His heart thuds inside his chest, pounding hard but steady. He feels nothing but a hungry determination in his veins as Jace steps outside of the Lightwood manor. His runes are all fresh, his body equipped with the sharpest weapons. Jace is ready. Today this ends.
Dawn hasn’t quite broken when Jace sneaks out. There is still a cover of darkness overhead. The vibrant country of Idris is dimmed by shadows and silence at this hour. Every other Shadowhunter is peacefully asleep, secure in the protection of the glass demon towers.
Every Shadowhunter but one.
Jace feels it, the hum of his prescence nearby before someone drops down from one of the large ash trees lining the street.
Alec. Blocking his way.
His parabatai straightens up, his hazel eyes narrowed in anger. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Jace?”
“Out for a walk,” Jace grunts.
He tries to wind around him, but Alec’s hand clamps down on his shoulder, stopping him again. His grip is tight, fingers digging into Jace’s skin. Alec’s rage simmers from the other end of their bond. Not the first time, Jace curses how open their link had become in the past few months. He can feel everything that Alec feels.
Anger. Disbelief. Betrayal.
“Let go of me,” Jace mutters. He can’t meet Alec’s eyes right then.
Alec drops his am, though his intense stare is just as piercing into him. “You’re all geared up,” he says flatly, almost an observation. “Runes activated. For a walk.”
Jace’s jaw clenches. “Is that a crime?”
A sharp exhale. “Look at me, Jace.”
He can’t. Jace knows he can’t. One look into his parabatai’s eyes and he will feel his steely resolve crack.
“You think I don’t know what you’re about to do?” Alec continues furiously, his voice raising as it carries heat. “Even though I didn’t receive a lovely goodbye letter, I know you!”
“Then you know why I have to do this!” Jace snaps. “And you won’t change my mind, Alec.”
“Out of all the stupid things you’ve done in the name of vengeance—Jace, this is suicidal. There are other ways to stop Valentine. Ways that aren’t going to get you killed. Think about what you’re doing!”
Jace’s head snaps up, finally meeting his parabatai’s eyes. The fire blazing in Alec’s gaze is furious and desperate. Jace understands that, because his own soul has been burning just the same with this decision. This is something he has to do, even if he costs his own life. Especially then.
“I have thought about it!” Jace shouts. “It’s all I have thought about since the first time I failed to kill him. If I had done it then, all those Downworlders would still be alive! Jocelyn might still be alive. Magnus wouldn’t have been tortured—”
Jace shakes his head, overwhelmed in that moment by all the blood on his hands because of that man. His father in almost every sense. “No. I’m going to end this. Today.”
Alec’s hand streaks out, grabbing a hold of his jaw before Jace can break their gaze again. He has never witnessed Alec Lightwood beg, but right then his eyes are pleading Jace with everything he has to listen to him. Alec's desperation through their bond nearly drowns out Jace's own.
“Jace, none of those things are your fault,” he says fiercely. “Valentine manipulated you, like he has manipulated all of us as pawns in his plans. You can regret the things you’ve done. The Angel knows I do. But you can’t pay for his sins with your life.”
Why not? His mind demands. If there is anyone deserving of atonement, it’s him. His sins may be less than Valentine’s, if such acts can be measured that way, but Jace is still guilty of hurting others. Hurting strangers as well as the people closest to him—those he has sworn to protect.
Jace hasn’t forgotten the fight he and Alec once had, the worst they have ever had. You lied to me. You betrayed me. For as long as he lives, Jace will never forget that look in Alec’s eyes at the gate of the City of Bones.
It’s a lot like how Alec is glaring at him now.
Jace has inflicted deeper wounds on his own parabatai than any demon ever could. How, Jace wonders, can he claim to be untainted by Valentine when he caused Alec to put a knife to his throat and nearly pushed his parabatai to the point of no return?
“That’s not what I’m doing,” Jace retorts, fully aware that Alec can see straight through him even as he says it. “I’m going to kill him. He is going to pay for what he’s done. I’ll make sure of that.”
Jace turns away and forces his feet forward before Alec can say another word. He is doing the right thing. No one can defeat Valentine except for him. As much as he loathes it, Jace knows how that man's twisted mind works. This burden should be his alone, a small price he has to pay to fix what’s been broken in their world. The lives he's taken and the destruction he's wielded have all been possible because of him—Valentine's prized experiment.
He can't let Alec stop him. His best friend knows just what to say to make him question himself. He always has.
Jace strides ahead, but he only makes it a few steps. The early morning is quiet enough around them for Jace to hear Alec’s teeth grind together. Frustration beats at him from their bond.
But that isn’t what makes Jace stumble. All at once, he feels Alec’s anger recede like a wave retreating from the shore. Underneath it is a wealth of such profound sorrow and hurt it squeezes the air out of Jace’s lungs.
He halts, resisting the urge to keel over at the agony he experiences from his parabatai. This pain is buried deep, coming from somewhere inside Alec. And the worst part is when Jace realizes it is because of him.
“You left everyone a letter,” Alec says quietly. His voice is barely audible, yet it carries straight to Jace's chest like heavy stones weighing him down, drowning him. “Isabelle. Max. Clary. Hell, even Simon was mentioned. You said goodbye to all of them and the only thing I get from you is a footnote in Izzy’s letter: take care of Alec for me. He’ll need you.”
