Apparently, alcohol strips even Alexander Lightwood of his inhibitions, if he has enough of it.
Alec danced with him (and he wasn’t very good at it, at first, but he got better) and he let Magnus take his hand, and he called Magnus pretty, and he didn’t bolt the moment Magnus told him that he was pretty, too.
Because he is. He’s so goddamn pretty, with that flush sitting high on his cheekbones and hints of red from his drink staining his lips and that smile that starts in his eyes and finishes in the soft parting of his mouth. For a man usually so reserved, so stoic, so careful and guarded (even if he is always painfully, brutally honest) seeing Alec look so shamelessly uninhibited takes Magnus’ breath away.
It makes Magnus flirt. He’s flirted with Alec before, of course, because he flirts with everyone. He can’t help it. He flirts with people he has no interest in. He’d flirted with Alexander’s sister, just because it was fun. She’d flirted back. But they’d both understood that it was friendly, casual, not serious.
Magnus is serious now.
He drags his finger around the rim of his glass while he holds Alec’s gaze coyly, flicks his eyes towards the locked doors in his loft when Alec asks about his cat, sways his hips deliberately and emphasises the stretch of his shoulders as he walks towards his bedroom, hoping that Alec will follow.
Something in Magnus relaxes when he walks into his bedroom and picks up Chairman Meow, who purrs warmly and nestles himself into the crook of his arms. He didn’t lead Alec into his bedroom because he wants to sleep with him. Admittedly, he does, but he also wants to cherish this stupid, disarming man. He wants to make Alec understand just how much Magnus values him.
His face is almost brushing his cat’s fur when Alec walks in and shuts the door behind him. There’s a nervous sort of energy about him, restless and writhing, and Magnus doesn’t want to make it worse. He doesn’t want Alec to be nervous. He just wants Alec to know. To know how Magnus feels about him. To know that Magnus thinks he’s beautiful, and brave, and brilliant, and deserving of everything he ever wants.
Magnus doesn’t have to look up to know that Alec is staring at him. He can feel the weight of his gaze. But when he lifts his head, something flirtatious ready to throw at Alec, just to see what he’ll do with it, he pauses. Because Alec is leaning back against the door, and, yes, he’s staring at Magnus, but Lilith, he looks— God, he doesn’t know what it is, exactly, but Magnus is fairly sure it’s not good. He practically forced Alec onto the dance floor, and then he plugged him with another drink when he’d already had plenty, and then he led him in here, into his bedroom, and—
Fuck, what is he doing? Just because he feels more for Alexander than he has for anyone else for a long, long time doesn’t mean that Alec feels the same way.
He takes a step forward. “Alec, you know you don’t have to be here, don’t you? I was teasing you. If this makes you uncomfortable—”
The interruption catches Magnus off-guard, surprises him in that way Alec always manages to, and makes him pause where he’s been absently scratching at the Chairman’s fur.
Alec moves towards him, shaking his head with something unreadable in his eyes, and stops right in front of Magnus. He’s so close it make Magnus’ heart stutter in his chest. He can feel the warmth of Alec’s breath, could count every one of those long eyelashes, and he has to tilt his head up just a little to meet the eyes that manage to get him every damn time.
A rough sort of noise comes from the back of Alec’s throat, and he closes his eyes in clear frustration. Magnus waits, wanting more than anything to lay his hand against Alec’s cheek in comfort. Alec is always so hard on himself, so irritated when he can’t meet the impossibly standards he holds himself to over even the most menial things, and Magnus wants, so badly, to tell him that it’s alright. That he doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. That he’s allowed to be human.
“I’m not some innocent kid who needs protecting,” Alec says, and Magnus tips his head back in surprise.
He feels like he’s always done the opposite of treating Alec like an innocent—he’s always said things exactly as they are. He certainly never minces his words. Sometimes, perhaps, he’s been too hard on Alec. He’s been too embittered by the past, too quick to equate it with the present, too complacent in assuming that all the Shadowhunters of today want to hold the same prejudices as those of yesterday.
He wonders whether Alec was even treated like a child. Whether he ever got protected and cuddled and loved in the way that children so crave.
