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Stubbornly In Love

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The immediate pain of a break-up is nothing – nothing at all – in comparison to the pain that surfaces after you've unleashed your rage and experienced the rush of both grief and relief. The pain that comes after you've realised your decision and come to terms with the loss of someone who held, and maybe still holds, a place in your heart is simply ineffable.

Magnus knows this, and he knew this in the moments before he made his choice, but knowledge doesn't always prevent the shock usually accompanying matters of the heart. He knew, he absolutely knew, what it would feel like, but he hadn't imagined how different it would feel to all those times before. He's an immortal and he's not subtle, nor is he shy, so it's safe to say he's had more than his fair share of relationships, both cherished, unforgettable ones and regrettable, quickly erased ones. Nothing he's ever experienced, however, had prepared him for the agony of parting ways and breaking ties with Alexander Gideon Lightwood.

If obliteration and annihilation had a child, it might come close to resembling the state of his heart.

And yet, he can't bring himself to face the Shadowhunter. He can't bring himself to go back, to talk about what happened, to discuss how they're meant to function - he just can't.

His life becomes a blur. He can remember little details and information necessary to his responsibilities or reputation but he can't recall his routine or which event came before what. Time and time again, he finds himself eating cereal at ten in the evening or making himself sandwiches at ungodly times, mostly very, very late at night or very, very early in the morning. He's almost forgotten what makeup is because the only time he wears it is when he's meeting a client - not that he remembers much of the meetings, simply taking and completing their request as if on autopilot.

Parties are a thing of the past because he knows he can't pay attention to so many people at once and he knows that would reveal his pained heart much more than necessary. He's the High Warlock, he tells himself, he can't be seen as weak or compromised. He wants to be strong, he wants to be brave, he wants to be fierce, but he can't even feed his cat - not that Chairman Meow isn't good at finding his own meals from time to time - and he feels so useless, so utterly useless, that even talking to someone else requires more energy than he can possess, never mind a huge crowd of semi-drunk guests with high expectations.

It's another regular, robotic day when the doorbell scares the life out of him. It wouldn't normally have any effect at all but he'd been so focused on staring at the bluebells on his window, he'd forgotten that people tend to announce their presence by pressing a button outside his apartment. Regardless, he jumps to his feet, pulling the door open as fast as he can, which, admittedly, is pretty slow. So slowly, in fact, that he doesn't register who's at the door until they've wrapped him in an embrace so warm it makes him want to cry.

"Cat..." Magnus whispers, letting his head drop on her shoulder and inhaling the scent of flowers coupled with disinfectant.

He assumes she closes the door because then they're on the couch before he can blink and she's sitting opposite him, both of them with their legs crossed. She creates a blanket and drapes it around his shoulders, smiling sadly.

"I thought you'd never let me in."

Magnus blinks and bites his lip, avoiding her gaze, not wanting her pity. She waits patiently and when he looks up, he finds only concern in her eyes, making him realise that she knows him better than he thinks and he should stop forgetting that. She's not someone he has to be invincible in front of because she's seen him at his worst and stayed with him and he knows she cares enough to put up with anything he goes through because they both know he'd do - and has done - the same for her.

"It says something, you know?" Catarina fills the silence. "It says something that you've given up on keeping me out."

He shrugs; what can he say to that?

"Magnus, I love and respect you, I really do, but you're acting so unlike yourself I can't help but wonder if you make the right decision."

He looks up, swallowing. "I don't know."

The accusation in her eyes softens. "Magnus, are you sure about leaving the shadowhunter? As far as I could see - which is further than you think and sometimes a bit too far - you were the happiest you've ever been with him."

"I know, Cat, but..."

"This isn't like before, Magnus. He was ready to accept you and you, him. It was working..."

Tears form in his eyes. Tears that were evoked long ago, as soon as the love of his life had parted ways with him, as soon as he'd chosen isolation, as soon as he'd shut off the world and crumpled into a powerless shell of shadowed love. The tears fall, finally having the chance to do so, and he can't do anything to stop his vision blurring as his shoulders shake and his breath becomes rocky. They fall incessantly, creating a glistening path along his skin and hindering his ability to argue.

Catarina, like many times before, simply pulls him close and lets him hide his face on her shoulders, his hair tickling the side of his face as he struggles to contain his sobs.

"Oh, Magnus..."

He can't reply, of course; there are few people who can form sentences when sobbing long overdue sobs. Catarina, feeling helpless, just hold him tight and hold her own tears back because melancholy does not suit a soul usually laced with glitter and happiness, a soul radiating confidence and style, a soul full of love and hope and magic.

It's not cute and it's far from beautiful when Magnus cries because when he cries, it means he's held it in for far too long, for longer than most could tolerate. His walls are so high and so deep that to break them is more or less break him but love is a powerful weapon when it wants to be and nobody can arm themselves against it. For Magnus, who's built his walls out of his experiences, to cry is to reveal the city of sadness unusually buried deep underneath his self-designed shields.

It takes the sun to set for Magnus' eyes to exhaust themselves. He inhales and exhales as if he's never had the luxury of breathing before, slowly but surely quietening until he can look Catarina in the eye without his face crumpling.

"Cat... I..."

She shushes him. "Magnus, I'm not ever going to leave you when you need me. Mundanes get ill all the time but it's not every day your oldest friend needs a shoulder to cry on so don't you dare apologise to me."

Despite his tearful eyes, Magnus smiles. It's a small smile, much smaller than his usual smirks and grins and beams, but it's a gesture of appreciation and progressing happiness nonetheless. He pulls back as he says, "Thank you."

"How about we get you to bed and talk about this tomorrow, huh?" Catarina suggests, not really waiting for an answer before taking Magnus' hand and pulling him up, leading him to the spare bedroom because she knows going into his usual one will only bring back loved, painful memories of Alec and Magnus will once again have a sleepless night or worse, one plagued with nightmares.

It seems expelling his bottled grief through his eyes has tired Magnus out as he doesn't complain when she all but manhandles him under the duvet, gently pulling it up over his body and gradually dimming the lights until it's almost too dark for them to see each other. She watches as Magnus' tired eyes droop and his eyelids meet as he struggles to stay awake, apparently not wanting to succumb to slumber just yet.

"Sleep well, Magnus," Catarina whispers, pushing his disheveled hair away from his closing his eyes and waiting until his breathing evens - which doesn't take long because he's barely slept lately - before leaving the room, gently closing the door so as not to wake him up again and then placing wards around his apartment because, whether or not he'd realised, they're weaker than ever, practically an invitation for ignorant, morally corrupt, enemies to take advantage and attack.

She wonders how long this can go on.

Chapter Text

Alec Lightwood was not coping.

If he had been coping, he hadn't been coping well. At this point, he'd even given up pretending to be coping. His lack of a healthy coping mechanism was far too obvious, even to those who didn't know him at all.

It's odd how quickly he'd become attached to his warlock - the warlock - and how quickly he'd forgotten how to exist without magic and glitter in his life.

What's worse is that everyone can sense it. Pain, he thinks, is bearable only until it's repeatedly pointed out to you, day after day, like a million little needles pressed into your skin, within plain sight.

He hates being viewed as incomplete, as weakened, as lonely. He wants to shout at the world for assuming he isn't self-sufficient and making him out to be something akin to a symbiote for Magnus. He wants to scream until his voice runs out, he wants to run until his legs can't hold his weight, and he wants to punch people until the skin on his hands peels off.

But he can't.

He yearns to sink under his blankets and stare at the messages he'd received from Magnus but he ends up almost buried under paperwork and files to check over. He wishes he could ignore the world, run to a remote forest, and think about the times he's spent with a certain warlock- or forget them, he doesn't care either way - but he's always drowning in the questions of everyone else walking through the institute. He needs his sense of normality back but, since meeting Magnus, his normal had changed and he can't figure out how to undo everything they'd created, partly because he can't tell which parts of him were unlocked by Magnus and which parts he'd always had.

"Alec?" He hears a voice asks and, strangely but not at all surprisingly, it takes him far too long to recognise it's Izzy.

"Iz, yeah, you okay?"

She chuckles - but it's a sad chuckle - then nods. "I'm good. Raphael was looking for you."

"Why?" Alec asks before promptly shaking his head. "Wait, Never mind. Thanks for telling me."

He shakes his head, trying to physically expel the fog of guilt taking over his intellect, as he walks to where he guesses he could find Raphael. Not wrong in his guess, he greets the vampire without thinking about it and the two of them settle around the circular table, one that he'd totally not modelled around King Arthur's table because he's a nerd, definitely not.

"We have a problem," Raphael states.

Alec nods; he'd been expecting that. "How can I help?"

"We'd had a few clashes with the warlocks-"

He doesn't get to finish his concern because Alec's brain, against his best wishes, decides to stop paying attention. His brain, his stupid, stupid brain, chooses to spiral into nostalgia and he can't think because he can feel the ghost of Magnus' magic in his soul and he can see those beautiful, kaleidoscopic eyes every time he blinks to try and clear his vision - a counter-intuitive habit, really. Somehow, he's at the door before he registers standing up, his feet propelling him anywhere away from the mention of warlocks. He thought he was better than this but, as it turns out, he's not good at suppressing memories that want to float at the front of his mind like hot air balloons powered by helium and gasoline and the agony of caged birds.

Breathing heavily, he shuts his eyes and lets himself sink to his knees, dimly registering that he's in Izzy's room as he cups his pounding head with his sweating hands. He can't open his eyes because he can't bring himself to face the reality of an unsupported reality and he can't move because he can't feel the love he never knew he needed until he lost it.

It doesn't occur to him that the earthquake he can feel is his own body shaking. At least, not until there's a hand on his knees and a soft, quiet voice humming from somewhere near him.

Beats of music fill his ears and he breathes in time to the tune changes, slowly but surely realising he'd barely been breathing and that his body was trying to stop him from shutting down entirely. An age and a half later, he manages to gingerly unclench his fingers and roll his shoulders back, wincing when bones crack and his muscles complain from being so tense for so long. It's even later when he finally blinks and lifts his head up, his gaze flickering between irrelevant objects until it lands on Izzy.

"Welcome back, big brother." Her voice, usually filled with confidence and an attitude to be reckoned with, is gentle, too gentle as if she thinks slightly raising the pitch of her words could shatter him.

"Izzy... I..."

"I know," she whispers, "I know, even if you don't know."

"What don't I know?" Alec asks desperately, his voice a pitiful reminder of his collapsing sense of control.

Izzy's smile is sad as she replies, "If it was my place to tell you that, you wouldn't even know that question exists."

Alec groans and stretches his legs out, wincing once more as his knees protest at the sudden movement. He rakes a hand through his hair, sighing when it falls back on his forehead before wiping his eyes for the sake of trying to hide his confused pain. He knows it won't work but he has to convince his heart that he's okay if he wants to try and function like any other person. Unfortunately, it turns out the heart is incredibly difficult and almost impossible to persuade.

"What were you humming?" Alec asks instead of addressing the elephant in the room.

"I don't know, something Simon was showing me while we waited for Raphael."

"You waited on a vampire?"

His inquiry is met with a frown. "No, we waited for a vampire. We waited for the head of the clan because rushing him meant making him wait for you."

Alec sighs in defeat. He feels the tears in his eyes and the horrible sparks of emotion rising in his nose that tell him he's about to cry. Shutting his eyes is a pointless decision but he chooses to make it anyway, squeezing his eyes shut so hard he can feel the tension in his temples. Izzy sucks in a breath as he starts to shudder but she knows better than to falsely convince him everything's alright so she quietly leaves, leaving Alec alone with his angry regret. His sobs are inaudible but they're the only thing he can hear, the rest of the world fading away as if it had never existed in the first place - as if he'd lost his world the moment he'd chosen to extend their trust outside their comfort zones, outside everything they'd agreed on.

