Drowning

Author's Note: Just a quick ficlet before it gets jossed by season 2. I wanted to write a Jalec fic, but instead this happened, which is totally canon-compliant (at least for a few more days). The first chapter is gen, the second chapter is where it gets romantic. 🙂

Chapter 1 - Chapter 2

Chapter 1
"ALEC!" The pain that burst from his parabatai rune was excruciating, and Jace dropped to his knees, clutching it. Then he coughed violently, as water suddenly filled his lungs. With soul-deep certainty he knew that somehow, somewhere, Alec Lightwood was drowning.

With a strangled cry Jace threw himself against the door of the cabin Valentine kept him locked up in whenever Jace didn't live up to his father's expectations. Needless to say he spent a lot of time there, and by now he'd mostly resigned himself to it. At least, as long as he was in here, he wasn't being beaten. But now he desperately tried to get the door to open, screaming in frustration when it stayed shut. Valentine had his stele, and Jace was stuck here while Alec was drowning.

Doubtlessly he had attempted a rescue and failed. His parabatai was dying, and it was Jace's fault, because Jace knew with every pulse of the straining parabatai bond that Alec would never accept that Jace was where he belonged, in a hell of his father's making. Jace could feel the bond fray and become weaker, and there was still the taste of saltwater in his mouth. He dropped to his knees again, letting his head bang painfully against the metal door, all at once too drained to do more than sob drily.

Then, suddenly, as if from a great distance, he could hear someone yelling. Actually, it was two different voices, and it took him a moment to realize that he heard only one of them with his physical ears. It was Clary on the other side of the door, screaming at him to move away, but Jace felt so weak, his body wouldn't obey. Also, he was distracted by the strange echo of what he recognized as Magnus Bane's frantic voice. "Alec, stay with me!"

The parabatai bond was still being pulled to its limits, and Jace curled around himself, whimpering with pain, both physical and mental, that made his father's torture sessions pale in comparison. Clary was still yelling, exasperated, but Jace ignored her, sending his entire focus inwards, to where he could feel Magnus fight for Alec's life.

With a bang the door flew open as Clary's patience ran out and she used the open rune without bothering to wait for Jace to get out of the way. He was pushed non-too-gently across the floor, but he barely noticed. Maybe he could lend Alec some of his strength, the little that remained of it.

Instead he felt a sharp pain across his face, and his eyes flew open, meeting Clary's worried gaze. He realized she was gripping him by the shoulders, fingers digging painfully into flesh that still bore bruises from Valentine's last beating, and she was talking, frantically "Jace, Jace! We have to get out before they notice Alec, Izzy and Luke were just a diversion."

"Alec?! I need to get to him!" It was Alec's name that got his attention, and Jace tried to push himself to his feet, suddenly shaking all over. Clary bolstered him up, and then Simon was there, easily picking up the slack. Between the two of them Jace managed to stay upright, and he let himself be led up onto a deck that lay deserted. From aft he could hear the noise of fighting, and a part of him wanted to stay and help. However, he could barely stand, and Simon finally lifted him over the railing and deposited him in a waiting dinghy.

He collapsed rather than sat down, pressing one hand to his parabatai rune as he tried to reach out to Alec. He could no longer hear Magnus, and the bond was weak, but it was still there, and it was this knowledge that kept Jace sane while they raced towards the shore. Clary was on the phone, and once she hung up, she came to sit next to him, resting one hand comfortingly on his knee.

"They got away. Izzy and Luke are off the ship, and Alec…" She trailed off but quickly continued, doing her best to sound reassuring, "Alec is with Magnus. And if anyone can save him, it's him right?"

Jace knew he should thank her, thank all of them, for rescuing him from Valentine, but all he could do was clutch his parabatai rune and nod silently. Luckily, Clary seemed to understand, remaining quietly next to him while Simon steered the boat towards the harbor. She did activate his iratze, which helped with his wounds but did nothing for the ache in his soul.

