Good Enough

Author's Note: Written for the Jalec Secret Santa for James Hinkle, this turned into a proper monster (by my standards), with ups and downs worthy of a soap opera. Enjoy! 😉

Thanks to @sapphicalexandra for the last minute beta & to the girls in the Writers' Room for the handholding and cheerleading while I struggled with this! <3

Content warnings in the chapters.

***

Good Enough - a Queer As Folk AU by shirasade

Episode 1 - Episode 2 - Episode 3 - Episode 4 - Episode 5 - Episode 6 - Episode 7 - Episode 8

Episode 1

There are many rumors about Jace and Alec. Most of them start in Brooklyn, New York, with two boys whose lives were so entwined that sometimes even Alec had trouble remembering that he was not, in fact, Jace Herondale's boyfriend. And then there were moments like this, when he answered his phone early on Wednesday morning to hear Jace's suspiciously out-of-breath voice.

"Alec, my savior, my favorite person ever... You still have my car, and I need a lift to work!"

"I still have your car because you wanted to drink last night and then chose to blow me off, probably in favor of a real blow-job..." Alec hated that he was already collecting his car keys, but some things were just so ingrained that they were pretty much automatic by now.

At least Jace had the grace to sound sheepish. "I'm sorry - but we'll need to swing by the Art Institute, to drop off…" A female voice could be heard, sounding decidedly outraged, and Alec rolled his eyes while Jace continued apologetically, "...Clary at school."

Which was how Alec found himself driving Jace and the redhead he vaguely remembered from the night before through rush hour traffic. His mood was accordingly bleak, and he didn't bother with politeness, especially not since the girl wouldn't shut up about what an exciting night it had been, rambling, "and I told my mom I'd stay over at Simon's, but after we were, you know, done, it was much too late. Oh, I hope he and Maureen got home safe, I do feel kinda bad that I ditched them..."

Alec cut her off, complaining angrily, "Jace, driving you is one thing, but playing chauffeur for this little girl here who's probably not even legal is taking it too far!"

"I'm not a little girl," Clary protested and even proceeded to take out her driver's license. "And I'm legal, too - I just turned 18 yesterday. So you were my birthday present…"

She batted her eyes coyly at Jace, and Alec took the next turn so sharply she yelped in surprise. Jace, smooth as always, managed to steady himself with one hand on the dash, and winked at Clary in the rearview mirror. "And what a great present it was for both of us! Don't mind Alec here, he's just bitter because no one has ever… unwrapped him."

"Not everyone enjoys random hook-ups that mean nothing," Alec said meanly, glaring at both his passengers.

Clary's mouth was hanging open, and Alec viciously thought that it wasn't an attractive look on her even before she started sputtering, "You really never… I mean, not that there's anything wrong with… But -- you're old!"

"I have done things, just not that," Alec replied defensively, before forcing himself to shut up. He didn't need to justify himself to Jace's flavor-of-the-night. At least Jace had the grace to shoot him an apologetic glance, apparently realizing that he'd crossed a line, but Alec decided to retain an icy silence until they reached the Art Institute, where he looked pointedly away while Jace gave Clary a thorough kiss goodbye.

Then she ran off, to join a nerdy-looking guy with glasses, who immediately started gesticulating wildly before pulling her inside. Hopefully that was the last they'd see of her, and Alec couldn't help but relax into a half-smile when Jace got back in and shoved his shoulder playfully, asking, "Do you think she noticed that I forgot her name again?"

"I can't believe you! Her name was Clary - and one of these days you'll find someone who'll see through your charm, and what will you do then?"

"Well, I guess then you'll just have to make an honest man out of me, Alec Lightwood," Jace replied teasingly, planting a wet smack on Alec's cheek. Alec just shook his head and put the car in Drive. He'd stopped taking these declarations seriously a long time ago.

Just as he'd stopped thinking that it meant anything when Jace got drunk and draped himself all over him, inevitably followed by Alec being left to look on as Jace hooked up with yet another random guy or girl. Or worse, the times he let himself be pulled out onto the dancefloor, where Jace used him like a stripper pole, undulating around him, hands hot on Alec's skin, mouth brushing his neck.

This Friday was no different. It was simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating, the way their bodies seemed to fit together so perfectly, leaving Alec hard and panting, only to have Jace spin away from him and begin grinding on his victim of the night.

"Why do you keep doing this to yourself?" Izzy asked for what was probably the millionth time, leaving behind her own dance partner to come to a stop beside Alec at the bar, from where he was now watching Jace with the familiar mix of envy and admiration. "I love Jace like a brother, but you deserve better, Alec."

"Don't start, Iz." As always Alec was captivated by the fluidity of Jace's movements, by the ease with which he caught the eyes of the most attractive guy in the club - after himself of course - and pulled him into his orbit. "That's just what Jace is like. He doesn't mean any harm."

"No, but he's hurting you anyway."

Alec appreciated Izzy's concern, but right then his attention was drawn to a flash of red hair at the club entrance. He rolled his eyes, explaining exasperatedly when Izzy looked at him questioningly, "That's Jace's playmate from the other night over there, the one I had to drive to school... How did she even get in here, she's only just turned 18!"

She was also making her way towards them, nerdy friend from the Art Institute in tow, doubtlessly having spotted Alec towering over the crowd. Alec sighed and grasped Jace, who was dancing nearby, by the collar, non-too-gently yanking him away from his partner. When he protested, Alec shook his head and gestured towards Clary. "Your leftovers, your clean up!"

Jace eyes widened in panic, but before he could disappear Clary had reached them, and Jace's usual mask of charm slid into place. Pressing herself into Jace's side, Clary pretended to sound surprised, "Oh, Jace, I didn't know you'd be here… How are you?"

"What? We've been trawling the area for two hours!" her companion interjected, and Alec couldn't help but smirk, seeing Jace try to swallow a laugh.

Clary scowled and shut up her friend with an elbow to his stomach, faking a laugh. "Don't mind Simon, he's delusional. We were just looking for the best place to enjoy our fake IDs." Izzy giggled, just as amused as Alec and Jace, and Clary now narrowed her eyes at her, asking, "Jace, why don't you introduce us to your friend?"

"I'm Isabelle Lightwood." Eyes dancing, Izzy smiled guilelessly at Clary before offering her hand to Simon, who was staring at her in open admiration.

"Well," Jace interjected, clapping his hands exaggeratedly, "now that everyone knows everyone, how about I get you something to drink?"

Without waiting for an answer, he smoothly slipped out of the grip Clary still had on his arm and into the crowd. He was aiming in the general direction of the bar, but Alec knew he'd veer off towards the exit the moment he was out of sight. He heaved a sigh. "Great, now we're stuck babysitting."

"What?" Clary glanced around her, obviously realizing what had just happened. "Isn't he coming back?"

Izzy, always more patient than Alec, laid a hand on the girl's shoulder, giving her a smile that bordered on the flirtatious. "Probably not tonight, sorry. But hey, I'm better company anyways. Just… don't mind my brother, he was born grumpy."

For a moment it looked as if Clary was thinking about dashing after Jace, but in the end common sense won out, probably helped along by Izzy's charm, which appeared to work on both her and Simon. Still, Alec took out his phone and called Jace to complain, although he already knew it would be fruitless.

