Simon has only been sitting at the table in Hunter's Moon for approximately five minutes before he almost falls out of his chair, which is almost a new record for him. He comes very close to toppling right over to the ground. Not because the chair is wobbly - it is, the legs are uneven, and Simon has shit balance, even as a vampire - but because of the little casual slip of information Alec had just let loose about five seconds ago.
Very important information, or so Simon thinks.
“No, no, wait, go back and rewind.” Simon leans forward to pin his gaze on Alec. “Say what you just said again.”
No one seems as invested in this piece of possibly embarrassing information, nor do they seem to think it relative to the conversation. Clary looks up from where she's drawing blueprints to frown at him in confusion, clearly not using their bond as best friends to recognize the absolute importance of what Simon's just learned. Izzy shares a look with Magnus, both of them looking as if they'd rather be doing something else. Jace, the subject of this new and enlightening intel, just continues to look broody and haughty all at once.
Alec's eyebrow sweeps up. “I said, Jace can't take point on this because he's never been courted.”
“Oh come on, that's- that isn't true, right?” Simon jerks a hand at Jace. “Look at him! Someone had to have tried to woo him before.”
“The only person who's ever tried to woo Jace was Alec, who tried to do so by scowling at him and walking away whenever Jace smiled,” Izzy announces, smirking when Alec glares at her.
“Shut up, I wasn't wooing him. I was being unhappy and waiting for Magnus to come along,” Alec mutters, eyes softening as his gaze slips from his sister to his boyfriend.
Magnus inclines his head. “I can assure you, Alexander's wooing techniques are unprecedented and very enrapturing.”
Clary flicks a finger between them. “Didn't Alec just stutter at you while you hit on him?”
“And yet, we are the only ones not single here,” Alec retorts, lips twitching for the barest of seconds in shameless victory.
“Okay,” Simon interrupts, waving his hands around wildly, “can we get back to the fact that Jace has never actually been courted before?”
Jace heaves a sigh, arms crossed as he leans back in his seat. “Why are you so fixated on this?”
“Because you're- well, you're you. How has no one ever tried to woo you before?” Simon blurts, eyebrows creasing in genuine confusion.
“Because they know better,” Jace replies simply.
Izzy hums. “Yeah, Simon, people are well aware that Jace isn't the type to be swept off his feet. If anyone tried, he'd probably sweep them off their feet by knocking them flat on their back.”
“Yep,” Jace agrees, popping the word obnoxiously.
“Dude, are you telling me that you intimidate people so much that you've never been wooed?” Simon shakes his head at the travesty. “That's just terrible. No flowers, no serenading, nothing?”
Clary snorts. “Could you imagine someone giving Jace flowers? He'd probably kill them.”
Jace nods and repeats, “Yep.”
“Seriously, that's just- it's tragic, actually. I mean, even me. I've wooed and been wooed,” Simon informs them, pressing a hand to his chest. “It, uh, didn't work out so well, but everyone needs the experience. It's just… a right of passage.”
“Not for me.” Jace smirks and gestures to his own body. “I woo no one. I don't have to. And I really don't want to be wooed at all, so I'm perfectly content with my… book club.”
Simon snaps his fingers. “That's it. From here on out, I'm wooing you. I'm going to get you to agree to one date with me after all the wooing, then this horrible travesty will have been worked out.”
“Okay, I'll go on a date with you,” Jace says, leaning forward on his elbows. “When and where?”
“Yeah, sure. No need to woo at all.”
“Oh, you almost got me.” Simon laughs and points at him, shaking his head. “You're not getting out of this. Prepare to be wooed.”
Jace scowls. “Try it and I will kick your ass.”
“Just doing my civic duty to clean up this horrible mess. Never been wooed, I can't believe that. That's just sad.” Simon clicks his tongue, sharing a grin with Clary, who is apparently amused by this.
Izzy snorts. “Your funeral.”
Simon gets started the moment they bag the seelie who was obsessed with wooing people into her bed and killing them. Clary had ended up being the one who got wooed and did the wooing, much to her chagrin, but she'd done her job well. The moment she's ushered back to the institute for transport, Simon rushes to his apartment.
The first list he painstakingly makes is more of a to-do list. It consists of this:
- Find out Jace's favorite things
- Find out Jace's shirt size
- Call Luke for Flower Shop recommendations
- BE NICE
- Don't fall in love
The last rule comes from the fact that the movie A Walk To Remember is playing on the TV, and he's seen enough romantic comedies to know just how important that rule is. While he's not concerned about that occurring, he figures the rule can't hurt, plus it rounds out his first list to five.
The second list that he makes is not a to-do list, but more of a grocery list, things he jots down as a little reminder, and it goes like this:
- Make CD
- Buy him clothes
- Hold open doors
- Surprise coffee or drink
- Make him listen to your music
- Good morning and goodnight texts
- Abrupt hugs or touches
- Make him laugh
It takes Simon nearly half an hour to make these lists, and when he's done, he feels pretty good about himself. He's fairly certain that this entire thing is going to be fun, plus it will be great to brighten the group's morale, with the added bonus of annoying Jace thrown in. This is, by far, the best plan he's ever come up with in his humble opinion.
So, he texts Clary for Jace's number, which she sends almost immediately with a few emojis - one looks like a grimace, one looks like it's crying and laughing all at once, and the last puts one tiny gloved hand over it's lips as if silencing him to secrecy. Simon is so fine tuned to Clary at this point that he just sends her the emoji that could either be prayer hands or two people high fiving. He leaves her to work out which one it is.
Then, he crafts his message to Jace. It takes him longer than making the lists. It's hard because he and Jace aren't exactly friends, so they don't have any inside jokes, and it's weird because he's fairly certain that Jace doesn't want a message at all. But when he sends the message, he thinks he managed just fine to start the wooing process.
Simon, 11:42pm: hi, it's your not-so-secret admirer here to wish you goodnight
Simon does not get a reply.
“Your hair looks really nice today.”
Jace stumbles over a root sticking up from the ground with a sharp curse, nearly careening right into the tree on his left. It's only Alec's quick hands that keeps him from toppling over, and when he's steady on his feet again, Jace swings around to glare at Simon. Everyone, outside of him, looks as if they've just witnessed the best thing ever.
“My hair looks nice every day, first of all,” Jace says sharply, narrowing his eyes. “Second, are you still on the wooing thing because I was not joking about kicking your ass; I can and I will.”
Simon has to bite back the sarcastic retort he wants to give. Instead, he says, “Did you get my text last night? You never replied.”
“That- who gave you my number?” Jace flicks his gaze over everyone around them. “Clary?”
“What? No. I will have you know, there is a phonebook just for you Shadowhunters,” Simon says loftily, waving a hand. “Besides, I know you have my number, plus I have everyone else's, so it's not a big deal at all. Anyway, did you sleep good last night?”
Jace turns to Alec with a frown of obvious betrayal. “Simon has your number?”
“I'm the Head of The Institute, Jace.” Alec rolls his eyes and sighs. “I have to be able to contact the downworlders in the alliance. Simon's kind of the only other vampire we regularly interact with directly, outside of Raphael.”
Simon bobs his head. “Yeah, I'm part of the gang.”
“Yes, you are,” Clary agrees supportively.
Jace looks disgusted by all of them and marches off in the direction of the pack of shax demons they're all out and about to hunt down. As Simon expected, everyone seems in higher spirits and amused, while Jace is already miserable. This is going off without a hitch, and Simon beams as he follows after Jace, rushing to fall into step beside him.
Jace sends him a scorching glare, seeming altogether on board with kicking Simon's ass at this particular moment. Simon isn't worried though; he has vampiric abilities on his side, a group of people who clearly want to see this play out, and just the slightest assurance that Jace won't actually harm him. Jace is abrasive, rude, snarky, and a load of other things that gets under Simon's skin, but he's never actually hurt Simon physically, and at this point in their weird antagonistic relationship, Simon's completely sure Jace won't ever lay a hand on him in a painful way.
It makes this a lot easier.
“I meant it, you know,” Simon informs him cheerfully, pointing to Jace's hair. “It really does look nice. The ends curl around your ears when it's about to rain, which is actually kind of cute.”
Jace automatically lifts one hand to push the longer strands of his hair behind his ear, like he's trying to hide the slight curl to the ends. It opens his face, frames his jaw, and calls attentions to his unfairly pretty eyes. Simon's well aware of how attractive Jace is, even if he isn't his biggest fan.
“I'll give you twenty dollars if you'll stop trying to woo me,” Jace tells him seriously.
Simon purses his lips and tips his head from side to side. “Yeah, no can do. I'm gonna court you, Jace, so hard, and there's nothing you can do about it.”
“If I snatch your head from your shoulders, you'll never get to court anyone else ever again,” Jace tells him with a too sweet smile, full of perfect teeth.
“So, you like violence. Why am I not surprised? What else do you like? Drinking, I know that. What's your favorite color? Food? Song? Do you even watch movies? Oh! What's your favorite animal? No, wait, let me guess. You look like you'd be a fan of dogs, but maybe not. Maybe a hamster guy? Oh, you'd probably be fans of lions - the males are full of themselves, just like you. Nah, maybe birds? Do-”
Simon's suddenly shoved unceremoniously up against yet another tree without any warning whatsoever. Jace braces his arm against his chest, pushing him back roughly, his blade in his hands. At first, Simon thinks he's hit a nerve by accident, but then a shax demon comes scuttling around the tree, and Jace covers Simon as he stabs it.
Jace glares at him. “I just saved your life. Again.”
“So, not birds then? I don't know why-”
“Do you ever shut up?”
“I'll make a deal with you,” Simon says lightly, reaching up to wrap his hand around Jace's wrist, biting back a grin when Jace rips away as if the contact burns. “If, and only if, you tell me three of your favorite things right now - and not just basic things, but the kind of stuff I asked you - I'll shut up for the rest of this mission.”
“Wait, seriously?” Jace's eyebrows jerk up, looking delighted by the prospect that Simon will, for once, actually be quiet. “Fine, I like the color black. I'm a big fan of mangos. And I like… falcons.”
Simon mimes zipping his lips as he tucks away this information in his mind for later. Jace actually looks less miserable now that Simon's not talking, which actually isn't a bad look on him at all. When the rest of the group approach, Jace informs them that he's achieved the impossible. When they ask how, he tells them without missing a beat, but he doesn't seem to notice that when they laugh… it's not because Jace achieved something, but because Simon did.
Simon is silent for the rest of the mission.
Simon corners Alec in the training room the following day, quite literally slamming the door open and making him and Magnus jerk apart with wide eyes, their hands falling away from each other.
“Yeah, maybe you guys shouldn't do that in places people can just barge in,” Simon suggests lightly, toeing out of his shoes and padding to the mat.
Alec scowls at him. “Or maybe you could not barge in. What are you doing here? You're not supposed to just come as you please.”
“This is important.” Simon moves over and snatches up a staff, moving to the middle of the floor. “Okay, so I know you better than you think, which means I know that you won't give me the information I need without me working for it.”
“Intuitive, isn't he?” Magnus asks, amused.
“What exactly are you hoping to find out?” Alec arches an eyebrow. “Is this about Jace?”
Simon tosses the staff from one hand to the other, nodding. “Sure is. So, I'm going to make a truly grueling deal with you. Every time I knock you on your ass, you answer a question about your parabatai. Sound fair?”
“And why would I do that?”
“One, because I'll be lucky if I can get you down more than once. Two, you're enjoying Jace's mild suffering just as much as I am.”
“He has a point, darling,” Magnus puts in, fluidly sinking down against the pillar Alec had him pressed again, smiling in blatant enjoyment.
“So,” Alec says lightly, narrowing his eyes as he moves forward to snatch up a staff of his own, “there is something specific you want to know?”
“Yep,” Simon confirms.
“You could just ask.”
“You won't answer me. It's bro code, whether you like watching Jace be wooed or not. So, I'll have to earn it. Plus, you'd be lying to yourself if you said you didn't want to knock me on my ass a couple of times. Do we have a deal?”
Alec huffs a quiet laugh, barely even twitching his lips. “You're taking this very seriously.”
“I do that a lot. When I was in the ninth grade, I made it my mission to get all of the teachers to tell me their first names willingly, and it took me nearly the whole year - Lisa, who taught math, was not budging there for a minute - but I eventually reached my goal. I said I was gonna woo Jace, so now I kinda have to, just like when I was seven and-”
“Simon, shut up.”
“Right.” Simon warily broadens his stance, chewing the inside of his bottom lip. “So?”
“What happens if you can't knock me down?”
“Then I'm shit out of luck. How do you like your chances?”
Alec smirks. “I'd say they're in my favor. Alright, Simon, you've got yourself a deal.”
Magnus gives a soft laugh, crossing his legs and putting his chin in his hands, eyes trained on Alec's form in open appreciation.
Simon gets knocked flat on his back twelve times before he even makes Alec stumble. He tries, boy does he ever, but Alec is fast and strong. He's practically a freaking expert and he shows absolutely no mercy, nor does he seem winded in the least. Actually, just like this, Alec looks as if he's having a grand time; he's focused and intent, but he's loose and actually smiling, even laughing when Magnus tosses out his approval for Alec.
It takes Simon a long time to adjust to Alec's fighting style. Even with Simon using his speed and strength, Alec matches him strike for strike. Simon can't believe he's doing this, all for one question, but he's steadfast in his goal. Faintly, he hears the door open and close, but he doesn't realize it's Jace until his voice registers through the room.
“Why's Simon here and why is he getting his ass kicked by my brother?”
Then, suddenly, Simon is serious. Without meaning to, he focuses sharp on Alec and draws himself into genuinely trying. It takes three more times before he manages to get Alec to use the same maneuver back to back, probably thinking Simon doesn't notice. When he goes for it a fourth time, Simon whirls out of the way and drops low, kicking Alec's feet out from under him and sending him sprawling.
Magnus lets out a low whistle. “It seems Simon got exactly what he came here for.”
“Damn,” Alec mutters, frowning up at Simon in faint annoyance. “I ought to kick your ass for that.”
Simon's a good sport because he offers his hand to Alec, who takes it with a grimace of disapproval, and pulls him to his feet. “So… I'll text you?”
Alec rolls his eyes. “Fine, but it was only one, Simon. That's all you get.”
“Trust me, that's all I need.” Simon rolls his shoulder with a wince. “Besides, I don't think I'll ever get desperate enough again to let you to beat me that many times in a row.”
