He finds comfort in being able to parse some sort of consistency in all of the chaos, but nothing will ever reassure him more than the familiar weight of his partner’s hand in his as they plunge into battle. Braving what he knows will be unknown and unfamiliar with someone who feels exactly as he feels assuages Alec more than even the Angel’s blessing. That role is reserved solely for Magnus.
Magnus circles his arms, blue flames dancing at his fingertips as he conjures a glowing portal in the center of the Institute. Jace and Clary step through first, followed by Magnus and Alec. A decrepit, brick warehouse manifests in front of them as the portal closes behind Alec. He surveys the perimeter. Barred windows, construction equipment, dead trees, and the East River. Dammit.
He watches the waves crash against a seawall as he thinks of all the ways this mission could go south, his anxiety spiraling with each new scenario. No. Get it together. Everything will be fine.
“They won’t be able to track us back at the Institute,” Jace says, mirroring Alec’s own concerns.
“Izzy has our coordinates,” Clary offers. “Shouldn’t that be enough if something goes wrong?”
“It’s enough for Catarina to make an extraction portal,” Magnus says, his eyes following the ebb and flow of the tides. “But we don’t know how much territory the demon has amassed…”
“So a relief team could materialize half a mile away from where we actually need them,” Alec finishes.
“I could always make a portal,” Clary suggests.
“Not if you’re tripping on ravener venom,” Jace says, “or getting dragged into a kuri den.”
“Then we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen,” Alec says.
Jace pulls out a seraph blade from his thigh holster. Clary follows suit with her signature dual kindjal blades, but Alec doesn’t ready his bow; something in his gut tells him to wait a little bit longer.
He feels an anxious twitch at his wrist, indicating Magnus shares his unease. Alec casually laces their fingers together and gives Magnus’ hand a gentle squeeze. He’s not sure if it’s more for Magnus’ benefit or for his, but the cool press of Magnus’ rings against his skin grounds him.
They walk along the edge of the water, illuminating their path with Jace’s witchlight and the glow of Magnus’ magic. Alec snaps his fingers, igniting a small spark. It’s not much. It’s far too weak to provide any real light, but Alec keeps feeding it anyway because it glows and hums exactly as its owner. He feels the familiar pull of the tether binding him to Magnus as he draws magic through it.
“Someone’s confident,” Magnus whispers into Alec’s ear.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Alec asks, pretending that he has total faith in them and not just that the alternative is unthinkable. He raises their joined hands to his lips and presses a quick kiss to Magnus’ knuckles. “I can do anything with you by my side.”
A single street light flickering in the distance starts to give Alec a headache. He shifts his gaze towards Jace and Clary. Jace lightly rests his free hand on the small of her back — a tender gesture Alec never used to see from his parabatai. Clary seems to bring out a softer, kinder side of Jace, even though he’d never admit it. Jace may still be an asshole who thinks he’s Raziel’s gift to shadowhunters, but at least with Clary, he’s a caring asshole.
“So, what exactly are we looking for?” Magnus asks. “I’m supposed to go dancing with Catarina in an hour.”
“You didn’t have to come,” Jace mutters, mostly to himself. Alec wouldn’t have been able to hear him if he hadn’t activated his heigtened hearing rune before they left. Better to be privy to every snap of a twig — and apparently every petty comment — than miss a demon’s sneak attack.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” Alec prompts. He, and by extension Magnus, stops walking. He waits for Jace to turn around. If he’s going to make jabs at Alec’s boyfriend, the least Jace can do is say them to Alec’s face.
Jace turns around, face impassive but slightly annoyed as he locks eyes with Alec. “Nothing.” He shifts back around and continues down the walkway.
Alec takes it back. Jace is just an asshole.
Clary and Magnus share a look before she speaks. “We’re not exactly sure. The Institute’s sensors have been picking up demonic activity in this area, but we don’t know what’s causing it.”
“It’s probably just a bunch of bored grunts,” Jace calls from up ahead. “I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to go dancing if you just hurry up.”
Flames sizzle through Alec’s veins, and the way Magnus soothingly rubs his thumb along the back of Alec’s hand implies his anger must have pulsed through the bond. Magnus gives him a placating look to communicate that he understands, but it’s not worth the argument. Alec levels with him, as if to silently ask, ‘are you sure?’ Magnus nods in agreement, so Alec drops it.
Alec would fight anyone who so much as looked at Magnus the wrong way, but without his consent to defend his honor, Alec will keep his emotions under control — even though Jace is long overdue for a lesson in manners.
The three of them catch up to Jace hovering by a dilapidated brick building. All of the windows are shattered, and the doors are blown wide open. The roof is all but nonexistent. Cracks and holes litter the infrastructure. Ivy vines tangle along the walls, carpeting the exposed brick.
“Seems like a great place for a nest,” Alec notes as they join Jace.
“Exactly what I was thinking,” Jace says, eyes never leaving the building. “I wanna get a look inside before we plunge in.”
“Allow me,” Magnus says, rolling up the sleeves of his jacket. He turns to Alec. “Give me a boost, darling?”
Taking the hint, Alec lifts up the hem of his black t-shirt, exposing his agility rune. He draws out his stele and activates the rune to supercharge their acrobatic skills.
Magnus jolts. “Now we’re talking.” He speeds towards the building and runs up the side of it, launching himself into a backwards flip. While airborne, he lets out a burst of energy to propel himself further. He lands in a crouch on a nearby tree branch. “Oh, much better from up here!” he says, squinting to get a closer look.
“What the fuck?” Jace asks, shaking his head in apparent disbelief.
“Are you kidding me?” Alec asks, just as incredulous as his parabatai but for an entirely different reason. “You and Clary practice more backflips than Cirque du Soleil.”
“That was training, Alec. This is real.”
“You’re lecturing me on field etiquette?”
“Alright, guys, that’s enough,” Clary interjects.
With the amount of respect Alec’s given, he thinks they forget that Alec’s their boss.
“Can you see anything?” Clary calls out to Magnus, and he tells them it looks empty. He hops down from his perch, his landing softened by the active rune. Magnus dusts himself off as he walks over to them.
Jace seems wary, but he buries whatever’s bothering him and trudges inside. Clary follows him, her blades at the ready, while Magnus and Alec take up the rear. Alec trusts Magnus’ assessment, keeping his bow strapped to his back.
The exposed brick building reminds Alec of the Colosseum. The dusty dirt floor is the perfect arena for a brawl: open windows for spectators to watch and cheer, and tall, semi circular doors to cage (or release) some of the world’s most dangerous creatures. The shadowy corners could disguise terrible, bloody secrets. But this isn’t ancient Rome; it’s Brooklyn on a Saturday night.
Clary steps out into the center of the square. The full moon looms over head, casting her in a shimmering, ethereal glow. From the corner of his eye, Alec catches Jace mouthing a silent, awestruck ‘wow’ when he notices her.
The moment is short lived, however, when a low gurgling sound whispers from the darkness.
“What was that?” Clary asks and Jace motions for her to stay where she is. He silently joins her, angling his blade to ward off any potential threats. Magnus and Alec join them, falling into formation so each of them are locked onto one of the four corners of the building.
“There!” Clary shouts, pointing at her quadrant. The darkness twitches, moving with uncanny grace.
A single black tentacle slithers upwards. Alec prepares his bow, loading it with a freshly sharpened arrow. Magnus aims his hands, preparing to fire off a blast at the next flicker of movement.
A second tentacle snakes around them and strikes Jace at the back of his knees, knocking him forward, off of his feet. Magnus releases an orange pulse of magic, but the blast misses as the tentacle retreats into the shadows. Jace regains his stance and charges towards his attacker. His seraph blade slices into the demon’s arm, unleashing a fountain of oozing, purple liquid. He wipes off his blade on his jeans, taking a moment of respite at the victory, but then two smaller tentacles crawl out after him.
Jace jumps out of the way and turns to the rest of the group with a look of concern. “What the fuck, there’s more?”
Three more tentacles appear on Alec’s left flank. He notches arrow after arrow but only grazes the demon. It moves too fast; it’s too hard to see. “I can’t get a clear visual!” he shouts.
Clary stabs low with her left kindjal blade, pinning the appendage to the ground. She slices through the flesh, landing the final blow with her right blade. The same disgusting substance spurts out, coating her in a sickly, sticky layer of purple haze before two more tentacles materialize.
She fights them off with quick, relentless swings of her daggers. The demon seems to realize it’s no match for her as she hacks up one of the tentacles, her eyes out for blood. The other limbs slither away from her, using the shadows as a cover.
“I have an idea!” Magnus exclaims as he throws up a barrier to shield him and Clary from an ambush. Before Alec can question him, Magnus yells, “Trust me!”
Trusting Magnus has never failed him before, and it won’t now.
Jace crouches and yanks a fresh blade from his thigh holster. He launches into an upward assault, slashing at a tentacle in midair. He lands in a roll and stabs at another appendage when he finds his footing.
The smaller tentacles from Clary’s hack job rush towards Jace. He yelps as one of them knicks his ankle. Jace sidesteps the tentacles and slices through them in one fluid swipe of his seraph blade.
They’re effectively holding the demon at bay, but each time it regenerates a new limb, it makes it that much harder to banish. It’s too rooted in their realm, the adamas in their weapons can’t overpower the demonic presence like it normally would. All they’re doing is stalling the inevitable. They need to find a way to stop it from growing new tentacles if they’re ever going to win this fight.
Alec wishes their battlefield wasn’t so flat, so he could study the demon from afar. In any other fight, he’d immediately get to higher ground, sniping demons left and right as he predicted their next moves before they even thought of them. But he doesn’t have that luxury here.
He spots two more tentacles aiming for him. He evades their slashes, trying to track their attack patterns before he retaliates. When he trusts that he can effectively anticipate their next move, he loosens an arrow. As the arrow flies through the air, it ignites in a sea of solar fury as it collides with one of Magnus’ magic blasts. The flaming arrow illuminates the shadowy corners of their brick combat zone, allowing Alec to trace the contours of the demon’s deranged form. He identifies a junction where one of the tentacles connects with the rest of its body.
“Cover me,” Alec commands. Magnus nods and runs towards him, hurling himself into a flip over Alec and firing off another deadly burst of magic as two tentacles surge towards them.
Alec pulls out a dagger from his belt and slashes at the demon’s joint. It howls in pain, confirming Alec’s assessment. The torso sends three tentacles after him, but Magnus easily takes care of them.
Clary chops at the budding limbs as if she were butchering a steak, and Jace is busy working on the larger tentacles.
Alec slices at the other joint, effectively severing one of the main trunks. The demon shrieks, but it’s different this time. It retracts all of its limbs, summoning them towards its core. Everyone halts and stares at each other before refocusing on the demon.
A seemingly shapeless mass slinks along the perimeter, heading towards the center of the room. The demon finally reveals itself under the moonlight — a slimy black thing Alec’s never seen before. It opens its only eyelid, unveiling a piercing emerald iris ringed with violet. It’s striking and haunting and oddly beautiful, especially for a demon.
Alec can’t focus on it for long, because a moment later, the demon opens its gaping mouth, baring row after row of jagged teeth that glint in the light like pieces of broken glass. It sends his body into high alert.
The demon sprouts a new appendage, but this one isn’t like the others. It’s faster, stronger, and worlds more dangerous if the scattering of barbs and thorns is any indication. In between each of the spikes, lay a delicate purple flower resting in a bed of smaller white ones.
The demon swings its tentacle, and this time Alec can’t avoid it. The last thing he sees before he passes out is Magnus scream.
Magnus feels Alexander before he sees his shadowhunter fall. It’s like every one of his nerve endings are exploding, screaming out as the toxin riddles them with something sinister, something insidious. He suffers through a million neuronal deaths that aren’t his. It’s horrifying and agonizing and nothing like he’s ever experienced before, but what terrifies him the most is that this is Alec’s misery.
The pain knocks him over. He cries out for Alexander but has no idea what noise comes out — the ringing in his ears deafens any other sound. He crawls towards Alec, gripping the burning rune on his wrist. He has to get to Alexander, needs to get to Alexander.
Alec seizes in his arms, gasping for air, for breath, for relief. Magnus’ hand trembles as he reaches out for Alec’s fallen stele. It lights up red in his demonic grasp. He rips open Alec’s shirt and activates his iratze rune. The sudden rush of analgesia halts Alec’s spasms and clears away some of the haze enveloping Magnus.
He sees Jace writhing and clawing at his abdomen. Jace yells out for Alec in a strained gasp. Clary is the only one still fighting the demon. She traces the sunlight rune onto her palm, but the demon drops to the ground, effectively dodging her blast before sending out its barrage of limbs.
Magnus kicks into action. The healing rune is helping, but it’s not enough. The poison is too strong; it’s already churning through Alec’s body, tainting everything in its path. Magnus shrouds Alec in a sheath of magic, and Alec winces as the blue flames graze his skin.
“Stay with me, angel,” Magnus pleads. “Please.”
He channels all of his being, his love, his fleeting strength into healing Alec, but it's still not enough.
The best Magnus can do is keep Alec in stasis. They need to get somewhere safe, somewhere with resources. They need to get to the Institute. But Magnus can’t conjure a portal and keep Alec stable at the same time.
“Clary, portal us out of here!” he shouts.
“But—” She pauses to deflect a blow from one of the demon’s oozing tentacles and somersault to avoid another hit. “What about the demon?”
“Alec will die if you don’t portal us right now!”
“Clary,” Jace pants, “listen to him.”
She hesitates for a moment, eyes darting from Alec to Jace to the demon as she contemplates her decision. Clary makes a choice and paints the air with the swirling, elegant script of her portal rune. She stands back and reaches out for Jace as the portal appears in front of them.
Magnus clutches Alec to his chest and charges through.
The frantic click clack of high heels crescendos down the hallway when they emerge in the Institute. “What the hell happened?” Isabelle demands.
“We need to get him to the infirmary,” Magnus instructs, voice ragged with fear.
“By the Angel,” she gasps, only now noticing the crumpled mass of her older brother clasped in Magnus’ arms.
The medics race down the hall and haul Alec’s injured body onto a gourney. They rush him to the infirmary and hook him up to a respirator and a few other medical devices Magnus doesn’t recognize. They assure him Alec will be fine; the poison just needs to fully metabolize, but for the time being, he’ll need to rely on these machines to sustain him. Once the poison passes through his system, he’ll be fine. Or at least that’s what they keep telling him. Eventually they kick Magnus out, probably too annoyed with his constant need for reassurance and updates on Alexander’s condition.
Magnus slumps down against the wall outside of the infirmary and rests his head on his knees. He sighs out a breath and whispers his new favorite mantra to himself, ‘he’ll be okay, he’ll be okay.’ This day has aged him by at least a thousand years — and he’s only a little over eight hundred.
His eyes droop, and Magnus realizes he can’t remember the last time he slept. Everything happened so fast, and then it didn’t. He has no idea how much time has passed. But he doesn’t have much time to contemplate as a furious shadowhunter comes barreling down the hall.
“What the fuck was that?” Jace’s voice bellows.
Magnus looks up at him and notes Jace’s narrowed eyes and flared nostrils. This won’t be pleasant.
“We were blindsided by an especially heinous demon, but we made it out alive,” Magnus says.
“You told us it was safe!”
“I thought it was!” Magnus fires back. He climbs off of the floor and stands so they’re at eye level. He sees the fury and the pain staring back at him, but he also sees a glimmer of something else, something ugly — disdain and betrayal aimed at Magnus. It turns his stomach sour.
“Clearly you were wrong,” Jace snaps.
What goes unsaid is, Alec’s hurt because of you.
Magnus swallows as a lingering silence falls over them. He should have seen it; he knows he should have seen it, and he would give anything to trade places with Alexander. “I’m sorry I’m not infallible.”
“‘Not infallible…’” Jace grimaces as he echoes Magnus’ words. “Is that what you call thoughtless? Reckless? Too focused on showing off for your boyfriend that you’d risk killing us?”
Magnus squares his shoulders and straightens his spine, extending to his full height. “Tell me what you really want to say, Herondale.”
“You're nothing but a distraction for Alec,” Jace spits with more venom than the demon. “He's a worse shadowhunter with you around, and you should just back off.”
Magnus’ hands tremble, and for a moment he fears that he's going to lose control. He concentrates on banishing down his magic. Although it would be satisfying to zap the last remaining brain cells from Jace’s thick skull — it's not like they're being used for anything. “I wouldn't expect anything less coming from you.”
“And what's that supposed to mean?” Jace asks, stepping closer into Magnus’ air space.
“You’ve never approved of our relationship,” Magnus fumes, growing angrier by the second. “You once reduced it to a fling!”
“Can you blame me?”
“That’s rich coming from you,” Magnus scoffs, blue flames crackling at his fingertips. “When I so graciously opened my home to you, you paraded around your conquests like it was some kind of burlesque show.”
“How do I know you didn’t just let me stay to get in Alec’s pants?”
“You think that helped our sex life?”
Magnus can't hold back any longer; his magic builds and builds, fighting against the fleeting control he never has when he feels like this. It pools in his gut and surges out in all directions. His limbs ache with the weight of Asmodeus’ power, and Magnus just can't take it. He succumbs in one central blast.
For a split second, he feels light, but a yelp at the end of the hall instantly relinquishes any resolve he might have entertained.
Underhill wobbles out of the shadows, rubbing at the spot on his back where Magnus apparently just blasted him with rage magic. His face pales as he looks from Jace to Magnus, clearly noting their heated animosity.
“Jace… Mr. Bane…” he stammers. “I'm so sorry, I promise I didn't hear anything. I was just passing through to get to the break room, and I figured I'd stop to check on Mr. Lightwood—”
Magnus holds up two fingers, cutting him off. “Did I burn you?”
