Chapter 1 - Terrible Love
It's just past 1AM when I enter the dimly lighted bar at the 46th floor of the Imperial Garden Hotel in Tokyo. The view with its glittering sea of city lights provides a stunning backdrop, but I'm way to wound up to actually enjoy it. My band, The Mortal Instruments, played a sold-out gig for 55.000 fans at the Tokyo Dome tonight and the adrenalin is still coursing through my veins.
Apparently I'm not the only one. Raphael Santiago, lead singer of our support act Trashed Vamp, is simultaneously nursing a glass of scotch and playing a match of tonsil hockey with a bleached blond. Who ever said men couldn't multi-task, obviously never met Raphael.
I give him a brief nod, after which I walk to the bar and order a beer. The bartender comes back with my drink and I gesture to the piano on the dais in the middle of the bar. "Alright if I play for a bit?"
"Sure." Recognition flashes in her eyes, but it vanishes just as quickly as it appeared. The Imperial Garden Hotel obviously trains their bar staff very well. Shame that the same can't be said for their security personnel, considering I was ambushed by a screaming drunk girl in the hotel lobby after I returned from the concert venue. Thank fuck that Craig, our own security chief, was there to save my ass.
I still haven't got used to the fame thing, even though it has been two years since The Mortal Instruments catapulted to fame seemingly overnight (we actually played our butts off in unseemly dive bars for crowds consisting of the grand total of ten people for six years, but for some reason that part of the story always gets left out). I mean, music is my life and I am extremely grateful for our fans, but I'm still baffled by the fact that everyone and their mother wants to know who I'm screwing and what my favorite color is.
My favorite color is black by the way, even though Izzy, my sister and our band's fashionista drummer, claims that black is a result from the complete absence of light and therefor cannot be considered a real color. The ink on my body says otherwise.
Jace, TMI's lead singer and my best mate since way back when, actually adapted to the lime light like a pro, taking much of the focus of me, but ever since he - shock, horror - ditched the rock 'n roll lifestyle in favor of domestic bliss with Clary Fairchild aka The Journalist, and considering the fact that Simon and Izzy are in a long-term relationship as well, the pap's attention has shifted solely to me.
Now I'm asked on a daily basis if I'm ever going to tie the knot with Lydia Branwell (she's lovely, but not bloody likely) or exactly how serious my involvement with supa-dupa-model Maia Roberts is (I talked to her for the grand total of five bloody seconds at a charity event). Questions like these - and worse - are fired at me on a daily basis. Boy, if they ever found out the true story about Alexander Gideon Lightwood...
But they won't, I'll make damn sure of that. The four of us - Jace, Simon, Izzy and me - worked so hard to get where we are today, and there is no way in hell that I'll allow for everything to blow up in our faces now.
However, I have been on edge ever since Jace, The Artist Formerly Known As Manwhore Extraordinair, lost his heart to that redheaded journalist. They've pretty much been glued to the hip from the moment he laid eyes on her. I mean, I'm happy that he's happy - Jace hasn't had an easy life and he deserves every shred of happiness he gets - if only she weren't a journalist. Clary is nice enough and as far as I can tell (which is not far at all, since I know crap all about love) she seems completely smitten with Jace, but that doesn't mean that I actually trust her. People have a habit of pretending to be your friend and then stab you in the back when it suits them. Trust me, I know.
Pushing away the unwelcome memories that suddenly claw at the edges of my brain, I let my fingers glide over the piano keys. Music is my sanctuary. Always has been, always will be. Enough said.
As if my fingers move on their own, I hit the first few chords of 'Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors' by the Editors and then the people at the bar just fade into the background as I get sucked into the song.
I just finish the fourth song when I spot Magnus Bane, owner of Warlock Inc., the record company TMI is signed to, entering the bar.
I miss a note, but thankfully manage to get my shit together before I muck up the rest of the song.
When he sees me, he walks straight in my direction and it takes all my power to not just stand up and run away. Magnus Bane, with his flashy clothes and amber eyes that are heavily accentuated with kohl, unnerves me. It is as if he can see straight through me and I'm not altogether sure that he likes what he sees. Anyway, he's the darling of the media because he clawed his way out of the gutter and is now CEO of the world's number one record company. I mean, I love a good rags to riches story as much as the next guy, but the way they describe him in the press, it's as if he's actually invented sliced bread. And yeah, it goes without saying that he is thick as thieves with TMI's resident journalist Clary. No surprise there.
"I heard there was a disturbance earlier on," he starts as soon as I have finished the song.
"Yeah," I answer without taking my eyes of the piano, even though I'm not playing at the moment. "Don't worry, Craig dealt with it."
"It is unacceptable," Magnus huffed. "God knows what could've happened if you had been there on your own, Alexander."
"A black belt in karate is what would have happened. I can take care of myself, Magnus." I remember reading somewhere that Magnus has an active dislike of Coldplay - how someone who dislikes Coldplay managed to become the most powerful man in the music industry is completely beyond me, but that just goes to show what I know - and I, being the miserable git I truly am, hit the first notes of 'Trouble'.
'Ah, the one Coldplay-song that's actually palatable," Magnus says. "You continue to surprise me, Alexander."
"Good ways, I hope?" The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them and I pray to God that there isn't enough light in this bar for him to notice my cheeks turning beet-red.
He then gives me a curt nod and walks to the bar.
I exhale, not even realizing until that moment that I'd been holding my breath the whole time Magnus was talking to me. Seeing how our whole conversation didn't last longer than a minute, I was in no actual danger of oxygen deprivation, but I feel slightly lightheaded nonetheless.
I expect him to stay at the bar, but to my surprise he comes back with two drinks in his hand: a fancy looking cocktail for him and a beer. For me.
"I had no idea you could play the piano," he says. "Considering your guitar seems to be glued to your hand 24/7."
I lift my shoulders in what I hope will pass as an indifferent shrug. "Simon is way out of my league when it comes to any instruments with keys, but I used to play the organ in my father's church on Sundays."
Magnus nods. "That's right, Izzy told me your Dad is a pastor."
Dad. I haven't actually thought of Robert Penhallow as 'Dad' in a long time, and I'm pretty sure Izzy feels the same way. However, the fact that she has discussed Robert with Magnus surprises me. Even if it hasn't been more than a brief mention, it proves that she trusts him and trust isn't something that comes easily to my sister.
I glance at Magnus and realise with a jolt of surprise that I trust him as well. No idea why, I just do. Ever since TMI's breakthrough, he's been at our side in the shark infested waters of the music industry and he hasn't let us down once.
I give a frustrated sigh. Me playing Coldplay just to spite him was petty and immature, and because I don't even want to contemplate the reasons I act like a complete jerk whenever Magnus is around, I look up and ask: "Any requests?"