"Just… make sure she gets home safe." As always, Jace sounded apologetic, but the noise in the background told Alec he was already in the next club. "I'll make it up to you, I swear!"

So Alec resigned himself to his fate, dropping first Simon and then Clary off at home a few hours later. Not before Clary had exchanged numbers with Izzy, though, so Alec had the sinking feeling that they wouldn't get rid of her that easily. His aggravation probably showed when he told her in ways of a goodbye, "Just forget about Jace. I know he's hard to resist and all, but he doesn't do relationships. Ever. As a matter of fact, he's an arrogant jerk and you'll be better off not pining after him."

"Then why are you friends with him, if he's so terrible?" Clary had the nerve to roll her eyes at him, and if he hadn't been so annoyed, Alec might have respected her moxy. That immediately evaporated, however, when she added with an air of smug superiority that set his teeth on edge, "Just admit that you want him for yourself."

"You have no idea what you're talking about, little girl!" Alec scoffed, slamming the door shut behind her decisively and continuing to rant through the open window, "You don't know what Jace has been through." He wasn't quite sure what made him continue, except that his patience had run out. "After losing his parents and surviving not just one but two abusive foster situations, he's been my best friend for almost 15 years. He might be shit at relationships, but he's a loyal friend, and I'd trust him with my life."

Clary looked taken aback, stammering an apology, and Alec left her standing at the curb, annoyed with himself for having revealed so much.

***

Episode 2

He was still aggravated when he went into Lightwood Partners the next morning, and his mother naturally picked up on it, calling him into her office to check up on him. Sometimes he wished he'd followed Izzy's example and not joined his parents' at the law firm. Although, truth be told, Maryse Lightwood would probably still be too involved in his private affairs even if she didn't see him every day.

"Maybe it's time for you to look for someone to settle down with," she now suggested, as always making it sound almost like an order. "All these nights going out with Jace and Izzy… that's not you."

"We're just having fun," Alec protested. "There really isn't anyone I'm interested in at the moment."

His mother looked delighted at this news, and dread began to pool in Alec's stomach even before she said, "In that case, what about Lydia Branwell? Our families have always worked well together, and I know for a fact she'd be happy if you called."

"Mom, did you already ask her?" Alec wished he'd be surprised by his mother's machinations, but he really wasn't. Still, he managed to keep his cool as he added drily, "Because her family connections would be… advantageous. Why do I feel as if you're arranging a marriage for me? Seriously, it's the 21st century."

He ended up agreeing to meet Lydia for dinner that night, anyway, mainly because it was easier than putting up a fight. He couldn't even blame his mother - as far as she was concerned, Alec just hadn't found the right woman yet, after all. Izzy kept telling him to come out to their parents, but all his life Alec had felt that he had to fight for their approval, as their eldest son, the heir to Lightwood Partners, and he couldn't help but fear that they would be disappointed in him.

All too clearly he remembered how Jace had come into their life, the foster son of Michael Wayland, one of his father's childhood friends, long before they discovered that he still had a grandmother living. Alec had been 11, and he'd clearly not been meant to overhear his father telling his mother, "I feel it's my responsibility to look after the kid. We were so close, Michael and I, like brothers, until he developed… unnatural feelings for me. Maybe I reacted harshly, but I couldn't bear the thought of him looking at me like that."

It was true that his parents hadn't disowned Jace or Izzy for not being particularly discriminating when it came to the gender of their partners, but they hadn't been thrilled, and Alec had the nagging suspicion that it would be different for him in any case. He was supposed to carry on the family line, after all, as old-fashioned and patriarchal as that was. And as long as he didn't have anyone in his life, Alec simply didn't see the point in stirring up trouble.

He repeated this like a mantra, on the phone with Jace as he approached the rather fancy restaurant his mother had picked out for his date with Lydia. His friend, of course, just scoffed, "Well, if you'd rather let your mom set you up with a girl instead of going out with me, to places where you might actually have fun, I really can't help you."

Alec scowled, tempted in spite of himself. Going out just the two of them invariably led to Jace's body against his, hands traveling over sweat-slick skin, sometimes even mouths meeting with a hunger Alec liked to imagine no one else got to taste. It never lasted, of course, and he managed to clear his head of the tantalizing memories enough to reply possibly a bit more sharply than warranted, "Maybe I don't want your help. Maybe I want just one night of feeling like I matter."

"Alec, please don't talk about yoursel..." If Alec didn't know better, he would have thought Jace sounded pleading, but anger was buzzing in his head, so he cut Jace off and hung up. His annoyance carried him all the way into the restaurant and to the table where a lovely-looking blonde woman was waiting for him.

"You must be Alec," she said with an appreciative look, and Alec smiled back awkwardly, only to relax slightly when she added slyly, "I hope your mom has told you as many amazing stories about me as mine has about you."

Alec laughed and sat down, relieved that she was obviously under no illusion as to why they were here. They chatted quite amicably, and he found himself really enjoying Lydia's company - as long as he didn't think of their parents' plans for them. So when his phone rang, Jace's name flashing on the screen, he answered with unusual reluctance, expecting the regular type of "emergency" call for help.

Unexpectedly, however, Jace sounded quite sober, "Look, Alec, I'm sorry about before. I just don't want you to think that you have to pretend to be someone you're not."

Apologies from Jace were rare but always heartfelt, and Alec immediately relented. Still, Lydia was giving him a questioning look, so he just said cautiously, "Umm… thank you, I guess."

Naturally Jace took this as a sign that everything was forgiven and laughed triumphantly. "Okay, so you'll come out with me? It's still early."

"Jace, I'm kind of in the middle of something." He shot Lydia an apologetic glance and got up, turning away and speaking more quietly, "And she's really nice."

"Well, nice is… nice - but it's the she part that's a problem," Jace replied, unimpressed, and Alec sighed, because he was right, of course.

Turning back to Lydia but not hanging up, he told her apologetically, "I'm sorry, but I have to leave. It's an emergency."

Through the phone he heard Jace cackle, "I'm picking you up in 5 minutes, Lightwood, and then we'll have some fun!"

Lydia let him leave graciously enough, but Alec couldn't help but wonder how much she'd guessed, her calm, intelligent eyes appearing to see right through his platitudes. He really did like her, and he hoped that they could be friends. However, she couldn't set his heart racing the way Jace's grin did, when he climbed into his car a few minutes later. It was still quite early for a Friday night, so they went to their favorite bar first, Jace having decided that Alec's clothes passed muster.

"That's the advantage of wearing black all the time," he mused out loud, elbowing Alec conspiratorially. "And you wear it so well."

Alec blushed and smiled in spite of himself, as always when Jace casually complimented him. His hopes of having Jace to himself, at least for a while, were crushed, however, when they walked into the Hunter's Moon and saw that Izzy was already there. And what was worse in Alec's opinion was that she was chatting animatedly with none other than Clary and Simon. Unfortunately, she spotted them before they could turn around and go someplace else, and Alec gripped Jace's arm firmly, refusing to let him avoid his responsibility for a second time.