Alec cuts off before his voice can crack, but Jace feels it in his own chest. The falter, all the pain. “You can’t even look at me right now. You were sending yourself on a suicide mission and there was nothing, not a single word, you could leave me with. I thought you loved me, parabatai.”
Without realizing it, Jace’s fingers are pressing into their mark. There’s a stark fear that lives inside him since the day he almost lost Alec—almost lost the most valuable, precious thing that has ever belonged to him. That fear threatens to consume him in its darkness every single day. He’s already lost Alec so many times, more than his parabatai understands. He couldn’t bear to say goodbye to him forever.
Jace turns around. His vision is blurred by tears, but he knows Alec’s face as well as his own, every line of it beautiful and familiar. He can imagine the anguish there, all because of him. “I do love you, Alec,” he says softly. “More than anyone. How could you doubt me?”
“You made me a vow,” Alec answers. “Where thou diest, will I die, and there I will be buried. You were going to break that today to sacrifice yourself, again. You were going to leave me behind—again! And you want to know why I’m doubting you?”
Alec steps forward, bringing himself closer to where Jace stands frozen until he can clutch his arms, as if Alec can keep him planted there forever if he grips tight enough. “If you have to do this, let me come with you. We fight together.”
“No,” Jace murmurs.
Alec’s eyes darken. “Jace—”
“You’re right,” he says, “I did make a vow. To protect you. I have to do this on my own, Alec. This way no one else is going to get hurt.”
Alec’s hands clench around his arms. He seems a step away from shaking him. “No, you don’t. I let you go with Valentine alone last time. I’m not going to lose you again, Jace. You’re not going to fight him without me.”
Jace closes his eyes. He is trembling all over, rattling in his bones. He hears Alec say his name, but everything else is dwarfed by the power emerging from somewhere deep within. Jace has only felt this out of control once—that dark night on the Institute's rooftop as Alec and Clary's screams rang in his ears, pain exploding in their skulls by Azazel's torture on them. He feels it again now, his blood set ablaze with the need, above all else, to keep those he loves safe.
He has to go. He has to protect Alec.
It’s as unpredictable as it is powerful—a current that is the closest thing to heavenly fire he has ever known, smoldering through his body. His runes ignite. His skin crawls with invisible, electric coils of golden fire. If he could see it, Jace pictures his eyes flaring gold as well.
In a split second, Jace rips himself out of Alec’s iron hold on his arms. He flips through the air in one graceful arc and lands several feet away. His blood is still alive with heated lightning when Jace stands up and looks at his stunned parabatai across from him.
Alec still has his hands spread out. Jace catches a glimpse of his palms glistening gold before it blinks away. “By the Angel,” Alec breathes, eyes wide.
Jace nods. He takes a few breaths to bring himself back, the heavenly fire fading out of his system just as quick as it overcame him. “I have a power Valentine doesn’t understand. He won’t see me coming.”
Alec curls his hands into fists before he crosses his arms over his chest. His shock is quickly chased away by his returning frustration. “Just because you have those powers doesn’t mean you know how to use them. Valentine is a madman. He’s unpredictable.”
“I know how he—”
Alec keeps talking, barreling over him. “Do you remember why you asked me to be your parabatai?” He pauses as Jace does, his hazel eyes glinting as when Alec knows he has the upper hand. “You were the best, even then. The strongest, fiercest anyone had ever seen. And yet you still came to me and said…”
“’I need you’.” Jace whispers.
Alec nods. “That’s why I said yes. Because I knew we would always be better together. No matter how strong you think you are, you aren’t infallible, Jace.” Alec locks their eyes, his own brimming with the same determination in Jace’s soul. “Let me help you. I’ll watch your back. You can drive the blade in Valentine’s heart if you wish.”
No. It doesn’t matter how right Alec is about them as a team. They’re an unstoppable force when they work together, but not like this. Not with him. “I can’t let him near you. It’s too dangerous.”
Alec's lips flatten into a frown. “I can take care of myself, Jace.”
He scoffs, but the sound is strangled, his throat too tight to breathe. “I know what a capable warrior you are, parabatai. This isn’t about that!”
“Then what is it about, Jace?” Alec demands, his eyes narrowed as he closes in on what Jace is keeping from him. The truth. “Tell me!”
The words are pulled out from behind his teeth. Jace speaks to the ground, shame crawling out from the uncomfortable knot in his gut and wrapping around him.
“With him, you aren’t just my strength, Alec,” he says lowly. “You’re also my greatest weakness.”
“What are you talking about?” Alec asks. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t understand.
Don't make me say it, Jace thinks. His eyes squeeze shut for a moment. This is unbearable. He'd rather walk straight into any battle, right into Valentine's army of demons or the monster himself. He is brave enough for that, because death is easy. He has prepared for it since he was eight years old.
He once dreamed of going out in a blaze of glory. Lately Jace just made peace with a quiet execution and for his death to atone for his mistakes, in some measure. He'd die for his loved ones. He'd throw himself in front of any Downworlder with the knowledge that their lives meant just as much, if not more, than his own.
But this…to write down his last words to Alec on a flimsy sheet of paper. Words could never express the depth of his love, his devotion, his gratitude to the other, better half of his soul. There would never be enough time for his goodbye.
