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the ways i say i love you

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         1. As a hello

         2. With a hoarse voice, under the blankets

(four years)

They both get nightmares, which makes sense. They’ve both been through hell several times over (once, quite literally) and neither of them have the best track record of healthy coping so - nightmares. They happen.

Jace, ever the soldier, lies braced and tensed through the whole thing, whimpering softly. His fists clench in whatever they find - the sheets, the pillow, once Simon’s wrist which stayed bruised until the next morning. He doesn’t shout or kick like one would expect him to; he stays where he is until it ends or he wakes up.

Simon, however.

Simon probably has nightmares less often than Jace, but his are intense to the point of vomiting - which is a cruel joke for someone who doesn’t actually eat anymore. He fights with the sheets (having ripped a few sets) and kicks and sometimes shouts out like a man in immense pain.

Tonight has been kind to them - Simon hadn’t actually throw up, only gagged a few times and stayed gasping over the toilet for a while just to make sure. The sheets weren’t torn and Jace hasn’t come to bear side-effect bruises of his flailing limbs and the stark white of the bathroom light helps make the images of the nightmare fade away.

Jace is rubbing faint circles into his back as he tries to catch his breath, mumbling quietly while Simon’s nails dig into the porcelain of the bowl. There’s grooves already from gripping so hard in the past nightmares.

This one wasn’t the worst of them - it was clawing his way out of his grave again, the dirt pressing him in and suffocating him, even though as he keeps reminding himself, he doesn’t need to breathe. This one is familiar now; Raphael told him when he first rose that almost everyone had that nightmare and that it’ll go away quickly. Simon now wonders what an immortal considers quick.

The bathroom is quiet but for them and the faint drip of a tap Simon’s been complaining about for ages. Simon finally sags and lets go, taking measured deep breaths and reaching for Jace.

Sometimes Jace isn’t there to reach back. There’s missions that run late and meetings with shadowhunters in different timezones and sometimes it’s just easier for Jace to crash at the Institute. Simon doesn’t blame him for that - it just means that when he reaches without thinking, looking for an unending well of comfort, his hands meet cold tile and the miserable feeling in his chest strengthens.

But when he is there - Jace doesn’t leave him for a second unless he asks, and the first few times he did ask Jace to leave him alone. He warmed Simon some blood and let Simon hop in the shower alone, to both wash away the vomit that missed the toilet bowl and turn the dial to absolute freezing to help make the feeling of the nightmare go away.

“Bed,” Jace says into his ear after a minute of awkwardly hugging while half squatted on the floor. Urging Simon to his feet, they make their way back and Jace tucks the blankets around Simon like a child.

Admittedly, it feels nice to be taken care of like this; Jace pads out to get him blood and Simon listens to the careful clang of a pan on the stove, and feels loved in the simmer that builds up. They can’t make the nightmares go away by magical means - all Magnus recommended was a sleeping draught but that’s more about avoiding the problem than solving it.

After Simon drinks the warmed blood and Jace pulls him close fierce as ever under the comforter, Simon presses into his side with his head pillowed on Jace’s chest, his heartbeat thumping a soothing rhythm under his ear.

“I love you,” he rasps, the sheets a ball in his fist next to his face. Jace holds him tighter and says it into his hair, the breath warm on his scalp, I love you too.  

 

         3. A scream

         4. Over a cup of tea

(eighteen months) 

The paperwork is the worst part about being a shadowhunter, Jace thinks. He’s trained to kill ugly things that prey on people, not write mission report upon mission report.

Of course, the fact that none of it is on paper anymore is nice. He doesn’t have a thousand sheets to accidentally write whatever song lyrics Simon is singing absently in the background over and over, making the page untidy with his scribbling-out or the remarkable amount of correction fluid it would take to cover them all up. The tablets have definitely made things easier and more compact.

But it’s more the fact that Jace has to do it at all that annoys him.

So he takes a day to curl up on their lumpy couch with one of the iPad’s he borrowed from the Institute, yes, Simon, I’m allowed to do that (he’s definitely not) - and just slog his way through the backlog of about three weeks. That means roughly sixteen outstanding reports and a very strong desire to not do any of them.

He manages to push through most of them before the headache that’s been blooming for the past hour really makes itself known; it's probably mostly the strain on his eyes from staring at the screen all day, which is the downside to an all digital reports system.

“You know you really should be taking breaks,” Simon says, as if he can read Jace's mind. He sits down next to Jace and presses a hot mug into his hands. Chamomile.

