Chapter 1: Friends
Every morning Jace Wayland made his bed with military precision.
Alec didn’t think anything of it … at first.
Jace was very particular about his clothes – the few that he possessed – so it wasn’t all that peculiar that he was so precise about the state of his bed.
Alec just assumed it was another odd detail about the young boy, even if it didn’t seem to match the cocky often reckless demeanor the kid projected most of the time.
Alec had heard his nightmares, though, and he had seen the distress Jace experienced that time he got blood on his shirt – so he knew that the obsessive bed-making likely had something to do with the way his new friend had been raised. Michael Wayland must have demanded perfection – that much Alec could tell from Jace’s behaviour, he was never okay with mistakes and had no patience with himself. It wasn’t a stretch to imagine that Jace’s father had insisted his son make his bed each morning and of course he would have ordered it to be done flawlessly.
One morning after the first week of the new child’s arrival, Alec had quietly informed him that he didn’t need to make his bed if he didn’t want. Jace had simply shrugged as he straightened his sheets with measured focus, and had said it was just what he was used to. Alec had accepted the response – a lot had changed in Jace’s life in such a short period of time, it would only make sense for him cling to any sense of normalcy.
It was just Jace’s routine, and it had seemed rather simple – until the day it wasn’t.
Alec woke to his alarm, groaning at the sound and reaching over to put an end to it. He forced one of his eyes open, scowling at the time and realizing he had set the alarm to go off later than usual because Jace’s rest had been so disrupted lately and the kid looked exhausted nearly all the time. He had known an extra thirty minutes wouldn’t really be worth much, but it was all he could do.
He forced himself to sit up, glancing across the room to the bed that was a new fixture in his room – and yet lately he had felt like it had always belonged there. Alec smothered a smiled at the site of Jace seated on his own mattress, blinking owlishly, his blonde hair sticking up in all directions; the new kid was pretty adorable, there was no getting past that.
“Jace?” Alec called out, waiting for those big bright eyes to rise up to meet him before he continued. “We have to get moving or we won’t have time for breakfast before our lessons.” And Hodge was not a fan of tardiness, but Alec didn’t mention that part.
The younger boy stared at Alec a minute longer before squinting over at the alarm clock that was always strategically angled so it could be seen from both beds.
Jace’s eyes grew wide. “Did we sleep in?” He asked, scrambling off the mattress.
“No, I set it a little later than normal because – cause I was really tired last night.” Alec explained, not lying entirely because he had been tired, always on alert for another one of Jace’s nightmares because the silly kid would never come over and ask for help so Alec always felt he had to be awake to offer it.
Jace nodded at the information, accepting the half-truth simple enough as he scurried into the bathroom with his clothes.
Alec took the moment alone to change into his own outfit for the day. He had always valued his privacy but he found it funny that Jace seemed to as well. The young boy didn’t seem like the shy type, even times when he was quiet he still had a sense of confidence about him, and while he was definitely at his most comfortable when in their shared bedroom, he still rarely ever removed so much as his shirt when Alec was around. Actually, the last time the older boy had seen Jace without a shirt had been when he had been trying to wash the blood off of it in the bathroom several weeks ago – that’s when he had first noticed all the scars that littered the too-thin frame. Alec frowned, his insides twisting as he tried to push away the unpleasant information and return his focus to lacing up his shoes.
He went into the bathroom once Jace was out, frowning at how stressed the kid looked. When he was finished Alec was surprised to step into the room and see Jace diligently making his bed. He bit down on his bottom lip as he stood by the door to their bedroom, unsure of what to say. At the rate he was going there was no way Jace was going to have any time to get something to eat before their lessons began. Because Jace didn’t just make his bed, he made it perfectly. He would take everything off except the sheet which he would make sure was perfectly even on both sides before tucking the edges in, adjusting it until there wasn’t so much as a wrinkle in the fabric. He would repeat that same process with the top blanket and then he would carefully set the pillows at the head of the bed and fuss over them until they looked completely untouched, making sure each pillow case was without a single crease. The process was potentially the most meticulous thing Alec had seen and it took time, time they didn’t quite have this morning.
“Jace, you don’t have to make your bed this morning.” He stated, knowing the boy already knew that fact but hoping to encourage him along.
He wasn’t surprised when Jace nodded his head at the information, but continued what he was doing – albeit hastier than he normally went about the routine.
“No one will be mad if you don’t make it.” Alec declared softly, stepping a little closer to his friend’s bed, but still giving Jace lots of room to move around it.
Jace stalled at the comment, his hands shaking slightly as they held the sheet, and his face losing a bit of the intensity it held, making the younger boy look absolutely lost for a moment before he schooled his expression and proceeded with smoothing the wrinkles away.
“No one will send you away.” Alec added in almost a whisper, knowing that had been a fear Jace had back when he got blood on his shirt.
That remark was the one that got Jace to actually turn towards the older boy. Alec’s insides twisted at the helpless look that had dawned the pale complexion.
“I know.” The blonde boy croaked, glancing between Alec and the floor as he clenched the blanket in his hands. “I just – I need to do this, okay? I have to.”
Alec so badly wanted to ask why. He wanted to ask what had happened in the past to explain the obsessive behaviour. He wanted to know the reason behind why Jace so desperately needed to make his bed with such military precision. He wanted to better understand the peculiar child. But instead he simply nodded and patiently stood out of the way.
Jace looked relived at Alec’s response – which justified the Lightwood boy’s reserved course of action. “You can go to breakfast. I’ll meet you in a bit.” Jace announced.
Alec nodded, not feeling that comfortable leaving Jace, partly because they had been doing most everything together since the blonde boy arrived and Alec had very much gotten used to that – and partly because his gut told him there was something going on with his new friend and he wanted to figure out what so he could help make things better, like he did with the nightmares.
But he knew it would take time, because everything about Jace did.
He went to the kitchen, making quick work of breakfast, checking his watch every few seconds as he shovelled cereal into his mouth. When he wasn’t watching the second-hand tick, he was staring at the doorway waiting for a mess of blonde hair to appear. He waited until just five minutes before his lesson was to begin, before realizing that there was no way Jace would make it to breakfast. He grabbed the fruit off the plate he had made for the younger boy, pocketing it and then wrapping the muffin up in a paper towel. He frowned at the piece of toast he was forced to leave behind before he rushed from the room and down the long institute hallway.
He was seated at the table in the room that had years ago been designated as the institute’s version of a classroom. Izzy happily greeted him, he smiled and gave her a quick hug, having not seen her at breakfast because she’d finished before he’d even arrived. Her query into Jace’s location had Alec biting on his bottom lip and staring at the entrance to the room.
“He’s coming.” He mumbled.
Izzy nodded, handing him one of the books she had stacked in front of her.
It was thick, the title indicating the pages to be full of information on Greek mythology. Alec rolled his eyes, not seeing the point of such a lesson, but slid the book to his left, where Jace always sat, accepting the second one his sister passed to him.
Jace came rushing into the classroom with only two minutes to spare. Alec sighed in relief, finally releasing his bottom lip from the place he’d trapped it between his teeth as he took in his friend’s appearance. Jace’s hair was still all over the place, his sweater was zipped up less than an inch and the hood was inside out, his shoes half-on and laces completely undone. The kid was barely put together, but Alec knew that if he went to the bedroom, he would see one perfectly made bed.
Jace greeted Izzy with a smile as he dropped into the chair, frowning down at the books on the table as he caught his breath, before glancing over at Alec.
“Hey.” He said, a twitch of a smile on his face.
“Hey.” Alec replied, pulling the muffin from where he’d hidden it beneath the table and placing it on Jace’s lap. The young boy lit up at the sight of food.
“Am I allowed?” He asked, a nervous edge to his voice.
“Yeah, of course.” Alec announced, eyes widening as he watched Jace practically inhale the baked good, worried about how incredibly hungry the boy must be.
“Just don’t let Hodge see, he’ll freak.” Izzy added.
Alec frowned over at her, making her shrug in response.
Jace was munching on the muffin, but swallowed the last two bites whole as Hodge entered the room, the man always showing up exactly when the lesson was to begin and expecting everyone to be ready and waiting – if you weren’t there would be hell to pay. He began teaching without any preamble or introduction to the lesson, the same way he always did.
Alec placed the apple on the table next to Jace, who quickly snatched the fruit and hid it in his lap. Alec shook his head and took the apple from the younger boy’s lap, returning it to the table and nodding at him, prompting him to eat it.
Jace looked unsure, but after a moment tentatively reached out to grab the fruit, taking a careful bite.
Hodge spun around from where he was pointing to a graph on the screen, the sound of Jae’s quiet chewing apparently enough to distract him. The older man saw Jace and opened his mouth, but Alec glared at him, daring him to make a comment.
Hodge might be an adult and while Alec had been taught to always respect authority, there were a few things that could make him challenge it – Jace was one of those things. Hodge was not nearly as important as he thought he was and the young Lightwood would prove it if he had to. The reluctant teacher scowled at Alec, but eventually turned back around and continued his lesson.
Jace, who had missed the tense staring-match because he was trying to find the proper page number in the text book, took another small bite of his apple.
Alec reached over and fixed the younger boy’s sweater hood, before leaning down and tugging Jace’s pantleg out from where it was wedged into his sock. Once he straightened-up he caught sight of the grateful smile and incredibly soft expression on his friend’s face.
He gave a smile in return, hoping it said all the things he didn’t know how to.
That it was okay that Jace was a bit odd.
That he didn’t have to hide it.
That he wasn’t going to be sent away.
That he had a friend in Alec and he always would.
Chapter 2: Parabatai
Alec startled into consciousness to the sound of his bedroom door being swung open and someone loudly calling out for him.
“What?” He grumbled, assuming it was Izzy because she was the only one who ever burst into his room so noisily – Jace was always quiet, though neither ever cared much for knocking.
“Alec. Get up.”
The teen sat up at the sound of his mother’s demanding tone, trying to blink the world into focus as his head turned toward the doorway.
“You and Jace and your sister have a training session with Hodge in five minutes.”
Alec squinted, the words taking a moment to compute through the exhausted haze. He turned and looked at the time on his alarm clock, frowning as he realized it had only been about six hours since they had returned to the institute.
“But we just got back from a mission.” He pointed out quietly, his voice rough from sleep. It wasn’t meant to be an excuse, but his mother took it as such and scowled down at him.
“I know, and based on the report I received, it did not go as smoothly as it should have. That’s why you three are going to do some extra training exercises and Hodge doesn’t have much time today.”
Alec bit his tongue to keep from pointing out that the mission had been completed successfully and the aspects of it that had not gone smoothly were entirely out of their control. His mother would simply see the explanation as another excuse and would not respond well to it.
“I have already woken Isabelle, I must go tell Jace.”
Alec pressed his lips together, hoping that his mother would spare the younger boy the obvious evidence of her disappointment. Jace had done everything right last night, he had saved Izzy’s life with his quick thinking and had gotten a fairly large laceration across his back in the process. He’d been amazing, and he didn’t need or deserve the pressure of Maryse’s unrealistic expectations. He didn’t deserve to have anymore weight placed on his shoulders or anyone telling him he hadn’t done enough of that he wasn’t good enough. Jace’s father had fucked him up enough in that regard, he didn’t need his adoptive parents adding to it.
