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A Life Debt

Chapter Text

Magnus’s fingers fluttered over his jewelry box touching each precisely laid out piece for a moment before deciding on a matching pair of silver and green rings to go with his eye shadow and a silver cuff for the top of his ear.

Perfect, he thought as he examined his appearance and deemed himself appropriately stunning to make his way to Pandemonium for the evening. His phone rang and he glanced at it. Unknown number. Less perfect, but considering how few people had this number it was likely important.

“You have five seconds before I head out the door, make it good,” he said in way of answering.

“Um … is this Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn?” a voice on the other end asked and Magnus could almost hear the man’s eyebrow raised in confusion.

“The one and only. Three seconds,” Magnus said, magically adding a strip of green to his hair for good measure.

“This is Alec Lightwood, I’m the head of the New York Shadowhunter Institute, we need your help with something,” Alec said, sounding quickly more sure of himself.

“Well your precious Clave has my office hours and they are most certainly not at 11pm on a Saturday night, so I’m going to have to decline at the moment. So sorry.”

Magnus’s finger was hovering over the end call button but he paused as he heard Alec rush out, “We found a little girl!”

“What did you say?” Magnus asked, bringing the phone back to his ear.

“My team and I just took down a group of rogue Shadowhunters who were hunting downworlders,” Alec said, slowing down now that he had Magnus’s attention. “We were going through their base and we found a little girl in some kind of magic cage that we can’t get open. She seems okay but she won’t talk to us. Unlock runes aren’t working on the cage, we could use a hand getting her out.”

“Is she a downworlder?”

“I’m pretty sure she’s a warlock, I can see gills on her neck,” Alec answered.

Magnus breathed a sigh of relief and put a hand on his chest. “Madzie.”

“You know her?”

“Her and her Nana were reported missing to the Warlock High Council four days ago.”

Alec sighed apologetically, “We haven’t found any other warlocks here.”

“Well maybe I can find something. Where are you?” Alec told him the address. Magnus pictured the city in his head and frowned. “The closest I can portal is a few blocks away but I’ll be there shortly.”

“Okay, I’ll let my team know you’re coming. Thank you.” Magnus raised an eyebrow and felt himself shaking his head slightly, unaccustomed to such civility and helpfulness from a shadowhunter.

“It’s no problem. I’ll see you soon.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

When Magnus arrived at the address fifteen minutes later he found a blond Shadowhunter standing on the sidewalk keeping watch.

“Magnus Bane?”

“Yes. Alec Lightwood called me.”

“Alec’s inside,” the Shadowhunter said, moving aside to let Magnus by but not offering to introduce himself. As Magnus passed he quirked an eyebrow in amusement clearly taking in Magnus’s wardrobe. He hadn’t changed from his Pandemonium attire and was wearing an extravagant light blue button down that exposed his naval and bejeweled leather pants that exposed pretty much everything while technically exposing nothing. “Sorry if we’re underdressed for you.”

Magnus scoffed, feeling no need to defend himself. “Where’s the little girl?”

Jace was good enough to look chagrined and pointed down. “Head towards the basement, last door on your left.”

Not bothering to say good-bye, Magnus marched into the building. In the first room on the right he found a beautiful young woman with long brown hair going through a computer seemingly uncaring about the dead bodies on the floor behind her. He didn’t stop to introduce himself but as he approached the end of the hall he could hear a voice echoing from an open door on the left.

“I know you’re probably scared but we’re going to get you out real soon, I promise. I called someone who’s going to help us. He’s a warlock like you, the most powerful warlock in the city actually …”

“Listen to him my dear,” Magnus said, entering the room with a flourish. “Every word is true.”

Magnus smiled. Never in his life had he had a better set up for a grand introduction. His eyes scoured over the room, taking in the details. It was surprisingly white, bright and sterile with medical equipment and counters along one wall and a line of cages pulsing with green energy along the other. The little girl was huddled in the corner of the only occupied cage, her expression blank as she hugged her legs. Sitting on the floor next to her was a brown-haired Shadowhunter with absolutely incredible … well everything. He was tall but toned, his beautiful eyes shone with openness and his hair was styled in a way that was begging to have hands run through it.

“Magnus Bane,” he said, extending his hand and feeling comfortable lifting a flirty eyebrow when he saw Madzie was indeed safe.

“Alec. Alexander. Alexander Lightwood. But uh … Alec is fine,” the shadowhunter said, stumbling to his feet in a rush to take the warlock’s hand. Magnus didn’t miss the way Alec’s eyes roamed over Magnus’s body and outfit but instead of looking judgmental he appeared only in awe. “Thank you for coming.”

“So far it’s an absolute pleasure, Alexander,” Magnus said and relished in the loopy grin Alec offered him in agreement. It was hard to release the firm hand he was gripping and the gorgeous eyes he was staring into, but he supposed he had a little girl to save. He released Alec’s hand and knelt down next to the cage to be at Madzie’s eyelevel.

“Hello Madzie, I’m Magnus, I’m a friend of your Nana’s and I’m going to get you out of here, okay?”

Madzie looked at Magnus with wide-eyes and still said nothing but nodded her understanding.

“Excellent, this will only take a minute,” Magnus promised standing back up and opening his arms with a flourish. He called his magic, blue light tracing up his hands and arms, and released the energy. Within moments the green magic fizzled away and the door popped open.

“Not even a minute,” Alec commented, impressed.

Magnus turned with his best sultry grin, “I promise I can last much longer.”

Alec diverted his eyes and blushed wonderfully but the moment was quite broken by the tiny body that bolted from the cage and attached herself to Alec’s leg.

“It’s okay, you’re okay, I got you,” Alec said, kneeling down to hug Madzie assuringly.

“Where’s my nana?” she asked and Magnus wondered if the cage had been keeping her voice suppressed.

“I’m afraid she’s not here sweet pea,” Magnus said, his eyes sad. “But I’m going to help you find her, I promise. For now can I check you over to make sure you’re okay?”

Madzie’s face was pressed into Alec’s chest (to which Magnus was a little bit jealous, he must admit) but she nodded her assent. Magnus raised a hand and blue light once again ran over his fingers, but this time slower and more gentle as it passed over Madzie’s body. He smiled when he found nothing wrong with her and that smile widened as he took the opportunity to send a light jolt of magic in Alec’s direction since he was holding on to the little girl.

Alec’s eyes widened and he forced his body not to jump as magic flitted over him that he could only describe as feeling like the physical embodiment of flirting. He tried to glare at Magnus for being inappropriate but the warlock was conveniently avoiding his gaze.

“Well my dear you are in peak physical condition, but I bet you’re tired and hungry. I’m going to take you to my friend Catarina and she is going to take most excellent care of you,” Magnus said and then his eyes shifted up to Alec and he added, “Assuming that’s okay with the Institute.”

Magnus couldn’t believe when the words left his mouth. He never respected the Clave or the Institute or cared what they wanted, especially when it came to his people, and yet he had just offered this young shadowhunter his full cooperation without a second thought. Get it together Bane, his eyes weren’t that nice.

If Alec noticed Magnus’s brief internal debate he didn’t let on, just hugged Madzie reassuringly and said, “No, that sounds great. I hadn’t planned on interrogating a child. If she tells you anything later that might be useful I’d appreciate a phone call.”

“Of course. Do you have any information on these rogue shadowhunters you’d care to share?”

“Not really. We haven’t ID’ed any of them yet. My sister Isabelle is going through their files, trying to figure out what was going on here. She hasn’t told me anything so far. I’m worried it’s part of something bigger though,” Alec replied, then swept his gaze over the large medical room. “This doesn’t exactly look like a three shadowhunter operation.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Magnus agreed.

“Why didn’t you alert the Institute about the missing warlocks? We could have helped,” Alec said.

Magnus shrugged. “We had no idea it was related to shadowhunters. Do you alert every downworld faction when a shadowhunter goes missing?”

“I guess not.”

Magnus looked around the room once more at the cages and medical equipment and had a terrible sense of déjà vu. He held up a finger in thought and stood up. “Can you watch her for one more moment? There’s something I need to check.”

“Sure,” Alec said, and lifted Madzie up to rest on his hip.

“Thank you,” he said and rushed out. He had seen the body of a dead shadowhunter in the room next door when he came in and he walked over to it now. The man was lying facedown. He rolled him over and took a steadying breath at what he saw.

Magnus wasted no time as he returned to Alec, snapping his fingers to create a portal even as he reached for Madzie.

“All right sweet pea, it’s time to go,” Magnus said, taking her from Alec’s arm.

“What’s wrong?” Alec asked, giving the young warlock up but able to tell something had changed in Magnus’s demeanour.

Magnus paused on his way to the portal. He didn’t trust shadowhunters, it was a hard rule of his, and it was a good rule, just look at what the dead men in this basement had been doing, what they were going to do to a little girl. But he turned around and couldn’t deny that he trusted Alec and his wide eyes. It was an expression that hid nothing, that had no burden of secrets. He counted the years in his head and realized that Alec was young, young enough that he had probably never even heard of the Circle let alone be affiliated with them. The young man had killed Magnus’s enemies that night and saved a young girl so he leaned forward into Alec’s space.

“These men are Circle members, I doubt you even know what that is.” From the expression on Alec’s face it was clear he didn’t. “Ask your parents, or anyone their age, they’ll be able to fill you in. In short, it means Valentine Morganstern is alive and none of the downworld is safe.”

“That’s … okay. I’ll … I’ll look into it,” Alec said, stammering from being out of his depth. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome and be careful. They’re not to be trifled with.”

“You too.”

“I’ve never been one for careful,” Magnus said.

“Maybe you should start.”

Magnus smiled and considered the way his heart had raced as he talked to Alec for the past few minutes. “I don’t think that’s likely.”

“All right, well call me if you learn anything we can use or if you need help,” Alec said stepping back to let Magnus go through his portal.

“I will, and call me for absolutely any reason whatsoever. Good-bye Alec Lightwood.”

“I’ll see you around,” Alec said with a nervous wave that melted Magnus’s heart as he finally stepped through the portal with Madzie.

Yes, Magnus thought, he was very much looking forward to the next time he saw Alec Lightwood.

It turned out he was very wrong, because two months later he finally saw Alec again, at the trial of Jace Herondale for the murder of Ragnor Fell.

Chapter Text

It took every ounce of willpower he had but Alec managed to keep still and appear stoic while he and Maryse waited in the hall outside the Warlock High Council room. On the outside he was fairly certain he looked as cool and detached as his mother but what he wanted to do more than anything was wring his hands, pace the halls and maybe hyperventilate a little because dammit, this was very, very bad. He was possibly only moments away from mentioning again to his mother just how bad this was when an attendant with a horned chin approached them.

“High Warlocks Bane, Romanev and Sawyer will see you now. If you’ll follow me.”

“Thank you,” Maryse said politely, following stiffly behind with Alec next to her.

“Do you know any of these high warlocks?” he asked. The fire message they had received from the council had said that they had permission to attend the proceedings, but had not mentioned who else would be in attendance.

“Unfortunately not. You have full permission to bat your eyelashes or do whatever else you have to do to Magnus Bane to get your brother out of here,” Maryse said in a whisper.

Alec grit his teeth. “You know I’m not charming, mother.”

“Well you’ve done something right, you’re the only shadowhunter at the Institute we know any warlocks respect and I expect you to use that to our full advantage. Your brother’s counting on us.”

Alec wanted to argue that that wasn’t really how respect worked, but swallowed his words, knowing she was ultimately right. They had to do whatever they could to save Jace.

When they reached a set of opulent doors covered in dark crystals the attendant waved her hand, opening the doors with a twirl of orange magic.

“This way,” she said.

Alec wondered if the council room was always so gloomy or if the warlocks changed it on a whim depending on the proceedings they were there to discuss. He guessed the latter, because even though he didn’t know Magnus Bane well, he didn’t think he would agree to attend such dreary meetings all the time. The room was lit down the middle but somehow the shadows along the way contained a glare of light in them. The space was large and nearly empty, making their footsteps echo as they approached the slightly raised dais with five chairs on it, though only three were currently occupied. Magnus sat to the left, his outfit and make-up a somber jet black, a woman who Alec thought was Salendry Romanev was in the middle, her blond her was pulled back to reveal her scaled scalp, and finally was Hartley Sawyer, whose warlock mark was either naturally hidden or glamored, dressed in a three piece suit. All three High Warlocks simmered with anger as they approached the dais.

“Maryse and Alexander Lightwood, from the New York Institute,” the attendant said before bowing and moving off to the side.

“You’re here to defend Jace Herondale?” Sawyer asked before they could make any introduction or thanks. “Who are you to speak for him?”

“I’m the head of the Institute. I’m the one who sent him out on a mission last night. I’m ultimately responsible for Jace and his actions,” Maryse replied and Alec admired her immediate attempt to remove some guilt from Jace’s shoulders.

“I thought that was your job Alexander,” Magnus said, speaking for the first time with just a hint of suspicion in his voice.

Alec’s jaw tightened. That was not a topic he wanted to get into at the moment. “Things have changed since we last spoke. Suffice to say I stepped down a few weeks ago. I’m here because Jace is my parabatai.”

The anger Alec had seen in Magnus’s eyes died down briefly to be replaced with a kind of disappointed sympathy.

“That’s too bad.”

Alec had to bite his tongue to keep from crying out at that. If Magnus was offering his sympathies then the council had already made up their mind and he didn’t know how they were going to get them to change it.

“May we see Jace?” Maryse asked.

Magnus cracked his fingers, seemingly barely able to control his anger at any mention of Jace’s name, but was civil in his response.

“You may see him, but his appearance in this Court will not help his case.”

Romanev nodded at the attendant who left out a back door.

“I apologize but I’m not familiar with the workings of the Council in these matters,” Maryse said, her diplomatic background working overtime. “Will this be Jace’s trial?”

“This is Mr. Herondale’s sentencing,” Sawyer said as if it should be obvious.

Both Lightwoods stood in stunned silence for a moment before Alec stuttered, “But … when was the trial?”

“He confessed,” Magnus said, “No trial was necessary.”

Before Alec could argue the point further the doors at the back of the room opened revealing Jace with his hands cuffed in front of him and two warlock guards to either side. Alec felt his shoulders sag with relief to see he was okay, but then noticed the intensifying glares of the three high warlocks and realized Magnus’s warning had been true; having Ragnor Fell’s killer in the room was going to make this negotiation a lot harder.

“Alec, Maryse,” Jace said and Alec couldn’t tell if he was more relieved or worried to see them.

“Jace, are you all right?” Maryse asked, moving a few steps towards him.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m so sorry,” he said, looking at them both to plead forgiveness.

“It will be okay,” Maryse said. She raised a hand to lay on Jace’s shoulder in comfort but pulled away when green bars suddenly appeared, wrapping Jace in an impenetrable cage to the side of the room.

“I’m curious Ms. Lightwood,” Magnus began, his voice booming with rage, “what you think is “okay” about an innocent warlock being dead? A warlock who was my friend for longer than any of you have been alive.”

Alec cringed, knowing his mother had spoken poorly. She was obviously considering a diplomatic response but before she could form it Jace broke in, his emotions overriding his sense as usual.

“I’m sorry, it was a mistake. I …”

“Jace be quiet,” Maryse hissed but Jace continued.

“I was fighting two Circle members who had a warlock with them and then Ragnor appeared, I thought he was with them, I’m so sorry.” Jace’s wild gaze was looking everywhere now, apologizing to the warlocks and his family members. “When I realized he was aiming his magic at the Circle member behind me it was too late, I’d already thrown my seraph blade.”

“And a good man was dead, whose only crime was trying to save your life,” Warlock Romanev said. All three warlocks looked straight ahead without sympathy, clearly having heard Jace’s platitudes already.

“High Council, I concede, as you said, that Jace has confessed to the crime accused of him,” Maryse said, moving away from Jace to stand next to Alec once more. “However given the circumstances, I request leniency in his sentencing. Mistakes happen in battle. It’s tragic and it doesn’t make the loss any less, but it happens.”

“If you shadowhunters are such wonderfully trained soldiers as you say you should be able to differentiate friend from foe. Accidents shouldn’t happen. Good men shouldn’t die at your hand,” Magnus said.

“The circumstances hardly matter anyway, the punishment for the death of an esteemed warlock is execution,” Sawyer said with a terrifying air of finality.

“Surely there are exceptions,” Alec said, trying and failing to meet Magnus’s gaze.

“Of course, the exception is when no one is murdered, no one is executed,” said Romanev.

“Given the circumstances, that seems extreme,” Maryse said.

“Ragnor Fell lived for eight hundred years, he touched hundreds of lives, he could have changed thousands more, and those of us left behind will grieve him for centuries to come,” Sawyer said. “The punishment for such a loss seems more than fair to me.”

It was clear that Maryse had lost the good will of the warlocks in front of her so Alec cleared his throat, hoping he might still have some sway.

“High Council, there is another factor to consider here. I apologize that there’s no way for me to say this that will not sound like a threat, but the simple fact of the matter is, if you execute Jace, there will be war between the warlocks and Shadowhunters.”

Alec could feel the stillness that took over the room at his words as the steely gaze of all three high warlocks fell on him.

“You’re right,” Magnus said, “that does sound like a threat."

“I didn’t want it to be but it’s true. Jace is a Herondale.”

“Your so-called Shadowhunter royalty,” Romanev supplied with a dismissive wave.

“Yes, his grandmother is the High Inquisitor of the Clave and he’s the last in the Herondale line. Believe me when I say that the Clave will not let that bloodline end. They will stop his execution by any means possible. I believe in justice, I’m not saying you need to let him go, but we need to find another way, please,” Alec said and noticed Magnus was finally looking at him again, his eyes softer than moments before. “I don’t want to see our peoples at war.”

“What do you suggest?” Magnus asked.

“You must have some kind of prison system. I know you’re a fair people, you don’t execute everyone who commits a crime.”

Warlock Sawyer shook his head to the idea. “When we sentence a criminal to imprisonment they are sent to one of thirteen dimensions of hell. If your desire is to spare the boy’s life then it’s not an option.”

“A nephilim could no more survive there than a downworlder could survive in heaven,” Romanev added.

“Then we’ll imprison him,” Alec said, still looking at Magnus, too scared to look at Jace or his mother to see their reaction to his suggestion. “He’ll serve his life behind bars in a Shadowhunter jail.”

“Oh, and where will you do that?” Romanev asked with an edge to her voice. “In your prison in Alicante, the city no downworlder may visit? No, I will not have your ‘shadowhunter royalty’ sent to live a life of seclusion and luxury away from the reach of the downworld. His crime was against a warlock and his punishment will be administered by warlocks. That is non-negotiable.”

Alec’s shoulders slumped in defeat. He took a steadying breath and looked around the room, hoping inspiration may strike for some other tactic, but when his eyes landed on Jace his whole body went rigid. His parabatai was looking at him with a soft smile of gratitude and acceptance that said he appreciated Alec’s efforts but he knew his fate was sealed.

“It seems we are back where we started,” Sawyer said. Alec touched his parabatai rune subconsciously as he felt tears start to prick at his eyes. He had no other cards to play. He couldn’t save his brother.

“I may have a solution,” Alec’s head snapped up to find Magnus looking directly at him, clearly waiting until he had Alec’s full attention before continuing. “A Life Debt could be paid.”

Sawyer hummed in consideration while Romanev’s brow furrowed.

“It’s been fifty years since I’ve seen a Life Debt filled,” Romanev said.

“But it happens and could apply here.”

Alec looked at his mom and Jace out of the corner of his eye and saw no recognition on their face at the term. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what a Life Debt is.”

“It’s a contract where someone agrees to serve the beneficiary of a murdered warlock for the rest of their life, in payment for the life lost,” Magnus explained.

Alec licked his lips, scared to let the hope blossoming in his stomach take over his whole being. “And who is the beneficiary of Ragnor Fell’s life?”

“That would be me,” Magnus said, leaning back in his chair.

It felt like Alec was physically pushing down his emotions as he tried to speak. Surely Magnus wouldn’t offer this option to let Jace live if he wasn’t willing to fulfill it. Maybe they had a chance.

“So if he signed this Life Debt then Jace would … be in your service … for the rest of his life?” Alec asked.

“No,” Magnus said flatly, turning to glare at Jace in his cage. “I never want to see this man again, and I especially don’t wish to see him every day for the rest of his life.”

“Then why even mention it?”

“You are his parabatai. I’m willing to let you, and only you, fulfill the Life Debt in his place.”

Alec’s jaw dropped open. He hadn’t expected that. He had been readying himself for the loss of his parabatai, not the loss of his own life. Before he could form a full thought on the matter his body jolted in surprise as Jace banged his cuffed wrists hard against the bars of his cage.

“No!” he shouted. “No! You can’t do that. Alec didn’t do anything wrong!”

“He chose his parabatai poorly, that’s one thing,” Magnus muttered in response.

Alec took a steadying breath and looked up at the other two warlocks. “Would … would that be acceptable to all of you?”

While the other two considered it Magnus leaned towards them to make his case. “Parabatai share a soul bond and are essentially a part of each other. Considering this deep connection I believe allowing one parabatai to pay the debt of another is reasonable.”

“You are Ragnor’s beneficiary Magnus. If this is the sentence you desire, I have no objection to it,” Sawyer said to which Romenav nodded her agreement.

Alec looked at his mother who had been uncharacteristically silent. She stood rigidly and looked at her son with tears in her eyes but duty in her spine. She would make no objection. He wished he was surprised.

He swallowed his emotions again and looked back up at Magnus.

“Are there any other conditions?”

“No! Alec don’t do this! Not for me! Don’t you dare! We’ll find another way, please!”

Alec’s jaw flinched from hearing the agony in his parabatai’s voice. Magnus waved a hand without turning and placed a silent ward on Jace’s cell. Alec could see he was still screaming and beating on the cage mercilessly but he could no longer hear what his brother was shouting.

“The standard conditions would apply,” Magnus said after Jace was silenced, “you would serve me in any capacity I request of you to the best of your ability for the remainder of your life. In this particular case I would add two secondary conditions that you can never return to the New York Institute and you may never again contact your parabatai in any way. If these conditions are broken by either of you, you will both face execution by the High Council.”

Alec’s hand went to his hip. “You say we can’t contact each other, our rune …”

“Will remain intact,” Magnus said. “Any other form of communication will not be tolerated.”

“And Jace will receive no other punishment?” Alec asked, needing this clarity. Considering Magnus was Ragnor's closest friend he found it strange that he would be willing to accept letting Jace walk out of here free and clear.

Magnus remained resolute but his eyes softened. “I know how deeply the parabatai bond runs. Jace will live missing a part of his soul for the rest of his life, and must live with the knowledge that it’s no one’s fault but his own. Not being with the person you love is a torture far worse than a quick death. I will consider it punishment enough in this matter.”

Alec nodded and was about to voice his acceptance of the offer when Magnus continued speaking as though he could sense what Alec was about to say.

“Before this goes any further I must make clear, you did not perform the offence that this Life Debt will pay back Alexander Lightwood, therefore I will not demand you sign into this contract to resolve this matter. I offer it to you to sign willingly as a way to save your parabatai. But I will only offer once.”

Alec placed his hands behind his back and fell into a soldier’s resting stance. He could feel his voice crack even before he spoke.

“I accept.”

He felt his mother’s hand grip his arm in support or perhaps comfort but he couldn’t turn to acknowledge her. In the corner of his eye he could see Jace explode, beating mercilessly on the bars, undoubtedly begging Alec not to do this. But as much as Magnus had given him a choice, it was no choice at all. Either live without Jace or let Jace be executed and fall into an all out war with the warlocks. Neither were good choices, but the best choice was clear.

Magnus closed his eyes and nodded respectfully in Alec’s direction. “Very well.”

Magnus waved his hand and a table appeared in front of Alec with a contract and pen. Alec felt his body shudder, overwhelmed. It was all happening so fast.

“Wait,” a voice interrupted Alec’s panic. He looked up to see it was Warlock Sawyer, leaning forward, brow furrowed in concern. “Let us speak plainly, we are allowing an exception in this matter because the accused is a Herondale. But the Lightwood family is also held in high regard. How can we be assured that if the warlocks claim this boy there will be no retribution sought by the Clave?”

Alec felt his mother’s hand pull away as she straightened to address the council. “Obviously no outcome offered here today is desirable, but this is Alec’s decision and I will support it, as will the Clave. As well, I have another son and a daughter. Unlike the Herondales, the Lightwood name will continue.”

“He is your eldest and the former head of your institute,” Sawyer said, clearly feeling there should be more resistance to the contract.

Alec looked at the floor and ground his teeth together. He knew his mother would cast him aside without hesitation and he knew the Clave would celebrate when he was gone, but it didn’t make it any less hurtful or embarrassing. He lifted his head determined not to make his mother answer twice that she was willing to throw him away for Jace.

“With all due respect Warlock Sawyer, I’m the former head of the institute for a reason. I promise you, the Clave will have no qualms with me being gone.”

“Very well. In that case I have no further concerns with this matter,” Sawyer said. Romanev waved her hand to indicate the same.

Magnus leaned forward and gestured towards the table with the contract.

“Then Alexander, it is up to you to decide if this matter is settled.”

Alec stared down at the contract and felt like he couldn’t breathe. He looked up at Jace one more time. His parabatai had calmed down, he must have realized he could no longer be heard, but he had tears streaming down his cheeks and he shook his head vehemently, mouthing the word “no” over and over again, silently begging Alec not to do it. If he signed this it would be the last time he would see his brother, this would be their last moment, and he couldn’t even talk to him, couldn’t even tell him what he meant to him. His knees went weak at the thought and suddenly a hand was on his arm, steadying him.

He turned to his mother who had tears in her eyes, presumably fueled by love, and yet she wouldn’t fight for him. Not even once. She inclined her head towards the contract and nodded.

“The honor comes from the deed,” she reminded him. And her expression said everything. She would be so proud of him if he did this. If he chose duty and the institution that hated him over his own life.

He hardened his heart and hated her just a little bit, but he picked up the pen, pricked his finger and signed the contract in his own blood. Standing up he passed the contract back with shaking fingers.

Alexander Lightwood officially belonged to Magnus Bane.

Jace was banging on the cage again. Alec couldn’t look at him.

Magnus examined the signature then rolled up the contract and snapped his fingers, magically filing it away.

“This is all in order which means this matter is complete,” Magnus said with a flourish, getting to his feet he walked down from the dais.

Warlocks Sawyer and Romanev got to their feet as well. The matter settled, they walked down the steps and each formed a portal to leave through.

Magnus opened a portal of his own and held out his hand. “Alexander, if you please …”

Alec hesitated, unable to make his legs take that first step.

His mother’s hand was still on his arm and suddenly he was being spun around and hugged harder than he ever had in his entire life. Alec collapsed into the embrace, cradling the back of her head to bring her closer.

“Tell Izzy and Max that I love them, and that I’m sorry.”

“No Alec, don’t be sorry. You are so brave and I am so proud of you.”

He wanted to cry. Of course this was what made her proud.

“Just tell them.”

“I will.”

“And take care of Jace, he’s …”

“I know. I will. I love you Alec.”

“I love you too Mom. Good-bye.”

He released her slowly and turned around. Magnus was waiting patiently. He wasn’t even watching Alec, he was looking at Jace. He didn't look happy but there was a certain satisfaction in his face. Alec followed his gaze and saw Jace was still pounding on the bars but stopped when he met Alec’s eye. Alec forced himself to smile, as if to say it was okay, he would be okay. Jace shook his head in disagreement but that was all they could say each other. Alec had to go. He walked up to Magnus and took a steadying breath.

“I’m ready.”

Magnus smirked, “I highly doubt that.” Then he disappeared.

Alec stepped through after him, ending his life as a Shadowhunter. A very different life was waiting for him on the other end.

Chapter Text

Alec stepped out of the portal and into … an elegantly decorated penthouse apartment.

“Um … where are we?” he asked.

“My home,” Magnus said as he hung up his coat.

“Not what I expected,” Alec muttered.

“What exactly were you expecting? Slaving away in some warlock dungeon?” Magnus asked almost on autopilot now as he set about moving around the apartment, picking up books to shelve and cocktail glasses to put away.

“I didn’t really have time to think about it.”

“Well I hope you’re not too disappointed, those warlock dungeons really are something else,” Magnus called out from the hall.

“Um, no, not disappointed at all,” Alec mumbled, standing awkwardly in the living room until Magnus came back in. The warlock looked unsure himself about what to do next and floundered for a moment before he lit up.

“Let me give you a tour,” Magnus offered, his voice tight with discomfort.

“Sounds good.”

“My apologies that I don’t have things sorted for you, I wasn’t exactly planning on signing a Life Debt today.”

“Yeah, that makes two of us,” Alec said as he gazed around to take in the details of everything they passed.

“Basically any door that’s not locked you’re welcome to enter, any book on display you’re welcome to read, any cupboard you can open, you’re welcome to the contents,” Magnus said as he pointed out the obvious features of bathrooms, linen closets, kitchen, balcony. They circled back to the living room where Magnus pointed to a closed door. “That’s my bedroom and of course, my door is always open, especially to you.”

Magnus touched Alec’s arm as he said this and smiled flirtatiously and Alec felt all the blood drain from his face.

“Oh! …um … I …” He could feel himself hyperventilating as he realized the implications of exactly what he had agreed to when he had signed his unbreakable Life Debt to serve Magnus Bane in any capacity. His arms flailed helplessly in panic while he tried to speak. “Will I … be … uh …”

Magnus stopped in his tracks, eyebrow raised in confusion as he tried to figure out Alec’s stuttering gestures.

“Alexander, hey, just breathe, it’s all right,” Magnus said and demonstrated taking a deep breath.

Alec followed his advice and got a shaky breath in then stammered out, “Will I be … in there … with you? In your bedroom?”

If possible Magnus’s face went as pale as Alec’s had a moment earlier when he realized what Alec was asking.

“Oh, no. No, Alexander that will not be part of your services, I swear to you,” Magnus said, only barely restraining himself from adding unless you’d like them to be. It was for the best that he didn’t because as it was Alec released such a huge sigh of relief he had to steady himself against the wall. It was only then Magnus realized that this was perhaps all a bit much.

“Why don’t we sit?” he suggested, leading Alec to one of the couches in the living room.

“Yeah okay,” Alec said, more than willing to be led. Magnus sat him down and walked away. Just as Alec was breathing semi-normally again Magnus reappeared handing him a full glass of something alcoholic. Alec wasn’t sure what it was because he didn’t drink but he took the offered glass anyway because he was sure as hell about to start.

“I think we’ll both need this,” Magnus said taking a sip of his own drink before he looked at Alec. “And I think we need to start with an apology.”

“I’m sorry,” Alec said instantly, downing half his drink.

“Not from you,” Magnus said softly and waited for Alec to look at him. “From me. First of all for that … terrible misunderstanding. I know we don’t know each other well and I can be flirtatious, but I promise you I will never ask anything of you in a sexual regard as part of your Life Debt. That will not be the basis of this relationship.”

Alec nodded, very relieved to hear Magnus say that, and took another swig of his drink with a grimace. “Thank you. And I’m sorry for … thinking that. It’s just … this is all really sudden and … you have kind of a reputation.”

“Hopefully not a reputation for that,” Magnus muttered into his drink but honestly couldn’t be angry at Alec’s reaction.

“So … what will be the ‘basis of our relationship’? What am I going to be doing here?” Alec asked. Now that the worst thing he could imagine was off the table, it couldn’t be too bad, he hoped.

“Well if you have any interest in potion work or spell crafting you’re welcome to help me prepare products for my clients, some of them are a bit testy and I’d love not to have to deal with them, but the main function I was going to have you serve was security. For me.”

“Security? You’re the High Warlock of Brooklyn. You created the wards that the Institute uses.”

Magnus hummed his agreement into his glass. “This is true, but the Circle is getting stronger everyday. I fear I’m going to be a target for Valentine very soon, if I’m not already. A little extra security around here never hurts. Plus, I may be proficient at protecting myself but the warlocks under my charge are not. With the Circle attacking more frequently I’ll need help protecting them as well.”

“What can I do?”

“You can be a Shadowhunter, which is what I need more than anything. Warlocks I know how to handle, but the Circle is made up entirely of Shadowhunters, you know how they think, how they fight, their strategies, what they’re capable of. And you’re a soldier who actually cares about downworlders. I saw that clear enough the night you called for my help with Madzie. I can sincerely say there’s no one my people need more in this war than you, Alexander Lightwood.”

“Oh.”

“Oh?” Magnus repeated, waving his hand to coax more of a response out of Alec.

“It’s just … that sounds kind of great,” Alec said, though he looked as surprised to be saying it as Magnus was to hear it.

“It does?”

“Yeah. I … I like helping people, it’s all I really know how to do. Well that and admin. So I don’t want to stop doing that. Helping people, I mean, not admin, I’m not gonna miss admin,” Alec closed his eyes and took a breath to collect his rambling thoughts. “What I mean is, I’m happy to help you protect your people Magnus.”

Magnus laughed a little, his mouth curling up slightly. “You truly are full of surprises Alexander.”

“Are you really sure you need me?” Alec asked, his tone belying more self doubt than disagreement with Magnus’s assessment. “I always think of you warlocks as being so powerful.”

“True, but with power can come … complacency. Warlocks are not accustomed to adversity. Most of them glamour their mark and live cushy lives as mundanes, magicking away every problem they have. Warlocks aren’t soldiers, they don’t know how to fight a war, and to be honest most of them freeze like a mundane the second they’re threatened. Some of them are willing to fight of course, but their skills can be … sorely lacking,” Magnus said. Alec didn’t miss the drop in Magnus’s voice after he paused.

“Ragnor?” he asked.

“Yes. He wasn’t a fighter, he was a healer, but the fool believed in Shadowhunters, he’s even taught at your institutes. I’m not surprised he jumped in to help your parabatai, and I probably shouldn’t be surprised it got him killed, but I guess I am,” Magnus said, trailing off at the end and staring into space.

Alec cleared his throat and shifted awkwardly. “I didn’t get a chance to say that I’m sorry, about Ragnor. I thought Jace and I were close but, having a friend for three hundred years, that’s … I can’t imagine. I don’t know if this will help but I know Jace, I know this was an accident.”

Magnus huffed through his nose, “It doesn’t make me feel any better knowing I lost my oldest friend because your parabatai is careless with others’ lives as opposed to malicious.”

Alec had no response to that and silence hung for a moment until Magnus shook his head and perked up.

“Right, I never got around to my second apology.”

“For what?” Alec asked softly.

“This Life Debt was not yours to repay.”

“No, no don’t apologize, please,” Alec said cutting him off. “You were the only one on the council who didn’t seem determined to have Jace killed. You’re the only one who offered another way. Jace is alive because of you, because of this contract, and that … that means everything. ”

“Still, it should be Jace here, ripped away from everything he knows, not you. I’m aware that I was being selfish offering to let you fill the debt in his place. It wasn’t fair. I want justice for my friend but I don’t want his killer in my life and my home, reminding me everyday of what’s been done.”

“And I won’t remind you of that?”

“No,” Magnus said definitively. “When I think of you I think of the Shadowhunter who was the head of the New York Institute, but still sat on the floor with a scared little warlock girl, and told her everything will be okay. It feels foolish to say because you likely hate me for what I’ve done today, but I trust you Alexander.”

Alec looked at the floor and played with his glass as he shrugged. “Doesn’t sound foolish at all, cause I trust you too. I don’t know why. And I don’t hate you. Like I said, Jace is alive because of you, even though you have every right to want him dead. What you did was merciful.”

Magnus shook his head in fond sadness, “Oh Alexander, you are so young. I admit, I only considered the idea of a Life Debt because Jace is your parabatai. But then I realized how truly fitting it would be for his punishment to be to lose someone he loved as I had. You saw Jace’s reaction when you signed this contract. He was a thousand times more upset about losing you than he was by the notion of his own death. That was the whole point.” Magnus finished his drink and stood up to leave the room, a haunted look in his eye. “Make no mistake, what I’ve done is cruel.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Alec didn’t know how long he sat with his drink in the living room but eventually Magnus returned, beckoning him to the hall.

“Let me show you your room.”

Alec finished off his drink and followed him. His room was on the other side of the loft from Magnus’s but was about the same size as his room at the institute, only with several book shelves inside and a full ensuite bathroom. Alec spied a new toothbrush and toiletries in the bathroom and noticed the drawers were filled with clothing.

“I believe you’ve got everything you’ll need for the evening. Think about anything you may need, paintings, curtains, we can redecorate tomorrow if anything’s not to your liking. Within reason. No Warhols though. We had a big falling out over the damn soup can, I don’t even want to discuss it.”

Alec looked over the silk sheets and plush rugs and pillows everywhere. They were opulent and classy and they weren’t his style, but they were kind of nice.

“This is great. Thanks,” Alec said not moving out of the doorway.

“You seem tense, like you’re waiting for the warlock dungeon to appear or something.”

Alec shrugged and moved to look over the books on his shelves. “You’ll show it to me when you’re ready.”

It took Magnus a moment to comprehend that Alec had actually made a joke and chuckled softly. “I have to save something for day two.”

“I’m sure you’ll come up with something great.”

“Yes, well, not tonight. I’m afraid I have to go out for a few hours.”

Alec stood up straighter, “Should I go with you? For protection?”

“No, thank you. We’ll go over all of that tomorrow. Tonight I should be quite safe, I’ll be attending Ragnor’s wake. Probably best if I don’t show up with a shadowhunter in tow,” Magnus said.

“Probably best,” Alec agreed.

“It will however give me a chance to explain the situation to the other warlocks so they know to expect you in the future. Can I get you anything before I go?”

My old life back, Alec almost said, but instead shook his head. “I’ll be fine.”

“Very well. As I said, you have the run of the place. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

“Thanks.”

Magnus waved his fingers in an awkward goodbye wave then walked away. Alec sat down on the edge of his bed and listened until he heard a portal open then close in the living room before he dropped his head into his hands. He focused on just breathing for a bit and tried to decide if he wanted to have a full emotional breakdown now or push it all down to come out later.

He focused on his parabatai bond and decided to push it down for now for Jace’s sake. He couldn’t fully hide his emotions from his parabatai but they could definitely tell when the other was feeling something intensely as opposed to a simmering emotional distress. Like right now, Jace was experiencing stomach turning panic, guilt and worry, and Alec wouldn’t let himself add to Jace’s pain by freaking out as well. He focused on steadying his breathing and reminding himself to be happy Jace was alive instead of upset they were separated.

“Come on Jace, I’m fine. I know you can feel it. I’m okay,” he said aloud, hoping he could convince himself of the same thing. What he needed was a distraction. If he just sat here alone he would be consumed with self pity soon enough. He needed something to do to keep him sane. He got up and pulled open the dresser drawers until he found sweat pants and a plain t-shirt. After he changed he went out on the balcony, pushed some chairs out of the way and started working out, hard, running through every form he knew, dropping into push-ups and sit-ups, kicks and punches. It helped, a little, focusing on his movements instead of his emotions. It didn’t however help him notice the white blur that ran through his legs with a seeming death wish.

“What the hell …?”

It was dark and the balcony wasn’t well lit, but the echo of a soft meow let him know that it was just a cat.

“Hey little guy,” Alec said, kneeling down to inspect the cat twirling around his legs. “Magnus didn’t mention you. I’ll have to ask him your name.”

He sat on the ground and the cat immediately started to walk over him, eventually laying in his lap and stretching out. He pet the cat behind the ears and felt his heart rate dropping comfortably.

“Thanks. Good thing we’re getting along. I’m going to be here for awhile with you. I’m Alec. I guess I’m here to protect you.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

The next morning Alec went out on the balcony to find Magnus already there flipping through a photo album with one hand while the other was petting the cat Alec had met the night before.

“Morning,” he said in greeting.

Magnus looked up from the album and quickly put on a fake smile over the obvious heartache he was feeling. Alec had to assume he was looking at photos of Ragnor. “Good morning. How did you sleep?”

“Fine,” Alec said, looking out at the city to give Magnus some privacy to collect his emotions.

“I’m surprised,” Magnus said. “I never sleep well in a new place the first night.”

Alec shrugged.

“Sleep rune,” he said simply, not about to mention how his own anxiety, mixed with the shattering guilt and anger he felt from Jace all night, had made natural sleep next to impossible.

“Ah. Must come in handy.”

“Sometimes,” Alec said. Magnus was slowly putting away the album as though trying not to draw attention to it, so Alec decided not to ask.

“What’s his name?” he asked instead, pointing at the cat.

Magnus’s face lit up. “Ah, well this dignified gentleman is Chairman Meow annnnnddddd the rest of them don’t have names.”

“Rest of them?” Alec leaned forward to see the full balcony. In the daylight he could see at least three more cats milling around, which made four altogether. “Oh. You only named one of your cats?”

“The Chairman is the only cat I actually own of my volition, the rest just come and go as they please,” Magnus explained.

“Come and go as they please? How? You live in a warded penthouse apartment,” Alec pointed out.

Magnus looked like he was about to answer and then his face dropped. “Now that you mention it I have no idea.”

“Wow,” Alec said. “You really do need help with your security.”

Magnus’s brow was furrowed with concern as he looked over his harem of cats. “It would seem that I do. Well no time like the present. Shall we start sprucing up the place?”

Judging by Magnus’s enthusiasm Alec wasn’t the only one eager to distract himself with work, which was good. He didn’t know what he would do if he had to go through the day with no tasks to distract him from his emotional state like he had last night.

“Yeah, just let me eat first?” Alec said, turning back into the apartment.

“Of course, take your time,” Magnus said with a distracted wave. Once Alec was out of sight he knelt down to look over the cats lounging in his sun chairs. He picked up the one nearest to him suspiciously.

“How did you get here?” he whispered to it. When Alec suddenly reappeared in the doorway he put the cat down quickly and casually walked back over to his coffee cup.

“Slight problem,” Alec said, leaning against the doorframe once more. “Literally the only thing in your kitchen is alcohol.”

“Ah, well, what else do you need really?” Magnus said, looking mildly embarrassed. “Apologies, I conjure most of my meals. I’ll stock us up on the essentials later. Feel free to make me a list of anything you’d like on hand. For now, let me make you something. What would you like?”

Alec shrugged. “Eggs, bacon and toast.”

“From what country?”

Alec rolled his eyes but looked amused. “Surprise me.”

Magnus snapped his fingers and a silver tray appeared on the balcony table with a full traditional breakfast, coffee and juice.

“I probably wouldn’t have food in the house either if I could do that. Thanks,” Alec said, sitting down.

“It’s no trouble.”

Alec looked over his meal, which looked delicious, but the croissant didn’t escape his notice.

“Paris?” he asked, trying to guess where Magnus had conjured it from.

“Paris is overrated. This is from a secluded café in Nice, which was always a godsend to my hangover after a night drinking on the Riviera.”

“It looks great. But I have to point out that this,” he picked up the croissant, “isn’t toast.”

Magnus said nothing but watched as Alec took a smug bite of his croissant and then his face melted with joy.

“Oh my god this is amazing.”

It was Magnus’s turn to look smug as he took a sip of his coffee. “Remember that and have more faith in me next time I conjure you something.”

“I might just want this everyday.”

“In that case I’d probably just start taking us to Nice in the morning.”

“Doesn’t sound too bad,” Alec said, switching over to his bacon and noticing one of the cats coming over to investigate his food. “Were you messing with me before or do you really not know how these cats get here?”

Magnus looked the cats over with wide eyes and an embarrassed shake of his head. “I sincerely have no idea. I’ve been taking in strays for centuries in countries all over the world, it never occurred to me that I shouldn’t be able to do that 28 stories up.”

“Okay well then we really have to talk about your security. What do you have up right now?” Alec asked.

“I keep the standard wards up at all times, they cover every entrance on the floor and are set to let me know if anyone tries to get through.”

“Have you ever had an issue?”

“Besides the cats, no.”

“Does anyone else have access to get in here?”

“A very select group of friends can pass through without my permission, Catarina, Madzie, yourself …”

“So you think you have this place covered then?”

“I can’t think of how the Circle could possibly get in but,” Magnus raised an eyebrow at Alec, “I’m not a Shadowhunter.”

“Luckily you know someone who is,” Alec said and looked thoughtful as he took a sip of his coffee. “Can you remove my ability to pass through your wards?”

“Of course, but why?”

“It’s kind of hard to see if I can break into this place when all the locks automatically open for me.”

“You’re going to break into my apartment?”

Alec shrugged playfully, “I’m going to try.”

Magnus looked amused at the idea. “All right, but I’ve got clients coming over in a few hours.”

“I won’t bother them. Or you. Just go about your business and … I’ll see if I can figure out a way to murder you.”

Magnus gave him a withering smile. “Fun.”

A gray and black tabby curled around Alec’s legs and meowed for attention. Alec looked Magnus in the eyes. “And the cat thing, I’m gonna try to figure out the cat thing.”

Magnus nodded enthusiastically. “We’ve got to figure out the cat thing.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|

When Alec finished eating Magnus cleared the plates and ushered them inside.

“I know you want to get a head start on trying to kill me but let me get you sorted first before my clients arrive,” Magnus said, stopping outside of Alec’s bedroom door. “There was nothing you needed last night? Hypoallergenic pillows? White noise machine?”

“I’m good Magnus, thanks,” Alec said, “I don’t really need much.”

“Fine, we’ll work up to me pampering you. Moving on …” Magnus waved them to the very end of the hall where he opened a door to yet another bedroom. “This should do.”

“I don’t need two bedrooms,” Alec said, confused why they were here.

“No, but I assume you’re going to need somewhere to train to keep those Shadowhunter skills up to snuff. Push back that wall a little and this should be big enough for a personal gym.”

Alec perked up at the idea but didn’t want to be an inconvenience. “Yeah, that could work. The balcony’s pretty big, I can keep working out out there until we get it set up.”

Magnus rolled his eyes in mock hurt, “Alexander, you continue to have no idea who you’re speaking to.”

Alec wasn’t sure what he meant, but watched as Magnus walked into the middle of the bedroom and took a steadying breath. Whatever he was about to do was going to take more magic than the usual snap of his fingers, that was for sure. Alec braced himself as Magnus pushed both hands to the floor, blue magic snapping around them and then brought them up quickly towards the ceiling. A blinding flash of light made Alec blink harshly and the sight before him made him do it again. Alec had thought Magnus was maybe going to move the wall or some of the furniture, what he hadn’t expected was to see a fully furnished gym almost exactly like the training area of the institute where the bedroom had been a moment before.

Magnus was panting with mild exertion but held his hands open wide in invitation.

“Well, what do you think?”

“Wow. I didn’t know you could do that.”

“Oh Alec, the things you’ll learn about me,” Magnus said with a wink but then started moving around the room. “Let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed or that you’d like.”

“Well if I’m supposed to be protecting you I’m going to need weapons eventually,” Alec said as he examined the kendo sticks on the wall. “All I’ve got is my stele.”

“Ah, of course. How could I forget?” Magnus waved his hands once more and a small table appeared with a bow and arrows, two seraph blades and a seraph knife.

Alec’s eyes went wide as he moved to inspect them.

“Are these real? Wait … these are mine,” he said as he picked up the bow. The weight and grip were achingly familiar and undeniably the same as the weapon he’d been using most of his life. “Please tell me you didn’t steal these from the Institute.”

“Of course not, I may be High Warlock but I don’t go around breaking the Accords willy nilly. You handed these over to the attendant when you entered the High Council Room yesterday. I merely, hung on to them.”

Alec sighed in relief and then smiled as he picked up his blades, feeling more like himself than he had since arriving. His parabatai rune still constantly ached from Jace’s emotional turmoil, but his weapons made him feel like he had a small piece of himself back.

“Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure. Well, I’ll let you suit up or whatever you do. Let me know when you want me to remove your access to the wards. I’m eager to see how you do trying to murder me. Hypothetically.”

Alec smiled confidently as he strapped his knife holster to his thigh.

“I’ll head out now. Wish me luck,” he said, patting Magnus on the shoulder as he walked by.

Magnus’s face pinched with displeasure as he huffed, “I don’t think I will.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

“Take care, my dear, and if you need any help destroying his belongings, don’t hesitate to reach out,” Magnus said as he stood at the door holding his client’s hands in farewell.

“I won’t. Thank you Magnus, you’ve been a true friend,” she said, kissing his cheek before finally turning to leave down the hallway. Magnus waved away the smell of alcohol and rolled his eyes.

“Let’s see if you say that after you get my bill,” he muttered, clearing away cups grumpily. What he had thought would be a short consultation had turned into a tear-filled morning of grief-cocktails as his client brought him her husband’s shirt so he could track where he was, which turned out not to be on a business trip to Kansas as he had said, but right here in New York in a hotel room. The client had been too emotionally distraught for Magnus to boot out the door immediately, but considering the turmoil his own emotions had been going through the last few days, he had little patience for her drama.

He sighed in relief to have her gone, turned to put the cups away and nearly jumped out of his skin.

Alec was standing in the doorway, smiling apologetically.

“Sorry Magnus, but, you’re dead.”

“Honestly, at this point it’s a relief,” he said, turning back to his task of cleaning up.

“Yeah that … took forever,” Alec said. “I’ve been in the hall for like an hour.”

Magnus smiled at the image of Alec glamoured standing in an open hallway waiting for his client to stop crying before he swept in to fake murder him.

“At least you didn’t have to make her cocktails. So, what was the ultimate cause of my undoing?” Magnus asked, walking out to the kitchen with the cups.

“You completely drop your wards for your clients,” Alec said, unable to keep the hint of reprimand out of his voice.

“Yes, darling, they have to be able to get into the building.”

“Your hallway wards were down for eight minutes while that woman was leaving.”

“Clients are always like that,” Magnus sighed. “They spend thirty minutes pretending they just want something simple, like a potion to make their skin look a little nicer and then just as their hand touches the doorknob they remember, oh, since I’m here, do you have anything that can kill my husband untraceably?”

“That woman wanted to murder her husband?”

“I talked her down to wiping him out in a divorce. She’s on her way to catch him red-handed right now.”

Alec shook his head. Mundanes. “Well that doesn’t change the fact that your wards are down too long and take too long to reset. Anyone who learns your client schedules could sneak right in.”

Magnus sat down at the kitchen table. He had no argument for Alec’s points so swept his arms open. “Not exactly preferable. What do you suggest?”

“You could set up a two tiered ward system. One at the elevator and one at the door and then keep one tier up at all times.”

“Like an airlock,” Magnus said, catching on to Alec’s reasoning.

“Exactly. Then your clients can chat in the hall as long as they want cause the elevator’s still warded. And gives you a second layer of defence if anyone tries to break through with brute force.”

“I’ll have to rearrange my ward placements, but … I think I can make that work. We’ll try out some variations after I see my next client. I should probably brew their order before they get here,” Magnus said, cringing and moving to his workspace to conjure up a giant pot and start mixing ingredients.

“Don’t replace my ward access yet then, I have a few more things to test out while you do that.”

“Would you like a book in case another soon-to-be-widow traps you in the hall again?” Magnus teased.

“You said she wasn’t going to murder her husband!”

Magnus waved a hand dismissively. “There are no guarantees in this life Alexander.”

“Typical,” Alec mumbled and walked out the door.

As soon as he was gone Magnus tightened and rearranged a few of his wards, creating a quick version of the two-tiered system they had talked about and adding extra sensitivity to the entry point wards. He smiled smugly as he sprinkled Ravener scales into his cauldron.

“Let’s see him get through that.”

An hour later Magnus was pouring his potion carefully into a vial. When he looked up he saw Alec sauntering into the living room. Eating a yogurt.

“Decided to grab a snack before I killed you this time,” Alec explained, spoon scraping the bottom of the container. “Thanks for getting these by the way. They’re my favorite.”

Magnus was certain his jaw was on the floor. “How?”

Alec pointed directly up. “You don’t have wards on the roof.”

“How did you get on the roof?” Magnus asked. He hadn’t sensed anyone on the balcony and the building didn’t have a fire escape, it was just smooth concrete all the way down.

“I climbed the building next door and used an arrow to create a zipline. Which, I’d never done before. It was pretty cool.” The last part he said mostly to himself.

“You’re enjoying this too much.”

Alec shrugged innocently, but had to admit to himself his competitive nature was definitely showing. “Oh and I broke through your skylight. Easily.”

“You’ve made your point. I’ll add wards to the roof!” Magnus exclaimed, exasperated. “Now get out, my client will be here shortly.”

“Don’t let this one kill anybody, please,” Alec said, disappearing back down the hallway.

“Don’t let the skylight hit you on the way out!” Magnus yelled back. “Wait, what about the cats?”

“I’m working on it!”

Chapter Text

Magnus’s next client was a regular who was out the door quickly after getting his monthly fix of special sauces to magically spruce up the meals he served at his restaurant. Magnus made a little extra for himself and sprinkled it on the late lunch he summoned up for him and Alec and was delighted by Alec’s wide-eyed enjoyment. After that he reset his wards more thoroughly as per Alec’s suggestions and then sent the Shadowhunter out to try to get in once more.

Two hours later Magnus got a text from Alec saying he couldn’t find a way through and asked to be let back in. Magnus smiled smugly as he read it and waited twenty minutes before he gave him access again.

“Cute,” Alec said as he walked through the door referring to being locked out for so long.

“Thank you, I try,” Magnus said, smiling contently as he feigned reading a book.

Before Alec could reply a white and orange blur raced past his face and went straight towards Magnus. The warlock plucked the fire message out of the air and opened it. As he read it his smile slowly melted and his shoulders began to slump.

“Everything okay?” Alec asked.

Magnus clenched his jaw. “Another warlock has gone missing. Mikaela Meadows.”

“I’m sorry. Do you know her?”

“No, but she’s the third one in two months,” Magnus said, clearly enraged.

“The Circle?”

“Who else?” Magnus asked, standing up and waving a hand at the wall of his living room. Suddenly a corkboard appeared with six photos of warlocks sorted into two rows, one labeled MURDERED the other MISSING. Alec’s eyes went wide at one of the photos in the MISSING section.

“Wait, that’s Madzie. Did they come after her again?”

“Oh no, not to worry dear boy, she’s safe and sound with Catarina,” Magnus said. “I’m trying to figure out what the kidnapped warlocks have in common though so I’ve left Madzie up there as a consideration.”

Alec sighed with relief and looked at the board again. Next to Madzie was a picture of a red-haired woman. “You said her Nana was taken when she was?”

“Yes, Iris Rouse, she was likely the intended target. There’s been no sign of her at all.”

“Did Madzie ever talk about it?”

Magnus shook his head. “She doesn’t talk much.”

Alec nodded in understanding and looked over the board again. The only warlocks he recognized were Madzie and then Ragnor Fell in the MURDERED column.

“Why do you have Ragnor there? He wasn’t killed by The Circle.”

“Not technically, but I think he was being targeted the day he died. Ragnor was a very private man and a bit of a recluse in recent years. I don’t know what he was doing downtown that day but I find it unlikely that he just happened upon a battle involving the Circle and your parabatai.”

“You think the Circle was following Ragnor and Jace is the one who interrupted them.”

“I do. The Circle has been targeting downworlders after all, not Shadowhunters.”

“Okay,” Alec said, seeing the logic. “So, what do they have in common then? Do any of these warlocks have specialties? Skills they’re known for?”

“A few of them.” Magnus thought it over for a moment and then waved his hand, making labels appear on several photos. The MISSING column included Necromancy, Healing and Portals. In the Murdered column only Ragnor had a specialty which was also Healing.

“Mikaela’s also a Healer. I wonder if they were planning to take Ragnor alive and then after he was killed moved on to her,” Alec mused.

“Hmm, that would make sense. It would mean that they’re taking warlocks for a specific reason.”

Alec shrugged one shoulder. “It doesn’t really help much though. It’s not really a pattern we can follow. It just means they needed a Healer and went down their list until they got one.”

“But they also wanted a necromancer,” Magnus said, pointing at Iris’s photo. “That magic is very different from a healer but the final results could be considered the same.”

“So if they’re taking these warlocks for their skills then the Circle either has someone dying, or dead, who they want alive.”

“Maybe Valentine himself,” Magnus said, eyes going wide. “No one’s actually seen him since the Circle has resurfaced. Maybe his followers want to resurrect their leader.”

“Or Valentine is alive and taking them to help with his experiments on downworlders like the lair we raided a few months ago,” Alec said shuddering as he remembered the medically sterile lab they had found Madzie in and thanked the Angel they had found the place before anything worse happened to the little girl. “It doesn’t explain why they would need a portal expert though. Actually what is a portal expert? I thought those were pretty standard.”

“Oh no, portals are a complicated process. A master of them can do incredible things. Marcus is one of the few warlocks I know capable of creating standing portals.”

“A permanent portal that leads anywhere? Yeah, that would be pretty useful. Even the Clave only has access to a few. Might explain how they’re getting around so easily.”

“It would. So maybe we don’t need to find a pattern, we need to figure out what Valentine needs next to destroy the downworld.”

“I doubt we have enough information for that just yet, unless there’s a warlock who knows where the Mortal Cup is hidden who you think we should warn,” Alec said. It was an offhand comment, verging on joking, but that didn’t stop the quick look of panic that crossed Magnus’s face at his words. Thankfully Magnus had already called to warn Dot weeks ago that the Circle was resurfacing and that her and Jocelyn needed to keep their wards up and their heads low.

Magnus forced his expression back to neutral and waved a hand flippantly. “That’s been gone for eighteen years, I think that ship has sailed.”

“Yeah,” Alec agreed, not noticing Magnus’s shift in mood as he studied the photos. “Besides, everyone knows a Shadowhunter stole it. What about these warlocks who were killed. There’s no specialties listed. Why murder them?”

“I don’t know,” Magnus said, “but maybe we can find out.”

“How?” Alec asked.

“We’ll go speak to their friends, they might know something about why the Circle targeted them. While we’re there we can make sure they have enough protections in place in case they’re also targets.”

“Sounds good, I’ll suit up,” Alec said.

“I’ll send some fire messages so they know we’re coming. Oh and Alec,” Magnus called, stopping the shadowhunter in his tracks before he left the room. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

Magnus gestured at the wall of photos. “For helping me work all of this out. Your insights are incredibly helpful.”

Alec shrugged like it was no big deal.

“It’s no problem. I told you, I want to help you protect your people Magnus. I meant that.”

“I just didn’t know you would be so thorough.”

“I’m a thorough guy,” Alec said, then disappeared down the hallway to change. As Magnus watched Alec leave he felt his heart swell with affection for what was definitely not the first or last time and sighed.

“And I am thoroughly screwed,” Magnus mumbled to himself.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

After Magnus sent his fire messages and Alec got dressed and collected his weapons, they jumped through their first portal of the evening.

When they came out on the other side Alec was surprised to find them in a home that could pass for mundane. They were in the living room of a two-storey house with a couch and television and no sign of any magical items anywhere.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Alec asked. He picked up an Us Weekly Magazine off the table and squinted in confusion at it.

“Yes, as I told you, many warlocks live passing as mundanes. Catarina is one of them,” Magnus said.

“We leave the more opulent living arrangements to the High Warlocks, it makes them feel special.” Alec looked up to see the voice belonged to a woman in medical scrubs coming in from the kitchen.

“Hello my dear,” Magnus greeted her, leaning in to kiss her cheek.

“Magnus. So, this is your new bodyguard?” Catarina asked, eyeing Alec who stood awkwardly a few feet away.

“You could say that,” Magnus said. “Alec, meet Catarina Loss, one of my oldest friends. Catarina, meet …”

“Alec!” a tiny voice cried out mixed with the sound of pattering feet.

“Madzie!” Alec exclaimed, kneeling down to meet the little girl as she leapt at him for a hug. “Whoa. You’ve gotten bigger little sorceress.”

Above him Catarina tried to meet Magnus’s eye to shoot a shocked glare his way, but Magnus didn’t even notice her, he was too enraptured with the sight of Alec and a smiling Madzie.

“Where have you been?” Madzie asked him. Alec faltered for a moment, knowing she was talking about the fact that he hadn’t seen her since he helped rescue her two months ago.

“I uh … I had to help some people away from here, but I’m going to be around a whole lot more now, okay?” Alec said, holding on to the warlock’s hands.

“That’s an understatement,” Catarina mumbled, too low for Alec to hear, but earned a glare from Magnus.

“Do you want to see my toys?” Madzie asked.

“Yes. Of course I do,” Alec said, but also shot Magnus a look that clearly asked if they had time for this or should he get to work. Magnus nodded that it was fine and Alec followed the little girl as she scampered into the next room.

“Nice to meet you Catarina,” he called out before turning the corner.

“You too,” she said, then turned an accusing smile to Magnus. “Wow.”

“What?” he asked innocently.

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about this,” Catarina said, waving towards the hall where Alec had just disappeared with Madzie.

“What are you talking about, I told everyone at Ragnor’s funeral that a Shadowhunter had signed a life debt to me.”

“Yes, you said a shadowhunter, you didn’t say it was the shadowhunter.”

Magnus quirked an eyebrow in confusion as he joined Cat to sit at the kitchen table. “The shadowhunter?”

“Yes, the one you told me about the night you dropped Madzie off here and then didn’t stop talking about for two weeks. The one you pined over. The one you got drunk over and told me you couldn’t stop thinking about even though you hated Shadowhunters so you were forcing yourself not to call him even though you wanted to with all your heart and soul.”

Magnus scratched at the table and avoided her eye. “I guess he might be that shadowhunter, yes. But it’s not like I planned this. It just kind of aligned this way.”

“What happened? The Clave said you couldn’t kill the Herondale boy but you had pick of the litter for anyone else at the Institute?”

“It wasn’t like that at all,” Magnus said, getting truly defensive. “I was all for executing him, I don’t give a damn what his last name is. But Alec was at the sentencing tribunal.”

“And gave a rousing speech that changed your mind?”

“No. I found out that Ragnor’s killer is his parabatai so I allowed Alec to fulfill the Life Debt on his behalf.”

“I’m sorry, but that still sounds like you manipulating the situation in your favor.”

“I wasn’t. This isn’t exactly ideal for me. I was considering dating Alec, not owning him. This was the only option that I thought we could both live with. If I executed his parabatai not only would he hate me, but a part of Alec would die along with Jace. I’ve seen what that loss can do to a Shadowhunter. I couldn’t put him through that.”

“That makes sense, but if that’s the case then why isn’t Jace Herondale the one filling this Life Debt?”

“Honestly? Because I think I would have killed him the second I was alone with him.”

“He’d deserve it,” Cat assured him, her own anger over Ragnor’s death clearly simmering just below the surface.

“Perhaps, but then he’d be dead, Alec would be suffering for it and we’d be right back where I didn’t want to be.”

“And this is where you want to be? With the man you have a crush on contracted to serve you for life?”

“Our relationship is strictly professional,” Magnus said, but took a cleansing breath while he said it as thought trying to convince himself of that fact. “It has to be. I promised him that.”

“Good. I’m going to hold you to that,” Catarina said, then got up to bring them both a cup of tea. “I don’t think I’ll mind having him around though, as long as you let me borrow him to babysit. That’s the most Madzie’s spoken all week.”

“He’s good with her,” Magnus agreed. As if on cue footsteps echoed behind them and Madzie came back in with Alec a few steps behind her, bent over awkwardly so she could hold his hand while they walked.

“Sorry,” Alec said as Madzie dragged him over to the living room and started flipping up the couch cushions. “Apparently we need a second Barbie. Is there one out here?”

“Here!” Madzie exclaimed in triumph as she pulled a Ken doll out from beneath the couch before Catarina could answer. “This is you.”

“Oh. Okay, yeah, this makes more sense. Thank you,” Alec said, taking the doll. Madzie started to lead them back to the other room but stopped when Magnus called out to her.

“Sweet pea, I’m sorry, but Catarina and I need to borrow Alexander for a few minutes.”

Alec nodded his understanding, this wasn’t a social call and they had work to do, but didn’t miss the crestfallen expression on Madzie’s face.

“Here, you take me,” he said, handing her the Ken doll, “and finish setting up the tea party. I promise I’ll come back for a cup before I leave. Okay?”

“Okay,” she said, taking the doll and running back to her playroom.

“Sorry about your party,” Magnus said to him when she was gone.

“It’s fine. I’ll go do my thing?”

“If you wouldn’t mind, thank you.”

“What exactly is your thing?” Catarina asked.

“I’m going to see if I can get past your wards,” Alec explained.

“Oh.” Cat took a sip of tea. “Good luck.”

“Don’t be so cocky,” Magnus muttered, clearly speaking from experience.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Alec said, then disappeared out the front door.

Cat shook her head as she watched Magnus follow Alec out the door with his eyes.

“I’ve never seen you like this,” she said.

“Of course you haven’t, I’ve never had a life debt before.”

“You trust him,” Catarina pointed out. “You won’t even tell other warlocks where Madzie is in case the Circle is still after her but you brought him here immediately. And now he’s checking my wards? What’s going on with you?”

“I don’t know. It’s more than … than anything I’ve felt in a long time. I felt it two months ago, but I convinced myself it was nothing, that a shadowhunter wasn’t worth my time no matter how unbearably attractive he was. Then yesterday, when he showed up at the council meeting, I knew it was more than that. He’s not like other shadowhunters. He doesn’t want to control the downworld like the Clave, he actually wants to help people, protect them.”

“Well then I’m glad he’s working for you now and not the Clave, he might actually have a chance to do that.”

“I’m glad too because I think I’ll need his help.”

“How bad is it?” Catarina asked. “You don’t just pop in to check my wards for no reason.”

“Another warlock has gone missing. Mikaela Meadows.”

“Dammit.”

“Alec’s trying to help me find some kind of pattern, but there’s not much to go on. The Circle hides their tracks well. I feel like all I’ve been doing the past two months is setting up wards and organizing funerals. I’m sick of it.”

“They’re called Shadowhunters for a reason Magnus, they’re not going to come fight us out in the light.”

“I know, but I’m the High Warlock of Brooklyn, I’m supposed to be able to protect my people. I couldn’t even protect my friend.”

“We’ll all miss Ragnor, but there was nothing you could have done.” Catarina laid her hand on top of Magnus’s.

“What was he doing downtown Cat? He wasn’t even living here. What was he keeping from me?”

“Maybe he was trying to protect you, protect all of us. He clearly had something the Circle wanted.”

“Maybe. But I need answers. We’re going to go talk to the friends of the murdered warlocks tonight, see if they know why they were targeted.”

“That’s a good plan. Call me if you need anything.”

“You’ve got more than enough on your plate,” Magnus said, indicating Madzie in the other room.

“Yeah, I guess we’re both suddenly in charge of people we didn’t expect to be.”

“I guess.”

They both took a sip of their drinks then Catarina’s brow furrowed at the sound of footsteps approaching from down the hall. When Alec appeared in the doorway covered in cobwebs her jaw almost dropped to the floor.

“I have a few suggestions,” he said as he brushed dust off his jacket.

“How ….?”

Catarina looked at Magnus who just smiled smugly. “I warned you.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

After spending a few minutes tightening up the holes in Catarina’s wards, Alec had a quick cup of imaginary tea with Madzie while Magnus and Catarina said their farewells and then they were on their way. Their next stop was the home of Robert Levins, a close friend of one of the murdered warlocks, Shirley Reykin. To say he was less than helpful was an understatement. He was practically hostile at the sight of Alec, stating all Shadowhunters needed to be held accountable for what the Circle was doing, especially the former head of one of the institutes. Magnus sent Alec out quickly to check on Robert’s wards to put some distance between the two, but the warlock wasn’t much more forthcoming when it was just him and Magnus. He didn’t know what Shirley might have known or had that the Circle could be interested in, and spent more time reprimanding Magnus for not doing enough to stop them than he did providing any helpful information. Frustrated, Magnus ended the conversation fairly quickly and went outside to find Alec, which was turning out to be no easy task.

“Alec!” Magnus called out into the darkness after he had done a lap of the house looking for him. Worry coiled in his stomach and he hoped the shadowhunter had simply found a way past the wards already and was back inside. He was about to head back in when a voice above him made him jump.

“Magnus! Up here.”

Magnus looked up to find Alec high in the branches of the oak tree next to the house.

“Of course you are. We’re leaving,” Magnus said.

Alec jumped straight down from the tree and landed next to Magnus.

“I’m not really done yet,” he said, disabling his jumping rune as he spoke.

“We’ve done enough. I strengthened his wards before I left, not that he deserved it,” Magnus said, then pointed at the tree. “What were you checking?”

“That branch brushes up against the house, which means it goes straight through the wards. Climb it carefully enough and you might be able to pass through them,” Alec said.

Magnus looked the tree over. It seemed like a small chance of actually working but, no need to risk it, he decided. He flicked his wrist, severing the branch and letting it crash to the ground.

“Problem solved.”

“What was that?” Levins’s voice echoed angrily from inside the house.

“Time to go,” Magnus said, turning to leave.

“I take it the meeting didn’t go well,” Alec guessed.

“Madzie’s tea party was more useful than that man.”

“Where to next?”

“Naomi Virtue, she was a friend of Victor Breen.”

The front door of the house behind them opened and Alec could hear Levins yell increasingly vulgar epithets at them.

“We should get going,” Alec said.

“Yep.”

Magnus opened the portal and they both stepped through.

Alec wanted to be relieved to be out of Levins’s sight but tensed up immediately when he looked around their new surroundings. They were in a house much bigger and more richly decorated than Catarina’s, but the couch was flipped over, a table was broken and the TV was smoking and cracked. Something bad had happened here.

Alec unglamoured his seraph blade, knowing the halls and corners of the house weren’t conducive to a bow, and held it at the ready.

“Magnus?”

“They may still be here. You check that hall, I’ll go this way,” Magnus said, pointing in the opposite direction. “And be careful.”

Alec nodded. “You too.”

Alec crept down the hallway, sword held in front of him. His left hand reached for his stele as he walked, intending to activate several runes in case he ran into trouble. Before he could even light up his strength rune though a scream cut through the house from directly ahead and he took off running. He turned a corner and found himself in a dining room full of overturned chairs. A crying woman that he assumed was Naomi was on her knees with one man cuffing her hands while another held a seraph blade at her throat.

“Who are …?” Before the man with the sword could finish his question Alec had tackled him to the ground, his instincts telling him to put as much distance between Naomi and the Circle members as he could. They landed with a grunt and Alec on top but before he could strike the man threw Alec off of him.

They had definitely activated their battles runes Alec realized when he landed on his back on the dining room table. He was so very screwed.

He rolled with the throw and landed on his feet on the other side of the table just as the second man’s sword sliced into the wood where he had been laying. He blocked the next strike and then backed away out of reach. As the man leapt over the table towards him, Alec ducked low and swung, his blade slicing deep into the man’s stomach as he landed next to him. He kicked the man away then only just blocked a strike coming from behind him that he should have noticed sooner. He had to remember that Jace wasn’t there to watch his back anymore. Before either man could strike again a ball of flames hurtled into the room. It struck the remaining Circle member in the back and he fell to the ground with a death cry.

Alec looked up and saw Magnus standing in the doorway, his hands held in a gesture that made it clear he was the one who threw the fireball.

“Well done,” Alec said, looking down at the dead man.

