He obviously can’t sleep.
It’s not unexpected, of course, he wasn’t anticipating anything but a sleepless night, tonight, but having known right from the start doesn’t make it any less annoying right now.
He only wishes time could run faster, that’s all. Run faster and end this sleepless night as soon as possible. And as he thinks about that, he tosses and turns in his bed, unable to take his mind off the events of the last few days – Meliorn and Izzy and Magnus, actually no, let’s not think about Magnus, and Lydia, oh, by the Angel, Lydia, and Jace, no, fuck Jace, he definitely can’t think about Jace, Jace can’t step into this bed, not in any form, and he needs to keep him out. Out. Where he belongs. Where he chose to be pushed when he— fuck him, fuck Clary, fuck their stupid quest to find her mother.
He has more pressing matters at hand, more important things he should be thinking about.
Oh, by the Angel, Lydia.
He turns around again, on his back, and he stares at the darkness surrounding him, exhaling deeply, releasing his breath as if he had been unconsciously holding it. The feeling of being in control comes and goes in waves, it’s like trying to catch fishes bare-handed from a fast-running stream of dark water. You go in blindly, if you’re lucky you can feel the fish, its scaly wetness between your fingers, then you clutch your fist and you feel it slip away, the damn thing, and control feels the same. When he’s standing among the others and everyone’s looking at him as if they were expecting him to guide them, when his parents smile at him proudly, when he stands by Lydia’s side and she nods towards him as if she really understood him, he feels in complete control, he holds the reins of his life, he’s driving a perfectly oiled machine and he knows exactly where he’s going and why, and he feels no fear, no uncertainty, and then— and then. And then he’s alone, or facing questioning eyes, like Magnus’ – no, let’s not think about Magnus –, like Jace’s – no, fuck Jace –, and control slips away like the damn fish, and he feels scared again. No, not just scared. Terrified. The reins of his life are attached to no horses. He’s driving a shaky, wrecked machine headed straight towards a wall, and he already knows the hit’s gonna hurt, and he doesn’t know how to stop.
It's worse at night – of course it's worse at night. It's a lame thing, and one would think that being a Shadowhunter would do something to erase fear of the dark from the heart of a man, but it isn't like that. Knowing what demons lurk in dark shadows doesn't help you stop being scared of them. It just means you know exactly how they look like, and what they can do to you. If anything, you fear them twice as much.
His personal demons don't have fangs, don't have claws, don't have scales nor hideous deformities. They're not ugly, they don't bark, they don't drool and they don't growl, they're just frighteningly, shockingly beautiful, because they all look like Jace.
Ever since he was a kid, he's always thought Jace looked too beautiful to be real. He was too young to make any sort of distinction between handsome and beautiful back then, but even now that it'd certainly be more appropriate – if such a thing is even possible – to refer as Jace with the word handsome, he's still beautiful to his eyes. The word describes him in its entirety, it's him at his core, he's beautiful, like all dangerous things, just beautiful. Handsome things aren't dangerous. Only beautiful things are.
He was nothing but a boy the first time he laid eyes upon him, and Jace has always been the face of all his demons. His was the face he saw when he closed his eyes and tried to get to sleep, his was the shameless smile that haunted him when he woke up wet and whiny and confused and Izzy, tossing and turning in her bed on the other side of the room, scolded him sharply, "stop whimpering, Alec, you keep waking me up!", his was the touch he always imagined when he got a moment on his own, away from anybody else, and he could let himself fantasize about any touch that wasn't his own.
He was young, back then, and he firmly believed becoming parabatai would've put a stop to that. That once they were connected, he'd have understood Jace better, he'd have felt him in a way that would've explained him to him in the deepest way, and that had undeniably been true, but knowing him better, feeling him closer had done nothing to make him less threatening, less dangerous, less desirable.
That was how Alec had learned the truth about demons. That knowing them, calling their names, trying to bind them, trying to banish them, nothing, nothing made them harmless, nothing worked except slaying them – and he did not want to slay Jace. He just had to learn to live with seeing his face everywhere.
Which is why he's not alarmed, not even surprised when he sees him walk into his room, making close to no sound whatsoever. He's used to this – he just assumes he's dreaming. That he feels stressed about Lydia – oh, by the Angel, Lydia – and Magnus – no, let's not think about Magnus – and everything else that's happening, and his mind let him slip into a nightmare he already knows well enough not to fear it too much anymore. He only takes a second to realize bitterly that his mind should reconsider the definition of comforting, and then he gives in to the dream.
