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In the Sin Bin

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If Alec had a comfort level when it came to bars, then Taki’s was closer to it than Pandemonium had been.

Although, to be fair, Taki’s was more diner than nightclub. It was one large room with booths on one edge and a scarred, wooden bar on the other with a cutout leading to the kitchen behind it. The tables and chairs used for restaurant service during the day were stacked in a corner—making room for more people than was probably allowable by New York fire codes. But Alec could get a burger here—a good burger—and that pretty much sealed the deal for him. He was having a good time. At a bar.

With Magnus.

“Is that really something you should be eating the night before a game?” Magnus chastised him, leaning forward on the stool next to Izzy.

Alec restrained a smile and took a grotesque bite out of the sandwich as he pretended to stare ferociously at Magnus.

He’d thought Magnus had been kidding last night when he’d said that Izzy and Clary didn’t need to know they’d been right. But Magnus had arrived at Taki’s like a firework—sparkly, loud, and ready to go off. So Alec had gone with it. Really, he and Magnus were having too much fun convincing Izzy they still hated each other. Izzy was endearing when frustrated, and she always caught on to things he didn’t want her to know…. And Alec was having real fun for once. He just wanted to tease her for a bit longer.

Izzy glanced between the two of them—she was way too intelligent and way too suspicious—then downed the rest of her drink, immediately waving the bartender over for another. With Izzy’s attention on the bartender, Magnus winked at him—this attempt at a wink more than a suave move—and Alec nearly choked as he tried to stifle a laugh.

He set his burger down and wiped his hands, composing himself. “What’s the name of Simon’s band tonight?”

Izzy poked at the ice cubes in her fresh drink with her straw. “Greedo’s Revenge, I think.”

“So Simon is Team Han Shot First, huh?” Alec said, not expecting either Izzy or Magnus to get the joke.

But Magnus giggled and Izzy’s head snapped around, eyeing him. Magnus peered over his own shoulder as if he were looking for the source of the sound as well. Izzy’s gaze slowly came back to Alec. “I don’t know what that means.”

Magnus had a hand clamped over his mouth, trying not to laugh, and Alec had to look away to keep his cool. “Not important, Iz.”

Izzy turned to look at Magnus again, and Magnus pulled himself together with flawless grace. “Well, this has been…interesting, but I love a hot piece of meat in my mouth as much as my client seems to, so I’m going to see what’s on the menu for tonight. I’ll find you later. Maybe.”

Izzy watched as Magnus walked into the crowd. “I don’t think he was talking about burgers.”

“Whatever,” Alec answered. Lamely. He was finding it much harder to deliver good comebacks now that his blood wasn’t boiling with rage at the mere sight of Magnus.

Izzy narrowed her eyes. “What is going on between you two?”

Alec shrugged and finished off the rest of his burger to hide his smile.

“I thought things had changed between you and Magnus.”

“I told you—I respect his skill. I don’t have to like him to work with him.”

“Huh,” Izzy said with unnerving calm. “Magnus said the same thing to me.”

Shit. If he sat here for too much longer he was going to be found out. Where was his partner in crime? He was much better at this when he had Magnus’ sharp tongue to work off of.

“I gotta…. I’m going to….” Alec stammered, sliding his plate away. He hitched a thumb over his shoulder and stumbled off his bar stool. “Yeah. I’m going to join the party.”

Alec ignored Izzy calling out for him, because now he definitely was smiling. There was no way he was going to be able to make it through the night without Izzy finding out. But he’d have more fun while it lasted.

He pushed through the crowd, at least a head taller than everyone else, searching for Clary and spotting her in one of the booths near the stage.

“Congrats on Gallant,” Clary said as he slid into the booth with her. He slung an arm over her shoulder and kissed the top of her head.

“Thanks, Clary.”

“So what’s next with the contract?”

“It’s going to be a few more days for the actual contract to be ready for me to sign, but Magnus said they’ve already contacted him with a potential shoot date for the first campaign. Looks like it will happen while I’m in LA. Magnus is planning on flying out if I’m still on the road when it happens.”

