A Political Alliance

Author's Note: AU in which a) homosexuality is okay with the Clave, and b) Jace wasn't raised by the Lightwoods. Inspired by a throwaway comment in episode 6 of the Shadowcasters podcast, speculating that Alec's main objection to the arranged marriage is that it's to a woman.

***

"They're going to make you marry!" Isabelle was outraged, but her anger turned to confusion when her brother appeared completely unfazed.

"Yeah, so?" Alec shrugged, going back to working over the punching bag. "We've been spending too much time running after Clary Fairchild, the Clave is doubting mom and dad's leadership."

"You knew?" Isabelle stared, dumbfounded.

Alec nodded and grabbed a towel to wipe himself down. "Mom told me. They need an alliance, and I'm the oldest, so the duty falls to me." His voice softened. "Hey, Iz, it's alright. I'm not a romantic, I don't need to be in love. As long as it's someone I can respect. And not a woman."

The last finally earned him a smile from his sister, who hugged him hard before stepping back with a wrinkled nose. "As long as you're sure."

"I'm sure. And now I'll head over to Magnus Bane's - Simon called, they need my help with Luke. And hopefully I can convince Clary to come back with me. Mom and dad will calm down once she's back at the Institute." Alec knew he was probably overly optimistic, considering how headstrong the Fairchild girl had proven herself to be since bumping into Izzy at Pandemonium's. His sister had taken a shine to the redhead, and Alec's life had been in turmoil ever since. Not that it was Clary's fault that her father was a homicidal maniac who had turned out to be a lot less dead than everyone had thought. Still, he doubted he'd be facing the prospect of marriage if it wasn't for her.

Lucky for him Shadowhunter society's stance on homosexuality was more enlightened than that of the mundane world, where marriage between people of the same gender was still illegal or at least frowned upon in many parts of the globe. As he'd told Izzy - he could deal, as long as he didn't have to pretend to be straight.

When he returned from Magnus' loft the next morning, Isabelle teased him mercilessly. Alec was almost disappointed that her barbs were baseless, since he found himself quite attracted to the warlock. However, considering his mother's comments about Izzy's relationship with Meliorn as well as the knowledge that all too soon Alec would officially be off the market, it had struck him as unfair to take advantage of Magnus' obvious interest in him.

He was aware that most people, his sister included, wouldn't share his scruples, would enjoy a fling with the attractive Downworlder, but Alec had never been interested in meaningless sex. It just didn't do anything for him, and now, with marriage looming on the horizon, there was simply no reason to open himself up. Either there was nothing there, and Alec would hurt Magnus by refusing him, or Alec actually developed feelings for him, which would mean heartache for both of them when Alec got married. So he'd simply enjoyed the warlock's company and then took his leave, mind already back on Luke's revelations concerning the Cup. Finally they knew where it was, and although they ran into some trouble in demon-form at the police station, at the end of the day the Mortal Cup was back at the Institute, safe, and Alec felt as if a great weight had lifted from his shoulders.

That was when Raphael brought Simon to them, because of course nothing was ever easy when it came to Clary Fairchild. Alec left Izzy to deal with it, since she was the one with the soft spot for the redhead and her little mundane friend. Instead he ran interference with his parents, who explained that, despite everything, the Clave had seen fit to send an envoy. Apparently the Lightwoods were still in the doghouse, and Alec already disliked the interfering meddler from Idris, even before he found himself face to face with Valentine Morgenstern.

"That reaction time was abysmal!" After catching Alec's arrow in the air, Valentine lifted his stele and de-glamored himself, turning into a smirking young man, about the same age as Alec but shorter, blonde and muscular in a way Alec hated himself for noticing. Especially when penetrating eyes turned to him, captivating even before Alec realized they were two-toned, blue and gold-brown.

"Except for you," the young Shadowhunter drawled, looking Alec up and down in a way that made him feel unsettled, even before he licked his lips and grinned in obvious flirtation. "I'm Jonathan Herondale, envoy from the Clave."

With that he ambled past a dumbfounded Alec and proceeded to wrest control of the Institute from Maryse. It would have been impressive if it hadn't been so infuriating, and Alec found himself struggling to make up a lie explaining Izzy and Clary's absence. He was almost grateful for the distraction offered by the report about an attack on the Jade Wolf - that was, until Herondale decided that he wanted to tag along. Or rather, he gave Alec another long look and ordered carelessly, "Are you coming, or what?"

Alec was almost sure that it wasn't his imagination that every word Jonathan - "Call me Jace, everyone except my adoptive mother does!" - said to him was laden with innuendo and/or flirtation.

Still: "Adoptive mother?" Alec inquired, curious in spite of himself. "Herondale - you were raised by the Inquisitor?"

Jace nodded. "Yes. Imogen lost her son in the Uprising, and after my father died when I was ten she adopted me. I was born Jonathan Christopher Wayland - hence Jace."

"I'm sorry, that must have been tough." Jace had obviously told the story countless time and appeared nonchalant, but Alec had met Imogen Herondale, and he couldn't imagine her providing a very loving home for a little boy who'd lost his parents. Something else struck him, and he asked, "Wayland? Michael Wayland? He was my father's parabatai."

