Magnus and Alec knew there was something troubling their son Max as soon as he walked in through the door to their apartment and headed straight to his room without even saying hello.
Their sons had been at the Institute all day whilst Alec and Magnus were busy with work – Magnus having to deal with the various outstanding demands of his clients and Alec going out on a patrol with Jace – so Isabelle agreed to watch over them both whilst Clary was training with Simon. Usually Alec’s mother Maryse would volunteer to look after the boys but recently Rafael had started his training and Max didn’t want to be left out. Although warlocks couldn’t bear runes on their skin and therefore couldn’t train with seraph blades, it didn’t mean that Max couldn’t train with his brother and other Shadowhunter students.
Rafael walked through the door with Isabelle not long after Max, his backpack slung over his shoulder. Alec stood up and greeted his sister as Magnus gave Rafe a hug. “Thanks for watching the boys today.”
“It’s no problem big brother.” Isabelle replied with a smile reaching up and giving Alec a peck on his cheek. “I love spending time with my favourite nephews.”
“They’re your only nephews,” Magnus interrupted with a wave from his desk by the window, Rafael standing beside him as he unpacked his bag. “Well, unless Biscuit’s little one decides it’s going to be male.” Magnus shivered suddenly. “The idea of Blondie breeding little Herondales…it’s the stuff of nightmares.”
Alec shared an amused look with Isabelle as Magnus spoke. “Be thankful Clary’s not going to give birth for another seven months yet.” Isabelle said, flicking her long dark hair out of her eyes. “Although, if she’s anything like our Mom when she was pregnant with Max, maybe we should be worried.”
“I’m sure Jocelyn and Luke will take care of her.” Alec said before glancing in the direction Max went with a worried frown. “Did something happen to Max at the Institute? He doesn’t seem very happy.”
Isabelle shrugged as a small crease appeared on her brow. “I don’t know. He was fine earlier.”
“None of the other kids at training will talk to him.” Rafael suddenly spoke, now seated on the couch and stroking a purring Chairman Meow in his lap.
Magnus swivelled around in his chair and looked at Rafael in concern. “Why won’t any of the other kids talk to him?” Rafael shrugged and tickled Chairman Meow’s belly as the aging cat flopped on its back in contentment. Alec looked over at Magnus worriedly and Magnus nodded in understanding. “I’ll go talk to him.”
Magnus stood up and headed to the boys shared bedroom, quietly knocking on the door before turning the handle to let himself in. “Blueberry, is everything okay?”
Although Magnus had offered to magically expand his apartment to accommodate another bedroom, Max and Rafael refused, preferring instead to continue sharing a bedroom despite now growing into early adolescence. At first Magnus couldn’t understand their decision. He loved being able to have space where he could just relax in privacy – especially after a particularly stressful day – but he came to realise that perhaps his sons liked the safety of having someone around for company. And, Magnus reasoned, it had proven quite useful in the past when Max had trouble controlling his magic whilst he slept and when Rafael had nightmares of when he was living on the streets in Buenos Aires. So for now, Magnus was okay with the sleeping arrangements.
Magnus glanced around the room, taking in the piles of dirty clothing decorating the floor and other stray belongings not in their usual place. Magnus puffed out his cheeks at the sight before spying Max, lying on his front on his bed, with his face in his pillow. “Goodness Max! Did you and Rafe try summoning a demon in here? It’s such a mess.” Magnus asked before he blinked in surprise. “Ugh, I sound like an adult. A responsible adult. Blueberry, come knock some sense into your Papa before I start doing one of your Dad’s lectures.”
Max rolled over on his bed until his back was facing Magnus, before curling up into a ball and hugging his knees to his chest. Magnus sat down on Max’s bed touching Max’s arm with his hand, his fingernails painted a deep purple colour. “Rafael says that the other children don’t want to talk to you for some reason.” Max stayed silent on the bed and Magnus felt a small bubble of worry starting to form in his chest. “Is everything alright at training? Did something happen to you today?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Max grumbled into his knees. His whole body was tense.
