Magnus sees the Shadowhunter before the Shadowhunter sees him, but that's typical, isn't it?
They're hard to miss, especially if one is attuned to the signs. It's not just the runes that stand out sharp and black on their skin like angry strokes of a pen. It's the way they hold themselves, the way they take in the world: cagey expressions, tensed shoulders, twitching fingers. Always ready to go. Always courting trouble.
It's not entirely unheard of for a Shadowhunter to be in Pandemonium, but it is unusual for one to be here alone. They tend to chase their leads in little teams. Safety in numbers or threats in threes, Magnus was never quite sure.
This one is just scanning the club, eyes alert beneath dark brows. Light flashes over his unexpressive features, bright blue and fuchsia, but even the neon can't soften the gloom that hangs over him like a shroud. He's looking for something. Magnus will have to deal with that, but not yet. He's having too good a time.
Pandemonium is all flash and vibration. It's patent leather and velvet, glitter dusted on cheeks and turning holographic in the strobe lights. It's ice clinking in glasses and people pressed in close at all sides, everyone with the same idea. Everyone with the same knowing look in their eyes. You came here to dance or you came here for the other thing, but either way your body would be moving.
Magnus meets the same people here or he meets different people. It doesn't matter because his level of investment is identical: they are all ships passing, sometimes crashing. He takes the same person home three nights in one week, Cecil of the moustache and leather harnesses, and then never sees them again. It's ephemeral. It's temporary. For someone like Magnus, things that are temporary can be very attractive. He cultivates it, a sense of there-then-gone that he will never be able to fully emulate himself.
Tonight Magnus' table is surrounded by a mix of old and new friends, but no one he knows well enough to be able to find outside of Pandemonium. He sits at the center of the throng, holding court in his slim-cut blue suit. He has mastered the ability to stand out and blend in at the same time, harmonious with his surroundings but drawing the eye all the same.
He wears navy trousers with a sharp crease and a transparent shirt tucked in but unbuttoned nearly to the waist. Studded boots, a braided metal belt, and rings on every finger. Over it a jacket with a subtle pattern etched on the fabric, blue on blue, and silver chains dripping from his shoulders. A good look. But isn't it always?
The Shadowhunter has moved into the section of the club that's curtained off for renovations, so Magnus extricates himself from Lilah-Whom-He-Kisses-Sometimes to investigate. He has to make sure none of his patrons are being imposed upon by a tall man with a humorless face. And on the off chance there is a genuine threat to handle, Magnus would rather handle it himself.
But still, just like a Shadowhunter to get in the way of a lovely night.
There's no need to alarm anyone, so Magnus does not give the appearance of being in a hurry as he weaves through the crowd. He pauses to say hello to people he knows, to shake hands and exchange double cheek kisses. He arrives at the cordoned-off curtains just in time to catch the Shadowhunter reaching for an arrow from the quiver materializing on his back, though it's not quite quick enough for the man charging at him with a sword.
Magnus knows immediately the swordsman is not a demon or a Downworlder: the hideous ensemble is the first tip-off, but the Circle rune blazing on his neck is far more damning.
Red burns at Magnus' fingertips and a moment later he's sending the swordsman skidding backwards towards the far wall. To the Shadowhunter's credit, he doesn't miss a beat the entire time. He continues the graceful process he'd begun before Magnus got there, nocking an arrow and letting it fly, hitting the bullseye beating in the Circle member's chest.
"Well done," the Shadowhunter says.
Magnus tilts his head at he studies the dead man, nose wrinkling. The carpet is going to have blood on it now. They just put that in. "More like medium rare." He lifts his gaze to the back of the Shadowhunter's head, edges of a rune curling around his neck. "Don't your sort usually travel in pairs?"
The Shadowhunter shrugs as he makes his way over to the body to retrieve his arrow. "Reconnaissance," he says. "Didn't expect to come to blows." His weaponry melts into nothingness as he puts it away, but the fact that he had it at all indicates he's one to expect the unexpected. "Thank you, by the way. For your help."
He turns, and Magnus gets his first good look at him. A serious face indeed, with furrowed brows and somber eyes but a wonderfully soft mouth. Surprise radiates over his features like ice cracking when he looks at Magnus: a slight widening of the eyes followed by a smile that's shockingly warm and sweet on a face like his.
"Alec," the Shadowhunter says. "Lightwood."