“Uh, what? No.” He winces as his backside brushes against the wall behind him. “Okay, maybe a little.”
Magnus snaps his fingers to deliver Underhill a pulse of healing magic. “My deepest apologies.”
“Why don't you take the rest of the night off,” Jace suggests. “You've earned it.”
“Thank you, sir,” Underhill says as he heads off towards anywhere but here, presumably to retire for the evening.
Jace turns his attention back to Magnus. “This is exactly what I’m talking about. You’re unpredictable.”
“I’ve been called far worse before,” Magnus says, trying to put up a wall between him and Jace. “It’s going to take a lot more than that to get me to stay away from the one I love.”
“For fucks sake,” Jace calls out as he punches the wall behind them. “I accept you guys as a couple. I’m talking about your damn alliance rune.”
“Oh.” This startles Magnus. He instinctively clutches at the rune on his left wrist and rubs over it with his thumb.
This rune means everything to him. When Alec works the night patrol and Magnus is left alone in their bed, a sudden pulse of elation soothes his wracked soul. Sharing his magic with Alec, who has such a childlike whimsy for sorcery, feels more intimate than any time they spend between silk sheets. Knowing Alexander is safe and always with him — it’s more than Magnus could have ever dreamed of. A bond, something tangible keeping them tethered so they can always find their way back to each other.
“Sometimes I wish Clary never created the fucking thing,” Jace mutters, raking his fingers through his hair.
“Without the alliance rune, we never would’ve won the Dark War.”
Clary likes to say Ithuriel’s wandering spirit came to her in their bleakest hour. The angel bestowed upon them a weapon like no other: heaven’s blessing for demon-blooded ones to bear their sacred marks and fight in unity. Two bodies with one essence passing between them. It was unheard of, and it was ludicrous, but it worked, and they won.
However, Ithuriel withheld that the rune would remain for shadowhunters and downworlders with deep emotional bonds. Not that Magnus is complaining; he and Alexander cherish the bond like no other, but sometimes he wonders how Clary and Simon fare with their permanent alliance.
“But maybe Alec would be able to breathe without a machine right now,” Jace retorts, and Magnus winces. “You don’t need to come on every mission just because you’re bonded. Alec and I don’t even go on every mission together, and we’re parabatai.”
Jace doesn’t get it; he’ll never get it. What he and Alec share is angelic and based on centuries of tradition, but what Magnus and Alec share is new and exciting and full of wonder. It’s a rush, and Magnus will never get enough, but in this moment, he needs to try to make Jace understand.
Magnus sucks in a breath before he speaks. “Alec and I aren’t like you and Clary. When we get married,” Jace’s eyebrows shoot up at the word ‘married,’ but Magnus continues on, ignoring Jace’s blatant surprise that Magnus and Alec, who love each other more than anything in this life or any other, plan on marrying someday. “we won’t be able to marry in gold. Our ceremony will mostly be symbolic.”
Some of Jace’s anger subsides, as he makes the effort to really listen to what Magnus is saying. “Unless the law changes.”
Magnus gives him a half-hearted smile. “That’s a pleasant thought, but unless there's a major ideological shift in the Clave, the law won't change. Alec and I will never have a fully recognized, a fully legal Nephilim union.” He pauses, collecting his thoughts. “But we have this,” he says, rubbing his thumb over the alliance rune on his left wrist. “This is as close to a real shadowhunter marriage as Alec and I will ever get.”
Jace’s face softens as the full weight of Magnus’ words wash over him. “I’m sorry… I never realized how much it means to you guys.”
“Apology accepted,” Magnus says. “I’m sorry too. I should’ve seen the demon, but it was so well camouflaged in the shadows—”
“I know it wasn’t your fault; I shouldn’t have lashed out at you. It’s just…” Jace plops down onto the ground, his back pressed against the wall. Magnus joins him, sliding down the to the floor.
“I’m worried about Alec.” Jace chances a glance at Magnus then looks heavenward. There’s a thunk as the back of his head collides with the wall. “When we’re out on a mission together; I can keep an eye on him. I’m right there if anything goes wrong.”
Magnus understands what he’s getting at. “So, when Alec started opting for me to accompany him on missions, it worried you because you wouldn’t be there to look out for him.”
“Exactly,” Jace says. “I know you love him as much as I do — maybe more. But it’s still terrifying not being there by his side.”
“Especially when you’ve been joined at the hip since you were children.”
Jace smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. He looks exhausted; the bags under his eyes are reminiscent of bruises, and a hint of stubble peeks out from his chin. Like Magnus, he hasn’t slept in who knows how long.
“Thanks for understanding. I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.”
“It sounds like you and Alec should have a talk,” Magnus suggests.
“I think you’re right,” Jace agrees.
They sit in silence, anxiously waiting for Alec to wake.
Alec’s eyelids flutter open as the butter soft glow of morning light shines through a crack in the curtains. His head feels cloudy, like there’s a thick mist weighing him down. His whole body aches, and his stomach flip flops from nausea.
Alec takes stock of his surroundings. Plain hospital bed, shelves of medicine, and Magnus slumped over in a chair beside him. He rests his hand on the mattress, exposing the chips in his nail polish. He’s been worried.
The only sound in the room is the rhythmic rise and fall of Magnus’ chest. Alec shifts, and the bed creaks under his weight. Magnus stirs, blinking as he comes into consciousness and smiling as he sees Alec staring back at him.
“Hey,” Alec says. His voice sounds groggy, even to his own ears.
“Hey yourself,” Magnus replies.
“How long was I out?”
“About ten hours.”
“That’s not so long.”
“It felt like years.”
Alec gives him a soft smile. “What are you doing all the way over there?” Alec shuffles in the bed and unfolds the covers next to him. “Come lay down with me.”
Magnus spoils Alec rotten, portalling him across the globe and conjuring any dish he craves, so it’s no surprise that he indulges Alec now. Magnus crawls in next to him, and Alec pulls the covers over him, tucking them in together. They lay there for awhile, with foreheads pressed together just breathing each other in.
Magnus is the one to finally break the silence. “I almost lost you.” His voice is barely above a whisper. He sounds weak, like he’s on the verge of drowning. Alec’s not used to hearing him like this; Magnus is the strongest man he knows.
“I’m alive,” Alec says. “I’m not going anywhere, remember?”
Magnus nods, and Alec pulls him closer. Alec can hear the steady drum of Magnus’ heartbeat — an anchor grounding him to reality while a storm rages around them. Magnus rests his head on Alec’s chest, and Alec feels a dampness starting to soak through his t-shirt. He gazes down and finally notices Magnus’ trembling lip and silent tears.
Alec’s lips graze the top of Magnus’ head as his fingers trace love and protection runes along Magnus’ back. “I’m okay, baby,” Alec murmurs into his hair. “I’m safe; I’m here with you.”
“So close to losing you…” Magnus clutches at Alec’s shirt, burying himself against Alec’s chest. “If I wasn’t fast enough… If I wasn’t strong enough—”
“But you were, baby,” Alec soothes. “I’m safe because of you.”
“I felt your pain through the bond; it was agonizing.”
Alec kisses him again. “I'm so sorry.”
“Promise me,” Magnus chokes out. “Promise me that you'll never scare me like that again.”
Alec swallows hard. “You know I can’t do that.”
“I know.” Magnus sounds almost resigned.
Sometimes Alec wishes things were different — wishes he had a mundane job, a mundane life where he and Magnus could just be. But he also knows that if things were different, he and Magnus wouldn’t be who they are today, and he would never do anything to jeopardize this. Alec would burn down the whole world before he let anything come between him and Magnus.
So, instead he opts for the danger and the fear and the unpredictability because it’s real and it’s theirs. He clings to their quiet moments alone and never lets himself forget when he makes Magnus cry.
“I love you,” Alec says. That’s a promise he can make forever.
When Alec finally feels strong enough to get out of bed (much too soon in Magnus’ opinion), he sends a fire message to the Clave asking them to send in a consultant. While Alec was out, Clary and Jace spent hours poring over all of the Institute’s demon archives, trying desperately to find something on their tentacle demon — only to come up short. Izzy sent out a forensic team to collect samples of the demon’s poisonous petals, and she’s been analyzing them in her lab ever since, with no conclusive results.
A consultant specializing in atypical demons is exactly what they need to find a way to banish this thing back to hell after making little headway with their current resources.
Alec makes his way through the ops center. Shadowhunters mill about the area. Some scroll through screens, some plan mission strategies, but they all part for Alec. Magnus once told him that he has a commanding presence, but Alec’s not sure if he believes that, considering what activities they were up to at the time. For now, he’ll assume it’s out of respect and not because his shadowhunters think he’s a tyrant.
“Listen up, everyone,” he calls from the central platform. Everyone stops what they’re doing to listen. “As I’m sure you all know, Clary, Jace, and I were ambushed by a rare demon down in Brooklyn. It’s resilient, it’s highly toxic, and we don’t know if there are more like it. I have requested the expertise of a consultant to figure out how to banish it. Until then, if you encounter the demon on a patrol, you are instructed not to engage. Mark your coordinates and request backup — that’s all. Dismissed.”
Alec’s impromptu meeting adjourns, and the other shadowhunters resume their previous tasks. Alec turns towards his office, intending to catch up on work, when a singed piece of parchment flies out in front of him. He snatches it and scans the message. He rereads it and smirks. Alec pockets the message and walks to his office.
Alec is lost in a report on Underhill’s recent diplomatic mission to the Buffalo werewolf pack. Apparently they were all diehard Sabres fans and mistook Underhill’s seraph blade for a prop, and one of the beta wolves burned herself on the adamas. Fortunately, they’re not claiming a breach of the Accords, but it’s still a fucking bureaucratic nightmare for Alec. He’s so focused on the paperwork that he doesn’t notice his visitor until she’s already inside his office.
“I finished the toxicology report from your blood samples,” Izzy says, walking towards his desk and plopping down into one of the armchairs in front of it. Alec goes to sit in the chair next to her.
She looks exhausted. She’s still wearing her lab coat that’s stained all over with chemicals that Alec’s never been able to pronounce the names of. Her hair’s piled high in a messy bun, her stele barely keeping it from falling. She hardly has any makeup on, exposing the hollow, dark circles under her eyes. The exhaustion makes her look older than 27. Alec thinks she looks more and more like their mother with each passing day.
“What’s the verdict?” he asks, leaning back in his seat.
“The chemical structure of your poison was closest to TTX.” Alec cocks his head in confusion, and Izzy continues, unfazed, “It’s a neurotoxin found in pufferfish. It usually takes mundanes a day or two to fully metabolize.”
“We heal faster than mundanes,” Alec notes.
Izzy shakes her head. “That’s the thing. I went through some Clave medical records. Last year Xavier Forecrest of the London Institute got exposed to TTX.”
A knot forms in the pit of Alec’s stomach. “How long did it take for him to recover?”
“About 30 hours.”
But before they can dwell on this any further, a knock on the door alerts them of a visitor.
Lindsay pokes her head in. “The consultant should be portalling in any minute, sir,” she informs him.
Alec nods and thanks her. He turns his attention back to Izzy. “We’ll discuss this later.”
They meet Jace and Clary in the ops center. They’ve cleared an area large enough to accommodate the incoming portal. Alec glances down at his watch. She’s due to arrive in the next minute, and knowing her, she’ll appear right on time.
As expected, once the hour hand strikes three, the Institute erupts in a swirling vortex. Papers flap and fly across the room. Keyboards rattle and monitors shake under the force of the portal. Electric orange magic slithers into existence, opening a bridge to Alicante.
Two escorts step through first, followed by their consultant. The portal disintegrates as soon as her heels click against the runed floor.
“Magnus should teach a seminar on conjuring portals,” Lydia says, straightening her blazer and smoothing her slacks. “That trip was… rough. And I should know, I’ve been using portal travel ever since I first held a sword.”
Alec laughs, the warmth pooling in his belly and spilling over into his features. “I’ll make sure to tell him.”
“You definitely have the windswept look going on,” Izzy notes.
“It’s cute,” Clary agrees.
Lydia snorts and rolls her eyes, but the soft smile playing at her lips doesn’t budge. “Thanks, guys.”
Jace elbows Alec in the ribs. “You didn’t tell me Lydia was the consultant.”
Alec shrugs. “I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.”
“So, you’re our demon expert?” Clary asks, tilting her head to the side.
Lydia nods. “After Valentine sent that hole punching demon to attack the Institute… ”
Alec winces as the sharp stab of guilt and regret he still hasn’t quite worked through drives deeper into his stomach. Clary averts her gaze, the memory of her mother’s death still a painful memory all these years later.
Lydia continues, “I got interested in atypical demons and started studying them. I never want another shadowhunter to die at the possessed hand of one of our own.”
They take a beat to sit with her words in solemn silence. Alec swallows and exhales a centering breath, composing himself. They have to focus.
“But before I get to work…” Lydia says, turning her attention to Alec. “Damn, boy, what’s your secret?”
The others stifle a laugh, but Alec leans back, startled. “Excuse me?”
“You don’t look a day over 25, and you’re what, 30 now?”
Alec nods. He doesn’t like being reminded of his age.
“I’m happy that you and Magnus are still going strong, but if back then, I knew that you were going to age like this,” she says, sizing him up with a wink. “I don’t know if I could’ve let you leave me at the altar.”
Alec laughs nervously and grips at the back of his neck. Izzy stands a little straighter and squares her shoulders. It’s subtle, but Alec can read Izzy better than his favorite book, so he can tell she’s gearing up to defend him. He squeezes her shoulder, letting her know that it’s okay, and she eases just a bit.
“I’m joking. I’m joking,” Lydia reassures Alec before locking eyes with Clary. “You too, Clary! You look amazing.” She turns towards the rest of the group. “Does Magnus have you all on some magical skincare regimen?”
“Oh, thank you, Lydia,” Clary says, a blush creeping over her freckled cheeks.
“What about Izzy and I?” Jace asks, affronted. “Do we look awful or something?”
“Jace, would you ever believe that you look awful?” Lydia quips with a devilish smile.
Jace is stunned and suddenly at a loss for words (that’s rarer than a greater demon sighting, these days). Izzy snorts, and they can’t help but share a laugh at Jace’s expense.
Once they’ve composed themselves, Clary and Jace head out on patrol, and Izzy returns to her lab. Alec sets up Lydia at a desk in one of the secluded corners of the Institute library so she won’t be disturbed. She opens her briefcase and shuffles through some papers, organizing her workspace.
Alec lingers in the doorway, a question burning in his mind that he can’t seem to extinguish. Maybe it’s because of his earlier conversation with Izzy, or maybe it’s because he gets annoyed that mundane liquor stores still ask to see his ID when he’s old enough to be considering children, but whatever the reason, Lydia’s comments have him on edge.
He deliberates for a bit longer and ultimately decides to just leap. “What exactly did you mean when you said Clary and I aged better than Jace and Izzy?”
Lydia halts in her movements and turns to face him. “That really affected you, huh?”
Alec listlessly traces patterns onto his wrist as he stares at the floor. “It’s just… Izzy noticed something odd that got me thinking… ”
She perks up. “About the demon?”
“No,” he hesitates. “Well, kind of. Apparently I healed a lot faster from the poison than I should’ve.”
Lydia frowns, apparently not following his train of thought. “How does that relate to you looking good for your age?”
“It probably doesn’t. I don’t know.”
She gives him a tight smile and gets up from her chair. She squeezes his bicep. It’s probably meant to be comforting, but Alec doesn’t feel any relief. “We’ll figure this out. I promise.”
He nods. “Yeah, thank you.”
She pats him on the back and returns to her post, flipping open an old tome and quickly getting lost in the words. Alec takes that as his cue to leave, though he can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong.
Walking into the Institute doesn’t bother Magnus as much as it used to. He’ll never feel completely comfortable inside these hallowed walls — centuries of supremacy and oppression have ensured that — but the current leadership makes him feel more at ease. At least he knows he won’t be beheaded if he stops by for lunch with Isabelle or a quick chat with Alec.
Shadowhunters hardly look up when he traipses through the ops center, as if it’s normal for a downworlder to drop in unannounced. He supposes it is normal at the New York Institute, and maybe someday it will be normal at every Institute, but they’re quite a ways from that. For now, he’s content just avoiding that beheading, especially when he’s having such a great hair day.
He effortlessly navigates the corridors; his feet know exactly where he’s going after walking down this path so many times before. When he arrives at his destination, he knocks on the door to alert his beloved before stepping inside.
“Magnus.” Alec looks up from his book with a smile so bright it rivals Clary’s sunlight rune.
He meets Magnus halfway, pecking him on the lips with a soft greeting kiss that reminds Magnus of that old saying, ‘home is a person not a place.’ Magnus keeps his eyes closed after they part, savoring in the phantom press of their lips.
“I see the Head of the Institute is hard at work,” Magnus muses once he’s ready to face the world again.
“Not exactly,” Alec says, motioning for Magnus to take a seat on the couch.
Magnus plops down on the sofa, sinking into the decorative throw pillows. They’re stylish and comfortable because Magnus picked them out himself. He loves Alec dearly, but his taste is rather drab. Magnus waves his wrist to conjure a footstool from Anthropologie and props his feet up. Now this is luxury.
Alec sits down next to him, holding the book he was going through when Magnus first walked in. Upon closer inspection, Magnus notes that it isn’t some bland textbook chronicling the evolution of stele design or something equally as boring. It’s a photo album.
“Are you going to show me your baby pictures, darling?” Magnus asks, not quite understanding his intentions.
Alec rolls his eyes. “No. I know Mom already has that covered.”
Magnus snaps his fingers, summoning the picture in question from his wallet. “You were such a cute baby. So chubby.”
“Anyway,” Alec says, clearly wanting to drop the subject. Magnus humors him and banishes the photo back to its rightful spot. “I was looking through this because of something Lydia said.”