“More like medium rare,” Magnus replied. Alec tried to shoot him a look that said that wasn’t one of his better jokes, but Magnus was already moving to Naomi’s side.

“Magnus!” she cried out in fear and relief, tears streaming down her face.

“It’s all right, you’re safe now,” he told her, cradling her comfortingly.

“Thank you,” she mumbled into his shoulder.

While Magnus soothed Naomi, Alec sheathed his sword and touched his arm where one of the blades had nicked him. It wasn’t really much of a wound, but he frowned at the hole in his leather jacket.

“Here, let me get you out of these,” Magnus said, indicating her cuffed hands. He summoned blue tendrils of magic that coated the cuffs but then fizzled out and disappeared as if absorbed into the metal. Magnus’s brow furrowed. He tried again but once more the chains absorbed the wisps of magic and refused to open.

“What are these?” he mumbled, inspecting them and looking for a locking mechanism.

“Let me try,” Alec said, taking out his stele and kneeling next to him. “They’re probably angelic.”

Naomi flinched when he came close but Magnus laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“Never fear, this is my associate I told you about, Alexander. He’s here to help.”

Alec drew an unlock rune on the chain of the cuffs and caught them when they opened.

“Thank you,” Naomi said quietly, rubbing her wrists as she tried to contain her emotions.

“No problem,” Alec said gently. Naomi was obviously one of the warlocks Magnus had told him about who was unaccustomed to having her life threatened.

Magnus looked at the destroyed room and the two dead bodies and pulled Naomi slowly to her feet.

“Why don’t we move you somewhere more comfortable?” Magnus suggested, walking her towards the door.

Alec stood up to follow them and then fell to one knee.

“Whoa,” he said, catching himself and trying to blink away the sudden dizziness.

Magnus turned around at the sound. “Alexander?”

“I’m fine,” Alec rushed out, but his chest was tight and he was suddenly having trouble breathing. “What the hell?”

Magnus released Naomi and moved to Alec’s side, leaning him to sit against the wall. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.” But Alec had a suspicion. He shrugged off his jacket and inspected the cut on his arm. It wasn’t deep or bleeding too badly but the black lines running out of it could only mean one thing. “Son of a bitch.”

“Demon venom,” Magnus said, watching as Alec pulled out his stele to activate his healing rune.

“They must have coated their swords in it,” Alec said, failing to hide a hiss of surprise as spikes of pain started to pulse through his body. His healing rune lit up and his chest instantly felt better, but the black lines on his arm only receded slightly.

“Dammit,” he said, then looked at Magnus apologetically. “I think I’m going to need a transfusion.”

“Nonsense,” Magnus said, waving his arms dramatically. “Transfusions are for people who don’t know blood purifying spells. Not to worry, I’ll have you fixed up in no time. Now, take a deep breath.”

Alec did as instructed, which was no easy feet as he was pretty sure his lungs were shutting down, then jolted as blue magic flew from Magnus’s fingertips directly into the wound. Alec immediately felt himself relax, comforted by the magic creeping into his core in ways he didn’t expect. Magnus was not as relieved however. His face pinched with concern as he pushed another wave of magic into Alec’s wounds to draw out the poison and could barely make the spreading black lines recede at all.

He stopped his efforts with a frustrated growl. Alec gripped his chest and leaned in on himself as the pain began to spread through his abdomen.

“That didn’t sound good,” he said.

“This is more powerful than any demon venom I’ve ever faced. It’s incredibly concentrated and spreading fast.”

“Valentine probably … cooked it up himself,” Alec said, pausing to gasp for breath. “Time for a transfusion yet?”

“You’d never survive that long,” Magnus said gravely.

“Great,” Alec whispered.

“I need a poultice to help pull out the poison. Naomi,” Magnus turned to the warlock who had been standing in stunned silence in the doorway this whole time. Her gaze was fixed firmly on the dead bodies in the room to the point where she didn’t seem to hear Magnus’s words.

“Naomi!” he yelled again finally gaining her attention. “I need mandrake root, sulfur, holy water and woodlace.”

“We … we have to get out of here,” she said, ignoring his words, her voice edging on hysterical. “These … these men tried to kill me. We have to leave.”

Alec couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw a glamour fade away from Magnus’s eyes as he turned on Naomi, practically growling.

“And the man who just saved your life is dying. No one leaves until we remedy that. Understood?” he asked, though it was not really a question.

Naomi wrapped her arms around her body and nodded slowly. “Yes.”

“Good. Mandrake root, sulfur, holy water and woodlace. Now.”

Thankfully she didn’t need to be told a third time and rushed out of the room to get the supplies.

“You were right,” Alec gasped out after she was gone. “They’re not soldiers.”

“No, they aren’t, but she had better still follow orders, and you had better keep breathing,” Magnus said before sending another wave of blue magic into Alec’s wound. Again, Alec felt the pain recede momentarily and breathed in deeply while he could, but the relief was shortlived. As soon as Magnus stopped the stabbing pain returned, worse than before, causing Alec to curl in on himself and fall to his side.

“I’ve got you, just hold on,” Magnus said, placing a comforting hand in Alec’s hair as the shadowhunter moaned in pain. “What about your healing rune?”

“It’s maxed out,” Alec said through gritted teeth. God, it felt like his organs were in a vice made of knives.

“Naomi!” Magnus called out desperately but she appeared in the doorway before he got the second syllable out.

“Here,” she said, dropping the ingredients on the floor beside them.

“Hold on Alexander,” Magnus said, releasing him to mix the ingredients. Naomi knelt next to them in shocked silence for a moment before she hesitantly laid a hand on Alec’s arm and sent waves of her own white magic into Alec’s body. It felt different than Magnus’s, not as comforting and it didn’t do as much, but he could feel the tightness of his lungs ease slightly.

“Thank you,” he gasped.

She just looked sad as her magic worked through his body. She turned to Magnus, “He’s not going to last much longer.”

“I disagree,” Magnus replied, as though he could will that fact into being. “Alexander, you are not dying today.”

He threw a pinch of sulfur into his mixture then a few drops of holy water, turning it into a paste. He mixed it quickly then poured the contents directly into the wound. Naomi cut off her magic and backed away when it was clear Magnus was about do a spell.

Magnus put a hand over the wound, closed his eyes and started speaking in Latin. Alec had studied Latin extensively but found his oxygen starved mind unable to pick out a single word, all he could really do was writhe in pain, his fingers clawing at the ground as though trying to escape from it. Suddenly fingers were touching his. He cracked an eye open to see that Magnus was holding his hand and squeezing it reassuringly even as he continued his spell.

Just as Alec’s lungs decided they would indeed not take another breath, Magnus spoke the last word of his spell and a jolt of blue magic shot through Alec’s body, making his back arc off the floor.

When it was over Alec lay gasping and exhausted, but his lungs expanded easily and the pain was completely gone.

“Alexander?” Magnus asked.

Alec pulled in a deep breath and nodded. “I’m good.”

Magnus removed his hand from Alec’s arm and felt his heart finally start beating again when he saw the black lines had disappeared and the wound had fully closed.

“It worked,” Magnus said, almost collapsing himself from the relief of it.

“Thank you,” Alec said, enjoying the ability to breathe freely once more. He tried to push himself to a sitting position and Magnus’s hands were instantly there, helping him up. Alec smiled at him. “If this is what you were saving for day two, I’m a little scared about day three.”

“Day three you have to meet my clients,” Magnus said.

“Oh god, I’ll take the demon poison,” Alec mumbled.

“I would too.”

They both chuckled lightly and Alec closed his eyes to rest a moment.

There was no chance of him falling over again but Magnus was still clutching his hand tightly. Alec didn’t mind. Neither of them had any interest in letting go just yet.

Chapter Text

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur to Alec after that. Magnus had offered to portal him home immediately but Alec had insisted he was fine and activated his stamina rune to help him power through the evening. They still had one more warlock to visit and warn urgently now that it seemed the Circle was going after people that the murdered warlocks knew. First they took Naomi to the house of a friend, checked the wards were tight and gently interviewed her about what had happened. She had little to offer though. The Circle members had said nothing when they broke in, just snuck past her wards and placed the magic-dampening cuffs on her when she tried to escape. She had been sure she was dead until Alec and Magnus had shown up.

Their next visit was more of the same. Wards were tightened, warnings were given and no one seemed to know what the Circle was after or why anyone had been targeted.

By the time they portalled home it was well past midnight and Alec was swaying on his feet, his stamina rune having long since worn off. Magnus ordered him to bed and it was a testament to how exhausted he was that he only made a minimal protest at the idea, falling into a dead sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

When he got up the next morning it was clear Magnus had already been awake for a few hours. He was sitting on the couch with several items spread out on the table in front of him ranging from books to charms to decorations.

“Sorry I slept in so late,” Alec said as he stumbled into the living room.

“Think nothing of it. You must be hungry,” Magnus said and conjured the breakfast from Nice that Alec had liked so much the day before.

“I can make my own breakfast Magnus,” Alec said.

“You nearly died last night. Indulge me,” Magnus requested.

“All right,” Alec relented as he sat own and dug in. He was pretty hungry. “So what are we doing today?”

“You are doing absolutely nothing Alexander, besides resting.”

“I’m fine.”

“As I said, you nearly died last night, from the most potent demon venom I’ve ever seen no less. This isn’t up for debate. You’re taking the day off.”

Alec felt his stomach tighten at the prospect of having nothing to do all day but didn’t argue. The conditions of the Life Debt were clear. He had to do whatever Magnus told him to.

“Fine,” he said, dipping his head to take a bite of croissant to hide his dread. “What are you going to be doing?”

“Personal tasks most of the day. Nothing to concern yourself with.”

Alec had noticed several boxes in the living room that had been there since he arrived that seemed out of place in Magnus’s pristine home. Looking over he saw one of them was now next to the couch with the lid open. Alec guessed they were Ragnor’s belongings and Magnus had to sort through them, which also explained the random trinkets already laid out on the table. Alec started to chew a little faster, feeling guilty for having interrupted such a personal task and mentally noted to stay out of Magnus’s way for the rest of the day.

“Any more news about the Circle? Was anyone else attacked?” he asked.

Magnus sat back with his coffee and shook his head. “Not to my knowledge. Hopefully we’ve warned and protected any potential targets as much as possible.”

“Hopefully,” Alec said even as shook his head. “It doesn’t feel like enough.”

“It never does,” Magnus said.

Alec leaned back on the couch and turned when he heard a squeak of leather and noticed for the first time that his jacket was laid across the back cushions.

“Sorry,” he said, picking it up to move it out of the way. “I must have been tired last night, I thought I hung this up.”

“You did,” Magnus assured him. “I put it through a magical decontamination this morning to make sure there was no more demon venom on it. I’d hate to see a repeat of last night.”

“Oh, thanks. Yeah, I definitely don’t want to go through that again,” Alec said but in the back of his mind he couldn’t deny that the aftermath, with Magnus close to him, hovering all evening, that had been kind of nice. He shook his head to clear away the thought and stood to hang the coat back up. As he flattened the sleeves he noticed that Magnus had also fixed the tear in the arm and smiled at his thoughtfulness. When he turned around Magnus was running his fingers over a small musical instrument and looked lost in memories.

“I’m gonna get out of your hair. Let me know if you need anything,” Alec said, excusing himself from Magnus’s private moment.

“Of course, rest up,” Magnus replied, but his tone was distracted and distant.

Alec went back to his room and sighed. He literally had no idea what to do with himself. If he was supposed to be resting it was probably off the table for him to do any training. There were walls of books throughout the loft that he would normally love to read but he knew he wouldn’t be able to concentrate long on any of them, not with the way his parabatai rune was throbbing.

Alec sat on the edge of his bed with his hand over the rune and closed his eyes. It wasn’t a physical pain he was experiencing per se, but the echo of Jace’s emotional pain was so raw and clear that it might as well have been.

“I’m fine Jace, come on,” Alec muttered, willing his parabatai to hear him even though there was no way to truly communicate over their bond. Jace’s guilt and anger had been bad enough the first day, but since Alec had been injured the night before it had ramped up to include new levels of panic and fear. Of course Jace had felt him get hurt, that was one of the main functions of the bond, so they could come to the other’s aid, and he understood why Jace freaked out when he felt him dying, but he wished he would also acknowledge that Alec was fine now and calm down. As he sat in the silence of his bedroom, focusing on his parabatai’s pain, he felt tears track down his cheek for the first time as he contemplated feeling this everyday for the rest of his life, this aching chasm where his parabatai had once been. His brother. Not to mention the rest of his family. He could feel how Jace was doing but what about Izzy and Max and his parents. He had no idea what they were going through. He hadn’t even said good-bye. He wiped the tears away quickly and stood up.

“No. No, not now,” he mumbled refusing to let his emotions overwhelm him. He closed his eyes and did what he had done for most of his life, pushed his emotions down as far as they could go and told himself it didn’t matter. “It’s fine. You’re fine. Jace is alive. That’s what matters.”

As he spoke to himself he started to pace and eventually stopped at the desk in the corner of the room. It was smaller than his one at the Institute but still gorgeous, made of rich crafted mahogany and adorned with an elegant pen set. Alec opened one of the drawers and found paper and envelopes. Writing reports had always been a good distraction before. He sat down and picked up a pen, hoping this would help.

Dear Izzy …

Two hours later Alec emerged from his room carrying four envelopes and still trying desperately not to have an emotional breakdown.

He came into the living room to find Magnus was still there, now holding a photo album and smiling fondly as he skimmed the pages of memories. Alec was tempted to turn around and not interrupt him but Magnus looked up, his smile widening at the sight of him.

“Alec,” Magnus greeted him, but his brow furrowed when Alec just stood there awkwardly in the doorway. Instead of commenting he gestured to his hand. “What are those?”

Alec tapped his free hand against his leg nervously as he handed the letters over, stumbling over his words as he spoke.

“I … um … I was wondering if there was any way I could send these.”

“I didn’t think you’d be so old fashioned Alec. Your institute is so high tech,” Magnus said lightly as he took the envelopes and flipped through them, recognizing the names easily. Izzy, Max, Mom and Dad.

Alec looked at the floor. “Well, I never got to say good-bye, and an email didn’t seem quite right, so …”

Magnus’s hands stilled at Alec’s words and his whole body went rigid. He looked up at Alec slowly, holding the letters more reverently.

“These are good-bye letters?” he asked.

“Yeah, I mean, if that’s okay. I wasn’t sure what my contract said about letters to the Institute, so I wanted to check with you first.”

Magnus shook his head, his expression devastated as he looked down at the letters again. “No, Alexander, you don’t …”

“Oh. It’s okay,” Alec said, cutting him off when he saw him shake his head. He wasn’t sure he could handle Magnus’s platitudes right now. He reached to take back the letters, immediately feeling stupid. “I should have asked before I wrote them.”

“No, Alec, I’m sorry …”

“It’s fine Magnus,” Alec snapped, taking back the envelopes and backing away even as he felt tears prick his eyes at the thought that he had been denied this one last way to contact his family. “Forget I asked.”

“Alec, wait, let me finish,” Magnus pleaded, jumping to his feet and grabbing Alec by the arm. “Please.”

Alec stopped but couldn’t meet Magnus’s eye and kept his gaze on the wall as he tried to keep his emotions under control.

“I was trying to say that I’m sorry I never sat you down to discuss the rest of your contract. I’ve been so wrapped up in the Circle attacks and Ragnor’s death, it never even occurred to me.”

“Magnus it’s fine. I signed the contract, I knew the terms, you have nothing to apologize for.”

“Alec,” Magnus said firmly and paused until the shadowhunter finally looked at him with his devastated eyes. “You can see your family.”

Alec’s whole body jolted. “What? But … the contract. It says I can’t contact the Institute.”

“It says you can’t visit the Institute, because Jace lives there, but outside of that you are welcome to see and contact any friend or family member you wish when I don’t need you here. Like today.”

“I can?” Alec asked, tears coming to his eyes for an entirely different reason.

“Yes Alec, you’re not my prisoner. Go, see your family, let them know you’re okay.”

Alec looked like he couldn’t breathe for a moment, then lunged forward and wrapped Magnus in a hard embrace.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

Magnus closed his eyes at the bittersweet contact, knowing that Alec was only showing him affection to thank him for not being a monster.

“Of course,” Magnus said, hoping he successfully hid the pain in his voice. But Alec took no notice.

“I’ll call Izzy right now,” he said, pulling back from the hug to wipe the tears from his eyes.

Magnus nodded and smiled encouragingly as Alec retreated to his bedroom to find his phone. Only when he was out of sight did Magnus drop back to the couch and let his devastation show on his face. He was a monster. The poor boy had thought Magnus wanted him cut off from his entire life and still he had been civil to him, kind. He had laughed with him and helped him protect the warlocks under his care. And Magnus hadn’t been considerate enough to even explain to him his own freedoms.

It had just come so easily, having Alec here all the time. It was comforting, especially after Ragnor’s death, so comforting that he hadn’t even considered that of course Alec wouldn’t want to be there. He wanted to see the family that was still allowed to him. Magnus had been a selfish bastard, forcing Alec to keep him company for days straight, and he vowed to somehow do better without burdening Alec with the guilt he felt over his mistake.

He need not have worried at the moment though as Alec rushed out of his room with the purest smile he may have seen in his entire life.

“I’m gonna meet Izzy at Central Park. I promise Jace won’t be there,” he said, grabbing his coat.

“It’s all right, I trust you,” Magnus said, and he did. If anything this conversation had shown him how far Alec was willing to go to keep his Life Debt intact, even imposing rules on himself Magnus had never intended. “Have fun.”

“What time should I be back?” Alec asked. He was practically vibrating with excitement as he stood in the doorway bouncing on his heels.

“Whenever you please. Like I said, it’s your day off.”

“Well, I’ve got my cell, call me if you need me,” Alec said.

“I will. Go. See your sister.”

“Okay, bye,” Alec said, disappearing out the door.

Magnus collapsed on the couch. Alone again, like he deserved.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Izzy really hoped there hadn’t been any demon attacks in the last hour, because if there were she had definitely missed them. She had thought monitor duty would distract her from how much she missed her brother and was worried about Jace, but it turned out her worry was just distracting her from her job instead of the other way around.

She shook her head and tried to focus but her mind couldn’t stop wandering back to the memory of last night, of Jace screaming for Alec as he was dragged away to be locked in his room. Even now she felt like a traitor for just sitting there, doing nothing, but her mother had been clear, and Jace in his own way had even agreed, there was nothing they could do for Alec. He wasn’t kidnapped or being held hostage, he had agreed to go with Magnus Bane, to maintain peace with the warlocks. Izzy thought that might have been worse.

She sighed in frustration with herself and thanked the Angel when her phone buzzed, hopefully with something productive for her to do. She opened the notification and froze in confusion. It was a text. From Alec.

Don’t freak out.

“What …?” Before she could even contemplate a response her phone buzzed again. She had an incoming call. Alec.

“Oh my god,” she muttered, rushing to an isolated corner of the ops center before she raised the phone to accept the call. “Hello?”

“Hey sis.”

“Alec?” she asked even though she knew it was him. “Oh my god I can’t believe it’s you.”

“Yeah, I can’t believe it either,” Alec said and his voice sounded as relieved as hers.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah Iz, I’m good. Better now that I get to talk to you.”

“Are you allowed … is this okay?” she asked, still keeping her voice low in case this was breaking the rules of the Life Debt.

“Yes!” Alec answered emphatically. “I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner, I didn’t know I could. I just talked to Magnus and I can’t go to the Institute but I’m allowed to see anyone I want other than Jace, if you want to, I don’t know, get a coffee or something?”

“By the Angel Alec, of course I do. When?” she asked as she waved her free hand around as though that could help her contain her emotions.

“Right now?”

“Yes. I can meet you at Central Park, near the fountain that Shax demon pushed me into a few months ago?”

Alec laughed at the suggestion and the memory. “Sounds good. I’ll see you there.”

“Okay. I love you big brother.”

“I love you too Iz, I’ll see you soon.”

Izzy hung up the phone and stood for a moment in stunned amazement, not sure she hadn’t just imagined the entire thing. She checked her phone again and yes, she still had the text and a log of a one minute call with Alec. It had happened. A grin split her face and she took off running down the hall, sliding to a halt outside of Jace’s door.

“Let me in,” she said to the two guards in front of the door. “I need to see him.”

“Stele,” one of the guards demanded, holding out his hand. She glared at him but he just shrugged. “Your mother’s orders.”

“Fine, whatever,” she said, handing over her stele, needing to talk to Jace more than she needed to take a moral stand right now.

The guard pocketed it and then drew an unlock rune on Jace’s door to let her in. She rushed inside but her enthusiasm dipped when she saw the state her brother was in. Judging by the bags under his eyes Jace hadn’t slept since Alec had left, he hadn’t showered either and his face was red with blotches from tears. He had been inconsolable since Alec left, pacing non-stop, lashing out at everybody, insisting they had to do something to get him back. Maryse and Izzy had been able to keep him in check at first by constantly reminding him that he and Alec would both be executed if they broke the Life Debt, but last night all hell had broken loose when Jace felt Alec get hurt, bad. Jace had grabbed his blades and made for the door, promising to murder Magnus for hurting his brother. There were no words that were going to stop him this time. It took Izzy’s whip and four guards to restrain him and Maryse had ordered him locked in his room for his own protection. Izzy had talked to him before bed and he had said that Alec’s pain had receded quickly and he seemed fine now, but that didn’t keep him from pacing like a caged animal in his room.

Now she found him sitting on his bed, oddly calm, with his hand over his parabatai rune and a confused look on his face.

“Jace? What’s wrong?”

“It’s Alec,” Jace said, finally looking up at her. And of course it was Alec, he’d done nothing but monitor their bond every minute for the past two days. “It’s weird. He … he feels kinda happy.”

“That’s probably because I just talked to him,” Izzy said, not even trying to hide her smile as she delivered the news.

“What? How?” Jace demanded jumping to his feet.

“He just called me. I’m going to meet him now at Central Park.”

“Meet him? Izzy, that’s great. I’ll come with you. The guards will be no problem for two of us. We’ll need supplies though, and some kind of safe house …”

Isabelle grabbed his arm to cut him off and shot him a look of sympathy. “Jace he’s not running away. He’s still honoring the Life Debt.”

“You said …”

“Magnus told him he can’t come to the institute, but he can still see anyone he wants. Except you.”

Jace deflated at her words and crashed onto his bed. That distant look of despair had returned to his face.

“Anyone but me,” he mumbled, hand back on his parabatai rune.

“I’m sorry. I just … is there anything you want me to tell him?”

Jace swallowed visibly and tears returned to his eyes. What did he want to tell his brother who had been exiled from his home because of him?

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Izzy moved to the bed and pulled him into a hug. “He knows Jace, he knows.”

They stayed like that for a long moment until Jace finally pulled himself together and pulled away. “Maybe … maybe ask him if I can have his stereo?”

Izzy laughed and squeezed his hand.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

When Izzy got to the fountain at Central Park Alec was already there, arms crossed over his chest, and fingers tapping to expel his energy, but the frown on his face shifted to a look of pure joy when he saw her running towards him.

“Izzy!” he practically shouted, opening his arms and pulling her into a hard hug.

“Oh, Alec. I thought I’d never see you again,” she said, squeezing him back hard with no intention of letting go any time soon.

“Yeah, that makes two of us,” he said, finally pulling away. They were both glamoured for privacy and sat down at the edge of the fountain, knees touching and hands interlocked as though afraid to let go of each other.

“So is this like a one time thing, or …”

“No, no Magnus says I can see anyone I want outside of the Institute as long as he doesn’t need me that day,” Alec said.

“That’s good,” Izzy said with a relieved smile that this wasn’t some one-off good-bye meeting. “I … I don’t even know where to start. Oh wait.” She punched him in the arm. “You idiot! You signed a Life Debt without talking to me!”

“I didn’t really have a choice Izzy,” he said. “It was this, or war or Jace getting executed.”

“I know, mom told me, but I can still hate it, okay?”

“Yeah, that’s okay. Just hate it without punching me.”

“So how are you doing?”

Alec shrugged and smiled almost apologetically. “I’m good, all things considered. I’m mostly worried about Jace. How is he?”

“You let me worry about Jace. I’m taking care of him. I asked how you were doing,” Izzy repeated and then looked down to lock their hands once more. “I know you were hurt last night.”

“Yeah, I figured Jace felt that. I’m fine Izzy, really. I made a dumb mistake with Magnus but it won’t happen again. Don’t worry,” he said, his voice so casual about almost dying that it physically hurt her.

“Alec, Magnus isn’t allowed to hurt you for making mistakes! That’s not even close to okay.”

Alec’s expression shifted to genuine confusion so fast that it surprised even her.

“What? No, Magnus didn’t hurt me. He hasn’t laid a hand on me. In fact he saved my life last night.”

“What?”

“I wasn’t hurt by Magnus, I was poisoned with demon venom by a Circle member. Magnus healed me.”

“The Circle? Why … why were you fighting a Circle member?”

“That’s … kind of my job now. I’m helping Magnus protect himself and the other warlocks in the city from the Circle. The attacks have been getting worse and he wants a Shadowhunter to help fight them.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“It’s not, it kind of feels like, I don’t know, Shadowhunter outsourcing? I’ve been checking people’s wards, and helping them stay safe. I saved a woman’s life last night. It felt kind of great. Up until the part where I got poisoned anyway. But I’m serious Iz, I’m doing okay.”

“And Magnus hasn’t … you know … you can talk to me is all … I know his reputation. If he’s …”

“He hasn’t laid a hand on me Izzy, I swear,” Alec said, squeezing her hand reassuringly. “I know what you’re trying to ask, I worried about that too, trust me, but he promised me there won’t be anything like that and I believe him. I’m just a glorified warlock bodyguard. That’s it.”

Izzy felt her whole body relaxing as Alec spoke. On the way over she had been sure he was going to lie to her no matter what, tell her he was fine and nothing was wrong. But the thing was Alec was a really bad liar, and she didn’t think he was holding anything back from her right now.

Izzy released a huge sigh of relief and laid her head on her brother’s shoulder. “I’m so glad. We were all so worried. We had to lock Jace in his quarters it got so bad.”

“Jace is grounded?” Alec said, pleased when he made Izzy smile.

“I’m serious. He said it felt like you were dying last night, he assumed it was Magnus doing something to you. He was on his way to kill him. It took four guards to stop him.”

Alec smiled and swallowed back the joy that bubbled in his chest to hear how hard Jace had tried to fight for him.

“Well tell him I’m okay, please. He won’t believe you but you have to convince him somehow. I know it’s hard. Angel, it’s impossibly hard, but we can’t see each other.”

Izzy ran her thumb over the back of Alec’s hand as she turned her gaze to look at the water. “It’s not fair. You should be home.”

“I know.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her forehead. “But it wasn’t fair that the warlocks lost someone they cared about either. We have to look at this from both sides.”

Izzy didn’t want him to be right, she just wanted her brother back, but she was worried he had a point. “You’re always so focused on justice big brother, it’s annoying.”

“You’re annoying,” he muttered. She punched him in the chest.

“Ow.” He rubbed the sore spot dramatically. “How’s Max taking it? I should let him know that I can see him too.”

Isabelle’s jaw clenched and she couldn’t meet Alec’s eye.

“Izzy?”

“He doesn’t know. Not yet.”

Alec blinked.

“Why?”

“He’s still in Idris and mom won’t let me tell him. She doesn’t want to interrupt his studies,” she said bitterly.

Alec closed his eyes. Why was he even surprised. “Of course. He’s at the top of his class. We wouldn’t want to jeopardize that.”

Izzy shook her head angrily. “She said since he wasn’t going to be home for another two months anyway there was no reason to tell him yet. That it wouldn’t make any difference. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. I still have you.”

“You’ll always have me big brother.”

“I know. I guess I should have expected as much from mom, after everything that’s happened. This is going to sound terrible but it’s actually been, kind of easier, being at Magnus’s. Away from everybody. I don’t think it’s a secret that the last few weeks at the Institute haven’t been great for me.”

Isabelle nodded in understanding. “Since you came out?”

“Among other things,” Alec said, bouncing his knee nervously. “I mean, I miss you, obviously, and Jace, god, it’s going to be impossible not to see Jace, but the rest of it, Mom and Dad reprimanding me, nobody talking to me, the stares, the whispers, being demoted in front of the whole Institute, them practically saying no one had to respect me anymore. I don’t miss that. Magnus’s is like a judgment free zone where I just, protect people, and eat conjured food from around the world, and train, and work on this cat mystery. It’s … don’t ask. I’m just … I’m just saying that I’m good. Really. For now at least.”

It was weird, to talk like this. There had been unspoken conversations between all three Lightwood siblings in the last few weeks, and he knew they both supported him fully, but they hadn’t really talked about any of this openly. Being away from the institute though, being separated from his family, it suddenly seemed easier to talk about the things that mattered.

“I’m glad. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop missing you.”

“Good. That’d be rude.”

“Jace wants your stereo.”

“Even more rude. He can have it.”

“I want it too.”

“Then you can spar each other for it. No weapons.”

“Deal. I’ll tell him. He also said he’s sorry.”

Alec smiled and nodded. “I know. I am too.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

A few hours later Izzy was back at the Institute headed straight for Jace’s room. The second his door opened he pounced to meet her.

“Izzy! How is he? What happened last night? Is he okay?” Jace asked, his face a mask of desperation.

“He’s fine, Jace. Really. Magnus isn’t hurting him,” she said, gripping his shoulders to make sure he looked her in the eye and knew she was telling the truth.

“We don’t know that Izzy. This is Alec, he wouldn’t want to worry us and he wouldn’t tell you if he knew there was nothing we can do about it,” Jace said, moving to start his angry pacing once more.

“I believe him. He’s fine, really. But he said you wouldn’t listen to me, and he’s right. I shouldn’t have done this, but here.”

Izzy held out her phone to him and he hesitantly accepted it, brows bent in confusion.

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Hit play.”

Jace swallowed nervously and did as she said.

“Izzy!”

“Oh, Alec. I thought I’d never see you again.”

“Yeah, that makes two of us.”

Tears immediately tracked down Jace’s cheek when he heard Alec’s voice. His knees gave out and he collapsed on the bed behind him.

“I recorded our conversation for you so you could hear for yourself that he’s okay.”

Jace shook his head half-heartedly. “But we can’t contact each other.”

“Neither of you knew I was going to do it, so technically neither of you did contact each other. Consider it a loophole. You need this.”

Jace nodded in understanding, obviously not about to rat her out, and cradled the phone like a life line that might be taken away from him.

“Jace got grounded?” he heard Alec ask in amusement and laughed for the first time in three days. It almost felt like having him there. It wasn’t enough but it was something.

“Thank you, Izzy.”

“Thank me by taking a shower after you’re done listening to our brother talk about how much he misses you. You’re a mess,” she said. “And ignore the part about the stereo. He took that back later and said I could have it.”

Chapter Text

The sun was almost down by the time Alec got back to Magnus’s. When he let himself in he found the boxes had been removed from the living room but there was no sign of the resident warlock.

He moved further into the apartment and found him in his potion pantry with a notepad.

“Low on mountain ash,” Magnus muttered to himself as he placed a container back on the shelf.

“Hey,” Alec said lightly so as not to startle him.

“Alec, you’re back,” Magnus said with a smile, putting his notepad away to give the shadowhunter his full attention. “How is your sister? It’s Isabelle, yes?”

“Yeah, Izzy’s good. It was good to see her. Thank you again for letting me go.”

“No, as I said before, I should have mentioned much sooner that you were welcome to see your family. That was a grave oversight on my part.”

“Well either way I appreciate it. You’ve given me a lot more freedom than you have to. This is probably the cushiest Life Debt in history.”

Magnus raised an eyebrow in disagreement. “You nearly died last night.”

Alec shrugged. “Besides that.”

Magnus chuckled softly and smiled. Alec was noticeably more relaxed after seeing his sister and he found the warm feelings radiating off of him contagious.

“Have you eaten? I was going to summon something for myself shortly, I can make it for two.”

“That would be great actually. I’m kind of starving.”

“I was thinking Greek or Italian. Any preference?”

“Warlock’s choice,” Alec said, truly not caring.

“You’re going to have to make use of having the world at your fingertips sooner or later Alexander, but for now …” Magnus snapped his fingers and Alec heard a whoosh sound from the dining room that he knew meant the table was now covered with several elegantly prepared dishes and a bottle of wine.

“I don’t think that’s ever gonna get old,” Alec said, making his way down the hall to see what Magnus had summoned, the warlock only a few steps behind him.

“You say that now but it’s only been a few days.”

“If you’re implying I’ll get bored of you Magnus, I assure you, that’s not possible.”

Magnus stopped in his tracks and even felt a blush creeping up his cheeks at the compliment, but he covered it up by turning away to snap his napkin dramatically before taking his seat.

“I’ll be with clients again for most of the day tomorrow if you’d like to see anyone else. I’ll need your help tomorrow evening but the day is yours if you’d like it,” Magnus said, making a concentrated effort to be accommodating after his communication misstep earlier. He thought the gesture would be appreciated but was surprised when Alec tensed up mid-bite and shook his head.

“No. Thank you, but that’s not necessary,” he said.

“Really it’s all right. You still haven’t seen your parents, or your brother Max …”

“Max attends the Institute in Idris, so he’s not in town. As for my parents … I’m sure they’ll set something up eventually.”

Magnus’s eyes went soft with sympathetic disbelief. “There’s no one else?”

Alec shrugged and suddenly became very interested in his pasta. “I haven’t exactly been the most popular guy at the institute the last few weeks, so no, there’s no one else.”

“I’m sorry. Does this have anything to do with you stepping down as Head of the Institute?”

“Kind of, but also no, because I lied about that actually.”

Magnus’s eyes went wide with surprise.

“Alexander!” he said, mock affronted. “Lied in what regard?”

“I didn’t step down, I was removed as Head of the Institute. I didn’t want you or the council to think I was disreputable so I lied at Jace’s sentencing. Sorry.”

“Foolish choice Alexander. We’re warlocks. We love the disreputable.”

Alec raised his eyebrows to agree as he took a long sip of his wine. Magnus didn’t fail to notice his grimace after swallowing but didn’t mention it for now.

Magnus busied himself breaking apart his bread and tried to sound casual as he continued.

“May I ask what reason they gave for your dismissal? Only if you wish to talk about it of course.”

“It’s fine, it hardly matters now. It was kind of a three strikes you’re out deal that I managed to hit in a shockingly fast succession. I think my first strike was when I asked for approval to start a Downworlder Cabinet.”

Magnus’s eyebrows raised in interest. “And what would that be exactly?”

“Well the Circle’s only been attacking downworlders so I wanted to set up a cabinet with representatives from each faction of the shadow world so we could exchange information, set up some kind of strategy to fight them, things like that. I mean, I didn’t even know about the missing warlocks until you told me yesterday. With the cabinet we could have been working with that information weeks ago, we could have done something.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Magnus said sincerely. It was possibly the most progressive idea from a Shadowhunter he had ever heard.

“I’m glad you like it. The Clave did not approve, nor did my mother. We stay separate from the downworld, as they say. They thought it would be interfering too much in downworlder affairs, at least that’s what they said the reason was when they denied it.”

“And what they meant is they didn’t want to treat downworlders as equals.”

“Basically.”

“Well I think it’s a fantastic idea that could have saved lives, possibly even stopped the Circle by now, and the Clave are fools for denying it,” Magnus said. “What about strike two?”

“Strike two was a week later when they sent me their own plan for stopping the Circle. They wanted to put mandatory GPS trackers into every downworlder in the city. That way if someone was taken we could track where they went.”

Magnus’s eyes went wider than ever. “That sounds like an excellent way to start a war with the downworld.”

“And remove people’s rights at the same time, yeah, that’s what I said. That’s why I refused the order. I said if downworlders wanted to come and get voluntarily tagged for their own protection I’d do it, but that was all I was willing to do.”

“A noble stance, but the Clave does not like being told no.”

“Yeah, they liked even less when I called off my wedding two days later.”

Magnus nearly choked on his wine. “You were engaged?”

“I was. Briefly,” Alec said with a small smile that said even he thought the notion was ridiculous. “My parents set it up without really discussing it with me. Her name was Lydia. On paper it was a solid partnership.”

“Sounds hot,” Magnus said sarcastically.

“It was arranged just a few days after I met you actually,” Alec said. He smiled apologetically as though to say sorry, that’s why I never called.

“Well that’s very interesting, but I didn’t know cancelling a wedding was grounds for dismissal.”

“In the shadow world it is, especially for the reasons I did.”

“Which were?”

“I didn’t love her.”

“Ah, of course. Was there someone else?” Magnus asked and was fairly certain the question didn’t come off nearly as casual as he was hoping it would.

“No, but Lydia, she was great. Passionate, smart, fair. She deserved someone who would love her, all of her, and that was never going to be me. That was never going to be me with any … woman.”

“I see. I’m sorry. I’m going to guess the Clave remains as close-minded as it always has been regarding such matters?”

“Yes and no. I think deep down they don’t really care if you’re gay if you’re willing to pretend that you’re not. As long as you still get married and have kids, everything’s fine by them. They’ve really pushed the importance of having a family since the Mortal Cup disappeared.”

“Of course, without it their only means of making new Shadowhunters is the old fashioned way.”

“Exactly. They’re worried about us being wiped out eventually, so the fact that I wasn’t willing to do my duty and make sacrifices for the greater good, it didn’t earn me any favors,” Alec said, still looking at his plate as he took a frustrated bite of his pasta.

“There’s no honor in living a lie Alexander. You would have been lonely and miserable all your life, you and Lydia. Neither of you deserve that and it’s certainly no basis to build a family on. You did the right thing.”

Alec looked up from his food and smiled shyly, nodding in appreciation. “Thank you. I wish more people at the Institute saw it that way.”

Magnus leaned back and looked forlornly out the window. “You know, every century I think to myself, maybe this is the time, maybe this is when people will finally learn to let go of pointless prejudices and just … love each other. And every century I’m wrong. I wonder when I’ll finally stop being so naïve.”

“Hopefully never,” Alec said, making Magnus turn in surprise. “You’d be no fun if you were jaded. I like you like this.”

Magnus smiled. “Well, then I guess I’ll keep hoping.”

“Good,” Alec said then took another sip of his wine. Magnus shook his head when he noticed his lips pull back in distaste yet again.

“One thing I’m very much hoping is that you’ll finally tell me what you actually like to drink.”

“What?” Alec asked, surprised by the shift in conversation.

Magnus waved at Alec’s glass. “You’ve grimaced at every drink I’ve conjured you for the past three days. Please, just tell me what you prefer, I won’t be offended.”

“Oh,” Alec said, slowly putting his glass back down. “We don’t really drink much at the Institute. To be honest I don’t really know what I’d like.”

“In that case we must find out, immediately. Drinking is not just a past time in this house, it’s a way of life and I refuse to let it be done poorly. Come along.” Magnus threw his napkin on the table and left their empty bowls to clean up later. Alec followed along behind, more confused than excited.

“What are we …?” Magnus snapped his fingers and approximately forty bottles of liquor of varying shapes and sizes appeared on the coffee table. “Whoa.”

“This should be enough to start,” Magnus said, taking a seat in his armchair.

“Magnus if I drink all of this I’ll die,” Alec said, still standing behind the couch.

“You don’t have to drink all of it, you just have to try all of it,” Magnus said. Alec waved at the huge table of alcohol as if that was still an impossible feet. “Most of it?”

Alec shook his head.

“Some of it?”

Alec finally broke and laughed at Magnus’s puppy-eyed pleading expression then sat down at the couch. “Fine.”

“Excellent,” Magnus said, truly excited. “We will do this both scientifically and with the magic arts. First we’ll go through our previous samples.”

With another snap of his fingers three drinks appeared in front of Alec.

“Now, these are the three drinks I’ve made you since you arrived. Which did you like the best?”

Alec looked down at the glasses and pushed aside the glass tumbler as a definite no. He wasn’t even sure if it was whisky or scotch but he knew he hadn’t liked it. That left the wine and the martini.

“The wine was fine, I guess,” he said but he knew it was a lie as the words left his mouth. “The martini had … potential.”

“Cocktails. A man after my own heart. They’re kind of my specialty,” Magnus said proudly. “What didn’t you like about it?”

“It was kind of bitter.”

Magnus hummed in consideration then mixed three liquors together, shook it and then snapped his fingers over the top, creating a fog over the blue and white mix.

“What about this?” he asked, handing it over.

Alec kept his face neutral this time as he took a sip, very aware of Magnus watching his every twitch.

“It’s not bad,” he said after a long pause.

“Alexander …” Magnus said in warning.

“It’s too sweet.” Alec put the glass down in defeat. Why the hell could he slay demons but not lie worth a damn?

Magnus frowned. “You appear to have a very specific palette. This is going to be more work than I thought.”

An hour later Alec’s eyes went wide with enjoyment for the first time and Magnus thought he might pass out from the excitement.

“This one’s interesting,” Alec said, smiling as he took another sip. “What is it?”

“That, young man, is a mojito.”

“It’s minty,” Alec said, licking his lips delightedly. “I like it. Put it at the top. Give it a 9.”

Magnus brandished his pen with a flourish and added mojito to the physical list they were keeping of drinks Alec had tried and how they rated. There were almost 15 drinks on the list now and nothing else had made it over a 6.

“Excellent. Now we’re getting somewhere. I wonder if a mint julep would get us to a 10?” Magnus pondered, already mixing the alcohol.

“Can I finish this one first?” Alec asked, eager to enjoy the first one he actually liked.

“Of course. All this hard work, we deserve a break,” Magnus said, leaning back in his chair and taking a sip of his own martini for the first time in awhile.

“A drink break from drinking?”

“I don’t make the rules,” Magnus said.

Alec chuckled then his eye flitted down to the table at the end of the couch and he reached a hand out to run his thumb along the strings of the instrument sitting there. “This is new.”

“Old actually,” Magnus said, his voice turning soft and fond.

“Was it Ragnor’s?” Alec asked, guessing it had come out of one of the boxes he had seen earlier.

“Yes, oddly enough.”

“Why is that odd?”

“Because he hated the charango, he called it an instrument of torture whenever I played it.”

“Did he mean in general or just when you played it?” Alec teased.

“Alexander, I’ll have you know I’m an excellent musician,” Magnus said, putting on a hurt front even though he was thrilled to see Alec loosening up. And it had only taken an hour of plying him with alcohol.

“Play me something then,” Alec said like it was a challenge.

“Very well. Only because you asked so rudely.”

Magnus picked up the instrument and started to tune it while Alec smiled in amusement.

“Does your magic help you learn to play or do you have to practice like us mortals?”

“I’m afraid I have to practice my chords and study hard like any mundane would,” Magnus said. “Of course, the learning curve is less steep when you’ve been alive since before the instrument was invented.”

“Yeah, I imagine that helps.”

Magnus began to pluck the strings with more purpose now, teasing out the first slow notes in a beautiful rich pitch.

“Any requests?”

“Something Ragnor’d like,” Alec said, surprising Magnus. He smiled sadly, still strumming, as he remembered his friend. He was fairly certain Ragnor hadn’t actually disliked the instrument, he just liked to tease, and by pretending to hate it Magnus could spitefully play it all he liked. He remembered the last time he had spoken to his friend, Ragnor had been worried. Not about the Circle or anything of that sort, but about Magnus. He’d taken no true lovers since Camille, had let nobody into his heart in nearly a century. Ragnor knew how deeply he was capable of love and didn’t want him to close himself off to the possibility of it. He didn’t want Magnus to lose himself behind his own walls. But now Magnus had lost Ragnor, and just when he was starting to feel his walls crumble.

“That was beautiful.”

Magnus’s head shot up at Alec’s voice. He’d been entranced by his own memories and hadn’t even realized he had played through an entire song.

“Thank you,” Magnus said, laying the instrument back on the table. “I hope Ragnor liked it.”

“I’m sure he did. You were right, you’re good,” Alec said, then reached out to taste the ‘mint julep’ Magnus had mixed a few minutes earlier. He grimaced and put it back down. “This however is not.”

Magnus sighed, “Back to the drawing board.”

“Sorry. I feel like I’m being picky,” Alec said.

“Not at all. I value honesty above practically all other things. I couldn’t live with myself if I made you drink with me every night and knew you weren’t enjoying yourself. Well, enjoying the alcohol at least. I am consistently delightful.”

“You drink every night?”

Magnus shrugged and waved around his cocktail. “What’s it going to do? Kill me? I’m immortal.”

“Fair enough. I am starting to see the appeal,” Alec admitted. “And it’s better than hunting demons every night.”

“Surely you didn’t go out hunting every night. You need to take time for yourself at some point.”

Alec scoffed. “You really aren’t a shadowhunter. We’re soldiers Magnus, we’re not really encouraged to have fun, or take the night off or any of that, especially not in my family. Honestly, almost every day was the exact same, hunt demons, train, do laundry, hunt demons.”

“Do laundry?” Magnus questioned.

“Yeah. Demons are 80% ichor and it’s gross and it gets everywhere,” Alec said, leaning forward to rant with a kind of intensity that let Magnus know the nephilim was starting to get a bit tipsy. “We have to use special laundry detergent from Alicante to get it out of our clothes. And there’s so much of it. We have first year grunts whose full time job is just cleaning that stuff off our weapons.”

“That does seem a bit excessive.”

“And the thing that really bothers me is that ichor doesn’t even make any sense!” Alec exclaimed, really getting riled up now.

Magnus covered his amused smile with his drink and prodded Alec on. “I’m sorry, why doesn’t it make sense that you get covered in demon blood every time you kill a demon?”

“Because our weapons are made of this … this blessed angelic metal that’s supposed to turn them to ash as soon as we stab them, except they only mostly turn to ash. It’s like all the grossest parts of them refuse to disintegrate and just stick to our swords and clothes as long as possible. Like it’s their final revenge for us killing them. Gross revenge.”

Magnus was unabashedly laughing now while trying to nod sympathetically. “I see.”

“There was this one time, it was so gross …” Alec shook his head and took a quick sip of his mojito. “No never mind, I can’t tell you about that, it was too awful.”

“You absolutely can tell me about it and you will this instant,” Magnus demanded.

Alec hesitated but was smiling with a blush creeping up his cheeks as he finally started. “Okay, so Izzy, Jace and I were tracking these dahak demons to what I think was a closed down rec center or something and we split up and I’ve got my bow and I go into this big open two storey room and one of them jumps out at me from some crates, I yell out that I found the demons, take care of it, no problem. But as I’m killing this first one I see movement out of the corner of my eye and I look up and I see another one jumping down from the ceiling rafters, straight at me, biggest dahak demon I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how it got up there, the beams should have busted under its weight. So it’s falling towards me and I pull out an arrow and I shoot it, perfect shot, and it disintegrates, except for the ten percent of it which is pure ichor and just, won’t. So now there’s this giant puddle of goo just falling towards me.”

“Oh god,” Magnus muttered, clearly seeing where this story was going and barely containing his laughter.

“And here’s the worst part. I could have moved. I had my speed rune activated, I could have gotten clear, but I was just … mesmerized by this ichor falling towards me like lumps of lava lamp in the air. And then it hit me, literally, right in the face. And it was, oh god, it was everywhere. It was in places I couldn’t have gotten it if I tried, my mouth, clothes, boots, IN my quiver, everywhere.”

While Magnus laughed heartily at the mental image, Alec paused for another sip of his drink but then continued on like he hadn’t stopped.

“And of course that’s when Izzy and Jace walk in looking, fucking immaculate. Like, Izzy’s hair isn’t even frizzy and I’m … this goo monster.”

Magnus was now clutching the arm of his chair as he nodded along enthusiastically.

“It was so bad I couldn’t even glamour properly to get home, I was leaving these giant ichor footprints everywhere and that stuff’s toxic to mundanes so we had to get it off, so I jumped in the damn New York harbor, in the middle of March, then had to walk back home freezing wet … it was … ugh.” Alec took a long sip of his drink as if to wipe the taste of it away. “I hate ichor.”

“You certainly have reason to.”

Alec smiled widely and felt his heart beat faster when he finally looked up at Magnus and saw him wipe away a tear from laughing. The warlock was usually so elegant, with a composed sort of anarchy about him that couldn’t be cracked but watching him laugh so openly Alec felt a surge of pride for breaking through that wall. It made Magnus feel real and accessible, and more beautiful than ever.

Alec swallowed noticeably when the thought hit him and turned away abruptly, reminding himself that their relationship was strictly professional.

“I um … I think I’m drunk,” he said, bracing both hands on the table in front of him.

“I think that’s an accurate assessment. How do you like it?” Magnus asked.

“The laughing is fun. I could do without the swaying and the sleepiness.”

“I’m afraid they’re a package deal.”

“Well then I think this is drunk enough for me. I’m going to head to bed,” he said, pushing himself to standing.

“All right, here, drink this first,” Magnus said, handing him a glass.

“Magnus, I just said …”

“It’s water,” Magnus cut him off, standing up as well. “Drink it, it will help with your first hangover that you’re going to have tomorrow.”

“Drinking sounds like more of a hassle than it’s worth,” Alec mumbled but took the water and started to down it.

“That’s blasphemous speech in my presence Alexander.”

“Sorry, forgot who I was talking to,” Alec said and handed back the cup but stumbled on the table leg as he walked away. Magnus caught his arm to steady him and Alec lost his breath. Magnus hadn’t been this close to him since he was poisoned. He smelled like sandalwood and lavender. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Magnus said, and if they both felt it was difficult to pull out of each other’s space, well, neither of them said it, but neither of them moved either. Eventually Alec nodded and stuck his thumb in the direction of his room though.

“Well, I’m gonna … uh … good night.”

Magnus released his arm reluctantly and let him go. “Good night Alexander.”

It wasn’t until Alec turned the corner that they both finally breathed.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

The next morning Alec indeed woke up with his first hangover, as least he assumed that was the reason his head hurt and the light in the room was blinding him. Groaning he reached for his bedside table, grabbed his stele and activated his healing rune, immediately feeling better. Using his angelic gifts for such a petty reason was probably frowned upon, but whatever. Living with Magnus was making him very quickly not care about the Clave’s opinion on pretty much anything.

When he came out for breakfast he pretended he hadn’t been hungover at all, but Magnus shot him a look over pancakes that said he knew better but wasn’t going to say anything. That was when Magnus informed him that after he was done with a few clients they would be spending the evening at his club, Pandemonium. Alec was pretty sure he kept himself from cringing outwardly, but internally he screamed in pain. Clubs were not his thing. Dammit. So much for his cushy Life Debt.

After training for a few hours in the, frankly spectacular, gym Magnus had made him, Alec showered and started rune-ing his arrows in the living room while he waited for Magnus to finish getting ready. Eventually the warlock emerged dramatically from his bedroom, strutting in a pair of incredibly tight leather pants, a black low cut silk top with intricate blood red designs stitched into it, a slew of jewelry, and make up and hair to match the color palette of his shirt. When he walked out he looked incredibly proud of himself but his face fell when he saw Alec.

“I told you this is a dance club, didn’t I?” Magnus asked, not trying to be cruel but genuinely wondering if he had forgotten to mention it.

Alec looked down at his plain black jeans and plain black button down shirt.

“I’m not there to have fun Magnus, that’s your job. Besides, I was going to go glamoured,” Alec said.

“At least a quarter of my patrons and all the staff are downworlders,” Magnus said, meaning they all had the sight and would see through Alec’s invisibility glamour.

Alec crossed his arms and shrugged defensively. Club get-up really wasn’t his style but he wasn’t sure he was allowed to say no if Magnus asked him to change his clothes. “Is it … a problem?”

“Of course not, I just didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable once we got there,” Magnus said. “You might stick out a little like that. I’ve got some options you can try if you’d like to blend in more.”

Magnus’s tone said he was truly just trying to be considerate and Alec breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed his stance. “I’m very comfortable.”

“Excellent.” Magnus smiled. “Well then let’s get going. It’s early but I have to meet with some of the staff.”

“I’m ready when you are,” Alec said. He shouldered his bow and stood ready, waiting for Magnus to open a portal. Magnus was briefly distracted by the possibility of choosing a scarf off a coat rack though, which put Alec in a position to take a moment to appreciate the warlock’s revealing outfit from behind. Magnus eventually decided against the scarf and turned back to Alec with a smile and Alec looked down at his feet, shuffling them again for an entirely different reason.

“You look nice by the way.”

Magnus felt his hand freeze mid-snap at the almost whispered compliment that he could swear he felt resonate down to his soul.

“Thank you Alec. You … look very good yourself.”

Alec let one side of his lip curl up ruefully. “I thought you said you valued honesty Magnus.”

“You can look good without being … extravagant about it,” he said, gesturing towards his own outfit. “And you do.”

“All right, I’ll take your word for it. Let’s go,” Alec said, hoping the dim lights of a nightclub would hide the blush creeping up his cheeks.

“As you wish,” Magnus said, then snapped his fingers.

When they stepped through the portal Alec saw that they were indeed very early as the club wasn’t even open yet. They landed in what looked like a VIP dance area but Magnus moved immediately towards a well-built bald man wearing a plain black t-shirt and earpiece who was moving a velvet rope holder.

“Marco,” Magnus said in greeting. “How are we looking for the evening?”

“I’ve got three VIP tables booked that’ll need your attention and we’ve had a few walk-ins the last few nights, so I would expect a few more again,” Marco said, abandoning his task to talk to Magnus while also eyeing Alec behind him.

“Completely manageable, thank you. Ah, this is Alec. Alec, Marco my head of club security. Marco this is Alec, my new head of … personal security,” Magnus said, pausing to contemplate Alec’s title for a moment.

Marco raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Instead he offered out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too,” Alec said, shaking it. The tightness of the grip and the length of the man’s nails told him that Marco was likely a werewolf.

“Could you do me a favor and give Alec a lay of the land and let the staff know he’s going to be around going forward. He’s got full access. Show him everything,” Magnus said.

“Of course,” Marco said, then cleared his throat. “You’re sure … everything?”

Magnus froze for a moment and clucked his lower lip as though deep in thought on the matter.

“… yes,” he finally decided.

“All right, follow me,” Marco said, moving towards the entrance doors.

“Yeah,” Alec mumbled, but leaned over as he passed by Magnus. “Do I even want to know what ‘everything’ is?”

From the look on Magnus’s face he probably didn’t.

“Nothing to worry about. Marco will take good care of you,” Magnus said as he waved off the question and started to flit away towards his bar staff.

“Uh huh,” Alec said but followed Marco as instructed.

Marco turned out to be a no-nonsense guy that introduced Alec to all the staff and showed him the secured and unsecured areas and how to get in and out of them, and there were a lot of them. Pandemonium was a lot more expansive than Alec had thought, there was the main bar and dance floor, a VIP bar and dance floor, roped off VIP sections, secluded VIP rooms, a cigar and fine scotch room in the back, a section with a roulette wheel and eight card tables for gambling, and Marco still had one more staircase to take him down.

“So, Life Debt, huh?” Marco said as they walked through a brick hallway.

“Oh,” Alec almost pulled back from the abruptness of the question. “People know about that?”

“Oh yeah, you’re all the gossip around here.”

“Great.”

“You didn’t think it was strange no one asked what a shadowhunter was doing here? We don’t get a lot of you guys in these parts.”

“I didn’t really think about it. I’m just trying to do my job.”

“Good attitude,” Marco said, nodding approvingly. “That’ll take you far around here, at least with me. This is the last stop.”

Marco stood in front of a large sliding door and pulled it open, allowing Alec to step inside. His feet stopped working two feet past the door though as he took in the chains hanging from the low-lit ceiling and whips, ball gags, masks and other accessories hanging off pegs on the wall and the row of doors leading to private rooms. His mouth dropped open and he turned to Marco who just nodded knowingly.

“Yeah, it’s a sex dungeon.”

Alec looked to the sky pleadingly and ran a hand down his face. Angel help him.

“Does … um … does Magnus come down here? Ever? Often? Maybe never?” he asked, knowing he really only had to go wherever the warlock did and prayed it wasn’t here.

“On occasion. Not for awhile though. Probably been a little over two months since the last time I saw him head this way,” Marco said.

Alec’s brow furrowed. They had met two months ago. He shook away the thought. That had also been the night Magnus learned that The Circle was back, it made sense that he had been pre-occupied since then.

He finished taking in the room and turned back to Marco. “This is … everything, right?”

“Yeah, this is everything.”

“We allowed to drink around here?”

Marco shrugged. “As long as you don’t get messy.”

“Good,” Alec headed back towards the stairs. “I need a mojito.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

When he got back upstairs he found Magnus reading over a clipboard handed to him by a woman named Carrie who ran the gambling room. Magnus ticked something off, handed it back to her and smiled to see Alec had returned.

“Alexander, did you find everything all right?”

“Oh yeah, I saw … everything.”

“Ah,” Magnus looked away knowingly and started to wave a hand around. “I have a diverse clientele you see …”

“Magnus, you don’t have to explain, in fact, please don’t,” Alec said, cutting him off. “What consenting adults do in the basement isn’t my concern. Besides, you warned me on my first day that there would be a warlock dungeon. Least now I know where it is.”

Magnus smiled appreciatively and nodded. “Well, I wanted you to have a full lay of the land in case of trouble, but we’ll most likely be sticking to the main floor tonight.”

“Anything you need me to do?” Alec asked.

“Make sure nobody kills me,” Magnus requested, then clapped Alec on the shoulder. “And try to have fun.”

“Only one of those things is probably going to happen,” Alec muttered.

Magnus’s eyebrows went up. “Well then let's aim for the first one.”

TBC

Chapter Text

Many, many hours later Alec sighed in relief as they stepped through a portal into Magnus’s living room. As soon as his foot touched the carpet Alec tilted his head back and breathed deeply, enjoying the air free of sweat, the lack of bodies pressed against one another and the distinct absence of music thumping into his bones.

“Drink?” Magnus asked as he walked around him, somehow still appearing chipper and fresh despite spending the whole night in the club. Alec wasn’t sure how he did it without stamina runes.

“Yes please.”

Magnus chuckled at Alec’s desperation. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, glad to be out of there,” Alec said, dropping down on the couch.

Magnus moved to his cocktail bar and began to mix their drinks. “It wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“The first hour was rough,” Alec admitted. “Once I realized we were there to work it was a little easier to manage.”

Magnus quirked an eyebrow and fixed his drink more slowly. “What do you mean?”

“Come on Magnus, you weren’t there to have fun, you were there to hold High Warlock Office Hours for the downworld,” Alec said as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. And to him it was. Alec had spent most of the night perched up on a catwalk above the dance floor to keep a lookout on everything and at a glance it did look like Magnus was there to party, he was drinking, laughing, flaunting his magic and taking groups and individuals up to his VIP section, but Alec saw through it. Though Magnus ordered round after round for the entourage he kept around him, he drank very little throughout the night himself. Alec would bet he wasn’t even buzzed at this point hours later. Then there was the way Magnus laughed and interacted at Pandemonium, it wasn’t fun and open like at home. He was closed off, his laugh bordering on cruel and his smile never reaching his eyes. And every time he used his magic it was demonstrative and abrupt, more of a show of power than the helpful snaps and waves that Alec usually saw him use. At first it had jarred Alec, seeing this other side of Magnus, but as the night wore on he understood the need for it and how much of it was a show. To those in the crowd below looking up at him in his domain he wasn’t Magnus Bane, a man who desperately wanted to look after his people, here he was the mysterious High Warlock of Brooklyn, a man to be awed, envied and feared.

And Alec could see that awe and respect in the downworlders that approached Magnus throughout the night with requests for help with problems or information regarding the Circle that was rippling through the downworld.

Alec could hardly describe the relief he felt when he realized what Magnus was really doing there. It wasn’t his place to say but he had been silently frustrated that Magnus wanted to spend the night at the club when they had spent the previous evening getting drunk. Not that he thought Magnus should only drink with him, but this would make it two nights in a row where they did nothing to further their investigation regarding the Circle and the missing warlocks, but in the end he couldn’t have been more wrong about what they were doing that evening.

Right now though Magnus stirred his drink thoughtfully and Alec thought he might have been mildly perturbed.

“And what makes you think that?” Magnus asked, handing Alec his drink and sitting down stiffly in the chair across from him.

“Little things,” Alec said. “You weren’t drinking, not really, and you weren’t actually having fun. Your smile, your gestures, they were all overly harsh, it was almost all a façade. The only time you were really you was when you would take someone to a private room to talk.”

“And how do you know what happened in my private room?”

“Hearing rune,” Alec said. “You said I had full access and I can’t protect you if I don’t know what’s happening.”

Magnus nodded in agreement with Alec’s assessment but still looked put off.

“I’m sorry, I feel like I upset you. Am I totally off on this?” Alec asked.

“No,” Magnus shook his head and stirred his drink with his pinky. “No, you’re not wrong. I suppose I’m just … not used to being seen through so easily.”

Alec lowered his head and shrugged. “Well most people don’t live with you, so I doubt anyone else could tell.”

“Did it bother you?” Magnus asked, looking into his drink, voice oddly vulnerably.

“No, not after I realized what you were doing. The High Warlock has to seem powerful, unflappable, but you’re still approachable if people need help. I think it works. I think … masks are okay, when you know that you’re wearing them, and why. And you know why. But I definitely prefer you like this, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“It wasn’t, but noted,” Magnus said, finally smiling as he sipped his martini.

“Did you learn anything useful?” Alec asked, relaxing back into the couch now.

“I thought you were listening,” Magnus said, teasing now instead of tense.

“I just checked in from time to time. I didn’t want to eavesdrop all night.”

“I see, well you wouldn’t have missed out on much if you had. It seems everyone in the downworld has heard something about the Circle and not a bit of it is useful. Sightings with no address, attacks with no names to track down, ‘it happened to a friend of a friend’. Honestly, we’re all under siege, you’d think people could gather some facts,” Magnus grumbled, taking a frustrated sip of his drink.

Alec shook his head in sympathy. “It makes me miss demons. It’s so much easier with them. They come to Earth, we see a blip on the monitor, we track them down, we kill them. The Circle though, it’s like they’re … I want to say ghosts but honestly I think ghosts would be easier to track.”

“They’re shadowhunters, they know how to hunt downworlders and avoid other shadowhunters. All we can do is keep at it I suppose.”

Alec cringed. “At Pandemonium?”

“Not every night, but yes, on occasion. It’s my best source of information,” Magnus said, a hint of apology in his voice. “Is there anything I can do to make your nights there more enjoyable?”

Alec fiddled with his quiver and started twirling an arrow absently between his fingers like a drum stick and shook his head.

“I don’t think so. Not unless you know a spell that will make me like techno music.”

“Not currently, but I’ll see what I can do. Or you can join me in the VIP area. I’ve got silencing wards up that drown out most of the music.”

“No, I think I’d be more uncomfortable down there. I like it on the catwalk. I can see the whole place, spot any trouble, keep an eye on everyone,” Alec said.

“You were very vigilant. Thank you for that. It’s much easier to work when I know you’re there ready to put an arrow in someone at the first sign of trouble.”

Alec laughed. “Don’t act like you can’t take care of yourself.”

“Oh I can, but it’s always nice to have back up.”

An image of Izzy and Jace flashed in Alec’s mind and his gaze drifted away as he remembered fighting with them back to back, of shooting demons creeping up on his siblings, of Jace yelling his name in warning, of Izzy lashing onto a vampire with her whip before it could take a bite out of Alec’s neck.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” he muttered.

“Can I ask you something?” Magnus said, breaking him out of his memories.

“Sure.”

Magnus pointed to Alec’s hand that was still spinning an arrow around absently. “Why a bow? I’ve been around long enough to know it’s a rare signature weapon for a Shadowhunter.”

“I’ve known I was going to use the bow since I was ten,” Alec said and couldn’t stop the grin that spread over his face as he considered his weapon. It was a look that almost smacked of pride but was too pure. Magnus thought the smile may have been more content than anything, showing that Alec had no doubts about his choice of weapon whatsoever.

“Early proficiency?” Magnus guessed, but Alec just scoffed, as if the idea of him being proficient at anything was laughable.

“Oh no. I wasn’t even very good at it when I first tried it. But I knew it was for me, so I kept practicing. I was the best at the Institute when I left. But don’t worry, I’m no slouch with a sword either, Jace needed someone to practice with after all.”

“What made you so sure about it?”

“A story I read.”

“Ah, some inspiring tale of shadowhunter glory on the battlefield?”

“Kind of,” Alec said, seemingly enthralled by the arrow still spinning in his hand as he spoke. “Have you heard of Nicholas Asherton?”

“He’s a shadowhunter of legend. I didn’t know he used a bow.”

“He didn’t. It wasn’t about him really. Well, it was but … I read this story when I was ten in “A Detailed History of Demonic Warfare …”

“Standard ten year old fare, I’m sure.”

Alec chuckled at Magnus’s sarcasm but continued. “I was reading about the last time the Mortal Cup was stolen actually and the battle to get it back.”

“The Battle of Castle Kang wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. Pretty much everyone knows the general details of it, this evil warlock – no offence - ”

“None taken.”

“This warlock, Myrrin Kang, stole the Mortal Cup and locked it away in his castle. The demons didn’t want the Nephilim to get it back so they agreed to guard his castle, hundreds of them. A shadowhunter army eventually marched on the Castle, Nicholas retrieved the Mortal Cup and came home a hero. That was the short version, but this book had battle strategies and troop movements, so I read it on my own.”

“Of course young you assigned yourself homework,” Magnus muttered, but was clearly enthralled by where this story was going.

“I’ll never forget when I read that story. There were hundreds of shadowhunters, outnumbered by demons on a battlefield and one man, Nicholas Asherton, managed to cut through the army, cross the cursed moat, make his way into the castle and retrieve the cup, all by himself.”

Magnus raised a skeptical eyebrow. “It certainly sounds like this story is about Nicholas Asherton.”

“You know for an immortal you’re pretty impatient. I’m getting there,” Alec promised. “So Asherton gets the Cup, but he still has to get back out of the Castle and there are alarms going off and every demon in the place is after him. He makes it up to the ramparts but there are demons everywhere, a dozen blocking his path in every direction, he’s exhausted, has nothing but his seraph blade, and he’s nowhere near the break in the wall he had planned to escape through. He’s sure he’s finished. And then, in the blink of an eye, five demons in front of him just fall. It’s not all of them but it’s enough to give him a chance, so he keeps fighting, and more keep falling as they get near him and he can hear the whistle in the air every time another arrow takes down a demon and then another arrow and another until he’s made it to the hole in the wall and he finally looks out, and there, across the moat, in the middle of the battlefield, is his parabatai, Edmund Sterling, notching another arrow in his bow to cover his escape. He had killed two dozen demons in Asherton’s path from a mile away, he was the only reason he made it out of the Castle alive and with the Cup. As soon as I read that, I knew I was going to use a bow,” Alec said with more certainty than Magnus had ever heard from the young man. “The idea of being able to protect the people you care about even from far away, of always being able to watch out for them, I needed that. I’ve never regretted that.”

Magnus smiled fondly into his drink. “Not many ten-year old boys would have it in them to look past the conquering hero and idolize a man who was barely a footnote.”

“It’s not about glory,” Alec said dismissively. “It’s about saving what you love. That’s what’s important.”

“I didn’t mean it disparagingly, it’s an incredibly noble trait Alec.”

“Well, I guess that’s what got me here, isn’t it?” Alec said, but there was no trace of bitterness in his voice, just reflecting on his own actions. Finished with his drink, he slid the arrow back in his quiver and stood up, not eager to become too reflective of his choices the past week. “I better get to bed. My first night clubbing took a lot out of me.”

“Of course, good night,” Magnus said, not moving from his chair.

“Night,” Alec said, then walked sleepily away down the hall.

After he was gone Magnus took a thoughtful sip of his martini then moved to his shelf, slowly sliding his finger along his collection of books until he reached the section on Shadowhunters. He only had one book on their history but it was fairly detailed. He pulled it off the shelf and flipped to the Battle of Castle Kang, curious to see for himself what had enthralled Alec so much as a boy.

The details were very much the same as Alec had said, though somewhat drier in the telling of how Nicholas Asherton had single-handedly retrieved the Mortal Cup back for the Shadowhunters. He skimmed the page and finally found a single sentence about Alec’s hero, Edmund Sterling, and what it said broke his heart.

“Oh Alexander.”

“Edmund died before Nicholas could reunite with him, stabbed to death on the battlefield while saving the life of his parabatai.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

The next morning Alec woke up before Magnus for the first time since he had arrived at his loft and finally had the chance to make his own breakfast. It wasn’t as good as anything conjured by Magnus but he liked the sense of normalcy it brought him and the opportunity to lounge on Magnus’s balcony alone with Chairman Meow and the other cats. There were only three of them today. He took a note of that in his phone for his investigation along with a few photos.

Magnus eventually got up and started puttering around to prepare for his first client meeting and Alec retreated to the gym. He warmed up and did all his forms and some basic cardio then grabbed a sword and went through a standard practice routine. Eventually he wandered over to a heavy bag and hit it lightly with a huff of bored frustration.

“Everything okay?”

Alec jumped at Magnus’s voice. He had put a silence rune on the gym while Magnus was with a client but the warlock had clearly removed it once he was done and had heard Alec sigh.

“Hey. Yeah, I’m fine,” Alec said, and made a show of hitting the punching bag properly.

“Do you have everything you need? I can conjure you some targets if you want to practice your bow,” Magnus offered.

Alec raised his eyebrows and considered the offer but then shrugged. “Don’t worry about it, I don’t need anything, it’s just a little … monotonous, running through forms alone. I’m used to having people to spar with.”

Magnus’s face fell in understanding. “I see.”

“It’s not a big deal, I’ll get used to it,” Alec said, focusing on the heavy bag and feeling like he shouldn’t have mentioned it since there was nothing Magnus could do.

“Maybe I can help. My next client won’t be here until later this afternoon.”

“What are you going to do, conjure me a sparring partner?” Alec asked, half joking and half worried Magnus might actually be able to do it.

“Something like that,” Magnus smirked. He snapped his fingers and in a flash of light his outfit changed from a blue floral print blazer to a pair of sweatpants and a sleeveless hoodie. It was the first time Alec had seen Magnus in anything close to casual wear. He blinked and swallowed noticeably at the sight. Honestly, he deserved some warning before those incredibly toned arms went on display. Where had those been hiding? “Let’s see what you’ve got Shadowhunter.”

Alec shook away thoughts of Magnus’s arms and his face lit up in amused disbelief. “You can fight?”

Magnus shrugged nonchalantly, oozing confidence as he circled Alec and the heavy bag. “You’ll have to face me to find out.”

Alec licked his lips and smiled. “No magic?”

Magnus raised an eyebrow. “No runes?”

“Deal.”

“Deal.”

Terms set they both moved to the padded section of the floor, eyeing the other curiously.

“Touch or full contact?” Alec asked.

“Oh I’ve always been a full contact kind of guy,” Magnus said.

“I should have guessed. All right, let’s do this,” Alec said. They both bowed and dropped into a fighting stance. Alec’s stance was wide and grounded, all about strength and focus, while Magnus bounced on the balls of his feet, ready to move at any moment.

