Facilis Descenus Averno

Author's Note: Title is Latin and means “The descent to hell is easy”, from Vergil’s Aeneid.

***

Prologo
1) Primordi
2) Cessatio
3) Inventionis
4) Ardui
5) Moles
6) Memoriae
7) Flamma
8) Sententia
Epilogus

***
Prologo (Prologue)

Literally bumping into that mundane girl with the Sight threw Jace Morgenstern off his game just a bit. At least that’s what he told himself when Magnus Bane caught him and Izzy at the Pandemonium right after they’d met their demon contact. He was normally much smoother, but there’d been something about her that itched at the back of his mind, made him think he was supposed to know her. He’d have to tell his father about it - just as soon as they’d gotten away from the warlock who was choking the two of them with blue tendrils of magic.

Right then a black-and-red arrow whooshed past Jace and unerringly embedded itself into Bane’s side. The downworlder cursed and let go, and Jace glanced up quickly to where his parabatai was perched, guarding their backs as always. Alec smirked at him even as he took aim again, and Jace couldn’t help but grin back before disappearing into the crowd of oblivious mundanes with Izzy.

They’d been dodging Clave Shadowhunters, doubtlessly sent to look into the demon blood trade, and it wouldn’t do for them to catch on that the Circle was involved. The last thing he saw, however, almost stopped him in his tracks: the red-headed girl who’d seen him earlier caught in a fight between some demons and a couple of Clave hunters, with a glowing Seraph Blade in her hand.

Immediately Jace suspected who they’d come across - there weren’t all that many missing Shadowhunters, and he’d heard his father rant about Jocelyn Fairchild often enough to know that she had red hair. The girl had to be connected to the traitor, and even if she wasn’t, news of a Shadowhunter raised as a mundane was bound to be of interest to Valentine.

“Let’s go after her,” he suggested after Alec joined them outside with the news that the Clave hunters had left victorious but without any notion of Circle activity. The Lightwood siblings shared a quick glance and agreed, but not before Alec had made a quip about saving Jace and Izzy’s butts yet again. In response Jace smiled filthily and stepped closer to his parabatai, ignoring Izzy’s fond eyeroll as he stage-whispered, “Guess I’m lucky you like my butt.”

This earned him a raised eyebrow, but Alec was nothing if not focused - they had prey to hunt and he’d had a decade of practice in ignoring Jace’s teasing. Luckily tracking the girl wasn’t hard; she was completely clueless and obviously shaken by what had happened, and Jace could already picture his father’s face when they told him that they’d actually managed to find his former wife. Maybe it would be one of the few times Valentine Morgenstern showed some pride in his son.

An affectionate nudge against his shoulder brought him back to the present, and Jace met Alec’s warm smile with one of his own. Either he’d been thinking very loudly or his parabatai was simply that good at reading him; both were possible, and as always Jace felt warm all over knowing that he got to share his life, his very soul with someone like Alec.

We’re both lucky, my parabatai… Alec’s thoughts echoed through their bond even as he claimed Jace’s lips in a fierce kiss. Jace melted into their embrace, their bodies fitting together with the ease of long practice, their parabatai runes pulsing in tandem with their synced heartbeats. For a long moment they were both lost to the world, tasting each other with the hunger that always simmered between them, until Izzy loudly cleared her throat.

“Seriously, why can you never wait until we’re back home? Or at least out of sight. This is not a spectacle a sister should ever have to become used to!” Her complaints were as familiar as the fondness of her expression, and Jace allowed himself another moment in Alec’s arms before stepping away. As always the loss of physical contact made the world feel slightly off-kilter, and they quickly touched their parabatai rune to re-establish balance.

“It’s not as if we can help it. And we always keep it under control until after the mission,” Alec replied with an unrepentant smirk, and Jace had to stop himself from kissing him again. They had to get back to Valentine, and afterwards there would hopefully be time for more than a kiss. There had to be, or they risked losing their focus out in the field, endangering both their mission and their lives as well as Izzy’s.

This physical need to touch, to quench their lust on a regular basis or be overwhelmed by it no matter where they were, was the one drawback they had discovered so far after breaking the Clave’s law forbidding sexual and romantic relationships between parabatai. As far as Jace was concerned, it was totally worth it, and he knew Alec shared his opinion - as did Valentine.

***

Primordi (Beginnings)

Although Valentine had raised Jace not to rely on other people, the Lightwood children had been deemed acceptable training partners for him, and not even Valentine Morgenstern could completely quench the desire for human contact in his son. In addition, he could see the advantage Jace and Alec, already a solid team in their mid-teens, would have in battle once they were parabatai.

He’d been right, of course, and Jace had positively blossomed after the ceremony. He knew better than to tell his father, but he wouldn’t have given up the bond with Alec for anything, even if it hadn’t made them better warriors for the Circle. Alec was his, and he was Alec’s. For the first time in his loveless life, Jace Morgenstern had someone who cared for him first and foremost.

So when Alec had begun to pull away after they’d been paratabai for a year or so, always pretending that nothing was wrong, Jace had stubbornly refused to let him. Finally, after a particularly heated training session, during which Jace kept pushing his parabatai to tell him what he’d done wrong, how he could fix it, Alec snapped and kissed Jace square on the mouth. It lasted only a second, barely long enough for Jace to register how soft the other boy’s lips were, and then Alec backed away, sitting down in the corner, arms wrapped around his knees in a rare gesture of vulnerability.

“That’s why,” he bit out, meeting Jace’s wide-eyed stare head on despite the blush staining his cheeks. They both knew the Law, knew that, while homosexuality might only be frowned upon by the Clave, eros between parabatai was strictly forbidden, regardless of their gender. Still, even as Jace struggled to understand what this might mean, how this would change them, he realized that a part of him was glad.

“Alec, it’s okay,” he finally said, settling on the truth. “Maybe I’m being horrible, but I… like that you think of me like that. It means that you’re really all mine, that no pretty boy’s going to take you from me. How selfish is that?”

Alec frowned, obviously at a loss, and Jace scooted closer and rested a careful hand on Alec’s parabatai rune, bared because they’d been practising shirtless as per usual. For the first time he really noticed in what an intimate location it was, and how warm Alec’s skin felt, his pulse fluttering against Jace’s palm. “I’ve always suspected you were gay, and it didn’t matter to me one way or the other. But you’re my parabatai, Alec. No, you’re more than that, you’re everything! I’d do anything for you, kill for you and die for you, I’d even go against my father if it means I get to be with you. A kiss doesn’t change that. It just… makes everything clearer.”

The words were pouring out of him, and he only truly knew how much he meant them when he saw Alec’s hazel eyes widen and felt him shiver underneath his hand. Then they were kissing again, an uncoordinated clash of lips and teeth, and while Jace didn’t have a whole lot of experience with girls, and none at all with guys, he was pretty sure nothing would ever compare to this. Every slide of lips and tongues was wild and filled with a heat that spiraled through their bodies and lit them on fire as their hands began to wander and explore.

It was the sound of footsteps outside the storage room they’d been sparring in that broke them apart. Both of them were breathing heavily, and Jace had never been more turned on in his life, which was why he couldn’t help but laugh when the first words out of Alec’s lovely kiss-swollen mouth were “But… you’re not gay.”

Confusion and hurt flashed over Alec’s face at Jace’s reaction, so he quickly turned his laugh into a rueful smile and rested his forehead against Alec’s, a gesture that gave each of them immediate comfort. Honesty came surprisingly easy like this, when they were breathing the same air. “Well, my body sure doesn’t seem to care about labels right now…”

He emphasized his point by gently pressing his hard-on against Alec’s thigh. This earned him a sharp intake of breath and a bark of laughter. It didn’t last, however, reality catching up with Alec quickly, no matter how much Jace might have wished his parabatai would just live in the moment for once. At least Jace could take comfort in the fact that Alec didn’t pull away completely, only leaned back against the wall and said seriously, “You know it’s forbidden, it’s why I never said anything. Well, that and my mistaken belief that you’d never want me back.” Jace opened his mouth without knowing what he wanted to say, but Alec stopped him with a look. “Let me finish. I never would have told you, or kissed you, no matter how hard you pushed, if your father hadn’t basically given me permission.”

“What?!” Jace could hardly believe his ears. The Circle might have broken from the Clave, but they were still Shadowhunters, and this was one of the most fundamental laws; even if Jace had no idea what the reason for it was, now that he thought about it.

Alec nodded as if he knew exactly what was going through Jace’s head and explained, “You know Valentine thinks the Clave is blinded by tradition, and the other day he mentioned that in his opinion this is one of the laws without rational basis. I guess he noticed what was going on with me, and that’s why he told me, although he pretended it had nothing to do with us, that he was talking about parabatai bonds in general. It’s… actually the first nice thing your father has ever done.”

“Yeah, somehow I doubt that he was being altruistic,” Jace said drily once his thoughts had stopped spinning. They exchanged a long glance, and Jace could easily see his own doubts and confusion reflected on Alec’s face.

His parabatai spoke slowly, consideringly, “You don’t think he knows why it’s forbidden and wants us to do it anyway? Come on, Jace, he’s your father, even he can’t possibly consider using you as a guinea pig.”

But he didn’t sound very sure, and Jace could only shrug in answer, remembering a boy and a falcon. “Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past him. I mean, he might not know, but all the stories say something goes horribly wrong when parabatai become lovers. Maybe he thinks the Clave is lying. Maybe he just thinks we’ll fight harder for each other if we cross that line. Who can tell with him.”

They stared at each other for what felt like forever, until Alec broke the heavy silence between them, speaking in a half-whisper, “So, we forget this happened?”

“What? No!” Jace’s answer came so quickly and emphatically, it startled a small smile out of them both, and he continued more calmly, lacing his fingers through Alec’s. “We’ll go find Valentine and confront him, see what he has to say. And afterwards we can hopefully scrub the fact that my own father basically pimped me out from our minds and see if my body still thinks that heterosexuality is vastly overrated.”

Apparently this was the right thing to say, because the smile on Alec’s face was easily one of the most beautiful sights Jace had ever seen. Feeling a helpless surge of emotion, he vowed to himself that, no matter what happened next, he’d do everything in his power to make sure he’d get to see it again. It should have frightened him, this fierceness, going right against Circle as well as Clave teachings, instead he relished it. Facing his father was never a pleasant experience, but they needed answers, needed to know about this thing between them, so new still and yet already unmistakably changing their parabatai bond.

Jace got to his feet, determined and still holding Alec's hand.

***

Cessatio (Respite, delay)

Alec was in his usual place at Jace’s side when they portaled back to Chernobyl with their news, silent, giving Jace the chance to tell his father of Jocelyn Fairchild. Valentine’s reaction was positively triumphant and he even went so far as to compliment his son, “Not bad, Jonathan. Now, bring me the woman - and the Mortal Cup she’s hiding!”