Alec grumbles quietly, but goodnaturedly. They put their staffs up and separate with a nod. Simon's got what he came here for, so he's grinning broadly. Alec rolls his eyes again, but goes over to Magnus to complain about his one loss, which Simon is sure he plays up for the way Magnus kisses him in consolidation. Simon, however, marches over to a very confused Jace.
“Alec totally let you win that,” Jace informs him with a frown, crossing his arms.
Simon shrugs and heads to the door with a playful wink. “Maybe, maybe not, but all that matters is that I won.”
Simon, 9:29pm: look to your left
Jace's head snaps up from his phone and whips over to Simon almost immediately, his lips tipping down. Simon is only slightly cowed by the force of his glare, but he's intent on this, so he pushes himself forward, listening to his shoes crunch on the grass.
“What are you doing here?” Jace snaps.
Simon smiles at him. “Oh, you know, I was just out for a stroll. That shirt looks good on you, by the way. It really shows off your shoulders.”
“Everything looks good on me,” Jace quips back as if it's a reflex. “No seriously, what do you want?”
“Are you sure? Because now I'm picturing you with green hair and dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and wearing sandals. Ha, that would- that- okay, you'd probably look good in that too, which is so many levels of unfair that I can't even begin to explain it.”
“You seem to be under the impression that I won't introduce my fist to your face.”
Simon rolls his eyes. “I've gotten that idea, yes. So, listen, I was thinking-”
“You have a brain?”
“-that since you have patrols for the next hour, I could come keep you company! I even brought you something to sweeten the pot.”
“I'd prefer you to leave and take whatever you've got with you,” Jace informs him in a clipped tone, eyes narrowing suspiciously.
“I brought you a mango smoothie,” Simon tells him, pulling his hand from around his back to reveal just that. “Try it, then reconsider.”
“Are you bribing me?”
“Is it working?”
“No.” Jace moves over to snatch the smoothie from his hands, sniffing through the straw and staring at the smoothie doubtfully. “Is it good?”
Simon blinks. “You've never- of course you haven't. I prefer strawberry personally, or I did before I died, but mango is pretty good.”
Jace presses his lips into a thin line, still eyeing Simon warily, like he might've poisoned it or something. When Simon waves an encouraging hand, Jace hesitates only a moment before taking a long pull on the smoothie. Simon watches him swallow, frown, drink some more, then stare at the smoothie in open surprise.
“Oh,” Jace says distractedly, “that's pretty good.”
“So, has that permitted me to stay for your shift? Because, listen, that cost me nearly four dollars and I deserve a reward,” Simon jokes.
Jace arches an eyebrow as he sips his smoothie, looking a little ridiculous and perfect in all black while drinking a mango smoothie. “No one told you to spend nearly four dollars on me, Simon.”
“Well, true, but it was my in with you, so it was completely worth it,” Simon tells him, dipping low in a bow, tucking one foot behind the other. He pops back up with a bright smile. “So, what do you do on patrols anyway?”
“Walk the perimeter, check for any slips in defense, be on the lookout for any dangerous activity.” Jace eyes him pointedly. “Report any notable changes, such as an annoying vampire showing up who won't leave, which is trespassing technically.”
Simon frowns at him. “Come on, man. I totally brought you a smoothie, and hey, I plan to entertain you for your whole shift.”
“And just how do you plan to do that?”
“Let me stick around and you'll find out.”
Jace's eyebrows hike up. “You're aware that what you just said sounded very suggestive, right? You're supposed to be wooing me, not trying to get me naked the second we're alone. I mean, I don't blame you, I'm me, but that kind of defeats the purpose of whatever it is you're doing, doesn't it?”
“The only thing I was suggesting was that I could make your shift a little less boring,” Simon says, his own eyebrows raising. “Funny, though, that you went straight to sex that fast.”
“I just assume everyone wants to have sex with me at this point.”
“And I assume most of everyone has; it's probably only matter of time before I do as well.”
“In your dreams.” Jace snorts and takes another pull on the smoothie, his eyes fluttering shut like he's in bliss.
“Don't drink it too fast, you'll get-”
“Yeah,” Simon mutters, snickering as Jace presses two fingers to his temple. “Stop pouting, you're so dramatic. Come on, let's get you back to your job while I tell you a really embarrassing story about a time that I got my first concussion.”
Jace hums, dropping his hand, and like the glutton for punishment he is, he takes yet another draw on the smoothie. Wincing, he pushes through it and sucks down on the straw as if it's a personal challenge. He starts slowly strolling beside Simon, eyebrows creased, his focus on finishing the smoothie as quickly as possible. Its should not, by any means, be as adorable as it is.
When he's finished it, Jace passes the empty cup over to him and smirks. “You, in pain? Simon, you should've led with that.”
Simon rolls his eyes and keeps pace with Jace. They walk slow, but purposefully, and Jace seems to scan their surroundings as he listens. Simon chatters on, going into detail about his first attempt at bowling and how he'd fallen head first into a rack full of bowling balls because he'd been too embarrassed to get the correct shoe size from the cute guy behind the counter - he'd let his toes pinch and was incredibly off balance all because the guy with the wide smile make his tongue tie up, and in the end, he'd nearly split his skull open for it. Jace, apparently, thinks this is hilarious.
Simon doesn't really mind his laughter; it's kind of the whole point of telling that particular story. It's hard for him to bite back insults though, especially when Jace doesn't, but he manages to soften his sharp words into light bickering. Seemingly without knowing it, Jace does the same.
Actually, the whole hour passes by smoothly. When they're not actually hostile towards each other, Simon finds that he doesn't mind it all that much.
So, he talks and talks and talks. He tells as many mildly embarrassing stories as he can, not even that bothered by doing so when Jace laughs freely - it's at Simon, but somehow… it feels as if it's with him. More surprisingly, Jace actually tells a story or two of his own. The first time he starts an anecdote about when Izzy pushed him down the stairs, he gets halfway through before he seems to realize what he's doing. Simon can visibly see him shutting down, so he starts rambling and pulling Jace back in with another story of the time he fell off the slide at the park and cried for thirty minutes.
After that, Jace doesn't stop himself from telling his own stories, even if he is visibly hesitant about doing so. All in all, it's the most fun he's ever had in Jace's presence and he's genuinely surprised by it.
Then, just like that, it comes to an end. A girl steps out to relieve Jace, immediately heading off in the opposite direction after telling Jace his shift has ended. For a moment, they both just stand there and stare at each other, then Jace scowls.
“Welp,” Simon chirps, rocking back on his heels and smiling wide, “were you entertained?”
“Hated every second,” Jace declares with a frown.
Simon snorts. “Sure you did. Alright, I'll see you tomorrow night. Same time, same smoothie.”
Jace jolts in place. “What? No. Absolutely not. I'm not going through this again.”
“What are you gonna do?” Simon asks teasingly, waggling his eyebrows. “Report me?”
With that, Simon clicks his teeth and winks, darting away before Jace can say another word. He's back home in less than five minutes, so he eats and showers to pass the time. After, he crawls into his bed and thumbs into his phone, going stock still to see that he's got his very first text from Jace.
Jace, 10:57pm: No.
Simon, 11:00pm: goodnight Jace
Simon very nearly trips over himself to get to the door before Jace does. With a beaming smile, he opens the door with a flourish and sweeps his hand out to gesture Jace through.
Jace frowns about it, but he goes.
“You're very dedicated,” Izzy teases, a knowing glint in her eyes that Simon does not like the implications of at all. “I heard you go on patrols with him now. Should we be expecting an announcement soon?”
Simon rolls his eyes. “Oh, please, this isn't even all that I've got. Just you wait, it gets worse. He's going to want to bury his head in the sand by the time I'm through with him.”
“I'll let Magnus know he should start planning the engagement party,” Alec deadpans, crossing his arms and looming over everyone with all his tallness, making Clary look extra short beside him.
“No, it's not even remotely like that,” Simon assures them seriously. “I'm just enjoying making him miserable; it's the highlight of my day.”
Clary bites her lip to keep from grinning. “You mean Jace is the highlight of your day?”
“Correction, I'll have Magnus go ahead and start planning the wedding,” Alec says sarcastically.
“None of you have vision. Also, I'm not wooing any of you either, so hold your own damn door.” Simon huffs and turns to walk into Jade Wolf with a frown tugging on his lips.
To his credit, Jace says nothing when Simon comes to a halt beside him with a little huff. If anything, Jace seems to sense his annoyance and finds it amusing, if the way his lips curl up are anything to go by. Before Simon can stomp on Jace's foot out of pure frustration, Luke steps in front of them with his eyebrows raised.
“This really isn't the time,” Luke says, eyes flicking to the other patrons.
Simon warily looks at the other wolves in the room, shifting awkwardly at their visible disdain and obvious rumbling. “Jeez, you'd think they'd be better after all this alliance stuff.”
“There's been an attack,” Luke informs them. “One of our own… she was slaughtered. She smelled of Shadowhunter when we found her.”
“Oh, great,” Jace mutters, heaving a sigh and tossing his hands up. “We were just coming here to warn you and your pack. Got a call from Raphael too. One of his clan went missing. He'd apparently been on the phone with another clan member when he said, "Shadowhunter," and then the line went dead.”
Luke's eyebrows shoot up. “A rogue Shadowhunter? Looks like it's becoming normal these days.”
“We're doing our best,” Alec says as he walks up, looking exhausted suddenly. “We have no way of knowing who's doing this, just know they're a Shadowhunter. But we're fairly certain it's someone who doesn't like the idea of the alliance.”
“So, what are you thinking? Should we disband it?” Luke asks, crossing his arms.
Izzy tsks. “Absolutely not. We can't let them win like that. No, we hunt this son of a bitch down and turn him over to the Clave.”
“And lose more of our own in the process,” a wolf barks, suddenly shooting to his feet. “How are we supposed to know that this isn't some kind of ploy from all of you? False sense of security.”
Jace whirls around and glares at the man, leaning forward slightly. “We're trying to protect you and your pack, so you should be a little grateful.”
“Oh, should I? None of this would have ever happened if you people hadn't started all this.” The man takes a step forward, moving through the rows of booths to edge towards Jace, his whole body trembling with restrained anger. “In fact, I think it best to go and head this problem off right now.”
Luke opens his mouth, eyes flashing green, but he doesn't get the chance. Jace straightens, broadening his stance automatically, but he doesn't get the chance either. The moment the man makes an aborted movement forward as if he's going to hit Jace, Simon blurs beside him and twists his arm hard, slamming him face first into the table.
“Not in your wildest dreams, buddy,” Simon says cheerfully, grimacing when the man flops underneath him and starts growling.
“Simon!” Luke steps forward with a growl of his own, shaking his head. “Let him go.”
Huffing, Simon does as he's told, dropping the man's arm and taking a step back. The man immediately whirls around with his teeth bared, but Luke just steps in his path, pointing to the door with a forceful glare. Growling, the man stomps out, slamming the door shut behind him.
“Damn,” Clary says lightly, eyeing Simon in slight surprise, lips twitching when Simon winks at her.
“That was uncalled for,” Luke scolds sharply, frowning at Simon in such a dad way. “The wolf that died? That was his wife.”
Simon winces. “Sorry,” he mutters, gesturing to Jace weakly. “I know he's mourning, but he looked ready to kill, and I'm currently wooing Jace, so I couldn't let him die until I'm done.”
“Thanks,” Jace deadpans.
Luke looks confused. “You're- wait, I don't want to know. Look, just give me something here, something that will make me not want to back out of this alliance. They're my pack; I won't endanger them.”
“And no one is asking you to,” Alec assures him with a sigh. “We'll find the Shadowhunter who's doing this, Luke, I promise. All I'm asking is for some time and trust. That's what this alliance is all about, remember? It goes both ways.”
“Luke, we will catch them,” Clary says, reaching out to squeeze Luke's arm.
Luke heaves a sigh. “Fine. Fine. But if someone else is hurt, I'm done.”
The response to that is various forms of agreement, then they're off to find the Shadowhunter who's throwing a wrench in all their plans. Simon's only here because Raphael refuses to be, plus Clary doesn't want him out of her sight - not with downworlders being attacked.
As they step outside, Jace frowns at him, eyes narrowing. “That stunt you pulled… never again, you understand me? I can handle myself.”
“Hey, I'm your knight in shining armor!” Simon protests, tossing his hands up.
“You're my annoyance in graphic t-shirts,” Jace retorts sarcastically.
Simon winks at him. “But I'm yours.”
Jace, 8:19pm: We got him.
Simon, 8:33pm: yay! so Luke's cool?
Jace, 8:39pm; Yes.
Simon, 8:43: hey so I got you something
Simon, 9:26pm: okay you're clearly not gonna ask, SO I was thinking that you come over and get it
Jace, 9:39pm: No.
Simon, 9:40pm: I'll make it worth your time
Jace, 9:54: Everything you say sounds like an innuendo. No wonder girls hate you.
Simon, 9:56pm: girls do NOT hate me. now are you coming?
Jace, 10:00pm: That was just uncalled for.
Simon, 10:03pm: get your head out the gutter and come get your gift
Jace, 10:10pm: No.
Simon, 10:12pm: if you don't come, I'll just show up at the institute and serenade you, which literally no one will let you live down
Jace, 10:15pm: I'm on the way.
“Oh my g- you're actually wearing it!”
Jace arches an eyebrow and looks down at the shirt stretched across his chest. Simon nearly falls out of his chair at the sight of it. Black, with the words “If your boyfriend isn't treating you right, let that MAN-GO” with a little mango on the right, which has cute little cartoon eyes and a small smile.
Jace holds out his hand. “Yeah, you bet me twenty bucks that I wouldn't. Pay up.”
“It looks very good on you,” Simon says in a pleased fashion, even as he digs the money out of his wallet and passes it over. “So, where's Clary?”
“On her way. She's trying to extract herself from Izzy at the moment.” Jace's features visibly soften with amusement. “Izzy's taken her shopping.”
“So, in other words, Clary isn't coming.”
Simon rolls his eyes. “Alright, I can work with this. It's just a ride to the other side of the city in the middle of the day, no big deal.”
“Shouldn't be a problem if you shut up the whole time,” Jace agrees, smirking as he stomps towards the van to wrench open the door.
Simon grumbles as he blurs over to the passenger side to close the door before Jace can do it himself. Jace scowls at him through the window, but Simon ignores him and moves over to his door and slides in behind the wheel. With a little sputter, his van comes to life and pulls them out to the road.
Simon does not shut up the whole time.
In fact, Simon thinks this is the perfect time to give Jace another one of his gifts. "Hey," he says casually, pointing lazily at the glove compartment. "Do me a favor and find me a CD."
