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The Answer Is "No" (But Baby, It's Cold Outside)

Chapter Text

 

 

I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say, no, no, no sir (Mind if I move in closer?)
At least I'm gonna say that I tried (What's the sense in hurtin' my pride?)
I really can't stay (Oh baby, don't hold out)
But baby, it's cold outside

 

It was three in the afternoon but the sky was already dark, it was snowing so heavily. What should have been a three-hour drive was approaching the five-hour mark, and Alec was still a long way from New York. There was a snow plough just visible in front, and a flashing sign ahead. Alec had a sinking feeling as he put pressure on the brake and squinted to make out what it said: "Road Closed When Lights Are Flashing - Due to snow". 

Fuck. Now wasn't that just great. He supposed that's what he got for taking a detour off the interstate and for driving instead of taking a flight like Jace and the rest of his team mates. 

A man wearing a neon yellow road-maintenance crew vest over his parka noticed his car and came up rap on the window. Alec rolled it down a bit, mindful of letting the cold in.  

"You won't be getting out of here today," the man said apologetically. "We're clearing the road as quick as we can, but the snow is coming down faster than we can shovel the stuff. Boss has given it up as a bad job anyway, we're all heading home in a bit."

Alec supposed he shouldn't blame the workers for wanting to go home - it was Christmas Eve, after all. Who wanted to be out here shovelling snow when they could be home and warm with their family?

The man gave Alec a sympathetic look. “If you had places to be... well, you’re outta luck. But there's some decent motels back in town."

"Thanks," Alec muttered, then got his car in reverse and went back to the town.

He cruised slowly, keeping his eyes peeled for motel signs. It was a picturesque little town, he had to admit - fairy lights in every window, refracting through the frost on his windscreen to cast scattered rainbows on his dashboard, and all the roofs and trees covered with a thick layer of snow. There weren't many people out on the streets in this snow storm, making everything feel surreal.

He saw a B&B with a neon vacancy sign, but it looked kind of fancy, so he drove on in search of another place to spend the night, but every other motel in the small town seemed to be full, so he doubled back. To his relief, the vacancy sign was still up. He shouldered his backpack and got out of the car with a sigh, already prepared to pay through his nose for lodging on Christmas Eve.

The B&B was called the Cherry Hill Bed-and-Breakfast. It was two stories tall with an attic, one of those refurbished Gothic-style stone mansions built at the turn of the century with full corner bay windows and actual turrets. Alec pushed open the front door and the warmth inside flooded out like a tidal wave, making him realise just how cold he had been. He stepped into the lobby in a hurry, suddenly desperate to get out of the cold. The entrance room was small but cosy, with a high wooden counter for the reception - and there was someone else standing in front of the counter, someone he unfortunately recognised.

"Bane," he greeted him grudgingly.

Magnus Bane was Izzy's boss at the hospital, and they had both been forced to endure each other's company on occasions such as Izzy's birthday party, but neither of them seemed to have a civil word to say to each other, so Alec just tended to avoid him. What the hell was he doing out here? Of all the people in the world to bump into...

"Oh, were you looking for a room? I'm afraid I beat you to it - no more vacancies at this place," Magnus said smugly.

"He's right, I'm afraid," the motherly-looking old lady behind the counter said apologetically. "Perhaps you could try the Lone Pine Motel a couple of streets down?"

Alec had. It was full. Alec cursed his previous indecision, but there was nothing he could do, not when he was stuck in this town for the night. Maybe he could find a 24-hour diner or something and just hide in there and keep ordering hot drinks so they wouldn't throw him out. "Thanks," Alec told the lady, and turned to leave.

"That'll be two hundred dollars per night," he heard her tell Magnus, and Alec let out a low whistle. Maybe he'd been lucky to have missed out on the room after all.

"Wow. Ok. Um, I don't have that much cash on me, do you take credit?" Magnus asked.

"No - cash only. And I'm afraid the bank is closed for the holidays."

Alec turned back around, the beginnings of a smug grin creeping up on his face. "I have cash." 

Magnus glared at Alec as he approached the counter and whipped out his wallet.

"Looks like I'm the one who's going to beat you to it, after all," Alec said. "And I'll save you the trouble of driving around town - everywhere else is full." 