"Oh," Magnus replies. "One of those." He flicks his fingers at the body and sends it off to the Institute, assuming they can take it from here. "Are you supposed to shish kebab your own?"
"Huh?" Alec says, very elegantly, and Magnus smiles a little. Alec's eyes are glued to his face, and Magnus is not opposed to the attention. "He was in the Circle."
"Mm." Magnus lets it go; the delineations of Shadowhunters are not his concern. "Well, you're welcome, Alec Lightwood." He tips his head back towards the crowded part of the club. "Would you like a drink? Consider it a reward for a job well done."
Alec looks past Magnus and then back to him, wetting his lips nervously. "Okay," he says, voice pitching weirdly, like he doesn't know how to be casual. "That sounds fun."
When Alec gets close enough, Magnus puts out his hand. "We haven't been properly introduced. I'm Magnus Bane, High W—"
"Warlock of Brooklyn," Alec finishes, his voice overlapping Magnus' with its rounded tones and New York toughness. Again in his face that shyness and interest, so open and shuttered at once. Magnus cannot recall another Shadowhunter like the one in front of him: one without intrinsic arrogance, who says thank you and ducks his head so sweetly. The bare minimum, but more than the rest of them can scrape together most of the time.
"My reputation precedes me." Magnus finds himself searching Alec's face for signs of things he's heard, skewed perceptions and nasty rumors. He doesn't care what Alec has heard, but he wonders. "Don't believe everything you hear."
Alec dips his head in a nod and then reaches out to meet Magnus' hand. "I can make up my own mind."
Magnus' ringed fingers slide against Alec's undecorated ones; no runes mark his palms or wrists like some Shadowhunters. Alec has lovely large hands and pleasantly warm skin, his whole-body flush evident even under the black symbol on his neck, but that's not what makes Magnus' spine straighten when they touch. It's a jolt like magic sparking at his fingertips. He blinks, startled, and sees Alec do the same.
"Aren't you charming," Magnus says. For the first time his voice sounds openly intrigued. "But then, by comparison to the rest of you, who wouldn't be?" That was perhaps too strident, so he adds indifferently, "No offense meant."
Alec reveals another kind of smile, one that's curious but quick, like he wants to laugh but knows he shouldn't, or doesn't know how to. "Some offense taken, I think."
Magnus presses a hand to the small of Alec's back to lead him towards the bar. "Let me know when you figure it out."
Alec's body tenses under the light touch of Magnus' fingertips but he makes no move to sever the point of connection. In fact sometimes his feet falter just enough for him to press back into it.
Magnus orders a martini and then turns to Alec expectantly. "What do you drink?"
"I —" Alec's gaze does a nervous little flick from Magnus to the bartender and back. He wets his lips again. "I'll have whatever you're having."
Magnus quirks a brow and considers ordering something mild for him, but in the end gets two of the same because the Shadowhunter can make up his own mind. Drink in hand, Magnus leans against the polished black bar and ignores the patrons jostling him on his other side, tilting his chin up slightly as he surveys Alec. "You're interesting," he decides. He has to raise his voice a little to be heard over the thumping music.
Alec lifts an eyebrow in response. "Are you sure?" He takes a sip and an involuntary shudder passes over him, nose scrunching up; it is delightful. "You don't sound sure."
Magnus smiles a little, because that's what he means: interesting. "Do you dance?"
Alec takes one look at the packed floor and makes an expression not unlike the one the martini had inspired. "Not well."
"And you don't drink."
Caught, he admits, "Not often."
"What do you do?"
"You know what they say about that, Jack."
Now he's confused. "It's Alec."
Magnus' smile stretches slowly. "You don't watch movies either."
Alec huffs a frustrated breath that nevertheless contains something amused, too. "I'm not coming off very well in this conversation."
"On the contrary." Magnus can't stop looking at him. A tall drink of water, they used to say. Magnus is certainly parched. "I don't think you're coming off badly at all."
The slightest of smiles pulls at the corners of Alec's lips, like when he'd first introduced himself. There's something gracious and surprised and flattered in it all at once that bring a subtle curve to Magnus' mouth in return. They stand there staring at each other as though the frantic clubbing around them has been put on mute and they're suspended in the middle of it, the only two people in the world. The way Alec is looking at him makes Magnus feel like they've already touched. It's too intimate. Magnus didn't even know Alec's name twenty minutes ago.