Jace shoots him a suspicious look, but does it silently. He opens the compartment with a little click and starts rummaging around. Simon waits. He doesn't have to wait very long. The sound of the CD cases sliding over each other as Jace looks through them comes to an abrupt halt, and Jace makes a quiet sound of disdain.
"Simon," Jace mutters, "what the-"
"It's a CD." Simon takes his eyes off the road for a split second to smile at Jace, who looks as if he's swallowed a lemon whole. "Modern day mixtape, sorta. I could have just made you a playlist, but this is a bit more involved. I remember making CDs for people when I was in the fifth grade; as you can guess, I made Clary one. Anyway, it has songs on it with you in mind. Play it."
Jace sighs. "Simon-"
"Play the damn CD, Jace."
"I could break it, you know," Jace says conversationally, flipping open the case and grimacing when he reads Simon's CD for Jace on the front. Jace takes the CD out and stares at it like he might actually break the damn thing.
Simon tsks. "Yeah, you could, but I put a lot of work into that; plus, if you do, you'll never know what's on it. Gonna have to listen to know."
There's a pause where Jace obviously weighs his own curiosity against the satisfaction he'd get from breaking it. Evidently, his curiosity wins out because he huffs and eases the CD into the slot. Simon has to reach forward to switch from the radio to the CD player and their hands brush for a split second; Jace snatches his hand back as if it's burned. Simon mentally puts a pin in that and waits for the first song to pour through the speakers.
Let it not be said that Simon isn't just as much of an asshole as Jace is.
The first twang of a banjo pours through the van and Jace looks instantly horrified. Here I Am In Love Again by John Hartford has a chipper tune that has Simon immediately rocking from side to side with a broad smile. Amusement bubbles up within him at Jace's visible dislike of the song - one that's obviously a love song of sorts. Simon is so very glad that Jace didn't break the CD.
"You've got to be joking," Jace declares, looking at Simon with a flat expression.
Simon puts a hand over his heart. "You wound me. What are you talking about, this is quality music. Deny it, I dare you." Jace opens his mouth to do just that, so Simon cuts him off by crooning the next few lyrics around a smile. "I've tried to get you off my mind, but it's so hard now to pretend. The more I try, the more I find, here I am in love again!"
Jace scowls, but Simon can see the faintest curl to the corner of his lips. Simon feels victorious.
The CD itself has fourteen songs, four of which are actually Simon's, and only three out of the other ten are something Jace might genuinely enjoy. The rest are cheesy love songs or eighties rock ballads that are all about love, with two exceptions of pop songs that will undoubtedly get stuck in Jace's head, because Simon really can be an asshole when he wants to be. By the time they get through the entire set, they're halfway to their destination and Jace looks ready to claw his own ears off.
When it starts again, Jace mashes buttons until he manages to eject the disk and slip it back in its case. Simon watches this with the air of a man who's just reached peak levels of success.
"I hate you," Jace tells him.
Simon snorts. "No, you don't. You love my gifts. Speaking of, what size shoe do you wear?"
"Absolutely not, Simon. I draw the fucking line at wearing sandals. No amount of money in this world could change my mind."
"The fact that you know where I was going with that says a lot about both of us."
"I hate you," Jace repeats, but this time it sounds even weaker than the first.
Simon just smiles.
They run the errand with mild bickering the rest of the way. Simon thinks it's an improvement; usually, if they're forced to do things alone, they're mostly in stifling silence - this, Simon decides, is better.
It's on the way back that Simon notes the shift in Jace. He isn't sure what Jace actually had to cross town for, but whatever it is puts him in a shitty mood. He's sullen and stiff in the passenger seat, lips tipped down as he stares out the window without actually looking at the surroundings. Normally, Simon will just leave this alone and stay as quiet as he can be, but he has the sudden urge to try and make it better. Which, it takes him a few moments to realize that he doesn't actually enjoy Jace being in a bad mood, and that's just… weird.
He's not sure how to help with this, so he waits until they're at a stoplight to hesitantly reach over and touch Jace's arm. It's not as if they haven't touched before; in fact, they've touched plenty - usually, it's taps and shoves and little things that never linger, and it's certainly never this comforting.
Jace's reaction is immediate. As soon as Simon's fingers rest just below the crook of his arm, he goes solid and whips his head around to glare at Simon. Fortunately, Simon has had not only Alec, Raphael, and Magnus glare at him, but also Izzy, so Jace really doesn't compare; it's that immunity that grants him the strength to let his touch linger.
"You okay?" Simon asks carefully.
Jace narrows his eyes. "Fine."
"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't lie to me." Simon forces himself not to drop his hand as the light turns green and he focuses back on the road. "I'm not gonna try to pry it from you; I'm just offering an ear if you wanna talk about it."
"Well, I don't," Jace snaps.
"Okay," Simon says simply and doesn't move his hand. Jace is incredibly warm; hot, even.
A long beat passes. Simon watches Jace survey his fingers in his peripheral. He wonders if Jace is imagining all the ways he could break each finger; knowing him, he's doing exactly that. For whatever reason, Jace doesn't follow through, and he doesn't remove Simon's hand either. Progress, maybe?
"Is this another one of your wooing things?" Jace asks, no inflection in his tone to give away how he feels about the subject.
Simon frowns. "No," he admits awkwardly. It's really not, which is why it's awkward.
"We're not friends, Simon."
"We could be."
"Not if you're trying to woo me," Jace replies, clicking his tongue like Simon's an idiot.
"That's not- that's got nothing to do with being friends. Wooing you is just- it's for the injustice of it all, plus I really enjoy how much you hate it." Simon pauses to lay on his horn as someone cuts him off, scowling and tightening his hand on Jace's arm as he grumbles under his breath. Once again focused, Simon throws Jace an amused look. "I know you don't like me, which is fine, even if it is unfounded and completely ridiculous, but we have to tolerate each other. Is being friends with me that horrible?"
"Despicable. Dreadful. Displeasing. Difficult." Jace waves his free hand casually. "Take your pick."
Simon rolls his eyes. "So, my two options are rivals or lovers? That's pretty complex."
"Who says lovers is an option?" Jace replies tightly.
"Well, I am wooing you. You think it won't work, but it will, and then I could probably be your lover if I really wanted to."
"It won't work."
"Oh, really?" Simon slows the van down for the next stoplight, turning to arch an eyebrow at Jace as he jerks his chin at his hand on Jace's arm very pointedly. "And that has nothing to do with my charm, right?"
Jace arches an eyebrow right back, unbothered by Simon's attitude. "What charm? I thought that had nothing to do with wooing?"
"It was a friend thing, or an attempt at that, but you said we can't be friends, so it's now a wooing thing. Look at that, you played yourself."
"What, rivals can't touch?"
"If rivals want to touch, then maybe they lean a little bit more towards friends." Simon purses his lips and sweeps his thumb over Jace's arm. "Or, maybe lovers; I definitely don't judge."
Jace smirks. "Who said I want you to?"
"You haven't stopped me," Simon answers easily.
"But you haven't. Why?"
Jace doesn't answer, nor does he remove Simon's hand from his arm, and Simon drives the rest of the way in better spirits, his hand on Jace's arm the entire time. As it turns out, Jace's bad mood has vanished as well, leaving only the faint atmosphere that hints at confusion.
Simon takes his wins.
Maia pauses in wiping the counter. She crosses her arms and tilts her head. "Why?" she asks slowly, drawing the word out as her eyes narrow.
Simon rolls his eyes. "Relax, I'm not trying to start a fight in your bar. Actually, I'm wooing him, so I kinda need to know where he is to do that."
"You're what?" Maia's eyebrows fly up. "Oh god, I thought Alec was fucking with me."
"You and Alec talk?" Simon asks, confused.
Maia flaps a hand. "Tell me everything."
"Oh. Well, it's not- it isn't actually real. I found out he hasn't ever been wooed, so now I gotta do it. Turns out, he hates every second of it, which is why it's so much fun." Simon grins at her, leaning forward as he lowers his voice. "I bought him a shirt."
"So, you're pranking him?"
"Is it really a prank if he's aware of it? Nah, I'm just making him miserable."
"Right, because wooing someone makes them feel absolutely terrible." Maia arches an eyebrow at him, her gaze turning sharp. "You know, if the efforts are genuinely unwanted, you're actually doing something fucked up. Is he uncomfortable?"
Simon opens his mouth, then closes it. He hasn't actually stopped to consider that. Almost immediately, he feels guilt gurgle uncomfortably in the pit of his stomach. He's never actually been hit on and perused by someone he didn't want, but he knows Clary has and a few of the others - they had despised it. And it wasn't just a thing they'd waved off and chuckled about; no, they'd genuinely hated every second of it.
Simon one hundred percent does not want to be the guy who can't take a hint, joke or not. "Uh, you might have a point. Shit, where is he?"
Maia hums in approval. "He's out in the alley, talking to Magnus and Alec."
Simon thanks her quietly and slips off the barstool, discomfited as he heads towards the door. He feels kind of gross, icky in the sense that he doesn't even want to look in the mirror. He's never considered the fact that he could be the guy who's not taking no for an answer, but if he is, he knows he'll never forgive himself for it. This is what his mom meant when she told him not to joke too much.
He does, in fact, find Jace in the alleyway. Magnus and Alec take a corner just as Simon strolls up. It's better that way; Simon really doesn't want an audience. Jace swings around with a small smile, then jerks to a halt when he sees Simon. He rolls his eyes and crosses his arms.
"Are you stalking me now?" Jace asks.
Simon's eyes bulge. "What, no. I- I asked Maia where you were. I came here to apologize."
Jace blinks. His arms drop. "What for? I mean, if you're apologizing for being an idiot, I fear that won't make up for your lack of-"
"Jace, I'm serious," Simon cuts in sharply, swallowing thickly and looking at the ground. "Maia might have implied that my wooing you as a joke is wrong, which I never stopped to think about, and I'm really sorry. I've probably made you super uncomfortable and been creepy, and I know that isn't okay. I just wanted to apologize because I really never stopped to think about how you'd feel about the joke."
"Wow," Jace says in amusement, "you're being completely sincere right now, aren't you?"
Simon jolts and stares at Jace. "Yes? Of course I am. I swear I'm not okay with making anyone feel like that, not even you."
"Simon, if you were making me uncomfortable, I would tell you." Jace shakes his head and looks skyward. "I know you don't mean any harm; I'm mostly going along with it to prove that it won't work. I'm un-wooable."
"First of all, no one is un-wooable, which isn't a word, by the way. Second of all," Simon mutters, shuffling his feet and pausing to bite his lip, "are you sure? I just know that you've said no and I've ignored you, and I'm not really- I don't like the idea that I was making you feel… bad."
"Are you trying to get me to consent to being wooed? I wasn't aware it was a thing people talked about."
"I mean, I'm not sure if it is. Usually, someone woos someone else, and at some point, it becomes clear if it's wanted or not. But you have told me to stop, which I didn't, and now I feel like shit for it."
Jace heaves a sigh. "Okay, that's fair. At least you're a good guy." He waves a hand and makes a face, wincing slightly. "Ignore that, I didn't say that, you didn't hear it. My point is, don't worry about it. You haven't made me uncomfortable, not that you could, and if I want you to actually stop, I'll tell you. Which, you can't stop now because I have a bet going with Alec, one I refuse to lose, so I'm gonna need you to put your back into it. I'm looking down the barrel at three days off, so hurry up and fail to woo me."
Simon's mouth drops open. "Did you- did you seriously bet on my ability to woo you? I can't believe I was actually worried. You're an asshole."
Jace grins and walks past him, clapping him unnecessarily hard on his shoulder as he goes past him. "Never said I wasn't. Good luck."
Simon purses his lips and stands out in the alley alone, coming to the realization that he has to take his losses too.
Simon is slightly surprised that Alec lets him in. It's all very covert, the way Alec sweeps him towards the hallway and keeps his eye out for anyone. Simon thinks about the bet Jace and Alec have and figures that's why he doesn't have to work so hard.
Still, Simon's super aware of everything he's doing now, thanks to Maia, so he knocks on Jace's door and promises to leave if Jace actually wants him to. When Jace peels open the door, Simon's mantra that he will do this the right way record-scratches in his mind. Jace, unfortunately, is very shirtless, which is, unfortunately, not a crime, but should be because, unfortunately, Simon is very, very sure it should be illegal. Jace has an incredibly nice torso, and Simon is a simple guy with eyes, so he'd be lying if he tried to tell anyone it doesn't affect him.
Simon is very affected by it, proven when Jace arches an eyebrow at him, and all he can manage to say is, "Why do you own shirts at all?"
A bark of laughter falls out of Jace's mouth, which surprises them both. Jace clears his throat and leans in the doorway. "What are you doing here?"
"One second, lemme just- let me adjust." Simon is pretty sure he won't adjust, so he fixes his gaze on some point past Jace's shoulder. That'll do. "Alright, I just wanted to stop by to, uh, show you some movies. I brought snacks."
"How'd you get in here?" Jace asks, frowning.
"How do you think?"
Simon huffs a quiet life. "Yeah, that'd be the one. Regretting that bet yet?"
"Not at all," Jace replies with a scoff. "I'm gonna win, so his efforts are wasted."
"Well, I can't weigh in on that. I'm just here with some movies." Simon clears his throat and looks to the ceiling in the hallway. Oh, would you look at that, it ' s marble. Jace's chest is- and nope. "Anyway, I'll leave, if you want."
Jace snorts. "Oh, please. It'll take more than a movie night to woo me. Come in."
Simon regrets this immensely. He lets out a deep breath and eases in the room, carefully not looking at Jace's back as he paces over to the bed. He splays out on it in, presumably, the same position he was in before Simon interrupted him, which also should be illegal. Simon refrains from calling Clary and having her come paint the image of Jace sprawled out on his bed; it's art-worthy, without a doubt, but Clary would just laugh at him.
"Chocolate or candy?" Simon asks as he busies himself with unloading his laptop bag.
He sits the faux leather bag on the bed and pulls out his laptop, which fails to be of interest to Jace. The snacks, however, garner his attention almost immediately. Jace doesn't actually answer his question, but he does pluck up the cheap bag of gummy worms as soon as they hit the bed. He goes about watching Simon as he tears into the bag and drops a gummy worm in his mouth, chewing a little obnoxiously because it makes Simon roll his eyes.
"What're we watching?"
"Your pick, actually. I have a whole library of options on my computer. Most of it is Marvel stuff, nothing new, but there's some classics here too."
Jace hums and leans back into his pillows, bag of gummy worms on his chest. "You know, I've never seen the Twilight movies."
Simon goes very still. "I'm going to kill her."
