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In the Sin Bin

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Magnus jolted awake from the fists banging on his apartment door.

He tumbled out of bed and directly on Chairman Meow’s tail, earning a deep scratch across his ankles for the misstep. He winced and limped his way to the door, throwing the lock and opening it.

Ragnor had his fist up to hit the door again and nearly jabbed Magnus in the eye when the door was suddenly open. Magnus dodged the accidental punch and glared at his two best friends in the world. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I told you he forgot,” Ragnor muttered to Catarina.

“It’s your morning for breakfast,” Catarina reminded him. “But I knew you’d probably forget—as usual—so I picked up pastries on the way here.”

Magnus surveyed the tray of coffees in Ragnor’s hand, and the bursting bags in Catarina’s and sighed. He stepped out of the way and gestured for them to come inside. “Remind me why we can’t do this at a restaurant.”

Catarina kissed him on the cheek. “Because I always end up overtipping to make up for Ragnor’s prickly nature.”

“I’m not prickly,” Ragnor insisted, in a very prickly voice.

“You are,” Magnus and Catarina answered at the same time.

Ragnor frowned at that.

“Make yourself at home,” Magnus said. “Let me brush my teeth at least.”

When he emerged from the bathroom—breath fresh, face washed, and dressed in the low-slung jeans and tight tees he preferred outside work—Catarina had everything spread out on the table and Ragnor had his feet up on one of the other chairs as he scrolled through his phone.

Magnus swiped the cell out of Ragnor’s hands and set it face down on the table. “The reason we do this is to talk.”

“You were primping, not talking.”

“Well, I’m here now.” Magnus held out his hand. “Caffeinate me.”

Catarina pushed a cup into his hand and took the seat next to him, filling plates that she passed on to Ragnor and him. Magnus loved everything about her.

“So let’s talk,” she said. “How are things going with your new client?”

Magnus stopped with the croissant half-way to his mouth. “I’m going to murder him before the contract is up.”

Ragnor snatched Magnus’ cup from where it sat and peered at the label. “I don’t remember ordering melodrama with the vanilla flavoring this morning.”

Magnus stole his cup back and gulped down as much coffee as he could without singeing his throat. “You think you’re funny. Spoiler alert: you’re not.”

“Who is this new client?”

“A hockey player for the Angels,” was all Magnus had to say.

Ragnor shook his head and gave a loud snort.

“He can’t be that bad,” Catarina tried.

“He can and he is. He’s a closeted hockey player who hates the sight of me.”

“I’ve never understood the term ‘closeted,’” Ragnor said around bites of his scone. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Magnus narrowed his eyes and studied Ragnor. “It makes perfect sense. As much sense as a word can possibly make.”

“It doesn’t,” Ragnor insisted.

Magnus let that go. “Anyway, I hate the sight of him too. But his contract is going to make me a sum of money that will make my personal shopper a wealthy woman as well. I just have to get through three months without choking him.”

Ragnor threw his head back and laughed. “For fucks sake, Magnus, you’re going to fall in love with him. I can already see it.”

Magnus blanched. The thought of being involved with anyone like Alec—let alone Alec himself—made Magnus’ skin crawl. “I don’t think you’re listening to what I’m saying….”

“Bla, bla, bla,” Ragnor intoned. “He’s boorish and rude and physically fit and—”

Catarina’s eyes were dancing with mirth. “And a challenge. You are motivated by a challenge, Magnus.”

“I hate both of you too,” Magnus answered without any heat behind it. He slumped against the back of his chair, frowning. “But not nearly as much as him.” He clenched his jaw and spoke through his teeth. “I loathe him.”

The room went quiet.

Ragnor settled his feet on the floor and leaned forward, his eyes locked to Magnus’. “Wait. You’re serious aren’t you?”

“Magnus,” Catarina said in a quiet voice. “You have your walls and your bravado, but you don’t actually hate anyone.”

Magnus pursed his lips. “There’s a list. It’s a short one, but it exists.”

Ragnor poked at Catarina’s arm. “Don’t forget Camille.”

“She deserves to be the list,” Catarina allowed.

“The way he looks at me….” Magnus hesitated for a moment, unsure how much to say. But these were his friends. He trusted them enough for him to be truthful. “He makes me think of ugly things. Makes me feel shame that I’m long past. I can’t condone behavior like his in today’s world. Things are different now. You’re older than I am, Ragnor. You know.”

That earned a slight smile from his friend. “Thank you for pointing out how ancient I am, Magnus.”

Catarina sat forward. “Are you sure you’ve read him right?”

Her eyes were kind and the hands circled around her cup were used to heal. She was too good for this world. Too good to be one of Magnus’ friends, let alone a mutual favorite.

Magnus patted her hand. “I’ve met men like him too many times not to recognize the mask he wears.”

