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Promise of Love

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The bell above the tailor’s door jingled loudly in the silent shop. Jace winced and hunched his shoulders, self conscious of the noise and even further the disturbance. He quickly looked around but saw no one save an elderly alpha who gave him a welcoming smile and gestured that he step further than the doorway. Jace hesitated and then gathered himself, pulling his shoulders back and giving the alpha a bright grin.

“Good day, young sir! May I assist you with your wardrobe? My, my but you seem to be in dire need of my services. Yes, the season has already begun and these threadbare rags are not doing you any favors. Is that a hole in your waistcoat? So handsome! So unfashionable!”

Jace stumbled as he neared the man, shocked at the bald face insults and backhanded compliments. He had been away from Idris society too long and forgotten the honeyed barbs and hidden snakes that dwelt there. He swallowed but hid his unease behind his grinning mask. His father had taught him well to hide his emotions from others. It had certainly only helped him against his father’s manipulation and abuse.

Jace fingered his shirt cuffs behind his back. His clothes were certainly not threadbare but the elder alpha was right, he would be scorned and gossiped about if he were dressed so at society’s parties and dinners. Jace opened his mouth to speak but the spry little man cut him off.

“Oh, my! An omega, of course. How lovely you are and those eyes, how unique! I can do wonders for you, my dear. The alphas won’t be able to resist.”

The tailor took the measuring tape from around his neck and reached out to Jace with it, frowning slightly in concentration. Jace reached into his jacket pocket, tracing the small piece of paper within gently.

“Actually, Alpha Einri, I was rather hoping that you required my services...as apprentice, you see.”

Einri frowned down at him and stroked his clean shaven chin.

“An omega apprentice? How odd! But, of course, an omega is as competent with their hands as an alpha or beta.”

Jace watched the man’s expression carefully, easily seeing his lie. The tailor may say such things in polite company but it was obvious by his mannerisms and hesitation that he saw omegas as less capable. It was a common view and it made Jace burn with shame and anger. His life would be infinitely better had he been born a beta. He would have been allowed to continue, undisturbed, his previous ambition to be a novelist and his father wouldn’t have… Jace shook off his spiraling thoughts.

“I assure you, sir, I am a hard worker, a fast learner and prior to my presentation, I was a shop assistant to Beta Warner two streets over. I’m sure you are acquainted, he’s a very reputable-”

The man waved his hand dismissively.

“Yes, yes, of course I am well aware of Warner Candy Shoppe. And shop assistant, you say! That seems like it’s perfect for you, I could use someone to greet the customers and handle deliveries.”

“No, I mean, sir, I am more than capable to apprentice-”

The bell above the door made a loud noise again and a young feminine voice laughed too loudly. She was shushed quickly. Jace refused to turn and acknowledge the interruption, pulling out the paper from his jacket and thrusting it at the tailor. The man sighed but took it, waving over Jace’s shoulder to the newcomers.

“One moment, my dears! I’ll be right there.”

He opened and carelessly read the little lines that contained Jace’s whole life. His name, his designation, his work experience and one lonely reference from Beta Warner. Einri startled and folded up the paper quickly, handing it back in a rush.

“Morgenstern, my dear boy, you are Valentine Morgenstern’s son? Oh, no I can’t have you in my shop, what would society say? No, no, please leave unless you are here for my services.”

The other customers behind him were deadly silent and Jace felt his face flush with shame as the tailor dismissed him and moved around him. He turned, feeling ill, and forced himself to leave the shop at a respectable walk when he really wanted to just run. Run until he collapsed, run until no one knew him and didn’t judge him for the sins of his father. He brushed past one woman’s petticoat and apologized softly before throwing the door open. The bell sounded harshly and Jace took a childish pleasure from the disturbance before he took off at a fast clip down the street.

The tailor had been the third shop he had visited that day and no amount of confidence or groveling had made a difference. Not even to Beta Warner who had doted on him when he worked for him as a child. His father had destroyed his life and Jace wished fervently that he was drowning in his own sick at whatever tavern he had fled to.
His father had been missing for three months, taking all the family money and valuables with him, leaving Jace destitute and disgraced. It wasn’t a surprise to Jace. After Jace’s mother had left them, Valentine had begun a spiral of booze and violence that reached out to consume his son. The bank had eventually come after the family estate and left Jace on the street, completely unsympathetic to a young omega with no where and no one.

“Jace! Jace!”

Jace halted abruptly and turned to the voice, feeling his sour mood lift and hope bloomed in his breast. Isabelle Lightwood ran to him, her skirts in her hands and a bright smile on her face. When she was close enough, she launched herself at him and he laughed, catching her in his arms easily. Jace was considered tall for an omega, who were ideally small, delicate and soft in their loveliness. Jace was handsome at turns and pretty at others, mostly surly and much too muscular for society to label him a great beauty, his scent of black pepper and cardamom too abrasive. He couldn’t help but compare himself to the lovely Isabelle, she would be greatly sought after when she was introduced to society. For now, she was simply Izzy, caught between adulthood and childhood but ultimately free. Jace would never feel free again.

“Oh, Jace! I’ve missed you. When did you get back to the city? People are saying so many horrible things-”

“Isabelle, enough.”

Izzy rolled her eyes and huffed and Jace looked up to meet the eyes of Maryse Lightwood. Jace felt anxious as he met her gaze. This was the first time meeting any of the Lightwoods since he had been called away by his father. The four years he had spent as a ward to the Lightwood family had been the most blissful he had ever known. Robert Lightwood and Valentine had run in the same social circles well before Jace was born and had been close companions since childhood. A fortuitous visit by Robert to the Morgenstern estate had revealed the abuse Jace was being subjected to at his father’s hands. Robert had been horrified and convinced Valentine that Jace was too much responsibility for his father and Robert would be happy to take Jace in until Valentine was back on his feet. Jace suspected money had been involved. His father had delighted in the ill treatment of his son and he had let Jace go much too easily.

Maryse reached out and took Jace’s hands in hers, smiling softly.

“Jace, it’s good to see you. I’m sorry for what you’ve had to endure, my boy.”

The smile on Jace’s face hurt it was so wide. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt this happy, this relieved. A kind touch and warm words had him ready to fall at Maryse’s feet and beg for more. He trembled. A large shadow fell over him and Jace twisted to see who had approached them. His breath caught in his throat as he craned his head to meet Alec Lightwood’s expressive brown eyes.

Of all the Lightwoods, Alec had been the dearest to Jace. They were constant companions as children, often sneaking away from their lessons to run to the stables, sneak scones from the kitchen and hide away under blanket forts and make up fantastic stories. It was Alec’s staid encouragement that had Jace dreaming of travelling the world and writing of his adventures. They would go together, Alec had said, they would never be apart. The cold indifference on Alec’s face was a splash of cold water. His eyes were hard and flinty and his face was blank as he looked down at Jace.

Jace took a fortifying breath and opened his mouth to greet Alec but was stopped by a most intoxicating scent, ginger and parchment. It wrapped around Jace’s senses and made him weak, dizzy. The smell had Jace wanting nothing more than to lean close and bury his head in Alec’s chest. Jace had been called away before they had presented and Jace had never smelled an alpha scent that was so intoxicating. Why was Alec acting so distant? Did Alec not recognize him? Was Jace the only one clinging to the time they had spent together? Alec raised an eyebrow at Jace’s awkward gawking.

“Morgenstern.”

His voice was brusk and Jace reeled back as if he had been slapped. Yes, of course. Alec was an alpha of high society now. He had no need, no want, of a destitute, landless omega. Even one who had been a childhood friend. Society would mock Alec for any association with Jace, let alone...Jace shook those thoughts away. He was too old to cling to daydreams and promises made to him in the past. Things were different now.

“Hello, Alpha Lightwood.”

The words were like ashes in his mouth. He had dreamed for years of this reunion and the reality was devastating in it’s disappointment. Even when his letters to Alec had gone unanswered, Jace had hoped there had been a good excuse. Maybe they had been lost in the post, maybe some family tragedy prevented Alec from rushing to his side, whisking him away from his dark torment.

Surely, if Jace explained his dire situation with Valentine, Alec would make good on his promise to never abandon him. Surely, surely Jace’s love for Alec was more important than the pressures put on Alec by his family and society. What a damned fool Jace had been. He had poured his heart out to Alec in his letters, things he couldn’t say before he left to return home. Had Alec even read them or had they gone straight into the fire?

Alec looked away, dismissive and cold and Jace wished he could sink into the ground beneath his feet. How humiliating to be treated so but Jace understood. He was beneath the Lightwoods, had always been a charity case for them. Looked at with pity and treated kindly but he had never been good enough to marry Alec even before Valentine’s last explosive scheme.

Maryse’s smile was slightly strained and she took Alec’s elbow, squeezing harshly if his wince was to be believed. Jace stood across from them, smiling awkwardly as Izzy clung to him, her eyes wide from the tense atmosphere. Maryse cleared her throat.

“Jace, please, join us at the manor for lunch! We were just about to head back, join us in our carriage.”

Jace started to shake his head but he made the mistake of glancing to Izzy. He wasn’t so heartless to deny her when she made that pathetic face at him. He grimaced and agreed. Maryse made to turn and walk to the carriage but Alec stopped, pulling away.

“Mother, I have a previous engagement, remember?”

Maryse made a soft sound of understanding.

“Oh, yes, Alpha Bane! You are such a good friend, son.”

Maryse turned to Jace and smiled brightly.

“I’m so proud of my son for making such good social connections! Alpha Bane is so generous and so charming!”

Alec ducked his head and Jace could see the lightest blush of red on his cheeks.

“Please, mother, I will be late if I don’t go now.”

Maryse waved her hand and dismissed him. Alec kissed both his mother and sister on the cheek and gave Jace a barely perceptible, stiff nod and he was off. Jace watched Alec’s tall frame disappear down the street over his shoulder as he was dragged by an enthusiastic Izzy to the Lightwood carriage. As Jace settled into the plush seat he saw Alec pause outside of a florist's shop and enter. Was Alec courting someone? The idea sat like a stone in Jace’s stomach and he watched the buildings pass as they pulled away.

***

The Lightwood manor had not changed since Jace had last seen it. As the carriage clattered up the drive, Jace allowed himself to indulge in the fantasy that no time had passed at all. That he would alight from the carriage and run off hand in hand with Alec and Izzy to the gardens and mock fight with sticks as their mighty swords until they collapsed in contented exhaustion. Those days were lost to him but perhaps this unexpected invitation would help cultivate a relationship between Jace and the Lightwoods.

The nostalgia was overwhelming when lunch was served on the veranda. The trees around the secluded table offered enough shade that the ladies were able to shed their hats and the glare of the sun wasn’t in anyone’s eyes. The flowers were in bloom, verdant colors and sweet scents surrounded Jace and he allowed himself to lean back in his chair and take in deep, relaxing breaths. He hadn’t felt this safe in years and he let the soothing voices of Izzy and Maryse wash over him, smiling softly, pretending that he belonged here, that he was a Lightwood. Right here, right now, his father’s taint couldn’t reach him and he felt light and happy.

A tea tray was brought for them and the young beta woman that served it chattered openly about the menu, how nice the day was, how lovely they all looked and how was your trip to town, Omega Lightwood? Maryse indulged her questions and the women shared a laugh about something or other. Jace wasn’t following the words, just letting the atmosphere and the chatter wash over him.

The beta servant turned to include him in the conversation and Jace smiled charmingly at her, answering her quietly. He felt a thrill when she blushed and stammered a bit, eventually excusing herself to check on lunch. Oh, how he wished to have presented alpha. He would never treat an omega the way Sebastian Verlac had treated him. Jace was thankful when his darkening thoughts were interrupted by Maryse.

“Oh, Jace dear, I hope you don’t mind I sent for Maxwell to join us in our repast. He will be so excited to see you!”

Jace grinned and leaned forward, clenching his hands together.

“Of course I don’t mind! Does he even remember me? He was so young when I was called away.”

Max had latched onto Jace quickly after his arrival to the Lightwood manor. The other Lightwood siblings had been indulgent and doting but they rarely made time for their younger brother. Jace would sneak into Max’s room at night and read to him for hours, soaking in Max’s hero-like worship and almost possessive demand for his attention. Being an only child, Jace had never been around pups before and his instincts had led him to spoil Max. Jace wished desperately to have pups of his own one day, he just wished he didn’t need a mate for that. Izzy gasped loudly at his question, bringing Jace’s mind back to the present.

“Of course he remembers you. I don’t think a day has gone by that your name isn’t on his lips! I don’t recall you spending so much time with him before but he is constantly regaling anyone who will sit and listen about you.”

Jace flushed in embarrassment and pleasure. He shook his head and leaned back, grinning slightly, sipping his tea. Maryse cleared her throat.

“Now before young Max joins us, there is something I’d like to talk to you about. Nothing bad, I assure you.”

Despite Maryse’s reassurance Jace felt a creeping dread and sat down his tea slowly, careful not to slosh the liquid as his hands began to shake. He cursed Valentine for making him so sensitive, his anxiety had never been so overwhelming and he felt like a foal stumbling alone in the woods. He hated himself for being so timid. Izzy reached out and took his hand in hers, smiling and Jace straightened his spine, meeting Maryse’s concerned gaze.

“I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with Alpha Einri, the tailor.”

Jace groaned and covered his face with his hands, not worried about propriety with the other omegas. They wouldn’t mind his lapse in manners, having known him for so long. He peeked through his fingers to see Izzy looking amused and Maryse, well, there was the pity he knew the Lightwoods felt for poor, lost Jace. Maryse reached out to refill their tea and Izzy sat two more biscuits on his plate, nudging it closer.

“I only mention it because I believe there is a better, simpler solution to your, ahem, situation.”

“Oh, no please don’t tell me you mean…”

Maryse pursed her lips and folded her hands in her lap, pinning Jace with a fierce gaze.

“You are having trouble securing yourself independently, Jace. That is not your fault, my boy, it’s Valentine’s fault. He’s ruined the Morgenstern name with his gambling and drinking and swindling unsuspecting, naive people out of their money. And now he’s fled to parts unknown, leaving no trace save for a kind, nurturing, beautiful son. Your father is not here to persecute and his victims are taking their ire out on you, not realizing that you are more of a victim of Valentine than they ever were.”

Jace ducked his head in shame, unable to process such kind words. He had only been spit on and yelled at since his father’s disappearance. Maryse continued.

“You need allies and the Lightwood name can only get you so much. Your greatest support would be an alpha husband and- don’t make that sound, it’s true!”

Jace clenched his hands into tight fists, frustration seeping into his tone.

“No alpha of any kind of influence will agree to marry me, Maryse. Haven’t you heard the gossip about me?”

Maryse sniffed and Izzy was silent, watching their conversation and moving her head as if she were watching an intense tennis match.

“Yes, and I know they are not true. I’m glad your engagement to Sebastian Verlac was broken and anyone with half a mind won’t believe those awful rumors. Alpha Verlac is a liar and a rogue, much like your father.”

Jace winced. If only society knew just how much Valentine and Sebastian were alike, Jace has permanent marks from the both of them to prove it. Sebastian would certainly be less sought after, the damn snake. Maryse took a deep breath.

“Jace, I won’t ask you to tell me what happened between you and Valentine or Sebastian. I will always be here if you wish to unburden yourself a little by speaking of it with me.”

“Or me!”

Jace smiled at Izzy’s bright offer. Maryse reached out and laid her hand near Jace’s, not touching but close if needed.

“Forgive me for saying so but Jace, you will not find work in Idris and a lone omega outside of Idris is much more vulnerable. The laws for omegas there are much more restrictive. Your father’s reputation has become yours and you need to associate yourself with more respectable families. I know a few omega mothers who would jump at the chance to introduce you to their available alpha sons if I support you this season. The Lightwood name can get you a few suitors and your charming, loving nature will secure you a husband.”

Jace felt numb and overwhelmed by Maryse’s words. He knew, intellectually, that Maryse was right. He would never be able to find work to support himself as a lone omega with no family. And to leave Idris...it was unthinkable. Omegas were treated as slaves by the surrounding lands. Idris still had many problems with omega rights but it was certainly the better of two evils for Jace. Izzy huffed loudly and crossed her arms.

“I don’t know why we can’t just adopt him! Then he could live here forever and be happy doing whatever he wished.”

Jace cleared his throat, embarrassed.

“Please, Izzy, I already owe your family so much. I don’t wish to be a further burden.”

The look of pity was back on Maryse’s face and Jace wished he could excuse himself, leave and never return. Maryse shook her head.

“You aren’t a burden, Jace. The time you spent here with our family are cherished memories. I’ve never seen the children so happy than when you lived here with us. I can’t see you spending the rest of your days in isolation, you have so much to give. Don’t you want a family of your own, pups?”

Jace met Maryse’s eyes in surprise. How had she seen his secret heart so easily?

“Yes, I want that more than anything. A loving family.”

Maryse nodded briskly.

“Step one for that is an alpha husband. Certainly that would suit you better than a beta, you are so fierce when the mood strikes and an alpha would do better to dote on you, you deserve the extra attention. Oh, don’t blush so, you know it’s true! It just so happens that the biggest party of the season is this week and Alpha Bane is hosting it at his lovely estate. You remember Alec mentioned him in town?”

Jace’s smile dimmed a bit at the mention of Alec. Speaking of alpha husbands and Alec in the same conversation was making him maudlin. Would he ever find an alpha that loved him for just being Jace? Or would his future husband only see him as an omega and more importantly, want him for his connection to the influential Lightwoods. Jace nodded as Maryse continued.

“Well, Alpha Bane is such a nice young man, generous, kind and charming. Society practically adores him! If they see him welcoming you with open arms, they will surely follow. I will write him directly after lunch. And don’t worry about having something appropriate to wear, your room is exactly how you left it, wardrobe and all.”

Jace raised his eyebrows, moved by the thought of his room being untouched, waiting as if for his return.

He was distracted by the arrival of a grinning and running Max. Despite his mother’s admonitions to settle down, Max clung to him and insisted on sitting in Jace’s lap as they ate lunch. Even with an uncertain future hanging before him, Jace was determined to enjoy his reunion with the Lightwoods, the soft, warm atmosphere and the excellent menu.

***

The Lightwoods were reluctant to let Jace leave after lunch, quite insistent that he stay with them for the season, sleep in his old bed. Jace wanted nothing more than to accept, to make a nest for himself and feel safe and protected for even just a moment. Then Alec’s cold face floated into his mind and Jace couldn’t endure the torture of being so close yet so far from the one alpha he wished would court him. To be politely ignored by his oldest friend and listen to him wax poetic about the omega that received those flowers. Maryse had mentioned an Omega Lydia Branwell that was interested in Alec. Were they courting?

The Lightwood’s carriage stopped and Jace exited, giving the driver a nod in thanks and standing on the derelict street that hosted his current lodgings. The neighborhood was firmly in the less reputable part of Idris, home to the poorest and most pitiable. The affronted look on the driver’s face as he pulled away assured Jace that Maryse would hear of the sad little omega boarding house that Jace called home.

Jace considered himself lucky to have stumbled across the kind elderly beta woman who ran the boarding house being accosted by ruffians. The horrible men had underestimated Jace, as alphas were known to do of omegas, and Jace had thoroughly trounced them, sending them scurrying like rats into the alley. He offered to walk the beta, Lillian Patel, to her destination and she had eagerly accepted. She had pried quite skillfully into Jace’s depressing personal history and adamantly offered Jace a room when he reluctantly admitted he had nowhere to go.

Jace had been instantly charmed by both Lillian and the little attic room she showed him once they reached their destination. The room was dusty and smelled a bit stale but there was a large window that offered a perfect view of the street and in the mornings, the sun shone brightly onto the small table and two chairs. It was a perfect place to enjoy tea and toast or scones with strawberry jam that Lillian insisted on bringing him three times a day. He had tried to deny her coddling at first but she had insisted so fiercely that Jace was afraid of upsetting her too much and he secretly enjoyed the attention. There was a plush chair near the small fireplace where Jace spent most of his evenings reading and wishing for a nice glass of wine. It was an indulgence that few could afford here.

The bed was small but it fit Jace well enough, much better than the park benches he had been chased off of before. The quilt was thin and Lillian had apologized at length for not having appropriate nesting materials. Most of the omegas she took in were unable to pay her and Lillian couldn’t afford extra blankets or pillows. The thin quilt didn’t keep his scent very well and his one pillow wasn’t much comfort on lonely nights. It left him feeling vulnerable and anxious to not have a proper nest to unwind in every night. He often woke up crying and wishing for any comfort, wishing that his life had been different. He had not had to endure a heat here yet and he found himself hoping he never would, that he could charm his way to an alpha husband and spend his heat in comfort and affection.

Lillian’s soft voice called out to him as he ascended the noisy stairs to the attic. He paused and turned to her, coming back down and pressing a kiss to her soft, wrinkled cheek.

“Oh, my dear boy! You were gone so long today, I was growing worried. Any luck at the shops?”

“I’m afraid not, Lilly. But I did run into a few old friends and joined them for lunch. The Lightwoods.”

Lillian gasped and pressed her hand over her mouth, eyes wide.

“Oh, my! The Lightwoods, how lovely to be acquainted with such a family. Now, shoo! Go up to your room and I’ll bring a tea tray with extra scones and you can tell me all about it. This is so exciting!”

Jace chuckled and made to follow her to the small kitchen.

“Let me carry that for you.”

Lillian pursed her lips at him and opened her mouth as if to argue but Jace breezed past her, not stopping to hear.

Chapter Text

The carriage Maryse had sent for him clattered to a stop in front of the Lightwood manor and Jace had barely a second to brace himself before the door was forcefully opened and Izzy’s excited face was grinning at him. She tugged insistently at his arm.

“Oh, Jace, hurry, hurry! This is so exciting!”

Jace rolled his eyes but gave her a fond grin and jumped out, pulling her closer with his arm around her shoulders. The sun was setting, casting an orange glow upon the manor and Izzy’s black, glossy hair was loose and soaking up the fading light. Jace tugged on a thick curl and frowned.

“It’s just a party, Iz. You look ready for bed, are you not coming as well?”

Izzy made a small, disgusted sound, placing her hands on her hips and tilting her head up imperiously.

“Just a party? Jace, this is the beginning of the rest of your life! I can’t believe you are being so cavalier about this. Well, lucky for you, I’m here to help you look irresistible to the alpha gentry.”

She ran a hand through her loose hair, twirling the ends between her fingers, pouting.

“I’m not invited. Mother says it’s not ‘appropriate’ for me to attend until I’m older. Whatever that means, I’m an adult!”

Jace grinned at her dramatics and cupped her face between his hands.

“I bet Maryse is just concerned that your beauty and charm will ensnare a hapless alpha. You’re too young to marry yet, best to have pity on those foolish knotheads. Just imagine the hearts you would break tonight.”

Izzy scrunched her face and drew back, lightly punching Jace’s shoulder and leading him into the manor. Jace caught the movement of a shadowed figure in the upstairs hall window but it disappeared before he could identify its source. The warmth of the manor enveloped him and Jace lost himself to its familiar embrace, a feeling of home reaching out to cradle him.

“Yes, yes, alright. Since I can’t go, I have appointed myself your stylist for the event! This isn’t what you are planning on wearing, is it? No matter, Mother wasn’t lying when she said your wardrobe is still here. A few seasons out of fashion, mind you.”

Jace grimaced and glanced down at his clothes. They were more than serviceable but Izzy was correct, they were hardly Society ready. Izzy ushered him up the long staircase to the next floor, where the family rooms were, chatting at him the whole time. He didn’t try to keep up, letting her excitement wash over him. He was far too nervous to respond.

Jace had gotten little sleep in the few days between reuniting with the Lightwoods and now. Three nights of tossing and turning, pacing his small room and refusing to eat much. Lillian had hovered over him more than usual, offering comfort and forcing him to eat what he could but even she was a small comfort in the face of what was coming. This party would decide the rest of his life. He would either be received well by society under the Lightwood sponsorship and attract suitors or he would somehow completely mess this up and be rejected, mocked, and spurned. The Lightwoods would turn their backs on him to avoid further shame and Jace wouldn’t blame them. He was a curse to all those who knew him and surely even they would grow tired of how pathetic he was.

And what of this mysterious Alpha Bane? Would he be as welcoming as Maryse believed? He was a close acquaintance of Alec, perhaps all of the Lightwoods. Would Alec’s distant demeanor extend to his friends as well? Jace could only pray that he would meet a nice, innocuous alpha at this party. He only wanted a respectful husband who would give him pups and a warm hearth. Jace didn’t need lands or titles, summer homes or apartments in the city. He would attend this party, be quiet and respectful and show as much as he could that he was hardly trying to reach beyond his worth.

They reached his old rooms and Jace stopped short on the threshold. It was one thing to be told that his rooms were the same and another to experience it. Jace paced slowly around the sitting room as Izzy passed through to his bedroom. He could hear her moving hurriedly around and he peeked inside at her as he passed the open door to see her bent over, picking up and discarding clothing and muttering to herself. He smiled softly and continued on, running his fingers lightly over the decor and the few personal belongings he had left behind.

Optimistically, when he had been called to return to his father, Jace had been sure it would be temporary. The Lightwoods would fight for him to be given back to them so why take all of his things with him? The disappointment he felt when he heard no word from his adopted family echoed in him now as he stopped by the glowing fireplace.
A plush, maroon reading chair sat facing the fire and a book was sitting on the side table. On top of the book sat a small pair of reading glasses, poised as if the reader had set them down in a rush, barely balanced on the edge. Jace reached out as if in a trance, to lift the glasses up to the flickering light, turning them back and forth, shocked and confused. He cleared his throat and called to Izzy, his voice pitched to be as even as possible, hiding his tumultuous emotions, his heart beating loudly in his ears.

“Iz, are these...Alec’s reading glasses?”

Izzy called back but her voice was muffled and Jace gripped the glasses as tightly as he could without crushing them, feeling the metal make indents in his skin. He picked up the book next, his hand shaking and tipped the cover to the firelight to read the title. He drew in a sharp gasp, his fingers growing lax and the book started to slip. The book was his favorite, one he had left behind, unwilling to have it fall into his father’s grasp. Most of his books had been taken and burned by Valentine as a punishment for a perceived sin, his father needed only thin excuses to leave Jace bereft. So Jace had left his most precious books with the Lightwoods, wanting them safe.

“What did you say, Jace?”

Izzy entered the room, brushing her hair over her shoulders, looking a bit rumpled. She saw the glasses and book and waved her hand.

“Oh, yes, that dumb brother of mine is in here all the time. Alec, that is. He says it’s quiet, he can think better. Though why it needs to be your room when his would suffice…”

Jace felt dizzy. Alec spent time in his rooms, alone? These rooms clearly belonged to Jace, even now. They held his most precious belongings, his clothes, his books, all the sketches that Izzy had given to him of the family were clearly displayed and Jace was at the forefront in all of them. Why would Alec do that and then treat Jace so coldly?
Jace shook off those thoughts. It didn’t matter in the end. Jace was only here temporarily and then he would leave again, this time to his husband’s house and Alec would continue to politely ignore him. Perhaps there was no other reason for Alec to be in here other than the silence and privacy it offered. Perhaps Jace was so far beneath Alec’s notice that the traces of Jace in this room were easily ignored. Jace carefully sat the items back to their original positions and turned his back on them, entering the bedroom.

Izzy grinned brightly and pulled him further in the room, bouncing on her heels. She clasped her hands together and nodded at the clothes she had laid out on the bed.

“I left you a few options. Which do you like the best?”

Jace approached the bed, his eyes roaming. He reached out slowly and laid his fingers on a deep blue waistcoat. The material was soft and it seemed to absorb the light, making it shimmer. Izzy made a satisfied sound behind him.

“Oh, good, you chose the right one!”

Jace rolled his eyes, looking at her over his shoulder.

“Why give me the illusion of choice, Iz? Just tell me what to wear and be done with it.”

Izzy scoffed and picked up the shirt laying under the waistcoat, holding it up to Jace and stretching it around his chest. She hummed.

“Well, I want you to feel included. Oh! I can’t believe these will still fit you, Jace! You’ve barely grown since we last saw each other.”

Jace gave an exaggerated pout.

“We can’t all be giants like Alec.”

Izzy laughed and gathered the rest of the clothing, shooing him behind a changing screen.

“Hurry up and change, Jace. I want to line your eyes and do something with that hair.”

“I don’t need this much primping, Isabelle. I’m going to look ridiculous.”

Izzy passed him more of the ensemble.

“Nonsense! You’re going to be the most handsome man there, alpha, beta or omega! Every eye will turn to you as you enter and your dance card will fill up and-”

Jace walked around the changing screen, straightening his cuffs and pinned her with a fierce gaze. She bustled over to him and started to fuss.

“That sounds awful, Iz. I don’t want all that attention...I don’t even want to go but your mother is right. I need a husband and damn Valentine for ruining my life even when he’s not here.”

Izzy bit her lip and looked guilty.

“I’m sorry, Jace. I just think you’re so wonderful and you deserve so much! If only I had been born an alpha, I would marry you myself!”

Jace laughed in surprise, throwing his head back and relaxing his shoulders.

“I don’t think your mother would approve.”

“Then we would run away together! I’d provide for you and we could have a hundred pups!”

Jace smiled fondly at her as she fixed his collar.

“That sounds like a wonderful dream, Iz. But even if you were an alpha, I wouldn’t love you...like that.”

Izzy gave an exaggerated sigh and nodded.

“I know. You always favored Alec over anyone else. I was sure once you both presented he would…”

Jace reached up and captured her hands in his, looking at the stark difference between them, his rough, calloused hands against her smooth, soft ones. He looked up into her tender eyes and felt a tear roll down his cheek.

“He’s been cold since our reunion, avoiding me. I always dreamed he and I…”

Izzy reached up and brushed his tear away, standing closer, her voice hushed.

“He’s been so strange since...well, since we heard of your engagement to Lord Verlac.”

Jace let out a breathy laugh and sniffed, clearing his throat.

“Thankfully, that’s in the past. What an awful man. And please, forgive me for those silly letters.”

Izzy frowned as she led him to the vanity, pushing him to sit. She began to pull out her beauty tools, things that Jace had no idea what they were for.

“What letters?”

Jace closed his eyes when she began lining them with black kohl.

“I sent letters to your father begging to be saved from my awful, cruel fiance and the machinations of my horrible father. I’m sure I sounded like some foolish, gothic omega hero. I took care of Seb myself and my father took himself to task. I hope he’s dead.”

Izzy was silent and Jace leaned back to open his eyes, seeing her blinking owlishly at him.

“Which one do you hope is dead?”

Jace sneered.

“Both.”

Jace watched Izzy swallow and shift nervously.

“Jace, you speak as if your engagement was forced. I knew life with Valentine was difficult for you but I’m beginning to suspect I actually understand very little.”

Jace reached out, trying to shush her, comfort her.

“Please, Iz, I didn’t mean to upset you. My father never tried to hide his disdain for me and he was never careful in his punishments. I thought you knew, that the whole family knew. It’s why I was brought here originally, Valentine was unfit to care for me.”

Izzy’s voice grew shrill.

“Unfit? Unfit? Jace! Oh, god, the scars on your back, those were from Valentine weren’t they? Remember, when you fell from our apple tree and your shirt ripped? I stayed with you while Alec ran for help. You had scars, Jace, deep and nasty. I was so stupid, I thought they were from other accidents, other trees! Damn my father! How could he let you go back to that monster?”

Jace gripped her arms tightly and pulled her to him, tucking her head into his neck and forcing her to breathe in his scent. He concentrated on staying calm and projecting warmth and comfort, hoping that it would reach her. He rocked her as she relaxed into him, curled up in his lap and sobbing. He stroked her hair and laid his cheek on her head, trying not to fall apart. He was so stupid. Why had he let the conversation run away from him. Izzy was too young to shoulder his burdens, no matter how much she wanted to.

“I’m sorry, Iz. I’m sure Robert tried his best but there wasn’t much he could have done. I understand that now. The law says that a man owns his son, especially an omega son. Don’t worry about me, pup. All that is in the past and like you said, tonight begins the rest of my life, right? You’re here for that.”

Izzy leaned back, sniffling and wiping her eyes.

“Oh, damn, I’ve gotten your shirt all wet.”

Jace laughed and ran his hand through her hair.

“It will dry. Now hurry up and finish, it’s getting late and I have a dance card to fill.”

Izzy set to her task with a renewed determination. She filled the silence around them with idle chatter, trying to recapture the light atmosphere that had deserted them. Her bright company eased his heavy heart and the darkness receded, leaving him hopeful and nervous again.

Finally, Izzy urged him to stand in front of the full length mirror next to the vanity and stood behind him, smoothing out the back of his jacket. A beautiful stranger with his face stared back at him. His clothes were more appropriate for a beta according to society’s standards but they suited Jace more than the more feminine attire that most omegas, male and female, wore.

Omegas traditionally wore flowing, draping clothes, feathers and beads, soft pastel colors. Jace had always admired the omega style but he felt foolish emulating it, like a hulking pretender, not lithe and graceful enough. Izzy had chosen well from his wardrobe, the blue of the waistcoat accentuated his mismatched eyes and the jacket smoothed out his muscled shoulders and chest, hiding what he perceived as a flaw. He spun and blushed a bit to realize that the pants were a bit too tight but they hugged him in all the right places, showing off his natural omega curves. The collar of the shirt was open, revealing a tantalizing view of his neck and the barest hint of his scent glands. It showed to the world that he was unmated and open to courtship. Izzy smiled dreamily and hooked her chin over his shoulder, meeting his eyes in the mirror.

“You look wonderful, Jace. Sorry, I went a little heavy on the kohl.”

Jace shook his head and reached up to lay his fingertips on his cheek, blushing lightly.

“No, Iz, I like it. It makes me feel...nice, confident.”

Izzy squeezed him, her arms around his chest.