He sits up on the bed, staring at him intently, and moistens his lips before speaking. "It's been a while," he says longingly – and it's true: Jace used to visit him in his dreams way more often before. Now, he guesses, things just got too complicated for his brain to bear much too frequent visits, so the dreams have gone down in number – never in intensity, though.
Something hits him, anyway, as soon as he hears his own voice. It sounds rough, sharp, too vivid for a dream, and when Jace looks up at him and questions him with puzzled eyes he knows – right then he knows – this isn't a dream at all.
"Alec," he answers, closing the door. The clacking sound of the lock as the door closes seems as loud as a building falling down during an earthquake. It's terrifying, and Alec shivers strongly as he clutches his fists around the sheets. "I'm pretty sure this has never happened at all, not even when we were children, so I don't think it's been a while really covers it."
"Are you— really here?" Alec stammers, his voice shrinking down to a whisper, "I mean... why are you here?"
"Because I'm sick and tired of the way things are going between us, Alec," Jace instantly replies, walking towards the bed. Always the confident one, he came here with a purpose and he won't let anything come in between himself and his goal. "We need to talk."
Alec looks away, pursing his lips into a disappointed grimace. "There's nothing else to talk about, Jace," he says bitterly, "You and Clary made your choice. You—"
"Oh, for fuck's sake!" Jace interrupts him, throwing his arms up in the air in frustration, "Would you stop making this about me and Clary?"
“I’m not making it about you and Clary, it is about you and Clary,” Alec insists, frowning as he turns to look at him. Despite the darkness shrouding the room, Jace looks perfectly visible in all his details. It’s as if he radiated light, his blonde hair, his eyes, his skin, everything glimmering against the pitch black background behind his frame. Alec wishes for but a moment he could just see him as he is – a kid one year younger than him, his brother, the boy he’s grown up with, his parabatai, the closest thing to the other half of himself he can hope to find in his life. Would it be easier to deal with all this, if he could? If his face wasn’t linked to so much confusion and messy needs, if Jace was just Jace and not Jace, his very own Jace?
“No, it’s not,” Jace answers sternly, looking back at him, “It’s about us, Alec, you and me. I’m tired to pretend it isn’t, and I’m tired to wait for the problem to fix itself, because it clearly isn’t going to. So now,” he sits down on the bed, and then moves closer to Alec. Frighteningly close. Threateningly close. “Now, we’re gonna talk about it. Or whatever else you need.”
Alec holds his breath, sliding back on the mattress as far from him as he possibly can without showing it. “What— What do you mean?” he asks in a shaky voice.
Jace purses his lips and then sighs dramatically. He seems disappointed in him, or in his reaction, anyway. “Alec, I’m not an idiot,” he says, his voice as offended as if Alec had called him one out loud.
“Don’t tell me you never said I was, I know you never said it, but you’re acting as if you believed it, anyway.”
“You just make no sense,” Alec replies, frowning.
“No, what makes no sense is how stubbornly you keep refusing to talk to me, even though I’m trying to tell you that I know already.”
Alec opens his eyes wide, his lips shut so tightly they form a straight line right across his face, from cheek to cheek. “What do you know?” he asks, terrified.
Jace refuses to look away. His eyes fixed in his parabatai’s, he simply answers: “I know you like me.”
And Alec doesn’t know what he was expecting to happen, if he was expecting the ground to break and swallow him into a pit of fire, if he expected the sky to crash like a glass mirror and strike him with thunders, or if he simply expected Raziel to appear right in front of him, stern and furious, and spit right in his face, but nothing of the likes happens. The ground is intact, the sky isn’t falling, Raziel’s nowhere to be found. It’s just Jace and him in the darkness of his bedroom, just like before, and suddenly Alec couldn’t even tell what was it that he was so scared about.
“I know you don’t like me back,” he answers, more calmly than he thought he could, “I know you like Clary.”
“No— Stop talking about Clary,” Jace frowns, hissing lightly in anger, “Stop thinking about her. You keep dragging her in between us! She’s not in between us.”
“Yes,” Alec nods, lowering his eyes, “I know. Because you like her, and you don’t like me.”
“You keep missing the point!” Jace raises his voice, annoyed, “I don’t wanna talk about Clary with you! I don’t want her here. Now, while we talk. I don’t want her in this moment, I wanna be with you. Kick her out. This is for us, not for you and me and this girl I may or may not like. Us alone.” He stops for a moment, biting at his bottom lip, his eyes clouded. “I need to fix us, Alec. I miss us.”
That’s when Alec feels it – it’s like a different heartbeat, right next to his own. That’s how Alec knows Jace is trying to reach out for him, through their parabatai bond. His rune is pulsing, but not like a wound might pulse – it’s not painful, it’s just— yes , exactly like another heartbeat. Jace’s.