“You know that usually comes from self-loathing,” she pointed out.

The thought made Magnus uncomfortable, so he pushed it away. He sat tall in his chair. “I don’t have time to psychoanalyze or fix him—he’s my client. My job is to make him money and in the process make myself more money. I can do that and not like him. In fact, I think it may be a stronger partnership, because I won’t let any feelings of friendship or sympathy take over during negotiations.”

Ragnor smirked. “You are going to be ruthless. Any chance you can tape this for me?”




Alec sat in front of Magnus’ office fiddling with his tie, adjusting the knot to make sure it sat in the right place. He wore suits often enough—before games and for charity events usually—but picking out his clothes this morning had involved Izzy showing up at six am to ensure that what he chose showed off his physique as well. Displaying the merchandise, was the phrase she’d used. It was as if every success he’d had in life had been turned on its head to become torture devices, personalized to him, in the last few days.

But early morning wardrobe sessions and whether or not his biceps looked massive enough—Izzy’s main concern—weren't what he was most worried about today. He was positive that he was walking into this meeting only to be ridiculed. He needed this deal to go through. Yet he could be eliminated from any serious negotiating position because of Magnus Bane.

“You look nice, Alec,” Clary whispered from behind her desk.

Alec gave her a small smile and began to twist his cufflinks, his anxiety amping up. He scowled. “Is Bane here?”

Clary nodded. “He’s meeting with Mrs. Herondale right now. She wanted to hear how he managed to secure a meeting with Gallant Group.”

Alec raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Magnus. And Gallant. It’s kind of a big deal.”

He moved from the waiting area couch to a seat in front of Clary’s desk, his interest getting the better of him. “Why? Aren’t they a company you usually work with?”

“No one at IE has been able to break through there. Gallant is huge and opening up negotiations with them will impact every agent here.” She shook her head and smiled fondly. “I still don’t know how Magnus managed it.”

Alec stilled, trying to process this new piece of information—that didn’t reconcile with anything he thought he knew about Magnus—when he heard the decisive clicking of heels approaching. He glanced up to find Imogen Herondale cutting through the sea of cubicles to the edges of the floor where the private offices were located, with Magnus at her side.

Magnus looked…different today. His suit still had a shine to it, but it was classic, tailored. His hair was styled instead of loose, slicked away from his face. His eyes were smudged with a hint of kohl and his lips had no gloss, just a natural pinkness—

That was a detail Alec wasn’t noticing. He just wasn’t.

He glowered and stood as Imogen glided over to him.

“Alec,” Imogen welcomed. She outstretched her arms and Alec leaned down to kiss both her cheeks. “I trust Magnus is handling you well?”

Alec cleared his throat, glancing over her shoulder. Magnus was tight-lipped. Silent. “We’ll see how today goes.”

“We will indeed,” she said.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Herondale and Mr. Bane,” Clary cut in. “The contingent from Gallant is at the main desk.”

Magnus nodded to Clary with an air of professionalism Alec would’ve sworn a man like Magnus wasn’t capable of. “Please see them up. Alec, if you’ll follow me? We have a conference room booked on the top floor.”

 Alec followed Magnus, noting that the way Magnus moved had shifted subtly from the last time he'd seen him. This was a man in his domain. A man in charge. Realizing that he could recognize that change in Magnus was…infuriating. Alec furrowed his brow.

Imogen fell in step with Alec as they walked to the elevators. “So I hear this may be the year the Angels bring the cup back to New York.”

Alec ripped his gaze away from his study of Magnus and glanced at her, holding the elevator door so she could step inside. “I try not to talk about it.”

“Superstition and sports,” she scoffed and entered.

Magnus was in front of the button panel, Imogen slid into position at the center facing the doors and Alec went to her left, leaning casually against the wall, even though he felt anything but relaxed. Alec took a deep breath as the elevator swished into motion, swiftly taking them to the top floor. Each second of continued quiet ate at Alec’s nerves.

“Are you joining us in the meeting, Imogen?” Alec asked to break the silence.

“No. I trust Magnus has this deal in hand. I want to say hello then I'll leave you to it.”

Alec found his gaze wandering to Magnus again, trying to see him the way other people did. Clary adored him. Izzy insisted Magnus would be good for him. Imogen Herondale, the owner and CEO of one the biggest entertainment agencies in the world, trusted him enough to lead a meeting with a game-changing client—on his own. But Alec couldn’t trust him….

Could he?

“I hope to see you again soon,” Imogen said when the doors opened.

He tried to push thoughts of Magnus aside, leaning down to kiss her cheek again. “Likewise.”

“This way, Alec,” Magnus offered, sweeping his hand to the right.

Alec paused before he stepped into the hallway, the words catching in his throat—feeling foreign, but necessary—before he got them out. “Thank you.”