Jace smiles, incredibly grateful for the man perched next to him on the couch. Even just the smell of it makes his headache ease slightly.

“Thank you,” he says before sipping the hot tea.

“I'm serious, take a break,” Simon tells him again, hand curled absently on Jace's knee. “I have to go give Alec the details about that vamp feud in Harlem and then -”

“- then you're gonna play chess with him for an hour,” Jace interrupts. Why is he surrounded by nerds?

Simon rolls his eyes. “A year ago, he wouldn't have really cared if I died but now he'd have no one else to play with so he has to care.”

“He survived before, he can survive again.” Simon reaches forward to take the mug back, but Jace curls around it, protecting the coveted tea from harm. “Okay, okay, go play your dumb boardgame with my brother.”

“Most people would be happy that their boyfriend gets along with their siblings.”

“And I am but you're both giant dorks and I get dibs on making fun of you.”

Simon rolls his eyes at Jace, but still leans in to kiss him briefly. “See you later,” he says when he finally stands to go.

Jace thinks that now he’ll be able to get through the rest of the reports just fine.

 

         5. Over a beer bottle

         6. On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, the late sunlight glowing in your hair

(five years) 

Days off are somewhat rare for the two of them; with Simon running around as Downworld Ambassador (which is totally a made-up title that, for some reason, has stuck ) and Jace as a shadowhunter in a Post-Valentine world, sometimes it's hard to get time guaranteed to each other.

So when they both manage to line up their schedules to have some random Wednesday morning or Sunday afternoon completely free of duties to the Shadow World as a whole, it’s nice.

The sun’s been shining all day through their tiny window in the living room, casting the whole place in a bright glow; Simon’s not sure how long they have until their dinner reservations (where Simon will order nothing and just bask in the outdoor dining that nice weather makes so attractive), but he knows that he almost doesn’t want to go if he gets to stay like this all evening.

Jace’s hands are firm and strong on his hips, holding him close. They’re turning in soft circles, swaying slightly as they go. The faint sounds of music that Simon had left to play through is quiet in the background but Simon is way more focused on the soft way Jace sings along to the words.

With every turn, Jace ends up with the sun on his face, making his hair shine like spun gold. His angelic heritage is really shining through, Simon thinks, amazed by the way the light shifts across his lover’s face. And again with every turn, Simon ends up in the sunlight streaming in and he’s struck not only by Jace’s beauty, but the fact that Jace’s blood is the thing that lets him stand here, lit up by the early August rays.

It seems like a million years ago that they were in that office, his lips in Clary’s arm, but really, it’s just six; so much has happened since then - Valentine’s death, Simon’s reconciliation with the New York clan, Magnus and Alec’s wedding - Simon almost can’t believe he’s twenty-four, his arms looped around the neck of the love of his life.

Jace stops singing when the song ends and one he doesn’t know begins, and he smiles at him in the way he reserves wholly for Simon.

“We’re gonna miss dinner,” Simon mumbles, the timber low in the quiet of the room.

“Would much rather have you,” he replies, voice just as low.

“Sap,” he says back, voice overly-affectionate.

Jace smirks in a way that says you love it.

Simon does; God help him, he does.

 

         7. As a thank you

         8. As an apology

(three years)

“I’m sorry, I’m going to be late,” Simon says into the receiver, quick and fast the way he does when he’s nervous, "The meeting with Raphael and Luke is going to run over and I really need to be here."

Jace represses his sigh and tells himself not to be annoyed; this written alliance is a huge step forward for the clan and the pack, and Jace knows that Simon is vital as a mediator between the two. Things have been better in recent years, but to have it as a solid and clear agreement will ease the tensions. Maia and Lily Chen are there as witnesses. It’s a big deal.

“It’s okay, Simon,” he assures him, “Just pick up dinner on the way home, and we’re good.”

“Oh my G-God, thank you.” Jace gains a little smile at the successful use of God; he knows Simon’s been practicing. “I really have to go back in now, but I love you!”

“Love you too, Simon,” Jace answers before the call ends.

 

         9. When baking chocolate chip cookies

         10. Not said to me

(three months) 

Jace thinks it’s silly now that he had been nervous on the drive up.

Meeting Simon’s family as his official boyfriend and not as Clary’s - friend, yeah, we met through Clary has been a bit nerve-wracking. He knows that Elaine and Rebecca like him well enough, so coming over for family dinner and looking at Simon’s baby pictures seemed nice until he was halfway to the house.