The beaming smile he gives me does funny things to my stomach, as if a bunch of butterflies have taken up residency there. "Play me that song you and Jace have been working on."
"Which one?" I ask, even though I know damn well which song he is referring to.
"AKA 'Jace Wayland is madly in love and won't shut up about it'," I mutter under my breath, conveniently omitting the fact that even though Jace came up with the music, I was actually the one that wrote with the lyrics.
"It's a beautiful song. Definitely should be on your next album. The lyrics are just so sincere... So heartfelt."
"Well, Jace is in L-O-V-E and he isn't exactly shy about it." My voice drips with sarcasm.
Magnus gives me a calculated look. "That's odd. Jace told me you wrote most of the lyrics."
Well, shit... I just walked straight into that trap, didn't I? 'Bigmouth strikes again' should probably be my next song, anything but that sappy lovesong.
I try to come up with a clever comeback, but before I can think of anything, a strange, rumbling noise seems to rise up from the floor.
And then the earth just starts to move out by itself.
I'm not that drunk already, am I? No, this is my third beer of the night, so it can't be that.
The movement of the floor changes from a slight sway to a tremor that seems to increase with every passing second.
"What's happening?" I ask with a slightly panicked voice.
Magnus looks at me dumbfounded, but then the sound of breaking glass followed by someone screaming seems to propel him into action. He grabs me by the shoulders, pushes me to the ground and covers my body with his.
We're in the middle of an earthquake and I don't even feel the slightest trace of fear.
Magnus' body is pressed closely against mine, we're half under the piano and his face just hovers dangerously above me.
Completely mesmerized I look into his amber eyes. God, he's gorgeous... If this is how I'm going to die, it really isn't so bad.
A large vase falls over the piano and just crashes inches from where we lie. Instinctively I put my hands on Magnus' head to protect him.
Another thought flashes in my mind. I don 't want to die without kissing this man at least once.
My kissing experience is limited and my first kiss was the stuff of nightmares that still haunt me to this day, but none of that matters now.
Time seems to slow down. Our breaths mingle and then I just crash my lips to his and kiss him.
Chapter 2: Kiss me
I kiss him senseless. The world outside might be falling apart for all I know, but in my world, for the first time, everything clicks into place. There is nothing but me and him, tucked away safely under the piano and as long as he is with me, I could gladly take up permanent residency here. Who needs a big ass villa with a heated swimming pool when you can have this?
Magnus' tongue sweeps into my mouth, hot and demanding, tasting of mint, that fruity cocktail he just drunk and something that's uniquely and entirely Magnus. His hands grab my hair and as he angles his head to deepen the kiss, desire washes over me like a tidal wave.
I moan into his mouth, a guttural sound that I don't even recognize as my own, and I shift my body so I can feel more of him. I want to feel everything, l -
"Alec!" The sound of my sister's voice immediately dissolves the haze of lust I'm floating on. It isn't until then that I realize that the earth is no longer shaking.
Shit! How long have I been making out with Magnus underneath the piano? Did anyone see us? I need to get away from here, fast!
My breath hitches and all of a sudden black dots cloud my vision. Please God, not this again... I force myself to take deep slow breaths in and out... In and out...
Magnus rolls away from me and without the warmth of his body, I feel cold.
"Are you okay?" He glances at me, worry creasing his brow.
"Yeah, I..." My voice sounds so husky, it feels as if it doesn't even belong to me. I clear my throat. "I just need to get to Izzy, see if she's okay."
For a moment I think I see hurt flashing in his eyes, but it's there and gone so quickly that I probably imagined it.
I don't have a frigging clue what I am supposed to say in this situation. I mean, it's not every day that you kiss a gorgeous guy underneath a piano during an earthquake in Tokyo, right? Well, it's not like I ever kiss guys full stop, but that's beside the point. I mumble an apology, roll from under the piano and stand up.
Izzy immediately runs towards me, her hand clutched tightly in Simon's. "There you are, thank God!" She looks stricken with fear. "If anything had happened to you..." She hugs me so tightly that my air supply nearly gets closed off. If tonight's events ever get made into a movie, Berlin's 'Take my breath away' should be its theme song.
Seeing how distraught lzzy is, I press a soft kiss on my sister's forehead and gently stroke her hair. "I'm okay, Iz. We're okay... How's Jace?"
"Clary and Jace are fine," she answers. "Everything is fine, apparently it wasn't a big one. They aren't even going to evacuate us." She sniffles. "We had just fallen asleep and -"
"It's over now." I cup her face and look her in the eyes. "We're all fine."
She nods. "I know. I'm just glad we're leaving tomorrow."
I don't have the heart to point out that our next stop is Los Angeles, which can hardly be considered solid ground when it comes to earthquakes.
"Magnus!" Izzy lets go of me and gives Magnus a quick hug. "I didn't know you were here! Are you okay? You look a bit -"
Kissed? Leave it to my sister to take note of Magnus disheveled hair and kiss-swollen lips. Shit, if the usually calm and collected Magnus looks like he just indulged in a make-out session, then what do I look like? My sister is anything if not perceptive and the funny look she is giving me right now makes me shift uncomfortably on my feet.
"Shaken is the word you're looking for." The smile on Magnus' face doesn't quite reach his eyes. He looks at me and his smile fades. "Shaken to the core."
I push my hands in my pocket and just stare at the ground, clueless as to what to say. The tension between us is palpable and judging by the look on Izzy's face, she notices it too.
"Anyway, I best go to my room and see if my laptop is still intact," Magnus says. "See you tomorrow, kiddos." And without so much as even a glance in my direction, he breezes out of the room.
lzzy gives me a stunned look. "What was that all about?"
I just shrug. "Dude's just been in an earthquake, is all."
She nods slowly, but I can tell that she thinks there is more to it than that.
"Anyway, l think I'm gonna hit the sack as well," l say in a tone that I hope comes across as nonchalant. I don't believe for a second that I'll be able to sleep, but any excuse to get away from Izzy's knowing look is welcome. "See you tomorrow, sis." I give her a peck on the cheek, clap Simon on the shoulder and all but run out of the bar.
I was hoping to catch up with Magnus but he's nowhere to be seen.
The elevators are out of service, so I take the stairs to my suite on the 38th floor. When I'm in my room, the first thing I do is check my guitar for any damage. It's a vintage Gibson B-45 and it used to belong to my Mom. It's the only thing I have left from her and it travels with me everywhere I go. She would've liked this, would've been so proud of what Izzy and I have achieved. My Mom always told us to reach for the stars. Why on earth she ever married an asswipe like Robert, is completely beyond me. Maybe he was different back then, I don't know. I was five when my Mom and my little brother Max died in a car accident and I can barely remember what Robert was like when she was still alive.
