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“I’m not sure if this the worst idea you’ve ever had, or the best.” The lines of Luke’s forehead smoothe out as he smiles. “But I’m willing to give it a go.”

Alec eases back in his chair, palms flat on his desk. “I appreciate the support, Luke. I know it’s a crazy idea but ... I really want to do this. I think we can do this.”

Luke inclines his head thoughtfully. “Usually, I’d disagree - because the Clave never do anything in the interest of Downworlders...” Luke raises a dark eyebrow. “But I trust you. I believe in you.”

“Your belief is most of what I need to get the ball rolling.” Alec admits. “Although, having somewhere to meet wouldn’t hurt...”

Luke laughs, warm and full-bodied, standing up from his seat. “I’m sure something can be arranged.  I’ll get the pack to ... shift out for a few hours.”

Alec follows suit with a hesitant smile, pushing his chair back. “I just don’t imagine the Institute would be a selling point, of any degree.”

“I understand,” Luke reaches over, offering Alec his hand. The shake is firm but not constricting. “You have my whole support, and the Jade Wolf as a welcome meeting place.”

"Thank you, Luke." Alec smiles, though he manages to keep it professional. "I really appreciate your support."

"This is something the Downworld needs," Luke declares, as Alec accompanies him to the door. "If you're willing to put in the effort required, which it appears as though you are, then I am more than happy to offer any support I can."

Alec pulls open the door to his office, shooting Luke a weak smile. "I can only hope that the other Downworlder leaders think the same. I've talked to Raphael Santiago, the leader of the vampire clan, and he's begrudgingly agreed to one meeting, at the least."

Luke shrugs. "I have a feeling that's all you'll get from him at this stage."

Alec hums in agreement. "I'm meeting with the High Warlock of Brooklyn tomorrow, Magnus Bane?"

Luke grins, stepping out into the hallway. "He's an interesting man, but a good one. If you sell it honestly, I imagine you'll get him on your side. But he hates lies, so I'd steer clear of false promises."

"I hate lying," Alec admits. "So I don't imagine that will be a problem."

"If you have the chance, swing by the Jade Wolf sometime this week," Luke offers. "We'll sort out some logistics, and you can finally taste the best dumplings around."

Alec nods. "Sounds good to me."

It's once Luke has left, that Alec allows himself a grin, because it feels like things are slowly, carefully, falling into place, and perhaps it's a little naive of him to get excited so preemptively, but he doesn't care. He wants to do this so badly, and any hope that it's going to work out, is hope he's going to hold onto with gritted teeth. 

He just needs to get Magnus Bane on his side, and at the very least a representative from the Seelie Court, and he'll be able to form the Downworlder council that has been the focus of his dreams since he became the Head of the Institute.

He wants to change things, for the better, but he can't do that on his own, and as much as he hates leaning on other people for support, he understands that this isn't his problem. It is the Downworlders who need this, the Downworlders who are at a disadvantage because of the actions of his people - Alec will do all that he can to help the Shadow World move forward, but he refuses to claim power over something he could never understand.

It is the Downworlders who dictate the change required - Alec is just the Trojan Horse to help them move forward. 

 


 

It's raining, because of course it is, and Alec is a rough minute away from being drenched, cowering beneath the scaffold of a mid-renovation apartment. He forgot to bring anything more than his standard heavy-duty jacket because he hadn't expected it to rain this strongly, and by his logic he could just hop down to the Lower East Side for his meeting with the High Warlock and be back to the Institute before it got too bad.

Unfortunately, the weather has betrayed him and as a result he looks a lot like a drowned rat - clearly the perfect impression to greet a powerful, potential ally whom he hopes to have on his side in his quest for amending relations. 

The label next to the buzzer reads BANE in calligraphic font, gold against black in a way that Alec presumes is supposed to look grand and intimidating, but for Alec just looks like the High Warlock takes great pride in his apartment, in how it's styled and the impression it makes 

Which makes sense, considering he often works from it. 

