Chapter 1: Text Me Maybe
A rogue warlock murdering mundanes forces Alec to open a joint investigation with the very person he was trying to avoid: Magnus Bane.
~ Opening Song ~
"Wilson" - Fall Out Boy
"If I can get my shit together,
I'm gonna run away and never see any of you again...
And I became such a strange shape from trying to fit in...
I always make such expensive mistakes...
I'll stop wearing black when they make a darker color."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Early morning light diffused through Alec’s fabric window shades, rousing him out of the plain, queen bed that occupied the center back wall of his room. As head of the New York Institute, he never really had a day off—but today was as close as he got. Instead of rising to his alarm in the early, dark hours of the morning—his usual routine—Alec allowed himself to sleep in until the late Summer sunlight beckoned him out of his dreamless slumber—a late, lazy 6:50 AM.
Moments after his eyes opened to the daylight, Alec was on his feet, mutely moving throughout his room in preparation for the day. He took his time, stretching his normally brief morning routine out to a lengthy fifteen minutes. Teeth, deodorant, clothes.
He never understood how other people could inflate their morning rituals to thirty minutes, sometimes more. Izzy had been known to take upwards of an hour on occasion. It baffled him. Perhaps part of it was his preference for showering at night—but even that would only add an extra five to seven minutes for Alec. He took an additional few seconds to smooth his hair in the bathroom mirror. He’d slept in an awkward position the night before, causing it to stick up at weird angles. A quick brush though with his fingers did the trick.
At 7:08 AM, Alexander Lightwood strolled into the main hall of the Institute, fully awake. The familiar muffled din of computers and quiet voices greeted him, breaking the aura of silence he surrounded himself with every morning. He spotted Jace standing in front of one of the many walls of monitors, focused intently on a repeating clip of blurry security footage.
“Haven’t you slept yet?” Alec asked his parabatai, approaching otherwise soundlessly from behind. Jace had been on the night patrol the previous evening, and should have returned to the Institute around 5:00 AM to debrief and go to sleep. He apparently had yet to do the latter.
“Not yet,” Jace confirmed, voice trailing off distractedly as he continued to stare at the pixelated screen. From what Alec could tell, one fuzzy dark blob approached another fuzzy dark blob, something bright glared into the camera for a handful of frames, and then both blobs disappeared. Alec squinted at the screen, his expression mirroring Jace’s, as if staring harder could somehow improve the quality of the image.
“So… “ Alec prompted. “What are we staring at?”
Things had been strained between the two since Clary Fray—no, Fairchild—no, Morgenstern—had crashed into their lives like a petite, red-headed wrecking ball, unsettling everything they knew about their families' histories—even that of Alec’s own parents. Complicating matters further, Alec still blamed her for outing him to his siblings. Sure, Izzy had already figured it out. And in his heart, he thought Jace might have as well. But before Clary, the family had at least maintained a fragile balance. Now, everything had devolved into chaos. Alec wasn’t sure Jace had forgiven him for that particular lifelong omission yet. He mostly just wanted to forget about it, and return to the way things had been before. But Clary Fairchild—and all of the drama she brought with her—seemed to be here to stay.
“I think it’s a murder,” Jace answered, still completely enthralled by the vague shapes before them.
Alec did a double take, scanning Jace’s solemn, fixated expression for any sign of humor. His parabatai was serious.
“From this?” Alec questioned. “Where did you even get this?” He shifted his gaze back and forth between the blonde shadowhunter and the screen.
Jace finally tore his attention away from the video, refocusing on Alec. Today, just like every day in the past several weeks since Alec had called off his engagement, Jace seemed completely normal. This distressed Alec. He kept waiting for everything to crumble. No one had really acknowledged anything that had happened since his very temporary failure of an engagement to Lydia Branwell. Jace had brushed it off, but Alec knew he understood more than he let on. He had the parabatai bond to thank for that. Every time the two were alone together, he felt some sort of hesitation rise in the bond, like Jace wanted to say something, but didn’t.
“Clary and I tracked some downworlder activity to this alleyway last night,” Jace explained, pointing at the screen. “All we had to go on was a mysterious burst of magical activity. Iz thinks it might be a warlock, but we can’t be certain.”
Alec turned his attention back to the video, narrowing his eyes uselessly. “A warlock and… ?”
“That’s just it,” Jace responded. “We don’t know. We showed up only a few minutes after whatever it was subsided, but no trace remained of anything out of the ordinary. Clary spotted this security camera on a bank across the street, and her pet werewolf was able to acquire this for us using his police resources. But it’s just so low quality… ”
Jace trailed off, concluding his weak narrative with a shrug.
The mention of the newly-minted leader of the New York werewolf pack brought back some uncomfortably fresh memories for Alec—particularly those relating to a certain High Warlock of Brooklyn. He recalled bursting into the warlock’s home, only to see him wasting away on the floor, struggling with every ounce of his magic to keep Luke Garroway alive. Alec ran straight to him when called, without any knowledge of what the warlock would ask of him. When Magnus asked to channel him, to use his energy to supplement his own magic, Alec had offered himself without hesitation.
He most vividly remembered the moments after, when Magnus had collapsed, completely exhausted, into Alec’s arms. The immediate realization of how naturally he rested there. And again after that, when he felt so guilty about asking so much of Magnus that Alexander Lightwood had crawled around on his hands and knees and scrubbed the High Warlock’s apartment clean himself while Magnus rested. He didn’t even put that much effort into his own bare, minimalist bedroom. To be fair, he had never needed to. He rarely spent any time there.
It was Magnus who had convinced Alec to call off the engagement that everyone now tip-toed around mentioning. But no one knew this—not even the warlock himself.
`You have a choice to make. I will not ask again.’ Alec replayed those words in his head over and over, day after day. He and Magnus had hardly spoken a word to each other since. But the morning after the ultimatum, Alec and Lydia had quietly called off their wedding. In the confusion that ensued with an attack on the Institute, and Hodge’s betrayal, no one had really stopped to think if the engagement’s cancellation had been due to anything other than very, very poor timing. Few shadowhunters dared to host such a massive gathering in the first place with a maniac like Valentine still at large.
Lydia, all things considered, had been very understanding. In the aftermath, she named Alec the new head of the New York Institute—the official one, not just the acting one. He had spent the last several weeks “coming to terms with his new responsibilities.” It was an easy enough excuse for his excess brooding as of late. He had already been fulfilling those responsibilities, so in reality, very little had changed for him on that front. He just couldn’t stop thinking about Magnus Bane.
“So I was thinking we should call Magnus Bane,” Jace was saying. Alec’s attention redirected sharply back to his parabatai.
“What? Magnus? Why?” He fumbled desperately to regain his composure at the unexpected mention of that name.
Jace shot him a curious glance. “Because he’s the High Warlock of Brooklyn? And if there is a rogue warlock terrorizing the people of New York, he should know?”
“... right,” Alec nodded, blinking into the empty silence. He realized Jace was waiting for further comment. “Yes, that makes complete sense. You do that.”
Jace watched him suspiciously. “Alec, is everything okay?”
Alec took a moment too long to respond, letting the quiet air hang uncomfortably between them.
“Yeah,” he finally answered. “Why wouldn’t it be?” Before Jace could press further, Alec spun on his heel and strode away, leaving his parabatai grasping vainly for an explanation.
Alec kept his eyes focused on the empty pavement. Maybe if he stared at it long enough, some sort of evidence would magically appear to keep him occupied with anything other than the warlock snooping around the crime scene. Jace, Izzy, and Clary all watched raptly as Magnus Bane walked the alley, blue sparks whispering from his fingertips. Alec heard the entire group inhale together. He slid his gaze reluctantly upward to see the High Warlock frowning in front of an unassuming brick wall, the embers floating around his hands now yellow-green, like frantic fireflies. It cast dramatic shadows across his face, and for a moment, it seemed that the warlock himself glowed brightly in the lengthening twilight shadows. Magnus Bane’s eyes met his, and for just a second, he caught a flash of shimmering gold in his gaze—pupils narrow and sharp.
Alec realized he was staring. He held his breath, completely bewitched. Then Magnus’ eyes widened, as if he only just recalled something, and he blinked. When his eyes opened again, the sparkling glow was gone. The warlock’s pupils had returned to the ordinary small, black circles he always had.
His eyes dropped to the ground, and when he spoke again, he looked everywhere except toward Alec.
“Well, Miss Lightwood,” he said to Izzy. “It seems you’re right. Something very unfortunate occurred here. And a warlock was definitely involved.”
“You can tell that from a flashy parlour trick?” Jace’s skepticism drew a frown from the warlock, but instead it was Alec who Jace quickly redirected his attention to, eyebrows raised in surprise. Alec blushed and focused his eyes back down to the pavement, refusing to acknowledge the rush of protective indignance they had both just felt through their parabatai bond.
Magnus glanced between them curiously. “Yes,” he asserted, words dragging out as he carefully examined the two shadowhunters. “This spell is a lot more complicated than it looks, not that an ogrish shadowhunter like you would take the time to notice how taxing different magics are on a lowly downworlder.”
Jace rolled his eyes at the biting remark. Concern flooded Alec’s mind, earning him another strange look from his parabatai. He found himself suddenly by the warlock’s side.
“Do you need a minute?” he asked, quietly. “You don’t have to help us, you know. I mean, don’t feel obligated. We’re very grateful for your help so far as it is.” He tried his best to sound diplomatic. Behind him, Izzy snickered.
Magnus tilted his head, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Thanks for your concern, Alexander,” he replied. “But I am the High Warlock of Brooklyn, after all. I can handle a simple Revealing spell.” He spun his hands around with extra flair, summoning the tiny, chartreuse embers back to life.
“Though,” Magnus added under his breath, “you can feel free to thank me with a drink later.”
Alec wasn’t entirely sure he was supposed to hear that comment. Unlike the others present, he had activated a Hearing rune—along with several other runes useful for observation—upon arriving to the scene. He focused on playing dumb and fixed his gaze on the floating sparks. His eyes widened in amazement as the tiny hovering orbs of light assembled into two ghostly figures.
Jace let out a small grunt of approval, which was about as close to eating his words as he ever got. Clary gasped, still completely awestruck by everything magical. Izzy stared at Alec with a knowing grin, which he very pointedly and completely ignored.
After that, no question remained about the events that occurred in that alley the night before. They all watched in solemn silence as the smoldering phantom of a young woman cornered a slumped, aging mundane man, grabbing him by the throat. It appeared almost as if she inhaled him—like sand across a windy beach, he dissolved into scattered particles of light and into her mouth. She licked her lips hungrily, a paper-thin, curved pair of fangs retracting behind her upper lip. Then, she vanished. The scene crumbled in a scattered cloud of flickering dust.
“A… vampire?” Izzy speculated, bewildered by the dramatic encounter they had just witnessed.
“No,” Magnus answered. “A warlock. One whom I unfortunately know very well. Her warlock mark is a set of very fearsome viper fangs. Easy mistake.” Despite his chipper guidance, Alec could see a cloud of unsettled concern darken the warlock’s usually carefully carefree countenance. Magnus rubbed his jaw, staring dismally at the space the woman’s gleaming silhouette had occupied.
“Let’s call it a night,” Alec suggested.
An assortment of blank stares met his interjection. He retreated immediately to a defensive tone, scrambling to fend off the perplexed silence.
“Jace and Clary haven’t slept since the night before last,” he reasoned. “And Magnus has expended enough of his magic for now. We have the information we need. Let’s regroup in the morning when we’ve all had a chance to think it over. Magnus, will you forward us everything you know about this woman?”
“Give me your phone,” Izzy chimed in without missing a beat. The warlock handed over the sleek, unprotected touchscreen. She handled it gingerly, unaccustomed to holding a phone without the thick, bomb-proof case commonly used by shadowhunters.
“Here…” she declared, her sing-song tone immediately alerting Alec that something was happening which he did not approve of, “... is Alec’s number. You can send him anything you think of.”
“That’s a good idea,” Jace added, completely oblivious to Izzy’s motivations. “This way, if anything comes up, we can mobilize immediately.”
Alec crossed his arms, shifting his weight and redirecting all of his attention to a very interesting pebble next to his foot.
“Yeah. Yep. Sounds good.”
Magnus accepted the phone back from Izzy with a playful wave of his hand.
“Thank you, Biscuit. I’ll be sure to put it to very good use.”
Magnus produced a portal back to the Institute, stepping aside to let the shadowhunters through. One by one, everyone else stepped into the luminous ring of light and onward into the Institute’s main hall, disappearing from view and leaving Magnus and Alec alone for just a moment. Before he followed the rest of them back home, Alec paused, summoning all of his courage to meet the warlock’s inquisitive brown eyes. Some secret part of him wished for just one more tiny glance at the dazzling, golden cat eyes he’d seen before.
“You should shoot me a text now,” he managed. “To make sure it works.”
And then he was gone.
~ Closing Song ~
"Daylight" - Taylor Swift
"I don't wanna look at anything else now that I saw you.
I don't wanna think of anything else now that I thought of you.
I've been sleeping so long in a 20-year dark night...
I once believed love would be black and white,
But it's golden."
Chapter 2: Angel Wings & Beautiful Things
Alec's cooperation with Magnus on an investigation forces him to face his feelings for the warlock, and take a step toward acting on them.
~ Opening Song ~
"Breaking Up My Bones" - Vinyl Theatre
"You've got a funny way
of hanging around.
... It's breaking up my bones.
I wanna lie,
but I don't care to try.
We're taking off."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Magnus Bane and Isabelle Lightwood hunched over the withered corpse on the autopsy table before them.
“This is most certainly the work of Mellie,” Magnus sighed. He adjusted the clear shield over his face.
“Something must have interrupted her,” Izzy added. “She didn’t get to finish the spell. Unfortunately, she got far enough that this guy still ended up… like this.” She waved a hand over the mummified body.
Alec leaned against the wall near the entrance of the morgue, nodding as the two explained their observations. Only two weeks had passed since their initial discovery, but the subject on the table already marked the warlock Melusine’s third known victim.
“Thanks for your help, Magnus,” Izzy said. She stepped away from the metal table, removing her mask. Magnus followed suit, peeling off his gloves as she did. As Izzy brushed past him, she sidestepped—leaving a wide berth around Magnus’ back. Magnus fought to suppress a grin. Alec tilted his head curiously.
“Izzy, is everything alright?” he asked, glancing between the warlock and his sister.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” asked Izzy. She spun around, searching for what Alec might be inquiring about. Alec shook his head.
The three of them stepped outside the dismal, too-bright room, convening in the hallway.
“I think I should block portaling into, out of, and within New York,” Magnus proposed. “Mellie probably does not know yet that we’re onto her. But after leaving a body behind, she may get nervous. She’s a very capable warlock—if she flees, we will likely lose her forever.”
Alec and Izzy both concurred.
“That seems like a lot of magic,” Alec mused. He crossed his arms, eyes focusing on the High Warlock. “Is that really something you can do alone?”
“With how often you ask these questions, Alexander, I might start to think you doubt my skills,” Magnus teased.
Alec again recalled that day in Magnus’ apartment, when they saved Luke Garroway together. He had felt a momentary connection while Magnus channeled him—almost like a parabatai bond. He could feel the warlock’s energy—the rush of the magic, the sheer exhaustion of skirmishing with death itself. Fighting demons was strenuous for shadowhunters—but that level of magic? Alec couldn’t imagine performing feats like that on a regular basis. What if he gets hurt?
“I don’t doubt you, Magnus,” he clarified quietly. “I’m just… “
Alec trailed off, his brain catching up with the words he was about to say. Worried. Concerned. Afraid to put you in harm’s way. He let the sentence hang, clearing his throat and redirecting the conversation as if to correct himself.
“Thank you. It will be very helpful. Let us know if we can do anything to assist.” Alec’s voice reverted to a more official tone.
A subtle, warm smile brightened the warlock’s expression. It reached his eyes more than his mouth—a quiet, joyful sparkle. It brought memories of shimmering gold and magic to the forefront of Alec’s thoughts. But Magnus’ irises remained a deep, thoughtful brown.
“I understand, Alexander.”
After Magnus Bane departed, Alec turned back to Izzy. She made no pretense of hiding her suggestive grin.
“ I don’t doubt you, Magnus! ” she crooned.
“ Let us know if we can do anything to assist! ”
“I do not talk like that.” Alec turned and strode away down the hallway. Izzy followed close at his heels, reminding Alec of an annoying, yappy puppy.
“What was up with you in there, anyway?” Alec turned the tables on her as they headed toward the cafeteria. “You were avoiding Magnus’ back. Did something happen?”
“That’s what you were asking about?” Izzy realized. “Oh my gosh, you don’t know!”
“Know what?” They had stopped again, hovering outside the entrance to the echoing mess hall.
“Magnus told me his warlock mark,” Izzy sang, dragging the words out as if she dangled some sort of tasty treat in front of her brother. “I assumed he would have told you that sort of thing already.”
“Why would he tell me that?” Alec retorted. “And what does that have to do with you avoiding his back?”
“He has wings,” Izzy chanted. Alec was getting very sick of her singsong tone. “Like an angel! And since glamours can only disguise appearance, not make something disappear altogether, I didn’t want to bump into them accidentally!”
Alec rolled his eyes. “Izzy, that’s absurd.”
“Ask him yourself,” she goaded. “I’ve seen you sneaking glances at your phone the past few weeks. You think you’re acting all covert when you shoot off those little messages, but I know exactly who you’re sending them to.”
Alec decided to return to ignoring his sister while he fetched some lunch. The worst part was that Izzy wasn’t wrong—Alec and Magnus had developed a regular habit of trading messages throughout the day. But they were menial, friendly. Izzy had no idea what she was talking about.
“Izzy,” he reflected, calling her attention from across the table as they sat down. “Do you remember when we saved Luke?”
“Of course!” Izzy rejoined, thrilled to return to the topic.
“So you know that when Magnus was channeling me, I touched his back, right?”
Izzy tilted her head, thinking about the dramatic events of that evening. She had only heard about it secondhand, but the idea of stoic, traditional Alec helping a warlock do magic still tickled her.
“And… ?” she urged, hoping for some juicy detail.
“And, Izzy, he definitely did not have wings.”
Alec’s sister frowned at him, still determined to believe the tale. “But then… why would he let me believe that?”
“If I recall, you spent the entirety of last week pestering him about his warlock mark and throwing guesses at him. Did you ever consider that maybe it’s kind of personal?” Alec shook his head, exasperated. “Some people have boundaries, Iz.”
“Yeah, but when we were at the second victim’s house this weekend, I asked him if he had wings like an angel, and he laughed!”
Alec pressed his hands against his temples, staring down at the table. He was glad he hadn’t been present for that one. “I would laugh at that too.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Izzy insisted. “It was a knowing laugh. And then I pressed it, and he just shrugged and grinned at me.”
Alec did not argue with her further, only shook his head. He watched with some amusement as Izzy’s resolve began to melt in front of him.
“Wait, so he’s just been letting me make a fool of myself?”
Alec Lightwood - 12:08
Izzy is just now realizing that you've probably been messing with her.
Alec found himself initiating one of the friendly, menial conversations Izzy had been teasing about, peeking down at his phone under the table. It didn’t take long for Magnus to respond.
Magnus Bane - 12:12
Anything for Izzy. 🙃
Alec Lightwood - 12:13
You shouldn’t say that. 😂
Magnus Bane - 12:13
😅 I mean anything for her entertainment.
Alec Lightwood - 12:14
You shouldn't say that either! 😏
You clearly haven’t spent enough time around her.
“No way,” Izzy continued. “He wouldn’t drag it on like this unless there was some truth to it. Magnus’ warlock mark definitely has to be wings. Or something wing-like. Maybe when he was channeling you, he had some extra strong glamour spells to make them truly imperceptible.”
“Right,” Alec countered, “because while he’s expending almost everything he has to keep an old friend alive, he’s going to be worried about saving the last bits of magic to keep a glamour spell going.”
Magnus Bane - 12:15
I always have the excuse of “Sorry I'm very old and I’m not American, so I don't know what I'm saying.”
Alec Lightwood - 12:16
Lmao Magnus we know that excuse is bullshit for you.
Magnus Bane - 12:16
Hey, no it’s not! You know, when I was a child, America didn’t even exist.
A clatter on the table startled Alec’s attention back to the chairs around him, one of which was now occupied by his parabatai. Operating on nosy instinct, Jace was already leaning over to steal a glimpse of Alec’s screen. Alec hastily switched it off, spiriting the phone back into his pocket.
“Everything okay?” Jace asked.
“Yeah,” Alec answered, focusing on his food. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
The rest of the afternoon came and went before Alec heard from the beguiling warlock again. His phone danced across his desk, and he leapt at the excuse to take a break from his least favorite responsibility as Head of the Institute: paperwork.
Magnus Bane - 22:23
I heard you revisited the third scene this afternoon. Why wasn’t I invited along?
Alec Lightwood - 22:23
You said you had plans when you were leaving after the autopsy.
… I sort of assumed it involved drinking.
I didn’t think you’d be in the headspace for official work.
Magnus Bane - 22:24
I was just meeting a client.
I do still offer my services as a warlock to the general public, you know. Even if you have been monopolizing most of my time lately.
A twinge of guilt shot briefly through Alec’s ribcage. Magnus was never anything but helpful to them, and here he was accusing the man of alcoholism.
Alec Lightwood - 22:25
You’re right, that was wrong of me.
1pm is a bit early for drinking.
Magnus Bane - 22:25
… yes, probably.
Alec snickered, a quiet laugh almost lost in the dark, empty office. He hadn’t bothered to turn the lights on when the sun set, and now sat in the shadows, illuminated only by the glow of his laptop’s screensaver.
Alec Lightwood - 22:25
… Or is it? Lol.
Magnus Bane - 22:26
Umm I mean yes most of the time probably.
Don't follow my example, Alexander. I'm a bad influence.
But I want it to be known that I don't *generally* drink so early. 😅
Alec Lightwood - 22:27
I'll make sure not to assume so again. 😁
After a minute without an answer, Alec returned his attention to the papers before him—an early draft of his report to the Clave on the latest findings in the Melusine case. He would have to have Izzy read it over and edit it for him in the morning. His phone once again interrupted his train of thought.
Magnus Bane - 22:29
I mean I don't blame you.
I think people assume I'm more of a substance abuser than I am.
Alec Lightwood - 22:30
Haha, no I think it’s cool.
Do you smoke, too?
Alec felt childish typing that message out, but he was curious. Growing up in a place like the Institute stole away most of his chances to explore the way that mundanes and downworlders did—in many aspects of the word. He snuck one or two opportunities for himself as a teenager, but those were rare and short-lived. Somewhere buried in the back of his mind, he felt like he missed out on an important part of growing up.
The silence in the room suddenly seemed smothering. Dwelling on all of his missed opportunities was a path that never turned out well for him. He was grateful when the response came, distracting him now not only from his paperwork, but also his own spiral of regretful conjecture.
Magnus Bane - 22:30
Wait… do you?!
Alec Lightwood - 22:31
Hahaha it’s been awhile.
At the warlock’s surprise, a grin broke though Alec’s doleful contemplation. He had never actually told anyone about the rare evenings he used to steal away to the Institute roof. Jace eventually caught on and joined him once, but by that time, Alec’s very brief flirtation with stonerdom had mostly passed.
Magnus Bane - 22:34
In that case, we should grab a drink and smoke at my place sometime.
I’m going through a glasswork phase and I’m thinking of making myself a bubbler that glows. Not completely certain about the design yet, though.
Alec Lightwood - 22:34
One that glows?? Like with magic?
Magnus Bane - 22:35
Well, magic hardly seems necessary in this instance. I was leaning more toward LEDs. Or maybe phosphorescent pigment in the glass for a more subtle effect.
Alec imagined the warlock painstakingly crafting drug paraphernalia in some secret workshop, taking extra care to make sure it had the pizzazz necessary to suit his tastes. Only the best and most unique items for Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn—even when it came to illicit substances. Or perhaps especially when it came to illicit substances.
Alec Lightwood - 22:35
I don't know how you come up with such ideas... but you make everything more beautiful.
Magnus Bane - 22:36
Are you sure you’re not the drunk one?! 😊😅
Alec’s heart hammered. He felt a bit queasy. Why had he typed that? He searched quickly for a way to backtrack, to make his words seem less provocative.
Alec Lightwood - 22:37
I just mean, have you looked at your house??
It’s just very you. That’s all.
Magnus Bane - 22:37
Well then, thank you! I do my best. I enjoy making spaces beautiful.
Alec Lightwood - 22:38
Even if that space is the inside of a bong. 😂
Magnus Bane - 22:38
Lol it makes me happy to be surrounded by beautiful things.
Alec Lightwood - 22:38
Everyone likes to be surrounded by beautiful things. Not everyone works to create those things like you do.
Magnus Bane - 22:39
How can I expect my environment to be beautiful if I don't put in effort to make it so?
Alec Lightwood - 22:39
That’s what makes you so special. I admire it.
Magnus Bane - 22:40
Thank you, Alexander. I admire you too.
Somehow, Alec had texted himself into a corner again. He asked himself why he kept sending messages like that—ambiguous phrases that left open the question as to whether or not he was flirting. But he already knew the answer. He wanted to. He just didn’t know how to do it without being a coward. He wondered if his Courage in Combat rune would help him here.
Finally, after staring blankly at the untouched report on his desk for almost fifteen minutes, he surrendered, sliding his phone back into his hand.
Alec Lightwood - 22:54
Did you mean what you said about grabbing a drink?
~ Closing Song ~
"Rainy Monday" - Shiny Toy Guns
"I don't mind, you're someone that ain't mine,
but someone that I'll get.
And you don't know how hard I've tried
to convince myself that I could easily forget.
But you left this feeling here inside me—
one that never fails to find me...
... I really wish that I
could forget the way you are."
Chapter 3: Shadowhunters Taking Ubers
Alec visits Magnus for an evening of wine-drinking, unsure if it's a date or just two acquaintances hanging out.
~ Opening Song ~
"Soul Calendar" - Osprey Flies the Nest
"I'm gonna write you down in my soul calendar—
With a touch of serendipity you could change my world...
So fill me up with a promise: Stick together, let's keep it honest...
If peace & love are the bread & butter
Well then trust is the cherry pie."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Little occurred in the way of progress on the Melusine case over the next few days. Even if it had, Alec likely would not have noticed. He was too preoccupied with one thought: he had a date with Magnus Bane.
Not a date. We never said it was a date. Alec reminded himself of that regularly. It’s just… dinner. And drinks. In his house. At night.
He had wanted to bring something. Izzy always babbled on and on to him about her dates and relationships, even when he didn’t care to hear it. One of the many unbidden dating tips she had given him was to always bring something when visiting someone for the first time—and that, generally, wine was the safest bet. Unfortunately, Alexander Lightwood knew nothing about wine. What he did know was that anything he picked out would probably be nowhere near the standards of the High Warlock of Brooklyn.
And so, there he stood, two minutes early, outside the apartment door of Magnus Bane, with nothing to offer but his company.
Why do I always have to be so punctual? Can’t I arrive somewhere just a bit late, just once? A swarm of jitters ricocheted through him. Maybe I should just turn around and go. I could say there was a demon attack. I have to go help, sorry I couldn’t make it, maybe another time…
The door swung open.
“You know, you don’t have to wait until exactly eight o’clock to knock on the door, Alexander.” Magnus looked like he was suppressing a laugh. Color rushed to Alec’s face, flooding his skin with a tingling warmth.
“I, uh, wasn’t.” He held up his phone, which he thankfully already had in his hand. “Just got a text from Jace about something back at the Institute. Had to respond,” he lied.
“Ah, official Shadowhunter business,” Magnus said. “All good now?” He leaned against the door, head on his arm. The collar of his loose, currant red shirt hung open, a deep cut v-neck with no buttons that left much of the center of his chest exposed. Over the swathe of skin left bare by the silky fabric, he wore a tangled array of dark necklaces. Alec couldn’t help but think he resembled a model for one of those mundane clothing stores that always smelled thickly of cologne.
“... Yep.” Alec caught himself staring and redirected his attention very hastily back to the warlock’s eyes. His own clothing choices had been limited—black t-shirt, or collared black button-up. He went with the latter, leaving the top two buttons undone so he didn’t look too much like he had just come from a long day at a desk job. That was about the full extent of Alec’s knowledge of fashion and clothing.
“Well, come on in.” He made a grand, sweeping gesture with his arm.
“I’m sorry I didn’t bring anything,” Alec apologized, stepping inside. “I have no idea what kind of wine you’d like. Or if I would even be capable of finding it.” That got a chuckle from Magnus, and Alec relaxed a bit.
“Well, you’re right about that. I source my wine from all around the world. Most of it is older than you are.”
The reminder of Magnus’ age left Alec feeling very young and immature. How was he supposed to hold a conversation with someone who had lived so many lifetimes when he had lived barely a quarter of his own? What could he possibly say that would hold any amount of interest for someone as fascinating as an immortal warlock?
Following Magnus’ lead, he seated himself on the sofa. He wished he could remain standing. He felt very vulnerable just sitting there. Magnus poured honey-gold liquid from a dark bottle into the crystal glasses on the coffee table before them.
“This is orange wine from Georgia,” Magnus explained, then added, “the country, not the state.”
“It’s made from oranges?” Alec reached for his glass curiously, imagining a syrupy, citrus flavor.
“No,” Magnus laughed. “It’s made from white grapes. It’s called orange wine because of the color—just as rosé is red grapes fermented without the skins in the manner of white wine, orange wine is white grapes fermented with the skin in the manner of reds. I’ve found that friends who aren’t accustomed to the taste of wine take more readily to something milder like this—like a stepping stone before diving right into the stronger, more full-bodied reds.”
Alec nodded as if the majority of Magnus’ words hadn’t just flown right over his head. He couldn’t even think of a follow-up question for that. He realized this must be what outsiders felt like when he discussed shadowhunter business in front of them. The only experience he'd had with alcohol was champagne, or an occasional, watered-down cocktail at a few formal events in Idris. This was his first real glass of wine, and he worried that it was showing.
Alec was unsure if there was some proper way to consume wine. He waited for Magnus to take a sip from his own glass before following suit, imitating the way the warlock held it and the pace at which he drank. Contrary to his original expectations, the wine wasn’t syrupy. Only the barest hint of sweetness met his tongue—the kind of natural sugariness found in peanuts, or almonds. But the overwhelming flavor was crisp, almost sour, like green apples. At first taste, Alec wasn’t sure he liked it. But the more he tried, the more he enjoyed it.
“What do you think?” Magnus asked. “Am I converting you to the ways of alcoholism?”
Alec grinned, recalling his earlier blunder when he inadvertently accused Magnus of having a drinking problem.
“It’s good. I think I could be convinced.” He set the glass back on the table. If he held it in his hand, he knew he’d keep absent-mindedly sipping it.
“I personally prefer the orange wines of Slovenia, but Georgian ones are a near universal crowd-pleaser, so I thought it would be a better starting choice.”
Alec nodded cluelessly again. They sat in silence for a moment—one which Alec couldn’t identify as either comfortable or awkward. Not wanting to force Magnus to lead the entire conversation, he grasped desperately for anything to say.
“Magnus, I’ve been meaning to ask,” Alec started, settling on the only thing he knew he could converse about confidently—his job. “How do you actually know Melusine?” The warlock now followed Alec’s lead and set his wine glass on the table.
“Well, that’s a rather dour topic,” he answered.
“Sorry,” Alec responded sheepishly. “I shouldn’t have asked. It’s none of my business.” Well, actually, it is. If Magnus Bane had some personal connection to the rogue warlock, the Institute needed to know. But for once, Alec felt very guilty about prying. And tonight was hardly the appropriate time.
“No, it’s okay. It’s probably something you should know anyways, since you’re leading the investigation,” Magnus said, as if reading Alec’s thoughts. If it weren’t for his protective runes, the shadowhunter might have wondered if that were really the case—there had to be a spell for that.
“Melusine is like somewhat of a daughter to me,” Magnus explained. “I found her, abandoned and alone, while I was travelling in France a little over a hundred years ago. Like many warlock children, she had no one left who would care for her. They can be a bit… difficult… to manage.
“So I took her in. She bounced between me and a few other of my warlock associates over the next few decades, until she was old enough and controlled enough to go off on her own.”
Alec’s stomach sank. When Magnus said he knew the woman, he hadn’t imagined he knew her that well. The incredible vastness of the warlock’s age stretched out again before the young shadowhunter.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated, not knowing what else to say. “It must be very difficult now, to watch as so many people work to hunt her down.”
Alec’s chest tightened at Magnus’ bittersweet smile.
“It’s okay,” Magnus replied. “She always was just a little bit too reckless. Her treatment at the hands of her mundane family scarred her forever. Most warlocks move on from that, learn to forgive, or at least forget. Melusine never did. Grudges are her specialty. Really, I feel guilty myself that I never saw this coming.”
“It’s not your fault.” Alec wanted to do something comforting—to place a hand on Magnus’ shoulder, or his knee. But he kept thinking about how that might look. He did not think they were close enough for that, and he didn’t want to appear as if he was making some sort of move, capitalizing on the warlock’s emotions. Instead, Alec sat there in silence, hoping that his presence could be enough. After many long seconds, the warlock brightened.
“I think it’s only fair that I also get to ask you a personal question in return, don’t you think?”
A suspicious cloud of foreboding floated to the forefront of Alec’s consciousness.
“... I guess that seems fair.” He regretted the words immediately.
“So tell me,” Magnus scooted closer, lifting Alec’s glass delicately off the table and placing it back in his hand before retrieving his own. “Why did you and Lydia call off your engagement? It seemed very sudden.”
Alec’s heart flip-flopped in his chest. By the feigned ignorance in the warlock’s tone, he had a feeling that Magnus already knew the answer to that one. He stood up, wandering over to the apartment’s tall windows and their glimmering night time view of the city. His ears tuned in to Magnus’ soft footsteps as he followed. His earlier anxiety returned, his throat constricting. He sipped his wine, the action forcing the muscles in his neck to relax.
“You were right,” he admitted quietly, staring down into the few drops of sunset-hued liquid that remained in his glass.
“About what?” Magnus pressed. Though Alec’s eyes were on his wine glass, Magnus’ eyes fixed steadily on Alec. Alec mentally shuffled through all the possible ways he could answer that question. He imagined himself bold and unapologetic, like the warlock standing next to him. Stating his feelings plainly, for a man he barely knew, come what may. That wasn’t him.
“Uh-uh, no.” Alec shook his head, finally returning the warlock’s gaze with a playful smile. He hoped it didn’t look too awkward or forced. “You got one question. That was it.”
“But that was hardly an answer!” Magnus protested.
“Next time, ask a better question,” Alec teased.
“Playing the mysterious one, are we? We’ll see about that,” the warlock ventured. He waved his fingers over Alec’s almost empty glass, refilling it.
“Wait, are you just trying to get me drunk so I’ll answer you?” Alec asked, mocking offense.
“Don’t be such a cream puff, Alexander. It’s your second glass.”
Suitably abashed, Alec obediently sipped the wine. Magnus watched with satisfaction. The affectionate banter sparked a velvety warmth in Alec’s chest. As he and Magnus parried back and forth with clever quips and cute remarks, finishing off the bottle, the warmth spread gradually across his whole body, along with all the other effects of the wine.
“You, my dear shadowhunter, are a lightweight,” Magnus chortled. They both leaned against his bar, next to empty glasses that now each held only a tawny residue in the bottom.
My dear shadowhunter, Alec repeated fondly to himself. His heart skipped a beat. Out loud, however, he remained indignant.
“I’m not tipsy,” Alec insisted. The stupid smile on his face did not match the vexation of his tone. “I’m just saying, I don’t see how having dirt floating around in the wine is a desirable quality. You’d think someone would take thirty seconds to pour it through a strainer before bottling it.”
“It’s sediment, Alexander. It gives the wine an earthy, velvety taste. Much more common in red wines—especially the very old, very good ones.”
“So it really is dirt?” As an aside to himself, he repeated the sentiment. “I’ve been drinking dirt.” Then, his tone became accusatory as he turned back to Magnus. “You’ve been feeding me dirt!”
“I’ve been feeding you a priceless vintage that some people would go to great lengths to get their hands on.”
“To drink dirt.”
“It is not dirt! It’s dead yeast, grape solids, and tannins.”
“So it’s more like… wet dust.” Alec found himself relishing the horror he provoked in Magnus’ expression. He adored how he could press all of the warlock’s many buttons so easily. Magnus scrunched his face together, shaking his head in distaste.
“You’re a savage. No, even worse! A savage who can’t hold his booze!”
“And you,” Alec snickered, “are so cute when you make that face.” My dear warlock, he added silently. Magnus stuttered for a second and blushed, staring down at the dregs in his empty glass.
Gotcha, Alec thought, pride bolstering his brief surge of self-esteem. Maybe he was a little bit tipsy. On instinct, he double checked his phone to make sure no one had called him. The Head of the Institute never really got a day off, and if he started ignoring his phone, there was a small chance Jace would track him down and come bursting through Magnus’ front door, weapons at the ready.
His notifications remained miraculously empty, but it was the other side of the status bar that caught Alec’s eye and sent him into a small panic: the time.
“Holy shit Magnus, it’s 2am.”
“I know,” the warlock sighed. “Amazing how time flies.” He capered over to his kitchen sink, where he rinsed his glass and refilled it with water.
“No,” Alec elucidated. “It’s 2am, and I have to be up at five.”
Magnus has just begun to sip the water, and now promptly choked on it.
“Why didn’t you tell me that at the beginning of the evening? You’re in no state to drive.”
“Ok, firstly,” Alec maintained, holding up a defensive finger, “I am really not drunk. And secondly, I took an Uber. I’ll take one home.”
“Shadowhunters taking Ubers,” Magnus mused. “What a time to be alive.” This time, he managed to keep his sip of water in his mouth.
“Hey, it’s 2016” Alec responded, dripping with sarcasm. “And banning portaling was your idea, High Warlock.” He found his jacket crumpled into a ball on Magnus’ sofa and slid it over his arms. He noticed the warlock’s eyes drifting as he did so, and found himself milking it just a little, stretching a bit more than necessary.
“Watch your tone, young man. You’re speaking to an elder.”
“Car’s here,” he stated after checking his phone again.
The comfort and ease with which they had spent the last several hours crumbled, and Alec found himself suddenly suffocated by a heavy, uneasy silence. Shadowhunter and warlock both stood there, a few feet away from each other, grasping for words and actions that would not come. Alec’s throat tightened.
What do I do? Should I… kiss him? Was this even a date? His heart raced. Finally, after what was likely only a few seconds, Magnus broke the silence with a warm, assuring smile.
“It was good to see you, Alexander. I’d like to do this again sometime. I think then, you’ll be ready for me to bring out the Bordeaux Reds.”
“Me too,” Alec managed. He didn’t know what Bordeaux Reds were, but he assumed it was another old, expensive wine. “Thank you for having me.” He sounded so strangely formal. “I’ll, uh, probably see you tomorrow. Or, I guess, today.”
“See you then,” Magnus answered. Still, neither of them moved. Alec took that as his cue.
“Don’t want to keep the car waiting,” he stammered quietly. He waited another terrifying heartbeat, unsure what he was expecting to happen, then turned briskly and strode out the door.
Alec slid gracefully into the back of the silver sedan waiting for him in front of Magnus’ building, mumbling a short greeting to the driver.
“Late night,” the mundane commented, pulling the car out into the sparse traffic. “What have you been up to? Have a cute date?”
Alec smiled, staring out the window as skyscrapers drifted by. He rarely got to see the city like this. “Actually, yeah, I think so.”
~ Closing Song ~
"Someway, Somehow" - DREAMERS
"Don't think, just be too good for me.
Oh, it's alright—I know you love me half of the time.
Oh, just my luck—half of the time is just enough.
Oh, and it's so nice. Stay on the shelf as long as you like—
but someway, somehow, I'll let you down"
Thanks to LaCroixWitch for the idea to use wine sediment as Alec's tipsy ranting point!
Chapter 4: Aggressive Splatter Paintings
After a late night out with Magnus, Alec struggles to get through his day despite a scant 90 minutes of sleep.
~ Opening Song ~
"It's a Trip!" - Joywave
"Floating little second hands laugh like jokers.
Keeping me from thinking straight, I've lost composure...
Up and at 'em again, you don't know what you want.
Yeah, I'm thinking it over—just tell me what to want."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec stirred at the sound of his alarm, struggling against the weight of his eyelids. The near complete darkness of his bedroom blanketed him in continued sleepiness. He curled up in the toasty den underneath his comforter, shying away from the chilly world outside of his bed.
It took him five minutes to drag himself off of the mattress, leaving his normally neatly-made bed in disarray. A faint headache pulsed behind his eyes, provoking him to activate his iratze before attempting anything else. He went through the motions of the rest of his routine in a half-awake state, momentarily regretting his evening with Magnus for the first time since they planned it.
After downing a large glass of water from his bathroom sink, Alec sought out the nearest espresso. Coffee was the one vice Alec engaged in regularly—though according to Magnus, it didn’t count. One of the first things he’d done as Head of the Institute—after the more responsible, serious necessities—was update the building’s coffee amenities. Shadowhunters, with their often irregular schedules and late nights, required a steady supply of caffeine. Unfortunately for him, Alec had long passed the point where caffeine actually did much for him. But the warm, inviting smell of espresso still held some amount of placebo, and gave him at least one single reason not to give up on all of his responsibilities and go back to bed.
The lingering scent of rose syrup and vanilla soymilk indicated that Clary had already been by. Though Alec had been the driving force behind the espresso itself, Clary had fought tooth and nail for the rest of the components—milks and flavors and all manner of sweeteners, none of which Alec understood. He pulled a double shot for himself and sipped it as he shuffled to the training room.
“You’re late,” Jace stated, jumping to his feet. His tone reminded Alec of the one he used when Alec first announced his engagement to Lydia—bewildered and concerned. That conversation already seemed like forever ago, even though it had barely been two months.
“Yep,” Alec grunted. Jace waited for further explanation, but Alec offered none.
“Were you… up late?” Jace questioned. Alec had never been late before, except one time when they were kids, when he got stung by a venomous demon on mission and was supposed to be laid up in bed for days. Even then, he stumbled into their training session only a few minutes late, instead of sitting it out like he was supposed to. Alec showing up to anything late simply did not compute in Jace's brain. He fell back into a ready pose, inviting Alec to make the first move. Alec declined to, instead mimicking Jace’s pose with slight exaggeration.
“I was,” Alec answered. He knew that if he lied, Jace would know—part of the miracle of parabatai bonds. But Alec wasn’t ready to discuss his evening with Magnus with anybody yet. Not even Jace or Izzy. His relationship—or lack thereof—with the warlock felt too uncertain, too delicate. Too new. He danced backwards as Jace took his bait, lunging toward him.
“I’ve been meaning to check in with you,” Jace said, retreating to catch his breath. Alec recalled all of the moments when he felt Jace holding back his words, wishing he could say something but refraining.
“You’re my parabatai, Jace. You don’t need to shy away from conversations with me.” A tiny trace of guilt tinged Alec’s words, considering his current unwillingness to discuss his private life with his parabatai. It dissolved quickly, swept aside by his focus on defending, attacking, defending again.
“I just...” Jace started. He paused, stepping back, and Alec followed suit. “I just wanted to say that, even though I said I was happy for you, with the whole Lydia thing, I’m even happier for you now.”
“Happy to see me alone?” Alec teased. He moved to continue the sparring again, picking up a dulled blade and flipping it in his hand, but Jace didn’t follow suit.
“No, Alec, I’m being serious. We’ve never talked about it. I just really want this to be out there. I know you’re gay. Even though you never talk to me about it. And I just want you to know that I care, and I support you. And if you ever need anything, or want to talk about anything, anything, I’m here. I’m your parabatai, Alec. I don’t want you to feel uneasy around me about anything.”
Jace’s heart-to-heart left Alec staring uncomfortably at the floor. He appreciated the sentiment, despite being completely unprepared to react to it. His sleep-deprived brain left him grasping at words that flitted away, just out of reach, so he stood there in silence and nodded.
