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“C’mon. It’ll be fun.”

Sebastian is smiling, the narrow, sharp-toothed one that usually spells trouble. He takes a drink from his emptying vodka bottle, then holds it out as an offering. Jace takes a sip, feeling the harsh burn wash down his throat as he swallows. He feels light-headed for a second, then pushes the sensation away. Sebastian’s shirt is unbuttoned all the way down to his chest; something impulsive in Jace can’t look away from the pale V of revealed skin. His long legs are sprawled over his bed, shoes still on, the black of his trousers dark against the white of his comforter.

“I don’t have a costume,” Jace says. He can’t ask Jocelyn and Luke for an allowance for one—money is tight enough as it is. He hasn’t seen his mother crying over bills for a long time, but he knows the signs, and knows better than to ask.

Sebastian takes another pull of vodka and flops back onto the mattress, his hair splayed around his head. His dark eyes are intent on his phone—Jace has been trying not to admire it. It’s the new iPhone X, black and slim, and it fits Sebastian as perfectly as his tailored clothes. “Of course you don’t yet, you fucking idiot. That’s why we’re planning ahead.” He looks up from his screen, grinning. “Joker and Harley Quinn.”

Jace makes a face. “Yeah, one problem with that: neither of us are Margot Robbie.”

Sebastian kicks him, not hard enough to hurt. “I’ll have you know I look amazing in pigtails.” He throws down his phone, sliding off the bed and mimes swinging a baseball bat.

“It wasn’t the pigtails I had in mind,” Jace comments. The idea of Sebastian in tiny glittery shorts is slightly ridiculous, but it makes his face heat anyway.

“Oh you of little faith.” Sebastian makes for his closet, a large, messy, overstuffed room nearly the size of Jace’s room at home. He disappears into it, shutting the door behind him. “Prepare to be amazed,” he calls through the door.

Jace rolls his eyes. After a few seconds he gets bored, so he fishes his phone out of his pocket. After years of his old one with a back plate that kept slipping off and dropping his battery into new and exciting places, Sebastian’s old iPhone 6 seems impossibly sleek and luxurious. Jace had resisted the offer for a few long, hard weeks, but eventually broke down and accepted. (“It’s not like anyone’s using it,” Sebastian had said reasonably, lazily tapping through the setup screens. “And you can use FaceTime now, in case you want to wake me at three AM with life’s pressing questions.”) Jace had thanked him awkwardly and tried not to feel self-conscious every time he used it.

He has a few texts from Jocelyn and Luke, and a few snaps from Clary. Probably more pictures of her and her new best friend, Isabelle. He also has a few snaps from Sebastian, which Jace has to assume he had sent during class. The first few are of him making bored faces with captions like “when I said I wanted to get fucked I didn’t mean by an exam,” and “if I snap and murder everyone in this room, just know Catcher in the Rye did it.” The middle few are of him smoking in the bathroom, and Jace has to wonder how he avoided getting caught and simultaneously managed to look good in mirror selfies. The last are particularly embarrassing videos of Jace making somewhat awkward faces in the car—Jace reminded himself to cover his face any time the camera pointed near his face.

Alec had updated his story with lots of pictures of him and the theatre kid, Magnus. Jace watches a video of them laughing and shouting over the noise, and Alec’s bright grin and familiar face brings a lump to his throat. Jace swipes to the camera screen and takes a picture of something random—Sebastian’s desk, covered in clothes and crumpled paper—and starts to type, but then realizes he has nothing to say.

Looking good man, he types, then pauses. After a second he closes out of the snap and puts down his phone—it was stupid, anyway.

At that moment the closet door bursts open and Sebastian re-emerges. Jace blinks, his eyebrows shooting up of their own accord.

“Okay, I did not need to see that,” he says, mostly because he can’t think of anything else to say. Sebastian’s wearing black shorts that are extremely tiny and tight-fitting—disturbingly so. His shirt is too short to reach his midriff, and reads in a looping script, Daddy’s Little Monster. Jace recognizes it as Harley Quinn’s shirt from the movie, and makes a face. “Why do you even own that?”

“I saw it at the store,” Sebastian says, as if this should be obvious. He gives a lazy stretch that bares even more of his stomach, then rounds the bed and climbs back up onto it. Jace tries not to notice how slender and pale his legs are, or the fine down of hair that glints in the lamplight from the bedside.

Sebastian sticks an arm out and rummages around in his bedside table, then pulls out a white choker necklace and holds it out, admiring it lazily. “I could write Puddin on this. And if I got the right shorts—“

“No,” Jace says. He definitely does not want to ask why Sebastian owns a choker and why it’s kept in his bedside table. “Like, you could do that in theory, but I wouldn’t be caught dead within ten feet of you.”

Sebastian rolls his eyes. “You suck. Fine, I’ll be Joker and you be Batman, because you’re boring and hate fun. You can brood all the time and secretly jack off in the Batcave to the image of your stunningly attractive archnemsis in his henchman’s slutty costume.”

“I don’t remember that part of Batman.”

“It was cut to keep it PG-13.” Sebastian drops his phone on his chest and rolls his head Jace’s way. “You hungry?”

“Yeah.” Jace hasn’t eaten since lunch, and that was only a sad half a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich.

“Takeout? Pizza?” Sebastian rolls over and props himself up on his elbows, pulling up the menus of the nearest places that deliver. “We could get Chinese, but we got that yesterday. If you want there’s those microwaveable burritos in the freezer.”

