s nowhere else he’d rather be. Of course, he has his band on the side, but the dream of conquering the world with his music has died down and turned into meaningless fun: the occasional gigs at the local bars are enough to keep the fire going.

   Besides, when one of his closest friends keep travelling all over the world to promote her art and books, Simon kind of gets to live through her Instagram posts. Seeing Clary be happy in all these rad, different places truly makes him feel content with what he has: he’s happy with how slow his day-to-day life is, he wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

Simon loves his job.

   But.

   There’s one thing no one prepared him for in school.

   That thing happened to be the ridiculously attractive history teacher Simon stumbled right into on his very first day. It’s a memory that’s plagued Simon since it happened, but he’s not even sure that Jace remembers it.

   God. Jace’s not someone you could prepare for even if you tried, he’s one of those guys whom sweeps you off your feet without warning. The icing on that particularly creamy cake is that he’s British too, which he’s quite vocal about (Simon’s lost count on how many discussions he’s sat through about how horrible the American version of ”The Office” is compared to the British original. Frankly, Simon loses the plot halfway through and steal glances at the heat in Jace’s eyes until the guy’s come to some sort of conclusion).

   Simon’s only human and he doesn’t deserve to be tested like this.

 

*~*

 

As soon as Simon agrees to help with the play, he regrets it. Not that he ever would go back on a promise - he’s not that kind of guy - but it’s a lot more work than he first thought it’d be. Magnus have given him some restrictions when it comes to the music, or guidelines as Magnus likes to call them, but it’s still a lot to choose from. What kind of music truly fit for a bunch of 10 year olds performing one of the most iconic, romantic tragedies of all time?

   For some reason, Simon’s sure that Magnus’ scribbled ”pick something off the radio!!!” is the very last resort and not the right way to go. Kids playing the drops in Justin Bieber’s Let Me Love You during the romantic balcony scene felt somewhat.. not good.

   Simon knows he should ask Jace for advice, since the history teacher’s the one working the most with the scripts. It’s just that Simon’s head have a funny way to fly out of the window whenever Jace’s approximately close to him: he turns into a blabbering mess that never gets his point across, because how could he do that when Jace looks at him like Simon’s given him a puppy whenever they speak?

   The need to sue the other teacher for erratic behaviour has crossed Simon’s mind more than once. Having Jace here at the school surely is a risk for everyone’s safety. Or, at least Simon’s sanity.

   Simon's jogging down the corridor, skilfully avoiding the students while managing to go through his notes at the same time. His glasses keep slipping down over his nose, every other second he has to push them back up again: with all of the folders and loose papers he’s carrying, doing such a feat is something close to a miracle.

   ”Simon!”

    As soon as Jace opens his mouth, Simon’s cheeks turn red. It’s a mechanism Simon repeatedly have tried to get under control, but his cheeks are too strong and have a will of their own: at least when it comes to Jace.

   Jace’s walking towards him: the black henley brings out some nice muscles, and Simon can’t blame the poor group of 11 year old girls he’s standing beside when they start giggling and blushing too because truly, how the entire school doesn't have a huge crush on Jace Wayland is a mystery. A dude that works with teaching kids about old wars, mythology and economic tragedies shouldn’t be this attractive: truly, Jace went against every stereotypical aspect of a history buff.

   Simon’s allowed to complain when he’s the one suffering from it.

   ”Hi champ,” Simon says, mentally slapping himself into the next century while hiding his inner turmoil behind a familiar smirk. ”I’m running late to class, could we take this while walking?”

   Jace cocks a amused eyebrow at the other teacher, nodding. ”Sure thing, champ,” Simon thinks he should just not talk to anyone ever again, ”I heard from a little birdie that you’re gonna help out with the play. Finally time for us to work together.”

   Fuck Magnus Bane.

   ”That little birdie’s right. Don’t ask me how Bane convinced me to join, because I’m not sure I understand it myself yet,” Simon mutters with a exaggerated roll of his eyes. ”Sure it’ll be fun, but right now it’s a pain to pick the right music when I’m not updated on what goes where yet, etc etc. Need to ask my classes too and see if anyone’s interested in playing, otherwise it’ll be, ah, well, a fiasco.”

   Suddenly, there’s a warmth around Simon’s bicep: strong, solid fingers which sends shockwave after shockwave through his body. Jace’s looking at him with eyes that feels like they could see right through Simon’s soul, and is just him or is his knees growing weaker by the second?

   ”That’s my fault,” Jace says, scratching at the back of his head in a way that signals he’s apologetic. ”I’m almost done with the script, but there’s some bits here and there I need to take a closer look at. Magnus and I plan to go through the whole thing tomorrow after work, but if you want I can send you a copy of what I got so far? So you can get something to work with at least?”

   Never before in his life has Simon felt the need to throw himself in front of a bunch of angry, dodgeball-playing kids, but now there’s a mighty need spreading through him and he has to shove it down repeatedly. If Jace could stop gazing at him with those mesmerising eyes of his, maybe Simon could have at least somewhat of a chance to focus.

   Fuck Brits and their need to say sorry for existing every minute of every day.

   ”You’d be a lifesaver, dude,” Simon says instead, meaning every word of it. ”If there’s any problems, I’ll drop by.”

   Jace squeezes - squeezes! - Simon’s bicep and smiles. ”No problem, I’ll mail it to you as soon as I get back to my office. Good luck with your class,” the grip turns into fingers patting Simon’s navy, button-down shirt; along with another smile as Jace leaves.

   It takes Simon the entire walk to the classroom to realise that Jace had commented on the two of them finally working closely together. The realisation makes him drop his entire stack of papers and folders in mere shock.