"Is there —" Alec's tongue flicks out over his lips again, an involuntary gesture that makes Magnus want to do it for him. But then he looks away and it breaks the spell, his unease suddenly evident. "Is there somewhere that's not here?"
Magnus pretends to misunderstand on purpose. "There are many places that aren't here," he offers cryptically. "Anywhere specific in mind?"
Alec looks at Magnus' mouth, and suddenly Magnus feels less like joking and more like putting his hands on the man in front of him.
"Yes," Magnus says. "There is somewhere."
He spirits Alec away to the deserted hallway that leads into the back offices. There are no flashing lights here, just the gentle hum of dim recessed lighting; it's more private, but that just makes it realer. The music is only a faint buzzing in the walls, thrumming like Magnus' pulse in his ears. There's a secretive charge to the air between them, but uncertainty too. Magnus lets his fingertips brush Alec's first, their hands tangling gently before Magnus' hand coasts up the inside of Alec's forearm until he shivers visibly.
Then Alec kisses him, sudden like lightning and just as electric. He grips Magnus by the arms and jerks him so close so fast that momentum knocks Alec back against the wall. They separate on impact but close the gap quick, kisses pressed distractedly to the heated skin of each other's cheeks before their lips meet again. Alec digs his thumbs into the hard line of Magnus' biceps and makes a low, stifled sound when there's no give. Magnus drags his palm over the unmarked side of Alec's neck and jaw, pulling away just enough to feel the shape of Alec's mouth with his fingertips before kissing him again. It's like he has to test it to know it's real.
Magnus gets lost. He doesn't mean to and he doesn't usually, but it's so easy; one kiss and his head is spinning. They're so tight that the buttons of Alec's denim shirt are leaving imprints in the sliver of skin made bare by Magnus' open shirt. Magic tingles in Magnus' veins and he wants to rend those buttons from their threads, unspool Alec at his seams.
Alec breaks away abruptly and Magnus moves to chase his mouth, but Alec doesn't let him; instead he searches Magnus' face for a long moment, hazel eyes gone a muted green in the low light and pupils dilated. He must like whatever he sees because when he kisses Magnus again, it's even hungrier.
But sudden laughter down the hallway shocks them both like cold water. They startle apart and then look at each other, chuckle softly at the wild-eyed expressions on both their faces.
"I'm not sure it's a good idea for me to be caught kissing Shadowhunters in my club," Magnus jokes, his voice light but rougher than he expected it to be.
Alec's naturally solemn face is unrepentant. "Little late for that."
Magnus grins. "It is, isn't it?"
He knows where this is going before Alec says it. He watches Alec steel himself and plow ahead despite whatever reservations his upbringing must have instilled in him. "Maybe we could go somewhere where we won't get caught."
There are contradictions in Alec that can't help but catch Magnus' attention. Alec is young but hardened, determination and coolness in him that act as both shield and barrier. But underneath there's tenderness. Magnus wants to peel Alec back layer by layer until he gets more than a taste of it.
"Come home with me," Magnus says.
He's made worse decisions than this before.
Alec's mouth is open and pink, chin faintly irritated from Magnus' facial hair. "Take me home," he says.
Magnus twists one hand in the fabric of Alec's shirt and gestures behind himself with the other, a portal opening with a sucking whoosh. They cross the whirling threshold neatly, stepping from club hallway into Magnus' loft as though it were a matter of inches and not miles. There is no music here, at least not at the moment, and all the lights are off; it's a quiet little sanctuary full of things that are significant to Magnus, things he has spent a long lifetime accruing. This place is his, and he has let Alec into it without so much as a second thought.
"It's nice," Alec says politely, but his too-bright eyes are locked on Magnus. "I like the — plants."
"The true measure of a man's worth," Magnus says. "Whether or not he can keep a houseplant alive."
"Without a doubt," Alec says. "Shadowhunters are really big on botany."
His voice is without even a hint of irony so Magnus has to look twice to catch the little quirk of his lips, the sparkle in his eyes. It's a treasure hunt, figuring this man out. Magnus goes straight for X.
"Come here," he says, and Alec does, steps right into Magnus' personal space. He's tall enough to loom a little, just tall enough that Magnus has to lift his chin half an inch to kiss him. "Open your mouth."
