Complex Organisms

Author's Note: This is basically a retelling of 2x02/2x03, set in the same 'verse as 'Simple Biology', which I was repeatedly told was unnecessarily cruel. Not sure about the unnecessary part, but you certainly can't say that about this fic. 🙂

For Andy, because a deal's a deal. <3 ***

For Jace, days and nights aboard the Morningstar were a blur of painful "training sessions", mental and physical torture interchanging with more lectures by Valentine. When he did get some time to recuperate instead of his father just applying healing and stamina runes to prepare him for the next session, Jace's mind kept returning to his parabatai.

Jace had never meant to hurt Alec, but cut off from the familiar comfort of the parabatai bond, his mind couldn't help but replay everything that had gone wrong in the days since they'd met Clary. The fact that they'd mostly made up during Alec's "bachelor party" somehow didn't feel as comforting as it should. If it hadn't been for Jace's refusal to see anything except the obligation he felt towards Clary, his parabatai almost certainly would never have been placed in a position where he considered binding himself to a beta he didn't, couldn't, love.

The thought made Jace shudder and wrap his arms around himself, aching with more than half-healed injuries. If the almost-wedding had proven anything, it was that Lydia Branwell doubtlessly would have made a good mate for Alec, as long as one disregarded the fact that she was female. However, Jace couldn't help but worry about something else: parabatai helping one another through their cycles was already unusual enough, and although Lydia wasn't an omega, mating her would have spelled the end of their arrangement. If Alec even wanted to keep doing it, considering the way he had kissed Magnus Bane in front of everyone, in a way that made Jace flush with the vivid memory of what it felt like to be the object of Alec's attentions in this way.

It shouldn't matter. They were parabatai, after all, and the comfort Alec offered Jace as an alpha could never compare to that. Not that Magnus, as a Downworlder without secondary gender, would ever be able to give Alec what Jace could, either as parabatai or omega. It was cold comfort, and Jace tried not to dwell on it. Alec not being married made no difference one way or the other, considering that Jace would probably go into heat right here, among Circle members and captive Downworlders.

Valentine was refusing to give Jace blockers, "until you've earned them, shown me that you're not a slave to your inferior impulses", and the prospect of his rapidly approaching heat filled Jace with growing dread, memories of his father's harsh teachings all too fresh in his mind. In light of the look of barely-hidden disgust on Valentine's face when he found out that Jace had presented as an omega, Jace couldn't imagine that he would be allowed to weather the storm in a secluded room.

Like the falcon, his father was sure to turn it into some kind of object lesson, and Jace didn't even want to consider what form that lesson might take. After all, Valentine hadn't hesitated to inject his own flesh and blood with demon blood, a fact that made Jace want to gag and claw at his skin, drain himself of the poison running through his veins.

Instead he continued to train, to fight, and to think of Alec with a longing that grew almost physically painful the moment he stepped through the portal in front of the vampire nest and the parabatai bond flared back to life. The urge to turn and run was overwhelming, but wasn't that exactly what Valentine had meant when he talked about the weakness of omegas? He couldn't bear the thought of proving him right, so Jace gritted his teeth and pushed against the pull of the bond, focusing back on his father.

He killed the rogue vamps as if on autopilot, violence an acceptable outlet for the growing unease under his skin, every inch the soldier he was supposed to be. But the satisfaction he felt for a moment immediately turned to ashes in his mouth, even before he turned around and saw Jocelyn aiming a crossbow right at him. If it hadn't been for Valentine jumping in front of him, she would have shot him without hesitation, and Jace had to swallow down bitter bile as nausea rose in him. His own mother rejected him, his father despised part of his nature, the Clave had doubtlessly branded him a traitor - Jace really belonged nowhere.

His emotions ran so high, he didn't think, he just grabbed Valentine and raced through the portal. Only when it closed behind them and a warm place deep inside him went dark and cold again, did he remember the one person who had always taken him exactly how he was. Jace stumbled, barely catching himself as his soul cried out for his parabatai. However, one look at his father, who for a change looked satisfied with him, and Jace remembered with cold clarity why Alec was probably better off without him.

