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Before the World Catches Up (Jace/Alec)

Title: Before the World Catches Up
Fandom: Shadowhunters
Pairings: Jace/Alec
Rating: NC-17
Summary: You’re home. You’re safe now. Everything’s going to be fine. It was what Alec had been repeating like a mantra ever since he’d first dragged Jace through the Portal, so it was only natural that the words had stuck in his head. I'm going to get you home, Jace.
Also posted on FF.net and AO3.

The fuss around Jace’s retrieval had, ironically, made everyone forget about Jace at one point. Everyone was too busy dealing with the battle and then with the aftermath of it; with the attempts to portal an entire Institute’s worth of Shadowhunters back to the Institute in question and the fact that Valentine had fled the ship right before it had sunk and no one had managed to track him down.

Jace knew that he was supposed to be happy and that he was supposed to express that happiness somehow, but the truth was, he still couldn’t quite believe it. He kept tracing the centuries-old tapestries and the familiar windowsills of the Institute that he knew by heart and kept trying to drill a certain set of words into his head. You’re home. You’re safe now. Everything’s going to be fine. It was what Alec had been repeating like a mantra ever since he’d first dragged Jace through the Portal, so it was only natural that the words had stuck in his head.


He’d disappeared at some point during the family reunion and Jace reached out for him through their bond now, too exhausted to even call him, let alone look for him.

Minutes later, Alec was by his side and if he started fussing seconds after he’d spotted Jace, he couldn’t find it in himself to complain.

“You need to rest,” he said as soon as he’d arrived and Jace didn’t even dignify that with a response. Instead, he let himself be pushed into his own room because this – getting the control over the situation – was how Alec dealt with emotional overload. Jace dealt with it via the occasional complete shutdown so it worked rather well for both of them.

Jace had always found an inordinate amount of comfort in Alec’s touch – his parabatai was always brisk and firm and way too strict, but sometimes there was comfort in that, too. Especially since Jace could lean almost his entire weight on Alec without causing him any trouble whatsoever.

“Let’s get you to bed,” Alec mumbled and Jace felt himself tensing all over again. Alec sensed it – he always did – and his grip on Jace’s shoulder tightened. “It’s going to be fine, Jace, trust me. I’ll make sure of that.”

“You can’t guard my door all night,” Jace countered, but let Alec get him through his bedroom door with minimum protest.

“I will if I have to,” Alec said as he pushed Jace towards the bed. And he would, Jace realised; he’d stay by the door just to make sure that Jace felt safe, no matter what it cost him. And no matter how pointless it was – the Institute was the safest place on Earth barring Idris, but Alec wouldn’t let logic get in his way.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” was all Jace said; voice just airy enough to hide what he really felt at the sudden realisation. He patted the empty half of his bed. “Come here.”

After a second – which, unfathomably, felt like an hour – in which Alec hesitated, he made his way to the bed and divested himself of his jacket and his combat boots so that he could sneak under the covers.

He took up a ridiculous amount of space, but Jace was grateful for that. Everything in his body was screaming at him to run; to fight the intrusion in his personal space, but he resisted the urge and felt himself calming down slowly. He was still on alert – very much so – but apparently something inside him had decided that now that he was surrounded by someone big and threatening, no other dangers could possibly reach him. With that last thought in mind, Jace let himself fall into an uneasy sleep.


They spent the nights that followed after that in much the same way. They’d both go about their appointments during the day and at some point – usually past midnight – Alec would find him and stay by his side as he slept, much like it’d been years ago when Jace had first arrived in the Institute. It was a welcome familiarity; a display of support that Jace didn’t intend on letting go of.