“I’ll get Jace.” He offered, wanting to protect his parabatai.
His mother dismissed the idea with a shake of her head and turned to leave.
“You need to be in the training room in five minutes, Alec. If you’re late I’m certain Hodge will not withhold punishment.” She commented over her shoulder before pulling his door closed.
Alec rolled his eyes, knowing full-well how Hodge operated, the teacher always taking great personal offense to tardiness and having unreasonable consequences put in place for it – often something involving running an unreasonable number of laps. Luckily, Alec was practiced at getting ready quickly and Izzy had been woken first so hopefully the few extra minutes would give her enough time, and Jace would be fine, he could throw clothes on in a couple seconds – he wouldn’t have time to make his bed though and that was bound to upset him.
Alec was sliding into the athletic pants he always wore for training, when he suddenly felt panic pounding through his bloodstream. He frowned, pausing for a minute and trying to figure out what had his heart galloping inside his chest.
It was Jace.
It had to be Jace.
They had only been parabatai for a couple months, and he still struggled to separate his emotions and reactions from the ones that seeped through the bond, but he was beginning to get the hang of it.
Something was wrong, something had to be. Jace never panicked, not even on the hunt last night when they had been surrounded by danger. The last time Alec had felt Jace panic had been shortly after the ceremony when the blonde boy had been trapped in the throes of a nightmare. That couldn’t be the case this time, Maryse would have woken Jace by up by now, perhaps she had said something to upset the young Wayland boy.
But what Alec was feeling through the bond was not hurt, it was panic and- and fear.
Alec pulled his shoes on, not even taking the time to untie them, and grabbed his sweater before booking it down the hallway. He didn’t know what was wrong with Jace but the way his heart was still galloping in his chest and terror was crawling up his spine – he knew it was something that could not be ignored.
“Jace?” He called out softly as he pushed open the door. He didn’t have the aversion to knocking that Jace and Izzy seemed to, but he and his parabatai had always had an unspoken open-door policy. He still called out his presence though, to be sure to give the younger boy a sufficient warning.
Hearing no objection to his entrance, Alec stepped into the room, surprised to see Jace standing there dressed and intact, in no visible distress whatsoever. He was, however, in the beginning process of making his bed.
“You okay?” Alec asked, glancing around the room to see if he was missing some sort of hidden threat.
“Yup, fine.” Jace stated, the comment not sounding the least bit like a lie, but the panic had yet to recede from where it was racing through Alec’s insides.
“Is your back alright?”
“My back?” Jace asked, sounding confused, before shaking his head. “Oh yeah, no, it’s fine. My back is fine.” He claimed.
“You sure?” Alec asked, stepping closer, because something was definitely very wrong.
Jace still hadn’t looked at him, but the boy nodded as he began untucking the sheet he had just tucked. “It’s not even.” He mumbled to himself as he pulled the fabric further over the right side of the mattress.
Alec frowned, glancing at his watch. “Jace, we don’t really have time—
“I know!” It was the closest Jace had ever come to snapping at Alec.
The older teen’s eyes widened in surprise, but he didn’t move back or away, he simply stood and watched the blonde boy who appeared frozen in place. Suddenly Jace turned, his face pale and his bicoloured eyes bright with apology and something else … something that Alec quickly recognized as fear.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to – I shouldn’t have – I just- I know there isn’t time, but I can’t stop. I have to do this. Even if it makes me late and I get in trouble, I have to do it. I have to.” Jace explained helplessly, as though he genuinely had no choice in the matter.
“You could make it right after training.” Alec suggested, knowing they wouldn’t be too long because Hodge had to go to the institute meeting that morning, which was probably the reason for the rush, because the window of time for training would be small.
Jace immediately began to shake his head. “It can’t wait. I can’t leave it. I can’t.” He choked out. It was then that Alec noticed how aggressively Jace’s hands were shaking – actually it was his entire body. The slim frame was trembling and Alec could feel his own heart beating faster in response to the panic that must have risen within Jace at the mention of having to leave the task until later. “I’m sorry.” Jace croaked miserably as he returned his attention to the task at hand.
Alec frowned, still so confused, but he decided not to push the matter any further because he could see now that Jace’s pattern of making the bed was more than the simple comfort of routine or a practiced behaviour – it was a desperate measure.
That simple realization was all it took for Alec to make his choice. He didn’t care if he was late, he didn’t care if he was forced to run laps until he vomited, he didn’t care if his mother would be disappointed in him…again. He cared about Jace, and the fear and panic that the young teen was drowning in. He cared about making things alright for his best friend, his parabatai. So, Alec chose Jace, as he knew he always would – for the rest of his days.
He moved around to the other side of the mattress, and began tucking the sheet in the same way he had watched Jace do dozens of time.
“What are you doing?” The smaller boy questioned, straightening up and staring over the bed.
“I’m helping you.” Alec stated as though it were the most obvious thing, which it certainly was.
“No, you go to training. I’ll be there as soon as I’m done.”
Alec shook his head before Jace had even finished speaking. He had left Jace behind making his bed in a stressed panic before, because he hadn’t known -- he hadn’t been able to feel -- the level of turmoil raging inside the blonde boy, but he knew now and he wasn’t able to leave his friend behind to suffer alone.
“I won’t let you get in trouble ‘cause of me.” Jace declared.
“We’re parabatai. We do everything together, side by side.”
“Alec, you shouldn’t have to—
“Everything, Jace.” Alec declared, levelling the younger boy with his most serious stare, needing Jace to know that he didn’t have any doubts about his decision and he wouldn’t be changing his mind.
Jace frowned but Alec’s expression must have come across the way he intended, because the younger boy made no further argument and simply returned to tucking the sheets.
The older teen inwardly smiling at his success as he returned to the task at hand.
“It has to be perfect.” Jace spoke softly, the words sounding both like an apology and a warning.
“You think I have a problem with that?” Alec asked, glancing up with a raised eyebrow.
A smirk pulled at Jace’s lips and amusement took the place of the fear that had been glowing in those bright eyes of his. “No, I don’t imagine that you do.” He answered.
“See, maybe being a perfectionist isn’t all bad.” Alec commented with a playful wink, remembering all the times both Jace and Izzy had mocked the eldest Lightwood’s perfectionist nature.
“I guess not.” Jace responded, smoothing the wrinkles from the sheet. “You do everything perfect. You would have been so good at this, my dad never would have made you—” Jace slammed his mouth shut so quickly that Alec actually heard his teeth collide. He looked up from what he was doing to see his parabatai’s face pale and tight, the way it got whenever Jace was closing himself off.
Alec shook his head, sighing softly, wishing he knew how to get past all the walls the blonde boy had built around himself. At least the panic had faded, he could still feel the slivers of fear sneaking through the bond, but his heart rate had slowed to a much more normal rate – which meant that Jace’s had as well.
The boys worked as seamlessly together as they always did and soon the pillows were being placed on the bed. Alec made certain it looked even and perfect before stepping away, watching as Jace fussed a few more moments before doing the same.
“Good?” Alec checked, turning to Jace.
Jace reached forward, tugging the edge of the blanket up an eighth of an inch higher, before giving a satisfied nod. “Yeah. Yeah, it’s good.” He confirmed, turning to face the older teen. “Alec, look, I don’t – I just- I’m sorry.” He stuttered out, his fingers fiddling with his sleeve as his big eyes kept glancing between Alec and the bed.
“Jace.” The taller boy called, waiting for the timid gaze to meet his once again before speaking. “It’s okay. It’s alright. You’ve done nothing wrong.” He assured with a smile, relieved when Jace’s lips twitched up in response.
“We better get going before that big vein pops out of Hodge’s forehead.” Jace stated with a smirk.
Alec snickered at the thought as both boys rushed from the room.
To say that Hodge was furious was the understatement of the decade. The two teens stood stock-still as they were scolded and berated. Izzy kept staring nervously at them from across the training room as she half-focussed on her skills test. Alec was not surprised in the least when running laps was the consequence Hodge dealt out to them.
“I will be happy to do what you ask, Sir.” Jace spoke, sounding entirely unfazed by the vicious lecture they had just been forced to stand through.
“Good.” The irate man bit out with a nod.
“But Alec didn’t do anything, Sir.” Jace declared, causing both Alec and Hodge to scowl.
“He was disrespectful, same as you.” Hodge growled.
“But it was my fault. I made him late. Therefor the consequence belongs to me.”
“Jace.” Alec hissed, but the younger boy simply shook his head.
“I will run Alec’s laps as well as my own.”
“He will not!” Alec barked, glaring over at Jace.
“Yes, I will.” The smaller teen ground-out through clenched teeth.
“No, you won’t!”
The boys stopped arguing immediately at the shout from their teacher, and turned back towards the fuming man.
“You were both late. You both have no regard or respect for authority--
“But, Alec—” Jace began to interrupt.
“Silence!” Hodge snapped.
Alec flinched at the volume of the shout, and Jace clenched his jaw shut, but he didn’t shy away from glaring up at their instructor.
“You will both be running laps until I say your finished.”
As Jace opened his mouth again, Hodge put a finger up to silence him.
“One more word and you’ll both be spending the whole day running in circles.”
The younger boy scowled but remained obediently silent.
The two teens were separated to carry out their consequence, because even Hodge knew them well enough to know that separation was the worst form of punishment for the pair of parabatai.
Alec was sufficiently exhausted and about half way through his laps when Izzy came sprinting up to him.
“Jace is hurt!”
The call stopped Alec in his tracks, his stomach feeling as though it had dropped to the ground. “What?”
“It’s not serious. It’s just his injury from last night, but it’s bleeding through his clothes.”
Alec practically growled as the Lightwood siblings made their way rapidly across the ground.
“Hodge sent him to the clinic, but it’s Jace. So, you know –
“He won’t go.” They said together, both knowing the independent Wayland boy all too well – and yet in so many ways that blonde kid was still such a mystery.
“I’ll go find him.” Alec assured his sister. Izzy nodded and made her way back towards the training center.
Alec used what was left of his energy to sprint his way through the institute, trying to catch his breath as he opened Jace’s door and entered his room, surprised when he found it empty. He glanced around the space, noting the shirt that Jace had been wearing that morning was draped over the bathroom door. Alec pulled the clothing article down and examined it. There was a large damp spot on the back and Alec could tell that the fabric had already been scrubbed clean. Jace hated stains on his clothing and was always quick to rid of them.
Alec frowned, wondering for a moment where his parabatai had wondered off too – perhaps he had actually gone to the infirmary. He shook his head at the thought, because that was something the stubborn boy would never do willingly. It only took another moment of thought for Alec to realize he was an absolute idiot -- he knew exactly where Jace would be.
He backtracked his way down the hallway and this time he stopped at his own door and opened it, able to breathe a sigh of a relief at the site of the blonde boy sitting against his headboard. Jace was focussed on the shirt on his lap that he was sewing, Alec recognized it as the one from last night that would have had a slice in it from where Jace got cut.
“You better not be bleeding on my bed.” He warned, his concern coming out in frustration -- the way it often did.
Jace looked up, a smirk on his face. “Of course not. I cleaned it. It was probably just seeping because all those laps had my blood pumping faster than normal.”
