A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings

Author's Note: Day 9 of Writer's Month 2019 - prompt: time travel.

So this is most definitely NOT a drabble anymore, but rather me using a) my dissatisfaction with 3b and b) something Dom said at ItaCon 1* to spin a tale in which not much happens, yet everything changes.

Title alludes to the Butterfly Effect.


When Jace returned from his last training session with Alec, there was a strange Shadowhunter in his room.

"Who are you and what do you want?" Jace's hand immediately went to his blade, but the intruder didn't seem bothered in the least. On the contrary, he was leaning casually against the wall and watching Jace with a look that could only be described as fond. Jace's hackles rose, and he did his best to hide how unsettled he felt. There was something about the stranger... something familiar. "Are you going to explain yourself or do I have to make you?"

"Oh, I'd like to see you try!" The stranger had the gall to laugh, only to quickly turn sober when he saw that Jace was about to reach the end of his tether. "Seriously, though, you know me. Better than just about anyone. Just... look closely."

With that the stranger stepped out of the shadows - and Jace's breath caught. He was about ten years older, there were more runes marking his skin and his hair was longer, but one glance into his eyes left no room for doubt: Jace was looking at...

"Me? You're... me? From... from the future?" he stammered, "How is that even possible?"

The unmistakable blue-and-gold eyes twinkled in amusement. "Let's just say that Seelie portals are more versatile than we thought."

"How do I know you're not just wearing a glamour?" After the first shock had passed, Jace managed to gather his composure at least superficially. Still, he couldn't quite hide the flinch when the other Jace took a step forward. Shaking his head in annoyance, he braced himself - he would not show weakness, not even if this was really some future version of himself.

"Va... Michael Wayland used to break our fingers when we made a mistake playing the piano." Any trace of good humor had disappeared with the statement, the older man's voice carrying a sadness Jace recognized all too well. "You haven't even told Alec about that, have you? At least not yet."

Jace nodded mutely. Alec knew more about his childhood before his father's death than just about anyone, but he hadn't shared this particular tidbit. It always felt strangely disloyal when he mentioned things that he knew other people would find harsh. Unwilling to pursue this line of thought further, he quickly asked, "Then why are you here? Won't this change things?"

"That's what I'm hoping." The older Jace's smile was wry, bittersweet, and his posture slumped, as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Then he shook it off with a careless shrug, hiding all those emotions behind a facade that Jace had only ever seen in the mirror. "Actually, my presence should result in a new timeline, not affecting my own. Or so I've been told by certain people who've seen way too many mundie movies."

"Then my question still stands," Jace said impatiently, "why the fuck are you here?"

"Angel, was I really that much of a pain in the ass?" the older man asked under his breath, but continued before Jace could interject, "I'm not going to tell you what's going to happen in the future, but I am going to tell you one thing, and I suggest you listen carefully."

He paused and waited for Jace to nod in reluctant acknowledgment. "Okay, I'm listening."

The future version of himself sighed and finally got to the point: "This is the thing: You love Alec."

"Yes, of course," Jace replied rather offhandedly, confused as to why this was supposed to be a revelation. "That's why I asked..."

"...him to be your parabatai, yeah, I'm aware," interrupted the older Jace wearily. "But what I'm telling you is that you love him. Love him in the way V... Michael told you was weakness."

Jace dimly registered that once more the other him had put a strange emphasis on his father's name, but most of his thoughts were occupied with the rest of this astonishing statement. It was of course completely ridiculous - Alec was his best friend, his almost-brother, his parabatai-to-be. Anything else was outrageous.

"You don't know what you're talking about," he snapped. "I'm... we're not like that!"

"Oh, but you are." The most infuriating thing about this whole situation was the matter-of-fact way in which the older Shadowhunter spoke. As if he knew Jace better than he knew himself. "And by you I mean both of you."

"I- what?!" Jace felt as if his brain was about to shortcircuit.

