Japhael || Shadowhunters || Japhael || For Better or Worse || Japhael || Shadowhunters || Japhael

Title: For Better or Worse – The Life of Jace Santiago

Fandom: Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments

Disclaimer: All rights to the Shadowhunters show reserved to Ed Decter, the books the show is based off and its characters belong to Cassandra Clare. This fanfiction on the other hand is entirely mine. No money is made with this, though reviews are more than welcomed.

Warnings: m/m, alpha/beta/omega dynamics, shapeshifters, pack dynamics, arranged marriage, fluff, hurt/comfort, past child abuse, mpreg

Main Pairing: Raphael/Jace

Shadowhunters Characters: Jonathan Christopher 'Jace' Herondale, Raphael Santiago, Simon Lewis, Magnus Bane, Lily Chen, Camille Belcourt, Heidi McKenzie

Summary: As an omega, Jace was only worth what family his father could marry him into. When he is off-age, Jace is married off to Raphael Santiago, the Alpha of the Night Children, one of New York's most powerful gangs. Neither the marriage nor his husband are what he expected.

For Better or Worse

The Life of Jace Santiago

There was a strange conflicting duality to Jace's existence. Jace Morgenstern was both his father's greatest shame and disappointment while also being his father's most valuable possession.

Valentine Morgenstern was the leader of the Circle, one of the most powerful gangs in all of New York and even beyond. He had always hoped for an alpha heir to take over the family business one day. Instead, he was stuck with a useless omega son. Jace had spent years feeling Valentine's anger about this, until Jace was a pre-teen. He was pretty to look at even then and slowly, Valentine started to see a potential worth to Jace. A pretty omega could be married off into an influential family. Could be used as a bargaining chip. And from thereon out, Jace's life changed.

He used to be trained ten times harder than anyone else in the Circle in an attempt to overcome his deficiency due to his omega nature. After Valentine realized the potential value of an omega, Jace was no longer trained, only enough to keep him fit and good looking. All energy was poured into his looks because pretty omegas attracted powerful alphas.

Ever since Valentine's perception of Jace changed, Jace started dreading his eighteenth birthday. He used to see it as his escape. He would be able to escape Valentine and the Circle once he was eighteen and no longer legally bound to his father and his father's pack. Now? Now, it was just the date he would be sold to the highest bidder like cattle, bound to another alpha to obey. An alpha who was going to do far more to him than his father's punishments.

A few weeks before his eighteenth birthday, arrangements started to be made. Raphael Santiago. It made sense, Jace had kind of suspected it for a while now. Luke Garroway, leader of the Jade Wolves, had found a mate a year ago. Magnus Bane, leader of the High Warlocks, and Raphael Santiago, leader of the Night Children, were the most likely choices. Both single, both incredibly powerful alphas. Those three, together with Valentine himself, led the four most powerful gangs in the entire East Coast. Jace had suspected his fate would lay with one of them.

/break\

Even knowing what to expect, his wedding day had been terrifying and Jace was tense throughout the entire day and ceremony. From an outsider's perspective, he may have found it beautiful – everything was expensive and gorgeous, only the best of the best, after all this was the wedding to bind the Circle and the Night Children together in a strong alliance.

Raphael Santiago was handsome and charming. But Valentine was also charming and Jace knew the ugly truth hidden behind a charming, well-spoken facade, so he was not lulled into a false sense of security this easily. Still, he smiled shyly, batted his eyelashes, stayed quiet unless spoken to, danced with his new husband at the reception, laughed at the jokes and was everything people expected of a well-raised omega. He hung off Raphael's arm like the perfect little doll, until the evening ended and the dreaded wedding night was about to start.

The wedding ceremony and reception had been easy, Jace had spent months mentally preparing himself and going through every scenario he may have to face, knowing exactly how to behave. It was now, the wedding night, that actually made him feel afraid. He had had sex before. Sneaking out from Valentine's watchful eyes to escape for just a little bit, to have sex and be with someone he wanted to be with. So he knew what to expect. The thing was, he didn't even know Raphael, he didn't really want to have sex with Raphael – and he knew that now, he was little more than the alpha's possession. Sure, generally there were laws protecting omegas now.

Not omegas like Jace. Jace had been born into crime and was now married into crime, he had been nothing more than just a bargaining chip to better his father's overall position. There was no telling how Raphael was going to treat him, but in a criminal organization, it was ridiculous to expect anyone to care about any laws. And sure, technically, Jace had been trained well enough to be physically able to fight Raphael off – easily, probably, because Raphael was more into gun usage than hand-to-hand fighting – but what good would that do him on the long run? There was no escaping this. If he'd try to escape this marriage, even if his husband didn't track him down, his father would and Valentine's rage for the disgrace Jace would put him through would be deadly.

"We have an adjoined private bathroom, as well as a walk-in closet. Your things, I was told, would arrive tomorrow and you can take as much space as you need", stated Raphael while unbuttoning his shirt. "You can have the half of the bed toward the window, I'm not a fan of being woken by the sun. I will show you around the hotel and territory tomorrow. For now, I'm tired and you must be too. The wedding had been... exhausting, hasn't it? Though it was beautiful."

Jace listened very closely and tentatively to everything his husband said, his eyes wandering the room and noting the three doors in total. Entrance, bathroom, closet. The bedroom itself was far more than a general bedroom – it was an entire apartment, really. The actual bedroom part was elevated by a couple steps, on one end was a kitchenette and on the other a large TV and two very comfortable looking couches, with shelves lining the walls.

Though then the last of Raphael's words caught up with him. Tired? Exhausting? Raphael laid down on his half of the bed, making no attempts to do anything with Jace. Jace just stood there and looked at his husband in confusion. Was the alpha not going to... tie the knot with him?

"If you wish to stay up, please try to be quiet", requested Raphael when Jace didn't move.

Shaking it off, Jace stripped down to his boxers and then joined his husband in the bed, pulling the blanket up around his shoulders. He stared carefully at Raphael and was a little startled when Raphael did reach out for him and placed a very gentle kiss on his cheek.

"Good night, marido", whispered Raphael gently. [Spanish: husband]

"Good... night, alpha", whispered Jace back, very confused.

/break\

Hotel Dumont, also called Hotel Dumort among the criminal organizations of New York, was huge. It was the most luxurious hotel chain in the state and its main seat, the one right here, was the largest and most beautiful. Raphael, and now also Jace, lived in the penthouse at the top of the hotel and they had their own private pool on the roof top. The roof top was only accessible through the penthouse and it was gorgeous, with so many flowers and plants that it was like a small garden surrounding the pool and creating an illusion of wilderness. It was absolutely breathtaking and Jace already knew it was going to be his favorite spot in the territory. Outside the hotel was a large park with three pools for the guests. Everyone working at the hotel was a member of the Night Children. Criminals from all over the world came to this hotel to conduct their business with each other; it was the main angle the Night Children worked. Providing security and safety for other organizations while also striking deals of their own.

"You have access to everything in the hotel. Every member of my clan knows who you are and will be of your service. The bar and the restaurants are always open for you, no payment required of course. If there is anything you need, you ask for it and will get it", stated Raphael as he showed Jace around the outside facilities. "If anyone doesn't listen to you, you tell me."

Jace just nodded while looking around. The hotel was in the heart of New York City, no beach or anything close, yet the beautiful park outside and the pools created the illusion that you were right at the beach, not in a city. It was like a piece of paradise.

"How about we eat lunch for now, since we skipped breakfast? And then I show you more of the territory?", suggested Raphael with a charming smile, offering Jace his arm.

Jace accepted the arm without hesitation and let the alpha lead the way to one of the restaurants inside the hotel. There was a gym in the basement, together with an indoor pool, three restaurants – an Italian, a Mexican one and a Japanese. It was honestly possible to just live in this hotel and never leave, mused Jace as they went to the Spanish place called Rosa's.

"They cook strictly by my family's recipes in this establishment", explained Raphael as a waiter handed Jace a menu. "The clan had been in my family for many generations and I am the third generation owning this hotel. My abuelita started this restaurant while my abuelo led the clan."

Jace simply nodded while scanning the menu for anything he may recognize. Not like Valentine was big on eating Mexican food. After a while, Jace just put the menu down and looked at his husband.

"I'll take whatever you recommend", smiled Jace.

Raphael frowned for a moment before he returned the smile and placed their order with a waitress. Their wine arrived pretty quickly and with a charming smile did Raphael raise his glass to toast Jace. All the while, Jace was wondering if this lunch was going to end in the bedroom.

/break\

Lunch hadn't led to sex, instead Raphael excused himself to go to work and instead left Jace with Simon Lewis. He was a young member of the clan, around Jace's age (Raphael was about three years older than Jace), had only joined the Night Children recently and Raphael figured that he was a good fit as Jace's personal person. Though Jace wasn't entirely sure what that meant.

"I'll be your number one contact", explained Simon with a bright smile as the waiter brought Jace's dessert. "Well. Number two after Raph. Whatever you need, you call me. You get lost in the hotel and can't find what you're looking for? Call me. You need a ride anywhere? Call me. You have problems with anyone in the clan treating you not good and you don't immediately want to rattle them out to the Alpha? Call me. You have questions about the clan or want to know more about a member of the clan? Call me. You feel bored and lonely while Raph is on a business meeting? Again, call me. Seriously, I will be right there for you. I'm your person now."

"Wait, did you say a ride?", asked Jace slowly, frowning at Simon.

"Yeah. I mean, I don't know if you can drive, but Raphael would prefer if you'd take someone with you as... protection. I'm that someone", replied Simon with a grin. "I know I don't look like much, but I have been trained and we bats are really quick and handy."

Bats. Right. Jace hadn't even had time to think about that one yet. He had married into a clan of bat shifters. That was going to be weird on its own. Jace was a dog-shifter, like the other members of the Circle. Pack-runs were one of the few things that Valentine had allowed Jace, where he could feel free and socialize with the pack. The Night Children were mainly bat-shifters with some rat-shifters and a few owl-shifters. No pack-runs though because they weren't runners. Part of Jace had hoped for the Jade Wolves, because they were canine too – wolf-shifters, as the name suggested. The High Warlocks were primarily cat-shifters.

"I just...", started Jace before pausing, looking at the broadly grinning alpha in front of him. "I can... leave the hotel? Without... Raphael at my side...?"

Simon looked majorly disturbed by that question. "What? Of course. Like I said, Raphael would prefer it if you'd take someone with you as protection for your safety, but... you can come and go as you please. You're... You're the Alpha's mate, not the clan's prisoner."

