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Wild Creatures

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Listen to your head, not your heart

Standing in Simon's wrecked bedroom, it seemed vital to get the message through to Clary, though he knows a lost cause when he sees one. He's been breaking the rules himself too often lately, dancing on the edge between emotion and reason that's sharper than a Seraph blade and finding himself slipping.

There was another lesson in the falcon story, one that Jace didn't bother to spell out for Clary. In hindsight, maybe he should have.

If you try to tame a wild creature, it rarely ends well. Neither for the creature nor for yourself.

Jace watches Simon sink his teeth into the blood bags and devour their contents like a rabid animal, watches him snarl at Clary to stay away, and Jace has to physically restrain her from going after him, remembering the broken bird in his father's large hands and the hollow, sick feeling in his stomach.

"Let him go," he mutters quietly into her ear as she sobs in his arms. He doesn't have the heart to tell her that he doesn't mean just this moment, that she needs to let Simon go for good unless she wants to put both of them, Simon as well as herself, at risk.

When she says that she should just have let Simon die a human death, that it was selfish to want to bring him back like this, he holds his tongue. He isn't sure how to explain that her mistake wasn't to help her best friend turn into a vampire, but to expect him to be the same afterwards.

*

Everything about Clary Fray, née Fairchild, defies the rules Jace has learned to live by. A mundane who's also a Shadowhunter. Valentine's daughter, and yet brimming with so much empathy it almost consumes her. Someone who chooses her heart over her head and is stronger for it.

It shouldn't surprise him when he knocks at the guest room she's staying in at the Institute and finds her sitting by the foot of her bed next to Simon, engrossed in quiet conversation.

Simon raises his head when Jace enters, a complex series of emotions flickering across his face, too quick to be identified. He's paler than he used to be and missing his glasses, but the haunted, frantic look from the other night is gone.

Jace offers a grim almost-smile, wondering if anyone else knows that Clary invited a vampire into the sacred halls of the Institute. He can't imagine Maryse Lightwood reacting kindly to that sort of breach of etiquette.

"Well, you sure look much better than the last time I saw you, Downworlder."

"You mean when I dug myself out of the grave you two put me in? Thanks, by the way." Jace winces at Simon's snappy tone, and the stab of guilt he feels must be visible in his expression, because Simon frowns.

"No, that wasn't — I actually meant that. Thank you. This..." He makes a vague gesture pointing to himself. "Really sucks, but I suppose being dead would suck worse? Which wasn't supposed to be a pun. "

Next to him, Clary grins and Jace can't quite hold back the snort of laughter. It's a tiny sliver of odd comfort, hearing that Simon's unique brand of snark combined with nerdiness survived dying and rising as a vampire.

*

"I could have killed you."

Jace's eyes trace the blood-stained lips, the retreating fangs, the sudden rosy glow on Simon's cheeks. Simon looks horrified, scared, like it has taken him until now to understand how dangerous he is.

Jace leans back lazily, and he knows it's not just the blood loss making him feel dizzy. He swallows against the lump in his throat, speaking only when he's reasonably sure that he can make his voice sound more composed and nonchalant than he feels.

"I would have let you," he says softly. He watches a trickle of his blood run down Simon's chin and thinks about the consequences of taming wild creatures and the dangers of leaving them untamed.

Jace's heart thunders in his chest, a wild creature all on its own.

*

Nothing changes.

Everything changes.

Simon basks in the sunlight, radiant in a way no being that is by definition confined to the night has any right to be.

In Jace's dreams, he's trapped beneath Simon again, held down with inhuman strength, sharp teeth piercing his skin. He wants and wants and wants, with an overwhelming intensity – the kind of hunger that's hard to shake even in his waking hours. Every time he looks at Simon, he feels the phantom-pain/pleasure of fangs sinking into his neck.

"Vampire mojo strikes again," Simon jokes.

"There's no such thing as vampire mojo," Jace lies.

*

Mundane. Vampire. Downworlder. Daylighter.

Back at the beginning, when Simon was nothing but Clary's pesky mundane best friend, he got in Jace's face and demanded he drop the epithets. "I have a name," he yelled, and Jace remembers sniping back, "Learning it would mean I care, so – nope."

When did it stop being just another way to yank Simon's chain and rattle him? When did it start to become about self-preservation?

Easy in theory: Distance himself. Don't start caring. Head over heart, no taming wild creatures. Don't allow the ugly feeling of possessiveness to sink its claws deeper into him.

Make a joke of it, if it does. "He's my neophyte Downworlder to mock and boss around, not yours."

Ignore the knowledge that he's slipping, again and again and again.

