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Deeper Than the Truth

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Alec Lightwood leaned back in his chair with a sigh and looked accusingly down at the clock in the corner of his computer screen.

The little numbers swam in and out of focus, blurring in front of his tired eyes, causing him to squint to try and see them clearly. Once he finally was able to focus on them, he wished that he hadn’t. It was four o’clock in the morning which meant he hadn’t made any more progress on the chapter he had been working on in approximately five hours. Five hours of editing, re-writing and then editing again, and it had barely made a difference. He knew he should have been further on his novel by now, much further, but no new ideas had been coming to him for what had felt like months. Alec had fallen deep into a writing slump, stuck on the same chapter over and over again.

He shut his eyes; the tiny black letters, a stark contrast to the white page he had been staring at, were imprinted on the inside of his eyelids. The words danced in front of him, taunting and teasing as they flashed by, too quick for him to grab onto. Frustrated, he opened his eyes again, unable to escape the confines of his writer's block for even a second.

After only a moment of contemplation, he closed the lid of his laptop and got up from the computer chair, stretching his arms over his head. Alec groaned appreciatively at the stretch, his back and shoulders finally unknotting themselves after being locked in the same position for hours on end. Isabelle had repeatedly told him to take more breaks, even get into yoga to help ease his pain, but Alec always brushed his sister off claiming he was fine.
It was times like this where he admitted to himself that she may have been right.

He looked down at the closed laptop again, and then to his empty blue coffee cup sitting beside it. He really should continue writing. He couldn’t afford breaks right now, with how far behind he was. After all, his deadline wasn’t going to meet itself and it seemed to be looming closer and closer by the week. He could always make another pot of coffee, work for a few more hours to try and push out the rest of this chapter before he met with his editor later that day. But the logical part of his sleep-muddled brain told him that even if he were to write something new, it probably wouldn’t be that good anyway at this time of night (morning?). He would deal with the wrath of his editor when he woke up.

Alec discarded the empty coffee cup in the sink before he padded sleepily across the floor of his apartment, towards his bedroom. Not even bothering to change out of his clothes, he fell face first on top of the covers and dropped into a deep, blissful sleep.

*

Magnus Bane was late. Well, late may have been an understatement. He was very, very incredibly late. Like, should have been at work about an ago for his important meeting but was very much not, kind of late.

Yet there he stood, in line at his favourite coffee shop waiting to place his order. He was supposed to be meeting his boss at eight o’clock to discuss marketing strategies for the show they had been planning for the past few months. Well, the show Magnus had been planning for the past few months and she had been overseeing. It wasn’t his first show, but it was going to be by far, more important than the all of the others. It was a show he had been planning since he was a child, drawing sketches in his books and cutting pieces of fabric from his mother’s old blouses. It was the first show where he would showcase his work in a global event … one of the biggest fashion events in the world, to be exact; New York Fashion Week.

Except due to an unfortunate series of events that had occurred that morning, it was nine o’clock and he was waiting to order his coffee instead of dazzling his boss with his designs in his morning meeting.

Magnus had set his alarm early, giving himself plenty of time knowing it would take him at least an hour and a half to get himself ready and out the door. But alas, when he woke up it was an hour past the time he had set his alarm for and his cat, Chairman Meow, was sitting on the nightstand staring at him, judging eyes pointedly fixed on his half-sleeping form. He had dashed out of bed and right into the shower, not bothering with his usual ritualistic shower routine in favor of quickly running soap and conditioner through his hair. Skipping his routine was not something that happened often and was not a good way to start any day. Especially an important day, like today.

From there it had been a mad rush of clothing, makeup and hair gel, Magnus running around his apartment trying to get himself ready on time. Church, his other cat, had joined The Chairman who was now on the bed, giving Magnus the same judging stare. The two of them watched him run around the apartment like a maniac, their matching patronizing expressions mocking him the whole way through. Maybe Magnus was going crazy and starting to imagine things. Maybe his cats were trying to plot a way to take him out, and achieve world domination. Or maybe, Magnus just needed to stop thinking and get out the door on time.

Nonetheless, he had glared at them both before grabbing his bag and rushing out the door.

The Uber he had called for was waiting for him outside his front door, the driver waiting patiently behind the wheel, tapping his fingers along to a song on the radio. Usually Magnus took public transit to work, but if he wanted to make it even close to the time the meeting was supposed to start, the Uber would have to do. The driver dropped him off a block from his building, morning traffic preventing him from getting any closer. He had run out, carefully navigating the throng of people on the busy sidewalk, weaving in and out of students and commuters alike. He almost made it to the front doors of his office building, and looking back, knew he would have been on time if he hadn’t stopped. Well, closer to the time he usually came into the office, which was about half an hour after he should have been there.

But the scent of his favourite coffee shop had hit him like a wave as he had run by its open doors, a beautiful, sweet smelling wave that was impossible to ignore. Magnus usually timed his morning so that he could stop in and grab a coffee before work and then came back again in the afternoon most days for his lunch break, but obviously his morning that hadn’t gone according to plan. The coffee shop was one of those trendy, hipster places that was right downtown Manhattan, and usually wasn’t too busy because it was across the road from a Starbucks. The one day it was busy however, was today.

Magnus craned his neck and rose up onto his toes to try and see the front of the line. Two people ahead of him, and one at the cash. The guy ordering at the front seemed to be taking an unreasonably long time deciding if he wanted a biscotti or a croissant with his chai tea. Magnus rolled his eyes, dropping back down onto his heels. He didn’t even glance at his watch to check how dastardly late he was. He’d be in trouble either way, so why stress about the inevitable before it happened?

Biding his time, he glanced around the coffee shop. Though he worked with new people all the time, Magnus had never lost his interest in people-watching. It was something he and his adoptive sister, Clary, had done ever since they were young. On family vacations, waiting rooms or whenever they went to the city, they made a game out of watching the people around them, creating a story about what their lives were like. Clary had always been the one to write fairytales for people, where Magnus had made up funny stories to hear her laugh. He even used to play a game with his childhood friend Raphael when they got older, watching their classmates in the hall and seeing who could create the most ridiculous story.

The thought of Raphael sent a sharp pang through his chest, a pain he still hadn’t become accustomed to.

Distracting himself, he glanced once again around the small café. All of the tables were full, which was unusual for a Monday morning. Many of the tables were filled with young people, high school students picking up a coffee before their morning classes, or university students with their laptops open, stress and sleep deprivation written all over their features. A few tables were occupied by families: a mother and her two sons, a couple with their newborn, and what appeared to be a mother and daughter laughing together with mugs in their hands, enjoying the warm October morning. Magnus smiled, taking joy in the happiness that swirled around him. That was another thing he loved about this coffee shop, there never seemed to be a shortage of happiness.

He was just about to turn back to the line – the man had chosen a biscotti and was now paying – when his eyes settled on a table in the back of the café.

Sitting at the table was a boy – no, a man – who encompassed the description tall, dark and handsome. He was sitting alone with his head bent over a novel, empty cups of coffee scattered on the table in front of him. He was scanning the book in his hand intently, his incredible hazel eyes sharply focused on the page in front of him. He had dark hair that was just long enough that it fell into his eyes, which caused him to run his fingers back through it every so often, giving it a definitive sexy, pushed back look. He looked tired, if the dark bruises under his eyes and multiple coffee cups that littered on his table were anything to go by, but it did nothing to dim the striking beauty of him. Since he was sitting, Magnus could only assume that he was tall, but dark and handsome certainly fit him regardless. Magnus knew he was staring, but couldn’t drag his eyes away from the gorgeous stranger.

He was rudely interrupted of his intense fixation on the beautiful stranger when the barista called him to attention as it was his turn next to order. The barista was a short girl with puffy hair and a name tag that read ‘Maia’. Magnus hadn’t seen her here before, so he assumed she must have just gotten hired. She smiled warmly at him and asked him what he would like this morning, and he immediately forgot that he was supposed to be mad at her. He ordered coffee (black) and a blueberry muffin to go, at the last minute adding a caramel macchiato for his boss. Better to be safe than sorry. His eyes darted back to the handsome stranger but he could no longer see him through the crowd of people in the shop. Slightly disappointed, Magnus took his food and hurried out of the shop to his meeting.

*

Alec watched nervously as Simon read through his latest work. They were sitting in Alec’s spacious living room, Simon sitting on the couch across from him. Alec lived in a nice apartment in Manhattan. It was modest, especially considering the amount he made each year, but it was all that he needed. He did have a few, more expensive pieces scattered around the apartment that he was pretty proud of: a bow and arrow set that he had purchased on a whim a few years back, a painting that Isabelle had guilted him into buying that was much too pricey for the simplicity of it but had somehow grown on him, and a very large television. Alec had more money than he knew what to do with, but buying a very fancy television was a must.

He looked back to Simon, who was still skimming through the words on the screen of the laptop. Alec got up, walked around the living room, grabbed a glass of water, and sat back down. Still, Simon remained in the same position. Alec knew he was fidgeting, but Simon must have been used to it by now because he didn’t even look up when Alec got up off the couch and started pacing the room. Every once in a while, Simon’s expression would change as he read a certain passage, or would glance up and ask Alec a question, but for the most part he silently read the words on the screen in front of him. The only sound that filled Alec’s small apartment was the odd click of the computer keys and his own nervous breathing.

He knew he shouldn’t really be nervous; it was Simon after all, and even when he thought what Alec had written was shit - which did happen more often than he liked to admit - he was never rude about it.

Simon and Alec had met in their first year of university, both of them studying creative literature. They had become fast friends, bonding over their shared love of authors like Oscar Wilde and Alice Munroe, and fiction novels. Simon was big into mysteries, and Alec romance. They spent hours poring over book after book, geeking out with each other. Not long after they met, Alec had started writing professionally and Simon, pursuing a career in editing, was always there to read his work and offer suggestions. They roomed together throughout all three years of their program, and developed a well working professional relationship as well as a personal one. Simon was the only other person, besides his own family, that he felt he could fully trust.

Now, seven years later, nothing had changed – Simon was still the first and last person to read Alec’s work before it went to publishing, except now Alec paid him for it. He had become sort of a manager to Alec over the years, taking the lead and heading meetings with publishers and big-name book stores. He made sure Alec’s novels got into the right hands to be properly distributed and marketed as Alec wasn’t able to do it himself.

Simon was also the one he called when he was having writer's block and needed help getting passed sections of his writing that he had been stuck on. For months.

Simon looked up from the computer and closed the lid, signaling he was finished reading. Alec stopped pacing and faced his friend expectantly. “Well … it’s not that bad.” Simon started. Alec groaned, dropping his head into his hands and flopping back onto the couch behind him. “No! I’m serious! There’s some things we need to fix, but it’s really not terrible.” Simon moved to place the laptop on the counter, turning his full attention to Alec.

“Not terrible isn’t really how I want my books to be described, Si. What you’re trying to tell me is that it’s not good enough and I need to start over. We both know you’re too nice to say that to my face.” Alec joked, forcing a small laugh out. He was, of course upset by Simon’s reaction but some small part of him knew he was going to react that way. What Alec had been writing lately was nowhere near his usual standard. He was surprised Simon even liked it at all.

Before that point, he had never had any issues when it came to writing, mainly because everything he wrote had spawned directly from his own experiences. When he first started, he could hardly type as fast as the words were coming out of him, often jotting things down on napkins and the back of his hand during the day so he wouldn’t forget them. Those had been the days when he would stay up into the wee hours of the night, finishing a full novel in a few weeks’ time. But more recently he had been experiencing a blockage when it came to coming up with new ideas. He wasn’t sure why that was, and he had even less of an idea on how to fix it.

Simon looked across the couch at him, serious look on his face, which was odd for Simon who was usually never serious. “Look man, I know you’re tired. Six books in seven years is a huge accomplishment but incredibly taxing, especially for someone as young as you are. We just have to get this one out and then you can take a nice, long break. Maybe go travelling for a while and get a fresh start.”

Alec sighed. He knew Simon was right; they had been going nonstop ever since the massive reaction his first book, Shadows, had received when it was released all those years ago, when both of them were still so new to the world of professional writing. The demand for new content had been high and Alec had been eager to provide, pleased with the positive attention his writing was getting from people around the world. It had been a surreal experience to say the least. That’s not to say that he still didn’t enjoy writing. He did. Writing was a way for him to escape, to jump into a fictional world for hours at a time and make it his own. He supposed if he was being honest, it was a way of control, an area his own life often lacked. Lately though, it had been getting to be more demanding than rewarding. Staying up late, getting nothing done and waking up exhausted the next day to try and do it all over again.

Simon was still looking at him with an expression of concern. Alec knew what Simon was thinking and couldn’t stand the thought of his best friend pitying him, so he stood up and moved towards the kitchen to grab a bottle of water. “Alright. So, what should I be doing in the meantime? Keep trying to write? Scrap the whole thing? I need to get something new out there soon, at least in the next couple of months.” His editor got up off the couch and followed him to the kitchen, catching the water bottle Alec threw at him from the fridge.

“Why don’t you start by reading through some of your old stuff, see if you can get some inspiration from that. We’ve been following this character since he was a teenager, so it might help to go back to the beginning of his story, in order to progress it.” Simon hopped up onto the kitchen counter, pushing his round glasses up on his nose where they had slipped down.

It wasn’t a bad idea, actually. Going back to his roots, as well as his characters’, could help him put perspective on how far they both had come. He could read the whole journey from the beginning, and hopefully in that, find the ending he had been searching for. He contemplated the idea for only a moment, before telling Simon that he would give it a try. Which is how he found himself sitting in the back of a coffee shop downtown that Isabelle always gushed about, Shadows in hand, trying in vain to see something in his protagonist Bobby that would inspire him to continue writing.

The coffee shop was busy that morning, probably because it was one of those hipster places right downtown, the tables around him filled with trendy teenagers and families. It was a cute little shop, and he reminded himself to thank Isabelle for the recommendation. Alec did his best to tune out his surroundings, throwing himself fully and completely into reading. He had never read his own work before after he had done his final edits, and so reading the actual hard, tangible copy was strange for him. Reading his own work wasn’t something he usually, or ever really, did and he found the experience almost like going back and reading a diary one had written when they were a teenager. Shadows had been written what seemed like so long ago in his life that it was almost like reading a diary.

He read through the entire first half of the book in a few hours, downing three cups of coffee in the process, with still no miraculous bursts of inspiration. He was frustrated and exhausted, and no closer to finding what he needed to finish this damn series. Groaning, Alec shut the book and pulled out his phone. He would take a short break, regroup and then dive back in with a clear head.

He had two missed messages from Simon asking him how the hunt for creativity was going and one each from his siblings, Jace and Isabelle. He sent Simon the middle finger emoji, followed by the eye-rolling one, then he clicked on the text from Isabelle.

Isabelle: Just saw the hottest guy at work! Should I give him your number? ;) xx 

Alec rolled his eyes fondly before sending a definitive ‘no’ to her. His sister was always trying to set him up with someone new, worried he would become a “grouchy old man who only left his house to get groceries and feed the cat.” Alec assured her that he would become none of those things, one because he had enough money to have groceries delivered to his doorstep for the rest of his life and two, because he was not a cat person. Despite his best efforts though, she still tended to worry about him. He clicked on Jace’s message next.

Jace: Bro, want to come downtown with me tonight? I need a wing man.

He hadn’t been out of the house much lately and knew his siblings were both starting to catch on. They sent him more text messages than were strictly necessary, considering they both lived no further than a ten-minute walk from his own apartment, and often tended to show up announced during the day. Jace would drop by, sometimes with Izzy in tow, both of them begging him to come out with them and have some fun, or sometimes just to sit together and watch movies. Alec loved his siblings more than anything else and enjoyed their company, but knew that the only reason they were around his apartment so much these days was because they worried about him. He hated to make them worry, and hated even more that there was a reason for them to even spare a second thought about if he was okay or not.

It was that thought alone that pulsed through Alec’s mind as he read Jace’s message again, thinking about the guilt trip that was bound to come if he declined. He knew the logical part of his brain had won this one, and sent his brother a simple “sure.”

With that, he picked up his book and continued to read.

*

“You’re late.” Lydia Branwell didn’t even look up as Magnus strode into her office. She did look up however, when he placed the large coffee cup on her desk. He grinned at her, hoping to wipe the angry look from her face.

“Sorry, darling. You know how I feel about Mondays.”

She looked at him for a second longer, her eyes piercing, before she tentatively picked up the coffee. Opening the lid, she took a careful sip, paused and then fixed him with another look; this one was far more exasperated than angry. Magnus grinned again, this time in satisfaction. Lydia could never stay mad at him for long. He knew her far too well for that. “Well, sit down then. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Magnus took a seat in front of her desk, pulling out the binder full of his designs. He had been slaving over this binder for the better part of a year, Lydia offering some assistance here and there as needed, but this was the first time she would see everything finished and in-full. Magnus already had a team working on creating some of the designs, so he hoped she wouldn’t have too many corrections.

Lydia and Magnus had been working together for so long now that it was hard for him to really think of her as a boss. Of course, he knew when it was time to get work done but in this industry, it was also important to know when to let loose and have a little fun. Lydia always seemed to understand him, giving him the creative freedom he needed on most of his projects, only having to rein him in a handful of times. And Magnus liked to believe he had made her proud, what with the success of his ever-growing line of clothing.

Magnus had been an intern in Lydia’s offices when he was still in grad school, fetching coffee and making copies of designs for months on end, until one day some of his original sketches had found their way to her desk (Magnus would defend till the day he died that he didn’t accidentally slip them in with her mail). He still remembered the day she first spoke to him with extreme clarity; he had been in the break room chatting with some of the other interns when she strode in, ever the picture of confidence and power in her slick pantsuit and tight ponytail. She had placed his work on the table in front of him and told him that she would hire him as soon as he graduated, and if he had any questions she had attached her business card to his designs. Magnus had had other offers from different companies, but none even close to as good as the one form Lydia Branwell at The Institute Fashion Industries. Since then, he and Lydia had worked together on countless projects, more recently Magnus’ own line of clothing. It had taken a while for him to get his footing in the fashion world, finding himself at the bottom of the food chain even with Lydia’s support and guidance.

Now though, five years after the launch of his own line, Magnus had not only successfully mounted the industrial ladder of the fashion industry but climbed it to the top, making his name known and heard along with efficacious companies like Burberry, Guess and Calvin Klein. His designs were being worn at award shows and red carpets, city streets and runways. He had achieved everything he had ever wanted.

Well, everything except for Fashion Week.

“So, as I’m sure you are well aware, they have requested you for Fashion Week which means you have the privilege of choosing when you want your show to be during the week. This is an important decision because –"

“Because it could make or break my career as a fashion designer. If I chose a bad spot, I could be overshadowed by companies that are bigger than myself but I can’t choose the best spot as I am unfortunately, not the biggest company out there. Yet.” Magnus finished for her, adding a wink for good measure. He and Lydia had had this conversation before, right after he had gotten the call requesting him to be a part of Fashion Week.

Lydia fixed him with a pointed look, but didn’t comment. “I think you should aim for the end of the week. A Thursday afternoon or evening might be best. You obviously can’t start or close the event, but you want to be close enough to the end that you will be remembered and won’t be overshadowed by those that come after you.” She glanced down at her tablet, scrolling for a minute before looking back up at him. “Thursday at five is still free. Sherri Hill is Thursday morning and I’ve heard that Dolce is trying for Thursday night, but I think you could beat them out. Of course it’s up to you to decide what you want to do, you don’t have to take all of my advice anymore.”

Magnus smiled at her, gesturing for the tablet which she handed over wordlessly. He looked down at the schedule before him, seeing that Lydia was once again right. He had a few options but Thursday evening seemed like the best time. Not a bad time, but not the best. “I’ll always take your advice, Lydia. I would be selling my clothes at Walmart without you.” Lydia sent him a small smile, which was more than she gave most people so Magnus counted it as a win.

They spent the next two hours poring over his sketchbook, making final touches on fabrics, dimensions and colours. Lydia was overall pleased with what he had come up with, she even told him how impressive his work had gotten over the past few years, and only made a few minor changes. Nothing that would derail the seamstresses that were already working on bringing his sketches to life.

Once they had finished, he bid Lydia farewell with a promise to send her updates once he talked to the seamstresses later this afternoon, giving her an updated timeline as to when everything would be finished. Magnus stepped out onto the street, the warm October afternoon sunlight warming his skin. He shrugged out of his suit jacket, which left him just in black dress pants and a dark blue, paisley-printed button up shirt. Because of his late start this morning he hadn’t had time to grab his necklaces but had remembered to grab a few of his favourite rings, which adorned his fingers colorfully.

His favourite coffee shop was considerably less busy than it had been this morning and when Magnus walked through the doors, he noticed many of the families and youngsters were gone, leaving just a few regulars sitting quietly, enjoying their lunch breaks. The new barista from that morning, Maia, was still behind the counter and smiled at him as he approached. “Hi! Welcome to Java Jones. What can I get for you?”

“Well hello darling. My name is Magnus, I thought I should introduce myself as you are obviously new here and have yet to learn the frequency in which I visit this coffee shop.” He said not unkindly, with a grin.

Maia regarded him for a second, unsure it seemed of how to react, before she slyly grinned back and responded, “Nice to meet you, Magnus. I’ll make sure to keep a lookout for you. What can I get you?” Magnus ordered another coffee, this time with a turkey avocado sandwich to go. His muffin from this morning just wasn’t cutting it. He moved to the side to wait for his order, entertaining himself with a game on his phone. He had only been playing for a few moments when all of a sudden, someone bumped into him from behind.

Magnus turned around, a snide remark on the tip of his tongue; it wasn’t often people accidentally bumped into him, for it wasn’t like he dressed inconspicuously. But that remark fell away as soon as he saw who had hit him.

Tall, Dark and Handsome from this morning was standing there, novel in hand, look of shock covering his gorgeously chiseled face. He was a head taller than Magnus, but appeared to be trying to make himself look invisible. His cheeks were already a pretty shade of pink and he seemed to be trying to find words to apologize.

*

  “I- I’m so um, so sorry.” Alec stuttered out, mentally cursing himself for suddenly being unable to speak. Attractive men sometimes had that effect on him, but he hadn’t had much of an issue with it since he had been a teenager. He closed his eyes and took a moment to collect himself. Willing the deep flush to leave his cheeks, he opened his eyes again and looked down at the man in front of him. “I’m really sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

The very beautiful man was barely a head shorter than him, which was something Alec wasn’t used to, almost always towering over everyone. He had jet black hair, that spiked up at odd angles around his face, but in a way that made it look elegant, and was streaked with blue dye that matched the colour of his shirt. His almond shaped eyes were dark, lined with kohl but held a spark in them that did something funny to Alec’s stomach. His mouth was turned up at the corners, which Alec realized too late was the result of the man noticing Alec blatantly checking him out. He flushed and looked away.

The man looked shocked for a moment before quickly composing himself and sent Alec a mischievous grin. “No harm done, darling. Though I would prefer that next time you hit me from behind, we don’t do it in the middle of a coffee shop.” He dropped a wink at the end of the innuendo that did nothing to help Alec’s composure. Attractive men that were witty and devastatingly beautiful were way out of Alec’s comfort zone, leaving his brain scrambling to pick up the pieces this man had shattered it into. He was left once again sputtering for something to say, cheeks blazing. This only made the man grin more, smirking proudly at Alec’s embarrassment.

He must have decided to take pity on Alec, for he gestured to the novel that the taller man was still holding. “At least tell me what you were reading that had you so distracted from your surroundings.” Alec looked down at the cover, unsullied and clean. He had grabbed it this morning after Simon left, out of the box where he kept all of the first editions of his novels, each book unopened and unread. After a full day of reading, he was no closer to inspiration than he was to becoming President of the United States.

This particular novel he held was his first, written when he was just 18 years old and published the year after. He remembered how proud he had been when it had come out, how he had nourished it and watched it grow like a child before releasing it into the world. The cover was plain white, with a splash of colour along the front, almost as if someone had taken the end of a rainbow and streaked it across an all-white sky. The most peculiar thing about the novel however, was the authors name written across the bottom; big bold black letters that jumped out starkly against the white background. Gideon Archer.
“Oh, it’s nothing good. Just a book…” Alec trailed off, trying to turn his wrist to hide the cover from the man. Alec wasn’t ashamed of his novels, far from it, but the thought of this stranger, this very, very attractive stranger, reading his words made his stomach twist nervously. Not that he would ever know that it was Alec’s work, of course, but the thought still lingered.

Alec was quick but the man was quicker, plucking the novel delicately out of Alec’s hand and flipping through the pages. His eyes opened wide. “Shadows? You read Gideon Archer books, too? My, my, just when I thought you couldn’t get any hotter, you continue to surprise me.” The man mused, not looking at Alec instead skimming through the novel, eyes alight with excitement. “I love his work. Not to sound too much like a fanboy, but I’ve read everything he’s ever written.” The man smiled up at Alec, a warm smile that lit up his entire face and made his eyes crinkle in the corners, and held his hand out to shake. “My name is Magnus. Magnus Bane. And you are?”

Alec stood in stunned silence for a moment, he looked at Magnus’ hand then back to his face before sliding his own hand into the other man’s smaller one. “I’m Alec Lightwood.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “So um, you like Gideon Archer, huh?”

Magnus quirked a curious eyebrow in Alec’s direction. “Don’t you?” He held out the book as he did so, glancing at it pointedly.
Alec grabbed the book back with a small laugh, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “I’m not much of a fan of him at the moment.” Magnus seemed about to respond when the petite barista behind the counter called out his name, holding a paper bag and a coffee cup. Smiling at her, he grabbed his food before turning back to Alec.

“Well Alexander, I would love to continue this conversation at the present except I have a whole room of ladies with sharp sewing needles who are not going to be too pleased with me if I keep them waiting any longer. Perhaps if you’re here tomorrow, around the same time, we could bump into each other again, and you could tell me your ridiculous dislike for Mr. Archer over a cup of coffee?” Magnus looked at Alec confidently, like he had no reservations whatsoever that Alec wouldn’t accept his offer. He was right.

“Tomorrow. Yeah, okay. I’ll be here.” Alec said, unable to stop the smile that crept onto his face. Magnus was already on his way out the store when Alec realized what Magnus had said. He called out after him, “My name is Alec!”

Magnus just waved over his shoulder, calling out “See you tomorrow, Alexander!”

He was so screwed.

Chapter Text

Alec looked in the mirror at his outfit, skeptically. It had been picked out by none other than Isabelle, who stood behind his shoulder and beamed proudly.
“You look great, big brother.” She smiled, as she turned him around and fixed the collar of his shirt. She had put him in a denim button up, insisting he roll up the sleeves “because it will make your arms look good”, and a black pair of jeans that were so tight that Alec wasn’t sure he would ever be able to get out of them. When he voiced this thought to Isabelle though, she simply shrugged and told him pain was beauty. “Besides,” she had grinned, “If someone wants to get them off badly enough, they’ll find a way.” Alec had ignored this comment and instead threw a glare at his sister.

He glanced over to his bed where the majority of his closet were heaped in pile on the duvet. Once Isabelle had found out that he and Jace were going downtown tonight, she had insisted on joining them.

She also insisted on dressing Alec.

She often told him he didn’t know how to dress himself and he loved his sister too much to refuse her help when she asked. It wasn’t that he wasn’t fashionable per se, it was simply that Alec always had more to concern himself with than what he was wearing. He didn’t see the point in getting all dressed up when there really wasn’t a reason. That being said, he also did not think that his favourite sweater, which may have had a few small holes in the sleeve, and a pair of black jeans was atrociously unfashionable. Isabelle did not share this opinion and had tried many times to throw his sweater away when he wasn’t paying attention.

After an hour of Alec switching his shirt every two minutes (she wanted him to model each one, which Alec obliged to with only a few rolls of his eyes) Isabelle had settled on the blue shirt, his bed becoming home to the pile of rejected clothing.

“Izzy, you do realize that Jace asked me to be his wing man, right?” Alec sighed at his sister. He wasn’t planning on picking anyone up tonight. Actually, it was the last thing on his mind. He was going to this club to appease his siblings and hopefully get them off his back for a little while.

She continued her ministrations with his shirt but glanced up at him, a sculpted eyebrow raised in defiance. “And that means you don’t have to look good?” Alec gave her a look. “Fine. But you’ll thank me later when you meet a nice boy … or a naughty one.” She grinned wickedly, winking at him. Groaning, Alec rolled his eyes again and gently pushed Isabelle’s hands away from his shirt. She had undone the buttons to show a large amount of his chest, far more than he was comfortable showing off to a bunch of random strangers in a club. Alec worked to do the buttons up again, angling his body away from her so that she wouldn’t catch him.

Unlike Alec, Isabelle loved dressing to impress. She had on a tight red dress that fell mid-thigh, with a zipper that did all the way up the front. Her ink-black hair fell in long waves around her shoulders and framed her face, to which she had applied dark kohl around her eyes and ruby red lipstick to her mouth. She looked beautiful, but Alec supposed he was probably biased because he thought his sister was beautiful no matter what she was wearing.

Isabelle and Alec looked up as Jace poked his head into the room, eyes lingering on the mountain of clothes taking up residence on the bed before he looked to his brother and grinned. Jace had opted for his usual attire; black jeans, boots and t-shirt with his signature black leather jacket thrown over top. His fair hair contrasted starkly with the dark clothing, making it look more golden than usual.

People often got confused when Jace introduced himself as a Lightwood, especially when he was stood next to his siblings. Being adopted, Jace looked nothing like Isabelle and Alec. His blonde hair and heterochromia eyes were vividly different from the signature dark hair and eyes of his siblings. Jace had only been three when he first came to live with the Lightwoods. Alec’s mother and father had been close friends with Jace’s parents all throughout their teenage years. When one day they both died suddenly in a horrible freak hunting accident, their lawyer had called Alec's parents and informed them that Jace's parents will had stated that Jace was to fall under the care of the Lightwood family until he was of age. Alec remembered very clearly the day the social worker dropped him off, being five at the time, and finding it unfathomable what that would have been like; losing your entire family in the blink of an eye.
Jace had blended into their family quite easily, fitting in perfectly with the dynamic between Alec and Isabelle. Alec and Jace had become best friends almost instantly, and it wasn’t long before Alec was telling everyone all about his new brother. They spent practically every moment together growing up. Alec had hit his growth spurt much later than many of the other boys his age, still appearing tall and lanky in high school. Jace was always the first to defend him, with words and fists, in the halls if someone was found teasing his brother. In turn Alec always helped Jace with school so that he didn’t get in trouble with their parents. When Isabelle had gotten to school both Alec and Jace had always tried to defend her, but Izzy was one of those girls who didn’t need anyone’s help when it came to putting playground bullies in their place.

Even though Alec was older than Jace, he looked up to his brother who always seemed to exude an air of confidence and self-satisfaction. Jace was charismatic and never afraid of getting what he wanted, sometimes going to extreme lengths to do so, which often annoyed Alec to no end. There was no one else in the world who could infuriate Alec like Jace could. But there was also no one else who had his back like Jace did, except Isabelle. The three of them were as tight-knit as siblings could get, and Alec wouldn’t have traded that for the world.

Jace, still in the doorway, looked at his siblings with a devilish smirk. “Well, you both look like you’re on the hunt tonight.”

Isabelle finished strapping on her high heels and stood up and did a slow, dramatic twirl to show off her outfit. “Well, I am. I don’t know about Alec. He still seems to think he’s playing wingman. Though if you ask me, he could use a little hunting trip.” She winked in his direction and he rolled his eyes fondly. His siblings seemed to get extreme enjoyment from teasing him; their favourite topic being his sex life.

“No one asked you.” Alec shot back, grabbing his coat and wallet, sliding them into his pocket. Sometimes he wondered what it would be like to be an only child, but always realized almost immediately that life would be far duller.

When they were all ready, the three Lightwoods made their way out of Alec’s apartment and downstairs to where the car Alec had hired was waiting for them. Being a New York Times Bestselling author did have its perks but Alec didn’t usually advertise the amount of money he had, nor did he often make extravagant purchases, but it was times like this where it came in handy. The thought of cabbing or taking public transit all the way downtown wasn’t an appealing one.

The club Jace had chosen was right in downtown Brooklyn, some place called Pandemonium that had only just opened a few months prior, but had quickly become fairly popular, making its name as the new night-life hot spot for young people. The drive was short and soon enough they pulled up in front of the nightclub.

The outside looked like any other nightclub on the block. It appeared to be in some sort of old warehouse, bricked front with a big neon sign that bore the name. There was a line spanning the entire front of the building, all the way around the corner. Women in short dresses and heels, men in tight jeans and shirts and everyone in between could be found in the line, but the one thing they had in common was that they all appeared to be under 30.

Isabelle walked them right to the front of the line like she owned the place, passing the hordes of waiting patrons. Alec thought for sure they would get sent to the back, but Isabelle quickly worked her magic on the bouncer. She was all dark eyes and fluttering lashes, lips pouting dramatically. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance, eyes following her every move as she sweet talked her way in. Alec and Jace exchanged amused glances behind her.

It wasn’t even two minutes later that he had pulled aside the curtain and let them through, ignoring the groans and protests from the line of people behind them.

As soon as they walked through the doors, they were hit with a wave of heat and smoke and Alec was momentarily lost to his senses. Blinking a few times, his sight slowly returned, adjusting to the dimness of the room. He waited for his ears to stop ringing but quickly realized that with the heavy, pounding beat of the music, he wouldn't be able to hear anything anyway.

Pandemonium was fairly large inside, a long bar taking up one whole wall of the room. Booths and couches, all of which filled with groups of young people took up the other walls. The booths were already packed with people, some drinking and chatting happily while others were engaged in other more nefarious activities in the dark alcoves. The rest of the room was taken up by a massive dance floor which was teeming with people, grinding and dancing to the beat coming from the speakers. There was a set of spiral stairs just to their right that went presumably to the VIP section, if the red rope and large, muscled bouncer standing in front had to do with anything. There was small raised circular stages dispersed throughout the dancefloor, a man or a woman on each, dancing to the beat along with the crowd below them.

Isabelle grabbed her brothers’ hands and led them through the crows and towards the bar, ordering them all shots to start. She handed them each a glass before taking her own and clinking it against there’s, and downed it in one go. Alec and Jace followed suit, the liquid running hot and fast down Alec’s throat making his stomach burn pleasantly. They did two more shots together before Isabelle caught the attention of a man standing near them, and he dragged her out to the dance floor.

Alec felt pleasantly buzzed, standing by the bar with Jace as he drank his beer. His eyes scanned around the crowd but he didn’t see anyone who caught his eye. Alec usually accepted the fact that that he most likely wouldn’t find anyone at the bars Izzy and Jace chose, because although it was New York, most members of the gay community tended to stick to their own clubs. His siblings had offered on multiple occasions to go with him to a gay bar, but Alec always declined knowing they wouldn’t enjoy themselves as much.

He had always known he was different than most boys his age, but it was never really something he thought about nor minded that much. His friends always wanted to go out to parties and hit on girls, and Alec had always tagged along but never got the same level of satisfaction that they had gotten from it. When a boy on his lacrosse team had caught his eye unlike any girl ever had, and he realized just how different he was from his friends Alec still wasn’t all that bothered, feeling like he had finally clicked the last piece of the puzzle into place.

He told Isabelle first, worried what she would think, but it turned out he needn’t have worried. She just hugged him tight and told him she was proud of him, and then joked that he had better not steal any of her boyfriends. It took him longer to come out to Jace, worried his brother would look at him differently, like less of a man. Jace ended up accidentally walking in on Alec making out with a boy (the one from the lacrosse team) in his room, giving his brother a thumbs up and a wink before backing quickly out of the room.

His parents had been a different story.

He decided that he would tell them when he was in senior year, right before graduation. Alec remembered feeling confident, spurred on by the positive reactions from his siblings when they found out and being excited for his mother and father to know him that way as well. Except when he told them he was not responded to with hugs and supportive comments like he had imagined. Instead, Maryse had looked at him long and hard and Robert had asked him “what had turned him gay.” Things were tense around the house after that with Alec, Isabelle and Jace ignoring their parents while Maryse and Robert looked into getting Alec professional “help”.

Alec took the blow from his parents hard, but had thrown himself into the last few months of school, working harder and harder to get the best education he could so that he could move far away from them and support himself.

He hadn’t talked to his parents in a few years, refusing to tell them about his novels because if a gay son displeased them, then a novel about a gay protagonist written by their gay son would probably give them both a heart attack. Also, his books were something he held very close to his heart, and he didn’t want them to be tainted by the toxicity of his mother and father.

Jace and Isabelle had supported his decision to move away, joining him when they both became of age, and although they hadn’t directly fought with his parents, the relationship was definitely strained and not even close to what it once was. Alec appreciated having his siblings with him, everyday grateful to be supported and cared for by them.

Alec was drawn out his thoughts by Jace who nudged his shoulder and pointed towards Isabelle. He looked out onto the dance floor and easily spotted her as she danced with her male suitor, her red dress standing out like a beacon in the night. Both he and Jace kept a close eye on the man, tensed and scowling when he got a little too friendly with their sister but also knowing full well that she could squish any man who gave her unwanted attention with the sharp heel of her shoe. She seemed to be enjoying herself though, big smile on her face as she swayed to the music.

Dragging his eyes away from Isabelle, Alec turned to Jace who was still glaring at Isabelle’s dance partner. Deciding to try and distract him, Alec asked his brother “Anyone here catching your eye?”

He was supposed to be a wing man tonight, after all.

Jace looked lazily around the bar, eyes scanning the people around them. There were many beautiful women, all of them dressed to the nines in short dresses and high heels. Alec saw a few girls that seemed to be Jace’s type, and Jace was apparently theirs as well as many of them had noticed him and were standing in groups trying to get his attention. One woman in particular had been eyeing Jace across the bar for a while now, as she flirtily sipped her drink and moved slowly closer to them as they talked. Jace had apparently noticed her too, and shot Alec a quick wink before he took a swig of his beer and confidently sauntered over to her to start a conversation. Alec didn’t know what Jace was saying but it seemed to be working because she smiled up at him, fluttering her lashes as he bought her another drink.

Alec grinned into his beer.

He moved further down the bar, not wanting to hover around Jace and found an empty stool. He ordered another drink, and pulled out his phone, surprised when his clumsy hands had trouble fetching it from his pocket. He had lost count of how many drinks in he was at this point, but couldn’t find it in himself to care when he felt lighter than he had in weeks.

The DJ was playing a steady stream of bass-heavy songs, a mix of Top 40 and classic crowd-pleasers and the dancers seemed to be moving in time to the beat. Alec watched, mesmerized, as they moved as one like a wave rolling in the sea. Bodies moving against bodies like the water crashing along the tide line. He became transfixed with the way the lights on the roof hit the dancers, making them look majestic and mysterious, an inhuman mass of swirling colour.
He might have had too much to drink.

He didn’t care.

He was broken out of his haze by a man, probably around his age, who stood in front of him and blocked his view of the water-like, magical crowd of people. Alec let his eyes focus on the man. He was tall and had light brown hair that was styled much more than his own. He was built, with a broad chest and large biceps and seemed to know just how attractive he was. He wasn’t the typical type of man Alec usually found attractive, but he supposed the alcohol was helping with that.

“Hey gorgeous.” He purred, eyes unabashedly taking all of Alec in hungrily. Alec made a mental note to tell Isabelle that she was right about the outfit.
“Well, hello yourself.” Alec slurred flirtily, too drunk at this point to be embarrassed about what he was saying.

The man grinned, a triumphant smile spreading across his face. “What do you say I buy you another drink and then we see what that lean body of yours can do on the dance floor?” He growled, as he moved closer into Alec’s personal space. He smelled of sweat, man and too much cologne.

Alec grinned up at the man, and nodded.

And so, once Alec had downed the shot the man had bought him he was being pulled towards the dance floor and was swallowed under the current of writhing people.

They moved forward until they were in the middle of the floor, pushing through the dancing bodies moving all around them. Alec couldn’t see anything but bodies around him and decided to close his eyes and allow himself to be led into the crowd. Once they found a spot the man deemed suitable, Alec pushed himself back against him eagerly, his back molding to the man's front and reveled in the feeling of a hard body behind him.

He let go of everything he had been holding onto for the past few weeks, throwing his head back and moving his hips in time to the music, pushing back on his dance partner as he did so.

He forgot all about the deadlines and the blocked flow of writing.

He forgot about the watchful way his siblings had been looking at him and the way it made him feel when they did.

He forgot all about the pain and hurt he was feeling, letting the free, unabashed feeling of the music take over all of his senses.

He let himself get lost in the heavy beat of the music, allowing it to filter through his entire body and move it as it pleased, a puppet on a string, a slave to the beat. Alec was vaguely aware of the man pulling him closer by the waist, tightening his grip on his hips and moving his lips to Alec’s neck so Alec just turned his head to give him better access. He felt sloppy kisses and bites being placed on the junction between his shoulder and neck, groaning at the contact.

The man was getting bolder, hands roaming Alec’s body as he sucked marks into his skin, fingers rucking up the front of his shirt and feeling the soft flesh above his belt buckle. His hands moved lower, lower ...

Alec turned around in the man’s embrace and pushed his chest right up against his suitor's, the alcohol in his system giving him courage that he never would have normally possessed. Riding the wave of his inebriation, Alec pulled him down into a rough kiss and wrapped his arms around his neck, their chests flush together. The man was just taller than him, stooped down slightly and moving his hands from Alec’s waist to the back pockets of his tight black jeans. He pulled Alec closer to him, harsh and demanding.

The kiss was all tongue and teeth, hot, rough and unfeeling.

Uncommitted.

Exactly what Alec needed.

He kissed the man, and let the man kiss him back. Getting lost, once again, in the feeling of it all. And later that night if the man asked Alec if he could take him home, well ... he might just let him do that as well.

 *

After his encounter with Tall, Dark and Handsome (Alec, he reminded himself sternly) in the coffee shop, Magnus had gone right to the studio he and Lydia had rented out so that his seamstresses could work in peace. There was a studio in the basement of The Institute, but it was already packed with the team there who were working on some other pieces for Fashion Week and Lydia wanted Magnus’ seamstresses focused solely on his project.

The studio was a large room in the Penthouse of a hotel in downtown Manhattan. The walls were all windows and the floors were pearl white with flecks of gold in them which made the room feel bigger than it actually was. Because it was a penthouse, it also had a gorgeous view of the city which was what Magnus loved most about it. Looking out the window made it seem like you could see for miles, the entire city of New York right at your very fingertips. He had chosen his own rooftop apartment in Brooklyn for the exact same reason.

The room was set up in stations: you had the planners who took Magnus’s drawings and edited them for creation; the sewers who attached smaller pieces of fabric together; the assemblers who took those pieces and sewed them into larger pieces; the assemblers who put the final pieces together; then the final station was a group of three women who looked everything over before it was sent to accessorizing.

It was a well-oiled machine that had taken himself and Lydia a while to perfect, but it was something they were both very proud of.

Magnus dropped Lydia’s corrections off with the planners, and went over some of the points with them that Lydia had talked him through. They had taken her changes easily and then showed Magnus the work they had done so far on his pieces.

His line was inspired by his own clothing choices, pushing the barriers of everyday wear but still staying within the lines of social normality. His Fashion Week line was more “barrier pushing” than “social normality” but he was trying to make a statement, so he figured he’d better go bigger and bolder than usual. His line was mostly men’s clothing but he had done some specialty women’s pieces especially for Fashion Week, enjoying the challenge and diversity it brought to his work.

He walked around the studio and talked with each of his ladies, making them laugh and asking them how their work was going. Magnus loved having fun at work and didn’t believe that any job should be more work than fun. Also, many of his seamstresses had been with him since he first started his line so he knew them well, inquiring about their lives and families as he made his way around the room.

Once he finished his rounds, he wandered to the back of the studio where a glass door separated the large main room from a smaller office. Inside he could see his assistant designer and best friend Ragnor Fell, pacing and muttering to himself.

Ragnor was what was called in the fashion business, an accessorizer. He was responsible for taking Magnus’ finished designs and matching them with accessories and models that would eventually be walked down a runway at a show or put in front of a photographer at a shoot. It was an extremely important job because if you had a trendy trench coat but paired it with a terrible pair of shoes or belt that was too bold it would completely take away from the look.
The walls were covered in a mess of photographs: head shots of potential models, various shoes, jewelry and handbags and Magnus’ own sketches. It looked like a kaleidoscope of colours and faces to Magnus, but he knew Ragnor had a system and after years of knowing him, knew better than to question The System.

Ragnor had his back to Magnus, but turned around when he walked in. “I’m having trouble accessorizing the evening gowns. I have three models lined up to wear them, but can’t for the life of me find a damned pair of shoes to put them in.” He sighed, in lieu of a greeting.

His British accent made everything he was saying sound more elegant. Ragnor was older than Magnus by quite a few years, but he hardly showed it. He wore a formal three-piece suit, one of Magnus’ creations, and had a pencil sticking out from his graying hair. Magnus glanced at the board once more, focusing in on the design his friend seemed to be troubled with.

“Darling, it’s evening gowns and some incredibly beautiful ones at that. I would hope no one will be focusing on their shoes when they walk down the runway.” Magnus replied easily. It wasn’t uncommon for Ragnor to get overwhelmed when they worked on a project, especially one this big but Magnus usually knew how to calm him down.

They had been in the same classes all through college and had pushed each other in healthy competition to become top of their class. It had been worth it because they had both gotten two of the most prestigious internships in the whole program - Magnus at The Institute Fashion Industries and Ragnor being placed in Idris Fashion Inc.

When Magnus had gotten hired by Lydia and they started working on his line, he asked Ragnor to work with him, knowing that his best creations were born when he had his best friend with him. Ragnor had agreed immediately, leaving Idris Designs and had worked with Magnus and Lydia on every shoot, show and runway since then.

Ragnor squinted at Magnus, clearly trying to decide if he was crazy or not, before he turned away and mumbled something under his breath, something that sounded suspiciously like “of course they’ll notice the shoes.”

“Hey! I heard that, you British fool! If you think any pair of shoes is better than my designer evening gowns I might just have you model one so you can see for yourself how great they look.” Magnus replied airily, as he lounged back gracefully on the white couch in Ragnor's office.

He kept his back to Magnus, still studying one of the picture-covered walls but Magnus could hear the grin in his voice as he replied “You wouldn’t want me modeling one of those. I’d look better than all of the models then I would be forced to model everything else, as well. A shame really, depriving the general public of all of this.” He gestured absently down his body.

“My gowns must be some sort of magic if they can make you look good.” He retorted back playfully. Ragnor turned around and showed him his finger, which only caused Magnus to laugh harder.

Magnus pulled out his phone to see that he had a missed call from his sister, Clary. Dialing her number quickly, he put the phone to his ear. She picked up on the second ring.

“Magnus!” She exclaimed happily.

“Hello, biscuit. What are you up to?”

Magnus had been adopted by Clary’s mother and stepfather when he was young. His father had never been in the picture before that, and when his mother had become suddenly ill when he was just nine years old she called her closest friend, Luke Garroway, and had begged him to take care of her only son when she passed. Luke had agreed immediately.

And so, Magnus became a part of their small, happy family.

He was a few years older than Clary, she was just three when he had moved in. It had taken him awhile to get used to the whole family atmosphere, growing up with just his mom and used to being independent, and found it difficult to adjust to the busyness of the Fairchild household. While he had still missed his mom, he quickly realized how much he preferred a bustling and loud household filled with people.

He especially enjoyed the prospect of having a sibling and had almost immediately felt a protective need to keep Clary safe, which had only continued to grow stronger as they grew up.

“I got a job!” She said happily over the line.

“Oh, my darling that’s amazing! Where?” Magnus replied, genuinely happy.

Clary had just graduated from the Brooklyn Academy of Art in June and had been avidly looking for a job for months, to no avail. Luke and Jocelyn always supported her, like they had with Magnus when he first started his career, both of them believing in the importance of the arts. Jocelyn always said that she and Luke must have done something right in raising them, if both of her children had pursued artistic careers.

“It’s this publication place right downtown, Alicante Press, you’ve probably heard of it. They print all the big-name novels! Anyway, they want me to work with the authors and help them design covers for their books. My job is literally to read all the books and come up with designs for them. I’m so excited!” She explained, excitement shining through each of her words.

“I am so proud of you, love! That’s amazing! Have you told Luke and Jocelyn yet?” Magnus asked, already knowing what the answer would be.
“You know our deal. All exciting news gets sibling approved first.” He could hear the teasing note in her voice and couldn’t help the smile that grew on his face.

“Just checking.” He responded, grinning. “Speaking of exciting news, I might also have some. I met a boy.” Ragnor raised an eyebrow in his direction, but said nothing. Magnus, the mature adult he was, stuck his tongue out at him.

Magnus had always been sure about his sexuality, so when he told his family that he was a “freewheeling bisexual” at the dinner table one night when he was 14, they had all said they were proud of him and then Luke asked him to pass the salt. His adoptive parents and sister didn’t treat him differently. Magnus suspected they had known before he even told them, but also that was just the type of people they were; open, loving and accepting.

Luke had filled the traditional role of a father in his life, including hazing each and every boyfriend and girlfriend he brought home. He would inform all of them they were to call him “Mr. Garroway” and that he owned a badge and a shotgun and wasn’t afraid to use them if they decided to hurt his son, though he tended to go easier on the girls. Jocelyn always told him off for this, laughing and apologizing on her husband’s behalf.

Clary had come to him quite often for dating advice when she was younger, and still frequently did now. She had been with a few jerks over the years, none of them deserving the beauty and grace that was Clary Fairchild, but thankfully none of them had truly broken her heart and for that, Magnus was grateful. He always supported her and helped her through these relationships because she was family, and there wasn’t anything he wouldn't do for her. They had been best friends since the beginning and to this day continued to share everything with each other.

Well, maybe there were some things he didn’t share with her. But she was still his little sister and didn’t need to hear everything about his life.
He told Clary all about Tall, Dark and Handsome (a name which Magnus still felt suited him better than Alec) and she asked for every single detail. Magnus recounted the entire thing from start to finish, how he had spotted him in the morning and then literally bumped into him again later that day, Alec holding a book by his favourite author.

“He was so beautiful, Clary. You know black hair on beautiful, tall men has always been my greatest weakness. I wanted to ask him right on the spot to model every piece of clothing I have ever made...and then take them all off in front of me.”

Clary laughed. “I’m sure that would have been appropriate coffee shop behaviour. As well as appropriate behaviour for someone you just met.” He could hear the teasing edge in her voice.

“I’ll have you know, that it is perfectly acceptable in this day and age to ask someone to take their clothes off in front of you. Especially if they look like they were carved by the angels themselves.” He didn’t even need to turn his head to know that Ragnor had rolled his eyes.

“Wait, did you say he was reading Gideon Archer? He reads those books, too? Mags, that’s like your all-time favourite man crush!” Clary pointed out suddenly. “Although, you have no idea what he looks like and he could be a 50 year old straight man who lives in his mom’s basement.”

“I should inform you missy, that you are currently 21 years old and still living in our parent’s basement. But Gideon isn’t a gross old man, he’s young and attractive and exactly my type. I can feel it.” Magnus sighed dramatically, his theatrics having the desired effect on Clary who laughed loudly on the other end of the line. “He’s also into men, because have you read the content of his novels?”

Ragnor looked over from where he was looking at the wall - he had moved on to models - and raised an eyebrow doubtfully. “On one occasion when you forced me to. I can’t say that I hated it.” He mused. “Though, I agree with Clary. You don’t even know what this man looks like.”

Magnus put Clary on speakerphone just in time to hear her triumphant squeal of “Yes!” before telling both of them where they could shove their opinions.
“We’re just joking with you. I’m sure your mysterious novel-writing soulmate is exactly your type and you two will fall madly in love one day. That, or you can marry Tall, Dark and Handsome because he sounds like a real dreamboat.” Clary quipped, laughing.

Ragnor chuckled, “Well I’m sure on your coffee date tomorrow the two of you can talk all about Gideon. You can create blogs and write fan fiction together.” Ragnor held his hand over his heart, sighing dramatically and collapsing back into his desk chair. “It will be so romantic.”

Magnus rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help the smile that lit up his face both from his friends and thought that he would be spending time with Alec again tomorrow. Something about him, besides his devastatingly good looks, had piqued Magnus’ interests.

“I hate to cut this sibling-chat short but your brother is a very important man and is in high demand at the moment, so I must spend my time with him wisely.” Ragnor called out to Clary, who was still on speakerphone.

“Alright, you two. Have fun! Make some fashion magic happen over there! Magnus, I’ll see you in a few days for family dinner?”

“See you then, Biscuit. Now go call Luke and Jocelyn and celebrate your new career!” Magnus hung up the phone and turned his attention to Ragnor who was looking at him with exasperated amusement.

“Alright Fell, let’s figure out this evening gown situation.”

*

Alec woke up and almost immediately wished that he hadn’t.

He shut his eyes against the sunlight streaming in through the windows, which made his already sore head pound more painfully. He kept them closed for a few more minutes before he slowly cracked them open again, allowing himself time to slowly adjust to the brightness of the room.

He looked around, confusion clouding his thoughts. The first thing he registered was that he was not in his own room. He had dark blinds over the windows in his room for the specific reason that he hated the sunlight streaming through his window first thing in the morning.

It wasn’t long though before the events of the previous night came flooding back to him like a jolt of electricity shocking a metal rod.

He was lying in a large, plush white bed that was much larger than his own. The room around him, much like the bed, was all white. White curtains, white carpet, walls and furniture. The only thing of colour in the entire room was a painting on the wall. It was one of those fancy ones you saw in art galleries or lavish restaurants that looked like they were done by a toddler but cost as much as Alec’s rent for two months.

The stranger beside him - Mike? - was still sound asleep. Thankfully he hadn’t pulled Alec closer in the night so he was able to slip out of the bed quietly, not wanting to wake him. He wanted to be out of this apartment as soon as possible, hopefully with no interaction with the man sleeping in the bed. He moved around the room to collect his clothes, plucking various items from different corners of the room. The strangest by far was his jeans, which had somehow ended up on top of the light shade.

Alec briefly thought about Isabelle’s comment about his tight jeans from the night before and couldn’t help the quiet laugh that escaped his lips.
He found everything except for his shirt, the denim one Isabelle had put him in yesterday. He looked for a few minutes before he decided that he would rather walk out of a stranger's apartment half naked then have his one night stand wake up and find him standing in the middle of his room, looking lost and confused like an idiot.

He made his way down the hallway and into the kitchen, not bothering to leave a note for the man. While Alec had had an okay time, he remembered quite clearly the predatory look in the man’s eye when he had approached Alec at the bar the night before and wasn’t too keen on seeing him again. From what he knew of this guy, he also didn’t seem like the committed relationship type.

Then again, Alec supposed, neither did he.

He eventually found his shirt in the front hall, right beside the front door in a pile on the floor. Alec tried to remember how it had gotten there but everything after leaving the club was still a bit blurry. Maybe that was for the better. He quickly put on his shirt and slipped silently out the front door.

Once he got out onto the street and into the fresh morning air, Alec was feeling much better. The cool air hit him like a bucket of water, refreshing him and waking him up fully. He took a look around to gauge his surroundings and realized he wasn’t too far from home, probably about a half hour on foot.

He started walking in the direction of his apartment, pulling his phone out as he did so. As soon as he woke it up, the screen was filled with missed calls and texts from Isabelle and Jace. Alec realized, too late, that he hadn’t told them when he left the club last night, something he hadn’t done in a very long time.
A wave of guilt washed over him and he dialed Isabelle's number, foregoing the text messages. If he knew his sister at all, she had probably already sent out a search party and calling her would be most the most efficient way to talk her down.

She picked up on the first ring.

“Alexander Gideon Lightwood! You better have a bulletproof excuse for not telling me where you went last night, or I swear to God I will murder you with my bare hands.” She started, the shrillness in her voice making Alec wince. Sometimes when she was angry, Isabelle sounded a lot like their mother. “You had Jace and I so worried. We looked all around the club for you and called your phone a million times, which you clearly ignored. If something had happened to you -”

“Iz!” He interrupted, stopping her. “I’m okay. I promise. I just drank too much and, um… met someone.” He cringed at the shame in his voice. This was his sister, she wouldn’t judge him for having a one night stand. “I’m on my way home now though, so don’t keep freaking out okay? I’m really sorry for worrying you.”

Isabelle let out a long breath on the other end of the line, as the anger and fight left her voice. “Okay, well that’s good. I’m glad you’re okay. Just don’t do that again, okay? I was really worried.” She hesitated. “Did you have fun at least?”

He knew his sister was still worried about him but could hear the playful tone slowly starting to make its way back into her words.

He understood exactly why she and Jace reacted the way they did when he disappeared. Alec had gone through a phase, right after he told his parents about his sexuality, where he went out multiple nights a week and tended to have way too much to drink. He would go on aimless benders where he would retreat to a random bar, drink his ass off and do something he would regret in the morning. This sometimes resulted in him sleeping with random strangers and calling his siblings the next morning unsure of where he was or on one memorable occasion, getting himself arrested.

Sometimes he just would just come home at an ungodly hour of the morning, shouting and slurring angrily at his parents until Jace or Izzy woke up and took him to bed.

It had been a rough time in Alec’s life and he didn’t much like to think about it anymore. Once he had gotten himself into school though, he had found himself back on the right track once again. He met Simon and started his writing career. He wasn’t in the closet anymore. He had more freedom, both emotionally and physically then he had known what to do with. He stopped drinking altogether during university.

The fact that he was no longer living under his parent’s roof was definitely a positive, and increased his mental health tenfold. It wasn’t as often anymore that Alec was overcome with the feelings that caused him to drink, but he figured the combination of reading his premiere novel and the stress he had been feeling lately, it made sense that his brain would revert back to those painful memories. He vowed to make more of an effort to keep his state of mind positive, if for the sole reason of not putting his siblings through any of that stress again.

“Alec? Do I need to come get you?” Isabelle voice rang out in his ear, concern laced in her words once again. He must have been quiet for too long, lost in thought and not answering her previous question.

“No, no I’m fine. I’m going to head home and sleep for a while, before I go back to that coffee shop later in the afternoon.”

“Oh, right! You have your date this afternoon! I’ll come over in in a bit and help you get ready, okay?” She asked, voice hopeful. Alec was going to say no, and remind her that it wasn’t really a date, but then thought about how her face would fall when he did and his guilt intensified.
“Of course, Iz. I’ll see you this afternoon okay?” He exhaled, defeated.

After saying goodbye to Isabelle he hung up the phone and checked his messages from Jace. Many of them were almost illegible, drunk typo’s making them impossible to read. The gist of each message was the same though - where are you? The last few were from this morning, clearly more concerned and much more sober. Alec quickly sent him a text explaining what happened and that he was alright, sure that Isabelle had already called him and filled him in on where their brother was.

Trying to shove down the residual guilt he felt, Alec put his headphones in and continued the walk to his apartment.

The morning was crisp and cool, the perfect October morning that would eventually turn into a slightly warmer afternoon. This kind of weather was Alec’s favourite; besides the beauty of the fall season, he loved the way the weather was cooler in the morning but tended to be warmer in the afternoon. Many people didn’t enjoy this time of year because the ever-changing weather made it hard to dress for, but Alec couldn’t care less.

He used to do his best writing in the fall, often sitting outside on campus under his favourite oak tree with his laptop and enjoying the warm sunshine. Sometimes Simon would join him, lounging under the tree as Alec worked or bringing a football that they would toss back and forth whenever Alec needed a break.

The rest of his walk was fairly uneventful. For a Tuesday morning, the commuter traffic was fairly light and even the roads weren’t the usual level of New York-busy. He passed groups of students walking together, watching them chat and laugh about their weekends, mothers who hurried their children along as they walked to school and early morning businessmen walking briskly to their destinations.

Alec reached his apartment just less than a half-hour later. He trudged up the steps, feeling the pain and exhaustion of his hangover as it crept back up on him. His head pounded as he unlocked the door, walked straight to the bathroom and stripped out of his clothes from the night before.
He turned the water as hot as it would go, hoping to steam out the shame and guilt that was beginning to crawl in from the night before. Alec was no longer ashamed of who he was, but some part of him felt that by 26 years old he should be trying to find a decent, standing relationship with a man instead of sleeping with random strangers a few times a month.

He knew exactly why he avoided relationships. It wasn’t as if could tell his partners what he did for a living, or why exactly he shut himself in his apartment for hours at a time and emerged with heavy bags under his eyes and an ache in his back. He had had a few serious boyfriends over the years, but had to break it off with each of them before things went too far because he hated lying to them. He spent far too much time worrying and feeling guilty in these relationships when he should have been happy being with them. In the back of his mind, Alec hoped that one day he would find someone who he was serious enough with that he would share his work with them, letting them in on something only a handful of people knew. That was a dream though, that would never come true.

Alec looked at himself in the mirror that was slowly starting to fog with the amount of steam swirling in the room. He wiped a hand across the mirror and looked at himself in shock. He didn’t even need to turn his head and expose his neck to see the purple bruises. All along his neck, chest and down his torso were purple bite marks, some larger than others, all of them starkly contrasting with his fair skin. The man from the club had done a real number on him.
He ran his fingers over them lightly and pushed down every so often, each new mark he discovered made his stomach churn unpleasantly. He sighed and realized he would have to make sure to cover them up before Isabelle came over or he would never hear the end of it.

Stepping into the shower, Alec sighed happily and let his worries wash away as the warm water hit the tight muscles of his shoulders and back. He could physically feel the moment they relaxed, his body reacting accordingly. He massaged soap into his skin, feeling the knots slowly work themselves out, and the tension left his body. He took his time, washing all remains of last night from himself and hoped that the water would wash away what little memories he had as well.

When he had washed himself three times, using a large amount of his sandalwood body wash, Alec got out of the shower and toweled himself dry. He felt pliant and content. He wrapped a towel around his waist threw another around his shoulders before he exited the bathroom.

Alec pulled on a pair of jeans and stood in front of the mirror, once again examining the marks on his skin. He touched them lightly with his fingertips and winced at the slight pain. They were angry and purple against his pale skin and Alec regretted allowing the man to attack his neck so viciously; they would be hard to cover up. He pulled out the only makeup he owned, a tube of concealer, from his drawer and applied it generously to the marks.

Alec had no concept of makeup or what to do with it, but discovered early on that it was better to cover up hickeys when you have friends like Simon, and siblings like Isabelle and Jace. He remembered the day when he was 16 and had come home with his first hickey and the relentless teasing he had received from his siblings afterwards. They had poked and prodded it, giggling like children at the way Alec’s face would heat up in embarrassment.

Isabelle, who clearly had taken pity on him, took him to the drugstore and showed him which concealer to buy that would match his skin tone. Alec was glad she had done that because it had saved him from many awkward situations with his parents in the years following.

He had just finished covering them up when he heard his apartment door open and close a few seconds before Isabelle strode into his room, without knocking.

“Iz!” Alec cried, as he grabbed a black t-shirt from the pile still on his bed from the night before, and threw it on quickly. “You know there’s this social pleasantry called knocking, right? You do it when you wish to enter a space that is not your own and need to ask permission.”

Isabelle waved him off and said, “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, don’t get your knickers in a twist.”

She stood in front of him for a moment, just looking at him. Alec was starting to get uncomfortable when all of a sudden, she walked right up to him and wrapped her arms tight around his middle. “I’m glad you’re okay.” She whispered into his chest. Alec immediately wrapped his arms around her small shoulders and held her tight. She pulled back a little so she could see his face. “You’re okay, right?”

Alec’s heart lurched, crushed that his escapade last night had caused her so much pain. Her eyes were wide and concerned, brown orbs filled with fierce love but tinged with sadness. Alec hated that his actions had had such a negative impact on his siblings. He gave her the most genuine smile he could muster and pulled her closer to his chest, dropping a kiss to the top of her head. “I’m okay,” he murmured into her hair.

They stood in there for a moment longer, holding each other close, and then Isabelle pulled away fully and smiled up at her brother. She didn’t often show her moments of weakness to the world and Alec knew how much she hated showing her emotions, even to him. He smiled back at her reassuringly. She recovered quickly, typical Isabelle fashion and focused on getting to work to pick an outfit out for Alec’s not-date. He wasn’t even sure if it was a date, but he was nervous all the same. What if Magnus decided Alec wasn’t as interesting as he seemed to think yesterday?

Or what if Alec had totally misjudged the situation and Magnus wasn’t interested at all, just wanted to talk to him about his work?

Alec wasn’t sure what he would say if Magnus wanted to talk more about his books. He was so passionate about them and never talked about them with anyone but the people who knew his secret for the specific reason that he would be as see-through as a glass table.

He stood awkwardly in the middle of his own room, letting Isabelle flutter around him and make him presentable for the general public. She let Alec style his own hair, but fixed it after he was finished which made Alec wonder why she didn’t just do it in the first place.

“What did you say his name was again?” She asked later on, flipping through jackets in his closet.

“I didn’t.” Alec deadpanned. “But it’s Magnus. Magnus Bane.”

Isabelle froze, whipped around to face him with eyes the size of saucers. “Shut up.” Her eyes grew impossibly wider when Alec just continued to stare at her confused, concerned his sister was having a stroke. “Shut up! You’re going on a date with Magnus Bane?”

Alec didn’t know what was going on, but he was almost scared to ask his next question. “It’s not a date.” He supplied automatically, then stopped. “Iz, who is Magnus Bane?” He asked warily. Isabelle smacked Alec on the head and looked at him like he was insane. Again.

“Magnus Bane is only the best fashion designer, like, ever. He revolutionized men’s fashion! He beat out Givenchy last year in red carpet looks! He’s won countless awards for his unique styles and has literally changed the way the world see’s men's fashion!”

Alec raised his eyebrows. He assumed he was supposed to be impressed, but he really he didn’t understand a single thing Isabelle had said. He supposed “revolutionizing men’s fashion” sounded pretty important, but wasn’t fashion always changing anyway?

Unlike Isabelle, Alec didn’t care much for keeping up with current trends which made sense why he didn’t recognize Magnus when they had met yesterday. From the way Izzy talked about him though, Magnus sounded like a big deal in the fashion business and was probably fairly famous.

Alec grabbed the leather jacket from Isabelle’s still frozen hands. “So what, he designs clothes? He’s not a movie star, Izzy.” Alec snorted, ignoring his sister's protests and slid the leather jacket on over top of his t-shirt.

“He might as well be! That suit that Julian Blackthorn wore at the Grammy’s last year made Magnus more famous than any movie star.” She stopped talking abruptly when Alec started walking from the room. “That’s what you’re going to wear on your date with him? You can’t wear that.” She groaned exasperatedly, like Alec should have worn his best tux to the cafe instead.

“I wore that sweater you hate yesterday and he still wanted to see me again.” Alec countered cheekily, grabbing his wallet and continued to walk away from his sister out into the foyer.

Isabelle stomped after him, glowering. She looked like a small child which made Alec grin. This only seemed to infuriate her more.

“Yes, but -” Alec turned around and put a hand up to quiet her.

“Isabelle, I love you. You know that I do. But I am 26 years old and if I want to wear this outfit, I can do that. If I want to wear this outfit on a not-date with a world-changing fashion designer, I also can do that. I appreciate you helping me ... but stop helping me.” He finished with a laugh. She looked back at him stonily and Alec worried for a moment he had gone too far. They stared at each other before her expression broke into a blinding smile.

“If this doesn’t work out and you two don’t get married and have lots of fashionable babies, I will never let you leave the house again without me personally dressing you.” She said, arms crossed and hip popped, smug expression taking over her features. “That, or I will go for him myself.”

Alec laughed and kissed her quickly on the forehead before running out the door.
 
*
 
Magnus had arrived at the coffee shop earlier than he expected.

Traffic was especially light that morning and he hadn’t had any morning meetings so he had gotten to sleep in and take his time while getting ready (full shower routine and all).

He was dressed casually today, in a black button up shirt that was decorated with inter-crossing red lines and dotted with gold sequins at each point the lines crossed. Magnus paired this with his favourite pair of black jeans and black boots from his upcoming winter line. The heel was lined with silver studs that gave them a small pop of flare. He had left his hair its usual black but styled it up into a quaff on top of his head with gel.

When he arrived, he chatted for a while with the new barista, Maia. Since the cafe was not as busy as yesterday, she told Magnus she could sit with him for a while whilst he waited. Magnus immediately took a liking to her, enjoying her fiercely unapologetic personality and brash way with words. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and did frequently throughout their conversation.

Maia was just telling him about a new hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean place in downtown Manhattan, when the door to the cafe chimed. Maia turned around to see who it was before she faced back to Magnus with a wicked grin on her lips. “And that’s my cue to leave. Have fun with Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome.” She whispered in his ear as she got up, then smiled politely at Alec as she passed him.

Magnus looked up to the man in question and lost all train of thought momentarily.

Alec was dressed simply, black jeans, t-shirt and leather jacket but to Magnus he looked like the walking definition of sin. His jeans hugged his toned legs in just the right places, and Magnus could only guess what they were doing for his butt. He looked like he had just walked off the page of magazine and right up to Magnus’ table.

He smiled awkwardly as he approached Magnus, removing his jacket - Magnus definitely did not stare at his biceps, nope - as he sat down. He was once again hit by the beauty that was Alexander Lightwood and couldn’t bring himself to look away from his face.

Magnus was constantly surrounded by beautiful people, both men and women, in the fashion industry. But never had he seen one as striking as the man that was sitting before him.

Alec rubbed his hand awkwardly on the back of his neck, cheeks flushed before Magnus realized he was most definitely staring for an absurd about of time. He was being creepy and needed to stop his in-depth study of Alec’s face at once. If things worked out for them he would have plenty of time in the future to study Alec.

“Can I take your picture to prove to all my friends that angels do exist?”

Good. A pick-up line, albeit a cheesy one, was always a good icebreaker. Magnus was rewarded with a surprised laugh from Alec, his face lit up and a hand flying over his mouth in an attempt to try and stifle it. He grinned to himself, and kept going. “Although, in those pants I might have to doubt your angel status.”

Alec laughed again, this time coupled with a delicate roll of his eyes in Magnus’ direction. “I should have known you would start this conversation with an innuendo.”

Magnus threw a hand over his heart in mock indignation. “Innuendos? Me? I would never.” Alec shook his head fondly, chuckling at his attempt at sarcasm. Magnus decided in that moment that he would do whatever he could to keep Alec smiling like that.

Maia came over and refilled Magnus’ cup and brought Alec one of his own. She winked at Magnus and backed away towards the register, mouthing “he's cute” in with a head nod to Alec’s back. Magnus nodded once and smiled at her, not wanting to alert Alec to Maia’s antics right behind his shoulder. Having your maybe-date find out that you and the barista were gossiping about him is not any way to start a maybe-relationship.

He turned his attention back to Alec. “So, Alexander. Let’s get right down to it, shall we?

Alec looked mildly frightened, before his fright turned to suspicion. “Was that a sex joke?”

“Darling if I was making a sex joke, you would know it. Though,” Magnus paused, as he leaned closer and looked Alec in the eyes, “If you wanted to forgo this coffee and get right down to it, you wouldn’t hear any complaint from me. Some other sounds, but no complaints.”

A delicious blush spread up Alec’s neck, all the way to the tips of his ears. He cleared his throat a few times before actual words came out. “Um, I’m good.” His eyes suddenly widened. “Not that I don’t not want to - do that, um - with you. But uh -”

Magnus cut him off with a single finger pressed to his lips. Alec immediately stopped talking, his entire attention on following the movements of Magnus’ finger with his eyes as he slid it away.

“Not that that would not be extremely enjoyable, Alexander, I actually wanted to discuss you’re strange and confusing distaste for my all-time favourite author. Let me warn you, if you’re reasoning is not rock solid I will be forced to leave this cafe and walk away from that beautiful face of yours forever, so choose your next words wisely.”

Shock crossed over Alec’s faced. “Gideon Archer is your favourite author? Why?”

“Well, besides the fact that his words do things to me that no man or woman ever has, his stories are enthralling and all too real. Surely you’ve picked that up when you were reading?” Magnus realized he may have been laying it on a little thick, but Alec seemed like the type of man who would appreciate his sense of humor. Or so he hoped.

“I mean, yeah he’s okay. I liked a lot of his older stuff but the new stuff isn’t really up to his usual standard?” His voice went up at the end, as if he was unsure of his answer but he held Magnus’ gaze in his own.

Magnus thought a moment before answering. “I’ll admit, I was a tad surprised at where he took Bobby in Memories, but I think it was well done. I mean, having Bobby fall in love with James only for James to turn out to be abusive and manipulative pulled at my heartstrings. But the way Bobby realized quickly and dealt with that was amazing!”

Alec looked down at his coffee, swirling it around in his cup. His eyebrows were furrowed in thought. Magnus thought he looked adorably like an angry kitten, which was an odd analogy when you considered how large Alec’s frame was. “But what about in Identity where Bobby went back to him? I think that was really out of character and he never should have had Bobby do that.”

“I think Mr. Archer is a realist, and knows that sometimes when you love someone it can make you crazy. He gets that it can make you do some pretty crazy things. He knows that you even do things you might regret.” Magnus countered.

Alec studied him for a minute, before nodding slowly. “Alright. I can get on board with that, I guess. I just feel like Bobby should have been strong enough by this point in his life to resist James’s urges when he knew what he was capable of, you know?”

Magnus realized in that moment that Alec was just as invested in Gideon Archer’s books as he was. He clearly had been following Bobby’s journey since the beginning and was just as disappointed as Magnus was when his favourite character went back to his abusive boyfriend. Alec seemed to know Bobby just as well as he did, and the books back to front.

A slow smile spread across his face. He took a sip of coffee casually and kept his green-gold eyes locked on Alec’s hazel ones. “Well Alexander, for someone who isn’t a fan of Gideon Archer you sure know a lot about his books. I might even say you are a bigger fanboy than I am.” Alec raised his eyebrows skeptically in Magnus’ direction.

“Oh yeah?” He responded, a slight smirk gracing his lips.

“Yup.” Magnus drawled slowly, popping the p dramatically.

They spent the next hour arguing over which of Gideon’s books was the best (Alec was a firm believer that Shadow was clearly the winner, where Magnus argued that Truth won by a landslide). They talked through Bobby’s development and Magnus was pleased to see that he was right, Alec was as big of a fanboy as he was. He clearly loved these books as much, maybe even more, than Magnus himself did.

Alec spoke with his hands, emphasizing everything with wide gestures. He told stories while he waved his hands around which Magnus found oddly alluring. It also didn’t help that every time Alec moved his fingers Magus got distracted and a few times had to ask him to repeat what he had just said.

He was passionate when he talked about literature, bringing up points in the story that Magnus had thought only he and Gideon himself would have had noticed. He was smart, very smart, and it showed in the way he talked. Once he got started on a plot point he would go on and on about it, often stopping himself as he blushed and apologized for going off on a tangent.

Magnus was so screwed.

He looked down at his watch to see that they had been talking for just over two hours, which surprised him. Talking with Alec made him lose track of time like he hadn’t done in a long time; he felt that they had only just gotten there minutes ago.

Alec noticed him look at his watch and nodded towards it. “Do you need to leave?”

Magnus thought very hard about telling Alec that no, he had nothing else he needed to do today but sit in this coffee shop and discuss literature with him. But unfortunately, Alec was right. He did need to leave. “Believe me, the last thing I want to do is leave when things are just starting to get interesting,” he winked, and watched as Alec flushed again, “but I have a very important fashion show coming up and there are things I need to have done by tonight.”

Alec perked up. “Right! My sister said you were a pretty big deal in the fashion industry.” He quickly realized what he had said and flushed bright crimson.

Magnus wondered if he would ever tire of watching the way Alec’s body reacted to embarrassment. Probably not.

“I uh - she asked who I was going out with. And I told her your name, and she - well, she recognized it. Obviously.” He stuttered, smiling shyly at the end.
Magnus reached a hand across the table and put it on top of Alec’s. “My, darling. Are we already at the telling the family stage? You haven’t even taken me to bed yet! I’ll have you know I am nothing if not a traditionalist.” He grinned.

Alec grinned back, this time with a seemingly newfound confidence. “Obviously I was not announcing our wedding to my younger sister. She just has a flare for fashion and for some reason keeps track of men’s fashion designers.”

Magnus laughed, “I like her already.” Alec smiled back, a small smile that brought up the corner of his mouth and made his eyes crinkle up. It also had an effect on Magnus, a swooping sensation in his stomach that he was not accustomed to feeling when he went out with pretty boys.

Or with anyone he went out with.

“Well, I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear that. She wouldn’t shut up about you as I was going out the door.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation I told our barista all about you.” The two of them turned around to find Maia already looking at them, sheepish smile on her face. Alec gave her a small wave with the hand that wasn't currently in Magnus', before turning back to him.

“Good things I hope.” He smirked, voice dropping low. Magnus barely constrained himself from grabbing Alec right then and there and kissing him full on the mouth. Clary’s words - not appropriate coffee shop behaviour - flashing through his mind like a warning.

Magnus hated appropriate behaviour.

Instead he pushed back his chair and stood up, walking beside Alec’s chair. He placed a hand on the other man’s shoulder and leaned down to whisper in his ear.

“Oh darling, you don’t even know.” He purred lowly. He was overly conscious of Alec's attempt to suppress a shiver and absolutely did not let his mind linger on what else he could do to get that reaction from him. He registered Alec’s cheeks going pink again and winked at him before sauntering away from the table, making sure to add some sway to his hips. He blew a kiss to Maia as he walked past her and out the door.

He waited until he was around the corner and out of sight of the shop before he leaned against the alley wall and let a large smile split his face.

Magnus wouldn’t mind one bit if Alec Lightwood broke his heart.

Not at all.

Chapter Text

Magnus knocked on the door of his childhood home, juggling the bottle of wine and bouquet of flowers he was holding in his arms. Clary opened the door right away, red hair piled high into a bun on the top of her head and a wide smile on her lips. She was wearing her old jean painting smock that was splattered with an array of colours from projects past. She also had a paint brush stuck out of the side of her bun which Magnus took as a good indication she had just come from the studio.

“Mags!” She tugged him into a hug to which he gladly returned, and pulled his sister close. Although they talked every day either on the phone or by Facetime, it had been almost a week since he had last seen Clary in person with his Fashion Week preparations and her new job. She hugged him back just as tight, arms wrapping around his middle.

“Hi Biscuit.” He smiled into her shoulder. Clary pulled back from the embrace, kissed him on the cheek and grabbed the gifts from his hands before retreating into the house.

The Fairchild house was located just outside of Brooklyn on a quiet street lined with trees. It was one of those areas of New York that always made Magnus feel as if he weren’t even in the city at all. It was tucked away in a quiet little neighborhood lined with similar looking houses. He and Clary used to play together out on the street with some of the other neighborhood children until the sun dipped below the line of the trees, and Jocelyn was at the door calling them in for dinner. Some of Magnus’ fondest memories were made in the summer nights spent running or biking freely around their street.

The house itself was a two-story brownstone, with white trimmed, expansive bay windows in the front, which inside Magnus knew held Jocelyn’s favourite window seat. There was another large window just above that on the floor above that belonged to the spare bedroom that Clary and Jocelyn had converted into an art studio for the two of them a few years ago. No matter the time of day or night, you could almost always find one of them in there working on something new. The front walkway was lined with flowers that Jocelyn tended to, even in the late fall, giving the house a warm inviting feel. Both Jocelyn and Luke had always taken great pride in this house, and for that it didn’t look any different than it did when Magnus left home almost a decade ago.
But Magnus’ favourite part of the house by far, was on the roof.

The owner of the house before Luke and Jocelyn bought it, had been an older woman named Dorothea who had previously passed away. When they were growing up, Luke always told Magnus and Clary that she was a witch and made up stories about all of her endeavors before they went to bed each night. Magnus’ favourite story though was about the magical plants on the roof. On the very top of the house, Dorothea had left them with a beautiful garden, full of raised beds and archways of herbs and blooming exotic flowers. He and Clary used to run around through the rows of plants, making up magical powers for each of them and writing down which combinations were poisonous and which could be used as antidotes. Now that he was older, he knew that a lot of them were for cooking, some even for medicine. But there were a few different plants up there that even Jocelyn couldn’t identify.
But the garden would always be a magical place for him. Jocelyn still made sure to tend to the garden and often joked that Dorothea must have been reincarnated into it in her next life, if Jocelyn herself hadn’t managed to kill it by now.
 
Magnus smiled fondly at the memories and stepped inside the house. 

The inside of the house was decorated mostly by Jocelyn, her artistic touch on everything in sight. Paintings adorned each wall, so much so that you had to look closely in between them to see the paint colour. It made the room look bright and alive, transporting you somewhere new everywhere you looked. Some of the paintings were done by Jocelyn herself, some by Clary and others she had bought from other artists at various art shows she had attended over the years. One wall of the living room had been done as a mural by the entire family during Magnus’ teenage years. Swirling vines and flowers spanned the entire space, each of their names signed at the bottom. Of course, most of the wall had been done by the two actual artists in the family, but Luke and Magnus had had a hand in it as well.

The rest of the house wasn’t very big, but it was certainly cozy and inviting. Magnus loved coming home because no matter how long he had been away, the house always seemed to invite him back in as if he hadn’t been gone for any time at all. 

He heard voices coming down the hallway from the kitchen, and followed the tantalizing smells drifting out the doors to find his family. Luke and Jocelyn were laughing together at the kitchen counter, Luke cutting up vegetables while Jocelyn stirred a pot on the stove top. The kitchen was the one modern looking room in the house. After his first big year in fashion, Magnus had had more money than he knew what to do with, and so he had gifted his parents with a remodel of their favourite room in the house – the kitchen. They were both phenomenal books and spent a lot of hours working away and creating new delicacies.

Luke and Jocelyn looked up as he came in, both with big smiles on their faces. “Magnus!” Jocelyn exclaimed, wiping her hands on her apron before walking over and pulling him into a strong hug. “How are you doing, dear?” 

Magnus smiled at his adoptive mother and hugged her back just as tightly. He and Jocelyn had almost always had a close relationship. It had been a rough start in the beginning because Jocelyn hadn’t wanted him to feel as if she was taking over for his mother, but had wanted him to feel loved and cared for all the same. They had had an awkward first few months with both of them skirting around each other, neither really knowing how to act. One day though, Magnus had had enough and sat her down and explained that she was now his family and that while he would never forget his mother, he needed to move on and needed a mother in his life. Jocelyn had cried and pulled him into a tight hug, and told him he had too much wisdom for a nine-year-old.
After that, their mother-son relationship had come naturally to them.

Magnus put the wine on the table and went to the cupboard to grab a vase for the flowers. “Oh, you know, planning the biggest event of my career. Other than that, swell.” He quipped as he pulled a crystal vase down and started arranging the flowers. 

“How did your meeting with Lydia go the other day? Was she happy with the designs you brought her?” Luke asked, as he continued to chop vegetables. 
“She was good. She added some things, took some stuff away but for the most part didn’t change too much of the original ideas. Which is good because I’ve already started assembling them.” Magnus took a final look at the arranged vase and placed it in the middle of the table. 

Jocelyn smiled. “Getting a head start? I taught you well.” She went to stand behind him at the table and placed her hands on his shoulders. “Did you get to pick your date yet? I know you’ve been wanting to do that for a while.”

“We did! I’ve got the perfect spot right now to make sure all my assets are showcased.” Luke laughed and Jocelyn raised her eyebrows sternly. Magnus turned around and blew her a kiss. “I’ll make sure to get you guys the date and tickets as soon as I can, if you still want to come.” 

Clary joined them then. She had changed out of her smock and was wearing a clean plaid shirt with black jeans. She leaned over Luke’s shoulder and grabbed a carrot off of the cutting board. She popped it into her mouth and swerved around Luke before he could shoo her away. “Of course we still want to come, Magnus! I want to be right up in the front row with all of the celebrities!” 

Magnus looked at her skeptically. “I am not putting you next to anyone important. God knows you would tell them something embarrassing about me. Or worse yet, you’d bring baby photos! I’d have to flee the country!” He exclaimed dramatically, hand to his chest. 

Clary pouted and leaned over to smack him on the head. She hopped up onto the counter so she was sat right next to him. Being on the counter gave her height over him, which her usual 5’2 frame was not used to. “Hey! If I was sitting beside Orlando Bloom or Leonardo DiCaprio I would be doing far more important things than talking about you.” This time, Luke raised his eyebrows in her direction. “... I’d be talking about your fashion of course. Gotta promote the business.” She amended quickly with a wink, grinning. 