Now his muscles are complaining for a different reason. They're complaining because holding in sobs that want to roar and echo throughout the world is not without consequence and Alec has chosen to take on every consequence as an alternative to the agony of unwanted nostalgia. He can't think beyond the dull throbbing in his head and the way his hands are shaking too violently for him to wipe his incessant tears.

He hates this.

There's nothing he despises more than to be helpless in the power of himself. He'd grown up believing that nobody could ever order him to do anything unless his heart was in agreement but now when he can't feel the strength of his heart and his worst enemy is his own mind, there's nobody to turn to for help. There's nobody who knows him better than he knows himself, as the much-loved saying goes, but who is he meant to ask when he doesn't know if he knows himself anymore?

It's a completely new feeling for him to feel lost in his own skin.

His mind is a maze and he can't find the entry, never mind figure out how to navigate his way through. He's an open book but he's written in a language that belongs not to intellect, knowledge, and scholars, but to emotion and the parts of the heart nobody can decipher. His problem is a badly hidden secret but he can't bring himself to look at the clues and piece everything together so he can figure it all out. It should be obvious but, as much as Magnus drew strength from him, he'd drawn strength from Magnus and, without it, he's falling, falling into a mess.

The last thing anyone would normally call him is fragile but, right now, sat on his sister's floor with his knees pulled up and tears slipping out of his tired eyes, he can't help but admit the perfect summary of his current state is exactly that: fragile.

Chapter Text

"No, you- I can't- Why would you even ask me such a question?" Magnus groans and creates a portal on the spot.

He'd made the decision to start seeing clients again but now, after one had asked for a spell to turn an ex-lover into a mundane, he finds himself questioning that late night decision.

Once he's more or less politely waved at the ridiculous client, he steps through the portal and practically collapses as soon as he gets back into his spare room. Some would call it running away but he calls it self-preservation of the mind. He still hasn't built up the courage to sleep in his main room because everything in there is laced with memories of a certain Shadowhunter and he can't seem to bear that just yet. It's not his fault the two of them had spent so much time in his loft instead of in the institute and they'd ended up creating their own memories attached to the place.

He knows he should be stronger than that by now but he isn't. He really isn't. Time heals wounds, yes, but it only heals the ones that can fly away from your skin like birds, not the ones that feed on the strength of your heart like leeches. Anyway, it's hard finding a way to move on when all of your usual coping strategies involve the person you're trying to move on from.

Still, he tries.

Blinking away the makeup he'd put on, he replaces it with softer, subtler colours and a sprinkle of glitter. And, of course, to finish his evening look, a glass of champagne finds its way to his hand. His hand, however, soon abandons the glass in favour of a small, rectangular omamori charm. A small, rectangular omamori charm that won't let his mind stay in the moment, portalling him into the past.

"You look pitiful," an oddly familiar voice tells him. Magnus looks up sharply, gasping but not entirely surprised at the sight of Ragnor sitting in the chair opposite him with a kindly judgmental frown on his face.

"Thank you, Cabbage," Magnus breathes.

"Why are you doing this to yourself, Magnus?" Ragnor asks, his words blunt and straight to the point. Anyone else might call it unreasonable or impolite but Magnus knows he needs to be direct about this to actually accomplish anything and he knows anyone else wouldn't be able to help him so any other opinions are, as they should be, mostly irrelevant.

He shrugs, a small smile on his face. "I couldn't stop the course of love, now, could I?"

To his surprise, Ragnor snorts in amusement and shakes his head. "I wasn't referring to the love itself. I was referring to your denial of said love."

Just like that, the small smile vanishes from Magnus' face and he bites his lip, staring at the other warlock with regret in his eyes.

"Alexander is a beautiful soul." Magnus can't bring himself to look up as he says that.

Ragnor leans forwards a little and Magnus can practically smell the magic on him. "And you, my rather soft-hearted friend, have never shied away from any kind of beauty. It begs the question: what exactly is stopping you from this relationship?"

"I don't deserve him."

"Why?"

Alec's face when realising how many he'd loved before flashes in his mind since Magnus can't forget the utter shock in those hazel eyes. "He's better off with a Shadowhunter that can keep him happy, that can age with him, that doesn't have a long history with so many different people..."

The look in Ragnor's eyes is both sceptical and dismayed but what really gets to Magnus is the sadness in his eyes. Ragnor had been many things and never failed to express his annoyance but being melancholy had been beneath him. It makes him want to list everything he's feeling and let it all out because Ragnor can be trusted and his sadness shows his concern. Reluctantly, he unclenches his fists and breathes as if they were back in the old days where neither of them was heartbroken.

"I don't know if we can go back," Magnus admits softly.

"Why do you need to go back? Why don't you, as you always have, move forwards?"

"I don't know how!" Magnus explodes and he realises how good it feels to admit that aloud.

He doesn't know. And that's the hardest part. The actual problem isn't as heavy on his soul as the fact that he doesn't know how to approach a solution. Knowing that he doesn't know is the first step he'd refused to take but now he feels a little lighter, as if there's some kind of hope for him. Naturally, he's embarrassed it'd taken two warlocks to make him take that step, but assisted progress is definitely better than no progress at all.

"Magnus, don't you think it's time to finally take those risks when someone who isn't even alive understands what you're thinking better than you can?"

Magnus wants to laugh. He also wants to cry. He ends up doing neither, his eyebrows furrowing and a small, pained smile taking over his expression.

"Ragnor, I can't-"

"When has that ever stopped you?" Ragnor raises an eyebrow, referring to the plethora of times where the two of thank have landed in heaps of trouble simply because Magnus had a tendency to stretch the rules and bend them into elaborate patterns instead of actually following them.

"I don't want to mess this one up," Magnus says softly, looking Ragnor directly in the eyes.

Ragnor only smiles, his eyes full of amusement and sensibility. "You already have, so what's the worst that could happen now?"

Magnus knows that's true so he shuts his eyes and, when he reopens them, Ragnor is gone.

Ragnor's words, however, echo in his mind. He's scared, he really is, of losing his place in Alexander's life but he's downright terrified to take his place back. He, of all people, knows how valuable a place in someone's life can be and the last thing he wants to do is take up too much room, too quickly. Especially in the life of someone who already holds a place in his own life.

As much as he wants to leave it all behind and drown his worries under expensive alcohol and outdated vinyl, he finds himself transporting every glass in his loft to a selection of bars, then somehow ending up in front of his vanity table, looking at his eyes, staring at the reflection of himself in his eyes within the reflection in the mirror.

His reflection almost accusingly stares back at him so he shatters the mirror, exhaling loudly when the shards of glass fall to the floor and scatter around his feet, the object still managing to reflect the state of his heart despite it being broken. If that's not some kind of sign, he doesn't know what is. He's tempted to just fix the mirror and forget he'd been so lost, he'd subconsciously called upon Ragnor again, but the object serves as a reminder, a reminder he never wants to ignore because there's only so long love can be ignored before it comes back to punch you in the heart.

And, as quickly as the glass had shattered - instantaneously - he makes up his mind: he has to see Alexander, he has to know if Ragnor was right, he has to find his own lighthouse in the storm of this love. Closure, he realises, is what he's really after. He craves it, and he craves it badly. A small part of him wants to leave Alexander alone so the Shadowhunter can move on in peace but too much of him needs to know, needs to know if he's right in letting go.

"Shadowhunters are always in trouble, right?" He asks himself before sighing. "I'll find an excuse to visit the institute."

He just hopes his lighthouse isn't suffering from a power cut the same way his heart seems to be.

Chapter Text

"Alec, come on, you have to do something," Izzy says, hating the sight of her brother doing nothing, especially since he's usually restless, starting a new project the second he finishes the last one.

Alec sighs. "Like what?"

Despite being internally elated at Alec finally, finally talking, Izzy just shrugs. "I don't know, read a book or go for a walk?"

"I used to go on the best walks with Magnus..." Alec says softly, his eyes glazing over a little as he throws himself back into memories.

Izzy's far beyond finding that endearing anymore, simply rolling her eyes and putting her hands on her hips. "Alexander Gideon Lightwood, get up and do something before I lock you in a closet with Magnus."

Alarmed at the very idea, Alec all but jumps to his feet. "Okay, I'm up, I'm up. Don't call Magnus."

Just as Izzy grins, Jace pokes his head through the door, loudly clearing his throat. "Alec, you have a visitor."

"Izzy!" Alec exclaims instantly, turning to her with an accusatory glare.

"Why would you immediately assume it's Magnus?" Izzy counters, throwing her hands up in surrender. "And it wasn't me."

"Oh, come on, who else would visit such a killjoy?" Jace raises an eyebrow, earning himself a sharp scowl from his parabatai, which he takes as his cue to leave. Alec stares after him for a moment before wringing his hands.

"I don't think I can-"

"Well, I'm off to help Simon with his wardrobe so you're going to have to," Izzy interrupts, smirking. Without letting Alec complain or make any more excuses, she leaves, her footsteps way as she leaves, suggesting that she probably has a rune or two activated.

Alec exhales before smoothening out the wrinkles in his shirt and starting to walk. He doesn't make a sound until he gets to the doors of the Institute and sees Magnus leaning on the wall, clearly having been let in already. Of course he'd been let in, the whole of New York knows who he is, they wouldn't dare refuse him entry unless Alec specifically tells him otherwise. Then and only then does he let out a small sound, the sight of Magnus looking well and as handsome as ever twisting his heart.

"Alexander?" Magnus' head lifts up so quickly, a mundane doctor would have made him sit down in case he got dizzy.

But he can't breathe because Magnus looks so good, his hair is glittery and seems to be softer than his velvet jacket, and Alec just can't understand how he's so well-composed.

"Alexander?" Magnus asks again, his voice quieter as he steps forward.

More than aware that there are multiple eyes on them, some of which want nothing more than a dramatic scene to gossip about, Alec gestures for Magnus to follow, trying to regain authority of his airways as they get to his office. He does so just as Magnus closes the door behind him, apparently still able to sense Alec's desires. This only serves to confuse Alec since he can't understand how Magnus is so purportedly unaffected by all of this.

"Magnus."

"You look... tired," Magnus settles for, his voice so much less confident than Alec can ever remember it sounding.

"Did you come all this way just to insult me?" Alec asks, his own voice shockingly calm, "or did you want to ask for something?"

The hurt in Magnus' eyes is sharp but quickly pushed back. He offers Alec a small smile. "I wanted to see you."

"What?" Alec asks, frowning. He'd assumed this would be a formal request or a diplomatic matter to resolve but he isn't ready to talk about his emotions, not even to someone as kind and gentle as Magnus, and now he's just bewildered and unsure of how to handle this.

"I wanted to make sure you were doing okay..." Magnus trails off as Alec sighs heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose.

He looks up for a second but then looks back down, the very sight of Magnus' beautiful outfit reminding him of his own lesser ensemble that he'd literally thrown together due to demotivation.

"Why would you do that?" Alec asks bluntly, the question clearly unsettling Magnus, who shifts on his feet for a moment before saying anything.

"Why wouldn't I do that?"

Alec scoffs, not even sure where this nonchalant confidence is coming from, perhaps fired up by the anger in his heart. "You can't fix a problem when you're half of the reason it exists in the first place, Magnus."

"I had to try, Alexander!" Magnus argues, stepping forwards but halting as soon as Alec steps back in response. "Why can't get past your sanctimonious pride and see that I'm trying?"

"You left! You left me! What makes you think I want you to try anymore?" Now Alec looks back into Magnus' eyes directly, not sure if he's seeing Magnus' anger or his own reflected back at him, or perhaps both.

"What would you prefer I do? Simply erase our relationship from my memory?" Magnus is almost shouting at this point but Alec is no better himself.

"And what should I do? I don't have magic, I can't forget you that easily!"