"Can't believe it's already been 17 years, Mom," I whisper as my fingers lovingly caress the smooth wooden surface of the Gibson's body.
I do a quick scan of the other stuff in my room, but other than my toothbrush taking a nosedive in the bathtub, everything seems unscathed. It's really quite impressive how the Japanese make their buildings earthquake proof.
When I pick up my toothbrush, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. I pause, astonished... It's me and at the same time, it's not. My hair looks disheveled, but that's sort of my default look, because even on a good day I can't be arsed to pull a comb through it. I don't think that I even own a comb. My lips are slightly swollen and my cheeks are flushed, but it's the feverish glint in my eyes that really catches my attention. I feel like the sparkly vampire in that lame-ass movie lzzy made me watch with her when she was sick.
And all because of that one kiss with Magnus... Even just thinking about it makes my lips tingle. He acted weird when he left and I don't really know why. Was he upset that I kissed him? I didn't really give him much choice, did I? I basically just grabbed him and shoved my tongue down his throat. At the time he didn't seem to mind all that much, but what if-
My phone beeps. I grab it from the nightstand and look at the screen.
"I have it on good authority that Magnus is in the Japanese garden downstairs."
I can't help but laugh. My sister has crazy scary mindreading skills.
Immediately my screen flashes up with a new text:
"DON'T OVERTHINK IT!!!! xoxo''
She knows me too well.
"Okay," I mumble to myself. "You can do this, Lightwood. You got this."
I grab my guitar - not because I intend to serenade Magnus, but if another quake hits and I can't get back into my suite, I don't want my guitar to be left behind.
The elevators are still out, so I have to take the stairs down. 38 floors up is quite the distance and I keep repeating Izzy's mantra in my head: don't overthink it, don't overthink it... Because if I do think about it, no doubt I'll chicken out and leg it back to my room again.
The small Japanese garden at the back of the hotel is unlike any garden I've ever seen before. It's still quite warm outside and the air is fragrant with the scent of earth and grass. The paper lights give the garden with its beautifully sculpted shrubs a soft golden glow. It's the stuff out of fairytales. I walk past a koi pond, looking for Magnus, but I don't see him anywhere. I sigh, feeling disappointed but also slightly relieved that I don't have to deal with this now. He probably went to a club, because if he'd gone back to his room, I would've bumped into him in the stairwell.
Not feeling particularly inclined to climb back the gazillion stairs back to my room, I lie down in a secluded corner of the garden on something that can best be described as a cross between a coach and a queen-size bed. With its fluffy pillows, it feels like I'm lying on a big, comfortable cloud.
I grab my guitar and start to play a song that Jace and I have been working on, but aren't completely satisfied with yet. I close my eyes, letting the music take over as I just improvise with whatever tune pops into my head.
I am so caught up in the music that it takes me a moment to realize that I have company. I open my eyes and see Magnus towering above me.
"Hello, Alexander," he says.
A tingle shivers down my spine. Robert is the only person -and person is a word I use very loosely with regard to him - to ever call me Alexander, and I normally hate it when people use my full name. But when Magnus says it, it feels like an endearment.
''M-Magnus," I stutter. "I-it’s you. Hi." Eloquence, thy name is Alec Lightwood. Not.
"Izzy told me I'd find you here. She said you needed to talk to me?"
"Did she now?" Isabelle Lightwood, patron saint of all master manipulators. I swear I'm gonna kill her! But then I look at Magnus, and debate on the wiseness of such drastic measures. If it weren't for Izzy kicking my ass into gear every now and then, I'd probably never get anything done. Best to let it slide then, though I will give her a stern talking to about meddling with my business.
"Care to sit down?" I gesture to the spot beside me on the bed-like couch.
Magnus nods and sits down next to me, pulling his legs in front of him and resting his head on the pillow. The couch is fairly big, so we're not really that closely huddled together, but I can still feel the heat radiating from his body and the butterflies in my stomach suddenly appear to be on steroids.
He looks at me. "So what did you want to talk to me about, Alexander?"
I absentmindedly play with the strings of my guitar. "I, eh... I wanted to apologize for what happened earlier in the bar."
Hurt flashes in his eyes and he averts his gaze. "I see."
"No, you don't understand. I'm not sorry for kissing you," I add quickly. "I want to apologize for what happened after that. I was off with you, and you didn't deserve that after saving my sorry ass in that earthquake."
Magnus chuckles. "It wasn't a very big earthquake, so I doubt you really were in any serious danger."
"Yeah, but you didn't know that when you pushed me under that piano and let me kiss you."
"I let you kiss me?" he repeats incredulously.
"Well, I didn't really give you much choice in the matter," I mutter. "I practically shoved my tongue down your throat the minute we hit the ground." The memory of that kiss suddenly makes my jeans feel uncomfortably tight at a certain spot.
Magnus gives me a puzzled look. "Pray tell, Alexander: at what exact moment did I give you the impression that I objected to being kissed by you?"
I shrug. "I don't know. It's not like I've done a lot of kissing-" Belatedly I realize what I'm about to say, but seeing the way realization dawns on Magnus' face, he already got the gist of it anyway. Crap, some way to put your V-card on the table, Alec... Smooth.
"You never kissed a man before?" Magnus asks.
"Once." That's all I want to say on the subject for now, and Magnus seems to realize this because he doesn't push.
"That explains so much," Magnus mumbles, more to himself than to me.
"Why? Was I really that bad?" I ask. Hurt laces my voice, but I can't help it. As far as kisses go, I thought that kiss was out of this world good. Then again, I'm hardly an expert on the subject of kissing, but still...
"No, far from it, Alexander. Far from it." He nods to my guitar. "That's a beautiful guitar you got there. Gibson B-45?"
Well, color me impressed. "You know your stuff, I see."
"Well, you don't get to be CEO of a recording company without picking up a few tidbits."
I give him a lopsided grin. "But then again, you don't like Coldplay. I'm sorry, but we can never be friends."
Magnus chuckles. "So, how did you get that guitar? Round-shouldered B-45's are pretty rare these days."
"Family heirloom. Used to belong to my mom and she got it from her dad." I shrug. "It's all I have left of her."
"Izzy told me your mother and your little brother died in a car accident. That must've been hard."
"Yeah, it was. When Jace and I arrived in New York seven years ago I had my guitar, a toothbrush and a shopping bag of clothes." I lovingly pat the guitar's body. "This baby has seen me through some tough times."
"You're both not close to your father?"