He had so many things to say to Alec. A lifetime of both love and regret. But the most important, what his parabatai deserved to know, was a secret Jace was ready to take to his grave. Call it cowardice or martyrdom, but Jace wished to spare Alec of one last burden. Jace owed him that much.
Jace glances up, swallowing on a dry mouth. There's a slim chance this will let Alec let him go and he has to take it.
"I can't let Valentine near you, Alec," he starts lowly, voice defeated. "I don't even want him to know you exist, although we're far too late for that. He can't know what you mean to me. I won't allow it. He will use you to destroy me. Break your neck just like he did to my falcon, because that's what Valentine does with what I love most. Who I love most."
Alec's eyes soften. He can see his parabatai's expression melting, reaching out to touch him. By the Angel, Alec doesn't get it. If he did, he would look at Jace with pity, not warmth.
Jace steps back away from him, ignoring the pulse of hurt from Alec. He feels almost like a caged animal, fear and desperation clawing their way out of his heaving chest. He could lie. He could say horrible, wretched things to anger Alec and send him away. Jace knows him better than anyone. He knows exactly what words will wound and leave the worst scars. But that isn't enough. Not today when Jace's life is on the line. Alec will fight him even at the cost to himself. The only defense Jace has is himself.
To love is to destroy. To be loved is to be destroyed. Jace will ruin them both, if it keeps Alec alive.
"Let me go, Alec," Jace begs him. His eyes dampen, his throat burning as the emotions he's been pushing back for months flood him. "You want to know what my letter would say? My beloved parabatai: I can't say goodbye to you, because my love does not end. I love you, Alec. I'm in love with you. I would rather die in your arms than on any battle field. I want your eyes to be the last thing I see on this earth. The Angel will rip half my soul away from you and I will wait on whatever lies beyond here for you to come back to me."
"Jace," Alec gasps. "Jace—what—"
He keeps going. "I loved you even when I was afraid to love anything. You are the better half of me. You make me better, Alec. I am a stronger man because of the strength of your devotion to our bond. Your love is pure and true and has anchored me when I have lost myself. You are good and I would give up everything for your happiness. So on the day of your wedding, when you kissed another man, I swallowed my grief. I was happy for you to find yourself, but not as happy as I should have been. I realized I was losing something irreplaceable. I was losing you. I vowed to keep my feelings to myself, because you deserve more. Better than I could ever give you."
Jace pauses, blinking the tears out of his eyes. The grief swells again, threatening to suffocate him. "I'm telling you now, because I will be gone. I had to say it just once. If I have to die, I will do it with you knowing how much I loved you, Alec. Sincerely yours, Jace."
It's quiet for a moment. The wind whistles in the surrounding trees. Jace's heart is pounding harder than he has ever felt before. He's terrified. Alec might hate him for doing this, for ruining their bond and their friendship just seconds before he goes on a fatal mission. The relief he feels at having the truth out is too miniscule to even process then.
"Alec," Jace murmurs. "I—I'm sorry. I didn't want to tell you. But you understand now. I have to do this without you."
Alec charges toward him. There's a feral glint in his bright, hazel eyes. Jace braces himself for a punch. Alec's emotions are thundering on the other end of their bond, powerful but messy, an indecipherable storm.
Strong, archer hands latch onto him, fisting into the material of his gear jacket. Jace looks up into Alec’s eyes, lips parted in shock at the intensity of that stare—and then a firm, warmth mouth is covering his own.
Alec kisses him. A helpless sound breaks in the back of Jace’s throat. It’s a trick, a ruse to distract him and keep him rooted here. But Jace will take it just the same. There’s no hesitance, nothing but the feeling of rightness that glows in his chest and makes his parabatai rune warm under his skin as Jace wraps his arms around Alec’s neck and kisses him back.
Jace has to push up on his toes, leaning into his parabatai as their mouths melt together, coming alive under fierce, demanding kisses. Alec takes his breath away. Perhaps it is just a ploy, giving Jace what he wants to stop him from leaving, but the longer they are wrapped together, the more Jace's doubts shrink until he can't hear them any more. His parabatai devotes all of himself into this kiss, as he does everything else.
Alec’s large hands find Jace’s hips, clutching onto him almost desperately. Jace has never been kissed like this before. It’s like Alec is a dying man, drowning at sea, and his parabatai’s mouth holds his last breath. He can taste Alec’s hunger, his need to never let this end.
And Jace matches that passion, measure for measure. His fingers twine into Alec’s hair, pulling his best friend in tighter, closer to him. This is all he wants; this is all that matters. The war, Valentine, all of Idris seems to blink out of existence as Jace’s pulse roars in his ears and his body is consumed, nerve by nerve by his parabatai’s fire.
There is nothing but Alec. Alec’s sturdy grip holding him up as Jace melts, sinks into the embrace. Alec’s tongue gliding on his. Alec’s long, hard body pressed flush to him.
Alec Alec Alec. His name burns in Jace’s mouth, thrumming under his skin in an endless current. The one person Jace is forbidden to love and yet he does with all his heart, all his soul. It’s too late for them, of course. Alec had moved on from whatever he felt for Jace, found true happiness with someone that deserved him.
Jace would take this boon. Alec loved him enough, it is enough. It has to be.
The kisses slow and turn languid, tender. He feels Alec’s palm pressed over his heart. Their bond sings with both blinding affection and deep sorrow. From him, from Alec, he doesn't know. Jace is nearly crushed under the weight of it either way.