Magnus simply gave him a clipped nod in response.

Alec's frown deepened.

This was the most civil he and Magnus had been to each other since they’d met, yet something about this interaction was off. Magnus wasn't glaring at him or challenging him or having any kind of reaction to Alec. Magnus was detached, dispassionate. This was exactly the type of relationship Alec had been hoping for with a new agent, but with Magnus it felt wrong.

Alec’s thoughts began to swirl out of control, and he swore he could still feel the rushed ascent of the elevator below his feet. He was worried about his role today. Scared of fucking this opportunity up. Getting a contract from Gallant would make the difference between him fighting through financial issues for the remainder of the season or being able to focus solely on his game. This negotiation was exactly why he needed an agent, and he couldn’t trust Magnus, he tried to tell himself. He didn’t even like him—

“Alec?” Magnus said.

Alec snapped back to the present, eyes meeting Magnus’, and he must have looked as frightened as he felt in that moment, because something made Magnus’ features soften.

“We’re this way,” Magnus repeated.

Alec nodded and felt the edges of his sudden panic blurring, fading…because of the quiet confidence Magnus radiated. No, he thought. It couldn’t be this man pulling Alec back to solid ground. It couldn’t.

He hated Magnus.

Alec scrubbed a hand over his freshly shaved chin and stared at Magnus, trying to decipher how he really felt. Magnus tipped his head, narrowed his eyes, and opened his mouth as if he was going to say something, then abruptly turned on his heel without saying another word.

“Shit.” Alec found his feet again and followed Magnus into the glass-walled conference room.

“Take the seat at the head of the table,” Magnus instructed, his lips drawn into a thin line again. He removed the chair at the other end and motioned for one of the assistants to wheel it out of the room. “You just have to sit there and look the part. There won't be much you have to say.”

The same assistant came back a minute later, pushing in a cart with glass bottles of water and earthen cups that matched the rustic yet refined decor of IE's international headquarters. Magnus thanked the assistant and went to setting the cups on the table, leaving a bottle of water next to each. But when he got to Alec’s spot he unscrewed the lid on the bottle and filled the cup, sliding it over to Alec.

Alec took a deep drink. He didn't know what to say or how he was supposed to talk to Magnus when he wasn't yelling at him. “You look, uh, different today.”

“Now is not the time, Alexander,” Magnus snapped.

Alec’s face flamed but he managed to nod and shut up.

Magnus flexed his ringless fingers, cracking his knuckles, then sighed and took the seat next to Alec. He tipped his head in the direction of the elevator bank, where Imogen had lingered to greet the Gallant group.

“That’s Lazlo coming through the elevator now,” Magnus said. “He’s their head of endorsements. The man behind him is Tomas—their in-house lawyer. Lazlo enjoys skiing and frequent visits to his mistress. Tomas prefers honey in his tea instead of sugar and has an awful taste in shoes but a flawless one in art.”

Alec spared a glance at the two men, then refocused on Magnus. “How do you know all this?”

“It's my job to know,” Magnus said simply. He arched an eyebrow. “The shoe thing, though? That one is just obvious.”

Before Alec could fully process that he was smiling at something Magnus Bane had said, Magnus tipped his chin in the direction of the woman speaking with Imogen. “And that is Dorothea Rollins, the chief marketing officer for Gallant. You don't need to know anything about her. Like you, she won't have much to say at this meeting.”

Alec took another drink. He had one part to play in this meeting, he could do this. And he was beginning to think that maybe Magnus did have this whole thing under control. He eased back in his chair. “Is it normal for a CMO to be at one of these meetings?”

Magnus smirked at that. “No. It’s not.”

The team entered the conference room and Alec stood as introductions were made, noting the way Magnus greeted the men with graciousness but undeniable authority. He was slightly warmer with Dorothea, but the difference was so subtle Alec didn’t know if he’d imagined it.

With the formalities over, Lazlo huffed into his seat. “Let’s get started then. We’ve seen the cost-benefit analysis and market reports you sent over, Magnus. Is there anything you’d like to add to it at this point?”

“What I sent over is more than adequate for a first conversation,” Magnus said coolly.

Lazlo leaned back in his chair. Eyeing Alec. Checking out the “merchandise.” Alec barely restrained a shudder.

“Frankly,” Lazlo said, his gaze sliding back to Magnus, “I simply don’t see the value in someone who’s just a goalie to our brand.”

“And the sum you’re seeking is outrageous,” Tomas added.

On the other side of the table from her employees, next to Magnus, Dorothea didn’t appear to be paying attention to anything being said. She was scrawling something into her cell with a stylus.

“Then why come here at all, Lazlo?” Magnus asked.

“Professional courtesy?”

Magnus narrowed his eyes, the kohl amping the intensity of their gold-green color. “Try again.”

