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Alec Lightwood had barely gotten through the front door to Magnus's Brooklyn loft when he was greeted by the sight of Magnus's goddaughter, Madzie, who was running towards him with a grin on her face as she called out his name.

"Madzie!" Alec called out to her in response, unable to help the smile that crept to his face as he held out his arms for the little girl to run into.

Alec already knew that since Magnus's best friend Catarina had adopted Madzie, Magnus often babysat for her, but Alec hadn't expected to see her here today, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Alec had first met Madzie back when he and Magnus became friends; on the evening he met her, he and Magnus had been attending a work party in the city together that had also been attended by mainly lawyers and doctors, including Catarina, who hadn't been able to find a last-minute babysitter, so she'd brought Madzie along with her.

Alec, who had always hated going to parties and making small-talk with fellow lawyers, had instead spent most of the evening entertaining Madzie with the games and the songs that his younger brother, Max, had always loved, while Magnus and Catarina looked on with smiles on their faces.

Since then, Alec often spent time with Madzie whenever he was visiting Magnus's apartment and Catarina and Madzie showed up at the same time.

Alec was brought out of his memories the moment Madzie ran straight into his arms, and, after picking her up and spinning her around, Alec pulled her in for a hug.

At the same time, he noticed that Magnus was still standing by the front door, watching them both with a smile on his face. Magnus was dressed in a smart black shirt and jeans with just a touch of glitter on the material, along with a black and silver jacket. His nails were painted black and there was a hint of makeup around his eyes.

Alec felt kind of under-dressed in comparison, in his jeans and his white sweater and the plain black jacket he always wore to keep warm in the winter chill outside.

As always, Alec couldn't help noticing just how…beautiful Magnus looked today. Before he met Magnus, Alec had never really thought of guys as being 'beautiful' before. 'Handsome' yes, and 'hot', too, and also 'attractive', but not beautiful. But then he'd met Magnus, who'd matched all of those descriptions and more, so 'beautiful' had been added into the mix along with all the other words.

He wondered how Magnus could always look so effortlessly elegant, especially today, when he must have got up early and spent most of the morning taking care of Madzie. Alec had slept in this morning and he hadn't done much more than drink coffee before he headed to Magnus's loft, and still he knew he looked nowhere near as well-dressed as Magnus looked right now.

But then Alec blinked rapidly, as though trying to shake off these not-so-welcome thoughts.

Not for the first time, he silently reminded himself that he shouldn't be thinking like this in the first place...Sure, he knew that Magnus was attracted to men-Magnus had already told him so in all his stories about both the women and the men he'd dated in the past-but that didn't mean that he was attracted to Alec.

From what Alec had seen so far, Magnus was usually a pretty flirty kind of guy, especially when he was around the people he found attractive, but he'd never really been like that around Alec. In fact, he always seemed to be pretty...reserved when Alec spent time with him; more so than when he was around his other friends anyway. As much as Alec always told himself that Magnus hadn't known him for as long as he'd known his other friends, and probably wasn't totally comfortable around him yet, a part of Alec really wished that Magnus would flirt with him the way he flirted with other guys.

Anyway, Magnus seemed to be pretty confident when it came to talking about his feelings, so surely he would have said something by now, if he thought about Alec in a romantic way?

That's what Alec had decided, anyway. Not to mention that he always talked about how Alec was such a good friend to him, and how nice it was to have a friend to talk to, and Alec really didn't want to do anything to risk this new-found friendship.

After he had given Madzie a second hug and gently placed her back down on the floor, Alec focused his attention on Magnus again.

"Alexander," his friend greeted him with a smile, looking genuinely happy to see him.

Resisting the urge to look Magnus up and down in appreciation, and trying very hard to hide the fact that he was blushing, Alec simply nodded at him in greeting.

"To what do I owe this pleasure?" Magnus asked him with a raised eyebrow after a couple more seconds of silence, and Alec blushed all over again as he worried that he had zoned out for too long, or that his secret thoughts were somehow written all over his face.

"I…uh…I brought back the book I borrowed from you," Alec managed to stutter out, feeling like an idiot as he took a law book out of his jacket pocket and held it up in front of Magnus, as though trying to prove that he was telling the truth. He had never been the smoothest talker, and especially not when he was around handsome men. "It really helped with that last case, so, uh, thank you."

This was something that Alec had been doing a lot lately-randomly showing up at Magnus's apartment with lame stories about why he was there, along with his not-so-convincing explanations that he was just there to return stuff of Magnus's he'd borrowed, like his books. Most of the time, Alec tried not to think too much about why he was always finding excuses to spend more time with Magnus.

Both Magnus and Alec worked as lawyers, and they'd first met when their two law firms teamed up to take on a big case in the city. Alec might not have been very good at making friends, but he'd felt an instant connection with Magnus from the moment he met him, and Magnus had always made him feel comfortable, never laughing at him for his awkwardness or asking too many uncomfortable questions.

The two of them had spent so many evenings together, going through their paperwork and putting together their files for the case, at the same time sharing stories about their lives late into the night, while Magnus made them both tea and various other drinks, and Alec always snuck in plenty of subtle glances at Magnus from over the top of his law books.

Alec had realized at the time that he would miss spending time with Magnus after the case was over, although he hadn't really known how to put that thought into words to Magnus.

"Why don't you just tell Magnus you want to spend more time together after the case?" Alec's sister, Izzy, had asked him with folded arms and an exasperated expression on her face, as though saying something like that to Magnus would be the easiest thing ever. Perhaps it would have been, for her, but not for Alec.

It had kind of been a relief to Alec when he'd found out that Magnus had got his number from Izzy, and the two of them had stayed in touch ever since, helping each other out with various other legal cases that they'd both been dealing with recently.

Luckily, Magnus seemed to accept Alec's explanation about being here at the loft to return the book. For a couple of minutes, they made conversation about the useful information related to family law that Alec had found in several chapters of the book, and Magnus commented (with a smirk on his face) on all the additional notes that Alec had helpfully added, all of them written out neatly on post-it notes. But then Alec was distracted when Madzie started tugging on his sleeve as she pointed in the direction of the living room.