Again, Alec does, those reddened lips parting for Magnus to taste, to flick his tongue against before he kisses Alec. The only sound in the silent apartment is the kissing, wet and obscene, and the soft, rough noises Alec makes seemingly without meaning to. It's a slow, deep kiss that goes on and on until Magnus' fingertips land lightly on the buckle of Alec's belt.
"Let me," Alec says instead.
His hands are steady but tentative, as though he had not already grabbed for Magnus and pulled him close back at Pandemonium. He trails his fingers over the lapels of Magnus' jacket before easing it off his shoulders and then folding it carefully over a nearby chair. He steps closer, touches the necklaces stacked at Magnus' throat, and then tilts down to kiss him, soft and cautious. Strange, now that they're alone.
Magnus doesn't think Alec is scared. It's something else, but Magnus can't put his finger on it.
"Music?" Magnus asks. "Drinks?" Anything to mitigate this oddly tender quiet, the earnestness with which this Shadowhunter is looking at him.
Alec shakes his head a little. "Unless you —" he starts.
"I don't," Magnus says, honest and feeling a little helpless with it, because all he actually wants is for Alec to keep kissing him. "Just come here."
Alec smiles a little, which is so unbearable that Magnus simply must cover it with a kiss. He winds his arms around Alec's neck and gasps when Alec's hands make contact, roaming over Magnus' back like Alec is trying to memorize the shift of muscle through touch. It's too much. His skin is too hot.
Magnus plucks his own buttons open, just the two or three that have remained fastened, and shrugs the shirt off. Alec's quick intake of breath is gratifying, but steadying too. It makes Magnus feel like he still has some control. He's the one calling the shots. He decides he ought to have Alec on the couch, because that's what one does with men one brings home after half a drink and less than half an hour's conversation. Isn't it? Magnus is less certain of the rules than he's ever been but he knows he should not keep opening up door after door for this man.
"The bedroom's through there," Magnus says.
Clothes come off in stops and starts. Alec is methodical as he works open the silver buckle of Magnus' belt, the button and zip of his trousers. He struggles a little to peel Magnus' pants off because of how tight they are, but he's up to the task. His lips trail over Magnus' chest and stomach until Alec has folded to his knees, where his mouth finds every inch of skin as it's revealed. When Magnus is naked, reclining back on the red silk sheets of his bed, Alec has to close his eyes again to breathe.
It's intoxicating to watch.
Magnus pulls him up onto the bed. Alec is divested of his clothing with impatience, buttons pinging off as shirt and pants and everything else land in scattered little black pools on the hardwood. Alec laughs quietly, curling his big hands around Magnus' face and pressing his amusement into a kiss. His hair fluffs charmingly from where it was caught in his shirt. His body is covered in runes.
"I didn't think it would be like this," Alec says. He doesn't specify what he means but Magnus understands all the same.
"Me neither," he admits, and means to say more, but finds he has nothing more to say. He had not expected this. He had not expected Alec to lean in and press his mouth chastely to Magnus' cheek, then chase it with kisses to his jaw and throat, careful on the protruding curve of his Adam's apple. Again Magnus gets the sense that Alec is putting this all down in his memory in a way that is significant, cutting out moments and pasting them in a scrapbook. He's saving this before he's even spent it.
Alec is considerate of every part of Magnus. The rasp of his ever-so-slightly stubbled chin follows every soft kiss, his hands moving over Magnus attentively, leaving no stretch of his body untouched for long. Alec's tongue on Magnus' nipple is a shock of warmth, but he doesn't linger; he forges a path lower and lower until his teeth are on Magnus' hipbone and Magnus seizes him suddenly by the arms to haul him up for a forceful kiss. Then Magnus spins them quick and without warning, laying Alec out on his back and settling on top of him. It's a mess of limbs and breathlessness that leaves Alec looking up at him with a restrained kind of reverence.
Magnus ignores that. He curls his hand in Alec's hair to tug his head back against the red silk. "What should we do, hm?"
His lips find Alec's stuttering pulse, and Magnus speaks into his skin, asks what he wants and how, feels Alec twitch beneath him and press his legs into Magnus' sides. Alec answers with a firm clarity that borders on aggressive, almost like he's daring Magnus, but his voice turns quiet when he adds, "I want to know what it's like."