Then he felt his hands started to tremble a little, which was frustrating as hell - he fights demons and human-shaped monsters, has been through so much trauma and pain and it’s a dinner with people he was already on friendly terms with that sets him off.

But Simon reaches across, and links their hands together and throws him a little smile, private and intimate, and this is still fresh and new but it feels precious and maybe that’s why.

It’s been just over three months since Jace grabbed Simon by the face and kissed him like he’d die right there if he didn’t. And he’s been to the house before, when Simon died but also beyond that - when Simon started seeing his mother again and he needed friends to support him (and divert attention from the fact that he doesn’t eat his meals). But Simon finally blurted out that he was seeing Jace, like dating, I guess? to his mom when they went out for brunch.

Elaine Lewis, who is most likely the best mother in the world, immediately insisted that they come for family dinner as boyfriends, officially and Jace knows she’s spoiled him for whatever reaction that Maryse and Robert will have when they eventually get told.

They field all sorts of questions about their relationship, omitting details like he drank my blood and now he can walk in sunlight and I kill demons for a living . It feels good to be so mundane; he’s not Jace Wayland Morgenstern Herondale Lightwood right now, shadowhunter and brother and parabatai - he’s just Jace, Simon’s boyfriend. It’s so easy in a way that relationships in his world never get to be.

It’s late when they finally leave, having looked at pictures and heard embarrassing stories from Simon’s childhood (both of which include an unsurprising amount of Clary), and played a game of monopoly even though Jace only barely got a grasp of the rules by his fourth pass of Go and still managed to win .

Elaine steps out on the porch with them, Simon’s arms around her like a vice and Jace can see the way he represses his strength so as to not break her in two. “Love you,” he murmurs and Jace’s heart melts.

When Simon moves away, Elaine pulls him in for a hug next, surprising him completely. Jace has never been the most comfortable with touch because of his past, but Elaine’s arms are sure and welcoming and she’s gentle and soft - not profunctionary the way Maryse could be when he was a kid. He squeezes and lets go, the whole thing barely lasting for a few seconds but it means the world to him.

“Be safe!” she calls when they make their way down the little path of the garden, hand in hand, towards Simon’s colourful van.

 

         11. With a shuddering gasp

         12. When we lay together on the fresh spring grass

(one year)

The light filters down, the sky orange tinged as the sun sets. Jace’s eyes track over the clouds above the spring blooming trees.

“Look,” he says, nudging Simon gently, “It’s a dog.”

Below him, barely lifting his head from Jace’s chest to look at the sky, Simon scoffs. “It’s obviously a fox.”

Jace just rolls his eyes.

 

         13. In a letter

         14. A whisper in the ear

         15. Loud, so everyone can hear

(six years)

He had always wanted his wedding to be at Temple - when he was a kid, he imagined marrying Clary under a chuppah, a glass shattering underfoot. Of course, not all things can come to pass the way they’re imagined by an eight year-old brain.

He can’t stand on sacred ground anymore, at least not for very long - he’s practiced and he can last five minutes if he absolutely has to but then the pain gets too much and he needs to hightail it out of there.

And then, he vaguely imagined his wedding to be something like Alec’s first one - all high ceilings and devoid of religious imagery the way Simon knows it, which made him kinda sad. He may not be able to practice traditionally anymore, but he didn’t want to throw out all ties to Judaism when he finally got to tie the knot. His wife always remained faceless, one because there was no woman he felt was close enough to insert, and two because he never imagined he could ever marry a man with the Shadow World Climate on the Gays™ being what it was.

But now - now he knows that he was wrong from his eight year-old self to his eighteen year-old self. Because what unfolds before him is more than he could have ever imagined.

They decide on something small - a mix of Jewish, Shadowhunter and general American wedding traditions with a small assembled crowd. Magnus was able to source a downworlder rabbi - werewolf, nice guy, enthusiastic about all the things Simon and Jace suggested.

It’s a hodge-podge of everything, with a chuppah and a glass to stomp on to Shadowhunter jewellery in Downworlder-positive mentals engraved with runes, and Simon thinks it’s absolutely perfect.

The start of it rushes Simon by, adrenaline pumping through him as they walk down the aisle and the rabbi blesses them. Suddenly it’s time to read the vows and his hands are shaking.

