It took a total of eighty-nine times of having Alexander run out on him to go back to duty and resume working because a call came or some issue arose or the Clave set up a meeting without warning before Magnus got fed up; hurt and betrayal welcoming him into their open and familiar arms.
The last time happened on an unimportant night – which couldn’t be said for some of the other times – and whilst they were doing the most mundane thing of playing cards. But it had been a peaceful time that was filled with their carefree chuckles and lingering touches until the dreaded sound of Alexander’s phone rang and ruined everything.
He could still remember how he had valiantly tried not to glare as he calmly asked his Shadowhunter whether Lydia or the other Lightwood children could manage handling the Inquisitor’s requests without him. But, like all other times, it was like talking to a wall that refused to budge, stubbornly staying in place for no reason at all other than because it was built to be there. So he had waved Alexander an airy goodbye with ice in his eyes and heart before he swiftly packed his bags and portalled himself over to Switzerland.
A note had been left on his side of the bed at his departure that simply stated that he’d be out until he was needed since he wasn’t desperate enough to use the word ‘wanted’ or sway his Nephilim’s way of doing things. As with everything and everyone, he firmly believed in letting people and things do as they do until they themselves began to do otherwise on their own accord.
After all, what use would it be to tell Alexander to follow his example of ensuring he cleared time in the morning and the night in order to be there when his Shadowhunter was? It would only lead to his Nephilim sputtering some childhood-ingrained reason or worse, make Alexander do as he wished not because his Shadowhunter wanted to but because he did.
And so, to spare himself of the heartache and to distance himself from that which was hurting him, he had gone on vacation – temporarily. Everyone would be dealing with Catarina Loss or Tessa Gray when they called upon the High Warlock of Brooklyn for the foreseeable future. Not that he intended to stay away for more than a year as, unlike with Camille, time was a precious thing with his Alexander and that was half the reason he was so terribly touchy about being left behind – time.
The other half… well, he’d rather not poke at it.
‘Cause you colour me clear,
Now what are you, what are you waiting for?
Alec trudged up to the front door and swung it open for him to enter. It slammed shut behind him as he deposited his mucky boots to the side and his weapons to the designated table. The loft was as it was the past few weeks: empty, no life breathing in it and no shine. It was all rather depressing. He held in a pained sigh and went over to slump down on the couch, feet up on the coffee table and head laid on the couch’s back.
Time ticked on slowly marked by every tinny sound the clock on the kitchen counter made and Brooklyn trundled along noisily down below, somehow muted by the magic still encasing the loft. Alec wondered how sad it was to be wishing he was an inanimate object just so he could feel his love’s presence. “I did something.” He mumbled to the red ceiling. “What did I do?”
He slinked up to a stand with Shadowhunter grace and stared at the calendar he had bought a week after Magnus had left. The black solid squares glared back at him, letting him know exactly how many days and nights it’s been since he had last seen Magnus. He could always text or call or fire message… somehow, he didn’t want to so his phone stayed unused but always, always close by.
He wondered if he was simply being stubborn about not contacting his boyfriend or if that was the whole reason Magnus had yet to come back home. But then the parting note that he had burned into his mind from numerous reading would always come back. Needed. What did that mean? Didn’t Alec always need Magnus so why isn’t he here?
Alec closed his eyes tiredly then crossed the room to fill another day of the calendar in black. He would always circle around the same thoughts, same questions. They never changed. He went back to the couch and sat down heavily to stare at the portrait above the fireplace Magnus had built for the winter and that just stayed there afterwards.
They looked happy and they had been. Their faces had been cold, red-nosed as well in Alec’s case, their clothes lightly dusted with snow and their bodies shivering but their smiles were wide and their eyes crinkled, hands clutched together.
He smiled at the picture and a deep longing ached in the depths of his heart. When was the last time they went out like that? He honestly couldn’t remember. A burning sensation pricked his eyes at the thought and he clutched at his hair angrily. How could he not remember? How could –
But the problem had been staring at him right from the beginning – even longer.