Alec shook his head. “It shouldn’t have blead at all. It should have healed by now.”
“It pretty much has.”
“I should have checked it this morning.” Alec mumbled to himself, recalling that he intended on doing just that, but had been distracted by Jace’s panicked state.
The younger teen rolled his yes. “I’m fine, Alec.”
The older boy disregarded the assurance as he approached the bed. “Move up.” He instructed.
Jace huffed an irritated noise before shifting up on the mattress, leaning forward and reaching back, likely with the intention of tugging his shirt out of the way, but Alec could tell the action was about to be performed none too carefully, so he swatted the hand away. Jace grunted but instead wrapped his arms around his knees as he awaited Alec’s ministrations.
The older boy carefully pulled the cotton fabric up and away from the his parabatai’s lower back, frowning at the long laceration that was still far too present on the pale skin. It was no longer bleeding – thank Angel – but it still looked incredibly sore and far too deep. It was an improvement from the gash it had been last night, but it wasn’t nearly as repaired as it should have been.
“You should have told me this hadn’t healed.” He grumbled, lightly tracing along the cut with the tips of his fingers, being sure there didn’t appear to be any filth in the wound.
“It’s just a scratch. It’s really not a big deal.” Jace dismissed.
“Oh really? Then why did Izzy come running to get me like she’d set the kitchen on fire, again.” Alec commented, pulling his stele from his pocket.
“Well, maybe I played it up a bit.” Jace admitted sheepishly.
Alec frowned as he moved around to set the stele against the young teen’s skin right about the parabatai rune – on the place he always drew Jace’s iratze. “So you could get out of laps?” Alec wondered, knowing it was not at all like his best friend to over-play an injury, in fact often the reverse was true.
Jace shrugged, which was more telling than he likely meant it to be.
“So you could get me out of laps.” Alec realized, fondness flooding through him.
Jace looked up, his eyes peaking out from beneath the hair that had fallen in front of them, a shy, slightly mischievous smile on his face. “Everybody knows runes work best when they’re activated by your parabatai.” He elaborated.
Alec smiled in response. “It’s true.” He stated, his insides warming as he watched Jace’s grin widen (the kid probably relieved he wasn’t going to get a lecture about fibbing from the older boy). “Speaking of.” Alec added, stooping down to trace an iratze on his parabatai’s skin.
The rune glowed, Jace sucking in a deep breath and then slowly releasing it, tension bleeding from his slim frame after a moment – which told Alec just how much discomfort his friend had really been in.
Alec shifted over a step to check out the state of the injury, pleased to see that a great deal of the redness had faded and only a shallow scratch remained. He nodded to himself in satisfaction as he began to pull Jace’s shirt back down into place, pausing as his eyes tracked to one of the many white scars that littered his parabatai’s skin. Alec had known about the scars for years now, had seen them many times, but the sight of them never stopped making his heart clench. He didn’t know the origin behind each marking and he wanted to learn, but at the same time he was terrified to – he knew the information, while it would solve one of the many mysterious about his best friend, would break his heart.
“Alec? Is it okay?” Jace said, glancing back over his shoulder at the older teen who must have been standing there frozen longer than he thought.
“Yeah, yeah it looks good. I’ll do it once more today and it should be good as new.” Alec reported as he gently pulled Jace’s shirt back down over the healing skin.
The younger boy nodded, moving back against the headboard and returning his attention to repairing the tear in his shirt.
Alec chewed on his bottom lip as he watched his mysterious best friend go through another one of his odd routines. Jace was as intense about fixing his clothes as he was about making the bed and Alec didn’t know the reason for either of the peculiar behaviours but he knew they were more than quirks – more than simple routines.
Jace must have felt the gaze observing him, because he glanced up from his sewing and gave the Lightwood boy a questioning look. Alec simply smiled as his friend, his insides warming when Jace responded with a shy grin of his own. As mysterious as Jace was, Alec couldn’t imagine his life without the beautiful blonde boy by his side.
Jace could have his secrets for today, because he had entrusted half of his soul to Alec, and for now, that was more than enough.
Alec knew there was a deeper, darker, reason behind both Jace’s obsession over his clothes and making the bed; and he vowed one day to uncover the mystery that was his parabatai. But not today, because Jace wasn’t ready, and if he was entirely honest with himself, Alec wasn’t so certain that he was either. So, for now he would simply climb up onto the bed next to his best friend and sit by his side, keeping him company.
For now, he would just watch over the younger boy and always be there for him to ease his distress, even when he didn’t understand the reasons for it.
For now, he would just look out for Jace, the way Jace looked out for him, completely and selflessly.
For now, that would be enough – until Jace was ready for more.
Until they were both ready for more.
Chapter 3: Boyfriends
Alec woke slowly, content for once not to be ripped from sleep by the noise of the alarm clock.
He smiled at the feel of soft hair tickling his chin, and reflexively tightened his arms around the body half-stretched out overtop of him. The slim frame responded almost immediately to the contact, nuzzling impossibly closer. Alec chuckled as he held on tight to his heat-seeking boyfriend.
He opened his eyes, peaking down at the head tucked underneath his chin. Alec’s heart fluttered at the sight of the beautiful boy that was wrapped around him, and he distractedly wondered if there would ever be a morning when he woke with Jace in his arms and didn’t feel the need to pinch himself to make certain he wasn’t dreaming.
“S’to early, go back t’sleep.” Jace slurred.
Alec grinned, his boyfriend’s lips moving against his collarbone as he mumbled those words. The older boy rolled his head against his pillow, glancing at the alarm clock on the side-table. “It’s not that early, babe.” He responded, keeping one armed wrapped securely around the slim frame as his other hand moved up, fingers sifting through the blonde mess of hair.
Jace hummed softly, causing Alec’s grin to widen; he loved the feel and sound of his parabatai completely relaxed and content. He pressed a kiss on Jace’s forehead as he continued to gently comb the long locks.
“I don’t wanna get up.” Jace whispered as he shifted against Alec’s tall frame.
“You don’t have to.” Alec assured, warmth flooding though him as he felt a soft kiss placed into the hollow of his throat.
“You’re sweet for letting me slack.”
Alec shook his head. “You’re not slacking. You’re resting, which is what you should be doing after the week you had.” He clarified, thinking of how tirelessly Jace had been working in the hunt for Valentine. Alec had gone out with him on as many missions as he could, but there were tasks at the institute that demanded his attention.
“Your week was just as tiresome as mine.” Jace replied, his head lifting, chin resting on Alec’s chest to look over at him.
Alec nearly rolled his eyes, because sure, perhaps he hadn’t gotten a drop more sleep than the younger man, but his responsibilities had been far less physically demanding. Jace had been damn near depleted by the time he returned last night, which was exactly what had prompted Alec to work hard to clear both their schedules so that his boyfriend could get some rest and relax – something he really wasn’t ever able to do without Alec nearby (which was something that made the Lightwood boy feel all sorts of gooey feelings – because he was the one Jace trusted enough to let his guard down around).
“And we have plans today.” The blonde boy pointed out.
Alec nodded, his hand sliding the hair off the pale face. “I know, but we can postpone if you just want to get some more rest.”
Jace’s chin slid back and forth along Alec’s chest. “No way, who knows if we’ll ever get another day to ourselves.” He pointed out with a smirk.
Alec twitched a smile, but it faded as his finger tips traced the shadows beneath the beautiful bicoloured eyes. “You sure? You look tired.”
Jace rolled his eyes, dismissing the concern the way he often did – never one to allow himself to be cared for too easily. “And here I was thinking you were just staring at me cause I’m pretty.” He huffed.
Alec couldn’t help chuckle at the miserable pout, his boyfriend’s bottom lip sticking out absurdly far. “You’re impossible.” He mumbled fondly, leaning forward, his heart swelling as Jace moved up to meet him, their lips connecting in a slow, sweet kiss.
“That’s why you like me.” Jace responded with a cheeky smile as he rested his chin back down on Alec’s bare chest.
“One of the many reasons.” Alec gushed as he cupped the younger man’s cheek, swallowing the temptation to correct the word ‘like’ to the more accurate term love. His boyfriend still had a fear of love, because he had been taught that it led to destruction – which was one of the many reasons Alec was itching to get his hands on that bastard Valentine.
Jace’s playful amusement quickly morphed into something far more genuine as he ducked his head, his cheeks colouring as his smile turned shy.
Alec could barely contain the love that washed over him. For all of the cocky persona Jace presented to the world, the beautiful blonde boy was actually entirely unable to accept a compliment.
“I best get ready if we are going to make any use of our day.” Jace spoke softly, leaning up to place a quick kiss on Alec’s lips before moving off the bed and towards the bathroom, his head still ducked and smile still bashful as he disappeared from sight.
As Alec stood from the mattress, he internally vowed to continuing showering his boyfriend with compliments until Jace got good at accepting them, and long after. He looked down at the twisted sheets and displaced pillows and then glanced back at the bathroom door, before he began the process of making the bed. Jace usually completed this particular task, both because it had to be done to his extremely precise standards and because Alec was often the first one up and about in the morning. They had the day off today, though, and Jace was still tired – had been since he returned from the fucking Morning Star.
Alec was tucking the edges of the sheet beneath the mattress when Jace came out of the bathroom, still dressed in sweatpants same as Alec, but he’d tossed a long sleeve shirt on at some point.
“Don’t worry, it’s even. I made sure.” He stated, knowing how high Jace’s standards were when it came to making the bed.
“That’s not- I wasn’t… You don’t have to do this.”
“I don’t mind.” Alec said, continuing with what he was doing until thin fingers gently but firmly wrapped around his hands and guided them away from the mattress. He frowned, his eyebrows pulled together in confusion as he focussed on the blonde boy who was staring down at their joined hands.
“You don’t ever have to worry about making the bed – especially not the way I do.” Jace explained.
“Babe, it’s really not an issue.”
“It is.” Jace insisted, his gaze finally rising to meet Alec’s. “It’s my issue. And you shouldn’t ever have to- I don’t want you to worry about it.”
“I don’t worry about it.” Alec responded, before ducking his head just a little to be closer to Jace. “But you do, and I want to help so that you don’t have to.”
Jace shook his head. “I’m fine, okay? I’m just weird about the bed. You don’t have to worry about it, or me.”
It was Alec’s turn to shake his head as he freed one of his hands from Jace’s grip and used it to slide his fingers along the younger man’s jaw. “I’m always going to worry about you.” He whispered, stepping closer and pressing a kiss to his boyfriend’s forehead. Jace twitched a smile but he still looked stressed, which really wasn’t like him and had Alec needing to dig a little deeper – something he had been itching to do for years but had never wanted to risk causing Jace to close himself off. “And it’s not just something you’re weird about. It’s more than that, it always has been.”
Jace stepped back, releasing Alec’s hand and instead wrapping his arms around himself. Alec hated that stance, it was the one the blonde boy had always taken on when he was withdrawing, when he was pulling into and protecting himself from the world.
Didn’t he know by now that was what Alec was for? That he didn’t have to shy away from anything? That he didn’t have to provide his own comfort? That he could be wrapped up in Alec’s arms instead of his own?
“Look, if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine. Okay? Just don’t- just don’t lie about it.”
“Stop making it sound like it doesn’t matter, because it does – to me it does.” Alec announced, cutting off whatever bullshit line Jace was about to feed him.
