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Something in the Air (makes you do strange things)

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i.

“Do you trust me, Alexander?”

Alec shut his book, marking his place with his thumb before glancing up.

Across the room, Magnus was ensconced behind his potions desk, surrounded by a veritable army of bottles in various shapes and sizes, each filled with brightly colored liquid. Large, ornate bowls simmered over magically conjured fires, letting off puffs of steam at irregular intervals.

Alec’s thoughts tripped to a halt, caught on the ripples of evening light dancing across Magnus’ exposed forearms beneath rolled-up sleeves. At the way his fingers constantly moved, even at rest. When his mind finally caught up, he set aside his book entirely.

Did Magnus really not know?

Shaking his head, Alec gave a soft smile, the kind Magnus always seemed to draw from him. “I trust you with everything.”

He could count on one hand the number of people he let see past his walls, and within forty-eight hours of their first meeting, the High Warlock of Brooklyn had become part of that group. Alec could still remember their first night together. That vivid sense of feeling stripped bare, yet conversely, more in control of his life than he’d ever felt. When he finally fell asleep—alone, exhausted, and unarmed in a strange Downworlder’s home—he never doubted he was in safe hands.

That sense of safety lived so deep in his bones it could no longer be separated from the rest of him.

Safety. Love. Sex. Trust. All the things he never thought he could have, now such an intricate part of his life he couldn’t imagine living without them. The knowledge was as unyielding as the color of a freshly applied rune or the exact angle of his bow in motion.

“Well,” Magnus said, breaking Alec from his thoughts. “You may not after you hear my request.” He fiddled with his earcuff, a simple black one that matched the thick lines around his eyes.

Alec shook his head. They had variations of this conversation before, and experience taught him that the best tactic was to keep pressing his point.

“What do you need?” Alec asked. “I can’t give it to you if you don’t tell me.”

Magnus swallowed hard and left his workspace, plucking an object from his desk as he went. The setting sun glinted off the honed edge of a blade, throwing lines of yellow across the floor and furniture. The matching glow of Magnus’ eyes, however, had nothing to do with the golden hour.

Most people might be scared at the sight he made. The most powerful warlock in New York gracefully stalking across the room in fluid, unbroken movements. Wisps of magic lingered around one hand while the other gripped the knife with the ease of longtime use.

Alec’s breath caught, and he shifted in place on the couch. The only concern he felt was that despite the trappings of his power, Magnus was clearly uncomfortable.

The last few steps brought him between Alec’s legs, where he came to a halt. Without thinking, Alec spread them wider, reeling him in with hands at the back of his strong thighs.

“I need a vial of your blood,” Magnus said. His gaze was focused somewhere over Alec’s shoulder. “Not for anything untoward,” he added quickly.

Well then. That explained the knife. And the uncharacteristic hesitance.

Every young Shadowhunter was drilled about the importance of never giving such consent, even under torture. Blood freely given was a weapon. Powerful and versatile. It was a skeleton key to the vilest magics in existence. Mind control, possession, resurrection, and more curses than he could count. Not to mention its aid in getting through an institute’s wards. There were dozens of other usages, each one straight out of a nightmare.

“Hey, look at me,” Alec said, waiting until those beautiful eyes focused on him. He unhooked an arm from around Magnus’ leg, holding it out and up as if in offering. “It’s okay. Take what you need.”

Magnus’ eyes grew wide. “Don’t you want to know why?”

Alec wrapped fingers around the arm holding the knife, and slowly brought the sharp edge to rest against the skin of his forearm. The metal was cold, but he didn’t flinch.

“I’m not worried, if that’s what you’re asking,” Alec said. “You’d never hurt me, Magnus. You’d never use that power against me.”

Magnus squeezed his eyes shut. “I’d rather die.”

“I know.” The silence hung heavy between them as Alec bent to place a kiss against Magnus’ wrist, still holding the knife. “If you say you need it, then you need it.”

He’d already given Magnus his heart and his body and his love. There was nothing of him that was off limits, nothing he wouldn’t share freely with the man before him.

Magnus’ face slackened in surprise, but he recovered quickly.