So that was all the thanks they’d get. Typical. You’d probably have to single-handedly defeat the Clave for him to treat you like the man you are. Through their bond Jace could hear the snort Alec was suppressing, and as always he felt a pang of gratitude that his parabatai would always have his back, while Jace’s own father still seemed to see him as a weak boy. He should be used to it by now, this constant feeling of not quite living up to the Morgenstern name, yet somehow it never stopped stinging.

Aware of Jace’s emotions, Alec’s hand came up to rest on his shoulder, steering him away from Valentine with a semi-defiant nod to their leader. Jace visibly relaxed into his parabatai’s touch, not caring what his father thought of the gesture. Alec respected Valentine’s leadership, was one of the best soldier the Circle had, but there was no doubt between them that they would always come first, especially since they’d become lovers.

“Are you lost? This isn’t the way to the armory…” Jace might have sounded teasing, but his thoughts were warm and grateful as he allowed himself to be led away. Why is dealing with him always so exhausting? Take my mind off him before we have to leave, Alec, please…

Their telepathy came pretty naturally by now, but it wasn’t needed as they made their way to their shared quarters. The moment the door closed behind them, Jace was on Alec, pushing him down onto their bed and swallowing his pleased gasp with his mouth. Straddling him, their bodies moulded together, parabatai runes already pulsing, Jace licked his way into Alec’s mouth, met a tongue just as hungry as his own. Their kiss was all hunger and heat, Alec catching Jace’s lower lip with his teeth making Jace gasp and break away to sink his own teeth into the taut tendons of Alec’s neck.

They both loved marking and being marked, and Jace could feel Alec’s cock twitch through their pants. His own erection grew harder in response, and he ground down, began a rocking motion that Alec took up eagerly. Nimble archer’s hands dug into his hips, tugging, and Jace reluctantly broke their kiss, letting Alec pull first Jace’s than his own shirt off. Pressing the freshly bared expanse of skin together, they both stopped for moment, savoring the contact, their lips meeting gently as warmth flooded their bond, opening them up until Jace was no longer sure whose love and adoration he felt, his own or Alec’s. Not that it mattered, this blurring of lines between them having stopped being disconcerting long ago, instead they both relished it, never feeling quite as much themselves as when they were like this.

Except of course when their bodies were joined as well, and soon they were moving again, eager to get ever closer. Alec’s body was all heat and muscle under Jace’s touch, and he leaned down to lick his way over the runes on his lover’s neck, sliding to his knees at the foot of the bed while laying a path of kisses down the lean chest. Alec’s legs fell open, and he lifted his hips, enabling Jace to remove pants and briefs in one swift move. Not once looking away from eyes that were dark with arousal and love, Jace wrapped his lips around Alec’s bobbing erection, both of them moaning at the contact.

Unfortunately they didn’t have much time, so Jace only sucked a few times, swirling his tongue around the head and eagerly tasting the first few drops of precum before pulling off again, grinning at the whining noise that escaped his parabatai. It was only a half-hearted protest, however, and Alec was already handing Jace the lube he’d recovered from the crate that served as their bedside table. Climbing back onto the bed Jace forced Alec to scoot back, capturing his lips in another searing kiss before sitting back to coat his fingers and reach back to begin opening himself up.

Alec watched him insert a first finger into himself, hunger plain on his face, and Jace was not in the least surprised when his parabatai reached up and flipped them around. Still, he always felt a thrill when Alec manhandled him, which was no secret, and Alec smirked when Jace gasped even before inserting two slicked fingers into Jace’s body.

They’d done this often enough that Alec could do it without looking, guided by touch and the reactions he felt through their bond, so he leaned down to kiss Jace, his tongue mimicking what his cock would soon be doing. Jace responded in kind, adding to the lust quickly spiraling between them by sliding a hand between their bodies and wrapping it around both their erections. It was a poor substitute for what they both wanted, but with Alec adding a third finger they both knew it wouldn’t take much longer now.

Then a fourth finger was added, Alec ignoring Jace’s silent insistence that he was ready, just do it, Alec!, and Jace’s world narrowed down to pure sensation. He dimly noticed that he was whining and clutching at Alec with his free hand. His parabatai was almost as lost, pulled along with Jace, but retained enough sense to remove his fingers gently and moving Jace’s pliant form into position, blanketing him with his body as he lined himself up and finally, finally sliding home.

They remained still for a moment, eyes locked, hands entwined over Jace’s head, and breathed each other in. Nothing else compared, and instead of having grown used to it over the years, their need for this, for each other, had only strengthened, until neither one of them felt quite right when they weren’t connected like this. One of these days it might become a liability, but they couldn’t bring themselves to care, not when their bond sang between them, erasing the boundaries until they lost themselves, were no longer two people but just them, parabatai, lovers, family, and so much more.

Their bodies were rocking against each other, a rhythm that started out slow and languid but ratcheted up in intensity until their moans and groans filled the inches between their mouths when they weren’t kissing. Alec slid almost all the way out and slammed back in, urged on by Jace’s legs around his hips, but neither one of them was aware of who was doing what, who was giving and who was receiving. Their world had narrowed down to the maelstrom of pure sensation, their bodies taking second place to the joining of their minds, until all was white-hot light so bright it skirted the edge of pleasure and agony and they tumbled across the precipice in the same instant.

Separating their bodies, their selves, was hard, and it seemed a little bit harder each time. Jace winced when Alec’s spent cock left his body, the small aches and pains of their intense coupling seeping into his bones, but that didn’t stop him from keeping Alec plastered to his side for a while longer. He closed his eyes and enjoyed Alec’s breath against the sweat-cool skin of his chest, wordless declarations passing between them in the same rhythm as their heartbeat. Parabatai. Lover. Everything.

Slowly their thoughts separated and the discomfort of cool air and drying fluids intruded into their peaceful bubble. With a sigh Alec hoisted himself up and walked over to the small basin in the corner, wetting a cloth and passing it to Jace with a kiss before taking another one to clean himself up. Jace wiped his stomach and between his legs, then pulled the blanket over himself and lay back, admiring his parabatai, all long lines and lean muscle, runes only enhancing the fierce beauty.

Catching Jace’s thoughts, Alec shot him an almost shy smile from beneath long lashes, and Jace laughed out loud because even after all this time he could still make his warrior lover blush. Come here, he beckoned with a smile, and Alec came willingly, even eagerly, not bothering to put on clothes, his body fitting against Jace’s perfectly, as if they were made for each other. Maybe we were. The thought, originating in the part of their minds still not quite apart, reverberated between them while they shared a soft, open kiss.

It would have been easy to get swept away again, the pull between them strong, but right then Izzy pounded on the door. She’d long ago learned that she needed to be forceful if she wanted to get their attention, and even so it didn’t work when they were at the height of passion. Jace sighed and allowed Alec to pull away, feeling his lover throw his thoughts out to his sister. Hold your horses, we’re on our way.

Widening his own mind Jace could actually hear Izzy snort on the other side of the door. It was a new skill they were only just developing, their telepathy extending beyond their own bond, and it was a secret they’d only shared with Izzy. It made Jace uncomfortable, keeping something so important from his father, but they all three agreed that they weren’t ready for their leader to use something that was so intensely intimate. Also, Valentine greeted every new ability with a disconcerting glee, making way too many personal inquiries into the hows and whens and whys.

Jace shook his head and got dressed quickly, throwing Alec’s bow to him even as his parabatai passed him his Seraph Blade, their movements completely in sync as always after making love. Time to go to New York and get Jocelyn Fairchild and the Mortal Cup. That would be a great victory, the means to put an end to the Clave once and for all, and Jace accepted Valentine’s insistence that a demon come with them without protest, although he still didn’t like it.

As much as he agreed with his father’s stance in regards to the Clave and Shadowhunter survival, he’d much rather work with downworlders than demons. Still, he accepted that in the end half-demons were more difficult to handle because they couldn’t be controlled, not even by the Mortal Cup. But he’d never betray Izzy’s relationship with Meliorn, trusting her to use her judgement when it came to dealing with the Seelie. Yet another way in which he wasn’t the son Valentine Morgenstern wanted.

So when they returned with neither Cup nor red-haired girl and with Jocelyn unconscious the disappointment on the Circle leader’s face wasn’t anything new, but it still stung. After all, Jocelyn Fairchild had been one of the Circle’s best, and no one had expected the presence of a warlock. Yet another proof for the untrustworthiness of downworlders in Valentine’s eyes. Thank the Angel for Alec, who stepped in and took some of the heat off Jace, as always, promising that they’d go after the girl, Clary Fairchild, while demons and hunters were sent to search for the warlock who’d helped Jocelyn.

His father’s behavior towards his son’s parabatai and lover had always puzzled Jace, ever since their first kiss, and a part of him kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. They’d both been on the receiving end of Valentine’s brutal training methods, Jace much more so than Alec, but they’d always been allowed to spend time together and heal each other. For some reason, Valentine treated their unconventional bond as a strength and not a weakness, and Jace was too grateful to question the reasons for it. Not when it meant that he got to have Alec, in ways no Shadowhunter, be they Clave or Circle, could understand.

***

Inventionis (Discoveries)

“Why did you tell Alec it’d be okay if we became lovers?” Jace asked straight out, not bothering with hesitation, since that never flew well with his father. It helped that his parabatai was by his side, face impassive, although Jace could read him well enough to recognize embarrassment in the stiff way he held his body.

Valentine didn’t seem the least bit surprised, only lifted an eyebrow, a gesture of dismissive disdain that Jace had become all too familiar with during his life. “Was I wrong? You want him, too, don’t you?”

Jace swallowed and tried not to let it show that his father once again managed to put him on the defensive. So he stubbornly refused to glance away and replied, “Yes, but I might never have known if you hadn’t interfered. All the stories say that when parabatai cross the line into eros there are dire consequences.”

“And that’s just what they are, stories, created by the Clave to control their best warriors. Jonathan, I can’t say I understand what you and your parbatai share, but from what I’ve managed to learn I suspect you and Alec might actually become better, maybe even develop some additional skills.” Valentine sounded as convincing as ever, and Jace found himself desperately wanting to believe him.

Alec was still standing next to him, so close that Jace could feel his warmth, but to the surprise of both Morgensterns he now broke his silence to ask, “So there won’t be any negative consequences for Jace? Because he would never have… not if I hadn’t.”

Jace made to object, but his father was faster, answering seriously, “No, you have my word. Just give me yours in return that you’ll report anything… out of the ordinary.” Valentine’s eyes shifted between the two boys, his face unreadable, but Jace felt so relieved he firmly squashed any doubts that wanted to form when it came to his father’s motivations.

Instead he grabbed Alec’s hand and squeezed it defiantly, as if daring Valentine to contradict himself already. Alec’s eyes met his, his fingers gripping Jace’s so tightly he could feel Alec’s archer’s scars, and they shared a look of complete understanding. There would be no hiding, no sneaking around, and to hell with anyone who judged them. Then terrified realization dawned on Alec’s face, and he bit out a curse, “Oh, Angel, I’ll have to tell Izzy… and my parents!”