“I’m just a perfectionist about it.” Jace responded.
Alec’s lips thinned into a line, but he nodded, because at least that wasn’t a lie. “Yeah, you are. But not because you give a damn about keeping the bedsheets in order.” Alec pointed out, because as the day went on Jace never bothered with the bed, never cared about anyone sitting on it or it getting messed up.
“Angel, Alec, let it go. It’s nothing.” Jace insisted, turning away.
Alec reached out and grabbed on to the younger man’s elbow, he held on gently – always gently when it came to Jace – not wanting to restrict or restrain, just a soft physical plea for the blonde boy to stay.
Jace stalled from where he was about to walk away, releasing a slightly exasperate sigh before slowly turning around, his gaze on the floor and arms still wrapped around himself.
Alec’s hand contracted slightly in appreciation from where it was secured just above Jace’s elbow, and the older boy was trying desperately to ignore the fact that his fingers were nearly touching – his boyfriend had lost far too much weight on that fucking boat and Alec was still working hard at getting him to gain it back.
“I don’t care about the bed.” Alec spoke quietly.
Jace made a sound in the back of his throat that insinuated his disagreement, but formed no further comment.
“I don’t.” Alec insisted, ducking to find that bicoloured gaze. “I care about you.”
That finally got Jace to glance up, his expression softening, but his stance remained withdrawn. “I told you, I’m fine.” He declared, an edge of irritation in his tone.
“I know.” Alec said with a nod. “And you can say that all day long – but I could feel it, remember?”
Jace’s eyebrows furrowed. “What were you feeling?” He asked, sounding genuinely confused.
Alec swallowed, trying to rid of the emotional waver that had crept into his voice, but the moment he spoke he realized he had no luck. “When you can’t make your bed – when there isn’t time—
“I just get stressed, a little.”
Alec was already shaking his head. “It’s more than that. At first, when we were kids, a bit after you got here, you almost didn’t have time before our lessons to make you bed and you were just – I didn’t know you very well then, but I know something was off. I remember going to get breakfast and I couldn’t stop thinking about you, I couldn’t stop worrying, even though I didn’t understand what was going on.”
Jace shook his head, looking down at the floor, Alec disliked the shame that coloured his boyfriend’s face – this conversation wasn’t intended to make Jace feel like he was messed-up. Alec took a careful step forward, his fingers reaching down to find the hem of the younger man’s shirt and slide up beneath it; he splayed his hand gently over the rune he knew to be imprinted just above that boney hip.
Jace tensed for just a second, before sighing softly and relaxing at the contact, his arms finally dropping from where they had been wrapped protectively around his slim frame. Alec was relieved the blonde boy hadn’t pulled away – because that was always an option with Jace, someone who had learned long ago that vulnerability meant death and love meant destruction – and stepped closer, rubbing his thumb back and forth over the parabatai rune.
“When we got these, I still didn’t understand, but I felt some of what you were feeling.”
Jace looked up at that, his expression was pinched, but at least he was no longer staring at his feet.
“There was this one day Maryse woke us up.” Alec had stopped calling Maryse mom since she practically disowned Jace while he was onboard the Morning Star, being fucking tortured by Valentine – she’d essentially accused the blonde boy of siding with his evil “father”, not even bothering to acknowledge that Jace had sacrificed himself to protect everyone else. Since Jace’s return the woman had been cold and standoffish, which really wasn’t much unlike her natural state, but Alec couldn’t forget the way she had turned her back on his parabatai – and perhaps her suggesting that Alec do the same was the most egregious act of them all. Alec physically shook his head, trying to knock loose the thoughts that had taken hold and return his mental focus to the conversation he was having. “She gave us five minutes to go meet Hodge for training and I was getting dressed, or something, when I was just hit with panic. My heart was pounding out of my chest, it was like I couldn’t breathe.”
Jace swallowed, his gaze falling back to the floor.
“Hey, no. Don’t do that.” Alec pleaded softly, using the hand that wasn’t under Jace’s shirt to cup the younger man’s jaw and guide his face back up. “Don’t be embarrassed or any shit like that. You’ve done nothing wrong, nothing. Okay?” He insisted, feeling the breath leave his lungs as those gorgeous eyes met his.
“I’m sorry you felt that. You shouldn’t have had to, I should have done better—
“At what? Blocking me?”
“Don’t. Don’t ever do that.” Alec ordered, fear crawling up his spine at the thought of the one he loved most in the world suffering silently.
“You shouldn’t have been scared just because I wasn’t able to get a grip on my own emotions.”
“This was too soon after the ceremony, you hadn’t figured out how to block me yet – thank Angel.” Alec said with a twitch of a smile.
“I just don’t want you to have to feel shit like that.” Jace rasped.
“I’m glad that I did.”
The shorter man raised his eyebrows at that response.
“I knew you were more than stressed when we were kids and you almost weren’t able to make your bed, but it wasn’t until we became parabatai that I knew what it was you were really feeling, and it’s not nothing.”
Jace made a broken sound that shot right through Alec’s heart, as he pulled away.
Alec’s hands felt empty as Jace walked away. He had to restrain himself from following too closely, he wanted to give his boyfriend space, but he also didn’t want him to be alone – it was a fine line that Alec had never gotten very good at walking.
He chewed on his bottom lip, trying and failing to stifle his anxiety as he watched Jace pace the room, eventually tension left the thin frame and Jace dropped onto the half-made bed, his body sagging in what looked far too close to defeat.
He waited a moment, clenching and unclenching his hands, trying to decide on the best course of action. Jace was facing away from him, but his slim back was arched and shoulders hunched over – as if they were bending beneath all the weight they had been forced to carry for so long. Another minute passed before Alec couldn’t handle the distance and slowly made his way towards the younger man until he was standing directly in front of him.
Jace didn’t acknowledge the taller boy’s arrival, but he also didn’t tense or pull away; he remained still in his position, his forearms draped over his thighs and head bowed, one set of fingers hidden by the long sleeve of his shirt, while the other set fiddled with the frayed edges of that same sleeve.
Alec squatted down, remaining still for a moment to ensure Jace was okay with the distance, before he reached up and placed a hand on one of those boney knees.
“Hey.” He whispered, his quiet attempt to gain some eye-contact.
He was denied his silent request, but after several seconds had passed Jace released his shirt sleeve and tentatively reached for the hand Alec had on his leg, entwining their fingers.
“Hey.” He responded, his gaze rising to their adjoined hands, but no further.
“Jace, you don’t have to tell me anything.” Alec stated, because as badly as he wanted to solve the many mysteries of his boyfriend, he didn’t ever want to pressure the boy he loved into doing anything he wasn’t okay with. “I want to understand, because—
Alec swallowed, ‘because I love you’ is what he wanted to say, but Jace was already struggling and that was bound to be magnified the moment the fearful four letter word was brought into the scenario.
“Because I want to be there for you, the way you are for me – the way we are for each other.” He elaborated, electing to stick with a safer but equally accurate statement. “But if you aren’t ready to talk about this, to tell me what’s really going on, then that’s okay.”
Jace responded with a shaky nod, one that Alec didn’t totally understand the meaning of, but at least it was a reaction.
“I didn’t mean to pressure you into sharing anything you don’t want to; I just want you to stop brushing things off like they don’t matter – because they matter to me. You matter to me.” Alec proclaimed, shifting a little in his crouched position to hopefully find those two bicoloured eyes.
Jace finally moved his gaze up the mere inch that was required to find the older man. “He- he would inspect my bed every morning since I was – well for as long as I can remember.”
Alec didn’t need to ask who ‘he’ was, he knew from the haunted tone that Valentine was the bastard that Jace was speaking of. He shifted silently from a squat onto his knees, his hold on Jace’s hand remaining intact as he settled in to hear of yet another childhood horror his beautiful blonde boy had suffered through.
“If there was ever a mistake, a wrinkle in the sheet, a pillow that wasn’t the proper shape – if anything was ever uneven or not perfect, I’d be punished.”
Alec swallowed trying not to let his imagination run wild about all the possibilities that word could imply – especially when it came to someone as sick and twisted as Valentine Morgenstern.
“It seemed like a simple thing, just make the bed perfect. But it was hard when I was younger, there were so many little details to remember, and I was too small to reach all the wrinkles in the sheets without accidently placing weight on the mattress and adding more. I didn’t always tuck it tight enough, I remember being – I don’t know – maybe four? And I was trying to lift the mattress up enough to get the corners tucked properly, and I just, I tried so hard, but I didn’t always get it perfect.”
Alec’s heart clenched violently in his chest as he inched closer, his fingers tightening around Jace’s as he reached up and placed his hand against the parabatai rune, his chest pressed against the boney set of knees.
“Sometimes I’d be so sure that it was perfect, but he’d still find something that I’d done wrong.”
Alec’s lips pinched into a firm line, because of course Valentine had found something wrong, probably when there hadn’t even been anything wrong, because that bastard didn’t want to teach Jace a damn thing, he just wanted to mistreat him.
“Some days he wouldn’t even give me a chance to make it. Some mornings I’d be ripped out of bed for training or to go on a hunt – he wouldn’t give me a chance! If only I had time, I would have been able to do it. I just needed time!” Jace insisted, his big eyes staring imploringly at Alec, as though he was desperate for someone to believe him.
Alec nodded, not sure of what he could say, but knowing that Jace needed to feel heard.
Jace sucked in a shaky breath, visibly calming a little now that he found someone who believed him.
“Anytime it wasn’t perfect, or I didn’t have time to make it at all …” He faded off, his gaze distant.
Alec felt his own heartbeat picking up, a trickle of terror entering his bloodstream through the bond.
“It was the same way with my clothes; his philosophy was always the same, if I didn’t take care of my things, I didn’t deserve to have them.” Jace finished with a mumble.
Alec felt his jaw drop open, his mind reeling to connect the dots. “A bed? You didn’t deserve a bed?” He managed to ask, the words taking effort to form.
Jace responded with a half-shrug, like it was nothing, like the fact that he was deprived the basic necessities of life was nothing to be alarmed about.
“Jace.” Alec croaked, not having anything to say that would even begin to make up for the mistreatment the beautiful blonde boy had suffered through.
Trembling fingers reached out and rested against Alec’s cheek, the touch as soft as a caress as Jace sent a sad smile down to the older man. Alec turned into the touch, kissing Jace’s hand, blinking away the tears that were threatening to fall because it wasn’t fair of him to be requiring comfort when Jace was the one divulging his trauma.
“Where—” He cleared his throat, trying for something more stable. “Where would you sleep?” He asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer, but knowing that he needed to.
“The floor, usually.” Jace replied. “He wouldn’t trust me to be in my room and not get in bed, so he would lock the door and I’d sleep in the hallway.” He explained.
Alec digested the information as calmly as he could, trying to pretend that his heart wasn’t breaking at the image of a young boy with big eyes, bruises, and untameable blonde hair curled up in a hallway.
“Sometimes though – if I really messed up, if he was really disappointed – he would send me outside.” Jace confessed.
Jace nodded. “It wasn’t always that bad, when the weather was okay. But some nights it was…” He paused, seeming to get lost in his own memories.