Alec ended up being the first one to move, throwing a kick that Magnus blocked with an elbow. They exchanged punches and blocks for a few moments before Alec swung his leg around to tangle between Magnus and trip him. Sensing the move coming Magnus swung himself over Alec’s shoulder and flipped the Shadowhunter who was now off balance. Alec ended up face first on the mat with Magnus applying just enough pressure on his shoulder joint to entice him to stay down.

“Feel free to let me know if you’ve decided whether I can fight or not,” Magnus said, releasing Alec’s arm and offering him a hand up.

“Oh it’s like that?” Alec said, accepting the hand up, still grinning despite his surprise. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Magnus said, amused by Alec’s safely competitive tone.

“Let’s dance. Again,” Alec said and then went at each other once more. They exchanged blows and kicks for a few moments and then backed away, circling the other. Alec was having trouble getting a sense of Magnus’s style. Alec mostly sparred with Hodge, or other shadowhunters trained by Hodge, who preferred a style of judo mixed with karate and some boxing. Magnus however moved faster and lighter in a combination of several different martial arts, some of which Alec probably hadn’t even heard of let alone studied.

He was keeping up with him better this time until Magnus kicked him in the back of the knee and then flipped him over as he fell forward.

“Hmm, I’m not sure how long I can bear to do this. It’d be a shame to damage that pretty face,” Magnus teased, still holding Alec’s arm in a submission grip.

“You won’t have to worry about it,” Alec promised then kipped up his legs to wrap his feet around Magnus’s neck. The look of surprise on Magnus’s face was well worth the strain it put on Alec’s shoulder as he shifted his weight and knocked the warlock to his back, then inched his legs up to apply a firm chokehold. Magnus tapped out almost instantly and Alec grinned as he released him and helped him up.

“Let me know if you’re having trouble keeping up, old man.”

Magnus brushed himself off in a show of restrained dignity and huffed.

“Old just means I’ve learned a lot more than you have Alexander.”

Magnus made the first move this time, throwing a middle kick that Alec blocked and caught. In response Magnus threw his weight forward, knocking Alec back, and tried to wrap around him for a headlock. Alec blocked the move and flipped him but Magnus landed on his feet and rolled forward. Alec moved in fast with a quick kick that Magnus barely blocked as he rose to standing. He tried to grab Alec’s wrist when he blocked his next punch but Alec maneuvered free and threw Magnus a few feet away. When Magnus came at him again Alec sidestepped the attack while leaving his foot in Magnus’s path, tripping him while he simultaneously grabbed him by the elbow and flipped him hard onto his back with his forearm under Magnus’s throat.

“Oof,” Magnus said, clearly not about to try another move after the rough landing. He looked up at Alec with a mix of confusion, awe and skepticism. He had never seen a move like that.

“What was that?” he asked incredulously.

Alec released him and smiled triumphantly. “Krav Maga. It’s only been around since the 1950’s. I figured you’d studied all the old martial arts, I took a chance you wouldn’t know a new one.”

Magnus nodded as he got up, impressed by the strategy. “Well, I’m always eager to learn. Show it to me?”

“So you can have a chance of beating me?”

“I mean, if you’re scared I completely understand.”

Alec laughed and tapped his shoulder. “It’s all good, I’ll show you. Come at me again with the same kick.”

“I’d like to land softer this time,” Magnus requested before complying.

“That was never part of the deal,” Alec said, but was indeed gentle as he walked Magnus through the steps of the takedown a few times.

“Let me try,” Magnus said, falling into a ready stance. “Come at me.”

Alec did as requested and Magnus swept out his foot, put Alec in the armbar and flipped him. Alec landed on his back successfully but when Magnus tried to apply the chokehold he failed to brace himself on just one knee and ended up straddling Alec’s hips instead with his hands braced flat against Alec’s chest.

And just like that time seemed to slow down as they both became incredibly aware of every sensation in the room. The feel of skin pressed against skin was suddenly burning, the scent of sweat in the air was intoxicating, the pounding of their hearts and the thunderous sound of both of their breaths was like a drumbeat as they stayed laid out on top of each other for far longer than rationally necessary.

Eventually Alec licked his lips but made no attempt to move. “That was close.”

“Thanks.” Magnus didn’t move either. “I’m a fast learner.”

“I’m a good teacher,” Alec said with a breathless grin.

“Obviously not that good.” Magnus shifted his legs to emphasize he was in the wrong position.

“Well some people are just hopeless.”

“I certainly hope I’m not just ‘some people,’” Magnus teased to keep the mood light but Alec’s eyes switched from flustered blinking to intensely serious as he met Magnus’s gaze and shook his head.

“You’re not.”

Magnus felt his breathing get heavier and it wasn’t from physical exertion. His hands began to slide down Alec’s chest and he felt his body betraying him, leaning closer to the warm breath hitting his face even as Alec’s fingers moved to splay out around his wrist, the gentle caress stealing his breath as their lips got closer.

A phone rang across the room, jolting them apart.

“Fuck.”

Magnus sat up quickly and crawled off Alec, suddenly clumsy and uncoordinated. Alec was no better, trying to rise before Magnus was completely off him and knocking them both into a brief tangle of limbs once more.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, eyes going anywhere but Magnus’s face.

“No … I’m … one moment,” Magnus said, scrambling for his phone and accepting the call to end the incessant ringing. “Hello.”

While Magnus spoke he turned to face the hall, giving him a chance to compose himself. Behind him Alec was very much doing the same, running his hand through his hair and taking steadying breaths while Magnus muttered distractedly to the person on the other end. By the time he hung up they were both still tightly wound balls of awkward tension, but they were composed enough to partially hide it.

“That was my client, they’re coming over early,” Magnus said apologetically.

“Sure. I uh … I think I had enough for the day anyway. Thank you, for the sparring session,” Alec said, suddenly incredibly interested in following a crack in the heavy bag with his thumb nail.

“It was my pleasure. Thank you for the lesson,” Magnus said, waving his hands around, equally uncomfortable. “Well I’d better … clean up before my client arrives.”

“Yeah you’re …” Hot, Alec almost said. “… sweaty.”

“Right.” Magnus smiled awkwardly, turned around and left.

The moment he was out of sight Alec deflated, leaning his body against the heavy bag and bashing his forehead lightly against the cool surface.

“Strictly professional,” he muttered to himself, but honestly this Life Debt was starting to feel anything but.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Over the next week Magnus and Alec found a sort of informal routine. Most days Magnus would see clients while Alec either trained or met up with Izzy or sometimes both. Though Magnus was increasingly tempted to offer to spar with Alec again, he knew the chance of him taking the activity to an intimate level was far too high, so instead he had offered to let Izzy come to the loft to train, an offer she was happy to take him up on to Alec’s delight.

Their nights were all business though as they would take care of the most pressing leads they had regarding the Circle, whether that meant meeting with friends of missing warlocks, going to Pandemonium to gather information, or the occasional warlock party, of which Alec was not allowed to attend but gladly babysat Madzie so Catarina could go and enjoy herself.

Magnus was fairly certain he would never forget when he portalled over to Catarina’s to take Alec home only to find him on the couch with a sleeping Madzie, his clothing glamoured to match the outfit of the Ken doll on his lap.

“It made her laugh,” Alec said in way of explanation as he handed the sleeping warlock off to Catarina to put to bed.

“You truly go above and beyond Alec,” Magnus said, a besotted grin growing on his face that he couldn’t seem to wipe away for several days.

One morning after a particularly long night at Pandemonium Magnus announced that they were taking the day off, cancelled his client meetings and told Alec to put on something nice. An hour later Alec sat waiting in a tailored blue blazer over a grey shirt as Magnus emerged in a black and white striped suit, something Alec wouldn’t have thought could look classy but of course Magnus pulled off effortlessly. Who was Alec kidding, Magnus looked good in everything.

“Where exactly are we going?” Alec asked.

“To get away from our troubles for a bit,” Magnus answered, summoning a portal. Alec stepped through and found himself assaulted by neon lights and too many sounds. After a few moments of blinking he was able to see that they were in a casino complete with slot machines, card tables, waitresses and bars spread out as far as the eye could see.

“Welcome to Tokyo, where nobody knows your name!” Magnus exclaimed.

“Huh?” Alec asked, unnerved and touching his bow anxiously as he tried to catalogue all the exits.

“What I mean is, this is a mundane casino, halfway around the world and nobody knows we’re here. No Circle, no one hunting me. You’re not here to protect me today Alec, we’re here to have fun. Let’s get some chips,” Magnus said, waltzing towards the money counter.

“Uh … I don’t know how to gamble,” Alec said, eyes sweeping over the foreign games being played at the tables.

“Well then, you’ll just have to be my lucky charm,” Magnus smirked.

For the first hour Alec was content to do just that and watch Magnus play blackjack. Eventually he relaxed enough to realize that Magnus was right, this was a mundane establishment halfway across the world and the likelihood of someone trying to hurt them here were slim. With that in mind he decided he wanted to explore a little. Magnus was on a hot streak and decided to stay at his table but encouraged Alec to look around and gave him some cash in case he wanted to try any of the games. Alec bought himself a drink and wandered around.

He put a few dollars in a slot machine but didn’t see the appeal of watching a row of pictures light up and change over and over again, especially when he didn’t need money since he lived with an all-powerful warlock. He wandered over to the card tables and watched people play for awhile. He slowly figured out the rules but still had no interest in playing. Watching the players’ reactions could be quite entertaining though. A large doubledoor at the end of the room drew his attention and he looked inside to find a jazz band playing enthusiastically to a half full room. He sat down to listen, something he wasn’t sure he had ever done in his life and ordered another mojito as he tapped his feet with the music. A little later some more wandering brought him to a gift shop. He immediately went to the jewelry section and found a bracelet that he thought was Izzy’s style. As he went to the counter to pay for it his eye was caught by one more item. He inspected it for a minute, smiled and laid it on the counter with the bracelet.

When he got back to Magnus’s table he saw that the warlock’s pile of chips was considerably smaller than it had been when he left.

“Alexander,” Magnus said, but he was concentrating on his cards and lacking his usual grandiosity in the greeting.

“Looks like I really was your lucky charm,” Alec muttered, grimacing at Magnus’s meager pile of chips.

“Well let’s see what happens now that you’re back.” Magnus took a long swig of his martini and sat back as he waited for the dealer to reveal their cards.

“21. Dealer wins.”

“Ouch,” Alec said as Magnus lost even more of his money.

“So much for that idea.” Magnus finished off his drink with a flourish and slammed down the empty glass. “We’re done here. Let’s go. I need sushi and another martini.”

“In that order?” Alec asked.

“I suppose that makes the most sense. There’s a restaurant just across the lobby,” Magnus said, leading the way.

“How did you end up losing so bad?” Alec asked. “I thought you’d be a master at this.”

“Sadly even the greatest players can’t make decent cards appear.”

“Magnus you can make literally anything appear. You conjured me a steak last night and I don’t even know what country it came from. Is this place warded against magic or something?”

Magnus pushed open the door of the restaurant with an affronted gasp. “My boy, are you suggesting I would cheat?”

Alec shrugged as though it should be obvious. “Wouldn’t you?”

“I would,” Magnus admitted. “If a situation called for it. But generally I let the cards come as they will. It wouldn’t really be gambling otherwise. Or any fun.”

They sat down in a booth and a waitress approached. As Magnus ordered their drinks Alec looked thoughtful then reached into the pouch on his glamored quiver. When Magnus turned away from the waitress he was surprised to see Alec holding a small gift bag out to him.

“What’s this?” he asked, his voice suddenly quite soft.

“I got you something. I was going to give it to you when we got back but I think you might need it now,” Alec said. He shook the bag lightly when Magnus made no move to take it. “Open it.”

Magnus smiled and took the bag, pulling away the tissue paper to reveal a red, white and gold omamori charm.

“It’s supposed to bring you luck and protection,” Alec said, smiling widely with pride at his purchase. “The protection is for when I’m not around, and the luck I thought you could use right now if you’re going to be gambling again later.”

“I see,” Magnus said, his voice unsteady.

He ran his thumb over the charm and felt an almost painful throb of joy tighten his chest to the point that he had to fight back tears from welling in his eyes. He looked up at Alexander who was smiling openly, thrilled to watch him open the present and expecting absolutely nothing in return. It was a look Magnus hadn’t seen for decades, perhaps centuries, and his heart threatened to break at the thought of how much he didn’t deserve this man in his life, in any capacity.

“Thank you, Alec, that’s an incredibly thoughtful gift. I love it,” Magnus said, painfully aware that his emotion laced tone did not match Alec’s light joy.

Alec shrugged modestly. “I’m not even sure it counts as a gift. I bought it with your money.”

“It’s wonderful,” Magnus assured him.

“Well hopefully it does what it says and brings you luck.”

Magnus smiled and met Alec’s eye. “I’m fairly certain it already has.”

TBC

Chapter Text

Their day off was cut short not long after they finished lunch by a fire message racing into Magnus’s hand informing him that another warlock had gone missing. They returned to New York in a solemn mood and did their usual investigation but still had no clue what the Circle wanted, where they were hiding or who they would go after next. Magnus decided they would go to Pandemonium again that night in the hopes of gathering more information.

Magnus donned a black blazer with a low cut purple shirt and set himself up in the VIP lounge for the night while Alec wore his usual ensemble and kept watch from the catwalk.

For the first few hours everything seemed normal. Alec fought off a headache caused by the thumping music as he kept an eye on Magnus and the warlock schmoozed and partied with his downworlder friends below. It was a pretty standard night, and then Alec noticed two men creeping around the edge of the crowd. At first he thought nothing of them. Two men in full suits and sunglasses usually indicated traditional security guards, which happened when someone in the club was either a mundane celebrity or a downworlder VIP. But Alec froze when as one of the men turned, revealing an angry red curve burnt into his skin above the collar of his shirt.

“What?” he whispered and activated his enhanced sight rune to be certain. Sure enough, there on both men’s necks were Circle Runes.

Alec’s hands clenched around the railing as he watched the two men proceed to a secluded corner near the bar. They seemed to be waiting for something. Alec didn’t plan on doing the same. He leapt over the railing and landed in the VIP section below almost directly in front of Magnus.

The club was mostly mundanes that evening and Alec was glamoured, meaning almost no one reacted to his abrupt arrival other than Magnus and two vampires who were lounging with him on the couch.

“Alexander ….” Magnus immediately waved his companions off and stood next to Alec, knowing the shadowhunter wasn’t one to make a scene unnecessarily. Alec didn’t look at him, determined not to lose sight of the two men.

“There are Circle members here. At least two, maybe more,” Alec said. Magnus followed his gaze until he spotted the men Alec was talking about near the bar.

“I see them,” he said. Blue sparks of magic instantly coursed through his fingers.

“What do you want to do?” Alec asked.

“Don’t engage them if you don’t have to,” Magnus said, though the order pained him. “There are too many mundanes here, someone will get hurt. Circle around behind them. I’ll go send them a message.”

Alec nodded and disappeared into the crowd to do just that as Magnus stalked across the dance floor. When he arrived in front of the men he could see the fear on their faces when they recognized him even behind their ridiculous sunglasses.

“Circle members aren’t welcome in my club,” he said in a tone that was not to be argued with.

The two men shared a look as if trying to decide the best strategy for dealing with this seeming surprise.

“No worries warlock,” the smaller man said. “It’s all ancient history.”

The casual lie caused such a flare of anger through Magnus that he felt his glamour drop putting his cat eyes on full display. “Really? To me it was like the blink of an eye. Almost like the Circle had murdered and kidnapped half a dozen warlocks in just the last month.”

Clearly fearing Magnus would lash out at them in his rage, the larger shadowhunter lunged at the warlock in a preemptive strike. Magnus needed only two fingers to lift him in the air by his neck with a cord of blue magic. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Alec poised behind the two men, ready to strike, but he held back as Magnus clearly had the situation under control.

He wasn’t sure how long he could control himself though as he let his magic squeeze around the Circle member’s throat tighter with a vengeful glee.

“We’ve endured worse,” the man ground out even as the vertebra in his neck distended and cracked.

“You’ve inflicted worse,” Magnus said and only the press of innocent mundanes against his back gave him the strength to release the men without more violence. He dropped the larger man back to the floor. “Leave.”

The Circle members didn’t argue though they tried to maintain their dignity by leaving slowly instead of with their tails between their legs like Magnus wanted. He looked up at Alec who was still lurking in the crowd behind the bar and had gone unnoticed by the men. Magnus inclined his head to let Alec know to follow the men out and tried to convey the words ‘be careful’ in his expression. Alec nodded in understanding and moved behind the men with the fluidity of the hunter he was.

Magnus probably would have followed Alec with his eyes until he was out of sight if a small body hadn’t collided into his back.

“Sorry,” a girl’s voice said, frantic and distracted.

Magnus turned around and his eyes widened in surprise. Clarissa?

The redhead paused briefly to stare at Magnus, her brow furrowing like she almost recognized him, before she seemed to remember that she had been running scared and took off towards the exit doors. Magnus stood there confused for a moment, eyes sweeping the club for Jocelyn or Dot but seeing neither of them. What the hell was Clarissa Fairchild doing here when she was supposed to have all knowledge of the shadow world wiped from her mind? Maybe Jocelyn had finally told her the truth?

He’d work that out later, right now he needed to know how Circle members had even gotten into his club. Where was Marco?

He found his head of security in the secluded VIP section a floor above, seemingly oblivious to what had been happening on the dance floor.

“Marco!” Magnus shouted in fury. “Do you mind telling me how two Circle members just managed to make their way into my club?”

“What? Is everyone okay?” Marco asked, his eyes instantly scanning the crowd below them.

“I handled it after Alec spotted them, but my question remains.”

Marco shrugged helplessly. “Shadowhunters are tricky, you know that. They must have snuck in.”

“And yet you assured me the werewolves on your staff could smell a Shadowhunter a mile away,” Magnus said.

Marco nodded. He had promised that. “I’ll look into it.”

“You do that,” Magnus said, his fury palpable. Eager to escape the warlock’s wrath Marco scrambled away to interrogate his staff and find out what had happened.

Alone now Magnus felt his anger dissipate into a sharp sting of worry. Someone on his staff may be working for the Circle and he had just sent Alec alone to follow the rogue Shadowhunters. His concern was thankfully shortlived though as he soon saw Alec climbing the stairs to the VIP section to join him.

“Are you okay?” Magnus asked, surprised that his fury could so quickly turn over into complete and utter relief.

“I’m fine,” Alec said but frowned as though disappointed in himself. “They’re gone. I tried to follow them but they had a car and I couldn’t keep up. Sorry.”

“No, don’t be. I just wanted them out of here, I didn’t expect you to track them down on your own,” Magnus said, secretly relieved that Alec had failed in his self-imposed solo mission that could have ended disastrously. “I wonder what the hell they wanted though.”

“Maybe they were just here to be creeps,” Alec said, his tone particularly disgusted. “They couldn’t stop looking at a girl that ran out of the club behind them.”

Magnus stopped in his tracks. “What girl?”

“Young, tiny, bright red hair. She bolted out of here and got in a cab. I’m not sure but they might have even followed her,” Alec said and raised an eyebrow at Magnus’s concerned expression. “Do you know her?”

“In a way. I have to make some calls,” he said, moving down the walkway towards his office as it was the most private and warded room in the club. Alec walked beside him. Magnus could tell he was waiting for an explanation about who the girl was and who he was calling, but Magnus knew he couldn’t share this information with Alec. Knowing about Jocelyn and the Mortal Cup would just put him in danger. So instead of explaining himself he gave Alec another task. “Do me a favor and keep an eye out on Marco’s staff. Someone let those Circle members in here and I want to know who and why.”

“All right,” Alec said, acknowledging the dismissal and stopping at the stairs leading to the office. “Let me know if I can do anything else.”

“I will,” Magnus promised but he was already pulling out his phone and dialing Dot’s number as he opened his office door. It only rang twice.

“Hello?”

“They found you. When Clary gets home you all have to run.”

While Magnus warned Dot about the Circle, Alec took the catwalk to the main doors to watch the security staff as requested.

Neither of them had any idea that two floors below Izzy and Jace had just killed half a dozen demons in a private room and then snuck out the back door.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Valentine glared as his men came through the portal to his base with Jocelyn in tow, but definitely not how he had requested her.

“I told you to bring her back unharmed,” he said, inspecting the magic shell she floated in. “What happened?”

“She took a potion. She must have been under the protection of a warlock,” one of his men replied.

“Find out which one. A spell like this is beyond her friend Dorothea’s capabilities. It must have been someone else,” Valentine said.

The smaller Circle member licked his lips. “What about … Magnus Bane?”

“More than powerful enough. Why?” Valentine asked.

“We saw him tonight. The girl that led us to Jocelyn was at his club.”

Valentine nodded, that was all the information he needed. “Bring him to me.”

“He’s powerful …” the second man said, a trace of fear in his voice at the thought of taking on the High Warlock again.

“So am I,” Valentine said, running a hand down the row of cages in the room lovingly. “Take two of our new ‘involuntary recruits’ and wait until he’s alone. Then get him here.”

“Yes sir,” the two men said in unison and walked away, leaving Valentine alone with Jocelyn’s body.

“I’ll find who did this to you Jocelyn, and I’ll kill them.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

It was later than usual when Magnus and Alec got home from Pandemonium. After the club shut down Magnus had ordered his staff to stay behind to find out how the Circle members got in. Since glamoured shadowhunters didn’t appear on video cameras he thought the investigation might be difficult, but they got their answers almost immediately when Marco reported that one of his door workers, James, hadn’t been seen for hours and the door he was covering was likely how they got in. Magnus and Alec interrogated the rest of the staff but no one had seen James disappear or knew anything about what might have happened to him. Magnus found this particularly frustrating as he had no idea if James had been a violent victim to the Circle or had sold them out and taken off without a trace.

They both sighed as they stepped into the loft, no closer to answers than when they had left earlier that night.

“Night cap?” Magnus asked as he walked wearily towards his mini bar. “I think we’ve earned it.”

“Yeah right, maybe if I’d caught the guys,” Alec grumbled, clearly still upset with himself for letting the two Circle members get away outside the club.

“Alec, you’re a Shadowhunter not a helicopter, no one expects you to chase down a car. Give yourself a break,” Magnus said. “Besides, the Circle is dangerous and well-manned, you shouldn’t go after them yourself.”

“This was our best chance at finding their lair though, at finding something. Anything,” Alec said, clearly not taking in Magnus’s words.

“We’ll find something else, and we’ll do it together and then we will kick their sorry asses into a different dimension. Perhaps literally, I know quite a few terrible ones.”

This finally got a reaction out of Alec who let one side of his mouth curl up in amusement at the thought.

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“All right. I’m still a no to that drink though, thanks,” Alec said as he padded towards the gym to put his weapons away.

“More for me,” Magnus muttered, perfectly content to drink his cocktail alone. He had just finished shaking the martini when he paused and flexed his fingers to touch the magic in the air. Something didn’t feel right.

“Alec!” he called out, loud but unsure what he even needed.

Alec appeared in the doorway almost instantly and took in the sight of Magnus with his brow furrowed and weak sparks of magic coming out of his fingers.

“What’s wrong?”

“The wards,” Magnus said, eyes fixed on the floor as he concentrated. “Something’s coming.”

Alec didn’t need to be told any more than that. He pulled his stele out of its holder and started activating his battle runes even as he raced back to the gym to grab his weapons.

“Should we stay or portal out?” he yelled, willing to trust Magnus’s judgment on the level of danger they were in.

Magnus seemed stuck in the living room though, still looking at his hands which sparked but refused to bring forth the magic he needed to reinforce the wards that he could feel crumbling outside.

“We should leave,” Magnus said as Alec came back down the hall, bow on his shoulder and his stele over his deflect rune. “But I’m not sure …”

Whatever Magnus was about to say was cut off as the wards crashed down with explosive force. The wave of magic that followed was like a concussive blast, knocking over everything in its path. Magnus was pushed into the air so high that he landed on the coffee table and laid unmoving after it broke beneath him. In the hallway Alec was thrown back, dropping his stele as he fell in a heap, but his deflect rune took the brunt of the blast, leaving him on the floor but relatively unharmed.

“Magnus,” Alec breathed out. From his position in the hall he could only see Magnus’s unmoving feet and felt his heart constrict with fear, uncertain the warlock was even still alive. As he started to stand he heard the crash of the front door being kicked in and rolled into the doorway of his bedroom to ready his bow and draw an arrow.

“Well, looks like you were right warlock,” a cocky voice echoed from the front of the apartment. “The Circle’s not ancient history after all, but you will be if you don’t tell us what you did to Jocelyn.”

Alec breathed a strange sigh of relief when he heard the man’s voice, knowing the Circle member wouldn’t be talking unless Magnus was alive. Alec could hear at least four sets of footsteps entering the loft but no one had stepped into his line of sight yet so he stayed where he was. Their attackers didn’t seem to be fanning out or moving into any kind of formation, which meant they probably thought Magnus was alone and there was no further threat in the apartment. One of the men finally walked far enough into the room for Alec to see. He was holding a seraph blade and a pair of magic-dampening cuffs as he stalked towards Magnus. Alec felt his blood boil and he made his presence known by pulling his arm back and sending an arrow into the man’s throat.

“Down!” one of the others yelled, ducking behind a couch even as their companion sank to his knees with blood flowing through his finger tips.

Alec moved across the hall for a better line of sight and fired again, this time only managing to hit one man in the shoulder as he tried to hide behind a cabinet.

Moving down the hall Alec could finally take in the whole situation and saw Magnus was thankfully moving, slowly rolling onto his stomach and trying to stand. The bad news though was that there were more assailants than Alec had thought as he saw three uninjured Circle members and, what the hell, were those other two warlocks?

“Get him!” the man with the arrow in his shoulder cried and one of the warlocks pulled back his arm and shot a fireball towards the hallway. If he hadn’t had his speed rune activated Alec would have been burnt alive, but he was able to dive behind a couch in time to avoid the blast, firing as he flew through the air and hitting the warlock in the chest. Unfortunately diving for cover gave his opponents a chance to swoop in on him. Knowing it would be close quarters from here on out, Alec dropped his bow and switched to his seraph blade.

Just a few feet away, Magnus finally managed to push aside the throbbing pain in his body from the explosion and get to his feet in time to see a Circle member rushing towards him. He lifted his hands to push him back with a magic blast but he shuddered when only the faintest blue light came forth. Whatever that explosion had been it had left him almost completely drained, just like his wards. Before he could consider a different tactic a fist slammed into his face, knocking him back. Magnus fell into his mini-bar but recovered quickly. He saw his attacker was holding a seraph blade but had lashed out with his fist, which meant they wanted him alive. He sneered. That opened up some options, because the feeling definitely wasn’t mutual. As the man stalked towards him again Magnus leaned back on the bar and kicked forward, hitting the shadowhunter in the chest and knocking him back. Scrambling for a weapon the warlock’s right hand closed around a bottle of vodka which he swung directly into the man’s head when he ran at him again, knocking him to the ground in a shower of glass and alcohol.

What a waste, Magnus thought ruefully before his attention turned to Alec.

The last two Circle members had come at Alec from opposing sides and though he was managing to fend off both he was making little progress on actually taking them down. He pushed one away to give himself some breathing room but the second man was right there, coming down with a hard overhead swing. Alec blocked the strike but the man pushed forward, forcing Alec back until his shoulders collided with a bookcase.

As Magnus watched the first man recovered and ran at Alec, ready to strike a fatal blow while he was tangled with his opponent.

“Alec!” Magnus called out and tried to shoot a pulse of magic to help him, but again, nothing happened and he could only watch as the Circle member closed in.

Magnus’s warning was enough though. Alec saw the man coming at him and shifted his weight, throwing his opponent directly into the path of the other man’s blade. There was a moment of silent shock as the Circle member realized he had run his sword through the body of his companion instead of Alec.

Magnus breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Alec save himself and turned his attention to movement near the door, realizing for the first time that it was not only Circle members that had invaded his home but two warlocks as well. And not just any warlocks.

“Marcus? Peter?” Magnus whispered, recognizing the two warlocks from his wall of MISSING photos, though neither one had been so pale or had harsh black lines crawling under their skin in their pictures. “What are you doing?”

Magnus received no answer. Instead the Circle member that Alec had injured with an arrow to the shoulder shook Marcus frantically.

“Get us out of here, now!” he shouted at the warlock, knowing they were defeated even before Alec finished with his final opponent.

Marcus only nodded his understanding, his face blank as he summoned a portal behind himself and then with a flick of his wrist guided it to move around the apartment picking up the bodies of the Circle members both dead and alive before it finally enveloped the warlock himself and fizzled out of existence leaving no proof they were ever even there.

For a moment there was only the sound of heavy breathing as Alec and Magnus tried to figure out what had just happened. When Magnus finally looked over to check on Alec he found his shadowhunter had already crossed the room and was bringing his hands up to cradle the warlock’s face.

“Magnus, are you okay?” he asked, his gaze going up and down Magnus’s body, his expression frantic. “

“I’m fine,” he said, placing a reassuring hand on Alec’s wrist and cherishing the concerned touch.

Alec kept going as though Magnus hadn’t spoken, too shaken to stop, “The explosion … you weren’t moving … I thought …”

“I’m quite alive, thanks to you,” Magnus said, smiling in gratitude and placing a hand on Alec’s hip so he could feel that he was steady and alive. “My magic’s been drained somehow but … ”

Magnus pulled his hand back. It was covered in blood.

“Alec?”

Alec looked down as well, his face rapidly going pale as he seemed to notice the injury for the first time.

“Oh.”

Alec moved to touch the wound but it was as though the simple motion cut all the strings holding him up. His knees gave out and he dropped to the floor. Magnus lunged forward and managed to catch him before he completely nosedived and lowered him gently on to his back.

“I’ve got you. Hold on,” he said, but Alec’s eyes were already going glassy and he wasn’t sure the shadowhunter could even really hear him.

Magnus lifted Alec’s shirt to find a deep stab wound just above his right hip that was bleeding badly but thankfully showed no signs of demon infection. As soon as he saw the wound Magnus instantly knew Alec had received it in those final moments of the fight. When he blocked the sword strike with the other man’s body the blade must have gone all the way through and straight into Alec. And Magnus had just stood there and watched it happen. Damn it all to hell.

“You’re going to be okay Alec,” Magnus said. He waved his fingers over the wound and instantly felt sick when nothing happened. He’d forgotten that his magic was drained.

“Come on!” Breathing deeply he tried again, willing some untapped depth of magic within him to produce the energy he needed to heal the young man below him, but all he could manage was a few sparks of blue that faded almost as soon as they touched the wound.

“Damn it!”

He grabbed a throw blanket off the couch, bundled it up and pushed down on the wound, using it as a bandage. Alec’s back arced up and his eyes seemed to become more alert from the pain.

“Ah! Magnus,” he said breathlessly. “We can’t stay here. You have to go.”

“Neither of us are going anywhere,” Magnus said. God, he was losing so much blood. “I mean that physically and spiritually, understand? This apartment, this plane of existence, no leaving.”

Alec swallowed and shook his head weakly. “They could come back.”

“I will tear apart anyone that comes through that door,” Magnus said, though it was more growl than words. As he spoke he took out his phone with one hand while still applying pressure on the wound with the other. “We’ll be fine. I’ll get Catarina and …”

His phone was completely dead, possibly drained by the same spell used on him.

“No, no, no.”

He tried to tap into his magic again but he didn’t even have enough energy to send a fire message. They were completely alone.

Alec was trying to lift his head, either to see what Magnus was mumbling about or look at the wound, but Magnus pushed him down gently with his free hand.

“It’s all right, we’ll just … we’ll …” Magnus had no idea what they should do but noticed Alec’s fingers grasping at the empty air.

“St…stele,” Alec said, struggling for each syllable.

Magnus thought he might die of relief while simultaneously lamenting his own stupidity.

“Of course, I have to start thinking like a shadowhunter,” Magnus said, patting down Alec’s pockets but finding nothing. “Where is it?”

Alec’s eyes had gone glassy again and he looked like he was having trouble concentrating as he directed his reply to the ceiling.

“Dropped it … hallway …”

“Damn it,” Magnus muttered. He didn’t want to leave Alec alone but they desperately needed the magic device. He took both Alec’s hands and placed them on top of the makeshift bandage. “Here, keep pressure on this. I’ll be right back.”

“I know,” Alec said, and Magnus wanted to be touched by his trust in him but Alec’s eyes were also fluttering shut and he had to move fast.

Magnus raced down the hallway but didn’t see the stele anywhere. For the first time in his life he cursed his large home; he didn’t know where Alec had dropped it so had to start checking room by room. He eventually found it rolled under one of the shelves in his pantry.

“I’ve got it,” he said triumphantly as he dropped back down by Alec’s side but received no response to his announcement. “Alec?”

Alec’s hands were limp on his stomach and his head was lolled to the side with his eyes closed.

“Alec!” Magnus screamed, placing his hands on Alec’s face and slapping his cheek lightly. “No. Alec wake up!”

He put his cheek against Alec’s mouth and could feel him breathing but he was fairly certain he needed him awake.

“Alexander! Open your eyes!” Magnus demanded, slapping him harder, but Alec never shifted. In an act of desperation Magnus lifted Alec’s shirt to expose his healing rune and ran the stele over it but as predicted, nothing happened. He picked up one of Alec’s hands and wrapped his fingers around the stele then tried again but still nothing happened. It seemed to take a conscious shadowhunter to make the device work.

“This is a damn inefficient form of magic Alexander!” Magnus shouted in frustration. He moved his hands to apply pressure on the wound once more, not sure what else he could do. “You’re not dying on me Alec, do you hear me? Not now. Not when I just …”

Magnus cut himself off from making a declaration to nobody and forced himself to think. He needed help but his phone was dead and he couldn’t even send a fire message. His eyes lit up. Alec’s phone. He’d seen it charging in his room.

“Hold on Alexander,” Magnus said, his heart breaking to leave him again. He ran into Alec’s room and could have cried when he saw the phone was undamaged by the blast. When he opened the contacts he paused; Alec didn’t have the phone numbers for any warlocks and Magnus cursed his useless immortal self when he realized he didn’t have a single number memorized either. His eyes lit on one name in the phone that he knew would pick up however.

It took three rings, just long enough for Magnus to get back to Alec and apply pressure on the wound once more, and then finally he heard the beautiful voice that could save his Alexander.

“Alec, what’s up?” Izzy asked, her voice tight with concern at getting a call so late at night.

“It’s Magnus, get to my apartment, now!”

“What’s going on?”

“Alec’s hurt and my magic’s drained. He needs a healing rune or he’s not going to make it!” Magnus said. He had only met Isabelle twice when she came over to spar with Alec but he knew she was smart enough to not demand any more details than that.

“I … I’m in the seelie court. I can’t get there for at least an hour,” Isabelle said, her voice horrified by the realization.

“Alec doesn’t have that long Isabelle, he’s bleeding out. I can’t portal you, my magic’s completely drained. Someone needs to get here.”

Isabelle’s voice went quiet, like she was scared to even make this suggestion, “I … I think Jace is nearby.”

Magnus didn’t hesitate. Nothing mattered but Alec. “Get him here. Now. We’ll deal with it later.”

“Okay.”

Magnus hung up, trusting Isabelle to do everything in her power to help him save her brother.

In the meantime he put a hand close to the wound, took a deep breath and willed everything he had into manifesting even a touch of healing magic. This time the blue light appeared, fully formed, seeping into the wound to start mending it together, but all too quickly it burnt out, leaving Magnus gasping and bent over Alec’s still form, knowing he had nothing left to give and praying he had done enough to keep him alive.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Isabelle hadn’t even opened up her contacts yet after hanging up with Magnus when her screen lit up with an incoming call.

“Jace!” she cried with relief as she brought the phone to her ear.

“Izzy, can you call Alec? I think something …”

“Get to Magnus’s!” she said, cutting him off.

“What?”

“Alec is hurt, he needs a healing rune. I’m too far away. Magnus said you could go, now go!”

“I’m gone,” Jace promised, hanging up and changing direction to Brooklyn Heights. He was only a few blocks away but activated his speed rune so he could run there in a matter of minutes.

When he reached Magnus’s building he was shocked to find there were no wards up at all. His stomach knotted even tighter than it had when he felt Alec get hurt a few minutes ago as he imagined what could have happened to knock out a high warlock’s wards. Skipping the elevator he raced up the stairs to the penthouse. He didn’t have to guess which one was Magnus’s; there was only one with the door kicked in.

He pushed past the splintered wood to find an elegant living room that had been thoroughly trashed, the high warlock of Brooklyn on his knees covered in blood, and his parabatai motionless on the floor.

“Hurry!” Magnus yelled when he saw him, his hands still pressed against Alec’s stomach. “He’s barely breathing.”

Jace didn’t need to be told twice. He raced into the room, almost hyperventilating with panic and the need to see his brother.

“Alec? Alec, it’s okay, I’m here,” he said, dropping to his knees on Alec’s other side.

By the angel, he was so pale, but he was alive, and Jace was going to keep it that way. Stele already in hand he lit up Alec’s healing rune and then drew an iratze close to the wound. Almost immediately Alec’s head lolled, his face twitching with signs of life as a faint hint of color returned to his cheeks.

Magnus had one hand around Alec’s wrist and instantly felt the change.

“His heart rate’s up,” he said and both men sighed in simultaneous relief at the improvement though Alec showed no signs of shifting into consciousness.

Magnus tentatively removed the makeshift bandage and saw that the wound had closed slightly but was still bleeding. Jace on the other hand was looking nowhere except the face of his parabatai, cradling Alec’s cheek reverently as tears threatened to track down his face.

“I’ve got you Alec, I’m here,” he whispered. It had been almost three weeks since the last time he saw his brother, on that terrible day at the High Warlock Council. And this was the second time that Alec had gotten hurt since then, with Jace unable to come to his parabatai’s aid, and by the Angel was he sick of it.

“What happened?” he demanded, his anger so deep his teeth ground against each other as he spoke.

“The Circle attacked us, drained my magic somehow,” Magnus said, his own anger tempered by his obvious exhaustion.

“You mean they attacked you and Alec got hurt because of your petty revenge contract,” Jace said, turning to face Magnus for the first time.

“You don’t get to lecture me on being careless with people’s lives, Shadowhunter!”

Even without his magic Magnus was sure fire glowed in his eyes as he remembered in vivid detail being shown Ragnor’s body that horrible day three weeks ago with Jace’s seraph blade still embedded deep in his friend’s chest.

Jace looked away at that, seeming to sense it was a fight he could not win no matter how angry he was. Instead he focused on Alec.

“He’ll need a few more runes to fully heal,” Jace said, head tilting towards Alec’s wound. Magnus had figured as much and knew they needed to space out the application of them.

“I’ll be right back, stay with him,” Magnus said, disappearing down the hallway.

Jace had no problem with that and felt his anger dissipate as he let it sink in that he was really there with Alec, finally. He squeezed one of Alec’s hands and let the other cradle his cheek as he leaned forward and brought their foreheads together. He could feel their bond throbbing in a way it hadn’t in weeks, like it was singing with joy, rejuvenated by the contact between the parabatai.

“I’m sorry Alec. This is my fault, I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

Magnus came back in then, dropping next to Alec loudly with a first aid kit. Social etiquette declared he should stand back and give the pair a moment, but Alec was still bleeding and honestly he couldn’t care less about Jace’s emotional state. He opened the first aid kit and pulled out bandages and gauze.

Jace leaned back but never released Alec’s hand.

“You keep a first-aid kit here?”

“A warlock is always prepared,” Magnus said, his voice factual instead of holding its usual playful tone.

“Yeah, I noticed you had Alec’s Life Debt contract ready to go pretty fast,” Jace muttered.

“It would be beneficial to your health if you stopped talking now,” Magnus said as he started to wrap the wound.

Jace huffed, then his eyes narrowed as he watched Magnus bandage wounds like a mundane.

“So the Circle completely drained your magic, huh? You should be dead.”

Magnus’s hands slowed their movements. “If not for Alec I would be.”

“It’s a shame he’s so good at his job,” Jace muttered.

“It’s a shame you’re not better at yours,” Magnus said but then focused on finishing Alec’s bandage. “I’m done. Help me get him to his bedroom. I’ll take his legs.”

“I’ve got it,” Jace said. The last thing Alec needed was being jostled around by the two of them trying to coordinate their movements. He activated his strength rune and picked his parabatai up in a bridal carry with ease. “He’d kill me if he saw me doing this. Where’s his room?”

Magnus led the way and pulled back the covers on the bed so Jace could lay Alec down. Once he got Alec comfortable Jace sat back and froze when he saw a photo on Alec’s nightstand. It was the two of them smiling, arms over each other’s shoulders after their parabatai ceremony. Tears threatened his eyes once more as he looked at the photo, touched Alec kept him so close.

Behind him Magnus tested his magic levels, took a steadying breath and found he finally had enough juice to send a fire message to Catarina asking her to come over immediately.

Jace sniffed angrily, pulling back his tears when he heard Magnus shuffling around behind him.

“So, what happens now?” Jace asked. At Magnus’s blank look he continued. “The contract. We broke it. You gonna have me executed or what?”

Magnus considered it a moment then said, “The Life Debt says you can’t contact each other. As long as you leave before he wakes up I’ll consider it intact.”

Jace shook his head. Of course he wouldn’t be allowed to actually talk to Alec, that would be asking too much, but he knew he couldn’t argue.

“Fine,” he said. He looked at the photo again and ran his fingers over their faces. They had been so happy that day. “I’m surprised you let him have this.”

Magnus waved a hand as if the notion was ridiculous. “The Life Debt is your punishment, not his. He can have whatever he likes.”

“You could have fooled me. You took away his family, his friends. He’d probably like those back.”

“He can see his family whenever he wants, and he does. The only person I took him from is you and I don’t consider it much of a loss.”

Jace released Alec’s hand and stood up, moving into Magnus’s personal space. “And you think he’s okay with that? I’m his parabatai, he needs me.”

“What Alec needed more than anything was for you not to be executed for killing my friend. I gave him that, even though I swore to myself I would kill you the next time I saw you for what you did.”

“Well then maybe you should just get it over with because I don’t want to live without Alec!”

“Neither do I!”

Jace’s anger vanished in a flash and he took a step back in confusion. “… what?”

Magnus seemed just as surprised by what he had said as Jace did and looked away, his jaw clenching from the emotional outburst.

“No,” Jace said, taking in the sincerity of Magnus’s words and hating it. “No, you don’t get to care about Alec, that’s not how this works.”

“You’d rather I didn’t?”

Jace faltered. “No, but …”

They were both saved from having to say more by a portal opening up in the hallway. Jace’s hand moved to his blade but Magnus held him back.

“Don’t even think about it,” Magnus said. “It’s a friend.”

Catarina stepped through a moment later. Her concerned gaze passed over the destroyed living room but then went deadly cold when she saw who else was in the apartment.

“What is he doing here?” she asked, tendrils of magic instantly ready to fly from her hands. Ragnor had been her friend too.

“Leaving,” Magnus said. His tone left little room for argument but Jace tried anyway.

“He’s not healed,” he said, taking a protective step back towards Alec.

“Catarina will take care of him,” Magnus said. “I won’t tell you again.”

Jace swallowed back his protest somehow, fully aware that Magnus’s friend looked ready to strike him down at any moment, and nodded his assent, shoulders dropping in defeat. Before he left he turned around and went back to Alec’s side. His parabatai still hadn’t moved and his forehead was creased in pain. Jace lifted Alec’s shirt and drew another iratze, feeling his heart swell when Alec breathed a sigh of relief and his head lolled contently. He bent down and brought their foreheads together once more, stealing a moment for the good-bye that had been denied to him weeks ago.

“I’m gonna fix this, I swear.”

He squeezed Alec’s hand then stood up. Magnus and Catarina continued to radiate a warning that he not try anything.

“Take care of him,” he told them, then forced himself to leave. They were the hardest steps he ever had to take and he wondered if it had been this hard for Alec to walk through that portal three weeks ago and out of his life.

When he got outside the cool air hit his face and he knew he couldn’t go back to the Institute. He needed to do something. Kill something. Anything to distract himself.

It was getting late but maybe he could still track down that redheaded girl from Pandemonium, the one who had been able to see him. It was a long shot, but at least it was something to do.

Chapter Text

Alec awoke to the sound of pages gently turning and blinked his eyes open, surprised to find Catarina next to his bed flipping through a spell book.

“Catarina?” he said.

She lifted her head and smiled. “Good morning. Glad you’re finally up. I was getting worried you had a head injury I missed.”

Alec blinked in confusion, trying to remember the night before as he sat up.

“What are you …” he paused as the memories of the attack came back to him then he looked around the room frantically, ready to fly out of his bed, “Where’s Magnus?”

“Relax boy-bodyguard, Magnus is fine. He was a little rough around the edges but I patched you both up. I told him I’d keep an eye on you while he meets with the other high warlocks about the Circle attacks. They’re all in the living room,” she said.

“Attacks plural?” Alec asked, his eyes going wide. “There were others?”

Catarina pulled in her lips and nodded sadly. “Four that we know of since last night. All missing or dead. You two are the only ones still here to tell the tale.”

Alec sighed but then threw the blankets off of himself. “I should go help come up with a plan.”

“Whoa, you’re not going anywhere,” Catarina said, grabbing his arm before he could stand up.

“Catarina I’m fine,” Alec assured her and it wasn’t even a lie. He felt a little sore and rundown but could barely tell he had been stabbed the night before. “You did a great job.”

“Oh I know, my work is impeccable,” she said, and it was clear that Alec’s health had not been her concern. “But you can’t go in there. You and Magnus may have a good relationship but he’s meeting with the other high warlocks, discussing attacks on our people by shadowhunters. They’re not going to be too happy if one just barges in.”

Alec sat back down on his bed seeing her point. “Oh. Yeah I guess that would be like Magnus walking in on a Clave meeting uninvited.”

“Now you get it. He’ll probably be done soon, they’ve been at it for a few hours already. Here, you must be hungry.” She waved her arm and conjured a side table with a full breakfast. “You eat and rest up until Magnus needs you. I have to get home and pack.”

“Pack?” Alec questioned, a piece of bacon halfway to his mouth. “Where are you going?”

“The same place as you,” Catarina said and laughed at Alec’s confused expression. “Magnus will explain, I have to get back to Madzie. I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah, later,” Alec said, still feeling disoriented as she opened a portal and waved good-bye. He ate his breakfast slowly, trying to piece together the events of the previous night. Foremost in his mind was the explosion that ripped through the apartment and seeing Magnus motionless on the floor and how scared it had made him. More scared than it should have. The thought of losing Magnus had been so overwhelming that he hadn’t even noticed he’d been stabbed for Angel’s sake.

Shaking his head, he decided it was too early in the morning to think about things like that and did what he did best, repressed and avoided it.

Finishing his breakfast he got up and had just finished changing when there was a knock on his door.

“Come in,” he said and wasn’t surprised when Magnus cracked open the door hesitantly.

“You’re awake,” Magnus said with a relieved smile, taking a single step into the room.

“You’re alive,” Alec said, equally relieved. He had to make a conscious effort to keep his feet rooted to the floor and not rush at Magnus. Despite being able to see that Magnus was fine all he wanted to do was touch the warlock, hold him and feel him alive after what had happened last night, but as Magnus had said, that wasn’t the basis of their relationship.

For his own part Magnus was equally tempted to throw himself at Alec. He could still feel the ghost of Alec’s hands on his face from the night before, desperately checking that he was okay and he longed for more of that touch but he stayed where he was and clutched at the doorknob to keep himself in place while they talked.

“Yes, thanks to you,” Magnus said and felt the awkward tension leave his body as he let himself be completely sincere. “You truly went above and beyond last night Alec. I’d be dead if not for you and it nearly cost you your life. Thank you.”

Alec looked down, blushing lightly, but then laughed with a touch of self-disdain. “And here I was about to apologize to you.”

“For what?” Magnus asked.

“I told you your wards were secure,” Alec said, his voice heavy with regret.

“Alexander,” Magnus said, his voice laced with sadness for his shadowhunter. “This wasn’t your fault. You can’t carry the weight of everything that happens on your shoulders. You said my wards were secure against shadowhunters, and they were, why do you think they needed two warlocks to help them get in?”

“Marcus and Peter,” Alec whispered, his own guilt forgotten by the reminder.

“You recognized them too.”

Alec nodded. “Yeah, and unless both their warlock marks are black lines on their face, there was something wrong with them.”

Magnus’s jaw clenched. “Valentine. He’s always had this sick fascination with experimenting on downworlders. They wouldn’t help him willingly. They’ve been coerced somehow.”

“But they’re alive, which means the others probably are too. Maybe we can help them.”

“Maybe.”

“Marcus was the portal expert, but Peter …”

“Peter has devoted himself to the study of magic itself, understanding the energy of it, the ley lines, manipulating magic at its source,” Magnus said.

“So, if he can manipulate magic as its source, then he may be able to drain the power out of a ward … and a warlock,” Alec said, taking a guess at what had happened last night to Magnus’s wards.

“It’s very likely what happened,” Magnus said, looking disturbed by the thought.

“How are you feeling? Have you slept at all?” Alec asked. Magnus didn’t look bad of course, that wasn’t humanly possible as far as Alec was concerned, but he definitely wasn’t his usual put together self, the kohl on his eyes couldn’t hide the bags of exhaustion and his hair was almost flat, a state he’d never seen it in.

“I got a solid hour after Catarina got here and before the high warlocks arrived,” Magnus said and then raised a hand to hold off Alec’s obvious concern. “I’ll rest when my people are safe.”

Alec didn’t love it, but he understood and respected the attitude.

“Catarina told me about the other attacks. Do we have a plan?”

“Of sorts,” Magnus said, waving one hand around. “We’re hiding.”

“Hiding?”

“Yes. Us warlocks are vulnerable because we’re exposed, spread out. Other downworld factions protect themselves by grouping together, the vampires have the Du Mort, the Seelie Court, even the werewolves have the Jade Wolf.”

“And the Shadowhunters have the Institute,” Alec added.

“Don’t gloat,” Magnus warned playfully. “The warlocks have nothing like that, but the advantages are obvious so we’re building something similar for the short term, we’ve just been discussing the design and warding. I’m thinking of calling it The Lair.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “That’s very you.”

“Thank you, I like to stay on brand,” Magnus said. “The other high warlocks are about to get started on building and warding but it will take a few hours. I’m going to start sending out fire messages to all the warlocks in the city to let them know where to go.”

“What can I do?” Alec asked and Magnus smiled at his eagerness to help just hours after almost dying for the cause.

“I’m sending all the warlocks to Pandemonium for now, I can’t go around town picking them up one by one, especially with my magic still drained from last night. I need them gathered in one place and ready to go once the Lair is complete. I’d like to send you and Catarina there first. Catarina will keep the warlocks calm and have them maintain a collective ward around the club and I need you to keep an eye out for the Circle, make sure they’re not closing in.”

“Sounds good.”

“Thank you. I’ll feel better knowing you’re there with Cat.”

“It’s no problem,” Alec said, then his eyes shifted to the floor. “But I don’t like leaving you alone.”

“I’ll be with three high warlocks my boy, I’ll be perfectly safe. Even if I wasn’t, I did manage to survive without you for three hundred years.”

“Just barely I imagine.”

“Most definitely. 1928 was a particularly close call.”

Alec laughed and nodded. Magnus appeared ready to leave soon so Alec rushed out a question that had been bothering him since he woke up. “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course, I’m an open book.”

“Who’s Jocelyn?”

Magnus visibly tensed up and inhaled sharply, completely unprepared for the line of questioning.

“Jocelyn?” Magnus repeated, trying to sound innocent even as he waved a hand to shut the door behind him and put up a silencing ward.

“Yeah. One of the Circle members said he was going to kill you unless you told them what you did to Jocelyn,” Alec said.

“I must have been unconscious at the time. Information gathering clearly isn’t one of the Circle’s skills.”

“Magnus,” Alec said firmly, getting the warlock back on track. “Who is she?”

Magnus sighed and looked at the floor. “Alexander, you know I trust you, implicitly.”

Alec had never doubted that fact for a moment, which was something that he probably should have questioned but had just accepted as easily as he accepted everything about Magnus.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Good, so please know that there are some things I can’t tell you, not because I don’t trust you, but to protect you.”

“Magnus my job is to protect you.”

Magnus shook his head. “That doesn’t mean I have to put you in danger needlessly though.”

“I appreciate that, but I think last night proved that whatever happens to you, happens to me. I can’t defend either of us if I don’t know what’s going on.”

Magnus considered Alec’s words and crossed his arms. It was true, he would probably need Alec’s help on the matter sooner or later. If the Circle was asking about Jocelyn it was most likely they already had her, which was bad for everybody, but if the secret of her location was already out there wasn’t that much harm in telling Alec the rest of it really.

“Very well. If you insist on knowing, they were talking about Jocelyn Fairchild,” Magnus said. He waited to see if the name meant anything to Alec and at his blank stare he added, “She’s Valentine’s wife.”

Alec blinked several times. “Valentine has a wife?”

Magnus nodded.

“Okay,” Alec said. “And … what did you do to her?”

“Absolutely nothing to my knowledge,” Magnus said, shrugging in confusion. “I admit we’re … acquaintances, but I haven’t seen her in a few years.”

“You’re … acquaintances … with Valentine’s wife?”

Magnus shook his head at Alec’s outrage. “They really tell you nothing at that Institute of yours, do they? Jocelyn isn’t in league with Valentine, she hasn’t been for a long time. She broke apart from the Circle eighteen years ago … the day she stole the Mortal Cup to keep it away from Valentine.”

Alec’s jaw faltered and he held up his hand in a one minute motion. “Jocelyn is the shadowhunter who stole the Mortal Cup? Wait you know where the Mortal Cup is?”

“Absolutely not! I don’t even know where Jocelyn Fairchild is, other than somewhere in New York. She is exceptionally good at staying hidden. Whenever she needed something she always came to me. I have no clue where she lives and I definitely don’t know where the Cup is.”

“But you met with her … knowing she had the Cup … and you didn’t tell the Clave?” Alec asked, though his tone was more concerned than angry.

“The Clave can’t be trusted Alec. The Circle penetrated the counsel to its highest levels once and there’s no way to know how far their influence still reaches. And even if I trusted them they’ve proven they can’t protect the damn thing. Valentine stole it the first time while it was on public display, in the middle of the day, heavily guarded. Locking it up won’t stop him from getting it. As long as Valentine is alive the safest place for the Cup is hidden where no one can find it which Jocelyn has done exceptionally well … until now.”

“Oh my god.” Alec started pacing and running his hands through his hair. Honestly Magnus worried he may have a panic attack. “If the Clave ever found out about this …”

“I’d be thrown into the Gard to await execution, I know. Thus me not telling you. I didn’t want to put you in an awkward position.”

“I’m not going to turn you over to the Clave, Magnus,” Alec said as though it was obvious but continued pacing the room.

“That’s good. I enjoy not being executed.”

“It’s just … a lot,” Alec said, obviously needing a minute. “So you don’t know what happened to her?”

“No,” Magnus shook his head. “It must have been something magical if they thought I was involved but beyond that I have no idea.”

“Well at least we know what they wanted last night, kind of,” Alec said. “But it also means they’ll come after you again.”

“All the more reason to get the Lair up and running quickly..”

“Okay, well let’s get that done then. You send the fire messages, I’ll go with Catarina to Pandemonium.” Alec started looking around the room. “Where are my weapons? And my stele.”

“Right, here you go,” Magnus said, waving a hand and making them appear.

Alec looked them over then sighed in preparation for what would definitely be a long day before he started to strap them on. He hadn’t even had time to shower.

“I’m sorry to ask you to do this, Alec, I know you’ve barely recovered from last night.”

“I slept all night. I’m fine, look, not even a scar,” Alec said. He lifted up his shirt to show Magnus the smooth skin where the stab wound had been but faltered when he noticed that there was a fading iratze rune by his hip bone.

“How did … did I wake up at some point?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper, but he already knew the answer to that question. Not only would he have remembered drawing an iratze but the placement and angle of the rune was all wrong if he had drawn it himself.

Magnus drew into himself at the question and turned his gaze to the wall. “No. But my magic was too drained to heal you so I called Izzy to come apply a healing rune.”

“Izzy was here? And you got her to leave before I woke up? How’d you manage that?”

“She wasn’t here, she was in the Seelie Court when I called, she never would have made it before you ...” Magnus took a deep breath and met Alec’s eye. “Jace drew that.”

Alec looked like he’d been punched in the gut.

“Jace was here?” he asked, voice cracking as he looked around the room as though his parabatai would somehow appear.

“Just for awhile. He was the only shadowhunter close enough to save your life. Once you were stabilized and Catarina arrived he left. I’m sorry, I couldn’t let him stay.”

Alec couldn’t seem to get a breath in. Jace had been here. They had been together and he hadn’t spoken to him, he hadn’t even seen him. Alec looked at the floor to hide the emotions overwhelming him but nodded his understanding even as his hand fluttered reverently over the fading iratze.

“I get it,” he said, his voice practically a whisper. “What … what about the contract?”

“Don’t worry about it, it was extreme circumstances and I told him he could come. Nothing changes.”

“Good. That’s good,” Alec said, clearing his throat loudly to try to push down his emotions. He gestured towards his weapons. “I should … um … get ready.”

Magnus nodded, accepting the clear request to leave even as his heart broke for what he had done to Alec.

“Of course. I’ll see you at Pandemonium,” Magnus said, unwarding the door and stepping out into the hallway.

“Yeah.”

As soon as the door closed behind the warlock Alec collapsed onto his bed, his head falling into his hands. He just needed a minute. He just needed to do what he had done since he got here, focus on the positive, not on what he’d lost. Jace was alive. The contract hadn’t changed. Alec may have missed his chance to see Jace but at least his parabatai had gotten to be with him. Maybe that’s why their bond felt stronger, more stable since he woke up. Maybe Jace had finally seen that, other than the stab wound, he really was okay. It was a good thing, Alec decided, wiping at his eyes. It was good.

His hand rested on the iratze for a long time, savoring its presence before it faded. It showed that even after everything, his brother had come to save him. He smiled.

“Thanks Jace.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Catarina arrived back at Magnus’s not long after Alec finished getting ready, a small suitcase and Madzie in tow. They all went to Pandemonium together and Alec immediately positioned himself on the roof of the building to keep watch while Catarina greeted the arriving warlocks at the door. After a few warlocks arrived and the wards were heavily fortified Alec took a moment to creep into the shadows and pulled out his phone. Two voicemails and thirteen texts from Izzy. He didn’t bother listening to them he just called her back.

“Alec?” she answered, questioning it was him after Magnus had used his phone last.

“Yeah Iz, it’s me. I hear you were too busy to come over and save my life last night,” he said, making an effort to keep his tone light so she wouldn’t worry about him. He could almost feel her urge to punch him in the arm over the phone line.

“You know I would have been there in a second, you jerk, I was too far away.”

“Yeah, I know.” He would never doubt his sister.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, all healed up. How’s Jace?” he asked, readying himself for news of more outbursts and emotional turmoil. “Magnus told me that he let him come over while I was unconscious.”

“He’s … surprisingly good,” Izzy answered. Alec’s brow furrowed. Her tone was cryptic but truthful.

“Really?”

“Yeah, he’s got a new project that’s keeping him distracted. I think it might be good for him.”

“What kind of project? Like a hobby?” Alec asked.

“A female kind of project,” Izzy said.

“Oh.” That made sense. “Well, good, he needs to get his mind off me eventually.”

“You know we’re both totally obsessed with you and will never stop thinking about you, right?”

Alec smiled and let himself blush since he was alone on a roof. “Yeah, I know. It’s part of the reason I called actually. I might be out of communication for awhile.”

“What’s up?”

“The Circle is coming after the warlocks hard so they’re going into hiding and I’m going with them, some new place they’re building called The Lair.”

“The Lair?” Izzy repeated, unimpressed.

“Yeah it’s not a great name,” Alec said. “We’re leaving in a few hours. I’m not sure if I can contact you from there so I didn’t want you to worry.”

“Okay, thanks for the heads up. And for what it’s worth I think it’s a good plan. A few dozen warlocks in one place, that’s a force to be reckoned with.”

“Hopefully. Nothing else we’ve tried to stop the Circle has worked,” Alec said sighing heavily.

“I hear you stopped them last night, pretty much single-handedly,” Izzy said.

Alec opened his mouth to disagree on reflex but closed it when he remembered that he and Magnus were the only ones to walk away from a Circle attack thus far. “I guess I did.”

“Well have fun at the Lair and call me if you can.”

“It’s such a bad name,” Alec grumbled to himself and then louder to Izzy, “I will.”

Alec hung up with Izzy and went back to survey the streets and roofs around the club for any signs of Circle members. After another hour he went back inside to check with Catarina and make sure everything was okay but regretted it almost immediately as every warlock in the place went on alert at his presence, some even summoning tendrils of magic into their hands. Catarina rushed to stand in front of him and was probably the only thing that kept him from getting fried by the anxious crowd.

After that he kept his distance until Magnus arrived two hours later. Alec was up in the catwalk when the huge portal opened in the VIP dance floor and Magnus walked out, dressed in one of his more extravagant looks and strutting into the place like a victorious conqueror returning home.

Magnus snapped his fingers and a martini appeared in his hand. “Everyone relax, I’m here to save us all. If you’ll form an orderly line, salvation is just through this portal. Please, save your applause.”

Alec smiled ruefully. He should have figured Magnus would be putting on his “High Warlock of Brooklyn” act like he usually did at the club. He knew it made sense though, Magnus’s people were shaken by their leader being attacked the night before so it was more important than ever that he appear confident, strong and unflappable to make them feel at ease. The act was obviously working as most of the people in the club rushed to the portal, eager to get to the safety of The Lair. There was only warlock, a man with a wide build and clawed hands, who approached Magnus radiating with fear and anger.

“How do we know we’re not just lining up for the slaughter in that place? Nothing has stopped the Circle. If they find us there we’re all dead,” he said defiantly.

Magnus just quirked an eyebrow up, unfazed. “Nothing has stopped the Circle? My good man, they sent a small army to kill me last night and yet here I am. So what you should be saying is, nothing has stopped the High Warlock of Brooklyn. Now I know you’re scared and I won’t tell you what to do, leave if you like by all means, but may I highly recommend you get your head out of your ass and get through the damn portal?”

Alec held back a laugh at Magnus’s lack of patience with the man and watched as he hung his head in submission and shuffled into line with the others.

Once the first few warlocks went through Alec came down from the catwalk, being purposefully loud as he walked. Magnus moved to the edge of the crowd and eyed him suspiciously.

“Something wrong with your stealth rune, shadowhunter?” Magnus asked. He had never heard Alec approach before.

Alec looked over the crowd. “They don’t like it when I sneak around.”

“Ah,” Magnus said. “Well, we can all relax at the Lair and get to know each other. Any issues while I was gone?”

Alec shook his head. “No, once Catarina convinced everyone not to attack me it was pretty quiet.”

Speaking of Catarina, she appeared next to them, Madzie on her hip.

“We’re heading through,” she said.

“We’ll wait for stragglers and be along shortly,” Magnus said.

“Bye Alec,” Madzie said, waving broadly.

“Bye littler sorceress, we’ll see you soon,” Alec said, waving as Catarina and Madzie made their way through the portal.

Magnus surveyed the crowd that remained and though the first wave had been eager to get through the remaining two dozen or so seemed to be in no rush, much to Magnus’s annoyance. He left Alec’s side and started urging the crowd like a traffic cop.

“Hurry up warlocks, last train to salvation,” he shouted and was pleased when they started picking up the pace.

Alec tensed when a body came running through the club doors but relaxed when he saw it was a panicked woman who was definitely not a Circle Member, though he stepped closer when she ran straight for Magnus and grabbed his arm angrily.

“Magnus, hey, why haven’t you answered my messages?” Dot demanded.

Magnus was relieved to see Dot but there were too many warlocks around for him to completely drop his cocky high warlock act as he spoke to her.

“Dorothea, nice to see you’re alive. Sorry, I’ve been a little busy making sure the rest of our people can say the same,” he said, purposely neglecting to mention that his phone was also completely destroyed and he had lost his ability to send fire messages most of the night thanks to the Circle attacking him. But knowing that wouldn’t exactly fill his people with confidence.

“What are you talking about?” Dot asked.

“The Circle tried to kill me last night, along with several other warlocks who weren’t so lucky. Valentine’s hunting us down one by one.”

“What so you’re leaving?” Dot asked, her tone making it clear what she thought about that course of action.

“It’s our only choice until we know what Valentine is up to. Plenty of room for one more. Let’s go,” he said, ushering her towards the thinning line of warlocks heading to the Lair.

“No I can’t, I’ve been portalling all over the city looking for Clary and my magic is dangerously low I need your help.”

“I’m trying to save our people. I don’t have the time or desire to risk my life for some Shadowhunter right now,” Magnus said, waving off her concerns.

Dot huffed indignantly and pointed at Alec who looked away to make it less obvious he had been eavesdropping. “That’s a bit hypocritical don’t you think.”

“Don’t pull him into this,” Magnus warned her. “Alec is the exception to the rule when it comes to Shadowhunters. Besides, he’s here to protect us, not the other way around.”

“This isn’t us vs. them Magnus.” Dot looked around and saw the last of the warlocks had portalled through but still lowered her voice. “If Valentine gets the Cup we’re all doomed.”

“And if Valentine kills us while trying to find the Cup, we’re all equally dead. At least at the Lair there are cocktails,” Magnus said, taking a sip of his drink before he held out a hand to her. “Come with us, let your magic recharge then go find the girl.”

“No, I can’t leave her out here,” Dot said.

“And I can’t stay here,” Magnus said apologetically then motioned for Alec to come with him towards the portal. He paused before stepping through and turned back to Dot a final time. “Last chance to save yourself.”

But Dot stood firm, clearly having no desire to follow.

“Suit yourself. Alec, after you,” Magnus said, knowing he needed to go last to close the portal.

“Such a gentleman,” Alec muttered but stepped through.

“Good luck Dorothea,” Magnus said, waited one more moment to give her a final chance, then followed Alec, the portal fizzling away as he disappeared.

As he stepped into the Lair Alec shot him a concerned look.

“Is she going to be okay?” Alec asked. He hadn’t heard the entire conversation between the two but he knew he didn’t like leaving people behind.

“I hope so, but I can’t risk everyone here for one warlock. You’ve seen my people’s lack of fighting skills, they need me here.”

“I wasn’t judging,” Alec assured him. “The Lair’s the right choice.”

Alec looked around and saw the space was a similar layout to Magnus’s loft but with more red brick and less personal touches, it was almost like the showroom version of Magnus’s place if you were out apartment hunting. The crowd was moving along and exploring the new location but Alec thought it was still an awful lot of people.

“You uh, made enough bedrooms for everyone right?” he asked, suddenly concerned about privacy.

“I certainly hope so,” Magnus said. He smirked and took another sip of his martini then poked Alec in the chest. “But if we have to double up, I call dibs.”

Alec blushed and walked away to explore their new living arrangements, but Magnus noticed he hadn’t said no to the offer.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Early morning at the Institute was usually a quiet affair, patrols coming in exhausted and the next shift waking up blearily, but this morning the training area had much more activity than usual.

“So, what should we do now?” Izzy asked as she brought her staff up to block Jace’s strike.

“I don’t know,” Jace said, seemingly deep in thought but still not breaking stride in his attack.

“Keeping your left shoulder down would be a start Izzy,” Hodge said from the sidelines, watching their form as they sparred.

“You know what I mean Hodge. Despite the crazy few days we’ve had, we’re no closer to finding the Cup than we were before Clary got here,” Izzy said.

Jace wanted to argue but he knew she was right. Since Jace had saved Clary from a demon two days ago they had been on a hunt for the Cup and her memories, going so far as to take Clary to the City of Bones, but they didn’t have much to show for their efforts yet.

“Well if Clary’s little friend can stay out of trouble for a few damn hours maybe we can get somewhere,” Jace said, remembering the day they had lost rescuing the mundane from the vampires at the Hotel DuMort.

“Simon’s not so bad,” Izzy said, the twinkle in her eyes making it clear she thought he might even be kind of cute.

“God I miss Alec,” Jace lamented. “I used to have someone with sense around here.”

Izzy laughed. “Yeah, he’d hate him as much as you do.”

They broke apart and Izzy took the chance to smile at Jace. He didn’t mention Alec casually often, the reminder of his missing parabatai was usually too overwhelming, but since Clary had arrived he seemed to, not accept Alec was gone exactly, but was focusing those intense emotions elsewhere for the time. Izzy didn’t know how long that would last but for now it seemed to be balancing him out.

They all turned around at the sound of footsteps rushing towards them and saw Clary bounding down to the training area, seemingly wearing the clothes she had slept in.

“Guys!” she exclaimed. “Simon found a lead!”

“This should be good,” Jace mumbled but Izzy elbowed him hard and smiled.

“What did he find?”

“We think we know who took my memories.”

Hodge stepped forward at this, eyebrows going up with interest. “That’s great. Who is it?”

“A warlock. His name is Magnus Bane.”

Hodge’s eyes immediately dropped to the ground as though trying to avoid watching an awkward moment while Izzy’s jaw dropped and Jace made no movement at all.

“Magnus Bane. You’re sure?” Izzy asked.

“Yeah, almost positive. Why, do you know him?”

Jace turned around and threw his sword so hard it embedded halfway into the wall. “Fuck!”

Clary jumped back while Izzy just closed her eyes and sighed, “We’re acquainted.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

“Alexander, I just received the most interesting …”

Magnus let his sentence trail off as he walked into the Lair’s gym and found Alec completely shirtless as he pounded on the heavy bag.

“I have to walk by this room more often,” Magnus muttered to himself as he took in the spectacular abs on full display.

“Magnus, what’s wrong?” Alec asked, noticing the fire message in his hand.

It took a considerable effort but Magnus forced his eyes up off Alec’s sweat covered skin and blinked blankly. “You know for the life of me I can’t seem to recall.”

Alec let the tiniest smile play on his lips but reached to pull on a shirt to help Magnus concentrate. The boredom of being stuck in the Lair for a few days combined with Magnus being constantly in extravagant High Warlock mode around his people seemed to have made him increase his flirtations of late. Alec didn’t completely mind but he didn’t know what to do with it at times either.

“A shame,” Magnus sighed as Alec covered himself up. “Ah yes, as I was saying I received the most interesting fire message.”

“More attacks?” Alec guessed.

“No,” Magnus replied, delighted. “It’s from your sister. She wants to meet with me.”

“Izzy? Why?”

“They’ve got a young girl who wants her memories back. They’ve offered to pay me handsomely for the assistance as well,” Magnus said, momentarily distracted by the memory of Camille’s necklace.

“You can recover people’s memories?”

“I can when I’m the one who took them.”

“You took a girl’s memories?” Alec asked incredulously.

Magnus waved a finger as though Alec should take that self-righteous look off his face. “The girl is Clary Fairchild, Jocelyn’s daughter. The memories were taken at Jocelyn’s request to protect her.”