“Well, I wish you luck with that, Alec Lightwood.” Valentine had been watching the exchange still wearing the same carefully blank expression, but now he shared Jace’s grin, before leaving them with a nod. They were left alone, and for a moment they just stood there, staring at each other, still holding hands. Then Jace leaned in to kiss his parabatai, and Alec opened up to him as if they’d been doing this all their lives, parents and sisters fading away as their mouths fused together.

A part of Jace wondered whether he should be afraid, but then Alec’s tongue demanded entrance and all he could feel was his blood rushing downwards. He was achingly hard in an instant, and a similar hardness pushing against his hip told him that Alec shared his state. They broke apart, panting and staring at each other with hungry eyes, and then they were running, hand in hand, until they reached the room they’d been sharing since becoming parabatai. It was tiny, barely more than a closet, but it was theirs, and they tumbled onto Alec’s bed, which was closest to the door that slammed shut behind them.

Then they were kissing again, their arousal having barely abated, hands beginning to explore whatever skin they could reach. When Jace’s fingers skimmed over Alec’s parabatai rune, they both gasped at the pulse of energy that passed through their bond and broke their kiss long enough to stare at each other, wide-eyed.

“You alright?” Jace asked, worried for a moment, but Alec just nodded and bit his lip, and Jace simply had to lean in for another open-mouthed kiss, the sight of him, mouth red and swollen, skin flushed and eyes glazed with passion quickly chasing away the moment of clarity. They continued making out like this, fully clad bodies sliding against each other, their lips never apart for more than a couple of seconds, and the speed with which his climax approached would have embarrassed Jace if it had been anyone but Alec. As it was, he just buried his face in the crook of Alec’s neck and gasped out between gulps of laughter, “I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. Can we at least get naked before creaming ourselves?”

“I think I can get behind that.” Alec had stiffened, but only for a second, now he was nodding emphatically into Jace’s hair, sounds escaping him that sounded suspiciously like giggles. Not that Jace would ever call them that to his face, just like he’d never tell his parabatai how adorable he found him in this moment. Alec was usually the serious one in their trio with Izzy, always trying to live up to the Lightwood name and making a good impression with Valentine, but right now he was completely relaxed in a way Jace hadn’t seen before.

Looking into those warm hazel eyes, Jace blindly traced the parabatai rune on Alec’s hip with one finger, and their lips met in a kiss that lacked the earlier heat. Instead it was all tenderness and yearning, and Jace could have sworn their bond was pulsing between them, growing impossibly stronger until he wouldn’t have been surprised to see a visible thread connecting them.

Without needing to speak, the broke apart and sat up, but only for long enough to rid themselves off shirts, shoes, socks and pants, leaving them in their underwear. They’d seen each other wearing even less countless times, tight quarters leaving no room for modesty, yet this was somehow completely different, and Jace could see his own realization reflected in Alec’s darkening eyes. Then he was on his back, Alec straddling him and leaning down to place kisses that were almost bites down Jace’s neck, over his chest. When sharp teeth closed over first his right nipple, then his left, Jace gasped out loud, his whole body arching off the bed and nearly throwing Alec off his perch.

“Sensitive spot?” Alec asked drily, then broke into a laugh Jace couldn’t help but share despite the tingling sensation still racing through him. Somehow the interruption didn’t break the mood in the least, and Jace reached up and dragged Alec down for a long, biting kiss. Alec’s hands took up where his mouth had left off, twisting Jace’s nipples and then trailing further down to cup his straining erection through the thin fabric of his boxers, which was already wet with precum.

Jace had break the kiss and to close his eyes, his world narrowing down to the sensation of those clever fingers, his climax sneaking up on him without warning as he tipped over the edge and came with a shout of Alec’s name. Dimly he heard Alec curse, but he was too lost in white-hot pleasure to do more than cling to his parabatai, his entire body shaking. Finally, he regained enough his senses to realize Alec was holding him just as tightly as he recovered from his own orgasm.

“Wow,” he managed, letting his hands roam freely over Alec’s slim but muscled back, reveling in the heat of his skin. “That was… something else.”

Alec chuckled against his neck, before lifting himself enough to capture Jace’s smile in another kiss. When they broke apart, their faces remained only inches away from one another, and Jace’s heart felt close to bursting with an unfamiliar feeling that could only be happiness. Alec was still smiling warmly, but then thoughtfulness crept into his expression and he asked seriously, “Did you feel our bond? I swear, I came because I could feel what you felt! That’s never happened before - and we’ve been sharing a room for long enough that we’ve both rubbed one out while the other was in the other bed, pretending not to hear...”

Jace grinned and pressed a quick kiss to Alec’s lips before responding, “No, but then I was kind of busy coming harder than I have in my life... Before that, though, when I touched your rune, there was definitely something.”

“I remember. Like this?” Alec asked and gently ran a finger over Jace’s parabatai rune. Both of them gasped as warmth sparked between them, and impulsively Jace pressed one hand over Alec’s heart, the other over his. He was completely unsurprised to find their heartbeats completely in sync and to see the knowledge already reflected in Alec’s eyes. They stared at each other, their minds pushing towards each other, towards something new, both sharing a moment of total clarity that this was only the beginning.

Neither one put it into words, however; instead Alec pressed a gentle kiss to Jace’s lips before levering himself off the bed. Unselfconsciously, he bent over to remove his soiled briefs, and Jace could feel his cock twitch at the sight of his parabatai, the black lines of runes adorning olive skin only serving to enhance the strong lines of Alec’s graceful body. He was already a good couple of inches taller than Jace, but for the first time Jace really noticed that Alec was no longer a gangly boy but filling out in a way that made Jace’s mouth go dry. He lost himself for a moment, staring while Alec cleaned himself and then turned back to him, offering Jace a wet cloth and not getting any answer.

“Anything I can help you with?” Amusement danced in Alec’s expressive eyes, and Jace wondered how he’d managed to be so oblivious to the love in them until this day.

“Well, since you’re asking so nicely…” Leaning back onto one elbow, Jace smirked and gestured to his cock, which was a hard curve against his belly, red head peeking out from his boxers. He was rewarded with an answering grin and a glimpse of tongue wetting Alec’s lips, right before these lips covered his own, followed by the length of Alec’s naked body pressing against him. Although it would have been easy to lose himself in this, this time Jace paid closer attention, and when he wrapped his hand around Alec’s quickly hardening erection, he did feel a faint echo of heat through their bond.

Interesting. And possibly useful, if it could be achieved at other, less intimate times, like during missions. But for now all Jace wanted was to discover more ways to make Alec shiver and lick his lips hungrily, the way he did when he finally managed to peel off Jace’s underwear and their naked bodies slid against one another as if they’d been made for this. Already Jace could barely remember a time before he’d been consumed by this, this love and longing that made their bodies and minds sing in a way that made their swearing of the parabatai oath, the most perfect experience in Jace’s life so far, pale in comparison.

He licked his way down Alec’s chest, pressing a gentle kiss to the pulsing rune on his hip before continuing downwards without hesitation. Alec gasped out loud, a wordless prayer or benediction, his hands tangling in Jace’s hair, and Jace smiled around the hard flesh in his mouth. Obviously Valentine was right, and the Clave had been wrong in this as well, because neither one of them had ever felt more complete, more right.

***

Ardui (Challenges)

Jace, Alec and Izzy first interrogated Jocelyn Fairchild’s werewolf lover. Luke Garroway claimed not to know anything about the whereabouts of either the Cup or Clary Fairchild and to not care one whit about the girl’s safety, but while Izzy talked to him, Jace and Alec surreptitiously joined hands and reached out with their minds. Probing other people’s thoughts was still somewhat hit and miss, but in this case the lie was transparent, and they immediately increased the demon presence at the precinct in order to keep a close watch.

The only other thing of note was that seeing a photo of Garroway with the two Fairchild women knocked something loose inside Jace’s brain. When they left, Alec nudged him inquiringly, but the feeling that he was missing something had already disappeared. Instead they tracked down their other lead, Jocelyn’s warlock friend Dot, and confronted her behind Pandemonium.

Jace couldn’t help but admire the woman’s courage when they brought her back to Chernobyl. He knew it shouldn’t bother him, the way his father treated downworlders, and he had to admit that some of his experiments had undoubtedly strengthened the Circle, but he couldn’t help but be grateful that he would never have to submit to them, not when he had Alec’s strength to draw on in addition to his own.

However, as he watched the warlock screaming her defiance right until the end and saw the Circle leader turn his attention to Jocelyn, the niggling sensation came back, stronger than before. His father was frustrated, yet there was something like longing in the way he touched the sleeping woman.

“Get me the girl,” Valentine commanded without turning, and even as he heard Izzy agree, Jace shook his head as if to free it from cobwebs, suddenly fighting a headache. Still the thought dancing at the edge of his consciousness wouldn’t materialize, and Jace could feel Alec’s puzzlement.

What is it, parabatai? The familiar mental voice was like a balm, as was the gentle touch of Alec’s strong hand low on his back, and Jace immediately felt better. They hadn’t needed steles or runes to spell each other in a while now, and the warmth that accompanied the healing almost made Jace forget the reason for it. That wasn’t like him at all, and Alec seemed worried now.

Jace? Without needing to discuss it, they’d left Valentine, a confused Izzy in their wake, and once they were alone, Alec continued out loud, “What’s the matter? Is it that we’re hunting your sister?”

My sister?! It felt like a lightning bolt had struck him, and Jace knew he was staring like an idiot. The two Lightwoods were looking back at him, obviously confused by his reaction. Jace stammered, “I… what? Sister?”

Yet even while speaking he realized that of course Clary Fairchild was Valentine’s daughter with Jocelyn. It wasn’t as if Luke Garroway could be her father, after all, and the timeline of Jocelyn’s defection didn’t really allow for anyone else. He should have known immediately, and the fact that he hadn’t shocked him almost more than the knowledge that he had a half-sister. Alec naturally felt his turmoil, stepping closer and wrapping both arms around Jace, who gratefully relaxed into his lover’s comforting embrace.

Next to them he could feel Izzy’s warm presence, and once more Jace felt profoundly grateful that he got to be a part of this little family unit. “Of course,” Alec immediately replied to the unspoken thought, tightening his hold and pressing a kiss to the top of Jace’s head. “You know you’ll always have me, and Izzy too.”

“Seriously, I just love being excluded from half your conversations,” Izzy groused, but she was smiling at them indulgently. “But big brother’s right, of course, you’re basically a Lightwood - and I mean in a married kind of way, because everything else would be disgustingly close to incest!”

Jace gave her a grin before capturing Alec’s lips for a quick kiss. As always, the slightest touch lit a spark, but they kept it positively chaste by their standards, because Jace’s brain was still busy processing his earlier realization. Once the kiss ended, still clinging to his lover for support, he mused out loud, “There’s something wrong about this whole thing. I mean, I fucking knew that my father and Jocelyn Fairchild got married sometime after my mother died. Clary being my sister was obvious, so obvious nobody even bothered mentioning it, but somehow my mind wouldn’t make the connection. Almost as if…”

He trailed off, finding it strangely difficult to continue, his thoughts becoming scattered again. Luckily Alec was there, obviously not sharing his difficulties, because his eyes widened in shock and he said in a low voice, “As if someone put a block there.”

