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a matter of time

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“You don't seem........ enthusiastic,” Alec cautions when Izzy stays silent for a beat too long after his announcement.

She is quick to shoot him a smile but it sits a little too tightly on her lips. “I am. I am happy for you, Alec. I know you've always dreamed of this.”

And lost hope you'd ever have it, she doesn't say.

“But?” Alec asks because he knows her too well, biting his lip nervously. Awaiting judgement.

Izzy lets out a deep breath, overly aware of how fragile this moment is and how much she stands to destroy if she doesn't tread carefully.

“Are you really sure this is the right time?” she finally settles on.

Alec opens his mouth and flounders for a few moments before answering. “I.. yeah, I mean. I almost lost him and it made me realize I don't want to wait any longer. What for?”

“I understand,” Izzy concedes. She does. She knows life always seems to take from those who deserve it the least and when they least expect it. Magnus is a living, breathing example of this. She understands Alec's instinct to hold onto him as tightly as he can. And yet...

It feels condescending to point it out, but she doesn't know how else to phrase it, and she needs to say it.

“Alec. Magnus is in a bad place right now.”

Alec frowns, not offended because he never is, but in concern at the mere mention of Magnus's state of mind. “I know. It's another reason why I want to propose.”

Izzy tilts her head and he explains, “I think part of him doubts I can still love him without his magic. I want to show him that he's got nothing to worry about.” A tiny smile appears in the corner of mouth.

The whole display is so Alec that Izzy's heart clenches. It clenches even more at what she's going to do next.

Taking a step closer towards him to soften the blow she inquires, “Alec.. have you ever talked to Magnus about marriage?”

His lips part slightly and he looks away. It's answer enough.

“Alec.” She gently places her hand on his shoulder. He's so tall that even with her heels she needs to strain a little to reach. Not for the first time she thinks that Alec is so much her big brother, always the protector and caregiver and last stronghold that she simply forgets he needs support from time to time, too.

When he meets her gaze again the light is gone from his eyes and they shine with tears instead. “He's suffering and he won't let me in and I don't know what to do. I thought... with this I could....”

He chokes off and Izzy loops her arms around him, now truly on her tiptoes, and Alec hugs her back, almost crushing her with the force of it, and buries his face in her hair. To hide, no doubt.

“I'm sorry,” he snivels. “I don't know what came over me.”

Izzy squeezes him even tighter. “Don't apologize.”

“I just.. I want him to be alright so bad.”

“I know, Alec. We all do.”

“He's not talking to me. He pretended he was fine at first and I believed him, but I know better now. But he still won't talk to me. And I don't know what to do.”

“Maybe you shouldn't do anything,” Izzy suggests slowly.

Alec stiffens in her arms. “Not do anything? Izzy, I can't--”

Reluctantly she withdraws, but she needs to face him for this. “Alec. Please, hear me out.”

She shifts her hands from his neck down to his elbows, buying herself precious seconds to brace against this. It's like scrubbing at the scab of a half healed wound, and she never wanted to revisit these particular memories, but she has to.

“When I realized my Yin Fen addiction for what it was I felt ashamed for being so weak. I,” she steels herself, “I was disgusted with myself. I couldn't stand to be around anyone because I couldn't stand myself.”

“Izzy...”

She cuts him off because this isn't about her, it's about Magnus. “I pushed you away because I knew you'd try to take care of me and I couldn't.. I didn't feel like I deserved it at the time.”

She shakes her head at Alec's worried look. “I'm alright now, Alec, you know that. But I think... from what you told me earlier I think Magnus is feeling something similar. He's out of tune with himself. And that's not something anyone can help him with.”

That's not something a proposal will help him with goes unspoken.

She continues, “I understand that you want to show him that he's not alone but... I think he needs to work through this first. Let him come to terms with it in his own time.”

She lays a hand on his cheek and he leans into the touch, the slightest hint of stubble scratching against her palm.

“Maybe there is nothing you can do other than love him until he remembers how to love himself. Just stay by his side, like you always do. It'll be enough.”

Alec closes his eyes and draws a deep breath. When he opens them it's with a renewed sense of determination. “You're right. I should be keeping any additional stress from him, not spring it on him myself.”

She squeezes his arm consolingly. “You're only deferring your plans. Magnus will be alright again. It's only a matter of time.”

Alec nods, and he seems at peace with the prospect; not as heartbroken as she'd feared he'd be.

Izzy smiles, genuinely, and for the first time since Alec told her he'll ask Magnus to marry him she allows herself to feel the excitement rising inside her. “And I hope when that time comes you'll again allow me to guard part of the wedding jewelry.”

Alec returns her smile, light and hopeful despite the dark times ahead of them. “It would be my honor.”