Alec paused and considered that. “So those are the services you provided Jocelyn, huh? What were the memories?”

“I have no idea. I pride myself on discretion so, no peeking I’m afraid.”

“Could she know where the Mortal Cup is?” Alec asked.

Magnus took a deep breath. “She very well might.”

Alec crossed his arms expectantly. “So, are you going to help?”

Magnus looked over the message again. A call to help Clary Fairchild. Magnus suddenly flashed back to Dot’s plea for him to help her find Clary a few days earlier. He hadn’t heard from the other warlock since that night at Pandemonium and feared the worst. They hadn’t had a single issue at the Lair since they arrived and from what he could tell it was completely secure and self-sustaining without him. All signs pointed to it being time he rejoined the war.

“If it was anyone else I probably wouldn’t risk it,” Magnus said eventually, hiding his true motives. “But since she’s your sister, I suppose I could help them out. There’s a downworlder rave this evening. I’ll tell her to meet us there to discuss the matter.”

Alec’s face fell. “A rave? Really? We can’t just go to a coffee shop or something?”

Magnus shook his head in disappointment. “Alexander it’s like you don’t know me at all.”

Chapter Text

It was hard to believe that just a few days ago even being at a rave would have been a life highlight for Clary of insane things she had done, but now as she followed Izzy through the mass of bodies ranging from wearing too much leather, to not enough of anything, she knew this club didn’t even rank among her top ten weirdest stories. They circled around the dance floor, glitter and confetti falling on their heads, and moved towards the back where it wasn’t so crowded.

“There,” Izzy pointed to a table near the corner. Clary recognized Magnus Bane leaning against a table, sipping a martini and seemingly flirting with a vampire waitress. Magnus spotted the two women as they approached and inclined his head to the waitress in farewell before he strutted over to meet them halfway.

“Isabelle, always lovely to see you,” Magnus said.

“Magnus,” Izzy said, then looked around the crowd. “Where’s my brother?”

Magnus leaned back to inspect the upper levels of the party. “Oh he’s around here somewhere.”

Clary jumped when a body dropped silently from the catwalk to land beside Izzy in a crouch.

“Speak of the angel,” Magnus said, unperturbed as he took a sip of his martini.

Clary was still on edge but relaxed when she saw Izzy smile at the shadowhunter that had appeared next to them.

“Hey Iz,” Alec said, shouldering his bow to wrap both his arms around his sister.

“Hey big brother,” Izzy said. When she pulled away she gestured to the redhead next to her. “This is Clary. Clary, my brother Alec.”

“Nice to meet you,” Clary said with an awkward wave not sure what more to say to him. She had been told about the Life Debt but didn’t think she quite understood whether Alec was a slave or an employee of some kind and didn’t want to say anything upsetting.

“Weird to meet you,” Alec said. “New shadowhunters aren’t a thing.”

“I guess they are now. And this one would really like her memories back,” Clary said, looking pointedly at Magnus.

“Of course my dear, but first -” he gestured towards Izzy’s necklace “- I’ll need to confirm the authenticity of my payment.”

Izzy hesitated for a moment but Alec inclined his head to say it was all right. “You can trust him.”

“I know,” Izzy said, taking it off reluctantly. “It’s just so pretty.”

“Thank you my dear,” Magnus said, accepting the necklace and taking a step back to inspect it.

“So,” Alec lowered his voice to a whisper when Magnus was gone, “how far away is Jace?”

“We left him on a corner a block back and he better have stayed there,” Izzy said. From the frustration in her voice he could tell there had been some pushback to the whole thing.

Alec smiled. “I’m surprised he let you two come here alone.”

Izzy shrugged. “He was pretty against it, until I reminded him that you’d be here to watch our backs.”

“Speaking of which, I’m going back up top,” he said then stepped up next to Magnus and met the warlock’s eye. “Make this quick, I don’t like being away from the Lair this long.”

Magnus rolled his eyes. “You just don’t like parties.”

Alec waved a hand dismissively, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, and then jumped back up to the catwalk, disappearing into the shadows.

“He’s so cute when he’s bossy,” Magnus muttered, rubbing a thumb distractedly over the word ‘AMOR’ on the necklace he was holding.

“Magnus,” Izzy yelled to get his attention.

“My memories,” Clary reminded him. “You got your payment, now I want them back.”

Magnus pocketed the necklace then opened his hands in a placating gesture. “And you are within your rights to request them, but I don’t have them.”

“No, I saw you in my dreams with my mom. You helped her take them,” Clary said.

“That I did, but I didn’t keep them,” Magnus said.

“Where are they?” Izzy asked.

Magnus looked away apologetically. “I fed them to a memory demon for safekeeping.”

“A demon!” Clary yelled.

“Why would you do that?” Izzy asked.

“To protect Clary and the Cup. If Valentine ever captured me, which he’s been working hard at I might add, he could torture Clary’s memories out of me, like he’s probably doing to Dot and the others as we speak.”

Clary’s eyes went wide with fear. “What? What happened to Dot?”

“I’m not sure, but I haven’t heard from her in days and I can’t feel her magic anymore. I’m afraid the most likely conclusion is that Valentine has her somewhere warded … or she’s dead,” Magnus said.

“Oh my god. This is too much,” Clary said, shaking her head. “I just want my mom back. Too many people are dying or gone because of me, we need to find the Cup and Valentine and stop all of this.”

“Can you help us get her memories back?” Izzy asked.

Magnus looked thoughtful. His head told him not to work with Shadowhunters, but his heart told him that if one Shadowhunter had proven himself to be worthy of his trust, perhaps others could too.

“It won’t be easy. And definitely not here. The Circle is …”

“Down!”

Magnus felt the whoosh of an arrow going by before he ever heard Alec’s warning and turned in time to see a man with a seraph blade fall to the ground dead a few feet behind him, an arrow firmly lodged in his heart.

“I love that boy,” Magnus whispered even as he started to make the motions for a portal.

Izzy readied her whip and Alec jumped down from the catwalk again, bow held high, his eyes never leaving the crowd. “There are more coming. They knew we were here.”

“Then that’s our cue,” Magnus said, finishing his portal with a flourish. “Alexander, after you.”

But Alec stayed where he was and his inclined his head toward Izzy and Clary. “What about them?”

“I’m not a refugee camp,” Magnus whined.

“Magnus!” Alec shouted indignantly before he fired another arrow into the crowd, hitting an approaching Circle member in the eye.

“You said you’d help us,” Clary added, standing behind the two shadowhunters for protection.

Magnus rolled his eyes. “Fine. Let’s go, all of you.”

Alec ushered Clary and Izzy towards the portal ahead of him and only followed after they disappeared into the purple haze. Magnus came through a half step behind and found Alec smiling at him.

“You big softie,” Alec said.

Magnus dusted off his clothes. “I’m no such thing. But they’d already paid me so I’m obligated to complete my services.”

“Of course,” Alec said, but his cocky smile disappeared when he looked around the room in confusion.

“Where are we?” Isabelle asked, wandering around the large studio space with Clary.

“My second apartment,” Magnus answered.

“What about the Lair?” Alec said but Magnus waved a dismissive hand.

“My people are on edge enough right now, I can’t just barge in there with two additional shadowhunters in tow. I’ll get a reputation,” Magnus said, but when he saw Alec’s concerned look he added, “The Lair is fine. I can sense the wards and they’re all up.”

“All right,” Alec conceded. “When were you going to tell me you had a second apartment?”

“Oh Alexander, there are so many things you don’t know about me.”

Alec was saved from having to fight down his blush by Clary storming over to Magnus.

“Okay, so, how do we summon this memory demon?”

“It’s work, work, work, with you people,” Magnus muttered but relented at Clary’s glare. He snapped his fingers and conjured a drawing and a rolled up set of chalks both of which he handed to her. “To summon the demon you’ll first have to draw the pentagram to hold it. The next room over should be big enough.”

Clary looked over the image and nodded in relief. “This I got.”

Magnus smiled at her enthusiasm, “Excellent. Drawing the damn thing is tedious as hell.”

“If it’s a pentagram summoning we’ll need five people,” Alec pointed out.

Izzy almost suggested Jace, briefly forgetting the reason he wasn’t there in the first place, but thankfully Clary answered before her.

“I’ll call Simon. He’ll do it,” Clary said leaving no room for argument as she walked away to make the call.

“In that case I’ll get a drink,” Magnus said.

Alec looked at Izzy. “Who’s Simon?”

Izzy smiled as she realized Alec and Simon hadn’t met. “Oh, you’ll love him.”

Alec glared at her. “You know I can tell when you’re lying, right?”

“He’s Clary’s mundane friend,” she said.

“Great, that’s like all the things I hate mixed together.”

Izzy had never looked more amused. “I know.”

“You’re the worst.”

“You love me,” she said, but then her wide smile changed to apologetic. “I better … uh … call Jace, let him know what’s happening.”

Alec clenched his jaw and nodded. “He’ll want to know his new project’s okay.”

Izzy pushed him lightly. “He’ll want to know we’re all okay.”

“Yeah,” he said, looking at the floor. He knew she was right but couldn’t tamper down on the jealousy pooling in the pit of his stomach for not just Clary but everyone that got to spend time with his parabatai when he wasn’t even allowed to see him.

While Izzy moved to another room to make her call Alec walked up to Magnus who was just finishing mixing a drink.

“Mojito?” Magnus asked. “You’ve earned it.”

“No, I’m good,” Alec said. He glanced up at the warlock with a hint of concern in his eyes. “How powerful is this memory demon?”

Magnus tilted his head in consideration. “It’s not … unpowerful.”

“Are you sure about this? Your magic …” Alec let his sentence taper off, knowing he didn’t need to finish it. They were both aware that Magnus’s magic had recovered slowly after the Circle attack two days ago and was being consistently drained by laying down the foundations of the Lair and its warding.

“I’ll be fine Alec, a memory demon is a walk in the park,” he said.

“Last time I walked through a park I got attacked by a Shax demon,” Alec said.

“Which I assume you then killed in a spectacular fashion?” Magnus countered.

Alec felt his lip curl up in amused defeat. “I guess.”

“Well then, we’ll be fine. A walk in the park.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

After doing a few checks of the perimeter Alec wandered into the extra room where they were going to do the ritual and was surprised to see Clary was almost half finished the pentagram.

“Wow,” he said softly. “It looks good.”

“Thanks. I may not know how to kill demons but drawing something from a reference photo is definitely something I can do,” Clary said. At Alec’s raised eyebrow she smiled sadly. “I was supposed to start art school two days ago.”

“Oh. Well after all this is over, maybe you can go back.”

“Maybe,” she said, then picked out an orange chalk to continue drawing.

“Who knew about the meeting with Magnus?” Alec asked, aware that he was not being subtle in his line of questioning.

“As far as I know just me, Jace, Izzy and Hodge,” Clary said. Alec frowned, none of those people would betray them, well, maybe Clary, he didn’t really know her.

“What about you? Who did you guys tell?” Clary asked, easily picking up on the fact that Alec was trying to figure out how the Circle found them.

“No one technically. Most of the warlocks at the Lair knew Magnus was going out tonight but we didn’t say where we were going,” he said, though he supposed a few might have figured it out when they saw Magnus in his club clothes on the night of the biggest downworlder rave of the year. His mind also flitted back to Magnus’s semi-assistant at the Lair, Elias. Alec had been keeping an eye on all of the warlocks and Elias seemed the most uneasy and on edge about the Circle to the point where Alec had even asked Catarina to keep an eye on him while they were gone. He decided to text her in a minute to make sure she had done so.

“Well if the Circle is tracking us somehow I’m glad you’re here to help. You really saved us back at the club,” Clary said.

Alec shrugged off the praise. “It’s my job.”

A muffled ruckus behind them made them both turn around. Through the open door they could just see Magnus sighing in frustration as he magically righted some weird three-legged table that had toppled to the side when he laid some books on it. Magnus mumbled something that Alec thought was probably, “I have to stop buying aesthetic furniture” and Alec felt himself smiling despite himself.

“You know you two aren’t what I expected.”

Alec turned to see Clary moving her eyes to indicate him and Magnus.

“Well Magnus isn’t what a lot of people expect,” Alec said, especially in a setting like this when he was in boisterous high warlock mode and not the relaxed at home Magnus he was used to.

“No, it’s not that, it’s just … Jace told me, about your Life Debt,” Clary said, her voice dropping with sympathy as she spoke.

“Oh. That,” Alec said, finally realizing what she meant because honestly sometimes he forgot all about it. “What were you expecting? Me all shackled up, following Magnus around against my will?”

Clary looked at the floor and bit her lip in embarrassment. “Honestly, kind of. Sorry. The way Jace described it, it sounded like you were some kind of slave.”

Maybe it was just hearing that Jace talked about him, but Alec actually smiled at her words. “Yeah, he probably thinks of it that way.”

“You guys seem more like partners,” Clary said in amazement.

Alec felt himself blush at the compliment for some reason and looked away. “We make it work.”

“You must miss your brother though.”

From the corner of his eye Alec could see she regretted it as soon as she said it. As he considered her question his hand moved subconsciously to hover over his parabatai rune and the hollow feeling in his gut that hadn’t gone away for three weeks. He blinked rapidly and didn’t respond. Clary shook her head in apology.

“I’m sorry, that was a stupid thing to say.”

Alec nodded in agreement and squared his shoulders. “I’m gonna check the perimeter.”

Clary’s voice dropped to an embarrassed whisper. “Okay.”

He ran a hand over his face and made a beeline for the balcony, eager for some fresh air. Magnus seemed to notice his distress and started to follow him but they both stopped at the sound of Izzy’s heels announcing her arrival along with a scrawny mundane in glasses who looked so nervous he might vibrate through the floor.

“Hey, you guys aren’t vampires are you?” the mundane asked when he saw them.

“What an odd question,” Magnus said.

Izzy rolled her eyes but took on the task of introductions. “Simon, this is Magnus.”

“And I’m a warlock, not a vampire. The High Warlock of Brooklyn actually,” Magnus said.

“I don’t know what that means,” Simon admitted.

Magnus smiled cryptically. “You will.”

“I don’t know what that means either,” Simon mumbled.

Izzy sighed. “And this is my brother Alec.”

Simon looked him up and down and seemed to at least figure out he was a shadowhunter from the visible runes. “Hey, I’m Simon. I haven’t seen you at the Institute.”

Alec was surprised to hear this mundane had been at the Institute but didn’t want to get into it so answered simply, “I live with Magnus.”

Simon’s face lit up. “Oh cool. I didn’t know shadowhunters could date downworlders.”

Magnus almost choked on his drink while Alec went white as a sheet and they both started talking at the same time.

“Oh no, we’re not …”

“It’s not like …”

“… we’re more like …”

“ … I mean they can but …”

“ … not that I wouldn’t, mind you …”

“We’re just colleagues!” Alec shouted, ending the discussion.

Simon looked scared to move and nodded tightly while Izzy sucked her lips in to keep from laughing.

“Okay. Got it,” Simon said even though he looked more confused than ever.

“Why don’t we go see if we can help Clary,” Izzy suggested, guiding Simon away by the shoulders.

Alec and Magnus were left standing next to each other pointedly avoiding eye contact and suddenly not speaking.

“What a … foolish child,” Magnus said eventually, his voice tight.

“Yeah,” Alec agreed, eyes on the floor.

Magnus couldn’t take it anymore and slammed back the rest of his martini. “Oh look my drink’s empty.”

Alec pointed to the balcony. “I should …”

They both took off in separate directions but their minds played back the same thought. It was of course possible for a shadowhunter to date a downworlder. Maybe not easy, but more than possible. It wasn’t possible however to date someone you owned, and they both knew it.

Alec leaned on the balcony railing and sighed. “Stupid Life Debt.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

An hour later Alec had a lot more regrets. First he regretted standing next to Magnus when they formed their pentagram to summon the memory demon. Forming the bond had been intense and with the swirl of emotions he’d been feeling for Magnus lately he did not need to know for certain just how nice it was to hold the warlock’s hand thank you very much. The jolt he felt when they touched had surprised him, it felt like his lungs had filled with warmth that quickly spread through his whole body. For a moment he assumed he would feel the same thing when he grabbed Izzy’s hand but when he reached out for her all he felt was a mild tingle.

The next thing he deeply and utterly regretted was agreeing to help summon a demon; they always asked for too much in return, and this price had been so high that Alec had nearly broken the pentagram and gotten them all killed. When the demon first demanded a cherished memory of a loved one he had thought it wasn’t so bad and even felt touched when he saw that the memory Izzy lost was of him. But then it was his turn and as the demon’s tendrils pulled out of his mind he saw just a glimpse of the memory being taken, enough to see that it was Jace.

“No!” he yelled, trying to lunge forward after it but he was held back by Izzy and Magnus’s fierce grips.

“It’s okay Alec,” Izzy yelled.

“Do not break the bond!” Magnus reiterated.

Then the memory was sucked in, gone, and all the fight left Alec. He managed to maintain his grip and keep the bond intact but he paid no mind to the rest of the ceremony. All he could think about was how he had managed to lose more of his parabatai than he ever thought possible. Jace only existed as memories now, and if he lost those he lost everything.

Eventually Magnus said another incantation and the demon dissolved away, eight bubbles of memory appearing in its place that flew into Clary’s mind. The shock of it knocked her back and she fell to the floor, breaking the bond, but the demon was already gone.

As Simon rushed to Clary’s side, Izzy touched her brother’s arm. Alec was shaking and breathing heavily. He shut his eyes and leaned into her touch, accepting the unspoken support.

“What was it?” he asked her in a whisper. Maybe she had seen it. Maybe she could tell him what he’d lost.

She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

He turned around and walked away. He didn’t even care if it had worked, the price had been too high.

Izzy looked over and noticed Magnus was a few feet away watching them. He looked devastated as well but she couldn’t tell if it was because of Alec or his own memory he had lost. Noticing her gaze Magnus shook his head, plastered on a fake smile and moved to kneel by Clary’s other side.

“How are we doing Biscuit?” he asked. “Anything we can use in that camera roll you got?”

“Give her a minute,” Simon demanded, a hand on Clary’s shoulder while he glared at Magnus.

“Mom,” Clary muttered as her eyes fluttered open.

“What about your mom?” Simon asked softly.

Clary’s eyes moved back and forth but it was clear she was studying something in her mind, not in the room. “I saw my mom, she … she had the cup but … it doesn’t make sense.”

“Your mother having the Cup makes all the sense in the world actually,” Magnus said.

“No, what she did with it. I saw her with the Cup, the real Cup but then she … she turned it into a painting, it became the Ace of Cups on Dot’s tarot cards. But that’s impossible. These memories must be dreams, Magnus.”

But Magnus just looked thoughtful. “I don’t think so. What you saw is very possible I’m afraid and quite clever. Your mother has a great many gifts and one of them could be to press physical objects into paper and retrieve them again.”

“So Dot’s tarot card is the real Mortal Cup?” Clary asked.

“It’s very likely. Which means in order to free it we would need to get your mother back.”

“Our first priority has to be getting The Cup,” Alec said, rejoining the conversation, fully composed once more, with Izzy behind him. “Do you know where the tarot cards are?”

“They’d either be at the loft or Dot would have them on her,” Clary said.

Izzy’s brow furrowed in concern. “Magnus, didn’t you say Valentine probably captured Dot?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“So he could already have The Cup and my mother.”

“Everything he needs to destroy the downworld,” Alec said, arms crossed in thought.

“I doubt it’s quite that dire just yet,” Magnus said. “If Valentine were to start creating Shadowhunters or gain control of demons, it would be like Beyonce riding a dinosaur through Times Square. People would notice.”

“We need to know for sure. We’ll have to go back to the Loft, see if we can find the cards,” Clary said, wasting no time and pushing herself off the floor.

“The Circle will be all over that place,” Izzy pointed out.

“We’ll go in the secret way,” Simon said, voice laced with excitement. Clary smiled wide in agreement.

“Right. Simon has a secret path he uses to sneak in sometimes,” she said.

“Kinky,” Magnus muttered, making Simon sputter.

“Not like … just so we can … study and stuff,” he said, eyes suddenly unable to make contact with anybody. Alec found himself feeling oddly satisfied to see Simon flustered after his remark about him and Magnus dating had sent them into a similar spiral. But he knew they needed to focus.

“Fine, you’ve got some secret way in, we still need to be careful,” Alec said.

“And we need to find Dot,” Magnus said. “Immediately. If she knows where the Cup is and Valentine has her, well, that’s bad for everybody. I may be able to conjure a special tracking spell to find her, even if I can’t feel her magic anymore.”

“Sounds good,” Alec said.

Magnus tilted his head and hesitantly added. “We will need to go to Pandemonium to attempt it though.”

“Now I’m just repeating myself, but the Circle will be all over that place too,” Izzy said, her concern ratcheting up even higher.

“Yes, but it’s the last place I saw Dot so the best place to perform the spell. You three can head to Clary’s via Shuster’s secret passage while Alec and I go to Pandemonium,” Magnus suggested. He raised a hand, cutting Izzy off before she could protest. “I have no desire to run into The Circle again. We will portal to safety at the first sign of trouble my dear, I promise.”

Alec noticed Izzy’s look of concern still hadn’t disappeared but nodded along with Magnus.

“It’s a good plan,” he told her.

“I don’t like splitting up again,” she said.

“Time is of the essence I’m afraid,” Magnus pointed out already stepping away to get his things ready.

“Call Jace, have him meet you there, you’ll need the back up,” Alec told her, his tone hushed.

She shook her head. “And who will be your back up big brother?”

Alec smirked. “The High Warlock of Brooklyn.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Everything seemed quiet when they got to Pandemonium but Alec knew better than to trust that meant the place was empty. Magnus portalled them directly into his office at the club to collect some supplies that he needed for the tracking spell. While he did that Alec crept to the window and looked down on the dance floor but saw no movement.

“Are you sure you have enough magic for this?” Alec asked, not turning away from the window. “You’ve been portalling around all night and that memory demon looked like it took a lot out of you, and I don’t just mean memories.”

Magnus shook a bottle of butterfly wings. A little low but it would have to do.

“I’m perfectly fine Alec. I may not have a full tank but I’ve got more than enough juice for a tracking spell and a portal if we run into trouble,” Magnus said, but neglected to mention that that was probably all he had the strength for. He had also boosted the Lair’s wards before he left and could feel his reserves getting low. “Dot’s already been missing for two days. If we wait any longer we lose any chance of finding her.”

“All right, then let’s make this quick. Can we do it from up here?” Alec asked.

Magnus grabbed a bottle of ground up Seelie hair and shook his head. “No. We saw her on the dance floor where we portalled out, we have to perform it down there.”

“Oh, down in the most exposed part of the whole building, great,” Alec said sarcastically.

“Maybe it wasn’t a great choice in hindsight,” Magnus muttered, then motioned towards the door. “I’m ready when you are.”

Alec sighed and readied his bow. “All right, let’s do this.”

They crept down to the dance floor as silently as possible and still there were no signs of the Circle. While Magnus set himself up at a table to brew his spell Alec stalked the outskirts of the club, eyes and ears scouring over every shadow and walkway for trouble. He desperately wished they had left this place warded when they went to the Lair but knew Magnus hadn’t had the strength for such a task after having his magic drained by the Circle. Behind him he heard Magnus muttering incantations as he sprinkled his ingredients and hoped this wouldn’t take long.

Alec turned his attention up to the catwalk where he usually kept watch on the club and stared in concentration. Was that a stair creaking?

“Invenietis illos!” Magnus shouted behind him finishing his spell in a flourish of smoke and blue light, stealing Alec’s attention away from the catwalk momentarily.

“Anything?” Alec asked.

Magnus frowned and shook his head. “Nothing.”

While Magnus continued muttering and waving his hands, Alec ran his stele over his hearing rune and looked over the upper levels of the club once more. He saw nothing out of the ordinary but his eyes went wide when he caught a hint of a familiar sound.

“Down!” Alec yelled and ran behind a pillar just as an arrow passed through the air where he had been standing. He notched an arrow into his bow but hadn’t been able to see where the shot came from. He looked over at Magnus and saw him crouched behind the table a ridiculous distance away, and trying to meet Alec’s eye.

“Portal?” Magnus yelled, though the answer was obvious.

“Portal!” Alec agreed, bouncing on the balls of his feet, clearly ready to run the second their escape route was open. With his hearing rune still activated he could hear all hell was breaking loose throughout the building with over a dozen sets of footsteps coming in from multiple doors and levels.

“Shit,” he muttered to himself, able to hear them closing in on all sides. This had been the most obvious trap ever and they had waltzed right into the middle of it. At least they had an escape plan he thought to himself, watching as Magnus moved his hands in a circle and opened a portal behind himself.

“Alec, now!” Magnus yelled, his voice very close to losing its composure as he felt how dangerously low his magic was running.

Alec didn’t need to be told twice. He bolted out from his cover, sprinting across the dance floor towards Magnus. He was about halfway there when a crack split the air and Alec was jerked back as a whip coiled around his neck. He dropped his bow and his hands went to his throat, trying to free himself even though he knew if this person was even half as good with a whip as Izzy he didn’t stand a chance of doing so.

“Alec!” Magnus yelled, his heart dropping as he watched his shadowhunter struggle with the rope around his neck. His eye followed the weapon up the catwalk to see a man smiling gleefully as he pulled on the whip, sending a shock of electricity down it as he simultaneously pulled Alec off his feet, effectively hanging him.

“Ah!” Alec yelled in pain and dropped one hand away from his neck to scramble for his seraph blade to try and cut himself free. Even as he groped for the weapon, his eyes remained fixed on Magnus standing in front of the portal with a dozen Circle members closing in.

“Magnus go!” he shouted as loud as he could with the limited air he had but it was pointless, Magnus was already running towards him, his hands building up a ball of energy between them that he let loose after just two steps.

The fireball travelled over Alec’s head and found its mark. Magnus normally would have relished in the scream of the fried Circle member but his entire focus was on Alec who was falling back to the ground. He landed in a crouch and started to pull the rope free as he struggled to stand but soon Magnus’s hands were around his shoulders, pulling him forward.

“We have to go,” Magnus muttered as they stumbled towards the portal. “That was everything I had.”

Alec looked ahead of them and his eyes went wide. “Magnus?”

Magnus followed Alec’s gaze and saw his worst fear come to life. The portal was closing and he had no magic left to force it back open.

“No, no, no,” he said as they ran, both pushing forward desperately to make it to the shimmering purple pool in time.

Alec knew he was slowing Magnus down, his legs felt like jelly from the electrocution in the whip. He tried to push the warlock ahead of him but Magnus wouldn’t allow it. He pulled Alec along and threw them both desperately at the disappearing shimmer in the air, but it was too late. They crashed into the cold concrete together. The portal was gone.

TBC

Chapter Text

Alec and Magnus rolled onto their knees and allowed themselves one distraught breath as they looked out and saw a dozen armed men coming towards them before they took off running for the back door of the club. Alec pulled out his seraph blade and Magnus cursed that he was weaponless with his magic depleted, but if they could run fast enough maybe they could avoid a further fight altogether.

Fate did not seem to be on their side though as Alec turned the corner leading to the exit and was nearly sliced in half. He got his blade up in time to block the next strike and saw it was a blond woman currently trying to kill him with a large brunette man behind her waiting to finish the job. He grimaced and pushed himself forward, entangling their arms together and then spinning the woman behind him, praying Magnus could handle her. No sooner had he released her than the big man swung at him. Alec ducked and tried to swipe at the man’s neck to end the fight quickly but his strike was blocked and the man pushed back against him. Alec swallowed nervously; he still felt shaky from being electrocuted and his opponent was significantly stronger than him.

Behind him Magnus had taken the opportunity Alec presented him to get the jump on the blond Circle member. As she fell back into him from Alec’s throw Magnus grabbed her by the hair with one hand and the arm with the other and continued to pull her back until she collided head first with a brick wall. She let out a short cry of pain and then fell to the ground unconscious. Before Magnus could look up to check on Alec though he felt a stab of pain through the back of his head and fell onto his knees.

Alec didn’t normally pride himself on fighting dirty. When sparring with his siblings he would absolutely always fight fair and honorably, but at this moment, as he lost a test of strength against a murderous Circle member, he didn’t really feel bad when he resorted to spitting in the man’s eye to distract him. The shadowhunter pulled back in disgust and wiped at his face, letting up just enough for Alec to kick him in the stomach. The man stumbled back a few feet and Alec took a moment to assess their situation but when his gaze landed behind him his heart stopped.

Magnus was on his knees with a hand wrapped in his hair and a seraph blade at his throat.

Alec’s immediate instinct was to take a step forward, his sword coming up to destroy anyone who dared to touch his warlock, but the man pulled Magnus’s hair back and shook his head.

“Sword down kid,” the man said, the threat obvious as his blade went tight against Magnus’s throat.

“Just run Alec,” Magnus said, pleading as he met his shadowhunter’s gaze, “They want me alive, just go.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” the man hissed, his eyes flaring with hatred as he looked down on the warlock.

For his part Alec was frozen, unable to move in either direction with Magnus’s life on the line. The decision of what to do was taken away from him however as hands grabbed him roughly from behind while he was distracted, tore away his sword and threw him into the brick wall with enough force to knock the air out of his lungs.

Magnus watched helplessly as Alec was struck across the face and stomach before his hands were pulled back in a set of handcuffs. Magnus felt his own hands being wrapped in shackles that cut off his magic before he was pulled to his feet and thrown into the wall next to Alec, both of them now completely surrounded. Magnus was breathing heavily but managed to meet Alec’s eye and saw the same thing reflected there that he tried to convey in his own gaze. It was regret, guilt, apology and forgiveness all wrapped into one. What a pair they were.

After they were handcuffed the man who had been threatening Magnus stepped forward proudly. He was white, broadchested with small angry eyes and a close cropped hair cut.

“So we finally got our hands on the two lovebirds,” he said smugly as he looked them over.

Alec squinted at the man, recognizing him from the attack on Magnus’s apartment. “Didn’t I shoot you in the chest with an arrow two days ago?”

The man’s jaw clenched just before he pulled back and punched Alec across the face with enough force to knock him to his knees. Alec cut off the cry of pain his body wanted to make and grit his teeth instead.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he muttered as he was hauled back up to standing.

Next to him Magnus closed his eyes and silently prayed Alec would stop drawing attention to himself and wished he had just run when Magnus had told him to. Judging by what the Circle said when they broke into his apartment, Valentine thought Magnus had put some kind of spell on Jocelyn which meant they would have orders to take him alive in order to lift it. Alec on the other hand held no such value to them and he feared the worst for his shadowhunter in the hands of these men.

The man who punched Alec looked beyond pleased to see Alec fall to his knees then shifted his gaze to Magnus who was uncharacteristically silent.

“I heard you were chatty, warlock, what’s wrong? Not so brave without your magic?” he asked.

“I don’t need magic to kill you,” Magnus said, “and I don’t entertain murderers.”

“I think I’ll get plenty of entertainment out of you,” the man said, his voice a slow whisper. As Magnus returned his glare the man looked up and snapped his fingers at one of his subordinates. “Reece, get these two downstairs and out of sight. If anyone comes looking for them we don’t want them ruining our little trap.”

“Right away Leon,” Reece said, grabbing Magnus’s arm and leading him away down the hall. Alec was grabbed just as roughly and pulled along a few feet behind.

The Circle members had clearly been scouting the club out for some time as they walked confidently through the halls and then down the set of stairs leading to the lower levels. Alec and Magnus couldn’t say they were all that surprised when they stopped in front of the sliding door leading to the sex dungeon and were pushed inside; it was the only room in the building that had chains installed in it, though usually not for these purposes.

Reece hauled Magnus towards the wall on the right and chained him into the restraints installed there. They were about shoulder height with each arm restrained individually with just enough slack that Magnus could cross his arms in front of him.

“You probably get off on this, don’t you, you sick bastard,” Reece said to Magnus as he finished snapping the chain of the cuffs into the wall.

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Magnus said, rolling his eyes and focusing instead on Leon. The big man pointed at a set of manacles hanging in the center of the room and looked at the men dragging in Alec.

“Put him there,” Leon said, a malicious smile gracing his face.

Alec glared but said nothing as his cuffed wrists were hoisted over the hook in the middle of the room, stretching him out to his full height. The men pulled at the cuffs to make sure they were secure while Reece did the same thing to Magnus’s restraints. When he was certain they weren’t going anywhere Leon motioned the other two men out of the room.

“Go keep watch in the hall,” Leon said and the two Circle members exited, closing the door behind them.

Alec and Magnus both pulled at their cuffs but felt no give in the metal links. They met each other’s eye for a moment, trying to give the other strength, but neither felt much hope. It was clear neither of them had an escape plan. Izzy was right, they should have brought back up.

“So,” Leon said, breaking the moment as he strolled in front of Magnus, “word on the street is, you know where the Mortal Cup is.”

Magnus huffed and did his best to look incredulous. “You shouldn’t believe every rumor you hear, it makes you look gullible and stupid. Then again if the shoe fits …”

Magnus would be lying if he said he hadn’t expected the punch across the face but it still hurt like hell, knocking him to the side, with the chains around his wrist pulling tight and keeping him upright. He closed his eyes and tried to ride out the pain, focusing instead on the sounds of chains rattling across the room that he knew was Alec trying to get to him.

“You won’t be so smug when we’re through with you,” Leon said.

Next to him Reece smiled.

“Should I get you your tools?” Reece asked Leon.

“No,” Leon said and sounded sincerely regretful. “We can’t damage this one. Valentine needs him functional to undo whatever he did to his wife.”

“You can tell Valentine I won’t be helping him with anything of the sort,” Magnus said, pulling himself back up to standing.

Leon laughed like a man who knew more than his opponent.

“Well Valentine’s got a nice injection for you that says otherwise. He’s been working on it for awhile. Makes downworlders like you nice and compliant. One shot of that stuff and you’ll do anything he asks.”

Magnus normally wouldn’t believe such a claim but he swallowed in fear at the threat, knowing he had seen the truth of Leon’s words with his own eyes.

“Marcus and Peter,” he muttered, remembering the warlocks who had attacked him in his home.

“Are those their names?” Leon laughed. “I just call them Valentine’s pets.”

Magnus pulled at his cuffs, desperate to lash out in defense of his people, and grunted when he was pulled up short.

“Speaking of pets, what about this one?” Reece asked, thumb pointing towards Alec hanging behind them. “Valentine’s injections only work on downworlders.”

Leon grinned at the reminder of Alec’s presence.

“Now Arrow-Boy I have plans for,” he said, clearly bitter about being shot by him a few days ago. He grabbed Alec’s chin and squeezed his jaw. “We’re going to find out if the warlock tells his little bitch his secrets.”

Behind him Magnus scoffed, calling on every acting skill he had to appear uninvested in Alec’s fate. “Please, I’m the High Warlock of Brooklyn, I don’t share with the help. The boy’s paying off a life debt to me, poorly I might add. He doesn’t know anything.”

He shouldn’t have been surprised when Leon didn’t buy it, the man had seen Magnus beg Alec to run earlier after all, but still his stomach dropped when Leon pulled back and punched Alec in the stomach gleefully.

“That almost sounds true warlock, but someone told me recently that I shouldn’t believe everything I hear, so we’ll just make sure the little traitor doesn’t know anything,” Leon said.

Alec surprised even himself when he laughed at the man’s words even as he struggled to pull oxygen into his lungs.

“I’m the traitor? You’re a disgrace to what it means to be a shadowhunter.”

Leon grabbed Alec by the hair and pulled his head back painfully far.

“Watch your mouth boy,” he hissed in his ear. “We’re cleansing the world while you’re protecting half-breed scum. The angels would be ashamed of you. You don’t deserve those marks. If I could de-rune you right now I would.”

“What you’re doing isn’t the will of the angels,” Alec said, voice strained. “If the angels wanted downworlders wiped out they would have done it themselves, or told us to do it. But the angels told us to protect them. We’re supposed to help people.”

“They told us to protect the world from them.”

“They’re part of the world you ignorant fuck,” Alec spat and the rest of his argument was cut short by another punch across the face, this one so powerful it knocked his feet out from under him and left him hanging by his wrists momentarily.

Magnus cringed as Alec was struck again. His breathing had grown heavy with dread and he no longer had it in him to act like he didn’t care that Alec was being beaten, not that the tactic had worked anyway.

“Stop it,” Magnus said. “If Valentine’s injections are really going to make me talk you don’t need anything from him.”

Leon shrugged, never turning away from Alec as he watched him gasp for air. “Maybe, but where’s the fun in that?”

Then Leon stepped forward and using both hands tore Alec’s shirt down the middle, exposing his chest. He looked at Reece and motioned him to get behind Alec.

“Hold him still,” Leon ordered. Reece was about as tall as Alec but maybe thirty pounds heavier. He wrapped one arm around Alec’s shoulder and put one hand in his hair, pulling his head back and forcing him to face Leon. The bigger man smiled and twirled his stele in his hand.

“Get off of him! This is pointless!” Magnus yelled, pulling at his restraints and crying out when he felt no give, but he was ignored.

“What are you doing?” Alec asked, his voice laced with fear, not from pain but from not knowing what was about to happen. As Leon came closer Alec bucked against Reece’s grip but he was just held tighter and his head pulled back further.

“Just making a little addition,” Leon sneered, bringing his stele down on the skin of Alec’s chest.

“Get off me!” Alec demanded but it was too late, the stele was burning into him and the room was filled with the sound of flesh sizzling. Alec tried to pull free but was kept still as the rune was drawn. He grit his teeth against the burn of it and tried not to cry out; runes always hurt but this one was worse than usual, though he wasn’t sure if it was because of what was being drawn or because it was against his will. Tears pricked at his eyes but he knew they weren’t from pain but from the humiliation of having a rune forced onto his flesh. Alec loved his runes. Most of them were drawn on him by Jace, who would carefully apply each one. Thinking of them filled Alec with a sense of friendship and love, but also purpose, loving what they allowed him to do, how they let him help people and protect his family. He cherished his runes and displayed them proudly and had never felt a burn quite so deeply as that of having one forced on him by a stranger.

What felt like an eternity later, Leon finally stepped away, smiling proudly at his work and Reece released Alec from his grip to hang limply from his chains for a moment.

“Perfect,” Leon said waiting for Alec’s reaction.

Alec stood up and tilted his head down, trying to see what had been drawn on his chest. The angle was weird and the rune was upside down in his view but when he finally recognized it he thought he might be sick. He looked up slowly, his breathing getting heavy as he met Leon’s satisfied eyes. He wanted to swear at the man, curse at him, but the panic growing inside of him overwhelmed his sense of pride and he wrapped his hands around the chains above him and started to pull desperately.

“I don’t think he likes it,” Reece said, chuckling as he moved to stand next to Leon.

Behind them Magnus pulled at his own restraints just as hard as Alec. His heart had broken watching Alec struggle against the men as they burned a symbol into his flesh, but he couldn’t deny his own dreaded curiosity at what had been done.

“What is that?” Magnus asked, not recognizing the rune. “What did you do to him?”

“Oh, your warlock buddy doesn’t know everything after all,” Leon said, taking a step into Alec’s personal space and holding up his stele once more. “Well I guess we’ll just have to show him.”

“No. No, wait,” Alec said, acting purely on reflex as he tried to back away but could only make it a foot before the chains pulled too tight then Leon was on him, activating the new rune.

Alec’s head flew back instantly and Magnus felt tears well in his own eyes as an unearthly scream was torn from Alec’s mouth. His body shuddered and tensed like some kind of seizure, clearly wracked in incredible pain. The scream ended but only because Alec was out of air and desperately trying to draw oxygen into his body that wouldn’t come. Finally the effect of the rune wore off and Alec’s head dropped down, tears streaming down his face as he gasped for breath.

Magnus had never seen a pain so sudden and intense and felt his whole body shaking from the after effects of seeing Alec forced to experience it. It wasn’t long before his concern turned to rage though. He glared at Leon and swore he would kill him.

“You bastards,” he hissed. “What the hell was that?”

“You want to tell him?” Leon pulled Alec’s head back but the young shadowhunter’s eyes were lidded with exhaustion as he gasped for breath, seemingly unaware of his surroundings as his body twitched with aftershocks from the pain. Laughing, Leon let Alec’s head drop back down and then turned to Magnus. “It’s called an Agony rune. Pretty self explanatory I think.”

Magnus shuddered at such a monstrosity. “The angels sent you this?”

“They’re not as merciful as some legends make them out to be,” Reece said.

Leon nodded in agreement and turned to study Alec once more, enjoying how quickly all fight had left the shadowhunter.

“It’s said to be the most pain you can feel without dying. What do you think boy?” Leon asked, tilting Alec’s head up once more.

“Leave him alone!” Magnus cried out when he saw Alec’s face, exhausted and tear stained. His eyes were becoming more aware and shone with fear and pain. Never in his life had Magnus wanted to simultaneously murder someone while also holding someone in his arms to protect them from the world. But he couldn’t do that, he could only watch as Alec’s body shuddered with pain and yet somehow he still managed to get his feet under him and push himself to stand shakily.

“This stop when the boy talks,” Leon said. He waved the stele threateningly in front of Alec’s face, watching as he tracked it with his eyes then continued. “Tell me what you know and you’re free to go. But I’m only going to ask you once: where’s the Mortal Cup?”

An hour ago Alec didn’t know the answer to that question, and if he was totally honest he wished he still didn’t because then there would be no conflict in his soul right now. Even though he knew logically they couldn’t give Valentine the cup because it would mean the end of the downworld and war with the Clave, he also knew that he feared what that stele could do to him more than he had feared almost anything in his life.

Growing impatient at Alec’s silence, Leon lifted an eyebrow and made a tick tock sound to urge Alec on. Alec’s body was still shaking from the Agony rune, and he hated himself for the answer he desperately wanted to give, but he took a deep breath and met Leon’s eye.

“Have you … tried looking up your …”

Leon punched him in the stomach before he could finish his insult, which was a real shame because he thought it was a pretty good one considering how overwhelmed his mind was from the Agony rune.

“Cocky little shit,” Leon mumbled. Then he grabbed Alec’s shoulders and brought his stele to hover near the agony rune again. “You know I’ve always wondered if you can die from one of these. Your heart would just give out eventually don’t you think? Let’s find out.”

Alec had no breath in him to beg this time but Magnus pleaded for him instead, straining his cuffs so hard his wrists bled.

“No, don’t! Please!” Magnus yelled but it was too late, Leon had already activated the Agony rune. Alec was screaming.

The scream was shorter this time only because Alec had less air in his lungs. Tears streamed down his face and his body spasmed with pain as he struggled to pull in air, unable to expand his lungs and inhale while every nerve ending in his body was on fire. And this time it didn’t stop after a few seconds as Leon held his stele over the rune, keeping it activated for as long as possible.

“Stop! You’re going to kill him!” Magnus screamed as he watched Alec fight for breath. “Please! He doesn’t know anything!”

But Magnus knew that wasn’t true, and at the back of his mind he knew he could make this stop. He could tell them where the cup was. He could offer it in exchange for Alec’s freedom. And he wanted to more than anything, he’d do whatever it took to end the terrible agony Alec was experiencing, but even while desperate he knew it was a pipe dream. Leon would kill them the second they handed over the cup. The only way to survive was to not give in, but that didn’t seem true either as Leon showed no signs of letting up on his torture of Alec.

“Valentine!” Magnus shouted in desperation. “Valentine will want him alive!”

Leon laughed and left his stele where it was, leaving Alec to spasm in pain. “I doubt that. This brat doesn’t know anything we can’t get out of you.”

“He’s the former head of the New York Institute. He knows everything about it!” Magnus shouted and felt a faint hope blossom inside him as Leon’s fingers hesitated the slightest amount. “He’s a Lightwood. His family’s run that Institute for years, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about it! Valentine will want him alive.”

Leon watched as Alec’s struggles to breathe grew weaker and then with a hiss of annoyance he finally pulled his stele away. Alec immediately went limp, his body seemingly trying to curl in on itself despite the strained position it was in. He shuddered with aftershocks and gasped for air but even that was shallow and weak, as though he lacked the strength to even breathe properly.

“Alec,” Magnus called out, both relieved and concerned at the shape his shadowhunter was in, but Alec gave no indication he had heard Magnus, he just hung limply from his chains.

“Dammit, he does look like a Lightwood. Call Valentine,” Leon said to Reece. “Find out when he’s getting here and what I should do with this kid. I need to know if I can kill him or not.”

“There’s no reception down here,” Reece said, looking at his phone.

“Then go upstairs,” Leon said.

“All right.” Reece put his phone away and headed towards the door as ordered.

“And find me some food while you’re up there,” Leon said, sauntering over to Alec again with a smirk. “All this hard work, I’ve built up an appetite.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Reece muttered and then left, slamming the door closed behind him.

“Why are you doing this?” Magnus asked as soon as Reece was gone, trying to draw Leon’s attention off of Alec. It seemed to work for the moment as Leon turned to look at him so Magnus continued. “Downworlders just want to live in peace. Why start this war?”

Leon laughed and shook his head. “Live in peace? Vampires killing mundanes, werewolves biting people to increase their numbers, the Seelies creating chaos and you warlocks, the worst of all. You’re the spawn of pure evil and you think you have a place on this Earth? The Clave are fools to let you live, to think the Accords will keep you lot in line. The Circle sees what you really are half-breed, and we’ll wipe you out like the plague you are.”

“You think I’m evil because I have demon blood, but you have the blood of the angels in your veins and you’re a murdering psychopath who tortures his own kind for fun. Clearly our blood doesn’t define us.”

Leon’s jaw twitched, clearly becoming agitated at losing an argument to a warlock. Then he forced a playful smirk on his face and pointed at Alec.

“Maybe you’re right. If everyone with angel blood was truly worthy of it this little shit wouldn’t be killing his own people to protect downworld scum like you.”

Alec was still breathing heavily but finally managed to lift his head, though he seemed only semi-aware of his surroundings after the incredible shock to his body from the Agony rune. Seeing Alec’s face only seemed to incense Leon more though as he stalked towards him.

“You killed two of my friends the other night,” Leon said, likely talking about the Circle members Alec had killed who attacked Magnus’s apartment. “They were good men.”

“They attacked us!” Magnus shouted in defiance but Leon paid no attention to him. He only looked at Alec, as though he knew the best way to hurt Magnus was through him.

“Who cares what Valentine says about you. Maybe I should just finish what I started,” Leon said. He held his stele up in Alec’s eye line once more and moved it tantalizingly slowly towards the Agony rune.

Alec seemed barely coherent but still shook his head vehemently as he tried to pull away from the threat.

“No, don’t,” he pleaded, his voice hoarse and barely a whisper, but shaking with fear. He closed his eyes and tears fell down his cheeks. “I’ll tell you.”

Leon stepped back in surprise while Magnus’s eyes went wide with panic.

“Alec no!” he yelled. If these men got the Mortal Cup it would be the end of their lives and the downworld as they know it.

“Shut it half-breed!” Leon barked at Magnus then turned back to Alec, gripping the younger man’s chin and able to feel him trembling as the stele drew closer again. “You were saying?”

“I’ll tell you … Magnus’s secret, I know it,” Alec said, voice still shaky and panicked and his eyes glassy. “But you can’t tell … you can’t tell Valentine please … he can’t know.”

Leon laughed. He hadn’t realized he had broken the boy so badly that he would request such ridiculous terms.

“Of course my boy, I won’t tell Valentine. It’ll be our little secret, but you tell me now or we go back to my game,” Leon said.

Alec shook his head. “No, don’t. No. Magnus, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I can’t …”

For his part Magnus was frozen. Alec had said his name but wouldn’t meet the warlock’s eye as he dangled limply from his chains. Magnus wanted to scream at him to be strong and stay quiet but Alec didn’t seem in his right mind to listen to him even if he did try.

“Don’t worry about him,” Leon said, stepping in front of Magnus to block Alec’s view of him. “You worry about me. Now tell me this secret.”

“Okay, okay,” Alec said. He was still breathing heavily and so exhausted his head hung low, forcing Leon to lean in close to hear what he was saying. “I’ll tell you.”

Magnus watched in awe as between one breath and the next Alec’s feet planted on the ground, his previously-limp hands wrapped tightly around the chain above him and his eyes became clear and focused. Alec leaned forward to whisper in Leon’s ear but made direct eye contact with Magnus, as though his words were actually for him.

“Magnus doesn’t need magic to kill you,” he said.

Leon only had a moment to register his confusion before Alec jerked up with everything he had and brought his knee up hard into Leon’s crotch. The man groaned pitifully and wheezed, completely unprepared for the blow. While Leon stumbled away Alec tightened his grip on the chains, pushed himself back and then swung forward, landing a hard kick in the middle of Leon’s chest. The blow was powerful enough to send Leon flying back several feet, directly into Magnus’s waiting arms.

Magnus wrapped one hand around Leon’s shoulder and the other around his chin and pulled, snapping his neck in one motion. The echo of cracking bone filled the air and then there was only the sound of Magnus grunting with the effort to hold Leon’s body up and Alec gasping for air as he hung limply in his chains once more, all his energy spent.

Their eyes met for a moment but there was no time for words of celebration just yet, they still had to get out of there. While Magnus frisked Leon’s pockets, Alec swung his body towards the door, praying for it to stay closed.

Magnus finished searching Leon’s body and sighed in frustration when all he found was a stele.

“No keys and I can’t use this,” Magnus said, holding up the stele for Alec to see.

But Alec only nodded as though he had expected as much.

“Roll it under my feet,” he said, voice still barely audible.

Magnus did as he said, holding his breath as he rolled the device away and watched it hit Alec’s left shoe. Alec squeezed it between his feet, then he took a steadying breath, grabbed the chains above him once more and pulled, kipping his legs up.

Magnus watched, mesmerized, as Alec’s legs slowly moved higher and higher, the stele clenched between his feet and his body trembling with the effort. If their lives hadn’t been on the line Magnus would have made a crack about how Alec clearly had no need of flexibility or stamina runes, but didn’t dare risk breaking the shadowhunter’s concentration.

It seemed to take forever but Alec finally got his feet up to the height of his hands. He released one chain and reached out for the stele. At first he grabbed only air and almost panicked but with a final effort he brought his feet close enough to wrap his fingers around the device and pluck it out from between his feet.

He let his legs drop back down to the floor and hung limply for just a moment before he moved the stele towards the chains and drew an unlock rune in the air above them. The shackles clicked open and Alec fell to the floor.

Magnus wanted to be relieved, he could feel a small spark of hope forming in his stomach that they might actually get out of there alive, but he knew they had a long way left to go, and that Alec was moving far too slowly.

“Alec, you have to move,” he said, breaking his own heart to ask even more of the young man who had just been tortured in front of him and was currently struggling to get to his knees. “I’m sorry, you don’t have time to rest Alec, please!”

But Alec just nodded in agreement as he pushed himself up on shaky arms. “I’m trying.”

“I know,” Magnus said. “You can do this. Just a few more feet.”

Those few feet felt like a football field away but Alec slowly got his legs underneath him and stumbled towards the wall where Magnus was chained. Thankfully Magnus had his arms outstretched as far as possible and managed to catch him by one arm and keep him from crashing into the floor.

“I got you,” he said, holding Alec upright and pulling him close. He could try to fool himself and say he just wanted to make sure Alec didn’t fall, but the truth was he needed this moment of Alec in his arms. He felt Alec breathing, felt his heart beating against his chest and it was the most wonderful thing Magnus had ever felt in his life. “I’ve got you.”

Alec nodded against his shoulder and Magnus could feel his entire body trembling with the effort to stand.

“Give me your arm,” Alec said breathlessly.

Magnus shifted so one arm was wrapped around his waist and held out the other. Alec leaned heavily against him but managed to draw an unlock rune on the chain. They both watched in relief as it clicked open and fell to the floor. Magnus shifted Alec again and held out his other hand. Alec brought up the stele once more and the second he was free Magnus wrapped both arms around his shadowhunter, taking all of his weight and lowering him to the ground to lean against the wall.

“Easy,” Magnus said as he helped pull his legs out straight. Alec’s breathing was still uneven and stilted as his body continued to tremble with aftershocks from the Agony rune torture, and Magnus noticed they got worse if he was touched.

“You’re going to be okay, Alec. Here,” Magnus said, pushing aside the remains of Alec’s tattered shirt and helping to guide his hand over his healing rune. The rune lit up and Magnus saw the cuts and bruises on Alec’s face fade away but his hands were still shaking violently.

“Dammit,” Alec mumbled, clearly not feeling any better than he had a moment before.

“What’s wrong?” Magnus asked.

“Runes can’t counteract other runes,” Alec said. He leaned his head back against the brick wall and closed his eyes as he took a deep breath to steady himself. “I don’t suppose you’ve got enough juice to portal us out of here?”

Magnus shook his head apologetically. “I don’t have enough juice for a margarita, and portals take a lot of power. I’m afraid we’re stuck here.”

“Okay,” Alec said. He brought up the stele again and lit up his stamina and strength runes. It didn’t help completely but his hands steadied slightly and he was able to push himself to sit up straight. “We gotta get out of here.”

Magnus shook his head on reflex. “Alec, you …”

“I’ll push through,” he said, having no need to be reminded of what he had just gone through. “We have to move before Reece gets back.”

“All right,” Magnus agreed. “I don’t suppose you have a plan.”

Alec tilted his head to the side. His hearing rune was still activated from when they had been up in the club so he used it to listen outside.

“There are two outside the door. Two more at the end of the hall,” he said.

“That doesn’t really answer the plan portion,” Magnus said.

“We fight, tooth and nail,” Alec said. He held out a hand to the warlock.

Magnus shook his head but smiled fondly and grabbed it, pulling Alec to his feet.

“We fight. As you said, I don’t need magic to kill people,” Magnus said.

Alec brought a finger to his lips. “Shh, that’s a secret Magnus.”

“One I’m apparently not good at keeping,” Magnus said, looking over Leon’s body as Alec took the man’s seraph blade. Leon had a few more weapons but Magnus knew he couldn’t touch any of them without burning himself. Still, as good a fighter as he was he was still pretty beat up himself from their encounter thus far and would need a weapon to have a chance. He looked at the chain attached to the wall, picked up an arm’s length of it and turned to Alec. “Can you cut this?”

“Yeah.” Alec didn’t waste his limited energy using his sword and instead ran his stele over it, burning one of the links off. Magnus tested the weight of the chain once it was free and then wrapped it around his knuckles. He looked up at Alec and nodded that he was ready.

They moved towards the door, Alec still stumbling unsteadily but staying on his feet as they positioned themselves one on either side of it. Alec put his hand on the knob and then looked at Magnus.

“You, then me,” he said. Magnus nodded in understanding and watched as Alec silently counted down from three and then pulled the door open abruptly. They both held their breath as they stayed plastered against the wall listening as footsteps shuffled in the hallway.

“Leon?” one of the Circle members called out before he stepped through the door to investigate. The moment he was past the threshold Magnus was on him, wrapping the length of chain around his neck and pulling back tight. As the man thrashed Magnus pulled harder. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the second guard enter and rush towards him.

The guard didn’t see Alec waiting behind the door though. Alec took down the man with two quick strikes as the Circle Member in Magnus’s grasp dropped unconscious.

“Two down,” Magnus muttered.

“More coming,” Alec said. He already had one foot in the hallway and could see the two Circle members rushing towards them. He looked at Magnus; they wouldn’t have the element of surprise this time. Magnus cracked his fingers. He couldn’t portal them out of there but he had enough magic built up for a small display of power.

“Let’s show them how the downworld fights,” Magnus said. “Cover your eyes.”

Alec did as instructed, shielding his face in the crook of his arm. Just as the two men reached them Magnus pulled back and released an explosion of light. The Circle members both stumbled back but only one was sufficiently fazed. The other asshole was wearing sunglasses and barely flinched at the blast and instead took the opportunity to strike out at Alec with her seraph blade.

Alec blocked the strike, tangling them up as their blades pushed against each other. They circled each other for a moment until they broke apart, with Alec stumbling back a few feet, now separated from Magnus and trying to catch his breath, his battered body not holding up how he wanted it to.

Down the hall, Magnus lunged at the second man, but even blinded he seemed to sense the attack and block the chain coming at him with his sword. He pulled back and slashed at Magnus but the warlock blocked the strike with the chain, wrapped it around the blade, twisted and then threw both weapons out of their reach. The man looked surprised but not deferred, dropping into a fighting stance as they were both now weaponless. Magnus did the same and tried to remember what moves worked best against Alec when they sparred. The man threw a two punch combination but Magnus blocked and ducked the move. He came back with a fast kick at the knee and then grabbed the man’s shoulder, flipping him over onto his back. Magnus didn’t bother applying a submission move like he normally would, instead he put a knee on the man’s neck to hold him down and punched him hard across the jaw. His head slammed against the floor and he slumped into unconsciousness in Magnus’s grip.

Magnus looked up to find Alec was halfway down the hall, losing badly, and too far away for Magnus to ever reach in time.

Alec knew it was a long shot that he would have been able to take down a single Circle member in the state he was in, let alone two, so he shouldn’t have been surprised when his opponent easily beat him back with faster and stronger strikes, but honestly if he was about to die this was kind of disappointing because this guy’s form was just sloppy. Even so, Alec could only defend against his strikes and never gain the upper hand. His mind was reacting too slow and his body even slower. With one final push the man threw Alec hard into the brick wall, knocking the wind out of him and pulled back to land a killing blow that Alec knew he had no chance of stopping. He brought up a hand anyway and braced himself, but no strike came.

The man stopped mid-motion, seemingly frozen as he gasped for breath and it took Alec a moment to realize the edge of a seraph blade was sticking out of the man’s chest. The Circle member crumpled to the floor, dead, and slid off the sword.

Alec finally saw who had saved him and felt like he couldn’t breathe.

“Jace?”

His parabatai smiled at him but the joy never reached his eyes. Instead he lunged forward and wrapped his arms around Alec, almost sobbing in relief.

“Alec, thank the angel.”

Alec closed his eyes and felt tears start to form as he returned the hug, holding onto Jace as tight as his exhausted body would allow. If he was honest Jace was probably the only thing keeping him standing at the moment but he didn’t care, his parabatai was here and his soul sang with joy.

That joy was short lived though as his eyes took in the dead bodies around them and he remembered where they were. It took every ounce of willpower he had but he pulled out of Jace’s arms, knowing it was no time for a tearful reunion.

Alec meant to ask what he was doing there but before he could Jace’s hands were on his face and he looked more upset than Alec could ever remember seeing him.

“What did they do to you?” Jace asked, looking him up and down in search of injury. “I’ve never felt anything like that it was like …”

Jace cut himself off when he saw the rip in Alec’s shirt and the Agony rune stamped onto his skin.

“Is that … those bastards,” Jace hissed, his body trembling with anger at what had been done to his brother. He even looked around the hallway as though searching for a surviving Circle member that he could slaughter for the pain Alec had gone through. “I’ll kill them.”

“I’m fine,” Alec said, a hand coming up to cover Jace’s comfortingly but his parabatai shook his head.

“Bullshit, I felt what happened,” Jace said, his eyes haunted. “I had to come. You were in so much pain.”

“Behind you!”

Jace spun like lightning, bringing up his sword and blocking the strike from the Circle member sneaking up behind him. Alec moved as well, perfectly in sync with his brother, sliding under Jace’s arm and stabbing the man in the stomach before he even knew what had happened. As the man fell dead Alec stumbled into the wall again, exhausted despite the adrenaline surge. Jace knelt in front of him but also looked up at Magnus who was jogging towards them, knowing he was the one who had shouted the warning.

“Thanks,” Jace said, his voice surprisingly sincere.

“It wasn’t for you,” Magnus said as though it should be obvious, and knelt down on Alec’s other side. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. We have to get out of here,” Alec said, already trying to push himself back up to standing but was pushed back down by Jace’s hand.

“Just take a second, we need a plan,” Jace said. “There are over a dozen more upstairs. I managed to sneak by them to get down here but after all this I don’t think we’re going to be sneaking out the same way.”

“What other choice do we have?” Alec asked. He looked at Magnus and noticed the warlock was deep in thought about something. “Magnus?”

“I might be able to portal us out of here but …” Magnus hesitated, his plan clearly not fully formed. He looked between the two Shadowhunters with interest. “Your parabatai bond, it allows you to share energy, correct?”

“Sort of,” Jace said. “The bond kind of just does it on its own when we need it. We can’t make it happen.”

“It might work,” Magnus muttered but didn’t look entirely pleased at the answer.

Alec tilted his head to the side as his hearing rune picked up something from upstairs. Footsteps and shouting.

“They’re coming,” Alec said, suddenly growing pale. “All of them.”

“It’ll have to do then,” Magnus decided, knowing they had no other choice now. He looked at Jace. “Take Alec’s hand.”

Jace somehow suppressed the urge to demand to know what they were doing and did as instructed. Magnus offered his own hand towards Alec but left it hovering in the air.

“I need your strength,” Magnus said.

Alec didn’t hesitate, he just lifted his hand toward Magnus’s.

“Take what you need.”

“Whoa, no!” Jace said, batting Magnus away and releasing his hold on Alec to offer his own hand. “He can barely stand. Just take what you need from me.”

Anger boiled in Magnus’s eyes as he turned on Jace as though speaking to a petulant child. “Strength can only be shared when offered freely by someone you trust. You don’t qualify.”

“I just saved your life!” Jace shouted.

“You saved Alec’s life, don’t kid yourself,” Magnus scoffed.

“Stop it, both of you!” Alec demanded, leaning forward to physically get between the two. “We don’t have time for this. I’ll be fine Jace. Now both of you give me your hands.”

Magnus and Jace glared at each other a final time before they both relented and took one of Alec’s hands. Magnus met Alec’s eye to make sure he was ready then smiled reassuringly when he nodded. He squeezed Alec’s hand tighter and began the transfer. Magnus felt the energy start to flow into him almost instantly but he could also feel how quickly Alec was being drained of the meager energy reserves he had left. Magnus tried to stretch out his magic towards the parabatai bond. Angelic magic wasn’t his specialty but he could feel the ebb of energy coming from Jace into Alec and started to focus on that strength and pull from it. If he had had more time he could have pulled almost exclusively from the bond and saved Alec from being completely drained, but as he worked Magnus could hear the footsteps of men rushing down the stairs and knew they had to go.

Still holding Alec’s hand, Magnus opened his eyes and motioned for a portal with his free hand. He felt Alec slump as he drew more energy from him than he wanted to and saw Jace bracing him in his periphery, but it turned out to be just enough as Magnus splayed open his fingers and called a beautiful swirling mass into being.

“Let’s go,” Magnus said. Alec’s eyes were fluttering, showing he was barely conscious. Magnus and Jace didn’t speak to each other, they just adjusted their grips and each pulled one of Alec’s arms over their shoulders.

At the end of the hall Reece appeared, stopping in his tracks at the sight of the portal and the mismatched trio.

“They’re getting away!” he yelled up to the others and started to charge forward.

“Suck it!” Jace yelled back as he held on to Alec tight and raced for the portal. As the three passed through the shimmer of energy Reece was still a dozen steps behind them.

When they made it to the other side Jace was surprised to see they were back in Magnus’s apartment.

“Close it!” Jace shouted. Magnus turned to shut the portal down but stumbled from Alec’s weight against him and fell to the floor, taking Jace with them who was also unsteady from the draining spell. Magnus grunted as Alec landed on top of him but managed to sit up and wave his arms to shut the portal down.

Just like that they were left with only the quiet of the apartment and the three men gasping for breath.

Magnus looked down at Alec cradled against his chest and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Are you okay Alexander?” he asked, his hand coming up to rest on Alec’s shoulder.

“M’fine,” Alec said, and Magnus thought he felt him push his head harder against Magnus’s chest, but his words were slurred and his eyelids fluttered showing he was dangerously close to unconsciousness.

“You said you were going to take energy from both of us. You could have killed him,” Jace said. He sat up and looked Alec over, accepting he was uninjured but hating the terrible feeling of déjà vu the whole situation gave him of being in Magnus’s apartment again with Alec unconscious.

“I did the best I could,” Magnus said, showing no signs of moving any time soon as he was nearly as exhausted as Alec. “It wasn’t exactly ideal circumstances.”

“Sure you did,” Jace muttered. He looked around the apartment suspiciously. “What are we doing here? The Circle already attacked you here once if I recall.”

“We’re perfectly safe. The Lair is in a pocket dimension above the building, its wards extend down to the apartment. There are two dozen warlocks enforcing those wards, the Circle will never get through.”

“Fine,” Jace said, then knelt next to Alec and cupped his cheek, trying to get him to focus on him. “Alec, are you hurt? What do you need?”

Alec just smiled loopily at his brother as though he hadn’t heard the question. “Jace, you’re here.”

Jace offered a watery smile in return and gripped Alec’s hand in his. “Of course I’m here, you got your ass in trouble again.”

“I sure did.” Alec’s eyes fluttered closed again, breaking the moment, so Magnus decided to chime in.

“He already activated his healing rune, he said it didn’t help. Whatever the Agony rune did to him I think he just needs rest until it wears off.”

Jace turned away at the mention of the Agony rune that stood out in stark detail on Alec’s chest.

“I should go back there and kill all of them.”

“If it makes you feel better the one who used it on him is already dead,” Magnus said, finally extracting himself from underneath his shadowhunter and laying Alec down on the floor.

“Angel,” Jace muttered suddenly, hands flying to the back pocket of his jeans in annoyance. Judging by his reaction Magnus would bet his phone had been vibrating silently for some time.

“Hey Izzy,” Jace said as he accepted the call. “I got a little sidetracked I’ll be there when … what?”

Magnus’s brow furrowed as Jace stood up and started pacing while Izzy shouted at him.

“Just calm down … Who? … Jesus. I’ll be right there. … Yes I promise. Okay bye,” Jace said. He hung up the phone and shook his head in disbelief. “This night just keeps getting better and better. Clary and Simon were kidnapped by werewolves.”

“What?” Magnus said but noticed Alec was still too out of it to respond to the news.

“They grabbed them at Clary’s apartment while Izzy was distracted. I have to go,” Jace said.

Magnus’s jaw fell open in indecision. He felt like he should offer to help, but he didn’t have the energy for a rescue mission and he didn’t have the desire to do anything with Jace Herondale.

“Don’t worry about it,” Jace said, seemingly reading his thoughts. “I got it. You just take care of Alec.”

Before he left Jace picked his brother up and moved him into his bedroom like he had a few days before then sat on the edge of Alec’s bed and clasped his cheek, smiling when Alec managed to force his eyes open again.

“I gotta go Alec,” Jace said in a rush, knowing he was pushing the limits of what Alec’s contract would allow already.

Alec blinked and frowned. “No … I miss you.”

“I miss you too, everyday,” Jace said. “You stay out of trouble, I can’t keep saving your ass like this. It’s not good for my health.”

“’kay,” Alec said, then his head lolled to the side, unconsciousness taking him once more.

Magnus stood a few feet away, watching the exchange between the parabatai, but said nothing. Jace wiped at his eyes then stood and dusted himself off as though to steady himself for his next mission.

He looked at Magnus and they made eye contact for the first time. They were both furious with the other, perhaps for good reason, but maybe the smallest flicker of respect was starting to form as well.

“I gotta go. Take care of him,” Jace said. Magnus nodded and Jace headed for the door, shouting over his shoulder as he left. “And if you’re going to have me executed for this wait until after I save the rest of my friends.”

Jace was out the door before Magnus could respond, which was just as well because the warlock wasn’t sure what he would have said to that.

With little else to be done, he pulled a blanket up around Alec’s shoulders and then left him to rest, knowing there was nothing else he could do for the shadowhunter. Suddenly alone Magnus looked around the apartment. The other high warlocks had fixed most of the damage from the attack when his magic was drained but there were still traces of it if he looked closely; pieces of glass in the floor, the wrong books on the shelf, the carpet color was slightly off where Alec’s blood had seeped into the floor. And now here he was again, magic drained by the Circle, Alec hurt and unconscious, both willing to die for the other and neither one of them able to say the words aloud to explain why.

Magnus shook his head and collapsed on the couch. It seemed he was stuck in a vicious cycle. Maybe with some rest he could figure out a way out of it.

Before his eyes slipped shut they caught on a photo of Ragnor on his coffee table. He smiled as his body shut down with exhaustion but his mind replayed for him in perfect detail the last conversation he had had with his friend a few months ago.

“I know you won’t believe me but someday someone will come along who will tear down those walls you’ve built around your heart and when that loves come back to you, you must do everything in your power to fight for it.”

Magnus’s eyes slipped shut and though he was half asleep he found himself muttering aloud, “Even in death my friend, you give the best advice.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Alec woke up the next day more disoriented than he could remember being in his entire life. He pushed himself into a sitting position and looked around his bedroom, confused how he had gotten there and why it was so late in the day. Even though Magnus’s apartment was warded they had been sleeping in the Lair for the last few nights to help protect the other warlocks there. Then it all came back to him in a rush, the memory demon, Pandemonium, Magnus saving his life, the portal closing on them, the Agony rune and finally Jace showing up. Angel, what a night, he thought to himself.

Was it even real, he wondered. Physically he still felt tired but had no physical proof it had even happened until he looked down and saw the Agony rune on his chest. He swallowed and put his hand over it as though he could hide from it that way. He would have to ask Izzy to bring him a de-runing device at some point.

He still couldn’t remember how he had gotten into his bed. He remembered Jace and Magnus fighting about Alec giving up his energy to make a portal. He supposed it must have worked and he had passed out; he couldn’t think of any other way he could have gotten home.

Needing more answers he threw the covers off and got to his feet. He needed to find Magnus and make sure he was okay.

He found the warlock sitting on the couch in the living room, holding a cup of tea and deep in thought.

“Hey,” Alec said cautiously, not wanting to startle him or even himself. The day before had been so intense that he felt like he could still feel the power of it in the air stealing his breath away.

Magnus turned at the sound of his voice and smiled, but it was different than usual. His eyes were more open and vulnerable but his smile was cautious as though he was scared to commit to it.

“Good morning,” Magnus said, his voice slow and contemplative. He sipped his tea as Alec came around the couch to join him.

“Are you okay? What happened last night?” Alec asked.

“I’m quite fine,” Magnus said, though from the shakiness in his voice Alec didn’t quite believe. “Jace is as well. I managed to use your combined strength to make us a portal out of there. I’m very sorry that I drained you more than I intended.”

“I’m alive, no apology necessary,” Alec said.

“How are you feeling?” Magnus asked in return.

“Tired but … but I’m okay. Or, I will be.” He rubbed at the spot on his chest where he knew the agony rune sat and grimaced. “I want this thing off me, but other than that I’m fine. Thanks.”

“Good. That’s good. It was … a harrowing evening,” Magnus said. He put his teacup down on the table and Alec realized Magnus had been avoiding making eye contact with him since he came in.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Alec said, his voice firm.

Magnus smiled sadly and wondered how Alec could read him so well.

“Thank you, but you’re entirely wrong in that respect.” Alec started to open his mouth to protest but Magnus held up a hand to stop him. “I’ve been sitting here for several hours thinking about it Alexander. I assure you, it was my fault, as are a great many things that have happened these past few weeks and I … I need to decide how I’m going to deal with those things.”