“And by someone you mean Valentine,” Izzy half-whispered and let out a sharp breath.

Jace couldn’t stop the ugly snort of laughter that escaped him. “Who else? Don’t tell me you’re surprised, Izzy. My father has always been ruthless. I wonder why this, though. What was so horrible he got a downworlder to wipe my memory?”

“Do you think that’s why you can’t remember your mother?” Alec’s worry and anger were almost palpable, and Jace felt a hot surge of love, never failing to be amazed by the strength of his lover’s feelings. Others might not see them, might think Alec the perfect rule-abiding Circle warrior, but Jace - and Izzy - knew better.

I love you, my parabatai, he thought while replying out loud, “Maybe. Probably. And you know there’s only one place we can go for answers.”

And I love you came the instant reply, accompanied by a fierce kiss that threatened to get out of hand quickly, fury and fear morphing into the familiar desire, beckoning with the promise of oblivion. How much Jace wanted to just let go and disappear, forget everything they’d just found out and everything they’d have to do to get to the bottom of this. He clung to Alec, who couldn’t help but respond in kind, their heightened emotions pushing at their self-control.

It was Izzy who stopped them in their tracks, half-yelling in exasperation, “Hello, I’m right here! I mean, I get it, I’d also rather hump someone than go see the Silent Brothers, but this is ridiculous!”

They broke apart, blushing and smiling a bit sheepishly, but since this was by far not the first time this had happened, they were only embarrassed rather than mortified, and their hands remained linked as they stepped slightly apart. Still, Alec avoided his sister’s eyes and replied in his most nonchalant tone, “Can we even do that? Won’t the Silent Brothers notify the Clave?”

Jace felt the blood drain from his face at the words he’d tried not to think about. Still, the pressure of Alec’s hand gave him the strength to straighten up and meet the similarly scared gazes of the two Lightwoods. “They might not, they’re officially unaffiliated. Also, it’s not as if we’re going with my father’s blessing.”

Nodding, Alec’s quirked his lips in a wry half-smile. “And I don’t see that we’ve got many alternatives. Circle members can’t exactly ask warlocks for help right now, what with the hunting and killing going on.”

Izzy shook her head in mild exasperation and Jace snorted, but the moment didn’t last. Jace held out his free hand to Izzy, as did Alec, forming a triangle, and they stood like that for a minute, hearts beating fast with fear and the weight of what they were about to do. Jace knew that alone he’d never have had the strength to go through with the ordeal before him. Finally, he let go of them both with a heavy sigh and created a portal. Walking through it, they found themselves before the City of Bones. Fear struck Jace, and he faltered, remembering all the stories he’d heard about the Brotherhood.

You’re not alone, parabatai. Alec might not be touching him, but his presence was strong and steady, despite the worry Jace could feel reverberating through their bond.

Squaring his shoulders, Jace stepped into the darkness. “Alright, let’s do this.”

***

Moles (Responsibility, might)

They didn’t get the chance to tell the Lightwoods and the rest of the Circle.

Alec was kissing Jace hungrily, tasting himself on his lover’s tongue, when the unmistakable noise of a fight could be heard. Breaking apart, the two boys scrambled to their feet and into their clothes. Neither one of them bothered with shirts, but they did pause long enough to put on pants and shoes before Jace tossed Alec his bow, which he caught without even glancing into Jace’s direction. The next moment they were rushing out the door, Seraph Blades in hand, and discovered that somehow their captives, four warlocks and two werewolves, had managed to escape.

The entire base was busy fighting, and without second thought Jace and Alec joined the fray, their styles complementing each other perfectly as always. If anything, that moment when all conscious thought ceased and they were nothing but a blur of deadly motion came even easier than normal. Jace was always able to feel Alec when they were fighting, but now it was almost as if they were extensions of one another, blades slashing and arrows flying in perfect harmony.

It was glorious, and with their help the Circle quickly defeated its foes. With a triumphant yell Jace sliced the last warlock in two before the woman could so much as lift her hands in the direction of Alec, and she toppled to the ground. Out of the corner of his eyes Jace could see Valentine watching him, but he was used to his father’s scrutiny, and right then all his focus zeroed in on Alec, who was grinning widely at him.

Two steps brought him to his parabatai, their bond almost singing between them, and they embraced tightly. They were both breathing hard but completely in sync, and later neither one of them was able to tell who turned what was an exuberant but completely acceptable victory hug into a deep kiss.

From one moment to the next, the entire atmosphere around them changed. The other Circle members had begun post-fight clean-up, but all motion stopped as they almost collectively drew in a sharp breath. Jace and Alec almost jumped apart, staring first at each other than at the disbelieving faces of their friends and families in shock.

They hadn’t wanted to hide it, but this was definitely not the way either one of them had imagined coming out. Still, it was out now, and Jace couldn’t bring himself to regret giving in to what had felt like the most natural impulse in the world. Alec, on the other hand, stood stock-still, hazel eyes darting between his parents and Izzy, and Jace would have sworn he could feel Alec’s fear.

The look on Maryse Lightwood’s face especially didn’t bode well, and without thinking Jace positioned himself in her line of sight, forcing her focus off her son and onto him. Grabbing Alec’s hand, he straightened his shoulders in defiance and said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “The Clave’s rules have no value here. Alec and I have spoken with my father, and he agrees.” Meeting everyone’s stares head-on, Jace licked his lips but refused to back down. He didn’t normally play the Morgenstern card, but he needed to protect Alec from any negative consequences, even if it meant invoking his father’s name. “I’ll gladly fight anyone who has a problem with us.”

“I trust that won’t be necessary.” His voice filled with easy authority, Valentine pushed himself off the wall he’d casually leaned against so far during the confrontation. “He’s right, they have my blessing. The Circle is strong because we don’t bow to tradition, and as you all could see just now, my son and his parabatai might be even better warriors now.”

There was some murmuring, but no one spoke up, which didn’t surprise Jace, considering his father’s usual reaction to being contradicted, but he still felt relieved. Especially because Alec continued to stand tensely beside him, feet slightly apart as if he was waiting for an attack, and his grip on Jace’s hand so tight it hurt. Both their pulses were racing hectically, but Jace took some deliberate deep breaths, and slowly he could feel Alec relax at least a tiny bit.

Although the rest of the Circle had obeyed Valentine’s unspoken order and begun to disperse, Robert, Maryse and Izzy hadn’t moved, but now Jace’s father herded them into the next room, where he left them with a terse nod. Jace knew his father didn’t really approve of the tight family bonds between the Lightwoods, so he was doubly grateful for his support in this, although he couldn’t quite suppress the niggling suspicion that Valentine had ulterior motives.

That would have to wait for another time, however, because the moment they were alone Maryse was on them, her face icy with disappointment. Alec’s grip on Jace’s hand tightened until it became painful, but Jace simply grit his teeth, more than happy to offer any support he could. Also, a part of him couldn’t help but feel pleased that Alec wasn’t backing away in the face of his mother’s rage. Although she was a good bit shorter than Alec, she seemed to tower over him as she hissed, “What are you thinking? Alec, I always suspected you were… deviant, but to go and corrupt your parabatai, that goes beyond the pale. It’s… it’s nothing short of an abomination, no matter what Valentine says!”

Secretly, Jace had often thought Maryse Lightwood’s treatment of her son to be unnecessarily harsh, but he’d kept out of it, considering it a family matter. However, those times were past, and now he stepped forward, physically shielding his parabatai, and practically growled in defense, “Stop right now! I don’t care about your outdated opinions, but I won’t let you talk to Alec like this. It takes two, and Alec would never have done anything without my father’s permission. And Valentine’s still our leader, after all.” He was so angry, he got right into Maryse’s shocked face, asking in a low, dangerous voice that was pure Morgenstern, “Isn’t he, Maryse?”

She actually paled at this, but to Jace’s surprise it was Robert who spoke up, coming to stand next to his wife with a calming hand on her arm. “Yes, of course. And we know that Alec is a good Circle warrior, one of the best.” He glanced at Alec and gave a small nod before continuing, “The two of you have to understand that this is a shock. We’re with Valentine all the way, but we were raised with the Clave laws, and some of them are deeply ingrained. We won’t be the only ones who will struggle with your… relationship. But I’m sure no one will stand in your way, least of all us.”

Izzy chose this moment to chime in, startling them by impulsively throwing her arms around both of them and announcing cheerfully, “By which he means to say that we love you, and nothing will change that.” She gave her brother a quick peck on the cheek and added in a lower voice, “And I’m happy for you, big brother. It was rather sad to see you moping, thinking that you could never have your love because of some antiquated law!”

“When did you get so smart?” Jace laughed, kissing Izzy’s cheek in thanks, and Alec managed to give his sister a fond smile, although Jace could read him easily enough to see that he was still distracted by Maryse’s obvious disapproval, silent though it now was. Still, he hadn’t relinquished his death grip on Jace’s hand, and Jace squeezed back, trying to convey without words that things could have gone much worse and that, in the end, they’d always have each other.

Alec reacted by stepping forward, so he was at Jace’s side and not behind him, and Jace had rarely been so proud of his parabatai than when he stated firmly, “Thank you, Izzy, father. Mother, you know that I have always upheld the Lightwood family honor. And I’m convinced that I’m still doing the honorable thing here, by being honest about my feelings for Jace. He’s always been a part of me, but it’s always gone deeper than being parabatai. Being honest about it has made me stronger, a better man.” Listening to him speak so passionately, Jace could barely breathe, his heart felt as if it was bursting with pride. Then Alec turned to look at him, although he kept addressing his family. “That he loves me back is more than I could have ever imagined, and I hope that one day you’ll be able to be happy for me, even if you don’t understand.”

It was a long speech, especially for someone as taciturn as Alec, and Jace knew he was staring at his parabatai with a besotted expression. However, he couldn’t bring himself to care, instead reaching up to cup Alec’s cheek in his free hand. Their eyes caught, and the depth of feeling was almost overwhelming. It demanded release, and Jace didn’t fight it, simply pressed his mouth to Alec’s.

He might have intended for it to be a chaste expression of his gratitude and love, but Alec’s lips parted immediately, and they fell into each other, tongues tangling greedily. The kiss didn’t last long but it most certainly wasn’t meant for an audience, especially one made up of Alec’s family, yet when they broke apart, Jace couldn’t bring himself to care, and while Alec’s cheeks were red, he only gave his parents a defiant look.

“Alright, no need for another embarrassing display.” Her words might be cutting, but to Jace’s surprise, he could see something like grudging respect on Maryse’s face. “But you are almost an adult, Alexander, grown enough to be a full-fledged warrior for the Circle, so I guess it’s up to you and your parabatai how you want to live your lives.”