   Jace can’t walk around and say things like that, not to Simon who’s heart’s already covered in bandaids and a ”Handle with Care” sign left from his last relationship. Clary’s not out of the country just for work: some of it’s caused by Simon, too.

   At least Simon’s students are angels enough to help him gather all of the things he dropped. His students are the only people at this school worth trusting.

 

*~*

 

Jace sent the script as promised; once it dropped down in Simon’s inbox, with the well-picked words ”here you go, champ!” as the opening line, Simon knew he’d be in for a treat. The script is perfect for the kids: nothing too difficult, a nice mix of fun with dark undertones: Jace has managed to capture the essence of the original play. Simon’s impressed, he’s got to admit that.

   While balancing his preparations for the different classes, he goes through the script and manage to find some songs that could fit with both the play and the skillsets of his students.

   Simon’s full to the brim with excitement when he arrives at the school with a finished and approved list of songs a couple of days later. He practically skips up the steps, greeting everyone he sees with a infectious grin and wave.

   It’s an ordinary Thursday morning: Simon’s booked a classroom and asked all of the other teachers to tell the kids who play instruments on their spare time to send them over. A bunch of the students, close to 20 or so, waits for him outside the door.

   There’s not much energy going on, Simon carries the good mood all by himself. Aren’t kids at this age supposed to rejoice and want to sprint a marathon at this hour? All of the kids are in various stages of falling asleep as they take their seats inside of the cramped classroom: George, one of the older kids that always slouches in the back, even manages to hit his head against a guitar when he’s tilting backwards.

   There’s no blood, just a lot of groaning, so Simon doesn’t let it kill his good mood.

   ”Good morning everyone!” Simon beams. By some miracle, all of the students on his list are here. ”As some of you may know, Mr Bane’s going to put up a new play during the semester. He’s picked Romeo & Juliet,” as predicted, some of the boys do groan over the choice of play; Simon’s happy to see that half of the boys don’t make comments at all, they still look at him curiously. ”It’s not obligatory to participate in any way, but I’m sure Mr Bane would love to have all of the volunteers he can get if anyone wanna try some acting.

   That’s not why I’ve gathered you all here today though. Mr Bane’s asked me to provide with the soundtrack to the play: in some dramatic scenes, music is necessary to get the mood right. Would anyone of you be interested in playing?”

   Much to Simon’s surprise, more than ten hands shoots up in the air straight away. One girl in the front - Carmen, Simon remembers, 2nd Grade - waves with her hand, a gesture Simon’s learned means that she has a question.

   ”Mr Lewis, I’ve just started to play violin, can I join?” her eyes are glimmering and there’s so much hope, how could Simon turn her down? Besides, he can’t shake the pride that comes whenever a kid calls him ”Mr Lewis.” Still feels surreal.

   ”Of course! I’ll do arrangements for the songs that fits with your instruments and your previous knowledge: even if it sounds small on it’s own, it’ll sound amazing with all of us together. We’ll rehearse two times a week, starting two weeks from now."

   Simon gets a few more questions before it’s time for the kids to head back to their lessons. Eighteen kids leave the classroom with handouts they’re going to give to their parents so Simon can get permission to have their kids perform for the play.

   All in all he’s excited to get started, even though this means he won’t get a proper night’s sleep until Christmas. Sometimes there’s sacrifices one has to do for the arts: something Simon’s all too familiar with.

   Alas, he didn’t create a coffee addiction in college for nothing.

 

*~*

 

”Mr Lewis! Mr Lewis!”

   Carmen’s running down the corridor, her friend Madzie at her side. They’re giggling and bubbling with energy when they reach Simon, who can’t do much else than melt over how cute the girls are with their colourful backpacks and glittery shoes.

   ”Hello ladies, what can I help you with today?” Simon smiles. He does a pleased finger gun gesture and a surprised ”ah!” when Carmen waves a paper in front of her grinning face.

   ”Is that what I think it is?” Simon crouches, smiling even brighter when he sees that it’s the form he gave her the week before.

   ”Mom said I could join, but she can come to the rehearsals, right?” Carmen clasps her hands together, pouting with her lips. Possibly it’s the cutest thing Simon’s ever seen. ”Please, Mr Lewis.”

   ”Of course, she’s free to come,” Simon folds the paper and puts in one of his pockets. ”What about you, Madzie? Are you gonna do anything in the play?”

   For being so young, Madzie’s truly mastered how to roll her eyes like someone twice her age. She does this delightful little grin too: she’s so alike her father in that regard, a tiny version of Magnus’ mannerism. ”I’m gonna play one of Romeo’s friends, dad’s teaching me everything he knows so I can shine up on stage.” She does a little twirl, dark curls flying all over while she giggles.

   Simon’s heart is going to burst. ”I’d be surprised if he didn’t do that to be honest. Magnus’ the best. Ladies, I have a class to attend but I’ll see you around; Carmen, first rehearsal is on Wednesday next week. I’ll mail your mom the details, okay?”

   ”Okay, bye Mr Lewis!” the girls speed off down the corridor, catching up with the rest of their friends.

   Simon shakes his head, mutters ”kids” under his breath with a smile before he heads to class.

 

*~*

 

”You came here to ask if I could change the ending?”

   Simon’s roaming around in the office, not able to stand still for more than a few seconds at a time. Much of his restlessness comes from how Jace keeps looking at him: one eyebrow is raised, his head propped up by his hand. Jace’s so aware of himself, like, one cannot possibly look that good and not be aware of it.

   Mortals, like Simon, have nothing to put against all that.