“Stay with me.” Alec’s lips brush his, the words a kiss. “Stay.”
Jace’s fingers tighten on the back of his neck. “Parabatai…”
Alec kisses him again, hard, almost harsh in his despair. Jace can’t deny him then.
He understands Alec’s fear all too well. Jace knows what it’s like to feel his parabatai’s heart stop, even if just for a moment. He can’t do it to Alec. Can’t leave him alone to feel their bond break. Valentine’s end should be his burden, but Alec is right—Jace swore a much more important oath a long time ago.
“Okay.” Jace steps back, trying to find his breath again. “Okay, Alec. I won’t go. You made your point.” He shakes his head, smiling ruefully. “But you can’t play that card again.”
Alec’s expression freezes, his lips thinning. “My point?”
Jace shrugs, his eyes turning away to the trees. “I’m not mad. You used your best defense to keep me here. But I’d appreciate it if we didn’t talk about this again.”
The silence that answers him becomes a heavy, leaden thing in the air. Jace turns back to him, meeting a hard, incredulous stare on Alec’s face. His brows are furrowed over his eyes, nostrils flared, the sharp planes of his face radiating a dark rage.
Jace sighs. “I’m sorry. I know it can’t be like it was before now—now that you know. But I can’t lose you either, Alec. I can’t lose our bond. If there’s a way that you could forgive me—”
Alec raises his arm, cutting him off. Jace really think his parabatai is going to swing at him then, but Alec’s hand only trembles for a few seconds before he painstakingly brings it back down to his side.
“You think,” Alec grits between his teeth, “that I kissed you as some kind of play to stop you from going after Valentine. After you said that you’re in love with me. You think that I would do that to you?”
Jace flinches as Alec’s shout echoes around them. “Why else would you…”
The world stops. Does he...Jace feels his breath stutter in his throat. He’s almost afraid to say it. It can’t possibly be true. “You still feel that way about me?”
Their eyes lock. Something powerful and electric crackles between them. And Jace feels so, so stupid. It’s there. It has always been there.
Alec gives him a pointed look. “I never stopped.”
Shock takes precedence, but it is swiftly broken apart by joy. Jace feels his grin take up his face. A solid, weighted happiness he has never experienced before rises up and sweeps over him. Jace feels it everywhere, buzzing in every corner of his body.
At the same time, his parabatai rune is still warm, tingling on his hip. Jace understands why, finally. Why the bond has been so open between them for months. Why he and Alec have been more in tune with each other than ever before. Alec still loves him.
“Alec…” Jace murmurs. He crosses the space between them, reaching for his parabatai with quivering fingers.
This kiss is infinitely better, sublime. Without the binds of grief constricting them, Jace is free to embrace his parabatai in that moment and simply exist in it—in having his love returned.
The moment ends, of course. He and Alec break apart from each other, their lips sliding away reluctantly until only their foreheads rest together. Jace keeps his firm grip on the back of Alec’s neck. He wishes so terribly it’s enough just to hold him and let the rest of the world be damned.
But it isn’t. Alec isn’t his. The most imperative of Clave rules—the crime of eros between parabatai—have been violated and could cost them their lives as Shadowhunters. And then there is Valentine’s second Uprising, possibly the greatest battle of their lives, at their doorstep.
“Easy, parabatai,” Alec says, squeezing his shoulder.
Evidently he can feel Jace’s anxiety spiking between them. But Alec’s touch, no matter how soothing, can’t miraculously help the predicament they’re in.
Jace steps back, putting a foot of space between them. Already his previous joy is slipping through his fingers, impossible to keep a hold of.
“Alec, what the hell are we going to do?” He demands. “This is why I needed to keep my feelings to myself. You’re Head of the Institute now. This,” he gestures between them, “is wrong.”
“You don’t need to tell me how wrong it is,” Alec mutters darkly. “I’m well aware. Loving you for half of my life has been a lot of things, Jace, but it hasn’t been easy.”
Jace pauses, looking up at him in wonder. Alec had loved him for years. Quietly, thanklessly, and unconditionally his parabatai harbored these intense feelings all the while knowing he couldn’t act on them. Jace thought he understood how Alec felt once, but it isn’t until then that he truly grasps it, experiencing it for himself.
His throat aches, swallowing down his compassion for his best friend’s suffering. “I’m sorry, Alec. I didn’t realize…”
Alec shakes his head. “Jace, that isn’t why I said that. I’m saying I know the consequences better than anyone.” His hazel eyes gleam down at Jace, lit from an inner determination that Jace finds beautiful. “I’m prepared to accept that risk, if that means I have you.”
Alec clears his throat as a heavy pause rests between them. Jace’s cheeks warm, his affection for Alec only burning brighter in his chest when he speaks again. “That’s my answer. I won’t assume yours. If the risk is too much for you, I—”
Jace snorts. “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re worth every risk.”
Alec tries to nod in response, as if they’re settling a diplomatic agreement, but the smile hidden in the corner of his lips breaks free into a wide, gorgeous grin. Jace eagerly returns it, soaking in the giddiness he feels at Alec’s happiness. It’s worth everything to him.
It’s unfathomable, but if he can make his parabatai this happy, Jace will do anything to make it work with them. He will survive this war for their chance. He will fight the entire Clave if it comes to that, knowing the love they feel for each other is something to cherish, no matter what the Law dictates.
