I will offer no excuses; this has taken me far, far too long, and I can only offer a million and one apologies. You guys have been beyond incredible, with all your lovely messages and humbling support, and far more patience than I deserved. I love EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. Thank you so, so so much for sticking with me, and with Runed. I hope CoD can be half of what you guys deserve!

This fic is not actually complete yet, but bluntly, I no longer feel justified in making you wait any longer to read it. It will be between 3-5 chapters, I think, and I will post them as I finish them.

With all the love in the world, here is CoD's first chapter. I hope you guys enjoy it.


"Rachiel!"-"Simiel!"-"Kabshiel!"-"Sandalphon!"

The seraph blades leapt forward in dazzling blazes of ice and fire and their wielders followed them, exploding into motion: one-two-three-four, bodies loose and muscles supple and the room instantly full of the sound of crashing crystal, crash-crash-clang-chime, trailing tails of light like diamond comets. Up-and-down strikes, both arms moving independently, light feet, swaying-leaping-stepping, step in and step out

Simon grinned at Jace over their swords and Jace grinned back, dancing like the wind around Simon's strikes; one-two-three-four, high-and-low, attention split between Rachiel and Kabshiel and Jace's gold-gold eyes –

Kabshiel hooked around Simiel and jerked, jolting Simon's arm, and in a flash Jace's elbow glanced off his throat. "Watch your guard!" Jace ordered, even as his eyes shone with amusement and Rachiel was already swiping in at Simon's stomach and Sandalphon met it, parried, step back and dart and slash out with Simiel, snake Sandalphon in and glance off Kabshiel and again, again, again.

One –

Two –

Three –

Four!

Suddenly both Kabshiel and Rachiel were coming for him and Simon had a fraction of an instant to react, thinking takes too long so don't think just reactand he fell away from the blades, dropping into the backwards roll he'd been practising for the last week. The world spun dizzyingly but he came out of it on his feet, clumsily but in time to parry Jace's next strike and slash Simiel for Jace's throat, kicking out to drive Jace back and give himself some space to manoeuvre.

Jace didn't give it to him; he slid away from Simon's kick and shoved inside Simon's guard like a tidal wave, shoulder to the chest and Simon went flying back. Jace's ankle hooked around his and sent him to the floor, but Simon tucked in and rolled again, rolled with his fall and swung back up onto his feet and "be a jack-in-the-box, Simon!"

"You and your – damn – instructions!" Simon laughed breathlessly, swinging away from Rachiel; a jack-in-the-box, really? He spun Sandalphon in his grip and punched his fist into Jace's sternum, jerked his knee up between Jace's thighs as the blond's breath whooshed out but didn't connect; Jace leapt back and smirked at him.

"Now, that wasn't very friendly," he purred. Simon's breath caught at the heat in his eyes and Rachiel came at him like a bolt of crystal lightning and suddenly it was a storm, Jace's blows raining down like hail and thunder and it was all Simon could do to hold them off. His arms trembled with the strain as Jace's blows hammered into Simiel and Sandalphon, occasionally biting down against Simon's vambraces with a strength that made the bones in his forearms vibrate and hum. There was no chance to strike back; in mere seconds Jace had reduced him to the defensive, driving him back and back as surely as a glacier sweeping out over the earth. It was all Simon could do to parry the blond's seraph swords, never mind even think about getting back on the offensive.

"You can do better than this," Jace murmured, and it should have been impossible to hear him over the cymbal-sound of their blades crashing together but Simon would have heard Jace's whisper in a crowd of roaring soccer fans. "Come on, aikane, show me!"

The thick, bone-and-meat sensation of driving Simiel through a man's neck...

Simon's stomach heaved – and just like that, his focus shattered. He missed Jace's next attack and might have lost his own head if Jace hadn't turned Kabshiel at the last moment, so that it was the flat of the blade and not the edge that grazed Simon's throat. Simiel locked to Simon's fingers but Sandalphon clattered to the floor and abruptly the wall was against his back, hard and unyielding and Jace was there, pinning him to it, chest to chest and hip to hip and Kabshiel cool against his neck.

Rachiel's point hovered over Simon's heart.

Jace's breath caressed Simon's lips. Unlike Simon, he wasn't panting. "Are you alright?" he asked.

Simon swallowed. The motion pressed his Adam's apple against Kabshiel. "You do have a knife to my throat," he pointed out. His voice was hoarse.

Jace grinned, and kissed him without pulling the blade away. The adamas was cold, and his tongue was warm as it traced Simon's lower lip.

Simon felt the shiver run down his spine like icewater.

When Jace pulled away again, he took the knife with him, and Simon surprised himself by mourning the loss.

"What's wrong?" Jace asked softly.

His gaze seared, too piercing, seeing too much, and Simon let his eyes fall away from it, staring at where Sandalphon lay on the wooden floor. Distantly, he was annoyed with himself for once again dropping the unbonded blade. It shouldn't be only Simiel's magic that kept his weapon in his hand.

"Simon." Jace's hand lightly cupped Simon's jaw, tipping his face up to Jace's. "Talk to me."

Talk to me. For a moment the entreaty almost made Simon laugh. Talk? There were a dozen different conversations the two of them needed to have; topics that were too raw and new to touch, or too dangerous, or too uncertain. They needed to talk about the past they should have shared and the future they hoped to have together; about Jocelyn and Luke and what Valentine's next move would be; what to tell Clary and Alec and Izzy about their relationship, and what to hide. Which one did Jace want to tackle first?

But even as he thought it, Simon knew it was a facetious question. He knew exactly what Jace meant.

"I don't feel like I can fight anymore," he said finally. The words felt incredibly inadequate, completely failing to embody everything he meant to convey.

"What?" Confusion swept across Jace's features. "I know you've been struggling the last few days, but you've only just begun training. It doesn't mean you should stop."

"I don't want to stop because I'm struggling, I'm struggling because I want to stop," Simon corrected, more sharply than he'd meant.

He had first-hand experience of Jace's dazzling intelligence, but it didn't surprise him to see only incomprehension on his aikane's face now. The idea of not wanting to fight was probably completely alien to a Shadowhunter. They were born and raised to it. 'We have been for a thousand years.'

"I've seen you when you're not struggling, Simon. When you first started – remember?" Jace's voice softened, shockingly gentle. This was all so new still – Jace's capacity for tenderness kept taking Simon by surprise, taking his breath away. He still couldn't believe he'd been granted the cipher to Jace's heart, the key that unlocked that cool, sharp exterior to reveal the hidden treasure within. A deeper wealth of passion and gentleness Simon could not imagine, especially since it was so at odds with Jace's outward self. Jace didn't look like someone who could bring tears to your eyes with a single kiss, with the intensity of emotion he could put into it; he didn't seem the type for deep emotions at all, a silver-tongued trickster wielding blades like a whirlwind.