"Right. Of course", nodded Jace awkwardly, trying to shrug it off.

/break\

Jace had just come out of the shower that evening when he realized he had no clothes. He literally had no clothes here, he couldn't change back into his wedding tux again. Him wearing it this morning was one thing, but now...? A little lost, he wrapped a towel around his waist and returned to the bedroom, considering that he could perhaps borrow some of his husband's clothes. The thing was he didn't know Raphael well enough to know the consequences of that. Some alphas valued their expensive suits and watches and things more than people and Jace wasn't ready to receive his first beating over a damn suit. Besides, after they hadn't had sex last night, he was probably due for their wedding night anyway, so why bother getting dressed? It saved time and that meant it'd be over quicker. Jace took a deep breath, trying to calm himself as he entered the bedroom.

"Ah. There you are", noted Raphael and looked up from the book in his hands.

He was sitting on the large, comfortable-looking armchair in the corner of the living room side of the penthouse. Putting the book down, Raphael got up and walked over to Jace. Jace's pulse quickened as the alpha approached him. He was nearly naked and knew exactly what would follow, yet that didn't change the pending fear building up in him. His breath caught and heart stopped for a beat when the alpha actually touched him, grasping him by the shoulder.

"What happened?", asked Raphael with an underlying anger.

An alpha's anger never meant something good for Jace so he stood perfectly still, waiting for what exactly the alpha wanted from him, wanted to do with him. Not to mention, he didn't understand what Raphael was talking about. Raphael's hand slipped down, his grasp now barely a feather-light touch. Jace turned his head enough to see and he watched how Raphael's fingers gently ran over a dark bruise on Jace's upper arm. Valentine had grabbed him there and hauled him around during their last argument about the wedding, Jace's last attempt to stick up for himself.

"Oh, nothing. I'm just... very clumsy", laughed Jace sheepishly, batting his lashes at Raphael like an innocent, docile little omega. "I must have gotten caught on something."

Raphael narrowed his eyes at Jace in a way that made Jace feel as though Raphael could see right through him. "You are one of the most graceful omegas I have ever seen. You're not clumsy. And I don't believe that you got caught on someone's hand, because those are fingers."

He rested his hand hovering just above Valentine's hand-print. Jace averted his face, unable to lie and look at Raphael when the alpha had already caught him in the lie. He knew what would await him with Valentine for lying to his father. He wondered what the consequences were with Raphael.

"I'm sorry", whispered Jace softly before holding his breath.

Raphael sighed, sounding disappointed, letting go of Jace. There was a moment of silence before Raphael grasped Jace by the chin in a gentle way to make the omega look up at him.

"If anyone lays a hand at you in this clan, you will tell me. Regardless of whoever it is, even if they claim it'll be better for you not to tell me because they may be important. No one is important enough to go unpunished for hurting you", declared Raphael, his voice low and threatening – though decidedly not threatening Jace. "You are not under your father's rule anymore. You're under mine. I am the Alpha of this clan and no one harms my mate. No one harms you."

All Jace could do was stare breathlessly up at the alpha, unsure what to say to that. Before he could, Raphael let go of him and put a bit of distance between them. Jace couldn't help but sit down after this. He had no idea how to compute what his husband had just said.

"Your things arrived earlier, so you can get dressed and put them away", stated Raphael. "I'm having drinks with the higher ranking members of the clan. If you care to join us, you are welcomed. If that's too much for now, feel free to stay in."

Jace just nodded and watched Raphael leave the room. What... had just happened? What even was that alpha? He really didn't get it. Shaking his head, he decided to instead go over to his stuff – it stood in the corner, in boxes. Time to... unpack. This was his home now. His reality. Might as well get settled in, because this wasn't going to change. And he was slowly, very tentatively, starting to think that it might have changed for the better. Still, he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

/break\

Jace hadn't brought many possessions into the penthouse, just his clothes, a bunch of books that easily found their place among Raphael's on the shelf, and some private things he put into his nightstand. Raphael wasn't going to pry into what it was. Still, it spoke volumes. Jace was an eighteen year old young man who should own things. Yet the way Valentine had appraised him like prized cattle, had dismissed Raphael's doubt about meeting in person before the wedding – that Jace would be 'just fine' with whatever they decided. Simon had reported back to Raphael about his concerns that Jace seemed very confused about the fact he could just leave. The bruises had simply been the final validation of Raphael's suspicions. Valentine had abused Jace, the expanse of it was yet to be uncovered but it was enough to make Raphael's blood boil, even if he may not know Jace. Jace was a human being and deserved better than to be sold like a toy, beaten and held captive.

"You were the center of attention", commented Raphael with a soft smile. "They adored you."

It was the third day of their marriage and unlike last night, tonight Jace had agreed to come with Raphael and have some drinks with the higher-ups in the pack. Jace looked dashing in the tight-fitted pants and the wine-red shirt with the top few buttons popped. He had let his hair fall down to frame his face gently, making him look beautifully soft. And true to Raphael's words, everyone had fawned over Raphael. His inner circle had been very excited for him to pick an omega, the majority of the pack had been looking forward to their Alpha getting an Omega.

"It was... nice", admitted Jace, looking at Raphael with the smallest smile.

Raphael headed to the bathroom to freshen up and ready himself for bed and when he returned to the bedroom, Jace was sitting tensely on the bed, watching warily. Raphael sighed to himself.

"What is it?", inquired Raphael when he sat down on his side of the bed.

"When are we going to have sex?", blurted Jace out after a moment of reluctance.

"Okay. Straight forward", nodded Raphael, eyebrows raised. "You want to have sex? Because so far, you have given me the impression you don't want to either. You've been tense and uncomfortable as soon as it's only the two of us in a room and you flinch at physical contact."

Jace looked conflicted, as though he wanted to say something but he feared the consequences. Raphael did his best to not look threatening as he regarded his husband.

"...No", admitted Jace. "But... we're going to anyway. So we can just... get it over with. I'm just... this... sitting there and waiting for the second shoe to drop is... worse."

"Getting it over with is not the attitude you should have toward sleeping with your husband", mused Raphael, frowning when he saw Jace flinch. "I'm not a rapist, Jace. I'm not going to sleep with you. At all. But certainly not when you don't even want it yourself."

"Wait. Not... at all?", echoed Jace confused and looked up. "What does that mean?"

Now it was Raphael's turn to pause and contemplate. This was his best kept secret. A weakness that could be used as a weapon against him. Could he really tell this man he had only known for three days? But then there was this omega, sitting in Raphael's bed, in Raphael's bedroom, in Raphael's territory. Jace was pretty much powerless, he was at Raphael's mercy and Raphael very well knew what would have awaited him had he been married off to many other kinds of alpha. The least Raphael could do to reassure his husband and get him on his side was to show him some trust.

"I am... asexual", replied Raphael. "I'm not interested in having sex."

"...That's real?", asked Jace surprised before ducking his head. "I'm sorry, I-"

"It's okay", interrupted Raphael. "It's... still not something everyone even knows and most people don't understand it. But yes, it's real. I don't... want to have sex." Raphael paused and leaned toward Jace a little. "No one aside from my second-in-command knows. No one. You can't tell anyone."

"Why would you tell me?", asked Jace confused. "That... sounds like something that can be used against you. Why... do you trust me like this?"

"Because you are my husband. For better or for worse", stated Raphael and took Jace's hand. "And I know it can be used against me. That is why I married you. I'm twenty-one, some people in the clan have been whispering about me not having any... flings or prospects for a mate. When an omega sleeps around a lot, they're labeled a slut, when an alpha sleeps around a lot, it shows their strength and how potent they are. Stereotypes are tiresome, but still... with everyone looking toward them, judging you by them, it is easier to play a role than to try and defy."

"You married me as a cover story", concluded Jace surprised. "Oh."

"Yes", confirmed Raphael. "I married you as a cover story. I'm not just an alpha, I'm an Alpha. For me to have an omega at my side, it strengthens my position. To have a gorgeous omega as my husband will drown out the rumors. Marrying you was a political play for me, but not the same way as it was for your father to marry you off to me."

"So... you... don't expect me to have sex with you? You just expect me to keep your secret and play the part?", asked Jace thoughtfully, crossing his legs under his body and tilting his head.

He looked endearing like this, making Raphael smile. "Yes. In return, I promise you safety. What I told you yesterday, I was serious about it. As long as you are my mate and part of my clan, you are under my protection and I will not allow anyone to hurt you and I will never hurt you myself. You are free to go wherever you want, as long as you return. I'm not telling you where to be, what to do or with whom you are allowed to spend time with. That... is the deal. Are you okay with it?"

Jace bit his lower lip and regarded the alpha. "I'd... like to believe you, but..."

"But you have no reason to", continued Raphael and nodded. "That's fine. We have barely known each other for three days now. I just think it's important for both of us to be at the same page. We have... the rest of our lives to prove to each other how trustworthy we are."

"For better or worse, huh?", muttered Jace with just the smallest grin.

"For better or worse", confirmed Raphael, returning the grin.

/break\

"You look frustrated", noted Jace curiously.

He was watching Raphael as the two of them got ready for an important meeting. One that Raphael was not necessarily looking forward to. He turned to look at his husband. The first thing Raphael had bought his husband was a new wardrobe. He didn't bring much when it came to formal wear and Raphael did have a reputation to uphold; his omega had to live up to that too. Jace looked stunning in the tailored white suit that may look tacky on some people, but with Jace? It simply made the blonde look like an angel. Jace tucked a loose strand of hair behind his ear.

"Camille Belcourt is...", started Raphael and sighed. "She is the one who started the rumors about me. Her gang and mine have been rivals for many years. She's been trying to find an angle to seize power over the Night Children and she thought she found an opening with that."

"Sounds like a bitch. Why are we having dinner with her?", asked Jace confused.

Raphael chuckled at that. "Because we're the Alpha and Omega of the Night Children and she is an important Alpha. Luke, Magnus and your father are not the only gang leaders who matter in New York and to keep the peace, we have to keep up appearances. Believe me, if I could I would avoid this dinner too, but... news of my wedding had spread fast and it... figures she wants to meet you in person to seize you up. Me declining meetings with her will make me look weak."

"Okay", nodded Jace and licked his lips thoughtfully. "Let's get this over with then."

He offered Raphael his arm to take and with a small smile, Raphael took it.

/break\

"He is... pretty to look at", commented Camille dryly toward Raphael.

