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Alec walks around the furniture store, eyeing everything critically.

He’s not exactly sure what he’s looking for-- he just figures that he’ll know it when he sees it. The remodel on the gym is going well and it’s time to buy furniture. While he’d been making do, it was time to finally install statement pieces that spoke to his authority and position in the New York Underworld.

He’s spent the past few months browsing through furniture catalogs and stores around the city. To Jace’s eternal amusement, he’d even visited a local flea market, tackling an old, scarred table that he’d turned into a fine end table for his apartment over one sunny weekend earlier this summer.

Still, now that he’s looking for his office furniture, it’s different. Alec wants to make a statement. Something that says he’s ushering in the new without giving way to the old. He wants something that he’s comfortable with-- which probably means lots of dark leather and wood.

In Izzy’s words, an elegant caveman.

Leaving the daily operations to Jace for the day, Alec’s enjoying a rare opportunity away from everything. The past year has been hectic and so stressful that Alec regularly marvels that he hasn’t had a heart attack yet.

He’s learned more about himself-- and the city-- than he’d ever dreamed possible. Since that night at the Judge’s townhouse, everything seems like it’s been moving in fast forward, whirling by so quickly that Alec’s just managed to gain his footing as the rug’s being pulled out from under him again.

He’s done things that were unthinkable a year ago.

He’s enjoyed a lot of those things a little too much.

As he sweeps an absent hand over a brocade sofa in a repulsive shade of red, Alec thinks about his schedule for the upcoming week. There’s a deal in Hell’s Kitchen that he needs to facilitate and one of his girls had come to him a few days ago and told about a strange man who’s been lurking around her area.

He’ll check that out tonight and deal with whatever he finds swiftly.

If he’s learned anything in the past fourteen months, it’s how to make a statement without opening his mouth.

There’s also that other matter that he hasn’t told anyone about, not even Jace. With a wry grimace, Alec reflects that it’d be a little hard to tell his brother about the lead he’d been given on who had killed Robert without divulging his source. And, try as he might, Alec hasn’t found it in him to kill the messenger.

Not yet, at least.

Strolling down a path between dozens of couches, Alec raises a brow as he sees something that might work. It’s a cozy looking couch in a dark, dark brown leather. It’s inviting as hell and Alec sinks into the seat with a sigh.

He loses track of time as he enjoys the innocuous pleasure of a comfortable seat and a day of no responsibilities. He feels anonymous here, in the middle of a furniture store in Brooklyn. No one knows him here and he’s just another customer looking for something innocent enough. It’s nice not to feel sharp looks in his direction as his men wonder what he’s thinking, what his next step is.

It’s nice to fade into the background once in a while.

Alec’s startled, then, when a low voice speaks right next to his ear. “You look dead on your feet, darling. Trouble sleeping?”

Whipping his head around, Alec glares as Magnus settles on the other end of the couch. It’s infuriating, the way he sits so gracefully, crossing one leg over the other while watching Alec with an amused glint in his eye.

“What the hell are you doing here,” Alec asks and debates the pros and cons of killing Magnus under the stark fluorescent lights.

“Isn’t it obvious? I’m furniture shopping, Alexander.”

“Don’t call me that,” Alec snaps and he has to bite his tongue from immediately reneging the words.

Magnus’s voice is sly as he teases, “But darling’s okay?”

Alec doesn’t say anything, resolutely keeping his mouth shut.

Sighing, Magnus relaxes a little further into the couch and studies Alec with a patient gaze that’s a little too warm under the bright lights of the show room.

“What do you want, Magnus?”

Alec watches Magnus’s gaze turns sharp as he asks, “What if I said that I just wanted to see you?”

“I’d call you a liar,” Alec replies dryly and tries to ignore the warmth that sweeps up the back of his neck at those implications.

Laughing softly, Magnus just shrugs. “Suit yourself,” he says easily before tilting his head in curiosity. “Have you followed that lead I gave you yet?”

Alec scowls. “That’s none of your business.”