   ”Yeah, the end’s so dark. The whole story’s just so.. dark, man. Can’t we spice it up a little? You’re a history geek, Wayland, I’m sure you can work some magic,” Simon winks - God knows why - and it takes no more than five seconds before he regrets it. Why is his body and brain not connected for more than five minutes of each day?

   ”Work some of my magic? Sorry to be the bringer of bad news, I might be British but this isn’t Hogwarts,” Jace’s grinning face could be taken straight out of a dictionary: the very definition of smug. If Simon could be granted one wish right here, right now, he’d do anything to wipe the look off Jace’s face.

   Preferably by kissing the living shit out of him, but that’s just Simon’s own hopes and dreams.

   Smacking Jace is also a preferred way to go.

   ”Don’t go all Harry Potter on me now, just, what if Romeo, instead of ending up dead, comes in with two horses and goes all ”hey, Juliet, let’s ride away together. To infinity and beyond!”

   ”Did you just pull a Buzz Lightyear -”

   ”Wayland, you’re completely missing the point here, I’m having a moment with a real solid idea, and the only thing - the only thing you can focus on is my own horribly placed reference,” Simon’s leaning against the desk by now. Fingers nervously tapping against the surface, tucked in between all of Jace’s scattered books and papers. ”Instead of all that jazz with the poison, Romeo goes ”screw this” and takes off with his pals and Juliet to start a cool, new life somewhere else.”

   Jace has legit tears in his eyes, shoulders shaking with laughter as he buries his face in his hands. He tries to speak several times (seriously, it’s not that funny Simon thinks) but instead he wheezes like he’s taking his last breaths on his deathbed.

   Breath, Wayland, Jesus Christ,” Simon tries not to crack up: it proves to be a too hard task, soon he’s also laughing, just not nearly as much as Jace does. ”You can’t say it’s not a good idea.”

   Jace wipes his tears away with the sleeve of his shirt, muttering nonsense under his breath that Simon can’t properly make out. ”Oh Simon, you never fail to brighten my days. Jesus fucking Christ, can you picture that? Like, five 10 year olds riding away into the plastic sunset on a bunch of cardboard horses while simultaneously going all ”up, up and away!”

   Okay, that mental image won’t be leaving any time soon.

   Simon ducks his head, covering his eyes with his hand all while biting his lip with everything he got. He’s not going to laugh - not going to laugh.

   ”We’d win a Tony award for that,” he manage to get out through pressed lips.

   Jace’s regained his ability to think straight, now he’s leaning back against his chair, head tilted back while looking up at the ceiling with glossy eyes. He cocks it to the side a moment later, biting his lip softly while studying the other teacher with glistering eyes. ”I’ll talk to Magnus about it, but don’t expect any miracles. How’s the music going? You have your first rehearsal tonight, right?”

   Simon fidgets with one of the papers, aimlessly tugging it back and forth without paying too much attention to what it says. ”I’m nervous, god, my mom’s been helping out baking cupcakes that’ll feed the entire country if needed. Just hope the songs will fit, I’ve done so many different arrangements to make this work.”

   ”If I ask nicely, any chance I can stop by? Give some moral support, help with the cupcakes, be an all in all proper chap to be around. I can even make some tea,” Jace’s act to look innocent deserves no awards: it’s ridiculous, but with those fluttering eyelashes? 10/10.

   ”We’ll be in my classroom, starts around six. Stop by if you want.”

   Simon’s heart may be on a rampage in his chest, but at least he’s all business up top. Those few, rare times where he manages to keep his nerves under control truly is a blessing.

   Jace smiles - even showing some teeth - and Simon wonders if the real tragic love story is the one that’s not taking place between them.

 

*~*

  

 

Magnus sends Simon a text 15 minutes before the rehearsal starts that he can’t make it: Alec just got back from his trip overseas, earlier than planned; Simon can’t exactly piss on his friend’s parade when he knows how much Magnus has been looking forward to have his husband home with him again.

   Izzy’s here and helping with getting everything in order; his mum left after she handed over the cupcakes - extra shift at work - otherwise she would’ve stayed too; then there’s Jace, who still haven’t showed up yet.

   ”And for today’s 1000$ question: what is Simon Lewis most nervous about? A: first rehearsal with 18 students, B: the cupcakes tasting bad, C: forgetting to check if his zipper’s up, or D: the infamous Jace Wayland popping by for some friendly chats and banters, one lad to another.”

   Izzy even tries one of the various, British accents to match. Absolutely insufferable.

   His nerves prompts him to try one of the cupcakes, just to exclude one of those options. It tastes like a dream, so nothing to worry about in that department.

   ”This is absolutely nerve-wrecking, Iz, you have no idea what it’s like to be me right now,” Simon points out, mouth full of unfinished cupcake: he sounds a bit like a gentle bear when he speaks.

   ”Oh dude, I’m happy not be in your shoes,” Izzy pats his shoulder lovingly: behind all her snark, she actually cares about him a great deal. Or, at least that’s what Simon thinks. Most of the time she tends to leave him in the dark.

   Simon hands her a cupcake to make her shut up. A good plan that gives instant reward.

   That’s how the first family finds the two teachers, faces stuffed into their cupcakes; Simon barely makes out a greeting without choking while Izzy goes into professional mode in the blink of an eye: going from Izzy to Ms Isabelle Lightwood, science teacher with a diploma to match.

   Oh how happy Simon is that he asked her to come and help out, while he’s still stammering over his cupcake she’s managed to guide the parent and student to empty seats and provided them with cupcakes too.

   At least Jace’s not here yet to witness the spectacle: every victory, no matter how small, is worth celebrating.