On one hand, things had definitely changed now. They were no longer kids and Jace couldn’t keep Alec to himself just because he felt like it. Even after the wedding fiasco, Alec was still the acting head of the Institute most of the time and he spent said time either on missions or in his office. On the other hand, nothing had changed at all: just like back then, Jace felt alone and far away from home and very, very insignificant; like the father he’d just lost would come out of the shadows and reach for him again. It was the worst possible feeling and one that he knew he could never share with anyone – he was tremendously happy to be back in the Institute, but at the same time, some deeply-rooted training from almost a decade ago had left him desperate for news and always on edge. It had been a crucial part of his lessons to always be focused because he could never know what the threat would be. Even now, years later, he had rarely let Jace get a good night’s sleep on the ship. He’d sent people in to wake him up in the middle of the night and send him on missions; he’d come in himself so that he could wake him up and then force him to defend himself while he was still as disoriented as possible.

It turned any attempts to sleep into a living hell. Even now, when the last thing Jace saw before he fell asleep were the walls of his own room, he couldn’t help but sleep with his eyes halfway open because he could never really know that he was safe.

His fears had proved to be right three nights into his new sleeping arrangement. He’d tried to climb out of bed to get himself a glass of water and next thing he’d known, he’d been pressed into the mattress with Alec’s hand around his throat, his eyes wide and unfocused. Jace had managed to choke out – just barely – the word ‘parabatai’ and it had worked like magic: Alec had let go of him all of a sudden, flinching away as if touching Jace was physically hurting him. He’d stuttered out his apologies and Jace had assured him that it was already forgotten – it had been just his reflexes, after all; an instinct that could one day save his life – but the incident had stuck with him.

In the early hours of the morning, when the night was colder and Alec buried himself under Jace’s covers, Jace found himself thinking that Alec would have been much better suited to be Valentine’s son. He let his eyes linger over the sharp, arrogant lines of Alec’s face and felt himself getting almost sick with jealously because it would have been so much easier if their places had been switched. Because Alec would have taken it without a wince, he knew; Valentine would have never needed to inflict any sort of punishment on him because he would have been the perfect little soldier even then and would have fought for what he was raised to believe in until the very end. He’d never have to endure speeches about how he was too gentle, too caring, and too far away from the warrior his father had wanted.

At that point Jace had given himself a mental slap. He was lucky that it hadn’t been Alec; they’d all been lucky. If Alec had been raised as Valentine’s puppet to use as he pleased, he would have ripped the world to shreds faster than anyone from the Clave could say his name. Even in the right hands – or, as right as the Clave could be considered – Alec was a time bomb waiting to be placed; in Valentine’s control, he would have been unstoppable. Maybe that was how it was supposed to be, Jace had thought in one of his moments of rare melancholy; maybe that was why they’d been sent to one another by whatever higher power looked over them: so they could both work with what they were given and balance each other out.

After a few nights of almost passing out from exhaustion, Jace actually managed to get a healthy dose of sleep. Alec’s presence definitely had something to do with it: he was both the safest and the most dangerous person Jace knew and somewhere deep inside his mind he’d clearly come to the conclusion that it couldn’t possibly get any worse, so he’d allowed himself to let his guard down. After that, any possibility of danger had drained out and he’d allowed Alec to do what he was here for: to make him feel better. Even if he hadn’t said any of it out loud, he knew that Alec had sensed the difference – he’d got much more comfortable in Jace’s bed and even dared to start conversations about what had happened in the two months Jace had spent on the ship.

At first, Jace had been reluctant to talk about any of it. He didn’t want to burden Alec with his own nightmares. He’d given in, after a few more attempts on his parabatai’s side, and the words had started bleeding from him like blood from an open wound and he’d started talking. He’d felt as if it had lasted for hours and Alec had barely made a sound, soaking everything up with his usual unreadable expression. It had changed by the end of the story, though; once Jace’s voice had died down, Alec had taken a deep breath and closed his eyes for a second or two – a sure sign that he was trying to get his emotions under control, whatever these emotions were – and had said nothing. He’d just brought Jace closer to himself – closer than ever before – and had held him in an almost painfully tight grip until both of them had fallen asleep.

