He doesn’t notice at first.
He doesn’t notice that he’s subsisting on coffee, that he can’t quite remember the last time he had a real meal. He’s just not hungry and he can’t figure out why his headaches have come back.
When he was a teenager, Alec suffered from terrible, pain in the ass headaches that made him want to collapse into bed where he could cry until he finally fell asleep and get some relief from the pain. It’s a dull ache in the back of his head, a sharp pain in his temples.
It’s been awhile since they’ve been this bad, though Alec doesn’t notice that their intensity-- and frequency-- has been ratcheting up. All he knows is that by mid afternoon he can hardly focus. He takes a deep breath and as his lungs expand, he feels a quiet easing of the bands that seem to tighten around his chest a little more with each day that passes. It’s a temporary relief from slogging through paperwork and approving expense reports but it keeps him from screaming.
Sighing heavily in the quiet of his office, Alec tosses his pen onto the blotter and brings a hand up until he can press fingers into his temples hard enough so that the blunt pain can drown out his headache for a brief, blissful moment.
Glancing at the clock, Alec sees that it’s almost six. Shadowhunters should be coming down to ops soon for their assignments and Alec’s glad that he gave Jace that responsibility a couple of months ago. He doesn’t know if he could leave the sanctity of his office right now and go into the control center where everyone would be talking, eager and ready to head off on patrol as their runes kicked in for the night.
The very thought of the controlled chaos makes his head pound a little more viciously.
Shaking his head a little, Alec works another hour or so until he deems the day done. He still has a thousand things that will be waiting for his attention in the morning-- and he knows a thousand more will drop in his lap overnight, no doubt-- but he’s done all he can for today.
Standing, Alec feels himself sway a little in his spot. Blinking, he frowns and reaches for the mostly empty mug of coffee that’s never far from his elbow. He takes a last swig and while it’s gone cold and more than a little gross, his shoulders lose some of their tension.
Reaching behind him, Alec shrugs into his coat and pockets his phone and stele. He’s out the door a minute later and manages to avoid everyone on his way out. Fall is sneakily fading into winter and Alec huddles a little tighter into his coat.
Magnus is out of town for a few days, tending to a werewolf pack illness in Dubai, so it’s just him as he swings the door open to their loft.
Alec briefly debates making dinner-- maybe heating a can of soup up or scrounging for some cheese and crackers-- but just the thought is exhausting. As he goes to walk past the kitchen, however, he abruptly stops as he realizes that the only thing he’s had today is six cups of coffee.
Suddenly, he’s starving and with a sigh, he enters the kitchen and heads straight to the fridge. Opening it, his head throbs as the fluorescent light pierces into his skull.
He’s not seeing a lot of options. He’s definitely not in the mood to cook and Alec briefly wishes that he’d had this realization just ten minutes before. He could’ve stopped by the pizza joint down the block or ordered takeout from the Thai place halfway between here and the Institute. Undoubtedly unhealthy but he needs calories and he's too tired to worry about their quality. He figures something is better than nothing.
Now, if he could just find something that wasn't too damned exhausting to prepare, something he wouldn't need to wait an hour for. He wants his bed so fucking bad he feels his eyes burning.
He’s just about to give up altogether when a deep blue Tupperware container catches his eye on the bottom shelf. Leaning down-- and that feels like so much goddamn effort-- just a little, he slides the box out enough to see a bright pink post-it on top.
This is for you, darling. I shudder to think what’s passed for a meal since I left you a few days ago. Before you collapse into bed, I want you to eat this entire bowl.
Huffing out a laugh, Alec wonders idly that Magnus knows him too well. He hadn’t looked in the fridge in a few days but he’s filled with a quiet wave of warmth at Magnus taking the time to prepare-- or summon, for Alec’s not quite romantic enough to think that Magnus toiled away over this pasta when he wasn’t looking-- dinner while he was away. It's well known that Alec gets tunnel vision when he's at work. Magnus is used to Alec coming home and devouring the whole fucking kitchen once he's out of the Institute and breathign fresh air.