Alec counted out his bills - he had a little over three hundred on him, which left him with a hundred and change for food and gas - he supposed that should tide him until New York. He slid the money across the counter.

"I'm sorry, dear, but you're probably going to need the room for two nights - the road-maintenance crew doesn't work on Christmas day, so the roads are likely to remain closed until the day after Christmas," the receptionist said.

"Shit," Alec cursed.

Magnus chuckled. "Well, perhaps if you'd been a bit more polite, I'd have spotted you for the extra hundred, but - too bad. Guess you're joining me out in the cold tomorrow night." 

The old lady cleared her throat delicately. "If I could just suggest - it appears the two of you know each other. Perhaps you could share the room? It's our biggest room - it has a king-sized bed, private bathroom, and there's definitely enough space for both of you."

Alec frowned, glancing at Magnus.

"It's Christmas, love. Where's your Christmas spirit?" the woman chided them. "Surely you don't want to make each other sleep outside in this weather?"

"I- Sure. We could share," Alec muttered, chastised. 

"You're right, Mrs Penhallow, we're being silly," Magnus agreed, taking the cash out of his wallet to make up the difference.

Mrs Penhallow moved with brisk efficiency behind the counter, picking up paperwork and a set of keys. “The room is up there," she said, gesturing at a narrow staircase. "It's in the attic, so just keep going until the stairs run out.”

“Thanks,” Alec said, taking the key.

"You go on ahead, I need to go get my stuff out of my car," Magnus said, and went back out into the cold. 

Mrs Penhallow smiled at him reassuringly. "It'll be fine - I've met all kinds of people, over the years, and I can tell you boys are going to get along just fine, if you give each other a chance.”

Alec shrugged, gave her a small smile, and headed up the stairs.

 

 

The stairs were too narrow and too steep, and Magnus had to learn how to pack less. He raised a tired arm and knocked on the wooden door, and Alec opened it, then frowned. "You do realise we're only in this room for two nights?"

"Shut up and move out of the way, Lightwood," Magnus huffed, and the other man took his sweet-ass time to move aside so Magnus could dump his luggage on the floor.

"Hey, watch it, that's hardwood - you're going to scratch it," Alec fussed.

Magnus had to admit it was a pretty nice room, though. The ceiling slanted down at an angle, but it wasn't too low that either Alec or himself would bump their heads on it. There were window seats that had a nice view of the small town, with its twinkling Christmas lights, and there was an actual fireplace in the room even though the house obviously had central heating, with cedar logs cut and placed ready to be lit, filling the room with their sharp scent. There was a huge monster of a wardrobe to one side, a huge flat-screen television, and the king-sized bed they'd been promised was a huge four-poster with delicate cream drapes piled with more pillows than they could possibly need. 

"You get to pick the side you prefer, since you paid more," Magnus offered graciously. "I'll pay you back for my share when we reach New York, of course. You'll be at Izzy's New Year's Eve party, right?"

"Yeah," Alec replied absently, then startled. "Shit! I forgot to call Izzy!" He dug out his phone from his pocket and went out of the room, presumably for some privacy while he called his sister to tell her he was going to be stuck in Nowhere, Philadelphia, over Christmas. 

Magnus checked his watch - it was almost five o'clock. He should probably go get some food, since only breakfast (and a special Christmas dinner tomorrow) was provided in the dining hall. The thought of going down those stairs again, though... also, he had no money. Magnus groaned and peered out of the window, trying to see if he could spot some recognisable chain restaurant that would take his credit card, but there wasn't even a MacDonald's in sight. Where the fuck was this place, anyway? Well, he wasn't going to borrow money off Alec - he'd gladly starve instead - but he did have some protein bars stashed in his bag, so he put the small portable kettle in the room on and settled down to a rather miserable dinner, then went for a long, hot soak in the bathtub.  

 

 

Alec was munching on a cheeseburger with extra bacon when Magnus finally came out of the bathroom. He was supposed to keep to a diet during the regular season, but he still had two months before spring training started, it had been a shitty day and it was Christmas Eve. Anyway, Christmas Eve dinner at the Lightwoods was generally pizza and beer, which wasn't much better. 

