Through the Looking Glass

Author's Note: An alternate version of ep 1x10 - "This World Inverted". Canon-compliant up to the beginning of the episode.

***

When Meliorn offered them a way to find Valentine, Jace couldn't muster any real excitement. Ever since they'd left the City of Bones he'd functioned like an automaton, normal enough on the outside but completely numb inside. He was grateful for that numbness, because otherwise he was pretty sure the memory of Alec's blade at his throat and the sound of his firm "No" would be eating at him. As it was he quickly tore his thoughts away from the mental image of Alec's desolate form the way he'd last seen him.

Jace had no idea how everything had ended up such a mess - only a few days ago he would have scoffed if anyone had suggested Alec and he would ever end up on different sides of anything more serious than a sparring match. They'd been inseparable ever since becoming parabatai, and the chasm that gaped between them now was like a physical wound. But there was no time for contemplation, a fact for which Jace was grateful, even if Meliorn's story of a portal to a different world was hard to swallow.

Even harder to believe was that the Seelie wanted to let only Clary through, and Jace put his foot down firmly, insisting that they go together or not at all. Luckily Clary backed him up, and in the end Meliorn had to admit that Jace had aided in his rescue as well and allowed both of them entrance. Opening a portal that looked very different from any Jace had seen before, the Seelie warned them one last time of the danger of losing themselves in their other lives, and then Jace and Clary stepped into the other world.

They'd been side by side in the forest, but the next instance Jace found himself alone, surrounded by… coffee-making equipment? He looked around, confused, and his eyes fell on a menu which prominently bore the words Java Jace. Meliorn had told them that there were no Shadowhunters here, but it was hard to believe his other self would choose this profession instead... He was snapped out of his bemused contemplation when someone appeared at the window of what seemed to be this Jace's coffee truck and ordered, "A big soy double-vanilla no-whip latte, please."

"Shit, sorry," Jace cursed, searching desperately for any clues as to how he was supposed to make the requested beverage, only to find himself automatically reaching into a fridge he would have sworn he hadn't noticed before, taking out the soy milk and then tackling the complicated-looking coffee machine as if he'd been doing this for years. Which of course he had, and he sent another satisfied customer on her way with a friendly smile.

The next customer turned out to be Simon, out in the bright sunshine, and suddenly Jace was gripped by the urge to yell at him to be careful. Except of course this Simon wasn't a vampire, just like Jace wasn't a Shadowhunter here, as the complete lack of runes on his body attested to, and the strange disconnect that he realized came from not having a parabatai bond. Also, the fucking coffee truck. Shit, it really was too easy to get lost, and Jace focused on making small-talk with Simon, whose casual friendliness, so different from his normal mistrust and jealousy, was unusual enough to keep him grounded.

It only helped for a while, though, just long enough for him to learn that Clary should be along shortly. Jace decided to stick around to wait for her and found himself easily serving people, grateful that his business was going so well. Then Izzy and Alec came along, and Jace waved at them, wondering why he'd been surprised about Izzy's glasses and Alec's non-black wardrobe.

Dressed stylishly as always, Alec sauntered up to the counter and placed their order, which Jace had begun preparing the moment he saw them coming, since the Lightwood siblings were creatures of habit. When he handed Alec Izzy's triple-shot mocha and his skim-milk salted caramel frappuccino, their eyes locked, and for some reason the warm twinkle in Alec's eyes unclenched something inside of Jace.

The next moment he was grabbed by the lapel of his shirt and hurled in for a kiss, Alec's tongue delving deep inside his mouth, exploring it in the way that always made Jace weak at the knees. He started, which knocked his nose painfully against Alec's cheek, and pulled back in shock. He'd never gotten weak-kneed over Alec's kisses, because Alec was his parabatai and had turned his back on him, just like everyone else Jace had ever loved.

Self-pity wasn't attractive, but it did serve to clear his mind, and he managed to stammer something like an apology when Alec asked, "Babe, what's wrong? Don't tell me you're still shy about a little PDA..."

"Leave poor Jace alone, Alec!" It was Izzy, empathetic as always despite the geeky clothes and strange lack of makeup, who came to his rescue. "Not everyone's been born practically waving a rainbow flag, and you're his first boyfriend. Now, tell me more about your plans for the party tonight."