"Have you ever wondered why Alec hesitated when you asked him to be parabatai?" Future Jace was again regarding him a tenderness that set Jace's teeth on edge. "I should probably feel guilty to share his secret, but it seems that's the only way to get through to you: He's in love with you. Has been for a long time - but if you don't do something now, you'll lose him one day."

"No, I won't," Jace interjected, but even he could hear the doubt creeping into his voice. "We'll be parabatai forever."

"Of course, and that's so much more incredible than you can ever imagine." There was no missing the bone-deep sadness settling over the older man's shoulders now. "Except one day you'll wake up and you'll be alone. Yes, you'll still be parabatai, but he'll be on the other side of the world, building a life - with someone else."

"Alec would never..." Jace protested weakly. "Nephilim only love once."

"Maybe. Maybe not." The older him's understanding was like salt being rubbed into a wound, and Jace had to fight the urge to cover his ears or run away. "But that doesn't change the fact that he'll move on."

"What... what should I do?" Jace barely registered that he was talking as if he believed every word, fear spreading through his veins like ice. He couldn't... he wouldn't lose Alec!

A relieved smile spread on future Jace's face. "I thought I'd made that clear: go to him and tell him that you love him, too. You might have to kiss him for him to believe you, but I think that won't be a problem, will it."

It wasn't a question, and Jace's cheeks suddenly felt very hot, the truth of this statement sinking in. No, he really wouldn't mind kissing Alec. But... "But what about the parabatai ceremony? The Law says-"

"-many things, some of them more relevant than others." Older Jace paused, gaze turning inwards for a moment. "Look, I'm not telling you one way or the other. Just... tell Alec and then you can decide together."

"Alec always follows the rules," Jace murmured petulantly, making the other him laugh.

"Oh, I don't know... when it comes to you - let's say he might just surprise you." Checking his watch, the older man stepped closer and clapped a hand on Jace's shoulder. "Alright, I've said my piece, and it's time for me to go. Everything else is up to you."

Surprisingly, Jace felt almost disappointed that this strange encounter was about to end. "Can't you tell me anything else?"

"No, sorry." Future Jace's voice softened. "Just remember, even when it doesn't feel that way, you're loved."

A portal swooshed into being in a corner of the room, and the older Jace turned to leave. Just before he stepped through, however, he said over his shoulder, "And never lie to Alec. No matter what, even if you think that you're protecting him."

Before Jace could do more than open his mouth to ask why the hell he'd ever do such a thing, the portal closed behind his visitor, disappearing as if it had never been there. Jace remained rooted to the spot for a long moment, staring at the empty air and replaying the whole bizarre encounter. Did this really happen? Was there really a future version of himself who decided that of all the things to do with a time travel portal was to tell himself to... to confess his love to Alec?

The strangest thing about the whole thing was that, the more Jace thought about it, the less strange it seemed, a dozen little details he'd noticed about Alec's behavior slotting into place, as did some truths of his own that he'd never dared to look at too closely. Still, should he really go through with this crazy scheme? Wouldn't it be easier to simply not tell Alec and follow the original plan?

Except he could still hear the other Jace's voice in his head: Never lie to Alec. Even if you think that you're protecting him. And not telling Alec would be lying by omission, five minutes after he'd been scandalized by the very thought.

Taking a deep breath, Jace nodded to himself. He knew what to do. Setting his shoulders, he left his room to go find Alec.

***

On the other side of the portal, Jace stumbled, disoriented, only to be caught in a strong embrace.

"Missed you," Alec's voice rumbled against his ear, and Jace stared into his parabatai's face as memories began to fill his head. Warmth spreading through him, Jace laughed in delight, and Alec kissed him - for the first and the hundredth time.

He was home.


*To clarify: During his M&G at ItaCon 1 Dom said something along the lines that everyone's lives would have been much easier if Jace had been with Alec in season 1 instead of Clary. When asked about the parabatai taboo, he said that Jace should have realised his feelings before the ceremony and told Alec. As you can tell, I couldn't bring myself to break the parabatai bond but rather took advantage of the show not once addressing the taboo by making it simply another stupid Law. 🙂

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