“And if you don’t want to talk about it past that,” Jace added, “I understand.” At this moment, Jace reminded him of why they were parabatai. Though he didn’t know how to respond, Alec realized he needed to hear Jace’s words.
“Thank you,” Alec answered. They picked back up where they left off.
Shortly after 10:00 AM, the main hall of the Institute already bustled with people. With both Valentine and a powerful rogue warlock on the loose, few days could be considered quiet any more. That was not even taking into account the situation with Jocelyn Fairchild, who rested safely enough in one of the Institute’s many rooms. She was the topic of discussion today, her children (it still felt weird for Alec to think of Jace that way) spearheading the effort to find a cure for her comatose state.
“We’re on uncertain enough terms with the vampires as it is,” Alec asserted, sipping from his fourth cup of coffee of the day. “No one is sneaking in talk to Camille. We can find a diplomatic solution, if it comes to that. But she clearly doesn’t have the Book of the White with her in that basement, which means it’s probably unprotected, wherever it is.”
“I don’t think you’re fully appreciating the urgency of the situation,” Jace pressed. “Jocelyn isn’t just a shadowhunter who needs our help, or just Clary’s mother.” Quietly, under her breath, Clary corrected Jace with a hint of annoyance.
Jace continued as if he hadn’t heard, “She could also be the key to finding Valentine. She was married to the guy, and spent several weeks captive with him. If she could perceive anything while in that state, she could be our most valuable asset in this fight.” Despite their bonding moment earlier, they were down to business now, along with everyone else at the table.
Everyone except for Magnus Bane.
It wasn’t that the warlock was not taking the discussion seriously. He clearly was. And his contributions thus far had dramatically helped the shadowhunters. He just wouldn’t stop making eye contact with Alec, and it made Alec jumpy.
Every time it happened, Alec momentarily lost his place in the conversation. He had to reset himself, remember what he was about to say. The distraction unnerved him. His hands clammed up. He sometimes stuttered, trying to catch himself up with the conversations his unsettled mind skipped over.
“No,” Alec repeated, avoiding the Magnus’ gaze completely. The strategy sort of worked. The warlock had taken to staring periodically down at his phone, instead of at Alec. “I understand, Jace. I really do. But starting a war with a huge portion of the local Downworld population is not going to get us the results we need. We’re supposed to be protecting them from Valentine, not steamrolling them in our efforts to catch him.”
“He has the cup, Alec,” Clary cut in. “We can’t just sit around and wait.” She leaned over the table with animated agitation, her wavy red hair swaying with each articulation. Her frustration displayed evidently in her tone, as if she thought she was the only one who really cared about figuring this out. Alec found himself getting fired up—even on a good day, Clary vexed him. And today, with his grand total of 90 minutes of sleep, he was not having a good day.
“You think I don’t know that?” Alec snapped. Though the idea of she and Jace being siblings seemed far-fetched and wild at first, moments like these made Alec believe it. Alec’s phone buzzed silently in his back pocket. He ignored it—whatever it was, this meeting took precedence. “Magnus.”
Alec turned to get the warlock’s attention, but found Magnus already staring intently in his direction. Taken by surprise, he stumbled over his words.
“You, have a, uh, a… ” He waved his hand aimlessly as he tried to finish the sentence, “… history… with Camille.”
“I do,” Magnus frowned. “Unfortunately.” His expression grew wary. He didn’t like to get too involved in affairs relating to the deceitful vampiress.
“Can you think of anyone else who might have a more intimate knowledge of Camille’s property?”
The warlock rolled his eyes.
“Oh, sure, many. That’s why she and I were never meant to be, you know. I’m more of a monogamous, long-term commitment kind of guy.” He paused to cast Alec a pointed glance. “Whereas Camille… let’s just say she prefers to spread her intimate knowledge around to anyone who tickles her fancy.”
“... okay.” Alec shifted his weight, realizing that everyone’s eyes were on him, conversing with Magnus. He did his best to brush off the meaningful look the warlock had given him. “Well, what about favorite meeting places? Secret getaways where she could lay low outside of the public eye?”
“She had many,” Magnus shrugged. “I’m not familiar with her hidey holes in New York, myself. By the time I took up residence here, she and I were long finished. And I’d rather never have to interact with that soulless termagant again.” He punctuated his statement with a vitriolic smile, clearly still harboring some resentment.
“Alright, listen,” Alec said to the group, moving the topic away from Magnus’ romantic endeavors as quickly as possible. “First thing’s first. We’re going to talk to Rafael. And I do mean talk.” He stopped to make direct eye contact with Jace, then with Clary, emphasizing his words to them in particular. “If we’re lucky, it may be as simple as just asking.”
“We’re never lucky,” Izzy sighed. Alec’s phone buzzed in his pocket again.
“That might be true,” Alec agreed. “But we have to at least try to do things the right way. If we can’t get access to Camille through the proper channels, then we’ll discuss something more… unorthodox.” Buzz buzz.
“At least let me go!” Clary insisted, almost pouting. “I can’t sit around and do nothing while my mother wastes away.”
“She’s not wasting away,” Alec corrected impatiently. Why is she always so dramatic? At some point, his headache from earlier that morning had crept back in. “Magnus already confirmed that the potion is keeping her in perfect health. Yes, it sucks that she’s in this state, but no harm is coming to her in the meantime. You know that, Clary.”
Clary crossed her arms, sulking in a way that indicated Alec may have spoken a bit too harshly. Jace raised an eyebrow in Alec’s direction. Really? he seemed to say. Alec wasn’t in the mood to deal with them. Nor was he in the mood to dance around their barely post-adolescent feelings. He wanted—no, needed—a nap. Buzz buzz.
With a huff, he snatched his phone out of his pocket, sliding open his messenger and wondering what could be so important that someone not currently seated around the table would be messaging him so insistently.
Seven new messages from… Magnus Bane? Alec’s eyes darted upward, still sharp from his heated exchange with Clary. He caught the warlock’s eyes—wide, and sheepish. Magnus’ eyebrows swept together in worry, and Alec realized he probably looked angry. He often did, even when he didn’t mean to. Izzy called it his “RGF”—Resting Grumpy Face. He hated that name.
Alec redirected his attention back down to the most recent few messages, curious what the warlock could have possibly been texting him during the meeting that he couldn’t say out loud.
Magnus Bane - 10:17
Have I ever told you how grateful I am that you are the head of this Institute and not your parabatai?
Said with the utmost respect for your bond, of course.
Magnus Bane - 10:21
Do you think if Jace was raised mundane, he also would have gone to art school like his sister?
I imagine him as the self-pitying type who expresses his deep, supererogatory emotional pain through aggressive, abstract splatter paintings.
Alec bit his lip, struggling to contain the giggle that fought so determinedly to bubble up from his chest. This was completely inappropriate. He should be very upset.
He won the battle against the laughter, finally fighting it off, and realized how tensely he had been holding his shoulders—clenching the muscles around his arms, neck, and jaw. He relaxed, his entire stance shifting into something more approachable.
“Clary,” he commanded, tearing his eyes away from the screen as if it had been a very important message. “You’re right. You should be there. Take your vampire friend along, too. Jace, you are not going. I know you well enough not to send you into a delicate situation.” The two stubborn, hot-headed shadowhunter siblings looked at each other in confusion, unsure how they had just won that argument. Alec continued. “Izzy, you have always been the best of us when it comes to diplomacy. Please make sure Clary and Simon don’t do anything stupid.”
Izzy beamed. “You can count on me!”
Alec finally met Magnus’ eyes again, allowing a tiny smile to ever so slightly curve the corner of his lips. Magnus’ eyes sparkled with mischief, his earlier concern that he had overstepped melting into a warm, blushing grin. As the others drifted away to plan their mission, Alec meandered over toward the warlock.
“You are awful,” he murmured. “I should be upset with you.”
“No you shouldn’t,” Magnus answered, winking. Alec’s heart leapt into his throat. Magnus added, “Were you able to catch up on sleep after last night?” The coyness in the warlock’s expression almost implied that something more had happened the night before than just drinking and talking. Alec blushed.
“Uh, no. I’m running on coffee and willpower,” he admitted.
“Ah yes,” the warlock replied. “Alexander Lightwood’s only vice: the very rebellious, dangerous… coffee bean!” He finished his theatrical gibe with a flourish of his hand, staring up at it as if he had just finished an onstage soliloquy.
“Alright, listen,” Alec cut in, swatting Magnus’ hand down. “I happen to like coffee. Not all of us can start the day with mimosas and bellinis.”
“And judging by your tolerance, it’s a very good thing you don’t,” the warlock shot back. “I bet you even woke up today with a hangover. But I’m sure we’ll fix that, over time.”
Alec chortled, shaking his head. “Why do I even put up with you? Get out of my Institute.”
“Fine, I was on my way out anyways,” Magnus tried to mock a grouchy tone, but failed. “I have to sort through my Bordeaux Reds for our next dinner.”
“When is that?” Alec asked a bit too hastily, head turning to follow the warlock as he swaggered away. Magnus Bane ignored him, strutting out the doors of the Institute without looking back. Something in Alec’s ribcage tugged to follow him, but he stayed put.
When he turned back to the table, Izzy stood across from him.
“What was that about?” she asked playfully.
“Nothing,” Alec answered. “Camille. Don’t worry about it.”
“Whatever you say, big brother.”
~ Closing Song ~
"Something Better" - Hidinin
"Is there an easy way up when I'm feeling down?
Do I need a reason to move on to something better?
To break out I've got to start now.
On the other side there will be something—something better."
Chapter 5: Send/Delete
Alec and Magnus conclude their third evening together, and Alec struggles to muster enough courage to take things to the next level.
I have been so excited to release this chapter. This is actually the first one I wrote! I started with Chapters 5-7, intending the story to end there, with only three installments. But it quickly spiraled out of control.
Thanks so much to those of you still reading. I can't wait to get the next few chapters out there! I hope you enjoy!! <3
~ Opening Song ~
"Shut Up" - Greyson Chance
"You dress in all black, the middle of the Summer.
You're smoother than you think, you rock that Alex Turner—
your style, your arms, wrapped in leather, makes me want you forever...
I cannot hold my tongue—you give me much to say.
I'm sweating bullets, nervous that you'll push away.
And when your eyes catch mine, I know I talk too much;
So give me your two lips and baby, I'll shut up."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec leaned his right shoulder against the wood-paneled wall by his bedroom door, a pleasant buzz lifting the fog of stress that usually weighed on the edges of his lips. In his right hand, he thoughtfully rotated an almost-empty martini glass. His left hand rested in the front pocket of his pants, resulting in a casual, flirty pose that he would never be caught in while sober, nor ever in front of anyone other than the infinitely mystifying warlock, Magnus Bane.
Really, he just didn’t know what else to do with his left hand. This problem was a new one for him—as the head of the Institute, his nature tended toward quiet confidence and stoic leadership. Even around Jace, whom he always cared for deeply, he never felt anxious in this way. But something about Magnus threw that self-assurance into disarray.
Alec Lightwood didn’t know what to do with himself.
Slightly stifling the gentle, giddy smile that had been fighting its way out the whole evening, he stared down into his glass and continued to very slowly, gradually spin it between his index finger and thumb.
“... at that point,” Magnus was saying, “it’s just a very playful, exciting conversation.”
He brought his own glass to his mouth in a wide gesture, taking a generous sip. Alec watched, swallowing reflexively, suddenly slightly shorter of breath and finding himself unable to tear his eyes from the warlock’s lips.
The promise that he had made to himself earlier that day wormed its way to the forefront of his mind along with a fluttery cloud of anxiety. This time I’m going to kiss him. Tonight. I have to kiss him tonight. No more losing my nerve. I told myself I would. I can do this.
“But how is that not manipulation?” Alec asked, standing up straight and freeing his left hand so he could emphasize his question by spreading his arms to each side. “Sure, I admit there’s a fine line between flirting and manipulation, but at some point you’re deliberately thinking things like ‘I wonder if I can get this person to do what I want ?’”
Alec thought he’d gotten very good at hiding his nervousness from Magnus. It was a strange case of cognitive dissonance, how he could feel at once so anxious, yet also so at home and comfortable with this man.
“But is that not exactly what you’re doing when flirting with someone, regardless?” Magnus responded. He punctuated the rhetorical question with a quick snap of his fingers, partially refilling both of their drinks. “Trying to see if you can get them to like you?”
This point momentarily stumped Alec, and he pondered it in silence, taking another tiny sip from his newly-refilled glass. The two of them had started their goodbyes over an hour ago, wandering their way toward the door of his room. But neither of them had opened it—they both continued to talk, and debate, and smile shyly at each other during moments of silence. The threat of Magnus leaving kept Alec desperately searching for new points to make, anything to keep the conversation going and the warlock right there in front of him. He had promised himself he would kiss him tonight, and he was running out of time. But every time he mentally commanded himself to go for it, his body remained exactly where it was.
I can’t do it! he thought to himself. I’m a coward!
“So what you’re saying,” he wondered out loud, choosing his words deliberately and carefully, “Is that you just think it’s completely okay for someone to try to manipulate someone else?”
He returned to his previous pose on the wall, gazing upward toward the ceiling as he thought. They were talking in circles. Something inside him told him that if he made eye contact now, Magnus would somehow know exactly what he was thinking—exactly how hopelessly smitten Alec was with him, exactly how much he wanted nothing more than to grab the front of the warlock’s velvet jacket and never stop kissing him.
They had spent three evenings together already. Each time, Alec went into it wondering if it was a date, and each time, the evening ended without an answer to that question. Alec thought it would drive him mad—the tension, the uncertainty. It always turned out like this, with the two of them talking, flirting, vaguely implying they wanted something more from each other, and never acting on it. He promised himself that, one way or another, he would end this torture tonight. He had to know. He had to kiss him.
“Well…” Now Magnus took his turn to play the thoughtful one. “Yes, I’d say so. As long as the two people are—how would I say it—evenly matched? I mean, if you’re trying to manipulate me, but I know you’re trying to manipulate me, and I’m trying to manipulate you back… well, then it’s just two people having fun. It’s exciting.”
He smiled coyly, waving his arms dramatically and punctuating the flirtation by finishing off the last drops of his drink. Then he snapped his fingers again and, just as they had been summoned earlier that night, both now-empty glasses vanished in a puff of cyan smoke, leaving Alec with two hands that he now awkwardly didn’t know what to do with.
“That being said,” Magnus continued, “it’s been a very fun evening, Alec. Thank you for having me. I can’t believe we’ve spent over an hour just saying goodbye.”
No! Alec internally panicked. Not again! Don’t go! I haven’t kissed you yet!
Outwardly, his cautious smile remained unchanged, and he answered evenly and warmly. “Thanks so much for coming—I really enjoy seeing you.”
The door opened on its own behind Magnus, finally breaking the game of chicken they had been playing since they first made their way over to it. It was just after 2:00 AM, and the hallway outside sat dark and deserted.
“I actually forgot until just now that portaling is still banned,” Magnus mused. “I’m not used to having to deal with long drives home after an evening out.”
Alec frowned for just a second as he recalled their joint investigation, which they’d managed to go the whole evening without mentioning. A warlock had gone rogue, murdering mundanes. Until she was caught, the Clave and Magnus had agreed to ban all portaling into, out of, and within New York. But then, another detail pulled Alec back into the moment.
“You drove?” Alec asked, impressed. For some reason, he always assumed Magnus didn’t know how to.
“Of course,” the High Warlock answered. “I’d loathe to sink to ordering an Uber. I keep a 1937 Talbot-Lago on hand for situations just like these. It’s a beautiful example of the intersection of human ingenuity and art—and it has the loveliest deep sangria color. I’ll have to take you out in it sometime.”
A brief moment of silence followed, which stretched out for ages from Alec’s perspective. Nervousness bubbled up in his stomach again.
“Well then,” Magnus said. “I should be off.”
As Magnus moved to step outside, Alec swayed forward and opened his mouth to speak again, pulling the warlock’s attention back to him. Questioningly and quietly, and desperately hoping he had some semblance of the correct pronunciation, he mumbled out a phrase he had been practicing since their last evening together. “Selamat tidur… harap kita jumpa lagi… ? ”
Though it wasn’t a question, it came out as one, betraying Alec’s nervousness. Magnus’ eyes lit up at the broken Malay, and he chuckled.
Alec found himself completely mesmerised by the graceful, quiet joy in the warlock’s gaze. The gentle and elegant moments in which Magnus displayed happiness were one of the few ways in which he showed his true age. Staring into those endless brown eyes, overwhelmed that he could be the one to cause that tiny spark of happiness, Alec felt like the floor began to slip out from underneath him.
“Joom-pah,” Magnus corrected gently, hovering in the doorway.
“Joom-pah,” Alec repeated, almost whispering. The prolonged eye contact terrified him as much as it thrilled him. His heart hammered in his throat. He couldn’t look away. This was it. This was the moment.
By the angel, Alec realized. I’m going to throw up.
“See you tomorrow,” Magnus murmured, gentle joy still shining subtly in his gaze. And then he was gone.
Alec closed the door and fell forward against it, arms wrapped up around his head and face pressed against the chilly wood. He focused on calming his heart, slowing his breathing. When the muffled echo of Magnus’ footsteps faded completely from his sensitive hearing, a certain amount of relief flooded his veins, as if he’d been fueled by adrenaline alone until this very moment.
What’s wrong with me?! As the energy and excitement from those parting moments subsided, a heavy disappointment slid firmly into its place. I didn’t kiss him.
A long, frustrating future stretched out in Alec’s mind. One where this endless cycle continued. One where he never got to find out if Magnus had any real interest in him. And then, one day, the captivating, fascinating warlock would lose interest completely, and they would slowly stop having these evening rendezvous altogether.
Alec’s horror at this possibility motivated him, and now that Magnus no longer stood directly in front of him, his terrified paralysis subsided. Briefly, he considered sending the warlock a fire message, but quickly dismissed the idea. He may be completely smitten, but he still refused to look desperate. Instead, he darted around his sparsely decorated room until he located his phone, and opened the messaging history between himself and Magnus. Hoping the warlock hadn’t left the parking lot yet, he fired off the first thing he could think of to quickly turn him around.
Alec Lightwood - 02:12
Hey, just got an interesting lead on the case. Too bad you don’t get to see it until tomorrow! 😉
The tone aligned with most of the texts they had been exchanging lately. They teased each other about everything. And Alec noticed Magnus had a bit of a penchant for anticipation—he liked to be taunted with having to wait for things. It had become a game to Alec, trying to figure out how to toe the line between staying professional and teasing this man whom he worked with almost every day.
I really am getting manipulative, aren’t I? he thought. He jumped excitedly at the buzzing response on his phone—Magnus hadn’t left yet!
Magnus Bane - 02:13
Lol, but you’d tell me if it were really important, now wouldn’t you?
Alec grinned to the empty room, letting himself fall against the wall as he inched into bolder territory.
Alec Lightwood - 02:13
… Maybe I’m just trying to manipulate you.
The response came a bit slower this time, and Alec wondered if maybe Magnus had actually left already, and was just texting while driving. He wouldn’t put it past him. But finally, after a whole agonizing minute, the response came.
Magnus Bane - 02:14
I like that.
Alec momentarily contemplated if it was possible to get bruising from smiling too hard. He shot back a response as quickly as he could. After weeks of unresolved flirtation, he knew how to pave the perfect road to lead Magnus right back to him.
Alec Lightwood - 02:14
What, that I might be manipulating you? 😅
What do you think I’m trying to manipulate you to do?
His pulse picked up again. This was it! It wasn’t too late! All he had to do now was let Magnus guess the answer. Don’t leave. Come back inside. Tell me you feel the same way. He waited impatiently, a new wave of nervous excitement driving him to pace back and forth across the room.
Magnus Bane - 02:14
That’s what I’m looking forward to finding out.
Only one way to get what I want now, Alec told himself. He took a deep breath, typed up the message, and read it over three or four times. His thumb hovered above the send icon. Another steadying breath, and the message was sent.
By the angel, he immediately thought. Did I actually just send that?
Alec Lightwood - 02:15
Come back inside, and you can find out right now. 😉
Alec’s hands shook. His first instinct was to delete the message right off the bat. This was so unlike him! What am I doing? What am I doing? WhatamIdoing? He continued to pace back and forth across the area rug that spanned the concrete floor, trying to channel his excess energy into something that didn’t involve staring bug-eyed at the screen. Back, and forth. Back, and forth.
Finally, he stopped in the middle of the room, staring back down at the cold blue light of the messaging app. 2:17 AM. It’s been too long. He’s not looking at his phone any more.
He didn’t want to jump to conclusions, to miss his opportunity. He took one slow, long, shaky breath. He counted to thirty. Finally, he allowed himself to accept the truth.
Magnus had put down his phone, and started driving home. Alec had missed his chance.
All of the energy rushed out of Alec at once. Disappointment played a role, but the day had been exhausting regardless—he’d started early, put in a full day of shadowhunter-related work, and then gone straight into this “maybe-a-date” evening with Magnus, who had arrived just after 7:30 PM. They had been talking for over six hours! For now, he would have to be content with that. There was no way the dashing High Warlock would return now. He had better things to do with his life than drive all the way back to the Institute for some young mortal he had only been chatting with for a few weeks.
Too shy and self-conscious to allow Magnus to see such a message when he finally got home, Alec opened the app back up and deleted the text. The app left a not-so-subtle marker behind that a message had been deleted, but they teased each other all the time with deleted messages—mostly Alec using them to catch Magnus’ attention and taunt him with what they might have been. It wouldn’t be anything too new or unusual. Honestly, it had become one of Alec’s favorite pastimes—especially when he got Magnus speculating.
Completely drained, Alec peeled off his clothes and collapsed into his bed.
Alec Lightwood - 02:15
[Alec Lightwood removed a message.]
~ Closing Song ~
"I Go Crazy (Acoustic)" - Orla Gartland
"Why does this happen every time?
Won't somebody hold me and tell me it'll all work out—
say that there's nothing to worry about now...
Three words, two hearts, one maybe
Say something before I go crazy now...
But I'm still so devoted to you it scares me.
It's only a matter of time."
Chapter 6: "Come back."
Sleep-deprived and a bit buzzed, Alec tries to recover from his earlier failure to make a move on Magnus.
Fun Fact: "Come Back" was originally the title of this entire story!
Fun Fact 2.0: The song title "Alone/Forever" provided some inspiration for the format of the final title of this fic!
~ Opening Song ~
"Alone/Forever" - morgxn
"You've been talking to me all night saying nothing.
I think maybe this is how it happens—how it's supposed to be.
Deeply, even if the words don't fall out sweetly—
even if we never fall completely—
that's how it's supposed to be.
... At night I lie awake, need a familiar face.
What am I searching for, all this time?
... It's gotta be you.
... I don't want to be alone forever."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec’s eyes shot open, startled awake by a sudden, jolting buzzing sensation. He had just begun to drift off, so exhausted that his hand had gone slack with his phone still resting on his palm. It was that which awoke him now.
Alec Lightwood - 02:15
[Alec Lightwood removed a message.]
Magnus Bane - 02:23
😅 here we go
Alec double checked the time, confusion clouding his still sleepy mind. Barely ten minutes had passed. There was no way Magnus had driven home already. He crushed the tiny flicker of hope that warmed his chest. Stop torturing yourself like this.
Alec Lightwood - 02:23
That was a quick drive? Unless you haven’t left yet...
He couldn’t help himself. He had to be absolutely sure.
Magnus Bane - 02:23
Lol, on my way home
Of course, Alec thought. He is actually texting and driving.
Alec Lightwood - 02:24
Don’t text and drive.
I like you too much for you to die.
Alec knew that Magnus was likely in little to no danger from any sort of accident. He might not be able to portal, but he still had all the rest of his magic at his disposal. Still, he enjoyed any excuse to tell Magnus that he liked him without making things awkward. Maybe one day, Magnus would reciprocate the sentiment.
He was rewarded almost immediately with a giant, sparkling heart emoji from the warlock himself.
Fine, Alec thought. You know what? It’s the middle of the night. I’m sleep deprived. I’m a little drunk. I’m basically delirious.
Alec Lightwood - 02:26
Lmk when you’re home safe I guess, and I’ll be happy to share what I deleted. I only deleted it because I figured it was pointless to send after you’d left already. 😅
Still half asleep, Alec drifted off once more. This time, the buzzing that woke him was on his chest. He felt it across his whole sternum. Determined not to be the one to end the conversation, he fought to lift his heavy eyelids.
Magnus Bane - 02:46
I got home
So, you would prefer if you had said this thing while I was there?
Alec could feel Magnus’ unending curiosity across the airwaves. He bit his lip, feeling all of a sudden quite awake, and quite excited to explain himself.
Alec Lightwood - 02:47
I had typed it out.
Left it there for like 5 minutes
Then figured you were driving already
So I deleted it.
I didn't want it to look like I'd deliberately waited until I knew you'd left. 😅
He didn’t rewrite the deleted message. Not yet. He wanted to make Magnus ask for it. A quickly brushed-aside intrusive thought inspired him to wonder if he could even get the insatiably inquisitive, catlike warlock to say ‘Please.’
Magnus Bane - 02:48
You make me more and more curious, do you know that?
Alec Lightwood - 02:49
I like it when you’re curious. It means I have your attention.
Alec couldn’t believe himself. Who am I right now?
Magnus Bane - 02:49
So that means that it wouldn’t have been good if I thought you deliberately waited to send it. Which is actually a good thing.
And I like good things.
He puzzled over the warlock’s logic for a second, trying to figure out what he meant. Was there some specific ‘good thing’ he was alluding to? It was always so vague with Magnus. Was he flirting back? Alec rewrote his next message a few times, trying to dampen his eagerness to push the conversation further into exactly that territory.
Alec Lightwood - 02:51
I don’t entirely understand your use of the word ‘good’ in this context, but I’m pretty sure it’s similar to the way I usually use ‘bad.’
… Tell me, is that what you’re hoping for?
Magnus Bane - 02:51
You got it right
Alec’s heart jumped in his chest. Magnus wants something dirty. He’s really hoping for it! He took a brief moment to bask in this discovery. At the very least, the warlock was interested enough to play games with him. He could work with that. Somehow, he was okay with it—even if it ended there.
Alec Lightwood - 02:51
I think you’ll like this one.
Alec thought back to the message, and carefully retyped it word for word. Inexplicably, a tiny part of him wished it was a bit dirtier. But he didn’t want to lie, either.
A slightly evil idea popped into his mind while he typed. He thought of all the times he had sent Magnus a message, then hovered over his phone, not getting a reply for an hour, sometimes more. He understood that the High Warlock was a busy man, and he didn’t hold those waits against Magnus at all. But why not give him a little taste of the same?
He waited just a few minutes. Long enough to let the warlock grow impatient, but not long enough to let him fall asleep.
Alec Lightwood - 02:54
Alec Lightwood - 02:15
Come back inside, and you can find out right now. 😉
Waiting was agonizing, but Magnus’ response came only a short few seconds later.
Magnus Bane - 02:55
😂😂 Oh ok, I can see why you deleted that one!
The tension that had been building up across Alec’s entire body promptly deflated. Magnus was laughing at him! On principal, he immediately went back and deleted the pasted message once more.
Alec Lightwood - 02:55
See? And now I'm never telling you again. 😅
Magnus Bane - 02:56
Did you delete it because you were afraid I might actually come back??
Alec Lightwood - 02:56
No, I deleted it because it became clear you already left.
Magnus Bane - 02:56
So you were ok with me coming back from the parking lot, but not from the highway?
Alec had to pause to consider this. If he had known Magnus would be checking his phone on the road, would he have deleted the message? No, he decided. If he wasn’t far off, it still would have been reasonable.
Alec Lightwood - 02:57
I didn't think you'd check your messages on the highway.
I figured you'd get home and see it and it would look like I purposely waited for you to leave knowing you wouldn't turn around.
Magnus Bane - 02:58
Well, since I tease you sometimes, it would have been a fair thing to do.
The tension crept back in, starting in Alec’s chest, and crawling toward other extremities. He liked it when Magnus used clear, explicit words like ‘tease.’ It instilled some confidence that the High Warlock really did genuinely reciprocate Alec’s feelings.
He knew that if Jace were in the same situation as he was right now, his parabatai would have already closed the deal, assuming from the start that the other person was obsessively interested in him. But Alec never had that confidence when it came to his personal life. Still, there had to be something there. After all, Magnus spent over six hours talking with him, then after driving almost an hour home, he got right back on his phone to continue the conversation. No one would do that unless they were really interested… right?
Alec decided to take on a more direct, honest tone. It was three in the morning. What did he really have to lose at this point?
Alec Lightwood - 02:58
I don’t bluff to you.
Magnus, however, was still stuck on that deleted comment.
Magnus Bane - 03:00
Did that message really have a “😉” at the end?
Alec Lightwood - 03:00
Magnus Bane - 03:01
It makes me smile every time I read it.
You may want to save it somewhere.
Alec Lightwood - 03:01
Oh? Why would I do that?
Magnus Bane - 03:02
In case you want to use it again 😉
Alec reread that message repeatedly. He flipped over on his bed, propping his chin up on his pillow so he could stare at the phone in front of him, grinning like a teenage girl. Was Magnus deliberately opening up another opportunity for him? Even if so, he probably means at a later time. Still, Alec felt too invested not to keep pressing him.
Alec Lightwood - 03:04
Lol, I don't know, didn't work out too well this time around.
Magnus Bane - 03:05
You know, I saw you sent a message while I was driving. But I didn’t check it because I thought it would just be you telling me not to text and drive. Sounds like I still don’t quite have you pinned down, Alec Lightwood.
Alec found the phrase ‘pinned down’ to be very distracting. I would like you to pin me down, he thought, then immediately cut that mental digression off and buried his head in his pillow. Stop it. The evening is over. He left already. He chose something a bit more tame instead.
Alec Lightwood - 03:07
Well I suppose I'm glad I can surprise you 😅
Magnus Bane - 03:09
You have done so multiple times.
Alec Lightwood - 03:10
Pleasant or unpleasant surprises? 🤣
Magnus Bane - 03:10
You can't be unpleasant even if you try to.
Time goes by really fast with you.
I can’t believe our goodbye took an hour—it only felt like 10 minutes.
A heady warmth flooded Alec’s chest. Magnus was sweet talking him. How surreal! He rolled back over, staring up at the ceiling and contemplating how to respond, floating on a cloud of fuzzy feelings. Unintentionally, he began to drift off again.
Magnus Bane - 03:14
So… what was that lead?
Alec startled awake, and panic sent adrenaline dashing through him. I fell asleep on him! He fumbled over his lock screen, then breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that only a few minutes had passed. Shortly after, his panic dissolved into a satisfied smile when he realized that Magnus was trying to keep the conversation alive, too.
Alec Lightwood - 03:14
I would have shown you if you'd come back.
He found pleasure in bringing this mess of a conversation back around to his initial message. Maybe, if he kept pushing that point, he could lure Magnus back over later that week. It was only Tuesday. Alec glanced back down at the time. No, Wednesday.
Magnus took his time responding, and Alec began wondering if his brief nap had indeed ruined the conversation. Finally, his concern was assuaged by a new notification.
Magnus Bane - 03:16
Don't tell me that's all you would’ve shown me had I come back.
The excitement that Alec had been struggling so hard to keep in check all came flooding back at once. Unbeckoned, a slight tension built under his sheets, growing a bit each time he reread Magnus Bane’s last message.
Holy hell. Alec’s throat seemed to close up. Is this really happening? They had flirted before, but tonight was completely new territory. And for once, Alec didn’t feel bashful, or hesitant. His earlier failure motivated him. He wanted to see just how far he could take it.
Alec Lightwood - 03:17
Tell me, Magnus. What would you have liked me to do if you came back?
The response came almost immediately, one message after another. Alec had Magnus captivated.
Magnus Bane - 03:17
Anticipation is what makes it exciting.
You see, the investigation is relatively public data. I can get ahold of that on my own.
But something more private ? Now that would be worth coming back for.
There’s still a chance tonight. Alec couldn’t believe himself. How often would he attempt this crazy request? But now it was not only sleep deprivation and alcohol that clouded his judgement, but a tight, high strung physical need. He wanted Magnus—badly.
Alec Lightwood - 03:19
You still could.
Magnus Bane - 03:20
What exactly could I do? 😅
Alec Lightwood - 03:21
Magnus Bane - 03:22
It is always good to see you, Alec. 🙂
Much to Alec’s chagrin, Magnus still didn’t get it. Alec wondered if the warlock was doing this on purpose, playing dumb just to frustrate him. Then his self-doubt from earlier crept back in—a twist of nausea that did not combine pleasantly with the tension of his arousal.
I did decide to be straightforward, he thought. Might as well request the same from him.
Alec Lightwood - 03:23
Is that a polite back out? Because if so I think I've won this game of chicken.
Magnus Bane - 03:26
No, I meant that even though we have already spent so many hours together today, it would still have been good to see you again. Had I come back.
Alec Lightwood - 03:28
So it wasn’t a polite back out?
Magnus Bane - 03:29
Of course not.
Frustration drove Alec upright, exposing his bare chest to the cool air. What do you want, Magnus? Maybe this really was just a cruel game. A centuries-old warlock getting a kick out of torturing a young, easily-manipulated mortal. What if this was it, as far as it went? Would Alec really be okay with that?
Alec Lightwood - 03:30
Which means you have yet to respond.
Magnus’ answer came slower this time.
Magnus Bane - 03:32
I don’t think you wanted me to come back at this time of night just to show me some case lead, Mr. Lightwood.
Alec Lightwood - 03:33
I’m sure you’d like to know.
Magnus Bane - 03:33
Yes, I do.
But, to be fair, it sounds like all you’re luring me in with is some information about a case that I could easily get from anyone at the Institute tomorrow.
Or, maybe you’re offering something else? Something I could only experience with you?
In the second case, I definitely would have come back.
Alec frowned at the screen. Magnus was still speaking in hypotheticals. Alec did not like hypotheticals.
Alec Lightwood - 03:37
There's that "would have" again. As if it's not still an option.
Magnus Bane - 03:38
Lol, wait. You mean now?
That’s when the realization hit Alec—Magnus really didn’t know he was serious. He thought Alec was teasing him, with no intention to follow through.
I’ll show you follow-through. Alec was getting tired of dancing around in circles. He loved talking to Magnus, but at this point he had already been awake for about twenty-two hours. It was making him bold—and demanding. He wanted the warlock in his bed, now, or he wanted to go to sleep.
Alec Lightwood - 03:38
Yes, Magnus. Now.
To drive his point home, he copied and pasted the same request from only a few minutes before.
Alec Lightwood - 03:38
Alec Lightwood - 03:19
You still could.
Magnus Bane - 03:20
What exactly could I do? 😅
Alec Lightwood - 03:21
Another long pause held Alec in suspense. What was Magnus thinking? Alec flopped back onto his pillows, fending off another wave of self-consciousness. He’s probably trying to think of a way to get out of this conversation without hurting my feelings.
He didn’t care. He wanted the warlock to type it, directly, so that at least he could stop torturing himself over it.
Magnus Bane - 03:39
Was that an option or an ask?
Alec froze at that response. That worked?! As doggedly as he had been trying to get Magnus to come back over, as much as he wanted him to turn around, he honestly didn’t think it was really on the table from Magnus' perspective. Not that he didn’t want it to happen—but why would Magnus Bane, of all people, put in so much effort for him?
The idea that anyone—let alone someone as incredible as Magnus Bane—would actually follow through with something like that for Alec—it was inconceivable. Moments like that didn't happen to him. He took care of others. Any romantic feelings he had were always unrequited, ignored from afar. Nobody ever cared for him the same way he cared for them.
But here was this warlock, implying he might actually drive an hour all the way back, at almost 4:00 AM, just for a chance to get closer to him. Alec couldn’t breathe.
Alec Lightwood - 03:39
... Is there one of those that you'd prefer?
Magnus Bane - 03:40
Of course the second one.
Alec couldn’t breathe.
Alec Lightwood - 03:41
What if I just tell you to? Would you listen?
Magnus Bane - 03:41
Yes, I would.
Alec couldn’t breathe.
Alec Lightwood - 03:42
~ Closing Song ~
"If I Can't Have You" - Shawn Mendes
"I'm so consumed, spending all my nights reading texts from you.
Oh, I'm good at keeping my distance.
I know that you're the feeling I'm missing,
... I'm so sorry that my timing's off,
but I can't move on if we're still gonna talk.
Is it wrong for me to not want half?
I want all of you, all the strings attached.
You know that I hate to admit it,
but everything means nothing if I can't have you."
Chapter 7: A Bow String Held Taut
Alec waits anxiously to see if Magnus will return.
~ Opening Song ~
"Iris" - Goo Goo Dolls
"And all I can taste is this moment.
And all I can breathe is your life.
And sooner or later it's over—
I just don't wanna miss you tonight.
And I don't want the world to see me,
'Cause I don't think that they'd understand.
When everything's meant to be broken
I just want you to know who I am."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec Lightwood - 03:42
Fifteen minutes had passed with no response from Magnus other than a little heart-eyed emoji reaction to Alec’s demand. At this time of night, the drive from Magnus’ apartment should only take about thirty-five to forty minutes, assuming Magnus had a tendency to drive at least as fast as Alec did. Alec had a feeling Magnus probably didn’t obey traffic laws quite as strictly, though.
Alec could only lie impatiently on his bed for so long. He had already gotten dressed, and now gazed neurotically into the mirror, fidgeting with his dark, disheveled hair, his shirt, back to his hair again. He pulled his shirt off over his head and considered answering the door that way—bare-chested. Then he put a different, identical black crew neck back on. The second one smelled better.
He darted around his bedroom—already sparse and tidy—and cleaned up anything left lying around until it looked almost like nobody lived there at all. He had already tidied up earlier that afternoon, before Magnus came over the first time. He put on another layer of deodorant, since he hadn’t done so since the morning. He brushed his teeth—another thing he had already done just before the first time Magnus visited.
Finally, all that remained was to wait.
Thirty minutes had now passed since Alec had last heard from Magnus. He began to wonder if the warlock was ever going to arrive. What if he hadn’t left yet? What if he wasn’t coming at all? Alec imagined Magnus, buried under the silken sheets and fluffy comforters of his King-sized bed, chuckling at the seriousness in which Alec had responded to him, and then shutting off his phone and going straight to sleep.
How late do I wait up before it becomes pathetic?
Alec paced across the front doorway of the Institute. The night patrol was not due back for another hour and a half, and the Institute had enough wards and alarms that aside from that small team, very few shadowhunters now roamed the halls. Most of the night owls usually wandered to bed by three in the morning, and the early risers did not start emerging until closer to five. The normally hectic main floor sat vacant, eerily alight with the blue-black glow of dormant monitors.
Imagining what Magnus would be seeing and thinking as he approached the glamoured property, Alec hopped up into the window, where the warlock might be able to glimpse him waiting. He rested casually against the cool stone, trying to portray himself as relaxed, confident, even bored. Several more minutes passed.
I look absurd. Alec slid back down out of the window cove. He marched over to one of the long, pew-like benches in the entrance way, and sat roughly down with a huff, head in his hands.
Forty-two minutes had now passed since Alec had last heard from Magnus.
Magnus Bane - 04:28
Are you still sure you want me to come back?
Alec must have leapt a foot into the air at the abrupt vibration in his back pocket. He hopped to his feet, fishing the phone out into his hands and botching the lock code twice before finally getting past it and into the messaging app. It was not the message he had been expecting.
Has he not left yet? Alec wondered if he was willing to stay up another forty-five minutes to wait for the warlock to make his way across the city. He had now been awake for almost twenty-three hours, including a very exhausting mission earlier that day. He wasn’t sure he could make it to the twenty-four hour mark without someone there to keep him up. Disappointment snuck a hesitant claw into the back of Alec’s mind.
Alec Lightwood - 04:28
That's what I said, isn't it?
Though if you haven't left yet, I'm a little disappointed.
He took one long, deep breath before the response came, scattering his disappointment like ashes on the breeze.
Magnus Bane - 04:29
In that case, I’m at the door.
I never disappoint you. 😉
Alec’s throat tightened again. It actually hurt a bit. Is this what anaphylaxis feels like? Am I dying? He focused on keeping his breathing even and measured. His hands shook. He reached forward, grasped the door handle, and pulled it open.
Like Alec—but much more noticeably—Magnus had also changed his clothes since they last saw each other. For once, he didn’t look quite completely put together, in black jeans that were likely deliberately distressed (Alec still couldn’t understand that trend) and a gray collared shirt with shimmering silver embroidery that he had only made it halfway through tucking in. He sported the same velvety, wine-colored jacket from that evening. Alec searched desperately for something to say. Paralyzing anxiety surged through him as his eyes met Magnus’.
“Hey,” he choked out lamely. He stepped aside to let Magnus through the doorway. The warlock walked inside, then waited as Alec re-locked door. When Alec turned around, Magnus had his hands in his jacket pockets, staring at the floor anxiously like a kid on his first date.
“Was the drive… ok?” Alec floundered, feeling very akin to a deer in headlights. He shivered in the chilly emptiness of the stone hall. Despite that, he felt the need to brush his palms against the sides of his pants—how were they sweaty in this cold? What was Magnus expecting? What would happen when the warlock discovered how completely and utterly helpless and lost Alec was? For some reason, the corners of Magnus’ lips twitched upward into a soft smile, and he looked up, meeting Alec’s gaze. Alec found himself completely ensnared.
“Yes,” Magnus answered, his voice hushed, but warm. Alec realized he had also been speaking quietly. It felt somehow unacceptable to even approach full volume in the echoey, once-sacred sanctuary.
Alec’s eyes slid down to Magnus’ jacket. He remembered some of his earlier thoughts involving that very article of clothing. His fingertips curled reflexively at his sides, but he didn’t move.
“So I guess I’m back,” Magnus added, also unmoving. He watched Alec carefully. Alec realized that maybe Magnus was also anxious, though he couldn’t imagine the warlock ever losing his cool, confident aura over anything, or anyone—let alone him.
Get it together, Alec scolded himself. The man did not drive all the way back here to reject you.
Finally, through what felt like an immeasurable amount of willpower, his inner monologue won out, and Alec’s hands rose. Everything felt like slow motion to him. He brushed his thumbs over the bottom edge of Magnus’ open jacket. The texture felt as soft as it looked. Alec found that the sensation grounded him. Until that moment, he hadn’t noticed how dizzy he felt.
“Yeah,” Alec whispered. He didn’t think he was capable of anything more than that. “I’m glad you are.”
He clasped the velvet between his fingers, staring down at his own hands as he did so, as if he couldn’t completely follow his own actions. Magnus’ attention never left Alec’s face. When Alec looked up again, their eyes locked. Magnus wasn’t smiling anymore. He looked how Alec felt. Terrified. Hopeful. Transfixed.
Alec slid his hands upward, stopping just near the height of Magnus’ waist, and gripped more firmly, tugging the front of the jacket ever so slightly as he inched toward the warlock—just a small half of a step. Goosebumps meandered up his forearms. At that subtle behest, Magnus closed the rest of the distance between them—though he took his time doing so. Every fraction of a second dragged on for an eternity to Alec. He angled his head downward.
For some reason, all of the times he had imagined finally reaching this point—kissing Magnus Bane—Alec had always assumed it would be sudden. Explosive. All the tension they had been building over the last several weeks would be released at once, sending them grabbing at each other, pushing each other into walls. Instead, the bottomless well of tension continued to build between them.
Magnus’ lips delicately skimmed Alec’s. A sensation like a weight dropping within Alec’s stomach sent his heart flailing. It almost mirrored his earlier feelings, when he thought he might be sick, but this time, the anxiety melted away instead of controlling him. He was kissing Magnus Bane. Magnus drove all the way home, then all the way back, for this moment. That meant something.
The warlock’s lips were soft. Alec presently became very aware of how rough and dry his must be in comparison. When the warlock pulled back, almost imperceptibly, Alec followed. He closed the little space that remained between them. Magnus’ hands were on Alec’s hips. When did that happen? He didn’t know. He lifted his fingertips up to the warlock’s face. His thumb brushed along Magnus’ jaw, then traced a shaky line down his neck. He rested that hand on Magnus’ chest.