“Oh? How’s her investigation going, by the way?”
“Good, good. Apparently she has a lead on some kind of weapon that might help us banish the demon, so her and Izzy are working on that now.”
If Magnus had his way, they’d trap that thing in the Malachi Configuration — no chance for escape. Magnus would delight in setting each of its limbs ablaze in eternal flame. He’d revel in its shrieks of pain, forcing the monster to feel just a sliver of the agony it put Alec through. When he grew tired of burning its flesh, Magnus would switch to carving each of its tentacles with the bluntest blade able to pierce the muscle. He’d only cease this torture when the bastard was reduced to dust and shadows. But that would be cruel.
“I can’t wait to see that thing turned to ash,” Magnus says, squeezing Alec’s thigh.
Alec wets his lips, staring down at Magnus’ hand. He seems to understand what Magnus is really trying to say. He nods, and they leave it at that.
“So, what did Lydia say that made you want to reminisce?” Magnus asks, running his finger through the album resting in Alec’s lap.
He hones in on one picture of Alec. He can’t be older than eight, but Magnus would recognize those hazel eyes at any age. He’s sitting behind his office desk, although it must’ve belonged to Robert or Maryse at the time. Young Alec proudly holds up a piece of paper covered in crayon scribbles that reads, “Memo: Alec gets three cookies after dinner!”
Magnus beams, and Alec tries to hide his smile. “Something about me looking too good for my age,” Alec says.
“You definitely have more stamina than the average 30 year old,” Magnus muses, voice dripping with implication. This results in Alec’s cheeks turning the color of cherry pie in the middle of summer.
They flip to the next page. There’s a photo of Alec, Izzy, and Jace. The boys look positively miserable, but Izzy is clearly pleased with herself as she displays her brothers’ perfectly manicured nails.
“The sparkles really bring out your eyes.” Magnus chuckles and turns the page.
He’s greeted once again by the smiling faces of the Lightwood trio. Jace hangs upside down from a tree branch like a sloth while Izzy plants her feet in a battle stance above him. Alec grips the branch above them, letting his feet dangle and nearly smack Izzy in the face.
They look so light and happy, almost like mundane kids and not child soldiers. Magnus knows that this tree climbing expedition was probably part of some survivalist lesson, but sometimes it’s nice to pretend that Nephilim aren’t just born to die.
Alec leafs through several more pages until he reaches the section he’s looking for.
“Here, look at this,” he says, pointing at the photo. “This was taken at the wedding. Notice anything different?”
Magnus’ eyes trace Alec’s features as if he hadn’t memorized every inch of that beautiful face years ago.
“You didn’t have your flexibility rune yet,” Magnus says with a wink.
“Magnus,” Alec sighs, “I’m serious.”
“Fine, fine.” Magnus’ eyes shift from Alec’s face to the photograph and back to Alec’s face, searching for this apparently camouflaged change Alec sees. After a few moments of looking, but coming up short, Magnus answers, “Not particularly.”
“Exactly,” Alec says. “Magnus, I don’t look any different from the wedding seven years ago.”
“Seems my skincare regimen is working,” Magnus remarks, stunned.
Scrutinizing him further, Magnus can’t deny that Alec doesn’t seem to have aged one bit. Magnus must not have picked up on it, considering he sees Alec everyday, but the evidence is laid out in front of him in a well tailored Ted Baker suit and the photos in his lap. Alec hasn’t changed.
They both look up when they hear a knock at the door. Clary stands in the doorway with her phone in hand.
“Biscuit,” Magnus greets, and she flashes him a warm smile.
“Alec, Simon sent me those photos you wanted to see,” she says, nervously shifting her weight from foot to foot.
“Thank you,” Alec says.
Clary crosses the room and sits down on the other side of Alec. She hands him her phone. He swipes across the screen, thoroughly scanning each picture.
“Why exactly did you want to see my high school graduation pictures?” she asks.
“They were taken the first year I met you, right?” Alec asks. She nods an affirmative.
Alec zooms in on one of the pictures, magnifying Clary’s smiling face. She looks like sunshine incarnate in her cap and gown, a woman ready to take the art world by storm. She has no idea that she’s about to trade in her charcoal for a seraph blade and stele.
Alec holds up the phone next to her face and gestures towards Magnus. “What do you see?”
“Lilith,” Magnus swears softly.
“What? What’s wrong?” Clary yanks the phone out of Alec’s hand and frantically scours the photo. She whirls towards Magnus, eyes pleading for an explanation. “What’s going on?”
“I think there was some merit to what Lydia said about us not aging,” Alec explains.
“Alec, she was just being nice—”
Alec holds up his hand to pause her objections. “Clary, think. What’s different about us compared to Jace and Izzy?”
Clary stares at him, her eyes focused like she’s trying to see into his mind. It takes a moment, but she seems to come to a realization. Her eyes widen, and she grabs at the couch’s thick upholstery.
“The alliance rune.”
It dawns on Magnus. “Not only are you two the only shadowhunters with permanent alliance runes, but—”
“We’re both bound to immortal downworlders,” Alec finishes.
The three of them exchange a glance.
“You don’t think…” Clary asks.
“We don’t know…” Magnus says.
“We need to talk to Izzy.”
Alec drums his fingers against the lab bench. Magnus paces back and forth beside him. Jace and Clary stand in the corner whispering. Every minute or so, one of them casts a glance in Izzy’s direction. Alec catches Clary staring and offers her a tight smile when their eyes meet. She returns it and goes back to talking about Raziel knows what with Jace.
Magnus stops fidgeting and rests his hand along the small of Alec’s back. Alec gazes down at him, this beautiful, wonderful, amazing man who’s the only thing keeping him centered during this mess. How can Alec not melt when Magnus looks like this — the literal embodiment of all of Alec’s fantasies wearing a sheer blush tunic that teases the miles of skin beneath.
Maybe a stronger man could resist the charms of Magnus Bane, but Alec just isn’t that man. He presses a soft kiss to Magnus’ temple, and it’s like butterflies are fluttering through their bond. It’s terrifying to think but what all of this means, but whatever happens next, Alec knows they’ll get through it because they have each other.
“How’s it going, Iz?” Jace asks.
She looks up from her microscope. “Good, just give me a sec to take a few more pictures.” She disappears again behind her monitor setup.
“Take your time, Izzy,” Clary calls. Alec’s not sure if she’s just being polite or if she wants to delay the inevitable for as long as possible.
Alec is startled when the projector screen descends from the ceiling several minutes later. Izzy taps out a few commands on her AV tablet, and the screen fills with photos of azure cells.
“Clary. Alec. I’ve stained your cells with methylene blue to visualize them better,” Izzy says, zooming in on the fine details. “I’ve compared their morphology to samples from shadowhunters and immortals, and they look far more similar to Magnus’ than any shadowhunter’s I have on file.”
Alec’s eyes dart over to Magnus before fixating back on the brightly colored images. He’s no scientist, but he sees exactly what Izzy sees. His and Clary’s cells might as well be from a completely different species with how far removed they are from the shadowhunter cells laid next to theirs.
“I think you were right.” Izzy pauses, biting at her lower lip before confirming what Alec already knows. “You’re immortal,” she whispers, and the silence that follows is suffocating.
Clary stumbles backwards and catches herself against the lab bench. Her eyes wild and frantic, and she clutches the stone surface so tightly that her knuckles turn white. She fixates on a spot on the floor like she’s searching for something, but it’s clear she’s not seeing anything.
Alec doesn’t know what to do; he doesn’t know how to process. He had suspected, but having the proof laid out in front of him… Nothing could have prepared him for a landmine like this.
Magnus starts to drift away from Alec’s side, probably wanting to give him some space, but that’s the exact opposite of what Alec needs right now. He needs Magnus to squeeze his hand, take him into his arms, and send a pulse of serenity through their rune — to tell him that it’ll be okay, that he loves him, anything.
Alec’s drawn into his gaze, and then it clicks; those timeless, melancholy eyes divulge everything. Magnus knows. He’s immortal. He’s not distancing himself to give Alec a little breathing room but because he doesn’t want to tell him that it won’t be okay. He doesn’t want to be the harbinger of everything Alec’s afraid of.
Alec presses his lips together so hard that they start to ache. He nods to himself a few times and turns away to take a deep breath. What the fuck is he supposed to do?
“How…” Jace’s voice is ragged, haggard, like he’s somewhere else entirely. “How did this happen?”
“We don’t know much about Clary’s powers,” Magnus offers, trying to hold it together for everyone else like he always does.
“I’m sorry,” Izzy says, voice barely above a whisper.
Alec walks towards her and takes her hands in his. “It’s not your fault.”
She looks up at him with her soft doe eyes, and Alec’s suddenly flooded with memories of his baby sister. First steps, first words, first friends — like a regular girl, not a warrior. Deep down, she’s still there, that little girl, but Izzy can’t let her out very often. She had to grow up too fast, saw too much. It’s not fair.
She collapses against his chest, and Alec wraps his arms around her. He runs his fingers along her back and kisses her hair. He wants her to just be a girl for awhile and not a woman carrying the weight of the world. Alec will shoulder it for now; it’s his fault anyways.
Jace takes a step towards Clary, and she takes one back. Jace halts, frozen to the spot like Clary’s a frightened deer on the verge of retreating.
“Clary, we should talk about this,” he says, voice pleading.
She shakes her head. “I’m sorry, but… I just can’t be here right now… I can’t…” Tears betray her as they start to fall down her cheeks. She rushes towards the door and scrubs at her face with the sleeve of her jacket. She hovers in the doorway. “I’m sorry,” she says before disappearing down the hallway.
Jace looks broken, standing in the center of the room reaching out towards her echo. “Dammit,” he mutters. He passes over Izzy, Alec, and Magnus and heads towards the door. He stops when Izzy’s voice calls out to him.
“Let her go,” she says. “She needs time.”
It’s funny. Alec and Clary appear to have nothing but time now.
Jace nods and leaves in the other direction.
Izzy wiggles her way out of Alec’s grasp and heads over to her computer. “I’m going to run a few more tests.”
“I’ll help you,” Magnus offers, and Izzy agrees.
“Magnus, I wanna talk about this,” Alec says. “Meet me in my room when you’re done?”
Magnus looks at him as though he’s attending a funeral.
Izzy and Magnus run test after test. She incubates specimens and prepares petri dishes. He mixes potions and recites incantations. When they’re absolutely certain they’ve covered everything, Magnus excuses himself from her lab and heads towards Alec’s room.
He and Alec don’t spend much time in Alec’s Institute bedroom anymore — the occasional hurried dalliance when they’re both itching for it, aside. The loft is their real home. But like the rest of the Institute, Magnus is well acquainted with the way to the living quarters.
When he arrives at Alec’s room, he notices the door is left ajar. He nudges it open and lingers in the doorway. He recognizes exactly what Alec’s doing, because he once did the same thing.
Alec stands in front of his mirror examining his face from all angles. He pulls his cheek skin taut and scratches at his chin stubble. He wrinkles his forehead and smoothes out the dimples. He runs his fingers through his hair and smoothes it back into effortless disarray. He looks for crow’s feet that will never bloom, smile lines that will never blossom, and gray hair that will never flourish.
Magnus recognizes all the signs of a crisis he once experienced himself, and his heart aches for his young love. Magnus thinks back to the day he first realized. Of course, he’d known it was coming — Asmodeus had made sure to warn of him of that aspect — but it didn’t make the moment any easier. The day he looked in the mirror and realized nothing was different was one of his worst. But he got through it. And so will Alec.
Alec catches Magnus watching through the reflection in the mirror. He doesn’t comment on the intrusion, but he doesn’t turn around either. “Any updates?”
Magnus shakes his head ‘no.’ “It seems Izzy was correct.”
“Thought so,” Alec says, finally facing him. “But I figured I’d ask.”
Magnus steps into the room, closing the door behind him. He doesn’t know what to say. For the first time since they met, Alec has left him totally speechless. Actually, that’s not even a little bit true. Alec surprises him everyday, but this — this is new in a way that sends chills down Magnus’ spine.
Alec takes him by the hand and leads him to the bed. There’s a quip at the tip of Magnus’ tongue, but now’s not the time. Magnus wants to be everything and anything Alec needs, and Alec definitely doesn’t need to fall into bed right now.
They sit on the edge of Alec’s utilitarian comforter, facing each other. Their hands rest between them, still intertwined. Alec doesn’t meet his gaze. Instead, he stares down at their hands as he mindlessly plays with Magnus’ rings.
“I’m sorry,” Magnus says, breaking the silence.
Alec looks up at that. His eyes pierce Magnus’ essence with their intensity. “Why are you sorry? None of this is your fault.”
“If we weren’t allied— If you had fought with someone else… someone m—”
Alec tightens his grip on Magnus’ hand. “There is no one else I’d ever share this with.” He caresses Magnus’ wrist and lifts it to his lips, pressing a chaste kiss to Magnus’ alliance rune. “It’s just… a lot to process, I guess.”
Magnus nods. He understands better than most.
After awhile, Alec speaks again. “I love you. You know that, right?” he asks, tapping their tangled hands against the mattress.
“Of course, Alexander,” Magnus says. “You show me everyday how much you love me, and I love you too.”
Alec purses his lips. “Okay. I just want to make that clear. That— you. The prospect of being with you forever isn’t what I’m upset about.” Alec laughs, but it’s empty — hollow. “That’s probably the only silver lining in this whole clusterfuck.”
“You’d be content spending eternity with me?”
Nobody has ever wanted to stay.
“I can’t imagine a better future than waking up next to you everyday for the rest of time.”
Alec keeps surprising him.
Magnus swallows, holding back a tsunami brewing deep inside. He stays silent because if he speaks, he’ll scream. He’ll scream mad like an oracle during Greek creation. Nobody has ever wanted to stay. Nobody should ever want to stay. But Alec does.
Magnus lets his heart crave things he hasn’t entertained for centuries.
Alec unlaces their fingers and rubs at his thighs with heel of his palms. “That’s selfish. I know.”
Magnus wants to say that it’s not selfish at all, that he’s selfish for wanting Alec to stay, but he can’t find the words.
Alec continues. “I’d stay young and healthy with the love of my life while the rest of my family aged, and… died.” He chokes on the last word. Magnus knows they mean more to Alec than anything. How devastating that would be, to suffer that loss while he remained.
Alec thumps his fist against his palm. “But at the same time, we’re Nephilim. Since childhood, we’re taught that we can die at any time.”
“Your picture books are pretty morbid,” Magnus blurts out before he realizes he’s saying it.
“Wha—” Alec looks down at him, pauses, and then bursts out laughing. Magnus joins him, watching the way Alec’s chest rumbles with the sound. The harmony of their laughter echoes throughout the room. After a minute or so, they come back down to earth, some of the earlier tension dissipated.
“It’s true, though,” Magnus says.
Alec nods in agreement. “But in all seriousness, there’s all of that swirling around in my head.” He makes a vague hand gesture as if to emphasize his point. “But I think what I’m most upset about is that we didn’t get to make the decision.”
“My immortality was always going to be an issue—”
“A part of our relationship,” Alec corrects. “And I know that, but aside from that one fight we had over your box, we never really talked about it.”
“Our autonomy on the matter was kind of ripped away.”
Magnus’ fingers gravitate towards his ear cuff, the silver metal coiled around his ear like a snake. He bought it in honor of Isabelle’s whip when they went shopping together last month. “If you aren’t happy with the decision… Since it’s just a rune…”
“Magnus, what are you saying?” Alec asks, furrowing his brows. It accentuates that adorable little eyebrow scar Jace gave him when they were younger and barely understood how to use their seraph blades.
Magnus takes a deep breath. “If you want to remove our alliance runes and go back to being mortal, I would understand. I wouldn’t hold it against you.”
Magnus cuts Alec off. He takes Alec’s hands in his and rest them in his lap. “Please, just think about it. If you’re going to commit to immortality, I don’t want there to be an ounce of doubt. Okay?”
“Okay,” Alec finally acquiesces, “I’ll think about it.”
Magnus hopes, but he doesn’t believe.
Clary’s leg bounces as she waits for Luke. She sits alone at one of the decrepit booths at the Jade Wolf. There are tears in the faux leather seat and mismatched strips of upholstery patching them up. Decades of graffiti and carvings tell stories in the wooden table. Some of the highlights include, ‘Bat was here!’ and ‘Fuck bloodsuckers!’ It’s all very endearing.
Luke walks out from the kitchen carrying two piping hot plates of orange chicken and vegetable lo mein. He hip checks the double doors closed behind him. He places the plates down on the table in front of her, and Clary opens her plastic silverware and breaks apart her wooden chopsticks.
“Want anything else, kiddo?” Luke asks as he slides in across from her.
“No, this is fine,” she says, waving him off.
In all honesty, her stomach feels like a trapeze artist, flipping through the air and falling to its doom, and she can’t really imagine eating this, let alone more greasy food. She doesn’t tell Luke, though. Instead, Clary scoops a generous helping of the lo mein onto her empty plate and tops it with the chicken — just like her mom used to do.
Clary swallows down a lump in her throat. She doesn’t want to go there right now.
“So,” Luke starts, picking at his lo mein with his fork. “What did you wanna talk about?”
She halts in her movements and rests her silverware on the edge of her plate. She places her hands on her thighs beneath the table. Where does she even begin?
“How did you— When did— I guess… ” She tries and fails to collect her thoughts. “By the Angel, this is hard.”
“Just spit it out, I’m all ears.”
She draws in a breath through her nose and exhales. “I’m immortal,” she blurts out.
Luke’s silverware rattles against his plate as it falls from his grasp. The rest of the restaurant has gone silent, and some of the other wolves are looking over at their table. Clary sinks down in her seat.