“Stop doing that,” Alec protests weakly, the second heartbeat growing louder, its vibrations expanding through his whole body, “It’s unfair.”
“No, what’s unfair is that you keep pushing me out,” he moves even closer, his knee touching Alec’s hip through the sheets, “You leave me with no other choice but trying to reach you from inside.”
The second heartbeat roars like thunder, now, it's all Alec can hear, even louder than his own. It makes him weak, and he whimpers under his breath as he rests his back against the headboard of the bed, trying to put space between himself and Jace. Jace refuses to let him, though, eating the distance in a moment, kneeling on the bed, moving towards him.
"Stop it," Alec begs.
"You stop it," Jace insists, putting his hands on Alec's shoulders. Alec refuses to look at him, but he can't help feeling him, his weight, the hardness of his muscles, the sharpness of his bone structure, as he sits on his lap, close enough for Alec to smell his breath. He was expecting him to be drunk, in his fantasies that's how he justified the idea, how he made it feel realistic, Jace was always drunk, or half drunk, or confused enough to come to him. Well, he isn't now. "Stop running away from this," Jace's voice is soft and low, mesmerizing, and his breath is warm, and they're so close he can feel its soft caress with every spoken word, "We need to face this before it becomes too dangerous."
"What makes you think that once we face it it won't be dangerous anymore?" Alec replies in a whisper, finally turning to look at him. Jace is so close – too close. There's a line demons can cross, and once they've crossed it they've come too close, and once they're close like that they can't be run from anymore, they have to be fought, they have to be defeated.
"The fact that things unspoken are always more dangerous than things you can talk about, Alec," Jace answers patiently, covering what little distance still separates them, brushing his lips against Alec's in the most innocent of kisses.
The briefest of contacts, no wetness, no scary hunger, nothing whatsoever. Jace sounds sweet, he feels sweet too, Alec instantly aches for another kiss but he holds back, swallowing deeply, staring back at him. "This is forbidden," he says breathlessly, and Jace offers him a vague smile, slowly shaking his head.
"We're not doing anything forbidden," he says, his lips twisting in a shameless grin, "We're not marrying, since you're apparently marrying someone else in a few days, and we won't bear children together, since – I don't know if you noticed – we're both boys."
"And what about loving each other in the manner of eros?" Alec spits out, immune to Jace's attempts at lightening the mood of the moment.
Jace's smile softens up, losing its playfully wicked undertones. He's Jace again, not just the face of Alec's demons. "This isn't what we're doing, Alec," he says, raising one hand and resting it on Alec's nape, his fingers moving slowly through his dark locks, "This is just reconnecting."
"There are other ways to reconnect," Alec answers, both heartbeats inside of him pounding loudly in his ears.
"But none of them proves my point," Jace says, shaking his head, "And none of them will free you."
"While you think this will."
Jace doesn't answer right away. He leans in, kisses him again. Alec feels himself hopelessly melt, and prays he'll just kiss him for a little while longer. "Give me a chance," Jace whispers against his lips, "Alec, you don't wanna marry Lydia. You don't even like her."
"You..." Alec barely holds a gasp, his eyes almost closed, now, as he feels himself giving in with each small kiss Jace places on his lips, "You have no idea what I like," he tries, grasping at straws.
Jace smiles again and pulls him in, pressing his forehead against his own. "Wanna bet?" he whispers.
And Alec understands he just lost the fight. He tried to face his demons. And they ate him up.
He leans in, there’s no point in struggling against this anymore. His lips already parted, he searches for Jace’s mouth hungrily, and he’s almost scared he’ll pull away now, that this will be more than he was expecting, more than he had decided to go through with, but it’s not, and Jace welcomes him with open arms, kissing him back with the same fire, one hand still lost between his locks, the other reaching out for his t-shirt. Alec feels his fingers hook around the fabric right behind his nape, tug at it, making it slide up along his hips.
“Are you serious…?” he mutters breathlessly, breaking the kiss. Jace takes advantage of the moment to strip his t-shirt off him in a resolute gesture, throwing it at the feet of the bed.
“Do you even need to ask, at this point?” he asks back.
Alec doesn’t know – he’s not even sure he wants to talk, he doesn’t trust his voice. Or any other part of him, to be perfectly honest. For a moment he wonders if Jace is gonna do what he always imagined him doing, if he’s gonna kiss him all over, trace the outlines of his runes with the tip of his tongue, suckle at his skin to leave different marks on it, but soon he realizes that’s not what Jace wants, that he’s not drawn to his body because he has a hunger for it. He’s drawn towards him, because it’s him that he wants. And so he isn’t stripping him naked because he wants to see him naked, or because he wants more bare skin to touch and lick and kiss. What he needs is more contact, their bodies glued together, exchanging warmth and soft whispers.
