You've really been grand (l thrill when you touch my hand)
But don't you see? (How can you do this thing to me?)
There's bound to be talk tomorrow (Think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (If you got pneumonia and died)
I really can't stay (Get over that old out)
Baby, it's cold
Baby, it's cold outside
Alec sighed, fingers tapping on the wheel in agitation. Sometimes Alec wondered why he bothered driving - the traffic in New York could be such a pain in the ass.
To make up for missing Christmas dinner, Alec had agreed to meet Izzy for lunch and help her carry her shopping. He wasn't particularly looking forward to it, especially since he wasn't sure if Magnus might have told Izzy about them sleeping together. He hadn't even mentioned that he'd been forced to share a room with Magnus when he'd gotten stuck in the snow storm on the drive back.
His phone started vibrating on his dashboard, Izzy's name flashing on the screen, and Alec plugged in his Bluetooth headset.
"Izzy, don't tell me you're actually early for once? I'm almost there, alright?"
"Sorry, Alec, I'm actually calling to cancel," Izzy said apologetically. "I forgot that I switched shifts with Magnus because I wanted to go to Simon's gig."
Alec sighed. "Seriously, Iz?"
"I'm really sorry! I'll make it up to you, I promise. Gotta go, love you!"
"Love you too," Alec grunted, and cut the call. Damn it. Now what was he supposed to do? There wasn't much else besides clothing shops at the place they were meeting. Maybe he could find a quiet café and just sit there with his book until peak hour traffic was over.
He found a place to park on the street and had only just got out of his car when he heard a familiar voice.
"Hey," Alec greeted Magnus awkwardly.
"I'm guessing we're victims of your sister's subtle matchmaking attempt," Magnus grinned. "She was very insistent that I come here to try out some new diner.
"Gee, I wonder if it's that Ethiopian place round the corner," Alec said wryly.
"Lunch? Since we're already here," Magnus asked.
Alec shrugged. "I could eat."
Over a delicious meal of injera and a variety of side dishes, they stuck to safe conversation topics - which, as they soon discovered, was basically anything other than baseball - and at the end of the meal after they'd split the bill, Magnus slid a hundred dollars over to Alec.
"Payment in full," he said. "And now neither of us owe each other anything."
"Right," Alec said, the food suddenly sticking in his throat.
"Although, you know, maybe we should exchange numbers. Just in case," Magnus said.
"Of course," Alec agreed immediately. "Just in case."
Alec's number in his phone weighed heavily on his mind, a nagging thing like a wound that itched while it was trying to scab up and heal. Magnus knew he should leave it well alone, and let it heal over.
But Magnus couldn't help feeling that maybe there was something there, something more than just a quick hate-fuck born of frustration and incredible sexual tension. The look on Alec's face when Magnus had suggested exchanging numbers, for example. Although, maybe Magnus was reading too much into it because he had been very distracted by the fading bruises just visible under Alec's collar, the lingering marks from Magnus' teeth, because apparently Alec Lightwood didn't believe in the magic of concealer.
They had gone about this all wrong, it seemed. Starting with animosity, then sleeping together, before trying to go on a date or even trying to be friends. It was messing with Magnus' head - was Alec interested in him, as a person, or just in the sex?
Magnus was still staring at his phone when it started ringing, and he almost dropped it in surprise.
"Raphael? Has a problem cropped up with the charity gala?" he asked.
"No, but I just saw the guestlist, and I thought I should give you a heads up - Camille is coming."
"What?! Why? How?"
"She's newly engaged to one of our major sponsors."
"Ok, thank you, Raph," Magnus sighed, and hung up.
There was nothing for it. Magnus needed a date to this thing, and fast, and there was nobody else even vaguely suitable in his life at the moment. He dialed Alec's number and tried not to fidget while he waited for Alec to pick up.
"Alexander, I need to ask you for a huge favour," Magnus said without preamble. "What are you doing tomorrow night?"
"Um. Nothing, I guess. What's up?" Alec asked.
"I need a date for PLOT's charity gala dinner. I was going to go alone, but Raphael tells me my nightmare of an ex-girlfriend is going to be there as well, and I really, really don't want to have to deal with her," Magnus sighed. "I know it's short notice, but could you please come as my very gorgeous pretend boyfriend, so that I have a good excuse to ignore her completely without it looking offensive?"