Alec leaned down a little so he could focus his attention on her; he already knew that Madzie was shy and didn't talk very much-she usually communicated with gestures like these.

"I think she wants to show you what she's been up to this morning," Magnus explained to Alec in a whisper.

With a quick glance at Magnus, who nodded at him, Alec put Magnus's book down on the nearest table, and then he allowed Madzie to grab hold of his hand and lead him towards the living room.

"Magnus, I, uh, I'm sorry," Alec mumbled awkwardly when Magnus fell into step behind him on the way to the living room. "I didn't know you were babysitting Madzie today, and I uh, didn't mean to intrude."

"Not at all, Alexander." Magnus waved away Alec's apology with a sweeping-of-the-hand motion.

He really did look happy to see him, so Alec decided not to feel too guilty about interrupting Magnus's quality time with his goddaughter.

"Catarina was called in for an extra shift at the hospital this morning," Magnus continued to tell him in a low voice, by way of an explanation for Madzie's unexpected visit, "so I offered to watch Madzie for a couple hours. I'm going to take her to the park this afternoon, so she can get a little fresh air."

Alec simply nodded, deciding that he wouldn't stay long; he would get out of their way soon, so they had time to go to the park.

When they walked into the living room, Madzie pointed out the plastic tea set that she'd set up on Magnus's coffee table, along with other toys and games that were piled up on the floor. Alec couldn't help smiling to himself when he noticed that a lot of the plastic toys were in the shape of various mythological creatures, like dragons and unicorns, as he was instantly reminded of his younger brother, Max.

Madzie also showed Alec a couple of the pictures she'd been drawing on the back of what looked like discarded pieces of Magnus's paperwork.

"Good job, Madzie!" Alec told her with a grin, really impressed by Madzie's drawing and painting skills as she showed him her pictures of flowers and trees and animals.

Madzie responded with a shy smile of her own, looking really proud of herself.

For a little while, Alec joined in with Madzie as she played her tea party game. As he played along with Madzie's game, Alec suddenly felt a pang of nostalgia for all the times he'd played games like these with Max. Max was spending more and more time in LA now, since Alec's parents had separated and Alec's dad had moved there, and Alec really missed his younger brother. When Alec saw him last month, Max had already seemed so grown up. He'd talked about girlfriends and getting good grades and he hadn't seemed interested anymore in childish toys and games.

While Alec was playing games with Madzie, Magnus had to take a phone call. For a moment, Alec tensed up at the sight of the smile on Magnus's face and the sound of a male voice on the other end of the line; Alec might have told himself over and over that Magnus only saw him as his friend, but that didn't stop his jealousy at the thought of Magnus dating somebody else in the near future. Already, Alec was dreading the day when he knocked on Magnus's front door (probably with another borrowed book in his hands and a lame excuse on his lips) only for a new boyfriend or girlfriend to answer it.

There were times when he really wished he could be brave enough to tell Magnus that'd he'd had a crush on him from the moment he first met him, but then his fear would kick in and all the things that usually held him back would start to take over his thoughts, namely the fact that Alec still wasn't officially 'out' to his family and friends yet (in fact, he suspected that his sister and his friend Lydia were the only ones who'd worked it out), and the situation wasn't helped by the fact that his family hadn't exactly moved in the most tolerant of circles as they climbed the professional ladder, meaning that Alec had spent what felt like years closing himself off to the idea of romance and avoiding revealing his true emotions, for fear of being judged.

Then there was the fact that Alec always felt so clueless and inexperienced compared to other guys, especially when it came to the whole 'relationship thing'. He could be awkward and nervous even at the best of times, and he'd never been in a relationship before, and he was sure Magnus would want somebody who had as much experience as he did; or at least, someone who actually had a clue what they were doing.

Alec only managed to calm down a little when he realized that Magnus was talking to their mutual friend, Luke, who seemed to be calling Magnus to ask his advice about something.

After a couple of minutes, Magnus hung up his phone. He started to explain to Alec that Luke had been calling to ask for advice on his upcoming first date with Alec's mom, but Alec quickly cut him off-

"Magnus, it' s probably better if I don't know the details," he said as he held up his hand, trying not to look too grumpy about the whole thing. He was happy for his mom and Luke, with their new friendship and romance that seemed to be happening since they'd started spending a lot of time together, but that didn't mean he was fully over his parents' separation yet, and he'd already dealt with enough dating and relationship drama from Jace and Clary and Izzy and Simon to last him a lifetime.

Magnus nodded, but he looked kind of amused by Alec's less-than-enthusiastic reaction.

While Magnus answered a few more messages on his phone, including a voicemail from Catarina, Alec went back to playing with the plastic tea set with Madzie. He pretended to drink from one of the tea cups when Madzie handed it to him, which made Madzie giggle.

Alec always felt so shy and awkward when he was around most adults, but it was different when he was around kids like Madzie and Max. He felt less inhibited about joining in with their games. Out of the corner of his eye, Alec was sure he could see Magnus watching the two of them with a fond smile on his face, and Alec had to resist another urge to blush.

A few minutes later, Magnus reminded Madzie of their plans to go to the park.

"I should probably go…" Alec started to mutter, feeling like this would be a good time to leave so Magnus and Madzie could get ready to head out of the apartment.

He started to stand up, but to his surprise, Madzie looked really disappointed at the announcement that he was leaving.

Before Alec could say anything else, she tugged on Magnus's sleeve and leaned over to whisper in his ear. "Can Alec stay?" Alec heard her ask Magnus, apparently not as subtle with her whispers as most adults were.

"Alec has plans today, sweet pea," Magnus told her, looking a little embarrassed that Madzie had put him on the spot by asking him out loud if Alec could stay for longer.

"I, uh, I can go to the park with you guys, for a little while, if you want...uh, if that's okay?" Alec suddenly cut in before he could think this through, the moment Madzie's bottom lip started to tremble at Magnus's words.

"You're very welcome to go with us, of course," Magnus replied, sounding a little flustered for some reason and looking just as surprised as Madzie by this turn of events.