Jace knew him well enough to tell that Alec had been holding back. He clearly didn’t want to smother Jace with his attempts at comfort (Alec was more aware than anyone else that his attempts at showing any sort of emotion explicitly tended to end badly) and Jace couldn’t find the words to assure him that there was no danger whatsoever of that happening. It didn’t seem to matter, however; soon enough, Alec had managed to get the message across without even realising it. He cared, and Jace knew that, and somehow that was enough – he didn’t need Alec to actually say the words. He didn’t know if it was part of the bond or just the fact that he knew Alec better than he knew himself, but what Alec actually bothered to say out loud very rarely mattered; Jace had always managed to see through it.

He cared. He was here, and he’d take care of everything. And at least for a little while, that was enough.

Until it wasn’t.

Jace slowly came to the conclusion that almost everything in the Institute had changed in his absence. On a first glance, it wasn’t like that – just a few hours after Jace had come home, Maryse and Robert had left for Idris once again and everything was business as usual – but slowly, things started feeling out of place. It was as if everything had shifted minutely; just like that day a couple of years ago when Izzy had decided that it’d be amusing to shift all the furniture in his room a few inches to the left and he’d kept bumping into things without knowing why. The change was subtle, but it was there, and soon enough Jace managed to find the source of it.

Somewhat to Jace's surprise, Clary was training on her own when he got to the training room. They hadn't really talked after he'd returned from Valentine's ship; only the occasional small talk over the table during dinner, when everyone else was there and the conversation couldn't wander into dangerous territory.

Now, they were on their own.

Jace wasn't sure what he wanted to say. He'd spent hours trying to think it over and had never come to a conclusion. Before his departure, the shock had still been raw and painful and he'd thought with absolute finality that this was the point of no return; the one blow he would never be able to recover from. Now, when so many weeks had passed - weeks filled with enough horrors for him to forget any of the possible problems he could face in his personal life if he ever got to go home - he'd managed to look at things with enough clarity to sort himself out.

He'd been falling in love; that much was true. He could still love her, but he'd never manage to look at her the same way again, even after Jocelyn had taken one look at him and had declared that there was no way he was her son, and on some level, that was fine. Things had happened too fast back then - Clary had been swept up in their world without even meaning to and it made sense that she'd latch onto the only solid rock she could find; the only person she could really hold on to. It had made sense that he'd responded to it, too; in the midst of the storm Clary had brought with herself, Jace's world had turned upside down in ways that had had very little to do with her. He'd always doubted some of the Clave's tactics and then suddenly, everything had got that much worse and he'd been helpless to stop it from happening; especially when the one person he should have been able to rely on had decided that he had better things to do.

But that was in the past. Not the Clave's blunt lack of mercy; he suspected that that one would last for a long, long time. But the frantic chaos of it all had settled down and Jace finally got the chance to take a look at things and realise just how much of it turned out to have a solution now that his entire world wasn't on the verge of falling apart.

As soon as he gathered the courage to actually look at Clary and say 'hello', Jace knew that she'd come to the same conclusion.

"I'm so glad to have you back," she whispered, throwing her arms around his neck to bring him into a hug. Jace froze for just a second before wrapping his arms around her, too. It was as if he could take a breath for the first time in days; all the tension he'd felt from the possibility of bumping into her even by chance had drained off and had been replaced by the strange sort of comfort Clary seemed to bring everywhere with her.

He could love her without being in love with her. The idea of it would probably stay in the back of his mind for quite some time; bittersweet and heavy with the weight of the could-have-beens of the past, but it would fade eventually and Jace pressed her closer to himself just to cherish the realisation of it.

"Me too." It was all he could say just then, which was probably for the best. He pulled away to smile at her. "Strength training, huh?"

"Strength training," Clary confirmed. She was clearly proud of herself and Jace couldn't help but notice the abundance of runes that ran up her arms. She'd adapted easily once the initial shock had worn off, it seemed; either that or she'd tried to keep herself busy during his absence. "I usually train with Alec, but he's been busy recently, what with the takeover and all."