Luke grabs a napkin and wipes away some of the debris from his dinner. He glares at his pack members, his eyes glimmering emerald green, and the wolves return to whatever they were doing before, pretending they aren’t still eavesdropping, so Luke won’t kick their asses later.
He sets down the napkin and returns his attention to Clary. “Do you and Simon have something to tell me?”
“No,” Clary says, “Wait, actually, maybe?”
Luke raises an eyebrow, and she sighs. Clary gathers all of her hair on top of her head and scoots around in her seat, exposing the back of her neck. “It’s because of this,” she says, hopefully gesturing at her alliance rune.
“The alliance rune?”
Clary nods and shifts so she’s facing him again. She releases her hold on her hair, and it cascades down her shoulders, going in every direction. She cards her fingers through it to try and manage some of the mess, but it’s pointless.
“Izzy confirmed it earlier. Apparently, a side effect of being bound to an immortal downworlder is that you become immortal yourself.”
Clary watches as the news washes over him like a rainstorm. His eyes scan over her face, probably comparing the version of her that lives in his head against the Clary sitting in front of him. “So does this mean Alec’s affected too?”
Clary confirms that he is. “I think he and Magnus are handling the news a little better than I am, though…”
Luke gives her a sad smile. He gets up and slides in beside her. He wraps his arms around her, and everything feels okay for a second, like she can pretend she’s just a normal girl and none of this is real. Clary clings to his embrace, resting her head on his shoulder. “I’m here for you. Always.”
“I know,” she says, voice small. She squeezes a little harder. “I need my dad.”
He kisses the top of her head. “I’m right here.” After a beat, he says, “But we should talk about what this means.”
He loosens his hold on her, so she can face him. Clary ducks her head, wriggling out of Luke’s grasp.
“Yeah,” she says, “that’s what I was hoping for.”
Luke scoots down the torn leather seat, stretching before reclaiming his spot across from her. Clary picks up her set of chopsticks. She uses them to push her chicken around her plate.
Luke watches her, eyes cautious. “Have you told the Clave yet?”
Clary looks up from her plate. It hadn’t dawned on her that the Clave would need to know their new mortality status, but it does make sense. Though, she doesn’t want them to know. As soon as they know, everyone will. She wants to sit with this a little longer, let it be private for her and her loved ones. She’s not ready to pretend it doesn’t bother her.
Clary’s already so different from every other shadowhunter, and they never let her forget it. She still hears the hushed, ‘Valentine’s daughter’ and ‘Clarissa Morgenstern’ whenever people think she’s not listening. The High Council developed a subcommittee dedicated entirely to proposing and approving new runes for her to create — with little to no input on Clary’s part. She’s found the words, ‘traitor’ and ‘dirty mundane’ scrawled on her sketchbook more times than she wants to think about.
Couple how people already perceive her with the fact she now represents a new breed of immortal shadowhunters, and she’ll never have another moment of peace as simply Clary Fray.
She knows she’s not alone in this. She sees the way bigoted Clave members sneer in disgust whenever Alec walks into a mixer with Magnus on his arm. She hears the reasons why people still question his authority. She knows how he has to work ten times harder than any of the other Institute Heads to gain even a semblance of respect.
She knows all of this, so she understands that telling the Clave about their immortality will be just as awful for her as it will be for Alec. But that doesn’t negate the fact that she still feels alone in this, because in a hundred years Alec will have Magnus and Jace will be…
“No, we haven’t,” she says. “At least I didn’t, but I don’t know about Alec.”
Luke nods. “Good. Don’t. Not until we have all the details.”
Some of the tension bleeds from her shoulders. Obviously, the only thing Luke detests more than stale Chinese food is the Clave, but she had no idea where he was going with that question.
He leans back against the back of the booth. “I always knew you were powerful but creating a rune capable of granting immortality is… Wow.”
“I think that’s more on the downworlders than me, really,” she says.
“Well, now you’ll always have Simon.”
Clary can’t imagine her world without Simon, but as the years have passed and he’s watched all of his loved ones change while he remains static, Simon has surely imagined his world without Clary. They’ve been inseparable since they were kids, but what’s twenty years to an immortal? Has he already come to terms with life without her? Has he banished those thoughts away for a darker day?
She wonders how he’ll react to the news, and she’ll continue to wonder until she musters up the courage to tell him herself.
“That’s true,” she says. She swallows as a thought that she’s been trying to bury away claws its way to the surface. “But I won’t always have Jace.”
“You’ll have each other for the rest of his life,” Luke counters.
“And after that?” Clary asks, raising her voice as the flames crackle in her veins.
“You’ll find someone else.” He says it like a statement, instead of a suggestion, and Clary’s vision turns crimson.
“I don’t want anyone else! I want Jace!” She bangs her fist on the counter.
Bat jumps at the table next to them and drops his eggroll straight out of his mouth.
“Do you think I wanted anyone else after your mom died?” Luke asks, and Clary freezes at the question, her anger morphing to loss.
“No.” Her voice is quiet, guilty.
He takes his left hand out of his lap and rests it on the table, his wedding ring gleams in the fluorescent light. “Of course not, especially after being told my whole life that Nephilim only fall in love once. When Jocelyn died, I was convinced that was it for me. But…” He makes a gesture with his right hand, urging Clary to finish the sentence.
“But then you fell in love with Maryse.”
“Exactly,” he says. “I’m not saying it’s easy. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss Jocelyn, but I found love again. And so can you, in a hundred years when Jace is gone.”
Clary nods but turns away from him, fixing her gaze on the gold cat statue by the kitchen. He’s right, but she doesn’t want to admit it. Jace is her whole world and imagining a life without him is… She doesn’t want it even if it is possible.
She watches as the cat’s arms swing from side to side, caught in an eternal rhythm — a lot like her, she thinks to herself. It’s stuck in this cycle unless some outside force intervenes. She lights up as a thought passes through her mind.
“What if I don’t have to lose Jace?” she asks.
Luke cocks his head to the side. “What do you mean?”
“Alec and I became immortal because we’re bound to immortal downworlders, so what if Jace gets really close to someone and then we ally them? Then I wouldn’t have to lose him.”
Luke scratches the stubble on his cheek, collecting his thoughts. “I understand that you’re going through a lot, and you don’t want to be without him,” he starts. He pauses for a moment, seemingly trying to pick the precise phrasing to convey exactly what he wants to say. “But don’t you think that would be taking advantage of someone?”
“You’d essentially be using a downworlder for their immortality,” he says.
Clary deflates. He’s right.
“And does Jace even want to be immortal?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “I kind of… ran out on him earlier.”
She scoops a mouthful of noodles and chicken into her mouth to avoid having to elaborate further. Luke narrows his eyebrows, seeing right through her.
“Clary.” There’s a warning edge to his voice. “You have to talk to him. This affects both of you.”
She swallows and takes a drink of water. “I know— And I will, but I just wanted to… I just wanted to talk to you first.”
Luke’s face softens, and he cracks a soft smile. “I get it, but promise me you’ll talk to him before you start making any action plans?”
“I promise,” she agrees.
“Thank you,” he says. “Now finish your dinner before it gets cold.”
Clary can’t hide her smile from peaking through. Their conversation doesn’t change anything; her life is still a mess, but at least with Luke she can disappear for awhile and pretend. Her and Luke spend the rest of the night talking about anything and everything, just savoring these father-daughter moments while they can.
Idleness has always been Magnus' greatest enemy. Left to his own devices to pass his infinite time, Magnus drifts to the hidden corners of mind — the places he can’t forget no matter how hard he tries. It’s easy to keep his mind occupied during the day, but the nights are the worst.
He lies awake in a bed that isn’t his in a building that makes his skin crawl. The only sign of life in the room is the rise and fall of Alec’s chest beside him. Most nights, Alec’s breathing lulls Magnus to sleep, the softest lullaby playing a melody of love and safety and devotion. Tonight, though, it’s the soundtrack to his dilemma.
Magnus rolls onto his side, careful not to disturb Alec. Magnus brushes a strand of hair out of Alec’s face. Despite the hurricane engulfing their lives, Alec looks peaceful as he sleeps, almost like the weight of the world doesn’t rest on his shoulders.
Magnus caresses his cheek. Alec has no idea what turmoil awaits years, weeks, hell, even days from now. So young. So naive. Magnus traces the outline of his deflect rune with the tips of his fingers. So perfect. So lovely. So what he’s been waiting centuries for.
When Alec realizes what all of this really means — the true price of immortality — he’ll leave. Magnus will shatter, but he’ll accept it; he won’t hold a grudge, won’t talk Alec out of it. Together, they’ll live each day to the fullest until his lullaby finally fades out.
When that day comes, Magnus will move on, or this time, maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll finally just give in and calcify, accept that all of his best days are behind him. Alexander’s his peak, his summit, his greatest reward — but only for now. Alec’s permanence is fleeting and just another tease sent to torture Magnus with a life he’ll never lead.
Magnus nestles up to Alec and rests his head on Alec’s chest. He stirs as he feels the new weight and fumbles a bit as he tries to wraps his arm around Magnus, cuddling him closer. Magnus’ heart swells; he truly is being tortured.
Alec slurs something that sounds like a mix of ‘love you’ and ‘you okay.’ Magnus tells him to go back to sleep. The adorable snore that follows indicates Alec has no trouble listening.
Magnus closes his eyes, begging for sleep to overtake him. He doesn’t want to think anymore. But his begging is in vain. As he’s falling into limbo between drowsy and alert, he hears a gentle knock on the door, shattering any hope for rest. The visitor doesn’t wait for a response before turning the knob.
Magnus carefully removes Alec’s arm from his back, and Alec rolls away from him. Magnus sits up on his elbow, the covers pooling at his waist. He blinks a couple of times as light floods in through the crack in the door.
A head pops in.
“Isabelle?” Magnus whispers, trying to shield his still adjusting eyes with his forearm.
“Oh, Magnus! I didn’t know you were staying over tonight.” She seems apologetic for the intrusion but still intent on delivering her message.
Magnus almost regrets agreeing to sleep in the Institute tonight. He glances at Alec. Almost. But at least when the insomnia sets in while he’s at the loft, Magnus can get a head start on the next day’s work, instead of letting his anxiety spiral.
“Do you have a minute?” Izzy asks.
Magnus shrugs but slips out of bed nonetheless. He conjures a silk dressing gown and a pair of house shoes. He tip toes out of the room and carefully closes the door behind him. “What’s up, hermana?”
“Lydia and I finished a prototype of the weapon.”
Magnus perks up. “Do you think it can kill the bastard?”
Izzy grins, white teeth contrasted against the cool red of her lipstick. She looks immaculate even though it’s well past three in the morning. Magnus should ask her for some tips.
She nods. “Wanna come and see it?”
Magnus would like nothing more.
They walk towards Izzy’s workshop. Magnus likes the Institute more at night; it’s quieter. Most Nephilim are dispatched on patrols or asleep in their beds (or someone else’s). The only people he spots are nodding off in front of monitors in the ops center. He recognizes one mop of golden hair as Jace.
Magnus and Izzy give him a wave as they pass by. Jace responds with a clipped nod. He draws out his stele and activates his stamina rune. With a burst of energy surging through his veins, Jace turns his attention back to his screen. Not that Magnus goes out of his way to study Jace, but he seems to throw himself into work when something’s bothering him, and with all of this business with the alliance rune, Jace is probably a mess. Magnus can relate.
They step into the armory. Lydia sits on a metal stool. Her hair is tied back in a messy ponytail, she’s wearing a gray tank top and jeans, and she looks like she hasn’t slept since she left Alicante. Magnus smiles fondly at the woman who let Alec go all those years ago. She’s helping them again, dedicating all of her energy to stopping these demon attacks.
Lydia looks up from whatever she’s working on. “Magnus!” She wipes her hands on a rag and walks over to them. She holds out her hand. Magnus stares at it before pulling her into a hug.
She seems startled at first, but she melts into his embrace, slowly accepting his warmth. They break apart, and Lydia turns to Izzy. “Where’s Alec?”
“We figured he could use his rest,” Izzy says.
“And I’d like to see what you two have been working on,” Magnus adds.
They walk over to a wooden work table. Various stones and tools and metals litter the surface. Magnus recognizes some of the more mundane materials and a few of the seraphinic, but the majority are foreign to him.
“You explained that when you were fighting the demon, cutting its limbs off caused more to grow in its place,” Lydia prefaces.
Magnus nods, and his stomach clenches. The memory of that night is painfully fresh, like all of Magnus’ worst fears becoming one.
“But you can’t banish it without severing them permanently,” Izzy continues.
“Right. Because too much of its corporeal form occupies our realm,” Magnus explains.
“The way you described the demon reminded me of the myth of Heracles and the hydra,” Lydia says.
Magnus’ thoughts drifted to the same conclusion. A beast to rival Typhon and Echidna’s monstrosity.
“Heracles was able to defeat the monster by cutting off its limbs and cauterizing the wounds, preventing it from respawning,” Lydia continues. Magnus nods, all too familiar with the myth. “And that’s where Izzy had a brilliant idea.” Lydia gestures towards her.
“We’ve essentially developed a gun that shoots heavenly fire.” Izzy smiles as she hands Magnus the weapon.
Magnus examines it. It looks like one of the deadlier mundane guns Lucian’s allowed to carry during his day job. A barrel too long to be a handgun but not long enough to be a rifle. It’s peculiar, unlike any weapon Magnus has ever handled.
“How did you transfer the heavenly fire?” he asks.
“With the same rune Clary used to capture it in her sword,” Izzy says.
Magnus flips the weapon over in his hands. He thumbs over the curves and blunt lines of Clary’s rune etched into the side of it. He silently vows to banish the bastard back to hell if it’s the last thing he does. He wants it to suffer, to writhe in agony, because maybe then it will feel a fraction of what Magnus felt watching Alec seize in his arms, gasp for breath, and fall into the darkness. If this weapon is capable of it, Magnus wants to be the one to pull the trigger.
“May I try it?” he asks.
Izzy leads them to an enclosed area at the back of her workshop that’s reminiscent of a cage. Fire extinguishers line the exterior, and fireproof runes are carved into the metal bars. Magnus takes a moment to refresh his extinguishing spell just in case. But he knows he won’t need it. He has something powerful guiding him towards his target.
Magnus steps into the area. Izzy and Lydia stay outside just to be safe. Izzy has placed mannequins with red targets painted on their chests against the back of a concrete wall.
As a general rule, he avoids guns (or anything resembling them); they cause too much destruction, too much pain. More often than not, he doesn’t need them. He himself is a living weapon, too powerful for his own good.
But sometimes it’s unavoidable, and some skills settle in your bones. Feeling the metal weight in his hands is unsettlingly familiar, as is the way he automatically rolls his shoulders back and how he knows exactly where to put his hands.
“Any tricks I should know?” Magnus asks, pointing the weapon around the room to get a feel for it.
Lydia shakes her head ‘no.’ “Just turn off the safety and pull the trigger.”
“We wanted to make it as simple as possible,” Izzy elaborates.
Magnus understands. With the way this demon moves, a second’s hesitation could mean devastation.
He narrows his eyes, aiming for the target painted on the central mannequin’s chest, interested to see if heaven’s fire still follows Newton’s laws. He holds the grip with both hands and pulls the trigger. The release ricochets through the gun and reverberates up his arm, but the recoil isn’t nearly as intense as he expected. Apparently, there’s less resistance when the bullets are made of flames.
As soon as he fires the weapon, a compact pellet shoots through the barrel that’s not unlike a mundane bullet. But as the pellet flies towards its target, the outer shell disintegrates and a wave of fire emerges. The flames sprint through the air, like a runner trying to win a marathon. They meet the dummy in the center of the bullseye, and the flames engulf it, spreading from the core outwards. It erupts in burning effigy, consuming the fabric until all that’s left is the metal pole supporting it.
Izzy waits at the side of the cage with a fire extinguisher. She sprays the foam over the mannequin until the fire’s completely smothered. The mannequin is reduced to nothing more than ash and soot.
When she’s ready and waiting, Magnus moves on to the next dummy. His shot is just as accurate the second time, and Izzy extinguishes it before the fire spreads. Magnus moves to the other side of the room where Lydia waits with another fire extinguisher, and Magnus destroys the next dummy with the same precision as the first two. When he’s destroyed all of them, Magnus conjures a few more to get in as much practice as possible. After ten perfect kills, he’s satisfied.
Breathing heavily, he turns to Izzy. “When we go after this thing, I’m going to be the one to banish the bastard.”
She doesn’t say anything, just nods her assent. She knows there’s nothing she could say to change his mind, and she wouldn’t dare try and take this away from him. This fucking demon came for his Alexander, and now Magnus is coming for it. And there’s no escape this time.
Alec can't concentrate. When he kisses Magnus goodbye on his way to work, Alec thinks of Magnus’ little box and how he might not end up as just a forgotten arrowhead. Alec thinks of Magnus hugging him from behind when he feels a pulse of unease through their bond. He thinks of how much more intense their sex life has become knowing exactly how the other’s feeling, not to mention the sensation of double euphoria, and — mind blowing sex should not be the defining factor in Alec’s mortality.
He stares down at the report he’s tried to read three times now but can’t focus on. He’s gathered it’s about a group of seelies taking pictures with tourists in Times Square claiming to be characters from Game of Thrones or something, but honestly, he couldn’t care less. He resents Raj for bitching at them. He resents Raj’s team for slapping this useless report on his desk. But most of all, he resents himself for being unable to do his job when something else is on his mind.
He tried taking a walk earlier and going to Magnus’ favorite cafe for a cup of coffee, but it was a futile effort. Work should take all of his attention, but when he’s stuck wasting his talents on ridiculous reports, it’s hard to disconnect. Alec’s not getting anything done, so he decides he’s done for the day.