"Fair warning - there's no hot water left," Magnus said. "Also, must you eat that here? You're stinking up the whole room."

Alec half-turned, and noticed that Magnus had come out of the bath with only a towel wrapped around his waist. Not that he hadn't seen some very fit men in less clothes, since most of his team mates had no problems walking around the locker room naked, but he hadn't quite expected Magnus to be so ripped. Also, he had never seen Magnus without make-up or without his hair styled up - the lack of make-up made him look younger, and seeing him bare-faced felt even more intimate than seeing him half-naked. He looked away quickly. "You were in there for, like, an hour. I'm not surprised."

"That's a blatant lie, I couldn't have been in there for more than half an hour," Magnus replied, and bent over to dig in his luggage for some clothes, and dear god why couldn't he have gotten his clothes out before his bath, like a normal person would have done if they were sharing a room with a near stranger?!

Alec scowled and tried to concentrate on his fries. Alec was out-and-proud, and there had been plenty of media coverage when he had come out publicly after his first Pride Night game with the MLB. He knew from Izzy that Magnus was bisexual and currently single because she had tried to set them up on dates more than once. But none of that should be making him uncomfortable. Why was he uncomfortable? 

He turned back when he was sure Magnus was safely clothed, and frowned. He hadn't expected Magnus to be a baseball sort of guy, but he was wearing a baseball fan hoodie - with the Baltimore Orioles logo.  

"You're an Orioles fan," Alec said flatly.

"Duh. Why else do you think I was passing through this town as well on the way back to New York?" Magnus said with a haughty expression. 

"I suppose it could have been worse - you could have been a Yankees fan," Alec muttered, then couldn't resist adding, "Too bad you went all the way to Baltimore to see them get trashed."  

Magnus glowered at him. "It was a charity game. You know, for fun - that word that you don't understand the meaning of."

"And what, the Orioles aren't professional enough to bring their best game just because it's for charity?"

"Whatever." Magnus rolled his eyes.

"Wait - is that why you don't like me? Because I play for the Red Sox?"

"...No."

Alec crossed his arms and glowered at Magnus. "This is ridiculous."

"Look, people get irrationally attached to their sports teams, alright?" Magnus said. "Now pick a side of the bed so that I can go to sleep."

Magnus took some time building a small wall of pillows in the middle of the bed, separating Alec's side from his side. "Don't you dare throw those food wrappers in here, Lightwood."

"Yeah, yeah," Alec muttered.

"Well, good night then. And for the record, I don't dislike you, because that would actually take effort - I just don't care about you." With that, Magnus pulled the covers over himself and turned away from Alec.

Alec sighed. He couldn't decide whether it was worse to be spending Christmas alone, or spending Christmas sharing a room with a slightly hostile stranger. He might as well get rid of the trash, then see if there was enough hot water for him to take a bath, and go to sleep.

 

 

Alec woke up in the middle of the night, teeth chattering. Someone had pulled the covers off him. He growled in frustration and bulldozed his way through Magnus' pillow wall to get to the other side, so he could grab the covers back. 

"Mine," Magnus grumbled sleepily, trying to bat Alec's hands away. 

"Jesus! Your hands are like ice!" Alec hissed. 

"Cold," Magnus complained.

"You're hogging the blankets."

"'m not."

"Are too!"

"Oh, just come over here and shut up," Magnus mumbled, pulling Alec over to him. 

Alec pulled away a bit but while his hands were cold, Magnus' body was so addictively warm. And wasn't huddling together supposed to be the best way to conserve energy when it was cold? Alec was too cold and too sleepy to care - he pulled the covers over himself and fell asleep again.  

  

 

Magnus was dreaming - dreaming of a warm body against his, of the sound of someone's gentle snores, and of pressing himself into another person's body heat. He frowned. No, wait - 

He woke up to find himself with his arms wrapped around Alec Lightwood, his morning erection pressed into the other man's ass. Fuck, this was embarrassing. He tried to extricate himself carefully without waking Alec, but when he moved away, Alec grumbled and pushed back into him, pulling Magnus' arm back over himself. Somehow, during the night Alec had dismantled the wall of pillows that separated them and rolled over to Magnus' side of the bed. And now they were spooning. Great. 