Truth be told, he doesn't think he can ever forget Magnus, ever. He doesn't think that leaving behind those beautiful eyes and magical touches can be so easy, not even with the help of magic. Alec sort of wants to remember Magnus no matter how unpleasant it gets but he can't decide if that's because he loves the time he's spent with Magnus or if he wants the memory to serve as a reminder not to let his guard down for anyone else.

"You're capable of dying before it becomes too painful anyway!"

Alec blanches momentarily, glad his door is soundproof because he wouldn't have wanted anybody to hear this. "Right. Because you'd know all about leaving people behind and watching them die."

Magnus practically flinches. "You know I don't have a choice."

"Don't you? You didn't have to start a relationship with all those mundanes but you just had to prove a point to yourself, didn't you?"

"Alexander! When will you learn anything beyond fighting? You don't choose who you fall in love with!" Magnus' voice is wavering slightly but it's still the most powerful one Alec has ever heard. He almost misses the way Magnus would recite literature to him to make him laugh, which usually led to impromptu dancing typical of the era said literature originates from, but then he remembers where he is.

"So you didn't choose me?" He asks, more than aware of the paradoxical darkness in his question.

"What?"

Finally stepping forward, he schools his features into indifference. "If you didn't consciously choose me, you can't possibly know how I feel. You can't make me okay again if you don't understand how I feel so you might as well leave."

"Leave?" Magnus echoes. Alec's heart twists and he feels guilt stabbing at him but he tries to remind himself that this is the same warlock who'd broken his heart not so long ago.

"Surely you know what 'leave' means?" Alec asks, trying to swallow the lump of emotion in his throat and avoid tearing up; he's surprised he even has any tears left to cry.

He thinks Magnus is going to cry too because his face seems to fold inwards but then he's confident and powerful and emotionless again. Alec doesn't know if he should believe the voice in the back of his head telling him that warlocks can glamour or if he should apologise and do something. All he knows is that he's conflicted and seeing Magnus again hasn't made it better so he wants him gone, needs him gone.

"Did it ever occur to you that I might not have wanted to see you?" He manages before his throat starts to physically ache and he can't form words anymore.

There's a small moment of silence after which Magnus nods curtly, swallowing thickly before offering Alec a bright smile that doesn't reach his eyes and turning to leave. He pauses for a split second but then the door flies open and he's gone, the room dimmer without him, allowing Alec to squeeze his eyes shut as he hears Magnus' footsteps retreat and all but senses the aura of magic vanish as he leaves the Institute, as he leaves Alec.

Alec has never felt so disconnected from life and everything in it.

Chapter Text

The lights flicker as his tears fall.

They carry on flickering and potentially confusing anyone who can see them from outside until he slowly stops sobbing.

Then, still unable to form words without his voice wobbling, Magnus shakily walks into the little study where all his potions are mixed and bought. He sighs as he looks around, wishing there was a potion to repair a fraying relationship but knowing matters of the heart can never be fixed by mixing ingredients together. Nothing can win over Alec's heart if he decides to keep himself shut off, he just has that kind of strength in him.

It's not like Magnus wants to reply their conversation in his head but he can't avoid it, Alec's words echoing in his mind like ricocheting bullets.

He sighs again, kneeling on the floor in front of the bookshelf and pulling out the box he'd kept hidden from Alec. Not the box full of souvenirs from past relationships, but the box he's been collecting as a tribute to Alexander in case of... well, in case of something like his current situation. It's a small, brown wooden box with an intricate mess of swirls, flowers and unidentifiable shapes carved into the side, hand-carved by Magnus himself.

Suddenly, he's not so alone in his study of sorts anymore.

He remembers carving the box, he remembers working with the man who'd happily helped him with the task despite being warned to stay away from Magnus by everyone else. The man had been a different sort of kind, the sort of kind you never really expect from anybody, especially not someone who's just met you, and Magnus had done his best to pay his debt back, promising the man that only the most precious of things would enter the box in honour of his precious help.

Naturally, Magnus had carefully saved the little reminders of times he'd spent with Alec and slotted them into the box, which now has at least four layers of magic despite appearing innocently unlocked.

Blinking away tears, Magnus gently lifts the lid of the box, instantly hit with the scent of metal and smoke and warmth. Receipts from the shops they'd explored together, napkin doodles they'd done whilst waiting for food, and dozens of little photos Magnus had printed out are all things that seem to glare up at him accusingly, almost as if wondering why Magnus doesn't have anything to add this time.

The only thing he can add is his sadness.

It's funny, he thinks, how one Shadowhunter could so quickly turn his whole world upside down and then push it so it's constantly spinning, leaving him dizzy with a guilt-ridden melancholy. Alexander had quickly become the bane of his life but he'd just as quickly crushed everything he'd built within Magnus, the tears in his eyes deadlier than venom when he'd all but ordered Magnus to leave, to move on.

Maybe all those who'd never failed to remind him he was unlovable were right after all, in some way or another. Perhaps he was lovable, but any love aimed at him quickly lost its mark and left, fading into a building block for better things. So, for the third time, Magnus sighs to himself, his exhale disrupting the little piles of stamps in the corner of the box, stamps from all the places they've visited and loved together. They're small pieces of paper, fragile, holding more sentiment than they should be able to, and Magnus can't help thinking the fragile squares are akin to love anyone feels for him: strong at first but easily torn and thrown away, discarded in favour of stronger options.

He holds in his rage at the world as he delicately tucks everything back into place and locks the box but then he stands and throws his hands down, gritting his teeth as his magic ripples through the air, shattering everything it touches. It's not enough. He walks out of the study, standing in the centre of his living room and doing it again, sending out waves of destruction until he hears every piece of glass shatter and fall just like his heart had done hours before. Or maybe it was days ago, he wouldn't know.

Chairman Meow meowls from somewhere and only then does Magnus pause.

It's an effective reminder that his actions never only affect him, that he can't fool himself into thinking there's nobody else around because there always will be and that won't ever change, no matter where he goes. Blinking, he breathes heavily, letting his eyes fall shut instead of looking over the battlefield he's created out of his home. Something inside of him - probably his conscience - tells him he has to clear this us, he has to fix what he's chosen to break, but he can't bring his arms to move anymore, instead letting himself fall to the carpet that might as well be his best friend for all the time they've spent together lately.

His shoulders are shaking uncontrollably as something warm and fluffy climbs onto his lip but he wraps his beloved feline closer without even thinking about it, grateful to the little ball of cuteness that hasn't left him alone, not when it matters the most. He has just enough energy to magic away his makeup before he starts crying, his tears soaked up by Chairman Meow's pampered fur and the ache in his soul slightly dimmed by the deep purrs that vibrate through his frame.

"What would I do without you, my lovely?" Magnus asks the concerned feline once he can breathe again.

He's met with a bored expression and a lick to his cheek that makes him laugh. "You're right, of course. I would definitely steal less cat food."

With one last lick and a small purr, Chairman Meow pats Magnus' neck and saunters off back to wherever he'd come from. Magnus watches him leave, his heart lightening as he does, and exhales slowly once that elegant tail has turned the corner and vanished. Picking himself up, he fixes the ornate picture frame that'd fallen in front of him, the photo of him and Raphael mesmerisingly stitching itself together. He stares at it for a small eternity, then wonders how else he can convince Alec - and himself - that their relationship is worth more than this sadness, this empty promise, this hollow ending.

He wants Alec back so much, it physically hurts. Maybe one day they'll have a name for the ache in his heart but so far, there's nothing Magnus can do except for hold on to the slim possibility that their love isn't dead, isn't burnt out just yet. He still doesn't have the energy to repair anything else so he stays where he is, surrounded by the result of his frustration, and lets the feeling of nothing fester inside his heart, telling himself he's going to get up and fix things but not but not fully believing himself.

There's nowhere he can go without being reminded of who he has or used to have in his life. He wants to be alone but he can't because his home is the only place he's safe to be by himself but it's also the only place full of memories and reminders, of lives he's touched and lives that have touched him. Most people would wish to escape isolation and be comforted by the presence of others but Magnus wishes the opposite, he wishes he could be his only company and leave everyone else behind for just a little while. As it is, he's alone with a million memories, which pretty much equates to being at the centre of a crowd.

Just his luck...

Chapter Text

 


 

 

It’s a good thing Alec’s tears aren’t the source of rain because otherwise the entire world would be flooding at an alarming rate.

He can’t think past Magnus and how he’d left. Of course, he knows Magnus had only left because Alec had asked, but that doesn’t make it any easier for his heart. There’s a part of him that wishes he could just go back, back to when he didn’t know Magnus and when becoming the head of the Institute was his biggest concern, but he knows that’s impossible no matter how much he wants it not to be.

But, on the other hand, he doesn’t want to think about Magnus right now because he’s having dinner with Maryse in less than a quarter of an hour and the last thing he wants is for her to find out they’ve broken up, which is why he finds himself standing in front of the bathroom mirror and breathing heavily, trying to persuade himself that he’s okay.

“You can do this. No big deal. All you have to do is pretend everything’s fine. You’ve done it before and you can do it again. You can do this.”

His reflection seems unconvinced; he’s tempted to punch the helplessly truthful mirror.

Glaring at himself doesn’t seem to have the same effect as when he glares at others so he gives up on it after another minute, just sighing and running a hand through his hair instead. Almost immediately, he groans, opens the tap, wets his hands, and tries to make himself look like he hadn’t only changed clothes because of this family dinner. Somehow, the whole thing takes ten minutes so he’s only just satisfied with his appearance when Izzy bursts in, radiating concern.

“What if I’d been naked, Izzy?” Alec asks, rolling his eyes at her fearless behaviour.

Izzy scoffs. “I’ve seen much worse than you, get over yourself. Now, if you’re done preening, we have a mother to entertain.”

“I was not preening!” Alec argues as she tugs on his arm, then all but drags him to the front entrance.

Oh no.

Maryse is armed with a bottle of wine and a giddy smile, which can’t be good. The last time she’d turned up in this kind of state, Magnus had been the only one who could keep up with her and coax her away from drinks and towards mindless chatter and rest instead.

“Izzy…” Alec murmurs, his tone saying everything he’d rather not. That and the fact that Izzy seems to have an inbuilt Alec-translator means she perfectly understands what he’s thinking in a heartbeat.

Izzy swallows but blinks away her frown. “We can do this. Come on, where’s that stupid determination of yours? I bet you Clary’s next brownie batch that she’ll hug you first.”

Alec makes a face but then they’re too close to Maryse for him to say anything without being overheard so he plasters a smile onto his face and takes the bottle from her hands. “Hey, Mom.”

“My children!” Maryse smiles brightly before hugging them both in turn, Alec first just as Izzy had predicted, the scent of coconut flooding through the door as she walks through.

“We made stew!” Izzy tells Maryse as they walk towards the room they’d turned into a dining room a couple of weeks back since nobody ever used it for anything else and family time had suddenly become much more common, to everyone’s pleasant surprise.

Not wanting Maryse to reply with something borderline insulting and spark yet another nostalgic debate, Alec adds: “Don’t worry, it’s the new and upgraded version.”

“Oh, thank the angel,” Maryse breathes in relief.

Izzy makes an indignant sound. “Come on, it wasn’t that bad!”

She gets only a hum in reply but, thankfully, they reach the dining room before they can start another argument over the quality of their childhood attempts at cooking. Alec opens the door and lets the other two in before following them, shutting the door behind him to keep away prying eyes or nosy ears.

The first round of stew is accompanied by flickering conversation topics that Alec mostly tunes out. It’s only when they refill their ridiculously small bowls – the size of which is the only reason that they’re having more than one serving in the first place – that things go slightly south.

“So, Alec, how’s Magnus? Busy with a client, I presume?” Maryse asks, a smile on her face that Alec really doesn’t want to sabotage.

Naturally, he does one of the things he’s best at: he keeps pretending. “Yeah, it was an urgent request. In fact, I forgot to tell you, he sends his apologies for not being able to make it.”