Alec presses the buzzer before he can second-guess himself, raking a hand over his wet hair so that it's slicked back over his head and not dripping into his eyes. It's definitely a good start that the first thing he'll have to say to the High Warlock of Brooklyn is - sorry I look like my mode of transport was a sewer, now let's talk about you joining this new council I'm setting up because I'm clearly quite trustworthy. 

At least he's not late, Alec thinks, sourly. It's possibly the only thing working in his favour at the moment, but it's something.

"Who dares disturb the High Warlock of Brooklyn?" A booming voice echoes from the speakerphone. 

Alec is reasonably startled, but something about the exaggerated grandeur is amusing. He comes from an organisation of gravitas and duty, none of his people work under the same circumstances as a warlock, let alone a high warlock, who no doubt has more responsibility than Alec could ever be capable of imagining; there is bound to be differences, but it's still something that Alec finds interesting.

"Alec Lightwood," He states, hoping his voice is clear enough over the sound of thunder and rain. "From the New York Institute ... we have an appointment?"

Alec cringes, wishing he didn't sound so unsure. There's a heavy silence, followed by a faint crackling that could be from the speaker system, or something unseen to Alec's eyes.

"Mr Lightwood." A click resounds through the speakers. "Please, come in."

 


 

The door to Magnus Bane's apartment swings open before Alec even has a chance to raise his hand to knock. The man standing on the other side is not exactly who Alec was expecting.

He'd done his research, not to spy or form opinions before they met, but back when he was planning the organisation of a Downworlder council, because he wanted to make sure that he was propositioning the idea to the right person, someone who'd be interested in such a concept and who would, hopefully, be kind enough to give him a chance.

Alec isn't a fool, he's well-aware of the scaffolding he sits upon in comparison to Downworlders - not as high as many of his people hold themselves, considering it's not generally acceptable for Shadowhunters to be gay, and certainly not open about it - but still with a degree of privilege not afforded to those Shadowhunters see as "lesser". 

The fact is, there's still a chance that Magnus won't agree to Alec's idea, and as unfortunate as that is, Alec isn't going to push anyone to do something they don't want to. 

However, Alec is still holding onto hope, thin as it might be, that things will work out, that the council will work out with little hitch. 

None of his research, however, could have prepared him for the utterly breath-taking man standing before him. Magnus' beauty is not something that Alec is new to, he's seen photographs from both the present and past, he knows that Magnus is good-looking.

In person? He's impossible. 

He looks fantastic. Clearly, he has an exceptionally well-developed style, and he knows what he's doing - definitely more than Alec does. His pants are tight, ending in metallic boots that draw attention to the array of layered necklaces peeking between his low-cut crimson blouse, a similar shade to the streaks of red in his curled-up hair.

Alec genuinely stops breathing for a second, heart tripping sparks at the slow gaze Magnus trails down his frame, the quirk of his - coy? - smile when he makes contact with Alec.

"You're even more handsome than you sound on the phone," Magnus declares, holding out a hand.

Alec shakes it, skin tingling at the press of metal against skin. How he hadn't noticed Magnus' rings is a wonder, but now that he has, he can't stop thinking about them; what they could mean, if they have any level of importance, where he got them from, if they're heirlooms or gifts or simply something he picked because he wanted to. 

He's never been so instantly attracted to someone, but then, he's never met anyone a quarter as intriguing as Magnus Bane.

"T-Thank you, for taking the time to meet with me." Alec swallows past the lump in his throat, his hand falling from Magnus'. "I know you're a very busy man, and I don't intend on taking up more of your time than that which is necessary."

Magnus looks at him for a second - looks through him - an unreadable expression creasing lines in his forehead, before he smoothes it out as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. "I get the feeling any time spent together would be of no inconvenience."

Magnus steps aside before Alec can spend too much time trying to figure out what exactly had been meant by Magnus' cryptic statement. He shoots Alec an encouraging smile, not too bright as to scare him away but warm enough that Alec feels almost ... welcome as soon as he steps past the threshold.

Magnus is, for all intents and purposes a stranger, but Alec doesn't feel awkward, doesn't feel the itch that usually covers his skin when in the residency, or sometimes mere presence, of someone he doesn't know.