“The Amy’s ones?” Jace loves those. They used to get them at Costco, before Jocelyn canceled their membership. Jace has memories of climbing on huge pallets of food, running up and down and chasing Clary through the aisles. He also remembered taking turns riding on Val’s shoulders, taller than the world around him and feeling like he could take on a dinosaur and win.

“Yeah.” Sebastian looks up at him curiously, as if something of Jace’s thoughts have shown on his face. “You want one?”

Jace nods, and Sebastian slides off the bed and makes for the door. Jace follows, doing his utmost not to notice the fact that Sebastian’s ass is very much visible in his current attire. He can’t imagine what would happen if Val or Val’s girlfriend—Annalise? Jace can’t remember her name—walked in. Not that he’d ever actually seen either of them at the house.

Sebastian descends the stairs into the kitchen, pulling open the huge, stainless-steel freezer and tossing out two burritos. “You want one or two?” he asks, before closing the door.

“Two,” Jace says.

Sebastian grabs a second one and throws it down on the granite counter, opening the microwave and ripping off the burrito wrappers, putting them in all at once. Jace watched him put in three minutes, leaning against the island counter and trying not to feel out of place in the high-ceilinged kitchen with its dark, elegant décor and fancy furniture.

“We’ve also got like, Val’s health food shit, if you want some,” Sebastian adds, gesturing to the fridge. He gives Jace a significant look. “I wouldn’t risk it, personally.”

Jace cracks a smile. “By health food shit, do you mean things that photosynthesize?”

Sebastian shrugs. “I don’t know, it’s some stupid diet he’s trying.” He abandons the burritos to go flop down on the couch, a huge leather thing that’s was softer than Jace’s mattress. His limbs look even more pale against the dark leather. “What do you want to do?”

“Well first, eat,” says Jace. “Then...I dunno. What do you want to do?”

Sebastian thinks a moment. “Tindr, or hook up my computer to the TV and watch you fail miserably at Dark Souls.”

“Fuck off, I’ve barely even played it before.” Jace opens the microwave when it dings and pulls out the burritos, grabbing one gingerly by the wrapping and carrying it to the couch, then fetching the other two for himself. Sebastian moves his legs so Jace can sit down. After he’s eaten about half his first burrito, Jace stops long enough to say, “So what are we even doing for Halloween? I’m certainly not invited to any parties.”

Sebastian’s nose wrinkles. “Parties? Like at school?” He shakes his head. “I’m not going to another fucking boring house party. Most of the places downtown are doing stuff for Halloween—we should go there.”

Jace raises an eyebrow. “May I remind you neither of us are legal drinking age? No club worth going to will let us in, and I certainly don’t think we can charm our way in.” He gestures significantly. “Still not Margot Robbie, remember?”

“Relax, I know a place.” Sebastian looks smug, as he usually does when he can reveal he has some greater life experience Jace doesn’t, which is often. “It’s a gay club, though, so if your finer sensibilities can’t handle it, we’ll have to find somewhere else.”

There’s a challenge in that statement, and Jace can’t help be a bit stung. “I’m not homophobic,” he protests, a bit uncertainly. “I don’t mind.”

Sebastian smiles that narrow smile again. “Good.” His smile turns sardonic. “Lucky you’ll be wearing the mask, otherwise who knows who might fall for your golden looks.”

“Fuck off,” Jace mutters, and takes another bite of burrito. “You mentioned Dark Souls?”

“Eager to impress me with how many times you can die on the first level?”

Jace hits him with a pillow, which is surprisingly large and heavy, decked out with thick ropey fringe. In a deep Batman voice, he says, “I could break you.

Sebastian laughs, rolling off the couch. “That’s Bane, not Batman.”

A few hours later, Jace has given up on Dark Souls and is now playing Arkham City on Sebastian’s laptop. Sebastian is sprawled on his bed, absorbed in his phone.

“If you let Mr. Freeze kill you one more time, I’m knocking you out and doing it myself.”

Jace scowls at him. “I’ve only tried three times.”

Sebastian grins at him. “Touchy, touchy. Aren’t you supposed to be home by now? Not that I’m complaining, but doesn’t she get pissy if you’re out late?”

Sebastian doesn’t refer to Jocelyn by name or as Jace’s mother—even when she and Val had still been together, neither had particularly liked the other. Jace hadn’t known if it was because he was Val’s from another marriage, or just because she had something against him. It wouldn’t be that surprising—Jocelyn didn’t really like anyone except Clary, or maybe Luke.

“Nah. Clary’s concert is tonight. They’ll be out late.” Jace keeps his tone nonchalant. “How about Val? I swear I’ve never actually seen him.”

“He’s back in Switzerland,” Sebastian says. “Business. Annalise is probably going to show her ass at some point, though.”

Jace frowns. “Do you not like her?”

“She’s a bitch,” Sebastian says, sounding bored. “Val has a shit taste in women.”

“Like Batman.” Jace swears suddenly as Mr. Freeze detects Batman’s motion and grapples quickly to the ceiling. He’s on low health and if he doesn’t get out of there quickly—

A stray henchman catches him in gunfire and the death screen flashes. Jace groans, putting down the controller in defeat. “Fuck.”

Sebastian gives him a superior smile but adds nothing else. “Pause it and come here. I want your opinion on something.”

Jace complies, toggling off the game and getting up from Sebastian’s desk chair to join him on the bed. “What are you doing?”

Sebastian looks amused. “I got bored so I convinced this guy on grindr I’m seventeen and have a nipple piercing.”

Jace squints at him. “Why?”

Sebastian shrugs. “To see if he’d bite, I don’t know.”