"No, we're not. I haven't spoken to him since the day I left." I'm surprised that Magnus is so easy to talk to. I'm good with words when it comes to writing lyrics, but when it comes to having an actual conversation I just choke up. It'd probably be a whole lot easier if I could go through life singing rather than talking, but sadly we don't live in a Broadway-musical universe. "He was just... I don't know. I can't really remember what he was like before Max and my Mom died. We moved to Kansas straight after their death, so there really isn't anybody that I could ask either. Robert was very concerned about outer appearances, about what the people in church would think about us. He kept both Izzy and me on a very tight leash. Izzy rebelled, got kicked out of school and fell in with the wrong crowds. I just tried to go unnoticed and kept to myself most of the time, but well, if he was in a mood, none of us were safe." My hand touches the scar behind my ear, which I got when my dad pushed me in a fit of rage and I ended up with my head against the sharp edge of a coffee table. "Quite a few people must've known that he was violent with us, but since he was the Pastor, nobody ever did anything."
Magnus gives me a sympathetic look. "It's terrible that you and Izzy had to go through that. Believe me, I know what it's like to have a demon for a father."
I nod. Magnus' family history is widely known. His mom died in childbirth and his father used him as a pickpocket on the street. When Magnus was eleven, his father abandoned him, leaving him to fend for himself. After that, a string of foster parents followed and he even lived on the street for a year, but he somehow managed to get himself out of the gutter by - in his own words - 'sheer luck and determination'. I admire him for that.
He rolls on his side and gently touches the tattoo in my neck. "What does that symbol mean?"
"It's an ancient symbol, a Deflect rune. According to legend, there once existed a race called the Nephilim, that were half angel, half human, and they chased after demons that were a threat to humanity. They had all sorts of cool runes to help them in combat, and this one..." I point to the rune. "...is to deflect incoming blows. It's for protection." I shrug. "It was the first ink I got."
"It's beautiful," Magnus says. "You're beautiful, Alexander." Then he kisses me, a soft, coaxing kiss, that takes me by surprise, but it feels so good... He leans back with a satisfied smirk. "Just to reaffirm that I absolutely do not object to you kissing me."
I grin like an idiot. "Good to know." I stifle a yawn.
"Tired?" Magnus asks.
"A bit," I confess. "And since we have to be at the airport in a couple of hours, I should probably try and get some shut-eye. Don't really feel like climbing all those stairs, though." I also don't particularly look forward to being in my hotel room if another earthquake hits, but most of all, I really just want to stay here with Magnus. There seems to be something magical in the air, and I'm afraid that if I leave this garden, I somehow break the enchantment.
"We can stay here if you want," Magnus suggests, as if reading my mind. "It's still warm outside and it'll be nice to watch the stars with you, Alexander."
I smile. "We're in the middle of Tokyo. I doubt you'll be seeing a great many stars here."
"Then I'll just look to the star that's next to me," he says, winking suggestively.
I burst out laughing. "Flattery will get you everywhere, Mr. Bane."
"I'm counting on it, Mr. Lightwood." He rolls on his back and grabs my hand. We slip into a companionable silence and I look at the sky. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I feel at ease. My eyelids start to feel heavy and as I listen to Magnus' breathing and the muted sounds of the city's nightlife, I drift off to sleep.
I awake with a jolt when I hear voices nearby. During the night Magnus' somehow managed to get his head on my chest. And my hand seems to have moved on its own accord as well, seeing that my fingers are splayed possessively over the curve of Magnus' hip. As much as I want to see where this thing with Magnus might go, I'm not quite ready to share it with the rest of the world yet. I remove the obtrusive hand from Magnus' hip and push against his shoulder. "Magnus, wake up!"
He opens one eye. "Is there another earthquake?"
" No, but-"
"No - "
"Then for the love of all that's good and pure, stop screaming in my ear."
"Sorry," I say, slightly embarrassed. Apparently, Magnus doesn't seem inclined to remove his head from my shoulder and with each passing second, I start to feel more uncomfortable. "What time is it? We need to get to the airport."
"l'm the owner of the jet, so I'm pretty sure they won't leave without me." Sarcasm drips from his voice. His head is still on my chest and I start to get the impression that he keeps it there deliberately. I shift slightly, but he won't budge.
Magnus bites his lip. "Look Alexander, I prefer to keep the amount of bullshit in my life to an absolute minimum, so I"ll just be straight with you." He frowns. "Hmm... Interesting choice of words." Finally, he lifts his head from my shoulder and I surpress a sigh of relief. "Do I make you uncomfortable, Alexander?"
I slowly release my breath. This is not a question that I can evade with a witty comment. Not just because I'm crap at smartass comebacks - that's more Jace's area of expertise - but also because Magnus deserves more from me than that.
"It's not that you make me uncomfortable, Magnus." I choose my words very carefully. I don't want to ruin everything between us by saying something stupid, but I also don't want to give him the impression that I'm ready to jump into a relationship with him. If that's even what he wants... In the two years that I've known Magnus, he's been in a string of some very public flings with both beautiful men and gorgeous women. Why on earth he would be interested in someone like me is completely beyond me. Yes, I'm a musician in a succesful band and a lot of people dig that, but Magnus knows plenty of musicians that are more famous than me and who would jump at the chance to go out with him. So why me? I'm not exactly easygoing and I've never been accused of having a sunny disposition.
"Are you still with me, Alexander?" Magnus' soft voice disrupts my moody thoughts.
I rub my hands over my face. "Yeah, sorry."
"So if I don't make you uncomfortable then what is it?"
Sadly my Deflect-rune tattoo does not do anything to help me fend of difficult questions. "It's just... This is all very new to me and I don't know how to adjust."
"I know I'm a lot to get used too." There is a sad glint in Magnus' eyes and I hate myself for putting it there.
"It's not you, it's me."
Magnus chuckles. "Probably the worst line you could ever use on a love interest."
Love interest... I quite like the sound of that.
"Look..." Magnus grabs my hand. "Let's just take this one step at the time, okay?" He starts stroking my hand and the feel of his fingertips against my bare skin sends shivers down my spine. "How about we just start with a date, Alexander? And we'll just take it from there, okay? If you're ready, that is..."
I look at Magnus. I want to be ready, that's for sure. Doubt is a fickle bitch and it's about time that I evict her from my life to make room for something else. To make room for Magnus. "A date sounds good," I say softly.
Magnus flashes me a beaming smile, one that does all sorts of funny things to my stomach. Butterflies galore. "Then we'll do that as soon as possible, Alexander." He gently strokes my cheek and my skin tingles where he touches me.
Suddenly a pint-sized shadow blocks the sunlight and Magnus looks up . "Clary," he says warmly. "Care to join us for breakfast, biscuit?"
Clary? I jump from the couch as if the bloody thing is on fire, as far away from Magnus' touch as I possibly can. Panic claws at my gut and rips the butterflies to shreds.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" I snarl.
The smile freezes on her face and she looks shell shocked.
"Are you fucking spying on me?" My throat feels constricted and I get the strange sensation that I am slowly being suffocated. Black dots corrupt my vision. Deep down I had known this was too good to be true.