Izzy gives him an odd look but doesn’t contradict him, going with it. “Good thing too, he’d probably have stolen bigger bowls with the excuse of being fabulous and gotten us in trouble again.”

“Again?” Maryse echoes, raising an eyebrow and sipping her drink.

It’s not a secret that Alec himself occasionally indulges in and appreciates alcohol but, right now, he couldn’t hate it more. He just really wants to stop talking about Magnus and pretend that this is just another casual dinner rather than the only reason Alec is talking to anybody else in the first place.

“Well, there was that time we had a stray cat problem and, instead of helping relocate them, all Magnus did was magic us some bowls and cat litters,” Izzy says, rolling her eyes and effectively covering for Alec’s internal distress.

Maryse just laughs, throwing her head back as she imagines the scene. Alec offers a small chuckle as Izzy takes the lead in their conversation, the two siblings fully shocked when Maryse starts to tell them her own stories about Magnus. Alec listens with a troubled interest, not sure whether he should listen to the tales of his boyfriend- no, his ex-boyfriend’s adventures after jeopardising their relationship’s ability to fix itself.

Regardless of his ever-growing guilt, he listens and finds himself smiling at the crazy things Magnus has done. It makes him want to go and see Magnus’ mannerisms for himself, to go and build his own stories with Magnus, but, mostly, to just go, go away from this situation and cry in his room again.

“Alec, are you alright?” Maryse asks, apparently finally seeing through his pretence.

He smiles as brightly as he can, not wanting to worry her. “I’m fine, Mom. Just a little tired, it was a long day.” And he’s not exactly lying. It was a long day and he is utterly tired, just not for the reasons Maryse is probably thinking.

“You can say that again,” Izzy says under her breath, smirking a little.

Maryse smiles at him, then waves a hand. “You can go and rest if you need to. It’s been a while since Isabelle and I have had some quality girl talk anyway…”

Izzy genuinely snorts, then covers it up with a cough, but nobody could miss the shine in her eyes at those words. It’s been halfway to forever since they’ve had anything close to girl talk and Alec really wants to be happy for her, he does, but he can’t pull his mind out of the time he’s spent with Magnus. He still smiles, though, yawning to authenticate his fatigue and just about managing a decent wave before he leaves, walking faster than he’d thought he could.

By the time he gets to his room, he’s too tired to change his clothes so he just pulls his socks off – a habit he’d picked up from seeing Magnus remove his socks before bed so many times – and flicks the light he’d left on earlier, off. His happiness, patience, and concentration might have been fabricated but his lack of energy is genuine and even he knows he can’t fake his way out of that one.

“Nnnggghhhhh,” he groans after taking two more steps, promptly flopping onto the mattress face-down; pretending is way more tiring than people can ever know. And if he falls asleep cuddling his pillow as if it’s a certain warlock, well, nobody will ever know that either.

 

Chapter Text


 

 

Time might not heal the wounds of an immortal, but shopping can be a great painkiller.

Magnus wanders through the jacket section of the store he's been in for the last two hours, letting his fingers brush over the velvet but never stopping long enough to let himself consider buying any of them. He knows the shop assistant is giving him pitying looks but he can't bring himself to care anymore. It's almost a miracle when his phone rings and he has an excuse to walk out of the shop without selecting anything.

"Cat, what can I do for you?"

"Hey, Uncle Magnus!"

Magnus blinks, wondering if Catarina is drunk or something before remembering Madzie usually calls him that. He recovers just before the silence can drag on too long and it might seem like he’s hung up. "Madzie, my dear, are you alright?"

There's a small giggle before someone - probably Catarina - yells something in the background and Madzie says, "She wants to know if you can play with me while she fixes some people up?"

"She said those words?" Magnus snorts but then clears his throat. "Of course, I can! You'd better get your best teacups ready, and quickly!"

"Madzie! Give it here already!" Catarina orders from somewhere, followed by a shuffling sound before: "Magnus? You good to babysit? You're not… busy?"

By that, she definitely means to ask if he can go a night without crying about his love life, or current lack thereof. Magnus hates that she has to ask because it’s almost as if everything he’d sacrificed Alec for has fallen into an unstoppable abyss anyway and now he’s out of touch with both his fellow warlocks and the shadowhunters. He’d said he couldn’t have both but now he has neither and he can’t blame anyone but himself. If only portals could send him back in time so he can right his wrongs.

Glancing back into the shop where the shop assistant is still staring at him, he nods even though Catarina can't see him. "Yeah, I’m good to go. We don't want to disappoint our little girl, do we?"

"Magnus..." Catarina warns, clearly sensing something in his voice, something that’s probably the pain leaking from his heart.

But Magnus doesn't let her ask anything more because he knows he won't stop answering if she does and that won't get them anywhere. So, instead, he says, "See you in a minute."

It takes him a few seconds to end the call and slip his phone into his pocket, after which he looks back to the shop assistant who still hasn't stopped staring at him even though he's clearly not going to buy anything. Just to confuse the poor guy, Magnus winks at him and mimes a phone, mouthing 'call me', before waiting until a group of people walk past, then portalling himself to the park near Catarina's place so it’ll appear as if he’d just vanished without a trace after flirting.

He brushes a leaf off his shoulders once he’s walked through and steadied himself, wishing he could brush off the guilt just as easily, and walks up to Catarina's door, not having to knock before the door swings open.

"Uncle Magnus!" Madzie grins up at him, her hands still dimly glowing from having magically opened the door.

"Sweet Pea!" Magnus replies, lifting her off the floor as she jumps into his arms. They spin around twice before Magnus puts her down again and smirks at Catarina, who's now appeared in the doorway to the living room.

"Are you jealous?" Magnus asks as if this were just like old times when he wasn’t constantly on the verge of falling apart.

"You wish," Catarina scoffs.

"I made a wish too, want to know what I wished for?" Madzie asks, either not detecting or blatantly ignoring their borderline-offensive bickering.

Her innocence reminds Magnus of when he’d told Alec about breaking up and he’d just tried to backtrack, tried to convince Magnus that it would all be okay if they just held on a little longer, a little stronger. Alec had been close to tears even before truly understanding but there’d been no anger, just a pure sadness that had broken Magnus’ heart. And Magnus had thrown it all aside.

Pulling himself away from thoughts of Alec, Magnus glances down at Madzie and shakes his head. "You can't just tell me, sweet pea; a wish is a secret between you and the stars."

Madzie frowns sadly so Magnus winks at her to give her some hopeful happiness before sharing a look with Catarina. It’s a long look during which there's a doubtfulness in her eyes but eventually, she nods and grabs her keys. "Don't burn the place down overnight."

"Yes, ma'am!" Magnus salutes, making Madzie giggle and copy him, Catarina rolling her eyes at both of them before leaving for yet another one of her unplanned night shifts.

As soon as Catarina closes the door behind her, Magnus turns and kneels so he's at eye-level with Madzie and smiles as warmly as he can. "Close your eyes for me, little one."

There's something touching about the way that, despite everything she's been through, Madzie closes her eyes without a moment's hesitation. It makes Magnus feels special, it makes him feel trusted, it makes him feel like the absence of Alec in his life isn't eating him alive and making him unlovable.

With Alec, there’s never been a moment where he felt unloved. Sure, there was the whole parabatai dilemma, but Alec had always assured him that he was the one, even after seeing his golden eyes without warning. That had been something of a joke between them after the first time because Alec had almost forgotten how to breathe as soon as Magnus had revealed his true eyes again. He’d done it together so many times that Magnus can’t look at himself in the mirror without thinking about it anymore and he just wants to go back to Alec’s breathless smile rather than his breathless rage.

He clicks his fingers, pulling himself out of his self-pity and getting on with what he’d meant to do, then whispers: "Now open them again."

Already grinning, Madzie opens her eyes and gasps. She gazes up at the glow-in-the-dark stars stuck all over the ceiling, the stars shining brightly and making everything seem so much more magical, so much more mystical and special. When she looks back at Magnus, the stars are reflected in her eyes and her joy is genuine, warming Magnus' heart.

 

 

"Now you can tell me what you wished for because we're under the stars," Magnus explains.

Madzie throws her arms around him and giggles. "I wished for you and Uncle Alec to come to my surprise party next week!"

Magnus pauses, wondering how he can approach this without making a mess of his crumbling heart. There's no way he can hold a conversation about Alec with Madzie and stay smiling so he chooses to focus on something else, going with: "Surprise party?"

"Yup, I heard Aunt Catarina talking to herself about it," Madzie tells him proudly, apparently not caring that a surprise party is meant to remain a surprise.

A part of Magnus' mind is spinning faster than a cyclone, trying to figure out how he's meant to please both Madzie and his heart at the same time. Of course, he wouldn't miss Madzie's party for the world, and nor would Alec, but the two of them being in the same vicinity can't be a good idea. It doesn't help that he knows Catarina would have been talking to him about it if he and Alec were still together, which means his problems are a burden for her, and that’s not at all okay.

"You won't tell her I told you, will you?" Madzie asks, her nose scrunching up as she frowns, probably unaware of how she’d just saved Magnus from the dangers of his own mind.

Shaking his head, Magnus smiles. "Don't worry, I'm good at keeping secrets."

And, unfortunately, so was Alec, when it came to his deepest worries and insecurities. But secrets like those are rarely meant to be kept so, naturally, they had come out with their wings spread, before Magnus and Alec been ready for them, landing them in a bit of a huge mess they still haven’t managed to find their way through. Magnus wishes that this could all be fixed as easily as those secrets had been unveiled but, with the way things are going, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be anything less than practically impossible, if it’s even possible at all.

Apparently, his answer was enough to satisfy Madzie because she nods and pulls him along to her room, where the table is set with a delicate-looking set of cups and plates. Madzie slides into one of the chairs and Magnus sits on the floor so he doesn't tower over the table. He then grins at Madzie, letting his eyes flash as he does.  "So, what would you like to drink today?"

"Grapefruit soda!"

Magnus raises an eyebrow, wondering if she'd heard of that from the babysitter with fancy red and orange skirts that Catarina always talks about - and making a note to tell her about soundproofing the walls - before clicking his fingers and smiling softly when Madzie giggles in joy as the cups fill with grapefruit soda.

"What do you want to eat?" Madzie asks once they've both sipped their soda and she's made a face at it, seemingly not sure if she likes it or not.

"Hmmm..." Magnus brings his hand up to his chin, stroking his imaginary beard as he shrugs. "I'll let you decide, how about that?"

Madzie nods solemnly and runs out of the room. Magnus watches her leave with a frown on his face; he can't help thinking back to the last time he'd let Madzie decide, when she'd asked for apple pie and they'd had to organise a spontaneous baking session which had led to Alec being covered head to toe in flour and Magnus making him laugh with pick-up lines cheesier than a cheese fountain for the rest of the day. And night. And the next week.

He has no more time to get lost in the memories of that day before Madzie returns with three cookies, a happy smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes. Although, he is somehow already deep enough in the past to just accept that there are three cookies, half-expecting Alec to thank her from next to him before realising Alec is probably on the other side of the city, at which point he has to use every fibre of his will to keep himself from crying.

He wishes Alec could be here, he wishes everything could go back to how it was before their positions got in the way, and he wishes he could have spent enough time with Alec to work up the courage to ask him about kids. Alec is a natural with Madzie and his eyes shine brighter than a sky full of stars when he's talking to kids so, of course, Magnus never wants any less than to raise a family with Alec but now, it seems like that dream can never happen, unless he does something about it. But he has no idea what to do because he can’t even get close to Alec, never mind talk to him.

The helplessness in his mind slowly begins to stab into his heart because this was his chance, his only chance to have a family, and now he’s blown it.

Everyone knows warlocks can’t have children and Magnus had accepted that without question after a lot of pain, deciding never to have any expectations from anyone. And then Alexander had come along with his beautiful soul and his kind words and Magnus’ resolve had begun to soften. He’d started to imagine a stable future, he’d started to find comfort in the reassurance of their relationship, and he’d started to hope their circle of love could grow. No, they’d never directly talked about building a family before, but their jokes about putting up with kids had always been laced with something more serious, something both of them had wanted to talk about but neither of them had had the courage to.

