Magnus is stumbling, the ground lurching beneath his feet. Tilting. Constantly moving.
It makes his head hurt. And his stomach sick.
He reaches for the wall to keep himself up. But there is no wall, his hand reaching into nothing but empty space. He stumbles again, a sharp pain explodes in his knees. It’s forgotten within the second, what with the hot burning down his side or his head.
Something warm and sticky pools beneath his cheek. He blinks his eyes open – were they closed? – slowly, his lids heavy and uncooperative. There’s a hand in front of him. It’s his own hand, has to be, it wears his rings, his nail polish, but it’s stained red and it’s resting in a puddle of clear liquid and sparkling shards of glass. So bright. Too bright, the light they reflect. It hurts. Hurts his eyes, hurts his head. His head!
He retches. And grabs at the liquid, the shards, at anything, just to keep from falling. Falling further.
No, he is already on the floor.
He can’t be on the floor. Shouldn’t be. His mind is hazy. He doesn’t know why, but he knows, he just knows, that he needs to get out of here.
On instinct he reaches for his magic, sees his fingers moving, clumsy and sluggish. Nothing happens. Not the tiniest of sparks. There’s nothing there. No magic, no familiar warmth or tingling. Nothing left.
He needs to get out!
The ground is shaking. Moving. Confusing. He grabs tighter against nothing but wetness and a solidness that does nothing to prevent him from falling. His stomach is lurching.
His fingers twitch, but his magic stays silent. Cold. A shiver runs down his spine. Not safe. No magic. Out! Alec! Phone! Where is his phone? He fumbles for it, his clumsy fingers finally finding it in a pocket. Solid and hard and help. He shivers, the sticky warm stuff against his face the only warmth around. It’s not enough. It’s so damn cold.
He forces his eyes open again. His phone is in his hands, red smears across the display. The same as on his fingers. His hand is shaking.
Dial! You need to dial!
Nameless fear lurks all around. Danger. He needs to go. Needs to get out!
But he’s so tired.
He longs for Alec’s embrace. For his warmth, his touch. His strong arms wrapped tightly around him, his body pressed against him, around him, like a security blanket. Safe. So safe. And his voice. Dark and soft, murmuring in his ear.
His Alexander. Comfort and safety.
And wrong. It’s all wrong.
And cold. Hard. Sticky.
And it hurts.
You need to leave!!!
Again he forces his eyes open. Again they’ve fallen shut. The world is blurry and tilting dangerously and the light from his phone is too bright. So bright it hurts! Blindly he presses speed dial and pulls it closer, his hand heavy, but at least the light isn’t shining into his eyes anymore.
It beeps. And beeps. Monotone.
Then there’s a voice. Deep, dark and-- annoyed? It makes no sense. Nothing makes sense.
“Magnus? Magnus, what’s wrong? Where are you? Magnus, talk to me!”
He can’t follow the words. They’re so many, so fast. So wrong. Not the words, but- something is wrong. They sound urgent, but he can’t fathom why. It doesn’t matter.
Alec. He wants him here. Needs him. Needs him to take the pain away. To feel safe.
It’s not safe here. He needs to get away. Get out.
“Take me home!”
“Magnus! WHERE ARE YOU?”
The words reverberate through his skull. They hurt. But it’s Alexander. He trusts him. So he looks around.
Where am I?
On the ground. Falling. In the cold. Amidst glass shards. There’s a counter. Bottles. He knows this floor.
“Stay where you are! I’m on my way!”
But he can’t stay. He’s moving, rolling, falling. He can’t make it stop. It’s nauseating.
As is the smell. Alcohol and ash. Ozon and burnt rubber. And other things. Worse things.
Again he retches. Throws up. The new smell is even worse, the taste of bile and martini a stuff of nightmares. But it’s nothing compared to the agony that spears through his head at the sudden movements.
A pitiful whine escapes his lips.
The night has barely even begun and he’d already dealt with more ‘situations’ than he usually faces in a whole week. He chugs down the last of his quick ‘breakfast’ and licks the sticky remnants of blood from his lips. To say he is ready for the night ahead would be a lie, but he has no choice.
‘You chose this yourself!’ he reminds himself for the hundredth time.
Still, it is a mess. One giant mess.
A minefield would be a safer, less tense environment than the current relations between the Downworld and the shadowhunters. Vampires are asking questions about the deal he made, some afraid, some relieved, many pissed off. Meliorn wants to speak with him. If only he could delegate that.
Maybe he should simply send him over to Magnus. This has all been his idea to begin with after all.
His phone rings.
With a sigh that he only allows himself because he’s alone in the room he reaches for it and checks the screen. Speaking of the devil…
“What is it now?” he asks, knowing full well that his annoyance is bleeding through.
But he gets no answer. No sassy comment, no angry quip. Nothing, just labored breathing. And he’s up on his feet in an instant, a cold feeling clamping around his chest. It only gets worse when there finally is an answer.
It’s Magnus, without a doubt, but his voice is weak and slurred. “’lexanr.”
Worry twists in his stomach. In all the years he’s been close to Magnus he has never heard him like this. Needy and slurring and completely out of it, enough to confuse him with Alec fucking Lightwood! It’s just wrong. Like the dissonant ring in a composition after a wrongly played note. It has him on edge in less than a second.
“Magnus? It’s Raphael. What-- are you alright?” There’s only breathing. Harsh, rasping. Of course he’s not alright! What a stupid question? “Magnus, what happened?” Nothing. “Come on! Talke to me! Magnus?” Breathing. “Magnus!” Rasping. “You damn bastard, talk to me already! Where are you? I can’t get to you if I don’t know where you are!”
He’s pacing now. Restless, worried.
For a moment he can’t make sense of it, can only hear the slurring of words spoken in a pathetic whine that sounds close to tears. When the actual meaning registers it doesn’t make it much better. ‘Take me home.’ The amount of raw pain that resonates in those simple words sends shivers down his spine.
He knows that Magnus had ended his relationship with the shadowhunter and that it hurts him more than he lets on. Part of him would like nothing more than to believe that his warlock friend and mentor had simply gone someplace to drink his pain away and couldn’t find his way home anymore. But he knows better and he hates that he does.