“There’s a little girl,” he said, shadows in his eyes. “A young warlock with a rare disease not seen in centuries. The strength of Nephilim blood is the only thing that can give the potion I’m brewing enough of a boost to cure her. It’s a long shot but nothing else has worked.”

“Magnus.” Alec tugged at Magnus’ wrist until he lowered himself to his knees between Alec’s legs, bringing them face-to-face. “I already said yes. Go save your people.”

Magnus leaned forward, pressing his forehead to Alec’s and whispering a soft, “Thank you.”

After that, it was almost anticlimactic. Magnus wielded the knife with the dexterity of an expert, and Alec was used to far more serious injuries. It was over in an instant.

Banishing the tiny vial, Magnus threw himself back into his work. When the potion was ready several days later, he whisked them off to a large house in Queens. The warlocks embraced Magnus but gave Alec skeptical looks.

Magnus hushed their protests with a wave of his hand. “Not to worry. This is Alexander. He’s one of the good ones.”

Alec wasn’t sure he deserved that endorsement, or even to be there, but Magnus insisted with a firm, “You should be here, you had a hand in this, too.” With a smile, he patted Alec’s jacket at the precise point the knife had rested. “Or more precisely, an arm.”

The warlocks let them pass, and Alec got to witness a very sick little girl regaining her health. He watched with a careful eye, ready to jump in and offer his strength if needed.

Her smile was something he would carry in his heart for a long time. A reminder that for all the loss, there was also good in their world.

Afterwards, he didn’t quite know what to say. Everything seemed inadequate, so he settled on, “Thank you for taking me with you. For showing me that.”

Magnus took both his hands and squeezed. “You did that. Your blood, the gift you gave that little girl.”

Alec brought their joined hands to his lips, brushing a kiss against Magnus’ knuckles. “You did that,” he corrected. “I was just ingredients.”

Because it was true. Alec gave his blood, but it was Magnus who transformed it into a cure for a sick child. It was Magnus who stayed up night after night, hands shaking from fatigue, eyes bloodshot, refusing to rest until the work was done. There wasn’t a day that went by when Alec wasn’t amazed at what his boyfriend could do, at how much he cared and how he worked himself to exhaustion for anyone who needed it.

“Oh Alexander, don’t you see? Do you know how many Nephilim would willingly give their blood to a warlock to save a Downworlder? But you didn’t hesitate. You didn’t even need to think it over.”

“Anyone would have done the same,” Alec protested.

Magnus shook his head, a sad smile tugging at his lips. “No,” he said, eyes heavy with memories as he untangled their hands to cup Alec’s cheek. “They wouldn’t. They didn’t.”

Alec didn’t know how to convince him he’d always be there. Always by Magnus’ side in whatever capacity he was needed. That it would be the two of them, together, for as long as Magnus would have him.

He did the next best thing, and leaned in to seal their lips together, trying to put into actions everything that Magnus wouldn’t yet accept from him in words.


 

ii.

“Trust me,” Alec said, grabbing his bow. “This will work.”

Isabelle looked like she wanted to say something but with a shake of her head, took a silent step back, willing to follow his lead.

Not for the first time, Alec’s heart swelled with the love and care she always gave him. Isabelle was a fierce woman and he was lucky to have her in his life and on his side.

Neither did Jace look convinced, but with a nod, he clasped the bow in the same spot as Alec.

Events of the past several months had tested their bond, but they were still siblings and Parabatai, two souls united against the world. The confidence Alec felt—the certainly that this would work—was unwavering, and something of that must’ve filtered into Jace as well.

The power of the Parabatai tracking ritual thickened the air around them. Held tightly between their palms, the bow Alec favored began to hum with energy.

Alec met Jace’s eyes as the tracking took hold, but his thoughts were a world away. Not that he needed to strain himself to bend his mind towards Magnus. The memories rushed over him like the familiar wash of the tide coming home.

Magnus deep in concentration, hands flowing effortlessly across tiny bottles of spell ingredients as he worked his magic. Biting at his lip when he was unsure and trying to hide it. Head thrown back in the midst of pleasure, throat bared and mouth open in a silent shout as his entire body arched off the bed. Half asleep on the couch and nuzzling his face into Alec’s neck to chase the warmth of his skin.