Once they reached land, Jace was up and off their craft without help, desperation propelling him forward. He didn't need to see Magnus, he simply followed the pull of the bond until he found the warlock, kneeling next to Alec's too-still form. Blue magic streamed from his fingers and into Alec's chest, and Magnus was sweating from the effort, whispering under his breath. Not hesitating one moment, Jace dropped to his knees next to his parabatai and said roughly, "Take my strength, warlock!"

Magnus' head snapped up in surprise, a sure sign how focused he was on the healing, and he only nodded and took Jace's outstretched hand without wasting time on niceties. Jace groaned in pain as the warlock began to drain his strength, but he held on, eyes fixed on Alec's face, searching for signs that his parabatai was returning to them.

It was only a minute or two, however, before he was roughly shoved to the side, and Simon had to hold him back from lashing out against Clary, who had replaced him by Magnus' side. She took the warlock's hand, explaining curtly, "Jace, you're in no shape to do this. Just… hold Alec's hand or something."

Jace, body already shaking again with exhaustion, obeyed without protest. Alec's hand was cold in his, and Jace had to remind himself that this was a normal result from being in the freezing water, that he'd soon be warm again. He closed his eyes and held on while Magnus continued his ministrations.

At some point Izzy and Luke joined them, and Jace managed to give his sister a one-armed hug, unable to make himself let go of Alec for a proper greeting. Then she took Clary's place next to Magnus, and Jace could feel his optimism start to waver. He squeezed his eyes shut, forcibly holding back tears. Their parabatai bond was barely noticeable, even weaker than it had been after Alec's disastrous attempt to track him, and Jace was aching all over, weary down to his very bones, his heartbeat faltering every few beats.

"Why isn't he awake yet?" he asked, trying and failing to keep his voice even. Just then, however, Magnus let go of Izzy, who exhaled sharply, and sat up, his magic disappearing into nothing. Jace began to protest, when suddenly his parabatai rune started glowing and heating up. One glance down Alec's torso, which Magnus had bared in order to pour his magic straight into his lover's heart, showed that his parabatai's rune was also pulsing, and then Alec sat up abruptly. They both gasped when, with an almost audible snap, their bond came to life again, gloriously strong.

Tears streaming down his face, Jace reached out and took Alec in his arms. His parabatai coughed, his body weak in Jace's embrace, but then his arms came up and he returned the gesture. They clung to each other, Jace crying unashamedly, until Alec straightened up and looked around at their gathered friends and family. His voice was hoarse but still the most beautiful sound Jace had ever heard. "I… Did we all make it?"

"Yes. Yes, big brother, we all made it, although you had to go and make it much more exciting than we'd planned. Drama queen!" Izzy laughed through tears, and the others joined in, relieved. Someone's hand came to rest on Jace's shoulder, and he knew he should give them a chance to welcome Alec back, most notably Magnus, but somehow he couldn't make himself let go.

He closed his eyes and rested his head against Alec's shoulder, breathing him in deeply. His heart was steady again, and he didn't need to reach out to know that it beat in tandem with Alec's. Their bond hadn't been this strong in a long time, maybe ever, and it warmed Jace all the way through, chasing away the dark memories of his time with Valentine, at least for the time being.

"You ever going to let me go?" Alec teased him, but his voice was gentle and his eyes were glistening with tears of quiet happiness.

"Never," Jace replied, and it was like the parabatai oath all over again. Alec didn't reply out loud, but his arms tightened even more around Jace's body, and for a while longer they just held on.

Note: Alright, so if you don't care for Alec/Jace in a romantic sense, you can stop here. If you do ship them, however, feel free to read on. 🙂

***
Chapter 2
Finally, Jace lifted his head, raking his bleary eyes over Alec's familiar features, drinking him in like a thirsty man in the desert. Hazel eyes met his, and suddenly Jace had trouble breathing again. For a long moment they just stared, caught like flies in amber, until Alec's tongue came out to wet his lips, and Jace's gaze flicked down automatically.