"Alec, I..." Clary starts with a wobly voice. Damn, she should've been an actress, because this performance is worthy of an Oscar.
"Give me your phone." My voice is soft, but judging from the look on both Magnus and Clary's face, the dangerous undertone hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Alexander, what do you want with Clary's phone?" The menacing tone in Magnus' voice replicates mine, but I'm not that easily intimidated. Not anymore.
"She's been spying on me since day one." There is this soft whisper in my head that's warning me that I'm taking this too far, that I should back down before I burn bridges that can never be mended. But I can't.
"Alexander, calm down. You're being paranoid and -"
"Don't you fucking patronize me!" I scream. "Did you and your biscuit just come up with this little scheme together? What is it? Did you not get enough attention in the gossip rags lately, Mags? Or are you just simply trying to squeeze a couple more album sales out of this?"
Magnus looks stricken and it feels like a punch to my gut. The warning whisper in my head has now developed into a full blown orchestra, yelling at me to shut the fuck up, but I can't. I just can't.
I turn to Clary. "Now give me your goddamn phone!"
Clary looks as if she's about to burst into tears. "I don't have it with me, Alec. Can we just -"
"What the hell is going on here?" Jace appears from seemingly out of nowhere and puts a protective arm around his girlfriend. Anger blazes in his eyes. "Why are you yelling at my girlfriend, Alec?"
"Your girlfriend," I nearly spit the words out, "is trying to earn a quick buck at my expense."
"She wouldn't." Jace's trust in his girlfriend is commendable, but also sadly misgiven. She's a journalist, and she'll do anything for a scoop.
"Well, if that's true, why doesn't she just give me her phone, so I can check for video's or photo's?" I ask.
"You don't have to give him anything, sweetheart," Jace tells Clary.
"I would, but I left my phone in the hotelroom," she says, clearly exasperated. "I only came down here for breakfast."
"What's going on?" Izzy comes running to me with Simon hot on her heels. "I just saw Magnus and he looked as if someone had kicked his puppy."
"His biscuit, more like it," I mutter under my breath, but then I look at the couch. Magnus has vanished and I feel defeated. The day had started so well and now everything was just... Ugly.
"Your brother has lost the plot, is what's going on," Jace snarls. "He all but attacked Clary about God knows what."
"O, but Clary knows," I say, getting in Jace's face. I need to vent my rage, surpress my feelings... A quote from one of my favourite movies, 'The Usual Suspect" jumps to my mind “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.” From the day my mother died, I'd always made sure that I knew exactly where my demons were hiding so I could keep them on a tight leash. But tonight, after I kissed Magnus, I made the mistake of believing that I had actually buried them under the rubble of the earthquake and that was so very, very stupid.
Izzy firmly pulls me back - banging the drums every day apparently has given her superstrenght - and looks me in the eye. "Alec..." She gently shakes me by my shoulders. "Alec, Alec... Calm. The. Fuck. Down." She speaks slowly, clearly enunciating every word, as if she's speaking to a child.
"Clary and I are going inside, Iz. See you at the airport." Even though Jace is still standing next to me, his voice seems to come from a far away distance and there is this ringing sound in my ears. Tears are rolling over Clary's cheeks and all of a sudden I feel sick.
Clary has been nothing but nice to me ever since I met her and I repaid her kindness by being an ass, hurling out wild accusations. And Magnus...
Jace pulls Clary with him and I try to mumble an apology, but my throat feels constricted and I can't speak, I can't breathe, and...
"Alec!" Izzy manages to get me on the couch and pushes my head between my knees. "Just breathe, Alec... Just breathe..." Her hand gently brushes through my hair and slowly but surely the vice around my chest untightens. "Breathe in and out... In an out... That's it..."
She coaxes me through the worst of my panic attack.
Whwn my breathing has calmed down, Simon pushes a bottle of water into my trembling hand. "Drink," is all he says. Simon Lewis is probably the yearbooks' poster boy for The Boy Least Likely To Become A Rockstar, but he's a true rock and I'm glad that he's with my sister.
"Thanks," I mumble.
"Alec, o Alec..." I look at my sister and see tears blinking in her eyes. "You're my brother and I love you, but isn't it about time that you get your head out off your ass? We're not in Kansas anymore, you know."
"Meaning?" But I know damn well what she's referring to.
"You really need me to spell it out for you?" She takes my face in her hands and looks me straight in the eye. "You're gay."
I've always known that Izzy knew, but it wasn't something we ever discussed. Mainly because I choked every time she even so much as tried to breach the subject.
I nod. "Yeah." Acknowledging her words is one thing, but actually saying them out loud is something else. Judging by the look in my sister's eyes, she knows this but chooses to let it go. For now.
"What I don't understand is why this is such a problem for you," she says. "I understand Robert and his teaching methods left some considerable scars, but I thought..." She nods her head. "I just don't understand why you never felt safe to come out over the last couple of years. Even to me."
I never realized that me denying my sexuality had hurt my sister, but I now realize it did and it feels like a dagger to my heart. "Honestly, you're the best sister, Iz," I blubber. "It was me, never you. You have to believe that."
She hugs me briefly.
I take a sip of water. Even after eight years, it is still difficult to think about it, let alone talk about it. But I had to. After alienating my best friend and royally screwing things up with Magnus - the best thing that happened to me in a long time - hiding was no longer an option. "It started when I was fifteen yours old, at St. John's High School," I begin. "You got kicked out of high school a couple of months before that, but you might remember Jonathan Morgenstern."
Izzy nods. "Nasty piece of work."
"I had just made it onto the football team and it felt as if I was finally fitting in." I take a deep breath. "I fell in love with Jonathan. Before that I never really questioned my sexuality because I'd never really felt attracted to anyone... Or maybe I was too scared to think about it because of Robert, I don't know. But once the feelings emerged, there was no denying it. Anyway, one day after practice, Jonathan and I were alone in the locker room and he just kissed me, completely out of the blue... I was dumbstruck, because he was involved with a girl named Aline at the time and he never really gave any inclinaton that he was attracted to me, but I kissed him back. And then the rest of the team burst in, laughing their asses off and I looked at Jonathan and he was laughing too." I swallow hard and avert my eyes. Even after all this time, the humiliation of that moment still makes my stomach churn. "He kissed me on a bet. And there were pictures of me kissing him in my fucking underwear."
"O, Alec... I don't know what to say..." Izzy blinks away her tears and grabs my hand.
"There's more. A week or so after practice they attacked me, right up to the point where I lost consciousness."
Understanding dawns on Izzy's face. "O my God, Alec... So that's how you really got that concussion and that broken arm! You told me that it happened during football practice."
