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“-don’t want to hurt you, Matthew,” Alec can barely hear Magnus saying over the buzzing of magic in the air. He has an arrow aimed at Matthew’s feet, everyone else standing two steps behind him and Magnus in a circle like formation. 

Matthew is quite literally backed to a wall. Alec can see sweat drip down his temples. His hands are shaking, his light green magic is starting to flicker all around him.

Matthew shakes his head and grits his teeth.

“It’s too late, Magnus, you know the Clave would nev-”

“Matthew, look at who is standing in front of you now,” says Magnus, voice steady and calm, not a sign of fatigue in his expression or posture. He doesn’t gesture at Alec, who knows it to be a deliberate move. Magnus does have enough power and standing with the Clave to help Matthew, even without the help of a Lightwood.

“Please Matthew, let me help you so that we can resolve this peacefully, without the Clave’s intervention in the matter,” Matthew is shaking all over and Alec can see his resolve crumbling, Magnus’ words registering even in his obviously panicked mind. Alec doesn’t want to draw attention to himself, knowing that he, as a Shadowhunter, can cause Matthew to snap in the exact opposite way they need at the moment.

Magnus consciously and very obviously relaxes his stance, keeping his arms up but drawing them closer to his body. Trusting his husband, Alec follows his lead and lets his arms drop, bow in one hand, arrow in the other. A very blatant sign of trust, a peace offering that can backfire spectacularly.

And it does, just a second later.

Alec hears the shuffle of feet from behind him and raises his hand on reflex, halting the person who started moving around. They need Matthew’s attention on Magnus, not on them and their runes, their gear, their weapons.

Matthew draws a quick breath, glancing in Alec’s direction and Alec sees the moment Matthew’s eyes grow wide and his magic flares, fear overwhelming him, making him lose the last bits of control he’s had on his magic.

A lightning bolt goes straight for Alec, another one charring the wall of the alley, disintegrating a lamp, setting a mountain of trash on fire.

Almost sooner than his brain can process what’s happening, a blue barrier surrounds Alec and the lightning crackles against it, meeting resistance. The barrier seems to absorb most of the magic, but a part of it still pushes through-- a multicolored beam of light and warmth which strikes him in the chest.

He sees the barrier dissipate, feels his body be brought to the ground as if in slow motion, as if on a cloud. He sees a break in the actual clouds, sees his arms suspended in front of his body.

His wedding ring, glittering in the sun.

 

~~~

 

He used to hate waking up, before, when it was just him, alone in his bed. He can’t say he loves early mornings now, but they are decidedly less horrendous with Magnus’ warmth pressed to his side, his hair tickling Alec’s neck, a heavy arm on his chest, anchoring him. Their bodies gravitate towards each other during the night, and more often than not, they wake up touching. Alec sighs and turns to his side, cuddling Magnus to his front, not opening his eyes just yet. It wasn’t his alarm that woke him, so he’s in no hurry to get out of their warm cocoon.

Magnus grumbles something, shifting a little to settle his arm fully around Alec’s torso and one of his legs between Alec’s own, then he sighs, his breathing still even and deep.

Alec decides he could at least check if the sun is on it’s way up already or if he should be trying to fall asleep again, and opens his eyes.

Then, he freezes.

Then, he panics.

His brain is sounding alarm bells at him, his heart speeds up, his breathing picks up, his arms around Magnus squeeze, hard.

He closes his eyes, tries to slow down his breathing, and opens them again.

“Darling?"

Okay, Alec can do this, there has to be a reasonable explanation. Magnus is here, that’s all that matters, everything else can be explained.

Then, Alec opens his eyes again and looks down.

He’s out of the bed with his back against the wall and in a defensive stance before he registers he even moved.

Magnus is now sitting up, rumpled and confused looking. His hair is shorter on top, longer on the sides. There’s no goatee. He’s not wearing any rings or necklaces. No nail polish.

Alec’s brain registers that his own arms are bare.

He’s not wearing a shirt.

That would be nothing out of the ordinary, if his arms weren’t bare.

 

His runes are gone.

His runes.

Are gone.

He can’t feel Jace.

He-

 

“Darling, you’re scaring me,” Magnus says, voice low and gentle. He moves slowly, shuffling his body to Alec’s side of the bed. Sheets are pushed out of the way, revealing plain cotton black boxer briefs.

Alec doesn’t know why, but that’s the last straw.

“Who are you,” he wants to say it’s a bark, but even to his own ears, his voice is high and panicky. His back is still pushed against the wall, his breathing erratic.

Magnus’ eyes are wide now, and he stops moving.

He looks at Alec again, and his eyes widen even more, his hands shaking a little bit before he visibly makes himself appear calm.

He looks at Alec.

 

His eyes, Magnus’ unglamoured eyes.

 

Alec slides down the wall, his ass hitting the carpeted floor.

“Magnus? What the f-” and he can’t breathe, can’t, there’s no air and his arms are bare and Magnus doesn't have his ring doesn’t have any rings but doesn’t have the ring and Alec is-

“Alexander, can I touch you?” the voice comes from far away, somewhere on his right, and Alec’s hand fumbles in the direction of it, grabbing.

There are hands on his shoulders, then one sweeps down his back, the other to his front.

“I’m here. Come on, breathe with me,” the voice says, and Alec follows its instructions.

 

It takes him a little bit to calm down and when he’s able to open his eyes again, a Magnus is there. Not his Magnus, he can tell that much. He looks at the other Magnus, waits.

“You’re not my Alec,” he says, voice steady, his hands long gone from Alec’s body.

Alec shakes his head, “I don’t think so, no.”

Magnus takes a deep breath, nods his head once. He stares at a spot above Alec’s shoulder, murmurs a soft shit and runs a hand down his face.

Alec can’t help the small smile. Magnus doesn’t swear very often, expresses his ire with made up colourful expressions instead. It’s rare he utters a shit or a fuck. Alec doesn’t know why it makes him smile now. Maybe his brain got scrambled. Maybe that’s it.

Magnus looks at him and puts the glamour back on while keeping eye contact.

“Okay. What do you say we get dressed, get breakfast and coffee and try and figure this out?” Magnus is already moving before he even finishes his suggestion, looking down at Alec, hand outstretched.

Alec takes it, let’s Magnus pull him up.

Their hands linger, linked together.

Magnus looks away, “I- my apologies,” and let’s go.

Alec feels cold, and alone.

 

Surprisingly, even though the sheets are the wrong colour, the window is a different shape, the blinds are not automatic, and just basically every detail of their bedroom is different, other, their closet is in the same place. This makes Alec navigate to the right side, his side, of it, but then he opens the doors and what he sees makes him pause.

A couple of bright coloured shirts. Prints. On trousers. He looks to the left and sees what is more of a muted palette, he wouldn’t say his colours but, well, more his than this, anyway. He looks at this Magnus, who is rummaging through a drawer, taking out a grey henley and some very old sweatpants.

Alec’s brain freezes.

The sense of wrong is absolute.

“You-- I--,” he’s clutching a turquoise shirt to his chest, the material so soft it would slip through his fingers if they weren’t in an absolute death grip around it.

Magnus looks at him, eyes flitting over his expression, his posture, the shirt.

“Oh,” he says softly, apparently having arrived at a conclusion. He turns back to the drawer, takes out a black t-shirt and another pair of old sweats, hands them gingerly to Alec.

“Here, these are mine, you tend towards the more-” he waves his hand towards the tiny but very colourful part of the closet, “but you can choose whatever makes you comfortable.”

Alec grabs the offered alternative and tugs both garments on as fast as he can.

Magnus is also clothed in an instant, gesturing towards the bathroom and disappearing.

 

Alec closes his eyes. He’s - 

He can do this. He can do this. He can do this.

 

The door to the bathroom opens and Magnus comes out. Alec probably looks like a crazy person. He tries to smile. Judging by Magnus’ expression, he fails spectacularly.

“I’m gonna go to the kitchen, get the coffee machine running and make us some breakfast. Join me when you’re ready?” Alec can tell that Magnus is doing his best to keep everything about himself nonthreatening, softer, smaller. Alec is torn between hating it with every fibre of his being and being so grateful he could cry.

 

He uses the bathroom, splashing his face with cold water, looking in the mirror at his bare neck. At his hair. There are rings on his fingers, but not the ring. He has to take ten measured breaths to calm down again.

He can do this.

 

He can smell the coffee before he even gets to the kitchen, the machine making its gurgling noises as it always does.

Magnus startles as Alec enters.

“Sorry,” it’s automatic, still, even though his Magnus never startles at his soundless approaches anymore, somehow having developed a sixth sense for Alec and his whereabouts.

“No, no, please, don’t apologize,” he doesn’t wave a hand, keeping both palms on the edges of the kitchen counter, “you move so-- anyway. Sugar, milk?” he motions to the mug that’s ready on the kitchen island.

“Just milk, thank you,” Magnus flinches a little at that, and Alec is hit with a wave of sadness for him. It’s not just him who’s here with the wrong Magnus. 

Magnus is here with the wrong Alec, too.

He's an intruder in their home. The realization makes him cold all over, makes his hands shake as he adds milk to his coffee.

He clears his throat.

“So,” he looks up at Magnus, whose back is now against the counter, facing Alec with his own mug in hand.

“You’ve travelled,” he says.

Alec makes a little confused noise.

“I don’t- no, not through a portal,” is what he decides to settle on. Magnus nods.

“No, I’d imagine not, a portal opening would’ve woken me up. My magic is not what it used to be but even I would have felt that, no matter how deeply I was sleeping,” he’s looking into the middle distance, thinking as he speaks, and Alec has so many questions but is loathe to interrupt his train of thought.

“Can you tell me what’s the last thing you remember before you woke up here?”

“I think,” his brain is fuzzy on the details, but he has a vague sense of- “there was a mission. No wait, not a mission. A warlock discovering his powers, somehow only as an adult, Magnus got the call when we were on our way to - somewhere, I don’t remember,” he squeezes his eyes shut, a flash of that indulgent smile Magnus only ever directs at him and a soft okay, but only the ones you trust and absolutely no lethal force to be used in any circumstance, an alley, light green wisps of magic in the air. 

“He was- he didn’t want to hurt us, but I think he misunderstood me trying to stop the others from advancing as a command to attack, and his magic overwhelmed him. Mag- my Magnus raised a protective barrier, he-” he remembers the multicolored warmth, the cushioned fall, the ring.

“Some of the erratic magic got through the barrier, somehow. It changed though, it wasn’t-- the original magic was light green, erratic in shape, like lightning, jumping all over the place, but what hit me was a multicoloured concentrated ray of magic,” he notices his eyes are still closed, as if he was reviewing the memory like a movie, and opens them to look at this Magnus.

Who tries and fails to school his expression, the fear in his eyes shining through clearly. 

Alec realizes he just might be fucked.

“This is bad, isn’t it,” he asks, softly.

Magnus nods, putting his mug down, clenching his now empty hands by his sides.

“If it was a spell, there would be a chance I could figure out the counter-spell. What you described,” he shakes his head, hand coming up to cover his mouth, eyes closing.

“What I described was erratic magic from a panicked new warlock combined with a protective barrier made by a you from I assume an alternate reality,” he’s good at summarizing, more than a decade of writing mission reports would do that to you. Detach yourself, strip it down to just the facts, no emotions, the bare bones of what happened only. He’s a pro. 

Fuck, but does he wish he wasn’t.

Magnus nods again, taking a deep breath.

“So, does that mean I’m here to stay?” he doesn’t want to ask, he really doesn’t, it makes his stomach try and heave, but what’s the point of avoiding it.

Magnus looks up at him, eyes wide, shaking his head frantically.

“No! No, no, dear god no,” he comes a little closer, moving his hand as if to take Alec's, then stops himself, “no, Alec, magic has a way of- there’s an equilibrium to it. You’ve been misplaced, possibly switched, which is not something that could just,” he waves his hands now, more conservatively than his Magnus would, but the gesture makes Alec relax his shoulders, makes him breathe easier.

“So the magic will what, suck me back at some point, when it tries to correct itself?”

“Yes, that’s what I would expect,” Magnus says, not looking as relieved as Alec would expect.

“What is it?” 

Magnus startles at his question, “Oh,” he says, looking at Alec again, really looking.

“You know me quite well, don’t you?” he asks, very softly.

Alec nods, unconsciously trying to fiddle with his ring, but there isn’t one. Not on the hand of this Alec, at least. Magnus’ eyes miss nothing, of course, and they widen as the realization hits him.

Oh.”

Alec can’t help his small smile, looking at Magnus, because it is Magnus, not his, no, but still Magnus.

“Yeah,” he replies, just as softly, the smile coloring his words.

“But the Clave-” he says.

Even here, apparently. Fuck The Clave, he thinks.

“We saved the world. We’re changing the world. Together,” is what Alec settles on.

Magnus’ eyes remain very wide, and very shiny, and Alec can feel his own watering in response. He doesn’t know this world, but from the lack of runes, it’s not the Clave that’s stopping them here. Life is never easy though, is it. He knows they fought their battles, so many of them, and they deserve to be happy, but he now desperately wants it for this Magnus too. For this Alec.

“You and your Alec, you…?” he doesn’t know how to ask, exactly. What to ask.

Magnus shakes his head, as if to wake himself from a dream.

“Oh, we haven’t been together long. Couple of months. We’re, uh,” and here, he blushes and looks away, and Alec can’t breathe , “taking it slow,” Magnus clears his throat, his blush a pretty pink on his cheeks, on the tops of his ears. He keeps not looking at Alec.

“But we woke up--” Alec waves a hand so that he doesn’t have to say half naked and tangled together.

Magnus’ blush deepens and Alec just might die from this. Getting his Magnus to blush is almost impossible, he’s the one who--

“Yeah, it’s, ah, new. You’re-- he's being very patient with me,” Magnus’ head is bowed, he's trying to hide his face from Alec’s prying eyes.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-” he starts apologizing, seeing how uncomfortable Magnus is now.

“No, no, it’s okay, you couldn’t have known, you’re married to your Magnus, that’s-” Magnus fumbles for words.

“We took it slow, too. Because of me,” is what Alec ends up saying, and then he’s the one avoiding eye contact, looking at the kitchen cabinets behind Magnus. They’re a slightly different colour, but he’s having a hard time remembering what theirs look like now.

“Huh.”

Huh indeed, Alec chuckles.

He clears his throat.

“Do we know how long the magic will take to correct itself and bounce me back? Any guesses?” should he be settling in for the long haul, is what he’s asking. Days? Weeks? Months? He doesn’t even want to think it. Gods. Years.

Magnus scrunches up his face, shrugs his shoulders, “Honestly, the only precedent from my own experience would be the visit I got from a Clary from a diffe-”

Alec’s head shoots up, “Wait, you’re-- this is the alternate universe?”

Magnus looks at him, shocked. They look at each other for a moment and then Magnus breaks the silence.

“You’re from Clary’s Shadowhunter universe?”

“I guess? She went to the Seelie realm and used a portal to get here, I don’t know, seemed a little convoluted, there were crystals involved and somehow they ended up in Chernobyl, on their way back. They were looking for Jocelyn?”

Magnus is nodding along as Alec describes that crazy stunt that was pulled during the hunt for Clary’s mom as if he’s familiar with the story, too.

“Yes, yes, Clary appeared here, in the body of our Clary, just like you, but unlike you, the Clary from here kept overpowering her ‘visiting’ persona-- anyway, not important now. You said you saved the world, so I assume Valentine has been defeated?”

He looks to be at the edge of his seat, as if he's finally about to read the conclusion to an unfinished novel that he's been waiting years for. Alec laughs.

“Yeah, him and some other bad guys that followed,” he’s not sure elaborating is a good idea, so he leaves it at that. “Thank you for your help, by the way, Clary said she couldn’t have done it without you,” he adds softly, keeping eye contact so Magnus knows he’s sincere.

The blush comes back. Alec can’t stop smiling.

“I did what I could but the magic here is-- we’ve been demonless for decades, if not a century now. We had no idea how getting rid of demons would influence, well, everything,” he says, his expression turning pensive, a little sad. Wistful. 

“Still,” he can't help but insist, “Magnus to the rescue, in every universe. You’re always the one saving our asses. We would have all been dead twenty times over by now if it wasn’t for you,” he feels like this Magnus needs to hear that, too. His Magnus pretends he is well aware of this fact, but the way his expression softens when Alec-

Alec clears his throat. Yeah, let’s not go there.

“I’m just glad it all ended well in your universe,” Magnus says.

“And here? We always wondered what happened here, after. Did someone find out, did you manage to-”

Magnus laughs. Alec just looks at him, smiling a little, and waits.

“Well, you did,” he says with a secretive little smile, looking behind Alec.

“There was a party, I wasn’t on the guest list, you got me in, oh god you were-”  he hides his face again, clears his throat, “you asked me out but I had to run out after I closed the portal. When you were looking for me, somehow, you found out about it. You still refuse to tell me how,” he looks at Alec like maybe he will tell him now. Alec just shrugs, but wonders why his alternate self keeps it a secret.

“You also know about the former Shadow World. Or well, your great grandpa used to tell you stories. You thought they were just that, stories, fairy tales he told you before bedtime. Turns out you come from an old line of former Shadowhunters, which I guess is no surprise to you,” he motions at him, and Alec tries to imagine what a mundane version of him must’ve thought about all this.

Werewolves, vampires. Warlocks. Demons.

Alternate universes.

Even he has a little bit of trouble with that one.

“So your me knows you're a warlock?” it is pretty obvious, what with Magnus showing him his eyes when they woke up, but.

Magnus nods his assent.

“And he's…?”

“Fully mundane?” Magnus finishes his question. Alec nods.

“He isn't. But since there are no more demons, there are also no more Shadowhunters. There's no Clave anymore which would make you burn runes into your skin. Very few magical beings stayed in this realm, after, so even with the sight, most descendants can go their whole lives without ever truly seeing anything, or any one , out of the ordinary.”

Alec thinks about this a little. He assumes there are no steles, either, and anyway, him drawing a rune on this Alec would probably - yeah, he doesn't think Magnus would let him, and there would be no point in it, anyway, since there are no demons to vanquish here, nothing the runes could help him with.

“Okay, so-- wait, what day is it today?” he's not sure how the whole travelling thing works, did he just appear in the same time as he disappeared from?

“That's a good question. It's Saturday, and you and I don't have any obligations today, thankfully,” Magnus smiles a little at that.

“And the date, please?”

“Uhm,” Magnus fumbles for his phone, his cheeks coloring a little, and Alec can't help the little laugh that escapes him.

“Oh screw you,” Magnus says under his breath.

Alec laughs and laughs.

 

Turns out the date is the same as in his universe, so they posit that he did move universes, locations within those universes, but thankfully stayed tethered in time, at least.

Small mercies. 

He doesn't even want to imagine what would have happened if he travelled to an alternate universe and the future, meeting a Magnus that might have lost his Alec decades ago. His stomach feels laden, his heart thumps and he has to turn and look out of the window.

 

By mutual decision, they stay in the loft, which is both eerily familiar and not. Alec sits on the couch and laughs at the embroidered pillows which proudly advertise the names of Magnus' two cats. They eat some pastries Magnus magics from a favorite bakery - the name doesn't sound familiar but the pastries taste exactly like the ones his Magnus adores, the croissants buttery and falling apart just right - and have another coffee, exchanging more non crucial information about their universes.

Alec isn't tense, exactly, but his thoughts stray to his Magnus regularly. Judging by the more frequent breaks in their conversation, Alec would bet his bow that this Magnus is in the same boat as him.

“Your Alec,” he opens.

Magnus turns to look at him, his hand still scratching Chairman's head lightly. He makes an inquisitive noise.

Alec doesn't know how to continue, what to ask first. How do you ask an alternate version of your significant other about an alternate you? He swallows.

“Is he good to you?” is what finally leaves his mouth and-- he can't believe he just said that, he--

Magnus is smiling and looking out of the balcony doors, at the city.

“Yes,” he says, voice quiet, private, his eyes so soft something in Alec's chest clenches tight and he can barely breathe, “he's wonderful,” Magnus adds, looking into his empty mug, his smile a secret little thing. Alec can't believe--

“He's lucky,” Alec says, voice as quiet as Magnus' was, “we're lucky, to have you, in this universe, and in mine,” it feels essential that he says this, that Magnus hears it, just how loved he is, will always be. Alec doesn't know what his expression is telling Magnus, but Magnus looks cracked open, like any more words would shatter the little that's left of his composure. Maybe he shouldn't have--

“I'm sorry, I didn't want to--”

Magnus shakes his head, reaches out as if to touch Alec, stops himself again , “No, no, I- it's- we haven't--”

Oh, again, Alec thinks. They haven't said it to each other yet. He wants to tell Magnus that if this Alec is anything like him, he fell hard and fast, was probably in love with Magnus before Clary even returned to the proper universe, but. It's not his place, he would never want someone else to take that away from him and he refuses to do it to this Alec.

They look away, and Alec thinks about his own universe, if this Alec is now in the midst of what is bound to be a messy fallout of Matthew’s loss of control. Or if there’s just a lifeless body lying on the ground--

He feels like his mind will shatter if he keeps thinking of all the possible scenarios, the possible consequences that this little trip could have on both his universe and this one. He needs to do something. He needs to not think.

“Is there a training room somewhere?” he ends up asking, out of the blue and maybe a little too loudly, judging by Magnus' slight jump and raised brows.

“There's a gym in the building, downstairs. Alec's used it a couple of times and says it's generally pretty empty,” Alec nods, but a little of his discomfort must show even though he tried to school his expression, “I could go down with you, make sure you know who to say hi to and such?” Magnus offers and Alec nods gratefully.

Magnus finds some clothes that Alec can work out in, but doesn't change into workout gear himself. Alec sees him grab a book, though.

Something occurs to him in the elevator ride down.

“You said your Clary's persona kept overpowering my Clary,” at Magnus' nod, he continues, “so why do you think your Alec is not trying to, uhm, I guess get rid of me?”

Magnus takes a while to answer, the elevator doors opening into a well lit hallway. There's a sign on the wall opposite the elevator, an arrow pointing to the left for GYM. 

Magnus was right and the gym does turn out to be empty. Alec surveys the equipment and settles on the mats, starting a series of exercises to warm up. He's thinking running, next. He's keyed up, but boxing doesn't feel right.

Magnus sits on a nearby bench, his book next to his hip.

“I think he's not trying to overpower you because he's not here anymore.”

Cold dread settles into Alec.

“You mean he--”

“No! God, I have to choose my words more carefully around you, you always jump to the worst conclusions,” Magnus adds quietly and Alec can’t say he’s wrong, “no, I think he's either in your body, which would be the standard exchange if we were talking targeted spells, which we are not. So, my other theory is that--” he sighs, “your guess is as good as mine, here.”

Alec keeps stretching his legs, mulling that over.

“His essence, energy, call it whatever you want, had to go somewhere though, right? It couldn't have just disappeared,” that's what he'd settle on, since he doesn't think anything truly malicious could have gotten through the barrier Magnus threw up to protect him.

“No, I don't think it could have,” Magnus says, looking anywhere but at Alec. “It's possible he's still here, but he's-- dormant, pushed back enough that he can't tell he's not in control. I hope.”

Alec focuses on his mind, tries to-- he doesn't know. Feel for another presence? It feels foreign, to be alone in his head, to not have a little bit of Jace there. In his head, in his heart, in his soul, always. But not here.

It's freeing.

It's also absolutely terrifying.

He wonders if Jace can tell that something is wrong. He wonders if the bond will be okay when he gets back.

It bounced back from each of them dying and coming back to life, so Alec is quite confident that some meagre universe hopping won't affect it.

He can't feel Jace, and he can't feel anything else either. He tells Magnus as much.

“But then again,” he adds, “I wouldn't really know what to look for. There is no one pushing against my consciousness, though,” he settles on saying, hoping that it will give Magnus at least a little peace of mind, knowing that his Alec is not just along for the ride, seeing everything but being unable to control his own body.

Magnus nods and then points to his book, “Do you mind if I--?”

Alec waves him off, tells him to go right ahead. 

His stretches done, he goes to one of the running machines and takes a little bit to figure it out and sets off to run.

 

His breathing is laboured, he's sweating up a storm and all his muscles are screaming at him when he hears Magnus clear his throat. He presses a button to stop the machine and nearly falls on his face. When he turns around, Magnus is smirking, not even trying to hide it.

Alec rolls his eyes.

“Alec's in shape, but this seems a little excessive,” Magnus says.

“Yeah, I was about to call it a day too, just give me five to stretch so I can walk tomorrow?” he says it without thinking, only realizing what left his mouth when Magnus' face falls.

“I mean--”

“I know,” Magnus says, hand raised to stop Alec's words.

Magnus returns to his book, but Alec doesn't hear him turn a single page in the time it takes Alec to stretch his abused muscles.

 

They get back into the loft and Magnus asks if Alec's okay with ordering in, maybe pizza, is pepperoni okay?

Alec doesn't remember the last time his Magnus had to double check any of Alec's usual orders. It's startling, how easy it is to forget this Magnus is a stranger, one wearing his husband's face but a stranger nonetheless. 

“Yeah, pepperoni is fine, thank you. Uhm, do you mind if I take a shower? I feel, and probably smell, disgusting,” he points at his wet t-shirt and scrunches his nose.

Magnus laughs, short and loud, like it was punched out of him against his will.

“Sorry, no- your expression-- yes, go right ahead, there should be clean towels and- you probably know where to find everything,” he smiles at Alec, “and if not, give me a shout.”

Alec nods and leaves Magnus in the kitchen.

 

The master bathroom, as the rest of the loft, is eerily similar and not .

Alec drops the clean change of clothes he grabbed on his way in on the hamper, getting out of his soaked workout gear, leaving it on the floor for now. The shower itself looks as luxurious as the one he's used to.

The illusion is shattered when Alec opens the shampoo bottle and smells -- it smells wonderful but foreign

Once again the sense of absolute wrongness hits him square in the chest. He starts slowing down his breathing, trying to stave off the wave of panic he can feel coming. It's okay, he's okay, he can do this.

He can do this.

It's just shampoo, it should not be such a big deal.

 

But it is. It is.

 

He stays in the shower for a very long time, most of it spent with his head bowed and arms against the tiles, letting the water run down from his head, over his face.

 

He finds a bottle of hypoallergenic body wash that has no smell to it and uses it to wash his hair, too. His hair is too coarse, after, and it feels like before, again. The Institute didn't have the budget to provide luxuries like quality shampoo and conditioner. Not that he would have dared use either, before.

 

When he rejoins Magnus in the living room, the pizza is already waiting on the coffee table.

“It smells delicious,” he's compelled to say. Again, he doesn't recognize the name on the box but wonders if the taste will be the same as their favorite.

It turns out it isn't, but it is equally as delicious. Then again, after the run, Alec probably would have eaten anything.

Alec asks about the pizza place anyway, hopes he might remember its name and location when he's back home.

 

They finish eating and Alec's eyes start to droop. His stomach is pleasantly full, both his body and mind lethargic.

He checks the clock and is surprised to see it's not even 2pm.

He looks to Magnus. He's sitting on the rug, his back to an armchair, his expression pensive. Alec moves a little bit to attract his attention, waits for Magnus to look his way.

“Would you mind me taking a nap?” he asks, pointing towards the bedroom.

Magnus' face softens, “I was actually just thinking about napping myself, if you wouldn't--?”

“This is your apartment, I can nap on the couch if you would be more com-”

“Nonsense, Alec, the bed is more than big enough for three people, let alone two, I think we can share,” Magnus says, eyes soft, shoulders relaxed.

“Okay,” Alec agrees quietly, picking himself up off the sofa and offering a hand to Magnus, who takes it. He seems-- lighter, somehow smaller than his Magnus. More fragile. Alec's instincts are screaming at him to be careful, cautious, with both his actions and his words.

He lets go of Magnus' hand slowly, has to remind himself it is not his prerogative to place his hand on Magnus' back and lead him to the bedroom.

 

He goes to pick up the pizza box, but Magnus flicks his fingers and it disappears from his grasp. Magnus chuckles at what must be a startled expression on his face. This is the first time he's seen this Magnus do any magic beside the glamour.

Magnus winks at him and walks to the bedroom.

Alec huffs a laugh and follows him in.

They settle in, staying in their sweats, and Magnus sets an alarm for 4pm.

Alec looks at him before closing his eyes, sees Magnus drop the glamour and smile.

 