“No matter what happens today,” Alec continues, “don’t leave my side. Promise me, Jace.”
“I promise,” Jace answers fiercely. He reaches up to cup Alec’s face in his hands. “I won’t make that mistake again. I’m not leaving you, Alec. Ever.”
With Valentine loose in Idris, it’s only a matter of when, not if, the chaos will erupt.
Everything changes in the following hours after Jace’s conversation with Alec. The real Jonathan Morgenstern is in possession of the Soul Sword and takes it upon himself to declare war in Alicante, as Jace had feared.
Jonathan uses his infernal blood to disable the glass towers, thus allowing all of the demons that Valentine has summoned to reign free in their home country. The streets of Alicante run with blood and every Shadowhunter is engaged in a fight to stop the invasion.
For Jace, it all flashes by in a blur of bloodshed, the cries of battle, Izzy’s electrum whip cracking in the air—and Alec, never out of his line of sight. It went against his instincts not to track Valentine down, but Jace kept his promise. He and Alec fought side by side, as they were always meant to, their battle bond stretched out between them.
Night has descended on Alicante when it finally ends.
Lost in his thoughts, Jace stares into the crackling flames of the fireplace from his spot on the couch. He hasn’t moved for over an hour, exhaustion from fighting heavy in his bones and his mind unable to settle down. After the war came to a close, after reuniting with his friends to make sure everyone was unharmed, and after the meeting in the Accords Hall, Jace needed to be alone.
Too many eyes had followed him in the city: Clary’s sharp gaze, both worried and compassionate, the whispers from the other Shadowhunters as well, watching him for some sort of reaction. Imogen’s lost-long grandson, the war hero, Valentine’s experiment. Jace had to get away from it all, to process, to grieve.
Valentine is dead.
By that hour, everyone in Idris knew of Clary’s heroic tale. He was smite by Raziel himself for his many crimes, after spilling Clary’s blood and almost killing his own daughter in his attempt to summon the Angel. Jace could hardly believe any of it. That Clary actually saw the Angel and that his pseudo-father was really gone, both seemed equally impossible to him.
Jace didn’t know what to feel. Behind the overall numbness, the shock of it all, he supposed there was relief and sadness and disappointment knotted in his chest, warring with each other for the dominant emotion. Jace wishes he was the one to kill Valentine. The fact that he wasn’t feels like leaving an important promise to himself unfulfilled, but he is glad the madman is dead nonetheless.
And a small part of him still mourns for the man Valentine could have been. The man that raised him, taught him about weaponry, the art of war, and gave him his first Mark. (Also his first broken bone, before that). The good man, according to Luke, that Valentine once was. Jace imagines his former parabatai is grieving today as Jace is, ensnared in a twisted love that Valentine does not deserve, but they each feel for him anyway.
As Jace sits there silently in the vacant Herondale Manor, he longs for his own parabatai. He needs Alec. It hadn’t been long since he last saw him at the Accords Hall, but Jace misses him just the same. This day had been horrible and victorious and confusing and Jace just ached for Alec to be there, his quiet but powerful presence able to make Jace feel safe from anything. Even his own thoughts.
He had told Alec to meet him here, once he got out of his meeting at the Gard with the other Clave officials. As Head of the New York Institute, Alec had a large role to fulfill in the aftermath of the war, figuring out how their world would go on. They had to honor their dead. There were new peace negotiations to handle, Circle followers who had survived and needed to be processed as war criminals. The Angel knew what else.
Sometime after midnight, Jace finally hears the lock on the front door turning and then Alec’s footsteps approaching, looking for him. The familiar hum of his presence close by makes the tight knot gripping Jace’s chest begin to loosen. He turns his head away from the fire just as Alec enters the den, his tall shadow falling over the wooden floor.
The sight of Alec makes Jace’s pulse quicken, a prickle of heat and electricity rising over his skin. The same warmth radiates from his parabatai rune. Well, that’s new. It’s strange, being at the same time comfortable and restless around Alec. Jace remembers what it felt like to have Alec’s plush mouth devouring his own and his stomach clenches at the vivid memory.
By the Angel, Jace wants to kiss him again.
“Jace,” Alec murmurs. His hazel eyes study him in the dim light. Instinctively, Jace understands that appraising glance. Checking him over for wounds, both the physical and emotional.
Jace knows, because he’s doing the same. His eyes lock in on the way Alec’s left arm is curled over his abdomen. Post-war had been almost as chaotic as the invasion itself. For Alec especially, he had been so busy playing leader and big brother and hero. Jace will bet he hadn’t stopped by the infirmary area where the wounded were being tended to.
“Come here,” Jace says, clearing his throat. “Let me see that.”
Alec walks over, dropping beside him on the couch. He doesn’t protest when Jace bunches up his shirt and takes hold of the material so Jace can inspect the left-over wound. There’s a bright red gash running horizontally over Alec’s stomach. A closer look shows Jace the indents in Alec’s skin, like sharp talons had pierced him. Considering how deep the indents are, he would say those talons had stuck in him and Alec had ripped them out himself.
Jace tightens his jaw, sliding out his stele from his pocket. “You’re a masochist, Lightwood. Why didn’t you tell me about this on the field?”
Jace braces one hand on Alec’s stomach as his left finds Alec’s iratze to trace over. He hears Alec’s sigh above him, as the soothing balm from his parabatai’s hand stitches up his injury. Nothing quite compares to a rune drawn by the hand of your parabatai.