Still, when Clary came to his rescue, he fought, although at first it was more to protect her than out of any real desire to escape. Then he was hit by a wave of desperation so strong, it made him stumble, even before he realized its source. Alec.

The images came fast and strong, making his heart clench painfully as their bond sprang to life, simultaneously subdued by the warlock's shield around the Morningstar and strangely heightened by whatever magic Alec was using to reach him. Memories of their first meeting, of the parabatai ceremony, of fighting alongside each other, flashed through his mind, accompanied by the sense that Alec was desperately clinging to the thread connecting them. The fact that Jace was teetering on the brink of his next heat didn't help, lowering his defenses, and heat spiraled through him as he vividly saw and felt all the times Alec had held him, helped him, their bodies crashing together in the thrall of shared cycles.

Clary's worried voice brought him back to himself, and he touched his bleeding nose absentmindedly, most of his attention still fixed on Alec's presence. Only imminent threat from Valentine's men sprang him into action, and he fought his way through them like a man possessed. Gone was his ambivalence, his doubt whether he should follow Clary, replaced by an urgent sense of purpose. He needed to get off the ship and find Alec.

The thought propelled him through the following hours, gave him the strength to swim to shore, to push through the pain of being beaten bloody, and to face down Maia and her wolves with a calmness born from desperation. He couldn't worry about himself, not when he could feel Alec slipping away through their bond, his presence becoming fainter with every minute ever since that sudden spike earlier. Jace felt almost light-headed with the need to be close to his parabatai, and when he finally stumbled through the door of Magnus' place, Alec's prone form was all he could see.

Magnus handed him a faintly glowing stone, and the part of Jace that had been trained by Valentine noted dispassionately that it was Adamas. Not that Jace cared, instead sitting down next to Alec and wrapping both their hands around the stone. A part of him had hoped that his presence might be enough to wake Alec, but it quickly became apparent that he would somehow have to reach him in the dark places his consciousness had slipped into.

The stone began to glow, and once again Jace was pulled into memories, seeing himself and Alec at their parabatai ceremony. Jace's heart filled to bursting when their hands met, with the same turbulent mix of emotion he'd felt back then. It was pure joy that they would be bound together forever and something much more complicated at the thought that he was now safe from the temptation of another, different kind of bond.

He could actually feel the firm clasp of Alec's grip around his forearm, and he heard himself begin to recite the oath. It would have been all too easy to slip into the memory; he could feel its pull, but Jace kept his eyes open and anchored himself in the present with the sight of Alec's pale, motionless face. He needed to reach him, pull him back from the place his mind had gotten lost in, back to Jace, to the present, where he belonged.

Their bond lay wide open between them, the Adamas stone somehow making it feel more vibrant than it had ever been except maybe during the height of Jace's heats, when Jace's tight grip on his control slipped and he found himself this close to begging for Alec's mate mark. It was glorious, especially after the days of being completely cut off, and Jace revelled in it, could feel his very soul sing. Now, if only he could get Alec to hear him.

His entire being stretched out, through the memory of their parabatai ceremony, using the remembered sensation of clasped hands and souls tenuously connecting for the first time as an anchor. He could feel Alec's consciousness, trapped in the past but still reaching, searching for Jace with a longing so deep, it made Jace's breath catch, his body hum with desire. In response he could feel Alec's breath quicken, his heartbeat speed up, but his eyes remained closed, and Jace could hear his voice, hoarse with emotion, begging, "Come back to me, Alec, please!"

His parabatai didn't react, at least not outwardly - if possible, he became even laxer, the Adamas stone slipping from his grip. Desperately, Jace thrust his mind back into their connection, only to find himself even further back in the past, a rush of hormones, of lust, of passion so great Jace would have flinched away at any other time. As it was, however, his fear of losing his tether to Alec easily outweighed the panic he'd felt after his first heat, and he held on stubbornly while two teenagers discovered something far greater than simple fucking.