“And did he?” Jace’s voice raises half an octave. “If he did, he’s a fucking creep. You should report him.” It occurs to him to ask why Sebastian is catfishing people as a seventeen-year-old, especially considering neither of them are that much older, but he doesn’t.

“He did.” Sebastian sounds smug again. “He wants a picture of me. Should I send one?”

“Definitely not.” To Sebastian’s raised eyebrows, Jace adds, “Even if it was a creepy old lady, I’d still say no.”

Sebastian opens his camera roll, flipping through selfies. There are a lot of them, and Jace is simultaneously impressed and jealous to note he looks good in all of them. Eventually he selects an old one, where his nearly-white hair falls in his face. He’s wearing a pink polo and has a shy smile on his face.

“I don’t know you,” Jace declares.

“Don’t be a pussy,” Sebastian replies, smacking him on the arm. “Let’s see if he thinks I’m hot.”

You are hot, Jace thinks, but quickly stifles the thought. Not that there’s anything wrong with it—Sebastian is pretty attractive, he doesn’t have to be gay to see that—but he doesn’t want to say it out loud.

A shark’s grin spreads over Sebastian’s face, and Jace cranes his neck around to see his screen.

> You’re cute. is that your school uniform?
> just kidding

Sebastian is laughing, and Jace grimaces. He starts typing and Jace braces himself for the worst.

<  just cute?? im hurt
< also yeah it is my uniform how did u kno?

“You’re horrible,” Jace groans, covering his face with his hands and rolling away. “Like, awful.”

> Well not just cute you’re pretty sexy too
> I’d fuck you
> What are you into?

Sebastian’s grin turns wicked.

< I want to call you daddy
< would u like that??

“Fuck off,” Jace says loudly, though there’s a degree of hysterical hilarity to the situation he can’t shake. “Holy shit, you’re the worst person I’ve ever met.”

“It’s an honor even to be nominated.” Sebastian’s dark eyes watch the screen carefully for the typing bubble. He gets bored after a few seconds and checks Instagram—Jace averts his eyes as he notices his feed is full of well, naked dudes in collars—then flicks back to grindr.

> You can call me daddy if you want
> Are you a virgin?

Jace groans again. “This asshole has the subtlety of a fucking freight train.”

Sebastian’s eyebrow raises. “You ever used online dating? This is par for the course.”

Jace shakes his head. “That’s depressing as hell.”

< yeah I am is that ok??
< what would you do to me if you fucked me, daddy?

“Biggest liar ever,” Jace inputs. “Also, gross.”

“Jealousy is unbecoming, Jace.” Sebastian’s expression is impish. “Just because you’ve never been laid in your life—“

“Shut the fuck up.”

“—doesn’t mean you have to take it out on everyone else.”

Jace socks him on the arm, not gently. “You’re a dick.”

Sebastian swats back at him. “Shut up, he’s typing. Don’t you want to know what this guy’s going to do to my young and impressionable body?”

“I really don’t,” Jace says, but he doesn’t take his eyes away from the screen. A few bubbles appear and Sebastian angles his phone away so Jace can’t see. Jace paws at it, trying to pull it back towards him, but Sebastian’s grip is firm.

“I’m curious!” Jace hisses. “What did he say?”

After a moment Sebastian gives him the phone. Jace grabs at it and starts reading. It’s a lot of filth—he skims that quickly, feeling his face heat with discomfort—but he can’t help but imagine the things in his mind’s eye. “I can’t comment,” he says at last, but there’s something hot and angry that feels almost like jealousy curling around his chest.

“It’d be hot if it was from anyone else.” There’s a strange quality to Sebastian’s voice; he takes the phone back and starts typing.

“What are you doing?” Jace cranes around to see. “You’re not responding to that, are you?”

“He’s got his face in his profile,” Sebastian says, a dark sort of amusement in his voice. “Ten bucks says it’s also his twitter profile. One reverse image search and I know where he works.”

Jace blinks, a bit surprised. The guy was a fucking creep, as he’s already said, but reporting him versus taking shit into their own hands seem like two different things. Still—he deserves it, doesn’t he? Unless he’s just fucking around, too, just like Sebastian is—

Sebastian jumps off the bed and grabs his computer from his desk, climbing back up, already doing the search. He clicks on a few results, dark eyes fixed intently on the screen, then after a few tries he gives a soft aha. A few clicks later he’s on the guy’s twitter profile. It has his location, his first name, and says he works with a manufacturing firm. He has sandy curly hair, a flushed face, and a slightly awkward smile.

“You’re not actually going to—“

“Relax.” Sebastian doesn’t so much as look at him, already picking up his phone. He types where Jace can’t see for a few moments,  then puts it down.

Before he can say anything, Jace’s backpack makes angry vibrating noises.  Jace dives for it and pulls open the topmost pocket, pulling out his old phone and swearing as the back threatened to pop off. Jocelyn was calling—it was past midnight—

He answers it. “Hey, mom.” The words sound foreign in his mouth with Sebastian sitting behind him. Sebastian’s eyes frost over, but he doesn’t say anything.

We’re leaving Clary’s concert now,” Jocelyn’s voice said. “Could you throw something in the fridge in the oven? Luke hasn’t eaten, he left right from the station—“

“Yeah, yeah sure, I’ll try.” Jace fights to keep the panic from his voice—he’s not supposed to be here, he’s supposed to have been home hours and hours ago—

“Thanks. We’ll see you soon.”

“Okay.” Jace tries to remember what’s in the fridge—some pot roast, maybe some Indian food? All of it will take a long time to heat up. “See you.”