 

”Hello everyone! Loads of familiar faces here tonight, which is great! I’m Simon Lewis, for those of you I haven’t met before, I work here at the school as it’s only music teacher,” Simon feels his hands shake, in an attempt to make himself look somewhat collected and like he knows what he’s talking about, he takes a hold of a pen as support. Almost all of the students have brought their parents with them, some of the oldest are on their own: all of them are staring at Simon, their gazes heavy with curiosity that quickly could change into something worse.

   Izzy sits up front, along with Carmen and her mother. His friend keeps nodding her head reassuringly at him; showing that he’s doing a good job so far. He takes a breath, continuing.

   ”This is the first rehearsal for this term’s play, Romeo & Juliet. During the play, we’re going to play four songs in total: one in the beginning, one in the end, and two during two of the most important scenes of the play. It’ll take a lot of hard work, but I’m positive we can make this work; the songs I’ve picked are the following.”

   Just as Simon’s about to write the names on the blackboard, he hears the sound of the door clicking shut. He throws a quick glance over his shoulder; his chest tightens in an all too familiar way.

   Jace’s occupied with finding an empty seat: his cheeks coloured red from the chilly winds outside, blonde hair muzzled. He’s so beautiful it makes Simon have this mighty need to cry.

   Simon clears his throat. He takes a steadier grip around the chalk in his hand, focusing on what he’s here to do. It’s not the first time he does something like this after all.

     ”The songs we’ll be working with are We Found Love by Rhianna, Marry You by Bruno Mars, Fight Song by Rachel Platten and round it off with a down-scaled, soft Over The Rainbow. Let’s get to work!”

 

Simon, for some reason, up to this evening had no idea that Jace could play the piano.

   He notices it while he’s in the middle of helping one of the kids - Finn - with the violin arrangements for We Found Love; the gentle, clinking sounds of keys in the background. Thinking that it’s one of the students at first, Simon isn’t paying that much attention to it, but then - then, when it gets more and more advanced, the music sparks Simon’s attention.

   Jace plays like it comes naturally to him. Beside him sits one of the younger students, Ashley: her mouth hangs open, eyes wide with admiration. Truly, she’s the visual representation of what the entire classroom feels but doesn’t dare to say while Jace’s still at it.

   Everyone claps when Jace’s done. Stunned, yet appreciative, Jace gives a little bow and walks over as he notice Simon’s speechless expression.

   ”That was.. wow, Jace, just beautiful,” Simon feels another sentiment threatening to spill, since it’s not just Jace’s music that’s beautiful. ”I had no idea you could play - why haven’t you said anything?”

   ”It’s not like you’ve asked me about it, is it?” Jace tugs at his hair, trying to get in place. ”Thanks though, means a lot when it comes from you.”

   Simon has no idea what he should make of that information. None in the slightest.

 

*~*

 

Magnus calls him well past midnight.

   Simon jolts awake, managing to push his phone down on the floor in the few seconds of confused aftermath that follows. He hangs off the bed in a somewhat dangerous position, holding the phone one with one hand while propping himself up with the other.

   Maia would be impressed. This could almost be classed as gymnastics.

   ”It’s 2 in the morning,” Simon all but yawns into the phone. ”What’s so urgent you couldn’t possibly wait until morning to tell me?” With slow, precise movements does he try to get back up on the bed to prevent an inevitable disaster from happening.

   ”You’re a genius, Simon Lewis.”

   Simon stops mid-move. Even in his tired state he has enough awareness to frown over those words. ”Okay, wow, thanks Magnus, I’m glad you think so, but it still doesn’t answer why you’re calling to tell me this at 2AM when we both got work in the morning.”

   Ruffling comes from the other line, followed by a muffled response that’s not meant for Simon anyway. Simon’s willing to let this slide since Alec just got back home, maybe Magnus likes to crash his friends’s sleep every now and then to give them compliments.

   ”Sorry, Madzie was having a nightmare. Anyway, Jace came over earlier and he told me about your idea to change the end of the play. It’s.. certainly different from the original, mildly bonkers enough to work. I’m in; Jace’s in, we’re still early into the process so we can make it work.”

   Simon’s relieved he made it back up on the bed in time for that; he would’ve fallen otherwise, probably crashing both his face and phone against the floor in the process. Much nicer and a lot less hurtful to tiredly squeal up here instead. ”Really?! That’s great! Lydia and the parents’ council  will be on board with those changes, I just know it.”

   ”I’m gonna pitch the idea to Lydia tomorrow, wish me luck that everything goes as planned.”

   

*~*

 

Simon high-fives everyone in his perimeter (students, a confused cleaner and a just as confused Maia) when the changes goes through.

 

*~*

 

”I saw you two at the first rehearsal; he’s into you, Lewis, just go for it.”

   Izzy slams a pair of safety glasses down on one of the desks, all while challenging Simon with her eyes. It shouldn’t be as intimidating as it is, but god, Izzy can be terrifying when she wants too. Convincing sure, but terrifying.

   Simon isn’t up for her games: not today. Today, he wants to lay down in the office he shares with Magnus and just.. not do anything.

   It’s tough, keeping control of every aspect of his life. Over the last month, since the whole play project started, he’s barely been home at all: he staggers back to his apartment late, way later than he’s supposed to, much to the dismay of his poor cat Leia. She looks at him all sourly when he comes in through the door, reeking off cheap coffee and warm papers.

   How does a fresh, homemade meal taste like? Simon’s forgotten all about it.

   Jace’s not making his life easier, because why would his existence ever be a comfort to Simon? Things.. things are changing, but Simon’s not sure if he’s reading too much into it or not. After all, he may only see what he wants to see.