His heartbeat stuttered, or maybe it was Alec's, and helplessly he followed the mad impulse that gripped him, leaning in until their lips touched. It was nothing but a dry press of mouths, chaste by any standards, but it sent a bolt of lightning all through Jace.

Oh.

They broke apart abruptly, looking wide-eyed at each other, and Jace couldn't stop his hand from touching his mouth in wonder. A hot blush was creeping up his cheeks, and he forced his gaze away from the look of confusion on Alec's face, mumbling, "Sorry, sorry, I don't know what came over me. Put it down to shock or something."

Refusing to acknowledge the stares he could feel boring into his back, he pushed himself to his feet and away from Alec's side. His parabatai's hand came up as if to stop him but fell dejectedly back down before making contact. Jace couldn't see Alec's face, but he didn't need to, and guilt rose bitterly in his throat at turning a moment that had been nothing but pure joy into yet another instance of rejection. Yet another way in which Jace was a failure, as his father kept telling him.

He managed to completely ignore everyone until they were ready to leave, although it made him feel like an even bigger shit after all they'd gone through to rescue him. Because how could he tell them that he wasn't worth it, that they should have left him with Valentine, because that was where he belonged.

When they stepped through the portal Izzy told him to his surprise to think of Magnus' home and not of the Institute, and he roused enough curiosity to ask about it once they were in the warlock's sumptuous chambers. Everyone started talking at once, filling him in on the changes he'd missed, obviously relieved to finally have a safe topic of discussion. The only exception was Alec, a fact that Jace couldn't help but notice, still overly aware of his parabatai's presence.

While the others talked Magnus was fussing over Alec, making him sit down and summoning a hot drink and a blanket, and Jace couldn't quite suppress a snort of amusement at the look on Alec's face. He'd always been a horrible patient, and Jace didn't envy the warlock the task of getting Alec to take the time to recuperate from his ordeal. Except that was a lie, and Jace quickly looked away and focused back on Izzy's denouncement of Victor Aldertree's Clave-sanctioned shabby treatment of both the Lightwoods and Lydia.

"And what about our m... Jocelyn?" Jace asked Clary when he managed to get a word in edgewise, more to distract himself. He couldn't bring himself to call Jocelyn Fairchild his mother, though, and he saw that Clary wasn't the only one who noticed.

She was kind enough to let it slide, however, and replied, "She's doing well. She… couldn't be here today." His sister sounded apologetic, which clued him in more than the looks the others exchanged that there was much more to it than this. Clary quickly tried to smooth things over, "Jace - this isn't easy for her. She thought you were dead!"

Jace bit back the bitter come-back that so had he. It shouldn't hurt, not when he'd never expected a happy family reunion. That simply wasn't in the cards for the son of Valentine Morgenstern. He knew his father had lied to him a lot, but he could still hear his voice, denouncing Jocelyn, telling him that she'd rejected him even before defecting, that this was why Valentine had taken him with him, because his own mother didn't want him. Jace didn't really blame her, she'd had Clary to protect, after all; beautiful, strong, good Clary, who was so obviously untainted by Valentine. So he just nodded and said stoically, "I'm sure it'll work itself out, Clary."

His sister smiled, relieved, and hugged him, but Jace could feel Alec's eyes on him and knew that is parabatai at least didn't believe a word he'd just said. Still he refused to look up. Instead he asked Magnus for a place to crash, which the warlock showed him without any unnecessary chitchat. Jace nodded gratefully and slumped down on the unsurprisingly huge bed, but he should have known he wouldn't get away so easily. Magnus stopped in the doorway and turned back around. His tone was light as always, but his old eyes were serious. "I don't see the appeal myself, but Alec still loves you, even if he will never admit it. Foibles of the young, no doubt! One of the advantages of age, Shadowhunter, is that one learns that the heart, mortal or immortal, has the capacity to love more than one person. It's quite astonishing, really."