“Are you sure? You know you can tell us anything and we will try to help.” Magnus said quietly, rubbing his hand up and down Max’s arm soothingly. Max remained quiet. “Your father and I are worried that something is upsetting you.”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it Papa.” Max replied, shaking off Magnus’s hand and leaving him feeling hurt. Max breathed in shakily. “Please go away.”
Magnus stared at his son worried that he wasn’t going to be able to help him. He tried to think of all of the different ways he and Alec had managed to get Max to talk when he was a baby but then realised that probably wouldn’t work now on a nearly-teenager. He was in a more difficult position. He was almost thinking of recruiting Alec and Isabelle to come help him when he heard a sniffle and turned to Max. Magnus watched in sorrow as he suddenly realised that Max was quietly crying to himself.
“Oh Max,” Magnus gathered Max up in his arms, despite the boy’s slight protest and held him against his chest, stroking his dark blue hair as his son wept. “Please tell me what happened. You’re really starting to worry me. Should I get Dad?” Max shook his head.
“I hate being a Warlock. Everyone keeps staring at my horns. No one will talk to me because they’re too scared. I have no friends Papa.” Max cried desperately into Magnus’s chest. “Rafael makes friends so easily but whenever I try to go talk to anyone they all avoid me or make fun of my looks. I even tried to glamour myself today but it didn’t work.”
“But Max, you said you didn’t like covering up your skin.”
“I don’t Papa, but what am I supposed to do?” Max sighed hopelessly, wiping his tears away. “I’m sick of being on my own all the time at training. I do actually want some friends of my own.”
Magnus held Max quietly as he let his son calm down. Blueberry doesn’t have any friends, Magnus thought with a frown of concern. Life as an immortal is tough as it is, watching your loved ones grow old and die without you, feeling like the whole world is slipping past you and you’re just stuck in a pit of concrete unable to move forward. Magnus didn’t know what he would do without his friends, even the ones who eventually passed on, knowing that they had helped him through centuries of loneliness and sorrow.
Magnus looked down at his son. “Blueberry, why don’t your father and I come to the Institute with you both tomorrow?”
Max grimaced at his Papa. “No, no it’s okay. You don’t have to. I can figure something out.”
“Why not? You’re not embarrassed of us are you?” Magnus asked, feeling a nervous knot appear in his chest. “I know we’re not the most typical parents compared to other families, but having two fathers is a lot more common now than you might think.”
Max shook his head. “Papa, it’s not that. Of course I’m not embarrassed of you or Dad. You’re my parents, I love you.” Magnus smiled warmly as Max spoke, feeling the knot in his chest disappear. “It’s just that most kids don’t have their parents spying on them in their lessons.”
Magnus raised his eyebrows. “Who says we’re going to be spying on you? I’m sure your Dad has some business to do with the Alliance and he could need my diplomacy.”
Max gave Magnus a look as if to say that he saw right through Magnus’s plan. It was a look that Max had seen Catarina give Magnus once when he had tried to persuade her to casually lend him her house keys on her birthday. Suffice to say, Magnus’s plan didn’t work and Max had been trying to copy that look ever since, thinking that it would make him look more formidable against his enemies when he eventually became a notorious pirate.
Magnus relented with a half smile. “Okay fine, we won’t come until your lessons are over. I promise.” Max nodded, breaking away from Magnus’s arms and picking up one of his books from his bedside table.
“I should probably get some reading done. Beatriz is quizzing everyone on the Accords during the Mortal War tomorrow and I want to make sure I’ve revised it all.” Max said gesturing to the book, which Magnus recognised as Alec’s old copy of the Codex, in his hands.
“Okay Blueberry. We’ll shout when dinner is ready.” Magnus leaned over and kissed the top of Max’s head, squeezing his shoulder comfortingly before he left the room.
Magnus walked into the living room. Rafael was sat on the couch watching a film with Chairman Meow whilst Alec was fletching some arrows by Magnus’s desk, drawing runes on each one with his stele and putting them in his quiver once he was happy with them. Magnus pulled up a chair next to Alec who glanced at him in greeting before concentrating on another arrow. “Is everything alright with Max?”