Jace didn't know if she meant to be quiet enough so Jace wouldn't hear, or if she simply didn't care. They were through the main course already and Jace had to admit, he really did not like her. There were some other alphas around, from other middle-sized gangs. Lily Chen, Raphael's second-in-command, as well as Simon were also with them. In the past week that Jace had been living with the clan now, Simon had been more than just his go-to guy, they had kind of become friends.

"He's more than just pretty to look at", replied Raphael, eyes on Jace, not Camille.

Camille made a little sound that seemed disbelieving. Raphael seemed to opt out of replying, so Jace wasn't going to start anything. He was still trying to find his footing. So far, he was just... existing here. He held conversations, he ate, slept here, he walked at Raphael's side and sat at Raphael's side during meals, they kissed gently in public for appearance. But he still had to find just how he belonged into this clan. He wasn't going to provoke anything by starting fights with rivaling gang leaders. Lily smiled at him encouragingly as she handed him a strawberry from her cake.

"Thanks", grinned Jace pleased. "I love strawberries."

"I noticed. You lit up when you saw we had strawberry cake today", chuckled Lily.

Jace grinned and shrugged while pushing the strawberry between his lips. Lily was nice. She seemed very supportive of this whole thing working out – and as Raphael had said, she was the only one who knew his secret. Apparently, she thought that Jace was doing a good enough job playing the part and as long as Jace wasn't a threat to Raphael, Lily was supportive of him and even an edge protective. As most of the clan had shown to be so far, surprisingly enough. Apparently, it really did mean something here – that he was the Alpha's mate. For the first time in his life, Jace was being respected. People asked his opinion, didn't talk down on him, even followed his orders, because as the leader's mate he was in charge too, apparently.

"They always like this?", asked Jace in a very soft whisper.

"Oh, this is actually polite", replied Simon, looking at Camille and Raphael over Jace's shoulder.

"Though Raphael has that irritated look on his face again", muttered Lily lowly. "It's always a close call to 'I will set this bitch on fire'. Creative licenses on the name."

Jace frowned thoughtfully and turned to look at Camille and Raphael and the thinly veiled hostility between the two alphas. Even the other Alphas in the room looked uncomfortable with this. Tilting his head, Jace smirked a little and finished his cake. After, he turned his full attention to his husband. Slowly, he wrapped his hand around Raphael's biceps, immediately gaining his alpha's attention because still, Jace did not initiate physical contact between them.

"Bonito?", asked Raphael lowly.

Jace caught his lip between his teeth in what he knew to look seductive as he looked up at Raphael from beneath his lashes. His other arm wound around Raphael's shoulders, fingers playing with the hair at the base of Raphael's neck while Jace leaned in closely, lips brushing against Raphael's ear.

"Can we go now, alpha?", asked Jace, not even trying to whisper. "It's been long enough, right? I want to go back to our room... to our bed. Please, alpha?"

He put that little omega-whine in there, the one that alphas could hardly resist. Most alphas at the table chuckled, in that way that suggested 'look at him, so whipped by his omega'. Oh, Jace knew exactly how to play a part. He very deliberately laid one leg over Raphael's lap.

"Ah. Newly weds. You can tell it's only been a week since they got married", laughed Simon incredibly awkwardly. "I tell you, it's hard to pry them out of bed sometimes."

Jace grinned mischievously at Raphael before he ducked his head under his alpha's chin. Raphael hummed and ran his hand down Jace's spine before nudging his leg off his lap so he could get up.

"If you'll excuse me, you heard my husband. What kind of alpha denies his omega?", offered Raphael with a feign apologetic look. "We did finish business. Do enjoy the rest of your desserts on the house, of course. Now, let's go, shall we, angelito?"

He rested his hand on Jace's lower back as he led Jace out of the room, Lily apologizing and driving Simon and Raphael's point home some more being the only sound to accompany them. Jace made sure to cling onto his alpha all the way back to their bedroom, though once they were inside, he had his husband push him away and look at him with a stern glare. Jace immediately froze up, knowing that look, knowing what it meant from Valentine. Unlike Valentine, Raphael immediately softened again when he noticed Jace's reaction. The alpha took a deep breath to calm himself.

"What exactly was that?", asked Raphael in an even voice.

"You... said you're not enjoying these dinners. You looked annoyed. And you said that she is your greatest doubter. So I figured... two birds, one stone?", offered Jace reluctantly. "I got us out early and did a bit more to sell the whole... you being sexual. We're freshly married, an actually newly mated pair would be going at it every night trice."

At that, Raphael grunted thoughtfully before reaching for Jace very slowly, to show he wasn't a threat, and then cupping Jace's cheek. "That was... clever. Clever little husband I got there, mh?"

"It's both our story to sell, isn't it?", shrugged Jace. "Besides, I don't like that woman either."

He wiggled his nose, making Raphael chuckle. His hand slipped from Jace's cheek to his neck.

"I appreciate the initiative, but... can we please discuss these things beforehand from now on? You took me by surprise and these kind of acts do make me uncomfortable", requested Raphael.

"Oh. Yeah. Sorry", nodded Jace, looking a little sheepish. "It... was a spontaneous idea. But sure. We should... Maybe we can make game-plans beforehand?"

"That is a wonderful idea", agreed Raphael with a smile. "We're in this together, after all. We should discuss any such meetings and how to handle them properly. I apologize. It's... I'm still new to having a partner, you know."

"It's okay", assured Jace, a bit disturbed that the alpha had apologized. "We're in this together, for better or worse. We're... going to figure out how... to do this, together."

/break\

Raphael was pleased as he watched Jace play in the pool with Simon. Two weeks of marriage and finally, Jace was in the water. The bruises from his father had faded and he finally seemed ready to show his body off. It was a gorgeous body, Raphael could see that even without being sexually attracted to it. His mate was a piece of art, not even Michelangelo could have done better.

"I'm going out with Maia and Bat today, wanna join us, Jace?", asked Simon.

The two were climbing out of the pool to join Raphael. Raphael closed his book at that, watching curiously. Jace hadn't left the hotel yet, had barely left Raphael's side really. Even though he seemed to slowly grow more comfortable, years of abuse had left their mark on him and made him cautious. He wasn't going to get over it in two weeks, may never get over it.

"If... it's okay with you, alpha?", asked Jace slowly, looking at Raphael.

He may never get over it, but Raphael was definitely going to do his best to help Jace. "Of course. You're free to go wherever you want. You are not bound to my side at all times. Just when I have a meeting schedule where I need my mate at my side. Otherwise, you can go wherever you want with whoever you want. Have fun with Simon and his friends."

He offered Jace an encouraging smile, making the omega nod. He was growing fond of Jace and quickly. Admittedly, the abuse had been the reason Raphael had picked Jace. It seemed easy at the time; he'd offer the abused omega a way out of an abusive home and all Jace would have to do in return was pretend to be in a happy relationship with Raphael. Safety and protection in exchange for a little lie. It was a better deal than any other marriage Valentine would arrange for him. Raphael had to admit that he had the hope to develop a friendship with Jace – if his mate could be half the reliable best friend he had in his second-in-command, he would be lucky. Jace was his mate, his husband, whether or not they had chosen this the traditional way, and as such, Raphael was going to protect Jace and he did feel protective of Jace. He wondered where this marriage would lead them.

/break\

Living at the hotel was better than Jace had expected. Not only was the food amazing and the pool was all his, the books that Raphael had to offer him in their room, the clan was respecting him and being nice to him (for the most part, there were some who side-eyed him distrustfully and avoided him, but no one was actually insulting, belittling or harming him, so Jace counted that as a win).

He had made friends now too, Simon had introduced him to his friends – Maia and Bat, who were a really cute couple both members of the Jade Wolves though, then there was Simon's unaffiliated girlfriend Isabelle, Simon's childhood friend Clary. They were happy to welcome him into their midst, no one seemed to judge him, to push him out. Clary, Bat and Isabelle were omegas too.

Him and Raphael had even found a very good routine. They had discussed boundaries with each other – how much affection they both were comfortable showing to the outside. Apparently, as long as it was non-sexual, Raphael didn't mind intimacy. So Jace often found himself sprawled out on Raphael's lap when out with the clan. Gentle, casual touches, kisses on the cheek and forehead and occasionally even on the mouth, just to sell it. Jace had gotten surprisingly comfortable with that over the past weeks of living here. He had always been denied any affection, positive physical contact, so this, even if it was fake, it soothed an ache within him that he had never quite understood where it had come from. He was an omega, supposedly they needed a lot of physical comfort, but Jace had always huffed and dismissed that, figured he was doing fine without it so it must be nonsense. Apparently, it wasn't and just being in Raphael's arms made him feel much more grounded, the gentle caresses were like a balm on his soul.

Like right now, as he slowly came to it in their bed and realized that he must have gravitated toward Raphael again, because he was snuggled against the alpha's side, his head resting on Raphael's chest. That had been happening a lot lately, ever since they had started being affectionate in public. His body was just naturally drawn toward the alpha whom he was allowed to be affectionate with when they were putting up a show for others. Usually, Jace managed to wake up first though and return to his side of the bed. Not today, because Raphael was running his fingers through Jace's hair, telling the omega that his husband was already awake before him. He blushed embarrassed, trying to wiggle away from his husband. Raphael's arm was around his waist though.

"Good morning, angelito", greeted Raphael gently. "You know you do not have to scoot away as soon as you wake up, right? I know you've been doing that for days now."

"...You have?", asked Jace surprised, laying stiff in the alpha's arms.

"You're an omega. You seek physical comfort, that's only natural", assured Raphael. "I am your husband. I... want to provide for you, Jace. Not just in a material way. If this is something that soothes you, I am willing to provide it for you. I'm never going to be able to offer you... sex, but everything else I wish to give you. I want you to be happy here, Jace."

"...I still don't really understand why", admitted Jace, looking up at Raphael. "I just... always thought I'd get married off to an alpha and what they'd get out of it would be... sex. That that's the one thing you don't want from me, I don't... I just..."

"You've been wonderful so far", replied Raphael. "You've kept my secret and played the part to make everyone believe we're having a... very active sex-life. You even got me out of a few annoying meetings. That is worth so much to me, Jace. And what I hope for this marriage is that we help each other. Even if our marriage may not be real, I want us to be equal partners. I will involve you in the clan's business as much as you want – if the crime life isn't what you want, you don't have to be actively involved in it, but I want you to know that if it is, you are a part of it. You are not my possession, you're not just here to make my life easier. I want to help make yours easier too."

"You're a strange man, Raphael Santiago", muttered Jace doubtfully.

"Then you should start getting used to it, because you're stuck with me for better or worse, Jace Santiago", countered Raphael with a charming, teasing smile. "Now, what do you want?"