“Okay,” Alec said slowly, slightly confused now. He took a step closer to sit down on the couch with Magnus but froze when he saw what was laid out on the coffee table in front of him. “Is that my Life Debt?”

“It is,” Magnus said. “It’s one of the decisions I have to make, about something I should have done some time ago if I’m being honest. I wanted you to be here when I made it.”

Magnus stood up so he was almost eye to eye with Alec, then he drew their gaze to the contract, waved his hand above it and snapped his fingers. The contract burnt up instantly, leaving only a pile of ash on Magnus’s table.

“What are you doing?” Alec asked, his eyes wide and his breathing coming fast and panicked.

“I’m cancelling your Life Debt,” Magnus said. He started to smile but faltered when he looked up at Alec. Of all the reactions he had expected to his decision, he had to admit the unbridled fear on Alec’s face was not one of them.

“No, Magnus please,” he said, shaking his head vehemently. “I know he broke the rules but Jace saved our lives last night, you can’t have him executed. The Circle would have killed us, you …”

“Alexander, stop,” Magnus said and placed a reassuring hand on Alec’s arm to calm him as he realized his mistake. God, he was already fucking this up so much. “Nothing’s going to happen to Jace.”

Alec let himself breathe but was still tense. “It’s not?”

“No. The contract wasn’t broken, I’m cancelling it. Your debt is paid Alec. You’re free.”

As Magnus said this he released Alec’s arm as though to emphasize his point.

Alec blinked several times and looked down at the pile of ash.

“I don’t understand,” he admitted. “Is this because Jace saved our lives?”

“No,” Magnus said firmly. “This isn’t about Jace at all, not anymore. This is about us.”

“Us?” Alec said softly, denying nothing but asking for more clarification at the same time.

“Yes. Last night I realized something that I should have admitted to myself a long time ago. I care about you Alec. At Pandemonium when that Circle member had you and you told me to run, well it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard,” Magnus said, smiling as he said it so Alec knew he meant it fondly. “Because there was no reality where I could ever leave you there. The possibility, even the thought of it, it wasn’t worth considering. You should know by now that I’m not a selfless man, Alexander. I like money and jewels and fine things. I’ll protect my people but I’m not a martyr, except I am for you. Except for the fact that I would have taken that Agony rune on myself a thousand times over if I could keep it from being used on you even once. And a feeling like that, the certainty of it, it’s more than I’ve felt for anyone for over a hundred years. It may be more than I’ve ever felt for someone. And if I truly care about someone like that then I can’t own them, no matter what arrangement we’ve made. I can’t deny them their freedom. I can’t deny them anything. So as cliché as it sounds, I’ve decided to fight for something, by letting it go, and hoping it comes back.”

Magnus finished his speech and the silence in the apartment stretched on for an eternity as Alec stood stark still, his jaw hanging open as he considered Magnus’s words. He raised his hand a few times and looked like he was about to speak or move forward but in the end Alec stayed rooted where he was, eyes that had been watching Magnus make his declaration now glued to the floor.

“Oh,” Alec said eventually.

Frustration and uncertainty gnawed at Magnus’s stomach, telling him he was an idiot who would never find love and should never listen to Ragnor even if he was dead, and what was he thinking making such a declaration to a man he had enslaved for all intents and purposes, he was the biggest fool alive and yearned to take it all back, but instead he forced an inquisitive smile on his face and waved his arms.

“Oh?” he questioned.

“You’re cancelling my Life Debt because you care about me too much,” Alec said, his words coming out slowly and methodically as though he was tasting each one, testing out its meaning.

Here was Magnus’s chance to take it all back, to laugh it off and say of course not, it was because Alec had saved his life and his debt was paid, but that would be a lie. That would be giving up and he was going to fight for this.

“Yes,” Magnus said.

Alec nodded and worked his jaw a few times before he finally licked his lips and spoke. “Good. That’s … that’s good.”

Magnus’s heart beat a little bit faster.

“It is?”

“Yeah.” Alec finally looked up and in his eyes Magnus saw the same combination of terror and hope that he felt in himself. “Yeah it’s good because I … I kind of … also …uh … fuck it.”

Alec stepped forward, grabbed the lapels of Magnus’s robe and kissed him. Magnus almost pulled back in surprise but then he inhaled sharply and closed his eyes, savoring the taste of Alec, the way his hands held him tight but his lips were gentle and firm. The way Alec moaned in the softest way possible as though he wanted more but didn’t press forward any harder, scared to take more than offered. Magnus would have none of that though and when Alec pulled away the warlock chased his lips, demanding more, which Alec was glad to give. Alec pulled him closer and Magnus put a hand on Alec’s hip while the other splayed up his back, enjoying the feel of Alec’s muscles rippling as he held on to Magnus and kissed him senseless.

Magnus let his arms drop down a moment later, putting an end to the desperation and passion in the kiss as he smiled against Alec’s lips because this was perfection. This was what every poet had dreamed of and tried to capture but never came close to achieving. This was Alec and he was his.

Eventually they pulled apart, gasping for air but with their hands still on the other’s body, holding close, refusing to let the moment end.

Magnus could feel Alec shaking in his arms and knew he wasn’t the only one. He looked up into his Shadowhunter’s eyes and smiled to see only relief, joy and disbelief in Alec’s gaze.

Magnus tilted his head and shrugged one shoulder coyly. “So, ditto?”

Alec laughed and let his clenched fists loosen and splay across Magnus’s chest as he relaxed.

“Yeah, yeah ditto. I … I care about you too Magnus. A lot. You’re … you’re quite magical,” Alec said and Magnus laughed in his face but smiled at him fondly, completely charmed. “Dammit, I’m so bad at this … you had a whole speech.”

“Which I worked on for several hours, as I said,” Magnus pointed out.

“It was good.”

“I’m glad you liked it,” Magnus said. “But they say actions speak louder than words.”

Alec perked up, picking up on Magnus’s compliment. “I kissed you.”

“And it was better than any speech I’ve ever heard,” Magnus said and leaned forward, bringing their lips together once more. This kiss was shorter, sweeter, like the final bite of cake and Alec sighed contently as Magnus pulled away.

“God, I’ve wanted to do that since …”

“Since we sparred?” Magnus guessed.

“Way before that,” Alec said. “Wait, have you only wanted this since then?”

“Oh no, I’ve wanted this for pretty much always, but, it’s fun to play hard to get.”

“Hard disagree,” Alec said, then smiled unsurely. “So, what now?”

Magnus’s emotions which had been flying so high crashed down at the question. He dropped his gaze and slowly pulled away from Alec’s grip, his reluctance obvious in every inch he moved.

Magnus steeled himself but couldn’t manage to smile.

“Now you go home Alec.”

Alec shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“As I said, I spent a great deal of time thinking about this, about every repercussion of every possibility and before we can be anything to each other I’m afraid you’ll have to go for awhile,” Magnus said.

“Where?”

“Back to the Institute, back to your old life,” Magnus said and hated himself when Alec pulled away, an expression of incredible hurt on his face.

“Magnus, I’ve told you, even before today, the Institute, it’s not for me, not anymore,” Alec said.

“You say that now, but I must be firm on this. Alec, as much as it terrifies me, we have to face the possibility that you don’t truly care for me, at least not the way you think, not this way.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I took you away from your home Alec, your family, your friends, your parabatai. I’ve been the only constant in your life for weeks. Until ten minutes ago I technically owned you. That’s not the basis for a relationship, that’s more like Stockholm syndrome.”

“Magnus I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since the night we saved Madzie. I thought about the touch of your magic every night for two months. Your voice was echoing in my head the day I called off my wedding. I want this.”

Magnus closed his eyes, smiling sadly at the beautiful words but knew he had to be strong.

“I hope that’s true, I sincerely do Alec, because it will mean the world to me if it is, but the facts remain that starting something right now, it’s not healthy. For either of us. I brought you here the day after I lost my oldest friend and you’ve brought me incredible comfort and friendship in his place, and that same day you lost your parabatai, a piece of your soul. Neither one of us can be sure about our feelings right now. I’m not saying we can’t do this, god knows I’m not that selfless, but not now. Go home. See your family, your parabatai, go back to your old life and get some perspective on all of this. And if you decide you still want this, me, then I’ll be right here, eagerly waiting for you.”

Alec clenched his jaw and tried to sort through what Magnus was saying. On one hand it felt like he was being treated like a child, like Magnus didn’t trust his young mortal mind to understand his own feelings, but he also knew it made sense in a way that the logical, unemotional part of him approved of. If he was honest he probably agreed with Magnus, they could use some distance to properly sort through their feelings, he just didn’t like it. He’d wanted this for so long, to feel Magnus, to hold him, to share everything with him wholeheartedly. Now he had been given a taste of what that felt like and he wanted more.

Eventually Alec took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

“You promise?” Alec asked. “You’ll wait?”

Magnus’s smile was the sun and the moon at once. He stepped forward and wrapped his hands behind Alec’s neck, pulling him close for one more gentle kiss.

“I’ll wait as long as you need, with the most baited breath. I’m not going anywhere,” Magnus said his lips still ghosting over Alec’s like a whispered promise.

Alec dropped his hands to Magnus’s hips and smiled sadly but nodded. “Okay. I think you’re right. Logically speaking at least. But it’s been a pretty emotional day and I’m not feeling super logical like right now.”

“It’s not the most romantic emotion,” Magnus agreed. “But I think it’s the right call. Then we’ll know for certain what we think we already know.”

“I know,” Alec said, his voice firm and his grip tightening on Magnus’s hips.

“I pray you do, but Alexander, if you get home and you … you realize this isn’t what you want, that I’m not what you want, I understand. And know that you don’t owe me anything. The Life Debt is gone no matter what you decide. If you change your mind and if this is all we get well, it was a wonderful kiss.”

“Okay. I get it. Thank you. And I agree, it was a pretty good kiss but … what about one more for the road?” Alec asked, lip curling up shyly.

Magnus smiled, constantly surprised by his shadowhunter and how he could be logical and adorable and intensely shy at the same time.

“I suppose I can’t send you away empty-handed.” Magnus leaned forward and kissed Alec softly, slowly, his hand coming up to run through the back of his hair as they explored each other’s mouths until Alec inhaled sharply, pulled him as close as possible and then finally backed away, his breathing heavy with emotion and probably something more.

“Wow. Well you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about,” Alec said.

“Trust me, I would love to give you a whole lot more,” Magnus said, no longer able to hold back his flirtatious needs after such a searing kiss. “But that would tip the scales unjustly. So we should just leave it there probably.”

“Yeah,” Alec agreed, nodding before he looked around the apartment seemingly lost. “I guess I’ll go … pack.”

“There’s no rush. I’m not kicking you out on the curb Alec, especially after the day you had yesterday. Let me conjure you some breakfast and then … we’ll sort it all out.”

“Okay.” Alec sat down on Magnus’s couch as a free man for the first time and smiled. “We’ll sort it out.”

Chapter Text

A few hours later, after a breakfast that was equal parts wonderful and awkward, Alec emerged from his room with a half full backpack that he laid by the door.

“I think I got everything,” Alec said to Magnus who was hovering between the living room and balcony door, seemingly unsure what to do with himself. Alec shoved his hands in the pockets of his coat and swayed back and forth on his feet, clearly feeling the same. It was a strange sort of limbo they found themselves in now. It had felt amazing to finally admit their feelings for each other, and the kiss that followed had felt even better, but now it was like they were right back where they started, keeping their distance and avoiding eye contact in case either of them acted inappropriately or out of line with what they had agreed upon.

“Well, I suppose this is good-bye for now,” Magnus said, waving his arms enthusiastically though his smile was clearly forced.

“I guess,” Alec said but made no move to head towards the door.

Magnus frowned.

“Will you be all right, at the Institute? I remember what you said about the last few weeks there. I don’t want to send you into a bad situation no matter what we need to sort out between us,” Magnus said.

Alec smiled at Magnus’s thoughtfulness but shook his head. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry. There will still be some assholes but my parabatai is Shadowhunter royalty who I hear has been snapping at everyone for over a month now, I doubt anyone will make much trouble. I’ll be all right.”

Magnus sighed, relieved but annoyed simultaneously. “You shouldn’t need a political ally to be treated fairly in your own home, Alec.”

Alec shrugged. “Why do you think I liked it here so much.”

“This is temporary, if you want it to be,” Magnus reiterated to him. “I want you here Alec, I just need to know it’s what you want too. But if you are the slightest bit unhappy or uncomfortable at the Institute don’t hesitate to come back, please. You’re always welcome.”

“Thank you, but really, I’ll be fine. And I’ll … I’ll really think about us, maybe even talk to Izzy or something, get some perspective, I don’t know,” Alec said, looking at the floor as though lost.

Magnus stepped forward and took Alec’s hands and squeezed them supportively.

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” Magnus said and felt Alec relax instantly under his touch. “I’ll do the same and after a short time we’ll see where we stand.”

Alec’s thumb rubbed over the back of Magnus’s hand.

“How short a time?” Alec asked, his eyes full of longing and desire.

Magnus sighed, remembering their wonderful and all too brief kiss. “Not short enough I’m sure, but, we’ll know when we know.”

“Yeah, okay. I guess I should get going then,” Alec said, stepping back slowly.

“Would you like a portal back?” Magnus asked.

“No,” Alec said, picking up his bag. “I’d rather walk, clear my head a little. I imagine things are going to be pretty crazy at the Institute once I get there.”

“I imagine so,” Magnus said and had to force his body to stay rooted to the spot. As he watched Alec walk towards the door all he could think was that he was being an idiot, he wanted to scoop Alec up into his arms, wanted it more than he had wanted anything in a hundred years, but instead he was asking him to leave, the most wonderful thing that had ever walked into Magnus’s life and he was just throwing it away, hoping it would come back. He truly was a glutton for punishment.

“Take care of yourself, Alexander,” he said instead of rushing forward, and was fairly certain his voice only cracked a little.

Alec had a hand on the doorknob but turned around and smiled.

“You too Magnus. Keep your wards up. I’ll see you around.”

“I certainly hope so,” Magnus whispered. Alec nodded, hefted his bag on his shoulder and walked out the door. He’d be lying if he said he never looked back.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Alec only managed to walk about halfway to the Institute. He had thought he wanted the time alone to think through his feelings and dissect everything he and Magnus had talked about, and at first he did just that, but halfway there he realized he was going to see Jace again, really see him, for the first time in over a month and all thoughts of his love life flew out the window as he took off in an all out sprint for the Institute. He was thankful he was glamoured because he probably looked like an idiot, running through the streets of New York with a huge grin on his face. As he ran he also tamped down on their parabatai bond, cutting himself off from Jace as much as possible; he didn’t want Jace to feel his excitement and ruin the surprise when he showed up.

It was just getting dark when he finally arrived at the Institute and he felt himself hesitating to take that last step, fears suddenly flooding his mind of what would face him when he stepped through that door. Would he be welcome back or was he part of the downworld now after spending so much time with Magnus? Had he lost his place at the Institute after being gone so long?

He shook his head, and reminded himself that the Institute was his home. Even if his parents had agreed to send him away to Magnus’s they still loved him and knew he was a valuable soldier. They’d welcome him back. And if they didn’t, Jace and Izzy would, and that would be enough.

Resolve hardened, he walked up the steps and smiled when his handprint still unlocked the door.

Walking inside was, anticlimactic to say the least. Everything was the same. Shadowhunters milled about, checking screens and tablets in the command center, the sound of grunts and strikes came from the training area, and almost no one paid him any mind. It wasn’t until he was at the end of the foyer that anyone even noticed him.

“Lightwood, I’ll be damned,” Raj said, stopping in his tracks when he saw him. His brow furrowed and he looked around concerned. “Are you allowed to be here?”

Alec wasn’t entirely sure to be honest but pretended he was. “Yeah, it’s a long story but I’m … I’m back.”

“Just when we thought we got rid of you,” Raj said. His voice was boisterous enough to infer he was joking but Alec could detect the undercurrent of truth to the words and clenched his jaw. “Well, welcome back.”

“Thanks,” Alec said unenthusiastically. “Is Jace here?”

Raj’s eyes went wide and he shook his head hard.

“Oh no,” he said and there was clearly a story there, but he pointed up at the catwalk above the ops center. “Izzy’s in Lydia’s office though.”

“Uh, great, thanks,” Alec said and moved towards the wall of offices. He had a lot more questions, like what was Lydia doing here with an office, but he didn’t want to get his answers from Raj. Before he could reach Lydia’s office however a huge pair of arms encircled him.

“Alec!”

Alec forgot his questions for a moment and relaxed into Hodge’s bear hug, patting him on the back in return and laughing as the older man gave him a final squeeze before he released him.

“Hey Hodge.”

“By the Angel it’s good to see you. What are you doing here?” Hodge asked. His eyes shone with pure joy to see him and it made Alec feel like he truly was back home.

“My Life Debt’s cancelled,” Alec said, smiling again as well. “I’m back.”

Hodge’s eyes went wide and he hugged him again. “That’s amazing!”

“Yeah, I guess,” Alec said, laughing. Hodge had been one of the few people he had truly missed, but since he couldn’t leave the Institute and Alec hadn’t been allowed to visit, he had thought he would never see him again. It was nice to be wrong.

“We missed you around here,” Hodge said. “You’re the only one that can keep this bunch in line.”

“That I believe,” Alec said. “It’s … it’s good to be back. Weird, but good.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

Before Alec could excuse himself to go find Izzy, the sound of running heels made them both turn around.

“Alec?” Izzy asked, jogging across the catwalk, her eyes fixed on her brother.

“Hey Iz,” he said and any snarky comment he was going to make disappeared as she barreled into him, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying fully into his chest.

“You’re back,” she whispered, then her eyes looked up at him, hopeful but guarded. “You are back right? That’s why you’re here?”

“Yeah, I’m back, for good,” he said, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and sighing contently.

“How?”

“Magnus cancelled my contract. He said my debt was paid,” he answered.

Izzy pulled away, smiling widely, “Because of all the times you saved his life?”

Alec started to say no but hesitated. The truth was so very complicated and as much as he hated to lie to his family, this wasn’t the time to discuss it. He just wanted to celebrate being home, so he smiled and nodded. “Yeah. After the third time at Pandemonium he decided I’d done more than enough.”

“And got hurt enough times doing it,” Izzy mumbled but then smiled in relief. “I’m glad you’re here. I really need my big brother right now.”

“I don’t know how much he’s going to be able to help you Isabelle.”

Alec’s brow furrowed at the new voice. “Lydia?”

Lydia was very much the same as he remembered. She was sporting a professional business outfit that she could fight in if necessary and her hair was pulled back in a tight braid. She was too professional to offer him a hug but smiled genuinely to see him.

“Alec,” she said. “It’s been a long time. I overheard what you said about your Life Debt. We’re glad to have you back.”

And he believed that too. They had parted amicably when Alec called off their wedding. She had respected and supported his decision, he suspected not just because they were romantically incompatible but because Alec’s more progressive ideas had been politically poisonous all around. He knew she respected Alec as a leader and strategist, and privately supported his decisions, but Lydia wasn’t likely to rock the boat in terms of the Clave’s rules regarding treatment of downworlders like Alec did.

“Thanks,” he said, a million questions running through his mind. “What are you doing here?”

Lydia had the decency to look apologetic as she answered, “I’m the acting head of the institute.”

Alec looked at Izzy. “Where are Mom and Dad?”

“They’re back in Idris,” Izzy said, her voice tight.

“For their own protection from the Circle,” Lydia added.

“Why would they need to be protected from the Circle?”

Izzy sighed. “Alec, Mom and Dad were hiding something from us. They were Circle members during the revolution. They cut a deal with the Clave and had their runes removed and never told us.”

Alec shook his head. “No. What are you talking about? Our parents didn’t work with Valentine!”

Everyone around him shifted uncomfortably. Alec looked at Hodge, a former Circle member himself, and Alec’s heart sank when the man nodded in agreement with Lydia.

“Mom told me herself before she left,” Izzy added softly.

“I don’t believe this,” Alec said and stepped away to lean against a console. After all their lectures about being perfect, following the rules, being exactly what the Clave expected them to be, they were former Circle members, traitors, hypocrites.

“I’m sorry,” Lydia said.

Alec shook his head. He couldn’t deal with this right now, especially not alone.

“Where’s Jace?” he asked. He needed his brother, he needed the normalcy and support he could only get from his parabatai.

Izzy closed her eyes and said nothing so Lydia stepped forward. “Jace is missing.”

“What?!” Alec exploded. “I just saw him yesterday! He saved us at Pandemonium!”

“He’s only been gone a few hours but he’s on the run and we can’t track him. We have arrest warrants out for him and Clary.”

“Arrest warrants? For what?”

“For the same crime that Isabelle is currently under house arrest for; attacking fellow shadowhunters and freeing a prisoner in transport,” Lydia said, glaring at Isabelle as she did so.

“You were taking Meliorn to the Silent Brothers for interrogation! We had to stop you,” Isabelle said.

“The rune power in the City of Bones will kill most downworlders,” Alec said. “Seelies can’t lie, why would you even risk that?”

“They can’t lie but they can withhold information and I needed to make sure he had told us everything he knew,” Lydia said, then looked straight at Isabelle. “And I wasn’t going to have him interrogated. I was having him taken to the doors of the City and hoping he would tell me everything he knows about the Circle attacks in exchange for not being brought inside. I never got a chance to see if he would call my bluff though because you, Jace, Clary and a swarm of downworlders attacked us and freed him before we got there.”

“Well you could have told us that,” Izzy said, crossing her arms though this was clearly not new information to her. “We thought you were going to torture him.”

“It’s called a Chain of Command. I don’t need to explain my orders to you, especially seeing as you’re Meliorn’s lover, I couldn’t trust you not to tell him.”

“So Jace and Clary helped Meliorn escape from a fake interrogation, that they didn’t know was fake, and now they’re missing,” Alec said.

“They were taking Meliorn back to the Seelie woods,” Isabelle said, “but I don’t know where they’d go after that.”

“We haven’t been able to track them,” Lydia said.

“What about you Alec?” Hodge said. “Can you feel Jace through your bond? Is he okay?”

Alec looked down and focused on the parabatai bond that he had shut himself off to earlier and nearly cried out in agony when he could barely latch on to it.

“Something’s wrong,” he said, almost breathless. “I can barely feel him.”

“Is he hurt?” Isabelle asked.

“No, I don’t think so. It’s more like he’s too far for the bond to handle, like it’s stretched too thin. We’re still connected but he’s too far away for me to sense anything other than the fact that he’s alive,” Alec said.

“What does that mean?” Izzy asked.

“I don’t know, but I’ll have to report it to the Clave,” Lydia said. “Thank you Alec, it’s good to have you back. As your first official duty I’d appreciate it if you could escort your sister to her room. She’s to be kept there until her trial. Then come see me and we’ll figure out how to find your parabatai.”

Alec nodded almost on autopilot, too overwhelmed with information to question the orders. Lydia accepted this however and retreated to her office to make her reports. Izzy wrapped an arm around Alec and guided him forward.

“Come on big brother, we’ve got a lot to catch up on,” she said, leading the way towards the residential wing of the Institute.

“I don’t think I can handle any more on top of finding out our parents were Circle members, my former fiancé now runs the Institute, you’re going on trial for treason and my parabatai is missing somewhere so far away our bond might snap.”

“It’s been a hell of a day,” Izzy muttered.

Alec ran a hand over his face and saw they were going to pass his room before they got to Izzy’s.

“Let me drop my bag off,” he said.

He opened the door to the room and stopped abruptly in the doorway.

“Oh,” he said quietly.

“What’s wrong?” Izzy asked.

Alec looked over the room. It was a total mess, clothes and weapons that didn’t belong to him laid everywhere haphazardly and not at all how he left it.

“I uh … I guess I was supposed to be gone for good. I should have figured you’d give my room away,” Alec said, pulling his bag closer.

“What?” Izzy leaned past him and looked into the room but her anger quickly changed into calm understanding. She shook her head. “Alec, we didn’t give away your room. This is Jace’s mess. He’s been sleeping in here since you left.”

“He has?”

“Yeah, he missed you, you idiot.”

“Well then it would have been nice if he was here when I got back,” Alec said, his joy quickly diminishing when he remembered Jace was missing.

Reassured it was still his room, Alec went inside and threw his bag on the floor then dropped on the edge of his bed.

“What are we gonna do Iz?” he said. “Even if we find Jace, you guys attacked fellow shadowhunters and freed a prisoner. The Clave won’t care what your reasons were, they’ll have you deruned.”

“I know. With the Circle becoming so powerful anyone who breaks protocol is being punished more severely than usual. At least Jace will probably be okay, Imogen will see to that.”

Alec couldn’t argue with her there. It was weird how much things had changed regarding Jace in the last few months. He had spent so many years feeling like he was barely wanted, with few answers about his family, and then a few months ago the Clave had ordered mandatory DNA tests to combat a series of robberies being committed by glamored shadowhunters. The idea had been to put DNA scanners on all secured areas. An unexpected side effect of the order had been the computer spitting out the fact that Jace’s DNA was a familial match to Inquisitor Herondale and her son Stephen. With Jace’s supposed father, Michael Wayland, dead no one could explain how he had ended up living where he did, but DNA didn’t lie and Imogen had embraced Jace as a member of the family.

Right now, Izzy shut the door to Alec’s room and moved to sit beside him.

“There might be one chance to save us all,” Izzy said, her voice going conspiratorially quiet. “We kind of recovered the Mortal Cup.”

Alec’s eyes almost bulged out of his head. “What? When?!”

“Clary’s friend Luke had the tarot cards, who’s a werewolf by the way and the new leader of the Jade Wolf pack. He fought his former alpha for leadership, just barely avoided getting bit while he was at it, and then gave us the card. He said it belonged to Clary in his eyes.”

“Izzy that solves everything. The Clave can’t derune the shadowhunters who recovered the Mortal Cup, you guys would be heroes. Where is it? We’ll hand it over right now.”

Izzy cringed. “That’s the problem … Clary has it in her bag.”

“The Clary who’s missing?”

“Yeah.”

Alec dropped his head back into his hands. “I should have stayed at Magnus’s.”

Izzy wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Alec sighed. “Me too, you know that.”

She nodded. “You did seem … happy there though.”

“Things were less complicated, that’s for sure,” Alec said, but then he remembered his last conversation with Magnus and realized maybe that wasn’t quite true. He picked up a shirt off the bed that was clearly Jace’s and frowned.

“We’ll find him Alec and he’ll be with Clary and they’ll have the Cup and it’ll all be fine,” Izzy said.

Alec wanted to believe her, he even nodded as though he did, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that everything was coming crashing down.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Magnus stood for a long time in the middle of his living room wondering if maybe Alec would come right back, make some crack about how he had had long enough to think about it and was here to stay, and honestly, Magnus wouldn’t have the strength to say no. He’d let him stay, he’d give Alec anything he wanted, his very soul if he asked for it, but the door never opened. Alec was gone.

Eventually Magnus summoned himself a whiskey rocks and collapsed on his couch to contemplate his poor life choices.

And that was just where Catarina found him a few hours later.

“There you are,” she said as she stepped through a portal in the hallway. “Alive and healthy I see. Would it have killed you to respond to even one of my fire messages?”

Magnus spared a glance at the small pile of ignored correspondence next to the couch and shrugged. “Sorry my dear, I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

“So have I, like the thought that the two of you were dead,” Catarina said. She walked into the living room and took in Magnus and his clearly sullen mood for the first time.

“Where’s Alec?” she asked.

Magnus took a sip of his drink. “He’s not here.”

Catarina sat down next to him, her eyebrows going up with curiosity. “Did you two have a fight or something?”

Magnus huffed and shook his head. “Almost exactly the opposite of a fight actually. It turns out we agree on … some very important issues.”

“Such as …” Catarina prodded.

“I cancelled his life debt and told him I had feelings for him and then he kissed me,” Magnus said in a rush directly into his glass.

Catarina exhaled a laugh through her nose and relaxed further back onto the couch. “Finally.”

“Finally?!” Magnus repeated incredulously, forgetting that he had been embarrassed a moment before.

Catarina held up her hands as if it were obvious. “You two weren’t exactly subtle.”

“We were strictly professional!” Magnus disagreed.

“Sure, when the other wasn’t looking.”

“You’re not allowed to be supportive of this, you’re the one who made me promise not to pursue him.”

“While he was indebted to you. Honestly, the way you two acted around each other I expected you to cancel that contract within the week.”

Magnus looked down into his glass again. “I couldn’t, not at first. I thought you’d hate me.”

“I only want you to be happy Magnus. Alec makes you happier than anyone I’ve ever seen, why would I be mad about that?”

“Cancelling the Life Debt, it means the Herondale boy’s punishment is over. That’s hardly justice. Ragnor deserved more.”

“Ragnor would want you to be happy, you know that. He wouldn’t say it, but deep down he’d want it,” Catarina said. “Besides, we can curse the boy off the books down the road or something. I know a balding spell, completely untraceable.”

Magnus laughed at that, soothed considerably by the mental image of a smooth-headed Jace looking into the mirror mortified.

“Leave me the recipe,” Magnus said, eager to make it himself.

“We’ll do it together,” Catarina said, then looked around the apartment once more. “So where’s Alec then? Out picking up roses and wine for you? Should I make myself scarce?”

Magnus’s smile dropped and he stared down into his glass once more. “No, you’re welcome to stay, I could use the company. Alec’s gone, I sent him back to the Institute.”

Catarina’s brow furrowed. “I thought you both agreed you had feelings for each other. Why send him away?”

“Because neither of us have exactly been emotionally stable since this whole thing started. We both need some time apart to … sort ourselves out, make sure we’re what the other wants.”

“You seem pretty sure about what you want.”

“I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life, but Alec, he’s so … innocent in some ways. He deserves a chance to really think things through. I didn’t want him to feel pressured into anything or like he owes me for cancelling his contract.”

“So you sent him away?”

“With an open invitation to return whenever he likes.”

“I see why you’re drinking. You’re worried he won’t come back.”

Magnus nodded. “He feels what I feel, I know it, and I trust him when he says he’s coming back, but he’s intensely loyal to his family and I daresay they won’t be overly supportive of the idea of him dating the warlock who enslaved him, for however short a time it was. I’m worried they’ll convince him he’s better off without me.”

“Then why send him back at all?”

“Trust makes you do strange things.” Magnus shrugged. “And if he does come back, against all odds, against the will of his family, well, then I’ll know.”

“Know what?”

“That it’s real.”

Catarina squeezed his shoulder. “You’re worth fighting for Magnus. Alec will see that.”

“I certainly hope so, but until then, help me finish this bottle and distract me from my deplorable love life,” Magnus said as he poured another glass of whiskey and handed it to Catarina.

She accepted it with a smile. “So business as usual?”

“Absolutely,” Magnus said then held his glass up in a toast. “To Ragnor, may he approve of the questionable choices I made based on his dreadful advice about following my heart.”

“And may he haunt you if you don’t listen to him.”

“Here, here.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Alec laid down on the bed in his room nursing the first shred of hope he had felt since he found out his parabatai was on the run and his sister was going on trial to be deruned. A trial that was scheduled to start in just a few hours, which they had little to no defence for.

Five hours ago Alec had received his first sign that things were looking up when he felt his parabatai bond snap back into place as strong as ever. He still didn’t know where Jace had been or how he got there, but he knew he was back in New York somewhere. Unfortunately he was either over water or using his anti-tracking rune so Alec couldn’t pinpoint where, but with Isabelle’s trial about to start shortly he was willing to take drastic measures to find him.

He considered contacting Magnus, he knew the warlock would help if he really needed him to, but this was shadowhunter business and they had agreed to take a break from each other and Magnus hated Jace and there were about fifteen other flimsy reasons Alec gave himself not to call him. He knew the truth was that he was scared that the warlock wouldn’t help him, would change his mind about everything, decide Alec was too much trouble with all his family drama and Clave rules, and he just couldn’t think about that right now, as much as he genuinely loved to think about Magnus. Besides, it turned out there was someone much closer who could help him plenty.

As Alec took his shirt off Hodge sat down on the edge of the bed, a lecture at the ready as always.

“You need to brace yourself. Parabatai bond tracking is painful as hell and equally dangerous. The bond is strong but fragile in some ways, using it to track your parabatai can zap its strength, even break it all together.”

“But it can work?” Alec asked.

“Yes, it works rather well from what I hear, when it’s at its usual strength. If Jace was still wherever the hell he went I wouldn’t even let you try this, it would just snap the bond in two,” Hodge warned.

Alec licked his lips and nodded his understanding but Hodge didn’t miss how nervous he looked.

“You don’t have to do this Alec. If Jace is back in the city we can just tell Lydia, she’ll send out more teams, we can find him that way.”

“No, I need to find him first, before the Clave. If they get the Cup we don’t have anything to trade for Izzy’s freedom. Jace and Clary don’t know what’s been happening, they need to know that they have to be the ones to bring it in, publicly.”

“All right, if you’re sure, we’ll do this. I know what Jace and Izzy mean to you,” Hodge said.

“Thank you, I know it’s asking a lot.”

Hodge huffed and took out his stele. “I’m just drawing the runes, asking a lot would be asking me to switch places with you. You ready?”

Alec nodded. “Yeah.”

“All right, think about Jace and focus on the bond,” Hodge said and that was all the instruction Alec got before he drew the tracking rune over the parabatai symbol.

Alec immediately gasped at the pain and arced up off the bed. Oh god, Hodge hadn’t said that the pain wouldn’t be physical, it was like pulling on your own soul to try and find the end of it. He tried to think of Jace and ignore the pain as the bond pulled at both of them. It helped a little. He focused on following the line of energy even as he bit back a scream. Finally there was a flash of something. Jace. With Clary and two men he didn’t know. One of them looked familiar. Was that … Jace’s father? Michael Weyland. But he was dead.

He’d figure that out later, for now he needed to know where they were. He let the scream out this time as he pulled further, trying to see more. Jace and the others had swords in their hands and were in front of an abandoned building of some kind, a hospital. There was a name on the front.

Alec released the bond and collapsed on the bed, his arms trembling from the effort.

“Alec, hey, easy, you’re okay,” Hodge said.

“I got him,” Alec said, his voice shaking from the experience but his eyes closed briefly in relief. “I found them. They had their weapons out, they’re in some kind of trouble, I have to go.”

Hodge patted him on the shoulder. “I wish I could go with you.”

“Me too,” Alec said, slowly pushing himself up off the bed. “I could use the backup, especially with Izzy on lockdown.”

“You’ll be enough. You and Jace together, that’s an unstoppable force.”

“We used to be,” Alec said, sounding unsure after so much time and distance between the two. “Let’s hope it’s still true.”

He pulled on his shirt and turned to find Hodge holding out his weapons to him.

“Bring them home.”

Alec smiled and strapped them on. “I will.”

Twenty minutes later, after sneaking out the back of the Institute, Alec found himself creeping up on the hospital he had tracked Jace to. He had intended to be quiet and scope the place out first, but as he approached he saw one of the men that had been with Jace squaring off against three Circle members alone in front of the building. Well that was just unfair.

Alec had been forced to leave his bow behind to avoid drawing attention to himself, but he had his seraph blade and wasted no time using it.

As Jace’s friend blocked a strike from one man the other two tried to circle around behind him, but neither of them saw Alec hiding in the shadows. Before the Circle could strike Alec struck one shadowhunter deep across the back and brought his sword up to block a strike from the second one before the first finished screaming.

The Circle member slashed at him, but Alec’s sudden appearance had caught him off guard and Alec easily parried the strikes before he spun and plunged his sword deep into the shadowhunter’s stomach.

As Alec pulled his blade free of the dying man he saw Jace’s friend had finished off his opponent and was moving his sword to point at Alec.

“Whoa,” Alec said, raising his own blade above his head to show he meant no harm. “I’m not Circle.”

“Yeah, I figured as much when you stabbed these two in the back.”

“Actually I stabbed this one in the front,” Alec said. The other man laughed and they both lowered their weapons.

“Luke Garroway,” he said in introduction.

“Clary’s friend, the werewolf?” Alec asked.

“Yeah, and you are?”

“Alec Lightwood.”

“Jace’s parabatai?” Luke asked, his eyebrows going up. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Yeah well a lot’s changed in the last day. I need to find Jace and Clary. Are they still here?”

“They should still be inside,” Luke said, motioning towards the door. “But so might Valentine, so keep your guard up.”

“Great, one day out of my Life Debt and Jace has managed to pull me into the biggest mess of our lives,” Alec muttered but moved with Luke to walk carefully into the rundown hospital.

The building was dark and looked ready to be demolished but more importantly it reeked of demon activity. Alec could smell ichor around every corner and almost every wall had deep gashes in it from varying sizes of claws. There was no doubt there had been demons here, hundreds if not thousands of them, but now there were none to be seen and while Alec was grateful they were gone he couldn’t help but feel like his friends had walked into a trap.

As Luke and Alec reached the end of a long hallway they stopped at the sound of booted footsteps. The sound didn’t move far and whoever it was wasn’t trying to hide. They shared a look to remain cautious but stepped forward into the large open room ahead of them.

As they stepped inside they both dropped their guards. Whatever had happened here was clearly over.

At the back of the room was a woman who could only be Clary’s mom judging by her appearance and the fact that she was suspended in some kind of green energy cocoon above the floor. Clary was standing over her, a hand tentatively reaching out to touch the wall of energy with tears in her eyes.

Alec looked to the left and felt himself truly breathe for the first time in nearly a day. Jace.

He was sitting on the floor, back against a pillar, with his elbows on his knees and his gaze locked on the floor. He must have sensed that someone else had entered the room but he never looked up, his haunted gaze was too stuck on whatever was going through his head and Alec yearned to know what had happened in this room.

As they took another step inside Clary looked up and tears finally fell down her eyes.

“Luke,” she said as she reached out to the werewolf, beckoning him closer. Luke wasted no time and rushed over to her, putting an arm around her shoulders as they looked down at Jocelyn together.

Alec started to move then and felt Clary’s eyes lock on him briefly. At first she barely responded to his presence but then she looked at Jace and seemed to remember that Alec wasn’t supposed to be here. She tried to take a step forward but Luke held her back and in that moment Alec decided he would be friends with Luke for life.

As Alec approached Jace he sheathed his sword. His hands were trembling and he didn’t think he should be holding a weapon just now.

Jace still hadn’t looked up from his turmoil of thoughts even as Alec stood in front of him, so Alec crouched down bringing them almost face to face. He reached out and touched his parabatai’s arm.

“Jace?”

He wasn’t sure if it was the contact or his name that broke Jace out of his trance but his head shot up with a look of terrified disbelief, his muscles twitching with raw emotion as he studied Alec’s face.

“Alec?” Jace said and Alec could feel a prod at their bond, pulling and checking. Alec wondered what could have happened to make Jace so paranoid that it wasn’t really him but didn’t fight the touch.

“It’s me,” he said, reaching out through their bond in response, trying to send the joy and love he felt in that moment directly into Jace. He moved his hand from Jace’s arm to cradle his cheek. “I’m here. I’m back.”

“Alec,” Jace said again but this time it was a plea, not a question. Jace collapsed forward, burying himself in Alec’s arms as he pushed his face into his parabatai’s shoulder, zapping every ounce of contact and comfort out of him that he could. Alec could feel the wetness of tears on his shirt almost instantly but didn’t care in the least. He had his brother back, finally, that was all that mattered. “Alec I don’t … Valentine … I couldn’t …”

“It’s okay,” Alec said, running a hand up Jace’s back and feeling tears well at his own eyes. “Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out. It’s okay. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Promise?” Jace asked, his voice broken and muffled coming from against Alec’s shirt.

Even as he held his brother, Alec’s mind flashed back to Magnus, to the words he had said to him, to how he had told him he wanted to be with him more than anything, to his promise to come back. He closed his eyes and felt a stab of agony run through him, hating himself as he pushed those words aside for his trembling parabatai.

“I promise,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

TBC

Next time: Parabatai talks and Magnus helps with the Forsaken.

Chapter Text

Eventually Luke and Alec managed to get the whole crazy story of what had happened out of Clary and Jace, including how Meliorn had sent them to another dimension so they could track Valentine (which, okay, Alec wasn’t even going to get into how weird that was), how they had instead found Michael Weyland alive and how Michael turned out to have been Valentine all along, meaning Jace had been raised for half of his life by the Clave’s greatest enemy. On top of that disaster Alec had to tell them that they were both wanted for treason for attacking fellow shadowhunters to free Meliorn.

The only good news was that they had recovered Jocelyn, even if she was in some kind of coma, and still had the Mortal Cup.

It took some maneuvering but eventually they figured out how to move Jocelyn and then the four of them made their way back to the Institute in uncomfortable silence. When they arrived a crowd gathered to watch them be arrested but instead the entire Institute got to watch in awe as Clary revealed that they had retrieved the Mortal Cup. Lydia took the Cup from her reverently and said she would speak to the Clave about having all charges dropped against them.

Through all of this Jace never left the side of his newly returned parabatai so it was no surprise that when they were finally dismissed for the night, Jace followed Alec into his room.

“Angel, I missed you,” Jace said, pulling Alec into a tight embrace as soon as the door shut behind them.

Alec smiled and relaxed into the hug they both needed. “I missed you too. Everyday.”

“I can’t believe you’re really back,” Jace said, voice laced with emotion.

“Me neither.” Alec patted him on the back. “And I can’t believe how much of a mess you made of my room while I was gone.”

“Oh shit,” Jace mumbled. He pulled away from Alec and looked over the floor, his expression a mix of panic and guilt as he immediately started picking up clothes and towels. “Sorry, I didn’t think … I mean I hoped but …”

“Jace, it’s fine, I don’t actually care.” - Jace stopped mid-picking up a pair of his underwear - “Okay, put those away but leave the rest. I just want to spend some time with you, mess and all.”

Jace threw the underwear in Alec’s hamper then collapsed to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Good, because a mess is the perfect way to describe me right now.”

Alec sat next to him. “You want to talk about it?”

“I don’t even know,” Jace said. “I’m still just trying to wrap my head around it. Valentine probably killed my parents, kidnapped me and then he raised me to be just like him … some kind of weapon. His weapon.”

“But you’re not,” Alec said. “You’re the same person you were yesterday, and the day before that. Knowing that Michael Wayland was really Valentine doesn’t change who you are, it just changes who he was. And you’re nothing like him.”

“Am I not? The Warlock council wanted to execute me. Maybe they were right. Maybe they could see it, that I’m dangerous.”

“That’s bullshit. Maybe you can be reckless, like when you try to free prisoners from Clave custody and get charged with treason,” Alec said with a pointed look, but then his expression softened. “But it’s always to do what you think is right.”

“What if what I think is right, isn’t? I was raised by Valentine, my moral compass is probably broken beyond repair.”

“Well then that’s what you have me for. We’re parabatai, I’ll always be here for you and I’ll help you figure it out.”

“God it’s good to have you back,” Jace said then leaned in for another hug.

“Well someone’s got to take care of you,” Alec said. As they pulled apart Alec rubbed the edge of Jace’s shirt between his fingers and grimaced. Then he stood up and pulled a clean shirt from his dresser. “Speaking of which, here, you’re covered in blood.”

Jace caught the shirt Alec threw him and pulled off his blood-stained tee. Alec’s own shirt was pretty gross as well so he peeled it off and started digging for a fresh one when he heard Jace gasp behind him. He looked up and saw his brother staring at his reflection in the mirror, his gaze fixed on the Agony rune on Alec’s chest.

“Angel, I’m such an asshole,” Jace said, shaking his head. “You were tortured two days ago and I’m sitting here whining about my daddy issues. Alec, I’m sorry.”

Alec shrunk in on himself at the reminder of what had happened at Pandemonium and looked at the floor as he quickly pulled on a new shirt to cover the rune. He’d meant to remove it but had been too focused on saving Jace and Izzy to get a de-runing device.

“I’m fine, Jace. Don’t worry about it.”

“You can’t be,” Jace said. “You can’t be this fine. Everything that’s happened in the past month …”

“We’ve both had a shit time, it’s not a competition,” Alec said. He sat down on the bed and leaned against the headboard.

“Too bad. If it was you’d have finally beat me at something.”

Alec huffed out a laugh and threw a pillow at Jace. “I will kick your ass literally right now.”

“I’d deserve it,” Jace said, pushing himself back on the bed to sit with his back pressed against the wall so he could see Alec.

“You wouldn’t,” Alec said firmly, “but I really am okay. I won’t lie, that Agony rune sucked, but the Circle didn’t have us long and as for the rest of it, well, as Magnus says, the Life Debt was your punishment, not mine. I think we both know the last few weeks have been harder on you than me.”

“How do you know that?”

“Uh, we’re parabatai. I felt how upset you were … all the time.”

“And I felt how hard you tried to hide it from me that you were just as upset.”

Alec shrugged. “Maybe. Sometimes. When I’d think about not seeing you again, it was hard, it was really hard, but a lot of the time, living with Magnus, helping him, it wasn’t bad … I even … liked it there.”

“I know,” Jace whispered. “I could feel it.”

“I’m sorry. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss you, I did, it’s just …”

“I get it,” Jace cut him off. “Izzy told me everything and … I get it. The Institute, it hasn’t been great for you here lately. And I’m sorry. I want to make it better. I should have made it better before. I’m this shadowhunter royalty or whatever and I couldn’t even make people accept my own parabatai.”

“You can’t change the way people think Jace, no matter what your last name is. And I always knew you supported me.”

“I should have said it more,” Jace said. “I could feel it sometimes, how comfortable you felt at Magnus’s. You were happier as someone’s damn servant than you were in your own home. I should have been able to give you that here.”

“There were a lot of reasons I liked it at Magnus’s and a lot of it wasn’t things you could change,” Alec said, choosing his words carefully. He had missed Jace so much and wanted to share everything with him, but it was too soon to drop the bombshell that he had feelings for Magnus, especially when he hadn’t yet taken the time he had promised to sort through those feelings.

“Like what?”

“It’s … it’s the way Magnus helps people and the way I got to help people with Magnus. There were no reports, no rules, no red tape telling us who we can help and when, no higher ups telling us no or tracking where we went. People just came to him for help and we’d help them. Sometimes we just fixed a problem, but other times we’d save people’s lives and it … it felt good and it felt easy and it just … it seemed right.”

Jace was listening intently but Alec saw his shoulders tense defensively. “We help people Alec.”

“I know that. We kill demons and demons kill people, so yeah, we save a lot of lives that way, but what about the rest? If some vampire or a werewolf needed our help, how would they get it? What kind of procedures do we have in place for them to actually ask us for help?”

“We don’t interfere in downworlder business,” Jace said almost on autopilot, repeating lines that had been grilled into them all their lives.

“What if they want our help though? We’re soldiers, most of them aren’t. We’ve devoted our lives to protecting people and that includes downworlders. And we’ve given them no avenues to ask for that help because the Clave has decided they need to micromanage the entire downworld and every move every shadowhunter makes.”

“Wow, is Alec Lightwood really talking about hating the rules? And even taking down the entire system we’ve built our lives around?”

“No. We need rules and a chain of command, but a little less red tape and some communication with the downworld, a way for them to ask for help and build trust between everyone, that’s all I want. Magnus showed me that it’s possible. He showed me a lot of things are possible,” Alec said.

“You don’t hate him do you?” Jace said, his voice tight with emotion.

Alec shook his head. “No, I don’t. Not at all. I’m sorry.”

Jace’s jaw clenched. “But he took you away from us.”

“I get that’s how you see it.”

“What other way is there?”

“From your perspective, Magnus took me away from you. To me, Magnus saved your life.”

“Oh, come on Alec.”

“You were there Jace, they were going to kill you, execute you. No one else offered another option. You’d be dead right now if not for him.”

“Well he didn’t do that for me and we both know it.”

“It doesn’t matter why he did it. You’re alive and that’s everything, that’s all that matters and I will always owe him for that. And look, four weeks later and I’m here, I’m back. The Life Debt’s gone.”

But Jace was shaking his head. “I can’t … I can’t see it like that Alec. What if you’d never saved his life? You’d still be there, paying for my mistakes.”

“Jace, you don’t get it. You just said it yourself, I was happy at Magnus’s, I was helping people, and he never asked me to do anything I wouldn’t have gladly done anyway. The Life Debt wasn’t my punishment, it was yours. The guilt you felt over me not being here, that was the punishment and you paid it, every day. Except for, you know, the days you showed up to save my life when you weren’t supposed to.”

“You’re welcome by the way,” Jace said. “And maybe I kind of get what you’re saying, but you still deserved to see the people you cared about.”

“He let me. I saw Izzy all the time. It’s not his fault that Mom and Dad didn’t care enough to tell Max or come and see me themselves. Maybe it was for the best now that we know what we know about them.”

“I can’t believe they were Circle members,” Jace said, his eyes going wide in shock as he remembered the fact that he hadn’t time to process yet.

“Have you talked to them about it?” Alec asked.

“No, they left for Idris pretty much immediately after Lydia got here. She only told us after they were gone. They couldn’t even face us.”

“I can’t believe they never told us, after beating it into us that we had to be perfect, follow every rule.” Alec shook his head. “I guess neither of us really knew our parents.”

“Yeah, that’s not something I ever wanted us to have in common.”

“Me neither,” Alec said. He reached out and squeezed Jace’s shoulder. “But we’ll always have each other.”

“Always,” Jace said, clasping Alec’s arm in return.

“And we’ve got Izzy and …” Alec licked his lips, a mischievous smile curling his lips, “… and Clary.”

Jace gave him a look that said don’t go there but Alec’s smile just widened playfully. “So what’s the deal with you two?”

“Don’t even …” Jace pointed a warning finger at Alec and then dropped his head into his hands with a sigh. “I don’t know. It’s weird, right? Is it weird?”

“What, that she was raised as a mundane or is Valentine’s daughter?”

“Both? Neither? It’s just weird. Valentine isn’t my father but he raised me. Valentine is her father but last night was the first time she ever met him. I know we’re not related or anything, but it … it feels weird.”

“You must feel something other than weird.”

“Oh, I feel things, lots of things, like new things, good things, scary things,” Jace said. “And there was this one time we made out. It was pretty great.”

“Okay I don’t want to hear this.”

“And I’ve broken so many rules for her.”

“I want to hear this even less.”

“There’s the Alec Lightwood I know.”

“Well that Alec Lightwood is telling you, you should do what makes you happy, even if it’s weird. And only break a rule if … if you know you can handle the consequences.”

Jace swallowed and nodded then looked up at Alec, all mirth gone from his eyes. “I already learned that one the hard way.”

“Come here,” Alec said and pulled Jace into another hug but when social rules dictated he let go Alec just held on. Jace didn’t fight him, instead he leaned into the embrace, dropped his head on Alec’s shoulder and let him hold him close, silently relishing being surrounded by his parabatai and comforted by the feeling that he was really back for good. After a moment Jace’s breath came in like a gasp and Alec could feel tears soaking his shirt.

“I’m here, it’s okay.”

“I’m so sorry Alec. I’m sorry. It wasn’t fair. It was my fault, everything you went through, it was to save my sorry ass. I’m not worth it and I never even said … thank you.”

“You don’t have to. I know Jace. I always knew.”

“I still can’t believe you’re back,” Jace said. He pulled away to wipe at his cheeks and then looked around the room, seemingly lost and exhausted. “Can … can I stay here tonight?”

Alec looked around his room as though considering it. “I don’t know. Is your room any cleaner than this one?”

“Oh god no.”

“Then yeah, you can stay here. As long as you need.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Alec woke up the next morning smiling and feeling well rested for the first time in almost a week. He was laying on his side facing his door and rolled over slightly to see Jace still dead asleep on the other side of the bed. It didn’t surprise him, they had stayed up for hours. At one point Jace took off and came back with a de-runing device, unable to stand the thought of the Agony rune still on Alec’s skin. But the rest of the night was spent just talking until they were both too emotionally exhausted to keep their eyes open.

Alec rolled back over and sighed contently. It was strange to feel so comfortable with Jace here. Just a few short weeks ago the idea of sharing a bed with Jace would have sent him into a full panic and he would have stayed up all night terrified of doing or saying something that would expose how he really felt about his parabatai. Then it turned out he hadn’t even known what he really felt. After he had called off his wedding and everyone knew the reason why, those feelings for Jace had just sort of, disappeared. He still loved him deeply, but like a brother now, like the way he had always wished he could love him. And it felt good, it felt right, but as he laid there thinking about it, it started to make him worry.

He had been so sure for so long that he was in love with Jace, when really he was just the only man that Alec had any connection with. And now suddenly he had feelings for Magnus. Just thinking about the warlock made Alec’s lips curl up in a smile and his heart start beating faster, but he had been completely wrong about his feelings once, what if he was wrong about them again? What if after another week at the Institute he realized it had just been some weird co-dependency they had built on each other and he didn’t love Magnus at all? The thought scared him only because he liked feeling this way and he liked knowing that Magnus returned those feelings. It felt nice, being someone’s first choice and he was scared that if he really analyzed his emotions like he had promised, that they might go away.

He was momentarily saved from those thoughts by the door to his room slowly creaking open as Izzy poked her head in.

“I thought I’d find you two here,” she said cheerfully, her smile a mile wide.

“Hey Iz. Come to make this a full Lightwood sleepover?” Alec asked as he laid back down on his pillow having no desire to get up yet.

“No way,” Jace interjected. He sat up blearily and threw a pillow towards the door then draped himself over Alec’s back dramatically. “Get out of here, you saw him all month. He’s mine.”

Alec grunted when Jace landed on him but laughed as Izzy held up her hands in surrender. “I wouldn’t dream of coming between you two … but Lydia wants to see Alec.”

“Ugh, fine,” Alec sighed and tried to push himself up but Jace refused to move.

“She can’t have him either,” Jace said petulantly. “Alec broke up with her, she has no claim.”

“No one has a claim on me, I’m a free man again, remember?” Alec said, lifting his head and motioning with his free arm for Jace to get off him.

“Hell no. You’ve made promises Alec, remember?” Jace shifted so even more of his weight pinned Alec down and kept him in the bed. “Entreat me not to leave thee ….”

“You can’t quote our parabatai oath to keep me from going to a meeting,” Alec said, laughing as he tried roll over but was kept playfully pinned down.

“I’m shadowhunter royalty, I’ll do whatever the hell I want,” Jace said, eyes closed and still seemingly half asleep. “Izzy, go tell her. I’ve made my decree.”

“Your royal highness, would it make any difference if I said she only needed five minutes?”

“None whatsoever,” Jace said.

“All right. Sorry Alec, his highness has spoken,” Izzy said.

“You’re both the worst. Let me up,” Alec said, trying to roll out from under Jace and off the bed but Jace wrapped his arms around him in a bear hug and refused to let go.

“Jace,” Alec whined but his words had little effect since he was still chuckling.

“I’ll let you two sort this out. I have to get to the morgue,” Izzy said.

“Got a hot date?” Jace asked.

“More like a cold one,” she threw back as she left, closing the door behind her.

When she was gone Alec tapped Jace’s arm in a half submission half comforting gesture which finally convinced Jace to roll off him.

“Fine, I guess you can go to your meeting,” Jace said.

“You’re too good to me,” Alec replied, still smiling as he got out of bed and stretched.

Jace sat up and yawned but his smile quickly dropped into a look of contemplation. “I suppose I should go check on Clary anyway. Yesterday was … a lot.”

“It was a lot for both of you,” Alec said. “But she could probably use someone to talk to. With her mom still in a coma you and Luke are all she really has.”

“And Simon,” Jace said, frowning.

Alec made a face. “Oh yeah. Him.”

Jace smiled, stood up and hugged Alec tightly. “God I missed you and how much you hate mundanes.”

“Hate’s a strong word,” Alec chuckled. “Accurate, but strong.”

“However you want to describe it, I missed it. Hey, sparring session later?” Jace asked.

Alec’s head tilted back with joy at how good that sounded. “Yes, absolutely. I’ve missed kicking your ass.”

“You’re gonna keep missing it,” Jace assured him cockily then patted him on the shoulder and headed towards the door. “Text me when you’re done with Lydia.”

“Sure,” Alec said but then shouted after him. “Hey, don’t forget to clean up my room.”

“Bye!” Jace yelled, bolting out the door with no acknowledgement of Alec’s request.

“Typical,” Alec muttered, throwing his dirty clothes and a few pairs of Jace’s socks in his hamper.

Then he just stood there for a moment and sighed in contentment. Jace was back in his life, all charges of treason were dropped against his family and they had recovered the Mortal Cup, which meant he could just enjoy being home and finally take some time to think about him and Magnus. As he got dressed he couldn’t help but smile just thinking about the warlock.

But that smile was wiped away as soon as he entered the hallway leading to the command center and felt the hush that fell over the place as he stepped into view. His jaw flinched. This wasn’t anything new, it had been happening since he got back, but it had been easier to ignore when he was focused on searching for his lost parabatai. Having it happen during the calm of an easy afternoon stung more than he wanted to admit.

He marched down into the ops center and made a beeline for Lydia’s office, making a point of looking straight ahead and ignoring the stares and whispers that followed him. Before he had left the Institute to fulfill his Life Debt the whispers had been gossipy in nature for the most part. Some shadowhunters outright glared at him and he avoided those homophobic assholes completely, but most people had simply liked to whisper about the scandal of his actions, about how juicy it was that he called off his wedding and was publicly removed as head of the institute after coming out. Now though, the whispers were more malicious than they had previously been and more than once he had heard the words “warlock’s pet” or “slave” mumbled under people’s breath among other more unsavory things. Even though almost no one had spoken to him since he got back, it seemed everyone was sure about what had happened to him while he was paying off his Life Debt to Magnus. He wanted nothing more than to wipe the knowing looks off all their faces as he passed by them, but short of making some grand announcement to declare he had in fact not been used as a sex slave by the High Warlock for the past month he wasn’t sure how to do that.

The tension eased out of his body slightly as he approached Lydia’s office. He had seen no such looks from her since his return and appreciated that she had been treating him no differently since he got back than she had during the month they were engaged. With this in mind he knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

He pushed the door open and half-stepped inside. “Izzy said you wanted to see me.”

Lydia smiled genuinely at the sight of him and motioned to a chair across from her. “Alec, hey. Yeah, sit down.”

Alec closed the door behind him and sat down while Lydia looked over her mountain of paperwork and sighed. “I know I’ve said this before, but I’m really glad you’re back.”

“It’s good to be back, especially now that most of my family isn’t being charged with treason,” he said, knowing it was only partially a lie. He loved being able to see Jace, Izzy and even Hodge again, but the rest of the Institute just didn’t feel like home anymore.

Lydia smiled at his words but it didn’t reach her eyes and he thought she was probably fully aware of what the other shadowhunters were whispering about him behind his back.

“Good, because I wanted to talk to you about your duties around here. We have the Cup back but Valentine’s still out there and we need all hands on deck. I wanted to see how you would feel about being put back on the active roster.”

“Oh.” Alec’s eyes went wide with surprise and the tension in his shoulders eased as he realized this meeting wasn’t about any kind of life or death scenario for once. “Yeah, definitely, I’d like to get back out there as soon as possible.”

Lydia folded her hands on her desk and leaned forward, her voice softening.

“Great, because I would love to have you back, but only if you’re sure. You’ve been through something traumatic, Alec, I don’t want to rush you if you’re not ready.”

Alec closed his eyes and tried to bite back his frustration. “Lydia, I’m fine, really.”

“It’s okay if you’re not,” she said. “If you need time or someone to talk to I can put you on leave or set you up with the recovery department in Alicante.”

“I appreciate your concern, I really do, but I’m not ‘traumatized’ or anything like that,” he said. She continued to look at him skeptically. He took a deep breath, not really wanting to get into it but knowing that his silence would never convince her.

“I know what people are … whispering about me. Assuming. But nothing like that happened. Magnus treated me very well, very respectfully. Honestly, living with him was more like having a roommate than being a servant. He’d introduce me as his bodyguard and that was basically all I did for him. Well, he got me to babysit for a friend of his sometimes too, but that was fine, I didn’t mind.”

Lydia smiled along with him at that but didn’t back down. “What about your injuries? Jace told me you were hurt several times.”

Alec shook his head. “That was the Circle, not Magnus. They’ve been after him for weeks and he takes an active role in protecting the warlocks under his care. I was helping him protect them too and I got hurt a few times fighting them. But Magnus and I handled it together. Honestly, he never asked me to do anything I wouldn’t have done anyway, Life Debt or not. I consider him an ally, and, weird as it sounds … even a friend.”

“Okay.” Lydia sighed and leaned back in her chair, smiling. “I’m really glad to hear that. The thought of you going through something awful was, well upsetting. And I’m embarrassed to admit I have a … personal interest in Magnus.”

Alec raised an eyebrow. “Personal interest?”

“I’m slightly obsessed with him,” Lydia admitted, biting her lip in embarrassment. “Did you know he invented the first portal with my ancestor, Henry Branwell?”

“Uh no, he never brought it up,” Alec said.

“His entire history is fascinating. I’m glad to hear you speak highly of him even after everything. Finding out he was some kind of monster would have been crushing.”

“He’s definitely no monster,” Alec said, his voice going quieter and fonder than he intended as he looked at the floor and smiled to himself, momentarily lost in thoughts of Magnus.

“That brings me to the second reason I called you here,” Lydia said, sitting up straighter and pushing an open folder towards Alec. “There was an attack at the Jade Wolf an hour ago.”

“What kind of attack?” Alec asked as he took the folder. There wasn’t much inside except a few photos of some kind of demon he had never seen before. “What is this?”

“It has some characteristics of a Forsaken but that’s about all anyone has been able to figure out about it. We’re told it took half a dozen werewolves to kill it, but the body didn’t disintegrate upon death. Luke’s pack agreed to release the body to us to examine further.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it. Izzy’s the Lightwood you’ll want for this, not me, she’s the Forensic Pathologist,” Alec said.

“I’ve already asked her to take a look, but in a case like this Clave protocol dictates I contact the nearest High Warlock for a magical consultation as well,” Lydia said.

Alec nodded, understanding where she was going with this. “Magnus.”

“Yes. I was planning on contacting him shortly but didn’t want you blindsided if he comes in.”

“I appreciate it but you don’t have to worry. Magnus and I parted very …” Alec paused as he remembered the passionate kiss they had shared in Magnus’s living room before Alec left, “… amicably.”

Alec hoped he wasn’t blushing and coughed to wipe the memory away.

“It’s uh Jace you should really worry about. He and Magnus kind of … hate each other,” he said.

“Right.” Lydia nodded. “That makes sense. I should have thought of that.”

“Why don’t I tell Jace to take Clary out for some training for awhile, just so they don’t butt heads while Magnus is here,” Alec suggested, not eager to see the two men fighting with each other again like they had at Pandemonium.

“That’s probably a good idea, thank you.”

“Of course,” Alec said.

“And would I be overstepping if I asked you to call Magnus as well? I’m swamped with meetings and reports since we recovered the Cup. The entire Clave is in an uproar.”

“Oh, uh yeah, yeah I can call Magnus, no problem,” Alec said, hoping he didn’t sound as nervous as he suddenly felt at the request.

“I really appreciate it. I meant what I said about it being good to have you back. This Institute is, well it’s insane and you’re basically one of the only people that I trust knows what they’re doing around here.”

“It’s no problem and I did want to say, I’m sorry if I seemed a little harsh when I found out you were head of the institute now. It wasn’t personal, but finding out about my parents and the Circle it’s … anyway, if a Lightwood can’t run this Institute, I’m glad that it’s you who replaced us.”

He had thought she would be pleased by his words but instead Lydia seemed to deflate and shook her head.

“I don’t want to replace anyone. You were a great Head of this Institute Alec, you deserve to sit in this chair and the way they removed you, it wasn’t right and I should have said something when it happened.”

Alec ducked his head, his chest swelling with gratitude to hear such praise for a job he had worked at tirelessly and had only ever been told he had not been good enough for.

“That would have been political suicide, you needed to distance yourself from me, I get it. If you had said something you probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now, so …”

“I still feel badly, especially after everything that happened afterwards,” Lydia said. “If you need anything at all please let me know. I mean it. Whether it’s someone to talk to or someone to transfer one of the assholes out there who won’t stop whispering about you to Wrangle Island, I’m here.”

Alec smiled at the thought.

“Thank you, really, I’ll keep that in mind. I’ll let you get to your reports for now and I’ll … call Magnus,” he said, the last part coming out quieter than he intended.

If Lydia noticed she didn’t say anything. “Thank you. Let me know when he’s here, I’ll try to make it to the autopsy if I can.”

“Okay, I’ll see you there,” Alec said and made a beeline for the door at her dismissal.

Needing a moment to get himself together he ducked into an empty office two doors down the hallway and breathed out a long sigh. On the surface that talk with Lydia had been nice. She was as fair and supportive as she had been when he called off their wedding and he appreciated it more than he could say, but the second he left the safety of her office he had to face the fact that he had to call Magnus Bane.

He paced the empty office for a moment, enjoying the privacy away from the cruel eyes in the Ops Center. He pulled out his phone and scrolled down to Magnus’s name and stared at it for a long time. He hadn’t spoken to the warlock since they parted ways other than a few brief texts to let Magnus know he was back at the Institute safely and for Magnus to assure him the Lair was still secure and he was fine. This was very different though and not something Alec had mentally prepared himself for yet. With everything that had happened with Clary and Jace and the Cup over the last few days he hadn’t really had a chance to do what he promised and think about his feelings for the warlock. Magnus had told him to take all the time he needed but it seemed unfair to call him without an answer. What should he say, “Oh yeah, still haven’t decided if we should be together but can you come do us a favor?”

He ran a hand down his face and decided to do what had worked best last time he was faced with Magnus. He said fuck it and hit the dial button.

As he brought his phone up to his ear and listened to it ring he thought the knot of tension in his stomach might kill him. On the third ring he reminded himself to breathe. On the fourth ring Magnus picked up.

“Alexander,” he said, his voice delighted.

“Magnus,” Alec breathed out, all tension leaving his body at the mere sound of Magnus’s voice. “Hi.”

“I wasn’t expecting to hear from you. How are you?” Magnus asked and Alec hoped it wasn’t his imagination that the warlock’s voice held the same unsteady timbre that his own did.

“I’m fine, I mean, good, I’m good,” Alec said, stuttering almost immediately. “You?”

“Good. Fine. The Lair is still secure and there have been no more attacks that we know of from the Circle.”

“Good, I’m glad everyone’s okay,” Alec said, sincerely feeling his shoulders relax slightly at the news.

“And everything’s good at the Institute?”

“Yeah. I mean, things were weird at first, a little hectic, but they’re good now. Thanks.”

Alec could picture Magnus’s brow furrowing in concern. “Anything you’d like to talk about?”

“Kind of, but I’m actually …” Alec deflated. “I’m sorry this isn’t actually a social call.”

“Oh?”

“The head of the Institute asked if I’d call you. She was wondering if you can come in to consult on something if you’re free.”

“I see. Well lucky for you I’m available today. Not free of course, but available,” Magnus said. “And who’s to say we can’t mix business and pleasure while I’m there?”

Alec cringed. “We need you to inspect a dead body.”

“Maybe just business this one time,” Magnus muttered. Alec could picture the frown he would pull as he said it and laughed.

“Yeah. Sorry, it’s not the most glamorous request.”

“Seeing you will more than make up for any unpleasantness, I’m sure. I can be there in about an hour if that’s suitable.”

“That would be great, thanks. I’ll meet you at the doors.”

“I look forward to it.”

“Me too. Well uh, bye.”

“Good-bye Alexander.”

Alec hung up the phone and felt himself smiling in excited anticipation to see Magnus. He realized he hadn’t showered that morning and found himself racing to his room and he should probably also change again and fix up his hair. Oh god he needed to calm down.

Before he showered he sent Jace a text about sparring later and suggesting he take Clary out for the day. When he got back out he saw the text was read but with no response. He reached out to check their bond and frowned; Jace felt surprisingly upset about something. Alec could tell he was physically fine but wondered how the talk with Clary could go so bad that Jace’s emotional state was completely turned around. He sent another text that just said. “Everything okay?” and sighed in relief when he got a response.

“Yeah, I’ll be out with Clary for a few hours. We have to take care of something. Not Valentine related. Will explain when we get back.”

“Weird,” Alec muttered aloud but accepted that he had missed a lot while he was away and Jace would fill him in later. For now he had to choose an appropriate shirt to go meet Magnus in.

Alec reached the doors leading into the Institute almost exactly on time only to find that Magnus had been punctual for once instead of fashionably late and was standing in the foyer, making a show of inspecting the architecture as he waited. One shadowhunter stood nearby to watch him while Raj walked away to meet Alec halfway down the stairs.

“There you are, Lightwood,” Raj said, smirking cruelly at the sight of him. “This warlock was looking for his lost pet. Do you think you can help him out?”

Alec grit his teeth and continued by him, more eager to see Magnus than waste his time on some asshole comment from Raj.

As he got closer he could see that Magnus was looking amazing in a dark blue blazer with gold inlays, several necklaces dripping down his chest and his hair up in its usual coif. He somehow always made Alec feel underdressed and in awe at the same time.

Then Magnus saw him and smiled and Alec felt lighter than he had all day.

“Sir,” the other shadowhunter said as he approached, “Warlock Bane says he’s here to see you.”

“Yes, thanks Clifton,” Alec said, grateful to be spoken to respectfully and inclined his head. “I’ll escort him from here.”

Clifton nodded and walked away to go back on guard duty leaving Magnus and Alec alone in the foyer. They both smiled nervously and then spoke at the same time.

“So how are …” “What have you …”

They both stopped talking, waited awkwardly for a moment for the other to speak again then laughed at the same time.

“Well, we’ve gotten bad at this,” Alec said, looking away in embarrassment.

“Incredibly. Let’s try this again,” Magnus suggested. “You look well.”

Alec smiled. “You too.”

Alec half turned and looked over the fully exposed Ops Center behind him that he knew was filled with prying eyes.

“Can uh, can we talk in private, before we look at the dead body?”

“My absolutely preferred sequence of events. Lead the way.”

Alec led Magnus up to the catwalk overlooking the Ops center and made a concentrated effort to keep his expression neutral even though he knew every eye in the Institute was on them. Damn it, how had he not considered how much worse it was going to get around here after everyone in the building saw him walking around alone with Magnus three days after his Life Debt was cancelled.

It didn’t take long for Magnus to notice the whispers, stares and lewd smirks sent their way as well. He raised an eyebrow and cleared his throat.

“Have I done something …”

“Just ignore them,” Alec said, cutting him off and not wanting to get into it. Magnus’s interest quickly turned to concern when he realized the looks weren’t directed solely at him and were something Alec had become accustomed to. He looked around and his heart broke for his shadowhunter, walking proud with his head held high and shoulders rigid through a sea of faces that almost all showed disdain or derision towards him.

Alec led them down some stairs towards the morgue but opened a door to an empty office in the hallway. The second they were away from prying eyes Alec’s body slumped in relief, his mask of impassiveness dropping away for a moment to reveal someone who looked truly tired.

Magnus couldn’t help himself, he stepped forward and took Alec’s hands in his.