~~~

 

The next time Alec opens his eyes, he's the only one in the bed. The sheets are a different colour, the blinds are open and everything is deathly silent.

Alec takes a deep breath and tries to focus his hearing, not moving just yet. He gives it a good minute, but doesn't hear anything.

He sits up slowly, sheets falling away from his body.

His runes are back.

And there're so many of them.

His hands start shaking a little bit and Alec is getting very tired of all this slow breathing. Calming techniques are all nice and fine but he'd prefer it if he didn't need them in the first place. He just wants to go home.

He still can't feel Jace, which is--

Hitching up his shirt, his blood runs cold.

His parabatai rune is gone.

There's a very obvious empty space where it should be, all the other skin he uncovered is marred with runes, some of them so close they're almost overlapping.

Alec doesn't want to think about this. Everything's fine. He can do this.

He gets out of bed, leaving the bedroom slowly. 

The loft feels- off. Not like alternate Magnus', which was different but lived it, still felt like a home.

This loft is--

Alec gets to the kitchen and there are dishes everywhere, empty pizza boxes stacked on the kitchen counter, mixed with some containers that look like they had chinese in it, maybe. It's all starting to smell, too.

The coffee table has a knocked over bottle of some alcohol on it, no cork, carpet under it stained. There's no tumbler, no glass. He sees more empty bottles as he walks by.

Alec doesn't think about anything, keeps his mind carefully blank.

Magnus' work room is-- He's hit with an absolutely awful smell when he opens the door, probably coming from the cauldron half full of something left on the workbench. 

Everything has a fine layer of dust on it. 

He feels hot and cold at the same time, his mind now a buzzing mass of thoughts. His hand shakes on the doorknob.

There's a heavy pressure on his chest, something like acid in his throat. His eyes are watering.

Alec closes the door and runs to the bathroom, emptying his stomach into the bowl.

He rinses his mouth, not raising his eyes. He didn't turn on the light. He doesn't want to see.

Back in the bed, where the sheets smell nothing like Magnus, he squeezes his eyes shut and hopes that the magic will take him away from this place.

 

~~~

 

He opens his eyes and is greeted with the bare stone of the Institute's walls. He can feel his parabatai bond right away, and something's not-- oh Gods. He's still partially blocking the bond here, apparently.

It feels like before.

Before he settled into his own skin, before his eyes were opened, before he went through so many of the crucial experiences that helped shape him into the man he is today.

Alec loves magic, but this spell is really testing him.

He doesn't even get out of bed, absolutely refuses to deal with the mess that would follow.

He closes his eyes.

 

~~~

 

He's not sure if it's the shouting that wakes him up or the mattress bouncing up and down or the hair tickling his nose and making him sneeze.

He opens his eyes and doesn't know what to focus on first.

Magnus is not in bed.

Chairman, however, very much is.

And so is, it seems, a child.

Alec freezes.

The child, a little boy, keeps jumping up and down, shouting something in a language that Alec doesn't-- oh, but this Alec does speak.

“Dad, dad, dad, come onnnnnn, you prrrrromised!

 

Alec just keeps looking at him, still not moving, and the boy senses that something's not right. He stops jumping and is opening his mouth when Ales hears a voice from the hallway.

“Antonio, I told you to let dad sleep, you know very well how he is when you wake him up before his--” the end of the sentence is cut off as Magnus makes eye contact with Alec.

No one is moving.

Chairman jumps off the bed, the little bell on his collar jingling.

The spell is broken - hah, if only, Alec thinks - and Magnus looks at, apparently, Antonio.