A location formed in the front of Alec’s mind, hazy at first and then razor sharp, as if it had always been there. Opening his eyes, he saw the same knowledge reflected in Jace’s gaze.

They unclasped their hands.

“We know where he is,” Alec announced. As if the determined look on his face wasn’t announcement enough.

“That was…intense,” Jace said, visibly shaking himself off.” His eyes studied Alec as he continued. “More than usual. You okay?”

Isabelle gave Alec a pat on the shoulder as the three of them moved towards the Institute’s main exit. “I don’t see why you’re so surprised. Alec is intense on a good day, and now that Magnus is missing, well…” she trailed off, letting the sentence hang in the air.

Alec shrugged, unwilling to get into it when he had more important matters at hand. And it’s not like she was wrong.

Magnus should’ve been home days ago. No one knew where he was, and his phone went straight to voicemail. The last Alec heard, he was helping smooth over rising tensions within the vampire community, acting as an impartial, trusted third party. According to local gossip, there was a new clan in town and frictions were high.

Alec knew Magnus could handle himself, but that didn’t stop the worry that gnawed relentlessly at his mind, working its way steadily deeper until it was all he could think about. He had thrown more of himself into the tracking spell than usual.

Activating his speed rune, he watched from the corner of his eye as his siblings followed suit. And then they were off, sprinting through the city towards Long Island City and Magnus.

“Care to explain how that tracking even worked?” Jace asked as they ran.

Despite his nerves, Alec smiled. “Remember Izzy’s trial?” he said. “Magnus agreed to act as counsel, and the payment we agreed on was my bow and quiver.”

“He what!” Isabelle nearly missed a step in her surprise. Her voice turned serious. “Alec, you never said. I know how much those weapons mean to you.”

“So did he, I bet,” Jace chimed in with a scowl.

“He had every right to ask for it.” Alec shot back, the metal of the Queensboro Bridge clanging beneath their feet with every step. Beneath them, the East River was an inky ribbon winding through the evening darkness. “He would’ve been well within his right to ask for more.”

Probably best not to mention that he’d initially asked for Alec himself. Though looking back, it was clear that was never a demand meant to be taken seriously. Regardless of his quick temper, Magnus was the kindest person Alec knew. He would never have demanded that of him as the price for saving his sister, not if Alec truly didn’t want to give it.

“But you were never without it,” Isabelle said, interrupting his thoughts. “After the trial, you were still using the same bow.”

Alec smiled, despite the bittersweet memories of that time. “He gave it right back. Told me to hold on to it for him.”

Jace bumped their shoulders together as the three of them ran in perfect unison. It was either silent support or an apology for his earlier judging words. Alec couldn’t tell but he appreciated it nonetheless.

“So your bow belongs to Magnus,” Isabelle said with a laugh. “I knew you were a hopeless romantic.”

“Alright, that’s enough,” Alec said, not really meaning it. Growing up, he never in his wildest dreams thought there would come a day when his siblings would tease him about his boyfriend. It was an impossibility, right up until it wasn’t. Alec wouldn’t give it up for anything.

He wasn’t giving up Magnus either. Alec belonged to Magnus every bit as much as his bow. And Magnus belonged to him.

No matter what it took, Alec was going to bring him home.

They fell silent as they reached their destination, an abandoned glass factory that hadn’t yet been converted into high rises. The joking atmosphere between them turned serious.

It was time to get to work.

Later, after everything was settled—it turned out Magnus had been snatched by one of the vampire clans who thought the local High Warlock would be more effective as a hostage than a negotiator—Magnus turned to Alec and frowned.

“You shouldn’t have been able to find me. After that first time with the ruby, I enchanted my belongings against it. Not that I’m ungrateful to have my dashing Shadowhunter boyfriend swoop in to rescue me.”

“Not that you needed rescuing,” Alec said. He pressed a kiss to Magnus’ collarbone, the easiest place to reach from where he was laying atop his chest, both of them warm and safe in bed. “You had the whole lot of them hanging on your every word before I even showed up. You actually got them to sign a provisional peace treaty.”