Alec nodded, deciding to just go with it. He liked spending time with Magnus and Madzie, and he didn't want Madzie to get upset. Anyway, he knew that if he went back home, he'd spend the rest of the afternoon getting lost in paperwork and over-preparing for his upcoming cases. He felt like he could use a break, even if it was just for an hour or two. And Izzy was always telling him he should relax more and be more spontaneous. She'd probably be pretty proud of him right now.

He just hoped that Magnus really was okay with this new plan. Alec thought about all the time he'd already spent with Magnus and Madzie-only last week, he'd met them at a local coffee shop after work, where Madzie happily drank her hot chocolate while Alec and Magnus talked about work over a cup of coffee. And, in December, he'd headed into the city with Madzie, Magnus and Catarina so Madzie could see all the Christmas lights. Alec's friend Clary had ended up tagging along on that trip, too, even though Alec had made a point of sighing and rolling his eyes the moment she invited herself, and the two of them had ended up bickering for most of the evening after that.

But still, Alec wasn't sure if this visit to the park would be like all those other times, because now he'd invited himself along without being asked, just like Clary had done last time, and he couldn't help feeling a little nervous.

After sending a quick message to Catarina to let her know that Alec would also be going to the park with Magnus and Madzie this afternoon, Magnus turned to Madzie again. "Go get your jacket, sweet pea," he told her, gently but firmly.

As Madzie ran out of the room to go find her jacket, Alec noticed that there was a very triumphant grin on her face. She had the two of them wrapped around her little finger, and she knew it.

A few minutes later, the three of them were walking through the streets of Brooklyn, on their way to the local park.

Madzie walked next to Magnus, holding his hand, while Alec walked alongside them. He'd stuttered out a few more apologies to Magnus about tagging along on this visit to the park, but every time, Magnus calmly waved his apologies away. Magnus always had a way of making Alec feel calmer, even during Alec's more anxious moments.

Alec looked over at Madzie, who was wearing a denim jacket with a flower pattern on the pocket, and she'd also 'accessorized' her outfit (so Magnus said, anyway) with a scarf.

Then he looked back over at Magnus, who had started to go on about how he thought that Madzie could be a future fashion designer in the making (and he sounded really proud about it).

Alec might have made a big show of rolling his eyes as Magnus talked about fashion, but he couldn't help smiling to himself as well. He felt grateful that both Madzie and Magnus seemed to want him to spend time with them; he was happy that they valued his time and his company.

For years, Alec had felt like most of the people he spent time with only knew him through work, or through his parents or his siblings. Yet with Magnus, it felt different. Alec knew that Magnus would choose to spend time with Alec and Alec alone, without anyone else around; he knew that if he ever needed anything, Magnus would be there for him.

After they had walked a couple of blocks, Madzie reached up and took Alec's hand, too, so that she was now walking between Magnus and Alec, holding both of their hands. Alec noticed that a few people smiled at them as they walked past, but he had no idea why.

In spite of all the staring, Alec felt strangely content as he walked along the streets with Magnus and Madzie. Deep down, he knew that there was nowhere else he'd rather be on a Saturday afternoon.

The local park was empty when they arrived, and Alec put this down to the fact that it was still pretty cold outside, so a lot of people had probably chosen to stay indoors instead.

Madzie skipped over to the playground equipment, looking eager to try it all out.

Leaving Madzie to play on her own for a little while, Alec went to stand next to Magnus, who was watching Madzie from a short distance away, keeping an eye on her.

For a few moments, Alec stood next to him in silence, feeling a little nervous and awkward. As comfortable as he usually felt around Magnus-especially now that he was getting to know him better-he still felt a little shy around him, sometimes.

Trying to find something to say, he apologized again for inviting himself along on this visit to the park with Madzie, and he said something about how he hoped he wasn't getting in their way, with his usual feelings of insecurity and uncertainty starting to kick in.

"Nonsense, Alexander," Magnus told him with another soothing smile.

Alec smiled back. Magnus always seemed to know what to say to distract him from his tendency to obsess over minor things.

"Besides," Magnus went on, "I can't decide who's happier about you being here today-Madzie...or me."

For some reason, Magnus looked a little nervous as he spoke the last part of that sentence, and he seemed to be avoiding looking Alec in the eye. He also ran a hand over his ear, in what looked like a nervous gesture.

Alec frowned at him in confusion, wondering why Magnus suddenly looked so embarrassed. He wasn't sure if there was meant to be some kind of hidden meaning behind what he'd just said.

Magnus opened his mouth as though to say something else, but they were both distracted by Madzie, who smiled and waved at them as she climbed up the steps leading to the slide.

They both waved back at her, and the strange tension that seemed to be in the air around them eased a little.

While Madzie continued to play, they fell into a conversation about their day to day lives, including the books they'd both been reading recently, and the TV shows they'd been watching, as well as all the bars and  the restaurants they'd visited over the past couple months (Alec couldn't really compete with Magnus in this area, as he was pretty sure that Magnus had visited every restaurant in the city at least twice, but still, it was fun to talk about it). They also talked a little about their workouts at the gym. Izzy had always told Alec that he was 'obsessive' about working out, but Magnus definitely seemed to be just as enthusiastic about exercise as he was.

Then they started talking about work again. Alec tried not to laugh as Magnus started ranting about his professional rival, Lorenzo Rey, who always seemed to try to steal clients from Magnus's law firm.

"But of course," Magnus said to Alec with a long-suffering sigh, while Alec made sure to keep his expression sympathetic, "who would ever choose to be represented by such a self-righteous, ass-"

"Language!" Alec warned Magnus as he quickly cut off what he'd been about to say. He was very aware of the fact that Madzie had just run past them on her way to the swing set and was still within earshot.

Alec heard the sound of amused laughter from behind them. He turned around and noticed an elderly couple, standing on the path a few feet away from them, with their arms linked. They were both elegantly dressed, all in black, although their coats and scarves and boots suggested that they were planning on taking a walk around the park. There were grey streaks through their dark-coloured hair, and their matching wedding rings seemed to glitter on their fingers, even in the weak winter sun.

Something about the couple's body language suggested that they had been together for years, and also that they were totally comfortable with one another.