More than just holding on, Jace felt as if he was clinging to Alec's very being, thrusting his essence towards him with all his might, like a lifeline forged out of love and lust and longing. He'd always been afraid of the depth of his own feelings for his parabatai, but not anymore, not when he could sense how close Alec was to slipping away into the darkness, where Jace couldn't follow. Even if that hadn't been Jace's fault, because Alec wanted to rescue him from the mess he'd gotten himself into, there was no scenario in which Jace would ever give up on Alec. He needed him, his soul, his body even now screaming out to him through the haze of his remembered heat.

"You're always saving me," Jace whispered fervently, letting his fingers trace the familiar, beloved features, his other hand trailing down Alec's chest, needing to feel his heart still beating. "Let me save you for a change."

Under his palm Alec's heartbeat faltered, and the light that was his soul darkened, leaving Jace shivering and gasping. In the background distressed voices were talking, but he couldn't make out any words. Moving completely on instinct, Jace slung a leg over Alec's lap, straddling him, and pulled him into a tight embrace.

"Please don't leave me, Alec!" Jace could feel his body burning, but all that mattered was Alec's lifeless body in his arms, and the rising tide of desperation that threatened to swallow him whole. He held on with all his strength, both physically and mentally, willing Alec to come back to life - he wouldn't give up, couldn't, not when he could still feel his parabatai rune pulsing weakly. "You can't leave me, you're mine, just like I'm yours!"

He pressed his lips against Alec's temple, so focused on the unhealthy clamminess of his skin he almost missed the sudden spark at the other end of their barely-there bond. What penetrated his fog was Alec growling in a hoarse voice, "Mine."

Joy shooting through him, Jace gasped for air, tearing himself away in order to meet Alec's eyes, feverishly bright but alive and present. Swallowing back tears, Jace exhaled in relief, ignoring everything except the warmth spreading through him, and he leaned in, whispering before their lips met, "Yours."

It was a vow, and while Alec's lips were dry and chapped, their kiss barely more than open-mouthed sharing of breath, the embrace in which his arms captured Jace held all the fierce possessiveness Jace could also feel through their bond, once again open and pulsing with life. Fighting the urge to hold Alec just as tightly, afraid he'd hurt his still-weakened body, Jace instead let his hands wander up and down Alec's back, reveling in the play of muscles as Alec deepened their kiss, hungrily plunging his tongue into Jace's mouth like a starved man.

Slight warning bells began ringing in Jace's head, but he couldn't bring himself to pause to think, not when he knew how close he'd come to losing Alec. Responding to his parabatai's attention was pure instinct, and from his perch on Alec's lap Jace could feel him growing hard. The warning in the back of his mind grew, yet it took Izzy's voice to break the moment he'd lost himself in.

"Jace! What did you do?" She sounded serious, and Jace forced himself to look away from Alec, who had barely reacted and instead began to suck a bruise into Jace's neck, his hands worming their way under his shirt. That in itself was worrying enough for Jace to shake off the flash of annoyance he'd felt at being interrupted, his body still demanding that he needed to be closer.

The worry he saw not just in Izzy's but in Clary's and Magnus's faces was like a cold shower, cutting through the fog clouding his brain. "I don't know, I swear - I was just trying to get him back!"

He tried to scramble to his feet, put some distance between himself and Alec's distracting attentions, only to be hauled back firmly and pushed onto his back. Alec loomed over him, eyes black, lips red, hands hot against Jace's sides. It was only the pain from the injuries he'd sustained when trying to get to Alec that stopped Jace from responding to the casual - and unusual - display of dominance that made his insides quiver and melt.

"It seems that in your attempts to reach Alexander, you somehow triggered his rut," Magnus explained, and Jace cursed himself for not having put this together himself. But then, he was pretty sure he was in heat himself, which explained the intensity of his reaction as well as the slowness of his brain.

Of course. Suddenly he understood what had happened, and even as his body arched under Alec's single-minded ministrations, he cursed, "Fucking Valentine stopped my blockers, the sadistic asshole. I must have already been on the brink of my heat when I connected with Alec, and it transferred to him. Probably because of the Adamas stone."