"Um... sure. Do I have to wear a tux?"
"No, god, it's not that formal. Just a normal suit will do," Magnus said with a laugh, though the thought of Alec in a tuxedo was certainly... intriguing. "Seven-thirty tomorrow, alright? I'll call an Uber and come pick you up, because I think we're both going to be drinking a bit - there's an open bar."
Alec snorted and gave Magnus his address. Well. That was one way out of his predicament, Magnus thought as he put down the phone.
PLOT's annual charity gala was being held in the ballroom of a swanky hotel near Central Park. Magnus had to say the organising committee had really outdone themselves with the decorations this year - the whole room was done up in silver and dark red, real holly branches heavy with berries everywhere, and he knew this was the biggest number of sponsors they'd managed to get on board this year. As part of the programme that night, some of the youths they'd helped who had done great things that year or who deserved recognition for their efforts would also be attending an award ceremony of sorts.
Alec had surprised him by turning up in a light grey suit instead of classic black, and hell if he didn't look gorgeous. As a member of the board, Magnus was expected to go around shaking hands and do "networking", and Alec had been game enough to follow him around and try to look less grumpy. In fact, Alec was being practically attentive, getting drinks and hors d'oeuvres for Magnus. As expected, Camille led her fiancé towards them as soon as she spotted Magnus.
"You certainly have a type, don't you, Magnus?" she purred. "Who's your new toy boy then?"
Her fiancé, a portly Russian businessman named Mr Smirnov, laughed uncomfortably and said in a reconciliatory tone, "It's Alec Lightwood, is it not? From the Red Sox. Good play last season!"
Alec accepted the congratulations with a small smile.
"A baseball player, really?" Camille scoffed. "And I thought you were ridiculous when you kept travelling to Baltimore to ogle at a bunch of men trying to hit a small ball with a wooden bat."
"I watch baseball," her fiancé said, looking slightly upset.
"Oh, I'm not talking about you, darling," she said dismissively. "You're not behaving like a pathetic fanboy."
"Actually, Magnus is probably the furthest thing from a fan of mine, at least when it comes to baseball - he supports the Orioles, you see," Alec addressed Mr Smirnov, and he chuckled in understanding.
"Uh oh. Wouldn't like to get between you two on game nights," Mr Smirnov said with a wink.
"You don't know the half of it," Magnus smirked, and Alec rolled his eyes.
"Why do I put up with you?" Alec asked, pulling Magnus closer and kissing him on the forehead. Magnus closed his eyes, breath hitching - Alec was really going above and beyond playing the role of fake boyfriend.
"Well, you two certainly don't seem to be letting a little sports rivalry get in the way of love," Mr Smirnov said cheerfully.
"Love? Magnus wouldn't know what to do with love if he found it," Camille sneered. "Tell me, Magnus - how hard did this one have to hit his head to agree to come to this thing with you?"
Alec ignored her, and smiled serenely at Mr Smirnov. "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments."
"Please stop quoting the Bard, Alexander. If you keep that up, I might have to drag you into a dark corner to do unspeakably inappropriate things to you," Magnus told Alec, and Alec grinned at him.
"And I think that was our cue to leave," Mr Smirnov laughed. "It was nice meeting the both of you."
After they'd left, with Camille glaring daggers at the both of them, Alec whispered in Magnus' ear, "Wow, your ex is a real piece of work."
"I know," Magnus sighed. "Thank you for agreeing to do this."
"It's my pleasure," Alec replied, and Magnus couldn't help but feel he was being entirely sincere about it.
As the night wore on, a number of people came up to speak with Alec since he was a celebrity of sorts, and Magnus noticed that while he tended to avoid most of the adults, he always took the time to listen to the young people in the PLOT programme.
One boy in particular, who had been kicked out by his parents after he'd come out as gay, turned out to be a big fan of Alec. He seemed to have a lot to say to Alec, and at one point he was almost in tears while Alec nodded solemnly, gravely offering words of advice and encouragement. Magnus went to get the boy a glass of water, and of course Camille took this opportunity to corner him, having ditched her fiancé somewhere.
"What do you want, Camille?" Magnus asked her warily.
"It's been a long while, hasn't it?"
"Not long enough."