Alec trailed a finger down bare skin, enjoying the feel of hard muscle under his hand. “I half expected the vampires to beg us to save them from you.”

“High Warlock,” Magnus replied, wiggling his eyebrows in a way that made him look slightly ridiculous. He captured Alec’s hand from his chest, placing a kiss on the forefinger. “Politics is part of the job. It’s not all flashy magic, you know. And you never answered my question. How did you find me?”

Alec laughed. “You didn’t enchant all your possessions. Remember my bow and quiver? Or should I say, your bow and quiver.” He pulled back, not wanting to miss the reaction his words were sure to evoke.

It was even better than expected.

Surprise etched itself across Magnus’ face and his mouth dropped into a tiny, adorable ‘oh.’ He recovered just as quickly, warmth melting away the shock like the first rays of spring.

“I forgot about that,” he said, the words as tender as his smile. He pulled Alec back down, until Alec’s head was once again tucked into the warmth of his neck.

Alec went willingly. More than willingly.

“I didn’t forget,” he replied, fitting his body to Magnus so there was no space between them.

They drifted off to sleep holding each other. It was Alec’s favorite way to end the day, and if he had anything to say about it, that wasn’t ever going to change.


 

iii.

“Trust me,” Magnus said, pressing closer to Alec as they were surrounded by a small army of possessed mundanes. “Let them come closer.”

The heat of Magnus’ back against his own was a reassuring presence, the two of them circling in place even as they were herded further into the narrow alley.

One of the mundanes leaped forward, hands extended like claws. Alec swatted her away with the flat of his blade. With a hiss that wasn’t quite human, she fell back. It was only a temporary reprieve, the inhale before a piercing scream.

Alec didn’t want to fight these people, but soon he would have little choice.

“Don’t hurt them.” Magnus echoed his thoughts, voice strained as the static of his magic crackled the night air. “I’m close, I just need to—”

He cut off as a hoard of the possessed descended on them at once.

Alec exploded into motion, jerking on Magnus’ elbow and spinning him towards where the herd was thinnest. Shielding him with his body, Alec pushed the attackers back, careful to only use non-fatal slices of his seraph blade. The pain made them cautious but wouldn’t keep them back for long.

“Alec darling, save the manhandling for later, if you would.” Rolling his wrists, Magnus summoned more power to his hands.

Alec snorted despite himself. “I’ll hold you to that once we’re home.”

“Promises, promises.”

There was no time to reply. For every person he knocked down, more came forward. From the corner of his eye, he could see Magnus throwing elbows and a few kicks of his own, even as the light gathered in his palms grew brighter. A burly man got past Alec’s guard, thick fingers curling around his neck and scratching at his eyes. Alec headbutted him. But as he did, another hand ripped his blade from his grip. It clattered to the ground, out of reach.

Desperate, he threw himself after it, using the momentum to dislodge his attackers. His head hit the concrete, dazing him just enough to slow his reactions. A middle-aged woman in bright workout clothes pounced on him.

A blast of angry red magic hit her chest, knocking her back. It startled the rest, buying him a temporary reprieve.

Alec leaped to his feet, giving up the weapon as a lost cause and letting his training take over. He fought for what felt like forever, losing himself in the rhythm of kicks and punches. Occasionally, Magnus blasted the stragglers before going back to whatever miracle spell was building between his hands.

But Alec could see he was faltering. They both were.

“I can’t hold them off forever,” Alec shouted between punches.

Just as he began to despair, Magnus shouted, “Now! Close your eyes, Alec.”

Alec’s body reacted on instinct, his absolute trust in Magnus guiding his movements. It left him open. Blinded and undefended—completely vulnerable if whatever Magnus planned didn’t work.

He braced himself for it. An attack, a punch, fingernails and teeth tearing into his skin.

Nothing came. The sound of bodies hitting the ground sounded in his ears, but Alec didn’t dare look. Finally, there was silence, save for the rumble of garbage trucks along a nearby street.

“It’s over.”

Magnus sounded tired, and Alec half expected him to be on the floor when he opened his eyes.

