Something's wrong, terribly wrong.
Jace has no memory of this place. He doesn't recognize a single thing around him; from the mahogany cabinets filled with dusted china, to the figurines hung dangling from the ceiling, glinting in the sunlight. There is an empty space in the middle of the room that doesn't feel right, as if there was once something that belonged there, but it's long gone now. Empty and redacted.
Jace is tense, hand slowly lowering to his right thigh, edging to where he knows his thigh holster awaits him. He waits for his hand to bump into leather, but his fingers brushed farther down without interfering.
Jace swallows and risks a glance down.
This doesn't make any sense. Jace doesn't ever leave the institute without his thigh holster holding, at the very least, one weapon. But now, he just stands in black pants and not a weapon in sight. The door beside the cabinet holding the china swings open, and Jace immediately crouches into a defensive position, body thrumming with energy, mind on autopilot.
But it's just… Simon?
“Hey, there you are,” Simin greets him with his usual smile, a little dopey and with just a flash of pointed teeth. “You about ready?”
Jace cautiously pulls himself out of his stance, relaxing slightly. He knows he and Simon aren't exactly friends, but that doesn't mean it's a cause for worry. Besides, Simon looks at him as if nothing is amiss, which puts Jace off equal footing.
Jace frowns. “Where are we?”
“Oh, this is one of those things, isn't it?” Simon laughs and snaps his fingers, pointing at Jace with a playful little smile. “Another training simulation, right? Who put you up to it this time; the Clave or Alec?”
“What?” Jace asks flatly.
Simon huffs a laugh. “Alright, alright, I'll play along, but make it quick; I want to get to the party tonight on time.” He flashes another smile, but this time it's slightly strained. “We just have to make it through dinner first, if we can.”
“What? Party, dinner? Simon, you don't eat,” Jace snaps, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes.
Simon's arms flail and he steps closer, eyes wide as they dart between the swinging door and Jace. “Jeez, keep for your voice down! My mom has ears like a bat, and don't make that joke.” He huffs and relaxes, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, I know I don't eat, but I can't exactly explain that to my mom. Now, do your thing so we can get this over with.”
Jace is immediately sure of two things. The first, he has no idea what the hell is going on. The second, Simon Lewis appears to be his only ally at the moment, much as that sucks.
Jace clears his throat. “What, exactly, are we doing again?” When Simon's face falls into confusion, Jace waves a hand. “Just, uh, remind me one more time. Walk me through the plan again. I want to be… prepared.”
“You're starting to sound like Alec,” Simon teases, whole face lighting with amusement. “Alright, one more debriefing, Shadowhunter, then we have to actually do it.”
“Dinner with my mom and sister. Me and you. Get through the night, then meet our friends at Magnus’ for the party.”
Jace blinks. Well, that's not too terrible. Maybe he just feels off, or genuinely forgot. It's not implausible, considering everything going on with Valentine. But he has no clue what possessed him to ever agree to go do dinner with Simon and his mundane family. Whatever, once he gets through it, he can get to Alec and ask if Magnus can make sure he hasn't been put under a spell to mess with his mind or memory.
“Right,” Jace says carefully, setting his shoulders.
Simon beams at him. “Alright, let's do it. And- and don't forget to lay on the charm, okay? Your usual sunny disposition needs to be put away for at least an hour, can you do that?”
Jace cocks an eyebrow. “Are you suggesting that I'm incapable of impressing your family?”
“Well…” Simon smiles slightly and rolls his eyes. “No, but don't start brooding on me. Me and you, remember? You promised not to leave me hanging in there and I am taking you at your word.”
Jace has no idea what Simon is talking about because he doesn't think there is a world in which he'd promise something like that. But Simon looks nervous as shit, more so than usual, and he stares right at Jace like that supposed promise is his lifeline. Jace doesn't think Simon's lying, and he's a man of his word - even if he doesn't recall giving it.
So, Jace forces a smile and says, “Not gonna be an issue. They'll love me before anyone even takes a bite. Let's get this over with.”
Simon takes in a deep, needless breath and sets his shoulders. He looks kind of… scared, actually? Jace has seen that look on his face multiple times, but he's never seen it when it came to his family. Perhaps even mundanes have fucked up families.