After a minute, Alec slid his thumb over the parabatai rune and moved impossibly closer. “Jace?” He prompted softly.
“When I was six, I messed up – the blanket wasn’t even on both sides. It was stupid – I hadn’t had enough time, or I would have made sure it was perfect.”
“I know, babe.” Alec assured.
“He was so mad, he made me sleep outside. It was okay at first, but then I woke up and it was raining and so cold. I tried to sleep under this group of bushes – I got covered in scratches – and it kept me dry but I was still so cold.” Jace shivered, as though he were right back in that same situation.
Alec brought their joined hands to his lips and pressed a kiss on the back of Jace’s, trying to bring his boyfriend back to the present. It worked to some degree, but that pale expression was still haunted as he continued to speak.
“I couldn’t take it anymore – the cold – so I tried to sneak back inside. I thought he would be in bed, but he wasn’t. He was waiting right inside the door, like he knew all along what I was going to do – like he knew how weak I was.”
Alec shook his head. “You were not weak, you are not weak, you have never been weak.” He decreed with all the confidence in the world.
Jace looked at him for a moment, his expression almost wistful, before it faded back into something far wearier.
“He was so angry, so mad that I gave in.” Jace’s swallow was audible, his grip on Alec’s hand strengthening, as his parabatai could feel the fear thundering through their bond. “He hit me so hard.”
Alec flinched. Valentine being an abusive monster was not new information, and though on occasion Jace would open up enough to elude to the realities of his childhood, he rarely spoke outright of being struck or beaten.
“Before I could even stand-up he was dragging me across the floor and back outside, leaving me there as he went back in and slammed the door.”
Alec had to swallow the rage that was quickly consuming him, he denied it access to the bond. Jace didn’t need his anger, he needed understanding and comfort and support.
“I never tried to go back inside again, not ever. No matter what happened on nights when he’d send me out, no matter the weather or the animals that would threaten me, I never tried to escape inside.” Jace explained, curling in to himself. “I tried harder to make sure the bed was perfect so that I wouldn’t risk being sent outside for the night – but sometimes I didn’t have the chance to make it. It wasn’t fair.” He added with a whisper.
“No. It wasn’t.” Alec bit-out.
Jace exhaled a long sigh, not necessarily one of relief, but there was definitely a sense of release to it, as he dropped his chin down onto his chest.
Alec moved his hand off Jace’s parabatai rune and up to his face, cupping his cheek and angling his face up. “You know that you’re safe here, right? You’re safe with me. None of that would ever happen again, I would never let it.”
Jace closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them again they were brimming with so many emotions that Alec could scarcely breathe – it physically hurt him to see the sorrow shining through the bicoloured orbs, but he refused to turn away from it.
“I know.” Jace rasped, reaching down and wrapping his hand around Alec’s upper-arm, tugging him forward. “C’mere.” He murmured, moving back on the bed as he continued to tug his boyfriend closer.
Alec went easily, climbing up onto the mattress, leaning back against the headboard and eagerly accepting the beautiful blonde boy into his arms. Jace’s shorter legs extended next to Alec’s longer ones, as the slim frame curled into the broader one.
“I know.” Jace repeated with a sigh, his head moving up from where it had been resting against the older man’s collarbone, long enough to press a gentle kiss against Alec’s cheek.
Alec’s arms tightened around Jace, as he nodded, relieved that even though he couldn’t save his parabatai from all the pain of his past – he could protect him in the present.
“I didn’t know that when I first got here. I was being so careful not to make any mistakes because I thought – well my dad was strict and your parents seemed the same at first, so I figured punishments would be the same.” Jace mumbled.
Alec had known how hard the young boy had tried when he first arrived, how hard he’d tried to never be in the way, and never make an unnecessary sound, and never make even the simplest of mistakes – he hadn’t known the extensive reasons for that behaviour, but he’d seen it nonetheless.
“But even after I realized that things were different here, that it was – that you were… safe, I still couldn’t stop.” Jace confessed, his fingers idly tracing the rune above Alec’s left hip as he spoke. “Anytime I didn’t think I’d have time to make my bed, anytime I tried to walk away from it, I would tell myself that it was okay, that nothing bad would happen – that you would protect me.” Jace added, his cheek sliding against Alec’s shoulder as he angled his head to look up at the raven-haired man, a twitch of a smile on his lips.
Alec’s heart melted with both relief that Jace had understood the Lightwood boy would do anything to keep him safe, and with an overwhelming love that he had for his boyfriend.
“I knew in my head that I didn’t need to keep doing it -making my bed, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Because the second I even think I won’t be able to make it, or that it’s not perfect, my heart just starts pounding and my hands start shaking and I just get so – so—
“Scared?” Alec supplied quietly, knowing the terror that Jace had felt, because he had felt it himself.
“Yeah.” Jace breathed.
Alec combed his fingers comfortingly through the blonde hair, knowing how difficult it would be for someone as confident and independent as Jace to admit to being overwhelmed by fear.
The whisper was so soft that Alec probably wouldn’t have heard it if he hadn’t felt the exhale of breath against his skin or he wasn’t always hyper-aware of his parabatai.
His objection came across strong and strict and had Jace looking up at him.
“Don’t ever apologize for that.” He instructed, his tone remaining stern, but his touch gentle as he smoothed Jace’s hair away from his face.
“But what if it never stops? What if ten years from now I still can’t help but obsess over the stupid bed?” Jace asked, sounding genuinely concerned, as though Alec’s love had limits.
“So what? You think I ever had a problem with you making the bed?”
Jace raised an eyebrow in response.
Alec huffed an exasperated sound before he continued. “I cared because I didn’t understand it, because even before I could feel that something more was going on, I still knew that something wasn’t right. I knew that you were distressed and- and hurting, and I didn’t understand why – that was why I cared about you making the bed. And I understand now, and if you need to make the bed every day for the rest of our lives, that’s okay, babe.”
The younger man gave his boyfriend a grateful smile that warmed Alec’s insides, even if it didn’t quite erase all the sorrow from that captivating gaze.
“I can help you every morning, or I can let you do it on your own if you want and I’ll just… watch you.” Alec stuttered, not really sure how he could be of any help but just wanting Jace to understand he didn’t need to feel any shame or apology because Alec was alright with whatever he needed to be okay.
“Watch me?” Jace parroted with a cheeky little grin, amusement dancing in those deep eyes.
Alec smirked, leave it to his boyfriend to latch onto that part of the statement. “Only if you do it shirtless.” He flirted, his fingers running along Jace’s ribs, tickling the skin and causing the slim frame to squirm as the boy smothered a giggle by pressing his face into Alec’s collarbone.
“Anything for you, babe.” He responded, leaning up and stretching forward until those perfectly-full lips captured Alec’s smile.
The kiss began playful, quickly turning sweet, and then morphing into something far deeper that had Alec wrapping his hand around the back of Jace’s neck and pulling the beautiful blonde boy impossibly closer. Jace slid his fingers into the dark-hair as he made a soft sound that put butterflies in Alec’s stomach, his large hand trailing up the too-prominent spine as he moaned into the deepening kiss.
They both parted after a moment, remaining close as they each caught their breath, the bond pulsing with warmth.
Alec felt a gentle touch slide out from amidst his hair and trace the curves of his face.
“You’re my whole world. You know that?” Jace whispered, his voice breaking as he stared steadily and lovingly down at the boy laid out beneath him.
Alec felt his eyes fills, his throat closing up as loved flooded the bond and filled him from the inside-out.
“And you’re mine.” He croaked in reply, returning all the love he was receiving and feeling as though he could get lost in that soulful gaze.
The next kiss was the epitome of perfection. It was as pure as any kiss could be – an honest and open expression of adoration and love – and Alec never wanted it to end. Both boys were breathless when they separated, and they spent just a moment basking in the joy and love that surrounded them.
It was heaven.
“Now, Mr Lightwood, I have to ask you to get your perfect ass out of the bed so I can obsess over it before we begin our big day.” Jace instructed a he pulled away, a mischievous grin on his face, his fingers still gentle where they danced on Alec’s jawline.
The raven-haired boy released a surprised laugh. “Our big day has already begun, babe.” He replied, the smile still wide on his face as he combed the stray hairs off Jace’s face, before leaning up and stealing another kiss.
“Well we’re never going to make anything of it if we don’t get moving.” Jace commented with a wry smile.
“It’s your fault for distracting me.” Alec accused, running his thumb along that full bottom lip.
“And how am I doing that, exactly?” Jace asked, his mouth twitched up in amusement as his eyebrows raised in question.
“By being. So. Fucking. Gorgeous.” Alec explained, kissing his boyfriend after each word, to further emphasize his words.
Jace released a delightful giggle, that had Alec’s smiling against his lips.
“You’re impossible.” Jace accused, his face colouring with a blush and lips even more red than usual, as his eyes shone with adoration and amusement – the same things Alec could feel flowing through the bond.
“That’s why you like me.” Alec recited – borrowing Jace’s cheeky grin for just a moment.
Jace’s face brightened at the joke, before fading into something softer and overwhelmingly sincere.
“One of the many reasons.” He whispered as he dropped his forehead down to meet Alec’s.
And in that moment, Alec never imagined he could possibly be more content – this was all he wanted, all he needed; Jace safe and at peace in his arms, trusting Alec with not only his present and his future, but his past as well.
Jace had given Alec part of his soul years ago, and now he was giving him his whole heart.
With each mystery Alec uncovered about Jace, the more he loved him and the closer they became.
Every day it seemed Jace would hand Alec another piece of his shattered heart.
And Alec promised to keep all the broken parts safe and do everything possible to mend them – and even if Jace’s heart had been too mistreated to ever be whole again, Alec swore to protect every beautiful piece of it.
He would love Jace unconditionally and protect him selflessly.
Because that was what the beautiful blonde boy deserved.
And it was exactly how Jace had always cared for Alec.
It was they way they were as friends, parabatai, and boyfriends.
It was the way they would always be.
If Jace hadn’t been struggling with so much of his own anxiety, he would have noticed Alec’s sooner.
The thing was, Jace was having one of those off days, one of those days where he couldn’t get his father – Valentine, whoever the fuck he was … dead was what he was, Jace supposed – out of his fucking head.
Even from the grave the man wouldn’t leave Jace be.
It didn’t matter that he had been dead for years, on some days his cruel criticisms and harsh words still echoed through the blonde boy’s head, refusing to give him a moment of peace. He couldn’t train without hearing that tyrant tell him he wasn’t strong enough, he couldn’t run without that dick telling him he wouldn’t ever be fast enough, and he couldn’t fucking breathe without hearing that bastard telling him that he was weak and pathetic and a worthless disappointment.
Jace had woken up out of sorts thanks to a night of restless sleep filled with intermittent dreams that were more like nightmares – cruel memories of his past come back to haunt him. A few moments lying in his husband’s arms had been enough to soothe Jace’s soul, Alec always knowing when to provide comfort without the blonde boy ever having to ask. The peace had been short-lived though, because Alec had a day full of meetings to get to and Jace had rookies to train.
Jace recalled staring at the bed that morning, his fingers twitching as he itched to straighten the twisted sheets. He hadn’t made the bed in awhile – at least not in the military precision way he used to, it was a habit he had mostly managed to kick, but on those off days he had ever now and again, it was a difficult instinct to disregard. He could hear Valentine’s voice in his head telling him he didn’t deserve to have things – he didn’t deserve to sleep in a bed if he didn’t make it properly.