And it didn't help that even though Alec played for the Red Sox, Magnus had noticed him during the games. He was fit, good-looking, and was a strong pitcher - pity about the team though. Magnus had been particularly impressed with Alec's courage coming out as a gay man, since there weren't many out LGBTQA+ professional baseball players, and he knew from years of working with youth at risk just how important it was to have positive role models like that. He didn't even seem like much of an asshole now that Magnus had spent some time with him, just naturally grumpy. 

Alec pressed backwards against Magnus again, and Magnus bit back a moan at the delicious heat and friction against his erection. He knew it was just his body's response to the physical stimulus because the penis was a dumb thing. But it felt good, and so damned wrong to be feeling like this when Alec was asleep and obviously unaware of his effect on Magnus. Alec stirred in his arms, and Magnus quickly closed his eyes and kept his body lax, pretending to be asleep. He felt Alec stiffen in his arms, then quickly roll out of Magnus' embrace. Alec was quiet for a while, then he got out of bed, hissing when his feet touched the cold floor and fumbling around for the slippers provided, and he disappeared into the bathroom. Magnus let out a sigh of relief - crisis adverted. At least Alec had been reasonable enough not to take offence. 

He stretched and let himself enjoy the residual warmth of their shared body heat lingering in the sheets. Hmm. Alec had been gone for a while, and Magnus hadn't heard any sounds one usually associated with the morning rituals of brushing teeth and using the washroom. Had Alec fallen asleep in there? Magnus got out of bed and padded closer to the bathroom door, but before he could knock on the door, he heard an unmistakable bitten-off moan from the other side, then a quiet "Oh my god, fuck." His eyes widened and he backed away quickly, then determinedly made plenty of noise clattering around looking for his make-up and putting together his outfit for the day. He couldn't decide what was more embarrassing - waking up with his hard-on pressed against Alec, or accidentally overhearing him jerking off in the bathroom. And Magnus didn't embarrass easy.  

By the time they were both ready to go down for breakfast, Magnus had mostly gotten his straying thoughts under control. Mostly. Breakfast was a selection of fresh fruit, bread, homemade preserves, cheese, sausages, and eggs done in whichever way the guests preferred. The guests in the other two rooms in the B&B were already in the dining room. Mrs Penhallow made the introductions - there was Aline, Mrs Penhallow's daughter, home for Christmas with her girlfriend Helen, and Tessa and Jem, newlyweds on their honeymoon road trip who had also been caught in the snow storm.  

"Hey, aren't you with the Red Sox?" Helen asked. "My brother is a fan! Could I get your autograph for him later?"

Alec nodded, flashing her a brief smile, and Magnus resisted the urge to roll his eyes. 

"So how long have you guys been together?" Tessa asked the two of them. 

"Huh? Um, we're not-" Alec replied. 

"We're more like frenemies," Magnus filled in. 

"Oh," Aline looked surprised. "But you're sharing the honeymoon suite."

Well, Mrs Penhallow had certainly forgotten to mention that little tidbit, Magnus thought. What he said instead was, "All the better to have torrid hate sex in."

Alec glared at him. "What he means is, there weren't any other rooms left in town, and he's my sister's friend, so we decided to share," Alec explained, and didn't speak for the rest of breakfast. 

Conversation petered off to other topics, then Jem suddenly said, "I thought you looked familiar. Magnus, are you on the board of PLOT?"

Magnus brightened up and nodded. "Yes! Are you thinking of volunteering?" 

"Is that the youth-at-risk programme you were thinking of volunteering with?" Tessa asked. 

Jem nodded. "But I'm a violinist with the New York Philharmonic, you see, and we tour a lot, so I wasn't sure..." 

"Oh, it's only four hours a month, I'm sure we can work something out," Magnus enthused, eager to convert another person to the cause of mentoring troubled youth. 

He might have dominated the conversation at the table after that, but that tended to happen when he was talking about something he was passionate about. Alec did look a bit interested though, and Magnus wondered if it was worth the effort to try and recruit him too. Probably not - they'd probably tear each other's throats out in front of the kids. 