Huh. That didn't sound bad. He knew, on a logical level, that that was his name now, but Jace hadn't actually heard it said aloud yet. Jace Santiago. He liked it, more than Jace Morgenstern.

"I do... like physical contact", admitted Jace slowly. "I mean, I've never really thought about that before, but ever since you and I started being, uh, affectionate in public... I like that. This."

He motioned between them. Raphael smiled pleased and pulled Jace just a little closer, encouraging him to lay back down. It took Jace another moment before he did rest his head on Raphael's shoulder once more. And when nothing bad happened for a few more moments, Jace started to relax. He closed his eyes and cuddled up to Raphael.

"If there is anything I can do to make you more comfortable here, you can tell me", whispered Raphael reassuringly. "You're my mate. I want you to be happy."

"You keep saying that", whispered Jace beneath his breath.

"And I will, until you believe it", smiled Raphael. "I want us to be able to trust each other, rely on each other and to, at the very least, become... friends and partners."

"I'd like that", admitted Jace, hiding a small smile.

"Good", stated Raphael pleased. "I want you to be happy."

/break\

"Tonight is the monthly clan flight", called Raphael out from the bathroom.

Jace looked up from his book. He was folded awkwardly on the very comfy arm-chair, reading a book. It had been nearly a month now since the wedding and with every passing day, Jace grew more and more comfortable here, in the clan and in this very room. He was already through ten of the books in Raphael's shelf. Well, their shelf now, apparently.

"Oh. That must be like a pack-run, just... for winged shifters", hummed Jace to himself.

"What did you say, angelito?", asked Raphael and stuck his head out.

"Nothing. Just... We had something like that too. Pack-runs", replied Jace unsure.

"We have a few non-flyers", stated Raphael. "You're welcomed to join us. If that's too much just yet, you can sit this one out too. I've... not yet seen your shift-form. It's okay if you don't want to show it to me or the clan yet. But the option is on the table."

Raphael always did that. He phrased everything very carefully and made sure to convey that Jace had a choice in the matter. Raphael was everything Jace never thought an alpha could be and some days, it took Jace's breath away. Chewing his lower lip thoughtfully, Jace put his book down.

"Would you...", started Jace, then hesitated.

"Anything you want", offered Raphael when Jace didn't continue.

"Don't just say that", huffed Jace annoyed. "You can't just... say stuff like that."

"Well, then you have to tell me what specific thing you want", smirked Raphael.

"Would you stay with me during that... flight?", asked Jace. "Just, since it's the first and I've never actually been among winged shifters and... don't know the route or anything and-"

"Of course", assured Raphael. "You... don't need to justify yourself. You want me at your side and I will be at your side, just like you keep being at my side when needed."

Jace nodded, with the smallest smile. This... wasn't good. He was starting to feel things. When Raphael would give him one of those charming, reassuring smiles, or a teasing smirk, or just an intense, concerned look, it gave Jace butterflies and made him feel warm all over. On a rational level, he knew what that meant. He was falling for his husband. And in theory, that may be a good thing – would have been the ideal outcome of an arranged marriage, but in practice? Raphael had offered him friendship. And Raphael had drawn very clear borders. This was not good.

/break\

"Oh my god you are the most adorable!", exclaimed Simon excitedly. "Who's a good puppy?"

"Simon, if you could not talk to my mate and your leader like he is an actual dog?"

Raphael gave Simon a deadpan look before returning his attention to Jace, who, admittedly, was absolutely adorable. A Golden Retriever. Raphael had known Jace was a canine shifter, but that left a lot of options. Valentine Morgenstern was a German Shepherd, so he had vaguely expected the same. Jace however? His fur was golden and his ears floppy, his tail down in caution. The eyes though – those same mismatched beautiful eyes of his mate.

"Sorry, Jace", grinned Simon sheepishly. "I just never saw a pup—I mean, a dog-shifter. Maia and Bat are wolves but they're like ginormous – they reach my chest easily! You're like... carrying-on-arm size. That's... cute. Also, the whole long golden fur and those floppy ears. Right, Raph?"

"You're right. You're still also rude", pointed Raphael out. "It's time to shift. We're leading the clan."

Jace made a slightly distressed yelping sound, prompting Raphael to crouch down in front of him, gently caressing him behind the ear in a soothing manner. "It's okay, angelito. I'm the Alpha. You're the Omega. We lead our clan in the flight, or run in your case. No need to be nervous, you have me and Simon right with you, please don't worry. You will do just fine."

Once Jace looked calmer, Raphael shifted into his bat-form too. He spread his wings and flew around Jace a few times, allowing Jace to get used to him at first before he started the flight. Raphael kept flying right over Jace's head, a little ahead of him to indicate the way, but never leaving Jace behind. The bats and owls were right behind Raphael and Simon, while all rat-shifters and the couple cats they had were running after Jace. This was actually good, because Raphael was bound to the sky while a good part of his clan was grounded. Having a mate who ran would mean that the grounded members of the clan would have a leader to follow too.

/break\

Jace's entire body was humming with endorphins as he got out of the shower after the pack run. Clan flight. Both? Both. It had been so good. Running wild like that, it made him feel free. It was the only form of freedom he had been allowed with the pack, but Valentine always kept him in line. Raphael however, he had let Jace run however he wanted, even when Jace had gone off course a little – instead of readjusting him, Raphael just followed him.

"You looked like you had fun", noted Raphael, sounding fond.

He was already laying on their bed, changed – he had showered first. Jace grinned as he nodded wildly before jumping onto the bed. He liked the way it bounced and Raphael never chided him about that being childish, instead he'd just smile at Jace. After bouncing a little, Jace laid down and curled up close to Raphael, closing his eyes and soaking in the safe feeling Raphael gave him.

"I did. It was... good. And the... I... The pack never made me feel like I was a part of them. I was always the outsider, the Alpha's son who no one was allowed to interact with. But the clan... ran with me and flew around me and... played with me?"

Jace bit his lips and took a reluctant, shaky breath through his nose as he tried not to cry.

"Hey", whispered Raphael lowly, running his hands down Jace's spine. "What's wrong?"

"I-", started Jace, interrupting himself with a sob. "I feel like I'm a part of a family here. I've never felt like that before. I've always been tolerated by others and kicked around by my father and you are... nothing like him, as a person, an alpha and an Alpha. I feel... welcomed and respected and wanted here, like people want me here and I... have never been this happy before."

"It's okay", assured Raphael and pulled Jace closer. "This is your home now. This is your clan."

"Please don't let anyone take me away from here again", pleaded Jace, barely a whisper that was muffled against Raphael's shoulder. "I can't go back."

"You won't", promised Raphael, pressing a kiss against the top of Jace's head. "I will never allow that man to even come near you again. He will never hurt you again and you will never have to go back there. You're part of my clan now and they all will protect you."

Slowly, Jace's breathing calmed down again, but he couldn't let go of Raphael. He continued clinging onto his alpha until he succumbed to sleep, listening to the reassuring promises.

/break\

"You look deep in thought, cachorrito. What's on your mind?"

Looking up, Jace quickly closed his laptop and stared doe-eyed up at his alpha. Raphael had given him the laptop two weeks into his stay. Also a phone. Biting his lips hard, Jace tried to suppress his blush. Both, at being caught like this and at the nickname. Angelito had been one thing. Little angel. Sure, relatively standard, not overly personalized and pet-names helped sell their story. But cachorrito? Little puppy? That was because of his shift-form. Raphael had started calling him that after the pack-run a couple days ago. Clan-flight. He needed to get these things straight.

"I... There is...", started Jace tentatively before taking a deep breath. "Okay. Let's talk about this. You said I could talk to you. Should talk to you. To make this work. Right?"

"Absolutely", agreed Raphael and walked over to sit next to Jace on the bed. "If there is anything you want or need, talk to me. I want this to work for the both of us."

"Okay", nodded Jace, knowing he was full-on blushing now. "There is no non-embarrassing way to say this. Unlike you, I do have a sex-drive. And... it's been... over a month now... and... I know you and me aren't going to have sex. But... I have... urges. Uhm..."

Clearing his throat, Jace opened his laptop and turned to show it to Raphael. The alpha looked startled and made a little sound of realization, nodding slowly while taking everything in.

"Okay... I admit, I hadn't thought of that. But... why are you showing me that?", asked Raphael. "You can just... buy whatever you want for yourself. I'm certainly not going to forbid you from... masturbating, if that is what you were worried about."

"...That wasn't where I was going, though admittedly it may have been a... concern", conceded Jace. "I was more... I... I can't buy it. I don't have money. I was asking you to buy it for me."

Raphael looked at him in confusion before he sighed. "I'm sorry, that's my fault. I should have been clearer. The credit-card Simon gave you is yours. You are my mate, all my assets are yours. You can use it to buy whatever you want. Buy whatever you want to your heart's content."

"Oh. That... okay", nodded Jace and licked his lips. "So this embarrassing conversation was for nothing, huh. Great."

"Not entirely", mused Raphael. "We could... should come up with a system. I don't want to make either of us uncomfortable by coming home and interrupting your... you-time. Or worse yet, coming home and bringing a guest. This is something I hadn't considered."

"You're right. We should", agreed Jace and made a face. "...Any suggestions?"

"I can text you when I'm on my way home. You can text me that you're 'very busy' or something when you're... busy with yourself so I know to steer clear", suggested Raphael.

"Okay. Yeah. That could work. Better than a sock on the door", grinned Jace.

"Then I'm glad you brought it up, so we could talk about this", smiled Raphael. "Now... have fun on your shopping spree. I'm meeting Magnus."

"Oh. Do you need me to come with you?", asked Jace with a frown.

"No. It's not an official meeting, it's... private", replied Raphael.

"...Private?", echoed Jace reluctantly, not wanting to pry.

Pausing, Raphael turned to look at Jace. "Magnus is like a father to me. He practically raised me, after my father died. He helped me take the clan back once I was old enough. Camille Belcourt... used to be the leader when I was still too young to lead."

"...So that's why she's trying to gain control of the organization", hummed Jace. "Because she had it once. And then... she just left...?"

"Not very willingly. She did some shady things while in control and after I was old enough to challenge her for leadership, she was banished from the clan for the things she did", replied Raphael. "We've worked up to a very tentative and fragile truce."

Jace nodded, his eyebrows raised. "...Have fun with your Magnus?"

"Thank you, cachorrito", smiled Raphael fondly.

/break\

"Give it to me straight: What are we meeting about? Because a Camille-situation requires entirely different kinds of alcohol if 'I missed you, papá'."