He wasn’t. His back was straight, stance slightly wider than normal. The magic had dissipated into the air save for the remnants clinging to the edge of his form. He cut a powerful figure, one that not even the exhaustion hovering around the creases in his eyes could dim.

Standing tall and wreathed in his own power, it was hard to believe he was real.

Unfortunately, Alec had more mundane matters to take care of than staring at his boyfriend. Literally mundane, in this case. Surrounding them was a circle of collapsed men and women, and he had a job to do.

He rushed over to the fallen mundane closest to him, a young man in an expensive business suit. Two fingers placed just above the collar released the knot of tension between Alec’s shoulders. The pulse was strong and steady. He checked the rest and, when the last was done, slumped in relief.

“They’re alive,” Magnus confirmed. “I took their most recent memories in the same spell that cured them. As far as they’re concerned, they got caught up with gangs on PCP.”

Alec nodded. “I’ll call Luke and he can deal with the mundane police.” From the corner of his eye, he saw Magnus sway on his feet. Quickly, he stood, making his way over and getting his shoulder under Magnus’ arm.

“I can stand on my own.” Despite the words, Magnus made no move to extricate himself.

“Maybe I just want to feel up my boyfriend,” Alec responded with a smile, wrapping a hand snug around Magnus’ waist.

“Well, in that case, proceed.” Magnus gave an airy gesture, letting himself lean into the support Alec offered.

Alec gripped his waist tighter, relived to have the solid weight of him pressed up against his side.

He was accustomed to fighting alongside the people he loved, staying focused when they were in danger. Years of patrols with his siblings had drilled the constant threat into his mind, the knowledge that one of them could fall at any moment. It was something he tried not to think about, and was generally successful at it.

It was different with Magnus.

Alec hadn’t spent over a decade training his mind and body to accept Magnus being in danger as a mere fact of life. He wondered if that primal fear was what Magnus felt every time Alec walked out of their home towards the Institute.

Placing a kiss to Magnus’ temple, Alec closed his eyes and breathed in the familiar scent of the man he loved. Warmth curled in his chest when Magnus dropped his head to rest on his shoulder, letting Alec take more of his weight.

“Come on,” he said, gently, leading Magnus to one of the nearby storefront benches. “We can wait for Luke here.”

“I’m perfectly fine,” Magnus mumbled into his neck with a yawn. “Maybe just a little tired,” he conceded, as Alec maneuvered them into sitting.

“That was an impressive piece of magic you did.”

Magnus preened. “It wasn’t fully finished. I had to improvise a little at the end.”

Alec brushed a stray spike of hair from where it had fallen in front of his face. “Showoff.”

“It wouldn’t have worked if you didn’t keep most of them away from me. Thank you, Alexander. I know I didn’t give you much to go on.” Magnus grew visibly tired, until the words were no more than a mumble at the end.

The spell must have taken a lot of out of him because he didn’t complain when Alec coaxed him into lying across the bench, his head cradled in Alec’s lap. After a moment, Alec carded tentative fingers through the longer hair at the top of his head. Magnus could be touchy about having it messed up in public, but when he didn’t protest, Alec continued.

A little groan escaped Magnus’ lips, his eyes falling shut as Alec shifted to massaging the base of his skull. He let his fingers wander, tracing the lines of his eyebrows and trailing up and down his cheekbones. Without his usual defenses and extravagant gestures, he looked painfully young, a far cry from the centuries-old powerhouse and warlock leader he truly was.

Staring down into his relaxed face, Alec couldn’t help feeling a little floored.

Magnus was independent, often to a fault, preferring to look after himself under any and all circumstances. But here he was, practically asleep in a magically exhausted state on a New York City street. Letting Alec stand between himself and the world.

Alec would die before he let anyone touch him.

Eventually, the sound of approaching sirens reached his ears and he gently shook Magnus’ shoulder. They were both standing by the time Luke arrived on the scene with a handful of his officers.

Confident that the situation was in good hands, Magnus summoned a portal for them both. By unspoken agreement, any post-mission briefings would wait until tomorrow.

Hand-in hand, they stepped through the portal and into their home.

 

 

iv.

“Magnus, trust me. I want this.” The words were hardly real, even to Alec’s own ears.