Jace sighed exasperatedly but allowed himself to be pulled to Izzy's table, even going so far as to sling an arm around Alec and sitting down close enough that he was almost in Alec's lap. Alec only needed to look at Clary's hurt expression, although it was hidden quickly, to know that he was being used as a shield, but that wasn't anything new. He shrugged and turned his grip into a loose embrace, Jace fitting into his arms as perfectly as always, figuring that he might as well enjoy the moment.

"We were just talking about you," Izzy said with a grin at Jace. "Namely whether there was anyone in this place that you hadn't hooked up with."

Simon immediately piped up, "Not me!", to which Jace smirked lazily, giving him the once-over and replied, "Not yet, anyhow."

The look in Simon's eyes, a mix of panic and arousal, sent both Jace and Alec into a fit of laughter, which Izzy pointedly ignored. "Well, I don't count, because I consider Jace my brother."

Once again Simon chimed in, apparently already over his shock at Jace's blatant flirtation, by addressing Alec, "So I take it you don't count either?"

Alec opened his mouth, although he was unsure how to respond, but Izzy was faster. "No, I don't think Jace and Alec think of each other as brothers - they were already almost teenagers when Jace came to live with us, after all."

Jace laughed carelessly and nodded, "Yeah, even I would draw the line at giving my brother a handjob."

"You did what?!" Izzy exclaimed, staring at them in shock, and Alec had to avert his eyes from her accusing glare. He already knew that she would never forgive him for not having told her about this.

Alec felt his cheeks flush, and he protested, "It happened ages ago, and besides, it didn't count! It totally doesn't count if you don't come!"

Next to him he could feel Jace shake with barely suppressed amusement, and he elbowed him none-too-gently. Unfortunately, no one else at the table seemed to want to drop the topic, even Clary's eyes shining with curiosity, and Jace didn't need to be asked twice before he began, "We were, what, 15 and 16, and I'd gotten my hands on an issue of Playgirl..."

Alec sighed and resigned himself to relive one of the more mortifying and arousing experiences of his life.

***

Episode 3
Chapter warning: teenagers making out.

Jace was not in the least embarrassed to show Alec the magazine he'd been studying so intently. Alec envied him the ease with which he admitted to liking both boys and girls, and the ease with which he had been getting members of all sexes to like him right back, ever since his first experience at the young age of 12.

Alec, on the other hand, had only ever kissed one girl, during a game of spin-the-bottle, and if he hadn't known it before, after this he'd been sure that his interests lay purely with the boys. With one boy in particular, the one whose unique eyes were sparkling up at him from his bed in one corner of the room they shared.

"Come on, Alec, don't be such a stick in the mud, just have a look!" Jace challenged him, and a part of Alec wished Izzy had never let it slip that he was gay. Not that he'd ever told his sister, not officially, but even at 10 years old she'd been a very perceptive child. At least she'd managed to keep the truth about Alec's feelings for Jace to herself.

Alec sighed and reluctantly joined Jace on the bed. They settled in to look at the pictures of nude male bodies in silence, but while Alec found them aesthetically pleasing, his attention was taken by the fully clothed one next to him.

Naturally, Jace was telling the story rather differently, teasing, "Picture two hormonal boys, staring at all those oiled muscles… and as for our Alec here, he'd probably never seen an erection - except his own, of course!" Alec was suddenly only too aware of Jace's proximity, and he had to swallow before managing a dismissive laugh. Luckily everyone was too preoccupied with the story to notice, and Jace continued blithely, "Not that Alec has anything to be ashamed of, as I found out that day."

With Jace propped up on his side next to him, Alec couldn't help but notice the moment he started getting a boner, even before he casually pressed the heel of his hand against it, not caring one bit that he wasn't alone. Alec bit his lip and tried not to stare, turning onto his stomach, hoping to hide his own growing arousal. However, the friction against his erection proved too much, and before he could stop himself, he'd rocked into the mattress.

That immediately diverted Jace's attention from the magazine, and Alec found himself squirming under the amused scrutiny of his best friend, who exclaimed in obvious delight, "Alec Lightwood, do you have a hard-on?"

"So do you!" Alec managed to shoot back, gesturing towards Jace's crotch. Any hope he had of distracting Jace was dashed, however, when his friend just shrugged and spread his legs wider, properly cupping himself.

"So what? We're both hormonal teenagers, it's only natural." Jace licked his lips, and Alec had to fight the all-too-familiar urge to kiss him. Maybe that was why it took him a second to process Jace's next words, which were spoken with complete confidence, "So how about we give each other a hand?"

A million thoughts raced through Alec's head - excitement, fear, nervousness - but in the end all he could think was that, if this was his only chance, he would take it. So he nodded, tongue-tied, and was grateful when Jace took this for the agreement it was. "Well, then shove over!"

Alec rolled over wordlessly, a part of him wondering whether he was dreaming. Jace immediately went for his zipper, and Alec bit his lower lip so hard he was surprised he didn't draw blood. Then Jace's hand wrapped around his cock, and Alec's breath left him with something embarrassingly close to a whimper. Grinning, Jace let go of him, but only to lick his palm thoroughly before returning his grip.

Grateful for the table, Alec crossed his legs, the memory and Jace's voice leaving him hopelessly turned on, even before Jace stage-whispered, "Back then Alec wasn't quite the giant he is today, but let me tell you, nothing about him is small."

"Yuck, gross!" Izzy exclaimed, covering her ears, but Alec barely heard her, hoping against hope that the heat in his cheeks would be chalked up to embarrassment instead of arousal.

He half-begged, "Please, I think everyone has heard enough!"

Unfortunately, Jace wasn't going to be put off by Izzy's protests, nor by Alec's discomfort. "But we haven't gotten to the good bit yet, the part why this 'doesn't count', according to you!"

Alec was trying not to lose his mind from the way Jace was teasing him, as if he knew exactly how Alec liked to be touched. Or maybe just the fact that it was Jace was enough, after all the dreams Alec had been having of just such a scenario. In order to not embarrass himself by shooting off immediately, he rolled to his side and fumbled for the buttons on Jace's jeans, feeling the hard line of Jace's erection even before he realized that the other boy wasn't wearing any underwear.

Jace grinned at the look on Alec's face, but he also pushed his cock into Alec's palm in a clear invitation. Swallowing hard, Alec lifted his hand away, intending to wet it the way Jace had, but to his surprise he was stopped by a strong grip around his wrist, and then Jace moved in to swirl his tongue around Alec's fingers. Alec moaned helplessly, and Jace smirked before releasing his hand and going back to jerking him off.

After a moment Alec caught himself enough to begin reciprocating, and they soon found a rhythm that had them both groaning and rocking their hips. Without really noticing, they moved closer together, their heads being pulled together, and Alec's eyes kept being drawn to Jace's lips, half-open as he drew in shuddering breaths. He was almost certain that they were about to kiss, something he'd dreamed off for almost as long as he'd been interested in kissing anyone - only for a knock on the door to cut through the fog of his arousal.

Cursing, Alec jerked back and promptly tumbled over the edge of Jace's mattress, ending up on the floor between bed and wall. Before he could gather his wits, the door swung open, and Maryse stuck her head in. All too aware that he was lying there with his cock still out, Alec instinctively curled into a ball, so all he saw were his mother's feet. He did hear her shocked gasp, and the sound of Jace hurriedly sitting up, probably trying to tuck himself away.