"Well, that wasn't a complete lie." I manage a small smile. "It just didn't happen the way you thought it did. Anyway, even though I was attacked, Coach kicked me out of the team. The others said that I baited Jonathan to a fight, that they were just defending him because I was beating him to a pulp. It wasn't true, but I guess Jonathan's father being a huge benefactor to the school played a big part in Coach's decision."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Izzy asked.
"You had enough on your plate as it was." I give a shrug. "I did tell Robert what really happened."
"You did?" she aks incredulously. "About Jonathan?"
"What did he say?"
"In his exact words: he 'hoped that the other boys kicked all that silliness out of me'. He even send me to some sort of religious counseling where they tried to cure me of my homosexuality. In the end I just gave up and went along with everything they said."
I look at Simon, who is sitting on another chair but hasn't said a word so far. He doesn't have to. From the firm set of his jaw I can see that he's angry, and it really is quite an accomplishment to piss Simon off. The fact that he's angry on my behalf somehow warms me.
"Right up until graduation I was bullied relentlessly. Everyone knew, but nobody did anything. They were just glad that it was me instead of them." I rub a hand against the back of my neck. "They even nominated me for Prom Queen." A rueful smile tugs at my lips. 'Not sure if I won in the end though, since Jace and I had already legged it to New York City before prom night." I sigh. "I thought that I could leave it behind me once I left Kansas, but I felt ashamed. Tainted. Karate helped. And the music certainly did as well, especially after you showed up in New York." Though I wished the circumstances under which she showed up had been different. Kicked to the curb by Daddy dearest without any money or even a change of clothes. And all because she had the nerve to accidently get pregnant by her scumbag boyfriend... Two days after Izzy knocked on our door, she miscarried. I lightly squeeze my sister's hand. I came so close to loosing her back then that it still gives me nightmares sometimes. "Even so, in New York I felt happy for the first time, but when I gradually started to come to terms with my sexuality, the band really took off and I just lost my nerve to come out of the closet. Again." I shrug. "If I say it like that, it actually sounds really lame."
"It is anything but lame!" Izzy hugs me tightly. "You idiot, why didn't you ever tell me any of this?"
"You miscarried two days after you came to live with Jace and me, Iz. They told us to prepare for the worst..." My voice broke. "At first you were so heartbroken by losing your baby and the fact that Robert completely abandoned you... I just couldn't add to that burden. And then you met Simon and for the first time since Mom and little Max died, you were so happy..." Tears roll down my cheek and I don't even try to hide them. Me, Alec 'The Emotionally Stunted' Lightwood, cries for the first time in a gazillion years and it feels good.
Simon hands me a handkerchief and I gratefully take it from him. "Weren't you worried that that picture of you and Jonathan would resurface?" he asked thoughtfully.
"In the beginning I was terrified that that would happen. But Iz and I took our mother's maiden name after we moved to New York, so it is quite possible that they never connected Alexander Penhallow to Alec Lightwood. Or perhaps Jonathan wasn't too keen on the idea of a picture of him kissing a guy circulating on the internet." I shrug. "I really don't know."
Izzy is still clinging to my neck as if she's seriously contemplating to never let me go. "Don't you ever shut me out like that ever again, big brother." She wipes the tears from her eyes. "Ever. No matter what I am going through, don't ever think that you can't talk to me, because I will always be there for your, Alec. You, Jace and me... We've always had each other's back."
"I know." I press a soft kiss against her cheek and carefully disentangle myself from her embrace.
"So what are you going to down now?" she asks.
"Talk to Jace, talk to Clary and beg for their forgiveness." I take a deep breath. "And ask Magnus out on a date.Though I doubt he'll still be interested after what I did today, but I have to at least try, I guess."
My sister beams at me. "That's the spirit."
Simon looks at his watch. "As good as this all sounds, if we don't want to miss our flight to Los Angeles, we really have to get to the airport."
"It's a private jet, they'll wait," Izzy says.
"Considering the way I treated Magnus I wouldn't bet on that," I say as I stand up. "Let's go."
As soon as I board the private jet for our flight to Los Angeles, where we will attend a red carpet charity event before playing our last gig of the Shadowhunters-tour, Raj, Magnus'' assistent, tells me that unfortunately Magnus had to go back to New York straight away, so he took a different flight. My heart sinks.
Izzy grabs my arm. "It'll be okay, Alec. You'll get your chance to talk him, it just won't be now."
If he's ever willing to speak to me again... Magnus Bane is a proud man and I basically accused him of selling me out to the devil just so he could get a couple of inches in the gossip rags. But I'll try and if then it's still a big 'no', it'll hurt like a bitch but at least I can say that I tried.
Clary gives me a shy smile - bless her heart - but Jace refuses to even acknowledge me.
For now, I decide to just let them be. We have a ten hour flight ahead of us, so that will leave me plenty of time to beg for forgiveness.
As soon as we are airborne, I walk to them and sit down on the seat facing theirs.
Jace looks as if he's about to strangle me and Clary just looks plain terrified.
"What do you want, Alec?" Jace snarls.
I lift my hands. "I come in peace, I swear." I look at Clary and take a deep breath. "Clary, I am so sorry... Not just for what happened today, but for everything. For the way I treated you since Jace and you became an item."
She leans towards me and gently touches my hand, and it is such a heartfelt, spontaneous reaction that I almost start crying for the second time today. "Alec, it's okay..."
I shake my head, rubbing my damp handpalms over my jeans. "No, it really isn't. My mistrust in you was unjustified and I let it put a wedge between me and the guy that is my brother in everything but blood."
I look at Jace and he nods. He still looks pissed as hell, but the murderous glint in his eyes seems to have somewhat diminished, which I consider to be progress.
"I just don't understand why," Jace mutters.
Izzy sits down next to me and gives me an encouraging pat on the knee.
I know that I am doing the right thing, and hell, I really want to do this, but that still doesn't make it easy to break the silence after eight long years. "I'm about to tell you, but..." I look at Clary. "I want you to write it all down and publish this: the true story about Alexander Lightwood."
I was struggling to come up with a name for this chapter; since I had already started using songs for the chapter names I wanted to continue with that. I had several contenders - Waves by Mr. Probz was on top of that list (the original song, not the remix) - but none of them felt quite right. Then this came on during my morning run, and it was such a lightbulb moment! (Didn't make me run any faster though.) The lyrics fit this chapter quite well, I think. And 'Better Man' is one of my favourite songs by Robbie Williams, though sadly it wasn't on the setlist during his latest tour.
Hope you enjoyed this chapter! Kudo's and/or comments are always appreciated!