Jocelyn hangs up at the same moment he does. Jace grabs his bag, already heading for the door. “Does the bus even run at this hour? I think it stopped a few minutes ago—I should have paid more attention to the time, now I’ll have to take the 42—“

“You’re not taking the bus.” Sebastian’s tone brokers no resistance. “I’ll drive you. We can pick something up along the way. What does Luke like?”

Jace thinks a moment. “Subway, but Jocelyn said to heat leftovers—“

“Forget mummy’s orders. C’mon.” Sebastian is pulling on sweatpants—still wearing that bloody Harley Quinn shirt, Jace notices vaguely—and pushing his feet into Adidas sandals (probably real). He grabs Jace’s AP Literature book off the bed (Dickens’ Hard Times) and starts out of his room and down the stairs, taking them two at a time.

 In minutes they’re in Sebastian’s car—a rather shiny black BMW he’d apparently inherited from Val—and are pulling out of the driveway. The windows are down and a cool breeze whips at Jace’s hair and face; he’s anxious and worried at once, the emotion tinged with resentment. If only he didn’t have to pretend he was at soccer practice until late—if only Jocelyn cared Clary wasn’t her only child—

A ringing noise interrupts his self-pity.

“Shit, Val’s calling.” Sebastian flicks a button on the steering wheel. To Jace’s worried look, he adds, “Text him and tell him I’m out getting McDonalds. He doesn’t care.”

Jace fumbles with Sebastian’s phone in the front seat cups and swiped the message open. The temptation to scan the previous parts of the conversation came and went quickly; the last two messages were from Val, saying goodnight.  He typed,

< Sorry I’m getting McDonalds, I’ll call later

A pause; Jace’s heart hammered in his chest, as if Val might see through the phone and know it was him, not Sebastian. An illogical part of him wanted Val to recognize him—but it was impossible.

> Texting in the car is more dangerous than calling, you know.
> Sorry. Stay safe
> Love you

Jace knows Sebastian wouldn’t reply, but he types out,

< Love you too

“Hey there, champ.” Luke was first through the door; he looked very tired. He’d started calling Jace ‘champ’ ironically after Jace’s first soccer championship, and hadn’t quite managed to stop. Jocelyn was bundling Clary through the door, Clary’s violin strapped to her back. “How was the evening?”

“Not bad.” Jace gives him a smile. “I got you Subway.”

“Jace, you shouldn’t have.” Jocelyn fusses. “There were perfectly good leftovers in the fridge—“

“I found ten bucks on the ground,” Jace says, a bit more snappishly than intended. “You said Luke hadn’t eaten. I figured he was tired and got him something.”

This was, of course, complete bullshit—Sebastian had threatened to drive him back to Val’s house if Jace didn’t let him pay. Jace hadn’t put up as much of an argument as his ego dictated, and definitely wasn’t going to be lectured about it now.

Jocelyn’s expression softened slightly. “You should have spent it on yourself,” she said, in that awkward sort of way that suggested she was trying very hard to act like she cared but not quite succeeding. “Luke likes the roast.”

“I appreciate it, son.” Luke puts a hand on Jace’s shoulder. “What did you get? I’ve heard the panini’s aren’t so bad—“

“I got your regular order.” Jace remembers it because it’s similar to Val’s—roast beef, habernero cheese, toasted, with all the vegetables except olives. Spicy sauce. “Well, I think I got it right, anyway.”

“As long as nothing’s moving, I’m grateful.” Luke peers into the bag. “You even got cookies. We’ll have to share.”

“I’m fine, thanks.” Jace smiles at him, and hopes he looks sincere. He is. “I’ve actually got to get back to my homework, so—“

“Of course.” Luke squeezes his shoulder again, then lets go. “Get some rest, though. Big day tomorrow.”

“I’ll do my best.” Jace gives Clary a quick smile. “Concert go okay?”

“Horrible,” says Clary sleepily. She’s bundled in Jocelyn’s favorite suede jacket from the eighties, and looks silly, but she’s his little sister so he doesn’t laugh. “Terrible.”

“Uh huh. And Mona Lisa actually sucks.” That draws out a smile; Jace isn’t sure where to go from there. “Well, get some sleep,” he says awkwardly, then does his best to extricate himself before anyone can engage him further.

As soon as he’s back up to his room, he pulls Sebastian’s old phone from under his pillow and puts it back down on his desk, where he’s copying his pre-Calc assignment from the answer key. Aline’s sending him a steady stream of student athlete memes, which would be funny if he was still on the team with her, but now somehow adds to his melancholy. Sebastian’s offline, and Alec isn’t answering—hasn’t been for a long time, now.

Jace puts down his pencil, midway through copying some horribly fucking long problem he doesn’t give a shit about. He’ll finish copying it in the morning—or not at all. Right now, all he wants to do is take a shower, or preferably drown in the shower, or slip through the drain and get carried away into the sewers.

The phone vibrates and Jace immediately feels foolish. His heart leaps—it’s Sebastian on iMessage. Jace opens the messages right away.

> still up?

< Yeah. fucking precal

> lmao just copy it

< I am copying it. still takes hours

> fuck precal. are you serious about Halloween? im looking at costumes
> still think id look hot in a blonde wig

< Nope. no wigs and no harley quinn I swear to god
< but yeah I’m down for Halloween
< don’t know where I’m gonna get a batman costume

> ebay, jace
> ill figure it out you work on getting better at copying math assignments

Jace scowls.