"Sorry, Maryse, I thought I had the house to myself," Jace apologized, and Alec had to stifle a disbelieving laugh, because he sounded completely guileless.

"Believe me, she never entered our room without waiting for an answer again," Jace finished, beaming proudly, still childishly pleased at having gotten away with something. "But Alec wouldn't give it another go after that, so ours remains the great unfinished hook-up of the ages!"

Alec rolled his eyes and drawled, "Well, you try getting in the mood again after your mother almost caught you!" He cleared his throat. "And this is why it didn't count, and why I'm not another notch on Jace's bed post."

"Sanctimonious virgin!" Jace stuck his tongue out at him. "You should be so lucky."

Alec only laughed, the insult familiar, and shot back, "In your dreams, Herondale!"

They shoved at each other until Izzy injected in a bored drawl, "Sorry to interrupt your moment, boys, but did you want to keep up the foreplay or are we still going to Pandemonium tonight?"

"Hell yes." Unsurprisingly Jace pulled back immediately, slapping the table before offering Clary a hand, which she took excitedly. "You coming, too, Clary?"

"They're not old enough," Alec protested, but he knew it was a lost battle. Friday and Saturday they almost always ended up at Pandemonium. It was the best club in town, a place where everyone got to be themselves. It was also a place where Jace badgered Alec until he joined him on the dancefloor, and while Alec was no great dancer, he could never resist the chance to be close to Jace.

This night was no different, Jace taking Alec by the hand almost immediately and pulling him towards the floor. The last thing Alec heard before disappearing into the crowd was Clary yelling at Izzy, "And you're sure they're not a couple?"

He only realized he was smiling when Jace traced his mouth with a finger, smirking up at him, body rubbing against his. "People ever tell you that you should smile more often?"

"Don't be stupid," Alec replied, knowing he was grinning like a fool. Resting his arms on Jace's shoulders, he began moving to the music, one thigh between Jace's legs in a clear challenge. Never one to back down, Jace ground down, and they lost themselves in a dance that left Alec hard and hungry for more. It didn't last, of course, Jace's attention drawn by a gorgeous couple, both of whom were returning his interest avidly. Sighing inwardly, Alec stepped back and yelled into Jace's ear, "Be safe!"

"I'd say you, too, but we both know that's not necessary," Jace teased back, surprising Alec when he raised himself to his tiptoes and planted a kiss to Alec's cheek.

Before Alec could react, however, he'd whirled away, insinuating himself smoothly between the couple, every inch the irresistible predator. Alec didn't know whether he would take them home or just into one of the backrooms before looking for more prey, and he had no interest in finding out, so he used his height to scout the room for Izzy. He found Clary instead, her red hair standing out like a beacon, even in the strobing lights of the club, but he figured his sister was probably not far and made his way over.

"Don't you mind, him teasing you like that and then going off with other people?" Simon asked the moment he reached them, and Alec already regretted his decision, even before the nerd winked salaciously. "Not that he's not insanely hot."

Alec shot Clary an annoyed glance. "Does he ever stop talking?"

"Wow, rude much? Or just sexually frustrated?" Simon replied, only confirming Alec's opinion.

Clary had the grace to look apologetic, but the understanding in her eyes bordered on pity and set Alec's teeth on edge. Luckily right then Izzy joined them, somehow managing to balance three glasses without spilling a drop. "Sorry, Alec, wasn't sure when Jace would release you from his clutches."

"It's fine." Alec knew he sounded irascible, but it was the best he could do. "I was thinking of heading home anyway."

Before Izzy could voice her mandatory objections, a well-manicured hand sporting many rings came to rest on Alec's bicep. "Oh, don't tell me you're leaving already! Not before I had the chance to buy you a drink at least…"

He turned to find Magnus Bane by his side, recognizing the owner of Pandemonium because Izzy had pointed him out in the past. Alec had to admit the man was attractive, but the way he was ogling him made him blush, something he hoped the darkness of the club would hide. Clearing his throat he replied in an embarrassingly flustered fashion, "I… I don't really drink."

"Don't be like that!" Izzy interrupted, a gleeful grin on her face. "My brother is totally going to have a drink with you, Magnus."

"You seem to have me at a disadvantage." Magnus appeared to be an equal opportunity flirt, making Izzy giggle. He even went so far as to kiss the girls' hands after Izzy made the introductions. No one had his attention the way Alec had, however, and Alec wasn't quite sure how to handle the full force of Magnus' charm offensive. He figured one drink wouldn't hurt, and pointedly ignored Izzy's blatant attempts to high-five him when he followed Magnus to the bar.

Despite the music, they managed to chat quite amicably, and Alec found himself relaxing under the older man's attentions, the first time since his mother's ambush that morning. Which was of course when Jace appeared, propping himself against the bar and winking up at Alec when he moved away a little. "Alec, Alec, Alec… I turn my back for one minute and you're getting off with the owner!"

"Not that it's any of your business, but Magnus and I were just talking," Alec defended himself, all too aware that the man in question was watching the scene with amused eyes. "Not everything's about getting off."

At that Magnus smiled, and Alec found himself smiling back, even before the older man smirked at Jace and challenged him, "I'd heard of Jace-and-Alec, of course, but I'd somehow been let to believe that Jace was the pretty one."

The look on Jace's face was priceless, and Alec blushed hotly, unable to hide a pleased grin. Unfortunately, his good mood turned into a grimace when his phone started vibrating in his pocket, his mother's name flashing on the screen.

***

Episode 4

Chapter warnings: minor character death (canonical in the TMI books), grief, physical intimacy as a coping mechanism

Any hope Alec had that Maryse just wanted to chew him out for bailing on Lydia was dashed when he noticed that it was past 1am, and he answered with a sinking feeling of dread, "Mom, is everything alright?"

It was hard to hear her over the music, but finally he understood the gist of what she was saying - and the world stopped. It had to show on his face, because next thing he knew Magnus was leading him into a quiet stockroom. Jace followed hot on their heels, worry spreading on his face as Alec fought to find words, his entire mind a blank. It didn't seem real, nothing did, not until Jace was pulling him into an embrace, whispering nonsense words of reassurance without knowing what was wrong.

At first, Alec stood there stiffly, until he realized that he was still holding his phone. Holding onto Jace with one arm around his shoulders, because he was afraid that his legs would give out if he let go, he lifted it back to his ear and managed to ask in a strangled voice, "Sorry, are you still there? Mom… are you sure? Is it really Max?"

Jace's head shot up, and from the look on his face it was clear he was beginning to understand. Maryse was still talking, her usually so calm voice choked up with tears, and Alec forced himself to listen to her telling him again that his little brother was dead.

"He snuck out, to meet some of his friends, and the driver didn't see him. They say he was... gone instantly, that he didn't… didn't suffer."

Maryse began to sob in earnest, and Alec could hear his dad in the background, trying to soothe her. Afraid that she was about to hang up, he inquired urgently, "Mom, where are you? Which hospital?"

It was Robert who answered, sounding just as bad as Maryse. "Son, we're… we're at home. They said we can do… do the paperwork tomorrow."

"We'll be home soon! Dad, I… I love you, both of you," Alec ground out, feeling as if he was being strangled, and hung up, afraid that he'd lose it if he had to keep listening to his parents struggling not to fall apart. Of course, the moment he put down the phone he realized that he'd now have to tell Jace and Izzy what had happened.