She didn’t need to say that the lives they were leading were dangerous and could end with any mission they undertook for the Circle. Alec’s eyes softened and he let go of Jace’s hand to wrap his arms around his mother, who hesitated for a moment but then returned the embrace, even if it wasn’t the most heartfelt of gestures. In the background Robert was nodding and Izzy was smiling widely, and Jace felt almost dizzy with relief. He had no doubt that Alec would have stood by him, by their relationship, if his family had rejected them, but he was just as certain that it would have killed something inside his parabatai, who was much less hard and stoic than he appeared on the outside.

Their path would be hard enough as it was. Even with Valentine’s blessing, there was bound to be grumbling and hidden disdain of what many Shadowhunters still considered deviant behavior. Jace didn’t particularly care what other people that weren’t his father or the Lightwoods thought of him, but Alec was different. If anything, he felt it too much, which Jace firmly blamed on Maryse Lightwood’s insistence on raising her son to be perfect. Not that Valentine hadn’t treated Jace ten times worse, but somehow that was different, expected, since Jace had no illusions that his father’s love for him bore any resemblance to the much warmer emotions the Lightwoods shared.

Swallowing a sigh, Jace suppressed those thoughts, familiar in their bitterness, and focused back on the present. Looking up, he discovered that Alec was watching him consideringly, and immediately Valentine’s voice in his head whispered bitingly that he’d become careless, allowing vulnerability to show. The voice disappeared immediately under the unexpected weight of Alec’s hand on his collarbone, its warmth seeming to spread all through his body, and Jace smiled up at his parabatai, all negativity completely vanished, replaced once more by wonder that he got to have this, have Alec. Without speaking, their bodies swayed forward until they were close enough to share breath, and what had been comforting warmth turned into molting heat.

“We’ll be going now,” Alec stated abruptly, addressing his family but not once looking away from Jace, their lips merely inches apart. Jace startled, having totally forgotten about their audience yet again. They would definitely have to get used to people’s disapproving stares, if they were already so prone to forgetting themselves without even having made love. The thought alone was enough to make Jace pull his parabatai back to their quarters impatiently, ignoring Izzy’s cheerful “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” and Maryse’s surprisingly mild admonishment to be careful.

Being careful was the last thing on their mind, however. Jace was on Alec the moment they were behind closed doors, pushing him against the wall and kissing him until both their heads were spinning. It was electric, feeling Alec’s body arch against his, and Jace tore his mouth away to lick and suck his way down Alec’s neck. He closed his teeth over the skin marked by the red Circle rune, which they’d only earned a few months ago, and was rewarded by Alec’s strong fingers digging sharply into his backside, pulling him close and causing them both to gasp as hard cocks dragged against each other.

The next moment Jace’s back hit the mattress, startling a laugh out of him as he found himself with a lapful of determined Alec. His parabatai’s cheeks were flushed, his eyes almost black with desire, and Jace felt his breath catch at the sight. He wondered how he could ever have lived without this, especially when Alec positively attacked his lips while beginning to grind down, sending sparks all through Jace with every deliciously sweet thrust. Helpless with desire Jace wrapped his arms around Alec’s shoulders and clung on, hips bucking upwards in counterpoint, threatening to almost unseat Alec. Instead the older boy suddenly tore his mouth away, causing a low whine to escape Jace’s throat. Alec laughed a bit unsteadily and drew in a couple of deep breaths, shaking his head when Jace tried to pull him back down.

“I want to see you properly,” Alec explained and immediately led by example, pulling his shirt over his head and staring at Jace in clear challenge. Jace didn’t immediately comply, taking a moment to appreciate how far down that lovely blush went. Unlike Jace Alec had a good bit of chest hair, something Jace was quickly developing a new appreciation for, like everything about his parabatai’s body, and he reached up and trailed curious fingers down Alec’s chest. When he traced them around pebbled nipples, Alec drew in a sharp breath before he managed to collect himself enough to fix Jace with mock-serious eyes. “And here I thought you might like to get fully naked...”

“Oh Angel, yes!” The thought of seeing Alec naked again, maybe this time for more than a quick fumble, made Jace’s heart beat even faster, and he nodded quickly, knowing he was grinning foolishly but not caring, because Alec was grabbing the hem of his shirt and pulling it over his head before he’d even finished speaking. Obviously he wasn’t the only eager one, and he simply had to pull Alec into another kiss once his head was free again.

They almost lost themselves in it, hips rolling and hands roaming over chests and backs, but Alec as always managed to keep the mission goals firmly in sight and broke away. He got to his feet in order to rid himself of the rest of his clothes, and Jace immediately missed the weight and warmth of him. However, his pout disappeared like ice in the sun when Alec stood in front of him, completely bare. Jace had seen him naked more times than he could count, but never like this. Never with his cock jutting upwards in a hard curve against the flat of his stomach, and so much hunger in his eyes.

Or maybe the hunger had been there before, but Jace had never noticed; in any case it made him shiver in anticipation and shimmy out of his pants and boxers as quickly as he could. He wasn’t quick enough for Alec, though, impatient hands tearing at his clothes until he, too, was naked as the day he was born. Then, unlike the first time they did this, for a moment they both stopped moving and just stared, but for once not into each other’s eyes, and Jace hoped Alec liked what he saw, didn’t see the weaknesses Valentine always liked to point out.

Before unwelcome thoughts of his father had time to settle in, however, Alec leaned down and placed a kiss on Jace’s parabatai rune. The touch of his lips, gentle as it was, felt like a fiery brand, and Jace’s eyes slid shut as heat spread all through his body. He didn’t need to look to know that Alec felt it, too, but his parabatai didn’t stop. On the contrary, his tongue darted out and he traced the entire rune reverently, until Jace could have sworn it was pulsing again.

His cock was pulsing, too, leaking precum, and Jace reached down to grab it but was thwarted by Alec’s hand, which batted his away. Not that Jace put up a fight, not when Alec was wrapping long fingers, strong from holding a bow, around his erection. And then, as if that wasn’t bliss enough already, Alec stopped licking his rune and instead sucked the head of Jace’s cock into his mouth. Startled, Jace swore, hips bucking upwards involuntarily, making Alec cough.

“Shit, I’m sorry, Alec!” Jace reached down to touch Alec’s cheek in apology, mortified, but his parabatai just shook his head and grinned around Jace’s cock almost proudly, mumbling something. Jace didn’t understand a word, the vibrations racing through him and setting his nerve endings on fire. He gasped, and suddenly the bond between them flared to life as if they were in the middle of battle, making him aware of the way Alec’s heart was racing in tandem with his own. He could also feel a spike of pleasurelustlove and knew instinctively that it was an echo of how Alec felt. Jace groaned mindlessly, his fingers twisting in Alec’s dark hair painfully, but it only made Alec suck harder, and soon Jace was practically keening, a senseless litany of “Yes, please, so good, fuck, Alec!”

Encouraged, Alec used one hand to steady Jace’s cock, pressing the other against the parabatai rune, which felt alive under his touch, brandnew. When he managed to tear his eyes away from the enticing sight of Alec giving him the best blowjob of his life, Jace could see him rock his hips slightly, rubbing his erection against the mattress. There was no doubt he was getting off on pleasuring Jace, and it was that thought that finally sent Jace over the edge with a scream that doubtlessly could be heard halfway through the base.

Neither one of them cared, however, Alec busy swallowing and Jace boneless with his release. Finally, he managed to pull Alec up into a kiss, nipping at his lips and then licking his way inside, unable to suppress a whimper when he tasted himself on Alec’s tongue. Leaning his forehead against Alec’s, trying to catch his breath, Jace managed to say in a hoarse voice, “You didn’t have to do that, you know.”

His parabatai seemed just smirked in response. “Yeah, I know. I wanted to, though.” Jace could still feel Alec’s unabated arousal through their bond, even if his erection hadn’t been pressed against his side, and the next words were enough to make Jace’s spent cock twitch: “You did it for me earlier, and I’ve been wanting to try it for ages. Gotta say, it’s even better in real life.”

“I’m glad, because I’m kind of hoping you’ll do it again some time.” Jace grinned and slipped a hand around Alec’s cock, squeezing it in the way he already knew his parabatai liked. “But now it’s my turn again, I think…”

“Fuck, I love you,” Alec blurted out, then blushed furiously. Jace, who’d planned a second blowjob, impulsively changed his mind and went in for another kiss, trying to pour all of his feelings into the dance of lips and tongues.

Fuck me. He wanted to say it as soon as they broke for air, but the moment the thought formed, Alec froze, eyes wide with shock.

“Did you just…” they both began at the same time, Alec continuing with “say that?”, Jace asking “hear that?”

They stared at each other, knowing the answer without having to form the words. It should have frightened them, but instead they both began to smile, their minds tangling even as their bodies did the same.

***

Memoriae (Memories)

The City of Bones was genuinely creeping him out. Not that Jace would never admit it out loud - but then, he didn’t need to, Alec’s presence warm and steady in a corner of his soul as well as right behind him, while they descended into the bowels of the city.

I wonder if we’ll get to lie here…, he mused idly as they walked past the ancient bones of dead Shadowhunters in the flicker of Izzy’s witchlight.

Alec reached out and ruffled his hair gently. We will if we win the war. The divide will be healed and all Shadowhunters will stand side by side again.

“Optimist!” Jace snorted, and Alec laughed, a sound that seemed to dispel the shadows around them. No one’s ever accused me of that before, I think.

“Boys, as nice as being excluded from this talk has been, I think we’re about to have company,” Izzy interrupted wryly; and true enough, suddenly they were surrounded by a bunch of Silent Brothers, appearing out of the darkness like spooky apparitions.

What is it you want? It was weird to hear a voice that wasn’t Alec’s in his head, and by the way the Lightwood siblings were looking around Jace could tell they, too, were hearing the Brother.

Out of deference for Izzy Jace responded out loud, “We think there’s a block on my memories. We were hoping you could remove it.”

You are with the Circle. The Brother didn’t sound judgemental, but Jace could still see Alec tensing and then deliberately relaxing, knowing there was no point in denial or anger.

“Yes, but they don’t know we’re here. Actually, it was probably Valentine Morgenstern who put the block on me,” Jace responded, truthful but not bothering to mention that Valentine was his father. If they didn’t know already, why risk riling them up?

You are right. Although they had expected this, the Brother’s response still caused Jace, Alec and Izzy to exchange surprised glances. We can try to remove it, but know that there are risks.

“Do it!” Jace didn’t hesitate, although he could feel Alec’s reluctance as clearly as if he’d said something. I’m sorry, love, but there is no other way. And I need to know.

The Silent Brother gave him a sharp look, and for a moment Jace wondered whether he’d heard what had been meant for Alec alone. But then Alec was pulling him into his arms, and like always the world narrowed down to the feeling of soul-deep security as their lips met in a gesture that was both giving and seeking reassurance. It didn’t last long before they were stepping apart, and Jace turned to face the Brothers, stating quietly, “I’m ready as I’ll ever be.”

That statement turned out to have been overly optimistic, because he was not ready at all for the stabbing pain that pierced his forehead. He heard himself scream, or maybe it was Alec, but there was no room left in his mind. All he could hope was that Alec disassociated himself from Jace’s pain the way they’d practised for battle.