He pushes his chair back and stretches his arms upward. He rolls his shoulders back as he extends his arms, trying to work out the knots and kinks in his muscles. He makes some rounds in the ops center, checking in with his shadowhunters and offering advice when necessary. Aside from a few shax demon sightings, it’s been relatively quiet at the New York Institute. It doesn’t bode well for Alec’s mind.
When he decides he’s wasted as much time as is acceptable in the ops center, he heads towards the library. Maybe he’ll find a book on immortality or ancient runes or just a quiet space to scream into a pillow where no one will hear him, but he loses all hope of the latter as soon he steps inside.
Jace is sprawled out on one of the couches in the center of room. He’s surrounded by at least two dozen books. Some of them look older than Magnus based on the wear and tear. He looks up from his current volume when he hears Alec approach.
Alec picks up one of the books from the floor and dusts off the front of it. The Demonic Influence of Immortals, reads the cover. Alec shows the book to Jace. “Just doing some light reading?” he asks.
Jace shifts to a sitting position. “I figured if my girlfriend and parabatai are immortal now, I might as well educate myself.”
Alec nods. “I was thinking about doing the same thing.”
Jace gestures towards the pile in front of them. “Be my guest,” he says, burying his face in a book entitled Immortality and You: Accepting You’ll Someday Live in a World Without Betty White. “I don’t know why you would, though, when you have an expert on the subject to go to.”
Alec’s forehead creases, and his eyebrows knit together. “You and Clary can talk to Magnus too. You know that.”
Jace shrugs and doesn’t look up from his book. Alec stares at him, studying his face. There’s something Alec’s missing, and he doesn’t know what.
“Is everything okay?” Alec asks.
Jace slams his book shut and tosses it over his shoulder. Alec flinches as he hears the thud of it hitting the floor. “Nothing’s okay, Alec.”
Alec opens his mouth to speak, but Jace holds his hand up to silence him. Jace gets up and starts to pace. “For starters, you almost died, and the demon that did it is still out there—”
“Izzy and Lydia are almost done with the weapon,” Alec interrupts, but Jace ignores him.
“And thank the Angel for Lydia,” Jace continues. “Without her, we never would’ve noticed that you and Clary are fucking immortal!” Jace shakes his head. “Shadowhunters aren’t supposed to be immortal… Not unless they drink vampire blood…” He scratches furiously at his hair until it’s standing up in some places. “But Clary’s too goddamned powerful for her own good.”
“We didn’t know,” Alec offers in his most gentle, stable voice. He knows Jace needs someone to talk him down when he gets like this, but letting him fume for awhile would probably do him some good.
“And now the two people I love most in the world are gonna leave me behind.” Jace plops back down on the couch. He rests his elbows on his knees and holds his head in his hands.
Alec gets up and sits down next to him. He tentatively rests a hand on Jace’s back. Jace doesn’t shake him off, so that’s a good sign. “Hey, hey, nobody’s leaving you behind.”
Jace looks up at him. “What’s gonna happen in thirty years when I have arthritis, and you still have the stamina of a fucking spring chicken? I was already losing you, but now…”
“You’re not losing me,” Alec says. “You’re my brother, my parabatai and no amount of missions I go on with Magnus will ever change that.” Jace grimaces, and Alec continues, “Hell, I’ll push your wheelchair around if I have to.”
“What about Clary? She won’t wanna be with me when she’s still so young and beautiful.” Jace buries his face in his hands again.
Alec swipes his tongue over his lips. “We… are this way because of her rune. Have you, you know, talked to her about whether or not she wants to remove it? Like maybe she doesn’t—”
Jace starts laughing, but there’s no joy in it; it’s a sad, pained laugh. “Clary won’t talk to me. I have no idea what she wants.”
Alec leans back. “Jace, it’s been days. You guys haven’t talked about this yet?”
Jace turns to Alec. “Believe me, I’ve tried, but she’s avoiding me.”
Alec purses his lips and runs his fingers through his hair. He hasn’t made up his mind on what to do, and he bets Clary hasn’t either. This is the most important decision of their lives, but it doesn’t just affect them. It affects every one of their loved ones. It should be made together. It’s a discussion, not a solitary decree. Alec has an idea.
He reaches into his pocket and draws out his phone.
“What are you doing?” Jace asks as Alec enters his passcode.
“I’m gonna talk to Clary about our fucked up lives,” Alec says. “Maybe then she’ll come to you.”
He types out a message and hits send.
[To: Clary] [Sent: 6:32 PM]
Meet me at Hunter’s Moon in an hour? I’ll buy you a drink.
He pockets his phone and turns his attention back to Jace.
“Thank you,” Jace says.
Alec gives him a half smile and draws him into his arms. Jace squeezes his torso, and Alec pats his hand on Jace’s back. When they part, Jace says, “This really is fucked up, isn’t it?”
“It’s definitely up there,” Alec agrees, “But we’ll get through it, day by day.”
“Day by day,” Jace repeats.
Alec’s phone vibrates. He has a new message from Clary.
[From: Clary] [Sent: 6:36 PM]
Make it two on your HOTI salary :)
Alec snorts as he writes his reply.
[To: Clary] [Sent: 6:37 PM]
Fine. See you then.
“Your girlfriend’s trying to swindle me,” Alec says.
Jace can’t help but genuinely laugh this time, and Alec can’t describe the relief he feels to see his parabatai smile for the first time all week. Even if nothing comes of his conversation with Clary, at least he provided some comfort here and now.
“She better! You’re sitting on that sweet HOTI money,” Jace teases.
Alec raises an eyebrow. “How much do you people think I make?”
Jace shrugs. “I don’t know, but you sign our paychecks, so you know how much we make.”
Alec doesn’t have a good comeback for that one, but it’s not like he’s the one paying them. That’s on the Clave.
“Whatever. We can discuss wage discrepancy later. I’ve gotta go meet your girlfriend.”
They say their goodbyes, and Jace returns to his research. Alec lingers in the doorway, watching Jace work. They say losing your parabatai is the most painful thing a shadowhunter can experience. Alec knows; he’s already lived through it once. He’s not sure if he wants to again.
Alec sits at the bar, sipping his drink and checking his phone. Clary should be here any minute. He carefully places his glass on a coaster and his phone face down on the bartop. The alcohol stings as it slides down his throat, leaving a bitter aftertaste in his mouth.
“Need a refill?” Maia asks. She dries a stein with a dishrag while she waits for his answer.
“Yes, thank you,” Alec says.
Maia plucks his glass from the counter and makes her way down the bar to refresh his drink. Alec drums his fingers on his lap and takes a centering breath. He turns his phone over. No new messages from Clary, or anyone for that matter. He glances at the time. She should be here by now.
Is this Alec’s life now? Eternally waiting for an uncertain end — never knowing when or if an experience he’s never lived will reify. Maybe he’s just being melodramatic, but Alec’s never been a particularly patient person.
Maia walks back over to him. She grabs a napkin and lays it in front of him, placing the drink on top of it.
“Thanks, Maia,” Alec says, trying to flash her his best attempt at a genuine smile.
“No problem,” she says. She hesitates for a moment, then asks, “Is everything alright? You seem… off tonight.”
Alec scratches the back of his neck, trying to think of how best to respond. He settles on, “That’s a bit of a loaded question.”
Maia nods. “I get that. ‘Okay’ means something entirely different in the shadow world, doesn’t it?”
Alec snorts. “Now isn’t that the truth?”
A bell jingles as the front door opens. Alec and Maia look over to see Simon holding the door open for Clary. They’re chatting away about something, and now her tardiness makes sense. Simon follows closely behind her, the door slamming shut when he releases his hold.
Clary pulls out the stool next to Alec and climbs on top. Her feet dangle in the air once she’s settled. Alec glances at his own feet, planted firmly on the ground.
“Sorry I’m late,” Clary apologizes. “I ran into Simon on the way over.”
“Makes sense,” Maia notes.
“Oof. Betrayed by my own lady,” Simon laments. He holds his hand over his heart in mock pain. Does an unbeating heart even feel pain? “Now that hurts.”
Maia rolls her eyes. “Would a kiss make it better?”
Simon lights up. “Most definitely.”
He leans over the counter and presses a quick peck to her lips. They linger for a moment before breaking apart.
“Want your usual?” Maia asks Simon.
“Yes please,” he says, hopping onto the stool next to Clary.
Alec wasn’t exactly planning a party when he invited Clary out, but it doesn’t seem like there’s anything he can do about it now. Maia steps out to the back where they keep their blood supply — far away from the would be mortified mundanes.
“Martini?” Clary asks, gesturing towards his drink. “On a Wednesday?”
Alec glances down at his glass, momentarily shaken by the interruption of his thoughts. “It’s Magnus’ favorite,” Alec says as his finger traces the rim of the glass. He picks it up and takes another sip. “I like to drink them when I’m upset. Reminds me of him.”
Clary flags down Maia as she returns with a shot of blood for Simon. “I’ll have what he’s having.” Clary winks at Alec, and he smiles.
Maia hands Simon his glass and glances between Clary and Alec. “Coming right up,” she says as she grabs for a bottle of gin.
She mixes Clary’s drink with the skilled hands of someone who’s been doing this for a long time. Not that Alec has much of a metric, but Magnus swears she’s the best bartender in New York. Maia certainly is a woman of many talents. A gifted mixologist, dedicated pack beta, PhD student, and somehow able to put up with Simon for more than five minutes at a time. A real renaissance woman.
“How is Magnus?” Clary asks, eyes following Maia’s movements.
That’s another question Alec doesn’t know how to answer. Everytime Alec asks, Magnus assures him that he’s fine, that he’ll accept whatever decision Alec makes about his own mortality. But Alec knows Magnus. He knows when Magnus is hiding, when he’s building concrete walls to keep Alec out.
Alec swipes over his lips with his tongue. “Dealing with the fallout just like the rest of us.”
Simon perks up. “Fallout?” he asks, leaning around Clary to face Alec.
Simon’s… okay, but he never stops talking. This is the exact situation Alec was hoping to avoid, the entire shadow world knowing his business before he’s ready to share the news himself. He hasn’t even informed the Clave yet, wanting to make a decision about his fate on his own time, so he can have a plan in place depending on how they react.
Maia places a martini glass in front of Clary. “Is this about you two being immortal?”
A silence creeps between them. Simon leans back, almost falling off his stool. He catches himself on the bartop. His eyes dart from Clary to Alec and back to Clary.
“Immortal…” Simon echoes. “What the hell?”
Alec and Clary exchange a glance. Simon’s her best friend and the reason she’s in this mess. She should be the one to tell him, not Alec.
“Simon,” she says. She thumbs over the small of his back, then takes his hand and moves it to the back of her neck. She guides their interlocked hands and rests them on the counter. “The alliance rune… It, um, had another side effect…”
“How have you not heard about this?” Maia asks. “It’s all everyone’s talking about.”
“Dammit,” Alec sighs. Not that he’s surprised, but if he could go one day without someone gossiping about his life and just let him be, that would be ideal.
“Wait, really?” Clary asks.
“I mean, yeah. You were talking about it at the Jade Wolf,” Maia says. She cups her hand around her ear, brushing her hair back and displaying a series of studs and rings. “We’ve got ears like wolves, remember?”
Alec lowers his eyes at Clary. “You were discussing our situation in public?”
Clary ignores him, turning all of her attention to Simon. She tentatively places her hand on his shoulder, but he shakes her off. “Why am I the last to know?” he asks with an edge to his voice.
She bites at her lower lip. “I’m sorry, I just— I didn’t know how to tell you.”
“It’s not that hard,” Simon replies, raising his voice a little. “A simple, ‘Hey, Si, our rune’s keeping me alive forever, do you still wanna get pizza on Friday?’ would’ve worked just fine!”
Maia shuffles away behind the counter, suddenly very interested in the group of seelies hanging out and taking selfies at the end of the bar. Alec debates trying his luck with them; they seem like a much more pleasant crowd to drink with.
“Oh come on, you’re telling me you wouldn’t have freaked out over this?” Clary fires back.
Alec’s pretty sure he arrested the blue haired seelie once for selling drugs to a mundane. He’s still fairly certain he’d be having a much better time with them than with Clary and Simon.
“Oh no, I’m definitely freaking out, but it would’ve been nice to be in the freaking loop! Especially if you’re sharing my life force or whatever,” he says, gesturing erratically between them.
Alec hadn’t stopped to consider the mechanics of their immortality. Magnus is immortal, Alec is bound to Magnus, so Alec is immortal was about as in depth of an analysis as Alec had applied to the situation, but Simon brings up an interesting point.
Clary sweeps her hair over her shoulder. Alec catches sight of the angry red scar on her collarbone — a souvenir from her time bound to Jonathan. Impossible to harm one without harming the other; kill one and the other shall perish.
What if… Alec presses his index finger to his left wrist and traces over the rune. What if their bond isn’t as equal as they thought?
After the incident, Magnus described an agony unlike Alec had ever felt before — not even when Jace died. But Jace, he didn’t feel the same all consuming torment. If Alec had died that night would Magnus have fallen beside him?
Alec’s phone alarm blares, breaking his concentration, and the background bickering between Clary and Simon comes into focus; Alec can’t tune it out anymore, no matter how much he wants to. The angelic power rune takes up his whole screen, and he swipes over it to read the alert.
“This affects me too!” Simon snaps.
“Not as much as me!” Clary retorts.
“So what, we’re in the suffering Olympics?”
“That’s not what I said!”
“But that’s what—”
“That’s enough!” Alec’s voice booms, silencing them both instantly.
The rest of the bar quiets around them. The only sound in the room comes from the tapping of Maia’s boots along the concrete floor as she comes to meet them. Alec gazes around the room, shaming their onlookers until they’re forced to look away, too afraid of his steely gaze. Maia looks like she’s about to scold him for shouting, but he gives her the same look and she hesitates.
He lowers his voice to a whisper. “There’s been another attack by the poison demon.”
Clary leans in towards him, trying to avoid prying ears. “Have Izzy and Lydia finished the weapon?”
Alec nods. “Magnus has been practicing with it for the last few days. He says it should be ready for the field.”
Simon looks both ways before leaning in. “Wait is this the demon that almost killed you?” he asks Alec.
Alec nods in confirmation. “We need to get to the Institute before we move out. It’s all hands on deck.” He pauses, deliberating for a moment. “I wouldn’t normally ask, but Simon, since you’re bound to Clary, will you come with us?”
“Of course. Whatever you guys need. If this thing is capable of taking you down, then I wanna be there to help.”
Maia throws a leather bill case down on the bar, startling them. “Then I’m coming too.”
“Absolutely not,” Alec commands.
“Why not, Lightwood?” Maia straightens up, her eyes ablaze. Normally, Maia and Alec are fairly good friends. Now is not one of those times.
“It’s far too dangerous. I’m not going to put anyone in danger who doesn’t need to be,” Alec says with the cool countenance of the leader he wants to be.
“But you’ll risk Simon’s life?”
“Maia,” Simon interrupts. He takes her hands in his and presses them to his lips. She visibly deflates, some of her fire smothered. He gives her hands a gentle squeeze. “Please stay here. The pack needs you. Luke needs you. I need you. I can’t lose you too, not after everything else.”
Maia swallows. “But what about me? If something happens to you, and I’m not there…”
“We won’t let that happen,” Clarry assures her.
“If something happens to Simon, then you can take it out on me afterwards,” Alec says.
Clary and Simon look horrified but say nothing. Maia hesitates for a moment but nods. “Go,” she says. “Bring him home safe, Lightwood.”
Alec won’t let her down.
The doors slam shut behind them as Alec, Clary, and Simon burst into the Institute. Alec takes the lead, rushing down the hallway towards the ops center with Clary and Simon at his heels. The stomping of their boots alerts the others to their presence, and they’re greeted by frenzied debriefs from half a dozen new recruits at once. Alec ignores them, waiting to hear a concise report from his most trusted sources first.
Izzy, Jace, and Magnus wait for them in the center of the room. Alec called Magnus on his way over. He must have portalled in and beaten them here. Izzy’s explaining something to Jace and Magnus; they’re nodding along to whatever she’s saying. Jace pulls up a holographic map of New York and zooms in on an area in Astoria.
“What’s happened?” Alec asks as he slides in next to Magnus, transitioning into his role as the Head of the Institute.
“The poison demon’s reemerged in Brooklyn,” Izzy says.
Alec nods; he gathered as much from the alert. “So why are we discussing mission strategies in Queens?”
“It’s not the only demonic activity we’re picking up,” Jace explains. “There’s a ravener den wreaking havoc in Astoria and a nest of kuri demons in Harlem.”
“Dammit,” Alec swears. “All available patrols are dispatched.”
Alec should know, he approved the schedule himself this morning. He sighs and makes a decision he’d rather avoid. “Izzy, take Astoria. Jace, take Harlem. Gather as many soldiers as you can, and move out immediately. Understood?”
Clary and Simon catch up to them, finally getting away from the swarms of confused grunts. “Wait, Izzy and Jace aren’t coming with us?” Simon asks.
“Absolutely not,” Izzy protests. “This thing almost killed you, big brother. I’m not letting that happen again.”
“Yeah,” Jace agrees. “We need to be there. This thing’s a fucking menace.”
“This isn’t up for discussion. We can’t leave the people of New York vulnerable to demon attacks,” Alec says. Magnus is uncharacteristically silent beside him, but Alec feels the rolling waves of tension radiating at his wrist. Magnus doesn’t like this plan anymore than Izzy and Jace.
“Alec’s right,” Clary declares. “We’ll have the weapon you and Lydia were working on, Iz, and plus now we have Simon. If we were able to defeat the endarkened with the alliance rune, then I think we’ll be able to banish a demon.”
Jace’s gaze flits between Alec and Clary. “Okay.” He gives in. “But please, be careful. I can’t lose you two.”