“Peanut, can you please go brush your teeth and change from your pyjamas, as we agreed?” Magnus tells the boy, who is now looking between the two of them, eyes a little suspicious.

Replying to Magnus with his eyes trained on Alec, Antonio says, sure papa, and then leaves, very slowly.

Magnus waits until he hears a door close and then closes the bedroom door, as well.

“Hi,” Alec says, for lack of anything better to start with.

Magnus snorts.

“We were supposed to go to the zoo,” he sighs.

Alec grimaces. He loves the zoo, but.

“Peanut already knows something's up,” Magnus continues, “you're a really terrible actor, by the way.”

Alec scoffs,”I just woke up, we don't have kids where I come from, and I've had quite the day, I think I did just fine, thank you very much.”

Magnus eyes him, the look eerily similar to that he received from Antonio earlier.

“How many?” he asks.

“How many--?” Alec prompts.

“How many universes have you been to, so far, is what I mean.”

That makes Alec pause, “Wait, I get that you can tell I'm not from here, but why do you assume I've been to more than one?”

Magnus rolls his eyes.

“You just said you've had quite the day. Stop stalling, how many?” he raises his eyebrows, not breaking eye contact. His eyes are brown. Lined with kohl. Alec looks away.

“This is the fourth,” he hasn't been doing it long enough to lose count yet, at least.

“Ah, good, so you haven't lost count yet,” Magnus says, almost to himself. Alec wants to laugh, if it wasn't for the--

“Wait, you know-- you've had this-- can you--” Magnus stops him with a wave of his hand, rings glinting in the early morning sun. Alec looks away. He can't--

“I might know, yes we have seen this before, yes I might be able to help,” his voice is gentle, his ringed hand hovering close to the bump that's Alec's knee under the covers. It doesn't make contact.

“Dar-” Alec flinches and Magnus stops the word from forming. He clears his throat.

“Alec, can you tell me what happened before you jumped for the first time?”

Alec takes a deep breath (yes, he is also seeing a trend here), and tells Magnus everything he told the previous Magnus.

Magnus hums, but doesn't interrupt. Alec includes the theories he and previous Magnus came up with. Magnus nods and lets him speak.

The door bursts open just as Alec is about to very much not mention the previous two universes.

“Papa?” Antonio is looking at Magnus, staying by the door.

“Come here, Peanut,” Magnus beckons, “this, Peanut, is Alec. He's from a universe where he hasn't met you yet, which is why he looked so shocked when you started jumping on our bed this morning.”

Alec is gaping at them both. Did Magnus just--

Magnus laughs at him.

“Did you expect we'd be able to keep it a secret from this little troublemaker?” he asks, and Antonio whines papà  keeping the last syllable going until he's out of breath.

Magnus' smile could power the entirety of New York for a decade.

“Does this mean we're not going to the zoo?” Antonio’s eyes jump between Magnus and Alec, expectant, excited.

Priorities, indeed.

Magnus shrugs, looks at Alec.

 

The combined gazes of the two are lethal.

 

Alec sighs.

 

Magnus' laugh and Antoni's loud yesssssss are enough to have Alec understand that they both know what they just did, and this is not the first time they have fell him in this way. He plasters on a fake scowl and levels it at the both of them.

 

The laughter times two follows him into the bathroom.

 

He's done washing his hands, just about to start looking for a new toothbrush when the knock startles him.

“Come in,” he invites.

Magnus steps in gingerly, keeping his eyes down. Alec snorts.

“I'm dressed,” he says and Magnus looks up.

Alec waits him out.

“Are you really okay with going to the zoo with us?”

Alec nods, sighs, then shrugs, “Unless you can do something to send me back right now…”

Magnus shakes his head.

“We've had a traveller here before, but his circumstances were very different from yours. His was a curse to be broken by-- never mind what, but from what you described, for you it's just a very unfortunate case of wrong place wrong time-”

“Wait, you said-- you told Antoni that I'm from a universe where I haven't met him, yet ,” Alec realizes, his mind spinning. Did he time jump this time as well?

Magnus is shaking his head, “No, based on what you said, you're just jumping universes, thankfully staying in the same spot in time, at least.”

“Then how--?”

Magnus looks at Alec then.

“Alec is 34 years old in this universe,” Magnus says, as a form of explanation.

Alec's mind is very tired of the constant spinning it's been doing today.

“Okay-- okay, I won't even touch that, because I have so many questions that we could probably stand here all day,” he half sits on the sink, using it for support, trying to wrap his mind around this. He touches his left side on instinct. No bond.

Magnus sees and quirks a brow.

“My parabatai bond-- Jace?”

Magnus' eyes widen.

“The parabatai bond has been outlawed for more than a century. The United Council finally recognized that any advantage it gives the bonded pair in a fight is far outweighed by the inherent danger. It was replaced by a bond developed by warlocks, which links two willing and compatible minds and can be dissolved without any harm coming to either of the parties.”

Alec lets that sink in. United Council, huh.

“You and Jace were bonded for thirteen years, before you left active duty and Jace got an offer from the Accademia in Tokyo--”

Magnus keeps talking but Alec stops processing the words. He wonders what happened in this universe to make it so different from his, and yet. Here they are. Him and Magnus, Magnus and him.

Working for a United Council that stopped using parabatai runes and replaced them with bonds invented by warlocks. But if--

“Clary?” he asks, interrupting Magnus.

“Who?” Magnus looks a little confused, startled.

Alec goes cold all over, why did he even--

“Oh,” Magnus' face lights up, “do you mean Chiara?”

Alec has no idea if he means Chiara, “A little fierce redhead, the love of Jace's life?” is what he chooses to specify with.

Magnus laughs.

“That sounds a lot like Chiara, yes,” he's smiling at Alec, face open and happy, “sadly she is with Jace in Brisbane and they won't be joining us for the zoo trip today,” he pauses, looks away, fiddles with one of his rings, “the original plan was that Isabelle would come with us, but if you're not comfor-”

“No, no, please, that sounds-- I want to meet this Izzy, if you think that's okay?” he didn't get to see her in the first universe--

“I already texted her about you, well, traveller you, and she's of course quite excited to meet you,” Alec rolls his eyes at this. Which makes Magnus chuckle. That sound. Alec is a sucker for that sound in every universe.

Focus.

Alec shakes his head a little.

“Okay,” Alec says and motions to the door and the bedroom behind it, “I have no idea what your Alec usually wears, so can you just,” he waves his hand around in a gesture he must've seen Magnus perform a thousand times by now and snaps his fingers.

Magnus' eyes widen and his response is instantaneous, hands weaving a pattern, containing the blue glow that is surrounding Alec's hand.

Alec gapes.

“What the--” he lets his hand fall, and the magic around it dissipates. 

Magnus looks sheepish. Alec raises his eyebrows, fakes a finger snap.

“Okay okay!” his hands are up, placating. Alec keeps one of his eyebrows up.

“So. You have magic.”

Alec snorts, “You don't say!”

Magnus rolls his eyes.

“I assume you don't have magic in your universe then?”

“That'd be a very correct assumption, yes,” he says, in the driest tone he can possibly produce at this moment. Magnus looks at him, eyebrows drawn together, lips pursing a little.

“Did you choose not to include the Legato dall’amore incantation during your ceremony?”

“The what incantation? During which ceremony?” and he understands that he’s missing something big by the widening of Magnus’ eyes, the sharp intake of his breath, his little flinch.

“The Legato dall’amore is an incantation that allows people to be bound together by love. The bond can reach different depths, allowing the two or more people who are bonded to share nothing, in which case the bond is symbolic only, in the way wedding rings are; or all the way to everything-- including their powers,” Magnus keeps his voice steady, gentle, “Our bond is still growing, to the bafflement of both Nephilim and Warlock scholars, and we can now channel each others’ powers as well as open the bond fully and share thoughts, if we so wish.”

Alec doesn’t think he can breath. That sounds-- terrifying. That sounds amazing.

“We have a general awareness of each other, where the other is, and if we focus, how they’re feeling. Which is how I knew to come in when I did, this morning,” Magnus adds, “the wave of terror swiftly replaced by absolute astonishment is not my Alec’s usual reaction to being woken up by Toni,” he chuckles.

Alec wants to know everything there is to know about this incantation, about this bond. Maybe he and his Magnus can--

“Who invented the incantation?” is what he asks, just to see if the person could maybe help in his universe. Magnus breaks eye contact, clears his throat, then looks back at Alec.

“I did.”

“Oh,” Alec breathes, “was it-- did you--”

Magnus shakes his head, “It was about a century ago, for a dear friend of mine who foolishly fell for a Nephilim. I cautioned her that it would only lead to heartbreak, loving a Nephilim, and look at me now,” he chuckles self deprecatingly, not looking at Alec.

“This and Legato dal Sangue, the new and improved parabatai bond, are both my inventions. They’re very similar and yet fundamentally different. Would you like me to--” Magnus offers and Alec needs to see.

“Yes, please,” he says and a dam opens and he can feel Magnus. He could find him even if all his senses were taken away.

“Could you show me when we--” Alec asks and then he immediately sees what appears to be a crystal clear memory, only the edges a little fuzzy. He’s watching himself watch Magnus and his eyes are so wide, so unbelievably soft, the dumbest smile on his face. Magnus is saying something, and then Alec is watching himself repeat the words. Magnus looks down at their joined hands and sees golden threads of magic swirl around them, forming a pattern of what appear to be parallel lines which grow and expand until Alec’s arms are covered in them, then his torso, then his entire body. He can hear gasps from their family and friends, can feel his and Magnus’ hands shaking as they hold on to each other. The magic glows so bright that Magnus has to blink and when he opens his eyes again, the magic pulses and and then slowly settles into their skin, pulsing one last time over their wedding bands.

The memory ends there and Alec is back in the bathroom, looking at Magnus whose eyes are wet. Alec’s might be too.

“That was beautiful,” he murmurs, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Magnus chuckles, “Yes, and neither has anyone else before that moment, or after it, for that matter.”

“What do you mean?”

“Our bond is-- unique, for lack of a better word. You heard the gasps of the crowd,” Magnus waits for Alec’s acknowledging nod, “You have to understand that the Legato dall’amore is now a standard part of a wedding ceremony, so most of the people in the audience have seen a couple of them be born or even have one themselves. The magic usually presents as white, or keeps the color of the warlock who is casting the incantation if none of the people who participate in the bond are warlocks themselves. In the recorded history of the bond, we are the only two people for whom the magic turned gold and encompassed their whole bodies,” there he pauses, looks at Alec, and motions to his hand, “or settled in such a visible manner,” he takes off his own wedding ring to reveal a glowing gold strip of skin. Alec can’t stop the small gasp from escaping his lips.

“We agreed we didn’t want to be studied and have books be written about us and so we came up with something of a cover story,” Magnus looks a little sheepish, “and claimed that since I was the one who invented the spell, I put a little more flare into it, a little spin on the classic so to say, when casting.” 

“And did you?” Alec asks, knowing full well he might not get an answer, might not even be entitled to one.

“Not intentionally, no,” Magnus insists, “but when me and my Alec analyzed our memories we realized that both of us felt so much in that moment, poured so much of our feelings about each other, our shared history, and all our hopes and dreams for the future into the spell that it is possible we have made it into something completely new,” he confesses, and clears his throat, looking at Alec with something like an apology in his eyes, “we have also found that I’ve changed one word of the incantation, bringing some unforeseen and unprecedented consequences.”

Alec raises his eyebrows, hoping his confusion and curiosity are evident.

“Well, this is not easier the second time, it seems,” Magnus says under his breath, “I’ve bound your life force to mine,” he blurted out.

“You’ve--”

“Unintentionally made you as immortal as I am?” Magnus finishes Alec’s sentence for him, “...maybe.”

Alec looks at him, incredulous.

“In my defence!” Magnus starts, and Alec has to laugh because this sounds like the start to a well rehearsed speech. Magnus sputters a little bit, stops talking. Alec shakes his head. Only Magnus.

“Can you teach me the words and tell me everything I might need to know to recreate it?” he asks instead, hope bursting in his chest. Maybe he’ll be able to bring all this knowledge back home. The uproar the new parabatai bond would cause alone is something Alec just has to see. And an incantation linking any willing participants, no matter if they’re Nephilim, Warlock or other? Alec can’t even imagine.

Magnus nods, “It’s actually not that complicated, let me show you the memory again with more focus on the words and the casting,” he offers, and Alec is again submerged in the bright memory. He hears memory Magnus start the incantation and Alec can feel the overwhelming maelstrom of feelings within him now too, love desperation hope love lust fear love and the highs and lows of their relationship flit through his mind, everything they’ve overcome everything they tore down to be together everything they’ve built after everything they still want to do and be and change and--

He’s back in the bathroom, and Magnus looks apologetic.

“Once we started, the bond settled immediately and we both started pouring everything into it, I apologize for not warning you. I want to say this is exactly how I caution everyone not to do it, because with a storm of feelings like this, anything could happen. We could’ve gotten lost and the whole thing could’ve ended in disaster. Thankfully, it didn’t,” Magnus explains and Alec notices he’s playing with his wedding ring.

“Back to the incantation, if you’re ready?”

“Yes, as ready as I’ll ever be I guess,” he says before closing his eyes. The feelings are pushed to the background this time, and the sole focus is the incantation itself. Magnus is speaking, words warped by emotions and Alec can read so much on his own face. His counterpart’s eyes are watering and he’s biting his lip, he can feel the pressure on Magnus’ fingers where he’s clutching them, holding on for dear life. The words flow over them both, and with them the golden glow of their shared magic. With each word, the lines crawl a little further over Alec’s body.

 

“Let me bind my love to yours, Alexander

Let me cherish you, in sickness and in health

Allow me to stand by you as an equal 

To be your protector and your fighter

For your dreams to be my dreams as well

Let me catch you when you fall and when you soar,

Let me help you reach your greatest heights

No matter where life leads us, we will be together

I entrust to you my love, my heart, my soul, my life 

Let me bind my love to yours.”

 

Alec recognizes the echo of his own vows and doesn’t think he will ever be able to forget this incantation. It doesn’t bother him that here, it’s something shared by most of the Shadow World. The words might have been personalized for them, but the feelings behind them are universal.

And he can also very well guess which is the single word Magnus changed, bringing about his immortality. He doesn’t think the word, or Magnus for that matter, were the sole culprits, and wonders if this Alec ever told him. He thinks he must have.

Magnus is looking at him and waiting.

“Thank you so much for sharing this with me,” Alec tells him, “I hope I’ll be able to bring this back to my universe.”

Alec asks about the Legato dal Sangue, and learns that the main difference is in the intention behind the incantation, as well as what the persons pledge to each other, or the basis they’re bound on. He doesn’t think the Clave is ready for something like this, might not be for a couple more years yet, but keeping this as an ace up his sleeve couldn’t hurt.

 

He has no idea how long they spend on both of the spells, but it did seem to be horrendously early when Toni woke him up.

“So, about the magic I have here and the trip to the zoo,” Alec tries to bring them back to the present.

“Well, since you don’t have magic in your universe, we seem to have two choices here,” Magnus offers, “One, I bind your-- well, my Alec’s magic for the day, or two, I give you the fastest crash course in the history of crash courses and you will promise not to imitate any hand movements you’ve seen me do. What do you say?” 

Alec watches Magnus watch him as he mulls that over. Magnus is sighing before Alec even opens his mouth. Apparently, all Magnuses are good at reading their husbands.

“You came up with a third option, didn’t you,” his voice sounds a little tired, a lot amused, his eyes are shining.

“Maybe,” Alec offers, failing at keeping a straight face. His mouth pulls up at the corners. Magnus shakes his head.

“Okay then, let’s hear it,” Magnus prompts, his hand moving in an elegant wave, as if offering Alec the floor.

“What if,” he pauses for dramatic effect, “you only partially bind my magic, so that I can’t do any real damage by mistake, and leave me a little bit of it to play around with,” he finishes it like a question, voice going up, and tries to remember the expression that has Magnus always telling him he’s being unfair, looking at him like that.