"Well, you know what they say - absence makes the heart grow fonder," she said, stepping purposefully into his personal space.
"You may not put much stock in being faithful, but I'm not the cheating sort," Magnus said sharply, manoeuvring around her.
"You'd pick him over me?" she laughed. "A jock? A lump of muscle with hardly two brain cells to rub together?"
"Alec is worth a hundred of you," Magnus declared, looking over at Alec, who was still comforting the boy.
"I know I hurt you when I ended things between us, darling, but you can't expect me to believe you're actually in love with that," she said.
"No, I wouldn't expect you to understand," Magnus murmured, his eyes still on Alec. He found himself wanting to get back to Alec's side - back to his bluntness and lack of wiles, and away from Camille's corrupting toxicity. Just thinking of how many years he'd wasted loving her was making him feel disgusted with himself and in need of a lot of alcohol. "Goodbye, Camille," he said, and walked off without a backward glance.
When the boy had finally gone off, Alec looked exhausted. He accepted the flute of champagne Magnus had procured for him gratefully, gulping down half of it in one go.
"I think that's more words than I've ever heard you speak, in all the years that I've known you," Magnus teased.
Alec ducked his head a little shyly. "I think that's probably because that is the most I've spoken in a single conversation."
"It's tough, isn't it? Emotionally," Magnus said sympathetically. He wondered if the conversation had opened some old wounds in Alec's past.
"Yeah. I think I'm going to need that open bar now, if you don't mind," Alec said.
"I'll join you," Magnus said.
By 11 o'clock, they had both gone past "pleasantly buzzed" to "shit-faced drunk". Raphael had to come and take the glass out of his hand.
"Why do you always let Camille do this to you?" Raphael sighed, and Magnus shrugged.
But because he was a good boyfriend - good fake boyfriend, whatever - Magnus decided to see Alec out of the hotel and get him on a cab home before he went home himself. The hotel concierge had offered to call a cab for them, but Magnus waved them away, electing to stagger out onto the pavement with Alec.
It was snowing outside, but there were plenty of cabs on the road, and Magnus turned to tell Alec just that.
He hadn't meant to do it. He'd just been staring at Alec's lips, and Alec had done that damnable thing where he darted his tongue out to lick his own lips, and Magnus had found himself leaning forward, with Alec closing the distance between them. Magnus kissed Alec until he was light-headed, although that might also have been the alcohol. Alec's lips tasted like the champagne they'd been drinking too much of. As they kissed, Magnus found himself running his hand through Alec's hair, then down his neck, then down to his chest-
Alec pulled back, barely an inch away, and reality rushed back in - they were standing on a snowy pavement in front of the hotel, in full view of the other guests who were leaving the dinner gala. Alec's hair was mussed up and sticking out every which way, his lips swollen red, his colour high, and his pupils dilated.
“Take me home,” Magnus said, and Alec nodded eagerly, sticking out a hand to wave down a cab.
Magnus barely took notice of how they got into Alec's apartment. Heck, he barely knew how they'd managed to get out of the cab, with both of them so drunk and with their hands all over each other. The only thing he knew was that he was burning up even though it was the dead of winter, and Alec had far too many layers on. Alec obviously thought so too, because once the door was closed, he pressed Magnus against the wall and started pulling his suit off him.
"I need you to fuck me," Alec panted.
"Gladly," Magnus replied breathlessly, tearing at Alec’s shirt so hard a couple of buttons flew off.
Unfortunately, the rest of the buttons refused to cooperate, so Magnus gave up on the shirt and elected to just cut to the chase. Magnus flipped them, taking advantage of Alec's moment of dazedness when the back of his head bumped into the wall to unzip Alec's dress pants and stick his hand down into his boxers, making Alec half-collapse against him in surprised pleasure.
It was all a bit of a haze after that. He remembered somehow ending up on the floor, and putting his fingers in Alec's mouth, and Alec's tongue running over his fingerpads. He remembered the musky taste of Alec on his tongue. He remembered kissing Alec hard and swallowing his moans as he pressed into Alec's tight heat. He remembered Alec frantic and begging under him, then Alec falling apart and pulling Magnus right over the edge with his cries of pleasure and clenching body.