"I missed you, papá", smiled Raphael as he pulled Magnus into a hug. "But... there is something I wanted to talk to you about. It's not Camille-sized but it's... potentially serious."

Magnus raised both his eyebrows as they parted, regarding him carefully. "Bad...?"

"I... don't know", sighed Raphael. "Make it strong, for the both of us."

Nodding briefly, Magnus went to the bar and prepared two drinks for them while Raphael went ahead outside to the balcony. He loved the view from the loft. He sometimes missed it, from the time he had been living with Magnus. Life had been easier back then in many aspects.

"Talk to me, my boy", requested Magnus gently as he joined him. "What's on your mind?"

"My... husband", admitted Raphael, barely audible.

"Mh. The pretty blonde", purred Magnus, nodding to himself. "He seemed very... nice. He's not causing you any trouble, is he? He's... keeping your secret, right?"

Raphael knew that Magnus disapproved. Magnus was out and proud about his bisexuality and he thought the closet should be reserved to clothes, not people. He also understood though. For an alpha to not be interested in sex, it made him look incompetent, even if sex had nothing to do with the job. He was seen as weak. And he couldn't. Too many depended on him.

"He's keeping it", assured Raphael. "He's been... wonderful, papá. He's keeping my secret and covering for me, selling a story of a... very active sex-life. He's been talking to the Omegas during leader-meetings, you know. Apparently, they gossip but also talk about the leadership qualities and issues among the packs, clans, prides and flocks. Jace has been telling them very detailed stories about our fictional sex-life. The Omegas he talked to told their Alphas and the other day, one of them clapped me on the shoulder, laughing and congratulating me to my 'spitfire omega'. Which... is actually true. He is a spitfire. And thanks to these conversations... the perception of other alphas has changed. I've never felt more respected by them."

"I'm glad", whispered Magnus gently, meaning it.

Despite not thinking that it was good to be in the closet, he knew how much pressure Raphael was under, was expected to be a 'stud', a prone, strong alpha who showed that strength in the bedroom. Raphael found that incredibly outdated and exhausting, but now that he was married to a gorgeous omega and everyone thought he thoroughly fucked said omega at least once a night, everyone acted more like he was... part of them. It was strange.

"He's been bonding with the clan, the omegas adore him, they're very happy to finally have an Omega leader to turn to. The rest of the clan is growing fond and protective of him too. And he seems... happy", continued Raphael softly.

"Okay, that sounds good", nodded Magnus slowly. "So, what is the problem?"

"He makes me smile and laugh", whispered Raphael, taking a drink. "He's still reluctant about his position as a leader, but whenever I ask him about clan-decisions, he gives me an interesting new perspective. He's witty. He has excellent taste in books. He's... cute."

"Ah", nodded Magnus in understanding. "You're developing feelings for your husband."

"I am", confirmed Raphael with a sigh.

"That... sounds like the opposite of a problem", offered Magnus confused. "He's your husband. You're kissing and cuddling in public to sell a fake story. Making it real sounds good."

"It's more complicated than that", sighed Raphael and shook his head. "You have no idea what Morgenstern did to him. ...I don't even know. I saw the bruises in the first week. I still see the scars. I see the way he flinches away from unexpected physical contact. He freezes up when an alpha near him raises his voice – not even necessarily at him, but just in general."

"I had suspected something like that", admitted Magnus with a sad sigh. "Poor boy."

"The other night...", started Raphael, turning to look into his glass. "He broke down, after a clan-flight. He... cried, in my arms. He told me he had never been this happy. He begged me to never let anyone take him away from the clan. He... He... has never been this safe before, how do I compromise that with my selfish wishes? He is stuck with me, for better or worse. We make this work as partners, we're barely building up to a friendship. If I'm developing serious feelings for him, it's going to make him uncomfortable, because he has no choice. He hasn't had a choice all his life, I can't be the next person to take his choice away, papá."

"Mh... When you put it like that, it does sound more complicated", admitted Magnus softly.

"He is... so special", whispered Raphael longingly. "I am already so... fond... of him, I know where this is headed. Given more time, I will... How do I make it stop, papá?"

Magnus laughed as he looked at him side-ways. "Oh, Raphael. There is no stopping love. Once it takes a hold of you, you're lost to it. And it seems to me like you've already lost the battle."

"I'm not in love", argued Raphael. "I've only known him for a month."

"You've also kissed and cuddled him for a month, you've sheltered him for a month, been his mate for a month, shared your secret and living space with him for a month. He has kept your secret for a month and he has not judged you for it for a month", argued Magnus with his eyebrows raised.

Sighing, Raphael nodded. He knew Magnus was right. He knew it was more than just a casual acquaintance one had known for a month. They were married, sharing a bed and a clan.

"He's very cuddly", sighed Raphael fondly. "In the evenings, he snuggles up to me and stays the whole night cuddled up to me. He looks so content. I love the moments when he wakes up, his eyelashes dancing on his cheek because he always flutters them when he wakes up. Those little moments, when it's just him and me in our bed, they feel... real."

"You should consider making them real", said Magnus. "I hear you on the trauma he's suffered. I know how hard it is to deal with that. You will have to tread carefully, but... I have never heard you speak about anyone like this, with that look in your eyes and this smile. You deserve to be happy too, Raphael. Just because you don't want to have sex doesn't mean you don't deserve love."

Raphael averted his eyes. It was hard to believe that sometimes. How would he meet someone, know to trust them with this, know they wouldn't use it against him. Now that he had found someone he trusted, someone he could rely on, it had to be so complicated.

"I can not make him uncomfortable and feel like he has no other option", argued Raphael softly. "And that's what it'd be. We're married. If I tell him how I feel, he may feel like he has no option than do what I want. And that's not how I want it."

"I understand that", assured Magnus carefully. "I'd like to come over for dinner, meet him properly, not in a large get-together with other leaders."

"I have no other choice, do I?", sighed Raphael. "Next Friday?"

"That sounds lovely, my boy", chuckled Magnus pleased.

/break\

There was a content smile on Raphael's lips as he ran his fingers through Jace's fur. Since their first clan-flight together, Jace had been in his shift-form a few times. And Raphael got to cuddle with the endearing puppy, who had just the right size to lay sprawled over his lap. Sometimes, Raphael would read to Jace. They had one book put aside which was their book, the book they were reading together right now. On exhausting evenings, when Raphael would come home late, he would rest his head in his husband's lap and Jace would be the one to read to him.

"U—uhm, sorry to bother you guys, but we have a bit of a situation?"

Raphael frowned as he turned toward the very awkward looking Simon while Jace turned back into his human form. Right after turning back, his hair looked all messy and soft and floppy, it was incredibly cute. He ruffled the golden hair and looked at Simon in confusion.

"Come, cachorrito, let's see", suggested Raphael, resting a hand in Jace's neck.

The omega nodded and got up from Raphael's lap so both of them could follow Simon while he explained to them what was going on. "Some suspicious packages arrived. The guys are being paranoid about it so I figured I'd get you to check it out."

"What, you expect bombs?", asked Jace surprised.

"Not expect, but... it wouldn't be the weirdest thing to arrive", replied Simon.

"I don't even want to know", muttered Jace and shook his head.

When they arrived in the private offices, what they found were no severed body-parts or bombs though. Instead, three hunky, tall alphas looking thoroughly embarrassed as they stood in front of two opened boxes. One of them was holding a long, purple... dildo. Oh.

"Uhm. We're sorry, boss", grunted one of the security details. "We thought it would be dangerous, when we x-rayed it, there were disturbing shapes inside so we made the call to open. But..."

Raphael saw the absolutely mortified expression on Jace's face. The sex-toys Jace had ordered online. The fact that they were now out in the open in front of alpha clan-members was incredibly embarrassing for the omega. Raphael wrapped a reassuring arm around Jace's waist.

"Next time, you wait for us", ordered Raphael sternly. "Because this is none of your business. You're embarrassing my husband, because what my omega and I do in the bedroom is not to be aired out in the open for the clan. Now apologize to him."

"We're sorry, Jace", chorused the three alphas, looking properly chastised.

Jace gulped and nodded before taking one of the boxes. "It's... okay. But, give that back, Brian."

Brian flushed and put the purple dildo back into the box. "Really sorry, boss."

It took Jace a moment, but Brian was looking right at him. "It's okay."

Raphael smiled to himself and took the other box. This was a mess, but at the very least, it showed that his guys really did respect Jace. Something Jace may know but still had a hard time understanding because he had never been respected at his old pack. Together with Jace, Raphael returned to their penthouse where they placed the boxes on their bed.

"That was somehow even more embarrassing than when we talked about me ordering them", huffed Jace and collapsed backward onto the bed. "I mean, at least the clan now thinks we're having a hella healthy and very kinky sex-life, I guess...?"

Jace started laughing to himself as he took a smaller package out of the box and turned it around in his hand. Raphael sat down in a way that he could look at the thing too. It made him frown.

"What... does this one do?", inquired Raphael curiously. "If you don't mind telling me."

"It's... a butt-plug. It, as the name suggests, goes up your butt", replied Jace.

"Mh. I can't imagine that being comfortable... the jewel looks rather sharp-cut", noted Raphael.

"Wha—No. The other end goes up...", grunted Jace before laughing loudly, brightly. "The jewel's meant to stick out. This one's called a princess plug. You wear it like... well, jewelry."

"Ah", nodded Raphael and blinked a couple of times. "If... you don't mind me asking, how do you know those things? I'm not... I don't mean to pry and you don't have to tell me-"

"The internet", replied Jace with a shrug. "I don't... I just, read a lot about it. Curious to try it out though. I... always wanted one of those, they look so pretty."

He grinned as he stared at the dark-red princess plug with the ruby-looking jewel, making Raphael hum thoughtfully. "Well, you do look good in red."

The way Jace's cheeks heated up made Raphael smile a little.

/break\

Days out with Simon and his – no, with their – friends were always fun. As much as he liked the hotel and the clan, it was amazing to be allowed outside and go wherever he wanted. To the park, the cinema, even the beach. Maia had taught Jace how to surf. They even went to the gallery showing of Clary, who was such a talented artist and the adopted daughter of Luke Garroway apparently. Today, they had gone shopping with some of Isabelle's friends – Aline and Helen, a lovely couple. It had been fun, Jace had a bunch of pretty new outfits. He wanted something nice to wear tonight but nothing in his closet had looked good enough, so he had called Simon in who immediately suggested Isabelle as their local fashionista. Tonight was important.