It was only a mask, though. Only a facade, and the beauty of what lay behind it was breathtaking, and blinding, and secret. Simon didn't think he'd ever stop feeling privileged to see it, or being humbled – and amazed – that it was for him.

"When you stopped thinking? You were a natural." A pause. "You were beautiful."

Simon looked away again, trying to find the words – and the grit to speak them aloud. 'You were beautiful.' Jace had said it then, and said it again now, and it made something sick and ashamed and guilty wind like a snake through Simon's gut. Because surely nothing could be further from the truth.

"I can't get Renwicks out of my head," he said finally, avoiding Jace's eyes. "What I did that night..." The words – the memories – were like stones. "There was nothing beautiful about it, Jace."

"I disagree." Simon's head jerked up, shocked disbelief whiting him out for a breath. Nothing in Jace's expression suggested that he didn't mean what he'd said. "You were incredible that night. You stood against a fully-trained adult Shadowhunter without balking – outsmarted him, even, switching the cards like that." His voice was even; proud, but something in it hinted at how difficult it must be for him, to talk about Valentine even so obliquely. "What about that would make you want to stop training?"

Simon stared at Jace incredulously. Slowly, unbelievably, it dawned on him: Jace didn't know.

He didn't know.

It had been such a huge – a huge – such a huge moment, act, event, incident, whatever you wanted to call it, for Simon, that it had never occurred to him that anyone could be unaware of it. It had changed his world completely: how could anyone possibly not know that he'd...? And yet, how could Jace know? Who would have told him? Not Luke, horrifically awkward and straining to be polite, unable to meet Jace's eyes and eager to get out of his presence. Not Clary, who'd been hurt and then so busy soothing Simon's nightmares, the only one who could understand. And not Simon, who had no idea how to even begin whittling down the horror and confusion and sin into something that could be spoken aloud – and who had had no idea that it was necessary, who hadn't known that Jace was innocently ignorant of the –

The –

Simon had no idea how to say it.

I. Killed. Someone. Three words. Alone, separate, they had meaning and sense, but they refused to fit together in his mouth. Puzzle pieces of broken glass.

"Simon?" Jace frowned, concerned. "What is it?"

Simon swallowed hard. "I... When I was looking for you at Renwicks – before I found you..." He stared at Jace's cheek instead of meeting his gaze. "I lost it, Jace. Completely. I wasn't...me, anymore." He shook his head, frustrated with his own verbal clumsiness. "Remember how I asked you if we were monsters? The second time we sparred? You said we weren't, but I – " am " – was, Jace. That night I was."

Jace tried to speak, but Simon barrelled over him. It felt like lancing a wound, saying all this: blood and pus rushing free. "Something happened when Hodge gave you to Valentine – to me, in my head or – I don't know, I can't explain it. Something just snapped – no, before that, with Abbadon – fucking Time Lords, I don't know!" He was shouting, didn't know how to stop. All the terror he'd been keeping to himself, wrestling with – trying to understand it, make sense of it, what he'd felt, said, done – "The dream – I was dead, Jace, you know I was, and I dreamed of an angel and then there was this," he grabbed his forearm to illustrate, knowing Jace didn't need to see the rune there after all the times he'd touched it, kissed it, "on my arm when I woke up and I could speak Enochian like a freaking native – I knew things, things about Hodge and – and then, watching Valentine take you away, I just lost it. I don't know how to – I broke the rune cuffs Hodge put on me, I broke out of the cage he put around me – just by wanting them to break – you can't tell me that's normal. Even for us."

He felt shaken all over again by the memories crashing over him like an avalanche. "And at Renwicks – on the way there – I wasn't me. I just – I wasn't, I was so cold, nothing mattered except getting you back. Do you understand? Nothing. The werewolves Luke brought to help get you out – so many of them died, and I didn't even notice. And when we – we – Clary and I, we ran into one of Valentine's guys – one of the ones we saw at Dorothea's, do you remember? I thought – " The shaken, jangly feeling infected his voice, made it tremble. "I thought he'd killed your dad, and I – fuck." He didn't want to say it, didn't know how. "I tortured him. It was nothing, it was so easy – he couldn't touch me – I – fuck, Jace, I – I cut his head off. Like – I can't e-even – and it f-felt – " Better than sex, better than anything, the best rush in the world – "I liked it. I fucking liked it. He begged for his life and I just laughed."

Jace said nothing. Simon's eyes burned, and he couldn't – didn't dare – meet Jace's.

"Alright?" he managed, his voice thick. "That's why I d-don't want to fucking fight anymore. Because there's something seriously fucking wrong with me, and I don't – I don't want to be that, I don't ever want to be that again."

'I do not know what he did to you, Simon. But I am sorry for it.'

It kept him up at nights. What had Valentine done to him? What kind of monster had he made Simon, what had he turned him into? Or what if Simon was wrong – what if Valentine had done nothing, and Simon just was this way, not because of some fucked-up magic but because he just – was?

'The only thing wrong with him is you!'

Simon couldn't work out which was worse.

His eyes were wet, and he ducked his head angrily as they spilled over. He reached up to wipe them quickly away – but Jace was there first, cupping Simon's face, his thumbs a pair of soft sweeps beneath Simon's eyes, catching every tear.

"You are not a monster," Jace said firmly, and there was so much faith in his voice, so much unwavering surety, that Simon heard himself sob, felt it like ice breaking in his chest. "You are the most amazing person I've ever met – you're my aikane, and you're brave and smart and completely insane," so much warmth, so much l-l-l – so much devotion, Christ, Simon wasn't worthy of so much faith, it hurt, "but in a good way, you idiot. There is nothing wrong with you. Nothing."

"Then why am I like this?" A hoarse plea for an answer; he couldn't – he didn't want to cry but his whole body burned for it, for the relief of it, wanted to just break down and purge himself of poison. As if it could be that easy, that simple to get rid of this thing in me, make myself clean – "Why can I – you saw what I did to Valentine, freezing him like that. I broke the Portal, I have runes showing up on my skin without a stele – I died, Jace! I died and came back, and I don't – I don't know if I came back right."

And there it was, forced out in a whisper. Because wasn't it true? He'd gone vicious and elemental in his battle-trance before that, but it hadn't been out of control, hadn't taken him over until after his dream of the angel. Maybe whatever Valentine had done (if it was Valentine, if he'd done anything at all, if it wasn't just something twisted up and wrong in Simon) had been like a computer program, installed but inert until the computer (his body, mind, soul?) was rebooted.

More like a virus than a program, Simon thought, sickened.

But Jace wasn't having any of it. "Of course you did," he said fiercely, as if daring the world to disagree with him, as if he could make it true by sheer force of will if he had to. "There is nothing wrong with you." He ran his fingertips over Simon's face, over his wet cheeks, and Simon had to close his eyes again, had to suck in his breath for the sharp bolt of pain the tenderness caused. "Simon, you are brand new to all this. What did you expect? That you'd be perfect from the first?" Jace smirked. "Not everyone can be like me."