“I know, Alec,” he says, voice soft in the quiet of the room. He can still hear the party raging outside, the music booming loudly enough to be felt through the floor, but it’s muffled, a world away, and they’re settled in their own little bubble. “I—”
“Then why do you always do this?” Alec asks. His eyes are fixed intently on Magnus’, wide and hazel-soft and earnest. “You’re always so considerate, it’s— I’m not afraid of you. Not like that. If I were uncomfortable, I wouldn’t be here. I know what I want.”
There’s so much there. So much to what Alec just said. He’s not afraid of Magnus—but he was a few months ago. He was fucking terrified. Just like Magnus had wanted him to be. Because he was a Shadowhunter, and Magnus had exposed himself, and he had to keep himself protected from the Clave. He’d saved Alec’s life, but he sure as fuck didn’t trust him.
He trusts Alec now. And god, he doesn’t want him to be afraid. He doesn’t ever want Alec to be afraid of him again. He wants Alec to trust him the way he’s come to trust Alec, who is so inherently honest and so good. He wants Alec to be comfortable. He wants Alec to feel safe around Magnus. Safe to be himself, to air his dirty laundry and spill his darkest secrets if he wants to. To cry and rant and collapse under the weight that sometimes gets too much for even the strongest man.
I know what I want.
Alec is staring down at him with those unwavering dark eyes, and his words make Magnus’ breath catch even as uncertainty rockets through him. He doesn’t notice Chairman Meow leaping down from his arms. Because if Alec means what he thinks he does, if those words are as heavy with meaning as they sound, if the intensity of Alec’s look is because—
He’s been drinking.
The thought hits Magnus like a freight train, and he feels his thoughts come grinding to a halt. No. He can’t– He can’t trust this. However sincere Alec is now, it’s not fair to trust this. It’s not fair to take what he’s saying at face value.
Except... Well. He’s not acting like he’s drunk. He could walk in a perfectly straight line. His reactions were as sharp as ever, earlier. His breath doesn’t really smell of alcohol—only a little. Only as much as Magnus is sure his own does.
I know what I want.
“And what is it that you want?” Magnus finds himself asking, voice low and eyes heavy as he closes the mere few inches of space between them. It’s intoxicating, being close to Alec like this, and he wants, so badly, to put a hand on his chest and kiss him. Kiss him until neither of them can breathe, and press him back against the door, and—
“You’re doing it again,” Alec whispers, eyes flickering between both of Magnus’. “You’re testing me, or trying to make me nervous, or something. You don’t need to.”
How has Magnus managed to find the one person in the world who can see right through all his bullshit? How does Alec read him so well? How can he tell that Magnus is deflecting, flirting, trying to slip away from the intent in Alec’s eyes and the sudden tension that’s settled between them? How does he do it all with such ease?
I could love him so easily, Magnus thinks. And then: I want to.
Without thought, Magnus reaches a hand up towards where Alec’s fringe is falling over his forehead, and pushes it back tenderly, before letting it tumble back into place. Affection wells in him, and Magnus drops his hand back down to Alec’s shoulder before he can do anything stupid, like kiss him. But shoulder is too close to neck, too close to jawline, too close to temptation, so he lets it slide further, over Alec’s arm to rest on his bicep.
Not that that is a lot better.
Something grips him, something hot and desperate and aching, something that’s born of desire but goes so very much deeper. Something that makes him want to curve his hand around Alec’s neck and close his eyes and kiss him so softly that their lips barely touch, so slowly that it makes their toes curl, so earnestly that Alec understands.
Unbidden, his eyes flicker down to Alec’s lips, just for a moment, a split second, so quickly that he hopes Alec didn’t notice.
“Don’t I?” he asks, and he’s not sure whether he’s just proving Alec’s point and exposing how desperate he is not to get his heart broken by Alexander Lightwood, or whether he’s taking a leap that he hasn’t taken for a century.
Of course, Alec doesn’t let him do either. Alec doesn’t pay attention to any of Magnus’ shit. He’s just brutally, painfully, wonderfully honest.
“No,” Alec says, so quietly it’s just a breath, but it’s more than enough to make Magnus’ chest go tight. “No, you don’t.”