"The what?" Jace had noticed Alec's recent absence from most field missions, but he hadn't really questioned it - Alec's job ever since he'd turned eighteen had consisted of actual demon hunting combined with a lot of paperwork.

"The Institute?" It shouldn't have been a question, Jace thought, but it sounded like one. He raised an eyebrow, asking for details and Clary sighed, as if the topic wasn't one she would have liked to delve into. "Two weeks after you went missing, the Clave decided that looking for Valentine himself was less important than destroying whatever of his armies we could track down. No one here could change their mind and Lydia made an official request for her and Alec to take over the Institute entirely. They really had to fight for it, but in the end, it was up to Maryse and Robert. They gave it up, eventually." Clary's expression turned careful. "Didn't anyone tell you?"

Her voice died and she looked guilty all of a sudden, even though she had nothing to be sorry for. She hadn't been the one he should have learned it from; that was all.

"You'd think they would, wouldn't you?" The words came out before Jace could stop them and he would have been embarrassed if he wasn't so confused. He hadn't seen much of Lydia or his parents after he'd came back, but Alec had had an awful lot of time to share the news and somehow he'd never got around to it. "That's- that's great. I take it they organised the retrieval mission?" he asked and Clary nodded.

"Not entirely with the Clave's approval." She looked a tiny bit pleased about that and Jace wondered if while Alec had been giving her self-defence lessons she'd managed to scrub a little of the 'the law is the law' mindset off of his brain. "But they did ask everyone here in the Institute if they'd like to participate. Everyone agreed, of course, and from then on it was a matter of time before we got you back."

"And the portal?" Jace could sense that the conversation had probably started feeling a bit like an interrogation, but Clary wasn't bothered by it.

"Magnus opened it," she shrugged as she reached for her bottle of water. "No one else could have made it that big so quickly. He was the one who finally managed to track you down, too," Clary continued and shuddered. "With a demon's help, by the way. Not one of the best things I've seen recently, and that's saying a lot."

Jace could only vaguely picture what the procedure in question must have looked like. Tracking someone in a large body of water down had always been thought impossible and only recently some Warlocks had managed to find ways to get around that; whatever tracking spell Magnus had used had probably been more complex than any Shadowhunter could possibly imagine.

"Did you help?" Jace wasn't sure what he was looking for by asking that or if it was just morbid curiosity. After the last failed attempt at demon summoning that he’d been a part of, the topic wasn’t one he liked to get back to. Being in the creature’s clutches wasn’t something he thought he’d ever really forget.

"Izzy and I brought most of the ingredients he needed, but Alec was the one who helped with the spell itself. I think Magnus channelled his magic through the parabatai rune."

That was what he'd been fishing for, Jace realised; with such a strong spell, Magnus must have made a sacrifice or two to finish it. And now it was clear who'd actually dealt with the aftermath of that.

Jace said his goodbyes and headed straight for Alec's office, only to remember that he wasn't there any longer. Come to think of it, Robert had probably moved in it now that Alec and Lydia had taken over the office usually meant for the Head of the Institute.

Luckily, when he got there, Alec was the only one inside. The picture he made was the only familiar thing Jace had faced today - his back was hunched over the desk he'd apparently dragged from downstairs because he was too used to it to leave it behind when he'd vacated his office - but it wasn't enough to calm him down.

"You could have told me."

Alec looked up just as Jace slammed the door behind his back and he had the minute satisfaction of seeing him lean back in his chair in a clearly defensive position. "Could have told you what?" he questioned warily and Jace took it as an invitation to take a seat on the opposite side of the desk, in the chair usually meant for guests.

"About all of this, for starters," Jace shrugged with nonchalance so purposefully fake that he saw Alec's eyes narrow as he gestured around the office. "Pretty big change, isn't it? And," he added without waiting for a response, "I hear you've been dabbling in magic."