There’s something about the way he breathes that has dread clawing at his unbeating heart. Something about the way he slurs that has him moving before he even realizes.
“Magnus! Where are you?”
The answering groan has his stomach in a twist, the still fresh blood roiling sour inside.
The street in front of the Dumort isn’t busy, but it’s not empty either as he hurries out. There are only a few clouds in the sky. It’s surprisingly mild for October, but it’s cooling down quickly.
He’s jumpy, his nerves on fire, his muscles tense. He’s ready to run, he only needs a damn direction!!!
Then it hits him. Pandemonium.
He barely takes the time to speak one last time, each syllable clear and urgent. And a promise. “Stay where you are! I’m on my way!”
And then he’s off. Running as fast as his feet would carry him. But even with vampire speed it takes him a few minutes to get all the way down to Magnus’ club. Way too long for his liking. He focuses on his way, on avoiding collisions with cars and strolling mundanes, anything to stop his mind from imagining what could’ve possibly happened to make the man who is almost like a father to him sound like that.
Pandemonium lies in front of him. Dark and unspectacular without the flashing logo, always conveniently flickering so that it sometimes simply reads ‘demon’, or without the bulky security guards and most of all without the busy masses of people, scrambling to get in. It was just another building in a quiet side street.
At least for another two or so hours. Then it would start its nightly transformation into the hippest club in Manhattan, at least according to his friend.
Everything is quiet, yet something about this place has his hairs stand on end.
Prepared to kick the door in if necessary Raphael is surprised – and not in a good way – to find the door slightly ajar. The smell hits him before anything else does: the sharp bite of alcohol mixed with the sweet call of blood, but most of all the burning ozone of magic. It clings to the air so heavily, so thickly that it’s like walking through spiderwebs. Everything is tingling with the remnants of power, of something really, really big.
His teeth spring free involuntarily and pierce his lower lip as if he were some fledgling without self-discipline. But it’s this place, the atmosphere, the threat in the air that would have him running like crazy if it weren’t for his friend.
The entry area of the club is as it always is, but the further down the long hall like building his eyes travel, the messier it gets. Bar tables bashed in against the wall, most of the bottles behind the bar smashed, the decorative chrome struts on the ceiling bent or broken or… molten down? The leather couches in the corner are toppled over and partly burnt. Ash dances in the air, illuminated from the pale moonlight that flashes through one of the high windows, usually darkened but now broken.
Raphael takes it all in in less than a second. With quick strides, always alert, he hurries deeper into the building. The smell of burnt rubber and leather – and flesh? – grows stronger with every step, as does the cloying – frightening – thickness of magic.
And the smell of blood.
Then he sees him, in the rear area of the club where the bar spans around the corner and the entrance to the VIP lounge is situated. It’s Magnus, without a doubt. He’d know that silhouette everywhere.
Magnus is on the floor, slumped like something tossed away and forgotten. He’s not moving. And in that very moment he’s grateful that his heart isn’t beating anymore for Raphael is sure it would’ve stopped right then and there.
He’s at his friends side in an instant, taking the whole scene in just as quickly. The shards of glass from smashed bottles all around, the pool of bile right next to Magnus’ lips, the stink of ozone and alcohol and vomit and blood, the bloody phone next to his limp and equally bloody hand, the tears in his clothes, the eerie pallor of his face. And the blood. So much blood. It soaks through his silvery shirt, pools beneath his face.
He’s glad that Magnus is a warlock, that their blood tastes wrong and does strange things to a vampire, things he never wants to experience again. He’s glad of it, because even with his ‘breakfast’ the sheer amount of blood around him would’ve been hard to ignore otherwise.
But far more important than that is the heartbeat his heightened senses pick up on. It’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever heard.
He kneels down, unheeding of the puddle of alcohol or the shards of glass, and gently touches Magnus’ cheek. It’s warm, not as warm as it should be, but he’s still alive. He knows that already, but right now Magnus doesn’t look it, and –heartbeat or not – he just needs to feel it for his frantic nerves to calm down a bit.
“Magnus?” he tries.
Eyes roll beneath pale lids, a groan rasps through the silence then those eyes actually start to blink open. Slowly, the motion sluggish. Golden cat eyes blink up at him, dazed and confused, their pupils blown wide in the darkness of the club, only illuminated by that sliver of moonlight spilling in. More than enough light for Raphael to see that one pupil was significantly wider than the other. He doesn’t know much about medicine, but he knows that that is far from good.
It takes ages before something like recognition crosses Magnus’ unfocused gaze. “Raaph...”
“Shh, it’s alright. I’m here. You’re safe now. I’ve got you!”
He’s surprised at how calm and soothing his voice sounds, reassuring in a way he doesn’t feel at all. He’s afraid and uncertain what to do. He’s furious, his blood boiling with the need to hurt those responsible for this.
Instead he strokes his hand across the close-cropped hair at the side of Magnus’ head and forces a smile onto his face. Then those eyes close again and it’s like a ban has been lifted. With quick, but gentle movements, never quite sure where he could touch his friend without hurting him further, he slowly turns him onto his back, careful not to jostle his head in the process.
Still, his ministrations elicit the most horrible sound he’s ever heard, a sound that should never leave the lips of someone as old and powerful as Magnus, a sound that should never leave the lips of someone you love. It’s a sound that will haunt him for the rest of his immortal life.
A quiet, pitiful whimper. So full of pain, but lacking the energy to make it a scream.
His stomach lurches the second he gets a glimpse at the wound that’s responsible for all that blood. Never before has he thrown up a meal since becoming a child of the night, but right now the blood in his stomach turns to acid, churning and burning away at him. He retches, claws his fingernails into his thigh until the fabric rips. The pain helps him focus, helps him to keep his revolting body in check and face the horrible sight in front of him.
There’s a giant tear gaping just above Magnus’ ear, his skin ripped open by blunt force. His head looks misshapen and he can’t tell if it’s just the blood that’s still seeping out of the uneven edges of the wound or if his skull is caved in a bit.
