Actions

Work Header

(i keep on hoping) we'll eat cake by the potion

Work Text:

*

All Alec Lightwood wanted was some peace and quiet. A place secluded enough to write a book, maybe. Not that he had any intention of ever writing a book, but if he did, he wanted a place quiet enough where he could.

So he found a cabin in the woods, a creepy little corner of the world where no one else would ever want to live ever. No one sane, at least. And with that cabin came peace. Three glorious months of peace.

And then the witch moved in.

One day the space across from Alec’s cabin had been a view of overgrown trees and, judging by the frequent vultures circling over ahead, probably a dead animal or twelve. The next day, there was a cabin. And not like Alec’s cabin, no. It was a charming cottage with scalloped siding and very very out of place in the middle of a probably-haunted forest. Alec wouldn’t have even noticed it, to be honest, if it hadn’t been for them.

The visitors.

Who came to knock on Alec’s door.

Every day.

Because instead of getting an address like a normal human being, the witch decided to just tack an A onto Alec’s. 322A was the witch, and 322 was the antisocial recluse, and no one seemed to care enough to discern between the two. Granted, the witch’s cottage looked like it belonged in a fairytale, and Alec’s shack looked like it belonged in a child’s nightmare, so the assumption was a bit understandable. But still.

So, after his three months of peace, Alec was suddenly subjected to his greatest pet peeve again: people. When the first one showed up at his door, a wild look in his eyes, gasping, ‘I have your fee; I finally have your fee’ and waving a piece of folded parchment in the air, Alec was slightly speechless. He waited for the poor kid to catch his breath before calmly saying, “No thank you; please leave.”

The kid looked devastated, and said, “But I have your fee and my mom is still so sick—”

“I don’t care. Go,” Alec had replied, ever the epitome of empathy.

But as the kid remained hunched over, Alec caught sight of the cottage across the gravel pathway. “What the fuck is that?” Alec had said quietly, and the kid followed his gaze to the cottage.

“Probably the witch, you asshole,” the kid bit out before turning to run to the cottage. “And my sick mom says fuck you,” he called over his shoulder, and Alec wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

He also didn’t know how to process the fact that a witch had allegedly moved across the street, nor could he understand why the witch had decided to move right across the damn street when she had literally thousands of other options.

The kid with the foul mouth was the first, but he most certainly wasn’t the last. Each time, Alec narrowed his eyes, pointed to the cottage across the way, and slammed the door.

He had never seen the witch, but he knew he’d hate her on sight.

*

But with customer number 247, it all changes.

Alec ignores the frantic knocking for as long as he can, even though that tactic has never worked for him thus far, before he opens the door to see customer 247, fear etched all over her face. Two-Forty-Seven waves the parchment around, just like the 246 customers before her had, and rambles about her husband and the cough that hasn’t gone away and the pink mushroom-of-something-or-other, until Alec sighs and points across the way. “The witch is over there.”

Two-Forty-Seven looks over her shoulder and nods, apparently too afraid to do anything else.

And then.

And then the witch steps out.

And the witch is not a she. The witch is a very, very beautiful he. Alec’s stomach bottoms out.

He thought witches were supposed to be old and gray and evil and murdery, not super fucking hot. And if this witch is evil, Alec genuinely does not give a shit.

As Two-Forty-Seven begins her frantic sprint across the road, the witch throws a bright smile towards Alec and calls out, “Hello, neighbor! So glad to have finally met you!”

Alec’s mouth parts and he forgets how to speak. He waves lamely at the witch, which is insane because waving is something normal people do to show they’re friendly and Alec is definitely not a fan of encouraging that kind of human connection.

As Two-Forty-Seven finally reaches the cottage, the witch returns Alec’s wave, accepts the piece of parchment from the panicked woman, and closes the door behind them.

Alec is left gaping.

Which, yes, is kind of understandable because the witch is hands-down the hottest guy Alec has ever seen in his life, but it’s also… more. It’s an odd feeling that he can’t understand, but seeing the witch feels like something more. There’s a connection, some bizarre feeling of knowing the witch already. Like they’re old friends. Or—no, it’s not friendship. It’s something more intense than friendship, but Alec can’t quite understand it. It’s an overwhelming sense of, Oh, finally, it’s you.

He scrambles back into his house and leans up against the closed door. Whatever just happened, he’s terrified and thrilled and his nerves are thrumming with anticipation.

*

Alec doesn’t see the witch again until the 301st customer. Each time he answers the knocking door and sends a customer across the street, Alec’s waits in his open doorway to try to catch a glimpse again, but the witch always remains out of sight as he answers his door. There’s this bizarre feeling of giddy apprehension coursing through Alec’s veins, a foreign feeling that he’s not particularly comfortable with. 

But when Three-Oh-One knocks on his door, it all shifts. Again. 

The knocks are faint but insistent, and Alec reluctantly heads towards the door. There’s a woman with a tear-stained face, clutching a parchment in her fist.

“Please,” Three-Oh-One pleads. “Please help me, sir.”

“Uh,” Alec says. “He’s over there.”

Three-Oh-One nods weakly and then just… collapses. Alec blinks as she crumples to the ground because—well,  this is new. And sure, he doesn’t like people so much, but he likes being cause-of-death even less, so he grabs her in his arms, catching the parchment before it’s swept by the wind and carries her as quickly as he can to the cottage. The witch has opened the door before Alec’s even fully across the cobbled path, and Alec doesn’t even think twice about carrying her over into the house, despite having not exactly been invited in.

“What happened?” the witch asks, face impassive but serious. Alec follows him further into the cottage, which is definitely larger than it should possibly be by the laws of physics, until the witch gestures to a table in a dimly-lit room.

“I—I don’t know,” Alec answers as he gently places Three-Oh-One on the wooden table in the middle of the cluttered room. “She just collapsed on my front steps. She was asking for help and I figured she was looking for you.”

The witch hums to himself and places his palm on her cheeks. Then, for some reason, he pulls down the collar of Three-Oh-One’s shirt. Alec sees dark gray lines spreading up her neck, clearly some kind of poison taking her over.

The witch barely pauses. He spins around quickly to rustle around in a few drawers in one of the several large glass cabinets on the periphery of the room. He eventually finds what he’s looking for and holds it up in his hand to inspect it. It’s a flower with glass petals, beautiful and delicate. As Alec stares at the flower, mesmerized, he realizes it’s not glass at all; the petals are simply translucent. 

“It’s called the Skeleton Flower,” the witch explains as if he can hear Alec’s silent question. His voice grows quiet, though, as if he’s suddenly talking to himself. “Two petals, perhaps? No, three should do it.”