He hadn't meant it to come out as a double entendre, but that didn't necessarily mean that he didn't enjoy the effect it had on Alec. He crossed his arms on his chest, a clear - and painfully familiar - sign that he didn't find Jace the least bit amusing. When they'd been younger, it had made him feel like he was getting scolded by a parent, but now it had a much different effect. "I haven't been dabbling in anything," Alec said once he'd put himself together. "It was just a tracking spell-"

That Magnus Bane channelled through our bond,” Jace stressed. “Who can tell what could have happened?”

“Is this what this is about?” Alec asked. He looked incredulous and even a little angry. “There was no risk of anything happening to the parabatai bond. It wasn’t damaged; you can feel it as well as I can.” His tone was academic and carefully detached and even though Jace sensed that Alec was purposefully trying to rile him up, he couldn’t resist the answering to it.

"That's not the point," he argued and Alec raised an eyebrow in that absolutely infuriating way of his - the one that always tempted Jace to hit him.

"Then what is the point, Jace?" Alec asked, voice amiable as he leant over his desk. His entire expression and posture was one he usually used for particularly trying visitors in the Institute. "Was there anything you wanted to say aside from blaming me for bringing you home?"

Jace decided to ignore the last jab - someone in this room had to be the adult, and it was clear that Alec wasn't up for the job - and took a deep breath. "I'm here because it turns out that days after I've come home, I'm still in the dark about most of what's going on here. I'd have asked Izzy, but I couldn't find her."

It was a lie - he hadn’t even tried to find her, and even if he had, he wouldn't have held Isabelle accountable for her brother's secrets - but Alec took the bait. "It's her day off," he said. "She's out on a date with Lydia."

"Out on a date with- You know what? Forget it." Jace wasn't quite sure why, but that had been the final drop. It wasn't that he had anything against Lydia - once he'd actually looked past her role in the Institute as Alec's fiancée, she'd turned out to be a decent person - but that no one, not even Izzy - Izzy, who had always shared everything with him - hadn't thought to mention that.

And it wasn't just that, either. It was that life in the Institute had gone on, with or without him. The thought was like the bucket of ice cold water his father's minions had usually woke him up with, but even more painful - the shock wouldn't wear off after just a few seconds, he was sure of that.

"Jace," Alec's voice was softer now. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about- any of that. A lot happened since you left, and-"

"I can see that." The reply sounded hollow even to Jace's ears. "But you've had plenty of time to fill me in, haven't you? We sleep in the same bed."

"Don't say that!" Alec rose in his chair, leaning even further over the desk, his expression more alarmed than Jace had seen it since they’d left ship. "There are cameras everywhere; if anyone notices-"

"They've already noticed, Alec," Jace interrupted, irritation seeping into the words despite his best efforts. "There really are cameras everywhere, the living quarters included." Even in the relative darkness of the office, Jace could see just how pale Alec had gone mid-sentence. "You might not notice it when people talk about you, but I do. No one's said anything," he waved him off as Alec tried to speak. "Not to my face, anyway. But they've definitely noticed."

Alec didn't say anything for an instant or two and then, with a deep sigh, buried his face in his hands. "What are we going to do?" the words were muffled, but Jace could still make out the despair that laced them. "Even if we try to explain, anything we say is only going to make things worse."

"We don't have to say anything," Jace said hastily. Alec prided himself on staying calm under pressure, but Jace had learnt from experience that this was very rarely the case. If anything, he usually only dug himself deeper; his recent failed engagement was only one shining example of many. "You can go back to your room if it bothers you." He liked to think he'd kept the reluctance out of his voice, but Alec must have noticed it nevertheless, because he shook his head wordlessly.

"We haven't done anything illegal," Alec said, eyes fixed on the desk. It sounded like he was mostly trying to convince himself of that. "No one can blame us of anything. We're not breaking the Law."

"It's not only about the Law." Jace had the vague feeling that this sentence had turned into a motto when it came to conversations with Alec. "Rumours are still rumours, even if Shadowhunters are the ones spreading them. If Maryse and Robert hear about this, they'd-" He didn't know what they would do, but he preferred not to think about it. "And what about Magnus?"