That unnamed fear that had gripped him the moment he’d heard that weak, slurring voice now turns into something even worse, something far from unnamed and very much specific that claws at his chest and rips at his heart: the fear of losing him.
Magnus might be immortal, but he could still die!
And with a head wound like this…
Not on my watch!!!
He pushes his arm underneath his friend’s shoulders and lifts him up carefully, making sure to support his head until it rests securely against Raphael’s shoulder. The horrible whimper sounds again, quiet and broken, before it fades off completely and Magnus stays silent. He’s lost consciousness. Even more urgently now he pushes his other arm underneath Magnus’ knees and lifts him up. He’s heavier than he looks and his long limbs dangle awkwardly from his much shorter frame.
Raphael couldn’t care less about that, though.
Magnus’ blood is seeping into his suit jacket. He’s so damn quiet. Even on the warlock’s darkest days there had always been something vibrant about him, life itself thrumming beneath his skin. But now he is just a lifeless weight in his arms and it scares the hell out of Raphael.
“Who did this to you?” he asks into the silence, not expecting an answer but desperate for one anyway.
He looks around one last time, but there are no answers jumping out at him. And he doesn’t have time to search for them.
So he runs, careful to keep his friend safe in his arms. He runs faster than he’s ever run before. The wards around the place are down – unsurprisingly. The door is locked so he kicks it in. The wood splinters and gives way. With few quick strides he’s in the bedroom and puts Magnus down into his own bed, dirty and bloody as he is. The bright light of the room is unforgiving and highlights every horrible detail. He looks far worse than back at Pandemonium. His skin a pallid gray next to the bright red sheets that quickly soak through with dark blood and whatever alcoholic liquid Magnus had been lying in. Blood clings to his ashen face as well as the glistening remnants of vomit.
And that wound… that wound!!!
Raphael has a hard time telling himself that Magnus is not dead.
He takes the next best thing – a pillow – and presses it against the still bleeding wound in his side, he doesn’t dare touch that head wound for fear of making it worse. His phone is already in his hand, searching for her number.
There: Catarina Loss.
Once. Twice. Three times.
Raphael is ready to climb the walls by the time she finally picks up. He doesn’t give her time to say more than a surprised ‘Raphael?’. “I need you!” It bursts out, urgent and far from his usual composure. He’s never allowed his fear to show like this, it’s a weakness he couldn’t allow himself, but who cares about weakness when an essential member of their family is gravely wounded? “Magnus is hurt. Badly! I’m at his loft. Come quickly!” Each sentence is quick and sharp, like a bullet.
And with his munition used up there is no need to linger. He hangs up. He doesn’t know her all that well, but he knows her well enough to know that she cares a lot about Magnus. She’ll hurry to get here.
He presses harder against the pillow and puts his other hand on Magnus’ chest, right over his heart. “¡Aguanta un poco más, mi amigo!”¹
1) Hang in there a little bit longer, my friend!
I know, I know, ending it there was really mean ;)
Anyway, I hope you liked it so far :D
Next chapter will follow tomorrow!
As promised: the next chapter.
The big parts in cursive are flashbacks, although I probably needn't mention it since it's rather obvious ;)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He’s in the hallway, waiting. Pacing. And he hates every second of it!
Again he looks at his watch. Again it’s barely a few minutes later than last time he checked. This is worse than torture, this uncertainty, this helplessness. It’s gnawing at him from the inside, taunting him, urging him to do something when there is absolutely nothing he can do. The door to the bedroom is firmly closed, but it’s not the door he’s currently staring at.
No, the focus of his angry glowering is the front door. Pushed close although there is no more lock to keep it properly shut. His gaze is fixed on that door. All his anger, burning wild in his veins, is fixed on that door. As if that door is behind it all. As if that door has hurt Magnus.
Of course he knows that it’s not the door.
It’s the one he’s waiting for that he’s pissed at.
Of course he also knows that it’s not him, not really, but…
Magnus looks uncharacteristically small just in his shorts. Vulnerable. The beginnings of bruises form on his chest and sides, remnants of the battle he had fought and lost. There’s a big slash at his side, not too deep, but long and still leaking blood. And that horrible head wound.
Catarina’s deep blue magic connects the spread fingers of her right hand to the unmoving form of his friend. Her left rests on his forehead, tender and reassuring. After snapping his clothes off a moment ago – quite literally – she’s now started to examine him. The moment her magic quickly ghosts across the gash in his side before turning to the more pressing injury, a deep, unhappy frown settles on her brow.
“This,” she nods towards Magnus’ side, “was made by a seraph blade.”
She doesn’t look at him, only focuses on her patient, but there’s a barely hidden contempt underneath her controlled tone of voice. “There are traces of angelic energies around the wound. His attacker was definitely a shadowhunter.”
Well, knowing Magnus it would’ve taken more than one attacker to overwhelm and hurt the old and powerful warlock like that.
It must have been the Circle!
Raphael takes another turn, pacing back the width of the hallway. The soles of his shoes squeak as he spins around abruptly yet again.
If it’s not the Circle, then...
The memory of their last Downworld council meeting comes back to his mind. It had turned south from the moment the Seelie Queen had presented the Institute with a hard front. It might not have been the best of approaches but what had that Lightwood boy expected after going back on his own words merely days after speaking them? They had to look out for their own.
Maybe… maybe some of the nephilim saw Magnus as the guilty party, setting the whole Downworld up against them? Maybe…
But they wouldn’t dare, would they?
He knows that some of them would most definitely want to, many of them would do it if ordered, but still, he has to believe that it was the Circle who hurt Magnus. He just has to!
Damn it, what is taking him so long?
With every minute he’s condemned to wait his countenance is slipping further. His calm exterior that he’d worked decades to perfect and had arduously put back in place after leaving the bedroom begins to crack again.
“How is he?” he wants to know, his voice rough with worry. Catarina is still just checking the extent of the damage, but she’s lingering on Magnus’ head wound for a while now, her lips pressed together into a thin line. He can’t take it anymore. He needs to know!