Alec kissed him again, this time with certainty. Their mouths pressed against each other. Alec pushed himself more firmly against Magnus’ body, and the warlock responded in kind. Everything inside of Alec felt tight, wound up. He took a brief moment just to breathe. When he shifted his weight backwards, it was Magnus’ turn to follow. Almost instinctively, Alec continued pulling his lips just out of the warlock’s reach, provoking him to keep trying, to keep chasing. Watching Magnus lean in toward him, striving for that kiss, sent Alec into a dizzying state of giddiness.
It took only a few seconds for Magnus to give up. For a moment, confusion and concern clouded his countenance. A brief flash of guilt flushed Alec’s cheeks. He hadn’t meant to look unwilling! He just craved the rush of seeing Magnus act like that—like he needed to kiss Alec, to touch him, fighting to pull him in closer.
Alec felt like a bow string held taut, brimming with potential energy. Something deep within him craved to release it. He dropped his hands back down to where they started, the waist of Magnus’ velvet jacket. He slid them underneath of it, over the crisply-pressed shirt, caressing around Magnus’ sides and then resting his palms on the inviting pocket of warmth that had gathered over the small of Magnus’ back, trapped between the contrasting fabrics of his shirt and his outerwear. His arms now encircling the warlock, he used this new advantageous position to pull him in for another kiss. Magnus ran a few fingers down from Alec’s shoulder to his elbow. When his touch fell from the black shirt sleeve to the paler, bare skin of Alec’s arm, Alec’s muscles flexed in response, and he felt Magnus smile through their kiss. He reached up to the collar of the warlock’s jacket, and started to push it off. He wanted to do the same to him—run his hands over Magnus’ bare skin, touch every part of him.
A distant, abrupt snicker froze both of them in place, reminding them that they still stood just inside the front door of the Institute. A few barely audible voices followed, taunting each other and laughing. Magnus tilted his head questioningly at Alec’s upraised, shushing finger. They both listened intently. As the voices continued, and grew louder, Alec relaxed.
“It’s just the night patrol coming back in. They must have just entered the glamour line.” Inwardly, he breathed a silent sigh of relief. From here, he and Magnus were safely out of sight—for now. Magnus ran his palms up and down Alec’s biceps, drawing tiny circles with his thumbs that quickly drew Alec’s attention back to more personal topics.
“Maybe,” the warlock purred, “we should make our way down the hall. To your room?”
Alec’s throat swiftly went very dry. He nodded, unable to think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound completely stupid. His kissed Magnus one more time, holding behind his head firmly with one hand. A tiny thrill coursed through him, as if the reality of what was happening still hadn’t settled it in his mind.
When the night patrol pushed through the Institute’s heavy wooden front doors, no sign remained of the Institute’s leader, nor the High Warlock—and the tired shadowhunters were none the wiser. Just a few hundred feet away, Magnus followed Alec down a silent, darkened hallway that he felt like he had just come from. The air hung heavy and quiet between them, thick with expectation. Alec pushed open the door, turned around, and kissed Magnus deeply right there, standing on the threshold. Exhaustion carried him along on a floating high. Alec had now been awake for almost twenty-four hours.
He pulled Magnus Bane into the bedroom, and let the door slam shut behind them.
~ Closing Song ~
"BLUE" - Troye Sivan & Alex Hope
"I want you.
I'll colour me blue—anything it takes to make you stay.
Only seeing myself when I'm looking up at you.
I can't say no.
Though the lights are on, there's nobody home.
Swore I'd never lose control.
Then I fell in love with a heart that beats so slow."
Chapter 8: Twenty-Seven Hours
Locked away in Alec's bedroom, Magnus and Alec ignore the world outside.
~ Opening Song ~
"Seventeen" - Troye Sivan
"I got these beliefs that I think you wanna break.
Got something here to lose that I think you wanna take from me.
You say that I'm asleep but I wanna be awake.
Got something here to lose that I know you wanna take.
You should know I'm green but I'll find my way around.
Heard the whispers, now let's see what all the talk's about.
I'm taking in the sights and measuring the sounds.
Heard the whispers, now let's see what all the talk's about.
And he said age is just a number, just like any other—
We can do whatever, do whatever you want."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
What am I doing? I have no idea what I’m doing. Alec surveyed his room from just inside the doorway, where only a couple hours before, he and Magnus had been chatting over drinks, delaying their goodbyes. At the sight of his bed, his entire body ached with exhaustion. He couldn’t think straight. Magnus Bane’s hand sliding down his back, however, returned his attention directly to the immediate moment.
Alec faced Magnus again, pulling him into a kiss and toward the bed with only the light pull of a pinkie finger hooked into his shirt. The warlock’s hands slid down to Alec’s ass. Alec felt like he might burst at the seams—kissing was not enough. He wrapped one hand around the side of Magnus’ neck and face, and kissed him more deeply, then pulled back and grazed his teeth ever so gently across the warlock’s bottom lip.
Magnus inhaled sharply. Alec froze, wondering if maybe he should have asked first. Briefly, they both hovered like that, lips just barely not touching. Then Magnus closed the distance roughly. He sucked Alec’s bottom lip into his mouth, shuffling his arms back to let his jacket slide off into a velvety pile on the floor.
Alec’s pants held him in just a bit too tightly for comfort. He took that as a sign that both of the men in the room were still wearing too many clothes. Without breaking their kiss, he fumbled over the top two buttons of Magnus’ shirt. Magnus chuckled softly, removing his own hands from Alec’s backside and brushing the shadowhunter’s unsteady fingers aside.
“I promise it’s actually a lot easier if you let me do this,” Magnus gently pushed Alec backwards. “You handle your own, Alexander.”
Alec felt the bed against the back of his knees and fell into a seated position, unable to tear his eyes away from the warlock before him. Magnus took his time unbuttoning his shirt, gradually revealing the smooth, lean bareness of his chest. Alec couldn’t help but wonder if Magnus used any glamour magic to accentuate his physique, or if the warlock genuinely was just this unbearably attractive.
“You’re falling behind,” Magnus taunted. He dropped his shirt very deliberately onto the comforter next to Alec, like an offering—or a challenge.
Alec did not possess even close to the same suave sensuality as Magnus. He obediently pulled his t-shirt over his head in one swift motion, chucking it ungracefully across the room. Magnus observed with a satisfied smile, and dropped one hand to rest on Alec’s shoulder. He ran a hungry, delicate touch up toward Alec’s neck, tracing the outline of his Deflect rune before moving on to his jaw line. Alec watched the warlock with an expression resembling awe. His lips parted as he drank in the sight before him. Magnus redirected his focus accordingly, placing the tip of his thumb across Alec’s lips. Alec kissed it, then moved on to the base, then the center of Magnus’ palm.
Magnus let out a quiet ‘Mmm,’ which Alec took as encouragement. He hooked his index fingers through the warlock’s belt loops, tugging him in closer. Magnus stumbled forward, surprised at the shadowhunter’s strength, and Alec steadied him with an apologetic and sheepish smile. He leaned forward then, kissing Magnus just above the button of his black jeans. He felt the warlock’s abs tense under his lips. Both of them were breathing much faster than they had been only a few minutes before.
Impatient to find release, Alec struggled with the button before him. But he wasn’t accustomed unbuttoning from this angle, and Magnus’ pants were very tight. Once again, the warlock came to the rescue. He placed his hands softly over Alec’s and pushed them aside before unbuttoning the clasp himself. Alec made himself feel helpful by tugging the pants downward along with his briefs, and Magnus stepped out of them more gracefully than any person had a right to wriggle out of skinny jeans.
Magnus Bane was naked in Alec’s bedroom. Magnus Bane is naked in my bedroom. He is naked in front of me. Completely… naked. For a moment, Alec just sat there, dumbstruck. As if to make sure the warlock was real, he pressed his palm hesitantly against Magnus’ hip, then followed suit with his fingers, gripping him tightly around his side. His thumb stroked down the warlock’s v-line, then curved back to brush over his thigh. Above him, Magnus’ exhale melted into a soft moan.
Magnus did not suffer from the same challenges that Alec had with buttons. He pressed the shadowhunter gingerly back onto the mattress, supporting himself with one arm and deftly opening Alec’s pants with his other. Alec lifted his hips up and shoved them down by the waist. Soon the remainder of his clothes piled onto the floor next to Magnus’ black jeans.
The pair scooted up on the bed, Alec on his back and Magnus holding himself up on his elbows above him. For a moment they stayed just like that, unmoving. Staring into each other’s eyes, catching their breath. Without the restriction of clothes, Alec found himself rising very quickly to the occasion. Every part of him felt supersensitive. The skin on his neck tingled as Magnus’ breath danced across it.
It was Magnus who moved first. He tilted his head, lowering himself until he nuzzled into Alec’s neck. Alec gasped. Their bodies brushed lightly against each other in dozens of tiny spots. All of the hairs across Alec’s skin stood on edge. Some unfamiliar tension welled up within him, like it might erupt out at any second.
Magnus’ kisses trailed down Alec’s neck and over his chest. He paused over one of Alec’s nipples, lips skimming around it. It was Alec’s turn to fight to suppress a moan, and much like Magnus earlier, he failed to hold it in. The pressure inside of him grew. He had to express it—somehow. He reached up for Magnus, sliding his hands across his bare back. The warlock’s tongue flicked across where his lips had just been. Alec grasped at him, fingernails trailing faint red lines across his skin.
Alec wanted to reciprocate, but he didn’t know how. He went for the nearest opportunity, pulling the warlock’s face back up toward his and pressing his lips against the soft surface of his neck. Magnus responded by grinding into him, breath catching.
Not as difficult as I feared, Alec thought with satisfaction. He kissed Magnus’ neck again, and again, each one more passionate than the last. Still not enough. He sucked in, teeth meeting skin. When he released him, an uneven, dark bruise had already begun to take shape.
“Oh,” Alec whispered apologetically. “Oh my gosh. Magnus, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
Magnus reached up and touched the darkening hickey. He winced slightly, but to Alec’s surprise, he smirked. “Oh, Alexander. It’s very cute that you think a love mark would bother me. Especially one from you.” His eyes slid down Alec’s body, and for the first time since they disrobed, Alec became acutely aware of how naked he was. He cleared throat self-consciously.
“That’s, uh, that’s goo—” His words cut off as Magnus resumed his earlier trail of kisses, starting at the top of his ribcage and drifting down the line of hair that lead to more sensitive places. “Ohh, wow.”
He hadn’t thought he could get any harder. He was wrong.
Magnus kissed just next to the base of Alec’s cock, causing the shadowhunter to emit a rather mortifying sound that stemmed from deep in his chest. But Alec didn’t have time to be embarrassed. He twitched eagerly, unable to repress his body’s natural response, and Magnus brushed his lips up to Alec’s frenulum. Alec drew air sharply in through his teeth. He couldn’t resist running his hands through the warlock’s hair. Magnus took this as encouragement. He ran his tongue around the head, then followed suit with the rest of his mouth.
Alec’s back arched as Magnus’ head rose and fell. Static filled his mind, crowding out everything but the sensation of the warlock’s mouth around him. He bunched the now twisted sheets below him between his fingers. Something rose inside of him. He felt like his entire body tensed up, building up tighter and tighter. Magnus’ tongue flitted over the unbearably sensitive ring of skin just below the head of his cock.
This is torture! He wanted to say it out loud, but couldn’t even trust himself to form words. Heavy breath and quiet moans hung thickly in the air. The gentle insistence of Magnus’ tongue pushed him further and further toward the edge.
“Magnus,” he breathed. The warlock responded by increasing his pace, refusing to give Alec even a moment to cool down. It was too much. Overwhelming.
Alec found his hand again in Magnus’ hair. It was the perfect length to weave his fingers through, and he gripped it as gently as he could manage as the tension between his legs peaked. Release flooded through him. His hips, which he had been lifting off the blankets in his euphoria, shuddered and sank downward again. A drug-like warmth snaked its way through his veins. His head spun.
Alec’s cock twitched as Magnus tenderly released it, slithering up to catch him in a breathless kiss. The exhaustion from earlier tugged again at the corners of Alec’s mind. But he wasn’t finished yet. He couldn’t bear the thought of falling asleep on Magnus now—he had to return the favor.
He returned the warlock’s kiss, unexpectedly aroused by the salty taste on his lips. A thin sheen of sweat coated Alec’s skin, sticking them together in all the places their bodies touched. He took a moment to enjoy Magnus’ embrace, reveling in how comfortably their limbs curved together. Finally, he felt his pulse returning to a more controlled tempo.
Magnus had already snuggled up next to Alec, face resting happily in the curve where his shoulder met his neck. Part of Alec didn’t want to move and disturb him, but he was sure the warlock would forgive him. As expected, Magnus frowned as Alec extricated himself from the tangle of clammy limbs. But his grumbles quickly dissolved into a drawn out “Ohhh ” as Alec rolled on top of him, directing his attention very single-mindedly to one task. He did his best to mimic the same torturous actions Magnus had performed on him, only occasionally straying into shy, hesitant creativity.
When Magnus finally came, moaning and slick with sweat, a muted glow diffused through the white fabric shades that overlaid the windows of Alec’s bedroom. It took some time for Alec to get comfortable with his own actions, to learn what worked and what didn’t, and he still felt amateur and awkward. But the shallowness of Magnus’ breath as he collapsed into the pillows bolstered his assurance.
“I am astounded, Alexander,” Magnus declared haltingly. He ran a seeking hand up Alec’s arm, tugging him down next to him to cuddle. Alec’s body melted into his, completely unfazed by the dampness that clung to both of them.
“It’s dawn,” Magnus observed. “I can’t believe it. I hope you don’t have to get up very early.”
Alec shook his head dismally, his cheek rubbing against Magnus’ collarbone as he did so.
“I do,” he sighed.
“Well then, Angel. Try to get some sleep.”
Alec was asleep before Magnus could finish the sentence. He had been awake for twenty-seven hours.
~ Closing Song ~
"Ignite" - RKCB
"I could never watch you go, now I'm fumbling.
I wonder if I let you know, would you let me in?
I don't want to wait no more.
Take hold of it. No, I've never been so sure.
... Oh, I know that this could hurt.
Oh, the point of no return—
laying on the line, watch me burn.
So light me up.
There's a rhythm in your heart tonight.
It beats enough for you and I to come alive.
See you even when I close my eyes—
like a spark in the dead of night,
You ignite me."
Chapter 9: Never a Day Off
Alec and Magnus wake up together, sleepy after so little rest, but wildly content. Not ready to face the outside world just yet, they linger in bed a bit longer.
~ Opening Song ~
"Lucky Strike" - Troye Sivan
"Oh, I wanna tip toe through your bliss, boy,
get lost the more I find you.
Oh, don't wanna miss a second of this, boy,
hold tight and love me longer.
'Cause you're safe like spring time—
short days, long nights, boy—
tell me all the ways to love you."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Pins and needles combered across Alec’s right arm, tingles rippling from where it lay trapped under Magnus’ shoulder. He hadn’t slept much at all, too distracted by the deep, measured breaths that tickled his nose. Over an hour had passed since he should have risen, but he did not want to wake the sleeping warlock beside him, pinning his arm to the mattress. Alec had been stuck in this position for hours, his elbow aching, remaining utterly still.
Muted morning sunlight emanated from Alec’s window shades, illuminating the room in pale pastel hues. Alec wondered when Magnus normally woke up, and realized with affectionate exasperation that he would lie there as long as the warlock remained asleep, memorizing every detail of his image.
Magnus’ eyes fluttered open, pupils dilating and contracting as he adjusted to daylight. Alec held still, studying every centimeter of the warlock’s face as the languor dissolved away. Magnus’ dark irises focused on Alec’s. He lifted his hand and brushed his index finger over Alec’s cheek, stroking down his jaw and tracing the shape of his mouth, as if he did not quite believe he was really there, still somewhat trapped between dreams and reality. The glitter in his dark nail polish scraped against the shadowhunter’s top lip.
Alec’s eyes broke from Magnus’, falling to watch the warlock’s fingers outline his features. His heartbeat eased as he inhaled deeply, gradually, then let all of the air cascade back out, curling warmly around Magnus’ fingertips. Magnus trailed them down Alec’s neck, resting them softly on his collarbone.
Finally, Alec wriggled his arm free, wincing at the sharp spasm as he bent it. He slid it under his own pillow, mirroring Magnus’ pose. Magnus lifted his hand off of Alec and out of the way as he shifted, then rested it back down on his shoulder, his thumb meandering absent-mindedly back and forth over the runes there, which were bathed in pale blue light.
“Good morning,” Alec whispered. Breaking the silence between them seemed like shattering a spell, and he almost regretted it. But he couldn’t lay there forever, as much as he wanted to. The others would already be wondering where he was.
A mellow, closed-lipped smile softened Magnus’ already vulnerable, sleepy expression. Everything about him seemed so honest and real in that moment. Alec found himself drifting closer under the sheets, his arm slithering around the pleasant warmth of Magnus’ bare waist. Before he knew it, his face was buried in the curve of Magnus’ neck. He inhaled deeply, soaking in the delicious scents of sandalwood, mandarin, and barest hints clove. Alec wished he could wake up to these intoxicating smells every morning.
Magnus hummed—the first noise he’d made since opening his eyes—and melted into Alec's nuzzle. He wrapped his arms around Alec's head, burying his face in his messy black hair and echoing Alec's meditative breathing.
"Good morning," he eventually murmured, words muffled and muted against the top of Alec's head. Alec's nuzzle dissolved into a series of light butterfly kisses on Magnus' neck, and the warlock's greeting dropped into a contented “Mmm.”
Alec knew he should be getting up. But Magnus smelled very good. And every time he willed himself to pull away, to sit up, to get dressed, he mentally made any possible excuse not to. Just one more second. Just one more kiss.
“If Jace comes looking for me,” Alec mumbled through muffled kisses against Magnus’ skin, “I’m completely fucked.”
“You can hide me in the bathroom like we’re in a bad rom-com,” the warlock sighed through his contentment.
Alec’s lips trailed down to Magnus’ collarbone, and the warlock’s humming became a breathy sigh. Alec snuck a peek upward to see his eyes were shut again, head relaxed blissfully into his pillow. He noticed the dark, amaranthine bruise blooming on Magnus’ neck, the memory sparking a faint heat within him. Sleepiness still lingering lazily over the corners of his mind, Alec let instinct drive him down across Magnus’ chest, still trailing tiny kisses, tracing the subtle indents between his ribs.
Magnus spread his fingers through Alec’s hair, massaging in small, gentle circles. He raised his hips as Alec reached them, leaning into his lips, craving more pressure, more contact. The slow, soft kisses were excruciatingly wonderful. Alec could taste him—salty and sugary. Hesitantly, he scraped his teeth over the delicate skin of Magnus’ hip bone. Magnus moaned quietly.
The warlock gripped Alec’s hair more tightly for a second, tugging at it before letting go completely. A confusing swirl of excitement rushed Alec all at once, but he had no time to process, because Magnus was shoving him backwards, down into the tangle of crumpled sheets. Magnus was awake now, though he remained in a cozy state of tranquil morning contentment.
Alec wasn’t sure when they had transitioned from sleepy morning kisses to heavy petting, but Magnus was straddling him, thighs warm against his hips, and his body responded accordingly, his hardness growing. The warlock arched his back and slid up Alec’s body in a smooth, languid motion, brushing over his skin, tantalizing him in so many ways. Their lips met again and it felt like they hadn’t kissed in hours, craving more of each other. Alec sucked Magnus’ bottom lip into his mouth, nipping, trying to restrain himself from biting harshly. When Magnus stilled and sat up, Alec’s cock rested torturously against his ass, skimming against the inner curves of his cheeks.
This perspective was new to Alec—staring up at a beautiful man, straddling him, naked, hard. It left him thunderstruck. He gazed wide-eyed at the warlock above him, absorbing every tiny detail, from the curve of his back to the way his toes pointed down to the foot of the bed, to his satisfied smirk as he observed Alec’s amazed infatuation. Alec’s cock twitched, and Magnus bit his lip to stifle an even bigger smile when he felt it against his backside.
Magnus opened his mouth to speak, tracing a delicate, almost tickling finger down Alec’s torso as he hesitated. He rested his hand on Alec’s abs, looking up to catch the shadowhunter’s eye.
“Alexander, do you have any lube hidden somewhere in this room?” He tilted his head to the side as he asked, dropping his gaze again—this time to focus on running his hands along the muscles of Alec’s arms. His face reminded Alec of the same innocent, flirty expression he’d used several weeks ago. I’m being coy, he’d said.
Alec’s mind stuttered past the image of Magnus’ naked figure atop him, tracing along his biceps with sensual hands, and finally caught up with the question.
“Uh, lube,” he echoed. “No, um, no. I don’t… I don’t have any.” Alec’s heart beat at a mile a minute.
“That’s too bad,” Magnus sighed, leaning forward again as if to slide back down off of Alec. Alec caught him, holding his thighs in place with an unintentionally strong grip. Magnus raised an eyebrow, the corner of his mouth sneaking upward into a knowing smile as he waited expectantly for Alec to explain himself. He leaned in to his firm grip, rocking slightly, enjoying how tightly Alec held him there. Unable to tear his gaze away from Magnus, Alec struggled to form a coherent sentence.
“Could you, um… like you do with wine all the time? Summon some? Maybe?” He released his hold on the warlock’s legs, realizing how silly and desperate he must sound, his throat dry. “That’s a dumb idea. Never mind.” His heart hammered. He inhaled in measured breaths, trying to control it. He wasn’t even completely sure what he was asking for—until last night, he hadn’t even kissed anyone before. Now here he was, stuttering out awkward requests for sex. He blushed, staring off toward the wall, anywhere but toward Magnus.
Magnus caught Alec’s hands, tugging them slowly back toward him.
“Look at me, Alexander,” he adjured. Alec obeyed, struggling to maintain eye contact through his sudden surge of bashfulness.
Magnus’ eyes darkened, expression transforming from what he had called coy to something more sure, more sexual. He placed one of Alec’s hands back on him, now on his hip, and Alec grasped tightly like he had before, watching as Magnus’ eyes fluttered slightly in response. Wordlessly, Magnus summoned a small, clear plastic bottle into his now free fingers in a wispy puff of cyan smoke. He squeezed some out on Alec’s left hand, which he still controlled. Alec bit his lip, body tensing in anxious expectation.
“Here,” Magnus murmured, tugging Alec’s hand down, underneath his hovering frame. Alec took the hint—as inexperienced as he was, he had some common sense, and he caught on quickly when he had a good teacher.
Excitement churned through him, combining with his natural morning serenity to create a strange sense of giddiness, like a high. The room spun, the result of a lethargic, heady dizziness. Perhaps that was the remnants of his sleep deprivation.
His fingers brushed against the rippled skin behind Magnus’ balls, sliding smoothly as he spread the thick, clear gel in small circles. Magnus sighed, lowering himself to increase the pressure on Alec’s hand. Carefully, studying the warlock’s amorous, closed-eyed expression, Alec slid his index finger into the tight hole he’d been circling. Magnus’ head lolled back, lips parting as he instinctively rose and fell. Alec swallowed, short of breath just from watching the way Magnus moved over him. He slipped in a second finger, and Magnus flexed his hips forward, moaning quietly as he adjusted his angle.
Entranced as he was by Magnus’ pleasure, Alec realized he wasn’t sure where he should go from here—should he continue with his fingers? Add another one? He never wanted that euphoric expression to leave Magnus’ face. He craved it. Though he loathed to ruin the moment with the harshness of speech, he decided communication was the best policy.
“Should I do anything else… ?” he asked faintly after a few minutes of Magnus’ ardent gasps, his voice trailing off. “I wish I had more experience—for you.”
Magnus slowed his quavering, leaning slightly forward again to meet Alec’s gaze. The warlock’s eyes were almost black, engulfed by his pupils. Alec wondered if his were the same.
“I would like,” Magnus breathed, “for you to fuck me.”
Alec could hear his pulse in his ears. He withdrew his hand from beneath Magnus, and realized he was trembling. With Magnus’ hands to guide him, he smeared the rest of the lube over his dick. Magnus positioned himself above Alec, and the shadowhunter saw stars. The warlock lowered himself, and Alec felt a brief, luscious pressure on the head of his cock. Then Magnus’ tight rim slid around it. Alec gasped, grasping at the warlock's thighs, his hips, his waist. This felt way better than a blowjob. Alec could barely function, enslaved by Magnus’ deliberate, unhurried movements.
What is happening? Is this really happening? How is this happening? Alec’s head spun.
Magnus shifted his hips back and forth slightly, and Alec dropped his hands to the sheets, balling the fabric up in his fists. At this rate, he wouldn’t last two minutes. Finally, Magnus rested his weight on Alec completely, the full length of Alec’s cock buried inside of him. They paused like that, in silence, heavy breaths echoing off the walls of the bare-bones bedroom. After a moment to regain his sanity, Alec opened his eyes, though he didn’t remember closing them. Magnus stroked Alec’s chest, drawing the shadowhunter’s gaze upward, connecting with his.
Eyes locked, Magnus started to move again. Up—slowly, torturously. Down—gradually, agonizingly. Alec whimpered. Involuntarily, he thrust his hips. Magnus drew a sharp breath between his teeth, and at first Alec worried he might have hurt him. But the hiss-like sound devolved into a soft, purring moan, and Alec thrust again—this time more gently. This elicited another moan.
Struggling to keep his breathing even, he established a steady rhythm. Magnus’ cock oscillated between them, and Alec thought it must require attention. Shifting most of his weight against his right shoulder so he could continue fucking Magnus at the same pace, he raised his left hand—still slick with the remainder of the lube—and stroked tentatively up and down Magnus’ shaft.
“Oh gods, Alec,” Magnus gasped. Alec tried to maintain his rhythm like this, but quickly found himself teetering on the edge, enthralled by the way Magnus rolled his hips, sliding up and down over his cock. He couldn’t contain himself any longer. He pushed off of the bed, rolling them so Magnus toppled into the pillows, holding himself upright over the warlock with his lean muscled arms. Alec buried his face in Magnus’ neck, kissing and sucking as he continued to thrust.
“Fuck,” Magnus breathed, caught by surprise. What started as a coherent word melted into a wavering “Ohhhh” as Alec leaned on one elbow, returning to stroking Magnus with his other hand. Tension built again within him, his movements growing shaky and uncontrolled. His abs clenched, and he had to release his grip on Magnus’ cock to catch himself.
A delirious tightness gripped Alec’s whole body. Unable to channel this overwhelming feeling into anything else, he bit down on Magnus’ neck. Magnus yelped, fingernails digging red grooves into the pale skin of Alec’s back. Warmth flooded Alec, starting from his groin and permeating his body to every limb. He cried out, pressing deep into Magnus as he quivered.
He couldn’t think straight. Pleasure rolled through him. His breath bounced off the sweaty skin on Magnus’ neck and back against his own cheekbones, encircling his face in humid warmth. As his swirling mind started to settle, his thoughts returned immediately to Magnus, his hand returning to its previous mission. Magnus’ back arched, Alec still buried inside him, and he moaned at the new angle and the renewed stroking. Alec kissed his neck gently over where he had bitten, almost apologetically. This, finally, seemed to be what pushed the warlock over the edge, spilling come onto his own abs as his legs shook.
They both came down slowly, sighing at every small movement. After suitably showering Magnus in kisses, Alec rolled off of him, collapsing onto the blankets beside him. When Magnus had caught his own breath, he turned to see Alec staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, as if in shock. Alec seemed to realize he was being stared at, because he promptly turned onto his side to face Magnus, doe eyes still betraying his amazement. He reached out and rested a hand on Magnus’ waist, caressing his hip, his ribs, his back, like it was the most natural thing.
“Wow,” he finally managed. Magnus realized it was the first word Alec had said since they started. As far as reactions went, he could live with this one. He wiggled forward, snuggling into the shadowhunter’s body, and Alec let his arm fall to encircle him. They both breathed calmly now, sweat evaporating away.
“I mean,” Alec sputtered, “that was—that was really good. For me. Was it… was it good for you? Was that alright?”
He bent his head down so his face ended up buried in Magnus’ wild, sex-strewn hair. The warlock still smelled of sandalwood and cloves. Alec squeezed him tighter.
Magnus responded by wrapping his own arm around Alec, so they laid there holding each other, sharing warmth above the sheets. He grinned into Alec’s collarbone, a blissful laugh drifting out from between their bodies.
“Yes,” he answered, words muffled by the fact that his face was still pressed against Alec’s chest. “Yes, Alexander. It was good.”
Their hands wandered around each other, meandering lazily across backs and ribs and arms. Alec began to drift off again, lost in a satisfied cloud of contentment. Both of their breaths slowed, heartbeats pulsing in a steady, harmonizing rhythm. Alec wished this moment would never end.
A sharp rap at the door startled both of them out of their dozing state. Jace’s voice carried indistinctly through the heavy oak.
“Alec?” he called. “Are you in there? Are you alright? It’s almost noon!”
~ Closing Song ~
"Million Bucks" - Smallpools
"I used to be a skeptic non-believer,
but now it's changed, you're worth your weight in gold.
The richest love ain't growing on the trees out here,
but confidently, I can say I'm sold.
... I feel like a million bucks.
And I give no fucks, when I'm with you."
Chapter 10: Middlemist
Alec and Magnus sneak their way back into their normal routines, trying to fly below the radar. Alec finds an important piece of evidence to the Melusine investigation.
~ Opening Song ~
"All About You" - Hilary Duff
"You could be my dirty secret.
We could only be a rumor.
This is more than just a little thing, baby.
I can't wait until the next time—
Gonna kiss you in the daylight."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Alec? Are you in there? Are you alright? It’s almost noon!”
Shadowhunter and warlock alike froze, staring wide-eyed at each other.
Almost noon?! Alec mouthed, bewildered.
This broke their startled trance. Magnus melted into silent giggles. Alec shoved him off the bed, trying to frown at him but failing, instead stifling his own mute laughter. They scampered across the room.
“Alec? I know you’re in there! I can hear you. Open the door!” The handle rattled.
Alec swiped Magnus’ clothes off the floor, bundling them into a crumpled ball as they scooted toward Alec’s bathroom like deviant teenagers. Magnus scuttled inside, spinning to face Alec. Alec pressed Magnus’ bundled clothes into the warlock’s chest. He started to pull the door shut, then on second thought pushed it back open, catching the Magnus in a fervent kiss. Magnus dropped his clothes into a forgotten pile, seizing Alec’s face and abandoning himself in the moment.
Magnus’ lips followed Alec’s hungrily as the shadowhunter retreated, shooting the warlock one last devilish glance before clicking the door shut behind him. The chilly silence of the small, utilitarian bathroom closed in around the warlock. A simple black rug protected his bare toes from the cold, clean, grey tile below it. Magnus’ mischievous smile faded into a pensive frown in the sudden lonesomeness. He did not often find himself hiding naked in another man’s bathroom, and a few conflicting emotions trickled through his thoughts.
“Coming, one second!” Alec’s voice floated through the door quite clearly. Unlike the door between his bedroom and the hallway, this one was thinner and allowed a generous fraction of the sound cleanly through it. However, Magnus still could not hear Alec’s feather-light footsteps dashing around the room, and so he was taken by surprise when the door between them swung open again.
Alec stood before him, now fully dressed and handsome as ever in a plain black crew neck and black jeans. A well-worn leather jacket hung on one arm, the other half dangling behind him. Magnus couldn’t help but be a bit impressed at just how quickly Alec had thrown himself together.
“I hope we can finish this conversation later?” Alec meant the words to be smooth and confident, but they came out as a hopeful question, energetic and restless. Magnus’ short-lived, contemplative frown dissolved into a breathtaking smile.
Alec’s heart leapt. He leaned against the door, bouncing restlessly on his toes and teetering over the threshold, weight balanced on his arms which clung to the frame. One side of his mouth curled upward in a lopsided grin.
“We weren’t really doing much talking,” Magnus teased in a lighthearted murmur. He leaned in as Alec did, their lips only centimeters apart.
“I know,” Alec said softly, hesitating in place, teasing Magnus toward him. Behind the bedroom door across the room, Jace knocked again.
“That’s it, I’m coming in!”
Alec closed the tiny distance that remained between himself and the warlock, sweeping him into another ardent kiss. He clung to Magnus until the last possible second, tearing himself away and slamming the door between them just as Jace finished his Unlocking Rune on the door to the hallway.
The kiss left Magnus dazed and starry-eyed. He wanted to march out there and drag Alec back to the bed, banishing his annoying blonde parabatai once more to the hallway with a flick of his wrist. He wanted to tell everyone to leave Alec be, just for one day, just for a few hours. Instead, he waited and listened.
“Dude, what the hell?” The surprised umbrage in Alec’s voice impressed Magnus in its authenticity. When did Alexander Lightwood learn how to lie?
“Where have you been?” Jace demanded, heavier, brutish footsteps barreling into the room. “What’s going on with you?”
Alec very convincingly feigned annoyance. Such a grouchy demeanor had been his default the first few weeks Magnus had known him. Now the warlock wondered if it was just a defensive front, like his own tendency to mask himself in an aloof fog of excess and greed around all but his closest companions. When had the tall, handsome shadowhunter come to be counted among those numbers? Magnus couldn’t say.
“Enjoying a very brief four hours of sleep,” Alec responded, grumpy impatience dripping from every word. “Now that portaling is banned, we have to drive over an hour outside the city limits to get to and from Idris. That must be what mundanes feel like having to drag themselves around to regional airports.” He sounded less sympathetic than he did disgusted. The exhaustion in his voice was likely genuine—by Magnus’ math, Alec’s estimation of his sleep was right on point.
“Why is your Anti-Tracking Rune activated?” Jace’s tone remained accusatory and worried. Magnus heard a shuffle, then a curious Hmm from his dark-haired archer.
“I guess I forgot to deactivate it,” Alec sighed. “I really haven’t slept.”
He’s enjoying this, Magnus realized. He bit his lip, willing himself to remain completely still and silent. A tiny thrill hummed through him. Wicked little shadowhunter. How is he getting away with it? Magnus did not know much about parabatai bonds, but he knew enough to understand that a direct lie should not fly so smoothly.
Unless… he’s not lying. Magnus reviewed Alec’s exact words in his head. Someone’s been learning a thing or two from the Seelie. He had to admit, it turned him on a little bit, listening to Alec play mind games with Jace. It was completely unexpected. It excited him in ways the immortal warlock had not felt in a long time.
After another few rounds of verbal sparring, the voices of the two shadowhunters faded away, heavy oak door swinging closed behind them with a conclusive thud. Magnus waited another fifteen minutes, relishing the opportunity to snoop around Alec’s bedroom. To his disappointment, his cursory exploration revealed nothing embarrassing to use as banter fodder later.
He did find Alec’s underwear drawer—predictably full of functional, black boxer briefs that Magnus was sure the shadowhunter looked unbearably sexy in. He regretted not undressing him a bit more slowly the night before, and decided that next time, he would drag the process out and enjoy the show.
Unable to resist the temptation, he summoned a single pair of black, assless briefs and mixed them in with the rest of Alec’s underwear. Almost identical in build and texture to the others, they disappeared into the crowd of dark fabric. Satisfied with his devilment, he slipped out into the main hall, walking as if he visited with solemn purpose. Damn the portal ban. No one looked twice, accustomed to having Magnus wandering around to help with recent cases. He strolled onward and out into the early afternoon daylight.
Alec stared down at his phone, not really seeing the screen as his mind wandered. Should he text Magnus? What should he say? Should he wait a few hours to avoid seeming obsessive? Was he obsessive?
He leaned against a crumbling concrete staircase, waiting for Jace and Clary to regroup with him after casing one of Melusine’s potential hideouts. He refocused on the bright pixels, absent-mindedly opening his chat to reread the last message between himself and the warlock.
Magnus Bane - 04:29
In that case, I’m at the door.
I never disappoint you. 😉
I should definitely text him, Alec decided.
Alec Lightwood - 15:27
No, you never do. 😊
“Hey.” Jace’s voice beside him startled Alec. He jumped, instinctively reaching for his seraph blade. Jace laughed, holding an arm up in mock defense.
“You’re really off today, Alec. What’s going on?”
Alec shook his head, brushing off his parabatai’s concern.
“I told you. I just need to catch up on sleep. Are we going or not?”
“Yeah,” Jace said slowly, glancing questioningly back at Clary, as if to ensure he was not alone in his curiosity. “All clear.”
They slipped through the entrance to the dated apartment complex behind a very overwhelmed mundane mother, struggling to herd her three young children. Alec trailed, keeping Clary with her limited experience safely between himself and his parabatai.
An assortment of tired-looking characters lurked along the hallways, all mundane. They stooped on front steps, or went about their daily lives with windows and doors propped open to combat the lack of central cooling. Summer was just beginning to fade into Autumn, and the breeze outside blew chillier than the stagnant indoor air.
Alec turned the events of the past 24 hours over and over in his mind as he followed his companions upward. I had sex this morning. The phrase hovered awkwardly in his head, foreign and pleasing. He had never expected his first time to be so… unexpected. Only the day before, he had never kissed anyone—a source of consistent ribbing from Jace and Izzy. Now, he had an entire secret sex life they didn’t know about. That thought brought him strange satisfaction. This relationship—or whatever it was—with Magnus Bane was his. Only his to know about. Only his to think about. He liked it.
His attention wandered back down to his phone in his pocket. He fished it out, checking that Clary and Jace had their attention directed forward before unlocking it and scrolling down to his messenger app. Magnus had yet to view the message. He couldn’t blame him—only a few minutes had passed. Then, just before Alec closed the app, the warlock’s icon shifted downward to indicate that he had at just at that moment opened the chat and started viewing it. Alec paused, holding the phone out to see if Magnus would begin typing a response.
“Alec, everything okay?” Jace asked. Alec’s gaze shot upward, to where Clary and Jace had gained almost half a floor of a lead on him without him noticing. Clary peered down at him from beside her brother, both of them clearly concerned by his preoccupation.
“Uh, yeah, sorry,” Alec answered. He quickly shoved the phone away.
Distracted by my phone on a mission, he scolded himself. I’m acting like a child. The mission comes first.
At the top of the staircase, the shadowhunters met a similar scene as the one on the first floor. Open doors, a few residents loitering in the hallways. Along one wall, white paint crumbled away to reveal a neutral, greyish blue underneath. One thin, bony man smoked a cigarette at the end of the hallway, blowing the smoke out of the open window. The three of them approached, careful not to bump into him as they examined one of the few closed doors—the unit they had been tipped off about. Jace produced his stele, preparing to draw a subtle Unlocking Rune underneath the handle—the second time he would be using it so far that day.
Alec fought off a smile, recalling how giggly and giddy he and Magnus had been while fleeing from his parabatai only a few hours before. As if on cue, he felt his phone buzz in his pocket. A resounding, clear ding echoed down the hall. The man next to the window stood up straight, searching confusedly around. A few other individuals glanced around as well, unsure where it had come from. None of them reached for their own pockets, and Alec realized they probably didn’t own smartphones. The tone chimed again.
Clary shot him a snarky glance.
“What’s the point of an Invisibility Rune if you don’t silence your phone?” she asked, failing to fight off a grin. Alec flushed, almost dropping the phone in his rush to mute the notifications.
Childish, he repeated to himself, unsure whether he was continuing his earlier self-scolding, or referring to Clary turning his own words back against him.
They remained frozen by the door for some time, waiting for the mundanes to return their attention elsewhere before opening it delicately and sneaking inside.
“This is a bust,” Clary sighed some time later, running her thin fingers through her curls. “I found some dirty dishes in the kitchen, but aside from that, it doesn't look like she spent much time here. And we’re running out of daylight. Izzy, Simon, and I are meeting Rafael tonight.”
“You head out,” Alec directed. “Jace and I can finish up here.” He ignored the buzzing in his pocket.
“Who is that?” Jace asked. “Is your phone broken?”
Unlike most Shadowhunters, who tended to be very economical texters—consolidating information into one or two concise messages—Magnus Bane had a habit of bombarding Alec with dozens of tiny messages at once. He wrote in small fragments, sometimes taking three or four texts to complete a single sentence. Alec’s phone danced away, muffled vibrations echoing across the room.
“I think something’s wrong with it,” Alec agreed quickly. He held the power button, shutting it off. Clary raised an eyebrow in his direction. Jace shook his head skeptically, but did not press the matter.
“I’ll see you guys later, then,” Clary said. She checked through the peephole before opening the front door and slinked away past the dawdling mundanes. Alec felt an uncharacteristic moment of pride. He had taught her to do that. It would not be very covert to have invisible shadowhunters swinging doors open haphazardly without ensuring no mundanes would see it first. He brushed the brief emotion away swiftly. Clary Fairchild was not his friend.
With Clary gone, Jace turned purposefully toward Alec, changing the subject as if he had been waiting a while for the opportunity.
“Alec, I need to ask you something.”
Alec paused his wandering, directing his full attention to his parabatai.
“What’s going on?”
“Hodge had this,” Jace lifted his hand, and a ring materialized on it. “A Seelie ring. Valentine has the other one.”
“You’ve been talking to him?” Horror and adrenaline rushed Alec’s bloodstream. “How often? Jace, why would you think this is okay?”
“Just once or twice. But Alec, he wants me to join him.”
“And… what?” Alec demanded. “You’re considering it? Are you insane? What’s wrong with you?”
“Not the way you’re thinking,” Jace defended. “This is an opportunity.”
“Oh. Sure. An opportunity to get you killed.”
“Alec, listen. He has the cup. This could be our only in. It’s an easy one. With anyone else you’d allow it, and you know it.”
Alec didn’t respond. Jace had a point. And the irony of his displeasure at Jace hiding these conversations was not lost on him. He was upset with his parabatai, but he could not blame him. At least Jace had brought it up now.
“Can we talk about this later?” Alec finally asked. “We would need a lot of careful planning.” He ran his hand through his hair, possibilities swarming his brain. Jace was rash. Alec would find a different way to retrieve the Mortal Cup.
They continued their search of the tiny apartment. After several minutes, Jace’s voice echoed from the kitchen.
“Clary’s right. This is useless. Does this building have any cameras?”
“No, Jace, I really don’t think so.” Alec ambled after Jace into the kitchen, eyes skimming over the array of dirty bowls and falling on three spice jars stacked in the corner.
“Middlemist,” Alec observed portentously, lifting the top jar and examining the bright pink petals.
“What?” Jace asked, confused.
“This flower. I’ve seen it before,” Alec mumbled.
“Where?” Jace questioned, baffled. He almost sounded impressed.
Magnus’, Alec thought.
“It’s used in magic,” he said aloud. Powerful spells, he wanted to add. But he was not ready to explain where he learned that information. “We should take all of this. Get it back to the Institute so Izzy can take a look at it when they’re back from the Hotel Du Mort.” Magnus, too.
Outside the building, Alec powered his phone back on.
Magnus Bane - 15:58
That might be the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.
I’m home now, btw.
I forgot for a minute about the portals
That I’ve been blocking them.
But I walked right out.
I’m basically a shadowhunter.
You’d be proud.
Magnus Bane - 16:47
Why is your sister bringing Camille to my house?
~ Closing Song ~
"Overseas" - Middlemist Red
"Don't get me wrong, but there's a life after you.
Where were you when I really needed you?"
Chapter 11: Worst Nites
After Izzy, Clary, and Simon break Camille out of the Hotel DuMort, Alec walks in on an unpleasant surprise at Magnus' apartment.
~ Opening Song ~
"Eyes on Fire" - Blue Foundation
"And just in time, in the right place,
suddenly I will play my ace.
I won't soothe your pain.
I won't ease your strain.
You'll be waiting in vain.