“Alright, let's go,” Simon declares.
Jace follows simon into the dining room, blinking at the food decorating the table. Not an ounce of alcohol is in sight, but a punch bowl is practically the centerpiece. As soon as they enter, an older woman with a tight smile and laugh lines around her eyes springs up from the table. She resembles Simon a great deal; same smile, same eyes, same colored hair. And the other girl at the table doesn't move an inch, doesn't smile at all, just watches as they enter with something like curiosity.
“Oh, Simon, there you are!” The woman, Simon's mom, exclaims. She moves over to grapple Simon into a tight hug, only pulling back to look at him in a mixture of delight and worry. “You barely got in the door good before you wandered off. Let me look at you. Dashing, as always.”
Simon, in no way, looks dashing. Jace fights the urge to roll his eyes. Simon's just wearing a collared shirt and dark jeans that rolled over nice boots. Possibly Izzy got to him, but he isn't dashing at all.
“Thanks, mom,” Simon says warmly, then clears his throat twice, stepping aside to gesture at Jace with one shaking hand. “Mom, you remember Jace.”
Mrs. Lewis’ smile dims, and she blinks at Jace for a few moments. “Yes, I- how could I forget? Jace, it's so… lovely to see you again.”
Now Jace knows where Simon got his terrible lying skills from. Still, he allows a sweet smile to grow on his face as he steps forward. Without prompting, he reaches out and takes Mrs. Lewis’ hand, drawing it up and pressing a soft kiss to the back of her hand, all the while maintaining eye contact.
“The pleasure is all mine,” he murmurs, pouring every ounce of sincerity he's ever felt into those five words making up one fat lie.
“Oh,” Mrs. Lewis says, blinking rapidly and reaching up with her free hand to lightly touch her own chest, just below her throat. She coughs. “Well, we are more than glad to have you for dinner.”
The girl at the table - Simon's sister - coughs into her fist, the word coming out loud and clear. “Bullshit.” Then, she seemingly goes into a coughing fit, staring right at them.
By the Angel, what has he done to make them hate him so much?
“Rebecca!” Simon yelps, reaching out to tug Jace from his mom and lead him to a chair. They both sit down and Simon stares right at Rebecca. “How's that internship going?”
Rebecca's eyes narrow. “It's going,” she snips.
Simon's grin is full of teeth. “Is it? Because-”
“Jace,” Mrs. Lewis interrupts quickly, possibly sniffing out an oncoming sibling war from a mile away, as mother's do, “I hear you have two have an announcement.”
Jace looks at Simon with an arched eyebrow, partially because he has no idea what this announcement is, but also because they aren't a unit who gives news together. Simon clears his throat again, fidgeting his seat.
“Well, mom, we should probably wait until we've all ate! I- I mean, the food looks beautiful,” Simon stutters, eyes darting about.
Rebecca huffs a short laugh. “Oh, please,” she mutters, rolling her eyes. Then, she plasters on a smile and focuses her gaze on Jace. “So, tell us, Jace, how have you been?”
To say that his life has been all that great lately would be a huge fucking lie, but he's apparently given his word, so he smiles dutifully.
“Life has been a struggle, but I just take it day by day, as we all do.” Jace casually leans back in his chair and sighs. “The world isn't always a great place, but we all make it the best we can, right?”
Rebecca smiles sweetly. “Of course! I mean, I'm sure you're making it better, especially after nearly taking a son from his mother, a brother from his sister.”
Jace's heart sinks, stomach filling with dread.
“Rebecca,” Mrs. Lewis scolds, but it's half-hearted.
“No, no, he's the one who brought it up! I mean, how's the world so much better with him in it?” Rebecca waves a hand, eyes cold. “After all, he nearly got Simon killed by being mixed in the wrong crowd. Tell us, Jace, how much better is the world after that?”
Jace, honest to god, has no idea what's happening right now. Sure, he hasn't exactly made sure Simon was safe all the time, not like he does with Clary, but he sure as hell never nearly killed him. Well, the thought has crossed his mind, but still.
“Um,” Jace says awkwardly, not sure what he's supposed to do in this situation.