Alec is transfixed as he watches the witch bustle about, quickly adding ingredients and dumping them into a battered-looking wooden bowl. The witch is… beautiful; there’s just no other word for it. But it’s more than that, too. That odd feeling from Two-Forty-Seven has resurfaced, that idea that he knows the witch, that they know each other—as if there’s some sort of unspoken companionship.

It’s weird and unsettling, but Alec doesn’t really mind it.

It’s also weird and unsettling when something brushes against his shin, but when he looks down, he sees it’s only a black cat. He’s a little disappointed that this beautiful witch is a walking, talking cliche, and he narrows his eyes at the cat like it’s somehow its fault. 

When Alec finally snaps back to reality, he sees that the witch has created some kind of liquid antidote, and he’s trying to tip the bowl into her mouth. He’s struggling, though, so Alec takes a few steps closer to push Three-Oh-One into a seated position to make it easier for the witch to tilt the bowl into her mouth. After a few moments, she coughs a little, and Alec watches the gray lines in her neck slowly fade away.

Three-Oh-One looks to the witch with a glazed expression, but she offers him a weak smile. “Thank you,” she whispers. “I knew you’d be able to help, Mr. Magnus.”

The witch returns her smile and says, “Oh, you can just call me Magnus, dear thing.”

She nods but her smile fades quickly. “Oh no, I—your fee, I must have dropped it!”

Alec clears his throat and holds the parchment still gripped in his hand. “Is this—I’m not sure what this is, but you were holding it when you knocked on my door.”

Three-Oh-One looks relieved and tells Alec, in an unsure voice, “Thank you, too, sir.”

Alec stares at her blankly. This is normally the time where he gives a curt goodbye and makes his stance on people very clear, i.e. they are the very worst. But he can feel the witch’s eyes on him, which is incredibly unnerving and makes his brain malfunction. “Uh—sure,” he replies. His gaze flickers up to the witch who’s watching him curiously before he turns and heads back to the door. He’s spent too long in this room—near people—and he makes a hasty exit.

After Alec swiftly walks back to his cabin and shuts the door behind him, he feels off-kilter and unfocused.

Magnus, he thinks to himself. It’s not a common name, not even for a witch, but Alec can’t help but feel as if he already knew it.

*

The 303rd visitor barely even knocks. There are a few half-hearted attempts, but then she just tries the handle and three kids tumble in. One of them is screaming, the second is sobbing and running around in circles, and the toddler does a somersault right into Alec’s sofa. Naked. 

It’s intense.

Alec says, Get out, but what actually comes out is, “Can I help you?”

What the fuck.

“Yes, you have the—well Katherine said you could help with—I have your fee right here,” the mother says, sounding exhausted.

“I don’t—who’s Katherine?” Alec asks warily, and he can’t figure out why he’s not just showing her and the tiny demons back to the door.

“Stop screaming,” the mother pleads with her children. “I just need a few moments, please.”

Something on her face or in her voice tugs at heartstrings Alec assumed he didn’t even have, so he pulls the child currently belting out the alphabet at the top of his lungs off of the floor and gestures the mother to follow him. They walk across the pathway to the cottage, all while the mom begs for her children to settle down. The noise is overwhelming, and Magnus is ready for them well before they arrive, probably because they announced their presence about two hundred feet ago.

“Well this is quite the party, isn’t it?” Magnus says, eyes bright, hair swooped up with gold tips, carefully applied kohl—

Fuck, no one should be allowed to be this hot.

“It’s so much energy,” the mother tells Magnus as she hands him the parchment. “Katherine said you might be able to help.”

Magnus takes parchment and ushers her inside. “Let’s see what I can do, shall we?”

The child—one of the clothed ones, thank god—is still holding Alec’s hand, so Alec finds himself being tugged inside. The kid’s no more than four, so Alec could easily pull away from him, but he… doesn’t. He’s too busy watching Magnus walk away, and noticing what his shoulders look like as they pull the shirt taught across—

“Tea?” he asks the mother quietly as they walk into what appears to be a living room area. Alec barely remembers the inside of the cottage from the last time, having barreled straight through it to follow Magnus through several doorways to get to the apothecary in the back. 

“Oh yes please,” she sighs.

“Tea?” he tosses over his shoulder, and Alec is taken aback. He was just here to drop the kids off and go back to his blissfully quiet shack. 

“Uh, sure,” he hears himself say.

“Lovely,” Magnus says. Within moments, and in some way that defies the rules of time, Magnus has a warm mug of something that neither looks nor smells like tea into the mother’s hands, and three plastic cups of something that neither looks nor smells like juice into the hands of the three children, and the cottage is instantly fifty decibels quieter. 

“You three,” Magnus says to the mini-terrorists, gesturing to a side room that Alec is pretty sure didn’t exist the last time he was here, “can stay in there and play while the grownups take care of boring grownup things. And you,” he tells their mother, gesturing to a darkened room on the other side of the living room—a room Alec is pretty sure didn’t even exist five minutes ago, “can relax in that room over there and enjoy some peace.”

The mother looks desperately grateful, and he and Magnus watch as she immediately slides onto the couch and closes her eyes.

“And you,” he says, eyes meeting Alec’s, “can follow me into the apothecary and keep me company.”

He winks, he fucking winks, and Alec isn’t sure what to do except stare at him as he walks away. But Alec follows him back to the apothecary, even though he has absolutely no reason to.

Magnus is already busying himself, rifling through a wide drawer then a tall cabinet, and Alec mostly just tries to stay out of his way. It’s odd, but he somehow knows where Magnus needs to be and when he needs to be there. He knows when to steer clear of the iron cauldron in the back and when to stand away from the unsteady shelf of glass jars. It’s another one of those weird moments that Alec can’t grasp yet. He’s in tune to what Magnus needs, but they don’t even know each other, so it shouldn’t be possible.

“Aha!” Magnus says finally, holding up a small bouquet of white flowers. The petals are as fine as tissue paper, twisted around each other, and Alec has never seen anything quite like it. “The Moonflower,” Magnus says. “I think this will work for what we need, hmm?”

Alec raises his eyebrows at we but doesn’t comment on it.

“A few twists for an adult, I’d say, but only a half-pinch for a child,” he continues, again talking to himself. “That should definitely serve as a sedative.”

“You’re drugging children?” Alec asks, stunned. It goes against everything he thought he knew about Magnus and the idea that he’s a murdery psychopath, but he reminds himself that he doesn’t actually know anything about Magnus.

“Of course not,” Magnus scoffs. “It’s an herbal remedy that should help—ah, metabolize their energy levels.”

Alec squints at him. “And you’re not doping up their mom either?”

“No,” Magnus says, looking insulted. “It merely provides a sense of tranquility in high-intensity situations. Neither potion has any kind of addictive qualities.”