“Good, you should feel amazing. You are amazing, Jace. I love you. I want you to know you will always be my brother, no matter what.”

Jace met her gaze in the mirror and his eyes teared up.

“I love you too, Iz. Now stop making me cry.”

Once they had both gathered themselves, they made their way to the parlor to wait for Alec and Maryse. Izzy rang for a tea tray and they sat on a loveseat together, cozy and warm, staring into the darkness outside and watching the rain lash against the windows.

“How horrible that it is raining! I’ve heard that Alpha Bane has the most wonderful maze garden. Alec says there are fountains, benches and rose bushes. I could just imagine you taking a romantic stroll with a handsome alpha, arm in arm, the moon shining down, the lights of the ballroom blinking in the distance. How romantic!”

Jace snorted into his cup, wiping the tea off his lips onto a soft napkin and standing to stretch out his stiff shoulders. Staying so still for Izzy to work her magic had taken a toll on his posture.

“I don’t think romantic things like that actually happen, Izzy. It’s all in those torrid books you read.”

Izzy gasped and crossed her arms, she opened her mouth to retort but was cut off by the front door banging open. The wind howled and someone grunted, sounding like they were struggling with the door. Jace heard soft footsteps and then Maryse’s voice.

“Oh, dear. I wonder if we should be out in this?”

Alec’s voice answered her and Jace felt all the tension he had worked out of his shoulders return.

“Nonsense, mother. The storm is passing. I’ve instructed the carriage be readied for us.”

The two made their way to the parlor and Jace paced over to the fireplace, nervous to see Alec again. He stood facing the flames until Maryse called to greet him. He turned to give her a smile and froze, caught in Alec’s gaze. Alec had stopped in the doorway, taking in Jace’s appearance, eyes sweeping slowly over his form. When Alec met his eyes, Jace grinned at him, daring to believe for a moment that the awkwardness between them would disappear and their previous camaraderie was not lost forever. He was disappointed when Alec’s face closed off and he nodded politely to Jace before joining his family, sitting with his back to Jace and accepted a cup of tea from his mother. Jace bit his lip, willing himself not to cry. He turned back to the flames to hide his distress and prayed that it wouldn’t be obvious in his scent. Maryse noticed but guessed wrong as to the source of his ill humor.

“Jace, dear, don’t be so nervous. Come and sit, please.”

He did as she wished and sat beside her, directly across from Alec. He kept his eyes on the tea tray, tracing the different biscuits and wishing he could partake. It was rare that he was able to have such treats. Maryse reached out and laid her hand on his arm.

“Don’t worry so, my boy. You will fit right in, I promise. You look so lovely, doesn’t he Alec?”

“Yes, of course.”

Jace startled at Alec’s response and lifted his eyes to meet Alec’s. Alec pursed his lips and turned his head but Jace could see a faint blush on his cheeks and the tips of his ears. Jace ducked his head, confused but pleased and let the faint smell of ginger and old books surround and relax him.

***

The rain had barely abated when they set off for the party and the traffic through the city made them arrive later than was expected. Maryse slapped her fan against her palm in frustration.

“Oh, dear. I wanted to arrive early, Jace. I know the perfect vantage point above the ballroom to watch all the guests arrive. It’s going to be harder to point out eligible alphas now.”

Alec rolled his eyes and propped his chin on his fist, looking out the window. Jace hid a smile and couldn’t help but compare Maryse to her daughter, both of them scheming so hard to secure the future they thought Jace deserved.

“Don’t worry so much, Maryse. What will be, will be.”

Jace saw Alec look at him out of the corner of his eye. Maryse rolled her eyes this time.

“Don’t be silly, Jace. You have to be more assertive than that, you have to put yourself in front of all the other omegas there! Get noticed.”

“Then I wouldn’t be myself. I would rather be honest with a potential spouse. After all, eventually, they would come to know me. What if I am a disappointment?”

Maryse sighed and tapped him gently with her fan.

“Oh, Jace. You are so kind and so frustrating. Do what you must.”

Jace caught Alec frowning at him as he looked away from Maryse. He shook his head as he looked out the window, watching the gas street lamps pass in a blur. He was done being confused by Alec. He would look to the future, to this party and to his faceless, nameless husband.

Chapter Text

The Bane estate was truly impressive. Jace’s only experience with an estate this size had been his father’s own. While the Morgenstern estate had been in ancient disrepair, the Bane estate shone like a beacon in the night. The Lightwoods and Jace, having arrived a bit late, were forced to join a line of carriages winding its way to the beautiful manor. The slow stop and go offered ample time for Jace to gape and gasp to himself like a child, completely charmed by the festive decor of the grounds. Alec seemed greatly amused by his reactions, hiding what Jace was sure was a smile behind his gloved hand. Jace couldn’t find it within himself to be embarrassed. He had very little experience with Society, having been isolated by his father and he had been too young to enjoy parties and dinners of the like when he resided with the Lightwoods.

“Is every party like this?”

Alec scoffed and Maryse shook her head, fanning herself in the humid air left by the storm.

“No, dear. Alpha Bane is truly a gifted host! There is a reason this party is the event of the season. I believe the invitation called it ‘A Night of Fire and Temptation’. It sounds sure to get the traditionalist talking.”

Jace smiled softly and turned to take in the grounds once more, marveling at the sight. Either side of the drive was lined with torches that brightly burned an iridescent red, casting an eerie glow upon the carriages. Ahead, Jace could see the ballroom entrance was draped in black cloth that caught the red glow of the torchlight, making the darkness seem to dance at a distance. Guests descended from their carriages and disappeared into the darkness of the ballroom, venturing into the unknown. The effect was mesmerizing and foreboding. He turned back to his companions and caught Alec gazing at him, his gloved hand still covering his mouth.

“How are the torches glowing red?”

Alec went to respond but Maryse cut him off.

“Oh, the gossips say that Alpha Bane practices magic! It’s almost believable after experiencing his lovely parties and why ruin the fun. Although, I’m sure Alec can tell you all the boring details, he’s been here almost every day for months. Helping prepare, you said?”

Alec cleared his throat and turned his gaze back to the window.

“Yes, I was helping Magnus with the party preparations, mother. It’s quite fascinating...his technique.”

Jace watched a small, sly smile appear on Alec’s face and his ginger scent turned spicy, a burnt undertone that reached out and wrapped around Jace, making him flush, feeling hot. Alec’s eyes cut quickly to Jace, his gaze predatory and Jace ducked his head, mortified by his response. Arousal simmered in his belly and confusion clouded his thoughts. Before he could think further, Maryse cleared her throat loudly and cracked open the carriage window, continuing to fan herself, her eyes wide.

“Oh, good, we are next in line!”

Jace was thankful for the escape, clamoring from the carriage and gripping the offered hand of the coachman tightly. He paced away, taking deep breaths and pretending to admire the decor. By the Angel, Alec’s arousal had affected Jace so quickly, Jace had never smelled anything so delectable and Alec had known. He glanced over his shoulder, watching Alec leave the carriage in front of his mother, offering his own hand to her. His face was blank, no evidence that what had just happened in the carriage had any effect on him. Jace took another long, deep breath and made his way back to them, avoiding looking to Alec and wishing desperately that he could hide away his scent before it betrayed all of his secrets. Maryse smiled at him softly and waved Alec on, winding her arm with Jace’s and leaning in to speak lowly to him.

“Don’t be too distraught, Jace. You’re nearing your heat, yes?”

Jace blushed and glanced ahead at Alec, checking that he was out of hearing range.

“Oh, yes. It’s next month, in fact. Is that a problem?”

Maryse squeezed his arm and snapped her fan open, speaking behind it.

“Of course not, dear. It’s quite ideal, actually. Your scent will be more alluring to suitors and the promise of a heat so close to the honeymoon is exciting for all involved.”

Jace was sure his face was completely red and he was slightly appalled to be speaking so openly about this in public. Was this what omegas usually whispered to each other behind their beaded fans as they gazed, slit-eyed at alphas? It made Jace uncomfortable.

He was surprised when Maryse’s grip on his arm became painful and her smile was tight as she turned her head to him. She pulled him into an alcove as soon as they entered the ballroom, turning her head to check for interlopers. They were much more secluded here and Jace would have relaxed save for the harsh hand on his arm. Maryse met his confused gaze and the red torchlight made her dark eyes seem almost demonic. She pursed her lips and frowned, leaning impossibly closer, looming over him.

“I take great pleasure in helping you secure a husband, my dear, but I ask you to tread carefully around my son.”

Jace tried to lean back but the wall behind him made space between them impossible. What was Maryse trying to say? She continued before he could question her odd behavior.

“It’s quite easy for a scent bond to form so close to a heat and I ask that you allow more space between Alec and yourself. What happened in the carriage can’t happen again. It’s too dangerous.”

Jace stared at her in shock, his mouth opened but he stayed silent, unsure of what to say. He had assumed that Maryse would disapprove of a mating between he and Alec but to hear it from her lips, to know that a woman who was more mother than his own saw him as inferior...it made Jace nauseous. Her face softened and she brushed her fingers over his cheek.

“Forgive me, Jace. I love you but I also can’t let anything happen to jeopardize Alec’s future. He has made some influential friends, Alpha Bane among them. He has many promising prospects for an omega mate and they don’t include you.”

Jace felt numb but he forced himself to take her hand, squeezing it and he tried to smile. It felt wrong and too tight on his face.

“Of course, Maryse. I...understand. I’ve done nothing to attract Alec to me, you have to believe me.”

Maryse stepped back, keeping a hold on his hand and she smiled softly. The smile didn’t reach her eyes.

“I know, Jace. I’m so proud of the man you’ve become and I’ll always see you as a son. I promise I will do everything I can to see you properly settled.”

She stressed the ‘properly’ and Jace valiantly fought to not be sick all over her soft, expensive shoes. He gave her another tight smile and she drew him out of the alcove and into the guests flowing into the ballroom.

Jace was thankful when the press of the crowd separated him from Maryse, her perfectly coiffed hair was swallowed up by the press of immaculately dressed nobles. He slowed his pace, following the path of those around him mindlessly. He felt as if Maryse had reached inside his chest and viciously removed his heart. Surely, even that would hurt less than her words. Was he cursed to have no real allies in his life? He fisted his hands, pressing his nails harshly into his palms.

No, Maryse was an ally but nothing more. He had been greedy to expect more from her. Jace had always felt like an outsider when he was a ward to the Lightwoods, even in the face of their love and protection. He believed Maryse when she promised to help him secure a stable future, a good husband to give him the family he dreamed of. Now he knew what he had always suspected, Maryse would put her own children, her real children, before Jace. He should be thankful for her sponsorship this season and do as she bade; keep away from Alec. It would do him good to put his useless pining to bed, bury his childhood love deep and never revisit it.

He felt greatly calmed and he forced himself out of his thoughts, looking around the ballroom for the first time, taking in the decadent decor. The ballroom had a high vaulted ceiling held up by massive corinthian pillars. Jace craned his head, following a pillar near him up and gasped at the beautiful mural on the ceiling, depicting a lush meadow filled with all sorts of magical creatures, frolicking and dancing.

Red, black and gold stood out against the pure white walls, jewels glinted in the bright glow of candles and gas lamps, tables sat heavy with sumptuous food and drink. The guests around him were graceful and confident, speaking in cultured tones and laughing politely, the din was tempered by the soft swell of music from the orchestra. It was truly a sight to behold and Jace had never felt more out of place in his out of fashion ensemble and awkward body language.

“How are you enjoying my party aesthetics, young lord? I must warn you, I take ill to criticism.”

Jace was startled by the low toned, silky voice beside him and he turned sharply to face the man. The man’s eyes had a charming glint and his grin was mischievous. His dark eyes were lined with black kohl and his eyelids had eye paint that glittered as he moved, catching the light just right. At Jace’s continued silence, his grin grew wider and the clear salve on his lips drew Jace’s admiring eye.

The man hummed, executed a courtly bow and Jace took a deep breath as he watched the black robes he wore shift and pull tight over his muscled chest. The movement brought the scent of the man to Jace’s sensitive nose and he grew lightheaded with a sudden longing to draw nearer, hide his face in the man’s long neck. Orange blossoms, cloves and the faintest hint of cinnamon, decadent and soothing all at once.

The man was an alpha, small for one just as Jace was too large for an omega. The thought was comforting, he was a kindred soul, perhaps. The alpha reached for Jace slowly, keeping his gaze and took his hand, bringing it to his lips and pressing a gentle kiss to the back of his largest knuckle. His hands were warm and long fingered, gentle but firm. Jace felt as if a feather could have felled him, so shocked was he by the alpha’s actions, not used to a kind touch.

“Alpha Magnus Bane, at your service. May I have your name, my dear?”

“Oh, Jace-”

Jace cut himself off, realizing that this was indeed the host of the party, the man that Maryse had touted as Society’s darling. Jace scanned the crowd around them in a rush, desperate to locate Maryse. Should he be meeting Alpha Bane without Maryse’s introduction? It didn’t seem proper, an unmated alpha and omega meeting without Jace’s sponsor. Jace was sure to bungle this. Bane chuckled and stood again, letting go of Jace’s hand and his fingers felt cold at the loss. Bane brought his hand up to stroke his own face, humming.

“Is that short for Jonathan? What a lovely name for such a jewel.”

Jace choked on his next words, blushing at the breezy compliment and Bane gave an airy laugh, pulling a peacock fan from his robe and snapping it open with a graceful flourish. He fluttered it at Jace, fanning his face and Jace felt his hair lift and settle with each pass.

“My goodness, Jonathan, take a breath, omega! That’s it, another deep breath. What a lamb you are. How have you wandered into the wolf’s den?”

Jace followed his directions, taking a breath and calming down. He was making a horrible first impression on the man meant to welcome him into society and pave the road for his future. Jace felt foolish and lost, truly he was the lamb Bane had called him. He closed his eyes, enjoying the cool wind generated by Bane’s fan and forced himself to calm, breathing deep of the alpha’s intoxicating scent. He met Bane’s gaze again and smiled crookedly, widening his eyes to look more innocent. He could do this, he could be the lamb and dance with the wolf. Bane’s amused smile softened at Jace’s wide eyed, humiliated look and Jace cheered internally. He could salvage this.

“Forgive me, Alpha Bane. I am new to Idris Society and was so charmed by your… aesthetics, you called them, that I lost all sense. It is truly beautiful, my lord.”

Bane pulled his fan away from Jace and covered the lower half of his face with it, fluttering his eyes. Jace laughed at the exaggerated flirtation, his shoulders relaxing.

“How charming, young sir. I truly believe your compliments to be sincere. I’m touched! And, please, call me Magnus or Alpha Magnus, if you must. My father was Alpha Bane and I’d like to avoid the remembrance of him.”

Magnus paused, his mouth open, seeming as shocked as Jace was at the revealing statement. Jace placed a hand over his own heart.

“I understand, my lord, truly. I avoid remembrance of my father, as well. I prefer Omega Jace...or Jonathan, I suppose.”

Magnus’ shoulders relaxed and his smile returned.

“I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t catch your family name?”

Jace winced and cursed his awkwardness again. He opened his mouth to respond but Alec came to Magnus’ side, melting from the flickering shadows to lay a hand between Magnus’ shoulders and frown at Jace. His ginger and parchment scent was cloying, pressing heavily against Jace’s nose. Magnus turned his head to give Alec a soft smile.

"Alexander-"

“It’s Morgenstern, Magnus. Jace Morgenstern.”

Magnus turned back to Jace, his eyebrows raised in surprise. His face turned blank in an instant, his warm eyes cooling and his posture stiff. He ran a lazy hand through his hair and smiled politely at Jace.

“I see, well met, Omega Morgen-”

Magnus cut himself off and bit his lip. He pitched his voice to carry, speaking loudly so that those around them could hear.

“Omega Jace. I welcome you with open arms. Please, enjoy yourself and make many new friends!”

The crowd around them began to murmur and Magnus said in a lower tone.

“Please, excuse me Omega Jace, I have many more guests to greet. A host’s work is never done!”

He left in a swirl of black robes, taking all the warmth with him. Alec lingered, frowning still.

“You should find mother. She’s been looking for you.”

Jace nodded, feeling dazed at the abrupt change in Magnus’ demeanor.

“I will, thank you, Alpha Lightwood.”

Alec nodded stiffly back and left, going to stand by Magnus’ side again. Jace watched Magnus talk animatedly to another guest while Alec looked on indulgently, breathing deeply of their lingering, entwined scents. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom, like his favorite tea, the underlying smell of old books. It smelled like a lazy Sunday afternoon in the parlor by the fire, a morning spent reading in bed. Like home.

A throat cleared behind him.

“Uh, excuse me, Omega Jace?”

Jace turned to face a young omega man, dark haired and unusually lovely. He wore stylish dark green robes with feather accents and his earrings glinted as he swayed. He stood wringing his hands, shifting nervously and offering a large smile that turned into a grimace. He opened his mouth to speak but paused shifting again and bit his lip. Jace smirked, amused.

“I’m surprised to see someone here more awkward than I. Is there an rodent under your shirt, making you dance in place so?”

The young man’s mouth fell open and he dropped his hands to his side, clearly taken by surprise. Jace cursed himself silently. It wasn’t a good idea to alienate the first brave soul to approach him. The man laughed suddenly, holding his stomach, his whole demeanor relaxing.

“By the Angel! I was so afraid you would be as stuffy as the rest of these....others. Let me say, this is such a relief. I’m Omega Simon Lewis soon to be Simon Fray.”

A wistful look came over Simon’s face as he trailed off, no doubt day dreaming of his future spouse. Jace pursed his lips together, reluctantly charmed by the strange omega and trying not to laugh at his new acquaintance. He took Simon’s hand, still hanging by his side and shook it firmly, giving him a reproachful look. Jace had a feeling Simon would keep his mind in the clouds permanently without interruption.

“Good to meet you, Omega Simon. Congratulations on your engagement. Would you show me to the refreshments?”

Simon’s gaze snapped to Jace’s face and he blushed, embarrassed before squeezing Jace’s hand tightly and pumping it up and down enthusiastically. Jace’s shoulders shook as he suppressed laughter. What a lovable idiot.

“Yes, I would be honored! I was hoping we could spend some time together tonight, being the only omega men in attendance. Of course, I have a fiancee, Alpha Clary Fray…”

Simon began leading Jace to the tables and Jace glanced over at his companion when he trailed off. That dreamy look was on his face and Jace sighed, he had a feeling this was going to be a regular occurrence. He laid a hand on Simon’s shoulder and steered him around a large gentleman before they could collide. Simon laughed weakly and linked their arms.

“Forgive me, Jace. I am still soaking in my good fortune! I have loved Clary since we were children, pining after her and dreaming of being her omega. Her family disapproves, you see. My father was a physician to Clary’s family, that’s how we met as children. Her family believes she could do better and I agree. Lucky for me Clary is steadfast in her love for me and we are to be wed this autumn. Her family dotes on her and she usually gets what she wants.”

Simon finished by speaking softly out of the corner of his mouth, looking around as if afraid to be overheard by his Alpha. Jace smiled sadly, he couldn’t help but compare his childhood love to Simon’s.

“I am happy for you, my new friend. I hope your luck with love will rub off on me. I hope to attract a suitor tonight.”

Simon gasped and bounced back on his feet, pulling Jace so that he stumbled. He apologized and handed Jace a glass of cold refreshment. Jace sipped at it, enjoying the beverage immensely, taking in Simon’s bright personality. Simon seemed warm and genuine, loyal and full of love. He was a ray of sunshine on Jace’s cold winter day.

“Oh, please, let me introduce you to Clary! She has many available Alpha friends and they are all wonderful, upstanding men and women. She’s so insightful, you see, a wonderful judge of character. Only the best for Clary Fray.”

Jace dipped his head submissively and made sure Simon was looking as he gazed up through his thick eyelashes.

“I can tell.”

Simon choked on his drink and did a fair job of trying to swallow his tongue, eyes wide as he stared at Jace. He stammered inarticulately for a moment.

“Um, you see, you are very handsome, beautiful even. Quite pretty, yes. And forgive me, my friend but my heart belongs to my betrothed completely.”

Jace laughed, throwing his head back, his body leaning sideways. It was nice, teasing Simon. Simon gaped at him, shocked for a moment before he began to chuckle.

“Jace! You are wicked. How can you tease me so?”

Jace leaned forward, wiping a tear from his eye.

“Forgive me, Simon. You are too easy to fool, I couldn’t resist.”

Simon gave a pout, crossing his arms and looking away. Jace placed his hand over his heart and sighed forlornly.

“I see. I understand if you never wish to speak to me again. Goodbye, my friend. I shall never darken your door again!”

Simon yelped and grasped onto Jace’s forearm with both hands, shaking him.

“I was speaking in jest! Please, don’t leave me!”

The nobles around them were silent, staring at their uncouth display and some whispering to each other, some frowning. Simon grimaced and made to let go of Jace, flushing in embarrassment. Jace caught his hand and brought it back to his arm.

“I’m so sorry, Jace. That was too much, I’m such an idiot, embarrassing you like that.”

Jace rolled his eyes, ignoring the crowd and their blatant disapproval.

“I don’t care for their opinions.”

“But you’re looking for suitors-”

Jace pat the hand on his arm softly.

“I won’t change to find a husband. My future spouse will marry me for me. I have no titles, no money, no land, I will do my damndest to marry with my self respect intact. I like you, Simon. I haven’t the faintest idea why, but I do.”

Simon stared at him, wide eyed, awe written across his face. It was Jace’s turn to shift uncomfortably, feeling as if he had shown too much of his inner heart to a stranger. He felt an instant connection to Simon and he found himself wishing fervently that they could be friends. He had never managed to find friends outside of the Lightwoods. Simon’s mouth snapped shut and he smiled widely, eyes crinkling at the edges.

“That has to be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Other than Clary, of course, but she gets her own category. I’m impressed by your fortitude, my friend. Truly, you are amazing.”

Jace shook his head, slightly bemused. He hadn’t been that nice, barely nice even. Simon was strange. Simon started looking around the ballroom, craning his neck, his dark green robes swishing softly. He stopped looking around and fluttered his hand.

“Oh, my. It looks like Clary is busy with some important looking lords. I don’t wish to interrupt her…”

He turned to Jace suddenly, a mischievous glint in his eyes, grinning.

“Dance with me, Jace.”

Jace reeled back, confused by his abrupt change in demeanor.

“Oh, won’t your Alpha be jealous?”

Simon laughed and took the drink from Jace’s hand, knocking the rest of it back and placing it carelessly on the table before them. Jace frowned at him.

“Hey, I wasn’t done-”

Simon interrupted, taking Jace’s hand in his.

“Clary isn’t like that, she knows she’s my one and only goddess.”

He shrugged, tilting his head imperiously.

“And if it gets her attention back on me and away from those stuffy lords, all the better.”

Jace bit his lip, unsure.

“I don’t wish to cause a scandal for you. I mean, two omegas dancing…”

Simon chuckled, smirking and gazing at him slit-eyed, as if they shared a joke.

“Alpha Magnus won’t mind two omegas or even two alphas dancing together, I’m sure. His opinion is all that matters tonight. Now, come, dance with me. Do you know how?”

Jace blushed and ducked his head. His voice was soft.

“No.”

Simon gave him a large grin and Jace felt himself relax. His father had never allowed frivolous instruction for things like dancing, music or painting. The prospect of dancing with Simon was exhilarating and terrifying. Simon began tugging him into the modestly crowded dance floor, dodging skirts and flying hands. They found an open space and Simon turned, drawing Jace into the circle of his arms.

“Don’t worry, I’ll lead. Clary says I’m an excellent dancer. And I can show you off to potential alphas. How exciting!”

They started slow, not moving much as Simon instructed Jace on the steps to the dance. It was a slow, graceful number and the longer they practiced, the more confident and relaxed Jace became. They weren’t perfect. Jace stumbled more than once and stepped on Simon’s foot three times but Simon laughed everytime Jace made a mistake. Jace found himself laughing along, brushing off his embarrassment and enjoying the moment.

They drew attention, of course, some people frowning and pursing their lips and others shaking their heads and smiling indulgently. Simon was impervious to the attention, secure in his and his alpha’s good reputation and that confidence gave Jace courage. He urged Simon to spin him and laughed as the room whirled around him. They came apart, arms spread in a graceful arch, one hand still connected, smiling at each other. As Simon pulled on his arm to come back together, Jace caught sight Alec and Magnus on the edge of the dance floor, watching them.

Alec was watching them wide eyed, mouth parted and Magnus was smiling, eyes sparkling. He snapped his fan open and whispered to Alec, forcing Alec to bend and listen. The spin back to Simon took his eyes from them and when he was settled back into formation, Jace glanced back to find them gone. The dance ended with an exaggerated flourish that Simon enjoyed and Jace laughed at him as he executed it, making Simon pout.

“That was wonderful, Jace! Thank you for indulging me.”

They bowed to each other, ending the dance and Simon began guiding Jace off the dance floor with a hand between his shoulders.

“I’m glad you asked me to dance, Simon. I was atrocious but you carried me well.”

Simon puffed up at the compliment, smiling widely. A woman approached them at a leisurely pace as they reached the edge of the crowd and Simon swanned towards her and settled into her side as she wrapped an arm around his waist and kissed his cheek.

“My love! Come meet my new friend, Jace! Jace, this is my fiancee, Alpha Clary Fray.”

Clary’s smile was crooked and her eyes sparkled at Simon, full of love, and Jace was instantly smitten by the handsome couple. Jace had never met an alpha woman, they were more rare than omega men. She was much shorter than Jace expected but her alpha presence was overwhelming, as was her scent. She turned calculating eyes to him and Jace was instantly intimidated, he wanted to bend his head to the side and back, submit to her. Her frail stature was at odds with her demeanor, this was a woman of power. Power that could destroy as easily as protect.

After a tense moment, she smiled warmly at him and held out her hand, palm up. Startled, Jace stared a bit too long and blushed when Clary raised an eyebrow, her face clearly showing her amusement at his awkward pause. Jace cleared his throat and reached out, settling his larger hand in hers gently.

“Forgive me, alpha. I was blinded by your beauty and forgot myself. You and your omega make a lovely couple.”

Clary laughed, still holding his hand, looking surprised. She grinned at him, her teeth bright white, calling to Jace’s mind the image of a shark. She bent over his hand, kissing the back of it, keeping his gaze and Jace found himself spellbound.

“How charming you are, Omega Jace. I must thank you for keeping Simon company and providing a wonderful distraction. I was able to leave those boring lords and seek out my love.”

She turned her gaze back to Simon and he blushed as she took his hand and kissed over his engagement ring. Jace wanted to sneer and coo at them, jealous and admiring all at once. Not jealous of them personally, just jealous of their beautiful relationship.

“You must be parched, darling. I’ll get you both some refreshments.”

Simon caught her before she could slip away.

“No, no! Let me go. You are less likely to be pulled away from us if you stay here and speak to Jace. I’ll be only a moment.”

Clary hummed and they watched Simon walk away. A loud, melodious laugh sounded, calling their attention across the room. A small group of well dressed and coiffed nobles stood, laughing and sneering and Jace realized they were openly regarding him. The laugh sounded again, louder this time and he met the dark gaze of a coldly beautiful woman, an omega if her attire was to be believed. She wore a long, flowing red dress and glittering diamonds shone in the lights, gracing her neck, her hair, her dress. Clary scoffed.

“Camille Belcourt, a venomous snake, to be sure. Don’t worry about her, you have Magnus’ favor and he has much more power in Society than her. He’s been burned by her in the past and would go against her in an instant.”

Jace shook his head, unconsciously pulling closer to Clary. They watched Camille speak at length, playing to her adoring crowd. Jace flinched to hear their fake laughs and see their fawning behavior.

“I assume there is a story there, of our host and Camille?”

Clary turned her head back to him, eyes narrowed as she regarded him. Protective, Jace realized, of Magnus. He had no ill will towards Magnus but he widened his eyes anyway, trying to seem innocent. Clary smirked.

“You’re not a very good actor, Jace. Too expressive, too gentle.”

Jace shifted nervously, unsure if he should be offended or relieved. She placed a hand on his arm, stilling him. She smiled.

“It’s a good thing around me, not so much around people like Camille. Just stick close to me, Jace, I’ll protect you.”

Jace straightened his posture and crossed his arms, frowning slightly.

“I’ve dealt with worse than Camille Belcourt, Alpha Clary. I handled it then and I will again if I must.”

Over Clary’s shoulder, Jace was distracted by movement in the group around Camille. They parted to allow a familiar figure through and Jace had to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself from growling as he glared daggers at Sebastian Verlac. His scent soured and he could feel Clary’s eyes on him but he ignored her, staring at the alpha as he put his arm around Camille, threw a charming smile to the crowd, his eyes sharp, predatory. Camille leaned into his side and ran her fingers along the jagged, ugly scars on his face and neck and Sebastian slapped her hand away, sneering. She pouted but ceased her touches, turning to listen with unconcealed boredom to one of her companions.

“Yes, Camille is just as horrible as Seb, just in a different way. Just as destructive though. I heard you gave him those scars.”

Jace snapped his eyes back to Clary’s, his heart rate jumping.

“Where did you hear that?”

Clary frowned at him, looking confused. She laid a hand on his arm again.

“From Seb himself. Unfortunately, he’s my half brother.”

Jace backed away, shaking his arm to break her soft grip. His voice was hoarse and he had trouble breathing, heart beating impossibly loud in his ears.

“I-”

Clary was Sebastian’s sister, was she talking to him because of Seb? Clary seemed like a good person, a good alpha but Jace had been wrong before, lured in by soft words and gentle smiles. Jace could see it now, they had similar features, the same smile, the same chin and cheekbones. Had Clary sent Simon to him to lower his defenses with a charming, effusive omega, reel him in with a commanding and gentle Clary and throw him, weakened and vulnerable, to his cruel ex-fiance?

Jace backed away, stiff and watchful and Clary didn’t move, looking at him in concern but seeming well aware that he could bolt at any second. She pitched her voice to be calm and soothing but it only made Jace feel worse, panicked and more distantly, mortified at his behavior. He breathed deeply of her scent but it wasn’t right, it wasn’t what he needed and he panicked even more, confused by his own body. What did he need?

“It’s alright, Jace. Take a deep breath, omega.”

Sebastian had noticed him, could probably smell his distraught scent. It would be familiar to the sadistic alpha. A dark, dangerous look was on Sebastian’s face and he pushed through the crowd, coming straight for him, smiling in that shark-like way that Clary had. Instead of intriguing him, the smile sent him running. He turned, looking frantically around the ballroom, the din of music and conversation growing louder to his over sensitive ears. He had to run, to hide, he couldn’t face Seb here, in front of all these people, with no Maryse, Alec or Magnus to help him, keep him from clawing at Sebastian, ripping his throat out with his teeth to save himself. He couldn’t let Seb corner him again, touch him again, whisper poison in his ears.

There, the open veranda doors, the cool air beckoned him, offering an escape. He ran, ignoring the calls of his name, and didn’t look to see if Sebastian was still giving chase. It would be instinct for Seb, to chase Jace and he hoped that Clary would stop him, that she wasn’t sympathetic to her brothers machinations. He flew through the doorway and down the wide marble steps to the gravel walkway. He followed the walkway to the left, the torches lining it guttering as he disturbed the air with his panicked flight.

Jace paused, hearing no one following him and ducked to the side of the walkway and into the shadows of the woods. He stood motionless, straining all his senses and realized he was alone, no Seb and no other guests. Thunder rumbled distantly, threatening more rain and the moon was obscured by clouds. The wind whipped past him, pulling at his messy hair and he pulled his jacket tighter around him, feeling bone-deep coldness. The rainy summer night was humid, warm but Jace felt chilled through, shaky. He wanted to cry, wanted to curl up in someone’s lap, in their arms and hide from the world, from his past. Jace swallowed his bitter disappointment and stepped back onto the path, following it to a fork and taking the left again.

The woods thinned and large, dark shapes grew nearer, a hedge maze. Jace smiled, thinking of Izzy and her excited talk of Magnus’ maze garden. He headed for the entrance, feeling warmer the further he got from the ballroom. He would lose himself for a while in the maze garden, regale Izzy with descriptions of its beauty and size. He would forget for the next hour the demons, both physical and emotional, pursuing him.

Chapter Text

The hedge maze was vast and beautiful. It didn’t take long for Jace to be completely lost, ambling at a slow pace, enjoying the numerous fountains, alcoves concealed by ivy and exotic flower beds he stumbled across. The maze was impressive but daunting in the dark, not enough torches and gas lamps to dispel all the shadows. The air was humid and the heavy smell of damp vegetation clouded his sensitive nose, thunder rumbling like a pleased alpha purr. The hedges loomed over Jace as he wandered, towering high and blocking the din of the ballroom. The only sounds were his soft footsteps in the damp earth and various night birds and insects. No guests had dared to venture so far and Jace reveled in the solitude, the sense of adventure he felt.

Jace’s dearest wish since he was a child had been to travel the world and journal his experiences. He imagined himself as an old man, reading to his children and grandchildren of the adventures he had in his youth. Always, in his most secret heart, Alec had been beside him, seeing the wonders of the world and as they had grown older, sharing their youth with their children. Living with Valentine, suffering his first heat and realizing that the world would be much harsher for an omega, Jace had clung to the childish future that he and Alec had imagined. Together, forever. Jace had hoped, foolishly, that Alec would court him after they presented. His father kept him from leaving the Morgenstern estate, imprisoned and miserable. Jace had been unable to escape back to the Lightwoods and it seemed even if he had, Robert and Maryse would have sent him back.