Alec had no idea what they'd just found so funny, but the man and woman seemed friendly enough. The elderly man smiled and nodded at Alec and Magnus as he walked past them, looking almost like there was a twinkle in his blue eyes, while his wife continued to look amused. She also nodded at the two of them and smiled before she walked away with her husband.

As they walked away, Alec could hear them playfully bickering about the woman's plans to visit a bookstore after their walk in the park, with her husband making a big show of groaning as he told her that he'd be the one who ended up carrying home all the heavy new books that she would no doubt buy.

Alec watched them go, feeling a strange sense of sadness, or maybe it was even a feeling of envy, for the long-lasting love and intimacy that they clearly shared. For years, Alec had dreamed of finding a love like that; he'd imagined what it would be like to find 'The One' and to grow old with that person, but recently, he'd started to worry that he would never be that lucky, or that he would never be brave enough to take a chance on finding love.

His attention was diverted again when he looked back over at Madzie, who was now sitting on one of the swings, but she didn't seem to be making any effort to make it move. Instead, she was sitting still, in total silence, and she seemed to be staring off into the distance, as though lost in her own private thoughts.

Alec felt a painful twist of sympathy as he watched her. He didn't know much about Madzie's life before she was adopted, but he'd heard that it hadn't exactly been a happy time before she met Catarina. Sometimes, it seemed like Madzie's memories of the past took over completely, and she could go a little distant for a while. Alec had a feeling that this was the reason why she could be so quiet at times.

He only wished that he could take all the painful memories away. For now, he decided that he could at least try to distract her a little from whatever it was she was thinking about.

Treading very carefully, Alec walked over towards Madzie. Slowly, he sat down on the swing next to her.

Madzie turned her head a little to stare at him, an expression of curiosity on her face.

Gently, Alec pushed his feet against the floor, so he could swing backwards and forwards.

Madzie continued to watch him for a few moments, looking kind of surprised at what Alec was doing, but then a smile crept to her face and she eventually started to copy him, swinging backwards and forwards on her own swing, like she was trying to go just as fast as Alec.

All the while, Alec could see Magnus smiling at the two of them from a few feet away.

A few minutes later, when Magnus came over to help Madzie out by pushing her higher on the swing, Alec decided to stop what he was doing and take a step away from the swing set, so that Magnus could spend a little time with Madzie.

Magnus laughed along with Madzie as he gently pushed her on the swing, helping her to go higher but also taking care to make sure that she was safe.

Magnus was so great with her, and Alec felt a real sense of happiness at just getting to be here this afternoon with the two of them.

Out of the corner of his eye, Alec noticed a vendor, who was walking up and down the paths that wound around the park and selling flowers to tourists. Discreetly, Alec walked over towards the vendor. Madzie loved flowers, and he decided to buy one of the red roses for her.

He was just handing over his change when Magnus looked over in his direction. He seemed to work out what Alec was doing, and he shook his head and rolled his eyes at him, as though silently trying to tell Alec that he shouldn't be spending his money like that, but he also smiled at Alec, too, while Madzie seemed to be giggling at the two of them.

Alec simply shrugged and smiled back at him, holding the flower almost protectively in his hand. He turned back around just in time to notice that the elderly couple had completed their walk around the park, and were now walking back towards him.

Or, more accurately, Alec realized, they were walking towards the flower vendor to buy roses for each other. It kind of seemed like a 'couple thing' to do.

They seemed to have been witnessing the silent exchange between Alec and Magnus from a short distance away, and again they smiled almost knowingly as they looked between the two of them.

Alec frowned at them in confusion, but they got distracted buying their flowers, and then Alec was distracted staring back over at Magnus, who was currently helping Madzie to tie her shoe lace.

A minute or two later, the couple waved goodbye to Alec and they started to head out of the park, holding hands.

"Such a wonderful family..." Alec heard the woman tell her husband as she nodded over her shoulder at Alec, before she looked over in Magnus and Madzie's direction. "That reminds me," the woman went on, when she focused her attention on her husband again, "earlier today, I saw the most amazing gift that we could get for the grandchildren..."

Feeling a little dazed, Alec watched their retreating backs, wide-eyed, as he quickly worked out what the elderly couple had just assumed about his relationship with Magnus. They thought that he and Magnus were a couple; they thought that they were together, and that they were at the park today with their child; they thought that he and Magnus and Madzie were a family.

As wrong as their assumptions had been, and as much as Alec was blushing bright red right now, deep down, he couldn't help wishing that at least a part of what they had assumed was actually true...

Chapter Text

Alec continued to feel a little dazed as he left the park with Magnus and Madzie.

The three of them started to head back in the direction of Magnus's Brooklyn loft, after both Madzie and Magnus had asked if Alec would like to spend a little more time with them this afternoon, with Madzie giving him what had to be the equivalent of 'puppy-dog eyes' that Alec just couldn't say no to as Magnus asked him back for drinks and snacks.

"Such a wonderful family..."

With every step he took, Alec kept going over and over in his head the words that the elderly couple had said, and he thought again about how much he'd wanted their words to be true.

As he walked next to Magnus and Madzie, Alec started thinking about the fact that the couple had talked about the three of them being a family, and Magnus and Alec being a couple, without any hint of negativity. They'd simply stated it as a fact, and a fact that made them smile at that.

They'd also just assumed that he and Magnus were a couple without any sign of doubt about it-they hadn't picked up on the fact that Alec was nowhere near as experienced as Magnus was, or that he had no real clue when it came to how to act in relationships. To them, Alec had been worthy of being Magnus's husband or boyfriend-he had looked convincing as a romantic partner and even as a parent to a child.

Alec wondered if maybe he didn't actually look as clueless as he always felt, and maybe the world wasn't judging him as much as he thought it was.

For so long, Alec had closed himself off from love, too afraid to seek out a romantic relationship. He'd told himself that something like that could never work; that the world was just as intolerant as the people in the professional circles his family had moved in, and that it was likely that nobody would want him anyway, because he was shy and awkward and had no real relationship experience.

When he was a little younger, Alec had secretly dreamed of settling down and raising a family, but after a while, he'd pushed that dream to one side. He'd focused instead on his work and his immediate family, telling himself that he would have to settle for helping his siblings with their dating dilemmas, and that being involved in Max's upbringing would have to be enough, as he would probably never have a family of his own.

