“A kiss,” the Seelie Queen smiled, and although it was ethereally beautiful, there was no warmth to it, only a strange kind of hunger. “A kiss is all I require, and you will be released.”
Jace’s gaze flicked from the Queen to his companions. Clary looked bewildered, as did Simon, who, Jace noticed, had moved closer to her side at the mention of a kiss. Izzy, knowing Seelies the way she did, appeared much more suspicious, and they exchanged a look that clearly said, What does she really want?
On Jace’s other side stood Alec and Magnus, both visibly on their guard. The Seelies had taken their weapons, and Jace knew Alec had to feel naked without his bow or at least a Blade. It was Magnus who tilted his head and asked casually, “A kiss, Your Majesty? Do you have anyone in particular in mind?”
“You know our customs well, warlock.” The Seelie Queen’s smile sharpened, and Jace hated that they had no choice but to humor her. Not even the High Warlock of Brooklyn was strong enough to get them out of this trap. “I won’t be bought off with just any kiss.”
Affecting an air of nonchalance Jace rolled his eyes. “So what is it? Just tell us, so we can get out of here.”
“Hey, I’ll kiss Clary, no problem!” Simon piped up, and this time Jace’s eyeroll was genuine. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Alec’s face showing a similar fond exasperation, and they shared a look of complete understanding.
It faded quickly, however, when the Seelie Queen laughed, a sound that held no trace of real amusement. “Now where would be the fun in that?”
Jace was not keen on dying, but some days he was glad that he was mortal. Too often immortals, be they Seelie, vampire or warlock, seemed utterly bored with life, having seen and experienced everything. How Magnus had managed to stay so sane was a mystery to Jace - well, for a relative value of sane. At least he didn’t enjoy toying with people, didn’t need to get his kicks from the torment of 'lesser beings'. Although he was dating Alec…
Despite himself, Jace chuckled. Yeah, being around Alec for an extended period of time was many things, but boring certainly wasn’t among them. He shook his head and glanced at his parabatai, shrugging when Alec met his gaze curiously. This was not the moment for a discussion on the effects of immortality on people’s personalities. He knew that the topic was a sore one, considering that it put an unavoidable expiration date on Alec’s relationship with Magnus.
“Enough of this. Just tell us who,” Alec now demanded irascibly from the Queen, bringing Jace back to the present. “Whoever it is, they’ll kiss, you can gawk, and we’ll get out of your hair.”
“Well, I’m willing to kiss anyone, except for Alec,” Izzy stated calmly, flipping her hair back. Then she paused and added thoughtfully, “Actually…”
Alec sputtered, but before the Lightwood siblings could start bickering, the Queen interrupted, “No, I require something else. From someone a little less… generous.”
For some reason her eyes, disconcertingly old in her young face, came to rest on Alec, and Jace had to suppress the urge to come to his parabatai’s defense. Alec was generous, to a fault even, he just hid it better than most people. But that wasn’t what the Queen meant, of course. She wanted to see someone squirm, and Izzy wouldn’t give her that.
At least the Queen finally appeared ready to come to the point, leaning back on her throne and gesturing lazily in Alec’s direction. “I want something… illicit. A kiss of deep, forbidden desire.”
“Are fairies homophobic?” Jace could hear Simon whisper to Clary, but his focus was on Alec, who seemed torn between fury and mortification.
Trying to divert the Queen’s attention, Jace spoke up, “I could kiss Clary? She has a boyfriend, and we did think that we were siblings until recently - that should qualify as illicit…”
Not that he had much hope of success, except to get a rise from Simon, which was always fun. As expected the Queen barely spared him a glance, replying dismissively, “You desire her, yes, but it’s not true, not deep. Not like his...”
With that she turned back to Alec, and irrationally Jace felt childishly insulted. Clary was the first woman he’d ever let himself love, shouldn’t that count for something?
“Well, Alexander,” Magnus interrupted his sulking, stepping closer and cupping his boyfriend’s glowering face with his immaculately manicured hands. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”
“Oh, how precious!” Everyone’s heads whipped around when the Seelie Queen giggled, a musical laugh that sent icy shivers of dread down Jace’s spine. She was pointing between Alec and Magnus, her eyes sparkling with life for the first time, and Jace knew that this was it, this was what she’d been working towards. “It’s not you he desires most, warlock. Or is it?”
She fixed Alec with a challenging stare, and much to Jace’s surprise his parabatai lowered his eyes to the ground, even as he bit out stubbornly, “Of course it is! Magnus is my boyfriend, I love him. I… I desire him.”