   ”I can’t just wing it like you did with Maia, Iz,” Simon shoots back, rubbing at a sensitive spot by his temple. Another headache, this one coming on strong. Perfect. ”There’s too much going on, I don’t want to add even more stress by jumping into a new relationship on top of everything that’s happening here at the school.”

   Izzy sighs. ”Fair enough, suppose I can accept that. But, after the play’s over, you better get your hands on him or so help me.”

   ”Hands? Simon’s gonna get handsy with someone?” Maia has the ability to always arrive just when she’s needed; sometimes she likes to declare her presence by blowing the whistle she keeps around her neck. Actions like that’s what gives Simon trust issues.

   ”I wish, but I’ll have to pause on that until the play’s over,” Simon sprawls out over the floor in the back, dramatically draping an arm over his face: life’s too much, he can’t even use the desks to lay down on because they’d tip over under his weight. Great.

   ”Jace’s finally admitted he’s into you or?” Maia goes to greet her fiancee with a kiss on the cheek; Izzy melts, it’s quite cute to witness.

   ”Can we stop spurting out lies to one another? I just wanna live a calm, happy life and nurture my crush without believing in rumours from the likes of you,” Simon waves with a exaggerated hand to prove a point he’s aiming for, even though he doesn’t see his friends, he can feel their judgemental eyes on him.

   ”Or you could just get your head out of your ass, but what do I know,” Izzy supplies, from the sound of it she gets another kiss from Maia as a reward. ”I have a class in 5 minutes, both of you need to scramble.”

   By the time Simon’s back up on his feet, Izzy’s wearing her safety glasses and tests if the burner she uses for her experiments works. The flame’s bright and hot, and Simon murmurs a conflicted ”her class is full of 6 year olds, isn’t it a bit early to teach them how to burn the school down?” to Maia on their way out.

   The school coach bursts out cackling; she doesn’t get it under control until they’ve reached the first floor.

 

*~*

 

Simon’s slouching in the back of the auditorium when Magnus have the first rehearsal with the play’s ensemble using the auditorium. He has some time to spare, what better way to spend it than to witness Magnus teach a bunch of kids on how to act in a play for his lunch time entertainment?

   Magnus’ doing a great job. He’s eccentric enough in his persona to pull it off with a smile: most of the time he makes the kids laugh, making them feel good about doing this without adding any pressure. This play is for fun, nothing but that.

   The seat is comfortable enough to cause Simon to drift off. He’s removed his shoes and propped his legs up on the row in front of him, thankful that Magnus have kept the light on the low here in the back of the room.

   Jace still manages to find him. The history teacher carries a hot container of food of his own, sliding down into the seat next to Simon’s. His bare elbow touches Simon’s hand as he tries to find the right position. ”Sorry, think I’m all set now.”

   Electricity shoots up through Simon’s fingers, tangling with his veins. He whispers ”it’s cool” and he means it.

   A smile flashes over Jace’s face. His perplexing gaze falls on Simon’s dangling legs; it takes no more than five seconds for the other to remove his own shoes and prop up his own legs too.

   All in all, it’s a very comfortable way to spend your lunch, Simon thinks: huddled together with Jace in the dim light of the auditorium, whispering ridiculous comments to one another when it’s appropriate.

   If anything, it makes Simon fall even more.

 

*~*

 

It’s the first day of going through all of the probs for the stage, and Simon’s volunteered to help out. He clearly didn’t have enough on his plate already with rehearsals and all of the usual preparations for his classes - no, of course not. He’s sacrificing his early Friday to be a saint and help out.

   Jace and Maia have volunteered too; out of the three volunteers, Maia’s the one most excited to be there. During the walk to the auditorium, she keeps telling them how keen she is to finally help out with something regarding the play. It’s certainly sweet, makes the others feel better about being there as well.

   The room where they keep all the probs is a dusty, old storage behind the stage. Most of the things Magnus stores in there have been used for years; the condition of each piece varies from usable to never should be seen again.

   ”Maybe it’s time to get some new trees,” Magnus declares when the third tree he’s pulled out of the small storage collapses to the floor. Cardboard isn’t destined to be intact forever, after all. ”How’s the horses?”

   ”Dusty,” Maia coughs. She tries to wipe away the dust from the horse in her hands, but it only makes her cough even more. ”I think it’s good to go for one more year though, same goes for the others.”

   ”Okay, Simon, Jace, go and get supplies from Dot; you two’ll paint some new trees, while Maia and I go through the rest of the stuff. Deal?” Magnus looks at the other two, who’ve been going through costumes.

   ”Sure thing,” Jace says. ”We’ll make some rad new trees, won’t we Si?”

 

Dot’s more than happy to help. She lets the pair sit in the back of the classroom and paint their cardboard trees while she packs up for the day. When she leaves with a cherry ”don’t forget to lock before you go!” she takes some of the peace with her.

   Without her present, the entire atmosphere of the room shifts in a matter of seconds. At least it does for Simon; he gets weirdly aware of just how close Jace is, how their arms brush against one another whenever they move. Which, quite frankly, happens all the time.

   To focus on the trees is a lot harder than it should be. He’s painting the green, while Jace’s painting the bottom parts in a dark, brown colour.

   Jace’s phone is playing music to fill out the silence: soft songs with gentle voices and guitars. Simon’s mentally betting money on when Ed Sheeran’s going to pop up with a ballad or two.

   ”You got paint on your nose, Lewis.”

    Simon’s eyebrows moves together in a slight frown. He looks down at his hands, sighing when he notices the green stains on his fingertips. Fuck. He shouldn't have scratched his nose. ”How bad is it?”

   Jace chuckles. When he’s not the most sarcastic person Simon’s ever met, he can a rea saint: as of now, a pair of tissues are in Jace’s hand, ready to be used. ”It looks like you’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider, or a less-frightening Hulk.”