I got nothing for you to gain."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I can’t believe you let Camille out,” Alec admonished. “You were supposed to be the responsible one on this mission, Iz.” He strode behind her up the stairs toward Magnus’ apartment. His heart hammered erratically. Aside from a quick exchange confirming that Magnus had made his way out of the Institute unaccosted, Alec had yet to talk to him since stashing him away in his bathroom that morning. He wanted to sit down with him in person, pour them both a glass of wine, and figure out what they meant to each other. Admittedly, he also wanted to do more than talk—longing to feel the warlock’s lips on his, taste his breath. He wanted to know that last night was as meaningful to Magnus as it had been to him.
But for now, the mission came first.
Alec’s nerves accelerated as they traipsed into the apartment. He heard Camille’s voice, low and sultry, mumble something unintelligible. He picked up the word “angel.” When he turned the corner, he stopped in his tracks.
Magnus and Camille stood lip-locked. Alec’s heart dropped. The two immortals fit together intimately, in a way two people could only learn to do after years of familiarity.
Did I do something? Alec wondered. Is he upset with me? He recalled the salty tone of the warlock’s voice when he last spoke of Camille, and considered that maybe they had some unresolved issues that Alec had blinded himself to. Centuries of on-again off-again romance was likely difficult to just brush under the rug. He should have known better.
His initial wave of self-blame and dejection melted away, leaving behind an icy shell of hurt anger. Did the last 24 hours even mean anything to him in the first place? Maybe he really is more of the casual, freewheeling type. Confusion boiled in Alec’s chest.
No one ever cares for me the way I care for them. How could he have forgotten that one, very important rule?
Magnus extricated himself from the vampiress’ arms and skittered backwards, distancing himself from her.
“Well, this is awkward,” the warlock observed, panic-stricken.
Alec let his eyes slide over the pair of them, masking his distress behind a disdainful stare. He held his tongue.
The mission comes first.
“Where’s the book?” he asked.
“It’s… complicated,” Magnus answered, turning fully toward Alec and stepping in his direction. Face blank, the archer took a matching step backward. Alec wondered if the warlock was still referring to the book.
“Clearly,” he said shortly, eyes returning to Camille. She piped up at the attention, leaning out from behind Magnus. There was something uncomfortable about the way she sized Alec up, as if he were some curious new dish she’d never eaten before.
“I have it!” she volunteered, an underhanded smile curving across her lips as she examined Alec in more detail. She made no attempt to mask her hungry fascination.
“... and she’s graciously offered it in exchange for her freedom!” Magnus added. He glanced between Camille and the shadowhunters, eyes wide. He always spoke with his hands when he got nervous, waving them around like a drunken Italian. He did so now, gesturing toward the manipulative vampire as he spoke directly to Alec, tone pleading.
“And her freedom requires a lip-lock?” Izzy chimed in. Magnus turned to her briefly, holding up his ring-clad index finger in betrayal, as if he had expected her sympathy. Alec shot her a sideways glance, wishing she would leave the topic alone. He quickly cut in, steering the conversation firmly back toward the mission.
“We don’t negotiate with prisoners,” he informed Camille. He closed some of the space between them so his height towered imposingly over her. Looking down on her so sharply gave him an air of confident dismissiveness.
“Prisoner?” Camille asked. She took one step back, away from Alec’s commanding frame, positioning herself to keep Magnus between them. “I beg to disagree. You see, I’m your only chance at saving the world. You need me.” She smiled, shrewd and cunning.
Alec lifted his eyes disinterestedly from Camille’s speech and found Magnus’ deep brown gaze waiting for him. The warlock mimed a desperate spinning motion over his ear. She’s crazy, he silently pleaded. Alec kept his expression even as he dropped his regard deliberately back to the vampire, completely ignoring Magnus’ attempts to further catch his attention. Magnus gave up, staring forlorn at one of his bookshelves across the room.
“You certainly have a type, don’t you, Magnus?” Camille continued. She eyed Alec wittingly, as if she knew something very important that he did not. Her lips stretched into a smile to reveal her perfect teeth. “He’s cute. Too bad it won’t last.”
Izzy bristled again, jumping to her brother’s defense despite having little to no idea about the true nature of Alec and Magnus’ relationship.
“Say that again, you won’t last,” Izzy threatened.
“Will you cut it out?” Alec snapped, more to Izzy than anyone else. Her over-intense reactions only exacerbated the situation. Alec would think it sweet that she defended his crushes so fiercely, if it weren’t so mortifying.
“I’d say he’s about 20 years from male pattern baldness,” Camille taunted. Alec rolled his eyes. Even immortals can act like adolescents.
“Alright, I don’t have time for this,” he said, cutting off any further squabbling. He ignored the two women and looked straight back to Magnus, his countenance completely professional and devoid of emotion aside from a small, disconcertingly polite half-smile, as if he and the warlock barely knew each other. If Alec was good at one thing, it was apathy.
“Where’s Clary?” he asked, all business.
The mission comes first.
Magnus stared at the floor like a scolded child and pointed to the next room. Without any further words, Alec brushed past him and as far from the situation as he could get while still doing his job.
“I think… The Man Who,” Clary suggested. She leaned forward from her spot in the back of Simon’s van, resting her chin on the shoulder of the driver’s seat where Simon slouched casually. He skipped through songs on his phone, never letting one play for more than ten seconds. Alec rolled his eyes, staring out of the passenger side window. The Alucard building towered in front of them, wealthy mundanes and downworlders alike bustling in and out of the main entrance.
“I don’t know,” Simon mused. “I’m thinking he’d be a Foster the People kind of guy.”
“Oh my gosh,” Clary declared, “Yes! You are so right.” She changed focus, turning to Alec. “Alec, you have to listen to them.” She tapped a delicate hand on to Alec’s shoulder for emphasis. Alec brushed it away with a disapproving glance, then returned his eyes to the grandiose doorway of the Alucard.
“This is a stakeout,” he scolded boredly. “You should be watching for Circle members and vampires, not DJ-ing. Music is a distraction.” How do they still have this much energy after so long in here? Is this exciting to them?
“Aw, come on,” Simon implored. “Just one song. You’ll love it—I promise.”
“That seems ambitious,” Alec deadpanned. His gaze did not shift, remaining disinterested and focused on their target.
“I’m putting it on!” Simon announced.
“How did I get stuck with this job?” Alec asked the window.
“You volunteered,” Simon answered unhelpfully. “Are you avoiding your sister? You seem tense. Well, more tense than usual.”
Izzy strolled by across the street, a random passerby to anyone who didn’t know to look for her. Her elegant navy cocktail dress shimmered under the glow of the street lights. Alec considered fleeing the van and ordering Izzy to switch with him, but she blended in to the affluent city block much more naturally than he would, and Magnus also wandered somewhere else nearby, whom Alec was unprepared to face. He ruminated on the swirl of events that brought him to the current moment.
So much had happened. How was he supposed to process it all? Would seeking out Magnus to hear his side be naive? Would it exacerbate Alec’s heartache? He remembered how comfortably he and Magnus had awoken. He tapped his finger absent-mindedly against his knee, trying to make sense of his feelings.
“See? I told you you’d like it!” Simon’s chatter cut in to Alec’s woolgathering. His eyes fell on Simon’s phone screen.
‘Worst Nites.' What an irritatingly appropriate title.
“You should smile more, Alec,” Clary said, twirling a curl of hair around her finger. “You’re always so solemn and serious all the time. You know, it’s okay to relax and just enjoy some music every once in awhile.”
Alec frowned. The image of Camille sucking on Magnus’ face returned to the forefront of his thoughts, thinning his already fragile patience.
“Mundanes like weird music. And I’m not relaxing. You shouldn’t be either. We’re on a mission.”
“... or not.” Clary fell back into her seat with a huff.
A knock on the glass next to Alec’s face drew everyone’s attention sharply to his window. Izzy leaned against the car, motioning them to roll it down. Alec obliged.
“Slacking off on the job, big brother?” she teased. “Ooh, nice song choice. Since when do you listen to modern music? Is it Jace’s playlist?”
“Oh, he doesn’t,” Simon poked his head around Alec, holding up his phone. “It’s mine.”
“Ah,” she crooned. “I should have known better than to credit Alec for good music with you in the car, Simon.”
“What is with you people today?” Alec grumbled. Izzy snickered.
“Anyways, I think we’re good,” Izzy said. “No one in or out. Jace is on his way.”
“Tell him to meet us up there,” Alec instructed. He swung the door open, eager to stretch his legs and desperate not to spend a single minute longer trapped in a small space with the little redhead girl and her pet vampire.
Books stacked floor to ceiling in the ornate apartment, occupying walls of built-in shelves. The group sifted through them, entirely unsure where to start, or what to look for. Magnus shot Alec furtive glances at every opportunity, which Alec willfully did not acknowledge.
The mission comes first. Alec made a point of prowling through different rooms than the warlock, keeping his focus on the books. Clary’s voice from the other room caught his ear.
“I’m not leaving without it... you said yourself. We have to stay on mission.” Something about her tone alarmed him. Alec beelined for her, lifting the phone from her grip.
“Hey!” Clary exclaimed.
“Look for your book,” Alec ordered. Clary pouted, but obeyed.
“Jace,” Alec said. “What’s going on?”
“Valentine is on the way,” Jace warned.
“Understood.” Alec ended the call, circling through the rooms. Clary was just going to ignore that? Not warn us? Reckless. “Everyone out,” he called. “We’ve got to go. Now.” Alec refused to endanger everyone he cared about for the sake of Jocelyn Fairchild. Clary’s mother would be just fine sleeping another few days.
All around him, hands dropped books and darted to blades. Feet strode toward the door. All except for Clary and Simon.
She’s going to be the death of us all, Alec groaned inwardly, darting around the apartment in search of her. He found her in the first room they investigated, staring down at a plain, mundane cookbook, Simon hovering over her shoulder.
“This is it,” she declared. In front of her the pages shimmered, transforming into an ancient tome.
“You did it!” Simon proclaimed. Alec opened his mouth to snap at them to hurry up, but Izzy’s voice rang out from behind him, beating him to it.
“We gotta go. He’s here.”
They dashed to the door, but they were too late. Rough hands with a shadowhunter’s strength grabbed Alec from behind, a glowing blade pressed to his neck. Izzy and Simon found themselves in similar predicaments, leaving Clary standing helpless and alone with her magic book.
Where’s Magnus? Alec realized. Panic seeped into his veins.
“Where’s your brother?” Valentine asked his daughter. Clary hugged the book tighter.
“You think I’d tell you?”
“You won’t have to,” Valentine answered. Simon broke free of his restraint, easily outmatching his shadowhunter adversary with his still unfamiliar vampire strength.
“Stay away from her!” The resulting scuffle ended in an instant, Valentine lunging for Simon, and Izzy knocking his blade hand aside with a crack of her whip. Alec’s eyes scanned the room again. No blood. No sign of any other violence.
Magnus, where are you?
“Stop!” Jace exclaimed, crashing into the room. Alec seized the distraction. He dropped his weight, ducking under the seraph blade that threatened him as it scraped against his face. The newly-minted Circle member grabbed at him, but Alec caught him with an elbow, knocking his breath away. This man might be a shadowhunter by blood, but he did not have the lifetime of training that Alec did.
Chaos broke out. Simon darted off the floor in a blur of vampiric speed, dashing straight to Clary. Izzy and Alec rounded on the remaining Circle members. Jace and Valentine danced around each other, neither of them able to land a blow.
Clary screamed something to Simon, and Alec turned to see another dozen Circle members streaming into the room through the doorway. Behind him, a resounding thud pulled his attention back toward Jace and his father, who grappled on the antique hardwood floor. Jace pinned Valentine’s arm down, reaching out for his blade a few feet away as if he intended to cut it off, like he had to Hodge. Valentine wrested himself away from Jace’s grip. A subtle glimmer caught Alec’s eye, rolling across the floor toward him.
“Alec!” Jace called. Alec did not require explanation from his parabatai. He swiped Valentine’s Seelie ring off the floor in one fluid motion as he dashed to Jace’s aid, pulling him to his feet. The flood of Circle members reached them then, restraining Alec and leaving Jace to face Valentine alone. One of Valentine’s men scuffled in from another room, Magnus held in front of him with his arms twisted behind him. Relief surged through Alec, unexpected dizziness spinning the room around him. They all stood, tension crackling between them as each person waited for anyone else to make a move.
“Let us go!” Clary cried. “You can have the book. We can’t stop you without it.”
“Ah, Clarissa,” Valentine sighed. “So like your mother. Willing to do anything for those that you love. I’m touched… but the book was never part of my plan.” He paused, as if to let this new information sink in. ”I want you to wake up your mother. I know that you’ll both join me eventually.” He turned then to his son. “You ready?”
Jace looked to Alec. Alec shook his head. Don’t.
“If I go with you, promise me you won’t hurt them.” Jace said.
“You have my word.”
“This is insane!” Clary cut in.
“I’m sorry, Clary,” Jace said. He dropped his blade.
“Jace, what are you doing? You can’t be serious! Valentine is wrong. You’re not like him. I’m not. You’re not!” Clary’s voice cracked. Alec stared at the floor. He remembered Jace’s recent fears, terrified he would somehow turn out exactly like his father. What if going with Valentine wound up convincing Jace of exactly that?
“You don’t know that,” Jace answered sadly, soothing Clary as best he could. Alec could feel his lies strongly through the bond. Jace was playing up his confusion, bolstering Valentine’s sick need to control him. For now, at least, it was all an act.
“Let them go,” Valentine commanded. His minions lowered their weapons. Alec subtly slipped the Seelie ring onto his finger.
We can fight now, he thought to Jace, activating the ring. Let’s think this through.
“Get back,” Jace charged as everyone started toward him at once. “Get back!”
Jace, don’t, Alec thought. He had barely moved a muscle to step toward his parabatai when Jace turned on him.
“Alec, I mean it!” Let me go. We need to do this. You know we do.
Alec halted, his lips drawn into a thin line. I don’t like it.
Neither do I. I’ll keep in touch. Take care of Clary for me, will you?
Alec nodded. Further argument would be useless now. He had no choice but to trust his parabatai. Be careful.
With that, Jace followed Valentine past the shadowhunters and back out the front door he had just entered through. He shot one last meaningful glance in their direction before disappearing. Clary called out to him, stumbling toward the empty doorway. Alec caught her, holding her back.
“What are you doing?” she howled.
“Saving your life, and probably all of ours,” Alec murmured into her ear. “Let him go.”
The remaining Circle members began to file out after the Morgenstern men. The one holding Magnus, tall and tanned, shoved the warlock onto the floor.
“He told us to spare the shadowhunters for his son’s sake,” he snarled. “He didn’t say anything about the downworlders.”
The world moved in slow motion.
The man pointed his seraph blade downward, plunging it toward Magnus’ chest. Magnus’ hands shot up defensively, a pale blue fire coiling in his palms. Izzy, Simon, and Clary’s heads twisted around, observing, but not yet understanding what they were seeing. Only Alec’s eyes had already been searching in that direction.
No! Alec activated his Speed Rune on instinct. His body shot forward, a blur of motion. When he stopped, he knelt in front of Magnus, facing the Circle member. His seraph blade was buried in the man’s chest. The faintly glowing edge protruded from the stranger’s back, stained with scarlet. A paltry orb of azure light whistled by Alec’s face from behind him, sailing past the dying man several inches wide of its target. Magnus would have missed.
Alec leaned in close, whispering in the hateful shadowhunter’s ear so no one else could hear him. All the frustration and anger from the past several weeks seethed venomously into his words.
“That downworlder is a better man than you will ever be.” He yanked his blade free. The stranger fell heavily to the side, air rushing from his lungs with grievous finality. Alec channeled his remaining aggression into chucking his seraph blade to the side, spinning on his knees to face Magnus. The blade clattered loudly across the floor.
Alec spoke to the warlock softly. “Are you okay?”
Magnus remained curled on his back, hands raised in front of him. He reached for Alec’s outstretched arm, sitting up.
“I’m alright,” he stared, eyes round. “Did you just save my life?”
Alec’s hands shook. He tried to think of something smooth to say. Instead, he just shrugged. He stood, pulling the warlock up with him.
I guess now would be a bad time to ask him about us. He became suddenly aware of Izzy, Simon, and Clary watching, all still recovering from the scare. Clary sniffled, and Simon wrapped a protective arm around her.
“Let’s get out of here,” Alec adjured. He steadied Magnus, who still seemed a bit shaken, then spun and strode away. He listened to ensure that they followed, but did not look back. He refused to let them all see just how afraid he had been.
~ Closing Song ~
"Bet On You" - The Man Who
"Why won't you look at me?
I'm trying to make you see,
one of these days gonna get it right.
... After all the hell we've been through,
I still bet on you."
TL;DR Diana steals a bunch of stuff from the show and books and slightly alters it so we can focus on the characters who really matter: the GHEYS.
Bonus feature: One, single, short original scene between the plagiarized content to even out the pacing and trick people into thinking I’m creative.
Thanks so much to LaCroixWitch for your help writing Camille!
Chapter 12: Guardian Angel
The team returns from Camille's apartment, tired and defeated. Magnus and Alec broach a difficult topic.
Thanks so much for your patience, everyone! I just landed in Mexico today, so couldn't get the chapter out as early as I normally would due to my traveling. But now I'm sitting on the beach nursing a tequila sunrise, so here it is! I hope you enjoy! <3
~ Opening Song ~
"We Won't" - Jaymes Young & Phoebe Ryan
"Are we just gonna stay like this forever?
Floating? I'm serious. My heart is furious.
'Cause I'm so confused when we're together—
Feels like I'm choking, these emotions.
I know I'm gonna let you down.
... I wish I could say what I'm feeling
I'm scared to let these words out."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec could not relax until his disheartened group of shadowhunters and downworlders scuffed through the doors of the Institute. For once, Clary and Simon remained silent. He was grateful for that, at least. He surveyed them, ensuring no one required any extensive healing.
Jace, you still there? He reached out tentatively through the Seelie ring.
I’m hiding the ring for now. You won’t hear from me until tomorrow. Get some sleep. I need you on top of your game. His parabatai’s voice slipped away.
“Everyone get some sleep,” Alec directed tiredly once they reached the main hall. “We need to be ready for anything.”
“What?” Clary finally roused from her quiet shock, jumping directly into passionate outrage.
Back to herself already, I see. Alec recalled then that he had yet to fill anyone in on Jace’s plan. He had been waiting until they returned, but his fatigue took the front seat the moment he walked in the door.
“You’re just going to let your parabatai remain hostage?” Clary continued, “Do you care about him at all ?”
Alec’s temper flared at the accusation. Clary had known Jace for how long? She has no right.
“Hey!” he snapped. “Don’t you dare suggest I don’t care about Jace!” The frustration and anger from earlier returned, a crackling cloud of blurry feelings. His head throbbed behind his eyes, reminding him of just how little sleep he had gotten in the past few days. Contrary to what one would expect of such extreme exhaustion, it flooded him with an unsettled, antsy energy. He towered over Clary. Her brow furrowed stubbornly, ready to accuse him of further betrayals.
I killed a man literally an hour ago, Alec reflected. Test me again. Fatigue muddied his thoughts. His expression must have betrayed his angry frustration, because next to Clary, Simon took a half step back.
“Alexander…” Magnus’ voice cut through the heavy haze that blanketed Alec’s mind.
You’re tired. Simmer down. Alec calmed himself, regaining composure.
“Jace has been my brother a lot longer than he’s been your… whatever you two are to each other,” he commented coolly, one brow raised.
Clary flushed. Next to him, Alec heard a quiet “oof” from the warlock.
“Come with me,” Alec ordered. The entire group followed. He lead them to his office—one of the most heavily warded rooms in the Institute—and locked the door behind them.
“I couldn’t exactly explain the situation outside of the Institute,” he started. “You never know who’s listening in. Here, at least, we can be safe from prying ears and spells.” Alec examined the small squad of mismatched people before him—one shadowhunter, one shadowhunter-in-training, a baby vampire, and the High Warlock of Brooklyn. They were screwed. He held up his right hand to their expectant gazes, de-glamouring the Seelie ring on his third finger.
“Jace went with Valentine willingly,” Alec explained. “He has the other ring—the one Valentine used to communicate with Hodge.”
“Won’t Valentine notice his ring is missing?” Simon asked, stating the obvious. “Wasn’t he, like, wearing it?”
Alec nodded. “Yeah, Jace knocked it off of him during the fight. It wasn’t exactly well-planned on his part. Which is why I wanted to discuss things further before letting him go in. But the opportunity arose and I couldn’t stop him—as usual. Now we just have to do our best to be ready when he needs us. So Clary,” Alec redirected his attention to the headstrong redhead. “may we please get some sleep so that we can be useful to him?”
Clary crossed her arms. “You could have just said that,” she grumbled.
“Great,” Alec smiled thinly, failing to mask his dry tone. “Then you are all dismissed. We’ll discuss our next move in the morning.”
Alec couldn’t place the storm of frustration, anger, exhaustion, anguish, and general bleakness that coursed through him. So many things had happened, and he had so little sleep to fuel any rational reaction to it all. He just wanted to go to bed.
He flipped the overhead light off as the others began to file out, leaving only the tenuous, golden glow of his desk lamp casting long shadows across the study. Savoring the relief of quiet darkness, he collapsed into his chair, sinking his head into his hands. Everything felt wrong. He wondered if he even had the strength to pick himself back up out of the chair and drag himself to his room. He considered sleeping at his desk—it would not be the first time.
“Alexander?” The voice came timidly. Alec lifted his gaze. Magnus Bane still hovered in the doorway. “Can we speak?”
Alec considered refusing, sending the warlock away. He was not entirely sure he could hold a proper conversation at the moment. But he could not bring himself to crush the tiny flicker of hope in Magnus’ eyes. And then there was the fact that Alec really, really just wanted to be near him. Another spark of frustrated hurt twisted in his chest at that realization.
“Sit,” he answered gruffly. He lifted his shoulders back up, leaning one elbow wearily on his chair. Magnus edged back into the room, closing the door with barely a noise. He approached the desk, but remained standing, shifting uneasily on his feet.
“I just want to say thank you. For saving my life… again,” Magnus put forth. “Maintaining the portal blocking spell has been taking a greater toll on me than I realized. I’m lucky you were there. I know you’re probably exhausted—I certainly am—so I’ll leave it at that for now. But I hope we can talk later.”
He spun to leave after the brief speech, ending the conversation before it had even begun. Alec kept his eyes fixed on the warm woodgrain of his desk, dimmed to a dark espresso in the gloom.
“No,” he said.
Magnus froze, still facing the door.
“No?” he asked softly. “All that, and you won’t even speak to me now? You just killed a man for me, Alec. How often have you done such a thing?” He turned back to face the enervated archer, eyes searching. “It’s not the same as demons.”
“No, not later,” Alec clarified, his voice gravelly. “Now.” He pointed to the chair on the other side of his desk. “I won’t sleep otherwise,” the shadowhunter admitted reluctantly.
Magnus froze, speechless. He took a moment to pull himself together, then returned to Alec’s desk and seated himself cautiously. Alec waited, unsure where to start. Finally, Magnus took the plunge for him.
“I know you don’t want to hear it, so I’ll just say it once. Whatever I felt for Camille, it’s ancient history. Almost literally.”
“Then why?” It was all Alec could muster. He wove his fingers together on the desk in front of him. The choler that had plagued him since that afternoon crumbled away, leaving Alec with nothing to articulate except his crushing insecurity. “Magnus, if this thing between us is just a casual fling to you, I need to know.”
The overwhelming weight of that possibility quelled the last of the irate energy that sustained Alec over the past few hours. He rested his elbows heavily on the desk, resigned to whatever answer the warlock might give. He had not realized just how afraid the potential answer made him.
“Alexander, no, of course not.” Magnus faltered forward, hands wrapping around Alec’s. The shadowhunter tensed, but was too tired to tear them away. He allowed them to rest in Magnus’ grip. His heart reeled. The warlock continued. “Camille, when she sees something that is good, she destroys it. She’s bitter, and ugly. And resentful. I think a part of her will always loathe the happiness of others, because she’s too far gone to ever find any herself.”
“She did that… deliberately?” Alec dropped his head, resting his forehead on the inner creases of his elbows while his hands remained encompassed by the warlock’s. “But how would she even know?” his voice echoed in the space between his arms and the desk.
“She… smelled you.”
Alec’s head shot back upward, one eyebrow raised. “She smelled me? What are you trying to say?”
Magnus briefly struggled to control the giggle that bubbled up at Alec’s suddenly offended tone. He stifled the laugh immediately, not wanting to exacerbate the shadowhunter’s confused unease. Of course, that would be the detail that the shadowhunter focused in on.
“Alexander, you were inside of me less than twenty-four hours ago. A single shower is not going to wash that scent away from a nose as discerning as a millennium-old vampire’s.”
Alec did not know how to respond to that. His insides churned. He wanted to stay upset, but a flicker of satisfaction sparked in his chest at the memory.
“I… ” He squeezed Magnus’ fingers, trailing off. Magnus squeezed back.
“It’s okay,” the warlock soothed. “It’s a lot. It’s been a crazy few days. I get it.” Magnus began to rise, but Alec held his hands firmly, locking him in place.
“Two.” he said. He stared downward again, his heart in his throat. He had never discussed this with anyone before, not even Jace.
“Two what?” Magnus asked, tilting his head. He sat back down, sensing this was an important admission.
“Two people,” Alec answered. He could not keep his eyes away from the warlock’s for long. He ached for how Magnus seemed to always stare straight into him, enraptured, like Alec was the only thing that mattered. “The Circle member in Camille’s apartment today, and the one in your club, a couple months ago. The first time we met.”
Magnus held Alec’s gaze, and Alec saw his own reflection defined more sharply than before in the new sheen over the warlock’s eyes.
“Both for me,” Magnus whispered. Alec nodded. “My guardian angel.”
Magnus sounded heartbroken. He stared down at their joined hands, his voice wavering.
Alec found himself on the other side of the desk before his thoughts could catch up with his actions. His lips melted into Magnus’. He tasted just as Alec remembered—had it really only been less than a day since they last kissed? Every fraction of a second crawled by, extended infinitely by Alec’s drowsy mind. He savored it. Welcomed it. He somehow ended up on the chair with Magnus, kneeling over him.
“I need to sleep,” Alec sighed after what might have been hours, but was only minutes. He no longer wanted to, but he already drifted dangerously in and out of consciousness.
“Come sleep at my place,” Magnus urged faintly, his head drooping against the back of the chair as Alec brushed tired lips over his neck.
“I can’t,” Alec said. He disentangled himself from Magnus sluggishly, standing up. He swayed as he rose. When he saw the warlock’s forlorn expression, he elaborated. “I just really need sleep, and, at your place… ” Alec could feel his pulse in his fingertips. He left the last part unsaid. I won’t.
Magnus’ pupils dilated. He followed Alec up, standing, then pressed the shadowhunter against the desk. Alec suppressed a moan, grabbing the back of Magnus’ head as the warlock kissed his neck, his collarbone, his ear. Both of them breathed heavily when they broke apart.
“Sweet dreams, Alexander,” the warlock whispered.
“Good night, Magnus Bane.”
The warlock’s lips twitched upward at Alec’s use of his full name. He dragged himself off of Alec’s body, and almost lost himself in his shadowhunter’s half-asleep smile. It took all of his willpower to turn himself around and walk away.
~ Closing Song ~
"All Night" - The Vamps
"I been up all night, no sleep,
'Cause I feel like I'm always dreaming.
... I'm never gonna find my way if I don't learn to let go.
The past is the past, today is today, and there's things I can't control.
The circles underneath my eyes tell the truth that I've been trying to hide.
I've been waiting for you way too long.
Won't you come and take me home?
Oh I, I'm praying this ain't all a dream.
Can you wake me up before you leave?"
Chapter 13: Morning Debrief I
Alec and Clary both cope with Jace's absence. Magnus distracts Alec from the weight of his responsibilities.
Sent to you with love from Cozumel. <3
~ Opening Song ~
"Tunnel" - Michigander
"Where you gonna go if you're not by my side?
... Tell me what you find on the other side.
... I don't wanna cause no trouble.
I just wanna be the one you need."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec’s eyes fluttered open to pale moonlight streaming in to his bedroom. He glanced around, confused. The room was empty.
“Jace?” he asked aloud, his mind still foggy from sleep.
Alec, you there?
Alec shot up in bed, fingers skimming over the ring on his right hand.
Sorry, he apologized. You’d think after a week I’d be used to this. He slid out from under his sheets, meandering to his bathroom to splash water on his face. Everything okay?
Define okay, Jace answered wryly. Valentine’s lackey army is growing and I can’t get anywhere near the cup.
Do you want us to come get you?
No. I’m just checking in to give you a heads up. He’s hunting down some werewolf girl today. One of Luke’s.
I’ll let him know. Silence filled the connection for a moment. Jace broke it hesitantly.
She’s hanging in there. Your sister is strong. She’s throwing herself into training. She misses you. Alec immediately regretted reminding Jace of his emotional predicament as silence fell again. You sure you don’t want to come home?
Of course I want to come home. Jace sounded pained even through their thoughts. But I can’t yet.
I understand. The mission comes first. Alec pulled a shirt over his head, resigning himself to being awake. Hang in there. And, Jace?
Sorry for letting the Clave declare you a criminal. It’s just hard to keep your cover if you’re not being… you know… hunted down.
I know, buddy. We’ll work it out when I get back. Alec heard a breathy sound, like a sigh. I’ll check in later, Jace added.
Fully dressed, Alec wandered to the espresso machine. The familiar, syrupy scent of rose and soy surprised him at this early hour. He forewent the coffee and headed toward the training room. Thumps and blows echoed down the hallway. As he approached, he discerned heavy breathing—female, more delicate than most of the others in the Institute.
Clary Fairchild hunched in front of a hanging bag, kicking and hitting in steady rhythm. The skin over her knuckles shone red.
Looks like we had the same idea. Alec shuffled into the room, circling her thoughtfully. Clary glanced at him once, transiently, then returned pointedly to her venting.
“Drop your elbows,” Alec instructed. Clary paused, lifting her stance and rolling her eyes as if to talk back, then stopped herself. She contemplated for a moment, examining Alec skeptically. Then, without a word, she returned to her previous stance, tucking her elbows in as instructed, and threw another punch, grunting angrily.
“Good,” Alec commented. “Doesn’t that feel better?” Clary nodded, repeating the same motion with her other arm.
“Your stance needs work,” Alec said. He turned to stand next to her, demonstrating his position. “Never a straight line. Instead, think of your feet as opposite corners of a box. Your back heel should be lifted slightly, enough to offer some shock absorption.”
Clary nodded, adjusting her posture, her nose crinkling in concentration.
“There you go,” Alec said. He shoved her, pushing roughly against her shoulder.
“Hey!” she exclaimed, stumbling and catching herself. Alec ignored her outrage.
“If you had been in your previous position, that would have sent you flying,” he pointed out. Clary frowned at him, but returned begrudgingly to her fighting stance, launching several punches at the bag. She bounced on the balls of her feet, hopping to switch her leading leg, and repeated the routine.
“Close your hands fully when you punch,” Alec ordered. Clary obeyed, gritting her teeth and punching harder. The bag drifted, chains protesting with rusty groans. Alec turned away, wandering to the side of the room. Clary ignored his meandering, focusing on her practice. He returned holding two thickly padded blocking mitts.
“Want to try beat me up?” he jabbed, sliding the gloves over his hands. Clary shook her head, eyes remaining fixed to the punching bag. “Come on,” Alec coaxed. “You can only learn so much beating up a stationary bag.”
Clary huffed, dropping her arms and pivoting to face Alec.
“Fine,” she griped. Alec raised the mitts, testing his own stance and shifting his weight.
“Throw some elbows at me,” he said. Clary threw a few tentative hits his way, and Alec mirrored her, sometimes dropping and raising the mitts to catch her. “Keep your arm horizontal to the ground.” Clary straightened her arm, spinning to thrust backwards. “Good.”
She tried to same blow again, but he dropped a mitt, grabbing her elbow and tossing her past him. She hit the floor.
Oops, that’s going to bruise, Alec thought. He was not accustomed to sparring with someone so untrained. She leapt back to her feet, scowling. Alec shrugged, playing off her fall as intentional.
“In real combat, you don’t get to repeat the same move over and over again.”
Clary struck him again, and this time, she did not repeat the same sequence twice.
“You can hit me harder,” Alec said. “That’s what the mitt is for.” Clary paused, catching her breath.
“But what if I miss and accidentally hit you?”
Alec laughed at that one.
“Don’t miss,” he answered. After an annoyed look from Clary, he continued. “But, even if you did miss, I would catch it. Why do you think you’ve landed every single strike so far?”
“... oh.” Clary realized. Alec nodded, confirming that her aim had not been quite as on-point as she had thought.
She threw harder blows, trying to dodge past Alec’s remaining mitt and sneak in for a real strike. Each time, the mitt caught her elbow, met her fist. Determined to prove she was not entirely predictable, Clary went for him with her elbow, close range, and followed up with a knee strike. Alec dropped his other glove, palm darting down to catch her knee just before it met his groin.
“That was not very safe for a training environment,” he quipped. Clary hopped on her standing leg, unable to twist herself free from Alec’s grip.
“In real combat, it won’t be safe either,” she shot back, still catching her breath. She twisted, trying to wriggle herself free again, and Alec released her. She stumbled forward, barely catching herself.
“Alright, alright. I deserved that. And, that was actually good,” Alec admitted. “You’re getting a lot better at thinking on your feet.” He returned the mitts to their place. Clary smiled, tilting her head back and forth in what looked like a proud little dance.
After a moment of hesitation, Alec spoke up again.
“Jace asked about you this morning,” he said. “I told him you were doing well. That you’ve improved a lot with your training—which is true—and that you would really appreciate him coming home soon.” The words tumbled awkwardly out of his mouth. He wanted to offer her something, anything, to comfort her. He, at least, had the benefit of Jace interrupting his day to day life with updates—even if they did not have the luxury to chat beyond necessary information. Clary had nothing. She stared at the floor, eyes reddening.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I’m really worried about him.”
“Me too,” Alec agreed quietly.
They stood in silence, both sifting through their thoughts and feelings. Finally, Alec turned back toward the bag that Clary had begun on, practicing a few strikes of his own.
“I’m going to go get some breakfast before our meeting this morning,” Clary piped up. “Do you want me to grab anything for you?”
Alec peered up at the stained glass that overlooked the training room, realizing that the sun had begun to creep its way above the horizon, sending colorful streams of light dancing through the room.
“No, but thanks,” he said. “I’ll see you there.” Clary nodded, then disappeared as silently as any other shadowhunter.
Alec dug around the room until he located a set of escrima sticks and abandoned his shirt, settling into a familiar rhythm of training. He allowed the exertion to clear his mind, sweating away the stress of the early morning. As the sun floated upward, the array of hues from the stained glass shimmered across the floor, flooding the room with breathtaking vibrancy. Alec swam through thick blue light, dotted with sparse orbs of purples and reds. The saturated shades swept across the defined muscles of his arms as he moved, black runes stark against the brilliant colors that illuminated his pale skin.
From behind him, Alec heard quiet footsteps, then a low whistle.
“Are you attending the meeting like that? You’ll find no protest from me.”
Alec caught the swinging bag, steadying it before turning to face his spectator. Magnus Bane leaned casually in the doorway, sliding his eyes up and down Alec’s body, taking special care to linger on his glistening, now bare chest. A spark of bashful pride fizzled through Alec’s heart in response to the warlock’s lovestruck stare. Alec walked toward him, doing his best not to strut too obviously as he caught his breath. A slight wave of dizziness hit him, though he could not tell if it was from the exertion of training or the unabashed way in which Magnus Bane undressed him with his eyes.
Magnus stepped fully into the room, vivid blues scattering across his hair and face, spilling over the rest of his body. Stopping just short of Alec, he tilted his head and examined the shadowhunter.
Alec dropped the sticks. He floated on a small high from the exercise, dopamine and adrenaline tugging him forward. They had not had the chance to see much of each other in private since Jace left. An intrusive thought ricocheted through Alec’s mind—Alec’s body against Magnus’, both of them pressed against the training room wall. For the first time since he awoke that day, Jace’s situation slipped completely from Alec’s mind.
Shadowhunter and warlock stood inches apart, Alec’s face hovering just over Magnus’. His heartbeat still hammered from the training. Alec felt as if a strong, crackling energy bounced between them, like invisible force fields colliding when they stepped close. He wondered if Magnus was doing something magical, or if it was just in his head.
“Okay, wow,” Magnus interrupted Alec’s steamy train of thought with quiet words. His breath tickled Alec’s cheek as he spoke, cooling the beads of sweat that lingered there. Both of them felt very conscious of the short distance between their lips. “That is not the greeting I expected but I am definitely not complaining.”
Alec became suddenly aware of where they stood. The training room remained empty, much to his relief. But it was still not the right place.
“Sorry,” he stuttered, spell broken. He faltered backwards, leaving a much more professional amount of space between them. “My mind has been somewhere else. What time is it? I need to get ready for the meeting.” He turned and headed toward his room. Magnus followed close on his heels, refusing to let him escape that easily.
“Actually, that’s exactly why I’m here,” the warlock explained. “Don’t worry, we’ve still got a half hour before you need to be all cleaned up.”
“Oh.” Relieved, Alec slowed, allowing Magnus to walk by his side at a more comfortable pace. As they passed through the crowded main hall, Magnus lowered his voice, recalling how sensitive Alec could be around his fellow shadowhunters.
“I was just going to recommend an evening out. You’ve been so stressed by all of this Jace stuff lately—understandably so, of course—but you can’t keep running on fumes like you do.”
They passed absent-mindedly through Alec’s door, the archer watching Magnus with cautious interest.
“Yeah?” he asked. A tiny smile played across his lips. “What did you have in mind?”
Magnus seated himself on Alec’s bed, watching hungrily as the shadowhunter peeled off his shirt and disappeared into the bathroom. He had not been into this room since their first night together, and now here they were, talking about dates. A surge of very devious thoughts crowded his mind, threatening to derail the conversation. He forced himself back to the present.
“Well, I never did finish that bubbler,” Magnus called loudly enough for Alec to hear him. “But I think a little time to relax would benefit you.” He stood and wandered toward the bathroom as he spoke. “Come over to my place tonight,” he suggested. “Take your mind off things for a little while. We’ve barely had a chance to speak alone since that whole thing with Camille.”
Alec poked his head out of the door, jumping when he realized Magnus was right in front of him. The warlock could only see his bare shoulder, and wondered if the shadowhunter had entirely disrobed.
“That… actually sounds really great,” Alec answered, much to Magnus’ surprise. The shadowhunter’s eyes slid down Magnus’ body distractedly. The warlock realized Alec’s mind must be wandering as much as his was.
“Alexander… are you undressed?” Magnus asked, a coquettish smile curling across his lips. He reached to yank the door open wider.
“What? No!” Alec exclaimed, flushing bright red. The door drifted open, revealing the loose sweatpants that still hung lax off Alec’s hips.
“I need to shower before the meeting,” Alec continued. He broke eye contact, glancing around his bedroom distractedly as if he just realized they were alone. “See you there?”
Magnus honed in on the familiar anxiety he noticed playing across Alec’s expression. Like the shadowhunter simultaneously wanted to kiss him and send him away, and could not settle on which.
Oh, he’s so easy, Magnus thought.
“You’re really going to do that to me?” he accused, his voice a low, alluring hum. The warlock abandoned any pretense of trying to keep his intentions in check. He held his grip on the door, preventing Alec from closing it. “Bring me to your bedroom, undress, tease me like this? You’re very cruel to me, Alexander.” He let his eyes wander shamelessly over the one shoulder and arm he could see, biting his lip. “Are you really going to tell me that your thoughts were completely pure during that little moment we had in the training room? You seemed very excited to see me. And I’m sure you’re just as excited now… ” Magnus touched Alec’s exposed arm, his fingers ghosting the pale skin, daintily meandering along the outline of a rune.
Alec bit his own lip in response without even realizing he was doing it, mindlessly imitating the warlock. His eyes dropped, grip on the door loosening as he drank in the sight of Magnus. Even fully clothed, Magnus Bane was difficult to resist.
“Besides,” Magnus added, running a gentle, enticing finger over Alec’s bicep. “I’m sure you could get clean a lot more quickly if I helped.”
Alec could not fight the gradual, naughty smile that crept over his countenance, watching Magnus’ finger continue to trace along his muscles.
“I somehow doubt that,” Alec shot back slowly. Magnus unbuttoned his jacket, holding the shadowhunter’s gaze, and slid it off over his arms. It dropped into a forgotten pile on the floor.
This was the last straw for Alec. Memories from the week before burst to the forefront of his thoughts, refusing to be ignored. Magnus’ velvet jacket, soft in his grasp—the same one minutes later, piled onto the floor with the rest of their clothes. Alec could not comprehend how such a simple action as dropping a jacket onto the floor—and a completely different one, at that—could provoke such intense desire in him.
He grabbed Magnus by the collar, pulling him into the bright, grey-tiled room and slamming the door behind them, pressing the warlock tightly against it. Magnus gasped, not expecting the outburst. Alec was already halfway through the buttons on his partner’s crisply-ironed shirt, fingers working much more deftly than they had on their previous encounter. With a flick of his wrist the warlock started the shower running, steam quickly clouding the small room.
They kissed so aggressively that Alec wondered if he would have bruises on his lips. He didn’t care. They inhaled in swift gulps of air as they pressed into each other. Alec unfastened Magnus’ belt and pants in seconds, dropping them to the floor so the warlock stood in only his underwear.
“Are you using your Speed Rune?” Magnus asked, words tumbling out in a breathy laugh.
“Maybe,” Alec mumbled elusively, his mouth locked in a gleeful smile, voice muffled as he kissed his way down Magnus’ chest and abs, sinking to his knees.
“Alexander,” Magnus sputtered as the shadowhunter dragged his underwear down, kissing the inside of this thigh. “Perhaps we should take this in to the shower itself?” His hands told a different story, weaving through Alec’s dark hair and tugging at the strands.
“I think… you need to take these off first,” Alec shifted his attention to the warlock’s hands, holding them lightly. He stroked along his fingers, taking one of Magnus’ many rings between his thumb and index finger and sliding it off, dropping it on the bathroom counter with a muted plink.
Alec peered up at Magnus, their eyes connecting. Steam billowed around them, the world shrinking to the intimate gaze they held between them as the shadowhunter removed the warlock’s rings one by one, assembling a small pile of metal next to the sink.
For the first time in their short relationship, Magnus felt self-conscious, as if Alec was stripping off his armor and disassembling it link by link, laying it out on the counter top before him. He steadied himself with a deep breath as the shadowhunter rose, reaching over him to remove his mess of necklaces in a single mass of beads and chains.
“There,” Alec murmured, eyes angled downward, still holding the warlock’s gaze. “Much better.”
Magnus slid his hands across Alec’s bare chest, moving them upward and interlacing his fingers behind his neck. He felt strangely vulnerable. Standing on his toes, he lifted his lips to Alec’s and tugged him back against the door again. Alec moaned as Magnus’ hands wandered, teasing him, fingers brushing over sensitive places. The drawstring of Alec’s pants tugged loose. Magnus pulled them down over Alec’s hips and let them drop to the floor.
“Okay,” Alec finally gasped, tearing himself away. “Shower.”
They stumbled precariously into the hot water. Magnus’ hair quickly lost its gravity-defying height, plastering against his face. Alec brushed it to the side, replacing it with kisses. Magnus pressed his back against the freezing tile, pulling Alec with him. Their lips locked again—hungry, desperate, fumbling over each other.
Alec spun Magnus around, the warlock’s chest and cheek now connecting with the icy ceramic. He moaned as Alec kissed the back of his neck roughly, nipping gently with his teeth and connecting the entire lengths of their bodies, heat radiating between them. Alec kissed down Magnus’ neck to his shoulder, where he bit harder, his erection hard against the warlock’s back. Magnus ground into him. His head lolled to the side as he reached up and behind him to stroke Alec’s hair, the back of his head, his rune-covered neck.
“Alexander,” he uttered. “Please tell me you still have that bottle of lube I left here.”
“One second,” Alec breathed. He stepped out of the shower, droplets of water streaming down his body and dripping to the floor. He disappeared into the main bedroom and returned seconds later, bottle in hand. Without prompting, he squeezed the contents onto his fingers.
