Jace is talking to Alec in the Ops Center when someone enters through the Institute’s front door. He ignores it. People walk in through that door all the time.
Since the night with Valentine on the edge of the lake, lights have been much brighter, sounds have been much louder, and smells have been much stronger, but Jace assumes it's part of having angel blood. It doesn't matter if he can never relax anymore. He's not supposed to relax, he's a shadowhunter.
But someone runs up and throws their arms around him from behind and now he can't breathe. He's trapped and he can't breathe and he can't not focus on the contact because it's so tight it hurts. He forces himself to let out a few strangled breaths and then finally the person lets go but it doesn't change anything, not really, because panic is still crawling its way up his throat and he can't breathe and he needs to get out so he runs, runs past Max who doesn't understand what he's done and runs past his mother who has just gotten back and runs past the Inquisitor who is much older but hasn't been in war the way Jace has.
His hands are shaking too badly to apply a glamour, so he's exposed when he gets past the wards. The mundanes around him don't seem to care, but that doesn't make him feel better. His chest hurts and he's dizzy and just keeping his flow of oxygen steady is taking up more of his concentration than it should have to.
It's Simon. Simon is there and he's standing in front of Jace, thankfully not too close, and he's speaking and Jace can't process most of what he's saying but his comforting tone of voice helps a little tiny bit.
“Jace, can I touch your hand?”
Jace shakes his head and Simon nods, instead motioning him towards a park bench. Jace forces himself to move even though he feels like lead. Soon, they're sitting next to each other. It sounds like Simon is asking him a question but his thoughts are still too all over the place for him to answer.
“Jace, can you look at me?”
He does. Simon's brown eyes are full of concern and it makes Jace a little angry because he shouldn't be doing this, shouldn't be worrying people like this. Somewhere else in the back of his mind he realizes Simon would make a really good trainer for young kids.
“Jace, are you okay?”
He isn't really, but his breathing is closer to normal and it doesn't feel like someone's tied a rope around his stomach anymore so he nods.
Simon opens the door a crack. “Jace, are you in here?” A shaky exhale and a cough give him his answer. He goes in. Jace is sitting on the ground, leaning against the side of his bed, with his arms wrapped around one knee and his other leg fully extended on the ground. His expression is blank.
“Are you all right, man?” Simon asks, sitting down a foot away from him.
Jace shrugs. “I was just… thinking. I never met my mother.”
“That's rough. I mean- shit, that's not very…” Simon rambles, shutting up when Jace looks at him.
Jace gives a small smirk. “I mean, it's not like anyone else has ever had anything better to say.” A heaviness settles into his expression.
Before he can think about it, Simon puts his hand on Jace's. He doesn't even know if it means to say, I know you don't like hugs but I want to give you some support and I'm shit with words, or if it means something else. He doesn't have a lot of time to ponder it because Jace flips his hand over and now they're holding hands.
This attack shouldn't be happening. A horde of demons, moving too fast for anyone to identify what type they are. Right outside the Institute, no less. The one place in the city that was supposed to be safe. Jace is starting to come to terms with the idea that he isn't ever going to be safe.
It's all hands on deck. Jace fights back-to-back with Alec, both using blades because the demons are coming too fast and too close for a bow and arrow to be of any use. It's been awhile since they've done this, but they find their old rhythm pretty quickly. The air is ear-splittingly loud and eerily silent at the same time.
Someone goes down with a yell behind Jace and his heart stops. Simon? Please, no. It's not. It can't be. His breathing gets shallower.
“All right?” Alec asks. He sounds out of breath, which reminds Jace that he has work to do.
“Yeah, fine,” Jace lies.
Eventually, the storm dies down. Clary kills the last one. People start to check on each other and designate teams to take the injured inside. It doesn't sound like anyone has died, shadowhunter or otherwise, but Jace needs to know for sure.
He can't see anything that helps him from where he is, and he knows he only has a little bit of time before he either crashes from the adrenaline or gets overloaded, and he knows he isn't going to be able to hold himself together if either of those things happen.
Simon stands there, unharmed except for a cut on his forehead. Jace wants to cry. “You… you're okay. You're safe,” he whispers.
Simon nods. “I went inside. Now that I'm thinking, I probably could have, like, helped, or something…”
Jace shakes his head. “No, you made a good call.” He realizes that he and Simon are gripping each other's forearms, embracing, but still an arm’s length away from each other, and he also realizes that this may be the only thing keeping him standing.
By some miracle of nature, there comes a night that all of them are off, so Magnus decides to have the gang over for dinner.
After the meal, they all migrate to the living room to try to agree on a movie. It's not going well.
“What do you mean, it's not Christmas. Since when does it have to be Christmas for--”
“Clary, we've all watched Love Actually together at least four times. There are other movies that exist.”
Jace came back from the bathroom with a smirk on his face. “Are we actually having this fight again?”
“Y’know,” Simon interjected, “we wouldn't have this problem if we watched Civil War.”
“Civil what?” Jace asked.
“It's the newest Captain America movie,” Clary explained, rolling her eyes fondly. All eyes are on Jace for this one. This is his decision now, apparently.
“Yeah, I guess.”
He sits down next to Simon, far enough away that the only things touching are their knees. Jace drapes his arm over the back of the couch.
Halfway through the movie, he realizes that he and Simon are sort of leaning on each other. Simon feels him shift a little bit and looks over to say is this okay?
It's more than okay. It's a towel when he's soaked from the rain. It's a bonfire when he's freezing cold. It's a map when he's lost.