It's barely been a minute, and yet, Alec can feel something in Magnus that promises trust would not be misled. Despite Alec's better instincts, both that which he's built up and those that come from prejudices he's had to fight against, he lets his guard down as soon as the door shuts behind him.

Not completely, as the hand that strays idly to the seraph blade hitched to his thigh would confirm, but more than he had standing outside. 

A thought which reminds him starkly of the fact that he is still considerably wet. He clears his throat, the sound audible and awkward in the relative silence, drawing Magnus' attention to him in quite a sharp movement. 

"Is there somewhere I could-" Alec's scrambling, cheeks splotched with heat with each second Magnus' heavy gaze is centered on him. A lone drop of water tracks it's way down his forehead, to the tip of his nose, eliciting an itch that Alec wishes he could rub away without losing all sense of decorum.

"Dry off?" Magnus suggests, with a look somewhere between sympathy and a smirk. "Not to worry. I can take care of that for you."

He lifts his hand with a flourish, leaving Alec temporarily dazed by the light that darts off his rings - and then Magnus pauses, shoulders tensing up, and Alec's stomach tightens because he'd hoped to have at least begun a discussion with Magnus before he inevitably messed something up.

"Unless you'd feel uncomfortable," Magnus' tone drops off quietly, gaze flicking to the floor and then returning to Alec's, almost as though he's - nervous? But that can't be right, because he's - he's Magnus Bane, he's the High Warlock of Brooklyn ... possibly one of the most powerful people that Alec will ever meet.

He can't be nervous, not about Alec. Alec isn't worth such a reaction.

"I wouldn't." He states, because it needs to be said. Other Shadowhunters, he knows, would be less than kind about it - but Magnus is offering to dry him off, for whatever reason; Alec isn't going to be an asshole about it. "I'd really appreciate it, actually, but you don't have to."

Magnus smiles then, small and unexpected, it seems for them both. "I don't mind." He assures Alec, and then his hand is lifting with flair and a shower of blue sparks fall over Alec, the sensation not unlike a hairdryer cast over his entire body. 

It tickles a little, but not uncomfortably - Alec wonders if that's just an effect of being dried so efficiently, or if it's the magic. He's awfully curious, but then, that isn't what he came here for.

"Shall we take a seat?" Magnus asks, gesturing behind him, to an open-space lounge with couches of varying sizes and colours scattered deliberately around an obsidian glass coffee table. 

"Whatever works for you." Alec replies, not wanting to be an inconvenience.

Magnus huffs, a mere gust of charmed breath, but it stirs something funny in the center of Alec's stomach. "You are one of the easiest guests I've ever had, Alexander, I must say. The people I usually meet with have stipulations and places to be, barely a smile to offer in greeting."

Alec's tongue is painted with a sour taste that refuses to disappear despite his best intentions to swallow it down. "I do not subscribe to the majority views held by my people, Mr Bane. I do not see why you should not be comfortable in your own home, nor do I think a smile is a hard price to pay - it's barely a price at all. It's common respect, nothing harder than that."

Magnus just, stares at him, for no longer than a few seconds, but it's oddly nice. Alec hates being the center of attention, yet he doesn't mind having Magnus' attention on him. 

Strange.

"You're not like other Shadowhunters," Magnus doesn't say it like a bad thing, rather, a pleasant surprise. "Usually I'm leered at, or torn apart like a specimen rather than a person." He blinks, a careful smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "It's quite refreshing."

"I'm sorry," Alec curls his fingers against his palm, wishing not for the first time that he belonged to people that had more respect for others, not ostracising them for reasons that don't make any sense. "You don't deserve that."

Magnus shakes his head, almost unnoticeably, his smile never fading. "A matter not of concern for you, darling." He claps his hands, the sound sharp and unexpected. "Now, I must admit that when you called, I was a little guarded, and as such didn't pay much attention past the moment where you told me you weren't calling for wards. What is the motive of your visit?"

He spins on his heel, heading towards the lounge, leaving Alec with little choice but to follow. He feels a little, unbalanced, around Magnus - comfortable, but very aware of what he's doing and how Magnus might react to it. Logically, Alec knows it's because he's a Shadowhunter, and realistically Magnus doesn't have much of a reason to trust him, but it's still a little unnerving. 