 

 

After breakfast, they went back to their room, and Magnus turned on the television. It was still snowing outside, and it had snowed through the night, but it was looking slightly less gloomy, with a hint of sun, even. The chances of them being able to head back to New York tomorrow were looking pretty good. Unfortunately, there was nothing interesting on the television, and Magnus was starting to feel stir-crazy. Alec was holding his phone, but his eyes were darting between the television, the bed, and Magnus, and the sexual tension was killing him.

"Want to go for a walk?" Magnus asked impulsively. Alec hesitated for a split second, then nodded. 

As it turned out, outside wasn't much better than being inside, especially since it was cold as fuck. The streets were mostly empty, all the shops were closed, and Magnus' designer boots were getting wet. Magnus kicked at the snow a bit as they wandered into a park - the snow was wet and heavy. Kind of perfect for building a snowman. Or...

Alec didn't know what hit him. Magnus' first snowball smacked him in the neck and was probably dripping down his collar as it melted, and Magnus got him right in the face with the second one when he turned around. 

"What the fuck?" Alec sputtered.

Magnus grinned and didn't bother replying, already shaping another snowball. Alec managed to duck this one, and was forming his own snowballs in retaliation in a manner of seconds.

"You do realise you just challenged a professional pitcher to a snowball fight?" Alec asked. "Be prepared to go down, Bane." 

"Well, there's an idea - let's raise the stakes," Magnus said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "Loser has to give the winner a blowjob."

"No! What the hell is wrong with you?!" Alec growled, but he was blushing so hard the tips of his ears were red. 

"It was a joke, Alexander. You do know what those are, right?" Magnus sniffed, and used Alec's distraction to pelt him with another snowball.

Alec went on the offensive, lobbing hard-packed snow balls that got Magnus in the shoulder, neck and chest - and fuck, Alec's snowballs hurt. Not to be outdone, Magnus tried to be quicker with forming his ammunition until he was practically just flinging handfuls of snow at Alec. Alec, on the other hand, was slow and methodical in forming very solid snowballs that always got Magnus in the places that hurt most and were probably going to leave bruises. Magnus really hadn't thought this through, but he wasn't going to admit that. There was nothing for it - Magnus jumped at Alec with a flying tackle that sent both of them tumbling into the snow, which was how Magnus found himself on top of Alec in the snow. Alec's face was flushed pink from the cold and exertion, and was only inches away from his own. His eyes were wide with surprise, and their breaths were coming out in white clouds that mingled between them. Alec licked his lips, and Magnus found his eyes following the movement.

"You cheated," Alec finally said.

"What?" Magnus asked distractedly.

"You cheated. I won fair and square."

"I don't know, I'm the one on top. I think I won." 

"It was a snowball fight, not hand-to-hand combat," Alec huffed, and shoved at Magnus until he rolled off Alec.

"Let's go back, I'm freezing," Magnus said. 

"You're the one who started it," Alec muttered, and let Magnus help pull him out of the snow.

The walk back to the B&B was even more tense than before, the silence heavy between them. Magnus really hadn't thought this through. 

 

 

Christmas dinner at the B&B was incredible - platters and platters of delicious food, accompanied by perhaps a bit too much wine. Magnus was feeling pleasantly comatose when he went up to the room, the tension between himself and Alec temporarily forgotten. He contemplated taking a bath and getting ready for bed, but he was too full to move. Half an hour later, he heard Alec's heavy footfalls coming up the stairs. His temporary roommate clomped in and dropped something in Magnus' lap on the way to his side of the room. 

"What's this then?" Magnus asked, picking up the brown paper bag.

"Christmas present," Alec replied gruffly. 

"Oh," Magnus said in surprise, and opened the bag to find a small stack of candy bars inside.

"There wasn't much other stuff in the vending machines, and... well, it's Christmas, and we're sharing a room," Alec said, not looking up at Magnus as he removed his heavy overcoat and gloves. 

"Thanks. Well, I've got a present for you too, then."

Alec looked up and caught the thing Magnus threw him with the quick reflexes of a professional baseball player, then scowled and threw the condom back at Magnus.

"Hey, that was your Christmas present!" Magnus protested with a laugh.