It sure sounds like drugging children, but for some reason, Alec believes him. He watches Magnus for a few moments before glancing down to his full glass of definitely-not-tea. “I should—I should probably go,” he says. He practically has to force the words out because he wants to stay here and stare at Magnus all day, but he doesn’t belong here.

“Oh,” Magnus says. Alec isn’t sure if he’s imagining the disappointment in his voice because Magnus’ face gives nothing away.

“I’ll just…” he trails off as he places the full mug onto the table, then gives Magnus one final look before turning and heading back to his cabin.

For the first time, it feels too quiet.

*

Alec escorts the next day’s visitor to Magnus without being prompted. There’s something about the man on his doorstep that looks lonely and defeated.

“Wrong house,” Alec tells him before the man can even open his mouth. “Come with me.”

The man nods and stays silent. His eyes are resigned, and Alec can’t help but feel sorry for him. Whatever’s wrong, he hopes Magnus can fix it.

Alec knocks on Magnus’ door and only has to wait a moment for it to open. A smile spreads across his face when he sees Alec, but it falls quickly as he takes in the lonely man next to him. “Come in, come in,” he says immediately.

The man holds out his parchment and says, “Mrs. Jenkins thought maybe you could help. It’s my wife.”

Magnus escorts the man in, and Alec suddenly understands the look in the man’s eyes, a sadness that can only come from being in love. That kind of heartbreak is one of the main reasons Alec has never wanted to be in love. Also because he’d rather be a surly recluse that lives in a shack.

For some reason, though, Alec follows Magnus and the husband inside and joins them in the apothecary. The husband is telling Magnus about his wife, about how her memory is fading, about how he was hoping Magnus could give him something to help her remember him every once in a while. It’s heartbreaking and, for a brief moment, it makes Alec wonder if some people aren’t the worst. From the look on his face, Magnus is affected by the story as well, which makes sense since Magnus seems to like people.

“You wait right here,” Magnus tells the husband, pointing to the side room with the couch. “We’ll be back shortly.”

Alec still doesn’t comment on his use of we, but he follows Magnus into the apothecary anyway. He’s still bustling around, but it’s with less vigor than Alec’s seen before.

“I really shouldn’t—memory’s a funny thing,” Magnus is saying to himself. “But no one has to know—and really, what’s the harm in the long run?”

“You can help him?” Alec says, pulling Magnus from his thoughts. 

Magnus meets Alec’s eyes, considering. “The question isn’t can I. The question is should I?”

That level of confidence should not be as hot as it is, but Alec fixates more on the fact that Magnus is trying to see if he can trust Alec to not throw him under the bus for messing with memory. Alec’s not sure if that’s considered sketchy in the world of magic or if that’s the type of thing that gets him kicked out of some kind of witches union, but it doesn’t matter.

“Well,” Alec says before he hesitates. “If you do, I won’t say anything.”

Magnus gives him a soft smile, and Alec’s face heats up for no reason at all. He’s never blushed in his life. Though he’s never cared about anyone’s opinion before, either, so today is just full of surprises. 

“Then it’s settled,” Magnus tells him. “Will you hand me two of the—no three—of the Prairie Smoke Flowers behind you?”

Alec nods, then reaches to grab three of the wispy pink flowers from a jar on the shelf behind him. They’re like mini balls of cotton candy on a bright green stem, and Alec wonders distantly if this is some sort of all-natural organic bug dessert. He isn’t sure how it helps with a memory spell but Magnus obviously does.

As he reaches over to hand them to Magnus, he freezes. How the hell does he know what a Prairie Smoke Flower is? That’s not something he knew three minutes ago. Magnus avoids his gaze as he reaches over to pull them from Alec’s outstretched hand, and he really isn’t sure what that’s supposed to mean.

Alec doesn’t say anything, though, because there’s a small part of him that doesn’t want to know. Instead, he watches as Magnus grabs the other ingredients and starts to work. He’s so focused on watching him that he visibly startles when the cliché cat brushes against his leg.

“So—I was wondering,” Alec starts.

Magnus looks up from his muddler and whatever he’s… muddlering.

“This—is it, you know…” he trails off, gesturing to the cat at his feet.

“That?” Magnus asks, brows raised. “That is a cat.”

“Oh,” Alec replies, feeling like an idiot.

Magnus squints at him, “Have you never seen a cat?”

“No,” Alec says, rolling his eyes. “I mean, yes, I’ve seen a cat. I just thought maybe—I know witches have like…” he trails off again.

“Ah,” Magnus says, as he goes back to grinding the ingredients. “You’re talking about a familiar.”

“Yeah,” Alec answers. “Is that an actual thing?”

“It is,” Magnus answers nonchalantly, though it seems forced.

Alec waits for more but Magnus doesn’t elaborate. “Okay, and?”

“And what?”

Alec sighs. “Are you just like, trying to be difficult, or does it come naturally?”

“Yes,” Magnus answers, the corners of his mouth quirking into a smile. “I have a familiar and no, it is not my cat.”

“Oh,” Alec says, and he’s disappointed that Magnus has such a close connection with something he hasn’t even seen yet, though he can’t understand why. He looks around half-heartedly, but he doesn’t see anything that jumps out at him. “What exactly are they?” he asks after a few moments.

Magnus falters before recovering. “Familiars can be many things, not just animals.”

“But what do they do?” Alec presses. 

Magnus stops grinding the ingredients and pours hopefully-not-blood-but-probably-blood into the bowl. “They’re—there’s a deep connection between a witch and their familiar. There’s an inherent companionship between the two. Symbiotic, if you will.”

“Oh,” Alec says again.

“They’re in tune with each other. They trust each other. It’s a powerful connection that can’t be explained, and can’t be destroyed.”

Alec swallows thickly. As much as he dislikes people, that kind of connection sounds… beautiful. Intimidating and terrifying, but important and incredible.

Yeah, today is full of all kinds of new things. 

“Oh,” he says once more because apparently, that’s the only word he knows anymore. “Well, I should probably go.”

Magnus smiles at him, and Alec’s pretty sure he’s not imagining the disappointment in his eyes. “Of course. Until next time, Alexander.”

There’s no wink, which is kind of disappointing, but the way he says Alec’s name makes him feel warm and special, and it’s maybe a little better than a wink. 

It’s not until he’s lying in bed that night that he realizes he’s never once told Magnus his name.

*

When the sisters show up at his door, Alec has absolutely no reason to escort them over, no reason whatsoever.

But he does anyway.

Magnus is ready to greet them and leads both women into the apothecary, while Alec follows.

“She’s so lonely,” the brunette says, handing the parchment to Magnus. The blonde sister just stares at her hands.