Clary took a sip of her drink. “You seem okay with that. Considering you—”

“Hate him?” Alec finished for her. He was barely maintaining one pretend front tonight. He leaned in. “Don’t tell Simon or Izzy quite yet, but I may not hate him as much anymore.”

Clary lifted an eyebrow. “As much?”

“Not at all.”

“I knew you’d eventually like him.” Clary beamed. “And why can’t I tell Izzy this?”

“She was right.”

“Gotcha. This was Magnus’ idea wasn’t it?”

“Maybe.”

Clary shook her head, fondly. “You two are going to be so dangerous working together.”

Alec couldn’t disagree.

He took stock of the empty booth and glanced around the club again. “So where’s Simon?”

“Warming up in the men’s bathroom. This place isn’t really designed for live music. Hey, could you do me a favor? The waitress dropped off Simon’s drink but he hasn’t been back to the table since she came by. Could you take it to him?”

“Sure. I’ll be back in five.”

Alec grabbed the full glass in the middle of the table and cut through the main floor, heading for the back. Izzy was still at the bar, chatting with one of Simon’s band members. Clary was holding their booth for when Simon started playing. And Magnus…. Alec scanned the room, searching for the electric blue of the tunic he was wearing and found him in the corner by the bathrooms with his lips at the neck of…a woman?

Alec stopped short, sloshing some of the drink on the front of his shirt.

 

****

 

So maybe Magnus wasn’t as over the dark, noisy bar scene as he’d said to Clary last night.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked Jennifer, brushing a dark strand of hair away from the lipstick she’d just reapplied. “It’s the least I can do.”

Her eyes were locked to his lips and her fingers twined in his bracelets, dragging him closer. “I’m actually heading out to another club with friends. You can join—”

“Hey, Magnus.”

Magnus looked up to find his client hovering with a sweating drink in his hand, a wet spot on the front of his shirt and his brow furrowed. Magnus pulled away from Jennifer. “Alec! This is Jennifer.”

“Jessica,” the woman corrected.

“Forgive me,” Magnus said with sincerity. “Alec, Jessica.”

She gave him an easy smile. “It’s fine, Magnus. It was loud in the club’s bathroom.” She circled an arm around his waist and surveyed Alec. “So how do you two know each other?”

“I’m Alec’s agent, darling.”

“Magnus, you’re an agent?! And Alec…you are?” she cooed. Then her eyes went wide. “Oh my god, are you that actor that just got cast in that fantasy series based on those books?”

Alec narrowed just his left eye, as he seemed to do when he was dubious. It was…alarmingly disarming.

“What? No. I play for the Blazing Angels.”

Jessica stood tall, flipping her hair off her shoulder and pushing out her chest. “An athlete? You two aren’t interested in maybe, I don’t know, sharing…me?”

“Oh. My. Fuck.” Alec gave a long exhale, looking completely scandalized.

“While I applaud your creative thinking skills, Jessica,” Magnus cut in. “Alec’s and my relationship is purely professional.” He smirked at Alec. He’d enjoyed his time at Taki’s tonight, mostly because of the banter between he and Alec. “And there is the small matter that he hates me and I hate him.”

Alec shrugged. “So there’s that.”

“Hate sex can be so hot,” she insisted.

Alec’s cheeks went red, absolutely flamed. Magnus couldn’t help but think how innocent Alec looked in the moment. How unguarded and real.

He couldn’t help but wonder what Alec looked like when he was completely vulnerable….

Magnus shook his head to clear it and spared Alec further embarrassment. “We’re just going to go over here.”

Alec scrubbed a hand over his stubble as he chuckled. “I think that’s a good idea.”

 

****

 

“Clary wanted me to bring this to you,” Alec said as he tried to push the now-warm drink into Simon’s hands.

“Can’t,” Simon replied. “I need my fingers.”

Alec noted that Simon didn’t have a guitar or his phone or even any sheet music, then he surveyed the unkempt bathroom…. And he didn’t want to think anymore about what Simon needed his fingers for.

Alec took a sip of the drink since Simon didn’t want it. He cringed as the piney flavor hit his tongue. Gin. Gross.

But he took another drink anyway to ease the confusion swirling in his brain. “So I, uh, ran into Magnus out there. Practically making out with a woman.”