"Yeah," Jace says happily, "you're not the only one with a traitor for a best friend. She might have mentioned that you didn't like those movies."
"It's not that I didn't like them, okay? It has a damn good playlist and some of the scenes are downright pretty for a hyped up franchise made for squabbling teens too busy trying to choose between two guys to realize that both of those guys are toxic and abusive, which doesn't even include the entire plotline dedicated to a grown man having a connection to a baby, as if grooming isn't a thing in that universe."
"Wow, you really don't like them."
Simon sighs. "The books are even worse. Do you really wanna watch them?"
"After that?" Jace wrinkles his nose. "Nah. I'll give you that; it's not even worth pissing you off with."
"Thanks," Simon mutters dryly. "D'you wanna watch something vampire-oriented that isn't bad? Because, lemme tell you, The Queen Of The Damned is also on my laptop and pretty good."
Jace arches an eyebrow. "I thought I got to pick. Lemme see them."
Simon goes to hand Jace the laptop, but the motion is aborted halfway through because Jace just sits the gummy worms aside and slides down the bed; he leans on his elbow and scrolls through the movies. Simon can see the stretch of his skin as it dips into hip bones that just barely poke out the waist of his joggers. It's rude, is what that is.
"What about this? It looks promising?" Jace turns the laptop to reveal Forrest Gump, blinking up at Simon patiently. "Is it any good?"
"Well, every movie has its own issues, and this one isn't short on them, but the overall plot really drives an awesome story. It's another classic. My, uh, dad loved the movie, used to watch it with me and my sister all the time, so I've- so I keep it." Simon clears his throat and looks down at his arm, picking at the short hairs to distract himself from Jace's gaze.
A beat passes, then Jace says, "I had a mundie scream out "Run, Forrest, run" when I ran past them once, so I was just curious why. You don't mind?"
By all means, Simon should mind. He doesn't own the movie, obviously, but he's very particular about when he watches it and who he watches it with. Mostly because he can't watch it without sobbing, but also because it never fails to remind him of his dad in a way that doesn't hurt so much. It's… special to him, so he cherishes it. So, yeah, he should mind.
He finds that he doesn't. "It's fine," he says, and it really is, which is strange.
"Okay," Jace replies easily, sitting up and scooting back up the bed to put the gummy worms back on his chest as he sinks on his pillows yet again. He leaves the laptop down by Simon at the foot of the bed, and when Simon hesitates, Jace arches an amused eyebrow. "Well, are you getting in bed with me or not? Don't worry, I'm not going to seduce you or anything, I promise."
"Getting into bed with Jace Herondale is probably the last thing I ever expected to do, so excuse me for being a little wary." Simon rolls his eyes and toes out of his shoes, then grabs the laptop and plops gracelessly on the bed. He pauses, the laptop still hovering over his stomach. "Wow, so many girls just got a spike of envy and they don't even know why."
Jace snorts, then coughs to hide it, but Simon hears it all the same. "Whatever, Simon. Just play the damn movie. Gummy worm?"
"You're an asshole," Simon tells Jace casually, settling the laptop on his stomach and turning to glare at the asshole currently chewing a gummy worm with a wide grin. "What's it taste like?"
"You've never had one?"
"Of course I have, but all I know is that if I ate one right now, it would be disgusting. I'm having a hard time remembering what it tasted like before."
"Oh." Jace blinks, then frowns. "At first, it tastes kinda stuffy, like there's a layer of rubber on the outside. After a moment, it's a little sour, but mostly tangy with a fake fruity flavor. Nothing to write home about, I assure you, but it's probably so good because of the shape and how slippery it gets."
Simon swallows. "Right," he croaks. "Shit, I really miss food. I think my last meal was a poptart and instant coffee with too little sugar. If I'd known-"
"Not your fault."
"Right, but if I had known, I think I'd have called my mom and asked her to cook. I'd have savored every damn bite."
Jace looks a little uncomfortable. "What's the blood taste like? I mean- wait, that's probably weird. I just mean, is it like eating when you were human? Different tastes and shit?"
"It's… complicated. Different blood types taste different, but none of them are amazing. Like none of them give me the satisfaction pizza used to; it's mostly just substance." Simon rolls his eyes when Jace snorts quietly. "The only time blood was ever truly perfect was-"
"What?" Jace prompts, arching his eyebrows.
Simon hesitates. He isn't sure if he should actually bring this up or not. But Jace is just staring at him, waiting, so he admits, "When I drank from the source - from you. It was better than any food I'd ever ate as a human; nothing can compare to it. That's kinda fucked up, but it was- I can't even explain how good it was."
"Huh," Jace says, making a considering expression, bottom lip poking out slightly. "Well, at least it was as good for you as it was for me."
Simon freezes, mind short-circuiting. Some primal part of his brain puts the pieces together and lets him know that Jace had liked being bitten and could probably be convinced to do it again. He brushes that off easily, however, too caught up in the fact that Jace is just admitting it. Not that he could very well deny it - Simon remembers in perfect clarity how Jace had reacted to the bite, how he'd tossed his Clary-shaped head back and gasped as a tear ran down his cheek, how he'd panted and gazed at Simon afterwards. Still, even with the evidence stacked against him, Simon is surprised that Jace apparently has no shame about it.
Jace seems completely at ease, face smoothing out as he pops another gummy worm in his mouth, but Simon knows better. He's been watching Jace since this whole wooing situation started, so he's attuned to his reactions. Right now, Jace seems cool as a cucumber, but there's a charge in the air that has him tapping his fingers against his stomach while his foot jerks back and forth in a jittery motion. Simon wants to reach out and stop his leg from moving, but he has no idea what action that contact would spur on, so he keeps his hands to himself.
"Well," he says awkwardly, clearing his throat as he reaches up to fiddle mindlessly with his laptop, "I guess it was, um, mutually… beneficial- no, not that at all. Uh, it was a good time for both of us, but definitely not something to repeat."
Jace chuckles, his leg going still. "Simon, I'm not offering you my blood here, calm down. It's common for the recipient to… enjoy it."
Simon coughs. "Right."
"Oh, just play the damn movie, Simon."
"Yeah, that's- yeah."
Simon plays the movie and leans back into the pillows behind him, trying to relax. Jace goes back to enjoying his cheap gummy worms - which Simon does not resent, thank you very much - and seems entranced by the movie after about three minutes. As Jace visibly gets sucked into the story on the screen, Simon slowly calms down.
In all honesty, Simon isn't sure how this is supposed to help the wooing process beyond desensitizing Jace to his presence. It's not a strategic plan that will make Jace like him more, but it's a subtle move that suggests to Jace - without saying a word - that he should be comfortable with Simon. It's about Simon being around, yet not impending on his space - just a quiet presence at his side.
Except, that's not how it goes at all.
Jace asks a lot of questions. He wants to know everything from who Elvis is - which is a whole conversation within itself - to why there are so many different ways to cook shrimp. He's blatantly curious, reaching out to pause the movie and interrupt with comments and queries, then going back to it with avid interest. It's not over-bearing, only mildly irritating at best and sort of amusing in an endearing way, which Simon is slightly horrified to authentically feel fondness for Jace.
However, he knows when to shut up; Simon appreciates that. When the mom passes away and Simon inevitably cries, Jace doesn't say a word. In fact, he acts like he doesn't even notice; it's better than if he'd tried to comfort, Simon doesn't want that. Overall, it's not as bad of an experience as it could have been, and Simon only cries three times throughout the whole movie - a new record.
When it's over, Jace has ate all the gummy worms and started in on the chocolate-covered peanuts with less enthusiasm. As the credits roll, he hums and says, "Well, that wasn't what I expected."
"Yeah," Simon agrees, "it's a lot."
"I like it though," Jace admits. "Lieutenant Dan is my favorite, I think."
Simon snorts. "Of course he is."
"So, I'm still not wooed. Gonna give up or try for another movie?"
"Depends on what your next pick is."
Jace reaches over and starts scrolling through more of Simon's movies. The cursor suddenly stops and Simon nearly groans. Jace hovers over a particular movie and muses, "Hey, didn't you call me that once? Literally the first day we met."
"Yeah," Simon mutters, very thankful he can't actually blush anymore. "That's the second movie. The first one is really good, but I don't have that one. Doesn't matter, we don't have to-"
"Oh no, we're watching this." Jace clicks on it before Simon can bat his hand away. "I wanna know exactly who Captain America is."
Simon can't hold back a groan as the movie starts.
Five minutes into the movie, Jace is silently shaking with laughter and Simon wants to sink into the bed and never resurface. Honestly, death would be better than this. It's unavoidable. He can't take back the fact that, after knowing Jace for all of an hour, he likened him to the amazingly attractive hero that's on the screen now. It's freaking embarrassing, is what it is, but it isn't like he can go back in time and tell himself not to be instantly attracted to Jace and fail to taunt him properly.
By ten minutes, Jace is full out laughing, not even trying to hide it anymore, and Simon is never living this down. With a huff, he snaps the laptop shut, cutting off the movie, and pins a glare on Jace that he hopes is effective; it's not, if the way Jace laughs even harder is anything to go by.
"You," Simon declares, "are an asshole."
Jace breaks out laughing again, this time even harder, and it's actually… inelegant. His whole body shakes, eyes tearing up, hands curling around his chest as he sits up to try and catch his breath. His laugh is loud and resembles something like a very happy walrus with the occasional wheeze thrown in. It's possibly the least attractive that Simon has ever seen him, yet Simon is pretty sure that Jace has never looked as beautiful as he does now. The mere thought is so fucking potent and accurate that Simon resigns himself to it, just inwardly sighs and settles to enjoy the sight.
When Jace manages to collect himself, he blows out an explosive breath and flops back onto his pillows, chest heaving like he's done something extremely strenuous. "Holy shit," he blurts out, pausing to swallow yet another laugh. Again, he says, "Holy shit, that's amazing. I don't think I've ever laughed that hard; that's the best thing that's ever happened to me. How do you walk around without shame?"
Flatly, Simon mutters, "I don't."
That sets Jace off again. It almost looks like he's in pain; he curls on his side and cradles his abdomen like it's genuinely sore. He doesn't seem to care that his head has landed on Simon's shoulder, nor does he seem bothered when he reaches out and grips Simon's closest leg like he needs something to hold onto. He just leans into Simon and laughs uproariously, yet again looking simultaneously disheveled and flawless.
Simon kind of hates him.
"You should- fuck, you should see your fucking face, Simon." Jace tilts his head back and wheezes out another laugh, mismatched eyes glittering as he peers up at him. "It's the best thing I've ever seen. You look so- so fucking pissed. But you - ha! - did it to yourself."
"I'm glad you're enjoying yourself." Simon heaves a sigh through his nose and reaches down to flick Jace on the forehead. "You ruined a perfectly good movie, so thanks for that."
Jace lifts his hand from Simon's shoulder, flapping it easily as he reaches over to grab the laptop. "Okay, okay, I'll leave you alone about it. For now. Just know, I'm going to tell everyone that the worst insult you could up with was to call me Captain America, who is a multitude of things that can be quickly summed up with hot, blonde, and heroic."
"I, like, really don't like you."
"Yeah, tell that to Captain America."
Simon huffs and tugs on a strand of Jace's hair, pulling and dropping it in a split second, stunned by how soft his hair is. He quickly barrels over that action by threatening, "If you can't behave, I will leave and take Captain America with me."
"Fine," Jace grumbles, rolling his eyes and pressing play, balancing the laptop on Simon's legs. And coincidentally, Jace's head somehow finds his shoulder again and doesn't seem to care to move.
The movie starts yet again, Jace laughs every time Captain America does anything amazing, and Simon barely looks at the screen at all.
Simon's phone is what wakes him up.
It nearly vibrates off the stand beside his bed before he can grab it. Groggy and not entirely certain what decade it is, Simon answers with a garbled, "H'lo?"
"Are you alive?"
Simon blinks, squinting around the darkness of his room, lips tipping down. When he settled in for a nap, it was daylight out; it no longer is. It takes him a moment to register that it's Jace's voice on the other end, then he has to take a few moments to parse out why he might not be alive. Well, as alive as he can be with being a vampire.
Jace sighs. "Simon, are you okay?"
"I'm… fine." Simon's pretty sure that he's okay. His brain is slowly coming back online, so that's a good sign. "Uh, why? What makes you think m'not?"
"It's 10:15," Jace tells him slowly.
It takes Simon another few moments to understand why that time is important. When he does, his eyes fly wide and he scrambles out of bed, shoving the phone between his ear and his shoulder as he searches for the nearest clean shirt. Fuck, it's fifteen minutes into Jace's patrol, which he hasn't missed since he coerced Alec into giving him information on it.
"Shit, shit, shit." Simon nearly drops the phone and makes a frustrated sound as he tries to put on a shirt, hold the phone in place, and shove his foot into a shoe all at once. "Crap, sorry, I fell asleep. I was supposed to take a nap, but ya know how you can never figure out what kind of nap it will be? You're either sleeping for the perfect amount and waking up feeling rested, or you sleep for too long and wake up not knowing your own name. It's really Russian Roulette with naps, but I figured the reward outweighed the risk; boy was I wrong. Just- fuck, where's my- oh! Anyway, I'll be there in like- just give me three minutes, and I'll-"
"Simon!" Jace's shout makes Simon go still and silent instantly. "Go back to sleep. I was just making sure you weren't dead. You didn't mention skipping out on relentlessly annoying me tonight, so I figured I'd better check. You're fine, so feel free to skip and sleep instead."
"No, I'm committed," Simon replies with a huff, rolling his eyes as he remembers that phone's have the speaker option for a reason. He gets dressed as he talks, frustration easing as he slowly relearns to use his fucking common sense. "Anyway, I'm not going to be able to bring you anything but myself, but I'll get you something later."
Jace sighs. "Simon, you don't have to get me anything at all. It's really not-"
"Jace, let me do my thing, okay?" Simon cuts him off, fumbling around for his hoodie. "The woo-er should get gifts and not bail on the woo-ee. Don't worry, I'll make it up to you somehow."
"You're utterly ridiculous, I hope you know that."
"I'm mostly aware. See you in two."
Before Jace can reply, Simon hangs up and nearly trips on his way over to the mirror. He scowls at his hair as the clock blinks at him innocently. Two minutes can't salvage the mess atop his head; hell, twenty minutes couldn't even help. He settles for running his fingers through it the best he can and scoops up his things as he heads to the door. Already late, he skips on the van and just runs.
Jace switches up his routine every patrol, just in case someone's trying to memorize the way he does it. That means it takes nearly a minute for Simon to locate him on the far right edge of the property, but he's not any later than he already was. Jace takes one look at him and shakes his head.