By the incredulous look on Magnus’ face, he either failed spectacularly or--

“Are you trying to use your puppy eyes on me?” he sounds almost genuinely upset, and Alec might have even fallen for it, if it wasn’t for the absolute delight Alec can see shining in his eyes.

“Maybe,” Alec repeats, “depends. Is it working?” he wiggles his eyebrows. Might as well go all in.

“Oh my god please stop,” is all he gets in response as Magnus valiantly fights not to actually laugh at him. Alec looks away but he doubts he’s really able to hide the smile he can feel splitting his face. He can see Magnus taking a step closer to him, raising a hand as if to touch Alec’s biceps. It doesn’t connect, just hovers by his arm for a second before retreating.

“Of course it’s working,” is said instead, softly, “it always works, as you seem to very well know.”

Alec shrugs his shoulders a little, still not looking at Magnus

“I might not be your Magnus, but you are wearing my husband’s face, so,” Magnus adds in a whisper and then clears his throat, stepping back.

“Anyway! As to your suggestion, yes, it can be done. I can leave you with a little bit of magic for simple, small spells. Ready?”

Alec nods and closes his eyes.

“Okay, this should take but a moment and you shouldn’t feel anything,” Magnus pauses, seems to ponder something, and adds, “anything beside my magic, that is,” he doesn’t say anything more and Alec feels the familiar magic wash over him, settling something in his core, something he didn’t even notice before. He wonders if that’s where magic is always located, if that’s where Magnus feels his own. He hopes he remembers to ask when he gets back home.

Magnus’ magic retreats and Alec opens his eyes again. He raises a challenging eyebrow at Magnus, and snaps his fingers, all the while thinking about Magnus’ favorite cocktail, the one he opts for after a long day, when they’re finally both home and together.

In the next instant, he’s holding a glass by the bowl, the stem left empty so that Magnus can take it from him comfortably. He’s still inspecting the drink, and look at that, there’s even a slice of orange in it, so it takes him a couple of seconds to notice the silence. When he raises his eyes, he’s met with very wide brown ones, Magnus’ expressive mouth slightly open.

“Is that a--?”

“An Aperol spritz, yeah,” Alec confirms, handing the glass over, Magnus finally accepting it, “do you not--”

“No, no. I do. I’m just wondering…”

“It’s one of your favorites, where I’m from,” Alec offers, consciously leaving his arms hanging loosely by his sides, “you-- we had one of those on our, uh, honeymoon. After, you said they always remind you--”

“-- of the expression on your face when you first took a sip,” Magnus finishes his sentence.

Alec nods, “And to this day you refuse to tell me what that expression was,” he shakes his head, chuckles, “I probably made a face,” he offers, trying to dispel the sudden heaviness in the air, trying to make the moment less--

“No, you didn’t,” Magnus murmurs, looking at Alec, looking through Alec. He blinks a couple of times, clears his throat. Brings the glass to his lips. His eyes close and his Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows. He hums, “It’s wonderful, thank you, Alec.”

Alec nods. He realizes they’re still in the bathroom. Drinking cocktails in the bathroom. After talking about warlock variations for what basically amounts to a Wedded Union rune. He can’t help the laugh that escapes him. Magnus raises his eyebrows, taking another sip of his spritz.

“Oh, nothing, just,” Alec waves his hands around to encompass the bathroom, the drink, them, the situation, “this whole thing is,” he snorts, “a lot. As I’ve said before, I’ve already had quite the day and now I’m with my husband but not, in the bathroom, learning spells, drinking cocktails,” he realizes too late that the good humour turned into slight hysteria by the end of the sentence. He bites the inside of his lip, watches Magnus disappear the cocktail to who knows where. His eyes are narrowed, his expression solemn.

“I’m sorry,” he breathes.

“Not your fault,” Alec shoots back automatically.

“Still,” Magnus insists, and this time when he reaches out, he doesn’t let his hand fall, doesn’t hold back. Instead he grabs onto Alec’s forearm and carefully slides his hand down to gently take Alec’s.

Alec squeezes Magnus’ fingers and something in him breaks.

“I-- please, can I--,” he doesn’t even know what it is he’s asking for exactly, but Magnus is nodding anyway, coming closer, folding Alec into a warm embrace. There are fingers in his hair, carefully cradling the back of his skull, gently directing him to hide his face in Magnus’ neck. He doesn’t protest. He lets go of Magnus’ hand, sliding both of his arms around Magnus’ torso. He feels like his strings have been cut, can feel his posture crumbling, his back bowing forward, his knees growing weak. In a second, his entire weight will be held up by Magnus alone.

Magnus is making soothing noises, his fingers stroking Alec’s hair, his other hand around Alec’s waist, pressing them close. Keeping them steady. 

Alec takes a deep breath and for the first time registers the--

He jerks back, as if burnt.

“I’m sorry, I-- none of you--” he stammers, trying to make this Magnus understand. He can feel his eyes watering and stops blinking. He’s not going to-- Magnus is giving him space and all he wants is--

“None of you smell right. None of you smell like,” his voice breaks, “like Magnus,” he looks up, still not blinking. 

None of them do. They look like Magnus, they talk like him, some have his memories, his mannerisms, his style, but not one of the Magnuses he met ever smelled like his Magnus, like sandalwood with a hint of dark chocolate and coffee when they’re kissing goodbye in the morning. Like earth and crackling power when he’s casting. Like sweat and sweet spices when they’re--

He looks at this Magnus then, and sees only understanding in his eyes.

Alec makes a decision. He shakes his head, “What time is it?”

Magnus takes out the phone that’s hidden in one of his many pockets and carefully angles the screen so that Alec wouldn’t see, “Not even 8am yet,” he offers ruefully, “Peanut is, unfortunately, a very early riser.”

Alec nods, tries to smile, “Could I-- I don’t know what time you wanted to leave, but, uh, could I maybe get twenty minutes to myself? I just need to--” he waves his hands, trying to express what he can’t put into words.

“Of course, I’ll go find Peanut and we’ll put on some cartoons and you can join us when you’re ready. The zoo doesn’t open for a couple of hours anyway,” he moves to open the door and leads them both to the bedroom, “Are you okay staying here or would you prefer--”

“Here is fine, thank you,” Magnus nods in response and offers him a small smile before leaving the bedroom and closing the door behind himself.

Alec moves to the bed, not thinking about Antoni or this Magnus, or how he won’t get to meet the Isabelle of this universe after all. He doesn’t know what the key to breaking out of this spell is, if it has to do with the number of universes he visits or maybe the time he spends outside of his own. This Magnus mentioned that the other traveller was cursed to universe hop until the other him, Alec supposed, learned a lesson. He doesn’t think that’s what’s happening here. It’s not that he thinks he has no lessons to learn, far from it, but judging by how the whole thing came to be, it seems improbable that either of the warlocks were casting with that particular intention or eve anything vaguely like it.

Alec runs his hands down his face, flopping down on the bed. He slips under the covers and closes his eyes. He makes sure to recite both the incantations he learned a couple of times, hoping against hope he will remember them when he next opens his eyes.

He hopes Antoni and Magnus forgive him for not saying goodbye. The relief of seeing their Alec will make them forget all about him, he’s sure.

 

~~~

 

The first thing he notices is the scratchy sheets. He hasn’t felt anything this uncomfortable in years. That means not the loft bedroom, or the room he keeps at the Institute, because Magnus got him better sheets for that bed as well. Although--

Something about this universe feels off.

He’s runeless again and the fact that that is no longer shocking speaks for itself. The bedroom is utilitarian; single bed with a nightstand, a closet and nothing much else. There is a phone on the nightstand, plugged in to charge, and Alec grabs it. It unlocks after he presses his finger to the button in the back and Alec finds the contacts, scrolls through to see if he can find Magnus.

Nothing under Magnus, Bane or even Warlock. He looks for babe or darling or husband, even though he knows he himself would never use that.

Nothing.

Has this Alec not met Magnus yet?

Well, that’s unacceptable.

 

Alec leaves the bedroom and tries to find a laptop somewhere in this tiny closet of an apartment. Looks like it lives on the coffee table in the living room slash kitchen. He opens it and it thankfully wakes up without prompting him for a password. A browser window is already loading, and so he puts ‘Magnus Bane’ in the search bar.

Seven million results.

Okay. That’s--

He tries Alec Lightwood next. Under thirty thousand results, mostly because his name doesn’t seem to be all that unique.

He goes back to the tab with Magnus’ name and scrolls through the first page. Magnus seems to be a fashion designer? Who loves to post pictures of his cats and himself on something called Instagram. The cats are all very cute. Magnus is--

A huge deal in this universe, apparently.

Still.

Alec has made a decision, and no matter how famous and seemingly unattainable Magnus is here, he can’t be stopped now.

He opens the map app on this Alec’s phone, looks at where the blue dot places him. Opens Alec’s Instagram app and sees that he already follows Magnus. Well then. 

At that precise moment, Magnus posts a photo of a coffee mug and a croissant on a dark blue plate spattered with gold that looks just like the one from--

Alec opens the map again, zooms in on the corner of his block and yep, there it is.

His and Magnus’ favorite coffee shop.

And Magnus is in it, right now, having breakfast.

Alec’s in the bedroom and flinging open the closet door so fast he almost breaks it.

Nope, bathroom first. He takes care of business as fast as humanly possible. His hair is as always a lost cause, especially because this Alec is not yet on the conditioner train. He runs his fingers through it a couple of times and shrugs. That’ll have to do.

He left the closet open and on approach, is greeted with a sea of black or grey, of course, as expected. Magnus is a fashion designer, but Alec has the advantage of knowing what his Magnus finds absolutely irresistible on him.

He grabs the two pairs of black jeans he sees and opts for the skinnier one. Next up is a plain black tee, there’s so many of them it boggles the mind, really, but Alec does find something that will work just fine. The sleeves are a little shorter than standard, and it looks well worn in a good way, soft to the touch. He takes off his sleep pants, rummages through the underwear drawer and-- okay yeah, this Alec knows about Magnus alright. There’s a pair of very nice dark blue fitted boxer briefs. They have a slight shimmer to them, somehow, oh and also, the waistband has big white lettering. MG, it goes, all around. MG MG MG MG. Subtle, Alec snorts. He kind of wishes it said BANE on the ass as well, his Magnus would get a kick out of that for sure.

He gets dressed as fast as he can, checks himself in the mirror and makes some minor adjustments. Pulls the waistband a little higher, the pants a little lower. The tee fits like a glove, and he rolls the short sleeves a little bit. Magnus usually does this for him and then squeezes his biceps, running his hands over-- Alec takes a deep breath.

He leaves the bedroom, grabs the phone on his way to the door. He hopes this Alec has-- nope, no combat boots or anything similar. That’s a shame, but the previously probably white Chucks, well loved judging by how worn they are, will have to do. This Alec however does not disappoint when it comes to jackets. He grabs the leather jacket, slings it over his shoulder, grabs the keys from the hook by the door, the wallet he grabbed from the kitchen counter into his back pocket and leaves.

 

He runs down the stairs, speed walks down the street. He can see Magnus through the window as he gets closer to the coffee shop. He seems to be doing something on his phone with one hand, the other on his coffee mug, his fingers drumming a random beat into the porcelain. 

Alec opens the door and is greeted by the same barista as in his universe. He’s a nice guy, Tim, studying to be a preschool teacher. He remembers their order and always exchanges random anecdotes with Magnus. Alec smiles at him, but checks this Tim’s nametag to be sure.

“Hey Tim,” he says, and Tim looks a little startled.

“Casual today, aren’t we,” he replies and looks Alec up and down. Alec shrugs, taking the jacket off his shoulder and slinging it over his forearm, “your usual, then?”

At Alec’s nod, he mutters a coming right up and gets to preparing his drink while Tina, who winks at Alec, grabs his pastry of choice. The apricot crumble pie looks as delicious here as it does at home. Tina brings it over and rings him up, Tim putting finishing touches on his drink.

“Here you go man, have a great day,” Tim says, handing over Alec’s coffee.

“Thanks, but you know what, I’m gonna enjoy my spoils here today,” he offers and nods towards the one free table, next to Magnus’.

Tim’s eyes widen. So do Tina’s. Tina seems to be the braver one, and she leans closer and whispers, “So you finally decided to make your move? Good for you man, we told you he checks you out every single time you leave!”

Well. That is certainly useful information, Alec thinks. He smiles at Tina and raises one brow, turning his back to the counter and moving to the empty table.

Magnus looks up and their gazes meet. Alec has to remind himself that this is a virtual stranger and the things he knows about him might not be true in this universe, anyway. He can’t treat him like he knows him.

Magnus’ eyes widen when he sees that Alec is not heading for the exit. He looks away from Alec, seems to realize he’s been slouching down a little, sliding down his chair, and straightens up, crosses one leg over the other. He’s very interested in his phone again.

Somehow, Tina made it to the empty table before him and is moving it-- oh. Moving it to a larger group that was huddling by one small table. That’s-- okay. He looks at her, mouths a thank you.

He stops by Magnus’ table, and waits.

Magnus looks a little frozen and then he visibly steels himself and looks up again. Alec can’t help his smile.

“Hi,” he breathes.

“Oh,” Magnus stutters out, “you’re--” and then he looks to the left and sees that the empty table is no more and his eyes widen. Alec can feel his face heat a little, because he is being quite presumptuous… Maybe he shouldn’t--

“I’m sorry, I’ll just take these with me, the table is gone and I-- sorry,” he’s flustered now, he might just have screwed up this Alec’s chance, what was he thinking, this was never--

“No! Nonsense, please, you can--?” Magnus interrupts him, motions to the empty chair across from him. He looks nervous, too.

“Yea?”

“Yes, please, Alexander, sit with me,” he offers quietly and must notice the small flinch Alec couldn’t hide at being called that, because his eyes widen even further and he stammers to explain, “I couldn’t help but overhear your name when you talked to Tim and Tina, I’m sorry if that was--”

Alec puts his coffee and pie down and sits, and stops Magnus’ apology by hovering a finger in front of his lips. Magnus looks a little stunned and truth be told, Alec is too. He moves his hand down, leaves it extended in invitation.

“Alec,” he offers, then blushes a little and adds, “or Alexander, if you want.”

Magnus’ smile will always be the brightest thing in every room.

He takes Alec’s hand in his, in both of his, actually, and says, “I’m Magnus, and it’s nice to finally officially meet you, Alexander,” and keeps Alec’s hand between his warm, soft ones, laid there in the middle of their table for all to see. Alec can’t stop staring.

“Yes,” he murmurs, placing his left hand carefully atop Magnus’, fingers sliding softly over (un)familiar skin, “yes it is.”

 

They do end up letting go of each others’ hands, but only because Magnus points out that Alec’s coffee is getting cold. This Magnus is-- charming and unguarded, in the way his Magnus only is amongst the small circle of people he trusts, he loves. And Alec gets it. If this is a fully magicless universe, that would make Magnus just human, severely limiting the number of terrible experiences and losses he had to go through in Alec’s universe before Alec even met him, much less those after. He’s more generous with his smiles, a little less patient, but no less kind. He’s altogether lovely. Alec would be gone on him, if he wasn’t already.

When Magnus checks his phone and his smile fades, Alec knows their time is up.

“Let me guess, you have to leave me now?”

Magnus snorts, “Yes, Alexander, I have to leave you now and we shall never see each other again, unless you find the $5 bill I used to pay my coffee with, which holds my phone number.”

Alec looks at him like Magnus lost his mind. Is he-- “Are you trying to Serendipity me?”

Magnus gasps, hand over his heart, “Alexander, you continue to surprise me! And no, of course not,” he chuckles, ”here,” and hands over his phone, a new contact already open with the name Alexander and the blushing emoji behind it. Alec raises his eyebrows. Magnus shrugs.

Alec realizes he doesn’t know this Alec’s number. Shit. He fumbles for a believable explanation.

“Shit, I had to get a new phone number and I don’t,” he takes out his own phone, unlocks it and opens a new contact, setting the name as Magnus and on a whim, scrolls through the emojis and selects the blushing emoji with hearts around it. He hands the phone over to Magnus who laughs when he sees it.

“Okay, I see how it is, already trying to one up me. Well, I won’t let that stand, mister,” he does put his number in and then Alec guesses, texts himself. His expression is mischievous, and he locks the phone before Alec can check what he texted. Magnus is getting up and sliding his fingers up Alec’s forearm as he rounds the table, and before Alec knows it, Magnus is bent over slightly, two fingers gently tilting Alec’s head up. His eyes are--

“Don’t you dare not call me,” Magnus whispers and leans in, placing a soft kiss on Alec’s cheek. He thinks he hears a glass shatter, but he can’t be sure.

Magnus is gone before Alec manages to get a hold of himself. He unlocks his phone and checks his messages.

The first one is a big ass heart, which seems to be animated and beating. It’s followed by another bubble with the blushing kissing face emoji and a monkey one, the one that’s covering its eyes with its paws.

Alec knows he must look a little deranged, he’s smiling so hard.

He spends an embarrassingly long time going through all the emojis this phone has to offer but can’t find one that would convey what he needs it to. In the end, he decides to text instead.

I’ll call you this evening?

 

In a moment, three dots appear, soon followed by a reply.

 

Yes please, anytime after 10 works for me, Alexander

 

Cool, talk to you then

 

He thinks about it, and sends through another message:

 

Can’t wait

 

Neither can I, pops up a couple of seconds later, followed by And don’t think I didn’t notice the outfit, especially what was peeking from under those low riding jeans of yours.

 

Alec chuckles while locking his phone, cleans all the trash and dishes from their table and then grabs his jacket, ready to leave.

Tim and Tina block his way, faces open and excited.

“How did it go,” Tina says, fidgeting with her apron. Alec smiles, doesn’t even try to hide it.

“You saw how it went, and I’m pretty sure you broke a glass when he kissed me on the cheek,” he offers with a raised eyebrow. Tina immediately points to Tim.

“That was him!”

“I have no regrets, okay, we have been waiting for you two to finally approach each other for months now, this is like watching the slowest of romcoms in real life. Couldn’t have stopped the air punch even if I was holding a newborn baby, you should all be thankful it was just a plain glass,” he finishes, giving both Alec and Tina a look that tells them he means every word.

“Sure, Tim, sure,” Tina pats Tim’s shoulder while shaking her head at Alec in the universal can you believe this idiot gesture. Alec smiles at them both and says his goodbyes. 

He has a note to write, and a nap to take.

 

He gets back to the building with no issues, thankful for his training which had him recalling details such as how many floors he ran down from when he left and what his apartment door number was. He wonders if he should write the note by hand or if sending himself an email would work. Handwritten note for sure, he doesn’t think he would ever believe the email he’s about to write, if he was the recipient.

He finds a blank piece of paper and a pen with next to no trouble and sits down on the couch, taking a deep breath before he starts.

He tries to stay to the point, not confuse this mundane version of Alec too much. Obviously he can’t say that a random version of himself from another universe showed up and made a move on the guy he’s been pining over for months now. He mulls it over, settling on a slightly wild story: he bumped his head, in the subway. He slipped and fell and bumped his head, there was a doctor in the crowd of commuters who checked him over, saving him a pretty penny for a trip to the ER, and told him he’s okay, there might be a bump or a bruise, and he might have some slight short term memory issues, nothing major though, should clear up in a day or two and Alec will be back to normal. Unless he’s not, in which case an immediate trip to the ER, please and thank you.

Since the fall gave him a scare, nothing like slipping right near the tracks to make one value their life, he decided it was now or never and went to Magnus. Alec then describes the conversation they had, the promise to call Magnus, and how he’s just writing this to make sure that if the doc was right, and his memory proceeds to be wonky today, he won’t forget forget.

Alec re-reads the missive, deems it a job well done and brings it with him to the bedroom, to be placed on the nightstand, phone on top of it, plugged to charge. He keeps the outfit on and lies on top of the scratchy covers. He has a sudden-- there was something he didn’t want to forget, that he’s supposed to be repeating to himself so that he can bring it to-- the two Legatos.

As soon as he thinks it, both of the incantations are right there, fresh in his mind, and he thankfully has little trouble saying them both out loud a couple of times.

 

He thinks about the kiss on the cheek and closes his eyes.

 