Jace shook the thoughts of the past from his head, removing his restricting jacket and folding it over a nearby bench. He reached out to the happily bubbling fountain before him and ran his fingers lightly over the cold water. Why was he torturing himself with what could not be? Alec did not love him, maybe had never loved him as more than a childhood friend, a pseudo brother. In a lifetime of darkness, his time with the Lightwoods had been a warm guiding light, a peek at what a family could be. Jace was thankful for that brief glimpse. Without it, Jace would only know darkness, greed and violence. He could never conceive of what a healthy, happy family life was like, would have nothing to strive for. His future hung before him, an unknown entity, his to shape.

For the first time in years, Jace felt hope. He could imagine a future for himself that didn’t include his father, a fiance that didn’t cause him pain or fear and he could have children. By the Angel, children! How his heart ached for pups. Jace didn’t want much, a warm hearth, a supportive husband and healthy, happy pups. What use did he have for wealth or titles, for reputation? These painted nobles and their duplicitous natures, showing Society one face and wearing another in private, like his father. Valentine had been the charming gentleman in public and a violent terror in private, driving his wife away and making his son’s life a living hell.

Jace wished he had the means to leave, go far away and live simply. He would buy a modest cabin near a small village far away from Idris and his father’s sins. He would grow his own vegetables, have chickens and goats. He could make cheese and travel to the village market to trade for goods. He would wander the stalls, calling out to friends and acquaintances, feeling happy and free. And one day, he would catch the eye of a handsome farmer, blacksmith’s son or baker. Oh, a baker! How lovely to have a husband that could provide fresh bread for breakfast, hand feed him sweets every heat and give him fat, healthy pups. The image made Jace laugh aloud and ache sweetly. Jace smiled to himself, feeling foolish, his heat making him especially fanciful. Izzy would approve of his daydreaming.

Jace settled on the lip of the happy fountain, still running fingers through the water. His reflection stared at him, hair wild from his earlier flight from Seb, cheeks flushed from the heat and exertion. His shirt hung over one shoulder, fully exposing his scent gland and collarbone. He bit his lip and traced his neck with gentle fingers, tracing his slightly swollen gland and dragging over his collarbone. One more button and his nipple would be exposed to the night air.

How would he look to another in the flickering light, half dressed and touching himself? Would his future alpha husband touch him like this? Gentle and reverent? Or would he be rough. Would he demand Jace’s submission or would he coax it from him, turning him wanton and desperate? Jace could see his nipples harden under his shirt as he looked at his waving reflection in the fountain pond and he dropped his fingers lower, grazing his sensitive nipple and biting his lips harder to muffle a moan. This close to heat was a trying time for Jace. With his heightened senses came quicker arousal, lower inhibitions.

Suddenly, he was aware that he was alone out here, in the dark, his scent sharpening with his arousal. He was large for an omega, strong, muscular. He could fight off one or two alphas but more? This close to heat the desire to submit was just under the surface for Jace, he wanted to be coddled and to please his mate. It would be harder to fight any unwanted advances. What if Sebastian followed him? It would be easy for an alpha that knew his scent to follow him and find him vulnerable.

Feeling sick, Jace rose and clutched his collar closed, his throat constricting with panic. He was an idiot for running so far. He should have found Maryse, begged her to leave or send him home ahead of her. Now he was lost in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar scents and sounds when he could be in his attic room, warm, sipping tea and talking quietly with Lillian. He reached for his jacket but paused, still as stone, scared when he heard the soft murmur of voices. The wind was stagnant, blocked by the tall hedges but Jace still scented the air, desperate to identify the voices. Jace squinted towards the voices, past the torch light behind the bench. Thunder rumbled and then lightening cracked, startling Jace and revealing a small opening between two hedges, barely large enough for someone to pass sideways.

He approached the space as if in a trance, hearing the murmuring as it grew louder. A moan sounded, low, male and breathy. The sound of it sent a shiver down Jace’s spine and he clutched his shirt closed tighter, drawing closer. There was a light shining through the crack and it beckoned Jace and he slid through the two hedges. He was met by a curtain of flowering vines, purple blooms fragrant, further obscuring any scents. The little hidden alcove beyond the vines was small and completely private.

A gas lamp hung from an apple tree and Jace could barely make out two figures beneath its protective branches, one standing and one kneeling. The figures were obscured by the surrounding shadows until a hand reached up and gripped the branch the lamp hung from. It swung around, illuminating Magnus Bane, his face a rictus of feral pleasure, teeth bared. Magnus threw his head back, exposing his long neck to Jace’s eyes and he reached his other hand down to thread his slender fingers through the dark hair of his companion. The man on his knees groaned and gripped Magnus’ thighs when Magnus pulled his hair. Magnus growled and thrust his hips up sharply, guiding the man’s head back and forth.

Jace bit his lip to keep silent, tasting blood and feeling a dark, hot arousal curl in his womb, spreading down and out. His cock felt heavy and tight in his pants. Jace gripped his own hair, unconsciously mirroring Magnus’ hand, fighting the urge to grip himself and thrust in time to Magnus’ hips. Jace wished fervently, guiltily, that he could see them more clearly. The man was kneeling with his back to him, obstructing the act and his face from Jace. He was simultaneously aroused by the sight in front of him and ashamed by his reluctance to leave, to look away from the entrancing sight of Magnus. Magnus’ jaw dropped open and low snarls and moans escaped his open mouth.

“Ah, Alexander…”

Jace jerked back, dropping his hand from his hair and covering his mouth, smothering a gasp. Magnus had called Alec by his full name in the ballroom. Jace could see it now, as the lamp swung forward at another tug on the branch by Magnus. Alec knelt in front of Magnus, letting Magnus find his pleasure, an alpha submitting to another. Magnus brought his head forward, looking down at Alec with half lidded eyes. He loosened his hand and ran it through Alec’s hair, petting softly, his gaze reverent as Alec took over and started moving on Magnus’ cock. It brought tears to Jace’s eyes, the tender regard that Magnus showed to Alec, the obvious love shining in his eyes even as he thrust roughly into his mouth, making Alec cough, shudder and groan.

“Yes, yes, Alexander, my love.”

Jace felt tears fall freely down his cheeks and his throat closed tightly around a sob at those words. ‘My love’, whispered so sweetly into the night air, curling around the two lovers. The intimacy was like a splash of cold water to Jace. This was no tryst he had stumbled upon, no quick release to be forgotten about in the light of day. Jace was an unwelcome intruder and they would hate him for it. Still, despite his shock and guilt, Jace couldn’t turn away. They were mesmerizing together, moving, groaning and gasping with abandon.

Jace’s fingers moved from his shirt collar to cup his throat, caressing his swollen scent glands as Magnus did the same to Alec. What would that beautiful hand feel like on his own skin? What would Alec’s mouth on his cock feel like? Jace dropped his hand lower, over his hard nipples, biting his other palm to muffle his heavy breathing. His head felt fuzzy, heavy, his arousal making him tremble and he gasped softly. He should leave before they smell him, before they see him hard and wet, watching them.

Magnus moaned again, long and loud, stiffening and holding Alec’s head tightly to him. Alec echoed his moan and grasped Magnus’ thighs, squeezing, nails digging in. Jace bit his palm harder, watching Magnus’ face. He was torn, wishing he could see better, wishing he could leave and in his dark, selfish heart, wishing he were with them, between them. Alec moved back, his head still tilted up and Jace could see Magnus’ softening cock hanging over the top of his pants, shiny with fluid, knot flaccid, heavy balls exposed. Magnus reached down and ran his thumb over Alec’s mouth, humming and smiling softly. He tucked himself back in, rearranged his robes over his pants and pulled Alec to stand, giving him a filthy kiss. Alec melted against Magnus and backed him into the trunk of the apple tree, towering over him, growling softly.

“Alexander, darling. I love you. By the Angel, your mouth…”

Alec groaned and dropped his head low to press his face into Magnus’ neck, breathing deeply. Alec’s back was to Jace and he wished desperately that he could move, watch Magnus draw Alec’s cock out. Jace had never seen a fully aroused alpha cock in reality, only read books about intimate relations. He wanted to see Alec hard and straining, wanted to see him orgasm for Magnus. He was extremely wet now, aching, his slick soaking into his clothes. He stopped his trembling hand from dropping further, touching his cock and warm hole. It would be a horrible violation to touch himself, to finger his petal soft opening and stroke his cock to their private pleasure. But he wanted to, burned to.
Jace jolted when Alec growled again, his hips thrusting as Magnus moved his hand over him. Jace could imagine Magnus’ slick fist tight around Alec.

Alec reached up, roughly fisted Magnus’ hair, pulling Magnus’ head back, exposing his neck. Magnus growled low in warning and they both tensed, standing still. Jace held his breath, his heart pounding loudly in his ears. Would Magnus fight Alec’s hold on him? How did two alphas negotiate their relationship? Alec whined and Magnus melted against him, letting Alec tilt his head further back and nuzzle his scent glands.

“Forgive me, my love. Fair is fair, hmm? You submitted so sweetly to me and I’ll do the same for you. I trust you.”

Alec huffed out a breath, seeming beyond words, fully consumed by his passion. Magnus pushed Alec’s face harder against his neck, his body going lax, leaning back into the apple tree, bearing Alec’s weight easily.

“Do you know what you do to me, Alexander? Do you understand how much I burn for you? I would have the world know how much I want you. I would let you take me right in the damn ball room, bend me over in front of all those traditional idiots. I wish we were built for it, that we could knot each other. I wish, I wish…”

Alec whined again and mouthed softly at Magnus’ neck. Jace echoed the whine and inched forward, pressing as close to the curtain of vines as possible. If he could only smell them, he would leave. Just one little whiff of their heady bouquet and he would find the strength to leave them. He gripped the vines in his shaking hands and breathed deep, scenting the air for the smallest hint of spicy ginger or sultry cloves. They smelled so delicious, wrapped up in each other. The dark musk reached out to Jace, it was getting harder and harder to think clearly and Jace felt as if he were on fire. Would it be so bad to reveal himself? Surely his alphas would take care of him...

Jace noticed too late that Magnus had grown stiff and alert, his gaze intense over Alec’s shoulder. Alec noticed immediately, pulling an inch away from Magnus and then reeling around, scenting the air, his eyes alpha red. Magnus’ voice was rough and urgent.

“The ivy is moving.”

Jace gasped loudly and stumbled back, letting go of the vines. He reached a hand behind him, desperate to find the opening between the hedges and reluctant to move his eyes from the predator stalking towards him. Alec growled and lunged through the curtain, clamping hard hands over Jace’s biceps and hauling him into the alcove. He tried to fight Alec’s hold, tried to wriggle away but his body felt heavy and weak from his arousal. He wanted to press into Alec’s hands as much as he wanted to flee.

“Jace!”

Alec’s voice was like the crack of a whip in the stunned silence. Alec growled, face twisted in rage and something else, something dark that Jace couldn’t identify. Alec’s lips pulled back into a snarl, revealing sharp alpha canines and Jace’s scent glands pulsed at the sight. He met Alec’s red eyes and looked away quickly, dipping his head to the side and back, submitting.

His shirt fell open in the struggle and he could smell his scent, the arousal impossible to deny. He could see Alec’s nostrils flare and he watched him breathe deeply before letting out a low growl that flowed over Jace’s skin like tumbling rocks, like distant thunder. Squirming in Alec’s hard grip, he whined high and long when he realized that Alec was still very aroused and exposed. His restless movements brought him closer to Alec and the hot, hard length of him pressed against Jace’s hip.

Suddenly, Magnus was there, prying Jace from Alec’s hands and placing himself between the two. He glared at Alec and growled low and dangerous, pressing his palm to Alec’s sternum, backing him up.

“Stop this, Alexander. You’re scaring him!”

Jace strangled a laugh and ran a hand over his face. Scaring him? Jace had never been so ready to be taken in his life. But as Magnus created space between them, Jace felt his arousal fade and give way to panic as the reality of the situation caught up with him. What had he been thinking? His throat closed on a sob and he backed as far away from the two alphas as possible, inching closer to the hidden exit and freedom.

His inner omega, so close to heat, cried out for the alphas in front of him but he knew he had no reason to trust them. He barely knew Magnus and Alec had changed so much. Would Alec have touched him further if Magnus had not intervened? If someone saw them like this, Jace would be ruined. He was sure he already smelled like alpha arousal.
Jace was at the ivy curtain now, could feel it behind him. He turned sideways, keeping an eye on the alphas as they talked lowly to each other across the alcove by the tree. Just as he started to slip through, a hand was at his wrist and a warning growl rushed over his senses. He tried to twist away but Magnus tightened his grip and dragged him back in the alcove. Jace could see Alec by the tree, fully clothed and tense, eyes sharp.

“Let go, alpha, please!”

Magnus let go as if he had been burned and held up his hands, palm out. He backed away a few steps, keeping his body between Alec and Jace.

“Okay, omega. You’re alright, Jace. Take a deep breath.”

Jace breathed deep and then choked. He pressed his shirt over his mouth and nose.

“That’s not going to help, Magnus. All I smell is alpha arousal. I need to leave.”

Magnus reached into the folds of his robes and pulled out a small pot and handed it to Jace.

“Use this. I carry it for my guests, in case some are overwhelmed by all the pheromones floating around at social events. Smear it over your upper lip.”

Jace opened the pot and dipped his hand into the cool salve, spreading it liberally under his nose. The scent of the salve was soothing, minty and it deadened the alpha scent around him. He handed it back to Magnus and Magnus tossed it over his shoulder to Alec. Alec caught it easily and applied some himself. Jace eyed Magnus.

“What about you? Don’t you need some?”

Magnus waved his hand in the air, smirking.

“I can control myself just fine, Jonathan. Don’t you worry. You’ll have to forgive our dear Alexander for his atrocious behavior. His rut is closing in, you see.”

Jace bit his lip and nodded. He still found it hard to keep eye contact with the alpha but the salve was doing wonders to dissipate his heightened arousal. He was thinking clearer and Alec looked more relaxed as well, his eyes back to normal. He was still tense, frowning and silent but he seemed content to let Magnus talk. Magnus drew in a long breath and frowned, taking the pot back from Alec and using some. Jace raised an eyebrow.

“Excuse me, Jace. I just realized your heat is nearing. It’s best I use some as well.”

Jace blushed and crossed his arms over his chest. They stood there in awkward silence for a few moments until Magnus cleared his throat.

“I’m certain we can resolve this quietly-”

Alec launched forward to stand beside Magnus. His voice was harsh, accusing.

“Did you follow us?”

Jace frowned, glancing between Magnus’ embarrassed expression and Alec’s intimidating frown. He shook his head and gripped his elbows tight, hating himself for shrinking under their intense regard. He felt too raw, too vulnerable. He just wanted to apologize and go home, curl up in his pathetic nest and sleep.

“What? No, I didn’t follow you. Something happened and I had to leave the party, get some fresh air. I swear I didn’t know there was anyone else out here.”

Alec leaned forward, straining towards Jace. Magnus placed a hand on his chest, keeping him from Jace’s personal space. He still felt trapped here, the space too small, the memory of their passion playing on a loop in Jace’s mind. Why were they so reluctant to see him leave? It was Jace’s fault for spying and he had no intention of letting them know how long he had watched them. He would scratch, punch and bite them to flee before he admitted to his accidental invasion. Alec’s voice was still hoarse and Jace shivered, realizing it was from having Magnus in his mouth.

“What happened? Are you well?”

“I’m...fine, now. It was…”

Jace shook his head, feeling foolish. He had fled from the ballroom in a complete panic. What was Society going to say about him now? Magnus took mercy on him and sighed, waving his hand dismissively.

“We can discuss that later. The important thing is solving our most pressing problem. Now, how much will it take to buy your silence?”

Jace stared at Magnus, feeling as if he had suddenly been cast out to sea. His silence? Jace was in the wrong here, sneaking around and wanting to touch himself watching them.

“I...what?”

Alec let out a disgusted huff and paced away, turning his back on them, breathing deeply. Magnus pursed his lips and took a step forward, giving Jace his full attention.

“I’m sure we can settle this little...accidental voyeurism discreetly, dear Jace. I blame myself. Alexander looked so delectable in his understated ensemble and I just had to have him.”

Alec turned at that, ears bright red and shoulders hunched. Magnus laughed and slinked over to him, pulling him down into a soft, chaste kiss. It made Alec smile and his posture softened. Jace burned to see it, not with jealousy but with longing. Alec had once been that relaxed around him. He had melted for Jace when they were children, when Jace had done something impressive or said something funny. He looked at Magnus like that now and Jace couldn’t compete with Magnus, he was so bright, smart and beautiful.
They were truly a handsome couple, so in love. How had Jace not seen it before? They glowed around each other.

Magnus turned his head back to Jace and the soft, adoring look on his face faded, replaced with a strained politeness. Jace wanted Magnus to look at him like he did Alec. What was wrong with him? Was he not torturing himself enough with pining for Alec? He just had to long for Magnus as well? Jace was greedy and he hated it. He hoped fervently that it was his heat talking, making his body long for any compatible alpha. He didn’t deserve either of these alphas and they would never want him. Magnus’ voice was impersonal, cool, calm and commanding.

“How much, omega.”

“I...don’t understand. You want to give me money to not speak about the two of you being lovers? Why?”

Alec gave an incredulous laugh.

“You must have heard Society’s opinion about alpha pairs. Magnus’ and my association can’t be known.”

Jace shook his head, placing his hands on his hips. He looked at them, considering. It wasn’t uncommon for same gender pairings, especially in the lower classes where the laws of inheritance were less strict and adoption was more common. Jace brought his hand up to rub at his jaw then he absently traced his lips, thoughtful. Both of the alphas in front of him watched the action with too much focus, following his finger’s path across his lips and Jace’s spine tingled. He squeezed his thighs together and was reminded of how wet he was, could feel it even now. He blushed and dropped his hand.

“I haven’t ventured much into Society. I suppose tonight is my first time, here...with you.”

He dropped his voice, putting as much husky innuendo into it as he could. He wanted to laugh at their reactions, their pupils blown, mouths open to vainly scent him. Jace felt powerful for the first time in his life. He would decide how this ended, if he played his cards right. Wasn’t he just recently lamenting that he wished he had the means to leave, start a new life on his terms with his pretend baker husband and their fat pups? Jace had no problem with same gender spouses, he found it ridiculous that anyone did.

But...Alec and Magnus didn’t know that. They also had no idea that he would have kept any secret they asked him to, until death. It was a bit insulting, now that Jace was considering it but he couldn’t let his pride interfere with what could be his only saving grace. With enough money, Jace could leave Idris and live his life without his father’s reputation stalking him, without people whispering about him. He could live on his own terms. It was exciting, seductive and Jace had already decided; he would do this. There was nothing for him in Idris anymore. The Lightwoods didn’t need him and Alec had real, true love with an amazing man. Jace would never stand in the way of that. The last thing he wanted was to settle for a Society husband that only wanted him for his connection to the Lightwoods.

Feeling mischievous, Jace reached back up and rubbed his chin. He then trailed his fingers down to caress his scent gland, soaking in their dazed reactions. Would they think of him a little the next time they embraced each other? Magnus’ jaw was clenched tight and Alec’s fists were gripping the bottom of his jacket. They were still as stone and watching him as if entranced. It was intoxicating. Jace had never had the chance to tease and flirt with an alpha. These two didn’t actually want him. He was safe.

“Hmm, I know that alpha and omega pairs are encouraged but it’s not unheard of in higher social circles for same gender spouses. Surely a man with your influence and wealth can easily keep a good reputation with an alpha husband. Although...I can see how it would be a problem with Maryse.”

His words seemed to break whatever spell the alphas were under and Jace was slightly disappointed. Alec ran a hand through his hair, sighing.

“My mother would be devastated but only because of the scandal it would cause. If my parents decided to disown me, I would gladly bear it to be with Magnus. But…”

He glanced at Magnus and bit his lip, clearly hesitant to continue.

“It’s alright, Alexander. I told you earlier that I wanted no reminder of my father. Well, he was a cold and manipulative alpha. He was also extremely prejudiced and fully aware of how...free I am with my preferences. There is a stipulation in his will that if I marry, it will be to an omega or I lose everything. Fortunately, I have an excellent solicitor and he’s looking into it. I remain hopeful.”

Magnus came to stand before Jace and took his hands in his. His warmth spread over Jace’s fingers and up his arms. He wanted to lean into Magnus, soak up his wonderful heat. Magnus brought Jace’s hands up and placed a kiss on the palm of one and then the other. The feel of his soft lips brushing over his skin made Jace bite back a whine.

“Our fate is in your lovely hands, Johnathan.”

Jace knew, as he looked into Magnus’ warm, dark eyes that he was being manipulated. He knew Magnus was only teasing, the same way Jace had teased them earlier, but it still affected him. It made Jace want to show his throat, drop to his knees, do whatever they asked him to. Jace was too damn touch starved but he couldn’t give in. The money obviously meant next to nothing to Magnus but it would mean everything to Jace. He swallowed thickly, feeling shame for his next words but hiding it well.

“I’ll spare you, Magnus. For a price.”

Magnus slowly let go of his hands, stepping back, face going blank and eyes growing cold. He gave Jace a calculating look.

“I expected as much. I’ll call upon you with my solicitor in the next few days.”

Jace felt like a heel. How many people had used Magnus for his money, for his reputation. He pushed those thoughts back. Soon, he would be gone and it wouldn’t matter. Magnus and Alec would feel secure and they would never see Jace again. Alec looked ill, his eyes mournful, gazing at Jace. He looked disappointed, as if Jace had failed an important test. It made Jace feel small, alone. But he had always been alone, hadn’t he? How dare Alec act like Jace was a failure! Alec had failed Jace when he had needed him most, when his father had sold him off, like so much chattel, to Sebastian Verlac.

“Are we done here?”

Magnus gave him a strained smile, eyeing Alec nervously. Alec was vibrating with emotion, his face thunderous, growling, eyes red. It made Jace’s inner omega want to submit to Alec, soothe him. Jace stood firm, muscles locked to prevent his knees from giving out and sending him kneeling. He was thankful for the salve. If Alec’s scent was as sour as Jace suspected, nothing would prevent him from whining and begging. Magnus stepped in front of Alec, shooing Jace back.

“Yes, Omega Jace. We are done for now. Have my valet, Raphael, send you home in one of my carriages. I’m sure he’s waiting anxiously for my return on the veranda. You don’t look fit to return to the party.”

Jace backed away slowly, not taking his gaze from Alec. He had heard that some alphas were sensitive near their rut, prone to emotional outbursts. Alec looked ready to pounce on him. Magnus held the vines aside and Jace turned as he reached the exit, wanting desperately to escape the heavy atmosphere, maybe dunk his head into the fountain.
Alec’s voice halted him, his dark growl making his words especially potent.

“Verlac was right about you.”

Jace turned slowly to face Alec, holding his breath. Magnus stood still, moving his gaze between them.

“You’re just a money grabbing harlot.”

The words were like a knife to his heart and Jace stood there in shock, feeling flayed open, gutted. He could only whisper.

“How dare you.”

He stood there long enough, not breaking eye contact, to see Alec’s face crumple, his shoulders hunch and his eyes fill with tears. He stood there long enough for Alec to reach out a trembling hand and whisper his name, voice wavering, eyes tortured. He fled then, still numb, running from his own self loathing as much as from Alec’s cruel words.

Chapter Text

The sun was bright the next morning, shining through Jace’s window and coaxing him into wakefulness. The fireplace was cold and dark and Jace huddled under his threadbare blanket, curling upon himself, desperate to chase away the morning chill and hold onto his dreams.

He barely remembered his journey home last night. Magnus’ valet, a beta named Raphael, had been easily spotted, pacing the veranda and muttering to himself in a language Jace didn’t know. The valet had been stoic, polite and had wasted no time calling for a carriage to take Jace home. Jace was sure he had looked frightful, his clothes in disarray, his jacket missing and he smelled quite scandalous. He prayed that Beta Raphael was as discreet as he was competent.

Lillian had been in the tiny foyer to greet him. She had turned pale and indignant at the sight of him, a quiet fury that had amused and touched Jace. His mother had never had much care for her only son, dismissing him in favor of her high society friends. He had been a ghost to her, haunting the estate, silent and ignored. Seeing Lillian ready to hare off to the Bane estate to defend his honor had tears gathering in Jace’s eyes. He had squeezed her hands tightly in his and assured her that he had handled the situation himself.

Later, after tea, Lillian had tucked him into bed, kissing his forehead gently and promising to always be there for him. Lillian’s maternal warmth had only staved off Jace’s heartbreak and he had cried himself to sleep as quietly as possible.

Lillian entered with barely a knock, bearing a large breakfast tray just as Jace was considering never getting out of bed.

“Good morning, dear! I’ve made a special breakfast for you, all your favorites.”

Lillian began bustling around the room, pulling two chairs closer to the small table in front of the large attic window and set about lighting the fireplace. Jace unfurled his body, stretching and rubbing his swollen, crusty eyes. He blinked against the sunlight and watched Lillian sit and pour the tea. Jace breathed deeply, smelling ham and scones and underneath, the smell of his favorite tea; cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. It hit him hard, stealing his breath, calling to his mind bright ballrooms and dark, carnal liaisons.

Jace forced his body out of bed, keeping the blanket wrapped around him against the chill and sat at the table across from Lillian. She smiled indulgently and handed him a steaming cup. He took it in his cold hands and let the warmth seep into his skin, forcing himself to breathe deeply. He wouldn’t let his small pleasures be taken from him because of two stupid alphas. Alec had only galvanized Jace’s will in regards to his plans, pushing his guilt and shame at taking Magnus’ money to the side. Jace felt even more compelled to leave Idris for his own good and his own future. He cleared his throat and glanced up at Lillian’s soft eyes.

“Thank you, Lillian. You didn’t have to go to all this trouble just for me.”

Lillian scoffed and waved her hand.

“I may not know the details but I understand that last night was quite trying for you, dear. I wanted to spoil you a little, you deserve it. And, look! Clotted cream for the scones!”

Jace smiled and reached for the small pot that Lillian had uncovered, not hiding his excitement and pleasure.

“By the Angel, this is quite the feast! Thank you again.”

Lillian preened under his praise and excitement, reaching to pile their plates high with food.

“You deserve it, dearest. I’m so grateful for everything you have done for me, Jace. Fixing up the place a bit, helping me with the heavy lifting, running to market when these old bones give me trouble and running off the rabble around here. It’s been a blessing, having you live with me.”

Jace blushed and took a long sip of tea, letting the cup hide his face from her. She chuckled at him but let him hide.

“May I ask...what happened last night? I’m very worried, you see, I care for you greatly.”

Jace set his cup down, playing with the edge of the blanket in his lap.

“I’d like to speak of it but...if word got out, it would be devastating to all parties involved, Lillian. Including me.”

Jace saw her hand reach over, palm up. He let go of the blanket and took her hand in his. She squeezed it gently.

“I’ve never been one for gossip. I have taken in many downtrodden omegas over my long life and never once have I betrayed their trust. If these walls could talk…”

She shook her head, her eyes wide and Jace smiled, comforted.

“It involved Alpha Magnus Bane and Alpha A...Alec Lightwood. You must promise that it doesn’t leave this room.”

“Of course, Jace. I will never speak of it to a living soul until my death.”

Lillian made an elaborate gesture with her hand, heart and head and Jace leaned back, gathering his thoughts. It was painful to think on, what had happened last night, how the night had ended. Painful even more, to say Alec’s name and not feel a heavy weight in his stomach.

What exactly had Sebastian said about Jace? That was twice now someone had mentioned Seb spreading rumors about him, the first from Izzy, the second the cruel words Alec had thrown at him. Jace was not surprised that Seb had spread vitriol about him but he was shocked that Alec had put weight to Seb’s words. It made Jace burn to know what Sebastian had said of him. If Seb had been spreading rumors about Jace being engaged to him for money, Jace could understand Alec’s reasoning. But to hear those words had shredded Jace’s heart and even seeing the instant and devastating regret on Alec’s face before he fled had not dulled the pain.

Jace told Lillian of his night over breakfast, leaving out only the particulars of Magnus and Alec’s passion and Jace’s intense reaction to seeing it. It was cathartic and Jace felt validated at Lillian’s reactions. Her opinion of him wasn’t swayed in the slightest by the end and Jace felt warmed, inside and out.

***

Over the next few days, Jace received three letters.

The first and most shocking was an invitation to lunch by Clary Fray at her manor. She promised at length that she had no love for her brother, Sebastian, and that he would not be present. She also promised that Simon would be in attendance and that he was looking forward to seeing him. Jace smiled at the thought of his new omega acquaintance and decided to accept the invitation, pushing his distrust of Clary away. It would be hypocritical of him to cast aside Clary for her relation to Sebastian when he lamented people doing the same for his relation to Valentine. He had felt an instant sense of camaraderie with the beautiful couple and he was loathe to throw that aside for his paranoia.

The second was from Magnus’ solicitor, Alpha Luke Garroway, confirming a date in three days for Magnus and his solicitor to call upon Jace. Jace was slightly panicked at their intention to meet him at his lodgings. He wrote back to Alpha Garroway to say that he could meet them at Garroway’s office or anywhere else that would surely be more convenient. The solicitor informed him that Magnus had been insistent that the meeting be held at his current residence but did not elaborate as to why. Jace considered arguing further and even played with the idea of sending a strongly worded letter to Magnus himself. In the end, Jace decided not to press the issue further, afraid to be too much of a bother and make Magnus reconsider his offer. He would bear this meeting with as much silent grace as possible. Luckily, Lillian had a drawing room that would suffice and he wouldn’t be forced to entertain the alphas in his sad little nest.

The third, Jace had been expecting. It was from Maryse, inviting him to tea later that week. He felt a shiver of unease at facing Maryse again, after her careless words in the ballroom. Hopefully, Isabelle would be present and Jace would feel less inclined to throw his tea in Maryse’s face. Jace bit back a smile at the visual, blaming his oncoming heat for his flared temper.

***

It was a beautiful, clear day when Jace arrived at the Fray manor. Jace had overdressed and the late summer heat was stifling, making the bouquet of daisies and violets in his hand wilt a little. It wasn’t a professional flower arrangement, Jace couldn’t afford that but he was proud of it regardless. It had taken him most of the previous day walking around the outskirts of town to hunt down enough flowers. Lillian had helped him clip and arrange them and Jace hoped Clary would be charmed and not offended by his effort.

The manor was smaller than Jace had expected. Sebastian had boasted at length about the endless coffers of his family and Jace had anticipated, with some dread, a sprawling estate much like Magnus’. Despite its modest size, the grounds were immaculate; close trimmed hedges, crawling ivy and low stone fences. It was like stepping into a dream and Jace felt instantly at ease. The courtyard connected to a large horse stable and the musk of animals rose to meet Jace as he stepped out of his rented carriage. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and smiled, recalling the Morgenstern stables and the hours he had spent as a child chasing cats around the horse barn and begging the grooms to let him touch the prize stallions.

The approach of footsteps had him turning back towards the manor entrance and Jace was surprised to be greeted by Clary herself and not a butler. She was dressed in full riding gear, calf length boots making loud impact on the stone courtyard. Her hair was in loose plaits and the wind blew from behind her as she approached him making it sway and catch the sunlight. Her scent reached him and he relaxed even further, enjoying the smell of lavender and oakmoss. She was a vision, smiling warmly at him and Jace recalled Simon’s pet name for her. A goddess.

“Jace! I’m so glad you came. Simon hasn’t stopped talking about you since the party.”

She stepped in close to him and kissed both of his cheeks before stepping back and raising an eyebrow, her lips quirked into a teasing grin.

“Are these flowers for me? Thank you, Jace. They are lovely!”

Jace blushed and handed the bouquet to her, feeling like a child with his hand picked flowers. Clary didn’t seem to mind, bringing the flowers up to her nose and inhaling deeply. A loud bang sounded behind them and echoed across the courtyard, making Jace jump and turn swiftly. Clary laid a steady hand on his arm, laughing as Simon stumbled from the stable, brushing straw and dirt from his clothing. Jace relaxed under her hand and smirked at Simon when he recognized him and came running, almost tripping over a sleeping cat. He apologized loudly to the dozing feline then turned to hug Jace, rubbing their cheeks together, scenting him.

The cloying smell of cypress and lavender enfolded Jace and he felt a pang in his heart to realize that the couple’s scents were mixed together even when they were apart. The permanent mixing of scents only happened with mated pairs, not even familial scents would blend with extended exposure. Jace coveted the phenomenon for himself.

“Jace! Welcome! I hope you brought an appetite because I might have gone too far with preparing lunch for us.”

Jace chuckled at Simon’s enthusiasm, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“You cook? Without burning down the manor?”

Simon gasped and pointed accusingly at the flowers in Clary hands.

“Why didn’t I receive flowers? Did you pick these yourself? How lovely!”

Jace rolled his eyes and bumped his shoulder into Simon’s, making him stumble.

“I suppose you will have to be content with my company alone, omega.”

Simon gave an exaggerated pout.

“Your company is all I really want and I’m sure my lovely goddess won’t mind giving me those gorgeous daisies and violets…”

Simon gave Clary a wide eyed, begging look but she stood firm, hiding the flowers behind her back.

“No, these are for me, not you, darling. I just had twenty red rose bushes planted for you in the east garden, you greedy thing.”

“Yes, but those flowers are from Jace!”

Clary and Simon were on either side of Jace as each took one of his arms and started strolling around the manor, through the garden to the patio, gently bickering the whole time. Jace soaked up the easy camaraderie between the three of them as they sat at a small, round table surrounded by rose bushes. The soft summer wind brushed against them, bees floated lazily through the air and the hot sun beat down on them until Clary decided to move them closer to the manor and into the shade. They removed their jackets, rolled up their sleeves and sipped at their sloe Gin and lemonade. After a light lunch, Simon excused himself to check on dessert and Clary turned quiet. Jace bit his lip, nervous by her change in demeanor.

“I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable, I just want to reassure you again that Sebastian and I are estranged. We haven’t spoken outside of Society engagements in two years. I’m afraid I scared you away at Magnus’ party with my revelation.”