Simon laughed. “Only one? Slow night for him.”

Alec tipped his head, studying for any sign that Simon was messing with him. But Simon had already gone back to doing these throaty humming noises that echoed off the tiled walls.

The thing was, Alec had been sure that Magnus was gay. But now he…wasn’t.

They’d had conversations that alluded to Magnus not being straight, but those had been fights, bickering, more than talking. So maybe Magnus had just been baiting him….?

He was so confused.

And he didn’t know how to ask Simon about that without sounding idiotic or stepping over the line that straddled Magnus’ professional and private lives.

Alec began to pace, downing more of the gin and soda.

“Alec?” Simon said.

He stopped. “Yeah?”

“While I usually love the zoo and especially the tiger and lions cages where you can stand there and watch these super dangerous and beautiful creatures prowl back and forth…. Your pacing is way distracting right now.”

Alec pointed at the door. “You want me to….”

“Go. Yes. Please. Sorry, I just—”

Alec forced a laugh, pushing questions that he shouldn’t need an answer to to the back of his brain. “It’s okay, Simon. Good luck tonight.”

 

****

 

Magnus grabbed another drink from the bar then made his way to the booth where Clary was seated, just as the music started up. Greedo’s Revenge wasn’t Magnus’ usual type of music, but Simon’s voice was surprisingly pleasant. He could be spending his Saturday night in worse ways.

He spotted Izzy planted in front of the stage, watching her husband like she was a living heart-eyed-emoji. Simon gazed back at her as if she were the only person in the room, and the whole scene made Magnus ache in a lovely way. He couldn’t imagine looking at anyone he’d met with the same adoration that Izzy and Simon did with each other—but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen. Some day.

“Hey, babes!” Clary greeted him. She pointed at the man sitting next to her in the booth. “This is Mike. One of my old friends from college.”

Magnus slid in across from Mike, noticing the once-over the man gave him as he sat down, and introduced himself. All three of them settled into listening to Simon’s band and didn’t say much. But every time Magnus glanced over at Mike he was smiling. So Magnus leaned forward to show some interest and get the man talking. He wasn’t ever going to find love if he didn’t try.

At least he could have fun while he was looking.

Mike was warm and knowledgable and nice. He was blond instead of dark-haired, but Magnus could push aside his preferences in search of a spark—that moment when interest turned to heat, to need. Passion. It was rare that anyone incited that strong of a reaction in him from the very beginning.

Magnus tried not to show his frown when that thought blazed through his head, repeating as if there was something he had missed….

In his peripheral vision he caught Alec approaching the booth and he automatically scooted farther over for Alec to take the seat next to him on the bench. Mike was talking about oil paints and a piece he was hoping to have accepted into a gallery in SoHo, but Magnus was having trouble concentrating….

Because of Alec.

Alec seemed to be intently watching the conversation Magnus was having with Mike. Magnus tried to keep his full attention on the man across from him—instead of the man next to him—especially when Mike jotted down his number and passed it over to Magnus, but Alec wasn’t even trying to hide that he was listening in.

Mike whispered something to Clary that had her glancing at Magnus with a sideways smile and Magnus would’ve usually considered that a good sign, but found…he didn’t care. He leaned back, slid Mike’s number into his pocket, and faced Alec. He pitched his voice low so only Alec could hear him. “Was that territory you were hoping to claim?”

Alec appeared even more perplexed and flustered than he had earlier. “No. It’s just— Weren’t you just with—” Alec winced as he took another sip of his drink. “Never mind. It’s none of my business.”

Alec’s face was scrunched up like a confused puppy and Magnus realized immediately what Alec was getting at. “Ah, you mean Jessica. I think she found someone to take her up on that hate-fuck threesome offer. She has initiative. You know, I should see if she wants a job….” He gripped the top of the booth behind Alec’s head and pushed up, scanning the room for Jessica.

Alec tipped his head up to look at Magnus. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

Magnus peered down at Alec to answer him, then realized how close they were. That Magnus could see a reddened section of Alec’s lips, as if he’d been worrying the flesh between his teeth…. Magnus drew back and settled into his seat again. “Well, yes. Why?”