Alec squeezes Magnus’ hand and lifts their interlocked fingers so they’re resting on the table. “You won’t. We have the best backup the shadow world has to offer.”
“If anything happens,” Izzy begins. She points at all four of them. “To any of you. Then I’m personally going to kick every one of your asses.”
Alec pulls her into a hug at his side. She wraps her arms around his torso and buries her face in his chest. He presses a kiss to the top of her head. “The same goes for you.”
They finalize their plans of attack. Izzy and Jace divide up the recruits, who seem terrified to be going out into the field so soon after finishing their training. Lydia brings them a briefcase containing the weapon and hands it off to Magnus for safe passage. Alec asks her to stay at the Institute, so she can run support for all three teams should they need it. But they won’t.
They’re shadowhunters. They were born to kill demons, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
Magnus uses some of the petals collected from the scene of their last battle to track the demon. He’s careful not to touch them directly, in case they’re just as toxic as the barbs. When he gets a hit on the demon, he conjures a portal. It opens about two miles away from their last battle. So it’s migrated but not by much.
Alec surveys the area. It appears they materialized in an alleyway composed of crumbling brick walls, but there isn’t a demon in sight. He steps over a garbage can to get a closer look at some of the graffiti staining the brick. He raises an eyebrow at some of the more vulgar messages but doesn’t find anything useful — no clues or hints about their target.
On the plus side, it doesn’t appear as though they’re near water this time, so Lydia will have an easier time tracking them if need be. No desperate portals drawn from Clary’s hidden power or snap decisions in the heat of battle.
Simon uses his vampire speed to sweep the perimeter. Alec instructs him not to wander too far, because the demon thrives in dark corners. Simon returns without finding anything unusual, just a lot of broken glass and trash, but that’s a given in New York.
Alec feels a pang of frustration burst at his wrist. He turns to see Magnus leaning with his back against one of the alley walls, eyes closed and clutching the petals in his gloved hand, as he chants in a language that’s been extinct for centuries. Alec doesn’t want to break Magnus’ concentration in case he’s successful, so he leaves him be for now.
Instead, he walks over to Clary. She’s crouched on the ground using a stick to draw something in the dirt. Alec kneels down beside her, watching her movements from over her shoulder. She doesn’t acknowledge his presence, absorbed in her own artistry.
She’s drawing a series of circles with swirling divots and blunt lines littered in their centers. Alec recognizes them as the markings used to dictate mundane football strategies. His eyes trace Clary’s sketching, never ceasing until she leans back to study her work and collides with Alec.
He catches and steadies her. She dusts off her jeans. “I’m trying to run through our last battle, see if there’s anything we missed last time,” she says. “Weaknesses. Sequences. Anything that could help us.”
Alec studies her finished sketch, scanning to see something, anything that could give them an edge. He comes up short and curses himself for not paying more attention during their previous encounter. It’s mistakes like this that cost shadowhunters their lives.
Simon squats down next to them and examines the drawing. He tilts his head to the side and points. “How come it’s blank here?”
“That’s supposed to represent the demon’s attack patterns,” Clary explains. “It wasn’t attacking at that moment, so I didn’t draw anything.”
“Wait a minute,” Alec says. He takes the stick from Clary’s hand and begins to draw. He connects lines here and adds arrows there, circles prominent features until he’s certain that they’re onto something. “Look at this.”
Clary and Simon follow along with his markings until they come to the same conclusion. Clary’s face erupts into a grin. “It has a recovery period.”
“Exactly,” Alec confirms. He continues to draw as he speaks, “If we position ourselves to cut off its limbs at just the right moment, it’ll give Magnus a longer window to sear the wounds. Simon,” Alec points at him with the stick. “If you distract the demon and get it to chase you,” Alec demonstrates with a diagram. “then Clary and I will have an easier time slicing off its limbs.”
Simon’s Adam’s apple bobs in his throat, but he agrees to the plan. Alec feels the first sliver of hope since he slammed that martini hours ago.
Magnus pushes off the wall with the grace and power of a cheetah. “I located it. The demon should be a quarter mile away due north.”
Clary follows behind as Magnus leads the way, directing them towards where the tracking energy feels strongest. She squeezes Simon’s hand beside her, and he gives her a quick smile before turning his attention back to the road ahead of them. She looks back to see Alec taking up the rear, his bow drawn and ready to loosen an arrow at the slightest hint of danger. Clary understands; he doesn’t want to take any risks this time.
“What exactly did I just sign myself up for?” Simon asks, nudging Clary in the side with his elbow. “Like, this thing was able to take down Alec, right? So I’m guessing it’s pretty bad.” He scratches at the back of his neck and shifts his gaze away from her, favoring a boarded up building to Clary’s conflicted expression. She doesn’t like making him feel uneasy; it doesn’t settle well in her stomach.
“I wouldn’t have transferred Iz the heavenly fire if it wasn’t,” Clary says.
Simon nods, still refusing to look at her. He must know it’s pointless to avoid her. He can’t try and put on a brave face in front of Clary, not when there’s a tether pulling taut at the back of her neck. She feels everything, his fear, his guilt, his courage.
There’s a cocktail of emotion stirring deep in her belly, so Clary’s not exactly sure what she’s sending him, but the way his hand moves to scratch over the small of his back means he’s definitely feeling something.
He glances at Clary and catches her staring at him. He smiles, an awkward barely hanging on smile, but a smile nonetheless and laughs a little to himself. “Remind me again why I let you give me a shadowhunter tramp stamp?”
She feels slightly more at ease. “Matching tattoos with Maia, remember? Same reason I let you draw on the back of my neck.”
“Oh yeah, Jace has the ‘don’t be a dick’ rune there.”
They hear Alec snort loudly behind them. Clary turns around to see Alec composing himself, trying his best to keep his head in the mission.
“It’s the equilibrium rune, but sure, I like ‘don’t be a dick’ rune better, anyway,” Clary says.
They don’t focus on where they’re walking, too caught up in the conversation. So they don’t notice when Magnus stops up ahead of them — not until Clary and Simon walk straight into his back, and they’re corralled behind him.
They come upon a dirty lot. In another life, it could’ve been a lovely public park with stone walkways and lush greenery, maybe a playground for the kids. Instead, it’s filthy and abandoned. The grass is patchy, like polka dots on a field of tan sand. A barbed wire fence lines the exterior; breaks and slashes detail a history of trespassing. Bruised and battered metal barrels lay on their sides, spilling garbage onto the ground below.
“What is it?” Alec asks, scanning the area for threats as he stands beside Magnus.
“I saw something twitch in the shadows,” Magnus replies.
He goes still, like a predator watching its prey and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He presses a finger to his lips to silence them then points towards a patch of wilting hedges. Alec follows with his gaze, offering Magnus a clipped nod in return.
Clary waits for a moment, listening to the sounds of the night for anything suspicious, but all she can hear are car horns and distant voices. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Magnus gives Alec a hand signal, and Alec visibly relaxes. It seems like a well practiced gesture, a language all their own so they can speak without words.
Clary and Simon had something like that. That silent understanding used to drive their parents nuts as they tried to decipher whatever her and Simon were plotting. They could have entire conversations without uttering a single word.
But they never had anything like the quiet communication Alec and Magnus have built around their alliance rune. Suddenly the back of Clary’s neck feels heavy.
“We’re going in,” Alec instructs.
“Be conscious of our surroundings,” Magnus adds.
Magnus curls his fingers around a rung in the metal fence. Soft blue magic glows around his hand. The metal starts to shake slightly and flashes red in several spots. When the metal grows hot enough, Alec unsheathes his seraph blade and slices through the fence with a few calculated swipes, crafting a small hole for them to crawl through.
Clary ducks and rolls, emerging on the other side in a crouch. Simon opts for a belly flop and army crawl approach. Magnus and Alec crawl through, and Alec helps Magnus to his feet once they’re through to the other side.
“Would you mind?” Magnus whispers to Alec.
Alec stretches around and activates a rune at the center of his back. He moves as though he’s going to put away the stele, hesitates, then activates another.
“Just in case,” Alec answers Magnus’ silent question as he traces over the rune.
Clary leans in towards Simon. “Uh, do you want me to activate any runes?”
“No, why?” Simon asks, his eyes scanning the lot for any signs of movement.
Alec and Magnus creep into the center of the lot, standing back to back. They circle around, surveying the area for the demon and getting ready for a fight. Magnus, with a glowing ball of magic charging in his hands, and Alec, with an arrow slotted to pierce any demons that dare slink from the shadows.
It’s incredible to watch them fight, Clary thinks. Simon is the closest thing she’ll ever have to a parabatai, but their bond doesn’t seem to compare to Alec and Magnus.
Clary gets up from her crouch and tiptoes over to join Alec and Magnus. Withered grass and twigs crunch beneath her boots as she walks, and Clary considers activating her silent rune, but it’s a decision made too late.
As soon as Simon scrambles to his feet, he takes one step and trips over his untied shoelace. He breathes out a, “Fuck” as he tumbles onto his face.
A tentacle shoots out from the shadows and wraps around Simon’s ankle, yanking him towards the darkness.
Alec loosens an arrow, but he can’t tell if it hits anything. The thing’s still masked by the night sky. He hears Magnus grunt as he fires a pulse of magic. There’s a growl from the outskirts, and Alec watches the tentacle slither under a bush.
“Simon, are you okay?” Alec calls out, too focused on locating the demon to check on Simon directly.
“Yeah, what the hell was that?” Simon answers.
“The demon we’re here to vanquish,” Magnus says. “Clary, can you use your sunlight rune?”
Clary draws out her stele and quickly scrawls the rune on her palm. “Where should I aim it?”
“Just above that tree,” Magnus instructs.
A pulse of golden lights beams from Clary’s hand, illuminating everything in its path. From the corner of his eye, Alec spots a flicker of movement. “There!” he yells, pointing at the spot.
He plucks an arrow from his quiver and knocks it, firing a microsecond later. Clary bends her knees in a battle stance and unsheaths her dual kindjal blades beside him. The shadows shriek and three tentacles hurl at them at once.
“Watch out!” Clary cries.
Alec, Clary, and Magnus sidestep the attack, narrowly avoiding getting grazed by the demon. Simon uses his vampire speed to dash towards the other side of the lot and evade the appendages. Frustrated that it couldn’t hit them, the demon finally emerges from the shadows.
It looks like it’s been through a lot since their last encounter. Cuts and gashes caked in dried blood mark its torso. It’s covered in dirt and filth, which explains the pungent odor. It’s so much worse than the smell of pure ichor; the demon smells like rotting garbage and death, which is likely what it’s been exposed to for the last several days.
A rocket of endorphins blasts through Alec’s veins, and he’s not sure if they’re his or Magnus’ or both of theirs melding into an excited, anxious harmony of adrenaline. Magnus reaches into his gun holster as he ducks and runs towards the edge of the fence. He needs to make sure everything’s working okay before he starts lighting the demon ablaze with heavenly fire.
“Simon,” Alec calls.
“On it,” Simon shouts back. He accelerates around the demon, bobbing and weaving to avoid the jabs of its tentacles. It’s fast, but Simon’s faster. Its attempts at keeping pace with him are futile. After a minute or so of spinning in place, the demon dizzily teeters from side to side.
Clary and Alec dash in opposite directions. Alec rips his seraph blade out of its holster and slings his bow around his neck. “How’s it going, babe?” he yells to Magnus.
“All set,” Magnus yells back. His feet are firmly grounded in the dirt and both of his hands are wrapped around the trigger, aiming directly at the demon’s core.
If this was any other time, Alec would stop and admire how sexy Magnus looks standing there ready to kill, to avenge him. But it’s not the time.
Simon doubles back towards Clary, leading a tentacle right to her. She lifts her arm and cuts through the demon’s black flesh with expert precision. Before the severed limb even has the chance to hit the ground, Magnus pulls the trigger.
A pellet ricochets out of the barrel. It looks like a mundane bullet at first, round and compact, but after a few seconds, it bursts into a rope of crackling flames. The ropes of fire collide with the demon’s open wound and engulf the festering hole, searing it closed.
The demon shrieks in agony, unable to generate new limbs after the previous burned away.
Alec smirks. It’s working.
Simon hops over a dented trash barrel and slides under another tentacle. The demon stumbles trying to chase after him. Clary takes the opportunity to take cover across the field. Simon isolates another appendage and leads it towards Alec.
Alec slashes at the limb, feeling the flesh and sinew rip apart under the strength of his swing. Magnus fires the gun with a thunderous bang, and Alec sprints away towards Clary. The flames cauterize the gash in a blaze of heaven’s fury, and the demon’s ghostly screech reverberates through the night air.
Simon rests his hands on his thighs across from them, panting from exertion.
“Just a little more, Simon!” Clary calls out to him.
The demon turns away from Simon and shifts its attention towards Alec and Clary. Simon was only going keep it occupied for so long before it got angry and turned on the others. They anticipated this. They’re prepared.
They wait, letting the demon charge at them. When it’s seconds away from constricting them in a barbed tentacle, Clary rolls out of the way. Alec dodges at the last possible moment, and the demon collides with the metal fence, the crash ricocheting throughout the whole structure.
Clary and Alec run towards opposite corners, crossing each other at the middle of the lot. The demon whips around and releases an eerie shriek. It’s growing more and more frustrated now that it’s forced to choose between them before making its next attack.
Rather than charge at them again, the demon stands its ground and simultaneously launches four separate tentacles at them. Dammit. A wasted recovery period.
Caught between a patch of bushes and the edge of the fence, Clary’s forced to swipe at the tentacle aiming for her. She severs the appendage, but Magnus can’t get a clear shot with the weapon, and two new tentacles slither out in its place.
Clary’s able to get away as they regenerate, and she regroups with Simon, leaving Alec and Magnus as the only solo targets. The demon hesitates in its assault, assessing each of them. It shifts away from the others and focuses on Alec, sending three tentacles straight at him.
They’re moving too fast, coming too close for Alec to get a clear shot in, and even though his seraph blade might as well be an extension of his arm, there’s no way Alec could slice through all three limbs at once and make it out unscathed. But then a familiar hum at his wrist reminds him he has another option.
Alec’s never been able to do much more than conjure a small flame or move a light object, so summoning the magic required to blast a demon seems impossible. But impossible just means try again.
“Alexander,” Magnus shouts, “feel the magic bubble up inside you and let it out!”
Alec concentrates on the tingling sensation creeping below his skin. He guides it from his heart to his fingertips. The mild tingling turns into a prickling sensation that grows until it’s almost painful. He waits for it to build until it’s practically unbearable, and then he simply releases the magic.
A burst of orange energy explodes from Alec’s fingertips. It claws through the air in an angry mass of destruction. It collides with two of the tentacles aimed for him, severing them from the demon’s core.
Alec sidesteps the remaining tentacle and rushes towards Simon and Clary. Magnus fires another seraphinic bullet, and the flames engulf the wounds, scorching them closed.
Simon trades places with Alec, dashing towards his last position. The demon roars and launches a tentacle at Simon. Simon waits until the last second before sprinting away, forcing the appendage to follow behind him.
Clary meets him dead on and slices through the demon’s limb with two calculated swipes of her blades. Magnus barely has to adjust his position to get a clear target. He shifts slightly, aims the gun, and pulls the trigger. But no loud bang rings out, no explosive package of heavenly flame. Just the clicking of an empty barrel and the tapping of a panicking warlock.
Heat mixed with dread flares at Alec’s wrist, and his heart starts running sprints.
“Magnus, what’s wrong?” Alec shouts.
“Hold on,” Magnus calls. “It’s not working.”
But it’s too late. Two new tentacles slither out of the darkness, replacing Clary’s conquest. She vaults out of the way, evading the demon’s next assault.
“Fuck,” Alec swears, reaching into his quiver for another arrow. He’s forced to let it fly to give Simon an opportunity to avoid another attack. Two more appendages grow out of the site it hits. They’re losing. This is going exactly like last time.
“Dammit,” Magnus cries, hurling the depleted weapon through the air. It hits the metal fence, sending a startling clank into the night air. “It’s out of fire. We’ll have to… We’ll have to try something else!”
Clary ducks, dodging a swipe from one of the tentacles. “Alec, what do we do?”
“Avoid the limbs,” Alec calls out as he mirrors his own words. “And try not to cut anymore off. We’re making it stronger each time we do!”
Simon sprints to avoid one tentacle coming at his five and ducks to dodge another at his ten. “Great plan to buy us more time,” he pants, “but how do we banish it?”
Alec turns to Magnus, keeping an eye on the demon through his periphery. “Magnus?”
Magnus tears off his gloves and throws them next to the discarded weapon. He hastily rolls up the sleeves of his shirt to his elbows. “I have an idea. Cover me.”
Alec doesn’t need to be told twice. He fires an arrow at the demon’s core, and it embeds itself in its abdomen. The demon shifts, so it’s facing Alec and ignoring Clary and Simon. Alec loosens another arrow and lets it fly into the demon’s skull. The demon shrieks and charges towards him, whipping its tentacles at him in retaliation.
Alec activates his speed rune and flees the demon’s wrath, leading it away from Magnus. Magnus stands, frozen in place with his hands pressed together like he’s praying. His eyes are glued shut, and he’s murmuring something to himself that Alec can’t decipher. He’s vulnerable, and that terrifies Alec, but he trusts Magnus’ intuition.
Alec evades the majority of the onslaught, but one of the limbs grazes his back, knocking him to the ground and shaking the arrows from his quiver. Alec quickly rolls to avoid a slash from another appendage and hastily grabs for one of his fallen arrows. He shoots, but he doesn’t get much leverage from the ground. The arrow skims the demon’s skin then uselessly drops to the ground below.