She pulled Alec away, who followed reluctantly, but only after whispering, "Sorry, I didn't mean to push. You know I love you just the way you are. But there will be dancing tonight, right?"

His smile warmed Jace all the way through, and he found himself nodding, "Yeah, sure. I… love you, too, Alec."

The words came easily, since they were true in any world, and Alec left with another quick kiss to join Izzy and Simon at their table. It was weird to be this close to Alec and not feel their parabatai bond, but Jace touched his lips and smiled in wonder, marveling as always how he'd gotten so lucky that he'd literally fallen in love with his best friend. Their relationship was still quite new, but nobody had ever made his stomach flutter the way Alec did, and Jace found himself dreamily staring at his boyfriend, who kept shooting him flirtatious glances in turn.

However, soon Clary appeared, whose shock at seeing Simon was enough to bring Jace back to himself again. He quickly pulled her behind the truck, ignoring the surprised looks from their friends. She was just as happy to see him, exclaiming, "Oh, thank god you're here! This world is unbelievable!"

"Oh, you have no idea…" Jace drawled, looking at the back of Alec's head, suddenly missing him fiercely. Unconsciously he put a hand to the spot where his parabatai rune was located normally, feeling as if he was missing a limb, phantom pain gnawing at his soul. Even Alec's hair was different, carefully tamed, and Jace was struck with the sudden desire to mess it up. He shook his head and forced his mind back to the matter at hand. "Let's just get this done."

Clary nodded and told him that she'd seen Magnus' ad, the description of which made Jace snort. But he agreed with her that the warlock was their best bet. "I'll just close down this… thing, then we can go see him together."

"Yeah, it's funny to think of you as a barista of all things!" Clary giggled but sobered quickly. "But then, my parents are still together here. I almost killed Valentine on the spot when I arrived… and the next moment I was laughing with him, as if it was completely normal."

"We really have to be careful, it's too easy to get lost," Jace stated, glad not to be the only one struggling. "So let's go. The quicker we find Magnus and the portal the quicker we can leave."

Juggling his keys, he quickly locked down the truck. He was about to leave, when Alec appeared behind him, sliding an arm around Jace's middle. Jace stiffened before forcing himself to relax, ignoring Clary's flabbergasted expression. Alec's voice was low and intimate in his ear, making Jace break out in goosebumps as he asked curiously, "Hey, where're you headed? I know I've been neglecting you because of the party, but that's over tonight, then I'll be all yours again…"

Fighting to keep his voice light, Jace replied, "Just need to help Clary with something. I'll see you at the party, alright?"

"And see me not being jealous of your ex in the least…" With a low chuckle Alec spun him around to plant a kiss on him, and Jace found himself melting against his boyfriend, his tongue easily sliding into the heat of Alec's mouth. He was being held securely in Alec's strong arms, and his hands came up to play with the dark hair, mussing it up in the way he knew Alec hated. Predictably enough his boyfriend pulled away, although his admonishment lost most of its bite because of the rather becoming flush coloring his cheeks and his kiss-swollen mouth. "You're terrible, now I'll have to fix my hair again!"

"Aww, poor baby…" Jace smirked and leaned in for another kiss, but found himself blocked by Clary, whose shocked face was enough to make him freeze with realization.

Still, she managed to apologize lightly, "I'm sorry to steal your man, Alec, but we really should get going, see a guy about a… door."

With one last look at Alec Jace let himself be pulled away, aware he probably was the picture of embarrassment right now. Once they were on their way to Magnus' place, Clary broke the uncomfortable silence by asking, voice carefully bland, "So, you and Alec? I didn't even know you're bi..."

"I'm not. It's just this world." The denial came quickly, automatically, but Jace couldn't make himself meet Clary's eyes as he said it, and her only response was a non-committal sound. As they silently caught a subway, Jace tried to tell himself that it didn't matter, that he didn't owe anyone any explanations. Yet without wanting to his mind wandered back to the memory demon and to the look of desperation on Alec's face when Jace used his feelings against him during their fight at the City of Bones. Once again he touched his side, feeling only emptiness where another soul, almost as familiar as his own, should reside.

He was grateful when they reached their destination and he could focus back on their mission. It was seriously strange seeing Magnus dressed in a cuddly sweater, living with two cats and reading tarot cards for a living. It made it easy not to backslide, and they quickly established that the portal was actually in the basement of the Institute, which just happened to be the venue for Valentine's big party.