Magnus Bane was coming over to dinner. Not as the leader of the High Warlocks, not in an official meeting with others, not out in public. A nice, private dinner on the rooftop, just Raphael, Jace and Magnus, who was basically Raphael's only family. His parental figure. Jace knew the Santiagos had died ten years ago, most likely an assassination from a rivaling gang (or Camille, at this point Jace wasn't putting it past her and considering she had taken over while Raphael was still too young...). Magnus and Raphael's mother had been close, the gangs being strongly allied, so Magnus had taken Raphael under his wing, teaching him everything the Santiagos didn't have a chance to teach him.

"You seem in a very good mood. That's nice. You seemed anxious this morning."

Jace startled a little as he turned to spot Raphael in their kitchen. When he had first arrived here, he had wondered about that one. They had three in-house restaurants, why a kitchen? But some nights, many mornings and the occasional midnight snack, it was nice to not have to leave the apartment. Also, it turned out that his husband was an excellent chef and enjoyed cooking himself some times. Recently, Jace had started baking. He had been tentative about it at first, it had been something he wanted to do since he was small, but Valentine had dismissed it as too omegan at first and later on, he never dared again because he remembered the beatings he had gotten as a child. Raphael however had smiled encouragingly at him and expressed interest in trying whatever Jace would make. Now, Jace got to explore baking, he had bought a couple books and was trying whatever was fun. He had fun. He got to do what he thought was fun and his Alpha was encouraging him.

"I was nervous. But Si and the others distracted me", grinned Jace. "I had fun."

"That's wonderful, cachorrito", smiled Raphael. "Come try the soup."

Jace hummed pleased and approached to try. He loved Raphael's cooking. After, he licked his lips and gave his husband the thumbs-up. Raphael looked very satisfied with that and returned his attention to the stove. With a quick glance, Jace saw what could already be cleaned up – knives, cutting board, some left-over ingredients. He started putting everything away while Raphael continued cooking. They were a pretty good team like that.

"Magnus knows", said Raphael after a moment. "So there is no need to pretend around him."

"Ah. Okay", nodded Jace. "So he's coming to make sure I keep your secret, mh?"

"No, he-", started Raphael, being interrupted by a look from Jace. "...I suppose, partially, yes."

"It's okay", hummed Jace with a sad smile. "He's your... dad. He's protective of you. I heard somewhere that's what dads are supposed to feel toward their kids, mh."

Raphael looked like he wanted to say something reassuring, but thought better of it. Jace was grateful for it. No words were going to change the past. All he could do was be grateful for the present and hopeful for the future. Once he was done cleaning up, he took a fork and stole a piece of meat out of the pan. Raphael glared at him playfully and shook his head.

"What? Your cooking is good", defended Jace. "Okay, I'll leave you to it before I eat everything. Gotta get showered and changed and do something with my hair."

"Your hair looks wonderful, angelito, don't fret", called Raphael after him.

Jace just huffed dismissively and continued into the bathroom where he got a relaxing, hot shower before changing into nicely cut black dress-pants and a dark-red shirt. He checked himself in the mirror and nodded pleased before he left the bathroom.

"Wha—at do you think? I can go to dinner like this?", asked Jace and twirled once.

"My, who needs dinner with a snack like that at the table?"

Jace startled a little and turned to see that Magnus Bane had apparently already arrived. The Alpha was smirking teasingly at him, winking. Blushing faintly, Jace turned toward Raphael.

"Don't tease my husband, papá", warned Raphael pointedly.

"Oh, let me have a little fun", huffed Magnus before he got up and approached Jace. "Hello. I know we've been formally introduced before, but it's time to meet informally. I'm Magnus."

"My new father-in-law", nodded Jace with a straight face, before cracking a grin.

"Ah, I like this one", laughed Magnus. "Pretty and funny."

"Can we go eat now?", sighed Raphael.

All three of them grabbed something to carry upstairs onto the roof, where Raphael had already set most of the table. It was beautiful, candles on the table and the lanterns around the pool lighting the surroundings. Jace loved the roof, it had become his favorite place. It helped him feel more comfortable during dinner. The delicious food was also helping. Mostly, Magnus was talking – telling cute stories about Raphael as a child. Jace enjoyed them. They were cute.

"Raphael, be a good boy and get us some wine for the dessert", requested Magnus.

"...Of course, papá", sighed Raphael and got up to leave.

Jace tensed a little now that he was alone with the alpha. Magnus smiled at him from across the table. Jace started shoving strawberries into his mouth just to busy himself. There were always strawberries available ever since Raphael had learned that Jace liked them. Generally, whenever Raphael learned there was something Jace liked, he'd make sure Jace could get it.

"Are you happy here?", asked Magnus gently. "No, this is not a trick question. I know why Raphael and you got married, I know it for the both of you. For him, to cover for his asexuality so the other Alphas will stop accusing him of being weak. For you, to get you out of an abusive pack."

Jace flinched at the blunt way Magnus put it, averting his eyes. Magnus hummed soothingly.

"I'm sorry", apologized Magnus. "I know it must be hard for you, to hear it. I just... I want to know if you're happy here, with Raphael and the clan. I'm very protective of pups being mistreated."

"I'm not a pup", growled Jace defensively.

"Sweetums, you're, what, eighteen now", chuckled Magnus fondly. "I'm thirty years older than you. To me, you are a pup. You're the pup who got married to my pup, which basically makes you my pup now too – and I take that seriously. Very seriously. So I will not allow for you to get harmed."

"That's what Raphael keeps saying too", whispered Jace softly. "That he won't allow anyone to hurt me. No one... No one in the clan's hurt me. Some gave me irritated looks at first, but I guess it was because I was the new guy coming into their home. But no one's hostile toward me, sneering at me or hurting me. Especially not Raphael. He... He has been nothing but kind to me."

"That's the boy I raised", nodded Magnus pleased.

"I've never been this happy", answered Jace after a moment. "I have friends, for the first time in my life. Raphael lets me go wherever I want, gave me money of my own to spend on whatever I want. He... even makes sure that I get stuff I want. Not just... get it like me buying something, but... strawberries." Magnus raised a confused eyebrow. "I love strawberries. Back at the Circle, I sometimes managed to sneak one or two from the kitchen. Ever since Raphael learned that I like strawberries, there's always a small bowl of fresh strawberries in our fridge."

That made Magnus smile. "I'm glad my boy remembers his manners. And I'm glad you're happy here. Raphael is a good and just leader. I'm glad he's also a half decent husband."

The smile turned mischievous, also making Jace smile. That was about when Raphael returned with the wine. He squinted suspiciously at Magnus, who offered him the most innocent expression.

"I hope he has not grilled you too badly, angelito", muttered Raphael, instinctively pressing a kiss to Jace's temple as he sat back down. "He is a horribly nosy man."

"Such harsh words for the man who took you in", sighed Magnus dramatically.

Jace started giggling at that, startling both alphas and making them look at him in surprise, which instantly made Jace stop. "I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to laugh at you."

"Don't ever apologize for joy", stated Raphael. "We were... simply surprised. What was so funny?"

"Just... You two, bantering", shrugged Jace. "The... clan joking around with each other, I've gotten used to. I'm just not... seeing a father and son... jibe at each other. It's... new. But cute. I just..."

"Well, you have to grow more confident in yourself so you can join me in the jibing", declared Magnus with soft eyes, resting a hand on Jace's. "Then his papá and his amarido can team up on him. Just you wait, you'll have as many embarrassing stories about him as I do."

"Why did I agree to this dinner?", sighed Raphael and shook his head.

Magnus shrugged and grinned impishly before taking his wine-glass.

/break\

One of the best things about the clan were the omega-cuddles. Jace loved them. And he led them. He was the leader. With every week that passed, Jace grew more and more comfortable with himself and in that role. The other omegas in particular came and sought Jace out even before Raphael, mostly letting their issues go to Raphael through Jace. It had made him uncomfortable at first, but by now he... got pretty good at it, or at least he thought so. He usually came out of omega-cuddles with various issues to bring up with Raphael, mostly just minor nonsense. Some, more serious.

"If I knew something serious... do you think I should let Raphael handle it?", asked Jace.

Simon frowned confused where he hung upside down in the hammock on the rooftop. Jace sat right next to him, curled up a little bit. Simon tried to look up at Jace, but the angle was awkward.

"What do you mean?", wanted Simon to know. "You've been handling stuff yourself, right?"

"Minor stuff", argued Jace and decided to hang himself upside-down to join Simon. "Really small. Mostly omega-issues. I do that because I'm an omega."

"No. No you do that because you are the leader", corrected Simon, waving his hands around. "They just happen to be omega-issues, because the other omegas feel more comfortable coming to you with them than to an alpha. It's the first time in years that they have an Omega to go to."

"Okay, that makes sense", nodded Jace slowly. "So you think that even if it's something bigger, I should take care of it myself...? And... not... tell Raphael?"

"I mean, you should tell him, since he's also the leader. You can just... handle it first. He's out all day anyway. Can surprise your hubby in the evening with good news", grinned Simon.

"...Never refer to Raphael as my 'hubby' again, or I'll drown you", grunted Jace.

"Okay, okay", laughed Simon, lifting his hands up in surrender. "Sorry. You guys are just so cute. You're like my favorite couple right after me and Izzy. Don't tell Bat and Maia."

Jace blinked at that and tilted his head. "Okay. I'll... take care of it myself."

"Just, question: What did I just advise you to take care of yourself?", asked Simon doubtfully.

"I'll let you know after I told my hubby", hummed Jace with a grin.

/break\

Heidi McKenzie was one of Jace's least favorite people in the clan. One of the very few who still side-eyed him. Today, he had learned why. With a charming smile on his lips did Jace approach Heidi in their Italian restaurant. She was eating and drinking wine by herself. The perks of being part of the clan was all the free, incredibly delicious food.

"We have panna cotta today. Freshly made, by me", offered Jace as he sat down with Heidi.

"No thank you", grunted Heidi with a forced smile.

Jace hummed and waved the nearest waiter close. "Two panna cotta, please. Thanks, Sal."

"Of course, Omega", nodded Sal with a respectful bow.

That was something Jace had to get used to too. He was used to being called 'omega', used more like it was an insult. But being referred to as 'Omega' – and you could hear the capital O there – in a respectful way, as their leader, that was something... new. Something good.

"I just said I don't like your panna cotta", gritted Heidi out.

"Mh? Oh, no. I didn't order that for you", chuckled Jace, tilting his head. "Those are for me and my husband. You know, the rightful Alpha of the clan."

"I know who your husband is", replied Heidi pointedly. "What do you want?"