With this last quip and a snap of his fingers Magnus disappeared, making the door fall shut and leaving Jace behind, gaping. Did the warlock just give him and Alec his blessing? A blessing to do what, exactly? They were still parabatai, after all, even if they were willing to ignore the Clave's old-fashioned attitudes against same-sex relationships. And did Jace really just consider Alec and himself in a non-platonic way? With a deeply felt sigh, Jace fell back onto the too-soft mattress and closed his eyes. It was all too much - the rescue, Alec almost drowning, the kiss - and before he could continue to brood, exhaustion claimed him.

He woke with a start when someone opened the door, although they were doing their best to be quiet. Previously a deep sleeper, his stay on the Morning Star had taught Jace the need for vigilance the hard way, and his reaction clearly startled Alec, who looked at him like a deer in the headlights. Jace forced himself to relax a fraction and smiled, although it probably looked more like a grimace.

"Sorry! I didn't mean to wake you," Alec apologized, "I just wanted to see if you're alright."

He seemed deeply uncomfortable, and Jace couldn't blame him, hating that they could barely look each other in the eye, and that it was his fault. Trying for levity and knowing he was failing, he replied, "Really, shouldn't you be tucked in bed with Magnus? You're the one who almost died, after all." The moment the words were out, he wanted to kick himself. Why did he bring up Magnus? Now Alec was blushing and staring at the floor, and Jace rushed on, "Alec, I'm sorry, that's nothing to joke about. Please, ignore me, I'm no fit company. Just… go, and I'll see you in the morning."

This made Alec look up, and Jace wanted to disappear at the naked emotion on his parabatai's face. Then he took a couple of steps, the mattress dipping as Alec sat down next to Jace, so close he could feel the heat of his body. It reminded Jace how cold and unmoving he'd been only a few hours ago, and instinctively he laid a hand on his parabatai rune, reassured by the steady thrumming of their bond. Alec's eyes followed his gesture, and suddenly his long archer's fingers covered Jace's broader hand.

"I thought I'd lost you, you know. I almost lost my mind with worry while you were gone." Alec was still staring at their hands, cheeks hot, and his voice trembled. Then he looked up, and their gazes caught and held. Jace's heartbeat sped up, mirroring Alec's, making it impossible to tell where it originated. Alec's eyes widened, and he half-whispered, "Magnus was right, wasn't he?"

Every fibre of Jace's being screamed at him to deny everything, to make a joke out of it, send Alec away, back to his meddling downworlder boyfriend. Of course he knew what Alec was referring to, but what good would admitting it do? At the end of the day they were still parabatai, and Jace would rather go back to face Valentine than live without that bond. Subsequently, his response was an anguished whisper: "Alec… The law is hard but it's the law."

It wasn't an outright admission, but the meaning was clear, and he hated himself for the pain that clouded Alec's face at his words. However, after a moment resolve hardened his features, his hand tightened its grip around Jace's, and his voice was steady. It made Jace's breath catch even before Alec's words registered. "But a bad law is no law. And I can't go back, Jace, I can't unknow this."

With that he leaned in and captured Jace's lips in a kiss that was both gentle and claiming. Jace almost whimpered and responded helplessly, his free hand coming up to tangle in Alec's hair, Alec's fingers on his hip anchoring him. It lasted only a minute, then they broke apart to both draw in shuddering breaths of air. They didn't go far, however, foreheads resting against one another, hands remaining entwined, hearts beating as if they'd just fought a battle. And maybe they had, Jace thought, and couldn't suppress the smile that wanted to take up permanent residence on his face.

Alec made a questioning sound, so he explained, "If anyone had told me this is how this day would end, I'd have thought they were crazy." He pressed another quick kiss to Alec's mouth, full of wonder at how normal this already felt. "I don't know what will happen next, but I don't want to unknow this either. We'll deal with everything else when we have to. Together."

The smile on Alec's face was like the sunrise, and to Jace his lips tasted like hope.

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