It begins with a vast nothing. Nothing but a sureness, a certainty, that what he’s looking for is waiting right behind him, waiting for him to just turn around.
The boy smiles, like the slow rise of the sun. He watches as his shadow flickers in slow motion, offset by a brilliant blue light that glows at his back. Everything is so soft and slow, so pleasant—everything except his heart, which is a quick, nervous flutter, thump-thumping in his chest. He’s eager to turn and see, to face the light, but at the same time he wants to stay here in the safety and the certainty, where he feels like he is exactly where he needs to be.
It takes a moment, but the eagerness wins out. He draws in a slow breath, before he straightens where he stands and takes one step backward. Feet spread, one before the other, he executes a slow pivot on his heels, the brilliant blue only growing brighter and more beautiful as he turns to face the scene behind him.
It’s unlike anything he’s ever seen. A figure, dressed head to toe in embroidered teal, faces away from him. His hair is black, short at the sides and back and long on top, styled high and proud. His arms are outstretched at his sides, brown fingers spread wide. From his fingertips trail long streaks of light—like fireworks, like ribbons, like magic—unlike anything the boy has encountered in the Institute, his home. In slow motion the figure’s arms twist in a complex flourish, and the light dances at his whim, pushing back against a great, roiling darkness that seems to sit on its haunches beyond him.
The boy sighs, enraptured by the graceful motion. The magic—because it has to be magic—radiates a warmth that seems to settle in the boy’s chest, just behind his ribs. He steps forward, and then forward again, and he raises his own pale hand, reaching up to touch, his heart beating faster and faster and faster.
Five inches away. Three inches. Two. One, and…
The boy stops there, as the man in front of him seems to sense his presence. The man turns his head to look back over his shoulder, his hands never ceasing, his magic forever flowing. It strikes the boy all at once how beautiful the man is. His face is long and angular, seemingly lit by two shimmering green cat eyes that meet the boy’s gaze. There are streaks of tears traced like rivers down his cheeks but he’s not crying now—no, now he looks at the boy and a sharp, blinding smile curves across his lips. He tilts his head down toward the boy, playful, and winks once before he turns away once more, raising his hands higher to fight back the darkness—
And just like that the dream ends. The man and the magic both disappear.
The boy, alone in his bed, wakes with a low sigh.
Alec Lightwood, now eighteen years old, breathes out slowly. If he keeps his eyes closed, he can stay in the dream—his souldream, where he is safe, protected, peaceful.
The first time he had that dream, he was ten years old. It was the night of his Unmasking, the first time he ever slept and the first souldream he ever had. He’d laid there in a daze for ten minutes afterward, up until the panic hit him, swift and unyielding. Because he’d seen a man—a man, and a downworlder. At the time, he hadn’t known which was worse. He was mixed up, confused, scared—he didn’t know he was gay yet and was a long, long way away from accepting it. He just… he hadn’t known who to turn to, if he could turn to anyone at all.
It seems like so long ago now. He was so small—so unprepared. He wishes he could go back in time and tell himself that he was going to grow up and come to terms with his sexuality and meet his soulmate, and though they would have a rocky start, that it would all be worth it in the end.
God. He’s getting sappy as he gets older. Knowing himself, he wouldn’t have believed a damn word of that as a kid. He sighs a little, and turns his head away from the pillow it’s resting on. It must be time to get up. He doesn’t really remember what happened, but if he was asleep it must have been something big. He blinks his eyes open, frowning up at the lamplight illuminating… ah. Magnus’s guest room.
Alec turns to the side, realizing a moment too late that Magnus is in the bed with him and nearly rolling on top of him. Magnus has frozen with one hand outstretched, as if he were reaching to touch Alec’s face—he looks vaguely guilty about it, and clears his throat loudly, drawing the hand back and running it through his hair in the least natural gesture Alec has ever seen.
“I’d say good morning but you weren’t asleep that long,” Magnus says.