Alec tries to tamp down on the guilt that Magnus doesn't know that that's not what this is lately. It's not enough to be cause for concern, he tells himself and ignores it when the thought strikes hollow.
The pasta-- chicken fettuccine, his favorite-- warms up perfectly in the microwave. It’s delicious, even if Alec barely manages to eat half of the container before he’s too full to continue.
Figuring he’ll have leftovers tomorrow, he pours a glass of tap water and downs it while standing in front of the sink. Placing the empty glass next to the fork he’d used, Alec runs a hand through his hair before giving the room a once over and stepping out to the hallway, turning the lights off as he goes.
Pulling his shirt over his head and pushing his pants down until they pool on the floor next to his side of the bed, Alec slides between cool sheets and sighs into his pillow.
The weight of the day sloughs off him and he closes his burning eyes, finding almost immediate relief from the headache that’s held him in a vise grip for most of the day.
Sinking into the sheets, he falls asleep quick, pulling Magnus’s pillow to his chest and breathing in the scent of his husband’s shampoo.
The weeks blend together and Alec feels like his whole goddamn life is a never ending dumpster fire.
Well, that’s not quite true but he’s overwhelmed and stressed to the max and if Jace asks for special permission for a dumbass mission one more time, Alec won’t be responsible for his reaction.
His vision blurs as he reads over a request from the Clave that’s as subtle as a fucking grenade asking for his expertise to calm rising downworld tensions in St. Petersburg. Their flattery falls flat and Alec’s well aware that he’ll be portaling his ass to Russia by week’s end to deal with shadowhunters who will need to be brought to heel quickly and with as little bloodshed as possible.
That’s a headache for future Alec, though, he thinks with a grimace.
Reaching for the last bite of his pain au chocolat that he’d picked up along with his quad latte this morning, Alec barely tastes the damned thing. He figures it’s more than enough to get him through a day that’s busting with meetings and reaches for his coffee to wash it down only to scowl when the to go cup is unforgivably light.
There’s not a drop left and Alec growls a little-- there’s no one around to hear his irritation, at least-- as he stands, rounding his desk to head to the canteen, hoping to hell that someone’s bought more hazelnut k-cups since they were out last week.
Thankfully, Izzy is the only one there when he arrives and she bites into her sandwich as he grunts at her, the bare minimum greeting she’ll take and the most he can summon the energy to give.
“Rough day,” she asks dryly, reaching onto her plate for a cheddar and sour cream chip.
“Everything’s a pain in my ass,” Alec replies roughly. “If I have to hear another recruit talk back I’m putting them on ichor duty for the rest of the goddamn decade.”
Rasing a brow, Isabelle doesn’t say anything. She just watches him as she makes her steady way through lunch.
Alec opens one of the cabinets and breathes a quiet yet fervent sigh of relief when he sees the red box, almost three quarters full of his favorite k-cups. Placing his mug under the drip, Alec fires the Keurig up and selects the biggest size, tapping the button for strong before hitting start.
Almost immediately, the fresh smell of brewing coffee hits the air and his shoulders relax. It’s like coming home. It’s a brief respite and Alec inhales the notes of hazelnut and beans and prays that his headache stays away until after he has a chance to peak into the new recruits' training.
He’s just reaching for the almond milk in the refrigerator when Izzy asks, “When’s the last time you ate?”
“I had a croissant this morning,” Alec says absently.
“And before that?”
Alec’s quiet for a moment as he tries to remember. There was that granola bar he’d forced down last night as he’d been reading over a treatise draft. Frowning a little, Alec can’t remember anything else that he’d eaten yesterday and shit if he can remember the day before that.
He’s too busy to eat, he thinks with a frown. He’s never hungry in the mornings and by the time he gets to the Institute, he’s too busy to take a break. Most nights, he’s so damned tired that he takes a few mechanic bites of food before going to bed, just to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
His plate is full to bursting and eating is as low a priority as he can have right now. There’s a little voice, though, that tries to slither its way through his head.
It’s not that he likes not eating. It’s not that it makes him the tiniest bit happy when he’s realized that he’s managed to go sixteen-- or twenty four or thirty six-- hours without anything but coffee to serve as a meal.