"So we'll meet you there," he told the warlock as they took their leave, suppressing a sigh at the realization that he wouldn't get around having to play Alec's boyfriend once more. He ruthlessly refused to analyze whether the prospect filled him with dread or something altogether more pleasant. Instead he went back to Java Jace, intending to work until it was time to get ready for the party while Clary helped Izzy with whatever emergency she'd called about. That would also be a good opportunity to get Magnus on the guest list, so everything seemed to work out nicely.

Except Jace hadn't reckoned with how easy it was to get lost in the simplicity of this world. He worked for a few hours, looking forward to the evening. Alec was bound to look particularly handsome all dressed up, and Jace felt butterflies in his stomach when he thought of the private celebration he'd been promised in exchange for too many missed dates in the run up to the party.

Although friends for most of their lives, they hadn't been together for very long, and everything was still very new and exciting, not only because Alec was the first man Jace had ever been with. Looking back he couldn't believe how oblivious he'd been, both about Alec's feelings for him and in regard to his own. Humming contentedly, Jace picked out his nicest suit, wanting Alec's eyes to light up in that way he had, and made his way to the Institute.

He arrived among the first guests, while Alec was still busy making sure everything was perfect. Feeling warmth pool in his stomach, Jace leaned against a brightly decorated wall and watched his boyfriend in his element with a proud smile on his face. Finally Alec saw him, and the heat in his eyes as he raked them over Jace's body was all Jace could have hoped for. Crossing the room with a few strides of his long legs, Alec effectively trapped Jace against the wall, bracketing his head with his arms and smoothly inserting a leg between Jace's, which parted of their own accord.

Jace's heartbeat sped up at being thus loomed over, surrounded, and he grinned up into Alec's face, saying playfully, "I take it you like the outfit."

"I really, really do." Alec's voice was almost a growl, sending pleasant shivers down Jace's back. "Makes me want to take it all off, right the fuck now!"

"Too bad there's this little shindig going on," Jace teased, wrapping one arm around Alec's waist and one around his neck, carding his fingers in Alec's immaculately styled hair. Alec's eyes darkened, and he caught Jace's lips in a bruising kiss, heedless of their location on the edge of an increasingly busy party. When they parted, they were both gulping for air and half-hard in their pants.

"Damn it, this'll have to wait." With a sigh, Alec took a step back, straightening his clothes and attempting to fix his hair. Jace followed his example, unable to stop himself from grinning from ear to ear despite the frustration of unsated arousal. He reached up and smoothed down a last stubborn curl at the back of Alec's head that had escaped his attentions. Alec's mouth twitched in an intimate, almost secretive smile, and he caught Jace's hand to press a kiss against his palm.

Jace's breath caught at the simple gesture, and he had to blink quickly, swallowing a sudden lump in his throat. He was suddenly desperate to capture this moment, make it last, although he wasn't quite sure why this was so important. After all he had all the time in the world to coax many more such casual tendernesses from Alec. He forced himself to sound casual as he shooed his boyfriend away, "Go, be an awesome party planner - I'll see what music Simon will play. Gotta choose a good song for our dance after all."

"I'm holding you to that." Alec shot him a penetrating look but complied, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek before walking away. True to his word Jace went to mingle with Simon and Izzy, the latter positively glowing after some praise from Valentine. There was no reason for it, but this left Jace with a bad taste in his mouth, although he'd never even met Clary's father during the short time they'd dated, before he'd pulled his head out of his ass, taken a long look at Alec and realized what had been in front of his nose for years.

"I'd ask where your mind went," Simon interrupted his thoughts cheerfully, "but that's just too easy these days." He elbowed Jace, who realized with a start that he had in fact been staring at Alec on the other side of the room. "The two of you are disgustingly cute, almost as cute as Izzy and I. So let me do you favor and give you an excuse to cuddle up to your Alec-bear - he's been talking about dancing with you for weeks!"

With that Simon physically shoved Jace in Alec's general direction and bowed over his computer, after which a slow song started playing. At the first notes, Alec's head shot up, and his gaze unerringly found Jace, who was making his way across the dance floor. A wide smile lit up his entire face, making Jace's heart speed up, and he quickly crossed the distance between them. Jace smiled and offered him his hand, almost surprised to find himself completely at ease as he asked, "Simon decided we needed to 'cuddle up', so please, may I have this dance?"