"Really?" Jace shot him a curious glance. "He never mentioned that he had a parabatai."

"I don't think they were close. My father doesn't like to talk about it either," Alec found himself explaining, unsure why he was being so open with a complete stranger, and one he'd been determined to dislike. He was almost glad that they arrived at the docks, wanting to put an end to this exchange of confidences.

Before they reached the Jade Wolf, however, Jace smirked up at him, those disconcerting eyes dancing in obvious approval. "I can see why all the young men in Idris are clamoring to meet you."

"What do you mean?" Alec responded defensively, resolutely looking away.

He didn't need to see him to know that Jace was grinning widely, enjoying his discomfort. "Oh, rumor has it you're looking to settle down, get married. And not to a girl."

"Damn it." Wow, his parents sure weren't losing any time. Alec knew he'd said he was okay with getting married for political reasons, but knowing that people were talking about it, about him...

"Let me guess, not your idea?" Jace sounded surprisingly understanding, and Alec found himself caught by those damn eyes once again.

"My parents," Alec admitted, adding quickly, "I mean, I get it, alliances are important. Emotions are nothing but a distraction."

"Imogen keeps badgering me, too." Jace shrugged, and they exchanged a long look of complete understanding. "My father always told me that to love is to destroy."

"He taught you that when you were ten?" Alec shocked himself by reaching out and laying a hand on Jace's shoulder, snatching it away quickly with a blush when Jace raised a surprised eyebrow. "That's… rather harsh."

They'd come to a standstill in front of the restaurant, their task forgotten until Jace shook himself visibly and shrugged. "He only wanted to make me strong."

With that, he turned away and walked inside, Alec following him after a second's hesitation. Inside they found carnage and an understandably upset Luke. A Forsaken attack that killed several werewolves - what the hell was Valentine playing at? They had to get the body back to Izzy, even if Jace's suggestion sounded more like an order. He sure had a talent for ruffling feathers, but he was right and Alec managed to smooth things over with Luke.

Which was when Jace dropped the bombshell that Maryse and Robert Lightwood had been Circle members. At least he had the good grace to look genuinely sorry when he realized that Alec hadn't known this rather horrifying fact about his own parents. He even reached out, but Alec backed away, feeling irrationally betrayed.

He was grateful when Jace respected his obvious need for silence as they made their way back to the Institute with the corpse of the Forbidden on a stretcher. However, before they entered, Jace took him to the side, eyes earnest. "Look, I can't begin to imagine what it feels like to discover something so big about your own parents. My father had many faults, but I think he was always honest with me. Just… if you need to vent or blow off steam in the training room, come find me." A hand came to rest on Alec's forearm, and Alec felt as if its heat was burning straight through his shirt, in a way that reminded him of getting a brand-new rune. "I've heard a lot about your skills - I'd love to see them in action."

Jace was smiling flirtatiously, but Alec saw right through his facade to the kindness lying underneath. It touched something inside of him, and he found himself smiling back. "Training room sounds good, actually. It's what I like to do to when I need to get my head back in the game." Surprised he realized he was flirting, albeit more clumsily than Jace. "I haven't heard a thing about you, but after your display as Valentine earlier… Maybe you can show me how you caught that arrow."

There was another long moment during which they just stared at each other, both smiling helplessly, caught in a pull Alec had never experienced before. This time it was Alec who looked away first and motioned towards the morgue. "We should…"

"Yeah. Yes, we should." Alec was pretty sure Jace was blushing, and he bit his lip to hide a grin, stupidly pleased to be the reason. He was still angry, and hurt, but somehow it all felt more… bearable now.

Later, Magnus found him with the results of his magical examination of the Forsaken, and Alec wondered for a moment whether he should tell him of his parents' plans for his life. However, right then Jace appeared, his eyes raking over Alec's body, making Alec grateful for the flush of exercise, which hid a blush of a different kind. He wasn't used to so much attention, and now there were two men looking him over as if they'd like to eat him alive. He stumbled over his words as he explained hastily, "I… I know I'm not the Head of the Institute, but Mag-Magnus here was just sharing his findings…"

"Hey, that's alright. The two of you already have a working relationship, I'm the stranger here." Jace waved him off, unconcerned, but his eyes were wandering shrewdly between them. Alec fought the urge to squirm and protest the word relationship, not wanting to make things even weirder. Jace unwittingly came to his rescue by adding nonchalantly, "I just wanted to ask whether you wanted to go a round or two."

As always, the words were laden with innuendo, and Magnus raised an eyebrow in bemusement, obviously wondering what was going on. Not that Alec could have told him even if he wanted to, feeling completely at sea when it came to the Clave envoy. He managed a shrug in response. "Sure, we can train. Just as soon as I've handed Magnus' report to my parents."

To his surprise, Jace looked vaguely uncomfortable at that. "So, about that. The Clave has relieved them of their command."