Alec was now properly rutting against his thigh, blunt teeth digging into Jace's neck, doubtlessly leaving marks, making Jace pant and thrust upwards, mindlessly seeking friction. Already it was getting hard to remember why this was a spectacularly bad idea. This was why they'd never synced up their cycles, one of them always keeping a clear head. Only the shocked gasp from Clary reminded him of their audience, and he bit out, "Nothing we can do now. So get out, and keep the Clave away until it's over."

He didn't check to see whether they obeyed his order, because right then Alec managed to pop the buttons fastening Jace's jeans, and Jace swore and bucked into his touch. Their mouths met in a hard clash of lips and tongues, pleasure zinging through Jace, setting him on fire. He was completely hard, and gushes of uncomfortable wetness made his underwear stick to his skin.

Groaning, he pushed at Alec until he got his attention, unable to suppress a thrill at being the cause of such reckless abandon. However, he could feel Alec's arm tremble where he was holding himself above Jace, obviously still weakened by his ordeal. Cupping his parabatai's face, Jace stared into burning hazel eyes and stated firmly, "Let me do the work."

An actual growl escaped Alec, giving up control going against his every instinct, but he did allow Jace to change their places, impatiently tearing off his clothes while Jace did the same more carefully, mindful of his injuries. Also, he kept getting distracted by the sight of Alec's bare skin, something he'd thought he'd never see again. Finally, Alec lost patience, grabbing Jace's hand and pulling him back onto the settee. Instead of resuming his amorous advances, however, he buried his face against Jace's neck and breathed him in, his voice hoarse with emotion: "Angel, Jace, you're here, you're really here!"

"Of course I am," Jace replied, choking back tears. Being skin to skin seemed to have calmed both their hormones a little, although he could still feel the urgency simmering in his blood and at the other end of their bond. "I'm just sorry I got you into this mess."

"Don't be stupid," Alec admonished him firmly, and Jace had never been happier to see him roll his eyes. The next instant, however, fondness was replaced by frown as Alec studied the bruises littering Jace's body for the first time. Averting his eyes, Jace opened his mouth to tell him that it didn't matter, but Alec shushed him impatiently, "Shut up and hand me my stele."

It was a clear order, and Jace was already rummaging through the pile of Alec's clothes before he even realized that he was obeying an alpha's command. When he did, he glared rebelliously at Alec, who met his stare with an unapologetic shrug. Not that Jace minded, not really, the omega part of him he usually kept firmly in check much closer to the surface right now, but it wouldn't do to let Alec know, even if he was aware that Alec would never play the alpha card under normal circumstances.

There was nothing normal about today, however, except for the familiar gentleness with which Alec activated Jace's iratze and added mendelin and amissio runes for good measures. Healing and warmth spread through Jace, and he exhaled with relief as the pain that had been his constant companion ever since he followed Valentine receded.

"Thank you, parabatai." He plucked the stele from Alec's hand and traced his parabatai's iratze, figuring it couldn't hurt after his ordeal, and then, smirking playfully, activated stamina. "You'll need that."

Alec grinned back, eyes darkening, and the stele fell to the ground unheeded as Jace surrendered to a deep, all-consuming kiss that sent the hum of arousal that had never quite abated rocketing sky-high. Giving back as good as he got, he resumed his earlier perch on Alec's lap, now infinitely more pleasurable, skin on skin, with their erections brushing against each other, and Jace could feel himself get even wetter. Alec felt it, too, and broke the kiss, voice so low, it sent shivers down Jace's spine, as he demanded, "Need you."

His cock, when Jace gave it a few experimental tugs, was soft velvet over steel, drops of pre pearling at the head, and Jace's body clenched in anticipation. Normally Alec was the one who made sure Jace was prepped when he was in heat, and Jace returned the favor during Alec's ruts, but now the fog of pheromones they were both exuding made it difficult to think of anything but the desire to feel Alec inside him. Immediately.

Fumbling, Jace reached behind himself and impatiently stabbed his finger inside his slippery opening, sighing in relief when his body opened easily. Then Alec's hands, broad and strong and always one of the Jace's favorite parts of his parabatai's body, were gripping his ass and lifting him, and a proper moan ripped from Jace's throat.