"Well, since you asked so nicely…" Alec grinned and pulled him in. As always their bodies slotted together perfectly, Jace's head fitting against Alec's shoulder comfortably, and he wrapped both arms around Alec's waist as they began swaying to the music. They were almost the only people on the dance floor, but Jace realized he didn't care at all, too content in the safety of Alec's embrace to worry what others might think.

As if he could read his thoughts, Alec's voice drifted softly into his ear. "This is nice. Thank you."

"It's more than nice." Lifting his head to look into Alec's lovely hazel eyes, which were regarding him with impossible tenderness, Jace said emphatically, "I'm just sorry that we didn't do this sooner."

"You're here now, that's all that matters." Shaking his head, Alec leaned in for a gentle kiss, and Jace opened up eagerly, pressing in closer, his hands sliding down to Alec's butt. He squeezed, and Alec groaned into their kiss, which was quickly turning into something not meant for public display. Behind them, someone wo sounded suspiciously like Izzy coughed loudly, and they broke apart, although they remained in each other's arms, only separating a few decorous inches.

Jace licked his lips, chasing Alec's taste, and smirked when Alec's eyes darkened. Scanning the room for any convenient dark corners, he asked, "Do you think the party can do without you for a bit?" He missed Alec's answer, however, because right then his eyes fell onto a well-dressed Asian man who was unsuccessfully trying to get in. Gesturing towards him, he inquired, "Do you know this guy?"

Confused, Alec followed his gaze, then replied carelessly, "I don't think so. They'll send him away soon enough."

"Just tell them to let him in, he looks alright to me," Jace said, for some reason convinced that it was important the man got into the party. Alec still looked confused but shrugged and complied. Satisfied, Jace put the guy out of his mind and held out his hand to his boyfriend invitingly. "I think we were about to go somewhere less public?"

"That we were." Alec's smile was all teeth, and he grabbed Jace's hand and strode off purposefully, forcing Jace to hurry to keep up. He didn't even notice the Asian guy trying to flag him down. They didn't go far, though, only to a nearby alcove that was strategically hidden behind some plants, and suddenly Alec's attention was on Jace again, almost predatory in its intensity, making Jace shiver in anticipation.

"This place is very handy - almost as if someone planned it," he managed to quip, but then Alec's lips were on his, and he groaned as his back hit the wall. His hands slid under Alec's jacket, exploring the hard muscles that moved as Alec practically devoured him. One clever hand had found its way inside Jace's shirt and was teasing his nipples to hardness, the other was tight in his hair, holding his head in place while Alec's mouth plundered his. Moaning, Jace let his legs fall open, enabling Alec to slide a thigh between them and start a rocking motion that had both of them fully hard in no time. They'd gone this far before, although not in such a public place, but somehow Jace was sure this was the very first time, and he felt himself unraveling, undone, a litany of senseless words escaping him when Alec released his mouth to attach himself to his neck with equal fervor.

"Jace, what the hell!" Clary's voice broke through the fog of arousal like a cold shower, and both Jace and Alec froze, turning to look at the redhead that had suddenly appeared behind them. Strangely enough the Asian guy from before stood next to her, and something began niggling at Jace's consciousness.

Alec's face was a thundercloud, and he was obviously preparing to give Clary a piece of his mind. He straightened up, releasing Jace as he did so but turning his back on the intruders to adjust his visibly erect cock in his pants. The moment he looked away, the stranger's hand danced through the air, and suddenly a glowing design floated in the air above his open palm.

A parabatai rune, Jace's mind supplied as it snapped back into place, followed by the devastating realization what had just happened, what he'd almost done with Alec.

Feeling cold all over, Jace jumped away from Alec as if burned, which distracted Alec from his annoyance with Clary enough to ask, "Jace? What's wrong?"

"I… I'm sorry, I need to go. There's something Clary and I need to… Sorry, sorry," Jace babbled, helpless in the face of Alec's growing confusion. His troubled eyes were alternating between Jace and Clary, and Jace could practically hear him come to a horribly wrong conclusion, his features clouding over. It almost broke Jace's heart to be the cause of this, and there was nothing he could do except grab Alec's face with both hands and mash their lips together fiercely, desperately.