Jace twisted the napkin on his lap, not meeting her eyes.

“I admit I was shocked. I even considered that you were working with Seb to...I don’t know, hurt me somehow. It’s silly, I know.”

Clary placed her hand on one of his, still in his lap. He glanced up at her from beneath his lashes, seeing her frown and shake her head.

“It’s not silly, Jace. I know how twisted Sebastian is, how he treats those he sees as vulnerable, beneath him. I can imagine a little what you went through as his betrothed. The things he did as children, to me and others...well, I was fortunate enough to present as Alpha and fight back against him. I was named the Fray heir and I cut him off from the family fortune as soon as I took over the estate.”

Jace laughed, low and harsh.

“He told my father that he was the Fray and Verlac heir, boasted at length to the size of his fortune.”

Clary’s frown deepened.

“That was a lie. There is no Verlac estate. It was taken by the Clave long ago, before Sebastian’s father married my mother. Why did Valentine match you and Sebastian?”

“I wasn’t consulted on the match but I suppose it had to do with the substantial bride price my father was promised. I assume he was too drunk and desperate to confirm

Sebastian’s wealth. Or...maybe he just wanted me gone, a burden passed over. I don’t understand why Seb would want me. I saw all those fawning nobles at the party, they were enamored with him.”

Clary sat back and took a sip of her glass, condensation dripped from the bottom to splash onto the table. She hummed and ran her thumb on the rim.

“That would be Camille’s influence. He was shunned by those same people before he was engaged to her.”

Jace choked on his own sip, bringing his napkin to his chin, spluttering, eyes watering.

“He’s engaged to Camille?”

Clary laughed and blotted his face with her own napkin, catching what Jace had missed.

“Not only are they set to be mated but there was quite the scandal involved in their ‘love’ story. Sebastian had been missing for two months and I’m assuming he was with you and your father?”

At Jace’s nod she continued, waving her hand to shoo away a butterfly that fluttered around her head. The butterfly was persistent and landed on her arm, moving it’s wings lazily. She smiled at it.

“He made a very dramatic entrance at Magnus’ large holiday party in January, sweeping into the ballroom with his new scars and snow blowing in behind him. It was a nice aesthetic but I must spurn it on principle to spite Sebastian. He completely enraptured Camille and Sebastian began publically courting her...even though she was betrothed to Magnus.”

Jace stared at Clary slack jawed, shocked.

“What? Are you telling me that Camille spurned Magnus for Sebastian? How...stupid. Magnus is obviously-”

Jace cut himself off from expounding on Magnus’ good qualities, catching Clary’s eyes sparkling at him. He wanted to say, ‘Magnus is obviously wonderful, much better than Seb’, ‘Magnus is obviously beautiful, kind, a good alpha’. She smiled, a secret, sly thing, like she could read his mind and it made Jace wary. He cleared his throat and frowned at her, daring her to comment, willing himself not to blush. She spoke,

“Yes, Magnus is....obviously.”

Jace rolled his eyes and she chuckled.

“I think at one time, Magnus had been very much enamored of Camille but her charm had been wearing thin long before she betrayed him for my brother.”

She paused until Jace met her eyes.

“That’s the reason I was so cautious when you brought up Magnus’ connection with Camille at the party. You’ll learn I’m very protective of my friends, Jace.”

Jace smiled softly, feeling warm.

“I will?”

Clary’s voice was firm, a line of steel to her tone that comforted Jace.

“Yes, Jace. Simon and I both consider you a friend. We will both be here for you whenever you need us. Especially if it concerns my wayward, rogue of a brother. I warned him off of you after he chased you away at the party so he knows to leave you alone, forever. Come to me immediately if he bothers you. I’ll put him back in line.”

Jace nodded, unsure of what to say. They shared a moment of comfortable silence before Clary sighed and stood.

“Excuse me, Jace. My Simon has been gone too damn long. I hope your jab about burning down the manor wasn’t a prophetic one. I’ll find my love and come back, hopefully bearing dessert.”

***

Magnus and his solicitor were due after lunch for their meeting and Jace felt like throwing himself out of the attic window or running down the street screaming. Anything to avoid seeing Magnus in the light of day. Why had Magnus insisted on seeing his current lodgings? To mock him? Jace vowed to punch Magnus in his pretty face if he so much curled a lip when he arrived.

Jace took a deep breath and then another, trying to calm down. Those thoughts, those impulses were why Jace dreaded his heat. His instincts were the strongest they had ever been. At his father’s estate, Valentine had avoided Jace as if a heat were contagious. He was segregated to his rooms, not allowed contact with anyone and not allowed to leave. His heats were regular enough that Jace was able to stockpile supplies and entertainment, suffering alone. Looking back, Jace was grateful. It hadn’t been his father’s intention but Jace had felt safe in his nest, knowing that not a soul would dare to cross Valentine and go near his son during his vulnerable time.

Here, though, Jace felt exposed, in danger. The walls were too thin and his nest was too uncomfortable, too many people on the street below and too many foreign smells. He had no protection, no mate. Lillian would hardly be able to fend off an intrusion.

Jace shook those thoughts away. He should be concentrating on today, not his heat, due three weeks from now. He could hear Lillian moving around downstairs in the tiny parlor, setting the tea tray down and fussing over the seating arrangements. She had insisted on providing refreshments and had offered to sit as chaperone on the meeting. Jace had tried to deny her, not wanting Magnus to know that he had drawn his elderly landlady into is confidence. Magnus had asked that Jace keep the knowledge of Alec and Magnus’ love affair a secret but Jace had needed an ally and he didn’t regret his decision. Also, as Lillian had expounded upon at length, it was highly inappropriate for Jace to meet with two unmated alphas without a chaperone.

The clatter of a carriage jolted Jace towards the window and he stared with wide eyes, heart beating fast at the Bane emblem above the carriage door. He could see moving shadows through the small carriage window and he grasped the edge of the attic window, willing them to hurry the hell up. Jace was tired of all the waiting and worry. What were they waiting for? A coachman and butler?

Finally, the door opened and a tall, imposing man stepped out. He was classically handsome, impeccably dressed and carried an expensive looking attache. That must be Magnus’ alpha solicitor, Luke Garroway. Magnus was next, alighting with impossible grace and poise. He straightened his clothing, smoothing out invisible wrinkles and adjusted the shining buttons on his tailcoat. He was so handsome and alluring, it made Jace burn to touch him, mess up his perfectly coiffed hair.
Magnus turned to the carriage door and Jace expected him to close it but instead, to Jace’s mounting horror, Alec stepped out. Alec squinted in the sun and reached back into the carriage, producing a black tophat. He brushed off the brim of it and then situated it on his head. Magus leaned close to him and said something that made Alec grimace and nod.

Jace lurched back from the window before he could be seen and started pacing around his room. Why was Alec here? Did Magnus intend to torture Jace? The last thing he wanted was Alec to see his sad little house. Jace wasn’t ashamed of Lillian but he knew how far Society thought he had fallen. The very last thing Jace wanted from Alec was pity. Alec should be on his damn knees, begging Jace’s forgiveness. Jace snorted and stopped his pacing, running a hand over his face. That would never happen but Jace could dream.

There was a polite knock on the front door and a soft exclamation downstairs from Lillian. She called up to him and answered the door. Jace could hear her greet them and introduce herself before showing them into the parlor. Jace took a fortifying breath and descended the stairs slowly.

Chapter Text

Jace entered the parlor. Lillian was speaking as he hovered in the doorway.

“Excuse me, gentlemen. It’s a bit cramped in here, we weren’t expecting so many visitors.”

She gave a pointed look at Magnus and he grimaced slightly before giving her a charming smile.

“Forgive me, please, madam! I didn’t realize...um”

He darted his gaze around the room and seemed at a loss for words. Jace rolled his eyes and leaned against the door jam, crossing his arms.

“This is why I suggested we meet at your solicitor's office or your estate, Alpha Magnus. We don’t receive many guests, especially those of your esteemed caliber.”

Jace hadn’t meant for that to come out as mocking as it had sounded but he was feeling threatened with so many alphas so close. He imagined he could physically feel the overwhelming pheromones in the air. Alec was standing behind Magnus, his own arms crossed. At Jace’s words he pursed his lips and frowned. When Jace raised an eyebrow at him, daring him to comment, Alec looked away. Magnus bit his lip and cleared his throat, opening and closing his mouth but not saying anything. Jace turned his attention to the solicitor who had an amused smirk on his face, taking in the awkward atmosphere between the three of them. Luke stepped forward and reached out a hand to Jace, smiling crookedly, eyes sparkling.

“Alpha Luke Garraway, I’ll be handling the matter between you and Alpha Magnus. It seems straightforward enough, so why don’t we get down to it?”

Jace shook his hand and nodded, smiling up into his friendly expression. Something about Luke was comforting. Luke turned and approached the table, setting down his attache and reaching to open it. Jace interrupted before he could.

“Wait, I’m not doing this in here. It’s much too stifling, I feel like scratching my skin raw even standing here.”

Lillian looked at him with concern.

“There is no where else except…”

Jace blew out a harsh breath.

“My room has appropriate seating and a window that can be opened and...sunlight.”

Magnus startled visibly.

“Your nest...but-”

Jace slashed his hand through the air roughly, far past playing nice.

“It’s fine if I say it’s fine, alpha. Please, I’ll feel more comfortable.”

Magnus nodded and Luke smiled benignly, shrugging his shoulders. Alec was silent, unmoving, face blank. Jace turned to Lillian and moved forward to clear the doorway.

“Lillian, please take them up. I’ll bring an extra chair and the tea set.”

Lillian led the way up the stairs, making stilted small talk with Luke. Magnus paused next to him but turned sharply away and followed the pair. Alec lingered, running a large hand over the back of the chair in front of him. Jace ignored him, reaching to lift the chair but Alec pulled on it, moving it back out of Jace’s hands. Jace frowned and Alec spoke.

“I’ll get the chair, you get the tea set.”

Jace clenched his jaw, tamping down the urge to throw the tea set at Alec’s head. He took a breath and forced his eyes to meet Alec’s. Alec looked nervous, cornered, like a deer ready to bolt at the first loud noise. Why was Alec so nervous? Jace was the one forced to deal with three alphas in his nest, one he especially wanted to throw back out into the street. Jace’s voice came out sharper than he intended, filtered through his clenched teeth.

“It’s fine, Alpha Lightwood. I’m more than capable. Please, feel free to join the others.”

Alec swallowed and then licked his lips. Jace couldn’t help but follow the move, wanting to reach out and feel if Alec’s lips were as soft as they appeared. Jace tried to pry the chair out of Alec’s hands but Alec didn’t let go.

“No, let me, dammit Jace. I want to help. Let me help.”

Jace let out an incredulous laugh, feeling a creeping hysteria crawl up his spine.

“You want to help me? How dare- You know what, fine. Do as you will, my lord.”

Jace turned, unable keep facing Alec alone and fled up the stairs with the tea tray. Lillian was moving around the room, opening the window and pulling the table closer to the fresh air. Alec was close behind Jace and carried his burden over to the table and moved the other three chairs around the table. Collectively, they all seemed to notice there were four chairs for five people and Jace turned to fetch another one from the parlor. Alec’s voice stopped him.

“Wait, I’ll stand. Please, Beta Patel, have my seat.”

Jace turned back to argue but stopped, shaking his head. He didn’t understand Alec. Had he always been this courteous? Lillian sat, smiling at Alec and reached to the tea set. Jace chose a seat closest to his bed, instinctively keeping himself between his little nest and the invading alphas. The air coming in through the window did a decent job of dissipating the alpha scents in the air. Magnus and Luke sat across from them and Alec stood behind Magnus for only a moment before he wandered off.

Jace watched Alec casually walk around his room with mounting irritation and a clenched jaw. Alec thumbed through a few of his worn books and ran his fingers over the window sill, along the mantle of the fireplace and over the quilt on the back on the reading chair. He worked a slow circuit, counter-clockwise around the room, taking in everything with a neutral expression. Inevitably, Alec approached Jace’s nest, walking out of Jace’s sight. Jace felt the cold hand of panic and outrage grip him and he stood suddenly, his chair clattering to the floor with a loud noise. Everyone froze, staring at him in shock but Jace paid them no mind, rounding on Alec. He moved to stand between Alec and his nest and pulled himself up, posturing aggressively, glaring into Alec’s wide and clearly shocked eyes. Alec stood motionless, frowning with clear confusion. Jace’s voice was a snarl, he ran a tongue over his delicate fangs, baring them in a challenge.

“Get back, alpha. Away from my nest. Now.”

Alec drew in a harsh breath and inched back. He raised his hands in a show of submission and Jace could see they trembled slightly.

“Forgive me, omega. I didn’t mean-”

“I don’t care what you meant. Go. Sit. Down.”

Jace followed Alec’s retreat until he backed up to Jace’s fallen chair. Alec righted it and then slumped down into it, keeping his gaze averted. Jace forced himself to release the tension in his body and looked at the others around the table. Lillian was doing a bad job of hiding a proud smirk behind her napkin, Luke was shuffling his papers and pretending to read them and Magnus was pale, gazing at Jace with bright, assessing eyes. Jace stared into Magnus’ eyes and bared his teeth when Magnus didn’t look away. He watched Magnus’ pupils expand, turning his eyes black and then Magnus seemed to come back to his senses, flicking his gaze downward, his breath coming fast. Jace was breathing fast as well, the smell of smoky cloves and spicy ginger making him want to flip the table over, grab Magnus by the throat and pin him down. He wanted to weave his fingers into Alec’s hair and force his head back, bury his face in his neck, lick over his scent glands-

Jace gasped and stumbled over to the open window, taking in deep breaths of cool air. By the Angel, what had just happened. His heat hormones were turning him into a monster. His scent was obviously affecting Alec and Magnus, making the alphas aroused against their will. They would never act this way without Jace’s biology manipulating theirs. What would he have done had they not submitted to him? Would he have fought them? Jace grew ill thinking of it.

Shaking, Jace turned back to the table but stayed where he was, out of reach and leaning his back on the cool glass. He opened his mouth to apologize, beg for forgiveness if he had to but Luke interrupted him.

“Well, that was...fascinating. How about we hurry this up. You know, Jace, you should be meeting me with your own solicitor.”

Jace cleared his throat and avoided looking at Magnus or Alec. He crossed his arms, feeling defensive.

“I can’t afford that.”

“You are the Morgenstern heir, correct? Isn’t there a solicitor on retainer for your family?”

Jace huffed and gave Luke a self-deprecating smirk.

“Heir of what? There is nothing left, the Clave took all of Valentine’s assets to settle his debts. I would never trust a man that worked for my father.”

Alec raised his head and Jace chanced a look at him. He was frowning, confused. Jace stopped himself from rolling his eyes. Of course Alec knew nothing of the Morgenstern assets, he had never bothered to keep in touch. Luke gave Jace an understanding smile and Jace relaxed, bringing his hands to rest by his hips on the windowsill. He tipped his head back and rolled his neck, trying to release the rest of his tension. Logically, he knew that these alphas were no threat and Lillian was here, a silent pillar of support. But his pre-heat brain was telling him to watch these alphas carefully, be ready to defend. Jace hated Magnus a little for this, for not listening to Jace when he wanted to meet elsewhere. Luke continued,

“Very well, I understand. Take a look at these figures and we can discuss the details and any questions you have for myself or Alpha Magnus.”

Jace nodded and reached out to take the papers Luke held out to him. He read them carefully, slowly. The first page was the details of their agreement; Jace was to receive compensation for vague services. Jace gleaned from his reading that it was a pretense, the only important part was that he was legally not allowed to profit, socially or monetarily, from any information gleaned from his association with Alpha Magnus Bane. He gaped at the amount of money laid out on the last page. It was more than enough for Jace to live lavishly for the rest of his life, let alone the modest life he was dreaming of. If he was conservative enough, this money would support his children all of their lives as well.

Jace felt tears well up in his eyes and he turned, closing them, still pretending to read. Jace had certainly never expected to receive this much money, would have felt foolish to even suggest it. It showed the lengths Magnus would go to for Alec, to protect Alec and their love for each other. It made Jace feel overwhelmingly lonely and guilty. No one would ever love him like that, do anything to protect him and make him happy. And here Jace was, scaring them, blackmailing them, threatening their happiness. Jace really was a monster.

Jace pulled himself together, took a deep breath and then turned. He looked to Luke and nodded then he signed them and handed the papers to Magnus. Magnus thumbed through them and stopped over the last page, running his fingers over the money amount. His laugh sounded forced and his voice was tight, seeming to be trying to lighten the heavy mood in the room.

“Well, with this amount of money, I may as well make you my mistress!”

Lillian gasped and set her cup down quickly, the worn china clattering against the matching saucer, the loud sound made Magnus grimace and he looked horrified, guilty. Alec hid his face behind his hands, shaking his head slowly and Luke closed his eyes, breathing deep as if searching for patience. Jace stared at Magnus, watching him sink into himself in embarrassment, cringing. Jace only felt amusement. He felt a sadistic pleasure at seeing Magnus, perfect and charming Magnus, squirm with guilt over his tasteless joke. Not that Magnus had ever wronged him directly, in fact Jace should be nothing but grateful. Magnus was saving him from a life under the thumb of a noble alpha husband, a life surrounded by Society’s ever changing opinions. Magnus, against his will, was offering Jace a chance at peace and happiness. So Jace let his posture soften and gave Magnus his best roguish grin, flashing his fangs in a subtle flirt.

“Why not make me your mate, Alpha? It would certainly be cheaper.”

Magnus gaped at him, unsure and Jace saw Alec raise his head slowly from his hands. He forced his gaze to stay on Magnus and not take in Alec’s reaction. Lillian let out a little giggle and Luke sighed loudly. Magnus gathered himself quickly, a consummate socialite. He tipped his head back, rising to meet Jace’s challenge.

“One omega courtship is enough for me, Jonathan. Camille was a manipulative monster.”

Jace inclined his head and unwound his arms, dropping them. He all but swaggered to the table, reaching past Magnus to pick up a scone. He paused, leaning into Magnus’
space, bringing their faces close. Jace could feel the heat of Magnus’ body and it made him want to curl up in his lap, have the alpha hand feed him the scone. Magnus drew in a sharp breath and held it, staying still.

“Sounds like her and Seb are the perfect match. You’ll be happy with Alec. He’s a good man.”

Jace gave in and looked over at Alec. Alec was pale and his face was drawn tight in pain? Jealousy? Guilt? Jace wished fervently that it was the latter. Jace heard Magnus gasp again and realized with a start that the movement of his head to look at Alec had exposed his neck to Magnus. He was practically displaying his scent gland to the alpha and Magnus was staring at it, nostrils flaring, his face held a darkly intense expression.

Feeling shame, Jace leaned back and walked over to the open window, taking a delicate bite of his scone. He hadn’t meant to tease Magnus but it had felt so nice to have the normally unflappable alpha struggling to match wits with him. But it wasn’t Jace’s spell Magnus had fallen under, it was just biology. His father’s words came to him then, spoken like a secret with a drunken slur, ‘biology makes fools of even the most noble. It can tear apart even the smartest alpha, son’. The scone was like ashes in his mouth. Luke spoke again, the sound of shuffling papers loud to Jace’s ear.

“Very well, now that the papers are signed, I just need your bank account information to transfer funds.”

Jace frowned over his shoulder at Luke, shaking his head.

“I don’t have a bank account.”

Alec made an incredulous noise, drawing Jace’s eyes. Alec leaned back in his chair, shaking his head.

“You don’t have one? Where do you keep your money?”

The total confusion on Alec’s face drew a harsh laugh from Jace, it burned his lungs on the way out.

“I have no money, Alec. No means of any kind. It’s only by the kindness and charity of Lillian that I have a roof over my head. I was sleeping on the street before that. What part of the Clave took all the Morgenstern holdings was confusing for you? Why do you think my father sold me, his last remaining piece of property, to Sebastian fucking Verlac?”

Alec reeled back as if struck, his face draining of all remaining color. His hands gripped the edge of the table, his knuckles white from the pressure. Magnus let out a soft whine, reaching out to lay a hand over Alec’s, gazing at Jace in shock. Alec’s voice was tight, a strangled whisper.

“I don’t understand-”

Jace let out a disgusted scoff and turned to Luke, taking in his serious expression with pleading eyes. Luke nodded.

“I’ll personally handle opening an account for you, Jace.”

Jace gave him a grateful smile.

“Thank you, Luke. Can you make sure I can remove funds outside of Idris?”

Magnus interrupted Luke before he could respond.

“Planning on joining your father, wherever he is?”

Jace clenched his hands into fists, crumbling the scone and feeling hot with rage. He tossed the crumbs on the table, watching Magnus flinch.

“Fuck you, Magnus. I hope Valentine is dead for all the pain he gave me, all the pain he caused to others.”

Magnus looked down, biting his lip. A gentle hand settled on Jace’s shoulder and he took a deep breath leaning into it. Luke squeezed gently, drew Jace near and stood to offer his seat to him.

“Write down your personal information and we will confer later after I open your account. It will take some time to allocate the funds. I predict it will take some skillful finesse.”

Jace frowned up at him.

“Because you have no alpha. It will make the process more difficult but don’t worry about that for now.”

Jace gripped the pen in his hand, feeling dizzy. Of course this would be more difficult than Jace realized. He had no alpha and in the eyes of the Clave that meant he had no protection. He was an unattached omega and therefore incapable of taking care of himself. Before he could stop it, a plaintive whine escaped him and his scent soured with distress. He felt himself start to spiral into despair and he gasped a few breaths, trying desperately to hold on to his senses.

He felt his hands taken into a warm grasp and the comforting scent of cinnamon, cloves and ginger reached him. Jace took deep calming breaths and opened his eyes to see Magnus and Alec, each with one of his hands between theirs, gazing at him with concern. He hunched his shoulders, embarrassed and jerked back his hands, drawing in to himself. He didn’t miss the look that passed between the two but he couldn’t parse out the meaning, too raw and vulnerable to think clearly.

“Are we done? I need…”

Jace didn’t know how to finish his sentence but Magnus and Alec seemed to understand. They stood and Magnus murmured goodbye, turning to follow Lillian. Alec tipped his top hat to Jace, following Magnus to the door and down the steps. Luke lingered near him and Jace stood, raising an eyebrow in a silent question. Luke opened his mouth to speak but seemed indecisive. Finally, his expression firmed and he spoke.

“I knew your parents, a long time ago. In fact, there was discussion of naming me your godfather. I’m sorry to hear what you’ve gone through.”

Luke gave a trembling smile and Jace couldn’t help but stand silently in shock. How much more would he be tasked to endure today? How different would his life have been with Luke in it? Jace shook his head. This was his life, for better or worse. It would be foolish to dream of what ifs. He could only nod, returning Luke’s smile. Luke turned to leave but paused, turning sharp eyes on Jace’s face.

“Would you have outed them?”

Jace sneered.

“Of course not...but I need this. I don’t want to be forced to marry some idiot knothead noble who might hit me before he kissed me. This money is freedom to me. I can’t afford to be...I don’t know, prideful? It doesn’t look like Magnus will miss it much, the money.”

Suddenly, Jace found himself in Luke’s embrace, arms tight around him, Luke’s big, warm palm cupping and squeezing his nape. Jace allowed his body to go lax, letting Luke gentle him, sighing in emotional relief. After a moment Luke leaned Jace back, gave him one last smile and left. Jace stumbled over to the window to watch them depart. Magnus and Alec were waiting by the carriage and Luke walked between them, knocking their shoulders and making them stumble. Luke entered the carriage without a word and the two follow cautiously. When they pulled away, Jace caught Luke leaning forward and talking passionately, waving his hands around, his face thunderous.

Jace smiled, feeling warm from Luke’s unexpected affection and sat heavily on the reading chair by the fireplace. The embers were cold and Jace shivered, reaching back to draw the blanket sitting on the back over him. He pulled it tight around his shoulders and tucked his face into the scratchy fabric. The lightest smell of ginger and cinnamon reached his nose and it hit Jace like a physical blow. He didn’t fight the sob that burst from his mouth, loud in the silence of his room. He buried his face into the blanket, searching desperately for more ginger and cloves, feeling torn open and nauseous.

***

It was a relief to Jace that Isabelle and Max joined Maryse for tea the next day. He was still feeling emotional from his meeting with Alec and Magnus and had considered rescheduling. Izzy and Max were the perfect buffer between the two older omegas, inadvertently steering all conversation away from finding an alpha for Jace. They were much more interested in dragging Jace away as soon as possible to play games in the garden, chasing each other around and getting as dirty as possible. Max had grown so much and Jace was surprised to learn that he was almost a match physically for Jace, overtaking Jace easily in the chase and bearing him down to the ground. Jace was sure he would present as an alpha and prayed to the Angel that it wouldn’t change Max’s loving, joyful personality.

Eventually, Max was called away by his governess and Izzy begged Jace to stay a bit longer and sit with her while she painted in the garden. She was a fair artist, mostly landscapes and Jace made her promise to make one for him. She seemed shy about it, trying to be self deprecating but Jace needled her until she gave in. Izzy promised an exchange; one of Jace’s stories, written down, for one of her paintings. It was Jace’s turn to be shy but he agreed.

It had been years since Jace had authored anything. Every time he tried, he remembered the disgusted look on his father’s face as he listened to Sebastian mockingly read selections of his novella. Sebastian had stolen his novella, sneaking his way into Jace’s private chambers to steal it. They had called Jace into his father’s study, read it outloud while Jace begged them to stop and thrown the papers into the fire, laughing at him. Every time after, when Jace sat down with a pen in hand, he couldn’t help but relive that burning rage and shame. But Seb and Valentine couldn’t reach him now, he had people like Clary Fray to protect him. He would try, for Izzy, for himself.

Jace and Izzy spent the rest of the lazy summer afternoon lounging in the garden. Jace watched her paint, fascinated by her concentration and skill and they chatted idly. As he left, borrowing a Lightwood carriage to return home, Jace found their parting bittersweet. Soon, he would leave Idris and days like this, with Izzy and Max, would disappear. But, hopefully, Jace would have a family of his own and his heart could start to mend.

Chapter Text

The next two weeks passed quickly for Jace. He met Luke a few times and they exchanged countless letters to finalize the money exchange. Eventually, as Luke predicted, their progress was stagnated by the laws of omega ownership. The amount of money that Jace would have access to was usually given to omegas in small payments over their lives. Jace was insistent to both Magnus and Luke that he wanted the money all at once. He wouldn’t give Magnus the chance to rip the money from him at a future time, not that Magnus seemed like the sort to do so. Jace had learned early and often in his life to trust others sparingly, or ideally, not at all.

With the money transfer stalled, Jace was reluctant to make solid plans. There was so much that could go wrong. Luke had been a pillar of strength, going far beyond his duties as Magnus’ solicitor to help Jace. He also promised to reach out to his colleagues and help Jace find a home, anywhere he wished. Jace was hesitant to ask why Luke was doing so much for him, unsure if he wanted to hear the truth. Did it matter if Luke was helping him out of misplaced guilt? Jace didn’t blame him for cutting Valentine out of his life. Whatever had happened between the two had occurred long before Jace was able to walk and talk. He was just thankful that Luke was here now, smoothing the way forward for Jace.

All of Jace’s worries culminated to one; his heat was fast approaching. The last thing he wanted was to spend a heat in his little attic room. He didn’t want to put the burden of caring and protecting him during his most vulnerable time onto Lillian. He would have no husband to help him through it, to ease his pain with a knot, wipe his fevered brow and make sure he was hydrated and fed. Jace had never had those things before but his father had provided him a safe nest.

Jace visited Clary and Simon a few times over those two weeks. They lounged around the library, reading out loud and sipping lemonade. They rode the prized Fray stallions around the manor property and enjoyed picnics under the late summer sun. Neither Simon nor Clary prodded Jace about his past, his father or his future plans and Jace allowed himself to relax around them.

They noticed, of course, the change in him as his heat approached. And Simon, sweet Simon, offered the use of the Fray heat room, located in the middle of the manor. Jace had smiled, unsure, and said he would think on the offer. It would be an unfamiliar nest, in a strange new house and Jace dreaded Simon or Clary seeing him like that. What if he did something awful, like beg Clary to take him or even more humiliating, call out for Alec as he was wont to do during previous heats. No one had been there to hear him then but with the Fray’s so close...

It was amusing in a sad way that Jace had finally found friends and support right when he resolved to leave Idris and never return. He would start to reconsider his plans to flee, thinking that maybe a life could be made here, surrounded by Isabelle, Clary, Simon, Luke and Lillian. Then he would venture out beyond the protective walls of the Fray manor and the Lightwood estate, to the open streets of Idris. Jace would see the looks of disgust and the fervent whispers and he would resolve his desire to start a new life, even at the expense of his friendships. Eventually, his tainted reputation would reach the others, stain them in some irreparable way. Jace would never forgive himself if that happened.

***

It was after those two weeks that Jace received a surprising letter. He started the morning normally, rolling out of bed to join Lillian for tea and toast. Soft mornings like this made Jace even more thankful for Lillian. He kept his promise to Magnus and not said a word about the two lovers or the money to anyone but her. Jace was sure he would have gone mad with worry without Lillian. Jace was heartbroken that one day soon they would be parted. She had been more of a mother to him in the few months that they had known each other than his own. Jace had mentioned, only half joking, that Lillian could come with him, leave Idris. She had smiled, understanding but sad, and said that her life was here. There were many more omegas like Jace that needed her and she wouldn’t abandon them. It hurt but Jace understood. Lillian had a purpose here, one that she had given herself to fully. He would never stand in her way.

Lillian had errands to run the rest of the day and friends to meet for lunch. It left the day open and empty for Jace and he decided to settle in his reading chair by the fire. Luke had loaned a few law books concerning omega rights to Jace and despite their dry contents, Jace was determined to read them. The more he knew, the better he could protect himself.

After a few hours of fighting off sleep as he read, Jace stood from his chair and paced over to the window, stretching and rolling his neck. He stood there, watching people walk back and forth. He was shocked out of his reverie when a carriage bearing the Bane family crest stopped and Magnus’ valet alighted from it. The man’s stride was quick, his posture stiff and his face held a frown. Jace breathed in sharply. Had something happened to Magnus? To Luke?

Jace flew down the stairs, not waiting for Raphael to knock and swung the door open wide. The valet stopped, looking surprised and then his face resumed its frown. Jace’s voice when he spoke was breathless, betraying his flight to the door.

“Has something happened?”

Raphael rolled his eyes and reached into his jacket, producing a letter. He handed it to Jace and Jace took it, confused.

“Hello, Omega Morgenstern. Lovely day we are having. How am I, you ask? Annoyed at having to play Magnus Bane’s errand boy. It’s not like I have other, much more pressing things to attend to.”

Jace pressed the letter to his chest, unsure of how to respond.

“Um…It’s Omega Jace, not Morgenstern, please…”

Raphael rolled his eyes again and huffed.

“Can you please open the letter and respond to ‘His Majesty’ so that I can get back to my actual job? I’m sure he’s waiting at his window in a disgustingly forlorn manner for me to return with word from his love.”

Jace blushed and opened the letter, mumbling.

“I’m, we are not lovers, Beta. He hates me.”

Raphael laughed, harsh and overly loud. Jace winced and turned his attention to the letter, starting to read it. He only made it through the salutation before realizing that they still stood, awkwardly, in the doorway. Raphael was in direct sunlight and he mopped his brow with a handkerchief, looking miserable.

“Oh, pardon me, Beta. Would you like to come in? I can make some tea.”

Raphael accepted the offer to enter the foyer but declined tea.

“Read the cursed letter and give me a response, omega.”

Jace ducked his head and paced into the parlor, keeping his back to Raphael as he read. For all of the fanfare, it was a simple letter, asking if Magnus could call upon Jace tomorrow for tea. Alone, no Luke and no Alec. Jace turned to Raphael, who was still standing stiff in the foyer, one hand on the door knob.

“He asked you to deliver this? I was expecting something much more...important. It’s just a request to call on me.”

Raphael hung his head and took a deep breath.

“I don’t pretend to understand my employer, Omega Jace. Please, for all that is holy, give me a response so that I can put Magnus out of his misery. He has been unbearable all morning.”

“Yes, Alpha Magnus may join me here for tea tomorrow. Do you need me to write it down?”

Raphael was already swinging the door open before Jace could finish his sentence and Jace watched, open mouthed, as the beta walked quickly to the carriage and yelled for the driver to leave. Despite the man’s cold demeanor, Jace couldn’t help but respect the valet. Jace could easily see Raphael tempering Magnus’ more dramatic leanings. Even knowing Raphael had been joking when he said it, Jace couldn’t help but imagine Magnus pining for him, like a Gothic hero. What was so important that Magnus needed to see him?

***

Jace prepared a tea tray for Magnus and asked Lillian to sit as chaperone on their meeting. With only the three of them, the parlor was decided upon. Jace was thankful that his room would be left alone this time, no alpha scents to scrub clean. His heat was a week away and the thought of Magnus’ scent lingering in his room while he ached for an alpha was terrifying. It would only confuse his inner omega, the scent of an alpha so near but no mate to help him.

Jace opened the door when Magnus arrived. He gave a polite smile and invited him in, burning with curiosity. It had been a trying ordeal to sleep last night, lying awake and obsessing over how this meeting would go. Magnus was stunning in his perfectly tailored black tailcoat and rich purple shirt, shiny buttons catching the light. Not a hair was out of place and his eye paint matched his shirt. How was Magnus so beautiful?

Magnus gave Jace an amused smile, as if he could read his thoughts and Jace cleared his throat. He showed Magnus to the parlor and offered their best chair. Magnus sat and made a show of getting comfortable before graciously accepting the tea cup and taking a soundless sip. Magnus made a surprised sound, closing his eyes and seeming to savor the flavor. Jace blushed, only now realizing that he had chosen his favorite tea in a bid to self soothe. The one that tasted of cardamom, ginger, cloves and cinnamon; like Jace, Alec and Magnus.