He'd almost convinced himself that all of that, plus several promotions at work, could compensate for a lack of other things...but maybe that didn't have to be the case anymore.

From the moment he met Magnus, he'd started to realize that what he'd settled for wasn't enough; it would never be enough. The comments from the couple in the park today had just finally pushed him to admit this, if only to himself.

Now, he was finally starting to think that maybe he could have a relationship and a family, one day.

The world around him was changing, and Alec felt like his priorities were changing, too, and he wanted more-he just wasn't sure how to ask for it; he wasn't sure if he could be brave enough to take that first step.

He looked back over at Magnus, who was now holding Madzie in his arms, carrying her as she was getting a little tired after a long walk and her time spent in the park. Alec noticed that Madzie had placed the red rose he had bought for her at the park in the pocket of her denim jacket. Every now and again, she put her hand on it, as though checking it was still there.

After a couple of minutes, Madzie yawned and leaned her head on Magnus's shoulder, while Magnus smiled affectionately at her.

Alec wished he could place his arm around Magnus's shoulder and gently pull the two of them in close; to hold them and protect them as they all walked through the streets together.

Instead, he settled for smiling at Magnus when Magnus looked in his direction and grinned at him. Several couples who passed them in the street also smiled at them, and at Madzie.

Alec sighed. He knew that he was going to have to say something to Magnus about his feelings for him, and soon. He would have to at least try, even if Magnus responded by telling him that he only saw Alec as a friend.

When he really thought about it, Alec was pretty sure that Magnus wouldn't end their friendship if Alec admitted his feelings to him and those feelings weren't reciprocated. Sure, it would probably be a little awkward at first, but Magnus had dealt with so much already in his life, and nothing seemed to shock him, and Alec just knew that Magnus would be kind and sensitive, even if he didn't feel the same way.

If it had been any other guy, Alec might not have felt so sure of a friendship remaining intact after not-so-platonic feelings were admitted, but he trusted Magnus not to turn his back on him, even if they had to spend a little time apart at first in the aftermath.

He thought about all the times he'd already shown Magnus his more vulnerable side, like the time he'd told him about the day that Max had got sick and had been taken into hospital, and how terrified Alec had felt at the time, even though he'd put on a brave face for his other siblings. Or the time he'd told Magnus that he still felt a little sad about his parents' separation sometimes, even though everyone else acted like they were over it. Or another time when he'd confessed to Magnus that he still felt a little insecure sometimes, in his role as a lawyer, and how he constantly worried about making any major mistakes in his cases. And all of those times, Magnus had listened patiently, never judging him, and never telling him that his fears and his insecurities weren't valid.

And yet, the very thought of speaking up was still terrifying...however, Alec knew that he would have to take that gamble on being honest, in the hope that Magnus would still keep him in his life if he didn't feel the same way. Otherwise, he could spend years keeping his feelings hidden, always wondering 'what if?'. He might have to watch as Magnus met and fell in love with someone else. At least by saying something, he would know for sure either way.

As they got closer to Magnus's apartment block, Alec started to take a few deep breaths, as though trying to prepare himself. Over and over, he told himself that he could do this; he told himself that the elderly couple in the park was counting on him.

It turned out that Alec didn't have much time to think about admitting his feelings for Magnus when the three of them arrived back at the loft, because Magnus wanted to go and prepare hot drinks and snacks for the three of them, so Alec offered to watch Madzie while Magnus headed into the kitchen.

After Madzie had found a space on the coffee table to place her red rose from the park, Alec was soon occupied by drawing pictures with her while they waited for their drinks. Alec couldn't help grinning when he noticed that she was drawing a picture of a swing set, a flower and a little girl, who was holding hands with two adults as she walked between them.

About twenty minutes later, Alec and Madzie ended up sitting next to one another at the table in the living room while Magnus brought out a tray of hot drinks from the kitchen.

Alec noticed that Magnus had made Madzie's favorite drink of hot chocolate for her, complete with extra marshmallows.

Madzie looked up at the drinks tray and smiled.

Alec also noticed a cup of herbal tea, and he assumed that this is what Magnus had made for him to drink, as herbal tea was their drink of choice whenever the two of them were up late working on their paperwork together, but the moment Magnus placed the tray on the table, Alec saw a second mug of hot chocolate.

He looked at Magnus, who took the mug off the tray and handed it to Alec with a knowing smirk and a wink. Alec felt himself blushing a little, but he couldn't help smiling, too. Hot chocolate had always been his 'guilty pleasure' drink-for all he lectured Izzy and Jace on healthy eating and drinking, secretly, Alec preferred drinking hot chocolate, instead of various healthy beverages.

Alec had even been known to disguise his hot chocolate (complete with extra cream and marshmallows), in take-out cups whenever he went to coffee shops in Brooklyn. He'd always thought he'd been pretty discreet, so he hadn't realized that Magnus had already worked out this secret of his.

As Magnus drank his herbal tea, Alec took an appreciative sip of the hot chocolate that Magnus had just made for him. Madzie looked up at him and smiled, with her own mug of hot chocolate held in her hands. She looked amused, like she and Alec were in on some sort of secret together with their matching drinks. Alec smiled back at her.

While they all drank their drinks in companionable silence, Alec's thoughts drifted to all the times he'd spent with Magnus before today; all their moments of shared friendship...

He thought about the day he'd first met him, when Magnus had walked right into Alec's office, looking like he'd just walked right out of one of Alec's secret fantasies. He remembered how he'd barely been able to string a sentence together the whole time Magnus was talking to him, completely overwhelmed by Magnus's good looks and his smiles and his witty comments, even though he'd really wanted to say something witty in return, because Magnus was so charming and so interesting, and how he'd blushed and stuttered, and even tripped over his own feet and dropped books and folders whenever he was around Magnus for days after that.

But then the weeks had passed and things had gotten a little easier, with the two of them bonding over their upcoming cases, and the daily trials and errors that went with being a lawyer, and Alec had begun to relax a little thanks to Magnus's friendly personality and his words of encouragement. They'd started to hang out at Magnus's loft late into the night, helping each other with their paperwork as Magnus made them tea, and they began to open up to each other, telling each other stories about their work and their lives.