It choked a short laugh from Simon, and Jace's grin softened.

"You're being too hard on yourself," he continued. "Do you think that none of us become overwhelmed by the battle-trance when we're new to it? Or when we're fighting to protect someone we – care about? We're Shadowhunters. We feel things strongly. Sometimes it gets the better of us."

He leaned in, and nudged Simon's nose with his own, soft and affectionate. Simon's breath caught at it. "As for your powers," Jace murmured, "they only prove how extraordinary you are. Why should I be surprised by that? It shines out of you, Simon; it takes my breath away. Of course you can do things no one else can. You can do anything."

The simple, casual certainty in Jace's voice left Simon so breathless, so stunned, that he started when he suddenly felt Jace's fingers lace with his. His heart was pounding.

"You're gifted, aikane," Jace whispered. "Not monstrous." He brought their entwined hands together, and brushed his lips over Simon's knuckles, over the Morgenstern ring.

"And you're mine." Jace's gaze lifted and found Simon's. It felt like a knife to the heart. "So you don't need to be afraid. I swear it by the Angel Raziel and his blood in my veins: I will never let any darkness, in this or any world, take you away from me."

Not even the darkness inside me? But seeing the unflinching pledge in Jace's eyes, Simon felt the words die unspoken. He didn't need to ask.

Not even that.

"If I promise it's not a distraction," Simon whispered, "can I kiss you now?"

Jace grinned like the sun coming out, and his answer needed no words.

The vampire motorbike didn't fly during the day, but it worked just fine on the ground. Simon closed his eyes and leaned his cheek against Jace's shoulder as the blond wove in and out of the Brooklyn traffic, deft as a chrome-streaked wind. There was still a tightness in Simon's gut whenever he got on the bike; the disastrous finale of the escape from the Dumort rang in his mind like a struck bell. It was hard to forget the agony of his leg being shredded against the tarmac – but having Jace's toned abdomen under his hands made him forget just about everything, so it worked out pretty well.

Sometimes he caught himself wishing that Jace would just keep driving, on and on until they left New York behind them. They could be hunters like the Winchesters, moving from town to town slaying monsters, staying in motels with crappy water pressure but no one to judge them. No one who would look at them and think brothers.

He pushed the thought away firmly. It was just a fantasy. Jace was eighteen tomorrow, but Simon wouldn't be for another year. Their mom was in hospital, comatose and showing no signs of recovery. Simon couldn't imagine leaving Clary and knew Jace would never walk away from Alec and Izzy. And that was without all the practical considerations, like how they would earn money. He was pretty sure that hustling pool was not one of Jace's many talents.

They pulled up in front of the club with a soft rumble.

"Where is everyone?" Jace asked, glancing up and down at the mostly empty street. "Shouldn't they be here to hear you sing?" He sounded ever so slightly scandalised.

Warmed, and trying not to laugh, Simon playfully ruffled Jace's hair. "Aw, aren't you sweet?" He dismounted, ducking Jace's playful revenge-swipe. "We're not performing today, snugglemuffin, so no, there's no fans lining the streets just now. It's just that Plan B is bigger than anywhere else we've played, so we asked if we could come and try out the space before the big night next week. Miracle of miracles, we got a stamp of approval, and here we are." He grinned. "So there's no need to get all protective."

Jace muttered something that sounded like uncomplimentary Latin, but he was trying not to smile. He sketched a quick sigil on the bike with his stele – Simon saw the curving twist of it and heard a warning, like a bell and a burn – and followed Simon inside.

Going straight from sparring with magical crystal swords to band practise should have felt stranger than it did, Simon thought. Moving back and forth between the Shadow World and the human one ought to be dizzying, but it wasn't; it felt entirely natural to wear his Shadowhunter belt with a pair of mundane jeans, the seraph blades hidden in their inconspicuous sheaths sharing space with a spare guitar pick. Perfectly normal, to reach for the mike with an arm emblazoned with an angel's rune; to groan at Eric's terrible jokes while Jace set up watch in an empty corner, his gold eyes gleaming from the shadows.

Simon sent him a smile, and started singing.

The check didn't take long. Just under an hour later the boys were packing up, having satisfied themselves as to the state of the acoustics, when the manager – an African-American woman who'd introduced herself as Meryl – asked them into her office to go over the details. Simon knew that some of the bigger venues had performers sign contracts, but Meryl didn't present one, only wanted to know about lights and transport and times, taking careful notes in a small red book on her desk.

"All right," she said finally, closing her book, "I think that's – " She paused. "Is one of your group still out there?"

It only took a beat for Simon to hear it too: somebody singing out in the main room. Sensibly for a club manager, Meryl had her office pretty soundproofed, which muffled the song – and yet Simon was pretty damn sure he recognised that tune.

He wasn't the only one. "Isn't that Queen?" Matt frowned.

"But there's no one – " Realisation struck like a cannonball. "Oh holy Batman."

You've got to be kidding me!

Simon bolted out of the office, sure that he had to be wrong – but the moment he could hear the singer clearly, he knew he wasn't. A certainty only confirmed when the stage came into sight and he saw who was standing there.

"Who the hell is that?" Eric demanded, coming up beside Simon. "And why is he messing with our gear?!"

It was Jace onstage. Jace in jeans and a biker jacket with his hands cradling the mike; but even more unbelievable were the words crooning from his lips, smooth and very nearly perfect. Even without the back-up of any instruments behind him, he sounded amazing, his voice rising and falling with the iconic lyrics –

"Mama, ooh,
Didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really mat
~ters..."

He saw Simon. Simon knew he did; the blond bastard winked at him as he slid neatly from one verse into the next, clearly revelling in the attention. By now the rest of Lint had come out to stare, and Meryl was trying to ask who the strange newcomer was, but Simon couldn't take his eyes away. Not just any song, but Queen – as if Jace wasn't already perfect enough –

"Too late~, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine –
Body's aching all the time.
Goodbye~, everybody, I've got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth~."

"Who cares?" That was Kirk, staring wide-eyed. "How do we convince him to sing with us?"

But Jace, appropriately, stopped there. Of course he did, Simon thought, dazed; much further and the song required back-up singers... Jace righted the microphone and moved away from it, easy and careless as if he were perfectly at home with the equipment, with being up on a stage. He walked to the edge and braced to jump down, without a word –

"Oh no you don't." Kirk – quiet, laid-back Kirk – stepped forward and jabbed a finger towards Jace. "Don't even think about it. You're not going anywhere."

One golden eyebrow rose, and Jace's lips curved with feline amusement. "I beg your pardon?"

"Not until you've run through the whole song with us."

"What?" Eric and Matt cried in unison.

Jace flicked a glance at Simon, just a hint of a question in his eyes.

"Hell yes," Simon said without thinking. Without needing to think. Singing with Jace – playing with him – hearing that voice again – he felt himself grinning, wide and exhilarated. "Let's do it."

"Excuse me?"