“My, my, omega. I’ve never had this blend before. It’s...delicious.”

Magnus glanced at Jace from under his half closed lashes, taking another slow sip. Jace bit his lip and traced his fingers over the arm of his chair, letting the rough grain of the wood soothe him. He looked over at Lillian to see her sipping her own cup of tea, her lips pursed as if to smother a grin. Jace rolled his eyes.

“Yes, alpha. It’s my favorite tea.”

Magnus opened his eyes fully to regard Jace, smiling softly.

“Is it? How lovely.”

Jace frowned slightly, confused by Magnus’ warmth. He was acting as if Jace wasn’t currently blackmailing Magnus for money. He had the air of a man making a house call to a close friend. Jace had expected Magnus to be cold and distant, not seek him out to share tea and soft flirtations. Where was Alec? Jace had a hard time believing that Alec knew Magnus was here. Surely, Alec wouldn’t let Magnus near Jace alone. He opened his mouth again, to ask Magnus why he was here but Magnus interrupted.

“Alexander told me you two were childhood friends. That you lived with the Lightwoods briefly.”

Jace snapped his mouth shut with a click. He responded slowly, cautiously.

“Yes. I lived with them for three years. The best years of my life, to be honest.”

“Hmm. And you were close with Alexander especially?”

“I...love Izzy and Max as well but yes, I consider Alec my closest friend.”

Why was Magnus asking about this? Small talk or something more insidious? Magnus made a soft sound.

“Consider?”

Jace blushed and shifted uncomfortably.

“I suppose I should use past tense. After, well…”

Jace waved his hand between Magnus and himself. Magnus raised an eyebrow and set his cup down on the table. Jace could see Lillian following their conversation raptly, moving her head back and forth as they spoke. She moved to pour more tea for them and offered Magnus a cinnamon biscuit. He took one with a dazzling smile.

“Oh, my favorite, thank you, dear Lillian.”

She smiled back and Jace could see her cheeks take on a hint of pink. He resisted rolling his eyes again, annoyed and endeared by Magnus’ charm. Magnus took a small bite and turned his attention back to Jace. Jace wanted to preen and shrink away from Magnus’ full attention. The conflicting instincts made him go still and tense.

“Alexander intimated that your falling out occurred long before our current situation.”

Jace swallowed thickly, hurt by the acknowledgment that Alec had abandoned him deliberately long before now. He had held out some small hope that there had been a misunderstanding after Jace had left. But...maybe Valentine had been right, out of sight and out of mind. No one would look out for Jace except himself. Jace forced his mind back to the conversation, feeling vulnerable. Under Magnus’ kind eyes and his calming scent, Jace found his mouth betraying him.

“I had hoped, after we presented, that Alec would court me. That we would be mated. I see now that it was foolish, I have nothing to give Alec, nothing he deserves.”

Jace watched with mild horror as Magnus’ face morphed into shock. He could see Lillian from the corner of his eye raise her hand slowly to cover her mouth. He did shrink then, under Magnus’ wide eyed stare and the utter silence of the room.

“I’m very sorry, alpha. I don’t know why I told you that. I would never dream of coming between you and Alec-”

Magnus held up his hand to stop Jace’s flurry of words.

“Be at ease, omega. I’m not mad. You find me an easy confidante and I am thankful that you trust me. I can see that trust is rare for you.”

Jace scoffed.

“Yes, I trusted that I would never be parted from the Lightwoods, that I could have a family of my own, not one that is cold and cruel. I’ll make my own family, with your help of course. I regret the circumstances that led to...but thank you, Magnus. You’ve changed my life for the better.”

Jace paused, looking at Magnus nervously, plucking at his chair cushion. Magnus noticed his fidgeting and waiting, smiling patiently.

“You’re not...mad. About…”

“About you being in love with our dear Alexander?”

Jace flushed, waving his hands around in agitation.

“I’m not still in love with him, Magnus. It was a childish infatuation, I assure you.”

Magnus hummed agreeably again but the look on his face told Jace that he didn’t believe him. Jace wasn’t still in love with Alec. He thought of the cold disdain that Alec had shown him these past two months and the horrible words flung at him that night. No, He couldn’t still love Alec. That would be...idiotic.

“I know he hates me or at least finds me...disagreeable. The things he said…”

Magnus’ warm expression grew steely and his lips thinned, eyes becoming cold. His scent tinged with a fire that made Jace’s blood rush in his veins. He wanted to reach out and touch him, feel his body heat up close. Magnus’ voice was hard, commanding.

“Yes, don’t worry about that, Jonathan. You will be hearing an apology from Alexander.”

“Um...alright, alpha.”

Jace’s timid reply seemed to snap Magnus out of his intense contemplation. Jace didn’t want a coerced apology from Alec but he didn’t want to argue with Magnus now. He was angry with himself for being so forward with Magnus. Apparently, one nice smelling alpha was enough for Jace to spill all his secrets. What was it about Magnus that had Jace wanting to lay himself bare, to curl into the alpha’s warm body and never face the world alone again? How desperate was Jace for a kind word that he would latch onto the first alpha to speak softly to him? An Alpha that was in love with Alec and would never have looked at Jace twice otherwise. Magnus cleared his throat.

“You know, Luke champions you quite fiercely.”

Jace smiled softly, thinking of all that Luke had done for him.

“Yes, he’s been so good to me. Doing much more than he should.”

Magnus gave a breathy laugh that made Jace shiver to hear. A beautiful sound from a beautiful man. Magnus brought a hand up to tap at his chin, turning sparkling eyes onto Jace. Jace’s breath caught.

“I’ve wondered, what do you plan on doing with all that money?”

When Jace hesitated, Magnus rushed on.

“I promise that your answer in no way jeopardizes the fact that the money is yours. To do with as you will. I’m only curious, feel free to ignore me, darling.”

Jace blamed the pet name for answering honestly. It made him want to please Magnus. Magnus seemed utterly charmed by the picture Jace painted for him. Of a quaint village, a small garden, maybe some animals to raise. And one day, a loving mate and a handful of pups.

“You know, I own a small cottage near the sea. The village there is close to the vision you describe. You are more than welcome to have it.”

Jace choked, eyes watering and he set down his tea cup to stare at Magnus in shock.

“You would just...give me a home?”

“Yes, of course!”

Jace shook his head. Magnus seemed completely oblivious to how strange the concept was. Jace was beginning to realize just how large a heart Magnus possessed. He couldn’t just give Jace one of his properties, to the omega that was blackmailing him, no less.

“This sounds like those sordid Society stories. I would be your omega mate, exiled to live my life in the country while you stay in the city, galavanting around, partaking of sordid affairs and expensive parties.”

Jace laughed, expecting Magnus to do the same. Instead, Magnus looked...speculative. At Magnus’ continued silence, Jace shifted, increasingly uncomfortable.

“I was speaking in jest and...why are you even here, Magnus?”

Magnus’ face was serious and he tipped his head to the side, brushing a hand through his hair.

“I was curious and...I can’t stop thinking about you.”

The silence that followed was heavy. Jace was unsure of how to respond or even if he should. They stared at each other, unmoving and Jace couldn’t place the look in Magnus’ dark eyes. It was an intense emotion, one that Jace had never received before. It made his skin feel electrified and he wanted to slide from his chair, onto his knees and crawl to his alpha. The smoky scent of cloves and cinnamon reached out and surrounded him, made him feel like he would float away if Magnus broke their stare. Magnus couldn’t stop thinking of him? Why?

A loud crunch, chew and swallow interrupted their moment and Jace startled, looking away from Magnus’ hypnotizing eyes to Lillian.

“Oh, dear me. That was loud. Please, forgive me, gentlemen.”

Jace gave her a strained smile and when he turned back to Magnus, the alpha was standing, smoothing wrinkles from his jacket.

“I should be off, Jonathan, Lillian.”

Lillian stood up to usher their guest to the door. Magnus followed but paused before Jace, standing close enough that their breaths mingled.

“Thank you, Jonathan, for seeing me.”

Magnus’ eyes captured him again and Jace remained pliant when Magnus reached out to rub the soft underside of his wrist to Jace’s. The delicate touch to his sensitive scent gland made Jace whine and he felt his body respond violently, could feel slick between his thighs. He flushed instantly and the only thing stopping him from apologizing loudly was the look on Magnus’ face. It was a hungry, predatory look and Jace was sure that Magnus could smell his arousal.

Lillian tsked by the doorway and swooped in to shoo Magnus away from Jace and out the door. Jace stood still, not breaking eye contact with the alpha until Lillian closed the door and leaned against it. She grinned at him and started fanning herself. Jace shook his head, trying to dislodge what felt like cobwebs in his mind.

“What just happened?”

“Oh, my dear! You were just scent marked by an alpha. In full view of your chaperone, no less. How scandalous!”

***

Jace was restless in bed that night. Magnus’ scent on his wrist haunted him but the thought of scrubbing it off his body was repulsive. It was in his nest now, his nest smelled of Magnus and would continue to smell of the alpha during his heat. Jace expected to panic, to rip his bed clothes from his nest and frantically clean them. Instead, Jace exalted in it and his inner omega begged for more. More of Magnus and more...Alec.

Why had he confided so easily to Magnus? To tell Alec’s chosen mate that Jace had wanted Alec for himself; Jace was a fool. A fool that was still in love with Alec and a fool that was falling in love with Magnus. He had tried to stop these feelings, tried to tell his omega that the alphas would never want him, never love him. Jace didn’t regret these feelings either. They were proof that his father was wrong, that Valentine hadn’t ruined him, made him a cruel monster in his father’s image. Jace loved Alec, could easily love Magnus. He loved Simon and Clary, Isabelle, Max ad Lillian. He even loved Maryse despite her recent treatment of him, implying that he was lesser.

Jace wasn’t a monster like Valentine and he would keep his love clutched close, even when it hurt.

The smell of cloves, oranges blossoms and a hint of cinnamon wafted to Jace every time he shifted in his nest. He could imagine it, Magnus here with him, his warm body tight against him. Magnus’ skin would be smooth, his hands would soothe and excite. What would it feel like, those hands on Jace’s body? Would he pull Jace tight against him, his grip rough and bruising? Or would he be unbearably gentle, soft touches and whispered endearments?

Jace didn’t know which he preferred, had barely touched himself, even in heat, to see what he liked. Valentine had made him ashamed to be an omega, drunkenly yelling that Jace was built like an alpha, he brought shame to the Morgenstern family by being a lowly, weak omega. Jace suspected that his father would have abandoned him entirely to the Lightwoods had he presented before Valentine had called him back home. And after, Valentine was too proud to send him away, too aware of his social status to publicly disavow his son for his secondary gender.

Well, Valentine wasn’t here now and Magnus’ scent was affecting his body. It was dark, Lillian was abed and his heat was nearing. Jace was his own man now, soon to have his own life to live. Sex was a part of life for some and Jace pushed away all of his lingering shame to trail a cold, trembling hand down his body. He raised his wrist to his lips and inhaled deeply, letting out a quiet moan before running his tongue over the sensitive gland there. Magnus had scented directly over his scent gland and Lillian had insisted it was a gesture of intent. Intent to court and mate. Jace had scoffed. The idea was ridiculous. Jace could offer an alpha like Magnus nothing, nothing but his heart and that was less than worthless.

Jace ran his fingers over his nipples, working the sensitive area until he was breathing fast, until he was hard and aching. He pulled frantically at his night clothes, tossing them carelessly onto the floor and reclining back, legs spread. The attic window was open and the cool night air was a welcome sensation, caressing his overheated body. He struggled to keep all his sounds quiet, afraid that Lillian would hear.

Jace wished desperately that he could smell Alec as well. The thought of that night rose swift, the night of the party, in the maze garden. For an all too brief moment, their three scents had mingled; a potent, addictive bouquet. He had burned to be between them that night and the phantom sensation of Alec’s large alpha cock against Jace’s hip made his stomach tighten. He allowed his hand to travel lower, to cup his own erection and squeeze. The feeling made his breath catch and he covered his mouth with his other hand, taking deep breaths of Magnus from his wrist. Their two scent had mingled on his skin, twining together like they belonged. What would it be like to always smell Magnus and Alec on his skin? To be so immersed in each other that he never smelled like only black pepper and cardamom?

For the first time, Jace let his hand slip even lower, tracing two hesitant fingers over his slick, soft opening. What did he look like down there? Would his alphas find him beautiful? What a dangerous thought; his alphas. Magnus and Alec weren’t his but his inner omega cried out for them regardless and in that moment, Jace surrendered.

His fingers went deeper, swallowed by warmth and wetness. He moved slowly, cautiously, following his instinct to thrust his fingers gently, open himself for more. The friction inside him was complete rapture, his body accepting his fingers readily, begging for more. He added another, catching his breath in an aborted gasp at the feeling of fullness. He thrust harder, his slick coating his wrist, sliding down under him to soak his sheets. If this felt good now, how would it feel in heat? He had heard whispers in stuffy parlors of heat aids. What could feel better than his fingers?

He gripped his hard cock with his other hand, adding more sensation and couldn’t help the whine that escaped. He tried not to think of Magnus and Alec, tried to focus on the physical sensations only but his mind was too imaginative. He pictured that night again but he placed himself between the two alphas under the apple tree. Warm breaths and choked off moans, whispered words of love and sharp teeth nibbling on his scent glands, ready to pierce, to own, to cherish forever. The thought of becoming theirs sent him over the edge, tipping into vast oblivion.

Jace came back to himself, panting and sweating, covered in come and slick. It didn’t take long for the languid pleasure to recede and guilt to overtake him. He shouldn’t do this to himself, torture himself with thoughts of Magnus and Alec that would never be. He shouldn’t think of the alphas like that, they would likely be horrified by the idea. Poor Jace, in love with both of them, how pathetic. Jace laughed bitterly into the darkness, naked and alone.

Chapter Text

The next morning Jace was slow to wake and Isabelle was the only reason he rose at a decent hour. He had barely slept, laying awake long into the night, sad and lonely. He was resolved to start the day anew, to push his maudlin thoughts aside and focus on the good. It didn’t matter that he was in love with two unattainable alphas. Jace had weathered much worse in his life and he would do as he always did; keep going forward. Even if his unrequited love hurt him, made him feel flayed open, Jace would survive and he was determined to thrive.

Isabelle had requested his presence today at the Lightwood estate, begging him to sit for a portrait. Jace was looking forward to a lazy day with Izzy, lounging in her studio and chatting while she worked.

Jace was met by the Lightwood butler and then shown to the receiving parlor. He allowed himself to relax in the room, gazing out of the parlor window to the cobbled drive, watching the servants go about their morning. The door behind him opened and Jace turned, a smile on his face, expecting to see Isabelle. Instead, Alec came into the room, his stride confident but his expression unsure. Jace watched, unblinking, posture stiff as Alec made his way to the window. He stared out at the front drive, biting his lip and Jace watched the side of his face, bemused by his silent presence. After a heavy silence, Alec cleared his throat and turned to regard Jace, his eyes dark and piercing, his manner open and playful. A small, genuine smile on his face, only for Jace.

“Good day, Jace.”

Jace pursed his lips to keep in an amused smirk. This was the Alec he remembered from childhood, the one he had not seen these past two months. The awkward, gangly young man, silent and contemplative, honest and earnest. In those few words, Jace could hear a hundred meanings; Hello, old friend, It’s good to see you, I’ve missed you. Why had Alec hidden from him this nostalgic camaraderie? And why had Alec decided to drop his facade? The cold, distant Alec was gone and in his place was Jace’s friend and the man he loved. When Jace spoke, his voice was tight with emotion, eyes burning with unshed tears. He could only say one word, would be content to only say this word and no other the rest of his life.

“Alec.”

Alec’s smile grew and he reached out a hand as if to touch Jace’s face, cup his jaw but he diverted suddenly to raise Jace’s hand up. Jace watched his nostrils flare and the edges of his eyes bleed alpha red. He tensed after realizing that Alec held the wrist that Magnus scent marked yesterday. Instead of the rage or scorn that Jace expected, Alec let out an incredulous laugh, shaking his head, dark eyes sparkling with soft warmth. He ran his thumb over Jace’s scent gland, caressing the skin and making Jace shiver.

“That little minx.”

Jace frowned in confusion.

“What?”

Alec’s smile grew sharp edges, his long alpha canines flashing from behind his lips. The sight made Jace weak in the knees and the warmth of Alec’s hand around his wrist was like a brand, a manacle. One he never wanted to escape from. Would Alec hold him captive always if he begged it of him? Alec shook his head and spoke.

“I know you’re here for Izzy but I wanted to speak to you before you disappear with my sister.”

Jace smiled, looking up into Alec’s open face, soaking in his soft expression. Jace hadn’t realized how much he had ached to see this Alec again. It hurt his heart as much as it comforted him.

“Can’t you join us?”

“No, it’s been decreed that today is omegas only. No alphas allowed.”

Jace chuckled.

“What did you want to speak of?”

Alec’s face grew serious, his eyes sad and he took Jace’s elbow to lead him over to the closest settee. They sat, their knees pressed together and bodies angled to face each other. Alec took both of Jace’s hands in his, squeezing them gently, his hold warm and firm. Alec gazed at their clasped hands, seeming to gather his thoughts, pursing his lips tightly together. Jace waited, afraid to break the soft spell of affection that surrounded him. Perhaps he was still in bed, dreaming that Alec had come to him, his friend returned after months of pain and renewed loss. Perhaps if he spoke too soon, Alec would disappear in a cloud of dust and Jace would wake alone in his bed, broken hearted once more. Alec’s face firmed in determination and he slid to his knees before Jace and looked up at him, face forlorn.

“I wish to beg your forgiveness, Jace. Those horrid words I said, about you and Verlac…”

Alec snarled around Sebastian’s name and Jace flinched. Alec noticed and ducked his head, taking a deep breath. Alec’s scent was sharp, cloying but Jace detected no threat, the snarl had been for Seb. Alec brought one hand up to touch Jace’s cheek gently with his fingertips. Jace’s eyes fluttered shut at the soft caress.

“I was blinded by my selfish feelings, thinking only of myself when you were in need. This whole time...Jace, by the angel, I should have been there for you. And then I allowed Verlac, that disgusting snake, to speak lies about you. I...I allowed you to think I believed those words. Please, how can I make amends? I will do anything, anything, Jace. Tell me, tell me, please, omega.”

Jace felt tears on his cheeks, his vision blurring around Alec’s dear face. He sniffed and covered Alec’s hand on his face with his own, pressing the warm palm against his cheek.

Alec’s thumb made comforting movements under his jaw. Jace swallowed thickly. Alec gave a distressed whine, bringing his other hand up to wipe away the tears on Jace’s face, his own eyes wet, lips trembling.

“I’m sorry. Please, don’t cry.”

Jace laughed through his tears and pressed his face against Alec’s hands harder. He gripped Alec’s lapel and shook the alpha. Alec gave him a wide eyed, searching look, brows drawing down in confusion.

“They are happy tears, Alec. I think I would forgive you anything, you know. It’s a dangerous precedent.”

Alec lips pulled into a quivering smile.

“For you or me?”

“Both, definitely.”

Alec leaned forward and up, pressing their foreheads together, closing his eyes. He gave a deep sigh and his warm breath mingled with Jace’s.

“I am so glad. Thank you, Jace. I will not wound your generous heart again, I swear it. I will always and forever be yours- your friend.”

Alec stumbled over his words, biting his lip, his eyes jumping over Jace’s features frantically but Jace paid him no mind, drowning in relief and happiness. To have Alec back as his friend was wonderful, a weight lifted from his shoulders, another person to lean on in times of need. Like it used to be. He wanted nothing more than to close the small distance between them and press his lips to Alec’s but he resisted, leaning back, smiling at Alec, feeling incandescent with joy. Alec would never be his alpha but Jace had his friendship, it would be more than enough. Alec cleared his throat, looking nervous once again. He leaned back, taking Jace’s hands in his once more.

“There is something else...one other thing we should discuss. Isabelle said, well more implied, that you sent me letters after your father sent for you?”

Jace could feel a numbing shock creep slowly over him. A distant revelation coming to upend his reality. He replied slowly, feeling unmoored, floating at sea even with Alec’s hands still on him. He heard his own voice as if from a distance, through a tunnel.

“Yes…”

Alec winced and closed his eyes for a moment as if in pain. His voice was choked.

“I received no letters, Jace. I wrote letters to you. One every day for a year. Did you read them?”

Jace was crying again, tears of pain and betrayal. A sob tore from his throat, rough and loud. He jerked his hands from Alec’s and jumped from the settee, pacing wildly around it to grip the back, leaning his weak body on it. Alec stayed where he was, kneeling on the floor, following Jace’s retreat with a tortured expression. Jace’s voice was too loud but he was unable to modulate his tone. He felt crazed, voice rising the longer he spoke.

“A year? I thought you abandoned me, Alec! Are you saying that isn’t true?”

Jace didn’t realize Alec had moved until he was being pulled to Alec’s chest. Alec wordlessly urged Jace to tuck his face into Alec’s neck and Jace allowed himself to be maneuvered, moving his nose to Alec’s scent gland and inhaling. Alec didn’t try to gentle him with a hand on the back of his neck, instinctively knowing that even that small gesture of dominance would have Jace growling and striking out. Alec shushed him gently, holding him tightly to his warm, broad chest. Jace allowed himself this moment of weakness, feeling Alec tight against him, his arms closing Jace off from the world, protecting him. He wanted to stay here forever, let Alec protect him the rest of their lives. But that was a selfish thought. Alec didn’t love him, wasn’t Jace’s alpha. Alec had Magnus and they didn’t want him.

Jace knew that Valentine was behind this devastating misunderstanding. It must have been his father who intercepted Alec’s letters and his own letters to Alec. Jace could picture Valentine, grinning sharply and throwing the letters, Jace’s only lifeline outside of his father’s influence, into the roaring fireplace. What better way to utterly control Jace than to keep him isolated, let him believe that Valentine was the only soul that cared if Jace lived or died. Jace smiled bitterly and broke Alec’s embrace, pacing back to sit, slumped and defeated on the settee. Alec stood behind Jace, pacing a hand on Jace’s shoulder. His voice came to Jace in a whisper.

“What did they say, your letters?”

Jace didn’t know if he wanted to laugh or sob and the sound that came out of his mouth was was harsh, he tasted bile in the back of his throat. He wanted to flee, wanted to break something, wanted to never see Alec again. The thought of ‘what if?’ too much to process. What if they had received each others letters? Would his words have convinced Alec to court him? Would they be mated now? Have pups already? Or would Jace have lost Alec anyway to unrequited love? His voice was monotone when he spoke, too awash in emotions to express just one and he was unsure which were safe.

“Don’t do this, Alec. You don’t want to know.”

Alec growled and circled the settee. Jace leapt up before he could be cornered and tried to dodge past Alec but Alec was too fast. He grabbed Jace firmly by the biceps, holding him still. Jace couldn’t meet his eyes and kept his head low, not bothering to struggle against the alpha’s restraint.

“Of course I want to know, Jace! Tell me, please.”

“No! I will not torture myself so. That you hated me all these years leaves me broken enough. I shall not bare myself further only to receive your scorn. You will laugh, you will pity me and always, you will hate me!”

He tried to break Alec’s hold on him but Alec tightened his hands, grip becoming bruising.

“I do not hate you! Please, Jace, tell me. All I can think about is how much of your heart was sent in those letters that never reached me.”

Alec’s voice was hoarse and Jace couldn’t stop himself from raising his head and meeting Alec’s burning gaze. His own face was wet, tears still falling freely.

“I heard you had presented alpha and I rejoiced. Surely you would send for me, bring me back home, marry me and...I loved you! Forgive me, Alec, I love you still.”

The hands holding Jace grew slack, Alec’s face holding nothing but shock and disbelief. Jace turned, sobbing, hating himself for his unwanted confession. Alec would pity him now and he couldn’t bear to stay. He ran from the parlor and out the front door, hearing footsteps pursuing him, too far away to catch him. He didn’t wait for a carriage, not wanting Alec to stop him. He fled down the drive and to the busy street, ignoring the frantic calls of his name. In his haste, Jace was almost run over by a carriage, flinching as the horses screamed and the coachman cursed at him. The carriage bore the Bane emblem and Jace would have laughed if his instincts weren’t screaming at him to flee. He ducked down the closest alley and ran home.

Later, in his nest, surrounded by the familiar sights and smells of home, Jace reflected on his revealing discussion with Alec. Despite the dread that Jace felt following his confession, a large part of him was relieved. He had carried his love for Alec for years, burying it deep and refusing to outwardly acknowledge it. Now that his deepest secret was revealed, Jace could start to let go, move on. He just prayed that Alec and Magnus would forgive him.

***

Jace wasn’t left long alone in his misery before there was a loud, persistent banging on the front door. He knew he looked frightful, red eyed and disheveled, but he pulled his aching body from his nest and opened the door to his rude visitor. Isabelle stood there, glaring and worried and she brushed past him into the foyer without a greeting. Jace glanced at the Lightwood carriage in exasperation before turning to his guest, closing the door with a soft click. Isabelle was pacing the foyer, obviously upset and Jace waited for her to speak, leaning heavily against the door behind him. He assumed this harried visit was about Alec and their loud fight in the Lightwood parlor. Mostly, Jace was surprised that Maryse hadn’t descended upon him to berate him about his uncouth behavior,. It certainly wasn’t appropriate for a Society omega, getting into a tearful yelling match with an unmated alpha. Jace couldn’t find it within himself to be anxious, he was too emotionally tired.

“Izzy, you shouldn’t be here without an escort. This neighborhood isn’t safe.”

Isabelle scoffed and turned to him, her brows drawn down, her face pinched. Jace couldn’t tell if she was mad or worried. Both, perhaps.

“You live here, Jace. I know for a fact that Alec was here to visit you at least once. So don’t give me that. I can take care of myself!”

Jace sighed and held up his hands in defeat.

“I know you’re very capable, Iz, but there are people here that would target you. A lone, wealthy omega.”

Isabelle waved one delicate hand as if to dismiss the idea.

“I brought Max and we have the coachman-”

“Isabelle! Why did you leave Max out there all alone? Bring him in here at once!”

Isabelle pulled at the back of his shirt to stop him from opening the door. The collar pulled and choked him and he wrestled with her, pulling her hands from his shirt and whirling to glare at her. She sighed and pursed her lips.

“Relax, Jace. We’re not going to be here long. Just listen. Firstly, I’m offended you came to the estate to see me and then left without so much as a greeting. Stop, don’t speak.”

She cut him off before Jace let out much more than an offended noise. He decided to let her speak without interruption, wanting her gone again so he could crawl back into his nest and sleep this horrible day away.

“I heard you and Alec yelling at each other, I’m sure the whole estate did. The servants are delighted, let me tell you…”

Jace winced and crossed his arms. Even though he no longer did, had he still wanted a Society husband, this morning had just ruined that. It was sure to be on everyone’s lips by the end of the day and it wasn’t even noon. Isabelle sighed and her face softened at his distressed posture.

“It’s not my place to pry and Alec wouldn’t say but I’m here for you, no matter what, Jace. Alec is my brother and you are my brother. I won’t pick sides about whatever stupid thing you two fought about. The morning may have been ruined for you but the day is long and the sun is high and bright.”

She reached out and ran a hand through his messy hair, smiling. He studied her face, seeing only love and acceptance. He smiled back.

“Come with us, Max and I. Let’s have a little picnic. You shouldn’t be wallowing in here, you stink of misery and anxiety. You have people who love you, Jace. Come on!”

Jace bit his lip and nodded. He was unable to deny Isabelle when she looked so earnest and excited. A picnic did sound nice…

“Your parents are fine with this outing?”

“Yes! They know where we are going and you will be there to protect us against anything, right? Max is really excited…”

Jace agreed and led her up in his room. She insisted on picking out his clothing, spending a suspicious amount of time and energy into making him presentable. Why all the fuss to look good while in nature surrounded by his chosen siblings? He didn’t ask. Jace was thankful that alienating Alec and Magnus with his unrequited love had not affected his relationship with Izzy and Max. He was determined to enjoy all the time he had left with them before he left Idris forever.

***

Jace was too absorbed in the lively conversation in the carriage with Max and Izzy to pay much attention to where they were going. It was only as the Bane Estate came into startling view that Jace realized why Isabelle had been so vague about their destination. After a moment of staring and breathing deeply, Jace rounded on her.

“Is this in jest, Isabelle? I had not thought you so cruel. How could you bring me here?”

Isabelle was pale and Max took her hand, his face confused. Isabelle spoke.

“I don’t understand…”

Her voice was soft, she sounded hurt. Jace took a deep breath and turned back to the window, gazing in despair at the immaculate grounds. Of course, Izzy had no idea why Jace was so upset. The only thing she knew was that he and Alec had argued that morning. She didn’t know why or that Jace was connected to Magnus in any way. But still…

“I’m sorry, Iz. I’m still upset from this morning. I shouldn’t take it out on you but...why are we here?”

Isabelle adopted a faux innocent expression. Max grew bored and jumped from the carriage to explore the area around them.

“For a picnic, of course. Magnus has the most wonderful spot through those trees. There’s a lake that is so beautiful and picturesque! I go there often to draw and paint. I had planned on taking you here today for that portrait. And so here we are, going on a little adventure to enjoy family, food and art!”

Jace pursed his lips and hummed, not convinced. He had his doubts about Isabelle’s intentions but he trusted her not to hurt him knowingly. It was sooner than he anticipated but he knew he couldn’t avoid Magnus forever. It hadn’t been long since this morning so perhaps Magnus was still unaware of Jace’s confession. Jace rolled his eyes and exited the carriage, taking a deep breath of the fresh, crisp air. It was a foolish hope that Alec hadn’t run to Magnus immediately but maybe Magnus would be merciful and give Jace space and time to brace himself for Magnus’ ire.

They walked close to the ballroom and onto the wooded path that Jace had taken to the maze garden the night of the party. They followed the path to the fork but this time Jace turned right. He walked slow, mostly because he suspected that he wouldn’t like what waited at the end of the path. Pine trees towered on each side, sap oozing lazily down the trunks. Small woodland creatures ran and foraged through the pine needle covered forest floor and the smell in the air was divine. Jace envied Magnus and Alec for being able to see such beautiful nature every day.

The path ended and a sprawling meadow began that led to a crystal blue lake, the sun shining on the water, making it sparkle. There, on the edge of the lake were blankets, umbrellas, picnic baskets and beside them, Magnus and Alec, looking nervous but determined.

Jace stopped dead on the edge of the forest and turned and fled. Isabelle gave chase, grabbing his elbow and pulling him into the trees, out of view of the others. Oblivious, Max loitered around the edge of the lake, squinting into the shallows. Jace was trembling under her hand, terrified despite his resolve to face his actions with quiet grace. It was too soon for this, he had expected at least a couple weeks of hiding before being dragged from his nest. Not the same damn day.

“Isabelle, please. I can’t do this right now. Don’t make me.”

Isabelle let go of his arm, looking shocked. She raised her hand to touch his face but stopped when he flinched. He felt his eyes grow wet and he cursed his weak heart. Love had truly made him a fool, just as his father said it would.

“Jace, I would never make you do anything you didn’t want to. We can leave, you and I. Or you can leave alone if you need more time but…”

She took a deep sigh and put her arms gently around his shoulders. He leaned into her embrace, closing his eyes.

“Please forgive my decepton but whatever happened between you and Alec needs to be resolved. It’s about what you told me, right? That you love him, wanted to mate him?”

Jace’s throat closed around a sob and he nodded against her shoulder, unable to speak. She shushed his and leaned back, taking his face between her hands.

“It’s alright, Jace. Alec isn’t mad, neither is Magnus. They aren’t here to confront you or attack you. They care about. No, it’s true.”

Jace bit his lip to keep from arguing but he knew she was right. Of course they weren’t angry with him. They probably thought he was a pathetic, overreaching omega, felt sad for him and his tough life. He wasn’t worthy of Magnus or Alec and they knew that. Was that worse than disdain, disgust or anger? Isabelle smiled, her own eyes tearing up.

“I’m right here, Jace. The first wrong word they say to you and I’m swinging for their knees.”

Jace laughed and brought his hands up to circle her wrists, grounding himself. Izzy spoke again.

“Let’s face this together, you and I. We’re your family, Jace, no matter what, even Alec. Whatever this is, it can be worked out, hmm?”

“Alright, Izzy. Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Jace couldn’t stop himself from clutching Isabelle’s hand for strength as they walked across the meadow towards the two alphas. Max was skipping stones at the edge of the lake close to the picnic area. The sun was bright and Magnus was lounging on the blanket, looking relaxed and carefree but Jace could see a line of tension in his shoulders. Alec stood stiffly next to Magnus, staring at their approach. It made Jace want to turn and run. Maybe Magnus could tell because he reached over and swatted Alec’s leg, saying something too low for Jace to hear. Alec dipped his head and began setting up and opening the umbrella for shade while Magnus opened one of the baskets and drew out a tall bottle and began pouring glasses of what looked like champagne.

The two omegas made it to the edge of the lake and Jace stopped them next to Max. They watched him skip stones and Jace took the time to emotionally and mentally prepare himself. He had no idea what awaited him in this confrontation but he knew that he didn’t want Isabelle as a witness. He trusted her but if Alec and Magnus were here to formally reject him, he didn’t want her pity in the moment of pure pain that would follow. He would lean on her after, once he had licked his wounds in private. He would stand before the two alphas, strong and resilient and try to foster friendship. Losing Alec altogether would be more painful than being rejected as a potential mate.

“I want you to stay here with Max but…”

Izzy smiled and bumped her shoulder to his.

“We’ll stay close, don’t worry. Really, Jace, everything is going to be fine.”