Alec had been neglecting Magnus after the war’s problems died down and he had been able to go back to his usual life. He had been so nostalgic for it, so ready to jump back to the good old days without the repression and burdens of his parents suppressing him as if he were Atlas. He had been a right fool and not just for days or weeks but for literal months that can’t ever be taken back and a period of time he knew he would mourn all the way to the deathbed of his short mortal life.
And there was another thing for him to consider – immortality. A topic he hadn’t bothered to think upon as he was so caught up in the whirlwind of taking back his former life. So swept up that he let everything else fall by the wayside when Magnus was so much more important than his younger self’s wish of being truly free to reign over the Institute with his siblings like the times of old.
Especially more silly when he considered that even his siblings weren’t doing their jobs all that much anymore unlike before because they had real, tangible, fairy tale-like love lives – something he had more solidly and more realistically first. Something he had desired for so long and so much and something, no, someone he had taken for granted.
“I’m sorry,” Alec told the empty loft forlornly. “I’m sorry, my love.”
The drops illuminate and evaporate into a neon lake.
It had been a total of one month, three weeks, five days and 10 hours since Magnus had last seen his Brooklyn loft and his beloved Nephilim. The days flitted by as they did every time Alexander would be out for a whole morning, day, and night on missions and whatnot – like waterfall; quick, gushing and painful under strong currents. Every day that passed chipped away at the painstakingly well-built bond he and Alexander had fortified since they met and it made his heart ache at the keen loss of every sizeable chunk that crumbled away.
He had never envisioned that they would end up like this when they had been so strong for so long yet here they were anyway. It must be unavoidable for him to find obstacles and road blocks in his relationships no matter how many hurdles he jumps through or how hard he loves. But this was Alec and they were strong; all they must do is get past this together. He shouldn’t have gone it alone like old times. Sometimes he forgets he isn’t so lonely anymore. But he can’t take all the blame because being alone so much was what caused him to leave and for this situation to happen.
Like he said – inevitable.
Magnus shook his head and forced himself to focus on his beautiful, calm surroundings. He breathed in the crisp, fresh air and took a bite of his dark chocolate and butter croissant. It was heavenly and the taste melted sweetly on his tongue. He had bought about a dozen minis and was halfway through when he realised it didn’t matter how many he bought as he may never tire of it. The pomegranate juice he had bought to complete his breakfast was also divine and just as addictive.
Dimly, he wondered if Alexander was sick of it as he never failed to send some his Nephilim’s way like he did with everything he got for himself here. It kept him somewhat content to know that his Shadowhunter was eating well even though he was far away from Brooklyn. And though he was hurt that Alexander hadn’t contacted him at all, he was also grateful that his wishes to be alone for the moment was being respected.
He took another bite of his croissant then reached for his juice and was about to drink from it when he was knocked aside by a rude, towering man. He bristled angrily and checked himself over briefly for any stain on his clothing, relieved when there wasn’t any, and turned right around to glare the mortal to death.
Magnus stifled a long-suffering sigh and turned away from his Shadowhunter to examine the lovely contents of his drink colouring the white gravel by his feet. Such a pity. He gingerly grabbed the cup off of the floor and stepped aside to throw it in the trash a few ways away from the fountain he had been hanging by; the scuffing sound trailing after him made him aware of Alexander following him.
Why now? – But then, when?
Now’s as good as any.
He bit into his croissant again, this time with a bit more force than necessary, before he turned around to face his Nephilim. His eyes frosted over slightly even as he catalogued all the changes in his Shadowhunter from the short time they had been apart. A slight scruff was now growing around Alexander’s young face, plump lips once always soft and moist now chapped and dry, tired eyes weighed down by dark ovals underneath, and overall posture more slumped than was acceptable for the Clave’s rigorous training.
“Magnus, I… I don’t know how much right I have to ask this but, was it so necessary for you to come here without returning every now and then?”
Magnus tilted his head and folded the paper bag of minis he held in order to keep the air out. “I returned home, Alexander, to wait for you multiple times. I stayed longer in the mornings until you left countless more times. Whenever I could, I would be at the loft for you.” He tucked his long-grown hair behind his ear and played with his cuff-earring. “I would eventually have gone back once I’ve refreshed my soul.”