The following night I stare at my reflection in the mirror. Izzy insisted I wear a white tux tonight and I feel uncomfortable as hell. Black jeans and a grey sweater - blue if I'm feeling particularly adventurous - are my standard attire. But it's for a good cause: tonight's red carpet charity event is for an anti-bullying organization and as of yesterday I'm their new ambassador. After my interview with Clary, I felt a need to do more than just sharing my story. So I contacted Catarina, the Chairman of Stop Bullying Now!, as soon as our jet touched down at LAX and she was delighted to have me on board. Hence the white tux: as their spokesperson I really want to make a good impression.
Clary did an amazing job with the story. She managed to make me sound way more eloquent than I really am. When I told her that, she vehemently disagreed, saying that my story speaks to people's hearts all by itself. At 11 AM the story went live on the SoundCheck-website, the music magazine that Clary writes for, and according to Dot, our band’s PA, the telephone has been ringing non-stop with interview requests.
I sent the article to Magnus before it was published, but he hasn't responded. I tried to call him several times and I have sent him a text to apologize for what I did, but I think the damage I did is irreparable. I can't blame him. I come with more baggage than the Kardashian-sisters combined and Magnus already has enough shit to deal with on his own- he doesn’t need mine. When I'm back in New York next week, I'll go and talk to him, if only to apologize in person. But since I'm tied up in Los Angeles for the next couple of days, there really isn't anything l can do right now.
I look at my watch. 7.25PM, time to go. The limo picks us up at 7.30PM, so I have to be in the lobby right about now. All of sudden I feel nervous. This is my first public appearance since the article went live this morning and I wonder how people will react. Will they hate me? I close my eyes and take a deep calming breath. It will all be fine, I tell myself. I open my eyes again and take one last look in the mirror before I walk out of my hotel room. Showtime.
I'm the last person to arrive in the limo, the rest is already there and I mumble an apology for being late.
"Doesn't matter," Izzy says. She gives me a quick peck on the cheek. "You look gorgeous, big brother." She fidgets with her earrings and I get a distinct impression that she’s nervous, which is weird, because my sister normally loves the red carpet. "We're actually still waiting for - Oh, there he is! Hi, Magnus."
My heart misses a beat and my mouth feels dry all of a sudden.
Magnus gets in the car and takes the seat opposite mine. He says hello to the others and gives me a brief nod, but that's it.
I have no idea why he's here, but one look at Izzy tells me all I need to know. My meddling sister had a hand in this, but for once, I'm actually glad that she interfered. However, my sister's skills of persuasion might be legendary, but I also know Magnus well enough that he wouldn't be here unless he wanted to. And for the first time since I left Tokyo, I dare to have hope that perhaps it isn't too late. Perhaps I can still make this right.
I look at the man sitting across me, with his jet black, blue-streaked Mohawk and his mesmerizing amber eyes, looking gorgeous and suave in his white tux and my heart skips a beat. I have to make this right because I want this man in my life more than I want my next breath.
The limo stops at the end of the street of the venue where the charity event takes place and as all the others start to make their way outside, I gently grab Magnus wrist. "Can we talk?" I ask softly.
For a second I think he’s going to ignore me, but then he gives me a brief nod.
Izzy gives me an encouraging smile. "I'll ask the driver to do another round. See you guys inside."
And then it's just the two of us left. The limo slowly starts to move. I probably have five minutes before we're back at the venue again. I swallow past the giant lump in my throat. I wasn't prepared for this, but maybe that's a good thing. At least now I can't overthink things, I just have to wing it. Which admittedly is not one of my strong suits, and considering that it's only my life's happiness at stake, there's no pressure, right? Right.
"Magnus, I'm so... Look, about yesterday, I really didn’t want to... But I did and then I... Fuck, why is this so hard? I'm not good at apologies, sorry." I'm rambling like the world's greatest fucking moron. "What I'm trying to say - not very eloquently, I might add - is that I'm sorry." My gaze locks on his. "I am so very sorry, Magnus. And I hope it's not too late to say I'm sorry... Shit, now I'm even quoting Justin Friggin' Bieber on you... But I am really, really sorry. Not only for what happened yesterday, but also for shutting you out when all you ever did was trying to have my back, for denying my feelings for you... Because believe me, those feelings are there and they are real, even though I have had a crap way of showing it until now..." I comb my hands through my hair. "Can you please just say something?"
He leans towards me, a faint smile tugging at his lips, and I can feel his breath hot on my skin. "You're great at apologies, Alexander."
"Yeah?" Some of my nerves evaporate. To me it sounded like the worst apology in the history of apologies, but who am I to argue?
"Yeah." He leans back and looks at his hands. “You’re forgiven.”
A pressing silence stretches between us and there is so much I want to say to him, but somehow the words stay lodged in my throat. He forgave me, but what does that even mean? Does forgiveness means closure, just a way of properly ending things, or does it mean that there’s still a chance?
“Did you read Clary’s article?” I ask.
"Yeah, I did," he responds. "I'm sorry you had to go through that."
"Yeah, me too. But it's not an excuse for the way I behaved, Magnus." I take a deep breath and decide to be brave, to take a leap of faith. This time I’m the one that needs to make the first move, to put my heart on the line. Because Magnus has done it plenty of times for me before, but I was just too dumb and too ignorant to see it.
I move to sit next to Magnus and grab his hand. The gesture seems to surprise him just as much as it surprises me. "What I'm really asking for is a chance, Magnus. A chance to make things right with you." I bring his hand to my lips and press a kiss on his knuckles. "A chance to hold your hand on that red carpet tonight, though I understand that that might be asking a bit too much -"
Magnus silences me with a kiss. "That's not too much, Alexander, " he whispers against my lips. "I'll gladly hold your hand on this and every other carpet in the future."
My lips crash down on his and I try to put every ounce of longing and all of my feelings for him in that one kiss. When the limo slows down, I reluctantly pull back and gaze into Magnus' eyes. "You do realize that once you get out of this limo holding my hand, the whole world will think you're my boyfriend?" I need to ask, need to know that he's sure of what he's getting himself into.
Magnus' thumb gently traces my lips. "From the moment I laid eyes on you two years ago, I've been waiting for the moment I could finally call you my boyfriend, Alexander. I'm ready."
The driver opens the door for us and I can hear the clicking of cameras and the buzz from the crowd. I interlace Magnus' fingers with mine and smile. I don't think I've ever been happier than at this very moment. "Then let's show the world we're together, shall we?"
This is not the end of this story yet! The epilogue will be up before Tuesday night!
Thanks for all the votes, kudo’s and comments on this story, I’m glad to know you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing this. Means the world to me, so once again, thanks!
Chapter 5: Epilogue - Safe and Sound
Epilogue - Safe and Sound
One year later
I look at the clock. Nearly 8 PM. Damn, I'd hoped Magnus would be here by now. He sent me a text two hours ago to tell me that his jet had landed, but the traffic from the airport into the city is probably bloody murder at this hour on a Friday afternoon.