"Ridiculous," he says, by way of greeting.
Simon beams at him. "But I'm here. I can't believe a nap nearly ruined my streak."
"I'm not calling next time," Jace informs him, rolling his eyes and pivoting as he starts walking.
"As if I'll make this mistake again." Simon snorts and falls into step beside him. They're quiet for a moment, then a thought strikes him. "Why did you call? Were you worried?"
"No. Absolutely not. No." Jace looks disgusted by the mere suggestion, the venom in his voice lacing his words with determination. It's as much of an admission to the truth than if he'd just admitted it to begin with.
Simon grins. "Aw, you were worried. Now, that's adorable."
"I wasn't," Jace denies immediately. He cuts his eyes at Simon, lips tipping down. "Shut up, I wasn't."
"Oh, wow. You really were." Simon blinks, a little surprised. "Shit, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stress you out, man."
Jace huffs and reaches out to shove roughly at his shoulder, scowling as he picks up his pace. Simon has to bite back a smile, warmth curling in his chest at the fact that Jace had genuinely been concerned for him. That's… well, it's as amazing as it is surprising, and it's definitely progress.
It's clear that Jace isn't in any mood to talk, so Simon gives him his space. It wouldn't do to push him when he's in this state anyway; for now, Simon's just content with the fact that Jace actually cares, even if he isn't willing to admit it.
The night crawls by slowly, cold and strangely quiet, but Simon doesn't mind. In fact, he's pleasantly surprised to realize that he's perfectly happy to hang out with Jace in complete silence. It's actually borderline comfortable, especially after Jace seems to get over his slip in emotional vulnerability and focuses on his patrol. The atmosphere eases until they're brushing shoulders with every step; Jace doesn't even seem aware of the contact.
Until it's not.
The attack comes out of nowhere. One second, they're strolling along, and the next, Jace is being tossed a few feet away by a mound of hissing flesh. Simon gets knocked back and has to wrap his mind around the fact that a fucking demon just hopped from the trees. For whatever reason, the demon seems hellbent on attacking Jace, which isn't ideal.
However, Jace is Jace, so he's up with his weapons drawn in seconds. He doesn't even hesitate; without even a hint of fear, he marches towards the demon with his stele waving over a rune.
Simon has seen this kind of thing plenty of times, but he hasn't really ever stopped to observe. A part of him thinks he should try and help, but he knows he'd probably just be a distraction. Besides, he trusts Jace to tell him what to do if the need arises, and he just trusts him, period. So, he scrambles to his feet and watches with wariness infused in every bone, tension making him feel as if he'll vibrate out of his skin at any second.
It takes Jace less than five minutes to kill the demon. It feels like the longest five minutes of Simon's life.
Jace tsks as he cleans the ichor off his blade and shakes his head. "Great, now I'm going to have to do fucking paperwork. I hate paperwork."
"Are you okay?" Simon asks weakly, hands fluttering awkwardly around. He threads his fingers together and squeezes, swallowing around a lump in his throat. "That was- it came out of nowhere."
"Comes with the job." Jace shrugs and finally looks over, running a hand through his hair. When he sees Simon, his hand drops and he blinks. "By the Angel, don't freak out, Simon. It was just one demon."
Simon nods, stomach swooping unpleasantly. He feels like he might be sick, even if he's not capable of that anymore. "Right," he rasps, taking in a shaky breath, "I know that. I know, I just- I don't know. You didn't- you never saw it until- and it could have just- it could have been bad. I'm just- I'm-"
"Hey," Jace says, his voice softer than Simon's ever heard. He walks over slowly, every inch of his body open in a non-threatening stance. "It's fine. You're fine, I'm fine, it's all fine. That happens sometimes, but not very often."
Surprisingly, that makes Simon feel better. He takes another deep breath, wringing out his hands and nodding rapidly. "I guess it just took me by surprise, is all. Wasn't expecting it. Thanks for-"
"Don't mention it." Jace is smiling, but only slightly, bottom lip caught between his teeth. "You gonna be okay? Not going to freak out on me, are you?"
"No, I'm good. It just- yeah." Simon clears his throat and shakes off the unease as best as possible. "Do I need to, uh, head out so you can do the paperwork?"
Jace considers him for a moment, eyes sweeping over him slowly. "No," he says carefully, averting his eyes. "I have to finish my shift out, so you can stick around for a little longer."
"Okay," Simon murmurs, stomach swooping again, this time for entirely different reasons and much more pleasantly.
"Have you considered the possibility that you enjoy wooing Jace just a little too much?"
Simon's head pops out around the corner of the shelf he's currently browsing. Clary's regarding him expectantly, even as she runs her fingers over bead necklaces to hear them clink together. She looks completely serious, but there's no possible way she actually means that. Seriously, that's just… wrong.
"What are you talking about?" Simon shakes his head and puts down the snowglobe. "Do I enjoy the part where I'm annoying him? Yes, but that's about it, Fray. I don't even know where you got the idea."
Clary puts her hands on her hips. "Well, we are out shopping for your not-boyfriend because you were fifteen minutes late to one of your not-dates and couldn't bring him anything."
"They're not dates and he's not my boyfriend, you know this," Simon tells her, rolling his eyes. "It's all a part of the wooing process; I've got it under control."
"Really? Really? Okay, look me - your best friend who knows you better than anyone - in the eyes and tell me that this is all still a joke to you," Clary demands, walking over to stand right in front of him with her arms crossed and an eyebrow arched.
Simon narrows his eyes at her. "Are you serious?"
"No pun intended, Lewis, but deadly."
"See, now I'm gonna laugh."
"Don't use my not-joke as a reason to cover up your lies. Admit it, you're into Jace."
"First of all, never gonna happen. Second of all, that's just gross. Third of all, are we suddenly back in high school? Because if so, why don't we bring up the fact that you seem really attached to Izzy lately."
Clary frowns at him. "I don't know what you're-"
"Oh, please. I'm your best friend, I know you better than anyone, and I'm not blind. You can tell me, you know; I won't say anything and I definitely won't judge," Simon assures her.
"Izzy is amazing, so I have no reason to lie."
"Except for the fact that it scares you."
"Are we talking about me or you?" Clary cocks her hip and peers at him intently. "You're projecting."
"I'm really not."
"Alright, fine. If you admit to being into Jace, I'll admit to being into Izzy."
Simon opens his mouth, then closes it. He stares at her and shakes his head. "Well played, Fray, well played. But I'm not going to lie. Fine, I guess neither of us have a thing for a Lightwood. Fair enough."
"You're so… stubborn." Clary makes a frustrated sound in the back of her throat, tossing up her hands and turning back to the shelf that Simon just meticulously picked over. "God, do you remember when we used to tell each other everything, even the most embarrassing stuff?"
"Well, that was before-" Simon grimaces and waves a hand around, "-all of this."
Clary sighs. "I miss you."
"I know." Simon quirks a sad smile and walks over to throw his arm around her shoulders. "I miss you too, but I'm still not crushing on Jace of all people."
"Deny it if you want, but please be aware that you're going to get hurt if you let this go much farther. I'm serious, Simon; be careful," Clary whispers, looking up at him with wide, sincere eyes.
Simon forces a laugh. "I'm always careful."
He's really not, but Clary just bites her lip and wraps an arm around his waist as they go to the next display to find Jace a gift.
Simon doesn't think about it in depth, doesn't ever look deeper than the surface level, and he certainly never considers that it means something.
He bides his time and continues playing the long-game. He's there at every patrol, never late again; he regularly brings Jace his favorite mango smoothies; he gives him a gift at least twice a week; he even implements a movie night once a week; he uses every opportunity to touch Jace as casually as possible; and throughout the course of the following two weeks, Simon peppers Jace with compliments, opens his doors for him, and texts him every morning and night like it's a religion.
It's not until it's too late that Simon really stops and considers just how fucking stupid this idea was.
But, before that, he's feeling really good. Because here's the thing… Jace is responding. He acts like he's not, of course, but he definitely is. Jace never asks him to leave patrols anymore, starts saying thank you for the smoothies and gifts, never bats an eye at movie night, and doesn't even stiffen up that much when Simon touches him. The best part is that he stops and lets Simon hold doors for him, smiles when he gets a compliment, and starts sending emojis back to Simon's texts. It's such a minor shift that Jace doesn't seem to notice it at all, but Simon can practically taste victory.
And then, quite literally, he does.
After Simon's gig on a late Friday night, almost a month after all this started, there's a girl who's seemingly in love with his music. On a normal day, he'd be ecstatic about this. The problem is, this girl is a newly turned vampire who is under the supervision of her sire, who looks fucking terrifying over in the corner. It's honestly a can of worms that he doesn't want to get into, especially not after a really good set that had felt electric.
And so, when he sees a very familiar head of blond hair walking past him within reaching distance, it's not even with an ounce of thinking that he snags Jace's coat and forcefully drags him away from Magnus and Izzy. Jace curses sharply and nearly drops his glass, which makes Izzy and Magnus turn to stare, but Simon's in this now and there's really no going back. He also might be, just a little bit, maybe panicking slightly. Whatever.
"Jace!" Simon crows a little too loudly, his eyes pleading with Jace to just go along with it. "Sarah, this is my boyfriend; Jace, this is Sarah, a new fan."
Jace arches an eyebrow. "I'm not-"
"And that's Sarah's sire, her chaperone for tonight," Simon grits out, nodding over to the hulking vampire hiding in the shadows with a sneer. Reaching out to draw Jace into his side, Simon pinches the skin of his hip where his jacket and shirt have ridden up. "I was just talking to Sarah, getting to know her, and then I saw you and had to get your attention. Did you like my set?"
"Loved it," Jace says flatly, pinning an unimpressed look on Simon.
Sarah frowns at them. "You're dating a Shadowhunter? Marlo said that doesn't happen."
"Does he now?" Jace asks smoothly, suddenly all smiles as he leans into Simon's side. "Well, Marlo must not get out much. Shadowhunters and downworlders are dating a lot these days; it's actually very common."
"Uh huh," Sarah says doubtfully.
Simon bobs his head. "True story."
"Why, in fact," Magnus says, tugging Izzy over as he interjects into the conversation, "I'm dating a Shadowhunter myself. The Head of the Institute, actually. Quite the power couple, we are, what with me being the High Warlock of Brooklyn."
"And I've dated a Seelie," Izzy cuts in, smiling prettily at her. "It was quite fun, I must admit. They're very romantic, if you're into that sort of thing."
"Oh," Sarah says, blinking rapidly in surprise. "Well, that's really cool. I- I didn't know it was allowed."
Simon releases a relieved breath, smoothing his hand over Jace's patch of skin on his hip in thanks. Looks like he's in the clear.
And then Magnus opens his big mouth.
"Of course it is, my dear," he says easily, waving a hand lazily. "In fact, Jace and Simon are a perfect example of such a couple thriving. It's a wonder they haven't kissed yet; they're very in love."
"Um," Simon mutters eloquently, his eyes flying wide in surprise. He clears his throat. "Right. Yes. We are that. In love, I mean. Very."
"Are you sure?" Sarah asks, back to being doubtful, her eyebrows raising.
Simon could just kill Magnus. "Oh, for sure. Definitely. Right, Jace?"
"Right," Jace agrees dryly, looking as if it pains him to refrain from rolling his eyes.
Izzy coughs to hide a chuckle. "Really, they can't keep their hands off each other. It's a wonder they haven't started making out yet. When they kiss, it's quite undeniable how compatible they are."
Simon considers double homicide. "Well, we're dialing it back; just leaving the honeymoon phase, you see. Nothing to see here, just two guys who like each other a healthy amount. Anyway, we should-"
"Oh, nonsense," Magnus interrupts, his smile sharp as he gazes right at Simon and Jace. "They're being modest, really. Sarah clearly doesn't believe you, and I'm guessing she's new, so it's your duty to show her the way of the world. Teachable moment, and all of that. I would, but Alec isn't here yet."
Simon goes to argue this in length because it really isn't their duty to teach anyone anything, even if it would be a good thing for new generations to see downworlders and Shadowhunters being with each other instead of against. Magnus may have a point, even if it's underhanded, but it's definitely not their problem because they're not actually dating. Which, Simon has clearly backed himself into this corner, but he has all plans to dig himself out.
Well, he did, right up until Jace heaves a sigh, twists around to grab Simon's face, and just fucking kisses him right on the mouth.
That's where things get a little fuzzy.
It can't last that long, but Simon is pretty sure he's having an out-of-body experience that suspends forever into one second. It's so unexpected that he doesn't even pull away or react that much, too stunned to do anything besides let it happen. Which, that turns out to be a good thing when he remembers why this is happening.
Ultimately, Simon forgets about everyone and everything that isn't Jace kissing him. His mind is reduced to an algorithm that catalogues every single aspect of the moment. From the feeling of Jace's lips against his, to the slam of desire that hits Simon right in his stomach. It's all there in technicolor, a kaleidoscope of emotion and contact that should not be happening at all. And the dumbest fucking part is that there's literally no tongue involved; it has to be simplest kiss on the fucking planet. Jace just kisses him with a normal amount of pressure, holding Simon's face in his warm hands, and only switches things up as he's pulling away, taking Simon's bottom lip between his teeth as he does, gently releasing it as he drops his hands. For a brief moment, their eyes catch and hold, and Simon almost whimpers out loud because there's something happening to him that he doesn't understand. Then, Jace looks away and smirks like nothing is out of the ordinary, and Simon can breathe again.
"See," Jace chirps calmly, "it's a thing."
Sarah nods. "Oh, okay," she agrees, apparently convinced now, and what the fuck. "Well, that's really good because there's a cute Shadowhunter over there, but I didn't know if I could even-"
"Go get them, darling," Magnus says cheerfully, winking at her when she smiles shyly.
"Yeah, I- I think I will. Thank you!" Sarah smiles wider and waves as she walks away.
Izzy grins at them sharply. "Well, look at you two, real activists in this trying time. I'm so proud."
"Oh, shut up." Jace rolls his eyes and steps away from Simon with a huff. "You two practically had our hands tied. You're both horrible and I am telling Alec and Clary how horrible you both were."
"Yeah," Simon agrees weakly.
Magnus looks unbothered. "I'm simply supporting my love in his ongoing bet is all, he won't be angry."
"And why are you telling Clary? She's not my-"
"I really don't want to be here for your gay awakening, Izzy, so I'm gonna go," Simon cuts in, reaching up to scrub at his eyebrow. "But anyway, I hate you two very much, just so you're aware. Jace, I'll see you tomorrow."