"I'll be back," he promised, finally tearing himself away, and added in a whisper, "I love you, Alec, don't ever doubt me."

Then he followed Clary and Magnus, leaving a dumbfounded Alec behind. Leading them to the basement, Clary nudged him gently, eyes soft with too much understanding, and told him quietly, "Hey, it'll be okay. We'll leave, and that Alec will get his Jace back."

Jace nodded because it was the only possible response. This was not his world, not his Alec, but his stomach still hurt as if he'd swallowed razorblades.

Of course things got worse, because Alec came running after them, furious. "Was it all a joke, Jace? Did you suddenly realize I wasn't who you wanted after all, that you wanted Clary again?"

He stopped short when he noticed that Magnus was with them, and Jace used his momentary confusion to step closer and take both of Alec's hands in his. For the first time he noticed how smooth they were, lacking the archery scars his own Alec bore, and he held them gently, like something precious while he willed Alec to believe him as he explained, "No joke, and I don't want Clary. Something really strange is about to happen, but after that everything will be back to normal."

Alec looked doubtful, but right then the portal spiraled open and a demon burst through, knocking Magnus aside. Instinctively Jace pushed Alec aside and desperately cast around for anything to use as a weapon, finally settling on a broom. Clary joined him, holding her own pretty well, while Alec was frozen in shock, cowering against the wall, so very different from Jace's parabatai. This was the last conscious thought Jace could spare the other man, having to focus solely on fighting off the demon without the help of blade or runes.

His efforts to keep Alec well out of the way still proved too much of a distraction, however, because Jace forgot all about the demon's stinger. It was an oversight he paid for with a painful jab to his back right before they finally managed to kill the thing. The poison spread quickly, and Jace's knees buckled. His fall was stopped by arms unused to fighting but still strong, Alec cradling him, his face as frantic as his voice, "Jace, Jace, stay with me! What the hell was that… that thing?"

The angry question was directed at Clary, who was kneeling at Jace's side, tearing his shirt to get to the wound. Distractedly she replied, "That was a demon. But you don't have to worry, once we've left Magnus here will close the portal for good so that nothing can get through again."

"Meliorn closed his portal. We'll have to go to wherever your shard will lead us, Clary," Jace managed to say through the burning pain that was radiating outwards from where the demon had stung him. "Once we're there I can use my stele to heal myself."

He tried to sit up but was stopped by a hand on his chest. Alec was staring at him, thoughts obviously going a mile a minute behind those familiar eyes, until he spoke, stating rather than asking, "You're not Jace, are you?"

Jace shook his head and replied gently, "I am Jace, but from another dimension, not yours. I'm in his body, and I've been calling the shots today - most of the time." Alec looked appalled and vaguely nauseated, and Jace quickly continued, desperately needing him to understand. "In my world, my Alec and I aren't… like this. Everything that happened today, everything we did, that was your Jace. He loves you, and you'll have him back once we've gone through the portal."

As if on cue Magnus opened the swirling vortex, and Alec backed away, frightened, leaving Jace feeling strangely bereft. He let Clary help him to his feet without a further word. This Alec would soon be reunited with his Jace, and they'd probably soon forget all about this weird day they'd had. All that was left was for Jace to turn around, go back to a world in which there was a rift between Alec and himself that he wasn't sure he knew how to close. In spite of the demon-induced fever, Jace suddenly felt cold.

Still, he looked back at Alec, who was standing next to Magnus looking conflicted, and managed a watery smile. Hesitatingly, Alec lifted a hand to wave goodbye, and Jace held onto that image as he collapsed on the dirty concrete floor of what looked like an abandoned factory. His parabatai rune seemed to be burning, the bond weaker than Jace could remember it ever being.

Still, it was there, a living thread connecting him to Alec, to the other half of his soul, and Jace told himself that was enough.

***

End Note: The show never explains why Jace and Clary aren't siblings in the alternate dimension, so even if they weren't endgame I'm taking this to mean that they'll go with some variant of book canon. In this world, Jace never lost his parents and was therefore never adopted by the Lightwoods. Let's just say, there's a reason I never mention alternate!Jace's last name. 😉

I've tagged this as a series, because I kind of want to write a sequel set in regular TV!verse and dealing with the aftermath.

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