Jace gave her a weak smile back and turned to leave. Halfway to the blanket and the alphas, Magnus rose and pulled out another, smaller bottle from the basket beside him and began pouring liquid into sturdier glasses than the champagne glasses sitting next to him.

“I brought freshly squeezed juice for the pups. Here, Johnathan, have some champagne and get settled. I’ll return shortly.”

Jace took the delicate flute offered to him and nodded to Magnus, making only short eye contact. Magnus’ face was smiling but Jace was afraid to look in his eyes and see his true emotions. Contempt? Pity? Magnus passed him and headed for Max and Izzy and he could hear the soft rumble of their conversation behind him. Jace sipped slowly on his champagne, not wanting to let down his guard too much.

He and Alec were silent as Alec finished setting up the umbrella for shade. Alec straightened and turned to Jace, walking to stand in front of him. Jace felt his shoulders hunch defensively and was thankful that Alec noticed and stopped a few feet from him. Jace didn’t meet his eyes, watching Alec shift from foot to foot and clench his hands into fists at his sides. Suddenly, Jace wanted nothing more than to ignore the huge, glaring issue before them and pretend, for at least one more day, that Jace hadn’t ruined their
friendship with one small moment of weakness.

“Jace-”

“Can we not do this right now? I mean, I’ll speak to you, I won’t run from what I’ve done...can we just enjoy the day? As a family?”

Jace allowed his eyes to meet Alec’s and he saw them flash with indecision. It was low of Jace, a slight manipulation but one that he couldn’t regret. He would rather they talk in private. He understood that Alec hadn’t wanted him to feel cornered, threatened and invited the other Lightwoods as a buffer between them, in an effort to soothe Jace. Jace would rather this embarrassing conversation happen in private, no surreptitious eyes to see his devastation. Alec opened his mouth to respond, a crease of tension between his eyes but he was interrupted by the loud squeal of a happy pup.

They turned as one to see a young girl launch herself into Magnus’ arms, nearly knocking him to the ground. Magnus laughed and hugged her tightly while she buried her head in his neck, scenting him. A woman stumbled from the tree line, huffing and rolling her eyes as she approached the two. Jace shaded his eyes to look for Izzy and Max and could make out their forms on the other side of the lake. Alec and Jace watched Magnus, the girl and the woman approach, their conversation could be heard as they drew near.

“Forgive me, Magnus. She heard that the Lightwoods were visiting and she took off running to see you. She’s too fast for me!”

Magnus chuckled and ran a comforting hand down the pup’s back, smiling indulgently at the woman.

“Don’t be so concerned, Cat. I know how wild and free my little girl is! I wouldn’t want her any other way.”

Jace raised his eyebrows and shot an inquiring look at Alec. Alec wasn’t looking at Jace, gazing with a soft smile at Magnus and the pup. Was this pup Magnus’? Jace had never heard any Society gossip about Magnus having an omega mate in the past or an illegitimate pup. Jace shook off those thoughts. Surely, if that were the case, Magnus would not be so cavalier in his association with the girl. Or...perhaps he would. Jace knew now that Magnus possessed a large heart and endless compassion. If he had a pup outside of a mating, it was very likely that Magnus treated that pup the same way he would any other he may sire and damn the thoughts of his peers.

Magnus reached them and the young girl leaned away from Magnus, making grasping hands at Alec. Alec leaned forward and embraced her, then tickled her under her chin to make her laugh. Her laugh was infectious and Jace smiled warmly at her. Seeing Magnus and Alec with a pup was doing nothing to cool his unwanted ardor. He couldn’t help but want, fiercely, this little family as his own. The pups Magnus and Alec could give him would be beautiful and kind, intelligent and compassionate. They obviously nurtured this little pup well by her insistence that Magnus not release her to the ground. She clung tightly to his neck and he acquiesced, letting her rest her head on his shoulder and peek at Jace with curiosity in her big brown eyes.

“Jace, this is my ward, my little Sweet Pea, Madzie Bane. And this lovely woman is her governess, Catarina Loss. Pup, this is Jace, a good friend of both Alec and I.”

Jace exchanged greetings with Catarina and turned his attention to the pup. Catarina excused herself to keep an eye on Max and Izzy.

“Hello, Madzie. It’s nice to meet you.”

Madzie was still tucked into Magnus’ neck, peeking at Jace from her hiding spot. She had one hand grasping onto Magnus’ lapel and she reached out her other hand to catch Jace’s wrist before bringing it up to scent. Magnus made a choking noise and Alec chuckled.

“Sweet Pea, you know it’s rude to scent someone without their permission!”

Jace shook his head, smiling. He stopped Magnus from pulling her away and watched her nose at his scent gland and inhale. She gave Jace a shy smile before hiding her face away again. The alphas chuckled and Jace felt an overwhelming warmth in his chest. Madzie was so precious and shy, it made him want to wrap her up in his arms and protect her from the world. The paternal air around Magnus and Alec made him want to preen for them, his inner omega hoping to catch their attention. He pushed down his instincts. Max called for Madzie to join them and she struggled against Magnus until he set her down with an exaggerated groan. Jace watched her run off to join the others, only turning back to the alphas when he felt their eyes on him. Magnus’ lips quirked in an amused smile and he ran his hand over his chin, squinting his eyes at Jace.

“She seems quite taken with you, Johnathan. I’ve never seen her scent someone so openly. Our Sweet Pea is usually very shy around strangers. But...I suppose I can understand why she is so open with you. You are very nurturing, compassionate, kind. And those eyes! They just draw one in to be captured by you and all the more happy for it.”

Jace blushed and turned his head away, taking a small sip of his glass. Magnus’ natural charm and flirtation made Jace want to preen. Everything about Magnus made him want to attract the alpha, have his full attention. Alec cleared his throat pointedly and Jace could see Magnus from the corner of his eye give a pout.

“What? Too much?”

Jace swept his gaze subtly to Alec to see the alpha roll his eyes. Magnus gave a sigh and procured his own glass of champagne. They stood, the three of them, watching Max teach Madzie to skip rocks on the lake while Catarina looked on and Izzy sat near them sketching. The sun was high and the wind blew through the trees and over the lake, bringing the smell of pine sap and algae to Jace’s nose. He breathed deep, enjoying the scent of the alphas next to him as much as the smell of the outdoors.
It would have been the perfect day if not for the ominous shadow that this morning cast over them. But Magnus and Alec were respecting Jace’s request to push their parley to a later time, the day was perfect and Jace was surrounded by his chosen family. He would enjoy the now and worry about the later when it came. Magnus broke the comfortable silence, his voice soft and sad. Jace couldn’t help but gaze at him as he spoke.

“Madzie hasn’t spoken since the death of her parents. A fire took them too soon, they were dear friends of mine. There was no one to take in their pup and I knew, looking at her precious face, standing so strong and silent next to her parent’s grave, that I couldn’t leave her alone in this world. She’s mine now, forever. My Sweet Pea.”

Magnus turned to give Jace a trembling smile and Alec stepped up beside Magnus to put an arm around him. Jace stared at the two of them, the love he felt for them glowing like an ember in his chest. He wanted to reach out and comfort Magnus as well but hesitated, offering words instead.

“You’re a good man Magnus. You say I am kind but so are you.”

Magnus chuckled, leaning into Alec’s side.

“I’m kind...that’s not what most people see when they look at me.”

Jace frowned.

“What do they see?”

Magnus’ lips twisted into a pained expression and Jace felt instant regret for his question.

“They see my money, my influence, they see what I can do for them.”

Alec frowned and pulled Magnus tighter into his side, as if to shield him from those people.

“Fools, all of them, to not see your worth.”

Jace nodded and caught Magnus’ eye.

“I agree. You’re the best of us, Magnus. You have the biggest heart, the warmest love. You have much to give and you give it freely to those that are in need.”

Jace watched Magnus take a sharp breath and his eyes tear up. Alec gave Jace a bright smile that Magnus mirrored. Jace’s eyes widened and he shook under their warm gazes, inhaling their happy scents. He did preen then, under their shining eyes and happy smiles, feeling warm and content in having pleased his alphas. That thought brought him up short. These were not his alphas, no matter how much he wanted them to be. His omega needed to get itself together before they figured out how much he craved their approval and touch.

Jace’s stomach rumbled loudly, making Jace blush and Alec smirked before calling the others over to eat. Jace allowed Magnus to usher him to the blanket, well into the shade and they started to set out the food. Bread, smoked meat, cheese, jam, grapes, lemon cakes and Jace’s favorite; strawberries and cream. There was more juice and plenty of champagne. Jace sat back, content to watch the others pile their plates high and chat with each other. Magnus sat beside him and Jace watched him make a plate for Madzie, picking the hardest parts off of the bread and making her a sandwich to what Jace assumed was her fastidious preferences. Magnus handed her the plate and watched her take a bite before beginning on his own.

To Jace’s surprise, Alec settled on his other side, giving Jace a smile before gathering food for a plate. Jace returned the smile and watched Alec’s long fingers as he picked through and chose carefully the best cuts of meat and the thickest slices of cheese. He finished off the plate with a large helping of strawberries and cream before turning to Jace and offering him the plate. Jace stared at the plate for a long moment, shocked at what, to the casual observer, would be a romantic overture.

Surely, Alec didn’t mean it like that but there was only so many ways a gesture like that could be taken, unmated alpha to unmated omega. The providing of food was an intimate gesture, a courting action. Alec waited patiently while Jace had a small crisis until Jace forced himself to take the plate. He glanced on his other side at Magnus to find the alpha looking at Jace’s actions just as intently as Alec. He swallowed thickly, mouth gone dry, and under their gaze, lifted a piece of smoked meat to his mouth and ate it slowly, savoring the rich taste. The alphas next to him relaxed and turned to their own plates and Jace felt dizzy and confused. What was happening?

The rest of the meal passed without incident and Jace consumed everything on his plate except for the strawberries and cream, saving the best for last. He ate slowly, the meal was simple but delicious and he wanted to fully experience every bite. Before long, the children grew bored, running after a fox excitedly. Isabelle followed to keep them out of trouble, rolling her eyes fondly and giving Jace a wink. Catarina left as well, saying she had some letters to write. Magnus promised to bring Madzie to the parlor later for her lessons.

Jace was left alone with the two alphas and he was suspicious that it had been engineered to be so. He felt nervous and he sat his plate down in front of him, wiping damp palms on his thighs. He went stiff as Magnus leaned in front of him, his graceful hand reaching out for Jace’s plate. He turned to face Magnus with a frown. Magnus lifted the plate and set it on his lap before picking up the biggest strawberry and dipping it into the cream, covering the berry up to his fingers. Jace watched, mesmerized, as Magnus offered the strawberry to Jace, setting it against his lips and covering his bottom lip with cream. Magnus’ voice was deep and breathy, a sensual sound that curled around Jace’s spine.

“Jonathan…”

Jace was frozen, unsure of how to respond, trembling under the dark look in Magnus’ eyes. He heard Alec shift behind him, felt his body heat grow closer against his back, Alec’s chest almost touching him.

This, this was more than offering a plate of food to Jace, this was an escalation. To hand feed an omega was a promise; a promise to provide and protect, to indulge and spoil. It wasn’t just a courting act, it was a mating act, more suited to the bedroom than in public. Jace wanted nothing more than to part his lips and accept the offering but he leaned back from Magnus’ hand, feeling the cream stay on his lip. Leaning away brought him closer to Alec, the hot breath on the back of his neck made him shiver and he turned his head to see Alec. Alec leaned forward to meet his gaze over Jace’s shoulder, eyes shining, his smile serene. No judgment, no pressure and Jace had no idea what was happening. Shouldn’t Alec be concerned that his lover was offering an omega such an intimate promise?

At Jace’s continued hesitance, Alec hooked his chin over Jace’s shoulder, his breath blowing hot against Jace’s neck. And he couldn’t help it, the alpha at his back, the alpha in front of him, offering to hand feed him, Jace melted back against Alec’s chest. Alec hummed and Jace could feel the vibration, smell Alec’s pleased scent. Jace surrendered, feeling safe despite his fears from this morning, leaning his head back on Alec’s shoulder, exposing his neck. Alec’s arms wound around his stomach, pulling him tighter to the alpha and Alec pressed their cheeks together. This feeling, safety and contentment, was all Jace ever wanted to feel and he was getting it from Alec.

Jace turned slightly to nuzzle against Alec’s neck, not yet brave enough to seek out his scent gland, just rubbing his forehead to Alec’s cheek. Alec reached up and swiped his thumb across Jace’s bottom lip, collecting the cream there and bringing it up to his own mouth. Jace watched Alec’s lips part around the thumb, suck slightly and pull it out slowly, his eyes on Jace the whole time. Jace’s stomach spasmed, his breath shallow and fast. He could feel himself getting wet, slick starting to soak his clothes. Alec’s nostrils flared and he grinned, a feral smile that presented his long, alpha canines to Jace and Jace whined, wanting those teeth against his skin.

Jace turned back to Magnus, blushing, knowing that the alphas could smell his arousal. He could barely think, dizzy from the alpha pheromones, Alec’s arms around him the only thing keeping him grounded. Magnus had moved closer and he placed his hand on Jace’s thigh, rubbing gently. Jace met his eyes, Magnus’ pupils blown, a hopeful look on the alpha’s face and Jace couldn’t bring himself to disappoint him. Jace opened his mouth, flicking his tongue out to taste the cream. Magnus let out a low moan at the sight, swaying closer, his eyes darkly possessive. He moved the strawberry closer to Jace and Jace took a bite, slowly, making eye contact the whole time, entranced by the effect he was having on Magnus.

The alpha’s eyes were half lidded, his breath coming fast, biting his lip harshly. He looked like he wanted to devour Jace and Jace realized he wanted that. He had imagined this, being between them, a hundred times and never dared to hope that it would happen. He opened his mouth again, letting Magnus feed him the rest of the berry and Magnus licked his own fingers clean before bringing them up to caress Jace’s cheek. The soft touch made him shiver and he closed his eyes, breath catching. Magnus cleared his throat and Jace opened his eyes again. Magnus looked nervous, exchanging a glance that Jace couldn’t interpret with Alec.

“Jonathan...may I be direct? You seem like a man that prefers bold speech.”

Jace shifted in Alec’s arms but didn’t pull away.

“Oh, yes.”

It was Alec’s turn to shift around and his scent became acrid, nervous. Magnus took one of Alec’s hands in his, squeezing it and giving Alec a calm, encouraging smile. They were starting to worry Jace. What was so hard to talk to him about? Magnus caught his eye again and let go of Jace’s thigh to take his hand as well. He took a deep breath.

“Alec and I wish to court you, Jonathan. And if that goes well, we wish to become your mates.”

The feeling of being between them soured with Magnus’ proclamation and Jace squirmed against Alec’s hold. Alec gave a huff when Jace accidentally elbowed him and his arms dropped from Jace. Magnus let go of his hand and leaned back, letting Jace stand and pace towards the edge of the lake. He strained his ears to listen but heard nothing behind him, the alphas presumably frozen, watching him. Was this a sick joke, a horrible revenge of some kind? Did Magnus want to dangle his most treasured dream in front of him and then laugh when he accepted? No, they would never be so cruel, even to someone that deserved it and Jace knew his only crime was loving two men he could never have.
Jace sighed and held himself, hands clutching his sides. Already he missed the warmth of Alec around him, the feeling of Magnus’ hand in his. Could he have this? Jace chuckled. How fast life could change in an instant. He whirled around when he felt the alphas approach, taking in their pained but hopeful expressions. Were they offering him love or were they using him? Taking advantage of his feelings for their own convenience. Jace postured, straightening his shoulders and lifting his chin, resting his hands on his hips.

“I don’t need your pity. I’m sorry but I won’t be your shield against Society. I want a real marriage and pups and…”

Alec made a wounded sound and stepped forward, reaching out a hand to Jace.

“We mean it, Jace. We want you to be our omega, we’ll have as many pups as you want.”

Magnus spoke next.

“We can live anywhere you want, Jonathan. All of us, together as mates. I have properties all over Idris if you still want to leave. Pick any of them, omega. We can leave whenever you wish.”

Jace shook his head, still feeling suspicious of their intentions. Where was all of this coming from? It all seemed so sudden.

“I don’t understand.”

Alec’s face was pinched and he took a deep breath, as if to brace himself. Magnus stepped closer to him and placed a hand on his back.

“When you lived with us, Jace, I fell in love with you. I dreamed of us being mates and I was devastated when you had to leave and even more distraught when I presented as alpha. I was sure you would be an alpha too and I felt like I had lost you, that you would never mate another alpha. I was so happy when I heard that you had presented omega. Then, I heard about your engagement to Verlac and I wrote you letters, tried to contact you, offer my own courtship.”

Jace brought a shaking hand up to cover his mouth, tears in his eyes ready to fall. How had this happened? Two people in love completely misunderstanding each other. Jace cleared his throat, voice tight.

“I never received those letters, Alec. You have to believe me.”

Alec took another step forward, Magnus keeping abreast of him. They were close now, two steps away and Jace barely kept himself from going to them, sinking back into their arms. He felt so raw and Alec looked so sad, his tall frame shaking with suppressed emotions. Magnus watched them silently, his scent helping to calm them. Alec reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope, holding it out for Jace. Jace took it, running his fingers lightly over the broken Morgenstern seal on the back.

“Open it, Jace.”

Jace did, pulling out a folded letter, opening it up to read. It was from his father to Alec, full of lies and vitriol. In Valentine’s scrawling, spidery penmanship, Jace read;

“To the esteemed Alpha Alexander Gideon Lightwood,

Greetings, Alpha and thank you for your warm regard for my son, Omega Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern. I regret to inform you that my son has accepted the courting and mating of Alpha Sebastian Verlac, an advantageous match, to be sure. Forgive Jace for being so cavalier with your affections but he has made it clear to me, his Alpha guardian, that he wishes for no further contact from you. He is content with Verlac and very pleased to have a future mate so high in Society’s regard. Excited, even, to have access to such wealth and influence. I shall not repeat his exact words, to spare your tender heart, but I will say that the word ‘fool’ passed his lips more than once.
Take my advice, pup: Move on. There is nothing for you here with my son.

Alpha Valentine Morgenstern”

Jace’s hand was shaking and with a loud snarl, he shredded the disgusting letter to small pieces, scattering them in the wind. His teeth ached to bite and rend, he wanted to tear his father’s limbs from his body. How dare Valentine do this to Jace. Burning Jace’s letters, he expected but this was a step too far. He wasn’t surprised, Valentine was surely capable of horrifically cruel acts but Jace was still hurt, still incensed.

“I never knew, Alec. I never, never would have refused you!”

Jace was crying fully now and he hated it, wished he could be stoic and strong. Alec and Magnus stepped forward, completely closing the space between them and embraced him, one alpha on each side of him. Their warmth seeped into him, large hands on his hips and shoulders. He clutched tightly to them, near to rending their clothes, pulling them as close as possible. A sob escaped him then and he pressed his face into Alec’s shoulder, muffling the ones that came after. They stood there, pressed together and Jace let them soothe him, hands petting his back and hair, breathing in their mingled scents. After Jace calmed, Alec spoke.

“I hate myself for believing him, Jace. I should have come to the Morgenstern estate, pressed for a rejection in person. I shouldn’t have trusted Valentine. I knew, deep down that those things he said in that letter were false. You never cared about wealth or influence; you’re one of the most kind and loving people I know. Forgive me, I was such a fool. I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you. Please, say you’ll let me.”

Jace could feel his body start to tremble again, his throat closing around renewed sobs. It was too much, these emotions and he couldn’t think straight, his head foggy. Magnus pressed closer to his side and his hand, already on Jace’s nape, squeezed. Jace went boneless under the soothing grip and he slumped against Magnus, both alphas keeping him standing. His head felt clearer and he smiled at Magnus, eyes drooping, the hormones released during his gentling flooding his body, making him feel light and happy. Magnus smiled back, soft and sweet, keeping his hand on the back of Jace’s neck, the pressure a comfort to the omega. Alec buried his face in Jace’s hair, pressing a quick kiss to his scalp, breathing deeply of Jace’s scent. This felt right to Jace, he felt complete. He kept Magnus’ gaze as he spoke.

“I still don’t understand, Magnus. You both want to court me? I thought you swore off omegas after Camille?”

Magnus took a deep breath, a smile still playing on his lips and he cupped Jace’s cheek, dark eyes mesmerizing.

“I could love you so easily, Jace, if you would allow me to. Not just because Alec loves you so deeply but because of who you are as a person. I’ve extolled your numerous virtues before and I’ll do so happily, the rest of our lives.”

Magnus leaned forward and rested their foreheads together, making Jace gasp.

“You are intelligent, kind, endlessly compassionate. You’re loyal and loving, a bright light that I want to bask in forever. I would be honored to be your alpha, Jace. Let me love you, omega. Alec and I will take such wonderful care of you.”

Jace flicked his gaze to the side to take in Alec’s reaction, getting an encouraging smile in return. He settled his gaze back on Magnus, leaning back to take in the alpha’s full expression, looking for any sign of hesitation.

“Do you truly believe you can love me too? I don’t ever want to come between you and Alec.”

“Oh, yes, Jonathan. I promise to love both of you. I’d be the luckiest alpha alive if I had you, my alpha and my omega.”

Magnus leaned forward slowly and pressed their lips together. It was a chaste kiss but it sent lightening down Jace’s spine. He shivered, relishing the hot, gentle press of Magnus’ lips on his, the alpha’s hand on the back of his neck. Alec’s lips were still pressed against his hair and he felt the soft press of another kiss on his scalp. Hands smoothed up and down his body, possessive and comforting. It was exciting, not knowing who was touching him where, his body a live wire of sensation. Magnus ended the chaste kiss, taking in Jace’s expression with hungry eyes. Jace was panting, dazed and he could feel how slick he was, his cock hard and aching against Magnus’ thigh. Alec moaned behind him, pressing his face into Jace’s scent gland on his neck and Jace tilted his head, submitting to them both, breath hitching to feel Alec’s lips on his neck. Magnus chuckled, his face smug, unapologetic.

“Do forgive me, Jonathan. I didn’t realize you would be so affected.”

Jace blushed and shrugged, hiding his face in Magnus’ neck, his nose pressed tight against the source of the alpha’s soothing and arousing scent.

“I’ve never been touched like this, by anyone.”

The shy statement drew twin growls from the alphas and Jace pressed a pleased grin to Magnus’ neck. Jace felt as if he were dreaming. This was what he had wanted, these two wonderful, beautiful men as his mates. He took a deep, fortifying breath of alpha pheromones before raising his head, giving each alpha an intense look.

“I want this. I want to be courted and I want to mate you. Both of you.”

Alec let out a wet sounding laugh and squeezed Jace tighter to him and Magnus began pressing happy kisses over Jace’s face, running his hands over Alec’s back. Jace was crying again, always crying but this time he was happy. He felt like he could fly. He prayed to the Angel fervently in the moment that he could have this, that they really could love him.

Chapter Text

Jace floated home in a deliriously happy daze that evening. Magnus and Alec had been attentive the rest of the picnic, keeping Jace between them and lounging by the side of the lake. Occasionally, Madzie and Max would wander close and sit with them; Madzie hanging onto one of the alphas and listening to them talk until Max dragged her off again to explore. Max clearly doted on Madzie, the young man enjoying the wide eyed enthusiasm she gave him. Isabelle spent her time across the lake, sketching feverishly and giving the triad soft looks. Jace had a feeling that she knew exactly what had transpired and was giving them space to enjoy each other.

Before they left, she cornered Jace and showed him her sketches from the day. Jace was shocked and embarrassed, flushing hotly to see that the focus of her talent was Magnus and Alec indulgently hand feeding Jace strawberries and cream, gazing at him with an intense, possessive love. He calmly asked for the sketch and when she refused, giving him a teasing grin, Jace then proceeded to chase her around the lake while she laughed and screamed. Izzy gave in eventually, hanging onto his shoulder, breathing heavily and tucked the sketch into Jace’s jacket, patting it and giving him a wink. He refused to show his alphas what they had been playfully fighting over and was pleased when they let it go, walking with him back to the Lightwood carriage, one alpha on either side of him, holding his hand the whole way.

Jace had reluctantly parted from them, blushing as the alphas pressed soft, warm kisses to the back of his hands. Jace made Magnus and Alec promise to keep the courtship quiet for now. They seemed concerned, reluctant. Jace had assured them that he was happy but so much had changed for them. He wanted to get used to this new reality, settle more firmly into their courtship before announcing it to the world, luxuriate in their undivided attention. Magnus and Alec had been appeased but Jace had a feeling that it wouldn’t be for long. They wanted to show off their chosen omega to Society and he was sad to say that the thought was terrifying.

Jace had been unable to keep the news of his courtship from Lillian. She had been over the moon about it, bustling around the kitchen to make his favorite cookies in celebration, refusing his offer to help. Lillian insisted that she would continue to chaperone their excursions and Jace gladly accepted.

The perfect end to an unbelievable day did not hold back the doubts once Jace was tucked into his nest that night. He felt nothing but dread at the thought of making their courtship public. He was sure that his low reputation would bring nothing but scorn and censure to Magnus and Alec. Even Maryse, who claimed to love Jace as her son, was opposed to a marriage between Jace and Alec. What would she say now that Magnus was a part of it?

Jace knew exactly what Society would say about him. That he was greedy, wanting two alphas. It wasn’t rare to have triad mates but they mostly consisted of Alpha, Beta and Omega, the perfect combination according to Society, the perfect balance of tempers. Had the Morgenstern reputation not been crushed to nothing, an alliance between Jace, Magnus and Alec would have been the talk of Society, the most auspicious mating in the last one hundred years. Any formation of their triad would have been taken in stride by their families and their peers. Now, though...

They would ask each other what sordid things had Jace done to attract the attention of such high standing alphas. Perhaps Society would think Mangus and Alec were reluctant suitors, forced to marry Jace for some awful reason. Perhaps...they would speculate that Valentine had a hand in this match, that he was forcing Magnus and Alec to marry Jace or face unthinkable consequences. Did Magnus and Alec realize what they were taking on by making Jace their mate? Jace would bring them nothing but struggle and pain. He owed it to them to point these things out, soon, before this courtship went too far.

Jace groaned and rolled over in his nest, burying his face into his thin pillow. Why couldn’t he enjoy even a few hours of bliss? Alec loved him, had loved Jace for years! Jace should be nothing short of joyous, dreaming of spending time with his alphas, the two men who wanted to mate him, have pups with him, give Jace everything he ever wanted. Jace sighed and curled upon himself, a tight ball of misery. Jace knew why, it was because he loved Magnus and Alec that he had to make them see what a mistake they were making. Had they even considered their reputations? Jace was a poison, just like his father. He would destroy all he touched.

***

The first thing Jace did the next morning was send a letter to Magnus, requesting he and Alec see him as soon as was convenient. It was very forward of him, by Society’s standards, to ask that his suitors call upon him instead of waiting to be sought out. Jace had a feeling that the alphas would be charmed by his manner, seeing his request as enthusiasm for their company. It was a true sentiment but more importantly, Jace wanted to clear the air as soon as possible. If his concerns made Magnus and Alec reluctant to continue their courtship of him, Jace preferred that it happened as soon as possible.

He was already in love with Magnus and Alec but at this point, Jace expected nothing from them, content to love them from afar if they decided mating Jace was too much trouble. He would be hurt but how much more devastated would he be if they decided to leave him after a public engagement? After they experienced the condemnation that was sure to follow their association with Jace.

With the letter sent, Jace kept himself busy so as not to annoy Lillian with his frantic pacing. He cleaned his room, helped Lillian around the kitchen and sat down to open the mail. The last letter was addressed to Jace and he felt his heart beat double as he recognized Luke’s hand writing. The money that Magnus was paying him was something that Jace had forgotten about. Was Magnus planning to withdraw his funds now that Jace had accepted the alpha’s courtship? The thought made him feel dizzy with anxiety. The money was the only safety net available to him if this whole mating idea fell through. If Magnus refused to pay him, Jace was back to where he started just a scant two months ago. No funds, no family, no alpha and no future.

Jace took a slow, deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. No, Magnus would not be so cruel. He knew how much this meant to Jace, how Jace coveted the choice to make his own way alone or with a mate. He opened the letter, prepared to face anything and let out a sigh of relief. Luke had only written to tell Jace that the money had been allocated to his new bank account. Luke also gave the information for a reliable accountant that Jace could hire and assured him that Luke was ever available and willing to help with anything, business or personal.

After the relief came guilt. How could Jace think such things of Magnus? Magnus was the most generous and understanding person Jace had ever met, of course he wouldn’t take this away from him. He ran a hand over his face, shoulders slumping. He shouldn’t be so hard on himself. His inner voice assured him that a lifetime of abuse and crushing disappointment doled out by Valentine could not be corrected in so short a time. His distrust was natural, a defense mechanism that made it hard for Jace to accept the good things that came into his life. Jace smiled and folded up the letter, storing it with his other financial papers. He was pleased to realize that his inner voice was starting to sound more like his alphas and less like his father.

***

Magnus and Alec wasted no time in calling upon Jace that morning. They arrived shortly after Jace sent the letter requesting them and he suspected the alphas had planned all along to spend time with him. The thought made an ember of warmth take root in his stomach. Although the lingering kisses to his palm they gifted him could be to blame. The alphas were resplendent, descending from the Bane carriage with innate grace and confidant, intimidating bearing.

Not for the first time, Jace felt small and plain next to them, standing in the worn down foyer, tracing his eyes slowly over their expensive clothing and impeccable manners. Jace’s own clothing was serviceable at best and his manner and bearing were obviously inferior next to Magnus and Alec. If the alphas weren’t so openly honest and loving, Jace would be suspicious of their romantic interest. He needed to air his concerns before he went mad. His smile was more of a grimace and Alec noticed his stilted greeting first, going still, his scent anxious. Magnus laid a hand on Alec’s arm, squeezing but kept his eyes on Jace.

“Jonathan, we wanted to call upon you to take a stroll through the park with us this fine morning. There aren’t many flowers in bloom but it is a lovely day, one we wish to enjoy with our beautiful omega.”

Jace’s smile became less forced and he could feel himself blush at the compliment and even more, at the possessive tone in Magnus’ voice. He was their omega and he hoped, even after their conversation, that he could always be their omega. Alec was still unmoving, his dark, worried eyes gazing unflinchingly at Jace. It made Jace feel watched, hunted and he wanted nothing more than to turn and run to see if his alphas would give chase. Jace took a deep breath, pushing his instincts down. He cleared his throat, forcing his eyes to meet theirs.

“That sounds wonderful, my alphas. I’m sorry but could we speak before we leave? I have some...concerns.”

Alec’s shoulders slumped, most of the tension in his body disappearing, his eyes crinkling at the edges with his relieved smile. Magnus gave Jace a blinding grin and let go of Alec to reach out to Jace, cupping the back of his neck. He didn’t gentle Jace but the gesture made Jace relax as if he had, his body warming at the casual dominance. He would offer the whole of his body to Magnus’ hands if the alpha asked for it. Even two months ago, that thought would have sent Jace fleeing, panicking but now it made Jace feel warm. Was this how it felt to trust someone?

It felt impossible not to let himself melt into Magnus’ embrace but he steeled his nerves, pulling away to lead them up to his room. They followed close behind him and took his offer to sit at the table, stripping their gloves and hats. Jace stayed standing, pacing around slowly while the alphas settled. He ended up in front of the window, finding it easier to speak as he watched the street.

“I can’t help but feel...anxious about our courtship-”

Alec’s voice was fearful, his tone shaking.

“Jace, I promise-”

Jace turned, pinning Alec with a glare. Alec snapped his mouth shut and pouted at Magnus when the other alpha huffed out an amused laugh. Jace couldn’t help but smirk at them.

“Let me finish, please. Just let me say this and then you can reassure me all you want.”

Magnus and Alec nodded and Jace sighed, turning back to the window.

“I love you, both of you. I want this more than I can say. I want to mate you and have a family with you both.”

He could hear one of them stifle a gasp but Jace continued on, afraid that if he stopped to look at them that he would never speak of these concerns again. He slumped his shoulders, pressing clenched fists against his closed eyes.

“I’m no good. The Morgenstern name is a curse to all those who bear it and I’m no different. My reputation is in tatters and I will be a burden to you. I can’t stand the thought that one day you might come to despise me-”

“Stop.”

The command was gentle but Alec’s voice contained enough alpha compulsion that Jace found himself obeying instantly. It shocked him from his emotional spiral and he turned slowly to find Alec right behind him. Alec’s face was thunderous, a deep frown marring his handsome face and Jace trembled, feeling sick to be the cause of Alec’s displeasure. Alec took a deep breath and his expression relaxed slightly, still displeased but not enraged. He grabbed Jace’s arms, large hands squeezing his biceps. It was a struggle but Jace forced his eyes to meet Alec’s, shivering at his smoky scent, like burning parchment.

“Forgive me, omega. I am not angry at you, only at every person who made you feel inferior. Give me their names, my love and I will hunt them down. Make them regret every single lie.”

Alec leaned forward, settling their foreheads gently together, his hands softening on Jace’s arms to more of an embrace than a restraint. Jace closed his eyes, listening to Alec’s voice, willing his mind to believe the pretty words.

“I have loved you for years, Jace. I thought I lost you once and I refuse to lose you again. Nothing will stop me from becoming your mate, nothing. I am willing to forsake my fortune and my family to be with Magnus and I would do no less to be with you.”

Jace could feel Magnus behind him, the warm length of his body pressing into Jace’s back. He turned in Alec’s arms, desperate to see Magnus’ face, to hear similar words of love and devotion. Magnus smiled and brought his hands up to cup Jace’s face. His voice was soft and it brought tears to Jace’s eyes.

“Jonathan, my love, my omega. Don’t you worry about me. I have weathered many a social faux pas in the past. If the scandal caused by Camille and Verlac couldn’t destroy me, nothing will.”