~~~

 

He wakes up to a warm body close to his, but scratchy sheets that smell like the Institute and not, not the way they do when Magnus magics them clean. He takes stock of his body, realizing he’s wearing sleep pants and a t-shirt, something he hasn’t done since his late teens. The little time in the magicless universe has him feeling the magic in his veins, and he’s sure that if he opened his eyes, all of his runes would be in place.

He steels himself, and peers at the person next to him.

It’s--

It’s Lydia.

Fuck .

Fuck, fuck, Alec can’t deal with this, he can’t--

He closes his eyes forcefully, glad he didn’t move yet, and slows down his breathing, praying for sleep.

 

~~~

 

It appears that the universe doesn’t absolutely hate him, because when he opens his eyes the next time, he’s alone. He wishes he could’ve stayed, could have tried to figure out what happened to make him go through with that farce of a wedding, but not having Magnus there, not having that one person in his corner who’d help him navigate an unfamiliar universe, he thinks he made the right choice by leaving. Lydia probably would have noticed that he was acting strange, but he can’t see her just accepting his universe hopping story. Or maybe she would. Still, Alec didn’t feel like taking the chance, didn’t feel like explaining, because if that Alec was married to her? Then the Clave has no idea about him, and he wouldn’t risk that Alec’s safety.

He sighs and takes stock of his surroundings and of himself. He can feel magic again, so not a mundane universe. But when he looks at himself, he sees no runes and this room looks as utilitarian as the mundane one. 

He’s so tired, so very tired.

He flops back down on the bed and when he turns his head, he sees a phone on the nightstand.

Magnus is one of his contacts, one of the most recent people this Alec texted, too. It all seems very benign, confirmations of dates and times, doesn’t give Alec any idea of what their relationship might be or of what happened. He considers his options for a moment and then presses the call button. Might as well, he thinks to himself.

A female voice answers the phone with a terse hello, and Alec freezes.

“Uhmm,” he fumbles for words, and then hears Magnus in the background.

“Camille, didn’t I tell you to leave my phone alone?” and then there’s some shuffling and Alec hears Magnus’ inquiring yes from the phone.

“Uhm, it’s-- It’s Alec?” he tries, hoping Magnus will reveal something, anything.

“Ah, what an unexpected surprise. What can I do for you?” and Alec can’t help but hear the forced lightness of his voice, the faked cheerfulness. This is how his Magnus talks to-- this is how he talked to Maryse when she called him warlock as if it was the most horrendous of insults. What the hell happened here--

“Hello?” comes from the phone, Magnus growing impatient.

“I-- I’m so sorry for bothering you, I can deal with this-- I can deal with this on my own. Sorry again,” he stutters out, his stomach heavy, his throat constricted, eyes stinging. He hears a sigh, a door closing.

“Alec, what is it,” and his tone is terse, but the worry Alec hears is real.

“Magnus, please, I--” he breathes and when he hears the sharp intake of breath from Magnus, he realizes that maybe he really did overstep here, maybe he shouldn’t have called at all, maybe--

“Alec, what happened? What do you need?” voice soft, worry now the only thing lacing his tone.

“Can you-- do you know where I live, can you portal--”

“Yes, of course I know, what-- I’ll be right there,” Magnus says and the call disconnects, immediately followed by a portal opening behind the closed doors of the bedroom, in what Alec assumes is the living area.

“Alec?” he hears, and now the voice is panicked as well, and Alec shouts a here and gets up from the bed.

Magnus pushes the door open, going straight for Alec, grabbing him by the forearms, searching his face.

Oh,” he says, and drops his hands from Alec, taking a step back, “it’s not-- of course it wouldn’t be really you, calling me, of course,” he laughs bitterly, shaking his head, turning his back to Alec.

And Alec wants to punch this universe’s Alec because what the hell did he do to this Magnus to have him react like this.

“Magnus, what happened here,” he asks him softly, needing to know what could have gone so wrong. Magnus laughs, a horrible ugly sound that’s half sob.

“Do you want the short version or the long one?” and Alec sees him straighten his posture and adjust his jacket before he turns around, like he needs to make sure his armour is in place before he faces Alec. Magnus takes a deep breath and makes eye contact.

“We met, we flirted, you were closeted, I was infatuated, you got engaged to not me, and I, like the fool that I am, crashed your wedding. You didn’t get married, but you also publicly rejected me and left the Institute, leaving me in the tender loving care of your parents and the Clave, who proceeded to drag me into the holding cells. I spent a very relaxing month there, enjoying all the luxuries the Clave has to offer, and when they finally released me, I found out you were de-runed and that you cut all contact with the Shadow World,” he doesn’t break eye contact once, his voice cheerful as if he was telling a funny anecdote. Alec’s blood feels ice cold, and the implication of everything Magnus just told him--

“I still had one arrow of yours and did a location spell, showed up on your doorstep out of the blue. I just wanted to know that you were-- that you took precautions against demons and such,” he corrects, looking away for the first time, somewhere over Alec’s shoulder, “which you of course haven’t. You graciously let me set up wards around this place, and also on your person, making sure no one would be able to locate you as easily as I did. Unfortunately, these kinds of spells are not self sustaining, so we do have to keep seeing each other-- seeing each other at least once a month,” Magnus finishes his tale, looking at his fingers as if checking that his nail polish is still pristine.

“Magnus, I’m--”

“No,” Magnus stops his, angry, “I don’t want your apology, you’re not the one that--” he takes a steadying breath, “How did you get here?” he ends up asking.

“Uh,” Alec fumbles for words, his brain still trying to process what he just heard, “I’m universe hopping, a case of wrong time wrong place or well, new warlock’s uncontrollable magic meets a blocking spell cast by a you from a different universe,” he offers.

“Well, that sucks,” Magnus makes a face.

“You can say that again.”

“I assume this is not the first universe you’ve visited?” Magnus asks and Alec nods, “Okay then, what can I do to help?”

And here Alec realizes that, as in all the other universes, there isn’t actually anything Magnus can really do to help him in any way. And yet he still called him, still needed him here, even though he wasn’t sure if this Magnus would be willing, if it wouldn’t hurt him. Which, looking back, wasn’t even a thing he considered.

“I-- there’s actually nothing that can be done, or so the couple of Magnuses I’ve discussed this with told me,” he offers, apology hopefully clear in his voice, “I just, I saw your name in his contacts, saw that you guys texted and it didn’t occur to me that--”

“That our relationship here is fucked all the way to Hell?” Magnus offers.

“Yeah,” Alec breathes, “I apologize, I--” and then he stops himself, and considers, “did he ever tell you why he was de-runed?” because Alec thinks-- but no, it couldn’t be, could it?

“No, he didn’t. We never talked about the whole wedding thing, and me being held by the Clave,” and while Alec obviously can’t get confirmation about his hunch, he also knows there are only a few crimes the Clave would considering de-runing a young Shadowhunter for. A young Shadowhunter from a prominent family who was acting head of an Institute. One of them being a crime against the Clave, like, say, trying to free a Warlock prisoner. And Alec would bet his own runes on the fact that this Alec thinks Magnus is well aware of why he was de-runed but chose not to address it, because he could never associate himself with even an ex-Shadowhunter after what the Clave put him through.

Alec is looking at Magnus, whose eyebrows are drawn together. There’s tension around his eyes and his posture is stiff. He looks tired. Alec needs to--

“Camille?” he asks. Magnus scoffs.

Please, I would never do that to myself again, no matter how heartbro-- no matter what,” he clears his throat and looks away, “I was visiting Raphael, and she showed up and grabbed my phone before I could stop her. Which reminds me that I left Raphael in the middle of a conversation with no explanation of why I was leaving,” he closes his eyes and shakes his head at himself and he’s already turning, his hands starting the steps of creating a portal, “I should head back, we still had some business to-”

“Magnus, wait,” Alec places a hand on his shoulder and Magnus flinches away from him.

“Don’t-- please don’t touch me,” his voice is small, broken. There’s no anger, just a deep hurt.

Alec’s hand is already gone, but he takes a step back, Magnus’ voice like a physical blow.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry Magnus,” he says softly, watching Magnus shake himself and wave the apology away.

“You just startled me, don’t worry,” he tries for his cheerful voice again but it falls flat.

“I just-- I know you can’t really help me, but. Could you please, next time you’re here to update the wards, could you please talk to this Alec?” he knows he’s overstepping, that it could backfire, but he also has a feeling that he’s right, that if these two only just talked… Maybe they could never be together, but at least this deep hurt he sees in Magnus could be lessened, if only he knew what this Alec did for him. What he tried to do.

Magnus is looking at him, searching his face for something. Alec shakes his head.

“I don’t have access to his memories, I don’t really know what happened, but Magnus, you and I both know that the Clave doesn’t just de-rune a Shadowhunter for no reason,” and he doesn’t tell Magnus that he thinks this Alec tried and failed to rescue him, that it cost him all he ever had and all that they ever could have. But by the expression on Magnus’ face, he thinks he got it anyway.

“You think he--” Magnus whispers, eyes wide and wet.

“I think it’s what I would have done if I found out you’ve been imprisoned and are being tortured,” he offers, because this Alec might not have chosen Magnus publicly, but Alec is pretty sure, with the amount of universes he visited, that his feelings for Magnus? Are pretty much universal.

A tear rolls down Magnus’ cheek and he hastily wipes it away, turns his face away. Every fibre of Alec’s being wants to hug Magnus, comfort him, but it’s not his place and this Magnus is nowhere near ready for that sort of intimacy. He gives him space instead.

Magnus’ laugh is wet as he shakes his head at himself.

“You and your Magnus?” this Magnus asks hesitantly.

“I, uh, I don’t think I should really tell you, but,” he pauses. He doesn’t think this Magnus needs to hear that somewhere, another Alec chose him at the wedding, very publicly and very irreversibly, and that their lives are now linked, and hopefully will forever be. Instead, he settles on, “but, believe me that any Alec, this one included, would do anything for you. And I mean anything, including letting you go, if that’s what he thought you wanted.”

He sees realization dawn in Magnus’ eyes and hopes that his words are enough to make him talk to Alec the next time he’s here, updating the wards Alec can feel humming around the apartment, around himself.

“Thank you, Magnus, for making sure that he’s safe, even when he didn’t ask for you help,” if he knows anything, it’s that. Alec also probably only grudgingly accepts his help every month and insists on paying him his standard rate, too.

“Well, you are paying me for the service, so,” Magnus shrugs and Alec snorts.

“Of course I am. Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Alec smiles at Magnus, “thank you for coming to see me, and uh, safe trip to Raphael’s I guess?”

Magnus gives him a small smile and a wave, opens a portal and steps through it, and Alec is alone again.

 

De-runed. Huh. He looks at his arms, and as with his mom, there are no scars, nothing to suggest his skin was ever marred by so many markings. He wonders about this universe’s Jace, hopes that this Isabelle is keeping an eye on him, that she has his back. He’s pretty sure the Clave must have included him never seeing his family ever again as a condition of him only being de-runed for his crime, instead of also sent to rot in a prison somewhere. Generally, they don’t even need to do that because de-runing is so shameful that everyone ceases contact with the de-runed person immediately. He’s pretty sure his sister would never do that though, and thinks the Clave must be keeping a very close eye on her and Jace, judging by the fact that neither of the two appear in his call log or his texts as far as this phone’s history goes.

He wonders what this Alec is up to, if he found a mundane job, maybe also looked at colleges or universities. That’s not something he could do as a Shadowhunter, but there are things he’s always been interested in, and thinks this might be as good an opportunity as any to apply somewhere, to study something not because the Clave thinks it’s useful, but because he wants to, because he can.

His eyes have been opened a lot this past year. He can’t say he always knew the Clave was this corrupt, this prejudiced, because he didn’t. He didn’t realize the world could be different, back then. He thought the Clave was the main authority, that with their centuries of experience, they have to know better, they have to have everyone’s best interests at heart. Even just saying that to himself now, he can’t believe he was ever that naive, that blind.

He was brought up to believe Nephilim were superior, chosen by the Angel, given great powers, which entitled them to the role of protectors, of rule setters, for everyone else in the Shadow World. The Accords are presented as these almost holy documents, to be followed without question or thought. He wants to think that the original intention behind them really was to establish equality and peace in the Shadow World, but he knows better. He’s heard Magnus’ stories, Catarina’s as well, even Raphael’s now, and Meliorn’s. He’s had the privilege of listening to their first hand accounts of some events that have been twisted by the Clave so much so that he sometimes didn’t realize he already knows said story until it was almost over.

The Nephilim, while they do protect the Mundanes from demons, also govern over the Downworld in a way that resembles a dictatorship more than anything else. His suggestion of the Downworld Council was met with incomprehension, because Nephilim don’t need the advice or opinions of the Downworld to know what’s best, do they. The arguments that followed stretched his patience and poker face to their very limits.

The Clave is biased, it’s racist, and its longstanding members are unwilling to change, even after everything that happened with Valentine, even with the revelation that Circle members have been operating within the Clave’s walls for decades without anyone being the wiser. He’s starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, though. With the new generation coming in, replacing their parents and in some cases even grandparents, the views are finally shifting, the majority now belonging to Shadowhunters that have been taught what Alec has, but that have also seen through the Clave’s lies and deceptions. Between him, Isabelle, Jace, Clary, Lydia, Aline and Helen, they’ve managed to jump start the change in New York and Paris, see it spread to other institutes, and he hopes that one day, they will reach a point where there won’t be a Clave, but a United Council, like the one Magnus mentioned. Where Warlocks will be able to say that the parabatai rune is dangerous and they have a safer alternative. Where being a Shadowhunter wouldn’t automatically mean you’re a Nephilim, where that title would be just that, a job title. Teams of Nephilim, Warlocks, Werewolves, Vampires and maybe even Seelies fighting together, their different skillsets complementing each other. Where Nephilim would be able to choose a path other than Shadowhunting.

He sighs and runs his hands down his face, lets them fall on the bed next to his body. Seeing so many worlds so similar, yet so diametrically different from his own is making his head spin. He’s still not clear on the purpose of him being here. Was he supposed to learn something from each universe, and help in the ones where a different perspective allowed him to see something the inhabitants could not? Or is there even a purpose at all, he wonders. Even if there isn’t, he’s glad he’s learned, that he’s helped.

His mind strays to his own universe, thinking about his Magnus, which he successfully avoided until now.

Is he in a coma there? Or did each of the other Alec’s wake up in his universe when he woke up in theirs? How much time has passed there? How much time has passed here? Or what if this is all just a hallucination, a fever dream caused by the magic blast? What if he’s really dying, and these are just the last of his neurons firing away.

Alec closes his eyes. He’s so tired.

So very tired.

He just wants to fall asleep and wake up home.

 