Magnus shook his head. “Not really. Did you know that Max is struggling to make friends?”
Alec looked at him in surprise and put down his arrow. “No. I mean – well, Isabelle did mention Beatriz saying he was a little shy around the other kids but I thought it might have been nerves.”
Magnus shook his head glancing over at Rafael before lowering his voice. “Max said he tried to glamour himself today Alec.”
“He did?” Alec looked towards the boys’ bedroom worriedly.
“It’s not right Alexander. Max shouldn’t have to glamour himself to fit in just because he’s a Warlock.” Magnus said agitated that a bunch of snot-nosed kids could make Max so upset.
“That’s what I said to him.”
Magnus and Alec jumped in surprise to find Rafael staring at them quietly from the sofa. Chairman Meow perched next to him peering up at them all as if wondering why no one was looking at him instead. There was a little crease between Rafael’s eyebrows. “I told Max that if they had a problem with him being a Warlock then they can all go fall on their seraph blades.”
“Good.” Magnus said feeling a bubble of pride form in his chest as he looked at Rafe.
Rafe smiled at his parents just as Chairman Meow began to climb up his chest, digging his claws in to his skin to try and get the boy’s attention. Rafe stroked the Chairman’s head before turning back to Magnus and Alec. “Beatriz said that she wants to take us to Alicante at the end of the week to teach us about how Sebastian Morgenstern brought down the wards during the Mortal War. Can we go please?”
Magnus glanced at Alec who had gone still. The Lightwoods had only recently started telling Max and Rafael about their family’s role during the Mortal War, including what had happened to Alec and Isabelle’s little brother Max. But they had decided not to tell them how he had died, preferring to say that Sebastian had murdered Max and leave it at that. Even now after more than a decade later, Max’s death brought up too much pain. They knew they would have to tell them soon and it would seem that it’d be sooner than they had thought.
Alec nodded stiffly. “I don’t see why not. It is part of our heritage as Shadowhunters after all…” Magnus could tell Alec was struggling with how much he wanted to say. Did they sit the boys down and let them know exactly what had happened, or did they wait until their trip to Alicante and deal with the results when they returned home? After all, the subject of Max's death may not come up at all. Maybe they would only focus on the war itself and not how each member fell…
“Cool, I’ll go tell Max.” Rafe smiled before he stood up and headed to his room with a grumbling Chairman Meow following closely behind. Alec watched Rafe go as a small crease appeared on his brow before suddenly he felt Magnus place a kiss on the top of his head. Alec turned around to find Magnus looking at him sadly.
“I’m fine Magnus.” Alec said firmly, dropping the subject for another time. “I’ll tell Izzy that we’ll pick up the boys tomorrow and we’ll see what’s going on.”
Magnus nodded. “Okay. I’ll make dinner.” He stood up brushing some invisible lint from his clothes and conjured up a menu from Taki’s. Alec rolled his eyes with a smirk.
“I’ll go let the boys know.” Alec said setting down his stele before standing up and heading to the boys room. “Boys, your Papa is ordering take out – By the Angel, look at the state of this room!”
Magnus chuckled quietly to himself with a shake of his head.
“Are you sure we couldn’t just wait by the door?” Magnus asked casting a glance over at the training room door which was shut at the end of the corridor. “We could just take a peek. They’ve only got a couple of minutes until the end of their lessons anyway.”
“Magnus, you promised.” Alec said not taking his eyes away from the documents in his hands. The documents were outlines for Downworlder rights to territory and voting ages. All pretty dull stuff but had to be done.
“I know, I know.” Magnus grumbled turning away from the door and looking at Alec. “I just want to know if Max is okay that’s all.”
“He’ll be fine. Rafe’s with him.” Alec closed the folder in his hands and rubbed his eyes tiredly. “And if not we’ll talk to Max together.”