That was enough to break Alec out of his thoughts and he looked up from the desk, his gaze turning to Jace instead. "What about Magnus?"

"He's here on daily basis because of the wards, isn't he?" Alec nodded. Jace wasn’t sure who was paying the Warlock, but he was spending an outrageous amount of time on the Institute’s safety. "If this blows even more out of proportion, he's bound to hear about it. What would he think?"

"Magnus is- We're-" Suddenly, the desk was more interesting than the conversation once more. "It's complicated."

Jace viciously ignored the 'I knew it' that struggled to get out. He'd known it from the moment Alec had marched down the aisle, intent on putting an end to the charade his life had turned into, that Alec would do what he did every time he felt threatened.

Jace supposed that it was a defence mechanism of sorts - Alec's determination to resort to shocking everyone so that he could get things back under control. It had happened countless of times through the years, and the way his parabatai had announced his engagement was still fresh in Jace's mind - he'd waited until both him and Isabelle had been there to drop the bomb; it had been only convenient that Lydia had appeared just then.

The same thing had happened at the wedding. Minutes before the ceremony Alec had started panicking - Jace had been able to feel his shallow, fluttering breaths as he'd tried to fix his jacket and had realised just then that even if Alec had the best intentions in mind, this wedding was not going to happen. It'd all become clear seconds after Magnus's arrival and he really should have been angrier about the way Alec swept people up into his messes - first Lydia, and then Magnus, too - but he couldn't bring himself to feel anything but relief now that his prediction had turned out to be right.

"Complicated or not, you'll have to make up your mind eventually," was all he said instead, once he realised that he'd been quiet for altogether too long.

"We're at war, Jace," Alec said, and it sounded almost like a whine.

“We’re always at war,” Jace countered. He wasn’t sure why he was still pursuing the conversation, but he found that he couldn’t let it go; not when he’d got this far. “You either love him or you don’t. The war’s got nothing to do with this. Yes, love, Alec,” he snapped at Alec’s wince. “The concept’s not that hard.”

“Yes, it is.” Alec looked tired; the change had been sudden and rather startling. “It’s– you have no idea what it feels like, Jace. Love is the hardest concept I can imagine. Give me demons over that any day.”

“I don’t think so,” Jace said. He’d mustered a smile and Alec must have heard it in his voice because he gave Jace a fleeting, confused glance. “We’ve got enough demons on our own.”

The smile Alec gave in return was more of a grimace, but he managed to give a quiet laugh of his own and something in Jace responded to it; something he’d been trying to smother for days now and had never quite managed to.

The memories from everything that had happened since the night he’d been taken home from the Morning Star fought for attention in his head – the relief in Alec’s eyes once he’d spotted him and everything that had happened after that; the blur of memories in the Institute and out of it; during breakfast in the main hall and on missions, and he’d noticed that no matter how safe their surroundings were, Alec would refuse to take his eyes off of him. Alec’s face in deep sleep; calmer and more peaceful than Jace had seen it in years and yet focused on Jace with utmost attention if he so much as twitched in his sleep. He remembered how he’d thought that the need to protect Alec was wired into his very being and that the same must have applied to his parabatai; how Alec had managed to calm him down after his nightmares with just a word or two, not letting himself fall asleep until after Jace’s heart had stopped trying to beat its way out of his ribcage, his face unreadable even as he uttered his words of comfort.

Love is the hardest concept I can imagine.

Before he knew it, Jace had stood up from his place and rounded the desk so that he could be by Alec’s side, one of his hands had reached out to pull him up, and whatever question Alec had been trying to ask was cut short when Jace gripped the lapels of his worn jacket and dragged him down just enough to be able to kiss him.

He could taste Alec’s gasp; could feel the shock running through his veins and through his hands as they gripped Jace by the forearms, not knowing whether to push him away or bring him closer. He settled for neither and his hands wandered up Jace’s arms and then down his back until they found his waist and it was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous to feel Alec’s arms around him and think this was where they were supposed to be; that he’d been waiting for days, weeks, years, for something he’d never realised was even a possibility.