Her gaze flickers up towards him, only for a moment, but he’s glad when he’s not the focal point of those eyes anymore. There’s an intensity burning in them that sends shivers down his spine. “It’s bad!” she says, serious and almost growling with anger. “He’s bleeding into his brain.”
For a second the room loses all color. Raphael’s stomach plummets and for the second time that night he’s on the verge of throwing up. He balls his hands into fists, his blunt nails digging painfully into his palms.
“But you can heal him, right?” He hates how desperate he sounds. And he hates that he’s afraid of the answer. He can’t die. Magnus is his oldest friend. In some ways he’s like a father to him. Magnus is family! They fight and clash a lot, but he can always count on the warlock to be there if things get rough or are important. He’s his rock, as Magnus would call it. He can’t lose him, not like this!
Catarina’s face softens. “Yes, I can. You called me here just in time. But it won’t be easy and it will take a while, but he’s stubborn as hell. He’ll be okay again.”
For the first time since all of this started that fear stops clawing at his chest and that heavy pressure lifts off of him. Even though he doesn’t need it, he takes a deep breathe. And another one, letting the relief settle into every part of his being.
And with his fear gone, with that all-consuming worry out of his mind, his rage has finally room to maneuver. It’s burning through his veins, hot like sunlight. “They’ll pay for this! I’ll find them and-”
“You need to call him!” She interrupts him calmly, her magic still dancing over the side of Magnus’ head.
He clenches his teeth. Hard. Of course he knows whom she’s talking about. Even thinking about that shadowhunter stokes up the fire within him. He had promised them change and had lied to their faces about the Soul Sword. But what’s even worse: he had lied to Magnus, the man he claimed to love. The mere memory of the hurt and betrayal in his friend’s eyes makes him flare up with the need to protect him from it. If only he could. But he can spare him more pain!
“Why???” he growls. “His people did this! He betrayed him!”
She has the audacity to roll her eyes at him in annoyance. And she talks as if she were lecturing a child. “The High Warlock of Brooklyn got attacked and almost killed, Raphael! Even if the attacker weren’t shadowhunters that needs to be reported. Their relationship status doesn’t matter here, he’s still the Head of the Institute, he needs to know! Now go! I can’t have you in here when I heal him. Your anger is disrupting my focus!”
The door bursts open all of a sudden, without warning, without knocking. It’s Alec Lightwood, storming in as if he owns the place. For a second he frowns at the broken lock and the splintered wood, but only until he spots Raphael then he hurries right on.
It’s just a few feet that separate them, but Raphael closes them with vampire speed and splays a hand across the shadowhunter’s chest to stop him right in his tracks. That man has no right to storm in here like this, not anymore! He had forfeited that right when he’d betrayed Magnus.
The wings of his nose flare with barely controlled rage. Part of him knows that not all of it is directed at the Lightwood boy, it’s just his protectiveness rearing up, wanting to keep Magnus safe. He’s furious at those who hurt his friend, furious that it were shadowhunters of all people who’d done it. He’s furious and it burns within him. Too hot to keep it bottled up inside him.
And Alec Lightwood just happens to be there. A convenient target.
The much taller shadowhunter makes a strangled noise as his advance is so abruptly stopped. Raphael might have put more force into stopping him than he’d intended. The other looks dazed for a second and pain flashes across his features as he stumbles back a bit and instinctively rubs a hand across his chest.
He is not sorry, though!
“Took you long enough!” Raphael’s voice is deep and low and more of a growl than actual words. They’re a challenge. Everything within him longs for a fight, to vent that burning fire within him before it could eat him alive.
But the other doesn’t seem to notice his hostility, or his own pain for that matter. His whole body is trembling with urgency as his eyes seek his. “Where is he?” His voice is shaking, like a bridge on the verge of collapse. He’s scared!
Raphael blinks. It’s something so small and yet it gives him pause. And he looks closer. Looks at the man in front of him, all in black, breathing heavily as if he’d run the whole way, his hair a wild and wind-blown mess. He’s pale. And there’s something desperate in his eyes, something devastated, something so deep and frightened and lost he almost staggers back from it. And for a moment there his anger loses its importance.
It hits him.
This man – Alec – loves Magnus.
Whatever else Alec Lightwood might be, whatever wrongs he committed in the past, he loves Magnus. With all his heart. Even now, after…
Magnus had ended it for the sake of his people and it had broken his heart. But clearly it had broken Alec’s as well.
Raphael feels a bit of his tension bleed away and his usual mask of calm indifference slips back into place. “He’s in his bedroom. Catarina is with him.”
Alec takes the information in and heads right on towards the bedroom door. Raphael can’t let him do that. He reaches out, grabs the other’s arm and stops him a second time. He shakes his head when Alec looks back over his shoulder at him.
“She needs quiet to concentrate.”
It should bring him satisfaction that he’s not the only one banned from the room, not the only one who longs to be with Magnus but can’t. But it does not.
Alec turns, releasing a long and shaky breath. He rakes one of his hands through his hair, only making it stand up worse. “He’s going to be okay, though. Right?”
The words, so hopeful and needy, throw him right back to the thrashed insides of Pandemonium. Back to the bright red sheets on a broad bed. Back to his friend, motionless, whimpering, so weak and vulnerable. Back to the blood and that horrible, horrible wound. Catarina’s voice reverberates through his mind: he’s bleeding into his brain.
He swallows heavily, feels his Adam’s apple bob almost painfully. Then he nods. He nods because Catarina had said so. Because he refuses to accept otherwise.
But Alec notices at once that something’s off. Maybe it was his hesitation, maybe his mask had cracked again. Doesn’t matter. Fear spikes in hazel eyes and Alec breaks free of his hold with a sudden jerk. He’s at the bedroom door in an instant, but he hesitates, his hand hovering at the recess of the door that serves as a handhold to slide it open.
Raphael can’t see his face, only the tense set of his shoulders, the twitching of his fingers. The man is torn between storming in to the one he loves and staying back, allowing Catarina the quiet to work her magic on him. He’s just about to put his hand on the shadowhunter’s arm and gently pull him back when a groan sounds from behind said door.