"I'm just here", hummed Jace and leaned in, voice dropping. "To remind you that Raphael is the Alpha of this clan and he will stay the Alpha of this clan. If you lay a single claw on my husband, I will personally rip said claws out one by one. Don't scoff. Don't underestimate me. Don't forget who I am. I am Jace Morgenstern, I was raised by Valentine Morgenstern and taught to fight and kill before I was ten. Don't think I'm some cozy little omega, don't mistake me for that."

Heidi stared wide-eyed at him, backing off just a little. She had forgotten. Many seemed to. People looked at the pretty blonde and just saw a cute little omega. Now that he was Jace Santiago even more so, because he was so clingy and soft with Raphael.

"Your panna cotta, Omega. I took the liberty and made yours strawberry."

"Thank you, Sal", smiled Jace and took the glasses. "Say hi to Grace from me."

Sal bowed again and left with a smile. Jace got up, looking at Heidi with the most innocent look.

"Don't forgot who I am and never underestimate what I am capable of", declared Jace lowly. "If I hear as much as a whisper that you're making a move on my husband's life, you will not see the next day and absolutely no one will ever even find your rotting corpse."

Heidi made a high-pitched little noise while Jace simply left, carrying the two glasses of panna cotta to the elevator and traveling up to their penthouse. Raphael should return some time about now too. It put a pleased smile on his lips when he saw Raphael getting changed.

"You're home already", observed Jace contently. "I bring dessert. Do you want to go upstairs and eat with me? It's already late, the night seems nice."

Raphael furrowed his brows as he observed Jace before nodding. "You seem particularly pleased. It suits you, but would you like to tell me why? Did anything special happen while I was gone?"

Jace considered it for a moment. No, Simon was right, he needed to tell his husband such things.

"I heard some rumors during cuddles today", offered Jace carefully.

They reached the rooftop together and sat down on the Hollywood swing, Jace cuddling up against Raphael. The alpha gladly wrapped one arm around Jace to pull him closer before taking one of the desserts from his husband. A delighted sound escaped Raphael as he tried the panna cotta.

"You made that", hummed Raphael as he licked the spoon.

"I... did, yes", nodded Jace surprised. "How could you tell?"

"I don't know. You just... give it that special note, cachorrito", replied Raphael with a smile.

Nodding again, Jace stared up at his husband's face. "I... heard a rumor today."

"You mentioned that. What rumor?", asked Raphael, suddenly concerned.

"That Heidi McKenzie is working with Camille, who supposedly told her that if she seized control of the clan, the two could work together", elaborated Jace.

"Mh", nodded Raphael with a dark frown. "I need to get onto that soon then."

"No need", assured Jace. "I took care of it. I just wanted to let you know."

"You... took care of it?", echoed Raphael surprised. "Heidi is an alpha."

"I know. But... I took care of it", shrugged Jace, tilting his head.

Raphael gently grasped Jace's face and looked deeply into his eyes. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

"I... No", grunted Jace startled, blushing a little. "I... I can hold my own, you know. And I didn't let it come to anything physical. I confronted her in a public place and just... warned her. And I think she got it. She's not going to risk anything."

"What exactly did you warn her about?", inquired Raphael suspiciously.

"Not to mess with my husband", shrugged Jace, tilting his head. "And not to underestimate me. Just because I'm an omega doesn't mean I'm weak. I'm still a Morgenstern, was raised as one."

"You're not a Morgenstern anymore, you're a Santiago now", reminded Raphael gently.

"Yes. I know. I just...", sighed Jace. "It was a threat, Raph. And I was raised as one."

Raphael smiled at that and nodded a little. "Okay, that's fair."

"But it... reminded me of something", admitted Jace slowly. "I... I know you keep saying I don't need your permission, but... I'd like to train again. I haven't in years. Valentine raised and trained me to be an alpha as a kid, but he stopped once he realized I could be wed off for personal gain. Pretty doe-eyed omegas shouldn't be muscular, you know."

"You're free to join any training session. You know where the gym is", replied Raphael. "It's your body. You can train as hard as you want and whatever you want."

"Good", nodded Jace a little relieved. "Good. I thought... so. But I just..."

"You still had to ask", finished Raphael. "I understand that, Jace. It's been barely half a year that you've been here. You're still getting used to everything, to just how much different things are here. I don't hold it against you that you still ask my permission. I understand it. Better safe than sound."

"Yeah, exactly", confirmed Jace and snuggled up to Raphael again.

"Thank you for handling that today", noted Raphael, running gentle fingers through Jace's hair. "I'm glad you're slowly growing comfortable with taking responsibility over the clan. You're doing so good, cachorrito. I know how much you mean to the clan."

Smiling softly to himself, Jace closed his eyes and soaked up the praise and gentle touch. This was his home. He was going to defend it with everything he had. Picking up training again so he could back up any threat was the least he could do, because he was going to make sure Raphael was as safe and protected as Jace felt right here, in Raphael's arms.

/break\

"Cachorrito, I bought you something", hummed Raphael.

He had a teasing smile on his lips as he approached Jace. Eagerly, the blonde immediately sat up in bed. He had gotten to sleep in today, Raphael had had mercy on him on this insanely early morning meeting, especially after Jace had been out on an official meeting himself last night. Cocktails with the local Omegas. The relationships he had built there were valuable, it was an asset that Raphael had never even considered before. But now? His bonds with other gangs was far tighter thanks to how close his omega was to other Alphas' omegas. So after a long, late night of drinking with the other Omegas, Raphael didn't want to ask of his mate to come along to a rudely early breakfast.

"A gift?", asked Jace sleepily, rubbing his eyes. "What? Why?"

Smiling, Raphael handed over the box. "Because I was walking past it and... I thought of you. I saw it and thought that it would look gorgeous on you, so I bought it."

Was that strange? It probably was. But then again, as Jace's husband he is expected to buy his husband gifts, so it was not strange and had nothing to do with the way he felt when Jace smiled at him right then and there, so happy and grateful. Or how it took his breath away to see the expression on Jace's face when he opened the box and took the golden bracelet out.

"It's... beautiful", whispered Jace in awe. "Thank you, Raph."

Or the way it made Raphael smile whenever Jace called him 'Raph'. He had started doing that the day he had put Heidi in her place a month ago. Before that, he had always only referred to him as Raphael. It was nice, to hear Jace confident enough to use a nickname on Raphael. Raphael could see it more with every single week, how Jace lost his fear of disrespecting Raphael and grew more comfortable with himself in Raphael's space. Raphael was so in love with the blonde.

At this point, Raphael Santiago was absolutely in love with his husband. Not falling for him, not growing fond of him, not on the verge of a potential something. He was completely in love, in a way Raphael had never felt before. He had allowed himself crushes but never more. At the very least his fear of someone learning about his secret and then turning against him and using his asexuality against him like a weapon, that quenched any blossoming feelings.

Jace? Jace knew. Jace respected it. Jace never called him a freak or weird or broken for it. Jace was just there and warm and happy and beautiful and supportive and everything Raphael could have wished for in a mate. How could he not fall in love with the blonde? It was impossible.

/break\

"What's on your mind? You've been dreamily staring at your hand all day."

Simon was grinning in a knowing way as he watched Jace. The two of them were on their way back from lunch with Maia and Bat. They took the scenic route back to the hotel. Had to walk off that lunch, way too many fries and maybe too many ribs. Jace ducked his head.

"I really like the ring Raph got me", shrugged Jace. "It goes well with the... bracelet."

"You've been wearing more of the stuff he gives you", commented Simon with a nod. "You didn't at first. Clothes, yeah. But I never saw you wear the jewelry he got you. You only started doing that recently. It's weird. Like... belated courting? I mean. It probably is, right? Since you guys got married first and skipped the courting phase."

"I... guess", agreed Jace tentatively, swallowing hard.

"So you're actually in love with him now, huh?", asked Simon after a moment.

"Wha...", started Jace before he coughed. "What?"

"Dude. You can fool the strangers who visit, and the rest of the clan, but I'm... nearly always at your side. I'm basically your best friend, right? And I've known Raphael for years", chuckled Simon. "I know you were faking it in the beginning. You were faking it really well, but... you were faking it. And I totally get it. You literally met on your wedding ceremony. No one expected love at first sight from you. But I... I meant it when I said you and Raph are my favorite couple after Sizzy."

"Sizzy?", echoed Jace confused.

"Simon and Izzy. Sizzy", elaborated Simon with a broad grin. "I am really rooting for you and Raph because I've never seen him this happy before. You make him happy. And while I may not have known pre-marriage Jace, I still... think that he's good for you too. You've been... blossoming ever since we met. Growing more and more confident and happy."

"You're right", admitted Jace after a moment. "I... I'm falling for him."

"That's good. That's really good", nodded Simon pleased. "So Japhael is sailing."

"Ja... wha... No. No", grunted Jace and shook his head harshly. "No, Simon. No."

Simon laughed and wrapped an arm around Jace's shoulders. "I'm glad he's doing it proper and courting you now though. Especially when it makes you look so dopey."

"I did not look dopey", disagreed Jace disturbed.

"Yeah you do. Super dopey grin", declared Simon with a snicker. "It's adorable."

"Call me adorable again, I'll break your hand", stated Jace sternly.

"...Yeah you got a little more scary since you started training with the alphas", muttered Simon. "Every single time you get me flat on the mat, I... get a little more scared."

Jace smirked pleased, patting Simon's hand on his shoulder. "Good. Never forget I'm scary."

"See. That's what I'm talking about", declared Simon with a soft smile.

"Huh?", grunted Jace confused.

"Half a year ago, you wouldn't even have dreamed about threatening an alpha, any alpha here. Now you're comfortable enough with me to joke like this and I know you threatened Heidi, who is way scarier than me and not a friend you joke with. You're feeling secure enough in your position as the Omega of this clan now to threaten someone who is out of line", stated Simon. "You've grown so much since we met. And I'm... glad. I'm really happy for you."

Jace blinked a couple of times. He had never looked at it from that angle. Simon was right.

/break\

About nine months into their marriage, Jace started to behave oddly. Raphael didn't really understand it, but he got more hostile when Raphael spent time with omegas. Even those from their own clan. That was a problem. When Jace growled at one, at a fellow clan-member, Raphael knew he couldn't just wait and hope it would dissolve itself. Instead, he removed himself and his husband from the situation so he could talk to Jace in private.

"What is going on with you, Jace?", asked Raphael, to equal parts concerned and irritated. "You've never behaved like that. So... hostile. And toward other omegas... Why?"