   Much to Simon’s surprise, Jace batter Simon’s hand away and rubs at the paint with the tissue himself. Tender movements, causing Simon’s eyelids to fall shut while he enjoys a moment of peace.

   ”When your legs don’t work like they used to before..-”

   Simon snorts. ”There he is.”

   ”You’ve got a problem with Ed Sheeran, mate?” Jace rubs the paint away with a little more force, probably to show that if Simon says the wrong thing now, there’ll be hell to pay. ”Man’s a national treasure, almost as famous as the Queen herself.”

   ”He’s cool, no need to take me out back and give me a go,” Simon flutters with his eyelashes, opening his eyes enough to catch Jace staring at him. The glimmer in Jace’s eyes takes him by surprise: Simon’s experienced softness, but this.. the utter fondness strikes him down.

   All Simon wants to do is lean forward and kiss him. Right now, he’s even sure that Jace wouldn’t mind it. The opposite, even.

   ”Thanks for making me look presentable again,” he whispers when the moment’s gone. A part of him can’t shake that he just made a mistake not acting on his impulses.

   ”Can’t let you go around looking like a twat now, can I?”

 

*~*

 

The songs are slowly coming to life.

   After every rehearsal, Simon’s tired yet determined and full of pride over his students. Even the youngest ones, like Carmen who just started playing violin on her spare time, have showed great improvement just in the last few weeks.

   Simon claps his hands: tired but happy smile curving his lips. ”Well done everyone! The progress we’ve made since the last rehearsal is blowing my mind. William, really digging how you fade the tones in the end of Over The Rainbow, sounds absolutely brilliant, and Carmen, Jamie, great job with the verses, I think you guys have finally found the right rhythm of the song.”

   The kids are all smiling too; the younger ones in front look somewhat giddy, and Simon wants to hug them all.

”Let’s go through it again, from the top: no sour faces, let’s ride this tide of success we got going here for one last time, promise it’ll make you all feel better. Okay, look at my hand, remember your cues. 1, 2, 3, go.”

   The students play through Over The Rainbow and it’s damn near flawless. Some noters are out of place, some missing their cues, but all in all it’s a great round. Simon’s happy that he made the call to play it one more time before going home, because he’ll live on this high feeling the entire weekend.

   A nice chatter spreads through the room when it’s time to pack up for the day: some talk about the upcoming show, others discuss what they’ll do when they get home, while a few of the students head to ask Simon some questions about what they’ll practice on for the next rehersal. He helps them out, all while handing out cupcakes to whomever wants some; once again, Elaine Lewis has proved why she deserves to get the Mother of the Year award.

   The parents start pouring in to get their kids, a few coming up to compliment Simon on what great work he’s doing with their children. His small, thudding heart feels like it grows wide enough to poke at the ribcage due to how happy their words makes him feel.

   When Carmen run to give him a hug, exclaiming a loud ”you’re the best, Mr Lewis” before running off with her dad, Simon can’t do much else than smile: almost wide enough for his face to split in two.

  

   

*~*

 

The coffee is gone and moral have decreased rapidly over the last five minutes.

   Ten days left until it’s time for the play to be performed in front of an audience. It felt only yesterday like they had all the time in the world. It’s starting to show on Magnus especially: he’s ferociously jittering his pen against his desk, over and over and over again. His usual, stylish mohawk is derailing and hanging more than it’s standing up, and if Simon even as much as thought of mentioning the smudged eyeliner around his friend’s eyes, he would probably hammer down the very last nail into the coffin.

   Simon has seen his life past before his eyes more than once over the last few days. He’s knee deep into correcting tests for his 5th graders, which takes a lot more work than he first expected it would. This is the fourth day in a row him and Magnus are working late, trying to get everything under control.

   ”Once the play’s over, I’m gonna take Alec and Madzie on a long, long trip to somewhere warm and sunny. As far away from New York as possible,” Magnus declares after losing yet another pen. He’s more or less pulling his desk apart, piece by piece: it’s not a pretty sight. ”It’s going well, but man, if I dream one more time about riding away into the sunset on a cardboard horse, I’m gonna flip.”

   Simon chuckles, rubbing his fingers tentatively over his temples. Why did he drink that 4th cup of coffee again? ”That’s better than dreaming about the end of the original I’d say. Becoming a teacher isn’t the most relaxing job, I’ll have to agree with that,” he scrunches his nose in dismay when the headache comes on. Ow. ”Fuck, bring some heat to me too okay.”

   ”I’ll send the best and nicest postcard Madzie can find,” Magnus offers. ”You won’t get a sweeter deal than that around here.”

   ”Knock knock, food delivery.”

   It takes a moment for Simon to fully place the voice of the intruder; Magnus darts around in his chair straight away  and exclaims a ”hi there darling!” with freshly found energy; Simon turns just quick enough to catch Madzie jumping into her father’s arms, all while Alec leans against the door with a couple bags of takeout in his hands.

   ”Alec, if you have food for me, I’ll kiss the ground you walk on,” Simon declares, hoping but not expecting that Alec considered that he might’ve been working late too. He’s close to choking on some dry sobs when Alec places a bag of Wendy’s in front of him. ”You rock my world, you know that, right?”

   ”I’ll remember this moment the next time Mags and I need a babysitter,” Alec snorts, leaning to press a kiss to the top of his husband’s head. ”You’ll be at the very top of our list, Lewis.”

   ”Don’t you have some more dinosaur bones to dig up somewhere?” Simon throws a napkin at his friend, but Alec snatches it with one precise movement. Hello martial arts.