“Good boy,” Magnus mumbled into the wall as Alec returned to the shower, fingers venturing downward without instruction. Alec paused, considering this statement. Magnus grinned deviously, but the shadowhunter could not see it. After a few seconds of contemplation, he accepted the praise, but pushed another finger into Magnus a bit more forcefully than on their previous encounter as revenge.
“Aah,” Magnus exclaimed. “Alec! The point of starting with fingers is to prepare me so I don’t end up hurting,” he gasped. His fingernails dug into Alec’s shoulder behind him.
“Mmph,” Alec moaned, burying his face into Magnus’ neck at the sudden pain. “Sorry,” he exhaled, but he did not sound sorry. Judging by Magnus’ growing hardness, the warlock was not as bothered as he pretended to be. Alec persisted at a gentler pace as demanded, movement jerkier as his own tension built just from watching Magnus squirm. The air around them swirled, heavy and thick and misty, scalding water splashing against Alec’s back.
Having been teased with something more, Magnus quickly concluded that their current pace was no longer enough for him.
“So you want it a little rough?” he whimpered, sinking himself more fiercely onto Alec’s fingers. He turned his head as much as he could, nibbling at Alec’s jawline. The shadowhunter’s breath came in uneven spurts, as if he could barely contain himself. It drove Magnus wild.
“I…” Alec started. His statement promptly devolved into a drawn-out “ohh ” as Magnus snatched a fistful of his hair and tugged at it roughly. Alec fell silent, removing his hand from its current task and grasping at the warlock’s hips. Magnus took his cue, releasing Alec’s hair and pressing his palms against the tile for leverage as he stood up on his toes. He arched his back, giving Alec a better angle as he pushed himself into the warlock.
Very undignified sounds escaped both of their mouths as Alec fell into a swift, impassioned rhythm. Magnus rolled his hips against Alec’s thighs, whining. Alec’s hands gripped his hip bones tightly. Magnus hoped he bruised. As if reading his mind, Alec leaned forward and sucked on the soft skin toward the back of where his neck met his shoulder, forming a huge, dark hickey. Magnus’ knees quivered, trembling harder when Alec buried himself completely inside the warlock. One of the shadowhunter’s hands released its death grip on Magnus’ hip, snaking forward to ensure—quite unnecessarily—that the warlock’s pleasure was also being attended to. Magnus almost collapsed right there.
Alec’s grip on Magnus’ cock tightened and froze as he rode through his own orgasm, emitting a series of guttural gasps that Magnus found to be unbearably sexy. The arm that Alec had not busied on Magnus’ cock now encircled the warlock’s waist. Tension still held Magnus rooted where he was, as if he might burst at even the slightest movement. He teetered on the edge, grateful that Alec had momentarily stilled to catch his breath.
The shadowhunter’s cock was still buried inside of him. Magnus could feel every tiny movement of it as they breathed, and his own twitched in response to the thought, fighting for just an instant against Alec’s grasp.
Oh gods, Magnus thought. His entire body shuddered. Alec’s fingers around him began to move again. Slowly, agonizingly. Magnus lifted one of his hands from the wall, biting down on his own finger as he wriggled against Alec’s insistent touch. Alec kissed his shoulder, his spine—fleeting, gentle touches in stark contrast to the fiery, hot-blooded aggression from only moments before.
It’s too much, he wanted to say. I can’t…
Alec was hard inside of him again, moving very, very slowly. Magnus’ mind teemed, sensory overload devouring any chance of him uttering anything other than a high-pitched whine. One more touch, one more stroke…
Alec brushed a feathery light fingertip over the head of Magnus’ cock.
Magnus’ mind exploded into a static-filled cloud of nonsense. His knees buckled. He fell forward against the wall, but Alec still had to catch him and support some of his weight as the warlock came, hard. Magnus realized he was prattling under his breath, a string of expletives and nonsensical phrases.
“Oh gods, Alec. Please. Alec, I can’t. Oh god oh god… Alec… Fuck… ” His voice raised in pitch and he couldn’t control it. The shadowhunter planted a deep, warm kiss on the side of Magnus’ neck, burying his face there. He held Magnus tightly.
“Don’t you dare fucking move,” Magnus finally managed in a choked whisper. He blinked, realizing his glamour had fallen. He fought through the intense pleasure that wracked his body, shivering, and carefully gathered his concentration to hide away his glimmering golden eyes before the shadowhunter could see.
Alec was really tempted to push the warlock further over the edge, test his limits. But he obeyed. Something about Magnus whimpering his name so desperately had his heart wrapped up in ardent knots. At that exact moment, he would do anything Magnus asked of him.
If the warlock kept up his expressive mumbling and writhing, Alec would be ready for another round in no time. He did his best to simmer down, calming his breath as Magnus regained control of himself.
“Okay,” Magnus finally breathed, now standing firmly on his own two feet. He spun around gingerly and rested his face on Alec’s chest. Alec wrapped his arms around him, resting his cheek in Magnus’ soaked mess of hair. A warm glow of contentment heated his veins.
“I think,” the warlock murmured, still catching his breath, “we’re going to be late to the meeting.”
“And I still have to actually shower,” Alec laughed.
~ Closing Song ~
"Feisty (Blue Satellite Remix)" - Jhameel
"Show me how you work, love, you make it hot.
Make it last—make it feel like I don't even need to think hard.
... Cause baby oh, my, well it's unfair—
looking like that make a gentleman stare."
Chapter 14: Morning Debrief II
Alec and Magnus attend a morning meeting while trying to keep their relationship under wraps.
~ Opening Song ~
"Nine in the Afternoon" - Panic! At the Disco
"Back to the street where we began,
feeling as good as love—you could, you can.
... You could, 'cause you can, so you do.
We're feeling so good,
just the way that we do
when it's nine in the afternoon."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec strolled into the meeting seven minutes late, five minutes after the High Warlock. He was still adjusting the top button of his black dress shirt when he approached the table. Izzy examined him with concern, eyes darting over his wet hair.
“Alec… you’re late. Is everything okay?” she inquired. Magnus stifled a grin and stared at the empty table in front of him to avoid losing his composure entirely.
“Define okay,” Alec answered, stealing Jace’s earlier quip as he adjusted the buttons on his sleeves. “I had to call Luke, give him a heads up about some Circle activity that might be targeting his pack. It set me a bit behind.” Magnus snorted quietly. Alec shot him a sharp glance, but underneath his warning look, a devious grin threatened to break free.
“Is there anything we can do to help?” Clary asked, suddenly all business at the mention of her werewolf father figure.
What a complicated family she has, Alec mused to himself.
“Right now, the best thing we can do is focus on getting both Melusine and Valentine into Clave custody,” he stated. In his pocket, his phone buzzed. He did not have to check it to know whom the message was from. Across the table, Magnus stared down into his lap suspiciously, dimples betraying his charming attempt to maintain a serious expression.
Alec tried to resist, focusing on Izzy’s updates about forensic reports. The mission came first. He did not have time to be checking his phone every time Magnus made the smallest attempt at flirty distraction.
I am better than that, he reminded himself. His phone buzzed again. Alec repeated Izzy’s words silently in his head, desperately trying to remain focused, but they flew in one ear and out the other. Unbidden, his eyes wandered back toward Magnus. The warlock was already staring in his direction, and shot him a sly grin, eyes dropping for just a second to examine Alec’s body before sliding back upward.
Damnit, Alec bemoaned. He glanced down at the screen in his pocket while Izzy finished her update.
Magnus Bane - 09:11
Nice save there.
… but your fly is down. 😂
Alec’s eyes widened, connecting with the warlock’s. Magnus now leaned over the table, hand casually over his mouth to disguise the silent giggle that he could not contain. Izzy and Clary both watched Alec now, waiting for him to take charge of the meeting.
“Magnus,” Alec charged out loud, all seriousness. The warlock sat up straight as the girls both directed their full attention toward him. He shifted anxiously, one eyebrow raised, caught off guard.
What’s he doing? Magnus wondered in a panic, unprepared for the spotlight. With all eyes now on the warlock, Alec quickly zipped up his pants.
“Do you have an update on the spell contents found in Melusine’s hideout and the remaining components you need to wake up Jocelyn Fairchild?” Alec asked.
“Spell—yes! I do, actually,” Magnus managed, pulling his thoughts back on track. Very smooth, Alexander. “I’ll have the last ingredient for Jocelyn’s spell by the end of the week. The jars you gave me from Melusine’s contained Middlemist and Camphor wood. Camphor wood has a few different uses, but in more powerful spells, it’s commonly involved with longevity, eternal youth, or immortality.”
“And the Middlemist?” Alec pressed.
“Well, that’s the more frightening one,” Magnus held up a cautioning finger. “This species of Middlemist is exceptionally rare. As far as I know, I am the only person in this part of the world who has any of it at all. But even I only possess a few petals, and I’ve never once dared to use them. I’ve always viewed them as a bit more of a collector’s item. And I have absolutely no idea where Mellie would have obtained this much of it.”
“What’s so scary about flower petals?” Clary chimed in.
“Middlemist petals can be used to dramatically increase the power of a spell,” Magnus explained. “But the effects are often… unpredictable. Dangerous. There aren’t many known spells that call for them today. Those that do are of the dark and twisted variety.” Magnus wiggled his fingers, emphasizing the words “dark and twisted.” After a moment of thought, he added “And I’m not familiar with any spells involving both Middlemist and Camphor wood. Melusine may be experimenting with her own, new spells, or working with a text old enough that even I haven’t seen it before.”
“But why immortality?” Clary asked. “She’s a warlock, right? Isn’t she already immortal?”
Magnus shrugged. “Perhaps there’s someone else who isn’t. It’s not unheard of for warlocks to go to great lengths to save mortal lovers from the heartbreaking clutches of old age. And like this one clearly does, most such spells would require some form of sacrifice.”
Clary sighed. “Imagine being so in love with someone that you’d murder dozens of people just for the chance at having more time with them.”
In that moment, the warlock’s dark eyes drifted back to Alec. Alec’s heart froze.
What will happen to us? he asked himself. Might this be Magnus in forty years, desperately searching for a way to save him from the unforgiving laws of nature?
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, he internally backpedaled. We’re not even really together… are we? Alec could not imagine Magnus ever going to such extreme lengths, regardless—there was too much goodness in him. But the warlock’s deep, dark gaze was filled with sadness.
What am I to you? Alec silently questioned.
“That’s not love,” Magnus answered Clary quietly. All eyes returned to him, as if everyone else present only just realized that perhaps the ancient warlock had contemplated this very dilemma before. Maybe many times.
How many loves can you lose before it breaks you? Alec wondered. Magnus, as if reading his thoughts, broke their somber eye contact and returned to his exchange with Clary. His tone bounced back to its previous informative brightness.
“However, such spells have a very unfortunate habit of turning out exceedingly poorly for all involved,” he expounded. “Warlocks who wither away to dust, leaving their now immortal lovers behind. Couples dying in each other’s arms. Similarly theatrical and regrettable outcomes. I’ve never met a single warlock who has performed such a spell successfully. Most don’t bother at all—it’s simpler for their partner to just become a vampire, if they’re willing.”
“That’s so sad,” Clary reflected.
“What about Elder?” Izzy pitched in. She produced a tiny, clear bag of what appeared to be sawdust from her pocket.
“... Elder?” Magnus’ brow furrowed, his attention now focused very singularly on Alec’s sister. “Where did you get that?”
Izzy tossed the bag across the table to the warlock.
“Well, like I said earlier, the full lab results finally came back on the body we found. Most of it matched the preliminary results as expected, but I wasn’t sure what to make of this. It was scattered near the scene, like someone spilled something. I thought maybe it was unrelated. Some mundane garbage or something.”
Magnus snatched up the evidence, glaring at it with frightening intensity. Finally, his gaze wandered around the table, still lost in dire deliberation. His eyes settled on Alec again.
“It seems I was mistaken,” he said.
“How does Elder change things?” Alec prompted softly. The weight in the warlock’s stare frightened him.
“Elder is used in spells relating to curses,” Magnus mulled, “... and demons.”
“What does that mean, Magnus?” Alec pressed, voice still quiet with caution.
“I can only speculate,” the warlock answered somberly. “But a spell like this… with the right circumstances…” he trailed off, shaking his head as he stared down at the blank, white table. He seemed to be mumbling to himself. Then something clicked and he looked up, fear evident. “She could effectively create a demon. And with this much Middlemist, and the amount of power she’s siphoning from those murders… perhaps even one strong enough to challenge the likes of greater demons—or worse.”
“That’s… insane,” Clary stuttered.
“This goes way beyond us,” Alec agreed. “We have to inform the Clave.”
The day devolved into a flurry of other meetings and a mountain of reports. If Magnus was right, the amount of volatile demonic magic that Melusine hoarded could easily rival Valentine Morgenstern’s threat in significance. Unfortunately, with Jace’s current undeserved status as a wanted criminal, the New York Institute no longer carried the weight it once did in Idris. Alec found himself struggling to be taken seriously, repeatedly accused of trying to take attention away from his parabatai. After a particularly exhausting phone call with the Inquisitor, he strolled through the main hall to see Magnus still hanging around, cornered by Izzy and Clary near a wall of scrolling monitors.
Alec started to stride toward them, but paused when Clary’s voice came into earshot.
“Really, Magnus! You can tell us,” she begged, at once pleading and teasing. Next to her, Izzy reached out and pushed Magnus’ head to the side with one well-manicured finger, revealing the black bruise that Alec had left on his neck in the shower that morning, just barely visible over his collar.
“I’ve been dying to know since I saw that hickey peeking out of your shirt in the meeting this morning. Spill the tea, Magnus,” Izzy demanded. The warlock stepped back, chuckling.
“Honestly, ladies. I’m really not the type to kiss and tell. Why are you so interested in my love life, anyways?” He crossed his arms defensively, desperately trying to brush off their questions.
“Oh come on, that is such a lie!” Clary wheedled. “You constantly brag about your exploits.”
“Yeah, and I thought you were interested in Alec,” Izzy carped, impish sass dripping from her words. “But clearly you’ve moved on. Who could possibly be more of a catch than my dashing brother?”
Magnus laughed nervously. “That is a trick question, Sweet Pea.”
“That’s not an answer,” Isabelle shot back playfully. “What mystery man caught the attention of the impossibly selective Magnus Bane?”
Magnus stared at the ceiling, shaking his head, trying to kill the stupid grin that spread across his lips.
“Or…” Izzy ventured, “... is it a woman?”
Magnus raised an eyebrow. “Now why would you think that?” he asked evasively.
“It is, isn’t it?” Izzy exclaimed. “You’ve found a lady friend! It’s not Camille, is it?” Both girls wrinkled their noses.
“What? No!” Magnus protested, more horrified than the both of them at the suggestion. “I would never willingly have anything to do with that hellion.” He shook his head a little too over-enthusiastically, and Clary gasped, spotting something on the other side of his neck.
“Oh my god, Magnus!” she roared. She fluttered beside him like a curious bee, reaching back to tug down his collar on the opposite side of the hickey. A crisp, purple set of teeth marks stood out against his tawny skin. “Is this a bite mark?!”
Magnus shied away, pulling the collar back up to cover the bruise. His eyes flitted over Alec across the room, just noticing him, and he shot the shadowhunter a sheepish smile.
“It’s none of your business,” Magnus insisted to the girls, his typical charm cranked up to full power. “Really, can’t a man have some secrets?”
“Since when are you bashful?” Izzy giggled. “Is it because it’s someone we know?”
“No!” Magnus blurted. “I mean, yes. I mean, that’s not really a factor.”
Alec chuckled quietly to himself, unexpected blitheness dancing through his heart at how adorably frazzled the warlock was.
“Whoever she is, she’s really bad,” Clary cackled. “That’s one nasty bite mark.”
“My kind of bad,” Izzy agreed, snickering. “But even I don’t usually mess with that particular flavor of naughty.”
Alec blushed, warm redness creeping up his neck to flush his ears and cheeks. Was he really that dirty? He hadn’t meant to leave such dark marks on Magnus’ body. It just… happened. Though he had to admit, catching glimpses of the love marks from across the room sent his heart into a series of pleased somersaults.
“Definitely not a vampire though,” Izzy observed, taking her turn to peek at Magnus’ bite mark, despite his resistance. “I guess you’ve had your fill of them after Camille,” she teased. Magnus rolled his eyes.
“Listen, ladies,” he pleaded. “As much as I’d love to stick around and see what other very creative speculations you’d like to make about my love life, I really do have places to be.” He slipped between them, beelining for the door.
“Going to see your mysterious secret lover?” Izzy called after him, still tittering. “Tell her I’d like to meet her!”
Magnus shot Alec one quick, exasperated look, punctuated by a captivatingly sweet smile. Alec grinned back—a toasty, satisfied pride welling up in his chest.
Poor Izzy is going to be so pissed when she finds out.
Magnus darted through the doors and disappeared, and Alec’s smile faded to a more neutral, thoughtful expression as he mulled over the events of the day. Izzy’s eyes followed Magnus’ final glance, landing on Alec just fractions of a second after his smile vanished.
Clary’s eyes followed Izzy’s. Realizing Alec had been watching them tease the warlock, her delicate hand flew up to her mouth. After a quick, panicked moment of eye contact with Izzy, the redhead scampered away, leaving Izzy to do damage control with her brother.
“Oh my gosh, Alec.” Izzy scurried over to him, amusement replaced with concerned sympathy. “I am so sorry, I had no idea you were standing there.”
Alec raised an eyebrow. “It’s fine,” he responded. “Why would I care?”
“Well, I just, I know you had a thing for Magnus. We shouldn’t have been so insensitive.”
“I really don’t care,” Alec maintained. For once, he was grateful for the ‘resting grumpy face’ that Izzy so loved to tease him about. “Magnus is an adult. Many times over. He can do what he wants.”
And what he wants is me, a proud little voice in his mind declared smugly. A grin threatened to betray him, but he fought it away, sucking his lips inward. Izzy frowned, thinking he was fighting off more painful emotions, and placed a comforting arm on his shoulder.
“You can talk to me, you know,” she said in a low voice. “I know how hard it is to watch someone you have feelings for move on to someone else. Believe it or not, it’s happened to me a few times, too. If it makes you feel better, that bitch seems crazy. Who leaves bite marks that obvious? That’s some kinky, possessive shit.”
Alec shook his head. He almost felt ashamed for the evil exhilaration that flooded his veins. She has no idea she’s talking about me.
“I wouldn’t really know about… kinky… stuff,” he commented haltingly, struggling to keep his voice even.
“I’m just making things worse, aren’t I?” Izzy grimaced.
Alec shrugged. “I told you, Iz. I don’t care.”
Afraid of losing his composure and devolving into childish giggles, Alec spun on his heel and strode away. As he turned the corner away from Izzy’s apologetic gaze, the grin he had been struggling to hold back finally broke free.
Bad, am I?
~ Closing Song ~
"Juice (Breakbot Mix) - Lizzo, Breakbot
"Heard you say I'm not the baddest bitch—you lied.
It ain't my fault that I'm out here gettin' loose."
Chapter 15: Fuzzy Socks & Smoke Rings
Alec takes Magnus up on his offer of a relaxing night in.
I have returned to the US! And I come bearing more Malec for your enjoyment.~ I hope you like it!
~ Opening Song ~
"Fallingforyou" - The 1975
"I'll take it one day at a time.
Soon you will be mine, oh, but I want you now.
When the smoke is in your eyes, you look so alive.
Do you fancy sitting down with me maybe?
'Cause you're all I need."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“So what exactly is going on with this spell you have to use to wake Jocelyn up?” Alec asked. The cloud of vapor spilling from between his lips muffled his voice, lowering its pitch. “Is it going to be difficult? Will you be okay?”
The vaporizer pen in his hand was Magnus’—a sleek, metallic model with iridescent rainbow colors across the body. Alec found it entirely too ostentatious for his tastes, but he accepted it gracefully when Magnus passed it to him, not one to turn up his nose at the warlock’s generosity. From what he understood, the cartridge they were smoking from had not been cheap, likely in no small part due to THC products still being entirely illegal under mundane law.
Magnus found the odd difference in the timbre of Alec’s voice to be strangely pleasant, and took his own turn inhaling deeply before responding, achieving the same muted, low-pitched vocal tone. He dismissed Alec’s questions with a flutter of his ring-clad fingers.
“I appreciate your concern, Alexander. But I refuse to speak of work right now. And you’re not allowed to, either.”
They sat in Magnus’ apartment, staring out at the gleaming nighttime lights of New York City. Cars crept along the roadways, little red and white dots marching in rows like tiny, glowing ants.
Work, Alec thought. The idea of separating work from other parts of his life baffled him. There were honestly not many other parts of his life to be separated. A sliver of panic wriggled its way into Alec’s chest.
I’m boring, he realized. Without shadowhunter business, I don’t have anything to talk about. He had not even originally wanted to come over tonight, too focused on the latest information in their case. There was always so much to do, so many responsibilities. How could he justify abandoning them to dabble in recreational substances with a warlock of questionable morals? Yet here he was, grasping for something to say unrelated to his job, already vaguely aware of the effects of the drug creeping into the corners of his mind.
“I noticed the Institute has vastly upgraded its coffee selections,” Magnus noted, drawing Alec out of his self-deprecating spiral and back into the present moment. “I assume I have Clary to thank for that? That girl loves a good latte, though I’m more of a cha phe sua da man myself. Too bad you don’t have that at the Institute.”
The warlock leaned back against the side of the sofa, facing Alec with his legs crossed. Alec occupied most of the real estate, long legs spread as he slouched. Vapor swirled in the air between them.
“I’m sure we could stock condensed milk in the mini-fridge,” Alec commented. “We already keep soy, almond, and oat milk, because apparently one variety isn’t enough for Clary and my sister. One more won’t be an issue.”
Magnus tilted his head, taken aback by Alec’s quick response. Usually he enjoyed sprinkling unfamiliar terms into their conversations, sneakily introducing Alec to tastes that the conscientious shadowhunter otherwise would not encounter. But this time, he was the one left with questions.
“Since when do you actually know anything about coffee?” Magnus puzzled. “Especially of the Vietnamese variety?”
“Always, I guess? I’m the one who got us decent espresso, not Clary. Her contribution was the sugary stuff.” He frowned when he mentioned Clary’s assortment of syrups. He did not much care for diluting his coffee with sugar.
“Hey, that sugary stuff isn’t so bad,” Magnus contended. “There are plenty of wonderful sweet coffee beverages in the world.”
Alec shook his head before Magnus even finished his sentence, piping up as soon as the warlock ceased talking.
“No. No way. The only reason to put sugar or milk or anything else into coffee is to disguise the fact that your coffee is terrible. Some people have no standards.”
Silence hung in the air between them, Magnus watching Alec in surprised silence. Alec shifted uncomfortably, wondering if he had said something wrong. Had he sounded angry? Everyone always said that. Alec worried he had somehow offended Magnus. Until, finally, the warlock burst into laughter.
Alec’s frown deepened.
“What?” he asked defensively. “What did I say?”
“No, nothing,” Magnus rubbed underneath one of his eyes. “You just… right there, you sounded exactly like me.” Magnus shifted his weight, releasing his leg from underneath him and massaging the pins and needles out of it.
“What?! You and I are nothing alike,” Alec protested. He lifted his arms and tilted his head, indicating for Magnus to stretch out. The warlock raised an eyebrow—not expecting the silent invitation—but acquiesced, extending his legs across Alec’s lap. Alec rested his arms back down, rubbing his fingers in tiny, absent-minded circles over the same foot Magnus had been massaging. The warlock’s fuzzy white house socks brushed softly across the tips of Alec’s fingers.
“I have half a mind to be offended by your outrage,” Magnus said.
“But we’re not,” Alec insisted. “That’s just a fact. We’re polar opposites.”
“If you say so,” Magnus answered, watching Alec’s hands with amused fascination. “That actually feels a lot better,” he added. “You’re very good at that.”
“I know,” Alec said. “Have you seen the heels that Izzy wears? She’d rather be cute than practical. When she first started going on missions, this sort of thing became a regular evening occurrence after our mother forbade her from using her iratze as a crutch to fuel her ambitious wardrobe choices. Mother thought it would teach Izzy to dress more appropriately, but it had the opposite effect. She doubled down, determined to prove that she could be a successful shadowhunter without bending to the will of our parents.”
Alec smiled, thinking of Izzy’s spunky, determined younger self. She had not changed much in the years since, always blazing her own path.
“And you, of all people, helped her,” Magnus grinned. He let out a contented sigh as Alec increased the pressure, and then moved to the other foot, carefully stretching out Magnus’ arches.
“I have never encouraged Izzy’s fooling around,” Alec disagreed. He reached for the vape, which sat ignored between them. The room appeared brighter as his eyes scanned over it, as if every color had become slightly more saturated while his attention had been focused downward.
“But you support her regardless,” Magnus pointed out. He looked so content, so happy. It made Alec happy. How could he even have considered not spending this evening with Magnus? Everything felt right.
“Of course,” Alec said. “She’s my sister. I care about her. I’d do anything for her. I will always stand behind the people I care about.” Alec felt like he had been talking a lot. He usually retreated to more of a listening role in all of his personal relationships. He brought the vape to his lips, using a slow, deep inhale as an excuse to return to his comfortable default of silence.
The warlock looked so cozy, lying back on the sofa with his feet propped up on Alec’s lap, covered warmly in fuzzy socks. Alec imagined them in the same arrangement come winter, lounging by a fireplace, Magnus holding a mug of hot cocoa. It made his chest hurt in a strange, unfamiliar way.
Magnus, however, was for once more comfortable in the silence than Alec was. He examined Alec, his expression unreadable as he took a turn with the vape, sending a few rippling smoke rings drifting in the shadowhunter’s direction. Alec experienced difficulty maintaining eye contact, overwhelmed by the intensity of the warlock’s gaze. He looked back down to his lap, focusing on the tension in Magnus’ feet.
Is it weird if I move closer to him? Alec mused. I know that’s a thing that people do. But would it be weird at this moment? Alec was very aware of the present, like every breath seemed more immediate than usual. He was losing his understanding of what was and was not acceptable behavior. He did not like feeling this uncertain.
Alec found himself staring back out the window, lost in the way the city seemed to move like a unified, breathing organism.
“You look very pensive,” Magnus observed. “What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing,” Alec said quickly. If Magnus discovered how completely socially incompetent Alec was, the shadowhunter would crawl into a hole and die.
“Oh, come on,” Magnus liberated his legs from Alec’s lap and scooted down the sofa to sit right next to him, their thighs pressed tightly together. He wove the fingers of his left hand through Alec’s. Alec gazed down at their interlocked limbs, encircling Magnus’ hand with both of his. He leaned into him.
“It’s not fun getting you high if you don’t share all of the crazy, completely absurd thoughts that float through that adorable head of yours,” Magnus pressed. He reached up an index finger to tap Alec on the nose. Alec swatted his hand away.
“I’m not adorable,” he objected.
“You are, but that argument is beside the point,” Magnus said. “Please, share with me.”
“Fine,” Alec said. His heart hammered. Honesty is better, right? He thought. It’s not a bad thing to want to be near someone. His brain settled, pulse relaxing as his awareness grew of Magnus’ body wedged comfortably against his.
“I was just thinking that I wanted to be nearer to you. And I was wondering if that was weird. But then you moved over here, like you read my mind.”
A breathtaking smile stretched across Magnus’ face. “Of course it’s not weird. I want to be near you, too.”
Alec moved the hand that wasn’t completely intertwined with Magnus’ to trace around the back of his hand and over his wrist. Magnus wiggled further toward Alec, somehow ending up on the shadowhunter’s lap.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Alec said, arms easily encircling Magnus’ waist. “It just makes me happy. Like feeling your weight next to mine makes everything okay, even when it’s not.” He leaned his cheek against Magnus’ shoulder. The warlock’s fresh, earthy scent washed over him.
Magnus leaned into Alec, catching him in a tight hug. Alec inhaled deeply, momentarily lost in that smell—what was it? His soap? His deodorant? Alec did not know. But he realized that whenever he could smell that scent, he was happy. He exhaled contentedly, relishing the weight of Magnus’ body on his. He fell slowly to the side, taking both of them down to splay across the sofa, Magnus’ head resting on his chest, the weight of it there perfect and wonderful. Alec’s heart sang.
“I like your fuzzy socks,” Alec mumbled, staring up at the ceiling. He could feel Magnus’ quiet laughter on top of him, shaking his whole body.
“Do you want a pair?” Magnus giggled. The plush fabric over the warlock’s toes wiggled against Alec’s ankles. Alec considered for only a second before answering.
“… Yes,” he said resolutely.
“You’re very, very high, aren’t you?” Magnus asked, his voice rumbling against Alec’s sternum.
“I really am,” Alec sighed.
~ Closing Song ~
"What A Heavenly Way To Die" - Troye Sivan
"Fading in and out of long nights
... there's no limit to your love.
What a heavenly way to die.
What a time to be alive.
Because forever is in your eyes—
but forever ain't half the time
I want to spend with you."
Chapter 16: Stupid, Reckless Boy
Alec and Magnus return to reality after their relaxing evening together. New intel indicates Valentine is planning something. The team prepares to wake up Jocelyn.
~ Opening Song ~
"Hard To Love" - The Mowgli's
"Darling think there's maybe something you should know:
... I'm a little bit hard to love. I think I do that on purpose.
I know I don't give you much—I know it makes you nervous.
And I don't wanna work you up—don't want you to find out down the line.
So I'm just gonna say this once: baby I'm a little bit hard to love."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The first thing Alec noticed as he faded into consciousness was satin. The fabric slid coolly against his face, strange to wake up to after a lifetime of the Institute’s standard cotton. The second thing he noticed was Magnus’ warm skin against his. Also strange, but way more delightful. The warlock faced away from Alec, snuggled into him tightly. Alec’s arm rested around his naked waist.
Alec opened his eyes, pupils contracting to adjust to the pale early morning sunlight. The honey-gold sheets shimmered when he moved, reflecting the rising sun in muted, warm tones that scattered across the thin blanket’s crumpled surface. He felt pleasantly rested—not a description he would ever normally use for himself. Inches in front of him, the back of Magnus’ bare neck and shoulder blocked his view of the night stand, and the time.
The bruises from their recent shower excursion still stood out dark against the warlock’s neck, joined by a few smaller, subtler new ones. Alec could already feel a few of his own rising to the surface of his skin in less visible places—an ache over his ribs, a soreness on the inside of his thigh. He made a conscious decision not to activate his iratze. He liked the idea of walking around with little reminders of Magnus all over his body, straying his thoughts whenever he moved.
Alec rested his lips against Magnus' shoulder blade, inhaling deeply. In Magnus’ bed, with the man himself in his arms, Alec was completely cocooned in a comforting cloud of his favorite scent.
I wonder why he hasn’t healed his own bruises yet? Alec contemplated. A quick thrill coursed through him as he considered that maybe, like him, the warlock enjoyed them.
Very bad—the both of us. Alec recalled Izzy and Clary’s words with devious pride.
“Hmmm,” Magnus sighed. Alec squeezed him, burying his face in the crook of Magnus’ shoulder. The warlock twisted around, rolling to face Alec and adjusting into a new position. He scooted ungracefully back inward, enveloping himself in Alec’s arms. His tousled hair tickled the tip of Alec’s nose. With his arms wrapped securely around the warlock, Alec felt complete. He could lie like this forever.
As content as they were to snuggle indefinitely, it did not take long for the caresses and sighs to devolve into kisses and moans. A spark of excitement kindled in Alec’s chest when Magnus rolled on top of him. He would never get sick of this feeling, the way the warlock gazed into his eyes with such need and desire. He wanted nothing more than to wake up to this every morning.
It’s cute how much he enjoys me on top of him, Magnus thought, noticing the way the shadowhunter bit his lip to stifle an eager smile. Magnus brought his own lips down to meet Alec’s, hips grinding against him. He cherished the way Alec stared up at him, like he was all the shadowhunter needed. He scraped his teeth along Alec’s neck, eliciting a sharp inhale. Alec’s grip on his hips tightened, deliciously firm. Though he had many qualms about this level of intimacy with a nephilim, Magnus had to admit that Alec’s shadowhunter strength was pretty hot.
Hey buddy, you there?
“Jace!” Alec gasped.
“Jace?” Magnus sat up, abandoning their kiss for a surprised, vexed glare. After a moment of shocked silence for the both of them as Alec processed the misunderstanding, he found his voice again. “Really, Alexander? I thought you were past that.”
“No!” Alec held up a finger, shoving Magnus off of him as gently and carefully as he could. “No no no. Just hold on one second, Magnus. Okay? One second.” Alec was babbling, face flushed scarlet. He grabbed his pants off the floor, pulling them on despite his parabatai’s inability to see anything through the Seelie ring without Alec’s specific allowance. Speaking to Jace while naked in bed with Magnus just felt wrong in so many ways.
“No need to ask me twice,” the warlock grumbled. “The mood has been suitably killed. I honestly don’t know whether to be more embarrassed for you or for myself.”
“Magnus!” Alec exclaimed. Magnus glowered in the opposite direction. Alec activated his Seelie ring.
Jace, I’m here.
Everything okay? Jace asked, hearing the panic through Alec’s thoughts.
I should be the one asking you that. What’s going on?
Jace fell immediately to business. Valentine is planning an attack on the Institute.
Magnus swung his legs from the bed, following Alec’s lead in donning pants. He chucked Alec’s shirt grumpily in his direction.
Jace, hold on just a second please? Alec deactivated the ring, tossing his shirt back on Magnus’ bed.
“Magnus, for the Angel’s sake, will you look at me? I was not thinking about Jace.”
The warlock rolled his eyes, marching out of the room.
Hold on a second? Alec, what’s going on? Are you not listening to me? Valentine is going to attack the Institute!
Alec darted after Magnus, grabbing his arm. The warlock turned on him, eyes shooting daggers. Alec held up his hand, displaying the un-glamoured Seelie ring and pointing to it.
“The ring, you crazy warlock!”
“... Jace is calling to you? Now?”
“Yes, Magnus!” Alec, are you there?! “Magnus, just hold on, one second.”
Alec reactivated his ring.
“Yes, Jace, I’m here,” Alec said accidentally aloud. Verbal communication seemed to work just as well, with Jace responding immediately.
Are you done with whatever is more important than Valentine potentially destroying the Institute?
Alec rolled with his new discovery, continuing the conversation out loud for Magnus’ benefit. “Yes, Jace. Can we please skip the passive aggression? What’s his plan?”
I don’t know, but it’s happening some time over the next few days. He doesn’t trust me enough yet. He’s searched me for the ring several times and I’ve kept it hidden, but I think he knows I have it.
“Of course he does, Jace. He’s psychotic, not stupid. See if you can get any more details for me. I’ll increase security and patrols.”
Magnus raised an eyebrow, listening intently to Alec’s half of the exchange. He crossed his arms over his bare chest, trying to make sense of the snippets.
I’ll keep trying, Jace confirmed.
“And Jace,” Alec added, “If you haven’t made headway by next week, we’re pulling you out.”
What? No! Alec, you can’t do that.
Magnus drifted around his apartment, shuffling through cabinets. He set two glass mugs on the countertop. The next cabinet he opened was packed, bottom to top, with tea tins. Now Alec watched curiously, trying to make sense of how anyone could need an entire cabinet of tea.
“Yes,” Alec said, “I can. And I will. You’ve spent too long there already. There’s no point in keeping you there if Valentine doesn’t trust you anyways. We’ll find another way.”
Damnit, Alec. I have to go. We’re talking about this later.
“Yes, we certainly are.”
As Alec deactivated his ring, Magnus handed him a steaming cup of warm-colored tea retrieved from a tin labeled rooibos. Alec peered behind him at the cabinet.
“Is that an entire cabinet of tea?” Alec asked, sipping from his mug.
“Of course,” Magnus answered. “I’m not a savage.”
Alec wrinkled his nose. “This is caffeine free.”
“It’s herbal,” Magnus pointed out, as if that was somehow supposed to change Alec's opinion. He waved a hand dismissively, turning away to stash the tea tin back in the cabinet. It snapped closed with a swirl of Magnus’ azure magic. As soon as the warlock’s attention diverted, Alec placed his cup delicately on the counter.
“I have to go,” he said. “Important intel. Valentine is plotting something.”
“I figured,” Magnus replied with a mock huff. “You know, it’s pretty hot when you get all authoritative. I like seeing you in your shadowhunter mode.” He emphasized the last two words, using a deep voice to mimic Alec. Alec rolled his eyes.
Magnus followed Alec back to the bedroom, watching covetously as the shadowhunter slid his shirt over his head, hiding away his perfectly sculpted abs. It was a true tragedy.
“Listen,” Magnus placed a hand on Alec’s arm as he stepped toward the door, pausing Alec in his tracks. “I’m sorry for being a ‘crazy warlock.’ I didn’t mean to jump to conclusions.”
Alec turned to face him, dropping his hands lightly on Magnus’ shoulders and planting an adoring kiss on his forehead.
“You’re not crazy, Magnus. And I like all of you, including your more magical side. You should never feel the need to apologize for any of that, especially not to me.” He paused, letting that statement sink in. Somewhere in the deep recesses of his heart, Alec wondered again what Magnus’ warlock mark looked like, and if he would ever be trusted to see it. He brushed the thought away quickly.
I have no right.
“I can see how, out of context, that was probably very upsetting for you,” Alec continued. “I’m the one who should apologize for not being a bit clearer in the moment. I was caught completely off guard. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Magnus leaned his head onto Alec’s chest, wrapping his shadowhunter in a warm farewell hug. “That’s not your fault,” he chuckled. “I would have been completely flummoxed in your situation.”
“Besides,” Alec grinned. “You’re very cute when you’re jealous.”
“Jealous?!” Magnus scoffed. “Me? No. I don’t get jealous.” He dropped the hug, spinning to march back into the living room. Alec caught his hand, pulling him back in.
“I’ve never gotten jealous,” Magnus insisted, only making a show of resisting Alec’s gentle tug.
“Okay.” Alec pursed his lips, struggling to contain his satisfied smile. “If you say so.”
“Young man, don’t you give me that—” Magnus’ indignant words were muffled by Alec’s lips on his. They shuffled together toward the wall, Magnus’ back pressed against it. Alec held him there, his weight pinning the warlock in place, one hand cupping his face. Magnus moaned softly, and they broke apart for air, both breathing harder.
“Okay,” Magnus admitted. “Maybe I should get jealous more often.” He flexed against Alec’s strength, desire coursing through him when he found himself unable to budge.
“There is absolutely no reason for you to ever be jealous,” Alec murmured. He ran a feather-light finger along Magnus’ hairline and down his face, pausing to trace his lips. “Who could even compare?”
Magnus swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. He could not tear his eyes away from Alec’s, lost staring up into the quiet, resolute affection he saw there. The intensity both frightened and excited him.
“I have to go,” Alec whispered. “It’s a long drive back to the Institute. What time are you coming by for Jocelyn?” He played with Magnus’ fingers as he spoke, not breaking eye contact. Magnus wondered if Alec knew just how unbearably seductive he was being.
That’s part of what makes him so sexy, the warlock realized. He’s not trying to be. He’s just so… pure.
“Three,” Magnus answered quietly, voice faltering. “Have her ready in the training room. We’ll need the space. It’s a big spell.”
“Ok,” Alec responded. He kissed Magnus one more time, short and sweet. “I’ll see you then.”
Luke Garroway carried Jocelyn gingerly to the table Alec had set up in the center of the training room. She seemed peaceful, lost in deep sleep, like she might open her eyes at any second and wonder why so many people stood circled around her.
That’s almost exactly what’s going to happen, Alec reflected.
Clary held tightly to her mother’s hand. A pang of sympathy tugged at Alec’s heart for the girl—an increasingly common event. In the past few months, Clary Fray had lost everything. She had become Clary Fairchild, and then Clary Morgenstern, though she still bristled every time anyone used that name. She had her mother torn away from her, then her entire life. She fell in love with Jace, then had that torn away as well. All things considered, Clary was handling things relatively gracefully. Alec might not like her, but he could at least respect her effort. She did her best to keep up, to train, to stay in control. And despite her very Jace-like recklessness, she would do anything for the people she loved, supporting them with undying loyalty. Alec could identify with that part, though unlike the very social, extroverted Morgenstern girl, very few people held such a place in his heart.
Izzy, he thought. And Jace.
Magnus Bane swept into the room, interrupting Alec’s musings.
“Everything ready?” he asked, eyes darting around and picking out the components the Institute had prepared. “Good.” His eyes landed on Alec, and they shared a private, secret moment, both of them exchanging almost imperceptible smiles. Without a beat, his attention returned to Jocelyn.
Him too, Alec thought unexpectedly. His heart stuttered.
“Are you ready?” Magnus asked Clary. Clary looked to Luke, then to Izzy. Her eyes fell on Alec last. He nodded, hoping the gesture would be taken as somewhat encouraging.
“Let’s do this,” she said.
Magnus opened the Book of the White to the marked page, scanning the script. Then he began chanting. Alec did not recognize the language. It didn’t sound Demonic.
Power rippled across the room from Magnus’ hands. Alec felt it in his ribs, like a shock wave. The air grew thick and heavy. Beads of sweat dripped down Magnus’ forehead.
Something’s wrong, Alec realized. Magnus was struggling. No one seemed to notice. Alec hesitated, waiting for anyone else to acknowledge Magnus’ floundering. But all of the others remained focused on Jocelyn. Magnus stared down at her too, brow furrowing as his hands began to tremble.
That was Alec’s breaking point. He dashed around the table. His first instinct was to hold the warlock—to wrap his arms around him, protect him, support him. But the surprised looks sent his way from all three of the others stopped him in his tracks. Instead, he leaned down and spoke in Magnus’ ear urgently, leaving a very publicly acceptable amount of space between them.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Someone’s trying to portal,” Magnus answered through gritted teeth.
“Who?” Alec asked, panic rising.
“It feels like… everyone!” the warlock gasped. “I can’t stop this spell now that it’s started. It’s too strong. I can’t maintain both.” He swayed. Alec caught him. Too focused on Magnus’ exhaustion now to care, Alec grabbed his hand, interlocking their fingers.
“Use me,” Alec commanded. He looked up, eyes meeting Luke’s. “Like you did for him.”
“Alec, I don’t know if—” Magnus started, voice feeble.
“No arguing,” Alec cut him off. “Do it. Now.” His eyes found Clary’s, which were wide and scared. “It’ll be okay,” he assured her.
Magnus’ loose grip on Alec’s hand tightened. The connection between them locked into place, clearer and stronger than the first time. Alec sensed himself tiring, felt the energy flowing from himself to the warlock.
He’s so weak, Alec fretted. He needs to take more. He wished he could control what Magnus took from him, pour more of himself into the spell.
Take it! he silently begged, Please!
Weakness swept disorientingly through Alec’s body. His knees quivered.
“Alexander, what are you doing?” Magnus cried. They both collapsed, magic still surging from the warlock’s fingertips, swirling around Jocelyn Fairchild’s disconcertingly tranquil form. And then there was silence.
“Stupid boy!” Magnus’ voice faded into Alec’s awareness. “You stupid, reckless boy! What were you thinking?” The familiar, tender warmth of Magnus’ hand on his cheek brought Alec back to the present.
“Reckless?” he groaned, wrenching his eyes open. “That doesn’t sound like me.”
“Oh, Alec!” The full brunt of Izzy’s weight knocked his breath away.
“I was thinking,” he croaked, shooting Magnus a crooked smile, “that I was saving your ass.” The warlock looked worse for wear, sweat glistening through his racooned eyeliner.
“You could have died,” Magnus snapped, worry contorting his features. He almost looked like he might be about to cry, but the smeared makeup and sheen of sweat made it impossible to tell. “Letting a warlock channel you is a passive activity, Alexander. Throwing your energy at someone like that is dangerous.”
“But I didn’t die,” Alec countered, patting Izzy’s back. He looked down at his sister. “It’s okay, Iz.”