Magnus takes it from her and says, “And how can I help?”

“I work all day,” the brunette says. “And I just want something—I don’t care what—to keep her company while I’m gone. The girls in the village are awful to her, and I just want her to have company while I’m away.” She looks at her sister and reaches over to brush some hair away from her eyes. “Please, please can you help?”

Magnus watches her for a few more moments before meeting Alec’s eyes. “I’m sure we can think of something.”

For the first time, the we doesn’t feel alarming. It feels comforting.

The brunette looks over to Alec, “Thank you. Whatever you can do, thank you.”

Alec’s really not sure how to process genuine human appreciation being aimed his way so he just gives an awkward nod and averts his gaze. 

“Would you like to relax while we work on something? Here, follow me and I’ll grab you some ice cream.”

Alec watches as Magnus leads them to a kitchenette area that has definitely never been in the cottage before today. While he waits, he glances around the apothecary, but nothing seems to fit what they—Magnus—is looking for. He wanders around while he waits until he realizes there’s another doorway in the back corner of the room. He heads for it on the off-chance he’ll find a second apothecary, but instead, he finds only a back door.

And when he steps through the back door, he finally understands why Magnus moved directly across the street from Alec. It’s a garden—a mosaic of colors and shapes and sizes, flowers Alec has never seen and a few he’s a little too scared to even touch. His own backyard is essentially a bog with several armies of frogs that are probably going to swarm the cabin one day. He feeds them not out of the kindness of his heart but to endear himself to them in preparation for their inevitable insurrection. 

“So you’ve found the real apothecary,” Magnus says as he joins Alec outside.

“Magnus, it’s—wow, this is unbelievable,” he says, his eyes not settling on anything too long before another color grabs his attention.

From the corner of his eye Alec sees Magnus’ face light up and it makes his stomach swoop.

“Well, what do you think?” Magnus asks. 

Alec looks around but there’s no plant, no flower, nothing that sparks an idea in Alec, but why the fuck would it? He’s not a witch, so what the hell was he expecting? Why is he even still here?

But as he turns to leave, he sees a few feathers lying on a patch of dirt under a tree. He stares at them, not sure why, until Magnus follows his gaze.

The feathers are a blend of deep red and pale yellow, flecks of gold, and Alec realizes they caught his eye because it reminds him of Magnus’ hair.

“Strawberry finch feathers,” Magnus says, pleased. “You’re right. With a bit of honey, maybe a few pumpkin seeds, a few gusts of magic, a hair from her sister, oh we’ll need the familiar for that—”

“Your familiar?” Alec interrupts. “Why does that have to be involved?” There’s a surge of possessiveness that comes out of nowhere and catches him completely off-guard because being jealous of a tiny animal is so not normal. 

Magnus’ smile falls abruptly, “Because familiars are meant to help; what they do could be considered magic, too.”

Alec doesn’t respond. 

“The connection between a witch and their familiar is very powerful, Alexander. It can intensify a spell, amplify a potion.”

“Right,” he says dully. “Well, I should probably go, now that you figured it out.”

He’s not sure what Magnus has figured out, though. He kind of wants to stick around to see if he’s going to create a swarm of talking feathers, but he’s not particularly interested in acknowledging the fact that he’s annoyed by a magic housepet. 

“Alec,” Magnus sighs. Alec hates the resignation in his voice, but he also hates how the word Alec sounds coming out of Magnus’ mouth.

Alec waits, though he’s not sure for what, until he realizes Magnus isn’t going to say anything more.

He turns to leave but Magnus reaches out to catch his wrist, and Alec suddenly feels like his skin is on fire. “Before you leave, would you see if both girls would offer two of their hairs? And place it in the pot for me?”

Alec nods but doesn’t say anything. He does as he’s asked before leaving and heading back to his cabin. His stomach feels twisted until he finally makes his way to bed.

*

He goes two days without seeing Magnus, and Alec can’t figure out why everything feels so off, why he’s annoyed and fidgety.

A woman shows up on the third day looking terrified and nervous. “Can you—the twins told me you could help, maybe?”

Alec sighs, but it’s more out of apprehension than irritation. “You probably mean the witch across the street. Here, I’ll take you.”

She jolts away from him as he reaches out to place a comforting hand on the small of her back, and Alec realizes she’s afraid of him. Of men, maybe. Indignation rises up in him, and he hopes Magnus can fix whatever—whoever —hurt this poor woman.

He subsequently realizes he just tried to comfort another human being. 

“What’s your name?” he asks to distract himself from that unsettling realization, carefully keeping his distance.

“Marjorie,” she says quietly.

“Well, Marjorie,” he says, “If anyone can help, it’s Magnus, okay? I promise.”

She gives him a weak smile but seems to visibly relax.

Alec knocks on the door but doesn’t wait for anyone to answer before making his way inside. Magnus is just heading towards the door, and for some reason he looks pleased at the fact that Alec walked right in without being invited. Marjorie visibly relaxes as soon as she sees him, which makes sense because Magnus makes something inside Alec relax too.

“Marjorie needs some help,” Alec tells Magnus. “How about you two talk while I look through your supplies?”

Magnus seems to understand that maybe Marjorie doesn’t feel comfortable with Alec while she tells her story, so Magnus gives him a small nod and leads Marjorie into a sitting room that Alec is a hundred percent sure wasn’t there when he walked in.

Alec takes his time in the apothecary, rummaging through cluttered drawers and unsealing a few jars to sniff their contents, all of which smell as bad as he expected. Eventually, though, he makes his way back outside into the garden. There’s an unexpected tranquility there, and Alec is baffled by it; he’s baffled by everything that goes on in the cottage. He’s confused about how he knows things he never learned, about how he’s able to do things he knows nothing about, about how Magnus makes him feel, about the way Magnus looks at him. Nothing makes sense.

As he walks through a small dirt path, a translucent blue bulb catches his eye. It’s a Himalayan Blue Poppy, which is not something he should know.

He’s pretty sure it can be mixed with… something to create hallucinogenic effects. Sugar maybe? And it can be mixed with something else to generate rapid healing of minor cuts and scrapes.

And just—how the fuck does he even know this?

And why is he here?

He’s carefully tugging a few of the flowers before he even realizes what he’s doing, and when he makes his way towards the back door again, Magnus is already there with a steely expression. Whatever Marjorie’s story was, it wasn’t a good one. Magnus’ eyes widen when he sees Alec’s hands.

“Of course,” he says. “We can send her home with a hallucinogen to mix with his drink and with a powder for her to use on herself. I love it, Alexander.”