Alec has spent a lot of time working towards a place where he is comfortable for himself, with who he is, and it hasn't been easy - he still has people under his care of duty who don't believe he's good enough to be Head of the Institute for his sexuality, and his openness about it, but he doesn't let that stop him. 

Most of the time, anyway. Around Magnus that's quickly becoming something of a struggle.

"I'm hoping to put together a council with Downworlder representatives, to discuss prominent issues within the Shadow World, with the intention of lessening the disparities between Shadowhunters and Downworlders." Alec wonders, distantly, if he's talking too quickly. "As the High Warlock, I was hoping to gauge your interest and discuss the possibility of you holding a position on the council."

Magnus folds himself gracefully into a teal armchair, a colour that shouldn't work with his outfit the way that it does, his leg resting atop his knee. He fixes Alec with a narrowed glance, hands folded in his lap. 

"You can sit." Magnus points out, gesturing to the black three-seater across from him. "The lounge won't bite. And if I'm being honest - as I aim to be - I'd prefer if you called me Magnus. I don't bite, either." Magnus winks. "Unless that's something you're into."

Alec shakes his head, caught between a frown and a reluctant laugh, as he sits precariously across from Magnus. He's such a peculiar kind of person, by no means in a bad way, just one that Alec is not used to. Shadowhunters are, more often than not, very tight-lipped, greyscale and work-to-the-bone, discard-all-frivolities kind of people. 

Magnus, whilst Alec doesn't doubt works very hard at all he does, seems to partake in any pleasures that so interest him - something Alec's sister, Isabelle, keeps encouraging him to do. 

Not that a discussion of how-to-not-be-a-stick-in-the-mud, Isabelle's words, is what Alec is here to do.

"You want to create a council of Downworlders." Magnus states, not a question, though not quite a fact either. "I don't imagine this is an idea approved by your ever-restrictive Clave."

"It's not." Alec shrugs. "It's also not entirely approved by the Clave that an openly-gay Shadowhunter is leading one of their primary Institutes, either, and yet - here I am." 

Magnus quirks an eyebrow, though he doesn't seem too surprised. "I heard wind of rumours, but a lot of the time gossip is all vampires spread. I can't imagine that was easy for you."

Alec sighs. It's not something he tends to think about all that much, preferring to move forward rather than consider what he's behind him. "It wasn't. It isn't. But, it's the world I live in, and I've worked too hard to get to where I am, to let bigoted people stop me."

Magnus appears - impressed is a bit of a stretch, but Alec can't think of anything else that comes close. "Determination can be quite an admirable quality - as I'm sure you're aware, bigots and prejudice is something that Downworlders deal quite a lot with. For most of us, it's become, albeit depressingly, quite normal."

Alec straightens in his seat. "I understand that the Shadow World is not very lenient, nor fair, to Downworlders. That is why I want to form this council, so that it is Downworlders who determine what needs to be fixed, and how - I don't think it's right for a Shadowhunter to dictate what the problems are. We're not affected by them, nor can we really see them. Our say is stupid, and essentially null-and-void for all effect it will have."

Magnus shifts, his posture indicating closer attention. Alec leans forward, hands folded over his knees, gaze locked onto Magnus' with as much sincerity as he can summon. "I know that this is a small step in the grand scheme of things, and I genuinely wish our world was at a point where such councils didn't have to exist, and certainly not with my involvement, but I truly believe that this is a step in the right direction."

Magnus hums, though his attention never wavers. "You seem very sincere, I'll admit that." He mulls over his next words, toys with them, all whilst Alec's heart pounds hard against his ribs, anticipation curving his shoulders forward. 

He really wants this to work out, and he's foolishly let himself begin to hope that it will - if it doesn't, he's not sure what he'll do next. He doesn't want to give up on the idea of helping mend relations between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, but without this council he has no idea how to go about it. 

He refuses to 'fix' the issues 'for the Downworlders' because that is disgustingly counterproductive, and frankly, none of his damn business. He's only pushing so hard for this council because the Clave wouldn't accept one without a Shadowhunter at the helm, so to speak.