I look at the table on the rooftop terrace, nicely set with Magnus' expensive porcelain plates, crystal flutes and a bottle of champagne on ice. Candlelight basks the room in a soft glow and a mouthwatering scent from the casserole I made earlier wafts in from the kitchen. Everything is ready. For the umpteenth time, I glance at the clock: 8.03PM.
My phone beeps and I look at the screen. Magnus.
Traffic is a nightmare! I'm going to buy a helicopter, I swear! Should be home in 20. Love you xx
A warm and happy feeling spreads through my body, helping the nervous butterflies in my stomach settle down a bit. God, I've missed him... He's only been away for two days and two extremely long nights, but it feels like an eternity.
We've been together nearly every night since the charity event in Los Angeles, only spending nights away from each other if Magnus' business or my commitments to the band or Stop Bullying Now! required us to be elsewhere. When we got back to the hotel that night, we were up all night talking and making out like two lovesick teenagers until we finally fell asleep in each other's arms in the early hours of morning.
Two nights after that we played our final gig of the Shadowhunters-tour in a sold-out Hollywood Bowl. For the first time in the band's history, I took center stage when I performed an acoustic version of 'Until You' and dedicated it to Magnus. Magnus was standing next to the stage with tears streaming down his face, some photographer captured that moment on camera and from then on the song was known as 'Malec's theme'. That night we made love for the first time.
After we got back to New York, Jace, Simon, Izzy and I felt that after being on the road for nearly a year, we desperately needed a sabbatical. I've been working with Raphael's band, Trashed Vampire, and they are launching their second album next week. And I've also been doing a lot of work for Stop Bullying Now!, visiting schools to reach out to children, giving lectures... I'm trying to make a difference and it's been a humbling, but very rewarding experience.
About six weeks ago we were invited to a party at Jace's house in the Hamptons, which - surprise, surprise - turned out to be an impromptu wedding. Well, Jace never really did like to do things the conventional way. Clary's interview with me actually won her an important journalism award and we collected the award together. We might have had a rocky start, but I now consider her to be one of my best friends and I'm happy that Jace has her in his life. They're perfect for each other.
I also went into therapy to deal with the demons of my past. Being in love and being loved in return by the most wonderful and gorgeous man alive is the best feeling ever - and I have written a gazillion songs over the last year to prove that - but it's also not a magical cure. Maybe I can never truly vanquish the demons of my past because they've also made me into who I am today. But at least now I can peacefully coexist with them and feel that I'm worthy of Magnus' love. According to Magnus, that's a load of bull, because in his eyes I was worthy from the moment he saw me. Well, I don't know about that, but as I pat on the little square box in the pocket of my jacket, I know that I am worthy now.
My phone rings and I look at the screen. It's Izzy Facetiming me. My mouth curves into a big grin when I see my brilliant sister with her beautiful baby girl sleeping peacefully in her arms. Izzy and Simon's daughter Maryse Elaine was born four weeks ago and from the moment I first laid eyes on my niece, she had me wrapped around her little finger. After everything Izzy had to go through in the past, it's fantastic to see her so happy. Motherhood really becomes her.
"And?" she whispers as to not wake Maryse.
"He isn't home yet," I answer. "Traffic's a bitch -" I look at my sleeping niece. "A bitsy busy," I correct myself quickly.
"Call me the minute he says yes, okay?"
"Well, he might not accept, you know." Fear clenches my stomach.
Izzy looks at me like I'm delirious. "You're kidding, right? Magnus worships the ground you walk on, Alec. Believe me, he says yes the minute you get that box out of your pocket."
"Well, let's hope he does." Then I finally hear the sound of the key turning in the lock. "Sorry, Iz... Gotta go. Magnus is home. I'll call you later, okay? Give Maryse a big kiss for me."
"Alexander, I'm so sorry I'm late. Traffic was- " Magnus stops dead in his tracks when he sees me in my white tux and the candlelit table. "Wow! You really pulled out all the stops, didn't you?" He smiles, walks over to me and leans in for a kiss. "Missed me?"
My lips softly brush against his. "Like crazy." There's this breathy undertone in my voice that I hardly recognize as my own.
Magnus gives me a bemused look. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, it's just..." The butterflies in my stomach run rampant again. I've never been so nervous in my life. I had wanted to wait until after dinner, but now that he is here, standing in front of me, I don't think I can. "Marry me," I blurt out.
Oh fuck... That came out all wrong.
Magnus looks as if he's about to pass out.
"Shit... Fuck..." An expletive-filled proposal is probably not the way to go, Lightwood, I scold myself. I get down on bended knee and retrieve the little square box from my pocket and open it to reveal the white gold ring with a little amber-colored diamond that reminded me of Magnus' eyes. My hand trembles. I really hope he likes it, because compared to Magnus' usual attire, it's quite plain but I picked this one so that the ring would go with everything he chooses to wear. "It wasn't supposed to go like this." I stumble over my words now. "I wanted to wait until after dinner, but then you came in and... Boy, I'm botching this up spectacularly." I take a deep breath. "Magnus Bane, I love you so much... Will you marry me?"
Magnus looks at me, shock written all over his face. And then he just sinks to his knees and laughs. "I can't believe this," he mutters. Tears well up in his eyes as he plants soft kisses on my lips, my cheeks, my eyes... Everywhere.
I look at him, dumbfounded. "I'm hardly an expert on marriage proposals, but is this a yes -"
"Of course it's yes!"Magnus cups my face between his hands, his soft breath a caress against my skin. "To you, it's always yes, Alexander. It's just that... Oh boy, you're not gonna believe this." He rummages through his pocket and then to my complete astonishment he holds out a little square box and lifts the small lid, revealing a silver ring on a bed of velvet, breathtakingly beautiful in its simplicity it.
I choke up, barely able to comprehend what's happening.
"When I was in Los Angeles today I walked past the venue where the charity event was held and it brought back so many memories. And then I saw this little jeweler and it all clicked into place. I had it all planned: I was going to take you out to dinner, somewhere private, and then I would pop the question... But you obviously had to beat me to it, didn't you?" Happiness beams in his eyes and it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Magnus grabs my hand. "Alexander Gideon Lightwood, I love you so much and I loved having you as my boyfriend this past year. But I think that I'll love having you as my husband even more, so... Will you marry me?"
"Yes!" I kiss him, laughing and crying at the same time. "Yes!"
Magnus slides the ring on my finger and then holds out his hand so I can return the favor. "There you go," I say. "All mine, now and forever." Mine... Such a simple word that conveys so much meaning. After everything that has happened in my life, I can still barely believe that I get to have forever with this man, the love of my life. But it's real: he belongs to me and I belong to him. And that makes me - the man who needed nothing short of an earthquake to come out of his slumber so he could finally start living - the luckiest bastard alive.