After

Author's Note: Sparked by something @mia_zeklos said in the Jalec chat... I don't even know, guys. 🙂 Future fic. Warnings for character deaths and established canon relationships!

***

Times end, River, because they have to. Because there's no such thing as happy ever after. It's just a lie we tell ourselves because the truth is so hard.
- The Doctor, Doctor Who 10x00 - The Husbands of River Song

***

No one had expected Magnus to go first. It was an unknown, incredibly virulent magical disease that ravaged his body and carried him off in a matter of weeks, leaving Alec shell-shocked with grief and devastation. He’d always found comfort in the thought that Magnus, immortal and powerful, would outlive him, someone to treasure his memory long after Alec was gone. And now it was Alec who was left to pick up the pieces of the life they’d shared, who had to try and find a way to carry on in a world that had lost one of its brightest stars.

It was like losing Max all over again, a gaping wound in Alec’s heart - only then Magnus had been there to hold Alec when he cried, his arms a safe place to fall apart where he didn’t have to pretend to be strong in front of his family. Now Magnus’ bed was cold and lonely, and Alec curled up in a ball, pressed his nose into the pillow, desperate to find lingering traces of Magnus’ smell while dry sobs shook his body.

He didn’t feel the mattress dip and stiffened when a familiar body wrapped itself around him from behind, before relaxing into Jace’s embrace with a heavy sigh. His parabatai’s arms were strong but gentle, his breath warm against his neck, and Alec almost rolled away, something inside of him refusing to be accept the offered comfort. But through their bond he could feel Jace’s love, tinged with grief for Magnus and Alec both, and in the end he turned in his parabatai’s embrace and buried his face against his neck and let the tears flow. “He’s gone, Jace, he’s really gone…”

“I know,” Jace replied heavily, arms tightening even more around Alec’s shaking body. “But he’ll always be alive in your heart. He loved you so much, Alec, and you made him so happy.”

The words didn’t make Alec feel better, not really, and Alec knew that nothing would be okay for a long time, but he wasn’t alone. His parabatai was with him, and Jace would be holding him together until Alec was no longer falling apart.

***

Clary’s death had been announced by the Angel himself, but that didn’t make losing her any less devastating for Jace. For months he had held her after she jerked awake in the wake of visions predicting her fate, had whispered into her hair that he would let nothing bad happen to her, only to be left standing over her lifeless body. She had died as she had lived, courageous and selfless, spilling her angel blood without hesitation in order to close a portal to hell. Dropping to his knees beside her, however, Jace couldn’t help but wonder whether her sacrifice was worth it when the world she saved no longer had Clary Fairchild in it.

A scream rent the night air, and Jace only realized the anguished sound was coming from him when his throat started aching. She was pale and cold in his arms, staring sightlessly into the sky, until Izzy closed them gently, tears streaming down her face, mascara mixing into the blood and grime coating her skin. She reached out to lay a comforting hand on Jace’s shoulder, but he recoiled from her touch, and Izzy’s hand sadly fell to her side. Jace regarded her as if from far away, through eyes that felt dry like a desert, and despite feeling a band of steel encircling his chest, constricting his every breath, no tears would come.

Then Alec was there, giving Izzy a quick squeeze before kneeling down and lifting Clary from Jace’s arms. His first instinct was to cling to her limp form, unwilling to let her go, but Alec was touching her so gently, almost reverently, and Jace simply sat there, dazed, when someone handed Alec a white sheet to wrap her in. He was still kneeling there, in the dirt, when she was about to be carried away, and a wordless whine of protest escaped him. Alec’s calloused fingers were warm against his skin, clammy and cold with shock, cradling his face, and his parabatai’s eyes mirrored the deep sorrow that threatened to choke Jace.

“You have to let them take her, so we can return her to the Angel, where her soul belongs,” Alec said, voice wet with unshed tears. Jace was reminded of the moment three years ago, leading Alec away from Magnus’ hospital bed, and although he was shaking his head in silent denial, he allowed Clary’s body to be carried away. He couldn’t bring himself to watch, however, and lifted trembling hands to Alec’s arms instead. He gripped them so tightly it had to hurt, which Alec bore unflinchingly, and they sat in silence facing each other, Jace staring into his parabatai’s loving face until his vision blurred. Only then did Alec pull him to his feet and wrap him into a full-body hug, allowing Jace to hide in the familiar comfort of his arms as silent tears began sliding down his cheeks.

Alec didn’t say a word, but every beat of their hearts carried with it a promise Jace clung to: “I’m here, you’re not alone, I’m here.”

***

They had shared a bed after Magnus’ death, until Alec could once more bear the emptiness on his right side, and the night after Clary’s death Alec led Jace to his room, knowing that Jace wouldn’t be able to stay in the one he had shared with the woman he loved. And if they fell asleep on separate sides of the mattress and woke entangled in the middle of it, neither one of them mentioned it.

At first Jace felt guilty for the comfort he found in Alec’s presence, but Alec just lifted an eyebrow and reminded him gently of the time when their positions had been reversed. “For the record, I like having you here. Remember what you told me when I tried to pull this with you? That Magnus wouldn’t want me to be unhappy. And Clary was a much nicer person than Magnus.”

It had taken a long time for Alec to be able to say Magnus’ name without breaking. Even now sorrow hid in the corners of his smile, but mostly there was warmth, and fondness, and memories treasured and held dear, and Jace found himself smiling back, weak and watery, and real. After that there was no more talk of spending tortured nights alone instead of in his parabatai’s company.