Once Alec actually joined into the kiss, he didn’t waste time. He threw himself into it just like he did into a fight – rough and yet devastatingly elegant; like steel wrapped in silk. It was Jace who pulled away from it first; just enough to draw in a breath before diving back in, and this time Alec was smiling into it, so much that Jace couldn’t even kiss him properly.

Jace just pushed him back into the chair instead and followed until he'd practically draped himself over Alec's lap. He'd locked the door when he'd come in, although he'd had a much less pleasurable outcome in mind back then and now he was glad that he'd thought of it - it allowed him all the more freedom. Their kisses lost some of their urgency and morphed into something much more languid until it felt like they had all the time in the world.

Of course, Alec was the one to ruin the illusion.

"Jace," he mumbled as if his name was a sentence all on its own. "What are we doing?"

"It was about time, don't you think?" Jace asked instead of answering and felt Alec's huff of laughter against his face. "You've been thinking about it," he accused when he sensed that his parabatai needed a more thorough answer. "And I've been, too, so someone had to do something about it."

He gave Alec a moment to think, a bit taken aback when no more questions followed. Alec already knew all the answers - Jace was sure that he could feel the rightness of it too - but he'd always loved complicating things. He'd start complicating them again eventually, Jace was sure of it, once the daze of his surprise wore off and he realised what exactly they'd got themselves into. For now, though, it was clear that he'd made a decision because he reached for Jace again, trailing one of his hands up Jace's neck and tangling his long fingers in his hair to pull him in.

The whimper that slipped past Jace's parted lips was almost embarrassing, but Alec took it as encouragement - the kiss became hard and demanding and Jace pressed himself into his parabatai with his entire body, the invitation unmistakable. It was better than he could have imagined; feeling every little detail of Alec's body plastered against his.

Alec pulled back, all wide eyes and heaving chest and Jace immediately tried to kiss him again, only to be held at an arm’s length. "Are you sure?"Alec breathed out and Jace nodded quickly. "Then we've got to go somewhere- By the Angel, just not here."

Jace could understand his reluctance at least partially - his father had occupied this office until a week ago and it was a shared space; his eyes strayed to Lydia's desk on the other end of the room. Even if they allowed themselves to take a break occasionally, Shadowhunters didn’t really have days off. She could come back at any point and Jace doubted that they could explain why the door had been locked with just the two of them inside without providing everyone with fresh material for the rumours that had apparently spread everywhere in the building. Still, his face must have looked especially crestfallen because Alec's lips curled into a smile once again.

He sought Jace’s lips for another kiss and Jace followed, enjoying the momentary satisfaction of his vantage point. Alec's hands slid slowly down his back and stilled over Jace's thighs, thumbs circling over his hipbones and the obvious appreciation of his caresses almost had Jace purring under the touch and his body responded to it by squirming on Alec's lap until the tiny, almost inaudible noises Alec made started sounding desperate. He gripped Jace even tighter and he broke the kiss, biting his lip in contemplation as he made a decision.

"Hold on," he warned at last, wrapping his arms around Jace's lower back to lift him up. Jace happily wrapped his legs around his parabatai's waist and let himself be carried to and carefully placed on the sofa under the window. It was definitely bigger than the one in the guest room downstairs and definitely big enough to accommodate both of them comfortably and Alec leant over him, bathed in the light of the late morning and Jace took him in, vaguely suspecting that his expression mirrored the quiet awe that he could see on Alec's face.

Alec reached out and ran his fingers up Jace's cheek with unexpected tenderness and Jace felt disoriented for a second. He'd never noticed just how gentle Alec's touch could be; he'd only seen his hands wrapped around a weapon or around an enemy's throat and the realisation of how different it was - how different it had always been, now that he thought of it - when it came to him thrilled Jace more than he'd expected it to. He turned so that he could kiss the tips of Alec's fingers and greedily drank in the sight of his reaction; the way Alec whimpered like he was in pain and his eyes fell shut as he tightened the leash around his control.