Alec blinks at him and tries to hide the sudden warmth that courses over him in response to Magnus’ blatant praise. He gingerly passes the flowers to Magnus then follows him back into the apothecary. Magnus gets to work right away while Alec tracks his every movement, fixated on Magnus’ hands and the way his eyebrows furrow when he tries to figure out if it should be two pinches of salt or just one.

But mostly on his hands. 

He stands there for several moments quietly before he has a strange feeling that Magnus needs something to focus on, some kind of conversation. He’s clearly buzzing with energy, and somehow Alec knows that it’s his job to settle him down.

“Is she going to be okay?” Alec asks.

“Oh, she’ll be okay,” Magnus says, and Alec is a little taken aback by the thin current of anger in his voice. Whoever caused Marjorie’s visit today is in for a very very rude awakening.

“So can I ask you something?” Alec says, tentative.

Magnus makes a small humming noise of assent as he continues to blend ingredients with his marble mortar and pestle.

“The parchment they all bring to you, your fee—what is it?”

Magnus smiles and meets Alec’s eyes, though he doesn’t stop his movements. “It’s a letter from the client that recommended them. I like to know how they’re doing, how the potion worked out, that type of thing.”

Alec’s mouth parts in surprise, though deep down, it doesn’t really shock him. “You’re not getting anything for your services?”

“I am,” Magnus says, slightly indignant. “I get to know that whatever I’ve created works, that somehow their life is better.”

Alec doesn’t know what to say, and he can hear his heartbeat in his ears, so it’s not like he’d be able to come up with words anyway. Something about it makes him bolder—

“Why haven’t I ever seen your familiar? It’s not your cat and I never see anything else.”

That’s finally what makes Magnus freeze, and Alec just doesn’t understand it.

“It’s not always an animal; I’ve told you that,” Magnus answers, though it’s hardly an answer, and he doesn’t meet Alec’s eyes.

Apparently, he’s not bold enough to say, Is there someone else here and do you think I could take them in a fight?

Instead, he mutters, “Yeah, I know, a spirit or a—a shrub or whatever, but what’s yours?”

Do not say another person, he silently warns the universe. Because I’m afraid it’ll lead to a fight and I’m afraid that I’ll lose that fight

Magnus sighs, “That’s a very personal question.”

That stings a little. “And you can’t tell me something personal? I help you with your potions, I help you with your clients, I do so much, and you can’t answer a personal question?”

“No,” Magnus says, and Alec’s surprised to see a sadness in his eyes. “It’s not something a witch can just say, Alexander. A familiar first has to know.”

“What does that even mean?” Alec asks, annoyed.

“It means,” Magnus starts, a forced patience in his voice, “that one day, I hope you won’t have to ask me.”

He’s speaking in cryptic riddles, and Alec can’t deal with that and with the bitterness that he feels whenever he thinks about this deep connection Magnus has with something that isn’t him.

“I’ll see you later,” he sighs. “Give Marjorie my best.”

He walks home, stewing in his annoyed frustration, but it eventually fades away and all he feels is a sting of rejection.

*

The next morning, there’s a young teenager at the door, a gangly girl in pigtails looking awkward and unsure.

“Are you Mr. Magnus?” she asks when Alec opens the door.

“No,” he answers, gesturing to the cottage. “Magnus is across the street there.”

She turns to look apprehensively at the cottage, and Alec feels terrible for her. It probably took all of the courage she had just to knock on Alec’s door and now she has to muster more courage to do it all over again.

“Here, follow me. I’ll take you over,” he continues. “So what’s your name?”

“Rebecca,” she answers. “I—I probably shouldn’t have even come, but I didn’t know what else to do.”

“That’s okay,” Alec assures her. “Magnus always knows what to do.”

She’s sweet and something in Alec wants to protect her. He wonders vaguely if somewhere along the way, he stopped hating people.

When they reach the door, Alec is just reaching for the handle when the door swings open. There’s a man on the other side, very good-looking and very, very inside Magnus’ personal space. Something sudden and unrecognizable surges in Alec, but he balls his hands into fists and says nothing.

“You’re sure there’s nothing else I can do to—ah, repay you?” the man says, a bright, toothy grin lighting up his face.

Nope, Alec still hates people. 

“I’m sure,” Magnus answers with an amused smile. Alec’s relieved to see it pales in comparison to every smile Magnus has ever given him, but he’s still not a fan of it.

They both seem to notice Alec and Rebecca at the same time, and Alec’s grateful when he watches Magnus’ amused smirk slide into a genuine smile that reaches his eyes. “Alexander! Come on in.”

Alec narrows his eyes—and god what is wrong with him—as he waits for the other man to finally leave and unblock the doorway. Once he’s gone, Alec feels slightly relieved but still unsettled.

“This is Rebecca,” Alec says, ushering her in the cottage’s entrance. She follows Magnus into the kitchenette where he makes her something frothy and sweet. 

“You look like you could use something to settle your nerves. Are you okay?” he asks her in the soft, gentle tone that Alec’s become so accustomed to.

“Yes,” she answers, nodding and taking a sip of whatever’s in your cup. “I’m actually here for my friend—my best friend. There’s something wrong with him, and I was hoping I could buy something to make him better.”

Magnus watches her consideringly. “I don’t sell my services, dear.”

“Oh! Right!” she remembers, pulling out the parchment from her jacket and handing it to him. “Mrs. Miller told me to tell you she’s doing so well.”

Magnus looks pleased. “Now that that’s settled, tell me exactly what brings you here today.”

“It’s—Jeremy,” she says, staring at her hands. “He’s engaged to someone and I don’t think it’s right.”

Alec feels a wave of sympathy wash over her. He still can’t really empathize, having never been in love before, but it’s clear that Rebecca’s watching someone she loves be in love with someone else. It has to be hard, wanting someone but seeing them with someone else and then inexplicably wanting to fight that person in case the person you want actually wants that person instead of you and—

Just… it sounds awful, and Alec is again grateful that he’s never had to deal with the type of emotions that normal people have to. 

“I don’t brew love potions,” Magnus tells her gently. “I know it must be painful—”

“No,” Rebecca argues, finally meeting Magnus’ eyes. “I don’t want him to love me—well I do, and I think he could—but that’s not what I mean. I mean that she treats him terribly and she’s cruel, really, but there’s something that makes him blind to it.”

“Oh, my dear,” Magnus sighs. “We’ve all been blinded by infatuation before, but I’m afraid that’s not really a service I can help with.”

Alec’s eyes narrow, and he wonders exactly who’s hurt Magnus’ heart before.

She shakes her head. “Really, I swear, it’s not about that. I won’t lie to you,” she hesitates. “I’m in love with him and I know he could love me too if he could just see me, but there’s something preventing him. Esther has done something, I’m convinced of it.”