“I know a talk a lot already,” he starts, and a stir of amusement ripples through the crowd. “So if I go off on a tangent, then please stop me.” Jace squeezes his hands where they hang linked between their bodies, a faint smile on his face. “The first time I ever met you, we really really hated each other. Like I could not stand you at all, I thought you were an arrogant piece of crap -”

“You’re really singing my praises, Simon,” Jace mumbles, and it carries in the silence of the room.

“Shut up, I’m getting there -” he answers, the crowd relaxing under the easy banter the two have that can’t even be put aside at the altar. “What I mean is - we’ve come a long way from me thinking you were Clary’s drug dealer. We’ve been through a lot together, the good, the bad and the very bad. Our worlds are not kind places and they’re not kind to each other, but somehow - by some miracle, we’ve made it past the worst of it. It probably helped that we had the advice of the people who did it first -”

Even though Simon doesn’t budge from staring wide-eyed into Jace’s face, he knows instinctively that Magnus and Alec are looking at each other lovingly, their own rings shining on their respective fingers.

“- But having you means the world to me. Even though I have literal forever in front of me, I can’t imagine a world where I don’t promise all of it to you.”

Jace releases his hand to lightly dab at his eye, fingers coming away a little wet and his chuckle heavy sounding. “How do I follow that?”

“You’re the mighty Jace Lightwood, I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

“Jace Lewis,” he corrects, and Simon’s stomach blooms with excitement, being Jace’s husband just in his grasp. Jace clears his throat and starts to speak. “I know we used to not get along at all, but I actually started to like you around the third time you got kidnapped -” Jace smiles wide when Simon’s eyes roll at that, “But I never thought it would be something so important.”

He takes a deep breath. “I’m a very different person from who I was when we first met - I’m better, in a million different ways; as a person and in my beliefs and how I see the world. All of that is because of you. It doesn’t matter that my parents didn’t come today or that we had to streamline a lot of the plans because there’s things you can’t do anymore, because at the end of all of this - I get you. And that’s all that matters.”

Simon feels a little weepy, but he knows if he cries he’ll disturb the very subtle makeup Magnus insisted on putting on him (some mascara can really change a face).

The rest of the ceremony passes in a blur, the simple engraved bangle sliding onto his wrist as easily as Jace’s slides onto his own. The rabbi calls on them to kiss, and they do, and there’s a glass wrapped in clothe by his foot.

As it splitters under him while his hand is in Jace’s, he thinks, I’ve never been more happy.

 

         16. Over and over again, till it’s nothing but a senseless babble

         17. When the broken glass litters the floor

(three weeks)

Simon can smell the blood when he slips into Jace’s room in the Institute. Before now, he’d been shooting for casual, trying to be as unnoticeable as possible while he slipped into the private quarters but distantly as he stands, paralysed by the scent, he thinks that the resounding slam of the door may have shattered any subtlety he had.

His gums tingle at the smell, remembering the give of soft skin and the light-headedness that came with it. He snaps out of it as suddenly as he was entranced, brain finally catching up to the realisation that Jace is bleeding.

He’s slipping into the ensuite attached to the room in seconds, taking in Jace’s slightly trembling back and the cloying smell of blood.

“Jace,” he says, and the man twitches at his name. He goes forward slowly, reaching for him but also testing himself while his instincts tell him to just take. The mirror above Jace is shattered, some glass still stuck in the frame but most of it in the sink and on the floor and - embedded in Jace’s knuckles. Hence the blood.

“C’mon,” he mumbles, “Sit down, let me look.”

Jace is pliant under his hands, Simon easing his feet around the shards of glass on the floor. When Simon has him sitting on the closed toilet, he inspects his knuckles which are glittering pink with fragments of mirror.

“Have you got a first aid kit?”

Jace’s shoulders are slumped inwards, cradling his bleeding hand to his chest. “In the cabinet,” he rumbles, low and tired sounding. Simon carefully opens the door so he doesn’t knock any loose glass from the frame and pulls out the small box.

It takes him a while to pick all the glass out of Jace’s hand, methodical and steady. Jace seems to be inside his own head, the adrenaline of the punch ebbing away now that he’s still. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asks quietly. He has a feeling that Jace is going to say no but he always seems to surprise him.

“It’s just - I was thinking about Sebastian and Valentine, and -” His breath catches and he doesn’t go on, but it’s more than enough for Simon; Simon would have respected Jace not telling him at all.

“They’re both gone now, they can’t hurt us,” Simon tells him, promises almost.

“I know but they already did - Valentine killed me, he nearly killed you - who knows what Sebastian would have done to Clary or Izzy if he had the chance.” Jace turns his face away, before letting out a deep breath.