He looks up, his eyes locking with Alec’s. Jace has activated this particular rune hundreds of times before, but this is somehow different. The air around them is tight, like it’s about to snap with tension. Jace can feel the tremble of Alec’s abdomen under his hand.
The skin knits itself together instantly, as good as new. The light from the iratze wanes and reluctantly Jace removes his hand, settling back into his own space. His heart hasn’t stopped pounding since Alec came in.
“I could hardly ask you,” Alec finally responds, “when Clary came limping in from the forest, half delirious, and announced the death of your father.”
Jace closes his eyes. A moment passes before he feels Alec’s large hand on his back, a gesture of comfort from the only person he wants it from. It’s quiet as Jace breathes deeply, free-falling in a pit of regret and grief before he pulls himself out of it.
“You are allowed to mourn him, Jace,” Alec adds lowly.
Jace nods, not yet able to speak. It’s another minute before he can re-open his eyes. He looks away from his parabatai’s intense gaze, from eyes that look too closely into his soul. It’s too much right then. He can’t talk about this tonight.
Instead, Jace removes his shirt and twists around, giving his back to Alec. “Can you do me?” Eyes widening, Jace quickly elaborates. “My iratze. My shoulder is still aching.”
Wordlessly, Alec takes his stele when Jace offers it. Alec touches the bright tip to his rune and Jace feels the shiver jolt through him, down to the base of his spine. The pain in his shoulder dissipates, replaced by the healing energy from the rune and a small piece of his parabatai’s own essence. Jace savors it before the sensation leaves him with Alec withdrawing his hand.
Immediately Jace reaches back, wrapping his fingers around Alec’s wrist. His eyes widen as he feels Alec’s own pulse, drumming as quickly as his. Alec must feel it too. Jace feels ready to burst out his skin at any moment. They are close together on this couch, close enough for Jace to be aware of Alec’s body heat and familiar scent around him, but Jace wants more. He wants to be closer still.
Jace turns back around, bringing his arm holding onto Alec down to his lap. When he glances up, Alec is already staring through him, his eyes bright in the firelight. Jace can make out the flecks of green in them, but he cares more for the molten heat in those eyes and the promise behind them.
“Jace…” His name falls from Alec’s lips like an exhale, like it had been curled on his parabatai’s tongue, waiting for release.
He’s waiting too. Waiting for what follows his name. The war may be over tonight, but Jace has no idea what comes next. What the future looks like for him and Alec.
Stay with me, his parabatai had begged him. But in that moment it is Jace that longs to cling onto Alec’s body as if that is enough to keep him there. A part of him is still terrified to let Alec out of sight. He fears losing Alec’s soul to death, but just as much Jace fears for Alec’s heart to be ripped away from him.
By the Clave, by Magnus, by Alec himself. It’s only a matter of time for Alec to realize he is not worth the threat of losing the Institute and everything that Alec has strenuously worked for. Not worth being exiled from his family. Jace can’t make him stay. It’s a special type of torture to realize he has nothing to give, nothing but the damaged, leftover parts of him.
Jace can’t blame him. He knew it all along.
He’s waiting for it. The realization, the moment Alec takes it all back. We can’t do this. This is too dangerous. If the Clave finds out…
“I love you,” Alec says.
“I love you, Jace.” Alec says it again—miraculously, fervently. “The Angel knows I have tried not to.
“You—” Jace swallows, the words sticking to his throat. He aches inside. “You’ve never said that to me before.”
It’s not something he ever likes to thinks about. The easy, but no less genuine way the words have rolled off Alec’s tongue for Isabelle, for Max. Jace told himself it was okay. Just because Alec never articulated it didn’t mean that he loved Jace any less. Jace was his parabatai, of course Alec loved him.
It still hurt. When he told Alec over the years—I love you, parabatai. I love you too, Alec. Love you, bye—and all he received was a look, a smile. Alec’s eyes always said what he himself couldn’t, so Jace had come to accept it as another part of who they were. Alec’s actions of love and friendship and selflessness were far more important than any singular phrase.
He sees it in Alec’s eyes that he knows before his gaze darts away. There’s a flash of a deeply-rooted regret. “I know. I couldn’t, Jace. I couldn’t say it, not without you figuring out how much I meant it.”
It never occurred to Jace that was a reason his best friend held back.
He wants to respond that it’s okay. Reassure his parabatai that Jace understood how much Alec cared for him anyway, rendering the words unnecessary. But it’s untrue, because hearing Alec say it now only makes Jace realize how much he needed it.
“At Magnus’s…” Jace starts slowly, “When the memory demon revealed the image of me and you said…”
No, it’s not true. The demon deceived me.
He trails off as Alec visibly fights back a flinch. Jace’s eyes widen. He just unintentionally ripped open an old wound. There’s horrible shame on Alec’s face Jace can’t bear to see.
Jace quickly reaches out to cup Alec’s jaw, frowning when his parabatai still won’t meet his eyes. Fuck. “Alec, I just meant to ask if that’s why you were so upset. I want to understand.”
“Yes,” Alec mutters.
Jace strokes over his cheek with his thumb. “My memory would have been of you. Then, now. I love you too, Alec.”
At last, his parabatai’s eyes turn back to him. They study Jace intensely. “You really mean that?”