And Alec is bursting in without a moment’s notice, Raphael close on his heels.
Catarina is sitting on the bed right next to Magnus, her right hand still hovering over his slightly turned head, shaking, working on that wound there. But she’s pale now, sweat is glistening on her forehead and every now and then her skin takes on a bluish tint. She’s swaying, her left hand on the mattress doing only so much in keeping her upright, trembling as it was. She’s biting down on her lip, but she’s not stopping what she’s doing.
Raphael can only stare. She’s close to collapse, close to depleting herself and Magnus’ wounds look just the same as when he’d left the room a while ago.
Alec is at her side in a heartbeat, steadying her with a sure hand on her shoulder. He guides her back to lean against him and helps her to stay upright. And just like that he reaches out his left hand and closes his fingers around hers. “Take my strength! Take all you need! Just heal him, please!”
Catarina does, judging by the strain that quickly showed on Alec’s features.
And for a moment, Raphael is simply stunned. Stunned by the lengths this shadowhunter is willing to go to safe a Downworlder.
No: to save the man he loves.
And so Alec arrives...
I'm still surprised how easy it was to write from Raphael's point of view...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Raphael pushes himself off of the wall he’d been leaning against when Catarina closes her bag. She wipes her brow with the back of her hand, clearly exhausted and drained after everything.
“I did all I could for now. I need to rest and prepare some potions. I’ll be back in the morning.”
“How is he?” He can’t help but ask, anxious for the answer. Because, to his eyes, his friend hadn’t looked healed at all when she’d started bandaging up his wounds. The gash in his side still there, the wound at the side of his head just as ghastly as before, merely cleaned and then hidden away underneath white bandages. The bruises on his chest a deep red by now. No doubt they’ll be almost black within an hour or two. If anything, Magnus looks worse than before. Still pale. Still not moving.
Still so very hurt.
Catarina sighs as her gaze sweeps down to the bed, aching for the man in the sheets. And Raphael is reminded again that she cares for Magnus just as much. That he is her family, too. “It was more difficult than I expected, but I managed to heal the internal damage. And that’s what matters! He’ll sleep for quite a while now. His magic is utterly depleted in a way I’ve never seen, but as soon as it starts restoring itself he will begin to heal faster. He will be okay again.”
He smiles at her. The shadow of a smile. Sad, but grateful. “Are you okay?”
She nods, her eyes drooping at the motion. “Yeah, just tired.”
“Catarina.” It’s Alec, his voice quiet and rough. He’s kneeling on the floor next to the bed, holding onto Magnus’ hand. His other one is stroking through the warlock’s hair, across his forehead, lets the back of his fingers ghost across the short hair at the uninjured side of his head. It’s gentle and so very intimate Raphael has to look away. Instead he focuses back on the shadowhunter himself, pale and drawn after offering his strength up to Catarina. He has no idea how much she took, but he doubts that Alec would be able to get up at the moment.
Catarina turns and looks down and Alec up, his face open and easy to read.
“Thank you!” Honest and heartfelt, the words weigh heavy in the room.
Catarina accepts them with a simple nod, then fixes her gaze on both of them in turn, something hard and unforgiving in the tired features of her face. “Find who did this and make them pay!”
And with that she grabs her bag and leaves. It’s eerily quiet as soon as she’s gone. And not the comfortable kind. The atmosphere is charged with something he can’t name. Something uneasy and restless. Alec is still caressing Magnus, this intense longing in his eyes. Matching the one he’d spotted on his friend these last days sometimes he thought himself unobserved. They belong to each other in a way that goes beyond his understanding. For a moment he even wonders if maybe Magnus had done the wrong thing by choosing his own people.
He shakes his head. Tries to remember that Alec Lightwood had betrayed them all.
But it’s hard to be angry at someone who just gave part of himself to save the man he loves. To save Magnus .
Alec looks up at him then, his voice hoarse, but his gaze sharp. “What happened?”
Yeah, what happened?
He rakes a hand through his hair in an unusual gesture of nerves, unwilling to revisit those memories. But he knows he has to. He’d only told the other on the phone that Magnus had been attacked and injured, nothing more. So he starts at the beginning, watching as the shadowhunter before him paled even further during his tale. His fingers tighten around Magnus’ hand and by the end of it his face is set with grim determination.
Again, silence fills the room.
Again it’s uncomfortable and heavy.
Raphael’s gaze is drawn towards the figure on the bed. His friend. His chest rising and falling regularly underneath the blanket. Magnus looks small like this. Fragile. And so very, very still. It’s wrong.
He can’t stay. Can’t stand to look at his friend a moment longer. He turns and reaches for the door.
“Where are you going?”
“To get answers!”
And he means it. He’s going back to Pandemonium and find out what happened. Who did this and then he’s going to-
“Raphael, wait!” There’s something hard in the shadowhunter’s tone. Something he knows only too well: it’s the leader talking. “This is a Clave investigation now-”
He whirls around, tense and threatening and angry as he growls: “I won’t let you stop me from finding out who hurt my friend! You’re not going to protect the shadowhunters who did this!”
Rage flashes across Alec’s face. For a second he’s sure the boy would jump up and attack, but just as quick as it came the anger puffs out and leaves nothing but a pale and weary looking young man who sinks in on himself as if the weight of the world rests on his shoulders.
“I want them found just as much as you do! And if you think I would in any way protect the people who did this then you don’t know me at all.” His shoulders sag even further. “We’re at war, Raphael. We may not be allies anymore, but we still fight the same enemy: Valentine. So please, just- can we work together in this?”
Raphael is silent. Staring. Fighting with himself.
Alec sighs. “I’ll send Izzy and Jace to investigate. Izzy is the best at forensics we have. Can you please just- help them? Work together? For Magnus?”
And Raphael finds himself nodding. Reluctantly, but he does.