He’s quiet as Simon keeps digging under his skin with the tweezers from the kit open by his knees as he kneels, next to the shattered mirror on the tiles.

When he finally speaks again, his free hand touches Simon's face. “Your fangs are out.”

He moves his tongue over the teeth, tasting the tinge of venom clinging to them; he didn’t realise they’d come out, too busy focusing on Jace’s hand. “Sorry, I can’t put them away, the smell -”

“It’s okay,” Jace says, hand falling away from his face. Even though Simon is always cold, his skin feels especially chilled now that the fingers are gone. “Is it hard? Doing this?”

Simon shrugs, glad that Jace seems to be focusing on something other than his anger and wherever he was lost inside his own head. “At first, I didn’t think I could stand it, but it got easier. Do you remember when I first turned, ans Clary started bleeding during training and I had to leave straight away?”

Jace huffs a laugh, quiet and soft. Simon takes the sterile wipes from the kit, ready to rip them open when Jace says, “You know I could just use my stele, right?”

Simon rips the packaging anyways. “Just let me take care of you, asshole.”

Jace twitches at the sting but says nothing more about Simon playing nurse. When his hand is finally clean, the flow from the cuts sluggish, he tops it with a cloth bandage even though he knows Jace will just use a rune when they leave the bathroom. He kisses the wrapped knuckles softly, careful of his fangs which still refuse to cooperate.

He looks up at Jace and he’s wearing an expression Simon wants to memorise forever. He leans up and kisses Jace’s forehead, an intimate show of affection before dragging himself up from his knees. “Go lie down while I clean up in here.”

Jace makes a face like he’s going to argue but shuts it down after a second and slips quietly into the next room.

He sweeps all the glass carefully into one pile with the flat of his hand, not minding the shallow cuts that barely bleed before they heal over again. He’ll need some kind of brush to pick it all up but that can wait for now. He picks the glass out of the sink and adds it to the neat pile, before wiping one bloody handprint from the edge.

As he washes his own hands, he realises how gone on Jace he is; he just sat and fought back all sorts of cravings to pick glass out of his skin because he punched a mirror in anger. They’ve been together for less than a month and Simon already wants to give Jace the whole entire world.

And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

 

         18. From very far away

         19. With no space left between us

(minus one month)

“Of all the doors, you just had to pick the tiny janitor's closet -”

“We had a horde of demons on our ass, Jace, I wasn’t about to check every door -”

“If you had just listened to me when I said to go left, we wouldn’t be stuck in here -”

“Jace, just shut up!” Simon shouts, tipping his head upwards. They’re packed so close together that if he didn’t, he’d be shouting directly into Jace’s face and while he really does not like the guy in this moment, that’s just plain rude. “We’re in this mess now and we’re just gonna have to wait until the others come and find us.”

Jace glares at him, but doesn’t argue. “Have you got your phone?”

Simon shoves his hand towards his jeans pocket, very aware of how he has to brush his wrist on Jace’s hip to get at it. He pats his thigh, only to realise his pocket is empty. “Shit, no. It’s gone. I must have dropped it. What about yours?”

Jace pulls it out from behind his back, and the screen is almost completely white with the amount of cracks. Every inch of the device is shattered. “It broke when that demon attacked me.”

“You mean knocked you on your ass -”

“Simon, we are stuck in a confined space for any undetermined amount of time with no way to call for help, now is not the time to piss me off -”

And maybe it's just because they’re in such close quarters, but Simon has never gotten a good chance to look at Jace’s eyes; the brown section is bigger than he realised, taking up a third of his whole iris, surrounded by an icy blue.

“Your eyes are different colours,” Simon blurts out, interrupting whatever Jace was saying. Jace furrows his brow in confusion. “I mean, I knew they were different colours, but I’ve just never gotten the chance to look at them properly because I don’t make it a priority to stare at you or anything -” Oh, God, Simon thinks to himself, please shut up. “Anyways, they’re different colours, it’s not important, what were you saying?”

Jace looks bemused by his whole ramble, but as he opens his mouth to respond, they hear Clary’s voice in the distance. Jace gives him another weird look before he reaches for the door handle and they spill out of the tiny closet and into the open air again.

 

         20. As we huddle together, the storm raging outside

         21. Over your shoulder

         22. Muffled, from the other side of the door

(six months)

Sometimes things go wrong; Simon is okay with that (but also not okay with that, because he is an inherently anxious person, but he’s okay enough ). That’s life. Sometimes Downworlders fight amongst themselves and sometimes Jace comes back from patrol bruised and achy and sometimes Simon forgets to fed because his mind is a million miles away on something trivial.