Jocelyn laughed and handed her daughter a pile of plates and directed her towards the table. “You know we’ll be there, Magnus. And don’t worry about your sister, we’ll keep her in check.” She paused and tapped her chin, thoughtful. “Although, if I run into Orlando Bloom I can’t promise anything on my part.” 

Luke rolled his eyes and shook his head at the two women. “I can’t take the two of you anywhere.” He looked to Magnus, mirth shining in his dark eyes. “At this rate, you’ll only need to save one ticket for me, son. I won’t try and schmooze any of your famous potential clients.” 

Magnus laughed loudly, and looked around at all of their smiling faces. He loved coming home and spending time with his family. He hadn’t been back here in a while because of his crazy schedule but made a promise to himself that over the next few insane months he would come home as much as he could, if only to preserve his sanity. Coming back here and falling easily back into the family banter with them lifted a weight off of his shoulders he hadn’t even been aware that he was carrying. 

They all moved towards the table and sat down. Clary told them all about her new job and how she had already been in to the office. She had gone in this morning for an orientation and gushed about how amazing the job was going to be and how she was so excited. She had her own office, which doubled as an art studio, stocked full of all the art supplies she could ever need or want. She hadn’t met any of the authors yet, she said, but was scheduled to meet with three next week when she started. 

Luke and Jocelyn both filled them in on respective things going on in their lives, Luke on a new high-profile case he had just started and Jocelyn on the new art show she was in the process of planning for the next month. The four of them fit back into the swing of the family lifestyle easily, as if they had never stopped. Clary kept kicking Magnus’ shin from across the table like she used to do as a child, but would smile innocently every time Magnus tried to get her in trouble. This usually caused them to throw harmless playground insults at each other. Luke and Jocelyn usually just ignored this behaviour as it was not uncommon. 

When it was Magnus’ turn to tell them all about what was going on in his life, Clary shot him a wicked grin before announcing loudly, “Magnus went on a date last week.” 

He leveled her with a icy look that said ‘I’ll get you for that’. She just shrugged, ever the picture of an angel.

“Date?” Luke asked, small smile on his lips. “Who’s the lucky person, hm?”

Magnus shook his head and shrugged. “It wasn’t exactly a date. And just some guy I met in a coffee shop.” 

Clary raised an eyebrow at him. “Just some guy I met in a coffee shop?” She quoted, incredulously. “That’s not how you described him on the phone. I believe the word fate was thrown in there somewhere and something about him being the father of your future children was definitely mentioned.”

Magnus rolled his eyes at his sister. “Ok, well he may be exactly my type and I’m already planning our wedding, but I figured I’d wait until at least dessert to tell you all about the engagement.” He retorted sarcastically.

Jocelyn smirked, “So what’s his name? If he’s your fiancé you can at least tell us a little bit about him.”

“It’s really no big deal! His name is Alec, he’s very tall, very handsome, funny and nice. And he’s well-read which you all know I love in a man.” He grinned.

“And he reads Gideon Archer.” Clary input as she popped a potato into her mouth. She responded to his glare with a grin.

Magnus sighed, rolling his eyes in her direction. “I’m never telling you anything ever again.” She just smiled and stuck her tongue out at him. 

Luke looked up from his dinner. “Gideon Archer? Weren’t those the books you got really into a few years ago?”

Clary giggled. “You mean the ones he’s practically obsessed with, with the very mysterious author who hides from the world? The very same ones. Alec is apparently a big fan as well. It’s practically a match made in heaven.” Magnus glared around the table at all of them as they laughed, but couldn’t help the smile that was creeping on his own face. 

“I need a new family.” He grumbled, but chuckled along with them. 

*

Alec grabbed a beer for Simon and a soda for himself from the fridge before moving back to the living room.

Simon was stretched out across the entire surface of the couch like a cat, currently occupying all three cushions. This was often how he liked to lay when he came over for movie or game nights, but Alec only had the one comfy couch and he’d be damned if he had to sit on the floor in his own home. He kicked Simon in the shin as a warning, sitting down just moments after Simon moved his legs from the spot he was now comfortably lounged in. Simon looked warily at Alec, seemingly wanting to say something but quickly decided against it. He wordlessly handed Alec a game controller which he gladly accepted. 
When Alec had come home from the cafe earlier that day he had found Simon sprawled on his couch, playing video games by himself. He had stopped being surprised when he came home to his friends and family in his apartment after the first few times it happened, and now he made sure to leave a key under the mat and food in the fridge. His apartment had become sort of a central hangout location for their group, which Alec didn’t really mind. He lived alone, without even a pet, and so it was nice to have people around.

His afternoons with Simon were often his favourite though. They would kick back and play games, or watch movies like they had in university, whiling the hours away with each other. He had worried that hiring Simon as his editor slash manager would change the nature of their friendship, but through it all they had managed to stay just as good of friends, if not better, then when they started. They were able to take off their work hats for a while, and just be Simon and Alec. Hanging with Simon was always a welcome distraction, something to take Alec out of his head, and his best friend always seemed to know when Alec needed an afternoon to just chill.

They had been playing the game for a little over an hour. Alec was winning, which usually made Simon incredibly enraged but today he just shrugged and put his controller down. Alec turned to him and raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Simon just shrugged, muting the television. “How did your date go?” 

Alec huffed out a sigh, turning away from his best friend. “It wasn’t a date.” He grumbled. “And how did you find out about my not-date?” 

Simon at least had the grace to look guilty. “Um, Iz told me. But -” He pointed his finger at Alec’s chest. “I’m your best friend. Your sister should not have to tell me about your dates. Or not-dates.”

Alec raised his eyebrows again. “You’re right.” Simon smiled, relieved. “My sister should not be telling you about my dates. Or not-dates.” Simon visibly deflated, and Alec grinned at him. Simon lunged at him across the couch but Alec was quicker and grabbed his wrists before he could inflict any damage. This only made Simon try harder, pushing against Alec’s hands and trying to pin him down. He eventually gave up when he realized he was out of breath and Alec was not, sitting there laughing at him. 

Simon leaned back and laughed too, taking a sip of his beer. “For real though, how did it go? Iz said he was some big-name fashion designer or something?”
Alec nodded and rubbed a hand over his stubble. “Yeah, he was actually really nice. I had no idea who he was when we met, but he’s apparently pretty successful in fashion. And he’s, um - quite fashionable. He’s very good at fashion.” Alec closed his eyes and shook his head, hoping that maybe if he shook them around enough the words would stop pouring out of his mouth and making him sound like an idiot.

Simon looked at Alec for a moment before nodding, poorly concealing his smile. Alec was grateful for the effort and that Simon had chosen not to comment on his lack of eloquence. “And you’re sure this wasn’t a date?”

“Yeah, he just asked to have coffee with me because he saw I was reading Gideon and wanted to ask some questions.” Simon’s eyes widened. “Not like that, obviously. He thinks I’m an even bigger fan than he is.”

Simon nodded thoughtfully. “And how was it? You know, talking about Gideon with someone who doesn’t know?”

As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Alec had really enjoyed talking to Magnus about his work. He’d been so stuck in his head about the various paths he’d taken Bobby down, but Magnus had given him a fresh perspective on them, a different set of eyes. He paid attention to the smallest of details and always seemed to see Bobby in a positive light, even when he was doing something that would hurt him in the long run. His comment about how Bobby was ‘real’ especially, had stuck with Alec since their chat, and he hadn’t been able to get it out of his head.

“It wasn’t bad actually. He had some really good things to say, and he made me think about it differently, which I suppose is good.”

Simon beamed. “It’s great! Who knows, maybe the more you talk to Magnus, the closer you’ll get to finding more inspiration.” He shrugged, “and maybe one day in the future if things work out, you can tell him.”

Alec froze, and it was clear that Simon noticed it immediately. There weren’t very many people who knew Alec well enough to see through the walls he worked so hard to put up, enough that he could only count them on one hand. His siblings knew how he was and never let him hide, but letting Simon into his circle of trust had been a big step for Alec. 

As much as he wanted to, Alec couldn’t hide what he was feeling from him. 

Alec sighed. He didn’t want to tell Simon just yet what was really bugging him. He knew Simon worried about him just as much as his siblings did, and knew for a fact that Isabelle often tried to get him to talk to Alec when he wasn’t listening to her. “It’s nothing Si. I’m fine.” He replied while he avoided Simon’s eye in favor of peeling the label off of his soda bottle. 

He could see Simon watching him in his peripheral vision. He knew Simon well enough to know that his best friend would continue to stare at him until he started talking, because Simon knew Alec well enough to know the only way he would openly talk about feelings was if he was drunk, annoyed or he pushed them down so much that they had no choice but to bubble over.

Alec shot Simon a glare. Simon held his ground. Alec groaned and gave in. “I just don’t know why I really go on dates when I know they’re not going to work out.” He looked down at his hands, knowing if he looked up he would see pity in Simon’s eyes.

Simon nodded, thoughtful. He pondered his words a moment before countering with, “Who says it doesn’t have to work out?” Alec looked at him, dubious. “Well obviously the Gideon thing is an issue, but you let me in on that. You let your family in. Why not someone else? Why not Magnus? He’s clearly already a fan.” 

It was true. Alec enjoyed having the cover of an alias because it meant that he could still go out and sit in a coffee shop anytime he wanted. He wasn’t bothered with things like book tours and crazy fans (he had a few crazy fans, and Simon and him often spent afternoons reading through some of the fan mail Alec received but he didn’t have any to the extent of some other authors he knew). Though sometimes, the cover of the alternate persona made him still feel like the shy, barely out of the closet teenager he had been when he created Gideon Archer.

It had taken Alec a long time, especially after what had happened with his parents, to become comfortable with who he was. He was finally in a place where he accepted himself for who he was, and was even proud of the man he had become. But there was still that little part of him that was scared, terrified that if he came clean to the public everything would come crashing down and the ghosts from his past would return to haunt him.

Alec had thought about it at one time. He had thought about dropping the cover altogether or maybe just letting someone in on the reality of his career. He’d had a boyfriend, Sebastian, in his second year of undergrad. They had been dating for about two years when he felt they were at that point in their relationship that Alec would essentially come out to him. They had been serious and Alec had felt for the first time that he knew what love really was. He had come so close to telling Sebastian about his work, working up the courage to do so, but before Alec could things started changing in their relationship for the worse and Alec had been forced to call it off before he got the chance.

After that he had never been with anyone whom he was serious enough to share his secret. 

Simon’s eyes widened and it was obvious from the look on his face that he was remembering the same thing Alec was. “Alec, I’m sorry. You know I wasn’t referring to him. I meant someone that was real. Someone that you can fully trust.”

Alec regretted bringing this conversation up, thinking it probably would have been a hell of a lot easier to tell Simon about what was really bothering him with Magnus, instead of getting into this conversation he did not want to be in. “Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see, I guess.”

Simon seemed to get the hint that Alec was done with the conversation and dropped it. He knew that Simon wouldn’t tell Izzy unless he was really concerned about Alec, which he didn’t seem to be. He also knew that Simon wasn’t done with this conversation and would probably bring it up again in the future. He had a feeling as long as he kept seeing Magnus, this conversation would come up again.

They sat in silence for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts.

Though he wouldn’t admit this to Simon, Alec was worried about the getting too close to someone again. There hadn’t been anyone serious since Sebastian and he worried that he may be burned, but he also recognized that he had just met Magnus and nothing was set in stone. Magnus seemed to be different than any other man Alec had ever met though; he was genuine and kind, and made Alec laugh unexpectedly. He made Alec feel things in a few hours that he hadn’t felt in a whole two year relationship. 

He couldn’t fathom at this point in his life, dropping the cover of Gideon. It was something he had held onto for years, a version of himself he could put on public display without worrying about the consequences. Gideon was like a suit of armor that made Alec feel safe, no matter what life threw at him. Because he knew no matter what was going wrong in his life, he always had Gideon.

But now, Gideon had grown to become this large part of not only his own life, but others as well. Meeting Magnus had only amplified that. Not being subjected to the traditional repercussions of fame, paparazzi, fans, and interviews sometimes made Alec forget just how widespread his books had traveled around the world. He didn’t realize how many people knew his story. 

He stopped those thoughts as soon as they came, because he knew the feelings that would follow if he went there. 

Simon turned to Alec suddenly, a devious smile on his features. “So, when are you going to see him again?”

“Um, we didn’t really - really talk about that.” Alec said meekly. 

“You should send him a text and ask him to go out again!” Simon exclaimed. He noticed the look on Alec’s face and his excitement dropped. “Oh Alec. Please tell me you at least got his number! You had one job.” Alec just shrugged, shaking his head.

Simon hit him on the chest. Alec pushed him off and held his wrists a safe distance from his body. “I’m sorry! I was distracted! He was very … distracting!” Alec could feel his cheeks heating up and willed them to cool down. 

Simon shook his head and laughed at Alec’s embarrassment. “Well, I’m sure you’ll run into him again. It seems like he frequents that coffee shop a lot, so all you have to do is hang out there and you’re bound to cross paths.” 

“I’m not going to stalk him, Si.” Alec replied warily. “That’s how people end up on those weird TLC shows, or in jail.”

“I’m not saying you should stalk him, just go to the place he likes to go and wait for him to show up.” He hesitated. “Okay, now that I say it out loud it sounds a lot like stalking.” He paused and thought for a moment. “Oh! But he probably thinks you're hot so he won’t be creeped out if he finds out you were stalking him.”

Alec blanched, staring at his best friend with his mouth hanging open. “You think that just because he may think I’m hot he’s not going to press charges for stalking him? Is that what you would do?” 

“Well, that’s how Izzy and I became friends, isn’t it! I kept showing up at her work or that crappy apartment her and Jace had. She kept flirting with me and now we’re - well, you get the idea.” Alec closed his eyes and rubbed his fingers into his temples. “There’s hope for you yet, young Padawan.”

Alec groaned. “One, I’m not going to stalk him. Two, stop trying to motivate me with Star Wars references. And three, you and Iz have been flirting for four years now, yet I don’t see you making any moves to try and change that. You should not use your weird sort-of relationship with my sister as dating advice.” 

Isabelle and Simon had been in this indeterminate on and off relationship that no one, even them, had really sat down long enough to try and figure out. They flirted constantly with each other but swore to their graves that they had never been anything but really good friends. But in the entire time they had been doing whatever it was, neither of them had been seeing anyone else, or even gone on another date. As far as Alec knew, the two of them hadn’t even so much as kissed. Only Alec knew the true extent of Simon’s feelings for Isabelle, but had promised him he would keep it a secret until Simon was ready.

Simon shrugged. “Happen one day, will it. Virtue, patience is.” He said, changing his voice to sound like Yoda before he picked up the game controller and unpaused the game. 

*

Alec walked quickly down the busy street, apologizing to people that he bumped into in his haste. 

He had told Isabelle and Jace he would meet them for lunch ten minutes ago but had been caught in a wind of inspiration on his novel and hadn’t noticed the time slip away. 

He had made a breakthrough in the past week, finally moving past a tough plot point that had been stuck on for a while. He sat down at his laptop only to find that he knew exactly what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. He had written uninterrupted for hours, finishing the chapter and working well into the next. He wrote more in one day than he had in the past few weeks of all-nighters. Alec couldn’t help but think that it had been because of his conversation with Magnus last week. Talking with Magnus had done so much more for him than rereading his books had. Magnus had brought up points in his writing that Alec didn’t think anyone else noticed. He helped Alec to see his work from an outside perspective and gain an appreciation for it once again.
It had been freeing, talking to Magnus about his work like that. Alec had been able to explore and talk through different aspects of his novels with him, the fear of Magnus finding out the furthest thing from his mind. The flow of conversation between the two had come easy, for the most part which was something Alec wasn’t used to. Besides getting impossibly flustered whenever the other man made so much as an innuendo, Alec really had enjoyed his time with him.

It had been just over a week since his kind of date (he was starting to think it might have maybe been a date) with Magnus and Alec was starting to worry that even if he did run into him again at Java Jones like Simon suggested, would Magnus even remember him? He’d like to think that he made an impression on the other man, but Magnus met so many beautiful people each day and there was no way that Alec could stand out among that crowd. Alec pushed the thought from his mind immediately, put it away in the small box deep in his brain and ignored it as best he could. 

He approached the restaurant at a jog, nodding to the man standing at the front door before slipping inside.

Taki’s was a family favourite for the Lightwood siblings. They had discovered the place when they were kids and their parents had just deemed them old enough to wander the streets of New York alone. They found it late one night when they had gotten off the bus at the wrong stop and needed somewhere to eat before heading home. 

Now, all three of them lived just around the corner and came for lunch together as much as they could. It was a relatively small restaurant, with only a line of booths and a few spare tables around the floor. There was a bar on one side of the room, where there always appeared to be a few older men drinking, no matter the time of day. It had sort of a retro diner kind of feel to it, and always smelled like French fries.

Alec spotted Isabelle and Jace as soon as he walked in, Izzy’s raven hair and Jace’s blonde locks standing out vividly against the other customers in the diner. They were seated in their usual booth in the back sitting across from each other. As Alec looked over, he caught Isabelle reach out to smack Jace’s head and Jace shrink away from her, probably laughing at something he had said. Alec grinned and made his way over to the table. 

Jace looked up at the sound of his brothers’ footsteps. “Finally! Alec, you need to tell her that if she started dating Simon it would make her a nerd by proxy.” 
“It would not!” Izzy replied fiercely, going for another blow to Jace’s head to which he dodged. “It’s not my fault he makes me watch all of his crazy movies.”

Alec smirked at his sister. “I’m afraid Jace is right, Iz. You’re going to be a nerd.” He ducked out of the way of her incoming blow, now directed at him, and slid in beside Jace on the other side of the booth. “You’re going to have couple costumes for Comic Con and have little babies named Luke and Leia.”

“Simon would never choose Luke and Leia, he would definitely go for something like Han or Chewie.” Her eyes went wide and she dropped her head into her hands in defeat. She raised her head slightly and pointed an accusatory finger at Alec when she heard him laughing. “This is all your fault.” 

“No one forced you to get involved with Alec’s best friend.” Jace pointed out, earning him a biting glare from Isabelle. He held up his hands in surrender, smile still playing at the corners of his mouth. 

“I am not involved with him. We’re friends. You both know that.” She grumbled. “Besides,” she said and turned her attention back to Alec. “You’re no better off than I am. You lived with him for five years.” 

“Ah, that is where you’re wrong little sister.” Alec grinned, pushing the finger still poked at his chest away playfully. “I refused to watch a single Star Wars movie with him and therefore have not been pulled down to his nerd depths.” Jace laughed and high-fived Alec, then shot Isabelle a triumphant grin. She grumbled something crude in response and made a point to show them her middle finger.

The waitress came around and they placed their orders before falling back into easy conversation. Isabelle started to tell them all about a shoot she was preparing for, something she was sure would triple her client list and push her higher up into the industry. 

Isabelle was a chief photographer for Vogue Magazine. She had originally gone to school for engineering and graduated top of her class but decided after she was finished with her degree that she would rather use her natural eye for beauty and take pictures. Looking at Isabelle you would never guess how smart she really was, but Alec knew with confidence that her IQ was higher than both his and Jace’s combined. Their parents hadn’t been happy, unsurprisingly, when Izzy decided against the higher paying career but then again, their parents had never really been good at taking their children’s happiness into consideration as their top priority. 

Jace was currently working as a yoga instructor and last year had opened his own studio downtown. In typical Jace fashion, he had decided that regular yoga was too “slow” and wasn’t intense enough for him, so he had developed his own stream of yoga a few years back when he went to live in India. He had worked for months with an old guru and together the two of them had mixed traditional martial arts and yoga together. Alec had attended one of Jace’s first classes once and was too sore the next day to even get out of bed. 

He hadn’t attended another once since.

Overall, all three of them had become very successful professionally, especially for being so young and not having any support from their parents. Jace always said that it was because they had no parental support that the three of them were so successful. Alec couldn’t help but think that his brother may have been right. The three of them had to learn how to depend on themselves and each other instead of relying on parents like most kids were used to. They adapted. Their parents were very well off and in the beginning, when Alec had just left home, they had attempted to bribe Isabelle and Jace to return to them with promises of unlimited credit cards and lavish material items. 

They had both stood by Alec though, something that he was still grateful for every day. He always thought that if his siblings had left him, he wouldn’t be where he was then. Now, all three of them were living comfortably - very comfortably for three young adults in their twenties. 

A short while later their waitress, Kaelie, arrived with their food. She was a petite blonde with short spiky hair and bright blue eyes. She looked like how Alec imagined a faerie would look, minus the wings. She had a pretty smile and never failed to flash it in Jace’s direction every time they came. Today was no different. When she placed Jace’s plate in front of him, she winked and ran one of her hands seductively down his arm as she turned to walk away. Jace just smirked into his drink.

Alec and Isabelle exchanged a knowing look. “When are you going to just ask her out already, Jace.” Isabelle groaned. “The sexual tension is so thick it’s going to start dripping all over my food.” Alec snorted, but Jace just shrugged casually.

“She’s not really my type.” 

Alec almost choked on his food. He turned to Jace with wide eyes. “She’s a woman. Is that not your type?” He asked bewildered, elbowing his brother in the ribs. 

Jace looked affronted before reaching over and taking a handful of fries off of Alec’s plate in retaliation. “Hey! I’ll have you know that I have some standards!” 
“Right.” Izzy agreed. “Female … and breathing?” 

Jace looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, that’s true I guess. I don't know, maybe I wouldn’t be opposed to sleeping with a man. I feel like that’s something you need to do at least once.” 

Both Isabelle and Alec looked at him in shock. “Really?” Alec asked slowly, skeptical. Sometimes it was hard to tell if Jace was joking with them or not. 
He shrugged nonchalantly and continued to pick at his food, oblivious to his siblings’ confusion. “Sure, why not? It could be fun.” 

Alec smirked. “Oh, it’s definitely fun alright.” Izzy threw a French fry at his head. 

Sending one more look to Jace, she changed the topic of conversation and focused on Alec. Her eyes went wide before they lit up with a glint that Alec wasn’t sure that he liked. “Speaking of sleeping with men, Alec when are you planning on seeing Magnus again?” Isabelle inquired.

He rolled his eyes and chose to ignore her crass subject change. “You know I didn’t get his number, Iz.” He scolded. “And -” he stopped her before she could interject, “- I’m not going to stalk him.” 

She was now looking at something over his shoulder and flat out grinned. Alec squinted at her and tried to figure out what was going on in her head. 

He didn’t have to wonder for long. 

“Well big brother, I believe he might be stalking you because he just walked in the door.”

Alec whipped his head around at an embarrassingly breakneck speed. He focused on the cluster of people near the door and sure enough, there he was. Magnus was with a woman, tall and beautiful and clearly laughing at something he had just said. Alec’s eyes slid right past her though and focused on the man in question. 

His breath caught in his throat, and he swallowed thickly. 

Magnus was dressed in a pair of tight maroon pants that he had rolled up to expose a sliver of bronze ankle. He tried not to focus on them for too long, but couldn’t help but notice that they hugged every line and curve of his legs and hips very nicely. He had on a white sheer shirt that even without the fact that Magnus only had two buttons done up, left nothing to the imagination and making his skin look extra bronze. A variety of shining necklaces were draped graciously around his neck, which made it very hard for Alec to look away from the smooth, exposed tan skin of his chest. 

Alec’s immediate response upon seeing him was to duck down in the booth so Magnus wouldn’t see them. Isabelle shook her head and muttered “boys” under her breath. She looked to Jace pointedly, who sighed and rolled his eyes at her before he grabbed Alec by the arm and pulling him suddenly from his hiding place in the booth.

“Jace!” Alec hissed, pulling his arm from his brother’s grasp. Alec didn’t really know why he was acting like this either, but it was clear that his behaviour was confusing Jace as well. 

His expression softened and he sent Alec a small reassuring smile. Alec’s anxiety subsided a fraction and he took a deep breath, hand rubbing nervously over his beard. “We’ll just go up to the counter, okay? He might not even notice us.” 

Right. Maybe he would just glance right by, too focused on the gorgeous, tall woman he was with. Maybe she was a model he was working with? Jealousy at this point was irrational. He had no right to stake a claim on Magnus, especially when they hadn’t even been out on a real date yet. Alec tried to calm the nerves that were taking residence in his body, but to no avail. He was being ridiculous. He had only gone to coffee once with this man. 

This stunningly beautiful man who made it hard for Alec to catch his breath. 

Whom he had only gone on one sort of date with. One really, really good sort of date. A sort of date that he hadn’t stopped thinking about for an entire week.
He shouldn’t be freaking out like this. Everything was fine. He just needed to calm down.

Jace was almost to the counter already and turned to see if Alec was following. He told himself it would be fine, like a mantra again and again in his head, and followed his brother. Alec leaned against the bar and tried to appear casual, under the facade of studying the menu behind the counter. In reality, he was covertly studying Magnus form the corner of his eye, who was now just a few feet away from Alec. 

Up close he could see Magnus’ maroon tipped hair (dyed to match his pants) and the dark smudged eyeliner and glitter around his yellow-green eyes. Alec also noticed, with a wave of arousal that went straight somewhere it shouldn’t in the middle of a crowded diner, that Magnus was wearing a dark shade of lipstick that matched his hair and pants. He licked his lips and tried to swallow but found his mouth had gone completely dry. 

Jace glanced up from where he, too was pretending to study the menu and chuckled when he saw Alec’s expression. “You’re drooling, buddy.” Alec snapped his attention back to Jace and automatically moved his hand to his mouth, glaring at Jace when he realized his brother was joking around with him. 

Magnus and the woman were talking to Kaelie and ordering something to go. There was only a few people across the counter between Alec and them, and if Magnus turned his head he would see Alec looking at him. 

Instead of Magnus’ head turning though, the woman’s beside him did. Alec flushed at being caught and looked away quickly. Please say she didn’t see me looking, he thought desperately. 

He risked a look up to see her lean in and whisper something in Magnus’ ear. Alec only had seconds to try and appear as if he was doing something other than ogling Magnus from across the restaurant so he grabbed a smaller menu from a pile on the counter and examined it intensely. 

Alec kept his eyes focused on the menu but whispered frantically to Jace, “Jace! Abort mission. I think he saw me.” 

Jace chuckled and chanced a casual glance over in Magnus’ direction. He nudged his shoulder and grinned down at Alec. “Too late.” He swiped the menu out of Alec’s hand, grinning at his brother’s frantic expression. Two seconds later someone tapped Alec on the shoulder. 

Alec closed his eyes and composed himself before turning to face Magnus.

“Well, Alexander. This is quite the surprise.” Magnus purred lowly. Magnus speaking like that turned him from a smitten teenager to a very turned on one. Very quickly. Alec willed his face not to show the internal struggle he was currently battling. Could Magnus see his pulse hammering in his throat, or the way he wasn’t able to stay completely still on his feet? “All these people and places in New York, yet here we are once again, running into each other by accident.” 

Jace raised his eyebrow at Magnus’ causal use of Alec’s full name but thankfully, said nothing. “Um, hey Magnus.” Alec replied, shooting the other man an awkward smile. Alec wondered what it was about Magnus that turned him into a prepubescent teenage girl. He worked his fingers together nervously. No one said anything for a moment. Magnus’ friend and Jace were clearly enjoying themselves looking between the two of them. Alec never wished for the ability to portal somewhere - anywhere - else more in his entire life. 

Magnus turned to his friend. “Catarina, would you be a dear and fetch our order form the lovely woman behind the counter and meet me outside? I’ll join you in just a tick.”

She glanced at Alec then back to Magnus before shaking her head and chuckling fondly. “Sure, Magnus. I’ll be outside.” His friend, Catarina, turned and walked away without another word or backwards glance. Another awkward silence filled the space between them, Alec was painfully aware of every second as it ticked by. Magnus either didn’t notice the tension or didn’t care if the slight smile on his lips was anything to go by. 

Alec racked his brain for something to say. Anything to say. If he knew how to properly act in front of Magnus, maybe he could make some sort of joke, or even flirt a little bit. But alas, Magnus turned his brain to mush and he spat out the only thing he could think of. “Oh! Magnus this is my younger brother. Jace, this is Magnus.” Alec made the introductions quickly, gesturing with his hand between the two of them, amused smiled on their faces.

Magnus held his hand out for Jace to shake. “Magnus Bane. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” He smiled confidently. 

“Likewise.” Jace replied easily, shaking Magnus’ hand back in a firm grip. Alec could see Jace was holding back from saying something and if he knew his brother at all, he was very grateful Jace had chosen today to be the first time to restrain himself. 

If Alec thought this situation couldn’t get any worse, it was at that moment that Isabelle decided it was her turn to join the conversation.

“Alec!” She chastised, waltzing up beside them and shaking her head in faux disappointment. At least he knew it was fake, but from Magnus’ raised eyebrows he obviously did not. “How rude of you not to introduce me to your … friend.” She gave Magnus her most charming smile and grabbed his hand in a firm shake. “Isabelle Lightwood, Vogue Magazine. I’m a huge fan of your work.” 

Alec wondered what he possibly did in life to deserve this form of cruel punishment. 

Magnus looked slightly taken aback by her forwardness but quickly recovered his composure and smiled at her slyly. “Oh, I’ve heard. Alexander told me all about you.” He said, with a wink sent Alec’s way. 

Alec couldn’t keep the blush from his cheeks if he tried. Izzy let out a surprised laugh. “Oh, he did, did he? And what did Alexander tell you about me?”

It seemed that all three of them were having a really great time teasing him and enjoying how uncomfortable Alec was in this situation. Alec wondered if he willed it hard enough, if the universe would open a hole below his feet and suck him into it. “Just that you had a lovely sense of fashion and kept up with all the latest trends. Including yours truly.” He gestured to himself. “And I must say, he was not wrong. Your outfit is absolutely fabulous.” 

Isabelle looked down at her blue jeans, black thigh high boots and bomber jacket combination before poking Alec in the side. “I like him.” She whispered quietly, but not quiet enough seeing as Magnus' lips had quirked upward in a smile

She fixed her gaze back on Magnus. “Well, you’re hardly a trend. You’ve been in style much longer than bell-bottoms ever were.” Magnus laughed. Alec kind of wanted to play the sound on repeat for the rest of his life. Would Magnus think it was weird if he asked to record his laugh? Probably.

“Well thank you, darling. You’re too kind.” His eyes scanned each of them, eyes landing on Alec and resting there. “Alexander, you didn’t tell me you came from a family of Greek Gods and Goddesses. Whatever water you are all drinking, I want a few bottles.” Alec couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him at that, trying in vain to stifle it behind his hand. Magnus winked at him. “Or if you prefer, we could just shower together, save the precious liquid and all that?”
Jace and Isabelle snickered. “I like him, too.” Jace agreed and thumped Alec on the back, who was still choking in surprise. 

“Now,” Magnus continued. “- other gorgeous Lightwood’s that are not Alec. Could I borrow your brother for just a moment?” Alec had caught his breath but almost lost it again at the thought of being alone with Magnus again. Well, as alone as one could get in the middle of Taki’s. 

Jace grabbed Izzy by the arm. “Sure.” He smirked. “We’ll meet you back at the table, bro.” He dragged Isabelle away with him, who let out a small protest but followed him willingly.

“So … um, hey.” Alec started.

“Hello Alec. I believe we’ve already covered that part of the conversation, no?” Magnus replied, hands turning one of his necklaces over between his fingers. 
Alec nodded. “Right, yeah.” He gestured vaguely to where Izzy and Jace were sitting. “I’m sorry about them. They’re a bit, um - much.” 

Magnus giggled. Actually giggled. Alec was going to die before he even got to ask him out on a second date. “That’s quite alright. They seemed just fine to me. Though I wasn’t lying, all of you Lightwood’s are so -” he waved his hand indicating down Alec’s body. “- pretty.” 

Alec shook his head and laughed. “Don’t say that too loud or they’ll hear you. They’ve both already got heads far too big for their shoulders.” 

“Noted. Though unfortunately someone is going to need to inform them that they’ve lost the competition for hottest Lightwood sibling.” Magnus said, mouth quirked teasingly. 

Alec felt his face go hot but pushed the feeling down. “I’m sure that would just break both of their hearts.” He tried to match Magnus’ teasing tone. Magnus laughed again, loud and so, so lovely. 

“Well Alexander, believe it or not I didn’t come over here to talk about your siblings, no matter how gorgeous they may or may not be.” 

The corner of Alec’s mouth tipped up. “Oh? You had another reason?” 

“I did. I’ve got a problem I need your help to fix.” He drawled slowly. 

Alec’s stomach flipped and he willed it not to show on his face. He kept his face impassive and calm, sending Magnus as flirty a look he could muster under pressure. He had a feeling he looked slightly deranged. “Oh? Well, I’m a busy man, but I’ll see what I can do.” Alec laughed back. 

Magnus smirked. “I went out to coffee with this very handsome man last week, but I was a little … distracted and seemed to have forgotten to get his number.” 

Alec bit his lip. “Distracted, eh? I might be able to get you what you’re after.” He pulled out his phone and pressed it into Magnus’ hand. “It’s a good thing you’re not distracted this time around.”
 
“Oh darling,” Magnus hummed. “I am distracted to the tenth degree, but I am concentrating on my end game to keep me focused.” His hand was still in Alec’s, the only thing separating their palms was the cool glass of Alec’s phone. 

Alec raised an eyebrow with a grin. “And your end game is … ?”

Magnus gave his head a shake and pulled the phone fully from Alec’s hand. He kept his eyes on the phone as he input his number. Alec noticed with fascination that Magnus had matched his nail colour to his pants as well. The thought made him smile unexpectedly. 

He should really stop being surprised when Magnus made him smile. 

Magnus handed Alec back his phone. He placed his hand on Alec’s bicep and leaned in slightly. “A gentleman never reveals his secrets, darling.” He squeezed Alec’s bicep lightly (it may have been his imagination but Alec was sure he saw his eyes darken). “Give me a call, Alexander.” And with that he walked past Alec and towards the door where Catarina was waiting patiently, waving his fingers at Isabelle and Jace as he passed their table. 

Alec stood, shocked, for a moment before he let a wide grin break on his face. He made his way back to the table were his siblings were looking at him with identical expressions of what Alec could only describe as manic glee. 

He sat down and they all stared at one another before the three of them burst out into laughter. Jace bumped his shoulder with Alec’s, the first of the three to compose himself. “So Alexander. How was that?” 

Alec rolled his eyes at the name but couldn’t stop the smile as it spread across his lips. “I’m very positive that both of you were eavesdropping on the entire conversation, so you know perfectly well how that went.” His siblings exchanged a look before nodding, no shame evident on either of their faces. 

Alec unlocked his phone to find it still on Magnus’ contact. 

Magnus Babe.

He barked out a laugh at the name Magnus had put in, startling the couple at the table beside them. He apologized halfheartedly before looking back down to his phone and smiling like an idiot. 

For once in his life, he didn’t care at all. 

*

Catarina said nothing when Magnus walked out the front door of Taki’s, just fell into step beside him as they walked down the sidewalk. She had their bag of takeout in her hand and it swung beside her as they walked.

The afternoon was crisp and cool, the afternoon sun reflecting off the concrete above them. The sun was warm but when it dipped behind the skyscrapers it left behind a chill, a sure sign that fall was in full swing and a promise that winter wouldn’t be too far behind. Magnus felt the brisk wind cut through his sheer shirt and pulled his jacket tighter around him. 

He glanced over at Catarina to find her face impassive, impossible to read. 

“Tall, Dark and Handsome?” She inquired finally. She kept her eyes forward but the small upturn of her lips gave her away.

“How did you - Ragnor.” Of course, Catarina’s husband would fill her in on Magnus’ love life. Cat and Ragnor had been married for a few years now and they were sickeningly in love. Not that you could tell by looking at them. They both weren’t outwardly loving people, but Magnus knew them well enough to see the deep love and devotion they shared for each other. 

“He mentioned him the other day.” She clarified nonchalantly. “I must admit, he does fit the description perfectly.” She paused. “If doe-eyed and awkward was my type of handsome.” 

Magnus shrugged. “Well it’s a good thing it’s mine then, isn’t it?” Cat eyed him doubtfully. “Okay, maybe it’s not. But anything that Alec is, is now my type.”
Catarina laughed and shook her head. “How did I know you were going to say something like that?” 

Magnus looped his arm through hers as they continued to stroll down the busy street. “Because you’re my best friend and know my thoughts and feelings as well as I do, darling.”

She made an affirmative noise in the back of her throat. “Lucky me.” Magnus ignored the sarcastic comment and rested his head on her shoulder. Catarina sighed and leaned down to press a kiss to his temple. “Of course, I’m your best friend.” 

“As long as you know it.” He grinned back. 

It wasn’t long until they reached Magnus’s work, the tall Institute building looming up above them. They walked in the front door and smiled at the doorman, Francis, before they got in the elevator. 

They went right up to the top floor, where Magnus, Ragnor and Lydia’s offices were located. Magnus was sometimes hit with the realization that he was here, on the top floor of one of the biggest fashion industries in the city, and he belonged there. His first office had been on floor three, and it hadn’t been an office, more of a cubicle with just enough room for him to stretch his legs. 

His office now was open and spacious. He had a large mahogany desk (he had definitely made the Hunger Games joke once or twice) and windows for walls. One wall of the office was taken up by a bookshelf, filled with his favourite novels, fashion magazines and some awards he had received over the year. Cat brought their food over to the sitting area in the corner of Magnus’ office while he walked to the phone. 

“What can I do for you, Mr. Bane?” His assistant, Lily Chen, asked when she picked up his call. 

“Could you have Ragnor and Lydia meet me in my office love?” 

“Right away, Mr. Bane.” She chirped, efficiently. 

“Lily, I’ve told you that you can call me Magnus.” He chastised lightly. 

She hesitated. “Right. Sorry Mr. - uh Magnus. I’ll send them right in.” 

“Thank you darling.” 

Minutes later Lydia walked in, followed closely by Ragnor. Lydia, ever the professional, had her usual pantsuit on and hair in an immaculately slicked back ponytail. Ragnor on the other hand was wearing a three-piece suit, but had shucked off the jacket and rolled up his sleeves as soon as he stepped through the door. 

He walked up to Cat and gave he a kiss on the cheek. “Hello my love.” 

Magnus looked up from where he was unpacking the food. “Where’s my kiss?” He quipped automatically. Ragnor blew Magnus a kiss from his spot beside his wife on the couch. Magnus made an exaggerated show of grabbing it and putting it in his pocket. 

Lydia sat beside Magnus on the other chesterfield and accepted the takeout box from him with a smile. “Have you gone to the studio yet today, Magnus?” She asked.

Magnus filled her in on the work that was happening at the studio. He and Cat had gone this morning before stopping for lunch and everything was going according to plan. Ragnor and Lydia told Magnus about their own meeting this morning and that he was needed later this week to choose models for his show. “Do I really need to be there? Can’t you just send me head shots or something?” 

Ragnor looked up at him in surprise. “Since when do you not want to be in a room with hundreds of gorgeous people, choosing which ones are going to be wearing your clothing?” 

Even Lydia looked confused. Magnus shook his head. “I just don’t see why I need to be there. You know accessorizing better than I do, and I trust you.” 
Cat studied Magnus from across the room. “I think I know why he doesn’t want to go.” 

Magnus shot her a warning look, but she persisted. “We had a run in with Tall, Dark and Handsome today while we were picking up lunch. I’ve never seen Magnus walk so quickly. And that’s including the time he saw those one of a kind Louboutin Glittered Boots in Milan a few years back.”
Lydia looked confused. “You walked away from him?”

Cat laughed. “Nope. As soon as I told him Alec was looking his way he made a beeline straight to him.” 

Magnus focused on his food, but muttered “there was nothing straight about it” under his breath. He refused to be bullied by his friends about someone he liked. He sat up tall in his chair and looked right at Ragnor. “Alec’s stunning personality and drop dead gorgeous looks have nothing with me not wanting to model search with you. I trust you both,” he looked pointedly at Lydia, “completely.” 

Lydia nodded seriously. “Okay sure. Whatever you say.” Her serious demeanor was cracked by a nearly unnoticeable twitch of her upper lip. 

Magnus was saved from responding by the chirp of his phone. He dug it out of his pocket and looked at the screen. 

From Alec: Hey. It’s Alec. From The coffee shop

From Alec: And Taki’s :)

Magnus smiled at the message and keyed Alec into his contacts. He put Alec's name in as “Tall, Dark and Handsome”, accompanied with the blue heart emoji. Appreciating his handiwork, Magnus typed a message back.

To Alec: Hello Alec form the coffee shop and Taki’s

Tiny bubbles appeared at the bottom of the screen, indicating that Alec was typing. 

From Alec: What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?

From Alec: Sorry. That was very abrupt.

Magnus didn’t even wait the usual five minutes before responding, finding he didn’t mind much if he appeared overeager. 

To Alec: Straightforward. I like it ;) What did you have in mind?

Alec’s bubbles popped up right away, a message following right after. 

From Alec: I was thinking we could go for coffee again? I really enjoyed talking with you. About literature and stuff.

To Alec: and stuff?

From Alec: And stuff. :)

Magnus laughed. He liked this confident version of Alec he was starting to see. While Alec had clearly been flustered this afternoon when they had been talking, he also had shown that he was capable of taking control of the situation if he wanted to.

Magnus liked that in a man. 

To Alec: Sure Alexander. I’ll see you tomorrow for literature talks and “stuff.”

Magnus pocketed his phone to find all of his friends staring at him with matching expressions.
 
“Shut up.” He huffed and went back to his lunch. 

 *

Alec arrived at the coffee shop before Magnus this time and sat down at the table in the back corner. He waved at Maia as she came over. “Hi Maia.”

“Hey, Alec. Can I get you anything?” 

“Just a coffee please. I’m waiting for Magnus, so he’ll probably want one as well.” Alec remembered Magnus talking about his love for the caffeinated drink last time they had been here. 

Maia nodded. “Gotcha. I know his order. I’ll bring those over right away.” Alec thanked her as she walked away and glanced out the window while he waited. 
He had texted Magnus again later in the evening yesterday when he realized they hadn’t agreed on a place or time to meet today. Magnus had responded right away and told Alec that his schedule was pretty flexible most days and anytime worked for him, so Alec suggested same time and place as last time. 
There had been a comment about flexibility on Magnus’ part as well, which Alec was decidedly not thinking about.
 
He liked the atmosphere of the small coffee shop. It was small and homey and all of the staff seemed genuinely happy to be there, unlike some of the other coffee shops Alec had been to. He found himself thinking this shop could easily become one of his new favorites. 

Maybe it could be his and Magnus’ new favorite. 

He had told himself he was going to wait at least a day or two before he texted Magnus, but as soon as he had gotten home and away from his siblings his resolve had broken. Alec never understood the point of playing those dating games. Why do you have to wait a certain amount of time to text someone back, if you wanted to talk to them? You certainly wouldn’t wait five minutes to respond if the person was standing right in front of you. 

But Magnus had replied to Alec’s messages right away yesterday. Alec tried not to think too hard about this fact. 

Alec was broken out of his thoughts by the arrival of Maia at the table. She placed the two cups on the table. “Second date?” She grinned. Alec had learned in the short time of knowing Maia that she was anything but apologetic when it came to how she talked. 

“Um, I guess. Yeah.” Alec replied, focusing on his coffee cup. He had been debating back and forth with himself if it was really a date. While they hadn’t really specified it, he hoped that Magnus was into him. He made a lot of jokes and innuendos, but did that mean he had feelings for Alec? Did Alec affect him as much and Magnus did him? He glanced up at Maia and saw she was smiling down at him. 

“He seems like a good guy. Don’t be nervous, champ.” She hit Alec on the shoulder lightly and he laughed. 

“Thanks Maia.” There was a chime at the door and both Maia and Alec looked up to see Magnus enter. He spotted them and made his way over, kissing Maia on the cheek before seating himself across from Alec. “Hello, Alexander.”

“Hey, Magnus.”

Magnus looked amazing today, just as he had the last three times Alec had seen him. He was wearing lighter makeup, and a dress shirt rolled up at the sleeves showing off his toned arms. The dress shirt, which Alec was learning to be typical Magnus fashion, was dotted with silver sequins that made the whole thing sparkle when he moved. 

Alec forgot Maia was still with them and cleared his throat, aware of her and Magnus’ eyes on him. “I’ll be over by the register if you guys need anything.” She said lightly, retreating to the other end of the small shop.

Alec cleared his throat again, and focused back on Magnus. “So, I want to apologize again for my siblings. They take a while to get used to.” He chuckled. “I’m still getting used to them, actually.” 

Magnus looked pleased, and smiled confidently back at Alec. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to stick around then.” 

Alec hid his grin behind his coffee cup as he took a sip. “I guess you will.” 

“Tell me about them.” Magnus urged, sipping his own cup of coffee.

So, he did. He told Magnus more about them, telling him about Isabelle’s career and Jace’s affinity for attracting trouble. He told him about their weekly lunches and how he would never come home to an empty apartment because they were always there. He told him ridiculous stories from their childhood and even crazier ones from not as long ago. Magnus laughed and smiled along with everything Alec said, eyes crinkling at the corners. 

In turn, Magnus told him all about his family. His stepmom and stepdad and crazy younger sister, who he sweetly referred to as ‘Biscuit’, who he loved with everything he had. He told Alec about some stories from his world travels, because apparently being a fashion designer meant you got to travel frequently.
He tried to explain the prep he was doing for Fashion Week, but then had to teach Alec what Fashion Week was when he admitted he had no clue. “You’ve never heard of Fashion Week? With a sister like Isabelle?” Magnus asked, disbelief coloring his words. 

Alec shrugged. “I’ve never really followed fashion. I’m sure you can tell.” He said as he gestured casually down to his well-worn shirt and black jeans. Magnus followed Alec’s hand, eyes roaming up and down his body. Alec flushed at the attention. 

His eyes found Alec’s again. “Well, I can help with that. Lucky for you, you have just made the acquaintance of a specialist in men’s fashion.” 

“I don’t know if I could pull off sequins. I’m more of an all-black kind of guy.” Alec teased, nodding towards Magnus’s shirt. 

Magnus quirked his lips up. “Baby steps, Alexander. It takes time to reach this level of fashion expertise. You will get there one day.”

“So, you’re like … a really big deal in the fashion world, right?” Alec couldn’t name a single fashion designer, so he didn’t know who or what was considered a “big deal.” He wished that he had payed more attention to Isabelle when she talked about this stuff so he didn’t sound like a complete idiot in front of Magnus. 

“At the risk of sounding boastful, I will say that my name is known, though not certainly the most popular.” He parried, and waved his hand loftily as if brushing off the thought. 

Alec raised his eyebrows challengingly and pulled his phone from his pocket. “We’ll see about that.” He responded cheekily. He opened up Google and typed ‘Magnus Bane’ in the search bar.

Right away, over seventeen thousand hits popped up.

Many of them were articles about Magnus’ success, claiming him to be the youngest designer to make this big of a splash in the industry in decades. There were a few pages with predictions on what might be in his upcoming winter line and speculation of what he was bringing to Fashion week. 

Alec refrained from looking too in depth into his search, he would do that later when he wasn’t sitting across from him. Instead he turned the phone to show Magnus his own Twitter page, with over a million followers, with a smug expression. “You’re right. Just a few people know your name.” Colour tinged Magnus’ cheeks. Alec now understood why Magnus seemed to get enjoyment from eliciting the same reaction from him. 

“Well, I certainly couldn’t tell you all of that, now could I? You would think my head was larger than the Indian Ocean.” Magnus retorted, getting his confidence back. “Well, the head on my shoulders anyway.” 

Alec gaped at him before he let out a booming laugh. “That was terrible!” 

Magnus looked offended. “I’ll have you know that all of my innuendos are incredible, Alexander. Your innocent mind just doesn’t appreciate all that they offer.” 

Alec tried to mold his face into something resembling seriousness. “I’m sure I would appreciate everything that you have to offer. Fully.”

Magnus’ eyes went wide. “Did you -” He paused. “Alexander, did you just make a joke?” He was clearly mocking Alec, his eyes glinting teasingly. Alec nodded. 

“You continue to surprise me, Alexander.” Magnus said, shaking his head in disbelief. 

“Good ways, I hope.” 

Magnus grinned. “The best ways.” 

They sat at the coffee shop for the rest of the afternoon, trading stories and consuming copious amounts of coffee. Alec couldn’t remember having this much fun with someone in a long time. Magnus made him feel light and open. He made him feel happy. 

He made Alec want to take risks and do things he wouldn’t consider otherwise.

Alec spared only a moment of thought that it wasn’t normal to feel this way about someone after just a week, but then Magnus laughed at something he was saying and the thought left Alec’s mind completely.

Chapter Text

Simon and Alec stepped out of the elevator and onto the massive floor that was Alicante Press.

The building outside was grey, monotone concrete. It was nothing compared to the vibrance and life of the interior. The entire floor was wide open and bright with the exception of a few small offices located near the back. The floor was clean and shiny, it’s light green tint reflecting up at them. There were few walls on the floor, the ones that were present a clear shimmering glass.

Small cubicles were scattered around the room in clumps, with groups of desks close together and facing one another. Simon explained to Alec that he had been told their function was to promote creative and collaborative thinking for the workers who sat at them. They reminded Alec of the layout of a kindergarten classroom.

Giant pillars had been erected around the space, gleaming silver-white like beautifully carved marble. They stood out vividly against the lack of walls or other large pieces of furniture throughout the room. The whole place gave off a very peaceful working environment and Alec subconsciously tried to quiet his steps so as not to disturb the tranquility.

Right in front of the elevator entrance was a large glass reception desk, and to the left of that was what Alec assumed to be the seating area.

He didn’t have time to linger though, because Simon had already taken hold of his elbow and steered him towards the desk.

Maureen Brown, as her nameplate read, was Alicante’s main secretary. She was a pretty young woman, with large brown eyes and curling dark hair. She smiled up at them as they reached the desk, eyes lingering for just a moment on Simon. “Mr. Lewis. You’re right on time. I’ll let them know you’re here.” She picked up the phone beside her and spoke into it briskly, before promptly hanging it up again. The whole interaction took less than 30 seconds. Alec was impressed.

Her gaze flicked to Alec. “Who have you brought with you today?”

Simon gave her a coy smile, probably trying to flirt Alec guessed. He coughed into his hand to hide his smirk. Simon ignored him and kept going. “This is my new assistant, Alec Lightwood. He will be joining us today for the meeting.”

Maureen paused and her eyes scanned over to Alec warily. “You know the policy. We don’t usually let anyone in who doesn’t have the proper level of clearance. As you are well aware Mr. Lewis, these meeting usually contain sensitive information …”

Simon put his elbows right on the desk and leaned forward so he was closer to Maureen. “I’m sure it won’t be a problem getting him clearance, will it? Mr. Archer personally requested that Mr. Lightwood be allowed into the meeting today, for training purposes.” He paused for dramatic effect. Alec fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Now, he wouldn’t be too happy if he found out his new assistant editor was denied into a meeting for his latest novel, would he? I would hate for that information to get back to him.”

He was laying it on thick, but it seemed to be working. Maureen looked flustered, whether from the proximity of Simon’s face or of the thought of upsetting Gideon Archer.

Simon’s tactic had worked though because she jumped into action immediately.

“Of course.” She clipped lightly. “I’ll get Mr. Lightwood clearance right away. It shouldn’t take more than a few moments. My apologies.” She moved around her desk, frantically looking for the paperwork.

Alec sighed and shook his head at Simon, who just shrugged innocently. He placed his hand on the desk and gave the girl a genuine smile. “Thank you so much, Ms. Brown. We really appreciate it.”

She looked up at him with a hint of a smile, still rifling through papers. It was gone just as soon as it arrived. “Anything for our most successful author.”

Alec froze. Surely she couldn't know who he was? His mind went into hyper drive, playing over the events that had led him up to this moment. Everything from the last few months right up until last week when Simon had created fake paperwork for him and everything; Alec Lightwood: Assistant Editor to Gideon Archer.

They had been careful.

They were always so careful.

He looked over his shoulder to glance at Simon who also looked confused and more than a little scared.

“Uh … what?” Alec rasped out.

“Well, Mr. Archer and his team of course.” When Alec didn’t respond right away, she added, “That’s you, sweetheart.” Maureen seemingly had not noticed the panic attack Alec had just gone through because she kept talking. “No one here has ever met Mr. Archer but I must admit, I’ve been dying to ever since I started reading his books.”

Alec slowly released the breath he had been holding. His vision had started to clear and he managed out a small smile. Simon came up behind him and placed a hand on Alec's’ shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly. “We’ll be sure to let Mr. Archer know that, Ms. Brown. He loves hearing from his fans, so he’ll be happy to know he’s got some right here in Alicante.”

Maureen told them that Alec’s security clearance would be ready in just a moment and then she would direct them to where their meeting was being held, but for the time being they could wait in the reception area.

“That was …” Alec started, when they were out of earshot.

“That was fine, Alec. We’re good. Don’t worry, buddy.” Simon clapped him on the shoulder and showed him over to the waiting area.

They sat in the large arm chairs and Alec took the opportunity to look around the room. The three walls surrounding the waiting area were floor to ceiling book shelves, the biggest Alec had ever seen. Each shelf was accompanied by its own sliding ladder, the type that people used to use in large libraries with tons of books.

There had to be hundreds of books in this room. Alec glanced around and looked at the different array of spines that looked back at him, overtaken with the sheer amount of words in this small corner of a business tower in New York.

Alec had always told himself that one day he would buy a house and put a giant library in it, complete with the ladders, of course. He imagined himself whiling away the hours, reading book after book and sitting on a window seat overlooking the countryside.

But of course, this was New York and the only country side in the vicinity was Central Park which hardly counted. And the houses big enough for libraries probably cost more than even Alec had in his bank account.

“Did you see the way I handled that situation back there?” Simon grinned, straightening his tie proudly.

“Which part?” Alec cajoled. “The part where you flirted your way in or threatened her with the wrath of Gideon Archer?”

“I didn’t threaten her. I just reminded her of his power.” Simon said defensively.

“I hate when you make me sound like some fascist overlord or something.” Alec grumbled under his breath.

Simon chuckled. “Fascist overlord? That’s a new one. It got you in the door didn’t it?” Simon grinned, elbowing Alec in the ribs playfully.

Alec - well, Gideon - had been working with Alicante ever since his first book came out, but had never been to the offices before. Simon was the face of the Gideon Archer company, always going in for meetings and sitting down with reporters to talk about the newest novel. The world knew him as Gideon’s personal assistant, which Alec guessed was slightly true for how much Simon put up with for him.

Simon always told Alec he was happy doing all of the other stuff as long he remained Alec’s chief editor. Alec always reminded him that he would never stop being chief editor, because he was his only editor.

They had never explicitly come up with a story to tell the media as to why Alec didn’t want to show his face or reveal his identity. As a result, it had become sort of a point of speculation on the internet, people coming up with ridiculous stories as to why he remained a mystery man.

Alec’s favorite by far came from a fan on twitter a few years ago. She had speculated that Gideon was actually a quiet simpleton who lived in recluse in the mountains, with no phone or internet connection. She had said he probably spent his days writing by candle light and tending to his various crops and farm animals. Oh and the best part, he would send his transcripts to Simon via pigeon every few months.

Alec rolled his eyes at Simon. “You know what I mean. The whole ‘Mr. Archer won’t be pleased’ thing. You make me sound like some old rich man who sits in a velvet robe, stroking his white puffy cat while smoking a cigar and planning world domination.”

Simon beamed. “That, or a middle-age businessman with a red room.” Alec smacked him on the back of the head. “Mr. Archer will see you now.” Simon continued to whisper seductively.

If they weren’t in a professional establishment Alec would have done more than shoot him a silencing glare.

He chose to ignore Simon in lieu of getting up and wandering to scan the titles of the books before him. He saw many by authors he knew and just as many by those he didn’t.

The one thing he didn’t see however, were any of his own.

He scanned the shelves, running his finger along them until he found where his pseudo surname would be but they weren’t there. Confused, he gave up and made his way back to the couch.

Simon gestured for Alec to follow him. “Here, I want to show you something.” He brought Alec over to a wall just beyond the room they were in. Form where he had been standing it had been hidden by the third bookshelf, which made sense as to why Alec hadn’t seen it before now.

Alec rounded the bookshelf and his mouth dropped open wide.

The wall was filled with framed book covers and newspaper articles. There were magazine entries and a copy of the New York Times Bestselling Author list. Dozens of reviews and clippings from various media outlets. Below all of that was two shelves. One held about a dozen different awards that shone under the spotlight above them.

The other shelf was just six books, all of which were pristine, never-been-opened first editions.

“She wasn’t kidding when she said they loved Gideon here.” He whispered, awestruck.

“They put this up just after Memories I think, so I guess that would be just over two years ago now.” Simon said, hands in his pockets. “It’s kinda like a shrine. Bit creepy if you think about it.”

Alec looked at the wall in wonder, taking in all that was before him. He drank everything in. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. There were some other big name authors at this publishing firm, some he certainly considered to be bigger than himself.

And yet, here was an entire wall dedicated to his life’s work.

He turned to see Simon looking at him with the biggest shit eating grin on his face. “So? What do you think?”

Alec had to collect himself before responding. “What do I think!? I think that -” he lowered his voice, aware of the listening ears around them “- Well, I don’t really know what I think. But there's an entire wall of my accomplishments in this fancy publishing company, and that’s very overwhelming. And I’m obviously really happy about that, but the one thought that keeps jumping to my mind is that I want my name was up there instead. My real name.” He finished, huffing out the breath he had been holding.

Simon’s grin only grew after Alec’s speech, but before he could say anything they heard the sound of clicking heels approaching them. Alec pushed the wall form his mind for now. He needed to focus on the meeting ahead of them.

They turned around to find Maureen, clipboard in hand. She moved forward and attached a badge onto the lapel of Alec’s jacket and then stepped back to address them.

She was nothing if not extremely efficient.

“Mr. Lewis, you know the procedure by now but I’ll go over the details again for your new assistant.” Simon nodded for her to continue. “Mr. Lightwood, you and Mr. Lewis will be escorted to the arts studio for this visit. Our artistic designer has already read the preliminary transcript of the first half of Mr. Archers newest novel, so she will be ready with questions, no doubt.” She looked at Alec skeptically. “Am I to assume that you as well, have read the preliminary transcript?”

Alec swallowed his grin and smiled politely. “I’m familiar with it.” Simon snorted beside him.

Maureen continued, choosing to ignore Simon’s interruption. “Perfect. Well, then you and Mr. Lewis can answer any questions our artist may have and brief her on any ideas Mr. Archer has briefed you on for his next cover. Don’t feel rushed into deciding on anything today. Mr. Archer has scheduled more meetings for the two of you in the future to make sure he gets the best. Do you have any questions?”

Alec felt like he was being scolded by a teacher, Maureen’s once kind brown eyes piercing both of them. He presumed she didn’t take well to being threatened, or flirted with and reminded himself to tease Simon about that later.

He also felt like breaking out into spontaneous laughter, from nerves and the sheer ridiculousness of this situation.

Alec had never expressed interest in wanting to come to one of these meetings, or any meetings for that matter, before. He always told Simon that he trusted his judgement explicitly. He had never been unhappy with a single one of his covers or any other business decision Simon had made up until this point, so why change that now?

However, Simon had suggested to him last week that maybe going and seeing how the process was done might help him out of the writing funk he had been in lately. Alec told Simon he wasn’t sure if it would help, but he was curious about what happened to his writing between his computer and the book shelves, so he agreed to give it a try.

Alec now had a sneaking suspicion Simon wanted him to come just to see The Wall.

He followed Simon and the intense receptionist Maureen to a large studio office near the back of the floor. Unlike the rest of the walls which were clear glass, the walls to this room were the same silver-white marble as the pillars outside so Alec couldn’t see the inside.

Maureen knocked lightly on the door and stepped in before them. Alec glanced over her shoulder, and was instantly taken aback.

He didn’t know what he had expected, but it certainly wasn’t this. The room was organized into two distinct halves: one cleanly and neat, the other a wasteland of disorganized chaos. There were canvas’ and oil paint cans everywhere; brushes stacked in a corner and sheets with sketches tacked to the walls. Half of the floor was covered in a thin plastic tarp, no doubt protecting the expensive carpet underneath. There were wide windows that let in a great amount of light, and spotlights on the ceiling for when natural light wasn’t enough.

On the other side was a set of sleek modern couches and an area rug with an imprint of a panda on it. There was a large desk that was meticulously organized, papers and novels sorted into piles along the surface.

The difference in the two sides of the room was jarring.

Sat at the desk was a pretty young woman. She had bright red hair that fell in waves to her shoulders. Though, that was all Alec could see of her because her head was bent towards the desk as she wrote furiously on the paper in front of her.

Maureen cleared her throat loudly. Alec was starting to get the sense she had a schedule in her mind and didn’t appreciate when others didn’t follow it.

The woman’s head shot up and she looked to Maureen who was standing in front of Simon and Alec. “Miss Fairchild, your 3 o’clock is here.” She informed her, then abruptly turned and walked from the room.

The woman at the desk focused on them. A look of confusion passed over her features before her eyes went wide.

Confused, Alec turned to Simon.

But, to Alec’s curiosity the look on the woman’s face mirrored that of the one that was currently on his best friend's.

“Clary?!” Simon said in disbelief, at the same time the woman said “Simon?!

They stood staring at each other across the room for a long moment. Alec was about to intervene and say something, maybe ask them what was going on, when the two of them burst out into laughter.

Alec wondered if maybe they had both spontaneously lost their minds.

The woman - Clary - darted out from behind her desk and ran to meet Simon in the middle of the room, who pulled her into a bone-crushing hug.

Alec stayed in the doorway awkwardly, unsure of what was going on.

“What are you -”

“How have you b-”

They broke off laughing when they once again talked over each other. Clary indicated Simon could speak first.

“What are you doing here? I didn’t know you worked here!”

Clary grinned. “You would know if you bothered to call me more often, Lewis.” Simon opened his mouth, presumably to object but Clary waved him off. “When I got back from Europe I finished my degree. I only got hired here last week.”

Simon nodded. “Which makes sense why I’ve never seen you. I’ve been coming to this place for nearly seven years!”

“Which is probably around the last time I saw you.” She teased kindly, punching him in the arm.

“Yeah, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I didn’t even know you were back in New York!”

“I finished school when I got back form Europe, but I’ve been staying at Mom and Luke’s old place for the last little bit.”

Simon grinned. “I remember that place. Remember when -” Simon cut himself off when he saw Clary looking pointedly at Alec.

“Simon, please tell me that this is your boyfriend.”

Simon broke out into a spontaneous coughing fit, and Alec figured it was time to intervene. He walked up beside Simon and pat him roughly on the back, holding his other hand out to Clary. “Um - boyfriend, no. Best friend, yes. Simon and I work together.” He grinned.

Clary grasped his hand tightly as she shook it. “ “Sorry. I’m Clary Fairchild. Simon and I have been friends since we were in diapers.”

Alec smiled. “I’m Alec Lightwood. I met Simon in university.”

Simon, having recovered from his fit, straightened up and looked between the two of them. “This is weird. My past and my present shaking hands. I don’t know if I like this.”

Clary shook her head. “Alec, eh? That seems to be a common name lately." Alec wasn't sure what to make of that, but she focused on Simon before he could say anything. "No matter how much time we spend apart, you don’t change one bit, Lewis.”

“I’m immortal. Time cannot touch this face.” Simon quipped back.

“That baby face.” Alec muttered. Simon glared at him and Clary reached around him to give Alec a high five.

Clary moved back behind her desk and indicated to the chairs in front of it for the two of them to sit. “So, what can I do for you two?”

Simon, suddenly all business, pulled a portfolio from his briefcase. Inside, Alec knew was a copy of the first ten chapters of his next book as well as some cover ideas they had come up with the night before over takeout and video games.

There was also a letter he himself had written as Gideon that Simon brought to every meeting with him. The letter stated that Simon was to deal with every and all affairs concerning the publication, press and financials surrounding each novel, and was to be treated as Gideon himself would.

Simon slid the portfolio carefully across the desk to Clary. She opened it and looked through the contents for a moment, before meeting Simon’s eyes. “You’re Gideon Archer’s editor?”

“I am.” He said confidently. Only years of knowing Simon had attuned Alec to the slight raise in his voice that indicated he was nervous for her response.

“Simon! That’s amazing! I can’t believe it!” She exclaimed. “So, that means you’ve met him, right?”

Her eyes were alight with curiosity. Alec felt himself stiffen in his chair.

He knew there would be no possible way for her to tie him to Gideon, he and Simon had made sure of that. He also knew Simon would never sell him out, no matter who they were talking to. But he couldn’t help the inner hysteria he felt.

“I have, yeah. He’s a great guy.” He stopped and pointed a finger in her direction. “But, I will be answering no more Gideon questions from here on out. I like my job and want to keep it.”

Clary held her hands up in surrender. “As you wish, sir. My brother is going to be so jealous when I tell him I’m designing Gideon Archer’s book cover, though.”

Simon laughed. “Just make sure you don’t tell him anything, Fray.”

Clary grinned at the nickname. “I would never.” She exchanged a private smile with Simon that spoke of many years of trust and friendship.

She looked back down at the file and pulled a few things out. “Alright, let’s get down to business, shall we? I’ve read the first little bit and I love it. I’ve got some ideas and I’m sure Mr. Archer has given you some of his own?”

They both nodded. “Perfect! This is going to be fun. Let's go to the studio, and I’ll talk you through what I’ve been thinking.”

 

***

 

Magnus walked the familiar route from his office building to Java Jones. The weather was unusually warm today for so late in the fall season. It was the perfect time for Magnus to debut the new wool blend fall pea coat he bought a few weeks ago.

He pulled said coat tighter around him and picked up the pace to the shop.

He and Alec had started meeting for coffee whenever Magnus came into the office, which was more often as of late. He would finish a day of meetings and administrative work before he made his way next door to the cafe. Alec was almost always there first, sitting at their usual table, sometimes with a novel but always with two coffee’s in front of him.

One for him and one for Magnus.

Today was no exception. When Magnus walked into Java Jones he spotted Alec immediately, smiling and waving from their table in the back. He smiled at Maia behind the counter, who gave him a quick salute.

“Alexander. Darling, is that you? I almost didn’t recognize you. You’re wearing colour today.” Magnus teased as he walked up to Alec, tugging on the collar of his shirt lightly.

“Hello to you too, Magnus.” He grinned, slight pink tinge on his cheeks. Today he was wearing a lined jean jacket with a forest green shirt underneath, paired with his ever present black jeans and boots. The green of his shirt made his ebony hair stand out more noticeable than usual against his fair skin.

Magnus saw beautiful people in his profession all the time, but was continually in awe whenever he saw Alec. He wanted nothing more than to ask him to model in one of his shows.

Magnus made a move to sit down but Alec reached out to grab his elbow, stopping him. “I was thinking, the weather is actually nice today. So, maybe we could go for a walk instead? I mean, if you want to.” Magnus glanced down at the table to see that Alec had ordered their coffee in to-go cups today, instead of the regular mugs. He had planned this.

He should really stop being surprised when Alec did nice things. But time and time again Magnus was taken by the sweetness of this man.

They had grown closer over the past few weeks, meeting for coffee frequently and texting when they weren’t together; they had transitioned to a comfortable friendship. Maybe with too many flirty innuendos on Magnus’ part, but a friendship nonetheless.

Alec had started sending him jokes and random facts throughout the day after the second time they went out for coffee. He would send magnus different definitions of new words he found, or facts about whatever it was they were talking about at the time. It started off infrequently at first but now it was very rare that Magnus wouldn’t hear from the younger man during the day.

In turn, Magnus would send Alec selfies and picture updates of his work for Fashion Week from the studio. He knew he shouldn’t be doing it. He knew that if Lydia found out about it, she would most definitely have his head on a spit. His line was supposed to be kept under strict lock and key until the unveiling, but Magnus assumed Alec wasn’t the type to take his work and post it online for a bit of cash.

Magnus looked at Alec’s honest face before him, telling Magnus about something he saw online today.

No, Alec would never betray him like that.

Alec’s hand was still on his elbow and Magnus had to concentrate very hard to make sure he got his next words out properly. “I would love to go for a walk with you, Alec.”

Alec smiled sweetly and swiped their coffees from the table. He handed Magnus his drink, then offered him his arm. There were butterflies in Magnus’ stomach that were definitely trying to escape at this point, but he just bit his lip and looped his arm through Alec’s.

They walked down the streets of Manhattan, sipping their drinks and trading stories. Their conversations lately had switched from solely literature to other topics like family, life, and school. Magnus told Alec more about his family: his adoptive sister who was crazy and reckless but he would do anything for, all about Luke and Jocelyn and the limited memories he still carried of his mother.

Alec told him more stories about his siblings as well. The way he talked about them, even when he was calling Jace an “insufferable idiot”, was so raw and pure. You could tell just how much Alec cared for his family from the way he talked about them.

Alec told him of a time where he, Jace and Isabelle had signed up for a karate class when they were teenagers as a joke, but ended up really enjoying it. The three of them took the class for years and ended up advancing all the way to black belt.

“You have a black belt in karate? You’re joking right?”

“No. I’d show you some moves but I don’t really want to embarrass myself.”

Magnus winked. “I’d love to see some of your moves, Alexander.” Alec just rolled his eyes and nudged his shoulder against Magnus’.

“And what about your parents?” Magnus asked. They had reached Central Park and moved to sit on a bench by the pond. There were two small girls sitting by the edge of the water playing with dolls, their mothers standing by smiling at them fondly.

Alec rubbed his fingers together, a tell Magnus was starting to realize meant he was nervous or uncomfortable. He put his hand on top of Alec’s and gave him a sincere smile. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. I don’t have a filter sometimes, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

Alec put his other hand on top of Magnus’, rubbing his thumb gently over his knuckles. The gesture was small and sweet and Magnus wondered if he even realized he was doing it. “No, it’s alright. It was bound to come up eventually.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “My parents, they didn’t take too well to the whole … gay thing.”

Magnus squeezed his hand but didn’t otherwise interrupt.

“They thought they could like, fix me or something. Which is completely ridiculous because it’s not something that can or should be fixed. So I left when I was 18, moved away to school and got myself a good job. Jace and Izzy moved with me. We haven’t heard from them in years” He sighed. “Which sucks, you know? Because they’re still our parents, but I’d rather be away from them than go back to how they made me feel back then.”

Magnus’ heart lurched and he wanted nothing more than pull Alec into a tight hug, but he wasn’t sure if the other man would appreciate the gesture. Instead, he just squeezed his hand tighter. “I’m sorry that happened to you, Alexander. The world can be filled with really cruel people, but it’s worse coming from those who are supposed to love you no matter what.”

Alec smiled at him sadly. “Yeah.” He huffed and got up, pulling Magnus with him. “Enough about my tragic backstory. Let’s keep moving, we’re burning daylight.”

Magnus laughed and let Alec pull him to his feet. Their hands swung freely between them as they continued along the path. Suddenly, Magnus realized something. “You said you got yourself a good job?”

Alec froze. “Um … yes?”

“I’ve known you for a few weeks now, Alexander, and talk extensively about my own career but I don’t think you’ve ever mentioned yours.” Magnus’ voice was playful and light, though he was genuinely curious. The only thing he really knew about Alec’s career was that he had a fairly open schedule, and probably worked from home. It would be awfully disappointing if this beautiful, kind man turned out to be a serial killer or collected nail clippings and sold them on the internet in his spare time.

Alec laughed nervously and ran the hand that wasn’t holding Magnus’ through his dark hair. “I’m sort of an editor? Like, for novels and such. My friend Simon and I went into business together when we were 18.”

Magnus hummed and swung their joined hands. “An editor, huh? Anything I would know?”

Alec choked on a laugh before shaking his head. “No. Uh, definitely not. It’s just small-name stuff. Nothing very … big.”

“You may be surprised, Alexander. I know my way around … big things.” Alec sputtered and coughed before laughing. He turned to Magnus.

“You,” He said, pointing his finger at Magnus’ chest “are shameless.”

Magnus tried to ignore the feeling of Alec’s hand on his chest and shrugged. “I’m just honest, darling. Why hide behind the facades of societal norms, when you can make your own?”

Alec rolled his eyes but laughed fondly. “Alright, sure Magnus. Let’s go with that.”

They walked for another hour or so through the park. Due to the unusually warm weather the park was full with couples and families enjoying the last rays of warm sunlight before the snow started to fall. Magnus almost proposed to Alec on the spot when a small girl ran up to them in a princess gown and Alec, bless his soul, bowed to her and said “It’s an honor, Your Highness.” She giggled wildly and gave him a hug before running back to her mother.

Their conversation was interrupted by the steady trill of Alec’s cellphone. Apologizing, he pulled it out and looked to the screen.

“Shit.” He muttered. “I need to take this, I’m sorry.” He apologized. Magnus gave him a reassuring smile and told him it was fine.

“Hey Iz - no I didn’t forget. Okay maybe I forgot, but I’ll be over soon okay?” Magnus could hear Isabelle’s voice on the other end of the line, and she did not sound happy. “Isabelle, calm down. Stop yelling at me. I’m not - yes, I understand. I’m busy, but I’ll be there.” He sighed as she continued to talk at him. “Yes, yes. I understand. Okay. I’ll see you soon. Love you.” He hung up the phone and rolled his eyes. “Sisters.” He muttered.

Magnus grinned. “They can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, eh?” Alec nodded. “I take it you have somewhere you need to be?” Magnus tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. Logically he knew that he had now been with Alec for a few hours and he should be fine with the prospect of sending him off to see his family.

But illogically he wanted to spend as much time as he could with Alec.

“Yes. I mean, I don’t need to be there, but Izzy seems to think I do. It’s this dumb thing we do.” He grimaced.

Magnus raised his eyebrows. “Now you’ve got me curious.”

Alec flushed. “It’s embarrassing. When we all left home we figured we needed some family traditions that were just ours, you know? So we, um - we started a family game night? We do it once a week, and it usually just turns into all of us getting drunk and getting competitive over board games but, yeah. As I said, it’s embarrassing.” Alec was clearly trying to avoid Magnus’ eye, looking anywhere but at him.

It was more than a little endearing.

Magnus tugged Alec’s hand so the other man came to a stop in front of him. Alec was still looking at his shoes, though the blush on his face had died down considerably. “Alexander, that it possibly the sweetest thing I have heard in my entire life. And I have heard many sweet things, so you had some tough competition.”

Alec looked up, smile on his face. “Yeah?”

“Absolutely.” The smile that grew on Alec’s face at that was breathtaking. Magnus wondered once again if it was too early to ask Alec to spend the rest of his life with him.

They continued walking in silence towards the subway station. From what Magnus had gathered, he and Alec lived in opposite directions from one another so they would need to say their goodbyes on the platform. He wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of the day with Alec, holding hands and exploring the city together. Maybe stopping somewhere for dinner and a few drinks. How lovely his hands would look holding a glass of red wine, in the dim candle light, lips stained red -

Nope. Magnus wasn’t allowed to think like that. Not when he was holding Alec’s hand.

He chided himself for being selfish, wanting to keep Alec all to himself when his family was waiting for him. That wasn’t right, or fair.

They reached the subway station far quicker than Magnus would have liked. The sun had already made it’s way below the skyline. They walked down the stairs to the platform dodging commuters who were making their way home after a long day of work.

They both stopped when they got to the bottom. Alec’s train was to the left and Magnus’ the right but neither of them made a move to go anywhere. Alec was unconsciously running his thumb along the back of Magnus’ hand.

Suddenly he blurted out, “Do you want to come?” Magnus raised his eyebrows and smirked. “To game night.” Alec amended quickly, rolling his eyes.

Magnus smiled, squeezing his hand. “As much as I would love to come with you,” He grinned, “I would hardly want to intrude on your family time, Alexander.”

“Well it’s not always a family thing. Like, Simon usually comes and as much as he likes to think he’s family, he’s not.” Alec made a face. “Actually that would be weird because he has a thing for my sister. But yeah,” he continued, “Not a family thing, if you want to co- uh, join us.”

Magnus chuckled. Alec tended to rant when he got nervous and Magnus found it incredibly endearing. “Are you sure?”

Alec nodded and gave him a small smile. “I’m sure.”

Magnus’ stomach was alight with butterflies once again. It seemed, around Alec, they were never truly dormant.

“Alright Alexander. Lead the way.”

 

***

 

Alec was trying to hide his nerves the whole ride to Isabelle’s place, but he was sure he was doing a very poor job of it. He was sure that any moment Magnus would comment on his tapping leg as they sat on the subway or on the fact that he wouldn’t stop fidgeting on the bus. But he didn’t. Magnus was sitting beside him, the perfect picture of calm. And beautiful. Calm and beautiful.

Alec needed to get a hold of himself.

He wasn’t nervous for Magnus to meet his family for the reason that he should be. He wasn’t even thinking about the Gideon thing. He should be worried that Magnus might find evidence about what he really does for a career when he talked to his family. When he talked to Simon.

But that thought had hardly even crossed his mind.

No, he was nervous because he was bringing someone home to meet them, as a teenager might be nervous to bring someone home to meet their parents. His siblings were the only family he had and he really cared about what they thought. He tried to tell himself that Magnus wasn’t his boyfriend and that he had already met most of the people that were going to be there tonight, but the nerves still fluttered irrationally inside him.

Alec hadn’t even thought twice before inviting Magnus to game night. They had had an amazing day together today and Alec hadn’t wanted it to end. He wanted to keep getting to know Magnus. They had got past the initial attraction and awkward small talk and had developed what Alec felt was a real friendship over the past three weeks. He wasn’t sure if it would ever escalate to more, or if Magnus even wanted to take the relationship there, but he was happy with where they were now.

“So, what should I expect from this elusive family game night?” Magnus asked as they approached Isabelle’s apartment building. “What exactly kind of games are we playing?” They had just gotten off the bus and were making their way down the street. The sky was bright orange, a perfect fall sunset that made everything below is shine in an orange hue.

Magnus included.

The sun reflected off his bronze skin which made him shine warmly like a summer day, as opposed to a chilly November evening. His outfit today was much simpler than what he usually wore. He had on a wool grey jacket and black jeans. He had knee high combat boots on as well, with glittered studs and silver chains that ran up the front. Alec had learned that Magnus often didn’t wear an outfit unless it had at least a little bit of glitter.

Alec looked sideways at him with a grin. “If you’re expecting something exciting like strip poker or drinking games, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.”

“Well, here I was hoping I would get to see you lose strip poker.” Magnus sighed, shaking his head dejectedly. “What’s the point of even going now?”

Alec felt his face heat up but laughed anyway. He was getting more accustomed to Magnus’ blatant lack of shame when it came to, well, everything. “Not tonight, Bane. Izzy usually wants to play Monopoly, Jace is a sucker for Pictionary. Simon votes for whatever Isabelle chooses.” Alec continued, ticking the off on his fingers as he explained.

“And you?”

“Me?” Alec laughed. “I usually push for Scrabble, but no will ever play against me.”

Magnus hummed, thoughtful. “I don’t know if I would want to play Scrabble against you either, Mr. Editor. You have triple word score written all across that pretty forehead of yours.”

Alec tried his best to look offended, but ended up grinning instead. “I do not! Besides, Simon’s an editor too, and he never wants to play either.”

“Now that’s a competition I would like to see. Battle of the Editors: Scrabble Style.”

They had reached Isabelle’s building. Alec pressed the buzzer and was immediately granted entrance inside. They walked past the front desk, the attendant Alan waving to Alec as they passed.

“Hey Alec!”

Alec waved back. “Hey Alan. Busy night?”

Alan just chuckled. “You know it, buddy.” And with that, he went back to playing a game on his phone.

When they were safely in the elevator and away from Alan’s prying ears, Alec leaned closer to Magnus and explained, “Alan’s had a crush on Isabelle for years. When she first moved in he would deliver her mail right up to her door, just to see her. One day she told him that if he came to her door again she would turn him into a pretzel. I don’t think it’s been a problem since.” Alec shrugged. “I like the guy, though. A bit weird maybe, but he seems harmless to me.”

Magnus snorted. “From what I’ve learned about your sister, I have no doubt she could turn him, or anyone who crossed her into bite sized pieces which she would then proceed to feed to my cats.” He shuddered dramatically. “Remind me never to get on her bad side.”

“It’s not a pretty place to be, believe me.” Alec said seriously. Magnus’ eyes widened. Alec just sent him a wink before he stepped out of the elevator.

The door was thrown open by Simon, signature band t-shirt and blue jeans on. His cheeks were slightly red and glasses askew. Alec decided not to ask. “Hey Si. This is Magnus. Magnus this is Simon Lewis, one of my friends.”

“That would be your best friend, Lightwood.” He scowled, before focusing on Magnus. “Hey Magnus, nice to finally meet you.”

Simon went for a fist bump at the same time that Magnus went for a handshake which led to an awkward moment where neither of them knew how to proceed. Magnus eventually laughed and made a fist to bump against Simon’s.

They walked in to find Jace and Isabelle in a heated argument over who was going to play which character in Monopoly. Magnus raised his eyebrows in Alec’s direction, to which Alec could only mouth “sorry”.

Isabelle looked up when she heard the door close. Her eyes grew almost comically wide and she got up from the table to come greet them. “Magnus! I’m so glad you could come!” She enveloped him into a hug. He seemed surprised, but wrapped his arms around her all the same.

“Alec! My favorite brother! So nice to see you too! How have you been?” Alec muttered sarcastically under his breath as he took his and Magnus’ jackets and hung them in the closet.

He clearly didn't speak quietly enough because Isabelle followed him. He turned around to find her, hands on her hips and an unimpressed frown gracing her pretty features. Alec held his hands up in surrender. “I heard that, you. Of course I’m happy to see you, but I see you everyday. Magnus is our guest today.”

Alec sighed, but pulled her in and gave her a kiss on the top of the head anyway. “You’re forgiven.”

They moved to the kitchen table where Simon had set out a variety of drinks and snacks around the game board.

Alec sat down in the empty seat beside Jace and pulled a chair up beside him for Magnus. “Monopoly? Seriously, you guys let her pick again?” Alec sighed and looked between Jace and Simon crossly. Both of them just shrugged and looked down at the table. Alec chuckled and grabbed a cola from the pile in front of him.

“Well, maybe if someone had been here when we were picking games, he wouldn’t be upset about the game that was chosen.” Isabelle sing-songed with a pointed glare in her older brother’s direction as she walked in from the kitchen. She had a pitcher of what looked to be margarita mix in one hand and glasses in the other. “Now, who wants a drink?”

While Izzy poured drinks for herself, Magnus and Simon, Jace got up to grab two beers from the fridge. Alec knew he was doing it under the guise that one was for Alec, but at some point in the night would probably ask Alec if he could have his.

The game started out fairly tame, all things considered.

Things started getting a little tense when Isabelle lost Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois Avenue to Magnus, who was surprisingly good at negotiating for what he wanted. He bartered with Simon for Kentucky, who realized too late that he had just given Magnus the first full set of the game, on arguably the most profitable properties. It wasn’t long before he started placing houses and then hotels on his lots.

It continued to get worse for Isabelle when Magnus had bought out the entire corner around Free Parking, snagging New York form Alec easily with just a smile and a few flirty words. “Alec, seriously? Did you not see what he was doing there?” She fumed, but Alec found it very hard to care when his heart was still beating a thousand miles a minute.

An hour later, it was just Isabelle, Magnus and Jace left in the game. Alec had given up long ago and decided to hand in his one property and declare bankruptcy in favor of watching. Simon had been out not long after; Isabelle had taken a page from Magnus’ book and swindled him into a deal by batting her eyelashes that left him with nothing. She kissed him on the cheek sweetly in apology, so he didn’t look too put out by it.

Jace was hanging on by a thread. He had possession of two of the four railroads as well as Baltic and Mediterranean and a handful of cash.

“Jace, you want to help your baby sister, right? Well, it would really help me right now if you just sold me those damn railroads.” Isabelle gritted out. Alec wasn’t sure how many margaritas she had had by this point, but the level of anger she was reaching over losing this game was getting very entertaining to watch.

“Jace, I could do some great things with those railroads. I would even promise you free rides every time you traveled along them. First class tickets and everything.” Magnus whispered form Jace’s other side.

Jace held the railroads to his chest protectively, eyes flitting nervously between Magnus and Isabelle.

Simon snorted and leaned back in his chair, clearly enjoying the exchange as much as Alec was.

“Or,” Magnus continued casually, reeling Jace in slowly like a fish on the line. “You could sell me Baltic and Mediterranean. I’d be sure to give you a good price.”

Alec was sure he saw a vein sticking out of Izzy’s forehead. If Jace caved and sold those two properties to Magnus it would mean he would have successfully bought out half of the board, all the way to New York Avenue, with multiple houses and hotels on each.