“Oh,” Alec says back, eloquent. He scours his head, searching for the reason he was asleep at all. It comes back slowly—the Fae girl, and the hooded figure, and Jace being taken to the Faerie Realm, and—
His gut lurches, and he feels for his parabatai bond, mentally patting it down with an urgent unease. There’s… oh. There’s nothing wrong, nothing to worry about. He can feel the bond same as ever, stretched a little thin but hale and healthy. Jace is annoyed, but he isn’t hurt—he’s all in one piece, feeling remarkably put together despite the circumstances.
Alec swallows, a knot in his gut unclenching. He was so stressed, so scared for Jace, but Jace is okay. Jace is freaking fine, and Magnus… god. Alec can hardly remember anything from after the fight, but he knows Magnus was there—that Magnus held him, and brought him home, and took care of him. It’s like every souldream Alec has ever had, except it’s real.
Alec never thought it could be real.
He gasps, eyes locked on Magnus, who has a frown etched across his face. Before he consciously makes the decision, Alec is surging upward, throwing himself at Magnus and crashing into him, lips pressed to lips with wild abandon. He wants Magnus, he wants all of him, every little piece—he wants to soak up every sound Magnus makes and feel every twitch of Magnus’s muscles pressed up against him, wants to know Magnus inside and out and to give back everything Magnus has given him and more. It’s like a dam has broken inside of Alec, all his wants, his desires, every fantasy he pushed down to the bottom of his psyche bursting free of the ironclad hold he’s had on his mind all his life. He’s shuttered away so much of himself, year after year after year, and all of it has come surging up, pouring out into this one kiss, uncontrollable.
And Magnus—Magnus kisses back.
Alec is so completely lost in it that he feels like he’s floating. His tongue sweeps Magnus’s bottom lip and oh, lord, there are things he knows he should be concerned about but they almost don’t matter.
With a monumental effort, Alec pulls back, breathing heavy. He doesn’t go far. “Sorry, I probably—probably taste like ichor—” he gasps against Magnus’s lips.
Magnus gasps back, his slitted pupils so wide that they’re circles, swallowing his irises. “Not a problem in the slightest—” he says, and Alec surges forward again, like the ocean sweeping the shore.
Until Magnus plants his hands on Alec’s shoulders and pushes him back. “Wait, wait, no,” he says. “We can’t do this right now. Jace—”
Alec snorts. “Is fine. I can feel it over the bond. He got himself into this, he can damn well wait a freaking minute while I kiss my soulmate.”
Magnus blinks. Then a giggle startles its way out of him, his face melting into laughter. Alec doesn’t wait another moment before he dives back in, dragging his lips across Magnus’s jaw and down to his throat until Magnus is gasping, not really sure what exactly he’s doing but doing it anyway, seized by a wild need to just have Magnus close close close.
Things pick up quickly from there. Alec was aware on some level that Magnus was keeping his distance up till now—taking things intentionally slow, working up to physical intimacy. Alec had been grateful at the time. He didn’t know how to act when it came to that kind of thing, had never learned what to do or practiced doing it, and it always felt like he was too much in his head whenever he thought about how it might go. Now, however… now it’s like there’s nothing in his way, no reason to slow or stop, just the thrill of getting to hold Magnus, to touch him, to let things get hot and heavy as he grows hard in his pants. And, lord help him, he can feel Magnus doing the same.
He’s going to lose his mind.