“Nothing.” Alec turned away, then was abruptly turning his body fully in Magnus’ direction, and leaning in to be heard above the music. “You know what— It’s just…. I’ve never met anyone like you.”

“Should I take that as a compliment?”

“It’s more of an observation, but not a bad one. So sure.”

Magnus twirled a hand in the air, his bracelets clinking together. “What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?”

“You didn’t say that.”

“I just did.”

“No. You didn’t say that. That’s Ursula Le Guin.”

Magnus was shocked speechless.

Alec’s gaze danced over his face, taking in all of Magnus’ reaction. “It’s only been a day, but I think you already forgot I’m not just a goalie.”

Magnus readjusted his necklaces and shifted as well so he was facing Alec. His leg curled up next to Alec’s, close enough to feel his body heat, but not touching. “Point conceeded. So you like to read?”

Alec huffed out a laugh. “Yeah. I’m on planes, and buses, and in hotel rooms. A lot.”

“No TV?”

“Jace and I room together when we’re on the road and he loves TV. He always wants to have it on—something about noise in the background to keep his head clear. I usually tune it out with headphones, or finding quiet spots away from everything….”

“With music?”

“Sometimes. Usually audiobooks, though. I like words more than music.”

“Music has words,” Magnus pointed out, just to be difficult.

Alec shook his head. “Not all of it.”

Not just a goalie, indeed, Magnus thought. He picked up his drink and sipped thoughtfully. “I don’t know what to say, Alexander….”

Alec rolled his eyes. “It’s Alec, Magnus.”

He bit at his straw and smiled around it. “I still haven’t decided what feels more natural—consuming my drink or—”

“Seeing how it looks on my face?”

There was a teasing lilt to his words that Magnus wouldn’t have expected. Wasn’t today just full of fun surprises?

“I wholeheartedly approve of face-related sexual innuendos,” Magnus encouraged. “You can throw those at me anytime.”

Alec arched an eyebrow.

“Bring it, Lightwood,” Magnus challenged.

“I knew it!” someone yelled.

Magnus’ head snapped up, realizing the music had stopped at some point and the lights in Taki’s had gone to full brightness, and Izzy was next to the booth, pointing at him and Alec with a triumphant grin on her face.

“I saw you two smiling,” she continued. “You like each other now, don’t you?”

Magnus saw the mischievous smirk on Alec’s face out of the corner of his eye, and he knew he was in trouble, but he still wasn’t prepared for the shock of piss-warm liquor being tossed at him as Alec abruptly stood, yelled “Fuck off, Bane!” and stormed out of the bar….

With his shoulders shaking from laughter.

 

****

 

Alec was still laughing when he put his key into his front door then pushed inside. He hung his keys from the hook and pulled his phone out of his pocket, hitting the button to call Magnus. The distinctive trill of Facetime started up, ringing twice with no answer and Alec wondered if Magnus was going to pick up at all, then the call connected and Magnus’ scowling face appeared on his screen.

“Magnus’ Magnificent Gin Emporium. We’re soaked and sticky, but always pine fresh. How may I help you?”

Alec cackled and had to swipe tears from his eyes. “I’m so sorry. Izzy was right there and she was so smug and I didn’t know what else to do!”

Magnus scowled even deeper, but Alec was beginning to recognize when Magnus was putting on a front. His eyes gave him away. Every single time.

“Hang on. You caught me in the middle of getting changed.” Magnus must have set the phone down because Alec suddenly had a view of what was either a wall or the ceiling—painted a bold red.

Alec kicked off his shoes and went into his bedroom, setting his own phone down to whip off his shirt and shuck his jeans. “I’ll pay for the dry cleaning, “ Alec offered, continuing to talk even though Magnus couldn’t see him.

“Oh, I know you will,” Magnus’ voice came through the speakerphone. “I’ve also asked Clary to remind me never to challenge a professional athlete to bring it.”

Alec picked up his cell again, but Magnus wasn’t back yet. “It is like a red flag and a bull.”

There was a blurring of the screen for a moment, then Magnus’s face reappeared. “Noted. You can stop laughing now.”