Jace simply hums. "Sure. Text me when-"
"Don't I always?"
Simon flees. If only he can run away from the memory of that fucking kiss. Unfortunately, he can't.
Turns out, victory tastes like Jace's lips against his, and that's just fucking devastating.
Three days later, Simon figures it's time to end this bet once and for all, one way or the other.
Things have been… weird. For Simon, at least. He still goes about doing everything he was before the kiss, and it's practically a habit now; he doesn't even have to think about it anymore, just does it. That's a bad sign, he knows this, but it always seems to come to him a second too late - right after he's opened a door for Jace without thinking about it, a few sentences after he's complimented Jace without having to remind himself to, minutes after his brain is back online and he realizes that the first thing he does in the morning before eating or learning to be awake again is text Jace.
Jace doesn't bring up the kiss, doesn't seem to think it's second-thought worthy, which sucks because it's all Simon can think about. Up until that point, Simon's been completely at ease. Now? Not so much. So, this has to stop altogether.
The thing is, Simon still wants to win. All he has to do is get Jace to agree to one date, or agree that he would go on a date with him, a date that they won't actually go on. Then everything can be back to normal. But first, he wants to win.
So, he looks at his list to see what he hasn't done yet. The only thing so far that he hasn't implemented yet is flowers. Simple enough.
Simon calls Luke. "Hey, I need a favor."
"What's up?" Luke asks.
"I'm going to ask Jace out today and I really need him to say yes so I can win a bet, so I kinda need some really convincing flowers."
"Trust me, you don't want to know." Simon heaves a sigh and looks up at the ceiling. "Anyway, can you help me? I know you know your flowers."
"I do, yes," Luke confirms warily. "So, you and Jace are a thing? I thought Alec was joking."
"Why is Alec telling everyone that- you know what, I don't care. It's really complicated and I just want to be done with it, so are you helping me or not?"
"Sure, I've got just the thing."
The thing turns out to be a little flower shop in the less crowded - and more seedy - part of town. Simon is a little wary when he walks in, even more so when he sees a guy with striking blue eyes, messy dark hair, and what appears to be a permanent scowl on his face. The guy straightens up when he enters the shop, the bell dinging above the door, and Simon realizes that he's tall and bulky. He also, worryingly enough, looks bored with life and ready to spice it up with murder.
"Can I help you?" he asks, and his voice is a rough growl that is downright terrifying.
"I- I need, um, flowers?" Simon squeaks, eyes wide.
As if things can't get any worse, another guy walks out a swinging door, and he's equally tall and broad. His features are softer, however; light hair, bright green eyes, prettier than necessary for a guy who has such a dangerous smile. Fortunately, his smile softens into something cordial when he sees Simon, a potential customer.
"What can we do for ya?" he asks, walking over to lean against the counter that blue-eyed possible murderer waits behind.
"So, there's this guy. Um." Simon's mouth snaps shut, eyes widening yet again. These guys could easily be homophobic or something, despite the year and major leaps that places have made in acceptance, especially big cities in New York. However, if they care, they don't let it show, so Simon barrels on and hopes they're a lot calmer than they look. "Right, so there's this guy, who I'm wooing, and I want to get him something he'll like."
"Alright," green-eyes says simply, "what can you tell us about him?"
Simon falters for a moment, not sure that he knows enough about Jace to give these guys anything to go on. But then, he opens his mouth and things start pouring out that he didn't even know he knew. Jace's favorite color, favorite book, favorite song, favorite food, his fucking birthday. It's ridiculous how much you learn when you actually pay attention, and Simon is shocked by some of the things he knows by simply having been curious enough to investigate.
It spills out after about five minutes of him rapid-firing all the things he knows about Jace, which is a lot. In the midst, he blurts out, "And he doesn't even like flowers because they die, which is a reminder that- oh fuck! He doesn't like flowers!"
Blue-eyes pushes back from the counter and heaves a sigh. "Because they die. We have alternatives to that. Would you care to see them?"
Simon opens his mouth, closes it, nods.
He finds the perfect thing in about ten minutes, but it's not so much a thing as it is an idea. Thankfully, green-eyes is more than accommodating and can work with him. The process takes a few hours and costs more than a simple bouquet of flowers would, but Simon can't let it go. He outlines what he wants the finishing product to be, picks a type of flower, and leaves his number for them to call when they're finished. After that, he goes home to wait.
Three and a half hours later, Simon's right back in front of the shop, a lump in his throat. This gift is probably the most thought out. It's not something picked up off a shelf or ordered online; no, this is crafted with Jace specifically in mind. Hell, it's more intimate than the CD because he'd done it with the intentions for Jace to actually like it.
It must show just how he feels about this because, while blue-eyes is getting the product, green-eyes looks at him and asks, "Nervous?"
Simon rubs the back of his neck. "Yeah, a bit."
"You must really like this guy, huh?"
"I- I- it's complicated."
Green-eyes snorts. "Always is. Take it from me, kid, uncomplicate it real quick or you could miss out. Nearly did myself, but I lucked out and got an understanding one. Not many of those out there."
"Right," Simon mutters awkwardly, shuffling his feet as blue-eyes comes back out to the front.
"Here," blue-eyes says, laying out what he holds in his hands on the counter. "Is it to your liking?"
Simon stares at it. "Perfect. The engraving?"
"On the back," green-eyes confirms with a little smile, openly proud of his work. "Kind of a strange quote, but hey, to each their own, I guess."
"Uh, thanks?" Simon clears his throat and digs out his wallet. "So, how much do I owe you?"
It hurts his wallet, needless to say, but that's a fact he'll take to his second grave. Blue-eyes and green-eyes send him off with waves and a good luck from each, respectively, though green-eyes seems to be rooting for him especially; blue-eyes seems as if he couldn't care less. They were nice enough to box his present and wrap it, so Simon decides he likes them, even if they're a weird duo.
He hops in his van and heads to the Institute.
Admittedly, he has to hype himself up the whole way over. He tells him himself to stop being nervous, that he's got this in the bag, that it doesn't really matter either way. Mostly, it just needs to end, for the sake of his sanity. To try and calm himself down, he digs around for the CD he made Jace, thinking that the crappy love songs will make this all a lot funnier than it feels.
The CD is missing.
Simon pulls over about five minutes from the Institute and searches the whole compartment. It's not in his stack of CDs, not shoved under his insurance papers, not even broken into little pieces at the bottom. The case is even missing. So, he frantically searches the entire fucking van, going over every inch at least twice until he can say for certainty that the CD is gone.
But here's the thing, Simon doesn't take CDs out of his van. The reason being, the only place he needs a CD is in his van because there's not AUX cord; otherwise, his phone has any and all music he could ever want to hear. Meaning, someone else took it out of the van. Here's the thing about that, the only person besides himself who knows that CD exists is Jace. Which means…
Simon stares off into space for awhile.
He knows that Jace has a CD player, only because he's been in Jace's room plenty since the movie nights began. He hasn't even considered why Jace has one, if he even uses it, what he actually listens to. It just never crossed his mind, but now, he's unable to shake the idea that Jace actually…
There's literally only one way to find out, so Simon hops back into his van and tears off towards the Institute. He's not so sure why it's so important, but he can't shake the feeling that it is. As soon as he pulls up to the curb, he's out the van like a bullet out of a gun, clearing the land between here and the door in less than a second. In retrospect, he probably should have been mindful of the wards, but he's too keyed up to care.
He feels instant regret of that fact when the door opens and Izzy's whip cracks out into a staff that she hovers dangerously close to his throat. Simon stutters to a halt, hands raised in surrender, fear gripping his undead heart. Upon seeing him, Izzy releases a soft sigh and clicks her tongue.
"By the Angel, Simon, you can't do that." She glares at him and shakes her head. "You could have been killed! Be more careful."
Simon swallows thickly. "Right, sorry, I just- I was in a rush. Sorry."
"Oh?" Izzy's annoyance drains into curiosity as her eyes flick to the gift in one of his raised hands. She arches an eyebrow. "Is that for my brother?"
"It… is," Simon confirms warily. "Is he here?"
Izzy smiles sweetly. "In his room. Feel free to head that way; everyone knows you and who you're here for, by now. Have fun."
"Hey, wait, can I- can I ask you something?"
Simon bites his lip. "Promise not to, uh, say anything to anyone? Not even Clary?"
Izzy frowns. "Keeping secrets from Clary? That's not like you, Simon. Is everything okay?"
"I don't- I'm not sure. Look, things are just a little complicated at the moment. I was hoping you could tell me if…" Simon trails off, unsure of what exactly he wants to ask. He stares at her, hoping she can parse out what he needs to hear, but she simply waits patiently. "Nevermind, I'm just- I'm gonna go. Thanks, Izzy."
Izzy looks baffled as he slips past, nearly tripping over the doorway as he goes. Too many things are happening in his head, things that don't make sense, things he can't figure out. He heads down the hallway, swallowing thickly, and comes to a halt at Jace's door. He pauses, staring down at the box.
He spends a solid five minutes just standing there, fingering the white ribbon tied in a perfectly symmetrical bow - thanks to blue-eyes - and has no idea what he hopes will happen when he knocks. Suddenly, he's not even sure if he wants to win this bet. If he does, that suggests that Jace would actually date him, and he doesn't know what he'd do with that information. If he doesn't, that means that Jace isn't capable of wanting that at all, and he doesn't know how he feels about that.
Simon is very, very confused and has no plans to knock on the door before him until he figures it out. Unfortunately for him, Jace doesn't get that memo and abruptly flings open the door as he starts to step out. As soon as he sees Simon, his eyebrows fly up and he comes to an abrupt halt; he opens his mouth like he's going to say something, but ends up shutting it when his eyes fall on the box.
"That for me?" Jace asks, crossing his arms and leaning in the doorway, peering at Simon.
Simon blinks. "You took the CD I made for you."
The tension that follows is stifling. It's like an abrupt standoff, as if they will break out at any second as old time gunslingers just waiting to pull the trigger. The moment narrows to tunnel-vision, focused on the next move and who will make it. Jace's face is a blank mask, not giving anything away, and Simon isn't breathing at all.
"I didn't," Jace says simply.
It's the worst fucking lie Simon has ever heard, and that's really saying something. Without even thinking twice, he flits into the room faster than the eye can see, stopping by the CD player that belongs back in the early 2000s. Before Jace has even turned around fully, Simon has pressed the little button that will lift the lid and reveal what CD is in there.
Simon's CD for Jace.
"Oh," Simon croaks.
"Well… shit," Jace mutters, ducking his head.
Simon slowly closes the lid and turns to stare at Jace, clearing his throat. "You listen to it."
Jace rolls his eyes. "Sometimes. Shit, I get bored and it helps when I'm cleaning, even if I do hate it - which I do, rest assured. But why does it matter? It's mine, you made it for me. It's not a fucking crime, doesn't mean anything, and you're the one who made it, so- so, shut up."
"Yeah, but." Simon doesn't know how to convey what's happening in his mind right now. He doesn't even understand what's happening to his heart; it doesn't even beat, it should not be squeezing like this, what the fuck. "Jace, I think-"
"You brought me something," Jace cuts him off, stepping into the room and slamming the door shut behind him. "What is it?"
Simon knows two things for a fact. One - he shouldn't be closed in a room with Jace alone right now, not with his jumbled thoughts and watering mouth, which has zero to do with hunger of the traditional sense. Two - if he gives Jace this gift right now, he's going to do something very stupid, something he won't be able to talk himself out of, not that he's very good at that to begin with.
"It's- it can wait," Simon stutters, edging away from the CD player and angling towards the door. He really needs to leave, like now. "I'm- I should probably just- I think I'll leave."
Jace stomps across the room until he's standing right in front of Simon, one hand outstretched pointedly. "Is it mine?"
"Give it to me."
"Jace," Simon murmurs warily, averting his eyes.
"Simon," Jace says softly, "give it to me."
A beat passes, then another. Taking in a shaky breath, Simon carefully passes over the box. Jace finally looks away from him and focuses on the box, gingerly running a finger over the ribbon. It's practically sinuous how he slowly unravels the bow and shakes off the lid, revealing the gift. It takes forever, but happens far too soon.
It's a necklace, a simple chain that has a round bobble hanging off it. The bobble isn't a bobble at all, but a small white flower pressed and preserved in a half-bubble of wax and glass. Jace stares at it, not blinking, not saying a word. After what feels like forever, he picks it up and smooths a thumb over the mound holding the flower out of touch, then carefully flips it over to reveal the back. There are words engraved in simple writing.
It reads: What refuses to die cannot be destroyed. Preserved for you - S. L.
Simon is well aware that he can't be sick, but he's suddenly positive that he's going to throw up. His stomach recoils and twists, dead heart throbbing uncomfortably, shame clogging his throat. And yet, a faint whisper of hope crawls like smoke through his chest, a starburst of light amongst a dark backdrop; the assurity of rejection feels far away now, but no closer than acceptance is.
Then, just as he'd feared, he does something very, very fucking stupid.
"Go out with me," Simon chokes out, the words ripping from his very center without any permission, coated like poison with pleading.
Jace continues to stare at the necklace. He doesn't reply, doesn't look up, doesn't even twitch. His eyebrows are drawn together, teeth digging into his bottom lip unforgivingly. He appears captivated by what's in his hands, seemingly unable to rip his attention away, and Simon hopes like hell that he somehow missed the words while staring. Then, Jace looks up, blinking slowly.
"Okay," he breathes out, fingers curling around the necklace like he's afraid it'll get up and walk away.
Simon's brain goes offline, all thoughts halting. And there is his answer, just like that. He'd asked, Jace had answered, and the bet is over. Technically, Simon's won, but he feels like he hasn't. In fact, he feels like he's been cheated, like the system was rigged from the start, and it's not fair.
"I- I- oh shit," Simon blurts.
Jace jolts like he's been electrocuted, his eyes flying wide. "Oh no," he whispers, looking as if he's encountered something impossible. He should have known - anything is possible. "Fuck, you wooed me. I can't believe you actually- oh no."
"Told you," Simon rasps weakly, trying for a smile and failing miserably.
"You won," Jace snaps, abruptly standing up straight and smoothing his face out. "Well, there you go, looks like I can be wooed after all. Happy?"
Simon swallows. "Not- not particularly," he admits mulishly. "Jace, I didn't mean to-"
"I want you to stop." Jace curls his hand to his chest, the chain of the necklace dangling from his fingers. He stares resolutely at Simon. "I told you I'd tell you if I want you to leave me alone. This is me telling you. Leave me alone, Simon."