Alec's cock was far bigger than Jace's finger, but Jace barely felt the stretch and burn, getting lost in yet another soul-searing kiss, his hands scrabbling for purchase against Alec's shoulders. Then Alec was all the way in, and Jace gasped his name like a prayer. This was what he'd been dreaming of in secret, Alec taking him, filling him, and when they began rocking up and down, Jace couldn't stop himself from begging for "more, yes, please, harder, Alec!"

There was no room for shame or embarrassment, not when they were both exactly where they wanted, needed, to be, and it wasn't long before Alec shouted hoarsely, fingers digging into the muscles of Jace's back, and Jace felt his knot form. If possible it felt even better like this, Alec plugging him up, filling him with his come, and Jace rested his head against Alec's neck, mouthed helplessly at the deflect rune there, as he began to come as well. His entire body shook with pleasure, and they toppled backwards, Alec hitting the backrest with a dull thud that neither of them noticed, too lost in their orgasms and in each other.

They didn't rest long, the sweat on their skin barely cooled before their bodies demanded more, and Jace tightened around Alec, stopped him from slipping out once his knot deflated. He couldn't stand the thought of being separated, and Alec seemed to share his feeling, tightening his hold around Jace's waist and bucking upwards, still half-hard. Heat coiling once more in Jace's belly, blood rushing to his hardening cock, he lifted himself to his knees, coming down to impale himself over and over.

"Jace, parabatai, mine!" Meeting him thrust for thrust, Alec's litany of words only added to Jace's arousal, and if he held him tight enough to bruise, Jace only welcomed it, feeling as if even this was not enough. His second orgasm crashed over him suddenly, violently, and through the waves of it he could hear his own voice, begging Alec not to stop fucking him, taking him, until he could feel his parabatai fall apart again as well.

They collapsed against one another, some of the urgency abated, and Alec pressed kisses into Jace's hair, his hands traveling gently up and down Jace's back, petting him tenderly until Jace felt as if he'd melt right off Magnus's settee if he wasn't still locked with Alec. Boneless with contentment, he snuggled closer, wrapping his arms around his parabatai. He could still feel his heat simmering just under the surface of his relaxation and a part of him wondered lazily whether his and Alec's feelings were feeding into each other, drawing things out and making them more intense. Not that he was complaining, not when Alec was breathing in tandem with him, wonderfully, gloriously alive, his knot slowly shrinking.

Jace winced when their bodies separated, but there was no no reaction from Alec. Looking up into his parabatai's face, peaceful and no longer pale, Jace noticed that he seemed to have drifted off, and after a whispered inquiry got no response, he carefully extricating himself from Alec's embrace. The stamina rune was wearing off, and he hadn't had anything to eat or drink since Clary got him off the ship. Not caring one whit about his nakedness, he padded on bare feet to the kitchen, finding milk to go with the cookies he'd already spied on top of the fridge.

He stuffed two of them into his mouth at once, barely swallowing, not liking the fact that Alec was out of his line of sight. His body was already beginning to hum again with reawakened desire and the need to be close. Quickly adding two bottles of water to his loot, Jace returned to the living room, sensing that Alec was stirring even before he saw him.

His parabatai was pushing himself to his feet, unconscious grace in his movements, and Jace swallowed, heartbeat speeding up when Alec's eyes roamed over his body hungrily. It felt like a caress, goosebumps racing over his skin, his cock thickening again. Alec's erection was a hard curve against his stomach, and Jace suddenly felt empty, incomplete, dizzy with the need to be filled again.

"Why did you leave?" Alec demanded roughly and closed the distance between them, ignoring the bottle Jace offered him in way of an explanation, maybe apology. His breath was hot on Jace's skin, but he didn't kiss him, and Jace shivered under his intense regard. "Need you with me, parabatai."

"You have me," Jace replied instantly, unthinkingly, and then Alec was on him, backed him against the nearest wall and plundered his mouth, muscular thigh prying open Jace's legs, giving Jace something to rub against, which he did shamelessly, eagerly. Alec's hands slid under his ass, and Jace let himself be hoisted up, wrapping his legs around Alec's waist. The blunt head of Alec's cock slid over his crack, slick with his juices, and Jace moaned helplessly into Alec's mouth, pushing himself closer, so his own dick was trapped against his parabatai's hard abs. The dark curls of his pleasure trail only added friction, and Jace felt as if he would go mad if he didn't get fucked "now, now, fuck, now!"