Belatedly remembering the manger, Simon turned to Meryl with a sheepish smile. "If you don't mind, Meryl?"

The club manager was frowning with unsubtle disapproval. "Is this young man with your band?"

"Yep," Simon lied, before Eric could contradict him. "We didn't think he could make it today, but I guess his schedule cleared up."

Matt was gaping at him, but Jace's smile sweetened into something angelic. "Your pardon for the dramatic entrance, ma'am. I didn't want to disturb your meeting, but I couldn't quite resist trying out this amazing space." He gestured to their surroundings, with its high ceilings and hard walls that so beautifully reflected a singer's voice.

"Oh...well..." Slightly flustered now – and who wouldn't be, with Jace's butter-wouldn't-melt smile directed at them? – Meryl tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I suppose that's understandable." She checked the planner on her phone. "I have suppliers coming in an hour, but you're free to stay around until then, if you need some more practise."

"No –" Eric began, but Simon cut over him.

"No thank you, we won't need the full hour. Maybe just half that." He gave Meryl his own smile. "And then we'll be out of your hair till next week."

"Sounds great." She snapped her phone shut. "You boys have fun."

"What the hell, Simon?" Eric demanded when she was gone. "Are you nuts? Who is this guy? Do you know him?"

"As it happens, yes, I do." Simon grinned. "And so do you. Remember? He came backstage that night at Vatican."

"I don't care if he's the Prince of Wales," Kirk declared. "We're running through the whole of Rhapsody right here, right now, with blondie – "

"I usually go by Jace, not 'blondie'," Jace commented to no one in particular.

" – with Jace singing lead," Kirk finished. "Yes? Yes? All right then. Chop chop, losers."

"When did Kirk and Clary switch bodies?" Matt muttered, and Simon tried not to laugh as he took the steps two at a time up onto the stage.

"How on earth do you know that song?" he demanded of Jace, trying and failing to keep the excitement out of his voice. Trying, and failing, to keep his stomach from flipping over when Jace gave him a slow, heated smirk.

"I may have stolen your music box once or twice," he murmured, keeping his voice low as the rest of Millennium Lint settled with their instruments – Eric still grumbling not-quite under his breath. "Mundane music is very...different to what I'm used to."

"Why does that not surprise me?" What did Nephilim music sound like? Did they play it with instruments Simon would recognise? He was just about to ask when the first part of Jace's confession struck him. "My music box?"

"This thing." With all the skill of Locke Lamora, Jace produced Simon's iPod from – where, the ether? The flick of Jace's wrist was too quick, too smooth, for Simon to see whether his lover had pulled the machine from his own pocket or from Simon's. "Your music box."

"You – " Jace grinned wickedly as Simon spluttered. "You know it's not called a music box! You're just doing this to screw with me – "

"It's a box that plays music," Jace said sweetly, "isn't it?"

"You – !"

"Can you two lovebirds shut it so we can get this over with?" Eric barked at them.

Simon whipped his head around, stunned – how did Eric know he and Jace were together? – but Jace only calmly reached for the microphone again, smug as a cat with one paw in the cream.

"Of course," he purred. His eyes met Simon's, and the self-satisfied, molten gleam in them dripped gold down Simon's throat. "Are you singing with me, Simon?"

Simon swallowed hard. "No, I'll just – I'll take guitar."

"From the top," Kirk ordered, as Simon moved back and picked up his guitar. "Jace sings lead, the rest of us take the back-up. Everybody ready? On three. One – two – three!"

Simon's fingers kept slipping and twanging out the wrong notes, and it was all. Jace's. Fault.

Holy hells, he was more devastating than a category five kaiju. For someone who'd lived a life invisible to normal humans, Jace had no problems working a performance. Even standing behind him, Simon couldn't miss that Jace was killing the song – and Christ on a cracker, it should be illegal to look that good in jeans. Every time the blond swayed forward with the mike to howl out a lyric Simon's eyes just naturally dropped to that ass – and not even Aziraphale could have remained focused with that view on offer.

And Jace's voice – oh, it shouldn't have been so much of a surprise. They had the same genes, didn't they? Why shouldn't Jace have a great voice? True, it was untrained, and Rhapsody wasn't a beginner's song – Jace couldn't hit all of the high notes, couldn't quite make his voice do everything it needed to, but it didn't seem to matter. Jace was a born performer, unabashedly flaunting his body through the music, enough that Simon was sure the Shadowhunter would have a legion of fangirls if he ever did decide to join Lint – and Jace knew it too, damn him. He was clearly enjoying himself; Simon caught flashes of his grin as his aikane prowled across the centre stage, giving it his all even if the high notes were just a little beyond his reach – and his all was all they needed; the charisma, the electric, pulsing power that spooled out from every word to sweep an audience away – sweep Simon away, with music to make your blood pound and spill up and out of your mouth in roaring light –

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no!" The boys roared, and Simon felt it in his chest, a raging fire –

"Oh, mama mia, mama mia – !" Jace growled.

"Mama mia, let me go!

"Be-elzebub has a devil-put-aside for meee,

"For meee,

"For meeeeeee!"

Guitar – and Simon's fingers flew, the clumsiness gone, dancing over the strings as Jace danced around the mike, laughter weaving in and out of the notes because fuck, this was fun, blinding and bright –

"So you thought you can stone me and spit in my eyeeee?" Jace howled. "So you think you can love me and leave me to dieee?

"Oh, baby, can't do this to me baby!

I just gotta get out, just gotta get right-out-of he-re!"

And Simon could imagine it so easily – the club packed, the lights beaming down, the audience shrieking approval – this, now, this was just improv, this was wild and manic and each of them, Matt-Kirk-Eric-Simon-Jace, all of them just trying to keep up with each other, with a song they hadn't prepped for and a singer they weren't used to and it was insane, a handful of minutes and the sweat was pouring down, Simon and Matt skidding in with the bass and electric and Kirk hitting his keys like he was waging a war, Eric's cymbals the thunder and all of them weaving a web of lightning, crackling-burning-searing

But it had to slow eventually. They dropped out, one by one, until it was Jace left alone with Matt, Simon welcoming the chance to breathe as his aikane softened his voice, just a little. Was he grateful too, now that the hardest part of the song was over?

"Nothing really matters," Jace crooned,

"Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters...
Nothing really matters,

To meeeee..."

And. Silence.

If anyone wanted to drop a pin, now was the time to do it.

After a moment, Jace turned around to face Simon and the band. "Well?" His voice was a little hoarsened.

"You're kidding, right?" Matt looked as if he'd been smacked with a wet fish – but enjoyed it. "That – that was – "

"You're hired," Eric said instantly. "So hired. You were hired yesterday."

"Seconded!" Kirk crowed.

But Jace only had eyes for Simon. Aurelian and intent, intense, darkened to bronze by the exertion and something that was just for Simon alone.

Simon swallowed to wet his dry mouth. "You were amazing," he said softly.