"I'm serious. Just get out."
Simon's pretty sure that this is exactly what Maia meant when she'd warned him against doing something fucked up. Well, too late now; he's definitely fucked up this time. He wants to fix it, somehow, but he has no clue how to start, and Jace doesn't seem to want him to try.
Still, he tries. "Jace," he starts.
"Simon," Jace says warningly, looking up with a glare, jaw tight. He doesn't say anything else, but he doesn't have to.
Simon swallows thickly, ducks his head, and leaves the room without another word.
"Oh, honey, I haven't seen you this fucked up since you and Clary split up."
Simon picks his head up off the bar and attempts to glare at Maia, but even that lacks heat. She just stares at him in an unimpressed fashion and he groans quietly. He shouldn't have come here, knowing damn well that she's not the pitying type. Not that he wants pity, but he'd definitely take some coddling right about now.
"I fucked up, Maia," he declares, the words muffled into his arm.
Again, Maia stays true to herself and leans on the bar, arching an eyebrow. "Isn't the first time, won't be the last," she says bluntly. "So, what did you do this time? Clary, again? Or… Oh! It's Jace, isn't it? That prank finally blow up in your face?"
"You're the worst." Simon picks up his head and frowns at her. "No, you're worse than the worst."
"Uh huh," Maia mutters, rolling her eyes. She puts her chin in her palm. "Tell me something worth listening to, or I'm going back to my cleaning."
Simon huffs. "Well, the prank-slash-bet is over. Turns out, Jace can be wooed."
Maia jerks up, her eyebrows practically sailing to her hairline. "Oh my god, you wooed Jace Herondale? Did he actually agree to go on a date with you? Seriously?"
"Don't sound so surprised," Simon mutters in offense, heaving a sigh. "It took a month of a lot of work, but I got him to agree to a date."
"That's cute," Maia says, lips curling up. "So, where are you taking him? Is that why you're moping? Can't figure out how to one-up yourself?"
Simon stares at her. "Maia, there isn't a date. The whole thing was me trying to prove he can be wooed, while he was trying to prove that he can't. One of us won - me - and it's over now."
"Yeah, I'm getting that. Do you think people notice that a sword is double-edged before they pick it as a weapon? Because I sure as hell didn't."
Maia rolls her eyes. "You're literally so dramatic, oh my god. You and Jace are perfect for each other. Seriously, come on, why are you being ridiculous? You won. Aren't you happy?"
"Nope," Simon says, popping the word and sinking back down in his seat with a sigh.
"And why aren't you happy?"
"Right." Maia gives him a blank look, lips pursing slightly. She sighs. "You feel bad?"
"Yeah," Simon admits. "I didn't think he'd actually- well, I'd hoped I would win, but I never considered what that would mean. I asked, he said yes, then it ended - just like that. I should be- I don't know. I should be glad, but I'm just… not."
"Simon, I'm going to tell you something, and I need you to listen to me very closely. Are you listening?"
Maia leans forward. "You're into him. You like him. Stop being an idiot and go take him on a date."
"What?" Simon balks, eyes going wide as he jerks up, nearly falling off the barstool. "I'm not- I am not into Jace! I don't like him; are you insane? We literally can't stand each other!"
"Really? You can't stand each other? So, what do you call what you've been doing for the past month?"
"That was just- that was…"
"You've been dating," Maia tells him, crossing her arms and daring him to deny her. "You spent all your free time with him, got him gifts, talked to him everyday, and we all heard about that kiss you two shared - Magnus said it was sweet. Maybe it was unofficial, maybe it was played up as a joke, but you two have basically been together for a month now. At some point, you started wooing him for real, and in the process… you were wooed too."
"No," Simon denies immediately, shaking his head and flapping his hands around wildly. "No. Nope, absolutely fucking not. No."
"So why are you so miserable? My guess? You miss him." Maia stares at him, her gaze unyielding and piercing. "Tell me I'm wrong, I dare you."
"Worse than the worst that's worse than the worst," Simon declares a little hysterically, staring at her with wide eyes. "That's what you are, Maia. How dare you suggest I'm- you know what, no. Maybe you like him, not me; you're just- you're obviously projecting, and frankly, that's just rude."
"Wow," Maia says flatly, shaking her head. "The day that I like Jace is the day hell freezes over. I had my tussle with him of the sexual variety, and while that was honestly fantastic - in case you were wondering, which I now know you are - it wasn't anything romantic. You, unfortunately, can't say the same. Deny it all you want, but the sooner you're honest with yourself, the sooner you can fix your fuck up."
Simon's mouth goes dry. "Fantastic?" he asks in a croak, mind going a little foggy.
"Better than, even." Maia grins like a cat that's gotten all the canaries. "Go ahead, admit it."
"Oh g- oh fuck." Simon groans and drops his head to the bar with a dull thunk. He proceeds to tap his forehead to the hard surface, a thought blaring in his mind so loud he can't avoid it. Eventually, he can't escape it and he lifts his head to gaze at her helplessly as he blurts, "I'm into Jace."
Maia smirks. "Looks like."
"Kill me now, please."
"Oh hush. You literally did this to yourself."
"I didn't. There were rules; I actually fucking made the rule: Do Not Fall In Love. Fuck, I broke my own rule. Maia, what am I going to do?" Simon blurts out, slamming both hands onto the bar and lifting himself up to stare at her.
"Love?" Maia's back to looking surprised, her eyebrows climbing again. "I never said anything about love."
Simon, honest to god, squeaks. "I'm going to have to move away, live out of my van, play music for spare change. I'll use a new name, never see my friends again, and I'll have to dye my hair."
Maia throws her head back and cackles, eyes sparkling with mirth. "Oh, Simon, you are too much. Jeez, calm down. I dunno if he loves you, but he definitely likes you back."
"Wait, what?" Simon mutters, panic ceasing for one blissful second.
"Are you forgetting that you actually got him to agree to go on a date with you?" Maia presses, staring at him pointedly.
"Oh. Oh my- oh shit." Simon nearly knocks over the stool as he stands up abruptly. "Maia, I have to- I need to go, but thank you. Literally, thank you so-"
Maia waves him off, shaking her head as she smiles at him like he's her favorite idiot. "Go get your man, Simon. Go on."
Simon is gone in seconds.
Simon, 1:13pm: come outside
Simon, 1:19pm: ill come in if you don't
Jace, 1:21pm: I told you to leave me alone.
Simon, 1:22pm: yeah, you did. but like, I have something I REALLY need to do, so indulge me?
Jace, 1:24pm: Why?
Simon, 1:25pm: please?
There isn't a reply, but a few moments later, the door to the Institute opens up. Simon takes a deep breath and shakes out his hands, watching Jace walk down the steps with a scowl. In fact, that scowl doesn't diminish from the distance across the lawn to his van, but Simon tries not to dwell on that.
Jace stops on the sidewalk, arms crossed, jaw clenched so tightly that it looks painful. Simon knows he's supposed to be saying something, but whatever script he's practiced in his head has slipped away like smoke. He wonders if vampires can swallow their tongue and what happens if they do.
Sighing, Jace opens his arms and glares at Simon, lips pressed into a thin line. "Well?"
The thing is, Simon had a reply. Except, Jace's movement has opened his jacket slightly, jostling his shirt just a bit, revealing the quickest flash of a chain that Simon recognizes all too well. Simon's mind is a litany of, he's wearing it, he's wearing it, he's-
Anyway, Simon's suddenly a lot less nervous than he was mere seconds ago. "Hi," he says a little breathlessly. "You look perfect, as usual."
Jace sighs. "Simon, you won the bet. Let it go, move on. You can stop with that shit now."
"I could," Simon agrees calmly, "but I'm pretty sure that won't get me brownie points on the date."
"What date?" Jace asks, frowning.
"Our date. You know, the one you agreed to."
"I didn't mean it."
Simon arches an eyebrow. "You did."
"Simon, I really-"
"Okay, fine. If you didn't mean it, then you're rejecting me, which means that you don't want anything I've ever given you. In that case, I'm going to need all those gifts back, including the necklace currently around your neck."
Jace snaps his mouth shut, body going stiff as he stares at Simon. Bravely, he doesn't try and shield the small piece of chain that's visible. Instead, he goes still and silent like he can just melt into the background and go unnoticed.
Finally, Jace mutters, "Where are we going?"
Simon grins. "You'll see. Come on, get in the van. Probably should text Alec and let him know you'll be gone for awhile."
"Doesn't matter," Jace mumbles, dragging his feet as he heads over to the passenger side, "I'm off today anyway."
"Perfect," Simon chirps.
The first fifteen minutes is dipped in tense silence. Jace looks ready to crawl out of his own skin, leg bouncing, fists clenching and unclenching on top of his knees. Simon's trying to figure out if the risk of losing a few fingers is worth reaching out and touching his hand, but the mere thought makes him feel like he's swallowed butterflies.
As far as dates go, this one is off to a shitty start. Jace is clearly not enjoying himself, which Simon really needs to change. The atmosphere is the opposite of light and comfortable; it's almost suffocating. Simon is aware that he's overthinking it, that he needs to loosen up, but this is the first thing he's doing without the shroud of a bet-slash-prank to use as an excuse. Naturally, he's panicking.
Then, Jace blurts, "You're not even funny."
Simon blinks, mostly sure he's caught the tail end of some thought in Jace's head that he's not privy to. It doesn't sound like a nice thought. "I mean, I think I'm pretty funny."
"You're not," Jace snaps, leg bouncing even faster as he breathes harshly through his nose. "You worry too much, you're a literal dork, and you have the shittiest taste in clothes."
"Well, that's a great start to a date," Simon mutters sarcastically, rolling his eyes.
Jace nearly turns all the way to the side in his seat just to regard Simon with confusion. "And sure, you're nice, but that's not even an attractive quality. Nice people always finish last; that's the general fucking rule. Your music is mediocre, at best, and you talk way too much."
"You don't fucking listen, you're super clumsy, and you have no self-preservation. You stutter a lot, even when you're not anxious, which doesn't even make sense! And you're an asshole, but you don't own it; you literally act like you're so innocent, but you're as much of a little shit as I am."
Simon reaches over and grabs Jace's hand, threading their fingers together, making whatever sentence coming next halt in Jace's throat. As he stops at a red light, Simon turns to smile calmly at Jace and say, "But you like me anyway."
Jace blows out a long breath and flops back into the seat. "Fuck," he moans pitifully and doesn't take his hand out of Simon's.
The rest of the ride is held in silence, but it's mostly comfortable. Simon beams as he drives, Jace sulks in his seat, and their hands stay clasped.
When they arrive, Jace's sullen mood shifts to curiosity. He peers out the window up at the building, lips tipped down as he clicks his seatbelt off with his free hand. When Simon drops his hand, Jace whips his head around, blinking in surprise like he'd forgotten they were even holding hands to begin with. He looks faintly horrified by this, which earns him a chuckle from Simon, to which Jace returns with a sharp glare.
Needless to say, it's going much better.
Simon gets out and goes around to open Jace's door, mostly a habit at this point. Being used to it must be a habit of Jace's because he doesn't even bat an eye as he slides out of the van. However, he does bat an eye when Simon takes his hand again; he looks ready to protest, but Simon just turns away and tugs him towards the building.
The woman at the front desk greets them with a professionally warm smile. "Hi, will it be two?"
Simon smiles at her. "Yeah, and I have a question. I read online that, uh, there's a special-"
"Yes, of course," she cuts in, perking up as she bobs her head. "It's extra for the-"
"Yes!" Simon says loudly, looking sheepish when she blinks and jerks back slightly. "Sorry, um, I just want it to be a surprise."
Her eyes cut to Jace, then soften. "Of course," she says happily, picking up a brochure and passing it to Simon with a wink. "In that case, there's the timetable for when it begins. The additional package is double the price."
"That's perfectly fine," Simon says, hiding his wince. It really isn't fine, but he'll just take the gig at the cafe with the horrible fucking manager to make up for it. "Thank you so much."
"It's my pleasure," she says.
He pays, she hands him two tickets, and then they're off. Jace's eyes are narrowed suspiciously, but he doesn't comment on whatever is going on in his head. In fact, he says nothing at all as Simon pulls him down the hall. They pass a gift shop, which Jace peers at curiously but doesn't linger.
It's an interactive Life and Science Museum, meaning that the exhibits usually feature animals, plants, or something scientifically cool - each and every one has something that allows people to interact with it, whether a simple button to press or an actual puzzle to solve. It doesn't sound fun, but Simon's worry that Jace won't enjoy himself eases the moment that he sees the little penny-pressing machine. That's not even an exhibit, but Jace catches sight of it and comes to a halt.
"It'll give you a token of sorts," Simon tells him, lips twitching at Jace reads the instructions. "Do you want one? I'm pretty sure I have two pennies."
Jace shoots him a look. "I have two pennies," he mutters, then proceeds to use one hand to fish around in his wallet and find two pennies.
There's a variety of designs, so Jace takes a few moments to pick them out. For the first time today, his smile blooms as he sticks one penny in and watches it go to work. He does the second with a lighter smile, then passes Simon the first one with a smirk. It's design is a set of sharp teeth, no doubt belonging to a feline of some sort, but Simon gets the hidden joke all the same. He sighs.
"Thanks," Simon says sarcastically.
"What?" Jace jokes, stifling a laugh. "It suits you."
Simon rolls his eyes and yanks Jace along.
Funnily enough, it's actually a pretty good time. Simon actually forgets that this is a date that can change the tide of whatever the fuck they're doing. As the minutes tick by and they go from exhibit to exhibit, he forgets to be nervous and starts to have fun. Whatever reservations Jace had gets lost between the penny-pressing machine and the exhibit where you can test how fast you throw a baseball. Somewhere around the exhibit that launches the paper airplanes you make, Jace seems to forget that he's supposed to be annoyed by all of this. Simon is stupidly pleased by that.
There are, however, many different things to see. They head outside to walk the long dinosaur trail, casually stopping to read the little boards of information along the way, smiling at the little kids that beam at them as they pass. Simon tries to hide the immense satisfaction he feels at the fact that they're still holding hands.
After the trail, Simon asks, "You hungry?"
"I could eat," Jace replies simply.
They head to a small, overpriced restaurant with a line that's out the door. The tables are too small and the chairs are uncomfortable as fuck, plus there's absolutely too many people packed in one room. That's why, when Jace finally manages to get the sandwich and drink he wants, Simon suggests they head outside and eat. As it turns out, this isn't a terrible idea; they find a spongy piece of grass to sit on, soaking up the sun and people-watching.