Jace bit his lip, swaying back to lean all of his weight on Alec. Alec’s arms wrapped around his waist and he felt a kiss being pressed on top of his head. He was still tense but their combined scents and embrace was slowly eroding his defenses. Magnus continued, brushing his thumbs on Jace’s cheeks.

“I take your concerns very seriously, Jonathan. I have things well under control. Anyone who disrespects either of you will know my wrath. You’re mine, the both of you. No one will take you from me, understand?”

Magnus’ voice was dark, ominous and the growl laid over his words ran over Jace’s body, raking his nerves and setting them on fire. He felt Alec tremble behind him, the alpha similarly affected, his musky, burnt ginger scent making Jace whine. Magnus growled outright, his eyes flashing alpha red and Jace whined again, taking deep, gasping breaths of alpha arousal.

Magnus crowded closer, flashing his long canines and Jace went limp against Alec, letting his head fall to the side, exposing his scent gland. Magnus growled again, eyes still red, and set his teeth against it, nibbling gently. Alec’s hands on Jace’s hips were tight, bruising and Jace pressed his hips back and then forward, his opening slick and aching. Not finding relief, he squirmed against their hold, grinding his cock against Magnus’, gasping at his length and girth. Magnus’ teeth scraped too harshly over his neck. Jace gasped at the feeling, trying to desperately push harder against those sharp teeth, instinctually wanting them to pierce his flesh, claim him.

Their combined scents had him floating on a cloud of bliss, surrendering to his alphas. He wanted them to press him down, hold him still and fill him full. He wanted them to touch him anywhere, do anything, let him please them. He clutched desperately at Magnus’ waistcoat, aware enough now to feel Alec grinding his own straining cock against Jace’s back. Jace pushed back on Alec, making the alpha gasp and groan loudly, the sound echoing through the room.

Jace heard a crash downstairs and rapid footsteps. The three of them froze before leaping apart just as Lillian, a little out of breath, appeared in the attic doorway, wide eyed and clutching an apron to her chest.

“My word! What is happening up here? I can’t leave you alone for five minutes without you trying to maul poor Jace!”

Despite her words, Jace could see her lips twitch, betraying her amusement. Jace bit his lip against his own smile, watching the alphas shrink under her glare and offer extensive apologies. He opened the window, willing the seductive scent of arousal to disperse, grinning at his faint reflection in the glass.
He was a mess, hair standing on end, clothes in disarray and the beginnings of a bruise on his neck, right over his scent gland. It sent a possessive thrill through him to see it. His alpha had given him that, a blatant sign that Jace was desired, coveted. He had made Magnus and Alec lose control. He felt powerful. That was where he belonged, between his alphas and with their reassurances, Jace would make sure they were never parted.

***

The park was as lovely as Magnus had promised. Magnus had been surprised when Jace had agreed to a stroll in the park, a common courtship practice. Jace knew that appearing in public with the alphas and participating in courtship rituals was a risk. He had wanted to keep their courtship a secret for longer but after their emotional talk, Jace was done with being scared, with being cautious. His heat was only five days away and Jace could feel the change in him starting, the beginning of preheat. The last thing he wanted was to spend this heat alone. Jace was done being alone.

He knew he loved Magnus and Alec, he knew he wanted to mate them, to have pups and spend the rest of his life being their omega. Jace was tired of holding himself back, of not allowing good things to come into his life. He had two wonderful, loving alphas that wanted to make him happy and Jace was going to fight to keep them. Even if he had to fight himself.

Maybe it was time Jace let go and trusted others, trusted his alphas. He knew they were stubborn, strong, that they didn’t give a damn about Society’s opinion. Jace was newly determined that he would not sabotage the greatest thing that had come into his life. If their triad was destined to fall apart, Jace would not be the one to blame. He would dedicate himself fully to their mating and he would tear the limbs off of anyone foolish enough to oppose them. Jace had a new purpose now; protect his mates at all costs and, one day, to protect their pups as well.

Jace’s thoughts had him smiling as they slowly made their way along the path through the park. Tall, strategically placed trees towered over them and the faint smell of orderly flowers wafted on the gentle breeze. The sun was bright and high but there was enough shade to protect them from becoming too hot. There were other courting couple strolling about but the triad was largely ignored. Lillian had accompanied them and she walked behind them, far enough to see them but not clearly hear any conversation.

They walked in silence for a few minutes and Jace enjoyed the wind through the trees and watched geese waddle back and forth across the path, pecking at the grass idly. Jace couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so peaceful. Magnus, walking on Jace’s right side, gave a loud sigh and tipped his head back, closing his eyes against the sun. The wind pulled his hair out of it’s perfect shape, blowing it across his forehead, giving him a soft look that made Jace’s heart swell and his throat close. Magnus was normally distant and unapproachable to people. Jace was only one of the few to see the alpha so open and vulnerable and it endeared him even more to the alpha. Jace felt his heart skip a beat and then speed up. He loved Magnus so much and he would protect him at all costs.

Magnus must have felt eyes on him because he tipped his head to the side, chin still high in the air and opened one eye to squint at Jace. It made Jace laugh and Magnus grinned at him, clearly pleased. Jace reached out and entwined their arms, pulling their bodies closer, inhaling deeply of the alpha’s contented scent. Magnus laid his hand over Jace’s, his thumb caressing Jace’s skin.

Jace felt Alec come closer on his left side and he turned his head. Alec was smiling at them, his look so fond that Jace blushed, ducking his head. Alec chuckled and ran his hand down Jace’s back, from nape to tailbone, making Jace draw in a sharp breath. Alec’s smile turned smug at having affected Jace and he placed Jace’s other hand on his own arm, puffing his chest out when an approaching couple gave them wide eyed looks. Jace bit his lip and fought down his immediate self conscious reaction to the attention. They had come across no other triads in the park and Jace hadn’t heard of any other courting triads this season. They were sure to stand out.

Jace shook off his thoughts and turned his attention back to Magnus, a question burning in his mind.

“Magnus, I received a letter from Luke this morning. He said that the money had been transferred to my new account.”

Magnus hummed and leveled a calculating gaze at Jace, raising an eyebrow.

“Of course, darling. Should I be offended that you sound so surprised?.”

Jace laughed awkwardly but shook his head.

“No, I...I mean why?”

Magnus halted their motion and turned to Jace fully, taking Jace’s hand in his own. Alec tried to draw away but Jace clutched at the alpha, keeping him still. Alec stayed close but silent. Had Jace offended Magnus? He hadn’t meant to.

“Jonathan, that money is yours, to do with as you wish. I’ve made sure that no one else can touch it, not even I or Alexander.”

Magnus raised his other hand up to cup Jace’s face. Jace smiled and leaned into the touch. He let Magnus draw him closer and place a soft kiss to Jace’s forehead.

“I want you to feel secure, my love. Never again will you be helpless. Even if-”

Magnus’ voice broke and he swallowed, taking an obvious effort to continue.

“Even if one day you don’t want me anymore. The money is yours.”

Magnus was near tears at the thought of Jace not loving him anymore and Jace let out a shaky laugh, his own eyes threatening tears. Behind the alpha was a tall row of flowering bushes and Jace looked around them for witnesses. Seeing no one, Jace pushed and pulled both Magnus and Alec until they followed him, walking to stand by the bushes, blocking them from casual observance.

Jace let out another laugh at the twin bemused expressions he received and wasted no time in cornering Magnus, pressing their bodies together from chest to groin. Jace wound his arms around the alpha, embracing him tightly. Magnus’ expression cleared of confusion to be replaced with such a look of open wonder and desire that Jace shivered, eyes falling to half mast as he preened for the alpha. Jace felt guilty that Magnus was so insecure and he vowed to work harder from now on to show both his alphas how much they meant to him. He leaned forward slowly, relishing the anticipation, before he pressed a soft, chaste kiss to Magnus’ mouth. Magnus moaned lowly and Jace leaned back, whispering.

“Alpha, my alpha. How could I ever leave you when you treat me so well? I love you, Magnus. There will never be a day that I don’t love you.”

Magnus whined and brought his arms up to clutch tightly at Jace, hands opening and closing rhythmically on his clothing. Magnus looked desperate, his eyes wide and dark, face pinched and pale. Jace shushed him and pressed their lips together again, trying to soothe his alpha. Had Magnus been so worried about Jace loving him? The alpha seemed shocked with his confession, hesitant to truly believe. Magnus was a fool if he thought there wasn’t enough room in Jace’s heart for both Alec and Magnus. Jace deepened the kiss, parting his lips to entreat Magnus to take control. He would show Magnus how much he was wanted.

Magnus growled low and clutched Jace impossibly tighter, bringing one hand up to take a gentle hold of Jace’s throat. His fingers pressed firmly against Jace’s scent gland, the same one he had been biting at earlier. Jace gasped at the sensation, feeling hormones rush through his brain, making him weak and euphoric.

Magnus chuckled and took advantage, mapping Jace’s mouth with his tongue. Jace whined and Magnus tightened his hand around Jace’s throat and he leaned into it, desperate for Magnus to control him, consume him. Jace’s knees went weak and he slumped against the alpha. Magnus pulled back slowly, winding their frantic kiss down and Jace came back to himself in increments, panting, hard and wet. His eyes fluttered open and Jace looked upon Magnus’ glowing face. The alpha held him securely, taking his weight easily. Jace had never felt more protected.

The longer Jace stared at Magnus in a daze, the more smug the alpha’s face became. Jace blushed but hid his embarrassment, wanting Magnus to see how much Jace wanted him, how much the alpha affected him. He didn’t want Magnus to ever feel inadequate ever again, not about Jace. Magnus turned his smug look to over Jace’s shoulder.

“Not that I don’t want to bask in your affection forever, darling, but someone looks a little jealous.”

Alec growled from behind him and Jace straightened, turning to see Alec, arms crossed, pouting. Jace let out a shaky laugh, still feeling raw from Magnus’ kiss and reached out to pull on Alec’s jacket, fluttering his eyelashes.

“Oh? We can’t have that. See something you like, my alpha?”

Alec was upon him before Jace finished his sentence, backing him up until Magnus was pressed to his back. Alec molded himself to Jace’s front, dipping down to scent Jace’s neck, licking and pressing kisses to the skin there. Jace whined, writhing between them, clutching at Alec’s back, holding him tight. Magnus groaned and ran a hand through Alec’s hair, tugging harshly when Jace whined again.

“Alexander, this isn’t the place-”

Alec lifted his head abruptly, shaking off Magnus’ hand, pushing his body more firmly against Jace, growling and snarling. Jace had a brief moment of fear before he realized that Alec was growling at Magnus, canines bared and eyes red. Was Alec challenging Magnus for Jace?

Jace bit his lip, unsure of what to do. He stood still, barely breathing, afraid to do the wrong thing and exacerbate the situation. Magnus was calm behind him, not at all alarmed and Jace remembered the way he had handled a riled Alec in the maze garden. Was this a common behavior between mated alphas? A push and pull of dominance? Alec’s voice was a deep snarl and Jace’s breath caught at his tone. It was a darkness Jace had never heard from the mild mannered alpha.

“Mine.”

Magnus leaned over Jace’s shoulder and bared his own teeth in a snarl. He kept one hand on Jace’s hip and harshly pulled on Alec’s hair with the other. Alec fought against the hold, bringing his hand to Magnus’ shoulder to push him away. Magnus’ voice was commanding, alpha compulsion strong. It made Jace’s knees go weak again.

“Ours, Alexander. Ours.”

Alec fought Magnus’ hold weakly before going still, trying to stare the other alpha down. Jace could see both of their faces, Magnus’ right next to his, chin resting on Jace’s shoulder. Magnus snarled again, pulling at Alec’s hair and Alec gave a high whine, eyes fluttering shut. His mouth opened and he scented the air. When he opened his eyes again, the red was gone.

“Ours, yes, ours.”

The hands around Jace tightened possessively and Jace gasped when the alphas leaned forward as one and crashed their lips together. It was a vicious kiss, full of dominance and victory and Jace was lightheaded at witnessing it. He moaned against Alec’s chest, pressing his hips back on Magnus hard length nestled against him. This was just kissing. What would it feel like when they mated? When they guided Jace through his heat?

The air was heavy with their pheromones but Jace shook his head to try to clear it. He was loath to interrupt their passionate embrace but out in the open was no place for the triad to keep shamelessly rutting against each other. Society would never let them live it down if they were caught.

Speaking of caught, where was Lillian? The thought of the beta wandering around looking for them, worried made him break apart from his alphas. They broke their kiss, growling and trying to keep him still but he squirmed away, stumbling a few feet from them, panting heavily. He threw a grin over his shoulder and watched their confused frowns turn into embarrassed understanding. Alec blushed a fetching crimson color and stepped back from Magnus, running a shaky hand through his messy hair. Magnus gave the other alpha a smirk and started smoothing out his clothing.

Magnus swaggered up to Jace, smirk still in place and ran a gentle finger over Jace’s scent gland.

“See what you do to us, omega? You’re scent gland...it’s bruising.”

Jace reached up to poke at his gland and winced at how sensitive it was. None of his shirts were high enough to cover any bruising. Jace sighed, thinking of the rumors that were sure to fly when people saw his neck.

“Well, there won’t be any hiding that.”

Magnus’ smirk didn’t waver as Alec came up beside them, hands clasped behind his back. Magnus’ voice held a deep, pleased growl that rumbled through Jace’s chest.

“No, there won’t be any hiding it. Our omega.”

Jace gave them a small, indulgent smile as the alphas preened in front of him. Movement behind the alphas on the path drew Jace’s eye and his breath caught when he saw who was walking towards them. Camille Belcourt, arm in arm with another omega, one that Jace vaguely recognized as one of her sycophants he had seen hanging off her every word at Magnus’ party. She was frowning at them as the two drew nearer, obviously displeased at seeing them until her eyes flickered down to his neck. Jace raised his hand to cover his scent gland but it was too late. Camille, as she passed the triad, was smirking at Jace, a dark twinkle in her eye that made an anxious yawning pit open up in his stomach. It was a look that promised nothing but bad things for Jace.

He hid his reaction, holding her gaze boldly until she passed them. The exchange took a matter of seconds but it felt much longer and Jace was surprised that his alphas had not noticed, too busy putting themselves to rights and reassuring an exasperated Lillian that all was well. Jace pursed his lips and decided not to mention the exchange to them. Camille was probably just pleased that she had juicy gossip to deliver as soon as she got home. Their courtship would surely be all over the Society papers by tomorrow.

He allowed his alphas to fawn over him as they escorted him home. More than once, their fingers would brush over Jace’s bruised scent gland until Jace had to smack their hands away and tell them, laughing, to stop. How much worse would they be with permanent bonding marks? It made Jace warm all over to think on that. He felt so lucky that he could dream of a future with Magnus and Alec as his mates, the fathers to his pups. He shivered at the thought of being bred. His heat was so near…

In the foyer, Jace paused, turning to his alphas, giving them shy looks from under his lashes. He smirked at the avid looks on their faces, watching him with hungry eyes as he teased over his scent gland. Were they imagining sinking their teeth into it? Making him theirs forever? Jace bit his lips before dragging his tongue over it.

“I’m sure you can smell it but my heat is coming soon. Very soon.”

Magnus blinked rapidly, shaking his head, frowning at Jace. Alec hummed, eyes still on where Jace was caressing his neck.

“You’re going to help me through it, right? My alphas…”

Alec choked, bringing a hand up to rub the back of his neck, blushing. Magnus didn’t move but his frown deepened. Jace felt a slithering coldness run through his chest. Had he been wrong? Anger quickly took over his anxiety but he stayed quiet when Alec spoke.

“I...I thought you wanted a slow courtship, Jace? We want to show you how much we cherish you, how much we love you.”

Magnus nodded and Jace huffed, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I know what I want and it’s the both of you. Forever. If you really want a slow courtship, I’m fine with it but don’t do it on my account. I don’t want to suffer through another heat alone. I want my alphas.”

Magnus and Alec exchanged a long look, one that Jace couldn’t read. Finally, the alphas turned back to him, smiling. Magnus came forward and took his hands in his, pressing kisses to each knuckle.

“Jonathan, beautiful omega. We want nothing more than to please you. If you’re sure this is what you want, we would be honored to share your heat. I’ll announce our engagement to Society tomorrow, first thing. Then we can bond during your heat. How does that sound, my love?”

“It sounds like a dream come true.”

Chapter Text

The triad agreed to another family picnic the next day to announce their engagement to their loved ones. Jace was pleased when his alphas readily agreed to inviting Clary and Simon. He had been briefly concerned that their possessiveness would extend to his newest friends but Magnus and Alec greeted his request with smiles and acceptance. Jace cherished their trust and lack of suspicion. The only mating he had ever seen up close was his parent’s, filled with jealous rages, hard punches and flying dishware. It warmed him through and through to know that his alphas were kind, patient and would do anything in the world to make him happy.

Magnus and Alec left him feeling euphoric after scenting him thoroughly. He felt as if he floated through the hours until he saw his alphas again, grinning constantly and humming under his breath as he helped Lillian with household chores. Lillian was happy for them and their dinner discussion consisted solely of marriage plans and, to Jace’s embarrassment, future names for their pups.

There was still a voice in the back of Jace’s mind that said this was too good to be true, that Jace should be more cautious, protect himself better. He brushed those thoughts away, shoving them back into the deep recesses of his mind, telling himself that he was just being paranoid. Jace was an omega and a social pariah but he wasn’t helpless. Jace may not be a charming orator or a steady leader like his alphas but he had his own strengths. Strength of will and strength of body. He would fight, fang and claw if he must, to protect Alec and Magnus and have his happy ending.

***

The next day, after lunch, Jace couldn’t resist looking at the Society paper. He had always avoided it before, knowing intimately that it was filled with nasty judgments about parties or people and gossip that was more likely to be lies than fact. When he had first arrived in the city of Idris, Jace had followed the paper, combing it obsessively for any mention of himself or Valentine. At the time, sleeping in the open with little food or water, Jace had wanted to be prepared for public opinion.

His father had kept him isolated from Society and Jace was desperate for any kind of connection, any small amount of sympathy. The papers only contained censure and outright hatred for all of the Morgenstern line. When he found Lillian, a staunch and unwavering ally, Jace had renounced the poisonous publication, vowing to never again set eyes on the lies within.

But, once again, Jace opened the paper, wanting to know the public opinion of his mating. The more knowledge he had, the better Jace would be prepared, he hoped. It was as he suspected the response would be; thinly veiled name calling, wild speculation that the alphas were being forced and ever increasing suspicion that Valentine was some way involved. Even knowing what might be hidden within, the horrible vitriol made Jace dizzy, breath coming fast.

Once again, the doubt rose in him. He should have spoken more clearly to his alphas. Were they expecting this? Had they prepared themselves as Jace had? Would they finally start to regret-No. He would not do this to himself. He would show his alphas how strong he was and never again let himself doubt their love and commitment to him.
When Magnus and Alec arrived to escort Jace to the engagement picnic, Jace waved the paper at them, smiling softly. Alec looked livid, wrapping his arm around Jace’s waist and Magnus smiled sadly at him, taking Jace’s hands in his, speaking softly.

“My love, I had hoped you would avoid the papers this morning. That trash is only suitable for burning.”

Jace leaned into their embrace, shaking his head at the growl Alec produced.

“Don’t worry, my alphas, much worse has been said about me and to me. I admit the words are hurtful but nothing can take you from me, correct?”

What followed was a flurry of scenting and growling that had Jace laughing in delight before his head grew pleasantly fuzzy from the possessive alpha pheromones washing over his senses. He pressed soft kisses to each of their faces in response, suppressing laughter at their glowing faces of bliss, devotion shining from their eyes.

“Yes, yes, I am yours. Nothing will part us. I love you, my alphas.”

He received similar words of love, pressed into his hair and the soft flesh of his neck, making Jace shiver with want. He let them continue for a few moments before speaking further.

“Magnus, I did have a thought last night. What about your father’s will? I thought it kept you from mating Alec? You haven’t mentioned it since our engagement. We...we will be equal, won’t we? The three of us, a legal triad?”

Jace swallowed heavily, the last thing he wanted was to come between these two wonderful men. Any amount of strife that was his fault would tear him apart. Magnus leaned back and smiled reassuringly.

“Luke, my shining beacon of triumph and justice, has assured me that entering into our triad will not go against my father’s will. It only stipulates that I must take an omega mate. It does not bar me from a triad as long as I have an omega. It is fate, serendipity that Alec and I fell in love with you, Jonathan. But I promise you, were you any other gender, I would stop at nothing to have you both.”

Jace shared a fond look with Alec before turning back to Magnus.

“My alpha, you say the sweetest things.”

***

Isabelle descended upon Jace as soon as the triad arrived at the lake on Magnus’ estate. She enveloped him in her arms, jumping and talking fast and Jace returned her embrace, laughing at her enthusiasm. He could see Magnus and Alec smiling warmly at them before the alphas reclined on the blanket set out for the groups’ leisure. Max joined them, looking amused and rolling his eyes at his sister. Isabelle leaned back from Jace and took his face in her hands, whispering rapidly.

“Is it true? Are you and Alec courting? I heard mother in the parlor this morning with father, she sounded so angry! She wouldn’t let me read the papers!”

Jace blushed, feeling only a small pang of disappointment to hear that Maryse was upset about the triads’ engagement. After her words at Magnus’ party, Jace knew that she would disapprove. But he had hoped, a little, that she would come around. Jace cleared his throat, grasping Izzy’s wrists in his hands, whispering back.

“It’s not just Alec…”

Isabelle frowned and Jace flicked his eyes over her shoulder to Magnus and Alec. She turned to look at the alphas and Magnus grinned, wiggling his fingers at her. It was clear that he had heard their conversation. Isabelle gasped loudly and turned back to Jace, placing her hands on his shoulders and shaking him. She laughed and whipped around to point an accusing finger at Alec and then Magnus.

“By the Angel! I knew something was going on between the two of you! You’re not half as subtle as you think.”

Alec blushed and ducked his head while Magnus laughed, loud and delighted. Max just nodded along as Izzy spoke, a silent confirmation. Alec spoke softly, his tone hesitant.

“You’re not...mad?”

Isabelle frowned and then scoffed, placing her hands on her hips.

“About you and Magnus? Of course not, you idiot! You were much less depressing to be around after you met him. And lately, you’ve had your head in the clouds! Oh! Because of Jace!”

She laughed, looking pleased with her deductions. She turned back to Jace, clasping her hands together, getting a far away look in her eyes.

“Oh, a triad! How romantic! Jace, you must tell me everything.”

Jace was saved further embarrassment by the arrival of Madzie, Catarina, Clary and Simon. Madzie ran to Magnus and Alec, flopping heavily into their laps and burying her head in Magnus’ neck, scenting him happily. Clary and Simon gave Jace and Magnus polite kisses to each cheek before settling down as well, chatting quietly.
The light meal passed serenely, everyone relaxed and happy, the adults sipping wine. Jace was feeling warm and safe near his alphas, not missing the approving looks from Simon and Clary’s smug smirk. Jace rolled his eyes at her. Had she suspected that the three of them would form a triad? In the beginning, Clary was the reason that Jace had begun to suspect Magnus and Alec were lovers. Did she have a sixth sense for these things?

Whatever the reason for her knowing looks, Jace gave a thankful sigh after the announcement of their engagement was made to their gathered friends. Everyone took the news with a joy that made Jace feel loved and accepted. He suspected that outside of this group, that feeling would be absent. In just a few short months, Jace had gone from having nothing to having everything he could ever dream of wanting.

Jace pressed himself closer to Alec, leaning into the alphas’ warmth and letting his head fall onto Alec’s shoulder. Alec hummed and brought another bite of bread to Jace’s lips, waiting for Jace to take the offering. Magnus sat on the other side of Alec, running his hand through Alec’s hair and watching Jace be hand fed with wide, besotted eyes. Jace smiled softly at Magnus and Alec sighed before speaking.

“This is…”

Jace moved his head to look at Alec, pressing his cheek into the alpha’s chest.

“Perfect?”

Alec nodded, brushing his lips over first Jace’s head and then Magnus’. The moment was broken by a loud, disgusted noise and Max rose from his position across from them.

“You three are gross. Let’s go swimming!”

The others chuckled and watched Max run for the lake shore, stripping his shirt. He whooped and then dove in, surfacing and calling out jeers to the others. Madzie was all smiles as she rose from Catarina’s side and ran after Max, running on the shore, keeping parallel to Max as he showed off his swimming skills to her.
Simon, Clary, Alec and Magnus shared a mischievous look before rising and following Max’s lead, stripping and jumping into the lake. Jace felt his body flush as he watched his alphas slowly remove their clothing, throwing him sly, knowing glances as they revealed more and more flesh to his hungry gaze. He had never seen a more beautiful sight and he ran a hand over his hot face, trying to compose himself. Should he join them?

Jace shifted as Magnus reached over to Alec to help unbutton his shirt. Once done, Magnus stepped close to Alec and ran his hands slowly over the muscled stomach that was revealed, biting his lip and glancing at Jace from the corner of his eye. Alec grinned at Magnus and brushed a lock of his hair back, leaning forward to nose gently at the other alphas’ cheek. By the Angel, they looked good together. Strong, noble and beautiful, they fit together so well. How did Jace look next to them?
Jace shook his head and winced when Izzy elbowed him harshly. He rubbed his side, glaring at her but she just raised her eyebrows and tipped her head towards the lake.

“Go on, silly. They’re waiting for you.”

Jace hesitated.

“What about you?”

Isabelle drew her brown leather portfolio into her lap and opened her coal case.

“I am going to sit here and do some sketches. And, if you’re lucky, maybe I’ll spend my time rendering Magnus’ charm and surprising amount of muscles for you. You know...for
those especially lonely nights.”

Jace grinned and stood, shucking his trousers. He threw them at Izzy, enjoying her offended yell.

“Not too many lonely nights left!”

Izzy rolled her eyes and turned her attention to her drawing. Jace hoped fervently that she had not been joking and really would give him sketches of his alphas, sans shirts…
Feeling nervous, Jace walked up to Alec, who stood waiting for him while Magnus waded into the shallows. They both kept their pants on and Jace wondered if it was for his sake. He was thankful, he really didn’t want to deal with growing slick in front of company. He was already fighting down his growing arousal at the sight of their bare chests. Alec reached out his hands to the buttons of Jace’s shirt but Jace caught the alphas hands before they could touch him, his heart beating rapidly, feeling genuine panic. He couldn’t let them see his back, let them see what Valentine had done to him. Not with all the others watching as well.

“No, I want to leave my shirt on. Please.”

Alec frowned, looking concerned and Jace knew he was putting off an anxious scent. Alec relaxed his hands, turning them up to clasp Jace’s own. The gentle, warm touch made some of the tension leave Jace’s body. Magnus turned in the water, skimming a graceful hand over the surface. The two alphas exchanged an unreadable look and Jace found that he was slightly jealous of their silent communication. Would there come a day when he understood their looks, could communicate with them instead of feeling left out? Jace hoped so. Alec pulled him close and kissed his cheek, smiling.

“Of course, Jace. Whatever you want.”

Jace smiled back and let Alec take his hand as they waded into the water after Magnus. Magnus didn’t swim for very long. Max splashed Alec in the face, making the alpha sputter and growl and Max laughed, taking off, swimming away frantically as Alec chased him across the lake, loudly vowing revenge. Magnus chuckled fondly as he walked in the waist high water to Jace’s side and coaxed Jace wordlessly into the shallows. Jace frowned but followed, giving Magnus a confused half smile when the alpha sat down, the water lapping against his chest. Magnus gave Jace a grin and reached out his hand, waiting for Jace to take it before pulling him down to sit between Magnus’ legs, Jace’s back to Magnus’ chest. Magnus hummed and Jace melted into his embrace, breathing deeply his alphas’ contented scent.

“That’s much better, right, my love? Let those silly pups chase each other while I hold you in my arms.”

Jace blushed and gripped both hands tightly on Magnus’ thighs. There was no space between their bodies and he pressed back even harder, wishing he could take off his shirt and feel Magnus’ warm skin against his. He hadn’t thought about his scars in so long. They had always been a part of him, a painful punishment for even the smallest of defiance against Valentine. He dreamed of it still, the snap of a riding whip between his shoulders, his father snapping whip-thin branches from the nearest tree and advancing on a cowering Jace. Sometimes, there had been no warning for his father’s ill mood, the terrifying, unexplainable fury of violence.

Jace closed his eyes and took a deep breath, filling his senses with his alpha, pressed close behind him, keeping him caged in and safe. With his alpha at his back, no one could hurt Jace. They would have to go through Magnus first. He calmed and loosened his grip on Magnus’ thighs, rubbing his palms slowly, mapping the muscles he could feel. Magnus tightened his arms, pressing his face into Jace’s neck before licking over his scent gland. Jace gasped and tilted his head, submitting immediately to his alphas’ lazy explorations. His eyelashes fluttered and he held in a moan, watching with distant amusement as Alec noticed their amorous embrace and abandoned his loud pursuit of Max. Alec gave them a smirk and started swimming to them and Jace shuddered as Magnus licked over his scent gland again. Jace forced himself to smirk back at Alec before teasing Magnus.

“You seem to like my bonding gland the most, Magnus. I wonder what that could mean?”

Magnus growled and hooked his ankles around Jace’s calves, flexing his muscles and pulling Jace’s legs apart. Jace gasped again, forgetting his teasing as Alec reached them and settled between Jace’s legs. Magnus leaned them back and Alec braced his arms on either side of Jace’s hips, smiling sharply as he pressed kisses to the same side of the neck Magnus had been licking. Alec kept space between their hips and Jace whined, disappointed as he bucked up and found no friction. Jace was trembling now, his body immobilized by Magnus and Alec hovering over him but offering no real relief. He spoke again, his voice shaking slightly.

“I’m starting to suspect you two have an exhibitionist streak. The garden, the park, and now here.”

Magnus chuckled darkly and tightened his arms around Jace as if to keep him from leaving. Jace had no intention of moving, feeling safe between his alphas and, to his surprise, anticipatory of their next moves. The fact that they were surrounded by prying eyes fell away as Alec finally pressed their hips together, moving in a slow grind. Jace jerked and tried to reach out to Alec but Magnus’ arms around him prevented the action. Alec pulled away from Jace’s neck, pupils blown wide and mouth grinning, his long canines on display. Jace felt dizzy and watched those fangs as Alec spoke, voice low and dark.

“The pups are gone, omega. No one else is paying us any attention. You are completely at our mercy, no one to stop us…”

Jace bit his lip and strained his neck to look over Alec’s shoulder. The others were gone, including the adults. Jace could hear them still, their distant voices coming from the surrounding woods. He could barely see flashes of them running and he relaxed back into his alphas, letting them caress his skin and whisper soft words into his neck. Alec continued his slow grind, his large cock pressing against Jace’s smaller one, driving Jace insane. He writhed up against Alec, wishing his arms were free so he could touch back. Magnus pressed open mouthed, biting kisses against his neck and shoulders and Alec whispered against his ear.

“You drive me mad, omega. I feel wild, having you so near, wanting you under me. But we can’t, not yet. Soon, soon, Jace, you’ll be begging for me, begging for Magnus. We’ll take such good care of you, sweetheart. Give you everything you need.”

Jace gasped out a keening sound as Alec’s hips moved lower, pressing his cock against Jace’s aching opening. He could feel Alec’s knot swelling, the thin fabric of Jace’s underwear and Alec’s pants the only thing keeping Alec from slipping inside Jace, filling him up. He writhed violently but Magnus was stronger, keeping Jace still, chuckling at the violent, needy noises Alec pulled from him. Alec’s head fell forward between his hunched shoulders and he hissed, beginning to grind faster, putting delicious friction all the way from Jace’s hole and up his leaking cock, water sloshing violently around them.

“Yes, sweetheart, my omega. You feel so good, so wet for me. Come for me, Jace. Just let go, we’ve got you.”

Jace choked at Alec’s words, feeling on fire as he went stiff, his orgasm rushing over him. His body went lax, Magnus releasing his arms and Jace reached up to run his hands over every inch of Alec’s skin he could touch as the alpha continued to move over him. Jace ignored the over sensitivity, groaning softly, watching Alec clench his jaw and close his eyes tight, body tense. Alec moaned through his release and Jace shuddered at the sound, his inner omega preening at having pleased his alpha.

Alec collapsed on top of Jace, panting and nuzzling into Jace’s neck, his scent sated and pleased. Jace laughed at the weight on top of him, pushing him into Magnus, who unhooked his legs from around Jace and leaned back on his elbows, looking smug. Jace rolled his eyes and reached behind him, palming at Magnus’ groin. Magnus groaned and caught his wrist.

“Don’t worry about me, darling. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the two of you, stellar performance, really.”

He pressed Jace’s hand once more against his softening cock, making Jace blush as he spoke.

“You two are completely brazen and a bad influence.”

Alec rose up over Jace, putting his weight into his arms and gave Jace a lazy smile, looking blissful and disheveled.

“I think you enjoy a little corruption, Jace. Or was that another omega writhing shamelessly between us?”

Jace growled and hooked his leg around Alec’s hip, placing his hand on the alpha’s shoulder before putting his full weight against Alec to roll them and switch their positions. He straddled Alec’s hips and grinned down at the look his face, surprise and arousal. Jace filed away the fact that Alec enjoyed a bit of manhandling, rising with a grimace.

“As enjoyable as that was, next time let’s do it out of the water, yes?”

He backed away from them, wading into the water until it reached his shoulders. He watched them rinse themselves off as he did the same. Alec helped Magnus to stand, shaking his head as the other alpha complained loudly that he couldn’t feel his legs. They turned and left the water, ringing out their trousers as the others broke the treeline, Max and Madzie leading the pack, chasing each other with sticks, pretending to sword fight. The adults followed at a slower pace, chatting and throwing the triad sly glances. Jace blushed, thankful that the group stayed on the opposite shore, far away from the telling scent of sex.