He hadn’t even noticed he’d begun to soften until it was too late, until he’d had to harden again because otherwise, Alec’s sadness would have ripped him apart. It had taken him too long to realise he was ready to accept the possibility of having something more with Alec. And now, well, now he never might. Alec had been the embodiment of nothing less than a miracle for him but now his miracle is crying because of him and it looks like he might go back to being lonely, to being nothing more than a forgotten face.

"I made an extra cookie because I thought Uncle Alec was coming but you can give it to him later, right?" Madzie asks, her voice far too innocent and cute for Magnus to ignore.

He nods. "Of course, sweet pea. I'm sure he'll love it."

That is, if he ever lets Magnus close enough to actually know it exists and try it, Magnus thinks to himself, sighing internally. He does his best to carry on smiling but, honestly, he doesn't know what he's saying for the whole conversation with Madzie, his words about as clear as his future with Alec.

He knows he teaches Madzie a spell for dimming and brightening the lights but, if you asked him, he wouldn’t be able to recall any of what he says, doing it all on autopilot and wondering what it would be like to teach a child the ways of both warlocks and shadowhunters. There’s a never-ending battle inside of him between whether or not he should embrace the risk and try to balance both worlds on the metaphorical shoulders of his and Alec’s relationship, but he tries not to let it show as he watches Madzie practice.

Only when she accidentally turns all the lights off and clings to his legs does Magnus snap out of it, bringing the lights back and chuckling to let her know he’s not angry. “Silly girl, you’re a warlock, not a vampire.”

“Do you think I’d make a good vampire?” Madzie asks, letting go of him and wriggling her fingers to relieve the stress of trying out a new spell over and over.

“I think you’re perfect as a warlock,” Magnus replies, smiling.

It hadn’t occurred to him that Madzie might not actually know much about vampires so when she asks about the differences between them and warlocks, he’s more than happy to use explaining as a distraction from everything else. Of course, his lectures aren’t always the most entertaining thing in the world so he sets up another tea party for them, Madzie bringing more cookies and Magnus refilling their fancy-skirt-lady-inspired drinks.

He’d also surreptitiously included dinner in their second tea party so, when they finish their question and answer session and Madzie yawns, Magnus can lift her up and carry her to her bed, laughing as she changes her clothes using magic just because she can. She yawns again as Magnus tucks her in but then her chin wobbles and her lower lip curls downwards.

"Madzie, what's wrong?" Magnus asks urgently, unsure of what he could possibly have done in the last three seconds to make her cry.

She makes a grabbing motion with her hand and Magnus smiles, slipping under the covers next to her and letting her curl around him, her head resting on his chest and her hands clutching his shirt like a lifeline. He lets her get comfortable, then runs a hand through her hair because he knows it helps her fall asleep. Eventually, her breathing calms down and she sniffs, looking up at him with an alarmingly cute expression of sadness.  

"Is Uncle Alec going to be okay?"

"What?" Magnus asks, his hand freezing for a second before he gets over his initial panic. Alec is okay, isn’t he?

Madzie shrugs, which Magnus feels more than he sees happen. "Catarina says he was hurt so he couldn't come and play with me with you."

Magnus has to physically force himself to breathe. He wonders if Catarina had been lying to satisfy Madzie, if she was just saying that to spare Magnus the pain, or if she knows something he doesn't. He really hopes it's anything but the latter.

He’d like to say he’s not sure why he’s upset at the possibility of the latter but there’s no way he can deny he still cares about the irritatingly beautiful shadowhunter that won’t leave his thoughts. He needs Alec to be happy, he needs that more than he needs oxygen, but he doesn’t know how to make it happen. He’d tried plain honesty and he’d tried subtle secrecy but neither had worked for them and now, he’s not sure how to fix things and find a middle path for them before Alec breaks completely and their happiness fades away entirely.

There’s a part of him that knows he has to seriously reconsider his choices and potentially jeopardise his current lifestyle in an attempt to salvage the love of his life but he also knows that’s a hefty decision that can’t be made right now so he takes a deep breath and looks down at Madzie.

"You know Uncle Alec has a very important and dangerous job, sweet pea. He'll be okay and he’ll come to play soon enough, I promise," Magnus soothes, wishing he wasn't lying.

"Do you promise?" Madzie asks, pulling the duvet over herself, apparently considering Magnus as her pillow.

He closes his eyes for a second, not wanting to lie but not wanting to disappoint her either. In the end, he decides a corrupt moral compass is better than Madzie's sadness, so he says: "Yes, I promise. I'll make sure he's okay and then I’ll bring him to your party. And your cookie will definitely help him to feel better."

There’s a moment where he suddenly can’t breathe because he’s thrown into the thought of an idyllic future where their children are making Alec cookies to make him feel better after a dangerous mission, where he can make Alec smile with an inside joke they’ve had going for years, where nothing is complicated and everything is full of love.

The next yawn Madzie emits is a force to be reckoned with and it harshly yanks Magnus out of his wistful moment but he just smiles softly, starting to hum because he'd seen Alec do that to calm her down and it had always worked. Luckily, it works again this time. Madzie giggles sleepily before sighing and settling properly, her eyes closing and eventually, her breathing deepening until Magnus knows she's asleep. He carries on humming until he gets to the end of the song, at which point he realises he's crying.

He's the High Warlock of Brooklyn and he's crying because he'd hummed a song that had reminded him of a shadowhunter. Magnus would laugh at himself but he can't stop crying so he lets his head fall back and tries to breathe in deeply, letting his eyes fall shut. Naturally, Alec is still there, right behind his eyelids. He's there slowly rocking back and forth to stop the cries of their tired infant, he's there planting a small kiss on their child's head and tucking them into bed after a long day at school, and he's there with Magnus, the two of them cuddling their upset teenager between them like an impossible sandwich of love.

Alec's there in Magnus' hopes for the future but really, he's not here at all.

Magnus opens his eyes to the blurry sight of a sleeping warlock, blurry only because his eyes are still full of tears. If he had a mirror in front of him, he knows his reflection would look like someone threw fire into his eyes and then tried to douse that fire with water because he can’t control his appearance or his tears when he’s thinking of Alec anymore. Slowly, he calms down enough to untangle himself from Madzie and lower her head onto the actual pillow, gently tucking her feet into the end of the duvet before standing up and stretching out his cramped limbs.

“Sweet dreams, sweet pea,” Magnus whispers quietly.

At least six different joints crack as he walks to the door, but he can't bring himself to smile because he knows Alec would have made a joke had he been here. Then, as he flicks the light off, he sighs, remembering how Alec had made him magically dim the lights last time because apparently the switch was too loud and would wake Madzie up. He’d only laughed and done what Alec had asked, not even knowing if it was because he too loved Madzie or because Alec was just too endearing.

It's all just too much and Magnus has to move, forcing his feet to walk until he reaches the living room, where he crashes on the sofa with a silent groan of remorse. He’s remorseful because he knows it’s probably his fault entirely and he hates the thought of Alec’s tears being lured out just because Magnus hadn’t accepted what the universe had given him.

He has to find a remedy for this, he knows that, but it’s hard because the ingredients are those he’s never had to consider before and the risk is bigger than any other he’s ever taken. It’s almost ironic how he’d originally taken his decision because of his position as the High Warlock but now that very position is the reason he’s having to challenge and atone for his decision. He can’t help anyone else until he helps the Shadowhunter that deserves it most and he can’t do that until he helps himself but helping himself is something he’s never been good at.

“Sweet dreams to you as well, Alexander,” Magnus murmurs, knowing that it’s useless but hoping it might help in some miraculous and ridiculous way.

Nothing about his day had been particularly upsetting or tiring – aside from his own mind – but he finds that he can't stay awake long enough to greet Catarina when she gets back from her shift, preferring to slip into the dreams full of Alec and happiness - not that those two aren't wholly interchangeable - rather than face the reality of being alone and that being all his fault for not fixing things, again.

Chapter Text


 

 

Honestly, the alarms that start blaring outside his office are like soft whispers in comparison to the heated debate in his mind. Unfortunately, this means that he ignores them until they're a problem, which he only figures out when Underhill stumbles through the door with a mug of coffee and a panicked expression.

"Alec, I'm sorry to bother you, but I think the guards are going to start fighting if you don't intervene soon."

Alec blinks at him but nods, standing up and tucking his chair in before walking to the door, only to have the mug of coffee handed to him.

Underhill glances over him, clearly taking in his creased shirt and unkempt hair before smiling sympathetically at him. "I think you need this more than I do."

"Thanks," Alec mutters before gulping down almost half the mug, barely noticing how the heat burns both his tongue and the back of his mouth when he swallows.

His boots thud beneath him as he walks to the entrance, where he assumes the commotion is. He's not wrong either, noticing the way there's a row of guards clearly keeping someone from entering. At first, he thinks it's a random mundane with the sight because if it had been anyone with magic or runes, they could have fought their way past, but, when he gets closer, he sees that it's so much worse.

The person trying to get inside isn't retaliating, not because they can't, but because they don't want to fight. Of course.

Alec exhales slowly, gritting his teeth as he does, before starting to move again. The guards notice him almost immediately, no surprise there, but they only split apart when he's standing directly behind them, letting him see that awfully familiar face, the face that haunts both his wildest dreams and his most dreaded nightmares.

"What are you doing here?" Alec asks tiredly, gulping down the rest of the coffee, wincing a little as it burns his mouth once again.

"A cookie," Magnus blurts.

Having expected something more heartfelt, Alec can only blink, squinting at Magnus.

"I need to give you a cookie, it's -"

"I couldn't care less." Alec turns to the guards. "It's okay, I'll talk to him."

Instead of trying to persuade the guards to do anything they've been told not to, he hands one of them the mug – not caring what they’ll do with it – and walks outside, briskly brushing past Magnus and hoping that he follows so they can avoid any public arguments.

"What is it? I don't remember assigning' cookie' as a code word for anything so what do you want?" Alec asks once they've walked around the building, folding his arms and leaning against the wall as Magnus stands opposite him awkwardly.

It doesn't suit Magnus to be awkward, he's quite literally the exact opposite, but Alec doesn't comment on it in case he says anything that could show weakness.

"I just want to give you a cookie," Magnus says, his voice softer than melting butter.

Alec sighs tiredly. “I don’t want anything from you.”

"Alexander..." Magnus looks more concerned than anything else. "Are you doing okay?"

A small laugh escapes him. "Really, Magnus? Am I okay? Do you even have a cookie or was that just a way to confuse me?" Alec knows his voice sounds tired but he can't help it, he's confused and touched and completely unsure of what's he's meant to do.

Magnus seems almost equally as confused but he shakes his head. "No, I have a cookie for you."

"Prove it," Alec says immediately, but regrets it when he realises how heavy those two words are for them; trust had been an integral part of their relationship and to say something like that is akin to losing it entirely.

Magnus looks like he's about to say something but then just pulls a misshapen cookie out of his back pocket and holds it out for Alec to take. Not that he does. He just squints at it and asks, "What is that meant to be?"

"...A cookie?" Magnus offers, confused.

"Yeah, I'll pass," Alec scoffs.

The disbelief on Magnus' face is unsettling. "Alexander, Madzie made it for you."

Oh. He instantly feels bad for insulting the cookie because he knows how hard Madzie usually tries with her baking, one of the few mundane activities she loves to do. Instead of verbalising his apology, he asks: "Why did Madzie cook- bake me a cookie?"

"She thought it might help to make you feel better," Magnus replies, grabbing at his left elbow with his right hand.

That still doesn't add up for Alec. "What? Why does she think I need to feel better?"

Alec knows he hasn't exactly been the epitome of a happy man lately but he hasn't seen Madzie since before he and Magnus had broken up, so he can't think why or how she'd know.