With a groan, Alec curls around Magnus, burying his face in Magnus’s neck. He’s breathing hard, his chest heaving. Everything in him is screaming for him to just keep going, but he feels like if he tries he’ll just straight up implode, collapsing into himself like a dying star. It’s not enough but it’s so much all at once, and he’s aware on some level that his dick is on Magnus’s hip and he’s grinding up against him like he’s sixteen again and grinding on a pillow and fuck—just holy jesus fuck—
“You make me lose my mind,” Magnus gasps, echoing Alec’s earlier thoughts nearly to the letter as he curls his fingers into Alec’s hair, and Alec can’t help it—he lets out a laugh, the motion of his hips slowing as he instead wraps his arms around Magnus’s trim waist and his legs around Magnus’s knees, holding tight. Magnus laughs, as well, his fingers beginning to stroke Alec’s hair back. Alec takes a moment to breathe, slowing everything down so that he can pick apart separate emotions again. Feverish want, a sense of safety, a deep, incredible love—and a little bit of guilt, growing ever larger.
“I want to do this with you,” Alec says, and swallows hard. “But I can’t. Not right now.”
“It’s okay, darling,” Magnus says, and his hand finds Alec’s face, knuckles stroking down his cheek. “We have time. Rain check?”
Alec nods, breathing in the scent of Magnus. Then he begins the slow ordeal of unwinding his limbs from Magnus’s so that he can get up and shower.
One parabatai ass to save, one parabatai ass to kick, and then Alec is cashing that rain check the hell in.
He takes his time in the shower, paying special attention to the heat pumping through his body and pooling between his legs. He’s restrained from taking advantage of Magnus’s massive shower up until now, instead choosing to take himself home and get off in the Institute’s minuscule private showers, but right now he needs this more than he needs air. He wonders offhand if Magnus is taking care of himself in the next room over and comes so hard that he has to sit at the bottom of the tub for a full five minutes just to recover. He’s very grateful that no one saw that.
His head feels a lot clearer after he manages to pick himself back up again. He’s able to focus closer on the parabatai bond, tugging at it to test exactly how stretched it is. The strain is there, for sure, but he wasn’t wrong in his assessment that Jace has been treated well thus far. Alec estimates that they have time to eat, at the very least, before they take the dive into research. He can’t remember the last time he ate human food, now that he thinks about it—he knows Magnus was trying to convince him to get something down yesterday, but his stomach was tied up in knots with the anticipation at the time and it just hadn’t seemed feasible.
Alec steps out of the shower, taking stock of the situation. They still have a maniac on the loose with the demonic soul sword, after all. And Jace, while unhurt, is still stuck in the Fae Realm. It’s not exactly ideal. Alec sighs, scrubbing a towel through his hair and taking a look at himself in the mirror.
Same scruffy hair. Same blue eyes. There’s a few bruises on his chest and arms from the fight, and his wrist is raw from the snap of his bowstring, but otherwise it’s the same old Alec.
Except… it isn’t, is it? Alec purses his lips. He feels like everything is different, like he’s not the same person who fell asleep just after midnight. Maybe it’s a consequence of sleeping, he doesn’t know. Do people who sleep regularly feel like they’ve gone through some sort of metamorphosis every time they pass a night unconscious? Sounds strange, but Alec knows stranger—he has a second face hidden behind his first, after all.
He shakes his head, scattering the thoughts before they can overtake him. He’s got things to do. He hangs his towel and dresses, making a to-do list in his head. One, eat. Two, call Izzy. Three, go to the Institute and get to work on Jace’s contract. Four, keep an eye out for demonic activity spikes.
…Amend that. Magnus needs to sleep, too, at some point, if he’s not already. Alec can get Izzy to bring over some books on the Fae while Magnus gets some shut-eye.
Alec nods to himself, settled in the knowledge that he has a plan. He ducks into the kitchen for some of the food that he keeps tucked away in the fridge that Magnus never uses, calling Izzy for an update while he does. She informs him that there have been no other spikes in the last few hours. No news is good news, he thinks, hopeful, shoveling chicken into his mouth.
He expects Magnus to have drifted off by the time he comes back to the guest room, or perhaps to have wandered off in search of his own comfy bed, but when he walks back in Magnus is propped up on an elbow, lazily dragging his fingers down Chairman Meow’s back. Alec blinks, and his mind wanders again to the question of whether or not Magnus took care of himself—in response, he feels his cheeks heat up.