Magnus gives her another considering look. “I might be able to help, but only if you know exactly what to expect. I can give you something to uncloud his thoughts and mind, but it will only work if he truly has been put under some kind of spell or malicious magic. It won’t help him fall out of love. Nor will it help him fall into love.”

“That’s all I want,” she says earnestly. “Something to show him what’s right in front of him, good or bad.”

“Okay, well why don’t you enjoy your drink and give us some time, okay?”

She nods and Alec follows Magnus into the back towards the apothecary. “Do you really think it’s a spell? Or just wishful thinking on her part?” Alec asks quietly.

“I don’t really know, to be honest,” Magnus answers. “But any potion we give will be harmless if there’s no actual magic tinting his mind.”

Alec doesn’t say anything as he watches Magnus begin to flit around the room, and he begins to do the same. “So—that man from earlier,” Alec says, apropos of nothing. “He’s a customer?”

Magnus hums, noncommittal, which just serves to irritate Alec more. “I just didn’t know if he was—you know, someone… important?”

They have their backs to each other while they both sift through a few shelves, so he doesn’t know exactly what expression Magnus is making. “He’s only a customer,” Magnus answers eventually. “Why?”

Alec sighs and reluctantly confesses, “I don’t know. There was just something about him that bothered me. But I don’t know why.”

Magnus makes another noncommittal noise before gasping, “Yes, of course, if we take a bit of—and blend it with some—oh and a base of—”

“This,” Alec says, abruptly standing, holding a Volcano Snail shell. “It’s made of literal iron. What if—”

“That’s brilliant, Alexander,” Magnus says with bright eyes. 

“Okay, the blatant surprise is a little uncalled for,” Alec says, trying not to smile.

Magnus’ eyebrows raise at Alec’s teasing, and Alec is even a little surprised himself. “Definitely not surprised,” Magnus clarifies. “I was looking for the base solution and you were looking for the basin in which to serve it.”

“Yeah,” Alec says, smiling despite himself. “We work well together.”

“We do,” Magnus says, lowering his eyes. Alec can tell he’s trying to feign a casual tone. “Complementary, if you will.”

They finish within the hour, and before Alec calls Rebecca back, Magnus hesitates and says, “Do you want to taste test it?”

Alec wrinkles his nose. “No, gross. Why would I want to do that?”

A flicker of guilt flashes across Magnus’ face. “No reason, don’t mind me.”

Alec stares after him as Magnus takes their concoction to Rebecca, and he can’t get the question out of his head for the rest of the afternoon.

*

There’s a young man waiting outside Alec’s door the following afternoon, and Alec barely hears the faint knocking. The man gives Alec an embarrassed look and says, “Are you the witch?”

Alec shakes his head and gestures across the way. “That would be Magnus. I can take you over.”

The man nods and the more Alec watches him, the more he realizes the man looks ashamed, not embarrassed. He’s got a distinct limp but he’s quiet until finally Alec says, “So what’s your name?”

“Charles, sir.”

Alec huffs out a laugh. “Please don’t call me sir. I’m really not sir worthy.”

The idea that someone is calling the cranky hermit in the woods sir is a little surreal. 

Charles gives a stiff nod in response.

Alec forgets to knock when he reaches the cottage door and gestures for Charles to follow him, walking slowly so he can keep pace with Charles’ labored steps.

Magnus looks up in surprise when he hears Alec in his doorway. “Charles,” Alec explains. “He needs some help.”

“Of course,” Magnus says. “What can I do for you?”

Charles still looks ashamed as he passes Magnus the parchment. “I—I fought. In the war. And I—I’ve been hurt.”

He sounds like he’s forcing the words out, like he wishes he wasn’t saying them.

“You’re looking for pain relief?” Magnus tries.

“No,” Alec says, for no discernible reason. “Or at least not for that kind of pain.”

Charles gives Alec a surprised—but relieved—look. 

“He wants something for the night,” Alec tells Magnus. “When he can’t sleep because of the images he still sees in his mind.”

“Of course,” Magnus says gently. “Let’s see what we can do.”

 Charles nods but still stays silent.

“Needing help isn’t a weakness,” Alec tells him. “It’s actually a sign of strength.”

Charles lowers his eyes and quietly says, “Thank you, sir.”

“No sir, remember?” Alec counters, trying to keep the tone light.

“But you are ‘sir’ worthy,” Charles argues. “Familiars have a significant power too, you know.”

Familiar.

He called Alec a familiar.

Alec stares after him, but Charles has already headed towards the sitting room.

The word rings in his head. Alec stands there, absolutely fucking frozen.

After what seems like hours, Magnus ventures, “Alec?”

Alec turns around slowly, almost terrified of what he’ll see on Magnus’ face. He’s not sure if he’d rather see denial or confirmation.

“Is that true?” he asks.

Magnus’ eyes are wide and his silence speaks volumes.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Magnus looks wary, like he’s not sure what Alec’s next moves are. “Because how do I tell my very antisocial neighbor about the connection we’re supposed to share? How do I explain its significance? It’s not something a witch can explain, Alec. It’s something you’re supposed to feel.”

“I feel,” Alec challenges, and he’s not sure if he’s more insulted or hurt at Magnus’ insinuation.

There are things that fall into place, piece by piece. Why the idea of Magnus’ familiar, or anything that shares a connection to Magnus, has always bothered him. Why he knows things he never learned. Why he knows what Magnus needs and where to find it and when to use it. Why he’s fixated on Magnus’ smile and hair and shoulders and cheekbones—

Well, maybe it doesn’t explain that last bit. 

“So what are you going to do now then?” Magnus asks, and there’s no mistaking the trepidation Alec hears.

He swallows. “I’m—I—I think—” he tries. “I’ll get some air.” He heads towards the back door and doesn’t meet Magnus’ eyes as he passes.

Once outside, he has no idea where to go or what to do. He’s a familiar. How is someone supposed to process that? What does that mean? What does this change?

He’s not sure how long he stays outside but it’s long enough to start to feel cold all over. He glances around the garden, not even sure what he’s looking for or what he’s even trying to do. Focus? Avoid? Keep playing pretend, like he knows what the fuck he’s doing?

A small flower catches his eye several feet away, and he walks over to inspect it. It’s a small, frozen rose, completely out-of-place in the flowers that surround it. It’s not cold enough to be frozen, and there are no other roses that have been affected by some non-existent ice blast.

“You’re beautiful,” he hears from behind him, but Alec doesn’t startle, like maybe he had almost been expecting it.

“What?” he asks, not turning around, still crouched over the frozen flower.

“The flower,” Magnus says. “It’s quite beautiful.”

“Oh,” Alec says, gently tugging the rose out of the ground and slowly rising, finally meeting Magnus’ eyes.

“What should we do with it?” Magnus presses.