He takes off his t-shirt too, his golden eyes, golden hair, golden skin blinding Alec for a moment. He’s too beautiful for words, and Alec’s glad he doesn’t have to comment on that. He’s glad when Jace moves forward again and kisses him, because that puts a stop to all talking, all meaningless talking, and from that moment on the exorcism Jace took upon himself to perform can start to take place.
He lies down, and as soon as his back touches the mattress Jace is on top of him. He keeps kissing him, hands scurrying everywhere, touching and stroking as much as possible. Jace’s touch feels electric, and every time his fingers brush against some particularly sensitive spot a low whimper escapes his lips, and Jace doesn’t dare laughing at him, of course he doesn’t, but Alec can feel his smile against his own lips, and that annoys him a bit, enough to make him try and wipe it off his face.
He reaches down, his hand disappearing between Jace’s thighs. Above his sweatpants, first, and that’s enough to make Jace stop smirking, but then it slips underneath, and that’s when the real magic happens – when the demon goes soft, showing weakness too. Maybe the battle’s not lost yet.
He closes his fingers around Jace’s cock, stroking it slowly. It’s not perfectly hard yet, but it’s getting there – he knows, he can feel it. Jace holds his breath for a moment, and Alec can’t see his eyes, but he knows he must be questioning himself about it. About what this means, and if he wants to go through with it, really. But then his hips start moving, he starts pumping in the narrow slit Alec’s fist is providing for him, and Alec feels him grow harder and bigger between his fingers, and that must be heaven, he thinks confusedly as he swallows and moistens his lips, that must be bliss, that must be the spark of pure joy you feel when you connect with someone you love for real, and Alec had never experienced that before, and he deluded himself into believing he could go the closest to it with Lydia, but no, that’s never gonna happen with Lydia, nothing even remotely comparable to what’s going on with him and Jace now will ever be possible between Lydia and him, and regardless of which decision Alec will take after tonight he needs to understand that, he needs to let that truth sink in, because that is part of the equation, that is one of the things he needs to take into consideration before finally making up his mind – whether he can say goodbye to all this, with Jace or with someone else, whether he can renounce to it in his life for a greater good, or whether in the end something like this is much too impossible to be forsaken entirely, making it impossible for him to take even one more step in the general direction of Lydia.
At some point, Jace must realize he’s enjoying this too much, because he lets out a heavy grunt and slips his hand inside his own pants too, to wrap his fingers around Alec’s wrist, stopping him. He doesn’t say any of the things Alec thought people might say in these circumstances, no “enough of this”, no “I don’t wanna come yet”, there’s just silence and heavy breathing for a moment. Then he pushes his pants down his legs, and as if following some ancient primal instinct Alec pulls down his own, and starts turning on his stomach.
Jace stops him halfway through the movement. Alec’s lying on his side, with his legs bent at the knees, and turns his head to look at him. He’s almost expecting Jace to say something at this point, but Jace doesn’t, and by looking in his eyes Alec realizes he doesn’t need him to. Jace wants to look at him as they do it. It’s as simple as that, and Alec has no idea what it might mean, but he’s inclined to believe it means nothing in particular, just that Jace wants to see him, and frankly that’s okay for him, because he kinda wants to see him too.
And so he watches, he watches intently as his own personal demon licks his fingers and prepares him swiftly, and he focuses on Jace’s face, on the way feelings ghost upon it, making him flinch, or curl his lips, or part them, or moisten them. He looks at him as Jace exhales a shaky breath when his fingers dive inside Alec’s body, and he concentrates on what he himself feels, on the pressure of those fingers, on the sudden jolts similar to electrical discharges they send coursing through his body every time they move to make room inside him. And he keeps looking at him as Jace keeps fingering him, drawn closer to him with each moan he lets escape his lips, and suddenly he can’t look at him anymore when Jace kisses him again, a clashing of lips, tongues and teeth, as he removes his fingers from inside him and changes them for his own erection, hard and hot and swollen with excitement, entering him like a fiery blade, lighting him up.
Jace gasps right away, his breath incandescent against Alec’s lips, and Alec puts a hand on his nape to keep him close. He doesn’t want him to move away, not even to take a better look at him. The position’s uncomfortable, his side hurts right above his hip on the spot where Jace is leaning against, and each and every thrust Jace pushes through him burns like hellfire, and yet feels so damn good Alec finds himself close to tears every time Jace moves, silently begging him not to stop, to push deeper, harder, to make it worth it, even if it’s just to prove a point, and even if it might not change anything, just because they’re doing it, now, and Alec has spent much of his daydreaming life fantasizing about this, and even if it’s just one time he wants to carve it in his memory, so that no matter what happens and how many differences might separate them in the future, he will always know closeness to Jace, even like this, was possible, and they had it.