He looked down at Jace, who was watching him with wide eyes that were brimming with trepidation. He still had his arms around Alec, though, the only thing holding him upright. Later, it was all he could remember clearly, that and the tears streaming down Izzy's face after Magnus brought her to the storage room. Alec hoped he'd thanked him for all his help, but he honestly couldn't remember.

When they left the room, Clary and Simon were waiting outside, obviously having heard the news from Magnus. They tried to express their condolences, and a part of Alec remarked in a strangely detached way that he would have to get used to this. However, Jace, white-faced but dry-eyed, handed Simon his car keys, his free arm still wrapped around Alec, and said shortly, "I don't think any of us should be driving."

The three of them climbed into the backseat of Jace's car, Alec in the middle between a still-crying Izzy and Jace, whose grip on Alec's hand was painfully tight. The three of them kept holding onto each other for the rest of the night, unless one of them broke off to embrace Maryse and Robert after they'd reached the Lightwood family home. A family home without Max, without the little brother who'd been in the process of growing into a confident albeit stubborn teenager. Alec still moved through the world in a fog, his mind refusing to accept the fact that their family would never be complete again.

After a while Maryse and Robert decided to go to bed, although Alec doubted that they would do much sleeping. There was no question of any of them leaving, though, and Izzy asked, voice wobbling, "Can I sleep with you?"

"'Course, Iz," Alec responded immediately, and the three of them walked up the stairs without talking, pointedly not looking at the door to Max's room. Jace's and Alec's room still had two beds in it, but by silent agreement they all curled up on Alec's, which had been replaced with a queen-sized one once he'd hit his growth spurt. He ended up with his head on Jace's shoulder, Izzy's dark hair brushing against his neck, three hands tangled over his stomach.

Alec sighed, his ice-cold limbs slowly warming up again. "We'll be okay, won't we?"

He wasn't quite sure what kind of reply he hoped for, if there even was one, but Izzy lifted her head and looked him squarely in the eyes before glancing up at Jace, who was watching them with the uncharacteristic silence that had settled over him the moment Alec had told him the horrible news. Izzy's voice was quiet, barely more than a whisper, but she stated firmly, "Yes. It will hurt, but we'll make it. Because we're together."

"Lightwoods all together." Jace soft chuckle vibrated against Alec's ear, and Alec leaned up impulsively to press a kiss to Jace's cheek. It had taken Jace a long time to accept that he was part of this family, and it felt good to hear him acknowledge it, even in the midst of this tragedy. They fell asleep like this, a tangle of limbs, and Alec could almost believe that Izzy was right.

Waking up, it took him a moment to remember why he had a Jace-shaped limpet clinging to him. Izzy had rolled away at some point, but Jace had always been a cuddler, and for a moment Alec breathed in his sleepy musk - until the reason for their closeness came rushing back. A pained whimper escaped Alec, his heart clenching painfully and nausea rising in him.

It was a feeling that kept returning in waves all day long, and Alec only managed to keep his grief at bay because he needed to be a source of support and comfort for the rest of the family. He accompanied his father to get the formalities done, arranging for a funeral the next day. They asked him whether he wanted to see Max, but he couldn't - he knew he would have to eventually, or he'd regret it, but right then the thought was too much for him to bear.

Instead he tried not to flinch whenever he saw the bruised looks on Robert's and Maryse's faces, the tear tracks on Izzy's, and moved through the day as if on autopilot. He succeeded in keeping it together, right until he was alone with Jace in their old room. He'd been busying himself by laying out the black suit he'd picked up from home at some point, trying not to think of the fact that they were going to bury Max the next day, when Jace stopped him with a hand on his arm.

"Alec, stop," he said simply, but his eyes were brimming with tears, and Alec couldn't suppress the shudder that raced through him, his body stiffening as he felt his own emotions rise. He fought to keep them at bay, but in the end he collapsed into Jace's arms. He was holding him so tightly it had to hurt, but Jace didn't complain, only clung back with equal force, his shoulders shaking as he began to cry in earnest. Alec's eyes remained dry, but it felt good, healthy, to share Jace's grief, and in the end they collapsed onto Alec's bed for a night of restless sleep.

Tears continued to elude Alec through the funeral, although there were moments when he could feel them prickling behind his eyelids. Seeing Max, pale and motionless in a way he'd never been in life, was almost too much, but just then Jace slipped his hand into Alec's and didn't let go of it for the rest of the memorial service and through the reception.

Alec mouthed platitudes, thanking people for coming and generally trying to make things easier for his parents. The fog he was in only lifted slightly when he saw Magnus, Clary and Simon approach, and he let go of Jace long enough to let Magnus hug him, eyes gentle. Clary followed suite, embracing both him and Jace, and Alec appreciated the fact that Simon only offered his hand, for once not babbling, instead saying simply, "I lost my father when I was a kid. I'm so sorry, Alec, Jace."

Then they moved on to find Izzy, Magnus squeezing Alec's arm with an understanding smile, and when Alec turned back to Jace, he found him watching Magnus, Clary and Simon walk away with a funny look on his face. Confused, Alec inquired, "Jace, you okay?"

Jace shook himself, giving him a smile that was too bright. "Wanna get out of here?"

"Jace, we can't," Alec protested, but truth be told, he wanted nothing more. He'd been holding on by a thread for two days now, and he could feel himself teeter on the brink of falling apart. He really didn't want to do that at Max's wake, and not in front of his parents, who already had too much grief to bear. Ignoring Jace's satisfaction when it became clear that he was relenting, he went to find Izzy, telling her, "Jace and I are heading out for a bit. We need to get some air. Do you want to come along?"

"No. I'll stay and tell mom and dad." Shaking her head, Izzy pulled him into a fierce hug before shooing him away. "No need to come back tonight. Give Jace my love; I'll see the two of you tomorrow."

Leaving the reception made Alec feel as if they were sneaking out, but once they'd climbed into Jace's car he was already breathing more easily. He had no idea where they were going, so he just laid his head back, closed his eyes and trusted Jace to take him away.

When the car stopped and he opened his eyes again, they had reached Jace's building. Alec was thankful for this, because Jace had only moved there a short while ago, so it wasn't a place Alec particularly associated with Max, unlike his own apartment. Still, when Jace offered him a hand, he took it gladly, feeling as if his legs might give out if he didn't have something to hold on to.

Inside the spacious loft, Jace practically pushed him onto the couch, loosening his tie for him with nimble fingers and a small smile. When he moved away, Alec almost reached out to hold him back, but, as if reading his mind, Jace reassured him, "I'm just getting us something to drink. Be right back."

Alec wondered if he should protest. He didn't like liquor, and it couldn't be healthy to cope with grief by drowning one's sorrows. However, one drink wouldn't hurt, and when Jace returned from the kitchen, it was with a bottle of vodka and a gigantic glass of what looked like orange juice.