"You're a fucking jerk. I don't know why I bothered," Alec fumed.

"In the interests of full disclosure, I can't actually buy you anything, because I don't have any money on me after I paid for the room," Magnus confessed. He got up. "Well, I'm going to take a bath. Feel free to join me," he said, and winked at Alec. He saw Alec's eyes on his ass when he sauntered into the bathroom, and couldn't help smirking. 

When it was time for bed, though, Magnus found it harder to be that flippant. He'd started building the pillow wall when he'd remembered how they'd woken up this morning, and he blamed the fact that he hadn't slept with anyone in almost a year for how much the memory was affecting him.  

"Try to stay on your side of the bed tonight, darling," he told Alec. 

"Only if you try not to hog the blankets," Alec retorted, turning off the lights. 

"I do not hog the blankets!"

"Yes, you do."

"Do not!"

"I'm not fighting with you over this," Alec muttered. "And don't you have any sleep clothes without the Orioles logo?" 

"If you don't like it, come over here and get it off me," Magnus sniped. 

They stared at each other across the ridiculous pillow wall for a beat, then moved towards each other, lips and teeth clashing together in a furious kiss. Alec's hand went to the zip of his hoodie immediately, and once he'd peeled off the offensive piece of clothing, he started pressing open-mouthed kisses on Magnus' neck and chest. Magnus tilted his head back to give Alec more room to work, hands going to squeeze Alec's ass through his soft sleep pants and groaning when Alec ground his hips against him. 

"Looks like you're going to have a use for your Christmas present after all," Magnus said breathlessly.

They tore at each other's clothes in between kissing and stroking and grinding, lips barely leaving each other's skin. Then, in the middle of Magnus trying to work Alec's boxers off while Alec sucked a hickey in the sensitive juncture between his neck and shoulder, Alec suddenly pulled back. Magnus couldn't see his expression in the dim light, but he felt Alec's fingers brush a lock of hair off his forehead. 

“Why are you stopping?” Magnus complained. 

"This is just sex, it doesn't mean anything," Alec said, his voice low and a little uncertain. 

"It doesn't," Magnus agreed, even as his heart stuttered at the tenderness in Alec's touch. "Now shut up and fuck me."

He found a packet of lube and let Alec prep him as quickly as it was possible without it hurting like hell, and hissed when Alec got the condom on and started pushing himself into his body.  

"Don't stop, I can take it," he urged, forcing himself to relax around the stretch and relishing the burn that was half pain and half pleasure. 

Before long, Alec was using all the hip power he put into throwing those fastballs to slam himself into Magnus' body over and over again. Magnus scraped his blunt nails down Alec's back and was rewarded with Alec crying out above him, then fucking into him even harder than before. It was quick and hard and rough, and they'd both been so keyed up the whole day that they were both done before they knew what had hit them. Alec cleaned both of them up, and they were both under the covers and asleep within minutes.  

  

 

The next morning was the most awkward morning-after Alec had ever been through. They packed their stuff before going down to breakfast, pointedly keeping out of each other's way. Then Alec noticed Magnus wincing when he sat down at the corner of the bed to put on his boots. 

"Fuck, did I hurt you?" Alec asked worriedly. 

Magnus shook his head. "Don't worry about it. Nothing I didn't sign up for." He kept his eyes down as he did up the laces of his boots, and said, "Look, we're both adults. It was just a one-night stand. It doesn't change anything between us." 

"No, it doesn't," Alec agreed. Not like they'd woken up wrapped around each other, bodies tangled under the covers. Not like he had thought Magnus asleep in the morning light had been the most beautiful thing he'd seen in a while. 

He resisted the urge to offer to help Magnus with his luggage, and they both plastered on smiles when they said goodbye to Mrs Penhallow and thanked her for her hospitality. 

"Well, I guess I'll see you around," Magnus said while they were walking out. "Izzy's New Year's Eve party, right?" 

"Yeah," Alec agreed, and got into his car. He didn't notice Magnus watching his car go off down the snowy roads until it was out of sight.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

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. 

"Alexander!"

"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."

Shit. 

"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. 

"Hello?"

"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. 

"What?" 

"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." 

"Magnus, please."

"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'."