“How long would that have been?” Alexander whispered, looking lost.
“As long as it would take for me to recuperate.”
Alexander slumped like a puppet that had its’ strings cut loose. “You couldn’t tell me all that before leaving?”
“I had too many answers to give.” Magnus stated solemnly. “Few I would say out loud, fewer I would think of saying to you, and none I would have chosen to say.” He twisted one of the rings in his hand and looked more carefully at those hazel eyes he had missed dearly and adored much. “Leaving the way I did was the cleanest and least painful way for the both of us. I know it caused pain either way but to choose the lesser of the evils was my way of doing something I felt I inevitably had to do.”
He sighed regrettably at the forlorn features of his love and signalled for his Nephilim to follow him. He weaved through the streets of Geneva with ease and familiarity, brushing past mundanes and Downworlders alike until he reached a deserted area beside what he always guessed to be an abandoned train station or open concert hall. His fingers reached out beside him to link with Alexander’s before he pushed onwards to the semi-circle platform overlooking the lake.
There was never much people here. He never understood why since it was so breathtakingly beautiful but he was always grateful for the peace and privacy. He was happier still to be sharing this place that had become quite special to him with Alexander even amidst the yawning stretch of distance between them. “Sit and let’s talk.” He moved to sit first, facing the water, and swung his legs over the safety of the ground to hover above a short plunge into ice liquid.
Alec sat down next to his boyfriend in the same way. “Did you spend most of your time here?” He gestured to their surroundings. It was a nice, quiet spot and it made a pang of sadness bubble in his chest because he could easily imagine him and Magnus spending romantic evenings here had they come to Switzerland together. But that was why he was here, to figure things out so they could be a stronger couple.
“Yes…” Magnus was nodding slowly, contemplatively. “It’s a good place to think.”
“What have you been thinking?” Alec questioned, curious and fearful at the same time because he knew it must be about him, them, and though he wanted to know, he was scared for what he may hear, unsure if he had grown enough to handle this sort of situation with delicate care.
Magnus hummed. “Many things. I’ve been thinking about Shadowhunters and Downworlders, choices and decisions, immortality and mortality –,”
“Sounds like everything.”
“– what to eat for the day.”
Alec snorted and a smile broke across his face which he knew was the purpose. He offered up his hand, palm up, and waited until he felt his warlock’s hand curl around his. “When did we stop doing this, Magnus? When did we stop talking to each other?”
“I don’t know.” Magnus replied, painfully honest.
“Talk to me, please.” Alec pleaded openly. His heart had been wide open for his boyfriend since the day he walked away from the altar and the burdens of his parents. “Let’s figure this out like we promised we would – together.”
Magnus was silent for a while. The minutes ticked by slowly, torturously, to the point that Alec began to lose hope and started to panic on what he should say next. But then, like old times, his boyfriend saved him from the worry. “When Valentine was still alive and the war loomed over us, we never had problems about our jobs separating us. Ultimately, we had the same goal and at the end of the day, I knew we were both working hard to save the future. Our future.”
There was another pause of silence but this time Alec spoke up, “and now?”
“I’m not entirely sure how to answer that, Alexander.”
Alec mulled over that for a while. There was a time he would keep pushing but that time had gone and he had grown much since. “Tell me what you’re thinking. Say it however you want. Trust me to understand.”
“I do trust you, Alexander. More than you will ever know.” Magnus sighed. “I knew you were a Shadowhunter when we started but with the war gone from our front doorstep, I wondered why you didn’t come home for me. Why you insisted on dangerous missions and thrilling demon nest finds. I wondered why we weren’t cherishing the very future we fought so hard to protect. I wonder what your love is for me and what exactly we are now and if anything at all has changed. I wonder many things, Alexander, including how far I’m willing to love you completely.”
It was Alec’s turn to be quiet.