The door opened and a dozen students came flooding out tiredly. Some were chatting with each other about their plans for the evening whilst others complained about their aching limbs. There was even a pair of boys holding each other up as they limped behind at the back of the group. Lastly, straggling at the back of the class Rafael and Max walked out. Rafe shouldered his bag with one arm whilst the other patted Max’s arm, trying to cheer up his younger brother who pointedly stared at the floor.
“Try not to let them get to you hermano,” Rafael was saying as they walked towards Magnus and Alec. “They’re not worth it.”
Magnus looked at his sons and felt his eyebrows crease with worry. “Is everything okay? What happened?”
“Nothing Papa. Can we just go home now?” Max said shoving his hands in his pockets and sped up his pace.
Magnus stopped and turned around to find a young girl around Rafael’s age hurrying after them carrying a thick book in her hands. She had long dark hair which was tied back into a messy bun at the back of her head and light brown eyes the colour of chocolate that made Magnus think that she wasn’t originally from New York. She came to a stop before Rafe and Max, breathing heavily as she held out the book to them. “You forgot your Codex. I found it lying on one of the benches in there so I thought I’d best return it to…” She trailed off as she looked up at Magnus and Alec stood quietly behind them.
An awkward silence fell around them all as the young girl continued to stare at Magnus and Alec. Magnus put on his most dazzling smile and held out his hand in greeting. “Hello there. I’m Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn and this is my husband Alexander Lightwood. We’re Rafe and Max’s parents.” The girl squeaked and took a step back as she stared at Magnus’s hand with wide eyes. Alec caught Max’s face turning a bright shade of violet as he shuffled from one foot to the other whereas Rafe was looking between Magnus’s hand and the girl in confusion.
Magnus opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by Alec putting his hands on his shoulder. “Okay, we’ll just let you kids talk for a moment in private. Boys, we’ll just be over here.”
“I was only saying hello Alexander.” Magnus protested as Alec dragged him away down the hall.
“I know Mags, but let’s just give them a bit of space for a moment. The poor girl looked like she was about to faint.” Alec said as they stopped around the corner.
Magnus scoffed with a roll of his eyes. “Oh come on, I know a have a bit of a reputation but I’m not that scary.”
“Maybe not with the family but with everybody else you can be.” Alec said as they came to a stop just around the corner of the hallway. Alec cupped his hands on Magnus’s face and pressed a small kiss to Magnus’s mouth. Magnus let out a long sigh as he wrapped his arms around Alec’s waist.
“Okay, fine.” Magnus peered around the corner and spotted the girl standing nervously with their sons. “Perhaps we can get a bit closer…”
“I just want to know what they’re talking about that’s all. I’m worried about them.” Magnus watched as Rafe started speaking whilst Max took the book from the girl.
Alec let out a huff and shook his head. “You’re not going to drop this are you?”
“Ssh! I can’t hear what they’re saying.” Magnus shushed with a wave of his hand. Alec rolled his eyes.
“This is ridiculous, Mags.”
Magnus turned and gave Alec a look. “Hey, it’s your job to worry about their safety and school. Just let me worry about their social lives okay darling? No son of ours is going to grow up with no friends.” Magnus peered around the corner and watched as their sons went to sit on one of the benches along the side of the corridor. Magnus could only faintly hear what they were saying.
“So, you’re both Lightwoods?” the girl said confusedly.
“Our surname is Lightwood-Bane, actually.” Max clarified, his hands fidgeting with the pages of the Codex sitting in his lap. “Well, Rafe’s full name is Rafael Santiago Lightwood Bane but that gets complicated to remember. We all just tend to call him Rafe instead.”
“Hermano, you’re getting off track.” Rafe said nudging his brother’s arm.
“Oh right.” Max blushed. The girl let out a giggle. “So what’s your name? You never said.”
“Oh sorry! I’m Evie.” The girl – Evie – smiled widely as she held out her hand for them to shake. “I’m living with my aunt and uncle in Queens whilst my mother is on business in Idris. They’re my closest relatives outside of Canada and my mother didn’t want me missing any of my training. Hey, did you understand what Beatriz was talking about with the Accords? I got so confused.”