Tsking, Magnus pushes. “Afraid of what you might find if you go digging? I assure you that my information was accurate. He might be a valiant opponent but I think I’d still put my money on you if it came down to it. Christ knows why,” he muses.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Alec starts, looking away. “But you should go.”

“Why?”

He’s surprised at the sharp retort, the way Magnus studies him with calculating eyes.

“What do you mean why,” he manages to get out. “We’re enemies, business rivals.”

“And why is that? Because our fathers were?”

“It’s just the way things have always been,” Alec replies, though he can hear the doubt lurking under the words.

That just makes him scowl with a little more heat. He can’t believe he’s letting Magnus Bane, of all people, get to him.

Magnus just sends an arch look his way and asks, “And traditions can’t change? We could be allies, you know. Maybe even partners one day. I like what I’ve seen so far. You’re a formidable adversary, even if you are so green.”

Alec can’t help but scoff. “You’re what? A year older than me? You’re hardly an old hand at this sort of thing.”

Magnus’s gaze hardens as he considers Alec carefully. Alec’s uncomfortable under the scrutiny for a brief moment before something shifts in Magnus’s face and his eyes turn warm and a little bemused.

“I’m a few years older than you, I’d say. It’s been a long time since I was as green as you, though, darling. More’s the pity.”

With a sigh, Magnus straightens before standing. Alec has to tilt his head up to meet his eyes and it makes something twist in his gut.

He doesn’t know whether it’s the vulnerability this position displays or the ease with which he remains sitting, giving the man in front of him the advantage.

“I told you about Valentine and gave you the evidence I had. I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to, of course, but I would think that you’d have pursued that lead a bit more than you have. If you ever need help-- with anything-- don’t hesitate to call me.”

With that, Magnus reaches into his pocket. Alec tenses and knows by the way Magnus’s lips quirk that he sees it. Still, he merely pulls out a card and holds it out to him.

Alec lets the hand stay outstretched for a moment, carefully studying the offer. Magnus’s hands are strong and look capable of all sorts of things even if at the same time, they’re too elegant, pristine. Alec has a hard time imagining them doing the kinds of things that need doing in their line of work. His nails are painted black with the faintest hint of glitter lurking in the ebony. There are a few rings adorning the slender fingers and Alec has a moment to think that the rings with his initials are a little pretentious.

He’s annoyed that he also finds it charming and that it undeniably works for Magnus.

Magnus endures the scrutiny with a smile. Somehow, it feels like he knows Alec’s intentions even before he does. Reaching out, Alec plucks the card from where Magnus had been holding it between two fingers, the offering a challenge of sorts, possibly even a test.

Alec knows by Magnus’s smile that he’s passed with flying colors as he shoves the business card into his pocket.

“I’m not going to use this,” Alec adds, wanting to wipe that smirk off his face.

If anything, Magnus just looks more facetious. “We’ll see about that, I suppose.”

“Why do you want to help me, anyway? Why should I trust you?”

Magnus doesn’t answer immediately, instead taking his time to reply. Alec gives him points for the seriousness of his tone when he does.

“There’s just something about you, I suppose,” Magnus finally says. “It might be foolish of me but I can’t help but want to get to know you better.”

“What if you don’t like what you find? Not everyone can be who you want them to be.”

Magnus laughs, tickled. “Oh, Alexander, you don’t have to tell me that. Yours isn’t the first pretty face I’ve seen but it is the first time I’ve felt compelled to reach out. You didn’t kill me when you had the chance last month and that made me wonder. I guess we’ll both just have to see what happens next, hm?”

Alec’s overwhelmingly aware of the card in his pocket, at the way its sharp edge pinches his skin. His eyes trace crisp lipstick and perfect eyeliner, the clean lines of Magnus’s outfit.

He’s intrigued. He shouldn’t be-- the very idea is ludicrous-- but he is.

Magnus’s gaze breaks from his for a brief moment before he’s looking back with an arch look and tilting his head towards something. “That would look nice in your office, don’t you think?”