Jace didn’t seem to have caught on to this fact, but Isabelle sure had by the way her face was slowly flushing to a deep, angry red.

Jace considered Magnus’ offer a moment before he caved. “Okay deal, they’re worth less than the railroads anyway.”

Magnus grinned, an evil glint in his eye and he winked at Isabelle. “Right you are, Jace. Now, let’s see … should I just go right ahead and put hotels on these?” He looked to Alec, pretending to ponder the decision. Alec’s face hurt from how hard he was trying to contain his smile. “Alexander, what do you think? Hotels or houses?”

Alec shrugged. “I’ve always wanted to go to a hotel in the Mediterranean.”

Magnus grinned “The man has spoken. Banker, get me and this fine gentleman some hotels.” He was in the process of paying the banker - Simon - when Isabelle stood up and pointed a finger in his face.

Me voy a cagar en tus muertos como no dejes de poner putos hoteles!” She shrieked. “Te voy a meter todas las casas por el culo malparido!

The table went dead silent. Simon’s hand froze in the air where he want handing Magnus his change, while the rest of them stared at her in open mouthed shock. No one said anything for an uncomfortable amount of time. Alec, Jace and Simon knew exactly what she had just said, but Alec had no idea if Magnus knew Spanish or not.

For the sake of their budding relationship, he certainly hoped he didn’t.

The silence was reaching an uncomfortable length of time. Alec was debating the pros and cons of running out of the room and never returning, but decided it wouldn’t be very gentlemanly of him to leave Magnus here with that when he was the one who brought him here in the first place.

Jace shot Alec a look that said “do something”. He cleared his throat awkwardly. The sound was deafening in the quiet room.

The noise from Alec seemed to break Magnus out of his spell.

All of a sudden he was sitting back in his chair howling with laughter, harder than Alec had ever seen him laugh before. He tried to speak a few times but broke out into giggles. They all watched him but his laugh was contagious and soon enough everyone was trying to catch their breath and had tears leaking out of their eyes.

Alec was absolutely not focusing on the long stretch of skin that was exposed when Magnus tilted his head back, or the way his Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. He didn’t notice the sweet crinkle in his eyes or the way his makeup was running just slightly, glitter mixing with the black kohl.

Well, maybe he was but no one was paying him any attention anyways.

When everyone had calmed down, Magnus wiped the tears and streaked makeup from around his eyes and looked to Isabelle, eyes alight. “You, my dear just shot ahead in the race for my favorite Lightwood.”

Jace and Simon laughed at that one, but Alec just looked unimpressed which sent them into another fit of giggles. “Do you know what she just said to you?” Alec asked him slowly, chuckling.

Magnus winked at Isabelle. “My español is a little rusty but I believe you mentioned doing something unimaginable to my ancestors and shoving hotels to a place where they most definitely should not be shoved?” Isabelle nodded, proud smile on her face.

“I like you.” She grinned. “You can stay.” Magnus stood up and took a dramatic bow which had them all snickering again.

The game finished quickly after that and the mood was considerably lighter this time. They all cheered when Isabelle landed on one of Magnus’ hotels once and then again in the same stretch, which cleared her out completely. She accepted defeat gracefully, claiming Magnus to be the new champion until further notice. Magnus took the money he had taken from Isabelle and slipped a handful of it into Alec’s shirt pocket with a wink, patting his chest. Someone started a chorus of “We Are the Champions” so Magnus stood on his chair and accepted the applause from his doting fans.

Alec, try as he might, couldn’t keep his eyes from Magnus. He briefly remembered how nervous he had been but couldn’t imagine even for a second why. Couldn’t imagine Magnus not fitting in with them and winning them all over. He melded in so well with their little dysfunctional family, not afraid to talk back to Isabelle and Jace or tease Alec (which wasn’t new, he just now felt comfortable enough to do it with his family). He could easily see this happening week after week like always, except now he saw Magnus sitting in the chair beside him, sipping a margarita and laughing as they played.

Alec was broken out of his thoughts by Magnus’ feather light touch on his arm. Everyone else had gotten up from the table and started clearing things away to the kitchen, leaving him and Magnus alone. “Hm?”

Magnus smiled, a smaller, more reserved smile. “I said, what are you grinning at over there?”

Alec smirked. “Nothing. Just happy someone finally kicked Iz out of her throne. I was worried there would have to be an abolition of monarchy, and that would just be messy.”

Magnus let out a small snort and shook his head. He took Alec’s hand in his own where it was lying on the table. “Thank you for inviting me today, Alexander. I had a lot of fun.” He whispered. He was close enough that Alec could see the green-gold mix of his eyes, and the way he had matched the sparkles on his lids to his shirt.

“Thank you for coming.” Alec whispered back, breath catching slightly. They could hear the others moving around the kitchen, but were in their own impenetrable bubble.

They sat immobile for a while longer, it could have been hours or seconds. Sadly, eventually Magnus backed out of Alec’s personal space and stood up. He was halfway to the kitchen when he came back and leaned down until his lips were right next to Alec’s ear. “Oh,” Alec shivered, feeling his warm breath run down his spine.

“And between you and me, you’re still my favorite Lightwood.”

Alec felt the flush rising up his neck and knew it must be showing from the devious smile on Magnus’ face as he sauntered away. “I’d better be.” He grumbled as he got up and followed Magnus to the kitchen to help with the dishes.

 

***

 

They moved to the living room after all the dishes were done and ended up talking for a few hours more. It was one of those nights where everyone was tired and sleepy but they were all just having too much fun to leave. Alec excused himself to the washroom when Simon started telling stories from their time at university (“Because I lived it once, I don’t need to hear it all over again”).

It wasn’t until Alec went to grab his phone from his jacket in the hall closet that he realized the time. It was half-past midnight. He immediately felt guilty. He hadn’t even asked Magnus if he needed to be home by a certain time or if he had something he needed to get up for in the morning. This past week he had always responded to Alec’s texts a few hours before Alec himself was up, presumably on the way to morning meetings.

He had a few urgent email notifications on his phone that were sent a few hours ago. He opened them to see that they were from Clary.

From: Clary Fairchild
To: Alec Lightwood; Simon Lewis
Subject: RE: First Designs

Hey Fellas!

Here’s what I’ve come up with for Mr. Archer's latest novel! I’ve attached three different options, one of which was the one he was pushing for. I went with my gut for some of them, so feel free to tell him he can turn any (or all) of them down. Let me know.

A few questions:
-is there a title for the book yet? I find that helps me a bit more in seeing the whole picture of the book.
-any idea when the next transcript will be available to me? I know we’re still far away from the publication date but again, I would love to see more of the whole picture.

Ms. Brown has informed me that I have a meeting with the two of you again next week so we can discuss more then!

-Clary

Alec skimmed through the email quickly, barely reading the words before rushing to open the attachments. Choosing a cover was most often the most stressful part of the book writing process. Of course, there was the whole don’t judge a book by it’s cover thing, but that’s how most people chose a book nowadays. The cover was what drew them in to read the summary on the back.

As Clary had stated, there were three options for them to look through. He opened the first; it was a simple off white cover with a napkin that had been folded to look like a bow tie. A ringed coffee cup stain could be seen on the napkin by the way it was folded.

The second was just a white feather, with a second drifting away behind the other set to a dark blue background.

Alec felt his pulse quicken as soon as he opened the third.

It was a set of black quotation marks with six points in between, each dot a different colour. The colours of the pride flag. It was simple yet defined. Alec let out a shaky exhale and zoomed in on the picture, looking at it again and again. He and Simon had come up with the bowtie idea, but Alec couldn’t see any design but this one for his book.

It spoke exactly what he wanted the book to say.

He whipped his head up at the sound of approaching footsteps down the hall.

“Alexander,” Magnus asked cautiously as he approached. “Is everything okay? You’ve been gone awhile, so I volunteered to come check on you.” He winked, but Alec could hear the real concern lacing his words.

Alec realized what he must look like right now; eyes wide, hair sticking up from running his hands through it and staring at his phone like it held all of life's answers. “Y-yeah. I’m fine.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m good. Just some stress at work, but I’ll deal with it tomorrow.” He smiled, hoping that Magnus wouldn’t question him any further.

He could already feel the pressure of the lie choking him. Boxing him in. Putting up a wall between himself and this amazing guy he had just started getting to know.

He hated it.

Alec pushed the thoughts away as hard as he could, but couldn’t fully erase them from his mind. He wished that there was some way that he could. Wished he could just have more time with Magnus before he needed to make a decision. The decision that he struggled with every time he met someone knew.

If he should tell him the truth, or if he should end things before they get that far.

Magnus looked at him a moment longer before nodding, seemingly deciding to drop it. “Well, as long as it’s a work thing and not a secret lover from a faraway land.” His usual smirk was back and replaced the concerned look that he had donned just moments before.

Alec pocketed his phone and smiled, bemused. “Do I look like the type to attract exotic secret lovers to you?”

Magnus’ eyes trailed lazily up his body before they rested on Alec’s face. Alec blushed (he really needed to stop doing that).

“Oh darling, I think you could attract anyone you wanted without even lifting a finger.”

“Anyone?” Alec asked, dropping his voice and stepping into Magnus’ personal space, riding a sudden burst of confidence that was flowing through him.

Magnus tilted his head to the side and studied Alec for a moment. His eyes never left Alec’s as he took a step closer, nodding once. “Anyone.”

And with that he turned on his heel and walked back in the direction of the living room. Magnus Bane might quite possibly be the death of him.

Alec released the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and followed him.

Isabelle was lying across one of the couches with her head resting in Simon’s lap, as he played absentmindedly with strands of her hair. Jace had taken up residence on a big white love seat, sprawled out like a cat, with a beer in his hand.

“Isabelle, all I’m saying is you need to focus on the big picture. You know how to do that because you’re a photographer. You need to you know, like … see everything.”

Isabelle hummed thoughtfully. She seemed to contemplate this thought for a moment before adding, “But who can really see everything. I want to see everything.”

Alec raised his eyebrows. “What are they talking about?” He asked Simon.

He just shrugged. “Not a clue. They’ve been going on like this for a while now. I’ve tuned it out, honestly.”

Alec nodded. Isabelle and Jace were two peas in a pod when they were drunk; both of them turned into philosophical idiots.

He turned to Magnus. “Do you want to stay? Or do you want me to take you home?” Magnus wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at his choice of words to which Alec countered with with a stern look.

“You’re no fun.” He pouted. “But yes, I think I’m ready to go, Alexander. I’ve got some meetings tomorrow that I’ve done absolutely nothing to prepare for.”

Alec went and collected their jackets from the front hall. He handed Magnus his and slid his arms into the sleeves of his own. “Si, are you okay with them, or do you want me to take Jace home with me?”

Simon looked to Jace, who was now just talking to himself and gesturing vaguely at the ceiling. He seemed put out that he wasn’t getting a response so gave the ceiling the finger. Simon shook his head. “Think it’s best if we let him crash here tonight. I’ll make sure they both get into bed safely before I head out.”

Alec leaned over the couch and kissed Isabelle on the head and then grabbed Jace’s open beer bottle from his hand before it went all over Izzy’s white couch. With one last salute to Simon, he and Magnus left the apartment.

The air outside was a nice change from the stuffy air in the apartment and both men breathed it in greedily when they stepped out. They walked in comfortable silence to the subway station.

Alec was trying to think of some way that maybe this thing could work out between them. He wasn’t sure, but he thought there had been a few moments tonight where Magnus had seemed interested in him as more than just a friend. Sure, Magnus made jokes about how attractive he thought Alec was all the time, but he had a naturally flirty personality and Alec knew not to take it to heart. But for a moment, it had seemed …

No.

Alec couldn’t let his hopes get up like that. Not again, and not after last time. He had learned his lesson the first time around and wasn’t too keen on learning it again.

They reached the platform in hardly no time at all. There were only a few people milling around, which made sense for the hour. “What train do you need to take?” Magnus asked.

“Oh, uh - I live just five minutes down the block from Izzy. We passed it on the way here actually.” Alec laughed, running his hands through his hair.

A look of pleasant surprise passed over Magnus’ face. He smiled. “You mean to tell me, you walked me to my train just to be a gentleman, Alexander?”

Alec sputtered. “Well, yeah. Of course. And, it’s dangerous at night, there's like … muggers and stuff out here.”

Magnus nodded seriously. “Indeed there is.” Alec noticed a slight clench of his jaw, but it was gone as soon as it came. “Well, my black-belt trained, knight in shining armor. Thank you for a great day … and evening.” He rose up onto his toes and pecked Alec on the cheek lightly. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

He walked away and onto the train before Alec could say anything back, leaving Alec standing there like with his hand pressed to his cheek, revealing in the electric feeling Magnus’ lips left behind on his skin.

“Goodnight, Magnus.”

 

***

Chapter Text

Magnus was bored.

Boring was not a word Magnus would ever associate with himself, nor would anyone else who knew him. He was always doing something; whether it was throwing parties (often for his cats), making an appearance at the newest nightclub or as of more recently, getting tipsy and playing board games with the Lightwood clan.

Magnus, in his opinion, was quite possibly the least boring person to ever grace this planet.

Yet, it was Saturday morning and he was bored out of his skull.

He had no meetings this weekend, no fittings and Lydia had told him he was not allowed to come near the office under any circumstances; he ‘needed to take a few days to relax’ she had said. They had been going nonstop with preparations for the past few weeks and Magnus’ show was looking more complete every day that passed. Which was good because Fashion Week was just over 2 months away.

Lydia had told him that it was only going to get worse from here on out, so he might as well take the weekend since he wouldn’t be getting another for a while.

He had enjoyed the peace and quiet at first. He had woken up early, made a pot of coffee and settled into the couch under his duvet with Church and the Chairman to watch some quality television (Say Yes to the Dress and What Not to Wear were considered quality television, he would fight anyone who argued him on that).

But after just two hours he had started to feel the slight tug of boredom. He had tried to stave it off and focus on the TV, but it had been no use.

He decided to try something else, and had gotten off the couch to grab his yoga mat. Yoga was one of Magnus’ favourite pastimes, something he and his mom used to do together and he tried to practice at least once a day but lately he had just been too busy. He spent an hour working through positions, starting with his salutations and had even tried some trickier moves to test his body and his mind. The flow of movements and the steadiness of his breathing was relaxing and it calmed him and rid him of the stress he wasn’t aware he was carrying around.

But it wasn’t long before he was bored again.

He contemplated getting dressed and going into the office, telling Lydia that he didn’t care what she said and was going to work anyway. Or maybe he would try his luck and sneak into his studio. But then Magnus pictured the icy wrath that was an angry Lydia Branwell and he decided if he wanted to keep his job, or his head, he should probably just follow orders and stay home.

Magnus walked to the kitchen to refill his coffee cup, checking his phone as he went. He had a few messages and a snapchat from Alec; a good morning text and then a picture of him and Isabelle, the neon Vogue sign shining behind their heads. Alec was wearing a black tank top, and his cheeks were slightly flushed but both of them donned the matching Lightwood grin on their faces.

The Lightwood genes were really an amazing thing.

Magnus sent back a picture of himself taking a sip of his coffee. He was drinking from his favourite cup this morning, the bisexual flag flying proudly on the front with the words “BI, BI, BI” across it in gold glitter. Alec had laughed out loud the first time he saw Magnus drinking from it on one of their Facetime calls.

Has Isabelle finally convinced you to be a model, Alexander? He typed out.

Alec was quick to respond, snapping back a picture of the lighting and camera equipment set up around an all-white backdrop.

Hardly. She needed a lackey.

Magnus couldn’t keep his mind from wandering to Alec hauling the heavy equipment around a studio, tank top showing off his sculpted arms, biceps bulging. He imagined Alec at one of his own shoots, Magnus catching his eye as he lifted things around the set, arms defined and covered in a thin sheen of sweat, head tipped back as he sipped from a water bottle…

Magnus took a sip of coffee and bit his lip.

He really had to get control of himself. He couldn’t let his mind turn Alec into the shirtless male lead in a summer Coca Cola commercial just from the thought of the younger man lifting heavy pieces of gear. He had found himself getting more and more distracted by Alec over the past few weeks, eyes and hands lingering far longer than they should be. He had only know Alec for just over a month but what had started as a harmless crush was quickly turning into something bigger. Something Magnus didn’t want to sit down and examine too hard. He refused to let whatever he was feeling ruin what was becoming such a great friendship.

He snapped a picture of him and Church.

You’re welcome to carry heavy equipment for me anytime, Alexander.

Two snapchats from Alec came in after a short delay, one after the other. The first was a selfie. He was smiling one of Magnus’ favourite smiles, the one where just the one corner of his mouth tipped up, this time accompanied by a mischievous glint in his eyes.

Say the word, and I’m there.

Magnus’ heart fluttered at Alec’s choice of words. He opened the second snap. It was a familiar scene to Magnus: camera equipment set up around a set, makeup crews flurrying around, racks of clothing set up along one wall and models getting final touch ups. Isabelle was in the center of the photo, large camera around her neck and hands on her hips, glare on her face no doubt directed at her brother for being on his phone.

Gotta go, I’m being summoned. :)

Have fun with your sister, Alexander xx

He sent back, accompanied by a picture of his cats. They were stretched out on the couch together, Church snuggled in with Chairman Meow. The only other living thing on this planet that Church actually tolerated was the Chairman. He usually only paid Magnus any attention when Magnus was feeding him.

“What are we going to do today, fellas?” Magnus sighed as he pocketed his phone. He settled himself on the couch beside them, head hanging off the front with his feet draped over the back cushions. Chairman Meow moved so that he was situated on his chest, and purred contently as Magnus stroked between his ears, while Church moved to the back of the sofa. He looked down unimpressed at the two of them, probably bitter that Magnus had stolen his cuddle buddy.

“We could go for a walk. I still have those leashes I bought you guys last year …” Church grumbled and turned his head. Chairman Meow flicked his tail sharply. “Yeah, I didn’t like that one either. We could clean the apartment? Never mind, I don’t actually want to do that. Oh! What about redecorating? We haven't done that in a while!”

Both cats blinked at him and he could practically feel the judgement pouring from them. Traitors. “Why am I asking my cats for permission to redecorate my apartment. I’m a grown man and can make decisions without the opinion of my cats.” He muttered. “Why am I talking to my cats like they will have opinions to offer?” They didn’t seem to have an answer either and Magnus decided to revisit the subject at a later date, and got up from the couch. Chairman protested at being evicted from his spot and settled into the corner of the couch with a hiss.

Magnus walked into his bedroom and pulled his box of supplies from his closet. It was a large Tupperware container that he had started when he first moved into his own place at 18. He had books of paint chips in every colour imaginable and an array of fabric swatches, samples of carpets and magazines where he got most of his ideas from.

Magnus got the itch to redecorate rooms in his house quite frequently, often remodeling at least one every few months. The need to change his room had started when he was young. He would often spend hours up in his room at Luke and Jocelyn’s, moving the furniture around and trying out different layouts until he found one that he liked. When he had gotten older, he and Clary would spread out tarps and repaint the room themselves. The last time they had done it was a few months before he had moved out. Clary had done a gorgeous mural on one of the walls of beautiful rolling hills and a perfect summer night sky with an array of beautiful constellations up above. Eight years later, the mural was still there and Magnus made sure to go in and see it every time he went home.

He sat down on his bedroom floor and flipped through the catalogues, bookmarking pages with colours he liked. Unlike most people, Magnus enjoyed change. It was probably a trait of his trade, but he loved remodeling and redesigning parts of his life, making them look new and vibrant again.

This characteristic also usually translated to his own personal fashion. Magnus had tried more hairstyles than anyone he knew, and often dyed the tips of his hair to match whatever he was wearing that day. There was just something about changing something again and again, never making it too permanent so that it couldn’t be changed again.

His obsession (Clary’s words, he thought it to be more of a passion) may also have been the fact that Magnus was often invited into beautiful homes all the time for work and got inspiration from celebrities and other designers that he just couldn’t wait to try out on his own home.

Magnus was sorting through his box of paint chips when his cell phone lit up with a call on the floor beside him. He laughed when he saw the caller ID.

He answered the call on the second ring. “Did she kick you out, too?”

“Yes. Apparently I spend too much time in the office and not enough time in my own home. I told her I don’t get paid to spend time at home.” Ragnor grumbled on the other end of the line. Magnus chuckled.

“I got the same speech, old friend. I think she just wants a whole two days to work without either of us interrupting her.”

“A whole two days without you interrupting her, mind you. I hardly ever leave my office.”

Magnus tucked the phone in the crook of his neck and picked up a particularly vibrant red paint chip. “I’ll give you that one. I’m sure you could try and sneak in, she may not even notice.”

“I like my job, thank you.” Ragnor deadpanned. “What are you doing today?”

Magnus glanced at the explosion of paint chips and fabric swatches around his crossed legs. “You know, the usual. Just hanging out with my cats.” He replied casually.

Ragnor paused. “Magnus Bane, please tell me you’re not redecorating your apartment again.”

Magnus thought about lying, but his best friend knew him too well and would see through it in an instant. “Of course not, Ragnor dear. At least not yet. Right now, I’m just looking at paint swatches.” He stood up and held the red chip to his bedroom wall to see how it looked in the light.

Magnus could almost picture Ragnor sighing and shaking his head in defeat on the other end of the line. “Good thing you're rich or this hobby of yours would become obsolete very quickly.” Magnus grinned, knowing what was coming next. “What time should I come over?”

“As soon as possible, and bring your wife. I know she doesn’t work this weekend.” Ragnor agreed and said they would be over within the hour and that he would bring lunch.

Magnus called the paint company down the street and ordered everything he would need. They knew him well enough by now that the conversation was fairly short, Magnus giving the man the number for the colour he wanted, and ordering some trays and brushes. He told Magnus that everything would be delivered directly to his apartment in no time at all.

Once he changed into his painting clothes (an old college t-shirt and cut off grey sweatpants) he moved all of the furniture into the center of his bedroom. He grabbed the plastic paint tarps he kept in his closet, and spread them along the floor on the edges of the room to protect the carpet. He then gathered the old white sheets and threw them over the bed and other furniture, making sure they wouldn’t be touched by the paint.

He took a picture of the entire room and sent it to Alec, with the simple caption “Before…” and then plugged his phone into his speaker, setting up his playlist.

Ragnor arrived with Catarina in tow half an hour later, both of them in painting clothes (Ragnor’s view on painting clothes was a button up suit shirt that he didn’t wear anymore and old slacks).

Cat put the two brown paper bags she was carrying in the fridge and came over to kiss Magnus on the cheek. “It’s a testament to our many years of friendship that I came over on my day off to help you paint your apartment. Again.”

Magnus blew her a kiss. “I am eternally grateful for you, my dear. You make my world spin around.”

“That better not be sarcasm I hear in your voice.”

Magnus pressed his hand to his chest and sucked in a dramatic breath. “Me? Sarcastic? I would never.” Catarina and Ragnor rolled their eyes in sync, sharing a look. Magnus guessed they were both contemplating their life choices that had led them to this moment. He grinned.

The paint supplies arrived not long after they did, and they made quick work of unpacking it and setting up in Magnus’ room.

The three of them had done this so many times that they had a patented system. Catarina would cut in around the trim with the primer while Magnus and Ragnor primed the walls with the rollers. When they were finishing up, Cat would get whatever colour Magnus had chosen ready and set up fans to dry the primer on the walls. She would then take the roller from Magnus, who would move to the kitchen and put whatever lunch they had picked up on plates and bring it in, where the three of them would sit on the floor and eat.

Magnus walked in just as they were finishing the last wall. The previously navy blue walls were now stark white, and the room was considerably brighter. He set the plates of Thai food on the floor and they all sat cross legged in the center of the room.

They chatted easily over lunch. Magnus had met Catarina when he first moved away from home. In the first week of university he had had an unfortunate altercation with a pair of fabric scissors and had needed to go to the hospital to get several stitches in his hand. Cat had been the doctor on-call at the time, just starting her second year of residency. She had stitched Magnus up and told him he needed to come back in a week and then again after that so she could make sure he healed properly and he hadn’t damaged any tendons. Magnus didn’t remember how, but they had just started hanging out after that.

On one of those days they had been hanging out Magnus had invited Ragnor to join them, which was how he had met Catarina. They dated for a while and finally got married two years ago but it hadn’t changed the group dynamic one bit. The three of them were essentially attached at the hip and spent almost all of their time together.

Catarina glanced at the pile of red paint cans stacked in the corner of the room. “So, why the red?”

Magnus too, looked over at the paint cans. “I don’t know. I just saw it in the book, and something about it spoke to me.”

Ragnor set his plate down. “It’s a feisty colour, that’s for sure. It’s very you.”

Catarina smiled sadly, “Actually, it kind of reminds me of Rafael. Red was always a colour I associated with him.”

Magnus heart constricted painfully, like a fist had gripped it and was squeezing it tight. It was a feeling he had grown accustomed to when he thought of their late friend. He looked at the paint cans again, and gave a small smile. “Of course he’s still influencing my decisions. Only someone as stubborn as Rafael could figure out how to do that from the grave.”

They all laughed softly at that, before lapsing into a comfortable silence. Magnus was not a religious man, but he did believe in the afterlife and that there was somewhere else to go after you were done living your life.

He also believed that the dead could be present in everyday life, not visibly present but just there, a belief he had never shared with anyone.

Magnus could imagine in vivid clarity, Raphael sitting with them in the circle as he had been many times before, in his painting clothes and rolling his eyes at them as they joked around, mumbling Spanish curse words under his breath fondly.

Ragnor dipped his finger in one of the paint cans, coating the tip of it in red. “I miss the little bugger.” He said softly.

Magnus gave him a small smile. “Well, let's get this colour up on the walls before he starts haunting us then, shall we?”

They made quick work of the walls and just under an hour later Magnus’ room was a beautiful shade of deep blood red.

They left the furniture in the middle of the room and angled the fans around so everything would dry evenly and quickly as possible.

Magnus took a picture of the final product and sent it to Alec with the caption “After … :)” The other man still hadn’t opened his other message but he figured he would see them both as soon as he was done with Isabelle.

Ragnor, Catarina and Magnus cleaned up the mess from the floor and put the extra paint cans in Magnus’ redecorating closet for next time.

They were just finishing up when Magnus heard his ringtone over the Bluetooth speakers, Beyonce’s song ‘Formation’ interrupting the music playing.

“Cat, could you grab that? I’m just finishing up in here.” Magnus called out from the bedroom, folding the last of the tarps that were covering the floor.

He couldn’t hear her reply but the song had stopped playing so he assumed that she had picked it up. Magnus threw the tarp in the closet and jogged out to the living room.

As soon as he walked in the room he knew he had made a mistake, from the shit-eating grins on both of his friends faces. Catarina had the phone to her ear with a smug eyebrow raised towards him, and Ragnor just looked positively gleeful.

“Cat…” Magnus warned warily. He could take an educated guess at who was on the other end of the line, someone who would make them smile like that.

“Yes, we did meet a few weeks ago. Though a few minutes in Taki’s was hardly enough time to really get to know you, Alec.” Her voice was sweet and charming to anyone who didn’t know her well enough, but the devious smile she was sending Magnus was anything but.

He leaped over the back of the couch to try and grab the phone from her hands but she twirled away gracefully, laughing. “I totally agree. I think that’s a great idea.” She said in response to Alec, winking at Magnus. Alec said something else on the other end of the line that made her laugh. “Well, I should give you to Magnus. His face is getting to be an alarming shade of purple. Toodles.”

With that she handed the phone to Magnus with a pat on the shoulder and a kiss on the cheek.

“Whatever she said is one hundred percent not true and should not be applied to your judge of my character.” Magnus said as soon as he put the phone to his ear.

He heard Alec’s gravelly voice through the phone. “So, I should just disregard the invite I got to go to drinks with you guys later this week?”

Magnus raised his eyebrows at her. “Drinks?” He said slowly. She nodded silently and Alec made a low affirmative noise. “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. Though I can’t make any promises about my character after a few cosmopolitans.” Magnus took the phone into his bedroom and shut the door behind him, ignoring the crude silent heckling from his friends. He sat down on the floor and leaned against his covered bed frame.

“I feel like I know you’re character well enough by now.” Alec seemed to be going for a teasing tone but his voice was lacking it’s usual spark.

Magnus tried to keep his voice impassive, to keep the worry from it. While he and Alec had gotten considerably closer over the past month, he was unsure if he was supposed to be noticing minuscule shifts to the other man's speech. Was that usual friend behaviour? Magnus wasn’t sure, he had never had a friend like Alec before. “Was there any other reason you called other than to make plans with my friends, Alexander?”

He was met with silence. A breath. More silence. Then finally, “What are you doing?”

His question was abrupt and rushed, spoken so quickly that Magnus almost missed it. “As in in this exact moment, or is this more of an existential thing?” Alec was silent again and Magnus waited for his reply patiently. He drummed his painted nails on his leg.

Finally Alec let out a small chuckle. “Right now.”

“Well at this moment I am sitting on my floor looking at my freshly painted walls, talking to you.”

“Are you busy?”

Magnus hesitated, thinking of Catarina and Ragnor who were sitting in his kitchen. It didn’t take him long to decide. “Not at the moment. What did you have in mind?”

Alec let out a breath on the other end of the line. “Well, I’m kind of outside your apartment? I - I wanted to come see you but then I kind of realized that I should have asked first and now I’m standing here looking really creepy and your neighbor is staring at me.”

Magnus walked to his window and peered down where, sure enough, there he was. He could just make out his messy mop of black hair from the height, but it was very distinctly Alec from the way he awkwardly shifted his weight from foot to foot as he held the phone to his ear. Magnus hid his smile behind the back of his hand.

“Well my apartment is not suitable for guests at the moment, but if you give me a few minutes I know a place near here that you may like?”

Down below, Magnus could see Alec stop pacing and put his hand in his pocket. “Yes - yeah. That’s good. I’ll um, see you in a few?”

“See you in a few, Alexander.” He was about to hang up the phone and move away from the window when he stopped “Oh, and the neighbor that is staring at you is named Iris. She’s crazy, and that’s coming from me.”

Alec looked around. “How did you -” His gaze traveled up the building to where Magnus was standing at his window. Magnus wasn’t sure if he could see him but he wiggled his fingers anyway. Alec chuckled and waved back.

 

***

 

Alec wasn’t really sure how he had ended up at Magnus’ apartment.

He had been working with Isabelle this morning, and had actually enjoyed it. She often dragged him to weekend shoots with her because she knew he could never say no and that he didn’t really have plans most days because of his flexible work schedule.

She had been shooting someone’s debut Vogue line so the process had been slow and tedious but Alec had had lots to do. Isabelle’s usual lackeys had bailed on her this morning so she needed Alec to adjust lighting and move the soft boxes around accordingly. It had been fun working with her, something they hadn’t done together in a while.

The shoot was over in a few hours, and Alec had slipped away to change quickly for another meeting with Simon and Clary to discuss his book cover.

It had gone really well, all things considered. They told Clary that Gideon had chosen her original design, the one with the quotation marks, and she had been ecstatic and had actually gotten up and hugged them both. They had spent the next hour and a half discussing colours, fonts, shades and other things that went right over Alec’s head, so he had sat back and let Simon and Clary work it out, offering his opinion every so often.

Overall, it had been a really good day.

That is, until he had gotten the call from his mother.

The call had come in when he was on the subway, heading home to change and maybe text Magnus to see if he wanted to hang out later. The unknown number flashed on the screen, and Alec had picked it up without a second thought.

The man on the other end of the line had introduced himself efficiently as the assistant to Mrs. Lightwood. Apparently Mrs. Lightwood had requested a meeting over dinner with her eldest child, and her assistant wanted to know what time the car should pick him up.

Alec had grit his teeth and told the man, politely as he could, that a car would not be necessary as he was not going to be attending dinner with Mrs. Lightwood, before promptly hanging up the phone.

The next thing he knew, he was stepping off the train and walking the short distance to Magnus’ apartment, still in his business suit. He had paced outside for a while, contemplated leaving, paced some more and then decided he should just call Magnus instead of standing there looking like an idiot.

Alec sat on the bench just outside the door while he waited and unbuttoned his tie, avoiding making eye-contact with the lady in the window - Iris - who hadn’t stopped looking at him since he arrived.

It wasn’t ten minutes later that Magnus, Catarina and an older gentleman in a three piece suit emerged from the front door. Alec got up off the bench to greet them.

“I’m feeling quite under-dressed, Alexander. And I’m supposed to be the fashionable one.” Magnus grinned as he approached him, eyes taking in Alec’s formal attire. He really regretted not going home to change first.

“You look great. I - well I had a work thing and forgot to change first.” He admitted sheepishly. Magnus did look great, though. His hair was natural today, more like it was when they Facetimed after work and he was lounging on his couch as he chatted with Alec. He had on light makeup and a pair of black jeans, and a loose fitting black shirt with a stylish black and white leather jacket thrown over top.

Magnus sent him a smile. “Well, I like this look on you.” He said simply. Alec flushed, slightly.

“Thanks.” He murmured, rubbing the back of his neck. He held eye contact with Magnus for longer than was strictly necessary but the other man kept his gaze, steady and smiling softly at Alec so he saw no reason to look away.

Suddenly someone cleared their throat. Alec broke away, startled, to see the older man looking at them with a poorly concealed smile. “As enthralling as this conversation is, we’d better be on our way.” He said, thick British accent coating his words. “I’m Ragnor Fell by the way, best friend to this one over here.” He said kindly, holding his hand out to Alec and nodding his head in Magnus’ direction.

“Alec Lightwood.” Alec didn’t know what he was to Magnus. Friend seemed too inadequate a title but anything more would seem too forward, so he figured just his name would do for now.

Catarina looped her arm through Ragnor’s and turned to Alec. “We’ll see you later this week for drinks right?” She asked the question, but from the look in her eyes it was more of a statement of facts.

“Yeah, drinks. I’ll be there. Just let me know when.” She smiled and nodded, turned to Magnus and kissed him lightly on the cheek before pulling Ragnor with her away from the building, leaving Alec and Magnus in comfortable silence.

Alec ignored the pull of agitation still lingering from the call from his mother and tried to devote himself fully to spending time with Magnus. They walked down the streets near Magnus’ building, and the other man pointed out places he frequented; the place he ordered most of his food from, the store where he bought paint, and the neighbourhood bar. Alec smiled along as he spoke, walking mostly in silence.

Try as he might, he couldn’t get his mother form his mind.

They were stopped at a crosswalk when Magnus turned to him. “Are you alright, Alexander?” He asked tentatively, unsure.

Alec’s first instinct was say he was fine, brush him off and say he was just lost in thought. It would be easy to just say he had zoned out for a moment and hadn’t heard Magnus speaking. But he had a feeling that Magnus knew him well enough by now that he would know that Alec was being dishonest.

“It’s nothing really. I got a call today from my mom - well, her assistant actually.” He laughed humorlessly. “She wants to meet with me for dinner.”

Magnus’ eyes widened. “She had her assistant call you? After not speaking with you for years?”

Alec shrugged. “Yeah, that’s how she does stuff. Never makes a call for herself unless it’s to help the business.”

His mother and father were in business together. They owned their own law firm: Lightwood & Lightwood. Growing up, Alec remembered many family conversations over dinner revolving around the firm and how it was doing and as he got older his father often asked him to join in and contribute. His parents always assumed that he, Jace and Isabelle would continue with the family business, that they would carry on when their parents passed. How disappointed they must be that all three of them chose careers as far form law that you could get.

Magnus placed his hand on Alec’s arm, resting it lightly. Comfortingly. “Oh, Alec. I’m sorry. Are you alright?”

Magnus’ hand on his arm was grounding and Alec felt his anxiety levels dissipating slightly. He collected himself before answering. “I’m okay. I just don’t really want to think about it right now, if that’s okay.” He smiled to reassure Magnus that he was in fact okay, and that he wasn’t just trying to blow him off. In a moment of boldness, he grabbed Magnus’ hand that was still resting on his shoulder.

Magnus quietly contemplated that for a moment, and then nodded slightly. “Alright. But when you do want to talk about it, you know where to find me.” He laced his fingers through Alec’s and squeezed lightly.

Alec squeezed back in response. “Now, if I remember correctly I believe you had some place you wanted to show me?”

“You are correct, darling. We’re almost there, it’s just up the block.”

They walked a few more minutes, the afternoon sun shining warm on their backs, before they stopped in front of a small shop. It looked older and out of place next to the other, more high-end shops on the street. The chipped paint on the sign was very different than the glass and diamond exteriors of the other storefronts along the street. The windows were dark and covered, so Alec couldn’t see inside but the sign above the door read ‘The Hunter’s Moon’. It looked the definition of a place your parents told you to avoid as a child.

Alec raised his eyebrows skeptically, still studying the store curiously. “If you wanted to bring me somewhere to kill me, you could have saved yourself a lot of time and done it a month and a half ago.” He joked lightly, bumping his shoulder with Magnus’.

Magnus leveled him with a serious look. “That would take all of the fun out of it, Alexander. I like to know my victims before I kill them.” His face was completely straight and Alec’s mouth dropped open. Magnus winked and with that he opened the door and disappeared into the shop.

Alec only hesitated a moment before following him. If he was going to be murdered, he figured he lucked out with this man. It could have been a lot worse, he could have been kidnapped by someone old and creepy as opposed to the conversation and flirting he had shared with Magnus over the past month.

The first thing Alec was hit with when he entered The Hunters Moon was the smell. It was musty and old, but somehow oddly comforting. Slivers of sunlight filtered through to coverings on the window and Alec could see dust particles flying through the air, disturbed by their entrance. It was small, cramped and stuffy but he looked around and felt a huge smile grow onto his face when he realized where Magnus had brought him.

The Hunter’s Moon was a bookstore.

A very, very old bookstore but a bookstore nonetheless.

The store was rather large, the area filled with rows and rows of shelves, brimming with books stacked and piled haphazardly along them. There didn’t seem to be any order to them, no categories or system for finding a title or author. Just piles and piles of books. There were authors he recognized but so, so many that he didn’t. Some of the books appeared to be fairly new, maybe read once or twice while others were just hanging together by their threadbare bindings. It was a disorganized, chaotic mess, and Alec couldn’t get enough of it.

Alec wasn’t sure that Magnus hadn’t killed him, for this is what he imagined heaven to look like.

He walked slowly through the rows of books, taking it all in. He ran his fingers lightly over the spines, just feeling them. There were so many different stories in this room, so many worlds, characters, lives. Alec had trouble grasping just how many different books were in this small shop.

Every once in awhile Alec would see a novel that he knew, or one he that stood out to him and he would stop and flip through it slowly, before moving on. Magnus let him explore, trailing behind him quietly and watching him with a tiny smile. Magnus seemed to enjoy the store just as much as Alec, but he had obviously been here before as he was not experiencing the same sensory overload that Alec was.

They made their way through the rows, breaking the silence every so often to point out a title or something they thought the other might like, but still just speaking in whispers. There was something incredibly relaxing about it, not speaking. Communicating just through the silent conversation of shared looks and the soft touch of Magnus’ hand on Alec’s lower back as he walked by him. Alec found himself drawn to Magnus, as if by a magnet force. They moved side by side, never getting too far apart from the other.

Alec was drawn to him in a way he hadn’t felt with anyone else before.

Magnus’ presence alone had calmed Alec’s erratic thoughts earlier, his words and small touches soothing him and making Alec forget all his troubles completely. It was something he had never experienced before and he wanted all of it, wanted more. He knew he was getting in too deep. He knew that he should stop himself from falling, from feeling these things for Magnus when he knew they would just complicate things. But the irrational part of his brain told him to just let it happen. To see where it went.

It told him that maybe, just maybe, Alec could be happy with Magnus.

They had a good thing going right now, and the last thing Alec wanted to do was jeopardize that but the voice in the back of his head kept demanding more, more, more. More of Magnus. All of Magnus.

Alec put it down to lack of companionship in his life lately, and tried as hard as he could to repress the voice.

They had made it to the center of the store, stacks and shelves of books the only thing to see whichever direction you looked. Alec wasn’t totally convinced they hadn’t portaled to some other world where there was anything but books. Magnus was sitting on the ground and looking through a tall stack that had been pulled out and set in a pile on the floor in the middle of the aisle. He was sitting cross legged but looked up and smiled as Alec came and sat across from him.

They flipped through the stack in comfortable silence, Magnus looking at a book before passing it to Alec to see. Alec found an original copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray that he flipped through excitedly. He and Simon had done their senior book study on this novel in university. They had spent many long nights cooped up in their apartment, whiteboards set up and laptops out, where the two of them tore the entire thing apart, only to try and piece it back together again.

Magnus let out a small chuckle, breaking Alec from his thoughts. Alec looked up to see him holding a copy of Shadows, grin on his face. This copy was clearly loved, the white cover faded and the spine cracked from use and pages yellowing slightly. The cover looked at him from it’s place in Magnus’ hands, sneering tauntingly at him.

Alec smiled back at Magnus, but couldn’t ignore the pit of guilt in his stomach.

“The first day I met you, you were reading this book. Do you remember?” He asked softly.

Alec nodded. “I do. I was trying to read the entire book in one sitting, which explains why I walked right into you.”

Magnus held the book fondly, fingers turning the pages slowly. “This store was where I first found one of Gideon’s books, actually.” He started. “Me and my sister were exploring the area around my loft one day and stumbled upon this shop. We spent hours in here the first day, and came back as often as we could after that.” He smiled. “One day, the owner Bat asked me if I wanted to help him sort through a stack of new arrivals and find places for them.” Magnus shrugged. “Shadows was in the pile, and Bat saw that I was interested in it, so he gave it to me for free for helping him out.”

“What made you interested in it?” Alec asked, throat catching on the words.

Magnus turned the book over and ran his fingers along the spine. “I don’t know. I remember liking the simplicity of the cover, the boldness of the name.” His painted fingers traced over the bold lettering lightly. Alec swore he could feel the touch as if it was on his own body. “It’s hard to explain.” He smiled sheepishly. “I get a bit crazy over books, but sometimes you just find that one that speaks to you, you know?”

He nodded slowly, not trusting himself to speak at the moment. It was amazing that Alec had made a career for himself with words, when he so often found it difficult to form a single one, let alone a sentence, around Magnus Bane.

Magnus was looking at the book with such fondness and love, and Alec wanted nothing more than to lean across the sea of books around them and kiss him. He imagined himself leaning over and capturing Magnus’ lips in a soft kiss, swallowing his gasp of surprise and smiling softly as Magnus kissed him back. How fitting it would be that their first kiss would be in a bookstore, when books are what brought them together in the first place. Gideon Archer the catalyst for their many firsts; first dates, first kisses …

Kissing Magnus wasn’t something Alec could do though, because Magnus was his friend and would most definitely would not reciprocate it the way he did in Alec’s day dreams. It would just put both of them in an awkward situation, Magnus because Alec had actually taken his flirting seriously and Alec for foolishly believing that it meant something real.

Sighing, Alec stood up from place on the floor and offered a hand to Magnus. He pulled the other man up, underestimating the amount of space - or lack thereof - between them. Magnus’ chest was just inches away from his own and Alec could feel his breath coming out in soft puffs against his cheek. “We should … it’s getting late.” Alec whispered, silence falling around them. There was suddenly nothing except the sound of their intermingled breath, and Alec’s heartbeat thudding in his chest.

Magnus nodded but didn’t make a move to step back. Alec kept his eyes locked to Magnus’, refusing to let them travel down to his lips because if he did than he was sure his resolve would crack completely. He doesn’t like you that way. You need to step back Alec told himself sternly. If he couldn’t stop these feelings for Magnus, the least he could do was try and control them.

Alec used every ounce of willpower he owned and took a step back, steadying himself on the shelf directly behind him. “Are you going to buy that?” He asked, grappling for something to say, gesturing to the copy of Shadows in Magnus’ hand. His voice sounded shaky even to his own ears. Control yourself.

Magnus blinked at him for a moment before looking down at the book. “Yeah, I was thinking about it. I’ve already got a copy, but I quite like the feel of this one.”

Alec plucked the book out of Magnus’ hand and put it with the copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray that he was still holding in his hand. “I’ll get it. I wanted to get this one for Simon anyway, so it’ll just be easier to buy them together.” They started making their way through the maze of shelves towards where Alec remembered seeing a register when they walked in.

Magnus looked confused.“I can afford a book, Alexander.”

Alec chuckled. “Believe me, I know. I just -” He trailed off awkwardly. “I just want to get this one for you, okay?” He looked down to his shoes, avoiding Magnus’ eye. God, he really was not getting a hold on this whole control thing.

He saw felt before he saw Magnus’ finger under his chin tipping his face up so that their eyes met. Magnus gave him a sincere smile. “Thank you, Alec. I really appreciate it.”

Alec mumbled, “It’s just a book, don’t worry about it.” fighting the blush that was creeping up his neck. He needed to stop putting himself in situations where his face was in close proximity to Magnus’. He was only human and he wasn’t sure how much more of it that he could take.

They crossed the last of the shelves and found the register where a big, bulky man was sitting behind the counter reading an old paperback copy of Heart of Darkness. Alec placed the two books on the counter. The man looked up and laughed happily when he saw them.

“Magnus! It’s been a while, buddy.” The man said, bookmarking his page and looking at the two of them. Alec assumed he must be Bat.

“Hey, Bat. How have you been?” Bat started to ring their books through and Alec pulled out his wallet.

“Not as good as you, kid. Your names been all over the newspapers lately. Everyone’s excited to see your new stuff.”

Alec saw Magnus grin out of the corner of his eye, and shook his head as he payed. Of course even the owner of a small bookstore in a secluded section of New York would follow Magnus and his career. Bat bagged the two books and told Magnus to come in more often and catch up, to which Magnus responded with a salute and a ‘Sure thing, boss’.

The sun had just set when they left The Hunter's Moon, and Alec realized that once again, he had just spent almost an entire afternoon with Magnus without even realizing the passing time. He found he didn’t care one bit that he had just wasted a whole day of writing time, because time with Magnus couldn’t really be considered wasted.

The walk to Magnus’ loft was short and they arrived in no time at all, Alec walking him right up to the door. Iris was looking out her window again, so Magnus waved at her cheekily. “Do you want to come in for a bit?” He asked as he unlocked the door.

Alec winced. “I would love to, but Izzy texted me while we were walking here that she needed to talk to me. There was an ASAP tacked on the end of the message that, if I value my life, I probably shouldn’t ignore.”

Magnus laughed. “Well, her murdering you would most definitely put a kink in my own plans for your demise. And I’ve spent far too much time grooming you for you to be slaughtered by an amateur.”

Alec rolled his eyes fondly. “It would be an honor to be murdered by you Magnus Bane. At least I would go in style.” Magnus just smirked.

He was about to hand Magnus his book when he hesitated. “Actually, could I use your bathroom before I head out?”

 

***

 

Alec opened the door of his apartment to find Isabelle sitting on the couch, glass of red wine in her hand and an icy look in her eyes.

He figured this was going to be a conversation that required at least a little bit of alcohol in his system so he put his keys in the bowl and took off his jacket before pouring himself a glass of wine and joining her on the couch. Her eyes followed him steadily as he moved across the apartment, face remaining unreadable.

They stared at each other for a long moment, neither of them wanting to be the first to break the silence. Finally, Alec gave in.

He heaved out a sigh and sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “What’s up Iz?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Where were you today?” Her voice was cool and hard. Alec knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong, but her tone still frightened him a little.

He looked at her, confused. Isabelle knew exactly where he had been today, he was texting her all day. “I had a Gideon thing this morning, and then I went out with Magnus. Why?”

She pursed her lips. “When were you going to find the time to tell me that Mom called you?”

All the feelings that Alec had been suppressing all day came back in an instant. Spending time with Magnus had driven his mother from his mind, but her questions brought back all the hurt and anger he had felt right after he received the call. Alec’s mouth opened and closed. “I - what?”

His emotions must have been palpable because her cool exterior dropped in an instant and she grabbed both of their wine glasses and placed them on the table. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him close. “Tell me what happened, big brother.”

Alec rest his head on hers and let himself be held by his sister. “There’s not much to tell. Her assistant called me this afternoon and basically demanded that I go to dinner with her tonight. She ‘wanted a meeting with her eldest son.’ I turned him - her - down and hung up the phone. How did you find out?”

“I’m assuming that after she was rejected by you, she thought she could get to you through me. She called, but I was still working so one of my interns got the message. Apparently she wasn’t too happy.”

“Wait, she called you? As in, like herself and not her assistant?” Alec asked, incredulous.

Isabelle lifted her head from his shoulder and shrugged. “My intern told me that a woman had called, said she was my mother and that she was very upset. I felt bad for my poor intern, she was pretty shook up after, clearly not used to the wrath that is an angry Maryse Lightwood. I’m afraid she’ll never pick up a phone for me again.”

Alec sighed and rolled his eyes. “Yup, that was definitely Mom.”

Izzy looked at him, concern evident in her features. Alec shrugged her off and stood up, pacing the living room. He didn’t understand why after years of estrangement she suddenly wanted to meet with him so bad that she not only contacted one of her children, but two of them. He thought about calling Jace and asking him if he too had received an angry call from their mother.

What could she want so much that she needed to get a hold of him that badly? Part of him wondered if maybe after all this time she wanted to patch things up, but dismissed the thought quickly. If he knew his mother at all she would not be the first one to initiate bringing their relationship back together again. She was far too proud for that.

So what other reason would she have for wanting to see him? Alec wondered if maybe something had happened to his father, but figured Alec would not be the only one of her children she would want to contact with news like that. He worried for a moment that maybe she had found out about Gideon Archer, by some manipulative way of hers and wanted back in his life now that he was successful and doing well for himself. If that was true, he would probably take one look and see that he was still involved in his ‘alternative lifestyle’ and she would be back out the door in a second, he thought bitterly.

Isabelle let him pace for a few minutes before she got up and stood in front of him. She didn’t say anything, just grabbed his hands and led him back to the couch where she pulled him down and into her chest. She ran her fingers through his hair slowly and Alec sagged his weight against her, grateful for her presence. Both Jace and Isabelle had always taken care of Alec, far more than he’d like to admit since he was the older sibling and was supposed to be looking after them.

Alec didn’t know how long they sat like that, his sister’s hands running comfortingly through his hair but they were broken from their quiet calm by the sound of Alec’s ringtone.

He pulled the phone out of his pocket and smiled despite himself at the caller ID. “Is that your boyfriend?” Izzy asked, smirking.

“Magnus is not my boyfriend.” Alec responded quickly, automatically. Isabelle raised her eyebrows tauntingly. Busted.

“Funny how your mind went immediately to Magnus though, no?” She grinned wickedly. Alec shot her a look and answered the phone, choosing instead to ignore her comment.

Magnus’ voice came over the line excited and fast, so much so that Alec couldn’t understand him. “Slow down, I can’t hear you.” Alec laughed, pressing the phone closer to his ear.

Magnus took a deep breath. “The version of Shadows you bought me today, it was signed by Gideon Archer! Alexander, I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would give away a signed copy of one of his books, but I’m thanking my lucky stars that they did.” He rambled on excitedly.

Alec listened to him chat on, about how he opened to book to reread it after Alec had left and saw the signature on the first page and how he didn’t know how he possibly could have missed it when he was flipping through it when they were in the store.

Alec grinned and twirled the pen he had pulled from his pocket absentmindedly in his fingers as Magnus talked. Most of the time his secret was a burden when it came to his relationship with Magnus, but sometimes it could be fun.

“That’s awesome, Magnus. What crazy luck that the version we found was autographed.” Alec said when Magnus had finished, trying his hardest to keep his voice even. He knew he shouldn’t have done it, that it was wrong even, tricking Magnus like that. That if Magnus ever found out he would probably be really upset with Alec. But the excitement in his voice was so much better than Alec had anticipated and he selfishly wanted to be the reason for that excitement, even if it wasn’t precisely directed at him.

“I don’t even know if there are any signed Gideon Archer books. Well, obviously there are because i'm holding one but he never does fan greetings so - I’m so sorry!” He exclaimed, stopping mid sentence. “I interrupted your time with your sister, I was just really excited and you were the first person I wanted to tell.” He paused. “Thank you for the book, Alexander. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay? ”

Alec said goodbye and hung up the phone, mood considerably lifted. Magnus had called him first. Granted, Alec had been with him when he had gotten the book, so it made sense as to why he would call Alec but he still counted it as a win. Isabelle had lounged back on the couch and sipped on her wine casually. “How was your boyfriend?”

Magnus was fine, thanks. He found a book today when we were out that was, uh - autographed by his favourite author.” He couldn’t keep the grin from his voice and Isabelle seemed to catch on quickly.

“Alec! You didn't!” She exclaimed. “You signed one of your own books, didn’t you?” Alec took a sip from his wine and but said nothing. She shook her head, amused. “You’re playing with fire, big brother.”

Alec was going to respond when his phone went off again, this time with a text message. It was form Magnus. Furrowing his eyebrows, he opened it quickly.

I forgot to ask on the phone, but my stepmom is holding a gallery a week from now. Would you want to come check it out with me?

Alec’s heart fluttered in his chest, because Magnus’ request sounded an awful lot like a date. But it couldn’t be, Magnus didn’t look at him like that. He just wanted Alec to come with him to support his stepmother. His suspicions were confirmed when Magnus’ next message came through.

You can bring Isabelle and Jace too, if you want :)

Alec clamped down the disappointment he felt and looked up to find Isabelle look at him curiously. “You want to go to a party next weekend?”

She scoffed. “I’m offended you even had to ask. Of course I want to go to a party next weekend.”

He rolled his eyes and typed a reply back to Magnus.

We’re in. :)

He put his phone away and tried to focus on Isabelle who was talking about what she was going to wear, and what she was going to put Alec in for the gallery. He tried to ignore the pit of disappointment that was sitting heavy in his stomach.

Being friends with Magnus was fine, he could handle friends. He was a grown man and could control himself enough around a crush and not make a fool of himself.

Everything was going to be fine.

He repeated it in his head like a mantra, Isabelle’s voice in the background, until he started to believe it.

Chapter Text

Magnus pulled his Alexander McQueen black and grey, paisley-printed trench coat tighter around his frame. He had taken one look at the light smattering of snow on the ground this morning and practically ripped the coat from it’s hanger in his haste; it was a jacket far too gorgeous to just be seen by the inside of his closet.

The weather had finally decided to catch up with the calendar, so the first weekend of December brought Jocelyn’s art show as well as the first fall of white flakes of snow.

“Magnus dear, could you help Luke bring the last of the pieces out to the truck?” Jocelyn had been running around the house in a frazzle all morning, desperately trying to make sure that everything was done in time for tomorrow. Magnus had come by early to help out where he could, but also make sure his stepmother didn’t worry herself to death.

Magnus had been attending art shows for both Jocelyn and Clary for as long as he could remember. The two of them were both so talented and had built quite a following over the years. Jocelyn especially had many expensive buyers and companies that wanted to sponsor her just to have their names next to hers. Clary wasn’t as established in the art world yet and hadn’t been able to make a name for herself besides ‘Jocelyn Fairchild’s daughter’ but Magnus had a feeling that this new job would show the world just how talented his little sister was. Having her art on the cover of bestselling novels around the world was sure to get people talking.

“Sure thing, but as long as you make Clary help too.” He called out loudly. Clary, who had been sitting quietly on the front step doodling in her sketchbook, shot him a dark look. He stuck his tongue out at her in retaliation.

“Clary, help your brother and Luke please.” Jocelyn called from inside the house, poking her head out the door, just for a moment. The resemblance between her and Clary was uncanny. The two of them shared the same flaming red hair and bright green eyes. Their cheekbones were set high and had petite feminine frames.

They also both shared the trait of tying their hair up and sticking a paint brush through it when they were stressed or worried. Magnus noted the paint brush sticking out of his stepmothers bun warily.

Clary and her mother often got mistaken for sisters, to Jocelyn’s delight (and Clary’s mortification). Jocelyn had aged with grace, and in her forties still looked very similar to pictures Magnus had seen of her in her youth. She had a constant youthful attitude too, that definitely made her seem younger than she was. Magnus had come home many times to find her and Luke dancing together in the kitchen or chasing each other around the house like children.

The downside of Jocelyn’s apparent eternal youth was the many times when Magnus was a teenager that his friends from school had told him that his mother was ‘hot’. He had stopped bringing friends home very early on, learning very quickly when he brought them to his house that they just wanted to spend time with Jocelyn.

Clary looked up at him from her perch on the front step and showed him her finger, but put her sketchbook down and got up to help.

Jocelyn's prints were lined up all along the front hallway, wrapped and ready to be loaded in the moving truck sitting outside of the house. They had spent the entire day before making sure they were properly wrapped and ready to be safely transported across the city to the venue. Jocelyn had wanted to bring everything in tonight in order for it to be set up and perfect for the show tomorrow night.

They would be spending the rest of the day decorating. Magnus had enlisted the help of Lydia and a few of the teams from The Institute to help. He wanted everything to be perfect for this night.

Magnus and Clary brought the canvas’ out to Luke, who had enlisted the help of his partner Alaric, from work. While Clary and Magnus carried the frames outside, Luke and Alaric made sure they were secured safely inside the truck. Between the four of them the work went quickly and soon enough all of the pieces had been loaded on safely.

Luke jumped out of the truck and closed the back, sealing it tightly. “Why don’t you two go see if your mother needs any help. Alaric and I will finish up here.” Magnus grabbed Clary’s elbow and dragged her into the house, quickly checking with Jocelyn that they didn’t have any more jobs for the afternoon.

When they got inside, Jocelyn was going over some paperwork in her office and said she wouldn’t need them for at least an hour. With the all-clear, they ran upstairs and grabbed the blanket and bottle of wine they always kept stashed in Magnus’ old closet and made their way up to the rooftop garden.

There weren’t any flowers in bloom this time of year, just empty beds covered in a light layer of snow but the garden was their special place and they wouldn’t abandon it because of a little cold weather.

When they were spread out on the blanket and passing the bottle back and forth, Clary turned to him. “What’s up, Mags? You’re unusually quiet today. Only a few snide remarks, and I haven’t heard a single innuendo the entire day.”

Magnus hummed and took a contemplative sip of wine. He hadn’t been aware he was acting any differently but if anyone was going to notice, it was his sister. “It’s nothing, biscuit. Well, it’s not nothing, it’s Alexander, but I’m just being dramatic.”

“Is everything okay? Do I need to kick his ass?” Clary’s brow furrowed angrily, probably going for menacing but she just looked like an angry puppy.

Magnus smiled at his sister. “Darling, I love you but I don’t think you’d stand a chance against him. Ignoring the fact that you are a midget, Alexander is a trained black belt and could probably have you on the floor in a second.”

Clary pouted. “I can take him. You’d be surprised what I can do powered on seething rage.”

Magnus passed the bottle back to her with a grin. “I don’t doubt it. But he hasn’t done anything at all to deserve seething rage … well, nothing consciously anyway.”

Her eyebrows scrunched. “I don’t follow. I thought things were going well between you two?”

“They are. Really well actually. He’s amazing and sweet and funny, not to mention incredibly attractive.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“I think I’m falling for him.”

Magnus hadn’t wanted to confront his feelings for Alec, but they were getting harder and harder for him to ignore with each passing day. He couldn’t deny the irrefutable attraction he felt towards the younger man, as well as the strong emotional connection that the two of them shared. Looking past the fact that Alec was exactly Magnus’ type physically, he was also funny, incredibly kind and incredibly honest. He cared for his siblings with a fierce loyalty and determination that Magnus admired, and he was intelligent in a way that sometimes Magnus couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Every conversation they had, Magnus was learning something new and he was fascinated by Alec’s natural curiosity for the world and the way that he perceived it.

Yes, he was falling for Alexander Lightwood. He was falling hard and fast and he didn’t know how to slow it down, the same way one couldn’t slow a speeding train.

He couldn’t help but go back to right after their first date when he had thought he wouldn’t mind if Alec broke his heart. He was starting to think that that statement was getting closer to the truth everyday. By not being able to be with Alec the way that he wanted, he felt himself breaking, a little bit at a time.

Clary’s eyes widened and she placed the bottle of wine down, turning her full attention to Magnus. “Like, for real falling? Or just ‘he’s gorgeously attractive and I want to carry his children’ falling?”

Magnus chuckled, but he didn’t really feel all that joyful. “I think it’s for real this time, biscuit.”

“And you don’t think he feels the same way?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes it really seems like it. There are moments when I’m so sure that he’s going to lean in and kiss me but then he moves away. I just don’t get it.”

There had been a few moments where Magnus had thought he had seen the flash of attraction in Alec’s eyes, but every time it had slipped away as quickly as it came. Magnus thought of the moment in Isabelle’s apartment, the first time he had felt it. Alec had been looking at him right after that game of Monopoly with a tender, goofy smile on his face. He had been lost in thought and was only drawn back by Magnus’ touch on his arm.

Or in the bookstore last weekend. Alec had been watching him as he talked about Gideon Archer and he had been positive that Alec was interested in him too in that moment. He had thought he had seen it in his eyes and the open honesty of his face, the subtle way his body had leaned into Magnus’ ever so slightly. But then he had gotten up and broken the moment.

Or maybe there never was a moment to break, and Magnus was just imagining things.

He sighed. “I love being friends with him and don’t want to jeopardize that but part of me knows that I won’t be able to go on for too much longer just being his friend.”

Clary nodded thoughtfully. “Well, why don’t the three of us do lunch or something this week? I want to meet him anyway, because anyone who may or may not be wooing my brother needs to be sister approved. But,” She continued, “Maybe if I see you two together, I can get a little insight?”

Magnus hadn’t told Clary yet that he had invited the Lightwoods to Jocelyn’s show, but he figured now was good a time as any. “You’re actually going to meet him tomorrow night? I invited him and his siblings to the show.”

Clary was excited for about half a second before she stopped. “You invited his siblings? Mags, come on!” She punched him in the arm.

“What?” Magnus asked defensively, blocking her attack easily. “I didn’t want him to feel pressured into a date sort of situation, especially when my parents are going to be there. ‘Hey Alexander, I know we’ve never gone on a date but why don’t we go on one tomorrow night and you can meet all of my friends and family.’ I’m sure he would take that well.” Clary rolled her eyes and took a sip of wine.

“Well, you’re just going to have to get him alone then. Didn’t you say that he had a brother I might like?” She grinned devilishly. “I’ll gladly keep him occupied. Simon can flirt with the sister and we’re all set.”

“Mhm, Jace. I’m not sure he’s really your type but like his siblings he is stunningly attractive so I’m sure you can find some way to occupy yourselves.” She just smirked. “As for your elusive childhood friend Simon, am I finally being given the privilege of being graced by his presence tomorrow?”

“I’ve already told you, we were friends around that time that you had your weird rebellious stage and smoked behind dumpsters with your weird friends and refused to come home for dinner and such.”

Magnus ignored her description of his teenage years and continued. “You reconnected with him, what like, three weeks ago now? You could have introduced me to him in that time.” He chastised, swiping the bottle playfully from her grasp.

“Yes, well you never found the time to introduce me to Alexander, so we’re even.” She drawled teasingly. She dropped back onto her elbows, tipping her head back, and took in the faint sun rays trying to make their way through the clouds. The snow had stopped falling, but the chill was still in the air. Clary wrapped the edge of the blanket around her small shoulders.

Magnus’ phone vibrated, alerting him that he had a Snapchat from Alec.

Clary stifled her laugh at Magnus’ haste to pull the phone from his pocket.

Magnus and Alec had been texting and calling each other all week, but hadn’t seen each other since last weekend. Alec had had a lot of work meetings to attend this week, going into the office everyday as opposed to his usual office of his living room. He had sent Magnus Snapchats each morning, showing off his suits. Magnus noticed with interest that he had added some small pop of colour to them each time, whether is was a pocket square, a bright tie.

Magnus couldn’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, it was because of him.

Today’s Snapchat was similar to the others Magnus had received. Alec was standing in front of his mirror, smirk on his face and showing off his outfit. He was wearing a deep navy suit with a white shirt and black tie. He had on the pair of deep blue cuff links that Magnus had given him from his previous year’s winter line, shining proudly near his wrists.

He looked amazing.

Magnus had to stop himself from sending Alec something he might regret, like ‘you look beautiful’ or ‘I think I’m in love with you’. Instead he sent a picture of the garden bed beside him, empty except for the last of the dying plants inside. He kept his message safe with just a winky face, thumbs up and blue heart emoticon.

Lydia had been right that Magnus wouldn’t be getting any time off, and his week turned to be just as busy as Alec’s. Fashion week was fast approaching and the deadline for all of Magnus’ clothing to be completed was just a month away. Everything needed to be completed a month before the show to ensure that Ragnor had enough time to work his magic. Magnus and Lydia had been in the studio every day this week, overseeing the progress and making whatever changes were necessary to ensure that happened.

They were also preparing for their upcoming trip to Toronto next for the Canadian city’s Fashion Week. Magnus and Lydia were just going as spectators but Lydia wanted him to experience the entire event both from an observer's point of view as well as a designers, so he would know more of what to expect for his own show.

All in all, it had been a busy week and Magnus found himself missing the other man terribly. While they still talked everyday, talking over FaceTime was no where close to the same as walking hand in hand with him in Central Park, or sipping coffee in Java Jones. He missed Alec’s strong arms wrapped around him when they hugged goodbye, or the gentle innocent touches that left Magnus’ skin burning for hours afterwards. He missed the sound of his laugh, crisp and clear when Magnus made an innuendo.

Jocelyn called up the fire escape that they were leaving to go to the venue in ten minutes, and that she needed them downstairs and ready in that time. Sighing, Magnus leaned back on his elbows beside Clary.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Clary tilted her head and gave him a reassuring smile. “You’re going to sweep that boy off of his feet, if you haven’t already. If there’s anything I know for sure it’s that not many people are able to resist the natural charisma and charm of Magnus Bane.”

He sent her a small smile. “Well, let’s just hope Alexander isn’t immune to my charms.”

Jocelyn called up again that they were leaving so they quickly folded up the blanket and stashed the rest of the wine in Magnus’ old closet before making their way downstairs.

 

***

 

Alec found himself, once again, in front of his bedroom mirror with Isabelle fluttering around him. She had insisted on dressing him for the show, but admitted that since Alec had started hanging out with Magnus he wasn’t as hopeless as before. Just mildly hopeless.

Alec had never been to an art show before so he had no clue what to wear to one, but Isabelle said she knew exactly what to put him in. Earlier in the week she had gone through Alec’s closet and informed him that he had nothing suitable to wear to a semi-formal event so they would have to go shopping to buy him something new.

Jace had laughed and teased Alec mercilessly, joking around with him about having to spend an entire day shopping with Isabelle. That is, until Isabelle told him that he had to go too because he was not wearing ‘that godforsaken leather jacket and jeans combo to a high profile event’. Both brothers had put up a fight, so Isabelle had settled for taking their measurements and credit cards and picking an outfit out for each of them.

As usual, she had been right and picked out something for Alec that was classy yet understated.

Alec’s outfit was something he would never pick out for himself but found that he actually enjoyed it. She had chosen a grey and black checkered sweater and a pair of black slacks. She had bought him a new pair of black Italian leather boots because, according to her every man needed to own at least one pair in his lifetime. The finishing touch was a dark grey blazer that she had left undone, to show off the shirt inside. The sweater was soft and the blazer was looser than the suit jackets he had been wearing all week, and Alec found he actually felt as comfortable in this outfit as he did in his worn sweater and jeans.

Alec looked at himself in the mirror, checking out the outfit from all sides. He wondered absently if Magnus would like it. If he would like Alec in it. While it was certainly not anywhere near Magnus’ usual level of high fashion, it was something different for Alec and he thought the other man would be proud of him for expanding his fashion horizons.

He was even wearing designer, apparently. Isabelle had told him the shirt and jacket were from some place called Armani.

He had been sending Magnus pictures of his suits each morning this week, something Alec had never once done before in his life. Alec didn’t know was a ‘selfie’ was until Jace told him, and had never taken one before he started talking to Magnus. Now though, he would send the other man selfies on Snapchat quite frequently and found he actually didn’t mind one bit.

And Magnus would always respond with some comment about loving Alec in a suit, and really if that wasn’t incentive to keep sending them, than what was?

Yesterday he had worn the cuff links that Magnus had given him a few weeks ago. They had been at their usual table in Java Jones and Magnus was going on about what cuff links he and Ragnor were debating on for one of his Fashion Week jackets, and Alec had admitted sheepishly that he not only did not own any, but he had no idea what they were.

The next day at lunch, Magnus came in with a small bag. Inside was a velvet case that housed a set of beautiful royal blue cuff links, that even Alec had to admit were gorgeous.

“There.” Isabelle exclaimed, smoothing out the shoulder pads of his jacket. “You look great.”

Alec looked at himself in the mirror again. He hadn’t shaved this morning, instead opting to keep his little bit of stubble and had styled his hair so that it was artfully messy on top of his head (well, he had tried to style it but Izzy had had to take over).

He wouldn’t say he looked amazing, but he had to admit he looked pretty good. He hoped Magnus would notice.

His phone beeped in his pocket and he pulled it out to find a notification that their car was downstairs. Magnus had called him yesterday and told him he had arranged for a car to come and pick them up at the house so they wouldn’t have to worry about navigating the heavy traffic downtown in a cab.

They met Jace in the living room, who looked wildly uncomfortable in his black suit jacket and light blue shirt. He had on a pair of slacks like Alec, but his were grey where Alec’s were black. Isabelle had tried to wrestle him into a tie but it had been no use. They compromised on leaving the top two buttons undone. Jace was also wearing a new pair of Italian leather shoes, although his were brown.

Jace met Alec’s eyes as he and Isabelle entered the room. “You look good!” He turned to Isabelle. “He looks good! Why does Alec get to wear that when I have to wear this?” He gestured to his outfit, frowning.

Isabelle was applying her bright red lipstick in the hall mirror and didn’t look at her brother when she responded. “Because Alec is trying to impress his boyfriend, and you are not. Alec needs to look hot tonight whereas you merely need to look presentable.” She said casually.

“Magnus is not my boyfriend.” Alec grumbled, but they didn’t seem to hear him over their bickering.

Alec ushered them out the door and down the stairs to where the car was waiting. Alec noted with surprise that the car Magnus had called for them was a Mercedes-Benz in limo form. Alec didn’t know too much about cars but he knew this one was expensive and had to have cost Magnus a small fortune.

Jace, who actually did know something about cars, also looked impressed. He whistled. “I have to admit, I never thought Alec would be the one of us to get a sugar daddy. I always assumed it would be Isabelle.” He said as he slid in after Alec. Isabelle rolled her eyes and Alec smacked Jace on the back of the head, but Jace just smirked, clearly proud of his comment.

The limo was spacious inside so Alec took the seat across form his siblings, directly facing them.

Alec shot a look to the divider between them and the driver, before leveling his siblings with a look. “I want no comments about sugar daddies, boyfriends or anything else you two can come up with tonight, ok? I’m just going as Magnus’ friend to support his stepmother at her art show. Nothing more, okay?”

Alec could practically taste the lie on his tongue as he spoke. Referring to Magnus as just his friend felt wrong when he meant so much more to Alec. But as much as Alec wanted it to change, Magnus was just a friend and would continue to be as long as Alec kept his emotions, and siblings, in check. If he needed to lie to them and deny his feelings for Magnus in order to keep the other man in his life, then he would do so.

Jace looked like he wanted to say something, but saw the look on Alec’s face and nodded. “No problem, bro. You know we’re just teasing.” The corner of his mouth tipped up in a small, reassuring smile.

Alec looked to Isabelle whose dark eyes were fixed on his own. Alec knew that Isabelle could see right through him. He also knew that she was worried, if the tense set of her eyebrows was anything to go by. “Izzy?” He spoke her name tentatively, unsure. He hoped that she would respect his wishes and keep Alec’s budding feelings under wraps. They were all protective of each other, but Isabelle was often as headstrong as Alec was when it came to the well-being of her siblings.

She let out a long breath and rest her hand gently on his forearm, the weight of her hand familiar and comforting. “Sure, big brother. Anything for you.”

They rode the rest of the way in silence. Alec was concentrating on keeping his nerves in check and making sure he didn’t throw up. He not only was going to see Magnus for the first time in a week but would also be meeting his entire family. Alec knew from their conversations how much Magnus adored his family and he wanted to make sure he made a good impression on them.

For completely platonic, friendship reasons of course.

And throwing up on his nice outfit would definitely not be a good first impression.

It took a while for them to get downtown, traffic building as they got closer and closer to the venue. They had been driving for about half an hour when the driver tapped on the divider and told them that they would be arriving in less than ten minutes.

Alec felt his pulse quicken and looked out the window, trying to breath and calm himself down.

As they approached, he saw what must be their destination. Cars were moving slowly up front, stopping only for a moment to let out passengers in fancy dress before pulling away and making room for the next one. The building itself looked small from the outside, but Alec knew from talking with Magnus yesterday that the inside resembled a warehouse in its size.

A bright red carpet had been laid out from the street to the door, and a handful of paparazzi were hovering around the entrance, cameras raised.

“Why is the press here?” Jace asked.

Isabelle looked past him and out the window. “They must be here for Magnus. He’s pretty high profile, especially with his big debut coming up. Everyone wants a piece of him.” It must have taken all of her willpower not to wink at Alec after she said that, but she couldn’t stop a small grin.

After a short wait, it was their turn to pull in. The driver maneuvered the car so that their door opened right at the end of the long carpet. There were a few camera flashes as the three of them stepped out but they died down when the photographers presumably realized no one interesting had arrived (little did they know they had just photographed the elusive Gideon Archer, Alec thought to himself slyly).

He had seen the inside of the venue before it was decorated in Snapchats from Magnus, but nothing could prepare him for what he saw when they stepped through the doors.

Large pieces of ornamental fabric had been draped across the ceiling in streaks of gold and orange that made it look like the sun was always setting above them. Makeshift wooden walls had been erected around the room; each wall had one or two paintings hung on them, with spotlights shining down from above. There were countless paintings in the room, each one unique and different but obviously done by the same artist. There were small touches linking them to one another, that even Alec’s untrained artists eye could see. The lights were slightly dimmed giving the room a touch of ambiance.

Tables were set throughout the room, tablecloths varying in colours of gold and orange with a centerpiece of flowers to match. Glass jars with candles in them were placed on each table and on other various surfaces around the room, making the place feel very rustic and homey.

The show was about Jocelyn’s art but all Alec could see was Magnus’ artistic touch all around the room in the decorations. Magnus really had a talent in dressing things up, a talent that clearly extended beyond people.

“Wow.” Isabelle breathed out, taking in the room with the same astonished look as Alec. He could only nod.

Alec was acutely aware of the fact that he was now in the same room as Magnus for the first time in a week. His stomach gave an excited flip. He would be seeing Magnus tonight, would finally get to see him in person after a week of just seeing his face on a small screen. He scanned the crowd hoping to catch a glimpse of him, but he was nowhere in sight.

“Let’s go grab a drink and look around.” Jace suggested, gesturing to the bar on the side of the room. They made their way through the crowd of people. Everyone was dressed up, the women in extravagant dresses and heels and many of the men in full suits. Alec felt slightly under dressed and pulled self-consciously on the sleeves of his jacket, rubbing his fingers together nervously.

Isabelle noticed and grabbed his hand gently in her own. “You look great.” She whispered softly. “Don’t be nervous, okay?” Alec nodded and she let go of his hand but linked her arm through his as they made their way to the bar. Alec held on appreciatively.

They were almost at the bar when Alec saw a familiar mop of curly brown hair. He was standing with a woman, whose fiery red hair Alec would recognize anywhere.

“Simon, Clary! What are you guys doing here?” Alec and Isabelle approached the duo, Jace continuing to the bar to get their drinks.

“Alec?” Simon looked confused, brows furrowing. Clary looked between Alec and Isabelle, eyes widening.

“Um, this is my sister. Isabelle, this is Clary. Her and Simon have been friends since they were little.”

Isabelle puffed her chest out and flipped her hair over shoulder. “Simon, you’ve never mentioned Clary to me.” Alec rolled his eyes. She was jealous. Simon looked mildly frightened and looked to Alec, who just shrugged innocently.

“Right, um. Isabelle, this is Clary. Clary this is my - um, Isabelle. This is Isabelle.” Simon’s cheeks were burning up so Clary stepped in, effectively cutting off the stream of word vomit currently spewing from his mouth.

“Hi Isabelle. Simon has told me all about you. It’s great to finally meet you.” She said sweetly, holding her hand out for Isabelle to shake. Isabelle, realizing that Clary was not a threat, shook her hand with a genuine smile.

Jace came back with their drinks and they made the introductions again for his sake. His eyes lingered on Clary for a beat too long but she met his gaze with a strong one of her own.

Clary walked them around the show telling them about some of the pieces. She knew a lot about each one, but Alec figured she would with her artistic eye for talent. The artist community was probably pretty small here in New York so he figured she must even know the artist, if she was here.

The pieces were breathtaking but Alec couldn’t concentrate on them, too busy scanning the room for black spiky hair and glitter he associated with Magnus. His ears were carefully attuned to the soft musical laugh of the other man, straining over the soft music for any sign of him. He knew Magnus was here somewhere and he must be busy, considering it was his mothers show.

But Magnus knew what time Alec was supposed to be arriving and he thought the other man might at least want to look for him as well.

Clary and Isabelle were walking ahead of their group with their heads bent together. It was good to see Isabelle getting along with another girl. Most of the friends she kept were boys.

They stopped at a table and sat down. The girls were deep in conversation, leaving Simon, Jace and Alec to themselves. Alec was still scanning the room, eyes sweeping over the people around them.

Jace put his hand on Alec’s shoulder. “He’ll be here, buddy.” His tone was low and serious, his eyes looking into Alec’s.

“Who are you guys talking about?” Simon asked, confusion clouding his features.

“Yes, who are you talking about, gentlemen?” Said a voice from behind Alec. Alec’s stomach rushed with warmth at the sound and turned around, schooling his features into faux annoyance.

He had a witty remark planned out, but every single thought left Alec’s mind when he turned around. Magnus was leaning against the table right behind him, hip popped, drink in hand and curious smile on his face.

He had dressed up for the event. He was wearing a metallic blue suit, with a black shirt and teal blue tie. His makeup was different too, more extravagant than Alec had ever seen it. He had silver eyeliner surrounding his eye, making the almond shape stand out beautifully. There was silver glitter sprinkled throughout his spiked hair, the tips done teal blue, the same as his suit. The finishing touch was a dark maroon lipstick. The dark colour made it that much harder for Alec to look away from his mouth.

He looked beautiful.

“Magnus, hey. You look -” Alec trailed off, trying to find a word to describe just how amazing the older man looked.

Magnus smiled. “You don’t look too bad yourself.” He ran his finger under the collar of Alec’s blazer, straightening it out. “You’re even wearing designer. I am a little disappointed that it’s not mine, but Armani is a step in the right direction.” He said with a wink. Alec shook his head and laughed, shoulder still tingling where Magnus’ finger had been.

Magnus saw someone over Alec’s shoulder and rolled his eyes, chuckling fondly. “Ah, I see you’ve already met my darling sister. I should have known she would find you first.”

Alec shook his head. The only people he had talked to the entire time he had been here was Simon, Clary and his siblings. Maybe he had seen her at the bar or at one of the exhibits and Magnus was confused. He was about to voice this to Magnus but he had already stepped around Alec and moved to the other side of the table.

Alec turned around and saw Magnus greet Isabelle and then give Clary a quick peck on the cheek. Clary though, was staring at Alec, mouth forming a perfect circle.

“Alexander, this is my darling little sister Clary. Who, I just found out today has been friends with our dear Sheldon for years.”

Simon was looking between Alec, Clary and Magnus with what could only be described as a dumbfounded expression on his face. His eyes widened when the pieces finally clicked into place.

Meanwhile, Alec was running through every conversation he had had with both Clary and Magnus about their siblings and realized that neither of them had ever mentioned them by name. He and Magnus spent a ton of time talking about their families but whenever he referred to his sister he called her ‘biscuit’ or said ‘my sister.” Clary was the same, never actually stating her brothers name.

Alec tried to wrap his mind around the information.

Clary was Magnus’ sister.

Magnus was Clary’s brother.

The one who was obsessed with Alec’s novels.

Alec’s brain immediately locked and he froze. He felt a cold chill run down his spine and couldn’t move his mouth to form words. Everything was happening far too fast. There was a steady rushing in Alec’s ears and he shut his eyes against the wave of nausea that overcame him. Alec thought back to when he had vowed not to throw up on himself, but felt the bile slowly rising in his throat.

 

***

 

No one had spoken for an uncomfortable amount of time.

Simon and Clary were exchanging glances that Magnus was curious about but could wait. Magnus’ attention was currently on Alec. His face had drained of all colour and he was gaping at Clary, expression of shock on his face.

Clary too looked shaken, though not as much as Alec.

Isabelle and Simon seemed to be communicating silently for a few moments, eyebrows and eyes moving in silent conversation. Jace appeared to be in the same boat as Magnus and had no idea what was going on, eyes flicking between his brother and everyone else nervously.

Isabelle raised her eyes expectantly at Simon, who sighed and spoke up. “What a small world! Alec and I actually met Clary through work a few weeks ago. Isn’t that right, Alec?”

At the mention of his name, Alec sprung back to life. He nodded and opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. Magnus didn’t know what was going on but the reactions from everyone around him were making him nervous.

“Wait, so you guys have been friends forever.” Jace pointed at Simon and Clary. “And so have Alec and Simon. Then the three of you met at work?” Clary nodded. Jace continued. “You two have been hanging out for months.” He gestured between Alec and Magnus. “And none of you knew that Magnus was Clary’s brother?” He laughed, looking between the faces around him for confirmation.

Magnus had to admit, it was strange that he had been hanging out with Alec for the same amount of time that he had been working with Clary and it never came up or they never crossed paths. But it was equally as weird that Clary and Simon had been friends for years and Magnus had become friends with him through Alec.

Alec finally seemed to come back to himself and cleared his throat. “Clary, I wasn’t expecting to see you here. I can’t believe you’re related to Magnus.” He smiled but Magnus could see the tension he held in his shoulders. His fingers were rubbing together incessantly.

He was nervous.

Clary too, seemed to have recovered. “Unfortunately I am.” Magnus scoffed and she blew him a kiss. “So you’re the Alec that’s been stealing all of my brother’s time for the past month, eh?” She winked at Alec, who flushed.

She pat Magnus on the shoulder. “After this conversation, I think I need a drink.” She looked to Jace. “Join me for a walk?”

Magnus expected the younger Lightwood brother to respond with something cocky and flirty, but to everyone’s surprise he actually looked uncomfortable. “Yes. Yeah. Okay, yeah lets - walk.”

Isabelle and Simon were still looking at Alec like he was a caged animal, keeping their distance with wary, concerned looks on their faces. Isabelle brought her hand to his elbow but he brushed her off. “I’ll catch up with you guys later.” He grabbed Magnus by the hand and led them away from the group without another word, to a quieter part of the gallery. Magnus followed along, still very confused.

Why had Alec reacted the way he did when he saw Clary? Maybe he was just surprised to see her and she him, but that wouldn’t explain why he was nervous. A dark part in Magnus’ brain wondered if maybe he and Clary had dated once but the idea was gone from his head almost instantly. Alec had come out when he was very young and had never once expressed interest in the opposite gender.

So what had made him act that way?

Alec had taken them to a corner where Jocelyn had put all of her portraits. He wondered if he had done it on purpose or if he just wanted to get away.

Alec still had his hand clutched tightly in his own, but his grip was less insistent than it was when he had pulled Magnus away.

They looked silently at the portraits for a few minutes before Magnus’ self control ran out. “So, you know my sister?” He kept his tone casual, not looking at Alec and instead continued to pretend to look at the painting in front of him. He knew Alec was, for some reason, still on edge and didn’t want to make it worse by making him feel as if he was being interrogated.

Out of his peripheral vision he saw Alec run his hand through his hair, messing up the styling his sister had probably done. “Yeah, I do. I met her a few weeks ago. She’s working on a cover for a book Simon and I are working on.”

Magnus hummed and nodded but said nothing else, giving Alec time to get his thoughts out.

“I don’t know why I reacted like that, I guess it was just weird that I’ve known you both for a while and heard you talk about one another, and I didn’t make the connection.” He laughed nervously. “I mean I guess I’m the idiot. She told me her brother was in the fashion industry and you did tell me that your sister worked with a publishing company.”