Jace's smile was a dagger as he slid the microphone back into its stand, as smoothly as resheathing a knife. Smug. That was the word, and Simon wanted to bite the curve of his mouth and taste that honey-and-spice arrogance, feel it bleed all over his tongue and swallow it down, down and down. Wanted those hands that handled a mike like a weapon on his own body, strong and hard and holding him.

Preferably against a wall, or down on their bed.

"I'm afraid I'm not looking for a job just now," Jace said idly, his gaze still fixed on Simon. "But I'll bear it in mind, if I'm ever looking for work. This was...interesting." To Simon: "Shall we go?"

"Yeah. Yes. Just a sec." His brain buzzing with want and barely-suppressed laughter, Simon swung the strap of his bass over his head and set it carefully down. "You can take this back, right, Eric?"

"You – what – "

Simon beamed at him. "Thanks! I'll catch you guys later, all right? Text me."

"But – but –!"

Jace leapt down from the stage, arms outstretched like wings. Without thought Simon followed him, running up to the edge and leaping into freefall, quick and easy as a gazelle, a panther, the arc of falling water.

It was nothing. A five foot drop. But for a second – a fraction of an instant – he was weightless, and flying, and laughing.

And then he landed, a hair behind Jace, and the two of them were gone even as Eric, somewhere behind them, demanded, "The fuck just happened?!"

They didn't need words. The moment they were outside beneath the sunlight the Nephilim and the singer (which is which who is who who knows who cares) stumbled into a side-alley with the same wordless telepathy of a wolf pack on the hunt, seeking shadow, skin, sex; Simon hooked his ankle around Jace's and Jace let him, cupped Simon's skull before it could hit the brick wall and fell against him mouth to mouth, fell like a star, like Lucifer, like something dragged down bloody. Weight to weight and chest to chest; Simon tore open Jace's jacket and hunted for his hips, tasted Jace's low sound of hunger and drank it down, swallowed the cardamom-chocolate and Jace's hand slid down, abandoned Simon's head and found his waist, his hipbones that slotted against Jace's palms so perfectly, interlocking, made to fit. The click of it seared through Simon's blood and sang counterpoint to the song still rushing through his veins, pulsing and pounding fit to shake the earth beneath them and make the trashcans rattle, but he knew they could fit even better together, even more closely. He felt the ache, felt Jace's, slipped his hands under Jace's shirt and traced desire like a rune over his skin, feeling him tremble, tasting his groan. It wasn't enough, he wanted more, both of them breathing hard as if running, singing, snatching air between the lines of a verse, between kisses, lips on lips and on jaw, throat, the curve of a shoulder. Jace's touch was a hymn and a battle-cry, as if they had seconds left to live and this was his final act of worship; every brush of teeth a prayer, every caress of his hands dedicating Simon's body to something holy, claiming and celebrating and divine bliss and Simon couldn't stand it. Jace pushed and pinned him to the wall and Simon's hips bucked, gasping, frantic for friction, catching fire under his aikane's hands, oh God yes please –

He bit Jace's lip when the kisses came back to his mouth, clawing at Jace's spine, closer closer, come on, drunk on it, shaking, the memory of Jace singing lashing through him white and bright; Jace's wicked fingers around the microphone, lips parted, sweat beading his forehead, spine a bow as he curved into the song –

"Jace," he hissed, a whip slicing air; Jace bit him, a sharp crush of teeth and slapped his palm over Simon's mouth to muffle Simon's yell, startled-shocked-holy-fuck, do-that-again, again-again, hands everywhere, nails raking over Jace's scars and Jace's fingers warm and dry against his lips and there was something, something liquid and hot in the pit of his stomach in being gagged, pinned in place with Jace's mouth on him, the hard heat of Jace's cock grinding against his.

Jace let his hand fall, skimming down Simon's mouth and chin and neck: he nuzzled Simon's ear, panting the way he never did when they sparred. "We should – "

"Not stop," Simon gasped. He spread his legs against the brick and tugged, wrenching Jace that fraction closer. They both groaned. "Don't – "

"Then what?" Hoarse, hands greedily devouring every inch of Simon they could reach –

"Here?" Simon suggested breathlessly. He rocked his hips deliberately, rubbing his face against Jace's shoulder, breathing in sweat and leather and sex, drinking in the sounds – "Couldn't we – ?"

"Here?" Incredulous – but when Simon raised his head Jace's eyes were bronzed, wild and hungry, and something deep and vital in Simon shivered, loving it, revelling in the almost predatory gleam in the gold.

"Here," he purred. Fisting his hands in Jace's shirt, he ran his tongue over the blond's lip – and pushed his thigh between Jace's legs, a long, slow, deliberate stroke of pressure. "Why not?" he murmured over Jace's moan. "Don't you want to fuck me, Jace?"

Jace swallowed the end of his name – devoured it, taking Simon's lips as if he meant to eat Simon alive and Simon's fingers were in Jace's hair, fisted, tearing, trembling, exulting, sucking on the tongue fucking his mouth. Hands dropped, finding buttons, zippers, burning-burning and Simon wanted to laugh and wanted to crow but he groaned instead, unable to believe he was doing this and utterly unable to stop. He'd never done anything like this but he didn't care, not with Jace's skin under his hands and the promise in his eyes like molten metal, forging, piercing –

"Do you – ?" Jace asked, and "Yes, yes," Simon answered, yes to everything – do you want and do you have, the two most important questions, the only ones that mattered, and Jace kissed him hard before pulling back a breathless step or two.

He had his stele out before Simon could ask what he was doing, and for an instant Simon thought of all the Harry Potter fanfictions where they had spells for lube, wondered if there was a rune – but no, Jace sketched a quick knot of blackness on the brick wall beside them and Simon's lips felt bruised, he caught the sound of whispers and velvet susurrations before Jace was back on him, yes, right where he belonged, "Just a glamour," panted, kissing, tearing Jace's jacket off his shoulders and onto the ground just because – "so no one will see – "

"Yes," Simon breathed, and there, no more words, no more talking – more kissing instead, deep and wet and it was so hard to breathe, impatiently fighting with the button on his jeans until it finally came free, and then the Shadowhunter belt, pulled loose and he was turning around, holy hells, leaning his forehead against the wall and trying to stay standing as Jace pushed his trousers down. Fuck, the touch of summer air on his bare skin, they were outside and he had no idea how well the glamour worked, if it would cover the sound but gods he didn't care, spreading his legs with his jeans around his knees and fighting not to whimper at the first brush of Jace's fingers.