He visibly fought to get the words out, and Jace had to suppress the urge to reach out to offer comfort. Instead he rested a palm against the rune on his side and willed Alec to feel his support through their bond. He wasn’t sure if it worked, but Alec did look up, his eyes flicking over to Jace, and the naked vulnerability in them hit him like a punch in the gut. There was something going on here, something the Seelie Queen knew and Jace didn’t. Magnus, however, seemed to have an idea, if the pain Jace saw flitting across his face was any indication. Then a mask of studied indifference shrouded the warlock’s features, and Alec visibly flinched and drew away.
Although he didn’t know why his parabatai reacted this way, this was more than Jace could stand, and he stepped to Alec’s side, glowering at the Queen on her throne as he demanded, “What do you want from him?”
Again the Seelie Queen laughed. “I want him to kiss the one he most desires. If he doesn’t, you won’t be free.” Another calculating glance at Alec, who was deathly pale. “So choose wisely, Shadowhunter.”
Alec seemed frozen, eyes darting back and forth between the Queen, Magnus and Jace, but it wasn’t until Jace caught his parabatai’s shame-filled gaze that he finally understood.
“You…” His voice failed him, and he continued in a whisper, “It’s me. You want me. Even now.”
His voice sounded rough in his own ears, and Alec turned away, suddenly seeming smaller than a man of his stature had any right to look. Before he could think about it, Jace’s hand shot out and grabbed his parabatai's arm, whirling him around to face him. Alec’s posture went rigid, eyes looking everywhere except at Jace, and somehow that struck Jace as completely unbearable.
“Hey. Alec. Parabatai.” At this, Alec flinched, but he did look up, and Jace added softly, “It’s alright. We’ll get through this, together, like always.”
With that he pressed his lips to Alec’s.
He had to stretch to do so, which was strange enough, but not as strange as the feeling of utter rightness that settled over him the moment he felt Alec’s mouth open under his in a surprised “Oh!”
Their tongues touched, and then there was no holding back from either of them. Eyes sliding shut, Jace wrapped his arms around Alec’s neck, felt his parabatai’s hands settle firmly on his lower back, and they fell into a kiss that was simultaneously sweeter and more intense than anything Jace had ever experienced before. They were committing the ultimate taboo, breaking a Law so old no one even knew its origins, and they were doing so to satisfy the whims a capricious immortal, yet all Jace knew in that moment was that he was glad, madly, selfishly glad that he got to have this. Got to have Alec, even if it was just for this one kiss.
It ended as naturally as it had begun, turned into an embrace like so many before, Jace fitting perfectly into the circle of Alec’s arms, his head in the crook of Alec’s neck, Alec’s breath against his skin as he inhaled deeply. Their bond was warm and steady between them, their hearts beating as one, and while Jace knew that nothing was ever going to be the same again, that this moment would have repercussions neither one of them could foresee, he gave his parabatai a small smile. “See, it’s alright.”
Alec’s lips, still swollen from Jace’s kiss, quirked in a wry smirk at the obvious lie before he stepped away, shaking his head sadly. It felt almost unnatural to no longer be touching him, but Jace pulled himself together and turned to the Seelie Queen with a flourish, asking with more calm than he felt, “Are you happy now?”
“Yes, this has proven very entertaining indeed,” the fairy replied, cold amusement dancing in her old eyes. “I almost regret giving you my word that you could leave, I think I would quite like to see what happens next.”
Suddenly enraged, at her callousness, at the nonchalance with which she’d manipulated them, Jace started towards her, but Alec’s hand on his shoulder stopped him in his tracks, its weight familiar and calming. His parabatai was all stiff dignity when he bowed to the Queen. “Unfortunately for you, you did give us your word. And we’re leaving now.”
“Alright, you are released,” she replied reluctantly, her obvious regret making Jace spitefully glad. At a gesture from his Queen Meliorn handed them their weapons, and Jace couldn’t quite suppress his anger as he glared at the Seelie, although he knew it was unfair to blame him for the Queen’s mind games. No one in their group was quite looking at each other, except for Clary and Simon, who were holding hands. Jace waited for a pang of jealousy that never came, his eyes instead wandering back to Alec. His parabatai was trailing after Magnus with a forlorn look on his face that made Jace want to reach out and erase it. Before today he wouldn't have hesitated to do so, but now...
Behind them, the Seelie Queen laughed mockingly. Closing his fist over the comfortingly solid hilt of the Blade at his side, he wished he could ram it through her self-satisfied smirk. As if he'd heard his thoughts, Alec turned slightly, hand on his bow, and in his eyes Jace could read the same conflicting emotions that were swirling through him. Then the corners of his mouth lifted, a shivery, timid thing that nevertheless uncurled something inside Jace, something he'd felt for the first time when he tasted Alec's lips.
Jace smiled, thinking how disappointed the Queen would be if she knew what he was beginning to let himself believe.
That maybe, just maybe, his earlier promise hadn't been a lie after all. Maybe they would get through this. Together.