He may be the figurative face of the idea, at least in the Clave's eyes, but none of it is for him.

"Who else will be on the council?" Magnus asks. "Theoretically."

Alec relaxes a little at this. "Luke Garroway, the alpha of the New York wolf pack, has agreed on the provision that there is honesty, and transparency, and no obligation to remain if the council ceases to do what has been promised."

Magnus smiles, just slightly. "Lucian is quite an honourable man."

Alec doesn't mention that he's surprised, that Magnus knows Luke - Lucian - because he doesn't think he's really supposed to. It makes sense, for them to know each other, it's just a friendship that seems unlikely ... that's of course presuming there is even a friendship there in the first place. 

"That, he is. Raphael Santiago, of the New York vampire clan-" Alec doesn't miss the wide-eyed look Magnus gets, nor the slow smirk that curves after it. "Has agreed to a single meeting, as probation."

"Raphael is a cactus wrapped inside of a designer suit." Magnus tilts his head. "However, he is a good judge of character, and I trust his decision-making."

Alec holds his breath. 

"If Luke, and Raphael are both on board, and I am to believe that my trust is not misled - trust in you, Alexander - then I see no harm in attaching my name to this budding council." Magnus eyes flash gold, so quick Alec wonders if he imagined it. "I'd hope that such faith is not taken advantage of."

"I intend no such thing." Alec states, firm and unwavering. "I truly believe that things can change, however slow and difficult the process might be, if such a council is built - with the help of Luke, and Raphael and yourself, those wise in the matters only Downworlders face."

Magnus stands up, full of an enviable grace that has Alec struggling to follow, blood rushing to his head in a quick fit of dizziness. Fortunately, if Magnus notices, he's kind enough to not mention it. 

"I get the feeling that you're full of surprises, Alexander Lightwood." Magnus holds out his hand, a sleek black business card held between two fingers. "My details, for when you determine a time for the meeting, and for any other contact you feel is important."

"Thank you," Alec takes the card from him gingerly. He feels, dirty, touching it, like his calloused fingers are too grimy for the silver embossed lettering. He glances at the card, skimming over the details, the personal phone number standing out the most.

"I suppose your business hours aren't as mundane as nine-to-five." Alec says, with a sheepish scrub of his neck. He sounds like an idiot, feels like a right one too. Of course Magnus' hours aren't 'normal', he's a warlock, his skills would cater to anyone, not just those who live by the rise and set of the sun. 

"They are not." Magnus admits. His smile is careful, but sweet. That funny feeling is back, the one that flutters in the pit of Alec's stomach, unfamiliar though not entirely unpleasant. "However, I don't believe that our relationship has to be strictly professional - if you don't want."

Heat blotches Alec's neck, burning at the tips of his ears. He can't breathe, something which is quickly becoming more of an inconvenience than he'd like, considering it's usual rarity.

"I hope it's not improper, for a warlock and a Shadowhunter to be ... friends." Magnus fiddles with his ear - Alec had noticed a small silver cuff, before, though he hadn't the chance to distinguish the shape. There's something heavy to Magnus' words, something he wants to say but won't, for whatever reason.

Alec doesn't want to look too far into it, doesn't want to push away a budding acquaintance that could be really beneficial for hundreds and hundreds of people. "Friends." He says, ignoring the sour edge to the words his tongue curls around. "I'd like that."

Magnus' smile widens, igniting winds behind Alec's ribs. "As would I."

 


 

Alec feels like he's going to throw up.

Not from the somewhat-fishy, somewhat-demonic stench that's wafting from the docks around him, nor the distant piercing whistle that doesn't seem to cease for longer than a second, though he's sure none of that is really helping. 

The iron fist gripped around his lungs is part of the problem, the steel butterflies with jagged wings in the pit of his stomach another, but it's the thought of what lies behind the looming worn-down building, the rusted door more imposing in this moment than the gates of Alicante, that holds Alec back.

He's early, the meeting not due to start for another thirty minutes, at least, but he needs to be on the other side, needs to talk to Luke, set things up, run over the notes he'd mentally compiled the night before instead of sleeping, to make sure that he's prepared, that he leaves the Downworlders attending with the right impression. 