It ends as it started, with fire, an explosion, with the only yell Alec isn’t able to hold back. He comes hard, staining the sheets, Jace’s fingers wrapped firmly around his throbbing cock. Jace pulls out before his climax, probably an habit, Alec distractedly thinks. He doesn’t mind, when he feels him release his orgasm against his own stomach. The wetness, the warmth of it. Alec closes his eyes and touches it with his fingers. It’s there, on his skin. It’s real. It happened, whatever this was happened, and the world didn’t end, and Alec doesn’t wanna open his eyes again because if this really was a battle, and if they just fought, he doesn’t wanna know who’s the winner, yet.
He hears Jace sigh and there’s an undertone of uneasiness in it. He expects him to leave, but he doesn’t. He collapses on the bed next to him, instead, bumping hips with him, whispering “make room for me”, forcing him to move despite the fact that, now that he’s coming back to earth, Alec feels each and every inch of his body ache, and he’s not sure he really wants to move ever again, let alone right now that the pain is still sharp like a freshly cut wound.
Silence has a consistency between them, a thickness, a gummy quality. It’s like a rubber wall, or so Alec feels it, anyway. It seems that if he touched it with a finger it’d just bend, assimilate his touch and then bounce it back, but rubber can’t only be poked, it can be slashed, and Jace’s the one to do it, as always, and Alec trusts he will.
Jace doesn’t disappoint, once he finally catches his breath. “So, I think we’re both on the same page, now, aren’t we? At least on the matter of who is it you really like.”
That’s smug and arrogant and so totally Jace Alec can’t help but laugh, even though his parabatai probably deserves to be slapped because of what he just said. He shakes his head, exhaling softly. “Don’t push your luck,” he says, “I might still kick you out.”
“I’m not pushing my luck,” Jace shakes his head, “I’m testing your love for me.”
It’s a joke, Alec knows it. He tries to leave it at that, but he can’t help his smile growing bitter, and he can’t help the tension in his muscles – a tension Jace must feel, because he turns towards him, putting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing it affectionately.
“I’m sorry,” he says softly, “You know I mostly speak before I can think.”
“Yeah,” Alec sighs, “That’s what I’m here for, right? To prevent you from doing stupid, reckless things because of that.”
“Exactly,” Jace nods, “If you start acting crazy too, we will both be dead by the end of the year, and Izzy will kick our sorry ghost asses all the way back down to earth so she can haunt us before we start haunting her, and you know that won’t be pleasant, so please don’t make it happen.”
Alec laughs again, passing a hand over his face. He’s too tired to take any decision, now, but he knows there are things he must consider, and things he must reflect upon. He’ll do it once he wakes up in the morning. Assuming he can regain control of his own heart’s beating by then. “I’ll do my best,” he simply says, and he hopes that’s enough for Jace.
He’s relieved, but not really surprised to find out that it is.
Through the darkness of his closed eyelids, he listens to Jace move away from him, and then slide off the bed. It doesn’t feel bad to know he’s leaving, it just feels natural. He couldn’t spend the night, and Alec’s not sure he wanted him to, anyway. He wants to be on his own for a while, before he manages to get to sleep. He wants to savor this moment by himself, he wants to relive it in his mind and play the movie again and again, until satisfaction or weariness claim him – whichever gets there first.
“Alec,” Jace says. Alec answers him with a soft humming, and he doesn’t even open his eyes. “I lied, before, you know that, right? You’re not here to keep me from acting too crazy. You’re here to be the amazing person I know you are. And put us all idiots to shame. Don’t be one of us idiots, be Alexander fucking Lightwood.”
“You forgot the Gideon in there,” Alec chuckles.
“Shut up,” Jace chuckles too, “You got what I meant, and you know I won’t say it again.”
“I think you should make t-shirts out of that, and have everybody else wear them, ‘cause I’m not really sure I got the message straight.”
“Straight is the opposite of what I was aiming for, so I think we’re set,” Jace grins, and Alec instantly bursts into laughing, bending over on his side, hiding his face against the pillow. Jace laughs too, together with him, for a few precious moments. Then he bids him goodnight, and finally leaves the room.
Only then, Alec dares to open his eyes. He feels good, better than he’s ever felt. He’s not even scared about facing Jace tomorrow. Maybe he might tell him about Magnus, at some point – but no, it’s better not to think about Magus, right now.
And yet, he kind of wants to.