“Never do that again!” Izzy demanded, finally allowing Alec to sit up. He was grateful for the thin layer of padding on the training room floor, though his back and shoulders still ached from hitting the ground.
“Did we at least hold the spell?” Alec asked. He leaned forward, giving Izzy space to lift his shirt and activate his iratze. For a brief moment, he mourned the loss of his first set of love marks, gone so soon after he got them.
“The portal block is broken,” Magnus lamented. “At least a dozen portals opened up at once all across the city. Melusine has help from other warlocks—strong ones.”
“And Jocelyn?” Alec questioned. His eyes fell on the table above him. It appeared empty from his perspective. He returned his gaze to Magnus, searching the warlock’s dour expression for answers.
“Thanks to your foolhardy lunacy,” Magnus griped, clearly unwilling to encourage any future repeats of Alec’s behavior, “she’s good as new.”
He shifted aside, clearing Alec’s field of view to reveal Jocelyn Fairchild, wrapped safely in Luke’s arms. The werewolf buried his face in Jocelyn’s hair, shoulders shaking as he cried. Clary stood behind them, one hand on Jocelyn’s arm, tears streaming down her face. She clearly had already gotten her reunion, and waited as patiently as possible for Luke’s to conclude, unwilling to spend even a second away from her mom. From across the room, her red, watery eyes found Alec and Magnus.
“Thank you,” she sobbed, gaze shifting between the exhausted men. Her voice cracked. “Thank you so much.”
~ Closing Song ~
"Imitation" - Mêlée
"Not giving you up to the devils inside your head.
Not gonna let go till the answers are clear—
there's dark clouds moving in.
... They've got their own plans,
And I'm afraid for you.
And I'd like to end this soon.
'Cause it's you in my arms tonight—
I don't need an imitation."
Many thanks to LaCroixWitch for her bomb advice about tea.
Chapter 17: A Speck of Dust
Magnus recovers from his near-death experience in a guest room of the Institute, Alec by his side.
~ Opening Song ~
"One Call Away" - Charlie Puth
"I'm only one call away.
I'll be there to save the day.
Superman got nothing on me—
I'm only one call away."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Magnus sat up half way as Alec handed him a glass of water. The guest bedroom he had been offered was grander than Alec’s, with a King bed and thick comforter that reminded Magnus somewhat of his own room at home. It seemed strange that the guest rooms at the Institute would be so much more lavish than the one for the Institute’s leader. Magnus wondered if Alec did that on purpose, or if he just did not care.
“This is unnecessary,” Magnus griped, accepting the water and taking a few huge gulps. His hand shook slightly. He had not realized quite how parched he was. Alec took the empty glass from him and immediately refilled it from a pitcher on the bedside table, handing it back.
“Right, because you’re completely fit to return home by yourself when you can barely walk,” Alec shot back. “Magnus, I could feel you when you channeled me—I know how exhausted you are. I’m not letting you go anywhere by yourself until you’ve at least had something to eat and then slept it off for a little while.”
“I’m not the one who passed out,” Magnus grumbled.
“You’re also not the one with an iratze,” Alec retorted. “And I’m assuming you can’t use magic to fix exhaustion from using too much magic.”
“...that would be a fair assumption,” Magnus huffed. “But an iratze can’t fix magical exhaustion either—you may feel fine now physically, but you need to take it easy for a few days, too.”
“And I will,” Alec promised, “once I know that you’re going to be okay. Fair?”
Magnus could not say no to the genuine, adorable smile Alec flashed him. And, though he hated to admit it, Alec was right. Magnus could barely walk, let alone make the drive home.
Or portal, he thought. Nothing stopping us from using portals, now.
“Isn’t it a bit excessive that you’re in here taking care of me instead of dealing with other urgent matters at hand?” Magnus glanced toward the closed door. “We need to talk to Jocelyn, and figure out who helped Mellie, and where Mellie went.”
Alec sat on the bed, leaning on his folded hands as he contemplated his answer. When he spoke, he did so with a hesitance that sparked Magnus’ curiosity—he had not thought his question to be a particularly challenging one.
“Clary is busy with her mother,” Alec answered carefully. “Izzy is talking to them, getting what information she can from Jocelyn. She’s better at that stuff than I am. So that leaves me to make sure you’re okay. We can deal with the Melusine stuff once you’re feeling more… spritely.”
Magnus stifled a grin at the subtle dig to his age.
“I prefer the word spirited,” he bantered, “or maybe frisky.” He ran a wandering hand up Alec’s leg. The look of sheer horror the shadowhunter shot him, daring to flirt while in such a pathetic, tired state, sent Magnus into a fit of giggles.
“Okay, but why only you three?” Magnus puzzled, pulling himself together. He sat up fully now, crossing his legs. Alec frowned at this effort. Magnus ignored it, hating how much effort it did actually take. “Honestly, why does anyone have to stay with me? I’m fine.”
“Well…” Alec trailed. He stared at the floor, choosing his words carefully. “Firstly, you’re not fine, and I’d rather you not die in the middle of my Institute. And secondly… not many shadowhunters would volunteer for this sort of guard duty. I could assign someone, but…“ Alec waved his hand vaguely in the air, as if to follow the end his sentence as it floated invisibly around him and drifted away.
Understanding dawned on Magnus.
“You’re worried about how another shadowhunter would treat me,” the warlock finished, “because I’m a downworlder.”
Alec nodded, sucking in his lips. He avoided Magnus’ eyes, keeping his own aimed straight downward. Magnus reached out, fingers brushing against Alec’s cheek, and firmly turned the shadowhunter’s head to face him. He held his chin there, staring unwaveringly until Alec met his gaze. He maintained firm eye contact, driving his point home.
“Alexander, I’m over 300 years old. I was around when there were no Accords at all, no civil recourse for protecting downworlders like me from the wrath of angry shadowhunters—and I promise, back then, they were a lot angrier.”
Magnus sometimes forgot himself how shadowhunters used to be, how they could still get, when men like Valentine were allowed to run free. He might be a downworlder, but his magic was powerful enough to shelter him from most of the negative aspects of that label. In the long course of his life, he rarely if ever needed to interact with shadowhunters at all. When he did, they treated him with respect and caution because they needed his help with something. Most people who mistreated Magnus Bane in any way—nephilim, downworlder, and mundane alike—learned to regret that decision.
But Magnus still remembered how awful it could be.
“Magic used to be forbidden by the Clave, you know. That’s not something I learned in a book. It’s something I lived through,” the warlock ruminated. “Sometimes I remember that things like that are ancient history to you, and it confounds me.”
Alec opened his mouth to respond, then closed it again. He mulled over Magnus’ words. Finally, he reached up and pulled Magnus’ hand off of his face, wrapping it in the warmth between his palms.
“Just because you’ve been through worse in the past doesn’t mean you shouldn't be treated with respect now,” he said decisively. “Besides, I want to be here myself anyways. After Camille’s apartment…”
Magnus smiled at Alec’s protective fretting. The shadowhunter’s honest thoughtfulness tugged at his heartstrings.
“You can’t protect me from everything, Alexander,” he chortled. Then he tilted his head, tone changing. “Speaking of which, we need to discuss what you did earlier. That was completely unacceptable.”
“Magnus,” Alec tried to interrupt, exasperation apparent.
“No,” Magnus cut in. “You have to promise me you’ll never do that again. I mean it, Alexander. It was reckless.” Magnus imagined the young shadowhunter as he had been moments after the spell completed, crumbling to the floor like a lifeless puppet. Alec had too much life left to live to risk it so carelessly.
Alec shook his head, squeezing Magnus’ hand tighter between his.
“I… can’t promise that,” he said. “If you need me—”
“You can’t come running every time I might be in danger,” Magnus laughed. The sound was fond and affectionate, but tinged with a hint of frustration. “I know that my close call at the Alucard scared you, but that’s over, in the past. I cannot let you throw your life away trying to protect mine.”
“I don’t see how that qualifies as ‘throwing my life away,’” Alec protested, voice raising slightly. “I’m a shadowhunter, Magnus. Protecting people is what I do.”
Silence fell between them. Magnus’ expression changed, growing more distant. When he spoke again, his voice carried a hardness that he rarely used toward Alec.
“You have to see it from my perspective,” Magnus pressed, now quieter. “I’ve lived for hundreds of years. I’ve loved many people before you. And as much as I hate to think about it right now, I will likely love many people after you. It’s not right for you to risk cutting your life short for me. You already have so little of it left. I don’t want to steal that from you.”
Magnus could tell he hit a nerve by the pained expression that flashed across Alec’s face. The shadowhunter quickly buried it. He rested his hand on the warlock’s knee, digging silently around inside himself for the right words. It was better this way, Magnus thought. Ripping the truth out quickly, like an old bandage. Getting it over with. Better for them both if Alec broke it off early on, before either of them got too invested.
“I’ve thought about what that means for us—me being mortal, you living forever,” Alec faltered. “If you want my honest view on it…” He struggled to complete the sentence, biting his lip to fight back the surge of emotion that burned behind his eyes.
You already have so little of it left.
“... it terrifies me,” Alec admitted.
With that statement out of the way, the rest poured out.
“I don’t know what to do. It hurts, knowing that a relationship with you would mean that I could dedicate my entire life to you and still be just like a speck of dust in the vast universe of your existence. It hurts to feel like in the long run, I might not matter.”
The admission took Magnus by surprise. He had not realized Alec had put much consideration yet into their life spans. He always figured that realization might be the end of it for them, when the serious, traditional shadowhunter faced the fact that he was only one of many—a long line of dead lovers that slipped through Magnus’ immortal fingers.
Maybe Magnus had underestimated Alec’s proclivity for brooding—the shadowhunter wasn’t just sulking all the time when he lurked on the edges of conversations. He wasn’t ignoring his peers. He was thinking.
Alec took his stunned silence as permission to continue.
“I don’t know how I can compare to centuries of relationships—across genders, across species. But I do know that I care about you, and I do whatever I can to protect the people I care about. It doesn’t matter how many countless years you’ve lived—you deserve to live countless more. And I intend to make sure of that, while I’m around.”
When he finished, Alec’s voice was thick with emotion, but so quiet that Magnus could barely discern the words. The warlock leaned forward, pulling his knees up and resting his forehead on them. He couldn’t breathe. What did he do to deserve this? How had such a perfect man found his way into Magnus’ life?
Unbidden, a few determined tears squeezed their way out from behind his eyes. Why was letting someone care for him so difficult? He imagined the lost, empty feeling awaiting his heart in only half a century or so, if he was lucky—one that could be avoided if he only kept Alec at just a little bit more of a distance from himself.
“That’s not fair to you, Alec. I can’t ask that of you.” He hoped the muffle of his voice between his knees would disguise the burning in his throat, but an unbidden sniffle betrayed him.
“Magnus,” Alec’s voice caught. He had never seen the warlock cry, and he didn’t know what to do. He remembered what it felt like to stay up for days with little sleep, how his emotions seized control of his actions. He realized Magnus must be feeling the same way, exhausted by the impressive amounts of magic he burned through.
Now is not the time for this conversation, Alec decided. The burning in his own throat threatened to spill into his voice, but he contained it. He scooted closer to Magnus, inching around him so he could rest both hands on his shoulders from behind. He rested his chin on his right hand, mouth moving next to Magnus’ ear in a soothing whisper.
“You didn’t ask it of me,” he assured the tired warlock, squeezing his shoulders gently. “And we can fight about it later, if you want. But for now, you need to sleep.”
Alec pulled Magnus down onto the bed with him, wrapping a protective arm around him. They molded together as if they were made to sleep as one—two strangely disparate halves of one whole. Magnus sighed, making no protest as Alec tugged the sheets up over him. After only a few minutes, Alec heard his breathing deepen and slow. Magnus’ weight shifted almost imperceptibly, leaning more heavily into Alec as he drifted off.
When he was sure Magnus was completely asleep, Alec slipped out of the bed, adjusted his hair and clothes, and tiptoed out of the room, letting the door click softly closed behind him.
Clear of Magnus’ earshot, Alec strode purposefully toward the ops room. Melusine did not just portal out of New York—she organized dozens of warlocks to help her do it. It was a planned attack. An attack against Magnus.
Magnus who rescued her. Magnus who practically raised her. Magnus who risked his life to help the people he cared about.
Melusine had proven herself to be calculating and clever—she knew such a strain could kill the High Warlock.
Now, Alec was going to kill her.
~ Closing Song ~
"Battlefield" - Svrcina
"Meet me on the battlefield.
Even on the darkest night,
I will be your sword & shield, your camouflage,
And you will be mine."
Chapter 18: Worst Nites (Part 2)
The morning after their near-death experience waking Jocelyn, Magnus brings Alec a small gift of appreciation for taking care of him.
~ Opening Song ~
"Worst Nites" - Foster the People
"All my worst nights are the best times—
West CoastHigh Warlock stealing all my shut-eye.
All my worst nights are the good kind—
high life filtered through the lo-fi."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Magnus stepped out into the chilly pre-dawn air, a shimmering portal swirling closed behind him. As much as he loved his classic cars, he had really missed the convenience of portaling everywhere—the ease with which he could pop in and out of all his favorite establishments, no matter the continent. Two steaming to-go cups of coffee warmed his hands, heat coiling upward into the darkness and scattering to the gentle breeze. At this early hour, Magnus could taste Autumn’s arrival. A handful of fallen leaves crinkled as they bounced across the pavement. Inside the glamour, the Institute was already alight, silhouettes of early-rising shadowhunters bustling past golden windows.
A few shadowhunters shot him curious looks as he strolled through the main hall, but most ignored him. He realized his presence had become so constant lately that most of the nephilim had grown accustomed to him wandering around just as naturally as they did—a feat he never thought possible. Even more strange was that he himself did not think twice about it—strolling into the den of shadowhunters like he had the run of the place.
How quickly times change, he mused. He glanced down the hallway leading to the living quarters. Seeing it empty, he slinked over to Alec’s door, knocking quietly.
“Alexander, it’s me! I come bearing a small thank you gift for taking care of me yesterday.”
No answer came. Magnus knew Alec was supposed to wake up five minutes ago, and wondered if their late night texting had caused him to oversleep his alarm. They had a habit of letting it get out of hand, staying up long past Alec’s bed time. Probably because unlike the much more regimented shadowhunter, Magnus did not have a set schedule and often put the onus of ending the conversation on Alec. Yet Alec rarely did, incapable of leaving his messages unchecked when he knew he had one waiting for him from Magnus. It had become a fun game for the warlock, seeing how late he could keep the otherwise painfully responsible shadowhunter awake from afar, monopolizing his attention with any conversational topic he could think of.
All the more reason I owe the poor man a coffee, Magnus reasoned, chuckling to himself. He considered shooting off a text to him now, wondering if he woke up early and ended up in another part of the Institute. If so, Magnus hoped it was the training room. He loved watching Alec train, especially when he forewent his shirt. But before he could dig his phone out of his pocket, one travel cup now levitating in the air beside him, a faint sound from inside the bedroom caught his ear.
Is that… music?
Magnus tried the handle curiously and the door cracked open, releasing the now substantially less muffled sound waves. The tinny tone of an early-2000s shower speaker broke through the drumming of water against tile from the other side of Alec’s bathroom door, across the room. Magnus slipped into the bedroom, clicking the door shut behind him. He set both of their coffees on Alec’s dresser, plopping himself on the foot of his bed to wait for him to finish his shower. He was caught by surprise when he heard Alec’s voice through the door… singing.
Now completely enamored, Magnus leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and turning his head to catch the words. He knew the song—Simon Lewis asked for it every time Magnus accepted requests at Pandemonium. To be fair, it was not a bad club song. But he never pegged Alec as a Foster the People fan, and the words drifting out under the bathroom door were not quite the same ones Magnus remembered.
“Starting it up after dark.
Chasing demons, cruising through Central Park.
Joined the downworlders eating paradise.
Getting tilted, yeah, we’ll pay the price.”
Magnus was glad he had yet to sip his coffee, because if he had, he would have choked on it. His hand clamped down on his mouth, stifling a surge of maniacal laughter. Alexander Lightwood was never going to live this down. The normally deadpan shadowhunter sang with energy, and whatever he lacked in skill was made up for with enthusiasm, voice echoing off the tiled walls behind the door. Sometimes he devolved into humming, but picked back up with renewed gusto when the refrain dropped, rising to an adorable falsetto that actually left Magnus mildly impressed.
“All my worst nights are the best times,
High Warlock stealing all my shut-eye.
All my worst nights are the good kind—
high life filtered through the lo-fi.”
Alec “ahhh”ed along with the track, the steady thrumming of the shower drizzling out, leaving only the drone of the bathroom’s ventilation fan under the plinky music, making his yodeling that much clearer. Magnus bit his lip, flushing pink at the altered verse. Many people had serenaded him and even written songs about him between his hundreds of varied affairs, but somehow, he found this instance to be the most charming.
Magnus heard fabric rustle as the shadowhunter toweled himself off. He imagined how Alec looked on the other side of the door, standing naked in a cloud of steam, rivulets of water dripping off his smooth skin. He diverted his attention to the coffee cups, distracting himself from the sudden surge of amorous desires that image provoked. He stifled another round of giggles as Alec switched off the speakers and opened the door.
Alec hung his towel neatly back on the rack after silencing his music. It was a good way to time his showers and keep them brief during his sleepier mornings—most of which could be blamed on Magnus Bane. He never had issues keeping his morning routine succinct until recently, when the later nights sometimes resulted in quick, unplanned naps as he got ready—sometimes even while standing in the shower.
He hated to admit it, but Simon Lewis was right. Alec Lightwood enjoyed almost all of the music the vampire recommended to him. This one always made him think of Magnus, and when he trained, his found himself mumbling along to the music in his earbuds, replacing words as he went. It made him smile.
However, he refused to give either Simon or Clary the satisfaction of admitting to his evolving music tastes. He kept any externally audible enjoyment of the music to his room, where he could sing along in peace without anyone shaming him for choosing to appreciate something fun for once.
Alec floated on the high of a good mood, the upbeat song having successfully plucked all remaining sleepiness from his disposition. Contentment curled his lips as he swung the door open and stepped out into his bedroom, goosebumps trailing across his naked skin as his body hit the cooler air.
Magnus Bane sat cross-legged on the end of the bed, biting his lip to contain his amusement.
“What the—!” Alec’s hands darted to cover himself as he stumbled backwards behind the bathroom door again.
“Oh, relax,” Magnus snickered. His voice lowered to a sultry purr, coiling around the door that separated them. “It’s not like I haven’t seen you naked before.”
A surge of heat spread through Alec from his core. Something about the casual way in which Magnus brought up the topic heightened the goosebumps along his arms, reminding him that he now spent a solid chunk of time naked with another man on a regular basis. The concept was still so new to him. Every time he was reminded of it, a tiny jolt of excitement clenched below his stomach. He grabbed his towel from the rack and wrapped it around his waist, emerging once more from the bathroom—this time with a modicum of dignity.
“Good morning, Magnus,” Alec greeted, some of his usual sarcasm leaking into his tone. He almost sounded grumpy. “Fancy meeting you here. In my bedroom. At six in the morning.”
“My apologies for the scare. I assumed you’d hear me, what with your superior shadowhunter senses and all,” Magnus smirked. His eyes slid over Alec’s bare chest, observing the tiny water droplets that glistened across it. His lips partied as his gaze fell to where Alec’s line of hair disappeared under the towel. “Looks like I came at the right time.”
“I’m not generally on guard for demons in my own bedroom,” Alec responded defensively. “And why are you here, exactly? Not that it isn’t always great to see you, but…” He lifted his hands, waving them inquisitively as he raised an eyebrow. His eyes fell down to the still piping hot coffee cups in Magnus’ hands, expression softening as Magnus opened his mouth to answer.
“I brought you a small ‘thank you’, a token of my appreciation, for taking care of me yesterday after we woke Jocelyn.” He stood, holding one of the cups out to Alec. Alec accepted it, a shy, content smile playing on his lips.
“You didn’t need to do that,” he said. Then added, “And… thank you. Or... you’re welcome? ”
“It’s from my third favorite coffee house—a tiny place in Stone Town owned by a dear old friend. I helped him set it up a few decades ago and now he crafts me free drinks whenever I happen to be in town. Be warned, it is a bit spiced.” He added the last bit as Alec took a cursory sip, then waited expectantly for a reaction. Alec’s eyebrows shot up.
“There’s cream in this. And…” Alec trailed off, taking another sip. The initial displeasure in his voice was swiftly replaced with curiosity. “What is that?”
“Well, my friend would never tell me his exact recipe, of course, but I assume it involves turmeric and ginger, as is common to the region.” Magnus sipped his own cup, sighing in appreciation.
Alec nodded slowly. “It’s really good,” he admitted. “Thank you.” He took another sip, then stationed his cup back to the dresser while he located some proper clothes to replace his towel. He eyed Magnus, noticing how the warlock’s eyes wandered over his bare body.
“So if your third favorite coffee shop is in Tanzania, where are your first and second favorites?” Alec disappeared back behind his bathroom door with his clothes as he spoke, voice carrying out to the warlock. Magnus let out a disappointed sigh at Alec’s modesty, making sure it was loud enough for the shadowhunter to hear.
“Missouri,” he answered, “and New Jersey. Neither of them are open at this hour.”
After a fumbling of fabric, Alec emerged with pants on, and his black shirt not yet buttoned. Magnus licked his lips, and noticed that Alec had to try hard to ignore it.
“Missouri?” Alec asked, expression piqued with confusion and surprise. “Really?”
Magnus shrugged. “This one shop makes incredible lattes. Surprisingly, I didn’t even have anything to do with their founding, either. I stumbled upon it by accident, the only time I’ve ever had the misfortune of having to stay the night in that lamentable state. I’ve been trying to convince the owner to relocate to New York for years, but he’s having none of it.”
“Huh,” Alec pondered. “Missouri.”
“It’s the only reason I ever visit the Midwest.”
Alec started buttoning his shirt, double-checking himself in the mirror. Magnus frowned. His coffee joined Alec’s on the dresser, and he darted over to interrupt the shadowhunter’s efforts.
“Hey!” Alec exclaimed as Magnus batted his hands away from his own buttons.
“I’ll make you a deal,” Magnus ventured, fingers sliding down the edges of Alec’s shirt, then over the waistband of his black jeans. Alec cleared his throat, making a very admirable effort to keep his morning routine at least somewhat on track.
“Magnus, I do have a schedule to keep, you know,” he laughed nervously. Magnus tsk ed, shaking his head, batting his eyelashes up at the tall shadowhunter.
“But,” Magnus taunted, “how much do you want to keep that little shower karaoke of yours a secret?”
The tips of Alec’s ears flushed scarlet, and the rest of his face and neck soon followed.
“You heard that?” he faltered. Whatever hope he had of avoiding that humiliation scattered on the nonexistent breeze. His entire air of quiet confidence deflated, drifting out the window like a lost balloon.
“Of course I did, Alec,” Magnus grinned, tilting his head toward the bed. “I was sitting right there.” He stood up on his toes, planting an amorous kiss on Alec’s lips, balling the loose fabric of his unbuttoned shirt in his fists to tug him forward. “I especially liked the part where you blamed all of your sleepless nights on me, even though we haven’t actually had very many sleepovers, when you think about it.”
Alec started to stutter out some self-defense, but Magnus silenced him with a finger over his lips. He could see Alec’s resolve wavering, a pleased smile hinting across his face at being hushed. Something deep in Magnus’ tummy flipped over at the sight of Alec’s unexpectedly concupiscent reaction.
Does he like it when I silence him?
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Alexander,” he assured. “Sometimes I stay up late thinking about you, too.” Their faces hovered very close now, Magnus’ index finger still resting on Alec’s lips. Magnus bit his own lower lip, drawing Alec’s eyes down to it.
Alec made no attempt to respond to that verbally, instead taking an unhurried, deliberate step forward, backing Magnus up against the dresser.
So easy, Magnus thought to himself with satisfaction as Alec’s arms planted languidly on either side of him, trapping the warlock between his body and the furniture. Alec pulled Magnus’ hand to the side, holding it onto the surface of the dresser with some weight as he brushed his lips gently against Magnus’. Magnus tried to follow the kiss, but Alec pulled back too quickly, and he had the warlock held in place now by his wrist. Magnus was no match for Alec’s long reach. He found himself getting a little hard already, an immediate and visceral reaction to being held in place so commandingly.
Magnus waited impatiently for the next kiss. Every time he raised himself to meet Alec, the shadowhunter pulled back, forcing him to wait longer. Finally, Magnus held completely still.
“You’re a tease,” he accused quietly, voice low with desire. Alec’s lips met his after what felt like forever, tormenting him with their slow exploration. Alec’s hands weren’t on the dresser anymore. They were messing with his own shirt—taking it off? A thrill ran through Magnus’ body at the prospect. All too quickly, Alec pulled back again, tugging softly on Magnus’ bottom lip with his mouth.
“I have a meeting to get to,” he whispered, devilish sparkle replacing the longing in his eyes. Magnus’ eyes widened, dropping to Alec’s now fully-buttoned shirt.
“You scoundrel!” he uttered, realizing his own game had been turned against him.
“Sorry,” Alec shrugged, his crooked grin widening. Now it was his turn to slide his eyes down the warlock’s body, gaze pausing at the bulge that had already begun to press against Magnus’ pants in anticipation. He rested a hand on the warlock’s waist, appreciating the situation with satisfaction. “I’ve got responsibilities. So do you, I might add. You’re welcome to stay in here, of course, until you’ve settled down.”
Magnus could not help but find Alec’s teasing endearing. The shadowhunter was clearly very proud of himself, and Magnus adored it when Alec got bold with him. It made him feel special, even if this particular torment resulted in unmerited agony.
“Fine,” Magnus sighed, acquiescing defeat. “But don’t think I won’t get revenge for this. One more kiss?” He wrapped his arms up around Alec’s neck, pressing his body close. Alec responded with an approving Mmm, leaning in to accept Magnus’ surrender.
“Thank you for the coffee,” Alec murmured.
“Next time I’m making you work for it,” Magnus promised.
~ Closing Song ~
"for him." - Troye Sivan
"... Whatever I lack, you make up.
We make a really good team,
And not everyone sees—
We got this crazy chemistry
Chapter 19: The Morgenstern Family Values
Magnus has an idea to track down Melusine. Alec deals with the fallout after Jocelyn makes an attempt on Jace's life.
~ Opening Song ~
"Body Talks" - The Strut, Ke$ha
"You can be cool, you can be shy.
Say what you want, say what you like.
... You can pretend you don't wanna know,
but I read the signs from your head to your toes.
You don't need to say a word 'cause your body talks."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec examined the translucent screen in front of him, eliminating three blinking location pins from the map with a tap of his stele. The debriefing from the returning night patrol only took a few minutes, and he set straight to work afterwards with the new information. After the hours of investigation he put in yesterday and the several spots the patrol checked in on, only two locations remained to investigate of the many dozens of portals picked up on the Institute’s tracking systems. Izzy stood behind him, arms crossed.
“Where’s that from?” she asked, noting the unfamiliar logo on the coffee cup in Alec’s hand.
Alec shrugged, mind sprinting for the quickest offhand answer he could give. Across the room, he spotted Magnus emerging from the hallway, holding his identical cup. He wondered briefly how the warlock had handled the arousal Alec had very cruelly abandoned him with—whether he’d waited it out or pursued a more hands-on means of relieving his tension.
In Alec’s bedroom.
Alec swallowed, his throat suddenly a bit dry as a very inappropriate image danced through his thoughts.
Nothing gets you through a lie like the truth, he concluded, returning his attention hastily to the conversation.
“Magnus gave it to me,” he nodded in the direction of the approaching warlock, whose eyebrows raised at the admission. At Izzy’s suggestive glance, Alec backtracked, as if just realizing how it sounded. “A ‘thank you’ for letting him recover in the Institute yesterday,” he added defensively.
“... oh,” Izzy reacted, almost sounding disappointed. She glanced between the two of them, eyes landing on Magnus for verification. The warlock shrugged.
“He’s not lying,” Magnus confirmed. “The man likes coffee, it seemed like an easy way to repay him.”
“Whatever. I’m just disappointed I didn’t get any.” Izzy turned back to the screen. Over her head, Alec and Magnus’ eyes met. For the first time since he left Magnus in his bedroom barely ten minutes before, he realized the downside of the way he had teased the warlock—he still really wanted to go back to his room and finish what they started. And judging by the way Magnus stared hungrily back at him, the warlock felt similarly. Their eyes flickered over each other, pulses quickening.
Magnus swayed slightly, his gaze sliding downward so suggestively that Alec could almost feel the warlock’s touch beneath his clothes. Magnus’ regard returned to Alec’s eyes, where he smirked upon confirming he still had the shadowhunter’s full, enthralled attention.
I guess he waited it out. Alec redirected his focus hastily back to the screen before them, fighting off intrusive thoughts. Now I’m the one being tortured.
The smirk always destroyed him. This was revenge. Alec briefly wondered if anyone would notice their absence for an hour or so.
“We only have two locations left to check,” he explained, fighting to return his mind to the task at hand by updating Magnus on their progress. “We have to keep extra patrols on duty thanks to the threat Jace warned us about. He made landfall this morning with Valentine, and Clary is off doing reconnaissance with her mother and pet vampire. Which leaves only us to look in to these last spots.”
“Well I can eliminate both of these locations,” Magnus said, pointing to the two markers in order. “That’s the entrance and exit point for a portal cast by a warlock I know—Iris. I paid her a visit last night after I went home.”
“What did you find?” Izzy asked.
“Not much, unfortunately. She said Melusine threatened her daughter—” At Alec’s confused expression, he corrected himself. “—adopted daughter. Like many warlocks, she has a soft spot for abandoned warlock children. She’s currently raising a whole gaggle of them.”
Izzy responded, concern evident. “How frightening for her! Is her daughter okay?”
“Yes,” Magnus assured. “But Iris has always been a bit—oh, what’s the word—errant? I would not be surprised if she was lying. At the moment, though, there’s nothing much I can do without any evidence of deliberate wrongdoing.”
“How about participating in an attempt to kill you?” Alec muttered, a bit too aggressively.
“She claims she was under duress,” Magnus frowned. “What am I supposed to do, send her to the Clave for protecting a child?”
“No,” Alec sighed, “you’re right. Did she give you anything else?”
“Yes, actually,” Magnus offered. “That’s the other reason why I dropped by a bit early this morning. She said that Melusine’s target is not the Clave—or me, for that matter. I was just collateral damage, an obstacle blocking her way.”
Alec’s jaw tightened. Collateral damage.
“Then who?” Izzy asked.
“Valentine.” Magnus’ answer surprised both of them. He continued. “It makes sense, when you think about it. Everyone’s afraid of Valentine Morgenstern. Especially downworlders. Melusine is trying to build a weapon that can defeat him, and it seems that some warlocks prefer her more aggressive methods over my decision to cooperate with the Clave. She’s been recruiting.”
“But in the process, she’s murdering mundanes and giving his rhetoric that much more ground to stand on,” came Alec’s acerbic observation.
“Fighting evil with more evil,” Magnus agreed somberly. “I just wish I could speak to her,” he added, “talk her down from this nonsense. She used to be so hopeful, a good girl, despite the myriad traumas of her past.”
Alec remembered Magnus’ close relationship to Melusine. His tone softened. “You know we have to take her in, right? She’s killed a lot of people. She tried to kill you. Whatever good you used to see in her is gone.”
They stood silently, shoulders almost touching.
“I know…” the warlock sighed, struggling to come to terms with what he knew to be true. “Even if she is somehow the same person I used to care for, there’s no walking away from what she’s done.”
“That’s all of the portals then,” Izzy lamented, returning to the current conundrum. “So much for that lead.”
Magnus held up a finger.
“Perhaps not…” He dragged out the words thoughtfully. “May I?” He motioned toward the screen. Alec nodded.
“You lot only track individual portals,” Magnus explained, seeking out their search parameters. “So if something bigger were to occur—say, an entire apartment teleporting to a new location—it would fly right over your heads.”
“Like your place,” Alec noted, remembering the night when he and Magnus first formally met.
“Precisely,” Magnus nodded in approval. His hand hovered hesitantly over the screen, unable to find what he was looking for.
“Here, let the expert take over,” Alec suggested, guiding Magnus backwards with a hand to the shoulder.
“You?” Magnus scoffed good-naturedly. “No offense, Alexander, but—”
“Not, not me,” Alec interrupted him, laughter hiding in his words. He stepped aside for Izzy to push in front of them.
Izzy grinned smugly at Magnus. “Don’t worry. I got this.” Within only a few seconds a new query was running—a single, seamless graphic occupying the center of the screen, indicating that it would be several minutes before it completed. “Check back in a few.”
Before either of them could respond, the front doors of the Institute burst open. Clary’s raised voice echoed across the space. Alec rubbed his temples.
“Will this girl ever learn how to have a conversation in private?” he groaned.
“You can’t just run around trying to kill people, Mom! He’s your son!”
Everyone’s heads snapped around at that, eyes focusing sharply on the two redheads and their vampire tag-along. A wave of quiet curiosity muffled the buzz of conversations across the entire room. Alec glanced at his two companions, nodding for them to follow him before shouldering his way past a few other shadowhunters to meet Clary and Jocelyn Fairchild.
“Izzy!” Clary exclaimed, bee-lining toward the Lightwoods. Alec interrupted her, holding an arm out to cut off her path.
“Be quiet. Now. And follow me.”
Much to his surprise, everyone obeyed. Only Clary made any sign of protest, rolling her eyes and huffing as she followed. He led them to the war room, where Clary’s histrionics would not be overheard by quite so many people.
“Vampire,” Alec pointed to Simon. “Explain.”
“Me?” Simon asked, shifting his weight between his feet as all eyes turned to him.
“His name is Simon,” Clary snapped, “and I’m perfectly capable of—”
“No,” Alec cut her off, holding up a hand. “What you are perfectly capable of doing right now is calming down. Simon. Tell me what happened.” Alec leaned onto the table, attention now focused fully on the anxious vampire. He heard Clary utter something between a gasp and a whimper, livid at Alec’s dismissal of her outrage.
“Well,” Simon started, words tumbling from his mouth. “Um, we went to find Jace. And he was at this vampire den, with Valentine. And they were, like, not the chill kind of vampires like Raf and I? They were messed up. Like, eating people.”
“Breaking the accords,” Alec clarified stonily.
“Yeah, totally,” Simon confirmed. “It was super uncool. Anyways, we get there, and this one jumps at Jace, and he just like, kills her. Pow!” Simon jabbed his hand forward in a staking motion. “Clary calls Jace’s name, and tries to run after him—Ow! You know just because I heal immediately doesn’t mean I can’t feel pain!”
Clary had stomped on Simon’s foot, and now shot him an exasperated glare of betrayal as he whined.
“Really, Simon?” she griped.
“What?” Simon shot back. “Am I supposed to lie to the scary shadowhunters who can put me in supernatural prison for the next century?”
“You could at least try not to throw me under the bus.”
“Enough!” Alec cut them off. “We’ll deal with your inability to follow instructions later, along with a discussion about the meaning of the word reconnaissance,” he growled toward Clary. Then he turned to Simon again. “Get on with it.”
Simon cleared his throat nervously.
“Well, that’s pretty much it. Except after that, Clary’s mom tried to murder Jace with a crossbow, but Valentine jumped in front of it and saved him.” Simon mimicked holding a crossbow as he spoke. When he realized his fictional bolts were aimed at a very unamused Magnus Bane, he hastily dropped the act, folding his hands penitently in front of himself as he bounced on his heels.
Alec’s eyebrows shot up. All of those unnecessary details, and the one part the vampire managed to stay brief on was the interesting bit. Alec examined Jocelyn, who waited unrepentantly with her arms crossed.
“So is Valentine dead, or injured?” Alec asked. “Where’s Jace? I can’t feel him nearby.”
“Jace dragged Valentine back through the portal they came in on,” Jocelyn answered, lips pressed into a tight line. “He could have let him die, but he didn’t. He fled with him.”
“Maybe that’s because his own mother just tried to murder him!” Clary exclaimed. Alec pressed two fingers to his temples.
“What is wrong with this family?” he muttered to himself.
“You don’t understand,” Jocelyn justified coldly. “Something is wrong with him. Valentine injected him with demon blood while I was still carrying him. I never wanted to hurt him but… he’s evil. I thought he died years ago, and the world was a safer place because of it.” The conviction behind Jocelyn’s words send a shiver through Alec. His own mother could be strict, even cruel sometimes. But this? It was another level of heartless.
“No, you don’t understand,” Alec shot back. “Jace is not evil. He’s my parabatai. An attempt on his life is an attempt on mine. Try anything like that again and I will hand you over to the Clave for attempted murder.” He let that sink in, hoping Jocelyn remembered what the punishment would be like in the City of Bones for a shadowhunter who attempted to harm the Head of an Institute. Then, he continued, “Jace is on a mission right now. And the only reason I’m not throwing you behind bars myself is because you just inadvertently gave him the last opportunity he needed to gain Valentine’s trust.”
Alec’s eyes found Clary’s, not waiting for any response out of Jocelyn.
“You,” he commanded. “With me.”
Clary walked beside Alec down the quiet hallway toward the living quarters, pausing behind him when they reached a suitably empty nook. She still simmered from Alec’s casual dismissal of her earlier. Alec knew she hated his refusal to take her seriously, and chose his words carefully.
“You had every right to be just as angry with your mother as you acted,” he said. “Even more so, if you ask me. But you can’t storm around the Institute shouting every time you get upset. No one is going to take you seriously like that.”
“Excuse me?” Clary flashed. “My mother just tried to kill my brother. And I’m supposed to be okay with that?”
“Did you miss the part where I said you have every right to be upset?” Alec snapped back. “Now hold on a second before I change my mind about this.”
“About what?” Clary asked, still heated, but now also curious. Alec activated his Seelie ring, speaking out loud so Clary could hear his half of the conversation.
“Jace, can you talk?” After a few tense moments of silence, Jace’s voice echoed through Alec’s mind.
I was just about to contact you, Jace responded. Are you up to date on what that insane woman just tried to do? What is wrong with my family?
“Yeah,” Alec answered. “No disagreement here. Is Valentine injured?”
Not anymore. His iratze took care of it.
“Any chance he trusts you near the cup now?” Alec asked.
Maybe. Something’s definitely changed.
“Listen,” Alec’s tone lowered as he glanced over to Clary, who waited with her arms crossed much like her mother’s had been, confused as to why Alec had brought her along. Alec finished his sentence silently. Clary is really worried about you. She’s kind of losing her mind and it’s making my life difficult. If you’re in a safe spot… do you… want to talk to her?
Jace’s response came slowly, pain coloring his words. I’m not sure that’s a good idea.
Jace, I know it’s been hard for you, dealing with your feelings. But avoiding her isn’t going to solve anything. You’re only hurting her, and yourself. Alec added as a mental note that he hoped the reunion would remind Jace that not everyone in his family was a murderous psychopath.
He waited as Jace deliberated. Clary tapped her foot. The response came faintly, as if Jace barely believed his own words. Fine. Put her on.
“Here,” Alec slid the Seelie ring from his finger, holding it out toward Clary. Clary froze, eyes widening.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “What about only using these for mission-critical conversations?”
“I think it’s mission-critical that Jace hears in your own words that you weren’t involved in his assassination attempt,” Alec answered dryly. Clary did not require further encouragement. She snatched the ring from Alec’s hand, sliding it onto her much more delicate finger. It shrank to fit her, and she gasped as she activated it, tears glimmering in the corners of her eyes.
“Jace?” she choked out. “Yeah, it’s me! I can’t believe I can hear you!”
Alec felt like an intruder here, watching as Clary fell into silent conversation.
“Come find me when you’re done,” he grunted. Clary nodded back at him, sniffling as the tears that had been threatening finally started to spill. Awkward in the face of her unchecked emotion, Alec turned back down the hallway and left Clary to have some privacy with her brother.
~ Closing Song ~
"Hey Brother" - Avicii
"Hey, brother! There's an endless road to rediscover.
Hey, sister! Know the water's sweet but blood is thicker.
... Hey, brother! Do you still believe in one another?
Hey, sister! Do you still believe in love? I wonder.
Oh, if the sky comes falling down, for you,
there's nothing in this world I wouldn't do."
Chapter 20: Broken Wards
The squad closes in on Melusine. Alec finds himself preparing for an unexpected mission.
Good morning, everyone!!
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all so much for reading. I can't believe I've passed 10,000 hits!!
With that in mind, I think it's the perfect time to announce that in addition to Ao3, I now also have a personal website where I post all of my writing projects--starting with this one! This site will include bonus materials such as opening and closing songs for chapters and, eventually, deleted scenes. But, most importantly, it will always be one chapter ahead of Ao3!
If you'd like to start off reading this chapter over there, you can follow this link!
TL;DR If you want to stay absolutely up to date on every chapter, enjoy the bonus materials, or just feel like supporting me by visiting my page, please check me out at cloudburst.institute!
And since my website is always one chapter ahead, those of you who check it out get a bonus chapter this week! So, thanks so much for reading, and for helping me get to this awesome milestone!! 🖤
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec found Izzy and Magnus hovering over a station in the ops room, both frowning down at a map of the Northern US.
“Did the results come in?” Alec asked, peering over their shoulders.
“Yes,” Magnus grumbled. He tilted his head to the side as his sullen gaze lifted to meet Alec’s. “I’ve been robbed.”
Alec looked to Izzy with one eyebrow raised, unsure how a dent in Magnus’ over-abundance of wealth affected their mission.
“Melusine broke past Magnus’ wards and stole one of his downtown apartments,” Izzy smirked. Magnus crossed his arms, glaring off across the room like a bullied child. Alec tried to keep the surprise out of his voice.
“... How?” he asked, faltering as he looked between them. “Like… the whole thing?”
“Yeah,” Magnus griped. “The whole damn thing, contents and all. She broke through while I was recovering yesterday, and teleported away in it. I’ve been so tired and… distracted,” his eyes flicked over to Alec, “that I didn’t even notice the broken wards until the address came through on your systems.”
Alec nodded slowly, fighting down a blush. “So… do we know where she took it?”
“Yes, and that’s the strangest part,” Magnus answered, stepping aside to give Alec a better view of the screen. A pin blinked on the map over northern Michigan. “You can’t just teleport a building anywhere. There are rules, just like with portals. Apartments like mine have a few set points they can jump between, and can only jump to spaces that have been properly prepared for them. For example, I could not transport my home to the center of 5th Avenue. But I do not have any properties in…” he ran a finger over the label below the location pin, “... Keweenaw.”
Alec shook his head, attention split between Magnus and the screen. “So… what does that mean?”
“Mellie would have had to prepare this space herself, likely with help, so there’s probably a paper trail. Which is good news, since we couldn’t get an exact location. The whole area is surrounded by water, and that makes pinpointing things a bit difficult, even for me. But at least that tells us it’s probably near the coast. And it’s far enough from any Institute or big city that I think we can guess that this is where her long term base of operations has been. Far away from prying eyes.”
“But if she’s already got a place there, why steal your apartment?” Izzy asked, tapping her finger against her lips. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“It does if I had died during her attempt,” Magnus countered. “Imagine for a second that I had. None of the portals you followed up on would lead back to her. You wouldn’t have thought to expand your search like I recommended, and I wouldn’t be around to eventually recover and notice that my wards had been broken. The place she stole is an old property, one I haven’t used in years for anything other than storage. Not even my closest associates would think much of it after my passing. It would have been a clean getaway.”
Alec did not like imagining this scenario. He clenched his jaw against the heaviness that weighed on his chest, a tiny muscle twitching on the side of his face. He pictured himself falling back into his old routine, before Magnus, even before Clary—mindlessly following orders, except when Jace and Izzy outnumbered him, and cleaning up after their recklessness with paperwork and politics. It seemed like a world away, a far off time when he wasn’t really living or thinking for himself.
What would he have done if Magnus had died? If this thing between them that they had only just begun exploring was cut short? He swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. Why did this distress him so much? Was he so enamored with the warlock that he already couldn’t imagine life without him? He mentally kicked himself.