“Of course we’re interested in Mr. Lightwood, but we can’t pay you what you’re asking for.”

Magnus waved a hand in the air. “Tell me what you can offer then.”

Lazlo leaned forward at this. “Half your proposed amount with additional restrictions on future image rights and approval over any further endorsement deals offered to Mr. Lightwood by other companies.”

Magnus barked out a laugh that had everyone turning in his direction besides Dorothea. “I’m sorry. Was I not supposed to laugh there? I thought we’d entered the comedic portion of the evening.”

Lazlo’s face went red. “I don’t think you understand what you’re negotiating here—”

“I don’t think you understand what you’re negotiating here,” Magnus interrupted without a beat of hesitation. “Alec Lightwood’s name is already in the press—as a sympathetic victim of fraud instead of an entitled, wife-beating, untouchable god of sports. He comes from roots that resonate with middle america, and has an image that ties back to the wholesomeness of home and family, yet let’s your older female demographic swoon. Men pay millions a year to look like him, and regardless that they never will, they will continue shelling out that money seeking a hint of what his body looks like. The Blazing Angels—beloved in this city and across the country—are on every commentators list to win the championship this year. Alec will be out of your price range in less than three months. We are only taking on two select endorsements, one of which has already been contracted and shot, with four other meetings today. Alec doesn’t need you—you need him. But as his agent, I’m inclined to advise him that a partnership that doesn’t value his worth as a whole isn’t the best fit.”

Alec had to rein in his shock at how persuasive Magnus was. How aggressive. He looked to Lazlo to see his reaction and the man’s lips were moving as if he was trying to form a coherent reply but couldn’t. Alec let a slow smile go.

“And let’s not forget,” Magnus continued, “with Alec you also get the benefit of opening communication channels with other Angels’ players. Something you haven’t achieved on your own, Lazlo. But, as you said, he is just a goalie.” Magnus held Lazlo’s gaze for a beat of silence, then looked at his watch. “Well, look at that. It’s time for you to go.”

“It’s what?” Lazlo sputtered.

Magnus stood, smoothing his jacket. “I’ll have my assistant see you out. Thank you for your time. You know where to leave a message if there’s any other business we have to discuss. But, at this time, we don’t.”

Alec stumbled to his feet, feeling as surprised at the abrupt ending as Lazlo and Tomas looked.

But Magnus wore his smile with ease, taking Dorothea’s hands between his when she stood. “It’s been lovely seeing you again, Dot. Please give my best to Jerry.”

“I will.” The Gallant CMO patted Magnus on the arm. “And I’ll be in touch soon.”

Magnus didn’t follow Lazlo, Tomas and Dorothea out, and Alec remained where he was—frozen to the spot. The group was met at the elevator by Clary, who shot a bewildered expression at Alec. Alec could only shrug.

Alec stuffed his hands in his pockets and faced Magnus. “That was…not what I expected.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Magnus replied, his tone just as cold as it had been with Lazlo.

“It was,” Alec said sincerely. He tracked Magnus’ refined movements around the conference room as he cleared the table. “What if they start calling around? To verify what you told them?”

“It’s all true.”

“I’m wholesome?” Alec challenged.

Magnus filled a cup with water, took a drink and faced Alec. “That is the image you’re going for, right? A finely-crafted facade that placates those with fragile sensibilities?”

Alec’s heart thudded in his chest. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m quite sure you do.”

There was only one thing Magnus could be alluding to, and years of denial and lies made Alec’s self-preservation instinct kick in without thought. His throat had gone dry, but he could hear the venom in his reply. “How did you know? Did Izzy—”

Magnus cut him off. “Despite what you may think, your sister is a professional. Neither Clary nor Simon said anything either. Your deeply seated self-hatred is masked quite well—if one doesn’t scratch too far past the surface. And it appears as if you invite very few close enough to get a hint of what desires lie beneath.”

Alec seethed. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I know painfully well what I’m talking about. But that doesn’t matter. You’re the one in the closet, and it looks like you are more than happy to stay there. So as your agent, it is my job to secure contracts based on the image you can live with, that will make you the most money.”

Alec stammered, struggling to reply. He wanted to answer honestly and tell Magnus that he wasn’t okay with this. That this wasn’t the life he wanted at all, and he didn’t know how to escape this prison he’d built for himself. He knew now that Magnus wasn’t simply competent, he was gifted at this job, and that if Alec could find a way to trust him then they could make this partnership work….

But the restrained fury in Magnus’ clenched jaw made Alec stop cold.

It didn’t matter what he thought of Magnus.

Magnus hated him.

Alec pulled his shoulders back, meeting Magnus’ unflinching stare. “It’s all about the money, right?”

Magnus gave a dark laugh and turned his back on Alec. “Apparently it is. Clary will show you out. I’ll be in touch when I hear from Gallant.”