“How are you? Really?”

“I’m fine,” Alec said, but knew he didn’t sound convincing. The warlock rubbed a thumb across the back of his hand and Alec felt his meager defences melt away. There was something about being around Magnus that just dropped all of his walls. “I … it’s mostly fine. Some people have made some assumptions about what happened to me while I was with you and there are some rumors I could do without, but the people who matter know the truth. It’ll blow over. It’s fine.”

Magnus felt his anger rise when he heard how Alec had been treated but knew that wouldn’t help at the moment so instead shook his head in apology. “I’m sorry, this is exactly what I didn’t want when I sent you back here. I know we have things to work out but my invitation to come back is always open.”

“Thank you, but I think you were right. Running away isn’t going to fix anything around here and it’s not all bad. Lydia is running the Institute now and she’s been good to me and I can see Jace and Izzy again and things will finally calm down now that … oh right I didn’t tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

Alec’s somber mood dropped away and he smiled genuinely. “We found the Mortal Cup and Jocelyn, they’re both here in the Institute.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Magnus said and it was indeed good news but Alec seemed a bit more overjoyed about it than he would expect.

“And Valentine knows they’re here so I think he’ll stop coming after you and the other warlocks, he knows you don’t have the Cup now,” Alec said and Magnus suddenly understood; Alec was excited because Magnus and the other warlocks were safe.

Magnus ducked his head as his smile widened.

“Ah, now that is good news. A few of my guests have started getting a tad pent up.”

“By your guests do you mean you?” Alec asked.

“You know me too well Alec,” Magnus said. “I of course won’t completely drop my defences but it will be nice to see a client or two again.”

“I’m sure they missed you,” Alec said, then his face fell in shocked realization. “I um … I’m not actually sure I was allowed to tell you any of that …”

“My lips are sealed,” Magnus assured him. “If it was up to the Clave us downworlders wouldn’t know anything that was going on. Thank you, I appreciate you telling me.”

“You deserved to know.”

Magnus nodded and then couldn’t hold back the question he had been dying to ask since he got there. “So, anything else I should know?”

Alec opened his mouth, knowing what Magnus was asking, and then closed it again.

“I … I don’t know,” Alec said honestly, torn between still wanting Magnus badly and the lingering doubt caused by the realization that his feelings for Jace hadn’t been as real as he had thought and not wanting to lead Magnus on if that were the case again. “Things have been crazy around here. Jace and Clary were missing and Isabelle was charged with treason. It all only just got sorted and I … I just don’t know yet. I’m sorry.”

Magnus fought down the disappointment pooling in his gut and forced a genuine smile on his face.

“Don’t apologize. I said to take your time and I meant it. I just … wanted to check.”

“I get it and I think about us, a lot, I just … I don’t feel sorted out yet, but I’ll let you know when I am.”

“Well, that’s all I can ask,” Magnus said, then opened his arms wide. “Let’s go inspect a body, shall we?”

“Yeah, I guess we should get going,” Alec said. Despite Magnus’s acting abilities he could sense the disappointment in the warlock and frowned, guilt eating away at him that he didn’t have a better answer for him yet.

He led the way down the hall and into the morgue, opening the door for Magnus to go first. They found Izzy already there, her hair pulled back in a ponytail and sporting a labcoat as she circled the Forsaken’s body.

“Finally, I’ve been dying to get my hands on this thing,” Izzy said when they entered, clearly waiting to start her autopsy until they got there.

“Isabelle,” Magnus greeted her. “I had no idea you had an interest in corpses.”

“Are you kidding. Everything I learn from a dead demon body just makes me better at killing them myself,” Isabelle said.

“That’s one way of looking at it I guess,” Magnus muttered, cringing from the smell and taking the mask offered to him by Alec.

“Any initial observations?” Alec asked.

“Nothing earth-shattering. It’s obviously not your usual Forsaken, it’s too decomposed and far too powerful if it really took six werewolves to kill it,” Izzy said to which Alec and Magnus nodded in understanding. They all knew the basics of the Forsaken, they were mundanes who went insane from the application of Shadowhunter runes that would eventually kill them and that should be it. The guy on the table though looked like he had been dead or undead for some time even though he had only died two hours ago.

Izzy stopped her analysis at the sound of bootfalls approaching and they all turned when Lydia walked into the room.

“I hope I’m not too late,” Lydia said as she rushed in. Her eyes landed on Magnus and her face lit up. “You must be Magnus. Lydia Branwell, acting head of the Institute. Thank you for coming on such short notice.”

Magnus took Lydia’s offered hand and inclined his head, giving her a sincere smile. He remembered Alec saying that Lydia had been supportive of him since his return and he saw no hint of malice in her eyes like he had many other shadowhunters and heads of institutes in his time, so gave her the benefit of the doubt for now.

“I’ll admit, it’s not the most tempting offer I’ve ever received, but I do like a good mystery,” Magnus said, putting his usual charm on thick.

“Well I can’t stay long but I wanted to meet you and maybe get your first impression of what we’re dealing with,” Lydia said.

“As Isabelle was just pointing out the body is already in an advanced state of decay, which is unusual for a Forsaken. They are usually dying, not already dead,” Magnus said. “I’ve run into enough of Valentine’s creations of late though to say confidently that he cooked this one up as well.”

“If it’s undead though it couldn’t have been made just through rune application,” Lydia pointed out. “Valentine would have needed magic to create it and he’s no warlock.”

“No but he has no shortage of them. Over half a dozen of my people have been kidnapped by Valentine the past few weeks,” Magnus said.

Alec’s mind flashed back to Magnus’s wall of missing posters.

“Iris Rouse,” he said, almost to himself.

“I was thinking the same thing,” Magnus said.

“Who’s Iris Rouse?” Izzy asked.

“She’s a warlock who specializes in necromancy. She was kidnapped by the Circle almost three months ago,” Alec said. “We could never figure out what they wanted with her. It might have been this.”

Lydia looked skeptical. “Why would a warlock ever help Valentine?”

“She probably didn’t have a choice,” Alec said.

“Valentine has developed some kind of injection that will take away a warlock’s free will and force them to work for him,” Magnus added.

“That’s impossible,” Lydia said.

“We’ve seen it,” Alec said, backing Magnus up. “Two warlocks attacked us alongside the Circle at Magnus’s apartment and one of Valentine’s henchman threatened to use it on Magnus when they captured us at Pandemonium.”

“That’s terrible,” Isabelle muttered.

Magnus shifted uncomfortably at the mention of the incident at Pandemonium but cleared his throat and continued.

“At the very least it’s easy to tell if a warlock is under Valentine’s influence, their face will be extremely pale with blackened veins.”

“Wow, okay,” Lydia said. “That’s not good, but useful to know. I’ll have to report all of this to the Clave. Magnus and Isabelle, if you could get me your full reports on the body as soon as possible I’d appreciate it.”

“Of course,” Magnus said. “I’ll drop it off with my bill.”

“Good. Alec, could I get a report from you as well. Anything you learned about the Circle while you were staying at Magnus’s that you think we can use. We didn’t know about any of this.”

Alec’s eyes went wide, not expecting to be called on, but he nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, you’ll have it by the end of the day.”

“Thank you, all of you. I’ll let you get back to your very gross body,” she said.

As Lydia walked away Magnus rocked back on his heels and made a small impressed sound.

“I see why you almost married her,” Magnus said, leaning close to Alec’s ear but loud enough for Isabelle to hear.

“I told you, it would have been a solid partnership,” Alec said, repeating his sentiment from several weeks earlier.

“Have you ever been married Magnus?” Isabelle asked.

“Only to my work,” Magnus said and seemed oddly embarrassed by the fact. He gestured towards the body. “Shall we?”

Magnus didn’t actually have to do much to the body. He sent a few cursory waves of magic through the corpse, testing for any specific kind of magic that may have been used to create it and trying to find any weaknesses. After a few minutes he declared himself finished and snapped his fingers, producing a folder containing his report and invoice.

As they left the morgue Alec looked over the fully written report Magnus had summoned and frowned.

“Well, I’m officially jealous,” Alec muttered, thinking about how long it would take him to type the one Lydia had requested.

“I can conjure you up one too if you like,” Magnus offered.

“No, thank you. That would be plagiarism,” Alec said, then shrugged one shoulder. “And I actually kind of like reports.”

“You hate parties and like reports, how did we ever live together?”

“We made it work,” Alec said softly, ducking his head to hide the blush creeping up his cheeks.

“That we did,” Magnus agreed, sighing as they reached the doors of the Institute. “Well, I suppose this is where we part ways. Again.”

“Yes, thank you for coming in,” Alec said loudly then dropped his voice as he leaned in slightly closer to Magnus’s personal space. “And for your patience with me, on our … personal matter.”

“Take all the time you need Alec,” Magnus said, smiling softly. “You know where to find me when you’re ready.”

“I do, thank you.”

Magnus had his hand on the doorknob but turned around a final time.

“Call me if you need anything. Unless it’s another dead body. I’m maxed out for the year on those.”

“Noted,” Alec said, then his smile turned sad, unable to delay the inevitable any longer, especially with the whole Institute watching behind him. “Bye Magnus.”

“Good-bye Alexander.”

Magnus let himself out and walked down the front steps with a heavy heart. It was wonderful to see Alec but he was no closer to knowing what he would choose and had no idea when he could hope to see his shadowhunter again.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Five hours later Magnus walked through the doors of the Institute again, only this time he was greeted by Lydia rushing across the catwalk to meet him.

“Thank you for coming back in again Magnus. We really appreciate you adjusting the wards,” Lydia said, wasting no time in leading him to the Ops Center.

“I hope you feel the same after you see my bill for a rush job,” Magnus said. His eyes roamed the area for any sign of destruction after the Forsaken attack he had been told about on the phone but so far he saw nothing out of place.

“Do you still accept Lightwoods in payment?” Raj asked, smiling as he tapped on a console. “You’re welcome to take him back if it’ll save us a few bucks.”

Magnus felt his blood boil at the insult towards Alec but before he could respond Lydia stepped in.

“You’re right Raj,” she said with a condescending grin. “Alec is the only shadowhunter around here who’s worth anything after all. Just out of curiosity, where were any of you when that Forsaken got through our wards?”

Every shadowhunter in earshot had the decency to look down at that, either in shame or just trying to avoid the wrath of their boss.

Lydia nodded. “That’s what I thought. All of you get back to work.”

Magnus raised an impressed eyebrow as the Nephilim around him did as ordered and Lydia walked away confidently with Magnus a step behind her.

“Thank you,” Magnus said to her when they were in a semi-private area of the catwalk. “Alec told me he had … concerns about returning to the Institute. I’m grateful to see you defending him.”

“He would do the same for … well, anyone,” Lydia said with a shrug.

“That he would,” Magnus agreed, then his gaze swept over the room again looking for the particular face he had expected since he arrived. “Is he out on a mission?”

Lydia looked at the ground. “No, he’s in the infirmary. He was hurt in the Forsaken attack.”

“What?”

“He’ll be fine, it’s nothing serious,” she added upon seeing Magnus’s panicked expression. “Which is lucky for him considering how strong these things are. He put two arrows straight into it and it still kept coming at him.”

“I see,” Magnus said, doing his best to compose himself and overcome the cold dread that had filled him at Lydia’s words.

She noticed how instantly distracted he was and offered him a sympathetic glance.

“We need to enforce these wards to keep out any more Forsaken, but after we’re done I can take you to see him,” she offered.

“I’d like that,” Magnus said, then clapped his hands, trying to appear unshaken. “Let’s get started then. I’ll need to see the bodies of the Forsaken again. I have to find some kind of distinctive characteristic about them that I can tell the wards not to allow through.”

“Of course, right this way.”

Lydia led Magnus to the morgue once more and he went about resetting the wards as best he could. Since these Forsaken had Nephilim blood as Izzy had discovered, it was tricky to set a ward against them that wouldn’t block shadowhunters as well. Eventually he found something that he thought would work but was frustrated that he couldn’t be certain the Institute was completely safe. If Alexander was going to be staying here he wanted this building to be as secure as possible.

Speaking of Alec, after Magnus was done Lydia led him to the doors of the infirmary but then excused herself to file even more reports on this latest incident.

Magnus walked through the doors alone, his eyes roaming until they landed on the room’s only occupant.

Alec was in a bed near the far wall, sitting on top of the covers reading something on a tablet with his right hand. It was his left arm that concerned Magnus though, it was held tight against Alec’s side with a huge open gash across his bicep and purple around the edges of the wound.

“Well, at least now I know you don’t only get injured around me,” Magnus said in greeting as he approached Alec’s bed, unwittingly startling the shadowhunter.

“Magnus!” Alec nearly dropped his iPad as he rushed to sit up straighter. “Hi … uh … what are you doing here?”

“Lydia asked me to re-enforce the wards after the attack and mentioned you were hurt,” Magnus said. “I wanted to check on you.”

“Oh. Thanks but I’m fine, really,” Alec said trying to angle his body to hide the injury and keep Magnus from worrying.

“You could have fooled me,” Magnus said. He sat down next to Alec in the bed to take a closer look at the gash then swept a furious gaze towards the two physicians milling around at the other end of the infirmary. “Why hasn’t anyone tended to this?”

“They’ve tried, nothing really does anything,” Alec said, trying to sound casual but unable to hide the hint of worry in his voice. “Healing runes and iratzes helped a little but they can’t get it closed up. The doc’s making me a poultice to try next. Whatever Valentine’s done to these things they pack a nasty punch.”

“So it seems,” Magnus said, then he extended his hand, his fingers alight with blue magic. “May I?”

Alec smiled. “I’m not sure I can afford you.”

Magnus raised a flirtatious eyebrow.

“Alec please, you know I always do you pro bono.”

Alec blushed and looked away but inclined his head, giving Magnus permission. “Please.”

Magnus let his magic flow over the wound and smiled when he saw Alec instantly relax at his touch. Most non-warlocks were at least slightly uncomfortable around magic and almost everybody braced at the touch of it, but not Alec. As soon as the blue light from Magnus’s fingers crept over him his shoulders slouched and all tension dropped from his face. Magnus would have been proud of himself if he wasn’t so busy frowning at the wound. He pulled his magic back and grumbled.

“Damn Valentine,” he muttered. The wound looked just as bad as before he started. “I’m sorry. If I push any harder at it I’m worried I’ll tear the flesh apart even worse.”

“It’s okay. Thanks for trying,” Alec said. “Do you think the poultice will do anything?”

“It might. I can feel some kind of stopping magic at the edge of the wound. The right poultice could wear it down. Let me confer with your physician,” Magnus said. He stood up in a flurry and marched towards the counter where Alec’s doctor was mixing herbs together. Alec smiled and had a feeling the High Warlock of Brooklyn was about to make him a brand new concoction.

Just as Magnus started bemoaning to the staff that their woodlace was stale the door to the infirmary burst open and Jace rushed in looking around frantically.

“Alec,” he cried out when he saw him, racing to his bed. “Are you okay? I came back as fast as I could I …”

“I’m fine Jace,” Alec said but his words had little to no effect on Jace’s mental state. His parabatai looked him up and down then put a hand below the wound on his arm and shook his head.

“Jesus, look at you.”

Before Alec could say anything Jace pulled out his stele and drew an iratze below the wound and frowned when he saw no change to the injury.

“That’s not gonna help Jace,” Alec told him.

“What would have been helpful was if you had been here when Alec was attacked.”

Jace’s jaw clenched at the words and he looked up to glare as Magnus approached the bed holding a mortar and some bandages.

“What are you doing here?” Jace asked.

“Your job,” Magnus answered. “Now move so I can finish it.”

Alec sighed. This was not going to end well.

Jace stood up to meet Magnus’s eye but left no space for the warlock to get next to Alec.

“We’re good here, you can go.”

“Jace …” Alec said in warning but the blond cut him off.

“No, he thinks this is my fault because I wasn’t here? The Institute is supposed to be safe. Whose wards did the Forsaken get through in the first place, huh?” Jace said, stepping further into Magnus’s personal space.

“You know I think I was wrong to punish you by taking Alec away,” Magnus said, though his voice was cold and without regret. “Clearly you don’t care for him at all or you would have been here to fight alongside of him. A few days back and you already abandoned him.”

“Don’t you dare …”

“Okay both of you stop it!” Alec shouted, physically pushing himself between the two men to separate them. “I got hurt because Valentine designed a new kind of Forsaken specifically to get past Magnus’s wards. If we’re going to blame anybody it’s going to be him and not each other. We’re supposed to be working together. Okay?”

There was only silence and tension for a long moment as Jace and Magnus continued to glare at each other, neither backing down despite Alec literally standing between them.

“Okay?” he repeated, louder this time. They both looked at him and then a fraction of tension dropped from their shoulders.

“Fine.” Magnus held out the bowl and bandages to Jace, a strange kind of peace offering. “Wrap it tight and reapply every six hours.”

“Fine,” Jace agreed, taking the items reluctantly. He wanted to be the one to help his brother but hated being bossed around by the warlock.

“Good,” Magnus said bitterly, then nodded to Alec in good-bye. “Alexander, feel better and call me if it doesn’t work. I have to go find Lydia about my bill. It just went up.”

Magnus began to leave but Jace couldn’t resist getting the final word in.

“Make sure the door hits you on the way out,” he said, just loud enough that he knew he’d be heard.

Magnus never turned around he just waved both hands in the air in response, slamming the doors of the infirmary open (and possibly every other door in the building) and then he was gone.

“Show off,” Jace muttered but his anger died away as he watched Alec sit down on the edge of the bed and pinch the bridge of his nose.

“You two have to find a way to get along,” Alec said sounding exhausted.

“Why?” Jace asked petulantly, sitting down next to him and laying down the bandages Magnus had handed him.

“Because he’s one of our most powerful allies against Valentine and …” Alec trailed off and Jace raised an eyebrow.

“And what?”

Alec’s jaw clenched. Jace was going to hate what he was going to say next but he wouldn’t deny Magnus just to avoid an awkward conversation.

“And he’s my friend,” he said.

Jace shook his head and started to mix the paste in the mortar unnecessarily hard. “I don’t want to talk about this. Please.”

“Fine.” Alec didn’t especially want to talk about it either and felt like he’d said enough for now, especially since he hadn’t figured out where he stood with Magnus just yet. He turned to his parabatai and asked the question that had been burning him for hours. “Then let’s talk about where you’ve been. You were gone all day.”

“You’re on his side now?” Jace said, haunches up.

“No, I’m not saying you had to be here, but I have a right to know where you were. I’ve been back for eighteen hours and you’ve been gone almost ten of them,” Alec said.

Jace dropped his head and started to apply the poultice to Alec’s arm.

“What if I said I was out planning you a surprise party?”

“I’d say you were either really bad at it, or a liar,” Alec said, but he could feel his anger defusing even with the lame attempt at misdirection. “And I’d lean towards liar because you didn’t take Izzy with you.”

“Yeah,” Jace agreed. “Besides, I know you hate surprises. And parties.”

“Good, because I know you too. I know you weren’t just out having a day off with Clary, I could feel how upset you were all day. What’s wrong?”

Jace finished tying off the bandage around Alec’s arm and sighed from deep within his soul.

“I’m sorry I took off. I just, I had to help Clary … and Simon,” he said, his voice dropping painfully at the end.

“Simon?” Alec said. That was the last thing he had expected Jace to say. “What’s he got to do with anything?”

“He’s dead,” Jace said. Then he added even quieter, “And he’s a vampire.”

It took a moment for Alec’s brain and jaw to work together to process just how insane that statement was and all the repercussions that came with it.

“Oh my god,” Alec whispered after a moment and dropped his face into hands. “Why couldn’t it have been a surprise party?”

Chapter Text

Alec had thought that when he got back to the Institute he would quickly fall into his old routine and have lots of time to figure out this thing with Magnus, but as with most of Alec’s plans this one was not working out. It seemed like every minute he was getting pulled into a new emergency. If it wasn’t his family being charged with treason, it was a Forsaken breaking through their wards and now Clary’s mundane friend had been turned into a vampire. It was all just exhausting.

It was the morning of Alec’s fourth day back at the Institute that he finally had some downtime to work on figuring out this thing between him and Magnus. He laid in his bed staring at the ceiling, thinking solely about the warlock and after an hour he was absolutely no closer to having an answer on what they should do about their relationship. He was starting to think maybe time wasn’t the issue, but Alec himself.

Throwing off his covers with a sigh he figured he might as well start yet another emotionally confusing day in the life of Alec Lightwood and swung out of bed.

After he stretched he moved his right arm experimentally and was pleasantly surprised to feel only a minor ache. He removed the bandage and saw the gash from the Forsaken was still visible but had obviously started to close up. He smiled, replaced the bandage and grabbed his phone.

To: Magnus
Poultice worked. My arm is healing. Thank you.

A few moments later his phone buzzed.

From: Magnus
Excellent. Glad to hear it. My next course of action was to cut off the whole thing.

Alec laughed.

To: Magnus
… maybe we leave the healing to Catarina in the future.

From: Magnus
You wound me Alec.

The text was followed by an emoticon of a man holding his chest as though injured. Alec opened up his emoji keyboard for perhaps the first time in his life and scrolled through, fairly certain there was a band-aid image in one of the menus. He finally found it and hit send, smiling ear to ear like he did almost every time he thought about Magnus.

Alec bit his lip. He had to get them both out of this state of limbo. What he really needed was someone to talk to, someone to help get him out of his own head and make a decision, but Jace would never understand, not yet, and it would be too weird to talk to Catarina about it. That left him only one possibility really.

“Fuck it,” he mumbled, which was apparently his new motto, and left his room. When he got to the familiar door down the hallway he took a steadying breath to steel himself for the teasing he was about to receive and then knocked.

“Come in,” Izzy called out. He cracked open the door and found her at her make-up table but she must have just been finishing up as she already looked gorgeous as usual. “Hey big brother, what’s up?”

“Do you … have a sec?” Alec asked, straddling the doorway and biting his lip nervously.

“Always,” she said, motioning him towards a chair next to her.

Alec came in and closed the door but didn’t sit, instead he stood near the dresser with his arms crossed over his chest.

“What’s up?” she asked, her voice soft.

“I just … I needed to talk to someone about something that happened … at Magnus’s.”

Isabelle’s back straightened and her eyes went murderous. “What did he do?”

“Nothing, nothing he didn’t do anything,” Alec said quickly, then sighed, already seemingly exhausted by the conversation. “It’s more like something we both did.”

Isabelle relaxed instantly and looked intrigued. “Okay, I’m listening.”

“We … well, the thing is, I kind of lied a little, about why Magnus cancelled my Life Debt,” Alec said.

“You didn’t save his life?”

“No, I did, but that wasn’t the reason he cancelled it, at least not the main reason,” Alec said. His thumb traced a pattern in the wood on Isabelle’s dresser as he spoke, avoiding eye contact at all costs, which is why he didn’t notice the smile growing on Isabelle’s face.

“What was the real reason?”

Alec took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

“He destroyed my contract because he has feelings for me and he wanted to tell me but couldn’t do that while he owned me so he cancelled the Life Debt and told me how he felt and then I kissed him and I said ditto of all things and he sent me back to the Institute to give me time to sort out my feelings and … and you don’t look surprised by any of this.”

Isabelle was smiling from ear to ear. “I’m straight Alec, not blind. I’ve seen you two together. Not subtle.”

“Oh god.” Alec finally sat down, collapsing like his bones had disappeared and dropping his head into hands. “Who else knows?”

“Probably anyone who’s had to wade through the sexual tension between the two of you.”

“That’s just … wait … you don’t … you don’t think it’s weird? I’m not crazy for liking him?”

“It’s a little weird, but you’re also not crazy Alec. I spent enough time with you and Magnus to see that you both care about each other, a lot. All the time you spent together, the things you went through, it’s not surprising some feelings emerged,” Isabelle said, then tilted her head to the side. “Plus he’s super hot.”

Alec laughed and nodded. “He really is. He’s way out of my league.”

“Now that’s crazy talk. You’re a catch big brother,” Isabelle said. “Is that what you’re worried about? What people will say if you date Magnus?”

“No.” Alec leaned back with a sigh. “People are already whispering shit about me behind my back. It might get worse if Magnus and I were a thing but at least then I’d actually be with Magnus. It’d probably be more tolerable.”

“No one should be saying any of those things Alec, it’s none of their business,” Isabelle reminded him but let it go since it clearly wasn’t what Alec was here to discuss. “But if that’s not the problem what did you need to talk about?”

“I told Magnus I cared about him too and I wanted to be with him, but he said that because of the whole Life Debt thing we should spend some time apart and really think about it before we commit to anything. So I’ve thought about us for almost a week and … now I’m not sure.”

“You’re not sure you like him?”

“No, I like him, I like him a lot. At least right now I do,” Alec said.

Izzy shrugged in confusion. “Why would that change?”

Alec ran a hand down his face.

“I … I thought I loved Jace,” he said softly, putting a voice for the first time to the shameful secret he had harbored for years about his parabatai.

Izzy’s face dropped, not surprised, but understanding. “Oh.”

“I was sure of it Izzy, for a long time. And it’s only recently that I realized I don’t love him like that. I was completely wrong about my feelings for someone once, what if I’m wrong again? What if I tell Magnus that I’m all in and want to be with him and then later I … don’t? I don’t want to hurt him like that.”

Izzy leaned forward and took Alec’s hands.

“Alec, what you feel for Magnus, is it the same as what you felt for Jace?”

“No, it’s different. It’s nice. It doesn’t stress me out or hurt the way it did with Jace. It feels good.”

“Then there’s your answer.”

“But … how do I know I can trust myself? I might not always feel this way.”

“Alec, you’re overthinking this, like you always do. You can’t tell the future, all you can do is be honest with Magnus, and right now you like him and want to be with him. You can’t promise your feelings will never change. No one can, not even Magnus. It’s called growing up and it’s also kind of the whole point of dating someone, to see how your feelings for them evolve. Agreeing to date someone isn’t a promise to like them forever, it’s a promise that you like them right now.”

Alec’s jaw hung open and he blinked a few times as he considered her words. He was such an idiot.

“I really do overthink things,” he said eventually.

Isabelle beamed. “You really do, but in this case you need to follow your heart.”

“I guess I’m not really used to doing that,” Alec said, thinking of all he had denied himself by spending so long in the closet, so terrified of his own emotions that he always followed the letter of the law to guide him and insisted on always taking the most reasonable courses of action. Izzy squeezed his hand.

“You’ll get better at it. You just need practice.”

Alec nodded then leaned forward and pulled Izzy into a tight hug. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” she said, squeezing back. When she pulled away there was a mischievous smile on her face. “But since you came here for dating advice we should really talk about your wardrobe too.”

Alec opened his mouth to protest but admittedly couldn’t think of a single time Magnus had complimented his clothes. His body, yes, his wardrobe … not so much.

“No, we’re not talking about this. I’m all adviced out for the day, and I have to go talk to Hodge about his warlock research,” he said.

“Fine, but my door is always open if you need to talk, or if you finally want to wear something that compliments your eyes,” Isabelle said.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Alec said, his lips turning up slightly in a smile as he stood up. “Thanks again for … getting me out of my head.”

“Any time, just make sure you actually listen to me and don’t overthink it,” she said.

“I’ll do my best,” he said, hand on the doorknob.

“Let me know how it goes,” she called as he walked out.

“And if he breaks your heart I’ll kill him,” she muttered when he was gone.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

An hour later Alec was walking through Ops, feeling lighter after his talk with Izzy. He was still nervous and full of tension at the thought of talking to Magnus, but he had started to accept that as his natural state. He also couldn’t deny that he also felt a current of excitement at the thought of seeing Magnus again and finally freeing them from this emotional limbo. Unfortunately his sense of Shadowhunter duty forced him to finish his work for the day before running off to deal with his love life. Right now that work consisted of tracking down their newest recruit for a meeting.

He eventually found Clary in the observation room off the training area standing in front of her mom, a hand on top of the green cocoon that still trapped her. Alec hesitated in the doorway and then entered the room slowly, letting his feet scuff against the ground to let her know he was there.

Clary turned at the sound and offered a sad smile when she saw him.

“Hey Alec,” she said, stepping over slightly to make room for him to join her.

“Hey,” he said, moving to stand next to her. “How is she?”

“Same I guess,” Clary said, eyes looking down at her mom. “I wish I could talk to her. I could really use my mom right now.”

Alec nodded. He could guess what she wanted to talk to her about.

“Jace told me about Simon. I’m sorry.”

“It’s my fault,” Clary said bitterly, wiping at a tear of frustration.

“No, it’s not,” Alec said firmly. “Camille’s been losing control for months. If it wasn’t Simon it would have been some other mundane who would have no one to care about them as they go through the change. Simon’s alive … kind of, and he’s lucky to have you.”

“Thanks Alec,” Clary said. She smiled but then shook her head like she was upset with herself. “Oh my god I’ve barely talked to you since the other night, I haven’t even said welcome home.”

Alec shrugged, not having really expected that from her. “Thanks.”

“It must be nice to be back,” Clary said “I’m surprised Jace has let you out of his sight.”

Alec motioned towards the back of the room. “He’s on the other side of the door pretending to look at a monitor.”

Clary leaned back so she could see through the doorway.

“So he is.”

Alec smiled. Jace had been standing next to him or in his periphery all afternoon, constantly making himself look busy to cover his hovering. Alec didn’t know if Jace just wanted to be near him or was staying close to threaten anyone who whispered rumors behind Alec’s back. It was probably both, but honestly Alec couldn’t care either way, it just felt good to know his parabatai was nearby.

“I should have kept as close an eye on Simon,” she said, falling back into her self-hating train of thought.

“You were trying to save your mom, you couldn’t have known he was in trouble,” he told her.

“And look where it got me, I can’t help her either,” Clary said, hand clenching on top of the green cocoon.

“Maybe you can,” Alec said, drawing her attention with a new hopeful gaze. “Magnus was here yesterday, I asked him to look her over, see if he could do anything.”

“And?”

“He said she’s stable, the spell will keep her alive indefinitely, but it’s not the kind you can just wave your hand over and undo. He needs the exact spell or counter-spell in order to wake her up.”

“How do we get that?”

“We need to find the warlock who created the potion she took.”

“We already tried to find Dot though,” Clary said.

Alec shook his head. “It wasn’t her, she’s not strong enough. Magnus said it would have to be someone just as powerful as him or with an extreme specialty in these kind of spells. Hodge and I put together a list of the most likely candidates based on his research and what I learned from living with the warlocks. We were hoping you’d come take a look, maybe you’ll recognize someone who visited your Mom or something. Help us figure it out.”

“Yeah of course.” Clary’s jaw quivered just before she lunged at Alec to wrap her arms around him. “Alec, thank you.”

He tensed up and patted her back awkwardly. “It’s no big deal, it might not even pan out.”

“You’re still trying to help, it means a lot.”

Alec turned his head and saw Jace had stopped fake reading his monitor and was smiling teasingly at the sight of Clary hugging Alexander-I-Hate-Emotions-And-All-People-Lightwood.

“Okay,” Alec said peeling her off. “Let’s grab Izzy and Jace and we’ll get started.”

“Right,” Clary said. She turned around and laid her hand over her mother’s face. “I’ll be back Mom, I swear.”

She turned back to Alec, her stance strong and ready. “All right, let’s go find a warlock.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|

A few minutes later Alec, Jace, Clary and Izzy were all seated in front of Hodge who stood next to a large monitor with the faces and profiles of six warlocks on the screen.

“So, based on the information Magnus gave us yesterday, Alec and I have narrowed down the possible warlocks to these six, they’re all powerful or specialized enough to have made the potion but beyond that we can’t narrow it down much more,” Hodge said.

“Anyone look familiar?” Jace asked, looking at Clary.

She looked over the photos and shook her head slowly. “No, I don’t recognize any of them. Are we sure this is what they all look like?”

Hodge nodded. “Some change their appearance to hide their warlock mark but none of the candidates here are known to drastically glamour how they look.”

Clary sighed. “Maybe we could show them to Luke? He’s coming in to sit with my mom for awhile. He would know her friends better than I would.”

“That makes sense,” Izzy said. “We don’t even know when Jocelyn got the potion, it could have been years ago when Clary was a baby.”

“Well that was a quick dead end,” Jace said, but Alec leaned forward in his chair, looking thoughtful.

“Years ago,” Alec mumbled.

“Alec, what’s up?” Jace asked.

Alec looked at Hodge. “When we were looking at potential warlocks we only included warlocks who were currently alive.”

“They seemed the most useful,” Hodge said.

“But if we don’t know when Jocelyn got the potion we should include all warlocks who died in the past 18 years,” Alec said.

Hodge nodded in understanding and started tapping on his tablet.

“I get what you’re saying. Well if we sort by power and specialty in the database and expand the year range that gives us one more name. … Oh.”

“What?” Clary asked.

Hodge shifted uncomfortably and flicked his wrist to send the new search result to the screen.

“Ragnor Fell,” Izzy read aloud, deflating along with the rest of them except Clary.

“What? Who’s Ragnor Fell?” Clary asked.

All eyes went to Jace who clenched his fists painfully at the memory. “He’s the warlock Alec was paying the Life Debt for. The warlock I killed.”

“It was an accident Jace,” Isabelle said.

“An accident that got Alec kicked out of the Institute,” Jace muttered.

Clary bit her lip, unsure how to dispel the awkward tension that had taken over the room.

“So, what are the chances it was Ragnor Fell that made the potion?”

“He taught at your Institutes,” Alec muttered to himself remembering something Magnus had told him. He looked at Hodge. “Throw up Ragnor’s bio.”

Hodge did as asked and Alec stood up to read it more closely.

“What are you looking for?” Hodge asked.

“Here.” Alec’s finger hovered over one of the most recent entries. “Ragnor taught at the Shadowhunter Institute in Idris until the Uprising. He was there in the early 90’s.”

“That’s when my mom would have been there,” Clary said. She stood up to join him and skimmed over Ragnor’s biography. Her brow furrowed. “What’s this address?”

Hodge shifted uncomfortably again before he answered. “That’s where Ragnor died.”

“It’s only a few blocks from my house,” Clary pointed out.

“That’s it,” Alec said. “Ragnor was a recluse since the Uprising, Magnus could never figure out what he had been doing in the city the day he died. He was visiting Jocelyn to give her the potion. The Circle must have tracked him after he left her.”

“And then ran into me,” Jace said, his voice factual but also bitter with regret. Alec looked at him with a sad nod of agreement.

“Wait, no this is bad,” Clary said, shutting down the excitement that had been building. “If Ragnor did make the potion and he’s dead we have no way of waking up my mom.”

“Not necessarily,” Hodge said. “If the spell was as complex as Magnus says then Ragnor would have written it down somewhere. All great warlocks keep detailed notes of their spells and Ragnor was one of the best.”

“So how do we find Ragnor’s spell book?” Clary asked.

“Magnus,” Alec said, drawing all eyes in the room. “He was Ragnor’s beneficiary. He spent the first few days I was living there going through boxes of his stuff. If he doesn’t have it he’ll know where it is.”

“You think he has the counter-spell and hasn’t told us?” Jace asked.

Alec shook his head. “It was almost a month ago, he wasn’t looking for it then. He might have it and not even know it.”

“Well then I guess our next move is to ask Magnus if we can look through his stuff,” Isabelle said.

There was silence in the group for a moment until Alec realized everyone was looking at him expectantly. He supposed he was the unofficial Magnus Bane ambassador.

“I’ll uh … I’ll ask him if we can come over,” Alec said, stuttering and suddenly nervous. He walked away to a private corner, ignoring Isabelle’s knowing smile as he pulled out his phone.

He paused over the call button. He was nervous enough to talk to Magnus after his conversation with Izzy and he also didn’t want to cause the warlock pain by calling out of the blue to discuss Ragnor’s death. He switched over to messaging.

To: Magnus
Are you around this afternoon? Need to talk to you about something.

Alec tapped his foot and looked behind him. The others were making a show of looking over the possible other warlocks on the list but he saw them all shooting him looks from time to time. Thankfully Magnus replied as quickly as he always did for Alec.

From: Magnus
For you I’ll clear my schedule. Come over any time.

Alec sighed in relief.

To: Magnus
Thanks. See you soon.

Alec came back over to the group.

“Magnus says we can come over.”

“Great, let’s gear up,” Jace said, but paused when he realized no one else was moving.

“Maybe you should hang back on this one,” Alec said softly.

Before Jace could steadfastly disagree, Isabelle jumped in.

“Magnus might not be too inclined to help us if you’re there.”

“You don’t think he’ll want me rifling through Ragnor’s stuff just because I’m the one who killed him? … you know what, I just heard it. Yeah, I’ll stay here,” Jace said.

He crossed his arms over his chest and took a step back from the group, but Alec stepped up and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Thank you. And before you say it, yes, I’ll be careful.”

“Damn right you will be,” Jace said. “Izzy, make sure Magnus returns him this time. And Alec if you even think about signing anything while you’re over there I will seriously kill you.”

Izzy looked at Alec and smiled knowingly. “What if Magnus makes him a really good offer though?”

Before Jace could shout furiously at either of them Alec grabbed Izzy’s arm and dragged her away. As they got to the weapons locker Izzy pulled Alec aside and looked him up and down appraisingly.

“Don’t you think you should change?” she said.

He looked down at his jeans and plain black button up. “What’s wrong with this?”

“It doesn’t really bring out your eyes,” Izzy said, smiling innocently when she was anything but.

Alec rolled his eyes. “I regret talking to you.”

“I bet Magnus will look nice,” Isabelle said, being courteous enough to keep her voice low.

“Magnus always looks nice,” Alec mumbled.

“Yeah, that’s my point,” Isabelle said.

“We’re going there to get him to help Clary,” he reminded her.

“I’m just saying he might be more inclined to help us if you wore, say, that tight green shirt with the leather stripes and a nice jacket.”

Alec shook his head. “I’m not changing my clothes, Izzy.”

He took a step away, hesitated, then walked back, avoiding eye contact as he spoke slowly. “If I did grab a jacket on the way out though … which one should I wear?”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Thirty minutes later Alec was wearing his “leather jacket with the least amount of buckles” as recommended by Izzy and taking the elevator up to Magnus’s apartment with Isabelle and Clary.

“Magnus is a busy guy so let’s make this quick,” he said as he led the way to Magnus’s door, knocked and tried not to fidget nervously as they waited.

The door opened a moment later to reveal Magnus wearing a succulent dark red suit, his make-up and hair immaculate as always.

“Hello Alexander,” he said, smiling widely at his shadowhunter.

Just the sight of the warlock made Alec’s stomach turn with excitement and he felt a smile break out on his face almost against his will.

“Hi,” he said, suddenly breathless and clumsy. He was standing perfectly still but felt like he had just tripped.

Magnus started to take a step back to let him in but faltered when he saw Izzy and Clary next to him.

“Oh you … brought friends,” he said slowly, his face becoming guarded and his shoulders tightening.

Alec’s brow furrowed in confusion at Magnus’s reaction. He thought Magnus liked Izzy and Clary.

“Uh yeah, in my text, should I have …” Alec trailed off as he realized what his text messages had implied: Magnus thought he was coming over alone to talk about them as a couple. “Oh. Shit.”

“It’s fine,” Magnus said, forcing a smile over top of his disappointment.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t …”

As Alec paused in his stuttered apology, Clary looked between the two men and raised a confused eyebrow.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

“Not at all, come in, please,” Magnus said as he opened the door wider for them.

Alec hung back in the hall a moment and shot Isabelle a grateful look when she shoved Clary as far into the apartment as possible to put some distance between them all. Walking in last, Alec started to move towards Magnus to apologize again but the warlock flitted away instantly, still trying to push through the disappointment clawing up his chest.

“So, what can I do for my three favorite Shadowhunters?” Magnus asked when they were all gathered in the living room.

“Alec didn’t tell you when he asked to come over?” Clary asked.

Magnus blinked and sucked on his teeth. “I neglected to ask. Clearly I should have.”

Alec wanted to die.

The three Shadowhunters shared a hesitant look, none of them eager to breach the sensitive subject, until finally Clary stepped forward.

“We need your help. We have a theory about who the warlock was that gave my mother the sleeping potion.”

Magnus made a show of sitting down attentively on the arm of a chair. “Do tell.”

“We think it was Ragnor,” Alec said softly, hating to see Magnus’s face fall even further at the mention of his murdered friend.

Magnus swallowed then let his gaze drift to the photo of Ragnor on his coffee table. “What makes you think that?”

“He taught at the Shadowhunter Academy when my mother attended there,” Clary said. “And the place he died was a few blocks away from my house.”

“I see.” Magnus stood up and wandered over to his drink stand but made no move to pour himself anything, instead he stared off into the distance. “He certainly had the expertise, and I suppose it would explain what he was doing in town that day. It’s an excellent theory.”

“We were hoping you would let us go through some of Ragnor’s things to try and find the counter-spell so we can wake Clary’s mom,” Isabelle said.

Magnus turned around quickly as though trying to physically snap himself out of his stupor.

“Of course, but I didn’t see any kind of spell like that in any of Ragnor’s spell books. He likely hid it to keep it safe. These may help us.” Magnus opened a sealed cabinet with a snap of his fingers and removed a box from the shelf. “This is everything of magical importance that Ragnor had that I couldn’t identify. I’ve been meaning to go through it more thoroughly. See if any of this is helpful. I have a few more boxes down the hall as well.”

“I’ll help you with them,” Alec said in a rush.

Magnus nodded tightly and led the way, leaving Izzy and Clary to go through the first box of items alone.

As they went through the apartment Alec saw his bedroom and gym were as he had left them a week ago and felt his lips turn up in a thoughtful smile. Walking past them, Magnus opened a secluded door to reveal a storage room far bigger than the layout of the loft would imply was possible, but Alec had long since stopped being shocked by anything that Magnus’s apartment did.

“I’ve never been in this room,” Alec said as he followed Magnus towards the boxes they needed.

“I’m surprised you’ve ever been in a storage locker Alexander, you own so little you’re practically nomadic. I had to force you to let me conjure you more than three outfits,” Magnus said.

“I didn’t want to be a bother.”

Magnus smiled. “I thought I’d been quite clear that you could never be a bother to me.”

“That’s definitely not true today,” Alec sighed. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was bringing the others. We got excited when we figured out it might be Ragnor and they asked me to text you … I wasn’t thinking.”

“I understand,” Magnus said, clearly still working hard to appear unperturbed. He started to walk down a row of shelves but stopped when Alec grabbed his wrist.

“The thing is though, I did want to talk to you … about us,” Alec said, eyes wide and licking his lips nervously.

Magnus felt his heart flutter as Alec’s thumb rubbed nervously along the inside of his wrist. “Oh? You did?”

“Yeah, I was going to call you today actually, but then all this came up,” he said, gesturing towards the room of boxes.

“And what were you going to say when you called?” Magnus asked, leaning further into Alec’s space and letting his fingers wrap around Alec’s wrist in response.

Alec took a deep breath and focused on their clasped fingers.

“I was going to ask if I could come over and then I was going to tell you that I did some thinking, and I talked with Izzy and she helped me figure some stuff out and I think …”

“Magnus I found something!”

Clary’s shrill cry from the other room made Alec jump and release his hold on Magnus’s arm.

Magnus grit his teeth and growled in frustration.

“So help me I will put that child in the same coma as her mother.”

Alec smiled but motioned towards the door. “We can uh … talk later. We should go back.”

“Fine, but I’m holding you to that. And I may hold you to a few other things,” he mumbled under his breath as he led the way back to the living room where Clary was bouncing with excitement to show him what looked like a torn piece of fabric.

“This bookmark, I saw it in your apartment in the alternate dimension,” she said. “It was in a book of spells that you said was very powerful. The Book of the White.”

Magnus stopped in his tracks. “Let’s back up a little. Alternate dimension?”

“Don’t ask,” Alec said, shaking his head as he moved next to Magnus. “But from what we can tell it’s true.”

“Why wouldn’t it be true?” Clary asked.

Magnus waved a hand like it was obvious. “Well you did just say the words alternate dimension, so …”

“If my parabatai bond with Jace hadn’t almost snapped in two from being stretched too far I wouldn’t have believed it either,” Alec said.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Clary said then held out the bookmark again. “But what about this?”

Magnus took the bookmark to inspect it.

“If it does belong to the Book of the White I should be able to use the bookmark to track the owner.”

As Magnus took a deep breath to start the tracking Alec felt his phone vibrate. He glanced down and saw it was Jace. He would only be calling for an emergency.

“Excuse me,” Alec said, rushing out to the balcony to take the call and not interrupt Magnus. “Jace, what is it?”

“Where are you?” Jace asked, his tone urgent.

“We’re still at Magnus’s, why?”

“Is Clary with you?”

“Of course she’s with me, what’s going on?” Alec demanded.

Jace huffed in anger before he answered. “Hodge betrayed us. He stole the Cup and is bringing it to Valentine.”

“What? No, Hodge wouldn’t do that.”

“I saw the security footage myself Alec. He’s gone and so is the Cup,” Jace said, clearly distraught by what he had seen.

Alec leaned against the balcony railing for support.

“No, Hodge … he’s like family. If even he can betray us to Valentine … We’ll head back now and help you find him.”

Alec started towards the door but stopped at Jace’s reply.

“No, you have to stay on mission. Waking Jocelyn up is our best chance of stopping Valentine and if he has the Cup we need to do it now.”

“You can’t go after Hodge by yourself,” Alec said.

“I’m not, Luke’s with me, he was at the Institute when Hodge broke out, and he’s called in his own backup. Hodge can’t hide from an entire werewolf pack. We’ll find him. I need you to stay with Clary, please. If Hodge told Valentine what she’s trying to do he’s going to try to stop her. I need you to keep her safe.”

“Fine. For the love of god be careful though and call us if you need back up.”

“Same for you.”

“And Jace,” Alec said, catching his parabatai before he hung up. “You’re not Valentine or Valentine’s weapon. You’re Jace Herondale, you’re your own man.”

Jace sighed like he wanted to believe Alec but couldn’t.

“Valentine, Robert, Maryse, now Hodge. Circle members raised me Alec, Circle members trained me,” Jace said, “what if I’m exactly what he wants me to be?”

“You’re not, because you care about people and you care about stopping him.”

“Damn right I do.”

“Just remember that. Stay safe, let me know when you find something,” Alec said.

“You too,” Jace said. “Thanks.”

Alec hung up and ran a hand down his face, shaken by the news of Hodge’s betrayal. How the hell was he going to tell Izzy? They all thought of Hodge like family.

He couldn’t keep this from the others though, it was too important. He took a deep breath and headed back inside only to find a sullen mood had fallen on Izzy, Clary and Magnus in his absence.

“What’s wrong? Did it not work?” Alec asked looking around the group.

“No, it did,” Magnus said, looking particularly uncomfortable and avoiding eye contact with Alec.

“And?” Alec urged.

“And the owner of the book is Camille,” Izzy said.

Alec’s eyes went wide. He looked at Magnus. “Your ex, Camille?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“The same Camille who killed Simon,” Clary added.

Alec sighed.

“And I thought I had bad news.”

TBC

Chapter Text

Magnus was enjoying his third glass of scotch since the trio of Shadowhunters had vacated his apartment when he was interrupted by another knock on his door. He got up and took a steadying breath before he opened it to reveal Alec, Clary, Izzy, Simon and Camille standing in the hallway looking like the saddest pop band he’d ever seen.

“Well, aren’t I popular today,” he said, desperate to keep the mood light.

“Maybe too popular, this place is a little crowded for my tastes,” Camille said, winking and running a finger down Magnus’s chest as she walked by. The rest of the group collectively rolled their eyes and filed into the apartment behind her.

“I’m so sorry about all this,” Alec muttered to Magnus for what felt like the millionth time that day. The group had called Simon after learning Camille had the spell book they needed and after some aggressive negotiations had successfully freed her from the Du Mort but now they were back at Magnus’s, needing even more from the warlock. At least this time Alec had given him a heads up that they were all coming.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Magnus said, entering the living room last to delay the emotional rollercoaster that was about to come as much as possible.

He came in to find Simon, Clary and Izzy glaring at Camille as she walked through the apartment, running her hand carelessly over items like she was window shopping.

“So, where’s the Book of the White?” Magnus asked.

“We don’t know,” Clary said, glaring a hole through Camille’s back as she answered. “She won’t tell us.”

Magnus sighed.

“Camille, don’t be fussy, tell the nice Shadowhunters where their book is so we can all defeat Valentine and never see each other again,” Magnus said.

“Sorry my love, but I need something from you before you get your spell book,” Camille said, sounding anything but sorry.

“Shocking,” Magnus muttered. “What is it?”

“A writ of transmutation,” Camille said.

Magnus’s back straightened. He could guess what she needed that for. He turned to Simon who was standing a step behind Clary with his arms crossed in front of his chest.

“Simon, are you sure about this?” he asked.

“Just give it to her,” he said, not really answering the question.

“Very well.”

Simon shook his head in frustration and stormed out of the room and down the hall, Clary only a few steps behind, eager to comfort him.

Magnus turned to Alec. “I’ll need a few minutes.”

Alec nodded and considered their next move. They had made a lot of noise breaking Camille out of the Du Mort, possibly enough to alert Valentine to what they were doing.

“Izzy, can you go downstairs and watch the perimeter?” Alec asked. “I’ll keep an eye out from up here.”

“Don’t trust my wards?” Magnus asked, only mildly offended.

“Not since the Circle broke in and almost killed us that one time.”

“Fair,” Magnus muttered.

“It’s no problem,” Izzy said, clearly not eager to be around Camille any longer than she had to be and already making a beeline for the door.

Alec shifted his bow then leaned closer to Magnus. “You okay alone with her?”

To be honest Magnus wasn’t actually too keen on spending time with Camille, his Ghost of Relationships Past, but he was even less eager for her to be around his Ghost of Relationships Future so waved off Alec’s concerns.

“I can handle Camille,” Magnus assured him. “Go.”

“All right. Yell if you need me,” Alec said, then made his way out onto the balcony to watch the perimeter from above.

Magnus sighed and moved to one of his work stations to start conjuring the writ but couldn’t ignore when Camille sauntered over to him with a knowing smile on her face.

“So, you and a Nephilim, huh? I thought I knew you Magnus but that surprises even me,” she said.

“You’ll have to be more specific about which Nephilim you mean and exactly what you think you’re talking about,” Magnus said, trying to give her no ground as he kept his eyes on the contract he was enchanting. “Or we could just not talk at all, another excellent option.”

“You can’t hide your dalliances from me. This whole loft smells like tall, dark and grumpy over there.”

“Alec lived here until last week, he was fulfilling a Life Debt, you must be the only person in the downworld who didn’t know.”

Magnus was aiming to be snarky but his smile dropped when he saw Camille’s eyes fill with rage at his words.

“He killed Ragnor,” she hissed and he only just managed to grab her wrist before she stalked onto the balcony, undoubtedly to murder Alec where he stood.

“No, he didn’t,” Magnus said, barely holding her back. “His parabatai did. Alec filled the Life Debt on his behalf. He’s not to be touched.”

Camille calmed down almost instantly at the information then practically purred at the way Magnus was holding her.

“Fine, I’ll just have to touch something else then,” she said, looking him up and down suggestively. “I have a few ideas what.”

Magnus let her go with a disgusted grunt and returned to preparing his document, keeping his eyes fixed on the page to avoid her flirtatious gaze. He wanted to say that it had no effect on him and her trying to charm him was pointless, but that would be a lie. He had been trembling lightly ever since she came into the apartment. Part of it was attraction, they had been a rather voracious couple for decades and one look at her reminded him of at least a dozen note-worthy sexual escapades they had embarked on, but more than that it was nostalgia. She knew him, he couldn’t deny that, and he knew her, and there was a comfort in that familiarity, a safety net he could easily fall into at any moment, and had many times over the centuries. Which meant right now he had to focus on reminding himself of all the awful reasons they had broken up in the first place.

“You used to be fun Magnus,” she moaned, scuttling up behind him even after he pushed her away. “You’re still mad at me for that dalliance with the Russian, aren’t you?”

“I’m not anything but over you, Camille. It was a century ago, I’ve moved on,” he said, silently thanking her for helping him remember one of the reasons for their break up.

“And yet I’m still here. You know I’m the only one who will always be here for you Magnus, the only one who truly knows you.”

“And yet you just admitted I had surprised you,” Magnus said.

Camille smirked triumphantly. “So, you are involved with the Nephilim.”

Magnus tensed. The last thing he wanted was for Camille to aim her murderous fangs in Alec’s direction. “That’s not what I meant.”

“Oh Magnus, loneliness has always been your Achilles heel. Look at you now, so desperate for companionship you contracted a Nephilim to spend time with you on pain of death. It’s sad really. You could have just called, I would have come over, Love.”

His jaw clenched. “What we had wasn’t love Camille.”

“It’s the closest you’ll ever have to it,” Camille said.

The words should have stung, but instead of shrinking in on himself at the truth of her words like he may have done months earlier, Magnus found his gaze drifting to where Alec had disappeared a moment before and suddenly he felt himself become quite calm and steadfastly certain she was wrong.

Still standing behind him, Camille frowned. She had expected the barb to hurt Magnus, but instead the warlock’s gaze drifted to the balcony door, and his eyes became hopeful while the smallest hint of a smile touched his lips. She scoffed.

“You don’t really think you’ve found love after all these centuries do you? You’ll only get hurt again Magnus. Love is fleeting.”

Magnus shrugged, becoming more relaxed at even the thought of Alec, and then muttered to himself almost unwillingly, “And yet true love cannot die.”

Camille’s face scrunched up in disgust then she leaned close to Magnus’s ear. “But shadowhunters can.”

Magnus spun around, enraged at the clear threat towards Alec, but before he could berate her she leaned into his space and kissed him hard enough that his knees knocked the table behind him. The move surprised him and he inhaled on reflex. She still tasted like vanilla and strawberries, just like he remembered. The nostalgia made him still for only a moment but then he brought up his hands and pushed her off.

She smiled innocently at him, clearly able to see how flustered he was, then turned her head. He followed her gaze.

Alec was standing in the doorway.

“Alec, this isn’t what it looks like,” Magnus said, taking a step away from the vampire and cursing Camille under his breath.

“I’m pretty sure it’s exactly what it looks like,” Alec said, his voice tight with rage as he marched into the room. Camille dabbed at her lip to hide her triumphant smile but her face fell when Alec stepped between her and Magnus to look down on her with a gaze of steel. “You may not be familiar with it, but I know what it looks like when Magnus kisses someone willingly. Touch him like that again and I’ll kill you, I don’t care what we need from you.”

While Camille’s eyes went wide with indignation, Alec turned to Magnus.

“Are you okay?”

Magnus’s body sagged with relief to hear that Alec was smart enough to see through Camille’s games.

“I … yes, I’m fine,” he said.

As for the vampire herself, she merely crossed her arms and huffed in frustration that her ploy had not worked.

“All of you are complete bores. And you’re making a huge mistake Magnus, he’s cute enough now but you’re twenty years away from male pattern baldness.”

“We’ve got glamours for that,” Alec said. “Too bad there’s not one that can give you a decent personality.”

Magnus’s jaw dropped. Since when did his shadowhunter have sass?

Camille sucked on her lip. “Decent is relative. Sure I’m nothing like you, Goody-Two-Shoes, but Magnus spent over a century with me, indulging in pleasures and indecencies across seven continents. What does that really tell you about what he likes?”

Magnus thought he saw the slightest twitch in Alec’s eye at her words, but then he straightened up to his full height to loom over her even more.

“It tells me that people change,” Alec said then turned to Magnus and pointed to the writ. “Is this done?”

“Uh, yes,” Magnus said, still flustered by the way Alec had taken control of the situation. Magnus had to admit, as powerful as he was, Camille had a way of making him feel vulnerable and small, like he needed her and should fight for her affection. She constantly used that power to manipulate Magnus into staying with her for far longer than he should and this was one of the few times in several centuries that anyone had literally or figuratively stepped in to stop her, and he had to admit he quite liked it.

“Good, then it’s time for you to show us where the book is,” Alec said and grabbed Camille by the arm to drag her towards the door.

“Get your hands off of me,” Camille practically shrieked, but Alec made no move to release her.

Magnus found himself smiling, his heart beating with warmth and excitement as he thought about how Alec had not only stood up for him but had believed in Magnus so fully that he hadn’t even considered falling for Camille’s ploys.

Suddenly feeling more like himself Magnus rolled up the writ with a snap of his fingers and followed them both out the door.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

With the writ done and ready for signature they all climbed into Simon’s van to go to Camille’s penthouse where she claimed the Book of the White to be. With the six of them cramped inside the small vehicle and emotions running high Magnus didn’t hesitate to lay a silence ward on the entire car for the duration of the trip. If anyone complained, well, he didn’t hear them and that’s all that mattered.

When they arrived at the Penthouse Camille revealed that she didn’t actually know where in the labyrinth of shelves the Book of the White might be and Magnus decided he had spent quite enough time with his manipulative ex-lover for the day.

“I’m going to check the perimeter for traps,” he said, not caring how weak his excuse sounded, he just needed to get out of there.

Alec shared a look with Izzy who nodded that she had things under control, before he followed after the warlock. “I’ll come with you.”

Magnus nodded in silent thanks but didn’t turn around. He knew his way around the penthouse and quickly led them through a door and then down a long hallway into a curtained room with a piano, several chairs and a fireplace.

Now with enough distance between themselves and Camille Magnus finally started to relax and ran a hand casually over one of the two bookshelves in the room to search for the Book of the White.

Alec hesitated before he did the same. “Um, what kind of traps should I be looking out for exactly?”

“Hmm? Oh, don’t worry about them. I set a few up for Camille ages ago but I already deactivated them. We’ll be fine,” Magnus said.

“Got it,” Alec said. He licked his lips and moved to the bookshelf next to Magnus’s, suddenly nervous. This was the first time he had been alone with the warlock since they were in the storage locker and though he desperately wanted to talk to him he wasn’t sure that now was the right time, while they were trying to save Clary’s mom and after Magnus had been shaken by seeing Camille.

For his part Magnus was equally uncomfortable but for an entirely different reason. After a few moments of silence he turned to Alec.

“I’m sorry Alexander, about Camille. She’s a … complicated part of my past.”

Alec’s brow furrowed as he met Magnus’s eye.

“You don’t have to apologize for her Magnus. You broke up more than a century ago, you aren’t responsible for what she does.”

Magnus smiled half-heartedly at the reassurance but still turned away in shame.

“Still, we were together for quite awhile. Now she manipulates and murders on an almost daily basis. I don’t know what you must think of me.”

Alec shrugged, genuinely unperturbed. “It was a long time ago. People change. I assume she was different back then, or you were.”

Magnus tapped his finger on the wood of the bookcase and considered Alec’s words.

“Both, I suppose. She was less cruel when we were together, more adventurous and playful. She wanted to party and travel and indulge herself with no anchors of love on her feet. For awhile I wanted that too but after a few decades I suppose I was ready to settle down.”

Alec huffed and a teasing smile crossed his face. “The warlock I lived with was the settled down version of Magnus Bane?”

“I’ll have you know I’m an upstanding citizen Alexander. I’ve lived in the same city for years, I run a business, and I’m an elected official in charge of overseeing all my people in the city. By Warlock standards I’m practically domestic.”

“Somehow I doubt that, but I see your point. So you’re saying you matured?”

“I guess.”

“Well Camille clearly didn’t, and that’s not your fault. You can’t make people change or grow Magnus, you can just be there for them if they deserve it and cut them out of your life if they don’t.”

“And what about us?” Magnus asked, swallowing noticeably as he turned to Alec, unable to dance around the subject any longer. “Where do we stand?”

Alec looked at the bookshelf. “We’re complicated, maybe even more complicated than you and Camille.”

“Complex relationships seem to be my specialty,” Magnus said with a self-deprecating laugh.

“That’s good.”

“How so?”

“Because it means you knew what to do about us. Making me go back to the Institute, it was smart. It was the right move and I wanted to thank you for not letting me rush into this.”

Magnus nodded ruefully and took a half step away, seeming to accept he would not be getting his answer at the moment.

“Like I told you, take all the time you need.”

“I took it,” Alec said, his voice firm, capturing Magnus’s full attention and entire heart. “I thought a lot about what you said and about us and our relationship and what it all means. We lived together during incredibly emotional circumstances, we were completely engrossed in each other for weeks, we nearly died together a few times, and now we’ve spent all this time apart and honestly, I’m still not sure what any of it means or what emotions I’m supposed to trust, but I know that right now, I want this. I want us. So I was thinking, what if we uncomplicated it? What if we … start over?”

Magnus couldn’t seem to get himself to breathe as he considered Alec’s cryptic request, but somehow managed to speak.

“What do you mean? Start over?”

Alec squared off to face Magnus and exhaled nervously.

“Do you want to go on a date sometime?” Alec asked. “Forget all this other crap. No life debt, no mission, no Valentine, just, get a drink or something?”

Magnus couldn’t keep the smile off his face if he tried, and nodded in full hearted agreement.

“I would love that,” he said, touched and amazed at the pure simplicity of the question.

Alec’s smile was equally huge and relieved.

“Great,” he said, then almost instantly looked nervous again. “I um … I don’t really know any places to go on a date though.”

Magnus smiled in amazement at how his deadly shadowhunter could be so helplessly adorable at times, then sauntered into Alec’s personal space with a flirty grin.

“Don’t you worry about that,” he said, looking up at Alec coyly. “I’ll take care of everything.”

“You always do,” Alec whispered.

“One of my many talents,” Magnus said. “To celebrate, let me show you one of my others.”

Then Magnus leaned forward and captured Alec’s lips with his own. Alec met him enthusiastically halfway, inhaling contently at the contact. One of Magnus’s hands snaked up Alec’s back and he put his hands on Magnus’s hip and squeezed lightly, relishing in the feeling of having Magnus all around him.

When they finally pulled apart Alec sighed in relief and leaned their foreheads together. “I missed that.”

“It’s barely been a week,” Magnus muttered even though his eyes were just as blown out with pleasure as Alec’s were.

“Well you made a lasting impression before I left,” Alec said and Magnus looked up at him with pleased understanding.

Magnus’s smile of delight disappeared though as Alec leaned away from him, his eyes drawn to the door behind them.

It was covered in the purple sheen of a portal.

“What the hell?” Alec muttered. No sooner had the words left his mouth than a glowing white orb came through the portal to roll across the floor.

“Get down!” Alec yelled, grabbing Magnus by the lapels and pushing the warlock behind him.

Time seemed to stand still for a moment as the world became pure white light and the only sound was a shrill ringing that shook down into their bones. By the time Magnus realized they had been hit with some kind of magical stun grenade he could already feel a knee between his shoulder blades and hands pulling his wrists behind his back. In a rush of panic he tried to force a concussive wave of magic out from his fingers but it was too late, magic dampening cuffs were already locked around his wrists.

As he was pulled to his feet he was able to get his sight back enough to see Alec was also handcuffed and looked equally dazed as he was hauled up to stand next to Magnus. Then a man stepped in front of them, grinning from ear to ear as he looked them over.

“And here I was worried I wouldn’t get to kill you after all,” the man said. Magnus had to blink a few times before he recognized him as Reece, the second in command to Leon who had helped torture Alec at Pandemonium a week before.

Magnus glared and stood up straighter. “The feeling’s mutual.”

For his part, Alec’s gaze was fixed on the door at the other end of the room that led to the rest of the apartment.

“Izzy, Clary run!” Alec shouted as loud as he could, determined not to let his family get captured by the Circle like they had, but all it earned him was a punch across the jaw from Reece.

“I recommend you shut up,” Reece said, “Valentine said to take you alive, but you know, accidents happen.”

“Well for the record, what we did to Leon was no accident,” Alec said, remembering how he and Magnus had worked together to kill the Circle member and felt no remorse for it whatsoever.

Reece looked like he wanted to hit Alec again but instead turned his attention to the men that were holding them as though forcing himself to follow orders.

“Swords up. These two are tricky, don’t let your guard down for a second,” Reece told his men, at which point seraph blades appeared at Alec and Magnus’s throats to keep them in line. “Now come on, Valentine’s waiting.”

“What?” Alec said, uncaring about the blade at his neck. He had only heard about Valentine thus far, seen the destruction caused by his people and his beliefs, and if the man was really here that was very bad for all of them. His gaze shifted over to Magnus, who was unflinching but grave as he was pushed forward into the next room. Alec knew Magnus had been fighting Valentine for almost twenty years and if Valentine knew just what Magnus had done to help Jocelyn the Circle leader would surely kill him.

Just as suddenly as that fear took Alec several brand new ones joined it as he was pushed into the penthouse foyer to find Circle members everywhere, Clary clutching the Book of the White, Izzy and Simon with blades held against them, and Jace standing in the middle of it all with a sword at Valentine’s chest.

Damn, they had really missed a lot.

As they were pushed inside Alec saw Jace look at him and felt his parabatai falter with despair to see yet another person he cared about marched in to be threatened in front of him.

“Oh good, we’re all here,” Valentine said smoothly, seemingly unperturbed by Jace’s seraph blade pressed against him.

“Let them go Valentine,” Jace demanded, his blade pressing in harder, but Valentine just shook his head.

“Come on son, we both know that’s not how this is going to go.”

“Here!” Clary stepped forward, holding out the Book of the White. “This is what you want so just take it and let them all go, please.”

“Dear Clarissa, the book was never a part of my plan. Keep it, wake up your mother and give her my love. Let her know our family will be together soon,” Valentine said, then turned to Jace. “As for your family son, this will be the last you ever see any of them alive unless you put down that sword and come with me, like you know you were meant to.”

“No, you’re not my father and I can’t believe anything you say,” Jace said, grip tightening on his sword.

“But you are my son. I raised you, I made you and you know it. And you know me, like how I don’t make idle threats,” Valentine’s voice went hard, all playfulness leaving his tone as Jace’s blade pressed harder against him. “You just got your parabatai back didn’t you? What do you think, slit his throat first or save him until the end?”

Before Valentine’s sentence was even over Alec felt the blade at his neck pull in tighter and he struggled not to grimace as it cut into his skin.

“No! Stop!” Jace pleaded. He took a half step toward Alec but then stopped, unable to step away from Valentine and lose his leverage. He turned back to the man who had raised him, his face defeated. “Stop, please.”

“Like I told you, they’re your weakness. But it doesn’t have to be like your hawk. Put the sword down, come with me and they all live,” Valentine promised.

“Jace, no, you can’t,” Clary said, which was literally easy for her to say as the only one without a sword at her throat.

Jace looked around the room and shook his head.

“I have to.”

He dropped his seraph blade to the floor.

Valentine smiled then bent down to pick up the weapon.

“You made the right choice, now time to go.” Valentine motioned one of his men forward and Jace had his arms pulled behind and handcuffed like the others.

“I said I’d come,” Jace said, his defeated posture showing he had meant it.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you son, but, you’re about to get mad at me. Bring the parabatai and the warlock too,” Valentine said.

“What!?” Izzy cried out, struggling for the first time.

Alec and Magnus both jolted at the command as well and instinctually planted their feet with no intention of going anywhere, but the swords at their throats motivated them both to keep quiet and start moving.

“No! You said you’d let them go!” Jace yelled, struggling against his bonds now as predicted.

“I said I’d let them live, and I will. Probably,” Valentine said. “At least for now, but I have plans for both of them. I thought you’d be happy, I know how it hurts to be away from your parabatai.”

“You’re insane,” Clary said, able to do nothing as Alec, Magnus and Jace were ushered towards the standing portal in the doorway.

“No, I’m right, you just can’t see it yet. Give Jocelyn my love. I’ll see you soon Clarissa,” Valentine said with a wave then turned to the others as he led the way through the portal. “Come on boys, we’re going to have some fun.”

As Alec, Jace and Magnus were shoved through the portal to Angel knows where, they knew that fun was not how they would describe anything that was about to happen.

TBC

Chapter Text

As the portal swirled closed behind them, Alec, Magnus and Jace all blinked in surprise to find themselves standing in direct sunlight on the deck of a freighter swarming with scowling Circle members and chained up downworlders.

“What the hell …?” Alec whispered.

“Let’s get you to your room,” Valentine said, unfazed by the change in location. Before any of the three could get their bearings they were pushed towards a set of stairs leading into the belly of the ship.

Jace got to the bottom first and was just oriented enough to lunge at Valentine.

“You bastard! I should have killed you when I had the chance!” Jace spat, held back by a hand in his collar by one of Valentine’s men.

“Yes, you should have,” Valentine said. “Caring for people, it makes you weak Jonathan, but we’ll make you strong again, don’t worry.”

As they were pushed along down another set of stairs then through a steam-filled hallway Jace got close enough to Alec to shoot him an apologetic frown.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t want …”

“It’s not your fault Jace,” Alec cut him off.

“Let’s get all the facts before we decide that, shall we?” Magnus muttered.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” Jace said.

“Oh, I’m more than aware.”

Alec glared at them both. “Seriously? We’re gonna do this right now?”

Jace and Magnus both dropped their eyes shamefully, though Jace couldn’t resist throwing one last comment over his shoulder.

“He started it.”

Magnus rolled his eyes but any reply he was going to give was cut short when they were pushed towards a bulkhead door. They heard the screams before they saw anything. Shouts of pain, howls of rage and growls of mindless destruction all echoed together throughout the enclosed space. They stepped through the door and found themselves in a huge open area with three levels of catwalk wrapping around the edge. The entire room was filled with imprisoned downworlders. Cages hung from the ceiling holding seelies and vampires, there was a pen of werewolves off to one side and a dozen more downworlders and demons were chained up to pillars or stakes, all snapping and clawing for freedom or in various states of insanity or malnourishment.

“You monster,” Magnus whispered, his heart breaking to see so many of his people suffering.

“What is this?” Alec asked, unable to understand the purpose of such cruelty.

“Just where I keep my test subjects and some other specimens for experiments, and some for entertainment. I call it The Pen. The boys have another name for it though, what is it …”

“The Zoo,” Reece said.

“Yes, the Zoo,” Valentine said, still smiling. “That works too. But don’t worry, we’ve got a VIP room for you.”

“Yay,” Magnus muttered sarcastically as Reece pushed them roughly to keep moving, past The Zoo and through another bulkhead. At the end of a short corridor they reached a final door that opened with a loud metallic clang revealing a bare, poorly lit room with chains hanging from the far wall. As they were shoved inside Valentine motioned towards Alec and Magnus.

“Get those two secure. Careful with the warlock,” he said.

Alec and Magnus found themselves pushed to the back of the room and snapped into chains hanging at waist level that gave them just enough slack to sit down comfortably if they chose. Meanwhile Jace was held by the door, still restrained by two men.

“What, no room for me?” Jace asked, practically twitching with aggravation.

“Oh don’t worry son, you won’t be down here with the rabble. I have much nicer accommodations for you. I just have to make sure you stay in line first,” Valentine said.

Jace clenched his jaw and braced himself, expecting a beating, and then relaxed in confusion when Valentine turned away from him.

“Hold him,” Valentine said to Reece as he pointed at Alec.

“Hey, stay away from him!” Jace screamed and tried to lunge forward again but was held back and forced to watch as two Circle members pushed Alec’s shoulders back against the wall to keep him in place.