“Tell me about it. I was nearly falling asleep with the boredom.” Rafe said. He grinned at Max and pulled him into a one armed hug. “It’s a good job Max here was taking notes otherwise I’d have no clue what’s going on.”
“Get off me Rafe.” Max laughed trying to shove Rafael’s arm off him. “By the Angel, Rafe you’re so annoying sometimes.”
“True hermano true, but would you have me any other way?” Rafe chuckled and let go of him. Evie laughed with him as Max flattened out his ruffled hair.
Evie smiled at them both. “You know, you’re both alright. Bernard said that you were weird but I don’t think so.”
“Bernard is a burro and looks like he has demon pox.” Rafe replied and Max nodded in agreement. “We’re much better company if you ask me.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Evie grinned turning to look at Max nervously. “My uncle’s probably waiting for me already but can I ask you something before I go?”
Max blinked in surprise and nodded. “Sure.”
Evie glanced up at Max’s horns and bit her lip hesitantly. “Do your horns hurt you? They look pretty painful to be growing out of your head like that.”
“No. They never hurt. Half the time I forget they’re there.” Max said his hands fumbling with his Codex.
Evie nodded and shuffled closer to him on the bench. “Can I touch them? I mean if that’s alright. I’ve never met a warlock before and you seem nice.”
Magnus felt his eyebrows rise in surprise and he glanced at Alec to see the same expression. Max glanced at Rafe who shrugged before turning back to Evie and nodded. Hesitantly, Evie reached out and gingerly pressed her fingers to one of Max’s horns letting out a gasp. “Wow, they’re like goat horns. That’s so cool! I would’ve thought they’d feel rough but they don’t, they feel smooth -” She cut off her sentence with a blush as Rafe and Max started to laugh. “Sorry, my mother says I can never stop talking once I get going.”
“It’s alright. No harm done.” Max grinned as Evie let her hand drop and stood up.
“I’ve got to get going. Thanks for…you know.” Max and Rafael stood up picking up their bags as Evie shifted from foot to foot. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Perhaps we can sit together.”
“Sure, that’ll be great.” Max grinned widely.
“Cool. Bye Max.” Evie said with a small wave of her hand. She glanced at Rafe behind him and blushed. “Bye Rafe.”
“Adios.” He replied and Evie ran off down the corridor past Magnus and Alec who were smiling proudly at each other.
“See that Alec? Complete naturals our sons. I don’t know why you were so worried.” Magnus said as Alec rolled his eyes. Max and Rafael walked up to their parents with smiles on their faces.
“Max has made a friend.” Rafe said proudly messing up Max’s hair much to his little brother’s annoyance. “I think she might fancy him.”
“No she doesn’t. I’m ten!” Max protested smoothing out his hair and glaring at Rafael.
“So?” Rafe chuckled as Alec took his backpack and slung it on one of his shoulders.
“Rafe stop teasing your brother.” Alec said in a light tone, wrapping one arm around his son’s shoulders and led him off down the corridor. Magnus and Max followed shortly behind; one of Magnus’s arms hugging Max into his side as they walked.
“I’m proud of you Blueberry.” Magnus said quietly. “Your Dad’s very proud too.”
“Thanks Papa.” Max replied.
“Hey, why don’t we invite her round for dinner sometime?” Magnus suggested to which Max rolled his eyes with a smile.
“Papa, we’ve only just met.” Max said as they got in the elevator with Alec and Rafe. “You don’t invite complete strangers round for dinner as soon as you meet them.”
“Nonsense! I used to invite strangers to my parties all the time when I was younger. I think I was drunk half the time but it still worked out alright in the end. That’s actually how I met your father in the first place.” Magnus said as Alec gave him a look.
“Actually, we gate crashed one of your parties and ended up with Simon turned into a rat after one of your cocktails.”
“Ah details,” Magnus said waving his hand. “The point is it all worked out in the end and we’re all better off for it.”
“I still think she fancies Max.” Rafe shrugged earning a friendly shove from his brother.
“She does not!”
The boys grappled playfully with each other all the way home with Magnus and Alec watching on holding hands and smiling as they went.