It’s something he can control. He can ignore his hunger pains through sheer force of will, even if nausea sweeps through him occasionally and he has to close his eyes to regain his equilibrium.
It’s something that’s plagued him off and on since he was in the Academy. When Alec was stressed-- when he was tired and the only thing he felt he could control was his eating-- his appetite vanished. It’s nothing unusual and Alec knows that in a few days, a few weeks, he’ll feel better one morning. Waking up won’t be so exhausting and he’ll go over to the East Village and have the best bacon burger in the city with an extra large fry and Oreo milkshake. Everything will go back to how it’s supposed to be and Alec won’t have to wonder when his last meal was, won’t feel his sister’s piercing eyes over a bag of Ruffles potato chips.
He doesn’t answer her and Iz doesn’t push. He pours a healthy dollop of milk into his coffee and leaves, resigned to going back to his office and getting through the day’s work.
Distantly, he wonders if he’ll have time to sneak in a quick training session before he calls it a day. He feels light and there’s an energy that’s simmering low in his gut that he knows from past experience just needs an outlet. Blowing across his coffee, Alec takes a slow, deep sip and wonders if he could persuade Jace to a sparring match tonight.
The next morning, Alec wakes up to a long line of warmth along his back. Sinking into the sheets, his breath catches at the dull throbbing in his ankle. He’d used an iratze after sparring Jace last night and he’s pissed that his ankle still feels off. Deciding to deal with it later, Alec relaxes further against Magnus and his eyes fall shut as he feels his husband nose along his spine.
He lets himself be urged onto his back and stares up at a sleep-rumpled Magnus. It’s a vision that still makes his heart ache in the best damn way, no matter that they’ve been together for a few years now.
Magnus studies him in the low light and Alec closes his eyes again as Magnus leans forward and nibbles across his collarbone, along his deflect rune.
“What do you say to waffles this morning, Alexander?” Magnus’s voice is a low rasp and Alec smiles a little even if words get stuck in his throat.
As though he knows Alec’s thinking, Magnus raises his head and studies him carefully. The intensity in his unglamoured eyes is a little unnerving.
Running a thumb over a stubbled jaw, Magnus smiles. “What do you say? Surely the Institute can wait a couple of hours.”
While there’s a part of Alec that’s uneasy-- while Magnus could be coy when needed, with Alec his attempts at subterfuge had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer-- Alec knows that Magnus has realized that his appetite has been damn near nonexistent lately.
Resigned, Alec thinks that he wouldn’t be surprised if his husband knew about his over-training. Alec’s not dumb. He might be pissed off but his ankle is screaming and the only reason that ever happens after applying an iratze is because his energy stores are too low.
Things have finally come to a head and while he still feels like he’s in a fog most days, he knows that something had to give sooner or later.
“Sure,” he replies hoarsely. “Let’s have waffles for breakfast.”
Magnus’s gaze eases just a tad even as the gold warms. He leans down and kisses Alec.
“Right answer, darling.”
The two of them get ready slowly, showering together, lingering under the warm spray. Magnus catches Alec’s wince when he forgets not to put his full weight on his left foot and his eyes sharpen.
He doesn’t say anything though, merely lowering until he’s kneeling on the marble of their shower, reaching a hand out to wrap it around Alec’s ankle. Alec watches as azure flows into his skin and the relief is immediate.
Magnus kisses the delicate bone of his ankle before lowering his foot back to the ground and stands, pulling Alec closer with arms around his middle.
They stand there for long minutes and Alec feels warmth that’s been missing for longer than he wants to admit.
He’s finally hungry. Not starving, not ravenous. But he can admit that he’s craving food.
It’s the breaking of the dam. It’s a start.
Alec knows the next few hours won't be easy but Magnus hasn't stopped looking at him, warm and open, and suddenly he's tired of hiding from his husband.
It feels like the quietest of snicks as the puzzle pieces align. Maybe, he wonders, if he felt guilty about keeping something from his husband then it was time to come clean.
He breathes easier at just the idea.