"Screwdriver," he explained, handing Alec the glass before taking a long drink straight from the bottle. He'd removed his own tie and suit jacket, and he'd opened the first few buttons of his shirt, giving him an attractively rumpled appearance. Trying not to notice, Alec quickly looked away and emptied about half the glass at once. He immediately started coughing, realizing that it had been about half vodka. Jace laughed mercilessly but apologized, ineffectually patting Alec on the back before slumping down on the sofa next to him and resting his head against Alec's shoulder. Shrugging, but careful not to dislodge Jace, Alec took another sip of his drink, and for a while they drank in silence. Finally, Jace said in a quiet voice, "I can't believe he's gone."

"Me… me neither," Alec managed, and then he was crying, finally crying, body heaving with loud sobs. He barely noticed Jace kneeling next to him before two strong arms grabbed him and hauled him against a pleasantly solid chest. His hands came up automatically, and he clung to Jace, letting his tears flow freely, secure in the knowledge that Jace would catch him as he finally allowed himself to feel the grief for his little brother.

Only when his crying fit slowly started to ebb away, did Alec notice the press of Jace's lips against his temple, his forehead, his cheeks, when he turned his head slightly to meet Jace's red-rimmed gaze. Jace stopped kissing his face to say in a hoarse half-whisper, "You're alright, I got you."

Alec managed a wobbly grin, his heart overflowing with grief, with love. "You like people to think you're so tough, but really, you're one of the good ones, Jonathan Christopher Herondale."

"Don't you go ruining my reputation!" Jace threatened with an equally soft smile, before asking with uncharacteristic uncertainty, "Alec, stay with me tonight?"

"Of course." Alec didn't need to think about it, only to realize that Jace meant more than another night sharing a bed. In way of an answer, he leaned up to peck Jace lightly on the lips. He was rewarded by a widening of Jace's eyes, as if he hadn't really believed he'd say yes.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "We don't have to do anything, really. I just want to be close to you."

"I'd like that, too. Just…" Alec took a deep breath, knowing he had to set a boundary now, before Jace woke up in the morning and treated him like another one of his conquests. He didn't think his heart could survive that. "I'm not going to have sex with you to forget Max, Jace."

Jace nodded in acceptance, and then he was kissing Alec and the world disappeared. They'd kissed before, but it had just been casual pecks, nothing like this, nothing like Jace take him apart with every slide of his lips against Alec's, his tongue delving deeply into his mouth. A moan vibrated through Alec, and he clutched at Jace's shoulders and kissed back with growing fervor.

They tumbled onto the couch, Jace laughing into Alec's mouth as he almost slid off, only stopped by Alec's embrace tightening. Their legs tangling, they continued making out, hands wandering over clothed bodies. However, despite the hunger with which they consumed one another, there was no urgency, only a bone-deep feeling of connectedness, and Jace didn't attempt to undress Alec.

They made out for what felt like hours, and while Alec never completely forgot how they had gotten to this place, for the first time he kind of understood why Jace used sex to cope. Being close, bringing each other pleasure, it brought a comfort Alec was profoundly grateful for.

Still, in the end he was the one who pulled away, afraid of getting too lost in Jace's touch. It would have been so easy to give in, to slide his hands under Jace's shirt, unbutton his pants and finish what they had started so many years ago. However, in the morning Jace would still be the guy who didn't do relationships, and the risk was simply too great. So he got up, grateful when Jace didn't complain and just held out his hand for Alec to pull him to his feet.

In his bedroom, he offered Alec a t-shirt to wear to bed, and after using the bathroom, they slid under the covers, and Jace immediately curled up around him. Alec had almost gotten used to sleeping with Jace, but this night they spent some more time kissing, slow and soft, tinged with a sadness that was not completely about Max.

They didn't need to talk about it, they both knew this night would be an exception, and Alec couldn't help himself, he wanted to make it last. Finally, however, the emotional drain of the last two days took its toll, and they fell asleep.

***

Episode 5

Chapter warnings: Malec content.

Over the next days something like normalcy set back in. At first, Alec was surprised when his parents went back to work almost immediately, but once he went back to the office himself he realized that routine actually helped. Sometimes he'd go a whole half hour without thinking of Max, and, while a part of him felt guilty for it, it was the only way he managed to get through the days.

Also, they spent a lot of time as a family, the five of them, having dinner with Robert and Maryse every night, and later Alec, Izzy and Jace would hang out. Sometimes they'd reminisce about Max, shedding tears or exchanging nostalgic smiles, but sometimes they pretended as if they'd just bidden him goodnight. As expected, however, there were no repeats of the night after the funeral, and Alec got used to sleeping alone again. He knew he could always ask Jace to stay, but that felt like too much of a risk. Alec was too vulnerable, too open right now, there was no way he'd manage not to get even more entangled with Jace than he already was.

Still, when he dropped by Jace's place after work one night, using his spare key to let himself in, and heard the unmistakable sounds of Jace fucking some girl, it felt like a punch to the gut. He froze, bitter tears shooting into his eyes, even as he told himself that he was being ridiculous. Of course Jace needed more than cozy family get-togethers; sex had been his coping mechanism of choice for as long as Alec could remember.

"Was that the door?" A familiar female voice asked just then, and Alec's heart dropped the rest of the way into his stomach. Clary. Jace, the master of no-strings-attached, was fucking Clary, who struck Alec as being very much a strings-attached kind of girl. Was it possible that, in the aftermath of losing Max, Jace did feel the need for more than a casual fuck? Alec fought down nausea, hating himself for not being happy for his friend but instead wishing with every fibre of his being that it was him in that bed.

The sound of someone getting up finally shook him out of his stupor, but it was too late, Jace's startled eyes coming to rest on him, and Alec didn't want to know what he could read on his face. Too much, probably, because the last thing Alec heard as he beat a hasty retreat was Jace calling after him, "Alec! Alec, wait up; please don't leave!"

Alec ignored him, relieved that Jace couldn't very well chase after him in the buff. Not that there was any reason for him to do so, Alec admitted to himself with a sigh as he came to a stop a couple of blocks later. He walked the rest of the way home, letting the night air clear his head, but when Jace called him, he didn't pick up.

Later, while he was making dinner, his phone beeped with a text alert. He considered ignoring it, but figured it might be Izzy or his parents, so he checked his screen. It turned out to originate from an unknown number, but with a signature he recognized:

Hi Alexander, Izzy gave me your number. This might be a bad time, but I'd really love to see you again - not in the club or at a funeral, but on an actual date. Give me a call any time; I'm a night owl. All the best, Magnus.

Alec found himself smiling almost against his will. So not everyone thought he was second-best, and maybe it was time to give someone else a chance, someone who might actually like him back. Before he could talk himself out of it, he saved Magnus's number to his phone and called him. He stumbled over his words a little, but once more Magnus managed to put him at ease, and they ended up agreeing to meet for dinner the next night.

Approaching the restaurant, Alec felt a different kind of nervous than for his ill-fated "date" with Lydia. There were butterflies in his stomach when Magnus gave him an appreciative once-over and actually stood up to greet him. They hugged, and it was only mildly awkward, which surprised Alec, who wasn't really touchy-feely with anyone outside his family, and that set the tone for the rest of the night.

Magnus was about 10 years older than Alec, handsome, charming and urbane, and he didn't make a secret out of his interest in Alec. He also seemed to enjoy making Alec blush, and Alec found he didn't really mind, liking the way Magnus's eyes twinkled. "So, how many hearts have you broken, Alexander?"