For all he'd struggled to open up to people in the past, Alec had felt more and more comfortable sharing conversations with Magnus, even though he had been a little nervous at first, sometimes even apologizing to Magnus for his less-than-articulate sentences, and the way he over-shared or spoke without making much sense sometimes, out of nerves.

"It's nice to have someone to talk to," Magnus had reassured him, the first time Alec had apologized for struggling to get to the point when he was explaining the evidence in a legal case, and he'd worried that he was boring Magnus.

Alec had been a little surprised by Magnus's response. Before that evening, Alec had never really considered the possibility that Magnus might have been feeling a little lonely-to Alec, Magnus had always seemed to be so outgoing and so sociable. After that, he'd wondered if he should maybe reevaluate a couple of his pre-conceived ideas about people.

At the very least, it had seemed like they were both grateful for each other's company. And, when Magnus had first mentioned that he was bisexual, even talking about a few of his ex-boyfriends, and other men he'd been attracted to, Alec had felt this strange sense of...relief; relief that somebody understood, that somebody got it.

Alec only wished he'd been brave enough to talk to Magnus about the guys he found attractive, too-or one guy in particular, anyway...

All too soon, Alec finished his drink. He thought about getting ready to leave the apartment, but Magnus mentioned something about how he was welcome to stay for a little longer, if he wanted, and Alec agreed, deciding that he wasn't ready to go just yet.

After Magnus and Madzie had also finished their drinks and the table was cleared, Madzie found one of her storybooks for Magnus to read to her, and the three of them got settled on the couch.

As Magnus read out loud, Madzie leaned into Alec, looking a little sleepy. Alec put his arm around her so she could lean in even closer to him and get comfortable. He felt that strange feeling of contentment again, a feeling that he wasn't sure he'd really felt before Magnus and Madzie came into his life.

Magnus's tone of voice as he read the story to Madzie was relaxing, and Alec leaned his head back a little and closed his eyes as he let the words wash over him.

Only half-listening to the words of the story, Alec found himself going over even more of his memories of the times he'd spent with Magnus over the past couple months...

Along with the evenings spent at Magnus's loft, the two of them had also met at coffee shops after work, with Clary and Lydia and Izzy sometimes joining them, too.

They'd also headed to the gym to work out together, jokingly challenging each other to various 'work-out competitions' the whole time.

Then, Magnus had introduced Alec to some of his friends, including Catarina and Ragnor, and Alec had eventually agreed to go out for a few evenings in the city with them. He'd been so nervous at first about heading to parties with a group of people who definitely seemed to like late-night partying, but they'd been kind to him, and they understood that Alec didn't drink much and that he didn't enjoy being right in the middle of the dance floor, and so it hadn't been so bad.

As an added bonus, Magnus had often worn pretty revealing outfits on those nights in the city, usually leaving most of the buttons on his shirt unbuttoned...although Alec still wasn't sure if that had been a blessing or a curse, because he never knew where to look when Magnus wore his open shirts, and he had a tendency to blush bright red whenever it happened.

He remembered how he'd watched in a mixture of shock and fascination as Magnus had flirted blatantly with attractive bar tenders, walking seductively up to them without any hint of embarrassment and leaning casually against the bar the whole time, helping his friends to get several free drinks as a result. Alec could only wish that he could be so cool and calm and confident when it came to flirting.

After a few nights in the city, Alec had also gone to some of the same work parties and gatherings as Magnus, although Alec had often headed to these parties with his friend and work colleague, Lydia, too, as he'd kind of ended up as her 'default plus-one' at work parties since she started working at his family's law firm.

And of course, through his friendship with Magnus, Alec had been able to meet Madzie, and he always enjoyed the time he spent with Madzie, Magnus and Catarina.

The little girl leaned in even closer to him as Magnus read the final pages of the story, her eyes already half-closed. Alec smiled, but he couldn't help feeling a little sad, too. Right now, he felt like he was looking at an image of a perfect family life, and thinking about how awesome it would be to come home to something like this every evening after work, but the reality was that all too soon, today would be over, and Madzie would go home, and Alec would leave the apartment and go back to his work and his responsibilities. He wasn't sure if he would get to experience a day like this again in the near future, or if he really would get to have a family life of his own one day. Not to mention that he still had no idea how Magnus felt about him, or if there was a chance of something happening between them, or if he was about to set himself up for a rejection by revealing his feelings.

By the time Magnus finished the story with the typical line of, "And they all lived happily ever after," Madzie had drifted off to sleep.

Alec stood up from the couch so Magnus could get Madzie settled for her nap, bringing over a spare blanket and extra pillows to make her more comfortable.

"Magnus, Alec...stay," Alec heard Madzie mumble sleepily from the couch as Magnus adjusted one of her pillows.

Alec practically felt a pain in his chest as Madzie's words tugged on his heartstrings, with her tone of voice sounding so insecure. It was like she had to be certain that someone was going to be there when she woke up from her nap.

"We'll be right here," Alec promised her, although he felt a little awkward as soon as he said these words out loud, because he wasn't sure how long Magnus was expecting him to stay at the loft for.

Magnus didn't seem to mind however, because he simply nodded in agreement with Alec's words.

The two of them ended up standing a few feet away from the couch, keeping an eye on Madzie as she slept.

"You're so great with her," Magnus told Alec in a whisper after a few minutes of silence. Alec could tell that he really meant what he was saying from the sincere look on his face and his soft tone of voice. "You'll be a wonderful parent," he continued, "if you ever decide to have children of your own some day..."

Again, Alec felt that tug of pain in his chest, and that little twist of sadness...or maybe it was longing.

"Magnus," he said, quickly, before he could think about what he was going to say, or before he could stop himself.

He must have sounded a little frantic, because Magnus turned to look at him with a raised eyebrow.

Alec blushed a little under the intensity of Magnus's gaze. "Uh, today, at the park," he mumbled, not really knowing where he was going with this, or how much he was actually going to admit out loud; all he knew was that Magnus's comment about him having children of his own some day had finally pushed him into taking action. "That couple we saw there...they uh, they thought that you and I were together, and that you and me and Madzie were a family. I overheard them talking about it..."