Stop being so dramatic, you sound like Jace.
“Well, thanks to Alec, we don’t have to worry about that scenario, right?” Izzy grinned up at him, clearly over her earlier concern about yesterday’s daring rescue. She turned back to Magnus. “And, thanks to your very much living self, we have a lead! So it actually all turned out for the better.”
“Alec is just lucky that I’m powerful. If I were a lesser warlock, we both would have died as a result of that stunt.” Magnus shot Alec another grumpy glance, still not keen on the thought of the shadowhunter endangering himself.
“But we didn’t,” Alec intoned. “And I saved your life, so can we just agree that it was the right move and get past it?”
“You two are adorable.” Izzy cut in to their bickering. “Please send me transcripts of all of your cute little arguments on this mission,” she added. She shot Alec an apologetic glance, but it melted quickly into a grin at his bafflement.
Alec did a double take. “What?” He searched both of their expressions frantically, waiting for the punchline.
“Oh, yes,” Magnus chimed in, stifling a sly smile. “Isabelle was just telling me about how there isn’t much manpower to spare at the Institute lately. Obviously I must participate in this mission—I mean, it’s my apartment that Mellie stole, after all, and I have been consulting on the case since the start. But who would the Institute send, with everyone so busy?” He dragged the question out, making it clear it was rhetorical.
Izzy picked up where he left off, leading Alec to believe that this is what they were discussing just before he joined them. “We need to keep as many people here as possible who know what’s really going on with Jace, in case he needs a quick extraction. But since Clary can’t leave the Institute much anyways with Valentine looking for her, you could just leave the Seelie ring with her. It’ll be her full-time job to listen for him. And if he does need anything, I’ll run point. Since you’ve been leading the Melusine investigation from the start on the Institute’s end, it only makes sense that you’d go.”
“Why shouldn’t we all go?” Alec argued. “Portal in, portal out. When done right, with proper planning, missions like this should be quick and quiet. There’s no reason to limit it to only one of us.”
“As seems to be the trend lately, portaling isn’t exactly an option.” Magnus sounded as exasperated as Alec felt. Alec didn’t bother to ask for an explanation, instead shooting them both an impatient look.
“I’ve never been to Michigan,” Magnus expounded, “so I can’t portal there. And unfortunately, we have no way of knowing which other warlocks might be in league with Melusine and tip her off. I’d trust Catarina, but she’s never been to the area either. We’re going to have to use more traditional methods of travel.”
“The closest Institute is in Minneapolis,” Izzy continued, tapping the map. “You can request to portal in there, then drive. Unless you’d rather fly.”
Alec tensed up. “No flying,” he blurted.
“If you say so,” Izzy shrugged. “Though I’ve always wanted to ride an airplane, myself!” After a sharp glance from Alec, she returned to the facts. “The drive is about six and a half hours, assuming you hit no traffic.”
“So we could be stuck there overnight, depending on what we find, or how long the drive truly ends up taking,” Magnus mused, examining his neatly-polished fingernails.
A familiar anxiety bubbled up in Alec’s chest. This was a mission. A documented mission, that would be recorded in reports, and filed with the Clave. Anyone with the right clearance could read about it, know if he and Magnus stayed in the area overnight, just the two of them. Anyone could jump to conclusions.
Magnus noticed the moment Alec’s tone changed from bafflement to panic. Curiosity quieted him, allowing the two siblings to work out the details.
Is he afraid of flying? Magnus wondered. Or of Melusine?
The former option seemed plausible to him—shadowhunters almost never traveled by air, and Magnus could safely assume that Alec had never been on a plane before. But Alec seemed hesitant before the topic of airplanes had been broached, and Magnus found it unlikely that such an insignificant thing would give the shadowhunter such pause.
The latter option seemed virtually impossible. Alec was many things, but he was not a coward. When it came to fighting, he would always be the first to endanger himself in the name of protecting others. Magnus knew this.
“Fine,” Izzy was saying. “I’ll wear the seelie ring. Though I still think Clary can handle it. Does that make you feel better?”
It was not until the siblings finalized their plans that reality hit Magnus like an angry, bitter brick wall.
“Ok, fine,” Alec sighed. The reluctance in his tone hit a nerve. “I’ll contact the Minneapolis Institute. Maybe they can send a team along with us for backup.”
Cold realization swept through Magnus’ chest.
This is a stealth mission, he thought. More bodies will only make our task more difficult. He knows that.
It wasn’t backup Alec wanted. It was a chaperone. Someone who could verify his reports, confirm to any curious third parties within the Clave that nothing uncouth occurred on the mission.
Of course. Magnus should have realized earlier. He should have known. Alec was ashamed.
He should have known when Alec never acknowledged him affectionately in front of anyone, even his own sister. Magnus told himself it was Alec’s dedicated professionalism.
He should have known when Alec dashed off to meetings ahead of him after steamy encounters in his room. Magnus told himself Alec enjoyed the naughty excitement of a secret workplace affair.
He should have known when he made excuses for his own love marks in answer to Isabelle and Clary’s nosy questions. He thought he was just being respectful, not airing their private activities for the world to see. And he enjoyed letting Isabelle jump to her conclusions—all the more fun to spring the truth on her later. But he remembered Alec’s flustered blush, when he spotted him across the room. Magnus told himself Alec enjoyed the thrill, the adventure of hearing himself gossiped about.
He should have known when Alec called off his own wedding after Magnus’ ultimatum, and then ignored him for weeks. Magnus told himself Alec needed some time to deal with the fallout, to emotionally recover. To sort out his feelings.
It was only natural for someone as private and reserved as Alec to want to start out a relationship quietly. Magnus respected that. Interrogations from friends and family were an unnecessary stressor when you weren’t even sure you wanted to stay with someone long-term yet.
Magnus had always assumed that the situation was temporary.
“Magnus?” Alec’s voice cut into the warlock’s self-absorbed spiral. It was just the two of them now, Izzy having pranced off to complete some formal request or another.
Magnus had no idea what Alec had been saying. He didn’t really care.
“We don’t need more shadowhunters on this mission,” Magnus stated, refusing to hide the ice in his voice. It had the desired effect, Alec’s whole demeanor shifting away from easygoing relief to a much more appropriate facial expression that said “oh shit.”
“Magnus—” Alec started, immediately defensive.
Magnus cut him off, having none of it. “You just want someone there in case the Clave starts asking questions about you. Do you know how absurd that is? Believe it or not, Alexander, no one cares. No one in the Clave is actively examining your every move, trying to pin some hideous ‘crime of gay’ on you. But you’re so caught up in making sure they never do that you would risk jeopardizing this entire investigation.”
Alec paled. His eyes darted around, checking that none of the nearby nephilim had overheard Magnus’ outburst. His clear anxiety only served to further prove the warlock’s point.
Magnus shook his head, astounded. “Honestly, Alexander. I always thought I was the unprofessional one.”
Magnus spun on his heel and strode outside, Alec following quietly until they crossed out into the biting morning air. Magnus still carried his almost-empty coffee cup, and found that the remaining few sips had suddenly grown searingly hot, steam curling into the wind through the opening in the lid.
“Of course,” Magnus accused before Alec could speak, “it was the prospect of unprofessionalism that drove you out here to defend yourself. Gods forbid you actually care about something aside from your outdated nephilim axioms.”
“Woah, wow, okay,” Alec answered, running a hand through his hair. “Can you slow down for a second? I need to catch up.”
Magnus’ feet crunched on dry leaves. Alec’s did not. Magnus noticed that happened when Alec got stressed—he fell into combat mode, moving more carefully and soaking in the environment around him as if anyone might jump out at him at any second. Even when the real threat wasn’t physical.
“I’m not interested in being your closet case, Alexander,” Magnus snapped. “I’m not going to sit by the wayside while you prioritize your precious reputation above all else. That’s what shadowhunters do, right? The law is the law. And queerness may not be officially against the law, but it might as well be, right? Even worse if it’s with a downworlder.”
Magnus caught the shift in Alec’s expression, the moment the shadowhunter shut down. Internally, a part of him hated himself for causing it. But he also had too much pride to allow himself to be trampled over. He refused to allow anyone to disrespect him the way Camille had. Not anymore. He was worth more than that.
“Is that what I was doing yesterday?” Alec asked coldly. Magnus had heard this voice before—the night Alec walked in on Camille kissing him. Why did every problem in his love life always have to drag his thoughts back to her ?
“Because from what I recall,” Alec continued, “I saved your life, and then spent almost two hours locked in a bedroom with you—others be damned—making sure you were okay.”
“So tell me, then,” Magnus retorted, refusing to let Alec change the subject. “What's going on today, Alexander? What is the real reason you want other shadowhunters along on this mission?”
Alec stopped short, opening his mouth to respond, then closing it again.
“Tell me that when you write those reports you nephilim are so fond of, you won’t be just a little relieved that some other shadowhunter will have been around to verify that Alexander Lightwood acted like a perfectly professional, emotionless, straight little soldier in whatever bare-bones motel we end up having to stop in. You know, just in case the Inquisitor gives it a read later on and thinks ‘Wow, bedbugs and old cigarettes, so romantic, I wonder if that boy did anything gay on this mission that he failed to mention?’”
Magnus saw Alec’s frosty facade crumbling as he spoke. He kept going anyways, unable to stem the flow of pent up insecurities that came spilling out. By the time he finished, Alec stared at the ground, hands shoved in his pockets. It was the most defeated Magnus had ever seen him—even after losing the Mortal Cup, even after watching Jace leave with Valentine. Magnus had never seen Alec look so crushed.
“That’s not fair,” Alec mumbled, his voice strained.
“Life isn’t fair,” Magnus answered, his heated tone finally quieting. “I am hundreds of years old, Alexander. I am not interested in being someone’s dirty little secret.”
“That’s not what you are to me,” Alec protested quietly. He raised his eyes, searching for Magnus’, and flinched when he saw the anger and hurt there. He looked like he wanted to say more, but he stopped himself again. The silence fell heavy between them.
Magnus’ heart felt like it was breaking into a million pieces.
What have I done? he asked himself. This is my fault. Even now, over a hundred years later, I’m still letting Camille and the scars she left rule my life. Alec doesn’t deserve this.
He wanted to take it all back. To apologize. To call himself a crazy warlock and forget about it. To let Alec invite whomever he wanted on the mission, or even just ask him about it in a kind, sympathetic tone instead of immediately jumping to the most malicious conclusion possible.
Instead Magnus spun up a portal and fled home, where there was whiskey and solitude, leaving Alec standing alone outside of an old church that looked abandoned, dead leaves swirling around his feet.
Not ready for the chapter to be done yet? Check out the next one at cloudburst.institute!
Chapter 21: Genghis Khan
Alec & Magnus embark on their mission to locate Melusine.
Alec Lightwood - 09:24
Alec Lightwood - 10:14
I wanted to text yesterday but I thought maybe you wanted space.
I’m really bad at this sort of thing.
Alec Lightwood - 11:05
[Alec Lightwood deleted a message.]
I think I should apologize to you.
But I’d like to do it in person, if you’ll let me.
Alec Lightwood - 11:07
[Alec Lightwood deleted a message.]
11:07 - Missed call from Alec Lightwood
Magnus shut off the screen on his phone, staring back into the amber single-malt swirling gently in his hand. It dangled from his fingers, his wrist propped across his knee as he reclined in his garnet-red armchair.
Good going, High Warlock, he thought to himself bitterly. You’ve overreacted and made yourself look like a complete catastrophizer.
He sipped from the glass, inhaling deeply through his nose, then releasing the breath in a drawn out sigh. He replayed his conversation with Alec in his head, feeling more and more embarrassed for himself.
You knew you were never okay being someone’s closet case, he scolded. Did you ever consider just talking to him about it, instead of bottling it in until he hit the right nerve?
In truth, he hadn’t realized how much it meant to him. He really did enjoy toying with Izzy and Clary—the girls were good sports, and Magnus made a regular habit of letting Izzy believe whatever she assumed about his life. It produced priceless entertainment when she realized she was wrong and bombarded him with angry text messages, painting an enigmatic picture of himself that he thrived on. He could never refuse a mysterious reputation.
But somewhere, in the hidden recesses of his heart, he had hoped to be important enough to Alexander Lightwood that the game would eventually end. That one day, they would go on nauseatingly cute double dates with Izzy and whomever her current beau might be, or even Clary and Simon, whom he suspected would soon be Facebook official despite Clary’s blatant ignorance of the vampire’s affections. He imagined walking into the Institute and being greeted with a kiss on the cheek before a meeting, or dropping by to portal them both to a quick lunch in Sukhumvit, not caring if anyone saw them holding hands as they left. It was stupid. An unrealistic romantic fantasy about a boy he’d idealized beyond recognition.
Magnus glanced at his coffee table, where a small, deep green velvet bag hid his latest project. He had been working on it all night, using the monotonous, soothing nature of spellcraft to organize his thoughts.
Maybe you should stop being such a drama queen and just let him talk to you, instead of sabotaging everything the second it requires any amount of effort.
“Ughhh,” Magnus groaned, audibly grumbling at his own thoughts. He threw back the last sip of his whiskey. “Fine.”
His phone screen illuminated once more, Alec’s number blinking across it as he waited for the shadowhunter to pick up.
“Magnus,” Alec’s voice was scrambled by the small speakers when he answered, the air waves doing it no justice. “You need to come to the Institute.”
“I know,” Magnus sighed. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have ignored you. We could talk here, if you’d rather. I’ve been awful, and I should apologize.”
Alec paused, as if caught off guard.
“Oh, um. Well, I would love to talk. But the thing is, that’s not why I was calling…” He faltered over his words. “The portal request came through. Whenever you can get here, we need to leave. If you still want to.” He added the last part on hastily. “But, I mean, I kind of need you. So please come.”
“Oh,” Magnus answered, for lack of a better response. Aside from medical emergencies, that was the fastest portal request he had ever known to happen. They usually took multiple days, sometimes a week. The Clave held no reputation for swift response times.
With a flick of his wrist, a portal opened beside him, and he stepped out into Alec’s office. Alec stood facing away from him, staring out of the clear windows opposite his desk, his phone still to his ear. He startled and spun around at the sudden intrusion.
“Magnus,” he said, eyes wide in surprise. He ended the call and tucked his phone into his pocket. “That was quick.”
“You did say ‘whenever I can get here,’” Magnus pointed out.
“I did.” Alec’s eyes fell to Magnus’ left hand, which still held the empty glass. The stained glass windows behind Magnus reflected an array of blues onto the curved surface.
“Oops,” Magnus remarked. The glass disappeared in a puff of cyan smoke. Alec smiled, momentarily transported back to the night they first kissed, when Magnus used the same trick on both of their empty glasses. The lopsided smile destroyed Magnus in a way that only Alec could, crumbling any residual anger to dust. He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Instead, he just stood there.
“Alec?” Izzy swung open the door. “Oh, good! You’re both here. I just got a fire message. We’re all set.”
Alec gave Magnus a short nod. “You ready?”
“Nope,” Magnus quipped.
They followed Izzy through the main hall to the front entrance of the Institute, where a shimmering portal filled the doorway. She stopped Alec before he could step through, wrapping him in a tight hug.
“Be safe,” she demanded. Alec responded into her hair, one arm encircling her.
“Don’t worry, Iz,” he assured her. “We’ll be fine.” She mumbled something that Magnus couldn’t hear, and Alec squeezed her tighter.
“I love you too,” the shadowhunter answered fondly. Magnus’ heart twisted in on itself.
Idealized, he mentally repeated. Or maybe he just really is perfect.
Alec tried to mock a stern expression with his sister, but failed miserably, instead dissolving into an affectionate grin. “Take care of my Institute while I’m out. See you late tonight.” He spared a single glance for Magnus to make sure he was following, then stepped confidently through the portal, in his element as he focused on the mission ahead.
Magnus moved to follow, but Izzy caught his arm.
“Magnus,” she prompted. He waited, unsure what sort of goodbye she could possibly have for him. “I know that you have a new beau now or whatever,” she said, “but please… take care of him? He’s the person I love most in the world, and I know this is more dangerous than he lets on. I’m not blind. I just want him to come home safe.”
Magnus nodded, resting his hand softly over Izzy’s. “You have nothing to fear, little firefly. I promise I would never let anything happen to him.”
Izzy accepted Magnus’ oath, releasing her grip on him. “You be safe, too,” she added with a wry smile. “I’ll never get to figure out who your mystery lover is if you die.”
“I’ve lived this long,” Magnus shot back. “I have no intention of stopping now.”
The Minneapolis Institute reminded Alec of a mundane shopping mall. Wide hallways tiled in bright, neutral colors opened up to skylights and tall, modern glass windows. Ops and war rooms were separated from the vast main hall by glass panels, bustling with people. He felt ill at ease in the strangely sunny space.
With a quiet whoosh, Magnus materialized beside him.
“What took so long?” Alec asked, eyes scanning the wide room. The bizarrely cheerful ambiance contrasted sharply with his mood. He was anxious to get into the car, were he could talk things over with Magnus. Hopefully in such an enclosed space they could get through the conversation without the warlock disappearing into a portal again.
“You sister wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get you killed,” Magnus smirked. Alec shook his head, sighing.
“Sorry, she’s a bit over-protective,” he apologized.
“Says the man who did, in fact, almost get himself killed for me,” Magnus snorted. “Typical Lightwoods.”
Hope blossomed in Alec’s chest. Maybe Magnus would forgive him, after all.
“Alexander Lightwood?” A round, short-haired woman doddered up to them, peppy voice bouncing through the air. “And you must be Magnus Bane! I’m Rosie Bridgestock, Head of the Minneapolis Institute. You requested a vehicle?”
The arrangements took only minutes—a few signatures and Rosie dropped the keys jovially into Alec’s hands, from which Magnus promptly plucked them. Alec glanced back in surprise, but made no protest.
“This is so exciting,” Rosie gushed. The speed rune on her neck bounced slightly as she spoke. “We don’t normally get anything serious around here—a few minor demons, maybe some rowdy vampires every so often. Do you need any backup? I’m sure my daughters would be so thrilled to tag along. They could use the adventure.”
Magnus shot Alec a curious glance, realizing the shadowhunter had not yet made the request for additional support like he originally said he would. Rosie led them to a sporty hybrid just outside the doors, which flashed its lights and beeped when Magnus checked it with the key remote.
“No, thanks,” Alec responded politely. “It’s incredibly generous of you, but this mission requires stealth. If we do need to call in anyone, you’ll be the first to know.”
“Of course, of course,” Rosie concurred as they settled into their seats. “Drive safe!”
She waved them off as Magnus started the engine. They slid through the glamour line, and Alec glanced back to see a crumbling shopping complex, the name Bloomingdale’s dangling precariously from the building’s face by the apostrophe.
The drive began with silence, Magnus staring intently at the GPS as he navigated them to a twelve-lane highway labeled I-35W. Finally, the warlock spoke up.
“You know,” he mused. “In all of my years, I’ve never once before met a heavyset shadowhunter.”
Alec wheezed slightly, something between a breath and a laugh. “Neither have I. Not even retired.”
“Though if I recall,” Magnus added, “Rosemarie Bridgestock is a well-known figure in your world. An incredible fighter.”
Alec nodded. “She was awarded the Minneapolis Institute after she single-handedly took down a huge mundane trafficking ring—young girls being sold into slavery to vampires. I was expecting someone a little more…”
“Menacing,” Magnus finished. Alec nodded again, this time with a smile.
“I guess today I get to learn a lesson about assumptions,” Alec said quietly.
They fell back into silence for a few minutes, until Alec mustered the courage to tear his eyes from the passenger-side window and speak.
“I’m sorry about yesterday,” he said. “I was an ass.” Magnus glanced in his direction, and Alec hoped more than anything that Magnus knew he meant it.
The warlock bit his lip, returning his attention to the road. “You weren’t the only one,” he answered. “I should not have reacted the way I did. It wasn’t fair of me to expect you know my thoughts when I had never once shared them with you.”
“I shouldn’t have assumed you’d be okay with things just as they were,” Alec confessed. “It was selfish. I should have checked in with you. To be honest… I was afraid. Of fighting over it. I guess I ended up just making things worse.” The normally coolly composed shadowhunter fidgeted, running the tips of his fingers across each other as he stared down at them.
“Is that how it’s always been for you in other relationships?” Magnus asked. “You both just avoided uncomfortable topics?”
“What other relationships?” Alec snorted. Magnus’ eyes widened, and Alec immediately regretted the admission. He shifted in his seat, wondering if that was a deal-breaker for the warlock.
“I didn’t know I was your first relationship,” Magnus murmured. “I mean I kind of figured I was your first to get very far physically, but…” He trailed off. That silenced them both again. Alec struggled for a response. Instead, Magnus spoke up once more.
“I understand—your reluctance. This must all be terrifying for you.”
“It is,” Alec answered. He slid down in his seat, knees pressed against the glove compartment, hoping the more relaxed position would slow his racing heart. “I’m just… completely lost, a lot of the time. I’m sorry about that. I don’t really know how this works. I don’t know what we are to each other. I feel like maybe there are some unspoken standards that I’m supposed to be following.”
“It’s okay,” Magnus chuckled. “That feeling doesn’t ever fully go away, I don’t think.” Then, he added, “Believe it or not, this is terrifying for me, too.”
“Really?” Disbelief widened Alec’s eyes, pushing one eyebrow just a little higher than the other. “You?”
“Of course,” Magnus affirmed. “And it certainly doesn’t help that I’m about thirty-five times your age. Some people would probably find that to be very… distasteful. It’s been a long time since I’ve been with a mortal—and now a shadowhunter, no less. And on top of that, now I find out I’m your first romance of any kind? I have a community, too. They’re not quite as judgemental, but they still talk. I’m supposed to be a leader to them, not a gossiping point.”
Alec’s mind skidded to a halt at the math.
“Wait, that would make you… like 800 years old.”
Magnus shrugged. “Well, if we’re putting everything out there, might as well get that out of the way as well.”
Alec laughed—an expression more of shock and incredulity than of amusement. “Magnus that’s… holy shit. I thought you said you were 300?”
The warlock chortled. “I said over 300.”
“Wow,” was all Alec could respond.
“Way to make a man feel young, Alexander.”
“Sorry,” Alec apologized. “I’m just a bit surprised. Wait… did you know Genghis Khan?” He crunched numbers in his head, coming to the conclusion that such an encounter was indeed possible.
“No, Alexander. Why would you even think that?” Magnus actually sounded a bit offended at that one.
“You seem to know every other famous person from history, just thought I’d throw it out there.”
“Very funny.” Magnus rolled his eyes. Then he added, “And it was pronounced more like Chengis.”
He hesitated, much like Alec himself often did when trying to figure out how to word a question.
“Does that bother you? My age?”
“No,” Alec responded thoughtfully. “I’m mostly just… impressed. You’ve lived through so much. I don’t think my brain would be able to keep up with all those memories.”
“Sometimes mine hardly can,” Magnus almost whispered. Alec turned Magnus’ question around, sending it back to him.
“Does me being so much younger, and mortal… Does it bother you?” Alec’s heart beat in his throat.
“A little,” Magnus answered honestly, voice still soft. “I’m afraid of what that means if this turns into something more.”
Only the quiet rumbling of the engine changing gear broke the pensive quiet between them.
Something more, Alec pondered. He felt like his throat might close up entirely at any second. An undeniable longing rose inside of him. He remembered his stupid fantasy, back when he sprawled across Magnus’ sofa, lost in a cloudy swirl of marijuana and the heady high of the warlock’s presence, imagining them snuggled up together come Winter. He wanted to make Magnus hot cocoa, to surprise him with gifts and take him on dates. He wanted to scope out restaurants with Izzy. He imagined himself and Magnus on a double date with his sister and Meliorn, but brushed it away quickly. Izzy and Meliorn didn’t really have a “public dinner dates” type relationship. But at the moment, neither did Alec and Magnus.
“What does ‘something more’ mean?” Alec asked tentatively. “I mean, what even are we now?”
Magnus stared at the road ahead, biting the inside of his cheek.
“I’m not very good with labels,” he mumbled.
Alec’s heart fell a little. A tiny part of him had hoped that someday soon, he might get to call Magnus his boyfriend. He knew it was stupid, childish even. But a part of him needed that security, that mutual understanding of where they stood with each other. Whenever he imagined himself coming out to his parents—to anyone—he imagined doing so with a steadfast, supportive boyfriend by his side. In recent months, somehow that fantasy had morphed to specifically cast Magnus Bane in that role.
“So…” Alec concluded, “I’m not ready to come out to the entire world, and you don’t want to be saddled with a label.”
“So, fine,” the warlock acquiesced, now with more confidence. “We can just see how things go between us for awhile like this, figure the rest out later, when one of us is more ready for a change.”
“Are… you sure?” Hesitance lingered in Alec’s words, afraid of hurting Magnus’ feelings more than he already had. The idea of continuing without defining their relationship frightened him—Alec preferred clear cut, black and white situations. But if it meant he could keep Magnus just a little bit longer, hold on to this special, only-for-him part of his life, it was worth it.
“Yes,” the warlock confirmed. “But I expect honesty from you. No more dancing around topics like this. And I promise to do the same.”
“I can do that,” Alec agreed shyly. Something shifted in him—a nervousness that had prevented him from talking to Magnus about those stray thoughts, those tiny, meaningless little fantasies. He felt it dissolving.
The tension between them dissipated, conversation melting into easy normalcy as trees slid by them in a blur of red and orange.
Chapter 22: Little Debbie's Zebra Cakes
Alec & Magnus make the long drive from Minneapolis to Northern Michigan.
Magnus sank back into the passenger seat, examining Alec’s passively focused expression as the shadowhunter’s sharp blue eyes swept back and forth over the open road ahead of them. Even when he was not in control of the car, Magnus found it difficult to relax, checking their blind spots and tensing when they switched lanes as if he were still behind the wheel. To his credit, Alec did not comment, allowing the warlock his silent effort not to backseat drive.
“When did you learn to drive?” Magnus asked, focusing his eyes back down toward his rings in an effort to let himself rest. “I didn’t think shadowhunters bothered with such mundane practices.”
“They generally don’t.” The visible corner of Alec’s lips tightened in that way that Magnus adored, when he thought of something amusing, or happy, but stifled the expression because Alec’s default was always to maintain his austere composure. Magnus waited patiently for him to continue.
“I don’t like having only one way to get around,” Alec admitted. “Jace, Izzy, and I started taking Ubers sometimes—not every mission warrants trying to get a portal from the nearest warlock. And I wondered, why shouldn’t we just have our own cars? Jace and Izzy thought it was a joke. So I taught myself. You know, mundanes have whole rulebooks available that teach you everything you need to know. It’s easy.”
“So… no one ever taught you? You never practiced with, say, an adult in the car? To give you feedback?” Magnus’ voice carried a worried edge, betraying his concern as to whether or not he should have given up his control of the vehicle.
Alec frowned. “I am an adult.”
Magnus returned to his vigilance, eyes sweeping the road just as Alec’s did, now with more uneasy tension. This time, the shadowhunter rolled his eyes.
“You know I’ve been driving for a couple years now, right?” he asked wryly. “If I was going to get both of us killed, I would have already. I couldn’t take the mundane driving test because I don’t have any ID, but I did make sure I had the ability to pass it before driving anywhere crowded.”
Magnus relaxed slightly, but he did not take his eyes off the road until he unintentionally drifted into a shallow doze, the exhaustion of the past few days, and his recent magical exertion, catching up with him.
His eyes fluttered open a short time later, ears tuning in to the voice of Halsey drifting from the stereo. He faced away from Alec, who had not yet taken notice of the warlock’s stirring. Alec mumbled along to the music, his voice barely a whispered hum.
“All we do is drive…
And New York City never felt like home to me,
New York City never felt like home.
New York City never felt like home to me,
until I had you on the open road…”
“Are you changing the words to songs again?” Magnus murmured, voice croaky with sleep. He pushed himself upright, hoping his hair had not gotten too squished against the window, and yawned.
Alec fell silent. Magnus finished his stretching and turned to cast him a glance, finding that the shadowhunter was blushing bright scarlet. Magnus grinned. He adored it when Alec got embarrassed in this way. Usually he shut down, reverting to his stern business-mode voice to avoid confronting whatever flustered him. But in the rare moments the shadowhunter actually appeared genuinely bewildered, his distress brought with it a charm that left Magnus wondering if the boy could do a little bit of magic of his own after all.
“I thought you were asleep,” Alec mumbled, eyes fixed ahead. The ends of his ears were red, and Magnus wanted run the tips of his fingers over them and kiss them.
“I woke up,” Magnus pointed out, unnecessarily. Alec’s lips thinned to a tense line as he sucked them in, unsure how to climb out of the hole of mortification he had dug for himself. Magnus threw him a rope. “I like how you do that. It’s cute.”
Alec’s eyes widened, his cheeks somehow blushing more. “I’m not… cute,” he stuttered. Magnus briefly wondered if he should be concerned about his control of the car, but Alec’s driving skills seemed unaffected by his bafflement. Magnus reminded himself that shadowhunters had far keener senses and reaction times than mundanes or warlocks.
“Oh, come on, Alexander. Humor me. I want to know what you changed in this one.” He shot Alec the most innocent, saccharine smile he could muster, and watched with deep satisfaction as the shadowhunter’s protective walls crumbled.
“I… just that part,” Alec mumbled. “I’ve never been to California, so I changed it to New York.” Still droning quietly under their conversation, the song reached its conclusion, swapping out for something Magnus had never heard before.
“So,” Magnus teased, “you kept the part about your hand wrapped around someone’s ‘stick shift?’ I do hope it’s mine.”
Alec reached maximum redness, eyes trained on the road. “I hadn’t thought about that part much yet,” he choked out.
“You know,” Magnus observed, “If you actually learned how to sing properly, you wouldn’t be so awful at it.”
It took Alec a few seconds to adjust to the warlock’s whiplash-inducing return to the topic of the song, relieved to leave the previous subject behind. Much to his chagrin, certain images of himself and Magnus doing very inappropriate things in the Institute-issued vehicle remained stained on his mind. He pushed them aside with monumental effort.
"Wow, Magnus, thanks for the vote of confidence," Alec responded, unsure whether to take the comment as an insult or an acknowledgement of potential. He settled on the former, resolving never to audibly mumble to music ever again.
“I mean it!” Magnus declared. “You should take singing lessons, maybe learn an instrument too. It would be good for you!”
Alec seemed taken aback by the genuine recommendation, and refused to humor it despite Magnus’ repeated attempts to reason with him. Apparently, shadowhunters didn’t have time for creative endeavors.
Alec’s legs protested stiffly as he stretched them out of the car. This was by far the longest he had ever driven, and his iratze did not seem inclined to help him out. He recalled Magnus’ words the day before, about his iratze only being able to assist him so much after their borderline magical meltdown. On the other side of the car, Magnus sighed, leaning against the metal frame.
“I’m starving,” he said. “What do you say we grab something small here to hold us over, then start looking for somewhere to eat?”
“Let’s see what they have here, first,” Alec answered noncommittally. He still wanted to push through this mission in one day, get it done with.
“Nothing good,” Magnus grumbled.
A bright, chipper bell noise rang out as Alec pushed past the door of the gas station’s convenience store with Magnus in tow, the sound entirely too cheerful for the establishment. The tiled floor might have once been white with black speckles, but even that visually chaotic pattern could not hide the thin layer of grime that tracked in and out from the shoes of every tired trucker who had ever set foot here, staining it instead an off-white, beige color. The smell of stale bread and old cigarettes hovered in the air.
Alec, somehow immune to the ambiance, meandered down the aisles with purpose, and Magnus realized he must be looking for something specific. The warlock followed, doing his best not to breathe, or to touch anything. When the shadowhunter approached the counter, he placed down a bag of Doritos, a pack of Little Debbie’s Zebra Cakes, and a bottle of Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper.
Magnus’ face scrunched up in horror at the selection.
“Magnus, you getting anything?”
The warlock jumped, realizing Alec had been speaking to him. He slid his bag of almonds and bottled iced coffee onto the counter. It took him until they were walking out to realize Alec had paid for both of them.
“You didn’t need to pay for me,” he commented, unaccustomed to the experience. His cheeks felt a bit warm.
Alec shrugged. “Why not? It was just a couple of bucks.”
“Oh. Well… thanks.”
“It’s disgusting convenience store food, Magnus. If you want to thank me for anything, let me actually treat you to dinner sometime.” Alec swung himself into the passenger’s seat as he spoke, his easygoing conviction on the topic startling Magnus again. The warmth on the warlock’s cheeks spread through to his chest.
Someone else, treat him to dinner? Now that was a new experience.
“I’d like that,” he answered once he’d settled himself into the driver’s side, unsure what else to say. Accepting gifts, or even offers of them, was not one of his strong suits. The mention of the unpalatability of the snacks brought his previous thoughts back to his attention. “On an unrelated note,” he added, “what the hell are you putting in your mouth?”
Alec had opened the Zebra Cakes and devoured one already, eyes closed as he leaned back against the headrest. His unashamed enjoyment of the strangely-shaped junk food was simultaneously objectionably vile and one of the sexiest things Magnus had ever seen.
“I never get to have this stuff at the Institute,” Alec explained, devouring the other cake. “It’s somehow so disgusting, and so delicious at exactly the same time.” He seemed baffled at his own confused enjoyment. Watching him lick his fingers, Magnus thought he understood the feeling, just a little bit.
Alec caught himself dozing in the passenger seat, jerking his eyes open and back toward the road. He sat up, eyes scanning their surroundings then settling on Magnus, who shot him a subtle, witting smirk.
“Sorry,” Alec mumbled. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
“Oh, I don’t mind.” Magnus’ eyes returned to the road, but the smirk remained. Alec braced himself for a comment he would probably disapprove of, which the warlock promptly delivered. “I could get used to your adorable little snores.”
“Hey,” Alec groused, shooting him a warning glare. “I don’t snore.”
Magnus leaned back against the headrest, his eyes fluttering closed just enough that Alec feared for their safety as a soft, mocking rumble escaped his throat.
“Keep your eyes on the road!” Alec demanded. “You know, if a car crash happens, senior citizens are 573 percent more likely to die in it than the rest of the population.”
Magnus blinked, startled by the sudden statistic. “Percent?”
“Yes, percent, ” Alec confirmed. Magnus contemplated this very large number.
“Wait…” he started, indignance creeping into his tone. “Did you google that fact just so you could sit on it until the perfect moment to poke fun at me?”
“You are 800 years old,” Alec answered. “If anyone should be aware of the risks of elderly driving, it’s you.” Magnus shot the shadowhunter an incredulous glance, confused by his serious tone, only to find Alec struggling to hold back what he could only describe as a shit-eating grin.
“You’re such an ass.” Despite his harsh words, Magnus dissolved into giggles. “Really, how long were you holding on to that one?”
Alec checked the time on his phone. “One hour and forty-three minutes.”
Now they were both laughing.
“Do you normally plan your conversations this far ahead?” he managed.
“When possible,” Alec confessed. He stretched in his seat, earning another quick glance from the warlock. He milked it, drawing the stretch out. “I don’t understand why I’m so exhausted. All we’ve done is sit.”
Magnus fixed his gaze on the shadowhunter’s lean, muscular frame as long as he could while still safely operating the vehicle.
“Well, part of that is just that long drives are exhausting,” he pointed out. “But you have to remember that it was only a day ago that both of us were almost completely drained by a massive spell, Alexander. We’re still recovering. Iratze and potions aside, no one can come back from nearly dying that quickly. Not even a shadowhunter at the peak of his prime.” He drew the last words out, letting them linger as his eyes washed over Alec’s body once more.
“It’s a very strange feeling,” Alec admitted. “It’s like I’m completely awake, but just… weary. Like someone could charge me right now and I’d just let them, even though I don’t feel tired.”
Magnus nodded knowingly. “You would have been especially affected, I think. You’re not accustomed to experiencing anything like magical drain. I’m really very serious when I recommend that we stop for dinner and find some place to sleep for the night before we go looking for trouble. If we had a place to set up, I could do some more complicated spells to locate my property—ones that would not alert Mellie to my snooping. And then we could get up early and investigate first thing, fully rested and prepared for a fight.”
Alec could not deny the wisdom of the warlock’s words. He mulled it over, weighing the pros and cons of possibly encountering a powerful warlock—maybe even multiple—in his current state. Eventually, the fatigued ache in his lower back made the decision for him.
“Thank you,” Magnus sighed. “My back is killing me. I am a senior citizen, after all.”
Alec watched with tranquil rapture as a fiery rainbow of autumn-leaved trees flew past the passenger window. They lined both sides of the narrow, two-lane road, crowding in the street. The array of colors enchanted him. The Keweenaw was nothing like New York City, or even Idris. Stark against the overcast sky, every single leaf demanded his attention, and he found he was happy to oblige.
I wish the whole drive was like this, he thought. Beside him, Magnus emitted a sound between a gasp and a laugh.
“What?” Alec asked, wondering if he had unintentionally said something out loud.
“That,” Magnus said, eyes fixed ahead on something in the distance.
Up ahead, a green directional sign loomed towards them, the letters coming into focus.
Gay, it read.
“... what?” Alec repeated, his tone now much less curious, and much more suspicious. “Magnus, what the hell is that?”
The sign flew by, and Alec’s head turned to follow it, as if staring at it might offer him some clarity. The waning sunlight winked playfully off the sign’s silver back, as if to taunt him.
“Gay is actually a fairly common name for roads and places,” Magnus chuckled. “I assume we’re about to enter Gay, Michigan.”
“Is this a joke?” Alec had gone still, his voice lowering. Magnus caught the subtle resonance of panic in his tone. It only served to push the warlock further over the edge. He had difficulty containing his giggles.
“I swear to all of the gods I’ve ever worshipped, Alexander, I had no idea.” Magnus held a hand to his mouth, as if covering his laughter would somehow hide it. His eyes crinkled at the edges.
“This isn’t funny.”
“No, it’s hilarious.”
Alec did not find anything about this hilarious.
“Do you think they have a hotel?” Magnus wondered aloud. “This is just about the right area.”
“No,” Alec responded immediately, using his authoritative, no-nonsense voice that Magnus found so charming. “That is not happening.” His expression remained completely deadpan, though Magnus thought he looked a bit paler than usual.
“You have to admit,” Magnus pressed, still tittering. “It’s a little funny.”
“No,” Alec repeated. He crossed his arms, returning his gaze to the passenger side window. Magnus had the feeling he was deliberately avoiding eye contact, as he often did when he got uncomfortable. Especially when the topic of his sexuality came up.
The road narrowed at a street sign labeled 1st St , which almost immediately ended and became Lake St as it bore left. Only a single row of houses lined the left side of the street. On the right, an empty field stretched out and eventually gave way to Lake Superior, shimmering in the distance. Ahead, a tall, thin tower loomed over the town from the coastline. Alec wondered what it was, but had no time to speculate—Magnus was slowing down the car.
“What are you doing?” Alec demanded.
“There’s a restaurant,” Magnus pointed out. “You agreed we should stop for dinner. I like small places like this.” He struggled to keep his voice even.
“But why here?” Alec fretted. “We can wait another twenty minutes.”
“Oh, come on,” Magnus chuckled. “What are you so afraid of?”
He pulled onto the gravel lot surrounding the establishment, clearly reveling in Alec’s discomfort. The building before them looked much like a large house, with two blue gables capping off the roof. The rest of the wooden siding was a warm, neutral shade that Alec judged to be a murky yet definitive pink. In front of the car, the aged welcome sign spelled out a name in ornate, fading letters— Gay Bar & Grill .
“No,” Alec said again. “Magnus, no.” The second time sounded like begging.
I could get on board with begging, Magnus reflected, his devilish grin widening.
“I don’t see what your issue is, Alexander. This seems like a perfectly nice town. Let’s go in and have a burger, maybe a beer, and then we’ll find a place to stay.”
“I refuse,” Alec reiterated, enunciating each syllable. When Magnus did not make any move to restart the car, Alec doubled down. “I swear to the angel if you don’t put us back on the road this instant, I will come over there and do it myself.”
Alec finally made eye contact with this statement, his countenance stern. Magnus giggled, still unable to do anything but grin at the shadowhunter’s misery. The utter seriousness of Alec’s expression sent him to pieces. He tried to turn the key to restart the engine, but his hand had gone weak from laughing, and he found himself instead leaning his forehead against the steering wheel, shoulders shaking.
“Magnus!” Alec exclaimed, a mix of outrage and amusement coloring his tone. Now even he could not resist the contagion of giggles. “Magnus, I’m serious.” His voice faltered, betraying the sentiments of his words, strained in his attempt not to let the laughter get ahold of him. “I’m serious! I’ll… I swear I’ll pull you out of the car and leave you here.”
Tears prickled the corners of Magnus’ eyes. “Please, Alexander, we have to go in,” he chirruped.
“It’s not happening. I swear it, Magnus.”
Finally, Alec leaned over the warlock and released his seatbelt, swinging the driver’s side door open with his long reach. He grumbled as he shoved against Magnus’ shoulder, as if to push him out of the car.
“ You eat here if you want to so badly, and I’ll go on to look for Melusine by myself , right now. With any amount of fortune, she’ll kill me so I’ll never have to mention this god-forsaken place in my reports.” He paused between every few words to shove him, making a show of attempting to force the warlock from his seat, but never fully displacing him. Magnus slid one foot out of the car, using it to brace himself against Alec’s assault.
Magnus lost his composure again, swatting Alec’s palms away and closing the door as he readjusted his position.
“Okay, Alexander, okay, fine!” He drawled out the words through his laughter. “Onward we go.”
They pulled back out onto the road, car bumping as it returned to the asphalt.
“I hate you,” Alec muttered.
“No you don’t,” Magnus replied, his voice silky smooth. He shot Alec a flirty wink.
“... No, I don’t,” Alec grumbled. He slid down low in his seat, a map of the Keweenaw Peninsula open on his phone covered with a smattering of pin points. “There’s a place an hour north of here, a lodge and restaurant. It’s got 4.5 stars on this stupid app you made me download. Can you live with that?”
“Yes,” Magnus smirked, “I can live with that.” He promised himself he would portal both of them back here for dinner one day, when Alec least suspected it.
Chapter 23: Paperwork At A Time Like This
Alec and Magnus arrive in Michigan. Magnus prepares some spells to pinpoint Melusine's location.
The Copper Harbor Lodge glimmered on the coastline, golden lights illuminated already in preparation for the approaching sunset. A wall of warmth curled over Alec and Magnus as they wandered in from the chilly air outside. Magnus sighed, breathing in the cozy ambiance of fresh cut logs and spiced candles.
“Wow,” Alec mumbled under his breath. Magnus suspected that the shadowhunter had never stayed in such a swanky establishment before—discounting his own residence, of course. The hunting lodge chic created a more comfortable, casual environment than Magnus was accustomed to, but it seemed to be a happy compromise between his luxurious preferences and the shadowhunter’s more practical needs. Any fancier, and Alec would be scared off. The last thing Magnus wanted was to push the shadowhunter so far that he bailed out and booked them in some shady motel off the Interstate.
“Gentlemen, how may I help you this evening?” The middle-aged, ginger man behind the countertop sported a brown woolen vest over a grey gingham shirt, accented with a deep brown tie. It was at once earthy and elegant, and combined with his neatly-trimmed beard required only the addition of a dorky hat to level him up to full hipster status. However, Magnus had the feeling that this man had been donning this particular suit since long before the hordes of millennials descended upon the gentrifying Northwestern US.
Magnus lingered toward the center of the lobby, examining an assortment of pinecones and autumn leaves arranged in a basin while he eavesdropped from afar as Alec asked about the available rooms.
“Of course. We have plenty of openings tonight. Peak colors aren’t for another couple of weeks. Are you interested in a room in the main hall, or a cabin?”
A cabin? Magnus’ interest piqued. Clearly, Alec’s expression betrayed the same sentiments, because the freckled man elaborated.
“In addition to the more traditional rooms in this building, we have several detached cabins available throughout the property. All of them are nestled between some of our most vibrant trees, with incredible views of the lake below. They’re quite the experience, if I may say so myself. The perfect balance of tranquil isolation and convenient access to our many amenities.”