“Valentine what are you doing?” Magnus also tugged at his chains but didn’t have enough slack to reach the men holding Alec.

Ignoring Magnus’s question, Valentine strolled towards Alec, scrutinizing him up and down.

“I remember what it was like to have a parabatai, the intensity of the connection, the dependency it created.”

“Do you remember betraying your parabatai to die too?” Alec asked, holding his head high and resisting the urge to struggle against the hands holding him in place, knowing it would do little good.

“I do, it was the best decision I ever made. It freed me,” Valentine said. He loomed into Alec’s space and rolled up his sleeves. “Jace isn’t ready for that step yet, but you can still help me show him how attachment is a weakness.”

“I’m not gonna help you do anything.”

“It’s not like you have a choice,” Valentine said and pulled out his stele. Alec stopped breathing at the sight of it, thrown back into memories of being tortured at Pandemonium and certain it was about to happen again.

“Stop this,” Magnus said, tugging uselessly at his chains again, the same fear gripping him as it did Alec. “He’s not part of your war Valentine leave him alone.”

Valentine scoffed even as he started to draw a rune on his own forearm. “The boy who lived with the warlocks? He’s more involved than he’d like to think. But this actually isn’t personal, it’s all for Jace.”

When he finished the symbol on his arm, Valentine stepped forward and tore Alec’s shirt open to reveal the now bare patch of skin the Agony rune had been burnt into.

“What are you doing? Valentine stop!” Jace yelled, struggling even harder to no avail.

Valentine brought his stele towards Alec’s skin and a blind panic overtook him as he was overwhelmed with memories of what the Agony rune had done to him before, how it had burnt down to his very soul and ripped huge chunks out of him for what felt like eternity. He no longer cared about being stoic and began to fight against the hands holding him down. Alec sent a wild kick in Valentine’s direction and was rewarded with a punch to the stomach that knocked the wind out of him. The hands on his chest pushed him down harder and the stele touched his skin.

“No!” he grunted but Valentine’s fingers were already moving, burning the symbol into his chest. It didn’t hurt as much this time but the humiliation still brought the sting of tears to his eyes. In a few moments it was over and Valentine stepped back, smirking triumphantly as he pocketed his stele.

Reece was the last to let him go and made a show of pulling Alec’s shirt open wider to look at the rune on display.

“I liked the old one better, but it’ll do,” he whispered with a cruel smile.

Alec looked down in confusion and saw that it wasn’t an Agony rune that had been drawn on him but something with two overlapping circles that flared out at the edges. It was the same rune Valentine had drawn on his own arm.

“What is it?” Magnus asked quietly, looking at Alec.

Alec shook his head and looked at Valentine. “I don’t know.”

“You won’t find that one in the Grey Book,” Valentine said. “It was removed centuries ago after it was banned by the Clave. I came across it while doing some independent research. It’s called a Loyalty Rune. It was originally meant for Generals and Kings to mark onto their soldiers.”

“That’s bullshit,” Jace exclaimed. “A rune can’t change who you’re loyal to.”

Valentine smirked. “No, but they can invoke certain consequences that ensure loyalty.”

Alec, Jace and Magnus remained blank and confused at Valentine’s explanation. Valentine chuckled and pulled a knife from his belt.

“Let me show you.”

The three captives tensed, assuming Valentine would strike Alec, but instead the Circle leader sliced open his own palm. Then Alec hissed and grabbed his wrist.

“What the hell,” Alec mumbled, then opened his hand to reveal his palm was bleeding in the same place as Valentine’s.

“Oh my god,” Magnus whispered.

“The rune ensures loyalty because if the soldiers didn’t protect their king, they would die right along with him,” Valentine explained then turned to Jace. “So whatever happens to me, happens to your parabatai. Which I suggest you keep in mind. You can uncuff him now.”

Valentine was still smiling triumphantly when Jace lunged at him and punched him hard enough to send him into the wall.

“You son of a bitch,” Jace screamed, lost in his fury.

Across the room Alec grunted and fell to his knees, one hand cradling his left cheek.

Jace loomed over Valentine and Magnus’s eyes widened in fear.

“Jace no!” Magnus shouted but couldn’t keep Jace from hitting Valentine again. Alec hissed and tilted to the side, his lip now split and bleeding. “Jace stop! You’ll just hurt Alec, stop!”

Jace’s fist paused in mid-air and he stumbled as though physically struck.

“Alec?” he said, then ran to his parabatai.

Valentine, who had clearly been planning for Jace to attack him, just smiled, brushed himself off and ran his stele over his healing rune to clear up the bruises on his face.

Across the room Jace knelt in front of Alec and helped sit him up against the wall.

“Alec, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking, I …”

“I’m fine Jace, don’t worry about it. He deserved it,” Alec said and meant it. He had fought demons before, he could handle a split lip and a bruised cheek. But knowing this didn’t wipe any of the worry or anger off Jace’s face. He spun around to Valentine, hand extended.

“Give me a stele,” Jace demanded, having been stripped of his when they were captured.

Valentine just scoffed. “Not a chance. He’ll live. Consider it a reminder not to try anything like that again. I’m willing to give you free reign of the ship but you won’t be getting a stele.”

“What the hell is the point of any of this you psycho?” Jace asked.

“The point is you finally understanding the truth about who you are, only then will you understand what I’m trying to do and take your proper place by my side.”

“Fine, whatever, I’m here, you don’t need Alec.”

“I think we both know you would have attacked half the men on this ship by now if he wasn’t here. Having your parabatai under lock and key keeps you civil, and as long as you stay that way he gets to live and we will get to know each other better,” Valentine explained, looking far too pleased with himself at the cleverness of his plan.

Jace looked like he was only barely restraining himself from hitting Valentine again but before he could Alec stood up.

“What do you want with Magnus?” he demanded.

Magnus stood up straighter at the question. He had been wondering the same thing.

Valentine’s eyes swept over to Magnus and took on a look of cruel fondness.

“Ah Magnus, the High Warlock of Brooklyn and thorn in my side for the past twenty years,” he said, sidling to stand in front of the warlock. “I was just going to kill you, but you’ll be much more useful to me alive.”

“Funny, one of your cronies said the same thing last week, right before I killed him,” Magnus said, vividly recalling snapping Leon’s neck at Pandemonium.

“You’ll find I’m a bit more competent than some of my men. You’ve seen that competence in action yourself; my injections that can bend a warlock to my will.”

The color drained from Magnus’s face.

“I won’t help you,” Magnus said, but wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince himself or Valentine after seeing how seemingly potent the shadowhunter’s concoction was at controlling Marcus and Peter into attacking him a few weeks earlier.

“We’ll see soon enough. All those warlocks I’ve grabbed have been useful but with the most powerful warlock in New York under my control and the Mortal Cup, well, I’m on my way to becoming unstoppable. I’ve got a few kinks I’m still working out with the injections but once they’re perfected you’ll be the first to know. Until then, sit tight,” Valentine said then turned to Jace and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Come on son, we’ve got a lot to talk about.”

“Don’t touch me. I’m not going anywhere with you and I’m not leaving them here alone for god knows what to happen to them,” Jace said.

“You really don’t want to defy me on this Jonathan.”

“You really don’t want to push me right now Valentine.”

One side of Valentine’s lip curled and he shook his head as he took out his stele and ran it over the Loyalty rune on his arm.

“I was going to wait to show you this, but now seems as good a time as any to let you know just what this rune can do.”

“Wait, what are you doing, what …?” Jace cut off his own question when Alec heaved in a huge breath and clutched at his chest.

“Jace …” Alec’s knees gave out before he could finish his sentence. Jace was at his side instantly, gripping his arm as he gasped for air and his eyelids fluttered. He felt weak and yet filled with adrenaline at the same time.

“Alec,” Magnus cried out and cursed again that his hands were chained to the wall.

“I can’t … breathe. Chest …” Alec trailed off and clutched at his chest as it felt tighter and tighter.

“What he’s trying to say is that his heart is gradually slowing down and he’ll be dead in a matter of minutes,” Valentine said.

“Okay, you made your point, now stop it,” Jace said, able to feel Alec trembling from pain beneath his hands.

Valentine made a show of waiting several long seconds before he responded, forcing Jace to listen to Alec’s increasingly laboured breathing.

“Fine,” he said at last, running his stele back over the Loyalty rune to deactivate it. Jace and Magnus both sighed in relief as Alec sucked in a huge breath and collapsed against the wall, all signs of pain gone from his face as his heartbeat returned to its normal speed. “I hope you’ll keep this in mind and remember to be civil from now on Jonathan. Now let’s go. I’ve got a lot to show you.”

Jace’s jaw clenched but he knew he couldn’t say no or Alec would just pay the price again. He squeezed Alec’s arm apologetically. “I have to go.”

“Don’t,” Alec said, shaking his head. “Don’t listen to anything he says. You’re not his weapon. You’re Jace Herondale.”

“I know,” Jace said, and his smile said he only knew that because of Alec. He also knew that Valentine didn’t like to be left waiting and couldn’t risk putting this off any longer. “I’ll be back soon.”

Jace squeezed his arm one last time and then stood up to leave. Before he did he met Magnus’s eye and gave him a look that simultaneously apologized to him for being dragged into this while also asking him to watch over Alec. Magnus nodded his agreement.

As Jace followed Valentine reluctantly out the door, he turned to look at Alec one last time as though to say good-bye. The look sparked something in Alec, making him surge to his feet in panic.

“Jace? Jace!” he called out, tugging at the chains on his wrists to try to follow his parabatai but it was too late. The men filed out, the door slammed shut and Alec and Magnus were left alone with just the barest slivers of light to see by.

“Dammit!” Alec yelled and pulled hard on his chains once more, desperate to go after his parabatai.

“Alec, stop,” Magnus said.

But Alec ignored him and pulled even harder on the cuffs, uncaring what it did to his wrists. “Come on!”

“Alec stop, you’ll just hurt yourself,” Magnus said, flinching every time Alec’s body jolted from the impact of his struggles. “Please.”

Alec pulled one last time and screamed in frustration when there was no give whatsoever.

“We have to get out of here, we have to help him,” Alec said, eyes on the floor, practically in a daze. “Who knows what Valentine will do to him.”

“Jace will be fine, we just need to calm down and think about this.”

All Magnus’s words did however was spur Alec to kick the wall in an attempt to release his anger.

“Dammit, this is all my fault,” Alec muttered breathlessly.

Magnus rolled his eyes. “That’s hardly fair. I’m sure it’s Jace’s.”

“We were on a mission Magnus! I was on perimeter duty, I was supposed to check for traps! I was supposed to notice if the Circle was breaking in! I wasn’t supposed to be … we weren’t … ugh!” Alec growled in frustration and kicked the wall again before closing his eyes and leaning his forehead against the cold concrete. Magnus’s jaw clenched as he understood the words Alec wouldn’t say; he wasn’t supposed to be making out with someone in the middle of a mission.

“You couldn’t have known,” Magnus said softly but even he could hear the emptiness of the words. They both knew Alec was right, they had fucked up royally back at Camille’s and now they were paying for it in the most terrifying way Magnus could imagine. But nothing could prepare Magnus for the way his heart clenched at Alec’s next words.

“This was a mistake,” Alec whispered, eyes still wrenched shut.

“What was?”

“Us.”

“Alexander …”

Alec just shook his head, resigned. “I’m sorry. I can’t have what I want. I never could. I should have known that. We haven’t even gone on our first date yet and look what happened.”

“Being a soldier doesn’t mean you don’t deserve happiness Alec.”

Alec slid down the wall and sat on the floor, his eyes glued to the door Jace had disappeared through. “It does if it means I’m putting people at risk. I can’t …”

Alec couldn’t finish his thought, seemingly too overwhelmed at the idea of losing Jace. Magnus sunk down to the floor as well and swallowed back the emotions swelling up in his own throat. They were both too emotional to discuss any of this right now.

“Why did Valentine call Jace son?” Magnus asked after a long silence, desperate to distract them both with a change of topic.

“What?” Alec asked, caught off guard.

“I thought Jace was a Herondale. Shadowhunter royalty and all that.”

“Oh,” Alec said, shaking his head as though to gather his thoughts. “He is, but he was raised by a man named Michael Weyland, who everyone thought died ten years ago. It turns out that man was Valentine glamoured to look like someone else. He raised Jace since he was a baby.”

“Cruel and deceptive. Sounds like Valentine. What does he want with him now?”

Alec shrugged. “I don’t know. He trained him hard as a kid, really hard, that’s why he’s such a good fighter. I guess to be his weapon, against the downworld.”

Magnus took a deep breath. “Well we can’t let that happen.”

Alec turned to him, eyes shining with appreciation as he exhaled. “Thank you. I know you two aren’t exactly friends.”

“No, but I know what Jace means to you and I know first hand just how far you’ll go to save him, and I’ll help you. Of course first we have to get out of here,” Magnus said, sitting up straighter. “I’m open to any suggestions that don’t involve you breaking your wrists.”

“Actually you have to break your thumbs to get out of handcuffs, but these are too tight for that,” Alec said, glaring at the chains. He turned and saw Magnus looking at him with a horrified expression.

“Have you done that?”

“Once or twice, just to see,” Alec said, shrugging. “It works.”

Magnus looked at his own cuffed wrists and grimaced. “Well that’s also off the table.”

“So what do we do, wait for an opening then run for it?”

“These cuffs are blocking my magic, not draining it. If we can get them off I could portal us out of here no problem,” Magnus said.

“I’d need a stele,” Alec said. “But maybe. It worked at Pandemonium.”

“Excellent. So we do exactly what we did last time we were captured by the Circle and hope for the best.”

“I’m starting to get concerned about how often we’re captured by the Circle,” Alec muttered.

“Yes. Let’s agree this will be the last time,” Magnus suggested.

“Deal,” Alec said and even felt himself smiling slightly at Magnus’s overly optimistic tone. He sighed deeply and hung his head for a moment, finally collecting himself fully.

“I’m sorry,” Alec said after a long silence, lifting his head to look at Magnus. “You’re not a mistake, I just …”

“I understand,” Magnus said. “These circumstances aren’t exactly ideal for emotional revelations.”

“Thanks.”

“Besides, I should apologize as well. I’m the one who kissed you mid-mission after all.”

“It’s not like I objected or anything,” Alec said.

“Still, I’ll try to be less of a bad influence, which may be the first time I’ve ever promised that in my life.”

Alec felt himself smiling despite their terrible situation. “I’m honored.”

“You should be, I don’t get kidnapped with just anybody. Still, I’m eager to get out of here. What do you think is our best chance of escape?”

They spent the next hour or so discussing possible escape options and listening for guards to figure out their numbers and rotation. Every now and then Alec would start getting panicked about Jace being missing again and Magnus would even throw a sexual innuendo or two into their conversation to distract the Shadowhunter in a different way.

After they finished discussing every escape possibility Alec busied himself checking over the links in the chains holding him for any weakness while Magnus sat on the floor, deep in thought.

“You okay?” Alec asked when he noticed the warlock had been silent for longer than usual.

“Hmm? Oh yes,” Magnus said, then pushed himself to sit up straighter. “I was just thinking … about Valentine’s plans for me.”

Alec clenched his jaw.

“It won’t come to that Magnus. We’ll be out of here before he has a chance to do anything to you. Besides, you heard what he said, he’s still tinkering with the injections. Maybe they won’t even work on you.”

“I know Marcus and Peter. They’re good men and they still nearly killed us that night in the apartment. I don’t imagine I’d react any differently to his injections than they did. The thought that I might help Valentine achieve his goals though, might hurt people for him … it terrifies me. He said it himself, I’m the most powerful warlock in New York, I can do things he hasn’t even dreamed. I might make him unstoppable.”

“You won’t.”

“I might. Alec, I need you to promise me something.”

Alec looked at the floor, certain he didn’t want to hear this, but still asked. “What?”

“If Valentine is able to control me, don’t let me hurt anyone. Promise that you’ll stop me, by any means necessary.”

“Magnus, I can’t …”

“Alec, please, I know it’s a lot to ask of you, it’s too much, but you can’t let Valentine use me as a weapon against my people. I’d rather die,” Magnus said and Alec could see in his eyes that it was true. Magnus considered every downworlder in the city one of his children, part of his family, and would lay down his life for any of them. “Promise me, please.”

Alec sat up straighter. “Okay. I promise.”

Magnus closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. “Thank you.”

“I promise I’ll save you,” Alec said, his voice as firm as stone.

Magnus exhaled in shocked gratitude then shook his head.

“That’s not what I asked.”

“It’s my final offer. Take it or leave it,” Alec said it with a shrug.

“I suppose I’ll have to take it then,” Magnus said, smiling with a fond sadness.

“Good. That’s settled,” Alec said. “If you have any suggestions about how I could slow you down while brainwashed though, I’m open to them.”

“You want me to tell you my weaknesses?”

Alec shrugged again. “I already know some of them. I could throw a cat in front of you. You’d stop dead in your tracks.”

Magnus smiled sadly at Alec’s attempt at levity but shook his head. “I doubt it would be quite that simple.”

“All right, two cats, and a martini.”

“That just might do it,” he said.

“See? I know you too well Magnus, you don’t have to worr … ah!”

Alec screamed and curled around his right side.

“Alec!” Magnus yelled, jolting upright. “What’s wrong?”

Alec shifted stiffly and tossed his head back in pain.

“I don’t …” Alec trailed off as he looked down and saw red staining his shirt. He pulled the fabric away to reveal a gaping wound had appeared in his right shoulder and remembered the Loyalty rune on his chest. “I think someone just tried to kill Valentine.”

“Dammit,” Magnus muttered when he saw the blood. “Guards! Get in here! We need a healing rune! Guards!”

Magnus stopped yelling but there was no sound of anything happening outside their cell. He swore in frustration. It seemed they were on their own.

Magnus tore at the seams of the vest he was wearing until he could pull it off and handed the fabric off to Alec.

“Here you have to stop the bleeding.”

Their hands could only just reach each other but Alec took the make-shift bandage gratefully.

“Thanks,” Alec said, then hissed as he applied pressure to the wound.

Magnus cringed at the sound. “How bad is it?”

“I don’t know. I think it might be an arrow wound. Pretty sure it missed the lung so that’s something.”

“As long as whoever is trying to kill Valentine keeps missing anyway,” Magnus muttered. He saw the blood was already starting to soak through the bandage and shook his head. “You need help. Will Jace be able to feel you’re hurt?”

Alec nodded and tried not to flinch as he applied more pressure on the wound. “Yeah, he’ll know.”

“Hopefully he’ll bring a first aid kit or a stele then,” Magnus said and hated that he couldn’t do more except watch Alec shudder in pain. “Somebody get in here!”

“Hey, I’m fine, really, it’s okay,” Alec said, but the paleness of his skin told a different story.

“It’s far from fine, Alec, we’ve been captured, you’re bleeding, I’m going to be turned into some slave for the Circle, my people are unprotected and my poor cats are probably starving,” Magnus said as he sat back down on the floor with an exasperated sigh. “There’s nothing fine about it.”

Alec shrugged half-heartedly. “The cats will be okay at least.”

“You don’t know that. My poor babies are probably out on the balcony mewling for their cream as we speak. Who will feed them, Alec?” Magnus asked.

“Their owner,” Alec said, inspecting his wound in the dim light and only half listening.

Magnus sat up straighter. “Their owner? What are you talking about?”

Alec stiffened as he realized what he had said, then made a point of avoiding the pair of eyes that were boring a hole into the back of his head.

“Alec, do you know something about the cats on the balcony?” Magnus asked when Alec was silent.

Alec swallowed noticeably and looked down at his wound.

“Wow, I sure am bleeding, huh?”

“Do not try to distract me Alexander,” Magnus’s voice was cold and serious. “Do you know something about the cats?”

Alec closed his yes. “Yes.”

“And what do you know?”

“…I know where the cats come from.”

“You know where the cats come from!?” Magnus’s voice boomed throughout the small room, his indignation echoing off the walls. Alec hung his head in shame.

“Yes.”

“And how long have you known this?”

“A few weeks.”

Magnus couldn’t believe this. “You’ve known where the cats on my balcony come from for weeks and you didn’t feel the need to tell me?”

Alec shrugged, still avoiding the warlock’s gaze. “I was going to, I just kept it to myself for awhile.”

“I can’t believe you would keep this from me,” Magnus said, honestly not certain if he was serious or being purposefully dramatic to let off steam. “After all we’ve been through. I think of you as an honest man Alec. I don’t even recognize you anymore.”

“I’m sorry, I just never found the right time to tell you. I …”

“You what?”

Alec sighed and his shoulders slumped. He flinched in pain from the movement and the embarrassment of the next words out of his mouth. “I wanted it to be funny.”

Magnus’s brow furrowed. “What?”

“You like lavish, elaborate stuff so I was gonna make it a big thing when I told you,” Alec explained, “Do something dramatic. But then the apartment got attacked and we moved to the Lair and … I kinda forgot.”

Magnus felt himself relaxing at hearing Alec’s ashamed apology and his voice dropped down to its regular pitch. “I suppose I can forgive you given the circumstances. Now that your memory is working though …”

“What?”

Magnus’s eyes almost bulged out of his head. “Where do the cats come from Alec?!”

“Oh. I’m not telling you.”

“What!?”

Alec shrugged. “Well it definitely won’t be funny now.”

“That we can agree on. This is absurd. Exactly when do you plan on telling me then?”

Alec chewed on his lip as he considered the question, then his eyes lit up with inspiration and he turned to Magnus with a half-satisfied smirk. “I’ll tell you when we get out of here. Consider it motivation for you to come up with an escape plan.”

“I don’t believe this. Why do I have to come up with the escape plan?”

“Because I solved the cat mystery, it’s your turn to figure something out.”

“Somebody get in here!” Magnus yelled, now doubly furious that Alec was bleeding and he still didn’t know where the cats came from.

“That’s your plan?”

Before Magnus could reply they heard the sound of footsteps running down the hall. Magnus smiled triumphantly. “Yes, and it worked perfectly. Hello! We need help in here!”

Magnus stopped yelling as the heavy metal door was pushed open, revealing a disheveled and blood-spattered Jace.

“Alec!” Jace cried out and ran to kneel in front of his parabatai, pulling away the makeshift bandage to look at the wound that he didn’t seem surprised to find.

“Jace,” Alec said, his voice filled with relief. “Are you okay?”

“You’re fucking bleeding Alec! No I’m not okay,” Jace said furiously. For a moment Magnus thought this may be a rescue but that hope faded when Valentine appeared in the doorway to the cell flanked by three of his men.

“Please tell me you’re the one who shot him,” Alec whispered to Jace.

“Please tell me you weren’t,” Magnus said, fuming at the idea that Alec could have been hurt by Jace’s carelessness.

“It wasn’t me,” Jace muttered to them then stood up to face Valentine. “He needs an iratze.”

Valentine had a hole in his shirt in the same spot as Alec but had clearly already healed himself from his matching wound.

“And what’s in it for me?” Valentine asked.

“What the hell do you want?” Jace asked, seemingly barely containing himself.

“Jace, don’t give him anything. I’m fine,” Alec said but Valentine just smiled in amusement.

“Not much,” Valentine promised. “Train some of my men tomorrow, help me shape them into real shadowhunters, and we’ll call it even.”

Jace didn’t like the idea of helping Valentine’s men become better hunters of innocent downworlders, but knew that it wasn’t a lot to ask if it meant Alec wouldn’t bleed to death in this cell.

“Fine, now heal him,” Jace said.

“See, it’s not so hard, the two of us working together,” Valentine said even as he pulled out his stele and strolled over to Alec.

“Yeah, I hear kidnapping, torture and blackmail are the building blocks of a solid relationship,” Alec said as Valentine knelt in front of him.

“You should learn to be more appreciative,” Valentine warned but then reached out and drew an iratze on Alec’s arm as promised. The wound closed up almost completely and Alec’s shoulders slumped in relief. “You’re welcome.”

Alec glared in response.

“Well, this has been a very productive evening son, but it’s not over yet,” Valentine said, turning to Jace. “Come on, dinner’s waiting.”

Jace remained kneeling next to Alec looking physically and emotionally torn at the order. “What about them?”

“Be a good boy and I’ll consider feeding them as well,” Valentine said.

“You’re the epitome of graciousness,” Magnus mumbled.

“And you’re lucky to still be alive,” Valentine replied. “Jonathan, now.”

It was only after Alec gave him the tiniest nod and mumbled that he was okay that Jace finally stood up to follow Valentine out the door.

“I’ll be back,” Jace said.

“I know,” Alec said, and then Jace was gone again, almost like his brief return had been nothing but a dream.

“Are you all right?” Magnus asked when they were alone once more.

“I’m fine.” Alec stood up easily, the healing rune had healed his shoulder and his minor injuries as well. He wrapped his hands around the chain in the wall and pulled with renewed vigor. “We have to get out of here. I can’t let Valentine keep using me against Jace like this.”

“You’ll hear no arguments from me, I’m not looking forward to seeing what they serve for supper on this boat.”

It turned out they only had to wait about an hour to find out. They were theorizing possible ways to release the other trapped downworlders when the door to their cell opened to reveal Jace, alone, and carrying several large bundles.

“Jace!” Alec shouted in relief to see his parabatai safe and without Valentine nearby.

“Hey,” Jace said and they both noticed the defeated slouch in his posture. “You guys all right?”

“Yeah, nothing’s happened since you left,” Alec said.

“I don’t suppose you’ve found a way out of here by any chance?” Magnus asked.

Jace huffed in self deprecation.

“No. I tried to swipe a stele so I could get you guys out of those chains but about the only thing I’ve managed to find is a linen closet. Sorry but I think we’re going to be here awhile,” Jace said and handed them each a blanket. Magnus took his with a nod of thanks and immediately wrapped it around his shoulders. It was getting late and the temperature had dropped significantly since they had arrived.

“Thanks,” Alec said, wrapping himself up quickly as well.

“And I found a kitchen too. Sorry this is all I could get,” Jace said and laid a sandwich and water bottle next to each of them.

“It’s far more than I expected honestly, thank you,” Magnus said, peeling the cellophane off carefully.

“Are you okay?” Alec asked, ignoring the offered food.

“Fucking peachy,” Jace said, then shook out a third blanket, wrapped it around his shoulders and sat down next to Alec.

Seeing that Jace seemed to be settling in to stay with them, Magnus raised an eyebrow.

“So much for Valentine’s insistence on giving you nicer accommodations.”

“He offered me a real room,” Jace said. “I packed all the blankets up in it and came here.”

“Jace if you can sleep in a real bed then take it, you don’t have to stay down here,” Alec said but Jace just shook his head and inched closer until their shoulders were touching.

“Where thou lodgest I will lodge, remember?” he said, quoting their parabatai oath.

Alec rolled his eyes. “We ‘lodge’ in different places all the time.”

“Oath’s an oath man, I’m not going anywhere, accept it and eat your sandwich before Magnus swipes it,” Jace said.

Magnus had indeed been leaning over to eye Alec’s sandwich but moved back at Jace’s words.

“I was just seeing if they were the same,” he muttered.

Alec smiled despite their terrible predicament and picked up his sandwich to inspect it.

“I got roast beef,” Alec said and noticed Magnus’s eyes perk up.

“How do you feel about bologna?” Magnus asked.

“I’ll take it,” Alec said, handing out his sandwich to trade.

“Thank you,” Magnus said.

They switched sandwiches and Alec unwrapped his all while looking at Jace out of the corner of his eye.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Jace stared straight ahead and started blinking heavily at Alec’s words as he remembered his night with Valentine, portalling to a vampire nest, seeing a dozen murdered mundanes, killing several vamps in a fight for his life before shadowhunters from the Institute showed up and shot Valentine, forcing Jace to save his life to make sure Alec didn’t die along with him.

“No, not yet,” Jace said, not ready to admit he had saved the life of their sworn enemy. “I just want to be here with you for a little while. Please.”

“Yeah, no problem,” Alec said, just happy to have Jace beside him and safe. He took a bite of his sandwich. “Hmm.”

“How is it?” Magnus asked, not having yet taken a bite of his.

Alec looked thoughtful as he swallowed.

“It’s … not the worst sandwich I’ve ever had.”

Magnus took a bite but looked unimpressed. “Oof. Then I’m curious exactly what was?”

“Izzy’s pepperoni wraps,” Alec and Jace said in unison, then laughed.

“They were so wet,” Alec muttered.

“And chewy,” Jace added.

“Poor Isabelle. I meant the worst sandwich not made by a child.”

“She made them last week,” Jace said.

“Oh,” Magnus said.

“Yeah,” Alec agreed. “So I guess things could be worse.”

“Excellent, I was worried we’d hit rock bottom,” Magnus said.

Jace’s eyes went dark as he remembered the horrors he had already seen Valentine commit in the past day and how much worse it was probably going to get.

“There’s always tomorrow.”

TBC

Chapter Text

The next morning came quickly. The three stayed up for several hours after Jace’s return and he eventually told them about the night he had had with Valentine and everything he had seen, including the fact that the Mortal Cup was on the ship along with several dozen Circle members and that the wards around the boat were lethal to the touch and to be avoided at all costs. Despite being able to provide all this information he didn’t have any clue how to get them out of there. Steles seemed to be in limited supply and guarded closely, as were weapons and the only way on or off the boat appeared to be portals created by the warlocks under Valentine’s mind control. After a few hours of sleep Jace had to leave to do the training he had agreed to for Valentine but promised to try and find a way to get all of them off this boat as soon as possible. Yes, even Magnus.

Now he found himself on one of the lower decks of the ship, supposedly training Valentine’s men as promised, when really he was just taking his frustration out on them. He knocked the new recruit coming at him down with a hard right hook for the second time and felt better than he had for over a day.

“Interesting teaching technique you have there,” Valentine said appearing from the shadows with a fairly displeased scowl as he looked over his bruised and bleeding men.

Jace didn’t break stride and finished flipping his next opponent hard onto his back.

“It’s how you taught me. Look how I turned out.”

“Our agreement was you train these men, not beat them senseless to let your anger out.”

“Well maybe if my parabatai and his friend weren’t locked in a cell downstairs and being dangled over my head I’d be a little less angry,” Jace said.

“His friend, how telling,” Valentine said. “You clearly have no love for downworlders either, Jace, why do you keep acting like you think I’m wrong about them?”

“Don’t twist my words around. I like downworlders just fine,” Jace said. “I may not like Magnus all that much but he doesn’t deserve to be locked up in a cage and experimented on.”

Valentine looked thoughtful for a moment. “Hmm, I have to get around to doing that.”

“You’re a monster.”

“So you’ve said, but you’re still here, helping me, chatting civilly. Pretty soon you might even start to like it here, where you can belong.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” Jace said. “I already have somewhere I belong.”

“Sir,” a voice interrupted them. They both turned around to see Reese and three other Circle members carrying an unconscious man between them. Judging by the paleness of his skin Jace guessed he was a vampire.

“Just the one?” Valentine asked, a hint of disappointment in his voice.

“Yes, sorry sir, there were two others with him but they had to be put down,” Reese replied, sounding apologetic for his failure but not his actions.

“You killed two vampires?” Jace asked incredulously, his mind flashing back to Raphael and Simon and wondering if they were okay.

Reese shrugged. “Among others, yes.”

“Why?”

“Valentine needs subjects for his experiments.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to go out and kill people!”

“We’re hunters, it’s right in the name,” Reese said. “Do you have a better way of rounding up these monsters?”

“I know I could at least bring them in without murdering innocent people,” Jace said, moving into Reese’s personal space.

“Great, you can go out with the next group,” Valentine chimed in with an all too pleased smile.

Jace faltered. “Wh … what?”

“I have a group going out later to bring me some fresh werewolves. You’re welcome to go with them, show us how you’d do it better,” Valentine said.

“You really think I’d hunt downworlders for you to bring to this hell?” Jace asked incredulously.

“It’s up to you. The group’s going out either way, and the men I’m sending don’t share your … merciful ideologies. You’ve got two hours to think about it,” Valentine said then turned to Reese. “Let’s get this one locked up.”

As Valentine and the others walked away, Jace was left standing alone with an impossible choice.

He looked over the half dozen men he had been training, none of whom looked eager to step up to him again.

“We’re done here,” he said and could feel their relief as he grabbed his jacket and moved towards the stairs that led down to the bowels of the ship.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

It was a relief but not a surprise to find Alec and Magnus where he had left them, still chained up but otherwise unharmed.

“You guys all right in here?” Jace asked just to be certain.

“We’re fine, all things considered,” Alec said, sitting up straighter as Jace entered.

“The boredom is starting to creep in though,” Magnus said. “The last few rounds of eye-spy have been uninspired to say the least.”

“You didn’t even get my last one,” Alec argued.

“I can’t see the gum on the bottom of your shoe Alec, it wasn’t fair,” Magnus said.

Alec shrugged in disagreement as Jace sat on the floor next to him.

“How was sparring?” Alec asked. “You okay?”

Jace shook his head. “No. I … I have a moral quandary.”

“Well, this should be more rousing than eye-spy,” Magnus muttered, sitting up straighter as well and leaning forward to hear better.

“What is it?” Alec asked.

“It’s Valentine, he needs more downworlders for his experiments. They brought in a vampire this morning and he’s sending more men out to get some werewolves later, he said I could go with them if I wanted to,” Jace explained.

“Your moral quandary is whether or not you should hunt downworlders?” Magnus asked, ice edging into his voice.

“Yes, but ... Valentine’s men kill whoever they don’t capture, they said they killed two vampires this morning. If I go with them maybe I can stop them from killing anyone, bring them all in alive,” Jace said.

“To be brought to this hell hole?” Magnus said.

“Obviously neither option’s great, okay, that’s why we’re talking about it,” Jace snapped. “I don’t want to hurt anybody or bring them here. I know he’s manipulating me, getting me to agree to hunt downworlders by saying he’ll kill them if I don’t. I just … I don’t know what to do.”

“You should go,” Alec said, his voice so firm it cut straight through Jace and Magnus’s bickering.

“I should?”

“Yes, of course. If you can get off this damn boat Jace, you go, you say you’ll hunt the downworlders then you get your ass to the Institute and don’t look back,” Alec said.

Jace’s shoulders slumped. “That wasn’t one of the options Alec.”

“It’s the only option, Jace. Most of Valentine’s men are here, and so is the Mortal Cup, if you can get to the Institute and tell them where we are, even just the general vicinity, we may be able to stop all this. Get a couple warlocks to help take down the wards then the Clave could swarm this place, end Valentine for good.”

Jace listened but shook his head. “I can’t, I’m sorry.”

“Why the hell not?” Alec asked.

“Because the second I take off Valentine’s going to kill you Alec! And with that rune on your chest he doesn’t even have to be in the same room as you to do it. I can’t just let that happen.”

“I’m not more important than stopping this war. Valentine is killing more people everyday. I’m not worth their lives. You came here for advice and I’m telling you, you have to go. We’re soldiers, this is our job. ”

“I can’t. I can’t just let him kill you Alec. We’ll find another way.”

Alec huffed in frustration and turned to Magnus.

“Can you please back me up here?” Alec asked.

Magnus swallowed. “I agree with Jace.”

“What?”

“Valentine doesn’t bluff Alec,” Magnus said. “He’ll kill you if Jace runs, I have no doubt of that.”

“And what about everyone else he’ll kill in the meantime? If Jace can get to the Institute fast enough we can stop all of this!” Alec said.

Magnus shook his head. “The cost would be too high.”

“I already lost you once Alec. You were just living at Magnus’s and it nearly killed me. Knowing that I let Valentine kill you, feeling you die … I can’t,” Jace said.

“Dammit!” Alec tugged at his chains and sighed. “Of course this would be the one thing you two actually agree on.”

Alec closed his eyes and tilted his head back, knowing he wouldn’t be able to convince Jace but hating that innocent people were probably going to die so he could live.

“Alec was right though,” Magnus said after a beat of silence. “You should go, on the hunt, save who you can. As you said, neither option is palatable, but alive and captured is preferable to death. Life is hope and we may all get out of here yet.”

Jace nodded and sighed in relief to have his choice made for him.

“All right. Thank you,” Jace said.

Magnus nodded in acknowledgement but then turned away, able to feel the anger radiating off Alec from their refusal to listen to him.

“I should get going then or they might leave without me,” Jace said, standing up.

“Jace,” Alec grabbed his parabatai’s hand and forced Jace to look at him. “Be careful.”

“Fine, if I have to,” Jace said petulantly but nodded seriously, then pulled Alec up to standing and hugged him. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Take care of yourself, both of you.”

“You too,” Magnus said and was surprised to realize he actually kind of meant it.

Jace nodded in acknowledgement then disappeared out the door again.

Alec sat back down with a sigh. It was going to be another very long day.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

An hour later Alec sat up expectantly when the door to their cell opened again, hoping it was Jace, and felt his whole body tense with dread when Valentine walked in, flanked by Reese and two more of his followers.

“What do you want?” Magnus asked as he and Alec both stood up, eyeing the group of men warily.

Valentine smiled.

“With Jace gone out hunting downworlders for me, I realized I had a promise to keep. Reese?”

Reese stepped forward carrying a small briefcase which he opened and held out. Valentine reached inside and pulled out a large syringe filled with a black liquid.

“No!” Alec yelled, knowing what the needle was for. “You … you said it wasn’t ready!”

“True, my injections still weaken a warlock’s powers more than I would like, but what can I say, I want to play with my new toy,” Valentine said.

“You son of a bitch!” Alec shouted. He pulled at his chains to try and get in front of Magnus but they remained just as firm as they had for the past day.

Next to Alec Magnus’s breathing had become heavy but he remained stoic even as Valentine approached.

“You can’t really think I’ll help you,” Magnus said.

“Not willingly, that’s the whole point,” Valentine said, then turned to the two men with him. “Hold him still.”

“Get away from him!” Alec shouted and pulled himself far enough to kick one of the men in the knee. Valentine rolled his eyes then nodded at Reese who stepped forward and punched Alec across the jaw.

“Alec,” Magnus said as he watched his Shadowhunter’s head bounce against the wall. “Leave him alone!”

“Worry about yourself warlock,” one of the men hissed as they pushed Magnus’s shoulders against the wall to keep him still. The second man grabbed Magnus by the hair and tilted his head to the side, exposing his neck.

“Get off me!” Magnus yelled as he struggled but was just held firmer.

“Easy,” Valentine said as he slunk forward, needle held high. “Any last words as a free man?”

“I look forward to seeing you burn in hell, and of being the one to send you there,” Magnus said.

“Not bad,” Valentine said.

A few feet away Alec stumbled back to his feet. “Wait …”

“Good-bye Magnus.”

Valentine plunged the needle into his neck.

“No!” Alec shouted but it was too late. Magnus was grunting in pain. The syringe was empty.

“There we go,” Valentine said as he removed the needle and nodded for his men to step away from the warlock. “Now let’s see what we get.”

As soon as he was released Magnus sank to his knees, his eyes slipping shut.

“Magnus!” Alec shouted, dropping down to the same height. “Stay with me Magnus.”

Magnus’s skin had gone pale and black veins began to appear on his face, then his eyes fluttered open and he met Alec’s gaze.

“There you are, stay with me Magnus, please,” Alec begged.

Magnus frowned and took in a shuddering breath. “I’m sorry.”

Then his eyes closed and his body slumped against the wall.

“No! Magnus!”

“Shut up,” Reese yelled as he kicked Alec in the side.

“No need to be dramatic,” Valentine said to Alec even as he watched Magnus slump over. “He’s just asleep for now. The injection is like a reset switch, except you get a totally different warlock when they wake up. I’ll show you.”

Valentine took a step towards Magnus and Alec jolted in his chains. “Get away from him!”

Valentine just sneered and knelt down. “Wake up warlock.”

Magnus’s eyes shot open and his head snapped up to look at Valentine. He blinked several times then asked, “What?”

“Stand up,” Valentine said.

Magnus rolled his eyes. “Fine.”

Alec watched confused as Magnus seemed to be himself but still did exactly as Valentine instructed.

“Magnus?” Alec asked, praying he’d look at him and smile or wink or make a lewd comment, but Magnus merely turned at his name, looked Alec over curiously, then turned back to Valentine.

“You take orders from me, understood?” Valentine asked.

Magnus didn’t smile but nodded in agreement. “Got it. What are we doing?”

“Nothing just yet. First we need to test the limits of what we’ve got here,” Valentine said. “You’re far more powerful than anyone I’ve worked on before, I need to know you’re not just faking.”

“Smart. That does sound like something I’d do,” Magnus admitted. “I’m quite clever.”

“Magnus please!” Alec called out, his heart breaking as he watched Magnus follow Valentine’s orders, knowing it was the warlock’s greatest fear. “It’s me! It’s Alec!”

Magnus turned to him again, this time looking mildly annoyed to be interrupted. “Yes, I know.”

“You … you have to fight this Magnus. You don’t want to work for Valentine.”

“Whatever you say, kid,” Magnus muttered and turned back to the Circle leader.

Valentine smiled triumphantly and tilted his head towards Reese.

“Leave the cuffs on him for now but take the chains off, let’s see how compliant he is,” Valentine said.

Reese came forward and ran a stele over the chain links, releasing Magnus’s hands but not removing the magic-dampening cuffs.

Magnus made a show of stretching out his arms and quirked an eyebrow at Valentine. “What now boss?”

Valentine pulled a small knife out of his belt and held it out to Magnus handle first. “Take it.”

Magnus did so and stood waiting instructions.

“Slice open your hand.”

“Magnus don’t!” Alec called out but it was too late, Magnus had already run the blade over his own palm.

“Ah,” Magnus hissed, squeezing his hand shut in pain after he was done. “So this is your idea of fun, huh?”

Valentine nodded, pleased with how fast and unflinchingly Magnus was responding to his commands. Beside him Reese glared skeptically though.

“He might still be faking it, sir. Anyone can cut their hand open.”

“You might be right, I can’t risk taking those cuffs off until I know he’s fully loyal,” Valentine said, looking thoughtful.

Magnus sighed as though bored by it all. “So what now then? You get a hoop for me to jump through?”

“No, we’ll need something a bit more extreme than that,” Valentine said, then his eyes landed on Alec. He smirked cruelly. “Stab the boy.”

“What?!” Alec cried.

“Fine,” Magnus said, shrugging. He twirled the knife once casually and stepped in front of Alec.

“Magnus stop! You don’t want to … ”

Before Alec could even finish his sentence Magnus had brought the knife down towards Alec’s chest.

The chains around Alec’s wrists had just enough slack to allow Alec to catch Magnus’s wrist before the blade touched his skin, but Magnus didn’t let that stop him. He wrapped his free hand around the back of the handle and pushed his full body weight down against it.

Alec grunted at the additional strain but managed to push back enough to keep the knife a hair’s breath away from his skin.

“Magnus please, you don’t want to do this,” Alec hissed out in a strained breath.

“Obviously I do,” Magnus said, shifting his weight to apply even more pressure. “But you aren’t making it easy.”

“Magnus, please remember, you hate Valentine, you hate the Circle and everything they stand for. They’ve murdered hundreds of your people. You don’t want to help them! You’re Magnus Bane. You fight the Circle, you protect people, that’s who you are!” Alec said, his voice panicked and pleading as the knife inched closer towards his chest.

Behind the couple Valentine smiled in amusement as he watched Magnus do his best to murder the young Shadowhunter.

“I’m waiting warlock,” Valentine called out, wondering how far he could push him.

Magnus grunted, his bloodied hand slick around the knife handle, and tried to push down harder, but said nothing.

Inches away, Alec was shaking with the effort of holding Magnus back. With his hands chained Alec couldn’t fight back, only hold him off, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to do that much longer.

Tears threatened to stream down Alec’s cheeks as he looked into the face of the man he cared about, the one who had saved his life multiple times, who he respected and cherished, the man he had kissed just hours ago and had looked forward to taking the first steps of sharing a life with. Now the eyes that he loved, usually so full of warmth, humor and compassion, were cold and vacant, and Alec thought it hurt more than the knife hovering above him ever could.

“Magnus please,” Alec begged, knowing his strength would give out soon. “It’s me, Alexander. We’re friends … we’re more than friends … we’re …”

A tear slipped down Alec’s cheek. There wasn’t a word for what they were. They were a maybe. A possibility. A dream that had barely started.

Then Magnus looked at him. The pressure pushing down on his arms never lessened but Magnus saw the tear on his cheek and his eyes softened around the edges, just the slightest hint that the man he cared about was still inside.

“Fuck it,” Alec whispered, then he leaned forward and kissed him.

Magnus tensed at first, pulling back slightly at the contact. But then he inhaled sharply, his shoulders relaxed, his eyes shuddered closed and the tension melted out of his arms. Alec closed his eyes when he felt Magnus kissing him back, confident now that he was not about to die, but also pretty sure that if he was then kissing Magnus was the greatest way to go. He pulled away slowly and opened his eyes to find Magnus looking at him, his eyes wide and terrified.

“Alec?” Magnus breathed out, recognition and compassion now back in his gaze.

“Yeah. Hey,” Alec said, breathing heavily.

Magnus looked down at his hands. The knife was in Alec’s chest.

“No,” Magnus whispered, jolting back in terror and pulling the blade out with him.

Alec shuddered and leaned against the wall for support.

“It wasn’t you,” he said, putting a hand over the wound to staunch the blood flow as much as possible.

Magnus shook his head then threw the knife to the floor and stepped forward, his horror shifting into concern.

“How bad is …?” Magnus never finished his question, instead he was cut off by a foot kicking out the back of his knee. Hands were on him moments later, throwing him back underneath his chains and locking his cuffs back on.

Valentine stepped forward, his expression of cruel joy now replaced with a cold, simmering fury.

“Well, that was … enlightening,” he said, his hate-filled gaze shifting between his two captives.

Alec swallowed, knowing he had just given Valentine about half a dozen more excuses to kill him.

“It seems I’ll need something stronger to deal with you, Bane,” Valentine said, clearly annoyed his serum had been only briefly been effective. His gaze shifted to Alec. “And for you as well.”

Alec wondered if Valentine was going to kill him right there. The man hated downworlders giving Alec little hope he would have any mercy for a gay shadowhunter who had feelings for one. Thankfully Valentine seemed more disgusted than anything at the moment and eager to make his escape.

“Lock them back up. Let’s go,” Valentine said, turning towards the door.

Reese checked Magnus’s cuffs a final time, shot them his own look of disgust, then grabbed his briefcase and followed Valentine out the door.

It wasn’t until after they heard the lock slam shut that either of them spoke.

“Magnus …”

“Please tell me you’re all right,” Magnus whispered, his eyes glued to the floor, unable to even look at Alec.

“I’m fine. It’s just a cut, it didn’t go through the bone,” Alec said, though he had the blanket Jace had brought him pressed firmly against the wound. “Really, I’m all right. Are you okay?”

Magnus shook his head. “I stabbed you.”

“Actually I leaned in to kiss you, so technically I stabbed myself.”

“Your stunning grasp of semantics isn’t going to make me feel better about this Alec,” Magnus said.

“Marcus and Peter tried to kill both of us. If they walked through that door right now, free of Valentine’s mind control, would you be mad at them?”

“Of course not, it wasn’t their fault.”

“Well then don’t be a hypocrite. This was Valentine, not you. The only thing you did was break out of it when no one else could,” Alec pointed out. “I’m proud of you.”

“You’re not allowed to be proud of someone who just tried to kill you!”

“I’m sorry Magnus but you’re not going to convince me to be mad at you. I know you’d never hurt me and I don’t want you beating yourself up when you should be pissed at Valentine.”

“You’re an incredibly foolish young man … but perhaps you make some good points,” Magnus said.

“I can be wise when I want to be.”

“A wise man who kisses someone who’s trying to kill them?”

Alec shrugged. “I didn’t have a lot of options and if it didn’t work, well, that’s not a bad way to go, kissing you.”

Magnus never thought that he could be close to blushing after such a traumatic event, but damn Alec Lightwood, that boy knew how to push on each of his emotions.

“Thank you,” Magnus said after a pause. “For not being mad at me and for keeping your promise.”

“I told you I’d save you,” Alec said. “And thank you for not stabbing me … deeper.”

Magnus laughed. “Any time.”

TBC

Chapter Text

It was a beautiful day on the ocean but Valentine couldn’t care less. Standing at the railing overlooking the sea, his knuckles were white as he gripped the steel bars and snarled at the water.

He had to get rid of the Lightwood boy.

He had known from Hodge that the boy had lived with the warlocks for some time, but he had been told it had been in an effort to save Jace’s life, and had even admired the young man for it for a time. Of course that was before he had known about the boy’s other proclivities. His sexual orientation he could ignore, but to debase himself with a downworlder, and clearly not for the first time. It was disgusting. He had to get rid of him, for the sake of his people and for Jace. His poor son, soul-bonded to such an abomination. But how to go about it.

As certain as Valentine was that he could sway Jace to his side eventually he knew that he loved his parabatai and would never forgive Valentine if he had him killed for no reason. Valentine couldn’t risk that, he needed Jace by his side, but he couldn’t keep the parabatai around either, especially if he ever planned to use Bane as a weapon. That was the most powerful injection he had ever made and Magnus had snapped out of it in minutes. Perhaps the warlock had put some kind of spell on the Lightwood boy to help him break free of the mind control. It was the only logical explanation.

“Boss?”

Valentine turned around to find Reese standing behind him. “What?”

“Your kid’s back from the hunt.”

Valentine nodded. “How did he do?”

“Brought two werewolves in, good looking stock, he’s locking them up now,” Reese said then he frowned. “He let three more get away though, all alive.”

Valentine sighed. He was making less progress with Jace than he’d like and if he killed his parabatai like he wanted he’d lose all the leverage he had on him to make him keep following his orders.

“He brought them in, it’s a start,” Valentine said.

“With all due respect, sir, I disagree.”

Valentine turned around and raised an eyebrow. “You do?”

“The kid’s not a believer,” Reese said. “He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t see what the downworlders are. Maybe you can force him to do what you want for awhile, but you’ll never be able to trust him on his own, let alone have him lead.”

Valentine’s jaw clenched but he refused to admit that he worried Reese was right. Jace didn’t exactly have love for the downworlders, but he didn’t hate them, a few he even seemed to respect, care for. It was … discouraging.

“Look at Jeremy,” Reese continued, pointing at a boy on the deck below, unaware his point had already been made. “His father was killed by these monsters. He wants to be here, he can be trusted with any mission because he wants revenge. He wants every last one of them wiped out. But the Herondale kid …”

“He hasn’t lost anyone to the downworld,” Valentine said, eyes lighting up. He turned to Reese and smiled. “Maybe it’s time that he did.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~

“Are you okay?”

Magnus blinked heavily and took a moment to get his jaw to work. It had been over an hour since Valentine had left them and Magnus had spent the majority of that time slumped against the wall exhausted.

“I’m fine.”

“I know that stuff’s still in your system,” Alec said softly. “Is it still affecting you?”

“I don’t have the urge to stab you again, if that’s what you’re wondering, but yes, kind of,” Magnus said. “It’s … confusing, and tiring. I feel like I’m constantly reminding myself about who I am.”

“Well if anyone has a strong enough sense of self to overcome Valentine’s injections it’s you,” Alec said, firmly believing every word. “What do you tell yourself, about who you are?”

“Oh, the usual, you’re Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn, protector of the downworld, pursuer of cute shadowhunters,” Magnus said, letting his lips quirk up at the end.

Alec huffed out a laugh, surprised by the compliment. “Cute?”

Magnus’s brow furrowed. “You don’t think you’re cute?”

Alec shrugged. “No one’s ever called me that before.”

“That’s a shame, Alec. You’re positively adorable.”

“Even filthy, bleeding and chained to a wall?” Alec asked.

“Especially then,” Magnus said. He looked at Alec and his eyes went serious. “You’re a light in the dark.”

Alec inhaled sharply.

“We’re gonna get out of here,” he said.

Magnus leaned back. “Of course we are.”

As if in response to Magnus’s words the door to their cell chose that moment to wrench open. Alec bolted to his feet, hopeful to see Jace walk in and felt his heart drop when Reese appeared with two other Circle members.

“Hello again,” Reese said, smiling widely.

“Don’t even think about touching him,” Alec ground out, certain they had come for Magnus again.

“Don’t worry loverboy, we’re here for you,” Reese said, stepping towards Alec. “Valentine wants to see you.”

“What for?” Magnus asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Alec said and held his chained hands out to Reese expectantly. If they were moving him they’d have to uncuff him. This could be their chance to escape. “I want to see him too.”

Reese huffed, fully aware Alec would attack them the second he was free. He inclined his head towards the other two men with him.

“Hold him.”

Alec grunted in frustration as strong hands wrapped around his arms and pushed him back against the wall and Reese approached him with a stele in hand.

“What are you doing?” Magnus asked, his stomach dropping. Every time the Circle had used a stele on Alec so far it had resulted in pure agony and torment.

“Just getting him ready for transport,” Reese said as he burnt a rune into Alec’s shoulder.

“No,” Alec hissed, struggling to pull free, but then he froze when he saw what Reese was drawing. “Son of a …”

Alec’s eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped to the floor before he could finish cursing Reese out.

“Alec!” Magnus yelled, pulling desperately at his cuffs. “What did you do to him?”

“Sleep rune,” Reese said as he ran his stele over Alec’s cuffs to open them then looked at the men with him. “Pick him up.”

The Circle members each hoisted one of Alec’s arms over their shoulders and began to drag him out of the room.

“Stop!” Magnus shouted, pulling at his cuffs, but knowing he had no chance of breaking free.

Reese watched Magnus struggle and laughed.

“Hope you took a good look warlock, I have a feeling you’re not going to be seeing him again.”

“No! Stop!” Magnus surged forward again. He felt a terrible crunch in his left wrist but didn’t care. He was still chained up and the men were taking Alec away. He heard a final laugh from Reese before the door slammed shut, cutting off his view of Alec and throwing him back into darkness. Magnus’s body shuddered with grief. They were gone.

“Alec,” he whispered.

For the first time since this nightmare began, there was no answer. He was alone in the dark.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Jace squeezed the edges of the brown paper bag in his hand and took a steadying breath as he navigated the halls of Valentine’s ship. He hated how familiar it was becoming, strolling through these halls of horrors but he shook his head and stayed on course. Alec and Magnus’s room was only two more halls down, and he really needed to see his brother.

The hunt had been hard, harder than he had imagined. The werewolf pack they had gone after had done nothing wrong as far as anyone could tell him, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and had been hunted without warning. It had killed him inside to take down the two he did, they were both just kids, barely older than twenty, and now they were trapped on this nightmare ship with the rest of them and it was all Jace’s fault.

At least he had let three get away. Maybe they would warn the rest to stay off the streets, maybe even tell the Institute what was happening. It was a long shot though and even if that happened it didn’t make Jace hate himself any less for what he had participated in. Seeing Alec though, that would help.

He reached the door to the cell and pushed it open eagerly.

“Hope you guys like chicken,” he said as he came in, holding out the bag of sandwiches he had brought them but froze when he saw the empty set of chains on the wall where Alec should be.

“Jace!” Magnus cried out in relief as he rushed to his feet. “Where’s Alec?”

“What do you mean where’s Alec? He’s supposed to be here! What happened to him?” Jace asked as he rushed into the room in a panic.

“Reese and two other Circle members came and took him, they said Valentine wanted to see him.”

“When?”

“Maybe twenty minutes ago,” Magnus said.

“Dammit,” Jace muttered.

“You have to find him.”

“Yeah,” Jace agreed and started to head for the door but stopped when he really looked at Magnus and noticed the black lines on his face. “What happened to you?”

“Valentine tried to use his mind control drug on me, it didn’t quite work as he planned,” Magnus said.

Jace looked skeptical and grit his teeth. He took a step back into the room.

“What really happened to Alec?”

“What are you talking about? I already told you.”

“You told me what Valentine wanted you to tell me, you’re under his control. What kind of game is this?” Jace asked.

“It’s not a game Jace. If I was under Valentine’s control do you really think he’d leave me down here, chained up with my magic cut off? I’m the most powerful warlock in the city, he’d be using me against the downworld as we speak.”

“There are half a dozen warlocks on this ship with those lines on their face and they all do exactly what Valentine tells them. I’m not gonna fall for his games, now tell me where Alec is!”

“I don’t know! Dammit Jace I’m not under his control. I was, briefly, but Alec snapped me out of it. Now please, forget about me and go find your brother! He’s alone and unconscious somewhere on this ship and Valentine’s not happy with him for breaking me out of his control.”

Jace clenched his teeth. “If you’re lying to me …”

“I’m not so I don’t care how that threat ends,” Magnus said. “I know we don’t like each other but I always respected that we both cared about Alec. At least I thought we both did.”

Jace took a step back, looking mildly chagrined.

“Fine, it’s not like I have much choice. Here,” he shoved the bag of water and sandwiches into Magnus’s hands. “Try to eat something.”

“That’s unlikely,” Magnus muttered, but took the bag all the same.

“Yeah, I know. Okay, I gotta go. I’ll … be back as soon as I can.”

“Just find him.”

Jace nodded and took off out the door. Magnus slumped against the wall. With no way out of his chains he was no closer to escape. After a few moments he peaked into the bag Jace had left him. His eyebrows went up. No bologna.

He removed the two chicken sandwiches and placed one a few feet away from him. For Alec, when he got back.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Alec’s arms hurt. That was the first thing he noticed as consciousness slowly rolled over him. He shifted his legs, surprised to find them holding up his body weight, then blinked his eyes open. Werewolf claws slashed towards him.

“Shit!”

He pulled back in surprise and hit something metal, unleashing the sound of hissing and gnashing teeth behind him.

Alec looked around him, desperately trying to get his bearings. He saw his arms hurt because his hands were chained around a hook above him and he was dangling with his toes barely touching the floor. A few feet to his left was a hanging cage that housed the werewolf that had swiped at him; she had green lines on her face, was half-transformed and snapping at Alec, but thankfully he was just far enough away that she couldn’t reach him. Looking behind him he saw the metal box he had hit was an enclosed cage. Through the thin slits he could see what looked like seelies desperately clawing to get at him. Finally catching his breath he looked around the rest of the room to find more of the same; caged demons, tied up vampires, penned werewolves. They were everywhere, all frothing with anger and focused solely on Alec, bleeding and dangling in the center of the room.

Alec swallowed as he realized that he was in The Zoo, the huge room of downworlders that Valentine held to torture and experiment on. Every downworlder in this room hated shadowhunters with all their being or had been driven mad by Valentine, and Alec was alone and defenseless right in the middle of them.

He was so very screwed.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Jace moved through the ship on a warpath, desperate to find Alec and threatening absolutely everyone he came across in order to do so. As yet, no one knew where Alec was and Jace had broken eight Circle members’ bones. He was about to make it nine when the man he had in an arm-bar started talking.

“Wait, wait!” he cried, not eager to have his shoulder dislocated.

“Where’s my brother?” Jace demanded, not relaxing his grip.

“I don’t know, I don’t know but WAIT! Valentine, I saw Valentine a few minutes ago!” he said.

“Where?”

“Down the hall, through the next bulkhead, on your left!”

Jace released the man and threw him aside.

“If you’re lying I will not forget it,” Jace warned him.

The man cradled his arm, leaned against the wall and glared. “You really are Valentine’s kid.”

Jace didn’t have time to unpack exactly what he meant by that and tried to forget it had been said as he stalked down the halls once more. When he passed the next bulkhead he turned left through a door and found Valentine casually slouched in a chair with Reese and several other Circle members nearby. They were drinking beer and even smiled when Jace came in.

“Jonathan, you’re here, finally. Grab a seat,” Valentine said.

Jace grabbed him by the collar and hauled him out of his chair. “Tell me where Alec is or I swear to god …”

“Tsk tsk tsk, remember son,” Valentine held up his arm to display the Loyalty Rune on his wrist, “whatever happens to me happens to your dear parabatai.”

Jace’s grip on Valentine’s shirt went white-knuckled but he restrained himself from becoming more violent. “What’s your game Valentine? Where is he?”

“You just had to ask.”

Valentine gestured to his right. Jace turned to see the room they were in opened up into a catwalk that overlooked a huge open area of the ship. Jace took a step closer and found he was standing high above the Zoo, like Caesar overlooking the Coliseum, he could see every cage and pen filled with captured demons, seelies, vampires and werewolves. But at the very center of everything, hanging by his wrists from chains in the ceiling, was his parabatai.

“Alec!” Jace yelled and felt relief spread through his stomach when Alec looked up.

“Jace!” Alec called back, his voice a mix of relief and a cry for help. Jace rushed forward, ready to jump into the pit of downworlders to release his brother but was pushed back as he reached for the railing.

“No,” Jace muttered, rushing forward but getting stopped by the ward again. He pounded on it with his fists, causing ripples of white energy to splay out along the ward lines, but could tell he had no chance of getting through it. He spun to face Valentine. “What the hell is this?”

“A test,” Valentine said, smirking and clearly proud of himself. “You see I think downworlders are evil, a plague on humanity that can’t resist their demonic urges and will wipe us all out given the chance. You on the other hand think downworlders are people who don’t want to hurt anyone and should be left alone. So, let’s test that theory.”

“You’re not testing anything on Alec,” Jace said.

“I’m afraid neither of you have a choice in that regard,” Valentine said then turned to one of his men standing on the catwalk. “Open the first cage.”

“No!” Jace yelled and ran back to the catwalk but the ward stopped him in his tracks once more and he could only watch as the gate of a metal cage was pulled open far below.

Alec felt a quick rush of relief when he spotted Jace on the catwalk above him but that relief was turning into pure dread as he watched Jace start pounding desperately against the ward separating them.

To Alec’s left there was the sound of metal clanging. He turned to see a Circle member pulling a cage door open followed by a vampire stumbling out into the open air.

“Shit.”

It only took a moment for the vampire to veer towards Alec. The cut on his chest from where Magnus stabbed him was still bleeding, meaning the scent of Nephilim blood was in the air, a smell that could drive normal vampires wild with thirst, let alone one who had been starved for days like this one looked like he had.

“Wait, listen to me, I’m not a Circle member,” Alec shouted at the vampire while tugging at his chains. His words had no effect on the downworlder though whose eyes were wide with blood lust as he rushed towards Alec faster and faster. “I know you’re starving but listen, I can help you get out of here. I can help you, just stop!”

The vampire continued to barrel towards him.

“Dammit,” Alec muttered when he realized the vampire wasn’t slowing down. He wrapped his hands around the chains above him and took a steadying breath, knowing he was only going to have one shot at this. The vamp got closer and was almost zombie-like in his thirst for Alec’s blood, eyes vacant as he reached desperately for his neck. Before he could lay a hand on the shadowhunter though Alec kicked the vampire in the stomach. The vamp bent over in pain and Alec pulled on the chains to give himself enough leverage to step up on his shoulders. Now a few feet higher off the ground Alec was able to pull his chained hands over the hook he was hanging from and suddenly he was free, rolling over the vampire and landing in a crouch behind him.

Up on the catwalk Jace couldn’t breathe as he watched Alec dangle like bait on a hook for the vamp coming towards him. It wasn’t until he saw Alec get himself out of the chains that he managed to look away and turn to Valentine.

“Take down the ward,” he pleaded. “Let me help him.”

“Now that would completely ruin the experiment, don’t you think?”

“He’s not even armed!” Jace yelled.

“Neither are the mundanes that these creatures feed on every night. Your parabatai has as much a chance as any of them do. I’d say that’s the epitome of fair,” Valentine said.

Jace wanted to argue more but had to see if Alec would even survive the next few moments.

Down on the ground, Alec sized up his opponent. The vampire was starving, that much was obvious, but he wasn’t near death yet. He seemed to be lacking the usual speed vampires had but he still recovered quickly from the blow Alec had landed on him. In comparison Alec was probably at a disadvantage, he had no runes activated, no stele, no weapon and his hands were still cuffed in front of him by a long length of chain.

“Please listen to me, my name is Alec Lightwood, I’m …”

Before Alec could go into a spiel about trying to help again the vampire rushed at him, his teeth aimed straight at his neck. Alec brought up his hands and extended the chain in front of him, gagging the vampire on the metal links. When the vamp tried to pull away Alec surged forward, pushing against the chain until the downworlder lost his balance and fell hard onto his back. Alec went with him, moving on top of him and wrapping the chain around his knuckles before he punched the vampire in the face three times in quick succession. He was pulling back for a fourth blow when he felt the vamp go limp beneath him and paused, watching as his eyes rolled back and he slipped into unconsciousness. Alec sighed, confident the vampire was too mad with blood lust to be faking, and rolled off the downworlder, knowing he was lucky to be alive.

Above him Jace slumped in relief.

“Thank the angel,” he muttered.

“Disgraceful,” Valentine said, shaking his head. “He pleaded with that creature, begged it to stop, even offered to help it, and it still tried to kill him. What does that truly tell you about downworlders son?”

“That they go out of their minds when you lock them up and starve them,” Jace said. “He passed your little test now drop the ward.”

“This isn’t a test of your parabatai, this is a test for the downworlders. And we aren’t done. More data has to be gathered for the experiment to be fair. Put three in this time.”

“What … no!” Jace yelled and ran at the Circle member Valentine had spoken to but it was too late, the signal was sent, the cages were being opened. “Alec!”

Jace pounded on the ward wall, hoping to warn his parabatai about what was about to happen but it wasn’t necessary. Alec was already watching the cages open around him, revealing a fully transformed werewolf, a seelie frothing at the mouth and a vampire who looked much healthier than the one Alec had just taken down.

“Oh shit,” Alec muttered again, shuffling back and dropping into a fighting stance.

“Stop this, Valentine please! They’re gonna kill him,” Jace said.

Valentine smirked triumphantly. “Yes, they are. You’re starting to get it son. That’s their nature, they’re killers and they don’t care who they hurt, even if it’s your downworlder loving parabatai.”

Jace had no reply, he could only watch as Alec fought for his life.

Alec assessed the downworlders as they came out of their cages and was dismayed to find they all looked more violent and alert than his first opponent had been. He did his best to be non-threatening but the vampire and werewolf were both moving towards him and he knew he had no chance of taking them both on at once. The Angel seemed to be at least partially on his side though as the seelie suddenly ran and tackled the vampire to the ground. Alec thought for a moment he might have an ally but then saw that the seelie was completely feral from Valentine’s injections and had merely attacked the person closest to it.

Either way, there was still a fully transformed werewolf bearing down on Alec so he did the only thing he could think of; he ran, and the werewolf ran after him.

In just a few strides Alec came up on the hook he had been hanging from a minute before. He leapt and grabbed it with both hands, forcing the werewolf to pass underneath him. Neither of them really expected it when Alec dropped on its back. The werewolf growled and tried to snap at him, but Alec managed to avoid its teeth and get his chained hands looped around the wolf’s neck. Then he pulled, hard. The wolf bucked and panicked as Alec choked it, trying to throw him off, but he kept the chain pulled tight and prayed he had enough strength to hold on until the werewolf passed out.

The wolf wasn’t ready to go down though and slammed itself against a steel pillar in an attempt to throw Alec off.

“Ah!” Alec cried out as his leg was crushed between the steel and the wolf’s body. He clenched down with the pain and used it to pull even harder on the chains. Beneath him the wolf finally grew weaker as it struggled to breathe.

“It’s okay, I won’t hurt you just … pass out, please,” Alec muttered, feeling his own strength waning as he struggled to stay on top of the werewolf. Finally, with a low howl of pain, the wolf collapsed, taking Alec to the ground with it as its eyes rolled back and its tongue hung from its mouth.

Alec sighed with relief and tried to ignore that his left leg was probably broken as he carefully pulled his chained hands back over the wolf’s head.

“Alec!”

Jace’s panicked voice made him look up just in time to see the vampire before it tackled him to the ground.

Alec landed hard and felt the wind get knocked out of him and was momentarily jealous that vampires didn’t breathe as his attacker seemed unfazed. The vampire had seelie blood dripping down his chin, indicating he was much healthier than the first one Alec had fought, but he didn’t seem any more inclined to listen to anything Alec had to say.

“Stop … I’m not … a Circle member …” Alec gasped out but the vampire made no indication that he had heard him, instead he leaned in close and licked the fresh blood off Alec’s chest.

“Mmmm, Nephilim,” the vampire whispered, his eyes glazed with blood lust.

Alec tried to kick him off but his broken leg could barely move. He managed to free his arms enough to strike the vampire across the face but this just angered him to the point that he grabbed Alec by the hair and slammed his head hard against the ground twice.

Alec grunted in pain and felt his vision start to go hazy but his eyes opened wide a moment later when the vampire’s teeth sunk deep into his neck.

High above all of this, Jace’s blood was burning with rage as he was forced to do nothing while Alec fought for his life against three opponents. The feeling of panicked hopelessness felt like it was going to kill him as sure as any blade. He couldn’t just watch his brother be torn apart, he had to get through this ward. But he couldn’t attack Valentine, that would only hurt Alec due to that damn Loyalty Rune. He could lash out at the Circle members around him but that would just piss Valentine off, and he still wouldn’t get through the ward.

He looked around for some solution and just a few feet down the catwalk spotted a warlock watching the proceedings, his face pale with black lines on it.

Jace ran down the catwalk, grabbed the warlock and wrapped his arms around his throat.

“What are you …”

“Drop the ward! Now!” he demanded.

“What? I can’t! Valentine …”

“Yeah yeah, you’re a good little warlock, but my brother’s down there and you’re going to be a dead warlock if you don’t drop that ward so I can help him!” Jace shouted, his voice just at the edge of hysterical. When the warlock didn’t move his arms went tighter. “I’m not gonna ask again!”

The warlock’s eyes went wide with panic but he managed to look behind Jace and see Valentine watching the exchange with interest. The Circle leader raised an eyebrow as though weighing several options and then nodded to the warlock, who sighed in relief.

“Now!” Jace shouted, looking up in time to see Alec get crushed against a steel pillar while riding on a werewolf’s back.

“Okay!” the warlock placed his hand against the ward and pushed out enough energy to make a gap in the shield big enough to fit through.

Reese tried to rush forward to stop Jace but paused when Valentine grabbed his arm.

“What are you doing?” Reese asked.

“Seeing if he’s been pushed far enough to do what has to be done,” Valentine said.

Jace didn’t waste any time. He jumped through the hole in the ward, pushed himself over the railing and landed in a roll twenty feet below in the middle of the Zoo. To his left was the body of a dead seelie, and across the room he saw Alec, hauling himself off of an unconscious werewolf, too dazed to notice the vampire rushing towards him.

“Alec!” Jace called out in warning, but it was too late. Alec was tackled and disappeared behind the wolf’s body.

Jace took off at full speed, covering the room in record time, and leapt over the werewolf’s body just as the vamp’s teeth sunk into Alec’s neck.

“Ah!” Alec grunted.

“No!” Jace raced forward, grabbed the vampire by the hair and pulled him off. Alec cried out again as the vampire’s teeth tore new flesh coming out and curled around the wound instinctively.

Dazed with blood lust the vampire swiped at Jace, who avoided the strike easily then kicked it in the stomach and kneed it in the face. The vamp fell to the ground and Jace tore the end of a wooden beam off a nearby cage.