But some wrongs - they’re scary; missions that are too close to call, walking alone at night in unwelcoming neighbourhoods, when figures slink after him in the dark for one quick glimpse of the alleged Daylighter.

This moment right now is a scary wrong.

Simon is pacing back and forth in the dark paneled corridor of the Institute, trying very hard not to eavesdrop on the room behind the north-facing wall, but even without enhanced senses the sound of voices is clear.

Simon knew that what they had, the peace and quiet of their relationship which was still under wraps as far as most people were concerned, was too good to last; they’ve been getting sloppy, not paying attention to themselves and how they act in the Institute. Six months is a long time to keep it hidden from a very observant majority, and apparently six months is all they get, because he can hear the harsh tones behind the door and he knows the ruse is up.

Alec and Izzy keep trying to talk over Maryse on Jace’s behalf, but the matriarch refuses to listen to them, and Simon knows that while they’ve had their own battles with their mother, they can’t fight Jace’s for him.

Jace has been completely silent this whole time, not arguing back or interrupting. Robert hasn’t said anything either, but Simon thinks that’s because he’s a coward. It doesn’t feel nice to think so ill of his boyfriend’s parents, but when they’ve hauled everyone in for a family meeting on the last day of being in New York just to tear into Jace - he can't exactly feel positive towards them.

He had started to warm up to Maryse a little, since she seemed to be trying harder to understand Downworlders and she’d been kinder about Alec and Magnus, but apparently she’s done a U-turn back again, not able to squash down all of those deep seated prejudices for more than one queer son and his Downworld boyfriend.

“- What do you want me to say?” Jace finally interjects. Simon is impressed that he’s lasted this long given how short-tempered he can be at times. “This isn’t about you - this is my life and I love Simon -”

“You’ve jumped on this trend that your brother’s started - Shadowhunters are a dying race and you’re all fooling around with Downworlders as if you don’t care about the future of our people. One relationship between a Shadowhunter and a Downworlder is of little consequence but when everyone starts abandoning their duties -”

Abandoning their duties? In the last six months, I’ve been on more successful missions than before the Mortal War, Alec has innovated the running of the Institute, and relations with all of the Downworld have never been better -”

“I can see why -”

“But you can’t!” Jace explodes, and Simon can see in his mind's eye how Jace’s fists would be clenched around nothing, shaking with a barely contained fury. “You still think Downworlders are below us after everything!”

Maryse starts to speak again but Jace has apparently said all that he needs to say. He says "I'm done with this" and he’s in the hallway with Simon, the office door slamming behind him.

“Let’s go,” Jace tells him, grabbing his hand in a tight grip and and pulling him away from the room that has now fallen silent, mismatched eyes blazing. He looks ready to fight the whole entire world, enough that everyone who looks at where they’re joined together as they pass looks away when they catch the expression of absolute fire on his face.

“Where are we going?” Simon asks. They’ve made it to the strategy room, where people look up to stare openly at them, Jace’s pace and posture defiant and Simon in tow by their entwined hands.

“Anywhere that isn’t the Institute,” he mumbles, pushing the heavy doors open and spilling onto the steps which are dripping in sunlight. It feels hot on his skin as it pours down on them, mid-summer bright and harsh after the indirect lighting inside

Simon tugs Jace’s hand and pulls them to a halt just before the gate boundary. “Wait, wait, stop for a second.” Jace looks at him with eyes still filled with something, almost pleading. “She’s wrong , okay, she’s so wrong about everything - she spends all her time in Idris and she doesn’t know her own kids at all, and she’s racist and bigoted and she might be your mom but you don’t have to forgive her for what she said -”

He feels desperate, holding Jace’s hand between his own two now, desperate to remind Jace - whose parental figures never cease to disappoint him - that they’re in this together. Simon is on his side.

Jace looks away for a second and his shoulders slump, the fight completely knocked out of him in the glow of the evening sky. “It’s just - I thought she changed.”

“I know,” Simon replies, voice laced through with understanding. “Let’s go back to the boathouse.”

 

         23. Through a song

(minus twenty minutes)

The lights are dim when he arrives, Simon sitting perched on a little stool with his guitar balanced on his lap. Him having a regular gig at the Hunter’s Moon is new enough to still be exciting but old enough that Simon is at ease. The crowd is filled with regulars drawn in by Simon’s endearing charm and self-deprecation, comfortably packed.