Raphael is sitting in one of the overly comfy chairs from the living room, one leg crossed over the other, his ankle resting on his knee. He’d carried it over into the bedroom earlier and pulled it up to the bedside. The curtains behind him are closed against the bright daylight. He can feel its presence in the form of a soft tickle in the back of his neck, but the curtains are thick. And anyway, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Magnus is still sleeping, just as Catarina has promised. He looks a bit better than last night, if not by much. But at least he got a bit of his color back. Alec had cleaned the make-up from his face. It’s amazing how much younger he looks without it. Younger and even more vulnerable, as if his last wall of defense had been taken from him.
Catarina had been here in the morning. She’d worked what magic she could spare on his head wound before starting her shift at the hospital. She’d also brought two potions with her, one that she skillfully poured down his throat without him choking on it, the other to rub it into his wounds so they’d heal faster. She’d promised them to be back after her shift late that evening. On her way out she repaired the door with an eye-roll and made them promise to call her should he wake up.
Which he hasn’t.
It still hurt, seeing him like this, so lifeless and dependent on others. It feels just wrong . Especially now.
He shudders, the memories of Pandemonium fresh in his mind. Not the ones of finding Magnus lying in his own blood and vomit, barely conscious, although they as well would feature in his nightmares for many years to come. No, the memories of his second trip to Pandemonium that night still make his skin crawl.
Piecing together with Izzy and Jace what had happened hadn’t been all that hard after all. Upon closer inspection the situation had presented itself rather clearly.
He shudders again.
The bloody metal pipe behind the bar had spoken for itself even if he wouldn’t have recognized the smell of his friend’s blood on it.
The dead body next to it had told them what they’d all assumed – and still, it had filled him with relief to know that it had been the Circle behind the attack and not another faction of rogue shadowhunters unhappy with the current political climate.
“He can’t have been alone,” Raphael says as he glances down at the dead shadowhunter with disgust. “No offense, but it would need more than one shadowhunter to hurt Magnus like that.”
“I agree.” Jace, currently squatting next to the corpse, gets up again. Glass shards crunch underneath his heavy boots. “The way you described his injuries I’d say he fought someone then this guy here snuck up on him and whacked him over the head with the pipe.”
Raphael frowns. It sounds plausible and yet it very much doesn’t. “But that would mean Magnus killed this one here,” he nudges the dead guy’s side with the tip of his shoe, “after that blow to the head.” And that can’t be right. Magnus had been barely conscious when he’d found him. “You haven’t seen him...” His pupils blown wide and his speech slurring and his skull caved in.
But Jace doesn’t seem to listen to him as he looks around as if the mess around owes him an answer. “And why did they just leave him then? Why not kill him? Or take him?”
Although miffed that the arrogant blond had just ignored him, he has to admit that those were good questions.
“I think I know why.” It’s Izzy. Beautiful and fierce in her tight black hunting gear as she kneels in the middle of the open space beyond the bar. She’s looking at something on the floor, a kind of blackened shape. A burn? He steps around the bar, ignores the crunching underneath his shoes and takes a closer look. There are more of those shapes. Three on the floor, one against the wall to the back. “I think the ones who attacked him already got what they deserved.”
He remembers the flakes of ash in the air earlier all of a sudden. The strong smell of burnt rubber and flesh, which is still lingering but far less intense. And he remembers the remnants of powerful magic that had filled the air like syrup.
It had been Magnus!
After that blow to the head!
He must have lashed out with everything he had, depleting himself to the last ounce of magic he possessed. One last outburst, just pure survival instinct. Burning them all to a cinder right where they stood. All except the guy who lay already dead and shielded behind the bar.
Raphael shudders again.
He wishes he could’ve seen it, that millisecond where they’d realized that they’re going to die. And yet it also terrifies him. He’s always known that Magnus is powerful, that he’s not to be messed with when angry, but he has never seen anything like this . He has never seen this absolutely lethal side of his friend. Not like this.
It awes him just as much as it intimidates him.
All in all it’s sobering.
Voices filter through the slightly open door and distract him from his thoughts. Alec is in the hallway on the phone, pacing the length of it or through the living room while organizing and coordinating all kinds of things. He’s been at it for a while now. It’s almost noon and he can only imagine how news of the newest attack of the Circle adds to the already frantic search of the shadowhunters.
Not too long ago he’d been in a similar situation with his own people, working through phone call after phone call to get the situation under control. News traveled fast, especially when it’s a Downworld representative who’s been attacked.
His people are rattled. The sudden changes, the Circle, the new standing with the shadowhunters, the attack, finding Valentine...
He looks up, but Alec is still outside. Still on the phone.
“I know that he ended things, Jace, but that doesn’t matter now. I’m not leaving him!” There’s a short pause in which the determination in his tone quickly turns into an angry hiss. “He got clubbed around the head with a fucking metal pipe! He could’ve-” died. The word hangs in the air like an elephant in the room. Still, Alec clearly can’t say it. Instead he repeats, his voice rough. “I’m not leaving him!”
Sure, listening in isn’t the polite thing to do, but with advanced hearing and nothing else to keep him occupied, it’s what Raphael does. It’s stupid, though. Alec is the Head of the Institute, the leader of his people. He should be with them. Lead them. Especially now. It’s his job after all, his responsibility.
He knows it’s true and yet he can’t really judge him on standards that he can’t fulfill himself either. In a strange way it makes him feel close to the other in a way he never has before. They are both here, at the bedside of a friend, while the world around them drowns in chaos.
The door opens. Alec looks pale and tired and he’s still in the same clothes as last night. He rubs his eyes while he closes the door with his foot, trying to suppress a yawn while at it. The tray in his hand wobbles a bit, but he balances it a moment later again. It holds fresh bandages and the little vial with Catarina’s potion.
“It’s time to refresh the ointment on his wounds.”
Raphael nods and gets up. They work in surprisingly companionable silence.
So, you finally got some answers ;)
And tomorrow... Magnus will wake up!
Hope you enjoyed it so far :D
I hope this last chapter answers all the questions you asked me ;)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s been 24 hours and Magnus still hasn’t woken up.
Raphael is pacing the length of the bedroom, from the bookshelf to the window that looks out over the illuminated city with all those mundanes, living their lives as if nothing is amiss. Every now and then his gaze glances towards his friend, resting beneath red sheets.