The way Magnus insisted on calling him by his full name was another thing Alec was almost sure he liked quite a bit. Smiling bashfully, he replied with a candor that surprised even himself, "I… well, I've never really been one to date much… or at all, really."

"Really?" Magnus cocked his head, reaching out to cover Alec's hand with his. "Then I'm flattered you decided to give me a chance."

Before Alec could think of something to say in return, his phone rang.

"Sorry, it might be Izzy or my mom," he apologized before turning away and looking at his screen. It wasn't Izzy or his parents, however; it was Jace, and for a moment Alec considered ignoring him. Although, when it came down to it, he hated fighting with Jace. Still, he sounded quite short as he picked up with a sigh. "Jace. What do you want?"

"Hey, Alec - sorry, is this a bad time?" Jace appeared genuinely apologetic, which went a long way to placating Alec's hurt feelings. It had always been like that with them, they always knew when something was wrong - which was good, because they were seriously bad at talking about things that mattered, as Alec knew all too well.

Smiling almost in spite of himself, he finally replied, "Don't worry about it. It's just... I'm on a date."

"On a what?!" Jace laughed, full of affection. "Who's the lucky guy?"

Blushing, Alec explained in a low voice, "It's Magnus, Magnus Bane from Pandemonium."

"Oh, I remember Magnus. Good job, Alec!" Jace sounded delighted, but there was an undertone there that Alec wasn't able to identify. Before he could pinpoint it, Jace rang off, "Okay, in that case I'll call you later. Or tomorrow, in case you let him take you home."

Alec made to protest, but Jace had already hung up. He turned back around and discovered that Magnus was watching him pensively, a curious half-smile on his face as he inquired politely, "How is dear Jace?"

"Um, I think he's okay?" It sounded like a question in Alec's own ears, and he quickly added, "I haven't spoken to him for a couple of days, which is unusual for us."

"I hope there's no trouble in paradise," Magnus said, and Alec looked at him sharply, trying to figure out if there was anything to his words. But Magnus met his eyes with a warm smile and explained, "I don't want to pry, but I've seen the two of you, in the club and at the funeral." This mention made Alec flinch, and Magnus immediately squeezed his hand apologetically. "I'm sorry."

Alec waved him off, not wanting to ruin the evening. "Don't worry. It's alright." He took a steadying breath and diverted Magnus's attention back to their original topic. "Jace and I are close, but we've never… It's not like that."

Magnus nodded, eyes unreadable, and Alec had no desire to pursue the issue further, so he quickly changed the subject, grateful when Magnus went along with it gracefully. They continued talking all through an excellent meal, and by the time they'd finished with dessert and prepared to leave, Alec felt almost comfortable when Magnus rested his hand on the small of his back, his dark eyes warm. "I had a lovely time, Alexander."

"Me too," Alec managed, letting Magnus guide him out of the restaurant, suddenly nervous again. What would he say if Magnus invited him back to his place? However, he needn't have worried. All Magnus did was move to kiss him on the cheek - but, right then, Alec turned his head and their lips collided. Pulling back quickly, Alec felt his cheeks burn. "Sorry."

"Don't be." Magnus reached up to cup his face, and the smile on his lips was enough to make Alec relax. "You never have to apologize for kissing me, Alexander. In case you hadn't noticed, I like you, and I hope you'll give this, us, a chance."

Although they hadn't known each other for long, Alec felt as if Magnus already understood him surprisingly well, and he agreed to another date right away. When he told Izzy about it, she shot him a penetrating gaze, but congratulated him earnestly enough and told him, "I'm glad. You deserve to be happy, big brother."

"So Alec Lightwood is finally going to get laid," Jace chimed in, plopping down on the couch between the siblings and offering Alec his fist to bump, which Alec pointedly ignored until he let it drop again. "Magnus better treat you right, though."

"I don't need you to defend my honor." Alec elbowed him. "And when did you become an expert on relationships?"

Jace stuck out his tongue at him and pounced, starting a wrestling match that left Alec breathless with laughter. Izzy was watching them fondly, but there was something hidden in her smile, and later, after they'd watched a movie together, she insisted that Jace accompany her home. Knowing his sister, Alec had the distinct suspicion that she had something to say to Jace, but for the life of him he couldn't imagine what it might be.

He didn't really think about it too much, caught up in the excitement of getting to know Magnus, which diverted his mind from the still ever-present grief. On their second date, they kissed properly, and Alec managed not to draw any comparisons to the last man he'd kissed. He did notice, however, that said man had stopped calling him randomly during the day, as had been his habit.

Jace was friendly enough when Alec called and they still hung out with Izzy, although Alec could have done without the endless teasing about sex with Magnus, but he no longer sought out Alec's company quite so frequently. If it hadn't been for Magnus, Alec would have been hurt, but as it was he allowed himself to be distracted.

They still hadn't gone all the way, an expression that never failed to make Alec feel like a teenaged girl, but he was slowly becoming more comfortable being physically intimate with the man he'd started referring to as his boyfriend. If he'd had any lingering doubts as to their status, those were erased when his 25th birthday came around. Magnus was roped into organizing a massive party at Pandemonium by Izzy and Jace as a matter of course. That made it pretty much official, Alec figured, ignoring the mild feeling of trepidation in the pit of his stomach.

That proved to be very easy, the party being very lively right from the start, and, for once, Jace appeared to be back to his normal self, draping himself over Alec and giving him a smack on the cheek in the way of a greeting. Blushing, Alec looked around for Magnus, but he couldn't make himself shrug Jace off. Instead he wrapped an arm around Jace and leaned into his warmth.

At the periphery of his vision he noticed Izzy giving Jace a look, but right then Clary arrived, as always with Simon in tow, and he had to play host. Apparently, Izzy and Jace had invited every single person Alec knew - with the exception of his parents and coworkers, of course - and Magnus had reserved the VIP lounge for them. Despite not liking champagne much, Alec was starting to feel a little bit buzzed, having had to toast with so many well-wishers, and when Jace pulled him onto the dancefloor, he went easily, their bodies fitting together as perfectly as always.

When Magnus appeared, he pressed himself against Alec's back, his hands heavy on his hips, and Alec bared his neck to him, offering it to Magnus to kiss. Through heavy lids he caught Jace watching them with an unreadable expression, his thigh still wedged between Alec's, and then he stretched upwards to catch Alec in a kiss. Alec's response was automatic, mouth falling open, yet instead of deepening the kiss Jace pulled away, extricating himself. There was something like regret on his face, but then Magnus tilted Alec's head around and kissed him thoroughly.

"Alec, what are you doing?!" The outraged cry interrupted their moment like a bucket of cold water, the voice all too familiar but entirely unexpected. They jumped apart, Alec letting go of Magnus as if he'd been burned as he whirled around to face his mother, who was looking at him as if she didn't recognize him.

Time seemed to stand still, Alec frozen to the spot, mouth gaping while he struggled for an explanation. Behind her, Izzy was staring at them in shock, but Jace appeared suspiciously unsurprised, slinging an arm around Maryse's rigid shoulders and exclaiming, "Alec is doing Magnus. Maryse, meet Magnus Bane, Alec's boyfriend."