Magnus nods. He sits up to take his rings off one by one, dropping them into the small silver tray on the bedside table. Then Magnus settles against Alec's side and slips one arm beneath him, pillowing his neck and tilting Alec into him. The other hand nudges down between Alec's thighs, past where he is hard and lower; a spark of magic makes Magnus' fingers slick and he presses them gently against Alec, massaging in slow small circles until the tension bleeds out of Alec's body. He starts to get a little flushed, skin a dusky pink in the semidarkness of the room. When Magnus presses a finger inside him, Alec gasps.
Alec keeps his eyes shut at first, face turned toward the inside of Magnus' arm or head tipped back, lips parted. Sometimes his throat works in a swallow or a noise becomes trapped there, muffled like he has learned to keep himself quiet. Magnus just watches him, mesmerized by Alec's furrowed brow or the tremor that runs through him when Magnus adds another finger.
Magnus is already looking at Alec, but somehow he's still caught off guard by Alec opening his eyes: the unexpected lift of lid and lashes is almost startling, his direct gaze seemingly at odds with his delicately flushed face. Once they lock eyes it's like they can't unlock. They sink into each other, Alec cradled by Magnus' arm around his shoulders and his fingers locked around the bicep of Magnus' other arm, the one still working between Alec's tensed thighs.
Every so often Magnus brushes against Alec's cock but he makes no move to pay it any particular attention until the shifting of Alec's hips becomes impossible to ignore. "Like this?" Magnus asks. "Or do you still want —"
"I want," Alec interrupts impatiently. "I still want."
Magnus smiles and drops a kiss to the arch of Alec's eyebrow before levering up over him, arms braced. He drops his hips first and then the rest of him follows, all that warm skin on skin like sinking into a hot bath. Magnus is aware of everywhere they're touching, the soft brush of hair and slickness of sweat and pulse of blood in their veins. The drag of his cock against Alec's, the heat of Alec's neck under Magnus' mouth. Alec pulls him in for another kiss, deep and lingering, and then Magnus is sitting back, sitting up. He grips Alec by the hips and tugs him down a little, folds him up. Then Magnus eases inside him.
Magnus fucks Alec slow and intense as the last kiss they'd shared. He likes the feeling of it, the simple physical sensation of Alec's body so tight around him, feverishly hot. Alec winds his long limbs around Magnus, legs and then arms too, drawing Magnus back down to him so they can press forehead to forehead. Alec digs his fingers into Magnus' back. Alec looks at Magnus, open and blunt and perhaps a little vulnerable, inexplicably trusting.
There is no way Magnus could have ever expected this.
Later Magnus wakes up alone. Typical, he thinks with an internal eye-roll, and he ignores the subsequent pang of disappointment. But when he sits up, he notices his floor is still littered with black clothing. The relief is almost more worrying than the disappointment was.
Alec is not in the bathroom or the living room or the kitchen. Magnus finds him standing on the balcony in his black jeans and nothing else, a stark figure against the glimmering Brooklyn night. Alec is looking up at the moon, which shines so peroxide silver that it looks like a hole punched in the sky.
Magnus steps up beside him.
"I should go." Alec says it passively, and he doesn't move. He rests his forearms against the stone, the careful lean anything but relaxed.
"I don't usually do things like this." Alec pauses. "I don't ever do things like this."
Magnus only shrugs. His hands alight on the stone beside Alec's. "I don't either. Usually."
Alec looks at him sidelong, expression as unreadable as it had been when he was just a face in the crowd. "No?"
Magnus lifts his eyebrows, somewhat challengingly. "You're not the only one who can feel vulnerable."
Abashed, Alec drops his gaze. But then he focuses on Magnus again with renewed determination. "Can I kiss you?"
What would it mean to share a kiss in the moonlight when all is said and done? When Magnus is all smudged eyeliner in a hastily pulled on robe, not quite the armored prince of Pandemonium, the suited-up High Warlock of Brooklyn. When Alec has already gotten from him the one thing Magnus assumed he wanted. When Alec could so easily slink back to the Institute and pretend his little foray into the wider world had never happened.
"I will be offended," Magnus says finally, "if you don't."
Once again Alec's little smile is nearly startling, transforming his somber face into something else entirely. He leans over and closes his eyes before their lips meet; Magnus tries to keep his open but he can't, he can't stop himself from getting pulled under.
Trust a Shadowhunter not to know how to do a one-night stand properly.