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The Only Way

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Alec was lying awake for the second time that week. Last time it was because of Magnus. Alec had trouble falling asleep in the warlock’s guest bedroom because he had been mulling over the man’s outright flirting and upfront confession.

You’ve unlocked something in me, he said.

You’ve confused the hell out of me, Alec thought.

This time… Well, this time his sleeplessness was also partly because of Magnus. Someone must have told him Alec got injured by the Forsaken because not five minutes later Magnus was checking Alec for cuts and places of possible infections. Alec was still not used to that overwhelming feeling of Magnus’ magic over his skin, tingly and warm and somehow protective. Magnus’ expression however turned out to be less kind than his hands once Alec confessed about his recent marriage proposal to Lydia. Magnus’ eyes suddenly lost their always underlying humor. Sure, he congratulated Alec, but it was in the flattest tone Alec has ever heard him use in Alec’s presence. Gone was the usual spark and teasing, replaced by disappointment and… was that pity?

The conversation was unsatisfyingly short and after it ended, Alec was left feeling insecure and rattled, like he’d just made a mistake. The most frustrating thing about it was that he couldn’t figure out what went wrong and why he felt this way.

And then there was Jace, who came running from wherever he had just been to with Clary only turn from worried to pissed when Alec shrugged away his concerns and told him about Lydia. That in turn made Alec angry. How dare Jace disapprove when partly it was him Alec did it for? So that Jace could be with Clary, so that at least Jace could enjoy his freedom without the burden of watching their family name turn to mud! If anyone, Alec expected Jace to be supportive of his decision, to stand by him in thought if not in body. Yes, that latter was part of the problem. Jace was never there anymore. At one point has Alec stopped blaming all of it on Clary. It had been Jace’s decision to leave Alec, to pick Clary’s side every time an argument came up (and it always did). It was like they were no longer parabatai. Oh, except for the excruciating five minutes Alec had to endure while Jace was kissing Clary and his emotions sparked through the parabatai bond like they were about to explode. That too was a new thing. In all the years of being bonded to Jace, Alec has never felt Jace’s feelings so clear and strong. Would it be always like this from now on? If Clary were to stay in their lives (and Alec had no doubt she would just to make his life more difficult), would Alec be constantly getting these flashes of sheer joy that were not directed at him or caused by him coming through the bond?

It would be a different kind of torture, knowing that he had nothing to do with Jace’s happiness anymore. In fact lately it seemed like they were from two different planets and didn’t speak the same language. Gone were the times a matter could be settled just by a shared look, no words needed. Gone was the easy camaraderie and effortless banter of the pre-Clary times.

Alec had no doubt in his mind that there would be little chance of Jace getting those emotional flashes from him throught the bond because of Lydia. Alec was not stupid. His feelings for Lydia were purely practical and Alec was certain they would stay that way. He liked Lydia well enough. She reminded Alec of himself. She seemed no nonsense, rational and straightforward. That was one of the reasons Alec was sure this whole marriage thing could work between them. He tried not to think about the physical side of it. Of actually being with her. Of his parents’ expectations of children… No, he would face that challenge when it presented itself. For now, he would just have to put on a brave face and stand his ground against Jace and Izzy and prove to them this was a good thing.

Izzy… He knew his sister would disapprove, but he never imagined she would be so harsh and unapologetic about it.

You’re making the biggest mistake of your life, Alec, she said.

He was doing what was right! Why couldn’t she undertand that?

Yes, Alec knew about her implications about him and Magnus. Magnus… who kept turning up in Alec’s thoughts more than he cared to admit… He understood what Izzy was getting at. There was something there. Magnus was just so different from anyone Alec has ever met. Magnus was so far from being a Shadowhunter (and a respectable one for that matter) as one could possibly get. His glittery being seemed larger than life itself. On one hand there were all those double entendres, digs at Jace and outright shocking outfits, but on the other hand Alec could tell that Magnus Bane had his priorities straight. Alec had no doubt in his mind when it came down to make a choice, Magnus would always do the right thing. He didn’t have to help them save Luke. Hell, he certainly shouldn’t have cared if Alec was injured from the Forsaken. Yet he did.

Alec liked his honesty. He knew most people would most likely not describe Magnus as honest, but to him Magnus’s whole being seemed true. Not just as a person was he truly himself, but his words spoke of wisdom and rang true. Whenever Alec was around Magnus he grew confused. Not so much because of his cryptic words, but because of how being around Magnus made him feel. Just the other day Alec was practically babbling just after a few cocktails. He shared things with the warlock he’s never shared with anyone before. He actually talked. About work and his family and everything and nothing. Magnus seemed keen to listen and looked like he understood. Most people did not understand. All his life other Shadowhunters did not seem to care about Alec’s company. It has always been Jace and Izzy who got the attention with their likeable personalities and effortless confidence.

For once it felt good to be wanted. With Magnus Alec found the conversation to flow easily. No awkward pauses, no disinterest. In fact Magnus laughed at Alec’s sardonic jokes and seemed to find him generally amusing. Sure, sometimes he might have been laughing at Alec, but mostly they just got along so well. Alec felt comfortable talking to Magnus. In fact, there was a level of trust there that Alec never showed to complete strangers before. It was disconcerting and also thrilling.

Alec was excited when Lydia said Magnus would come to the Institute. Nervous, but excited. And Magnus kept looking at Alec like he was something special! Like something unique and precious. Just take their talk in the training room! Magnus seemed to be able to tune in to Alec’s emotions like it was second nature to him. Alec didn’t even really have to explain what he was thinking and Magnus just got it.

Do what’s in your heart.

Well, Alec did just that. His family was in his heart. He did what he did for his family. So that Jace and Izzy wouldn’t have to make these kinds of decisions. So that Max could grow up being proud of being a Lightwood. So that his parents would stop being shunned by other Shadowhunter families.

But Alec was selfish too. He didn’t just do it for the others. He wanted to be the Head of the New York Institute one day. He wanted to be the leader that his father never believed he could be. And Lydia was the key to that. Together – he and Jace and Izzy - they could do this. They would stop Valentine and his Forsaken. They would restore the Lightwood name.

Alec could do this.

It was the only way, wasn’t it?