Clary and Simon rush towards Alec as backup. Simon crouches and springs into the air, launching himself at the demon’s back. His fangs glimmer in the moonlight as he sinks them into the demon’s back. Clary plunges a seraph dagger into the demon’s side at the same time. The demon howls in agony and retracts its limbs from Alec’s crumpled form.
He takes the opportunity to activate his iratze rune, feeling instant relief soothe his back.
“Alexander,” Magnus calls out through gritted teeth, “I need you to sever the demon’s remaining limbs and then take cover.”
He nods, though Magnus doesn’t see it. “Clary. Simon. Positions!”
They dash towards opposite corners, each responsible for two tentacles, except for Alec who has three. Alec shuffles his arrows back into his quiver and scrambles off of the ground.
“Do it. Do it now,” Magnus cries. “I can’t contain it for much longer!”
Alec fires three arrows in quick succession. They each pierce the junction where the tentacles grow from the demon’s torso. He drops his bow in favor of his seraph blade to deliver the final blow. He slashes through the air, cutting into the demon’s flesh and cleaving off its limbs.
Clary severs her appendages before Alec, and aids Simon as he carves through his with a regular mundane dagger. They amputate all of the demon’s limbs, and violet blood sputters through the air, soaking the dirt in a disgusting pool of carnage. The demon wails in an eerie, high pitched shriek.
Alec checks on Magnus, and Alec is momentarily stunned. His whole body is trembling, and he’s sheathed in a soft peachy glow. The air around them is as thick as the molasses scent swirling through, and it crackles with electricity. The ground beneath Magnus shakes. Magnus’ trembling intensifies and the glow shifts from peach to sunset orange.
“Take cover!” Alec shouts.
Alec, Clary, and Simon charge towards the hole in they created earlier. He lets Clary and Simon wriggle through first and takes one last look at Magnus before crawling through himself.
As soon as he does, the world explodes in a fiery storm of amber.
They step through Clary’s portal into the Institute’s ops center. Magnus is propped up at Alec’s side, his arm slung around Alec’s shoulders. He’s panting, and Alec’s rubbing circles on his back. Alec nods towards Clary, and she watches them limp off towards Alec’s bedroom. She turns to face Simon, who’s nursing a gash on his arm.
“Here, let me,” she offers.
Clary grabs a first aid kit from one of the nearby cabinets and brings it over to where Simon is sitting. She opens it and reaches for a package of alcohol wipes. She tears open the package and gently dabs at Simon’s cut, cleaning away the dried blood and dirt coating his skin.
He winces but grits his teeth and bears it. “You know this is pointless, right?” he asks. “It’ll heal on its own within the hour.”
“I know,” Clary admits, “but sometimes I like to do things the mundane way.” She pauses and leans back slightly, smiling to herself. “This reminds me of when we were kids—”
“And I wiped out in that bike race we had around the neighborhood?”
“You thought you could catch up to me if you took a shortcut through Mrs. Peters’ yard.”
“Yeah, and it would’ve worked if it weren’t for her army of lawn gnomes.”
“That was a sweet victory,” Clary thinks back.
“Well technically nobody ever won that race,” Simon teases.
She kneels down to toss out the bloody cloth. “What? I totally beat you!”
“You turned around as soon as you heard me crying, and then you brought me upstairs to your mom. So, technically you never crossed the finish line.”
Clary rolls her eyes, but she can’t disagree with him. “She always was the best nurse whenever one of us got hurt.”
“Now we know why,” Simons says, gesturing towards the Institute around them.
“Yeah,” Clary says, voice quiet.
Their lives were so much easier back when their only worries were about scraped up elbows and busted up bicycles. Clary misses it, misses the simple life of a mundane.
Her eyes dart to the cut on Simon’s arm that’s already starting to heal, the flesh beginning to knit itself back together. There’s a constant ache panging at the back of her neck, and she knows it isn’t a message from her own nerve endings, but Simon’s. She’s dragged him into so much lately, so much shadowhunter business he doesn’t need to be apart of — not when he has his own problems to deal with.
She knows they can never go back to how they were before her eighteenth birthday, but she can make things easier for him.
“Simon, we need to talk.”
He abandons the half opened band aid he’s fumbling with and looks up at her with wide eyes. “Oh, yeah, sure, what’s up?”
She chews at her lower lip. “Do you ever wanna go back?” she asks, not really sure where to begin, but that seems like a good jumping off point.
“Like to the old neighborhood?” he asks. “Or to when we were kids? Or…?”
Clary shifts her weight from foot to foot as she gazes around the Institute. Any of the runes etched into the tiled floor or carved into the wooden walls could kill Simon if he’s not careful. Well, kill him again. Kill him again for getting mixed up in shadowhunter affairs.
“I guess to back before you were so tangled up in all of this,” she says with a wave of her hand.
He hops out of the chair and snakes an arm around her waist, giving her side a gentle squeeze. “Hell no! I’d follow you anywhere, Fray. You know that.”
“Yeah, but it’s not fair to you,” she counters, slipping out of his grip. “I don’t wanna keep dragging you into things just because I’m involved.”
He opens his mouth to protest, but Clary continues on before he can get a word in. “More than I already have, I mean.” She laces their fingers together. “You’ve done so much for me over the years, and it’s about time I did something for you.” She takes a centering breath. “I think we should remove our alliance rune.”
He takes a step away from her. “Where’s this coming from, Clary?” He runs his fingers through his hair, mussing it up. “We just used the alliance rune to banish that demon. We used it to fight your brother. And you wanna just… get rid of it?”
“Jonathan was different,” she prefaces, “that affected all of us. But you never should have come with us tonight. Fighting demons is our thing, not yours, and it’s not fair to involve you—”
“But Magnus was there, and he’s not a demon hunter,” Simon counters. “Doesn’t he go on like every mission with you guys?”
“It’s not the same for Magnus and Alec. The bond is… more for them, and that’s why I think we should sever ours. It doesn’t give us anything we don’t already have.”
“It’s giving me warning bells right now, that’s for sure,” Simon mutters. “So, what, you wanna remove our rune because we’re not thirty seconds away from running to a chapel?”
“No,” she says, exasperated, “I want to remove our rune because I can’t live with myself if I keep forcing you into a fight that isn’t yours.”
Simon’s face softens a little, and he drifts closer to her. “It’s always going to be my fight if you’re in trouble.”
“It’s not just you and me anymore, though. You can support me in other ways. Other ways that don’t involve knowing my every waking emotion or sinking your fangs into a demon.”
“Okay, yeah, that thing tasted nasty,” he laughs. “And I guess I could go without the big glowing sign whenever you and Jace are getting some.”
Clary’s face grows as red as Izzy’s lipstick.
He ignores her mortification. “But I like being connected to you.”
“Simon, we’ll always be connected to each other. We always have been. We don’t need a rune for that.”
“You’re right,” he admits. “Okay, if you wanna remove our rune, I’m game.”
She wraps her arms around his neck, and he wraps his around her waist. She buries her face into his neck, resting her head against his chest. He may not have a beating heart anymore, but nothing centers her more than the familiar feeling of being in her best friend’s arms.
“I love you, Simon.”
“I love you too, Clary.”
Nothing’s gonna change that.
“I need to check on a few things before we go home,” Alec says as he shuts the door behind him, leaving Magnus alone to rest.
Alec presses his back against the wall and knocks his head against the hard, wood paneling. Magnus is safe. Alec’s safe. They’re all safe.
So why does Alec’s heart still beat as though they’re in the heat of battle?
He checks in at the ops center, receiving a confirmation from Lydia that Izzy’s team banished the entire horde of ravener demons without a single shadowhunter casualty — a few cuts and bruises, aside. Alec swells up with pride; that’s his baby sister.
Jace’s team is still deployed. Apparently, Jace requested backup from Lydia, because their kuri den turned out to be far larger than the sensors indicated, so Lydia dispatched Raj as soon as he returned from patrol, much to his chagrin. Lydia says he left muttering something about a date. Alec snorts. It’ll be good for Raj; he could use the character building.
Alec feels phantom adrenaline pulsing at his abdomen, so Jace should have the situation under control with his reinforcements. But Alec still asks Lydia to closely monitor them, should that change.
Once he’s satisfactorily made his rounds, Alec sets off towards the one person he trusts to help him make sense of everything. He knocks on her bedroom door and waits until he hears her answering call before barging inside. Alec learned his lesson on disturbing Izzy’s privacy years ago.
Her leather jacket lays discarded on the floor next to her thigh holster. Alec picks them up and hangs them on the end of her garment rack. Izzy’s hunched over her vanity with one boot resting on her chair as she wipes off grime and ichor with a dirty rag. She doesn’t look up at him as she asks, “What’s up, hermano?”
“I just wanted to check in,” he says, fidgeting by the door, not sure if wants to sit or stand or run away.
“Everything went fine.” She frowns as she tugs over a particularly gruesome spot. “All said, it was a pretty boring mission, but the report’s already on your desk.” She runs the rag over her laces, trying to salvage her boots.
“That’s good,” Alec acknowledges, but he already knew as much.
She throws the rag down on her vanity and rests her elbow on her knee, leaning towards him. “Anything else you wanna talk about?”
Alec hesitates and then goes for it. “Yeah, do you have a minute?”
“For you, always,” she says, climbing down from her perch and striding over to him. She takes him by the hand and leads him to her bed. “What’s on your mind?” she asks, plopping down onto her fluffy comforter.
He sits down on the end of the bed, barely resting on the mattress — too restless to get comfortable. “So, I used magic tonight,” Alec says. “Like, really used magic.”
Izzy’s eyes widen, and she sits upright, angling towards him. Alec tries to ignore the pride he feels fluttering in his stomach for doing something that Izzy finds interesting.
“I blasted the demon with a ball of energy,” he continues on.
“That’s incredible!” Izzy exclaims. “How did it feel?”
Alec scratches at the back of his neck. “Honestly? It was amazing. I’ve never felt anything like it, and,” His eyes dart to Izzy’s face then immediately look away. “I wanna do it again.”
“You should,” she encourages. “If you practice, maybe you’ll be as good as Magnus someday.” She nudges him in the ribs, and Alec rolls his eyes, inching away from her.
“Not a chance,” he says with a nervous edge to his voice. He licks over his lips. “Iz, I wanna keep practicing it… Forever. I don’t… I don’t want to—”
“You don’t want to remove your alliance rune,” Izzy finishes for him. “You want to stay immortal with Magnus.”
She gives him a knowing look, silently daring Alec to tell her that she’s wrong, but she’s not. She’s always so perceptive, can always figure out exactly what Alec means. Sisters must have an evolved sense of perception, or at least his sister does.
“Yeah,” Alec admits. “And I wanted to see if that’s okay with you. Would you… Would you hate me if I stayed immortal?” he asks, absolutely terrified of her answer.
“I could never hate you, Alec,” she says, and Alec has never felt more relieved in his life. “And you don’t need to ask for my permission on this. If this is what you want,” She takes his hand in hers and thumbs over his knuckles. “then absolutely go for it.”
“Of course I need to ask your permission. If I’m gonna… lose you someday, then I need to make sure it’s okay with you first.”
“You’re never going to truly lose me, whether you’re immortal or mortal, we’ll always have each other. All I want is for you to be happy.”
Alec pulls her into a hug, clinging to her embrace. He buries his face in her hair, breathing in the sweet scent of her shampoo and pressing kisses to the top of her head.
“You’re always taking care of us,” she mumbles into his shoulder. “You deserve to do something for yourself.”
Maybe she’s right.
Clary hesitates at the door. Jace returned from his missions about an hour ago, successfully slaying the entire kuri den and coming home without any fatalities. Clary has been working up the courage to go talk to Jace since he first stepped through the door covered in ichor. She paces back and forth down the hallway, pausing every few moments to hold her fist against the door, but then dropping it to return to her pacing.
This time when she presses her fist to the wooden paneling, it opens, revealing a very startled and very shirtless Jace. “Clary,” he says, taken aback.
A cloth towel slips from his shoulders and falls to the ground. Clary tears her eyes away from his chest as he kneels down to grab it, settling them on his face when he stands back up.
“Jace, hi,” she stammers, “I was just, uh…” She inhales a deep breath and exhales, releasing some of the tension from her shoulders. “I wanna talk.”
“Okay, yeah, of course,” he says, ushering her inside his room and closing the door behind her.
She sits on the edge of his bed with her legs dangling off the side. He sits down next to her, about a foot away, not with his usual closeness. Her stomach knots. She shouldn’t be surprised by his distance, especially after how she’s treated him lately, but it still hurts — even if it is her own fault.
They both try to speak at the same time. Jace grips the back of his neck and looks away. Clary plays with her fingers in her lap. Neither of them speak for a minute or so.
“I’m sorry for avoiding you these last few days,” Clary apologizes.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you,” Jace adds. “I know how hard this is for you, and I… And I should’ve fought more to be with you.”
She shifts closer to him and rests her hand flat on the comforter between them. “No, Jace, I needed my space, so thank you for respecting that. But I’m ready to talk now.”
He tentatively reaches out for her hand and waits for her reaction before giving it a comforting squeeze when she doesn’t pull away. Clary rubs her thumb over his knuckles. He swallows, staring down at their intertwined fingers.
"And I'll listen," he says. "Just...we're together, right? Like, you know I'll always be there for you."
“Of course,” Clary says, not really understanding where this is coming from. “Why wouldn’t we be? I just needed some space; I wasn’t breaking up with you.”
“I just needed to hear you say it.”
“Jace,” she pleads, and the tone in her voice forces Jace to look up at her. “I needed some time to myself to figure everything out, because this— us, is what’s made this whole immortality business the hardest.” She cups a hand around his face, lightly caressing over his cheekbone. “I couldn’t look at you without thinking about losing you.”
“Oh, Clary,” he soothes, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
“But I know what I want now,” she continues. “And I want you. I want to live each day with you, and grow old with you, and rest with you once we’ve both passed on.”
“But, Clary you’re—”
“I talked it over with Simon, and we both agreed that we’re better off without the alliance rune.”
Jace leans back away from her. “Are you sure? All of that power… and immortality—”
“Means nothing if I don’t have you,” she finishes for him. “And besides, Simon and I realized it doesn’t add anything to our relationship — especially compared to Magnus and Alec.”
Jace snorts and runs his fingers through his hair, his golden locks shimmering underneath the incandescent light. He looks like an angel bathed in soft candlelight. “Yeah, the alliance rune is next level for them,” he mutters with a shake of his head. “So, what are you saying, Clary?”
“I’m saying,” she begins, taking both of his hands into hers. “that I want to remove my alliance rune and spend everyday for the rest of my life with you, Jace Herondale.”
“But how… the alliance rune, it’s—”
“Just a rune. Who cares if I created it? The Silent Brothers should still be able to remove it; Brother Zachariah sent Magnus a fire message confirming it was possible.”
He eases into her space and cups her cheek. His rough calluses feel like walking on beach sand — warm and exhilarating. His touch sends a pulse of electricity through her, accelerating the beating of her heart.
“You’d give up all of this for me?” he asks. There’s a quiet vulnerability in his eyes.
“I don’t want anything but you.”
He pulls her into him, so she crashes against his chest. She tangles her fingers in his hair as he brings their lips together in a searing kiss. They move together, all wet hot intensity, but there’s something else behind it, something softer.
Kissing Jace is fire and brimstone, but it’s also hearth and home. It’s a rolling thunderstorm in the middle of summer, and the quiet shelter underneath a rooftop awning. It’s the best feeling in the entire world, and Clary wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Magnus sits at his vanity, the sugary scent of a portal still wafting through the air. He untangles several chains from his neck and tucks them away in his wooden jewelry box. He carefully unclasps the metallic cuff from his ear and rests it on top of his necklaces. Magnus slides off his rings one by one. His oversized turquoise one with the gold overlay is cracked at the center, no doubt a casualty from their fight with the demon.
He examines it closer, frowning. He bought this ring because it reminded him of Alec’s eyes — a hazel caleidoscope of blue and gold and green. He snaps his fingers, mending the crack, and feels the magic drain from his core. Something so simple shouldn’t weigh so heavily on him.
“Where do you keep your makeup wipes?” Alec calls from the ensuite bathroom.
“There should be an unopened pack underneath the sink,” Magnus calls back.
So sweet, his angel. Magnus is sure that Alec can feel the rolling waves of his exhaustion crashing through their rune. And even if he can’t, Alexander would still help Magnus out in any way that he could simply because of the kindness in his heart and devotion in his soul.
“These ones, right?” Alec asks, stepping into the bedroom wearing nothing but a very flattering pair of black boxer briefs and a plum t-shirt.
Magnus nods, holding out his hand to take the package of wipes from him. “Thank you, Alexander.”
Rather than give it to him, Alec tears a wipe from the package and sets the rest on Magnus’ vanity. He kneels in front of Magnus. “Let me take care of you.”
A soft smile plays at Magnus’ cracked lips, and a surge of affection swells up inside of him. Alec must feel it too for the beautiful, lopsided smile he gives him.
“You’re exhausted,” Alec says, tentatively raising the cloth to Magnus’ cheek to dab at his decaying foundation.
“It’s not everyday I have to conjure up warlock flames,” Magnus muses.
He winces a little as Alec tugs too hard at his chin. Magnus hopes Alec doesn’t notice, but he must. Magnus can’t hide anything from Alec.
He works his way up to Magnus’ lips, barely applying any pressure, not that Magnus has much lip gloss left to smear. Magnus glances at the wipe, surprised to see how the vibrant swaths of color stain the fabric. Magnus had assumed he sweated the majority of his makeup off during their fight — or that it melted away in the fiery blaze.
The fiery blaze that banished that bastard back to Edom with a note signed in electricity for his father. Asmodeus will understand the message. Never let anything like that through a rift again.
“You okay?” Alec asks, sliding the wipe into the creases around his nose.