   ”Not for a bit, can a man enjoy to be home with his husband and child without getting picked on by snotty music teachers?” Alec grins behind his burger, that smile of his deliberately prompting Simon to throw a fry at his head.

   He completely misses and it ends up on the floor. ”Thanks for the food but not much else, Lightwood.”

   ”Good to see you too, Lewis."

 

*~*

 

The end of the last, proper rehearsal.

   In two days time, Simon and the kids will take the stage and perform the songs alongside the play. They’ve been at it every day for the last week, trying to make it work with the play, and it’s looking good so far. Difficulties arose in the beginning sure, but as his students grew more used to have the ensemble there, things clicked into place.

   On the day of the show, they’ll play through the songs before the actual play, but this is the last one where they can practice without having to worry about anything.

   The nerves are starting to show. It’s going to be some of the kids first ever performance in front of an audience, so Simon’s determined to make it all work as best as he can. Still, there’s excitement filling the air once they pack up their instruments for the night and lingers to watch the ensemble go through the play one last time.

   Excitement over what’s to come, and how hard they’ve all worked to get here.

  

 

*~*

 

Simon slides in through the entrance just as the parent-teacher meeting’s about to start. He ducks his head after sending a apologetic smile in Lydia’s direction, the principal shaking her head the tiniest amount over his arrival.

   Not keen on taking up anyone’s precious time nor wanting to be in the way, Simon decides to shove down his thundering heart into the pit of his stomach so he can stand next to Jace. He’s greeted by a soft pat on his shoulder, one’s that could be described a lot like ”been there, done that.”

   It’s not Simon’s fault that his bike had a flat tire and he had to run all the way over here, but in a pace that didn’t make him all sweaty and sticky. Being late was one thing, being late and smelling like he’s never heard of a shower’s existence is not ideal when he’s going to meet the parents of every student at the school.

   ”I still don’t understand why you don’t use your van,” Jace’s breath is warm against Simon’s ear, voice lower than a whisper not to take attention away from Lydia’s speech. Simon sees the principal’s lips move, but he’s lost every ounce of ability to focus on what she’s saying thanks to Jace.

   ”Gives off the wrong impression to drive a van to a school, don’t you think?” Simon bites back a smile, he has to bite down even harder when he hears how Jace’s covering a laugh with a cough. ”That was so tasteless, I take it back.”

   ”Can’t believe you just joked about that,” no matter how hard Jace tries not to show he’s on the verge of laughing, Simon can still feel it radiate through his words.

   ”Can’t believe that you’re still asking dumb questions.”

 

Simon spends the entire evening going from parent to parent. It’s an endless cycle of smiles and trying to remember which kid belongs to each parent: Simon’s still new to all of this, but he can safely assume he’s doing a good job so far when all of the parents have something positive to tell him about his work.

   A lot ask him about his involvement with the play; he happily describes what he’s done for the play, practically gushing over the students in his ensemble when he gets to the good parts. Some of the parents are impressed by his dedication, but he tells them straight away that this wouldn’t be happening without Magnus: the real star of the show.

   Simon’s happy to see how swarmed Magnus is whenever he checks how his friend’s doing. The drama teacher deserves every ounce of attention for his work with the play; Simon can only lean back and enjoy the show.

   When Jace comes over, by the time the room’s a lot less crowded, and asks if he wants a lift home, Simon goes with him. He follows the Brit outside, relieved to be breathing fresh air again: Jace seems to feel the same, he throws his head back and takes a deep breath, blonde hair dancing around sharp features.

   Simon thinks, that if he wants something to happen between them, this might as well be his chance to make it real.

 

*~*

 

Jace has a car. A tiny, practical car without a AUX cord: how a car without a AUX cord even exists, let alone owned by someone as high maintenance as Jace Wayland, is beyond Simon’s understanding.

   The radio only plays annoying remixes at this hour. Simon feels himself drifting off, head propped against his jacket, while listening to a particularly tragic version of some Avicii song Jace just have to sing along too.

   It’s ridiculous, but it still feels right and home.

   Jace feels like home.

 

”You know, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for the last month or so.”

   Simon isn’t blinking, he barely dares to pull the key out of the lock to his apartment; afraid that any sudden movement would make all of this go away. As he turns, he notices directly that Jace’s not heading down the stairs anymore, instead the Brit’s standing two steps down, hand around the railing with a burning glimmer in his unique eyes.

   ”And what’s that?” Simon breaths. The cold metal of his keys push against his skin, he holds onto them a little bit tighter when Jace takes one step towards him. All of the past tension has lead to this moment, Simon can feel it in the air. Pulsing like a open wound.

   ”Is there any chance in hell that I could kiss you?”

   Fireworks. Kittens. Winning at the lottery.

   ”I thought you’d never ask,” the words are barely out of Simon’s mouth before Jace goes for it. Seconds later, Simon’s clinging to Jace almost desperately, ravishing his mouth with his own. He manages to open the door, sending them stumbling back while tugging at every piece of unnecessary clothing they can possibly reach.

   There’s nothing sweet about the kiss. It’s hungry, messy: the peak of months and months of need and want that’s now finally out in the open. Simon’s dizzy, stars twinkling beneath his eyelids, because Jace’s lips are as soft as they look: every kiss devours him, his body trembling with shivers caused by everything but the cold.

   Jace's hands sprawl out over Simon’s back: slender, steady fingers digging into Simon’s jacket, holding him in place. Simon wants to wrap a leg around him, but a small, reasonable voice in his head tells him they’re going to fall over if Simon tries it out.

   ”Do you want to stay the night?” words breathed out in between warm, sloppy kisses.

   Simon feels Jace laugh; the sound of it drowning against Simon’s lips.

   ”I thought you’d never ask.”