“I can’t,” he protested. “You should’ve seen your face!”

“I couldn’t. You blinded me. With gin.”

Alec rearranged his pillows and settled against the headboard. “You’re the one who said we should pretend not to like each other.”

“But I believe the invitation for drink-throwing was intended to be mine, not yours.”

Alec shrugged. “I saw an opening and went with it.”

“You’re a goalie, not a forward,” Magnus said with an air of authority. “It’s not your job to take shots.”

“Whoa,” Alec exclaimed, a smile inching up his lips. “Look who’s been learning hockey.”

“I may have downloaded a book or two onto my Kindle.”

“You’re reading about hockey? Ursula Le Guin is one thing, but hockey? Nope. Nuh-uh. That isn’t okay in any way. You have to come watch a game.”

Magnus grimaced. “It will be a cold day in hell when I show up at a sporting event willingly.”

“We are playing the Devils when I’m back in town,” Alec deadpanned.

Magnus’ lip twitched.

Alec couldn’t hold back a satisfied grin. “I almost made you smile there.”

“You didn’t,” Magnus insisted. “That was an awful pun.”

Alec’s smile faltered. He thought of puns, and metaphors, and the innuendos Magnus loved to throw around. “Look. Can I ask you something?”

“As long as there’s no gin involved, yes.”

“I know this is probably going to sound really stupid,” Alec prefaced. He took a deep breath. “I don’t really know anyone else who’s not straight…. And I don’t know if I’m supposed to know whether or not someone else is…. Then there’s you— And I—”

Magnus’ features softened instantly. “I’m bisexual, Alec. I assume that’s what you wanted to know.”

“That’s men and women then…for you?”

“In the simplest terms, yes.”

Alec let that sink in. He itched at the stubble he’d have to shave off tomorrow. “I’m pretty sure I’m 100% gay, like no interest in women.”

“Pretty sure?”

Alec chuckled softly. “Alright, completely sure. I mean, I can recognize a beautiful woman, but there’s nothing…there.”

“I’m your agent, Alec,” Magnus chided. “I don’t need to know what is or is not happening in your nether regions.”

“That’s not what I meant—” Alec stammered.

“I was teasing, Alec.”

Alec sunk farther into his pillows. “I’m not used to talking about any of this.”

Magnus was in motion again, too, the image going out of focus. When Magnus resettled it looked like he was lounging on a black velvet couch. And he was definitely shirtless.

After so many years of hiding, Alec had perfected looking without really looking. But he tried not to notice the golden cast of Magnus’ skin or that Magnus’ necklaces were gone, revealing the graceful arch of muscle over bone…. Those weren’t details he needed to know.

Magnus was his agent.

“It’s okay,” Magnus reassured him. “Believe it or not I was once there too. Knowing people who could sympathize…. It changed everything for me.”

“For the better?”

Magnus seemed to be considering that. He ran a finger over his lips that were now free from gloss.

“Most of the time,” he finally answered.

“Tonight was fun, Magnus.”

Magnus quirked an eyebrow as if to say really? without having to say it.

“Okay, okay,” Alec admitted, giving in to the unverbalized question. “Probably more fun for me than you, especially at the end. I’m sorry for dousing you in gin. It won’t happen again.”

“Oh I’ll be sure to return the favor someday.”

“Shit. You really will, won’t you?”

Magnus simply twisted his ear cuff between his fingers.

Alec marveled at how Magnus said so much without saying anything. And how much he avoided saying by using uncommon words and complex sentence structures. Magnus communicated on a whole other level than most people. It was…fascinating. A challenge.

It made Alec want to learn how to speak Magnus’ peculiar language.

“I’m going to tell Izzy tomorrow that we don’t hate each other anymore,” Alec said. “I’ve never been able to hide anything from her for long. And despite the gin-soaking I’m pretty sure she already knows.”

Magnus smiled a that. “She’s a good sister.”

“She really is.” Alec stifled a yawn and glanced at his alarm clock. “Listen, I should really sleep now. I have an early flight.”

“Safe travels and good luck in the game. Goodnight, Alec.”

“Night, Magnus.”