Alec's words faded as he waited for a response.

"Oh," Magnus responded with another raised eyebrow.

He looked a little embarrassed, and, trying not to feel too disappointed at this reaction, Alec waited nervously for him to say something else.

"Alexander...I'm sorry if that was a little uncomfortable for you," Magnus finally told him after a long, awkward silence.

Alec frowned in confusion. "Why would I be uncomfortable?" he asked Magnus.

"I know it can be a little...awkward, for heterosexual men, when everybody still seems to think they're in some sort of relationship with every man they get close to-"

"Wait...what?!" said Alec, abandoning all attempts at composure as he held up a hand and frowned again.

Magnus actually repeated what he'd just said, like it would make any more sense the second time around.

Alec played his words over in his head. Magnus couldn't be talking about himself, with the whole 'heterosexual' comment-he'd already told Alec out loud that he was bisexual. So that could only mean...

"Do you really think I'm straight?" he asked Magnus, in a tone of disbelief.

Surely Magnus hadn't been thinking that about him the whole time? It wasn't like Alec ever tried to hide or disguise his sexuality, even if he didn't really talk about it much. Anyway, he wasn't exactly subtle when he checked guys out and looked them up and down in appreciation. He'd just sort of assumed that Magnus had worked it out.

Magnus was actually blushing now. "Well, I kind of assumed, Alexander...I thought that you and Lydia were dating-"

"What? No!" Alec insisted as he shook his head. If he hadn't been feeling so awkward and nervous, he would have laughed at this idea.

The truth was that due to various circumstances in her life recently, Lydia wasn't ready to date anyone just yet. She liked going to parties and out for dinner with Alec because she enjoyed talking to him about work, and she knew that there was no chance of any romantic feelings developing on his part.

Alec wasn't sure he should say too much about Lydia's personal life, but he quickly tried to explain the situation to Magnus in not so many words.

For a moment, Magnus actually seemed happy with this explanation, although Alec wasn't sure why he seemed so happy about it, but then he seemed to get a little confused again: "And for a little while, I also thought that something was going on between you and Clary-you two seemed to bicker like an old married couple when she joined us in the city last time..."

"No!" Alec insisted, his tone even more determined this time as his eyes widened in shock at what Magnus was suggesting. "No," he continued with a frown, "no,"

"So, no, then?" Magnus asked him with a smirk, his tone of voice almost teasing now.

"No," Alec repeated, managing a grin of his own. Maybe he'd overdone it a little with his protests.

He tried to be a little more diplomatic as he explained to Magnus that he and Clary were kind of becoming friends now, even though they'd argued a lot when they first met, and that Clary was very happy with Jace.

Magnus smiled again, but then they both fell into another awkward silence.

"Magnus, I'm gay," Alec finally muttered after taking a couple deep breaths. He had never actually said those words out loud before, and now that he'd put them out there, he felt a little lighter, as though a weight he hadn't even known he'd been carrying had just been lifted off his shoulders.

Magnus replied with another, "Oh," and Alec sighed, wishing he wouldn't be so cryptic right now. At the very least, he definitely looked intrigued by everything that Alec had just revealed.

It took a couple more minutes before he spoke again: "I really didn't know, Alexander. If I'd known, I might have asked if..."

Alec raised his eyebrows expectantly, filled with curiosity as to what Magnus had been about to say, but Magnus stopped talking mid-sentence, much to Alec's frustration. He closed his mouth and went silent, like he'd stopped himself at the last second before he could say too much.

Alec had to stop himself from letting out a sigh of disappointment.

Instead, he took a few more deep breaths, and he really thought about the exchange that had just taken place between them.

Maybe Alec had been misreading everything between the two of them the whole time. Maybe, by some miracle, the only true barrier between the two of them had been Magnus's false belief in Alec's non-existent heterosexuality. Maybe he would have actually asked Alec on a date if he'd known the truth. Maybe the only thing holding Magnus back was his misguided assumption that Alec wasn't actually into guys.

He thought about what Magnus had said in the park earlier, about how he wasn't sure who was happier about Alec being there-Madzie, or him. He'd looked so embarrassed as he said it, like there was something he wasn't saying the whole time. Maybe, just maybe...

It was this thought and this thought alone that gave Alec enough courage to carry the conversation on...

"Magnus," he muttered, really feeling like he had stumbled into unknown territory now, "when I overheard that couple talking today, I uh, I wanted what they were saying to be true..."

Magnus looked at him, his expression intense. Alec almost felt like Magnus was trying to read his thoughts, or to read between the lines of what he was saying.

"I liked the idea of being married with a family," Alec continued with a blush, his voice shaking now. "And, uh, I wanted what they said to be true because it was you they thought I was in relationship with. I uh...I liked the thought, or the possibility, of being with you."

Alec let out a few more deep breaths. What he'd said hadn't exactly been smooth, or cool, or eloquent, but at the very least, he'd put it out there.

Now he just had to hold his breath and wait for the inevitable rejection, and of course hope that their friendship could recover from it...

"Oh," Magnus said again. He looked totally surprised, and shocked. Alec could tell from his reaction that he hadn't expected Alec to say anything like that today. Or ever.

Alec practically held his breath as he waited for Magnus to say something else. Now that he'd put himself out there, he felt like not knowing how Magnus was going to respond was so much worse than anything else Magnus could say to him.

"Alexander," said Magnus, finally breaking the tense silence. To Alec's surprise, a slow smile crept to Magnus's face as he ran a hand over his ear. "I expect handsome men to at least ask me out for drinks and dinner before I even start to consider marriage and babies."

Alec practically gaped at Magnus as he processed what he'd just said, and the way that Magnus had just smiled and run a hand over his ear. Was Magnus...flirting with him? Alec started to feel a little tingly just at the thought of it.

All this time, Alec had assumed that Magnus had always been so reserved around him because he didn't feel the same way as Alec did, but now, Alec wondered if that hadn't been true. Maybe it had been the other way around; maybe Magnus had just assumed that Alec didn't feel that way about him.