< fuck off there’s like five pages

> half an hour max. up your game
> anyway halloween’s this Saturday so make sure you can make it to val’s early so we can get ready

< okay ill tell Jocelyn I have practice and then a house party
< she might make Clary come with me though so idk

> we’re not dragging your little sister around with us jace

< I know
< I might have to convince her though

> well, be convincing
> if not start growing out your hair and I’ll climb up to rescue you from your tower

Jace cracks a smile at that.

< fuck off

> oh romeo, romeo let down your hair

< it’s rapunzel you idiot. or “romeo, romeo, wherefore art thou romeo”

> nerd
> fuck annalise is back
> shes gonna ask me about my fucking day and all that shit
> like what does she expect me to say
> oh nothing much just sucked five dicks behind the gym bleachers

Jace snorts.

< id like to see her reaction to that

> me too
> should I say that?

< What? no
< Have you though?

> what? sucked five dicks behind the gym bleachers?
> I mean not five
> I don’t believe in multitasking

A pause, and Jace can almost see Sebastian smiling.

> but yeah ive sucked a dick
> and behind the gym bleachers

< I will never see the bleachers the same way again

> have I ruptured your pure, virginal innocence? or are you never going to be able to jack off anywhere but there ever again

< haha very funny
< well I mean it cant be very sanitary. like I don’t think they clean it out more than once a season
< seriously

> cleaner than the mens locker room
> not that I would know of course

Jace’s face heats with something between embarrassment and something akin to possessiveness. He hesitates a moment before replying.

< the locker room is a pigsty yeah

For a while Sebastian doesn’t reply, and Jace thinks he’s gotten bored. Then the bubble appears again and Jace leans forward, as if in anticipation.

> sorry that was annalise
> I told her I tested positive for aids
> I don’t think she knew if I was joking

< I mean aids isn’t funny

> it got her to go away
> are you following me on instagram? if not do it now
> I just posted a picture and if it doesn’t get enough likes im deleting it

Jace snorts—Clary went in for that sort of thing briefly in middle school, before realizing it was a) idiotic and b) not for her—but keeps that sentiment to himself.

> I don’t have instagram

< you suck

> weve established pretty firmly you suck more

< original
< anyway if you get it follow me
< im sebastianverlac

Jace types the name into google, out of curiosity. The first result is, undoubtedly, Sebastian. He has almost 11k followers—that in itself is enough to raise Jace’s eyebrows. Most of his pictures are of himself, all unfairly flattering, a lot of them with his shoulders or chest bare. He looks pretty fit, even if Jace knows he doesn’t often work out. Most of the comments read like they’re from tweenagers (and probably girls), but a few raise his eyebrows further—usually explicit in nature, from guys. Jace lazily taps through an increasingly wordy and contentious squabble between some dude with the username grizzly_bear_87 and a girl calling herself xx_alorna_sunshadow19, over whether Sebastian is straight or not. It makes him laugh, if nothing else.

> you’ve got quite the legion of adoring fans
> should I start calling you sebby too?

< if you do that to my face I’ll kill you and then myself

Jace laughs.

> alright good to know
> seriously though don’t those people weird you out?

< I haven’t had anyone show up at my house with an axe yet, if that’s what you mean
< idk its amusing

> your ego really need twelve year olds fighting over who gets to marry you?

< yeah actually if I don’t get enough of them in a day I start aging
< its like the modern portrait of dorian grey or whatever

> I didn’t know you could read.

< fuck off jace im taking AP lit too
< I mean I never do the reading but theoretically
< I sleep in that class does it count?

Jace sighs.

> no it doesn’t asshole
> maybe if you paid more attention it’d improve your personality

< my personality is naturally perfect
< so perfect ive turned priests gay

> not to be insensitive but im pretty sure theyre mostly already gay

< fuck youre right
< none of them would want me tho im not in middle school
< maybe if I dressed up theyd consider it

 Jace can feel whatever was left of his soul cringing.

> jokes about pedophilia seriously throw doubt on  your claims to perfection

< fair enough
< back to Halloween do you think I should be the dark knight joker or suicide squad joker
< im pretty sure they don’t let you wear trench coats into clubs anymore

Jace thinks for a moment.

> suicide squad. maybe if youre really lucky you can piss off a fanboy

< good point.
< maybe I could make a living making youtube videos where I insult dark knight fanboys for getting off on me and calling them fake fans while they jack off and cry

> pretty niche market might wanna diversify

< specialization and knowing your audience is key
< could add in something about  living in their mom’s basement and owning more than one piece of suggestive harley quinn memorabilia

Jace shakes his head, and yawns. It’s nearly two AM—he has to get up at six for practice.

> as fascinating as fanboy shame kink  is, I’ve got to sleep
> talk to you tomorrow

< princess has to get his beauty sleep?

> fuck off you don’t even take the bus
> anyway night
> try not to act on your brilliant business ideas before running them by me okay

Jace waits nearly fifteen minutes more, checking his phone while brushing his teeth and changing into the cleanest pajamas he can find, before realizing Sebastian isn’t going to reply. He goes to sleep minutes after turning off the light.

“For fuck’s sake, give me that.” Sebastian grabs Jace’s pre-Cal answer key out of his hands and stuffs a toasted bagel from Bagel Bros in its place. Jace’s stomach growls appreciatively. “Growing boys have to eat. And watching you copy that slow is fucking depressing.”

Jace groans. “Can’t you be a bit sympathetic? I just did like fifty laps.”