“How should I know?” Alec scoffs. He berates himself for taking his mood out on Magnus. Most of this isn’t even his fault. He didn’t choose this, didn’t ask for an inexperienced, ordinary familiar. A mythical spirit or some kind of woodland creature, obviously those would have been way more badass than a boring next-door neighbor.

But Magnus doesn’t take it personally or turn defensive. Instead, he just insists, “I think you do.”

Alec carefully inspects the rose even closer, rotating it and turning it over. “Why is it like this?” he asks finally.

“Because of you,” Magnus explains.

“Me?” he asks with raised eyebrows.

“Yes, you. You influence everything around here.”

Alec doesn’t know how to respond because influence is kind of a huge responsibility.

“The garden, the animals, our customers,” Magnus pauses. “Me.”

Alec still doesn’t know how to respond so he clears his throat and says, “Should we go back inside? Figure out something for Charles?”

Magnus gives him a soft smile. “Let’s go.”

Alec sneaks furtive glances while Magnus finishes the potion, and he doesn’t say much of anything as he helps Charles through the front door. He only glances over his shoulder and says, “Good night, Magnus,” and tries not to feel too guilty about the disappointed look on the witch’s face.

His witch, specifically.

Those are the two words that he fixates on as he stares at his wall that night.

His witch

*

There’s a day, though Alec stopped keeping track a long time ago, when someone shows up that doesn’t have a piece of parchment in hand. He looks angry and violent and nothing like the kind of people Magnus likes to take care of.

The man grits out some threats, Alec performs some kick/punch combo he’s never learned in his life, and the man eventually runs away with a heavily bruised pride (and body, probably). There’s a surge of something unfamiliar coursing through Alec—a need to defend, to protect, and he wonders vaguely if that’s just another thing he has to learn as a witch’s—a familiar. Apparently, it comes with ninja skills, so he’s kind of okay with it. With being a familiar. 

The word is still so foreign to him, but it’s also almost a relief.

He glances up to see Magnus watching from his own doorstep. Despite the distance between them, Alec can see the conflict and remorse written all over Magnus’ face. Alec gives a small wave but then quickly returns to his lonely cabin.

Only an hour later, however, is another knock on the door, and Alec is faced with yet another angry man, but this one holds a crumpled parchment in his hand. 

“Please help, Mr. Witch, please. I don’t have much time,” the man rushes to say.

“Okay,” Alec says immediately. “But you’re looking for the witch across the street.”

“Thank you,” the man sighs.

“Sure. So what’s your name?” Alec asks as he closes his door behind him.

“Henry,” the man answers.

“Okay, and what is it you need help with, Henry?”

“My house—it caught fire. I’ve lost everything. Everything,” Henry explains. “And I know exactly who did it.”

Alec hesitates and pauses in the middle of the road. “Are you here for revenge? That’s not really a thing Magnus can—will—do.”

“Of course not,” Henry chokes out, insulted. “I just want him to admit it.”

“Admit it,” Alec echoes. “You don’t want to make him suffer. You just want him to admit it.”

“Yes,” Henry asks, eyeing Alec suspiciously. “I didn’t think you were in the business of ruining lives. What kind of witch is he?”

“A hot one,” Alec says, defensive, then panics when he hears his words. “Compassionate! A compassionate one, I mean.”

Henry gives another assessing look.

“The words sound… similar,” Alec explains weakly. 

The man shakes his head, apparently unconcerned with Alec’s bizarre slip, then continues to head towards the cottage.

Alec calls out for Magnus as soon as they’re inside, who’s half-naked when he comes down the stairs—stairs that did not exist, stairs that physically can’t exist in a one-floor cottage.

“Uh,” Alec says, eyes focused on Magnus’ bare chest and the two necklaces he’s trying to untangle.

“Oh,” Magnus says, startled. “I didn’t know…” He quickly buttons up his shirt, and Alec stares at his fingers the entire time.

After a few moments, Magnus reaches the bottom stair and asks, “What can I do for you?”

“Henry,” Alec fills in before Henry even has a chance to respond. “Some asshole burned down his house, and he’s looking for something to make him confess.”

Magnus frowns. “I’m sorry, Henry. That’s awful.” He turns to Alec, face serious and no-nonsense. “What are you thinking?”

“Do you have any hibiscus?” Alec asks. “Maybe that—”

“I don’t think that’s strong enough, do you?” Magnus interrupts. “Although if we could find a bluebell—”

“I thought of that,” Alec rejoins, “But I don’t know if they’re strong enough this time of year, especially if—”

“But they could be, if we find enough—”

Henry clears his throat. “Do you mind if I perhaps sit? It was a long trip.”

“Of course,” Magnus tells him, and Alec realizes he’s not the only one that forgot Henry was even in the room.

Alec barely spares Henry another glance before he’s following Magnus into the apothecary, still debating on what they can and can’t do. Alec shouldn’t understand a single word coming out of his mouth, much less Magnus’, but it gives Alec a thrill he’s never really experienced before.

They continue walking until they’re outside, and while they walk around the garden, there’s a brief moment when Alec’s hand brushes against Magnus’, and he pulls away sharply as if he’s been burned. It felt like a burn, but when he looks down at his hand, there’s nothing there. 

Magnus ignores it, or doesn’t feel it maybe, which is a bit disappointing to Alec, but he refocuses on the problem at hand.

“That,” Alec says, pointing to a dark, wide flower growing in patches around one of the narrow trees on the periphery. “That’s what we need.”

“The Black Rainbow Hibiscus,” Magnus muses. “Yes, of course. Especially with the potency of its pollen this time of year.”

Alec can’t help the smile that spreads across his face. Pleasing Magnus, seeing his face light up like that, it’s a rush. In more ways than one. Blood is rushing to more than once place. 

They watch each other for a few long moments, and Alec realizes he’s never felt like this in his life. Then again, he just found out he’s the familiar of the most beautiful person he’s ever seen, so he allows himself the adjustment period.

Alec swallows thickly, physically unable to pull his eyes away from Magnus’.

“We should—we really should start this potion; it could take hours.”

God, hours, he might be in a room with Magnus for hours. Alec follows him back inside and tries to calm his racing heartbeat. He’s not exactly sure what he’s feeling or why he’s feeling it, but he doesn’t want it to stop.

While they wait for the potion to thicken so that they can add a few more ingredients, Alec cautiously says, “So I don’t know what this all means. Am I supposed to like, do things for you now?”

Magnus’ mouth twitches into a smile. “No, unless you’re offering. I could use a cup of tea?”

Alec rolls his eyes. “You know what I mean.”

Magnus sighs and puts down the jar he was holding. “I don’t know, Alexander. I suppose just everything you’ve already been doing.”