24 hours. Sure, Catarina had said it would take a while, but this… she’d healed him, right? At least all his internal injuries and some of the external. He should be awake by now!
But he isn’t!
He merely moaned a bit a while ago, but nothing more.
He takes another turn, chewing at his bottom lip. Where is Catarina? Why isn’t she here yet? Should he call her?
Alec is at Magnus’s side, in fresh clothes now – not that they look much different – provided by Izzy during the day. She’d hugged her brother tightly and left, still with that worried and sad expression on her face that had tugged at his heart. But he also hadn’t missed the way she’d looked at Magnus, with pity and worry, sure, but also as if she were seeing him in a whole new light now. After the revelations at Pandemonium. Alec is on the floor again, perching on the rug next to the bed. He holds Magnus’ hand in one of his own, their fingers entwined, pale skin against caramel. Magnus’ rings are gone, only his dark nail polish remains, and he wonders when Alec had taken them off. It doesn’t matter. Right now the dark-haired shadowhunter is holding their joined hands up to his face, his lips against the back of said caramel hand, murmuring encouragements to wake up into his skin.
Raphael stops and stares. Whatever Alec has been whispering, it seems to do the trick.
Magnus’ eyelids are fluttering, his fingers twitching and, if there’s been any doubt left, the steadily increasing heart rate does the trick. Raphael takes a tentative step closer, holding his breath, a stupid habit from his mundane days.
Alec startles at the changes, his whole posture tenses.
Then, finally, Magnus blinks his eyes open.
Raphael wants to sigh in relief. He wants to sink down on the bed and grab onto his friend’s arm and just squeeze it. He wants to crush him into one of those hugs that usually Magnus initiates. But he does neither of those things. Instead he doesn’t move. Doesn’t dare to, afraid to shatter the moment somehow.
It takes a while until Magnus’ eyes stay open, the gaze of his golden-green cat eyes unfocused and dazed. His pupils are the same size again, though, and something within him relaxes even more. Magnus blinks a few more times and tilts his head. His gaze falls on Alec, focuses, and the warmest of smiles lights up his whole face. Never before has Raphael seen a smile like this on his friend’s face, so open and unguarded .
His eyes close again, but the smile stays.
“Alexander,” he croaks, his voice rough with disuse, and yet it envelopes that one word as if it were something precious.
Raphael inhales sharply.
He doesn’t remember!
Alec’s eyes are wide and bright as they stare down at the warlock. He’s smiling, but it’s a facade, a mask. A wall to hide behind. Even Raphael can see his heart breaking even further beneath the surface. Can see the longing and the love in his too bright eyes.
It hurts to watch.
So he looks away. Looks back at Magnus. Who’s currently scrunching up his face in confusion and discomfort. He lifts his free hand up to his forehead then rubs his face instead. His other hand, still joined with Alec’s, he pulls close and presses it against his chest as if he wants to curl around that part of Alec, that connection. It’s such a natural gesture that even Raphael has some trouble with a lump forming in his throat.
Alec swallows hard.
He can’t imagine what the boy must be feeling right now.
“By Lilith, how much did I drink last night?” he groans, smacking his lips and pulling a disgusted face at the horrible taste in his mouth.
Magnus can’t remember the last time he’d felt this bad after a night of overindulgence. Actually, he doesn’t remember last night at all. Oh no, did he drink that faerie schnapps again? Another groan slips past his lips. But seriously, his body feels heavy and he’s aching all over. And that throbbing in his head is something else entirely.
Waking up had been a bad idea!
He snuggles Alec’s hand even closer against his chest, ignoring the diffuse pain that motion causes. Maybe he can just go back to sleep again.
That’s when he realizes the silence all around. No answer to his question. No ‘good morning’, not even a ‘You’re an idiot, you deserve that headache!’. Nothing. Just silence.
He might not be sober but he knows that something’s amiss.
It hurts, so he stops doing it and blinks his eyes open instead. It’s easier this time around. The bedroom isn’t as bright as he’d initially thought, no bright sunlight, just the warm and dimmed down light from the ceiling lamp. Is it night again? How long has he slept??? Driven by a strange unease he looks up again, searches for Alexander. For answers. And Alec is right there, smiling back at him, but something isn’t right. There’s a strain in his features that shouldn’t be there.
He frowns again, involuntarily. And hisses at the pain it causes. He pushes his free hand against the mattress and tries to sit up, to get some answers.
Pain explodes in his head. Burns in his side.
His arm buckles beneath him, all strength gone in an instant and he sinks back again, groaning in pain. He lets go of Alec’s hand and clutches it against his side, although the blanket is in the way. His other hand reaches up towards his head as if he could somehow keep it from splitting in half that way. He touches bandages there.
He’s dimly aware of a voice. “Don’t move, just-- don’t move, okay?”
Yeah, he got that.
Magnus breathes through the pain. It takes a moment, but with him not moving it finally abates to the throbbing from before. Still not pleasant, but manageable. The whole episode leaves him with a queasy stomach.
Alec’s worried face is still right there, his splayed open hands hovering in mid-air as if he’s unsure or afraid to touch, which doesn’t make sense to him. Only then does he notice that Alec isn’t actually in bed with him, but kneeling next to it. And there’s a third person in the room as well, down near the foot of the bed: Raphael.
He wreaks his brain, but he can’t think of anything that would explain how he got injured of all things. The last thing he remembers is… He pauses. His breath stutters. The last thing he remembers is walking out of the council meeting, together with the Seelie Queen.
His breath quickens as he remembers.
Not what had happened to him, but what he had done.
He’d walked away from Alexander! He’d chosen his people over his heart. So why is Alec here now? And why does he have to look so worried?
No, he can’t deal with him right now! Not on top of everything else, whatever this ‘else’ actually is! He just can’t!
He pulls away from Alec, brings as much distance between them as is possible with him lying in bed. But he needs that distance, needs it to keep his sanity. To not break down. He has to steel his heart, no matter the cost. He can feel the tension in his face as his muscles harden; as his expression freezes into a hard mask. Hard enough to protect him, at least that’s what he hopes for. Still, it hurts. It hurts so much more than his head or his side to shut him out. But he’s got no choice.