“You decided to be a studly manly soccer player, not me.” True to his word, Sebastian’s pencil is fairly flying over the page; Jace can only marvel a bit hopelessly at his efficiency. The smell of egg, bacon, and bagel breaks him out of this brief reverie; in a few minutes he’s scarfed it down and balled up the wrapper, tossing it into the center of the nearest trash can.

“Show off,” Sebastian mutters, already on the next page.

“That’s rich coming from you. And frankly, I suck balls at basketball.”

Sebastian’s smile is mischievous. “That I must see.”

“Ha ha.” Jace leans in to see Sebastian’s work—it’s messy, but looks almost similar to his own handwriting, as if he’d been scrawling in a hurry. “Is copying handwriting among your many talents, or does your handwriting suck as much as mine?”

“I learned to forge Val’s signature in middle school,” Sebastian says, in lieu of an answer. “Mostly so I didn’t have to tell him I’d been sent to the principal’s office and have his paternal wrath descend upon the entire school board. And because he likes to leave his checkbook unattended.”

Jace smiles, though he can’t hold it. The one time he’d been sent the principal—he and Clary had gotten into a fight with someone who’d been bullying her best friend Simon—Jocelyn had grounded him for a month. “Yeah, sounds annoying.”

Sebastian finishes Jace’s copied homework with a flourish, then dumps the answer key back in Jace’s arms. “You owe me at least fifteen minutes of facetiming in the locker room, or a full essay with supporting evidence ranking the football team based on dick size.”

Jace rolls his eyes. “Yeah. I’ll be sure to get on that.”

Classes pass with agonizing slowness. First period is Chemistry, and Jace battles the urge to pick up the closest toxic chemical and start chugging with great difficulty. He spends most of the time messaging Alec under the bench on messenger and letting his stressed-out lab partner, a type-A personality named Kaelie, do all the work. Alec enthusiastically tells him about theatre—he’s joined the tech team and does lights with someone named Ragnar—and how amazing Magnus is as Hamlet. He thinks they might win State, and Jace wishes them all luck. Jace tries to ask about soccer, but all Alec wants to talk about is Magnus and theatre, and all the amazing friends he’s made, and how Jace should come to their show, and how much he wishes Jace could join them, and how much Jace would enjoy tech—

Eventually he pretends his battery is low and closes out of the app, in a thoroughly shitty mood and pissed off at himself for being such a fucking killjoy.

Second period is AP Lit, which improves Jace’s mood just slightly, though he didn’t do the reading last night and is pissed off at himself for it. He manages to bullshit something about the themes of the chapter, but he knows it isn’t fooling his teacher, an irritable old man called Hodge Starkweather.

After that he sleeps through pre-Cal and manages not to beat anyone else or himself senseless in his elective, Art (taken at Clary’s insistence), but by the time he gets to AP European History he’s tempted to skip. This is the only class he and Sebastian have together, though, so he doesn’t.  He’s talking to a girl named Camille, who is rumored to have actually bitten someone’s dick off, though Jace doesn’t quite believe it. They’re laughing about something, and for an irrational moment Jace wonders if they’re talking about him.

“There you are,” Sebastian says as soon as he sees Jace, looking pleased. The teacher is already talking, but for some reason doesn’t see fit to tell Sebastian to stop. Maybe he’s already given up. “Camille and I were debating whether Principal Malachi is still fuckable with his receding hairline.”

“Absolutely not,” Jace says as he dumps his backpack down next to the nearest empty desk. “Thanks for putting that mental imagine in my mind, though.”

“Any time.” Camille looks vaguely amused. “Are you Clary’s brother?”

“Yeah.” Jace tries not to sound protective—she’s a sophomore, he’s got to start letting her mind her own business. “What about her? You thinking of declaring your undying love?”

Camille’s dark-painted lips quirk. “Hardly. Is she dating Isabelle Lightwood?”

Jace’s eyebrows raise, but he manages to keep his expression from changing too much. “I don’t know. We haven’t exchanged notes on girls recently.”

Camille’s smile manages to be both knowing and smug at the same time—do she and Sebastian go to the same Academy for Annoying Assholes? “Too bad. Maybe you shouldn’t cut back on girl time.”

“You can start by going to Lush with me this afternoon,” Sebastian says, and Jace doesn’t even know if he’s joking. “You know, for practice.”

Jace is pretty sure Clary doesn’t even know what Lush is, but he could be wrong. He knows he doesn’t. Either way, he knows he’s being condescended to, and isn’t in the mood for it. “Actually, Clary and I are getting matching haircuts next. It’s supposed to promote sibling unity.”

Sebastian looks amused by this. “I’ll have to pass. I look terrible in curls.”

“But not pigtails?”

A ghost of confusion passes Camille’s face and Jace feels bitterly vindicated. Sebastian’s expression turns briefly impish. “Only for you.”

“And your ten trillion instagram followers.”

“Them too.”

Sebastian does actually make good on his threat, or promise, to drag Jace to Lush. Jace supposes his options are to go wherever Sebastian feels like driving next, or going back home to Jocelyn and her seemingly concerted efforts to pretend he doesn’t exist.

The decision is about as easy as it sounds.

As soon as they walk in, Jace is immediately accosted by a lot of smells at once, not necessarily obnoxious but certainly overwhelming. Bowls and soaps and jars of all shapes and colors are everywhere, and he’s suddenly hyperaware he could break something.

The first employee approaches them and before Jace can pretend to be examining a nearby...thing, Sebastian is already discussing Jace’s apparent skin problems. He hears the words ‘oily combination’ and is immediately ready to make a break for it, but the Lush employee has already blocked the exit. His nametag reads Meliorn—what kind of fucking name is that?—and he has an honest to god leaf tattoo on his face. At least Jace thinks it’s a leaf. It could also be a jalapeño feeling poorly.