He wants to know, he finds. He wants to know everything. If Magnus has ever thought of him like that, how Magnus lays when he’s jerking himself off, what his moans sound like—what he’d do if Alec told him about his own exploits alone in the shower. He even manages to not feel self-conscious as he imagines telling the warlock what he does to him, the way his body reacts.
Alas, another time. Alec clears his throat, settling down in the chair by the small desk in the corner instead. “Aren’t you tired?” he asks.
Magnus hums. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” he says, dodging the question with tact.
Alec frowns, leaning forward a little. “What is it?”
“…Okay, maybe it’s two somethings.”
Magnus doesn’t look angry. A little concerned, maybe, but not angry. Alec takes heart in that, giving him an encouraging smile. “Shoot,” he says.
Magnus purses his lips. “So you said you don’t sleep. But then you said you sleep when you’re stressed. …What did you mean by that?”
“Ah. It’s, um… a side-effect of angelic blood, you could say?” Alec scrubs a hand through his drying hair, hyperaware of the fact that he’s probably making it stick up in a very unsexy way but unable to do anything about it. When he looks back at Magnus, Magnus is frowning, an intense expression on his face.
“…Explain,” he says.
Alec does his best. “Okay, so. According to the scripture that the Silent Brothers keep, angels are beings of pure energy with a divine life source. Like a lamp that is always plugged in. They have no need to eat or sleep because they have no bodies, just energy. They just kind of… are. We Nephilim have just enough of that divine energy in our systems to negate the need for sleep in most instances. Because we’re still mostly human, however, there are times when we overdraft our energy reserves and our human needs break through.”
“How often does that happen?”
“Uh.” Alec quickly counts on his fingers. “I’ve slept five times in my life. After my Unmasking, after my first mission, after the attack with the Greater Demon dagger, after my testimony under the soul sword, and last night.”
“And you don’t sleep otherwise?”
Alec shakes his head. “Nope.”
“So… what do you do all night while I’m sleeping?”
This, Alec realizes, is what Magnus must have been concerned about when Alec told him that he didn’t sleep. “Nothing bad,” he says quickly, to reassure Magnus. “I read, mostly. And I… it’s kind of embarrassing, but I purr to you?”
Magnus raises an eyebrow. “Every night?”
God does Alec wish they could get back to the sexy times right about now. This is… a bit much. “Yeah. You just… you seem to have a lot of bad dreams and I… I just…” He fumbles for words, faltering. He never really explained to Magnus what purring meant, what he was doing. What was Magnus supposed to think, learning that his Monstrophagus soulmate sings the song of the angels to him every night?
Fuck, Alec has made a mistake. He winces. “It’s weird, I’ll stop, sorry—” he says, a squirming sense of shame curling in his gut.
But Magnus still doesn’t look mad. He’s raising his hand, stretching over on the bed to rest it on Alec’s knee, his brows drawn together in confusion. “No, no, hold up,” he says. “Why is it weird?”
Alec sighs. He doesn’t want to lay down his faults for Magnus to scrutinize, but he owes his soulmate that much. “I didn’t ask,” he says. “I just kind of presumed it was okay.” He can’t look Magnus in the face—instead he runs his hands over his face, closing his eyes. “I just… I do it for my family when they’re upset or tired or whatever, so I wanted to do it for you when I realized you don’t sleep well.”
Magnus is silent for a long moment. Long enough that Alec considers getting up and putting himself in time-out in the living room until someone else can take over bodyguard duty. Until Magnus squeezes his knee and says, “Alexander.”
“…Yes?” Alec asks, still refusing to look.
There’s a smile in Magnus’s voice. “You realize you can just… ask me now, yes?” he asks.
Alec peeks out at him, frowning. “You’re not upset?”