Jace turned and left the water, wringing out the end of his shirt and smirking as Magnus and Alec watched him intently, eyes lingering on his nipples, easily seen through his white shirt. Max ran by yelling as Madzie pursued him. Jace, seized with a sudden impulse, reached out and lifted a shrieking, giggling Madzie in his arms. He swung her around growling and pretending to eat her and she threw her arms around his neck, giving him a kiss to the cheek before squirming. Jace put her down and she ran off after Max again.
Jace grinned and turned around to his alphas, proud of his connection to Madzie. His alphas would see how good of a parent he was. He froze though, met with a frowning Magnus and a harsh snarling growl from Alec. Jace whined and crossed his arms, hunching his shoulders, confused. Seeing Jace’s discomfort, Magnus cleared his throat pointedly, making Alec blink and relax. Jace stayed where he was, the slow realization that he had turned his back to them coming over him. Had they seen?

“Alpha?”

His tremulous voice seemed to shake them fully from their shock and Jace found himself quickly in their comforting embrace. He relaxed against them, unfolding his arms to clutch at them. Magnus took Jace’s face between his hands, looking concerned.

“My love, your back…”

Jace bit his lip and nodded, pressing his cheek harder into Magnus’ hands. He opened his mouth to tell them, to say anything but the words were stuck in his throat and he whined, eyes filling with tears. He let them lead him over to the blanket and in a daze, didn’t fight as they manipulated his limbs. He ended up on his back under the umbrella, his head in Alec’s lap, his legs stretched out and Magnus sitting next to his hip. They cooed and murmured soothing words, Alec running a gentle hand through his hair until he could talk again without breaking down. Jace still couldn’t find the words to start but his alphas were quiet, waiting patiently.

After a few moments, Magnus reached behind him and produced fresh strawberries. He smiled warmly and held one out to Jace, running the fruit over Jace’s lips until the omega chuckled wetly and opened them. The burst of flavor made Jace feel more grounded, his surroundings sharper. He heaved a sigh and closed his eyes, letting Magnus feed him until he felt well enough to speak. He wanted them to know about his scars but it was difficult, having never spoken of them before. Some small, irrational part of him was afraid that they would judge him for Valentine’s punishments, that they would blame him in some way. It was ridiculous and Jace braced himself to confess, opening his mouth. Before he spoke, Alec’s soft voice interrupted him.

“Your father?”

Jace snapped his jaw shut with a loud click, swallowing a sob. The tears still came, running down his cheeks and past his ears, soaking Alec’s trousers. Alec shushed him, continuing to stroke his hair and Magnus brought the omega’s hand up to his lips, pressing a soothing kiss to the knuckles. Jace whined, turning his head and burying his face in Alec’s stomach, nuzzling and breathing deep. The scent of loving and protective alpha allowed Jace to calm, pushing his rising panic at the memories away enough that he could speak. He slowly told them of the abuse he had suffered under his father’s care.

The beatings, the harsh words, the isolation and neglect, and finally, the long nights on high alert when his father had brought Sebastian Verlac to their home.

“Valentine sold me off to Seb in exchange for money, a lot of money. I assume it was to pay off his extensive debts but I knew nothing of that then. All I knew was that a man who was supposed to protect me was selling me off to an alpha, not caring what would happen to me as long as he got his money. I was nothing more than a possession to my father, another bargaining chip for him to use. I was never a person to Valentine, just a thing.”

The alphas were tense listening to him but they never stopped their soothing caresses. Jace kept his head tucked against Alec, hiding from the world and from his pain. He felt safe. He could face the demons of his past and his alphas would protect him.

“And I was stuck, monitored constantly by Valentine or Sebastian, never alone outside of my room. Even then, my father posted guards at all my windows so I wouldn’t escape. I knew what kind of alpha Seb was, he didn’t bother trying to hide it. He wanted to control me, collar me, keep me under lock and key and submissive to his desires. He would whisper into my ear what he was going to do to me. I was so scared…”

Jace clutched at Alec’s shirt tightly, feeling a warm palm cup the back of his neck, ready to gentle him if he needed it. He relaxed at the touch.

“The last night, before everything...fell apart, Seb cornered me in my room. He was always so smooth, he could manipulate anyone to do what he wanted. I was no exception and against my instincts, I let him talk me into sharing a brandy with him. I just wanted him to leave me be but this time…”

Jace’s breath caught, the words dying in his throat. The hand on his neck squeezed, exerting a gentle pressure that increased slowly until Jace went boneless, whimpering under the hands touching him, still soothing. He could hear faint murmured words but through his haze, he couldn’t discern their meaning. It was easier to talk in this floating, dream-like world, his anxiety far away.

“Seb put something in the drink, a heat inducer, I think. He was impatient, not wanting to wait for my body to enter heat naturally. It hurt, I can’t even describe the pain. I think it was meant to make me docile, make me submit to the nearest alpha, breed with them. But all the fear I felt turned to hatred when I learned what he had done to me. He had backed me into a corner, near the balcony window and he was gloating, his smile so nasty. It made my skin crawl and when he touched me, I lost my mind, went mad with anger. I went completely feral. I don’t remember much but I do remember pushing him, screaming at him.”

The hand on his neck tightened, keeping Jace down and calm. The memories were distant, his voice almost clinical.

“He went through the balcony window and I remember being on top of him, my hands around his throat, his face covered in blood. Valentine found us then. He heard the noise I think. He hit me to stop me and I woke up the next day with a head wound. I endured the worst heat I’ve ever had and when it was over, I looked everywhere but I was alone on the estate. I haven’t seen Valentine since.”

The hand was gone from the back of Jace’s neck and he blinked, coming back to his senses. He shifted his head, pulling his face from Alec’s stomach to look at the alpha. Alec was crying silently, gazing at Jace with love and guilt. Jace lifted his hand, confused, to stroke Alec’s cheek, wiping tears away.

“Don’t cry, my alpha. It’s over now.”

Alec grasped his hand tightly, letting out a wounded sound.

“I’m so sorry, Jace. I, I should have been there. I should have-”

Jace shushed him, bringing Alec’s hand to his face to nuzzle his palm, placing kisses on the alpha’s sensitive wrist.

“It’s not your fault, Alec. I don’t blame you, please don’t blame yourself. What matters is that we are together now and nothing will come between us, right?”

“Yes, of course, I love you, Jace.”

Jace smiled at Alec and looked to Magnus. Magnus smiled, eyes shining and moved closer to Jace and Alec, crowding up against Alec’s side and laying a hand on Jace’s stomach. He spoke, his voice full of awe and Jace blushed, beyond pleased.

“My brave omega. I’m so proud of you, Jonathan, my love.”

Jace took a deep breath, feeling warm, his heart full but a creeping fear was pushing at him, urging him to speak.

“I’m afraid, sometimes that Valentine will come for me. He left me without saying anything...What if he comes back, tries to take me away? That’s part of the reason why I was planning on leaving Idris. So that my father couldn’t find me.”

Magnus hummed and leaned closer so that he was hovering completely over Jace, rubbing his hands up and down the omega’s sides. Jace sighed at the touch, preening under Magnus’ heavy, possessive gaze.

“With our engagement made public, legally, Valentine has no hold over you. You belong to us now, my omega.”

Jace shivered and bit his lip, wanting desperately to arch up against Magnus, feel more of the alpha against him. Alec growled and pressed a kiss to Jace’s forehead, his lips brushing the skin there as he spoke.

“And if Valentine comes for you anyway, nothing will stop me from ripping him limb from limb. I’ll tear his heart out and give it to you, sweetheart.”

Jace whined, feeling flushed, his alphas surrounding him, keeping him safe. Forever.

Chapter Text

Jace arrived home to see the front door ajar, the hinges creaking ominously, swinging gently from the wind. He frowned, his stomach twisting with anxious nausea and looked over his shoulder. The street was empty, the sun just beginning to set and the Bane carriage that his alphas had sent him home in was too far down the road to stop. Jace took a deep breath and turned back to the house, slowly stepping closer, regretting his insistence that he hadn't needed an escort home. Lillian wasn't the type to keep the doors open, unlocked.

Jace breathed deep again, reaching out to ease the door wider, creeping over the threshold and this time he caught a scent, one that didn't belong. The smell of damp, decaying dirt and marigolds was all too familiar and Jace couldn't suppress the whine that climbed up from his chest and out his throat. He turned sharply to flee but the front door slammed shut from an unseen force and Jace stumbled back, tripping over his own feet. A shadowed body followed him, grabbing his lapel and slamming him against the wall. The smell was stronger now, closer and Jace fought. He clutched and scratched but the figure was too strong and it spoke with a voice that haunted his every nightmare.

"There's my boy. How are you, son? Let's have a chat, hmm? Shh, shh, just do what I say, boy and the nice beta that lives here doesn't have to get hurt."

Jace froze, filled with terror and confusion. How had Valentine found him? What had he done to Lillian? He bared his teeth at his father, wanting to growl and bite.

“Where is Lillian? If you’ve hurt her-”

“Ah, yes, Lillian. Is that her name? Don’t worry, she’s not here. I’ve had my men watching you, son. I know everything little thing you’ve done the past week, everyone you’ve seen. I know exactly where your nice landlady is, Jace. I have my men watching her now.”

Jace dropped his hands from Valentine’s shoulders and forced his eyes away from his father’s, submitting even though it made his skin crawl, made bile climb up his throat. If Lillian really was in danger, Jace would play along for now. He knew his father. If Jace could appease Valentine for now, maybe he would leave and Jace could breathe and think. It was all happening so fast.

Valentine hummed, satisfied at Jace’s subservience, letting go of Jace so quickly that he listed to the side, barely gaining his balance in the parlor doorway. Valentine grinned, reaching out to smooth down his son’s jacket and Jace couldn’t suppress a flinch at the movement. He let his father touch him, not making eye contact, wanting to question but afraid of the consequences. It was best to let his father set the pace for whatever this confrontation was. Valentine finished smoothing Jace’s clothing then pat his shoulder.

“How about we get comfortable, son? Go make us some tea and we can have a nice little visit in the parlor, like civilized gentlemen.”

Jace nodded, shrinking in upon himself, wishing he could disappear. No good would come from Valentine being here. Was it true that his father had men watching him? Why? With trembling hands, Jace prepared tea, taking his time and dreading the night ahead.

His father had lit every lamp in the parlor and Jace entered with the tea tray to see him working on the fireplace. The fire caught as Jace poured the tea and Valentine turned to take the seat across from him. Jace could feel Valentine’s calculating gaze on him but he refused to raise his head. Even the barest eye contact had set Valentine off in the past and Jace had no idea just how volatile is father was now. Jace held his tea and listened to Valentine sip, waiting.

“I missed you, son.”

Jace drew in a sharp breath and set his cup down when it began to shake. The words were a blatant lie and a slap in the face. He kept his head down, hiding his disbelieving expression and listened silently.

“I have good news, Jace, I’ve paid off all my debts. You can come home now. I’ve come here to collect you.”

Of all the things he expected Valentine to say…

Jace raised his head and met his father’s eyes. They were dead, devoid of any real emotion, despite the warmth in his tone. The contrast was chilling.

“Home? To the Morgenstern estate? I was there when the bank took possession of our land, father.”

Valentine waved his hand, rolling his eyes.

“No, no, a new home, a much nicer estate.”

Jace clenched his hands into fists in his lap. He forced the tone of his voice to be light.

“Oh? How did you come into the money for that? From what I’ve heard-”

Valentine interrupted Jace with a boisterous laugh but his eyes were steely, cold. His father’s scent was overwhelming, heavy, a bid to intimidate and subdue the omega in the room. The musty smell of marigolds seemed to stick in Jace’s throat and he struggled not to gag. Valentine had only ever achieved dominance through violence and threats and Jace was ashamed to realize that his body, after years of abuse, was conditioned to respond. It was a struggle not to kneel and beg forgiveness but Jace forced his body still, he was stronger than Valentine thought.

“I have plenty of money now, right son? Now that you caught yourself not one but two wealthy alphas! And a Bane at that! I’m sorry to say I underestimated you, Jace. I never would have thought a useless, ugly little thing like you could seduce a Bane. Lightwood is more understandable, you had more time to work on him. You’re welcome for that, by the way. You never would have had exposure to Alec without me. In fact, you could say your engagement is my doing. So...you owe me.”

Valentine’s tone went from friendly to ominous, a growling threat that made the hair on the back of Jace’s neck stand up. He leaned forward, over the small table between them, shoulders squared and eyes red. Jace’s body shook with the effort to resist tilted his head to the side, submitting. He gasped and stumbled to his feet and rounded the table, heading for the front door. He had to get out of the parlor, away from his father’s overwhelming scent. Jace heard the crash of a chair behind him and the sound of china breaking and he knew Valentine was giving chase.

Jace reached the front door before his head was wrenched back by a rough hand fisting his hair. He cried out, fumbling one hand on the doorknob and sinking the nails of his other hand into his father’s fist. He felt the flesh of Valentine’s hand open under his nails and Valentine cursed, his hand going slack. Jace shook free and swung the door open, stumbling down the steps and into the small brick lined courtyard in front of the house. People on the street were starting to notice and come towards them.

Valentine caught him again, spinning the omega with a hand on his shoulder before Jace could call out or try to run. Jace turned and watched Valentine’s fist connect with his left eye, the sudden pain forcing Jace to his knees. He heard someone cry out behind him and hoped a neighbor would interfere. Jace kept his good eye open, his hand raised to fend off another punch but Valentine didn’t hit him a second time. The alpha fisted his hand in Jace’s hair again, wrenching his head back and Jace kept completely still, afraid to provoke Valentine further. His father looked crazed, a manic light in his eyes, fangs bared. He didn’t seem to notice the people coming closer, some crying out in concern. His full attention was on his son.

“You stupid bitch. You are good for nothing, you hear me? Unlovable. You wouldn’t have made it this far without me, son and I’m going to get my due. You can’t escape me, Jace.”

The crowd was almost to them and Valentine glanced around frantically, finally seeming to realize he was outnumbered, caught assaulting an omega in public. He let go of Jace, taking a step back and cracked his knuckles. He met Jace’s eyes one more time.

“I’ll be back, Jace. I hope you’re more accommodating then. You don’t want to be my enemy, son.”

He left, running into the nearest alley and Jace accepting the help of the people around him. He had no idea how long he stood there, staring into that alley, not hearing the concerned questions addressed to him before soft hands took his and a gentle, familiar voice urged him into the house.

He came back to himself later, laying in his nest with Lillian sitting next to him, stroking his head. He curled onto his side, head in her lap and cried, letting her soothing tones wash over his raw nerves. Valentine had been in his home, had stalked him, threatened him and vowed to return. Was money the only thing Valentine wanted? Jace knew that Magnus would pay any amount Valentine named but that would never be the end to it.

Valentine would always be there, just on the edge, ready to strike when the mood suited him. How could Jace do that to his alphas? Magnus and Alec were envisioning a future that would never happen as long as Jace was in their lives. Valentine was a disease and Jace refused to let his father destroy his alphas. If he couldn’t cut Valentine out of his life, then Jace would run far away.

***

In the early morning, Jace convinced a tired Lillian to sleep in her own room, with the promise that he would rest as well. He felt exhausted, overwrought and horribly ashamed. He had thought himself stronger than that; cowering before his father, curling miserably in his nest. He wanted to run to his alphas, he wanted to run away from Idris and hide, he wanted to track his father down and slit the alpha’s throat.

His instincts were too erratic and Jace was struggling. What was the right thing to do? Was it only his selfishness that had him wanting to run to Magnus and Alec? How many hardships could he set before his alphas before they grew tired of him, realized what a burden he was. He was so unworthy of them and he was terrified of the fallout that would happen once they realized that.

Watching the sun rise from the attic window, Jace caught movement down on the street. He stood still, observing the same three men pace up and down the street for over an hour. Were these the men Valentine had mentioned? If Valentine had men watching him, did he have Magnus and Alec stalked as well? Were his alphas in danger?

That thought was enough for Jace to make a decision and he turned from the window, packing a bag and planning. He would go to the bank, first thing and withdraw as much money as he could. Then he would disappear, take a train outside of Idris, make sure his father wasn’t following him and settle into an inn to plan more long term. Worst came to worst, Jace could keep taking the trains, on and on and stop far away and maybe one day he could contact his alphas. But first, Jace had to figure out how to leave the house without being seen by Valentine’s men.

It was an easier process than Jace imagined. He slipped through the window in his room and onto the neighboring roof, throwing his bag first and then jumping over. The roof was at just the right angle to hide him from the thugs stalking him and Jace was able to scale the rooftops and slip into an alley far away from prying eyes. He was proud of himself as he slipped into the morning crowd, following men in suits and groups of well dressed women into the business district. The bank was easy to locate, a crowd of wealthy looking patrons occupied the lobby and Jace was thankful he had decided to wear his best attire. He would have drawn too much attention otherwise.

Jace waited for the lines to thin before he approached a teller, a sour faced older man with a bushy mustache. He gave the man his best grin only to receive a dark frown in return. Jace cleared his throat, trying not to look as out of place as he felt.

“Good morning, sir. I need to make a withdrawal from my account.”

The man’s frown deepened and his nostrils flared, taking in Jace’s scent. It felt like an invasion and Jace barely kept himself from growling in offense. The man sighed.

“What’s the alpha name on the account, young man?”

Jace frowned and shook his head.

“There is no alpha on the account, only my name. Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern.”

The man pursed his lips, looking doubtful but left the counter, walking through an open doorway to the back of the bank. Jace craned his neck to follow but lost sight of the man quickly. He darted his gaze around, looking at the faces around him, keeping his hat low in an effort to hide his bruised face. He didn’t recognize any of the men that had been watching the house in the people around him. The man was coming back, reading and shuffling through papers in his hands, his frown still in place and looking increasingly perplexed. Jace blew out a frustrated breath. Why couldn’t this have been easy?

Jace cast his gaze around again and as he was skimming the crowd near the entrance, he bit back a gasp. Luke Garroway had just stepped into the bank, heading straight for Jace’s position. Jace ducked his head down further and blew out a relieved breath when the alpha was waylaid by another patron, stepping into the man’s path and drawing him into a conversation. He couldn’t let Luke see him, he would stop Jace and would see his black eye. He would ask questions and Jace knew that he would give in immediately to Luke’s paternal concern. His instincts were screaming at him to run but he stood his ground, knowing that without the money, he was as good as dead outside of Idris.
The teller cleared his throat and Jace swung back around, hunching his shoulders under the man’s disapproving stare.

“There seems to be a mistake on your account. No alpha is listed. I assume the account should be under your mate or father’s name?”

The thought of Valentine having access to his funds sent a sharp jolt through Jace and his response was too loud, too insistent.

“No! I mean, it’s just under my name, sir. No alpha, I swear.”

The man cast a doubtful look at Jace and shuffled the papers on the counter.

“I see. Well, that is highly unusual and very suspicious. You understand, of course, that I will have to verify this with your alpha? What is their name, I’ll have a courier sent post
haste.”

Jace felt hot rage ignite in his spine and he opened his mouth to argue but Luke’s voice rang out behind him.

“What seems to be the problem here, Vincent? Omega Jace is a client of mine. I set his account up myself.”

“Hello, Alpha Garroway. There seems to be a mistake on young Morgenstern’s account. There is no alpha listed and he’s trying to withdraw funds.”

Luke stepped closer to the counter, drawing abreast to Jace and Jace dipped his head down further, turning his head to hide his eye. A deep growl rumbled through Luke and he postured in front of the teller. Jace watched from the corner of his eye in satisfaction as the man wilted under the alpha’s intense regard. Luke bared his teeth in a smile.

“I see there has been a grave misunderstanding here, Vincent. There should be a note in Omega Jace’s file stating that he is the sole client on the account. I know it’s there, because I put it there myself. Perhaps you missed it? Look again.”

Jace suppressed a grin as the teller fumbled the file and opened it, hurriedly skimming the documents inside.

“Oh, yes, of course. How could I have missed that. It’s here, plain as day! Forgive me, Omega Jace. How much to withdraw, sir?”

Jace raised his head to respond but Luke interrupted him, placing a warm hand on his shoulder and squeezing. Jace gazed at the alpha wide eyed as Luke studied him, never looking away as he addressed the teller.

“I’m glad we could clear that up, Vincent. Now if you would excuse us a moment, I need to confer briefly with my client.”

Jace let Luke lead him away, through the lobby and into the small entryway. There was a steady stream of people but they paid the pair no mind as Luke drew Jace into an alcove and behind a pillar, effectively removing them from prying eyes. He stood still as Luke gently removed Jace’s hat and traced his fingers over the bruise on the omega’s face. Jace couldn’t meet his eyes.

“If you tell me your alphas did this, I’ll skin them alive.”

Jace gasped and met Luke’s alpha red eyes, shivering at the open hostility in their depths. He shook his head frantically.

“No, by the Angel, Luke! Magnus and Alec would never hurt me!”

Luke relaxed slightly but kept his hand on Jace’s cheek and he leaned into the touch.

“I believe you, Jace. Was it...Valentine?”

Jace drew in a sharp breath and closed his eyes, feeling hot tears gather behind his eyelids. He nodded. Luke cursed.

“Did he threaten you? Do Magnus and Alec know your here? Damn it, Jace. Between your bag and the money, I’d say your planning on running away. Tell me that’s not true.”

Jace opened his eyes and bit his lip.

“My alphas...they don’t know Valentine came to me or that I’m...leaving.”

Luke shook his head, giving a deep sigh. His other hand came up to cup the back of Jace’s neck.

“Jace, listen to me. I don’t know what Valentine said to you and you don’t have to tell me but...those boys, your alphas, they love you. No matter what, do you hear me? Maybe you’re trying to protect them by running away but believe me when I say that the last thing they want is for you to leave them. They love you, Jace. They would burn the whole world to the ground to see you safe.”

Jace felt his lips tremble and he whined, low and sad. Luke’s hand on his neck tightened and Jace went limp, letting Luke take his weight. He pressed his face into the alpha’s chest, breathing in his comforting scent.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I just-”

Luke shushed him, running his large hand down Jace’s back.

“You don’t need to explain yourself to me, Jace. Take my carriage, it’s right out front. Do what you should have done from the beginning. Go to them.”

Jace nodded against Luke’s chest and leaned back, smiling.

“You’re right. Thank you, Luke.”

***

Jace directed the driver to take him to Magnus’ estate and spent the entire way there fidgeting nervously, staring sightlessly out the window. He thanked the Angel that Luke had been at the bank. The alpha had surely stopped him from making the greatest mistake of his life. How could he have even momentarily contemplated leaving his alphas? Just yesterday, Jace had vowed to himself that nothing and no one would tear the triad apart.

Jace shook his head, tracing the bruise around his eye gently. It wasn’t the first wound Valentine had given him but it sure as hell would be the last. He wouldn’t let his father ruin his life any more, let Valentine intimidate him into following his schemes. Jace had something to fight for now. Submitting to Valentine hurt not only himself but Magnus and Alec as well.

The Bane estate was quiet this early in the morning and the butler only raised an intrigued eyebrow at Jace before showing him to the parlor. Jace paced the room, feeling restless and casting guilty glances at his valise. How was Magnus going to react to the thought of Jace running away? Jace bit his lip, thinking of collars, chains and the fairy tale of a royal omega, trapped in a tower by their evil alpha suitor. Things that made Jace’s stomach sour when Seb cooed them into Jace’s ear but when picturing Magnus and Alec keeping him...

Jace gave a slightly hysterical laugh and shook his head, feeling aroused and a bit ashamed of his fantasies.

It didn’t take long for Magnus to sweep into the room, the door swinging open violently and banging against the wall in his rush to reach Jace. Jace was shocked at first but as Magnus enveloped him in a tight embrace, he caught the smell of his own pungent fear in the air. Magnus had probably caught his sour scent and panicked, alpha instincts screaming that he run to his omega. Magnus was growling lowly, a deep, comforting rumble that ran through Jace’s chest, relaxing him. The alpha was scenting him, rubbing his face in Jace’s throat and running his wrists over every part of Jace’s body that he could reach. Jace sobbed and pressed tightly against his alpha, feeling safe, his scent going soft. Magnus murmured softly against his temple, pressing kisses to the skin between each word.

“Jonathan, my love. Something has happened. Tell me, please.”

Jace leaned back from where he had pressed his face into Magnus’ chest and the alpha gasped, his fingers dug harshly into Jace’s arms when he saw the bruise on his cheek. He let out a snarling curse, tracing the bruise with soft touches.

“Who did this, darling? I’ll kill them!”

Jace opened his mouth to respond but the words fought him. He was deeply ashamed to tell his alpha what had happened, how he was unable to fight against Valentine, how he tried to leave his alphas without a word. Magnus would hate him, think him stupid. Magnus hummed at Jace’s silence and kissed his forehead before guiding Jace to sit on the nearest loveseat. Jace sank down into the plush furniture, feeling weak and tired. He watched Magnus fuss over him, placing a blanket around his shoulders and calling for tea and telling a servant to send a carriage for Alec immediately.

When he was satisfied, Magnus settled next to Jace, pulling the omega into his lap and tucking Jace’s head beneath his chin. Jace let out a deep sigh, going boneless in his alpha’s lap and didn’t move until Alec arrived, coming to kneel before the pair. Both of his alphas touching him, soothing him grounded Jace and he gave Alec a smile. Alec’s smile was strained with worry and he grasped Jace’s hand between his and pressed it to his face.

“Jace, sweetheart. Please, can you tell us what happened?”

Jace drew in shuddering breath at the reminder of why he was here. But being between his alphas, surrounded by their calming scent gave Jace the strength to speak. When he reached the part of his plan to run, the words seemed to burn his throat and the shame was almost overwhelming. Magnus and Alec didn’t falter though, letting Jace finish his tale, their faces free of blame or anger. They sat in silence for a moment once Jace was done speaking and Jace held his breath, tense, eyes closed.

Eventually, Jace couldn’t stand the waiting and he opened his eyes to take in their reactions. Tearfully, he met their eyes, looking between the two, only to be met with smiles and kisses.

“I thought you would be mad. I was going to leave you.”

Alec shook his head, kissing the back of Jace’s hand.

“No, sweetheart. We are not mad. Something traumatic happened to you and you’re instincts were to run, to hide, lead the threat away from the nest and away from your mates. I think...I would have been tempted to do the same in your situation.”

“I agree completely, Alexander. My love, the important thing is that you didn’t leave us in the end. You are here, where you belong.”

Magnus ran a hand through Jace’s hair and he let out a sob, collapsing against Magnus’ chest again, pressing his face into Magnus’ throat.

“I love you, the both of you, so much. I don’t deserve you.”

Magnus’ arms around him tightened to the point of pain and Alec growled.

“You’re wrong, Jace. You deserve the world and Magnus and I are going to spend the rest of our lives trying to convince you of that.”

Magnus hummed and tilted Jace’s head back to meet his red eyes with firm, unforgiving fingers on the omega’s chin.

“Alexander is correct, darling. You are our omega now. You will never try to leave us again, understand? Did you really think you would get very far, Jonathan? Did you think we wouldn’t come after you, hunt you to the ends of the world to get you back with us, where you belong?”

The low, smoky sound of Magnus’ voice and the possessive promise of his words sent a violent shiver through Jace’s lax body and a whine crawled out of his throat. The hand on his chin tightened and Jace gasped.

“Yes, my alphas. I’ll never leave you, I promise.”

Magnus’ hand relaxed and he let Jace sink back into his neck, the omega pressing open mouth kisses to the bonding gland there. Jace smiled as he felt Alec rise to sit beside them, crowding against Jace’s back, laying his tall body over him, shielding both Magnus and Jace from the outside world. Jace let himself float away, falling asleep.

What felt like hours later, Jace surfaced long enough to cling to Alec as the alpha carried him to Magnus room, laying him gently on the large, soft bed. He distantly felt hands on him, undressing him and pulling the covers over the three of them. Jace nuzzled into Alec’s chest, feeling Magnus’ arms pull him close from behind. His voice was slurred, soft as he spoke.

“I’d be a ruined omega if word got out I spent the night with two alphas, in their bed.”

Magnus chuckled.

“I would be happy to make sure you are fully debauched-”

Alec growled and pinched Magnus, making Magnus yelp and then pout. Alec grumbled.

“Nap now, debauch later.”

***

Jace woke up to an empty bed and he stretched, enjoying the luxurious feel of the sheets against his bare skin. He blushed, remembering his alphas undressing him and sat up to look around. The room had impeccable decor in purple and black and Jace smiled, seeing Magnus’ personality all over the room. Jace stretched again before rolling out of the bed, landing on the cold floor in bare feet. He strode to the window to see the sun setting over the vast grounds and frowned. Had he slept all day?

He found his valise at the foot of the bed and opened it to pull out fresh clothes. He dressed quickly, missing his alphas and left the room in search of them. Pulling the door open left him blinking at the sudden sight of a maid, blushing and bowing to him before showing him to the dining room. Magnus and Alec were already seated, accepting glasses of wine and Catarina and Madzie entered shortly after Jace. He took his own seat next to Magnus at the head of the table and across from Alec on Magnus’ other side.

Magnus gave him a smile and a wink and Alec pressed their ankles together under the table. Jace knew they had much to discuss but decided to enjoy dinner. He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten and certainly couldn’t recall having eaten such a sumptuous feast. Dinner passed quickly with light chatting and only a couple of indecent moans from Jace at each new dish. The triad retired to the library after accepting goodnight kisses from Madzie and farewells from Catarina. Jace blushed, beyond pleased, to receive his own kiss on the cheek from Madzie and he couldn’t help but preen under his alpha’s fond gazes.

In the library, Jace let Alec pull him into the alpha’s lap, melting against him and letting out a contented sigh. Magnus sighed happily at the sight of them and chose a book from the nearest shelf, seemingly at random. Magnus took the seat across from them and opened the book, beginning to read aloud, his voice clear and entracing in the silent library. Jace stared at Magnus, watching his lips move over the words, a small smile softening his features. He wanted to ask about Valentine, make some kind of plan but Jace was loath to break the dreamy atmosphere between the three of them. Magnus looked happy, glancing at Jace and Alec occasionally, regaling them with a tale of a dragon and a knight. Jace let go of his worries and sank into the sound of Magnus’ voice and the feel of Alec’s arms, holding him tight.

A few moments later, Jace hummed as Alec started scenting him, the alpha running his nose softly up and down Jace’s neck. Jace tilted his head, exposing his neck more to Alec’s explorations and gasped when the alpha began licking over his scent gland. Magnus’ voice cut off and Alec ran a hand through Jace’s hair, down his back, to cup his bottom. Jace whined and let Alec grasp and grind the omega’s hips into Alec’s thigh. Jace felt flushed and he could feel the beginnings of slick gather between his legs, his cock twitching. Magnus’ voice was strained but Jace didn’t move his head to see the alpha, too focussed on the sudden fire in his veins and the friction of Alec’s leg against his groin.

“Alexander-”

Alec growled, flashing red eyes at Magnus.

“Our omega is going into heat, Magnus. I can smell it.”

Jace whined again, his mind going cloudy at the spike of aroused alpha pheromones in the room. When Alec stilled their movements, Jace whined high and loud, trying to press closer to his alpha.

“Please, alpha. I feel so hot, need you.”

Magnus placed a hand on Jace’s forehead and he pressed into the alpha’s cool palm.

“Yes, my love. We will take care of you, Jonathan. But not here, we need to move to the bedroom.”

Jace nodded, straining against Alec’s hands keeping his hips still. He let the alphas pull and push him to stand, swaying between them as they made their way to the bedroom. They would be safe in their nest, protected and comfortable. Once through the bedroom door, Jace immediately walked to the bed and began tearing at the blankets and sheets, throwing them on the floor, growling lowly. He tried to pile them together in the middle of the bed, tried to place them perfectly for his alphas. It was all wrong. When Alec stepped forward to help, Jace growled louder, baring his teeth at the alpha and hunching over the nest protectively. Alec froze and Magnus kept back, waiting.

“It’s all wrong, alpha. I need more nesting materials, a lot more. And water...and strawberries.”

Jace frowned when Magnus pressed his lips together and turned away, covering his mouth. Was his alpha laughing at him? This was serious! He threw a pillow at Magnus, hitting the alpha on the shoulder with it and growled again. He knew his eyes had to be pure golden omega now, as deep as Jace was in his instincts. Magnus looked momentarily offended but then adopted a sober expression, putting his hand over his heart.

“My omega, I shall return shortly with a hundred strawberries and plenty of water for you. I’m sure Alexander can find more blankets?”

Alec nodded, suppressing his own smile and followed Magnus out the door. Jace shouted just before the door closed.

“And pillows!”

Jace gave up on arranging the blankets on the bed and followed his nose to Magnus’ large closet, stepping inside to be swallowed by its depths. There were so many options for his alpha’s scent and a few shirts that smelled like Alec. He chose the softest options, piling them high in his arms and hurrying from the closet to his nest. He threw the pile on the bed and put one knee on the bed before pausing in confusion.

The door to the bedroom was open but his alphas were not back yet. Motion caught his attention from the corner of his eye and Jace spun to look, feeling the icy hands of fear clutch his spine at what he saw. Sebastian Verlac was there, smiling with too many teeth, a manic glint in his eyes. The alpha was silent as he advanced with a graceful speed on Jace and the omega startled before whining and back up from the bed and towards the open door. He had to get away from Seb. If his heat got too advanced, Jace would be greatly weakened. He wouldn’t be able to fight Seb if he decided to knot Jace, mate Jace.

In a panic, Jace turned to run, opening his mouth to scream but Sebastian was too fast. The alpha grabbed Jace by the back of his neck and used the omega’s momentum to slam his head into the nearest wall. Shocked by the piercing pain, Jace went limp, moaning and Seb slammed his head again. Then darkness swallowed him.