Magnus frowns so hard that some of the glitter on his eyebrows falls to the ground like gentle summer's rain. "Catarina needed someone to watch Madzie and she didn't think it'd be a good idea for both of us to be there so-"

"So you decided that lying to a child was the best option? You couldn't have just said I was busy?"

Alec knows he sounds bitter but he can't help it, he's hurt that Catarina had chosen Magnus over him. But he's not hurt that she'd chosen Magnus - that's an obvious choice with how long they've known each other - he's hurt because that implies Magnus is coping better and that doesn't seem fair.

"It was for the best." Magnus seems not to notice the way his heart is bleeding.

Alec grits his teeth. "What, just like leaving me to become another face in your history was?"

Magnus tenses but stays where he is and Alec doesn't know if he's relieved or disappointed with that. After a moment of silence, Magnus shrugs. "I don't know if it was."

Slightly taken aback, Alec can't figure out what to say, until he gets angry. "Are you serious? Are you mocking me, Magnus? This isn't a game, I have a responsibility as head of the Institute and I can't afford to waste time with your hollow hope unless you're sure you mean it."

He exhales slowly as Magnus steps back. "You think I'm joking?"

"Why would I think otherwise? I thought you were serious about us but look that where that got me!" Alec raises his voice without meaning to but he doesn't regret it, too full of ire to consider anything else.

"I was serious about us!"

"Not serious enough to try and make it work, apparently!" Alec yells back, then winces when he realises anyone could walk past and hear them.

Magnus seems to think along the same lines because he creates a portal next to them and nods his head towards it. "Alexander, please, let's talk."

Alec's chin trembles but he bites his lower lip and swallows his sadness as if it's saliva. Not wanting to walk away and show himself as nothing more than a weak ex, he folds his arms and walks through the portal, sighing when he sees they're in Magnus' loft. It's an obvious choice, free of prying eyes and ears, but he doesn't want to be here - in a place he associates with love and joy - when his heart can't stop bleeding melancholy.

"Why would you portal us here?" Alec asks, breathing in the scent of cosy memories.

"It’s our home,” Magnus says quietly, sincerely, and Alec is almost tempted to agree and understand, almost.

If he’d expected Alec to say something, maybe to confirm that, he’s probably disappointed when a strained silence hangs between them. The two of them can almost see the questions hanging between them, accusing them of lying to each other and themselves. Alec almost wants to ask Magnus why he thinks this is still their home.

He shakes his head instead. "What is it, Magnus? Why did you make a scene at the Institute?"

“A scene?” Magnus echoes numbly.

Alec nods, giving Magnus a pointed look.

“I didn’t make a scene, I just asked to see you,” Magnus says, then bites his lip and, if Alec didn’t know better, he might say Magnus was nervous.

Alec doesn’t really know what to say to that, the air of hostility making it hard to think of anything. “Why?” he manages eventually.

And just like that, the tension in the air increases tenfold, both of their polite smiles becoming strained. Alec hates it, he wants to go back to pouring over case files and never-ending reports, but Magnus is between him and the door and so an exit would be too awkward for him to handle right now.

"Alexander, this isn't right."

"What isn't? Are you going to bring up the forsaken cookie again because I don't-"

Magnus holds up a hand. "You don't have the time, I know. I mean we aren't right."

Alec reels back. He knows they're not exactly together right now but to hear that Magnus seems to have lost hope stings badly, worse than that one time when Max had burned his arm with a laser in an attempt to impress his friend. He'd been secretly hoping this could all blow over but apparently not.

"Alexan-"

"Stop calling me that!" Alec snaps, his gaze snapping to Magnus. "You lost the right to call me that when you gave up on us."

Now it's Magnus' turn to step back and stare in shock. "What? I haven't- I couldn't give up on us..."

A bitter laugh escapes him as he gestures to the cookie Magnus still has a death grip on. "We're relying on a child's baking to start a conversation, Magnus, I don't think it's going to work for much longer."

"Alex- Alec, please. Looking after Madzie, it made me realise that I'm not ready to let you go." Magnus' voice is small but the nervous hope in his voice speaks volumes.

He closes his eyes for a minute, breathing slowly. Alec knows what Magnus must have been thinking, he knows it will have been something to do with the subtle yearning for a future together, for a family together, but his heart is too tired of weeping to forgive so easily. He wants to let Magnus back in, he wants to just accept it, but he knows that building the foundations of a life together without solid commitments will get him nowhere.

So, despite the desperate look in Magnus' eyes, Alec just shakes his head. "Not ready? This is my life, I can't just wait for you to get over yourself again and again."

"I made a mistake, okay? I messed up and I want to apologise for it."

"And yet you aren't," Alec says stiffly, swallowing his urge to wrap Magnus in a hug and wipe away the growing tears in his eyes. He wishes he hadn't gone through that portal because now he's stuck here and he can barely stand it. He wants someone to wrap him in a hug now, but he only wants Magnus to do it, the old Magnus that never had to make an excuse to see him.

Magnus seems equally frustrated and upset now. "Stop making this so complicated."

Alec wants to scream that this is hardly his fault, that he's not the one bringing up old wounds and emotional memories to get his way, but the small rationality left inside his head is telling him not to, telling him that he needs to be diplomatic if he ever wants to go back to things as they were before. He ends up saying: "I can't be here anymore, I need to go."

There's a panic in Magnus' eyes when that sinks in. "Alex- Alec, please, I can't make this work without you, I need you to help me. We can fix things between us."

If Magnus had said that a month ago, Alec would have been over the moon, smiling like crazy and immediately moving forward to kiss Magnus. But now, when love seems like a gateway to nothing but pain, the phrase seems like salt rubbed into his bleeding heart. Alec shakes his head, stepping back even though it's further away from the door, away from his escape. "No."

Magnus frowns sadly. "No? I thought you were all for effort?"

"Not when it's for a lost cause," Alec says blankly, his cool voice the exact opposite of the storm raging inside, the rage and sadness swirling stronger and stronger.

He's so angry at Magnus for saying that, he hates having his own words thrown back at him. The back of his mind knows Magnus isn't wholly wrong but he doesn't want to listen to it, choosing to let the sting of potential betrayal fill his thoughts.

"Please." Magnus' voice is quiet, so quiet. "Just hear me out. I promised Madzie we'd both attend her party and I don't want to let her down."

It almost surprises Alec that Magnus has changed the topic so easily but he doesn't bother to wonder why, focusing on the new information he's just been given. He doesn't know what Magnus expects of him, he hadn't been told of anything and now he's meant to act like everything is fine and attend a party? That too, a party for a scarily perceptive child? It's too much and he's exhausted just imagining it.

"You know what? It's your problem. You lied to her, you can figure something out," Alec says, shaking his head.

The disappointment radiates from Magnus as his jaw drops a little. He seems to recover quickly, asking: "What happened to the Alec that never refused anything when it came to Madzie?"

He scoffs. "What happened? You happened."

Pausing for a second to wipe off the tears that have managed to escape his eyes, he then takes a deep, tired breath. "You've broken-" he rakes a shaky hand through his hair because it hurts to admit it- "you've broken my heart. I wish I hadn't fallen in love with you."

Now they're both crying and he's not sure he likes what he'd just said. He can physically see something crumple in Magnus' eyes but still, the other man doesn't move, licking his lips before slowly saying, "You don't mean that."

 

 

He might not have been sure before but that settles it. That makes him feel like a pawn in Magnus' long chessboard of life and he's not okay with that, he wants to be in control of his own future and he doesn't appreciate anyone telling him what he does and doesn't mean to say, not even someone who used to know him better than he knew himself.

"You must have me confused with some other Shadowhunter from your past because I definitely meant that." Alec's not sure his glare is any good when coupled with his tears but he glares nonetheless.

"Alexander..." Magnus' voice is broken, wavering. His hands are trembling and sparking but Alec is drowning in denial, in desperation, in dead love.

"No. Not anymore. Go away, M- warlock, go away and let me do my job." He can't stop crying but he refuses to look away from Magnus, his fists clenched. He can't deal with this, every word Magnus says just tears him down a little more.

“We can figure this out together.” His words were soft but his expression was softer, full of promise and hope and reassurance.

Alec shakes his head, finally looking away from Magnus, tearing his gaze and his love away. “I’m good at getting things done by myself.”

Magnus’ expression is full of remorse. “I want to be here for you, Al-”

“I don’t want you to be here, never mind for me!” Alec interrupts, shaking his head.

"Let me help you," Magnus pleads, the fragility of his voice stabbing into Alec's chest and taking his breath away.

He takes another step back, hitting the wall, not having realised how far apart they'd moved. "I'd rather take help from Asmodeus."

That wasn't even remotely a sensible thing to say. Alec doesn't have time to regret it before Magnus' expression hardens and his eyes flash, narrowing impossibly, before he swiftly turns around and walks out of the room, the cracking of a portal being made and closed again echoing before Alec can register any of it. Then he's gone and Alec is left staring at a doorway as empty as his satisfaction.

His knees hit the floor with a dull thud when Magnus' departure from the loft and their conversation hits him so he finally lets himself cry, his chin wobbling before strangled sobs surround him. He's ruined it all, he's created a catastrophe out of a minor setback and there doesn't seem to be any way to go back and fix everything. He'd never imagined having such an awful conversation - if you can even call it that - with anyone, never mind the one person who he'd been ready to sacrifice everything for in a heartbeat, but now it's all been said and he can't ever take any of it back.

By the angel, what has he just done?

Chapter Text


 

 

It takes Alec three rounds of regret, a spike of anger, a few hundred tears, and about an hour to recover from their argument.

He regrets it, of course. How could he not, after insulting someone who probably couldn’t even dream of purposely saying anything so cruel to him in return? Magnus isn’t perfect, he’s said things that have stung before but, unlike Alec, he’d apologised and opened the door back to their usual love, he hadn’t just childishly acted like the world had ended.

He doesn’t even remember walking out of the loft, but he must have because when his focus is drawn back to the world, it’s only because Izzy bumps into him and pinches his arm.

“Alec! Where did you- Have you been crying?”

He shrugs, taking a deep breath. “Is everything okay at the Institute?”

Izzy looks him over before nodding slowly. “Yeah, everything’s fine. I heard about what happened with you and Magnus…”

Internally, he groans. Making a scene has always been something he’d dreaded and he hates the thought of everyone knowing about what had happened, about what nobody else deserves to know. Although, if he’s honest with himself, he doesn’t really remember all the things that had led to this moment.

Outwardly, Alec only stiffens minutely. “Nothing happened. I was taking care of a problem.”

“A problem?” Izzy echoes blankly.

Nodding to himself, Alec starts walking again, not really thinking about where he’s going, ignoring the mundanes entirely instead of observing or mocking them as he usually does.

He gets about half a meter further before Izzy’s hand pulls in his elbow, making him turn around.

“Alec, come on, talk to me,” she says softly, gently.

But he just shrugs, shaking his head. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

He knows she doesn’t believe him because she bites her lip, clearly already thinking up solutions to whatever she thinks is the problem. She doesn’t have to say anything for Alec to know that, when she turns and starts to walk, she expects him to follow.

The tears on his face have completely dried by the time they get to the Institute. He quietly curses himself for starting to go the wrong way earlier but doesn’t get much time to think about it, having to concentrate on following Izzy without losing her within the small crowds of people here and there.

He’d expected her to lead them to a training room or something of the sort, but they end up in her room. She sits on the bed and stares up at him expectantly, nodding her head down to the space beside her.

“Izzy, I-”

“Sit. Down.”

Alec sits down.

He perches on the end of the bed, ready to spring back up at any moment, until Izzy groans and he has to admit defeat, settling properly, folding his arms. “What?”

“Talk.”

Alec shakes his head. “About what? Look, I have things to do and-”

Izzy waves a hand, sighing. “I don’t want to hear your excuses. What’s going on with you and Magnus?”