But Magnus can’t. He’s got so much baggage, and he’s done this so many times, and he can’t. He can’t let himself get his heart broken. Not again. He’s already exposed so much of himself to Alec, and Alec is so good at seeing him, all the bits of himself that Magnus tries to hide, but he can’t.
“And why is that?” Magnus murmurs, eyes dipping to Alec’s mouth again despite himself. It’s more obvious this time, and he sees Alec register the movement. Magnus feels his self control slipping from between his fingers like grains of sand. He likes Alec, so fucking much, but he’s on autopilot, flirting and trotting out these lines, lines that don’t mean anything, lines that he’s using to try to throw Alec off, to guard himself, but they’re not working. With Alec, they never do.
“Because I trust you,” Alec tells him, with such devastating honesty in his voice that Magnus’ heart cracks. He makes an aborted motion and his fingers just brush Magnus’ side, but he seems to lose his nerve, because he drops his hand again and swallows. “And I like you. And I’m not scared of you. I know you're powerful, and I know you could devastate the city with a snap of your fingers, but I also know that you won't. Because you're not like that. Not unless something's at stake. You're a good person. You're an incredibly good person.”
Magnus is sure that every turbulent emotion rocketing through him is perfectly obvious from his face. He’s staring at Alec, shocked into silence and wonderstruck and astounded by the sheer feeling behind Alec’s pronouncement.
“Alec,” he whispers, because that’s all he can remember to say, searching his face for a hint of doubt or insincerity or hesitation. Because that’s— Does Alec really think all that? After everything, can that really be how he feels about Magnus?
“Why have you started calling me that?” Alec asks, voice dropping, soft and quiet. “You never call me Alec.”
He shrugs, hoping to play it off as casual. In reality, Isabelle’s passing comment about nobody calling her brother by his full name had caught Magnus rather off guard, because why hadn’t Alec ever said anything? Why had he let Magnus call him by a name he hates for so long?
“Your sister said that nobody calls you Alexander. I presumed that meant you didn’t like it.”
Alec’s eyebrows shoot up, and he lets out a short, startled little laugh. “Don’t you think I’d have said something by now if I hated it so much?”
Magnus isn’t quite sure what to make of that, so he settles with, “Hate is a strong word.”
The syllables of his name falling from Alec’s lips sound amused, affectionate, warm, and it makes Magnus want to close his eyes and sink into the lilt of Alec’s voice. It’s been so long since anybody made him feel like this, so long since he let anybody care for him, but Magnus wants. He wants to let go. He wants to stop fighting. He wants to let someone in, after so goddamn long locking everyone out.
He feels a thumb brush against his cheek, and he stills, eyes widening at the touch. Alec’s gaze fixes momentarily on his skin before flitting back to his eyes, something indescribably gentle in his expression that’s second only to the way he’s touching Magnus.
“I don’t mind you calling me that,” he says, one corner of his lips turning up. “It’s...it’s just what you do. It’s a you thing.”
“Alexander,” Magnus whispers, and he can hear the desperation in his own voice, hopes that Alec can tell how much he means this.
His eyes flicker down to Alec’s lips again, darting between his eyes and mouth, because god, he can’t remember ever wanting to kiss anybody so much. Alec is beautiful, and kind, and he cares, and Magnus cares about him. He’s wondrous, and he’s letting his fingers splay out against Magnus’ jaw, touch burning hot and enough to make Magnus’ heart hammer against his ribcage.
They’re so close. Close enough for Magnus to be able to feel the way Alec’s heart is jackrabbiting just as hard as his own. Close enough for him to see the way Alec’s eyelashes flutter and his lips part and his eyes go heavy-lidded as he tilts his chin down.
Alec is going to kiss him. And, more astonishingly, Magnus wants him to.
“Alexander,” Magnus murmurs, voice rough and an octave lower than it normally is.