But then, Alec fully processed Magnus's comment about marriage and babies in response to Alec's comment about wanting to be with Magnus, and he started to blush again, feeling like an idiot. Because yeah, the whole 'wanting to be a family' comment was probably way too much when admitting feelings for someone for the first time. It was as bad as proposing on a first date.

Izzy was always talking about how it was better to be a little cautious at first-to keep things casual and not put too much pressure on a guy. And Alec had just done the opposite of what she'd always advised.

Maybe he should have thought a little more carefully about his words, or maybe he should have just skipped to casually asking Magnus out for dinner or drinks.

"Yeah, okay, drinks," said Alec, speaking quickly and realizing just how awkward he sounded as he tried to backtrack on what he'd said. "I mean, drinks, and dinner, with you, is good," he went on, wishing that he could be better at this.

"How about next Saturday?" Magnus asked him gently with another smile, apparently taking pity on him.

"Next Saturday is perfect," said Alec, unable to fight off a smile of his own, in spite of his embarrassment. They were really doing this. Magnus actually liked him like that. Alec was really going on a real date with a beautiful guy.

But then Alec's insecurities about his lack of experience started to creep up on him again. "Magnus,, I've never done any of this before...the uh, the whole dating thing," he offered as a way of an explanation, hoping that Magnus would get what he was trying to say, and also hoping that Magnus would still want him, in spite of everything.

"Really?" Magnus asked him, actually looking surprised by this.

Again, Alec thought about how maybe he didn't look as inexperienced as he felt, and he wondered if maybe a lot of his insecurities really were just in his mind.

"Really," he confirmed with a nod, wanting to be honest with Magnus right from the start.

"Alexander," Magnus told him, his tone of voice sounding both firm and reassuring, "I don't care how many guys you've been with, or haven't been with; I only care about you."

Alec let out another breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Magnus didn't care about his lack of experience. Magnus only cared about him.

As though to confirm his words, Magnus ran a hand over Alec's shoulder and up and down his arm, his touch gentle. Alec practically felt the goosebumps on his arms, just at that gentle touch through the fabric of his sweater.

Then, Magnus took hold of Alec's hand. At the feeling of Magnus's hand in his, Alec was unable to cover up a very smug grin that crept to his face. When Magnus looked at him and grinned back, Alec also blushed bright red. He knew he looked like a grinning, blushing idiot right now, but he couldn't help it; he felt really, truly happy for the first time in a long time, and he almost felt giddy with excitement, and a part of him was tempted to do some kind of 'celebration dance', in spite of all the times he'd sighed and rolled his eyes and made sarcastic comments whenever his friends and siblings had blushed and giggled about their romantic relationships.

"And," said Magnus, his tone of voice somehow sounding lighter, more carefree now, "the Saturday after that, I offered to watch Madzie again while Catarina's at work. Maybe you'd like to spend the day with us?"

"Yes," Alec replied instantly with a smile. Another day spent with Magnus and Madzie sounded perfect, and it would be even more perfect now that he and Magnus were officially dating. Not to mention that it was kind of relief to Alec, to have another day arranged with Magnus after their first date, as he was already sure that he would spend most of the first date blushing and stuttering and tripping over. He wouldn't feel so worried about messing things up if he could see Magnus again a week later in a more informal setting.

The two of them stayed like that for a little while, holding hands as they watched Madzie sleep, occasionally brushing their fingers against the other's palm, their movements still a little tentative, but flirty all the same.

Every now and again, the two of them looked at each other and smiled, before turning away, as though trying to cover up their disbelieving laughter at the situation they were in, and their shock that they had apparently both felt the same way about each other all along.

If anything, Magnus looked even more surprised than Alec that they were standing together, holding hands, and Alec wondered if Magnus had been desperately trying to hide his feelings, too, in the same way that Alec had.

Feeling a little braver now after everything that had just happened, Alec decided to take another chance: "Magnus, I uh, I know you said you have to at least go for drinks and dinner before you consider marriage and babies," he attempted to joke, while Magnus smirked at him, "but would you ever consider kissing before a first date?"

Alec might have blushed as he finished his sentence, but he held Magnus's gaze, feeling determined.

"I could perhaps bend the rules a little," Magnus replied with another raised eyebrow, apparently totally comfortable with flirting with Alec now, "with the right motivation..."

Alec grinned again as he realized that Magnus was probably trying to gently tease him, to coax him into making the first move to kiss him.

Alec turned to face Magnus and took a step closer to him. As Magnus waited with an expectant expression on his face, Alec took several deep breaths, preparing himself as he tried to work up the nerve to lean in for a kiss.

Eventually, he took that final step and pressed his lips to Magnus's. The kiss might have only been gentle, and a little hesitant, but to Alec it was perfect; it was what he'd always secretly daydreamed about. It felt like the perfect conclusion after months of close friendship and secret crushes.

Magnus seemed to agree, because the moment Alec tried to break the kiss, Magnus let out what sounded like a sigh of disappointment and gently pulled Alec back in. Then, what might have been a couple minutes later, when Magnus tried to do the same thing, Alec was the one to gently pull Magnus back to him, placing a hand on Magnus's lower back as Magnus ran a hand gently through Alec's hair.

They stayed like that for a little while longer, only breaking their kisses now and again to smile at each other, their expressions a mix of surprise and happiness. It was like they both couldn't believe that this was happening.

Alec still couldn't help feeling a little nervous, because he wasn't even sure if he was doing any of this right, but Magnus didn't seem to be complaining. Anyway, Alec was sure he would get better with practice.

As though sensing Alec's nerves again, the moment they broke apart, Magnus brushed his fingers against Alec's cheek and whispered, "That was perfect, Alexander," in a reassuring tone of voice. "You're perfect," he added, "just as you are..."

Alec took hold of Magnus's hand again, and he felt another rush of happiness. Already, he was hoping that there would be so many more kisses in the near future, and he was already picturing his future dates with Magnus-dinner and drinks together and more time babysitting Madzie.

Maybe they really would live happily ever after, like the characters in Madzie's favorite stories...

As Alec leaned in for another kiss, he caught a glimpse of Madzie out of the corner of his eye, who seemed to be smiling in her sleep.