“We’ll sort him out,” Meliorn says, and guides Jace with gentle forcefulness to a wood table, where he starts grilling Jace about his diet, exercise regimen, and skincare routine. The last of which, he is visibly horrified to learn, consists of hand soap and water.

“He wears Axe,” Sebastian puts in from the other side of the store, and Meliorn looks appalled. When he passes by, he says under his breath, “Whatever you do, don’t eat or drink anything.”

“Wasn’t planning to,” Jace snaps back from gritted teeth.

When they’re finally done, Meliorn has laden him down with tiny samples and strict instructions on how to apply them, which Jace listens to and forgets within five seconds. A the register, Meliorn also slips Sebastian his number with a sly smile.

“We’re not doing that ever again,” Jace says when he’s finally back in the passenger seat of Sebastian’s car.

Sebastian laughs. “I found his concern rather touching.”

“Of course you did,” Jace grumbles. He digs a sample out of the probably-recycled paper bag Meliorn gave him. “What the hell is this, anyway? ‘Dark Angel?’”

“It’s a charcoal face mask,” Sebastian tells him, as if he’s an idiot. “It’s one of my favorites, but use it sparingly, or you’ll lose a layer of skin.”

Jace stares at him in horror. “That’s inhumane.”

“Don’t be an infant.”

“You want to go with me to Sports Experts and have them babble on about running shoes for an hour? They’re not half as terrifying as whatshisname—Meliorn—either.”

Sebastian laughs. “Point taken.” His expression turns impish. “So if you’re not going to use those—“

Jace dumps the bag unceremoniously into his lap. “Take them all.”

Sebastian roots around in it for a few moments, looking delighted. “Oh, he gave you all the best moisturizers. You should really try this one.” He unscrews a little jar and grabs Jace’s hand before he can resist and rubs some of a goopy blueberry-colored substance on his hand. His fingers are cool and the sensation feels a little strange and tingly, and he’s both disappointed and relieved when Sebastian pulls away to drench a Wendy’s napkin with water from a waterbottle and wipe it off.

“Feel that,” Sebastian says proudly, running his thumb over the back of Jace’s newly-born hand. Jace brings his hand to his face, partially to feel if it feels any different and partially to feel if his face is actually as warm as it feels. His skin does feel unusually soft, almost kind of silky.


“There was literally nothing wrong with my hand to begin with,” Jace says.

They fuck around for nearly half an hour after that, but shortly after Sebastian takes fancy to the idea of going to the nearest mall Jocelyn texts him and asks if he can make dinner. He says yes, and Sebastian bitches all the way back to Luke and Jocelyn’s place.

“See you tomorrow,” he says as he lets Jace out a block from the house. “And remember, if you have a gas stove, leaving it on un-ignited could cause a massive explosion once there’s a spark.”

Jace makes a face. “Very funny.” He hauls his bags out of the passenger’s side and slams the door shut. “See you tomorrow.”

After dinner—the worst Shepherd’s pie creation has ever seen—Jace is poking through Dickens’ Hard Times and trying to ignore the sound of Jocelyn and Luke’s voices in the kitchen. He’s just gotten to the part where James Harthouse has been introduced, and finds him far more interesting than most of the other characters. His cynicism and laconic immorality stand out from the harsh, utilitarian purity of the others. Jace wonders if he could write his term essay about Harthouse—

His phone vibrating interrupts the thought. He checks it; it’s Sebastian on snapchat. He considers ignoring it to keep reading, but Sebastian hates being ignored on social media, so he opens it.

The first few are just selfies of himself with the fucking puppy filter, which Jace has to roll his eyes at. He somehow manages to look good while engaging in behavior Jace thinks thirteen-year-olds should have aged out of, and that irks him even more. Still, he looks at all three of them, which he supposes is just enabling behavior.

< Stop sending me drunk selfies and go play a game or something

There’s a pause, and then Sebastian’s (unfairly cute) bitmoji pops up over the keyboard.

> im not fcking drunk

Jace rolls his eyes again.

< Yes you are

> noim not shut the fkuc up

Jace shakes his head and closes out of snapchat. A few seconds later his phone vibrates again; another snap from Sebastian. Jace’s eyebrows shoot up—Sebastian is lying in bed completely shirtless, hand posed by his pouting lips. His nipples are very much visible, and Jace can’t help but instantly notice how pink and small  they are.

< holy fuck dude stop sending me nudes

He hesitates on the send button, and as if sensing weakness Sebastian sends him another snap. Jace closes the app again, resolving to focus. James Harthouse. Essay. Cynicism and morality. Would Mr. Starkweather let him write such a focused piece on a minor character, or would he prefer Jace write something that showcased his understanding of the work as a whole—

“For fuck’s sake!” Jace grabs his phone and swipes into Snapchat. Sebastian has sent him five new snaps, and Jace has a bad feeling he knows what they are. For some reason his annoyance melts as he thinks about it. He’s definitely drunk, he probably thinks he’s sending them to someone else.

< dude this is jace stop sending me fucking nudes

A few seconds pass, and Jace’s phone remains silent. Then Sebastian sends him another snap; Jace taps on it. A weird jolt goes through him; Sebastian’s lips are around two of his fingers, his dark eyes looking up at his phone. The caption reads: I kno who u are.