"Boy scout," he whispered, grinning, because the fingers were slick and Simon wasn't the only one carrying lube in his pockets these days, but then they slid in and he gasped and Jace looped an arm around his waist, purring like a lion as Simon's legs went weak. "Shadowhunter," he corrected smugly, and Simon couldn't even argue the point, not with the tangled whines spilling out of his throat, the heated-honey craving spilling beneath his skin. Fuck, fuck, they were outside, and it was hard to believe that anyone passing by wouldn't see, see him with his face against the wall and Jace's fingers opening him up, pushing in and crooking because it hadn't taken him long at all to discover what the prostate was for and Simon gasped, rocking his hips back to get Jace right where he wanted him, right where he needed him –

"Now?" Jace breathed, and "Now," Simon demanded, pleaded, scrambling a condom from his pocket and shoving it back to his aikane. He folded his arms between his forehead and the wall, panting, wanting, listening to the rustle of foil that seemed to roar in his ears. And then Jace's hand was on his hip, tugging gently, his sticky-slick fingertips brushing the jut of Simon's hipbone while his other hand held him open, proprietary and urgent and Simon was burning-burning-burning, the longing a physical, empty ache that turned sharp and desperate at the touch of oily latex –

And then the slow, thick glide of flesh and fullness, the angle unfamiliar and almost-awkward but still so good, too good, obscene; with his legs hobbled by his jeans everything was tighter, the burn brighter and sharper as Jace slid home in him. Simon wanted to rake his nails through skin and anoint them with someone's blood, Jace's blood, but there was no way to reach, no way to do anything but squirm and moan, feeling Jace come to rest against the back of Simon's thighs, feeling him tremble with the intensity. "Simon," he whispered, nuzzling the back of Simon's neck, "By the Angel, Simon."

Simon's lips shaped Jace's name soundlessly, over and over as he tilted his spine and pushed back into it, into the pressure, into the heat of Jace's skin like a fire against his. He felt branded by it, burnt and claimed and his own skin felt too tight, about to burst, about to split at the seams with wave after wave of light waiting to spill out and blind –

He shut his eyes tightly, blocking out the brick in front of his face and groaning, drawn out and low as Jace moved. Yes, yes, fuck, he wanted something to touch, something to hold, his cock ached like a wound between his legs but he left his hands where they were, somehow, somewhy, craving it, craving this and his lips parted, breathless and starving and his teeth throbbed in his mouth, he couldn't stop trembling. Jace thrust, again and again, not clumsy in the least and the stretch made Simon want to howl and claw something, made him pant; his body moved with Jace of its own accord, sleek and smooth like an animal, a battle, trance – glorying in it, in the hot puff of Jace panting against the back of his neck and the caress of callused hands moving up under his shirt, the slap of flesh and it drove everything else away, everything that wasn't skin and sweat and sex. Jace, and the unvoiced howl became a breathless laugh flooding through his veins, sharp and glittering and fierce until his every artery pulsated with it and it was so easy, so right, he was turning into glass and that glass was filled with red and blue fire –

And if the glass broke –

Simon purred, lowered an arm to hook it back around Jace's neck. "Harder," he ordered, and the voice was only barely his, husky and decadent, but he tugged and Jace obeyed and Simon sighed with pleasure, tilted his head back and ran his fingers through Jace's hair; mine, you're mine. Jace kissed his neck and each kiss felt like a yes, a promise; Simon tilted his head and let the blond litter his throat with moan-edged oaths, something like triumph and something like hunger beating in his chest like a heart. Restless, electric, harder, snapping his hips to fuck himself on Jace demandingly and Jace's rhythm stuttered, he gasped against Simon's neck like a man drowning and it was so good but not enough, Simon wanted to break, wanted out, wanted his glass skin pounded to dust and "break me, Jace, break me, break me – "

"Simon – ?" Confused, breathless, hesitating, and no, fuck, not now; Simon swallowed a scream of frustration and hissed through his teeth, grabbed Jace's hair and pushed his mouth against the curve of Simon's shoulder, just where it met his neck, "bite me," he snarled, "fucking hurt me," driving his hole over Jace's cock, come on, harder-harder so close the glass was cracking and Jace –

His teeth sank into the base of Simon's neck like a bear-trap of blunt pearl and his hand clamped over Simon's mouth, choking Simon's quiet scream and oh God, oh-holy-fucking-Christ, Simon's stomach knotted with bone-melting bliss and he wailed against Jace's fingers, felt his nails catch against brick as he scrabbled at the wall like an animal, fucking and gasping and spurting all over the wall in long, helpless jerks. Untouched, and Jace fucked him through it, rougher and sweeter and the burn of it, the sweet stinging burn

Jace groaned, quietly, and Simon felt him come – felt the blond shudder against him, and that indescribable sensation of a condom being filled. It made him squirm, not entirely happily. The pit of his stomach was still molten, all golden liquid, and he found himself almost upset by the necessity of the latex, frustrated and shaky with the longing to be wet with Jace, to have him dripping down his thighs here in an alleyway like the worst kind of slut –

He shivered. Jace was nuzzling the bite he'd left, kissing it gently. The dull lightning of the touch made Simon's toes curl.

"Are you all right?" Jace murmured.

He pulled his hand away; Simon kissed his fingertips before answering. "Yeah." His voice was rough; the sound of it took him by surprise. "Very. Yes."

But he wasn't at all sure that was true. Beneath the honey-thick afterglow, Simon felt sick. He raised a hand to rub at the bite-mark, and felt it throb beneath his fingertips.

What had just happened?

"I can't believe you brought me here," Jace said, eying their surroundings with completely unreasonable distrust. "At least tell me there's a host of demons masquerading as the frankly dubious-looking horses on the carousel, and we're here to dispatch them before they eat any children?"

Simon side-eyed him. "You have a strange and suspicious mind."

"I'm not the one who brought a Shadowhunter to Coney Island."

This was true. Simon grinned. "Just don't make me regret it," he said cheerfully, "and I might let you at the rogue Downworlder manning the cotton candy stand."

"What? Where?" Jace's head whipped around so fast, and there was a shining crystal dagger in his hand so suddenly, that Simon was torn between laughing and hyperventilating.

"Damn your duck pond, I was kidding!" Hastily, he reached across Jace's body to force his hand down. "Put that away. We're supposed to be having fun, not killing things."

"Killing things is fun." But the knife disappeared as swiftly as it had appeared, and Simon could almost relax. "So if we're not here to hunt, what are we doing?"

"Psychopath," Simon said fondly, slipping his arm through Jace's. No one seemed to have noticed the very illegal knife made out of a substance not known to man, for which he was grateful. "We're celebrating your birthday."

"Which is not until tomorrow," Jace pointed out, no longer at ease. As quickly and easily as he'd drawn his knife, the blond had tensed, his eyes glancing from side to side as if anticipating some kind of attack. Tension shimmered like heat in the air around him, and he felt rigid and unreal at Simon's side, his arm like a block of wood in Simon's.

"Other things are happening tomorrow," Simon said lightly, even as his throat drew tight. "So I'm taking my chances with today." What was wrong? Jace wasn't actually concerned that they were going to be attacked, was he? "Are you all right?" he blurted. Maybe this was a mistake – maybe they should just head home, do something else for the day...

Jace wouldn't look at him.