~~~

 

He doesn’t get his wish. Once again, there are no runes, but he can also tell there is no magic, either. He’s about to turn on his side to try and fall asleep again when the door to the bedroom opens and Magnus softly pads in.

He’s wearing leggings and a loose tank top, his shoulders and arms covered in a sheen of sweat. Alec’s mouth is dry and he’s suddenly very aware of his state of undress. Apparently, this Alec sleeps in the nude.

Magnus is smiling gently, his eyes crinkled at the corners, as he leans against the doorframe, crossing his legs at the ankle.

“Morning,” he offers, looking at Alec’s bare torso.

Alec feels like he should use the sheet to cover himself. He also feels like he should get up and lick the sweat off Magnus’ neck. He does neither.

“I’ve got the coffee going, if you’re ready to face the world,” he winks at Alec as he passes the bed, on his way to what Alec assumes is the ensuite, “I’ll just have a quick shower and then start getting ready,” he opens the door to the bathroom, doesn’t close it behind himself as he walks in. The loose tank top hits the floor near the hamper, and Alec swallows and looks away.

“I googled it and the brunch place is like,” the water turns on, “forty minutes away? I don’t know why Simon chose it, the reviews are,” Magnus snorts, and Alec can see him from the corner of his eye, leaning back, trying to make eye contact.

“Anyway, we should leave at ten to 11 if we want to be on time, that okay, darling?”

Alec clears his throat and shoots a sounds great Magnus’ way.

He can’t bullshit his way through a brunch with a mundane Magnus and a mundane Simon and who knows who else.

He’s really starting to properly hate this now. What’s the point of being sent here when he could ruin absolutely everything for this Alec and Magnus by just saying one wrong thing? How would the other Alec feel when he returned and had no memory of ever attending the brunch? That’s something that could drive a man crazy, and in the mundane world, possibly land him in a psych ward, even.

Alec takes a deep breath, tries to calm down his erratically beating heart, focuses on the steady sound of the shower. He closes his eyes and hopes.