Images flooded him, strangely distorted, and he realized it was because he was only a kid. He was also standing next to his father in front of the smoking ruins of a house. He was crying, but unsurprisingly Valentine ignored him, saying, “Come on, boys, we have to leave. Wouldn’t do if anyone saw us.” It was only then that Jace noticed that there was another boy, about his age, standing on his father’s other side, scowling with an anger that let Jace’s blood run cold.

Jace staggered and became dimly aware that strong, familiar arms came to hold him up. He couldn’t respond in any way, though, because the next wave of images came. He was a bit older, hiding under a desk. His father’s voice floated down to him, as he apparently spoke to someone on the phone, hissing, “I’ll be with you again soon, Jonathan. Behave or you’ll regret it!” Then he made a surprised noise, his face appearing next to Jace’s hiding place. Jace was cowering, knowing deep down that he wasn’t supposed to hear this.

Another flash, and Jace knew tears were streaming down his face, the pain almost unbearable. Alec’s voice rang in his ears, exclaiming angrily, “Stop it! You’re hurting him!”

Jace managed to shake his head. Need to know. I can bear it!

Obviously hearing him, the Brothers seemed to agree, because now Jace was being forced into a chair, his father pacing angrily around him, a demon lord towering above them both. Jace was crying, scared, but Valentine wasn’t cowed, growling, “The boy knows too much. I don’t care if the angel blood is making things difficult for you - we have a bargain, and I’m holding you to it. Now, block his fucking memories!”

On his knees in the dust, Jace was held tightly against Alec’s chest, but the Nephilim monks weren’t done yet. There is one more. But this one is from very early, it might not make sense.

Jace managed a nod. The next thing he felt was being held, but not by Alec. He was somewhere warm and safe, and above him hovered a blob with a halo of blonde hair. The warm, safe thing was looking down at him, and something wet dropped down from the golden eyes and onto Jace. He cried, distressed, and the warm, safe thing held him closer. “I’m sorry, baby boy, I’m so sorry. I think they killed your father, and they’re coming for me next.” The noise didn’t make sense, but Jace could tell it wasn’t a good sound. Normally there was warmth and laughter in it, not sharp, sad things. “At least you’ll be safe. He’ll try to use you, make you like him, but the angel blood he himself gave you will protect you, I’m sure of it!” The noise turned into sobs, and Jace cried in sympathy, held tightly against his mother’s breast.

“Mother!” With a gasp, Jace opened his eyes and found himself still in the City of Bones, cradled against Alec, the Silent Brothers surrounding them while Izzy stood off to the side, staring with wild, scared eyes. A sob escaped Jace, and instinctively he hid his face in Alec’s neck, breathing in the beloved scent and letting it calm him, along with the waves of warmth and comfort Alec was sending through their bond. His brain was hurting, his mind desperately trying to make sense of what he’d just seen, or rather experienced.

I’m alright, parabatai. He calmed Alec’s worries and shakily pushed himself to his feet. He faced the Brothers, bowing his head slightly, and said, “Thank you. It doesn’t all make sense yet, but things are… a lot clearer now.”

One Silent Brother inclined his head and seemed to study Jace intently. Had they seen what he’d seen? But the question that reached him wasn’t related to the visions: You and your lover are parabatai?

Jace felt Alec, still hovering close enough to offer support if necessary, stiffen and apologized silently for his slip. Apparently the Silent Brothers could in fact hear him and Alec communicate but hadn’t known that they were parabatai before Jace mentioned it just now. Jace raised his chin, refusing to be intimidated. They’d faced his father, Alec’s family, the entire Circle, he wouldn’t be made to feel ashamed by a bunch of mute half-angel monks. Feeling defiant he replied telepathically as well, Yes, we are. And it’s only made us stronger.

The Silent Brothers drew closer, and without looking Jace grabbed Alec’s hand. He might not want to admit to being intimidated, but the feeling of those strong fingers around his served as a reassuring anchor. They could face anything, as long as they were together, so he refused to look away from the Brother who had asked the question. The monk was peering at them both now as if they were fascinating specimen under a microscope. Finally, he drew back. Maybe. It seems your blood is protecting you both.

Jace had no idea what he meant, but he felt too relieved to care, letting out a long breath and feeling Alec relax beside him. Before he could ask anything further, however, Izzy interrupted, sounding urgent, “We’ve got company!”

Jace and Alec twirled around and dropped into a defensive stance, blade and bow a natural extension of themselves. Out of the shadows stepped three people, all of whom Jace recognized. Clary Fairchild was looking bewildered and only holding a witchlight, but the other two were armed Shadowhunters from the New York Institute.

Valentine had Jace study all Clave Shadowhunters, and now he gave a small, mocking bow to the fierce-looking Head of the Institute, dismissing the Indian-looking bodyguard at her side, Raj something-or-other. Realizing that the Silent Brothers had disappeared as spookily as they’d appeared, Jace asked nonchalantly, not dropping his guard one bit, “Anything we can help you with, Ms. Branwell?”

***

Flamma (Flame, fire, passion)

They made love slowly, sweetly, minds wide open with wonder, the connection growing with every touch, every kiss. It was like their battle bond, only stronger, actual thoughts floating between them, not quite a conversation but Jace suspected it was only a matter of time before they’d be able to communicate at will.

Alec’s fingers were trembling when he slicked them, and Jace sent him what he hoped was a reassuring Please, I want it.

He was rewarded with a kiss and the press of a finger against his butt hole. The intrusion felt strange, but not unpleasant after Jace took a few steadying breaths. Alec was regarding him intensely, fully focused on making sure that he wasn’t causing Jace any pain, but Jace could feel the arousal humming underneath the concern. Jace grabbed a pillow and shoved it under himself, simultaneously easing Alec’s access and putting himself on display. He then playfully began to stroke his slowly hardening cock, smirking as Alec’s eyes darkened. Tease.

By now completely used to the sensation of Alec’s finger, Jace just grinned and demanded, “Another.”

Alec looked unsure but complied after Jace shared how good it felt, all discomfort gone, replaced by a growing need to be connected to Alec even more, filled. When Jace hissed at the additional stretch, Alec leaned down and took the head of his cock into his mouth. The movement also shifted his fingers, and this time Jace’s hiss came from pleasure as his fingers touched that spot Jace had only ever read about.

So good! He was fully hard now, and Alec kept licking along his shaft until Jace was reduced to a shivering mess. More, please, Alec, more!

The third finger went in almost effortlessly, Alec having thoroughly slicked it with some more vaseline, and Jace was now actively rocking into Alec’s hand, gasping when Alec scissored his fingers. Then he stopped moving, three fingers deep in Jace’s ass, and Jace heard himself actually whine, which would have been embarrassing if he’d still had the mental acuity to care. Alec leaned up to kiss him, and Jace grabbed hold of him and clung on, fighting Alec’s attempts to sit up again. Shhh… Just let me try something…

Reluctantly Jace let go, and Alec groped for something on the bedside table with his free hand. He came up with his stele, much to Jace’s confusion, but then he was drawing the Relax rune, causing Jace’s entire body to go slack. It also softened his cock, and Alec stared down in dismay. Jace, on the other hand, couldn’t help himself, he started laughing, and after a moment Alec joined him, chuckling ruefully. Sorry?

“Just make up for it!” Jace demanded, tightening the muscles in this butt around Alec’s unmoving fingers. He was still completely relaxed, so Alec’s fourth finger entered easily, which had been Alec’s goal when he’d drawn the rune. Jace felt incredibly full, but in a good way, and when Alec brushed over his prostate while suckling gently on his cock, he was already well on his way to fully hard again. Want you now, Alec!

Whether he’d heard Jace’s silent pleading or was simply reading his body language, Alec sat up immediately, giving Jace a good look at how affected his parabatai was as well, chest heaving, his cock a hard curve. He greedily reached for it, but Alec all but slapped him away, growling, “If you do that, it’ll be over before it’s started!”

He stared at where his hand was still buried in Jace’s body and his mood changed abruptly, nervousness flooding their bond, if the way he was biting his lip hadn’t been enough of a giveaway already. Jace redirected his hand and laced his fingers through Alec’s instead, asking gently, “What is it? We don’t have to…”

The emphatic way with which Alec shook his head would have been funny if the air between hadn’t been so heavy with want. Taking a steadying breath, Alec quickly replied, “No, I want to! Just… do we need a condom?”

Relieved, Jace suppressed the urge to say something quippy and instead answered just as seriously, “I haven’t actually had sex, Alec. I only made out with a few people… girls, I mean. You?”

“No one. I never wanted…” Alec trailed off, but Jace could hear him anyway. I never wanted anyone but you.

Something fierce and possessive sparked inside Jace at that, and he tightened his hold on Alec and used it to pull him into a kiss that was all hunger and passion. Good.

With that he released Alec and gave him a little shove, lightening the mood by playfully ordering, “Now, get to it, will ya?”

Grinning, Alec slowly removed his hand from Jace’s body, the loss leaving Jace feeling strangely empty. Not for long, though, because after slicking himself thoroughly Alec was kneeling between Jace’s legs and aligning his erection with his open hole. When the blunt head touched him, Jace realized he was holding his breath and consciously released it, spreading his thighs even wider.

Then, inch by careful inch, Alec pushed inside, and Jace’s eyes widened. It was not just the feeling of being filled, it was that it was Alec, who was biting his lip in concentration, brows furrowed as he held himself tightly in check. Still putting Jace’s well being over everything, even as Jace could feel the urge to push in, just take well up inside his parabatai.

When he bottomed out, their gazes locked, and Jace saw his own wonder reflected in those hazel eyes. The bond between them was a living thing, bright and hot, and Jace could almost feel the air crackle with electricity. It was like the parabatai ceremony, only more, because that had also involved other people - Valentine, Alec’s family, the rest of the Circle, all proud of the first parabatai the Circle had produced since Valentine and Robert broke with theirs - and this, this was just them.

Slowly, Alec leaned forward until his body covered Jace’s, and, resting on his forearms, his lips found Jace’s in a sweet, languorous kiss. Jace responded in kind, swiping his tongue over Alec’s, dipping inside his mouth, and they drank one another for what felt like a small eternity. Jace hooked his legs over Alec’s back, holding him in place, buried all the way inside Jace, and they remained almost motionless until the slowly building tension between them became too much to bear.

Now, Alec, now! Jace thought, loathe to release Alec’s lips, and began rocking his hips. A low moan escaped Alec as he took up the rhythm. At first they moved slowly, still exchanging deep kisses, but soon the gentle thrust became deeper, more forceful, and Jace clung to Alec, letting him do most of the work, sparks spiraling through his entire body every time Alec’s cock brushed over his prostate. The sensation was heightened by the echo of Alec’s pleasure, until his parabatai sat up abruptly, forcing Jace onto his back as Alec gripped his hips and slid almost all the way out, only to slam back in, making them both groan out loud.