Mrs. Lewis sighs heavily. “Rebecca, can't you just-”
“No, I can't, and I won't,” Rebecca cuts her off forcefully, staring at Jace. “He's the one who put Simon in danger. It was his friends that nearly killed him. Jace barely even stopped them. We watched Simon get stabbed, right here in this front yard, and I don't care that you were the one who nursed him back to health. If you hadn't-”
“Enough!” Simon yells, slamming his hand down on the table. Jace jolts when Simon's other hand reaches down under the table and grips his thigh, squeezing hard enough to hurt. “I have said it before, and this will be the last time I repeat myself. If I have to say it again, I won't be back, and I mean that. You don't know all the details; Jace did nothing wrong, despite what you believe. Either you both get over that, or you'll never see me again.”
The silence after is heavy and harsh, and Jace stares down at the tabletop in surprise. Now he knows something is definitely wrong. Not only does he not remember any of those things happening, but Simon is defending him. That's just… fucked.
Rebecca scoffs. “Look at you, Simon! You can't even see how messed up this is. He's bad for you. You're in an abusive relationship. You need help. Just let us-”
Simon leans forward, eyes wide and dark. “If I leave, I will not be back.”
There are too many things to process. What, he and Simon are friends now? Seems highly unlikely with everything going on with Clary. And Simon has never been this straightforward before, never so serious and insistent. Rarely, if ever, has Jace seen him so stern, not unless it's about Clary.
Mrs. Lewis shakily reaches for a plate and starts scooping food onto it. “Rebecca, please. I just- I want to have a nice dinner, okay? Simon, please don't leave; I can't handle you disappearing again.”
All Jace knows at this particular moment is that he's apparently done something horrible to Simon that makes his family hate him. And his word isn't exactly being held up right now. Simon's hand continues to clench on his thigh, which Jace is seconds from peeling it away and breaking it, but that won't ease the tension at all.
So, he clears his throat and looks up. “No,” he says softly, “she's right. I did something… horrible, and I can never make that right. Simon didn't deserve it.” Whatever it was, Jace rattles off in his own head. “All I can do now is make up for it, one day at a time, and I assure you, I am trying. Simon is just… fierce, as you all know. Trust me, Mrs. Lewis, I won't stand for him disappearing on his family ever again.”
Simon's hand spasms around his thigh, twitching and relaxing, just resting there now, and Jace gives Rebecca a tiny, hopeful smile - one he's crafted perfectly through the years. Rebecca still looks suspicious, but there's also internal doubt there now too, like maybe she believes him, just a little. Mrs. Lewis sighs again, this time soft and sweet, and she passes a full plate to him.
“Thank you, I appreciate that,” she murmurs, giving him a tiny smile of her own. “Now, let's eat and just try to have a nice meal, please.”
Simon squeezes Jace's leg once in what just be thanks, and gives a soft chuckle. “Of course, mom.”
The rest of the meal passes much easier. Not to say the tension just disappears, but it's more of an undercurrent, much simpler to ignore. Simon spends majority of the time finding pockets of space where Rebecca isn't watching them like a hawk to slide food on Jace's plate to cover his whole vampirism issue. Jace doesn't mind that so much, happy to eat double of this, frankly, amazing food, but what he does mind is that Simon's hand still hasn't left his thigh. For every minute that passes where Simon doesn't remove it, Jace thinks of worse ways to break each finger.
As the meal draws to a close and Simon brings up the party they have to get off to, Mrs. Lewis gives a pointed cough. “So, the announcement?”
Jace just nudges Simon with his elbow, wordlessly telling him to take the lead, only because he has no idea what the announcement is. Simon is silent for a few moments, and his mom and sister watches him expectantly. Jace wonders just how bad this can be, hopes he's not involved somehow.
Then, Simon announces, “Jace and I are engaged.”
And Jace has no idea what the reactions are, nor how he would react at all, because he suddenly sits upright in his bed with a gasp. He fumbles at his sheets, looking around in shock, staring at the familiar surroundings of his bed at the institute in utter surprise.
Just a dream, he thinks, stunned. Just a horrible fucking dream.
But by the Angel, it had felt so real.