Alec gets the hint. His hovering hands vanish out of Magnus’ field of view and a moment later he pulls back completely, sitting back onto his heels.
Everything within him screams at the loss.
But he bears the screams, bears the pain and pushes the blanket off of him instead. The look down at himself reveals bandages at his side and a motley of dark bruises all over his chest. He’d hoped for answers, now he’s faced with even more questions.
Slowly he repeats himself. And this time he doesn’t sound confused. This time his voice comes out dark and cold and demanding answers.
Alec flinches. He can see it from the corner of his eyes, so he focuses on Raphael. At first glance he looks impeccable and indifferent as always. On second glance however Magnus spots a lot of things that only add to the confusion and dread within his chest.
The dark red dress shirt looks a bit rumpled, as if he’s wearing it for a while now.
The sleeves of his shirt are rolled up. Raphael never does that. He thinks it looks inelegant.
His dress pants might be a dark gray, but he can still see some even darker stains on them. And there are small tears in them at the front of the thighs.
His suit jacket is missing and his usually meticulously styled hair is ruffled.
Most of all: there’s the open relief in his dark eyes, for everyone to see. But Magnus isn’t just anybody. He’d guided Raphael into the Downworld almost from the very beginning. He’d practically raised him, in a way. And that’s why he can also see the shadow of terror underneath. Not acute, more like the remnants of a recent event, still lingering.
And he wonders if he really wants to know the answer to his question.
Though his eyes are locked with Raphael’s it’s Alec who speaks first: “You got attacked by Circle members.”
“You were badly hurt. You called me for help,” Raphael adds, his voice betraying nothing of what lies hidden in the depths of his eyes.
But how? Where? And he’d called Raphael?
Magnus starts shaking his head, but he stops it immediately again as the pain beneath his skull spikes at once in protest. “I don’t remember any of that.”
“Which isn’t surprising, actually.” He jumps at the new voice that comes out of nowhere. So does Alec. Only Raphael turns calmly towards the door. It is Catarina, still in her scrubs, her hair pulled up into a messy bun. She’s rolling her eyes at him in that disapproving, exasperated fondness that she’d perfected over the centuries. “With a blow to the head like that you’re lucky to be alive.”
She’s kidding, right?
But that remnant of terror in Raphael’s eyes. He must’ve found him. And that’s why Alec…
“Maybe your memory will come back, maybe not.” Catarina shrugs. “Don’t fret over it. Here.” She comes over to his bedside and Alec takes a step back to make room for her. There’s a small vial in her hand that she reaches out to him. “For the pain. And don’t tell me you’re not in any, because I can see right through that tough facade of yours. Now, drink up!”
Arguing with her would only end in even more headache. And she’s right. He is in pain, so he chugs the contents of the vial. It’s disgusting – of course it is, the good stuff always is. Bitter and thick, but strong. Very strong. He’s still grimacing at the taste when he starts feeling the effect already. The burning in his side almost vanishes. The aches in his chest become unimportant. And the constant throbbing in his head dulls down to a mere nuisance.
His whole body sags deeper into the mattress.
But now, with the pain gone, his limbs turn heavy and he feels incredibly tired all of a sudden.
Too tired to deal with Alec and his presence and what it means on top of a near fatal attack and amnesia. There’s only so much he can handle at once and that is just too much.
So he braces himself, pulls a wall up around his heart and turns around to face Alec, who stands stiffly at his bed. “If you’re here to take my statement, Mr. Lightwood, you’re wasting your time. I don’t remember anything from the attack.”
Alec looks completely taken aback, even takes a step backwards.
Magnus can see the hurt in his eyes. He can hear Catarina’s displeased grumbling. But he ignores it all. He has to, although it hurts.
“That’s not why I’m here, Magnus. You know th-”
“Then you shouldn’t be here at all.” His voice is harsh. Cold. And something inside him is breaking, hidden away under a layer of ice.
“Just… I needed to know you’re okay. I couldn’t… I’m sorry.”
He presses his eyes shut, can’t look at him. Not when he looks like that . Not when he sounds like that . It hurts. It hurts so much and he can’t. He just can’t. Why does he have to make it even more difficult?
“Don’t! Just- just go! Please!” His voice is shaking, breaking at the end. It’s betraying his pain and he hates it. He hadn’t wanted to plead, but he’s so very tired and he just can’t… He wants nothing more than to bury his face in the crook of Alexander’s neck, hide in his embrace and forget about the whole world but he can’t. He just can’t. He’d chosen his path, his people.
But his strength is waning and he knows – he just knows – that his resolve would crack if Alec doesn’t leave right now.
He doesn’t open his eyes when he hears retreating footsteps nor the sliding of the bedroom door. He doesn’t open his eyes when he hears the front door falling shut with a finality that echoes through his heart.
He doesn’t open his eyes. He doesn’t have to.
His hot tears find their way out anyway.
Raphael is still stunned. He can see the irritation in Catarina’s body language, the exasperation in her eyes, yet it’s Alec that draws his gaze. His sagging shoulders, the defeat in his expression as he crosses the room.
The hurt in his eyes.
He reaches out, stops the other with a firm grip around his upper arm. But when he finally catches Alec’s gaze he finds that he has no idea what to say. No words to convey what he’s thinking. ‘Thank you’ seems inadequate and he knows that no matter how much he wants to reassure the other, he also knows that whatever he would say it would fall on deaf ears. So he says nothing and simply nods. And he hopes nonetheless that this strange new connection between them would somehow be enough to make Alec Lightwood understand him anyway.
After that he lets go and watches him leave. And he can’t help thinking – to his own surprise – that Alec doesn’t deserve this.
But then, Magnus is only protecting his heart.
Although without success, judging from that bottomless anguish barely hidden away behind an icy exterior.
Raphael listens to the front door closing and he watches as tears slip from Magnus’ eyes and it’s the saddest thing he ever witnessed.
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Anyway, tomorrow will be a day without me posting but expect the next story of this calendar on Saturday!