They remained like that for a while after that, lying on the floor with both their shirts still half-off. Magnus' head was swimming. He thought he might actually be ok with just lying there and not moving for the rest of the night, but the floor was really uncomfortable and cold.
"Bed," Alec said, his speech a little slurred. "Come on."
They stumbled through the dark apartment, Magnus stubbing his toes on unfamiliar corners a couple of times, before his knee finally found the bed in the dark. He tumbled onto the soft sheets and was dimly aware of Alec shifting next to him, before he succumbed to the darkness of sleep.
When Magnus woke up, he came to the conclusion that he might have been better off dead, preferably by someone chopping off his head. Also, where the fuck were his pants? Someone stirred beside him, and the events of the previous night slammed back into his head with all the force of a sledgehammer. Fuck!
"Oh, hell," Alec groaned from beside him, then turned green and ran off to the bathroom to be sick.
This certainly wasn't the romantic morning-after people usually hoped for after being with someone they - well, someone they rather surprisingly actually liked. He looked down at himself - he was a mess, wearing only a very wrinkled and stained shirt. He tried to sift through his memories from the night before - had they even used a condom or proper lubrication?
Magnus staggered off the bed through his blinding headache. "Alexander? Are you ok?"
"Yeah," Alec replied after a while, and came out of the bathroom.
"So, last night. I have a feeling we might have forgotten a few things."
"I'm not hurt, if that's what you're asking. But we definitely forgot the condom," Alec replied, face turning a little red.
"Fuck, I'm so sorry. If it makes you feel better, I get tested regularly."
"Yeah, me too. It's fine. I think. Um... do you want to use the bathroom to freshen up?"
"That would be lovely, thank you."
"Feel free to use anything. Towels are in there too," Alec said, stepping out of Magnus' way so he could go in and lock the door, then quietly bang his head against the door in frustration. Why were they being all proper and stiff around each other after all the decidedly not-proper things they'd done with each other last night?
By the time Magnus got out of the shower, Alec had made coffee for both of them and thankfully put on some pants.
"I haven't bought groceries since I came back from the game in Baltimore, so I don't really have any food at home, other than cereal. If you want, I could run out and get you something...?"
"Oh, don't bother yourself, Alexander. I should be getting home anyway," Magnus said with false brightness.
Alec quietly helped him retrieve his clothes, which had been scattered all over the apartment in their drunken haste, and offered him a clean shirt in place of his ruined one.
"Thanks. I'll get this back to you after I've gotten it laundered."
"No, it's fine. I mean... you can keep it. I'm not really in a hurry to get it back," Alec said.
"Ok. Well... Thanks. I'll see you tonight?"
"What's- oh, Izzy's party. Yeah. You've got everything?"
Sure. Everything, including the tattered shreds of his dignity. Magnus smiled tightly and left.
Sleeping together the first time had felt like something as inexorable as the tide rushing to the shore. Sleeping together the second time felt like a mistake. Not because it hadn't been fantastic, from whatever Alec could remember, but because with every night of meaningless sex they shared, it seemed harder to turn this into something more, something deeper.
Alec was forced to dig out a black turtleneck he seldom wore to avoid having his siblings tease him about the hickeys, and arrived to the party half hoping Magnus wouldn't show up and half keyed-up with the anticipation of seeing him again. Magnus hadn't arrived yet, even though the party was already in full swing, but his siblings were certainly there. He knew something was up the moment Jace and Izzy (and Simon) cornered him, both bearing suspiciously delighted expressions.
"Alec, you dog! Why didn't you tell us you were seeing Izzy's boss?" Jace asked, punching him in the arm.
"Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about, the photos were all over the New York Post this morning!" Jace said.
"What photos?" Alec asked, blood running cold.
"Photos of the two of you in fancy suits making out on the street? Hell, they even got a quote from the some socialite named Camille Belcourt, who claimed you guys were engaged."
"Shit," Alec sighed, pinching his nose bridge. Fucking paparazzi. It was still difficult for him to wrap his mind around the idea that he was some sort of celebrity, that people might be interested in his private life.
"Come on, spill! When did this happen?" Izzy asked.
"Never, because nothing's happened."
"So what, you accidentally fell on his face?" Jace scoffed.
"No - look, it was all just pretend, alright? I was doing him a favour," Alec huffed in embarrassment.