An impression that he can be trusted.

It's just, he's never attempted something this big, or important before. Sure, coming out the evening before his own wedding because he realised he wasn't doing it for the right reasons, that his nerves were deeper than pre-marriage jitters, had been a big deal, and created an impact wider than he could have anticipated. 

But this isn't about him. None of this is for him, he's just a temporary vessel, the kickstart that the Shadow World needs to head towards inevitable change. It's not personal, not like his coming out, and it affects others - so many others that the sheer volume is impossible for him to quantify. 

He'd been excited, before, but now that the time has come ... it's all very intimidating. What if he messes everything up? What if he says something wrong, or inappropriate, what if he crosses a line he hadn't even seen, because he's blinded by his own privilege?

Alec is definitely going to be sick.

The door to the Jade Wolf creaks open, drawing Alec's gaze immediately. He's only a few steps away, close enough to see the amused glint in Luke's dark eyes, the firm bulge of his biceps as his arms crossed over his chest.

"Admiring the view?" Luke at the very least, has the grace to feign sympathy. "It's a little less grand and pompous than the Institute, but the food is definitely better."

"Just," Alec bunches his shoulders up, striding on long steps towards the door. "Feeling a bit nervous, is all."

"It's a big deal," Luke acknowledges. "But I wouldn't be too worried.  You have the best intentions, Alec - none of us would be here if we didn't have faith in you."

Alec sucks in a deep breath, letting Luke's words sink in because, unsurprisingly, he's right. Everyone who's attending this meeting is doing so with the belief that the start of something productive will be built, the hard part has already been and passed - he's managed to convince important leaders of the Downworld that this meeting is worth their valuable time.

Now is the time where he gets to put his plans into motion, to hopefully walk away from the meeting with something productive having come from it. In the grand scheme of things, it's a step that should have been taken long before Alec was even born. 

"Okay." Alec nods, firm with conviction he's, mostly, faking. "Let's do this."

 


 

"You're very young."

It's not a question, barely even a statement. Meliorn's gaze is dark and piercing, a forest under the cloak of night, shadows and stars. All Seelies, Alec knows, are beautiful, in an ethereal, untouchable way - but there's a cruelty to the way Meliorn smiles, if it can be called that, not even a glint of teeth, just lips stretched tight with malice dancing in his eyes. 

"I am." Alec acknowledges. Beside him, Luke clears his throat, the hint of a growl beneath it. Alec appreciates the support, but he has to do this himself. “Should that mean that I just sit by and let the world continue turning as it is, or should I do my part - despite my young age - to ensure that Shadowhunters treat Downworlders with the respect that you all deserve.”

Across the table, Magnus has his hands clasped before him, amusement creasing lines near his eyes - they’re glamoured, but Alec isn’t surprised. He hasn’t, by any means, earnt the kind of trust for that, nor does he expect to see the glamour if he ever did.

The Institute’s file doesn’t have an image of Magnus’ warlock mark, just a description, which Alec is sure annoys most of the Clave, not that they deserve to know - it seems like a very personal thing, and should be up to the warlock involved if and to whom they show it. 

That’s just - common sense. 

“I believe that Mr Lightwood has a good point.” Magnus winks at Alec, before turning his attention to the rest of the council. Alec feels a little winded. “Age should not to be a factor when it comes to respect - besides, I imagine it would be harder to convince those who’d been around when the Circle was at it’s peak, than their children.”

Besides Alec, Luke stiffens. It’s temporary, but Alec feels his own spine straightening out, cement coating each individual vertebrae. It’s not a secret that his parents were part of the Circle - although it had been, until a few months before. The reminder hurts, an eruption of tiny bursts beneath his skin, but he understands that many had their reasons; it’s conversations with Luke, about his time, his experience, that have helped Alec formulate his opinion.

It was a dark, horrible time, there’s no debating that, and the people within the Circle should be held responsible for their actions, even with Valentine’s death the pinnacle for it’s demise.

But the generalised view of Downworlders certainly didn’t help - the Circle would never have reached such levels of power if Shadowhunters treated Downworlders better, if Downworlders were heard and listened to, their claims taken seriously instead of being dismissed as folly.