He looked down and the guilt that simmered in his belly since the night he realised he’d been neglecting his love ached stronger than ever. With a frown, he pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of a worn pocket and smoothed it out; the handwriting on it a tad faded. “‘I’ll be out until I’m needed.’ At first, I was so lost because I couldn’t understand. I always need you so why weren’t you there? And then when I finally realised what you meant by that, I started wondering about those same things you did. Why didn’t I spend more time with you? How could I not even remember the last time we went out together? So many questions and all the answers I had made me feel like a fool.”
Alexander straightened up and rolled his shoulders back, eyes showing off his determination like it always did before.
It was a sight Magnus sorely missed.
"If you had asked, I would have come home, Magnus. At whatever time you wanted." Alexander let out a breath but was clearly not finished. "But that's not the point. Is it?"
"No." Magnus confirmed softly.
"I love you, Magnus. I returned to my Shadowhunter duties months ago, chasing a dream I had since I was young: to lead the Institute without any shackles or burden weighing me down." Alexander rubbed his palms together almost restlessly. "But I've had a while to be a Shadowhunter again and I realised, belatedly, that all I really want is to chase after my other dream, the dream I thought to be impossible until I met you.”
Magnus drew in a deep breath as sharp, earnest eyes turned their full-force at him and he felt, not for the first time, completely vulnerable under his Nephilim’s gaze.
“Magnus, I’ve been a Shadowhunter my whole life. I was raised as one and I’ve known nothing else. I lived with the grim belief that I’d die a Shadowhunter without finding love. It has always been an impossible dream of mine to be able to love freely with everyone knowing just who I am. But it’s not impossible anymore.
“I love you, Magnus.” Alexander repeated, eyes glittering with emotion. “And while I’ll always be a Shadowhunter and love my job as the Co-Head of the Institute, I want and value a life with you more. What I finally realised was that all I really want is to spend my days with you."
“Alexander, you…” Magnus trailed off, caught in a rare moment of not knowing what to say with his heart beating impossibly fast from the sweet words of his Nephilim. “But…”
“I’m not going to give up being a Shadowhunter completely.” Alexander suddenly said, a knowing spark to his hazel eyes . “Perhaps someday I will. When I'm ready. For now, I will limit myself to paperwork and the rare occasions when my expertise and experience is needed – which won't be much."
Magnus let a long breath and then shook his head at the last line said to him. "You undervalue yourself far too much. You're extremely valuable - to all races."
“I know…” Alexander assured lightly. “I'll continue to handle Shadowhunter-Downworlder relations with you and the usual share of paperwork but all else, Lydia can handle. Her thirst to be out on the field has only increased with the absence of war. I do think she misses all the action after being a paper pusher for the Clave so long.”
"I'm fairly sure you and I both know she was far more than a paper pusher but – alright. If that's what you’ve decided then so it shall be.” Magnus paused for a bit then continued with a cheeky, “I sure hope your vacation days are included in this dream of yours.”
"They are.” Alexander promised with an amused smile. "Will you come home with me, love?"
“Hm.” Magnus hesitated.
Alexander's face fell. "Is there something else?" He worried.
"Yes... You see, my pomegranate juice wasted on the ground when a handsome man rudely bumped into me from behind."
"What?" Alexander looked positively outraged. "I'll buy you as much pomegranate juice and croissant as you want to make up for that man's behaviour. How rude!"
Another pause of many in their conversation and then Magnus cracked with a snort. And suddenly, they were both laughing and somehow had migrated over to each other, arms clutched together tightly.
Alexander resurfaced first with big gulps of air. "I love you." He said before he turned solemn. "I missed you. So much. So much at times I forgot to breath. Don't leave me again. I refuse to live without you by my side."
"Oh darling," Magnus looked ready to swoon. "What a sweet talker you've become in the span of a month."
"A month and so."
Magnus waved that away. "Semantics." He shook his bag of minis in the air. "I want my breakfast."
"You -," Alec stopped then shook his head. "Lead the way, Monsieur. I'm paying for this date."
"Date?" Magnus asked curiously as he led them both to the lovely stall he'd bought his juice from.
"Yes." Alec smiled widely. "It's been a while."
Magnus smiled along, a tad nostalgic. "It has."
Find me in the backyard
In the dark