 

~~~

 

The first thing he notices is the godawful smell. It’s garbage that’s been out in the sun for too long and then got rained on and then was set on fire. He can taste it in the back of his throat and wants to gag.

The next thing-- he’s not in a bed. He freezes, keeping his eyes closed.

“Alexander?”

Alec stops breathing. There are gentle fingers on his cheek, his lower body is on the ground, his side is propped up against Magnus’ front and there’s an arm around his shoulders. He turns his head a little and--

Oh god,” he pushes out before a sob crawls his way out as well. He manages to stop the overwhelming flood of emotions, if he’s still in the alley this all started in, he’s pretty sure a whole team of Shadowhunters is here too, watching him. He keeps his eyes closed, his face hidden in Magnus’ neck, breathing in his husband. His husband. He’s pretty sure the knuckles on the hand that’s clutching at Magnus’ jacket must be turning white.

“Darling, talk to me,” Magnus murmurs next to his ear, cradling Alec’s head, worry evident in his voice, in the way the fingers in Alec’s hair shake slightly.

Magnus,” he breathes, and his voice must be something else because Magnus brings him even closer, holding him tightly, “can you portal us home, please.”

He hears a portal whoosh into existence, but Magnus doesn’t move, so Alec stays put too. He does hear a series of footsteps though, so he guesses Magnus just sent the team back to the Institute. Next, the portal closes and a new one whooshes much closer to the two of them now.

“Can you stand, Alec?” Magnus asks gently. Alec nods, and finally opens his eyes to look at Magnus. Everything hits him all at once and he fumbles to his feet, keeping the hand that’s holding onto Magnus’ jacket in place. He feels the portal behind himself and starts stepping backwards, eyes not leaving Magnus’ face.

Magnus, who follows him without hesitation. Magnus, whose golden eyes are big and worried, and have wetness around them.

When the portal closes, Alec hauls Magnus as close as he physically can, letting his arms envelop him in a tight embrace. Magnus returns it, doesn’t say a word. One of his hands finds its place on the nape of Alec’s neck and that’s it for Alec, his breathing is ragged, all his muscles give out on him and if it wasn’t for Magnus, he’d end up in a heap on the floor. He tries to focus on the soothing noises Magnus is making, on the fingers playing with the short hairs on his nape, on Magnus’ scent.

He’s home.

 

He has no idea how much time passes but the next thing he’s aware of is Magnus moving him carefully to the sofa, one of his hands always in contact with Alec, and then he lies down right next to him, whole body pressed to Alec’s. He can feel a rush of magic and the next moment he finds himself in his sweats and a worn hoodie, Magnus wearing something soft and cool to the touch. Probably one of his satin robes. Alec loves those so much, especially when Magnus doesn’t tie them, lets them hang loose on his body, leaving his chest on display.

He notices his breathing is now back to normal. He feels much calmer, close to nodding off.

His body’s moving before he consciously gives it the command to. He’s standing a ways away from the sofa, Magnus is on his ass on the floor, where Alec realizes his sudden flight from the sofa must’ve landed him. He looks startled, confused.

“I can’t fall asleep,” Alec says frantically, “I can’t, Magnus, I can’t fall asleep please don’t let me fall asleep-”

Magnus is by his side in an instant, carefully not touching him yet, looking into Alec’s eyes.

“Okay, okay I won’t let you fall asleep, we can sit down at the kitchen island if you prefer, just to be safe, what do you say?” he asks gently, and Alec nods, grabbing Magnus’ hand, using it to draw him closer. Magnus comes without protest, letting himself be hugged.

“I’m sorry, I just--” he doesn’t know where to start, knowing that he woke up while still in the alley making it clear that he hasn’t been unconscious for that long, which just makes the whole thing he went through seem like a horrible dream.

They make their way into the kitchen, and Magnus magics them each a steaming cup of tea.

Alec takes a sip, and looks at Magnus.

“How long was I out?” he asks, deciding to take charge of the conversation, to get an idea of what happened here.

“About three and a half, four minutes,” Magnus says, voice steady, eyes trained somewhere over Alec’s shoulder, “your pulse was steady, I couldn’t detect there being anything wrong with you using my magic. It was like you were,” Magnus waves his hand, grimaces a little, “sleeping. Well, in the REM phase of sleep, actually. I could see your eyes moving. But you wouldn’t wake up,” Magnus finishes, putting the cup down, turning it this way and that. His other hand is busy playing with his wedding ring, his thumb turning it around his finger. He notices Alec watching, flexes his hand and makes himself stop.

He doesn’t ask Alec anything about his reaction when he woke up, not yet, and Alec is glad for it. He doesn’t know where to start. He runs a hand down his face, puts his cup down and extends that hand to Magnus, begging him to come closer without words.

Magnus does, erasing the distance between them, turning the chair Alec is sitting on and settling himself between Alec’s thighs. The embrace is much less desperate now, more relieved. Alec keeps his face hidden in Magnus’ neck, his hands finding their way under the robe, settling on the warm planes of his back, his sides.

“I was so scared,” Magnus confesses into Alec’s hair, fingers digging into Alec’s nape and back for a moment before relaxing again. Alec makes a noise, acknowledging, understanding.

Alec doesn’t think he can explain everything that happened to him to Magnus, not using his words at least, doesn’t have the energy to go through it all again, but he also knows that Magnus should know. One of the alternate Manuses gives him an idea, though. They’ve never done it here, but the other Magnus seemed to be comfortable sharing memories, so...

“Magnus, could you-- I don’t think I can explain it all right now-- can I share the memories with you instead?” Magnus turns to stone in his arms before he even finishes his sentence and Alec thinks maybe that particular alternate Magnus and that particular alternate universe are different beyond what Alec imagined.

“You don’t have to-- I’m sorry if that’s not something that--” the stumbles over his words as he tries to backtrack. Magnus stops him with a gentle hand on his neck, using his thumb to move Alec’s head so that he can see his face. His eyes are wide, still shining their beautiful bright golden, and his face is so open, Alec can barely breathe looking at it.

“Alexander,” he says softly, “sharing of memories in that way is an incredibly intimate thing, I--”

“Of course, I apologize, I didn’t realize--” Alec tries to say, looking away from Magnus. His throat feels suddenly raw, his stomach is laden, he tries to move his hands away from Magnus’ body-- 

Magnus brings him back, both hands now cradling Alec’s face, thumbs moving gently on his cheeks, under his eyes.

“You misunderstand, my love,” and his voice continues to be so incredibly gentle, Alec can’t stand it, “I would be honoured if you allowed me to view your memories in this way,” Magnus chuckles, self deprecating, and averts his eyes, “I didn’t think anyone would ever trust me this much,” he adds quietly, voice a little wet. Alec’s fingers dig into Magnus’ sides, hard, trying to make Magnus look at him again.

“Magnus,” Alec waits, making sure he has Magnus’ full attention, enjoying the warmth of the palms that have now migrated to his neck, “I love you. I trust you with my life, my heart, my soul, my love,” he doesn’t know if words are enough, if they ever can truly convey just how much Alec-- the love he has for this amazing man, there are no words to describe it, to do it justice.

Magnus is looking at him like Alec is precious, like he’s someone to be cherished, to be handled with the utmost care, and it hits Alec at that precise moment that Magnus doesn’t realize Alec feels the same way about him, too. He has no doubt that Magnus knows Alec loves him, they are married after all, and Alec did go all the way to Edom for him, but he still--

“Please Magnus, let me show you?” he asks, moving his own hands up Magnus’ chest, settling them on Magnus’ neck just as Magnus moves his own up, placing his fingers on Alec’s temples.

“Ready?” he breathes, and at Alec’s nod, he starts murmuring an incantation, the crackling warmth of his magic enveloping them both.

Alec focuses on the first universe he woke up in, and lets the memories unfold from there.

 

He doesn’t know how long it takes, sifting through what feels like days worth of memories, but he feels a little parched and unbelievably hungry when the magic lets them go, dissipating into nothing around them.

Magnus drops his hands onto Alec’s shoulders, eyes wide, mouth agape.

“Okay, I understand how that might’ve seemed somehow hard to explain now,” he ends up saying. Alec just nods, leaning his forehead against Magnus’ shoulder.

“Please, can we get some food first, before we try and unpack all of that. I’m starving,” he whines and a moment later, his stomach grumbles.

Magnus laughs and magics his phone into his hand, dialling.

“Hi Maggie, Magnus here.”

Ah yes, Maggie means Indian, Alec can’t wait for that fabulous garlic naan and for the scrunched-nosed expression Magnus will make when Alec kisses him after he eats it. He keeps hiding his smile in Magnus’ shoulder for now.

“Oh we’re fine, thank you for asking, sweetheart. How did your exam go?” and Alec has a vague memory of Maggie having an econ exam sometime last week, remembers Magnus telling him just how nervous she was about it, “Well that’s wonderful, congratulations! And yes, we’ll have our usual, but please double the order of naan, yes, unfortunately for me even the garlic one, and the tikka masala as well, just to be safe. We’ve had quite the day,” Magnus chuckles, waits for Maggie to confirm the order back to him and says their goodbyes.

“Couch?” Alec asks and Magnus nods. Alec grabs Magnus’ phone from his hand, opens Spotify and presses play on one of their favorite playlists, resuming the song they paused when they left the loft. Alec knows that it was this morning, but it feels like a lifetime ago. He grabs them each a glass of water before leaving the kitchen and follows Magnus to the living room.

Magnus is leaning his side on the back of the sofa, arm up on the top of it and one of his legs bent on the cushions and Alec mirrors his position, smiling, because this is their classic we’re gonna watch tv oh wait no we’re actually just gonna talk over the movie oh wait we’re actually just gonna make out set up. And the fact that they have one, that Alec can have this, already has it, and hopefully will continue having this-- his heart swells with it.

Alec thinks he settled close enough, but then Magnus looks him over and shifts a little, his knee touching Alec’s, his hand falling on Alec’s shoulder comfortably. Alec turns his head and kisses his knuckles, nuzzles his cheek against the back of Magnus’ hand. Magnus turns it around, holds Alec’s cheek in his palm, sweeps his thumb to the corner of Alec’s mouth, resting it there as Alec kisses his wrist.

And then Magnus snorts, breaking the moment.

Alec looks at him, eyebrows up, incredulous. 

“I can’t believe you actually married Lydia!” he says through snorts that he can’t seem to stop, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I think if I didn’t laugh about it, I might actually cry, so,” he waves his hands, letting them settle on his lap when he’s done. Alec takes them both in his.

“I was pining after you, I was dating you, I was married to you, I got de-runed after trying to save you from the Clave,” he points out, hoping Magnus will understand which one is the outlier here. By the soft look in his eyes, he does. By mutual agreement they don’t mention the universe where Alec is pretty sure Magnus died.

“I know, darling,” he squeezes Alec’s fingers, “I just didn’t know where to start. Bringing up the Legato dall’amore first seemed a little gauche,” and he looks like he expects Alec to flinch, jerk his hands away, or laugh it off, and when Alec doesn’t, he starts searching his face for something. Alec squeezes his fingers, holding on, not letting go. Never letting go.

“I want it, if you think it can be done,” he offers gently, “and if you’d agree to bind yourself to me, obviously,” he rolls his eyes, trying to look confident, like he knows Magnus would never say no, but--

“I-- Alexander this is not something to be done on a whim, I--” and Alec does flinch then, because of course Magnus wouldn’t want to be bound to him for an eternity. God, he must seem so young and naive to Magnus, always floundering, never quite--

“Look at me, please. Whatever it is you’re thinking right now, that’s not what I was trying to say,” Magnus says, voice resolute, “I am not talking about the bond itself now, I am talking about the immortality part of it,” his eyes are begging Alec to understand, “because I have to be honest with you, darling. Knowing that the bond can make you immortal, that I could will it so that you’re by my side as long as I have a side for you to be by,” he closes his eyes, takes a breath, “you have to understand that I could never promise you to just bond us, without that component.”

His eyes are open, but he’s looking into the middle distance, gold eyes unfocused, and he looks ashamed.

“Magnus--”

“No, Alexander, please,” he stops him, looking back at Alec, making eye contact once again. His eyes are hard, like he’s already made a decision, “you would watch everyone you love die just to be with me? You would watch your mother waste away, Isabelle get old and grey and frail, and then her kids and their kids, all of them dying while you’d be here, still and forever young, unchanging. Do you think you wouldn’t resent me? That you wouldn’t grow to hate me?” his voice breaks, his eyes are wet and while he tries to keep his expression as emotionless as possible, some of his devastation, his sadness, seeps through anyway.

And then his phone starts ringing.

“Leave it,” Alec tells him.

“It’s Maggie, the food is ready,” Magnus says, wiping a tear that spilled away. He snaps his fingers and the coffee table is filled with Indian food.

“Magnus--”

“Let’s eat, we can finish our conver--”

“Absolutely not. Look at me,” Alec takes both of Magnus’ hands back in his, waits for him to turn back and face Alec.

“Are you listening to me?” Alec asks, and he sees Magnus fight an eye roll.

“No one, Magnus, no one can guarantee that I won’t see all of them die anyway. We’re Shadowhunters, mom has been de-runed, and even with all the protections you offered her, and even with all her experience, it would still be too easy for a demon to get to her. Izzy is the Head of the Institute, and while that means less time in the field, it also means when she does go into the field, it’s because she’s joining the most dangerous missions,” Magnus is paying attention, and looks a little astonished at the amount of thought Alec’s put into this, “and Jace, well, I love him but I also know him, I know how reckless he can be. He’s been feeling like he’s living on borrowed time for years now, Magnus. He updates his will at least once every three months,” Magnus’ eyes widen at that, expression full of sorrow, and Alec pauses, let’s all that sink in.

“See, what you described? That sounded like the absolute best case scenario. To see Izzy grow old and grey? That would be a dream come true, because it would mean she got to live a long and hopefully happy life. To see her children grow up too? To be able to watch over them when she’s already gone? How could I ever resent you for giving me a chance like that?” he’s begging Magnus to understand.

“Alec, I know you think that now, but--”

“Magnus, please, I am not trying to diminish what you went through. I cannot possibly imagine all the losses and the toll they took on you,” he says, trying to pick his words carefully, trying to make Magnus see, “you have lost so many people you loved,” and he knows his voice is wet know, he can see and feel his eyes watering too, salt water ready to spill any moment now, and he lets go of Magnus’ hands and frames Magnus’ face with his palms instead, “but Magnus, my love, you don’t have to lose me.”

Tears are rolling down Magnus’ cheeks and Alec wipes them away gently.

Alexander,” Magnus whispers brokenly, “please don’t say that unless you mean it. Please don’t say it just to take it back later,” and Alec is shaking his head before Magnus even finishes his sentence.

Let me bind my life to yours, Magnus,” he quotes the incantation instead, with a little twist, “you already have my love, my heart, my soul, Magnus, might as well get the complete set,” Alec chuckles wetly.

Magnus pulls him in for a hug with such force that Alec ends up in his lap, laughing.

“And they call me the sap, honestly,” Magnus says into Alec’s neck, his hands holding tightly to any part of Alec they can reach. Alec lets his full weight settle on Magnus’ thighs, allows his muscles to relax. His nose is filled with sandalwood, the earthy smell of the remnants of the memory spell that still linger on Magnus’ skin and the salty tang of sweat. His hand has a mind of its own and is settling on Magnus’ neck, tilting his head back, exposing the line of his throat to Alec. The memory of the alternate Magnus, sheen of sweat on his skin, flashes through Alec’s mind, and he does what he wanted to do then, licks from the base of Magnus’ throat all the way to his ear, biting his earlobe, burying his nose there when he’s done. Magnus shudders, makes a soft hurt noise.

Gods, I missed you so much, Magnus, I missed you so fucking much.

Magnus brings Alec’s body closer, hugs him tighter.

“I missed you too, darling,” he confesses, and Alec knows he was only gone for four minutes, but he also knows how he would feel if their positions have been reversed. How terrified Magnus must have been when he couldn’t wake Alec, he probably blamed hims--

“It wasn’t your fault, Magnus,” he says the moment he realizes.

Magnus stills beneath him, “I know that,” he says, but there is no conviction in his voice.

“The barrier you enveloped me in, tell me, what spells would it stop,” because Alec knows, he knows because Magnus told him, that it was something he was working on, perfecting, something to be used only in the most extreme of circumstances, a spell invented by Magnus to protect his heart, to protect Alec.

Magnus doesn’t reply.

Alec digs a finger into his side.

Magnus huffs, slapping his ass in retaliation.

“I devised it so that it would stop any spells known to me from getting to you,” Magnus finally says.

“Yes, any spells known to you,” Alec repeats, putting the emphasis on the word spells, just to make sure, “but Matthew didn’t cast a spell, he just threw around random bursts of magic. Magnus, you protected me to the absolute best of your abilities,” Alec puts a little distance between them, making sure Magnus can see his face, see the sincerity, “and here I am, not a scratch on me. I might have taken a stroll through some interesting parallel universes, but I’m here.”

Alec remembers, before the barrier, before the errant magic flew his way, how the objects the other threads of it hit got incinerated, or disintegrated on the spot.

Magnus saved his life, once again.

Alec moves closer, tips Magnus’ head back a little and kisses him. He lets their lips move together, taking solace in the casual intimacy of it, the overwhelming feeling of right and home settling into his bones. He bites Magnus’ bottom lip and draws back with a smile. Magnus follows him, placing a series of small smacking kisses on his lips before they’re both smiling too hard for it to work.

“Food?” Alec asks. Magnus nods and then grimaces.

“Ugh, garlic naan,” he says in the way of explanation.

“Please, you love my garlic kisses.”

“No, I put up with your garlic kisses, there is a world of difference, Alexander,” Magnus tells him while handing him his garlic naan and the box with tikka masala. Alec keeps smiling at him, probably the dumb sappy one that Izzy always makes fun of him for.

Magnus tells him about the four minutes he missed in the real world as they eat. Apparently when Matthew saw Alec falling, it shocked him enough to stop his magic from frizzing all over the place. Magnus then sent the all clear to Izzy and opened a portal to the Spiral Labyrinth where Tessa would take care of giving Matthew the crash course on how to be a warlock. It’s much safer to teach him somewhere out of the Clave’s reach, which Alec has to agree with. He has pull with the Clave, but the Spiral Labyrinth will offer Matthew unique opportunities that he wouldn’t have if he’d stayed in New York.

Magnus then takes a break, ostensibly to eat, but Alec can tell he’s considering his next words.

“I cushioned your fall,” he starts with, not looking up from his box of lamb vindaloo. Alec interrupts him, can’t help it.

“I know-- it’s the last thing I remember. You, slowing down my fall with your magic, and my ring catching the sun,” he tells him, cleaning his hand on a napkin and reaching for Magnus’, moving his thumb over the ring there.

“You--” Magnus puts his food down, “like I told you, you were unresponsive, but your vitals were strong and stable and you looked-- you looked peaceful, like it wasn’t nightmares you were dreaming about,” Magnus finishes, looking into the middle distance, like he’s considering something, “I wonder-- hmm, but no, one of my selves said it wasn’t like the curse they encountered in their universe, so probably--” he goes to get up, but then just huffs, moves a little closer to Alec to lean on him, and waves his hands.

A dozen old tomes appear on the coffee table, and a piece of paper in Magnus’ hand.

“Sorry darling, just want to-- before I lose my train of thought,” he explains, and Alec watches him magic a fire message into existence and send it off, and then rifle through four tomes in quick succession, nodding or shaking his head. He keeps eating his Indian, knowing Magnus can reheat his with a literal snap of his fingers.

“Just as I thought,” he looks at Alec then, puts his arm behind Alec’s back, hand on the nape of his neck, like it lives there, like it belongs, “If you’re up for it, we can go back to the alley and I can use a spell that will help me see what remnants of magic exactly got through my barrier.”

His fingers keep playing with the short hair on Alec’s neck and he shivers, leaning into it, closing his eyes. He sighs. He wants to ask if it’s necessary, if Magnus thinks the specific conditions of today could ever be recreated again, but-- Magnus has lived long enough to know that nothing really is ever unique, that there is no circumstance that cannot be repeated.

“For your peace of mind?” he asks instead. Magnus smiles at him, small, private, eyes crinkling.

“That, and so that I can update the Lightwood Personal Protection Spell, or as I like to call it, LiPPS,” Alec chortles and shakes his head.

“If you promise not to ever call it that, ever again, you have yourself a deal,” he says with eyebrows raised.

 

Alec makes quick work of cleaning up the empty boxes and storing the full ones which will most probably serve as brunch tomorrow, while Magnus takes care of the tomes and of changing out of his robe and silk pyjama pants. When he offers to magic Alec into a proper set of clothing as well, he just shakes his head. The alley can survive him in a pair of soft worn sweats. Magnus opens a portal and Alec hooks a finger around Magnus’ pinkie before they step through.

The smell is the first thing that hits Alec, and then the noise of traffic and voices and music. There are no visible signs that anything weird happened here earlier in the day, but as Magnus stands a little taller, legs shoulder width apart and moves his arms, a slight shimmer covers the entire space and Alec can see shadow versions of himself, of Magnus, the team that was here with them, and of Matthew, too. Magnus slows it all down, and Alec now sees what the noise that made him raise his hand really was-- a rat scurrying by Donovan’s foot, who couldn’t help but jerk it away. He sees his hand go up, sees Matthew’s magic erupt, Magnus’ eyes going wide and--

Everyone is moving in slow motion but Magnus is-- he’s moving at more than full speed, throwing up the protection spell with both his hands, his whole body. His shadow is glowing, the entirety of it enveloped in blue light. And then the blue light starts leaving Magnus’ hands, forming the barrier around Alec, while disappearing from Magnus almost entirely.

Alec steps closer to his Magnus, hooking an arm around his waist, pulling him in. He leans his forehead against the side of his head.

“Just how much magic does the barrier cost you,” he asks softly.

Magnus doesn’t look at him.

“I’d give it all to pro-”