"I... What if you fall in love?", asked Jace in return, looking at Raphael nearly desperately.

"What?", grunted Raphael confused.

"It's... all I could think about lately. What if you actually fall in love with someone and then you won't need me anymore because you'd rather have something real than something fake and I'll be alone and shunned and I can't-", replied Jace in a rushed, frantic voice.

"Jace. You're spiraling. Stop it", ordered Raphael as he put himself into Jace's line on sight. "Look at me. Focus on me. Slow your breathing. Slower. Slower. Good. That's good. You're doing good."

"I can't lose this", whispered Jace desperately. "I just... Every time I see you talk to an unmated omega, I see it play out in my head. That you find someone who's worth loving and then you won't need me anymore and I lose everything and it makes me so afraid."

"Someone who's worth loving", repeated Raphael with a frown, gently tilting Jace's head up. "Cachorrito, you know you're worth loving, right? By now, you must know that. You're beloved by the entire clan, Simon and his friends who are by now also your friends. You are loved."

"Not... Not like that", sighed Jace softly, rubbing his face with one hand. "You'll fall in love with someone who is worth being loved that way by you."

The tears shining in Jace's eyes when he removed his hand and looked at Raphael with pure despair were the final push Raphael needed. For everything he had always thought to stand in the way, his own fears about making Jace uncomfortable with this, right now it seemed that not knowing about Raphael's feelings was even worse for the omega. Tenderly, he cupped Jace's cheek.

"Jace, I am already in love with you", whispered Raphael, quickly continuing when Jace looked ready to protest. "I have fallen in love with you. With everything about you. That little nose-wiggle you do when you think about something, the way you fit onto my lap and against my chest like you were made to be held by me, the way your hair feels when I run my fingers through it. How you are with the clan, especially with the pups and the other omegas. Your smile, your voice, how kind you are. I love you. No other omega can even hold my attention, no one can when you're in the room."

"Why would you... say that?", asked Jace with a frown. "You can't mean it. Why'd you say it now, after I told you that I want you to... to love me. You never said anything like that before. You're just saying it now so I stop throwing a fuss. Please don't say things like that. I promise I'll behave, but you can't... you can't say things like those, please."

Taking a deep breath, Raphael cupped Jace's face with both hands, making the blonde look up to him. "I'm saying it because I mean it. I... didn't want to tell you, because I didn't want to make you feel like you have no choice. We're married. You're stuck with me. If I had told you that I love you and you didn't feel anything of the sorts toward me, you would have felt obligated to do whatever makes me happy to ensure your place in the clan. Out of the same fears that are driving you right now. The fear of losing this. I don't... I never want to put you into a position where you feel like you have to do something to earn your place here. I love you. Whether we're staying friends or become more, I love you and want to keep you in this clan."

Jace was nuzzling into his hands, eyelashes fluttering shut. "You... really mean it?"

"I really mean it", confirmed Raphael. "I'm in love with you, Jace Santiago. And if you allow me, I would like to take you out on a date. An actual, real date, not playing a part for the clan."

"...Okay", nodded Jace reluctantly. "So... all the gifts... were... they courting? Because I started to feel like I'm being courted, but I thought I was being too hopeful and reading too much into it."

"No, you weren't reading too much into it", admitted Raphael a bit sheepishly. "You are... an amazing omega and I wanted to make you feel appreciated and cherished because you're worth being cherished and wooed properly, because you're lovely."

"Lovely", echoed Jace and closed his eyes, leaning into the touch. "When... When you say things like those and do things like those, I... nearly feel like I can perhaps believe it."

"Good", hummed Raphael and leaned in to kiss Jace's forehead. "And I promise you I will work hard to make you know that I am right."

"So...", started Jace unsure, licking his lips. "So... when you kiss me now... it's... real?"

"Yes. When I kiss you, I mean it. When I tell you that I value your opinion and you and that I'm happy to see you, I mean everything. I have for... a while now", replied Raphael. "I'll pick you up tonight for a proper, real, actual date, if you have nothing else planned?"

"I don't know if that's enough time to get ready", admitted Jace with a concerned frown.

"Angelito, you look stunning even in that very ratty hoodie of yours and your underwear and nothing else, two days not showered and immersed in one of Simon's silly video game marathons."

"You can't be that in love with me", stated Jace and shook his head stunned.

"You have no idea", whispered Raphael softly, kissing Jace's cheek.

/break\

Jace didn't know it was even possible to be this nervous. Then again, he had never been on an actual date before. He changed outfits eight times before he gave in and called Lily and Simon upstairs to help him pick something. Both exchanged knowing looks but helped him without saying anything. At Lily's suggestion, he visited the hotel's spa, hoping a mani, pedi and facial would help him relax. It actually did and thanks to the treatment he took for his hair, it looked particularly golden and fluffy. He knew Raphael loved his hair and considering Raphael's asexuality, that narrowed the physical things Jace could highlight to gain Raphael's attention.

"You look breathtaking, cachorrito", commented Raphael in awe as he walked in.

Jace gulped. Raphael had dressed up too, wearing that suit that Jace had commented he found the sharpest looking on the alpha, the watch that Jace had gotten for his birthday – Jace had been so embarrassed because a watch was so uncreative and Raphael had like five of them already, but Raphael had been happy about it and wore it to important meetings.

"You're wearing red", noted Jace as the alpha was closer.

The shirt was incredibly dark, nearly black. But it was red, especially in the right light. And the cuff-links he was wearing were golden and had rubies on them. Normally, Raphael preferred silver jewelry over gold. Jace was the one who liked gold better. Raphael was dressed to match him.

"Come, so we're not late for our reservation", stated Raphael with a smile.

He reached for Jace, who took his arm but looked confused. "Reservation? We've never needed a reservation for downstairs before. Wait. Are we... going somewhere else?"

"Of course. This is our first real date. Eating here is what we do every day. I want it to be special."

Nodding slowly, Jace let Raphael lead the way. They took the cabriolet downtown to a small, little establishment. Jace hadn't expected that. A diner, packed with teenagers and loud millennials laughing in one corner, an elderly couple eating in the other corner.

"You look surprised", noted Raphael as they sat down.

"To be quite honest? Yes", admitted Jace. "I just... it's a diner. I was somehow... expecting a fancy, expensive restaurants. Not... Not that I expect you to spend a lot of money on me, I mean-"

"I know what you mean", assured Raphael amused. "It's unusual. But you see, this diner – Taki's Diner – it's... where my parents first met. My mother was a waitress here and my father ended up here after a long, rough... let's say business deal... and he was so charmed by her smile, he kept returning. It's... I thought it may be good luck to have our first date here."

"That's really sweet", whispered Jace softly, before he started laughing.

"What?", asked Raphael curiously when they were handed their menus.

"It's just... we are doing this entire thing in the completely wrong order", offered Jace. "First, we got married, then we fell in love and now we're having our first date. That's... bizarre."

"We... fell in love", echoed Raphael, eyes wide.

"Oh", grunted Jace and swallowed hard. "I... didn't say it that clearly earlier, did I? I... I love you."

Raphael smiled at him like the sun was shining for the first time. It made Jace's heart skip a beat. The two exchanged small smiles while picking their food and placing their orders.

"So...", drawled Jace. "Since we're doing things entirely out of order anyway. Kids."

"Elaborate", requested Raphael slowly, looking a little confused.

Jace bit his lips and shrugged. "If we're doing the whole actual relationship thing, we really need... to get on one page on that one. Because the clan's been whispering for months. The other omegas figure that we're still newly married and want to get to know each other before having pups, but since we... It's been ten months now and they start gently, subtly prodding. If they are, others will too. And at one point, it's going to rise the same kind of rumors we already stomped down."

"But you don't want kids", nodded Raphael with a sigh.

"What? No. I want at least three of them", grunted Jace. "That's not why I bring it up. But since you and I, even now that we're... doing this whole marriage-thing... for real... aren't going to do any... traditional baby-making, I figured we should talk about this."

"Okay", nodded Raphael a little relieved. "I... admit I always dreamed of a large family myself, but everything considered, I never... expected I'd get one. But what are we going to do...?"

"There's doctors", shrugged Jace. "If you and me both want kids, there's in vitro. No sex required and for the right price, doctors will keep quiet I imagine. No one has to know we didn't vigorously fuck to make the babies. Not saying that I wanna get pregnant right now, but... Yeah. I thought we should be..."

"On the same page", nodded Raphael. "And you're right. This is important and we should agree on it. I'm... glad we do. So, how about we toast... to that hypothetical future?"

Jace grinned and lifted his glass of soda up to toast Raphael. "To the hypothetical future."

/Five Years Later\

"Liliana, stop throwing gummi bears at your sister!", called Jace out irritated.

The little blonde pouted and pointed at her twin-sister. "Rosa started it!"

"Magnus, a little help", called Jace, resting a hand on his heavily pregnant stomach. "That's literally why you're here! What are you even doing back there?"

"I was preparing a sandwich for my favorite son-in-law", declared Magnus as he came swooshing in from the kitchen, carrying a plate. "How is Magnus Junior doing?"

"I told you before, we're not naming our son after you", grumbled Jace, but took the sandwich.

Laughing, Magnus walked over to the twins and picked them both up. Rosa had dark hair in two pink pigtails, cute little bows, while Liliana was blonde like Jace. Both clung onto him.

"Abuelo, I didn't start", mumbled Rosa softly, cuddling up to him.

"I know, sweetie. We all know Lily is the little troublemaker in this family", stated Magnus.

He grinned teasingly at Liliana, who pouted, looking offended. "Am not! Mamá, I'm not!"

As soon as they were within reach of the bed, Liliana jumped off Magnus' arms and crawled over to curl against Jace's side, who smoothed her hair down and kissed the top of her head. Rosa made a displeased sound that her sister already got to cuddle with their mamá. Magnus reached the bed and put the brunette twin down too, also sitting down at the edge of the bed.

"Where are my little flowers?", called Raphael out as he entered the penthouse.

"They're cuddling their mom, who is going stir-crazy on bed-rest", groaned Jace.

Raphael smiled gently as he walked over to the bed, kissing his daughters and husband on the cheeks before laying down with them. "For better or worse, you're stuck in this bed for now."

Jace grumbled, a pout on his lips as he snuggled up to Raphael, looking at their family, the two content little girls cuddled up to him and his husband. "...It's for better."

~*~ The End ~*~


Author's note: I had a sudden craving for "arranged marriage turned to love with mutual pining among married people" and then I figured "hey, I can write this myself!". And here we are! I just... really love gentle, patient Raphael.