“I’ll be fine. Especially when I have you pampering me.”
Alec motions for him to close his eyes, and Magnus’ eyelids flutter shut. Magnus never imagined that he’d ever let someone come so close to his eyes, that he’d trust someone so much. His eyes have brought decades of loneliness and destruction. The physical embodiment of the demon living inside of him, clawing its way to surface. And yet, Alec thinks they’re beautiful.
Alec’s so gentle with him, applying featherlight swipes at the bronze eyeshadow tinting his lids. He leans in to press a soft kiss to Magnus’ forehead. His lips feel cool and reassuring. He’s okay. They’re okay. They’re all okay.
Alec moves on to Magnus’ other eye. He tugs too hard at the delicate folds of Magnus’ eyelid, barely presses at all to Magnus’ inner corner, and misses his eyelashes altogether. It’s messy and a little bit clueless, and Magnus knows he’ll have to remove the rest of it himself later when Alec isn’t looking, but Magnus’ heart swells because it’s all so very Alexander.
“I think that should do it,” Alec says, sitting back on his heels.
Magnus glances in the mirror. Alec hasn’t touched Magnus’ eyebrows, and Magnus still feels the heavy weight of foundation caking at his hairline. “Looks good. Thank you, Alexander.”
“You always look good.” Alec smiles again, and suddenly the world’s a little bit warmer. Magnus leans down to kiss those beaming lips, and he melts, feeling the curve of Alec’s grin in their kiss. It’s infectious, and Magnus can’t help but return his smile.
Alec tosses the soiled makeup wipe into the garbage bin when they part. Magnus stands up and stretches heavenward, rolling his head around his shoulders. There’s an ache deep in his bones and a kind of soreness in his muscles he’s only felt a few times before.
Alec watches his every movement. Normally Magnus would assume that it was just Alec’s shadowhunter instincts kicking into gear — scanning Magnus’ body for bruises and contusions. But the wash of anxiety at his wrist sends a shiver through Magnus, telling him there’s something on Alec’s mind, something he hasn’t told Magnus yet.
Magnus swallows down the lump in his throat. He won’t pry. He won’t coax. He’ll let Alec come to him when he’s ready.
“Do you want any help with that?” Alec asks suddenly, shaking Magnus from his thoughts.
“You’re spoiling me tonight,” Magnus muses.
Alec leads him to the edge of the bed and motions for Magnus to sit. Magnus complies, letting Alec sit down behind him. He unties the knot holding his dressing gown together, and Magnus shimmies so the fabric slinks down his shoulders.
Alec presses a kiss to Magnus’ bare shoulder. “You deserve it.”
He massages at the coiled muscles plaguing Magnus’ back, relieving the tension with the firm kneading of his thumbs.
“I couldn’t have done anything to deserve you,” Magnus mutters before he can catch himself, lost in the sensation of Alec’s burning fingers on his skin.
“Magnus,” Alec implores, “I could be saying the same thing about you.” He starts working at a particularly tight knot.
“It’s true,” Magnus admits. “Sometimes I think that everything in my long life was just leading me to you.” A red string of fate had bound them together long before they scorched the alliance rune into their skin. “I’ve been searching for you for centuries. You’ve changed my life in ways I never could’ve imagined.”
Magnus takes a deep breath and continues, “If— When you decide to remove our rune… ” Magnus doesn’t know why he’s saying this now, but he feels like he has to. The words come tumbling out faster than he can censor himself, but maybe he should lay it all out, lay himself bare to Alec, so he knows exactly how Magnus feels before he makes his choice. “and you come to pass— decades from now,” he emphasizes, “I’ll be devastated; I won’t lie, but I’ll survive, because I’ll be grateful for the time we spent together.”
Alec grows still. Magnus hears him shudder out a breath.
Magnus’ heart starts to beat faster, immediately regretting his declaration. Maybe he can take it back. He’s exhausted. He’s delirious. It’s the waning battle high clouding his thoughts. Anything to calm that phantom fear flaming at his wrist.
“Magnus,” Alec trails off, his voice a whisper.
“You don’t have to say anything,” Magnus reassures. “I just— I wanted to make my feelings known.”
“Clearly I do,” Alec says, turning Magnus around in his arms so he’s facing him. Magnus shifts so he’s sitting in Alec’s lap, resting his hands on his chest. “Magnus, I don’t want to remove our rune.”
All of the oxygen in the room is suddenly flushed out and replaced with helium, and Magnus isn’t quite sure if that’s a metaphor or if it’s reality for how light and airy he feels. Alec wraps his hand around Magnus’, their hands pressed to Alec’s beating heart. Magnus briefly entertains the thought that its drumming will never cease but quickly banishes it. It must be the helium.
When Magnus doesn’t speak, Alec continues. “You’ve watched every mortal you’ve ever loved die and become another memento in your box. But I’ve never wanted that… To become another reminder of what you’ve lost—”
“Please don’t say you’re doing this for me,” Magnus begs. “Because, Alexander, you don’t understand what you’re signing up for—”
Alec squeezes his hand a little tighter. “I’m signing up for eternity with the love of my life.” He presses a kiss to Magnus’ knuckles.
“And suffering the loss of your parabatai— of Isabelle.” Magnus needs to make him understand. Immortality isn’t a blessing; it’s a curse. A curse that he’ll regret for the rest of their time together unless Magnus makes him understand.
“There’s no guarantee that I would’ve…” Alec swallows. “It’s always been a possibility that I’d die before them. You’ve survived the loss of your mother,” Magnus flinches. “and every person in the box,” Alec continues hastily. “I can survive the loss of my family, because I’ll have you.”
“What’s changed?” Magnus asks, because just days ago Alec had still been questioning. But now he seems so sure, and that terrifies Magnus.
“I realized that I could never give up our bond. That our rune and everything it represents means more to me than any pain down the line. That holding you and loving you for the rest of eternity is the most exciting and terrifying opportunity, and I can’t pass up that chance.” Alec’s free hand cups Magnus’ cheek. “I want to explore with you. I want to learn with you. Magnus, I channeled your magic to blast a demon tonight. Imagine what we could do together with the rest of time. So, if you want me, I’m yours forever.”
“Alexander,” Magnus breathes, gripping at Alec’s wrist. “Nothing would make me happier, but I need to know that you’re sure.”
“The only other thing I’ve been this sure about was kissing you at my wedding.”
Magnus wraps his arms around Alec’s neck and nuzzles his face into Alec’s chest. He clutches at Alec’s t-shirt and breathes in the scent lingering there, sandalwood and hope. Hope for a future Magnus never thought possible. He’s enough for someone. Enough for someone to stay.
Alec holds him close and presses kisses into Magnus’ hair. “I love you.”
Magnus detangles himself from Alec, so he can gaze into his eyes. “I love you too.”
Alec leans in and presses their lips together. A burst of electricity courses through Magnus when their lips meet, and he knots his fingers in Alec’s hair. Alec pulls him closer, Magnus’ bare chest rubbing against the soft cotton of Alec’s shirt. His discarded dressing gown slips to the floor.
Magnus parts his lips slightly, allowing Alec’s tongue to slip inside. Magnus hums as Alec’s hand dips lower to grab his ass. Magnus licks into Alec’s mouth, reveling in the wet, hot heat. Alec gives his ass another squeeze, urging him closer until Magnus’ weight in his lap pushes Alec down into the pillows.
Magnus straddles Alec, rolling his hips.
Alec groans as the friction rouses him. Magnus pulls away, and Alec chases his mouth, dragging his teeth against Magnus’ bottom lip. “Want you,” Alec breathes.
Magnus sits back on his heels, leisurely rocking back and forth in a way that he knows drives Alec delirious. He loves the view from up here. His angel’s pale skin contrasted against golden sheets, red kiss swollen lips and rumpled black hair with hazel eyes beaming at him. Alec’s a rainbow of colors, an exercise in contrasts, and the most beautiful sight Magnus has ever laid eyes on.
“I want you too. Always,” Magnus says.
“You have me,” Alec replies, caressing Magnus’ cheek and coaxing him down into another kiss. Magnus sucks at Alec’s lower lip as his fingers curl into messy black hair.
Alec meets Magnus’ rocking, matching with his own languid roll of his hips.
Magnus sighs into Alec’s mouth as the motion sends waves of arousal straight to his hardening length, and Alec is right there with him, pressing against Magnus’ thigh.
Magnus trails kisses from the corner of Alec’s lips to his neck, lathing his deflect rune with all of the attention it deserves. Magnus’ tongue traces its swirling script, biting, sucking, and soothing all the way down to Alec’s collarbone. Alec whimpers and surges upwards, rocking against Magnus’ hips so hard that he swears he sees angel wings.
Alec flips them over in Magnus’ daze. He tugs at the hem of his t-shirt and pulls it over his head, throwing it on top of Magnus’ dressing gown. He lunges forward and captures Magnus’ mouth in another kiss.
Alec coaxes Magnus up the bed as his lips travel down Magnus’ neck. Alec’s breath is hot on Magnus’ skin as he nibbles at the warm brown skin stretching over prominent collarbones. Magnus leaves scratches on Alec’s back, too overcome with sensation to be careful.
Alec shifts lower, roaming over Magnus’ naked chest. Every touch of his fingers feels like he’s lighting a match in Magnus’ abdomen, a match that will soon ignite into fervent flames. He sucks bruises into Magnus’ pecs and abs, and Magnus digs deeper into Alec’s back.
Alec hums, then looks up at him with heavy-lidded eyes. They’re so full of warmth and love that Magnus’ stomach flutters for an entirely different reason. A sudden wave of pure, unhindered joy surges at his wrist.
“How did I get so lucky,” Alec whispers, “to have you forever?”
“I’ll ask myself that question everyday for the rest of our lives.”
Alec moves lower, mouthing over Magnus through his boxers.
Magnus yearns for him, yearns for him with such a deep seated ache he’ll never satiate. Alec dips below Magnus’ waistband and wraps his fingers around Magnus, stroking him until Magnus lays hot and heavy. Magnus bucks into his hand, relishing in all of the pleasure he can. Alec teases Magnus’ boxers down his legs, squeezing his ass and urging Magnus to lift his hips. Alec shimmies out of his own and deposits them with the rest of their clothes.
Magnus rocks up and locks his legs around Alec, digging his heels into Alec’s lower back. He’s desperate to touch and feel and dissolve in the slide of skin against skin. Alec rolls against him, meeting Magnus’ needy trembling and sending heat straight to his core.
Alec braces himself, resting his hand on the pillow as they glide together in a dance they’ll practice for the rest of eternity. Alec presses their foreheads together and pants into Magnus’ mouth.
“I love you. By the Angel, I love you,” he breathes over and over.
As Magnus approaches his crest, he can’t stop thinking that he has this forever. He has Alec in his bed, in his arms, in his life for as long as they both shall live.
Magnus’ movements grow more erratic the higher they climb. Alec’s hips rock faster, more frantic as he chases the same crescendo. They succumb in perfect synchrony, euphoria washing through their bond as Alec collapses on Magnus’ chest.
They lay like that for several minutes, breathing heavy with their hearts beating faster than a shooting star traverses the night sky. Eventually, Alec rolls beside him, and Magnus banishes their mess with the snap of his fingers.
“Hey,” Alec warns playfully, “you’re exhausted. Save your magic.”
“How do you know?” Magnus asks, nuzzling into the crook of his neck.
Alec laces their fingers together and presses a kiss to Magnus’ wrist. “Because of this. I’ll always know.”
The thought sends a bubble of warmth through Magnus’ chest, lulling him into the most peaceful sleep he’s had in weeks, his dreams colored with Alexander.
Magnus glances at the clock and then at the empty space beside him. He taps his foot against the floor, growing more anxious with each passing second. Where is he? Magnus wonders.
He locks eyes with Isabelle, a few heads down the line. They have a silent conversation, filled with exaggerated facial expressions, over dramatic gesturing, and confused body language, which resolves in Izzy doesn’t know where he is either. Magnus glances back at the clock and sighs.
Just then, he hears the booming thud of boots hustling down the hallway and into the ceremony space. The ancient mahogany doors creak as Alec tries and fails to sneak into the assembly as inconspicuous as possible. A rosy blush tints his cheeks as he hurries to take his spot beside Magnus.
He presses a chaste kiss to Magnus’ cheek and hovers by his ear. “Sorry. Had a last minute conference call with the Clave after seeing Lydia off.”
“Did she make it back to Idris alright?” Magnus whispers.
“Cat made the portal, so it was perfect.”
“Naturally.” Magnus’ eyes dart to the unamused faces of the elite guard members who are running the security detail for Brother Zachariah and Brother Enoch. They don’t seem pleased with Magnus and Alec’s chatter, but Magnus doesn’t care. “And what did the Clave want?”
“They finally came to a decision about the alliance rune.”
“At the eleventh hour, of course.”
One of the guards coughs far louder than is necessary and sends a pointed glance to Magnus, her eyes narrowing as they meet his. Her blonde braid whips around as she turns back to focus her attention on the assembly, but the message is clear. Magnus pointedly ignores it.
“So, what’s the verdict? Are we up next after Clary and Simon?”
Without thinking, he reaches for that sacred spot on his left wrist where their rune lives. His own personal security blanket etched into his skin by Alec’s hand. The thought of losing it is… devastating, to say the least, especially after Alec decided he wanted to keep it and remain by Magnus’ side for the rest of days.
But this was never entirely their decision, not when Alec works for the Clave, not when he’s the Head of the New York Institute, not when he’s a shadowhunter. They had to tell the Clave, because this rune affects everyone in the shadow world, not just them.
If their answer is ‘no’ to Alec’s request, Magnus will protest and contest the decision, do whatever he can to change their minds. Even though he knows deep in his soul that they don’t care about the happiness of a gay shadowhunters and his warlock lover. He’ll fight for their future until Alec takes his last breath.
“Nope,” Alec says with a grin as large as the love Magnus feels for him. “The High Council decided to honor our request. As a trial run.”
“Trial run?” Magnus echoes.
Alec wets his lips. “The alliance rune’s been moved to the restricted list until further notice. But they want to monitor how this— us, what happens with us to possibly consider using it in the future.”
Magnus snorts unrestrainedly, and the look the elder guardswoman shoots him rivals Ragnor’s morning scowl before his first cup of tea (may he rest in the sweetest peace). “A new breed of immortal shadowhunters?”
“We’re the future, baby.”
Brother Zachariah knocks his staff against the floor, alerting the congregation that the ceremony is about to begin. Clary wraps her arms around Jace for a quick hug, and he presses his lips to her forehead, murmuring something into her hairline. Simon squeezes Maia’s hand and gives her a tender smile. Clary and Simon step forward, hand in hand, towards Brother Zachariah and Brother Enoch at the center of the room.
Clary’s hair is piled high in a ponytail, and she wears an olive shirt with a low back, perfectly exposing the alliance rune at the back of her neck. Simon wears a simple black t-shirt that could easily be rolled up to reveal the alliance rune at the small of his back.
They stand so they’re facing each other, hands still interlocked. Simon mumbles something to Clary, and her troubled expression eases into a soft smile. Brother Zachariah takes his place behind her, and Brother Enoch moves behind Simon.
Magnus leans in to whisper in Alec’s ear. “Will it hurt them?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never had a rune voided before.”
Searing the alliance rune into his skin seemed to cause far more pain for Magnus than Alec, all those years ago. Whether it’s because Alec is desensitized to the horrifying practice of branding himself or that Magnus’ demon blood is aversive to the seraphinic, he doesn’t know, but Magnus wonders if this process will agonize Simon more than Clary.
Alec squeezes his hand. “They’ll be fine.”
Brother Zachariah draws out a stele unlike Magnus has ever seen before. It’s longer than Alec or Isabelle’s and looks as though it’s made of rough stone instead of the modern sleek metal. If Magnus was close enough to examine it further, he’s positive that he wouldn’t recognize any of the runes carved into it.
Clary Fairchild. Simon Lewis. Brother Zachariah’s voice drifts into Magnus’ mind. You have summoned us so that we may sever your bond.
“That’s right,” Clary says. “I wanna be mortal again.”
Very well. Brother Enoch raises a matching stele to Simon’s back.
Brother Zachariah mimics Brother Enoch, pointing his stele at Clary’s neck. They begin, carefully tracing the lines of the alliance rune and adding new flourishes throughout. They move in synchrony and mirror each action exactly. From Magnus’ limited understanding, if they were to somehow void Clary’s rune before Simon’s, leaving him as an untethered soul, the overwhelming burst of angelic energy would immediately kill him.
Magnus can’t understand why they would ever let this go, especially when the risks involved in the removal far outweigh the benefits, but he doesn’t have to understand. He just needs to accept that it’s their decision about their own lives — even if it is vastly different than his and Alexander’s.
Magnus’ hand slides down to find Alec’s. Alec glances at him, a smile lighting up his whole face, before he turns back to watch the rest of the ceremony.
After a few minutes of carefully choreographed runic mimicry, the Silent Brothers lower their steles and step away from Simon and Clary. Simon stares at Clary with furrowed brows, his face contorted in puzzlement.
Clary blinks at him a few times before she says, “I can’t feel you anymore.”
Simon drops her hand and takes a step back. “Neither can I.”
The ceremony has concluded. Brother Enoch projects.
Clary Fairchild and Simon Lewis are no longer bound. Brother Zachariah echoes.
Magnus genuinely hopes Simon and Clary don’t come to regret their decision, but he and Alexander wouldn’t give up this rune for anything. Everything it represents, everything it means to them, it’s far more precious than any riches Magnus could ever acquire.
He dreams of the world they’ll rebuild together because of this rune, an immortal downworlder and shadowhunter fighting for a better tomorrow. They’ll be a shining example of unity, of hope. They’re going to take the world by storm, and they’re going to do it together.