He wasn’t sure if he was even going to make it tonight - Alec had questioned why he was so eager to finish the mission but Jace hadn’t given him an answer. Really, he just didn’t want to miss Simon’s set but explaining why you wanna see the performance of the guy you supposedly dislike isn’t an easy thing to do.

He slides onto the bar and Maia puts a beer in front of him without missing a beat. Simon is talking between songs on stage, a little fast the way he always is, but the crowd loves it, thinks Simon is just quirky in that he has to get all of the words out of his throat before the whole thought escapes him. Maia gives Jace a look that he chooses to ignore because they’ve had this conversation already.

So what if Jace has a something for Simon - not a crush, because he’s a grown ass man and he doesn’t get crushes , but not feelings because Jace Wayland doesn’t catch feelings. It’s just - something. Something small and inconsequential and nothing a few faceless hook ups won’t cure him of.

Simon pauses for a moment, tuning his guitar and strumming as the crowd quietly waits, talking amongst themselves. He hums the note to match it, the mic just barely catching the vibration, and he looks up and speaks again.

“Okay so to finish up tonight - this is another original,” he laughs quietly when there’s small whoops in the crowd that Jace guesses are from Izzy and Clary sitting somewhere closer to the front. The regulars seem pleased as well, even if they’re not as vocal as those two. “It seems a little sad but that’s just how life is sometimes.” Simon’s excited smile turns a little blue, and he looks down as he strums.

Jace feels his whole insides knot at the chords, suddenly breathless. You’re like a blow to the head, Simon sings, his voice and instrument the only sound in the whole room, Blood rush, / And I’m bleeding myself dry.

Listening to this feels painful. It feels like he’s intruding on something personal in a room of fifty people. He wonders, vaguely, if this is about Clary even if that ship sunk a long time ago. Maybe Maia? Again, that feels like forever ago, and Jace knows Simon can be reckless with his heart but he doesn’t think he’d be so reckless to debut a new song about the bartender.

You like to pretend that you’re invincible, he croons along with the soft guitar, But I know that you’re not. Simon glances across at the bar, suddenly finding him in the crowd. His eyes bore into Jace’s for a barely a second before he looks away again and sings I can still taste you on my lips sometimes, / So I’m guess not invincible either.

It’s like a confession, the loudest confession that Jace has ever heard veiled in song lyrics played to a crowd of people who don’t know what he means. Instinctively, Jace feels the sting and rush of fangs and venom in his wrist, a phantom sensation that floors him. It all clicks together like the final puzzle piece, like the whole world has finally been righted for the first time in his life.

In that moment, he does feel invincible.

The rest passes in a blur - Simon thanking the crowd and the Hunter’s Moon. Everyone dissolves down into their own conversations again, groups crowding more clustered around their tables while others take leave with loudly bidden farewells from across the room. Simon starts to dismantle his own gear from the Hunter’s Moon’s stuff, the lights that were illuminating him off and throwing him into the dim with the rest of the patrons.

“So has the other shoe dropped or - ?” Maia asks to his left, tone very clearly saying I told you so. He doesn’t answer her, just watches Simon chug from an opaque bottle and wipe his mouth. He hops off-stage, disappears through the back door and into the alley outside. Then he finally meets Maia’s eye, her expression smug. “Go get him, Wayland.”

Jace gives her a look he hopes is unamused, but slides off the stool and weaves through the people standing around to get to the backdoor.

It’s now or never.

 

         24. Without really meaning it

         25. In a blissful sigh as you fall asleep

(two and a half years)

The book has tipped over onto Jace’s chest when Simon comes home.

He’s glad to see Jace getting some sleep; the nightmares last night were especially bad, enough that Simon convinced Jace to ask Alec to reassign his duties for the day because he was exhausted.

The muted greens of The Hobbit is gently rising and falling with each breath. Simon just watches him breathe in and out for a moment, feeling calm and content. Then he moves the book and drapes a blanket over Jace’s body.

He starts to stir, and he tracks Simon with dazed, bleary eyes. “Simon?”

Simon shushes him quietly. “Go back to sleep, babe.” Jace makes a vaguely agreeable noise in response and rolls over, clutching the blanket closer to himself.

“Love you,” he mumbles, sinking quietly back into slumber.