"Jace? Please talk to me."

Stiffly, Jace pulled away from him – drawing his arm free from Simon's in the process. "We're in public," he said lowly, gaze fixed stubbornly on the ground.

It hit Simon then, with Jace avoiding his eyes and realisation a cluster of razors in his throat; a sick shock, and deep, shameful hurt. Rejection bitter and unreasonable and inarguable in the pit of his stomach.

And faster than thought, a dark flash of fanged fury, searing everything hot and burnt and blazing: you'll fuck me in an alley but you won't hold my hand?

It took effort not to spit the words out like bullets. For an instant he wanted to be cruel, to make Jace hurt like Simon hurt. But he caught himself, even if the bullet-words lodged in his throat, small and hard and cold.

He closed the distance between them and brushed the back of Jace's hand with his own. "No one will care here," he said softly.

Jace hesitated.

Simon said nothing else. He let his hand fall and started walking towards the Luna Park ticket booth, carefully not looking back. This wasn't about him. It wasn't even about them. Jace came from a very weird, fucked-up world, and whatever pain he caused Simon was unintentional, left over from the brainwashing he'd gone through since birth. So Simon wasn't going to push it. He was going to be mature and sensible and ignore the pang of wormwood-bitter hurt, because this was no big deal, really.

He held Jace's words from this morning around his heart like a shield as he joined the queue.

Most of the Coney Island amusement parks ran on cash, but Luna Park was different. Here, your money paid for credits, which were loaded onto a little plastic card. Swipe the card on a ride, and credits were deducted. When Simon had last been here with his mom, he'd been ten years old and had delighted in having his own 'credit card' just like a grown-up; he'd cherished the Technicolor thing for weeks afterwards. The memories made him smile to himself as he handed over his money, but as much as he wanted to see Jace with one of the cards he bought them a pair of wristbands instead. Just as brightly coloured, they granted unlimited access to any ride for four hours. For $30 each, that seemed like a steal.

Jace was still standing where Simon had left him.

"This is yours," Simon told him, fastening his own around his wrist.

Jace took it dubiously, and Simon looked away as the blond tied the bracelet in place. Taking a chance on today seemed to have paid off. The sky was bright and clear, sunlight spread across it like honey on bread – anathema to any demon – but between August drawing to a close and the breeze coming in off the pier, it was cool enough to be bearable. There was a carnival smell mixed in with the sea-salt and brine, hot dogs and candyfloss and frying onions, and a holiday air to the people who'd come to make the best of the last days of summer, before school started and the New York autumn wrapped the state in grey. In his leather jacket, Jace looked like just another teenager dragged along unwilling on a family day out.

"Very well," Jace said slowly, eying his neon-bright wristband. "So what exactly does one do at Coney Island?"

" 'One' drops the formal British, for a start," Simon said dryly, "if 'one' wants to pass for an American teenager." He grinned. "And then we try out the rollercoaster."

"Okay." Jace frowned. "What's a rollercoaster?"

This was going to be so much fun.

The rollercoaster was a huge success. Far from being freaked out and getting sick, as Simon had half-expected, Jace flung his arms up and whooped as the cart spun upside-down on the tracks, looping like a dragon's tail forty feet up in the air, and Simon yelled out with the same exhilarated joy, high on adrenalin and the fierce delight Jace turned on him, with the wind kissing their hair and the screams and laughter of their fellow passengers a chorus as they raced through the sky –

"Again," Jace demanded, lit up like a firework and Simon grinned and they rode it again, and again, the blond restless and impatient with the queue each time but crowing so fiercely up in the air, arms spread as if he could lay claim to wings, as if he meant to take off from the coaster tracks himself.

"Don't you want to try anything else?" Simon asked, trying not to laugh as Jace made to go line up again after their fourth time on the ride.

Jace's eyes lit up. "Are they all like that?"

Simon grinned. "Not quite."

The Ferris wheel made Jace marvel, amazed to be up so high, although he expressed his disappointment – loudly – that it didn't go upside-down. Which of course meant that Simon had to show him the Zonobio next, a ride which flipped you over and over in a permanent somersault while whipping you through the air at 60mph. Even Simon felt a little queasy after that one, but Jace loved it, laughing like a kid at the insane rush, the weightless speed, and his fearlessness made Simon ache to lean over and kiss him, flooded to the brim with hopeless adoration. He wanted to wrap Jace in this moment and never let him go, capture him in the sunlight and laughter like a treasure in amber, where the darkness could never reach him again. After Renwicks, to see Jace like this – so bright, so alive, so unabashedly happy

Kal-El, but Simon would do anything to keep this.

The bumper-cars were confusing, and Simon doubled over laughing at Jace's kittenish frown as he puzzled out the pedals and steering wheel, but the Shadowhunter got the hang of them quickly enough. He and Simon chased each other around the space in snaking circles, Jace ignoring the other drivers while Simon gleefully rammed into everyone he could reach, cackling like mad before whizzing away again. And he hadn't even had sugar yet.

Which reminded him, and he and Jace went to find something to eat. ("What do you mean you've never had a hot dog?!") There were frankfurters drizzled in onions and ketchup, and neon slush puppies that turned their tongues purple, and then Simon insisted on clouds of candy-floss, giant pink cotton balls on sticks striped like candy-canes. Jace's expression when the woman handed him his was priceless.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" he demanded as Simon laughed and laughed and laughed.

"You eat it!" Simon gasped, wiping the tears out of his eyes. "No, wait, I'm going to get my phone out, do that face again."

Jace didn't pull quite the same expression, but his dear Lord you actually are a lunatic aren't you? face was almost as good, especially with the pink candy-floss in the same shot. Simon's grin stretched so wide it almost hurt as he stared down at the picture. "I will treasure this forever," he declared.

Jace rolled his eyes and took a bite of candy-floss. But Simon knew it was only to hide his smile.

Simon, of course, managed to get the sticky pink stuff in his hair, while Jace managed to keep a single speck of crystallised sugar from sticking to his cheeks. It didn't matter; as Jace helped him get the wisps of floss out of his hair, Simon could still smell the sugar on his breath, still knew, sharply, that Jace's lips would taste of it if he only leaned forward and kissed him.

Jace's eyes glanced into his as if he'd heard the thought, and froze, his fingers still in Simon's dark hair.

Simon swallowed. "It's okay," he whispered. Meaning; it's okay if you do. And, also; it's okay if you don't.

Something uncertain and fragile flickered across Jace's face, and he glanced away at the crowd around them, almost nervously, and Simon wanted to cry. Not because he felt rejected – he didn't, not really, gods, he understood – but because someone, so many someones, had crippled Jace like this, made him afraid when he shouldn't have to be; Jace, who should never be afraid of anything. Not that the Nephilim held the patent on being homophobic assholes, not by a long shot, but Simon would never be afraid like Jace was now.