He was beginning to ramble, and continued listing off all the reasons he should have realized earlier. Magnus turned away from the painting he had been pretending to look at and placed his palm in the middle of Alec’s chest. His words sputtered to a stop and he looked down at Magnus curiously. He was worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. Magnus reached up unconsciously and ran his thumb along the abused skin, pulling it away from harm.

Alec’s cheeks tinged pink but he said nothing.

“It’s alright, Alexander. You don’t have to explain to me. I was just worried you had had a one night stand or something with my baby sister and left without a note. Which would be incredibly unfortunate because I would be forced to beat you up.” Magnus’ hand was still resting on Alec’s chest and he could feel the younger man’s heartbeat through the fabric of his shirt. He felt a thrum of electricity when he touched Alec, something exciting and dangerous and addicting.

Alec choked out a laugh. “I can promise you that you never have to worry about me sleeping with Clary. Like, ever. Never.” The tension seemed to be slowly seeping out of his shoulders, his posture far more relaxed than a few minutes ago.

“Well, I’d certainly hope not. I would hate to have to compete with my sister for your affections.” He smirked. Their playful banter had returned, Magnus slipping back into it easily.

Alec shook his head. “There would be no competition there.” He muttered quietly, so quietly that Magnus almost didn’t hear it at first. His heart sped up, but he refused to get his hopes up at the other man’s words. Of course Alec wasn’t talking about the competition between Magnus and Clary, he was merely referring to the fact that Magnus fit with his sexuality whereas Clary did not.

Hands still joined, they moved through the line of portraits. She had painted himself, Clary and Luke as well as her parents and Luke’s sister Amatis. They were beautiful oil paintings that captured the natural beauty of the inhabitant on the canvas. Magnus told Alec who each one was of. When they got to Clary’s, Magnus told him more childhood stories about her. Alec laughed loudly at each and every one, head tipped back. From his reaction, it seemed that the two of them had developed an almost friendship since they had started working together, which did something funny to the pit of Magnus’ stomach. He imagined Alec and Clary, sitting in her fancy office at Alicante and joking around together while they got their work done.

Clary was always wary of anyone Magnus was with, ever since Camille. In his first year of university, Magnus had gotten involved with her. Their casual dating quickly turned into a serious relationship. Magnus had been sure at the time that he had been in love with her, and wanted to do anything to make her happy.

About a year into their relationship he had started to notice her slipping away, flirting with other guys in front of him, staying out late and hiding her phone from him. He denied it over and over, kept telling himself that she wouldn’t never cheat, because she loved him. Clary tried to help him to see what Camille was doing to him, that the toxic relationship was slowly sucking the spark from him. Magnus had refused to believe her which started their first and only big fight.

It wasn’t until one day he walked in on Camille in their bed with another man that he realized. He had grabbed his things quickly and left the apartment immediately, coming home. He had dragged his suitcase right up to Clary’s room and flopped down in her bed and started crying. Clary never once said ‘I told you so’, but just held him and told him that everything would be okay. That one day he would find someone who loved as openly and unashamedly as he loved.

Since then, Clary had been hyper-vigilant when it came to screening Magnus’ love interests. So it must say something about Alec if she seemed to like him so much.

Alec stopped in front of a particular portrait and examined it closely. “Who is this one of?” The woman in the portrait was a picture right from Magnus’ memory. She had dark skin and green-yellow eyes, and gorgeous black hair that fell over one shoulder in gentle waves. She wore a kind smile, a smile Magnus would never forget in all the days that he lived.

“That, is my mother.”

Alec let out a soft ‘oh’, and held tighter onto Magnus’ hand. They had talked a little bit about his mother; Alec knew she had died when he was young and that she had been close with Luke but nothing more about her.

“Jocelyn did this a few months after I first came to live with them. I didn’t have any pictures of my mom so she asked me if I wanted her to paint one. She sat me down and asked me to describe her. I described every detail I could remember and she sketched as I talked, never interrupting me just letting me go on for hours. We went over the sketch together for a week before it was perfect, and then Jocelyn spent another week painting it.” He smiled fondly at the memory. He remembered that was the first time he and Jocelyn had really connected. They sat together on the back porch for hours, sipping lemonade with their heads bent over the old sketchbook.

For his 18th birthday, Luke and Jocelyn had had the original sketch framed. It still hung on Magnus’ wall in his living room.

“That’s amazing. It’s beautiful.” Alec said, voice no louder than a whisper. He smiled down softly at Magnus. “She’s beautiful.”

Magnus swallowed back the emotion building and gave Alec a genuine smile. “Well, now you know where I get my dashing good looks from.” Alec just laughed and rolled his eyes.

The show was busy, far busier than some of the others Jocelyn had put on. Magnus recognized a few potential buyers from previous galleries and made sure to strike up conversation with them. Alec followed along dutifully, awkward at first but settling in quickly and making jokes. He basically swept an older lady right off of her feet, kissing her lightly on the hand and complementing her outfit. She bat her eyelashes at him, but he just pulled back with a wink.

They circled around the room until they made their way back to where they started. Magnus spotted Clary over at the bar, sitting on a stool beside none other than Jace, bright smile on her face. He nudged Alec.

“I never pegged Clary for his type. She’s so smart and put together and he’s so … Jace.” Alec joked. Magnus laughed, clapping his hand over his mouth the muffle the sound. Jace and Clary turned at the noise, both of them looking embarrassed that they were being watched.

“Well, we’ve been spotted Alexander. We might as well make our presence known.”

Jace was clearly unimpressed at their approach, shooting daggers at Alec who just ruffled his hair affectionately. “Hey, little bro, I see you’ve met Clary.”

“We were just in the middle of a conversation actually, big bro.” Jace said shortly, clearly trying to convey with his eyes that he wanted nothing more than for Alec to vacate the premises. Alec, to Magnus’ delight, ordered drinks for him and Magnus and moved chairs around for them to sit.

Clary laughed and Jace sighed in defeat.

Alec and Clary talked more about how they had met. They were working together on a novel, Simon and Alec editing while Clary designed the cover. They didn’t say much more about it, just that it was an ‘under-wraps’ project.

“So last week when you had all those meetings,” Magnus asked Alec, sipping his drink. “You were actually meeting with my sister?”

Alec shrugged. “For most of them, yeah. Simon and I had a few other publishing things we needed to cover but most of our meetings were with Clary.”

Clary grinned. “I’m not sure they should really count as meetings anymore. Since the cover is almost done all we really do is eat takeout and share stories.”

Magnus quirked an eyebrow. “What kind of stories?”

Alec and Clary shared a look. “Well, much more interesting stories now that I know they’re about you.” Alec retorted, grinning into his beer. Magnus sent a betrayed look to his sister.

“Clarissa Fairchild, what have I told you about telling my embarrassing stories to attractive people?” Clary just blew him an innocent kiss and they all broke out into laughter.

Isabelle and Simon joined them then, Isabelle draping her arms over Jace and Alec’s shoulders. “What are you all laughing at over here, and why wasn’t I invited?” She asked, grinning.

“We’re telling embarrassing stories about Magnus.” Clary filled in.

Simon pulled up two chairs for him and Isabelle, which she accepted with a soft smile and a kiss on the cheek. Simon, to Magnus’ shock, didn’t even flinch. He shared a meaningful look with Alec, who just sent him a silent thumbs up.

Magnus didn’t know the details, but he figured Simon and Isabelle had finally figured out their strange relationship.

“Embarrassing stories? I’ve got a few of those.” She said. They all laughed and continued to talk. The atmosphere was light and happy and Magnus felt like he was on top of the world. He was surrounded by a group of people, most he’d only known a short time but each had quickly become important and dear to him. Years ago, he never would have imagined his life like this but now couldn’t imagine it being any different.

Well, maybe he would change one thing.

Alec was laughing along with the rest of them. He was holding his beer in one hand and had the other arm draped casually over the back of Magnus’ chair. It would be so easy for Magnus to fold himself into the space between Alec and himself, closing the distance and snuggling into his side. He imagined Alec moving his arm from the chair to Magnus’ shoulder, pulling him closer to his side and kissing him lightly on the head, all the while continuing his conversation with Jace.

It was easy to pretend that Alec might feel the same, might want the same things as Magnus.

A few drinks later everyone was loose and happy. Their conversation had switched from old stories to things like sports, jobs and who really was the prettiest of the Kardashian’s. Magnus was usually all for a good Kardashian debate (Kendall was obviously the prettiest) but he just sat back and listened, observing silently.

Alec, who seemed to have no interest in the topic of pointless celebrities either, leaned down and whispered in his ear. “Want to take a walk?” Magnus nodded gratefully and the two of them slipped away quietly without much notice from the others.

Magnus grabbed a bottle of champagne and two glasses from one of the tables, then led them through the crowd to a balcony he and Clary had seen earlier in the day when they were decorating. It was at the back of the building and looked out over the Hudson. The lights in the distance danced off the water, the sun long since setting.

Luke and Alaric had decorated the balcony with a string of fairy lights, their soft glow wrapped around the banister. The night was cool, air chilling them both as they stepped outside.

Magnus poured them each a glass of champagne, clinking his glass against Alec’s.

They stood in comfortable silence, looking at the view. This was one of Magnus’ favourite things about spending time with Alec; sometimes they would talk for hour and hours without ever running out of things to say, or they could just stay in each others presence, peaceful silence falling between them.

“It’s a beautiful gallery.” Alec murmured, breaking the calm. He was standing beside Magnus and looking out towards the water. “Jocelyn is really talented.”

“I’ll be sure to let her know. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen her around all night.” This wasn’t uncommon for big events like this. She often made the rounds with Luke, talking with friends and potential customers and Clary and Magnus wouldn’t see her until they got home at the end of the night.

Silence encompassed them again. A peaceful quiet had settled around them like a bubble, the noise from the party a distant hum. The only sound Magnus could hear was the soft in and out of Alec’s breathing, mixed with his own. The other man still had his eyes trained on the horizon, but Magnus could see the muscles of his jaw working together.

“Hey -” He was interrupted asking Alec if he was alright by the balcony doors bursting open. They both turned around at the noise.

Two men stumbled out of the party, clearly having enjoyed the open bar a little too much. They were laughing loudly and slurring obnoxiously, clinging to each other for support. They stopped when they saw that they were not alone.

“Oh,” the shorter one slurred. “It looks like these two had the same idea as we did. Guess we’ll have to go somewhere else. Sorry fellas!” He tried to drag the taller man away but he was squinting at Alec and would not be moved.

“I know you.” He looked to the shorter man. “I know him.”

Alec looked at a loss. “I don’t think so man, sorry.”

The man didn’t want to accept this, shrugging off his companion and moving closer to Alec. Magnus felt a strong urge to step in front of Alec, and an even stronger one to wrap his arm around his waist possessively.

“No, I’m sure I know you. I -” He stopped, confusion finally clearing up. “I remember! That night in Pandemonium.” Alec paled slightly and he swallowed visibly.

“I - uh …”

Alec fought for words but the man just continued on as if he hadn’t spoken. “Yeah. I don’t know how I could ever forget you, pretty boy. Not after the night we had. You were dancing all over me like you life depended on it. I especially couldn’t forget you, not with that tight little -”

The man never got to finish his sentence because one second he was talking and the next he was on the ground, having been put there by Magnus’ fist.

The other man he came with looked between his friend on the ground and Magnus. “Anything else to add?” Magnus gritted out. He shook his head and retreated quickly back inside.

Alec was staring at the man on the ground, his eyes wide in shock. Magnus’ hand was aching with pain, but he pushed the thought from his head and moved towards Alec. “Alexander. Darling, are you ok?”

Alec dragged his eyes from the unconscious man on the ground to Magnus’ face. “You - you just punched him. In the face.” He paused. “Why?”

“Why did I punch him?” He asked, incredulous. “Well, I couldn’t just let him talk about you like that, now could I?”

Magnus could visibly see Alec’s walls coming down. He saw for the first time, that Alec was genuinely shocked that someone had stood up for him. Someone had protected him. It broke Magnus’ heart. Alec spent so much time taking care of others that he hadn’t much experienced the feeling himself.

Magnus took a gentle step forward, cautiously so as not to spook Alec. His eyes were still opened wide and he resembled a deer in the headlights of a car. “Alexander, he shouldn’t have said those things about you.”

Alec looked down to his shoes. “Even if they’re true?” His voice was small and embarrassed. Magnus wanted nothing more than to pull him into an embrace and keep him there until he realized how loved he was.

Instead he reached out and laced his fingers (the ones that weren’t hurt) through Alec’s. “Even if they’re true.” He said, making sure his voice conveyed how much he meant those words.

Alec nodded, but still wouldn’t meet Magnus’ eyes.

Suddenly he reached out for Magnus’ other hand. His fingers were red and already showing signs of swelling. Alec took the hand gently and examined it closely, running his fingers over the inflamed area to see how bad Magnus was hurt. “We need to get some ice on this and wrap it. I think you might have a broken finger.” His voice was quiet but far more assured than it had been a few minutes ago.

“I’ll be okay, it’s probably just going to bruise.” Magnus said, waving him off. He tried to pull his hand away but Alec held on tight.

“Magnus you literally could not do your job without your hands, and I’ll be damned if you lose your career because of me.” His voice held no room for argument. He raised his eyebrows, probably expecting some sort of retort from Magnus but there was none.

To be honest, the idea of Alec tending to him and continuing to run his fingers gently over Magnus’ was an appealing one that he very selfishly didn’t want to pass up.

They stepped over the unconscious man and made their way through the crowd and over to the table of their friends. Alec bent down to whisper in Jace’s ear quickly. Jace’s eyes flicked up to look at Magnus and he nodded once, small smile on his face. Magnus winked.

They said their goodbye’s quickly. Magnus told Clary he would call her in the morning and to tell their parents he said goodbye.

Alec called them a car and grabbed their coats from the coat check. His face was determined and he spoke gently to Magnus but didn’t say much. Magnus told him he needn’t be ashamed, but Alec brushed him off and said he was fine so he left it.

They stepped out of the venue. The street was much quieter than when Magnus has entered earlier. The paparazzi had cleared out whether from the cold or the lack of photographable opportunities.

The car Alec had called was idling at the curb and Alec held the door open as Magnus slid in. He sat beside him and told the driver the address of his own apartment.

Magnus had no objections.

Alec was stoic and silent beside him, face turned towards the window. Magnus wanted to comfort him but he had no idea how. How would a friend comfort another friend who had just had one of their creepy one night stands recognize them? Magnus had no clue so he settled for resting his good hand on Alec’s knee.

They rode the entire drive in silence. Magnus was left to his own thoughts. He tried not to think about it but couldn’t stop himself from thinking of the creep running his hands all over Alec. The way he was talking about Alec made it very clear what had happened between the two of them. The thought made bile rise in the back of his throat.

He pushed down the irrational jealousy he felt. It wasn’t fair that he was jealous of this man, especially when his words had hurt Alec the way that they did. Magnus knew Alec well enough by now to know that what the man had said had affected him.

He wondered if Alec had the driver bring them to his own apartment not just to take care of Magnus, he could have done that at Magnus’ loft, but so he wouldn’t have to be alone tonight. So he would have someone there with him.

The car pulled up in front of Alec’s building and Alec handed the man a stack of bills, a stack that was much too large for the length of the trip. Magnus didn’t question him though, and let himself be led into the building.

Alec had said maybe ten words since they had left the show and Magnus was starting to get concerned. He knew he shouldn’t push Alec on the subject since he was clearly uncomfortable but he didn’t want him to feel like he couldn’t talk about it.

As Alec unlocked the door, Magnus decided that while Alec was getting the supplies to clean up his hand he would make a pot of herbal tea and try and talk about it with Alec. Maybe he would want to talk if he was focused on another task, such as bandaging up Magnus.

The door swung open and Alec stepped through the threshold first. Magnus followed, but bumped into Alec’s back. The other man had taken two steps and stopped in the middle of the doorway.

“Alexander, not that I don’t enjoy bumping into you from behind but you need to actually take some more steps if we want to enter the apartment.” Magnus joked, peering around Alec’s shoulder to look up at his face.

Alec didn’t seem to have heard him though, his eyes trained on a point inside his apartment. Magnus followed his gaze and saw that it wasn’t a point Alec was looking at, but a person.

Alec’s next word came out croaked, but full of emotion.

“Max?”

 

***

Chapter Text

“Max?”

Alec heard the name leave his mouth, the raw emotion behind the single syllable. Honestly, he was surprised he was even able to form any words at all.

He had opened the door fully and almost fell over when he saw who was in his living room. Standing in the middle of the apartment with a big smile on his face was Alec’s littlest brother, Max Lightwood.

Though Alec guessed he couldn’t really call Max little anymore for how much he had grown.

“Hey, big bro.” Max grinned. Alec could see he was nervous, the way he shifted from foot to foot and had his hands deep in his pockets (traits, Alec noticed, very similar to his own nervous ticks). His smile was genuine though, all teeth and bright eyes.

He was older but Alec could recognize him anywhere. He had Alec’s same dark hair, shaggy and unruly though his was curlier. He still wore glasses and they slipped down his nose often causing him to push them back up. Max had grown into his body, his once lanky arms now more filled out and defined but at 16 he still had some growing left to do. He was tall too, just a head shorter than Alec.

Alec dropped his jacket and walked quickly towards his little brother and pulled him into a tight hug. He tried to control his emotions but felt a few tears slip through and down his cheeks. The last time he had seen Max, he was 18 years old and packing his things; preparing to leave his parents’ house for the last time. His father had told him that Max, nine at the time, was too young to be “subjected to Alec’s disparate lifestyle” and had forbid Alec from saying goodbye.

Alec had taken it hard. Really hard. He and Max weren’t the closest before Alec left home, but he was still his little brother and Alec loved him more than anything. He had tried calling the house in his first year away, hoping that maybe his parents would be lenient and at least let him speak to Max on the phone, but each time he got the same answer; “Maxwell doesn’t want to speak with you, Alexander.”

On his darkest days Alec sometimes regretted ever coming out to his parents if it meant he didn’t get to be in contact with his brother.

But here Max was, grown up and standing in the middle of Alec’s living room with the biggest smile on his face. Alec knew instantly that his parents had been lying to him, and that they had been keeping Max from him the entire time.

Max hugged Alec back just as tight as Alec was hugging him. He pulled himself together and stepped back, holding Max at arms length. “What are you doing here?”

He heard the slight quiver in his voice and knew Max did too, for he gripped Alec just a little bit tighter.

“What? Not happy to see me?” Max said slyly, which made Alec immediately think of Jace. Max had always idolized Jace. He used to follow Jace around the house, asking him questions and hanging out with him, so it made sense that Max would grow up to adopt some of Jace’s mannerisms. Alec rolled his eyes fondly.

“Obviously I’m happy to see you!” Max sniggered and Alec smacked him lightly over the head. “You’re too young to be making dirty jokes.” He said dryly. Max smiled apologetically.

At the mention of dirty jokes Alex turned around. Magnus was still in the doorway, his injured hand cradled close to his chest and for the first time since Alec had met him, he looked awkward.

Max followed his gaze and settled on Magnus, slow smirk growing on his features. “Well, if I had known you were bringing company home I would have called first.”

Alec cleared his throat, sending an apologetic glance to Magnus. “Magnus, this is my little brother. Max, this is my friend Magnus.” He ignored the sour taste the word ‘friend’ left in his mouth.

Magnus appeared at a loss for words. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Max. I - I should probably go though.”

To Alec’s surprise, Max answered before he could. “Nonsense! I haven't seen my brother in nine years and I can’t trust him to tell me all the juicy bits of his life.”

Alec laughed and shook his head and Magnus chuckled. He was still in shock that Max was here, in his apartment. His brother had grown up in the years Alec had missed but part of him was still the same.

“I really don’t want to intrude. You two have lots to catch up on.” Magnus responded, sending a small smile to Alec. He turned to the door but Alec caught his elbow, gently holding him in place.

Alec tenderly pulled his hurt hand closer, inspecting the damage. The swelling had made his fist almost twice its normal size and dark purple bruises had spread across his knuckles. “Let me wrap this up before you go. It’s the least I could do after you defended my honour so bravely.” He made sure to send a small grin down to Magnus to let him know that it was okay for him to stay.

Max perked up from where he had moved to sit on the couch. “You got that from defending Alec?” He asked, gesturing to Magnus’ bruised knuckles. “Now you really need to stay, Magnus. I want to hear this story.”

Magnus sighed in defeat. “I don’t know what it is about you Lightwoods, but all of you have this magical power over me, thwarting my ability to say no.” He moved over to the couch and sat down beside Max, unbuttoning his suit jacket and sliding it off. He was in the process of rolling up his shirt sleeves when Alec excused himself to get the first aid kit. He didn’t need to be getting worked up about Magnus’ forearms with his little brother in the room.

When Alec was in the quiet of the bathroom the reality of the night's events came back to him.

Before the shock of seeing Max, Alec had been worrying about the confrontation on the balcony. The situation with his one night stand hadn’t really affected him, more that it had happened in front of Magnus. Alec could care less that that man had said those things about him. Sure, they were crude and offensive but he was used to hearing those type of things from bigots and homophobes and had learned to let them roll right off of his back for the most part.

No, what really bugged Alec about the whole thing was that he had said those things in front of Magnus. Up until this point Alec had been able to keep the shameful part of his life out of view from the other man. He trusted Magnus and knew him well enough by now that he wouldn’t judge Alec, but it was hard opening up about those parts of yourself that you weren’t proud of. And having those parts of you forcefully outed was even harder.

But Magnus had defended Alec, and as much as he hated that Magnus had gotten hurt in the process, he couldn’t help feel pride that the other man cared enough about him that he would punch a random stranger who was saying bad things about Alec.

Alec grabbed the first aid kit from under the counter and brought it out into the living room. Max and Magnus were laughing together at something, both of them wearing matching grins.

Magnus looked up at Alec. “Alexander, your brother is quite the delight. He’s officially entered the race for my favourite Lightwood.”

Max raised his eyebrows and mouthed ‘Alexander?’ at Alec when Magnus wasn’t looking. Alec shot him a stern look.

“Max you have tough competition. Last I checked, Isabelle was leading because she took Magnus shopping.” Alec said. He sat on the coffee table across from Magnus and took out the supplies he needed.

Magnus reached his arm out and placed it in Alec’s lap. Alec wet a piece of gauze with alcohol and dabbed lightly, focusing as he worked on cleaning the cut. “Oh, that’s right. Jace hasn’t really stepped up to the plate yet, but don’t underestimate your brother here. Alexander has been slowly creeping up on Isabelle’s lead.” Magnus said teasingly, winking at Alec.

“Give me a little time and you’ll very quickly see who the most superior Lightwood is.” Max grinned cockily, leaning back on the cushions.

Alec laughed but focused on the work in front of him. He wrapped the ice pack in a towel and gently placed it on the abused skin. Magnus winced. “Sorry. This should help the swelling go down before we wrap it.”

Magnus waved his good hand. “It’s alright. A little pain is a fair trade for seeing that creep on the ground.”

Alec smiled, warm feeling filling him once again. Hearing Magnus talk about knocking someone out shouldn’t do that to him, but he couldn’t stop the surge of pleasure it gave him.

Also, Alec would never admit this to anyone, but seeing Magnus knock that guy to the ground was kind of hot.

“Someone tell me this story. I’m intrigued.” Max said, looking between the two of them.

Alec gestured to Magnus to take the lead. Magnus had a flair for the dramatics and Alec knew he would probably enjoy telling the story far more than he himself would.

True Magnus fashion, he drew the story out and made it sound a lot more exciting than it actually was. He told Max that they had been on the balcony talking when they were suddenly bombarded by four huge drunk men with bulging muscles. The men had taken an interest in Alec and were giving him unwanted attention, so Magnus, the hero that he was, knocked them all to the ground. Alec, ever the damsel in distress, had thanked Magnus by giving him his handkerchief and they rode off into the night in the yellow taxi cab.

He added in dialogue and animated all the voices and Max was in fits by the end of it, clutching his stomach and gasping for air. Alec was glad Magnus had left out the part about what the man had said, instead flipping the attention from Alec to himself.

Alec adjusted the ice pack and Magnus met his eyes. Alec gave him a small, grateful smile.

He finished wrapping Magnus’ hand and made sure the dressings were tight enough that he wouldn’t be able to move it too much and further the damage.

Magnus admired his handiwork. “I’m starting to think there is nothing you can’t do, Alexander. Don’t tell me you have a doctorate as well.”

Alec grinned. “Just a PhD. I was bored. I’m also a board certified lawyer but I don’t practice anymore.”

“Well that’s easy, anyone can do that.”

“I went to space once, just a routine trip to Mars.”

“Been there, done that.”

“Can’t forget about the time I played Major League Baseball. That was a good couple of years.”

“Ah, neanderthals in tight pants? Hardly impressive.”

“They asked me to be President a few years back, but I was too busy so I gave it to Obama.”

Magnus shook his head, smile on his face. “You never cease to amaze me, Alexander.”

Max’s eyes traveled between the two of them as they bantered back and forth. He had a knowing smile on his face.

Magnus looked down at his watch. “Well gentlemen, as fun as this night has been you two have some catching up to do and I should probably stop by and congratulate my stepmother before heading home.”

Alec got up from the couch. “I’ll walk you out.” He glanced to Max. “I’ll be right back, okay?” Max gave him a thumbs up (and a wink when Magnus’ back was turned). Alec ruffled his hair as he walked by.

He walked Magnus to the hallway, closing the door slightly behind him. “Thanks for, you know - not telling Max the whole truth tonight. And for being so good with him. I should have mentioned him before it’s just -” He paused. “It was hard for me to talk about him.”

Magnus placed a hand on his bicep and squeezed. “You don’t have to apologize for not telling me. You can tell me the whole story when you’re ready, or never if you want. Whatever makes you comfortable.” He shrugged. “As for the story, that’s what I remember happening. A gorgeous and glittered White Knight saved the handsome damsel in distress.”

Alec pursed his lips together, trying in vain to stifle the smile threatening to split his face. It was amazing how one touch, one comment from Magnus could shift his entire mood. “Well, my White Knight, as a token of my gratitude please accept my beloved handkerchief to carry with you on your travels.” Alec said, fluttering his eyelashes and bowing at the waist. He placed the roll of extra gauze into Magnus’ open palm.

Magnus laughed, but took the gauze. “I shall keep this with me for all of my battles, fair master. Or,” he shrugged “At least until my hand heals.”

They stood in the hallway, grinning at each other until Alec remembered Max inside.

Right. His long-lost brother he hadn’t seen in years was in his apartment and he was out here flirting with Magnus.

“I should get back in there.” He said, pointing to the closed door behind him.

“Of course, I didn’t mean to keep you from your brother. Go catch up, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Alec smiled. “Tomorrow, yeah.” Magnus stood for a moment before turning to leave. “Magnus, wait!” He turned and Alec only paused for a moment before took a few steps towards Magnus, until they were just separated by a few inches. Alec wrapped his arms around Magnus, pulling him into a tight hug.

Magnus froze and Alec wondered if he had gone too far, but then Magnus’ arms were wrapping around him and pulling him close.

Magnus’ embrace was warm and Alec immediately felt safe in his arms. Hugging Magnus made his troubles seem less troubling as if by just holding him, he was shielding Alec from the harshness of the world.

“Thank you for inviting me tonight.” Alec said softly into his shoulder. “And for, you know, defending my honour and all that.”

He felt Magnus’ laugh, chest rumbling against his own. “Anytime, Alexander.”

Alec pulled away reluctantly. His body was immediately colder and he wanted to pull Magnus into his chest again.

Or better yet, pull him in for a different reason.

He felt the heat rise on his cheeks, probably from being so close to Magnus and knew the other man could see it to. He willed it away.

Magnus nodded towards the door behind Alec. “Now go see your little brother. He must have a reason for showing up unannounced in the middle of the night and I bet he’s dying to tell you.”

“Goodnight Magnus.”

“Goodnight Alexander.”

Alec closed the door behind him and leaned back against it, taking a moment to breathe. He still felt Magnus’ scent surrounding him, filling his nostrils and clouding his thoughts. He could still feel the press of his chest against his own, the strength of his arms as they pressed against Alec’s back.

God, he was in way too deep.

Once he was sure his face had returned to its normal colour and his heart stopped hammering in his chest, he returned to the living room where Max was sitting right where he left him.

He looked up as Alec approached. Alec could see all over his face that he wanted to say something, but he kept his mouth shut, respecting Alec’s privacy. Alec forgot just how intuitive his little brother was, but also how fiercely loyal.

“So, Max.” Alec said, sitting beside him on the couch.

“So, Alec.” Max deadpanned, rolling his eyes fondly.

“Do mom and dad know you’re here?” The smile dropped from Max’s face and he looked down at the carpet awkwardly, scuffing his shoes together. Alec sighed, knowing there would be a story to go along with that look “What happened? Are you okay?”

Max went into detail in describing the events that had led him here.

He started with right after Alec had moved out all those years ago. Maryse and Robert had told him that Isabelle, Jace and Alec had moved away on their own accord and had wanted nothing to do with the family, including Max. They had told their youngest son that his siblings never wanted to see him again and just wanted to a be a family on their own. Max told Alec that he had been hurt, obviously, but part of him never really believed it. Part of him always knew that his siblings still loved him and must have left for another reason.

But he had gone along with it, keeping quiet and doing everything his parents wanted. He told Alec he knew that if they had lied it would come out eventually, and if he waited long enough he might be able to figure it out. Alec smiled, despite the rage he felt towards his parents. Max had somehow turned out nothing like either of his parents; honest, loyal and incredibly intelligent.

They treated him kindly as he grew up, he told Alec. They bought him everything he wanted and spoiled him rotten. Max said that he always assumed they did that to make sure he felt wanted by them since he wasn’t by his brothers and sister but now he understood they only did it because they felt guilty for losing their other children and couldn’t risk losing Max as well.

Alec’s heart broke listening to his brother talk, wanting nothing more than to hold Max and assure him that all three of them thought about him every day, but never could bring themselves to talk about it because not having him in their lives was too painful. How every year on his birthday they got together for dinner, memorializing him as if he were gone forever.

To them though, he had been gone forever.

But he didn’t interrupt Max, instead resting a comforting hand on his knee as he continued to talk.

Max told him how he had been starting to lose hope. How it had been nine years and he had seen no slip ups or gotten no information that would lead him to believe they had lied.

But just last week he had been looking for something in Robert’s study when he found a file folder with Alec’s name on it, open on the desk but covered hastily with a pile of paper. There were two folders below Alec’s: one for Jace and the other for Isabelle. Max had taken the files to his room to read but realized very quickly what they were and had stopped immediately.

It turned out, Maryse and Robert had hired a private investigator to track all three of their moves over the past years and had intimate details on their personal and private lives.

“They have what?” Alec croaked out. His mind was racing, trying to keep up with everything Max was saying.

Max reached into his backpack and pulled them out. They were thick green folders, each full with a stack of papers. “I didn’t read them. I know a little about personal investigators and know they can get a little … deep with their research.” Max said quietly, handing the folders to Alec.

He placed Izzy and Jace’s on the table, setting his own on his lap. He could only imagine the things that were in this folder. Alec wasn’t a bad person, but he had done things in his past that he was ashamed of and didn’t want anyone to know. Especially his parents.

He opened the file and glanced at the first page. Sure enough, there was his picture. The shot was taken probably about a year ago. It was of Alec walking down the street, phone to his ear. He recognized the street as he walked it once a week on the way to meet his siblings for lunch. It was the street that Taki’s was located on.

Stomach turning, he flipped through the next few pages quickly. There were more pictures, some handwritten notes on his whereabouts, others bank statements and receipts. Most of the things he saw were fine and nothing really of importance, just Alec getting coffee or making big purchases like the bow and arrow set he had gotten two years ago.

There were other things as he got further down though, that were more private. Internet search history, pictures of Alec leaving bars and friends’ apartments and even one of him, Jace and Isabelle inside of a club.

He shut the folder, feeling violated and exposed.

Not only did his parents know of his whereabouts, they knew everything about him.

Everything.

The thought sat like a dead weight in his stomach and he quickly opened the folder again, flipping through the pages frantically hoping not to see what he was looking for.

He was about halfway through when he found it. It was a newspaper clipping of an ad; an ad for Memories, a harsh red circle around it. Below that was a print out of an online article, praising Gideon for his most recent work. Below that, the New York Times Bestsellers list, Gideon Archer circled again in red.

On and on it went, articles, newspapers and more, each with something to do with Gideon and his work. Alec’s heart was racing but he couldn’t stop. He kept flipping, reading page, after page, after page. He knew what it meant, them being here in his file, but he hoped he was wrong. Hoped that maybe they just thought he was obsessed with Gideon.

He got near the bottom of the stack and that theory was wiped directly from his mind. Right at the bottom was just a single page, but that one page proved to Alec that his parents really did know everything.

It was the first page he had ever written for Shadows. It was written on the back of a menu from a diner near campus that he and Simon used to visit frequently. On the back was notes Alec had written, a few sentences jotted down here and there and then a bunch of bullet points outlining the frame of the story. At the top of the page were the words Shadows: By Alec G. Lightwood underlined in blue pen.

He remembered writing this. He remembered bringing it home and using it to type out the first bit of his novel. He also remembered one day looking for it on his desk and not being able to find it, chalking it up to being thrown into the pile of scattered papers somewhere on his desk. He told himself he would look for it, Simon had said he should save it in case he got famous one day, because then he could sell it on eBay and make a ton of money. Alec had laughed and told Simon if he were that famous he was probably already rich and didn’t need the money.

“Alec! Alec, hey look at me!” Max’s voice was suddenly in his ear, distant as if he was at the end of a tunnel. Alec could feel his hands shaking, could feel the shallowness of his breath and the cold sweat dripping down his neck.

He felt the panic like a vice, gripping every muscle in his body and keeping him immobile. Trapped. Black spots danced across his vision and Alec knew he was close to passing out.

He spared a thought for Max, poor little Max who was probably worried sick right now. Alec should be comforting him, but instead he was trapped, unable to move.

And then everything went black.

 

***

 

Alec awoke the next morning to hushed whispers coming from his kitchen and the biggest headache he had ever had in his life.

Groaning, he rolled over and sat up. On his nightstand was a glass of water and two aspirins which he swallowed gratefully. He muscles ached as he moved, a result no doubt of being clenched so tightly the night before.

Alec had had panic attacks before, but not one that bad in a long time. He was used to the quickened heartbeat, cold sweats and fear that usually came along with them, but the passing out was something he had only ever experienced once before.

He sighed and grabbed a clean t-shirt and pair of trackpants from the floor, sliding them on quickly. He paused with his hand on the door. He knew exactly what would be waiting for him on the other side.

Either Isabelle or Jace would be making breakfast, while the other one sat on the counter or at the bar. They would be talking in low, worried, whispers that would end abruptly when he walked in the room. Both of them would dote on him and make sure he was okay.

He knew this because this is what always happened when Alec had a bad night - either a drunken one or an emotional one. It was the same thing he did with them when they had a bad night as well. When you have a small support system you have to look out for eachother.

Slowly, Alec turned the knob and opened the door. He walked in the kitchen to find his predictions mostly correct. Jace was flipping pancakes at the stove, Isabelle was sitting on the counter beside him, booted heels lightly bumping against the cabinets below her.

The one change was that Max was sitting at the breakfast bar, cup of coffee in hand, hair mussed from sleep.

They all looked up when they heard him approach.

Isabelle jumped off the counter. “Morning.” She came up and kissed him lightly on the cheek, pulling him into a short, but tight, hug. Alec hugged her back.

Jace looked up from his spot at the stove and gave Alec a warm smile. “Morning buddy.” Alec returned the smile and nodded.

“So I see you two have discovered the squatter I found in my apartment last night.” Alec joked, sitting beside Max at the bar. Another Lightwood morning-after tradition was that the night before wasn’t to be talked about unless the one who had the bad night brought it up. It was a sacred rule that they all followed, no matter what.

Isabelle nodded and placed a cup of coffee in front of Alec. “I’ll admit I was quite surprised last night when I picked up the phone and it was Max instead of you.” She grinned, ruffling Max’s hair affectionately. He pushed her off with a laugh.

Jace grinned, bringing a plate of pancakes to the table. “I’m more surprised by how big he is. You almost look like a man now, Maxie boy.” Max showed Jace just how grown up he was by showing him his finger. “Look at that! Crude gestures and everything. I’m so proud.”

They all laughed and sat around the table. It was the first time that the Lightwood children had all been in one room in nine years, so one might expect some awkwardness but Max fit right in with the three of them as if he had been there all along.

Alec saw a lot of Jace in him, especially when they were sitting right next to each other. But he saw a lot of Isabelle too, and even a flicker of himself. Max had grown into a strong, confident and hilarious young man. He was quick-witted, intelligent and had a flair for the dramatics.

“So, what has everyone been up to for the past nine years?” Max asked casually, around a bite of pancake.

Isabelle went first. She told Max how she had gone to school and done her masters in bioengineering before switching professions and becoming a photographer. Max apparently also had an interest in engineering which made Isabelle positively light up, probably grateful she had someone she had someone to talk science with, finally. She told him how now she worked for Vogue.

“Have you met any celebrities?” Max asked, mouth open.

Isabelle shrugged. “A few, yeah. I mostly shoot models and clothing but when we have a celebrity for the cover I’m usually the one to shoot that.” Max’s eyes bugged and he asked her more questions excitedly.

Jace told Max about his business as well, and his travels. Max was intrigued that Jace had actually developed his own form of exercise.

“Wait, like you created it? Like, it’s yours? Did you patent it?” Jace nodded. “That’s so cool!” Max insisted he wanted to come to one of Jace’s classes and try it out.

Alec shook his head. “I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you want to be sore for the rest of your life.” He grabbed at his back and winced in mock pain.

Jace rolled his eyes. “Well if you’re only exercise is getting up from the computer chair to grab coffee, you’re bound to be in some pain after.” He replied sarcastically, grinning playfully at Alec.

Alec slapped him on the back of the head to which Jace responded to with a slap of his own. It quickly escalated into who could hit the other the hardest from across the table, both of them laughing and trying not to knock anything over in the process.

“Now now children, don’t fight.” Isabelle chided, taking a sip of her coffee. The boys sat back down, faces red from exertion but with big smiles nonetheless.

Max looked to Alec. “What have you been up to? Besides getting a new boyfriend of course.” Isabelle and Jace shared a look from across the table.

Alec took a sip of coffee. “One, I don’t have a boyfriend. Two, I went to school and got a degree in English and Literature.” Max looked on, expectantly. Alec met Isabelle’s eyes from across the table. She smiled at him encouragingly. “And uh, I started writing. Like, books.”

Max raised his eyebrows. “You wrote a book?”

Alec nodded. “I’ve written six, actually.”

Max’s eyes were wide. He looked to Jace and Isabelle, who just nodded in confirmation. “That’s great Alec! Really, it’s awesome. I’d love to read them. But where do you work?”

Alec swallowed another sip of coffee. “Well you’re currently sitting in my office right now.” Max looked around, clearly confused. “I published my books and they’ve done well, which is awesome because then I can afford not to have a real job and work from home in my pajamas.” Alec grinned, trying to hide his nerves.

It had been a long time since he had told someone his secret. Simon knew right from the start of course, but he didn’t tell Isabelle and Jace until after his first novel was published. He wanted something to show for his work, not just a bunch of words on a document on his computer.

So, he had brought them a hard copy of his book. They too, had been confused but once Alec explained the whole situation to them they had been ecstatic.

He had never told anyone else besides them, and telling Max was a lot scarier than he imagined.

Max looked at him for a moment, eyes squinted behind his glasses before he pulled out his phone and started typing. Alec glanced at his other siblings who just shrugged. Max looked up a few moments later, hurt look on his face.

“Alec, if you don’t want to tell me what you do that’s fine. But don’t lie to me.” He turned his screen to face Alec. Opened was a search query, ‘Alec Lightwood’ typed into the search bar. There weren’t many results, his social media pages Jace had created for him that he never used and an article about his lacrosse team from high school.

Alec held his hand out for the phone. Max, still looking betrayed, handed it over silently. Alec swiftly typed in the name of his alias before handing the device back to Max.

It took him a moment. He scrolled through the pages and pages of hits quietly, eyebrows drawn together. Suddenly his eyes opened wide and his mouth dropped open.

“Alec. You’re shitting me.”

Alec grinned nervously.

“You’re not serious. You’re Gideon Archer?!” Alec didn’t have time to respond before Max was peppering him with questions.

“How did it all start? Are you famous? Well, I guess people wouldn’t recognize you but you’re famous anyway. Holy shit, that means you’re loaded right? How have you kept this a secret for so long? My big brother is literally a bestselling author and I had no idea.” On and on he went and Alec couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Max!” He said, laughing. “I will answer all your questions, I promise. Just not at rapid fire.” Max shut his mouth quickly, apologizing.

Jace turned to Isabelle and sighed dramatically. “I think we’ve been overshadowed, Iz. Our big brother has taken the limelight.”

Max sniggered. “Oh, you’ve definitely been overshadowed.” Alec clapped his hand over his mouth, caught off guard by Max’s joke. Jace too, couldn’t keep up the jealous facade and laughed.

The four of them burst out into laughter. As soon as they would try and calm down someone would break and then they would all be set off again. By the end of it they all had tears streaming down their faces. Alec couldn’t remember the last time he laughed so hard.

They picked all of the dishes up and brought them to the kitchen. Isabelle and Jace offered to do the dishes while Max and Alec went to the living room.

As promised, Alec answered all of his questions. He told Max how it all started and how he had enlisted his friend Simon for help right away.

He told him about how the alias was formed. How he had spent days trying to come up with the perfect name and how one day Simon had seen an old trophy in his room from an archery contest in high school. ‘Archer should be the last name’, he had said, ‘It sounds mysterious but not like an alias’. They had been playing video games later that week when Alec had suddenly paused the game and turned to Simon. ‘What about Gideon?’ Simon had agreed on the spot, saying it was the perfect stage name.

And so Gideon Archer was born.

Alec told Max about how he hadn’t expected the success. How he had almost passed out on the spot when he saw that he had made it on the New York Times bestsellers list in just three weeks. How after every book release, his name got bigger and bigger, something he still didn’t really know how to comprehend.

He told Max about Simon. How he was the entire reason Alec’s career existed in the first place. How Simon had given up the chance to work for a real editing company, instead investing all of his time into Alec and his work.

Max listened to it all with rapt attention. He would ask questions and Alec would answer them all as honestly as he could. When Jace and Isabelle finished cleaning up breakfast they joined them and answered some of Max’s questions as well.

“You two knew the whole time?”

Jace nodded. “Pretty much. Alec told us after he released his first book. But we don’t get any special privileges, we have to wait until the books are released to read them just like everyone else.” He shot a look at Alec who just shrugged.

“And you’re just totally casual with having a brother who’s work is literally being read all around the world?” Max asked, looking between the two of them disbelievingly.

Isabelle nodded. “I remember going through exactly what I’m sure you’re going through right now. Gideon’s changed things sure, but he hasn’t changed Alec. He still the same person who writes for hours on end every day for a few months on his laptop, and doesn’t shower nearly as much as he should. Except now the end result is a world-famous novel and we go out and celebrate. It’s his job.” She winked at Alec.

Max seemed to be wrapping his mind around it a little more, but still had tons of questions. Between the three of them they got most of them answered. When Max had run out of questions, the topic shifted to all that they had missed in their time apart. They went around the room sharing stories, filling each other in on parts of their lives.

Alec hadn’t realized just how much he had missed his little brother. He had always missed him terribly sure, but actually having Max in the same room with him made him realize that the three of them had never really been whole without Max. They couldn’t be the Lightwoods without him.

They talked for hours. They went through two pots of coffee and Alec’s stomach hurt from laughing so hard by the end of the afternoon.

It was just past 3pm when Isabelle looked at her watch. “Crap. I have to go. I promised Simon I would meet him half an hour ago.” Jace and Alec smirked. “Shut up, you two.”

She gave the three of them each a kiss on the forehead before grabbing her purse and hurrying out the door, with promises to meet at Taki’s later in the week.

Alec left Jace and Max in the living room and went to his room to find his phone. He found it on his nightstand, plugged in no doubt by Isabelle the night before.

He had two missed calls and a handful of text messages from Simon and a single text from Magnus. He checked Simon’s first. The messages were filled with many exclamation marks and emoticons, telling Alec that he and Isabelle had finally worked things out.

Alec chuckled and sent him a message back, offering his congratulations. He sent him another message saying Isabelle had just left and gave him a brief overview of why she was late, and that he would call him later in the evening to tell him the rest.

He opened Magnus’ next.

Good afternoon, damsel in distress. I’m heading out to Toronto this afternoon, but I hope that everything went well last night with Max.

Alec contemplated texting back, but decided to call him instead.

Magnus picked up almost immediately.

“Well hello stranger.”

Alec grinned. “Hey.”

“I was starting to wonder if a serial killer had disguised himself as your little brother and murdered you in the night.”

“Not a serial killer. Just a sixteen year old with a list of questions about what I’ve been up to for the last decade. Sorry for not getting back to your message sooner. Are you at the airport?”

Magnus made an affirmative noise. “Yeah. Lydia and I are just waiting in the terminal. I forgot how uncomfortable these seats are.”

Alec kept the phone to his ear but lay back on the bed. He could picture Magnus sitting in the tiny plastic waiting chairs at the airport. He probably stood out against the business travelers, his bright and vibrant style a stark contrast to their dull black and grey tones. “Yeah, they’re pretty horrible. How’s the hand this morning?”

Magnus laughed. “Sore, but the swelling has gone down considerably thanks to the handsome first responder I had patch it up last night.” Alec grinned. “I told Lydia I hurt it punching a lion in the face, but she doesn’t seem to believe me.”

Alec heard a distinctly female voice mutter something on the other end of the line. Magnus laughed at whatever she said, soft and tinkling, before responding back with something Alec couldn’t hear.

“Punching a lion? I’m disappointed Magnus. Surely you could have come up with something more creative than that.” Alec teased.

Magnus chuckled. “Well, I wanted it to be believably, Alexander.” He replied sarcastically.

Alec hummed. “Right, because it’s everyday that one comes across a lion in the middle of New York City.”

Magnus tutted on the other end of the line. “You never know.” Alec heard a rustle and then the sound of a female voice announcing their flight. “I’m afraid I have to let you go, darling. They’re calling my plane.”

“Okay. Have a safe flight. Let me know when you land, yeah?”

“Of course.”

“Bye Magnus.”

“Goodbye Alexander.” Alec hung up on the phone and rest his hands on his stomach. He was staring at the ceiling, grinning like a teenage girl but he didn’t really care. He replayed the conversation in his head and his smile only grew. Magnus had a magical effect to him, where whatever he did or said made Alec’s insides turn to mush.

He got up from the bed and changed out of his pajamas and into real clothes before going back out into the living room. Jace and Max had set up the game console and were currently playing Mario Kart.

Jace was spewing curse words towards his little brother, who was beating him. Bad.

He left them to it and grabbed his laptop from the study. He might as well get some writing done. The first draft was close to being finished, just a few more chapters and then he would hand it off to Simon for editing.

He set himself up at the kitchen table and began to write.

 

***

 

Canada welcomed Magnus and Lydia with a snow storm.

Magnus was used to planes. He traveled on them all of the time for work and had no issues with them, usually. But the short plane ride from New York to Toronto was quite possibly the worst Magnus had ever been on in his life.

“I don’t know why anyone wants to live here.” He muttered as they waited in baggage claim for their luggage. “It’s all snow storms and people riding on polar bears to their igloos.”

Lydia rolled her eyes but he saw the hint of a smile on the corner of her mouth. “Now you’re just being stereotypical. Though I will admit, having their Fashion Week during the Canadian winter season was not the brightest idea.”

“Why couldn’t they have had it in the summer when all the beavers and moose are out? I’d much rather them than this horrid white snow.” Lydia ignored him, grabbing their bags from the carousel.

Their car was waiting for them as soon as they stepped out the doors and soon enough they were on their way to the hotel.

Magnus woke his phone up and turned it off airplane mode. While he waited for his signal to pick up and his messages to come through he glanced out the window.

Toronto was a pretty city, especially in the winter. The buildings were topped with snow and Christmas lights decorated every street. People hurried along the sidewalks, heads bent to avoid the cold, puffy winter jackets pulled high over their heads.

His phone lit up and he looked down. Alec had sent him two Snapchats and a text. He opened the Snapchat first.

The first one was of Max and Jace sitting on Alec’s couch. They were playing what looked to be Mario Kart. Max had his head thrown back in a laugh while Jace’s expression was more a quiet rage.

The second snap was a video, an animation of the first picture. Jace was swearing violently, clearly losing and Max was laughing victoriously, fist pumping in the air. Magnus could hear Alec chuckling in the background and saw the camera shake as he tried to hold it steady.

He smiled fondly at his phone. Clearly the Lightwoods getting reaquainted with their younger brother was going well. He sent Alec a picture of the commuters on the street, decorations above them and snow falling all around.

Magnus was just replying to Alec’s text (Did you land safely? Heard there was a storm.) when Lydia cleared her throat. “Hm?” He didn’t look up from his phone.

She sighed. “Magnus I’ve been trying to get your attention for two minutes now. You could at least pretend to listen to me when I’m talking to you.”

Magnus shut his phone off and put it in his pocket, turning to Lydia. “Sorry love. You have my full and undivided attention.”

Lydia went into detail about their itinerary for the week. They had a list of events they had to attend and then a list that they should make appearances at but weren’t strictly necessary. Lydia had created a schedule for them that fit in most everything they needed to get done, with very little time for relaxation. “We’re only here for five days so we need to make the most of them while we’re here.”

They had an event later tonight but since they landed early they would have time to relax and get ready for at least two hours before they needed to leave again.

The hotel they were staying at was high end. While Magnus could certainly afford a place like this it was nice to have a job that not only paid for your expenses, but also paid you to go on the trip.

As soon as they pulled up at the doors, two men came and retrieved their bags while another greeted them and led them inside. The inside of the hotel had an old Victorian feel to it, while still being modern and new. Everything inside was gold - the walls, the ceiling, the crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling and the lights on the wall. In the center of the room was an old English clock tower in the middle of a winding staircase that led down to the main level. The whole room gave off an air of elegance and class.

This was definitely Magnus’ type of place.

Lydia went to check them in at the concierge desk while Magnus looked around. The building had old architecture but had clearly been redone to make it the five-star hotel it was now. The ceiling was made of dark stained wooden beams, probably the original framework. Some of the furniture around the lobby also looked antique; old end tables, regal lamps and a wooden desk with a typewriter sat atop it.

“Sir, would you like me to bring your bags to your room?” Magnus turned around and was greeted by an older man. He was smiling kindly and gesturing to Magnus’ things.

“That would be great, thank you. I’ll be up in just a moment.”

The man took Magnus’ things and Lydia came by a moment later with their keys. “We have adjoining rooms but they lock in the middle. It was the best they could do at short notice besides us sharing a room.”

Magnus grinned. “What? You don’t fancy sharing a room with me for five days, Lydia?” He grinned, accepting his room key from her. They made their way over to the elevators.

She shot him a look. “Not that that would not be extremely enjoyable, but I think I’m good with my own room.”

Magnus smirked. “Lydia Branwell using sarcasm? Ladies and gentlemen this is one for the books.” She gave him a small smile, that was gone as soon as it appeared.

Their rooms were on the 15th floor with a view looking over the city. Magnus thought idly that they had said this was the best they could do on short notice, he wondered what they could do if they were actually trying their best.

Lydia stopped outside her door. “I’ll knock on your door in about an hour and a half. We should leave early in case there’s traffic.”

Magnus gave her a thumbs up and opened his door. The room was gorgeous and spacious. It was much more modern than the lobby downstairs. The walls were solid grey, with a black and grey carpeted floor and sky blue curtains. The furniture was all black, giving the room a sleek and modern feel to it.

His bags were stacked in a neat pile at the foot of the bed and Magnus made a mental note to track down the bellboy and tip him for his services before they left, and then he flopped face first onto the plush bed.

He hadn’t heard from Alec since they landed so he sent him a text asking him if he wanted to chat. While he was waiting for a reply, he went to the washroom and washed off his makeup, planning on doing it again for the event tonight anyway.

He heard the telltale trill of a Facetime call coming from the bedroom and picked it up, seeing Alec’s contact picture flash across the screen. He grabbed his makeup bag with one hand and answered the call with the other.

Alec’s smiling face appeared on the screen. He was lying on his bed, chin resting on his palm while the other held the phone away from his face. He was wearing a forest green sweater today, a colour that did wonders for his skin tone. “Hey Magnus.”

“Hi Alexander.” Magnus set the phone so it was propped against the wall of the vanity so he could use both hands to do his makeup.

“How’s Canada?”

Magnus shivered, for dramatic effect. “Freezing. I swear I got frostbite just walking from the car to the hotel.”

Alec laughed. “I’m sure you’re exaggerating just a little bit. Didn’t you buy one of those fancy coats before you left? The expensive one that is supposed to keep you warm?”

“It’s called Canada Goose, dear. And yes, but it’s packed in my bags because I didn’t think I’d need it as soon as I got off the plane.” Alec nodded in understanding. “How’s bonding going?”

Magnus listened to Alec talk about Max for the next little while. His entire face lit up when he talked about the day he had with his siblings. Magnus could see in the way that he talked he was lighter and happier, as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

He let Alec talk on while he started his makeup routine. He started with moisturizer, then primer, concealer and foundation. It was a little more difficult to do with his hurt hand but he made it work. He was just setting his face with invisible powder when he noticed Alec had stopped talking.

He glanced to the screen to find Alec watching him, mouth slightly agape. Magnus thought the video may have frozen but then the other man blinked. “See something you like?” Magnus joked, winking at Alec and hoping the slight flush on his cheeks didn’t show in the camera.

Alec coughed, looking away. “Sorry, just lost in thought. What was I saying?”

Magnus continued with his makeup, moving on to his eyes. He blended eyeshadow along his lids. He was going for more of a darker look tonight, so he decided on a black and grey smokey eye with silver glitter accents. “I believe you were telling me about Isabelle and Simon.”

“Right! I talked to Si today and apparently last night at the gallery he finally told Izzy how he felt! He wouldn’t tell me how he did it which makes me think it was something really embarrassing, but Iz told him she felt the same way. She was really happy this morning, so that’s all that really matters to me.”

Magnus smiled. From the way Isabelle talked about Simon it was easy to see how she felt about him and he was glad they had finally decided it was the right time to go for it and tell eachother how they feel.

“Our little Sherwin finally decided to be a man! I feel like a proud father.” Magnus said grinning, trying not to laugh too hard and mess up his eyeshadow.

“I said that exact same thing to Jace earlier and he thought it was weird.” Alex responded, laughing.

Magnus smiled. “Poor Samuel is just a wee boy and needs to be looked after. He’s lucky that we’ve taken him under our wing.”

Magnus told Alec all about the flight over, about the terrible turbulence and storms they flew through while he applied his eyeliner.

“How do you do that?” Alec asked when Magnus had finished talking.

Magnus shot him a confused look. “Do what?”

Alec gestured to his own eyes. “Do eyeliner while you’re talking. Izzy can do it in the car, which is ridiculous. I bet you can, too. Not to mention you’re only using one hand.”

Alec had genuine curiosity written across his features, which wasn’t something most men had when they spoke to Magnus about his makeup. He had had many people tell him over the years that men shouldn’t wear makeup, or people asking him why he was dressed up ‘like a woman’. Magnus had a tough shell so usually these things didn’t get to him, but it had been a while since someone from the male gender had showed appreciation for his makeup.

Magnus smiled. “It takes years of practice Alexander. I’ve been doing my own eyeliner since I was 14 years old, which I assume is the same as your sister. Though,” He smirked. “She does a far more dangerous wing than I do so I could take some tips from her.”

Alec’s head tilted to the side slightly and scrunched his eyebrows. He looked a little like a confused puppy. “Wing?”

“Here I’ll show you.” Magnus lifted the phone and brought it closer to his face, centering one of his eyes in the middle of the camera. “See how it flicks out at the end there? That’s called a wing. I usually stick to smaller ones because of my eye shape, but your sister makes them bigger and bolder, which is something I admire.”

Alec nodded, face focused on his own screen. “Well it um, it looks really good. I mean, with your eye shape and everything. You did a really good job.” He flushed beautifully and Magnus had to hold back his grin, instead settling on a tame smile.

“Thank you, Alexander. Not many people notice things like that.”

Alec sent him another small smile. He suddenly looked off screen, eyebrows raised. “I’m talking to Magnus.” He said to whoever had interrupted him.

There was a loud noise on Alec’s end and then the screen went black. Magnus could hear Alec’s laughter and what must have been Isabelle’s as well but the screen remained dark, probably the result of the phone being thrown to the ground in their struggle.

The screen went bright again and Alec’s face was replaced with Isabelle's.“Hi Magnus. I heard you talking about my wings and thought I’d join the conversation.” She grinned widely. Alec could be heard in the background, wrestling her for the phone but she warded him off easily. Eventually he just flopped on the bed beside her, both of their faces in the frame.

“Well, I’m glad you did. As much as I appreciate Alexander trying to understand makeup, I need you opinion on this colour blend.” He moved the camera to his eye again, showing off his handiwork. Isabelle oohed and ahhed accordingly and he blew her a kiss in thanks.

“I hate to end this conversation, but I need to steal Alec.” She said apologetically.

Alec looked at her, perplexed. “Steal me for what?”

She just winked. “You’ll see.”

Alec groaned. “Well, Magnus this may be the last time you ever see me. It was nice knowing you.” Isabelle let out an offended yell and hit Alec on the arm.

Magnus pouted at the camera. “I’ll quite miss that face of yours Alexander. Such a shame.”

Isabelle rolled her eyes. “You’ll see eachother again, you dorks. Don’t get your panties in a twist. Bye Magnus!” She waved at the camera and hung up the call. Magnus shook his head and laughed.

The Lightwoods had only been in his life a short time but it seemed as if they had been there a lot longer.

Magnus finished up his makeup and changed into his outfit for the night. He had just finished buttoning up his jacket when he heard a knock on his door.

“Coming!” He called out, grabbing his phone and wallet before heading out the door to meet Lydia.

 

***

 

Alec pocketed his phone and turned to Isabelle. “Where are we going?”

She smiled widely, walking over to his closet and flipped through some of his shirts. “Well I saw your laptop was open on the kitchen table and noticed that you finished your book!” At Alec’s expression she rolled her eyes. “I didn’t peek, but I saw the words ‘the end’ so I figured you must have finished the first draft.”

Alec nodded, relaxing back on the mattress. “Yeah, I finished it this afternoon while you were out. That still doesn’t answer my question though.”

She looked at him as though the answer should have been obvious. “We’re going out to celebrate obviously!”

Alec lowered his eyebrows. “We’ve never celebrated me finishing a book before. Book releases yes, but never first drafts.”

She sighed and faced him, hands on her hips. “Well, I figured it would be nice for all of us to go out, Max being here and all. As much as we had a great time here today, it would be good for everyone to actually leave the apartment.”

“Sure, Iz. That sounds good.” Truthfully, Alec didn’t really feel much like going out. While he was excited he had finally finished his novel, he felt the weight that his parents knew about it in every step. It was hard to be excited about it when he knew, now that Max had left them, they would be planning something in retaliation.

Also, Alec couldn’t stop thinking of the night before. When he and Magnus had been on the balcony, Alec was so sure he was going to finally tell Magnus about Gideon. He hated keeping this secret from him and the longer he did it, the worse it made him feel.

But he didn’t say any of that to her, she had enough to worry about. Max had shown her and Jace their own files this afternoon, and while they didn’t have any large secrets like Alec, it was still a lot to take in. Learning your parents had hired someone to literally find out everything about you was a lot to wrap your head around.

So all Alec really wanted to do was curl up in bed, maybe with a good book and go to bed early. He would deal with everything else tomorrow.

Isabelle threw a shirt at him. “Try this on. I know you don’t really need to dress up tonight because Magnus isn’t here but you should at least look nice.”

Alec sighed. “Iz. Enough with the Magnus comments, please.” His head was pounding, either from the amount of stress he was under or an after affect of his panic-attack hangover from this morning.

“Why? It’s not like you’re really going to be trying to impress anyone when he’s not here.”

“Isabelle. Stop.”

She raised her eyebrows at his tone and faced him. “Why are you so hell-bent on denying you have feelings for him, Alec?”

He let out a long breath and got up, headed for the washroom. “I don’t want to talk about this.”

She grabbed his arm on the way passed and turned him so he faced her. “No Alec. We are going to talk about this. You’ve been pushing this off for two months now and it’s killing you.” Her eyes were alight with passion, mouth set into a stubborn frown.

Alec tried to push passed her but she blocked his way. “Isabelle stop. You’re being ridiculous. Magnus is just my friend.”

She laughed, loud and cruel. “Friends? Alec, the only two people in the world who think you and Magnus are just friends are the two of you!”

“Which is really the only two people who matter when you think about it.” He replied hotly.

“Why can’t you just admit it Alec?”

He stopped trying to fight past her and looked her in the eye. “Admit what? Admit that I’m in love with him? Admit that I feel things for him that I’ve never felt for anyone in my life? Admit that I’m scared out of my damn mind that I’ll lose him because I’ve got this sword hanging over my head that’s just waiting for the right time to fall?” She was silent. “I can’t admit those things, Isabelle. Because if I admit those things then it makes them real and if they’re real there’s a good chance I will fall apart.” He laughed darkly. “Well, fall apart more than I already am.”

She stood staring at him, eyes filled with unshed tears.

“What? Nothing to say now? Well you certainly had a lot to say before, so please don’t stop on my account. Tell me how I should be living my life Iz, because clearly I’m doing something wrong.”

Alec was out of breath by the end, chest rising and falling rapidly. Part of him knew he shouldn’t have snapped at her but he wasn’t thinking rationally and his emotions were running fast and hot through his body.

Jace opened the door. “Alec! What’s going on in here?”

Alec kept his eyes on Isabelle. Her mouth was open slightly and her eyes were sad. “Nothing. I’m going out.”

He grabbed his wallet and his keys and stormed passed the two of them, ignoring the looks of shocked hurt on their faces. Max was sitting in the kitchen, tending to the stove that Jace had probably left to come check on them. “Hey! Where are you going?”

Alec swallowed, and composed himself enough so that he didn’t yell at Max. He just got him back and didn’t want to risk losing him again. Plus, he didn’t think he could handle another one of his siblings looking at him the way Jace and Isabelle had. “I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

He didn’t wait for Max’s response, just slipped on his shoes and walked out the door.

Chapter Text

Winter had finally fallen upon New York. The streets were full of slush and salt and the sidewalks had piles of snow lining them. There was a steady sprinkle of snow falling lightly over the city, making it look like a post card. The weather was considerably cooler than it had been, though not nearly as cold as it was in Canada, Magnus noted.

He left the warm safety of Institute Fashion and walked down the street to Java Jones. Magnus usually loved winter. He loved hot chocolate and warm sweaters and Christmas. But once the weather got bad and Magnus had to wear multiple layers just to keep warm he wished for the warm sunshine of the summer.

He had chosen a bad day to wear suede boots, as the dark blue fabric had quickly become marked with salt stains and water lines in his short walk. Magnus sighed, making a mental note to talk to his fabric supplier about developing suede that was winter-proof.

Java Jones was fairly busy when he arrived. It was the first day back for most people after their Christmas holidays so mostly everyone was in a cheery mood.

There was a short line, but Magnus could see Maia up at the cash register, serving customers. She beamed when he approached the counter. “Good morning, my love. Don’t you look cheerful this morning.”

She winked. “It’s hard to not be cheerful around you Magnus. How was your Christmas holiday?”

“Very good, thank you. I had Christmas morning with my cats, dinner with my family, and then a Christmas themed game night with Alec and his siblings on Boxing Day. It was a very relaxing few days. And yours?”

“Mine was good too, thanks. Lots of turkey, lots of family.” She smiled. “Are you meeting Alec today?” Magnus nodded. “I’ll bring your usual over to your table in a sec.”

“Thank you, darling. I don’t know what I, or my caffeine addiction would do without you!” He blew her a kiss over his shoulder and sat down at their usual table. Alec had a meeting with Clary and Simon this morning for work and had texted Magnus saying he would be running a little later than usual.

Now that everyone knew everyone in their small group, things were even better than they had been before. When Magnus had gotten back from Toronto, Clary had joined them for the weekly game night and with Max being there as well, the dynamic was very different (in a good way).

Clary and Isabelle had become fast friends and decided very early on that they would, from this point forward, be teammates for everything. They had teamed up against the boys in a game of Pictionary, claiming they could beat them 5 to 2. They ended up being right, and the boys lost. Badly.

Max too, was a delight to be around. He was quick witted and funny like Jace, but intelligent like Isabelle and incredibly kind like Alec. He had an incredibly dirty mind for a sixteen year old, much to his siblings discontent, but he had all of them laughing at his jokes by the end of the night. Magnus liked him more and more every time he saw him.

It was fun to see Alec and Clary interacting as well. She had gotten quite close with him and Simon over the past few weeks at work and Magnus noticed that Alec treated her just like one of his siblings; they bantered and threw joking insults at each other but he could see genuine care in his actions. Alec even defended her against Simon when the latter was talking smack during another game of Monopoly (Magnus was still the reigning King, but Max had come in a close second).

The bell above the door rang and Magnus looked up just as Alec strode in. He was infuriatingly attractive, the sort of attractive where he looked like a GQ model without even batting an eyelash; he had no idea how beautiful he was without even trying. He waved quickly to Maia and then made his way back to their table.

He was dressed more casually today and had forgone the usual suits for just black slacks and a sky blue suit shirt. He had left the top two buttons undone, exposing a tantalizing bit of chest hair, and had a black wool winter jacket thrown over the top with a plain grey scarf wrapped loosely around his neck.

He sat down at the table and gratefully accepted the coffee cup Magnus handed him. His cheeks and nose were reddened from the cold and he had flakes of snow mixed in with his dark brown hair. Magnus wanted to lean in and kiss the cold off of him, feeling the damp flakes from his eyelashes on his cheeks as the younger man blinked his eyes closed.

“Is that Calvin Klein you’re wearing today, Alexander?” He asked instead. Fashion was always a good distraction for Magnus, even when it was on a tall, gorgeous man whom he definitely had feelings for.

Alec looked down at himself, seemingly trying to figure out what piece of clothing Magnus was referring to.

“Uh …”

“Your jacket.” Magnus pointed out helpfully.

“Oh! Um, I think so? It was a Christmas present from Isabelle.” He pulled the jacket off and laid it across the chair behind him, leaving him in just a suit shirt.

Magnus swallowed thickly and masked his face into an expression that hopefully resembled neutral appreciation. “That doesn’t surprise me. Your sister does have great taste. She knows you well.”

Alec snorted and rolled his eyes. Magnus raised his eyebrows questioningly, but Alec didn’t expand, instead moving onto a different topic of conversation. He had caught on recently that something had happened between the two siblings. Isabelle had simply told him to ‘ask Alec’ when he had asked her. He had wanted to ask him, but wasn’t sure if it was his place to interfere with an argument between Alec and his sister so he had left it alone.

“So, how are things going with Max?” They hadn’t talked much about him much since he had arrived. With Magnus’ trip and the holidays, this was the first time they had been alone in two weeks.

Alec sighed. “It’s good. He’s going to be staying with me full time from now on, but I need to get him into a school though. He’s adamant about not going home, and I don’t blame him but I don’t want him just sitting on my couch and playing video games forever.”

“I know some clients who have teenagers, so I can ask around for the best high school in the area if you want?” Alec had been under a lot of stress lately with work, Max showing up out of the blue and things with his family and it was starting to show. He could see the purple bags under Alec’s eyes, much darker than they had been the week before.

Alec smiled gratefully. “I would love that actually.”

Magnus told Alec more about his show, how they were almost done with preparations. Since they were just under a month away, all of the physical putting-together of the pieces was done and had been sent off to Ragnor. Now, they were working on the more administrative work; guest lists, seating charts, playlists and programs. It had been long days of “do you like this font, Mr. Bane?” and “how does this colour look paired with this one?” but it was essential work that needed to be done.

After seeing the shows in Toronto, Magnus was starting to feel the stress creep up on him. He knew logically that they were on track and that everything would get done on time. Lydia was taking the lead on organization and task management, giving Magnus time to make sure everything was perfect with his work. He knew Lydia would rather die than have things not go according to plan for her star pupil, but the irrational part of him was stressed that they would forget something crucial that would cause everything to fall apart.

Alec listened to everything he said, asking questions and giving his input when Magnus showed him the two program plans they had drafted.

He held the two pieces of paper up and looked at each one closely. “I like this one, I think.” He said, indicating to the more simplistic of the two.

Magnus grinned. “You have good taste, my dear. That is the one that Lydia, Cat and myself all chose. Ragnor and Clary are set on the other one but I think that may be the artist’s eye in them.”

Alec laughed. “Of course Clary and Ragnor would both be dead set on the one opposite of me.”

Magnus, Alec, Cat and Ragnor had gone for drinks before Christmas, just as planned. Magnus had been worried that Alec would be nervous around them, out of his comfort zone meeting his friends but he had been amazing. He and Ragnor had developed a healthy banter right off the bat, laughing and teasing each other most of the evening, leaving Catarina and Magnus to watch on fondly. Magnus was happy that Alec was getting along with his friends. Hypothetically, if their relationship ever progressed passed friendship and into something more, he would want his oldest friends to get along with his boyfriend.

Hypothetically of course.

The conversation had flowed easily. Alec had been at ease the entire time, arm draped casually over the back of Magnus’ chair, making jokes and causing both of his friends to quickly fall head over heels in love with him. Cat had texted him right after, with a simple ‘We approve’ and that was all Magnus really needed.

He hadn’t wanted to sit down and examine his feelings for the other man just yet, worried that once he admitted what he truly felt to himself it would be written in the sky on a blimp, out there for everyone to see.

But it was getting harder and harder to ignore by the day. Seeing Alec interacting with both his sister and his friends so freely made him feel things, strong things that took over his entire heart. Things like Alec on Christmas morning, five years from now, giving a present to Jocelyn while cradling a toddler on his hip. Things like picket fences, and cats and little pairs of shoes in their front closet. Magnus had been told by friends and past lovers alike that when he truly fell for someone it showed not only on his face but through his entire body, easier to read than a book.

And he worried that Alec would be able to read him easier than any book he had ever edited if he let himself feel, and he was determined not to make the other man uncomfortable with his inability to control his heart.

So if keeping their friendship meant repressing how he truly felt then that was something he could do. Hopefully.

Magnus’ phone chirped where it was sitting face-down on the table. Alec, who was telling a story, stopped talking and waited for him to answer it. Magnus smiled at him and picked it up. Isabelle had messaged him, which was not odd as she and Magnus had developed a steady friendship over the past few months. What was odd though, was the content of her message.

Simon’s band is doing a show at that club you like downtown tomorrow for NYE. You should come! :)

Then a second message:

Tell Alec to come too.

He leveled Alec with a stern look. “What did I do?” The editor asked, eyes wide and innocent. He looked so sweet and soft and Magnus had to catch his breath and focus, keeping his expression unimpressed. He turned the phone and showed Alec the screen. He flushed and looked away. “Oh.”

“Alexander, are you going to tell me what happened with your sister? I didn’t want to pry, but now I’m officially getting involved if she’s using me as a messenger to speak with you.”

“Well she’s not exactly -” Magnus cut his excuse off with pursed lips and a single raised eyebrow. Alec sighed and gave in, running his fingers through his hair nervously. “We had a fight. She was pestering me about something and I got mad and yelled at her. I guess I said some things that I shouldn't have.”

Magnus nodded. From the look on Alec’s face it was clear that he didn’t enjoy not speaking with his sister, but he knew both of them were headstrong and would need some convincing to work things out. “What were you fighting about?”

Alec shook his head. “It was nothing. She seems to think she knows how I should live my life better than I do. Typical Isabelle.”

“And have you spoken with her about it since?” Magnus probed, trying to get Alec to open up a little.

“I mean, we’ve kind of talked but not about it. Things are weird right now. She just doesn’t know when to let things go and she keeps bugging at them until you can’t ignore it anymore.” He swirled the remains of his coffee, focusing on the contents of his cup intently.

“Well,” Magnus started. “If I know your sister at all, and I believe I know her quite well by this point, she usually just wants what’s best for you. And I know you feel the same way about her. But women sometimes have a funny way of showing their affections, and I think her making you talk about things is just her way of showing that.”

He didn’t want to come across as if he was telling Alec he was wrong, or that he shouldn’t be upset with her, especially when he didn’t know the whole story. But he knew how strong their bond was and how much being separated from her was hurting him. Isabelle too, now that he thought about it, had been more withdrawn and moody the last few times he had seen her.

Alec looked into his coffee cup a moment longer, before lifting his eyes to Magnus’. “I think you’re right. I mean I still don’t understand it, but I get it. You know?” Magnus nodded, chuckling softly. “Man, girls are weird.” Alec mused, shaking his head.

Magnus chuckled. “That they are, Alexander.”

 

***

 

Magnus called them all a car to take them to the club. Alec would have offered to but he wasn’t sure if someone living off just an editor's salary could afford a private car all the way downtown. Probably not.

They met at Magnus’ for pre-drinks. Alec had yet to be inside Magnus’ apartment, only seeing it in pictures and Facetime. It was spacious and open and looked like it was taken right from a home decorating magazine, but was still homey and comfy. Every room had a touch of something very specifically Magnus, whether it was the various artifacts from his travels or the bright and vibrant colours painted on the walls.

They all lounged around the living room, talking and drinking. Isabelle was tastefully ignoring Alec, engaging in conversation with Simon and Clary and not making eye contact with him. Simon seemed to realize what she was doing and shot an apologetic look to Alec from across the room.

When the car arrived, everyone made their way downstairs and piled in. Isabelle had decided to take Clary under her wing and dress her for the event, so the poor girl was walking around in towering heels and a sequined mini-dress. She looked slightly unsteady on her feet, whether from the alcohol she had already consumed or the shoes on her feet. Alec guessed the latter. Jace came up beside her and offered her his arm to walk down the stairs, which she gratefully accepted.

Magnus had also dressed up for the occasion. He had done his makeup boldly, black circling his eyes, shimmer on his cheeks and dark lipstick on his mouth. He was wearing black ripped jeans and a sheer gold and black shirt, and must have decided he wanted to torture Alec this evening for he had only chosen to do up the bottom two buttons, leaving most of his tan chest exposed as the shirt hung open. His many necklaces took up their usual place on his chest, but somehow looked different when their only backdrop was smooth skin. Alec had a very difficult time drawing his eyes away, transfixed by the slight sway of them.

Jace caught him looking and elbowed him lightly in the ribs as he walked past, Clary on his arm. Alec cleared his throat and followed him out the door, trying to clear away the images of Magnus’ necklaces swaying for another reason from his head.

Their group was six instead of seven tonight. Max had begged Alec relentlessly to let him go with them, but Alec had stood his ground. He wouldn’t be responsible for his sixteen year old brother getting arrested, extremely wasted or both all in the same night. Magnus had invited Cat and Ragnor to come along as well but they declined as they were going to a dinner party with some other friends. “Old married people.” Magnus had muttered to Alec, rolling his eyes. “They’ll probably be in bed right after the ball drops.”

Simon was ecstatic that everyone was coming to see him play. Alec, Izzy and Jace had all of course been to one of his shows before but Clary and Magnus had never been.

Alec leaned in to whisper to Magnus. “He’s going to mention his band name at some point. It’s going to be very difficult, but don’t laugh.” Magnus raised his eyebrows but Alec just smirked and sat back in his seat.

Sure enough, not even ten minutes later Simon was talking about the venue. “This is crazy! Rock Solid Panda has never played a gig this big before! And on New Year's Eve too! This is going to get us so much exposure!” Alec was impressed that Magnus didn’t even crack a smile, instead just nodding along and listening to Simon talk. When he noticed Alec looking his way he smirked and leaned into his space. “I have a rock hard poker face, Alexander.” Alec squirmed in his seat, for more than one reason.

They pulled up to Pandemonium to see a line far longer than the one they had encountered last time they were here. Simon had given them all VIP passes before they left, so they got right out of the car and walked straight into the club, bypassing the line completely.

Alec’s senses were assaulted as soon as he stepped through the doors and he stopped for a moment to try and adjust. The music was so loud he could feel it in his shoes and the lights were dimmed considerably lower, smoke and strobe lights flashing through the air. There was a disco ball in the middle of the room and it shot beams of light out and into the crowd with every turn.

Someone bumped into him from behind and Alec turned to see a large man who didn’t look happy that Alec was holding up the crowd of people forming behind him. He felt soft fingers intertwine with his own and looked down to see Magnus had grabbed his hand. He gently tugged Alec in the direction the others had gone. “C’mon, love. Follow me.”

Alec let Magnus lead him through the crowd. It was especially packed tonight because of the holiday so even though it was still quite early, the floor was already packed with dancing bodies. They moved all the way through the crowd to the other side where the tables and booths were. A large circular booth was sitting empty, reserved sign sitting atop it. Magnus kept moving towards the table.

“Did you reserve this?” Alec asked, over the music. Magnus nodded and grinned, teeth shining bright in the dark.

“I figured we should all have a place to sit to watch Samuel on his special night.” Alec smiled down at him. He was still in awe of how quickly Magnus had taken to their little group. He had been in all of their lives for just three months now but he fit so easily, like he always belonged with them.

Isabelle, Jace, Clary and Simon approached the table, Jace with a large tray of drinks in his hand. “Who did you have to flirt with to get all of those?” Alec asked, grinning.

Jace’s eyes flicked to Clary quickly, then back to Alec. “I’ll have you know, brother. I payed for all of these myself. No charm required.” Alec looked at his brother, half in shock and half with pride. It was still too early too tell, but it looked like Clary might actually be the girl to calm Jace’s bad boy ways.

They all squished in around the table. It was still an hour to midnight, and forty-five minutes until Rock Solid Panda’s set. Simon, to Isabelle’s dismay, would be playing when the clock struck midnight.

“I better get my New Years kiss.” She grumbled.

Simon put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her in. “You’re going to have to come to the front of the stage like one of my groupies and get it then.” She stuck her tongue out at him, but he just pulled her in for a kiss. They all made exaggerated gagging noises and Simon gave them all the finger and continued to kiss his girlfriend, clearly enjoying himself.

The crowd was getting busier as the night went on. The DJ was playing a steady stream of bass heavy songs and the crowd was eating it up. Alec knew that eventually someone, probably Isabelle or Magnus, would drag all of them out onto the floor to dance at some point, so he made sure he had enough alcohol in him that he wouldn’t make a fool of himself when that happened. Alec knew he wasn’t a good dancer, but a few drinks tended to help the situation.

Or in this case, a lot of drinks.

Simon wasn’t drinking as much because he needed to go on stage, but the rest of them had decided to do shots. Magnus went to the bar and grabbed a bowl of limes and a salt shaker for the table. They started with tequila, then moved to rum, vodka and back to tequila. After that Alec started to lose track.

The room was spinning pleasantly and Alec sat back against the booth after downing yet another shot. The liquor burned in his stomach pleasantly and he closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the sensation.

When he opened them, he looked around the table and smiled, because for once everyone seemed to be the same level of intoxication as he was. Isabelle and Simon were making out (Alec grimaced and looked away, he didn’t need to see his sister and his best friend doing that), Jace was telling Clary a story that was apparently quite entertaining because she was giggling hysterically into his shoulder.

And Magnus was laughing to himself, holding the bowl of limes. He looked adorable, like a small mischievous child who had done something bad. “What’s so funny?” Alec’s tongue was heavy in his mouth, his words slurring.

Magnus grinned up at him. “Watch this.” He winked playfully and picked out a slice of lime from the bowl before throwing it at Simon and Isabelle. They broke apart, faces flushed and hair messy, glaring at Magnus and Alec.

Magnus cackled happily, clearly very impressed with the way he handled the situation. Alec laughed along with him, which only made Isabelle more annoyed, though Simon cracked a grin. “What, never seen two people kissing before, Bane?” She asked, rolling her eyes, still seated on Simon’s lap.

“Oh, is that what you two were doing? It looked like you were eating his face. I just wanted to save Sherwin before he went on stage.” He giggled. Simon snorted and wrapped a protective arm around Isabelle, who fixed a glare on Magnus. He smiled sweetly at her so she chucked the lime right back at him, hitting him in the face.

Everyone laughed at that, even Jace and Clary who had been broken from their conversation by the fruit throwing. “Well, I think I’m going to escape to the dancefloor before I get seriously injured. Alexander, join me.” He extended a hand down to Alec, whose alcohol-ruled brain didn’t even hesitate a moment before accepting and letting Magnus drag him out into the crowd.

Thank you, alcohol.

The crowd had grown impossibly bigger since their arrival. Young people flooded the dance floor, sweaty bodies dancing together with drinks in hand. Magnus pulled him to the front near where they had a temporary stage set up. Another band was performing, but it had to be getting closer to midnight which meant Rock Solid Panda would be up soon.

The band was playing a pop anthem with a heavy beat, the kind of beat that made you want to dance as soon as you heard it. Alec, rational part of his mind gone, decided dancing would be a good idea.

Then, he decided that dancing with Magnus would be an even better idea.

Alec reached out and twined his fingers with Magnus’ and led the other man in a twirl. Magnus laughed - surprised - but followed Alec’s lead and spun around, head thrown back in laughter. They danced and laughed along to the music, hands joined, for what seemed like hours. Alec knew he was making a terrible idiot of himself, but he found it really hard to care when his ridiculous dancing made Magnus smile Alec’s favourite crinkle-eyed smile.

He looked beautiful. He shone under the lights, all the glitter he was wearing lighting him up and making him glow like there was a strobe light focused directly on him the entire night. Alec could see people watching him. He couldn’t imagine anyone not looking at him, with the intoxicating way he moved. He saw women creeping closer, trying to get his attention and men giving him approving glances with nothing but lust in their eyes but Magnus didn’t pay them any attention.

He was looking at Alec.

Alec tried to tell himself that Magnus was dancing with him because he was drunk, and he would probably feel bad for leaving Alec to dance with someone else when they had come here together. But his liquor-riddled mind kept screaming that Magnus was dancing with him because he wanted to.

He wanted Alec.

Someone came around with a tray of tequila shots and Alec swiftly grabbed one for himself and another for Magnus. They clinked their glasses together messily, liquid spilling over the side, before tipping them back. The hot burn slid down his throat like fire, settling in his stomach pleasantly and burning his previous thoughts away.

They were twirling and spinning around the floor, laughing like kids. At one point Magnus did an exaggerated dip in Alec’s arms, head thrown back and neck bared. Alec was too distracted by the sight that he forgot to pull him upright again and they almost crashed to the floor, but Alec caught them at the last moment. Alec spun him out and then in again, keeping their hands clasped and bringing a hand protectively around his waist when Magnus spun in, his back against Alec’s chest.

The mood changed almost instantly. They stood like that, swaying gently to the music, neither of them making any effort to move. This close, Alec could see the flecks of colour in Magnus’ eyes, the golden yellow mixed with the green. He could see his mascara clumping slightly and eyeliner smudged after a night of dancing. He felt himself drawn in, almost as if Magnus had his own gravity and was pulling Alec steadily towards him, like a meteor to a planet.

He was close enough to feel Magnus’ breath on his face. He was so close.

“Hi everyone! I’m Simon Lewis and we are Rock Solid Panda! We’re here to rock you guys into the new year!” Alec jumped back at the sound of Simon’s voice, the abrupt motion causing his head to spin. He released his tight grip on Magnus, but still held him close. He tried to let go completely but found himself unable to, not when he had him this close.

“We’re 5 minutes away from next year! We’ve got a song to get you going and then we’ll countdown to everyone’s favourite part of the night … the New Year's kiss, am I right? I know it’s my favourite.” Simon laughed into the microphone and the crowd cheered.

They started playing and it was one of the songs Alec recognized. It was one of his favourites. It had a hypnotizing beat, slow and fast all at once. It was the perfect song to get everyone ready for the New Year.

Magnus was still pressed close to Alec’s side, and leaned up to whisper in his ear. “Dance with me.” Alec looked down and grinned at him, smiling wide.

He let himself go, let himself get lost in the music. Get lost in Magnus. The other man was in front of him now, hands around his neck and body pressed close. Alec could smell him, the mild scent of his aftershave mixed with something that was distinctly Magnus.

Someone bumped into Magnus from behind and pushed him closer, body aligning completely with Alec’s but he made no move to go back to how they were before.

Their bodies moved in perfect sync. Alec could feel the heat radiating from Magnus as his body moved against his own. Alec had danced with men before, women too, but dancing with Magnus was something different. His movements pulled Alec in as if by spell, turning Alec’s awkward dancing smooth, with just the sensuous roll of his hips.