 

         26. Broken, as you clutch the sleeve of my jacket and beg me not to leave

         27. A taunt, with one eyebrow raised and a grin bubbling at your lips

         28. When I am dead

(after)

Simon likes autumn; everything turns from green to yellow almost overnight. It always looks stark against the grey of the city, gleaming metal and cracked concrete.

There’s a little patch in Central Park that he likes to visit during this time of year. Him and Clary found it as adventurous fourteen year olds, abusing the new freedom given to them by their moms about going into the city completely alone. It’s a little ways into the trees, a small clearing where wildflowers grow in the summer.

Clary liked to draw in there, and Simon would just laze like a cat in the sunlight, arm pillowed under his head and eyes closed. They spent hours there sometimes, doing nothing and feeling completely content

In autumn, the circling trees shed their leaves and make an orange-brown carpet underfoot. The crunch is satisfying, no matter his age - you don’t grow out of some childish habits. It’s overcast, so there is no overhanging sun to bath the place in gold the way Simon wishes it would.

There’s a small cross plunged into the far tree line. Simon makes his way over to it and sits down on the leaf littered ground. Burnt into the wood is Jace Lewis, the letters unsteady from Clary’s trembling hand around her stele. It hasn’t rotted, thanks to a charm from Magnus.

He brought Jace here at the start of their first summer together. He’d been so hesitant to bring him; not just because it was formerly his and Clary’s place, but also because it was still hard to venture into Central Park after the mess of his deal with the Seelie Queen. But he pushed through, leading Jace by the hand into the little meadow.

When Jace died, they all trooped out here and marked this spot as his. The Institute threw a full funeral with all the trimmings for him, wrapped in white silk, and Simon had no say as a grieving widower. He attended the funeral there and was respectful but he didn’t consider it Jace’s real funeral. A ceremony, maybe. But not the truest thing.

Jewish tradition teaches that one of the most important commandments to be followed is finding the final resting place of a loved one. So he picks the little clearing where him and Jace lay in the sun together, so filled with happiness, and Jace’s body may be elsewhere, but this is where Simon considers his gravesite.

Simon misses him. It’s faded from how intense that feeling of mourning used to be, but it is still there. They got forty years together, Simon’s wedding ring a constant around his finger for thirty four of them. It still aches when he takes it off, even if it’s been over a decade since he died.

When they first came here, the clearing was filled with sunlight, even if it was still cold. Simon hammered the little marker into the ground, and Clary carved it when he stood up from his knees, her fingers boney and aged. Izzy curled her hand into his, grasp as soft as the first day they met, while Alec and Magnus stood arms around each other on his other side, Clary's place a void between them and Simon. They’re all old now, and Simon still looks eighteen. They have grey hairs and Simon still gets ID’d when buying things.

Clary had reached into her bag and pulled out a fifth of whiskey, and poured it out over the ground for Jace. She passed it back to Magnus, who passed it to Alec, who hesitated in passing it to Simon, but just like the other two, Simon swallowed the mouthful with a wince. Izzy took it then and had her turn, before Clary shoved it back into her bag.

“Ave atque vale,” she muttered, and all of them, including Simon, chorused Hail and Farewell after her.

Now he’s alone, on the anniversary of Jace’s death, surrounded the beautiful colours of dying trees, and he misses his husband.

 

         29. Slowly, the words dripping from your tongue like honey

         30. Too quick, mumbled into your scarf

         31. In awe, the first time you realised it

         32. In a way I can’t return

(minus four months)

Clary marches into the room, but Simon can barely see her because he’s dying. His neck is split open and he’s not sure what will happen first; will he bleed out or suffocate?

She pleads with him, the skin of her arm broken and he can already taste her, the thought of her intoxicating. She somehow smells like sunlight and Simon thinks he might be too dizzy from the blood loss for that to ever make sense.

He bites, regretfully, he gives in to the hunger and bites and she gasps but then he’s lost in the flood of her body, like a tide coming in.

When he’s ripped away, too soon - because one bite could never be enough - she morphs and Simon thinks maybe he really is drowning because Jace is the one next to him. The fog clears and he knows they’ve done something they can’t take back.

 

         33. On a post-it note

         34. Before we jump

(nine months)

They’re running, feet pounding under them. Simon could go faster, but he’s not leaving Jace behind.

They come to a cliff’s edge, the water a shining blue below them. The sun sends light glittering across it, almost blinding. A year ago, he would already be dust.

Their pursuers are gaining on them fast. “You ready?” Jace asks, his hand outstretched for Simon’s. Simon takes it.

They jump together.

 

        35. As a goodbye