"Come here," Jace commanded and pulled him up on the sofa until Alec was leaning over him with his elbows on both sides of Jace's shoulders. “Have you ever...”

“Yes,” Alec cut him off, too flustered to let him finish. “I know what I’m doing. But Jace...”

"I'm sure," he added before Alec had had the chance to ask again. "I've been sure for a while now. Come on, Alec, you won’t break me.”

Alec didn’t appear to be too convinced of that because he was still just as gentle; almost enough to drive Jace to frustration after a few minutes. There were several moments of fumbling around before Alec decided how he was going to proceed and then Jace felt the hot touch of his stele against his inner thigh, hot enough for him to flinch but not as unpleasant as he’d expected it to be.

“Sorry, sorry,” Alec said in a hushed voice, peppering Jace’s face with kisses to calm him down. “I don’t have- this is my office, Jace, I don’t exactly make a habit out of this.”

“I’d hope not.” If his mind wasn’t already preoccupied, Jace might have wondered how Alec had managed to find sex-related runes before he had, but then again, it wasn’t that unexpected – Alec was a devious man when he wanted to be.

Very much so. Jace was reminded of that fact rather forcibly when Alec’s preparation turned into a drawn-out worship of his body; one that left him breathless and shaking under his parabatai’s touch.

“You ready?” Alec asked after what felt like ages and Jace gave a soundless nod, doing his best not to move too much as Alec positioned himself between his spread legs and gave his first thrust. At Jace’s sharp intake of breath, he froze and leant down even further until loose strands of his dark hair tickled Jace’s forehead. “You’ve got to tell me if it hurts, okay?”

“Okay,” Jace whispered, trying to keep his breathing as regular as possible. He had no intention of doing such a thing – if Alec sensed even a hint of discomfort, he’d stop immediately and that was the last thing Jace wanted, pain or no pain.

Alec was bolder now; one of his hands was still pressed on the couch next to Jace’s head while the other snuck between their bodies to get a grip on Jace’s cock so that he could jerk him off and his touch was both unbearably quick and maddeningly light and there was no way Jace could last much longer.

“Alec,” he tried and cut himself off with another wet gasp as Alec hit something inside him that felt so good it was almost too much. He strained his neck up and Alec took the hint; his kiss was a barely-there touch as Jace panted helplessly against his lips. He’d never been so out of control of his own body and it had never been so good. “Alec, I’m-”

Alec’s grip around him tightened. “Go on,” he encouraged. “That’s it, Jace.”

That was it. Jace could feel himself coming apart under Alec’s touch and the pleasure of it was so strong that he could barely feel anything, only to be overwhelmed by sensation seconds later. Alec had slowed his movements, but every thrust felt somewhere on the brink between pleasure and pain now and Jace could feel his eyes watering as he buried his face in his parabatai’s shoulder and trembled through Alec’s orgasm.

Alec didn’t move for a few seconds, both of his arms now on the sofa in order to keep him up until he could manoeuvre himself off of Jace. After a moment of silence in which they both tried to get their respective breaths back, Jace allowed himself a content smile and turned to face Alec – Alec, who’d apparently been watching him already with an expression so unguarded that Jace lost his ability to breathe again, this time for a completely different reason.

“I’m cold.” Jace wasn’t sure what he’d been planning to say and that was definitely not it, but Alec took it in stride and just scoffed before groping behind the back of the couch, coming up with a blanket that he proceeded to spread over them. It wasn’t surprising that he had one lying around – he’d always had a tendency of working himself to sleep.

“This was a bad idea,” Alec complained and Jace held his breath, only letting it out when he went on, “we should’ve gone back to our room before doing anything like that.”

Our room. Jace didn’t know how long Alec’s blissed-out calmness would go on for, but he didn’t want to think about it for now. In a few hours, he’d probably receive a lecture on how this was reckless and dangerous and overall a bad idea, but if this was how it was going to be from now on, then Jace could gladly get used to it.