It was new and exciting and incredibly hot.

Alec was lost to the feeling and hardly noticed when the song drew to a close. Simon was speaking to the crowd and he must have said something interesting because they all cheered excitedly, but Alec couldn’t pull his attention from Magnus’ eyes locked on his own. His heart was pounding in his chest to the rhythm of the beat, phantom pounding in his head.

Magnus’ arms were still around his neck when the countdown started.

10 … 9 … 8

The crowd was chanting around him, but all he could see was Magnus.

7… 6… 5

Alec opened his mouth to say something, anything, but no words came out.

4… 3… 2

Magnus smiled, small and private and moved his face closer to Alec’s.

… 1

Alec gave into every thought he’d ever had about Magnus and surged forward, catching the other man’s mouth in his. He swallowed Magnus’ surprised intake of breath and tightened his hold on the older man’s waist to bring him in closer. Always closer.

It was everything Alec imagined it would be and more. Magnus’ lips were soft and moved smoothly against his own. Alec could taste the remnants of tequila on his lips and the bitter tang of lime. Kissing Magnus was unlike anything Alec had ever experienced before. It was fireworks behind his eyes and a fire roaring in his chest. It made him want to give up breathing just so he could continue like this forever.

Just like Magnus, it was magical.

It could have been hours or minutes later but eventually someone bumped into Alec’s shoulder, pulling him away from Magnus’s lips. Alec blinked dazedly and looked around. Reality came crashing down on him like a bucket of ice water when he focused on Magnus.

Alec had just kissed him.

The other man was looking at him with an expression of total shock. His lipstick was smeared around his mouth which was open, confusion and alarm written all over his features. Alec took a step back and bumped into the person behind him. The floor was too crowded and he felt the mass of people closing in on him, cutting him off. He needed to get out of there.

He had just ruined everything.

Magnus took a step towards him, concern on his features but Alec didn’t want his pity. “I’ve gotta go.” He mumbled. He wasn’t sure if Magnus heard him over the music but he didn’t care. He couldn’t care. He was humiliated and couldn’t face Magnus. Not now. He needed to get as far away as he could from him, it was the only thing he could do.

He pushed through the crowd, stumbling and tripping until he made it to a less crowded area. The room was spinning and all he wanted to do was go home, hide under his covers and make the entire night go away.

He looked hopelessly around the club and didn’t see a single familiar face. Simon was on stage, and the rest of them were probably on the dance floor, enjoying his set. Magnus was probably still on the dance floor, just where Alec had left him.

Guilt flooded through him and Alec wanted to go back,wanted to tell Magnus that he was in love with him and didn’t just kiss him because he was drunk and had no one else to kiss. But he had already messed things up enough for one night. He would figure out what to do in the morning.

But for now, he needed to get out of the club.

Alec turned towards the direction he remembered the door being and walked towards it, the amount of alcohol he had drank catching up with him. A wave of nausea rolled through him and he could hardly see straight. It came as no surprise when he walked right into someone.

“Alec?”

The voice unmistakably belonged to Jace. He was on his way back from the bar by the looks of it, drink in hand. Alec was so grateful to see him, to see anyone he knew. Someone who could take him home and away from the club.

Away from Magnus.

He could see Clary hovering nervously behind him. Jace whispered something in her ear and she nodded once, touching Alec lightly on the shoulder as she disappeared into the crowd.

“Jace…” He tried to tell him what happened but his brain was fuzzy and wouldn’t send the words to his mouth. He tried again, but no words came out.

His brother looked down at him and sighed. “Oh, Alec. It’s okay, buddy. Let’s get you home.” He grabbed his arm in one hand and placed the other tightly around his waist, supporting him.

He pulled him through the remaining crowd and outside, the cool winter air hitting them. There were cabs already parked and waiting outside the club, so he hailed the nearest one and moved towards it. The cabbie took one look at Alec. “Hey, he ain't lookin’ too good, man.”

“He’ll be better once you drive us home.” Jace said briskly, brushing the man off and getting Alec inside the cab. They were on their way quickly, weaving through traffic and back to Jace’s building.

“I kissed him.” The words tumbled out of Alec’s mouth, finally freed from the confines of his mind. “I kissed Magnus.”

His brother looked down at him, eyes blown wide in shock. His look of shock transformed to one of sadness however when he saw the expression on Alec’s face, and he pulled him closer to his side. “It’s okay, Alec. I’ve got you.”

He rested his head on Jace’s shoulder, humiliation and shame burning through him. Not only had he made a fool of himself in front of Magnus, Clary had seen him in a state that only strangers and his siblings had. Something he thought was in the past.

He thought about Magnus. Thought about kissing Magnus. It had been amazing and beautiful and everything Alec wanted, but he didn’t want any of it if it meant he never got to see the other man again. If the look on his face was any indication, Alec wouldn’t be seeing him unless he came up with some sort of excuse to explain his actions.

The look on his face when Alec pulled away proved he didn’t feel the same.

He just hoped that Magnus would forgive him and they could put this behind them, forgetting it ever happened at all.

 

***

 

Magnus woke with a mouth full of fur.

“Ugh Church. Get off me you fat imp.” He grumbled, pushing the cat off his chest. Church mewled in protest and moved to the end of the bed, facing away from his owner.

Magnus groaned. His head was pounding and his throat felt like it was coated in sandpaper. Also he was pretty sure something had crawled into his mouth in the night and died. He groaned again.

He rolled out of bed and walked right to the shower, leaving a trail of clothes in his wake. He turned the water up as high as he could stand and stepped in.

The warm spray had a rejuvenating effect, washing away most of the gross, uncomfortable hangover and leaving him feeling refreshed and slightly more human. He lathered his hair and body generously and watched bemusedly as the excess glitter ran off his body and down the drain.

Once he was feeling more like himself, he stepped out of the shower and toweled off before wrapping the white towel around his waist and making his way to the kitchen.

He was surprised to find Clary, sound asleep on his couch.

Magnus had no idea how he had gotten home last night, much less who had taken him but the presence of his little sister on his couch made him believe that it must have been her. He absently thought that either things must not have gone well with Jace, or Magnus had gotten himself incredibly drunk for her to abandon her date and bring him home.

He put on a pot of coffee and called the bakery down the road, asking them to deliver breakfast for two. He decided it best to put on some clothes before Clary woke up. While his sister was used to Magnus prancing around in next-to-nothing frequently, he didn’t want to startle her first thing in the morning with his lack of clothing.

Magnus walked to the bedroom to find his cats sleeping together at the foot of his bed. He smiled fondly and went to grab his phone, opening Snapchat with the intention of sending a picture to Alec.

He stopped, finger hovering over the camera button.

Alec.

Magnus, in his hangover daze, had completely forgotten about the events of the previous night but the mere thought of Alec’s name brought them flooding back. He sat down on the bed, careful not to disturb the cats.

He had kissed Alec last night.

Alec had kissed him back last night.

Magnus felt himself grinning, despite himself. He brought his hand up to his mouth gently, fingers ghosting over his lips. He could practically still feel the soft slide of Alec’s plush lips against his own, feel his warm breath on his face, hear the soft noises he made as they kissed. He let his hand trail down until it rested lightly on his hip, his small hand feeling nothing like Alec’s large hand had last night, pulling him in closer, closer, closer.

He couldn’t stop smiling the longer he thought about it. Hopefully they could talk about this today and then maybe they would have a real shot at being together, the way Magnus had been hoping for since he met Alec.

With a renewed sense of motivation Magnus quickly changed into real clothes and grabbed his phone, sending the picture to Alec as planned. He skipped out into the kitchen, whistling and grinning like an idiot. Clary had woken up and was sitting on the couch, looking confused. She still had on her party dress form last night and hadn’t taken her makeup off so she had streaks of black on her cheeks.

She narrowed her eyes at him when he came in. “Why?” She asked simply, rubbing her eyes. Magnus prepared them both a cup of coffee and strode over to the couch, kissing her on the cheek before handing her a mug and sitting beside her.

“Good morning, darling sister. It really is a good morning, isn’t it? Did you sleep well? I did.” She groaned at his peppiness, falling back onto the cushions and pulling the blanket over her head. Magnus laughed and pulled it away from her face and lured her out again with the scent of coffee.

“I repeat … why?” She asked again, this time more confused than annoyed.

Magnus sent her a beaming smile. “Well you see, my lovely Biscuit. Last night, your older brother finally got the guy.”

Clary looked towards the bedroom and then back to Magnus. She dropped her voice to a whisper. “You didn’t bring someone home, did you?” She straightened up. “Wait, I brought you home. I already knew you didn’t bring someone home.” She cringed. “Mags, please tell me you didn’t have sex in one of those washrooms.”

Magnus shook his head, pinching her cheek lightly. “No, I did not. I did something better.” She raised her eyebrows, waiting. “I kissed Alexander at midnight.”

Clary frowned. “You kissed Alec? At midnight? Are you sure?”

Magnus laughed. “No matter the amount of alcohol I had in my system, that is not something I will soon be forgetting.” He remembered hearing the crowd screaming out the countdown in his head, but all of his attention had been focused on Alec. The other man had looked conflicted for a second, flash of something crossing his face. Magnus had moved in slightly, willpower next to none and the next thing he knew there was no distance between them.

He grinned again, recalling the memory.

She shook her head, still frowning. “No that can’t be right. I was with Jace at midnight, we were at the bar. We were just making our way back to the dancefloor when we ran into Alec. He didn’t look good, he was pale and shaky and looked really distraught. Jace said he was going to take him home.”

Magnus flipped through his memories again, trying to piece them together. While the kiss was crystal clear in his mind, the before and after was more blurry. He remembered dancing with Alec, lots of laughing and twirling, tequila shots and Simon going on stage to sing.

He played through the kiss again, paying careful attention to what happened right after.

Alec had been pulled away by someone. He had been dazed, and then scared. Magnus remembered being confused at the terrified look on his face. He had mumbled a quick goodbye and then he was gone, crowd swallowing him up.

Magnus’ stomach immediately churned with unease. Alec had kissed him passionately, he remembered that much. But what if he had mistaken passion for inebriation? They both had had a lot to drink last night. Maybe what Magnus was remembering what not so much a passionate convergence and the beginning their romantic relationship, but instead just a drunken kiss shared between two friends at the stroke of midnight.

Clary put her hand on his arm. “I don’t know what happened, but he was probably just sick. The two of you had the most shots out of all of us, if I remember correctly. No one's tolerance is that good.”

Magnus nodded, still thinking. Clary could be right, of course. Alec wasn’t the partying type so the alcohol could have been too much for him, and he hadn’t wanted to be sick in front of Magnus. That would make sense why he didn’t look so good and why he had run away so fast, but Magnus still felt off.

“Maybe I should call him.”

Clary nodded enthusiastically. “Yes! That’s a great idea. Clear everything up, make sure he’s okay and all that.”

Magnus gave her a weak smile. “Okay, I’ll be back. Breakfast should be here in a few minutes. I paid over the phone so you just have to answer the door.” She nodded and started to tidy up her makeshift bed.

He closed his bedroom door and made his way over the window seat in his room. It was his favourite place in the apartment. It took up an entire wall and had a view overlooking the New York skyline. It was the perfect place to relax. Magnus had spent many afternoons there either reading, sketching or just relaxing and watching the city.

He twirled his phone nervously between his fingers. He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous, it was just Alec after all. The man who had become his best friend in just a few short months. The man who had also become a lot more in a few short months. He shouldn’t be scared.

He let out a long breath and pressed Alec’s number on his speed dial, bringing the phone up to his ear. It rang one, two, three, four times until someone picked up. “H’lo?” Alec’s voice was rough with sleep and groggy, presumably from his hangover.

Magnus let out a laugh that he hoped wasn’t as shaky as it sounded to his own ears. “Well good morning, sunshine. Or should I say good afternoon.”

Alec paused for a long time on the other end. He could hear rustling of sheets, probably as he sat up. “Magnus. Hi.” His voice was stiff, lacking it’s usual spark.

Stop being nervous. It’s just Alec. Magnus smiled and hoped it translated to his voice. “I don’t know about you, but extremely hungover is not how I planned to start the new year.”

Silence. A breath. Silence again. Alec cleared his throat. “Yeah. I had a lot more to drink last night than I thought.”

Magnus nodded. Alec was just hungover, so it made sense that he wasn’t chatty. If someone had woken Magnus up with a phone call an hour ago he wouldn’t be chatty either. “Clary informed me that we were doing tequila shots. Tequila is both my best friend and my worst enemy.” He chuckled.

Alec let out a breath. “Yeah. I remember the shots, but not much else.” Magnus’ stomach twisted in a knot.

Could Alec really not remember what happened between them? “It’s pretty blurry, but I remember a little.” Magnus started, hoping maybe Alec would remember the longer he was awake and thinking of it, like Magnus had.

Alec made a noise on the other end. “I don’t remember much after we arrived. Maybe it’s for the better, tequila is known to make me dance.” He let out a soft chuckle.

Magnus bit his lip, trying to stop himself from asking Alec what he really wanted to know. But the other man had made it clear he didn’t remember anything. Maybe the kiss hadn’t meant to Alec what it meant to Magnus and hadn’t stuck out in his mind, on a constant loop as it did in Magnus’.

He swallowed the lump in his throat and tried to force out a laugh. “I wish I remembered some of those dance moves, Alexander. I’m sure they were great.” His voice sounded cheerful and teasing, but his words were hollow. If Alec didn’t remember than it would be easier for Magnus to move past it if he forgot it as well.

They remained in silence. It wasn’t comfortable like it usually was, but seemed stilted and awkward. Finally, Alec asked, “Are you alright?” His voice was low and concerned. Alec was always caring for everyone else, always making sure everyone around him was okay and happy, putting their needs before his own.

Magnus laughed emptily. “Yeah. You know besides the raging headache and slight nausea.”

Alec laughed, starting to sound more like himself. Magnus’ stomach squirmed uncomfortably. “I know what you mean. I think I’m going to wash the smell of club and liquor off me.” He chuckled. “Max wants to see you, since he missed out on last night. Want to meet us for lunch at Taki’s later?”

Magnus wanted to say no. Wanted to tell Alec that he wasn’t sure he could face him, see him after the moment they had shared last night. The moment that meant so much to Magnus but Alec didn’t remember. He wanted to tell him that he wasn’t sure he could sit across from him now that he knew what his lips felt like, soft and purposeful against his own.

Instead he said “Sure. Mind if I bring Clary?”

Alec told him the more the merrier, that Jace would probably end up tagging along as well. Magnus nodded and hummed in agreement but his heart wasn’t in it.

If he thought controlling the raging beast that was his feelings for Alec Lightwood was difficult before, it would be nothing compared to now, now that he knew exactly what he was missing.

 

***

 

For the next week, Alec threw himself into his work. He kept himself busy every waking moment (and often ones where he should be sleeping) and worked himself until he had no choice but to go to bed and surrender to a restless sleep. If he stopped even for a moment, his thoughts would overtake him and escape from the neat little box he had placed them in near the back of his mind.

The one positive side was that he got a lot of work done. Max was officially registered for the nearest (and best) high school and would start back with the other kids at the beginning of next week. Alec had gone in and met with the principle and made sure all of Max’s previous records had been transferred over, as well as getting Max everything he would need. They had got him other things too, clothes, toiletries and some things to personalize his room, since he had only arrived with an overnight bag.

Alec had gone over and completely edited the final draft of his novel and had loaded it onto a USB and given it to Simon. They had had their final meeting for the cover this week as well. Clary had done a beautiful job and Alec was more than happy about it, getting more and more excited for release day. Simon’s editing would talk approximately three to four months, and then publishing another few after that but Simon seemed confident they could have it out by September at the latest.

He had seen Magnus a few times, and ignored the painful hole in his chest that seeing him left. Instead he decided to focus on their friendship. If he couldn’t have Magnus as a boyfriend he was damn sure not going to lose him as a best friend.

It helped that Magnus didn’t remember anything that happened in the club. They hadn’t talked about it much, but from the conversation that they had it seemed as though all he remembered was them dancing together before midnight (the more tame dancing, not the seductive, slow grind that Alec had seared in his mind). Alec had tried coming up with something on the spot that might explain his actions, but decided that even if he told Magnus he was really drunk he didn’t want him to feel as if Alec had used him as a cheap hookup on New Years.

So, he had gone the route of not remembering.

It seemed to be working out okay. Besides the embarrassment and loneliness that Alec felt, things were getting back to normal between the two of them. The few times he had seen Magnus during the week he had been back to his usual innuendos and jokes, no different from before.

Perhaps they could survive this. Perhaps Alec could survive this.

Alec stepped off the subway and walked the few blocks to his apartment. He had just come from a publishing meeting with Simon where they had locked down a few of the final dates. Both Simon and the publisher were confident the book would be out by the end of the summer, giving Alec at least a 6 month break before he needed to start writing again. Simon had tried to push for longer, but Alec knew that he didn’t need that much time off. Just a few months to travel, see the world and find the love for writing he had when he was a teenager. He had just one more book planned in the series, and he didn’t want to finish it forced and unsure, the way he had started this one.

It had been a long day and Alec had no plans for the night except making dinner for himself and Max and maybe watching a movie with his brother. Simon had introduced Max to the Star Wars series (“Alec please tell me you haven’t deprived your brother of all the good things in life”) so he and Max were slowly making their way through the series.

He unlocked the door of his apartment and heard voices from inside before he even had the door open. One was definitely Max and the other, Alec noted with surprise, was Isabelle.

Warily, he pushed the door open and stepped inside. Izzy and Max were sitting on the couch, drinking tea and talking. Isabelle looked happy. Alec knew how much she had missed Max over the years; out of the three of them she had been the closest with him. It was good seeing the two of them together again.

He sent them a small wave. “Sorry. I’ll just be in my room.” He knew the rest of them had picked up on the tension between him and Isabelle but just because Max was staying with him, didn’t mean he needed to intrude on the time they spent together.

She got up from the couch. “Actually, I came here to see you.” She clasped her hands in front of her, standing up straight. To anyone else she would look the picture of composed and in control but Alec could see the hesitation in her eyes, the way she slightly rocked back on her heels nervously.

Max placed his cup on the table and got up from the couch. “Right. Actually, big brother, I will be in my room.” He clapped Alec on the shoulder as he passed, moving down the hallway to the spare room he had claimed and closed the door.

Alec and Isabelle stood facing each other, neither of them speaking. He hated fighting with her. They rarely fought and had only had a few small blowouts in the past, but they were resolved usually within a few days. This was by far the longest they had ever gone without speaking.

Alec rubbed his fingers together. “Do you, um - do you want anything? Water, food -”

She cut him off. “I want my brother back.” Alec swore he could feel his heart breaking at her words.

He swallowed thickly. “You never lost me, Iz.” He said, voice thick with emotion. He realized that these past few weeks had been just as hard on her as they had been on him. He took a few steps forward and pulled her into a tentative hug. She squeezed him back tightly, burying her head into his chest.

She pulled back and moved to the couch, Alec following her. He could see a few tears in her eyes and looked away casually as she scrubbed them away.

“I’m sorry for bothering you about Magnus.” She started. “That wasn’t fair and it definitely wasn’t my place.”

Alec sighed. He thought back to what Magnus had said last week; she just wants what’s best for you. Magnus was right. Isabelle had probably seen the way he felt about Magnus before he himself even saw it and wanted him to take a chance and be happy. She had been trying to set him up with someone nice ever since his last relationship ended in flames and now that she was happy with Simon, she wanted Alec to share that happiness with her.

He nodded. “I thought that too, that it wasn’t your place. Which is why I said those things. But I never really would have realized how I really felt if it wasn’t for you, Iz. You forced me to take the time to look at my feelings head on and face them, and I shouldn’t have yelled at you for that. I’m sorry for making you feel like you were doing something wrong just for caring about me.”

“Oh, Alec.” She murmured. She grabbed his hand and held it in her lap. “I know you’re my big brother and you can make your own decisions but I just wanted to see you happy. You’re so happy with him and I wanted you to see that. I guess I just went about it the wrong way.”

Alec laughed and nodded. He pulled her in for another hug and held her close. “It’s okay, I forgive you.”

“And I forgive you. Promise me we’ll never fight again, okay? I hated it.”

Alec nodded and pulled her closer, kissing her lightly on the head. When they pulled apart he cleared his throat and scratched the back of his neck. “You were right though. About me, at least.”

She scrunched her eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

He laughed, no humour in the sound. “I’m in love with him, Iz. I guess it took fighting with you to see that, but god, I love him so much.”

She smiled softly and gripped his hand again. “That’s so amazing Alec! I am so happy for you. You deserve it.” She paused. “Wait, what did you mean ‘about you’?”

Alec told her what happened at the club. How they started with just simple dancing, having fun and goofing off. How when Simon and his band came on the stage things started to change, how the dancing got slower, dirtier, more passionate. He blushed as he told her but she just squeezed his hand reassuringly.

He told her about the countdown and how he had been so sure that Magnus had leaned in, just a little bit. How Alec had kissed him when the clock struck midnight and it was one of those kisses people describe in the movies, with fireworks and sparks behind their eyes.

He told her how when he had pulled away, Magnus was looking at him in shock and confusion. How it had been so clearly written on his face that he wasn’t into Alec the same way Alec was so into him.

She let him tell the whole story, not interrupting once. He talked and talked and talked and told her every single detail he had been keeping locked away for the past week. He had told Jace the basics of what happened but knew he wouldn’t understand everything the way Izzy would. He would probably try, but wouldn’t understand what Alec meant when he said Magnus was his ‘one’.

By the time he finished, Alec was out of breath. He had been talking steadily faster, words pouring out of him faster than he could control them. He stopped and took a deep breath and met her eyes. They were dark and sad, but also held a fire behind them. Rage.

“Iz, I know what you’re going to say.” Alec said, gently placing a hand on her shoulder, holding her back.

She shrugged him off and got up from the couch. “No! Alec this isn’t okay! That man has been leading you on for weeks, and then when you decide to make a move he just decides he’s not into it?” She fumed.

Alec shook his head. “That’s not it. I’ve been seeing things that aren’t really there, Iz. He was never into me, his personality is just naturally flirty. I should have known from the start.”

She bit her lip. “Alec, I was seeing the same things you were. I was so sure that he felt the same way.” She shook her head and muttered to herself, pacing around the living room.

Alec smiled, small and thankful. “Izzy, it’s okay. I’ll be okay. Having Magnus just as my friend is better than not having him in my life at all.” Alec kept telling himself, over and over, that it was okay. That being friends with Magnus was okay, he could live like that. Because if he told himself enough, he would eventually believe it.

She flopped down on the couch, defeated. “I’m losing my touch. I’m usually so good at these things!”

Alec laughed and ruffled her hair. “Maybe you were never as good as you thought you were.”

She pouted and smacked him on the head. “Hey! I take offense to that!”

Alec raised his eyebrows and grinned. “Well then tell me, Miss All-Knowing-Matchmaker, how did you not realize your boyfriend has been in love with you since he met you?”

She rolled her eyes. “He was not. It wasn’t that long.”

Alec smirked. “You realize you’re talking to the bestfriend of said boyfriend right? You think I enjoyed hearing him whine about being in love and writing sappy songs about my sister for 7 years?” Isabelle’s mouth dropped open and Alec laughed, lighter than he had been in weeks.

“Oh my god. I’m a fraud.” She collapsed onto his shoulder and let out a sigh and Alec pat her head comfortingly, still laughing.

Max poked his head into the living room. “I heard laughing. That means that you guys love each other again, right? Either that or one of you turned into a psychopath and really enjoyed killing the other one.”

Alec and Isabelle rolled their eyes and Max grinned. He ran at them and jumped on the couch, squishing in beside Alec who was then framed by his two siblings. “I’m so glad everyone’s friends again. Alec was starting to get really grumpy.”

“I’m not grumpy!” Alec protested loudly, laughing. Izzy and Max shared a look that said otherwise. “I’ve just … got a lot going on. I’m preoccupied.”

“Which is the adult way of saying grumpy.” Max retorted, grinning. Isabelle high-fived him over Alec’s head.

“It’s okay, big brother. We love you, even when you’re preoccupied.” Isabelle grinned, leaning into his side. Max nodded and leaned into his other side. Alec shook his head but accepted the love he was getting from his them anyway.

He was lucky to have people that cared about him the way they did. He was lucky that he had siblings he could rely on when he needed them the most. Siblings who would look past his faults, tell him when he was wrong and still continue to love him throughout it all.

Alec smiled and grabbed the remote off the table and turned on the next episode of Star Wars, settling back into the cushions.

 

***

Chapter Text

Alec was sprawled on Magnus’ black leather couch while the other man ran around the loft, looking for his missing earring. He was half dressed, black silk button up on over top of a pair of grey track pants and had only done his makeup on one eye.

Alec suppressed the urge to giggle but must have done so poorly because Magnus shot him an annoyed look. Alec grinned unapologetically.

He had received a cryptic call from Magnus yesterday asking him what he was doing the next night. Alec had told him he had nothing going on, so Magnus had simply told him to be at his apartment at 7pm sharp, dressed nicely.

Alec had refused to get his hopes up about Magnus’ intentions for the evening. His ‘just friends’ mindset had been going well the past two weeks, and he only thought about the incident when he was alone in bed at night and had a weak moment.

So here he was, 7:30pm, sitting on Magnus’ couch while the other man ran around the loft looking like a lunatic.

“You must own more than one pair of earrings.” Alec suggested lightly. “Why don’t you wear a different pair?”

Magnus shook his head and fixed Alec with a look that he clearly didn’t understand the severity of the dilemma. “I had these ones picked out for this particular outfit. If I changed my earrings I might as well scrap the whole outfit and start over, and then we’d really be late.” Alec nodded, trying to appear as if he understood. This was clearly an important issue to Magnus so he kept his smirk to himself.

Magnus finally found the lost piece of jewelry a few minutes later, tucked behind a couch cushion. “Aha! I should have known one of the boys would put it here.”

“The boys?” Alec asked, confused. He wasn’t aware that Magnus had roommates, and if he did he thought for sure he would have heard about them by now.

Magnus laughed. “My cats Alexander, Church and Chairman Meow. They’re always playing with my jewelry.”

Alec looked around. He hadn’t seen them when he walked in, but now that he was looking around he saw food dishes and toys scattered around the apartment. “Where are they?”

Magnus shrugged. “I know you’re not a cat person so I made sure they were locked in the bedroom. They’re sleeping on my bed.”

The insides of Alec’s stomach did something funny at that. It had been one of their first times at Java Jones and they were playing a game of ‘This or That’ to get to know each other and when faced with the question ‘cats or dogs’ by Magnus, Alec had immediately responded that he was much more of a dog person.

“You don’t have to lock them in there! I never said I don’t like them per se, but I’ve never met a cat that liked me.” Alec replied, chuckling.

Magnus pursed his lips. “This might have to be the end of our friendship, Alexander. Unfortunately I don’t associate with anyone my cats don’t like.” He walked away to the bedroom leaving Alec sitting there, open mouthed, unsure if he was joking or not. He really hoped he was because cats really didn’t like him usually.

As soon as the door opened, Magnus’ two cats came running out. Alec had seen them before, but never in person. The bigger one, Chairman Meow, jumped right up onto his lap and curled into a small ball immediately. Church, the smaller one, sniffed curiously at Alec’s socks before settling down at his feet.

Alec didn’t know what to do at first. Hesitantly, he scratched Chairman between his ears and the cat purred, stretching out and getting comfortable. Alec looked up to find Magnus looking down at him from the doorway to his bedroom, arms crossed and pleased smile on his face. “Looks like the boys have decided you can stay after all.” Alec grinned in response.

Magnus told him he would be out in 10 minutes and then they would go, leaving Alec sitting in the living room with a lap full of cat. While he most definitely would rather have a lap full of someone else in this apartment, he could settle for the Chairman.

No, Alec told himself sternly, friends didn’t want a lap full of their other friends. Friends would much rather the cats. He sighed and looked down, where the two cats were lazily sleeping, both of them purring contently. Cats, Alec.

True to his word, Magnus emerged from his room a few minutes later, fully dressed this time. He looked amazing, like always, but far more casual than he usually did. For instance, if they were going somewhere in public, Magnus almost always had streaks in his hair but today he had left it solid black, only making Alec more curious as to where they were going.

They walked downstairs but instead of going to the front of the building where the car usually picked them up, they turned left and went to the garage underneath the building. The garage was packed with cars. Nice cars. It looked like the garage Tony Stark had hidden in the basement of his house, expensive cars lined up along the walls, gleaming under the lights.

Alec’s mouth dropped open. “Please tell me you don’t own all these cars. Because if you do, I’m-” He stopped himself from saying ‘going to propose to you on the spot’ and instead said, “I’m going to be changing professions.”

“They’re nice, aren’t they?” He mused. Alec gaped at him. Magnus laughed. “I’m kidding. They belong to the people that live in my building. Only one of them is mine, but they are nice to look at, no?” He led them over to a modest Bentley. Alec wasn’t much of a car enthusiast but he knew a nice car when he saw one, and this car was nice. It was deep red, similar to the colour of Magnus’ room.

Alec didn’t know the going rate for a Bentley these days, but he was pretty sure it had enough zeros to be worthy of Tony Stark’s garage.

“This is my baby. This was my first adult purchase. About a year after I started my own line it was doing really well and so I bought this car to celebrate. I don’t get to drive it very much anymore, only when I leave the city.”

Alec lips quirked. “Are we leaving the city?”

Magnus nodded. “Just outside of the city actually.”

Alec got in the passenger side. “Are you going to tell me where we’re going now?”

“I will if you promise not to freak out.”

He considered that for a moment before nodding. “Deal.”

Magnus pulled the car out of the garage and soon enough they were on their way. “Well, remember my stepmom’s art show we went to?” At Alec’s deadpan look, he continued. “She had this lady buy her out of a set of pieces she did. They were the most expensive ones there and she wasn’t expecting them to sell.”

Alec nodded in interest, but still didn’t understand what this had to do with where they were going. Magnus continued. “When the woman who bought them came to pick them up she said to Jocelyn, and I quote ‘That handsome young man who came with your son sold me on these ones. He was such a charmer, I couldn’t resist’”. He grinned, eyes flicking off the road to glance at Alec. “Apparently then she proceeded to ask if you were single. Jocelyn politely declined on your behalf.”

“You’re telling me that I convinced a rich old lady to buy one of your stepmom’s most expensive paintings based on just my charm alone?” Alec asked incredulously. “And then she wanted to be my sugar mama?”

Magnus laughed. “Well, I’m sure your looks also had something to do with it, darling. But essentially, yes that’s what I’m saying.” He grinned at Alec’s flabbergasted look. “Anyway, Jocelyn wanted to invite you over for dinner in thanks.” He paused. “I hope that’s not weird.”

Alec shook his head. “That’s probably the least weird thing about this entire situation.” When Magnus focused back on the road he looked out the window. They were on their way to Magnus’ childhood home to meet his parents. Alec couldn’t help but feel slightly nervous at the thought, even though he had no reason to be. It wasn’t as if he needed to make a good impression on them, or convince them that his intentions with their son were pure.

He was Magnus’ friend, just going to his childhood home for a friendly thank you dinner.

Alec swallowed down his nerves and returned Magnus’ smile.

 

***

 

Clary opened the door when they knocked. She didn’t look impressed. She fixed Magnus with a withering look. “You’re late.” She cut him off when he was about to use a false excuse of traffic being heavy and turned to Alec. “Hi Alec! I’m glad you could come.”

Alec looked between them and laughed before hugging Clary back. “Hey Clary, thanks for inviting me.”

Magnus rolled his eyes. “That’s alright, you can pick him as the favourite but at least I know that I’m Mom and Dad’s favourite.” He quipped back, stepping back before she could hit him.

She took the bottle of wine from Alec (“Magnus, I can’t show up at your parents’ without a bottle of wine”) and led them into the kitchen.

They found Jocelyn in the kitchen, arranging a tray of appetizers while she chatted with Simon who was telling her about the press his band had gotten after New Years.

“We were featured in two magazines! They were those little ones that they give out for free, but you have to start somewhere right?”

They both looked up when the three of them entered the room. “Fear not mother, your favourite child is here.” Magnus said as he gave her a kiss on the cheek, shooting a triumphant wink at Clary.

“I’m obviously the favourite, they see me everyday.”

“Ah, but distance only makes the heart grow fonder, little one.”

Jocelyn shot them both a look. “Must you two do this every time? We have guests.” She shook her head fondly.

Magnus grinned. “Well I don’t think Shawn counts as a guest anymore, and Alexander here is used to it. Clary bothers him all the time too.” Alec opened his mouth in protest but closed it and laughed, rolling his eyes.

Jocelyn reached her hand out to Alec, before changing her mind and pulling him into a hug. Alec, to his credit, didn’t back away and hugged her back. “It’s nice to meet you, Alec. I’ve heard great things about you from both of my delinquents.”

Alec smiled. “It’s nice to meet you as well. I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet at your show a few weeks ago, but I had to step out early.”

She brushed him off, grinning. “I’d say you made up for it ten times over, what with charming the pants off Mrs. Walters like that.”

Simon grinned. “Alec I didn’t know you were into widows now. But I mean, to each his own right?” Alec ignored Simon in favor of complementing Jocelyn on the house, but Magnus saw him give Simon the finger when her back was turned.

Jocelyn led Alec off for a tour of the house just as Luke came in from the backyard. He had an apron tied around his waist that said ‘Kiss the Cook’ that Magnus remembered him getting for Christmas the year before.

“Magnus!” He looked around. “Where’s Alec?”

“He’s getting the grand tour. I’m sure he’ll be back momentarily.” Luke nodded in understanding and placed the plate of steaks on the counter, beginning to slice them.

Clary sidled up to him and pretended to ponder which wine she wanted. “Has he remembered yet?” She didn’t look up at him, instead lifted a bottle of Chardonnay to read the label.

“No, and I’ve accepted the fact that he won’t.” Magnus whispered back, grabbing the bottle from her and pouring himself a glass. She gave him a small sympathetic smile, but Magnus just shook his head. “Biscuit, it is what it is.”

“What is?” Simon asked, sliding up beside them.

Magnus didn’t miss a beat. “Your being here. There’s not much we can do about it, now can we?”

Simon grinned and put his arm around Magnus’ shoulder. “I love you too, buddy.” Magnus looked pointedly down at the arm draped around his shoulder and Simon removed it quickly, Clary laughing into her wine glass.

Alec and Jocelyn returned a few minutes later. Alec’s eyes lit up when they settled on Magnus (he may have had to tell his heart to keep beating, and stop skipping at that one). “Magnus I never knew you had a passion for dance.”

His mouth dropped open and he faced Jocelyn, betrayal all over his face. “You didn’t!”

She smiled innocently and patted him on the cheek. “Honey the picture was hanging in the hallway. He asked and I’m not going to be rude to our guest of honor by denying him a good story.” Magnus groaned and hid his head in his hands.

The picture, and story, she was referring to was one of Magnus wearing a bright pink tutu. He had taken ballet for a few years when he was younger and had actually really enjoyed it. But one year, a few days before the year end recital Jocelyn had spilled paint all over his costume and hadn’t been able to remove it. They had gone to ask the studio if there was anything else he could wear but the only thing they had was what the other little girls were wearing, pink tights and a tutu. She hung the picture in the hallway, claiming she loved it but Magnus thought she did it as some sick form of torture.

Alec grinned. “Do you still have it?”

Magnus raised his eyebrows. “Even if I did it probably wouldn’t cover much. It would probably just fit around a single thigh.” He winked for good measure and noticed with amusement that Alec flushed. If there was one thing that was the same about them, it was that Alec still got embarrassed whenever Magnus mentioned anything sexual.

Luke carried the food and placed it in the middle of the table. “Grubs up!” He turned to Alec. “Hi Alec, I’m Luke. We’re really happy you could come.”

Alec shook his hand. “Thank you for having me, Sir.”

Luke laughed. “Call me Luke. I’m not nearly old enough to be referred to as ‘Sir’ yet.”

Dinner was really good. Magnus had been a little nervous, but once again Alec had surprised him and made easy conversation with both of his parents. Jocelyn was really interested in how they all knew each other and how they all didn’t realize it until a few weeks ago.

“So you two have been friends since university?” She asked, indicating to Alec and Simon. They both nodded. “And now you work together?”

Simon grinned. “Isn’t he lucky? He gets to see me all the time, especially now that I’m with Isabelle.” Alec rolled his eyes fondly.

Jocelyn smiled. “It’s so weird seeing you all grown up, Simon. I remember you coming over in your Star Wars t shirts like it was yesterday.”

Magnus smirked. “Are you sure it wasn’t yesterday?” Alec choked on his food laughing and Clary let out a small chuckle.

“I’ll have you know that Star Wars shirts are very in right now. They’re considered hipster grunge.” Simon defended proudly, which only caused the rest of them to laugh harder.

Clary pointed her fork at him. “You better not wear one of those things to Magnus’ show next week. It might actually be dangerous to your health if you do.”

They all continued chatting lightly, Simon defending his stance on printed t shirts. Alec turned to Magnus, face scrunched up in confusion. “What are we supposed to wear to your show? Is there like ... a dress code? Do we have to wear stuff you’ve designed or is that forbidden or -”

Magnus cut him off, laughing. “Alexander, it’s okay! I spoke with Isabelle this morning and she told me you don’t have anything to wear, so I offered to take you later this week.” He hesitated, fearing he overstepped. “Of course, only if you wish to. If you’re more comfortable going with your sister …”

Alec shook his head quickly. “No! God, no. Isabelle is terrible to shop with. She makes you try everything on until she finds something she likes.”

Magnus grinned. “I may make you try some stuff on, but I have a pretty good sense of your style that it should just be for sizing.”

Alec smiled, small and sweet. “That’s really nice of you to offer. I know you’re busy with everything. So, thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure, Alexander. I haven’t picked out my outfit for the day-of either so we’ll make a day out of it.”

“I look forward to it.”

They looked up when they realized the conversation had slowed around the table and everyone was watching them. Clary was studying Alec closely, eyes flicking between the two of them. Luke and Jocelyn shared a look. Magnus silently begged none of them to say anything.

“So, where did you two meet?” Jocelyn asked, faux-innocent expression on her face. Magnus sighed.

Alec spoke up before he could divert the question. “I accidentally bumped into Magnus when he was waiting for a coffee order. I was reading and walking, which is very dangerous and I don’t recommend to anyone.” He paused, and chuckled. “Though, it had a pretty good outcome in my case.”

Jocelyn’s eyes went wide and Magnus knew she was connecting the pieces. Alec was the same Alec he had told them about right after they had hung out for the first time, at that family dinner a few months ago. A slow grin spread on her face. “Yes, I believe we’ve heard that story. It is a good one.”

Magnus cleared his throat. “Yes, I was telling them the dangers of reading and walking. I’m a victim, but I’m also a survivor and I’m proud to be where I am today.” Magnus joked. Simon snorted and Alec grinned.

The rest of the dinner was relatively uneventful. Jocelyn wanted to know more about the work that Clary was doing with Simon and Alec. Simon took the lead and explained that Clary was designing a cover for the author they were representing. It was weird seeing Simon speaking so professionally. His usual upbeat and goofy personality was replaced by one of calm professionalism, a side Magnus had never seen before. He kept sending glances at Alec, but the other man let him continue to do the talking.

After dinner and dessert they moved to the living room for drinks. Jocelyn showed Alec a picture of the art he had unintentionally helped sell, with it’s new owner standing proudly beside it.

“I remember her! She kept pinching my face and calling me ‘sweet cheeks’. I was trying to distract her by talking about your art.” He laughed, looking down at the picture.

Luke raised his glass to Alec. “Well, thank you for your amazing distraction techniques. We’ll send you a postcard from the beach.”

“We’re going on vacation? Awesome!” Clary cheered. Luke shook his head.

“Not you, but we are. You have a full-time job young lady.” Clary looked put out and Luke and Jocelyn talked more about their upcoming trip.

Magnus took advantage of the break and motioned for Alec to follow him. “I want to show you something.” Alec followed him up the stairs and towards the door that led to the roof. He hadn’t been sure about showing Alec the garden, after all it wasn’t much of a garden in the winter time, but Clary had whispered in his ear after dinner that she thought it would be a good idea.

The snow was falling gently as they stepped outside and Magnus wished he had grabbed his jacket before they left, cool wind blowing right through the thin material of his shirt.

Alec shrugged off his suit jacket and held it out to Magnus, with a smile. “Alexander, don’t be silly. I’m fine.”

Alec laughed and rolled his eyes. “Your lips are turning blue and it’s not your lipstick. Take it, I’m naturally warm blooded.” Their fingers brushed over the material of the jacket as Alec passed it over and Magnus felt an electric shock run up his arm. He played it off as a shiver from the cold and slipped his arms into Alec’s jacket. It was a little big on him, sleeves falling past his fingers but it smelled like Alec and it was warm so he wasn’t going to complain.

“So remind me, why are we out here freezing our asses off again?” Alec asked, chuckling.

Magnus took a step back and held his arms out wide. “This,” he said dramatically, “is my oasis. It’s usually much nicer in the summer, so you’ll have to use your imagination for now.”

Alec slowly took a few steps around, hands in his pockets and boots crunching in the snow. He walked around a few of the raised beds and peered in them, ran his fingers along the empty arch way and examined the trellis’. He stopped when he made his way all around, and faced Magnus. “It’s beautiful.” He smiled softly. “I can’t imagine how much more so it would be in the summer.”

Magnus huffed lightly. “It’s pretty ugly right now, but in the summer there are colorful flowers everywhere. The smell is gorgeous too. The lilac tree in the corner over there overpowers a lot of it for a few weeks but when the primrose come up they put everything else to shame. Don’t even get me started on the herbs.” Alec was watching him, small grin on his face as Magnus strolled around the roof, pointing out where everything was. “Are you laughing at me?”

“No!” Alec said. He dug his hands in his pockets and rocked back slightly on his heels. “I just like how much you know about plants.”

Magnus nodded. “Clary and I used to spend hours up here. We learned the name of every single one of them by the second summer and had made our own book of all of the flowers, with pictures, by the end of the third.”

“Yeah?”

“Yep. Some of them were colored, but I got a digital camera for my birthday so we did the rest with that.” Magnus smiled, a memory coming back to him. “I made a friend in high school who loved plants more than I did. He would come over after school and tell me all of the scientific names for each plant. I remember showing him the book Clary and I had made, and he offered to add to it, all those years later.”

“He added to your childhood dictionary slash scrapbook?” Alec asked, giggling.

Magnus smirked. “There were a few teasing jokes made, but Clary was seven at the time and he couldn’t say anything too rude or he’d hurt her feelings.”

Alec walked to the edge of the roof, looking down over the ledge. The house wasn’t high, but being on the roof still gave you a good view of the neighborhood. “He sounds like someone I would get along with. Do you still keep in touch?”

Magnus felt his throat close, and he had to close his eyes, letting the feeling pass. When he opened them, Alec was standing in front of him with a concerned look on his face. “Are you alright?”

Magnus smiled sadly. “My friend, the one who loved plants. He passed away.” Alec placed a gentle hand on his arm and squeezed lightly. “He was mugged about a year ago, except they didn’t stop when they got his valuables. By the time someone found him he had been unconscious for a while.” He shrugged. “They had him on life support for a few weeks but when it was clear that he wasn’t going to get any better they had no choice but to let him go.”

“Magnus,” Alec whispered, voice cracking. “I’m so sorry. I never knew.”

He placed his hand over top of Alec’s and laced their fingers together. “You couldn’t have known. I don’t talk about him much because it’s still hurts, but when I’m ready I have some great stories to tell you.”

Talking about Raphael with Alec, while it was still painful, was different. Magnus still felt the twinge at his heart when he thought of him, but he was starting to feel more of a lightness, a fondness that came along with the memories instead of just sadness. He knew it was because of time, but he had a feeling Alec also had a part in it.

Alec gave his arm one last gentle squeeze before he dropped it. “I’d love to hear them sometime.”

They spent a few more minutes in silence, just taking in the view around them until Magnus noticed Alec shivering and said they should go inside and head home since it was getting late.

They came downstairs to everyone just as they left them. Clary and Simon were arguing with Luke and Jocelyn over the best vacation spots (Clary and Simon said Hawaii was the best, while his parents were more inclined to visit Spain).

When they announced they should get going, Jocelyn and Luke walked them to the door. Magnus went to hand Alec back his suit jacket but Alec told him to keep it, considering Magnus’ winter coat wasn’t near warm enough for the weather outside.

“It was great to finally meet you, Alec.” Jocelyn said, hugging him again. “We’ve been hearing stories about you and your siblings for weeks, so it’s nice to finally put a face to the name.”

“It was great to meet you guys as well. Thank you for inviting me into your home.”

Luke shook his hand again. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing you next week at the show?”

Magnus butted in and nodded. “I’ve put you all together in the second row, so you’ll be up close to the action.”

They said the rest of their goodbyes and walked out to the car. A thin layer of snow had fallen when they were inside, but nothing that would impede their drive.

They spent the ride home in comfortable silence, one of them breaking it every so often to point out something funny that had been said, but otherwise traveled in silence.

Magnus pulled up outside of Alec’s apartment to let him out. He could just see the side profile of Alec’s face, backlit by the street lamp behind him but the light made him look ethereal. He allowed himself a brief moment to examine him before pulling his eyes away.

“Thank you for inviting me tonight, Magnus.” Alec said softly, as if not wanting to break the hushed silence in the car.

“Thank you for coming. I know it meant a lot to Jocelyn.” He paused. He so badly wanted to finish the sentence with ‘and me’ but knew he shouldn't. That wasn’t something friends would say when their other friends met their family. Magnus sighed softly and put on a smile. “So, what time shall I pick you up tomorrow?”

Alec looked confused, head tilted to the side. “Tomorrow?”

Magnus smiled. “I believe you promised me I could take you shopping, if I remember correctly?”

Alec sighed and rolled his eyes fondly. “Here I was hoping you’d forget.” Magnus punched him lightly on the arm and Alec laughed. “Let’s say 10? According to Izzy, I’m nearly impossible to dress so you’ll need a lot of time. To you know, pick out an outfit, and all that.” He ran his hand through his hair, fingers messing it up even more than it was.

Magnus shook his head and waved dismissively. “Don’t worry, I’ll have something for you to wear in no time. You have the body shape for pretty much anything, darling.” He let his eyes trail down Alec’s body. For nothing more than to gauge his size, of course. Alec may have flushed, but Magnus couldn’t be sure with the lack of light in the car.

“Right. OK. So, tomorrow?” Alec asked, clearing his throat, hand going to his hair again.

Magnus’ eyes dragged back to his face and he nodded.

“See you tomorrow, Alexander.”

 

***

 

Alec was waiting outside his apartment building the next morning, ten minutes until the time he was supposed to meet Magnus.

He had woken up early enough that he had time to go to the cafe down the street from his building to get coffee, one for him and one for Magnus. They had been there a few times before. Times when they were hanging out at Alec’s watching movies and needed a pick-me-up or when they were walking home from a day out and wanted something warm.

He also held a bag of bagels in his gloved hand, their tantalizing smell wafting through the brown paper.

Magnus arrived right at 10 o’clock, pulling up in a black Sedan. Alec wasn’t surprised that they weren’t taking Magnus’ car today. It would have been far too stressful to find parking and move the car around between stores, and it made much more sense to just hire a driver. Alec had driven downtown a handful of times and each time wished he had just taken a cab instead.

Alec slipped in the backseat beside Magnus, nodding to the driver before turning to the other man. He couldn’t help smiling when he saw him.

Magnus was dressed casually today. Very casually compared to his usual dress. While his hair and makeup were both done, he had no streaks in his hair and no glitter around his eyes, instead leaving both of them looking more natural. He wore a plain black button up shirt over top of a pair of black ripped jeans and of course his necklaces around his neck. He had on yet another new coat this morning. Magnus seemed to have an abundance of jackets and coats, and Alec was sure he hadn’t seen the same one twice. The one he was wearing today was a deep forest green wool coat (Alec thought it might be called a pea coat, but he wasn’t sure).

Alec grinned and handed him his coffee. “Good morning.”

Magnus raised an eyebrow. “Someone is awfully chipper for going shopping this morning. Isabelle described taking you shopping as, and I quote ‘like pulling teeth that have not yet grown in yet. Impossible and extremely painful.’ I was preparing for the worst.”

He shrugged, settling back into the leather seats. “Isabelle is horrible to shop with. I have a feeling I’m not going to hate shopping with you as much.” He almost winced at the softness of his tone, so he added teasingly, “Unless you make me model. Then we’re going to have an issue, Bane.”

Magnus smirked. “One day I will get you to model, Alexander. I’m determined and rather stubborn on the subject, but today will not be that day.”

For a weekday there wasn’t too much traffic downtown. They had missed the morning rush of commuters and the roads wouldn’t yet be packed with people going on their lunch breaks so the ride down was rather smooth and took them no time at all.

The driver took them right to Fifth Avenue, pulling to the side of the road to let them out. They thanked the driver and Magnus told him that he would give him a call when they were done.

Like most New Yorkers, Alec had been to Fifth Avenue before. He had come with Izzy a few times but usually just ended up carrying her bags for her instead of doing any shopping himself. He had bought most of his more formal clothing here as well, though he tended to avoid the designer stores and stuck to the smaller, cheaper ones.

Magnus on the other hand, walked right to the designer stores.

The first store they entered was one Alec recognized; Armani. It was located on the corner of the block with walls made entirely of glass. There was a crowd of people outside, posing for pictures or just admiring the building itself. Magnus walked right past them all and right into the building, dragging Alec along with him. As soon as they stepped through the front doors though, Alec forgot completely all about the outside.

The inside of the store was massive, as least four stories tall and bigger than any other store Alec had ever been in. In the middle of the space was a giant staircase, though it didn’t look like any staircase Alec had ever seen before. It was pure white and twisted and wound around itself dramatically. It looked like wisps of smoke, curling and floating to the top of the building. It was abstract but there was something about it that was beautiful.

Alec stood in the doorway and looked up, not caring if he looked like an idiot with his mouth hanging open. Magnus nudged him lightly after Alec had admired the staircase for longer than was probably necessary. “Doesn’t take much to impress you, does it Alexander?” He teased, winking.

Alec scoffed, tearing his eyes away from the architecture. “I’m a simple man, what can I say?”

Magnus chuckled and gestured for Alec to step further in the building. The store was busy, people wandering around, taking pictures and browsing through the clothing. Alec almost jumped out his skin when Magnus placed a hand at the base of his spine, directing him around a crowd of people. He could feel Magnus’ hand burning through the layers of his clothing, almost as if his hand was resting against his bare skin.

He swallowed thickly, concentrating on keeping himself in check. If he was going to get through this day he absolutely could not think about Magnus’ hands on his bare skin. That was not part of the plan.

They approached a counter where a line of employees were waiting to assist customers. Magnus removed his hand from Alec (and Alec was finally able to catch his breath) and walked right up to the desk. There were several people behind it, and Alec noted as they all turned to look at Magnus, that they all looked eerily similar.

“Mr. Bane!” A young girl in a black pin skirt and blouse said, walking around the desk to greet them. She was young and perky and had bright green eyes, with flowing strawberry-blonde hair. She brushed completely by Alec, focusing all of her attention on Magnus. Alec couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw the other minions behind the desk deflate a little that they hadn’t been the first one to approach him. “Welcome to Armani, sir. My name is Claudia.”

Magnus sent the girl an award winning smile. “Well good morning to you, Claudia.”

Claudia bat her eyelashes and rested her hand on Magnus’ bicep, her manicured hand squeezing lightly. Her voice dropped a little as she spoke. “And what can I help you with today, sir?” A hot feeling filled Alec then, coursing through his body screaming at him to drag Magnus away and right out of the store. The fire in his stomach roared unpleasantly, especially at the way she had emphasized ‘sir’. His skin pricked hotly and he recognized the feeling quickly as jealousy, pushing down the irrational feelings.

His jealousy was quelled slightly however when Magnus politely shrugged her arm off and gestured to Alec, smiling. “This fine gentleman is in need of a suit for my Fashion Week show. He looks quite lovely in your clothing so I thought we might try here first.”

The fire settled to warm coals inside him, warming his insides pleasantly. Alec resisted the urge to preen at Magnus’ words and instead sent Claudia a polite smile when she fell away slightly, eyes reluctantly flicking for the first time to Alec.

She composed herself and led them up the staircase to the third floor where a large portion of the men’s clothing was. There were racks and racks of clothing, mannequins dressed up along the walls. They would definitely find something here, Alec thought, a little disappointed. He had hoped to spend the day with Magnus but it looked like it would be over within an hour.

Magnus thanked the saleswoman and left her standing there to peruse the racks on his own. She stood there, slightly shocked at his abrupt exit, and moved her gaze to Alec. He smiled apologetically and thanked her for her help quickly before following Magnus.

He looked through the racks, eyes scanning quickly. He had a ring-clad hand near his face, single finger tapping his chin as he looked around. Alec wasn’t sure what he was looking for exactly. He knew you were supposed to dress up for these shows, from what he had gathered from his Google searches. Some people went in full suits, while others went decidedly more casual in slacks and leather jackets.

He saw tons of things around them that looked really nice, and were probably fashion show worthy but Magnus just brushed right past them. Alec followed silently, letting him do his work.

At the final rack Magnus turned and let out a disgruntled sigh. “Nothing.” He said, shaking his head. Alec wasn’t entirely sure if Magnus was speaking to him or himself. “Very disappointing. I was thinking for sure we’d find something here, but alas, they have nothing.”

Alec made a point of looking around at all the clothes around them. Magnus noticed and grinned. “Oh Alexander, sometimes I forget how innocent you are. C’mon, let’s go. We’re burning daylight.”

“I’m not innocent.” Alec grumbled under his breath, but Magnus didn’t hear him. He grabbed Alec by the hand and led him down the crazy staircase and out of the store, onto the street. It was getting a little busier and the sidewalks were congested with shoppers. The weather was cool today but it wasn’t snowing so people were taking advantage and were out and about.

The next few stores they entered followed in the same fashion as Armani. They would walk into a store, the associates would flutter and dote around Magnus, he would scan the racks quickly and then they would leave empty handed.

It was after the fifth store this happened that Alec asked, “So what exactly are we looking for?”

Magnus shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll know it when I see it.” Alec didn’t claim to know anything about fashion, so he trusted Magnus when he said he would find something for Alec, even if it took them all day.

A few stores later, Magnus actually had Alec try some stuff on. Just a few shirts and jackets but it was progress. Alec glimpsed the price tags when he was changing into them and his eyes almost bugged out of his head. When he mentioned them to Magnus, the other man was completely unfazed, waving away Alec’s concerns loftily.

Alec stepped out of the change room and Magnus shook his head as soon as he stepped out.

“Do I look that bad?” Alec asked, looking down. He had actually liked the dark jeans and button up combo, stylish blazer thrown over top.

Magnus shook his head quickly, and sent Alec a reassuring smile. “While that does look is divine on you, it’s not what we’re looking for.” And so back into the change room Alec went, trying on more clothing and each time getting the same reaction from Magnus.

Alec had lost track of the number of stores they had been in. They had stopped for a quick lunch at a bistro, and then continued on with their search. His feet were starting to hurt and he could see Magnus was getting slightly frustrated from the clipped smile and short conversation he had made with the last associate who had tried to flirt with him.

Alec nudged his shoulder, grinning. “Feel like you’re pulling nonexistent teeth yet?”

Magnus let out a startled laugh which, if he was honest, was Alec’s goal from the beginning. “I have to admit, I thought you would be easier to dress than this, Alexander. But I’m not giving up hope on you yet. I have one more idea.”

He pulled out his phone and waited for whomever was on the other end to pick up. He rattled off their location and then another address quickly before hanging up and pocketing his phone.

“We’re leaving 5th Avenue?” Alec asked curiously. He knew there were other places to shop in the city, obviously, but he had only ever been here.

Magnus nodded. “I didn’t think it possible, but this sacred land has failed me.” He shook his head dramatically and let out a long drawn out sigh, causing Alec to chuckle.

The driver came and picked them up a few minutes later. They only drove for about ten minutes before they were being dropped off again.

Alec stepped out of the car and looked up at the store in front of him, curious. It looked nice but was nowhere near the extravagance of some of the others they had visited. The front window was surrounded by wood paneling and the sign above the door read ‘Ascot Chang.’ It looked like just your average store, one Alec would probably venture into on his own.

“If we find nothing in here you’re going to have to go naked.” Magnus sighed, smirking. Alec whipped his head to look at him so fast he was surprised he didn’t dislocate anything. “And that would be very inconvenient. You’d be pulling all the attention away from my work.”

Alec choked out a laugh. “That’s your concern with me showing up to your show naked? Not the potential arrest that would soon follow, or the damage I would be inflicting on the poor innocent attendee's?” Alec asked, dubious.

Magnus shrugged. “I’m sure they wouldn’t mind that much.” Alec felt his cheeks heat up and tried to keep his face neutral. “As for the arrest, don’t you worry darling. I would bail you out. I’m afraid that pretty face of yours wouldn’t last long in jail.” With that, he turned on his heel and walked into the store, leaving Alec like he often did; mouth hanging open in shock and frozen to the spot.

Magnus Bane was going to be the death of him.

The inside of the store was small, and very modest. The floor was white carpet and all of the walls and shelves were stained wood, similar to the outside. It had a very comfortable atmosphere unlike some of the other designer stores they went into that looked more like museums.

Suits lined the walls, in varying colours and styles. There was a table in the middle of the room with every different colour and print of tie possible, each with it’s own matching pocket square. At the back of the room was one of those mirrors that had three panels, with a small raised platform in front of it.

“Welcome to Ascot Chang.” Magnus said, spreading his arms out as if presenting the store to him (Alec supposed he sort of was). “This is one of the most expensive clothing stores in the world but nowhere will you find a suit better than this place.” Magnus grinned. “I hate to admit it, but they even outrank my own designs.”

Alec looked around. Of course Magnus would take him to the most expensive clothing store in the world. That was a very Magnus thing to do.

A man walked up behind Magnus then and clapped him on the shoulder. “Just barely though, Magnus. You suits definitely give us some tough competition.”

“Oh Rodrigo, you’re just trying to flatter me now.” Magnus said, turning to face the man.

Rodrigo looked to be about in his mid-thirties. He had caramel colored skin, slightly darker than Magnus’ and dark hair. He had a goatee that was impressively trimmed, each line was precise and very straight, framing his face and making his jawline stand out even more. Alec would even say he was attractive.

That is, if he didn’t still have a hand on Magnus.

Rodrigo turned to Alec and smiled, holding out a hand. “Welcome amigo. I’m Rodrigo.”

Alec shook his hand. “Alec.”

Rodrigo nodded and turned back to Magnus. “What can I do you gentlemen for today?”

Magnus explained the same thing he had to every other associate that day. “Alexander here needs something to wear for my show next week. We’ve been striking out all day, so I’m counting on you to find something for him. You’re our last hope.” He added, “I also need something to wear for the show, as well as a few outfits for the press parties.”

Rodrigo nodded. “Not a problem, old friend.” He turned to Alec. “Let’s start with you, shall we?” He eyed Alec up and down a few times, asking him to turn occasionally. Alec felt like he was on display. “Alright, go stand up on the platform. Magnus, can you take his measurements while I go grab some things from the back?”

Magnus only hesitated a moment before he nodded. He directed Alec over towards the three-paneled mirror. “Alright. Take off your coat, Alexander. We want accurate measurements.”

Alec had never been measured before so he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. He took off his coat and stepped up onto the platform, facing the mirror. He was met with three identical images of himself, and Magnus in the background. He could see the other man taking off his coat as well and rolling up the sleeves on his black top. Alec’s eyes tracked the movements closely.

Magnus grabbed a rolled up measuring tape from a basket beside the mirror and let it unroll, hitting the floor with a dull thud. He stepped behind Alec, holding the tape in his hands. “Could you pull out your phone? I’ll call out measurements and I want you to write them down, okay?”

Alec nodded and did as he was told, clutching his phone in his hands.

Magnus asked him to turn so that they were facing each other, Alec with his back to the mirror. He was not prepared for what happened next. He should have expected it really, should have known what was going to happen.

Magnus wrapped his arms around Alec’s waist, getting the tape all the way around his hips. Alec flinched slightly at the contact, Magnus’ fingers brushing against his abdomen. Since Alec was up on the platform, Magnus was much shorter to Alec than he usually was, head only coming to Alec’s belt buckle. He pulled the tape tight around Alec’s hips, fingers resting lightly on his lower stomach. Alec had to fight to keep himself in check and not embarrass himself, especially with Magnus so close to him.

He almost missed when Magnus called out the number, ears ringing with white noise. He closed his eyes and tried to focus his attention, typing into his phone with clumsy fingers.

The next measurement was much worse than the first. Magnus was bent down and measuring the inseam of Alec’s pants, hands dangerously close to his groin. He swallowed, throat tight and tried to think about anything except where Magnus’ hands were. Popping a boner while the other man measured him was definitely not in the ‘Be Platonic Friends with Magnus’ plan.

Alec always considered himself to be a good person. He was generally nice to most people and had never broken any really serious laws. But as Alec tried to restrain himself as Magnus ran his hands down his legs, he concluded he must have been a terrible person in a past life, if it warranted this kind of punishment.

Magnus worked quietly, only speaking when he was calling out numbers for him to record. He was completely oblivious to how tightly Alec was wound, muscles tight and unmoving. How Alec was barely breathing because every light press of Magnus’ soft fingertips on him sent him into a tailspin. How the proximity of Magnus’ face to his crotch was coming very close to short circuiting his brain.

Alec stepped off the platform and he thought for a moment that he was done, and was about to congratulate himself for (kind of) keeping it in check. This is, until Magnus asked him to spread his arms to the side so he could measure his chest and shoulders.

He stepped in front of Alec and slid the tape underneath his armpits and around his back, tightening it around his pectorals. Magnus was so close to him, right in front of him, and Alec’s mind unhelpfully supplied him with images from the club, the last time he was this close to Magnus. He pushed them back, shutting his eyes.

The other man was focused on his work, fingers feather light on Alec’s chest while he was adjusting the measuring tape. He had his bottom lip pulled into his mouth, concentrated look on his face, which is probably why he didn’t notice Alec’s irregular breathing patterns. It was faster than normal, breaths coming out in short, tight puffs. Magnus’ fingers trailed above his heart as he moved the tape measure and Alec was positive that he would feel Alec’s heartbeat, hammering hard and fast in his chest, but he just moved on, measuring his biceps.

The relentless torture ended after what seemed like hours when Magnus told him that he could step back up onto the platform while they waited for Rodrigo. Alec practically jumped back onto the platform, adjusting himself slightly when Magnus wasn’t looking.

He was only human after all.

Rodrigo returned with a handful of suits on hangers. They were all varying in colour from neutral grays and blacks to more ostentatious burgundy and green. He brought over a rack and hung them all neatly.

“Okay. I don’t know if you’ve ever been here before Alec, but things work a little differently here. Every single one of our suits is custom to the wearer. So what we’re going to do is find you a style and colour that you like and then we’ll have our team use the measurements Magnus just took and create your suit. Any questions?” He spoke quickly and efficiently, moving around them and getting everything ready.

“No, I think I'm good.” Alec said, nodding. His heartbeat had returned somewhat to normal and he was looking forward to the solidarity of the change room, just for a moment to breathe. He unbuttoned the jean shirt he was wearing and left it with his coat and boots, leaving him in just a black t-shirt and jeans.

Rodrigo handed him three suits and sent him in the change room, with instructions to come out after each one so he could see the fit.

He chose to try on the burgundy one first, because he might as well get it out of the way. He knew Magnus would try and push this one, claiming that Alec didn’t wear enough colour so if he tried it on first he could say no faster.

Sure enough, as soon as he stepped out of the change room Magnus was beaming and snapping pictures on his phone. At Alec’s glare he just shrugged. “If I don't get proof no one will believe me when I say you were wearing something other than black, darling.”

Rodrigo walked around him, pinching the fabric around his legs and arms and writing things down in his notebook before he sent Alec in to try on the next one. The next two suits were similar, Magnus taking pictures while Rodrigo checked measurements.

Alec actually found himself having fun, and when Rodrigo went to grab more suits he posed for Magnus and did his best model impression while the other man laughed and took pictures. He was sure Magnus’ camera roll was now full of embarrassing pictures of him, and that more than one of them would be going to his little sister but he was having fun and Magnus was laughing so he didn’t mind all that much.

It took about an hour but in the end they decided on the style of the burgundy suit, but in a modest navy. Alec told Magnus it was as far as he was willing to compromise, that navy was a colour and it wasn’t black and that was the best he was going to get, even if it was his special day.

Rodrigo already had all of Magnus’ measurements in the system so all Magnus needed to do for his suits was choose fabrics. Alec didn’t see all the ones he chose but he saw a few very bright colours that were very Magnus.

They walked up to the register and Alec was just thinking how he was going to explain to Magnus that he had enough spare money to spend over two thousand dollars on a suit (before Magnus, Alec would never even consider spending more than a few hundred) when the designer pushed him lightly aside.

“Don’t worry, Alexander. I have an account here.” He flashed Alec a small grin and pulled out his card.

“Magnus! I’m not letting you buy that suit for me! It’s too much.” Alec argued trying to push past Magnus and get his wallet out.

Magnus scoffed. “Darling, I would pay all the money in the world to make sure you didn’t wear one of your hole -filled sweaters next week. Think of this as me doing this for myself.”

Alec wanted to fight him on it, he really did, but he knew he couldn’t without revealing to Magnus that he had more than enough money to buy the suit. He hoped there would be a day, when he finally got the courage to tell Magnus who he really was, that he could repay the favor and buy him something extravagant.

He backed off, shoving his wallet back in his pocket. “I like my sweaters.” He grumbled.

Magnus grinned triumphantly and bumped his hip against Alec, pushing him away from the counter. “I know you do. But they shouldn’t ever leave the safety of your apartment. The homeless hipster look was a few years ago.” He ducked as Alec, laughing, tried to hit him on the head.

“I’ll have you know, plenty of people appreciate my homeless look.”

“Is that because they think you’re actually homeless and feel sorry for you?” Magnus teased. He finished paying and put his card away. Rodrigo informed them that their suits would be ready in a few days and that he would call Magnus when they were done.

They thanked him and left the store, stepping out into the cool air. Magnus called for the driver and they leaned against the side of the storefront while they waited.

Alec looked beside him and down at Magnus. “Thank you for the suit, Magnus.”

Magnus looked up at him and smiled. Alec was hit with the smile from close up and had the breath knocked out of him. “You’re very welcome, Alexander.”

 

***

 

Ragnor fluttered around Magnus apartment, calling out random colours and model’s names. His shirt was untucked and his hair was sticking up on one side, and one of his eyes kept twitching. Magnus was concerned that he was broken.

“Ragnor, slow down. It’s okay.” Lydia said from her spot on the couch. She was holding a takeout container in on hand and the sketchbook of designs in the other and didn’t look up from either as she spoke. This was probably the most casual setting he had ever seen Lydia in all the years he had known her. She was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans and a white cable knit sweater with her shoes off, sitting cross-legged on his couch.

“She’s right. Slow down. You’re scaring my cats.” Magnus said, popping a piece of chicken into his mouth.

Ragnor fixed Magnus with a look like Magnus had simultaneously just kicked his puppy and had then proceeded to steal it. “Your cats? You’re worried about your felines when we are in the middle of preparing the biggest show of any of our careers? When we are down to the last few hours of prep before the shit either hits the fan or everything works out perfectly? And all you have to say to me is you’re scaring my cats?”

Magnus pursed his lips, trying to hold back his giggle. “Technically we’re not in the middle of preparations. I would say closer to the end.” He looked to Lydia. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

The new relaxed and casual version of Lydia smiled smugly. “I think you’re right, definitely more near the end. And,” She pointed her chopsticks at Ragnor. “I’ve done shows far bigger than this one.”

Ragnor’s face turned an alarming shade of purple and Magnus decided to stop teasing him for the night. He got up from the armchair and directed his friend to the couch, steering him by his shoulders. “Ragnor, love, everything is going to be fine. Lydia has checked and rechecked all of the administrative crap that you nor I care about. I have made sure that every piece of clothing, shoe and bag out on that stage is perfect and tailored to perfection. And you,” He said, sitting beside him. “Have completed pairing every single design with a model who will, if possible, make them look better than they are.” He looked to Lydia for backup. She rolled her eyes.

“He’s right. Everything is done at this point. All we need to do is relax and focus on the execution of the project which should be a piece of cake.” Ragnor tensed up at that and Magnus shot Lydia a look behind his head, criticizing her calming techniques.

“Ragnor, why don’t you show me what you’re going to be wearing for the show?” Magnus asked pointedly. He immediately jumped up from the couch and to a board they had set up in the middle of the living room, laying everything out. He started describing the outfit to them, pointing to pictures and telling them how he had decided on one but then switched last minute.

He leaned back into the couch and pulled out his phone. He knew what Ragnor was wearing since the older man had told him two days before but he seemed to have forgotten and it was a good distraction for him to be talking about clothes.

With his phone unlocked, Magnus opened his pictures and flipped through the ones he had taken of Alec earlier today. He felt his face break into a smile when he scrolled through them. There were quite a few of Alec giving him his best smolder, or dramatized pout, but they were blurry as Alec had broken into a laugh halfway through.

Magnus looked through them all, grinning to himself until he landed on one of the last ones. Alec was sitting in the change room with the door open, in a black pair of suit pants and his ever present black t-shirt. He had one hand in his hair and had fixed Magnus with a smolder that put all of the professional models he had worked with to shame.

A small laugh bubbled up when he remembered that Alec hadn’t actually posed for that one. They had been sitting and waiting for Rodrigo to bring Alec a different suit jacket. Alec was running his hands through his hair, messing it up in the way that Magnus loved and he couldn’t resist capturing it on camera. He had pointed his phone at the younger man and had snapped the picture just as he had looked up.

He looked at the picture for a moment longer before opening up his Instagram app. He typed out the caption and uploaded the picture, tagging Alec. He knew Alec didn’t use the app and that Jace had made it for him, but he would still get the notification on his phone.

Satisfied, he clicked post.

“Earth to Magnus.”

He looked up from his phone to see that Ragnor had stopped talking and both he and Lydia were looking at him. “Stop texting your lover boy and pay attention. We’re debating whether Lydia should wear white or cream.” Ragnor explained, exasperated.

“I-” Magnus was about to say he wasn’t texting Alec, but he thought telling them he was dreamily staring at pictures of him would be much worse. “You’re right. Sorry. Lydia you should wear gold because it looks beautiful with your skin tone and eyes.” He said pocketing his phone.

“Gold! How did I not think of that?” Ragnor exclaimed dejectedly.

Magnus grinned. “That’s why my name is on the label, Fell.” He joked. Ragnor threw a pillow at him.

Ragnor paced back to the board and pulled a few pictures down. “Now Lydia, about your shoes…”

 

***

 

When Magnus dropped Alec off at his apartment he promised that he would text him after he finished his work with Lydia and Ragnor. Alec could see the slight tension in his body language lately when he talked about the show, and he knew he must be feeling the pressure seeing how close it was. So he just smiled and told Magnus to have fun and not to worry, to focus on his work. That he would be hanging out with Max all night anyway.

He opened the door to his apartment to the sound of voices, again. Alec wondered idly if he would ever come home to an apartment that was quiet and wasn’t full of his friends and family. Probably not.

Clary, Simon and Max were in the living room, engaged in an intense boxing match on Wii Sports. Clary and Max going head to head while Simon cheered them both on from his spot on the couch. Alec laughed fondly and went to the kitchen, none of them noticing his presence.

He grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge before he went into the living room. He snuck up behind Simon and stuck the cool bottle down the back of his shirt which caused him to scream and then in turn resulted in Clary losing her concentration, Max giving her Mii the final blow.

“What! That wasn’t fair! Alec distracted us!” She complained.

Max snickered. “I saw him come in. It’s not my fault you weren’t paying attention.” Clary rolled her eyes and set her controller down on the table, sighing in defeat.

Simon glared at Alec. “Was that necessary?” He asked, rubbing the red skin at the back of his neck.

“Yup.” Alec responded simply, sitting on the armrest beside his brother. Simon stuck his tongue out defiantly and Alec laughed, returning the gesture.

Max sighed. “You would never know I’m the youngest one in the room. Children, the entire lot of you.” He sent a dismissive wave over his shoulder and left the three of them sitting there, heading to his own room.

“So how was shopping?” Clary asked conversationally.

Alec narrowed his eyes. “How did you know I went shopping?”

Clary rolled her eyes, fixing him a look as if the answer should have been obvious. “Alec, I don’t know if you forgot, but Magnus is my brother. That, and your sister is great at keeping me in the loop.” Alec groaned and leaned back against the cushions.

“I’m going to become an only child. Can you do that? Is sibling imancipation a thing?"

Clary shrugged. “I’m sure Isabelle would have no problem finding out things about your life even if she wasn’t your sister.” There was something off about her voice, but Alec put it off to not really knowing Clary well enough to distinguish between her voices. She was probably upset about losing to Max.

Simon grimaced. “It is quite scary how fast she finds things out though. Remind me never to cheat on her." Alec shot him a withering look. "Not that I would ever cheat on her, I'm still in awe that she's dating me. But she finds everything out, especially with Alec. It’s like she had an Alec-spidey sense. Remember that time in third year when -”

Alec held his hand up, shaking his head. “I remember.” Simon grinned.

Alec looked at the two of them. “Not that I don’t love coming home to you two in my apartment, but I actually don’t. Did we have a meeting that I forgot about?”

Clary shook her head. “No, I had a few questions and Simon wouldn’t answer them for me. So I came here to ask you but I forgot you were out, and Simon decided to follow me.”

“Questions?” Alec asked warily. “I’m just the assistant editor.” Simon caught Alec’s eye and he could tell from his expression exactly what Clary’s questions were about. Alec coughed, trying to fend them off before they came. “Simon has higher authority than me. I’m not allowed to say any more than he is.”

Clary, to Alec’s surprise, actually looked genuinely annoyed. “Yeah, well these questions aren’t ones Simon can answer.” She paused and Alec raised an eyebrow. “Unless his last name is Lightwood.”

 

***

Chapter Text

Alec blanched, staring at Clary who just looked back at him stonily. He had never seen the other girl look at him, or anyone, so hostile before. If he was honest, it was kind of terrifying.

“What are you talking about?” He asked, mind racing. What could he possibly answer that Simon couldn’t?

Simon was looking at Clary, the same confusion Alec felt clear on his face. “Clary what are you talking about? What’s going on?”

She kept her gaze firm on Alec. “That’s what I want to know as well.” Alec raised an eyebrow, still not understanding. She huffed, annoyed. “I got a call yesterday at work from a woman.”

Alec and Simon exchanged a glance. Alec had a twisted feeling in his stomach that he knew where this was going, that he knew exactly what woman would be calling Clary but he kept silent.

“She wanted to know about the project we were working on. At first I told her that I couldn’t disclose anything to someone not on the team and that she needed to contact the two of you if she wanted to get anywhere. Then she asked for both of your contact information.”

The twisted feeling had knot itself into a ball, sitting heavy in Alec’s stomach. He knew exactly what she was going to say next, blood running cold. “When I told her your name Alec, she asked me why Alec Lightwood was on the editing team for his own novel.” Her tone was calm, but it was impossible to miss the coolness of her words.

Simon gasped dramatically, and in any other situation it would have been comical, his hand going to his mouth and his eyes wide. Alec could see Clary’s mouth moving, surely asking him more questions but he couldn't hear her voice. White noise filled his ears and black spots clouded his vision. His own novel.

“I-” He swallowed. Clary was looking at him expectantly whereas Simon looked a mixture of wanting to run from the room and wanting to comfort Alec.

Alec on the other hand, felt like he was going to throw up.

“Alec what was she talking about?” Clary asked, furrowing her eyebrows. Her tone was tense and sharp. He had a very good idea that Clary knew exactly what the woman had been talking about on the phone.

He closed his eyes. “What was her name?”

“Alec what-”

“Clary. The woman who called. Did she give you her name?”

Clary looked to Simon, clearly confused as to why this was important. “Clary, just answer him.” Simon said softly.

She turned back to Alec. “She didn’t give me a last name but her first name was Maryse. Are you going to answer my questions now?”

The panic Alec had been feeling left him, and was replaced with an eerie sense of calm at her name. He knew his mother was behind this because really, who else could it have been? But hearing Clary confirm it filled Alec with a cool rage, the kind of rage he only associated with his mother and father.

Alec took a moment to collect his thoughts before opening his eyes and fixing them on Clary, much calmer than he had been moments before. “I’m going to tell you everything, I promise. But in return you need to promise me something back. Okay?

“I don’t think you’re really in a position to be making demands right now, are you?.” She said, crossing her arms over his chest, but Alec could see her eyes soften ever so slightly.

“Clary, please. If our friendship means anything to you, just hear me out.”

She sighed. “What do you want me to promise?”

Alec nodded. “You won’t tell Magnus what I’m telling you. I’m going to tell him myself,” A look of shock crossed Simon’s face. “But I want him to hear it from me or I’m afraid there will be an even slimmer chance that he’ll talk to me ever again if he doesn't.”

Clary pursed her lips and stared at him a long moment, before nodding once. “I won’t say anything. But if this is hurting my brother-”

“It’s not.” Simon said quickly. “At least not directly.”

Clary nodded, and looked between the two of them. “So?”

Alec shrugged, trying to hide the nerves he felt. “The woman on the other end of the phone was my mother. She’s made it her mission to meddle in every good thing I have, so I really shouldn’t be surprised by this point. But for once she was telling the truth. I’m working as an editor on my own book.”

“Mother? Wait … your own book? That means …” Her hand flew over her mouth and her eyes went wide. “You’re Gideon Archer!?” Her head whipped back and forth between the two of them where she was met with matching expressions of confirmation. “What? How!”

They spent the next half hour outlining Alec’s career and how he got to be in the position he was now. Once she got over her initial shock, Clary was intrigued; mainly in how they kept it from the world for so long and how he had become so famous with only a handful of people knowing.

Like Max, they answered all of her questions that they could to the best of their ability. Alec left out parts like how he drew inspiration from his own life, and how he originally hadn’t wanted to use his own name because he was terrified of his parents. Simon knew these things of course, and as much as Alec had grown to like Clary over the past few months, he wasn’t quite ready to share that part of his life with her just yet.

It felt good, Alec noted, to let it off his chest. Telling Max had been a baby step but letting in someone that wasn’t family or Simon was something entirely different and gave him a rush of something he couldn’t place.

He knew it was something good though, and that he wanted more of it.

Clary listened to everything they had to say, digesting it all in silence. She had asked a few questions but for the most part let them say their bit, Simon and Alec alternating between answering. Finally she fixed her eyes on Alec. Gone was the hostility and rage from before, but was replaced with curiosity and sadness.

“So the day you met Magnus …”

Alec gave a soft laugh. “I was having a bad case of writer's block so Simon told me to go reread my old books. I spent the entire day in that cafe and I was just leaving when I met him. Magnus was right though, I was so absorbed in trying to find inspiration that I walked right into him.”

“And why haven’t you told him?” She asked. Her tone was filled with genuine curiosity, not accusatory like Alec had anticipated.

“At the beginning I didn’t know who he was and as we’ve told you, only a few people know. But as we got closer I just … I couldn’t. He went from being a stranger to one of the most important people in my life in such a short period of time that I hardly noticed when I was past the point of telling him and having it be okay. I know when I tell him it’s not going to be okay, but I hope that we’re close enough that he’ll be able to forgive me someday, you know?”

There were words coming out of his mouth but all he heard was ‘I love him, I love him, I love him’ and Alec worried that that’s what Clary would hear to. In retrospect, coming clean to Clary about everything may not have been the best idea. Surely she would be able to see through him, through the walls he had worked so carefully to build around himself to hide his feelings. She could no doubt see his heart, and her brothers name written all over it.

But if she did, she didn’t say anything.

“I’m - we’re sorry for keeping this from you.” Simon said, chancing a glance at Clary. “It’s something we’ve kept hidden for a long time, for good reason. And well, I guess what I’m saying is it’s not personal.”

Clary gave him a small smile, grabbing his hand in one of her own. “I understand. I may not like it, but I understand. And,” She turned to Alec, “I won’t say anything, but I won’t hold my tongue forever. Magnus needs to know.”

Alec nodded in agreement. “I know and he will. After Fashion Week, I promise. I don’t want to distract him from this. He’s been working his entire career towards this show and I know how much it means to him.”

Clary got up from the couch and leaned down to give him a hug. Alec returned it, wrapping his arms around her small frame. “You’re a good man, Alec Lightwood. You make my brother happy. Don’t screw it up.” She whispered, just for the two of them to hear.

She withdrew and sent him a sweet smile, but her eyes were intent. Alec had never been on the receiving end of the ‘hurt my sibling and I’ll hurt you’ speech, but he was pretty sure he had just gotten it, or at least a version of it.

Maybe Clary was more observant than Alec gave her credit for.

She stood up and grabbed her purse. “Alright boys, I’m off. Final touches need to be made for Gideon’s book,” she winked at Alec “and then I have a hot date.” With a final wave over her shoulder she disappeared out the door.

Alec sagged back into the couch. His body felt drained of all energy, telling Clary having taken more out of him than he expected. He trusted her to keep his secret, and knew she wouldn’t tell anyone, especially Magnus. Alec respected her for that because he wasn’t sure if he would be able to do the same thing if he was put in the same situation. If someone had been keeping something that big from Isabelle, Jace or even Max, would he be able to keep it to himself?

“Alec. Buddy, talk to me.” Simon was looking at him earnestly. He was concerned, his brow furrowing and lip working in between his teeth the same way it always was when he was worried.

Alec shook his head, stood up, paced and then flopped back onto the couch. He didn’t know what to feel right now or if he could even put it into words. The enormity of the situation was hitting him. Someone that wasn’t family (or Simon) knew. Someone outside Alec’s sacred circle of trust had been let in on the secret he had been keeping for seven years.

Someone knew.

The part that was messing with Alec’s head the most was that he wasn’t entirely upset about it.

Simon got up from the couch and crouched in front of Alec so that they were eye level. “Alec.” He said softly, looking into his eyes. Alec’s thoughts were racing a mile a minute in his head but he pushed them back and gave his best friend his full attention.

His eyes flicked down to Alec’s fingers, clearly noticing were rubbing together at rapid speed. “It’s okay. I’m okay. She was okay with it. Right?”

Simon nodded. “She was, Alec. If I’m honest that went a lot better than I expected it to. I thought there would be much more yelling, maybe even a few curse words.”

The secret was out. It was only one person, but that was one less person that Alec had to lie to. “I hate it, Si. I hate the lying.”

Simon sighed, settling in beside Alec on the couch. “I know you do. I hate it too.”

He didn’t say anything else and he didn’t need to. Simon knew Alec well enough that he understood Alec would need some time to decompress and work through what had just happened. That he would talk about it eventually, but not right now.

Simon sat beside him on the couch, silently offering his support and Alec was never more grateful for his best friend than he was in that moment.

They sat there for another hour, not speaking a word and Simon continued to sit with him, giving Alec the comfort and love he knew he didn’t deserve.

 

***

 

“Magnus Bane if you don’t keep your eye closed I will jab this eyeliner pencil right into your iris with little to no remorse.”

Magnus sighed and resisted the urge to roll his eyes, doing as he was told and closing them instead. Isabelle made a pleased noise and went back to work on his makeup.

It was the morning before Magnus’ show and he was working very hard to keep himself from freaking out. He was the picture of calm and collected and he had everything under control. No freak out required.

(He was freaking out.)

Late the night before, his makeup artist had called with a very serious case of laryngitis and said she would be unable to come and do his makeup the next day. Magnus would have done it himself, but taking in the nerves fluttering freely in his stomach it would have been a poor job.

So he had called Isabelle in a panic and she had agreed right away to come over bright and early the next day, and had told him not to worry because she was in perfect health.

Which is how he found himself sitting in just a pair of jeans on the barstool in his kitchen, eyes closed, having eyeliner applied by the only female Lightwood child.

“I hate to brag, but this is quite possibly the best your makeup has ever looked. I mean, like ever.” She grinned, stepping back and taking his chin in her hand, turning his head to check her work.

“I would take offense to that but I have no room in my brain to think of a witty comeback at the moment.” Magnus said, waving her off and grabbing for the hand mirror on the counter. He pulled it up to his face, and had to admit that Isabelle may be right. Magnus always prided himself on being a makeup expert, but he may have just met his match.