"Mom…" Alec managed, still feeling as if he was caught in a bad dream. He reached out towards Maryse, but she jerked out of his reach, pale with fury and began backing away, avoiding his touch like a leper. Alec followed her towards the exit. "Please, I'm sorry!"

"I need to go," she finally said stiffly. "Enjoy the rest of your party. Your father and I will talk to you… another time."

With that she was gone, leaving Alec standing there, feeling numb. He'd always known that one day he would have to come out to his parents, but this… this was a nightmare. A nightmare of Jace's making, he suddenly realized, and cold shock was replaced by hot fury.

Pushing through the crowd, he found Jace at the bar, downing what appeared to be not his first shot if the empty glasses in front of him were anything to go by. Izzy was next to him, shouting at him, but she shut up when Alec approached, so he only caught the tail end. "That was not what we… Shit, what were you thinking?"

"Yes, Jace, what were you thinking?" Alec bit out, righteous anger propelling him forward until he was right in Jace's face, who flinched away but just shrugged mutely, as if that was enough of an explanation. Alec exploded, "You know what, I don't care. There is no possible excuse for this, and you know it."

He turned around, saw Magnus hovering nearby and hissed, "Magnus, we're leaving. I can't stand the company here."

Grabbing Magnus's hand, he stomped away, not checking to see whether Jace was reacting in any way. He was done, and he didn't care if he never saw Jace again. That was the refrain in his head when he accompanied Magnus home, when he pushed him against the wall and kissed him fiercely, when he allowed himself to be wrangled onto the bed. There, he finally managed to stop being furious with Jace and lost himself in Magnus's body and his own pleasure.

"I know what this was about, you know," Magnus said gently once they had recovered, pressing a kiss to the top of Alec's head. "Nothing quite as invigorating as anger, isn't it?"

"I… I'm sorry," Alec mumbled guiltily, tightening his arms around Magnus in an apologetic embrace.

"It's fine," Magnus reassured him, his smile reaching his eyes. "But I hope you'll let me do that again without the invisible third party."

Alec laughed ruefully and wondered how he'd gotten so lucky. He really didn't need Jace anymore, not when he had Magnus. He decided to send Izzy to give Jace his spare key back and get his own back in return. And to tell him that he shouldn't come to see Robert and Maryse when Alec was there, at least for a while.

Naturally, this reminded Alec of the icy look on his mother's face, and a heavy sigh escaped him. When Magnus made a questioning noise, he lifted his head and explained, "I'm going to have to go see my parents tomorrow."

"Alexander, from everything you've told me, you're a very close family. They might be angry that you lied to them, but I can't imagine that they would really disown you just for who you love." Magnus paused, obviously debating whether to continue. "I mean, they've never held his bisexuality against Jace, have they?"

"Pan, Jace is pan," Alec replied absentmindedly, before catching himself and scowling. "No, but Jace isn't the heir to the Lightwood name. I was supposed to carry on, not just the family business but a line that goes back all the way to medieval times, according to my parents."

"Even if you don't have kids, there's still your charming sister. She might keep her name, that is entirely possible in this day and age."

Magnus managed to make it all sound so reasonable, and Alec was starting to hope that maybe his life as he knew it wasn't over. Kissing his boyfriend gratefully, he forgot to worry, at least until the next morning. He didn't have work since it was Saturday, but Alec had never been one to put off the inevitable, so he called Izzy in the morning and told her that he was about to head to their parents' house. "I just want to get the yelling over with."

"Do you want me to come with you?" his sister inquired concernedly. Instead, Alec asked her to go see Jace, which prompted her to say hesitatingly, "I know what he did was bad. But Alec, maybe he had a reason?"

"What possible reason could excuse him outing me to our parents - and in this fashion," Alec scoffed, still a long way away from cutting Jace any slack. Some of his fury had cooled, but not enough for him to regret his decision to take a step away. "Please, Iz, I just… I can't just let him get away with this."

In the end she agreed, albeit reluctantly, and Alec went to see his parents on his own. They greeted him stiffly, a radical departure from the closeness they'd been sharing ever since Max's death, and Alec's stomach began to hurt even before they led him into the living room like some stranger. Still, he followed them meekly and sat down opposite them, perching on the edge of the couch.

Clearing his throat, he decided to rip the bandaid off quickly and charged right ahead, blurting out, "Mom, dad, I'm so sorry!"

"What exactly are you sorry for?" Maryse asked coldly, and Alec hid a flinch. "For the spectacle I was subjected to last night, for lying to us, for pretending you were something you're not?"

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Alec squared his shoulders and replied, "The lying. And the way you found out." He paused. "I'm not sorry for who I am."

"Then why didn't you tell us?" It was his father's turn to interrogate him, but, while he appeared displeased, Alec didn't see any sign of the disgust he'd always feared.

"I thought you would be disappointed in me." He met his parents' cool eyes head on, feeling more and more certain with every word. "I heard you talk about Michael Wayland, back when Jace came to live with us. And you made it sound as if he'd been… in love with you once, and as if the very idea disgusted you."

His parents exchanged a glance, both of them looking stricken by his words, and a weight lifted from Alec's shoulders. They would be okay, eventually. Things would be strained, and Alec wouldn't bring Magnus home to meet the parents any time soon, but he could live with that.

"Maybe they wouldn't have been quite so… forgiving if Max was still alive," he told Izzy later, his throat aching the way it always did when he thought of their little brother.

Nodding sadly, she handed him his spare key. "Maybe. But aren't you glad it's out in the open now? Jace…"

"I'm not ready to talk about Jace, Iz," Alec interrupted her, and after a moment's hesitation she accepted his decision. Grinning, she began grilling him about Magnus, followed by them watching a movie together. It felt a bit strange to spend so much time together without even mentioning Jace, but Alec was determined, and the next few days passed without so much as Jace's name passing his lips.

The same couldn't be said of this thoughts, of course. He missed Jace so much it hurt, and according to Izzy the feeling was mutual, although Alec found that hard to believe. Izzy fixed him with a firm stare and suggested with surprising gentleness, "You should talk to him. Ask him why he did it." Lightening the mood with a wry smile, she added, "If not for your own sake, then for mine. The two of you are insufferable when you're apart."

Alec didn't follow her advice immediately, but he was quite distracted that night at dinner with Magnus, considering his next step. So when his phone rang and Jace's name flashed on the screen, he barely hesitated.

"Alec, please, you have to come!" Jace sounded breathless, raw, and Alec was out of his seat even before Jace explained in a hoarse whisper, "I know where Valentine is!"

***

Episode 6

Chapter warnings: Implied child abuse.

Apologizing quickly, Alec made for the door, barely pausing to brush a quick peck to Magnus's lips. For the first time his boyfriend showed annoyance, crossing in arms and raising an eyebrow. "Really, you're just dropping everything the moment he calls?"

Alec couldn't really blame him, but he didn't know the full story, and Alec didn't have time to fill him in. Shrugging into his jacket, he explained quickly, "Look, he needs me. It's… a family thing. I'll explain later, okay?"

"Of course." Magnus nodded, but the tension between them remained. Alec had no time to worry about his relationship, however, instead making record time to Jace's flat. Once there, he remembered with a start that he no longer had a key and rang the doorbell. He was buzzed in almost immediately, and wh

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