He tries not to let his eyes water, he really does. It doesn’t work and he finds himself briskly wiping away a tear before replying: “Nothing. Nothing’s going on anymore. He’s a member of my cabinet meetings and that’s it.”

His voice has never sounded so despicable to him. Magnus is someone who deserves the kindest words, the beautiful and encouraging adjectives, not the empty and hollow descriptions Alec has recently been associating with him. It hurts his heart to say such things and he can’t figure out why, especially when he’s so firmly decided that Magnus will no longer be his to compliment.

“You know you don’t mean that,” Izzy accuses, but not unkindly.

Alec shrugs. “Maybe it’s for the best. We weren’t working; he’s lived too much and I haven’t lived enough.”

“Maybe you’d live more if you actually let yourself-” she moves closer to him, her expression softening a little- “instead of just throwing away what you have with Magnus.”

“I don’t have anything with him, why can’t you just accept that?”

Izzy throws him a glare. “Because you’re miserable! I haven’t seen you smile since you and Magnus broke up, you aren’t eating, you’re throwing yourself into danger without any hesitation, and I’m worried about you. You can’t carry on like this, Alec!”

He wants to argue that he can’t smile when all the magic, both literal and otherwise, in his life has been ripped away from him; he wants to argue that he can’t think about eating food when his thoughts are eating away at his sanity; and he wants to argue that nothing is more dangerous than his love for Magnus, whether it’s ruined or not, but he doesn’t. He says nothing.

“You can’t mean to tell me that you’re happy like this.” Izzy’s voice cuts into the dark fog twisting in his mind and he blinks in confusion before sighing heavily.

“Magnus left, okay? He’s gone and I don’t understand the game he’s playing anymore. I’ve had enough of being at his mercy and I can’t take it anymore.”

Alec only half believes what he’s saying. He’s not sure whether he’s at Magnus’ mercy or if it’s the other way around but he doesn’t have the strength to try and figure it out, and Izzy’s pitying looks aren’t helping in the slightest.

After a moment, she licks her lips and shifts a little. “If he’d left, why did he come back?”

Surprised by the question, Alec looks up at her. At first, he thinks about lying, he thinks about making something up to avoid having to answer and relive everything, but Izzy deserves better than his lies. “He wanted to talk.”

Izzy says nothing so he continues: “He said he needed my help to, uh, get back together. But he lied to Madzie because Catarina thought he was stronger than me and now she thinks we’ll both be at her party because she made a cookie for me so I’d feel better and I-”

“Alec! Hey, take a second to breathe,” Izzy all but orders, “and slow down a bit. You said Magnus wants you to get back together?”

After taking a deep breath, Alec nods. “Yeah, he says he wants to fix his mistake as if my heart is just a game to him.” He knows he sounds bitter and snide as he talks but he can’t help himself.

On the other hand, Izzy looks hopeful, as if his rambling is promising her a long and bountiful life. She leans back a little. “So Magnus admitted that he’d made a mistake?”

Alec nods, sighing. “I guess?”

“And did you accept his apology?” Izzy asks, her eyes narrowing.

“He didn’t apologise, there was nothing to accept.”

The sympathetic yet furious glare Izzy sends his way almost makes him spontaneously apologise. Instead, he shifts and raises his eyebrows. “If I went back to what we were, if that’s even possible, this could just happen again and I’m not ready for that.”

Her expression softens but her eyes stay sharp, calculating, and almost accusatory. “And what if you become something better, stronger?”

Alec swallows the lump threatening to block his speech, his voice barely audible as he says: “I’m not ready to take that chance.”

“Why?”

“Why what?” Alec asks, not having expected her to ask something so simple yet so complicated.

“Why aren’t you ready to take a chance?” Izzy asks, frowning. “You were ready to sacrifice who you were and get married to someone you barely liked but now, when the perfect relationship is staring right at you, you’re going to just give up?”

Her words cut into him, pulling out the guilt buried just under the surface. The questioning look in her eyes forces him to look away and swallow the lump in his throat. “It’s not- It’s not like that.”

Izzy doesn’t look even a little convinced and Alec knows she’s too far into her own conclusions to be swayed by anything he says anymore, which is why he's not even surprised when she shakes her head, a small, bitter chuckle escaping her.

“Yes, it is. It’s exactly like that. You actually stood up to Mom for the sake of this love but you can’t talk out your problems and fix them together? That’s not the Alec Lightwood I know.”

Her words are scarily similar to Magnus’ requests and he has to just close his eyes for a minute, breathing heavily to try and stop himself from breaking down. He wonders if it had always been this hard to breathe and think at the same time. Or maybe that's just another side effect of being separated from his favourite warlock, favourite person.

“I know,” he says, not sure if he can understand what he’s saying, never mind if Izzy can.

Somehow, she does. “I’m glad you can admit it. But I’m not Magnus, Alec, I’m not the one who can fix this.”

“I don’t think I am either,” Alec whispers, his eyes prickling for what must now be the hundredth time. He hates it, he hates crying when he should be strong, when he needs to be the one who can handle himself so he can take care of everyone else.

Izzy places a hand on his arm, looking him in the eyes and giving him a small smile. “Then stop thinking and go find Magnus.”

 

 

When she lets go, Alec nods, brushing the unshed tears from his eyes with the back of his hand, almost poking himself in the eye as he does, then slowly standing up, slightly relaxing his tense muscles.

“That sounds good,” he says as he hears Izzy stand up behind him, knowing that she can read the gratitude in his words, then taking a deep breath before opening her door and stepping into the corridor, pushing aside his guilt for the time being and replacing it with theories of where he should look for Magnus.

Unfortunately, he doesn't get far in his theorising or with the actual search because the piercing sound of an attack alert echoes through the corridor just as he takes his fourth step.

So close. He'd been so close to taking a long-overdue leap of faith and starting to fix things. It's infuriating for his heart but he swallows his ire down and  turns to see Izzy looking irritated, her lips pursed and her hands on her hips.

She marches up to him and sighs. “I guess we should take a look at that.”

“Yeah,” Alec agrees, already turning and heading to their front room, where everyone knows to congregate when the alarm sounds.

“What in the name of the angel is that?” Izzy breathes as they catch sight of the many blinking dots warning them where the demons have emerged.

Alec glances around. “Alright, everyone, listen up, this is more serious than usual…”

They quickly formulate a plan, assembling enough teams to take out the demons and investigate the cause at the same time. There are more people than usual involved so Alec doesn't bother learning all their names, substituting in generic ones for the sake of filling in mental blanks, he just takes a note of everyone and does a quick head count before they all set off.

It starts off simple, just like another routine hunt, but then the demons keep coming, harder and faster, until everyone has renewed their stamina rune at least twice but nothing has changed.

“Where are they even coming from?” George - who’s not actually called George but had been dubbed that by Alec and couldn't complain about it because he didn't know - yells as they stab another demon.

Alec scans the area and sighs, knowing he has to do something. Making sure she's alright to give him her attention for a moment, Alec turns to Izzy. “Izzy, cover me!”

She does so immediately, which gives Alec the chance to run and find the team stationed closer to the source of this demon hoard, countless questions ready on the tip of his tongue.

He doesn't get a chance to ask anything, though, because his brain stops functioning at the sight of two warlocks.

His immediate response is one of trepidation; he doesn't want to face meeting Magnus right now, in this situation. He knows he might say something and ruin things even further, the last thing he needs to do on a battlefield.

Luckily, neither of the two warlocks are Magnus and someone quickly fills him in on how the warlocks had become involved, then revealing their suspicions on this being a strategic release of demons that seems to serves a larger purpose. Alec takes it all as something dawns on him: they’ll need to call an emergency cabinet meeting for all members if they want to get to the bottom of this.

Strangely, he stops paying attention to anything other than the necessary information after that. He's aware of more fighting and magic, he's aware of the warlocks thanking them, and he's aware of letting them know he'll get right to arranging a meeting but nothing else makes it past his autopilot mindset until they're back at the Institute and his head count tells him there haven't been any serious casualties.

Only then does he leave, letting the others handle themselves for once because he knows they’re more than capable of doing so right now, and walk back to his room, shutting the door and sliding down the wall with his head in his hands.

He knows he has no choice but he's not sure he can handle a cabinet meeting right now, especially since Magnus is always forward with his opinions and suggestions in them, meaning that he'd need to interact with the man who'd set his sanity ablaze.

Chapter Text

 


 

Magnus is fed up with lying.

He'd been lying to everyone lately, even more than the usual fibs about his age and where he’d gotten his outfits. He'd lied to Catarina when she'd asked him if he'd wanted something to help him sleep, he'd lied to Madzie about why there was no answer from Alec yet, he’d lied to his wine bottle when he’d said he’d only take one small sip and, worse, he'd lied to himself about why his heart was still aching.

But he couldn’t lie any longer, not now that he’d found out about this emergency cabinet meeting.

Part of him doesn't want to go, of course. That part of him doesn't have the courage to face Alec and keep a poker face, that part of him isn't in the mood to discuss rogue demons when the ones inside him are rioting, and that part of him is going to have to suck it up and deal with it.

He sighs to himself as he takes another small sip of the wine he'd poured for himself.

The taste of grapes and rose petals is the only thing that keeps him going through the night. Well, that and an endless spiral of self-destructive thoughts, but the unique taste of this wine is definitely the better one to credit.

He's still holding his empty glass when sunlight spills over the horizon and beautiful colours fill the sky like an artistic alarm clock.

“Time to go,” Magnus says to himself, setting the glass down and making himself look rested and composed within the blink of an eye.

For a split second, he debates on stopping by Raphael’s place so the two of them can enter together and avoid any awkward encounters, but he squashes the thought before it can fester, putting his energy into creating a portal.

Of course, he portals to just outside the Institute, brushing dust that may or may not be there from his suit as he walks to the entrance. It’s not a long walk but it’s long enough for him to think about how Alec must be hating him, wanting him not to show up, and the thought is almost enough to make him turn around. Almost.

Izzy nods at him as he walks into the Institute, a soft, pitying but not judgemental look in her eyes, one that only she could be capable of giving. He nods his head at her in return, hesitating for only a fraction of a second before continuing, wishing that he could absorb some brightness from the glowing lights above them and turn it into confidence for himself.

And then he sees Alec.

He can’t help being impressed at how professional and powerful Alec looks in his immaculate suit, with that polite and firm, but welcoming smile on his face. He takes a moment to remember the time when he’d have been able to give Alec a coy smile and compliment him, both of them knowing it had nothing to do with the suit, but what lies underneath.

“Mr Lightwood,” Magnus greets as warmly as he can manage, offering his hand.

An unreadable expression flickers across Alec’s face before he smiles, the action surprisingly echoed by the shine in his eyes. “Mr Bane. Thank you for coming,” he says, his voice quiet, oddly sincere.

Magnus nods despite his slight confusion, the two of them letting go of each other’s hands with none of their old lingering touches. He’s already stepped back when he says: “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

It’s easier to avoid thinking about Alec after that. He just throws himself into the demon situation and works with the other warlock there - who’d been invited for a first-hand explanation of the problem - to figure out a plan of action. Using the guise of taking notes, it’s not hard to keep his gaze away from Alec altogether and genuinely focus on something that could be the distraction he needs from his love life, or potential lack thereof.

He can’t say he doesn’t miss the subtle flirting or the small glances they used to share but he can say he doesn’t let it consume him. Sure, that’s only because the problem is genuinely serious and he feels that protecting those who place trust in him is far more important than his own problems, but it’s half a success and he’s giving himself credit for it.

Once the meeting is over and everyone slowly trails out, Magnus included, he lets out a sigh of relief. Said sigh of relief is quickly cut short when his phone rings with Catarina’s tune, which can’t be anything good.

“Heads up for Madzie,” Catarina says as soon as he answers.

“What?” He walks along the corridor a little, confused.