“There is always, a very real possibility that such a group like the Circle could rise again,” Alec states, casting a quick glance at Luke. 

Luke nods, an encouragement and a grant of permission in one. Alec nods back, grateful that he has Luke beside him, that he discussed this all with Luke beforehand - he’s the only person here who has lived on both sides, the only one who understands the Clave like Alec, yet who also faces disgusting discrimination for being a wolf.

“If you believe the Circle will rise again, in whatever form your nephilim mind conjures, what is even the point of such a council? Are you intending to waste all of our time?” Meliorn asks, sharp-toothed, though his expression remains composed, betraying nothing.

“I hadn’t finished.” Alec explains, keeping any malice from his tone, knowing it would only hinder his efforts. Next to Meliorn, a low snigger disturbs the air - Raphael Santiago has his fingers poised carefully over his mouth to disguise his reluctant smile. 

Alec fights his own, determined to remain collected, at least until his point has been made. “If we don’t change things, now, if we don’t work towards a future where Shadowhunters and Downworlders live in relative harmony, with mutual respect from both sides, then of course another Circle will rise. Shadowhunters need to be taught better - we’re not taught to respect Downworlders. That is the first step to change. Respect.”

“Do you intend on hosting lectures?” Raphael questions, his smile vanished as though it had all been an illusion. “Forcing Shadowhunters to respect Downworlders? You’ve a very naive view of the world, Lightwood.”

“At least he is trying to do something good.” Magnus steps in, cutting a glance at Raphael. They’ve an odd relationship, that much Alec could tell from the moment they walked in, quietly bickering, although Magnus had seemed amused. 

“What Shadowhunter do you know, who is going to the lengths that Alexander is?”

Raphael rolls his eyes, then, self-satisfaction glittering in the midnight depths. “Is this about respecting Downworlders,” He asks, the question directed solely to Magnus. “Or the black jeans of a certain-”

Raphael stops short, suddenly, a flicker of blue covering his mouth. Magnus is smirking, but there’s a dangerous glint to his eyes that promises nothing good if Raphael continues. “I’d be careful of what you speak, Raphael, or you will soon find yourself without the ability to.”

Magnus waves his hand, and then Raphael is panting, gaze hardened as it shoots towards Magnus, the spell apparently preventing him from breathing. Alec hadn’t realised that vampires needed air the same way humans did, considering they weren’t technically alive, but he supposes there’s a lot of things he’s yet to truly know, and he shouldn’t be making assumptions on things he doesn’t know.

Luke laughs, softly, low enough that Alec is the only one who can hear. Alec shakes his head - this seems like the right time to take a break, the tense atmosphere fractured slightly by the staring contest occurring between Magnus and Raphael.

“Let’s take five,” He states, drawing attention. “We can return to this topic then.”

Alec, for one, needs some serious air. 

 


 

“Alexander,” 

Alec turns almost immediately, breath sticking in his throat. It’s possible that Magnus looks better today, than he had a few days before when they’d last spoken; his jacket is a dark green, military style with silver studs across the shoulders, the shirt beneath a few shades lighter, lined with black thread that matches his pressed pants, buttoned only to his collar. His boots are polished, nicer and likely more expensive than those of Alec’s stock-standard gear, hair curled and streaked with a silver that glints beneath the evening sun. 

He looks ... drool-worthy, if Alec’s being honest - but he’s not here to stare dazedly at Magnus, he has intentions he needs to stick to. 

“Magnus. Hi.” Alec smiles, professionally, of course. “You had some interesting points, in there - thank you, again, for agreeing to come. I can’t explain how much it means, to me, that you trust me.”

“Trust is a fickle thing.” Magnus scrunches his nose, glancing around the docks. The sun is warm, the breeze cool, although Alec thinks it must be terribly stuffy beneath all of Magnus’ layers.

“Why didn’t you call me before?” Magnus asks, gaze swinging sharply towards Alec. It’s just them out there, yet Alec feels like he’s being stared at by a hundred eyes. 