Alec’s eyes flash dark, and he slides his fingers back to tilt Magnus’ head up. Hot breath washes across Magnus’ lips, and Magnus lets his eyes begin to close, because however much he wants to look at Alec, he wants to kiss him more. Their chests are pressed together, Alec a warm, solid weight against him, and Magnus angles his head to one side as Alec leans in, and—
Magnus’ eyes fly open as reality comes crashing back down on him. He barely registers Isabelle flinging open the door, or the harried worry on her face. It’s like someone has just doused him in freezing cold water, sobering him after a night of thick, heavy intoxication.
He leans back, away from Alec, and moves to step out of his personal space. He’s sure Alec won’t want anyone to see this. He won’t want his sister to witness him entangled with a wanted criminal, a Downworlder, someone like Magnus. He won’t want his family to see him about to kiss a man. And certainly not a Downworlder. Not one like Magnus.
Alec’s hand drops from his jaw, but it doesn’t fall away. It lands on Magnus’ shoulder, and he brings the other up to rest on his hip, and his fingers press lightly into Magnus’ skin. It’s so clearly a request for Magnus to stay close, to remain right next to Alec.
He barely hears what Isabelle says, but he feels Alec freeze, feels tension grip him, and he settles his hands comfortingly on Alec’s arms. It feels so natural to soothe him like that. When did this start to feel familiar? When did Alec start to feel familiar?
“Shit,” Alec says, swallowing hard. “I’m coming.”
Isabelle tells him that she’ll meet him outside. She glances at Magnus, and he’s sure she knows exactly what she walked in on, but then she turns, the click of her heels fading as she pulls the door shut behind her.
Magnus is gripped by a sudden fear as Alec turns back to look at him. Fear for Alec. He curls his fingers lightly into the sleeve of Alec’s shirt, and, for just a moment, he has the childish urge to ask Alec not to go.
It lasts only a moment. Because he knows that Alec would never let others go to defend his home when it’s under attack. He’s not that sort of person. That’s one of the reasons Magnus likes him so damn much.
Something flickers through Alec’s eyes, and then he’s tilting his head down again. His lips land on Magnus’ cheek, firm and soft and lingering, and Magnus leans into the contact.
“I’m sorry,” Alec whispers, pulling back slowly, mouth brushing against Magnus’ skin as he speaks. It’s so intimate it makes Magnus shiver, eyelashes fluttering and something in him feeling simultaneously vulnerable and empowered.
He turns his head before Alec can move away entirely, and rests his cheek against Alec’s.
“Be careful,” Magnus murmurs. “Please, angel, be careful.”
Because the thought of Alec going headfirst into a battle that’s already ravaged one of the strongest buildings in the city is awful—but the absolute certainty that Magnus can’t help - the fact that his presence would only ever make everything worse - makes him feel faintly sick.
“I’m always careful.”
Magnus pulls back at that, eyes fixed on Alec’s, and wonders whether Alec realises the irony of his statement. They only met because Alec was fatally injured. Because Alec almost died in battle.
Magnus isn’t sure he could take a repeat. Not when Alec means something to him now.
But he knows he has to let him go.
“Go on,” Magnus says, loosening his grip. “Go. Get out. And for god’s sake, call me. I want to know you’re okay.”
“Promise,” Alec says, holding his gaze for just a moment before he turns to go.
Alec stops, and turns back to look at him, confusion and surprise and something else washing across his face. “Yeah?”
Magnus takes a breath. “If you need help, call me. I’ll be there.”
He means it. Never would he have thought that he’d offer a Shadowhunter such a thing, but he means it with all his heart. He’d suffer the consequences for Alec.
Alec’s eyes go wide, and he shakes his head vehemently. “You can’t come to the Institute. We’ll be fine. Just- just enjoy all this, or whatever. This is our job. We’ve got it.”
That almost makes Magnus laugh. As though he could possibly enjoy anything while he knows that Alec is out there in the midst of battle.
But he can’t say that, so he settles with: “If you you do any more wing acrobatics, I swear—”
“I won’t,” Alec says, laughing just once. “I’ve got to go. I’ll text you.”
Magnus smiles faintly at him. “Stay safe, Alexander.”
There’s a beat, and then Alec slips out, pulling the door shut behind him, leaving Magnus alone with the memory of what had transpired between them, and the certainty that he wants Alexander Lightwood with everything he has.