Then he heard Simon say in a high-pitched embarrassed voice, "Hey! Magnus! We were just, uh, totally not talking about you."
Magnus raised an eyebrow, taking a sip of his cocktail. "Clearly."
Alec cursed inwardly. Of course Magnus had been there quietly listening to the entire conversation. Magnus came forward to kiss Izzy on the cheek, thanking her for inviting him to her party, then walked away, ignoring Alec completely.
"How lucky for you that nothing's happened between the two of you, huh?" Izzy said sarcastically.
Alec gave Magnus a wide berth for the rest of the party. He knew he had hurt him, even if it had been unintentional, and he had a feeling that if he tried to talk to Magnus, Magnus would rip his face off. Even then, Alec found his eye drawn to Magnus, following him around the room as he mingled and talked and laughed with the other guests. He knew, too, that Magnus was paying attention to him - there was no way he was always facing Alec but looking away at the exact moment that Alec sneaked a peek at him.
It was an exhausting game, and Alec had never been one for this sort of games. Izzy wasn't speaking to him either, and Jace had gone off to try and talk to some redheaded friend of Izzy's, so Alec threw himself onto the couch next to his baby brother, Max, who was engrossed in some sort of anime-themed fighting game on his phone.
"Hey big bro. Why the long face?" Max asked, glancing up briefly from his game.
"I messed up. I made someone think that I didn't care about him, even though I do," Alec said morosely.
"Then go tell him that you made a mistake," Max said, as if it was the simplest thing in the world.
"Impossible. He's never going to talk to me again," Alec sighed, dropping his head back to stare blankly at the ceiling.
"Impossible just means try again. Isn't that what you always say?" Max said, not looking up from his game. "I mean, you basically defied Mum and Dad to become a professional baseball player when they wanted you to be a lawyer, and now you're playing with your dream team. You're telling me you had the guts to leave home when you were 18 years old to pursue your dream, but apologising to some guy scares you?"
"When you're right, you're right," Alec finally said.
Max shrugged. "What was it that famous baseball guy said - don't let the fear of striking out get in your way."
Alec groaned. "Max, you know how I feel about Babe Ruth. But thanks for the pep talk, coach," Alec said, ruffling Max's hair and making him squawk and shoo him away.
He found Magnus standing in a corner, his fancy cocktail swapped out for a glass of whiskey on the rocks. He was looking out of a window, and Alec's heart ached to think he had put that bleak expression on Magnus' face. On the other hand, if Magnus was this affected, that had to mean that there was something between them, right?
"Magnus, can we talk?"
"No. I think I've heard plenty from you already," Magnus said coldly. "Whatever this thing is between us, it's over. Not that there was even anything there to begin with."
"Whatever you have to say, I don't want to hear it," Magnus said through gritted teeth, and tried to walk away. Alec immediately moved to block him, one hand gripping his forearm.
"Look, what I said - Izzy and Jace, they tend to push my buttons, alright? I didn't want to tell them about what happened between us because it feels... new. And if they knew they'd get nosy, and I didn't want them butting in."
Magnus scowled and said nothing, but at least he stopped trying to pull away.
"What if I said I think there could be something more between us? What if I told you that I want to take a shot at turning this into something real?" Alec asked. "Three strikes before we're out, right? Please. One last chance."
Someone had turned on the television to show the live telecast of the countdown at Times Square. All around them, people were shouting together with the announcer on the television: "Ten! Nine!..."
Magnus was still looking at him with wide eyes, and it was the kind of feeling Alec thought only happened in the movies, where the rest of the world whited out and despite the din around them, they could have been the only people in the room.
"Then yes," Magnus replied. "Then my answer is 'yes'."
"Happy New Year!" shouted everyone around them, then people started blowing on party horns and belting out drunken renditions of Auld Lang Syne.
Alec leaned forward, pulling Magnus in with a hand around his waist, and kissed him - a soft, chaste kiss, nothing like any of the kisses they had shared before. He drew back, only to have Magnus pull him back in for another peck on the lips.
"So we're really doing this, right?"
"Yes, I guess so."
They met each other's eyes, and laughed softly in relief.
"Does this mean that there's a chance you might be supporting the Red Sox this year?" Alec asked teasingly.
Magnus snorted. "As for that, darling - I'm afraid the answer is always going to be a 'no'."