Jace doesn’t want to interrogate the weird feeling in his stomach. Sebastian was his stepbrother for three years, for god’s sake. Why he’s doing this now, Jace doesn’t know, but it’s wrong and should feel wrong too, but it doesn’t have the queasiness and terror he’d associate with like, accidentally walking in on Clary in the bathroom. (It had happened, the other way around, and they’d both screamed and avoided each other for days).

< stop it

Sebastian sends another snap. Jace knows it probably isn’t an apology, and closes out the app and turns off wifi, throwing his phone under his pillow. After a few minutes of trying to think about Dickens and failing, he goes to the bathroom and gets a drink of water. It’s lukewarm and doesn’t do much to dispel the vague feeling of existential dread. He stares long and hard at himself in the mirror—he needs a fucking haircut. He also has way, way more problems than his fucking hair.

He brushes his teeth and tries to focus on the icy mint. Cool Minty Fresh Blast, it’s called. It seems a bit redundant to him. Just call mint toothpaste mint, and spearmint spearmint, and don’t bother with the extra words. Parsimony, that’s what its called. Paring down the redundancy and distraction to get directly to the heart of what’s at hand.

He goes directly to bed, and tries not to think about James Harthouse.

Jace only manages to haul himself out of bed about ten minutes before the bus comes, and it’s a mad dash to throw all his shit together and throw on his practice uniform and eat something that might actually keep him from collapsing on the field. When he’s safely on the bus, thoroughly out of breath, he realizes he’s forgotten his Hard Times book on his desk. Mr. Starkweather is a fucking stickler for having the book in class—he’ll have to ask Sebastian to borrow his—

The thought of talking to Sebastian right now fills Jace with dread and he puts the idea firmly out of mind. He’ll ask Raj instead—he’s in the other section, and Jace let him copy his chem homework last week.

Practice is grueling, but the ache in his muscles and the strain of pushing himself to his limits keeps his mind occupied, so Jace is strangely grateful. It’s dark and gloomy, and mists on and off the entire time, and he can’t help but feel the weather is playing along with his mood.

Once as practice is over, Jace is sore and muddy and wants nothing more than a fucking shower. He pushes his way to the locker room, peeling off his shirt and grabbing his towel out of his locker and heading to the nearest shower, yanking the shower curtain closed behind him. The water isn’t warm, per se, but it still feels good and Jace really doesn’t want to leave.

He does anyway, shutting off the water wrapping the towel around his waist and trying not to feel bad about dripping water everywhere. He grabs his clothes from his locker and realizes he only has one sock—how exactly did he manage that?—and takes them to the changing rooms. Once he’s emerged he feels slightly more human, though still sore, and goes to his locker to grab his backpack and soccer bag and grab a drink of water.

“There you are.” Jace looks up just in time to see Sebastian approaching. Fuck—so much for avoiding him. He’s wearing a black overcoat that looks like it cost more than tuition at St. Xavier’s for an entire semester, and it looks good on him. Everything does. Jace doesn’t want to think about it. “Didn’t you get my text? I asked what you wanted for breakfast, but since you didn’t reply I got you a fucking Egg McMuffin. Serves you right.”

“You shouldn’t have,” Jace says. Thinking about how much money Sebastian spends on him makes his head hurt. “I already ate.”

“There’s a coupon on the app, relax.” Sebastian pulls a McDonalds bag out of his backpack—sleek and black, made of real leather and puts it in Jace’s hands. “I got you coffee, but I was hung over so I drank it.”

Jace mmm-hmms without comment, but doesn’t open the bag. Sebastian’s hair is wet—probably from the rain—and sticks to his forehead in metallic-colored strands. His uniform shirt is buttoned up almost all the way, and his dress shoes are immaculate.

“Earth to Jace.” Sebastian’s eyebrows are raised. “Is something wrong? Did a soccer ball hit you in the head and kill your remaining three brain cells?”

Jace glares at him. “Very funny, asshole.”

Sebastian shrugs. “Well, if you’re not going to eat the McMuffin, I will.”

Jace gives it back without hesitation. Sebastian looks at him quizzically. “Is something wrong?”

Jace gestures vaguely, and starts down the hall towards his regular locker, which is isolated by the fire escape where only the smokers hang out. This isn’t a conversation he particularly wants overheard, especially by anyone on the team. “Nothing. Well, not nothing.”

“That’s extremely specific, Jace.”

“Look, I just—you do know I’m not...into you, right? Not like...not like that?”

Sebastian looks at Jace without any real comprehension and Jace’s mounting anxiety spikes. Fuck—if Jace is wrong, or if he’s right, if Sebastian gets upset—it’ll be the end of his first and only friendship at this godforsaken school. He’s not sure he can take that, not right now.

“I know. Look, if you don’t want me talking about other guys, I get it—“

“It’s not that!” Jace’s voice raises, attracting a few stray looks. He forces himself to stay calm, and lowers his voice even further. “It’s—sending me pictures and shit—“

Comprehension dawns very rapidly on Sebastian’s face and he grabs his phone out of his pocket. A second later his hand goes to his temple, as if he’s putting his head in his hands. “I was a bit...drunk,” he says at last.

“It’s okay.” Jace feels a strange wave of relief, as if he’s been stayed from execution. “I should have probably realized they were meant for someone else.”

“You have to be at least eight inches to get nudes from me, and let’s be real, you’re not cutting it—ow!” The last is as Jace punches his shoulder, not very hard. His expression falters, just a little. “You’re still on for Halloween tomorrow, aren’t you?”

Jace grins. “Unless you’re still sold on being Harley Quinn.”

Sebastian gives him a lazy smile. “No promises.”