She had outlined his eyes with both metallic-blue and black eyeliner, winging it out at the end, giving his eyes a distinct feline look. She had run the blue under the eye as well which made his green-gold eyes pop. For the shadow she had done a taupey-brown, mixed with dark black and creating the perfect smokey eye.

They had decided together to go with the dark maroon lipstick he had worn for Jocelyn’s show as it complimented the blue.

“Isabelle. Darling, you’ve really outdone yourself this time!” He said, admiring her work. It was so beautiful it made him want to tear up, but that would ruin her work so he kept it in.

She noticed and grinned. “I used waterproof mascara and eyeliner. I know how emotional you get and figured there may be some crying by the end of the day.”

Magnus rolled his eyes. “I will not be crying. It’s not like I’ve worked my entire career for this moment or anything. It’s not a big deal.”

She just chuckled and pecked him on the cheek lightly. She picked up the contour kit and went to work on him, stroking the brush lightly along his cheekbones.

There was a knock on the door. “Come in!” Isabelle called, and Magnus had to laugh. Of course Isabelle Lightwood was the type of woman to let other people into someone else's apartment, the second time she had been there.

Alec stepped through the door, tray of coffee cups in one hand and a handful of suit bags in the other. “I come bearing gifts.” He paused when he saw them, stopping in the frame of the doorway before shaking his head, as if to clear it. He came over and placed each of their coffees in front of them, dropping a kiss on Isabelle’s head and sending Magnus a smile (Magnus definitely wasn’t wishing for a kiss as well).

(He was.)

Magnus sat up a little straighter in his chair, flexing his abs hoping that maybe seeing him shirtless would trigger something for Alec. But the other man just turned away from them, only looking over his shoulder to ask Magnus a question and even then his eyes were stubbornly trained on Magnus’ face. The only indication he might have been the least bit affected was a slight blush on his cheeks, but making Alec blush was no difficult task.

“Where do you want your suits?” He asked, gesturing to the bags in his hand. Magnus hadn’t even asked Alec to go to the store to grab their outfits. He had planned on sending his driver down to Ascot Chang in the morning to go and grab them, but Alec had texted early and asked for the address.

Alec had been something of a saint all week, actually. It started a few days before the show when Magnus was late getting home. He had texted him complaining he would be stuck at the office until late, and the first thing the other man had responded was ‘I’ll drop by and feed the boys :)’. Alec may not know this, but the way to Magnus’ heart (not that he didn’t already own it) was through his cats.

Since Magnus was so busy, he had also missed all of their usual coffee dates this week. He had been disappointed, knowing that was the only time he ever got to see the other man lately. To Magnus’ joy and surprise, Alec had shown up to his office with coffee for not only him, but for Lydia and Ragnor too. He never stayed, just smiled and dropped the drinks off, apologizing for interrupting their work.

It was very hard for Magnus to control his impulses and not propose to Alec on the spot when he did that.

“In the bedroom is fine, love.” Magnus responded. “And don’t you dare peek inside!”

“The bedroom or the bags?” Alec asked, waggling his eyebrows.

Isabelle groaned. “Magnus you broke him. He’s making jokes now. He never makes jokes.”

Magnus shrugged. “I like to think I expanded his horizons. Opened him up to a whole new world.” Alec walked back into the room, humming ‘A Whole New World’ under his breath as he went. Magnus resisted the urge to coo.

Isabelle finished off his makeup with a few squirts of setting spray, ensuring that it would last the entire day. They still had hours to the show and Magnus wanted to make sure he looked this good when he walked out on the runway at the end of his show.

Alec was sitting on the arm of the couch, arms crossed and an easy smile on his face. He looked so much like he belonged in Magnus’ apartment. He was wearing light-wash jeans and a black sweater today, his hair natural and falling across his forehead. He also had a bit of stubble growing on his face that Magnus absolutely loved. If he wasn’t determined on being friends with Alec he might have thought about what it would feel like say, on his face or even his thighs, but he could control himself.

(He couldn’t and he definitely thought about it).

With her hands on her hips, Isabelle shifted her attention to Alec. “Now you.”

Alec looked mildly frightened. “What? No. I don’t want any eyeliner.” He shook his head. “Magnus looks good with it. I, on the other hand, would not.”

Magnus smirked. “Just a little bit, Alexander? It would look oh so nice on your beautiful eyes.” Alec paused, head tilted to the side as if he was actually considering it.

Sadly, Magnus would never know if he would have said yes or not. “Not makeup, you idiot. Your hair. You are not sitting second row at a New York Fashion Week show with that on your head.” Alec raised a hand to his hair defensively, but sighed and moved to take Magnus’ place on the stool.

Magnus excused himself to get ready, leaving the two of them bickering in the kitchen (‘Alec it’s just a little bit of gel, don’t be afraid.’ ‘Isabelle, I’m only afraid of it because you have enough on your hands to cover my entire body’). Alec had hung the multiple suit bags on the door of his closet so he moved to lay them on the bed. He found the one he was wearing and pulled it out carefully.

Rodrigo had done an incredible job on it. Magnus had chosen a daring metallic-blue patterned jacket with a modest pair of dark blue pants. The pants had a strip of the bright blue down the outer seam, but were otherwise plain. Rodrigo had thrown in a crisp white shirt for underneath and a pocket square that matched the pants.

It was a bold suit, but Magnus couldn’t imagine himself wearing anything else. Couldn’t imagine choosing something else to wear when he stepped out on the runway at the end of the show.

Giddy, he slipped the suit off of its hangar and onto his body. It fit perfectly in all the right places; tighter around his arms and butt, making both of them look bigger. The pants made his legs look long and the jacket complemented Isabelle’s artistry perfectly.

He added a few streaks of blue to his styled hair and checked himself over one more time. The Lightwood siblings had stopped bickering a while ago so Magnus assumed they must both be ready and waiting for him outside.

Magnus walked out of his bedroom and into the main room. Alec was sitting with his back to him but Magnus could see he was already dressed. Isabelle was sitting on the couch across from Alec. She looked stunning in a long sleeved white wrap dress, the kind that looked like a blazer but in dress form, with a dangerous dip into her cleavage. She had styled her hair into a messy ponytail and had applied ruby red lipstick to her lips, and finished off the look with a pair of black Louboutin pumps.

“Isabelle, if I didn’t know better I’d say you were trying to out dress me.” Magnus smirked.

She laughed, looking over his outfit appreciatively. "I don’t think that’s possible Magnus. Especially not in that suit.”

Alec had turned around when he entered the room, and was currently looking at Magnus with a look the older man couldn’t decipher. It was a mix somewhere between shock, bewilderment and something more guarded. Magnus knew he looked good, but he never really thought that Alec noticed, much less became speechless when he entered a room. That couldn't be the reason for his reaction. Could it? Nonetheless, he filed that information into the back of his mind for examination at a later date.

Magnus let his eyes run over Alec quickly, taking in his suit in all of it’s glory. The painstaking sexual frustration he had felt while measuring Alec had certainly paid off, the navy blue suit fitting him beautifully.

Isabelle had a feral look on her face as she looked between the two of them. Magnus wondered what she was playing at. “Magnus you look so amazing, Doesn’t he, Alec?” Her voice was sweet as sugar but Magnus learned that as her meddling voice, usually meaning she had a master plan either in mind or in the midst of being unfolded.

Alec nodded, glancing away from Magnus and fixing his eyes to a point on the wall. “Yeah. You look … really good. The suit, I mean. And you in it, of course. But the suit, uh … fits very well.”

Magnus was used to Alec’s stuttering by now, but he took the compliment anyway. “Thank you, Alexander. I must say yours fits very nicely as well. You’d think I was a professional designer or something with those spot-on measurements I took.” A delicious blush spread on Alec’s cheeks, which was not unwelcome, but confusing because Magnus hadn’t even made an innuendo.

“Speaking of professional designers, Lydia just texted me and said that our car is on the way.” Isabelle quipped from the couch, looking up from her phone.

Forgetting Alec's odd behaviour, Magnus turned to her, confused. “You’re texting Lydia?”

Isabelle shrugged. “Once I became an official part of the Magnus Bane team, I figured it would be useful for me to be in contact with the head honcho.”

“Wouldn’t that be Magnus? You know, head of the Magnus Bane team?” Alec asked, raising an eyebrow. Magnus grinned.

“No.” She rolled her eyes. “I mean yes, but Lydia is the one who’s in charge of all the organization. For example, Magnus do you know the itinerary for today?”

“Show up and look fabulous?” Magnus asked innocently. He was pleased to see Alec trying to hide a grin behind his hand.

Isabelle sighed. “Exactly my point. Now, both of you down to the car before Lydia has my head on a stick for making the guest of honour late.”

 

***

 

They had barely pulled up to the backdoor of the venue when Magnus was dragged out of the car and herded into the building by a group of people dressed in all black. He called over his shoulder that he would see them inside and that someone would show them where to go before he disappeared completely.

Another gentleman in an all black suit opened the door, motioning for Alec and Isabelle to step out. “Mr and Miss Lightwood, welcome. My name is Steve and I’m part of the MB security detail. I’ve been assigned to show you around today.”

Alec shared a glance with Isabelle. MB Security Detail? She smirked and looked back to the man - Steve.

“Thank you Steve. I’m Isabelle and this is my brother, Alec. It’s very nice of Magnus to have one of his security guards assigned to us.” Of course. Alec sometimes forgot the magnitude of Magnus’ fame, but it made sense for him to have a security team, especially on a day like today where all eyes would be on him.

Steve led them through a different back door than the one Magnus had gone through and down a series of hallways. The building they were in was called the Skylight Clarkson Square, though Alec had seen it from the outside from pictures Magnus had shown him, he had never been inside.

With Steve in the lead, they walked right past a group of reporters, trying to get inside the doors before the show started. Magnus had told them that his team had hand selected which media groups were allowed into the show in order to give him the right (and best) coverage. He said that they were allowed in the building beforehand, but not allowed in the runway room until right before the show started, so nothing from his line would be leaked prior to.

The guard closed and locked the doors behind them, gesturing for the two of them to follow him into the room.

A giant white runway had been set up, taking up a large portion of the room. It was made of milky white glass and had been polished to perfection, the lights gleaming off of it brightly. Along the back of the runway, where Izzy told him the models came out from, was Magnus’ logo; a giant M and B intertwined in messy cursive.

Over the runway was a chandelier unlike any that Alec had ever seen before. I was a simple metal circle, but it had lights dripping down from it making it look like animated fairy dust as they twinkled.

Five rows of chairs lined the runway on either side. All of the chairs had a piece of paper and a picture attached to them, signalling who was supposed to be sitting in them. Alec remembered Magnus complaining how long it had taken them to not only choose the guest list but arrange where everyone was supposed to sit.

Steve led them to the second row on the left side of the stage, right near the entrance to the runway. Clary, Jace and Simon were already sitting in their seats, chatting. Alec noticed Clary’s hand clasped in Jace’s, and the easy smile on his brother’s face as he joked with Simon. He was happy for Jace, especially that he had found someone as amazing as Clary, but a part of him couldn’t help the swell of jealousy in the pit of his stomach that he was now the only single one of his siblings (counting out Max, who Alec had decided was too young to date).

Isabelle and Alec thanked Steve and sat down in their seats. Alec noticed with interest, that Steve didn’t leave the room. He moved into the shadows beside the stage, far enough away that he wasn’t intruding but close enough that he was a short distance away if he was needed.

“Isn’t this amazing?” Clary asked, excitement practically pouring out of her. She had dressed up in a royal blue dress that hugged her body. It had cutouts just above her waist and a dip in the front. Simon had opted for a blazer and a black suit shirt, the first few buttons undone while Jace had on his leather jacket, but with a shirt and tie underneath.

Isabelle clapped her hands excitedly. “I can’t believe how close Magnus got us!” She peered over the seats in front of them looking at the name tags. “Oh my god, the Beckham family is sitting right in front of us. Someone pinch me.”

Alec grinned and pinched her lightly on the arm at the same time as Jace pinched her on the other side. “Ouch! I didn’t mean literally!” Both boys just laughed and high fived each other over her head.

Simon perked up. “Did you say the Beckhams?”

Isabelle grunted a reluctant yes, suddenly much less excited that they were sitting in such close proximity to the famous family. Simon had had a massive crush on Victoria Beckham for as long as Alec had known him. In university, and up until a few years ago, he used to say that he would be her second husband when she got tired of David. Alec wasn’t sure if dating Isabelle had changed those plans or not.

Alec pulled out his phone and tried to clamp down his disappointment that he hadn’t heard from Magnus. He knew the other man was busy and he shouldn’t be selfish wishing for a text when he had so many other things he was doing backstage, but he had hoped he would get to spend a little more time with him today.

He was about to put the phone away when a call flashed on the screen. He excused himself from the group and stepped out the side door (Steve followed him, but kept his distance).

“Hello?”

“Alexander.” The name sent a shiver through his spine and not in the same pleasurable way it did when Magnus said it. “It’s your mother.” Alec suppressed his urge to hang up the phone and chuck it against the wall.

“Mother. What do you want?” He asked, voice clipped.

She let out a long sigh. “Alexander, that is no way to speak to your mother.”

“It’s Alec, and I’ll make sure to keep that in mind if I ever get a real one.” He knew he was being harsh, but years of rage and estrangement, not to mention finding out he had been followed for the past few years, tended to do that to a person.

“Alexa - Alec. I have tried to contact you multiple times in the past few weeks. Why have you been ignoring my calls?” Her voice was hard and smooth, very much unlike the voice of a mother who missed her child and was trying to reach him, but more like a businesswoman trying to get in contact with a client. Maryse had never been the warm and fuzzy type, especially when it came to her children.

“You mean besides the fact that you had me and my siblings followed for the past few years? Oh, no reason, just been busy. But I’m sure you knew all of that, didn’t you?” She let out a small gasp and Alec felt a flash of satisfaction. “Now, there’s something much more important that I should be focusing my attention on today, so why don’t you tell me what you want so I can say no and we can get this over with quickly?”

She was quiet on the other end of the line. Part of Alec wanted to hang up the phone, but another part was curious as to what she had to say. “Fine, Alec. Have it your way. Your father and I wish to have dinner with you this week.”

“Why?”

“We would like to discuss Maxwell’s living arrangements, but we would also like to congratulate you on your success seeing as we haven’t got the chance to in the past seven years.” She posed it as a request but Alec could hear the threat underneath. Return Max to us and we won’t expose you.

Alec took a moment to collect himself, knowing he needed to tread carefully with his mother. She was as conniving as she was terrible and if she wanted to, she could make sure the whole world knew exactly who Gideon Archer was.

“Max has expressed that he wishes to stay with me until further notice. He is enrolled in school and he is happy. As for my success, thank you but that won’t be necessary.”

He could hear her thinking on the other end of the line, could practically smell the fumes as she thought of a way to bring him down. “Alec, surely you could find it in your heart to attend a single dinner with your parents? Your parents that you haven’t seen for almost a decade?” She knew exactly what she was doing. She knew Alec cared and was playing to his guilt to try and get what she wanted.

That might have worked on Alec when he was a teenager, but he had grown since then.

“My parents who kicked me out of the house because of who I choose to love? The parents who kept my little brother from me, for the exact same reason? The parents who hired someone to follow their children and find out intimate details of their lives, for some sick reason I still haven't figured out? I’m sorry mother, but I don’t think I’ll be able to find room in my schedule for that.” He seethed. “Now, if you excuse me, I made a promise to someone and I’m damn sure not going to break that promise because I’m out here talking to you. Have a nice day.” He hung up the call abruptly. He so badly wanted, needed to do something with his energy.

He leaned against the nearest wall, pressing his forehead to the cool surface, resisting the urge to punch the hard concrete. His blood was pumping in his veins at rapid speed and he knew he couldn’t go into Magnus’ show like this. His siblings would see something was wrong instantly and want to talk about it and Alec didn’t want to take any attention away from Magnus today. This was his day.

Someone cleared their throat softly behind him. Alec whipped around to find Steve the bodyguard, looking at him curiously. “Everything all right, Mr. Lightwood?”

Alec’s heart had stopped slamming in his chest and his blood pressure was dropping to something that resembled normalcy. He gave Steve the most genuine smile he could. “I’m fine. Thanks for keeping an eye on me, Steve. I appreciate it.”

Steve nodded. “Mr. Bane wanted me to ensure you were not treated unfairly and had no issues during the show. Is there an issue that I need to fix, Mr. Lightwood?”

Alec laughed humourlessly. “I don’t think you’re that kind of bodyguard Steve, but thanks for the offer.” He clapped him on the shoulder and slipped back into the room.

The seats were almost completely filled now. Alec could see a group of a-list celebrities he recognized from the magazines as well as a few b-list ones as well. Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, a young star and starlet, were sitting right up against the stage, smiling and laughing together. Alec felt a swell of pride that Magnus had drawn such a large - and famous - crowd.

He sidled back into his seat, hoping to escape the notice of his friends and family. Luke and Jocelyn had arrived as well as Catarina and Ragnor, which completed their row of Magnus’ entourage.

Isabelle, who was in the seat beside him, raised her eyebrows as he sat down. “Work call” Alec muttered, just as the lights dropped.

Alec had never been to a fashion show before so he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. As soon as the lights dimmed, an electronic beat started up and strobe lights roamed the crowd, lighting up faces. Magnus’ logo appeared on the projection screen in the middle of the runway before it dissolved into a puff of glitter. Alec clapped along with everyone else, but couldn’t stop the smile that crept onto his face. It was so very Magnus that it made Alec’s heart swell.

Models started coming out of the wings, one at a time and making their way down the runway. They were mostly men but a few women were interspersed as well. Alec had seen bits and pieces of Magnus’ line but seeing it like this was something new entirely. Each outfit was so perfectly put together, from the clothes to the accessories to the makeup and hair. Every piece had something unique about it and had a touch of flair, whether it was in the pattern or the accessories.

The song blended seamlessly into the next and models continued to parade down the cat walk. There were suits, evening wear, ball gowns, coats and summer clothing. Magnus had designed hats, shoes, bags, and everything in between. Alec was in awe, and every piece that came out was something new, and he was dazzled all over again.

Alec pulled his eyes away from the models and scanned the crowd, trying to judge the reaction from the audience. Many people had their phones out, videoing and taking pictures and whispering excitedly to the people sitting beside them. The press was going crazy, flashes going off every few seconds, eating up every new look that came out. He smiled proudly.

Alec looked down his own row to see Clary and Jocelyn holding hands, both of them with tears in their eyes. Although Luke wasn’t crying, he looked so proud that it was threatening to burst from him. Alec could relate.

Isabelle had the biggest smile on her face and kept whispering excitedly to Simon and Jace, both of whom did not seem to understand the hype but nodded along nonetheless.

Alec wasn’t sure how long the show lasted but some time later the models started coming out not one at a time like before, but all at once, one after the other in a single file line. They walked to the end of the stage and back around, stopping and turning to face the crowd so that there was a line of models on each side.

Magnus strode out from the wings and walked down the middle of the stage and Alec felt like the breath had been knocked out of his chest. He had seen Magnus already today, but seeing him practically glowing under the lights after that amazing show was an entirely different level of beautiful. He commanded the crowd like he owned them, every single eye in the room trained on him like they were magnetized. Alec was hit with a wave of emotion that he could barely conceal and hopped up to his feet, clapping like crazy.

People quickly followed his lead and soon enough the entire room was on its feet, giving Magnus a standing ovation. Alec wondered if there was anything better than a standing ovation because if there was, Magnus deserved it.

Magnus looked around in awe for a moment, before settling into his usual theatrics and blowing kisses and waving to everyone, like a king to his people. Alec half expected people to start throwing roses and teddy bears on the stage. The crowd was eating it up, going crazy, still clapping and cheering. Magnus turned so that he could see Alec and the rest of them and his smile grew impossibly wider.

He blew the group of them a kiss before his eyes trailed down the line and settled on Alec. As soon as he and Magnus locked eyes, Alec was sure the world had stopped turning. Magnus blew a kiss straight to him, exaggerated and silly, all soft smiles and sparkling eyes. Alec made grand gesture of catching it and holding it close to his heart and Magnus laughed, eyes crinkling and so, so happy.

Alec wanted to make him that happy for the rest of his life.

With a final bow and a few posed pictures for the press, Magnus and his models exited the stage. The lights came back on and the music was muted to something soft and quiet in the background. Clary was wiping her tears, but had a huge smile on her face. Jace didn’t seem to know whether to comfort her or not so he settled for giving her a tissue and a kiss on the cheek.

Steve came over and gathered the group of them, informing them that Magnus was waiting for them backstage and that a car would be waiting outside to take them to the after party. Alec nearly fell over jumping out of his seat. Isabelle steadied him with a hand on his shoulder and a “slow down, big brother. We’ll see him soon enough”, quiet enough that only he could hear.

The group of them followed Steve through the crowd of people and through a door near the side of the stage, hidden behind a black curtain. Backstage was packed with people. Models in various states of undress, talking and laughing happily, makeup artists running around with empty bags for the clothing, and a herd of reporters trying to get to Magnus.

Magnus was impossible to miss, even in the large crowd. He was surrounded by a group of models, hugging and congratulating him and thanking him for allowing them to be a part of his show. He hugged each and every single one of them back and made sure to talk to them all. Alec felt his heart straining to burst from his chest.

Magnus looked up when the door closed and saw the group of them over the crowd of people surrounding him. He quickly excused himself and weaved through the people.

Clary was the first to reach him, running and jumping into his arms. He caught her easily and he saw Magnus laughing wetly at whatever she was saying, nodding with shining eyes.

Luke and Jocelyn were next, pulling him in with excited whispers and Magnus couldn’t hold his tears after that, a few slipping free and down his cheeks. Alec briefly thought that Izzy was right with the waterproof makeup.

Simon, Jace, Isabelle, Cat and Ragnor each took their turn congratulating Magnus until it was just him. Alec took a few steps towards Magnus, grin lighting up his face before he pulled him into a fierce hug, lifting the smaller man off his feet. Magnus wrapped his arms around Alec’s neck and held him close, laughing as Alec spun him on the spot.

“That was so amazing, Magnus. I am so proud of you.” Alec whispered into his shoulder. Magnus’ shoulders shook, from tears or laughter Alec wasn’t sure.

“I can’t believe you liked it.” Magnus confessed softly, whispering it almost like a secret.

Alec pulled back and held him at arm's length, still close. “Of course I did. I loved it. It was amazing. You were amazing.”

Magnus’ mouth opened slightly, shock crossing his features. After all this time, Magnus still didn’t seem to believe how talented he was. “Alexander, I -”

They were interrupted by a sea of press, finally allowed backstage and clamouring for Magnus’ attention. “Go.” Alec said softly, letting Magnus free from his arms, giving him a soft nudge when he hesitated. “I’ll be here when you’re done.”

With one last look at Alec, Magnus was off into the bright lights and cameras of the reporters.

 

***

 

The after-party turned out to be everything he had dreamed of, and more.

While the show had been amazing and a once in a lifetime experience, the after party was something else entirely. An entire room of people gathered in one place for a single reason; him.

Magnus smiled and grabbed a flute of champagne from a waiter walking past. Lydia had arranged the entire party, with the help of Isabelle, Magnus had found out only tonight. Apparently the Lightwood daughter had gotten herself involved a lot earlier on than Magnus had originally thought, typical Isabelle style.

They hadn’t gone overboard with a theme or anything remotely tacky, but had kept the entire event classy and simple without being boring. The roof was covered in twinkling fairy lights, dropping down like stars and giving the room a beautiful ambiance. There was no dance floor, but only a few small tables littered the floor so people had taken advantage of the open space, some mingling while others danced to the soft music that played in the background.

Ever since he arrived at the party he hadn’t had a spare moment to himself. Models, designers, reporters and friends in the industry had been coming up to congratulate him all evening. Magnus certainly wasn’t complaining, he loved the attention, but there was one familiar face he really wanted to see.

He caught sight of Alec standing at one of the tables with Simon, Clary and Jace. He was cradling a cocktail in his hand and Magnus watched with amusement as he took a sip, cringing at the taste. He looked remarkable in his suit tonight and though he may be biased, he thought Alec looked far better than some of the celebrities in attendance who had spent tens of thousands of dollars on their own outfits.

Alec looked over and noticed Magnus staring, his face lighting up into a brilliant smile as he waved him over. He was only accosted once on the way over, stopping to talk just for a moment before making it to the table.

“Well, isn’t it the man of the hour.” Simon said, lifting his drink. “Enjoying your party?”

“Why yes I am Sebastian, thank you for asking.” Magnus said, clinking his own glass with Simon’s. The other man looked slightly put off for an instant, eyes flicking to Alec, before his features smoothed out.

Magnus turned to Alec. “Want to make the rounds with me? There’s some people I want to introduce you to.”

Alec smiled easily.”Sure. As long as it’s no modelling agencies.” He teased warningly.

Magnus laughed and looped his arm with Alec’s, pulling him into the crowd. “You saw right through my master plan, Alexander. Here I was thinking I could sneak you into a modelling shoot.”

Alec rolled his eyes but was grinning nonetheless.

They strolled around the room stopping to talk to people every so often. Alec mostly stayed quiet, listening and nodding along but Magnus thought that was probably more because he didn’t have much to add to the conversation. Many of the people that approached him were talking about things like stitching, patterns and colour combinations, and while Alec had learned a lot about fashion in the past few months, he wasn’t yet that knowledgeable on the subject.

Magnus was surprised though when another designer came up to Magnus and discussed a certain piece, Alec jumped into the conversation.

“That waistcoat set you did, the burgundy and beige one was just stunning, darling. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it the entire time.” She complimented, kissing Magnus lightly on both cheeks. She had flaming orange hair, similar to Clary’s even though she was probably in her late seventies.

“I think that one was one of my favourites too. Although I really liked the three-piece green suit set.” Alec chimed in. The woman looked quizzically at him, probably trying to figure out who he was, before nodding enthusiastically.

“Oh, you’re right dear. That one was just divine.” She agreed, holding out her hand. “Vivienne Westwood. And you?”

Alec shook her hand. “Alec Lightwood.”

She shook her head, eyebrows furrowed. “I haven’t heard of you. Are you new to the industry, love?”

Magnus sighed and placed his hand on Alec’s shoulder. “Sadly, Alexander here is not, though I am trying to steer him in the direction of a modelling career. He’s certainly got the cheekbones for it.” He grinned. “He’s just come to support me today.”

Vivienne smiled, looking between the two of them. “That’s so sweet. Very sweet indeed.” She smiled again, before leaning in and giving them each kisses on each cheek. Magnus noted Alec’s look of shock at the gesture. “I best be off, but congratulations, my dove. You did marvellously.”

They both bid her farewell with a wave. Magnus looked up at Alec’s face and burst out laughing. “What?” He asked, confused. “Why are you laughing at me?”

Magnus chuckled and before he could think twice about it, licked his thumb and ran it lightly over Alec’s cheekbone, getting rid of the lipstick Vivienne's kiss had left. Alec had shaved this morning so his cheek was smooth, Magnus’ finger caressing it softly. He heard the slight intake of breath Alec made at the contact, but he made no move to pull away, hand still clasped on Magnus’ elbow.

Magnus moved to the other cheek, repeating the gesture. Alec’s skin was warm under the pad of his finger, cheeks heating up ever so slightly. He was following Magnus with his eyes, lips parted and glistening from where he’d most likely just licked them.

He remembered in vivid detail how those lips had felt pressed against his own, soft yet insistent, the simple brush of lips making him weak at the knees. He wished he had Alec’s luck and had forgotten the kiss because it was moments like this where being just friends with Alec, and not reaching up and pulling him into a kiss, were so hard.

Alec swallowed, Magnus' eyes tracking the movement. When he spoke his voice was an octave lower, and if Magnus didn’t know better he would say he was feeling the same things that Magnus was.

But he knew better.

“You just mom’ed me.”

A laugh startled out of Magnus. His hand was still resting on Alec’s face and the urge to kiss him was still as strong as ever, but the moment had been broken. “What?”

Alec grinned, tapping the back of Magnus' hand with his index finger. “You mom’ed me. You know, licking your finger and cleaning my face in public? I of course, have never had it happen but I know it’s a thing most moms do to their kids. Especially soccer moms.”

Magnus gasped. “Alexander are you calling me a soccer mom?”

Alec smirked. “I wouldn’t have to if you didn’t act like one.” Magnus shook his head fondly and pulled back, dropping his hand, very aware of how close they had been standing; Magnus with his hand on Alec’s cheek and Alec with his hand on his elbow, only inches apart.

As soon as Magnus pulled back he was attacked by a mass of blonde hair. “Magnus!”

He recognized the voice of Emma Carstairs quickly, hugging her back tightly. He could see Julian just behind her, shaking hands with Alec and introducing himself. “Hello my beautiful blonde cupcake. I’m so glad you could make it.” He pulled back. “You as well Julian, thought I usually don’t see one of you without the other trailing closely behind.”

Emma grinned and pulled back fully, wrapping her arm around Julian’s waist and kissing him lightly on the cheek. He pretended to be embarrassed but Magnus could see in his expression that he didn’t mind at all.

Her eyes traveled to Alec and she held out her hand. “Emma Carstairs, and this is Jules. I don’t believe we’ve met.” She sent a questioning look to Magnus, and mouthed ‘boyfriend?’. Magnus shook his head.

Alec looked mildly starstruck, and shook her hand quickly, looking to Magnus with wide eyes. “I’m uh, Alec Lightwood. It’s great to meet you. I didn’t realize you were friends with Magnus.”

Emma laughed, the sound a beautiful and tinkling. “Magnus and I go way back. He designed my first ever red carpet dress. And he’s still my all-time favourite designer.” She said, winking.

Julian laughed. “My red carpet look he designed got much more popularity than your last one did, babe.” She elbowed him in the side and he dodged her playfully.

Magnus grinned. “Ah, young love. So innocent.” They caught up, the three of them agreeing that it had been much too long since they had seen each other. Emma and Julian told them about the sequel to their hit blockbuster, Lady Midnight, that they were currently filming in L.A. Emma had been in a few TV shows before but the movie had been a big break for both of them.

Alec contributed to the conversation, but to Magnus' endless amusement, seemed amazed every time they said something new. Magnus knew he probably should have warned Alec they would be socializing with celebrities today, but the look on his face was priceless and honestly, Magnus hadn’t expected him to be the starstruck type.

They said their goodbyes a short while later, Magnus promising to come to L.A. to visit them soon. As soon as they were out of earshot, Alec slapped Magnus on the arm.

Magnus turned to him, schooling his features into innocent curiosity. “Something the matter, Alexander?”

Alec laughed, incredulous. “Were you ever going to mention to me that you were friendly with two of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood?”

Magnus stroked his chin with his finger. “It must have slipped my mind. Oops.” Alec hit him again and Magnus laughed, dodging the shot. Soon enough they were engaged in a slapping fight in the middle of the party, receiving odd looks from party guests as they walked passed.

Magnus didn’t care one bit. It was his party after all.

The rest of the evening followed in similar fashion, greeting people and receiving congratulations, all with Alec at his side. To Magnus’ delight, many of his friends mistook Alec for a model in his show. The first time it happened Alec politely corrected them, but the second Magnus beat him to it and told them that it was Alec’s first ever show and he was so excited to finally be on a runway.

They made it a game, who could answer first. Magnus got most of them but he figured Alec was letting him win as each time he told a new story about how Alec had gotten into the industry.

They walked away from a couple and Alec leaned down. “I was the poster child for ‘Dan’s Milk’ in a remote town in Kentucky?” His lips were quirked up at the side.

Magnus nodded seriously. “I drove by that billboard of you holding milk in plaid and jean suspenders and knew I had to have you model my thousand dollar clothing.”

Alec bit his lip. “You’re ridiculous. Remind me why I hang out with you again?”

“Because I’m incredibly witty, charming, talented and wealthy? Not to mention jaw-droppingly gorgeous.”

“You forgot modest.”

“Why be modest when you can be honest, Alexander?” Magnus winked. Alec laughed, loud and pretty, throwing his head back. The sound unlocked something in Magnus’ heart, something that made him want to chase it, making it come from Alec's mouth for the rest of his life.

The party was winding down to a close and people were starting to file out. A few couples were still swaying on the dance floor but not many. Magnus wished he had gotten a chance to dance tonight, maybe with Alec, but knew that probably wasn’t the best idea. Being in close proximity and not touching Alec was difficult enough, but swaying under the dim lights, holding each other close did not sound good for Magnus' already weak resolve.

But that didn't stop him from wanting that with Alec, the simple intimacy of dancing close with the person you loved.

They walked back to the table where their friends were waiting and Alec pulled out his phone. His brows drew together, concern clouding his features. “Everything ok?”

He shook his head. “I kept my phone on silent all night, but Max has been trying to reach me for hours. I have about 50 messages and 20 missed calls.” Magnus could hear the strain in his voice, the worry. “I’m going to go call him, I’ll be back.” He touched Magnus on the shoulder, almost absentmindedly before he quickly left, walking across the floor to the doors that led out of the hall, phone already to his ear.

Magnus ignored the bad feeling he had in his stomach. Max was probably fine. He had probably just burnt a pizza in the oven or something and didn’t want Alec to come home and be angry.

When Magnus got to the table, Isabelle gave him a concerned look, eyes having followed Alec out of the room. “Where did Alec go? Is everything ok?”

“He had a bunch of missed calls from Max. He’s just gone to call him back and see what’s going on.”

Jace perked up from his conversation with Clary. “Max? Is he okay?” He had a crease in between his eyebrows and his mouth was drawn into a tight line.

Magnus shrugged. “I don’t know what happened. Alec just called him to find out.” Conversation resumed around him but Magnus could see the same worry he felt on the faces of the Lightwoods. He tried his best to contribute to the chatter around him but found himself looking back at the door and waiting for Alec to come through it.

It wasn’t long before he did. As soon as he stepped through Magnus knew something was wrong. His jaw was set in a tight line and his posture was rigid as he walked towards them, pace brisk. He reached the table and Magnus wanted to reach out and comfort him, soothe him in some way but held back. He didn’t trust himself or his emotions, especially when Alec was hurting.

He shared a brief, almost scared look with Magnus before he looked to Jace and Isabelle. “We need to leave. Now.” Neither of them questioned him, getting up immediately, barely saying goodbye to their significant others before moving towards the door.

Alec turned to Magnus and raised his hand, before dropping it down to his side, sighing. “I’m so sorry. We have to go. You know I wouldn’t leave if it wasn’t really important. I just - I'm sorry.”

Magnus nodded, gently placing his hand on Alec's shoulder. The muscles jumped under his touch, wound tightly like a spring. “Of course, Alexander don't apologize. Go. There is nothing here you need to worry about.” Alec gave a small smile before pulling Magnus into a crushing hug. "You did so amazing tonight." He whispered, breath ghosting over Magnus' ear. He held on for just a moment longer before pulling back, eyes clear and focused.

“Thank you, love. Call me when you get a chance so I know everyone is okay?”

“Of course. I promise.”

With that he walked towards the doors, quickly catching up with his siblings and rushing them out of the hall.

 

***

 

Alec had been silent the entire ride home. He had quickly called for a car and paid the driver extra to get there faster. Jace and Isabelle hadn’t questioned him for one second, simply following along and jumping in the car after him when it arrived. Alec knew he should at least prepare them for what was waiting in his apartment.

Isabelle looked worried but calm, where Jace was fidgeting in his seat, glancing out the window every few seconds. It wasn’t fair to keep them on edge like this just because Alec couldn’t find the right words to say.

“Max is okay.” He started with, as it was probably the first thing on both of their minds. “He’s fine. He’s in my apartment. But -” He stopped, collecting his words. “He’s not alone.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from Izzy and Jace balled his hands into fists. “If anyone lays a hand on him …” Jace seethed.

Alec shook his head and ran his hands through his hair. His body was filled with nervous energy and he wasn’t sure what to do with it. “You think I would have hung around the party like that if he was in that kind of danger? No, it’s nothing like that. He’s there with mom and dad.”

The reaction that pulled from them was the same as Alec imagined it would if he had said that Max was trapped in the apartment with a serial killer instead. Both of them went from shock, to fear and then quickly to anger.

“What do you mean? What’s going on? Why are they in your apartment?” Isabelle asked, furious.

Alec quickly told them about the call he had received before the show and everything his mother had said, as well as his call with Max just a short while ago. He had known Maryse was going to retaliate but he didn’t think that she would come to his apartment and physically take Max from him just a few hours after the call.

He hadn’t expected her backfire to be directed at Max at all, actually. He assumed there would be another threat directed at him and his career or maybe even something at Izzy and Jace, but he never in a million years expected them to go directly for Max.

The guilt Alec had been feeling ever since he first looked at his phone only intensified the closer they got to his apartment.

When he had called Max his voice had been tense and Alec had immediately assumed the worse. Max assured him that he was in no danger but there were unwanted visitors in his apartment and asked if they could come home as soon as possible. Alec had refused to hang up the phone until he had known who was there and that Max’s safety wouldn’t be jeopardized in the time it took them to get home.

Alec had a whole host of words planned to say to his parents, many of them words a child should never speak to their parent.

The car had barely stopped when Alec jumped out, Izzy and Jace hot on his heels. They raced up the steps and to Alec’s door, unsurprisingly finding it unlocked.

Inside the apartment was an image very foreign to Alec, but something someone with a normal set of parents and childhood would not find out of place when they returned home.

Max was sitting at the kitchen table, Maryse on one side and Robert on the other. There was a pot of what looked like pasta in the middle of the table and three empty place settings.

Alec immediately thought of one of the crime shows he had watched, where it had shown that some murderers liked to have their victims engage in a scene or scenario before they killed them.

“Mother, father. What are you doing in my apartment? Uninvited, I may add.” Alec said through clenched teeth.

Robert fixed his son with a smile, a forced, polite smile that one usually gave to strangers. “Since you decided you didn’t have time for dinner, we thought we would make you some time.”

Jace laughed bitterly behind Alec’s shoulder and Isabelle fixed the two of them with a look so severe that Alec shivered.

“Did you think that maybe Alec refused dinner not because he didn’t have time, but because he didn’t want to see you?” She asked.

Maryse chuckled. “Of course that’s why he refused. Which is exactly why we showed up here. Now children, come sit down. We have some things to discuss.”

Alec looked to his two siblings and through silent communication they all sat down, though none of them wanted to.

They were doing this for Max.

Their parents tried to make somewhat normal dinner conversation at first, passing around the food and asking about everyone’s day. Isabelle made a comment about being pulled away from a party and Maryse shook her head, disappointed. “Always partying, Isabelle. When are you going to settle down and get a real job?”

Alec reached over and grabbed her hand under the table, squeezing comfortingly. “I actually have a job, mother. I’m the head photographer for Vogue Magazine. I'm sure you've heard of it. It’s a very prestigious position.” Her words were calm and sweet, but her annoyance was thinly veiled.

Robert sighed. “We just wish you would actually use that education we gave you, instead of snapping pictures for a living.” Alec could see Isabelle was very close to exploding on them so he redirected the conversation.

“Why don’t you guys tell us what you want. It’s late and Max has school tomorrow so I would appreciate if we made this quick.”

Robert looked to Maryse, who nodded. Robert turned to address his children. “We would like to take Max back home with us. We know you have taken good care of him, but he is still a minor and shouldn’t be under the care of … well, Alexander you're just too young.”

Jace scoffed. “Why don’t you just say what you really want to say? That Alec shouldn’t care for Max because he’s gay. That’s what you meant right? Because Alec is 27 and that is certainly not too young to care for a child.”

Robert flushed which all but confirmed what Jace had said was correct. “It’s clear that Alexander is still a child, seeing as he hasn’t yet grown out of this teenage phase of his. We certainly thought you would be done with that by this point in your life, son.”

Alec laughed harshly. “Done with what, Dad? Done with being gay? Well I’m sorry to tell you that’s not going away, ever. This is who I am, and who I will continue to be. I’m sorry if you think that affects my ability to care for my younger brother but I can provide you with many scholarly studies that say otherwise. And -” He looked his father straight in the eye. “My name is Alec.”

Max beamed proudly at Alec across the table.

“Alec you know you hold no power here. Thought you may not wish it true, I am still your father and Max’s legal guardian.” Robert fumed.

Alec laughed. He spoke his next words carefully, speaking very clearly so his father heard every single word. “If you're saying that you are going to take this to the courts, I would reconsider. There are three witnesses at this table that will testify on my behalf and I don't think you’re going to like what they have to say under oath. Child abuse is a very serious crime, Father.”

Robert scoffed. “I never laid a single hand on any of you children. Your case would fall apart in minutes.”

“Emotional abuse is just as serious an offence as physical, actually.” Isabelle said, determination shining in her eyes. “It could go on your criminal record or even get you some jail time. Think of how that would look to everyone at the firm.”

The two adults sat looking at their children, clearly bewildered.

Max turned to his parents, not trying to hide the smug look on his face. “Well, people who gave birth to me, I believe you have your answer. I’m not going anywhere.”

Maryse and Robert were looking at Alec. They had matching expressions of shock and something that looked a little like sadness. “We didn’t raise you to be this way. What’s happened to you?” Maryse choked out.

Alec shrugged. “I’m the same person I’ve always been, now everything is just out in the open.” All three of his siblings were looking at him with matching expressions of love and pride. It spurred him on. “Now, as I’ve mentioned before, Max here has school tomorrow and as his responsible and capable guardian I would like to get him to bed at a good time. So if that’s everything, I’ll show you to the door.”

Robert opened his mouth, probably to object but his wife just placed a hand on his arm, silencing him. She shook her head slightly and got up from her chair, folding her napkin. “If that’s what you wish, fine. We will leave you alone.”

It couldn’t be that easy, could it? Alec didn’t question it though and stood up, directing them to the door. It wasn’t so much a polite gesture but more of he wanted to make sure they actually left.

He knew that it wasn’t over, that they very well could come back with court papers or blackmail or something else, but it was over for the night and Alec let out a long breath when he finally shut the door behind them.

The first thing he did when he got back into the kitchen was walk straight to Max and pull him into a tight hug. Max hugged back just as tight. “I love you, Alec.” Max whispered, his usual bravado stripped down to a simple and very honest confession.

Alec nodded against Max’s hair, pulling him impossibly closer. “I love you too, buddy. So much. Thank’s for having my back.” Two other sets of arms wrapped around Alec, joining in on the hug.

“What, no thank you for us?” Izzy joked, nuzzling into Alec’s side.

Alec laughed wetly. “Thank you for everything. You two have had my back since day one and I have no way to thank you for that.”

Izzy broke away from the hug and sent a tentative smile to Alec. “I can think of one way you can thank us.”

“Anything.” Alec said, nodding earnestly.

Jace grinned. “Don’t immediately object, but you need to talk to Magnus man.”

Alec opened his mouth to do exactly what Jace told him not to do, but Izzy held up a hand. “We stopped meddling and I had gracefully accepted defeat that my love radar was not as spot on as I thought. But -”

Jace smiled, taking over. “But, some old bird with red hair came up to us tonight and was talking to us. We told her who we were and she got really excited and said how nice it was that we were supporting our brothers boyfriend.”

“But I’m not -”

We know that. But this lady who has known Magnus for years talked to you two for a few minutes and thought you were in a relationship! Alec, that’s got to mean something to you.” Isabelle said excitedly.

“Iz, that’s just one person.”

Jace shook his head. “It’s not. I heard a few people tonight at the bar talking about Magnus and how they didn’t know he was seeing someone. One lady thought you guys were married! Alec, it’s not just Iz and I that see it anymore.”

“And me!” Max piped up, unhelpfully.

Alec sighed. “Guys, I appreciate the effort, I really do. But I’m not going to chase other people’s assumptions just because I want something to be true. That’s not fair to me or to Magnus.”

Isabelle slumped and Jace nodded accepting defeat. “We just want to see you happy, big brother.” Isabelle said, wrapping her arms around his waist.

Alec hugged her back tightly. “I know. But I am happy. Even though I don’t have Magnus like that, he’s still my best friend. Not to mention I have three of the best siblings in the world and I finally gave my parents a real piece of my mind. That’s a lot to be happy about.” He said, grinning.

As much as he wanted to give in to what they were telling him, and believe that Magnus may feel the same way, Alec knew he needed to protect his heart. If he let himself believe it was true he would do something stupid like say something about it or act on those feelings and he wasn’t prepared to handle the negative outcome that that would bring.

The three of them looked back at him. Alec could see in each of their faces that they so badly wanted to push it further but didn’t, out of respect.

“Now,” Alec said. “We have all this nice food so let’s eat something before bed because I’m still starving after just eating those horderves.”

They all moved to sit around the table but were interrupted by Alec’s cellphone. Magnus’ name and contact picture lit up the screen and Alec guiltily remembered he had promised to call and let him know everything was fine. He signalled the rest of them to sit down and walked to the living room, pulling the phone to his ear. “Hey, I’m sorry for not calling earlier. It’s been a weird night.”

“Are you okay? Is Max okay?” Magnus asked quickly.

Alec smiled. “I’m okay. Max is okay, too. It was some drama with my parents.”

Magnus was quiet on the other end. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Alec was going to say no, tell Magnus that he was fine but stopped himself. In truth, he wasn’t all fine. While he was happy they were gone and that Max was staying, some of his father’s words were still bouncing around in his head. He knew he could talk to his siblings about it but they wouldn’t fully understand. Not like Magnus would.

“Actually, yeah. I do. Want to do coffee tomorrow?” He wanted to ask Magnus if he could come over right now, but the he checked the time and saw it was well past midnight.

He could hear Magnus breathing, steady, on the phone. “Yeah That works. Or -” He chuckled quietly. “You could come over now if you like? I’m just sitting on the couch with the boys, drinking a glass of wine. I'm too hyped up from today to sleep. We wouldn’t mind the company.”

Alec smiled, thinking of Magnus curled under a blanket. He had probably changed out of his suit but kept his makeup on, too lazy to take it off. “Okay, yeah. Are you sure that’s okay?”

“Positive.”

Alec grinned. “Give me 20 minutes.”

“I’ll have a glass of wine on the table with your name on it for when you get here, Alexander.” Alec said he would see him soon and hung up the phone.

In the kitchen, his siblings were sitting around the table laughing and eating. Isabelle and Jace were telling Max about the show, but they looked up when Alec came in.

“I’m going over to Magnus’.” He said, rolling his eyes when they all sat a little straighter. “Relax, not for that. I haven’t told him any of this mom and dad stuff because I didn’t want him to worry, but now that the show is over I think it would be good to talk to someone outside the family about it.” He ruffled Max’s hair. “Make sure this one doesn’t get to bed too late. I wasn’t kidding about school tomorrow.”

Max grinned. “Yes Dad.”

Alec laughed. “I’ll be home in an hour or so. You two are welcome to stay if you want.” He said to Izzy and Jace who both nodded.

He grabbed his coat and keys, saying goodbye over his shoulder before leaving his apartment and heading to Magnus’.

Chapter Text

As promised, Magnus poured a glass of wine for Alec and set it out on the table.

He was worried about the younger man. He had known things weren’t the greatest with his parents and seemed to be getting worse as of late. But Alec hadn’t delved too deeply on the situation since the day they went to the bookstore. Isabelle had briefly mentioned their mother trying to get into contact with them, to which they had all refused.

Magnus didn’t want to Alec to have to suffer through whatever he was going through alone, and if his voice on the phone was any indication, he was clearly suffering. Magnus could tell he had tried to put on a strong front but he could see right through it, hearing the pain underneath.

He wished the pain in Alec’s voice had been the only reason he had invited him over at such an ungodly hour of the night (morning?) but in reality Magnus had had other intentions. He had been spending so much time with Alec recently that he found he was actually starting to miss him when he wasn’t in his presence. It was pathetic to miss him after only being separated from him for just a few hours but Magnus desperately wanted to hear his voice, feel the heat off his body, be wrapped in Alec’s familiar scent.

Just be with him.

He tucked his legs up on the couch, wrapping the blanket tighter around himself. He hadn’t gotten home long ago, having stayed at the party with Simon and Clary after the Lightwoods had left until the rest of the guests had gone too. It had taken a while to get everyone out, many people still wanting to talk to Magnus and congratulate him. He entertained them halfheartedly (though they would know that. He was an amazing actor) but his heart just hadn’t been in it. He had wanted to leave so badly, to go with Alec and comfort him but knew he shouldn’t leave his party before his guests did.

Not to mention the fact that Alec hadn’t actually asked Magnus to go with him or shown any indication that he needed comforting.

His makeup was still on but he had taken off his suit, hanging it in the closet beside the others. Magnus didn’t want to risk falling asleep on the couch in that suit, creasing and wrinkling it, and before he had called Alec falling asleep had been a possibility. The emotions and events of the day had left him completely drained.

Now though, he was wide awake. Chairman was on his lap curled into a little ball and Magnus was stroking his fur distractedly, waiting to hear the telltale sound of Alec knocking on his door. He had left it unlocked so Alec could come right in.

Sure enough, there was a light tapping a few minutes later. “Come in.” Magnus called softly, not wanting to disturb the sleeping feline on his lap. Church was nowhere to be seen but Magnus assumed that he as well was probably curled up somewhere, fast asleep.

Alec poked his head in the door, giving a small smile when he spotted Magnus. He closed the door, locking it behind him (Alec chided him daily for always forgetting to lock his door. ‘This is New York, Magnus! Seriously’) and made his way to the couch.

He had a plastic bag in one hand which he set on the table. Magnus looked at it questioningly. “Spaghetti.” Alec said, in lieu of an answer. He pulled out a tupperware filled with what looked like fresh pasta.

“Thank god. I’m starving. Those hors d'oeuvre did nothing for me.” Magnus sighed, making grabby hands for the food. Alec just laughed, walking the kitchen to put it on a plate and heat it up.

A few minutes later he returned, setting the plate in front of Magnus and settling in on the other side of the couch, drawing his long legs up underneath him. The position made him look unusually small, something Magnus had never thought of Alec as.

Magnus was suddenly no longer hungry. He could see the weight of whatever had happened after he left the party heavy on his shoulders, pressing him deeper into the couch. He wanted to crawl across the couch and wrap his arms around Alec and shield him from everything that was bad in the world. But Alec had said he wanted to come over and talk about it, so Magnus picked up his plate and twirled the noodles idly, waiting for Alec to speak.

“My mom made those noodles. I only had one bite but I would recognize them anywhere. The only time she ever acted like a real mother was when we would have people over for dinner parties. She would spend the entire day in the kitchen, slaving over the stove and making the entire meal from scratch and it was always the same thing.” He nodded towards the spaghetti. “We always asked her to make it for us for regular dinners but she would always say she was too busy and the cook staff would make us something and then rush off to work.” He shook his head. “Crazy how a bite of food can bring back all those memories, isn’t it?”

His thumb was rubbing circles against his pointer finger and for a moment his eyes seemed glued to the movement.

Magnus glanced at the plate. “Alexander, don’t tell me you’re trying to poison me. You know I’m weak when it comes to noodles and a few good meatballs.” Alec shook his head, ghost of a smile on his lips. “Besides,” Magnus continued “if you wanted to kill me to get your hands on my money, you could have just asked. I’m very generous, darling.” He tried to make his tone light and joking, maybe try and coax a real smile out of Alec.

When Alec didn’t respond, Magnus extended his leg over to Alec’s side of the couch, tucking his toes under the other man’s shin and wiggling them to get his attention. Alec looked up and Magnus gave him an encouraging smile.

Alec practically leaped from the couch. Magnus looked up in shock.

He was pacing back and forth, pulling strands of his hair, opening and closing his mouth every so often as if he knew what he wanted to say but not how to start. Magnus could see the tension running through every muscle in his body, strung out and anxious.

“Alexander …”

Alec looked up, wide eyed almost as if he had forgotten that Magnus was in the room with him. His breathing was fast and sharp and Magnus worried he might be having a panic attack.

With no warning at all he started speaking. A lot of it didn’t make sense, he kept tripping over his words and stuttering but Magnus got the jist of it.

Alec told him that his parents wanted Max back, and that they weren’t happy that he was currently under Alec’s care. How his mother had called all of her children for the sole reason of trying to reach Alec. How he had gotten another call from her today just before the show, threatening him. He didn’t say what she had threatened him with but Magnus thought it better not to ask.

He told him how they had gotten home from Magnus’ party to a bizarre family dinner, where the two parents had all but attacked their children. Magnus’ stomach rolled and he saw red when Alec told him some of the things his father had said to him. Magnus had never considered himself a violent man, but he strongly considered hunting Robert Lightwood down and hurting him for the words he had spoken to his son. How he told Alec that he thought he wasn’t worthy to care for his little brother just because of who he chose to love.

Magnus felt sick.

Alec’s hands kept clenching and unclenching his hands at his sides and he had walked back and forth in front of the couch so many times that Magnus was sure there would be a mark in the hardwood. Not that he would have said anything if he did. Alec needed a way to release the pent up energy inside of him and Magnus was glad to offer up his floorboards for that.

Alec had finished talking but was still restlessly pacing. Magnus wasn’t sure if there was anything he could say right now to make the other man feel better, or even calmer, but he was willing to try. “Alexander, you have to know what your father said was untrue.” He started, seeing as it was the issue that was still at the forefront of his mind.

He shook his head. “I know that. I do. But it doesn’t stop them from hurting, you know?” He asked, but continued on like he wasn’t expecting an answer. “He’s my father, Magnus. And he hates me. He seems to not like all of us that much, but for some reason it’s always been me the most. I always got the best grades and did everything he ever asked of me growing up, but it was never enough for him. Because for some twisted, messed up reason he couldn’t look past the fact that I love men and see his son underneath.” He let out a choked breath. “Ridiculous.”

Magnus slowly rose from the couch, so as not to crowd Alec. “It is ridiculous, love. It’s more than ridiculous. It’s fucking ridiculous. And I want to hurt him back for the way he has hurt you, but unfortunately that’s not how we move forward in the world. If I've learned anything in my few decades of life it’s that you can’t change the opinions of others if they're not willing to change.” He chuckled. “And it sounds as if Robert is trapped in carbonite in terms of his opinions.”

The corner of Alec’s mouth tipped up at that and Magnus wanted to cheer outwardly. Seeing Alec upset was a lot harder than he had thought it would be and he hadn’t realized how much he missed the other man’s smile. Getting him to smile, even if it was at a cheesy, nerd joke was better than nothing.

Alec let out another frustrated groan and continued wearing a track in the flooring. “And my mother isn’t any better, you know? Like you would think being sneaky and manipulative was her full-time job with how good she is at it. Like, calling me and threatening me to try and let her take my brother back to a verbally abusive home? Does she even know me at all?” He pulled at a strand of his hair. “Jokes on her though, isn't it? Because I would rather never write another book and give up my entire career if it meant Max didn’t have to go back to that house of horrors.”

Alec abruptly stopped walking. He closed his eyes tight, squeezing them shut and let out a long breath. “I…” He choked, the rest of the words dying out in a puff of breath.

Magnus didn’t understand. Both the words that had just come out of Alec’s mouth and his reaction to them. He was determinedly avoiding eye contact with Magnus and looked a mix of annoyed and frightened.

With who, and at what, Magnus wasn’t sure.

“Alexander, what do you mean ‘write another book’?” Magnus took another tentative step towards Alec who, surprisingly, flinched.

He took a deep breath and swallowed thickly. “I - I didn’t want to tell you like that. I had a plan. Why didn’t I stick to the plan?” The last part was spoken more to himself than to Magnus. He tucked a hand into his dark hair, worrying at his scalp.

His answer didn’t help much with Magnus’ confusion. In fact, it made it worse. “Darling, you’re not making any sense. Let me help. Tell me what’s going on.” He took the final step separating him and Alec, not touching, but close. Alec didn’t flinch this time.

He looked up at Magnus with wide and scared eyes. Magnus’ heart was starting to beat funnily, and not in the world-stopping, pleasant way it usually did when he was this close to Alec.

He was worried.

Alec closed his eyes, seemingly in an attempt to center himself. Magnus let him collect his thoughts, waiting patiently and not interrupting.

He opened his eyes and looked directly into Magnus’. The sheer force of it was enough to make Magnus fall off of his feet, and he probably would've if he wasn’t so nervous to hear what Alec said next. Shakespeare clearly hadn’t met Alec Lightwood when he said ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’. Alec’s were more like a black hole, pulling you in and making you not even want to consider trying to resist, not even for a second. They made you want to fall into them without a second thought, welcoming the sensation of falling.

Alec reached his hand across the open space between them and gripped Magnus’ elbow. His fingers were warm and his touch was gentle. It sent a shiver through Magnus.

Oblivious to his sudden intake of breath, he slid his hand down Magnus’ forearm and intertwined their fingers, not breaking eye contact the entire time. Magnus tried to read something, anything, in his eyes but he couldn’t see a single hint of what Alec might be trying to tell him. While he got no clues on what he might be thinking, he saw a vulnerability in the deepness of his eyes that was so honest it was almost shocking.

“Don’t hate me.” He whispered, so softly that Magnus almost missed it.

“I could never hate you.” Magnus replied honestly.

Alec closed his eyes. “Promise. Promise me you won’t hate me, because I don’t know if I could handle that.” He murmured. His voice broke on the word ‘hate’ and Magnus wanted nothing more than to pull him into his chest.

He settled for squeezing his hand instead. “Alexander, I could never hate you. If I had a God I would swear it.” He promised. “Now, please tell me what’s going on, you’re scaring me.”

Alec nodded, fingers tight on Magnus’ hand. “I - uh, I write books.” He held up his hand that wasn’t holding Magnus’, stopping his impending interruption. “I need you not to say anything. You’re going to want to, but I need you not to, or I won’t be able to get through this.”

Magnus just nodded mutely. His mind was racing, trying to think of anything Alec could tell him that would make him think Magnus would hate him after. But Magnus hadn’t been lying when he said Alec couldn’t do anything to make Magnus feel that way about him.

Even if Magnus wanted to hate Alec, he would always love him.

He started again, with more confidence this time. “I write books. I started writing when I was 18 years old and have been doing it ever since. It started as some dumb idea I had to get stuff off my chest, but it was addictive. I wrote and wrote and then all of a sudden I had a full novel on my laptop that I had no idea what to do with.”

“The next step was getting it published, according to Simon anyway. I didn’t want to at first. I actually flat out refused for a few months. The book was so personal; it was every thought and feeling written down, almost like a diary and I didn’t want anyone to see that part of me. But Simon told me it was too good not to publish and I’ve always taken his advice so it didn’t take long for me to get on board.” He smiled a little at that, before continuing.

“After it’s release, the first one became something of an overnight sensation. I wasn’t prepared for the sort of reaction I got, and I was terrified. So many people, all around the world, were reading my thoughts. My words. My book. I was on the New York Times Bestselling list within a week. My book was selling out of bookstores. People were tweeting, blogging and posting about it everywhere online.”

“Almost instantly I was getting hounded by companies wanting to sign me, offering me editors, managers and trying to get me to publish with them. People wanted me to come into their stores and do signings. People were asking me if I was considering making it into a movie. It was overwhelming and exciting and so, so terrifying.”

He bit his lip. “I chose a single publishing company, just a small one that hadn’t hounded me, but told me if I wanted they would be happy to have me. It was hard finding someone who would meet my demands. As an author I wanted to remain completely anonymous, sending Simon in to do all the face-to-face work.

“I didn’t want an editor either. I decided early on that the only other person who would ever touch my work besides me, was Simon. I told myself if the company accepted those terms that I would continue, but if not I would stop. No one objected, and Simon was actually excited. From there it was a month or two of signing papers and Simon running back and forth between the office, and then everything was finalized and a partnership was born.” His grip on Magnus’ fingers was almost painfully tight. “Since then I’ve added five more books to the series with that company, and just finished the first draft for the sixth.”

He stared straight into Magnus’ eyes. “I’m not an editor, Magnus. I’m an author. A world famous author, actually.” He let out a small chuckle. “I guess what I’m trying to say is … I’m Gideon Archer.”

 

***

 

The second the words left his mouth, Alec simultaneously felt a huge weight leave his shoulders and a strong urge to pull them back in.

Actually saying the words out loud had a calming effect on him, vanquishing all the anxiety and stress he had been feeling just moments before. Magnus hadn’t said anything yet but he had assured Alec that everything would be fine, and promised not to hate him, which gave him confidence.

He hadn’t shown up at Magnus’ with the plan to tell him everything tonight. He wanted to tell the other man after Fashion Week, but thought he’d at least give him a few days before easing into it slowly, not overwhelming him like he had just done.

As much as he had been nervous about it, he had wanted to get it out of the way quickly so they could hopefully move past it, and so Clary wouldn’t have to lie to her brother for any longer than she had been. Alec hated lying to his siblings and hated asking Clary to lie to hers.

Alec felt like he was on top of the world, like nothing could touch him. Magnus was just the first step. An important step, but just the first of hopefully many more to come. Alec wasn’t naive enough to believe that his parents were just going to roll over and accept defeat. No, they would be back. They would probably target his career since they knew it was a weak spot for him, but what if Alec could beat them to the punch?

He’d have Magnus by his side and everything would finally be okay.

Magnus’ hand was still clasped in his, his attention only being drawn to it when Magnus pulled away roughly. Alec looked up and met his eyes and all the thoughts of smiting his parents once and for all left his mind.

Magnus was looking at Alec with an expression that spoke of hurt, betrayal and shock. His mouth was set in a firm line and his eyebrows were slightly drawn together. The worst part was probably his eyes. The green-gold orbs that had been so open and kind before were now completely closed off, shutting Alec out from anything he could be thinking.

“Magnus-”

“Get out.” His voice was cold and hard, cutting Alec right to the bone.

“Magnus, if you would just let me -”

“Alec, get out.”

Alec swallowed hard at the deliberate use of his nickname. He wasn’t sure if he had ever heard Magnus use it before and it sounded wrong coming out of his mouth.

“Please just let me explain.” Alec pleaded, not caring how desperate he sounded. He would get on his knees and beg if Magnus asked him to. He would do anything.

“Explain more to me about how you’ve been lying about everything since day one? I think I’ve heard enough, actually.”

He had completely shut Alec out. Gone was any emotion from his face and instead it was replaced with a mask of calm anger. He didn’t scream or shout or cry, he just spoke with a coolness that made Alec want to scream, shout and cry.

“I …” He sighed. “I’ll just go, I guess.” He wanted to stay, wanted to fight for Magnus with everything that he had but he knew he wouldn’t get anywhere tonight, not when Magnus wasn’t even letting him speak. Not that Alec blamed him really. He had kept a huge secret from him for months.

Kept a secret that had been the foundation of the beginning of their friendship.

Magnus said nothing as Alec collected his jacket and walked passed him to the door. He didn’t stop Alec or pull him back to couch to talk. Didn’t make a joke or innuendo or comment on Alec’s jeans like he usually did when he walked behind him.

He didn’t even look him in the eye.

Alec turned around when he was just outside the door, trying in vain to catch Magnus’ eye, maybe just explain. There was so much more that Magnus needed to know.

But as soon as he had cleared the door frame Magnus had shut the door with a bang, lock clicking in place. The sound echoed in Alec’s head long after the hallway had gone quiet and Alec thought with dismay, it resembled something absolute and final.

Something they couldn’t come back from.

Alec stood there, thinking back through the nights events and how he had gotten himself to this spot. They had had such an amazing day, maybe one of the best ones they had had in a long time and then all of a sudden Alec had blurted out something he hadn’t meant to and the whole day had not only taken a turn for the worst but crashed and burned in a fury of flames.

He had no choice but to admit defeat for now and go home. He could have sat outside of Magnus’ apartment all night and waited for him to come out and made some grand dramatic gesture to try and apologize, but he didn’t think that would be the best idea. He would gladly sit for hours if it meant Magnus forgiving him, but Magnus’ neighbor Iris always seemed to watch Alec wherever he went and he didn’t really feel like giving her a front row seat to his personal life.

Also, she was kind of creepy.

Alec shoved his hands deep in his pockets and started the short trek back to his place. He had made this exact trip just over an hour ago. Somehow, in such a short period of time, Alec had messed things up so badly with him and Magnus that he wasn’t sure they could fix them and that filled him with a despair so deep it was haunting.

Magnus had only been in his life for a few short months, but Alec couldn’t imagine living a single day without him in it. Even when he didn’t see Magnus, they had always kept in touch in other ways and now there was a chance that Alec might have lost that.

No. He wouldn’t let that happen. Magnus was too important to lose and there had to be a way to win him back because Alec knew that even if Magnus didn’t return his romantic feelings, he treasured their friendship just as much as Alec and hopefully wouldn’t want to let it slip away so easily.

It wasn’t like he could expect Magnus to forgive him right away, though. In a perfect world, Magnus would have been excited when Alec told him, happy that he had finally figured out who Gideon Archer was and it just happened to be his best friend. He would have been happy that Alec had trusted him with the secret and being let into the small circle of people who knew.

In Alec’s nightmares though, it didn’t go much differently than it had just gone.

Alec had originally thought that Magnus would be upset and maybe a little mad but once he heard Alec’s story he would understand why he had needed to keep it a secret and why he couldn’t tell anyone. He had hoped that Magnus would be lenient because he was one of the first people to know out of all of Alec’s readers.

He hadn’t expected what happened, or that Magnus wouldn’t even let him tell the full story, but he supposed he should have, given the size of the secret and how long he had kept it from the other man.

He hopped off the subway and walked the few short blocks to his building. The ground was covered in a thick layer of snow, crunching under his boots as he walked. The air was brisk and biting, stinging Alec’s exposed skin and causing him to burrow further into his coat. The weather seemed to be reflecting the day Alec was having, sunny and nice during the day and harsh and bitter in the evening.

His watch told him it was just past three in the morning so he made sure to slip quietly into the apartment, mindful of Max who needed to be up early. Alec slipped off his boots and coat and walked through the living room towards his bedroom. He wanted nothing more than to pass out and forget this night ever happened, hoping that maybe he would wake up and it would have all just been a really detailed nightmare.

When he passed the living room he saw Jace was passed out on the couch, having made up a bed with the spare sheets from the hall closet. Alec had a feeling he knew where Izzy was but he couldn’t find himself to be upset with either of them, he had told them to stay after all. He was actually relieved that his siblings were so close tonight. Even if they were sleeping and he couldn’t talk to them, it was comforting to have them under his roof.

He opened the door to his bedroom and found Isabelle exactly where he expected her; curled up on one side of his bed, sheets wrapped around her small frame. Alec quickly changed into pajamas and slipped in beside her, careful not to jostle the bed too much and wake her.

He hadn’t been careful enough though because she blinked her eyes open, focusing on him after a moment of disorientation. “Alec?”

“Sorry Iz, go back to sleep.” Alec cursed himself as soon as the words came out. His voice was slick with emotion and he hoped that Isabelle, in her sleepy daze, would miss it.

“I didn’t think you’d be back tonight. S’why I took the bed.” She looked to be fighting off sleep, eyes drifting closed every few seconds.

“It’s okay. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Go to sleep now, okay?” He soothed, smoothing some hair away from her face. He was reminded of all the times he had to put her to bed because their parents had been too busy. She nodded sleepily and soon enough she had drifted back into dreamland.

Alec was anything but tired. His brain was wired and anxious and he couldn’t stop replaying the events at Magnus’ apartment over and over again in his head. Accidentally slipping up, Magnus grabbing his hand softly, his words of gentle encouragement and then more vividly, his look of shock and hurt, the way he had sounded when he had told Alec to get out.

He didn’t think he would ever forget the way the shortened version of his name had sounded coming out of Magnus’ mouth. Everyone called Alec by that name but Magnus had always called him Alexander and he had always felt special when Magnus did. Like his name was something more, something better when it came out of Magnus’ mouth. Hearing the name everyone else used for him from Magnus felt wrong and filled Alec with a sense of shame and sadness.

There was one positive thing that he took from their conversation though, something that gave him a rush of excitement despite the crushing devastation fighting with Magnus brought.

Alec had told someone his secret.

And he wanted more.

If there was one thing the conversation with Magnus had made very clear, it was that Alec was tired of keeping this secret. He was tired of hiding behind a name, a name that no longer made him feel safe and protected but instead shameful and weak.

Alec was done with keeping secrets and it was time for him to do something about it.

 

***

 

Magnus should have been out celebrating.

He should have been attending the most prestigious after parties and meeting celebrities and getting his picture taken with other big name designers for the magazines. He should be reveling in the success of his show (because it had been a success, based off the dozens of links he had been sent by Lydia with more than positive reviews).

There was a lot of things he should have been doing after his out-of-the-park debut at New York Fashion Week but he was sure that sitting on his couch in his pajamas, eating leftover Chinese and watching Say Yes to the Dress was not one of those things.

He hadn’t planned to spend the day after his show on the couch. He and Lydia had lined up press interviews and appearances for the rest of the weekend but when Magnus had woken up he cancelled every single one of them with a flimsy excuse of not feeling well. Lydia had tried to argue him on it, but he had simply hung up on her.

It was hard to deny that the slump he found himself in was because of Alec, but Magnus did try. He knew the other man was the cause of his misery but admitting it meant that he needed to accept that what Alec had told him was true and that Alec had a far stronger hold on him than he had thought.

Magnus stabbed a chicken ball with the end of his chop stick and stuck it in his mouth, chewing angrily. “Screw Alec Lightwood for making me fall in love with him. Screw him for being perfect and then turning out to be a lying jackass in the end. Screw him for leading me on for months.”

And the one he couldn’t force himself to say out loud; screw him for being impossible to fall out of love with.

Magnus had gone through a whirlwind of emotions in a very short amount of time and it was exhausting him. After Alec left he had been angry. Really angry. How could Alec keep something that substantial a secret for so long, especially from Magnus? How could he just expect Magnus to be totally okay with this?

Anger had turned to denial. There was no way that Alec could be Gideon Archer, could he? The timeline fit, as well as his knowledge of the books but he could just as well be a superfan like Magnus. How could Alec have kept that secret from the entire world for years? How had he kept it from Magnus? He didn’t doubt that Alec was a talented writer with how intelligent he was, but being a good writer and being Gideon Archer were two very different things.

Blame followed shortly after. He wasn’t sure who to blame at first. Alec was the first contender, obviously. He was mad and Alec was easy to place the blame on. Isabelle, Jace and even little Max were close runners up. Surely Alec had told them, and they hadn’t thought to let him in on this either. Magnus also couldn’t help but blame himself too. Getting tied up in another toxic relationship when he had thought for sure last time was it.

He was so blinded by love that he thought Alec was perfect but clearly must have missed the warning signs.

The final stage could best be described as acceptance, though Magnus was far from accepting the situation. He had accepted that Alec was Gideon Archer by some crazy twist that was his life, but he couldn’t accept that his Alec, sweet, protective and honest Alec had been the one to keep something like that from him.

Magnus had learned so much about Alec over the past few months, even though he had learned almost all of it, but he hadn’t expected to learn that Alec was untruthful. Part of him hoped that Alec had an identical twin and the Alec that had been at his apartment last night hadn’t been his Alec.

His unwillingness to believe that Alec could do wrong was dangerous and was one of the reasons it was so damn hard to fall out of love with him. Magnus’ feelings for Alec had been at the center of his inner (and outer) turmoil. Sure, he was upset that he had been betrayed by his best friend, but being betrayed by someone you loved, whom you trusted and let see you with your walls down was something different.

It hurt a hell of a lot more.

So, all of these emotions and feelings left Magnus feeling more exhausted than he had been in a long time and had confined him to his couch for some much needed rest and rejuvenation. He just needed a few days of mindless TV and bad food and the he would be back on his feet and be well on his way to putting this whole thing, and Alec, behind him.

He had turned his phone off hours ago, sick of the constant buzzing of calls from Lydia, Ragnor, Cat and Alec. After a fitful few hours of sleep, Magnus awoke to a full voicemail and dozens of texts from Alec.

He deleted them all without even looking at them.

Lydia had also been trying to contact him ever since he hung up on her. Magnus could only imagine how angry she was and he wasn’t looking forward to having to deal with that. Having her star pupil disappearing right after the biggest show of his career, not answering any calls or texts was sure to drive anyone mad.

Magnus got up from the couch, waking up his muscles after hours of sitting stationary in front of the television. He contemplated cleaning up the apartment a little bit, but no one would be coming over today or the rest of the weekend and he could just call someone to come and do it when it got bad enough.

He was walking to the kitchen to get another snack and then continue his marathon, but stopped on the way.

Magnus had large bookshelf that took up almost an entire wall of his loft and was filled with books, knick knacks and pictures. He was very proud of his collection and loved having it on display. Many of the copies he had were first editions or signed copies he had collected on his travels. Magnus had spent many afternoons whiling away in front of this bookcase, pulling out random novels and reading passages before putting them back and pulling out another. Reading was one of his favourite pastimes and the bookshelf was a dedication to that love.

Though, it wasn’t his love of the shelf or it’s contents that stopped him this time.

If Alec had been telling the truth, and by this point Magnus had deduced that he had been, then that would mean that Magnus’ most prized set of novels were now different than they had been the day before. They were tainted. They would no longer bring him joy when he reread them. Even thinking of reading them again, knowing the truth, made Magnus’ heart ache painfully.

He ran his finger lightly over the six spines, all lined up in chronological order. The books themselves were beautiful. Along with the name, the spine of each book had a small circle at the bottom, each in a different colour. When they were all lined up in a row like Magnus’ were, the colours made up the pride flag.

This usually made Magnus smile fondly, but not this time. Everything was different now. He pulled each book off the shelf and brought the pile over to the couch, setting them down carefully in front of him. Each cover was unique and beautiful, in a simple way. All of the covers only had one or two small things on them, but they spoke volumes and related perfectly to content of the books themselves.

Alec’s voice rang out in his mind suddenly. It had been in the Armani store just the week before when they had been shopping. ‘I’m a simple man’ Alec had said, joking and teasing but he hadn’t been lying and that simplicity had reflected into his work.

Magnus turned each book over and looked at the covers. He saw them in a completely different light now. It was as if he had just been given a pair of glasses and the distorted world was suddenly pulled into focus. Where before he had seen the entire cover for the beautiful artwork that it was, now he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the bolded name across the bottom of each volume: Gideon Archer.

“Screw you Alec Lightwood, and screw you Gideon Archer.” Magnus muttered to the book, which just stared back at him, unresponsive to his anger.

Magnus didn’t know what compelled him to do what he did next. Call it morbid curiosity, or the urge people had to stare at a car crash as they drove by even though they knew it was wrong. Magnus was staring the proverbial car crash right in the face. The copy of Shadows, the original first edition one that Gideon - or Alec, he supposed - had signed in his hand.

He shouldn’t have done it, he knew that at least but he ignored every voice in his head telling him it was a bad idea and opened the cover and started to read.

 

***

 

“What’s the matter with you?”

Alec looked up from his computer screen to see Isabelle hovering over him, hands on her hips and an unimpressed look on her face. “Excuse me?”

She rolled her eyes. “Don't play dumb. I know there's something bothering you. You haven't left the house in two days and you’ve been very secretive, taking all of your calls out of the room.” She glanced at his phone. “Not to mention you’ve been watching that thing like it holds all of life's answers.”

“I’m fine. It’s just work stuff.”

She scoffed. “Don’t you lie to me Alexander Lightwood. I think you’re forgetting that I’m dating the other half of the Gideon Archer team and he isn’t acting all fishy and sullen like you are.”

Alec hadn’t forgotten but the thought might have slipped his mind when he was making up an excuse. He was saved from having to answer her though by Jace, who chose that moment to walk into Alec’s apartment. Isabelle and Jace had been taking turns staying over ever since the confrontation with their parents last week. They both claimed that they wanted to help out more with Max, but Alec knew they were just worried about him.

“Leave him alone, Iz. If he wants to be angsty and moody, he’s allowed to do just that.” Jace grinned and flopped on the couch beside Alec, shoving him aside playfully.

She pursed her lips, before shaking her head. “Boys,” She muttered. “They’re all the same with their inability to talk about their emotions.”

“I heard that!” Jace called after her, but she just continued walking out of the room and to the kitchen, heels clicking on the floor. Jace grinned. “Clary does the same thing. She’s always trying to get me to talk about feelings and crap. Girls, eh?” He nudged Alec in the shoulder, who just made a noncommittal noise.

Alec could see Jace studying him out of the corner of his eye. Suddenly, Jace grabbed Alec’s computer, closed the lid and stood up. “Dude! I was working on something!”Alec protested.

Jace shrugged. “Your book is done, what could you possibly be working on? Actually I don’t care. We’re going to the gym.”

Alec grimaced, raising an eyebrow. “What makes you think I want to go to the gym?”

Jace put the stolen laptop in his own bag, zipping it up and swinging it over his shoulder. “Oh, I know you don’t. But I’m not letting you sit on this couch for another day like a sad sack, and I’m also not going to make you talk about your feelings. I figure you can get out whatever all this is,” He gestured to Alec, “by getting a few good punches in on a bag.”

“Jace …” Alec started, but his brother cut him off quickly.

“Go get changed, I’ll call a car. We’re leaving in 10!” He pulled out his phone and ignored the rest of Alec’s protests.

Alec sighed and got up from the couch. He supposed an hour or two at the gym couldn’t hurt. Both Jace and Isabelle were right that he hadn’t gotten up in a few days and besides, it would be a nice distraction from the glaring silence of his phone.

He changed out of his jeans and into a pair of warm up pants and loose fitting tank top, throwing on a hoodie over top. Jace apparently didn’t need to change because when he wasn’t dressed up or in his signature jeans and leather jacket combo, he was almost always in some sort of athletic gear.

Alec wasn’t surprised when the car drove them the short distance to the gym that Jace owned. He had an apartment close to Alec so the commute wasn’t very long.

Alec had been to Jace’s studio many times since he had opened it a few years ago. He didn’t always come to work out, but sometimes he would come for lunch or just to visit. Jace convinced to him to come in and train every now and then and they sparred in the back, both of them putting their black belt training to some use.

The front of the building looked like your average gym; cardio machines, weights, mats and exercise balls everywhere. There was a receptionist and a few personal trainers milling around as well as a bunch of customers on the machines.

Jace waved at people as they passed, stopping to talk to a few of his associates and the regulars who came in everyday, before leading Alec to the back. The back of the gym was split into two studios. There was one that looked almost like a dance studio, with wood flooring and mirrors along one side of the room. Alec knew that this was where Jace taught his yoga classes.

The other side was a room set up similarly to a boxing gym. There was a ring in the middle of the room, elastic cords surrounding the mat. Around the edges were various punching bags, speed bags and training equipment for fighting.

Jace closed the door behind them, locking it so that no one would interrupt them, before leading Alec over to the back wall. The wall was covered in safety equipment, gloves, tape, helmets and mouth guards. They each grabbed a pair of gloves before walking back to the ring. They never fought hard enough to need any of the other equipment.

They started out slow, trading punches and blocks, dancing around each other gracefully. They had been doing this for so long that it was almost like a coordinated dance; punch, block, duck, move, punch and so on. Alec felt himself get lost in the fight, all other thoughts other than what Jace was going to do next leaving his mind.

Jace’s blows started getting quicker and harder and Alec was working up a sweat just to block them, but he got in a few good hits of his own. Jace practiced everyday so Alec wasn’t surprised to see that he himself was a little out of shape, but so much of it came back through muscle memory.

The fourth time Jace had him pinned to the mat, Alec tapped out, sitting with his elbows resting on his knees. Jace sat down across from him and pulled off his gloves, leaning back on his hands.

“Magnus knows.” Alec admitted.

Jace didn’t look shocked at Alec’s blurted out statement which proved Alec’s suspicions that he brought him here not just for working out. “So you told him?”

Alec nodded. “It uh - it didn’t go well.” He pulled off his own gloves and set them down beside him.

Jace looked sympathetic. “I figured. Wanna talk about it?”

Alec shrugged, picking at a loose string on his pants. “I didn’t mean to tell him, it kind of came out accidentally but I mean I was planning on telling him anyway so that part wasn’t terrible.”

“What did he say when you told him?”

“That he didn’t want to hear any more of my lies. That I’ve been lying to him from day one.” He laughed humorlessly. “He’s not wrong.”

This time, Jace did look shocked. “You told him that you loved him and he called you a liar? Are you kidding me?”

Alec whipped his head over and stared at his brother in disbelief, before realizing his mistake. Just before he left for Magnus’ the other night, they had been talking about Alec’s feelings so it only made sense that Jace had assumed that that was what Alec told him.

He wasn’t even sure he had told his siblings he was planning on telling Magnus about Gideon.

Alec shook his head quickly. “No, not that. He doesn’t - I haven’t told him that.” He paused. “He uh, knows about Gideon.” He quickly recounted the night's events to his brother, shortening it as much as he could. Even though he had spent the entire weekend thinking of nothing but what had happened that night, it still hurt to say it out loud.

Jace was angry. He waited until Alec had finished speaking but he could practically see the anger running through his brother’s veins as he talked. He jumped up from his seated position and hopped the edge of the ring, walking quickly over to a punching bag. Alec followed slowly behind, watching as Jace took his frustrations out on the bag.

“It’s not fair.” He gritted in between punches. “He has no right to get mad at you. No right to kick you out like that.”

Alec leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. “Jace, the only reason we started talking was because of Shadows. You have to see how that looks from his point of view.”

“Alec, you don’t owe him anything. You could have kept that secret for as long as you wanted and it would still be okay. That’s the point of being anonymous, is it not?” He had stopped punching the bag, holding it still in his hands. “And with what happened …”

Alec shook his head. “He doesn’t know that either. I - I never got around to telling him.”

Jace nodded. “Are you going to?”

He let out a long sigh and scrubbed his hand across his face. “I mean that’s not something I like to tell people unless I have to, but if it’ll help make things better between us then I’ll do it. One hundred percent.”

Jace held the bag out wordlessly to Alec, who just shook his head. They cleaned up the equipment they used and left the training room. Alec couldn’t stop thinking about what Jace had said, about him keeping the secret.

He was right, it was Alec’s secret to keep and he didn’t need to tell anyone. But he had wanted to tell Magnus, had wanted him to see and experience that part of his life. It was something he only shared with the closest people in his life and he and Magnus had finally got to the point that Alec felt he could let him in.

At the same time though, he did understand Magnus’ anger which gave him some confusing feelings when it came to guilt. He felt guilty because he had hurt Magnus, but with the thought in mind that it was his secret and he had his own reasons for keeping it, he wasn’t as sure.

The only thing he knew for sure was that he wanted Magnus back, and he would do anything to make that happen.

 

***

 

A soft knock on his door broke Magnus out of his reading.

He glanced at the clock and saw he had been reading for a few hours, not even noticing the time flying by. That had been happening quite frequently over the past two days since he had started reading Gideon’s - Alec’s, he reminded himself - books again.

He had made good time, dedicating almost his entire days to reading. He only stopped for food and bathroom breaks every few hours. He had read through three of the books already and was halfway through the fourth.

The knock sounded again, more insistent this time. Grumbling, Magnus set his book down and got up from the couch. He was wearing a pair of grey sweats and a plain white t shirt with a silk dressing gown thrown over top. He knew he looked like a mess, but he could hardly be bothered to change just to answer the door. He opened it quickly, silently cursing himself for not checking first who was on the other side.

Isabelle was standing in his doorway, bottle of red wine in one hand. She took one look at his appearance and sighed. “I should have brought two bottles of wine.” With that, she let herself in pushing past Magnus and into his kitchen to grab glasses.

“Well hello to you too, Isabelle. Please do come into my apartment. Make yourself at home.” He muttered, closing the door behind him. He went back to the couch, figuring that she would bring him a glass once she had poured it.

He looked at the coffee table in horror and saw that Alec’s books were scattered all over it. He wasn’t sure what Isabelle knew, or even if she knew at all but he didn’t want her seeing what he had been up to the last few days. He scrambled to gather them up, shoving them under the couch cushion he was sitting on.

Isabelle walked in a moment later. Magnus noted, with faint amusement, that instead of carrying two glasses of wine she was carrying two bottles. In fact, she didn’t have glasses with her at all.

“Cabernet or Merlot?” She asked, holding up the two bottles of red. Magnus gestured to the Merlot.

She sat down across from him and took a sip of her wine, right from the bottle. “So, what’s up?”

Magnus raised a delicate eyebrow. “Well, I’m currently drinking wine from the bottle at 3 in the afternoon, which I can’t say I’ve done before.” He paused, shaking his head. “Never mind. Peru.”

Isabelle sighed. “All of you boys are the same.”

Magnus almost choked on his sip of wine. “Though I don’t quite know what you mean, I don’t appreciate being lumped in with an entire gender, dear Isabelle.” He chided.