Vampire. Simon. Downworlder. Simon. Simon. Daylighter. Simon. Simon. Simon. Simon.

*

They don't talk. Maybe they should have, after the bite, but falling into a pattern of insults and banter, pretending to merely tolerate each other for Clary's sake, is easy. Comfortable.

Every honest thing they say seems like a risk worse than facing down a Greater Demon unarmed and without protective Marks, and Jace can't shake the image of his father's hands snapping the falcon's fragile neck.

"Being a vampire isn't so bad, you know. It's the whole immortality thing I'm having trouble with. I mean, forever is a hell of a long time."

Jace scoffs. "Yeah, I can imagine. An eternity of being you sounds pretty awful."

There. Status quo reestablished.

What else was he supposed to say, anyway?

*

Jace Wayland. Jace Lightwood. Jace Morgenstern. Jace Herondale.

He collects names like scars on his skin, until he cannot tell who the boy in the mirror is anymore. What he is.

Shadowhunter. Parabatai. Brother. Boyfriend. Son. Experiment. Monster.

Maybe he's the wild creature that shouldn't be tamed, or loved, or even be allowed to live.

"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," Simon tells him, annoyed. "I'm getting tired watching you wallow in self-pity when literally everyone I know would willingly put their lives on the line for you."

Even when he's down and almost out, Jace knows how to deal a blow, knows precisely how to single out Simon's weakness and hit where it hurts. "I know your world begins and ends with Clary, but she's not actually 'everyone you know'."

For once, though, Simon refuses to rise at the jibe about his unrequited feelings for his best friend. He only rolls his eyes. "If you think Clary's the only person who'd die for you, clearly you haven't been paying attention."

*

There's a later, in an unspecified future.

After Valentine, after Sebastian. After death and rebirth, when the dust has long settled. After Clary, too: after the fire of first love has burnt itself out, leaving behind a comfortable friendship.

Simon hits the ground hard when they're sparring, clearly distracted. His eyes keep darting to Jace's neck, unnerving him.

"Simon. Focus," he snaps. Standing back, he lowers his blade. Even though he sometimes jokes about it, he doesn't actually want to decapitate Simon.

"Sorry, sorry. I just — Okay, this is probably weird, but sometimes I miss being a vampire. Is that weird?" Simon is babbling. While Jace is all too tempted to tell him that everything he does is weird, it's nothing that warrants an answer beyond a non-committal raised eyebrow.

"It's just... I don't need blood anymore – can't actually process it anymore, and really, don't tell me I'm a freak for trying. I know, okay? Point is, the teeth are gone, but the... urges are not." He looks away, clearly embarrassed, before admitting, "Sometimes I look at you and I remember what it felt like to sink my teeth into your throat, and it's the most frustrating thing in the world."

It's okay, I know I'm irresistible, Jace wants to joke. It would be easy to steer the conversation back towards familiar, safe territory, without ever acknowledging that he sometimes still dreams about the bite, the pleasant burn, the sense of floating, the intoxicating feeling of his blood rushing into Simon's mouth.

At seventeen, he would have chosen the easy way out. But then, at seventeen, he was still buying into the lessons Valentine had drilled into his skull as a child. He's done living his life according to the rules of a megalomaniac imposter. Valentine was never his father and Jace is not a boy anymore. The falcon didn't die because Jace tried to tame it or because he loved it when he shouldn't have; it died because Valentine killed it, because Valentine was a terrible man who liked nothing more than to play God.

Simon is gnawing on his lower lip, nervousness or a subconscious manifestation of the desire to bite down on something. Jace reaches out and, with his thumb, swipes away the dark red wetness from Simon's mouth.

"What are you –" Simon falls abruptly silent when Jace brings the blood-stained finger to his own mouth, licking it clean. Dark eyes with blown pupils, heavy with want, trace his motions, desire warring with confusion on Simon's face.

"You're not the only one who remembers what it felt like," Jace says, tasting copper and salty-sweetness. The weight of the admission would sit easier with him if Simon didn't look like he thought Jace was playing an elaborate game to humiliate him.

"Since when?"

Jace snorts. "Since always."

He kisses Simon because it seems like a good time to be reckless, because it's the only thing that will stop Simon from continuing to pointlessly argue with him, because choosing to go with emotion over reason still comes with a thrill of victory over Valentine.

Simon makes a broken little sound at the back of his throat before he kisses back, his fingers tightening in the soft fabric of Jace's shirt. When he bites down hard, drawing blood, it's probably less about the vampire thing than about feeling more than a little annoyed and vindictive. Jace laughs softly into the kiss.

Downworlder or Shadowhunter, there's never going to be anything tame about this – about them – and he wouldn't have it any other way.

End.