“Absolutely.” Jace smiles a bit wryly. “Don’t ever doubt me.”
Alec’s lips twitch and Jace lets himself laugh. He can’t hold back, not for another second. His other hand grasps Alec’s shirt and he hauls his parabatai in for another kiss—messy and more uncoordinated than their last against his laughing mouth.
They kiss and kiss, their starvation for each other never waning. In the back of his mind, all Jace can think of is: this is real, this is real.
Jace pulls back a breath, his hands still framing Alec’s flushed face. “Can you stay tonight?”
He leaves the words hanging there, the rest hidden under his tongue. He doesn’t want to sleep alone, not after today. He doesn’t want to sleep at all, fearful of seeing Valentine’s corpse behind his eyelids. Or worse: that he isn’t gone after all. And Jace definitely doesn’t want Alec to leave him, not when it feels like they’ve just found each other all over again.
Alec doesn’t question him. “Yes, of course.”
Jace rises from the couch and leads them out of the den. He selects one of the many bedrooms of the Herondale manor at random. It’s quiet as they undress for bed. The tension between hasn’t left, but Jace imagines it on hold where they can reach for it at any time. It’s exhilarating to be just a look, a touch away from sparks and electricity.
As Jace expected, sleep is much further out of his reach when they lie down to rest. His body aches after such a gruesome battle and the cycle of emotions he felt that day from righteous fury to grief to victory to unparalleled joy have left him exhausted. Still, Jace is wide awake long after his parabatai snores beside him.
His mind is both blank and buzzing unceasingly as Jace closes his eyes. He is so consumed by everything at once that it startles him out of his skin when Alec’s arms slide around his bare waist. He can feel the warmth and firm muscle of Alec’s chest pressed to his back.
A familiar comfort seeps the tension of out Jace’s body just slightly. I’m here, Alec speaks to him wordlessly. Waiting, if Jace needs him.
Jace intertwines his fingers with the hand grazing his upper abdomen. “I can’t get him out of my head. It doesn’t feel…over.”
“It’s not,” Alec says quietly into his ear. Jace shivers. “It won’t feel over until you’ve seen his body burn on the pyre.”
It’s a morbid image and he’s right, of course.
“Is that all?”
No. There are about a million other things on his mind, only half of which he could try to make sense of.
Jace turns over in his arms. He kisses Alec softly. “I want to feel like you’re mine.”
In the darkness, he can just make out Alec’s frown. “I am. I’ve always been yours, Jace.”
Slowly, Jace trails a hand down Alec’s chest. He bites his lip. “Show me?”
There’s a moment before his parabatai understands. Jace expects Alec to hesitate, to at least think it over, give this its proper consideration before they dive into anything. They will get lost in each other, Jace has no doubt. Maybe they should wait and talk more about what this will mean for their relationship, their future.
But Jace doesn’t want to wait. He wants Alec.
Jace is pleasantly surprised when Alec smoothly rolls on top of him. There is no doubt to spare about what Alec wants either when he kisses Jace deeply, reviving the fire they left in their wake that early morning and again on the couch. The fears and the worries in his head burn away at the solid, perfect weight of Alec’s body on top of his own.
There is nothing else. There is just them and this.
Alec’s soft lips break away from his to kiss down his jaw and his neck. Jace tips his head back on the pillow, baring his throat and all of him for Alec to take, claim. His nails scrape into his parabatai’s back as Alec gently bites at a particular spot. Yes, yes, Jace thinks and probably says aloud for Alec to hear at the visible mark he is sucking on Jace’s throat.
When he’s through, Jace yanks him back up to fuse their mouths together again. He licks into Alec’s open mouth with desire tingling on his tongue. Alec moans like he can taste it. Jace’s body feels charged alive in a way he’s never felt before, every nerve both hypersensitive to Alec’s touch and dangerously powerful as if he can scorch the world with the lightning in his veins.
He is startled when Alec presses a hand to his chest, hitting pause. Dazed, Jace pulls away to look at his parabatai in puzzlement. He is panting, completely breathless and almost misses the way Alec says his name in alarm.
Jace glances down to where Alec’s pointed stare is aimed at his hip. Above Alec’s hand locked over the waistband of his boxers is where his parabatai rune is suddenly glowing in gold light. And when Jace looks to Alec again, he finds that his parabatai rune is too brightly ignited.
“Um.” Jace laughs in disbelief. He doesn’t know what else to say.
Alec is clearly at a loss for words as well. Gingerly, he touches his fingers to Jace’s rune, finding it as hot as the rest of Jace’s temperature feels, burning up inside.
“Do you feel hot?” Jace wonders.
Alec smirks a little. “Is that a euphemism?”
Jace grins. “You are hot, Alec. If you want a compliment, you can just ask.”
Before Alec can roll his eyes as Jace knows he will, he draws Alec back in by wrapping his legs around his waist. A smirk shapes Jace’s lips as Alec gasps. He can feel just how hard Alec is for him and undeniably his parabatai can feel the evidence of Jace’s own stiff arousal pressed firmly against him.
“I don’t care about the runes right now,” Jace murmurs as flippantly as he can manage. “Do you care about the runes, Alec?”
The glowing runes issue is hastily forgotten in favor of stripping off their remaining clothing. Jace can’t help but moan into Alec’s mouth at the consummate feeling of their naked, warm skin brushing together, at last having nothing left between them.