They came from such completely different worlds, and not for the first time Simon wanted to burn the Shadow World to the ground; wanted it with a vicious, terrifying intensity. Wanted to eradicate every trace of the culture that had brutalised Jace's ability to love openly.

"It's okay," he whispered again, meaning it – meaning it more than anything. He wanted so badly to take Jace's hand, but he'd have cut his own off at the wrist before making Jace any more uncomfortable. He made himself exhale, and started to climb off the bench. They were sitting at one of those white plastic tables with a bright, cheery parasol sprouting up from the centre of it – Simon thought he'd glimpsed the brand of some ice-cream on the umbrella. "How about we just – "

And his thoughts stuttered, stopped, brushed away by the brush of Jace's lips on his; quick and light and sugar-sweet.

It was only an instant. It felt like an hour, felt as though time drew in a breath and held it, stretching the second of kiss into a long, languid caress of mouth-on-mouth. Huge, and heavy, and momentous.

Time breathed out.

Jace pulled back slowly, watching for Simon's reaction. A flush of colour stained his cheekbones, and he held himself deliberately still, as if he had to consciously work at not looking around to see if anyone had seen them.

But he didn't look. And Simon felt himself grin, so wide and love-drunk that his cheeks ached.

Relief melted the tension out of Jace's shoulders, and he smiled back at Simon. "I don't care," he said firmly.

I love you.

Simon's heart skipped a beat. "I don't care either," he said softly.

I love you too.

"Now come on." He stood up and started gathering up their rubbish. "The day's not over yet!"

He didn't think it could be that simple, of course. Or that quick. He doubted even Jace could get over this kind of fear so quickly. It would take time, and patience, and Simon was ready to give Jace as much of both as he needed.

But that didn't mean, when Jace casually took a step closer and laced their fingers together, that Simon was going to do anything but squeeze encouragingly and hold on tight.

"You cannot go to a theme park and not ride the teacups," Simon said firmly, steering Jace towards the ride. "It's a law."

And it turned out that that was exactly the right thing to say – of course it was, Shadowhunters and their Law, why didn't he think of that earlier – to make Jace's protests mute down to under-his-breath muttering as Simon picked out a blue-and-white teacup for them to sit in.

"My dignity may never recover," Jace said archly, and Simon snapped another picture because it was impossible to resist.

"It's not supposed to be dignified," Simon grinned, and then they were off; turning slowly at first, and then faster, and Simon showed Jace how to hold on to the disc and they were spinning like Catherine wheels, dizzying and electric and the whole world whirling around them, reduced to blurs and streaks of colour. Simon laughed and Jace was grinning like he couldn't believe it and they both hauled on the disc to spin their cup even faster; without discussion it segued into a contest, both of them pulling on the disc harder and harder, spinning it round and round faster and faster until even Jace was laughing, exhilarated, their hands side by side on the disc, whirling as if dancing –

Then it was the Slingshot, a 150 ft drop that ripped a totally-faked-what-are-you-talking-about-you-heard-nothing shriek from Simon.

Then the Wild River ride, just because Simon wanted to see Jace get his hair wet.

Followed by the Electro Spin, which reminded them both of the ride from the Dumort, with its motorcycle-style seats and its crazy drops…

By the time they stumbled off the Spin like a pair of drunks, it was nearly time for the park to close. The little restaurants and hotdog sellers were closing up, and if it wasn't quite growing dark, it was definitely getting darker, edging towards twilight. Simon stared up at the sky a little mournfully; he didn't want the day to end.

Jace squeezed his fingers, and Simon looked down at him instantly, a smile summoned to his lips. "Yeah?"

"Do we have time for one more?" The summer heat had dried out Jace's hair; it was soft and silken again, only a lingering dampness on his collar to say they'd ever ridden the Wild River.

"I think so. Maybe just one." Simon looked around. "Do you have one in mind?"

Jace considered. After a beat, his expression carefully careless, he asked, "What about the carousel?"

Simon's throat closed. "Sure," he said quietly. "We can do that."

He wanted to ask, as they stepped into the short queue, why Jace had picked it; the blond had made it very clear today that he loved the fast rides, the ones that spiked his blood with adrenalin and made his heart roar. The carousel was beautiful, all gilt and mirrors and elegant horses prancing on golden pillars like sticks of barley-sugar, but it was not the kind of thrill-ride Jace seemed to like.

But Simon didn't ask, and Jace didn't explain. They waited silently in the queue until the ride attendant waved them on, with only a small frown to see two teenage boys climbing up together; and then the two of them picked out their horses.

The Luna Park carousel was famous all over the world for the beauty of its horses. Where most carousels – at least those that Simon had seen – were painted shiny like plastic in clumsy, cartoonish colours, the horses at Luna Park had been hand-carved from wood thirty years ago by master artisans, and then painted to give a matte, satiny finish. But that only made them unusual, not unique; the reason they were featured on postcards and tourist memorabilia was because they had wings. Each and every one of the Luna Park Carousel's horses had wide, sweeping wings like an angel's, every feather lovingly picked out of the wood. The wings made what might have been only a beautiful merry-go-round into something magical.

Jace made a beeline for a black pegasus with its front hooves raised off the ground as it reared, its ebony wings swept back as if it was about to leap into flight. Its wooden mane and tail streamed behind it, and it was armoured; plates of painted silver metal covered its body and neck beneath a sheet of flowing blue 'silk'. A metal faceplate protected its head, with a curved metal alicorn extending from its brow like a unicorn.

Simon had to suppress a smile; Jace had gone straight for the warrior horse, which didn't surprise him at all. For himself, Simon just climbed onto the horse closest to his lover's, a white pegasus with beads in its mane and a sky-blue harness, one foreleg lifted delicately from the ground. Its wings curved as if to protect those on either side from rainfall.

The makers of the carousel had been careful; the wings of the horses didn't obscure the view. Simon could turn his head and see Jace easily, a little in front of him, guarded by the strong black wings of his armoured horse. As if sensing his gaze, Jace glanced back at him. His smile was almost shy.

"Last go-round, everybody!" The attendant called. "Here we go!"

The music started. Simon clutched the golden pole rising out of his horse's back as the animals began to move, rising and falling in a languid gallop. There were a few young children riding the horses around him, but most of the animals ran to the bright, cheerful music alone.

Simon closed his eyes, feeling the cool metal under his hands and the breeze on his face. It had been a perfect day.

He wished it didn't have to be followed by tomorrow.

The song glowed softly in his mind, a ribbon of gentle light pulling them all along. It was soothingly familiar, and Simon found himself humming along to it under his breath, the horses rising and falling dreamily over the wooden boards. With his eyes closed he couldn't tell how many times they'd made a full circle; twice, three times? Four? Five…

"Ffffffound you, little ssssssinger!" a fanged voice hissed, and suddenly everything was pain.


NOTES

Song credit goes to Queen, obviously. I have taken some liberties with Luna Park. It does exist, but many of the rides mentioned aren't included in the wristbands, and I completely made up the carousel.