“That sounds perfect,” Alec concluded, offering a card. His no-nonsense tone told Magnus that unlike the warlock, Alec came to that decision for purely utilitarian purposes—a separate cabin made their task much easier, distancing them from nosy mundanes and giving them more space to work with for Magnus’ spells. After a few minutes of processing, their host ducked out from under the counter with an old key ring in hand, jingling with antique iron. Magnus had to stop himself from snorting. At this point the rustic aesthetic was almost tacky.
“Right this way,” the man beckoned. He strolled through the door, returning them to the crisp early Autumn temperatures outside. Halfway down the path he paused, turning back to them. “Apologies,” he started, “but I forgot to ask. Did you want two doubles, or… a king?” He glanced between them hesitantly, finally settling his gaze on Alec, since Alec had lead the conversation thus far.
Magnus’ eyes fell immediately to his shoes, his chest tightening. Normally, he had no qualms about loudly proclaiming his proclivities world, but with Alec, he could not help but tense up. Despite his agreement to let Alec keep their dalliance a secret for the moment, he knew it would still hurt a bit every time such a suggestion drove the shadowhunter into stuttering denial. Sometimes the warlock wondered which aspect of him made Alec more ashamed—the fact that Magnus was a downworlder, or just that he was a man?
Beside him, Alec’s faltering answer began right on cue. Magnus kept himself squarely out of it, paying special attention to a particular gravel stone in front of his right foot.
“Oh, I mean, we’re—we’re really just…” Alec trailed off. “... what’s the difference between them, otherwise?”
The stalling stressed Magnus out. Just take the doubles and move on, Alexander. We’ve already had this fight.
“None at all. I’ve already rung you up—the cabins are all the same price, it’s just a matter of which you prefer. They all have the same amenities,” the ginger man assured. He spoke quickly, seemingly aware he might have stumbled upon a sensitive topic, but too far in to have any way to politely back out.
Alec paused again. Magnus was just about to speak up and save them both the awkwardness when the shadowhunter’s voice interrupted his spiral of self-pity.
“The King, then.”
Magnus’ eyes shot up, his gaze finding Alec’s already fixed on him. The shadowhunter spoke with decisive certainty, like an actor who finally connected with his role for the first time. He kept his hands shoved shyly in his pockets, flashing Magnus the barest glimpse of his signature crooked smile. Magnus’ stomach flip-flopped.
Their host smiled warmly. Neither of them noticed.
“Of course,” he answered, visibly relaxing now that he knew his question had not offended anyone. “Right this way. You know, last year we were voted as having the most romantic views on the Keweenaw. Just wait until you see the lake down below. I’m sure you’ll love it.”
When they proceeded down the path, Alec’s pinky brushed Magnus’. A soft smile warmed Magnus’ cheeks, his heart fluttering.
Amber and scarlet trees parted branches to reveal a compact, dark-wood cabin, a cobblestone chimney standing tall on one side. A narrow porch wrapped around the back, drawing their eyes to the open space behind it, where the ground fell away sharply and plunged into the rippling waves below. The structure itself reminded Magnus much of Thomas Kinkade’s “A Peaceful Retreat,” a comparison he was loathe to make aloud as it would require admitting his passing familiarity with such a painfully disappointing artist.
Magnus let out a low whistle, swallowing his initial flustered response to Alec’s public admission of sleeping arrangements.
“You weren’t kidding about those views,” the warlock admired.
“It really is breathtaking,” the man agreed. He slipped a single key off of the ring, which clattered like a cheap wind chime with every movement, and unlocked the door for them. “The restaurant is open until nine, but room service is twenty-four hours if you’d rather not make the walk back down. Here’s your key.” He dropped the aforementioned key in Alec’s outstretched palm. “You gentlemen have a wonderful night. And if you need anything, you can drop by the main hall or use the phone on your nightstand to speak to the front desk.”
Just like that, Magnus was alone with Alec in a private cabin, surrounded by one of the most gorgeous, flame-hued Autumn forests on the continent. To their right, the grey-stone fireplace completed the chimney they had observed outside. To the left, a carved wooden frame lined a luxurious king bed, blanketed in fluffy comforters and sheets of varying shades of brown, sienna, and scarlet, reflecting the cabin’s clear theme of a rustic Autumnal getaway.
The door closed behind them with a resounding thud, heavy oak offering a satisfying weight to the sound. They stood in silence, each waiting for the other to move. Magnus ached to kiss Alec—to shove him back onto that heavy oak door and have him right there against it. He got the distinct feeling that both of them wanted such an outcome very much, but knew they had more important responsibilities to attend to, and each waited for the other to be the responsible party and get to work. Finally, Alec spoke.
“Is that okay?” he faltered. “That I asked for this room? I wanted to try to be more… relaxed. About this.” The tension evaporated, enchanted silence broken as Alec motioned between them. “I know it’s just some stranger in Michigan, but I thought it might at least be a first step. Maybe I can get there… eventually.”
Magnus adored the hopeful wideness of Alec’s eyes, the way his eyebrows knitted together like he worried Magnus might say no.
He cares about what I feel, Magnus thought. He’s trying. And though he knew that should be the bare minimum requirement in a relationship, it still warmed his heart, because most people did not. Because in almost all of his previous relationships, Magnus had always felt like the caretaker—constantly tailoring himself to the needs of others—and here was this amazing person in front of him doing his best to tackle his deeply-ingrained lifelong fears just because Magnus asked him to.
All I needed to do was ask.
“It’s more than okay, Alexander. I think it’s a great first step, and I appreciate it a lot.”
The shadowhunter visibly relaxed, releasing the breath he had been holding.
“So, what do you need? For your spells?”
“I’ve got all I need right here,” Magnus declared, waving his hand over the cabin’s sturdy wooden table against the opposite wall. An assortment of ingredients materialized before them. In the same fluid, wild motion, he flicked a wrist toward the cobblestone hearth, igniting a warm, inviting fire. Alec smiled, pleased as always by Magnus’ unnecessarily extraordinary displays of power.
“Alright then—if you’re all set, I’ll be right back.” Alec stepped out into the leaf-strewn grass, seeking out their borrowed car. When he returned, cream-colored folder in hand, Magnus froze from his preparations and emitted a loud, eye-rolling sigh.
“What?” Alec asked, already offended.
“Alexander, only you could manage to find time to do paperwork at a time like this. Did you have that nice Rosie lady print them out for you, just in case you had some free time you didn’t want to take advantage of?” The warlock seated himself on the soft, faux fur rug that covered the hardwood floor, surrounded by his assortment of tiny bowls and crystals.
“Hey, it needs to be done eventually,” Alec defended. “What else am I supposed to do while you’re occupied?” He crossed the cabin, seating himself at the table behind Magnus, facing the fireplace. Magnus paused at that, considering the implication that if he were not occupied, Alec might have something better to do. Or, perhaps, someone . His eyes darted to the bed, then to Alec, who blushed bright red upon realizing what he had said and dropped his eyes very quickly to reports before him.
“I mean,” he stuttered, “what else would I take advantage of?” He stopped short again, his blush reaching comical extremes. “I mean—you know what? You know what I mean. Ok? I have to be responsible.”
Magnus grinned. “Oh, I most certainly do. You know, you could always watch and enjoy the show,” he teased. With practiced timing, he snapped his fingers, his shirt dissolving away in a rather theatrical display of blue sparks. “Though I’m sure your paperwork is much more entertaining.” Behind him, he heard Alec drop his pen, sending it clattering to the floor. The shadowhunter retrieved it wordlessly, and the cabin fell into a comfortable silence, broken only by the scratching of Alec’s writing, the hum of Magnus’ magic as he finally settled into the monotonous routine of his meditative spellwork, and the crackling of the flames in the cobblestone hearth.
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Chapter 24: Mr. Responsible
Alec tries to step out of his comfort zone. Magnus struggles to maintain control over his glamour.
Sweat glistened across Magnus’ bare chest, shimmering in the firelight. He had long abandoned most of his clothes, sitting cross-legged in a pair of loose-fitting, black plaid pajama pants. The sounds of the cabin faded into his consciousness as he completed his final spell—the roaring fireplace, his and Alec’s quiet breaths. One sound from earlier remained conspicuously absent—he no longer heard the irregular scrape of Alec’s pen against paper. Eyes still closed, he inhaled a deep, centering breath, bringing himself fully back to present moment after over an hour of intense concentration.
“There. Now the components just need to sit until dawn. Finish your reports, Mr. Responsible?” Magnus asked, finally opening his eyes. Through the windows, the world outside had faded into almost complete darkness. Behind Magnus, Alec responded, voice quiet, as if he had been completely enraptured in something and still only half paid attention to Magnus’ words.
“No,” he answered. “They can wait until I get back.”
Magnus twisted around, curious to discover what had the shadowhunter so preoccupied. He found Alec leaning back in his chair, facing Magnus, one leg crossed loosely over the other as his eyes followed the warlock’s every move. Alec’s normally icy azure irises appeared darker, thinned by his dilated pupils.
Has he just been… watching me?
“I decided to take your advice,” Alec explained, unmoving, a prurient smile parting his lips ever so slightly. A mini surge of adrenaline flooded Magnus’ veins. He suddenly felt very warm. The flames in the hearth lowered themselves in response to Magnus’ thought, embers flickering. The dimmer lighting cast the cabin in the hushed, dreamlike glow of twilight.
“What advice was that?” Magnus asked, mind scrambling to remember the most recent of the many half-joking suggestions he might have given the shadowhunter. His throat felt dry, conscious that Alec had been staring at him that way for gods know how long, watching him work in his half-clothed state. Magnus pushed himself to his feet, stretching his stiff muscles. Alec bit his lip, then his mouth curved down into a disappointed frown when Magnus conjured a loose cotton shirt over his torso.
Since when am I self-conscious? Magnus questioned silently. But it wasn’t himself he had on his mind—it was Alec. He felt unaccustomed to the longing way in which the shadowhunter stared at him—normally he was the one doing the unabashed staring. Magnus always played the role of the pursuer, and now Alec’s body language placed the warlock squarely into the role of the pursued. Magnus did not know how to act.
Alec blushed slightly, eyes falling to the floor, bringing them back into territory that Magnus was more familiar with. But despite his shyness, the shadowhunter answered his question honestly.
“To enjoy the show,” Alec murmured. He raised his eyes again to meet Magnus’, his head lowered in a way that Magnus had done to him very deliberately many times before, gazing up at him through his eyelashes. Heat coursed through Magnus’ body.
He doesn’t even wear eyeliner, it’s not fair how good he looks doing that. How dare he steal my moves? Magnus wondered if Alec did this to him on purpose, or if it was an accidental byproduct of his shy floor-staring moments before. Alec’s clear expression of desire threw Magnus for a loop, left him struggling to keep his thoughts in order.
“I should… take a shower,” Magnus faltered.
Stupid! The boy is trying to make a move! Don’t reject him! But Magnus found his feet calmly fleeing one step at a time toward the bathroom regardless, unable to form any other coherent thought in his flustered mind. He had settled into a steady rhythm of teasing and instigation toward Alec in the past few weeks. But in this moment, Alec had no buttons to be pressed. He had seized control while Magnus was focused on other things, choosing to take Magnus’ instigation in stride instead of nervously brushing it away, and it caught the warlock off guard.
As Magnus reached for the handle to the tiny ensuite, the whisper of Alec’s footsteps followed him. Alec spoke with more hesitance now, unsure if his advances were welcome.
“Do you want me to join you?”
Hell yes, Magnus thought, finally getting ahold of himself. This might be the hottest thing you’ve ever done, if unexpected. He spun around to say just that, intent on stealing back his rightful place as the confident one in the room, but startled when he realized just how close Alec stood. Magnus leaned back against the still closed door, staring yearningly at Alec’s tall frame and beautiful, questioning eyes.
It felt so good, he realized. That was what threw him off. He had forgotten how incredibly exhilarating it was to feel wanted —not just wanted after aggressively provoking and pursuing someone, but just wanted, full stop. Wanted after minding his own business in silence for an hour, wanted after walking around in ratty pajama pants and an old cotton shirt, wanted when he was sweaty and gross after a seven hour car ride, and wanted after having done nothing himself to provoke such a response. Alec wanted Magnus.
Magnus wanted Alec.
“Kiss me?” Magnus requested quietly, head tilted back.
Alec did not need to be told twice. Magnus stood on his toes to meet him halfway, impatient to release the tension that had been building inside him, entirely of Alec’s doing. Despite Magnus’ display of keen ardence, Alec’s kiss remained steady and slow. It was delicious torture, leaving Magnus squirming under him after barely a minute. Magnus wrapped his arms up around Alec’s neck, and the shadowhunter planted his hands on either side of him against the door, shower forgotten.
Magnus nibbled at Alec’s bottom lip, drawing out a quiet moan. One of Alec’s hands dropped from the wall to Magnus’ waist, fingers dancing up underneath the hem of his shirt to hold him tightly. Magnus drew his breath in sharply at the touch, arching his back. Alec’s other hand, still against the door, slid upward, allowing him to drop against his elbow and trap Magnus more firmly against it—not that the warlock had any intention at all to attempt escape. Alec used his new position to his advantage, abandoning Magnus’ mouth to kiss at his jaw, tracing up toward his ear, grazing his teeth lightly across it. Magnus’ brief disappointment at the broken kiss was replaced with a rush of delectation.
Every attempt Magnus made at speeding up their contact into a heated frenzy was denied by Alec’s cool, slow insistence. Alec planted a kiss in the soft spot just below Magnus ear, then one below that, then one below that. His lips wandered down Magnus’ neck to his collarbone, which peeked out just above the neck of his summoned shirt. Both of Alec’s hands now held Magnus tightly underneath that shirt, in the soft spot above his hips, fingers cool against the hotness of the warlock’s skin. Magnus pressed his hips forwards, into Alec’s body, trying to drive the shadowhunter into a faster, more desperate rhythm. His attempts had no effect, save for a gratified smile that Magnus could not see, but could feel in the lips against his neck as Alec continued with his delightful torment.
After several more of these unsuccessful endeavors from Magnus, Alec pulled back, leaving a cool emptiness across Magnus’ whole body that the warlock found himself desperate to fill again. Alec ran the tip of his index finger over the warlock’s lips, a tender way to still his movements that Magnus had used on him many times before. Magnus ceased his efforts to follow Alec’s retreat, waiting as patiently as he could, eyes fixed on the shadowhunter’s. Alec’s expression was soft, and full of desire.
“I want to go slowly this time,” he whispered, eyes falling back down to Magnus’ lips. Magnus’ heart dithered in his chest, alive with electric energy at Alec’s sureness, how he so confidently stated his intentions. Was this what it felt like to be on the receiving end of Magnus’ own forward confidence? He could not imagine so—with Alec in charge it must be different, because it was so much more rare.
Magnus nodded slowly, distracted by the way his lips brushed over Alec’s fingertip when he did so. He redirected his attention there, transforming the motion into a kiss, taking Alec’s hand in his and bringing each digit to his lips one by one. Alec waited for him to finish, breath hitching, before dropping his hand back to the bottom of Magnus' shirt.
“There was really no reason to put this on,” the shadowhunter murmured. He traced his fingers along Magnus’ spine, then across the backs of his ribs, before lifting the shirt up over his head. Magnus raised his arms cooperatively, standing up from his spot against the wall to assist in Alec’s removal of his clothing. Alec tossed the shirt over his shoulder, then ran his hands appreciatively over Magnus’ chest, which had cooled down enough since his spellwork that it no longer shone with perspiration. Magnus had a feeling that would change very shortly.
Now standing apart from the wall, Magnus realized he felt unsteady, almost trembling. He followed obediently as Alec directed him with a slight tug toward the bed, still unaccustomed to being told what to do. His stomach knotted in excitement. When Alec pushed him against the mattress, indicating his desire for Magnus to sit, the warlock paused.
“This hardly seems fair,” he pointed out weakly. “You still have all of your clothes on, even your shoes.”
Alec stopped, tilting his head. “Good point.”
He stepped away from the bed, kicking his boots off near the door, and abandoning his light jacket on the coat hooks next to it. He tugged off his socks, too, leaving him barefoot like Magnus. Now in his plain black crew neck and black jeans—the Alec Lightwood standard issue uniform—he stepped back over to the bedside, where Magnus sat waiting, bare toes planted in the soft rug below.
Alec cupped Magnus’ face in his hand, leaning down to kiss him. Magnus had to catch his weight on his hands behind himself to keep from falling backwards. Alec pulled away just enough to speak, his breath tumbling over Magnus’ lips as he spoke, still holding the warlock’s face.
“A little help?” He requested softly. He ran a hand down one of Magnus’ arms, lingering on the curves of his muscles, then entangled their fingers and drew the warlock’s touch to the hem of his own shirt.
“Alexander,” Magnus sighed through his pleased smile, “I never thought I’d see the day when I finally got you to ask me to undress you.” Alec smiled too, fetching Magnus’ other hand and placing it on his opposite side, shifting the balance of their bodies back toward his standing form, leaning over the edge of the bed.
“I didn’t think I was asking,” he answered between kisses, his words skimming across Magnus’ lips.
Magnus’ brain melted approximately halfway through that sentence. He crumpled the bottom of Alec’s shirt tightly in his fists, using it to yank him forward again. He thought he heard the tiny, protesting sound of a thread tearing in the hem, but he didn’t care. The shadowhunter loomed over him, whole body pressed into the place where Magnus’ legs parted. Alec wove his fingers through Magnus’ hair, using it as leverage to tilt the warlock’s head backwards for another kiss, then more so to nip at his neck. Magnus broke the kisses with Alec’s shirt between them, pulling it upward over his head as requested—or demanded, it would seem.
With both of their shirts discarded, Magnus tried to take the lead again, dropping his hands to Alec’s belt buckle, which he decided had personally offended him with its presence. But Alec sided himself with the buckle, grabbing Magnus’ persistent fingers and tearing them away, and shoving Magnus roughly back into the blankets as if to remind him who was in charge at that specific moment.
Magnus had to take a second to reorient himself, and found he was sprawled diagonally across the King-sized mattress, Alec’s body draped over his, one of the shadowhunter’s large, powerful hands holding both of his pinned firmly into the pillows above his head. He gasped and squirmed, testing Alec’s grip, and found it immovable. Alec lowered himself to Magnus’ chest, kissing his way across it. One of Alec’s legs—Magnus was held in place much too firmly to be able to check which—brushed against the tent that formed under Magnus’ plaid pajama pants, the brief ghost of a touch sparking a new wave of thrilling agony that deliquesced into radiating pleasure when Alec’s tongue flicked over his nipple.
Alec was barely touching him, his movements quiet and deliberate, his pace unhurried. It drove Magnus wild. When Magnus arched his back, silently begging for more, Alec complied. He released Magnus’ wrists, sliding lower to kiss his way across the warlock’s abs. Magnus gripped Alec’s hair, soliciting a rough moan when he pulled just hard enough, struggling not to hold Alec’s head too tightly as the shadowhunter kissed one of his lower ribs, then began moving toward the center, on a winding path toward Magnus’ navel. Magnus lifted his hips off the mattress, still pulling at Alec’s hair. Alec took advantage of the opening, sliding one hand around to hold Magnus' leg, just underneath his ass. His fingers stretched around, brushing tantalizingly against the warlock’s inner thigh, separated from Magnus’ skin by the thin, desperately unwanted barrier of his pants.
“Please,” Magnus gasped, surprising even himself. Alec’s mouth had been busy at work leaving a sizable hickey to the left of his navel, above the same leg that the shadowhunter had seized control of. Alec kissed the bruise, then held Magnus firmly, grip on his thigh tightening, as he shifted to kiss the sensitive spot just above the center of the waistband of his pants. Magnus watched the kiss approaching, his grip on Alec’s hair tightening along with his abdominal muscles in anticipation. His breath caught. As Alec lowered himself down, his eyes flicked upward to connect with Magnus’, holding his gaze. Magnus couldn’t breathe, some part of himself completely absorbed in the way Alec moved over him, the way Alec stared at him like he could never experience enough of Magnus’ writhing—like he wanted him, badly.
Alec’s lips brushed across that sensitive spot, eyes locked with Magnus’. When his teeth joined the exploration, a very embarrassing sound escaped Magnus as he let his head fall back into the pillows, relishing the way Alec could destroy him with nothing but touches and kisses, without even fully undressing him. Something in Magnus’ mind crumbled, leaving him feeling raw, and naked, and bare.
My glamour, he realized. His moaning cut off, hands flying up to shield his face over his closed eyes. Alec froze, watching him curiously for a second before sitting up and removing himself entirely.
“Magnus?” he asked. “Are you okay?” Magnus felt the weight on the bed shift as Alec sat next to him, carefully touching his shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
A tiny flutter of appreciation danced through his heart at how quickly Alec dissipated the sexual intensity of the moment, immediately focused on Magnus’ well-being.
How can his attention bring me both such joy and such frustration? Magnus thought, wondering how he could get out of this situation. He found himself unable to resurrect the broken glamour, his body still tight with sexual tension despite the dramatic mood shift.
“Magnus?” Worry clouded Alec’s voice.
Magnus sighed, removing his hands from his face to help him sit up while keeping his eyes firmly shut.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I just… I lost control a bit. I didn’t mean for it to happen.”
By his tone, Alec seemed taken aback. “Why would that be a problem? I mean… it’s kind of what I was going for. I’m glad you were enjoying yourself.” The shadowhunter’s voice trailed off as he re-thought his statement. “Were you… enjoying yourself? I mean, was that okay?”
Magnus smiled, biting his lip. He sat cross-legged. “Yes,” he answered. “I was definitely enjoying myself. A bit too much, I guess. I’m sorry.” He found Alec’s knee with one hand, squeezing it to reassure him.
“Too much?” Now Alec seemed really confused, trying hard to follow Magnus’ meaning. “Magnus, why would you be sorry for enjoying yourself… too much?”
Magnus hung his head, rubbing the back of his neck. The glamour was not coming back. Time to be out with it.
“I just… I lost control of my magic. My glamour,” he admitted. Heat rushed to his face—a much less pleasant heat than that from moments before.
“Your… “ Alec trailed off. Sometimes he took a moment to contemplate his words, even in the middle of sentences. Magnus found it endearing, but his anxiety prevented him from appreciating it in this exact moment.
“Magnus,” Alec picked back up. “That’s okay. You don’t have to be worried about that around me.” His voice was gentle, honest. He covered Magnus’ hand on his knee with is own, the firm heaviness surprisingly soothing.
Magnus leaned forward, considering asking Alec to leave for a minute so he could regain his composure. The barest hints of embarrassed tears prickled hotly behind his eyes.
To hell with it, he thought. I’ve already ruined the moment, might as well dive right into ruining everything. Nothing turns a guy on like freaky yellow demon eyes.
He reluctantly lifted his eyelids. He saw Alec’s knee beside his, the shadowhunter’s pose mirroring his own. His heart hammered as he raised his gaze to meet Alec’s, golden eyes red-rimmed and wide.
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Chapter 25: Room Service
Alec reaches an important realization. Magnus finds unexpected acceptance.
Alec lowered his head to catch Magnus’ eyes as the warlock cautiously raised his gaze.
Memories, distant though they occurred only several short weeks before, crowded their way to the surface of Alec’s mind. Shimmering gold in an alley of shadows. His own breath, stolen from his lungs, captivated. Vibrant fireflies and luminous magic.
He felt the same awe and admiration now, lost in the breathtaking beauty before him.
Alec found a painful familiarity in the uncertain fear he found in the warlock’s eyes. Perhaps he had not been the only one afraid to reveal certain parts of himself to the world at large.
How dare anyone ever make him feel ashamed of who he is? How could he hide such a beautiful and important part of himself? The thought hit Alec like a punch in the gut. He knew he could turn the same lesson inward.
He raised his free hand to Magnus’ face, stroking his cheek. Narrow pupils stared back at him—wary, brilliant irises reflecting the firelight in a rippling sheen. Head ducked, as if he was afraid to fully face him, Magnus reminded Alec succinctly of a shy street cat—the gentle, guarded kind who remembered a time when he could trust people, but long since learned better than to try.
His eyes—those breathtaking eyes—waited dubiously for a reaction. Alec could not bear another moment of seeing those eyes so reticent.
“They’re beautiful,” he murmured. “You’re beautiful.”
Magnus lifted his own hand, wrapping it around Alec’s. They sat like that, hands intertwined, one pair on Alec’s knee and the other on Magnus’ cheek, eyes searching each other. Alec stared, enraptured, as the warlock’s expression softened, and Magnus released a slow, shaky breath.
He’s perfect, Alec thought. How can everything about him be so perfect?
He struggled to find the right thing to say, afraid of scaring Magnus off in this fragile moment. Alec knew he had a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or worse, saying nothing at all at times when words mattered.
Unexpectedly, one phrase settled in the deepest recesses of his heart—a heavy, grounding rock of truth apart from the others. It warmed his chest and sent dazzling, longing sparks of energy to his fingertips. The realization washed over him like the echoes from the waves below the cabin. Alec was lost, tumbling, head over heels. He did not know when it happened, but he knew, at that moment, it was the truest thing in the world.
Wrong thing at the wrong time, he reminded himself, holding the words silently close to his heart.
“Why are you smiling like that?” Magnus asked, uncharacteristic shyness quieting his inquisitive tone. When he spoke, his cheek brushed softly across Alec’s palm.
“Because,” Alec answered, “You are perfect.” He brushed his thumb along the warlock’s jaw.
Magnus closed his eyes, sinking into the touch. He kissed the base of Alec’s wrist, sighing.
“I’m sorry for killing the mood,” he apologized. “If it makes you feel better, I think I ruined it just as much for myself as I did for you, if not more.”
“Ruined?” Alec asked quietly, now tracing his thumb over Magnus’ bottom lip. “Magnus, that’s not possible.”
The warlock’s eyes opened again, golden feline gaze searching his. His lips parted, reading the same desire there from earlier—yet even stronger now. Magnus’ breath hitched. He leaned in toward Alec, slowly, hesitantly.
Alec met him halfway, grazing his lips over Magnus’, then pulling away, then brushing against them once more. When Magnus leaned forward to follow his lips in their retreat, Alec kissed him more deeply, more fervently.
Magnus stood on his knees in a tentative attempt to push the shadowhunter backwards into the sheets. Alec complied to the push, but slid out from under him as he fell, spinning them so he landed on top. The warlock found himself once more between Alec’s strong, protective arms.
“You’re too good at this, Alexander. Are you sure I’m your first?” Magnus grinned, punctuating his words with kisses. The self-conscious hesitance from moments before melted away as Alec kissed his neck, sucking and biting and leaving a faint trail of small, dark hickeys.
“I’ve been learning from the best,” Alec mumbled into Magnus’ shoulder. His breath curled hotly back into his own face, and he felt his whole body react as a thin layer of sweat formed across his skin. He kissed his way back down to where he had left off, pausing again over Magnus’ waistband, and the sensitive spot just below his navel.
Alec’s kisses intensified, responding to the encouragement of Magnus’ vocalizations. Magnus’ reaction came as a deep, humming sigh. Alec provoked another chorus of soft moans with a careful nibble at Magnus’ hip bone, and the warlock melted like putty beneath him, his hands slack in Alec’s hair. It amazed Alec every time this happened, how something as simple as a kiss, or a bite, could send Magnus’ eyes rolling back in pleasure. His beautiful, golden eyes.
“You can’t keep doing that to me,” Magnus insisted weakly. “It’s cheating.”
“If you say so,” Alec responded. He pushed Magnus’ leg to the side—the one he had been holding so tightly before—and bit down on Magnus’ inner thigh through his flannel pants. Hard.
Magnus drew in a sharp breath and flinched, but the protest dissolved into another low moan as Alec trailed his lips upward.
Magnus was speaking in consonants now. Alec could work with that. It was a good sign. Another good sign was the erection that had returned in full force underneath his pajamas.
“These need to go,” Alec said. Magnus raised his hips without missing a beat, and Alec slid the warlock’s pants off and onto the floor in one quick motion.
Alec ran his fingers gently over the spot where he had bitten, and Magnus shivered at the touch. His cock stood tall, twitching when Alec let his hands wander across the smooth skin of the warlock’s inner thighs.
Magnus shuddered, then gasped as Alec followed with his lips on the path his fingertips had traced. He circled back up to Magnus’ hip, then over to the other side, carefully touching every part of him except for his cock.
“Please,” Magnus whined.
“Please, what?” Alec pressed. “What do you want me to do, Magnus?” His own erection strained against his jeans. Seeing Magnus like this—back arched, toes curled—it drove him wild. Desires stirred up inside of him that he had never felt before. He wanted things he never expected to want.
He imagined himself, riding Magnus the way Magnus had ridden him their first time together. It wasn’t something he had ever pictured before—the logistics of it had always turned him off. It seemed uncomfortable, potentially humiliating if it went wrong, and not something he wanted to subject himself to. But with Magnus…
Magnus gripped his shoulder, fingernails digging red lines into his skin.
“Fuck, I don’t even know,” Magnus breathed.
With Magnus, Alec wanted to do everything.
He finally ran his tongue up Magnus’ cock, dragging the tip of it gingerly from the base all the way up to the head, barely touching him. Magnus balled the blankets into his fists, struggling to keep still. He held Magnus in place by his waist, reveling in the way the warlock failed to buck against his powerful grip.
“You drive me crazy,” Alec murmured, echoing Magnus’ thoughts.
Alec took Magnus into his mouth. He pressed his tongue against the underside of his dick, eliciting a contented sigh, followed by another whine when he almost immediately abandoned the task and sat up.
“You’re a tease,” Magnus accused breathlessly.
“Sit up,” Alec ordered. His hands gripped Magnus’ calves and dragged him to the edge of the bed. The warlock sat up obediently, planting his feet in the soft faux fur on the floor, just as they had started.
“Much better,” Alec said. He caught Magnus in a deep kiss as he sank to his knees.
Magnus’ hands shook. The dizzying swirl of recent emotions left him lightheaded, and he couldn’t get enough of Alec’s lips on him, his hands on him, his teeth on him.
He thinks my eyes are beautiful.
Magnus’ eyes, which drove his own mother to such extremes to escape them. Magnus’ eyes, which inspired his stepfather to such cruelty. Magnus’ eyes—the parts of him that highlighted just how opposing the two men were by their very natures: one demonic, the other angelic. Magnus’ eyes, inherited from the Prince of Edom.
He thinks I’m perfect.
Every touch sent thrilling bursts of electricity across Magnus’ body. The way Alec kept Magnus constantly aroused, constantly aching for more, left the warlock hovering on the brink of bursting. If Alec kept this up, Magnus worried he would pass out, still trembling, the moment he came. His heart buzzed with each kiss, alive with energy and joy and acceptance and— Oh my gods this boy is on his knees.
When Alec kissed his way up Magnus’ leg, the warlock had to fight not to close his knees around Alec’s head. Then Alec was kissing his balls and licking him and Alec’s mouth was around him and— Fuck!
He looked down and Alec’s eyes were on his, and Magnus got the distinct feeling that something had changed between them—like Alec knew something he didn’t, some secret knowledge, beyond just the revelation of his mark, that fueled him and gave him the confidence to look Magnus straight in the eyes as he pleasured him. It was one of the most erotic things Magnus had ever experienced—this boy, once afraid to admit his feelings to even himself, now staring up at him unabashedly with his mouth around his cock. Alec’s strong hands pinned Magnus’ hips and thighs in place, and Magnus moaned every time his writhing caused the shadowhunter’s grip to tighten against him.
Tension built inside of him. Just like his kisses, Alec’s rhythm while giving head was calm, insistent, methodical. He rushed nothing. Magnus shifted and squirmed, fighting to increase the pace. His sensitivity soared to new heights, drawn to a peak by Alec’s quiet, gentle touch. Magnus leaned back on his hands, legs spread wide, struggling to maintain a shred of dignity while he gasped for breath. Goosebumps crawled along his skin, chilled by evaporating perspiration.
“Please,” Magnus begged, “faster.” He teetered on the precipice, so close. The sight before him—Alec, half-dressed, on his knees, watching Magnus with such open, honest devotion—it drove him wild. What good deed had he done to deserve this?
Magnus’ monosyllables had the desired effect. Alec obeyed, gradually increasing his tempo as tension coiled tighter and tighter within the warlock. His legs tensed up, pressing against Alec’s shoulders. He fought against the instinct to close his eyes as he reached his peak. He watched Alec, and Alec watched him, and the world around him disappeared. Nothing mattered but this moment, and the shadowhunter who loved his eyes, which shone amber in the fading light from the hearth.
Magnus’ legs trembled. He could not stop himself now—his knees closed in tighter, brushing against Alec’s ears.
“Alec, I’m going to come,” Magnus whimpered. He didn’t even have the mental capacity to sound out his full name, though he normally adored how it floated off his tongue. Most of his balance was on his hands now, and he used that to pull backwards, giving Alec space to switch to using his hands as he had the few previous times he had given Magnus head.
Alec did not switch to using his hands. He followed the warlock’s movements, slowing his rhythm and taking Magnus deeper into his mouth. The shadowhunter’s eyes drifted back upwards, locked with Magnus’, gauging his reaction to this small first between them. Magnus lost all coherence at that point, ceasing any attempts at speech altogether, adrift in the pressure of Alec’s tongue and heat of his mouth and the intensity of his eyes.
A satisfied “ Mmm” drifted up to Magnus from where the shadowhunter could taste him coming. He felt as if every muscle in his body contracted and stretched, quivering. At some point his weight had shifted from the bed to Alec’s shoulders, so when Alec moved, so did he. Alec held the warlock firmly in place as he gasped and shook.
When the waves of his orgasm passed, both of them were breathing heavily. Magnus slid himself back onto the bed, Alec’s hands guiding his still-quivering legs. Chest rising and falling in quick succession, Magnus fell onto the mattress, devoid of words. Alec pushed Magnus’ legs up, then slid him around so his head aligned properly with the pillows. The effort provoked a small huff of exertion from the exhausted shadowhunter, and both of them devolved into giddy giggles as Alec plopped down next to him.
Magnus turned to his side, mirroring Alec’s pose, and captured him in a kiss. He tasted like both of them, salty and sweaty and wonderful. Alec scooted himself closer to Magnus in response, aligning their bodies. The sensation of his leg meeting denim reminded Magnus that the shadowhunter still remained half clothed.
“These need to go,” Magnus teased, fondly repeating Alec’s earlier line as he toyed with the button of his jeans.
“Aren’t you tired?” Alec laughed, sounding justifiably impressed by the warlock’s eagerness, but also adorably distracted by the fingers drifting across his waistband.
“In the best way,” Magnus sighed. He leaned his head against Alec’s chest, listening to his heartbeat as it settled.
Alec’s stomach growled loudly into the contented silence, prompting another round of giggles from Magnus.
“Sorry,” Alec mumbled, blushing.
“Don’t be,” Magnus chortled. “I’m starving. The restaurant is closed, and I don’t feel like getting dressed. Room service?”
Alec nodded, and Magnus summoned the lodge’s informational binder from the table, too lazy and content to walk over and fetch it. They flipped through it together, lying on their stomachs, shoulders touching. Magnus called to order, simpering in Alec’s direction as he replaced the phone on the receiver.
“What?” Alec asked suspiciously.
“They said it’ll be awhile,” Magnus responded. His eyes wandered over Alec’s shirtless body. A smile hinted across one side of Alec’s lips.
“And you’re happy about that?” Alec asked playfully. He could not look away from Magnus’ gaze.
“I am,” Magnus answered. “It gives me all the time I need to finish undressing you.”
Alec stifled a very undignified sound when Magnus pushed him to his back and ghosted his hand over the shadowhunter’s dick through the thick denim of his jeans, straddling him. The warlock’s hands wandered upward, exploring Alec’s ribs and chest, before returning to the button below. He unfastened it, and then the entirely of Alec’s pants and underwear vanished, tumbling onto the floor from where they reappeared off the foot of the bed.
Alec raised an eyebrow. “All the time you need, huh?” But he was smiling, and his hands already caressed the backs of Magnus’ thighs, tracing the crease where his legs met his ass.
“I changed my mind,” Magnus said, leaning into his touch. “A person has that right, you know. And I’ve decided I’m not as patient as I thought I was.” He emphasized his words by grabbing Alec’s hand, guiding it toward where he wanted. Alec felt a swift temperature change over his fingers.
“Did you just—?”
“Lube you up?” Magnus answered. “Yes. As I said. Not that patient.”
Alec bit his lip, surprisingly turned on by the authority and confidence with which Magnus spoke. He did as requested, stroking his finger softly around Magnus’ entrance, staring awestruck at the way Magnus’ eyes fluttered closed, and then pushed inside.
Magnus let out a slow breath, holding himself very still as Alec gradually pressed in further, increasing his pace, then angling his hips back and forth as he grew more comfortable. As a second finger joined the first, Magnus leaned forward, resting his palms on Alec’s chest, and caught the shadowhunter’s gaze in his.
“Alec,” he breathed. “I—I want to ask you to do something for me, please.”
Surprised by the sudden hesitance in Magnus’ voice and enthralled by the gorgeous man moving above him, Alec’s reply tumbled from his lips before he could even fully process his response.
“Anything.” He meant it.
Magnus tightened briefly around Alec’s fingers in response to the shadowhunter’s keen response. “I want you to aim your fingers back toward yourself—curl them just a little bit—inside me.”
A blush crept to Alec’s face. He knew what Magnus wanted, and felt incredibly ignorant for not having thought of this during their few earlier encounters. He may have been a complete virgin before Magnus, but he still had enough access to the internet and Izzy’s awful romance novels that he should have known to do this without prompting.
“You want me to find your prostate,” he clarified, double-checking that he was not completely off-base.
A pleased, breathless smile flickered across Magnus’ face as Alec immediately adjusted, searching gently around.
“Yes,” Magnus confirmed, shuddering as he felt the slow movements of the fingers inside him.
“I’m sorry I didn’t think to do that before,” Alec said. He leaned up onto his free hand, enabling him to plant gentle kisses on Magnus’ collarbone as he bent his fingers gradually forward, worried about hurting the warlock if he moved too forcefully. “I should have.”
“I don’t expect you to read my mind, Alexander. That’s why I asked. Though you did get it on accident once or twice,” Magnus smirked, leaning into Alec’s kisses and sighing happily. “And that time in the shower—that was amazing.”
Alec’s cock twitched at the memory.
Magnus froze. “There,” he breathed.
Alec stopped his movements, cautiously rubbing his finger against the firm, rough lump he had touched.
“Y-yes,” Magnus encouraged.
Alec trailed kisses across Magnus’ shoulder, applying gentle, repeated pressure to the spot. Magnus sank onto them fully, wrapping his hands behind Alec’s neck and pulling himself closer, a small groan escaping his lips as Alec massaged in tiny circles. Much more quickly than ever before, Alec felt Magnus completely relax.
“Is this okay?” Alec asked, tone soft, and eager. “Do you want me to do anything else?”
“I want you to fuck me,” the warlock finally murmured, leaning forward so his breath whispered past Alec’s ear. Alec did not need to be told twice.
In seconds, Magnus’ back hit the sheets, his body caged in by Alec’s.
“Would you mind—?” Alec asked hopefully, and before he could finish the question, Magnus’ hand closed over his cock, bringing with it the warm, wet sensation of lube spreading over his skin.
“Thanks,” Alec gasped, overwhelmed by the touch after trying so hard to play it cool for the entirety of the evening, to focus on Magnus.
Taking Magnus’ earlier comments regarding impatience to heart, he lined himself up and pushed carefully against Magnus’ entrance, both of them sighing together as he slid into him. Magnus adjusted his hips, arching his back for a better angle, and this time Alec fully understood why. He started slowly, consciously stopping himself from thrusting too hard, too fast, and found himself falling to his elbows, using the closed distance to nibble at Magnus’ neck, brush his lips across his shoulders. Then he sought out the warlock’s mouth, kissing him as he felt tension rising in his own core.
Magnus came first, both of them moaning as Alec felt that unbearably amazing squeeze around his dick. Warm wetness smeared across their abs. Alec seized Magnus’ hands and tugged them from their spot on his back, pinning them above Magnus’ head by the wrists as his hips bucked. He buried his face in Magnus’ neck, tightness gripping his whole body.
All of the desire from the entire evening seemed to stack on top of itself inside of him—a firm, strained weight behind his cock. When they first walked into the room and his eyes darted straight to the bed before he dutifully swept those thoughts away. When Magnus teased him about his unintentionally provocative comments, then unsummoned his shirt in a flirty magical display. Watching the warlock, lost in his work, muscles shining as he slowly, deliberately moved his hands in a drawn out spell, oblivious to Alec’s attention. The kissing, and the teasing, and the touching, and Magnus’ beautiful eyes, and taste of Magnus in his mouth, and now the agonizingly sweet gasps as the warlock tightened around him.
Alec inched over the edge, and it felt like leaping off a cliff. Everything inside of him tensed and trembled as he let go, his insides stretching and contracting.
“Oh—” he made the sound unintentionally, but it quickly cut off into something nonverbal. Their bodies met roughly and Alec stayed there, completely buried in Magnus, and breathed his scent with staggered breaths as he rode out the orgasm.
When their dinner did finally arrive, both men were once again covered in a slick layer of sweat. Magnus extricated himself from his spot beside Alec, where they had collapsed and the shadowhunter had wrapped him up in the most satisfying, sleepy embrace. He kicked his feet over the edge of the bed and summoned one of the two oversized robes from the bathroom as he strode toward the door.
“Wait, Magnus!” With shadowhunter speed, Alec intercepted him. “Your eyes. Let me.” Alec lifted the robe from the warlock’s hands. A flutter of anxiety bubbled in the pit of his stomach as he became acutely aware of how answering the door in this state would appear.
Stop it, he scolded himself. It’s okay. It’s fine.
A young woman carried a large tray, peeking around as if she expected to be let in. Behind her, another tray waited on the small golf cart she had driven up from the main building. Alec glanced around for Magnus, but the warlock had already disappeared into the restroom. He thanked the server for setting up the plates on the table, then shut the door as she departed. Despite Alec’s awkward anxiety, she mostly just seemed bored.
See? Not a big deal, Alec repeated silently to himself. Magnus emerged after a few seconds of quiet, his eyes back to normal.
Except those aren’t his normal eyes, Alec thought. Those are the glamour. He missed the real ones already. He wondered if it was okay to say something like that aloud.
“You know, I’d actually forgotten my glamour was down, back there,” Magnus admitted. “I can’t remember the last time that happened.”
Alec pulled on a pair of pajama pants before sitting down, and after frowning disappointedly at Alec’s clothed legs, Magnus followed suit.
“You know, you don’t have to put it back up,” Alec ventured. “I lo—I like your eyes. The real ones. The real you. You don’t have to glamour yourself around me.”
Magnus beamed, hiding the smile by taking a sip from the mug on his tray. The scents of cocoa and cinnamon hung in the air. He blinked, and this time, Alec could swear he heard a tiny flicker of sound as the glamour fell and golden irises blinked back at him.
“I was worried what might happen the first time you saw my mark,” Magnus murmured. He stared down into his hot chocolate, ignoring the food on his plate. “I should have had more faith in you. I keep assuming the worst.”
“This wasn’t the first time,” Alec blurted. “That I saw your eyes, I mean.” Magnus glanced up in surprise.
“It… wasn’t?” The warlock’s brows furrowed together.
“It was at the first Melusine site,” Alec explained. “I didn’t know it was your mark. I thought it was just part of that spell you did—the one that looked like lightning bugs.”
“You mean right before you gave me your number?” Magnus seemed taken aback, as if he had been thinking of a completely different memory.
Alec decided that now would not be an appropriate time to point out that it was, in fact, Izzy who gave Magnus his number.
“Uh, yeah,” he said. “That would be the day.” The realization from earlier that evening fluttered once again in Alec’s heart.
Maybe that was when it happened, he mused. Just like in Izzy's novels. I saw his eyes—his real eyes—for the first time…
When Magnus smiled broadly enough, he had the most adorable dimples.
And I fell in love.