Eventually, Jace had shaken his head and walked away from the unmade mattress, he wouldn’t let that dead bastard control him, he wouldn’t allow himself to digress. Alec had been so proud of him when he had finally been able to stop obsessing over making the bed, he wouldn’t disappoint his husband by backtracking…again.
Unfortunately, no matter how much conviction Jace had about not making that bed anymore, it wasn’t that easy. All through the morning and deep into the afternoon, Valentine’s hateful words played on a loop in Jace’s head and refused to leave him be. He couldn’t’ stop thinking of the sheets on the mattress he knew were not properly tucked and the pillow cases that were wrinkled. No matter how hard he trained or how many laps he ran, he was unable to suppress the anxiety coursing through his veins, which is why it took him so long to depict the anxiety slipping in through the bond.
Jace was panting as he tried to catch his breath, when he realized something wasn’t right. He had completed instructing the rookies that morning and had spent the rest of the afternoon trying to run and fight and train Valentine’s voice out of his head, but so far had only succeed in exhausting himself. He could still sense his own anxiety – something he had been working to block from himself as well as the bond, because he didn’t want Alec to be bothered by it – but there was something else, equally as familiar but a little out of place.
Jace frowned, rubbing his hand over his parabatai rune as he took a moment to cipher through the various emotions muddled up inside of him. He focussed on the bond, clearing everything else away and zeroing in on nothing but Alec.
Jace could tell that there was no reason to panic, but he could feel that his husband was anxious and stressed and that was more than enough of a reason for him to push aside his own issues and make his way straight towards his parabatai.
He paused outside Alec’s office, listening for a moment to make sure there wasn’t a meeting going on behind the door. Once he didn’t hear any sounds that would indicate Alec had any company, he quietly slipped into the room.
He closed the door soundlessly behind him as his gaze tracked immediately towards the desk at the other end of the room. His heart fluttered as he caught sight of his husband looking over at him, a soft expression on his face and a little smile that began to fade as Jace approached.
“You okay, babe?” Alec questioned, sitting up straighter as he squinted across the space.
Jace couldn’t stop the smirk that pulled at his lips, because he had come to check on his husband, but of course Alec would be worried about him.
“I’m fine.” He stated as he made his way around the desk with every intention of capturing those perfect lips.
“You sure? You’re all sweaty.”
Jace paused from where he had been leaning in for a kiss, he hadn’t thought of the state he was in. He began to straighten up, but was promptly tugged back down by the front of his shirt.
“Don’t you dare.” Alec mumbled, his pink lips moving against the red ones as he slid those long fingers into the mess of blonde hair, guiding Jace down a little further. The younger man traced that perfectly defined jaw with the tips of his own fingers as he smiled against his husband’s mouth.
The kiss was sweet and perfect in ways that Jace never imagined he could deserve - in ways he probably didn’t deserve. Their first kiss years ago had introduced Jace to a level of perfection he never dreamed such a damaged soul could ever be near, let alone be a part of; it had given him butterflies that he assumed would fade away some day, but that day had yet to arrive.
“Perfect.” Alec hummed as they parted. Jace smiled at the reaction, feeling all gooey inside that his husband’s words mirrored so perfectly the thoughts in his own head.
“Even though I’m sweaty?” He teased as he moved to straighten up, only to have Alec pull him down close once more.
“I mentioned you were sweaty because I know how hard you have to work to perspire at all, and I worry that you’re overdoing it; not because I didn’t want to kiss you.” Alec elaborated, pressing his lips to Jace’s once more, as if to prove his point – which Jace was happy to have him do all damn day long. “I always want to kiss you.” Alec added once they had separated.
Jace wanted to say something cheeky -- as was his nature -- but he could do little more than blush, hiding behind his hair as he stood up. He began to turn away, intending to go sit on one of the chairs on the other side of the desk, so he could settle in until he figured out both what was causing his husband so much anxiety and how he could make it better. But before Jace made it more than a step, the familiar fingers of an archer encircled his wrist.
Jace looked back down, meeting the searching eyes that were staring up at him.
“You really alright?”
“Yeah, of course.” Jace shrugged, wondering why Alec was asking.
“You sure? Because you usually don’t work yourself so hard physically unless you’ve got something going on … mentally.”
Jace raised an amused eyebrow at the assessment.
“I just want to make sure you’re okay.” The dark-haired man added softly.
“That’s funny, because I came in here to check on you.” Jace stated, twisting his wrist to grip Alec’s hand and bring it to his lips, pressing a kiss to the back of it, before letting it go and moving to drop down into one of the chairs on the other side of the desk.
“Me?” Alec asked, sounding innocent enough – those big dough eyes helping to make his case, Angel, Jace might even have believed him if he hadn’t been able to feel what he felt.
“Yes, you. You’re stressed out about something.”
“I’m always stressed out about something.” The older man dismissed as he glanced down at the papers spread across his work surface.
“I know.” Jace responded evenly, because he of all people was well aware of that fact.
Alec sent him a small smirk before focussing down on the report he was holding up. Jace reached forward, stretching out and placing his hand on top of Alec’s, gently pushing it back down onto the table – the paper descending with it. The move awarded him what he had been looking for, his husband’s attention, which came in the form of an expectant but slightly irritated gaze.
“I don’t know why we bother playing this game, you know that I can feel that there’s something more going on. This isn’t just normal work stress.” Jace stated calmly.
Alec was quiet for a moment, his expression calculating before he released the paper in his hand and turned his grip so that he was holding onto Jace, his thumb sliding back and forth across the boney knuckles.
“You know what I’ve felt from you today?” He asked, the questioned sounding a bit like a set-up, but his eyes were still soft, so Jace had no fear in playing along – knowing his husband was never out to hurt him, that he didn’t play mind games the way Valentine always had.
“What?” Jace croaked, contracting his hand around the fingers that had slid into his grip.
“Nothing. I feel enough to know that you are alive and nearby, but that’s it. You’re blocking me…again.” Alec expressed with a sad sigh.
Jace bit his lip, looking down at his knees, his hair falling in front of his face as he hid from his husband’s penetrating gaze. Jace had a history of blocking the bond that went back to the moment that rune was etched into his skin. He had done it at first to save Alec from having to deal with the mess of a soul he had just inherited; but as time passed, as the two parabatai had grown even closer, Jace had gotten better at not blocking the bond as much. But old habits died hard, and even years upon years later, he still struggled not hiding the damaged parts of himself from the man he loved.
The announcement brought Jace’s head popping back up, it wasn’t a shocking proclamation by any means, but Maryse did not make social calls. Her relationship with her eldest child had never been ideal, and had only digressed over the years – taking a steep drop-off during the time Jace had been aboard Valentine’s ship. He had noticed upon his return that not only did the woman he had always viewed as his adoptive mother no longer have any desire to be near him, but that she and Alec could barely manage to be cordial with one another. Jace hadn’t pried too hard but he had done enough digging to discover that Maryse had viewed him as a traitor, a perspective she had never fully abandoned even years after his return, and that had caused a rift between Alec and his mother that had never been repaired and seemed to only expand as time went on.
Jace had not spoken to Maryse in quite some time, they would exchange pleasantries at events where they were in the same room, but that had been about all the communication they had managed in the past few years. Jace knew the woman was ashamed of him, knew that she still viewed him as a traitor even after so much time had passed, and he knew that she was downright detested that he had married her eldest child – all of that made it rather difficult for him to look the scorned woman in the eye. He also hated how she treated the man he loved.
Maryse had never treated Alec properly growing up, she had weighed him down with an unfair amount of responsibility from an impossibly young age, and had put upon him unreasonable expectations that not a soul in the galaxy could have ever lived up to. Any time Maryse had spent with Alec since he and Jace were kids, she had used to express her disappointment in everything he said or did.
Jace had hated it back then, and he still hated it now.
“What did she want?” He asked, proud that the question sounded neutral, even though years of bad history threatened to infect it.
Alec shrugged. “Nothing, really. Diplomacy mostly, she didn’t agree with some of the decisions she’d heard I made. I didn’t have much to say about it.” He explained with a shrug.
Jace nodded, watching as Alec chewed on his bottom lip and waiting for him to continue, because he could tell by his husband’s tone that he wasn’t quite finished.
“She talks to me like I’m still a kid, you know? And then when I don’t bend, when I don’t give her what she wants, she…” Alec faded off, shaking his head at himself.
“She gets cruel.” Jace finished, knowing that Alec would never say it, but having a firm understanding from half a childhood of experience that it was, in fact, the truth.
It took a few seconds, but eventually Alec nodded, his eyes aimlessly wandering his desktop.
“Did she say anything in particular?” Jace questioned, ducking down to find his husband’s gorgeous face as he scooted a bit closer.
Alec glanced up for a moment, the misery in his gaze enough to tell Jace that Maryse had done some real damage.
“What did she say, babe?” He asked, leaning forward, guiding Alec’s hand to his mouth and pressing a kiss against the back of it.
Alec’s hand slipped free of Jace’s grip, turning to cup the blonde boy’s face, before returning to grasp his hand, both men staring at each other for a long moment.
“Was it that bad?” Jace whispered, his concern rising at the amount of emotion he could see storming behind those hazel eyes.
Alec shook his head. “Wasn’t anything new. She doesn’t think I have any right to be head of the institute. She doesn’t agree with any of the decisions I made. She’s certain I won’t hold this position much longer. And…” Alec faded off, biting his lip with a shake of his head.
“And something less than charitable about me, I’m sure.” Jace supplied, a playful smirk on his lips as he worked to lighten the mood, he knew how Maryse could be and the detest she had for the stray she had taken in many years ago and he also knew that Alec would never repeat whatever ill-words his mother had used.
The dark-haired man gave Jace a helpless look that stole any attempt at humor from the moment.
“None of it is true, Alec.” The younger man declared, his voice strong with confidence because he was sure of his words. “You run this place better than anyone, every decision you have made has helped to maintain peace – and Maryse said the same thing about you not being in charge for long back when you became the head, so we know that’s crap. As for the stuff she said about me…” Jace shrugged, unable to deny accusations he hadn’t heard, and maybe a bit worried that some of them weren’t all that inaccurate.
“What she said about you was bullshit.” Alec growled, the hand that wasn’t being held in Jace’s grip, clenching into a fist, his eyes bright with a fierce fire that would instill fear in anyone who didn’t share a soul with him.
“Well then there you go.” Jace responded, half a smile on his lips.
Alec sighed, sounding weary in ways only someone who had spent their entire life with the world on their shoulders could sound. It always broke a little piece of Jace’s heart to hear him sound that way.
“None of what she says is true, Alec. It doesn’t hold any weight. She’s just angry.” Jace stated.
“Yeah, angry I’m not the son she wanted.” The older man mumbled.
“No, you’re not.” Jace agreed, because Alec was in no way the vindictive, brainless solider Maryse had tried to create, so she could have someone to blindly follow her orders. “You’re so much more than that.”
Alec looked up from where he had dropped his head, his eyes wide and searching as they stared across the desk.
“You’ve always been more than she tried to make you, more than she wanted you to be.”