“Not long now,” Alec managed to warn through gritted teeth, and Jace could feel him grasp for the edges of his self-control. Shaking his head, Jace arched his back and tightened the hold his body had on Alec’s cock, urging him over the threshold. He wanted to see his parabatai fall apart, lose himself as Jace could feel himself unravel under Alec’s touch. Without pausing to consider he pushed all of his into Alec’s mind, with immediate results. Alec’s eyes, which had slid shut, flew open, and he reached up to grab Jace’s hands so tightly it hurt, but Jace only squeezed back, mirroring the clenching of his ass muscles. The next moment Alec stiffened and stopped moving completely, buried to the hilt, and Jace could feel him come with a last gasp of Jace’s name - both physically and through their bond.

Jace lay back and watched, holding Alec securely with his body, struck dumb by how beautiful his parabatai was like this, pupils blown, the muscles of his neck standing out, his body a taut arch, sweat glistening on his skin. He was still pulsing inside Jace, a seemingly endless climax that ended with Alec collapsing on top of Jace, heavy and safe. Jace pressed kisses to the side of Alec’s neck, stroking his back slowly until he came back to himself and made to roll off Jace with an apologetic, “Sorry…”

Jace stopped him by tightening the hold his legs still had on Alec’s waist, pushing his still-hard cock against the flat plane of his stomach. No, stay.

Alec obeyed, kissing Jace deeply and inserting a hand between their entangled bodies. He wrapped it around Jace’s erection and began jerking him off, fast and sure, his own cock slowly softening in its sheath in Jace’s body. It didn’t take long before Jace was teetering on the brink again, a series of whimpers and moans escaping him. Alec had pressed his face against Jace’s neck and was licking and sucking the spot where his Circle rune was. Then, suddenly, he actually bit down, ordering sharply Now, Jace!, and Jace shouted and came, exploding over Alec’s fist, coating both their stomachs and chests as his world whited out.

When he came to, he found himself still in Alec’s arms, sleepy warmth spreading through his limbs. He lifted his face for a kiss, which he got, Alec’s lip curved in a smile, and snuggled even closer, for the first time glad that his parabatai was now taller than him. Alec’s cock was no longer inside him, and Jace already missed it. Before allowing himself to fall asleep, not caring at all that they were covered in sweat and cum, he mumbled, “We’ll have to do that again soon. Fucking is awesome.”

The last thing he heard was Alec’s amused snort, but it was accompanied by a flood of warmth and love so intense it swept him into the most pleasant sleep he’d ever had.

It quickly became one of Jace’s favorite things, falling asleep wrapped around Alec, maybe even more than the sex, and he knew his parabatai felt the same. They pushed their beds together and, after a long day of training or dangerous missions, they fell onto it, kissing and touching as if to reassure themselves that they were both alright, and then slipped into deep, peaceful slumber. They didn’t quite share dreams, but if one of them had a nightmare, the other one would invariably reach out and soothe them. Jace loved waking up and feeling Alec not just skin to skin but soul to soul.

Their fighting was also constantly getting better, until one day Valentine cornered them after a fight with a particularly tricky demon that ended when Alec landed a shot that should have been impossible. However, Jace had been in a better location and managed to direct Alec through their constantly improving telepathy. Still, the fight left them both tired and itching for some alone time to take care of one another, an urge they’d begun to notice more frequently, so Jace wasn’t really in the mood to deal with his father. Not that they had a choice, as Alec reminded him gently through their bond.

“How did you do that? Don’t tell me it was luck, boys. Didn’t we agree you would tell me of any developments in regard to your parabatai bond?” His father didn’t sound angry, but the undercurrent of disappointment made Jace fidget. Instinctively he reached out to Alec, who met him halfway, their hands doing what their bodies were aching to, holding onto one another.

Valentine noticed the gesture with a raised eyebrow, and Jace’s insides twisted into knots, knowing all too well what he thought of such displays of weakness. Silently apologizing to Alec for sharing what until then had been theirs alone, he told his father, “I’m sorry, father, but it’s all so new. It seems that our bond has gotten considerably stronger - we are now able to share thoughts, sometimes. It comes and goes, but that’s how Alec made the shot.”

He felt a bit guilty at downplaying their new abilities, but felt better knowing Alec shared his misgivings, although not quite for the same reasons. Alec didn’t like sharing something so private, while Jace simply couldn’t shake the suspicion that this was yet another experiment for Valentine. Not that it mattered one way or the other, especially now that they’d put some of their cards on the table.

Ignorant of this undercurrent, Valentine just smiled, looking almost proud, and inquired, “Any negative side effects? This is really useful, and I’ll think of some ways you can practice your power.”

See? Experiments... Jace didn’t look at Alec, not feeling vindicated in the least that his distrust of his father appeared to be born out. Out loud he responded, “Not so far.”

“Except that we both seem to experience some discomfort when we’re separated for too long,” Alec amended, surprising both Jace and Valentine, since he usually didn’t interfere when the Morgensterns interacted. Squeezing Jace’s hand, he apologized, Sorry, parabatai, but I think he should know, because it could affect our performance. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed…

Of course Jace had noticed. He’d just decided not to pay it any heed, chalking it up to the sheer newness of their relationship, although rationally he knew that it wasn’t normal to develop actual physical symptoms when they’d been apart or even when they hadn’t had the chance to touch one another. It left them both twitchy and feeling unbalanced, as if the world was slightly off-kilter until they were back together, preferably skin to skin.

Shaking the thoughts, Jace responded stubbornly, “It’s not that bad, and we’re alright the moment we’re together. Touching the parabatai rune also helps.”

He lifted his shirt in demonstration and pressed the palm of his hand against the mark on his side, closing his eyes and sending a tendril of warmth to Alec. He didn’t need to look over to know Alec was visibly relaxing, keeping his eyes on his father instead. Valentine’s lips were pursed in thought, and for a moment Jace felt icy fear that he’d separate them, either “for their own good” or to test their limits.

Immediately Alec’s presence in his mind strengthened until Jace could almost feel his touch, soothing and calming. He glanced over, seeing his parabatai’s hand resting against the rune that connected them, and met his smile with one of his own. His father’s voice made them both snap back to attention, the bond reducing to its normal level, a steady hum at the edge of Jace’s consciousness.

“I see. This… could pose a problem, naturally. But so far the benefits seem to vastly outweigh this one drawback. Telepathy!” Valentine sounded actually impressed. “We’ll just have to make sure you get the time together that you need. Regular physical contact might even strengthen your bond further, so make sure you report any new developments.”

“We will, I promise.” Even as he nodded, Jace reckoned that it would never not be strange to hear his own father speak of their relationship so matter-of-factly, basically telling them to get it on as much as possible. However, he couldn’t bring himself to care; his bond with Alec was too overwhelming, leaving no room for embarrassment. Jace reached out to pull his parabatai into the embrace he’d been craving since the battle, tilting his head to meet Alec’s claiming kiss half-way.

The flame between them flared up as they lost themselves in it, bodies grappling to get as close as possible. Need and want might consume them whole one of these days, but the thought only made them burn even brighter.

Valentine walked away, forgotten.

***

Sententia (Decision)

“You, help us?” Lydia Branwell was regarding him coolly, very aware of who he was. “I highly doubt it. We have obviously come seeking out the Silent Brothers, on Clave business, which makes it none of yours. The question is, what does the Circle want here? And why shouldn’t I kill you where you stand, Jace Morgenstern?”

Jace laughed, lowering his blade with deliberate carelessness in order to buy time. Inside his thoughts were racing. The revelations of the last hour had deeply unsettled him, and he wished they’d had time to sort them out properly. Instead he pushed his entire memories at both Alec and Izzy, hoping the latter wouldn’t be overwhelmed. They’d practised on her, but this ability was still quite new and could be a lot to handle.

He needn’t have worried, though, because Izzy’s only reaction was a twitch of her whip and a long glance at him, her mental voice louder than was probably necessary, but calm as always in a crisis. Are you sure that’s the truth?

Oh, Angel! Alec’s reaction was stronger, his shock and anger flooding their bond, yet on the outside he remained completely collected, arrow pointing unflinchingly at their opponents. The visions were mostly shielded because of the pain, but I could see some of them. What do you want us to do?

That was the question, of course. Jace was aware that he had to respond to Lydia Branwell, but it was difficult to think clearly, a part of him numb with the knowledge that his entire life had been a lie. If it hadn’t been for Alec’s steady presence in his mind, Jace wouldn’t have been able to keep up the facade, and he sent a wave of love and thanks through their bond. He needed no telepathy to know that Alec would be on his side, no matter how he proceeded from here. Mind linked with his parabatai and, peripherally at least, with Izzy, Jace fixed his eyes on Lydia Branwell and came to a decision.

“I’m here because it seems that I’m not a Morgenstern at all.” He sounded much calmer than he felt. The three New York Shadowhunters were staring at him, Lydia and Raj shocked, Clary confused, and Jace felt utterly exposed. He wanted nothing more than to hide away somewhere, preferably alone with Alec. It had been a couple of hours since they’d last touched properly, and the restlessness was starting to set in, but all of that would have to wait. With everything he’d thought he knew about his father, about himself, in tatters, all that was left was to take a leap of faith. Good thing he wouldn’t have to leap alone.

Never alone. Whither thou goest, and all that… even if you’re mad to put your trust in the Clave. Typically, Alec managed to sound both loving and annoyed, which made Jace’s lip twitch in a half-smile.

At that, Lydia Branwell raised an eyebrow, but he just shrugged, refusing to explain, and instead put it all on the table: “My f… Valentine had a demon put a block on my memories. The Silent Brothers were kind enough to remove it, and one of the things I learned was that it seems I’m not Valentine’s son at all. On the contrary, I think he had my parents murdered.”

Lydia Branwell was looking sceptical, not that Jace blamed her, but before she could stop her, Clary Fairchild burst out impulsively, “My mother blocked my memories as well, that’s why we’re here! But if you’re with Valentine, you must know where she is - please, help us?”

Jace froze, and he could feel Alec and Izzy doing the same. He hadn’t thought this far ahead, had only known that he needed time away from Valentine and that the Clave might have information. But this, this would mean betraying not only Valentine but the entire Circle and what it stood for.

Flustered, Jace turned to his lover, trusting Izzy to watch their backs while he rested a hand on his chest, the gesture forcing Alec to put down his bow. Alec could clearly tell how much Jace needed the reassurance of touch, to feel his parabatai’s heartbeat under his palm, because he allowed it without protest. Craving even more, Jace leaned his head against Alec’s chest. Only one arm came up to hold him, the free hand taking out Alec’s Seraph Blade in a casual gesture of protection that calmed Jace even further.

Parabatai, what should I do?

His f… Valentine would call him weak for showing such vulnerability, especially in the presence of enemies, but with his head still hurting from the Silent Brothers’ treatment and the shock of the recovered memories, Jace couldn’t bring himself to care. He needed a moment to come to a decision, and Alec would give him that moment, to hell with propriety.