"What? Who's in charge n…" Alec broke off, understanding dawning on him at the apology in Jace's eyes. "You. You're Acting Head of the Institute." Jace nodded, jerkily, and Alec would have appreciated his embarrassment if he hadn't been so furious. Sparing Magnus a nod, he turned on his heel and stalked away, clutching the report. "I need to find my parents."

He heard Jace curse softly before following him to his parents' office - Jace's office now, Alec thought angrily. Inside, he thrust Magnus' report at his mother, forcing his voice to remain steady: "According to Magnus no magic was used in creating the Forsaken."

It was petty, but he figured his parents deserved at least that courtesy, that sign that their son was on their side. Ignoring Jace, who'd been watching in silence, he pushed past the other man and hurried back to the training room. He wasn't surprised when the envoy found him again, feeling those eyes on him even before Jace said, "Alec, I'm sorry about your parents. My hands were tied."

And the thing was, Alec believed him. Looking away from his punching bag, he nodded, "I know. The Law is hard…"

"...but it's the Law," Jace completed the well-worn Clave motto, visibly grateful for Alec's understanding.

They exchanged another long look, something they seemed to make a habit of, until Alec looked away, offering, "Do you still want to train?"

"Hell yes, Lightwood!" The smile on Jace's face was wide and open, the expression making him appear even more attractive, and Alec found himself grinning back, anticipation pooling in the pit of his stomach. They centered themselves on the mat, eyes never leaving one another, and began circling each other. Jace moved smoothly, gracefully, and when he lashed out, it was such a speed that Alec barely managed to avoid him. That was the start of one of the most exhilarating sparring fights Alec had ever participated in, the two of them pretty evenly matched. Jace's technique was better, but Alec used his longer arms and legs, and soon they were both breathing hard. They were also both still grinning, fierce and carefree, and Alec caught himself thinking how good Jace looked like this. That was his undoing, Jace using the split-second's distraction to pin him to the mat.

He laughed down at him, his entire weight immobilizing Alec's legs, his fingers tight around Alec's wrists, and Alec couldn't help the way his body responded. He twisted, trying to throw Jace off, but that only worsened his problem, and he turned his head away, embarrassed. He barely knew this man, he shouldn't be able to affect him like this, yet there was no mistaking the evidence of his own body and the hunger coiling in his belly.

"Hey…" Jace's voice, surprisingly gentle, broke through the cloud of mortification and arousal. "Alec. Look at me."

Alec forced himself to obey the quiet command, licking his suddenly parched lips. Jace's gaze slid down for a second before he let go of Alec's wrists, giving him every chance to break free. However, Alec remained on his back, trapped by Jace's body and the look in his eyes. Then Jace's mouth was on him, soft and coaxing, and Alec moaned helplessly, hands coming up to twist in the silky strands of Jace's hair, hold him in place as the kiss deepened.

Alec hadn't kissed many people in his life, yet he was pretty certain that the intense electricity immediately sparking between them would have been out of the ordinary even if he had kissed a thousand. Above him, he could feel Jace's cock, as hard as his own, and although he was dimly aware that they were in a semi-public place, Alec ground upwards. He was rewarded with a low growl from Jace and the sensation of hands skimming down his sides, burrowing under his shirt, their touch sending spirals of heat through him.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the kiss ended, Jace tearing himself away with a groan. However, he remained seated, his chest heaving as he took a few deep breaths. He was gorgeous like this, looking wrecked from just one kiss, and Alec couldn't bring himself to regret what they'd just done. Pushing himself up onto his elbows, he reached up and cradled Jace's flushed cheek, smiling when the other man moved into his touch instinctively. Jace smiled back, warm and intimate, and Alec wanted nothing more than to kiss him again, see how far down that blush went.

Instead, he closed his eyes for a second, clearing his mind, but he didn't remove his hand, and Jace didn't move away. When he spoke, it was with barely a tremble, "I know we barely know each other, but I think together we could restore my family name and we can keep the Institute."

"And it'd shut our parents up." Jace was watching him, wide-eyed but with the beginnings of a knowing smile playing at the corners of his mouth as he started to catch on. He still hadn't moved, and Alec hadn't made him, their faces only inches apart.

The bubble of laughter that escaped him was a surprise, and he explained wryly, "I think it'd be customary for me to get on one knee, but since this isn't exactly a traditional courtship…" After taking one last steadying breath, he added seriously, "Jace Herondale, will you marry me, Alec Lightwood?"

He was almost certain that Jace would accept, but still he found himself holding his breath while Jace cocked his head, considering. Finally Jace nodded, more to himself than to Alec, before grinning widely and answering, "Yes. This is so not how I expected today to go, but yes, let's do it! It'll get me out from Imogen's feet for one, and I think we'll make a great team."

"The best team," Alec replied, before leaning up to catch Jace's laughter in another kiss. This was certainly not how he'd expected the day to go, either, but for once in his life Alec was fine with change. He'd been prepared to get married for the sake of a political alliance, but now Jace was warm in his arms and Alec found himself actually looking forward to the wedding - and what came after.

***

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