Alec’s face was scrunched in confusion, his head cocking slightly to the side in a way that was almost too adorable for Jace to deal with.
“She wanted you to be brave and strong and fearless – and you are. But you have always been more intelligent and more selfless and more compassionate than she ever raised you to be. You are not the mindless shadowhunter she wanted, you think for yourself and you always do what you believe is right.”
Alec was looking at Jace with wide eyes glimmering with unshed tears and it was everything the blonde boy could do to continue speaking while staring into the face of such heart-wrenching emotion.
“Maryse is angry, about a lot of things – I think she’s always been sort of angry, since I’ve known her anyways. And yeah, maybe you not becoming the son she wanted is one of the reasons she’s angry – but babe, you could never ever be that person.” Jace explained, taking a moment to gather himself before he continued. “You could never be less than you are – not even to please your mother, you’re too good, Alec.” He choked out, reaching out to swipe a tear off his husband’s skin, his hand caught by long fingers and guided to pink lips that pressed a kiss to Jace’s palm.
“Jace.” Alec sighed, so much emotion placed into a single world – so much love. Jace had never known his name could be spoken with such gentleness, such care, until he had met Alec.
“And I’m sorry.” He confessed softly.
Alec’s eyebrows raised as he continued to focus on the younger man.
“I’m sorry if being with me, if marrying me, has caused her to be angrier with you. I never wanted that for you. I never—
“Hey, no, none of that!” Alec ordered, his tone stern as he abruptly released Jace’s hands – causing the blonde boy to feel lost for a moment, but he calmed as he watched the long frame round the desk.
Alec immediately reached down for him, Jace allowing himself to be pulled to his feet, Alec’s hands on his shoulders, holding him less than two feet away.
“You have nothing to be sorry for, Jace. Nothing.”
Jace nodded at the words, if only because they were stated with such certainty that he had no choice but to believe them.
“Angel, Jace, marrying you was the best decision I have ever made. And I would never regret it – could never regret it, not even for a second, no matter what Maryse says.” Alec implored, his tone strong and almost urgent, but his touch impossibly gentle as he slid Jace’s hair from where it had fallen in front of his eyes. The archer’s finger tips grazing the shorter man’s forehead and then tracing their way down his jaw, before grasping his chin firmly but still so damn gentle.
The first touch Jace could ever remember feeling that wasn’t rough or harsh or dismissive, had been Alec’s. The dark-haired boy had been the one to teach Jace that touch could be encouraging or comforting or loving.
“You hearing me?” Alec questioned, using his grasp on Jace’s chin to direct his face up until their eyes met.
“Yeah. Yeah, babe, I hear ya.” He croaked, his voice strangled by overwhelming emotion.
Alec nodded as he pulled Jace in, his long strong arms wrapping around the smaller frame. Jace curled into his husband, hugging him back just as hard as he tucked his head into the crook of Alec’s neck.
“I love you.” He whispered impossibly quietly, so the universe couldn’t hear – because no matter how many years went by, Jace couldn’t forget the lesson Valentine had spent so much time beating into him: to love is to destroy and to be loved is to be the one destroyed. Jace had no concern for himself, he had been destroyed before, he had been unmade and stapled back together again and again, and though the process was one too egregious to speak of – he could handle it if he had to. But Alec, he was different. Jace would not allow the one he loved most in the world, the one who had saved his soul even back when he had been certain there wasn’t enough of it left to piece back together, to suffer.
Alec was everything to Jace, and the broken boy refused to allow anything to harm his husband.
The mere thought that Jace’s love could destroy Alec was terrifying. The idea that just by loving the younger man, Alec could come to any harm, was one that Jace could not bear to consider. He refused to let that happen. It was bad enough that by loving Jace, Alec was adding strain to the already difficult relationship he had with Maryse. Jace wouldn’t permit any further damage to be done.
“I love you too.” Alec declared, the words gruff with emotion but strong with confidence as they were whispered directly into Jace’s ear. “More than anything, you know that!?”
The blonde boy nodded against the taller frame as he huddled further into it, feeling Alec’s grip around him tighten in response.
Jace was content to feel that his parabatai’s anxiety had faded away. He was filled with satisfaction as he slid his hand around to Alec’s front, tracing down the black shirt until arriving at the hem and sliding beneath it, rubbing his thumb over the rune he knew to be located above his husband’s left hip.
He heard Alec sigh, the soft exhale ghosting through his hair, the sound full of the relief and contentment Jace had been hoping to provide when he had marched his way to the office.
He felt Alec’s hand move from his spine to slip beneath his shirt and smiled softly, knowing Alec was in search of the same thing Jace had been, which was confirmed when his husband’s palm splayed against the skin above his hip.
He frowned when Alec gently pushed him away, breaking the hug but maintaining contact with his rune. He looked up at the taller man expectantly, only to see him frowning down at him.
“Fuck, Jace, you’re freezing.”
The younger shadowhunter knew he had been shivering and had figured it had been from the emotional overload, but now that he paused a moment to take stock of himself, he noticed the cold that had settled into his bones. His body was no longer warm from exercise, his sweat-damp skin now chilled and being hit by the cold institute air. He shivered once more as Alec’s hand rubbed up and down his right arm, generating a warmth Jace hadn’t recognized he’d been missing.
“You don’t even have a sweater on. It’s November, Jay.”
“I was running.” The blonde boy defended with a shrug.
Alec shook his head at Jace in that same half-found, half-exasperated way he had since they were kids, as he gently pushed him back a few steps. Jace allowed himself to be steered by the gentle pressure against his hip, walking backwards – trusting Alec to guide him.
He felt the back of his heels connect with the couch before being pushed down into it. He sat back into the sofa, the one he was fairly certain had been placed there years ago purely for his own benefit – he did spend an awful lot of time in Alec’s office after all.
The touch disappeared from his hip, prompting Jace to track the dark-haired man as he moved across the room, watching as he snagged a sweater from behind the door and moved back to wrap it around the smaller frame. Jace slid his arms through the sleeves, biting back a sarcastic comment as he watched Alec zip the hoodie up to his chest, before he released a quiet sigh as he absorbed the warmth of the fabric.
He heard Alec huff an exasperated sound so he smiled up at the older boy, his tongue between his teeth, knowing by the smirk that pulled at his husband’s lips that Jace had achieved the cheeky expression he had been aiming for. However, the perfectly chiselled face grew serious as Alec moved to sit on the couch next to Jace.
“I told you what was up with me, so it’s your turn now.”
Jace’s smile faded as he looked down at his hands, twisting them in nervous distraction.
“I’d help you get started, but I don’t know what you’re feeling … because I can’t feel anything through the bond.” Alec stated, his gaze nearing distressed as he snagged onto one of Jace’s hands, pulling it away from where it had been idly scratching at his skin and into the taller boy’s lap. “You’re safe with me, you know that, right?”
Jace twitched a smile, his heart filling as he used the hand that Alec had captured to entangle their fingers. “I know.” He responded honestly, because that was one thing he had always been unwaveringly certain of – even before he understood why.
Alec looked relieved, even as his eyes stared expectantly into the bicoloured pair.
“I never meant to block you out, not completely.”
The dark-haired boy sent him a doubtful look.
Jace release a long sigh before he continued. “I just didn’t want to bother you, I knew you had a lot going on today, and the last thing you needed was a bunch of crap bursting through the bond and distracting you.”
Alec was shaking his head. “Anything is better than not being able to feel you, Jace.”
The younger man looked into the sincerity on his husband’s face and found himself nodding in response, he understood where he was coming from. Alec had never really figured out how to block the bond the way Jace was able to, but the blonde boy could still recall a time or two the Lightwood man had managed, and not being able to feel what his parabatai was feeling had been extremely unsettling.
“I know.” Jace whispered. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. Just tell me what had you so anxious all day.” Alec prompted, knocking his boney knee against Jace’s.
“I thought you couldn’t feel anything?” Jace asked with a smirk.
“I couldn’t, but when you came in here all sweaty and exhausted – I knew that you had been training yourself to death, which you only ever do when you’ve got something going on.” Alec elaborated, levelling the shorter man with a knowing look.
Jace nodded along, because that tracked. He sat a moment trying to figure out what to say, how to admit that even after all these years, he was still struggling. He tried to figure out a way to confess to his husband that the moment of pride the man had felt that morning when he had watched Jace walk away from their unmade bed was all for nought, because the stupid boy hadn’t thought about anything besides the state of their mattress for hours.
He didn’t know what to say.
So instead he opened the bond, removing the block and trying to make a conscious effort not to hide any of the pieces of himself away.
Jace’s head was ducked, his hair in front of his face – he was being exposed in as many ways as he could handle in his current state, but none of that prevented him from hearing Alec’s deep inhale or feeling his husband reaching through the bond.
Jace felt something comforting and so damn soothing flow through the bond – something that had taken him years (probably too many years) to realize was love.
He took a moment to breathe, which was far easier now that he was no longer being suffocated by his own anxiety.
“Hey.” Alec called softly after a moment, his long fingers gently sliding through the blonde hair.
Jace took another second to feel the calm that was now radiating from the piece of Alec’s soul -- that he held safely inside himself – into the mangled remains of his own soul, before looking up and over to his right.
“Thanks for letting me in.” Alec’s expression was grateful, but his gorgeous gaze still held concern. “But there’s only so much I can decipher through feeling – sometimes I need words, babe.” He stated, sounding apologetic but insistent.
“I don’t have any.” Jace sighed with a shrug.
“Try.” Alec encouraged, bringing the hand of Jace’s that he was holding to his mouth and pressing a kiss to the back of it.
And how the fuck was Jace supposed to respond to that, except do what he always did when his husband was sweet and so damn gentle – and just melt.
“I can’t get him out of my head.” He confessed, running a hard roughly through his hair, not paying any mind when the frustrated movement cause some of the strands to pull painfully.
Alec frowned, reaching up and gently smoothing the hair on Jace’s head – his touch so impossibly gentle it was as if he was apologizing to each strand for the harsh treatment the younger man had just put it through.
“I’m sorry, I should have realized. I knew you had a nightmare, but you seemed okay this morning – it didn’t seem like one of those days.”
Jace shook his head, because it hadn’t been one of those days originally. “It wasn’t, not at first.”
Alec nodded, the younger man able to tell that his husband was a bit relieved, because he had always been able to pick up on Jace’s off-days and was likely glad that hadn’t changed.
“Do you know what happened? Did something trigger it?” Alec questioned, his fingers idly tracing the slightly smaller calloused ones.
Jace’s lips twitched up for a second, because his husband knew him all too well. “The bed.” He sighed.
“But you didn’t make it this morning.” Alec pointed out.
“Exactly.” Jace mumbled. “I haven’t stopped thinking about it all day – or about him.” He added, trying not to sound as defeated as he felt.
“Why would you hide that? Why wouldn’t you just tell me?”
“I wasn’t just hiding it from you, I was trying to push it out of my own head, I was trying to block it out – to block him out.”
Alec’s grip tightened around Jace’s hand, the hold strong and comforting. “Your head didn’t get any quieter after you made the bed?” He asked.
“I never did.”
His husband’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Why not?”