Catching his thoughts, Alec sent a wave of healing that chased away the headache. A chuckle rumbled deep in his chest, and he tightened his hold on Jace. I pretty much abandoned propriety the moment you kissed me back all those years ago. Best fucking day of my life.

Grinning and feeling a weight being lifted off his shoulders, Jace looked up and pressed a quick kiss to Alec’s lips before turning defiantly to face the others, almost daring them to say something. Clary was staring, but only curiously, unlike Raj, who was whispering into Lydia’s ear, face dark. The Head of the New York Institute, however, shut down what was doubtlessly a derogatory remark with an icy glance, and turned her attention back to Jace, asking as if nothing untoward had happened, “So, Mr. Not-Morgenstern, will you give us information on the Circle, on Valentine and on Jocelyn Fairchild’s whereabouts? Because if not I’m not sure what else there is to talk about.”

I trust you, parabatai, whatever you decide, came the reassurance from Alec, and Jace squared his shoulders. He was inclined to respect the Branwell woman, but the Circle had been his life, their life, for as long as they could remember. They’d all grown up hearing about the inefficiency of the Clave, how their weakness had condemned all Nephilim to decline and, inevitably, to extinction at the hand of treacherous Downworlders.

However, wasn’t Valentine the one who kept experimenting not only on Downworlders but on his own people? Now, with all blocks on his memory removed, Jace shuddered as he realized that Valentine had even done something to Jace’s blood, back when he was still a helpless infant. Not knowing what it was made him feel itchy, as if his own skin didn’t quite fit anymore. And what about that other boy, the one with the angry black eyes, whose name also appeared to be Jonathan?

Jace’s entire life was a lie, and the interest Valentine had taken in Jace and Alec’s bond, the way he’d all but pushed them together and then stood back to see what would happen, now unsettled his stomach and left a bitter taste in his mouth. Had the man who’d raised Jace as his son even cared whether they’d come to harm, except maybe regretting the loss of two strong fighters?

Sensing his turmoil, Alec’s hand came to rest on his back, and Jace let himself slump against it. There really was only one course of action. Deep down he knew that there was no way he could return to the Circle and pretend he still believed in his “father”. And he harbored no illusions what would happen were Valentine to find out that Jace had broken the memory block. Still, reaching out, he gently asked Izzy, What about you? Do you want to go back?

She shot him a look, completely serious for a change, and replied without hesitation, “You guys are my family. I’m with you all the way.” Ignoring the confused glances exchanged by the three Clave Shadowhunters, she then winked at him and added, “I do, however, reserve the right to say ‘I told you so’ if this comes back to bite us in the ass.”

This coaxed a grateful smile from Jace and gave him the strength to nod at Lydia Branwell, who’d been surprisingly patient so far, and state calmly, “We will help you - with some conditions.”

“Conditions? Whatever makes you think the Clave will agree to a deal with Circle members, even were we to believe that you’re not Valentine’s son?” she replied coolly, eyebrow raised and hand casually resting on her Blade.

Having taken the first step, however, Jace was not so easily cowed. He’d been raised a Morgenstern, it would take more than threats, idle or real, to frighten him. He even conjured up a grin as he answered, “Because without us you’ll never get to Valentine, simple as that. You’ll never get a better shot than this, and you know it.”

“Lydia, you can’t seriously consider…” Raj interjected hotly when his superior cocked her head, considering.

A simple raised hand shut him up quickly, however, and Jace smirked, his estimation of Lydia Branwell rising up another notch when she replied calmly, “I’m listening.”

Suppressing a sigh of relief, Jace reached back, blindly finding Alec’s hand, but managed to keep his voice steady. “First, your word that we won’t be prosecuted, I want a full pardon for all three of us. We will help you get Jocelyn Fairchild back, and I honestly don’t care what you do about Valentine - but if you capture Maryse and Robert Lightwood, you have to promise us they will get a fair trial and the chance to cut their own deal with the Clave.”

Hodge, too, came Alec’s voice, and Jace continued seamlessly, “The same goes for Hodge Starkweather.” Lydia nodded, not an agreement but not a denial either, but there was one more thing, which Jace knew would be even harder to swallow. He squeezed Alec’s hand and added, fiercely, “Lastly, I don’t care what your precious Law says, the nature of Alec’s and my relationship is none of the Clave’s business. Nothing and no one will get between my parabatai and me!”

As he’d suspected, the moment Jace revealed that Alec was his parabatai, the whole atmosphere, already tense to begin with, changed, Lydia and Raj exchanging shocked glances, faces clouding over. Despite having known what was coming, Alec stiffened beside him, and Izzy’s hand tightened on her whip, a protective gesture Jace appreciated. Picking up on the undercurrent, Clary cut through the tension like a knife, asking, “What? Don’t tell me being gay is illegal in the Shadow world?”

Jace couldn’t help but like the outrage in her voice, and he gave her a small smile before answering with a flat look towards the other two Clave Shadowhunters, “It’s not. It’s frowned upon but not actually illegal. Parabatai being lovers, on other hand, most definitely is, no matter their gender.”

“And para… parabatai are?” Jace could almost hear Alec’s eyes rolling in the face of Clary’s cluelessness.

It’s not her fault. So be nice, Jace admonished and explained, “Parabatai are bonded pairs of warriors. There’s no human bond that compares, it’s an oath that connects two souls. For normal parabatai, the bond is most intense in battle, runes drawn by one’s parabatai are stronger, and when one of them dies, a part of the other dies as well.”

The flood of warmth coming from Alec at Jace’s description made him smile and trace his thumb over the back of Alec’s hand, as always feeling anchored by his presence. He almost missed Clary’s response. “That’s… wow, that sounds amazing. If you’re that close to someone, I can see how you could fall in love with them. So why’s that a bad thing again?”

Before Jace could react, Lydia abruptly interrupted their exchange, “It’s the Law. Bad things happen when eros, romantic love, corrupts a parabatai bond. The Law might be hard, but it’s the Law.”

Corrupts. Jace swallowed bitterly, hackles rising, but it was Alec who replied, anger on Jace’s behalf coiling under his stoic exterior, “So the deal’s off, then. C’mon, Jace, Izzy, let’s go. Let them try to find Jocelyn Fairchild without our help. We’re better off without the Clave anyway.”

Nodding, Jace shot Lydia Branwell one last look. The woman looked seriously conflicted, so he added, “For the record, you’re giving up your best shot at the Circle over some antiquated law. Alec and I have been lovers for several years, and it’s only made us better.”

Defiantly, Jace stepped up to Alec and kissed him. It was a demonstration, but Alec’s lips yielded willingly, and even after separating they stood for a moment, sharing breath, letting the thrumming of their bond soothe them.

You ready?
Always.

Looking over at the Clave hunters, his stance deceptively relaxed, Jace didn’t even bother removing his arms from around Alec’s shoulders as he stated, deadly serious, “Now, either you let us go, or you can witness how much better we actually are.”

In response to this provocation, Raj surged forward with an angry shout, Blade drawn, but Lydia’s hand on his arm stopped him short. She even managed to meet Jace’s eyes as she responded, “There won’t be any need for that. I accept your conditions. You will give us Valentine’s location right now, and in exchange I will make sure the Clave honors our agreement.” She added, sounding almost sympathetic, “But you can’t expect easy acceptance. Memories of the atrocities committed by the Circle are fresh, and your breaking of the parabatai law won’t make you any friends either.”

“We don’t need friends. Just a fresh start, away from Valentine.” Tightening his hold on Alec, Jace shrugged, honestly unconcerned. We’ve got each other, the three of us.

He exchanged a smile with Izzy across Alec’s broad shoulder. She nodded back, before demonstratively rolling up her whip and replying lightly, “Alright, so no fighting. And here I was wearing my best ass-kicking heels!”

This startled a laugh out of Clary and went a long way to break some of the tension between the two groups of Shadowhunters. Unsurprisingly, Alec remained guarded, but he didn’t let go of Jace’s hand. Jace clung to it, realization dawning that they were actually doing this.

They were leaving the Circle and helping the Clave bring down the people that had raised them. It scared Jace to death, and a part of him wanted nothing more than to take Alec and Izzy and run away, hide from all they’d learned that day. Hide from the fact that he didn’t even know who, or what, he was.

You’re Jace. You’re my parabatai, my other half, and you haven’t hidden from anything in your entire life.

Blinking back tears, Jace looked into those warm hazel eyes, everything else fading into the background. Alec’s calloused hand came up to cup Jace’s cheek, tilting his head so their lips slid over each other, comfort offered and accepted easily.

You’re right. We’ll help the Clave, and then we’ll get some answers from Valentine.

Before their kiss could deepen, Lydia cleared her throat loudly, and they parted reluctantly.

“I love you,” Jace stated before they followed the others out of the City of Bones, feeling it was important to say it out loud. Alec’s warm, private smile lit a flame inside of him, chasing away the last of his fears.

There was nothing they couldn’t overcome together. Even Valentine Morgenstern.

***

Epilogus (Epilogue)

Later, after many secrets had been revealed and everyone had buried their dead, Jace looked over to the gathering of Izzy, Clary, Simon and the other people who had become his family since that day in the City of Bones. He smiled at them, making sure each one of them felt how much he loved them but not bothering with explanations, before turning back to Alec, who was watching him with eyes that left no room for doubt.

Jace grasped his parabatai and kissed him, fierce and deep, feeling the twin flames of their souls flare up and mingle. It was intoxicating as always, an edge of desperation to their tryst as their bodies tried to mimic what their minds did so easily, completely ignoring their surroundings. It was Alec who managed to break away, resting his forehead against Jace’s, forcing both their breaths to calm.

Let’s do this. As so often these days, Jace wasn’t quite sure, and didn’t care, whose thought it was.

Together they lifted their clasped hands, and light shot from them, creating the whirling magic pool of a portal. Although they had never done this before, it took no more effort than breathing, just as they’d known it would. This was real magic, something no Shadowhunter should possess, and behind them the others gasped, some cried out - questions and warnings, no doubt - but Jace and Alec had stopped listening.

A part of Jace was sorry to leave; however, they both knew what would happen once the Clave found out how far their powers went now. They’d discovered the reason behind the Law, and neither one of them was willing to risk their bond being broken. It would certainly lead to their deaths, their souls, minds and bodies too entwined to survive on their own, but what drove them to flight was not so much fear of being killed. No, it was the fear of what would happen should anyone try.

There was no doubt in Jace’s mind that they would fight if anyone threatened their parabatai bond, heedless of who got hurt in the process. It left them with no choice but to act before someone stopped them - or rather, tried to. They might not mean to, but in order to keep each other safe, they would set the world on fire and burn everyone they loved alive.

Now.

Still holding hands, Alec and Jace stepped through the portal, moving as if they were one.

***

End Notes: I debated when to set this epilogue, but in the end I had this picture in my head of what Alec and Jace would ultimately become, if the stories behind the Law forbidding parabatai to fall in love were true. However, I couldn't have an unambiguously sad ending, so I chose this. 🙂

Now, there's still a lot of story left to tell, of everything that happened in between. Let me know if there's anything specific you'd like to see!

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