   

*~*

 

Waking up next to someone is not a scenario Simon’s done in years. His last relationship ended in mutual heartbreak, now ment with a gentle peace, but ever since he and Clary broke things off, he’s not wanted to go out on dates. Not with anyone, until Jace came along that was.

   Waking up next to Jace is something he thought he’d never get to experience. This isn’t blowing his mind or shattering the earth beneath his feet: no, for what it’s worth, Simon wakes up with a smile on his face and a fuzzy, glowing feeling in his chest. All thanks to Jace.

   ”Good morning, love.”

   Jace’s voice is darker, raspy with sleep. Even better than normal.

   ”That’s what you gonna call me now, yeah?” Simon’s eyes crinkle when he smiles, gently pressing his face down against the pillow.

   Jace snickers, his hand following the outline of Simon’s jaw. Soft fingers sending jolts of electricity down Simon’s spine. ”I’ve got an arsenal of nicknames ready for you, so get used to it, pumpkin.”

   He tastes like crap, morning breath and all that, but Simon wants to kiss that ridiculous human being. So he does just that. Closing what little space left between them, lips finding lips in a slower, much more tender kiss than the ravishing ones from the night before.

   The clock on the nightstand table, on the other hand, is having none of it.

   ”Fucking hell, it’s almost eight, we’re gonna be late,” Simon jolts back and off the bed, Jace soon following his command. ”We can’t be late on opening day, Magnus will kill me.”

   ”The play’s not exactly happening in five minutes, I think he’ll live,” Jace’s searching the floor after his clothes, cursing over how wrinkled his shirt is. ”I’m a cliché if I get to work with the same shirt as last night, right?”

   Simon throws the Brit one of his own. ”Can’t have clichés walking around like they own the place.”

 

They can forget about breakfast; Simon hopes it’ll come a morning when he can sit and share a long, nice breakfast with Jace: not having to run around the apartment and try to make themselves look somewhat presentable in less than five minutes.

   Simon managed to grab his clothes for the night and remember to feed Leia, who’s unimpressed by the entire thing. That’s somewhat a win in his book.

   He thanks whoever’s out there for Jace’s car being parked down by the street.

 

*~*

 

The world doesn’t take notice to what happened between Jace and Simon. No one even batters an eyelid when the two teachers stumble in together through the doors five minutes before they’re supposed to start their lessons.

   Simon’s whole body feels like it’s on fire. His skin tingles, he wants to pull Jace close and kiss him; kiss that sweet smile on his face, but there’s kids all over and they’re already gambling with fate so he settles on squeezing Jace’s hand with affection pouring from his fingertips.

   ”Come by my office for lunch?” he asks.

   ”Counting on it,” Jace replies with a subtle wink.

    Insufferable.

 

The whole day feels like a whirlwind: everything goes a mile a minute, but Simon’s too happy to care about time running through his fingers. He’s excited about life: for the night, for what comes tomorrow, and there’s nothing that can bring him down from this high.

   In what feels like the blink of an eye, he’s standing down by the stage, fixing his students instruments for the last rehearsal. They’re all dressed up: Simon thinks that they could pass as a real orchestra, they sure have the determination and passion for a real orchestra.

   ”Listen up everyone,” he claps his hands together once the instruments are in tune and ready for the night. ”This is the night. We’ve been practicing for this for months, but don’t let that come in the way: we’re here to have fun. This isn’t the place where I’ll be mad if you play a wrong note in the heat of the moment, this is the place where we all help and encourage each other to make this night unforgettable. We’re here to have fun with performing songs to people, helping the ensemble up on stage with our music.

   What I want to say is that I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far. Proud to see all of you here tonight, ready to kick some ass. And I know, oh I know, we’ll do a great job tonight. I believe in us, guys, and I hope you all believe in yourselves too.”

 

*~*

 

”Hello everyone and welcome to the Idris Elementary School’s annual play!”

   The audience bursts out clapping, causing Lydia to smile wider and with even more fire. She’s a force to be reckoned with, standing on top of the stage with the microphone placed in front of her. ”I’m Lydia Branwell, principal of the school, and I’m happy to see so many of you here tonight. This year, our fantastic drama teacher, Magnus Bane have gone to even greater lengths to give one of the oldest and most beloved classics to life: with a whole new twist, I’m proud to present our school’s take on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Enjoy!”

   She exits the stage to another round of applauds. As she leaves, the lights on the stage dims down enough to make it tough for the audience to see anything even remotely in focus. It’s time.

   Simon gestures for his students to get ready. He places his own violin in place, sending each and every kid a reassuring look, all with a proud smile over his lips.

   One, bright light turns to the stage.

   Simon counts down from three, slow enough so all of the kids can see what he’s doing.

   Everything begins when he reaches zero.

 

The night’s a given success. For being so young are the kids up on stage delivering a solid performance: not much of the original tragedy remains, it’s more comedic undertones to it that fits with the overall mood Magnus hoped to create.

   The audience loves it. They’re laughing in all the right places, clapping and supporting their kids. Simon looks as much at the crowd as he does at the stage when he’s not busy with performing. His own group of students nails their performance; it’s not without faults, but no performance is ever done to complete and utter perfection. He’s just proud they made it through the night with smiles on their faces and laughter in their veins.

   By the time the play’s at the final scene, when the young Romeo gathers his friends and Juliet for one glorious ride into the awaiting sunset, Simon catches a glimpse of a familiar face standing in the outskirts of the stage, hidden from the audience by the curtain.

   Jace gives him a tiny wave.

   Finally being with Jace, feels a lot like riding on a cardboard horse with your best friends to a new, happy life: the best feeling in the world.