The typical excuses flit through his mind - I was busy; I lost your number; I forgot; I thought it inappropriate - but they’re all lies, and Alec promised he’d be honest. 

“I didn’t-” Alec swallows past the lump in his throat. “I thought that, I should call if I had something interesting to say, so that you wouldn’t get bored, but I-” He shrugs. “I’m not interesting. I work my hardest during the day, fighting to prove wrong those who don’t think I’m right for the job, and at night I finish off paperwork and I ... sleep. I don’t really have friends, bar my siblings, and I don’t - I’m not interesting.”

Not like you, he thinks. Magnus is an enigma that Alec is desperate to crack, not for the satisfaction of the accomplishment, but the answers - he wants to learn more about Magnus, about who he is, what he likes and doesn’t, all the things that make him who he is.

It’s strange, because he’s never had any urge to learn about someone, never felt a pull this strong before - and yet, around Magnus, everything is different. He feels unbalanced in the best possible way, but he’s also starkly aware of how different they are.

What would Magnus find interesting about Alec? He probably knows hundreds of fun and exciting people, able to engage comfortably in long discussions about the world, about anything that comes up; Alec could recite the entirety of the Codex, but he doesn’t know anything of culture or fame, just what the Institute walls whisper to him. 

Magnus would get bored of his company within an hour. Alec doesn’t see the point in testing something he knows will fail, when he could simply save Magnus the trouble and not bother. 

“Who told you that you aren’t interesting?” Magnus asks, stepping forward until Alec can see the intricate details of his jacket, the tiny MB pin on the lapel. “I don’t recall being the one to do it, so I’m presuming that somebody has.”

“I don’t have to be told that I’m boring.” Alec shrugs, wishing he could evade Magnus’ relentlessly kind gaze. “I just, am. I always have been.”

Magnus inclines his head, his smile tender but a little sad. Sympathetic. For ... Alec. 

“I find that hard to believe, Alexander.” Magnus is just so frustratingly, endearingly kind, it doesn’t make sense - he doesn’t know Alec, he doesn’t have any reason to even like Alec, to trust him, let alone be nice to him.

Unfortunately, Alec manages to accidentally tell Magnus this, somehow speaking clearly enough around the foot in his mouth. 

“I know enough to form a base opinion,” Magnus states. It’s hard for Alec to figure out his tone, it’s not angry, but not clear either. “I don’t need longer than a couple of minutes to determine that you’re a good person, with the purest intentions of anybody I’ve ever met, and the determination to take you to the lengths you strive to reach.”

Magnus steps forward, so that Alec can see the light shimmer on his cheekbones, highlight, he thinks - he remembers Isabelle muttering something about it, though he hadn’t admittedly been paying all that much attention at the time. 

Whatever it is, it seems to be working for Magnus - although Alec is sure he’d look amazing under any circumstances. 

“You’re quite the honourable man, Alexander.” A shiver races down Alec’s spine, when Magnus’ gaze trails down his frame, a mischievous sparkle to his eyes, although his smile remains kind. “And a handsome one, although I don’t hold looks accountable for everything. I’ve met many beautiful people with dark hearts and horrible souls - you, have none of that. A rare kind indeed.”

Alec’s heart is stuttering an audible beat behind his ribs, the butterflies no longer made of steel, though their wings flap just as fast. Beneath it all, lies a sense of unfamiliar calm, the kind that Alec has never really felt before.

It’s nice.

“Would you-” Alec clenches his hand into his fist by his side, winds a flutter in his gut. “Would you like to get a drink, sometime?” 

It sounds, hopeful and forced, all wrapped up with an awkward bow but Magnus’ smile is worth the tremors racing over Alec’s skin. “Obviously,” He continues, because he doesn’t have a filter. “You don’t have to, I totally understand if you don’t want to, but - I think you’re a thousand times more interesting than I am, and you’re obviously gorgeous and-”

“Alexander.” Magnus reaches out, slowly, until his hand is grasping the side of Alec’s face, his cheeks no-doubt heating beneath Magnus’ touch. Magnus smiles, and all of Alec’s worries melt away, because how can anything bother him when Magnus is looking at him like this? 

So open and - happy.

“I would love to.”