Alec figures now is as good as time as any to voice some of the thoughts tugging at the back of his mind. “Have you had one before? A familiar?”

“What? No,” Magnus answers, confused. “That’s not how it works.”

He nods, relieved for some reason. “It’s been bothering me. Since I found out—since I met you, I guess.” He didn’t mean to say the words out loud but they’re out now, and there’s not exactly anything he can do about it.

“What’s bothered you?” Magnus asks, gaze fixed on Alec.

“I don’t know,” he says, even though he absolutely does. “The idea of you having that connection, a strong pull to someone who isn’t me.”

The admission is terrifying, and the words hang there.

“Why?” Magnus asks quietly, shifting so he’s facing Alec and not the forgotten potion.

“I don’t know,” Alec says again, but this time he’s not lying. He doesn’t know why he feels this strongly about the witch that lives across the street from him, a man he only recently met. All he knows is that Magnus is charming and and empathetic and insanely smart and charismatic and so so hot and somehow Alec forgets himself.

Suddenly Alec is inches away from Magnus, and he realizes he crossed the room without even realizing it.

“Magnus?” he whispers, faces only inches apart.

“Yes?” he whispers back.

“Is a witch allowed to—with his familiar, is he allowed—”

But Alec never gets to figure out how he wants to end the question because Magnus is raising up on the balls of his feet, pressing his mouth against Alec’s.

There’s a spark—an actual literal spark—and Alec stumbles backwards.

“What was that?” he gasps.

“I don’t know,” Magnus says, eyes wide. “I’ve never done this before.”

And for some reason, that’s what makes Alec snap. This beautiful man, this powerful, generous witch has a connection with just one person in the world, and that person is Alec, and the intensity of that concept is too much to handle.

He lunges forward and grips Magnus’ face, probably a little too tightly—but his mouth was just on fire so the enthusiasm is probably warranted.

He pulls Magnus in for another kiss and it’s electrifying. He doesn’t pull away this time, and Magnus’ hands eventually settle on Alec’s hips, grasping tightly. The sparks are still there, although now it’s maybe more figurative than literal. Alec is seconds from nudging Magnus backwards, not particularly concerned with the fragile nature of half the items in the room, when the tinny bell rings to let them know the potion has congealed to its intended thickness.

They separate and Alec is desperately relieved to see the relaxed smile on Magnus’ face, eyes still partially closed.

“The hibiscus,” Alec murmurs.

“Yes,” Magnus says quietly. “Let’s finish it for Harry.”

“Henry,” Alec corrects with a laugh.

“That’s what I said.”

Alec reluctantly pulls out of Magnus personal space and allows him to finish brewing. He stares at him the entire time, and there’s a sense of calm that settles over him. He’s been unsettled since he first saw Magnus and now he’s finally starting to figure out why.

*

An indeterminate amount of time later—because Alec doesn’t keep track of knocks or customers or days anymore—he rushes to grab his things and head to Magnus’ when he hears a knock at the door. His face falls because he and Magnus were supposed to have a quiet evening of doing… things—but apparently another poor soul needs Magnus’ help, and Magnus has never been able to say no.

Not that Alec wants him to. Every time he and Magnus work on a potion, either perfecting one he’s made before or creating brand new recipes, there’s a sense of purpose and satisfaction. He feels good about what he’s contributed to another human life, and he basks in the intensity of a connection so few will ever have the privilege to experience.

When he opens the door, however, his annoyance fades at the sight of a young man with a fake smile. Alec’s met enough people now to know when they’re masking a pain they try to not impose on others.

“Hi,” he starts, then falters. “You’re not the witch, are you?”

“No, but I can take you to him,” Alec says as he starts his walk across the street. “And you are?”

“Michael,” he answers. “I’m hoping he can help me with a—a breakup.”

Alec looks at him out of the corner of his eye, but he already knows Michael isn’t here for a love potion or something brewed for revenge. He’s just another lost bird flocking to the man who never turns anyone away. “Magnus can help.”

Michael nods. “And you are?”

“His familiar,” Alec answers without thinking. He hesitates and continues, “His boyfriend. Both.”

“His neighbor,” Michael adds.

Alec shrugs. “I’m a lot of things.”

When they reach the door, Alec steps through and places his coat on the rack, toeing off his boots. “Magnus, I’m home,” he calls out, and Magnus appears in the living room only a few moments later.

“Ah, and with a friend,” he says, leaning in to give Alec a kiss on the cheek. “How can we help?”

“My girlfriend. She broke up with me—rather harshly, too. And I just want to, I don’t know, feel good about myself again.”

“Healing takes time,” Magnus says gently.

“It’s not really about healing,” Michael clarifies. “I liked who I was before. I was happy with myself. But she wasn’t and she tried to change me and fix me, and now that she’s gone, I want to be that person again.”

“And you need a little confidence?” Magnus deduces.

“I need a lot of confidence,” Michael admits with a sad smile. “But if you can give me a little, I can work on the rest.”

“I think we can help,” he tells Michael. “Would you mind giving us a little time?”

Alec remembers when Magnus using we and us was terrifying, and now it makes his heart skip a beat.

“Sure,” Michael says, and Alec and Magnus make their way back to the apothecary.

“What are you thinking?” Magnus asks him, already lost in his thoughts.

“I was thinking—” but he doesn’t finish, already pressing Magnus against a glass cabinet and leaning down for a kiss.

Magnus’s response is muffled, but he’s kissing back almost immediately.

A few glass bottles shake in the cabinet behind them, though Alec really couldn’t care less. He’ll find new Tibetan dirt somewhere. Probably Tibet.

Magnus pulls away suddenly. “The Candy Cane Oxalis,” he says on an exhale. “That would work.”

“The what?” Alec says, resting his forehead against Magnus’. As much as he loves helping Magnus, he loves kissing him more, and this is not going the way he’d hoped.

“You smell like peppermint,” Magnus says, not even trying to move away from where he’s gripped tightly in Alec’s arms. “Which made me think of candy canes, which made me think of the Oxalis.”

Alec groans inwardly. “Do you want me to grab them from the garden?”

“In a minute,” Magnus whispers.

They watch each other for a few seconds, and Alec’s stomach swoops. “What?” he asks.

“I don’t know what I did before,” Magnus says. “The way you inspire me—how did I do it before you came along?”

Alec smiles and leans down for another kiss.

This is so powerful—this is all so powerful—and Alec’s not sure how he did it before Magnus came along, either.

*

There aren’t too many customers who show up at Alec’s door after that. Well, there might be, but he’s seldom there to answer it.

Instead, there’s a sign that says No one lives here—If you’re looking for the charming witch, or possibly his surly charming boyfriend, please look behind you