He had spelled out his entire plan, his research, everything. He spoke until his voice felt flat and scratchy. Now that it was done, he shifted in place, needing an outlet for the excess energy.

But Magnus only stared.

The silence stretched thin, the air between them cracked and brittle.

Alec was adept at reading the nuances in his boyfriend’s expressions but now those familiar features may as well been carved from stone. He could feel the exact moment his world dropped out beneath him. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he rocked backwards on the golden sheets of their bed.

“Please say something.” Each word felt forced from Alec’s throat.

He spent so much time preparing, so many months soul-searching and charting every possible eventuality. He hadn’t planned that Magnus might say nothing at all.

A negative answer, sure. How could he not, after that first fiasco of a move-in discussion what felt like a lifetime ago. Eventually, they’d come to an understanding about how they each viewed the passage of time, and their relationship was stronger for it. Alec was so sure he wasn’t about to repeat past mistakes.

He hated being wrong.

“I’m afraid,” is what Magnus finally said.

Alec squinted at him. “What?”

Of all the responses he expected to his declaration of wanting to spend the rest of Magnus’ long life together, this wasn’t it.

Magnus swallowed, and Alec was momentarily distracted by the jut of his Adam’s apple as he explained.

“I’m scared that one day, maybe in a century, maybe four centuries, after your family and friends have all passed, that you’ll remember I’m the reason you’re stuck here without them.”

Magnus looked down at his hands, fingers reaching to fiddle with the rings he had already taken off in preparation for sleep. He paused, grasping at nothing until he finally clasped them together and placed them in his lap. “I don’t think I could live with myself if you looked at me like that.”

Alec choked back his instinctive denial.

It wouldn’t be fair to brush aside Magnus’ very real fears, even though he knew with a certainly aimed as true as his arrows, that those fears were wrong. The thought of living without his family was a white-hot poker seared into in his gut, but so was the thought of growing old and abandoning the love of his life to nothing but memories.

Alec couldn’t do anything about the lifespan of those he loved. He could only do something about his own.

He got to his knees on the soft mattress, shuffling forward to straddle Magnus’s lap where he sat against the headboard. Carefully, he wrapped both hands around the back of Magnus’ neck, using his thumbs to tilt his chin upwards.

Magnus let out a breath and allowed himself to be maneuvered.

Alec stroked the pad of his finger along the sharp cut of Magnus’ jaw. “I’ve thought about this, Magnus. So many times, you don’t even know. I understand what I’m committing to. I’m committing to you. Forever with you.”

Magnus squeezed his eyes shut like he was in actual pain.

When he opened them, they shone gold in wonder. “I wish I knew what I did to deserve you. I would keep doing it for the rest of my life.” He paused to bite at his lip. “But Alec, this is a big decision that can’t be undone. I need you to be sure.”

Alec pressed their foreheads together, mumbling against Magnus’ lips, “I’m sure about you.”

With a muffled cry, Magnus pressed forward, closing the slim distance between them.

Alec could taste the slightest tang of salt on his face as their lips moved together. He opened his mouth into the kiss, eagerly letting Magnus in. Magnus kissed like he wanted to devour Alec’s every word with his tongue, like he could sweep them directly from Alec’s lips into his own body and keep them safe in his heart for the rest of eternity.

Like if he didn’t, Alec might take them back.

Alec let him have it all, giving himself over to the kiss and giving Magnus everything he so desperately needed. His head spun, giddy with the thought of forever. This was only the beginning. He could see his future stretched out before him, bright and wondrous in the way he used to dream about, when he let himself imagine a fantasy world where things were different.

Except this was better. Magnus was real and warm beneath his hands, and Alec loved him with such a fire in his chest that he was surprised the whole world couldn’t see him burning.

When it was over, they stayed pressed up tight, breathing each other in as their racing heartbeats settled and the urge to gasp for each drag of air had passed.

“Oh Alexander, do you know what you do to me when you say things like that.”

Alec nodded, taking Magnus’ hands into his own. “I’m going to say it every day.” Alec turned serious as he added, “Forever, if you want it.”

Magnus’ eyes shone bright. “I do.”