Catarina sighs, obviously rolling her eyes at him. “She figured out you’d be at the Institute and she’s on her way to ask about cookies or something.”

Magnus groans, pinching the bridge of his nose and leaning on the wall, knowing that he has no excuse to avoid facing her now.

“Thanks for the warning,” he says, meaning it, and hears Catarina hum in response before she hangs up.

No less than ten seconds later, he hears the unmistakable footsteps of Madzie, followed by an innocently smug: “Uncle Magnus!”

Painting a smile on his face, Magnus whirls round and kneels down. “Madzie! Hello, little one, what are you doing here?”

Madzie’s arms around his neck are warm and loving and Magnus has to hold himself back from crying at the feeling. He lets Madzie take her time pulling away before she takes his hand. “Follow me!”

“Where are we going?” Magnus asks.

“Aunt Isabelle showed me where she keeps the spare ingredients for potions yesterday so we’re going there, come on!” She smiles impatiently so he does as she says, letting her lead him into what seems like a forgotten storage room.

He kneels down in front of her as she leans on a table, folding her arms. She frowns at him questioningly. “Did you give Uncle Alec my cookie?”

Oh. Straight to the point, then.

Magnus nods. “Yeah, of course I did.” He winces to himself as he thinks of what Alec had said about him lying but ignores it. “He said it was the best cookie he’d ever tasted in his life.”

“So he feels better now?”

Somehow, Madzie manages to sound adorably hopeful and slightly patronising at the same time. It sends Magnus’ heart into a dizzy spiral of shame but he forces himself to nod, smiling up at Madzie. “Yeah, of course. Who wouldn’t feel better after your baking?”

Madzie giggles a little before looking at him with a level of serious she should not be able to reach. “So he’s coming to my party, right?”

At Magnus’ silence, she narrows her eyes. “Uncle Magnus?”

Curling his fingers into fists, he sighs. “I’m not sure, sweet pea. He’s said he’ll try to make time but he’s gotten really busy lately so he might not be able to come.”

The light above them flickers dangerously before Madzie stamps her foot, frowning again. “You’re lying! You promised you’d give him my cookie and then he’d feel better enough to come! You didn’t do it! You lied!”

“Madzie…” Magnus swallows the lump in his throat. “He does feel better, really. It’s just that there’s been another demon problem and he might be busy with it.”

“No!” Madzie glares at him. “You lied, you lied, you’re just like him and you lied!” she declares before running past him, out of the room.

He doesn’t move at first. By ‘him’, she, of course, means Valentine. Magnus might be a lot of things, but he’d never imagined being similar to Valentine would end up being one of them. And it stings, it stings to be associated with a man who’d done nothing but hurt and use Madzie, it stings more than he thought it could.

And because it stings to much, the only reason he doesn’t get lost in his own mind is that he hears Madzie talking to someone from outside the storage room. Shaking his head, he pulls himself to his feet and goes to see who she’s talking to, his lungs freezing as he sees Alec kneeled down in front of her, a thousand bad endings to this scene playing out in his head.

Madzie seems to nod solemnly before turning back and running to Magnus, hugging his legs so hard he has to place a hand on the wall to avoid toppling over.

“I’m sorry, Uncle Magnus,” Madzie says, her voice a little muffled, “Uncle Alec explained that you were keeping it a surprise for me, I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

Keeping a hand on her head to steady them both, Magnus looks over to Alec, who has a gentle, apologetic smile on his face. He’s more than surprised that Alec hadn’t told Madzie the truth but he doesn’t let that stop him from gently prying Madzie away from his legs and kneeling down so he’s at eye-level with her.

“It’s okay, little one, maybe I just should have lied better, right?” He asks, knowing it’ll make her smile.

She grins, looking between him and Alec before saying: “I’m going to go home now. Will you and Uncle Alec come to play before the party?”

Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, Magnus looks up at Alec for an answer, waiting until he sees Alec, thankfully, nod before smiling at Madzie. “Of course. You’d better practice your tea-making skills so we can impress Uncle Alec, okay?”

Madzie nods at him, still grinning, giving him another quick but no less lovely hug, then doing the same to Alec before running off, obviously having been told exactly what to do by Catarina.

The two of them stand up as soon as she turns the corner and Magnus nods at Alec, once again already starting to walk away as he says: “Thank you.”

“Magnus, wait, please?” Alec’s voice is so desperate, so similar to the voice inside Magnus’ heart, that he stops walking, biting the inside of his lip as he waits.

Alec fiddles with his hands before taking a quick breath. “Magnus, I think- No, I need to apologise.”

“I won’t stop you,” Magnus says, leaning on the wall again, watching as Alec blinks in surprise before nodding, mimicking Magnus’ pose, apparently without realising.

“I’m sorry I said the things I did, we both know none of them are true. I wasn’t thinking clearly and I’m sorry I hurt you-”

Magnus, despite himself, holds up a hand, unable to stop his scepticism. “Are you? Or are you just saying that because Isabelle convinced you to?”

Alec freezes for a moment but he shakes his head fast enough for his face to blur a little. “No, no, no, Magnus, I’m not just saying any of this for her. Look, I’m not the best at relationships but even I know what we had- have, what we have is… incredible. Lucky. A gift. I’m sorry for what I did, I shouldn’t have pushed you away again.”

Sighing, Magnus lets his eyes shut for a second. All he wants to do is accept this and pull Alec close but he can’t, he can’t blindly rush into things and make the same mistakes. “It’s like you never even stopped pushing me away. What we had was incredible but it won’t last long if this sort of thing keeps happening.”

“I know,” Alec replies instantly, clearly having thought about this. The thought warms Magnus’ heart just a little as Alec carries on: “But it won’t happen again, I’m sure of that. And, if it does, I swear to you, I won’t push you away. I don’t want to lose you, Magnus, I don’t think I could bear it. I know I’ve messed up, I’m so sorry for everything, but please, please give me another chance.”

“Alexander…”

Alec shakes his head, running a hand through his hair and exhaling shakily. “Magnus, I can’t un-say the things I said but I want to take them back, I want to fix this and try again, do better. I’m sorry I was so… so cruel, I wasn’t thinking straight and I don’t know why I ever thought I could live without you. You don’t have to forgive me right now but I’m ready to do whatever it takes for us to be together again.”

Magnus opens his mouth to say something but finds he can’t, he doesn’t know what he should tell Alec anymore. He closes his mouth again, simply staring at the sincerity in his favourite hazel eyes and letting himself smile ever so slightly.

A ripple of relief washes over Alec but he makes no move to step forwards, repeatedly nodding. “I really am sorry. Being with you is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I don’t want to throw it away.”

“We were never throwing anything away,” Magnus points out, shaking his head. “Alexander, I can understand how daunting it is to be in a relationship with an immortal who’s had more experience, I really can, and I’m sorry for our circumstances but that’s not an excuse to downplay everything I say just because you assume it’s all a part of my routine.”

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking at it from your perspective, I was just worried that I didn’t mean- that nothing I did would be enough to impress you and convince you we could stay together,” Alec admits, clearing his throat.

At that, Magnus sighs sadly, shaking his head. “You never have to do anything to impress me, you’re already the most impressive Shadowhunter I know, and I’ve met a lot of them. I know it’s hard for you but you have to promise not to just push me aside at every doubt you have.”

He wants to say more, he wants to tell Alec so much more, but he can’t do it, his throat won’t work, the English language has failed him entirely. Fortunately, Alec nods, seemingly understanding what he’s saying.

“Yeah. Yeah, that seems like a good plan. I’m sorry I acted so immaturely. Can we… Can we restart? Not entirely, of course, but just this argument. Actually, no, forget that, can we use this to move on instead?”

Magnus raises an eyebrow, a small smirk on his face after what seems like an eternity of smile-free sorrow.

Alec’s eyes widen. “No, I meant, move ahead, not like…”

When he sees Magnus is holding back a smile, Alec smiles and lets out a small chuckle, sighing with relief afterwards. He then seems to decide the gap between them is too much because he tentatively steps forwards, licking his lips in what Magnus knows to be nervousness.

Since he agrees with Alec, he meets him halfway, the two of them pausing before just lunging forwards, closing the distance between them and wrapping their arms around each other with a determination full of love and apology. Magnus shivers at Alec’s touch but pulls him closer, his palms flat on Alec’s back, holding him securely, letting his eyes fall shut. He feels Alec’s hands fist in his shirt as Alec’s head drops onto his shoulder and he takes a slow, deep breath, inhaling their embrace as if it’s more important than oxygen.

He’d laugh but Magnus is doing the same, breathing in the scent of stiff chairs, lavender, and a terrible but familiar cologne. He’s hauling in the warmth that radiates from Alec as if his life depends on it and he’s not even slightly embarrassed, proud of being the one to receive such a beautiful hug.

“I missed you,” Alec whispers next to his hear, sending shivers of happiness down his spine.

“Likewise,” Magnus replies, a few tears falling from his eyes before he can stop them.

They stay like that, wrapped around each other in an embrace stronger than any other, until they hear the sound of someone turning into the corridor before apparently making an immediate U-turn, their footsteps disappearing faster than they’d arrived, both Alec and Magnus promptly realising where they are.

They pull back, leaving only the smallest gap between them, and Magnus sees that one of Alec’s tears has escaped so he reaches up and gently wipes it away with his thumb, smiling. “Let’s never cry over each other again.”

Alec laughs and takes one of Magnus’ hands in his, biting his lip for a second before he gathers the courage to ask: “Only for the good reasons, right?”

Magnus nods. “Right. We should probably move though…”

“We should definitely leave this corridor,” Alec agrees, sounding a little tipsy, as if just touching Magnus had been a powerful method of intoxication.

Magnus takes a second to think about what he wants to suggest, coming to the conclusion that he might as well try after all they’ve just said before he squeezes Alec’s hand. “How about we go home?”

There’s a pause before Alec shakes his head and steps forwards, cupping Magnus’ face with his free hand. “I’m already here.”

And that’s enough to make Magnus smile, fully, genuinely smile so hard that his face immediately hurts from the intensity. Alec returns his smile and rubs his thumb under Magnus’ eye, catching an eager tear and brushing it away before leaning down so their foreheads are touching and they’re close enough to feel one another’s breathing.

“I love you,” Alec murmurs, his voice so quiet Magnus barely hears him.

The emotions Magnus had been trying so hard to keep in check come undone and he’s abruptly filled with happiness and relief and joy and contentment and a fierce, fierce love. As he gazes up at Alec, whose eyes are blazing with a similarly ferocious love, he feels as though everything can be right once again, as though their lives can comfortably entangle once more, and as though the two of them can grow from this and their relationship can blossom into something he couldn't even have dreamed of before they’d met.

“I love you too,” Magnus breathes before leaning up, tilting his face to the side just a little.

It’s softly explosive when their lips meet, when they both open their hearts and let the love they’d been so adamantly holding back and pushing down finally go free. They’re both still smiling so it’s hard to maintain the kiss but they stubbornly keep going, wanting more of each other, needing to wordlessly promise one another that they won’t give up, that they’ll give this relationship everything they have and more in order to keep it burning, in order to let their love flourish.

 

 

They can both feel the pull from their hearts and they’re more than happy to follow it, more than happy to indulge it, because it’s the best thing they’ve ever known, it’s something they can share, something they can feel together, and it makes sense when they do.

They share a breathless laugh as they finally break apart so they can breathe, staring, no- almost comically gazing at one another with a dizzying sense of relief and comforting happiness. Magnus has honestly never felt so exhilarated and reassured in his entire life, he’s sure that being with Alec is the best thing he’s ever done.  

Of course, nothing is fully fixed yet, they have more to talk about, they have things they need to work out, and there are definitely other obstacles they need to overcome, but all of that is easy when they choose each other, when they accept their flaws and turn them into stepping stones for a stronger future, and when they stop being so stubborn and just let themselves be in love.