The hand that wasn’t entangled in the archer’s long fingers formed a fist on Jace’s lap, as he dropped his chin to his chest. “I don’t want him to win.” He declared, softening a little before continuing, “And I don’t want you to…” He faded off, words escaping him the way they too often did.
“To what, babe? Don’t want me to what?” Alec prompted softly after giving Jace a moment.
“Be disappointed … in me.” Jace admitted, the confession stinging his soul as it slipped from his lips.
He tried no to react when Alec’s hand released his own, his fingers forming a fist around the empty air, but before Jace could miss his husband’s touch too much, it returned. Alec cupped his face, guiding his head up from where it had been ducked away, and directing it towards his own. Jace stared into those soft loving eyes as he took in that set jaw and the confident curve of those perfect lips.
“You could never disappoint me.” Alec declared, sounding so damn sure of himself.
“He’s dead. He’s been dead for years. He shouldn’t be able to control me – not anymore.” Jace proclaimed. “I shouldn’t still be so messed-up over the shit he put me through.”
Alec’s expression turned stern, his hand falling away from Jace’s face and landing to rest down on his lap. “And what about me?”
Jace frowned at the comment, shifting closer, cocking his head to the side.
“Should I not be messed-up anymore?”
“What do you mean, Alec? You’re not messed up.” The notion itself was absurd.
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure I was stressing the fuck out a moment ago, before you got here, all over a call from Maryse.”
Jace replied with a dismissive headshake. “That’s different.”
“How? Maryse gives me anxiety and Valentine does the same to you. How is that different?”
“Because Maryse is still alive. She is still able to call you out and say stupid shit that messes with your head. Valentine has been dead for years; he hasn’t done anything to me for ages.” Jace explained.
Alec was shaking his head before his parabatai had even completed his argument. “I start feeling overwhelmed before I even pick up the phone, Jace. Before she visits or before I answer her call, I’m already losing my mind – because of the history between us, because of the past. What I went through growing up still fucks with my mind, and it is nothing compared to what Valentine did to you.”
Jace adamantly shook his head side-to-side so quickly that he almost gave himself whiplash. “No! What your parents put you through, what they put on you – that wasn’t fair, Alec, and it wasn’t okay and it wasn’t better than what happened to me.”
“Yes. It was.”
“It wasn’t! It was just different. A different kind of mistreatment, a different kind of pain – not less, just different.” Jace insisted, his body trembling, his emotional desperation to get his point across manifesting itself in a physical way.
Alec’s eyes were wide as they stared at the smaller shadowhunter, likely alarmed at not only being able to see Jace’s need, but feel it through the bond.
“Okay, okay. It was different.” He relented, his tone disarming, as though he were speaking to a spooked creature that was ready to charge.
Jace settled a little at the admission, satisfied with the words even if he was fairly sure that Alec was simply placating him for the moment.
“What I’m saying, Jace, is that my childhood is what has me messed-up. Have you ever been disappointed in me because of that?”
“What?! No! Of course not!”
“Have you ever been disappointed when you feel my anxiety through the bond? Or when I’m agitated and wound up before one of Maryse’s visits?”
“Never.” Jace vowed, relieved when Alec nodded along with his answer, as though he already knew.
“Of course not. Because you have always loved every part of me.” The older boy proclaimed, taking Jace’s face in his hands, the bi-coloured gaze unable to look anywhere but at Alec. “Even before we were together, before we were us, you loved all of me.”
Jace sniffed, blinking the moisture from his eyes, not surprised when he felt one of those long fingers swipe a trailing tear off his cheekbone. The bond was thrumming, Jace feeling exposed and open and raw, but also so wonderfully close to the man sitting in front of him pouring out his soul.
“You loved me when I was quiet, you loved me whenever I played the role of my parents’ perfect soldier, you loved me when I was agitated and short-tempered, and you loved me when I was stressed the hell out.” Alec twitched a fond smile, clearing his throat before he continued. “You aren’t ever disappointed or annoyed when I’m full of anxiety. You always come find me and the moment you walk into whatever room I’m in, it’s like all of the sudden I can breathe again.
Jace’s heart swelled. Since they were kids he had always wanted to be that person for Alec, that person who could make him flash that brilliant smile and put that soft look on his face. He had always wanted to ease Alec’s distress, returning to him at least half of the peace and comfort that the older boy had always given Jace.
The fact that he could be that person for Alec, that Jace was the one person who could always make things better for his husband – well that was one of the warrior’s finest achievements.
“Why won’t you let me do the same for you?” Alec queried, his voice no louder than a whisper as he leaned in closer, his face mere inches away from Jace’s.
“You do, all of the time. With my nightmares and my off-days and all my other shit, you always make it better.”
Alec smiled as Jace reached up to brush a tear from his husband’s cheek with the tips of his fingers.
“You’ve been doing so good at opening up to me, at letting me know what’s going on in your head, and letting me in.” Alec exclaimed, one of his hand’s releasing Jace’s face in favor for sliding beneath his sweater and pressing against the rune above his hip. “Have I ever been disappointed in you?”
Jace shook his head, because he couldn’t recall a single occasion over all their years together where that had happened.
“So why would you think this time would be different?”
Jace sniffed, giving a half-hearted shrug before finding the words for a response. “I just- I knew you were proud this morning when I walked away from the bed and I didn’t want to ruin that.” He confessed.
Alec moved even closer, their legs slotted together as his fingers blindly traced Jace’s parabatai rune and his other hand remained steady against the pale jaw.
“I’m proud of you when you walk away from the unmade bed because I know that is what you want. I know that you don’t want to feel like Valentine has any control anymore, so when you walk away I’m proud because I know that you’re proud of being able to do that.” Alec explained, his gaze as misty as Jace knew his own was, but neither man willing to look away from the other. “I am just as proud of you when you make the bed, because I know that you are trying to deal with that monster in your head, that you’re trying to shut him up so you can get on with your day.”
Jace’s hand was shaking as he reached forward and slid it beneath his husband’s clothes, resting it above his hip where the rune was etched into his skin – it was pulsing, the way it only did when the pair of parabatai had the most pure connection and were completely open to each other.
“Angel, Jace, you’re so fucking brave. I could never be disappointed in you – not on the days when your head is clear and definitely not on the days when I know you’re struggling.”
Jace hiccupped a sob, as a shattered piece of his soul that had been broken for as long as he could remember, was repaired inside of him. He had spent all of his life afraid he wasn’t enough, that he would never be enough for anyone. He had been so certain that he was too broken and too damaged and too fucked-up to ever be anything more than a disappointment.
“I love all of you, Jace.”
The words were so full of passion and certainty that they could be nothing but a vow.
“Even the messy bits?” Jace croaked, a small smirk pulling at his lips.
The sincerity never slipped from Alec’s face. “Every bit. The beautiful mess, the brave warrior, the goofy ball of energy, and the sweet husband.”
The hand that wasn’t on the rune, moved to grasp Alec’s shirt at his chest and pull him towards Jace.
“Every. Single. Bit.” Alec promised, kissing Jace after each word.
Jace deepened the third kiss, melting into his husband, the bond thrumming between them. He caressed the rune and used his grip on Alec’s shirt to tug him impossibly closer. The dark-haired man moaned softly into Jace’s mouth, which set loose butterflies in the younger man’s stomach. He felt strong arms wrap around him and pull him forward, Jace going with the movement without removing his lips from Alec’s. He allowed himself to be guided and shifted until he was laying out on the couch, settled against that strong familiar frame, his legs entangled with those longer ones.
Their lips parted as they wrapped themselves around each other, their foreheads pressed together as they caught their breath.
Jace pressed another soft kiss to his husband’s lips, smiling at him before tucking his head into the crook of Alec’s neck, enjoying the moment of peace and revelling in the warmth that was flowing through him. He wiggled even closer as the arms around his slim frame held him that much tighter, the pair of parabatai just holding each other for a few quiet minutes.
“I should let you get back to work.” Jace mumbled against the olive skin, having no desire to move but knowing that he was keeping Alec from the full day he had scheduled.
But as he attempted to pull away, his husband tugged him back down.
“Not yet.” Alec mumbled, placing a kiss atop Jace’s head as the younger man felt him nuzzle closer.
Jace smiled, happy to appease the man he loved and stay close. “Someone is bound to come in soon.” He warned.
Jace hummed an unsure response, because he wasn’t certain that was true. Alec had always shown his softer side to Jace and sometimes the Lightwood siblings would catch a glimpse – but never had anyone else been permitted to witness it. Alec was serious in nature and not even his parents were granted access to the softer side of their eldest son. The head of the institute displayed himself as all business, even in moments where his generous spirit was showing, but he didn’t expose the gentler piece of his soul to the world.
It was something he seemed to reserve solely for those that were closest to him.
And Jace never stopped being grateful that he got to be one of those few individuals.
“If it means getting to hold you an extra few minutes – I don’t care who walks in.”
A shy smile pulled at Jace’s lips as he tucked himself closer to the man who had just made his heart clench so intensely with such a sweet confession.
“Maryse could march through those doors, I still wouldn’t move.”
Jace giggled at the comment, the scenario playing out in his head. “That’d go over very well.” He joked.
Alec chuckled in response before Jace felt soft lips press against his scalp, causing him to melt into his husband.
Jace imagined this is what it felt like to be completely happy.
Sure, life wasn’t perfect. Both men struggled with anxiety that stemmed from some seriously fucked-up childhoods that didn’t seem to stop messing with their psyches no matter how many years passed by.
But they were together – and they were happy.
And that was enough.
And later that night at the end of a long day, when they made their way to their bedroom, Jace stood at the end of the obsessively made bed, frowning down at the impossibly smooth surface, trying and failing to feel like Valentine hadn’t won – that dead bastard was still controlling Jace form beyond the fucking grave.
However, those thoughts of self-recrimination and shame dissipated the moment Alec’s arms wrapped around him from behind. Jace leaned back into the larger frame placing his arms on top of his husband’s and allowing the love flowing through the bond to chase away his frustrations.
“I’m proud of you, babe.” Alec whispered, as he pressed a sweet kiss to the blonde boy’s temple.
Jace smiled, turning in his parabatai’s arms, cupping Alec’s face with his hands.
“And I’m proud of you, darlin.” He declared, stretching up onto his tiptoes and guiding that perfect face down towards him as he met those soft pink lips with his own full red ones.
The contact morphed from soft and sweet to deep and passionate, Jace gasping against Alec’s mouth as he was lifted from the ground by a strong hold, carried a couple short steps before being slowly lowered onto the bed.
Joy bubbled through the broken boy as his husband hovered over him, having pulled away just enough that the two were able to take each other in.
Maybe Valentine did win today.
Maybe he had won, messing with Jace’s head enough that the shadowhunter had given in to old habits that had been beaten into him as a child.
But that bastard couldn’t have anything.
He didn’t win anything.
Because Jace was going to mess up that damn bed he had made military precision.
He was going to mess it up making love to the man he loved and the man who loved him.
Because their love didn’t destroy.
Thoughts? Comments? Reviews are super appreciated. Also, if you have any interest in sending your appreciation monetarily, you are welcome to buy me a coffee at: ko-fi(dotcom)/samjeller. I'm saving up for a new laptop so I can actually write a full page of a fic without being bombarded by that lovely blue screen of death! ;) Thanks for reading! - Sam