Simon should probably address the elephant in the room gingerly, but he doesn't think it's something that can be handled carefully. So, he waits until Jace doesn't have food in his mouth to say, "You like the necklace. A lot."
"Yeah," Jace grunts, glaring down at his sandwich like it deserves his wrath.
"Why do I like it?"
Simon nods. "Yes."
Jace pauses, a wrinkle forming between his eyebrows. "Well." He stops, clears his throat, squares his shoulders and averts his eyes. "Well, I don't really get gifts. I keep everything anyone gets me, including you. Whatever, it's sentimental."
"Reminds you that people care when you forget."
"But that's not it." Simon reaches out to brush his fingers over the chain glinting in the sun. "That, specifically. It means something to you, enough that you agreed to go out with me."
Jace makes a strange expression, something conflicted, simultaneously vulnerable and closed off all at once. "Did Clary ever mention a story to you? One I told her about a Falcon?"
"No." Simon frowns, wariness hitting him like a sack of bricks. "Should she have?"
"No, not really. It's… personal. But the engraving, it kind of made it better. Hard to explain."
"Did you at least like the flower?"
Jace quirks a small smile. "Yes, Simon, I liked the flower. It's a really- it's good. I don't want to give it back, for more reasons than you can imagine."
"You don't have to, not ever. It's a gift; you keep those. I just sort of used it as leverage to get you here. Sorry about that."
"Like I said, you're a little shit."
"Yeah, I guess I am." Simon snorts and shakes his head, biting back a smile. Jace polishes off his sandwich and goes about balling up the paper. Sighing, Simon eases into his next question. "So, you actually did get wooed by me, right? That wasn't, like, some spur-of-the-moment thing?"
Jace shoots him an unimpressed look. "Simon, I literally agreed to go out with you before you even started wooing me. That day, at the table in Hunter's Moon, I told you I'd go out with you."
Simon blinks. "No, you were- that was a joke. You were trying to stop me from wooing you."
"I didn't want you to woo me, that's true." Jace swallows and looks away, lips tipped down. When he speaks again, his words are quiet and soft with a particular discomfort. "But it's not right to fuck with someone about dating them. I don't really do that."
"Wait, so… you were serious? You would have actually went on a date with me?"
"What the- why? Jace, you didn't even like me!" Simon tosses up a hand, mind sort of imploding on itself. "That genuinely doesn't make sense."
Jace sighs. "Well, I wasn't going to date you because I liked you. My dates don't usually end with a second one on the table; they end after going to bed."
Simon has to take a moment to process this new information. "Okay, hold up. So, you're telling me that you were completely down to just- what, have sex? With me?"
"Yeah, why not?" Jace asks, turning to flick his eyes over Simon's form. "You're attractive, I trust you - mostly. Perfect setup for a one night stand."
"So, the wooing really was a surprise?"
"Yeah, didn't expect it, to be honest. It's not really… my thing."
Simon frowns. "That means I really was successful. You actually- you really do like me now, don't you? And I don't mean as… friends."
"I definitely don't want to be your friend," Jace mutters, wrinkling his nose. "I don't even want to like you; I just… do."
"You want to date me. Jace Herondale wants to date me." Simon huffs a short laugh and leans back on his palms. "Shit, that might be the biggest plot twist in all of history."
"Trust me, I don't get it either," Jace admits, fiddling with the wad of paper in his hands. "It's your fault; you fucking - I don't know - conditioned me, or some shit. You were just always there, and I got used to it. And then, next thing I knew, I was starting to look forward to seeing you, which I absolutely despised, by the way. Not like I could help it, though. That wooing bullshit is fucked."
"Well, you weren't the only one who got caught in the trap. Look at it from my point of view. I pretty much spent my free time with you, or thinking of you, or doing something for you," Simon tells him, shaking his head at the audacity of it all. "I mean, I didn't really notice anything was going on because I was so sure that it was all a part of my grand scheme, but then you just had to kiss me."
Jace frowns at him. "What? That was- that didn't mean anything. It was pretty fucking innocent."
"It might not have meant anything to you, but I didn't exactly get that memo."
"So, you- it bugged you?"
"Understatement and a half." Simon chuckles and rolls his eyes. "I was overthinking it, to be honest. Not completely out of the norm for me, but it was driving me crazy because I couldn't stop thinking about it."
"Huh," Jace grunts, eyebrows raising.
Simon chews his bottom lip, leaning forward to press his hands together in a nervous gesture. He takes a deep breath. "Look, I'm not going to ask you to do anything with me because I know you don't want to. There's not much worse than not wanting to want someone, but wanting them anyway; I know that first-hand."
"You think I don't want to want you."
"I think you like me, but wish you didn't."
"Is that how you feel?" Jace asks slowly.
"No." Simon clears his throat and reaches over to snatch the balled up paper from Jace's hands, giving his own something to do. "Once I came around to the idea, I was pretty content with it. You're not as bad as you make yourself out to be, and in all this wooing you, I've actually started to- well, I guess I like you as a person. So, dating you wouldn't be an issue on my end."
Jace tilts his head. "And you're assuming it will be an issue for me. Why?"
"You said it yourself - you don't even want to like me. That's- it's fine."
"Simon, if you ever repeat this to anyone, I promise you that I will stake you. Clear?"
Simon gulps. "Crystal."
"Good." Jace heaves a sigh and turns his gaze to the sky, lips slightly pursed. "I've actually always liked you as a person, even from the beginning. I have a lot of respect for you, and in some other world, we'd probably have been best friends as soon as we met. But, in this world, it's different. We got off to a rocky start, both wanted the same girl, then we just seemed to always… bicker. You get on my nerves, but I'm also stupidly fond of you. Being an asshole is my love-language, just ask Alec; so when I say certain things, I don't always mean them."
"Oh." Simon blinks rapidly, a smile oh so slowly growing on his face. "So, when you say you don't like me, you're actually-"
"I don't," Jace cuts in, dipping his head, "but I do."
"Right. So, what you're saying is, you have a lot of feelings but you cover them up with mystery and a general air of nonchalance."
"Just because I'll willingly date you does not mean I won't shove you into a tree."
Simon grins. "But you'll do it on a date."
Jace rolls his eyes. "Come on, your insistent need to annoy the fuck out of me is going to get you bodily harm here soon. I'm done eating, let's just get this over with."
"Oh, shut up, you're enjoying yourself."
"Never said I wasn't."
Simon follows Jace to his feet with a beaming smile, feeling as if the sun lives in his lungs. It's downright enlightening, is what it is. Simon feels like he's just climbed a mountain or something; it feels like triumph when Jace lets him twine their fingers together yet again without comment.
They spend the next couple of hours going through the exhibits. It's slightly different than before lunch, but not in a bad way. Actually, it's kind of sweet. Simon feels a little shy, like a young boy with a crush, but giddy because he knows it's returned. Jace is far too suave to show any softness such as that, but he can't seem to mask the full brunt of his fondness, or maybe he stops trying. Either way, it makes Simon feel more alive than he has in a very long time, which is worth more than any gift he's ever bought Jace.
At a quarter to six, Simon points them back towards the building. Jace simply shoots him a suspicious look, but apparently likes surprises because he doesn't ask any questions. They make it back inside in the nick of time; Simon leads Jace into a small conference room with only two other families inside. There is, however, a person standing at the front of the room.
The woman has on a thick glove that covers the majority of her arm. Atop it, an elegant Falcon sits with beady eyes and a sharp beak. As soon as Jace sees it, he sucks in a sharp breath and comes to a screeching halt.
"Welcome," the woman greets them, smiling easily and waving with her free hand. "My name is Rhonda and this glorious specimen is Malcolm."
"Hi," Simon greets her. "I'm Simon, this is Jace."
"Nice to meet you. Would you want to meet Malcolm by chance? The others aren't too keen, but I promise you he's very friendly."
"Jace, do you want to-"
"Yes," Jace blurts out, eyes locked onto the Falcon like he can't see anything else.
Rhonda looks excited then. "Wonderful. Come on over and grab the free glove from my crate. Before you hold him, I'll ask that you treat him to a pat and a nibble; he loves his nibbles."
Jace swallows thickly and breaks from Simon to follow her instructions. Simon hangs back and watches, lips curling up. Jace looks young, his delight taking over every faction of his personality. The awe in which he pets Malcolm is honestly adorable, and when Rhonda lets Jace feed him a small treat, he looks like he's going to burst from his restrained excitement.
Rhonda eventually gets Malcolm on Jace's arm, smiling in pride, praising them both. She addresses the room as she gives facts about the species and Malcolm himself, but Jace doesn't seem to be listening, too enraptured by the Falcon chilling on his arm. Simon can't help but want to keep the moment, so he pulls out his phone and takes discreet pictures, all off-guard and genuine.
The session only lasts for half an hour, but Jace holds Malcolm throughout, swearing his arm isn't tired. No one else wants to come near him, and Simon doesn't have the heart to interrupt. When Rhonda makes the comment that he's a natural, that Malcolm really likes him, Jace looks ready to burst with pride. It's possibly the happiest that Simon has ever seen him.
Brownie points: maxed-out.
Eventually, the session is over and everyone files out as Rhonda coaxes Malcolm back onto her own glove. Jace gets in one last stroke to his feathers, then walks out of the room with a dazed look on his face.
"I take it that you enjoyed that?" Simon asks cheekily, watching Jace turn around.
What he gets for an answer is not what he's expecting. Jace grips the front of his hoodie, pushes him back against the wall beside the door, and kisses him without preamble. Simon pretty much immediately sinks into it, his eyes fluttering closed, the last thought in his brain something along the lines that this is better than words anyway.
It's not a particularly heated kiss, but it is intense. This one has tongue, and teeth, and roaming hands, and whimpers swapped between breaths. Jace says thank you without uttering a damn syllable, and it's the best thanks Simon will ever get.
When Jace breaks the kiss, he doesn't pull away fully. No, he lingers, his forehead pressed to Simon's, his lips brushing Simon's, his hands slowly pressing down Simon's sides and halting on his hips. Quite suddenly, they exist in an impenetrable bubble, surrounded by warmth and tender emotion.
"I hate you so fucking much," Jace whispers, blinking open his eyes and staring at him.
Simon reaches up to trail a finger over Jace's cheek, marveling at the softness of his skin, in awe of the strength in his jaw. "Yeah, same."
"If there was ever a time to make this a thing-"
"Right, right. Let's make this a thing."
"Okay," Jace agrees instantly. "It's a thing, we're a thing."
On the way out, the receptionist gives him a thumbs up, her smile playful. Simon returns the gesture.
The following week passes in a strange daze.
Being Jace Herondale's boyfriend is an odd phenomenon that Simon hasn't wrapped his head around yet and possibly never will. Because here's the thing, Jace doesn't do anything halfway.
Jace is a really, really good boyfriend. To the point that Simon's pretty sure he's screwed forever. At first, Simon thinks Jace is just fucking with him, but it quickly becomes clear that isn't the case. This is just who Jace, as a boyfriend, is. He doesn't even seem to notice that it seems out of character.
Actually, no one does.
Jace replies to every single text, sometimes beats Simon to sending the morning and night routinely messages. He doesn't give a shit about PDA, never skips a beat when Simon touches him in front of anyone, and sometimes initiates the contact all on his own. He comes to every single gig that Simon lands without fail, helping him pack up his equipment and picking at him about his mediocre music. He steals Simon's hoodies like they're his own, wearing them when he's cold, and pretends like they found their way into his wardrobe on their own. But worst of all, he calls Simon his boyfriend flippantly, uncaring who's around or who will know, and frankly, Simon's about to have a heart attack.
Simon goes to Clary first because he's not sure who else to talk to. When he explains the situation, Clary busts out into laughter.
"And you're concerned?" She swipes at her eyes, mirth still tugging at her lips. "Simon, have you ever considered the possibility that maybe Jace is just like that? He's a bit of a softie when it comes to love; I found that out when he had a thing for me. Once he has his sights set on you, he's locked on. It's an amazing feeling; trust me, I know."
That doesn't really help him, so he searches out Izzy next. Just as Clary had, she laughs when Simon gets through his long-winded explanation.
"For all his posturing, my brother is just as capable of being sweet as anyone else." She chuckles and pats his hand. "He just cares about you, that's all."
Again, that does absolutely nothing for him, so he goes to Magnus to make sure it isn't some kind of spell. Magnus also laughs, but it's more snide than the other's had been.
"No," Magnus tells him simply. "I'm fairly certain that Jace is just being number one boyfriend because that's who he is. Though, have you considered that you might be biased? I, for one, think Alec is a stellar boyfriend, but that surprises many people."
Which, Simon doesn't like that answer because it sounds like it might actually be true, so he gets desperate. Unlike the others, Alec doesn't laugh at him; he simply gives him a judgemental look.
"He hasn't been acting strange; you've just never seen this side of him. Has he stopped acting the way he usually does towards you?" Alec waits for Simon to shake his head. "He's just added more to it, right? In that case, you're just being unnecessarily worrisome. Stop being weird, Simon."
And that puts Simon at the end of his rope. He can't take it anymore. He knows he shouldn't take it for granted because it is wonderful, but he can't stop thinking about it. He has to know, needs to get the answers, and unfortunately, there's only one way to do that. He corners Jace late one night on the patrols and blurts it all out.
Jace just shrugs and says, "I'm going to marry you one day, so you might wanna get used to it."
Simon nearly trips over his own feet, swinging around to gape at Jace. "What? What? Jace, what?"
"Hey, sometimes you just know. I guess I'm being like this because I know." Jace shrugs again, looking at complete ease. "You're it. For me, I mean."
"Oh." Simon blinks. "Right. That… makes sense."
"Does to me," Jace says simply.
"I'm kind of in love with you," Simon blurts out, then immediately goes still. His eyes widen. "Shit, not kind of. I am. I mean, I have been. I mean, it's only been a week - well, a month and a week, but that's no better - but I broke a rule. Wait. No, okay, so I made all these rules when I decided to woo you, and one of them was not to fall in love, and I- I broke it."
Jace stares at him. "You… made a rule."
"Yeah," Simon confirms weakly.
"Simon, that pretty much guarantees that it's going to happen, you know that, right? Rules are meant to be broken," Jace tells him in amusement.
Simon huffs. "I hate you."
Jace smirks. "Love you too."
Four years later, when they're standing across from each other at the altar, the exchange is still the same. Some in the audience seem baffled by vows such as those, but the grooms are inherently pleased with it. When they kiss, Simon touches a knuckle to the necklace around Jace's neck with a smile.
Turns out, wooing is a double-edged sword that Simon's grateful to have impaled himself on.