“No, no Magnus, I’d never ask you to do that,” Alec stops him, adamant.

“Which is exactly why I would,” Magnus says, voice soft, and he turns his head slightly, forehead meeting Alec’s, “darling, don’t worry, please. It wouldn’t be like-- It wouldn’t be the Asmodeus Deal all over again, it would just be a case of magical exhaustion, nothing I haven’t gone through before, I promise you,” he further explains, making relief flood Alec’s body, but then Alec realizes.

“And if you exhaust yourself, your magic, in the middle of a fight? What then, Magnus?” and maybe they shouldn’t have gone back today, when they’re still both so raw, because Alec can feel this spinning out of control fast. This is not what he wanted to--

“Then you’d be safe  Alexander,” he says, hand clutching at Alec’s biceps. Alec takes a deep breath, counts to five.

“Magnus,” Alec says slowly, thinking about his next words carefully, “I don’t want to live without you. I especially don’t want to live knowing you died while saving me,” he can see Magnus taking a breath, trying to interject, but stops him with gentle pressure, five points of contact on his waist, “don’t you dare sacrifice your life for mine. If casting the protection spell risks your own safety--”

Alexander,” Magnus does stop him now, hand on Alec’s chest, “there was a reason I was High Warlock of Brooklyn. I’ve always been powerful,” he pauses, as if considering how much he should reveal, even to Alec, “even before my magic came back, I’ve been one of the most powerful Warlocks on Earth, thanks to my parentage, which as you know, I didn’t advertise. That also kept the extent of my powers somewhat secret. There are different ways in which Warlocks have magic,” he pauses, looks away as if searching for words, “there are Warlocks with inherent magic, and others who channel magic from the elements. In rare cases, some can do both.”

Ah, Alec thinks. That is certainly an area of interest the Clave would kill to know more about. Alec has absolutely no intention of sharing this information. He also realizes,

“And thanks to dear old Asmodeus I guess you can?”

Magnus nods, the hand on Alec’s chest tapping an absent rhythm.

“I have quite a lot of inherent magic, and on top of that I can also channel magic from the elements and other different sources-- each providing a unique sort of power useful for different spells and incantations or potions.”

This is all absolutely fascinating for Alec, and he hopes they will revisit this topic when he’s well rested and prepared to ask all the questions he’s bound to have, but all he can think is--

“So when you asked me to share my strength…” he raises a brow. Magnus winks.

“Just a matter of preference, darling,” and Alec rolls his eyes at him, “Under usual circumstances, I would have had no trouble healing Luke, but that day was-- let’s say I was already on the verge of exhaustion when your band of misfits brought him in, and I had a feeling your inherent magic would pair well with mine,” he elaborates.

“You said even before your magic came back, do you mean--”

Magnus nods.

“It’s,” Magnus looks over Alec’s shoulder, then back into Alec’s eyes, “for lack of a better word, different now. It’s very much my magic, but it feels like it hated being taken away as much as I hated it being taken away. It feels like it settled deeper into my bones, trying to burrow itself so that we could never again be parted, so that I would always have a little bit of it to call the rest back to me,” he tries to explain, and then looks around.

“This is really not an ideal place but,” he waves his fingers near Alec’s temple, “can I?” and Alec nods immediately.

He’s in the moment before their hands connected, before Alec shared his energy with him. The bone deep ache, the inexplicable emptiness he feels, he can’t breathe from it. And then Alec’s hand is in his and that boy will surely be the death of him one day, he can’t help but think, because he meant it, he’s wide open, flow of energy unrestricted, and he would give all of himself to Magnus if Magnus didn’t stop. The ache is getting better, the emptiness less now, and Magnus thinks this should be just about enough to help him heal Luke before he’ll tap into the storm he can feel coming on the horizon--

The memory changes, Magnus is on the couch, lounging around, but fully dressed. He’s waiting, but that’s not important-- Magnus shifts the focus of the memory on the feeling. He feels like a live wire, like his blood is humming, like his fingers would spark if he ran them against each other. He feels like he should be glowing. There’s no ache, no emptiness, just a feeling of absolute contentment, of a quiet joy. He feels a happy jolt, and a second later the door opens and Alec comes into the loft, calling out a hello. Magnus thinks if his magic could, it would sigh dreamily. His magic loves Ale--

The memory changes again and Alec feels himself chuckle in the real world, feels Magnus pinch his cheek for it. And now it’s--

There’s not even an emptiness, no ache. There’s just. Absolutely nothing. Magnus tries to reach into himself, where his deepest reserves he’s left untouched for centuries lie, and he’s known when he made the deal, he did, but he didn’t. God, he didn’t realize, he had no idea what the feeling of absolute nothingness inside him would do to him. It’s like Asmodeus took the very heart of him, the very soul. How could he ever expect him to live like this? Or was that the whole point, that he could never live like this, that he would come begging to papa to give him his magic back in exchange for anything, absolutely anything. And for a dark, dark moment Magnus considers it, but then his vision fills with Alec’s face, and the nothingness inside him lessens--

And the memory changes again, and it’s their wedding, their first dance, and Magnus realizes when he says he feels like he’s walking on air, it’s because he is. His magic has been so much more since its return, he doesn’t so much reach for it as it offers itself before he can even think of a spell, think to snap his fingers-- his magic would be right there, waiting for the conscious thought and then fulfilling his every wish. He had trouble containing it within himself during his vows and wonders if Alec’s fingers tingled, if maybe he thought Magnus glowed. He thinks making him walk on air is the most harmless way for it to manifest itself right now, and let’s it. It feels settled, like it fused itself into the very marrow of his bones, weaved itself into the very veins in his flesh. It feels like there is no separating it from him, not ever again. Everywhere he and Alec are touching, magic hums into life, making his skin tingle. When he’s casting, the feeling is very different now too, like he only gives a little of his own reserves and instead of spending itself, his magic, on its own, calls onto the elements. He sighs, settles closer to Alec, skin tingling--

And Alec opens his eyes back in the alley, looking at Magnus, whose eyes are still closed.

“My fingers did tingle,” he settles on saying,”but I thought it was just nerves.”

Magnus chuckles, letting out a breath after, and suddenly as if a barrier disappeared between them, everywhere Magnus touches him is buzzing now. Alec gasps, eyes wide. Magnus draws back immediately, but Alec catches him, stopping that instinctive reaction to retreat in its tracks. He takes a step closer to Magnus, hands on his shoulders, neck, in his hair, their lips are not even touching and everything in Alec is alight. He wonders if he could actually see the sparks if he opened his eyes.

He stops himself from kissing Magnus, draws back a little, shaking his head. Magnus smiles.

“You know how we get?” he asks, teasing. Alec rolls his eyes at the old line, but nods.

“Why did you hide this from me? Why would you keep it to yourself for so long?” he asks.

Magnus is playing with the frayed collar of Alec’s shirt, the buzzing lessening, and shrugs.

“I didn’t know how to tell you. My magic has been calling out to you since day one and that’s-- that’s not just something you mention to non-warlocks, Alec,” Magnus stumbles through his words a little bit, and then he shakes his head and chuckles, “I want to say that if you didn’t find out about the Legato dall’amore, my magic would’ve probably nudged and pushed me in a direction of some vaguely applicable spell that it would’ve wanted me to rework to achieve the same result,” and he’s flushing, cheeks and tops of his ears pink, eyes down, looking at Alec’s chest. Alec bumps their foreheads together gently.

“Good,” he murmurs, “because I love you, and if I was aware of my magic the way you are of yours, I’m sure I could tell you my magic loves you too,” he adds with a teasing grin.

Magnus rolls his eyes.

“I’ll finish the spell so we can go home,” he offers, and the shadows of them are back, playing out the scene again. Alec stands behind Magnus, hugging him to his chest and hiding his face in Magnus’ neck. It seems to take no time at all before Magnus is turning around, hugging Alec back.

“Ready?” and he hears a portal whoosh into life and before he can disentangle himself, he feels the portal sweep from his head to his toes, depositing them both in the living room without the need to move.

“Fancy,” Alec can’t help but say, impressed.

“Magic got a little,” Magnus waves his fingers, “over excited.”

Alec snorts and takes Magnus’ hand, leading him into the direction of the bedroom.

“Do you need to analyze the information you gathered in the alley today?”

“No, that can wait for the morning,” Magnus tells him and Alec notices he can’t feel the buzzing.

“Can you,” Alec runs his fingers over the back of Magnus’s hand, “I want to feel it again, please.”

And Magnus stops doing whatever it is he’s doing to keep his magic in check and Alec feels it like a real, physical thing. Magnus lets go and the magic jumps, running from Alec’s fingers and up up up Alec’s arm, buzzing and sparkling along the way, leaving goosebumps in its wake. When it reaches his shoulder, collarbone, his neck, he lets his head fall back, a soft fuck escaping his mouth.

It feels like Magnus is everywhere, surrounding him, grounding him. There are hands fisted in his t-shirt, hot breath on his neck and his own hands are clutching at Magnus, bringing him as close as possible. Their ragged breaths fill the air.

It takes the magic a couple of minutes to calm down, to see that Alec is not about to reject it, is in fact embracing it, actively encouraging it, loving the feeling of it. The buzzing lessens, leaving Alec with a sense of calm, of contentment, of being connected to something he can’t ever possibly explain with words alone. The magic settles into him, covering him like a second skin and when Alec returns to himself, he hears Magnus murmuring something.

“Babe,” he says, trying to get his attention, hugging him even closer to his body, but Magnus doesn’t seem to be here and now yet.

“Magnus?” he prompts again, cradling the back of Magnus’ head. Magnus shakes it, moves his hands to Alec’s neck, his nape, takes a couple of calming breaths before moving his head from where it was hidden in Alec’s shoulder.

His eyes are wet but they’re so-- Alec doesn’t think he’s ever seen him this unguarded, not ever.

“You’re not afraid, not even a little bit,” Magnus says, voice filled with awe, with absolute disbelief. Alec feels a little insulted and his face is probably reflecting that because Magnus chuckles, a watery one but a chuckle nonetheless. 

“This is different than me healing you, than me casting a protective spell or you sharing your strength. My magic just-- Alec, you embraced it, you welcomed it with no reservation, no restriction, I--” he seems lost for words, searching Alec’s face, eyes sweeping over it like it will give him the answers he’s looking for.

Alec brings their foreheads together, thumb sweeping over Magnus’ cheekbone.

“I’ve been fascinated by your magic, by you, since the day we met, Magnus. I’d never dream of shying away from it when it has never done anything but protect me and heal me. When it has kept you here and safe for centuries. I love you, and I love your magic,” he says, hoping Magnus understands all the things he left unsaid. How he noticed that sometimes, the magic will be there, on the surface, without Magnus even knowing, making Alec’s fingers tingle when he touches Magnus. How his glass of water never runs out, even when Magnus is not home. How he can feel traces of it with him everywhere he goes, with or without Magnus, as if it settled into his skin in the last places Magnus touched. How ever since he met Magnus, he’s never ran out of arrows in a fight or in training. How his wedding ring warms just enough to stave off the cold of the Institute when he has to stay late. 

His chest feels too full, like it can’t possibly contain all that he’s feeling. He thinks-- he thinks there might be a bond between them already, without either of them consciously acknowledging it. Magnus’ and his own magic, connecting and intertwining, forging a link between them that transcends time and space.

He wants to ask Magnus if he can feel it too, if he knew, and if so, why didn’t he say anything, and then he remembers the flippant I get it, I’m a lot to take in from so long ago, how he almost dismissed it then, but how he came to realize the depths to which Magnus internalized that sentiment over the decades and centuries of being let down, betrayed, abandoned. So instead he kisses Magnus’ cheeks, focusing on the magic inside of himself, trying to push warmth and comfort through every single point of contact between them.

Magnus gasps a soft shocked love, drawing Alec even closer, pressing his cheek to Alec’s.

Fuck, Alexander, you’re going to be the end of me, I swear it,” he murmurs, voice wrecked with the things left unsaid, with everything that’s just under the surface. Alec can’t help his response, can’t stop it from leaving his lips.

“Only if you’ll be mine,” and he means it, the truth so absolute he’s never been so sure of anything in his life. He’s here to stay, like they vowed to each other in front of their family and friends, but also beyond that. He’s here for as long as Magnus will have him, be that fifty years or five centuries. His heart is not his anymore, and he trusts its new keeper to be gentle with it, to cherish it and handle it with the utmost care.

“Are you sure,” Magnus asks, and Alec knows he’s asking about more than the last spoken sentiment, and he wonders if Magnus will-- “Are you sure about the Legato, the immortality?” Are you sure about me?

And they’re standing so close together that Magnus must be able to feel the beat of Alec’s heart, but he still takes his hand and places the palm on his own chest, over where that steady beat can be felt. He focuses on what he’s feeling, the absolutely overwhelming amounts of love and respect, the earth shattering tenderness that suffuses his body when the first thing he sees in the morning is Magnus, stripped bare of pretence, the protectiveness the fear the rage he feels when Magnus is in danger, but above all else the utter certainty that runs through his veins, that if he reaches out, he’ll never be turned away. That if he falls, there will always be a helping hand to pick him or his pieces up. That there is finally someone for whom he is a priority above all others, that there is someone who listens to him, who takes him into consideration when making decisions, even the smallest most inconsequential ones. And that by giving his heart away, he received another’s in return, becoming its guardian, its fiercest protector. There is now someone whose heart he holds in his hands as if it is the most precious possession of all, because it is.

“Magnus,” he says softly, “I chose you, consciously and subconsciously, and for as long as you’ll have me, I will keep choosing you, every day, for the rest of my mortal or immortal life. You’re so bright, so kind and loving and selfless, you surprise and challenge me every single day. It is not a question of me being sure. I’ve been sure since the day I decided that fear will not be the one making my decisions and stepped off of that podium and kissed you for the first time. Are you sure you want to bind yourself to me?” he flips the question back at Magnus, needing to know.

Magnus, who’s been looking at him through the entire speech, who keeps looking at him now.

“I’ve felt the potential between us since the day we saved each others’ lives,” Magnus tells him, expression open, voice gentle, “You have to understand-- I don’t believe in soulmates, that concept is too painful for an immortal to even contemplate, but if I did? Alexander, you would be it. The way my magic, my heart, my very soul react to you--,” he shakes his head, as if he himself can’t believe he’s voicing these thoughts, “the connection we share is something to nurture, to treasure. Discovering there is a way to keep you by my side for-- that you would willingly choose to be by my side beyond one lifetime--” Magnus shakes his head, his eyes remaining on Alec, his right hand still on Alec’s now wildly beating heart, left on the nape of Alec’s neck.

I love you , Alexander, and at this moment, I cannot imagine that ever changing. You came into my life, and you put down roots, right here, deep inside, and I never want to be rid of you,” and he tilts his chin up, erasing the scant distance between them, pressing a hard fierce kiss to Alec’s lips. Alec can’t help the wounded noise that escapes him, can’t help the hands that are fisting themselves in Magnus’ clothes, grabbing, pulling, anything to get Magnus closer. This could turn into something frantic and heavy and fast in a moment, but Magnus bites lightly at his bottom lip, running his tongue over it, and Alec sighs in silent agreement to gentle the kiss, feeling the shared exhaustion between them like a heavy pull that’s trying to drag them under. Magnus’ lips are soft and taste like sweet vanilla, like the chapstick Alec steals from him from time to time. He knows he should draw back, but he’s enjoying the soothing feeling, the closeness of the kiss, of sharing the same space in this way, too much to be able to make himself do it. When he feels Magnus’ lips go a bit slack, feels him shift away slightly, he follows, chases after that mouth, after the feeling of it. The next kiss tastes like a smile.

“I love you,” he says against those smiling lips, “tomorrow?” he offers, because they are in no shape to be doing anything besides going to bed at this point, and they definitely shouldn’t be performing incantations thought up by a Magnus from another universe that will have life altering consequences.

Magnus’ eyes are shining, gold-bright, “Tomorrow.”

Their hands stay linked as they finally make their way through the loft and into the bedroom, Magnus turning the lights off with a flick of his fingers as they go. Alec takes off his hoodie and his sweatpants and hits the bed face first. He hears Magnus snort and feels his socks being dragged from his feet. He mumbles a thanks into the pillow, not sure Magnus can even tell what he’s saying, but he hears and answering hum so the message probably did get across. He’s about to actually fall asleep like that, on top of the covers, when it hits him and--

He’s sitting up, breathing hard, keeping his eyes wide open, trained on Magnus who’s in the bathroom taking his makeup off. On Magnus who’s suddenly by his side, running a soothing hand up and down Alec’s back. Alec grabs for his other hand, holding it tight. He tries to think of something to say, anything other than what’s on his mind, that maybe this is not real, that maybe it’s not really over, maybe he’ll wake up in yet another universe tomorrow, maybe, maybe, maybe.

“Magnus, can you--” but no, that’s stupid, of course the wards are airtight, Magnus always has an awareness of them, he’s seen him tweak them here and there multiple times a week even, there’s no need to--

“May I,” Magnus asks, squeezing his hand. Alec nods and Magnus lets his magic go a little more, the contentment that settled into Alec’s bones steadily growing until he’s aware of-- something. He can feel his eyes go even wider, his mouth opening slightly.

“Are these the wards?” he asks, breathless. He’s never felt anything like it. The magic feels complex, layered, he doesn’t understand most of it but he understands the feeling behind it. Home. Safety. Protection. Love.

At that moment one of their strays decides to cross the invisible barrier and Alec feels it walk through it, feels the wards allow it to walk through unscathed, and Alec realizes that Magnus must have coded each of the strays into the wards. He shakes his head, a sudden wave of fondness washing over him.

“All our strays are coded into the wards,” Magnus answers the unasked question, “be it cats or beings. Although, of course, thanks to past experiences, no one but the cats is allowed to just pass through,” he says with a chuckle and Alec can’t help but join in. Jace has cock blocked them one too many times and his privileges of coming and going as he pleased have been revoked. All three of them are much happier for it, too. Alec lets his head fall on Magnus’ shoulder and sighs.

“Can you,” he gestures around himself, trying to encompass the wards.

“Of course, do you want me to--” and Alec feels him dial it down a little bit, so that he can still feel them, but more like a low level hum in his mind. It feels-- soothing. Alec nods. He feels Magnus magic the rest of his makeup off, probably do the other steps of his routine too, and then his cheek is pressed to skin only, Manus having magicked away his clothes too, and Alec is being pushed to lie back down.

They don’t usually-- when they’re falling asleep, for some reason they rarely cuddle. Alec’s not sure how that came to be, he always thought that because Magnus didn’t initiate contact, he probably preferred to fall asleep on his side of the bed, without being smothered by Alec’s octopus tendencies. Then again, at the start of their relationship, they somehow rarely fell asleep together because of wildly differing schedules. And even when they did, Alec didn’t initiate contact either.

He stays close to Magnus this time, moving himself a little ways down the bed so he can keep his head on Magnus’ shoulder, under his chin.

“We should fall asleep like this more often,” he murmurs and feels Magnus’ hands on him stop. They resume a second later, moving through Alec’s hair, over his bare back, tracing patterns Alec can’t dream of deciphering. 

“I would love that, Alexander,” Magnus says into his hair, and Alec thinks, for all they communicate, for all they try, they still have so many unconfirmed assumptions about the other between them. Alec vows to change that.

“I love being close to you, falling asleep like this,” he presses his lips to Magnus’ neck, to the pulse beating strong and steady there, “it makes sleep come easier, knowing you’re here, safe.”

“Oh darling,” Magnus breathes out, “why do you think I’m always up when you come home at 3am after a patrol gone wrong or after being delayed in the office?”

Alec squeezes Magnus closer, space between them nonexistent now.

“We’re so dumb,” he says, hiding his smile in warm skin.

“Well, at least we’re dumb together,” and Magnus’ magic shares in their mirth, running happy sparks all over Alec’s back.

Alec closes his eyes, focusing on the low hum of the wards, on Magnus warm in his arms, the soothing and familiar smell of him, but he still can’t make his brain stop the doubts.

“What if I wake up somewhere else again, I can’t--” he ends up saying, his voice shaky.

“You won’t,” Magnus tries to stop his train of thought immediately.

“You don’t know that,” he says instead, a little petulant, and a lot not in the mood for platitudes.

“But I do, Alexander,” Magnus says, voice steady and sure, hands still, keeping Alec close, “I do, because my magic, now that you’ve connected with it the way you did today? Would never let you go.”

That settles something deep inside Alec, because there is intent behind Magnus’ words, his magic right there for Alec to feel the sincerity of them. He can feel it grounding him and knows that he could never be parted from Magnus like that, not against his will anyway. If he went? Magnus would follow.

He lets out a breath, settles a little more into the bed, into Magnus’ arms, lets his muscles relax. Magnus doesn’t move away, accommodating Alec, fitting them together comfortably. His magic feels languorous, pleased.

“Love you, Magnus,” he mumbles, fighting the exhaustion for a little while longer so that his body has a chance to catch up to his mind, to realize he is safe, will be safe.

“And I love you,” Magnus replies softly.

Alec still can’t close his eyes and Magnus must feel it because he moves one of his hands to Alec’s neck, tilting Alec’s head back a little so that he can see Alec’s face.

“I promise you, Alexander, you’ll be right here when you wake up tomorrow,” Magnus swears and presses a kiss to Alec’s forehead, like a benediction.

Alec takes a deep breath, and closes his eyes.