She rolled her eyes. She looked so much like Alec when she did that. “Yeah well get used to it. Though, I have to admit, you are better than Alec and Jace when it comes to this stuff.”

Magnus forced his features to remain impassive and not react to Alec’s name. “And what stuff is that?” He asked, hopefully somewhat casually.

She huffed out a breath. “There’s something wrong with you and there's something wrong with Alec and I feel like it may be connected but neither of you are talking about it! Why can’t men just talk about their feelings? It would make things so much easier.”

Magnus swallowed another sip of wine, larger than the last one. This was a conversation he wasn’t sure he wanted to be sober for. “Isabelle, darling. I love you, I do but I don’t think I should be talking about this with you.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Well, why not? I know anyway. Alec told me a long time ago.” She continued, quieter. “I just want to help.”

Magnus sighed. “I know you do love. I just, I don’t think I can forgive Alec right now. Not after everything.”

She paused, bottle of wine halfway to her lips. “What did he do?”

Magnus furrowed his brows. Maybe he had been wrong and Isabelle didn’t know about Alec’s secret? No, she must know. There was no way Alec could keep it from Isabelle of all people, for seven years. “He should have been truthful from the start. I don’t appreciate being lied to, especially about something he knew I felt strongly about.”

She looked confused. “What …” Her mouth opened into a perfect ‘o’ and her eyes bugged wide. “You’re kidding. He actually told you?” Magnus nodded. “Magnus, he’s never - he’s never told anyone outside of the family before. And Simon doesn’t count.”

Magnus huffed out a breath and took another sip of wine. “So I’ve heard.”

She set her bottle down and moved so she was staring straight into his eyes. “Magnus, I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. Alec has never told his secret to anyone before. If he told you that means -” She paused. “He really trusts you.”

“Yeah, well it’s hard to trust him right now. I mean, Gideon Archer? Iz, he’s like one of the biggest authors in the world. And he didn’t think to mention it before now?”

She hesitated. “Didn’t he tell you? I mean, why he doesn’t tell people? I thought for sure he would bring it up.”

Magnus shook his head. “He just told me that he had told the publishing company he wanted to remain anonymous. And I didn’t really give him much chance to tell me afterwards.” Magnus refused to feel guilty for his actions.

She nodded and it was a testament to their friendship that she didn’t go all ‘don’t hurt my big brother’ on him. She was quiet for a while, contemplative, staring out the windows of Magnus’ loft in thought.

Finally she turned back to him. Magnus was surprised to see vulnerability in her expression. “I understand why you’re mad. I remember being a little mad too, so I can’t even imagine how you feel.” She crossed her feet under her and faced him fully. “But with that being said, you don’t know the entire story. I don’t blame you for being mad and kicking my brother out, because let’s face it he does take awhile to get to the point. But I’m sure he was trying to get to a point the other night, and it’s one you should hear.”

“And you want me to call Alec, so he can tell me himself?” Magnus guessed.

She shrugged. “I know you’re upset so that’s probably not something you want to do right now. I’m going to tell you the jist of it and hopefully that will make you see his side a little clearer, so he can tell you the rest.”

Magnus nodded for her to continue. He wasn’t sure what she could tell him that would make him less hurt by what Alec did, but he trusted Isabelle so he was willing to hear her out.

She cleared her throat. “My brother keeps his emotions locked inside, and it’s really hard on him. Before the books he never really had an outlet and it got to the point where we were really worried about him. With all the stuff that happened with our parents, and Max and everything else he would just push it away and keep it locked up.”

“When he started writing we started to see a difference in him. I thought he was just getting his mind off things and focusing on something else, but it wasn’t until I read his first book that I understood. Alec was unloading his emotions, his thoughts, feelings and experiences onto the pages of his books.”

“Now obviously some of it has been changed, like names and some things exaggerated for dramatic effect but that story is very much a story of Alec’s life. Bobby, his protagonist, is so much like him and almost everything Bobby experiences … Alec has too.” She put heavy emphasis on the last three words, staring straight into Magnus’ eyes.

It didn’t take him long to deduce what she was talking about. His stomach immediately flooded with guilt at not letting Alec tell him this the other night, because if he had known he never would have sent him away. “You mean …” Magnus put a hand over his mouth, unable to say the words.

Isabelle nodded sadly. “It was a long time ago, but it was bad. He’s strong and he came back from it, but that’s not something that’s easily forgotten.”

Magnus felt sick. If he had only just put aside his anger and let Alec talk, let him explain like he had been trying so hard to do. But instead he had all but pushed him out and slammed the door in his face.

Magnus fumbled for the books he had shoved under the cushion, no longer caring what Isabelle would think of him. He found the one he was looking for and flipped through the pages until he found the section he wanted, reading it over, again and again. Each time he read it, the image Magnus had crafted of Bobby in his head was slowly replaced with Alec. Soon, when he read it all he could see was alabaster skin, dark hair and warm eyes.

He threw the book down roughly on the table and ran to the kitchen to grab his phone. Isabelle looked alarmed. “What are you doing?”

Magnus didn’t answer her, just pulled his phone from the drawer he had shoved it in and turned it on. It took a few moments but soon messages and calls were flooding in. Magnus skimmed passed all of them, looking for Alec’s name. He found it and opened the chat with shaking fingers. There were dozens of messages from Alec.

Please Magnus, I know you don’t want to talk to me just please let me explain.

I’m so sorry. Please call me.

I know you hate me and don’t want to hear from me, but if I could just explain.

And a very simple, short one that broke Magnus’ heart into pieces.

I miss you.

Magnus blinked away the tears that had clouded his eyes and went to his voicemail. He skipped through any from Lydia or anyone else, listening just for the ones from Alec. Magnus had already deleted most of them, but there was one left, sent just after Magnus turned off his phone.

“Hi. It’s Alec. But you knew that I guess. I’ve been calling you all day and I’m probably clogging up your mailbox, so this will be my last one. There's something I didn’t tell you the other night, something I need to tell you. It might not change your mind about how you feel about me right now, but I’m hoping it might help you understand why I did what I did. If you want to meet, you know where I’ll be.”

Isabelle watched him from the other side of the kitchen. Her eyes were wide and sad and she was biting her lip nervously. “I need to go see him.” Magnus croaked. He cleared his throat, trying again. “I need to see Alexander.”

She nodded, ghost of a smile on her lips. “I agree.”

Magnus knew exactly where Alec meant when he said ‘you know where I’ll be’ but he worried he had waited too long and Alec wouldn’t be there.

But he had to try. He didn't know if he was going to be able to forgive Alec again, or ever trust him the way he did before, but if what Isabelle had said was true than Alec deserved to at least be heard out.

Even if he decided not to forgive Alec, he deserved to at least get a chance to be honest and tell his story.

And Magnus was going to give it to him.

 

***

Chapter Text

Alec had been to the coffee shop so many times in the past few days, pathetically hoping to catch a glimpse of Magnus.

He knew the other man was supposed to be doing press and interviews after his show but from the little Clary had told him over text, he hadn’t been out of his apartment in days.

Alec hadn’t wanted to force Clary into taking sides, hadn’t even considered it actually. He had fully expected her to ignore him completely in support and solidarity for her brother, but she hadn’t. She had texted Alec first, asking if he was alright and since then had been in contact with him a few times over text. Clary told him she didn’t want to get in the middle, and certainly didn’t want to lose him as a friend over this. She told Alec that Magnus would need some time to come around but eventually he would forgive him and they could all get back to normal.

He had taken her words seriously which wass why he was seated at the table in Java Jones that he and Magnus had deemed their own, nursing a steaming cup of coffee in his hands.

When he had left that message for Magnus on his answering machine, he had been so sure that Magnus would know where he meant, but as the days dragged on he was starting to doubt himself. Maybe Magnus didn’t care about their friendship as much as Alec had originally thought? Or maybe he hadn’t heard the message yet?

As much as he didn’t want to, Alec also had to face the possibility that Magnus had heard the message and just chosen to ignore it, deleting it and choosing not to come see him. The thought made him feel physically ill and he took a sip of coffee to quell his stomach.

His laptop was open in front of him, blank word document staring back at him. The small cursor was blinking steadily, as if to remind him how empty the page was and how he needed to fill it. The first few days when he had come to the shop, Alec had sat at the table with two coffees, anxiously watching the door every time it opened. After two days of coffee gone cold and no sign of Magnus, Alec had decided that he was still going to sit and wait, but he would at least be productive while doing so.

So each day he brought some work from home; some papers needing to be filled out, bills to be paid, and emails that needed to be responded to. The mindless work proved to be a good distraction and he hardly looked up as the door opened anymore

Though, that could have been because he was losing hope that Magnus would actually show.

Maia came up to the table and Alec could read her grim expression before she even sat down. “Nothing?”

Alec shook his head. “Not today.”

She nodded thinking about her next words. “He’ll come.” She settled on finally. She spoke with a confidence that Alec wanted desperately to believe in, but it was getting harder every time the door chimed and someone without tanned skin, gorgeous eyes and extreme amounts of glitter walked through. He just nodded, silent.

Maia paused a breath, before she continued to talk. “I don’t know what happened, and you don’t have to tell me, but it’s going to work out in the end. I’ve watched whatever this thing is between the two of you from the very beginning and I know something real when I see it.” She smiled comfortingly and placed her hand on top of his before standing up and heading back to the register. “I’ll bring you a refill!”

Alec smiled despite himself. Maia had been nothing but kind to him ever since he had met her all those months ago and had continued to even when Alec was a pathetic, pining mess and hogged one of her tables waiting for someone who would probably never show.

He glanced down at the computer screen, cursor blinking at him mockingly. Sighing, he closed the lid of his laptop and pulled out his phone, texting Simon and letting him know what he had asked for wouldn’t be ready in time.

He scrolled through a few more emails. He had one from Clary with information for the front and back covers of his novel. Alec had finally settled on a title and she had worked it, plus the summary, into the design. It looked amazing and Alec had told her so many times since they had first seen her work how grateful he was. He was sure that this was his favourite of all his covers.

Something about it was different.

He was so absorbed in his phone that he barely noticed someone approaching the table until the chair across from him was pulled out and there was a body in it. Alec looked up from his screen and his breath was knocked from his lungs.

Magnus was sitting in front of him, looking incredibly gorgeous. He always looked amazing but Alec supposed the prolonged time of not seeing him made him look that much better today. He had done full hair and makeup and was wearing one of his decorative dress shirts that Alec knew was his favourite.

But there was something different about him too. There was tiredness ringed around his eyes, and though he had tried, he couldn’t quite cover the deep purple bags under his eyes. In his face too, were signs of apprehension and wariness that looked unfamiliar on his usually open and bright features.

Alec opened his mouth. He was in a state of shock but he needed to say something, terrified Magnus would leave if he didn’t. But Magnus stopped him before he could say anything. He held up a single hand and Alec shut his mouth with an audible snap, focusing on Magnus intently.

“I have a two conditions for being here today.” He paused, and Alec nodded quickly for him to continue. “One, I don’t want to do this here. This is our spot and I don’t want that to change or to become ruined by anything that happens.”

“Of course. Wherever and whenever works for you.” Alec blurted out.

Magnus nodded. “Two, I’m going to listen to everything you have to say but if at the end my feelings haven’t changed, I need you to accept that. I want us to go into this knowing that this may not change anything, but I’m willing to try.

Alec swallowed thickly. He wanted to say he would accept Magnus’ terms without hesitation but part of him wasn’t so sure. What if he couldn’t convince Magnus to stay? What if he hated Alec more after he told him the whole story?

Despite the hesitations he felt, there was no way he wouldn’t accept. Accepting meant he got to talk to Magnus and try and convince him. Accepting meant that even if Magnus wanted nothing to do with him after this, he was still willing to listen, at least for a little bit. And a little bit of Magnus was better than nothing at all.

Alec nodded, slower this time. “I - I can accept that.”

Magnus let out a sigh and nodded quickly, efficiently. Like he was in a business meeting and not having coffee with his best friend. Ex-best friend. Whatever.

“Where - um, where do you want to go?” Alec cursed himself for stuttering. He was vaguely reminded of the first few times when he had been alone with Magnus and the stuttering, blushing mess he had been whenever Magnus had so much as looked at him. He would gladly trade that for tripping over his words because he was terrified to say the wrong thing, scaring Magnus away.

Magnus seemed to consider his options. Alec was hoping he would choose somewhere where they could be alone, but if it meant Magnus forgiving him he would gladly go up in front of a live audience to say his piece.

Finally Magnus seemed to come to a decision. He nodded towards the door and Alec jumped from his chair so fast he almost fell over. He quickly collected his things scattered on the table, shoving them unceremoniously into his bag and followed Magnus towards the door. When they passed the counter, Maia was standing behind it with two to-go cups of coffee and a smile. Magnus took them both with a small smile, handing one to Alec silently, and walked out the door.

“Thank you.” Alec whispered to Maia, shooting her a grateful smile.

She grinned. “Go get your man, Lightwood.”

Magnus was waiting for him just outside the shop, wrapping his scarf around himself and zipping up his coat. Alec fell into step beside them as they started walking.

He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to start talking but he figured that Magnus had a place in mind and would let Alec know when they arrived. Alec gladly followed his lead, letting Magnus make all the decisions.

A short walk and a subway ride later and the two of them were standing out in front of The Hunter’s Moon. It didn’t look any different than it had the last time they were there, windows still covered and sign still needing a paint job.

Alec was glad that Magnus had chosen this spot. This tiny bookstore was where Alec had felt a real connection with Magnus for the first time, where he had realized the depth of his feelings for the man standing beside him. He wanted it to be the place where Magnus learned the truth about him too.

The two men crossed the threshold, musty smell of old books hitting them as soon as they walked in. Bat was nowhere to be seen, the front counter empty. Alec assumed he must have been wandering the aisles, cleaning and organizing.

Magnus walked them to the middle of the store so that all they could see was book on every side of them. He cleared a space on the floor, moving aside a stack of books, before sitting cross-legged and facing Alec expectantly. Alec followed suit. The aisle was so small that the tips of their knees brushed with how they were sitting, but Magnus didn’t make any move to change positions.

Alec took that as a positive sign.

“So, um. I guess I should start … you know.” He gestured vaguely with his hands, feeling like an idiot. Alec was no stranger to writer’s block but he hadn’t thought the words for talking about his past would be so hard to say.

“Take your time, Alexander.” The softness in his voice and the use of his full name filled Alec with a warmth that had been absent since the start of this whole mess. It gave him confidence to start talking.

“I met Sebastian when I was 17. His father worked with mine and he was over at the house all the time for dinner parties and meetings. I was still in the closet to my parents, but Izzy and Jace knew everything. One night after dinner, Isabelle told me that Sebastian was flirting with me.” He laughed. “I brushed her off, but she had been right.”

“We started texting and talking regularly and within a few weeks we had dived straight into a relationship.” He smirked at his word choice, Magnus’ mouth quirking as well. He continued. “The forbidden love thing was fun at the beginning. We snuck around behind everyone's backs, meeting up in secret. I felt on top of the world, dating my dad’s partner’s son right under his nose. Every time we were together was exhilarating and scary and brand new.”

“We had been dating for a few months when I decided to come out to my parents. I didn’t tell them about Sebastian, but they somehow found out anyway. His father was livid and cut all ties with my parents, personal and professional, which really affected the firm.” Alec remembered that time painfully. His father had yelled terrible slurs at him, telling him that he had brought down the entire Lightwood name with his sexuality.

Alec took a deep breath. “They kicked me out, which you already know. It was hard, but I thought that I would at least have a boyfriend who would still love and support me, so it wouldn’t really be that bad. But I was wrong.”

“He denied the whole thing, didn’t he?” Magnus asked softly.

Alec nodded. “Yeah. Sebastian told both his parents and mine that I had just been obsessed with him and kept sending him creepy messages. They all believed him and no one even asked to hear my side of the story. My parents were even more disgusted with me than they were before. I was disgusted with myself. How could I have believed that he loved me, only for him to turn around and bite me like a snake?” He shook his head, willing down the emotions that were bubbling up in his chest. He had expected some feelings to come up when he told Magnus, but he hadn’t expected to feel like this.

Magnus placed a hand on his knee. “We can stop if you’d like. It’s okay, Alexander.”

Alec shook his head quickly. “No, you need to know. I need you to know.” He held Magnus’ gaze until the other man relented, nodding.

“I was a mess for a while, but I got my act together when I went away to school. I met Simon and I was actually in classes and learning things I was interested in. The feelings were still fresh, so I wrote them all down, which in the end became Shadows. Like I told you before, the writing was therapeutic for me and was a perfect way to let out my emotions. What I didn’t tell you though, was why I created Gideon.”

“I was writing about my personal experiences. I don’t know if you’ve figured it out or not but Dane is Sebastian and I’m Bobby. Obviously I changed some things, and exaggerated certain events, but I knew that if Sebastian ever happened across it and my name was on the cover, he would know it was about him and I didn’t want that. Especially after we got together the second time.” He laughed, humourless and dull.

“He came to my school with flowers, chocolate, poems and all the things hopeless romantics dream of. He claimed he had been terrified of his father and what he would do if he had found out he was gay. He didn’t want his father knowing we were in a relationship and taking it out on me. He said he regretted using me as a scapegoat every day and would do anything to make it up to me.” Alec bit his lip. “I was still in love with him - or at least I thought I was - and so I forgave him. Things were good for the first month. I introduced him to Simon and we went on public dates and everything was perfect. I was really happy.”

He closed his eyes. He knew that Magnus must have put the pieces together at this point and probably knew what was coming next, but Alec needed to tell him. He needed to be honest, and if he needed to drag up everything he had spent so long trying to repress then he would do just that.

He opened his eyes, surprised to see Magnus holding out his hand; a silent invitation. Alec threaded his fingers through the other man's, squeezing tightly. “It’s ok. I’m here.” He whispered, voice as soft as silk.

With Magnus’ hand in his, Alec got to the conclusion of his story. “Not long after we got together, I started to notice things were different, both with our relationship and Sebastian himself. I no longer felt the thrill of being with him. Sebastian started to become possessive, jealous and got angry really easily. If I would even look at another man for too long he would get enraged, yelling at me when we got home. He would tell me that no one would love me as much as he did and that I would never find anyone if I ever left him.”

“I used to always think that if I was ever in that kind of situation I would be able to handle myself. I would know that he was wrong and would be able to get myself out of the relationship. But you never think it’s going to happen to you, and at the time I refused to believe that that’s what was happening. I made excuse after excuse for his behaviour and soon enough started to believe that he was right, and it really was me that was the problem.”

Alec realized his cheeks were wet, hot tears running down them, but he didn’t wipe them away. “Up until that point he had never laid a hand on me. It had just been a lot of yelling and harsh words.” He swallowed. “One night, we had been out for dinner and things were actually really good. He was acting like he used to and I was starting to think that our rough patch was over, and things were going back to normal. I offered to pay and left the table to to the register where the waiter was with the machine. When I got in the car, Sebastian was quiet the entire way home but I assumed he was just tired.”

Magnus squeezed his hand impossibly tighter and Alec let out a shaky breath. “We were barely through the front door when I felt his fingers close around my throat. He pushed me up against the wall and I couldn’t breathe. His fingers were tight and his eyes were so, so angry. I had never seen him look like that and everything in me just turned to ice. He was spitting out insults and abuse, saying I wanted to pay just so I could flirt with the waiter but he would be disgusted if he really knew me. That I was worthless and the waiter could probably see that, was only talking to me because he got paid for it.”

“That was when I realized I needed to leave. Immediately. Izzy, Jace and Simon had been telling me for weeks but I told them they were wrong and that they didn’t know him like I did. He didn’t lay another hand on me after that but I knew that was something we could never come back from. I called Iz that night when he was asleep and asked her to come get me. I left in the middle of the night, bruises still littering my throat, terrified.” Alec opened his eyes to see tears falling from Magnus’ eyes too. He was biting his lip and looked a mix of furious and incredibly sad.

“I was still writing at that point,” Alec continued. “But I had taken a break during my relationship with Sebastian. After everything, it took a while for me to get back into it. Simon was the one who eventually convinced me to start back up. I hadn’t touched my laptop for weeks so he told me to just open it, write a single sentence, and then close it again. I did it to get them all to stop hounding me, but once I wrote that single sentence I couldn’t stop. I wrote for days, barely taking any breaks to sleep or eat. I wrote almost constantly until I had finished the next book.”

“When I released the next book, it was more important than ever to keep my identity a secret. I had left Sebastian and I was terrified that he would try and find me. I didn’t know what he would do if he did, but I didn’t want to find out. Being Gideon gave me an escape as well as a cover to hide behind, something that kept me safe.”

Alec licked his lips, finally wiping the tears away. “I’ve never told anyone all of that. Even Izzy, Jace and Simon only know bits and pieces and most only because they were there. I was so intent on keeping it a secret, even from the people closest to me. Even though it had been years, and I know rationally I shouldn’t have been scared of him anymore, the thought of sharing it with anyone and risk him finding me still sent shivers down my spine.”

He looked deep into Magnus’ eyes, trying to convey the seriousness of his next words. “But ever since I met you, you’ve changed that. I - I’m not scared anymore. Sure, I know he could find me but I’m a trained black belt now and could kick his ass if he ever came near me.” He chuckled. “I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you. I don’t know how you did it but you gave me strength to face something I’ve been running from my entire life.”

“I guess I’m also trying to say that I hope this shows you why I had to lie to you. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust you, or didn’t want you to know. I know that this doesn’t change the fact that I lied to you for months, but I hope this changes the way you look at it, I guess.”

Magnus didn’t say anything for a long time. His hand was still clasped in Alec’s, which he took as a good sign, but he made no move to start speaking anytime soon. Alec wanted to keep speaking, but it would probably just end up being him babbling like an idiot and annoying Magnus to no end, so he sat quietly.

He finally took both of Alec’s large hands in his smaller ones, holding them tight. “Since you were so honest with me, I’m going to be honest with you. Isabelle visited me this morning and hinted that the books were about you, so I had guessed most of what you said before you told me. That being said,” He looked right at him and Alec was hit with the force of the gaze. “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me all of that. I know it wasn’t easy, and I want you to know how much it means to me.”

Alec gave him a small half-smile, nodding. Magnus continued. “It’s impossible to not understand your reasoning for keeping it a secret, and God, Alexander if I had known I never would have reacted the way I did. I’m sorry for not giving you the chance to explain the other night.” He shook his head frowning.

“Hey, it’s okay. You didn’t know.” Alec soothed, relief flooding through him. Magnus hadn’t specifically said the words yet, but Alec knew deep down that they were going to make it through this.

Magnus shook his head. “It’s not okay, but I’m going to make it up to you, alright?” Alec nodded. He really didn’t need Magnus to make it up to him but he didn’t want to say no to him right now, not when everything was going so well.

“Okay.”

Magnus let out a long breath. “I want you to know that I forgive you. It might take a little bit to gain back the level of trust we had, but that’s just me and my inability to trust anyone.” He teased, tightening his grip on Alec. “But I forgive you. Completely.”

Alec was sure he visibly sagged with relief. Hearing the words come out of Magnus’ mouth lifted an incredible weight he had been carrying off his shoulder. They were going to be okay. Alec had a little bit of trust to rebuild but he couldn’t just expect them to go back to the way they were, with nothing changed.

“I - thank you.” Alec breathed out. Magnus smiled, small at first but it grew to a full on grin. Alec was sure his was just as big, if not bigger. They fell towards each other naturally and then they were hugging, squeezing each other like their lives depended on it. Alec hardly cared that they were in the middle of a bookstore, awkward position making his knees dig uncomfortably into the ground, when he had Magnus back in his arms. He resisted the urge to breathe in the scent that was distinctly Magnus, instead just pulling him closer.

“I missed you.” Magnus whispered into his shoulder.

“I missed you too.” Alec whispered back, laughing softly. He pulled back. “God, we’re pathetic. Separated for just a few days and we reunite like long lost lovers.” He realized his word choice just after it left his mouth. He felt his cheeks heat up.

“If we were long lost lovers,” Magnus purred, “I would be greeting you much differently, Alexander.” His grin widened the redder Alec’s cheeks got, almost feral look in his eyes.

If there was one thing that would never change between them, it was this.

Alec let out a long sigh and shook his head, grinning. He looked at his wrist, where a watch would be if he wore one. “My life has been innuendo-free for the past 72 hours. It was nice while it lasted, I guess.”

Magnus barked out a laugh. “Admit it, you love my innuendos.”

Alec pursed his lips, trying to contain the hundred-watt smile threatening to break through. “I guess they’re alright. You know … average.”

That resulted in Magnus coming up with all the best innuendos he could think of for the rest of the day. He continued as they left the store, on the commute home and even texted a few to Alec before he went to bed.

Alec didn’t mind one bit.

 

***

 

Over the next couple of weeks, things started to return to normal. Or at least what Magnus had accepted as the new normal.

Finding out your best friend was also your all-time favourite author was a lot to absorb and Magnus was still trying to wrap his head around it. Once he had gotten over the initial shock though, he realized the enormity of the news.

Alec was Gideon Archer.

Magnus asked him questions after question excitedly, to which Alec responded with matching enthusiasm. Every reader dreams of having a private sit-down with their favourite author and once Magnus realized he could do that anytime he liked, full advantage was taken.

“Alexander, why Shadows?” Magnus asked one night. He was sitting at home with the book open on his lap, phone pressed to his ear.

Alec grunted on the other end of the line. “Hello to you too. What time is it?” He paused, presumably to check the time before making a disgruntled noise. “Magnus it’s three in the morning! Couldn't this have waited until Java Jones tomorrow?”

Magnus shrugged, before he realized Alec couldn’t see him. “This will only take a second. Why Shadows?” He asked again, more persistent.

Alec sighed. Magnus could picture him sitting up in bed, turning on the lamp beside him. He could see him rubbing his eyes, waking himself up and running a hand through his sleep mussed hair to push it back from his face. It was scary how quickly his mind conjured up the image. “Um, it was kind of a metaphor? Bobby wasn’t out in the beginning of the book and so he was hiding. Like in the shadows.” He laughed. “That was a terrible explanation but that’s what you get for calling in the middle of the night. Or morning. Whatever.”

Magnus hummed, thoughtful. “I never thought of it like that …” Alec grunted sleepily. “Okay, goodnight, darling.”

“Good morning, Magnus” Alec laughed, hanging up the phone.

Alec did get his retaliation on Magnus though. Not that he seemed to mind answering questions, unless they were at odd hours of the night.

Alec had taken the ‘building trust’ thing a little too seriously. He started off by actually trying, telling Magnus more about his past, secrets he had kept from his siblings and delved a little more into life with his parents. He showed Magnus the folder his parent’s personal investigator had put together on him, explaining how Max had come with them the night of the gallery.

A week after their reconciliation though, he started to realize that Magnus had completely forgiven him and so he had a little fun with it. He began sending Magnus a play-by-play each day of everything he had done, as it was happening and leaving no details out. Magnus had asked him what Alec was doing the first time he received a paragraph long text spelling out how exactly Alec had done his laundry, to which Alec had innocently replied that he was just ‘being honest’.

Magnus had made things right with Lydia too. He showed up at her office bright and early on his first day back to work with a bouquet of flowers and her favourite coffee in apology, explaining that he had gotten into a fight with Alec and had gone into a sort of funk. He didn’t elaborate on the fight, telling her that she needn’t worry though, because everything was good and he was ready to get back to work.

They had rescheduled all of the press and interviews that he had missed, cramming them all into a single week. Magnus thought he would get sick of answering the same questions over and over again but he found talking about the show made him almost as excited as he had been at the actual event. He hadn’t really taken the time to appreciate and marvel in everything that was his debut appearance at New York Fashion Week but once he let himself sit down and really think about it, he was giddy.

Magnus was in a meeting with Lydia, going over some of the press he had already done and reviews of the show. The next steps for him was marketing and getting the line out into stores but they had a few weeks before that needed to be arranged.

His phone started vibrating incessantly in his pocket. Magnus grinned, already knowing who it was from.

I just got home from the gym

Jace and I did some boxing and then I went for a run on the treadmill

I was thinking of showering and then making myself some food

Maybe watching a movie? Not sure.

Wanted to keep you in the loop. :) Honesty and all that.

Magnus snorted as he read the messages, coming in one after another in quick succession.

Lydia rolled her eyes and told him she would go grab them some coffee since he was clearly busy. He stuck out his tongue at her before turning back to his phone.

what are you making for lunch?

what movie are you watching?

If you’re going to be honest, at least do it right Alexander ;)

The bubbles popped up immediately, indicating that Alec was typing. His reply followed shortly after.

Chicken salad and Jason Bourne. Forgive me. Still working on this honesty thing :)

Magnus smiled fondly. The bubbles appeared again, another message from Alec coming through.

You in for game night tonight?

Magnus thought about his schedule for the rest of the day, making sure he didn’t have any more work obligations.

I have dinner with clary, but both of us will be over after that?

See you then :) going to shower, cook and watch a movie now! Maybe I'll even make some popcorn….

Lydia walked in just as he shut his phone off. She held a tray with two coffees in one hand and a bag in the other. Magnus raised his eyebrows, noting the Java Jones bag.

“You went all the way down? You know we have interns for that right?”

Lydia then did something that Magnus had never once before seen her do, nor ever thought he would see her do in all of his days. She blushed. “I had time. It was no big deal.”

Magnus smirked. “Lydia Branwell, I know when you’re lying to me.” She glared. “Is there someone down there in particular you went to see? Oh! Was it that busboy Victor? He’s not too bad on the eyes.” She scrunched up her nose. “No? Okay just me, then. Hmm …” He ran through the rest of the staff in his head, listing them off one by one.

Lydia was looking at him expectantly, unimpressed.

Magnus raised an eyebrow, mischievous grin spreading on his face. “I know who it is” He said slowly.

Lydia scoffed. “I’m sure you don’t, but go ahead and try.”

Magnus wasn’t deterred by her lack of confidence. “It’s Maia, isn’t it?”

Her blush returned, deeper and more prominent than before. Magnus noted he didn’t get the same satisfaction at making her blush that he did with Alec, nor did the colour tinting her cheeks fill him with the same warmth as it did with the younger man.

“I - how?” She stuttered.

Magnus punched a fist in the air in victory. “Yes! I knew it! I just happen to have the best gaydar in the tri state area my love. It’s nothing personal.” He winked for good measure and Lydia shook her head, smiling.

“You’re impossible, Magnus Bane.”

He shrugged. “Impossible is my middle name for a reason.”

They didn’t get much work the rest of the afternoon, Magnus insisted on hearing the story about how she had gotten together with Maia from the very beginning. Apparently they had been seeing eachother for a few weeks after Maia wrote her number on Lydia’s cup one day. The whole thing was very coffee shop literature-esque.

Magnus grinned the entire time. If he couldn’t have a love life himself, he might as well live vicariously through others.

 

***

 

“So, how was Lydia?” Clary asked, taking a sip of her wine.

They were eating in their favourite restaurant, a little Italian place a short distance from their parents house. When Clary was still in school they used to come a lot more often but due to both of their increasingly busy schedules, they had had to postpone a fair few dinners lately.

There had been some initial weirdness between the two of them after he and Alec had first worked things out. He hadn’t wanted to impose and ask Alec if he could talk to Clary about the whole situation, even though he had been dying to talk to someone about it. But Alec had a sixth sense when it came to Magnus and seemed to know that Magnus had needed his sister. He had sheepishly admitted that Clary knew about Gideon already. He explained that Clary had unknowingly been working on Alec’s novel cover the entire time and had only discovered his identity when his mother had interfered and called her directly. She had figured it out before Alec had the time to concoct a good cover-up story.

Magnus hadn’t really known how to take that at first. He and Clary had never kept secrets from each other before, especially not ones concerning the other. But Alec had explained the entire thing to him; that he had asked Clary not to say anything because he wanted Magnus to hear it from him instead.

And well, Magnus couldn’t really argue with that. Besides, he had had enough of fighting with Alec for the rest of his life.

It had been nice to talk to Clary about it. He didn’t tell her the intimate details of Alec’s past but Alec had given him permission to tell her the gist of it. Magnus enjoyed talking to Alec about the whole situation, but talking to his sister was different and Magnus was grateful to have her to help him work things out in his head.

“Lydia’s good!” Magnus exclaimed, twirling a noodle on his fork. “Really good actually!” He filled her in on the development between Lydia and Maia, and their budding love affair.

“And how’s Alec?” She had a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Magnus rolled his eyes.

“Alec is grand, thank you very much. Not that you wouldn’t know that, seeing as you are friends with him as well.”

Clary smirked. “Alec and I definitely aren’t the same type of friends that the two of you are.”

He sighed, deciding to play along. “And what kind of friends do you propose we are exactly?”

“Well for starters, I don’t stare at Alec’s lips when I talk to him. Or his chest when more than one button is undone.” She grinned around the rim of her wine glass. “And I definitely don’t ogle his ass as he walks away.”

Magnus smirked. “Well you really should. It is quite lovely to look at.”

“Magnus!” She laughed, clapping a hand over her mouth. He just shrugged, grinning. “But seriously, nothing new with you guys yet? I would have thought with all this honesty going around, one of you would have confessed your undying love already.”

Magnus shook his head. He tried his best to look unaffected, but knew Clary could probably see through him easily. The truth was that he too had thought maybe something would have happened. When Alec had said that Magnus was the reason for him not being scared of his ex anymore, he had thought for sure that was a prelude to confessing he had more than platonic feelings for Magnus.

But it was silly of him to think that things would have changed between them. Things had changed since the truth came out, but Magnus was still in love with his best friend who didn’t reciprocate his feelings and that had unfortunately remained the same.

Magnus shrugged, nonchalant. Clary narrowed her eyes. He sighed. “I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t affect me, Biscuit. But I can’t just live my life waiting for him to wake up one day and realize I’m the love of his life. That’s not how I want my life to be.”

“I know, I know.” She sighed, setting down her glass and placing her elbows on the table. “There’s something there, Mags. I know it. I’ve never lied to you before, have I?”

“There was that one time you told me I didn’t have food in my teeth and let me go on television with spinach stuck there.”

She rolled her eyes. “That was just funny. I’ve never really lied to you.” He shook his head. “Don’t give up on this. Promise me, you won’t give up on Alec, okay?”

Magnus couldn’t ever say no to his sister, no matter how much he wanted to. He held up his hands in surrender. “Okay fine. I won’t give up. But at some point I’m going to have to let this go and you will too.”

She grinned, holding her hand out. Magnus let out a laugh and clasped it. He and Clary had developed a secret handshake when they were little. Unlike most people, who forget them quickly and never use them again, Magnus and Clary still to this day used it whenever they made a deal. They usually got some funny looks but Magnus loved it.

“So, my dear sister. Now that we’ve exhausted the topic that is my love life, tell me about yours.”

Clary had been seeing Jace ever since the gallery in December and were quite smitten with each other. At the last few game nights they had been closely cuddled together on the couch and Magnus often caught the younger girl texting him when he was with her.

“There’s not much to tell. Jace is amazing, but it’s still too new for anything really exciting to have happened.” She winked. “Not to say that what’s happening isn’t exciting but I don’t think that’s what you're asking about.”

Magnus groaned. “Gross. I don’t want to hear about a dyed-blonde jock defiling my sister, thank you very much.” He grinned at her and ducked when she tossed her napkin at his head.

“He’s naturally blonde!”

“Darling, no one is that blonde naturally.” Clary huffed and showed him her finger.

They finished their meal quickly, paying and then hailing a cab that would take them to Alec’s apartment. Magnus felt oddly nervous. He and Alec had made things right between them, but he had been so busy that he hadn’t seen Alec’s siblings since the fight. He had talked to Isabelle a few times on the phone and knew she was fine, but Magnus knew how protective Alec’s brothers could be.

He pressed the buzzer and Alec immediately let them in. Magnus felt himself getting more nervous the higher they got on the stairs. He had no right to be nervous. None at all. So why were his palms sweaty and his heart pounding in his chest?

He fell back and Clary knocked on the door, giving him a concerned look. Jace opened the door a minute later, wide grin on his face when he spotted Clary. “Hi babe.” He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek sweetly. Magnus resisted the urge to make a fake gagging sound.

“Hi honey.” Magnus retorted moving further in the doorway. He watched Jace’s reaction for any sign of hostility but the younger man reacted as he always did; with a roll of his eyes and a scoff, hint of a smile on his lips.

Magnus’ nerves started to dissipate. Two siblings down, one to go.

They walked into the kitchen and Magnus forgot about his nerves altogether. Alec was standing at the stove in a black t shirt so tight that it should have been illegal and dark blue jeans slung low on his hips. He was barefoot and his hair was sticking out at odd angles, probably having dried that way after his shower.

But all of that was overshadowed by the apron around his waist. It was one of those tacky aprons you got for someone as a joke with a sculpted male, oiled-up beach body on the front.

Clary burst out laughing as soon as she saw it. Magnus on the other hand chuckled halfheartedly, too busy imagining what Alec looked like under all of those clothes instead of the man on the front of his apron. It really didn’t help that his shirt was so tight you could practically see the muscles of his chest and arms flexing as he moved.

Magnus would not make it through the evening if he kept this up.

He felt fingers softly grazing his elbow. He looked up and saw Alec looking down at him, having gotten much closer during Magnus’ time ogling. He was still donning his ridiculous apron. “Magnus, hey.” His voice was soft and his smile was bright and happy. His happiness was infectious, lighting up a similar smile on Magnus’ face.

“Hello Alexander. I like this look on you.” He tugged lightly on the neck strap of the apron, not dropping contact with Alec’s eyes. “It’s a bit different than you’re usual more understated look, but it suits you.”

Alec rolled his eyes, slipping the apron over his head and setting it on the counter. Magnus was now directly faced with a large expanse of Alec’s covered chest mixed with the tantalizing scent that he had come to associate with Alec. He focused very hard on centering his breathing. “It was the only one I could find on short notice. I put it on because the salsa kept splashing up on me.”

Magnus looked over Alec’s shoulder to see that sure enough, there was a homemade pot of salsa on the stove simmering. Magnus raised his eyebrows, impressed. “You made homemade salsa? I didn’t know you were so handy in the kitchen, darling.”

Alec chuckled, grinning cheekily. “Add it to the list of things you're learning about me.” Before Magnus could think of a witty comeback, or recover from the swooping sensation Alec’s flirting gave him, he shooed them all from the kitchen and sent them into the living room.

Magnus was still grinning. Maybe Clary was right and he shouldn’t give up on Alec just yet.

Jace, Clary, Simon and Isabelle were sitting in the living room, chatting and drinking. Isabelle had made margaritas again, as had become game night tradition, and even Jace had grabbed a glass of the fruity drink. Magnus poured a glass of his own and went over to join them.

Isabelle was telling them about a shoot she had been working on today. Some up and coming indie star had landed this month's cover of Teen Vogue, but apparently she had been a horror to work with.

“She went full diva! Wouldn’t come out of her change room and demanded to have all these gluten free, dairy free snacks in her trailer.” She rolled her eyes. “She said, and I quote, ‘I won’t be coming out until I’m done with my dairy free, chocolate covered almonds’. I don’t care about your almonds, I just want to take your picture so I can go home!” Simon rubbed between her shoulders comfortingly while the rest of them laughed.

“What a hard life you have.” Jace said sarcastically. “Getting paid tons of money to meet celebrities must be the worst.”

Clary hit him on the arm. “You be quiet. You know your sister does more than just meet celebrities. She’s a fabulous photographer and deserves every cent she gets.”

Isabelle beamed at Clary, sticking her tongue out at Jace. “Thank you Clary, at least someone appreciates my work.

“I appreciate your work!” Simon interjected.

She leaned up, pecking him lightly on the cheek. “I know you do.” Magnus had to admit, the two of them made a pretty adorable couple. Even Alec seemed to like them together. As much as he often played the big brother card, Magnus could tell he was happy that his sister had chosen one of his best friends and that she was happy.

“Food’s ready!” Alec called, sticking his head out from the kitchen.

The group migrated to the table. Alec had prepared them all the traditional party snacks, all from scratch. There was nachos, chips with salsa and guacamole, some small bite sized appetizers and a family sized plate of poutine.

“I know you and Clary have already eaten, but the rest of us haven’t so I made a lot.” Alec explained, gesturing to the pile of food.

Magnus breathed in the wonderful scent wafting from the table. “This all looks so good it makes me wish I had eaten less at the restaurant and saved some room. But I’m sure I’ll be able to squeeze some of it in.” He grinned at Alec, who returned the gesture.

They all settled around the table, passing around plates of food. It felt similarly to family dinners at the Fairchild house, everyone talking over each other and laughing loudly. Magnus was sitting beside Alec and his arm kept brushing up against his, sending an electric current down his nerves every time that it did. Magnus had to physically restrain myself from reacting to the sensation.

The chosen game for the evening was Pictionary, courtesy of Jace. Clary was the only one of them with any real artistic talent which made the game far more interesting. Simon especially, was atrocious at drawing and each time his turn came around he ran out the clock before anyone guessed his word.

They decided to divide into teams of two, since Max was over at a friends house for the night. Alec and Magnus were leading in points, Jace and Clary just behind them and Simon and Isabelle taking up the rear. While Clary was amazing and Jace got the word every time, Clary had a bit more trouble guessing what Jace had drawn.

Magnus and Alec worked surprisingly well together. They both had a competitive streak and made a game between the two of them at who could get the other to guess the most words in a turn. Alec’s drawings were all sloppy (and sometimes completely off base) but Magnus guessed almost all of them right away.

As the night wore on and more margaritas were consumed, the drawings got funnier and more ridiculous. Even Clary was struggling to come up with a picture for her word, giggling too hard to draw properly.

Alec’s cheeks got more flushed with the more he drank and Magnus was trying not to find it as endearing as he did. Once he opened up to people, Alec was fairly outgoing but when Alec was drinking he was almost a different person entirely. He was more free with his comments, the filter he seemed to don all day being removed. He was also hilarious, a plethora of terrible dad jokes spilling from his mouth, most that weren't that funny and Alec ended up being the only one laughing.

His laughter often had a domino effect on Magnus though, so most of the time it was the two of them cracking up over something while the rest of them watched on bemusedly.

They decided to call it a night when Simon had drank so much he could no longer read the words on the card. They had stopped keeping track of points a while ago, but the last tally indicated that Magnus and Alec were the winners by a long shot.

“Darling we won! We are the champions!” Magnus yelled excitedly, jumping into Alec’s arms. He was sure that sober him would have not made that decision but drunk him was really glad that he was pressed up against Alec’s broad chest, his arms around Magnus’ waist.

Alec squeezed him back and lifted his feet of the ground, spinning them in a circle and humming ‘We Are the Champions’ by Queen.

“I knew we could do it. Just a little bit of training and a lot of perseverance.” Alec joiced, grinning from ear to ear. He turned to the table filled with his family and friends taking a bow, arm still secured around Magnus’ waist. “I would like to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am today. I would never be on the World Pictionary Champion team if it wasn’t for all of you.”

Magnus stepped up beside him. “I would like to thank all of my haters. You keep me going. I would also like to thank Isabelle Lightwood for supplying the margaritas that enhanced my already suburb drawing skills.”

“To Isabelle!” Alec cheered, holding up his glass in a toast. Isabelle giggled and did the same, followed by the rest of the table.

The night ended fairly quickly after that, everyone being tired and more than a little intoxicated. Isabelle and Simon left first, both of them leaning on eachother for support as they stumbled down the stairs and into a cab. Alec, being the big brother he was, walked them down even though he wasn’t much better off himself.

Jace and Clary were next. Jace had stayed decidedly more sober than his girlfriend and was laughing fondly at her as she babbled nonsense as they walked out the door. Alec had tried to call them a cab but Jace had taken over, ruffling Alec’s hair lightly.

“Sleep it off, bro. I’ll make sure to pick Max up tomorrow because I don’t think his friends mother will appreciate Max’s guardian showing up hungover.”

Magnus heard Alec mumble thanks to his brother, pulling him in a one armed hug. Clary was currently hugging him as well, whispering something in his ear and he pulled his attention away from the Lightwood brothers to focus on it. “Make sure you use a condom, Mags. No glove no love!” She giggled, clearly proud with her comment.

Magnus laughed, patting her lightly on the head and pushing her into Jace’s waiting arms. She pointed two fingers to her eyes and then pointed them back at him, the universal sign for ‘I’m watching you’. Magnus waggled his fingers in response, watching as Jace half dragged her from the apartment.

As soon as the door closed Magnus realized he and Alec were alone. If he was sober he would most likely be hyper-aware of this thought, but instead the thought was pleasant and relaxed him. He flopped onto Alec’s couch, smiling happily.

The couch sagged beside him, Alec having sat down too. His head was resting against the back cushions and his eyes were closed. Magnus watched him for a moment. Watched the way his chest rose and fell when he breathed, how his nose twitched almost like a baby bunny. His eyelashes fanned out like the most most beautiful feathers on a peacock and Magnus wanted to feel their softness on his own skin.

Alec’s eyes blinked open and he lazily turned his head towards Magnus, dopey smile on his lips. “See something you like, Bane?”

“Did you know you scrunch your nose like a bunny sometimes?” Magnus asked instead.

Alec looked at him quizzically, chuckling. “What? Where did that come from?”

Magnus shrugged. “Just an observation.” He grinned.

Alec rolled his eyes. “Observation, my ass.”

Magnus sat up from the couch, looking deliberately to where Alec was sitting on the couch. “I would, but unfortunately that fine piece of art is currently busy.” Alec barked out a loud laugh, not even attempting to stifle it like he usually did.

When he had calmed himself down, they settled into comfortable silence. Magnus could feel his eyes drooping and knew he should get up and call a cab before he fell asleep on Alec’s couch.

Alec seemed to have a better idea though. “Want to stay here tonight?” He asked simply. Sober Alec would probably have rambled on for a for some time about safety and not being out at night when intoxicated, but drunk Alec got right to the point.

Magnus should refuse. He should say no and catch a cab and fall asleep and wake up in his own bed. He should avoid the sexual frustration that would come from sleeping under the same roof as Alec, knowing he would be just a room away in next to no clothing. He should refuse because he didn’t trust himself around Alec alone when he’d been drinking, not anymore. Not after what happened at the club.

“Sure.” His heart won out over his mind. The thought of waking up in Alec’s apartment, even if he stayed on the couch, much more appealing than waking up in his own loft alone.

Alec smiled, getting up from the couch with a grunt. He held his hand down to Magnus. “Come on, let's go find you something to sleep in. While those jeans look good on you, they can’t be the most comfortable.”

Alec pulled him from his spot on the couch and towards his bedroom. Magnus forced himself not to think of Alec doing this under other circumstances.

Magnus had never been in Alec’s room in all the times he had been over. He had seen it in pictures though and it hadn’t changed at all. His walls were a neutral taupe, a large bed in the middle covered in a simple grey duvet. There weren’t many decorations on the walls, a single frame on the wall above the bed and simple window coverings.

It was very minimalist, very simple. Like Alec.

Alec dropped Magnus’ hand and opened his closet, rifling through what looked like endless black t shirts until he chose one he deemed good enough for him. He grabbed a pair of grey trackpants from the bottom of the drawers, passing both of them to Magnus.

“I know they’re not like the silk pajamas you usually wear, but I shrunk the pants in the wash a year ago, so they should at least be comfortable.” He smiled, slightly sheepish.

“Thank you, Alexander.” Magnus said, accepting the clothes.

Alec nodded, smile still on his face. “The bathroom is - well, you know where the bathroom is. I think Izzy left a pack of those things to take off your makeup in one of the drawers if you want to do that.”

Magnus took the pile of clothes to the bathroom, changing quickly. He found the makeup wipes where Alec had said they were, making quick work of cleaning his face. He didn’t take his time as he usually did, instead quickly smearing the cloth across his eyes and hastily cleaning them.

Sober Magnus would be disappointed, but still tipsy Magnus just wanted to get back to see Alec.

Satisfied, he dropped the cloth in the bin and left the bathroom. He hesitated before reaching Alec’s door. Should he knock? What if he was changing and Magnus just barged in like some impolite pervert? He stood at the door and counted to thirty in his head, giving Alec ample amount of time to finish changing.

Alec was sitting on his bed, covers pulled down on both sides. He was dressed similarly to Magnus, old sweatpants and a t shirt from University. He looked impossibly soft and cuddly.

Magnus gestured behind himself. “Where can I find a blanket and pillow?” Alec looked confused. “For the couch, Alexander.” He laughed. “I don’t know if you’ve ever hosted someone on your couch before for the night, but it’s only polite to offer them bedding.”

Alec tilted his head to the side, eyebrows scrunched before they smoothed out, almost in what looked to be disappointment. “Right. The couch. I mean, you could just share the bed if you like, it’s plenty big enough.” He shrugged. “Or I could take the couch and you could sleep here.”

He resisted the urge to pinch himself and check to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Was Alec asking him to share a bed? From the serious look on his face, it seemed as though he was.

Magnus nodded jerkily. “You’re a better host than I thought, darling.” He smirked. Alec rolled his eyes and moved over to one side of the bed, tucking himself under the covers. Magnus followed suit, making sure to keep a respectable distance between them.

Alec shut off the bedside lamp and suddenly all of Magnus’ senses were on hyperdrive.

He could hear Alec’s breathing beside him, slow and steady even though Magnus knew he was not yet asleep. He could feel the heat radiating off of Alec’s body, warming his entire body like fire even though they weren’t touching. Alec’s scent had completely encompassed him; it was in the sheets, the clothes and coming off the man beside him. It was so strong that he felt dizzy with it, trying not to obviously inhale, desperate for more.

Magnus’ body was tired but his mind alive with thoughts of Alec, how he was close enough to touch but so, so far away. His heart was beating erratically, a loud thrum of Alec, Alec, Alec.

Magnus swallowed thickly, trying to focus on anything but the man beside him. It was too dark for Alec to see him, but Magnus would be mortified if he got hard in Alec’s bed, especially in this situation where Alec wanted nothing to do with him that way.

Alec’s breathing was starting to slow, evening out. He was finally asleep and Magnus let out a puff of breath, relaxing. He rolled over on his side, turning to face Alec. He almost jumped in surprise when he saw Alec facing him as well and mirroring his position, very much awake.

“Thank you for staying.” He whispered into the dark between them.

“Thank you for letting me stay.” Magnus replied, just as quiet.

He couldn’t see Alec but when he spoke next, he could feel the openness, the vulnerability, in his voice. “You can stay whenever you want.”

And Magnus didn’t really know what to make of that. Surely Alec was just drunk and talking without a filter. But what was that saying, ‘drunk actions are sober thoughts’? Magnus didn’t want to get his hopes up, but he let himself entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, Alec had some of the same sober thoughts that he did.

“Goodnight Alexander.” Magnus murmured.

“Goodnight Magnus.”

Magnus drifted off to sleep not long after, happy thoughts of Alec in his mind and the steady breathing of the same man beside him, lulling him into a blissful sleep.

 

***

Chapter Text

The first thing Alec registered when he woke up the next morning was a comfortable warmth on one side of his body, and an arm draped across his chest.

Blinking his eyes open he looked down to see a sight that filled him with an indescribable happiness and an instant flood of fear.

He and Magnus had gravitated towards each other at some point in the night. Magnus’ cheek was pressed against Alec’s chest, arm thrown loosely over his stomach and Alec’s arms were around his broad shoulders. His skin was warm from sleep and the duvet and Alec could feel the heat through both his and Magnus’ clothing as if there was actually nothing separating them at all.

It was easy to ignore the intense pounding in his head and the dry, bitter taste in his mouth when Magnus, like this, was the first sight he woke up to. Having Magnus in his arms worked better on his hangover than any aspirin ever could.

He had to force the pleasant feeling in his stomach aside, letting the panic wash over him. He wasn’t sure what to do. Had he been the one to unconsciously drag Magnus closer in the night, or had it been the older man? Of course it had been Alec, he thought. Magnus wouldn’t do something like that, even in sleep. Alec’s feelings for Magnus had clearly reached a point where he couldn’t control them anymore, acting on their own accord.

Alec supposed the alcohol could also have had a hand in this.

He had never before seen Magnus sleep the entire time they had know each other, and he really wished it was something that he had experienced earlier. His usually sharp features were softened out in slumber, mouth slack and brows relaxed. All the tension he carried in the day was completely washed away and he looked blissful, innocent. He let out short puffs of warm breath on Alec’s chest every time he breathed out and the sensation sent sparks along Alec’s skin.

Alec wished it was something he could experience every day.

He allowed himself a moment more to savour the closeness of the position. He allowed himself just one minute to imagine that this was something they did everyday, waking up in eachothers arms like this. Sixty seconds to forget that his love was still one-sided and the man curled into his side was just his best friend, and would remain that way.

The incessant pounding in his head got louder and Alec tried to ignore it a little bit longer, just to keep holding Magnus. He knew as soon as they woke up, the spell of serenity would be broken and he would be forced back into reality.

A reality where he wasn’t allowed to hold Magnus like he was.

It wasn’t until he heard an angered shout of his name that he realized that the pounding he thought was a side effect of his hangover, was not in his head. It was someone banging on his front door.

He disentangled himself from Magnus as gently as he could, the other man frowning adorably and moving in his sleep before going still again, features smoothing out and wrapping himself around the pillow Alec had just vacated.

Alec resisted the urge to coo.

He shut the door to his bedroom, not wanting whoever was at his door to wake Magnus up seeing as, when he checked his phone, it was very, very early in the morning. Alec wondered what kind of person knocked on someone else's door before the sun was even up. He padded quickly through the apartment, not looking through the peephole before throwing the door open.

As soon as he opened the door he realized what kind of people would knock on someone’s door that early.

On the other side of the door was his mother and father, Robert with his fist raised to no doubt unleash another assault of knocking on the door.

Alec thought for a moment about closing the door, slamming it in their faces, but if there was one thing he knew about his parents it was that they were persistent and incredibly stubborn and would not stop until they got a hold of him. He learned that the hard way last time.

“Alexander, finally. We’ve been knocking for five minutes.” His father said gruffly, adjusting his grey suit where it had ridden up. His mother too was dressed formally, as she always was, hair pulled back into a tight ponytail and wearing a sharp black pantsuit.

“Well, seeing as it's not even 6 in the morning, I was sleeping.” Alec retorted, crossing his arms and rolling his eyes. He made sure to position himself in the middle of the door frame, not allowing them to pass.

“Right.” Maryse said tersely. “Well, since you’re awake now, won’t you let us in? We have some matters to discuss with you.”

Alec laughed incredulously. “Let you in? After all the shit you pulled last time you were here? Let me think … no thanks.”

Roberts face went a shade darker. “Alexander you cannot speak to your parents that way, no matter how you think you feel about us.”

“Actually father, I can. Now if you excuse me, I’m going back to bed.” He made to shut the door but Robert stuck his foot out, blocking it’s path. He pushed in past Alec, who could have easily fought him off, but even he drew the line at physically fighting his parents. “Why don’t you come on in?” He muttered sarcastically as they passed him and stepped into the apartment. Maryse gave him a tight lipped smile, clearly not understanding the joke.

Robert positioned himself in the middle of the living room, Maryse going to stand at his side. Alec sighed, falling onto the couch and gesturing for them to do the same opposite him.

No one said anything for a long while. It felt like the weirdest business meeting Alec had ever been in, and he suddenly felt underdressed in his pajamas. Alec wondered idly if other kids had to go through this with their parents, or if this particular pleasantry was reserved just for him. They stared at Alec from their couch and Alec was reminded of a western gunfight in those old cowboy films, wondering which of them was going to draw their weapon first.

As usual, it was his father.

“Now Alexander -”

“I’m going to stop you right there. I let you into my home without calling the police, which I still haven’t ruled out, so the least you could do is respect my wishes and call me Alec.”

Robert looked as if he was physically restraining himself from saying something. Maryse glanced at her husband before turning her attention to her son. “Alec, honey we’re worried about you.”

Whatever Alec had been expecting them to say, it wasn’t that. “You’re what?”

“You heard your mother.”

Alec raised an eyebrow. “I did, I just wasn’t sure if I had heard correctly. It almost sounded like something real parents would say.”

Maryse scoffed. “Alec, stop. We’re just worried about who you’re spending your time with. We don’t want you falling in with the wrong crowd.”

Alec stiffened. That was more along the lines of what he had been expecting. “And who are you suggesting is the so-called ‘wrong crowd’?”

Maryse sat back on the couch, straightening out her shoulders and lifting her chin. Her lips were pinched into a thin line. “Magnus Bane. As you know, we’ve been keeping tabs on all of you since you left us, to make sure you’re safe.” Alec forced himself not to react to that, letting her continue. “But we’ve been noticing lately that you’ve been spending a lot of time with that … eccentric man.”

“And?” He knew exactly what they didn’t like about Magnus but he wanted to hear them say it.

“Alec surely you - you must see it.” Maryse pleaded.

Alec shrugged, faux innocence on his features. “I’m afraid I don’t mother. Why don’t you explain it to me, since you clearly know more about my life than I do.”

Robert sighed. “Son, he dresses like a woman. That’s not someone we want you associating with. We know you two are together romantically and we want it to stop before it starts to… affect you.”

It was at that moment that Magnus chose to make an entrance. Alec heard him before he saw him, hearing Magnus’ barefeet on the floor, turning to look over his shoulder. He wasn’t sure if, or how much of the previous conversation Magnus had heard, but from the look on his face he looked about as surprised as Alec at Robert’s comment.

Alec felt an almost primal need overtake him to protect Magnus, no matter what.

“Robert Lightwood, I presume?” Magnus asked. His face was a shocking mask of calm anger. Alec wondered if his parents could feel the wrath pouring off of Magnus or if Alec just knew him well enough to distinguish it.

Both Robert and Maryse stiffened at the sight of Magnus, sleep mussed and clearly wearing Alec’s clothes. Even though they had shrunk in the wash they still hung off him adorably. Alec felt a rush of arousal, both at seeing Magnus in his clothes and at the way he was defiantly glaring at his father.

He forced himself back into the present, banking those thoughts for a more appropriate time.

Robert nodded, tense. “I am. And you are?”

Magnus smiled sweetly, the falsity and malice of it almost palpable. “Well it seems like you already know the answer to that don’t you, Sir?” The way he said ‘sir’ dripped with sarcasm and Alec could see his father’s face twitch indicating he had noticed too.

Maryse sighed, looking between her husband and Magnus. “Look Mr. Bane, it’s not as though we have anything … against you or your kind. We just have more in mind for our son in a potential partner.”

“His kind? Mom, really?” Alec could feel his anger rising. It was one thing for his parents to come after him, but them attacking Magnus lit a rage inside him he wasn’t sure he had ever felt before. “I don’t know if you realize, but I fall under that category too.” Magnus had moved behind the couch now, standing directly behind Alec.

“Alec, he’s clearly not good for you. We just want what’s best for you.”

Robert nodded. “Your mother is right. He’s clearly affecting your ability to care for Max, seeing as you’re here … doing God knows what with your boyfriend when you’re little brother is nowhere to be seen. You’re too blinded by your love for this … man.”

Alec laughed harshly. “Max is at a friends house. He’s a friend he made at school and he asked me a week ago if he could stay over last night and I said yes. I know his mother from around the school and know that she would contact me if Max was in any real danger.” He let out a breath. “As for what Magnus and I were doing, we were sleeping like normal people do before the sun is up.”

Robert bristled. “Alec I don’t like this.”

“If I may,” Magnus interrupted, resting a hand on Alec’s shoulder. Calming and steady. Constant. “I have seen Alexander parent your son ever since he was driven from your house by the two of you and your actions, and he has done a marvelous job. He is kind and caring but doesn’t let Max get away with things and makes sure he gets to bed on time and does his homework. Alexander is involved in the school community and always includes Max in social events that he is old enough for. I’ve only known Max a short time, but I believe he is much better off in Alec’s care than he was in yours.”

Alec wasn’t sure if he wanted to high-five Magnus or kiss him. Probably both. Seeing the reaction from his parents of Magnus saying his full name was a close substitute.

Surprisingly, Maryse was the one who lost her cool. Up until that point she had been relatively tame, calming Robert when he got too worked up. But she stood up and pointed a finger at Alec, rage coursing off of her. “You want your boyfriend to find out all about your little secret, huh? Do you want everyone to find out, because I will do everything in my power to make that happen if you don’t return my son to me!” She shrieked. Her face was red and she was puffing angrily.

Alec was shocked by his mother’s outburst - not by what she had said, he had been expecting that card to come up at some point - but at the tone in which she used. When she attacked, she was usually calm and cool like a snake, biting once and letting her poison do the rest. But this time she was like an angry lioness after someone had come too close to her cubs, angry and snarling.

Alec realized with a jolt why she was so upset. Out of all of her children, Max was the one she actually cared about. She hadn’t cared when he, Jace and Isabelle had left but Max leaving had hurt her and caused her motherly instincts to finally kick in.

It wasn’t as if Alec had ever cherished his relationship with his parents but he was only human and had mourned the absence of real parents. He had always thought that it wasn’t him and his siblings that were the problem, that it had been something with Robert and Maryse and they just weren’t meant to be parents. But seeing Maryse acting like a real mother for Max confirmed that she had it in her, she just didn’t care enough about the rest of them.

Alec wasn’t expecting the hurt that came along with realizing that.

He wasn’t entirely sure how he was going to react to her until suddenly he had stood to his full height, towering over his mother. He couldn’t see Magnus but could feel his presence behind him, like a tether binding them together, giving Alec the courage to say what he did next.

“Do it.”

Maryse blinked at him, taken aback. “What?”

Alec shrugged, nonchalant. “Tell everyone, I don’t care. Magnus already knows and you can’t take that away from me anymore so I don’t really care what you do with the information now.”

He was almost as surprised by his words as his parents clearly were, but as soon as they were out Alec knew that he meant them. One of the reasons he had been so scared his mother would leak his secret was that Magnus would find out before Alec had the chance to tell him himself, but now that all of that had been worked through and was out in the open, he really didn’t have anything to feel scared of anymore.

He almost found himself wanting her to tell everyone. He had been hiding under this secret for so long and he was excited by the prospect of the world finally knowing who Gideon Archer was.

The room was filled with looks of astonishment, anger (his parents) and pride (Magnus).

“Alec, I’m warning you …” Maryse whispered, livid.

“Your threats mean nothing to me anymore. I’m done letting you control my life and I’m done letting you hurt me. I’m too old and have much better things to do than get emancipated from you two but consider this the last time you speak to me. If Max wishes, he can have visitation times but if not than you will stay away from him as well. If you try to take me to court on that, I will fight like hell to keep him under my care. You have my word on that.”

He closed his eyes, centering himself. “Now, if you don’t mind… get the fuck out of my apartment.”

No one said anything for what seemed like an eternity, but what was probably only a minute or two in reality. Time ticked by agonizingly slowly. Alec kept his gaze trained firmly on his mother's, willing himself not to break before her. He would not give her the satisfaction of knowing how this affected him.

She dropped her gaze and Alec let out an unnoticeable sigh of relief. “If that’s the way you want it Alec, fine. But this isn’t over.”

“Actually, this is over. Because if you decide it isn’t and try a third surprise visit at my apartment I will get a restraining order placed on you. Now, I don’t want to sink to that level, but at this point you two are here so much you should start chipping in for rent.”

Magnus snorted behind him and Alec felt a rush of satisfaction.

“You wouldn’t.” Robert seethed.

“Try me.” Alec said. His resolve was starting to thin and he knew that soon they would be able to tell. He could feel his hands shaking and he gripped them tightly into fists.

Luckily, Magnus stepped in, hand lingering for just a moment on the small of Alec’s back as he passed. Alec clung to the feeling the slight touch of his hand brought to his skin. The warmth that flooded through him. The safety he felt.

Magnus stood in front of Alec, hand gracefully directing them towards the door. “Maryse, Robert. This has been lovely and it’s been quite a peach getting to know the two of you, but I think it’s time you made an orderly and immediate exit from the building.” Robert opened his mouth in protest but Magnus shook his head. “Respectfully sir, while Alexander is a decent enough human being to not lay a hand on you, I can’t promise the same thing. So why don’t we not let it get to that point and cooperate, yeah?”

Robert turned on his heel and marched out of the apartment without another word, smoke practically curling from his ears. Maryse lingered a moment longer than her husband, staring sadly at Alec. He met her eyes. “Who are you?” She whispered.

Alec had to swallow back the emotion to remain emotionless.

She turned as well, heels clicking on the floor as she left the apartment. Alec barely heard the door close before he collapsed onto the couch, completely drained.

Magnus was at his side in an instant, arms wrapped around his shoulders and whispering encouragement and praise in his ear softly. “Alexander, you were so amazing. You were so strong. I’m so proud of you, darling.”

Alec felt a shudder roll through him, an expel of emotion his body wasn’t sure how to process. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to feel. He wasn’t even sure what he felt. On one hand, he was proud and confident he had stood up to his parents, giving back just as bad as he got. He had defended himself, Magnus and even Max and that was something to be proud of.

But at the same time he had put the final nail in the coffin of his relationship with his parents. There was no chance of a normal parent-child relationship between them now and Alec had just solidified that. At 27, Alec was an orphan.

“Alexander, talk to me. Please. Tell me what to do.” Magnus asked, stroking the locks of black hair back from where it had fallen into Alec’s eyes.

Alec shut his eyes tight. There was too much going on in his head and he tried to clear it all out. Shut down all the noise and the thoughts bouncing around. Remove all the negative emotions he always associated with a visit from his parents. To empty everything except the feeling of Magnus’ touch and the way it set his skin on fire.

It worked surprisingly well, and it wasn’t long before Alec was smiling. Genuinely. “I think I’m okay.”

Magnus studied him, trying to discern if he was lying or not. His eyes raked over Alec’s face slowly, before he blinked in surprise. “You’re sure?”

Alec shrugged, not sadly but more in admittance. “I mean the situation sucks, and it wasn’t something I ever wanted to have to do but it’s done and I have a feeling it’s going to work out better for everyone in the long run.”

Magnus looked at him as if he had two heads. “You’re telling me that you just went through all of that,” he gestured wildly to the door, “and now you’re good to go?”

Alec shrugged again, laughing lightly this time. “Magnus, I’m good to go.” Magnus laughed, shaking his head and looking at Alec with something akin to wonder.

“I know I’ve said this before but darling, you never cease to amaze me.”

Alec grinned cheekily. “In good ways I hope.”

Magnus rolled his eyes fondly. “The best ways.”

Alec laughed and so did Magnus. He hadn’t forgot what had happened, and probably wouldn’t for a while to come but in this moment with Magnus, he felt light and happy and like nothing in the world could burst the bubble he was floating in. As much as the situation was terrible, he really believed it when he told Magnus it would be better in the end. Alec didn’t have parents, but that didn’t mean that he was without a family. He had his siblings, and Simon and Clary and even Cat and Ragnor and Maia.

And most importantly, he had Magnus.

Who, for the record, was looking at Alec like he had completely lost his mind. Alec hopped up from the couch. “I’m going to shower. Feel free to make yourself anything in the kitchen, or wait and I can make your something.” He grinned, not waiting for a response before he turned down the hall.

“Alexander.”

Magnus’ voice stopped him. Unlike the light, airiness it had taken on before, it was oddly serious. His name sounded more like a question than a statement. Alec turned on the spot. “Yeah?”

“Why didn’t you deny it?” He looked curious, perplexed. His eyebrows were furrowed and he was worrying his bottom lip. He looked vulnerable.

Alec wasn’t entirely sure what Magnus was referring to. “Why didn’t I deny what?”

“Why didn’t you deny to your parents that we were in a relationship? That you were … you were in love with me?” Magnus’ voice was small and confused. He seemed like he was scared to hear what Alec’s answer was going to be.

For a split second, Alec’s mind raced to think of a lie to cover it all up. Some untruth that would explain why he had failed to mention to his parents that Magnus was just his friend and they weren’t in a committed relationship. Or any relationship for that matter.

He could tell Magnus that he had been too caught up in the moment, too overcome with anger and emotion that he hadn’t been thinking about it. He could say that he hadn’t realized what they meant or that they probably hadn’t been serious. He could say that they didn’t know what they were talking about and had clearly been seeing something that wasn’t there.

But Alec was done with telling lies. He was done with covering things up, burying the truth only to hurt himself and the people he loved in the end. He had been lying to himself and the world and Magnus for far too long and he was sick of it. So he did what he should have done a long time ago.

He told the truth.

“I promised I would stop lying to you, remember?”

A look of shock crossed Magnus’ face. He took a step back, like the force of Alec’s words had physically moved him. “Alexander, what are you saying?” He asked slowly, so quietly it was almost inaudible.

Alec didn’t even stop to prepare something to say, just let the words pour from his mouth. Every thought and feeling from the past few months escaping from the sealed box he had locked them in and leaping to freedom “Magnus I’m saying that I didn’t deny it because my father was right, at least about my feelings for you. I’ve loved you for months and it’s just another thing I’ve been lying about, but I’m done lying, especially to you. I lied about the Gideon thing because I couldn’t lose the man I loved and lied about my heart because I was scared of pushing you away. Being so near to you and feeling the things that I feel drove me crazy, but someone once told me that sometimes when you love someone it can make you crazy.” Alec smiled shyly, mouth curving up on one side at the memory. “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before .. Hell, I’m sorry I’m saying anything now. I just needed to be honest with you.”

Alec was breathing hard by the end of his declaration. He felt winded as if he had just run a marathon. Magnus was still looking at him in shock.

He found he wasn’t scared for what was next. Alec had overcome so many of his fears in such a short period of time that he was sure that even if Magnus didn’t feel the same way, they could make it through this and continue to be friends. Alec would still love him, and the only thing that would change would be that it was all out in the open.

And that was something he could learn to be okay with.

Alec could see the cogs working double-time in Magnus’ brain. He was staring intently at Alec but the author knew that Magnus wasn’t really looking at him, instead most likely running through every interaction they had had but now paired with the knowledge of how Alec felt for him.

Finally green eyes met his. Magnus was wearing an expression of determination with a hint of doubt. He swallowed and blinked twice. “Say it again.” He murmured, taking a single step closer.

Alec tilted his head to the side. “All of it?”

Magnus shook his head, taking another small step forward. “Say it again. Please.”

The blood was thundering louder in Alec’s ears the closer Magnus got. He knew what Magnus wanted to hear and his reaction sent hope soaring through every fiber of his being.

“I love you, Magnus Bane.” Alec whispered, articulating each word clearly and precisely. Magnus had stepped so close that Alec could feel his body heat, similarly to when they had first woke up. But instead of the soft warmth he had felt that morning, the space between them was buzzing like live wire, heat prickling and intense. “God, I love you so much.”

 

***

 

The ringing in Magnus’ ears was so loud he almost didn’t hear Alec’s confession. He was sure he was staring like a complete idiot but he had to be sure that what he had heard was real and not a figment of his imagination. After this morning, when he had been so sure he had woken up in Alec’s arms only to wake up alone, he didn’t trust himself to believe what he was seeing or hearing fully.

But it was hard to imagine the way Alec’s voice broke on the word ‘love’, and the open and complete honesty that was evident all over his face. The hope in his eyes as he watched Magnus for any sort of reaction. No, Magnus knew that this must be real.

Alec was in love with him.

Alec loved him back.

Magnus wasn’t sure who moved first but one second he was staring into Alec’s eyes and the next his hands were entwined in silky dark hair, pulling him close and kissing him furiously.

Magnus had replayed their previous kiss in his mind far too many times to count, and each time it sent a thrill through him. But he figured that if he ever got the chance to kiss Alec again, he would be somewhat prepared.

He was wrong.

Kissing Alec was far better than he remembered it to be. It was new and exciting and sent a thrill up his spine. It was soft drags of lips and breathy sounds being pulled from Alec’s mouth when Magnus pulled lightly on strands of his hair (which was definitely something he was going to explore later). It was the younger man opening up to him enthusiastically as soon as Magnus asked for entrance, welcoming him in. It was hands in hair, running over toned shoulders, down his back and on his hips, firm and demanding yet always gentle.

It was like forgetting how to breathe and finally getting a gasp of much needed air all at the same time.

Alec’s chest was flush to his own and Magnus swore that he could feel their hearts beating against each other, hard and fast. His hands were buried deep in Alec’s hair. He had wanted to run his fingers through the ebony locks for months now, and the wait had been well worth it. Alec’s large hands were tight on his hips, fingers dipping under the material when he pulled Magnus closer.

Magnus would have gladly stayed wrapped up with Alec, kissing him senseless in the middle of his living room forever but unfortunately they needed to come up for air at some point. Alec pulled away first, but only so far so that they could catch their breath.

Alec had stooped down slightly to rest his forehead against Magnus’, taking a deep breath but keeping his eyes closed. Magnus took a moment to admire him. His cheeks were red and his lips were enticingly kiss swollen already. Alec opened his eyes and Magnus was taken aback by the brightness in them. He looked happier than Magnus had ever seen him.

All because of him.

“I love you too.” Magnus breathed out, breaking the silence. He realized looking into Alec’s eyes that he hadn’t said it back yet and was almost desperate for Alec to hear how he felt. Alec pulled back so that he could see Magnus properly. His smile grew impossibly wider, sending butterflies fluttering in Magnus’ stomach..

He looked absolutely beautiful.

Magnus had never imagined ever saying those words to Alec. He had never let himself go as far as to envision a scenario in which he told him and Alec actually said them back, but he was completely sure that the reality he was living in was better than any daydream he could ever come up with.

Overcome with emotion, Magnus couldn’t do anything but laugh. It had seemed that he had been hiding away his love for much longer than he had. He had finally come to accept that Alec would never return the feelings that Magnus felt so strongly and was focused on their friendship moving back to a good place.

But there he was, embracing Alec early in the morning and still in their pajamas, after Alec had just confessed he had been in love with Magnus for as long as - maybe even longer than - Magnus had been in love with him.

And really, who wouldn’t be overcome with emotion at that?

Once he started he couldn’t stop, laughing until his stomach was sore. The entire situation was so ridiculous and could have been solved months ago if one of them had just been brave enough to say something, but instead they had danced around each other for months, ignoring their feelings. Alec watched him curiously before joining in and it wasn’t long before the two of them were clutching each other, laughing as tears streamed down their faces.

Alec was the first to recover. His hands were still clamped firmly to Magnus’ waist. Magnus loved the feelings of large hands wrapped completely around his hips, calloused fingers rubbing slow circles into the sensitive skin there.

It was definitely something he could get used to.

Magnus’ laughter petered out, leaving them both staring at each other, breathless smiles on their faces. “So,” Magnus asked conversationally, palms resting flat on Alec’s chest. “For just how long could we have been doing this?”

Alec chuckled. He ran his thumbs over Magnus’ hip bones underneath his shirt. Magnus repressed the urge to shiver. “We could have done this the day we met, right in the middle of the coffee shop if you wanted to.”

Magnus smirked. “I seem to remember suggesting that, but it just got you all flustered.”

Alec grinned. “More like hot and bothered.”

Alec’s words sent a wave of pleasure through him. “Alexander.” Magnus purred, rising up on his toes. “How I wish we had both spoken up, for we could have been doing this a lot sooner.” He whispered the words right into Alec’s ear, breath ghosting over the shell of his ear. Alec shivered, not even bothering to try and hide his arousal.

“Well,” He rasped out, clearing his throat. Magnus loved the way his voice deepened in pleasure and added it to the growing list of things he wanted to learn about the other man. “Technically we’ve already done this once before.” Magnus stopped from where he had been working his way down to Alec’s neck, pulling back with an eyebrow raised.

“We have?” Surely Alec wasn’t talking about what Magnus thought he was, but then again, what else could he be talking about?

He had always assumed that Alec had forgotten their midnight kiss due to the amount he had drank, or had just unconsciously repressed it. But what if Alec actually remembered? Alec could have found himself in the same situation Magnus had been in, not wanting to make the other feel awkward or pressured and so he had feigned ignorance.

“New Years.” He explained, confirming Magnus’ suspicions. “I kissed you in the club but - uh, you don’t remember.”

The confession unlocked something in Magnus he hadn’t known he had been keeping away. Guilt. Ever since that night he had been harbouring this secret, feeling guilty that he had been hiding something so big from the other man, but it turned out that Alec remembered just as much as Magnus did. Alec was looking at him warily like he expected Magnus to bolt and push away from him at any moment.

Instead, he did the opposite.

He grabbed Alec by the neckline of his t-shirt and pulled him in for a second, bruising kiss. Surprised, Alec froze but quickly fell into the kiss, securing his hands on Magnus’ lower back and pulling him closer. Impossibly closer.

Magnus could feel the searing heat behind this kiss, much stronger and hotter than before. His blood was pumping hard and fast and fire was shooting through his veins, making his skin hot to the touch. He was pretty sure that Alec had completely ruined kissing for him. He would never again be able to kiss someone and not think about how kissing Alec was ten times better.

Not that Magnus ever wanted to kiss anyone but Alec for the rest of his life.

With a slight tug on his neckline, Magnus started walking them back in the direction of Alec’s bedroom. His stomach flipped excitedly and he resisted the urge to throw Alec over his shoulder and run them both there. He had waited long enough for this moment, he was damn sure not going to rush it.

They had made it to the wall outside of Alec’s bedroom before Alec, clearly impatient, had pushed Magnus up against the hard surface; he was working his lips against the older man’s neck lazily. Magnus groaned low in his throat when Alec bit down on a particularly sensitive part of his throat, smoothing it over with his tongue.

“I thought you didn’t remember.” Magnus groaned breathily in between urgent presses of lips. He leaned his head back against the wall, Alec kissing down his neck. He pulled back for a moment and blinked at Magnus dazedly, seemingly coming back to the present.

Alec shook his head. “I could never forget.” He locked his eyes with Magnus’ seriously when he spoke before leaning down to continue his work. He murmured into the skin of Magnus’ neck, trailing kisses all the way down to his collar bone. “I could hardly stop thinking about it.”

“You’re telling me we both remembered kissing each other but we didn’t say anything?” He laughed, fingernails scraping gently along Alec’s scalp.

Alec made his way back up to Magnus’ face, pressing kisses as he went. “It would appear so.” He grinned, shrugging. “It also appears that we have lots of lost time to make up for.”

Magnus smirked, wicked and predatory. “Well, let’s stop wasting time then, shall we?”

Magnus was not prepared for what Alec did then, both picking him up and the reaction it gave him. He let out a surprised gasp when Alec slid his hands under his thighs, hauling him up so that their hips were flush together. Magnus wrapped his arms and legs around Alec, hanging on tight as Alec walked them through the threshold and into bedroom. “That was … really hot. You’re full of surprises today, aren’t you?”

Alec grinned cockily, and the look sent Magnus’ blood rushing south. “You haven’t seen anything yet.” This was a side he had never seen of Alec before and he wanted more. Alec was confident and teasing and it did things to Magnus that he couldn’t control. He bit his lip, trying to stifle a moan.

Alec winked.

Eventually they did make it into the bedroom and Alec deposited Magnus gently onto the bed, crawling on top of him. He bent down and moulded their mouths together in another kiss to which Magnus happily returned, twining his hands in Alec’s hair to bring him closer. Alec’s body was hard and lean on top of his own and Magnus could feel every ripple of muscle as he moved. It was extremely distracting.

It dawned on Magnus then that there was far too many layers between them and they needed to be eradicated. Immediately. .

He tugged impatiently on the hem of Alec’s t-shirt. “Off.” He commanded, only pulling away from the kiss long enough for Alec to remove the shirt and toss it onto the floor. Alec made quick work of Magnus’ shirt soon after.

Once they were both shirtless, Alec leaned back on his heels. He eyes were blown dark and wide and he was scanning up and down Magnus’ naked chest almost shyly, bottom lip in between his teeth. Magnus found it both endearing and incredibly arousing.

Magnus let himself take in the beauty that was a shirtless Alec Lightwood. He had never seen Alec without clothing before and the sight was making him dizzy with desire. He thought - not for the first time - that he would kill to have Alec model his clothing. His sculpted body was unfairly beautiful and he beat out every other model that Magnus had ever worked with.

And probably every model he would ever work with.

He smirked, noticing that the author was still staring. “See something you like?” Instead of responding, Alec just smirked and bent down to press light kisses all along Magnus’ exposed skin. He worked slowly, pausing every so often to suck a mark into the tanned skin, starting at his hipbones and ending with a quick peck on his lips. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Magnus noted, struggling to keep his breathing even.

Magnus still wasn’t entirely convinced that he wasn’t in some very elaborate dream and would wake up sweating and uncomfortably turned on at any minute. Seeing Alec above him, naked chest exposed and covered with a fine layer of chest hair couldn’t possibly be real. Feeling Alec’s arousal pressing into his own, hard and demanding, all because of him had to be a dream. No one could look and feel that good, could they?

Magnus was a mess and they had hardly done anything yet.

“Alexander.” Magnus groaned. “As much as I love it when you stare at me, I’m getting rather impatient down here.” Alec grinned, kissing Magnus sweetly on the cheek before making his way down south.

“Have I mentioned how much I like seeing you wear my clothes?” Alec asked, playing with the waistband of the track pants Magnus was wearing. Magnus almost choked. “Though, I think seeing you out of them might top it.”

Magnus had not expected Alec to be this vocal, nor this confident in bed, but he was far from complaining.

He tugged gently on the waistline again, eyes meeting Magnus’ in question. “May I?”

“Please.” He practically begged. Magnus had never begged in bed with a lover before, but there was something about Alec that made him lose all control. He didn’t entirely mind all that much.

Alec wasted no time in removing both his and Magnus’ pants - and the boxers at Magnus’ begged request - and then there was nothing between them.

The feeling of skin on skin was sinful and addicting and Magnus was sure that if he had the choice he would demand that the two of them never wore clothing again. It would be bad for Magnus’ business but surely they could work something out.

Alec paused and Magnus used his lapse to haul him up and flip them over, changing positions. He bracketed his thighs around Alec’s hips, reveling in the new friction it gave them both. They were both hard and leaking and Magnus felt a rush of pride and satisfaction. He had done that. He had made Alec feel like that.

Leaning down, Magnus pressed a featherlight kiss to Alec’s cheekbone. “Tell me what you want, love.”

“You.” Alec replied instantly. His eyes widened and he must not have expected that to come out. He blushed and turned his head away to try and hide it. Magnus, on the other hand, found it very hard to breath when Alec said things like that.

He placed a finger under Alec’s chin and brought his head back so they were looking in each other’s eyes again. “You already have me.” He murmured, trying to comfort him. To let him know that there was nothing to be embarrassed about. He watched as Alec’s flushed face softened and he nodded, smiling. “But what I meant was, how do you want to do this?”

Alec kept his eyes with Magnus, all confidence and cockiness from before gone, instead replaced by something more vulnerable and nervous.“I want you. Is that ok?”

Magnus smiled softly. “That is more than okay.” He leaned down and they were kissing again, soft and slow and unhurried. Magnus ran his hands over the warm, smooth skin of Alec’ arms and gripped his hips. Alec rocked up into him unconsciously. A delicious wave of arousal flooded through Magnus at the friction and he broke the kiss, looking down at Alec as he threw his head back onto the pillow.

“Magnus.” He moaned brokenly. Magnus gently ran a thumb under his eye, over his cheekbone.

“Shh, I’ve got you.” Magnus stroked one hand down Alec’s side while the other reached into the bedside drawer, pulling out the things they would need. He had taken a guess that Alec would store lube and condoms here and had guessed right, grateful that he didn’t have to get up and leave Alec.

Coating his fingers generously, Magnus took his time working Alec open. He started with a single finger, waiting until the younger man had adjusted before adding a second. He pressed distracting kisses to Alec’s hips and stomach, whispering praise into his skin. By the third finger, Alec was getting impatient, pushing his hips down and trying to get more.

Magnus got the hint. He pulled the digits out and quickly prepared his length and lined himself up. “Are you ready?” He asked patiently, always checking with Alec. The other man nodded silently. “I want to hear you love.” Magnus chided seriously.

Alec groaned, rolling his eyes. “Magnus Bane, I have been ready for you since the day I met you. Please get inside of me.”

Magnus laughed out loud at Alec’s unexpected enthusiasm. “As you wish, my love.” He pushed in and then, all of a sudden there was no space between them.

Their bodies fit together perfectly, like puzzle pieces; every edge and seam of Magnus made perfectly for every edge of Alec. They moved seamlessly, creating a dance of passionate love.

They were joined in all the ways that mattered, bodies and hearts connected in the most intimate way. Magnus had never experienced anything quite like it before. He had never before felt so loved, or the intense love he felt for Alec during sex. He had never felt as strong a connection or intimacy with any other lover than he felt in that moment with Alec. Every move was accompanied by praise and soft whispers of endearment. Alec clung to Magnus, whispering his name like a prayer.