"Soon." Even through the haze of their shared lust, Alec laughed, a warm, intimate sound that made Jace feel giddy and light. Still chuckling, Alec deposited Jace on the settee, face first. When Jace tried to turn over, firm hands on his shoulders stopped him, and he froze obediently, realizing with a flush what Alec was about to do. Spreading his legs slightly, he grabbed hold of the seat's far edge and braced himself - not one moment to soon, because Alec was already aligning himself with Jace's opening. One hard thrust, one cry of ecstasy from Jace, and they were one again, Alec's hands gripping Jace's hips tightly as he fucked him ruthlessly. It was wild, possessive and more than a little frightening in its intensity - and it was everything Jace wanted, everything he'd ever denied himself. He was just as out of control as Alec, and he relished it with, no room left for qualms or worries. Pushing back hard, he let himself be taken, owned, over and over, gasping Alec's name over and over.

His own name spilled from his parabatai's lips before Alec leaned down and sucked Jace's scent gland, his cock thickening inside Jace, a sure sign that his climax was approaching. Mindless with pleasure, Jace bared his neck and reached back, grabbing Alec's hair and pushing his head against the mark he'd left. There was one thing he still needed, and he knew that he would have to ask for it.

"Do it, do it properly!" he demanded, and Alec stiffened, mid-way through a thrust, before cursing and slamming back inside so hard Jace barely managed to hold himself upright with the arm he wasn't using to keep Alec pressed against him. A low growl escaped Alec, rumbling in his chest, so deeply Jace could feel it vibrate through him, and where Alec's open mouth was against his skin he could feel incisors sharpen. Then Alec pulled back, but before Jace could protest he adjusted the hold he had on Jace until it was almost painfully tight - and bit down.

The mate bite penetrated Jace's scent gland easily, and Jace howled, but not from pain. On the contrary, it felt even better than Alec's knot, which was once again stretching him open, and Jace threw his head back and fell apart, exploding with pleasure like a supernova. It felt like every single nerve ending of his body was thrumming with electricity, and Jace was dimly aware that he had started glowing, every single rune on his body lighting up. This was definitely not normal, but he couldn't bring himself to care, not when he could feel his Alec's bite at the base of his neck, even after the sharp teeth retracted and Alec resumed sucking and licking the spot that would forever bear his mark.

"Mine," he finally stated, sounding satisfied and sleepy, and Jace could only nod, suddenly exhausted as well. He barely noticed Alec moving them back onto the settee, too tired even to complain about the mess they'd made of it. He was still impaled on Alec's knot, and Alec carefully arranged their limbs so he could cradle Jace against his chest. He probably didn't even notice that he nodded off with his face resting against the mate mark, but Jace did, and he followed his parabatai into sleep with a smile on his face.

He was still smiling when he woke up, still held securely in Alec's arms, although no longer locked together, and he could feel his scent gland pulse warmly. He smelled different, and a pleasant shiver ran through him when he realized the reason for it. He'd been claimed, mated, and his scent would forever prove that he belonged with Alec. The thought should have scared him, would have done so just a few days ago, but now, after everything that had happened, it just felt right.

What didn't feel right, however, was the turmoil of emotion he could feel through their parabatai bond, and Jace frowned and turned in Alec's arms. Stormy hazel eyes met his, and he knew something was wrong even before Alec averted his eyes and began to pull away, saying in an agonized whisper, "Jace, I'm so, so sorry!"

"Alec, stop!" Grabbing him before he could fall off the settee, Jace refused to let Alec move away. "What's wrong? What are you sorry for?"

Alec stared at him in astonishment. "What's wrong? Jace, I mated you!"

"So? I asked you to." Jace's unconcerned shrug seemed to only increase Alec's confusion, and Jace felt suddenly cold. Fighting back a wave of nausea, he asked in a small voice, "Didn't you want it? Alec, please tell me, I didn't force you into this! Oh no, no, no! It's my fault you were in rut in the first place - can you ever forgive me?"