“Are you kidding?” Magnus demands, throwing one hand up in the air. “I was at the end of my wits! Rock bottom! And now—oh, now—I haven’t had a nightmare in weeks! You’ve turned my entire damn life around! For real, if you’d just do that for the rest of my life I would never again want for anything.”
He’s gesticulating wildly, smiling, and Alec can’t help it when he smiles back, all feelings of shame and embarrassment pushed from his mind just like that. The relief is instantaneous—Magnus doesn’t mind. Magnus likes it when he purrs for him. Magnus is—oh no. Magnus is looking at him with a mischievous glint in his eye.
“…What is it?” Alec asks, squinting at his soulmate.
Magnus grins, lips stretching wider. “So you really recognized me right off the bat, huh?” he asks, nonchalant.
“Yes?” Alec says, unsure where Magnus is going with this.
Magnus rolls onto his back, striking a post with one long leg stretched up dramatically, slippered toe pointed. “How does dream-me compare to the extravagance of the real deal?” he asks, and wriggles his eyebrows.
Alec snorts. “Different presentation, for sure. Dream-you is more of a… nicely marbled steak, cooked medium rare with some veggies on the side.”
“And real me?” Magnus asks, bringing his foot back down, eyes glittering.
“Marinated tenderloin, rare, paired with wild rice and wine.”
“Oh, now we’re talking,” Magnus laughs. “Tell me more about this wine.”
“What is there to tell?” Alec asks, teasing. “It’s all the same, isn’t it?”
“That is very rude, I’ll have you know,” Magnus says, pursing his lips. “I’d have to kick you out of my apartment if you compared me to something cheap. Like Apothic Crush, god forbid. Cheap wine is a fun time for a fun night but you don’t keep it around for special occasions, you know what I mean?”
He finishes off his declaration with a wide yawn, his cat eyes squinting closed. Alec stands, leaning over to wrestle the bedsheets out from underneath him. “You can tell me which wine you’d like to be tomorrow,” he says, nudging the Chairman until he’s nestled against Magnus’s side under the sheets.
“Hmm. I’m holding you to that,” Magnus says. Then, lips quirked up, he feels around until he’s got Alec’s wrist, giving it a little yank. “Come on, purr machine,” he says.
Alec groans, folding himself onto the bed and hiding his face against Magnus’s shoulder. “If you call me that I can and will make you Apothic Crush,” he says.
Magnus snickers. Then he sighs, relaxing the rest of the way into the mattress as Alec draws in a breath and begins the low hum of the song of the angels, soft and sure.
It isn’t much longer after that when Izzy and Lydia turn up, laden down with stacks and stacks of books. Magnus is out by the time Alec’s phone buzzes to say they’ve arrived, and though Alec would like to stay and continue purring, he has other obligations. Alec raises one brow as he lets the two of them in, turning a questioning look on Izzy.
“She wanted to help,” Izzy says, shrugging.
Lydia huffs. “It helps no one to have one of our generation’s best fighters bound to the Seelie Court. He’s at their beck and call—if they tell him to fight for them he’s bloodbound to do it. I don’t think I need to explain why this is a very bad thing.”
Alec nods. He thought the same thing yesterday. If the Clave’s tentative truce with the Seelie were to somehow dissolve while Jace was still trapped there, Jace would be obligated to fight on the Fae’s side. The day that Jace and Alec fight on opposite sides of a conflict is the day that Alec would rather die than fight.
But that’s all hypothetical, because they will be getting Jace out of there before it becomes a problem. They will.
With that decided, the three of them settle in for the long haul, books open and pens scratching. It’s the first time that Alec has really sat down and worked with Lydia instead of being interrogated by her. She isn’t half bad, he finds—she’s sharp and quick, interested in very little nonsense. He thinks he could be friends with her, somewhere down the line. Far, far down, because he still doesn’t quite trust her, but still. One thing at a time. First things first—Alec is going to get his parabatai back.