Magnus realized with shocking clarity that this was what it must be like to make love with someone.

Alec threw his head back and exposing his neck. It was easy for them to get lost in the sensation, the push and pull, the ecstasy. The love. Magnus let himself surrender completely to Alec, giving him everything he had to offer and more. Surrendering to the passion and the love surrounding them. He gave himself over, taking care of the other man so wholeheartedly that his heart threatened to burst with the intensity of it.

Alec looked ethereal below him, head thrown back in passion and a light sheen of sweat covering his skin. Magnus must have done something amazing in his past life to have deserved this beautiful man spread out below him. To have deserved to be loved by such a kind and generous soul. Alec was beautiful, but in the throes of passion he was a whole different level of beautiful - skin sweaty and red, lips kiss swollen and raw, eyebrows drawn together and mouth open in silent moans of pleasure.

Magnus would not easily be forgetting this image.

Alec was biting his lip, trying in vain to keep quiet, the skin going white from how hard he was restraining himself. Magnus continued his movements but swiped his thumb along Alec’s bottom lip, releasing it from it’s confines. Alec blinked at him dazedly, smiling for a moment before another soft moan tore itself from his lips and he squeezed his eyes shut tight.

“M-Magnus.” He breathed out lowly. “I - oh my God.”

It was getting harder and harder to keep control and Magnus could feel himself slipping closer to the edge. When voiced this to Alec, the younger man nodded and panted that he was there as well. Magnus redoubled his efforts and flattened his body on top of Alec’s, not an inch of them separated. Alec’s length was trapped in between their sweating bodies and he cried out at the sudden friction.

Magnus moved his lips to just below Alec’s ear, kissing the skin there softly. “I love you.” He breathed out, and that was all it took for Alec to fall over the edge. He let out a broken sob of Magnus’ name, repeating it over and over like a prayer as his back arched off of the bed. Seeing Alec lost in the pure bliss of euphoria gave Magnus the push he needed, and he tumbled after a few strokes later.

Spent, Magnus softly and gently rolled himself off of Alec and to the bathroom. He returned with a damp cloth, cleaning them both off and depositing the soiled piece of material off the side of the bed.

Alec watched him silently as he worked. He had an elated smile on his face, the one that lit up the entire room. Magnus couldn’t resist dropping a quick kiss to his lips.

They lay together silently, wrapped around each other as their heartbeats slowed back to a normal pace. Magnus could hear Alec’s heartbeat clearly from his position; he had his head rested against Alec’s chest, fingers drawing light patterns on his pale skin and their legs tangled together comfortably. Alec had one arm around Magnus’ shoulders and the other lazily sat on his own stomach.

Realistically, Magnus knew that they still needed to talk but that was something that could wait. A bubble of peaceful silence had settled over them and Magnus was content not to pop it, just for a while longer. He snuggled closer to the warm man beside him, burrowing his nose into the junction between Alec’s shoulder and neck and breathing in his scent, before dropping a light kiss to the skin there.

He drifted off to sleep with strong arms wrapped around him, a steady heartbeat in his ear and a smile on his face.

 

***

 

For the second time that day, Alec woke up with another body plastered to his side.

With Magnus’ body plastered to his side.

Alec let the memories from the morning wash over him and his face split into a wide grin. He opened his eyes and looked down at the man in his arms. Unlike earlier, he felt no fear or panic at the position they were in. Instead, his entire body warmed and he couldn’t restrain the breathless laugh that escaped from his lips.

Magnus loved him back

He bit his lip to try and contain his smile but it proved to be no use. Alec was sure that he had never felt this grade of happiness before in his life, the kind of happy that overtook you wholly and completely.

Alec lightly moved a strand of black hair that had fallen into Magnus’ eyes. Magnus shifted in his arms and he watched as Magnus blinked his eyes open against the morning light, hardly caring that he probably looked like a creep. Magnus’ gaze settled on him and Alec only had a moment of panic that he would regret it, but it was blown away as soon as Magnus smiled.

“Good morning.” Alec whispered, face only inches away.

“And what a good morning it is.” Magnus whispered back softly.

Alec grinned, blush tinging his cheeks. He was pretty sure that no matter what happened, Magnus would always have that effect on him. He could be married to Magnus and still blush every time the other man so much as complimented him.

Magnus adjusted himself so that they were laying face to face, side by side in the bed. Alec extended his hand across the small space between them and Magnus twined his fingers through it easily. “How did you sleep?” Alec asked, keeping the softness of the moment.

Magnus ran his thumb along the back of Alec’s hand, grinning. “I slept amazingly. I was quite tired out. How did you sleep, Alexander?”

Alec nodded. “Me too.” He felt like an idiot, just laying there and grinning at Magnus but he hardly cared when Magnus was looking back at him with a matching expression. He was finally looking at the man he loved the way he wanted to and that man loved him back, so Alec thought he deserved a little bit of idiot-level-smiling. He wondered if he would have been this happy if they had gotten together right at the beginning, or if the prolonged time spent hiding his feelings had somehow amplified it.

Either way, he really didn’t care all that much.

Alec enjoyed the silence that had wrapped around the room like a blanket for just a moment longer, relishing in the closeness of the man beside him. Magnus’ eyes were beautiful golden-green in the morning light, eyes makeup-free and expression inexplicably soft. He looked absolutely gorgeous.

Alec sighed and raised himself up onto one elbow, but kept his hand joined with Magnus’. He looked down at him. “I suppose we should - you know, talk.” He felt suddenly nervous, as if they hadn’t confessed their love to each other just hours before, both verbally and physically.

Magnus nodded, sitting up against the headboard and letting the sheets pool around his naked waist. Alec sat facing him, legs crossed. Magnus held out his other hand to Alec, and Alec gratefully held on, squeezing tightly. Just touching Magnus like he was calmed his nerves, quelling his fears and filling him with a sense of reassurance.

This was Magnus. This was his best friend and he knew that no matter what happened, he loved Magnus and Magnus loved him back.

Alec started. “I suppose we should decide where we want to go from here. Label-wise I mean. And see if we’re on the same page with … everything.” He was stuttering again and resisted the urge to pull his hand away from Magnus and rub the back of his neck nervously. “Of course we don’t have to label things we could just … you know, not.” He almost cringed as the words came out of his mouth.

Magnus nodded, face serious. “I meant what I said earlier. I love you Alexander, and if you want to, I would like to try this - us - out for real. I’m all in.”

Alec felt like he was soaring. He could hardly get the words out fast enough. “I do. I want to. I want to be in a real relationship with you, Magnus.” He swallowed thickly, looking into Magnus’ eyes. “I hear relationships, they …they take effort.”

Magnus smiled small but bright and so happy. “I’m all for effort.”

“Me too.” Alec chuckled, finally leaning in and kissing Magnus. He still hadn’t completely wrapped his head around the fact that he could kiss Magnus whenever he wanted to and the thought made him giddy. “So does this mean you’re my boyfriend, Magnus Bane?”

Magnus nodded, face still close enough that Alec could feel the soft puffs of his breath when he spoke. “I believe it does, Alexander Lightwood.”

Since it was still fairly early and neither of them had any obligations for the rest of the day, they decided that it was acceptable to spend the next few hours in bed. Alec only got up to make them each a cup of coffee, but they otherwise lived in their own little world that was Alec’s bedroom.

More specifically, Alec’s bed.

They spent a fair amount of time learning more about each other - and each other’s bodies - whiling away the day in warmth and bliss. Alec learned a few things about himself he hadn’t known before (who knew he loved his hair being pulled so much?) and some things about Magnus that he definitely put to good use.

They talked too. They talked through how they had gotten to this point, the miscommunication, the doubt and the lies. Alec told Magnus about how Isabelle had unsurprisingly been the first of his siblings to find out Alec’s feelings and about the fight it had caused them. He chuckled when he thanked Magnus for the advice he had given. In turn, Magnus told Alec how Clary had given him a pep talk just the night before, telling him not to give up on Alec.

“I’m glad you didn’t give up on me.” Alec whispered seriously.

“I am too.” Magnus confessed. They were sitting cross-legged, facing each other in just their boxers. The duvet was long gone, thrown unceremoniously on the floor and the sheets were in a disarray around them.

They laughed at stories of their own miscommunication. Magnus told Alec all about how he had gotten the absolute worst case of blue balls when measuring Alec in Ascot Chang, to which Alec confessed he had resorted to thinking very unarousing thoughts the entire time too, so as not to embarrass himself.

“Remember my after party?” Magnus asked suddenly.

Alec chuckled sarcastically. “You mean your after party for your debut New York Fashion Week show?”

Magnus smiled fondly. “That’s the one. I just remembered, I wanted to ask you to dance that night. Everything had been crazy and all these people were clamouring to talk to me, but I remember thinking that all I wanted to do was dance with you.”

Alec remembered that night clearly, and he also remembered wanting to dance. When he mentioned this to Magnus the other man laughed, shocked. “You wanted to dance? Why didn’t you just ask me?”

Shrugging, Alec grinned. “Honestly? I didn’t think I could control myself that close to you. Especially after I already knew what kissing you was like.”

Magnus grinned, raising himself up on his knees and crawling towards Alec, mischievous glint in his eye. “Were my dashing good looks that hard for you to resist, Alexander?”

Alec smirked, snaking his arms around Magnus’ waist when he had deposited himself in his lap. “I think you’re underestimating how good you looked in that suit.”

Magnus ran his tongue along his bottom lip and Alec’s eyes tracked the movement. He felt like a teenager again, getting turned on at the drop of a hat and only needing short breaks before he was ready to go again. Surely there was a limit to how much his body could take in a day?

Maybe it wasn’t so much Alec’s stamina as the man that was currently situated in his lap. It was impossible for anyone to not get turned on with a lapful of a mostly-naked Magnus Bane.

“Mmm,” Magnus hummed, leaning closer. “Tell me more about what you thought about me in my suit.”

Instead of telling him, Alec decided to show him. He pulled Magnus down by his hips so that their faces were level and kissed him fiercely.

Kissing Magnus was a different experience every single time. They had shared plenty of kisses over the short period of time they had been together and Alec was having trouble choosing his favourite. There was the slow, soft kisses that never usually went anywhere, just sweet presses of lips. There was the slow kisses that turned passionate, one of them changing the dynamic halfway through. And then there were the kisses that made Alec keel like he was on fire. The kisses that were hot, and heady and made sweat drip down the back of his neck.

And those were just the kisses that Alec had discovered this morning.

He sighed happily into Magnus’ mouth, letting the other man push him back onto the bed so he was lying flat. Alec could feel himself getting worked up already - how could he not when his boyfriend was doing that with his hips - and ran his hands down Magnus’ sides to rest on the waistband of his boxers.

Alec was just about to slide them off and down his legs when he heard the telltale opening of the front door.

He pulled back quickly. “Shit. Max!” He whispered, looking around frantically for something to wear.

Magnus, who clearly hadn’t heard the door, looked confused. “Darling, I know you’re close with your family but this might be something we have to discuss.”

Alec rolled his eyes, gently pushing Magnus off his lap. “Shut up. I heard the door.” He found the track pants he had been wearing the night before and slipped them on (adjusting himself quickly so his arousal wasn’t so obvious) and tossing a pair to Magnus. He grabbed them both new shirts from the closet.

“Alec?”

He groaned. Of course Isabelle was there. Figures his sister would be the one to walk in on him and Magnus not even a full day after they had cemented their relationship.

Magnus’ hair was sticking out in every direction - no doubt from the amount of times Alec had run his fingers through it - and on his neck alone were three very visible hickeys. Alec didn’t have to look into a mirror to know that he probably wasn’t much better off.

He looked to Magnus. “Are you ok -” He gestured to the door. “I mean, are you okay with telling them? Izzy will probably figure it out soon enough anyway, but if you’re not okay with it I -”

Magnus cut off his babbling. “Alexander.” He smiled, stepping up to Alec and meeting his eyes. “I meant it when I said I was all in. That includes your crazy family.”

“You may one day want to take that back but you’re officially trapped in what I have deemed the ‘All-In’ Clause.”

Magnus grinned. “Where do I sign?”

Alec tilted his head to the side, pretending to ponder the question. “A kiss should do.” He settled on finally. Magnus nodded seriously, raising himself up and kissing Alec softly. It was just a quick, soft press of lips and Alec mentally added it to his list of favourite kisses.

Taking a deep breath, Alec gave one last look to his boyfriend. “Ready?”

Magnus nodded, threading his fingers with Alec’s as they exited the room.

Just his luck, they found all three Lightwood siblings waiting for them out in the living room. Isabelle was the first to notice them, head whipping up at the sound of the door opening. Her manicured brows furrowed in confusion at the sight of Magnus before she took in their appearance and grinned devilishly.

“Well well well, good afternoon boys.” She taunted, smirking. There was a feral grin on her face and Alec could tell from her posture that she was very proud of herself, like their getting together had somehow been her doing.

Alec sighed, playing along. “Good afternoon, Isabelle.”

Jace and Max were standing behind Isabelle, both of them snickering into their hands. “Good afternoon, indeed.” Jace joked. Max high fived him. Alec rolled his eyes but couldn’t help smiling, the memory of Magnus saying the same thing earlier still fresh in his mind.

“Would the three of you like anything? Or are you here just to be annoying?”

Max raised his hand, grinning wickedly. “Technically, I live here.”

Isabelle shrugged. “I decided to join Jace this morning when picking Max up and bringing him back here. And I’m glad that I did.”

Alec raised his eyebrows. He turned to Magnus. “Let’s change the conditions to the clause. We can take my family out of it.”

Magnus snorted and his siblings let out disgruntled shouts of disapproval.

Since none of them had eaten lunch yet, Alec went to the kitchen to make them some grilled cheese sandwiches. Magnus followed and sat on the counter beside the stove, the other three sitting at the bar, pestering them with questions.

“Who confessed first?”

“Alexander.”

“Did he say ‘I love you’ or did he just go right for a kiss?”

Magnus grinned playfully at Alec. “I got a romantic speech and a kiss. Your brother knows how to woo a man.” Alec stuck his tongue out at him.

“And then did you, you know, right after?” Isabelle asked, smirking.

Alec was worried he would have to stop Magnus from answering, but he just shook his head at her. “Sorry darling. A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell. Or do other things and tell.” Alec felt heat rising on his cheeks as his siblings let out cat calls and wolf whistles. Magnus leaned down and kissed him on the cheek.

Alec was used to his siblings teasing him about his sex life, but he found he didn’t mind much now that he was rewarded with a kiss from his boyfriend.

“And are you guys dating now? Like boyfriends?” Max asked excitedly.

Alec shared a quick look with Magnus before looking to Max. “Yeah we are. Is that okay?”

Max grinned. “Of course it’s okay! We love Magnus.” He paused. “But no sex on the couch. Or in the shower.”

Alec almost choked on his spit and Magnus rubbed his back comfortingly and promised Max that they would behave themselves.

The rest of the day was spent lounging around and relaxing. Alec and Magnus showered after lunch (separately, much to Alec’s dismay) and then they all decided to put on a movie. His siblings quickly got bored with questioning them about their new relationship. Alec noticed with amusement that Jace and Max each passed Isabelle bills, dejected looks on their faces. At Alec’s curious look Isabelle explained they had both bet against Alec being the first to confess his feelings.

“I always believed you could do it, big brother.” She said, winking.

When Magnus was in the shower and his brothers were picking a movie, Isabelle pulled him aside. She looked serious for a moment, studying him with her arms crossed.

“Are you happy?” She asked finally.

Alec smiled, genuinely. “I am.”

She let out a breath and smiled. “That’s all that matters then.” She wrapped her arms around his middle and Alec held her close. “I really am proud of you, Alec.” She whispered.

Alec smiled into the top of her head. “Thanks for always believing in me, Iz.” He whispered back.

They went back into the living room, scattered around and settled into the chairs and couches. And when Magnus came back - hair wet and tousled from his shower, wearing Alec’s clothes - he didn’t even hesitate before folding himself into Alec’s side, resting his head on his shoulder.

Alec ignored the coo’s and looks from his siblings - and the flash of Isabelles camera - and kissed Magnus softly on the head and pulled him closer, focusing his attention on the movie.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks were quite possibly the happiest of Magnus’ life. And that included his trip to Peru with Ragnor and Catarina.

Officially being Alec’s boyfriend was far better than he ever thought it could be.

Being Alec’s friend had been one thing, but Alec as his boyfriend was something else completely. Since they had gotten together, they had spent a lot of time getting to know each other. Of course they knew each other already, but there were things that only lovers could know - like how the scar on the inside of Alec’s knee was incredibly sensitive when Magnus pressed his lips to it, or the soft way he would smile at Magnus whenever they pulled away from a kiss.

There had been topics too, that they hadn’t broached as friends. Magnus told Alec more about his past relationships and his birth parents, topics he had only shared with a few people. It was freeing sharing them with Alec, like he was trusting a part of himself with the other man to care and look after.

After that first weekend they were together, it had been hard to leave the bubble they had created and go back out into the real world. Magnus wanted nothing more than to disregard all of his responsibilities and never leave Alec’s apartment, but unfortunately they both had jobs they still needed to attend and couldn’t continue spending entire days in bed.

Magnus had tried to keep their relationship under wraps at first. While he was by no means an A-list celebrity, the paparazzi still cared what he did every so often and he knew that having a new boyfriend would probably at least make a few news sites. So, they didn’t tell anyone except their close circle of friends.

But the secrecy hadn’t lasted nearly as long as he had hoped. It had started with his receptionist, Lily. As soon as he had walked into work she had smiled hugely at him and wished him congratulations. When he had asked her what for, she had told him from his smile he must have gotten together with Alec.

That and she had read an article on a fashion blog.

Lydia had been worse. She noticed Magnus’ good mood almost immediately after Lily, calling it out as soon as he got into the office. He didn’t even have to tell her. She figured it out from the way he refused to stop grinning - not mention the dark purple bruise under Magnus’ jaw that he hadn’t been able to cover.

“I’m happy for you. His sister has a betting pool on how long it would take the two of you to get together, and honestly it was getting quite ridiculous.” Lydia shrugged, but smiled at him proudly.

It hadn’t taken long for other people to start noticing either. Ragnor had started sending him articles from various fashion blogs, all of them commenting on how stunning Magnus Bane’s new model boyfriend was. A few of them were dated right after his Fashion Week show, and Magnus grinned. Alec had said that people had thought that they were a couple that night. Some of them were more recent though, with pictures of the two of them strolling in Central Park or out for coffee, but Magnus noted with amusement that all of them were released before he and Alec had actually gotten together. When he showed the articles to Alec one night at dinner, he had just rolled his eyes and pointed out that he wasn’t a model.

“You’re my personal model.” Magnus had said, smirking. “If I remember correctly, you’re wearing a pair of Magnus Bane boxers today, aren’t you?”

Alec raised his eyebrows and smirked, article still in his hand. He set it down on the table and nodded.

“Well, why don’t you model those for me? I’d love to see what they look like on you.” Magnus shrugged cheekily. “Or off of you.”

As for telling Simon and Clary, Isabelle took care of that for them. Alec originally wanted to tell Simon on his own over beer and sci-fi movies, something they had been doing since they were teenagers, but not even an hour after Isabelle and Jace had left that first night Alec had received a call from his friend. Simon initially seemed annoyed, but Alec disappeared into his bedroom with the phone for half an hour and came out grinning, so Magnus assumed all had been made right.

Clary hadn’t been as forgiving as Simon. It seemed Isabelle told her right after she told Simon but instead of a call, Clary showed up on Alec’s doorstep. She was all fiery hair and an even fiercer attitude and punched Magnus repeatedly in the chest, angry that she had found out second hand.

Magnus had let her work her aggression out and once she did, which coincided with Alec walking back into the room after his talk with Simon, she jumped excitedly and hugged the both of them and demanding a play-by-play of the whole thing.

Magnus assumed, given his fairly private personality, Alec wouldn’t be the one to go into detail of their story but he was surprised when he took over and told Clary what happened. Clary caught him staring fondly at Alec while he talked, and when she pointed it out he rolled his eyes and pressed a pointed kiss to Alec’s cheek, grinning at the blush that bloomed after the action.

His favourite person to tell though, ended up being Maia.

Everything felt so different between them after their confessions, and Magnus worried that it would begin to affect their friendship as well. He needn’t have worried though; they still talked every single day, all day, when they weren’t together and continued to meet for coffee when they were both in the city. Or even when they weren’t, and just wanted to make the trip to see each other.

Walking into Java Jones for the first time since they had made things official and sitting down at their regular table confirmed that they were still the same Magnus and Alec that they had been before, except now Magnus could hold Alec’s hand across the table and kiss him whenever he felt like it.

They were discussing what food was in Alec’s fridge at home and if they had enough to make dinner for themselves and Max tonight when Maia came over with their usual orders. She set them down on the table with a smile before turning and walking back to the counter.

She had stopped halfway there though, whipping around and focusing in on their joined hands with razor sharp vision.

A toothy grin spread over his face and she ran back to the table, squealing and pulling the two of them in for a group hug. When she pulled back, she looked right at Alec. “I told you. I told you, didn’t I?”

Alec pursed his lips, nodding. “You did.” He couldn’t hide his smile for long and when Maia held her hand out for a high-five, he returned it, laughing bashfully.

Magnus watched the two of them interact fondly. He remembered when, at the beginning, it had been him that was closest with Maia but over the past few months she and Alec had developed a close friendship. They bantered lightly with each other, but Magnus could read the fondness in both of their voices. Alec had also told him that she had sat with him a lot during their fight, offering insight and distraction - and sometimes a free muffin - while he waited for Magnus to show.

So overall, it had been a great few weeks.

Things were starting to pick up for both of them work wise, Alec with his impending book release and Magnus with the launch of his new line and so finding time alone together was getting to be more and more difficult. Tonight, Alec had come over with Magnus’ favourite takeout and after they had finished eating they had curled up on the couch. Something was playing on the TV, but neither of them were paying much attention to it.

They were wrapped around each other, Alec curled on his side in between his legs, head pillowed on Magnus’ chest. Magnus was running his hands gently through Alec’s hair, twirling pieces of the black locks around his fingers delicately. Alec had turned to putty in his arms, letting out soft sighs every so often and letting himself relax completely into the embrace.

Magnus had discovered that this was his favourite position when cuddling with Alec. It had been a bit awkward at first, Alec being so much bigger than Magnus but once he got settled in, the other man fit perfectly in the space. He also found that he loved taking care of Alec. Whether it was during long nights of passion or just massaging out his sore muscles after a long day of editing. Alec too, seemed to like giving up control just a little bit, falling into Magnus and letting himself be cared for.

Alec hummed happily when Magnus tugged lightly on a strand of hair. Chairman and Church had joined them at some point. The Chairman was settled in between their tangled legs and Church was sprawled out on the back of the couch, purring loudly.

Alec turned his head so that his chin was resting on Magnus’ chest. His eyes were soft and sleepy and his hair was a mess, sticking out adorably in every direction.

“I talked to Max today.” He said softly. It was late and the soft light from the TV sent shadows across Alec’s cheekbones, illuminating the sharp lines of his face.

Magnus hummed. “And?”

Alec hadn’t initially wanted to tell Max about his parents surprise visit but thought it was only fair that his brother knew all of his options. Max had immediately said that he wanted to stay with Alec full-time, but said he would get back to Alec on whether he wanted visitation.

Alec pressed his cheek back to his chest and Magnus’ fingers went back to Alec’s scalp. “He doesn’t want to get emancipated or anything drastic like that. He doesn’t want to block them out completely. I guess he still thinks they may change one day.” Alec shrugged. “He said he would be good with visitation, but on his terms and as long as I didn’t ever have to see them.”

Magnus nodded, thoughtful. If it were up to him, he would keep all of the Lightwood children as far away from their parents as possible, but he also understood the primal need to be connected to one's parents. He often saw it in Alec, presented as just a moment of regret when he talked about them or a flicker of doubt when referring to the termination of their relationship. It was easy to see how Max, whom Robert and Maryse had actually treated with love and affection, would still hold onto that notion.

He knew that Alec was still processing the last interaction with his parents. He hadn’t spoken about it much since their conversation after it happened, but Magnus worried he was hiding his feelings in fear of burdening him. Or maybe he was totally fine and hadn’t thought about it since. Whatever the case, Magnus wasn’t going to rush him into talking about it and when it came time for him to work through it all, he would be there with whatever Alec needed.

But for now, he was content to just hold the younger man and feel the low rumble of his voice as he spoke, the sound reverberating against his chest.

Magnus had no regrets with how he was spending his Saturday night. He would rather be here, like this with Alec and his cats, than be on the list to the hottest club in the city any day. He was endlessly entertained by the presence of the man on his chest and was sure he could never be bored of him. He had been waiting for the fluttering, swooping sensation to fade away whenever he kissed Alec or when the younger man so much as smiled at him, but so far it hadn’t and part of Magnus hoped it never would.

He had been with people before, lots of people, but he had never been with anyone who made him feel like Alec did. No one who made him feel love so completely. So much so that it overtook his entire body to an overwhelming degree and left him breathless. So wholeheartedly that Magnus was sure that he was going to burst with just how much love his heart was holding. So big that he was almost always smiling, finding it nearly impossible not to. Magnus had never before believed in soulmates, but the fact that he was alive at the same time as Alec, and that this beautiful man had chosen him to love, challenged that belief.

He was staring dopily at Alec, lost in thought. His fingers continued their slow track through his hair but at some point Alec had fallen asleep. He had been talking about his meeting with Max’s math teacher when he his voice had trailed off, words lost to slumber.

Magnus took the time to look at him. He was almost always looking at Alec nowadays, but he hadn’t really looked at him in a while.

The bags that had been a constant presence under his eyes for the past few months had faded remarkably and his skin had more colour and life to it. He had a small smattering of freckles on his cheeks and nose from the sun that had been starting to peek out and melt the snow. He had let his stubble grow out a little longer than he usually did, which Magnus absolutely loved. He liked the way it would scratch lightly against his skin.

There were some things that were the same though.

His lips were turned up slightly in sleep, with his cupid’s bow that Magnus had grown quite fond of. He smiled affectionately as he ran his thumb lightly over his dark eyebrow, the one with the scar Alec had gotten from Jace when he was just a child, and almost giggled when the other man scrunched his nose up in sleep. His hair was getting longer and the front pieces often fell into his eyes on days when he didn’t style it. Magnus brushed the unruly strands back from his forehead and pressed a light kiss to his temple, and then another to his nose.

He kept pressing soft kisses all over his face - his eyelids, each of his cheeks, the corner of his mouth and finally on his lips - until Alec started to wake up, stretching and burrowing himself deeper into Magnus’ embrace.

“Time for bed, love.” Magnus whispered tenderly, kissing Alec’s closed eyelids softly.

“Let’s sleep here.” Alec mumbled. He had turned himself so his chest was flat to Magnus’ and had wrapped his arms around him tightly, nosing his face deep into Magnus’ neck.

Magnus laughed softly, and gave the hair at the base of Alec’s neck a soft tug. “C’mon darling. Your back won’t like you very much in the morning if we stay here. Mine won’t either, for the record.”

Alec sighed, face still hiding. “Your back loves me.” Magnus rolled his eyes. He could practically feel Alec’s smile where it was still hidden in the junction of his neck.

“Of course.” He appeased, scoffing. “I’ll get a tattoo saying just that across my back if you get up.”

Alec lifted his head up and met Magnus’ eyes. His own were sleepy, but still full of mischief. “You could always get it on your lower back. Something classy like ‘property of Alec Lightwood.’”

Magnus sighed, pushing Alec’s shoulder mockingly. “I’ll have you know, Sir, that I don’t belong to anyone. I am a free man.”

Alec quirked an eyebrow, but nodded seriously and kissed Magnus on the cheek lightly. “Okay.”

Magnus was taken back slightly by the gesture and the unmistakable sweet honesty behind it. Alec hadn’t made a witty remark or joke in response like he had expected, instead he had accepted Magnus and his answer seriously.

Magnus realized suddenly why it was that Alec had reacted that way, and his heart ached painfully. Sebastian had tried to stake his claim on Alec at one time, branding him as his own. As his property. Alec didn’t want to do the same thing to Magnus, joking or not.

Magnus was so incredibly in love with him.

He pulled Alec up by his shoulders so that their noses were almost touching. “My heart belongs to you, Alec Lightwood. I think my heart has always belonged to you, but it just took a little bit of time for it to realize it.” He stared straight into Alec’s eyes, smiling softly. “I am yours.”

“Yours.” Alec repeated softly, shaking his head slightly as if breaking a train of thought. “And I’m yours. Always and forever completely yours.”

The distance between them became obsolete and Alec’s lips were on his. It was tender and slow and so full of love. It was amazing what could be conveyed through just a press of lips. How lovers could communicate through the unspoken language of languid sliding of lips and gentle caress’ of hands.

Magnus pulled back, pressing one last chaste kiss to his lips. Alec followed him as he pulled away, chasing for just one more kiss and Magnus giggled, obliging.

Alec cupped Magnus’ jaw in his hand. “We’re getting sappy in our old age.”

Magnus snorted. “Speak for yourself. My youth is eternal. I will forever stay this young and beautiful.”

Alec ran his thumb along Magnus’ jaw, grinning cheekily. “Man, I hope so. I’m going to make everyone in my nursing home jealous with my insanely hot and young boyfriend.”

“Darling by the time you’re in a nursing home, I’d better be your husband.” Magnus fired back without thinking. As soon as the words left his mouth though he froze, eyes widening.

He met Alec’s eyes and didn’t see what he had been expecting, fear and apprehension. Instead he saw an incredible softness and something like acceptance. “I’ll have the hottest husband. Every time you visit people will be watching, wondering how a stud like you got tied down with someone like me.” He whispered, grinning softly. Reassuringly.

Magnus chuckled, fighting back the tears he could feel building in his throat. Jokes aside, Alec had just proved that he and Magnus were on the same page and that they both knew that one day in the future, they would be making vows and promising to spend the rest of their lives together.

Magnus didn’t believe in soulmates, but he believed in his love with Alec and that was sort of the same thing, right?

 

***

 

Alec sat in one of the stiff leather chairs in Clary’s office, fidgeting nervously in his seat.

Clary and Simon were sitting across from him, waiting expectantly for him to start speaking. He had called both of them and requested a meeting earlier in the week. Simon had suggested that they just meet for dinner or something more casual, but Alec had all but insisted that it be a real, formal meeting. He wanted to do this right.

He had put on a suit and everything.

Both of them were being incredibly patient, not complaining that they had been sat across each other for ten minutes and still no one had said a word. They each knew that Alec sometimes needed a moment, or ten, to compose himself and so they just sat quietly. Watching him.

Finally he cleared his throat, drumming his fingers on the arm of the chair. “I have an idea.”

Simon rolled his eyes and scoffed and Clary hit his arm disapprovingly, silencing him with a look. “We’re listening, Alec.”

Alec nodded. He had been thinking for weeks about this idea but hadn’t told anyone. Not even Magnus. He hadn’t been sure of it at the time, but now he was certain and wanted to make it happen as soon as possible. And he knew that Clary and Simon were the two best people for the job.

“I want to go public as an author.”

Alec had been expecting an outburst of shouts from the two of them, maybe some excitement but definitely some surprise. What he wasn’t expecting though was blank looks and silence. Dead silence.

“I want to go public.” He reiterated, trying to provoke some sort of reaction out of them. “As in … have the world know that I am Gideon Archer.”

Clary was the first to break out of her daze, confusion coloring her features. She opened her mouth before shutting it again, turning from Alec to Simon. Finally she settled on Alec, tilting her head to the side. “Why?”

Alec rubbed his fingers together nervously, shrugging. “It’s time.”

“What do you mean ‘it’s time’, buddy?” Simon asked. He was staring at Alec intently, as if trying to figure him out. Alec understood his confusion. Gideon Archer had been a part of both of their lives for so long, and was always something Alec had been adamant about. Gideon had almost become a persona to him and he was sure that Simon felt the same way, so he understood Simon’s confusion at him wanting to dismantle all of that. But he still wished he had gotten a more positive reaction from the two of them. The silence was starting to freak him out.

“I guess it’s just been going on too long. I’m at a different place than I was when I started these books. Hell, I’m at a different place than when I started this book.” He sighed. “I just want to stop hiding, I guess. Stop lying.”

Clary nodded, biting her lip. She shared a look with Simon before turning back to Alec. “Alec, does this … does this have anything to do with Magnus? Because you know he doesn’t mind.”

She was right. After they had gotten together, they had talked through a lot of things, including Gideon. Alec had asked Magnus if it bothered him that he was still using the pseud, worried that the his boyfriend would object to the lies, especially after everything they had gone through. But Magnus had assured him that he didn’t mind one bit. He had told Alec that Gideon was a part of him and always would be, and Alec could do with him what he liked. Magnus had assured him that he would be there supporting him, no matter what Alec chose and no matter the outcome.

He had also said that either way his boyfriend was an international bestselling author, and that didn’t change no matter who’s name was on the cover.

Alec shook his head at her. “No. Yes. I don’t know.” He sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. “Being with Magnus made the decision final for me but this is something I’ve been thinking about for months.” He made eye contact with Simon. “I’m tired, Si. We’ve been doing this for years and I’m sick of lying. If I’ve learned anything in the past few months it’s that I’m never going to lie about anything ever again.” He chuckled.

Simon’s lips quirked into a smile, but then his business face was back on. “It’s not going to be easy. There is going to be some backlash and probably a dip in sales at first. I’ve never really heard of a situation like this before so I have no idea how people are going to react. If we’re really going to do this, we’re going to have to do some research so that we can do this right. I don’t want you losing your career over this.”

Alec nodded. Simon continued. “You need to be one hundred percent about this, Alec. We’re a few months or so away from printing so you have until then, but this isn’t something you can come back from.” He paused, eyes flicking to Clary. “Professionally or personally.”

He bit his lip, holding Simon’s gaze, knowing exactly what he was referring to.

Sebastian.

But Alec had meant what he said to Magnus when he said he wasn’t scared anymore. The relationship he and Sebastian had had would always be a scar on his heart and Alec would never forget it, but it no longer filled him with intense fear and anxiety. He didn’t scan faces in large crowds anymore, terrified he would see someone familiar or avidly avoid places they had gone together for fear of seeing him.

Alec had grown and he was comfortable enough with himself and where he was in life that facing Sebastian, if the time ever came, didn’t chill him and fill him with terror. He could defend himself if the need arose - both verbally and physically - and he had an amazing support system of people around him that he knew wouldn’t hesitate to defend him.

He answered Simon’s concerned glance with a confident, determined one of his own and Simon’s eyes filled with pride, grinning wide. “I want to do this, Simon.”

Clary pulled out a notepad and began writing furiously as the boys talked back and forth, planning everything out. Alec had tons of ideas, having been unconsciously planning this ever since the first time he came to Alicante and saw the Gideon wall. Simon too, having worked with Alec in the industry so long, had ideas of his own. Even Clary would shoot an idea in every now and then.

They needed to brainstorm the perfect idea for how to launch Alec to the public, while still respecting the Gideon Archer name. No stone was to be left unturned. The three of them made a good team though and together they developed a foolproof plan.

They spent hours detailing every single thing they needed to do in the next few weeks and Alec was feeling overwhelmed, but so much lighter. Gideon had been an alternate identity for him for the better part of a decade and Alec was finally ready to let him go. He felt some sadness of course, almost like the loss of a friend, but he knew that it would all be for the better. As much as he had been a refuge, Gideon Archer had been a hindrance and kept Alec back from life. He had been a glass wall, allowing him to see the world, but not experience it the way he was meant to.

He was ready to take a sledgehammer to the wall, shattering the glass and finally join the world.

And Magnus had been right when he said that Gideon would always be a part of him. He had been there for Alec during a time in his life when he felt he had nothing else, and since then had become a creative outlet for Alec, allowing him to share his thoughts and feelings with the world. He had given him a career, and allowed him to meet people he otherwise wouldn’t have. For that he would always be grateful.

It took them a while, but they finally had a concrete plan for how to execute what Simon had cleverly named ‘Operation: Coming Out’. It would be hectic and crazy and insane until and after the release day, but Alec felt oddly excited.

On the way to the elevators, they passed the wall. Alec gazed up at it for a moment, taking in every plaque and trophy. Hopefully, if everything went according to plan, the next thing to go up onto the wall would have his name on it. His real name. He thought back to the first time he had stood in front of it, and all the emotions he had felt looking at it. How the first thing he had thought was that he wanted it to be him up there, and now he was leaving a meeting where they had planned to do just that.

He left Alicante feeling elated and giddy, like a child waiting in anticipation for Christmas morning to arrive.

They said goodbye to Clary, and he and Simon made their way downtown. Alec hadn’t been spending as much time with Simon lately, dividing his time thinly between Magnus, his siblings and work. Simon too, had been busy putting the final touches on Alec’s transcript, the printing date looming closer and closer each day. But with their new plan, they would be spending much more time together in the next few weeks.

They went to a small sandwich shop near Alicante for dinner, ordering and sitting down at a table.

Simon had quickly gotten over his initial hurt at not hearing first about Alec’s relationship, but Alec still felt guilty. Especially when he remembered that he had been the first person Simon texted when he got together with Isabelle.

So, Alec took it upon himself to keep Simon in the loop with what was happening with him and Magnus. He wasn’t generally one to openly talk much about himself or his relationships but Simon seemed to like it and he loved his best friend too much to deny him the simple joys of gossiping. Also, since getting together with Magnus, Alec found he didn’t mind talking about his relationship much. Magnus made him incredibly happy and sometimes he felt like he wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

 

They talked and caught up all through dinner. Alec had seen Simon but they hadn’t done anything, just the two of them, in too long. Simon told him excitedly that he was planning on asking Izzy to move in with him and how he had a fancy dinner planned and everything.

Alec grinned and his heart swelled with happiness. He had tried to give Simon a stern look and tell him that he better respect his sister, but they both broke out into laughter, cracking Alec’s serious facade.

“So how’s Magnus?” Simon asked, swiping the last two fries from Alec’s plate. Alec glared at him.

“He’s good. He’s great. Really great, actually.” His face split into a smile on it’s own accord, and he was unable to stop it even if he wanted to. “It’s different from any other relationship I’ve ever been in, but … well, I guess I’ve just never been this happy with someone, you know?”

Simon nodded, smiling from ear to ear. “I do know. I’ve known you a long time Alec, and I’ve never seen you the way you are with him.” He grinned. “It’s sickeningly gross, but even I will admit it’s kind of cute.”

Alec rolled his eyes fondly and showed Simon his finger. Simon showed his own right back, sticking his tongue out teasingly.

They lapsed into comfortable silence, finishing their meals and paying for them. They were out on the street again, walking towards the train station when Simon spoke again. “I really am happy for you, Alec. You’re a great guy and I’m glad you found someone who finally realizes that.” Alec looked over at his best friend who just shrugged modestly. “I’ve watched you with guys for years, and every time I’ve thought ‘he doesn’t deserve Alec’. But with Magnus it’s different. You guys are different.”

Alec swallowed back the emotion bubbling in his throat. It wasn’t often Simon was serious and spoke what was actually on his mind, but when he did he was always sincere. Alec bumped his shoulder lightly. “Thanks Si.” He murmured, unsure of what else to say, but Simon was used to it by now so he just smiled at Alec before switching the conversation to an upcoming gig he had with his band.

They parted ways at the subway station, with promises to meet later in the week for game night and meetings for work.

Alec shot a text to Max, letting him know he would be going to Magnus’. It had taken a few weeks but they had eventually worked out a system where Alec saw the two of them as equally as he could, and wasn’t leaving Max on his own too often. He made sure to spend no more than two nights away from home, and when he was he always prepared dinner and left it in the fridge for his brother. He had felt guilty leaving Max, his father's words about abandoning him for Magnus coming back forcefully, but Max assured him that he was fine and Alec should put his happiness first for once.

But other than that, living with Max full-time was going better than he expected. Alec sometimes felt like a single parent, but Max was old enough that most of the time it was like living with your best friend. He hardly ever had to act like a parent around Max too, which helped and his brother respected him enough to follow the few rules Alec had laid down. It helped too that Max got along with all of his friends, as he often joined them for game nights when he wasn’t out with his own friends.

By the time Alec pulled out his key and unlocked Magnus’ door it was long past dark. He let himself in silently, closing the door softly behind him. They had exchanged keys before they had started dating, but using it now felt different and meant much more than it did when Alec used to just let himself in to feed the cats when Magnus was working late.

The Chairman greeted him at the door when he arrived, walking through Alec’s legs and purring loudly. He mewled when Alec picked him up, scratching him lightly between the ears as he walked towards the bedroom.

Magnus was fast asleep on the bed when he entered, surrounded by drawings and papers. His reading glasses were perched on his nose, tilted slightly where he was slouched. The bedside lamp was still on and Church was curled up at Magnus’ feet on a forgotten pile of papers, no doubt sitting on something important. Alec hadn’t realized the amount of time that had passed while he was with Simon, but it had gotten quite late and he felt guilty that Magnus must have been waiting up for him.

He quietly stepped out of his jeans and t-shirt, making his way over to his side of the bed (he still got a thrill when he remembered he had his own side of the bed at Magnus’ place). Gently as he could, he removed the glasses from Magnus’ nose, tucking them safely on the bedside dresser before gathering the pages and stacking them in a neat pile. When he tried to remove the piece underneath Church, the large feline grumbled and burrowed deeper into the paper nest he had created for himself. Alec chuckled, scratching him on the belly so he would roll off the trapped drawing. He mewled happily as Alec pet him, stretching all the way out with his paws over his head.

Magnus’ hair was still damp from the shower he had taken and Alec tucked a loose strand behind his ear, gently running the pad of his thumb against his cheek to wake him.

“Magnus.”

Similarly to Church, Magnus burrowed deeper under the throw blanket he had over himself, grumbling in his sleep. Alec couldn’t resist grabbing his phone and snapping a picture. The other man was curled up tightly in a ball with his brows drawn together in discontempt and Alec couldn’t resist documenting it. It was payback really for all the pictures Magnus had taken, and posted, of him.

“Magnus.” Alec said again, a little louder. Magnus had been working himself to the bone all week, trying to finalize everything for the release of his line as well as planning and designing things for next year. Alec could proudly say that since knowing Magnus he had learnt quite a bit about the fashion industry, more than he ever thought he would learn in his lifetime. But one thing that had become very clear to him was that designers were always thinking ahead. At dinner the other night, Magnus had been talking about plans he had for a spring outfit, two years down the road. And even though Alec didn’t understand most of the terms he was using, he loved listening to Magnus talk about his passion.

Magnus groaned again but this time blinked his eyes open, confusion clouding his features before he finally settled on Alec. A slow, lazy smile spread on his face. “Petition to have you be the first thing I wake up to at all times. I quite like this view.” He looked appreciatively over his nearly naked form and Alec rolled his eyes fondly, shaking his head at Magnus’ antics.

“Good evening to you too.”

Magnus quirked an eyebrow. “Is it? By my calculations, you have been gloriously half naked in my bed for over thirty seconds and I have yet to receive a hello kiss.”

Alec obliged happily, capturing Magnus’ lips in his own quickly and swallowing the surprised sound that came from his mouth. He recovered quickly though, laughing into the kiss and winding his hands around the back of Alec’s neck, fingers tickling the fine hairs there and using the downward momentum to pull him closer.

“Hello.”

“Hi.”

“How was your day?” Alec asked, moving back only far enough so that he could slip under the covers.

Magnus hummed, mirroring Alec. “The usual. More meetings with Lydia and the higher-ups to discuss marketing, finances and all that boring stuff I couldn’t really care less about.” He waved his hand dismissively, flopping down on the pillow.

“All that boring stuff is important. You should maybe care about it a little bit.” Alec pointed out, grinning.

“And I suppose that you are very invested in the marketing and finances of your books?” Magnus raised his eyebrows challengingly, smirking.

Alec shook his head, pursing his lips. “That’s what Simon’s for.”

Magnus breathed out a laugh. “Well my dear, I don’t have a Simon but I do have a Lydia and she is quite capable of fronting all of the boring things so I don’t have to.” Alec too laughed, turning to shut off the bedside lamp. “And how was your day, darling?”

The room plunged into darkness at the very same time Alec felt his heart skip a few beats. He had been warring with how to tell Magnus in the back of his mind all day. He had thought about keeping it a surprise for the release day at first, but the thought of keeping anything from Magnus quickly decided for him that that was not an option.

But he wanted it to be something bigger than just outright telling him. To mean something more. Gideon was something that was important to them both, as well as their relationship and Alec getting rid of that was a big deal. He knew Magnus meant it when he said that he would support him, but he couldn’t help but wonder if Magnus would be disappointed that Gideon was gone forever.

Under the veil of darkness, Alec was granted a moment to compose his words. He could hear his own heartbeat but almost louder than that was the steady in and out of Magnus’ breathing, calming whatever nerves he had been feeling.

“I met with Clary and Simon for another meeting.” He started.

Alec couldn’t see him, but he could feel the confusion in Magnus’ pause. “I thought you had your last meeting with Clary last week? Is the cover not done? They’re sending it into printing soon, aren’t they?.”

Alec nodded, but then realized Magnus probably couldn’t see the movement. “Yeah, there was uh - some last minute changes.” He hesitated, grinning. “Big changes I guess.” Gone were the nerves, and instead Alec was filled with excitement at telling Magnus and seeing his reaction.

“Oh?” Magnus asked, curious. He raised himself up onto his elbow and Alec, who’s eyes had adjusted slightly to the dark, could just make out his face.

Alec beamed. “Well, Clary got the name wrong so we needed to change that.”

Magnus, still not cluing in, looked concerned. “She misspelled your name? What did she put on the cover?”

Alec beamed cheekily. “She put Gideon Archer.”

Magnus’ eyebrows were drawn together and he was looking down at Alec, probably concerned for his mental health. Alec continued to beam at him silently, waiting for Magnus to catch on. He was worried that he would have to give him another hint when Magnus’ expression suddenly morphed from shock to excited happiness.

“Alexander! Please tell me you’re saying what I think you are.” He warned, smile huge.

“Did you think I was saying that I asked her to change the spelling to ‘Alec Lightwood’? Because you would have been right.”

Magnus’ excited gasp made up for not having a special moment planned out. He launched himself on top of Alec, wrapping his arms around his neck and exclaiming praises excitedly. Alec pulled him in, laughing, wishing that this moment would stay locked in his memory forever. He never wanted to forget the happiness he felt being pressed this close to Magnus or hearing his laugh in his ear or the way he rambled on excitedly about everything this meant for Alec and his career. This moment, in bed together laughing like children, made him happier than any candle-lit dinner or dramatic gesture ever could.

Just being with Magnus, no matter the setting, made Alec happier than anything he had ever known.

When they both finally calmed down Magnus pulled back and demanded to know everything, and so Alec told him about the entire meeting. About Simon and Clary’s initial reactions, to the reactions when they realized he was serious. He told him all about the plan they had created to make it happen, all the foundation that needed to be laid down before Alec could essentially come out to the world.

Magnus listened, but for most of it he was too excited and interrupted Alec every few minutes with a new question. Alec answered every single one, far too excited himself to chide Magnus. When he ran out of questions, Magnus showed his excitement in another way, a way that Alec preferred much more to talking.

And some time later when they were wrapped around each other and their heart rates lowered back to normal, laying side by side, Magnus whispered “I’m so proud of you, Alexander.” The words were pressed softly into the salty skin of Alec’s neck, like a secret. He smiled and pulled Magnus closer to his bare chest, kissing him on the temple.

“I love you.”

“And I love you too. Goodnight darling.”

Alec fell asleep that night feeling warm, sated and loved but most of all he felt utterly peaceful. A sense of calm had washed over him like the tide finally rolling back in. A peace he hadn’t felt in close to a decade. A serene quiet of the thoughts that had been raging for the past few years, finally shutting down and leaving his mind silent and blissfully worry free. The sword above him had finally fallen, but instead of falling on his head it had landed on the chains, breaking them open and unbinding him from the confines he had been in.

For the first time in a long time, Alec finally felt free.

 

***

 

“Alec you’ve got to be kidding me!”

Alec just shrugged, grinning at his sister and settling back into Magnus’ arm behind his chair. They were at Isabelle’s place for game night, and they were playing Monopoly. Alec had just secured Park Place and Boardwalk, swiping them both from Isabelle who had been eyeing them the whole game.

“Ruthless.” Jace muttered under his breath, meeting Alec in a high-five. Isabelle continued to glare at them both.

It had been a while since their last group get-together, what with coordinating everyone’s schedules. Simon, Clary and Alec were each respectively busy doing their part to make Operation Coming Out a success, Magnus was in the middle of distributing his new line and both Jace and Isabelle had been busy with their own careers. Isabelle and Magnus had teamed up and she had done all the photography for his summer line, something both of them were very excited about. While Isabelle had great exposure with Vogue, photographing for Magnus Bane was going to do great things for her career. At the same time, Magnus was excited to have a talented and familiar face shooting his line.

Alec had witnessed the two of them working first-hand. On the first day on set, he had brought them both over lunch. It had turned out to be a huge mistake.

One of Magnus’ models had had to back out of the shoot at the last minute and when Alec had arrived, his assistant Lily had been furiously calling around the city trying to find a last minute replacement. Magnus had quickly thanked Alec for the lunch with a quick kiss, turning back to Lily but the younger girl had been looking at Alec like he was a gift from heaven, phone frozen in her hand.

“Mr. Bane - uh, I mean Magnus, would your boyfriend maybe want to fill in?”

Everyone in the room had turned to Alec, Isabelle and Magnus with delighted expressions on their faces. And really, Alec had thought saying no to one of them was hard but trying to refuse both of them was next to impossible.

Which is how Alec ended up in a magazine modeling his famous fashion designer boyfriend’s clothing.

When the magazine came out, Isabelle and Magnus respectively bought almost every single copy in the entire city, giving it to everyone they knew. Jace and Max jokingly asked for his autograph before he was too famous to notice the little people. Alec helpfully reminded them that he was already too famous to notice them. This resulted in the three of them erupting into a group tackle in the middle of Magnus’ living room.

Magnus had taken the opportunity to post another picture of Alec on his Instagram too. Dating rumors had started to swirl after the last one he had posted, so Magnus had written the caption this time to ensure their would be no confusion on who Alec was to him.

And so it had been an eventful few months, but it was nice to finally have some family time with everyone all together again.

Their Monopoly game went on for another hour or so with Magnus once again claiming victory. He secured the game by gaining the last few properties he needed from Alec. Now that they were dating, Magnus just had to whisper a few dirty things in Alec’s ear for him to give up all his properties and go bankrupt, much to Isabelle’s dismay.

Once Magnus had been crowned the reigning champion, they moved into the living room, lounging on the couches. As per game night tradition, margaritas had been made and consumed and everyone was feeling the pleasant buzz, some more than others. Simon was draped in Isabelle’s lap, humming as she ran her fingers through his hair while both Jace and Clary were giggling together in their own world. Max, too young to drink, was watching them all with an amused expression.

Magnus had settled himself under Alec’s arm, head rested on his shoulder. Both of them were enjoyably tipsy but not so much so that they couldn’t control themselves like some of the others. Alec’s limbs were starting to feel heavy, being lulled by the steady in and out of Magnus’ breathing against him and the warm body pressed to his side. He almost missed it when Max called his name.

“Hmm?”

Max rolled his eyes. Apparently Alec had not only missed it when he had called his name, but the question following as well. “I said, are you going to give us any spoilers before the book release?”

A few sets of ears perked up around them and everyone looked at Alec hopefully. Alec found it hard to believe how fast time had flown by and it was almost time to share his novel with the world. He was always excited before an impending book release but this one was different for a lot of reasons.

He shook his head. “No spoilers, you know the rules.”

Jace lifted his head off the back of the couch. “He doesn’t know the rules! This is his first book release.” He gaze lazily found it’s way to Max. “Let me educate you, little brother.” He paused for dramatic effect but the alcohol in his system caused him to lose track of his thoughts, so Isabelle took over.

“Alec doesn’t share anything with anyone before the book is actually released. Even us.” She scowled at him so he blew her a kiss. “Simon is the same way. I tried bribing him with sexual favours to tell me what happened and he straight out refused. No pun intended.” She giggled. “The two of them are more secretive than Area 51 when it comes to Alec’s stuff.”

Magnus sighed, shaking his head at Isabelle. “I tried bribing Alexander, too. No amount of blowjobs would get him to talk.” Alec gaped at him while the rest of them cracked up. Though he wasn’t wrong, Alec wasn’t going to tell the rest of them that he had almost relented. Magnus had been very determined to get Alec to talk, and after three orgasms, Alec had been very close to spilling his secrets.

Magnus smiled unapologetically, clearly remembering the same thing that Alec was. If Alec was more sober he would probably be more embarrassed but he just rolled his eyes at Magnus and kissed him on the forehead.

The group spent the next little while trying to figure out more about the plot for the next book, making predictions and asking Alec and Simon if they were close. Both boys kept their mouths shut, revealing nothing.

“What about that new love interest of Bobby’s you introduced at the end of the last book? What was his name again?” Jace asked.

“Aidan.” Magnus supplied. “Are we ever going to see more of him? He was quite good for our dear protagonist.”

Alec shook his head, mimicking zipping his lips and throwing away the key. Everyone groaned.

“Well I think Bobby is going to choose him. He clearly makes him happy and brings out the best side of him.” Clary mused. She had read the first ten chapters of the book but hadn’t wanted to read any more and spoil it for herself. She had been good on the secret-keeping too, being true to her word and holding her tongue.

Isabelle nodded in agreement. “I want to see the progression of their relationship, everything was so new at the end of the last book. I hope we get to see more of the two of them and how they’ve grown closer.” She said, looking pointedly at Alec.

He sighed. “You’re all relentless. You only have to wait one more month and then you’ll have all the answers your little hearts desire.”

Magnus grinned up at him. “Yes, but why should we wait when the person with all the answers is right in front of us?”

Alec smirked. “Because the one with all the answers is keeping them locked up for the next thirty days, so he can have some peace and quiet without fans attacking him with questions.”

Magnus sighed in defeat, slumping against Alec’s side. “I thought dating Gideon Archer would give me all of the spoilers I wanted, but it just turns out he just guards them like Fort Knox.”

Alec laughed into Magnus’ hair, pulling him in. “Sorry to disappoint?”

Magnus smiled up at him. “It’s okay. You have plenty other redeeming qualities that make up for it. I still love you.”

“Oh good.” Alec remarked sarcastically. “I’m glad you love me for more than my career.”

Magnus sat up. His eyes sparkled mischievously, but there was love there that still took Alec’s breath away. “I love you for so many reasons. Too many to name. Well, I probably could and I’d be happy to but we’d be here for a very long time.” He kissed Alec on the cheek. “The fact that you’re more famous than me is just one of those reasons.”

Alec drew his brows together. He had never really thought about it but he guessed - technically - he was more famous than Magnus. Not that that mattered to him. Fame had never really affected him, but once Gideon was gone it would just be Alec in the spotlight, all alone.

The thought scared the crap out of him, but also excited him.

He shrugged, grinning cheekily. “Once I’m public, we’re going to be photographed when we go to the grocery store just like every other celebrity couple.”

“How am I ever going to leave the house? There will be paparazzi everywhere!” Magnus exclaimed dramatically.

Alec giggled and the two of them continued coming up with crazy ideas of how they would avoid the press. Realistically they both knew that they had nothing to worry about. There would probably be some media coverage and people wanting pictures of Alec at the beginning, but the world would soon grow bored and go back to following around real celebrities.

Magnus’ schemes were getting crazier and crazier and Alec was having a hard time containing his laughter. He was aware of the others looking at them but as far as he was concerned they were the only two in the room.

Alec sometimes wondered what would have happened if they had started dating right away, and skipped the whole friendship part of their relationship. Would things still be the same between them, or would they change? Alec liked to think that they would be different. He would still love Magnus, that much was a given, but he was sure that the dynamic of their relationship wouldn’t be what it was now.

Magnus was first and foremost Alec’s best friend. A friendship that had been built on trust, love and mutual interests that had blossomed over many months. Sure, Alec had been in love with Magnus since very early on, but them remaining just friends had solidified that friendship into something real and concrete.

The fact that they were in love and Alec could kiss him were just bonuses. Really good bonuses.

Magnus was smiling at him, head tilted to the side with his eyebrows raised. Alec shook his head to clear it and brought his mind back to the present. “Earth to Alexander. I was about to take my shirt off to try and get your attention.”

“Please don’t.” Simon quipped up from the other side of the room. “That couch is now half mine and I forbid you two to have sex on it.”

All of the heads in the room whipped over to stare at him and Isabelle. She wasn’t looking back at them though, but looking down fondly at Simon. Jace broke the surprised silence first. “You guys are shacking up?”

Simon raised an eyebrow, but nodded. Everyone broke out into excited congratulations and Clary went to grab everyone another drink so they could all cheers. Isabelle and Simon preened at the attention, looking disgustingly in love. Alec first pulled his sister into a hug and then his best friend, wishing them both the best. As much as he pretended to grumble about their relationship, he couldn’t imagine anyone better for his sister.

The rest of the night was spent filled with chat and laughter but soon ended the way many of their game nights ended; everyone drunk and falling asleep on the couches.

Eventually they all started migrating to the door, sleepy and exhausted. Magnus, Alec and Max were the last to leave and Alec told the two of them to head down and he would meet them in a few minutes. There was something he wanted to talk to Simon about but it was something he needed to do alone.

Isabelle saw Alec awkwardly standing near the door, hands clasped behind his back, and rolled her eyes. She wrapped him in a hug and kissed him on the cheek before telling Simon she would be in bed.

When she left the room Simon turned back to Alec. “If you’re actually going to give me the big brother talk, I wouldn’t bother. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop and for Isabelle to realize that she’s actually in a relationship with me.” He was joking, but Alec could hear the genuine concern in his voice.

He grinned. “Isabelle could crush you with one high heeled boot but for some reason she’s decided to keep you around and I obviously trust her judgement.” He bit his lip. “There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about though.”

Simon motioned for him to continue. “I know the book goes into printing tomorrow, but I have something I want to add. Something I need to add.”

Simon looked at him, but chuckled. “Your publisher loves me so I could probably call in a favour or two. What did you want to add?”

“Remember the author's note you asked me to write a while ago? I think I’ve finally decided what I want it to say.”

Simon had asked Alec for the authors note just before his fight with Magnus. He had worked on it for weeks but hadn’t been able to come up with a single line of text. Many of his other author’s notes had been quotes, one of them a dedication to his siblings but Alec had never had any issues in deciding what he wanted them to say. Nothing he wrote seemed to be good enough to be in the book that meant so much to him. Simon had been bugging him for it ever since and Alec eventually decided he just wouldn’t have one for this book, even though leaving it out felt wrong.

But the conversation tonight had decided for him exactly what he wanted to say, and he was sure that it was perfect. It was different from all of the others, definitely more personal but something he felt very strongly about and wanted everyone to know.

He grabbed a notepad off the table and wrote the words out, smiling when he saw them on the page. He couldn’t wait to see them in print.

Alec handed the single sheet to Simon, whose eyes lit up when he read it. “You’re sure?” He asked, though his voice held no doubt that Alec was going to say yes.

He was right.

Alec turned for the door but Simon’s hand on his shoulder stopped him. Alec turned around and met his best friend’s eyes, who just smiled back. “He’s going to love it, Alec.”

Alec nodded. “I hope so.” With that, he quickly said goodbye and ran down the stairs to find Max and Magnus sitting on the steps. Max was in the middle of telling Magnus about a new series he had started reading recently. They both looked up when they heard Alec behind them.

They started walking home and Alec listened to the two of them talk. So much had changed in his life in what seemed like no time at all. Alec wasn’t even sure if he would recognize himself from half a year ago, with all the changes he had gone through.

He was happy with where he was though and the obstacles he had overcome to have gotten to where he was today. There was a time in his life where he never imagined he would ever end up this happy and more than anything Alec wished he could go back and assure that younger, naive version of himself that everything would be okay. That he was going to be loved. That he was going to find someone who treated him with respect and so much love that he wouldn’t know what to do with it all. That he would find peace in his relationship - or lack thereof - with his parents. That his career would not only blossom but thrive and he would be comfortable enough to finally be himself.

There was a lot of things Alec wished he could tell his younger self, but he had found his way to where he was on his own two feet. Sometimes he had been stumbling and crawling through the dark but it had led him to this moment, so he supposed it wasn’t all that bad.

And so, with his brother at his side and his boyfriend’s hand clasped firmly in his own, Alec headed home.

Chapter Text

Release day came upon them a lot quicker than Alec expected.

A month ago, it had seemed so far away; that they had so much time to complete everything but in a blink of an eye thirty days had passed and Alec was in front of his mirror, once again being dressed by someone other than himself for an event.

Isabelle and Magnus had taken it upon themselves to be the official stylists for the day and had dressed everyone. Alec loved seeing them together, and the friendship that they had created. He had never been with someone who blended in so well with his family, but Magnus had been a part of it even before they had gotten together. It was hard not to imagine Magnus, years down the road at some family function, laughing and sipping wine with Isabelle or throwing jibes at Jace while giving Max a high-five; that thought filled Alec with warm pleasure.

Magnus fit seamlessly into their unconventional little family.

When it came to the actual outfits, the two of them had tried to convince Alec to go shopping. He told them he was still having war flashbacks from the last time, but he trusted both of their judgements when it came to his clothing choices. They had gone and made a day of it and had returned with more bags than Alec thought was necessary but he knew well enough not to question either of them when it came to clothing and fashion.

Apparently Magnus had picked out his outfit and Alec was pleasantly surprised with what he had chosen.

He had gone for business casual, but it was more casual than business which Magnus must have known Alec enjoyed (Magnus often expressed his appreciation for Alec in suits, something Alec didn’t understand much). He was in a pair of dark, fitting slacks and a blue button up. Isabelle rolled up the sleeves on the shirt, grinning devilishly at Alec (and if he noticed Magnus staring at his arms for a little bit longer than usual, well, he wasn’t going to give his sister the satisfaction of knowing she was right).

Alec jumped slightly when he felt arms circling around his waist, but relaxed when he saw Magnus’ face over his shoulder in the mirror. He was securing a red belt through Alec’s belt loops, something Alec never would have worn before meeting Magnus but now found he didn’t mind as much. “There,” he whispered. “Now that is an outfit.”

He looked himself over, from his styled hair all the way down to his Italian leather shoes, and he had to admit that Magnus was right.

Alec bit his lip, smiling. “Well, I am lucky enough to have my very own professional designer to dress me.”

Magnus chuckled softly, closing the buckle of the belt and walking around so he was facing Alec. He eyed Alec once, taking in every inch of him slowly. He was reminded of the first time they had gone to coffee, and the way Magnus had been so obviously checking him out. Alec remembered the way it had made him feel, like he was burning from the inside out in the best way. How the slow drag of Magnus’ eyes had lit his skin like fire, like Magnus was touching him with his hands instead.

And now, Alec knew that being touched by Magnus was like being touched by fire, but that feeling from the first day still hadn’t gone away.

Magnus grinned, running the back of his hand over Alec’s now flushed cheeks. “Well, I am lucky enough to have my own personal Ken doll to dress and … play with.”

Alec laughed, mouth dropping open. “Excuse you, but I object to that description of me!”

Magnus raised an eyebrow. “I don’t remember you objecting to anything last night. Or this morning.”

Alec rolled his eyes, conceding. Magnus did have a point after all. With a wink, he excused himself to go get changed, giving Alec a chaste peck on the lips as he left the room.

Alec took the opportunity to glance over at Simon who looked to be rather uncomfortable as Isabelle fixed his hair with gel. Simon had also not been allowed to dress himself for the signing today. He originally had planned to be in the background while Alec soaked up all of the attention. But unfortunately for him, most people knew Simon’s face with all the fronting he had done with Gideon in the past, and Clary informed him that it would be next to impossible to hide from the fans.

Alec and Simon made eye contact across the room, sharing a grimace. Simon had been dressed by Isabelle but she had chosen something from Magnus’ latest line. He was wearing a bold red suit with a simple white shirt underneath and no tie. Upon seeing the suit for the first time, his eyes had widened comically. “Magnus I love your work, I do, but I don’t really think I want to look like Santa Claus for Alec’s first signing.” Both Isabelle and Magnus had insisted that he at least try it on, and now that he had it on Alec could see him looking appreciatively at himself in the piece of clothing.

Isabelle, as always, looked amazing. She had taken a page out of Jace’s book and donned black skinny jeans, a white top and a leather jacket; though her shirt was a crop top and the jacket was embroidered with pink roses and bright red lipstick, giving it the traditional Isabelle flaire. She was wearing a pair of studded boots with heels so thin Alec was sure that they would pierce skin, but she walked as easily in them as Alec did in bare feet.

“What do you think?”

Magnus emerged from the hallway, fully dressed, and Alec was suddenly having a difficult time breathing. Alec still wasn’t over how stunningly attractive his boyfriend was, and it was times like this that that point was really driven home.

Magnus was dressed smartly in a pair of black skinny jeans and his favourite boots, the ones with a bit of a heel and a line of studs along the back. For his top, he had chosen a black button-up that had white polka dots on it, leaving it untucked and in classic Magnus fashion, a fair amount of buttons undone showing off his muscular chest and absolutely torturing Alec. His hair was straight black today, only styled with a bit of gel and he had left his makeup mostly natural, just kohl lining his eyes and some shimmer on his cheeks.

Alec was unabashedly staring, running his eyes up and down Magnus’ body greedily. A few months ago he would have shied away, or tried to ignore Magnus completely to keep himself from staring but he was allowed to look now and he planned on doing just that. For as long as he wanted.

But really, who could blame him when his boyfriend looked like that?

Magnus must have noticed the continuous track of Alec’s eyes because he smirked. “Alexander darling, it’s rude to stare.” But contradictory to his words, he held his arms out and did a slow twirl, keeping his eyes locked on Alec for as long as he could.

Alec chuckled. “Something tells me you don’t mind much.”

“Yes, but we do.” Simon pointed out. Isabelle was adjusting his pocket square and finishing some last minute touch-ups to his hair. “You’d think after over half a year together the two of you would be out of the honeymoon phase and want to stop constantly eye-fucking each other.”

Isabelle pinched his shoulder. “Leave them alone, you. They’re in love and I think that’s beautiful.”

He scoffed and muttered something under his breath that sounded like “it’s not beautiful when it’s in public.”

“Ah,” Magnus pointed out. “That is where you are wrong, Sam. We’re not in public, we’re in Alexander’s apartment which means we can, as you so eloquently put it, ‘eye fuck’ each other as much as we want.”

“Plus it’s release day, and Operation Coming Out day which means I can do whatever I want.” Alec added, grinning and placing his arm around Magnus’ waist and pressing a exaggerated kiss to his cheek. Isabelle laughed, patting Simon’s chest soothingly when he muttered some unsavory words in Alec’s direction.

Usually, on the release day of a Gideon book, it was available online at midnight and was in the stores by the time they opened worldwide. For the most part, Alec often tended to stay home and sort through reviews and the social media pages, while Simon made the trips out to various stores to check on sales and do a few interviews. Sometimes Alec would tag along, always under the guise of being some sort of assistant to Simon, just to witness the mayhem in the stores as his books sold out.

This time was going to be different.

It had taken some negotiating, but all sales had been halted until seven am, both online and in store. It was difficult, but not as difficult as Alec had expected. He and Simon had gone around, sent emails and had meetings with various companies and stores and as soon as they told them that Gideon had requested the delay in the sales, many of them agreed right away. Some companies took a little more convincing than others but in the end they all came around; it was essential to the plan that no one saw the cover before the announcement was made.

The announcement part would be taken on by both Simon and Alec. They had arranged for Gideon Archer’s first ever book signing to be at the Barnes & Noble on 5th Ave, and a tour following that where Alec would travel to bookstores around the world. They had also generated a sizeable buzz online, fans worldwide scrambling to get tickets to finally meet their favourite author.

At exactly seven in the morning New York time, Simon and Alec would address a group of reporters and pre-approved press and tell them exactly who Gideon Archer was, introducing Alec to the public spotlight. At the same time, various interviews they had done weeks earlier with trusted news sites would be released online, the online sales would open up, and vendors in store would be cleared to start selling.

Timing was going to be everything in order for it all to go off without a hitch, but Alec had confidence in his team to pull the whole thing off flawlessly.

Sooner than Alec had expected, it was time to head to the store. Magnus had brought his car for the occasion and everyone piled in. Alec had given Max special permission to miss school for the day and had written a note to his teachers explaining his absence. He looked in the rearview mirror at his brother, chatting excitedly with Simon and Isabelle in the back seat. He too, had been dressed by Magnus and Isabelle and looked very grown up in his dress shirt and slacks, sending a small pang through Alec’s chest.

Alec wondered if this is what parents felt like when they watched their children grow up.

Magnus took one hand off the steering wheel and held it out in his direction, and Alec laced his fingers through gratefully. He didn’t need to say anything, but just the simplest touch from Magnus was enough to calm him down and bring him back to Earth. Magnus squeezed his hand lightly, sending Alec a smile before bringing his eyes back to the road.

They arrived in no time, Magnus parking the car around the back. There were various news vans parked there as well and Alec’s stomach flipped. This was real. This was actually happening. He was going to tell the world his biggest, most hard-kept secret.

Magnus joined his hand with Alec’s again as soon as he was out of the car, drawing soothing circles on the back of his hand. Isabelle was rattling off instructions to him and Simon, things to do and not to when on camera, having taken on the unofficial role of PR representative. Alec tried to listen but he kept zoning out, missing large sections of what she was saying. It was a little hard to focus when he had one thought on a loop in his mind.

The world was going to know exactly who he was in less than an hour.

They entered through the back entrance. As soon as they crossed the threshold they could hear the roar of the fans from the front of the store. Alec wasn’t sure the number of people they had let in for the event, but he was fairly sure that it was close to the maximum number of people allowed in the building judging by the sound of them.

The next 45 minutes flew by with getting fit for microphones, instructions from both Isabelle and the various camera crews and Simon asking him to read his speech one more time. The only thing that kept Alec from floating away was Magnus’ presence next to him. Magnus had insisted on staying with Alec until he went in front of the crowd and for that Alec was grateful. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to do this without Magnus’ whispered comforting words or the silent, steady press of his hand against Alec’s lower back.

Everything seemed like it was happening so fast, but in reality they had been preparing for this moment for months, and it had been sitting in the back of Alec’s mind for years before that. He was nervous; God, he was freaking out but he knew that he would feel better when it was over. It would be nerve wracking and unpleasant for a while but then it would get better and be worth it in the end. It had to be.

“Five minutes until we’re live, Mr. Lightwood.” Alec nodded to the stage hand, not trusting himself to speak. He held the cue cards Simon had typed out for him in his hands, shuffling through them nervously. He could see Izzy watching him from the corner of his eye, concern clouding her features. Simon too, was looking at Alec warily.

He felt a light tug on his elbow and looked down to see Magnus gesturing towards a secluded corner. Alec followed wordlessly.

Magnus stopped in front of Alec and smiled up at him, raising onto his toes to press a kiss to Alec’s lips. It was chaste, but it was enough to make Alec’s head spin the same way it had when he had first kissed Magnus. The kiss reminded him why he was here and why he was doing this. Why he not only wanted to do this, but needed to do it.

Magnus grabbed the cards from his hand and placed them in the back pocket of his slacks, before adjusting his shirt, straightening out invisible kinks. “You don’t need these. You’ve made a career out of dazzling people with your words. All you need to do is tell them the truth.”

Alec swallowed. “The truth. Right.”

Magnus smiled reassuringly. “Think of it as a story. What do you do when you have a story? You tell it. And Alexander, you are the most beautiful story teller I have ever met. They’re going to love you.”

He let out a long breath and pressed his forehead to Magnus’, reveling in the closeness of him. Magnus placed his hands around Alec’s waist, a soft and constant presence. Safe.

Home.

“I’m going to preemptively answer your next question, which I assume is going to be ‘how do you know?’. I know because I know you and I also know Gideon Archer. I know those people out there waiting for you and how much they love you. I was one of those people, clamouring to get my hands on the newest copy of your books. I still am one of those people, love. So trust me when I say that you could say anything to them, and they would still love you and your writing just as much.”

Alec could feel his heartbeat thudding in his ears, but this time for a much different reason. He tried to think of something, anything, he could say back but Magnus just pressed a single finger to his lips, eyes twinkling and lips curved up in a smile. “Now, I believe you have somewhere to be, my darling.”

The stage hand was back and ushered Alec away. He glanced back to see Magnus standing the same spot, waving. Alec only had time to wave back before he was being pushed through the curtain and in front of the crowd.

 

***

 

Alec wasn’t sure if there was any way to describe the rest of how the day went.

Hectic would definitely be a word that he would use. And overwhelming. Terrifying. Difficult. But also joyous. Exciting. Moving.

Freeing.

The moment he stepped out onto the stage, things started moving at hyper-speed and it was all he could do to hold on and not be thrown off. Every statement made by Simon or himself was like someone cranking up the throttle just a little bit more. They were walking a constant line of speeding too fast, either crashing into flames or making it past the finish line to victory.

Alec wasn’t sure about the flames, but victory tasted so much sweeter than he had ever dreamed it would.

Sales had tripled from his last book in the first hour, online stores selling out in mere minutes. Simon started getting calls from stores as soon as they got off the stage, begging for more copies. Max had been placed in charge of social media for the day and every single one of Gideon’s accounts were reaching record breaking notification levels. Alec’s own accounts were gaining new followers every single minute.

There was no way to describe the atmosphere in the bookstore other than completely insane. The crowd was responsive to every single word Alec spoke, showing their love through nearly constant screaming, cheers and clapping.

They had invited Clary up on stage for the official release of the cover and Alec was sure that the roof was going to blow off. Even though their voices were being projected around the room, he was still shouting to be heard over the excited noise. Clary had pulled the sheet off of the easel to reveal the blown up version of months of hard work, and was rewarded with incredible volumes of noise. She had began to tear up, so Alec pulled her into a tight hug, whispering praise and thanks in her ear.

The cover itself was beautiful and looked even better on the front of the book than it did in the digital copies he had seen from Clary originally. The book was heavy in his hands, bearing the weight of everything it resembled and Alec was glad that it had a cover that did it justice.

Also, finally seeing his name on the front filled him with endless pride.

Alec looked up from a copy of the book that was sitting on the table in front of him, to the excited fan that was grinning at him expectantly. He smiled at her and thanked her for coming, signing his autograph in the front of the book before she moved away and was replaced by another, and another and another..

He had been to author signings before but never once thought he would have one of his own. It was an amazing feeling being able to finally get to meet his fans face-to-face after all these years.

Alec wasn’t sure who was more excited to be there, the fans or him.

It was nice, talking with the fans. Many of them had stories of their own to share, how Alec’s books had helped them come out to parents or loved ones or just helped them feel more comfortable in their own skin. Others came up with theories, excited to share what they thought was going to happen. To Alec’s amusement, many of the fans wanted to know the fate of Aidan, the man Bobby had begun to fall for at the end of the previous book.

Alec met with and signed as many books as possible, going well beyond the scheduled time to make sure he got to see everyone. But he was dying to see his family and friends. He was dying to see Magnus. He and Simon had been pulled right from the stage and brought directly to where the signing had taken place and hadn’t left that spot ever since. Alec didn’t know where everyone was but he knew he needed to find them.

Hours later, the line was finally thinning and after seeing the last few fans, Alec got up from the table. His hand was cramping in the worst way and his butt felt like it had gone completely flat from sitting for so long but Alec couldn’t remember the last time he felt this elated. He had just completed his first of many book signings and he was feeling on top of the world.

He got up from the chair and stretched his arms over his head, enjoying the stretch and the unknotting of his tight muscles. He looked down at the stack of books sitting on the table and picked one up of the top, flipping to the first page, where the authors note was located.

He fished the pen out of his pocket and scribbled a personal dedication underneath the single line of text, looking over his work before he closed the book and headed back behind the curtain that led backstage.

He found everyone there, lounging on the couches. It reminded Alec so much of game night, all of them relaxed and laughing with one another.

Max was the first to notice him come through the curtain and got up, slamming into Alec and wrapping his arms around Alec’s neck. Alec caught his little brother in his arms, laughing as Max excitedly told him how proud he was and how he was already getting so many amazing reviews.

When Alec finally disentangled himself, the rest of the group had come over and soon Alec was being greeted with hugs, kisses on the cheek and excited congratulations. Jace pulled Alec into a tight hug and when he pulled back Alec could swear there was a few tears in his eye, but Jace turned away before Alec could really be sure. Clary and Simon tackled him in a group hug, both of them ecstatic that Operation Coming Out and all of their hard word had gone over so well.

Lydia and Maia had even shown up as well. Maia had seen the announcement on the TV in Java Jones and the two of them had come rushing down. She punched Alec in the arm, exclaiming that she couldn’t believe he had kept something like this from her for their entire friendship. Alec laughed and said he had kept it from everyone, not just her, so she shouldn’t feel that special. Alec had only ever heard stories about Magnus’ boss, but she smiled warmly at him and shook his hand and told him it was about time they finally met. Apparently Magnus had been talking about him at work and Lydia was happy to finally put a face to the name.

Alec looked around, desperate to see the one face he was almost always looking for but stopped short when he saw his little sister. She was standing before him, brown eyes wide and filled with tears.

“Isabelle, Iz, hey.” Alec looked over her shoulder to see the rest of the group move back a few paces, giving them some space. “It’s okay. Come here.” He pulled her tight to his body and her shoulders shook as she cried.

He held her close and when she had started to pull herself together she spoke. “I am so proud of you. Alec, you did it.” Her voice was watery and Alec could feel his emotions bubbling up. He had gone the whole day without getting emotional, but leave it to Isabelle to break those walls down.

“I love you, Izzy. Thank you for being here.” He kissed her on the head, speaking softly. “None of this would have been possible without you.” Alec knew that he meant those words, one hundred percent. Isabelle had been the one to convince Alec to just open his eyes and see what was right in front of him. She had shown him love and shown him that he was loved, especially when he couldn’t see it himself. He owed so much to her, for everything she had done.

She shook her head but started laughing wetly, tears still streaming down her face. Alec watched her and couldn’t stop his own laugh and then the two of them were holding each other, laughing and smiling at each other like idiots.

Isabelle sighed, smiling and leaned up onto her toes to whisper in his ear. “I’ll bring everyone out to the front of the store.” She kissed him on the cheek once before, true to her word, she corralled the group and led them out the curtain and into the store.

Magnus was sitting on the couch, arm thrown over the cushion, watching Alec with an amused smile on his face. Alec sauntered over, sitting down casually on the couch across from Magnus. He grinned. “What’s up?”

Magnus barked out a laugh, throwing his head back. “Oh, nothing out of the ordinary. How about yourself, Alexander?”

Alec shrugged nonchalantly. “I just told the entire world about my second identity. Just your everyday stuff.”

Both of them were so far beyond acting casual at this point. They had mirroring grins, and they both appeared to be trying very hard to stay where they were sitting.

Magnus held up the act, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. “So Mr. Archer, how does it feel now that the entire world knows your real name?”

Alec grinned, copying Magnus’ position. “You know, I can’t complain. So far it’s not too bad.”

He shook his head, eyes crinkling and lips pursed. “Mhm. I have to admit, having a famous boyfriend isn’t so bad either. I hear you’ve almost surpassed me in Twitter followers.”

Alec raised his eyebrows, smirking. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Magnus finally, finally got off his couch and moved over to Alec’s, settling himself on Alec’s lap. Alec was aware that anyone could walk in at any moment, but he trusted that his sister most likely had someone guarding the door, barring anyone from entering. He also didn’t care. The world knew who he was, and they also knew he was with Magnus so why shouldn’t he be allowed to have his boyfriend sit on his lap in public?

“I love you.” Magnus whispered softly into the space between them. “And, I couldn’t be more proud of you if I tried.”

Alec bit his lip, smiling. “I love you too.” He kissed Magnus on the cheek. “Thank you for sticking around through everything.”

Magnus shook his head. “You made it impossible to leave. I wouldn’t ever consider it.” He paused, pulling back and fixing Alec with a serious look. “Actually, I take that back. If I don’t get a copy of that book soon I might have to consider it.”

Alec chuckled and pushed Magnus lightly so that he moved off and onto the couch beside him. Pulling the book from behind his back, Alec held it out to Magnus tentatively. “I had Isabelle make sure that you didn’t get one, you know, until I could give you this. I, uh - I wanted to give it to you myself.” Alec rubbed his hand on the back of his neck and watched as Magnus plucked the book from his outstretched hand.

He was brought back to the first conversation they had ever had, when Alec was reading Shadows and he had bumped into Magnus in that coffee shop. How Magnus had grabbed the book from his hand, similarly to how he was now, and how Alec had watched him, fascinated by the man before him. Not much had changed but at the same time, almost everything had.

Alec watched with baited breath as Magnus took the book in his hand, fingers running gently over the cover. “It’s beautiful.” He had of course, seen it earlier today along with everyone else, but it looked much more different when actually attached to a book.

“It was all Clary.” Alec murmured. Magnus smiled, nodding. This was a big day for Clary as well as himself, and Alec knew how proud Magnus was of her.

Magnus pulled open the cover, almost in slow motion. Alec hadn’t told anyone but Simon what he was planning but the others had probably figured it out by now, each of them with their own copies of his novel.

Alec watched as Magnus flipped the page and read the words he had scribbled down for Simon all those weeks ago. His eyes would most likely find the handwritten note first, a simple ‘Magnus, I love you. Love, Alec/Gideon’. He would then travel up the page to find a single line of text. Alec could see them clearly in his own head, as if they were sitting right in front of him.

To my own Aidan, will you marry me?

It was crazy, Alec knew that but he also knew that he had never before felt what he felt for Magnus. He couldn’t imagine living a single day of his life without Magnus in it, beside him.

Alec slowly, nervously, lowered himself from the couch to the floor, crouching on one knee. He cleared his throat, licking his lips before delivering the speech he had prepared. “Magnus, I love you. You’re my best friend and my greatest love. I can’t remember a time when you weren’t in my life and I don’t want there to be a day where I can’t come home to you. I know this is fast and a little bit crazy, but love makes you crazy right?” He chuckled. Magnus had the book open in his hand still but his focus was completely on Alec. His eyes were shining with unshed tears and he had one hand covering his mouth.

“I’m going to spoil a bit of the book for you, but it will be worth it.” He smiled and waited for Magnus to nod before he continued. “Aidan and Bobby stay together. They fall in love. And it’s one of those cheesy, rom-com, soul mate kind of loves.” He paused. “It’s our love.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from Magnus but otherwise he stayed quiet. “Aidan came to Bobby during a time in his life when he thought it wasn’t going to get any better. He came in and saved Bobby, made him whole again, re-taught him how to love.” Alec reached out and grabbed the book from Magnus, setting it gently on the table and reaching out to take Magnus’ hands in his own. “That’s what you’ve done for me, Magnus. I felt lost before you, and I know it’s hard for you to understand because you didn’t know me before, but I had lost myself. You brought me back and - as cliche as it sounds - made me who I am today.”

Alec let out a long breath and squeezed Magnus’ hands, reassuring. “You - you don’t have to say yes, obviously. I know how you feel about me and if this isn’t what you want right now, we can wait. I would wait forever if it meant I got to marry you one day.”

He looked straight into Magnus’ eyes, smiling softly. “So, Magnus Bane. Will you marry me, Alec Lightwood?”

The seconds Magnus took to deliberate his answer were quite possibly the longest of Alec’s life. He had bared his soul completely, honestly, but he trusted it wholeheartedly in Magnus’ safe hands.

Alec trusted Magnus with everything he had; his heart, his soul, his body. He knew that even if Magnus said no, if he said he wasn’t ready yet, that he would continue to love Alec just as Alec would continue to love him. He knew that Magnus wanted to get married one day, he just really hoped that day was today.

After what seemed like eternity, Magnus slid off the couch and down to the floor so that he kneeling was directly across from Alec. Their hands were still joined together, almost as if they were already at the alter.

Magnus regarded Alec for a moment, slowly taking in the features of his face. It was hard for Alec to be this close to him and not pull him into a kiss but kissing would inhibit Magnus from answering so he stayed where he was patiently.

A slow grin spread on Magnus’ lips, lighting up his entire face and it was the most beautiful thing Alec had seen in the entire world.

He spoke softly, confidently, and said one word. The most amazing word in the entire English language as far as Alec was concerned.

“Yes.”

 

 

The End