He could hear the edge of panic in his babbling, but when he tried to scramble away, put some distance between them, this time it was Alec who stopped him with firm hands on his shoulders. "What?! No, Jace, of course I want it! I've wanted it since we were barely more than kids."

Alec laughed ruefully, and something inside Jace relaxed, although he still remained stiffly perched on the edge of the seat that was decidedly too small for two grown men trying not to touch. Staring down at Alec's knees, trying not to let his eyes wander, Jace finally admitted, "Well, so have I, even if I was too scared to act on it."

He risked a quick glance at Alec's face and found him looking at him thoughtfully.  "Is that why you asked me to be your parabatai? Because you were scared?"

Jace nodded mutely. Then realization struck, and he blurted out, "Oh, is that why you apologized? Because we're parabatai and it's forbidden?"

"Well, I apologized because I thought that it had only been your heat talking when you asked for my mark," Alec said drily, and Jace blushed guiltily, suddenly painfully aware what the years that he'd spent running away from his feelings had likely done to his parabatai. To his mate. Who was still talking, so Jace quickly focused back on his words. "But yes, that we're parabatai is certainly a problem. We'll have to apply to the Clave for an exception, and they're not exactly happy with you right now. Or with me, for that matter."

Now Alec blushed, and Jace wondered what his parabatai had been up to while he was gone. That would have to wait, however, because a more urgent question presented itself: "Is that really possible? For the Clave to make an exception?"

"Yes. There have been instances in the past where parabatai had no choice but to mate."

"How do you know? I've never heard of anything like that."

Alec's teasing half-smile lifted a weight off Jace's shoulders. "I might have done some research over the years."

Following an impulse, Jace leaned forward and caught Alec in a kiss. It took a second for him to react, as if, despite all their talk, he hadn't quite believed that Jace really meant it, but then he responded with an eagerness that tasted sweet like honey to Jace. When they broke apart to catch their breath, they were both smiling widely, and Jace said wonderingly, "You taste and smell differently."

"Of course I do. We're mates now." The duh was left unspoken, but Alec's fond eye-roll made Jace grin, the last of his worries that things had changed evaporating.

Well, they had changed, but only in good ways, he thought, and leaned in for another kiss. Not in the ways Alec treated Jace, in the ways Valentine had taught him to expect to be treated by his alpha as an omega. Instead he got to have this, Alec opening to him without the excuse of heat or rut, his beautiful parabatai stretched naked below him as they made out lazily.

Jace was considering whether to try for round four, or maybe scoot down and suck Alec off, when they were rudely interrupted by a fire message. It was from Isabelle, and they sat up, separating reluctantly at the news that they had to come back to the Institute or risk being arrested.

"Both of us?" Jace asked, heading to the bathroom for a quick wash.

"Well, I guess technically I'm aiding and abetting a fugitive." Alec followed him, but they managed to keep their hands off each other, the spectre of what was to come hanging over them, except to reapply each other's iratze and stamina runes. "I was under strict orders not to look for you."

His usually so law-abiding parabatai shrugged, as if risking the Clave's wrath was nothing, and Jace's heart felt as if it would burst with the realization that to Alec, it really was nothing in comparison to losing him. Swallowing a sudden lump in his throat, he swore to himself that, no matter what, he would make sure Alec would never regret becoming his parabatai - and his mate.

They finished getting dressed quickly, seeing no point in wasting more time, but before leaving, Jace stopped Alec with a hand on his arm and pulled him into a tight hug. Hiding his wobbly smile against Alec's neck, he explained, "Who knows when we'll get to do that again…"

"We might not know what the Clave will do, but I'll be by your side." Alec's eyes were serious, but the weight of his hands - one against Jace's mate mark, the other against his parabatai rune - was warm and reassuring. "As your parabatai and as your mate."

"I know," Jace replied simply and leaned in for a kiss that felt like a promise. Giving the room one last glance, he grinned suddenly. "We know one other thing, though."

"Which is?" Alec played along with a straight face.

"Magnus will definitely have to replace that settee."

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