Bit by bit Jace’s belongings found their way into Alec’s room, until it was almost as it had been when they were kids - Jace’s scuffed boots next to Alec’s shiny ones, their clothes neatly folded side by side in the dresser, the poems Jace was reading on the right bedside table, Alec’s historical tome on the left. If people remarked on the fact that there was only one king-sized bed instead of the two twins the room of their youth had had, they did so behind their backs, either sensitive to the losses they had suffered or too in awe of their almost-legendary status.

There had been a time, before Magnus, when Alec would have been bothered by it, scared that his biggest secret would be exposed, but now his bed was the only place where Jace ever looked at peace in those first painful weeks. Alec, too, slept much better with his parabatai slumbering just an arm’s length away, close enough he could feel the heat coming from his body, warming him in places that had been cold and barren since Magnus had died.

So when he woke with a blonde head on his shoulder, strong arms holding him like a security blanket, legs tangled together, he couldn’t bring himself to be embarrassed by the way his body reacted. Instead he took a deep breath, inhaling his parabatai’s musky scent, before gently disentangling himself, Jace’s bare chest warm under his palms. Jace grumbled in his sleep until Alec gave him his pillow, smiling when he grabbed it and buried his nose in it without waking. Then Alec went to the shower to take care of business, stroking himself off quickly and efficiently, teeth sinking into his forearm to stop himself from calling Jace’s name.

It was almost like being a teenager again, hopelessly in love with the one person he wasn’t supposed to, except now there was no guilt. Alec had left that behind, lost when the Clave disappointed him once too often or maybe buried along with Magnus. His love for his parabatai was as much a part of Alec as his fighting prowess, his loyalty to his family or his half-Angel blood, and he would be there for Jace in any way he needed him to until the day one of them died. He liked physical pleasure well enough, except never for its own sake, so his own hand was more than enough, and there was no bitterness in Alec as he slipped out every morning.

After a few months of bed sharing Jace started getting hard, too, but Alec did his best to ignore the insistent pressure against his hip. It was only natural, after all, and because he knew his parabatai he began to steel himself for the moment when Jace would go out and find a partner to scratch that itch. There had been plenty of those before Clary, and while Jace had seemed to take to monogamy smoothly enough, he was not like Alec, who had found it easy to remain celibate until Magnus had snuck into his heart.

Still, Jace knew that his parabatai was different, which was why Alec froze in shock the morning Jace stopped him from rolling out of bed with strong hands against his shoulders and a gentle thrust of his hips. His breath was wet against Alec’s neck as he mouthed at the rune there before whispering hotly, “Don’t leave, Alec. Stay with me…”

He’d positioned himself between Alec’s legs, and every slow roll of his hips brought their hard cocks together through the thin fabric of their sleep pants, making Alec gasp helplessly even as he shook his head in confused denial. Jace immediately stilled his movements, lifting his head to meet Alec’s troubled gaze, his mismatched eyes penetrating his defenses. A small smile played on his lips, but his voice was low and serious as he added simply, “I know what you’ve been doing every morning, and you don’t have to. I want you, too.”

He said it as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and between them their bond lay wide open, brimming with emotion - love and joy and recognition and the unmistakable edge of arousal. Still, Alec needed to hear it out loud, so he asked quietly, “Do you want me like I want you? Because if not, I’d rather we didn’t. I’ll always be here for you, but not like this, not if this is just a… a distraction.”

Jace’s smile softened, and he trailed a hand almost reverently over Alec’s face, down his side until it rested on his t-shirt-clad side, over the rune that connected them. “Alec, parabatai, you could never be that. Don’t you know that you’re everything? I might not have always known it, but I want you - oh, I want you so much!”

The unmistakable longing on Jace’s face was too much for Alec to bear, and he reached up and pulled Jace into a kiss that started out clumsy but quickly turned into something altogether different. Someone groaned, a sound of relief and anticipation, and Alec slid his tongue inside Jace’s mouth, explored it with a hunger that spilled over into the rocking of their bodies, hard flesh against hard flesh, hands eagerly reaching for whatever skin they could reach. Alec’s legs fell further open, Jace fitting perfectly into their cradle as they both blindly chased a climax that crashed over them like a freight train, shocking surprised gasps out of them that turned into breathless laughter.

Maybe he should have felt ridiculous, weird, possibly even guilt-ridden; instead Alec was filled with contentment, almost drunk on the rightness of being with Jace like this, down to the stickiness in their pants that would soon become uncomfortable. Grinning, Alec caught Jace in another kiss, slow and languid but already with the promise of more.

When they finally parted, unsurprisingly it was Jace who found his voice first, teasing, “How about this morning, we take that shower together?” His eyes narrowed, dancing with mischief, so Alec was prepared when he jumped out of bed and yelled, “Last one in the shower washes the winner’s back!”

Laughing, Alec tackled his parabatai’s retreating form, and they pushed and shoved at each other, fighting playfully the way they had a million times before, only more so. It might have taken them almost twenty years to get to this point, but Alec couldn’t regret one minute. Not when it had led them here, bodies fitting together the way their souls always had.

***

No, Doctor, you're wrong. Happy ever after doesn't mean forever. It just means time. A little time.
- River Song, Doctor Who 10x00 - The Husbands of River Song

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