For a while they tease each other, nipping at skin, taking turns as they roll and pin each other down. Jace alternates between moaning and laughing breathlessly. He revels under Alec’s rare, cocky grin and melts under the purposeful thrusts of his hips. With every rocking motion of their bodies together, their erections bump and slide against each other.
Sweat quickly catches on Jace’s skin. The room around them blurs, melting with heat. One hand claws at the hair on the back of Alec’s neck. It’s so hot, so good.
“Fuck me,” he growls.
It spills out of Jace’s lips unbidden, but it is exactly what he wants—what he longs for. To be taken by Alec, to feel his parabatai inside him.
Alec pauses a moment to look at him. Jace almost licks his lips at the sight. His hair is a tangled mess, his mouth bitten and deliciously red from Jace’s work. His eyes, however, have cleared from their haze. “You haven’t…”
“Want to,” Jace pants. “With you.”
Alec holds his gaze, seeing the certainty in them. Then he climbs off the bed, leaving Jace confused as he watches Alec root around on the floor. He returns with his stele in his hand.
It takes a moment before it clicks. Jace finds himself grinning at Alec again, impressed. “Alec Lightwood,” he taunts, “using his stele for sex. I doubt the Clave would approve.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Alec snaps.
Jace bursts out laughing.
There will never come a time where Jace doesn’t enjoy teasing his parabatai. He grows more impressed, however, at Alec’s creative work-around to prep him and open him up. Alec is more experienced with this than he is and Jace is all to eager to follow his lead.
When Alec decides he’s ready, he sets his stele aside and settles back on top of him. Jace parts his legs to take Alec in between them, resting their foreheads together as they fall back into each other’s space. His heart pounds and there are butterflies of anticipation Jace hardly recalls feeling before now fluttering in his stomach.
“Don’t hold back,” Jace warns.
Smirking, Alec retorts, “Wasn’t planning to.”
With that, he drives himself into Jace’s body. His eyes fall close at the sensation, the inescapable fullness of Alec buried between his legs. When he bottoms out, Jace feels the calloused buds of Alec’s fingers stroking his hip. Waiting for him.
“Parabatai,” Alec murmurs. I’m here.
Jace opens his eyes. Their noses graze with how close they are, Alec’s heavy stare pinned to him. Effortlessly their breaths have synced up.
It is everything Jace wants, both the pain and the pleasure of being connected to Alec. He shifts his hips, arches up into him, a moan that is both his and his parabatai’s echoing between them where they are pressed chest to chest.
Jace nods. Alec, always true to his word, doesn’t hold back.
Every time their bodies meet and the bed rattles beneath them at the beautiful, full force of Alec’s movements, Jace loses himself a bit more. The Herondale Manor is empty, the night as their stolen kingdom to claim each other as passionately and as loudly as they dare.
If Jace could ask for one wish granted by the Angel himself, it would be for this to never end. He never wants to be parted from Alec. He could spend all his nights in his parabatai’s arms, starving in his overwhelming hunger for him. And nothing, absolutely nothing compares to watching his parabatai as they make love.
Jace is very much enjoying the play of pleasure across Alec’s face. It amazes him, to see Alec’s feelings for him and what he’s doing so openly—trusting Jace with the unveiling of his intimate emotions. His hazel eyes burn as they watch Jace in return, lit from the same forbidden fire that ignited their runes.
At last, he and Alec are completely one. Intertwined together, no barriers left separating them. The bond lays wide open, making Jace’s head spin at the flood of love, of desire, and elation. His raw emotions not his own, but shared with Alec as well. His pleasure is Alec’s pleasure; they are one and the same.
Alec takes hold of his wrists, fastening them above the headboard. Jace arches his back into him again, his heels digging into the back of Alec’s thighs. He loves the way Alec holds him down, tight, unbreakable. Taking what is his.
“Alec,” Jace breathes into his ear. His mouth kisses hotly up Alec’s neck, licking at the sweat slicking his skin. “Fuck, you feel amazing. I love you so much.”
Teeth bite at Jace’s bottom lip, Alec panting words of love and yes and Jace in between hungry kisses.
At once, Alec slams into the spot that makes Jace swear, stars exploding behind his eyes. He hits it again on every other thrust, propelling Jace closer and closer to the peak of his pleasure. He has no control of the sounds spilling off his tongue, loud and vocal proof of how Alec is ruining him.
The heat blooming in Jace’s gut crests, his orgasm sweeping over him in a heavy tide. His eyes squeeze shut, his body shakes. It is only Alec above him, holding him that keeps Jace grounded. Otherwise, Jace imagines there would be pieces of him left shattered on the walls. He has never felt pleasure so powerful, gifted to him from his parabatai.
Alec grunts, his thrusts slowing as his own orgasm overwhelms him. Jace strokes a hand down his sweat-dampened back, watching his parabatai fall apart through heavy-lidded eyes. Alec’s strong hands squeeze his wrists, still held over the wooden headboard. His name falls from Alec’s lips like a prayer, far more reverent than he has ever spoken of any angel.
Their lips catch in a gentle smear. Alec releases his wrists to tenderly cup his face. They float down from the heavens together, exhausted and sated and victorious.
Dawn has just began to break outside the windows once more when Jace rests into the possessive curl of Alec’s arms around his waist. At last, they sleep.