Following his gaze, Alec sees metal and wood a dark stained drink cart. It’s nothing overtly fancy. It doesn’t stand out. It’s almost black, the wood ever so slightly distressed, the iron aged. It’s utilitarian and looks just big enough to hold a half dozen bottles of liquor with the accompanying glasses.

It’s would be mostly unobtrusive and fits his style perfectly. Alec’s a little wary of just how well Magnus had pegged him.

“What makes you think I need a drink cart,” he asks sardonically.

Shrugging, Magnus merely offers, “Every great leader should have a drink cart, Alexander. It’s useful in so many ways-- wooing potential business partners, a nice pick me up after a dreadful day. Don’t tell me that you keep your whiskey in your bottom desk drawer?”

Before he can school his expression, Alec’s brows are flying up incredulously. How the hell did Magnus know that?

Magnus just laughs quietly and nods a little to himself. “That’s what I thought,” he says. “It’s a small thing but it can really make the difference. You won’t even realize it’s there until you need it.”

“Whatever,” Alec mutters as he rolls his eyes.

He misses the fond, speculative look Magnus throws his way.

“Well, I should get going. While this was a lovely distraction, I do have work to finish before nightfall.”

Magnus has turned and taken just a few steps when Alec finds himself calling out, almost without meaning to.

“Magnus.”

Pausing, Magnus looks over his shoulder. His gaze is inscrutable.

Alec has the briefest moment to reconsider but finds he doesn’t want to. “Rumor has it one of your men has been stealing from the till.”

Before his eyes, Alec watches as Magnus changes. It’s imperceptible but chills him down to the bone nonetheless. It’s as though Magnus closes himself off from everything else, becoming colder and sharp enough to slice to ribbons.

His voice is steel as he asks, “Where did you hear that?”

Alec shrugs. “He was bragging to one of my men who came back and told me about it. I guess he was in the mood to boast about how he was pulling one over on the boss man.”

Magnus smiles and it send a shiver up his spine. “Do you have a name?”

Squinting a little, Alec thinks back and offers a tentative, “Elias?”

Magnus nods once as his gaze warms a few scant degrees. “Thank you, Alexander. I appreciate the heads up.”

“Maybe our fathers were enemies,” Alec says slowly, feeling each word as it leaves his mouth. “But you were kind to me and have never been anything but a gentleman. I wanted to repay that, even if the gesture was small.”

“No gesture is too small, darling.” Magnus’s mouth twitches up before he adds, “It was nice running into you. I’ll see you around, Alec.”

“Magnus.”

This time when Alec calls out, Magnus doesn’t turn around, doesn’t look over his shoulder. He merely stills and the silence is expectant.

“Who told you that I’d be here?”

Magnus is still facing straight ahead and his voice is expressionless as he replies, “Raj.”

He doesn’t wait for Alec to say anything else, merely continues on his way and Alec watches him until he exits through the front door.

The store is surprisingly empty as Alec sits and thinks over the past half hour. It was only a conversation but it feels like things have shifted irrevocably.

He’s not quite sure how he feels about it.

A few minutes later, though, a salesman comes over and Alec orders a few things that have caught his eye.

It’s a few days later when he pours Raj, one of his newer recruits, a drink in his office. He carefully places the stopper in the decanter of whiskey before setting it down on his brand new drink cart that had been installed yesterday morning. Then, Alec's turning towards the man who’d betrayed him without a second thought.

It was an unwritten rule that one never told anyone about the boss’s whereabouts-- let alone his supposed number one rival.

Alec feels no remorse as he takes care of business. It’s another day of the same old shit and he tries to pretend that he’s not exhausted of it all, already.

He thinks about Magnus and wonders when they’ll next meet.

He thinks about the fine line he’s walking and how this will probably blow up in his face when he least expects it.

Still. There’s just something about Magnus that pulls Alec in and he’s helpless to do anything but sit back and see how it all plays out.

In the meantime, he starts researching Valentine and his operations. Piece by piece, the puzzle starts to come together and finally, it’s time for Alec to make his move. He needs to avenge his father and solidify his place at the table. It's taken nearly two years but Alec's ready.

It’s just his luck that Valentine saw him coming from a mile away.