“You’re not going to touch my brother again,” Jace muttered, eyes alight with rage. He brought his makeshift stake up high and was about to bring it down but was stopped by a hand wrapping around his ankle.

“Jace no,” Alec said, struggling to stand while he kept one hand pressed against the wound in his neck. “It’s not his fault … Valentine … it was Valentine. Please.”

Jace almost argued with him. This vampire had been moments away from killing Alec, his brother, his parabatai, the person who fought for downworlders the most. Then Jace’s gaze strayed behind Alec to the unconscious werewolf. It had transformed back into its human form upon being knocked out. It was one of the werewolves he had brought in earlier that day.

Jace dropped the stake. This was Valentine’s fault, but it was his too.

He stepped over to the vampire and kicked it in the temple hard enough to render it unconscious and then turned to Alec. His parabatai had made it up to one knee but his other leg didn’t seem to want to hold his weight and his hand was still pressed hard against the bite on his neck.

“Dammit,” Jace said, sitting him down to lean against the steel pillar and applying pressure to the wound. “I got you.”

Alec looked up at him with relieved eyes. “Thank you.”

Jace nodded and knew he wasn’t being thanked for the rescue but for sparing the vampire.

“Just don’t tell anyone, I’ve got a reputation as a heartless bastard you know.”

“You wish you did,” Alec said and hissed when he tried to shift his leg. He wouldn’t be able to stand on it. He eyed the cages around them that were still brimming with feral downworlders. “He’s not going to open more of these cages is he?”

“I have no idea what the hell he’s going to do,” Jace said.

On the catwalk Valentine frowned in disappointment with himself and Jace. He had been so close, but Jonathan hadn’t killed a single one of the downworlders like he thought he would, and worse he had managed to save his parabatai. He shook his head and turned to Reese.

“Drop the ward, put the boy back in his cell,” Valentine ordered.

As the ward shimmered away around them, Jace stripped off his sweater and tried to wrap it around the wound on Alec’s neck.

“I think he’s done,” Jace said, motioning towards the ward going down. He looked over Alec’s wounds and clenched his jaw. “I’m so sorry Alec. This is all because of me. Valentine he … he wants me to see that downworlders are evil. I guess this was his latest idea to prove his point.”

“They’re not … they’re not Jace,” Alec said, eyes half lidded as his adrenaline rush wore off and he continued to lose blood.

“I know. It’s okay, I know,” Jace said. He looked over again at the werewolf he had captured, the one he had forced to be here, the one that had been tortured into madness by Valentine because of him. “We’re the only evil things here.”

“All right, break it up, time to go,” a voice said just as a hand landed on Jace’s shoulder. He looked up to see one of Valentine’s men trying to pull him up while another man hauled Alec roughly to his feet, making him cry out in pain as he was forced to put weight on his bad leg.

“Don’t touch him!”

Suddenly Jace couldn’t take any more. His vision went red and he turned on the man holding him, headbutting him hard and then reaching down to take the man’s seraph blade from his belt. The Circle member tried to fight back but Jace swung around in one fluid motion and plunged the sword deep into his stomach. The second man dropped Alec and tried to rush at Jace but before he could pull out his weapon Jace had slashed his throat.

Another half a dozen Circle members had been coming towards him but they all stopped when they saw the crazed look in Jace’s eyes as he panted with anger.

“Who else wants to lay a hand on my brother? Huh! Who else wants to die!? Come on!”

No one stepped forward and honestly, Jace was a little disappointed.

“If any of you come anywhere near him again, I will not hesitate to kill you,” Jace said. He didn’t wait for a response from the Circle members, the dead bodies of their friends proved he meant it.

Confident his point was proven, Jace reached down for Alec and pulled his arm over his shoulders to help him walk out of this hellscape.

No one tried to stop them.

On the catwalk Reese shook his head. “Still think you can control him?”

If he hadn’t just lost two good men to Jace’s anger Valentine would have killed him where he stood. Instead Valentine stalked away. He would need another plan to turn his son to his side.

TBC

Chapter Text

Magnus paced the three feet his chains allowed him over and over again, his stomach a rock of tension as he worried about what was happening to Alec. Screw the fact that he was immortal, this feeling of dread was going to kill him he just knew it.

Then he learned the true meaning of worry as the door to his cell burst open and Jace stumbled through with a bleeding and half-conscious Alec swung over his shoulder.

“Oh my god,” Magnus whispered, struggling to get closer but he needn’t have bothered, Jace lowered Alec to lean against the wall directly next to him. “Alexander!”

“M’fine,” Alec muttered to Magnus, only half-conscious but still tense with pain.

“You could have fooled me,” Jace mumbled as he grabbed one of the blankets angrily and pressed it against the wound in Alec’s neck.

“What happened?” Magnus asked, placing a hand on Alec’s good shoulder to steady him as Jace applied pressure.

“Valentine,” Jace said, practically spitting the name. “He tossed him into his Zoo and had downworlders attack him one at a time, like some kind of messed up shadow world gauntlet.”

“I’m okay,” Alec said again, slightly more aware now. “You saved me.”

“Not as soon as I should have. Shit,” Jace pushed Alec’s tattered shirt aside and saw the long gash down his chest. “Did the werewolf do this?”

Magnus understood Jace’s concern; it was rare but a werewolf cut could sometimes be deep enough to turn someone into a lycanthrope as well. Alec shook his head.

“No, it wasn’t the werewolf. I …” Alec glanced quickly at Magnus, clearly remembering the warlock holding a knife above his chest. “I got this before.”

“It’s a long story,” Magnus said, his own eyes downcast now.

If Jace was relieved to hear this he didn’t show it, instead he glowered at the amount of blood dripping down Alec’s chest and seeping into the cloth pushed against his wound. Jace removed the blanket and grimaced.

“This is bad, you need a healing rune,” Jace said, but Alec shook his head.

“No, I’m fine,” Alec said. “I’ll be fine.”

“Your leg’s broken and you’re losing blood, fast,” Jace said.

“The only way to get a stele is to ask Valentine and he’ll want something from you in return,” Alec said.

“He can have whatever he wants if it means you won’t bleed out in this shitty cell. This is my fault Alec, he did this to you to get to me. I don’t care what I have to do to make it right.”

“I do,” Alec said, wrapping a hand around Jace’s wrist to keep him from storming out. “You’ve helped train his killers for me, you’ve captured downworlders, whatever he asks for next will be even worse. I don’t want you to lose your soul for me Jace, please. This is exactly what he wants.”

“I can’t just let you die.”

“Then do something else. Find a way out of here, a way to stop him, anything, but don’t give him what he wants. We share a soul Jace, if you lost yours for me it would hurt worse than dying ever would.”

Jace looked away and blinked back tears, beyond conflicted about what to do. He looked at Magnus, whose hand was wrapped around Alec’s comfortingly.

“And what do you think? Whose side are you on this time?” Jace asked.

Magnus licked his lips and squeezed Alec’s hand. He wanted to be on Jace’s side, screw Blondie’s soul, it was worth it for Alec’s life, but he also respected Alec too much to say this aloud.

“Unlike last time, this doesn’t involve the downworld. This is between the two of you. It’s your choice Jace,” Magnus said.

Jace growled in frustration.

“Hold this here,” Jace said to Magnus, indicating the makeshift bandage on Alec’s neck. When Magnus did as asked he stood up stiffly. “I’ll be back.”

“No, Jace! Don’t!” Alec pleaded but Jace was already gone. Alec tried to follow after him but it was a testament to how injured he was when Magnus managed to push him back down easily.

“Try not to move, you’ll make the bleeding worse,” Magnus said.

Alec closed his eyes and shook his head, in a new kind of pain. “I can’t let him do this for me. I’m not worth it.”

Magnus moved his free hand to rest on Alec’s cheek, forcing his shadowhunter to open his eyes and look at him.

“That is categorically untrue,” Magnus said.

Alec’s eyes softened as he looked at Magnus, whose skin was still pale from Valentine’s injections. He must have been worried sick while Alec was gone. He looked exhausted.

“Are you okay?” Alec asked.

“Now that you’re back I’m … as good as I can be, given the circumstances.”

“I’m sorry if I scared you.”

Magnus huffed out a laugh. “It’s not as though you volunteered to be dragged away to a downworlder gauntlet. Please don’t apologize.”

“Okay.”

“My people …” Magnus trailed off for a moment, remembering the horrid conditions of Valentine’s ‘Zoo’ that he had seen the day they arrived on the ship. “… are they all right?”

“They’re alive,” Alec said. “I didn’t kill any of them, neither did Jace. But they’re … they’re messed up. I tried to reason with a few of them but they just attacked me.”

Magnus dabbed at the blood staining Alec’s chest, trying to clean it up.

“That seems on track with the day you’re having. You didn’t kiss any of them as well did you?” Magnus asked, smirking teasingly about how Alec had snapped him out of his brainwashing.

Alec laughed. “No. I’ll try that next time, it’s been a good strategy so far.”

“And here I thought we had something special Mr. Lightwood,” Magnus said, trying to keep his tone light.

Alec reached up, took Magnus’s free hand and ran his thumb along the inside of his palm. “We do.”

Magnus felt himself deflate at Alec’s touch and collapsed forward to rest his forehead against Alec’s.

“I was so scared. Reese, he … he said I’d never see you again.”

“Well you can’t trust the Circle,” Alec said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Magnus forced a smile on his face but couldn’t stop his eyes from seeing the paleness of Alec’s skin and the amount of blood staining the cloth in his hands. He couldn’t escape the fact that it scared him.

“Promise me,” Magnus said.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve proven to be a man of your word Alexander. Promise me we’re going to get out of here alive. Both of us.”

Alec held Magnus’s gaze and nodded. “I promise.”

“Well then, we’re as good as free. Thank you.”

Magnus leaned forward to show his gratitude with a kiss. They both inhaled deeply as their lips met and Magnus brought a hand up to cradle Alec’s cheek once more, relishing in the feeling of Alec alive against his lips, but the moment was broken when Alec tried to shift his injured leg and grunted in pain. Magnus pulled away sharply, scared to hurt his shadowhunter further, and then jumped when the door to their room clanged open yet again.

They both turned to see Jace entering their cell, alone and carrying a first aid kit which he angrily slammed against the ground as he dropped to his knees on Alec’s other side.

“You didn’t go to Valentine,” Alec said, his voice a mix of surprise and amazement.

“No, because I’m a dumb idiot who will apparently do anything for his dumb idiot brother no matter how dumb and idiotic it is,” Jace muttered in response as he sorted through the first aid kit, refusing to meet Alec’s eye.

Alec looked at Jace with more relief and gratitude than Magnus had ever seen before.

“Thank you,” Alec said, his words catching in his throat in a way that Magnus hoped was from emotion and not his injuries.

“Don’t thank me yet. If we can’t stop the bleeding and you get worse I’m still getting that stele. I meant what I said Alec, I’m not gonna let you die, but I’ll try another way first,” Jace said. He finished going through the first aid kit but then his hand hovered hesitantly over the contents. After a moment he looked up at Magnus, remembering how he had bandaged Alec’s wounds back at his apartment after the Circle attack. “What do you know about mundane medicine?”

“I’m guessing more than you if you’re asking,” Magnus said, but there was no bite in his words. He was still putting pressure on Alec’s wound but leaned over to peer into the box of medical items. “Use the antiseptic to clean the wound, once I can see how bad it is we’ll decide if it needs stitches or just bandages.”

“Okay,” Jace said, not arguing with Magnus for perhaps the first time ever. He picked up the bottle of antiseptic and Magnus took the makeshift bandage away from the wound.

“Alexander, look at me for a moment,” Magnus said, squeezing Alec’s hand to draw his attention. Alec did as instructed but his eyes were starting to droop with exhaustion once more.

“Why?”

Magnus watched Jace take the cap off the antiseptic and get ready to pour.

“Because this is going to hurt.”

“Ah!” Alec hissed in pain but managed to not pull away.

“Sorry,” Jace said as he used a gauze pad to clean away the blood. “Magnus told me to.”

Magnus glared at the blond Shadowhunter but Jace just shrugged, “You did.”

“Yeah, I heard him Jace,” Alec muttered, gritting his teeth as Jace cleaned out the wound.

It didn’t take long for Jace to clear enough blood away to get a good look at the damage. Magnus and Jace could both see that the bottom half of the wound wasn’t so bad but the top half was more gruesome where the flesh had torn when Jace ripped the vampire off Alec.

“All right, we can bandage the bottom part but the top needs stitches,” Magnus decided.

“Okay,” Jace said, scouring through the case for a needle.

“I hope you know how to sew as I’m slightly encumbered,” Magnus said, holding up his still chained hands for emphasis.

“Right,” Jace said, only just realizing that even though there were Circle members guarding the hall none had come in here to demand Alec be tied back up as well. Jace really must have scared them back in the arena. “Yeah, I can do it.”

“Excellent, I’ll hold the skin together while you stitch,” Magnus said, his fingers already coming up to hold the wound closed. Alec tensed at the touch and Magnus hesitated. “How are you doing Alec?”

“I’m great. Mundane medicine is great,” Alec said through clenched teeth.

“I can still get that stele,” Jace said quietly.

“No, I’m fine, just do it.”

“All right,” Jace said. He held up the threaded needle but hesitated at the awkward angle. “Actually can you lean against Magnus? You’re too close to the wall.”

“Yeah.” Alec shifted so his back was to Jace and he was facing Magnus, then wasted no time resting his forehead against Magnus’s shoulder, sighing at the small comfort.

Able to see the wound more clearly now Jace started stitching. Alec tensed and bit back a cry of pain.

“I’ll try to be quick,” Jace promised. As he began to sew the wound closed he looked up and found he was almost face to face with Magnus whose skin was still unnaturally pale. “Sorry by the way, about before, when I didn’t believe you weren’t brainwashed.”

Magnus huffed out a laugh. “Given my appearance I can fully understand your hesitancy, no apology needed.”

“Thanks,” Jace said. “So did Valentine’s stuff not work on you?”

Magnus’s gaze shifted down. “No, it did, for a time.”

“How’d you break out of it?”

Magnus felt Alec tense beneath him before he lifted his head, “I don’t think …”

“Hey!” Jace cut him off, frantically freezing his hands in place. “No talking while I’m sewing your throat closed please. I’m already not great at this.”

“Sorry,” Alec mumbled then put his head back down.

“It’s fine, just try not to move,” Jace said. He started working again and then looked back at Magnus. “So, how did you break out of it?”

“It doesn’t really matter,” Magnus said, finishing the thought Alec had tried to voice.

“It kind of does. There are at least half a dozen brainwashed warlocks walking around this ship and none of them are wearing those cuffs you have on. If I can break even one of them out of Valentine’s control we might be able to get out of here,” Jace said.

As much as Magnus hated to admit it, that was an excellent point, in theory at least.

“Our … strategy can’t be replicated I’m afraid.”

“What does that mean?”

“Just tell him Magnus, it’s all right,” Alec said.

“I’d rather not risk pissing off your brother while he’s sewing your skin closed.”

“I’m gonna be more pissed off if someone doesn’t just tell me what the hell happened,” Jace said. “And you’re going to be the first shadowhunter with a crooked deflect rune if you don’t stop moving.”

Magnus sighed, accepting that Jace wouldn’t be backing down.

“Fine. Valentine used his injection on me and, as I said, it worked at first. He unchained me and I made no attempt to fight back, I even sliced open my own hand at his request. But then he needed proof it was really working so he … he told me to stab Alec.”

Magnus watched as Jace clearly went through great effort to not react violently to this news so he wouldn’t screw up Alec’s stitches.

“That son of a bitch,” Jace mumbled. “So what, you couldn’t do it and that snapped you out of it?”

“Sort of. I may have … lightly stabbed him.”

“The cut on his chest?”

“Yes.”

“It wasn’t your fault Magnus,” Alec piped in.

Magnus smiled gratefully.

“Even so, seeing what I’d done seemed to snap me out of it before I could do worse. What Valentine asked me to do must have been so against my nature that I couldn’t allow myself to do it, despite the injection,” Magnus said, hoping Alec wouldn’t mind that he neglected to mention the part about the kiss. As completely unashamed as he was of his blossoming relationship with Alec, he knew that particular piece of information was Alec’s to share with his parabatai.

Jace sighed.

“Dammit, okay, you’re right, that’s not really a strategy we can use,” Jace said, then cut the end off the stitches and pulled out a bandage to cover the rest. “I’m done with this at least.”

“Thanks,” Alec said, slumping with relief and exhaustion.

“Thank me when we get out of here, except I have no idea how we’re going to do that,” Jace said. Magnus recognized his bitterness for what it was, anger at not being able to do more.

Magnus gently shifted Alec off of him and didn’t fail to notice the way his eyes were struggling to stay open.

“Perhaps we should sleep on it,” Magnus suggested, hoping Jace would understand that Alec needed to rest.

“Yeah, sounds good,” Jace said.

Jace spent a few minutes cleaning out the rest of the cuts littering Alec’s body, but once he was done Alec fell asleep almost instantly, head rested on Magnus’s shoulder. Magnus had to admit he was exhausted as well after the day he had had but was hesitant to close his eyes, terrified he would wake up to Alec missing again or worse. His eyes flitted over to Jace who was a few feet away from them sitting ramrod straight with his eyes firmly fixed on the door as though daring anyone to try and walk through it.

“I’ll keep watch,” Jace said, seeming to sense Magnus’s concerns. “Get some rest. I’m not going anywhere.”

Magnus was very surprised to find that he believed him and felt himself drift off to sleep shortly after.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Magnus awoke with a start a few hours later, immediately on alert, but found the room was quiet around him. Jace was still sitting up next to him but turned when Magnus moved, his eyes shining with an alertness that made it obvious he hadn’t been sleeping. On Magnus’s legs was one of their blankets, bunched up into a makeshift pillow, with Alec asleep on top of it. Magnus sighed with relief when he realized it was Alec shifting in his sleep that had woken him up and ran a comforting hand through his shadowhunter’s hair.

As Magnus tried to move into a more comfortable position, Jace looked down at his parabatai with a sad kind of wonderment.

“How is he?” he asked in a whisper. The question surprised Magnus as it would be perfectly simple for Jace to come closer and check on Alec himself, but Jace seemed hesitant to come closer, maybe even scared. It confused Magnus for a moment until he looked at Jace and saw not just worry in the shadowhunter but something else; guilt. Ah. Jace felt guilty for what happened to Alec and was keeping his distance out of fear of hurting him again, as though that would truly do anything at this point. Instead of saying anything Magnus shifted his free hand to rest on Alec’s back to feel his breathing.

“About the same I think,” Magnus said just as softly, careful not to wake his sleeping shadowhunter. “His breathing and heart rate have been steady since he fell asleep.”

“Good, that’s good,” Jace said. They sat in silence for a few moments. Jace took the opportunity to look over the pair next to him and was taken aback by how Magnus could look so relaxed and protective at the same time and how Alec had been comfortable enough with Magnus to fall asleep in his lap like it was the safest place in the world. Safer than any place Jace had ever been able to offer him. A few days ago the thought would have made him angry but now Jace just found himself feeling incredibly grateful that the warlock was here.

Jace sighed and ran a hand down his face. “Magnus, I’m sorry.”

Magnus’s eyebrows went up with pleasant surprise. “Not that I don’t love to hear it, but may I ask for what in particular?”

“A ton of stuff, but mostly, I … I’ve been a dick to you pretty much every chance I got and … you didn’t deserve it.”

Magnus remained silent, not about to disagree, and knowing that if Jace was anything like his parabatai he needed a moment before he would continue.

“I just … I know you’re a good guy, Alec says it all the time and I’ve seen it myself. You’d risk your life for others and you care about Alec and you’d do anything to help us stop Valentine, I know all that, but … every time I’d look at you I’d just see the man who took my brother away, because of something I did, and I … I got so angry.”

“Angry at me or yourself?”

Jace considered it. “Probably both. I’m angry a lot. But that doesn’t mean I get to take it out on you.”

“Hmmm,” Magnus nodded and stared straight ahead, considering Jace’s words. “I haven’t exactly been kind myself. Alec has similarly told me that you’re a good person on many occasions, and I’ve seen for myself that you’ll do anything to protect those you care about. But every time I look at you I just see the man who killed my friend.”

Jace nodded in understanding.

“I get that, and I’m sorry … about Ragnor. I’m so sorry. If I could change it somehow, if I could take it back, I would, so fast. And not just because of Alec and the Life Debt. I … I never want to hurt anyone that doesn’t deserve it, and Ragnor, he didn’t deserve that.”

“He didn’t,” Magnus said. He was still carding his fingers through Alec’s hair but he was unsure if he was comforting himself or Alec at this point. “I’ll probably never fully forgive you, but I do know it was an accident, perhaps preventable, but an accident nonetheless. And despite how furious I was with you, Alec was right at your sentencing, you didn’t deserve to die for it.”

“Well it wasn’t the first time he saved my ass,” Jace said.

Magnus’s gaze dropped down to the bandage wrapped around Alec’s neck reminding him of how close they had come to losing him just a few hours ago.

“Hopefully it won’t be the last either,” Magnus said.

Jace’s jaw clenched, his mind going to the same place as Magnus’s.

“We have to get out of here. Valentine’s going to kill him, it’s only a matter of time.”

“I know,” Magnus said. “I suspect he was never meant to make it out of that arena alive.”

“He wasn’t. Valentine thought if he made me watch downworlders kill him then I would start hating you guys instead of him.”

“How did that work out?” Magnus asked.

“I want to rip Valentine’s spine out through his face,” Jace answered.

“A compelling mental image,” Magnus said, “but I’d prefer a plan that wouldn’t also kill Alexander by way of Valentine’s Loyalty rune.”

Jace rubbed his face. “God, I forgot about that. Fuck. How the hell are we going to get out of here?”

Magnus started to open his mouth but stopped at the sound of footsteps approaching. Jace stood up, immediately on alert, while Magnus’s fingers clenched around Alec protectively before gently shaking him awake. Alec blinked his eyes open just in time to see the door open only a fraction of the way.

“Who’s …?”

Before Jace could finish his question a glowing white orb was thrown into the room.

“Shit,” Jace muttered. He tried to dive on top of Alec and Magnus but only made it a foot before the room exploded with light and then everything went black.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

Jace’s skin was warm. That was the first thing he noticed as he clawed his way back to consciousness. He was laying on his side with cold metal beneath him and blinked his eyes open to find the sun in his face. He flinched away and tried to sit up.

“Morning son, I hope you slept well. I’ve got a big day planned for you.”

Jace spun around and found Valentine standing a few feet away from him, surrounded by at least a dozen Circle members. Jace looked around and saw that he had been brought topside and he wasn’t alone; Magnus and Alec were there too, handcuffed and on their knees on opposite sides of the deck. Magnus was closer to Jace while Alec was about twelve feet away with Reese and another Circle member looming behind him and a brainwashed warlock next to them. Jace squinted and could just see the shimmer of a ward around his parabatai, cutting him off from getting to him yet again.

“No. No, I’m not playing any more of your games Valentine,” Jace said, knowing nothing good could from this twisted set up.

“You haven’t even let me explain though. You see this is your chance for revenge, Jace,” Valentine said.

Jace licked his lips and took a step forward, suddenly eager to play if he was going to get to hurt Valentine somehow.

“I’m listening.”

Valentine pointed at Magnus. “Against him.”

Jace’s brow furrowed. “What?”

“No,” Alec whispered from across the deck and tried to stand but it only took a light shove from Reese to send him back down, grimacing as his broken leg took the brunt of the fall.

“Stop, no,” Jace said. “I don’t want revenge on Magnus so just let him go. Game over. We’re done here.”

“Jonathan, you can’t lie to me,” Valentine said, moving closer to Jace and touching his shoulder to spin him around to look at Magnus. The warlock remained on his knees, stoic, but glaring in Valentine’s direction. “Look at him. He thinks he’s so much better than you are, stronger, more righteous. He thinks he can lay judgment on you, he thinks he can take your parabatai away from you, like he didn’t know what that would do to you. He didn’t care what was fair, Jace, he just took what he wanted. You can’t tell me you’re not just a little bit angry about that.”

Jace shook his head. “It doesn’t matter if I’m angry. Even if I was, I don’t attack people who are tied up and defenseless. I’m not a monster.”

“I highly recommend you at least give it a try, get some of that anger out and focused on where it belongs. You’ll feel better Jace.”

Jace licked his lips, he knew what Valentine was doing, he wanted Jace to get a taste for hurting downworlders hoping he would like it, and he was using Jace’s anger towards Magnus as a starting point. Jace had no desire to give in to him but couldn’t deny he was terrified about what Valentine was going to do when he said no.

“If you mean I might start to feel like you do, then no thanks, I’ll pass. Can we all go back to our cell now please? I don’t know about you guys but I need my beauty sleep,” Jace said, hoping beyond hope they could all just walk away.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that. I wanted to let this be your choice but I see we’ll have to do this the hard way yet again,” Valentine said. Then he nodded to Reese who was behind the ward standing next to Alec.

Alec tried to look behind him but before he could turn around his body seized up and a scream of pain tore out of his throat as electricity surged through his body.

“Alec,” Magnus muttered and tried to rise to his feet but was pushed back down roughly by arms behind him.

“No!” Jace yelled and rushed forward only to be stopped by the ward around his parabatai. He could see the same warlock that Jace had threatened into helping him from the Zoo, but this time he was behind the walls of the ward, meaning Jace couldn’t get to him and could only watch as Reese prodded Alec with a taser rod a second time.

“Stop it! Valentine what the hell is this?”

“This is your incentive,” Valentine said. “Your chance to show me that there might be some hope for you yet. Now show me how angry you are at this warlock. Show me that you’re capable of hating them!”

Jace looked down at Alec. He was lying on the ground coughing and shaking with aftershocks but still managed to look at Jace and shake his head no, reminding Jace of Alec’s plea to not let him lose his soul to Valentine for him.

Jace swallowed and closed his eyes, he was so tired of Valentine’s games.

“Why?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper.

Valentine took Jace by the shoulders.

“Because I believe in you son, I believe you’re capable of greatness with the right push,” Valentine said. Jace just looked at him blankly and shook his head. “A push you obviously need, so every minute that you aren’t attacking that warlock your parabatai is going to pay the price.”

Valentine’s words were punctuated by Alec screaming out in pain again as the taser was pushed between his shoulder blades. They could all tell that his shouts were already getting weaker, his punished body only able to take so much.

“No! No stop it! Just stop!” Jace shouted and pounded on the ward again but knew it was no good; he could never get through it with the warlock on the other side.

He looked at Magnus who was still being held on his knees behind him. The warlock’s eyes shone with fear for Alec but his jaw was clenched resolutely as he nodded at Jace.

“Do it,” he said, his voice almost pleading. They both knew that with the injuries he had already sustained Alec wouldn’t survive much more punishment. But Jace shook his head and made no move towards the warlock.

“Magnus … I can’t just …”

Magnus looked over at Valentine and saw the disappointment etched in the Circle leader’s face as Jace refused his command once more. Valentine sighed and started to turn towards Reese who was looming over Alec’s shuddering form, eager to strike out again.

“I’m glad I took Alec from you! I enjoyed it!” Magnus shouted, drawing the attention of everyone on the deck.

“What …?”

“I didn’t care about justice Jace, I wanted to hurt you and I wanted your sweet little parabatai all to myself and I got everything that I wanted.”

“Magnus, just stop …” Jace said. He knew Magnus was goading him, he wanted Jace to attack him by any means necessary, but Jace was so strung out from the past few days he wasn’t sure he could keep convincing himself that what Magnus was saying wasn’t true.

“It’s hard to hear isn’t it?” Magnus said, doing his best to stay focused on Jace and not let his gaze drift to Valentine or Alec. “You don’t want to hear about the days we spent together, where I kept him isolated, dependent on me, waiting on me hand and foot? You don’t want to hear about all the times I threatened to have you killed to make him do what I wanted?”

“Just shut up!” Jace yelled in warning, taking a step closer to Magnus, his fists starting to clench.

“Maybe you want to hear about the days he spent in the Lair then when I gave him to the other warlocks to do what they wanted with him,” Magnus said and could see Jace’s shoulders twitch with anger. “Or even better I could tell you about the nights we spent together. They were wonderful. He mostly cried …”

Jace punched him across the jaw. Magnus dropped to the floor and the Circle members around them backed away.

“Shut up!” Jace shouted, following up with a kick to Magnus’s stomach. “Just shut up, you son of a bitch!”

Magnus rolled away with the force of the hit but Jace stalked after him and knelt down to grab the warlock by his shirt.

Across the deck Alec managed to push himself up to his elbows and felt his whole body recoil from the sound of Magnus hitting the deck.

“Jace, no,” Alec pleaded, his voice barely above a whisper as he tried to pull himself up.

He watched Jace hit Magnus again, kicking him across the ground in a twisted move to save Alec from being tortured further, and it hurt more than anything Valentine had done to him since he got on that ship.

“Jace, stop, please!” Alec begged a little louder, unable to watch the man he loved get hurt and his brother lose more of his soul for him. It felt like his worst nightmare come to life.

But Jace didn’t stop, he gave no indication he had even heard Alec, instead he pulled Magnus up by the shirt with one hand and struck him across the face with the other.

“You think you can just take my brother away from me, you bastard? You think you can just hurt whoever you want?” Jace asked.

“Yes,” Magnus muttered, knowing he had to keep Jace on him to keep Alec safe.

Jace hit him again, this time opening up a cut above his eye.

“Jace stop!” Alec yelled.

Instead Jace pulled Magnus up again by his shirt collar until he was close enough to whisper in the warlock’s ear.

“If I get these cuffs off of you can you get through that ward?” Jace asked, keeping his voice low but gruff so it would sound like a threat from a distance.

Magnus had to spit out some blood from a split in his lip but nodded imperceptibly. “In a heartbeat.”

Jace threw Magnus to the ground as though disgusted. He turned to Valentine.

“Is this what you wanted? You happy now?!” Jace asked, stalking forward and not surprised to see Valentine was grinning from ear to ear, beyond pleased with Jace’s progress.

“It’s a start,” Valentine said.

“Yeah, well how about a finish,” Jace said. He stepped forward and pushed Valentine aside roughly to take a seraph blade from one of the men standing behind him.

Valentine never noticed the light tug as Jace pulled the stele free from the holster on his thigh as he passed by.

Jace turned back to Magnus, knelt down and pushed the blade against his neck.

“Jace no!” Alec yelled, beating against the ward barrier now but unable to get through.

Jace looked down at Magnus.

“Any last words?” he asked.

Magnus peered down, saw the stele hidden in Jace’s palm and brought up his hands as though he was trying to push the sword away.

“Just one,” Magnus said.

Jace twirled the stele into his fingers and drew an unlock rune over Magnus’s chains. The cuffs clicked open and fell to the ground.

“Duck.”

Jace didn’t have to be told twice. Magnus pushed himself up and Jace dropped to the ground. Valentine and his followers shouted in surprise but before anyone could touch him Magnus sent out a shockwave of pent-up magic that sent every Circle member in sight flying backwards.

“Whoa, nice,” Jace mumbled as he stood back up.

“Get to Alec,” Magnus ordered, already building up another magical charge between his hands.

“On it,” Jace said, taking off in a sprint.

Across the deck the mind-controlled warlock next to Alec gulped in fear as he saw Magnus Bane take aim at his ward.

“Oh no,” the warlock muttered and tried to reinforce the barrier but it was no use. Magnus released a blast of magic that disintegrated the ward upon impact.

The warlock stumbled back from the force of it but regained his footing quickly and brought green balls of magic to his fingertips. Magnus took a step forward with his hands open wide.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Magnus said, his entire focus on the warlock as the Circle members were momentarily knocked down.

The warlock growled and hurled his magic at Magnus.

Magnus easily deflected the shots away, then responded with a burning sphere of gold energy that hit the warlock in his chest, knocking him to the deck unconscious. Magnus sighed and prayed he hadn’t used enough magic to hurt him too badly, but there was no time to check.

Alec was ashamed to admit it took him a moment to realize what was happening when Jace suddenly hit the deck and Magnus stood up, the magic-dampening cuffs gone from his wrists, but just as he figured it out Magnus released a wave of magic that unfortunately hit Valentine so hard that it knocked the wind out of Alec too courtesy of the Loyalty Rune on his chest. Alec coughed and rolled over to see Reese was stalking towards him. The Circle member had been protected from Magnus’s attack by the ward and had discarded his taser in exchange for a seraph blade that he moved towards Alec’s neck.

“Stand down both of you or …”

Alec kicked him in the knee before could finish his ultimatum to Magnus and Jace. It wasn’t much of a kick, but it was enough to make Reese grunt in pain and stumble a few feet away.

“You son of a …” Reese moved towards him but his threat was interrupted yet again, this time by Magnus’s magic destroying the ward around him followed by Jace barreling towards him.

Reese brought up his sword to try and block Jace’s attack but Jace was more enraged than Alec had ever seen him and swatted the blade aside in two easy strokes. Reese tried to back away and get his footing but Jace didn’t let up. He kept pushing forward then grunted as his blade finally found a home in Reese’s chest.

“I warned you what would happen to the next person who touched my brother,” Jace hissed, watching as the shock in Reese’s eyes faded to lifelessness. He didn’t have time to be happy, he turned to Alec who had managed to push himself into a sitting position but didn’t look like he was going to get much further than that.

“You okay?” Jace asked as he used his stele to unlock his cuffs.

“Been better,” Alec said, then his eyes widened. “Behind you!”

Jace shoved the stele into Alec’s hand before he swung around to block the strike from the Circle member who had snuck up behind him. He grimaced as his gaze scoured over the deck to see all the Circle members seemed to be recovering from Magnus’s blast and stumbling towards the three of them.

Alec was desperate to join the fight but knew he was in no shape for it at the moment so took the stele Jace had left him and ran it over his healing rune. The effect was instantaneous and he sighed in relief as he felt his energy pick up and the bone in his leg set. He didn’t feel great by any means, but he no longer felt like he was dying. Spotting the men converging on them, Alec scooped up Reese’s fallen seraph blade just in time to block a strike meant for Jace’s arm. Alec pushed the man to the side, kicked him in the stomach and then maneuvered him directly into Jace’s blade on a backswing.

Jace finished with his opponent and smiled at Alec.

“Just like riding a bicycle,” Jace said, smiling with joy to be fighting side by side with his parabatai again.

“You’ve never ridden a bicycle,” Alec pointed out.

“I’d be good at it if I did though,” Jace said, then tied a Circle member up in an arm bar allowing Alec to stab him in the side.

Alec looked across the deck. “We have to get to Magnus.”

Jace wasn’t about to argue. “Lead the way.”

Alec didn’t waste time, he sprinted across the open deck and body checked a man who had been rushing to attack Magnus from behind.

Magnus had just thrown a ball of fire into the face of one opponent when Alec and the Circle member hit the ground beside him. Before the Circle member could stand up Magnus snared him with a rope of magic and threw him towards the railing. His intention had been to throw the man overboard but unfortunately the ward around the ship was still up and burnt the man alive upon impact.

“Oops,” Magnus muttered, not truly feeling too much regret, then smiled at Alec who had gotten back to his feet. “Alexander, you’re looking better.”

Alec blocked a man’s sword, pulled a knife from his belt and stabbed him in the thigh with it.

“Can we banter after we portal out of here please?”

“I’d love to,” Magnus said and threw out another wave of magic to push three Circle members back, but unfortunately not down. “But this ward is heavy duty, I’ll need a minute to concentrate in order to portal us through it and they don’t seem keen on giving me one.”

Alec looked at Jace who had been working his way closer and heard what Magnus said. They locked eyes then both nodded and wordlessly changed their positions to form a perimeter around the warlock.

“We’ll watch your back, just get the portal open,” Alec said.

Jace looked across the ship and saw more Circle members emerging from the decks below. “And I suggest you make it quick.”

“I’ll do my best,” Magnus said then turned to face out towards the ocean to concentrate, confident the parabatai would watch his back.

Thankfully Jace had been right, fighting as a pair was coming back to them easily. Every time Alec stumbled Jace was there to intercept a damaging blow and every time Jace had too many opponents on top of him Alec was there to pull one off, and all the while they kept up their tight perimeter around Magnus. Things actually seemed to be going well, that is until Alec pushed aside a Circle member only to have Valentine take his place.

Valentine brought his sword down hard straight toward Alec’s head. Alec managed to block but felt the impact of the blow down in his bones.

“I should have killed you days ago,” Valentine hissed, his eyes alight with anger.

Alec’s arms were shaking with the effort of holding Valentine back but he struggled to shrug nonchalantly. “I was thinking the same thing.”

Valentine took a step back and pulled his sword free then swiped at Alec’s neck. Alec ducked and sliced upward, managing to scrape his blade across Valentine’s forearm. Then he nearly dropped his sword as his arm began to bleed in the same place.

“Dammit,” Alec muttered, briefly glancing at his matching wound caused by Valentine’s Loyalty rune.

Valentine looked at his own bleeding arm and smirked in amusement before he twirled his sword. “This should be fun.”

Alec grit his teeth, not sure how he could win this fight. Anything he did to Valentine would also happen to him, but anything Valentine did to him wouldn’t happen to Valentine, not to mention that he wasn’t sure he could even beat Valentine, Loyalty rune or no.

He didn’t get long to think about it before Valentine charged at him again. They parried blows for a few moments until Valentine feinted left and then struck down quickly, managing to nick his blade across Alec’s thigh. Alec stumbled back with a hiss of pain but Valentine was unfazed and pushed forward.

“Alec!” Jace yelled and rushed between them. His sword caught Valentine’s and pushed it aside. He pulled back for another blow but stopped when Valentine made no attack and instead held his arms out wide and waiting.

“Go ahead,” Valentine shouted at Jace, voice loud and victorious, even going so far as to step into Jace’s hovering blade. “Strike me down, kill me. It would be worth it to see you lose your parabatai along with me.”

Jace hesitated, never dropping his sword but unsure what to do. He couldn’t kill him and even if he just knocked Valentine out Alec would drop too and he wasn’t sure they could fight their way out of here with Alec unconscious.

“We just wanna leave,” Jace said, his voice pleading, praying there was some part of Valentine that might actually care for him.

Alec tried to push himself back up and looked down when his foot clanged against something metal.

“There’s no way out of here, not for you,” Valentine said to Jace.

“We’ll see about that.” Alec rushed forward, grabbed Valentine’s outstretched hand and snapped a handcuff around his wrist.

“Jace!” he called. His parabatai knew what he needed. He grabbed Valentine’s sword hand and kept it restrained while Alec strong-armed the Circle leader towards the railing and snapped the other end of the cuffs around a metal pole.

They both stepped back with a huff of victory as Valentine pulled on the restraint but couldn’t get free. Just to their left, a portal shimmered to life.

“I can’t hold this long,” Magnus shouted at them before shooting a wave of red magic towards the line of Circle members closing in on them and nearly collapsing from the effort.

“This isn’t over,” Valentine said to Jace as Alec rushed to hold up Magnus.

Jace nodded but followed after his brother, “You’re right, it’s not.”

“Jace, come on!” Alec yelled, standing at the edge of the portal with Magnus’s arm over his shoulders.

Jace jogged after them and passed through the portal a step behind them but he didn’t miss the promise of revenge in Valentine’s eyes before he disappeared.

TBC

Chapter Text

As Alec rushed out of the portal he nearly ran headfirst into a tree, but managed to steer him and Magnus around it at the last second. Then his injured leg gave out around the same time as Magnus’s energy and they both fell to their knees on the concrete.

Jace stumbled out behind them just as the portal closed and paused to take in their surroundings; they were on the grassy parkway around the corner from the Institute.

Jace laughed in disbelief. “We did it. We got out.”

Alec was less concerned about their escape and more about Magnus. He maneuvered himself in front of Magnus and put a hand on his cheek, careful to avoid the swollen areas and the cut above his eye.

“Are you okay?” Alec asked, his eyes trying to catalogue the injuries Jace had inflicted on him along with how drained he was from using so much magic.

But Magnus just smiled softly and lifted a hand to lay over top the one Alec had on his cheek.

“I’ve never been better,” Magnus said.

Alec exhaled in pure relief before he leaned forward and kissed Magnus desperately. Magnus’s fingers squeezed around Alec’s as he happily reciprocated, pouring every ounce of relief he felt into the kiss.

“Hey, why did you portal us … WHOA! WHAT THE HELL!?”

Alec pulled back instantly at Jace’s exclamation and turned to see his parabatai standing next to them, eyes wide in disbelief.

“Oh … um …” Alec stuttered and looked at Magnus who just licked his lips and laughed, seemingly amused.

“What was that?!” Jace demanded. “Is this a thing? Are you guys a thing?!”

Alec gave a non-commital shrug. “Um … it’s complicated.”

“Too complicated to mention during the three days we were trapped in a cell together?”

“To be fair you weren’t in the cell all that often,” Magnus pointed out.

“Not helpful,” Jace said, pointing a finger in warning.

Alec motioned towards the Institute looming over them less than a hundred feet away. “Maybe we can talk about this when we’re somewhere more secure.”

Jace shifted his finger of warning to point at Alec before he stalked off towards the Institute. “Oh we’ll talk about it. We’re gonna talk the hell about it.”

“Well that hardly made sense,” Magnus muttered but stood up with Alec to follow Jace.

“We’ll uh … we’ll have to talk as well,” Alec said to him, stammering again. “About us.”

“Of course. We’ll talk the hell about us,” Magnus said, smiling when Alec laughed lightly. The laugh turned into a cough and Alec rubbed a hand over his chest. “Oh come on, it wasn’t that funny.”

“No, I …” Alec’s eyes went wide with panic and he clawed at his chest again, his breath coming out as a wheeze. “I can’t …”

His legs gave out and Magnus only just barely managed to catch him.

“No, no … Jace!” Magnus yelled, calling the shadowhunter back as he lowered Alec to the ground.

“Alec!” Jace shouted as he ran back towards them, dropping to Alec’s other side.

“I can’t …” Alec tried to say again but couldn’t form the words past the pain in his chest.

“Easy, just take it easy, it’s okay,” Jace said even though he knew it was anything but. He pulled the tatters of Alec’s shirt aside and grimaced; the Loyalty rune on his chest was activated. “Valentine.”

“He’s killing him,” Magnus said, remembering how Valentine had demonstrated this function of the rune on their first day in his dungeon of horrors.

Jace patted down Alec’s pockets until he found the stele they had stolen and ran it over the Loyalty rune then growled in frustration when nothing happened.

“I can’t deactivate it.”

Alec arced off the ground in pain and tried to take in a strangled breath but with each second it was clearly getting more difficult. Magnus pushed him down gently and then released a torrent of healing magic into his body. Alec inhaled again, this time noticeably easier but still not like normal.

“Can you get rid of it?” Jace asked, surprised the magic was doing anything at all, but Magnus shook his head.

“Angelic and demonic magic don’t exactly mix. I can’t deactivate the rune, I can just fight against it and help Alec’s heart keep beating in spite of it,” Magnus said, then turned to him with a look of pained honesty. “But I can’t do it for long.”

Jace exhaled. He knew they only had one option. He squeezed Alec’s hand then met Magnus’s eye. “Send me back.”

“What?”

“No,” Alec said, his own grip on Jace tightening.

“Valentine won’t kill me, but he’s going to kill you if I don’t go back. It’s what he wants. I don’t have a choice Alec,” Jace said. “Magnus please, you have to portal me back.”

“No … find another way,” Alec said, echoing what he had said in their cell the last time Jace had wanted to go to Valentine for help.

“There’s no other way Alec, even if we had a de-runing device, they can’t remove active runes. We need Valentine to shut it off.”

Alec shook his head, refusing to believe that.

“ ‘Nother way … Silent Brothers,” he gasped out before his body arced up with pain once more.

Magnus looked at Jace hopefully at the suggestion. “They know more about runes than anyone, they might be able to remove it.”

“But they might not and then Alec dies!” Jace said.

“And if you go back to Valentine you have no guarantee he’ll turn it off and there’s nothing you can do to him that won’t also kill Alec,” Magnus argued.

Jace looked down at Alec whose face was pale and pinched with pain. “Magnus please, I’ll convince him, I’ll give him anything he wants, whatever I have to do, just send me back.”

“Don’t …” Alec shook his head weakly, his eyes fluttering open and closed. “Please Magnus … don’t.”

Magnus clenched his jaw, hating the decision the parabatai were putting on his shoulders. Then he lifted his free hand and brought a portal to life behind them.

“That goes back to Valentine’s ship,” Magnus said, his voice laced with regret even as he did it.

“Thank you,” Jace sighed and squeezed Alec’s hand a final time. “You’re gonna be okay. It’s gonna be all right.”

“No,” Alec said a final time, his voice barely audible.

“I’m sorry,” Jace said, tears brimming his eyes as he stood up and headed towards the portal.

He only made it a few steps before another portal snapped to life next to the first one.

“What …” Jace turned around to find Magnus hauling Alec up over his shoulders. “What are you doing?”

“This one goes to the City of Bones. I’m taking Alec to the Silent Brothers,” Magnus said. “I don’t trust Valentine to spare Alec’s life today anymore than I did yesterday. It’s your choice which one you want to go through.”

Jace shook his head. “The rune power in the City of Bones will kill you Magnus!”

“Maybe but it’ll save Alec,” Magnus answered, never breaking stride towards the portal even as Alec became a deadweight across his shoulders.

“You stubborn son of a …” Jace didn’t manage to finish his insult before Magnus disappeared through the portal with Alec.

Magnus and Alec came out of the portal near the bridge entrance to the City of Bones and it looked just as desolate and unwelcoming as Magnus remembered. He took a deep breath and steeled himself to venture inside somehow while dragging Alec along with him but had barely made it a step before he felt Alec’s weight lift off his back.

“Good choice,” Magnus said, surprised to find himself smiling at Jace as he hefted Alec’s other arm over his shoulders.

“Yeah well, I wasn’t done insulting you, you stubborn son of a bitch,” Jace said. As they approached the door Jace helped Magnus lower Alec back to the ground. “Wait here and keep him alive.”

Magnus nodded in a promise to do his best and watched as Jace ran to the doors of the City of Bones.

“Hey! We need some help out here!” he heard Jace yell as he ran inside. The echo of his voice disappeared quickly though and Magnus looked back down to find Alec barely clutching on to consciousness, his face pinched with pain but a small smile gracing his mouth.

“Thank you,” he whispered, every syllable a struggle past the tightness in his chest. “For not letting … him go.”

“I merely gave him his options, Jace made his own choice,” Magnus said, then frowned as he felt how much worse Alec had gotten from the brief portal trip to the City. He grit his teeth and poured more healing magic into Alec’s body, struggling to force his heart to keep beating against the strain of the Loyalty rune trying to stop it. “Just hold on, he’ll be back with the Silent Brothers any moment to fix you up.”

Alec’s breath hitched painfully even with Magnus’s magic fighting for him. They could both feel it was a losing battle. Alec lifted his hand towards Magnus and smiled when the warlock took it and squeezed.

“Mag … I don’t think …”

“Shhhh, save your strength, you’re going to be fine,” Magnus insisted, refusing to let Alec put a voice to the fear that was gripping his own chest.

Alec shook his head and clenched his jaw, shaking with the effort to breathe. “I’m sorry.”

“You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for, just stay with me.”

A tear slipped down Alec’s cheek. “Our date … I really wanted … to …”

“Nonsense,” Magnus said, even though he could feel Alec’s heart faltering from the war going on between his magic and the Loyalty Rune. “Our date is going to be wonderful. I’m taking you to The Red Door. We’ll go on Thursday, they have a duck special. You’ll love it, it’s nothing too fancy but the food is delicious.”

Alec nodded and smiled. “Sounds … perfect.”

“You can get a mojito and I’ll have a martini, we’ll drink to our new beginning and then we’ll go to the Hunter’s Moon. I’ll hustle you at pool but you won’t mind then … then we’ll walk home along the water and … and knowing us we’ll run into a demon or something but it doesn’t matter, we’ll take care of it together, like we always do.”

Another tear slipped down Alec’s cheek. His fingers tightened around Magnus’s hand.

“Together,” he whispered on the exhale, managing the smallest nod of agreement. Then his fingers went slack in Magnus’s grip.

“Alec?”

Alec’s eyes slipped shut. He wasn’t breathing.

“No, no Alec!” Magnus pushed every drop of magic he had into his shadowhunter but his eyes remained closed. “Help! Someone!”

At that moment the door to the City of Bones slammed open and Jace rushed out, a Silent Brother not far behind him walking in long strides.

“Alec?” Jace asked as he dropped down on Alec’s other side.

“He’s not breathing,” Magnus said, still pouring magic into Alec’s body.

“No, Alec, come on,” Jace said, pulling out his stele and running it over Alec’s healing rune, desperate to do something. A shadow appeared over him and he looked up at the Silent Brother. “Can you help him?”

The monk stood for a long moment, his stitched eyes roaming over Alec’s body and the activated Loyalty rune. Finally he turned around and walked back towards the door.

“Bring him inside,” his voice echoed in their minds. “We will do all we can for Alexander Lightwood.”

Jace and Magnus hefted Alec up to his feet, ignoring the fact that he was a deadweight on their shoulders. When they got close to the door Jace shifted so he could take all of Alec’s weight.

“Magnus you have to stay here.”

Magnus hesitated. His magic might be the only thing that could help Alec if the Silent Brothers failed, but even from a few feet away he could feel the rune power of the City burning him.

“He won’t …”

“What he’ll do is kill me if anything happens to you. Now stay here!” Jace said but couldn’t risk arguing any longer as the Silent Brother disappeared down the hall ahead of them. Magnus nodded tightly in agreement and Jace turned to the door, hefting Alec easily and racing after the monk.

Magnus watched for as long as possible, but in a few feet they turned down a corridor and he lost sight of them. A moment later the sound of their footsteps disappeared as well and the door to the city shut on its own in front of him. Magnus jumped and let out a shaky breath as he looked around realizing he was very much alone. He had no way of knowing what was happening or if Alec was even still alive. He stumbled back and collided with a steel support beam for the bridge and slid down until he was sitting on the ground. He breathed out heavily, a million emotions vying for dominance in his heart, but as he rubbed a hand down his face he was mostly terrified that he had made the wrong choice.

“Hold on Alexander. Please,” Magnus whispered. He was tempted to sit and wallow in self-pity, but as was usual with Magnus, his misery loved company and he soon found himself composing a fire message to Izzy.

We escaped Valentine’s ship but Alec is hurt. We’re at the City of Bones.

He sent the fire message off and leaned back to wait.

It couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes later that the sound of footsteps made him look up to see Izzy, Clary and Simon running towards him.

“Magnus!” Izzy called out in relief and even pulled the warlock into a light embrace. “I can’t believe it.”

“I hardly can either my dear,” Magnus said.

“Alec and Jace?” Clary asked.

“Jace is fine but he took Alec inside to see the Silent Brothers. Valentine did something to him but I can’t go in. I don’t know if …”

“It’s okay,” Izzy said so he wouldn’t have to finish. “We’ll go in and check on him.”

Magnus nodded gratefully but before Izzy and Clary could enter the door swung open from the inside and Jace stepped out, looking more exhausted than they had ever seen him.

“Jace,” Magnus said. “Alec, is he …?”

Jace walked towards Magnus rigidly, laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed tightly. “You wanted to come here, remember that.”

“Jace …”

Jace’s shoulders dropped and he smiled. “It was the right call. They got the rune off. He’s gonna be okay.”

“Thank the Angel.” Magnus’s sigh of relief was so deep he had to grab his chest, but he recovered quickly to glare in Jace’s direction. “That was cruel.”

Jace shrugged. “Yeah, it was. Sorry.”

“It’s all right. You’re forgiven.”

Simon quirked an eyebrow as he watched the two interact.

“Do you two like, get along now?”

Jace and Magnus looked at each other and shrugged.

“I guess we do,” Jace said.

“For the moment,” Magnus added.

“Well for the moment then - ” Jace stepped forward and offered his hand to Magnus. “- what I should have said is thank you, for getting us out of there. You saved both our lives.”

Magnus smiled and accepted the offered hand. “I could say the same for you.”

“Oh wow, you guys are friends,” Simon exclaimed happily. Jace and Magnus stepped away from each other.

“Now that that moment’s ruined I’m going into the City of Bones where Simon can’t follow or he’ll die,” Jace said. “Love the City of Bones, we gotta spend more time here.”

“You can’t escape your feelings forever Jace!” Simon yelled but Jace had already slammed the door behind him. “There’s no hope for that guy.”

Magnus shrugged. “There might be some hope.”

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

The lights were too bright. That was Alec’s first thought as consciousness came back to him and he blinked his eyes open, flinching at the harsh lighting. He recognized the scent in the room immediately though and knew he was in the Institute infirmary. He opened his eyes again, more slowly this time, and was pleasantly surprised to find a handsome warlock asleep in the chair beside his bed.

Alec smiled and rolled on to his side to better watch Magnus, but the sound of him moving was enough to wake the warlock. Magnus was on alert immediately, bolting up straight, but he relaxed when he saw Alec’s tired eyes staring back at him.

“Well, my Sleeping Beauty’s finally awake,” Magnus said, standing up to sit on the edge of the bed.

“I was about to say the same thing to you,” Alec replied with a teasing smile.

“Then I guess that makes us both Prince Charming.” Magnus intertwined his fingers with Alec’s and rubbed his thumb along his hand. “How are you feeling my prince?”

“Better now,” Alec said, squeezing back. “Sorry if I scared you.”

“You’ve done more than enough apologizing,” Magnus said. “Just focus on resting.”

“How long have I been out?”

“Almost twelve hours, which was intensely rude of you.”

“I’d apologize but you told me not to.”

“Just don’t let it happen again,” Magnus said, but his light words were belied by a lingering darkness behind his eyes. Alec wrapped his free hand around Magnus’s.

“How bad was it?”

Magnus’s gaze moved to the floor. “I felt your heart stop beating.”

“Oh, that’s nothing to worry about,” Alec shook his head. “It does that every time you walk in the room.”

“Alexander Gideon Lightwood, are you flirting with me from your hospital bed?”

“Yeah,” Alec said, seemingly surprised himself. He looked around for an IV. “Am I drugged?”

“Slightly. They gave you something a few hours ago, I didn’t ask what it was.”

“Either way, I am sorry I scared you. But if I can’t apologize how about I make it up to you?”

“And how do you propose to do that?”

“Well I hear from a reliable source that The Red Door serves a mean duck on Thursday nights.”

Magnus smiled and squeezed Alec’s hand tighter. “We’ve got plenty of time for that. You focus on getting better for now.”

“No.”

Magnus’s forehead creased in confusion. “No?”

“Valentine and the Circle have tried to kill us half a dozen times since we met, and they almost succeeded more times than I like to think about. I know I promised we would make it off that boat alive, but I wasn’t entirely sure that we would. Now that we’re here I … I don’t want to waste a second of what we have together, Magnus.”

Magnus smiled fondly and nodded, not about to argue with that sentiment. “I’ll make the reservation.”

“Thank you. And I’ll … let Izzy pick out something for me to wear,” Alec said.

Magnus moved a hand to cup Alec’s cheek. “You truly are an angel.”

“I try,” Alec said, then tugged on Magnus’s wrist to pull him closer. Magnus happily obliged and leaned down to plant what he had planned to be a chaste kiss on Alec’s lips, but when Alec leaned up into his touch he found himself unable to pull away and instead splayed his fingers around the back of Alec’s head to pull him closer.

A surprised inhale sounded from behind them followed by a long put-upon sigh.

“Of course this is what you’re doing when I walk in.”

Alec pulled away from Magnus and tried to sit up straighter in his bed before he dared look up at Jace standing in the doorway.

“This isn’t going to be like a thing that keeps happening, is it?” Jace asked.

“Not if you learn how to knock,” Alec muttered, fighting back a blush at having been caught kissing Magnus for the second time.

“I’ll work on it,” Jace said as he moved to the other side of Alec’s bed opposite Magnus. “How are you feeling?”

“Pretty good,” Alec said.

Jace looked at Magnus and smiled teasingly. “Yeah, I bet you are.”

“Not cause of that,” Alec said stuttering and full on blushing now.

“Sure.”

“You know I was going to thank you for getting me to the City of Bones and not going to Valentine, but forget it, you ruined it,” Alec said.

“No, no,” Jace said with a ‘go on’ gesture, “don’t let me stop you.”

Alec rolled his eyes but smiled. “Thank you Jace. If you’d gone back to Valentine, I don’t know what I would have done.”

“Any time,” Jace said, grasping his shoulder. “Magnus is the one who really saved our asses though, so make sure you thank him too.”

“He can thank me later. Privately,” Magnus said, his eyebrow going up suggestively and relishing in the way Alec turned an even darker shade of red.

“Well I hate that I made that suggestion,” Jace said. “But I feel less bad that I came in here to separate you two.”

Magnus nodded and straightened up. “We’re ready?”

“Yeah, we’re just waiting on you,” Jace said.

“What’s going on?” Alec asked.

“We’re raiding Valentine’s base. I’ve got fifty shadowhunters ready to take that place apart, we just need Magnus to portal us there,” Jace said.

Alec tried to push himself out of bed. “I’ll go with you.”

“Hey, no.” “Lay back down.” Jace and Magnus said simultaneously, each pushing down one of Alec’s shoulders.

“You’re not going anywhere until the doc clears you,” Jace said, his tone serious, but then he looked at Magnus and smiled. “We got this.”

“You got this?” Alec questioned, shocked to see them both nod in agreement. “The two of you?”

“Something wrong with that?” Magnus asked, moving to stand up along with Jace.

Alec opened his mouth to say something and then seemed to think better of it and instead lowered himself slowly back down on his bed, as though scared to upset the sudden balance Jace and Magnus seemed to have found with each other.

“No, that’s great,” Alec said eventually. “You two go, just, be careful.”

“Of course, that’s like our middle name,” Jace said, but then looked at Magnus. “Actually, do you have a middle name?”

“It changes day by day. Today it’s “Kick Valentine’s Ass.”

“It’s beautiful,” Jace said dryly.

“Thank you. Shall we?” Magnus said, motioning towards the door.

“Yeah.”

“Rest up,” Magnus said, squeezing Alec’s hand one more time before they left.

“We’ll be back before you know it,” Jace promised.

“All right,” Alec said, still too amazed by what he was seeing to process most of what was happening. He watched as Jace and Magnus left, side by side, discussing battle strategies and the layout of the ship once more.

“I’m dreaming,” Alec mumbled as he shifted back down in his bed. “It’s the only explanation.”

But as he laid down he couldn’t help but smile. If he wasn’t dreaming then that meant that they really had escaped Valentine’s ship, and Magnus and Jace really were getting along and he and Magnus really were going on a date in a few days. He sighed in surprised joy.

Maybe he could have the things he wanted after all.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~|

It turned out Alec didn’t miss much by not going on the raid as Magnus, Jace and a throng of Shadowhunters portalled on to the ship to find it completely silent. They waited a long moment for an attack or the sound of an alarm, but a quick magical check and a few enhanced hearing runes told them what they had feared since they stepped through; Valentine and the rest of the Circle were gone. While the shadowhunters behind him relaxed their battle stances, Magnus tensed up in fear and took off running towards the stairs.

“Magnus! Hey!” Jace called out, following after him into the bowels of the ship. “Wait, we don’t know who’s down here!”

Magnus heard Jace’s shouts but ignored them, magicking open door after door until he came to the last bulkhead and finally stopped. Jace skidded to a halt behind him and was about to yell at the warlock once more when he realized where they were.

“Oh,” he muttered, changing his stance to move directly behind Magnus in a support position.

Magnus took a steadying breath and pushed open the door.

The Zoo was exactly as he had remembered it. The lighting was poor but he could see cages hanging from the ceiling, metal pens and cells in every corner and chains hanging off poles, all holding warlocks, seelies, werewolves and vampires.

And they were all alive.

Magnus braced himself against the wall to keep from collapsing in relief. He had been sure Valentine would slaughter his people but it seemed the Circle leader had been in too much of a rush to escape and had instead left them where they were. Magnus had never been so happy to be wrong.

Jace entered behind him and similarly sighed in relief, then laid a hand on Magnus’s shoulder.

“They need help,” Magnus said, already cataloguing which were the most malnourished or crazed from Valentine’s injections and most in need of care.

Jace just nodded. “We’ll help them.”

It wasn’t easy, but they did. Alec ended up assisting after all, coordinating from the Institute for several hours, contacting more warlocks to help them transport supplies and the injured to the ship and reaching out to the rest of the downworld about the recovered prisoners. Luke, Raphael and Meliorn all showed up to help treat the imprisoned downworlders and find safe places for them to recover with their own people. Lydia agreed to offer medical help and treatment to anyone who wanted it, but after being held captive and tortured by shadowhunters for days, if not weeks, no one was surprised when almost none took them up on the offer to stay at the Institute. Instead Magnus and the other warlocks helped transport the injured to their respective downworlder sanctums.

It was exhausting work. There were dozens of prisoners, and being out in the middle of the ocean made coordinating assistance a mess, but it was worth it, especially to Jace who felt a vice release itself from his heart when he found the two werewolves he had brought in for Valentine locked up and uninjured on the far side of the Zoo. Magnus had been right. Life was hope and they had all made it out alive.

The day after the raid was a mess of continuing to coordinate assistance for the downworlders, filing reports and finally Alec and Jace being debriefed for several hours about what they had been through at Valentine’s hands. Unfortunately they had no leads so far on the Circle Leader’s location but Magnus managed to successfully wake up Jocelyn who was working closely with Lydia to help any way she could.

Then finally, after many long hours of work and reports and triage, it was Thursday night, things were relatively calm, and Alec was knocking on Magnus’s door, his mind almost in a haze as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that he was about to go on a real date with Magnus Bane.

His head didn’t become any clearer when Magnus opened the door, looking simultaneously superb and delicious in a collared shirt with a vest over top and a purple lined blazer over it all.

“Alexander,” Magnus said, eyes crinkling with warmth.

“Hi, you … you look amazing.”

“Thank you. You look wonderful as well.”

Alec smiled and looked down at the outfit Izzy had picked out for him. “I’ll tell Isabelle you said so.”

“She had absolutely nothing to do with the parts I’m interested in, I guarantee you,” Magnus said, gesturing Alec to come inside and smiling when he saw the shadowhunter’s ears start to burn with embarrassment. “We have some time before our reservation. Care for a drink?”

Alec nodded and came inside. “Is it that obvious I need it?”

“It’s never a hindrance. Besides, we’re celebrating,” Magnus said, summoning a mojito for Alec and picking up his own drink off the counter. “It’s our first date, finally.”

Alec took the drink and smiled shyly, then looked at the ground as he shuffled his feet. “Actually, about that … um …”

Magnus straightened. “We are going on our date …”

“Yes! Yes of course. It would take a thousand Valentines for us not to be going,” Alec said so emphatically Magnus almost felt foolish for doubting they would go. “I just meant the celebration part … might be for more than we thought.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

“I uh … I had a meeting with Lydia today that did not go at all like I expected,” Alec said.

“In a good way I presume if we’re celebrating.”

“In a … in a very good way. Do you remember when she asked me to write up a report of everything I learned about the Circle while I was here?”

“The one I offered to conjure for you but you insisted on writing yourself like a good little Shadowhunter?”

“Yeah, that one. Well apparently the Clave read it and were impressed with the amount of cooperation we achieved and how much intel we gathered. The two of us. Together.”

Alec’s lips curled up at the final word and Magnus took a sip of his martini to hide his matching smirk.

“Well, I don’t usually like being on the Clave’s radar but I suppose in this complimentary scenario I can enjoy it.”

“I think you’ll like the next part even better,” Alec said, stepping closer into Magnus’s space. “They were so impressed by our collaboration that they’re starting a new pilot program here at the New York Institute.”

“Your downworlder cabinet?” Magnus guessed.

“Not quite, but close. The Clave has authorized the creation of four new downworlder ambassador roles at the Institute to encourage cooperation and sharing of information between us and the downworld.”

Magnus licked his lips, starting to see where Alec was going with this. “Ambassador roles? How diplomatic. And who will be taking on these roles?”

“Well, Isabelle has been assigned to work with Meliorn and the seelies.”

“Not a hard task for either of them,” Magnus mused.

“Jace will be working with the werewolves.”

Magnus nodded. “He and Luke seem to get along well.”

“Clary is assigned to the vampires.”

“Simon must be thrilled.”

“And that just left me to work with the warlocks,” Alec said, sighing dramatically while trying to hide the smile that wanted to crack open his face.

“You poor boy,” Magnus replied, his tone dripping with equally playful sarcasm. “How will you survive such trying times?”

“I’ll find a way to make it work. As you may recall, I have some experience dealing with warlocks.”

“Oh I recall. And what exactly will the duties of this new position entail?”

“Well I’ll have to work closely with the nearest High Warlock, be at his beck and call at all hours so we can … exchange information.”

“Of course,” Magnus sipped his martini again, circling Alec playfully. “So you’ll be spending late nights together, hard missions, early mornings.”

“The works.”

“Well promise me you’ll take care of yourself. The High Warlock of Brooklyn has a terrible reputation.”

“You don’t say.”

“Rumor has it he preys on handsome young shadowhunters from time to time.”

“How monstrous.”

Magnus finished circling and smiled as he moved into Alec’s personal space. “Sometimes he even makes them get over here and kiss him.”

Alec closed the distance between them, capturing Magnus’s lips before the warlock had a chance to pull him closer. He moaned lightly as Magnus’s fingers tightened in his hair and he savored the taste of fire and alcohol he picked up off his lips. They both pulled away after only a moment, grinning widely, all too aware that their night was only just beginning but incredibly pleased with how it was going. Then Magnus frowned as Alec tensed beneath his fingers and turned his gaze to the door.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, sorry,” Alec said, shaking his head and huffing out a self-deprecating laugh. “I uh … I was worried for a second that Jace was going to walk in again.”

“Ah, no need to worry about that, I tightened the wards as you came up. It’s just the two of us, Ambassador,” Magnus said.

Alec smiled and lowered his hands to Magnus’s waist. “I like the sound of that. The … the two of us thing, not the Ambassador thing.”

“You have every right to enjoy both. This position sounds sincerely wonderful Alexander. Congratulations. I of course relish the opportunity to spend as much time together as possible, but I know you had resigned yourself to likely never holding a leadership position at the Institute again.”

“Yeah, it wasn’t very likely given the Clave’s opinion on me. Thankfully I racked up some unique work experience since they fired me that made me pretty much the only candidate for the job,” Alec said and fondness shone in his eyes as he looked down at Magnus. “I have you to thank for that.”

“Well, I know exactly how you can show your appreciation.”

“Let me guess,” Alec’s smile widened and he leaned forward to kiss Magnus once more but stopped when Magnus pushed him back with a hand against his chest.

“Tell me where the cats come from.”

Alec blinked. “What?”

“You heard me,” Magnus said, his playful attitude replaced with complete seriousness. “I expect the ambassador to the High Warlock to see to my needs, and I need to know where the cats on my balcony come from Alec.”

Alec looked around the apartment at the wine and candles and gestured between them as though he could point at the romantic tension. “Now? Are you serious?”

Magnus took a step back and held up his drink with a flourish. “I have never been more serious. You promised to tell me if we escaped from Valentine’s ship and frankly I did most of the escaping, so you can tell me where the cats come from or I can find myself a new Ambassador to the High Warlock.”

Alec could tell Magnus didn’t really mean it but still shook his head at his theatrics. “Fine, I’ll tell you.”

“Excellent!” Magnus sat on the armrest of the chair behind him and looked ready to listen intently. “I can’t believe you figured it out. I checked for everything, errant portals, a cat transformation curse, glamours, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“Do you want to know where they come from or just list me more of your theories?” Alec asked.

“Apologies, go on,” Magnus said, then his eyes widened and he whispered to himself, “Maybe I conjure them in my sleep!”

“The cats …” Alec started, then waited until Magnus was leaning forward before he finished, “… belong to Mrs. Neidermayer.”

Magnus’s face fell. “Mrs. Neidermayer …?”

“Down on the fifteenth floor,” Alec said.

“I know who she is,” Magnus said, eyes closed and visibly trying to put the pieces together, “but, how is she … she’s a mundane! How is she sending cats through my wards?!”

“No one is sending cats through your wards Magnus, not everyone is out to get you,” Alec said.

“Tell that to the Circle,” Magnus muttered. “How do you know they’re her cats?”

“Besides the fact that she has about twelve of them?”

“Is that all you’re basing this on?! People can own cats Alec! It’s perfectly normal.”

“No,” Alec laughed at Magnus’s incredulousness. “I have proof. I snipped a tuft of fur off one of the cats one morning. When I came out later and the cat was gone I used the fur to track it … straight to Mrs. Neidermayer’s apartment.”

Magnus’s brow furrowed. “But how do they get here?”

“I wanted to know that too so I knocked on her door and said I worked for the landlord and needed to do some repairs.”

“How devious,” Magnus said.

“Not really. I hadn’t even finished my cover story before she hauled me inside and started forcing ice tea on me. She eventually mentioned there was a draft in her kitchen sometimes. I checked it out and the vent was missing from the fume hood above the stove, which left an opening just big enough for the cats to get through.”

“So, they left her apartment through the stove vent. How did they get up here? And past my wards?”

“The vent leads to a duct that goes to the roof, which also has an opening just big enough for cats to get through. Once they get on the roof they walk down onto your balcony. Your wards don’t stop them because you have them set to not let anything into the building, not to stop someone who’s already inside.”

“The cats were inside the whole time,” Magnus whispered, still in shock. “I’ve been feeding Mrs. Neidermayer’s cats.”

“Yeah, and it might be best if you stopped. She says they disappear for days at a time sometimes and when they come back they refuse to eat the food she puts out.”

Magnus smirked with pride. “I only serve the very best.”

“Congratulations, you successfully spoiled a bunch of cats someone else owned.”

“So they were never strays. None of them,” Magnus sulked and took a drink of his martini. “I feel used.”

Alec smiled and sauntered towards Magnus, pulling him up to stand again. “I’m sure they didn’t mean to fool you. They just went where they felt safe, and cared for and well fed and then they kept coming back for more. I can relate in some ways.”

Magnus’s face softened and he took Alec’s hand. “You don’t secretly belong to Mrs. Neidermayer as well do you? Because I couldn’t handle that disappointment.”

“No, I’ve only ever belonged to one person. Literally.”

“Excellent, because I intend to keep putting you to work, Ambassador. The next thing I need is someone to go out to dinner with me.”

Alec smiled and took Magnus’s hand. “I think I can find you someone. He’s eager but not super experienced.”

“Is he willing to learn?”

“Definitely.”

“Then I’m more than willing to teach.”

“You’re so generous.”

“I really am. Well we had best get going before the Circle attacks us or some other nonsense interrupts us yet again.”

“I’m not worried. If something happens we’ll handle it. Together.”

Magnus smiled and entwined his fingers with Alec’s. “Together.”

They walked out of the apartment side-by-side, the High Warlock of Brooklyn and his Ambassador. Alec and Magnus. Together.

The end.